Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Countdown to....7pm?

As the year draws to a close, a lot of people are sharing New Years Resolutions. One of mine is to write in this blog two times a month. (I know, it's about time right?!) Don't worry, I do enjoy blogging, I just haven't made time for it in the midst of everything else. It's going to be higher on my list of priorities in this new year. The other is to read the Bible in a year through this book:

I had started to read this last July with the intent of completing the Bible this July but then I kept thinking it would be cool to have it be a 2014 thing.

 Having studied scripture under the direction of Sister Mary Ann Spanjers, as well as the books of Daniel and Revelation under Fr. Jean-Pierre Ruiz, I am looking forward to it. I wouldn't call the readings "20-Minutes" unless you can read and reflect fast, but it does break the Bible into more manageable sections.

Tonight we are each preparing hors d'oeuvres, or pupus in Hawaiian. My goodness, pupus is much easier to spell! Thanks to the time-zone differences, we can watch the ball drop in Time Square at 7pm and still go to bed early. No worries, I will still at least hear the arrival of the New Year. It's a tradition around here to let off fireworks at midnight. I'm a heavy sleeper but even I woke up at the sound of it last year! This year I might stumble outside for a second. We shall see. I'm not as motivated when I'm half-asleep as anyone who has tried waking me up can attest. 

May you have a wonderful New Years and a blessed solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Oh, that reminds me...last year I thought it would be fun to teach my 3rd/4th graders what "Theotokos" meant. I wonder if any of them still remember. :) 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Spontaneous Star Gazing

Last night we had a power outage. Sadly, I learned at school today that a car had hit a power line. I hope and pray that they are okay. I was blissfully unaware of this last night. In fact, I was enjoying the lack of power. Everything was dark and I was amazed at the number of visible stars in the sky! 

I decided to spend my hour of personal prayer laying on our picnic table and gazing up at the stars. (I have a healthy fear of centipedes.) It was incredible! I saw some meteors, including one really spectacular one that seemed to travel further than the others. I was in awe of God and the stars seemed to be in awe of Him, too.

I kept thinking of a line from my favorite poem, i carry your heart with me [i carry it in]: "and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart" - E.E. Cummings. How the Lord holds and enfolds the universe!

Then at the Children's Mass today, we sang a praise and worship song called Just Like You by Matt Maher. I had never heard it before but it sums up my prayer experience under the stars. It's amazing how God works like that. You can read the lyrics to Just Like You by clicking here.


In my previous entry, I wrote that my students planned how we would decorate our door for the annual door decorating contest:
 There is a zombie and he is trying to break into a car. Inside the car is a man eating cheeseburgers. On the roof is a Frankenstein head with spider legs. 
 (I had forgotten that they also wanted a ghost above the scene, and for the vehicle to be a truck, not a car.)

The following picture is the result. Note that the work I did was minimal and a lot of it consisted of printing out pictures that the students copied through free-draw. Since we used construction paper, it was impossible for them to trace the pictures. Other than that I only drew a few things myself. They did most of the work and drawings/cut-outs and I am so proud of them!

Our Halloween Door! Just in case you are wondering, Frankenstein is saying, "I'm your worst nightmare!" Notice the bag to the left of it. One of my students sewed it for her friend, including the pocket, which she said was the hardest part. I'm jealous of an eight-year-old who can already sew. Just saying.

God bless you and your week.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Family, Ministry, Community and Prayer


I recently said aloha to my Grandma Beechnau. She died just over a week ago. I really don't know what to say about her. Nothing really describes her well. She's just...Grandma. She had vascular dementia and she had been suffering for long time so her death was bittersweet. I am so grateful that I had wonderful visits with her while on home visits. Sister Julie Ann and Sister Mary Ann even got to meet her and they loved her.

Vascular dementia is caused by strokes and this affected her speech. For some reason though, whenever she made a joke, her speech was clear. She never lost her sense of humor. 

She would go back and forth between remembering family members and not remembering them. I have been blessed in that in every interaction I've had with her she either remembered me or still made me feel remembered. 

When my Grandpa Beechnau had died, my cousins and I didn't understand where Grandpa had gone. It was explained to us that he was feeding the birds with St. Francis (his best friend). Now I have an image of the three of them feeding the birds together. Except Grandma's paying more attention to the flowers. 


In other news, we have already completed the first quarter of the school year. We did standardized testing this week. It was the second graders' first standardized test of their lives, but no pressure for the teacher. ;) I kind of had fun teaching them how to fill in bubbles: a circular motion is best. I feel like I am going to start dreaming about proctoring the tests: Put your figure on Sample A. We will do Sample A together. Make your mark heavy and dark. 

