31 December 2009


Well, after a wonderfully exhausting week in Minnesota, I'm back home in the Burgh. While I did have a lovely time, it's kind of a relief to be back. I've gotten used to the quiet of living alone, so it was really intense to spend so much time with so many people. And the night I got back was the first time in about a week that I was able to sleep through the night--which tells me that my subconscious brain is starting to recognize this as "home"...and also that I have a really freakin' sweet bed! Oh Vera, how I love you! Best purchase I've made in my LIFE!

On the whole, Christmas involved a lot of traveling through dangerous snowdrifts and other such nonsense, as well as food and family and more food. And then more family!

I got some really awesome presents this year, but at the top of my list is a brand new set of knives! The ones I've got now are horribly irritating, because they're ALL serrated--all freaking SIX of them, plus six steak knives. So THANK YOU MOM AND DAD for making my culinary dreams come true with the fabulous set of non-serrated cutting utensils! (But then I forgot them in the living room at Mom and Dad's house...way to go, self! Thank God for the United States Postal Service!)

I had a great experience on the flight home on Monday. When I did my online check-in, I wasn't assigned a seat (which I assume is because I bought my ticket on Priceline) so I was instructed to go to the counter to get a seat when I arrived at the gate. Long story short, I was upgraded to first class for FRIZZLE because there weren't enough coach seats on the plane! It was a magical experience...I had a HUGE seat and a pillow and a blanket and I drank my apple juice from a real glass and got to have as many snacks as I wanted without having to pay for them and I was the first on the plane AND the first off the plane too! It was truly a Christmas miracle! Though, to be honest, I would NEVER pay that much for a first class seat. It's totally not worth it. I mean, don't get me wrong, it was super sweet and I enjoyed every moment of it...but I just don't think I could ever spend that much money for something so...short-lived, I guess. The fact that I'm in the air, flying thousands of feet above the earth, is quite enough for me!

Sidenote: Another great present was teaching my Grandma how to use her new cell phone. She called me on it last night and was simply AMAZED that we were communicating with one another. The wonders of technology! So way to go, G-ma! Now if only I could somehow convince her to get a computer and start a blog...

24 December 2009

how the johnsons do christmas

I'm back in Minnesota! WHAAAAT?!

Yesterday, I spent some high quality time on airplanes and the like. I was greeted at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport by my friend S. Trish from St. Ben's. She was kind enough to bring me to the St. Cloud area, which was about an hour and a half that my mom didn't have to drive. After a bit of shopping (wahoo...), Mom and I drove the three hours up to B-Town. I spent a bit of time with some high school friends and two kittens, and then I went to bed because I was super tired from being awake for about...18 hours. Yesterday morning, I slept in until 10:30, then I had lunch with another one of my high school friends (SUP, MATT?!), got a haircut (yayyyyy), bought some books, mailed the rental car key back to Pgh, had dinner with some of my parents' friends, and watched It's A Wonderful Life with Tibby. I had never seen it before, so that was fun. I guess it's one of those things everyone is supposed to do...so I'm just catching up.

Okay, I don't understand children. The couple we had over for dinner last night have a two-year-old GENIUS of a daughter, and she actually asked who I was because she didn't recognize me. And after that, I basically had a leech clinging to me all night. She was super cute, but it was weird. Like, she was with me ALL THE TIME for a couple of hours. We played with some giant blocks and named the three wisemen in the nativity set (Pete, Sammy, and Charlie) and played the "What's that?" game with the objects on my Mika shirt and annoyed the cat. I don't know what her deal was...I thought children could smell fear?! Hmm.

I know I've been kind of big on the videos lately, but I don't care...and if you have a problem with it, you can just go chew on a stick!

Love you...hope you have a wonderful, joy-filled Christmas! Enjoy your time with family and friends--I know I am! And right now, I have to make a last-minute grocery store run...gotta love the Christmas Eve insanity.

Be well, folks! Baby Jesus loves you! :D

21 December 2009

doing the warsh

The lock-in went smashingly, in my estimation...despite the sickitude and everything. Pittsburgh FINALLY got a decent snowfall in the middle of the night (actually really dangerous with the hills and all, but fun for us...) and so we had a snowball fight at 3:00am. I wish I could have taken pictures, but you know what they say: "Live for the memory, not for the photograph." Well...that and "I forgot the camera inside." I think the kids had a really good time, and they did a great job of keeping the cell phones out of use all night so that they could get to know each other. And even though midnight Mass was, well, at midnight, it seemed like the they didn't hate it...they even sang along with the music, which was AWESOME since I had almost lost my voice by that time! And Fr. Bob was great--I was pleasantly surprised when I asked him about the lock-in about a month ago and he agreed to say midnight Mass for us. He joked in his homily that it was just practice for this upcoming week (Christmas Eve).

