No Excuses

Finding Restfulness in the Midst of Restlessness

Holy Week – April

It took a $38.20 charge to my PayPal account to jolt me out of my isolated lethargy of the past several weeks. I assumed WordPress would charge me for next year’s subscription close to the date it would renew, not the month before. Alas, I am in no mood to fight. 

“Perhaps,” my lazy gadfly whispers, “this might be a sign for you to whack through the weeds of your creative intentions, face your pandemic of doubt, and channel your blighted energy into your unmanicured fingertips where they meet the keyboard.”

“Yeah, whatever,” I mumble (nowadays, talking to oneself is survival, not a sign of dementia). “I’m back to my blog because I hate wasting money!”

I have no excuse. I have recently discovered that 24 hours is plenty of time in a day. For years, I have been able to safely dream outside my cone of reality knowing that I would probably “never have time” to do those things I always said I would do “if I had the time.” There were always good reasons for my procrastination like raising a child, building a career, planting flowers in the spring, and pulling weeds in the summer. It’s so much easier to plan than to do.

But here I am.

I was just getting used to semi-retirement and a recent move to the eastern seaboard when the Coronavirus seeped into every area of our world’s semblance of order. I had spent the past few months searching and exploring everything from restaurants, coffee bars, and nail salons to museums and national monuments. Where I had been able to stay busy with the mechanics of settling into a new environment, I, like so many of us, now have hours and hours to fill as I experiment with the new vocabulary of isolation and social distancing. What an opportunity, right?

I will give myself some credit. I am dabbling with – not necessarily embracing – the loftier goals of my “when I have time” ventures. I signed up for an online class focused on spirituality and prayer. I bought a new journal. I ordered a few books written by authors who kept journals. I logged into a yoga channel on YouTube. I bought six skeins of yarn. I started two writing projects. I began to track my daily Weight Watchers points.

So far, I have had some success. I follow a pretty regular morning yoga ritual. I prepare healthy meals for my husband and me. And, my obsession with knitting has inspired shock and awe among my family. My mother’s unsuccessful attempts to seed my crafting abilities took more than 40 years to germinate…but now, I am out of control. To date (since October), I have knitted three scarves, a baby blanket, six hats, three potholders, and am currently more than 60 rows into an afghan!

I am challenging myself to write, but I must admit that I suffer nagging and existential doubts that test the waters of evolving authorship. On positive days, I tell myself it doesn’t matter if anyone ever wants to read my stories; on negative days, I stop writing. 

I am exploring my religion. I have always tried to honor Church with sincerity and devotion. As I enter this stage of my older life, I find myself searching for ways that lead me beyond the rituals of my faith – which I deeply revere – and into a more contemplative place where my rational self doesn’t always have to get in the way. When I signed up for the online class on centering prayer, my intentions were well positioned, but I admit that I was probably looking for a template that would give me all the tools, provide the instruction, and then quiz me on my success. Obviously, it doesn’t work that way. As I diligently persisted through the modules facilitated by the late Father Thomas Keating, I also read one of the books that has been on my someday list for years – Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain. I was inspired by Merton’s journey but naively caught myself wondering how anyone other than a Trappist monk could ever have the time and space to live such a full life, study the great religious doctors, and then ultimately find a certain freedom in literally letting much of it go. For me, when I try to sit for even 20 minutes and focus on not focusing, I begin to itch – literally and figuratively.  Perhaps that is what the centering prayer is all about – discovering those things in our lives that make us “itch” and then turning those irritants over to God. I’m trying.

Another book I am reading is called The Naked Now by Franciscan friar and contemporary author, Richard Rohr. If I am interpreting correctly, the ability to truly wake up spiritually is to let go of pre-conceived notions of how we view the world. There doesn’t always have to be a right way or a wrong way in prayer or politics or all those other big ideas that bog us down (what Rohr calls dualistic thinking). I mean really, if this virus is teaching us anything, it is to let go of almost everything except the common relational bond we have with each other to simply survive.

“Contemplation,” Rohr writes, “is an exercise in keeping your heart and mind spaces open long enough for the mind to see the other hidden material.” This makes sense to me. Right now, I believe I am discovering a purpose in the exercise…much like I do in working through a mindful pose in yoga, losing hours in the creative practice of writing, or mindlessly stitching the patterns of a knitting project. In the process, I am unearthing some of the hidden material in my life and starting to feel a little more restful even in the midst of my restlessness.

I also feel justified in accidentally marking the auto-renewal box of my WordPress subscription.  Here’s to more than a penny for my thoughts – $38.20 to be exact!  

One Letter at a Time

(The Thesis is in the Final Paragraph)

Advent – December

My piano is a laptop where I compose the music of my muses one letter at a time. Forever pleased that I paid attention during high school typing classes, I impress even myself that my fingers move almost as quickly as my thoughts. My mind seeks creativity among dense clouds and a gray sky. I view the landscape asymmetrically from my second- floor writing space where the window before me draws my eyes to trees stripped of their leaves, bare branches opening to a wider street where cars move persistently north and south. My hands linger above home row, seeking just the right words to capture autumn emotions on this cusp of winter. Just last year, I wrote from the Principal’s Office – newsletters filled with anecdotes of school.  Now, thousands of miles away, I take tentative steps in old shoes out of the comfortable breezeways of my career and walk cobbled streets of this colonial city that bears the burden of tangled politics and ever-evolving history.

These mornings, I have time to pour a second cup of coffee instead of rushing to work on time to unlock the front door. I am becoming accustomed to watching the Today Show and the beginning of Kelly and Ryanbefore moving to my desk and online tasks. Lately, my new routine has been interrupted by “breaking news.” I actually called my sister the other day and remarked that I must really be embracing retirement. After all, since when would I become annoyed that I missed the trivia question on my television show because the Speaker of the House had an important announcement? 

Of course, I always listen to the news. It’s in my DNA.

Years ago, during my first career as a journalist, I would have perched at the edge of my seat to hear a news update. Today, I switch between channels to analyze broadcasts interpreted to nurture the insistent opinions of those who share their diverse perceptions of the same reality. No one is right; no one is wrong.