It felt good to finish the tests today, and right after this we planned how we are going to decorate our classroom door for the Halloween Door Decorating Contest. I taught the students how to brainstorm. I love brainstorming! It's when creativity really shines through. After brainstorming, we moved to voting and somehow we are going to create the following scenario on our door:

There is a zombie and he is trying to break into a car. Inside the car is a man eating cheeseburgers. On the roof is a Frankenstein head with spider legs. 

I love the creativity! And I love how the children laugh when we get to the cheeseburger part. :)


One of the people who Sister Verone visits let us borrow a movie about St. Damien. It is an excellent film and this evening we enjoyed watching it as a local community. It is called Molokai: The Story of Father Damien. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this relatively newly canonized saint, Father Damien is a priest who heroically served the lepers of Molokai. He and St. (Mother) Marianne are truly inspiring. We were edified by their courage and how much they personally sacrificed so that others could more fully live. There were moments of humor throughout this film and it was simply enjoyable to watch. 

Sometimes YouTube can have some nice talks to medicate on...similar to spiritual reading. Lately, I have been listening to talks from this year's Steubenville Youth Conferences. They are for high school students but I love the this year's theme, Chosen, and there are some good messages for all of us. Here is their YouTube Channel that has the talks: Steubenville Conferences

 Here is a video explaining this year's theme: Seriously, doesn't watching this video make you want to go there right now?! Good thing they generously upload the talks to YouTube.

 And here is an excellent talk from one of this year's conferences about relativism, the truth, and compassion. It's probably the best talk I have heard on the topic, and it is given by one of my favorite priests:
Enjoy. :)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Back to Work in Paradise

I am happily back in Kekaha! We have a new Sister living with us this year, Sister Verone. She is delightful! She is our cook and she also spends time doing homebound ministry with one of our parishioners, Bev. I am sure she does a nice job with that. She sure is a good cook.

These past few days, we have had  one of our Sisters and a Kauai native, Sister Roselani, over for a visit. It was enjoyable. We visited some of her favorite places, including the Menehune Fishpond and Kukuiolono Park. The park was my favorite. It was so peaceful there, and seemed to have a nice golf course (but that is coming from someone who has never golfed). We also treated Sister Roselani to Roselani ice cream at Super Duper Two. Our friend, Lisa (Bev's daughter) owns it, so we like to go there. Plus, it's good ice cream.  I love living in a small town. It's like Grand Rapids, where you know everyone. :)

We are entering into our third week of school already, and things are coming easier for my second year of teaching. This year, I am teaching 2nd/3rd split. It's a lot of fun. I enjoy helping kids learn to read and do math and I am excited to help the second graders prepare for their First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion.

I still haven't hit the beach yet or climbed any mountains but I am looking forward to doing those things soon.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Timeless Moment

A week ago, Sister Pamela Catherine and I renewed our vows. It was incredible, in that even though it was a brief moment, it was also timeless. While the spiritual life isn't based on feelings, I could not help but ignore that my soul was burning throughout the renewal of our vows and for that gift I am grateful to God.
Then they said  to each other, "Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?" -Luke 24:32, NAB
 It was a special time, and I love that it is a part of the Mass. After Mass, we went down to the cafeteria for a special breakfast with the General Administration, served by Sister Regina Rose (newly professed) and Sister Karen. What was extra special is that my mom was here to visit for a few days and was able to be there for it.

Rewind a couple of days. My brother, Paul, had invited me to be a guest on Antioch Live! He and his friend and colleague, Rick, interviewed me on the topic of vocations. My mom, Susan, and sister-in-law, Courtney, also make an appearance in it. I hope you enjoy it:

The next day, Mom and I went to Holy Hill. (The full name is Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians.) We made it on time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we did the outdoor stations of the Cross, and we spent time praying in the chapels. It was a nice experience. I went there as a postulant, but it was fun to share it with her. We were also able to visit with a friend of hers, who doesn't live that far from the Shrine.

Now I am preparing myself for my second year of teaching. Soon I will be heading back to Kekaha, HI to teach energetic third graders. I am looking forward to their enthusiasm and also seeing everyone there again. It's always nice to have something to look forward to.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Condensed Version of Three Months

It is beyond time for me to get back into blogging. So much has happened since I last wrote in this!

First, I took my students on an overnight field trip to the Koke'e Discovery Center.  It was an overwhelming undertaking at first, but with the guidance of Sister Hannah and the amazing support and assistance of my students' parents, not to mention, a great facilitator, Uncle Bill, it was a successful experience. The children learned about the native and invasive plant species of Kauai. They loved going on hikes, drinking hot chocolate, and playing together. I even joined them in a game of tag. I had to reinstate the "no tags back" rule because I needed a chance to rest as they all wanted to tag me. They tired me out and we had fun.

