Sunday, October 1, 2023

Let's Bloom throughout My Favorite Month

It's the beginning of my favorite month and the feast day of St. Therese of Lisieux who is the patron saint of some of the ministries I am involved's not how big or grand a gesture with which I do things that is important or matters but the love with which I do them is one of the ideas she is known for - - "Do all things with love"... Even letting go of things and surrendering.

St. Therese, Little Flower, pray for us! 

Bloom where you are planted! 

Monday, August 14, 2023

Neighborly Love

We forgot to take out the trash last night. I just ran it out this morning. Come to find out, the truck must have already done our side of the street. So, unbeknownst to me, my neighbor grabbed our can and put it in his driveway to be collected with his trash. Then, right after the truck came, he quickly ran our can back across the street to our driveway. I would never have known if I hadn't happened to look out the window as he was doing it.

Today also happens to be the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe who made the ultimate sacrifice in laying down his life for a fellow prisoner at Auschwitz. He is quoted as saying, "A single act of love makes the soul return to life".

Thank you to my amazing neighbor for not being indifferent & for your small sacrifice of neighborly love. 💕

Monday, June 5, 2023

All in the Timing


We picked strawberries today at a berry farm. As we walked in the warm California sunshine, stopping every so often to check out the strawberries, and choosing to pick one from the vine or to keep on walking in the hopes of looking for one that was just a bit more ripe, I couldn't help but compare this act of growing and maturing on the part of the sweet treat to our experiences as humans.

How often do we yearn for that moment of readiness? Wouldn't we all rather want to be the bright shiny vibrant strawberry rather than the small yellow or green budding one?

How often do we rush the process?

Or grow impatient in the waiting and eventual ripening?

Seeing the strawberries today were a small reminder to trust in the timing of it all. 

If we rush in picking the strawberries before they are ready to be picked, we would be robbed of the sweetness they have to offer in their maturity.

The same could be said for our lives. If we skip to the end result, we might not recognize the beauty that comes with the stretching, with the pressing, and with the transforming as we change and evolve to (hopefully) better versions of ourselves.

I once heard a pastor say, "God is never late, but generally He is not early either." There is so much truth in that deceptively simple sentence. The time span for strawberries to bloom and then be ready to be picked ranges from four to six weeks. That is a relatively short span of time but for that strawberry in the moment, it may feel an eternity in evolving from flower to the fruit we are familiar with in dessert form...or in the form of the yummy strawberry margarita my sister-in-law made for me tonight. 😊 I wonder if that is what it will seem like at the end of our lives when we look back with a new understanding...all those days of pain and suffering or waiting for the next thing may seem so short in the grand scheme of things once we see the big picture.

Earlier today, Charlotte and I were talking about purpose in lives and vocations when she wondered if she might have a job or "pick a boy" when she grows up...We don't know what the future holds but we know who holds it. God uses the times we find ourselves in waiting. Nothing is wasted and growth and change are always occurring...even if we can't see or feel it. I don't know what Charlotte's life will wind up looking like but I do trust in the process of waiting and being pruned. However, we can't reap the harvest without the growing from a small seed, bursting through the cover/dirt, and blooming where we are planted!

One of the songs from mass today, as we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, was about the vine and bearing fruit. How appropriate for today's fun family outing of going strawberry picking! May we all be more like the strawberries and allow ourselves to change and ripen to be used to our full extent possible...if we are just patient enough.

Monday, May 22, 2023

You're in the lead

Eight years ago on this very afternoon, Adam and I got a head start from my mom and dad, with small flags tucked somewhere in the car. They were for the vets and active duty guests for the reception scheduled for the next day since our wedding fell on Memorial Day weekend that year. 

The weather that afternoon as we drove south from Frackville to York was very much like today's weather has been on my drive from Ohio to my hometown. 

Only this time Dad has a head start to our Heavenly Home.

Tomorrow will mark eight years since you walked me down the aisle and gave me away but you kept my heart and always will. 