I am not writing about politics – especially from this dynamic city that is now my temporary home. I love Washington, D.C. As a child living on the east coast many years ago, some of my best memories are born from visits to our nation’s capitol. Earlier this month, my husband and I went to Mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – a beautiful basilica where my prayers subconsciously turned to daydreams and meandered to cherished memories of my young sisters and I nestled together with our parents on the polished pews. I thought back over the years and could still envision us in our Sears Roebuck dresses and saddle shoes. We wore lacy chapel caps on the crowns of our cropped haircuts. (We called them doilies and couldn’t wait to take them off after church!) My past and present selves sought to identify the saints in niches far above – a marbled reminder of something that is somehow static and dynamic all at the same time. No matter how much I have traveled, a part of me was raised in this city.

The liturgical year has ended just as fall is turning to winter. And just like that, we have lit the third candle on our Advent wreaths. The sun-starved days of this season lead us not only toward Christmas, but also the beginning of a new calendar year. I read somewhere that even as we grow older, the vision we have of ourselves doesn’t really age. So even though my physical body might be measured by nearly six decades, I still “feel” the way I did when I was six years old kneeling rather uncomfortably on the kneelers in the Basilica. Then, it was hard to see over the pew in front of me; now, my joints are grateful when it’s time to stand. However, I am still me and the faith born in my youth continues its journey in a timeless, ageless sort of way. I am reminded of this Bible verse: “But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day” (2 Peter 3:8).

Defying all conventions of writing, my thesis is finally being revealed to me in this last paragraph of this composition. Such are those muses on an overcast day! Three years ago this month our father passed away. I pause at the end of this quiet reflection, comforted in knowing that today’s written song is dedicated to my mother, my sisters and all of our children. Wherever we are in our lives at this moment is exactly where we are supposed to be. There is an angel watching over us, casting true rays of God’s light through the grayest clouds, into the window, and onto the keyboard where I type…one letter at a time.

CT Conference Reflections

My first blog for Curriculum Trak…(oh I how must miss doing school newsletters)!

Curriculum Trak Blog

By Lynn Cuffari, Curriculum Trak Sales

Editor’s Note: Lynn Cuffari is a recent addition to the Curriculum Trak team. Previously, she implemented Curriculum Trak as the principal of St. Augustine Catholic High School in Tucson, Az. We are excited to share her perspective on our recent conference in Orlando, Fl. You can still make plans to join us at our next conference in January. Click here for more details.

It’s always enlightening to sit “on the other side of the
desk.” As a high school principal, I would often empathize with parents because
in addition to my administrative career, my first job in schools was that of a mom.
And oh yes, I had been on that side of the desk a couple more times than I
wanted to as my own precious son worked his way through various challenges of
his educational journey!

I recalled this inter-connectedness at Curriculum…

View original post 459 more words

Reading Into Retirement

October – Ordinary Time

I set my cell phone alarm for 30 minutes. I certainly have the luxury to sit and read for a half hour, right? I shift into a comfy position on the couch in our family room and swipe open my Kindle. When the alarm sounds, I am so immersed in the latest conflict my characters face that I rationalize another 30 minutes. I move outside to the patio to enjoy the fall afternoon. The alarm goes off again, and I look up to notice the late afternoon sun is giving way to a pending dusk. Dinner is simmering on the stove, laundry is in the dryer, and Joe won’t be home for at least another hour.  I make a conscious choice. I toss the phone aside and finish the novel.

It’s been about a month since Joe and I both came home to Tucson for our grandchild’s baptism. My husband went back to D.C. after the celebration with plans to return three weeks later for a business trip.  I opted to stay in Tucson for some extra grandbaby snuggles and to accomplish a few home maintenance projects. It’s been a nice break. 

However, now that my husband is here again, it dawned on us that for the first time in years, we would have only one car to share this week (the other is in Washington). Since his schedule requires transportation, I have been exiled to three acres and four bedrooms!

In the 18 years we have owned our house, I believe this is the first time I have spent four consecutive days at home. A car in Washington, D.C. is rarely an issue because of the proximity of grocery stores and metro stations. However, it is a two-mile walk along a busy road to even get to a Circle K from my Tucson neighborhood. Looking back, the only times I ever spent a full day at home were a rare sick day when our son was younger, perhaps a holiday when the family came for dinner, and maybe a day or so when we chose to “vacation” at home and enjoy our swimming pool and built-in barbecue.

My self-imposed exile is hardly a sacrifice, but all this unstructured time is forcing me to reconcile the reality of my situation. Without a full-time career all of a sudden, my Google calendar has ceased its endless chirping reminders. I even check periodically to make sure I haven’t set my technological notifications to silent. As selfish as it may sound, I have discovered that instead of feeling liberated by my new-found freedom, I am burdened by the weight of “when I have time…”

When I have time, I will exercise every day. When I have time, I will write a novel. When I have time, I will volunteer. When I have time, I will focus on my prayer life. When I have time, I will organize all our family photos into albums. But…now that I have time, I feel disoriented. 

Then: My body is used to getting up early and showering and fixing my hair and rushing off to work to perhaps stopping for a coffee and then eating lunch at my desk in between teaching and meeting parents and students to finally shutting down my computer while planning dinner on the fly before doing the bills and one load of laundry in between cooking and straightening the house to watching an hour of television to going to bed to beginning again. 

My days used to be one long sentence. Today, I have re-discovered punctuation.

Now: There are still groceries to purchase and bills to pay, but there are commas between those things I have to do and what I want to do.  This leaves space to read, to write, to re-establish relationships with friends, to exercise (maybe) and to dig into the stockpile of plans and dreams I have put aside for years. When I write, I recall grammar rules before selecting a comma or a semi-colon. I have to decide where to end a paragraph and begin a new one. Now, as I begin to “write” a new normal, I have to stop and think about ways to define the grammatical pauses in my day. For instance, my prayer life feels un-focused. My ability to sit still and read seems like a guilty pleasure. I can’t quite decide what to wear in the morning. It’s difficult to know where I fit in to a new part-time position while recognizing that those who filled my full-time position are doing a great job without me. I must learn patience with myself. I need to allow myself time to train these thoughts, and then grant myself the grace to proofread and edit along the way.

(Along with punctuation, I have also re-discovered my love of metaphors and a passion for parenthetical thoughts!)

