Saturday, April 19, 2014

Taize Prayer Service

The pianist, violinist, and me!

Here at Rockhurst, we have “Pasta and Prayer” every Tuesday night. Pasta and Prayer is usually a shortened (thirty minute) mass in the main chapel on campus followed by a free pasta dinner prepared and served in the Campus Ministry Center. From time to time the “prayer” part of Pasta and Prayer is changed and we do something a little different. Earlier in Lent, we had a Taize prayer service. I had never heard of such a thing until I was asked to sing at ours a few weeks ago.
In general, a Taize prayer service is one that rotates between repetitious music, silence, and simple prayer in order to create a meditative environment where participants may just sit and reflect over what has been said/ sung or what is pressing on their hearts. I think the middle of Lent was a good time for something like this because people may have been struggling with whatever they have up or may have just forgotten about what season it is and what they should be focusing on. I, personally, enjoyed the peaceful environment and the silence because silence is hard to come by these days. As Cindy Schmersal has pointed out to me just before the Silent Retreat last semester, even when our mouths are quiet, our minds and hearts may be loud.
The last thing that helped contribute to the perfect mood was the candles. On the alter there were two tables (a large one in back and a shorter one in front) and they were covered with white candles varying heights and sizes. There were also small, hand-held candles for each participant at the door. At the very end of the service, the prayer leaders lit their own candles and then started to pass the flame around so that within a couple minutes each person’s candle was lit. Then, everyone placed their candles in a bowl of sand so they could all stand together. It was a very powerful service for everyone and it was different than anything I had ever participated in. I hear that we plan on doing another service like it next year and I can’t wait to be a part of it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dancing With the Girl Scouts

Learning the Chinese Dance

                This weekend Theta Phi Alpha and a couple of the other sororities on campus volunteered to work at a Girl Scout camp last Saturday. The program was for girls from low-income families between the ages of seven and ten, and it provided them the opportunity to experience camp (because many of them would never get to otherwise). The focus of the camp was to teach the girls a little bit about other cultures that they may not be exposed to in their own everyday lives. The two cultures we chose for the day were Chinese and Greek.
We were split up into two groups. The first group helped about fifteen girls at a time, color their own paper flags while they taught them a bit about the culture and just chatted. I was a part of the second group; our job was to teach the girls a dance from each culture. It was a fun, new experience for me because I had not seen very much Greek or Chinese dancing, so I did not know what to expect. The moves were simple (and I’m pretty sure they were from YouTube), so we picked them up quickly. They were at just the right level for the girls.
The day was exhausting because we were on our feet the whole time, but what made it all worthwhile was getting to talk to and work with the girls. They all seemed so happy and excited to be there. I guess I expected their excitement walking into the camp, but their joy was a little confusing. I learned a bit about a few of the girls’ stories from one of the camp leaders and, honestly, it was upsetting thinking about what some of these little ones have to go through on a daily basis. It is more than have ever had to go deal with, so I couldn’t help but wonder how they could just put it all behind them and smile like that. My time with the girls remind me of how truly blessed I am. It also made me happy that I was able to share some of my blessings with them, even if it was only for a day.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Honors Events

As a part of the honors program each student is required to attend at least two honors events a semester. The events are meant to help us bond with fellow honors students and get cultural experiences right on campus. Honestly, the events sounded a little annoying and time consuming in the beginning, and I had very little interest in attending them. Now, I have come to enjoy them and I find them very rewarding. There is a wide variety of options and plenty of events to choose from, so it is pretty easy to find things of interest at a time that works for the student. I have only heard of two people having a difficult time finding an event they can attend and both people were on the dance team. Unfortunately, their schedules just don’t seem to mesh well with the program. So far this semester there has been a movie night, a cartoonist, and a jazz piano player. There will also be a day of service for us to participate in in a few weeks.
Last semester, I attended a kickball game and a picnic. The jazz piano player has been my favorite event so far. I started taking piano lessons this semester through Rockhurst and they have required lots of hard work (much more work than I expected). I thought that because I had taken lessons for a while when I was little that I would be better than I am, but I barely struggle through short, boring pieces like Kumbaya and Jingle Bells. The work I have been doing gave me a great appreciation for the man who came to play for us because last week I get the chance to watch him sit down and produce beautiful music without even any sheet music. It was inspiring. He even taught us a little bit about how jazz music is organized and what makes it different from pop music, classical, and other common genres. It was a nice mental break in the middle of midterm week, but it was still very interesting. I liked it because it was something I will probably never have the opportunity to learn in a classroom or see for free. I’m sure people normally pay quite a bit of money to attend a concert like the one we got to attend for free.  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Midterm Exams and a Beautiful Spring Day [:

