Friday, November 1, 2013
First, I want to say how thankful I am for so many things in my life. That's basically what this post was going to be about. Except I was going to say it without using those exact words by talking about how happy I was at the community night Paul and I hosted Wednesday, and how proud Paul was to share his homemade Pancit, and how much I love the Great Pumpkin, and how delicious and beautiful cupcakes are. So I think that says it all. Community nights (with flowers, good food, good people, and good wine) + the Great Pumpkin + homemade cupcakes I was really proud of = lots and lots of gratitude. Happy Friday :)
Friday, October 11, 2013
Our community garden dreamed of having a canning workshop last season, but with all the work days creating the actual garden, we ran out of time to can. We made canning a priority this season and scheduled a whole Saturday to hang out in the kitchen together. Two of our garden committee members are canning queens (and one is a master preserver!) and were kind enough to teach the rest of us the canning process. We opened the workshop up to all of our gardeners and used garden funds to offset the workshop cost so that finances wouldn't keep anyone from learning.
The day was divided into two parts: tomatoes in the morning and pears in the afternoon. Everything seemed to go a lot faster with all the people we had helping, and before I knew it we had several dozen jars full of beautiful food. Each participant went home with a jar of tomatoes and pears. We were all so excited, and I feel I am so excited to can more and now that I know the basic skills, I feel confident enough to can on my own now. Just need to pick up my own canning kit, and I'm set!
Please excuse the weird quality of these photos. I took them with my mid grade camera in weird light, and this was the best I could with them.
If you're interested in learning to can, you can check with your local community center, library, university extension program, or nature/ecology center. There's lots of workshops out there if you keep your eye open for them. Pickyourown.org is also a great resource to check out for canning information and recipes. We used this recipefor our tomatoes and this recipe for our pears.
Have you canned before?
Thursday, August 1, 2013
This is our first picture together, taken when we still little baby Jesuit Volunteers. We both loved our respective communities (mine in Syracuse, New York, and yours in Hartford, Connecticut). We loved community life so much that when we later moved to Milwaukee, we decided to start our own intential community.
We had a vision of a "grown-up" community, an intentional housing space for young adults who wanted to continue the experience they had in their volunteer programs. We would share meals and groceries and participate in community and spirituality nights. Community life would help us live our values of simple living and working to make the world a better place. Because we had friends that were interested in the experiment but couldn't live in the actual community space, we also invented an option for "associate members." These members would join us for community events and be considered part of our extended community. Later we decided this was the greatest strength of the community. People thought we were crazy for starting a community as an engaged couple, but people thinking we're crazy never stopped us from doing anything.
Two years ago, we moved into our new community, the Casey Sister-Brotherhood, and invited a few others to live with us. We put so much work into starting the project, and we both grew in unexpected ways from the experience. The personality combination in our house was a struggle, and through that I learned the value of being honest with difficult feelings and the power of reconciliation. We also made some of our best Milwaukee friendships through our community and found comfort in friends who understood our values and where we were coming from. Neither of our baby Jesuit Volunteer selves could have predicted the challenges and rewards of "grown-up" community life. But I know they would have been really happy that we gave this dream a chance.
Twenty four months after we signed our first lease, we've decided it's time to move out and to live on our own for the first time as a married couple. We'll now be associate members and get to enjoy the support of community relationships without the ups and downs of living with people we're not married to. I can't wait.
To my former-baby-Jesuit-Volunteer-love: thank you so much for going on this adventure with me. Couldn't think of anyone better to have by my side.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
This weekend I flew to New York to reunite with my JVC roommates. We lived for a year together in Syracuse, New York, from 2007-2008, working at area non-profits, having lots of adventures, and learning to live the JVC values of community, simple living, social justice, and spirituality. This was our 5th annual reunion, and we decided to go back where it all started. We were missing our roommate Devin, but she was definitely there with us in spirit! This weekend I...
was picked up by this lovely lady in New York City after spending a six hour layover in the Milwaukee airport. We started our adventure with a taxi, train, and car ride to get to Syracuse. ...
missed my days working with refugee families while attending the Syracuse World Refugee Day celebration ...
had a delicious ice cream at Gannon's, THE place to go for ice cream in Syracuse (check out those crazy tables!) ...
helped Brian finish his Snickers Explosion (it was too much for him to handle since it was an explosion - not a "controlled demolition" as he pointed out)...
took pictures at our old JVC house...
