Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Riches galore

Like I do with any new season or event, I marked the start of this Christmas break by writing a "bucket list." I even posted it right here. As I titled it, appropriately, "Christmas Break Bucket List," I wrinkled my nose at the same-old-ness of it all. I have been writing...and ignoring...lists like this for years. I needed better vision for this dream-dreaming and goal-setting.
Then, I read a quote from a shiny photographer mom blog that I've been following for some time now. She visited Utah, and was enchanted by what she saw: 


"It's unreal. I tried to express my amazement of the place today, but every good word I thought of seemed to cheapen the beauty...so I used naughty words instead, because they're already cheap." -Kelle Hampton


Kelle. You may need a soapy rinse for your dirty mouth, but you're an everyday genius. Sometimes, when I'm struck with something that isn't easily communicated or completed, I roll over. I play dead, and breathe shallowly so no one will ask me to explain anything. I give the cheap response because I don't have to reach far to grab it, and at least people don't pity me for trying hard and failing miserably if I don't attempt things seriously. I write rote lists and attempt new adventures half-heartedly because it's cheaper and easier and it doesn't really hurt if I don't accomplish things that I didn't really care about in the first place.
That's absolutely not what this season is about. It's not supposed to be cheap. It's not spray-painted, shatterproof ornaments from the bargain bin. (Sorry, Target. My pink and green bulbs are cutesy and affordable, but so not legitimate. The paint is flaking off and the white plastic underwear is showing.) This time is delicate - like the mirrored glass of the Christmas balls that shatter into a million pieces if you bump them off of the tree. It's rich. It is real. It's not synthetic poinsettias. It's spicy evergreens that came from a tree that took time to grow.


Sooo...my bucket list. I bucked it. I took off any items that I added just because they generally seemed addable. I thought about what I ought to ask of myself, and what I could accomplish. I thought SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. I did not feel nerdy at all for using acronyms in personal list-making.


Some of these things are hard, some easier. Each are rich...rich like hearty foods, and jeweled colors, warm lights in the sharp darkness, and cozy layers in the biting cold. Substantial.

  • Memorize a delicious little poem by January 1.  FAIL. Not an inspiring start.
  • Read and relish in a work of fiction to celebrate the completion of the GRE, which left the lingering and unsavory vibe of fluorescent lights and buzzy computer screens and cheap plastic testing cubicles. (The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. Simple, sad, and sincere.
  • Write and mail my Christmas cards to the mission partners who help me to do this incredible job and become my extended family - faux aunts and uncles, or "faunts and funcles." This was an EVENT. They should have brought in the mayor and the marching band when I dropped those 200 little gems down the chute.
  • Bug my teammates and my disciples so they won't forget how much they love their FOCUS team. MOSTLY FAIL.
  • Complete my grad school application by December 31 with pomp and gratitude (pomp+gratitude=promptitude? pratitude?). And right after I hit "Submit," we drove 3 blocks to "downtown" for New Year's Eve kareoke in the small town watering hole. Slightly awkward. Fully celebratory.
  • Break in my new running shoes by running real miles. With my real legs. Once every other day, at least 20 minutes at a time. MOSTLY FAIL. But I did register for the Country Music Half. Giddy up.

  • Water my first real Christmas tree in my very own living room. (*Well, a friend did it for me today. She even added sugar to the water. And apparently you have to do it every three days or something. Sheesh.)

  • Drape the real evergreen garland on the eave and wrap the columns of the porch in greenery and white lights. FAIL FAIL MEGA FAIL. We carried this away when it was a moldy, frozen coil. (So, picture the doorway above looking a little less like it's in the Shire. Now picture the greenery lying on the ground beside the door. Put snow and ice on the greenery. Lots of it. You can't even see the garland anymore. Now imagine slimy evergreen boughs waiting to be unearthed in the spring. Ah, domesticity.)
  • Find the perfect presents for Dad & Mom. (*Hm. Celebrating the birth of Christ with family? My presence? Check check. Presents from a store? Check that too.)
  • Sleep 8 hours a night. Yeah! Pretty much!
  • Prepare to be a Mistress of Ceremonies - find nuggets to share and songs about Baltimore to sing at the Baltimore FOCUS Conference besides that one from HairsprayThanks, Christine. I wouldn't have done it without your motivation. Honestly.