Getting ready to go outside

Today was the second full day of spring break and it was a beautiful one. Although the temperature has dropped again and all of us Midwesterners are quite sick of winter at this point, it was great to just relax at home after a jam-packed first half of the semester. There have not been many chances to catch my breath so far this semester because our breaks have been so far apart. At many times, I felt as if I could not breathe at all. A full two months passed between winter break and spring break. Although that may not seem like a lot in theory, in practice, it is. Granted, there was one long weekend right after we got back from winter break, but hardly anyone took advantage of it because we had all just been home and there was no reason or need to go back. After that, every weekend has been filled with dances, mandatory events for Theta Phi, homework, retreats, and many other activities.
            Last week was a lot to handle for Rockhurst University. The pressure of midterms piled on top of the lack of sleep, general stress, bitterness towards the cold weather, and homesickness created a strong negative attitude that seemed to be flowing from every student at school. Luckily, there was one ray of light that saved us from completely losing our minds; the weather.  On Thursday afternoon (the day before we were free to go home), the temperature was in the seventies and the sun was shining brightly. After about twelve, the campus started buzzing and did not stop until well into the night. Everyone was outside. People were reading on the hammocks, there was a volleyball game in the sand pit, my friends and I were playing soccer, and many were playing music or doing homework on the quad. It was like the campus had taken a huge sigh of relief. It was a great way to leave school because it was on a slightly more positive note than I was expecting. Plus, I even met a new friend during our game. One thing I have come to love about our campus is our ability to bounce back from a hard situation and make the best of a sunny day.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Snow Day Wishes

Sydney and her roomie  in the blizzard

This weekend did not turn out the way we planned. We were going to visit Sydney’s family in Omaha, go to the zoo, and eat at some essential Omaha restaurants. Unfortunately, the temperature in Kansas City has been below freezing since Friday and the icy snow began last night. This morning, it looks like a blizzard outside, so we are glad we decided not to go because it would have been terrifying to drive in.
To be perfectly honest, I was pretty happy to be staying at school because I have two tests, a presentation, a midterm, and Greek Unity activities all happening next week. I desperately needed a chance to get ahead and rest before I could take on the week. And although things worked out for me, I feel bad for Sydney. She has not had the opportunity to go home or see her family since winter break and I know how excited she was for this weekend.
It seems like everyone (Sydney and I included) is moving in slow motion lately. Campus has been full of droopy eyes, and grouchy dispositions for a few weeks now. I think it is because everyone is in need of one thing; Spring Break. It has been almost 7 weeks since school started and the only long weekend we have had was the weekend right after we got back (so no one went home for it). That means it has been almost two months since most people have been home, seen their family, or had any sort of mental break. For me, it has been too much.
Like I mentioned earlier, it is looking like a blizzard outside right now, so hopefully we will end up with a snow day. It probably will not be enough to catch up on weeks of sleep deprivation, but it will be a step in the right direction. I never realized how much I would be affected by not being home, but now I see what a huge deal it is and what a toll it can take on a person’s (or an entire campus’) mental heal. Well, I’m sure we will all make it through the next couple weeks and will come back from break ready to finish the semester out strong.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Northern Lights/ Omaha

My TPA ladies!

Last weekend was Theta Phi Alpha’s first dance of the semester, Northern Lights. There was music (with an awesome DJ), dancing, and some pretty darn good food (if you ever get the chance to go, try the French fries because they were amazing). I brought one of my friends, Paul, as my date and we danced for a solid three hours. We waited about ten minutes from the time we arrived at the venue to give everyone a chance to get food. But as soon as there was good music and people were back to their seats, we were off of our feet dancing the night away. I think I got enough exercise to last me the whole week in just one night. By the end of the three hours, I was wiped out.
Me and my date, Paul.
We will be having our second dance, the Sapphire Ball, towards the end of the semester, and I am so excited. My “Big Sister” could not make it to Northern lights, but she will be there for the Sapphire Ball. For those of you who don’t know, a “Big Sister” is someone who you get paired up with the sorority that helps you get adjusted, hangs out with you, and is just there to be friends. Most Big/Little pairs that I have seen end up being best friends by the end of college. I already love hanging out with mine and she has only been my Big for a few weeks. I even spent the night in her room after the dance because she could not come and we wanted the chance to hang out.
My Big and I accidentally wore basically the same outfit the morning after the dance
This weekend, I will be going on a road trip to Omaha with a few of my friends to stay at Sydney’s house. I have only been twice (as far as I can remember) and I didn’t get to explore very much. This time, we are planning to see the zoo, eat at some of Sydney’s favorite places, and just hang out. I can’t wait. It will be such a blast to have a girls’ weekend and just relax. I have been up to my ears in homework this semester, so some relaxation time is definitely overdue.