28 March 2010

butternut squash

It's been a while since I wrote about anything really substantial. It's one part "I kind of forgot about the blog" and two parts "I've been pretty busy"...the result is that I'm here, with lots to say and not much time in which to say it. So let's just dive right in, shall we?

It goes without saying that I've been up to my eyeballs in ministry stuff. Last Sunday was a successful night about the Trinity--complete with an extreme three-legged race because...well, why not do an extreme three-legged race on a night about the Trinity? It was super fun, but the teens were also able to take the topic seriously (and it's a really intense topic!) and reflect on what our response should be as people made in the image of the Triune God. I was really impressed with how well the youth did, and I'm very optimistic for how to go about covering those more serious topics in the future.

I saw my second production of Beauty and the Beast on Thursday night. It was really great, but I've noticed that the auditoriums (auditoria? Hmm...) in this area are very small. Like, you could probably fit four or five of the ones here into the one back at my high school. No wonder they're always bragging about having sold out shows--the venues are super small!

This afternoon, I'm going to another play. (I know, right?!) This one is called The Wiz. Should be good, I think--apparently it's a different take on The Wizard of Oz or something. I've got a couple of kids in it, so I figured I'd make an appearance at this play too, so as not to show favoritism.

On Tuesday, my good pal (Pasutti) came through the Burgh on her way to Virginia, so she and her mom stayed here overnight. It was so good to see her again, and to spend time with some people I know! It was a pretty chill couple of days, mostly watching movies and eating food and catching up on life and that kind of thing. It was just so good to see her again!

I can't recall if I've talked about this before, but talking about Pasutti's visit made me think of it. I'm a fairly touch-oriented person. I love hugs and just being close to people. I thrive on it. So when I moved out here to Pittsburgh, that aspect of my life was pretty much eliminated completely. I mean, I get the occasional hug from some of my "adoptive moms" here, and sometimes from my youth group kids...but other than that, I am pretty much starved of physical touch. At first, I didn't really notice it, but after a couple of months, it dawned on me that if there's one thing I miss about home, it's being able to hug the people I love--my mom and dad, my friends, even my dog! It really started to be real to me when I was working at the fish fry about a month ago. I was standing around talking to someone, and for some reason, they put their hand on my shoulder for a second. Not even kidding: I jumped because I was so startled by something so simple as physical touch.

I don't know, it's just little things like that that jolt me back to the reality that I'm very much alone here. I mean, of course I have people here who care about me and who I'm fairly close to, but there's just something different about having those relationships that have taken years to grow, where a hug contains within it all of the memories and experiences and late night conversations and resolved arguments and pain and joy of being together.

I miss that. I really do.

22 March 2010

a spoon, a fork, and a spatula walk into a bar...

Sorry about all the short, random posts lately...but not really. You wouldn't read if you didn't want to.

BUT! I'm a bit short on time, and I just found something really cool. If you've never seen the Sistine Chapel in person, go to this link! It takes a while to load, but it's totally worth it, and there's even pretty music!

20 March 2010

i hate the saxophone

Get ready for a random post!

1. I have this cool thing for when I'm bored. It's called StumbleUpon, and basically, you click a button on your browser and it will randomly take you to a website (based on things you identified as your interests when you registered with the site). Well, today, I stumbled upon a website and made this:

How cool is that? You just click a bunch of squares on this grid and it creates a little musical loop for you...so check it out! (Also, if you don't want to listen to it the whole time, you can click the little 'Play' button down in the right-hand corner. I think you can also edit the one I created by clicking the little squares on any of the eight grids...I think.)

2. This week has been absolutely beautiful in the Burgh...the sun has been shining and it's been really warm (like, 70 degrees) and everyone has been in an exceptionally good mood. I've worn a skirt three days this week! I love spring!

3. Yesterday was a great day in Ministry-Land. I met one of my youth group girls at Starbucks and we got to hang out a bit, which was lovely! (I haven't seen her much lately, so I thought it would be good to catch up over a Frappuccino.) Afterward, I went back to St. T's and worked at the fish fry for a bit...and then I randomly went to see Avatar with a couple youth group girls. (It was one of those things like, "Man, I still haven't seen Avatar..." "Me either!" "Hmm. Want to go?" "YES.") It was really awesome. I mean, all those folks who said the plotline is the same as Pocahontas were absolutely correct...but the 3D awesomeness made up for it. We literally sat in the theater for a couple of minutes afterward, just staring at each other in amazement.