And did I mention that the youth room looks SWEET?!?! I'm hoping to start having Open House Hours starting at the new semester--basically, a few hours after school a few days a week when kids can come and hang out in the youth room, do homework, play games, chat, etc. The folks I've talked to seemed really excited about it, so that's a good sign so far.

Last night at our first annual Ugly Sweater Christmas Party, we came up with a new name for the youth group, to replace St. Teresa's Youth Ministry starting in January. So now we are called The 412--not just because it's the Pittsburgh area code, but also in reference to 1 Timothy 4:12, which reads: "Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity." BOMB!

So after 25 hours awake with a cold, I went home at 8:30am on Saturday and crashed for about ten hours before getting up around 6:30pm...then I wasted time for seven-ish hours and went back to sleep from 2:00am until 9:30am on Sunday. And from then on, my body was like, "Okay, I guess I will sleep at normal times."

So it's about a MILLION ZILLION degrees in my apartment right now...and here's why:

Keep in mind that I'm getting on a plane to Minnesota tomorrow, so of course I left all my laundry until now, which led me to turning the heat up and using my Hello Kitty hair dryer (so the process will go faster). And that was just the first load!

That said, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, and I'll catch you on the flip side...most likely next week when I get back to the Burgh!

17 December 2009

toe socks beatboxin'


This has been an inSANE week. Especially with the whole someone hittin' my car on Monday night and because of the ICE STORM on Sunday, I can't get a rental car until tomorrow because everyone in hilly Pennsylvania suddenly needs a rental car AND the woman who hit my car didn't admit fault until YESTERDAY so now we can finally start doin' stuff about it and get my car fixed, just in time for me to GO HOME and not need my car for a week.

OH and on top of all that, I'm sick. Sneezin' and coughin' and gettin' the chills and feelin' achy (achey? whatever...) and whatnot. I do feel lucky, though, that it's not the flu (swine or otherwise)--I'd rather be all sneezy and whatnot, as opposed to throwin' up and...whatnot. (That was a loaded whatnot, if you couldn't tell). I was actually really surprised that it took this long. Basically everyone in the office has been sick, as well as a good number of my youth group kids, but I've been feelin' peachy, and I've chalked it up to my indestructible Minnesota winter immune system. Until now. And it's another thing that makes this week the Best Week Ever.

For these two bits of complete and utter AWESOMENESS, I think I should throw a huge party...one which will involve spendin' two hours outside at an ice skatin' rink, stayin' up all night, breathin' in paint fumes, and consumin' copious amounts of sugar. Well! Good thing I'm doin' just that at tomorrow's lock-in!

I do have about twenty high schoolers signed up for it, which is exactly what I was hopin' for! I am so excited...but there's still a ton to do, and it mostly involves furniture-movin'. "Jessie!" you may ask, "Why are you bloggin' if you have so much to do?! You're an idiot!" Here is your answer: unfortunately, I can't do a majority of said furniture-movin' until tonight after the choir is done rehearsin' in the room across the hall where the couches are going to go. And that should happen around 9:15. So...yeah. Lots of last-minute AWESOME. But I am headin' into the office to do more paperwork-y kind of stuff in a little bit. Wahoo.

That's about all. Oh, and if you didn't already Google it to see if it were true, it's not actually "Replace the G with an Apostrophe in All Your -ing Verbs Day." I just felt like bein' weird.

15 December 2009

macadamia nuts

Check out this awesomeness. It just happened tonight. Luckily, the Special K bar I was eating in the house dulled the pain a bit when we heard the knock at the door and I walked outside to see this:

And then I got to spend an hour and a half on hold before I was able to talk with my insurance peeps. Great. And now, to make myself feel better, I'm watching the fall finale (for the...fifth time...) of my favorite show ever, Glee. It's making me feel better.

12 December 2009

is that an urn?

First! THANK YOU to the SchwizZzle for sending me some SWEET ART. It is amazing, and I can't wait to buy some of those 3M sticky things to put it on the wall in my living room.

The last few days have been pretty busy, I guess. Lots of random meetings and networking things and diocesan stuff and whatnot...but I've been given tons of time throughout it all to reflect on things and to really embrace the season of Advent...which can be difficult to do when you work in ministry, mostly because December is the freaking BUSIEST MONTH EVER.

I'm still working on our Paint and Skate Lock-In for the 18th and 19th (that's this Friday and Saturday, AHHHHHHH). It's going to be interesting, to say the least. We're going ice skating at North Park, having midnight Mass with Fr. Bob, eating food, playing games, watching movies, and (most importantly!!!) painting the youth room. I'm really excited for this...like, BEYOND excited. Except for the whole 5:30pm to 7:00am thing. That's going to be a challenge. But I guess that's kind of the point of it, right?! I do love going over a day without sleep.