    Oh that's riiiight...

    There was a time when I knew how to calculate the area of a parallelogram without hesitation.

    Now is not that time.

    I would like to thank the GRE for this refreshing reminder.

    God bless America.

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Happy Birthday, Emily :)


    Emily Dickinson's To-Do List
    by Andrea Carlisle

    Monday
    Figure out what to wear—white dress?
    Put hair in bun
    Bake gingerbread for Sue
    Peer out window at passersby
    Write poem
    Hide poem

    Tuesday
    White dress? Off-white dress?
    Feed cats
    Chat with Lavinia
    Work in garden
    Letter to T.W.H.

    Wednesday
    White dress or what?
    Eavesdrop on visitors from behind door
    Write poem
    Hide poem

    Thursday
    Try on new white dress
    Gardening—watch out for narrow fellows in grass!
    Gingerbread, cakes, treats
    Poems: Write and hide them

    Friday
    Embroider sash for white dress
    Write poetry
    Water flowers on windowsill
    Hide everything
    (Poster available from the Emily Dickinson Museum by artist Penelope Dullaghan. Seen here.)
    A POEM BY EMILY DICKINSON
    Fame is a fickle food
    Upon a shifting plate
    Whose table once a
    Guest but not
    The second time is set.
    Whose crumbs the crows inspect
    And with ironic caw
    Flap past it to the Farmer's Corn —
    Men eat of it and die.

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    The Third Place

    I scored a spot at a velvet chair the color of an eggplant near the fireplace at Starbucks. There were flurries flying outside, and faux-flurry window clings stuck on the doors. I put headphones on and began "work" at Facebook, continuing to my blogroll.  It wasn't 'til I hit my email that I realized I hadn't ever turned on music...I was listening to the indistinct chatter of the 60-or-so people sharing the cafe floor. I clicked into iTunes and lasted 2 songs before deciding that I was missing out on something.

    I caught snatches of the professor/student meetings happening on my right and my left. I hadn't spoken a word to any of them except the velvet-chairholder next to me. I knew no one else in the place, but felt little sense of aloneness. I surely wasn't comforted by productivity - for heaven's sake, I was browsing pictures of people that I barely knew, eating an over-expensive sugar cookie painted like a polar bear with a scarf. So...what was so great about this sociable anonymity?

    I had sunk into the third place, "a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace. Ray Oldenburg calls one's 'first place' the home and those that one lives with. The 'second place' is the workplace — where people may actually spend most of their time. Third places, then, are 'anchors' of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction. All societies already have informal meeting places; what is new in modern times is the intentionality of seeking them out as vital to current societal needs."

    Positive:  It was easier to see these strangers as people than if they were next to me on the road, shrouded in his and her own vehicle. Negative:  The fact that no one knew what I was supposed to be accomplishing there did allow me to waste my time and call it "restoring my energy."

    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    Thankful.

    For each new morning with its light,
    For rest and shelter of the night,
    For health and food, for love and friends,
    For everything Thy goodness sends.
    -Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Mama and Papa Burnison are in the air right now, winging their way back to Kansas City. Their visit was wonderful - very "People, Look East," verse 1:

    People, look east. The time is near 
    Of the crowning of the year.
    Make your house fair as you are able,
    Trim the hearth and set the table.
    People, look east and sing today:
    Love, the guest, is on the way.

    In this case, the guests were the ones to trim the hearth...and patch the driveway, and clean the windows, and rake the leaves, and chop the wood, and fix the blue chair and bake the pies.


    Thank you, Mom & Dad. I love you. Happy Thanksgiving.





    "It's your turn to say 'Happy Thanksgiving' back:"

    Someone else's words...

    ...to jumpstart my own.


    "When I look into the future, I am frightened,
    but why plunge into the future?
    Only the present moment is precious to me,
    As the future may never enter my soul at all.

    It is no longer in my power,
    To change, correct or add to the past;
    For neither sages nor prophets could do that.
    And so, what the past has embraced I must entrust to God.

    O present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire.
    I desire to use you as best I can.
    And although I am weak and small,
    You grant me the grace of your omnipotence.