That's about it, I think. Love you, miss you, blah blah blah!

18 March 2010

best. thing. EVER.

Okay, so this probably shouldn't go under a tag which includes the word "health," but it definitely has to do with food, so...whatever. But you know what? I think that the occasional happy sweet thing is a very necessary part of one's health! Thus, my very favorite recipe for...

Ultra Delicious Chocolate Chip Banana Bread!

1/2 c oil
1 c sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2-3 bananas, mashed
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
mini chocolate chips (however much you want--I usually go with about half of a normal bag...and make sure they're the MINI kind! It spreads out the happiness better! I can't stress that enough--use the minis!)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Beat oil and sugar in a good-sized bowl (how Minnesotan is that, "good-sized"...haha). Add eggs and bananas, beating well. Blend in flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt (I don't know if it makes a difference or not...but I usually do this in two steps: first, I put in 1 cup flour with the soda and the powder and stir it all in really well, and then I put in the other cup of flour and the salt and stir that in really well). Add milk and vanilla and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 9x5x3 loaf pan. Bake for about an hour (or until a toothpick comes out clean).

***This recipe is also pretty delicious without the chocolate chips, but I wouldn't recommend leaving them out because, well, where's the fun in that? You will notice that without the chocolate chips, I downgraded it from "Ultra Delicious" to "Pretty Delicious." But don't let me influence you too much. Do what you want...

Well...enjoy! I'd love to hear some of your favorite recipes too, so leave a comment!

15 March 2010

that creepy blue-haired troll with his beady little eyes

Somewhere between Minnesota and Pennsylvania, five of my Harry Potter books went missing. I first noticed it when I got my new red bookshelf, but I figured they were probably just in another box around my apartment, and I'd find them eventually...so what's the big deal?

And then one day, bored out of my mind, I said to myself, "Self, I think it's time for a Harry Potter book marathon." I was super excited...like, jump-in-a-giant-pool-of-spaghetti excited. Except for one small problem: I still hadn't found the books. That's when my search began in earnest.

I looked everywhere. I checked my storage locker, my closets, under my bed, even the drawers in my kitchen, but it was all to no avail. The books were nowhere to be found. When I went back to Minnesota for Christmas, I searched high and low all over my mom and dad's house for them...no luck.

I was telling someone about this mystery, and they said, "Well, can you get them from the library?" I suppose the obvious answer is yes, but that's entirely beside the point, which is...

Where in the stuff are my Harry Potter books? I mean, we're talking over $100 worth of delicious, magical fiction here! It's just the strangest thing, and it's really starting to drive me crazy. Books don't just disappear like that. Maybe someone used their stupid wizard magic and went all "Accio five out of Jessie's seven Harry Potter books, and be sure they are the ones that are most expensive" on me. I wouldn't doubt it. Stupid jerkface wizards and their stupid jerky magic. Maybe I'll get a Dark Mark for my next tattoo. That'll show 'em.

11 March 2010

and just like that...it was done.

Imagine, if you will, a beautiful day. All the elements are there--it's warm but not too warm, there's a bit of a breeze but it's not too windy, the birds are singing, there's not a cloud in the sky.

Now imagine, with all those elements in place, that you are walking up a mountain in Italy.

I honestly couldn't have asked for a more perfect day when I went to Subiaco on Sunday. My parents stayed in Rome that day, which meant that I was by myself for the first time in about a week...so here's what I did:

I woke up at 6:00 and caught the Metro to St. Peter's Basilica for 7:00 Mass. Basically, starting at 7:00am, there's Mass going on all day at St. Peter's. When it's not the big Sunday Mass that a bunch of bishops and cardinals attend, there are smaller Masses going on in all the side chapels throughout the place. The one I went to was in Italian, but luckily (okay, not luckily--very deliberately and strategically) I brought my iPod with me, which has an app on it called iMissal. iMissal has all the readings and prayers of the Mass and everything right on it, so I could still follow along, even without knowing the language. I love going to Mass in different countries and languages and stuff. It speaks so well to the truly catholic (think "universal") nature of our Church...but I talk about that in the video a bit, so you can just watch that.

So after Mass, I caught a bus out of Rome to a town called Subiaco. For those who might not be familiar, Subiaco is home to the cave where St. Benedict went as a teenager to retreat from the city life, and where he lived as a hermit for three years before starting up a bunch of monasteries and moving to Montecassino (probably his most famous monastery, where he eventually died). While he was in the cave (known as the "Sacro Speco"), a monk named Romanus would actually lower food down to him in a basket several times a week. Basically, it's really cool...like, the place where Benedict's monastic movement began. So of course, with my Benedictine roots (holla back CSB/SJU!), this was a very meaningful trip for me.