The decorating of my apartment has officially been taken to the next level: I have a Christmas tree!! Linda at work gave me a full six and a half foot tree, and Ted gave me some ornaments...so I threw some lights on that thing and bought a star and BAM--holiday cheer. But I didn't really have a good place to put it in the living room, so I moved my desk over a bit and now I have the tree in the corner of my bedroom. It is very festive. I'm going to add bows and ribbon and stuff too. Even though I'll be the only one to see it...I've decided that I am important, and I am awesome, and Christmas trees aren't just for people with roommates or families, so I deserve a freaking SWEET Christmas tree, even if it's just for me. I'm going all out, dang it!

In other news, I spent this morning with about two million small children. Or at least that's what it seemed like. St. Teresa's does this thing every year called Breakfast with Santa. It's a huge fundraiser for our parish mission, the Anna Seethaler Hospital in Oaxaca (say "wah-HA-kuh"), Mexico. Basically, for about two hours, something like a hundred VSP's (that's "very small persons" for those of you who are unaware) make crafts, sing songs, take pictures with Santa, and eat french toast sticks. And since I recruited a few of my youth to volunteer, I figured I should do it too, so I would experience what I was expecting/asking them to do.

Did I mention the clowns? There were clowns there. And they were scary. I locked myself in the youth room for a moment to gain my composure when I saw them walk into the social hall (SchwazZz, this reminded me of the oven mitt). Thankfully they left after a while...but the children were still there. VSP's scare me almost as much as clowns. They were yelling and crying and being messy and terrifying. I'm glad I don't have one of those yet. Maybe someday. It's all part of...


I currently have four plants in my apartment. If I can keep them all alive for one year, then I am ready for...

I want a little one, you know, the kind that weighs like half a pound and doesn't have sharp teeth. And if I can keep THAT alive for NO LESS THAN five years (and find a nice person in the meantime), then maybe I'm ready for...

But AHHHHHHHHHHHHH I'm nowhere NEAR ready for that yet. So I'm just going to keep on being terrified of children for the time being, and not worry about it.

Although a few days ago, I was able to successfully convince a VSP (a bit under two years of age, I think) to put on her mittens. Without crying. Like, by the time I was done with her, she actually wanted to put on those mittens. Go me. But this doesn't change the fact that I don't want one yet. It is simply another example of how I am growing. Facing my fears, that whole thing.

Okay, well, tomorrow morning I'm going to help Mary paint a few sets of cornhole games, so I think I'll go to bed now. Hope all is well!

08 December 2009

my other mom

First, let me say that I am incredibly jealous of you folks in the Midwest for the ridiculous amounts of snow you are experiencing. We just have stupid "I want to be snow but I'm not quite there and never will be" kind of precipitation that makes you want to shake your fist at the sky and shout, WHYYYYYYYYYYYY?!?!" at Mother Nature. But no, Mother Nature is not the other mom I am referring to in the title of this post.

I am talking about my mom in Heaven.

Today, December 8, is set aside every year by the Church to commemorate the Immaculate Conception of Mary, that is, Mary being conceived in the womb of St. Anne without original sin. This might sound a little weird at first, but if you think about it, it kind of makes sense--Jesus Christ, totally God and totally human, also had to be totally perfect (that's the God part). Now, if Mary had original sin, then Jesus would have inherited it from her, and thus not been perfect...and the whole "fully God, fully human" thing would be a little impossible. So God went to a whole lot of trouble to pick Mary, making sure she was conceived without original sin, and giving her super special graces throughout her life to better know and follow God's will and avoid temptation and sin.

But here's the thing...Mary still could have sinned. God doesn't just take away a person's free will. So Mary could have turned away from God, even for a split second, at any point in her life. But she didn't.

WHAT?! That's freaking MIND-BOGGLING.

And on top of all that awesome perfection...think, just for a moment, how you might feel if, as a fourteen year old girl, you were visited by an angel and told you would bear the Savior of the world.

Honestly. I mean it. Stop reading right now. Close your eyes and put yourself in Mary's place for a moment. How would you feel? How would you react? What would be going through your head?

I can't even imagine what Mary must have been thinking as this scene unfolded. But whatever thoughts and feelings and reactions were happening for Mary in that situation, the fact is that it happened. And even though she was crazy confused about the whole thing ("Seriously? How is this even possible? I'm a virgin!"), she listened to what the angel had to say. She took a precious moment of discernment...and then she said, "Okay."

And in that "yes," Mary became for us a shining example of faith, hope, and love. She became the first disciple of Jesus the moment she affirmed His place in her womb.

For the last thirty-three days, I have been going through the process of St. Louis Marie de Montfort's Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary. It's kind of intense. LOTS of prayer and reflection on Mary's place in the grand scheme of things, and why she's so important for us. On the thirty-fourth day, the person making the Consecration offers him or herself as a "slave of love" to Jesus through Mary.

If you had asked me a year ago, "Would you ever consider doing the Total Consecration?" I would have said, "No. That's ridiculous and crazy and it puts the focus too much on Mary and not enough on Jesus." But through a long few months of being pushed toward our Blessed Mother by various experiences (my mom's cancer, going to a Life Teen youth ministers' conference, etc), I realized that this Consecration was something God was calling me to do.