I will have the car again tomorrow, and both Joe and I will finalize the pending details for our return to the east coast. These past few days have truly been a gift, a glimpse at opportunity knocking. I have relished getting up early each morning not for work, but to walk with neighbors up and down the hills of our desert reserve. I have read every section of the paper, had two cups of coffee before my shower…and even watched a couple of the a.m. news shows – into their second hours! While I have not battled the photo albums or the attic, I have done what I need to do each day and am learning that I don’t have to set my alarm if I want to read. Just this morning, I uploaded more books to my Kindle library. The titles mimic my mood. I am already through the first chapter of Paulo Coelho’s Hippie, which hearkens back to the 70s when I was only ten years old and very impressionable when it came to the hippies we used to emulate in our denim bell bottoms, crudely doodled peace signs, and plastic smiley face jewelry. I also downloaded The Love Letters by Madeleine L’Engle. I think it is the only book of hers I have not read. (I just counted 16 of her works on a shelf in my bookcase!) And then, there is a series that starts with Living Apart Together by Elise Darcy. The main character is woman in her 60s (I am thinking this is chick lit for the every-evolving middle-aged woman!).

I have time. And at this moment, my stomach is leading me to the refrigerator where I will make lunch out of last night’s leftovers. Later, I will post this blog (see, I am writing!), and then I should probably fold the towels that are still warm from a tumble in the dryer. After that…I might just spend the rest of the afternoon reading.

Writing into Retirement

Ordinary Time – October

Lightning struck, the power went out, and with that, more than 1,200 words I had written about problems at a local nursing home evaporated into what was then a cloudless cyberspace. I reacted not as a tough journalist of the 80s, but rather the cub reporter I was. I cried. 

And then, I re-wrote my story.

I was reminded of this today – nearly 40 years later – when I went to open a document on my hard drive and discovered that in my recent zeal to “Clean My Mac,” I deleted what was supposed to have been my inaugural foray into writing into retirement.

It’s been a couple of months since I turned in my keys to St. Augustine Catholic High School and threw away my business cards. Since then, my husband has begun a challenging new position in Washington, D.C. We have set up our East Coast apartment while maintaining our home in the Southwest, have welcomed a beautiful grandchild into our lives, and have begun racking up airline miles as we traverse not only the country, but also begin taking tentative steps on an uncharted path in our lives.

My journal – host to thousands of rambling words focused on thoughts and emotions better written than said – has been quite abandoned over the past weeks as I have worked diligently to impose a structure on the business of our lives. Now that this system is mostly in place, I am compelled once again not only to journal, but also to ponder, to put into coherent words the moments that ground me and that help me appreciate the small moments within the larger hours of life.

The story I lost was good. It was about a recent Sunday when my husband and I missed Mass because of having to catch a train from a family visit in Philadelphia back to Washington. During that trip, we experienced the blessing of a kind Amtrak ticket taker, an amazing discussion with a 76-year-old passenger, and finally a holy moment with the woman who drove us in her Uber back to our apartment. I wrote quite cleverly that even though we had not gone to Mass, I felt like we had been to Church.

Perhaps that is my story to cherish and one I don’t need to re-write – at least today. I feel a touch bereft for my lost words, but I did not cry.

In some ways, I have isolated my feelings about these months of transition. I bristle when someone mentions that I am “retired” because I really don’t know if I am or not. It is true that I am no longer a high school principal, but I do have a couple of part-time gigs that keep me attached to education. I am also being quite intentional about taking time out of my day to walk, to explore, to read, and to drink coffee. I can’t quite get over not being attached 24/7 to my school’s network, but I do enjoy planning a dinner menu, shopping the markets, and actually having the time to cook. My husband and I are also trying to do what we said we would do “if” the move to D.C. materialized. Recently, we shopped at the fish market at the District Harbor. Talk about memories of childhood days on the Eastern Shore – blue crabs. Need I say more? We have visited museums and sights including Ford’s Theater and the National Archives. We have re-connected with dear friends. For once, at least for me, I am discovering that there is just enough time in every day.

I recently read a poem in which the author recounts a message from a speaker who notes that most of us move through our lives as if in “a daydream.” We are cognizant of the big picture but can’t seem to focus on the little details. How true. Up to now, I would probably say I have been aware of my propensity to see the umbrella, but not necessarily everything underneath it. However, if this transition from non-stop career climbing to semi-retirement is leading me anywhere, it is guiding me back to the details that allow life to be joyful instead of scary. When I was a child, I would lay on the grass and look for shapes in the clouds. Today, I worry if I lay in the grass, how many bug bites will I get? When I was a child, we planted seeds and watched them grow. Today, I look for plants in full bloom to decorate my patio. I used to play marbles and catch fireflies…and although I might not do that anymore, I feel drawn to the details again – the Amtrak ticket taker, the first smiles from our grandchild, a visit with my Mom, re-creating some of the recipes I first made for my husband when we got married 36 years ago.

When I cleaned out my office before leaving St. Augustine, I discovered a jar of marbles my first best friend in the world had sent me a few years earlier. (Ask anyone – even if I don’t play marbles anymore, I still keep a few with me just in case!) Along with her gift was this note: “Saw these and thought of you. They’re sort of like our treasured ‘moonies’ but with some iridescence…” I can’t help thinking that this is a great metaphor for me and for those of us seeking meaning as we navigate life’s stages. We are burnished, iridescent treasures willing to risk our very being and emotions for opportunities that will indeed include lost words, but will always lead to new stories.

Playing School

Ordinary Time – August/September

Stuffed animals and little sisters are amazing students when you are six years old and completely engaged in an imaginary world where the laundry room becomes a class room and a portable chalkboard, magnetic letters, and waxy crayons serve as the tools of your trade. “Playing school” with my sisters during untethered summer afternoons of our childhood probably set the stage for the career I hadn’t even dreamed about at the time.

I think of those carefree days each year when the school cycle begins. Brimming with ideas germinated from the seeds of summer professional development and the freedom of hours simply to plan, it is exciting to welcome the faculty back as they decorate their rooms, discuss various teaching strategies, and share ideas on how to fully motivate and welcome their students.

But just like the precocious sister who decided she would rather go outside and enjoy the grassy playground of our backyard instead of doing endless addition problems, the reality of teaching imminently reminds us that playing school is very different than actually working at school! Expectations outlined in course syllabi quickly evolve into everyday routines to include bell work, note-taking, collaboration, role-playing, quadratic equations, chemical reactions, and Beowulf. For teachers, inspiration turns into papers to grade, lessons to plan (don’t forget all those Differentiated Instruction strategies we were all so excited to implement!), and lunchtime supervision.

