Sunday, November 29, 2009

Small Town Comfort

I went home to Charleston, MO for Thanksgiving. I used to think I was from a big town. It had everything I needed growing up - a school, a park, a convenience store, a fireworks store, a couple grocery stores, and a few restaurants. When I was in high school, we really moved uptown and got a McDonald's. This caused a need for another stoplight, raising the grand total to 2. It was a big deal.

Needless to say my idea of a "big" town changed as soon as I stepped outside our "city" limits. Our population sign as you entered the town read 5,085. Someone once added a sign at the bottom that read "and two old crows."

I was from a town where it was expected that you wave to people as you drive by. People didn't think you were crazy if you said hello to them. Once I was out walking and 2 women on their front porch invited me up for lemonade. I had no idea who they were, so I decided to accept in order to get a closer look at them. My plan didn't work; even though I got closer, I still had no idea who they were. They then told me they knew my mom, so I figured the lemonade was safe to drink. It was hard to go walking in a small town. Cars would stop and offer you a ride, and people outside would want you to stop and chat.

One thing about living in a small town is that people get to know your ways pretty well. This was clearly evident one time when my brother and I were home from college, and my brother went to the grocery store. When he went to check out, the lady said, "This isn't the kind of toilet paper your mom usually buys." She then told him what kind my mom bought and asked if he wanted to change. My brother decided to just keep the kind he had. He couldn't believe that our town was actually that small.

Living in a small town does have its ups and downs. Not much is secret, but you can find people who are willing to help when you are in need, as well as someone to offer lemonade on a hot summer day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

May this Thanksgiving Day be a time of thanking God for all the gifts and bounty that we have. May it be a day of giving thanks for all the people in our lives: family, friends, co-workers, etc. May it be a day of sharing with others who don't have as much as we do and a day of prayer for all who are in need in any way. Let us truly give thanks to God and ask for God's continued blessing on all people.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nun Stereotypes

Every now and then I get asked the stereotypical nun question, "Do you use a ruler?" I don't think I come across as an angry nun who would resort to hitting someone with a ruler, but I've been asked that question more times than I can count.

Recently someone in my class at Indiana University Southeast asked me that question, so I decided to have a little fun with it. When I gave my presentation the next week, I brought in a ruler. I started by saying, "I get asked often if I carry a ruler. I do have one in case anyone isn't paying attention."

Of all the contributions religious sisters have made over the centuries, unfortunately they are probably most associated with rulers and cracked knuckles. I wonder when this stereotype will change.

I know when I was looking into religious life, stereotypes are what hindered me from sharing my desire with others and pursuing the call openly. It wasn't until I visited Ferdinand and met some wonderful, loving, and caring women that my image of nuns changed. I learned they too are just like me - human beings with flaws and weaknesses, seeking God, and doing the best they can in life.

How about it? Consider your image of nuns. What is it based on? Come to Ferdinand to see if your image is accurate of our community.

The next time I get asked if I use a ruler, I'll answer, "Sure, to measure with, just like you."

Monday, November 23, 2009


Sister Agnes Marie and I attended the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) last week, along with about 22,000 other youth and adult leaders! It was an amazing thing to see. The high school age youth in attendance, probably 98% of the 22,000, were so full of life and enthusiasm for their faith, it was inspiring!
While we were at our booth, Sarah and Stephen stopped by to see me. I was their Nanny 13 years ago before I entered the monastery. Looks like they have both passed me up! It was wonderful to see them again!
During the event the young people from Dioceses all over the United States showed their wares representing where they were from, including hats, buttons, and more. Then the trading began and you didn't know who was from where anymore, unless you looked at their name tags. I decided to get in on the trading action, too! What fun! I especially liked my horse hat from the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky.
Friday morning there was a procession from the stadium, which was about four city blocks away from the conference center. It was an amazing sight to see. I'm glad I was viewing it from up above and not in the middle of it though.
Please pray for these wonderful youth of our Catholic Church!
If you want to see all my pictures from NCYC click on this link:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Let the Markt Begin!