Honestly, the process of doing this Consecration has completely changed the lens through which I look at people, situations, and decisions. I often find myself thinking, "What would Mary do?" (Sidenote: I'm not perfect, I'm not implying that I am, and I know that I never will be. The point is to try, and I get that.) But this devotion to Mary isn't some sort of statement that she's God or something like that. It is simply (okay, maybe not so simply) placing myself in Mary's arms so she can carry me to the arms of her Son. As I draw closer to her, meditating on and seeking to understand her heart and her witness, she continually draws me to her Son.

Okay, so I would love to talk about Mary all night, but as it is, I'm really tired, so I'm going to head to bed. But if you have any questions, feel free to call me or Facebook me or even leave me a comment below, and I'll try to get back to you soon.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you!

06 December 2009

okay, seriously?

Alright. I know I'm from Minnesota. I know I can walk around in 40 degree weather without a coat on. I know I've been in -40 degree weather without turning into an icicle. I get this. I think maybe the reason I can deal with cold temperatures is because I normally have the consolation of knowing that the insides of buildings will not be cold. So the situation I am about to describe is sort of a stab to the heart...with a twist. Really, fate? Why must you turn on me in such a foul way?

I think the heat thing in my apartment is broken. It only blows out cold air. Laaaaaame. Add that to the fact that the windows in this apartment are paper thin and seem to suck out all the warmth anyway. Double laaaaaaaame. So I'm going to call the maintenance guy tomorrow and see if he can take a look at it. Unless you have an idea as to why this is happening, in which case you should call me later today and tell me what I might be doing wrong. Because really, I know that having two down comforters on my bed is really fun and all, but I do have to get out of bed occasionally, and when that is happening, the two comforters don't do me much good.

On the bright side, though, this is really the only major problem I've had with the apartment so far...I really do love my apartment a lot.

And you know what they say:
Cold hands, warm heart!

I wonder if the following statement is also true, then:
Really cold hands (and feet...and nose...and arms...and legs...), reeeeeally warm heart.

Okay, I'm singing at Mass in an hour, so I have to go mentally prepare myself. Just kidding. But getting out of pajamas and into church clothes might be beneficial. And then later tonight, we have our super sweet Advent 101 night at youth group. I'm excited! :D Did I ever mention...I LOVE MY JOB!!!

05 December 2009

count dem sheepz!

I can't sleep...so I thought I would do something productive, like make a little video to show you what my apartment looks like! Wahoo! So without further ado, here it is! (Sorry about how long it is...there's just so much to see! Haha...)

Yep. That's really about it. I have a big day tomorrow, so I'm going to head to sleepy-land now. PEACE!

03 December 2009

wild and crazy nachos

I have a dry erase board in my office where I write all my plans to take over the world. Needless to say, it is always full.

These days, though, it seems like every time I erase something and go, "Yes! Mission accomplished!" I suddenly think of three more things to take its place. This is especially true since I only worked one day last week because I got two days off after the retreat and two days off for Thanksgiving. And at the end of this week, I will have been here Monday through Sunday (that's right, one full week). WHY?! Well, the weekdays have been full of random office-y things, but today we had a Youth Ministry Holy Hour as part of the monthly day of Eucharistic Adoration at St. T's...Saturday I have SOS (Service on Saturday) in addition to getting together with one of the teens at St. T's who is going to help me pick out paint colors for the youth room, AND possibly going to a play...and on Sunday we have our normal youth group gathering. The saving grace of all this? Well, I'm going to visit a member of the youth group at her place of employment tomorrow. And this place of employment...is an ice cream place!! PRAISE JESUS for ice cream! And for a wonderful place called Pittsburgh, where walk-up ice cream places are open ALL YEAR LONG, and unicorns run free in fields of marigolds and daisies while fairies and talking giraffes frolic merrily nearby. Or something like that.

Today I had lunch with a lovely person that I met at a conference at Loyola University New Orleans in May 2008. She goes to Loyola in Maryland (there's four Loyolas in the country...silly Jesuits!) but is home in Pittsburgh for a couple of months having just returned from a study abroad trip. It was kind of funny, I had no idea she was from Pittsburgh, and then one day I was Facebookin' it up, and she had something about the Steelers in her status. So I was CLEARLY like, "No one who isn't from Pittsburgh would include the Steelers in their status." I then proceeded to creep on her and sure enough! Here she is in the Burgh, and here I am in the Burgh, and...voila! And today, we had lunch and caught up a bit and it was very nice to see a familiar face and give someone a hug. So...thank you, Kate! Hooray!

I feel like I might explode sometime soon. I hope I don't, though. You know what might keep me from exploding? A letter. From you. Just saying...

30 November 2009

finger weaving

EMBED THAT! HaHA, technology! What now?! You ain't got NOTHIN' on me!! (Well...maybe just a few things...)