Saturday, May 20, 2023

Seventh Anniversary Gifts - Copper & Wool

This is one of my favorite pictures from 2022 of Adam and me, taken last summer in Lewes, Delaware, about a month after our 7th anniversary. Where we walked on that beautiful June day, were the pretty old town blocks where I worked and took walks, after school, as a single new teacher just starting out in my big girl world. That had been 20 years prior to when this photo was taken. Looking at this photo now, while it's true we are a little more gray than when we first met ten years ago, the love is as bright as ever. We have had some sad times over the years, but we've also had the happy times and we're still smiling through it all. Thank you, Lord, for this gift of matrimony and my spouse!

So, in reflecting on what to get Adam for our 7th anniversary (last year), here is what I learned regarding the seventh anniversary gift rationale as viewed at this website:

There was no traditional gift for seven years of marriage in the United States until 1937. In that year, the American National Retail Jeweler Association published a list of traditional anniversary gifts by year through the 20th wedding anniversary and then for each fifth year thereafter.

For the seventh anniversary, gifts composed of copper or wool are traditional, though this can vary by country. Both are recognized in the U.S. But wool is favored in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Italy. And copper is the choice in Russia and Germany.

Copper has long had a traditional meaning of prosperity, good luck, and good fortune. Couples who celebrate their seventh wedding anniversary can indeed celebrate their good fortune in finding one another. Wool represents the comfort, durability, security, and warmth that couples married this long give one another.

Furthermore, as the modern seventh wedding anniversary gift, a desk set or organizer is supposed to represent the respect you have for each other’s work and the work your relationship takes.


I don't think I noticed the desk set or organizer bit last year when researching what to get Adam for last year's 7th anniversary! That would have made shopping a lot easier. Here is the irony though. At work, last summer, I switched out the large clunky professional desk for a small, yellow, hand-me-down desk from one of my former student leaders who had graduated and no longer needed her desk! So, even though it was not related to Adam's and my anniversary, I did organize my desk (at work) with a new desk set/organizer during our seventh year of marriage. how fun is that?! 

You're not here to read about office improvements though! Back to what did Adam and I gift one another for our 7th anniversary last summer?

He chose to go with this t-shirt, knowing how much I enjoy purple, citing the fact that cotton and wool are soft.

He also gave this shiny smooth copper-colored compact that I keep in my school bag. Throughout this past schoolyear, it was a nice reminder each time I would catch a glimpse of it at the bottom of the school bag under my planners and books.

I gave Adam a penny---penny for your thoughts?! ;-) I also gave him a small needle felting kit crafting set that would enable us to make three small wool animal toys that I thought we both could enjoy partaking in with Charlotte. Charlotte loves playing with her little figurines, lining them up, playing school or daycare with them, and taking them on adventures. What better family gift, of wool, to give, right?

Would you believe a whole year has gone by and we haven't done this yet? I have never done needle felting and I must admit, I'm feeling quite intimidated by this kit! However, after getting back into crosstitching this past Lent, I'm feeling more brave about trying to teach myself this new skill in the upcoming summer! Better late than never, right?!

Another fun fact about year # 7, is that I can now say that I'm the woman Adam has been with the longest out of his other previous relationships. In two separate relationships, apparently he had dated the women for seven years in each. Whew, we made it to year # 8! =) Speaking of which, I'm especially excited to give Adam his gifts this summer. One is practical but the other is pretty unique if I say so myself. Stay tuned! 

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Fully both

I was promoted to full professor today.  ✔ 🎓🍎

For those outside of higher education, there are typically three levels or professorship. A first year or beginning professor is often categorized as assistant professor. This does not mean this sort of professor is a teaching assistant or has not completed his or her training/schooling as many erroneously believe. It's just the title or category of being at the start of your career as a professor aka a beginning professor or a junior faculty member.

The next level or rank is to achieve the associate professor rank. This occurs after a predetermined number of years working at the assistant professor level, evaluations, and contributions of service, scholarship, and teaching within the discipline.  These same requirements are often applied to move on up to the next level or rank of full professor.

