Sunday, December 21, 2008

Are YOU Trinita material?

Friday we got 8 inches of snow. Today we got another 5. Icicles over a foot long are hanging over our dining room windows. I can't see out of my bedroom because there is mound of snow blocking the view. Would you enjoy this?

OK, in fairness, the mound of snow is only a few feet high, but my bedroom window is ground level because our home is the basement. Would you like living in a mysterious underground basement?

This morning, Siena went to put on her boots. But her left boot would not go on. She discovered it was full of chex cereal. Fairly fresh, too. Hmm. I thought we got rid of all the mice. But a few linger.

OK, here is the test. If you think it is funny to find chex cereal in your boot then you are (drum roll)------Trinita material! Yes, we have a lot of fun here, but you have to have a certain sense of humor. So. Take the simple test above. Mouse = scream and run; or mouse = oh, how cute! Which is it?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Two Smiles

This past summer, I had a Sunday off during the program in which I drove to Princeton NJ to visit my friends from Dayton, Maria, Jeff and Maia. I met up with them at mass. In fact, I was a bit late, so after a 3 hour drive and a lengthy quest for parking, I stood in the back of the crowded church and scanned the pews in search of the Morrows. During the responsorial psalm, I spotted them and squeezed my way through in order to sit next to them. Maia of course did not recognize me and was not pleased. But Maria, without speaking, looked up into my face and smiled at me, and it was the most wonderful smile. That smile alone was worth the trip.

As I write this, it is winter once again at Trinita. We just had an ice storm and went without power and water for most of Friday. So it is with some nostalgia that I remember this summer day in July, strolling around campus with Maria and Maia. We went wading in a big fountain, read "Frog and Toad are Friends" and we even took a little nap. As the day drew to an end, we walked to an ice cream place, got huge servings, and sat on a bench outside to enjoy it. As I licked my ice cream, completely at peace with the world, I said, "This is a truly perfect day." And I looked at Maria, and she smiled that same smile at me, without any words. As I drove home I carefully took the two smiles and placed them on a special shelf in my memories.

Two days ago, Maria and Jeff welcomed their second daughter into the world. I am pretty sure that somehow, sooner or later, I will get to meet Eva. Eva and Maia. I hope they inherit their mother's smile.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Angela, Sophie, and Rob

Week 5. Folks from Mercy Learning Center in Bridgeport, CT. You may well be asking, "Hey, wait a minute! What happened to Week 4? Week 3? Week 2 and 1? In fact, what happened to May and June?"

Let's see how many lame excuses I can fit into one paragraph. Well, on second thought, let's skip all that and dive right into Week 5 of the Trinita Family Life Development Program, 2009, "The Lord is Our Shepherd."

It is only now, a year later, that I realize how hard last summer was. For me, at least. Maybe because I am just a big whiny baby. But this summer has been amazingly --well, I can't say easy, but maybe I can say un-stressful. We have had the fewest number of Missionary Cenacle Volunteers this summer ever, starting the program with only six MCVs for Week 1, and 5 of them new. Of course it only takes one full week to create a veteran, so by Week 2 all our volunteers were seasoned hands.

So why is this summer easier than last summer? It shouldn't be. I have the job I dreaded ever having. Seriously. All these years, I would come here and do a week here or there for love of the program, and I would always look at Annie, or whoever happened to be the program coordinator, and think, "Man, I never want that job!" How can you keep everything straight? How can you consistently be nice to everyone no matter how tired or stressed or distracted you are, day after day, week after week?

Well, perhaps I have been less than gracious a few times, but I have to say, I am feeling actually pretty good. In fact, I am happy. Not stressed. Confused, tired, intimidated, and so on, yes I am from time to time. But really, I am happy. I am so happy to be here, and I am so happy everyone else is here, and I am so happy we have been given this mission to carry out, because it is a very good one.

Here is the gauge, here is the acid test, here is the ultimate proof that All is Well. I was in charge of Arts and Crafts today. And I enjoyed it. See, I really don't like Arts and Crafts. Back when I was an MCV myself, whenever I got assigned to work in Arts and Crafts, I would find whoever on the duty list had to clean the showers and I would swap with him or her. OK, I did not actually DO any arts and crafts, but I did go in there, set up, and hang around for a full hour. And, beyond all reason, I enjoyed it. In fact, I had one of those out-of-body experiences of feeling so grateful to God for my life and for my vocation and for the gift of this time here at this mission. Go figure.

