Sunday, January 20, 2013

Go forth in peace to serve the world.

It is not just A mountain.  It is THE Mountain.

Mt. Irenaeus was created as a home away from home for those at university and those from any background. This community is rooted in Franciscan values and is home to six of the most amazing men that I have ever met. Even though I became part of this community later in my schooling, it quickly took over my heart. I can not imagine my life without this place and the people involved with it.

The Mountain truly is a community.  Even though I use it to 'get away' each weekend, it does not come without work. When you step foot into the House of Peace (the main house) you became a member of the family. Overnights usually put you at the mountain for approximately 24 hours.  During your stay you will work, cook, clean, share and  reflect with those around you.

I just returned from such an overnight. We left campus around 2pm on Sunday and settled in at the Mountain just before 3pm. As usual, we began by coming together in a circle to introduce ourselves (usually your name and the answer to whatever ice-breaker question was asked) and go over the plan for the trip.  It was so great to see so many familiar and loving faces as we shared "the best thing that happened over winter break."   Since this was the first overnight of the semester and was for the members of the Mountain Community Leaders (a group on campus) we were given an hour of free time on the land and encouraged to get to know new people. I ended up taking a winter hike with a group of people that I did not know well but became very close to.

Next came the work.  We were split into work groups to each help the friars in some way. My group (and eventually everyone else) stacked wood into the shed so that the friars would have it through the winter. These are some of my favorite times.  It is so rewarding to work with everyone for a common good.  We all tell stories, laugh and have a great time with these work projects.

Once the wood was stacked, we came in to warm up and begin cooking dinner. While a group made dinner, the rest of us brought our belongings to our rooms/cabins and prepared for the night. We prayed around the food that was prepared by our friends and then ate together at the table over delicious food and scrumptious conversations. Again, we helped everyone clean up our dishes after the families do!

As usual, there was a program after dinner. We took a meditative walk and ended in a circle in the basement of the house. There, we read from the Bible, reflected on ourselves as part of this group, how we can better ourselves and the group and what our mission statement means to each of us as individuals. We then entered into wonderfully deep and meaningful discussions.  I always enjoy this part of the night because I learn so much from every person there and I grow with each participant. After a prayer and the sign of peace, we were given free reign of the night.

We held a bonfire which consisted of snow ball throwing, running away from embers, smores and laughing until it hurt.  Some of us then returned to the house for hot tea and warm conversations.  The conversational dynamics shifted consistently. I spoke with so many special people about so many topics.  Eventually, a group of us settled in in a sitting area and told stories of our pasts.  There is so much to learn about this diverse group.

As the night grew darker, parts of the group moved on to bed.  While I am usually in bed by 10 or 11, I was up until 2:30am talking with some great guys.  We were able to become great friends in such a short amount of time. That is the magic of The Mountain.  The release of inhibitions allows people to bond with others overnight.

After a few hours of sleep, Sunday consisted of the usual group reflections, mass and brunch before coming back to campus.

I feel so happy right now. Cloud Nine.

Words cannot express what I feel for this place.  What I have written here does it no justice. I am sure that I will write again about this place in a much more fulfilling way. These friars have become my family.  They mean so much to me, have saved me more times than they know, and I value each of them differently. While I know that "you never graduate from the mountain," it is going to be so hard to say goodbye at the end of this semester.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Let's talk about the 'L' Word

"I love this song."
"I love sushi."
"I love sports."
Love. Love. Love. This small word sure is thrown around a lot. But are we losing sight of what it truly means? Back in the honest days when Shakespeare wrote his Sonnet 18, love was overflowing from his words.  Ironically, he does not mention the word 'love' once. Not. Once. "Lovely" but not "love." Shakespeare compares the muse to a summer's day, speaks of how his/her beauty will last forever as long as people are able to read this poem. 

Now that is love.

Love is so much more than saying it. It is more than the hugs, kisses and dates. To me, love is is an amalgam of emotions and factors.  Love involves trust, compassion, understanding, open-mindedness and so much more. It is not something that you can't turn on and off. I will admit that I am probably one of the most gushy/romantic people out there but I do not believe there is love at first sight.  Attraction? Yes. Not love. Not love because there are too many other factors that build the ladder up to love. 

"Sarah, you have some firm beliefs about love...have you been in love?"  Why, yes I have. Now, I'm not talking the 'I love this song'-love. Real love.  The sun would rise and set with this guy.  We were about as opposite as you can get and any outsider would have never put us together. But it worked. It worked so well. What happened you ask? Life. We were and still are at different places.  And sadly, just because you love someone to the stars and back doesn't mean that you are meant to be together. And that was the case. We were meant to love but not last. The quote that can best sum up that relationship comes from one of my favorite books: 
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. 
A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.
A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life" - Eat, Pray, Love....Elizabeth Gilbert. 