Honestly, I had no desire to go up for full professor when I first began this part of my teaching career. I've had my doctorate (PhD) since 2014 and this is the conclusion of my ninth year working at the institution where I am currently employed. Over time, though, the desire to see if I could achieve full professorship was planted. I think after so many doors closing in recent years and encountering "no" so often, I was fueled in my desire to see if I could make it to full professorship.  ❓

In writing this piece, I looked up what does full professorship mean and saw this blurb online:

Full professor is the highest rank that a professor can achieve (other than in a named position) and is seldom achieved before a person reaches his or her mid-40s. The rank of full professor carries additional administrative responsibilities associated with membership on committees that are restricted to full professors.

Reading the above description, it seems that I beat one goal...of earning this accomplishment before I reach my mid-40s. 🙌 😂 Reading the description, I don't think I can stand to take on any additional responsibilities at the moment though. This last year has been one of slowly letting go of commitments and responsibilities I've held over the last several years that have been near and dear to my heart. It's been a bit of a pruning year as I dig in and focus on departmental and accreditation duties that are calling my name. Our Lord never runs out of opportunities to allow us to practice humble obedience. This is a lifelong lesson for discern what is of His will and to accept it. Give me the grace, Lord!  🙏

So, today was momentous in so many ways. 🎆

It represents overcoming hurdles. It represents hard work, blood, sweat, and tears. Oh, so many tears....It represents throwing myself into work when all was falling apart around me. 

It represents persevering even when others did not believe in me. It represents getting up day after day even on the darkest of mornings and when the only small success that day was putting one foot in front of the other.  

It also represents a support system of my husband and daughter unfailingly believing in me. 💕

It represents my mom and dad, my first and biggest fans, and my brothers being proud of their sister the teacher. It represents my spiritual mothers and advisors who have taught me so well - I will never get used to hearing my name said alongside Dr. Klein and Dr. Compton even after being called doctor the last nine years.  💗

Looking back on the last 20+ years of teaching, soooo many students come to mind. 

I think of 3rd grader Daniel who couldn't wait for me to come to his classroom to co-teach with his classroom teacher. 

I think of Brianna, struggling her way through elementary school amidst a tumultous home life, who just wanted someone to listen to her and to really see her and know her. 

I think of Gregory, a 4th grader who had one of the happiest dispositions I've encountered, who needed assistance with spelling and needed strategies to be successful in his classes. 

I remember Andrew getting in trouble as a new teen driver when he threw his trash out of the driver's side window and our talking about the consequences of our actions on the second floor of the Vo-Tech library. 

I also remember Faith running to see me with happy tears streaming down her face, as a high school senior, when she passed her cosmetology exam we had studied so hard for and I remember Brandon sharing all about his game-winning hit at the previous night's high school baseball game. 

I think of the homebound students I worked with and the tutoring sessions I provided after school for those who had been cast aside and seemingly forgotten. I was the link connecting them from their in-home situations to school life.

Later, I recall the gasps of concern when I literally stood up to come crashing down on the floor in front of a class of 42 college students, and a supervisor who was observing my teaching in the class, at UNCG when the high heel of my shoe got caught in the ribbon decoration of the other shoe.  That was the day I stopped wearing cute high heels when teaching.

Moments of advising pre-service teachers and helping them to discern if they want to be teachers rise to the top of the memories as I reflect on my time in higher education. Hard conversations and lightbulb moments are some of my favorites as I remember these college students recognizing what their true vocations/callings were. 

Student leaders, student researchers, and interactions with students inside and outside the classroom, bubble up to the surface as I reflect on all the "kids" I've had the chance to teach, mentor, and accompany on their own journeys. Some had disabilities - those seen and unseen. Some were young and others were older. Some went on to become teachers. Others dropped out of school. All have made a mark on the teacher, and person, I am today. 

