On books

The other day someone asked me why I like to read. I thought about it for a couple days. This is what I came up with:

Books heal wounds of the heart. They ease guilt. They clarify how and why we have hurt ourselves and others. They aid in prioritizing, and often diminish, worries. They speak to us through the character – the human living amongst words on pages rather than we who tread on earth. Sometimes this character is real, other times fictional. Sometimes this character is an author living or dead. Regardless, the character’s tongue communicates to its reader. Writing is more than just words. It is embedded emotion. It is meditative and meaningful for both author and reader. Books enclose humanity in something tangible, spoken, and read.

Relish the process

These past couple months I have been experiencing some “growing pains.” Adulthood seems to be inching closer and closer. There is pressure to get an internship, grow my resume, take on more and more. It can seem like everyone around me knows exactly what their next step is, or even their next twenty steps. In middle school and high school, I was the girl who had her next 5 steps planned ahead of me. I knew what needed to be done to reach each step to then reach the next one. While difficult at times, I found comfort in knowing what I relatively needed to do next to attain my then-current goals. Right now seems like the first time in my life where the steps aren’t clearly defined in front of me. There isn’t some checklist to getting into the right high school or college. It’s “life” now. I must “create my own path” like every adult in my life seems to have said to me at some point or another. 

These past couple of months I have been struggling to maintain a positive mindset around this confusion, lack of knowledge/foresight about my future. While blessed with a plethora of opportunities to discern my path, I stopped taking steps with the fear of stepping in the wrong direction. I stood in the sand and listened to everyone talk about their plans and sunk. But I am tired of sinking and comparing myself to everyone else’s “future paths” in the sand. 1. My feet aren’t the same size nor shape as everyone else’s. 2. One friend wants to walk on the beach, another in the snow. I can choose where I want to attempt my path. 3. Sinking isn’t beneficial. It just moves me farther away from the Big Guy in the Sky. 

A close friend, who has known me since the ripe age of five years old, told me today to “relish the process” of finding the next step. 

I think this is great advice, and I hope to adhere to it from here on out. I may take a step in the wrong direction, but at least I’ll discover I need to change the way I’m moving. I will learn through the process, and after all, isn’t life supposed to be about learning – about God, others, myself, and just life itself?

Looking back on my short almost-twenty-years-of-life, my path has been relatively straight. Maybe it’s time to zig-zag! 

Time – or is it “time”?

I just started the ever popular book Educated by Tara Westover. She talks a lot about her father and his dependency on, or rather, subjection to, time and the speed at which he desired his own life and the lives of his family members to move at, no matter the difficulties created from such.

Reading the memoir has caused me to spend some time thinking about the speed of my own life and my ability and inability to control such speed.

Time is such a weird concept if you think about it. Some people even write it as “time” because they think it’s a construct, a figment of our own human creation. Some people don’t even think time exists. I don’t have anything decisive to say about this, but I do have a few thoughts.

1. Time can simultaneously feel like the only thing I can control – how fast or slow I do something, how I choose to spend my time, etc – and also the hardest thing to control – how it often escapes me, scares me, and more.

2. One minute doing X can feel a whole lot different than one minute doing Y (choose your X and Y).

3. Time, the speed of doing something, and the speed at which I think often feel subjected to my surroundings; my pace of life feels different in downtown New York City than in the woods in Colorado.

4. Sometimes I want things to move really fast. Other times I want things to move really slow. I have no clue why this is.

5. Sometimes one small segment of time (perhaps an afternoon, a week, or even a month) can feel like it determines the rest of my life.

6. From above – how is it that one small unit of time can impact my perception of “all time”?

There are plenty more, but I’ll leave it there.

To be continued…

An Ode to the Swing

I’ve always had an affinity for swings. I remember sprinting to the swing set at recess in elementary school,

and I still make a run for the one in my front yard or at the neighborhood park close to my house often.

There’s something about sitting down on the hard rubber, resting your hands on the rusted, suspended metal chains from years of children doing the same and pushing your feet off the ground to send your body flying through the air. What I thought was the feeling of a slight defiance of gravity at a young age is what I know realize is the submission to the natural force that carries us along.