Exactly a week later was the annual Saint Theresa School Carnival. It is a huge ordeal. People come from all over the island for it. Each classroom made something for the silent auction, and I had my students do a melted crayon art project. It ended up being a labor of love. The best part was the buyer. She was on vacation and just loved it! The children were so touched that someone bought it because she liked it and not because a son or daughter made it. It was a big compliment. :) My other role was the face painting and tattoo booth. I can now do glitter tattoos in my sleep.

Soon after that, my classroom became a hula boot camp as we prepared for the May Day program. I was proud of my students' dedication to learn and master the routines. We had an excellent kumu (hula teacher), too.

The year ended quickly. I made it back for Sister Regina Rose's first profession, which was incredible. I was so happy to be there for it. That week I had a nice home visit with family and friends. It was good to see some people I hadn't seen in a long time. Following my home visit was Sister Rexann's reception, which was also awesome to attend.

Then was the week I look forward to all year....retreat. I had the pleasure of going to Monte Alverno Retreat Center. I loved it. They had a 14 Station "Spiritual Walk with St. Francis" outside. I loved reviewing the life of St. Francis along with the probing questions it asked. I also did the outdoor stations of the cross and the labyrinth walk. The theme was "Rebuilding Our World: It's up to Us Now" and it reminded me of the New Evangelization, as much of the retreat centered around contemplation and only from that deep level of prayer comes the rebuilding of our world. I loved the time for quiet with the Lord and felt truly blessed. I left the week feeling inspired to do that which is mine to do.

Immediately, I was thrust into what was "mine to do," at least on a practical level, for two weeks. I served on the newsletter crew for our General Chapter alongside Sister Ellen and Sister Jan. It was hard work but also rewarding. I learned so much about our Community and felt happy to be a part of it. All three of us were grateful that we didn't go into journalism, but I think we worked together well.

Now we are beginning our more "typical" temporary professed summer program. For instructions, we are viewing the "EPIC" Church History program, and we are about to help Sister Veronica with summer housekeeping tasks....windows, cars, etc.

Whew! Life can go so fast... I hope that you are all doing well and are enjoying your summer!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Queen of the Cul-de-sac

My first time driving in Kauai, I knew something was up. I had just climbed into the driver's seat of our van and Sister Janet warned me: "Watch out for Kitty!"

Sure enough, I saw Kitty with enough time to swerve around her on the way to Morning Mass. Over the past several months, I have watched other vehicles do the same. Our neighborhood has an unwritten understanding that Kitty rules our road. We all drive ever so slowly while she lays in the middle of the street, barely paying attention the the likes of us. 
When I took this picture, she didn't flinch once. She pretended that I wasn't even there. 
One morning, I woke up to a terrible noise. I could tell that some animals were fighting outside, and it sounded scary. Sister Janet was already awake and witnessed the whole thing. She told me that a rooster tried to enter our property, and Kitty charged after her, leading to the fight. It almost goes without saying that Kitty won, and I haven't seen another rooster in our yard.

In other news, there's a ton of news: Teaching has been fun. I just finished a science unit with my students on Force and Motion. It culminated in a cooperative learning activity in which they worked in teams to build carnival rides out of (cleaned) rubbish from their homes. They needed to show me which simple machines they were putting together for their rides. Everyone did well and grew in their abilities to problem solve, compromise and work together on a project. Today, we dismantled the carnival, and we carried out six kitchen-size garbage bags to the dumpster.

We also just got back from Spring Break today. My dad and stepmom spent a week and a half with us, and we had a great time! The Sisters enjoyed having them around, too. Dad, Ginny and I did touristy things around the island: snorkeling, visiting the gardens, and going on a whale watching tour were among our favorite things. Actually, one of my students' parents had given tickets to us Sisters, so Sister Janet and I were already planning on going. We ended up getting separated from Dad and Ginny, but we had fun. The boat was rocky, but we had taken Dramamine, so we were able to enjoy it.

This is the best picture I could get of the whales.
Oh, and naturally, I am overjoyed about Pope Francis! I could write another blog entry just on that, and I probably will! He's a pope after my own heart. ¡Viva Papa!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day, LAX!

I am currently at LAX (the Los Angeles Airport) waiting to board.

Things have been busy, but enjoyable. Catholic Schools Week was nice, and was worth the extra energy of the children. One of the activities was to beautify the area around the school, and I was fortunate to get to take my students along the beach. My little environmentalists and animal lovers were enthusiastic about this project!