Angela, Sophie, and Rob are the names the kids gave to the three sheep we had to pin on the right path tonight. Angela had it easy. She could see right where she needed to go, and she got pinned onto the right path without a hitch. Sophie took a little longer. She was blindfolded, and had to listen for a guiding voice. Rob, poor Rob, I thought he wasn't going to make it. Blindfolded, plus the voice of the Good Shepherd was almost totally drowned out by a roomful of people singing at the top of their lungs. And yet, somehow, despite the unknown, despite anxiety and distractions and fears and confusion, that voice got through. And when Facundo pulled off his blindfold, he smiled a beautiful smile, because he pinned Rob on the right path after all. Beyond all reason.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bear Drool

Wow, they're here! Families from Hartford, Torrington, and Winsted. I miss my friends Ruth and Luisa from Bridgeport, but this is still a good group. We have a pretty good cultural diversity here once again, and the kids all know each other from previous Family Days, so they all plunge right in to the experience.

I guess I leave stuff out. Or I talk fast? Or don't sing as many songs? But I finished the family gathering too soon and they weren't ready to serve the ice cream yet. So I had to stall. Lucky for me, I had not yet done "I am a Pizza." I was saving it for tomorrow. But I saw that look in Siena'a eyes when she came from checking the dining room. Uh-oh. So I got out the pizza hat and launched into some totally off the wall introduction to the song, and then we sang it. I never wore the hat before. Olivia always wore it. But I guess I finally felt ready.

After ice cream, we invaded the Lodge. I was beat at Candyland by a four-year-old girl. But I drew Mr. Plum twice, so I really did not have a chance. Then little Suzie decided on Uno and beat us at that, too. At which point, her daddy decided it was bedtime and I had to find other entertainment. I watched Xtreme Ping Pong for awhile-- they really should have been wearing helmets for that one. I think the ping-pong ball exceeded mach 5 a few times. No one actually tried to make the ball bounce on the table.

The kids all went out and played in the dark with flashlights, so I went out to sit at a picnic table to watch. They put leaves on their heads and walked around like a group of zombies. I found this hysterically funny, but I am not sure the parents got it. I think they just thought they were walking around with leaves on their heads. Then they came and got me because they found some mysterious substance outside Arts and Crafts. It was excess insulation foam. Essentially solidified shaving cream. I told them it was harmless so they broke it into pieces and played with it.

Connor told me he had thought it was like when a beer drools down the side. I thought he said beer. So I said, Oh, yeah, beer foam, if you pour a beer too fast. Connor is I think age 7. He patiently explained. No, BEAR. Like when a Bear drools down the side of his mouth. Yes, of course. That in fact is a far likelier explanation here at Trinita, now that I think about it. This place is inhabited by all manner of creatures. Including bears. And if one drooled around here, I am sure it would look like just like that foamy stuff they are playing with tonight.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Tomorrow is our Family Overnight. We have about 10 families coming to spend some fun time here, so we're in the midst of getting everything ready. This is possibly my most favorite program, the Family Day program. It is so much work, but the work is fun.

For example, on Tuesday I sat in the dining room, which was flooded with the sunshine of a perfect spring morning, and used a gluestick to attach tissue-paper scales to a paper-plate fish. He has a huge smile and tissue streamers stapled to his little foam tail. This was to create the example craft for the Littles activity. I have also had to dream up some offbeat relay-race type games involving foam fish. Of course we also have to plan lessons and discussion questions and so on, but it's all pretty entertaining. We are a bit understaffed, which at this point is my only real concern. I am not sure I can maintain the necessary exuberance for the presentations if I also have to be the master of ceremonies for the outdoor games. Our usual gang of teen volunteers are not able to help out this time. On the other hand, Angel Garcia is coming in from New York to help out, and we could not ask for better. He is a regular summer volunteer as well as a member of the lay branch of our family.

In the midst of these preparations, I am once again convinced that Trinita is a great mission. People love to come here. We are free to invent and adapt programs as we are inspired to do so, because we work for ourselves. Whatever we do, it always boils down to strengthening faith and family life. We do that at other missions of course, but here, it's always at least a little fun. And sometimes, very very fun.

Add to that the fact that the sky is blue, the grass is green, the mayflowers and daffodils are coming out, and it is pleasant enough to sit on the porch at night in short sleeves--it's pretty much perfect here. Imagine what we could do with this place if we had two or three more sisters?