Feet off the ground, out of the classroom, which I did love to be in but not quite as much as outside, I would soar through the air for ten minutes until my fellow kindergartener would tell me it was their turn. In a way, the departure from my beloved magical flight experience got harder each time, and I have learned, if only in my short nineteen years of life, that it only continues to get harder. When I place my feet back on the ground below, it as if I re-enter the world, and to do so can be quite difficult.

I realize now that my sense-making of the world often requires me to remove myself, quite literally, from the ground beneath my feet.

The swing is where I contemplate my relationships with others and the way I treat myself. I often cry on the swing, and it seems okay to do so. The swing is where I am comfortable. The swing gives me courage to stand on the ground again.

A work in progress

There is a beautiful quote from Augustine’s Confessions that I love and need to read more often.

He writes,

“People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.”

I can’t pin it down with complete confidence, but I think this idea inspired a prayer I’ve been working on in my heart for a while. I recently have felt stuck and in need of progress. So here it goes.

Lord, help me make strong what is weak.

Make my eyes like kaleidoscopes, crystals of your creation collected in my life.

Form my hands to grasp what is good.

Tell my ears to listen and forgive.

Guide my mouth to taste the wisdom of words absorbed and speak with precision and empathy.

Let me breathe what is clean.

Sustain me so I can smell the salt of the sea, the pines of the hills, and the sweetness of blushing petals.

Guide my feet to be light on your creation — to move me through valleys, climb mountains, and sit atop peaks.

Of everything help me use my heart the most of any sense or organ — may it be centered in your purpose.

Lord, prepare my heart to use the gifts given to me to love but let go of what pains it.


Hello, friends?!

As I sat in the Chicago Midway Airport this past Tuesday reflecting on the whirlwind of the last three months of my short life, I realized my mom’s friends, who usually exaggerate everything, are right — college really does go by fast. The rapid speed of going to class, meeting people, eating, studying, working out (or trying to), and (occasionally) sleeping can take up every moment of the day (and night). I realized I haven’t taken the time to reflect in a while. So, feeling inspired by some cool people, I am going to start writing again on this “blog,” but honestly, I hate the word blog, so let’s consider this a journal, please! I need the writing practice, and maybe someone will want to hear my random thoughts, and attempts at poetry — or maybe I will let my attempts at poetry remain in that emotional part of my sophomore year of high school (see several posts below) … time will tell.

Here are some tidbits of ~life~ at Notre Dame:

People are so cool! I didn’t realize how extroverted I am until being at Notre Dame. Talking to people is so much more fun than anything else I could spend my time doing.

I re-read part of my senior thesis the other day. It’s weird how a few months can add so much color to the words I wrote. A lot of my thoughts on happiness were drawn from books and essays I read, but I actually feel like I have some real experience with juggling sources of happiness now.

I am still struggling with procrastination, but aren’t we all?

I cherish the random conversations I have with people walking to and from the dining hall, in between classes, at parties, and lying on our dorm room floors. I think it’s often the build-up of these short talks that can blossom into profound friendships, and I am eager to experience this.

To sum it up, I have learned Notre Dame isn’t Notre Dame without the bigs — the dome, the love thees, the century-long quad rivalries. But the bigs really represent the Notre Dame community to the outside. On the inside, I have learned it’s the smalls that contribute to the permeating feeling around campus I still can’t describe, and I may never be able to. It’s the same feeling I had when I first stepped onto Notre Dame’s campus when I was eight years old and decided it was my dream to come here. I know I can’t see it, hear it, feel it, taste it, or smell it, but I know it’s something good. 

More writing to come, but in the meantime, I am beyond thankful to be at Notre Dame, and even more thankful to be supported by my family and friends.

The Past

In our obsessed age of progress, I see value in the past. I yearn to understand how and why books are the product of a historical time period. I want to admire strokes on paintings and carvings on sculptures to gain insight into an individual’s life. I truly believe if someone took the time to write and organize their thoughts, then we owe it to them to read their words. Or if someone took the time to find the perfect mix of colors after layers and layers of sketches, then we owe it to them to admire their masterpiece. We spend so much time grasping for the future that we forget that the past is just as important. 

Spend some time feeling nostalgic. It’s okay to not always be thinking about what’s ahead.

Letter to J.K. Rowling

This was my favorite college essay to write. Everyone says that you shouldn’t write about Harry Potter because it’s too predictable. I did it anyway. Enjoy.