Whether students and their teachers look at it as work or as play, school certainly does demand bountiful energy!

Principal’s Ponderings

10,000 Steps – All in a Day’s Work

Before I try to impress you with my desire for physical fitness, let me honestly tell you that I was one of those students who pretty much got straight A’s in my academic subjects, but would often earn a C in physical education. I could not climb a rope to save my life, and the President’s Physical Fitness Test requirements to do chin-ups always reduced me to tears! 

Over time, our school moved from iPads to Chrome Books…sometimes we still use pencils and crayons!

However, I have grown to appreciate (if not enjoy) exercise, and for a while became a bit of a geek when it came to tracking my progress. I even joined in the craze of counting my steps over the period of a day. That being said, I thought it would be interesting to see how many steps I took on one particular day in the early part of the school year. After all, our campus offers five wings of classrooms, a lush grassy courtyard, expansive outlying fields, and a few sets of staircases. Imagine my self-proclaimed pat on the back when on the second day of school, I logged 11,163 steps – and that was just back and forth between the administration building and classrooms. To be fair, we had just implemented our 1:1 iPad program and I kept getting SOS calls for assistance with passwords and Wi-Fi. In between, my curiosity about the deployment kept me popping in and out of classes to make sure all was going as planned. Subconsciously, however, I wonder if on that particular day my underlying non-altruistic goal was to rack up as many steps as possible. All in all, I was pretty impressed and later granted myself the gift of a great excuse to NOT to go to the gym.

Since then, I honestly have lost my step counter (and the interest to count them)! So much for my elaborate explanation to simply say that I can’t stand always being in my office; it is much more exciting to roam the campus. 

Recently, I had the privilege of walking into several interesting scenarios. For example, as I ventured toward Wing 5, I heard what sounded like a live auction. Turns out, it was a live auction! The Economics teacher had given his senior students a stash of bills (Monopoly money) and they were bidding for prime seats in the classroom. Not that any of the seats are that bad, but the bartering was especially heated for the two special posts on the library’s couch.

Speaking of authentic lessons, later that same week, I ran into a group of freshmen winding their way among the trees, breezeways, and sprinklers. Each was holding a baggie filled with either peanuts or grapes or nothing at all. “We are hunters and gatherers,” they responded to my quizzical look.            

“I am going to eat, but the others are going to be hungry,” said one student as she showed off her stash of grapes. (I made a mental note to suggest that the theology teachers write up a lesson plan on the Works of Mercy to address that issue of feeding the hungry!)

I also stopped by the theater where our fine arts teacher led his Music Theory class. It was fascinating to watch the students at the white board noting and denoting musical scores. It was even more interesting to see them working on piano keyboards via their iPads. 

If the rest of the school year promised the energy of the first weeks, I knew we could anticipate a “high impact” subsequent 10 months. There are always thousands and thousands of steps to go!

A New School Year

I begin this new school term about 2,280 miles from the Principal’s office I called home for the past eight years. For the first time in two decades, my personal agenda will not follow the academic calendar; my work will not be completed within a school community. Instead, I find myself without a career title, without a defined role, and without a steady paycheck! Transitions never bring out the best in me, but I am able to reconcile this sacrifice of a predictable and comfortable role in lieu of the sacrament I received 36 years ago when I got married.  

Today, I am at peace with the decision to be with my husband in Washington, D.C. as he embarks on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in his own career.  While I will continue to work part-time as an educational consultant and mentor (have wi-fi, will travel!), I am testing the waters of life outside the bubble of “school.” Already, I have figured out how to read the metro map, met a gentleman who sells micro-greens at the farmers market, and re-connected with a dear friend. We live within blocks of the Potomac River, where winding paths beckon me to miles of exploration. And, I found a quirky coffee bar just around the corner from our apartment.

With some of the unstructured time I now have, I am determined to complete this blog which, as I have stated before, will be comprised of a liturgical year of essays and a selection of Principal’s Ponderings I have published in my school newsletter over the years. Once completed, I will have in essence written my second book – this one reflecting my time as a high school principal.

“Hail Mary, full of grace…”

A Leaky Sink & The Feast of the Assumption

Ordinary Time – August

Knowing that this would be one of our first school gatherings of the year, I made sure to wake up early with the intention of arriving at school with plenty of time to be ready to lead the students across the parking lot to the neighboring parish where we would attend the Feast of the Assumption Mass. However, when I reached under my kitchen sink for the dish soap to rinse my breakfast dishes, I found a puddle where puddles are not supposed to be!

As kind as they were, when I called the plumbing company, they gave me a four-hour window of when they would be available. The next call was to school to let the office know I would be late. I made a resolution to be patient and told myself to believe that God tells us to slow down once in a while by making us wait. As the first half hour crept by, I logged into the Internet to answer email. I put a load of clothes in the washing machine. Only then did I realize I would miss Mass. 

I retrieved my iPad, pressed the Pope App, and virtually traveled across the technological “parking lot” to the Piazza della Liberta in Castel Gandolfo, Italy where Pope Francis was celebrating the holy day. Thanks to the amazing clarity of video, I was soon part of the large crowd fanning themselves in the village square as Mass began. Having lived in Italy, I immediately placed myself in the scene as I viewed the shops lining the streets, heard the unique harmony of European police sirens blending with the voices of the choir, and gazed at the ultra-blue sky. Men and women who had borrowed an hour away from work stood alongside groups of religious sisters, young children, housewives, and tourists.

My knowledge of the Italian language is passable, and although I did not comprehend every word, I understood. The beauty of the Mass is that in any language, the rituals are the same. What made this Mass even lovelier was that the Gospel was chanted. I could envision Mary as she spoke those beautiful words: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.”

I will never tire of listening to the Pope (in any language). He speaks with his heart, and his eyes light up as he proclaims his homilies. He made the crowd laugh when he asked them if they prayed the rosary. “Do you pray the rosary every day?” he asked. “But I’m not sure you do…really?”

He focused his homily on three key concepts: struggle, resurrection, and hope. As I listened, I realized that all of us struggle (be it a leaky faucet, a failed test, or much more serious issues like unemployment, ill health, and loss of loved ones). Yet we know resurrection because we experience it every time we share in the Eucharist. And without hope, Pope Francis said, “…we are not Christian.”

