Sunday, November 30, 2008

Christmas in California

I decorated my apartment for Christmas this weekend. My sister Sarah and I laughed about how different we are when I told her that I have a theme - gold, snowflakes and pinecones.

As I decorated I considered whether decorating early for Christmas was missing out on the purpose of Christmas, (i.e. skipping Advent and going right to celebrating the day of Christmas).

But I decided as I carefully trimmed my little Noble Fir Christmas tree that I was preparing both my house and my heart for the coming of my King

--click pic for more pictures

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

A Dominican sister I know shared this reflection with me and gave me permission to share it with all of you:

How do you give thanks? Not only to ask ourselves, ‘what are we grateful for?’ but also to be mindful of how we express our gratitude seems a good thing as we anticipate the Thanksgiving Day tomorrow. As I invite you and myself to be with the question, may I share with you a story or the person that led me to the question?

It was Kenneth. Kenneth is presently going through a radiation therapy for his colon cancer. Most people, without knowing him, would label him homeless. And he was; and perhaps he is. Now days, he earns just enough by selling Berkeley’s homeless street newspaper to supplement his medical cost and pay for $250/month room in Oakland. He makes sure he looks clean and his fingernails cut short and clean. When you ask him how he is, he always responds with, “I’m blessed” and that with such conviction in his eyes and a kind smile spreading all over his face. And, so he answers even when he can barely stand and move due to the radiation treatment that leaves him weak.

Last night on my way home, happy to see him again, I sat down to chat a bit with him. During our conversation, he had to rush to a public bathroom, staggering across the street full of cars. When he returned, his usual cheerful face was filled with frustration and sadness. The memories of the misunderstandings and the mistreatments he receives for being homeless and for not being able to control his bowl movement had rushed to his mind, leaving him feeling desolate. When he had an accident on the bus, more than once, he had been asked to get off the bus by the bus driver because he stunk. The thought of being judged as uncaring, incapable, and lazy because he sat on the sidewalk to sell the newspaper pained him. What pained him more was the feeling that he had nothing to give back for the gratitude he felt to those who have been good to him. When people put money into the cup, he offers his newspaper, making sure it’s a clean one. But, many, for different reasons, decline to take it, thereby quite unconsciously robbing him of an opportunity for him to say thank you.

We were in the midst of such conversation, tears running both on his cheeks and mine, when a young woman approached and squatted down to put some money into his cup. He offered his newspaper. She gently refused. Softly, I whispered to her, “Please take one. It’s his gift to you.” She then offered a cup of tea she had in her hand to Kenneth. He can’t drink soda, coffee, chocolate or tea because of his condition. But, he looked at her with a long pause and asked whether she had gotten that just for him. She said yes. At that, he reached for it, saying, “I’ll drink it then. Thank you very much!” He graciously accepted the gift, albeit knowing what it will do to him. To honor her intent by accepting the gift was his way of saying, “Thank You!” And, he did more than accept it. Because she had gotten it for him, he did try to drink it, which rushed him again across the street…

How do we say, “Thank You” to the Giver? On this Thanksgiving Day and on each of our days, may we cherish not only the gift but the givers and the Giver! Thereby, may the Love that gave us life and the loves that sustain us remain alive in us. May our beings proclaim how blessed we are. May our living be the blessing for one another.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bonding Over Bond

This afternoon, I am going to participate in a Thanksgiving tradition at my new job - have lunch and watch a movie all afternoon. The guy who organized it is calling the event "Bonding Over Bond" because we are going to watch the new James Bond movie.

Have I mentioned how much I appreciate my new job lately?

Things I am thankful for at my job:

- A laid-back boss who trusts me to complete my work and does not keep track of my time
- Really great co-workers who are incredibly intelligent and make me laugh
- Opportunities to learn around every corner
- I can now go to daily mass and get to work at 9AM, (and I am one of the earliest ones to arrive at the office!)
- I can work from home!
- I get to go to trainings and conferences (out of town!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Feast Day Wizzers!

Happy Feast day to my dear sister Elizabeth. St. Elizabeth of Hungary and my sister have something in common, their service to the poor.

I also found out today that St. Elizabeth was a contemporary of St. Francis and wanted to give up all of her possessions and follow St. Francis, but her spiritual director forbade her.