I mention this briefly toward the end of the first video, but it bears repeating: St. Benedict definitely knew what he was doing when he decided to go out to the middle of nowhere to be in solitude. It was an intense walk up the side of the mountain, let me tell you! For the first time on the whole trip, I actually felt like I was on a pilgrimage! And as much as I loved spending time with my parents (haven't seen them since Christmas, after all, and probably won't see them again until July), it was nice to give myself the space to reflect without all the distractions of the city and being a tourist and always having my guard up.

So when I got to the top, I found my friend Andy in the gift shop and he gave me a tour and all that. Andy and I had a class together last year at CSB/SJU, and after graduation, he applied to spend a year with the Benedictine Volunteer Corps. He ended up getting placed at the monastery up at the Sacro Speco and prays and eats with the monks there, gives tours, works at the gift shop, and does other random stuff (...and his Italian is really good!). So it was fun to spend a litte bit of time with him and the lovely monks up there. I even got to eat lunch with them--and have some delicious cake afterward!--before catching a ride back to Rome with one of the monks (who is actually from St. John's Abbey in Minnesota).

Upon my return to the city, I was dropped off at a metro station which I took to the Basilica of St. Mary Major. It's a huge, beautiful church with some sweet frescoes and terrible bathrooms. There is a set of stairs on either side of the high altar which lead down to the "Bethlehem Crypt," a small area with benches, facing a relic of the Holy Crib of Baby Jesus. I spent some quality time down there--even taking a walk around the rest of the basilica before feeling pulled back there to pray a Rosary for everyone back home.

That night, we had a fancy schmancy closing dinner with the folks from my dad's company. It was actually really fun, mostly because they had a little band (accordion and all) and some girls who were dancing around in pretty dresses while playing the tambourine. The food wasn't bad either, haha...

All in all, it was a wonderful way to spend my last day in Italy. I already miss it there...in fact, I even went online today to try and find some airline tickets for a trip next year. But maybe I'll wait a bit--I spent plenty of money this last week, and I need to do things like pay off loans and buy groceries and pay my rent and other fun stuff...so perhaps I'll wait a couple of years before I jet off to the Eternal City again. All I know is...I'll be back someday!

Here are the videos from my last day in Italy:

Please know that I was thinking of you and praying for you throughout my entire pilgrimage to Italy...it was truly my privilege to bring you and your prayer intentions along with me! I will continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers throughout the rest of this Lenten season--may it be blessed and fruitful for you!

Love you, miss you, blah blah blahhhhhhhh...

10 March 2010

little town...it's a quiet village

I'm writing this from my apartment back in the Burgh...the second half of the trip was really crazy, and I wasn't able to keep up with my blog, so I apologize.

Friday started out really rough. Mom had been pickpocketed, and we were all a bit bummed about that. On the train, the person who was checking everyone's tickets tried to fine us 50 Euro for not having validated tickets (simply because we didn't know they needed to be validated, but obviously we would have if we had known we needed to!). And since we were pickpocketed (GO FIGURE), I was the only one with cash, and only 25 Euro at that. And THEN the lady said that if we didn't pay 50 Euro on the spot, we would have to mail in 100. WHAT?! After a conversation which consisted of me telling my dad to stop swearing, Mom trying to show the lady our receipt, and me translating on the spot as much as I could, she left and didn't end up coming back (thankfully!) but the whole thing still put us all in a terrible mood.

So weren't we relieved when we arrived in Assisi! For one thing, the pace in Assisi is much slower, which was a wonderful break from the chaos of Rome. The taxi driver was so lovely and kind, and he even talked to us and gave us a map and told us of some good places to visit while we were in town. It's hard to explain, but the whole time we were in Assisi, I just felt such a sense of peace--and I think it had everything to do with the intercession of the saints who had lived there so many hundreds of years ago. We were able to visit the tomb of St. Francis, as well as the place where he established the Franciscan order. We wanted to go into the Basilica of St. Clare (she's buried there), but it was closed at the time so we couldn't. I guess that means I'll have to go back!