At that moment, my prayer turned toward the new school year, which had already begun a few days earlier with fresh energy. In Catholic schools, our calendar is driven in many ways by the Liturgical cycle. As always though, what begins in Ordinary Time often leads us on the most extraordinary paths. My prayer for this year – for all school years – is that we experience the grace to work through the struggles, live as a resurrected faith community, and strive always to hope. 

Principal’s Ponderings

Broken Lockers

Memories flooded back to me with physical force when one of our students came flying into the office on the first day of school flustered about his “broken” locker. This was the exact same locker that had functioned perfectly the day before when he had come to test it out. Now, a minute before his first class of the year, the locker seemed jammed. He assured the office staff that he had the right combination.

Calmly, our office manager scrutinized the master list and asked the student to recite his combination. Well…he wasn’t the only one to transpose a few numbers that morning! 

Nerves and anxiety sparked by a new school year attacked not only students, but also teachers, staff…and the principal! Just the other day, I nearly set off the school security alarm and had to yell for the facility director’s assistance. I had transposed only one number!

For as long as I can remember, my first days of school have been accompanied by strange dreams that weave experiences past and present in a surreal hodgepodge, stomachaches, restless sleep, and incessant talking (just ask my family)!

I believe that being at least a little nervous is a necessary and even healthy reaction to transitions. I never want to become so complacent that I take for granted that all situations will go perfectly. I believe in preparation, hard work, and perseverance. 

However, I recently discovered a quotation by tennis champion who said that some of the best advice she received about being nervous came from her sister: “She told me the other day that champions don’t get nervous in tight situations. That really helped me a lot. I decided I shouldn’t get nervous and just do the best I can.”

That is great advice. I spent some time during the first several hours of school walking around the breezeways and peering into classrooms. The looks on students’ faces spoke volumes ranging from, “I can’t wait to dig into this class,” to “How did I get myself into this?”

As the first couple of days passed, teachers began visiting me during spare moments. Their eyes also reflected the anticipation they were feeling about the months ahead. The best part was hearing the faculty talk about how they were enjoying getting to know our new scholars while reacquainting themselves with former students. Coaches shared the same excitement as they signed up our energetic athletes for this year’s extracurricular activities.

Already this week, our routines feel a bit more established, sleep seems less pestered by weird dreams, and hunger pangs have replaced unsettled stomachs.

We are ready to become champions.

The Universal Dance

Easter – April

Blinding me as I sought to find the outer edges of the celestial object, the full moon filled my left eye. I gazed through the coin-sized lens of the telescope. Perception tunneled and reflected by mirrors and technology I don’t quite understand forced me to look at the familiar in an unfamiliar way. Once again, I was reminded of my longing – within a 15-second glance – to understand how my own human orbit fits into the grand scheme of the world.

It was Holy Thursday, and friends visiting from the East coast made plans for us to go to the National Observatory on Kitt Peak, about 55 miles from Tucson and nearly 7,000 feet up into the Quinlan Mountain range. This scientific laboratory has been in operation since 1958 and is operated by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory on land leased from the Tohono O’odham Nation. In addition to those managed by the NAOA, several universities conduct research either on site or remotely through the numerous telescopes housed in vintage domed metallic monuments that punctuate the rocky landscape.

Our tour began at sunset with a vast westward view of the Sonoran Desert. As the final rays descended below the visual horizon, a 180-degree turn allowed our tour group to witness the rising full moon. To feel embraced in the revolution of sun, moon, and emerging stars in the quiet moments of sunset and moonrise…well, I wasn’t the only one who immersed myself in the drama of this natural cinematography.

Once the sky darkened, we charted the stars and grabbed binoculars to look for familiar constellations, marveling at what we cannot normally see, searching back light years to locate elusive stars between the stars. We then took turns at a 20-inch reflector telescope where we first looked at a set of stars that to the naked eye looks like one orb , but on a deeper magnified dive, reveals twins – one yellow and one blue! We glanced at a constellation, totally invisible from the ground that is comprised of several hundred thousand stars. I admit to feeling emotional as I focused on a nebula. Within this gaseous swirl, I saw stardust, dying light.

As I waited my turn to see the moon, I enjoyed the peace of sitting within the confines of the observatory dome, wrapping myself in the breezes drifting through the open roof. Holy Thursday – a night of reckoning. Good Friday, when some say an eclipse darkened the afternoon sky upon Jesus’ death – a divine marriage of God and the cosmos. And then there is “me,” a relatively tiny celestial being, whose faith tells me that my tenuous hold to this spinning Earth is not only reckoned by gravity, but by a force that was created by God. Easter. He has risen with the sun, the moon, and the stars. I am an integral part of this universal dance.

Principal’s Ponderings

Eternal Embrace – A Poem

At your birth you stretch your arms for the first time 
Reach for your Holy Mother from the crib 
You embrace us...all 
Later, we encounter you, arms outstretched
Reaching for your Holy Father from the cross 
Eternally embracing us...all 
In the chaos of Holy Week, we are swept into that timeless crowd 
Willing and unwilling voyeurs
Soulful, sorrowful, sacrificial
Despite the confusion, your labored breath plays soft chords 
Among transparent leaves nestling buds
Spilling color on a fresh season
We sense fragile light casting shadows around corners of day 
We chase hope through a lifetime 
Three days made all the difference 
A profound timeline persists
While the sun sets and rises on your crucifixion 
Nature continues to weave star-filled patterns of the hours 
We dare to cast our eyes into the empty tomb 
Reaching through Heaven’s light
All…seek your embrace

Our Story

Palm Sunday – April

The priest usually invites his congregation to sit during Palm Sunday’s “longest Gospel of the year.” Children are admonished to stop squirming while many of us continue traditions of politely listening as we weave our palm fronds into crosses while the Passion is re-created at the front of the church. 

Over the years, I have noticed my own response to Palm Sunday’s readings shifts depending on where I “am” in my life. When I was younger, I thought it was clever that we church goers had a part in the reading. But as I got older, I realized that my assigned lines in the play were horrible. Why would I, a believer, ever yell “crucify him” about my Lord? At the same time, I also grew to realize how easy it is to get caught up in a crowd mentality of joining the uproar, never questioning, and feeling indignant without knowing why. 

I constantly caution my students to resist peer pressure, and yet I wonder if I would have been able to stand my ground for Jesus? Perhaps I feel unsettled during the reading because I might relate more to Peter than to the women weeping at the foot of the cross.

