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...