19 April 2018

You Can't Spell Advice without Free Will


I like giving people advice. Sometimes, that means sharing places I enjoy with others; promoting businesses or museums or restaurants I care about. Because I work in tourism, I get to give this kind of advice quite often. I tell people where to get the best cheesesteak in Philadelphia; how to spend their day affordably; what streets to walk down. Sometimes, giving advice means helping loved ones make decisions, both little and big ones, such as how to phrase a conversation with someone they are experiencing tension or simply what clothes to wear on a date. So, too, I like to seek and receive advice. I just as often am given suggestions for what to do in a visitor's hometown as I give for what to do in Philly. I gladly welcome my friends' and family's assistance in solving life dilemmas. Just recently, three of my sainted friends guided me through a far-too-laborious crafting of a text message. Sure, I could have solved it on my own, but isn't there something good about advice? Isn't there something good about involving others, drawing them into one's intimate spaces, affirming the human need to be needed?

10 April 2018

These are a Few of My Favorite People


This week, I intended to write a cultural analysis stemming from my overuse of the word "favorite." In the midst of Oxford definitions, grammatical terms, and millennial woes, however, I abruptly changed gears to free write - by hand - about five of my truly favorite things, well, people: my siblings. I was drawn in by all the simple and sweet photos and posts on my Instagram and Facebook feeds celebrating National Siblings Day, and I thought I'd join in on the fun, because not only did the wedding I attended this past Saturday show me I used the word "favorite" too liberally, but also that we don't have enough opportunities to tell the people we love why we love them - and to tell the world about that love, too. Long-form tributes are relegated to toasts at weddings and eulogies at funerals. Well, my siblings all got married quite some time ago, and I'm not waiting til they are dead to remind them just how much they mean to me.

05 April 2018

4 - 3 - 2 - 1 Church

Holy Thursday: In the midst of a priest talking in a flurry of Spanish, I slid into an open pew towards the back of the church. Apparently the bulletin had been wrong: the mass started at 7:00, not 7:30. Flipping through the leaflet of translations I had been handed upon entering, I eventually deciphered we were in the midst of the Gospel. Back and forth we went, Spanish to English, English to Spanish, through songs, responses, prayers, and blessings, until at last we found ourselves on our knees with incense in the air and Latin on our tongues. Before the Blessed Sacrament, we finally rested in our common language: silence.

19 March 2018

Spotlight on My Heart, the Church

"I can't go up there! You're girls!" Fr. Jon whisper-shouted up the stairs, as we giggled and rebuked him with amusement. "No, not that! We need you for something!" We were spies, you see. As our parents and other adults partied downstairs, we were allocated to the second and third floors, and we were getting a bit, well, antsy. We were curious what those grown-ups were talking about. We needed to infiltrate their lines, without being caught, without going down there ourselves. We needed an ally. Fr. Jon fit the bill. Eventually he gave in to our pleas and walked up the back stairs to greet us. We handed him a tape recorder and instructed him to discreetly place it in the kitchen and press play. Not a word to another soul, we told him. He obeyed, or so we thought. Later, when we retrieved the tape, the most amusing thing we heard - in fact, the only thing I remember - was him telling one friend's mother, "it's for the girls." "And Justin!" we squealed, as we rolled over in laughter. So it turned out our chosen ally wasn't the most nonchalant after all; but that did not deter us from harassing him again and again.

This memory spun through my mind this past Sunday evening as I watched the movie Spotlight, the Academy Award winning Best Picture film about the sex abuse scandals in the Archdiocese of Boston.

15 March 2018

We Meet Again, My Feathered Friends

These are the days when birds come back,
A very few, a bird or two

These lines of poetry, by Emily Dickinson, have accompanied me on my city strolls this past week. Mornings are greeted by light chirping; afternoons are swelled with twitterpated wrens and sparrows and thrushes. They are brave little birds, facing the nor'easters of March with long songs and rapid calls that hearken the coming of spring. The snow and incessant cold will not muddle their voices. While their chirpity chirps and sweet sweet sweets and tweeps demand one to look forward to the new seasons of warmth with anticipation, they also arouse a certain nostalgia, for the warm days and beautiful birds of the past.

08 March 2018

This is the Sound of Clarity

Sometimes the voice of God is so simple.

I have spent so much time thinking and worrying about vocation, whether I am called to the religious life. I have spent endless moments in front of the monstrance wondering if the contemplative life is the life for me; if sitting, and pondering, and living in the mystery of spiritual bridehood is enough. Just this morning, I stared at the priest's vestments, asking myself, could clothes like that be meant for me, too? The call to be a contemplative has weighed on me greatly, which many would say is already a bad sign. God does not communicate through weight and anxiety, they say, but through peace. Yeah yeah yeah, but then why do I keep thinking about it? What am I missing? How do I hear him? When is the message clear? Where is peace? That same priest this morning spoke about hearing and responding to the voice of God, and I thought to myself, have I ever heard that voice? Would I recognize it if I heard it? After months and months of back and forth, and misinterpreted messages, I felt that I wouldn't. But then, just a few hours later, I did.

02 March 2018

The Treat You Can't Deny Yo Self

The first time someone told me to "treat yo self," I was studying abroad. A new friend and I were out somewhere, doing something and she looked at me and quoted that delightful episode of Parks and Recreation. Understandably, it became the tagline for the semester - leagues better than YOLO, which was absolutely also used quite a bit. There we were, in London for three months of our lives, an experience we would never have again. What better time and place to treat yo'self?

The phrase didn't stop with London, even though it took me three more years to watch Parks and Rec and not just quote it like the poser I am. Now, in Philadelphia, I use it probably too often. There's always a new bar or restaurant to try, or new exhibit to see. There's often a long day of work, a bad school group, a night out with friends, or visitors in town to use as an excuse. I work several different jobs. I balance a very complicated calendar. Sometimes my brain gets tired. Sometimes I need a treat.