Learn more about this great saint and patron of young brides here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Bishops Draft a Letter to President-Elect Obama

A friend sent me a link to this article in the Chicago Tribune about the fall national assembly of bishops. I particularly was moved by one bishop's quote:

"Any one of us here would consider it a privilege to die tomorrow--die tomorrow!--to bring about the end of abortion."
- Auxiliary Bishop Robert Hermann of St. Louis

The article references a letter that the bishops wrote to incoming President Obama. The letter begins with a wonderful summary of some of the most important issues to Catholics - education, peace, health care, and economic justice. I was glad to see an optimistic theme of cooperation and hope that runs through the letter.

But the letter primarily focuses on the issue that is at the forefront of many Catholics' minds after the election - abortion. The bishops articulate their opposition to the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), a law that Obama has promised to pass as president, which would abolish all restrictions on abortion at the Federal and State level.

Please join me in signing the Fight FOCA petition.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

President Obama

The American people have spoken and Barack Obama is our next president, the first African American president of the United States.

I know good Catholics who voted for Obama and good Catholics who voted for McCain and good Catholics who could not in good conscience vote for either candidate.

There is a serious burden on supporters of Obama as well as all Catholics to pray that Obama's opinion on abortion, the most important issue of our time, changes with the help of God's grace. We pray that his presidency is not the cause of further erosion of the respect for life from conception to death. We also pray that Obama effectively represents the interests of the poor, the sick and the disenfranchised as many of his Catholic supporters hope.

To the supporters of McCain, let's get behind our new president with our prayers and with our voices. Let him know why you voted for McCain and help Obama to understand that he must listen to the voices of conscience who did not vote for him if he is going to understand and fully represent the American people.

Catholics have a unique voice in the political arena. No candidate will ever fully represent our views, that is why we are divided more than any other religious or ethnic group in the country as to which candidate we will support. It is important to remember amidst the euphoria of our candidate winning or the sorrow of a loss, that we are Catholics before we are Americans. We are Catholics before we are Democrats, and we are Catholics before we are Republican. No candidate will ever represent for us the fullness of Truth that is the Catholic faith. So we are always on the sidelines, observing, sometimes rejoicing, sometimes lamenting, but hopefully always aware that politics can never truly have ownership of our hearts.

Monday, November 3, 2008

From My Mom's Blog.....

I tried to quote from Archbishop Chaput's (American Indian Bishop of Denver) book when I was talking to Sarah this morning and realized I mangled it quite a bit. Here's the accurate quote, which was his response to how we can morally justify a pro-choice vote.

"And what would a proportionate reason look like? It would be a reason we could, with an honest heart, expect the unborn victims of abortion to accept when we meet them and need to explain our actions as we someday will.”

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Apology to Atheists

So the last post I wrote about atheists and Mother Teresa put a little burr in my conscience. I felt I was not being completely fair and a bit too dismissive. And I feel like God confirmed that in the book that I am currently reading called There Is a God - How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.

The book is about Antony Flew, a famous philosopher educated at Oxford at the same time of C.S. Lewis. For 60 years, he was one of the world's leading atheist philosophers.

The book chronicles his journey towards a belief in God and it gently encouraged me to remember that many times it is a high level of intelligence that leads some people away from a belief in God. It seems that many times, the most firmly logical, materially based people with very high IQs are the most likely to fall into the trap of atheism. They are unwilling to dip their toes outside of the realm of human reason and logic and explore other possibilities. The interesting thing about this philosopher is that his change in belief was not due to some miraculous "Damascian" revelation. But rather, Flew began to change his mind due to modern science. He cited the discovery of DNA as one pivotal movement in his structure of belief towards God. He talks quite a bit in the book about probability and give mathematical proofs of just how highly improbable it is that the world would be so ordered and "intelligent."

Anyway, just wanted to qualify my rather snarky post from before :)


This word was thrown around a lot in the Theology of the Body discussion last Tuesday.

It means, as far as I understood, a desire of the lower appetite contrary to reason.

The most interesting insight the whole night for me was pointed out by one of the Dominican brothers.

He spoke of St. John's concept of concupiscence from John 2:16

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

The three kinds of concupiscence are related to the three virtues:

Lust of the Flesh - Chastity

Lust of the Eyes - Poverty

Pride of Life - Obedience

This really is fascinating stuff!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Theology of the Body

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life -- is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17)

I went to a wonderful Theology of the Body discussion today. I want to learn more and more about this, it is so clear to me that this theology is exactly what today's society needs.