Saturday, April 12, 2008


I am back from another trip, this time by car. I went to Riverdale MD, Lower East Side Manhattan, and then to the Motherhouse in Philly. I saw various stages of spring--well, not so much in New York. I walked a lot and the weather was quite pleasant, but it's not like you can see fields of green grass and hedges of blooming forsythia there.

So much to think about. Each visit placed unique demands on my poor brain. The meeting in Riverdale was entirely in Spanish, so after a full day I was stuttering no matter which language I tried to use. New York is... New York. I hate it. Lucky for me, I love our sisters there, so I must admit it was a pleasure to be with them, though I could have done without all the meetings. Philly was the easiest. I was a guest in Blessed Trinity Formation Cenacle, which was my home before I went off to school. Of course, to make up for feeling most at home there, that is the meeting that has produced the most homework for me.

And in between the tri-state sequence of meetings, there was the driving. I listened to a lot of music, and thought many thoughts. I worry too much about things I cannot control, and I have to say, the music does help. When I finally climbed into the Cat Car to return to Trinita, I found a brown bag of snacks waiting for me on the windshield. Amazing. I dug into the orange sections first, and by the third song I was in such high spirits I did something I never have done before-I made a cell phone call while driving. I don't own a cell phone, but I had the cenacle Tracphone we use on road trips. I called Olivia and thanked her for the snacks, and I sang along with the CD while eating oranges. Just for a minute. Driving while eating, singing, and using a phone is not recommended.

But that trip back to Trinita was the hardest. I was just worn out I guess. I had to pull over and take a nap at a convenience store in New Jersey. When I finally got back here, it was a dreary and very un-spring-like afternoon. No flowers, no warmth, just a hint of green in patches of grass. I began to unload the car in a zombie-like state. Then I began unpacking. And unpacking. And unpacking. As I put everything away, I was realizing that I brought back so much more than I left with. Same amount of clothes, but so much more to think about. Each visit was challenging, each one added to what I must plan for, discern about, pray about.

How do you finish unpacking a suitcase full of responsibility?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Happy Feastday

I have had a busy month touring our three properties. Well, I am sort of kidding.But I did go to our congregation's birthplace, Holy Trinity, and made my annual retreat at our retreat center there for Holy Week.

Wow. Spring has sprung down there in Alabama. It was gorgeous, and by gorgeous I mean, think Indigo Girls singing Southland in the Spring. I spent hours everyday tromping all the trails and just smelling and touching everything. And I gave my blood for many mosquitoes, but nothing is perfect. It was so good to feel the sun on my bare arms, to work up a sweat, to get muddy and scratched by the smilax and blackberry vines just coming out. And it was good to pray at our graveyard. And sing in our chapel. Rejoice, heavenly powers! I sang the Exultet in the darkness, the way God intended, because we held off til well after sundown to start the Vigil.

Then, back at Trinita, I did a weekend by myself for the first time. It is brown and cold there, and we still have the corpses of former snowpiles bleeding away at the edges of our parking lot. Siena and Joan went to the Motherhouse for a meeting, so I was the one and only boss of Trinita. Hard work, but it would be impossible work if we did not have so many volunteers. Squadrons of folks who do missionary work by coming and helping us feed and clean up after 50 teenagers. It went well, except that I had to do breakfast both days. I am not a morning person.

And now, here I am at the Motherhouse. Today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, and also our novice Janet will make her first profession of vows as a Missionary Servant of the Most blessed Trinity. So this is a great day, the best way to end a great month. I have seen all our properties, and it's been great. Tonight, I will go back to life at Trinita.

Friday, March 7, 2008


The weather is ordinary now. We are getting rain and the rivers are going to flood. All that snow melting, plus a drenching coming down.

We have a group of teens here this weekend, but I have no actual connection to them. I guess the only thing unusual going on is that we have a new couple coming to make the pancakes for breakfast and I have to get up to teach them how. Which is funny, because I have hardly ever had to do it myself. I am definitely not a morning person.

My work is ordinary, too. I had to work on the ordo, which is quite tedious. Perhaps the most tedious work I have had to do since I worked in a lab and had to do about a million zinc assays, day after weary day. Yeah, the ordo work can be pretty doggone tedious.

I suppose this could be a pretty tedious, ordinary, boring blog entry. I am instant messaging my brother right now so I can't even focus on anything clever to say. But why not. I can't always be clever and interesting!