This opens up the can of 'soul mates' but let's hold off on that for a second. This love of mine did exactly that. He shook me up, showed me what I did and didn't want, brought me my happiest and saddest relationship moments that I have known thus far in life. And I love him for that.  Yes, I still love him. And to all of you out there saying "WOAH,"  calm yourselves and listen first. I strongly believe that if you love someone (truly) that that love does not go away. If you can easily drop love, it wasn't love. It might have been the old middle school saying you "like-liked" that person but it wasn't love. (Of course there are exceptions of cheating and the like).  I believe that everyone has little boxes in their hearts/minds that hold the people that we love, romantic and otherwise. Some have grown dusty and may be rusted a bit but they are still there.  And that is okay. I fully expect that the person I end up with will have loved and have dusty boxes of his own. It's normal. It's healthy. We are a species that is meant to love. 

So if we can love multiple times, are some more important than others?  Not necessarily. I think that each time we love, we love differently.  Not better or worse, just different.  Each person that you are with, like or love, shows you a new piece to yourself. Throughout my relationships and crushes, I have realized things that I am willing to budge on in my life and things that are deal-breakers. There is silly love, romantic love, dangerous love, adventurous love, much more and a crazy combination of them all. The trick is finding yours. 

Now, soul mates.  The phrase that is highly debated. One of my favorite movies, Ever After (I dare say I love this movie), speaks of soul mates in a scene that stuck with me at an early age.  The scene is between Prince Henry and da Vinci:
"Henry: Do you really think there is only one perfect mate? 
Leonardo da Vinci: As a matter of fact, I do. 
Henry: Well then how can you be certain to find them? And if you do find them, are they really the one for you or do you only think they are? And what happens if the person you're supposed to be with never appears, or, or she does, but you're too distracted to notice? 
Leonardo da Vinci: You learn to pay attention. 
Henry: Then let's say God puts two people on Earth and they are lucky enough to find one another. But one of them gets hit by lightning. Well then what? Is that it? Or, perchance, you meet someone new and marry all over again. Is that the lady you're supposed to be with or was it the first? And if so, when the two of them were walking side by side were they both the one for you and you just happened to meet the first one first or, was the second one supposed to be first? And is everything just chance or are some things meant to be?"

Henry, I have the same questions.  What if my match is on the other side of the world??  Like Gilbert says, soul mates are meant to shake you up.  That doesn't mean there is just one of them. Some people may require multiple shakings. 

But eventually one will come along and it will make sense. You will both love the same musician and going hiking.  You can't stand the way he combs his hair and he hates that you always correct him. You get lost on some back roads because she told you to "turn now!!" and you listened. You end up late to your destination but still holding hands. You will disagree but kiss before bed. Eventually we will all find someone that we can roll with.  
Someone that loves our quirks and imperfections. Someone that won't mind that I like going to bed early, cleaning up messes, and that I can listen to Taylor Swift on repeat. I want someone that I can take home to my family, someone that will take me to church, someone that will drive in the snow because it scares me too much to do it. 

As of now...I need to live for me. I have attempted to stop looking, which some say is when you find it.  I am having a hard time stopping but it is what I need to do.  I have been too focused on trying to make people that I know now fit me, when in reality, I may not have met the right one yet.  Or, perhaps I have met the right one but it is not the right time. 

All I know is that God has some plan for me...I just wish he would give me a hint.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Family Matters

I am going to attempt to sum up my family in one we go.
My parents are probably the best parents there are. Not lying. I'm not sure how they do what they do. Mom and Dad met when Mom was 13, started dating when she was 16 and got married when she was 19.  They jumped right into life fresh out of high school and you would have never known that they were still children. Dad was a farmer, as he was most of my life, and Mom was a stay at home wife and at the age of 20 became a stay at home Mom. Dad worked long hours, getting up at 2 am to milk, coming home for breakfast and dinner.  Mom stayed home with the children and taught us how to be well rounded kids. Throughout my entire life, I have never heard my parents fight; and from what they tell me, they never do.  They get frustrated and upset, but never angry. (Can we all see where I got my 'I'm going to get married right out of school and life will be perfect' view from??) 

Together, and without prior experience, they raised four children. I am the oldest and am exactly 20 years younger than my mother.  This has made my mother and I very close.  She is my best friend.  It also allowed me to be very close to my father.  Not only am I the oldest, I am his only we can all see where the protective streak may kick in. Matthew is 2 years younger than me. My mother said that when I saw him for the first time in the hospital, the first thing I said was "He has ears!!" From that moment on, I both protected him and roughed him up.  Out of all my brothers, we are the most opposite.  In a strange way, that makes us work. We both attend the same university now. Jacob is 5 years younger than me. He is the most centered out of all of us. Jacob is the zen, go-with-the-flow, it's-all-going-to-be-okay guy. We are very close and I affectionately refer to him as "the sister I never had"...which he hates. My youngest brother, Noah, is 8 years younger than me. He is a freshman in High School and is becoming such an amazing young man. His sense of humor is finally showing through, and it sure is unique. Not the mention, he is the youngest and also the biggest, standing at over 6 feet. 