Often the Truth is battled with exactly the opposite of what is true and that is what I see in the way that today's culture views sex.

Casual sex will make you happy.

Casual sex will cause low self esteem and is damaging physically, emotionally and spiritually

Freedom is the more important than anything else.

We are never free and never completely happy until we conform ourselves to God's will, in our sexual lives and outside. It is in the act of disciplining our bodies and our souls that we are able to feel the real freedom that God calls us to.

As long as you "love" him/her it's ok!

Love between a man and a woman is meant to mirror the love that God has for us, everlasting. This sacred act is meant to take place within the covenant of marriage, within the promise to love someone forever. When we have not made that promise and we have sex with someone else, no matter how much we love them we are still using that person for our own ends which is detrimental to us and to the person we claim to love.

Virginity is something to laugh at and pity.

Virginity is something to praise and encourage. It's the virgins who should be laughing, if their chastity is a conscious choice, they have preserved their self esteem. prevented themselves from experiencing emotional and spiritual damage, and are more ready for the commitment of marriage than anyone else because they understand that love involves sacrifice.

Virgins don't get to experience love and pleasure.

Saving yourself for marriage is an act that will strengthen your future marriage. If you enter marriage after living chastely, and both people approach sex with the attitude of chastity then they will experience sex as God intended it to be experienced: without shame, without pain, and I am assuming, since God invented sex, with a whole lot more pleasure!

And honestly the list goes on and on, I am sure some of you can add to it.

Thank God for John Paul II, he's the Catholic Church's Dr. Ruth, except he uses words like "concupiscence" :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Conversations with Sarah

“Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life. . . . If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.”

- Teresa of Avila

If only we cared more what God thinks of us than what other people think.

Lord help me to care only about how you see me. Help me to care more about my soul and my fellow human beings than about what anyone else thinks.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Atheists and Mother Teresa

I remember watching a video of Mother Teresa when Sarah was obsessed with her. I was in college and had not returned to my faith. But I remember listening to some of her critics speak about her and being in college at the time and in the critical mode, I tried my best to see where they were coming from, but instead I immediately recognized how silly they sounded. They were all quite self righteous and sure that Mother Teresa was in the wrong in several areas. They of course said this as they lounged on fancy chaise chairs and sipped Pinot Grigio.

One of the videos on the bottom right is of two atheists speaking about Mother Teresa. The patronizing way they speak of her faith really makes me giggle. It is as if they think that her faith in God was some sort of sideshow that they can just brush away as they get to the "real stuff" - her work to help the poor. What they fail to recognize is the obvious, that God was the source of her good works.

This reminds me of the Bill Maher movie that just came out, Religulous. A friend asked me to go and I declined, primarily on the basis that I do not want to fund this man's quest to make religion and just about everything else that is not Bill Maher, seem stupid.

There is something I always recognize in atheists, and I can say this because I was one for some time - pomposity. It is interesting that in the very denial of God, humans begin to act more as if they are God.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Do Not Be Afraid

Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Two Halves of a Church

Just wanted to share this little unfinished tid-bit I wrote a while back. I read it today and the characters reminded me of the two halves of the Catholic church, "orthodox" and "progressive"


Clifford looked a little out of place walking slowly down the SF beach in khaki pants , a crisply ironed white shirt and a red and white polka dotted bow tie.

Millie was sitting on a green lawn chair in her houseboat slurping on a sauerkraut sandwich she had made herself for a snack.

"What a strange man," she thought to herself.

Every once in a while Clifford would duck as if dodging a seagull overhead and snatch something from the sand, then bolt upright again and continue on down the beach.

As Clifford came nearer to Millie's boat, she abruptly decided to invite him in. Standing swiftly up, she ran inside and put a bathrobe over her neon pink bikini. Something told her Clifford was not the sort of man to be impressed by a woman in a bikini. She twisted her purple scarf around her wild curly red hair and set about the kitchen preparing for her visitor. Her chihuahua Sally silently observed as Millie set out the tea cups and her best china.

Millie nearly forgot she needed to extend an invitation until she saw Clifford, straight as a pin, bob past her window.