I do love learning things.

28 November 2009

i have a hammer

Ohhh man, I am the happiest kid in the world.

I finally took the time to make back-up copies of all the music I had on my old computer (that freaking paperweight, ugh) and transfer it onto my new computer! So I've been rocking out (uh, by myself) in my apartment ALL NIGHT. Oh T.I., Ellis, Noah and the Whale, Adele, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL...how I have missed you all. Really, this situation is kind of pathetic for two reasons:

1. It took me how long to do this? Like, five months? That's roughly how long it's been since I got my new computer. Laaaaame, self. Ultra lame.
2. The amount of excitement in my heart is massive. Seriously, it's kind of ridiculous how much this made my day. Maybe even my weekend. I think I might even put it on the same level as the wonderful Thanksgiving I had, just in different categories.

Anyway, I have discovered a new obsession in the comedic and musical stylings of two guys called Rhett and Link. Here is a video they did of a song about Sudoku. Fantastic. I would also recommend the Fast Food Folk Song and the Profanity and Unicorns Song. (If I knew how to embed videos in this blog, I totally would...but I don't know how, despite the fact that I just used the term "embed videos" which would indicate even a slightly higher level of familiarity with the bloggin' thing than reality would reveal. Or not.)

I have Christmas lights in my living room. I love them. I just wish I had a tree. Or an Advent wreath. Maybe I could make one...hmm. I was also thinking it might be fun to color some pictures of a nativity set and stick it on my (incredibly bare) walls. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow. The only problem is that I severely lack the drawing skillz, so perhaps I shall have to keep it simple: stick figures with clothes on and sheep that look like clouds. At least I know the straw will look sweet.

26 November 2009

plates are overrated

So here's the stereotypical "here's what I'm thankful for" blog...I mean, the "things for which I am thankful" blog.

-To the handful of lovely folks who sent me cards saying "Happy Thanksgiving." It really meant a lot to me, so...thank you.

-For Mary, Tod, Wayne, and Kathleen, and for Greg, Chris, Eric, Jeremy, and Gracie for opening their homes up to me today...one for breakfast (in this case, breakfast=PIE, what an awesome tradition!) and the other for dinner. I haven't yet been to the second yet, but I'll be leaving in a little while, and I just have this feeling that it's going to be spectacular.

-To all the families at St. T's (literally, dozens) who offered me a place at their Thanksgiving table. If I could eat dinner with all of them, I would...but alas, my stomach is not that big, and I'd really like to be alive for Christmas! Haha...

-For Skype. (Are you in my Skype contacts? E-mail or Facebook me and I'll give you my contact info!)

-For a warm place to sleep and clothes to wear and food to eat (even if it's not the best...it's more than I need).

-For grace and mercy from God in so many aspects of my life. I feel like the more I try to give (by living out my vocation as a lay ecclesial minister and in other ways too), the more God multiplies my loaves and fishes all OVER the place! God is just showering me with blessings, and I really take comfort in that. And there are so many times when I'm sitting in my office or falling asleep at night or eating macaroni and cheese or hanging out with teenagers when I think, "GOD! You want me to be here!"

-For a growing relationship with my Blessed Mother Mary...you're really throwing me for a loop! I've realized so much over the last few months the importance of a relationship with Mary, and in a very big way, too. I constantly get this sense that she's looking out for me...and that is a comforting thought! So I'm trying my hardest to place my life in her hands so she can carry me to her Son. (Okay, I know--random, and perhaps slightly overwhelming for a "things for which I am thankful" post. I just felt like I had to say it, because it's true! I might devote an entire post to this topic sometime in the near future if I can.)

-For my health, and the health of my family and friends (especially you, Mommio!).

-For my insanely comfortable bed.

-For all the gifts and talents God has given me, and for all the opportunities to use them!

-For the sad stuff--it just helps me appreciate the happy stuff even more.

-To all the teens and parents at St. T's for letting me be a part of their lives.

Okay, enough with the sappy stuff! Now...on to Thanksgiving Dinner! I really hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, and please know that I'm thinking of you today with a great deal of love and fondness in my heart. I miss you and hope all is well!

OH! And if you haven't sent me your address yet, please do so! I want to send you a Christmas card!

22 November 2009


God is good. All the time.

I took two high schoolers from my youth group on retreat this weekend. The retreat was one that a team of youth ministers puts on every year, but being new to the area, I didn't really know what to expect. What I got was this: 250 (I think) high school students praising God, dancing around like fools, diving deeper into their faith, making new friends, eating TONS of food, and spending quality time with the Timeless One. All in all, it was an amazing weekend.

I had my own experience this weekend too, though, which resulted in one of those GOD JUST PUNCHED ME IN THE FACE moments. I'd like to share a bit about what happened.