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a sister or to not be the oldest.  But I feel that these factors have shaped me into who I am. Being the only girl, I have come to appreciate the company of guys more than girls. Which explains my large guy-friend percentage. Being the oldest has made me caring and sometimes over protective...ask any of my friends. I tend to be the 'mom' of the group.

People often ask, and I often wonder, how my parents did a great job. All of their children perform well in school, have set life goals, are caring and helpful.  How is it that out of four children, there is no lemon? Like I said before, my parents never yelled at each other.  However, they also never yelled at us. We were never yelled at, hit or even spanked. If we were misbehaving, all they had to do was give us 'the look' and we straightened right up. My parents have been told on many occasions that they should write a parenting book.

I think that says a lot about them. The thing that was most ingrained into us was respect. The main reason that we behaved was that we respected our parents. I remember the first time I had to tell my parents I did something majorly wrong. My Sophomore year of college I received a speeding ticket.  I was SO nervous to tell my parents. Not because I thought that they would yell, but because I thought that they would be disappointed in me. They worked magic somewhere along the way.

They also also provided for the family.  I would say that we are a lower-middle class to middle class family. Growing up, we always had food on the table and clothes on our backs. As I like to say, "we had all of what we needed and some of what we wanted."  Somehow my parents would find the money to take us on a family vacation once a year. We had presents on every occasion that presents are called for and were often treated between these days. They work so hard every single day to provide for our family and it warms my heart.

If I am able to have a family half as amazing as the one that my parents have made, I will consider myself a successful wife/parent. 

Well there it it. My family as condensed as I can get them. They are my entire world. 

Here goes nothing...

How do you start a blog? I’m not sure, really.  After staring at my computer, typing and retyping, I decided to just write.  Whatever comes out in this first post is not planned and cannot be predicted. 

Ironically, that is how I have started to view life. But I will get to that later. Perhaps a proper introduction is in order…

My name is Sarah, age 22, college Graduate, large family, country girl, church go-er, music enthusiast, Spider-Man lover, I could go on.  I have decided to start a blog because I feel…unsure? Since I was little my life plan was simple: Meet the love of my life in high school, get married, have kids, be a stay at home mom (an awesome one, by the way).  That was until I hit High School and realized that I wanted more.  Graduation came and went, college began and so did a new plan: get a degree in Education, get a Masters, find prince charming, get married, have kids, stay at home mom until the kids are in school and then teach.  Well, here I am entering into my last semester of my Master’s program.  Needless to say, the plan is changing again. 

New plan: stop planning so much (eg: school, job, love, day-to-day).  

I need to stop planning every second of my life, which is something I am slowing attempting. However, I have learned that the guy aspect of the equation is out of my control and I am doing fine on my own.  High-five for the single life. But I still need to adjust the rest of my life.
To put into perspective how difficult this is for me, let’s take a look at my quirks:
1) I love lists: to-do lists, shopping lists, you name it.  I like knowing what I need to get done and then vigorously crossing it off
2) Schedules at the same form of excitement for me.  Any of my friends can tell you, I know what I will be doing for most parts of the day…to the minute (as seen on my to-do lists).  And I am always at least 10 minutes early to everything.
3) I love love. I really do.  Having someone to care for is very important to me. (A later post will expand on this)

Coming from a Franciscan University, I am going to attempt to take a more Franciscan view toward life. More following where the road takes me…and less planning the speed at which I will travel the road, side roads I can take, what emergency kits are in the car and what pit stops there are along the way.I will get more into my thoughts and fears of the future in a later post.  My goal is to keep my posts short and readable…but I have been getting long winded with age.

We will see how this blog goes.  I have a nasty habit of starting journals/diaries and finding them years later with 2-3 entries. My thought process behind a blog is that, perhaps, the thought of others tuning in will keep me motivated. The thought process began last night as I stared at my ceiling through a long night of no sleep.  I had so much to say; so many thoughts, emotions and opinions and no one to tell them to. That is common for me, though. Late-night-Sarah is the most honest of people.  Whether I am with people in person, texting, or calling, my thoughts go deeper as the night grows darker.

Therefore, most of my posts will appear at night.  This one is written in the daylight, hence the pointless ramblings.

To end my first post I guess I should clear some things up and let you know what I might be discussing…-I do not expect people to follow this blog.  I am doing this for me and for people that may stumble upon (not the site…actually find by accident) this page and connect with a certain post.  If you connect with one, great! Comment!- If you do happen to follow, shoot me a comment every so often so I know you are out there.- If you have suggestions about post topics, feel free to let me know.  I may or may not write about it.- Things I may discuss: Country life, my view of love and relationships, teaching, the future, religion, goals, politics.

Well…there I go with the planning again…