"YOOHOO!" She said loudly. Clifford stopped abruptly, looking a bit scared.

"YOoooHOOooo!" She said again in a slightly more sing song voice, hoping it would make him feel a bit more comfortable.

Apparently, it did not because Clifford seemed to make a decision right then to return to his pristine Cadillac as soon as possible. He looked over at it, gleaming in the parking lot.

"Sir," said Millie, a slight panic crept into her voice at the possibility of losing her visitor.

Clifford turned, and seeing her in a green and pink bathrobe, purple scarf and red hair in disarray, became more determined than ever to return to his car.

"Sir, please join me for a cup of tea," Millie said, her voice unconsciously taking on a slightly British accent.

The British accent seemed to put Clifford more at ease as he surveyed her cautiously.

"Ahem, well I am a bit preoccupied at the moment, perhaps some other time," Clifford said.

"Oh no, I insist. I have scones and tea all ready and I simply would not enjoy it all alone," said Millie.

"Are the scones buttered?" Clifford asked, ever more on guard.

"Of course they are," Millie said dismissively, "What kind of hostess do you think I am?"

Clifford seemed to make up his mind right then and there and in a move that was more against his character than missing daily mass, he made his way up to the table Millie had laid out with tea, some very nice china plates and scones that were indeed buttered, much to Clifford's relief.

He sat down uncomfortably in a green lawn chair, adjusted his bow tie and looked around nervously.

Millie's chihuahua Sally came bounding out to meet the new visitor but stopped abruptly at the sight of Clifford adjusting his bow tie.

"Do you have any pets?" Millie asked happily trying to think of what to talk about with her strange new visitor.

"Erm, well not really. Well I do have a chia pet," Clifford said, squirming in his seat and refolding the napkin at his place.

"Oh that is wonderful!" said Millie with true enthusiasm, "I love chia pets."

Clifford looked at her in surprise and said nothing.

"Well, um, I hope you like my scones," Millie said, "What food do you usually like?"

"Ribs." said Clifford quickly and firmly.

"Oh" said Millie, "I am a vegetarian. I'm a Buddhist you see."

Clifford looked at her with a measure of distrust and looked once again at his Cadillac gleaming in the sun.

"What religion are you?" said Millie nervously, as she had noticed the glance at the parking lot.

"Ahem, well I am Catholic," Clifford said, a note of quiet joy creeping into his voice for the first time.

Dilemma of the Catholic Voter Cont'd.

The fruit of abortion is nuclear war. —Mother Teresa of Calcutta


I heard this quote at a retreat I attended over the weekend and it suddenly occurred to me - to vote on the issue of abortion is not just voting on a single issue.

Anything that contributes to a culture of death pushes our world closer and closer to violence that cannot be fast forwarded. As life loses its value, as babies and elderly people
are seen as "burdens," our lack of respect very quickly extends to the general population.

War is the visible expression of this culture of death that we live in and abortion is the invisible.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dilemma of the Catholic Voter

As some of you know, I am one of those mysterious "undecided voters." I used to wonder who the heck those people were and now, I am one of them.

Who I am going to vote for is a question that I ask myself every day.

Can I vote for someone who voted against the Born Alive Act? This act simply allowed for basic medical care for babies who are born alive in induced labor abortions. Nurses testified that they held dying babies as they breathed their last breath in utility rooms. Others testified that breathing babies were thrown in the trash.

We cannot pretend that abortion is not one of the most important issues in our political landscape. We cannot pretend that it is not what it is - the killing of a child.

On the other hand, can I vote for someone who does not represent my views on any other issue but this?

I am not sure. This is the dilemma of many Catholic voters.

The other day I met a man in the grocery store who was having difficulty breathing. He would stop for several minutes and lean against the produce aisles. He told me that Medicare would not cover oxygen for him even though his doctors were virtually begging them to do so. OXYGEN!

Adequate health care is a basic right. This too is an issue of Life.

We are the richest country in the world. We can afford to wage wars that cost 10 billion dollars a month and bail out irresponsible corporations for billions more but we cannot provide our citizens with basic health care?

In 2000, I voted for George Bush solely on the issue of abortion.

In 2004, I voted for John Kerry. I was dismayed at the direction that Bush led our country and the unnecessary war that has caused an estimated 150,000 to as many as 1,000,000 civilian deaths. And more than 4,000 of our own soldiers have died.