Dearest Ms. J.K. Rowling,

Let me begin with telling you I have been writing this letter in my head for many years, but am finally putting pen to paper, or rather fingers to keyboard. I, like many others, am indebted to your literary genius. The Harry Potter series aids me in conceptualizing values I continue to learn at home. Because of this, I am completely attached to each of your complex characters, and I am positive I will be for the rest of my life.

When I was younger, I loved the magic of Harry Potter. It drew me to a world I could escape into at any time and at any place. I often found myself in the Room of Requirement hoping to catch a glimpse of a Dumbledore’s Army meeting, or watching the footsteps of wizards walking around Hogwarts on the Marauder’s Map. I drew my favorite scenes from the depths of my imagination–such as Dumbledore draws memories from his Pensieve–and escaped reality. But, as I aged, Harry Potter didn’t become more fantastical for me. Instead it became more realistic. The spells still interested me, and the dragons in The Goblet of Fire still gave me nightmares, but the characters started to impact my outlook on humanity and my reflection of that outlook. I no longer looked to Hermione as my favorite character; I looked to her as a mentor. I no longer saw Harry’s scar as a mark He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named forever tormented him with; I saw it as a mark of bravery against evil. I no longer saw Malfoy as a bully; I saw him as a child lost without guidance.

Ms. Rowling, your characters influenced the formation of my goals for my life. I wanted, and still want, to be sharp and inquisitive like Hermione Granger, humorous and easygoing like Ron Weasley, dedicated to the truth like Harry Potter, loyal and brave like Dobby the elf, and balanced in gentleness and power like Dumbledore. Most of all, however, I hope that one day I will attain Severus Snape’s complete and utter selflessness. Little did I know that, as I sat with my older brother, Chase, listening to our parents read about this complicated Wizarding World, you would reinforce the values I learned at Sunday School, on the playground, and at the dinner table.

Good stories become great stories when they are reflected on for years long after the rain stops and the blanket is folded on that prized dreary day. It’s like drinking a great cup of coffee and enjoying the aftertaste even more than the first sip, even with the creamy foam still floating on the tongue. I continue to experience this ecstasy of literary-aftertaste with Harry Potter, and consequently, your characters continue to shape the choices I make, and the type of person I strive to be.

In most utter appreciation. 

Teardrop Tattoo

A few weeks ago, I was out delivering books with Team 888 (the Mobile Loaves & Fishes truck run team comprised of all formerly or currently homeless people), and we stopped at one of the usual places to hand out sandwiches and various amenities in South Austin.  It was only our second stop of the evening, but I had given out several books—mostly mystery and all of the James Patterson’s were already gone. At this second stop, I was parked a little farther away from the truck than usual. A man started to approach me (and the books), and I was expecting him to ask for something mysterious or crime-related. I didn’t necessarily judge him, but I did judge what I thought his book preference would be. However, he certainly didn’t look like the most comfortable person for me to be around; he was a large man, and his head was covered in tattoos; the most distinct one was a teardrop tattoo that covered a whole side of face (yes, like Lil Wayne’s). Such tattoos have various meanings. Sure enough, he walked up, and asked me, “Hey, do you have any spiritual books?” I was taken aback; I just wasn’t expecting that at all. Sure enough, I sifted through my unorganized jostle of books in the back of my car and picked out a few for him. He took the daily devotional (I can’t remember exactly which one it was), thanked me, and walked back to where he had been sitting before, with the rest of the group. He immediately opened the book, and I saw him reading up until I left. I drove away in complete peace.

(See http://www.booksforthejourney.org for more experiences!)

Back To The River

Please read this short, yet meaningful, story by one of my eloquent friends…

R.A. Dewan

He had to reach the river without killing someone. Long ago his failing eyesight took his driver’s license and arthritis stole his grip. The shapes in front of the car were foggy and his hold on the wheel was feeble. If the police stopped him he would have to explain why he was driving a stolen car. He had to be careful. He had to get to the river.

When he woke up in the morning he knew that he had to get to the river. The bedroom in his son’s house felt too small, like a shirt left out in the rain and dried in the sun. If the family noticed his pre-dawn prowling they would not think it unusual behavior for an old man. He went downstairs, stole his son’s car keys and headed for the river. He must get to the river.

His son had followed another…

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