Last night, we had Eucharistic Adoration for two hours while teens and adult leaders received the Sacrament of Reconciliation in separate side rooms. We ended the night with Benediction and then had some serious fun for a couple of hours. But I'd like to back up...before the fun started, before Benediction, before I even went to Confession. At one point, as I knelt in front of the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance, I really felt like God was putting a Scripture passage on my heart, so I found myself flipping to Colossians 1:15-20. This is a little passage talking about Christ's role in the creation of the universe. (Haha, it sounds so simple...) The second part of verse 16 really stuck out to me, though: "All things have been created through Him and for Him."

So I got to thinking. What if this isn't just a general thought? What if...what if God created wheat simply because God knew that it would be made into bread, so that one day, Jesus would use bread to reveal Himself to us in the Eucharist and sustain us in our love for God? What if all those good things like muffins and cookies and other bread were just an added bonus to the ultimate nourishment we receive in the Eucharist?

What if?

And what if we take that a step further: is it that hard to believe that God wold have created each of us specifically for one moment in our lives when we would reveal something about Christ to those around us, whether we realized it or not? That one seemingly insignificant moment of kindness or faith or compassion (or even just plain common courtesy) might set off a series of events which have a dramatic impact on the entire world? That the sorrows and joys, the pain and rejoicing, our feelings and experiences...that all of that might be an added bonus to the fact that we made a difference in that one moment when God worked through our humanity in an utterly unique, utterly world-shaking way? And then I started wondering...

What about my "one moment"? Has it already happened? Did it happen the moment I was born? Or will it happen just before I die? Was it sometime this weekend as I spent time with the youth from my parish? Could it be the next time I go grocery shopping?

Live as if this were your moment. Because really, who knows? Maybe this is the one moment you were created for. Blessings and peace to you all! I love you dearly!

19 November 2009

la la la i'm mad la la laaaa

The other day, I spent incredibly significant amounts of time writing a CRAZY LONG post, yo. And then, it disappeared. Ugh. I feel like Percy the dog on Pocahontas, when he's all muddy and he's blowing bubbles in the mud and growling with this look on his face that's like, "I am beyond irritated at the current situation." So...here's a brief recap of what that last post was SUPPOSED to be about. Ugh.

1. PA is more religiously traditional than MN.
2. I have had two visitors since moving here: Ashley, a friend and fellow YTM counselor; and Pasutti, my former roommate who lives in Virginia. Ashley came for a few days back in October over the Long Weekend at CSB/SJU, and Pasutti has come twice to go to concerts at a place called Mr. Smalls Theatre (the musicians were Mason Jennings and Ingrid Michaelson and both ROCKED MY FACE OFF in very different ways).
3. I am oficially a Pennsylvanian. I got my inspection today, and now I have a PA license plate on my car. Wahoo.
4. Write me letters. I'll write back, I promise.

And with that, I shall end this post, because I feel like it. So there.

12 November 2009

it just goes on and on and ON...

Tonight for dinner, I had spaghetti squash. Yum...anyway.

So yesterday, I made a list of things to cover in this post. In no particular order, I present the following topics for your reading pleasure (or torture...whatever):

*General notes about Pittsburgh
There are a TON of hills here. I'm sure people get sick of me talking about them all the time, but it's amazing! I mean, we're talking mountains by Minnesota standards (okay, maybe not quite, but pretty much!), and driving around is sometimes like riding a roller coaster. In fact, I often go over the very top of a hill and put my hands in the air on the way down...but not for too long, because I remember that I'm driving, and to do so with any level of skill and not-death, one must usually have at least one hand on the steering wheel (though I'm pretty good at knee driving...) Autumn here rivals St. John's (I know, hard to believe--but true!), and I think it's simply because you can actually see all the trees as the leaves are changing...because, well, that's how hills work.

In addition to hills, there are an insane amount of bridges in this city. Like, 446 or something ridiculous like that. I mean, I guess it makes sense, since three rivers meet here...but still. That is a lot of bridges. And most of them are painted yellow. Someone I met here is of the opinion that there must have been a sale on yellow paint somewhere, and the city of Pittsburgh really wanted to take advantage of the deal. What a snatch! OH, and here's a picture of me with a statue downtown. Yes, it is, in fact, a transformer made out of yellow bridges.

The people here are very friendly. In fact, one of my first weekends here, I went wandering up to an area called Mt. Washington, and I stumbled across something called the Shiloh Street Art Marketplace...I got to talking with a vendor and was telling him about how I just moved here and whatnot, and he ended up giving me a free pair of earrings, "as a welcome to Pittsburgh." So right off the bat, I had (and still have, for the most part) a very positive outlook on the people of Pittsburgh, PA, thanks to a very nice old man and a very nice pair of homemade earrings.

Football is a big deal here. Like, if you are the type of person who hates grocery shopping when there are a bunch of people in the store, you should go during a Steelers game. The whole city and surrounding area is a freaking ghost town. It's kind of bizarre, actually...but I suppose when your team has won six Super Bowls, you don't have any choice but to be enthusiastic about it, otherwise you might get slapped in the face (I've gotten yelled at a few times by my coworkers for not watching games--I can't help that I don't have TV in my apartment...well, maybe I can, but I'm CHEAP). Anyhow, I have yet to buy a Steelers jersey, but I'm thinking about it.