Today, I try to listen to the Passion as a more mature student of life. If I simply get up after Mass and treat the reality of the Easter story as if it were a news item buried in the crime section of the local paper, then I am no better than a casual bystander in my faith. I could shake my head, worry about the victims, hope that somebody makes sure justice is done, and then move on through my days. But I can’t do that anymore. Jesus fulfilled prophesy. He lived fully. He offered signs of his divinity even as a man. He did everything he could to help us understand, and yet he had to die for many of us to even begin to take notice. 

As my ability to dig into the text and texture of the Gospels has grown, I have discovered that my own role in the story of the Passion should not take place on the sidelines. My vocabulary and responsibility toward articulating my faith has deepened. I can relate to the bystanders seeking what they thought was justice. But this cannot be my excuse. This is Holy Week, a final few days in this season of Lent to accept the faults of my own humanity, to seek reconciliation for not accepting the messages of Jesus, and to begin to rise above the roar of the crowds. I am free to choose my own lines to recite in the story.

Principal’s Ponderings

Vocabulary Lessons

The Advanced Placement Literature and Composition exam consists of 55 multiple choice questions and three essays. Questions are based on excerpts from prose and poetry and mostly focus on a rhetorical devices to include structure, diction, tone, and point of view. Several queries pinpoint specific vocabulary that relates to literature.

Recently, the AP Literature class worked diligently to memorize 101 terms. This did not seem to intimidate them at all. Vocabulary lessons are nothing new to them. As early as kindergarten, children take home packets of words to remember and spell. Later, they identify those words as parts of speech and learn to appreciate how they can cleverly string those words into sentences. Before they know it, the whole world opens up to them because they can read and write!

Most of us who live by the school calendar along with the liturgical calendar, recognize that the vocabulary of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter also evolves as children grow.

Elementary vocabulary lists might include words likebunnyegg, and carrot. In Catholic schools, add words like GodJesus, and cross. As students work their way through middle school and high school, a rabbitmight become a cottontail, and a crossmight become crucifixion. Terms may even traverse across the curriculum into religion and history classes to include miracleprayerresurrection, and the Triduumof Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday’s Easter Vigil.

The “literature” of Easter, so eloquently told in the stories of the Acts of the Apostles, the poetry of the Psalms, and the inspired words of the Gospels, weaves this beautiful vocabulary into the very essence of who we are and what we believe. On Easter Sunday, we will read how God anointsJesus with “the Holy Spirit and power” (Acts 10), of mercythat “endures forever” (Psalm 118), of the paschal lambwho “has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5), and of the resurrectedChrist “taken from the tomb” (John 20).

What we read takes on meaning while we digest the vocabulary of the text we read. This helps us pass AP tests and write essays. More and most importantly, however, these words become the most convincing way to express the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of what we experience in life. To be brought into the context, the time, and the lives of others helps us understand ourselves.

The Easter story is ourstory.

Hay Fever?

Lent – April

“Do you have a cold?”

“No. It’s just allergies.”

Hay fever in the desert? Or is it spring fever? Or is it allergies?

As early as the 1800s, Arizona became known for its therapeutic powers over those suffering from a range of maladies including tuberculosis, asthma, arthritis, and allergies. But as cities in this Southwestern desert grew, human transplants also brought with them non-native trees, plants, and grasses. Today, the droves of people who continue to migrate across the Mississippi do not necessarily seek cures for health conditions. Instead, they seek communities where the weather is perpetually dosed in sunlight, where opportunity prevails, and where the cost of living remains lower than in other areas of our country.

In the late 1980s, I remember the county in which I live declaring war on pollen by banning future plantings of olive trees – trees I learned were first imported to California by Franciscan missionaries in the late 1700s. By the way, my research shows me that some of these hearty fruity-bearing trees live an average of 500 years…and some even as long as 2,000 years! The pollen continues to fly!

When I was younger, my Dad always had a handkerchief ready to stem his sneezes triggered by everything from ragweed to milkweed. He called that “hay fever,” even though I recall him suffering the same seasonal “colds” in March and April too. When our family subsequently moved from Maryland to Arizona, hay fever followed us. At one point or another, each of our family members has, without a doubt, suffered from these inherited allergies. Manifestations have evolved to include distracted behavior, staring at nothing, forgetting to meet deadlines, and feeling lightheaded when exposed to the fragrant intensity of orange trees blossoming outside open windows.

This seasonal disease does not discriminate by age. Much like my own family, I have observed that high school students tend to cough and sneeze through almost the entire second semester. Add to this their own brand of symptoms to include springtime romances, late-afternoon lethargy, and seriously stuffed noses. The only diagnosis – Spring Fever.

Principal’s Ponderings – Honey Bees and Allergies

Honey bees are busy doing what honey bees do as they drone in and among the orange trees blossoming on our campus. Ah-choo…it smells so (sniffle, sniffle) good!

Ah, it is spring in the desert and the blooming citrus is only one sign of the season that has emerged almost overnight as April makes its debut in the desert. A short walk around the school reveals dashes of color evidenced by the translucent buttery daffodils and orange-tipped tulips that students planted in October and that now fill a planter in front of the Administration Building. Yellow rose-like clusters defy gravity on the bushes crawling up a pillar leading into the courtyard. Students and faculty alike grab tissues and stifle their sneezes even as they lean in to breath the sweet perfume of the flowers surrounding them.

These signs of spring – from bursting buds to full-bloom allergies – seem to parallel the symptoms our students are showing too. We are witnessing the full spectrum of student response to academics. On one hand, creativity abounds in video presentations of Stem and Sustainability “prototype inventions,” and dialogues from British Literature that have students walking through Dante’s circles of the Underworld. On the other hand, the technology coordinator recently joked, “…the amount of brain stoppage is staggering.” She noted a recent assignment she handed off to five groups in her computer class. Of those groups, only two met the minimal requirements of a simple rubric.

April’s progress reports signal the beginning of the final six weeks or so of the school year. Fortunately, this reality check of grades tends to spur most students into positive action to either maintain or buckle down through the last days as they turn in missing assignments, study more intentionally for tests, and show up more often than not for tutorials. Athletes juggle their time along with their baseball bats and volleyballs to meet the demands of their hectic schedules. Thespians memorize lines and choreographed steps as they prepare for the upcoming musical while completing homework between practices. Even the faculty struggle to meet curriculum goals while also keeping up with devising lessons that engage weary learners!