    And so, trusting in Your mercy,
    I walk through life like a little child,
    Offering You each day this heart
    Burning with love for Your greater glory."


    St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    la la life





    Well, hey.


    Yesterday my friend played a writer's round showcase. She was stunning. The best guitar player on the stage. And vocalist. And lyricist. Also, and very importantly, she made the whole thing not awkward.

    (I'm SO proud! And she's wearing my shirt.)


    Later that night, I awoke to a phone call from Orem, Utah. Me:"Yes, I'm at home. My house is on fire, you say?" (Sniffs the air. FREAKS out. Runs downstairs, still talking to the security system lady on the phone, to find an open oven with a blackened bottom, fans spinning, doors open...and the most delicious-looking apple turnovers Williams Sonoma has ever seen.) The firemen hadn't received the "false alarm" message in time from Utah Lady, so we offered them cookies when they showed up, apologized profusely (not even trying to pretend that I wasn't in pajamas), and tried to take pictures of their truck as they pulled away from the house.  I went back to bed, and laughed out loud. Like a crazy.

    (Here's their truck. Nicely washed, just for us. Can't you see it shine?)


    Now, I'm at Starbucks. God bless America. I've already listened to a podcast on Reckless Love. Feist and Joni Mitchell and Eva Cassidy have played on the store speakers.  I have done NO work, but I don't feel bad yet. I did receive the most beautiful, completely unexpected, and perfectly-timed message from an distant college friend. It was such a made-for-tv-movie moment. My eyes filled with tears and I wondered if the guy in the chair next to me had any idea what a great day like this felt like.

    (I hope you have an idea.)


    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    G.K. Chesterton on what we DO have in common...and what we don't.

    "There is a phrase of facile liberality uttered again and again at ethical societies and parliaments of religion: “the religions of the earth differ in rites and forms, but they are the same in what they teach.” It is false; it is the opposite of the fact. The religions of the earth do not greatly differ in rites and forms; they do greatly differ in what they teach. It is as if a man were to say, “Do not be misled by the fact that the Church Times and the Freethinker look utterly different, that one is painted on vellum and the other carved on marble, that one is triangular and the other hectagonal; read them and you will see that they say the same thing.” The truth is, of course, that they are alike in everything except in the fact that they don’t say the same thing. An atheist stockbroker in Surbiton looks exactly like a Swedenborgian stockbroker in Wimbledon. You may walk round and round them and subject them to the most personal and offensive study without seeing anything Swedenborgian in the hat or anything particularly godless in the umbrella. It is exactly in their souls that they are divided. So the truth is that the difficulty of all the creeds of the earth is not as alleged in this cheap maxim: that they agree in meaning, but differ in machinery. It is exactly the opposite. They agree in machinery; almost every great religion on earth works with the same external methods, with priests, scriptures, altars, sworn brotherhoods, special feasts. They agree in the mode of teaching; what they differ about is the thing to be taught. Pagan optimists and Eastern pessimists would both have temples, just as Liberals and Tories would both have newspapers. Creeds that exist to destroy each other both have scriptures, just as armies that exist to destroy each other both have guns."

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    Priscilla's right.

    I just love this. If I could write a song, I would like it to be like this one.

    One step enough for me...

    "Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
    Lead Thou me on!
    The night is dark, and I am far from home --
    Lead Thou me on!
    Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
    The distant scene -- one step enough for me..."
    -s. 1, The Pillar of the Cloud, John Henry Cardinal Newman

    It's so real. My heart feels this, tenses at these words. Inside, uncertainty about what's forever and what's next juxtaposes itself with the right-now knowledge of being LOVED. (*All of the fiery words in here are capitalized. Slam your hand on the table with each capitalized word for greater effect. Maybe raise your eyebrows, too.) It's a cozy light in a long, unlit hallway. Cozy is not even enough of a word. Because I am loved, I can do anything good. (Ahahaha! Sorry, Cardinal Newman. Totally serious here. Back to furrowed thinking face.)


    I wish I could spell precisely how TRUE THIS IS. (*Three slams on the table, eyebrows high.) Love has made me the good parts of me. That's why I write about it ALL the time and think about it ALL the time and cry immediately when Father Baker or some random country song describes it, as long as no one is looking at me.  It's why I have the courage to say stupid things in front of smart people (which is mildly unfortunate), and even do some good things in bad situations (more fortunate).