This is something very strange, almost akin to Wisconsin folks saying 'bubbler' instead of 'drinking fountain.' Not everyone talks like this, but it's still common enough that it takes me by surprise often enough; thus, I feel it's worth mentioning here. I have taken it upon myself to outline a few key phrases you must know if you ever come here (which I hope you do!):

Yinz. This is the same as you folks or y'all. "How're yinz doin'?"
Sweeper/sweep. A vacuum cleaner. "I'm goin'a sweep the rugs."
N'at. Lots of sentences are ended this way. "I'm goin'a sweep the rugs n'at."
Stillers. The Pittsburgh Steelers. "You wanna come over and watch the Stiller game n'at?"
Dahn tahn. Downtown.
Cupboard. They could be talking about an actual cupboard, but most of the time, they're referring to a closet.

And there's more...so much more. Seriously, just Google "Pittsburghese"...it's nuts! Okay, moving on...

*Ways I am growing
When I made the decision to move here, I also decided that I was going to do some growing. So I've really been stepping outside my comfort zone and doing things I didn't think I would, or doing things that I never got around to doing, but that are good for me. I ate chili for the first time ever, and I loved it! I had spaghetti sauce on my noodles, and it was delicious! But it extends beyond food, surprisingly: I have been concentrating more on my prayer life and focusing on my relationship with God a lot more. I am trying so hard to buy what I need as opposed to what I want (for the most part...see "Starbucks" below), though that kind of works itself out anyway with my paycheck being what it is. I am being more intentional about keeping up relationships with friends back home and around the world. I'm making a conscious effort to be more positive about the people, things, and situations around me. And so...I grow.

*Starbucks (ugh)
Yes, I am ashamed to admit that I love Starbucks. Now, I can't have caffeinated beverages because caffeine gives me migraines (so that rules out coffee and most teas...err, I mean, almost every freaking thing in the place), so instead, I always get a grande double chocolatey chip frappuccino. Oh man. It is SO GOOD. I was going there pretty often for a while (a couple times a week), then I mentally slapped myself in the face and said, "JESSIE! What the HECK are you doing?! You are a walking waste of resources! The world is dying faster because you can't live without your stupid not-coffee! SNAP OUT OF IT, JOHNSON!" Thus, I decided that I will only allow myself to have Starbucks on payday. So, twice a month. That's reasonable, isn't it? Okay, don't answer that.

*My car and the awesomeness of all the stuff I have to do to make it legal in PA
Well! I took an exciting trip to the DMV about a month ago and got a Pennsylvania driver's license...and basically ever since then, I've been driving my car around illegally (AW YEAH, livin' on the edge!). Apparently, you're supposed to turn in the paperwork for title and registration within twenty days of establishing residency...zoopsies! So now every time I drive anywhere, I always have this horrible feeling that I'm going to get pulled over and get a ticket for not being legit.

I got car insurance earlier this week (DANG, yo! That stuff is expensive!), and now I'm just waiting for my mom to mail me the MN title for my car so I can exchange it for a PA one. And once that happens, then I get a super sweet (actually, really lame) PA license plate! There are these specialty plates that have animals on them, and I reeeeeeally want the one with the otter on it...but I'm CHEAP so I don't think that's going to happen. OH! Fun fact: in Pennsylvania, you only have a license plate in the back of your car, and not in the front. I've actually gotten several funny looks from people being like, "Where is she from?" while I'm driving around, evading the po-po.

Okay, I think that's all for this post. I'll try to finish up tomorrow night if I can. And then we can all get on with our lives! (Or I can get on with mine...)

Love you all! Hope you're doing well and that you haven't gotten pulled over recently!

11 November 2009

me and julio down by the school yard

Okay. So I've neglected this thing for quite a while, for a number of reasons (lack of internet in my place of residence being one)...but I'll do my best to give you a bit of an update now, since a couple of people from back home have been bugging me about it. You know who you are...KYM.

So. Here we go.

Back at the end of August, my mom and sister drove with me out to Pittsburgh. It was a wonderful trip, which included stops in the Twin Cities, Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago to see family and friends, almost getting lost and/or in numerous car accidents while driving through Chicago, eating at a place called Willie's, driving in very roundabout ways to avoid the toll road, and winding through eastern Ohio/western Pennsylvania on a very small road (surprising considering how big and important it looked in the atlas). Mom and Guppy hung around for a few days and explored the city with me, which was a super fantastic time all around and included eating at two restaurants that were on TV, visiting the Heinz History Center, doing other touristy things, and having a run-in with a pretty shady pull-out bed.