Our calendars are full. Sports continue for the next several weeks, AP exams are just around the corner, as is Easter, the Sports Banquet, Prom, Senior Breakfast, the Awards Ceremony, Graduation, and final exams. Just like the bees as they pollinate the orange trees, gathering nectar along the way to make their honey, we too, continue to make the best use of our own resources in order to ultimately bear the fruit of this school year’s labors.

William Shakespeare said it best when he stated that “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.”Pass the Kleenex please!

Weekend Gardening

Lent – March

 I endeavor to pull the weeds up from their roots. One by one, I dig my hands into the dirt and tug, slowly releasing the green stems from their tenuous earthen hold. Spring has certainly imposed its way through the desert floor, literally pushing its straggly blossoms through the rocks that decorate our yard and around the carefully cultivated cacti placed in and among the paths of strategic landscaping.  

Honestly, weeding seems an exercise in futility. With patience and time, the soaring temperatures over the next few months will force this raw vegetation into submission. The little suckers will literally turn brown and recede back to where they came from! Yet, we must “cultivate our garden,” I muse – thinking of Candideand remembering my literature classes from high school. “I am pretty sure Voltaire was being sarcastic,” I mutter.

“What did you say,” my husband asks. He is near me, bent low, and as intent as I in picking each and every weed in our path. 

“Just thinking out loud,” I respond. 

Photo by Lynn Cuffari

We are mostly quiet in our pursuit to rid the backyard of the invading sprouts. Some of the weeds test me with yellow and purple flowers that have crowned their sticky, thorny stems. Do I pull them or leave them? There is something hypnotic about this chore. My focus is on such a small territory. It is quiet in the afternoon heat and despite the tension in the back of my thighs, I feel other emotionally stressed muscles giving in to the work at hand. The sun casts it rays on my shoulders, and I feel embraced in the warmth. My mind (already distracted by quotes from classic literature) drifts to metaphors about weeding, sorting the wheat from the chaff, spring cleaning…and Lent.

Principal’s Ponderings – Weeds or Wildflowers

Are those weeds or wildflowers? When spring blooms across our Sonoran desert, I marvel at the sash of yellow blossoms that carpet the landscape. Upon closer look though, I also begin to notice the weeds. My yard is filled with them.

As a result of an unusually rainy (and snowy!) winter, the earth has unleashed millions of dormant seeds and has empowered them to push through the crusty soil as they strive to reach inch by inch toward their source of light and warmth.

The visual image of flowers and weeds is a great metaphor for Lent. After all, we are given these weeks before Easter as an opportunity to “weed our gardens,” to clear away what holds us back from reaching our own source of light.

Students – especially during this time of the school year – struggle with the parts of their routines that potentially stymie their personal growth. Their “weeds” tend to stem from not managing their time effectively, forgetting to turn in assignments, getting caught up in social issues, and becoming so mired in the day-to-day that they forget they are working toward good, solid goals that will launch them into their futures. Over the years, I cannot count the number of students who have asked me questions like these: “So, how is this going to help me? Why do I have to even go to school? I can still work if I don’t graduate, right? What is the purpose?”

Don’t we all ask questions like this? As adults, we think we must have all the answers even when we don’t. Instead of ignoring the questions students ask about the reasons they have to be in school, I encourage parents and teachers to draw upon our own experiences and help students discover that this time of curiosity and growth in their lives is truly worthwhile. In lieu of answering the questions for them, I challenge students to venture their own responses. The inspiration to cultivate their lives will come from those who support them, but they begin to realize that much of the “gardening” has to be done by themselves, and that this requires self-discipline and hard work. They ultimately learn that much of their growth includes the flowers and the weeds.

Sunday Afternoons

Lent – March

Tackling another Sunday afternoon, I am not sure if I should fold the laundry or do the bills first. I have completed my lesson plans and the school newsletter draft is in its final stages. The pasta sauce is simmering on the stove and I think I just need to water the plants inside and outside…then, relax. Maybe. Whatever happened to Sunday afternoons? When I was a child, those hours between church and dinner were the most creative afternoons of my life. I remember spending hours during my “artist” stage carefully drawing in my sketch book. At other times, I filled journals with little girl dreams. If the weather was nice, my sisters and I would join our neighbors in heated games of marbles or riding bikes to our fort under the lilac bushes down the street. We would glue sequins to crafts, bake oatmeal cookies, read library books. 

I also remember quality time on those days with my parents. Dad might watch football or putter in the yard. I am sure Mom made the sauce and prepared for our dinner, but I remember her taking time to play Monopoly with us or help us to sew clothes for our Barbie dolls. Some Sundays, we would take a family day trip to Washington D.C. After Mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, we might go to a Smithsonian museum or grab sub sandwiches and chips for a picnic at one of the parks. To this day, I crave pistachio ice cream – a special treat we enjoyed when we visited the National Zoo. 

This was before we plotted our days via electronic calendars, before our telephones buzzed with reminders and notifications. I miss those Sundays.

Principal’s Ponderings – Scheduling Time for Lent

To some of us who track the liturgical seasons on our Google calendars, Lent often appears as a transparency superimposed over work schedules, sporting events, and academic semesters. We assign colors and notifications that pop up on synched devices. Chimes and banner messages remind us to get to meetings on time, pick up our children, and pay our bills. But not once have I set up an alert to remind myself to get to morning prayer at school or to avoid meat on Friday! The purple of Lent seems to get lost in the orange of a weekend barbecue and the red of weekly meetings and upcoming events. 

Not that He has to, but God has proven to me once again that He has our best interest at heart! During this time of year, the calendar honestly gets so overloaded that I often choose not to look at it, knowing that whatever I must do will eventually cross the threshold of my office. This week, however, it felt like time slowed down – if only during our scheduled daily all-school chapels. And for that, I thank God and I thank the school community.

“Your goal is not always your destination,” our social studies teacher recently shared with the students. As chapel leader, he talked about his own journey and how he eventually landed in his teaching position at St. Augustine. Although he said he is convinced that he is meant to be here, “it was never part of the plan.” His best story was about how nervous he was during the interview process that included teaching a sample lesson in front of students he had never met. He shared “stomach-wrenching” details that do not require further description.