    I have been loved by my parents. From the first, in the school of the family, I learned love. Alert the media: This changes the WORLD, a parent's love. I know women, and men too, with broken, broken hearts because they do not know this love.


    I'm loved by the greatest friends EVER. Try and test me on this one. I won't budge. Some would die for me, and greater love has no man than this. I have been cherished and forgiven and challenged. LOVED.


    So, when I squint to follow the Light, when the night is dark and I'm far from Home, when I must insistently remind my achy-breaky heart that He DOES have a plan, and it's a reeeeally good one, it's Love that keeps my feet and lets me say "I do not ask to see the distant scene -- one step enough for me."


    And I mean it.


    Because they mean it, when they love me.


    And because He meant it first, so we can love.


    (*Slam.)

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    Who was your friend when you were in space?

    Cleaning out my yahoo.com inbox, I came across this email from Daddio. Experience a seasoned storyteller with a distinctive emailing style:


    March 5, 2008
    Yesterday, I went over to a school in a neighboring town, as they had Clay Anderson, the Astronaut from Ashland, Nebraska (who spent 5 months at the space station) at this school for the day. 
    I was there for the 5:15 p.m. time they had for the public. At the Q&A session ... once some old guy asked the obligatory question about Space Ship bathrooms and there were questions about fuel, water, etc ... a little girl  maybe 5, 6, or 7 years old, sitting a couple rows ahead of me, raised her hand and asked in all seriousness:
    " ...Who was your friend when you were in space?" 
    Having shared life with 2 daughters, I recognized that this would be a question a little girl would ask ... and in all sincerity, this would be some thing a little girl would have recognized as an item of real concern, even miles above the earth...a question worthy of asking in front of a gym full of people. 
    This guy was good. He responded:  "First off, I have to tell you that I got to email my wife every day and got to call a few times a week, and once a week we got a video visit.   My wife was my best friend on the space station."  
    "...Then, the 2 guys from Russia and I were like the 3 musketeers."
    ***********************************************************************************
    That little girl's question gave that Astronaut hero a chance to show another side of him being a hero. 
    That little girl's simple question let me nod in recognition of what all little girls hold as important in life.  
    The others were worried about getting there and back and the danger of space walks, and this little girl was worried about the "danger" of Clayton Anderson not having a friend for the 5 months he was in space. 
    ************
    As beautiful as any night time lift off. 


    Dad Kevin Burnison

    Monday, July 5, 2010

    A poem half-memorized, wholly good

    The Annunciation
    And was it true,
    The stranger standing so,
    And saying things that lifted her in two,
    And put her back before the world's beginning?

    Her eyes filled slowly with the morning glow.
    Her drowsy ear drank in a first sweet dubious bird.
    Her cheek against the pillow woke and stirred
    To gales enriched by passage over dew,
    And friendly fields and slopes of Galilee
    Arose in tremulous intermixture with her dreams,
    Till she remembered suddenly...
    Although the morning beams
    Came spilling in the gradual rubric known to every day,
    And hills stood ruinous, as an eclipse,
    Against the softly spreading ray,
    Not touched by any strange apocalypse
    Like that which yesterday had lifted her sublime,
    And put her back before the first grey morn of Time --
    Though nothing was disturbed from where she lay and saw,
    Now she remembered with a quick and panting awe
    That someone came, and took in hand her heart,
    And broke irresistibly apart,
    With what he said, and how in tall suspense
    He lingered, while the white celestial inference,
    Pushing her fears apart, went softly home.
    Then she had faltered her reply,
    And felt a sudden burden of eternal years,
    And shamed by the angelic stranger standing by
    Had bowed her head to hide her human tears.
    Never again would she awake
    And find herself the buoyant Galilean lass,
    But into her dissolving dreams would break
    A hovering consciousness too terrible to pass --
    A new awareness in her body when she stirred,
    A sense of Light within her virgin gloom:
    She was the Mother of the wandering Word,
    Little and terrifying in her laboring womb.
    And nothing would again be casual and small,
    But everything with light invested, overspilled
    With terror and divinity, the dawn, the first bird's call,
    The silhouetted pitcher waiting to be filled.