Afterwards, we had a class discussion about the project. The children expressed their sadness that they couldn't get to all of the litter and they were worried about the sea creatures. We were able to turn it into a positive through the course of the discussion (they will never know how many lives they saved that day). 

I showed them the following video that showed me and other Sisters picking up litter alongside Lake Michigan and we talked about how people all over are concerned with keeping the beaches nice:

On Thursday of that week, we traveled to Lydgate Park and had Mass with the other Catholic school on the island (St. Catherine's). While the older grades played a variety of games in the field, my students spent the day on the Kamalani Playground. It is without a doubt the best playground I have ever seen! The children just ran and ran and ran all day. They had a blast! 

Earlier this week, we had another field trip, and we went to Lihue for the Hawaii Youth Symphony's "Listen and Learn Concert." Sister Carol Ann (who teaches music and religion) said that it was the best one she has ever been to, anywhere. The children had a great time, and I was proud that our students were well behaved and well prepared for the concert. The symphony had given us prep materials and CDs in order to prepare the children, and the concert built upon what we covered in class. The conductor was so good with the children, too. 

My substitute teacher will be beginning the school day in an hour, and I am praying that her two days go well. My teacher-friends were right: it is a lot easier to go to work than to plan for a sub. My students are in good hands, though. Their sub is a volunteer at our school and has been teaching art to my students on Wednesdays. She fantastic! 

She has taught them origami and now she is teaching them how to paint.
A couple of these paintings are finished....some are a work in progress.
I am headed to Wisconsin for the Initial Formation Weekend. I will join our other temporary professed Sister, our novice and our postulant for it. I am looking forward to being at the Motherhouse for the weekend. I promised my students I would take pictures of the snow for them, since I can't bring them with me, to all of our disappointment. I told them I would have loved to take them with me so that they could play outside while I was at my meetings. Except I am sure they will enjoy the St. Valentine's Day Party today! 

May you have a wonderful holiday today today, whether you are wearing black for Singles' Awareness Day or red/pink for Valentine's Day.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

All Those Who Do Us Good

It seems that lately I have been writing in this blog monthly. Of course it isn't intended, but alas it is what it is. Anyway, with intentions of being a more prolific blogger, I am sharing with you some photos from the past month: 

We have a lot of benefactors at our local mission in Hawaii, and it is very humbling. They share with us because we serve the Lord. It is always a good personal examen every time we receive. Christmas was an opportunity to give back. We each prepared a baked good for our Christmas presents to them.
My contribution was "Merry Christmas Cookies." It is similar in appearance to sugar cookies, but it has a honey-lemon flavor with vanilla icing. I got the recipe from Sister Elaine, our Community's postulant directress.
We had a visit from Jolly Old St. Nick at Saint Theresa Convent! In this fruit basket was the best pineapple that I have ever eaten...seriously, it tasted like candy! 

Left to Right: Sister Janet, Sister Carol Ann, Sister Adrianna
Every mission has an annual visit from one of our Council Members. A couple weeks ago, we had an enjoyable visit from Sister Adrianna. We like to give them a chance to experience the beauty of Kauai. We took her on a Smith boat ride. A good time was had by all. Sister Carol Ann is doing the "shaka" in the picture. It means "hang loose."

Sister Hannah enjoyed the boat ride, too, as evidenced by the picture!

The music was beautiful! I wish I would have recorded it so I could still listen to it. The woman in the picture has an incredibly beautiful soprano voice!

On the way back to the dock, we had more entertainment....and hula lessons! I can't say I'm a pro after a two minute crash course, but it was fun!

Now we are back in school. I am enjoying it very much. I love the challenge of reaching all the students and their needs and having a small classroom helps. I am excited about what is going on at Saint Theresa School, too, and I am proud to be part of the staff. We are beginning a new anti-bullying program, and it is working! Phyllis Kunimura created it and we have the blessing of having her to train us and implement it in our school. I have used her six step resolution-empathy process with my students and it works! Seriously. Sister Janet has had the same results. I am not quick to endorse things like this, but seeing it before my eyes has been truly amazing. The children walk away from conflicts feeling good! You can see their shoulders relax. They are practicing both assertiveness and empathy, which will carry them well through life. The children love the program, too, which is important, because they are enthusiastic about going through the steps! The only modification that Sister Janet and I have made is to have the children say, "I accept your apology. Please don't do that again." This is in place of: "I don't like it when you do that. Please don't do that again." We are going to ask Phyllis if this is okay when she comes back for our next training and the school-wide kick-off of the program.

All in all, things are going well. I hope you are all having a great start to 2013!