took a pilgrimage to my favorite grocery store of all time (also the site of mine and Paul's first date - we were JVs without any money when we started dating)...
spent the rest of the weekend in Kara's beautiful lake house off Lake Ontario...
read through our old predictions for where we would be now - everyone writes three predictions for each roommate and includes a few fun ones too (Brian confused fun with morbid. Why would anyone want to predict that Sean Connery would be dead? At least he included a sad face)...
busted out "the whipped cream trick," the one where you throw whipped cream in the air and catch it in your mouth. I can provide a tutorial if anyone is interested...
found interesting tree decorations...
took pictures of the super moon...
and met up with our fantastic support person Beth in her hometown of Oswego. Gotta love timed pictures in the middle of restaurants.
This weekend was so amazing. Having spent a year together finding simple ways to entertain ourselves, we've been able to keep our reunions very basic and inexpensive. We spent the majority of our time just relaxing and catching up, and the time together felt so meaningful. Thanks JVC!
Friday, June 21, 2013
I'm off to Syracuse, New York to spend a weekend with these crazy cats. I served for a year with them in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and we all loved each other so much we've made it a tradition to get back together for annual shenanigans. We counted my wedding at the 4th reunion, and I've shared photos from reunion three, two, and one. It's so great to be able to share being "ruined for life" with truly amazing people. More photos and stories to come next week!
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
This week marks our last week living in community. Our last roommate has taken a job working with the Franciscan Action Network in Washington, D.C. which means when we come back from Europe, we'll be living on our own. Tonight we're celebrating our final community night dinner with the extended members of our community.
Tonight brings up lots of mixed feelings. I still question whether or not we were successful with this community endeavor. I wonder if our community was "good enough." With the bumps we had a community I wonder if Paul and I were failures as community starters. I don't know if my heart will ever resolve answers to these questions.
I do know that I've put my blood, sweat, and tears into this community, and the past two years have taught me a so much about community, myself, my relationships, my marriage, conflict, and commitment. It would take too long to go through all the ups and downs, joys and challenges of the community so I'll just leave it at this: being in this community has made me a better, more confident, more patient, more loving person. I'm glad Paul and I had the crazy idea to start this community, and I'm glad we were crazy enough to stick with it this long. Even though it was difficult to be in community as a married couple, I believe it ultimately brought us closer and made us a better couple. Living in community as a couple helped me realize the importance of being connected to a community (though not necessarily a live in one) for the continued strength of our marriage - and our growth as individuals.
It's difficult to know what affect our community had on other people, and ultimately I don't think that's what's really important about a community. The real secret to community life is that by being in relationship with others, you are transformed and grow to so much more than you could be on your own.
I'm excited that our extended community will continue even though it will just be Paul and me living in the community space. We've made some great friends through this community, and I want to continue to grow in our relationships. We intentionally set up our community to have connections between live-in and live-out members of the community which turned out to be one of the community's greatest strengths. Now the Casey Sister-Brotherhood will be more of a network of young people which will be a good fit for where Paul and I are right now. We're ready to step into the next stage of our marriage together, and we are both so excited to be able to focus on each other as the main priorities in our lives.
Ah the joys and pains of community life. I have learned so much, and I wouldn't be the person I am today without it.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
I felt at home the first time I went to mass here. Upon moving to Milwaukee, Paul and I began church shopping, looking for a church that clicked with our spiritualities. Luckily, we didn't have to search long before finding St. Francis.
The folks at St. Francis make hospitality a habit, and I felt welcomed from our first visit. The St. Francis community is also just that - a community. I've appreciated how authentic it feels, especially considering how racially, culturally, and economically diverse the church is. Diversity is great in a church community, but it takes a special place to use diversity as a unifying strength and not allow it to completely divide people into separate groups.
I feel so lucky to have a place I can go each week that I feel welcomed and at home, a place where my absence is noticed when I don't show up. I especially appreciate the meals after mass where I can catch up with friends and meet new people. St. Francis has become our Milwaukee family and for that I am so grateful.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
As a Jesuit Volunteer, I was always humbled by the generosity of the people we knew in Syracuse. People had us over to dinner, offered us rides, gave us lots of tasty basked goods and adult beverages, and just generally watched out for us. Being a former volunteer, I really enjoy sharing this same generosity and hospitality with current volunteers. It's all about paying it forward right?