    I Sing of a Maiden
    Rev. John Duffy, C.S.s.R.

    Putting up with the smell of fertilizer


    I'll crinkle the corners of my eyes and grimace my whole face because the memory tastes bad, and admit to these words : "I just don't understand. I try to take care of my things, be a good steward, be kind and good, treat people well...why is life hard? Why don't things just work out?"


    A recent bout of this whining landed me in a pew at a Saturday morning Mass in my wooded neighborhood. The sanctuary is always shadowed, and the cool stone walls catch me looking for a tiny spring leaking through the cracks in the wall, as if the church were underground. The priest looks like Barack Obama and enunciates like a Shakespearean actor. He read:


    "Jesus said to his disciples:
    'If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
    If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own;
    but because you do not belong to the world,
    and I have chosen you out of the world,
    the world hates you.
    Remember the word I spoke to you,
    ‘No slave is greater than his master.’
    If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
    If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
    And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,
    because they do not know the one who sent me.'” 
    - John 15:18-21


    Recover from your shock, Tala, quitcherbellyachin (I would like that to be Russian for "move on, grown-up"). Now turn to the question of how to turn this situation into fertilizer for something beautiful to grow.

    To long for the sea

    “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the sea.”  -Antoine de Saint Exupery

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Daddio

    He writes emails in bullet points.

    He has not given up hope that I will someday learn to decently slug him in the arm.

    He will send me a card with his message written on a sticky note so that I can send the same card to someone else.

    He once was stopped at work by neighborhood boys who had found an injured bird. They didn't know what Mr. Burnison's job title was, but they were pretty sure he could handle this case.

    He's an economic developer.  But he helped with the bird.


    He taught me to love reading the newspaper.

    He preaches with the passion of a Southern minister on the evils of maintaining a credit card balance.

    He fields questions from restaurant patrons who are wondering when the lasagna will be refilled in the pasta bar.

    His voice projects so well that said patrons think he must be the manager of the place.

    He won't live in a place where your door locks behind you.


    He walked his girls to school.

    He respects the difference between dress bibs and regular bib overalls.

    He is a stranger to no one. Especially in South Dakota.

    His fatherly lecture series could make us a million: "It's the Inner Beauty that counts," "I played football with a Lux bottle full of sand and I liked it," and "Women put themselves at an economic disadvantage by insisting on wearing non-functional shoes and dresses that zip down the back" are a few gems.

    He claims to be the quietest in his family.


    He can answer with some authority on every question I ask him.

    He will ride his bike alongside when I want to go on a late-night run.

    He really, really cares.

    He shakes his head and says "My daughter..." when I decide that due north is whichever direction I'm facing.

    He's my dad.  And I love him.

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Our armed balladeer.

    Driving down 21st Ave in Nashville, we paused at a red light and looked to our left at the policeman who was keeping watch in the parking lot of the bank.

    (The first thing that gets me about this intersection is that they station a guard in a neighborhood with well-trimmed shrubs. Something doesn't add up.)

    Last night, something else caught my eye. Was the policeman holding the walkie talkie with two hands, at a funny angle, for a reason? Nope...no, he was playing it. And it wasn't a two-way radio. 

    It was a harmonica.

    We rolled down the windows and smiled big and snapped and cheered him on, just enough so he knew we were both sober and enjoying the outdoor concert. At the end of that song (there is always a long light at 21st and Blakemore), he motioned for us to wait as he pulled out another harmonica and kicked it up a notch with a key change and a new tune. The light turned green, and he waved us off with his free hand, continuing on to the chorus.

    Rock on, Music City.

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    My Mama.


    This is Joyce, graduating from high school. Some years after this photo captured her Hollywood profile, she told the man who would soon be her spouse that she would like her first daughter to be named Tala Marie. 

    He told her that with a name like that, she better find somebody nice to marry.

    Joyce is very patient.

    She also has good taste in husbands.

    Joyce gave birth to two daughters, 
    Tala Marie and Hannah Sejnoha.



    I came first, and helped her get used to the idea of being a mother. 
    She was very good at it. 
    Mom gave birth to Hannah on April 1, 1986. 
    Hannah got very sick, and the two of them realized just how strong and beautiful and brave they could be.