And then one day, after eating a delicious dinner of burritos at Chipotle, my mom and sister departed. Mom cried (of course) and I was surprised to find that I held it together fairly well. They had a good trip back to Minnesota, or so I've been told. Apparently the Longaberger Basket headquarters somewhere in Ohio is quite the building, and they saw it up close and personal. (Go here to see what I'm talking about.)

When Mom and Guppy left, I moved from an ultra-shady hotel pull-out bed to an ultra-sweetomatic real bed as a houseguest with a family from my parish. I stayed with them for about a month. They were absolutely fantastic, and always made sure I was happy and well-fed! :)

SO THEN. After the fam left, it was down to business. As in, starting my job. Let me preface all this by saying that I LOVE MY JOB and I feel so priveleged to be given this huge responsibility. It's been such a blessing for me in so many ways, and I'm excited to find out what God is up to with this ministry! I started in the very beginning of September and have been going going going ever since! We had our big kick-off event on October 25. In all reality, it was pretty low-key: tacos, a bonfire, a super sweet foursquare tournament, nothing too structured or intimidating. But we had almost 40 high schoolers show up...which was GREAT! We've also done a photo scavenger hunt and a movie night since then, both of which were also really lovely.

So a bit over a month ago, I signed a lease on an apartment which is conveniently located right up the hill and across the street from my church. It's basically a four-minute walk to work most days, unless I'm in a hurry and running late, or I have errands to run during the day, in which case it takes all of 30 seconds to drive. It's been fun trying to furnish the place with a budget of exactly zero dollars allotted to the project. (And YES, eventually I will post pictures, as soon as I get a couch.) So other than a couch, I've got all the essentials: I splurged on a reeeeeally nice bed and bought an ultra-classy antique dresser on Craigslist...and I got a night stand, desk, kitchen table, arm chair, coffee table, numerous lamps, and a bookshelf for free--either by the generosity of parishioners or by the generosity of strangers who had no idea that my "host mom" and I were picking through their trash. (Though there seems to be an unspoken understanding around these parts about trash-picking...like, people will put things like couches and dressers and stuff out on the street the day before the garbage truck comes, and sometimes they'll even put them out super early so that trash-pickers can spot them and still have enough time to recruit a friend with a truck to come and help them pick it up before it gets hauled away--and all this with no direct conversation, as far as I can tell. Fascinating.)

Speaking of which, people in Pittsburgh are weird. But I am tired, so I shall simply end this post here and (maybe/hopefully) continue tomorrow night. So! On the menu for my next post (or maybe my next few posts...sheesh!):
1. Pittsburghese
2. Ways that I am growing (this section will be particularly amazing to those who know me fairly well)
3. My letter-writing campaign
4. Fun with Miss Pasutti, Mason Jennings, Ingrid Michaelson, and apple-potato pancakes
5. My newfound obsession with Starbucks (I KNOW...ugh)
6. How PA is different than MN--politically, religiously, culturally...
7. The fun of getting my car legal in this lovely state, and switching license plates
8. Hills and tunnels...and bridges

Jeepers, that's kind of a lot of stuff. Ah well, best be off! Hope y'all are doing well. Also, if you want to write me a letter (HINT HINT) just e-mail or Facebook me and I'll shoot you my address. I've been much better about writing letters since being here, so you can almost guarantee that I'll respond in a fairly timely manner. (Maybe because at this point I don't really have anything else to do...)

Love you all and miss you so very much...

18 July 2009

and now for something entirely different...

I've been waiting to post anything until something noteworthy happens in my life...and now it has. I have been offered a job as a director of youth ministry at a Catholic parish in a Pittsburgh, PA suburb. This is going to be quite the change, but I'm really excited to get everything started. I wish I could just be there and get an apartment and get settled in and get to work and meet some youth and repaint the ugly youth room! (Okay, so the youth room isn't that ugly--it's a good space--it just needs to not have walls that are painted with clouds and waves. That's going to be one of our first youth group activities, I think.)

But I can't get too far ahead of myself--I need to figure out all the paperwork that the diocese needs, how I'm going to actually get out there, where I'm actually going to live, and...a bunch of other stuff. Yeah.

So...I'm scared. But I'm so ready. I can't wait to start this adventure! Well, I suppose I've already started it--here's the story (the very very abridged version).

A couple months ago, I sent out a few applications for youth ministry jobs, and I heard back from St. Teresa's a while later. I had a phone screening with one of the people on their search committee, then a few weeks later, I had a conference call interview with the entire committee (made up of the pastor, the youth minister at a neighboring parish, and three mothers of youth at St. Teresa's). They flew me out to the Burgh less than a week ago for an interview, which was wonderful--I got to look around and get to know the area a teeny bit, and I also got to hang out with some teenagers and to talk with their parents. And after a few days of intense thumb-twiddling, Fr. Bob offered me the position yesterday evening. And I accepted it!

That's about all for now. Woohoo!

17 February 2009

stay tuned

I'll write more when there's more to write about.