We had one of the volunteers groups in Milwaukee over last night, and Paul made a big delicious pot of chili for dinner. We had great conversation and ended the night by sending the volunteers home with the rest of the pumpkin bread and beer (Paul couldn't part with the rest of the pumpkin pie). I love the freedom and joy that comes from sharing what I have with others, especially in this case knowing that the volunteers will be able to pay forward the gift of hospitality to others in the future.
Saute 2 onions, 3 cloves garlic, and 1 teaspoon each cumin, coriander, and oregano with 2 tablespoons canola oil in large pot. Brown 2 coarsely chopped green bell peppers and 2 coarsely chopped red bell peppers. Add 4 12oz cans diced tomatoes (48 oz total). Rinse, drain, and add 2 cans of black beans and 2 cans kidney beans. (Optional: Add bouillon cube mixed with about 1/4 cup water at this point). Add 1 small packet frozen corn. Add small, medium, or large pinch of cayenne pepper. Add 1 teaspoon honey. Let simmer for 45 minutes. Add 1-2 small cans tomato paste to thicken to desired consistency. Adapted fromSimply in Season.
Use sour cream and cheese to garnish. We always serve our chili over rice. We also enjoyed it with corn bread muffins the volunteers brought over. They made us keep the corn bread leftovers - they're already paying it forward!
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Every October 3rd, Franciscans participate in Transitus services to commemorate the death of St. Francis. These services differ from others in that most feast days remember a saint's entrance into the world, not their departure from it. St. Francis welcomed death as an opportunity to be with God, and thus treated his death like a celebration. I love our church's Transitus service because it feels like such a peaceful approach to something that usually feels very scary.
I, like many people, fear death - both for myself and for those I love. I appreciate stories of people like St. Francis who have the grace and faith to be able to greet death "as an old friend."
I find it fitting that Transitus happens during the autumn season here, just as the leaves are changing and starting to fall from the trees. Nature experiences a death of its own as winter slowly approaches. I feel apprehensive about winter's approach because the winter is just so freaking long and cold up here. But I hope that I can take a lesson from St. Francis and approach this small death as just another part of life, just another way to experience creation.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Last night's community night focused on how we use technology. I share my reflections from last night with you by typing on a computer that will post this message on a blog. Irony.
I appreciate community discussions that challenge me to live more simply. Last night, I reflected specifically on my computer and phone usage. I talked about how it feels to be "plugged in" (even the terminology seems to equate a person to a machine). I work in front of a computer for eight hours a day, have my personal and work email open all day ready to respond to new messages as soon as they arrive, and have my work and cell phone nearby to respond to any calls or text messages. At the end of that insanity, I come home and usually check my email again (never know who could have emailed me in the fifteen minutes it took me to get home) and continue my web surfing, sometimes while sitting in front of the TV.
This intimate connection to technology usually results in a tense-hyped-up-on-the-move energy, a general feeling of impatience and dissatisfaction, and a disconnection from the present moment.
I'm realizing it's time to take a step back and unplug.
I remember how relaxed I felt on our honeymoon in June. I had turned my phone off so I wouldn't be charged for roaming fees while we were out of the country. The effect of being disconnected was surprisingly dramatic. When I was walking around, I was just walking around. When I was eating dinner, I was just eating dinner. When I was laying around the room with Paul, I was just there with Paul. I didn't have to worry if I had missed a phone call, text, or email. I could just be. And the best part was that everyone got along fine that week without contacting me. The world still turned. And I felt better than I usually did. I felt present.
How can I bring that feeling to my everyday life? I don't think I'm in a place where I can turn my cell phone or computer off forever. There are times when people need to contact me by cell phone and times when I need to respond to emails. My new challenge will be finding the middle ground between completely disconnecting and being a slave to my computer and phone. My first baby step is to focus on Pedro and my garden when I get home from work instead of checking my email. My second baby step is to only check my email once in the evening after I get home from work. It might sound absurd to those of you with healthier relationships with technology, but to me I think these steps will be very helpful.
Does this reflection resonate with you? What ideas or tips do you have for live life more simply ?
Monday, September 17, 2012
Last night, my roommates and I met to discuss a really difficult topic regarding a community member's status in the community. I had been dreading this meeting for about a week and had trouble eating because the butterflies were going to town in my stomach.
I usually find any way I can to avoid conflict and confrontation. And surprise, surprise, I've found that this usually makes uncomfortable situations worse rather than better. Living in community has given me many opportunities to practice approaching conflict in a healthier, more direct way.