Back in 2019, when I was promoted from assistant to associate professor, I wasn't in the country. So I watched the graduation ceremony from the Kartause in Austria. I remember sitting at the long table in the front room of the apartment where we were staying and pulling up the graduation ceremony on the livestream link. It took but a few moments to hear them say my name and that they were presenting to me in absentia due to currently teaching in the study abroad program. When all was said and done, it was a rather unceremonious moment on the other side of the world for me. I remember, closing the laptop, getting up from the table, and turning my attention back to grading for my summer online class that had already started. It was a surreal feeling knowing the fieldhouse was packed full of people on campus celebrating these moments with the soon to be graduates. So, fast forward to today, and it was nice to physically be there for this promotion this time and to experience it "live" and in person. I'm so thankful for the family and friends who were able to attend and join me in celebrating as well!

Professionally speaking, since that other promotion in 2019 to now, many losses occurred but so did many successes. You can't revel in the glory of Jesus unless you also unite in His suffering. As I look back at all that has occurred since May 2019, in addition to teaching, the below is what I've accomplished out of the research aspect of my job:

* wrote a book
* wrote a textbook with colleagues
* wrote three book chapters
* published nine articles
* was invited to write nine publications
* created a website with a colleague
* gave 79 presentations (!!!)
* secured $213,644 worth of grants alongside colleagues

I can't even begin to put a number to or try to quantify the service opportunities or collaborations with other colleagues. Admittedly, that is where my heart is when it's not with my family. It is probably what I'm more known for in this community. I see the work that is done out of this arena of service as a tangible way of being the hands and feet of Christ and living out the vocation of spiritual motherhood. I always have...even long before I entered higher education where a premium is placed on the service aspect to working. My early days of volunteering in my Mom's 2nd grade classroom or coaching cheerleading  point to this desire to give to others the way others have given to me.

However, what is not counted in the above quantifiable information, is also all the nos that come with the yeses. The qualitative aspects of sleepless nights, early mornings, and the stretching to do all the things and trying to be all the things for multple individuals is not reflected in the above numbers. Sacrificing time spent with family and friends, feeling excluded from social gatherings, and skipping out on small moments of respite/recreation are hard to quantify. 

Not counted in the above list, are the hours spent away from my family or equally the guilt felt when carving out time for family that eventually leads to falling behind with work. 

What a swinging pendulum...We can't have Easter Sunday without having Good to be fully this case:  wife/mother and professor? That is the million dollar question. How to turn off the racing thoughts when trying to be present to loved ones? How to share your gifts and skillset in the way God wants you to use them with others? How to feel as if you're meeting the needs and demands of both roles?

What I do know is the work accomplishments would mean absolutely nothing without Adam and Charlotte. 

Yet Adam and Charlotte would not be receiving the best of me if I denied the teacher part of me. 

The work I do inside the home, as well as outside the home, contribute to all aspects of who I am.

You can have joy amidst sorrow. 

Pain will seep in and settle among the happy times, too. 

To be fully alive is to experience both emotions. Henry David Thoreau and Oscar Wilde, among many others, have penned their thoughts on this juxtaposition of experiencing both extremes in daily encounters. We all have crosses to bear. They have been personally fashioned for each one of us and our unique situations...they are not plucked out of thin air and tossed on to our backs at random. This past weekend's gospel reading reminds us that God is in us and we're in Him. 

Gospel, John 14:1-12

1 Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God, trust also in me.

2 In my Father's house there are many places to live in; otherwise I would have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you,

3 and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you to myself, so that you may be with me where I am.

4 You know the way to the place where I am going.

5 Thomas said, 'Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?'

6 Jesus said: I am the Way; I am Truth and Life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

7 If you know me, you will know my Father too. From this moment you know him and have seen him.

8 Philip said, 'Lord, show us the Father and then we shall be satisfied.' Jesus said to him,

9 'Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? 'Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father, so how can you say, "Show us the Father"?

10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? What I say to you I do not speak of my own accord: it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his works.

11 You must believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe it on the evidence of these works.

12 In all truth I tell you, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, and will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father.