War is a Life issue as well.

The environment, promoting peace, universal health care, addressing the roots of poverty - these are Life issues. Does one issue trump everything else?

It just might

For me, the choice is not simple and it is not clear, but I pray for God's guidance not only in my personal vote but in the votes of everyone around the country.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Spicy Veggie Peanut Noodles


A package of pasta
Half a cup of peanut butter
4 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 tsp of cayenne pepper
1 tsp of sesame seeds (optional)
2 cups of fresh spinach
2 chopped tomatoes
- I used "Berkeley tie-dye" heirloom tomatoes from the Lakeshore Farmer's Market in Oakland but of course this is optional since you would ONLY see this in the Bay Area :)

Boil pasta. Mix peanut butter, soy sauce, pepper and sesame seeds in a separate bowl while pasta is cooking. When pasta has been drained, while still hot, mix in the peanut mixture. Add more soy sauce as necessary. Add spinach, mix until slightly limp. Add tomatoes.

Voila - yummy veggie dinner in no time!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

David's Visit

Well David is here to visit. We have had a great time, eating great food and as always having deep, mind bending conversations. Today David did some research on the internet on his favorite flower, the Helleborus, otherwise called the Christmas rose because it grows in the winter and there is also an old legend that it sprouted in the snow from the tears of a young girl who had no gift to give the Baby Jesus.

David says he is going to really dive more into plant knowledge and start learning genuses in depth one by one. He sounded excited and joyful at the prospect and it reminded me of when Mother Teresa said that it is when we feel a quiet joy and underlying peace, we know we are on the right path.

I am feeling more thankful than ever to God for the Love He shows to me and my family. I feel lucky to be His daughter and to rest in His arms in the journey of life, wherever it takes me.

I really like my job, I am learning a lot but as always it is just another stepping stone in the journey of life, in my journey towards Him, towards His plan for me on earth and ultimately to an eternal resting in His arms. I pray for continued grace to keep things in perspective and remain always standing by to do whatever and go wherever God calls me.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Retreat - St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises

There is so much to mention to everyone. I recently began a new job at It is completely different from my old job in every way and I feel lucky to be there every day. I am sure I will write more about it sometime soon.

But that is not the big news. I recently went on a retreat. I stayed in a big beautiful house in the middle of the woods all by myself for 4 days. It was a wonderful experience and I think if I continue to ask God for the graces He provided me during that time, it will prove to be one of the most pivotal spiritual experiences of my life.

The retreat was based on St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises. Each day I was given 5 exercises to meditate on for one hour each. I told my spiritual director that it was like making someone run a marathon after training by walking around the block. At first I completely resisted it. I felt angry and grumpy. But eventually I got into the groove of constant prayer and it really ended up beginning to feel quite blissful.

During the retreat I felt very clear messages from God gently pointing out the things in my personality and in my disordered view of the world that are preventing me from hearing His voice clearly.

Some of these things were:
1. Minimizing the gravity of my sins past and present
2. Clinging to an idea of what it means to "help people" (my life's goal) and resisting any plans from God that don't fit into what exactly I see as doing that
3. Putting other things, even good things, before my life's purpose - to praise and to serve God

There are many other things that came to the surface during the retreat, much too personal to itemize on a public blog but suffice it to say, I really feel like a changed person. When I left the retreat, as I was driving away, tears were rolling down my face.

The time I spent with God those few days was a little slice of heaven. And I urge each and every one of you to carve out just a little bit of time each day to spend with Him in contemplative, silent prayer.

You will not regret it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Vito's Ordination Song

This is for my dear friend Mike who will be running off to Portland in less than two weeks to officially join the Franciscans:

I always knew you
In your mothers arms
I have called your name
I have an idea
Placed in your mind
To be a better man
I've made a crown for you
Put it in your room
And when the bridegroom comes
There will be noise
There will be glad
And a perfect bed
And when you write a poem
I know the words
I know the sounds
Before you write it down
When you wear your clothes
I wear them too
I wear your shoes
And your jacket too
I always knew you
In your mothers arms
I have called you son
I've made amends
Between father and son
Or, if you haven't one
Rest in my arms
Sleep in my bed
There is a design
To what I did and said

- Sufjan Stevens

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Chess and Jobs

I had an interview for a job yesterday that was an excellent fit for my skills. The 3 hour (!) interview went well until the last person who was really technical and immediately underestimated and dismissed me. Anyway, I have to recover from that blow.