I felt so proud of our community last night: each of us approached the conversation with an attitude of humility and prayerful openness. We also used the RESPECT model of communication in our meeting, which allows us to invite the next person to speak and doesn't allow for cross talk or interruption. It works well for our community of introverts and extroverts who have different ways of communicating in groups.
I'm learning that being honest about my feelings and communicating them in a non-violent way does wonders for my relationships. Being straightforward has felt so much better than holding onto feelings and assuming a person understands what I want or will magically fix whatever is bothering me. My relationships in community are stronger when I'm upfront about what I feel and think.
Community sometimes requires really tough decisions. In past roommate situations I might just have let things go until my lease was up. Let things quietly fester, at first hoping they would get better, then realizing that resentment and bitterness had really damaged the relationship. Our community approached this situation head on, and I believe we are stronger and healthier because of it.
These types of honest conversations are helping me approach other relationships in my life differently. My community has been a good practice ground for developing relationships that are based on openness, honesty, and a mutual effort at supporting one another. It's not easy, but it's worth it.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Sometimes I have a difficult time explaining to people why Paul and I live in community. If I'm venting about frustrations to someone outside the community, the response I usually receive is "why don't you just move out?" To be honest, I've asked myself the same question. With the challenges of community life, you really have to be dedicated and have a reason for staying. So, what is keeping us here?
An answer came to me last night while I was talking with one of my friends at the community garden pruning tomatoes - the place where all great thoughts are revealed. Before I even realized what I was saying, I started talking about how moving around so frequently in the past few years has allowed me to avoid working through many difficult parts in relationships. Just around the point when I'm starting to get to an overall level of annoyance with where I'm at, I have the opportunity to move, and I never have to work through those feelings of annoyance.
This year, I've had to face many uncomfortable and challenging situations head on. There's only so many places to hide when you're living in an apartment with three other people. I've had to grow past my tendency to run from conflict like the plague. I've had to learn how to resolve problems so that we can continue living as community members and have a peaceful household. I've had to grow in honestly and non-violently expressing my feelings and in admitting when I'm wrong. While visiting my family in St. Louis last weekend, a few things happened that helped me realize I've made progress in dealing with conflict and uncomfortable situations. "Oh my God!" I thought, "I'm GROWING!" Staying committed to this community has broken the cycle of being able to avoid uncomfortable parts of relationships.
While learning healthy ways to deal with conflict resolution isn't the only reason I'm living in community, it's an example of how living in community can help lead to personal growth - if you're willing to commit and stick with it when things get tough. I've got a LONG way to go, but living in community has helped me kick start my journey to being a better person.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Last night we celebrated the one year anniversary of the Casey Sister-Brotherhood community. What a journey it has been! In the past 365 days, we've had roommates move in, roommates move out, had lots of community and business nights, prayed together, shared meals together, learned about conflict resolution, went on retreats together, shared laughs, and shared our personal journeys, struggles, and triumphs.
Paul and I seriously started considering starting a community about a year and a half ago and had discussions with two good friends and our parish priest regarding logistics and our discernment process. Our idea was to have a community of young adults who had participated in volunteer programs continue their intentional lifestyle as part of a community connected to our church.
Other people supported our idea, so when an apartment opened up at our church for the community, we went on a tour to see how we liked the space. I was pleasantly surprised by how spacious the apartment was and felt like everything was falling in to place. Especially when I saw what would be mine and Paul's room (picture 1) and our dining room (picture 2).
Reflecting on the past year in community and looking ahead to our next year together, I think this prayer/letter by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin best sums up my hopes and feelings for our future:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made by passing through some states of instability,
and that may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Do not try to force them on as though you could be today what time
-- that is to say grace -- and circumstances
acting on your own good will will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new Spirit gradually forming in you will be.
Thanks for reading!
Friday, July 27, 2012
A few years ago, I never would have signed up for the running portion of an event. I used to hate running because I thought I was physically unable to do it. That was before I learned about the magic of pacing. Instead of running as fast as I could for a short time, I started running at a comfortable pace for longer and longer distances. I completed my first 5K after training for a whole summer with my roommates from the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Crossing the finish line for the first time with my JVC roommates felt like we were accomplishing something huge both physically and emotionally. The Run/Walk for the Hungry was my 4th 5K race, and I felt so confident! Every time I run now I think, "if I can do this, something I thought I could never do, what else am I capable of accomplishing?" What other "I could never do that" thing could I be doing now?