    Eighteen years after, Mom had to be strong for Hannah again.

    Hannah died in 2004, and Mom had to say goodbye to her daughter, the brown-eyed girl that she had carried under her heart for nine months. 
    Mom told me that she understood how people could be so sad as to curl up into the fetal position and never want to move again - when a life that you helped to create is somehow no longer within your embrace, frozen is the only thing you feel.

    I would sometimes sit beneath a reproduction of this statue at the church near my dorm and compare my Mom's face to Mary's, loss to loss. 



    I don't know how, I really don't, but my Mama never stopped loving. Even when she was frozen.

    So, so, so many times, I thought, "She has all the reason in the world to quit."
    And she did have all the reasons in the world...but she had more. Reasons beyond this world kept her open and alive and real and loving.
    I saw that she seemed to have other reasons when I was blazing, mad as hell, hiding on the floor of the pantry, pretending to be organizing the dozens of covered dishes that neighbors brought, thinking that if I were Hannah's mom, I would just give up.



    Thankfully, Joyce is Hannah's mom. I am Hannah's sister.


    My mom loves lots of people with her mother's heart. All of those people that she knows, that Dad loves, my friends, their babies...they are all tucked in, securely and specially loved by Mama Burnison.

     If we had been twenty-something at the same time, I think we would have been friends. 
    Even better, I get to be her daughter. 

    If I see her-ness in my future, does she see me-ness in her past?

    I can't wait to be more like her.

    Thanks, Mom. I love you.

    Friday, May 7, 2010

    At least we have our health.

    At least the living room becomes a dance floor when you move the furniture up the stairs and away from rising waters.

    At least my auto body repairs are not human body repairs.

    At least my parents love me. So much that we all pick up a phone and share the news that Anderson Cooper doesn't catch. So much that they e-lecture me. So much that it's life-giving.

    At least Tina can mimic a voice and coin a phrase to lighten any situation.

    At least we have two bikes.

    At least "April showers bring May flowers. And I love you."

    At least Trader Joe's is only a mile away.

    At least my chaplain is in.cred.i.ble.

    At least my students have such beautiful souls. Faces, too. Souls, foremost.

    At least I swam the lake yesterday.

    At least my town has a Frothy Monkey.

    We say we're at the least of things, when really, what's left is the very most...

    At least we have each other.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010

    It's raining men.

    Truthfully, it's just raining rain. Buckets and buckets and car-sized buckets of rain.

    I woke up before my alarm this morning - which NEVER happens - to a chorus of end-of-the-world-ish honks from outside my window. I thought, "At least the rain is cozy..." and peeked out onto the TENNESSEE RIVER that was flowing below me.

    This was new. There was NO river when I had fallen asleep last night. There were sidewalks and patios and a parking lot and some grass.  Now, there was only swirling brown water.  It lapped at the cars, climbing inside, and causing them all to freak out and make the honky noise. It came right up to my front door. It invited the neighbor boys outside to play in their pajamas and their cowboy boots.  Their worried mom talked to another couple about moving to higher ground...there would be a community refuge at the pool house.

    I met lots of nice neighbors this morning. A.J. (or R.J.?) in apartment #1 who let us know that the city was going to shut the power off for our safety. Erin, who had to abandon her car and wade through waist-high water in the streets to get back to our building after dropping her husband off at the airport. We were all really wet and mildly worried. We knew of others who had it worse.

    It's still...WAIT! Oh no...false alarm. I thought for a second that the rain had stopped, but it just quieted a bit. Out of shame. I hope it feels sheepish. My car insurance guy totally agrees.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010

    The List of 52

    Here on campus, students are facing final exams.  I'm not in the line of academic fire, but I can easily conjure up memories of packing my brain with a semester of facts to spill onto a blue book or into multiple-choice bubbles.  Strangely, my exam memories from freshman year are the most vivid: drawing up mnemonic devices on history outlines with Brite Line markers, making Matchbox 20's song "I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell," my anthem before my Logic final, voicing sheepish prayers with my roommate that pleaded: "Jesus, please help me pass tomorrow. I'm sorry...I love you?!"  (I laugh out loud even choosing which of our antics to type, Sarah!)