This place reminded me of the importance of taking time for quiet throughout one's day. St. Augustine said "God, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You." So many times I think I just expect to feel at peace in the midst of chaos. As if out of the blue, a sense of calm will just overtake me and everything will be fine. But more often than not, things just don't work that way. I have to search out that peace, dig a hole in my day to find it. And in this case, my parents and I had to get on a train and travel for two hours to find it.

And that's also one of the main reasons I chose to wake up early and pray as my Lenten resolution this year. I literally roll out of bed and into my prayer corner, where I just sit for half an hour. And while I was able to have a little quiet time to myself while I was in Rome, I'm almost relieved to be back in the States, where I can roll out of bed each morning and greet the day by offering it to God. I love being spontaneous, but after a while, I yearn for routine and stability.

Saturday was a wonderful day. In the morning, we went to the Vatican Museum and saw the Sistine Chapel, which was at once both overwhelmingly beautiful and slightly overrated. It would have been easier to reflect and enjoy the space had it not been for the dude working there who kept shouting over everyone, "SILENCE! NO PHOTO! NO VIDEO!" But all in all, it was some pretty intense art.

Then we went on the Scavi tour, which led under St. Peter's Basilica to the tomb/bones of St. Peter, which are located directly below the high altar of the church. That was a really important moment in my life, I think, and I explain about it a bit in the video, but I want to say a little more about it here. Our guide (a student at the North American College--where we visited Deacon Craig) was telling us about how Peter was buried in a "poor man's grave"--but the whole reason for the existence of St. Peter's Basilica, in all its grandeur and magnificence, is to recognize the simple place where Peter was laid to rest. Here's the thing: Peter was a bumbling idiot. So were most of the Apostles. And if God can work with that, if God can lift up someone so humble, and miraculously give him the ability to do monumental things for the glory of God, give him the ultimate responsibility of leading the entire Church...what can God do with me, and with you, and with all of us together? Let me tell you something, there's hope in that.

I'll include my Day Four and Five videos here for those who haven't visited them on YouTube. I noticed that the edge is kind of cut off, so I think if you double-click the video itself, it'll open a new window and take you to the YouTube page where you can see the whole thing.

Day Four:

Day Five:

My next post will be about my last day in Italy, when I visited Subiaco and spent a little time there with my friend Andy. But for now, I'm going to get ready for work...wait, what's that again? Should be an interesting day...especially considering that the time change has messed with me a little bit and I was up at 4:00 this morning (which is 10:00am in Rome).

Thanks for reading, and I'm sorry that this post is so belated...love you, miss you, blah blah blah!

05 March 2010

bee tree glee me THREE

As you may (or may not) have guessed from the title of this post, I have made the video for Day Three in Rome! It includes the Colosseum and a couple of really sweet churches.

One correction of note: In the part about San Clemente, I mentioned that it's built on another older church, and there's an ancient Roman road underneath. WELL! Turns out that along with that road, there's also a house and a spring--but most significantly, the church was built directly over a pagan temple. Quite the symbolism, eh?

I actually have things to say about my trip to Assisi today...but that'll have to wait until the next post when I can get the video created and uploaded. :)

04 March 2010

you know, i'm just straight chillin' with the xvi...

So this one time, I saw the Pope. And now you can, too! Here's the first half of the day, including the part of the Holy Father's address that he gave in English--it's about St. Bonaventure.

And here's the second half of the day!

I wish I could spend more time actually reflecting on things in the blog...but things are nutso around here, as you can imagine. I'm heading off to dinner right now, and tomorrow we're going to Assisi for the day--so I'll try to get today's post/video up either tonight or tomorrow morning! Lots of good stuff to look forward to in that one!

Okay, that's all for now! PEACE OUT!

03 March 2010

rome sweet home

Here's my first video from Rome!

I want to talk briefly about something in that video, namely the sculpture of the Annunciation in the wall of the church. It was so beautiful...and because of the time of day when we were there, this bright light was shining on the angel. The thing that really stuck out to me, though, was the look on the faces of all the angels. There's a whole bunch of them gathered around the scene...and almost every single one is staring at Mary with this look of anticipation. Even God the Father is staring down as if he's got his fingers crossed and he's saying, "Is she going to say yes or no? Please please please..." The entire heavenly kingdom is holding its breath, waiting to see if she's the one they've been waiting for. And you can tell she's really thinking it over, too. That's the thing I love about Mary--not once did she ever take this decision lightly. But then again, I guess bearing the Son of God isn't really something to take lightly...

Okay, it's 7:15am local time in Rome, and I am going to eat breakfast and go hang out with the POPE!

I love you and I'm praying for you all!