And see, it's ok. Right now, at 11:15 PM, a bunch of teenagers have gone out onto the front lawn, which in fact is too dark even to see, and they are running around laughing in the rain. This is a fun, happening place! Who would not want to live here?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lucky Me

Last week, I took a really good day off. I was pretty worn out from a hectic weekend, which included the first Family Day I ever had to facilitate without Olivia. Everything went great, actually, except somehow we finished an hour early. How did I lose an hour? What did I leave out? What would Olivia do? (WWOD.)

So last Monday, I slept late, and slouched around in sweats for quite awhile. Then I decided to go for a walk. We had had another snow, but it was starting to melt in some intermittent rain. I went tromping around in the woods and had a great time. At one point, strolling across the failing sheet of ice by the volleyball net I noticed something. A five dollar bill frozen in the ice! Cold cash! I smacked the ice with my heel and fished it out. I tucked it in the chest pocket of my denim coat and continued my journey. Lucky me!

I encountered several brooks sluicing loudly through the woods as all the snow up Town Hill melted and made its way through our property down to the creek at the bottom of the hill. In the midst of this idyllic scene, it began to rain. But I mean really rain. Oh well. I was quite soaked by the time I made it out of the woods and back into the main house. But hey, I was five bucks richer!

This weekend I went to our Motherhouse for a pre-chapter meeting. I wore my pink sweater, and many were the compliments I received. Mostly with a tone of surprise. "Wow, I've never seen you in pink before!" Who notices these things? I sure don't. I could not tell you what colors my friends wear or don't wear if my life depended on it. Well. Sarah likes black. Barb likes purple. Maybe I notice a little bit. But it's just as well my life in fact does not depend on it.

Last night was my last night in Philly before returning to Trinita today. First, Christine took me out for pizza at Joseph's, a traditional MSBT haunt with many happy memories. It was so very good to see her in person after two years of webcam contact. She is at our mission in Jamaica. Then, Olivia needed some fresh air so we went to a remote Baskin Robbins for ice cream.

She had a sundae. I had a nice big scoop of Jamoca Almond Fudge. My favorite. I paid for it with the five dollar bill I fished out of the ice last week. It was still in my coat pocket! We sat and talked in the Baskin Robbins for two hours, until the manager apologetically threw us out so he could lock up. It does not get any better than this. That is the best five bucks I ever spent.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Clothes Karma

When I was a young summer volunteer here in the dim mists of antiquity, we used to talk about clothes karma. Attire here in the summer is necessarily casual given both the summer weather and the kinds of chores that must be done. We wear things during the summer program we might never wear in public ordinarily. Running shoes with the soles coming off, t-shirts from 5K's run ten years ago, jeans with a mere suggestion of fabric over the knees, and of course whatever you wore when you painted the porch three summers ago.

We judged that an item of clothing that told a story of what it had done in the past had karma--e.g. paint or stains. Clothing that was visibly frayed and faded yet retained some kind of dignity had more karma. The highest marks for karma were given for clothes that had a history, signs of wear, plus has once belonged to someone else. This became a running joke all summer, as volunteers began trading clothes in order to increase their karma. I had the most wonderful red cotton shirt. It had belonged to my sister's ex-boyfriend. I wore that thing until the karmic value became so intense that the very fabric disintegrated under the strain of trying to contain it. That is why clothes start to wear out--too much karma.

I find these kinds of games amusing, but what interests me is that underneath the humor is some kind of truth trying to come out. A lot of life has been lived here at Trinita. So many memories for so many people for so many years. We had a meeting of Moms tonight as we continue to plan for the summer program. Little memories of previous summers popped out throughout the brainstorming session. All of the past seems to be a little bit still in the present at times like this. All one big Now. We may be getting older and grayer, but it is only because we are carrying so much life in us, all these memories that are still somehow a little bit in the Now. So much life, we really can't hold it all. It spills out of our hands. It overflows the cup. I think this is what Psalm 23 might be getting at. Goodness and mercy pursue us all our days.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bad Pie

I am working very hard these past few weeks to handle several new developments which are challenging my ability to maintain a good attitude. You know, the Happy Me vs. Sad Me volleyball match is still in progress. I have had good role models about how to maintain balance and enjoy life, and so I have been practiced certain disciplines more attentively than usual. I am praying regularly, getting exercise, taking a break during the day instead of staying rooted at my desk, and I am trying to get to bed a little earlier than usual. This only takes me so far, however. So I been listening to more music, writing letters, wearing pink, and cooking for fun.