On a lovely note, my August goal is to improve my chess skills. I called up my friend Kevin who I had not seen in some time and asked him to help me achieve my goal. Interestingly enough, he has a regular date with a friend to play chess every Wednesday so I am joining them. I also am playing him and other people online through, (see link at the bottom of my blog). So, if there are any chess fans out there, join and we can play together online!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Vegan Eggplant Polenta Lasagna

Last night I made Eggplant Polenta Lasagne - I revised a recipe I have made before and basically made it up as I went along and it was DELICIOUS!

My recipe can be changed a bit to make it more healthy, (I fried the eggplant and polenta. The eggplant can be baked and the polenta can be made from scratch which would be boiled). But even with the frying, this recipe is much lower in fat and cholesterol (there is 0 cholesterol) than other lasagna recipes because it is cheeseless. And it is just as delicious in my humble opinion!

Here is the recipe:

Eggplant Polenta Lasagne

Half box of lasagne noodles
Prepared tube of polenta or 2 cups of polenta from a box
1 large eggplant
Jar of tomato sauce (or homemade)
5 slices of wheat bread
Olive Oil
Italian Spices
Sun dried tomatoes (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring salted water to a boil and place the lasagne noodles in the water. Boil the noodles for about 10 minutes. After they are cooked, place the noodles in a strainer and pour cold water over them.

Cut the eggplant into lengthwise pieces, (peel if you prefer). Salt the eggplant and let stand for 10 minutes to remove the bitterness. Dip the eggplant in flour and fry the pieces. Lightly dust with oregano and salt to taste as you are frying. Place the fried pieces on a plate.

For the polenta, I had a tube of already prepared polenta so I just fried them in lengthwise pieces as well and put them on a plate. However, I think the polenta from a box that is more soupy would be just as good.

Tear the bread into bite size pieces and pour enough olive oil on the bread to moisten the pieces. Spice the bread generously with Italian spices. (I also added sun dried tomatoes from Trader Joes but this is optional).

After everything in prepared, place a layer of lasagne noodles in the bottom of a pan (I used a 9 X 9 pan), then place a layer of eggplant and tomato sauce. Then layer in noodles, then polenta and sauce and so on. After you are finished, be sure to put sauce over the last layer of noodles. Put aluminum foil over the pan and place in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes is up, remove the foil and place the bread crumbs on top and bake for 5 more minutes.

Here is a recipe that can also help those who are confused in regards to using polenta in the recipe: Polenta Lasagna

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Today as I was driving home, I thought, "I am in a mid-20s crisis!" It never occurred to me that the frustration that I am feeling with my directionless life is something that peoples in their 20s commonly feel. My crisis is Catholic in nature, i.e. I am searching for what God wants for my life rather than what I want. But nevertheless, it was nice to suddenly feel that my inner turmoil is pretty much normal.

A woman at my Bible study passed this poem out recently.

Here is part of it:


If a tree were capable of reflection
would it have doubts about its growth?
Would it worry endlessly
about the direction it should take,
or when it should produce new leaves?
Would it sometimes imagine
that its life was without design?
Would it think that its height and shape
had been self-determined
through random acts of will
amounting more to good luck
than good management?

The poem goes on from here, but this was the part that interested me most.

I do believe that people can make bad choices. We can choose to be with people who do not treat us right, we can choose to hurt ourselves and others in our search for happiness. We can avoid committing to anything or anyone because we are afraid of being hurt. We can choose to do whatever we want in life and, as long as it is not a sin, expect God to bless it.

There are many ways that we can live our lives outside of God's will for us. Sometimes it is sinful, sometimes it is just foolish because we are avoiding the very choices that will make us more happy, closer to God's love and ready for heaven.