Yes, we have hardships, but we also have joys. 
We absolutely can't lose sight of this. 
We struggle but we also have times of ease at times. God is with us through it all. How can we lean into these truths? How can we face the hard along with experiencing the good? How can we open our hands and say, "Give it all to me, Lord, all for the glory of You!" and truly mean it? 
How do we continue doing the works set before us? 
In reflecting on this particular professional milestone, and goal that was five years in the making, the below has helped me. Daily, we can strive to do the following within our own circumstances:
- Grow in humility. We can ask forgiveness of one another instead of standing in pride or operating out of fear. Trust the Lord will provide.
- Be kind to others and pray for others...always. This is easier said than done at times. We are all human and tend to go into self-preservation mode. There will be times you will feel discarded, not chosen, left out, or be in situations in which you were obviously not thought of - but be kind anyway. Give others the benefit of the doubt and get out of our own worldview. In other words, try to not take things personally and control only what you can - your way of dealing with disappointment or these feelings.
- Decrease so that He may increase. Seek always to be a conduit of God's love and grace to pour out of you and spill over on to others. Shift the focus from your needs to meet the needs of others. In the story of Rainbow Fish, he desires at first to keep all his beautiful sparkly scales. He gains true happiness, however, when he gives them away to his friends. Share what you have with others. Rather than store up treasures for yourself, share! 
- Carve out time for prayer and spending time with God's matter how overpacked the schedule is or other commitments clamorning for your attention. Give God your time and He will multiply it! Draw inspiration from scripture.
- Finally, be willing to share your struggles. This one is huge...for me anyway. Rather than closing yourself off, be open with others. Be vulnerable and honest. It is okay to hurt, to fail, and to admit trials...but then get up and keep step at a time. One way I have tried to do this, recently, is to be open to the struggles of living with secondary infertility. Over the last three months, I've taken huge leaps of faith in putting our story out there and being a bit more vocal about the pain and blessings of walking this journey. The hope is that it can help at least one person who may be walking a similar path in his or her own life.
Last week, I completed a weekly women's group book study in which we read St. John Paul II's Letter to Women. In it, he closes the letter by reminding the reader the ordinary everyday tasks and acts we engage in during our encounters with others matter. We have each been given graces and gifts to be workers in the vineyard. God calls us to work our way through our areas of weakness, to rely on Him, and to be truly ourselves in the way He designed us. This has had me pondering lately how my struggles fit in to the grand scheme of things and how I am being called to use and move through them. 
So, as I wrap up this reflection on being fully both, at this point in my life, and documenting this move to full professor, I admit there were moments when I doubted this day would come. Getting to this point, professionally speaking has not been without challenges. I'm thankful for all who lifted me up on the days I couldn't stand and for those who joined me for the adventures and said yes to my wild propositions/ideas/collaborations over the years thus far. 
I'm so thankful for this vocation of teaching and for the supports (inside the home and outside the home) that helped me to get to this point. Thank you, God, for this gift and vocation. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us on this feast day of yours and during which, this promotion happened. 
Also, what an amazing detail God has woven into this story! I attended first grade at Our Lady of Fatima Grade School in Hopewell Twp, Pennsylvania. A few weekends ago, I was able to take my current first grader there! 😍

Another beautiful detail is that li
terally on back to back days, my family gets to celebrate two huge parts of what makes me who I am. Today, on Saturday, the focus is on the professional with this promotion then 24 hours later on Sunday, it is Mother's Day in honoring Charlotte and how she calls me my favorite title. Nine years (and four days) ago, I changed my title by walking across the stage in the Greensboro Coliseum by getting hooded by a spirtual mother and mentor. Less than a decade later, I was able to move up a rank and do this literally in front of Adam & Charlotte who had snagged a seat in the front with my mom, brother, and his four kids who had driven through the night to witness this special event.
Thank you, Lord, for these opportunities. I can't wait to see what the next 20 years hold....both personally & professionally! 

“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” ~ William Butler Yeats

"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." ~ Matthew 18:20

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~ Jeremiah 29:11

"The entire educational process must be carried out with love which is perceptible in every disciplinary measure and which does not instill any fear...and the most effective educational method is not the word of instruction but the living example without which all words remain useless." - - - St. Edith Stein