I wanted to make some special pies. I did everything right I knew to do. I got up at 6:00 AM (and I a night person!) instead of making them the night before, which would have rendered them day-old before they could be delivered. I followed cookbook advice and used three varieties of apples instead of one. I used a storebought crust. I used an oven thermometer. I rotated the pies in the oven half-way through the baking process. They came out looking a nice golden brown color. I was relieved and sent 2 of them on to our Motherhouse in Philadelphia. Then I tried the third one.

Horror. I made bad pie! And they were already halfway to Philly, no calling them back! They were runny, the crust was soggy underneath that deceiving golden brown, and the apples were still a little crunchy! I was sorely distressed. My friends are so polite, they ate some and told me "yes, a little runny but tastes fine!" Uh-huh. So I have been reflecting on bad pie.
Those fine fresh apples wasted. Were all those good intentions wasted? All that love? No I guess not. At a minimum, I am determined to try again. Baking keeps me out of trouble. And Happy Me is winning while I am cooking for fun, even if what I am baking turns out to be Bad Pie. It's just pie, after all. I think my mistake with that last batch of pies was that I was trying way too hard.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


The parking lot of Trinita is an unpaved, sloping patch of ground between the Main House and the highway. We've had snow on the ground for days now, but the parking lot has been clean and safe. This morning it started raining and the weather was practically balmy. So I was pretty amazed when some Moms came in for the meeting and told me the parking lot was iced over. Confused, and perhaps even a little skeptical, I went out to see.

Yes. It was iced over. How?? Why?? I do not want to list all the things that have come up in my life in just a few short days that have blindsided me, but the parking lot being iced over in above-freezing weather is a great metaphor for all those things. Something that is a serious problem that I Need To Take Care Of Right Now. That kind of problem. (We had a little car accident, in fact. A little one.)

I actually wanted to cry. Not because of that, but because of everything, the ice being just, uh, the icing on the... cake. But I didn't cry. Because, in the words of one of my seven-year-old friends, I am one of the bosses of Trinita. And the only boss in town at the moment. I think bosses are not supposed to cry in public. This is a day that did get better. I made a friend. But then it got worse. And then it got a little better. And then it got worse again. If the past three days were a volleyball game between Happy Me and Sad Me, Sad Me would be ahead one point at this moment. But it's been a close match and the game ain't over.

Think I am gonna bake a pie. Not tonight, although I considered it. Tomorrow. And maybe I am gonna buy me another pink shirt.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


When I worked at our mission of St. Patrick School in Phenix City, Alabama, Christmas time was pretty hectic. I remember lots of special activities, and I was really glad I was only an aide and not a teacher. But being an aide was hard enough. We borrowed a videocamera from someone's dad, and I was assigned to record everything for a few days. Don't picture one of them cute little hand-sized things everybody has now. This was back in the day. The thing weighed a ton, was the size of a breadbox, and my shoulder ached for days.

When I worked at our mission of Catholic Social Services in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Christmas time was pretty hectic. We had lists, long lists of families we had served during the year who needed gifts for their kids. Because one big donor backed out at the very last minute, we had to do some emergency overtime to cover a few dozen families. I have a very clear memory of winding through the decimated aisles of some department store, stupid with fatigue since it was nearly midnight, looking for women's gloves or something lame like that. Lists and lists.

When I was on the Formation team, I spent a few Christmases at our novitiate in Temascalapa, Mexico. Our sisters were immersed in planning, coordinating, and executing various Christmas activities in the eight or so chapels surrounding the main town, and I helped out a little. Somehow it became my job to prepare a Christmas meal for about 25 Missionary Servants, men and women who gathered to finally relax after a marathon of liturgies and activities.

So the Christmas season here has to rate as perhaps the least stressful December I have had yet. We did a lot of baking and then we got to deliver baskets all over the northwest corner of the state. It was great fun.

Now it's January of a new year. There will be much new this year. In a few days, I am driving Olivia to her new ministry at our Motherhouse in Philadelphia. Then, we all have to adjust to our shifted responsibilities. And we'll be adjusting again whenever a new sister is assigned here.

We'll cope somehow. Perhaps I will develop a new part of myself as I adjust to all these changes. In my vow formula, I included the words from Paul's prayer at the end of chapter 3 of Ephesians. That part about letting your hidden self grow strong, that has always sounded like something I should strive for. I think this year maybe I will really break out and start wearing pink. Yeah, that's it. That will say change like nothing else. I never wear pink. But I got a pink sweater for Christmas, and I bought myself a pink shirt with my Christmas money. And I wear it, too. Yup, this is going to be a very different year for me. The signs are all there.