I am reading the book The Christian State of Life by Adrienne von Speyr, a female theologian who was good friends with one of the greatest Catholic theologians of our time, Hans Urs von Balthasar. In the book, Adrienne speaks of the choice that every Catholic is called to make, a choice between religious life and married life, (and I would add celibate single life). Reading her has led me to believe that many of us can very easily miss God's call for what He wants in our lives:

One who gives serious consideration to the choice he must make and spares no effort to make the right one will be shocked at the number of people who fail to choose. He will discover that many people around him lead a life of chance, taking life as it comes and accepting what it brings them with no reflection, no genuine attempt to come to terms with the life they live and in consequence, no conscious and free acceptance of it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Rose for a Rose

My mom and I began a rose novena to St. Therese 9 days ago.

Rose novenas to St. Therese have been a family tradition for some time, see my mom's post about it.

Anyway, we began the rose novena and my mom got her rose almost immediately. I, on the other hand waited. Normally the novena last 5 days but if you do not receive a rose, you can extend it to 9 days.

So I waited patiently for St. Therese to come through. "She'll come through, the little stinker," my mom assured me.

So, meanwhile I have been having a pretty difficult time, wanting to get away from my job, friend problems, neighbors who blare music until 4:30AM, the works. I have been feeling pretty beat up.

This morning, on the 9th day, as I was parking for BART and walking to the station, I saw something pink in the middle of the road. "That's my rose!" I thought excitedly. And sure enough, it was a fake rose in the middle of the street, looking just as battered and forlorn as I have been feeling.

I could not help but think, "Man it figures I would get a beat up rose." I considered the possibility that St. Therese was not happy that my mom called her a stinker :)

But I think St. Therese, in all of her wisdom was sending me a message about suffering by sending me a rose that has taken a few beatings.

In fact, it reminded me of a passage in her autobiography:

"I had offered myself to the Child Jesus to be His little plaything. I had told Him not to use me like a costly toy which children are pleased to look at without daring to touch; but as He would a little ball of no value, that He might throw to the ground, toss about, pierce, leave in a corner, or else press to His Heart if so it pleased Him." - St. Therese, Story of a Soul

So with the image of the ball and the battered but still beautiful rose, I wait for God to send me some signals about what He wants from me and how He wants me to serve Him. For now, I think He just wants me to embrace the suffering that I am feeling as a way to grow closer to Him. And the thing is - I love Him so much, I figure it will be worth it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Recovering & Reworking

Since I returned from Mexico I have been taking a good look at my life, where I am headed and where I want to go. I have been in a transition phase for some time now, evaluating what lies ahead and what God is calling me to in my life.

In some ways this time has been very beautiful. I have made wonderful, good and faithful friends. I have entered a new career and challenged myself in the corporate world. I have become active in my church. I have my own apartment or "haven of tranquility" as my brother David calls it. I have been learning to live alone and build my own life that is not dependent on anyone else but myself. It has been a really good time.

But I am feeling it is time to move on. I am not sure in what sense I mean this, maybe physically, maybe a change of jobs, maybe a change of career and life direction. I am a bit frustrated with my current job, I am no longer satisfied with just intellectual challenge, I need to be spiritually challenged. I want to serve God full time.

My friend Mike was accepted into the Franciscans and will be moving to Portland in September. Today I saw him and he is full of the grace of God and the buoyancy that comes when God is leading us to the next big step in our lives. I can't say I was not a bit envious.

My constant sense of being on the verge of something new in my life but having no idea what it could possibly be is difficult. But I also am trying to have trust in God and in His plan for my life - that is far more wonderful than anything I could possibly imagine.

I would like to ask for my friends and family's prayers during this time. All of you are so important to me and beautiful examples of what it means to live in God's will. Please pray that I find my way to the path He has laid out for me.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Return from Mexico

Settling back into life, American life.

The life of so much more than we need materially, and so much less than we need spiritually.

I went to Mexico to learn about the life of poor people.

I learned about the life of the rich.

Rich in faith, family and love for each other and God.

Learning nothing from me, I learned everything from the people I met.

- Giving what little they have generously and without thought to what they would gain

- Intimately in tune with the liturgical rhythms of the church, like the blood that flows pulsing to their open, kind hearts

- Service to their community and to the Church at the center of the meaning of their lives, their priorities are exactly where everyone's are meant to be

As the Mayan people I met say - Kolaval

Thank you.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sandwich Inventions (and more serious stuff)

I made an avocado, garlic stuffed olive, and sun-dried tomato sandwich today. Mmm mmm good.

On another more serious note, today I gave a speech in Toastmasters about the reasons I joined Teach for America in 2003 when I graduated from college.