    One of my absolute favorites is The List of 52.  Sarah and I hosted our friends Kati and Stef for an extended sleepover in Memorial Hall, and one of the myriad of topics that we discussed was what kind of man we would someday like to marry.  Standard discussion, I know, for a teen girl squad.  Kati and Stef, from the University of Nebraska, had traveled to Benedictine with a list of characteristics they would like in a future spouse. Their list randomly ended at 52, and it was decided that Sarah and Tala would also create a list of 52.  We conveniently took up the task during finals week.

    To assure our mothers and any potential suitors that we weren't expecting an unreachable ideal in a man, we generously titled the page:

    The Fifty-Two Suggestions
    (Not requirements, but positive characteristics that we look for in a guy.)  


    I know. You're welcome.

    I love this list. Most definitely not because I use it as a measuring tape for the men I know...a guy who perfectly fulfilled each of the 52 would be a freak show...but because it is Exhibit A when I need to be reminded of just how incredible my friends are.  I have friends who would still dream sweet dreams with me, like #21:

         21.  Knows how to dance sweet and cute dances like the waltz…or is willing to try.

    I have friends who live out #6:

         6.  Loves Mary, prays the Rosary (with his eyes closed).

    Or #37 - #44:

         37.  Doesn’t mind being in or smiling big in pictures.
         38.  Holds your hand.
         39.  Is gentle and strong.
         40.  Isn’t a quitter.
         41.  Looks at you differently than he looks at anyone else.
         42.  Feels comfortable to pray with you all the time.
         43.  Is able to lead without making you feel like a lesser person.
         44.  Can be flexible in bad situations, is a problem solver, doesn’t complain a lot.

    It's clear when you read #33 that the list was written in a freshmen girls' dorm room, with year-round Christmas ornaments hanging from the ceiling and fake flower garlands draped over our bookcase:

         33.  Will tolerate girlie mixes on CD because he loves you, but doesn’t really like girlie mixes because that would be weird.

    Maybe I feel older when I read it.  Maybe I feel the 8 years that separate me from the Year of the List...but I always agree with the girl who nodded in earnest when her best friend suggested #31:

         31.  Sings loudly at Mass (even if he has an ugly voice…especially if he has an ugly voice).

    I wish you could have been there. It was a lovely time. The gravest issues in our personal lives included how our friend couldn't join us at the Caf because they froze his meal card when he forgot to pay his Perkin's loan.

    And my roommate? As I wrapped the assorted bows from her bridal shower into a bouquet for the wedding rehearsal in 2009, we read the list to see how her fiancee Dan would fare.  We laughed and re-told the stories that always deserve a good re-telling.  Dan passed the test with flying colors while still steering clear of freak-show status, and I was reminded again that God knows the desires of our hearts. Even #49:

         49.  Can have a conversation with you using only your eyes. (*Caution: May involve appropriate winking.)



    Sunday, April 25, 2010

    "We are just breakable girls and boys."

    Think of the Noshville Delicatessen, and picture the perfect the egg-over-easy: soft in the middle with the white fried all the way around. I will always secretly call eggs over easy "dippy eggs," (in the same way that putt-putt is known to me as "goofy golf").

    The "dippy egg" is a word picture that I use to explain just how delicate the heart is.  There's a thin layer that keeps the inners of our hearts from spilling all over, and when that layer is pierced, we get messy.

    I've seen so much mess this week.  My first sorority party lived up to every stereotype; if the couple in my direct line of sight hadn't been wearing clothes, they would have been making babies (to the tune of Justin Bieber's "Baby") on the dance floor.  I "Fox on Demanded" after a morning at the Country Music Marathon and caught the latest episode of Glee, where half of the characters debated "losing the V card" with a Madonna soundtrack to empower them.  Frannie's CNN article is still creating a TV movie of her life, and I've been SO surprised by some naysayers' reactions.  Really, people?

    Do we know that our hearts are so fragile? Do we act with care when handling others' hearts? Why does every third woman that I meet seem to be in immediate danger of letting her heart spill all over the plate?

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    Quite an affair.


    Here's what I'm working on:
    "Let your religion be less of a theory 
    and more of a love affair."  
    -G.K. Chesterton