That made me think about my own life and the lives of the teachers and the students who have come together one way or the other to create the family of our school. I am fond of saying that I believe every single person at our school, to include myself, is destined to be here. 

I felt that connection later in the week when we did the Stations of the Cross. As a teacher in a Catholic school for the past many years, the Stations have always been part of the Lenten routine. But for some reason, this year’s reflections seem to have hit a chord with the school and with me personally.

Stations of the Cross – St. Augustine Catholic HS

Using the best in technology, the words are projected on the front wall of the chapel and everyone participates. When I noted to our school’s deacon that the reflections seemed especially relevant, he nodded and said he wrote them. At first, I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t. He told me he adapted them, using the more traditional writings as a guide. He did this when the students seemed to be facing some particularly challenging trials. When he shared this with me, I felt blessed in two ways – one that Deacon gave us the gift of this resource and in another way, so thankful that I had been shaken a bit out of my routine and could see the Stations from a new perspective. I think we all felt that way. Here is an example from the seventh station when Jesus fell for the second time. I believe everyone listening to these words during what was the end of a very hectic week, was touched in meaningful way.

“This is the second time you have fallen on the road. As the cross grows heavier and heavier it becomes more difficult to get up. But you continue to struggle and try until you’re up and walking again. You don’t give up. Sometimes things get me down. Others seem to find things easier to do or to learn. Each time I fail, I find it harder to keep trying.  I find myself wanting to just give up, to quit instead of continuing to work to the end.  Sometimes I think I should know more than I do. I become impatient with myself and find it hard to believe in myself when I fail. It is easy to despair over small things, and sometimes I do. Help me when things seem difficult for me. Even when it’s hard, help me get up and keep trying as you did. Help me do my best without comparing myself with others.”

Deacon Andy Corder

 …and help us Lord, to remember that Lent is not a time to “fit into” our schedules, but a reminder of who sets the calendar of our lives. Amen!


Some gifts just keep on giving. Nearly a decade ago (nine years to be exact), my husband presented me a package wrapped in paper emblazoned with bright yellow sunflowers. Tucked under my pillow for me to discover on the eve of my fiftieth birthday, I was rather underwhelmed to find a paperback book extolling all the rules and tools I would ever need as a manager and leader. I had just accepted a job as the principal of St. Augustine Catholic High School after having spent the better part of the last decade as a teacher then principal of Immaculate Heart elementary in our Diocese of Tucson. I was excited and nervous about my pending transition from kindergarten hugs to freshmen bravado, from junior high anxieties over pre-Algebra to seniors counting credits and writing college essays. Still, did I really need a treatise on leadership skills for such a career progression let alone a milestone birthday?

Today, I glance up from paperwork on the desk in my office and there it is…that book, tipped ever so slightly as it braces two other books on that shelf – the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the New American Bible. Slightly worn by time rather than use, those three books are probably the most important in my office if only as reminders of the profound opportunities I have every single day as a parochial school administrator and even more importantly, a forever student of life. The Word of God will always nourish my soul, the Catechism goes beyond the school handbook when I need the foundation of our church’s policies, and the other book…let’s just say school principals always need resources.

My husband redeemed himself when he also surprised us with a family trip to Italy to celebrate my half-century birthday, but I have to admit that the book on leadership skills has become one of my most treasured gifts. I can’t recall the number of real-life scenarios I have tackled over the past several years that have required objective yet empathetic, sound yet thoughtful, and difficult and often heart-wrenching decisions that often remind me my job is not defined by Monday to Friday and hardly constrained to hours between 9 to 5. I can build all the consensus in the world, but I stand alone with a final decision. 

Dinner time conversations have been lively, sometimes filled with laughter, other times tears and frustration.  My husband bears it all as he listens to my emotional cadence. “Just remember your rules and tools,” he reminds me with a smug smile.  “By the way, where is that book?”

 “Would you like to borrow it?” I reply.

There is absolute joy in what I do. I am sincere in saying that I always look forward to going to school. I work with an amazing faculty and staff all dedicated to doing what is best for our students. I tell friends that I am enjoying high school more now than when I was a teenager. I love the noise, the basketball games, the bake sakes, student council meetings, dances, brainstorming, faculty meetings, daily chapel, morning announcements, theater productions, fundraisers, and free dress days. 

I first wrote about my husband’s prophetic gift in (Extra) Ordinary Time, Ponderings of a Catholic School Principal, which I self-published in 2013. That short book of essays within essays was a compilation of experiences I gathered as an elementary principal. Before I ever became an educator, I was a journalist. Compelled to document the stories richly born in the classrooms and hallways, I began then what I continue to do now – write, not for publication in a newspaper, but for our weekly school newsletter aimed at offering students and parents a glimpse into the everyday happenings in school. When I was “promoted” to high school, I knew I had to continue this practice, so I created my own newsletter, the Wolf Prints, where my audience has now expanded to nearly 500 readers ranging from freshmen to school benefactors and personal friends who allow me the privilege of sharing my high school Principal’s Ponderings with them each week. 

In 2015, I proudly handed out diplomas to the first group of students who entered St. Augustine when I did. While I still have not graduated, I am planning for the next chapter in my own life. Will that be retirement or a slight turn into a new area of my career? What I am sure of is that it is time for me to gather my stories of this decade and create the next edition. I have always loved the rhythm of our church calendar – a journey that takes us from the ordinary to the extraordinary each and every year. 

So here goes… Still (Extra) Ordinary, Ponderings of a Catholic High School Principal. I share these experiences not because they belong to me, but because I have discovered that most educators tell the same stories from different vantage points. My desert landscape is someone else’s city street, my school Mass might take place in a gym and another’s in a chapel, my electronic textbook is another’s torn paperback. Just as our God gives us the same sun which rises just after the alarm clock buzzes each morning, our collective words gather to become the gift of stories that we most certainly must unwrap and share with one another.

A Note to Anyone Reading This:

My first and still only book,(Extra) Ordinary, “Ponderings of a Catholic School Principal,began in Ordinary Time” – in August when the academic year begins. Since I am doing things a little differently this time by “drafting” my next book through a blog, my goal is to post an update each week with a short essay and a Principal’s Pondering. If I don’t start now (during Lent), I am afraid I will never begin! Eventually, it will be August again, and then I can rearrange everything into a true draft of a “real book” once I catch up next year.