Here are some things to chew on:
  • 9-year olds in inner-city schools are already three grade levels behind their peers in high-income schools
  • Half of these children will not graduate from high school.
  • Those who do graduate will read and do math on the level of eighth graders in high-income communities
  • 1 out of 10 will graduate from college
  • California builds jail cells based on how many 4th graders cannot read.

Educational inequality affects all of us.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Farewell Dear Family

Sarah left yesterday. When David left last weekend, Sarah insisted on keeping his paper coffee cup out, my stereo speaker its pedestal.

I considered leaving the coffee cup out with one of Sarah's socks draped over it after she left in a silent monument to their visit.

But of course my neat freak side won out over my sentimentality and I threw the cup away yesterday in a cleaning frenzy.

We had a wonderful time laughing, cooking, watching movies, baking, walking, going to church, visiting my herbalist, meeting my friends.

Today I woke up and automatically turned to the couch, expecting her to be sleeping there but she was not. It was a sad moment, but I am just happy that she visited me.

And there are more good things to look forward to such as my interview for Data Manager with KIPP schools this Thursday. I am not sure that is what God wants for me right now, but I would be very happy if it is!

I also am looking forward to my upcoming trip to Chiapas and my trip to Tulsa in August to see my family and my dear friends Amelia and Javier get married.

Sigh. Life continues. I am alone again but in other ways so comforted and never further away from loneliness.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sarah Daaahling

Sarah, my dear friend and sister is arriving tomorrow. Here is a list of planned activities:

1. Bake tons of fabulous and wonderful desserts
2. Cook "gourmet" veggie food
3. Listen to music and dance around my studio apt
4. Bike shop
5. Nimia's B-day
6. Watch movies on Marilene's projector
7. Meet some of my dear friends
8. Drink coffee and read delicious books
9. Talk talk talk talk
10. See David - hopefully?
11. Clean my apt :) hahahaha

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Lauryn Hill - Zion

Sarah posted a Lauryn Hill video and so it inspired me. I heard this song recently and there is no better message for why women should keep their babies:

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Chiapas, Mexico

I will be traveling to Chiapas, Mexico in June for a week. I found out about the trip last Sunday and bought my ticket on Wednesday. A little brash, I admit but it felt right and after I bought the ticket, I felt a deep peace in my heart.

Chiapas is an area rich in natural resources to the south of Mexico. Most of the indigenous people of Mexico live there. Rich land and poor people is always a bad combination for human dignity and rights. I will be visiting a mission of Dominican sisters who help people in the area. We will visit various villages and human rights organizations.

I am so excited!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Golden Poppies

The hills look like the side of a woman.

They are covered in yellow poppies, nodding in the wind.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Prophets of a Future Not Our Own

It helps now and then, to step back and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that can be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
That is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder
and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

- Archbishop Oscar Romero

Romero was killed by a shot to the heart on March 24, 1980 while celebrating Mass at a small chapel near his cathedral following a sermon where he called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God's higher order and to stop carrying out the government's repression and violations of basic human rights.

Friday, April 18, 2008

St. Albert's Priory

Today I rushed to St Albert's after work and made it just in time for the homily in which the priest made several references to metaphysical philosophy that were apparently very funny because all of the Dominican brothers in the congregation laughed big guffaws several times. I had a huge goofy grin on my face for the entire homily, not because I understood it all but because I was just so thrilled to be really struggling to understand a homily. What a gift to the Church are these Dominican minds!

On top of the usual cerebral wonderfulness of St. Albert's, the mass was in Spanish, reminding me of my many mass experiences in Central America. I forgot most of the responses but just the rhythm of the Spanish mass is in some ways more familiar to me in English, (I think it must be because it is my second language so I pay more attention to what is happening).

Thank you God for the blessing of St. Albert's...

Can I get an "Amen" Marilene?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

New Times Call for New Blogs

Hello Dear Friends and Family,

You probably are wondering why I moved my blog.

I feel on the cusp of a new phase in my life and I would like those closest to me to be a part of it. I have had my Tmarie blog since I began Teach for America in Miami. Although I love and care for every person who has had an impact on my life, I do not want all of them to be reading my innermost thoughts!

So, with that, the beginning of a new era, with a new name.

Peace in Christ,