This weekend the town of Ferdinand is celebrating with our annual Christkindlmarkt, a German Christmas market. (Never mind the fact that it's only November and not even Advent yet- this is tradition, at least for the last twelve years here!) Every year it seems to be bigger. Last night I had the honor of ushering in the Markt as the Christkindl, an angel who appears from the church doors singing a proclamation from the Christ Child about the real meaning of Christmas. After that people could listen to harp music, look at some art, and get something hot to drink in the church crypt (lower level of the monastery church). Others headed to a dinner where Sr. Kim and I provided some music.

Today the monastery and the town are abustle with people from all over, eating roasted almonds and examinining antiques in the gym down the hill, taking tours of the church, finding Christmas presents and delicious baked goods at our gift shop, and singing along with various performing musicians as they check out the arts and crafts at the local high school gym and the town community center. I have yet to see it, but I'm told a live reindeer has come this year as well!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Got Laughter?

When you teach 3 year olds to 8th graders, you have to be ready for anything. Sometimes I think, "What would another teacher think about the way I teach?" or "I don't think another teacher would handle it this way." Most of the time, instead of disciplining the students (which another teacher may do), I can't help but laugh. Of course, I don't do this with all the classes. In some cases, if I encourage a little, they go to the extreme and chaos may erupt. However, I can't help it sometimes. I laugh at things the students do or say as long as it's appropriate and they know not to take advantage of it and go to the extreme. Today I was laughing so hard I was crying.

I was practicing with a few students for the Christmas program. One girl was in a small singing group and had the giggles. The methods she was using to "get rid of her laughter" had me cracking up. They might have helped her, but the plan backfired on me. I was crying from laughing so hard. This was good because getting ready for a Christmas program is stressful.

Joy and laughter does increase motivation. Maybe some teachers would discipline more when I would simply laugh, but I'm content with how I manage my classroom as long as the students know the boundaries of controlled fun in the classroom.

Check out this video about the fun theory. Last time I checked, this video had over 8 million views.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

High Expectations

Since entering the monastery in 2001, I've gone through an 8 year conversion process. I told a retreat director once that I'd like to reach a plateau, just a leveling off or break from all this growing and changing. It just proves how much growing and changing is needed.

A plateau and a break would be nice, but I know I'm in need of lots more change. One thing I would like to change is the level of expectation I put on myself. At times, it's brutal. Sometimes I perceive it as coming from others. Often it's my own doing.

I remember one summer helping my grandpa on his farm. Since I was 20, and he was 80, logic told me that I should work 4 times as hard. If you knew my grandpa, even being able to match the work he did at 80 would have been an accomplishment. Quadrupling it would have been impossible. He was a hard worker and also very wise. Surprisingly, he would say to me, "Take a break. Get a drink. Rest a bit." He knew how to work, but also how to rest and take care of himself. A good balance for success.

Somewhere when I was growing up, I got the idea that I was supposed to know everything right away. I've just about driven myself crazy with this belief. Somehow I was to jump from beginner to proficient without all the steps in between.

For example, I remember wanting to take piano lessons when I was 7. However, I didn't start taking lessons until I was 24. Therefore, my reasoning told me I had 17 years to make up. Of course, there was no time to waste. I had to do it overnight. Do you know how exhausting it is to think like that?

In the situation with my grandpa and with the piano, my expectations of myself were unreasonable and impossible. We are very blessed at the monastery with wise mentors who see things more reasonably. When I look at what I think I "should" be, they help me see logically what truly is. I know I can't jump to the final step after taking only the first one. With practice, hard work, and perseverance, I can reach the final step, but only by taking the other ones in between as well.

I have definitely grown a great deal since entering the monastery, and I know I still have lots to learn. Thankfully there are many wise women here who teach me. . . . . . . It looks like it may be a while before I reach a plateau in my personal journey.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fall Weekend

Although Friday evening, Oct. 30, was windy with rain, children and grandchildren of the monastery employees came to trick-or-treat. There were tiny skeletons and goblins, Egyptian princesses, football players, and some unidentifiable creatures among the guests.
Saturday was a much more beautiful day, and the schedule afforded time for some leisurely activities. Today, Sunday, is gorgeous and a great day for a long walk. Later on I will be making some of my regular weekend phone calls to catch up with friends.