Great Lakes and Internships

chicago_skyline_and_lake_michigan-640x357September 3, 2002

“Ahhhh … finally I laid eyes on beautiful Lake Michigan. Its average depth of 279 feet determines it the second deepest of the five Great Lakes. On the other hand, Lake Erie’s average depth of 62 feet predisposes it to be the shallowest. Lake Michigan’s water varies day by day from light blue to dark blue to bluish green, while Lake Erie’s limited depth remains a steady gray.

“Hyde Park once again was my destination for another interview, and it just so happened to be within walking distance of the Lake. The walkway in front of the circa 1933 Science and Industry Museum beckoned me to come over. My eyes were instantly fixed on a sandy beach and a park with many pathways; I felt like Alice in Wonderland sliding down a tunnel into a magical place. Huge concrete blocks surround the shoreline and are identical to those at Cleveland’s Wildwood Beach on Lake Erie.

“Memories of my teenage summers in Cleveland promptly popped up. We teens in the East 185th Street neighborhood traversed these monster blocks on a dare. They were irregular, uneven masses of material that formed the fishing pier. We dare devils needed balance not only for the massive rocks, but most of all for the steel “one-foot-at-a-time” beam that led to the end of the pier. Believe it or not, the return trip was the hardest trek!”


As a Novice living in Chicago and in formation for vowed membership with the Franciscan Sisters, I was expected to either work or to study in an outreach ministry program. My interests and experiences were spiritual direction and Hospice care. Lucky me found one of each and did both!

My Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program did not work with Hospice. Although I was disappointed not working with those who are terminally ill, I was enthused to work with formerly homeless women with children. Therefore, my Spiritual Direction Internship helped me learn how to help others as well as myself. Both internships required regular meetings that included soul searching, letter writing, and self evaluations.

The women’s group consisted of several women with children who were living in a supportive low-income apartment complex.  Some of these mothers lost custody of their children; some regained custody; others had relatives who helped with the children; others had no help.  There were two fathers living with their families. Most of the women worked outside the home and/or attended school; some were drawing disability insurance due to physical disabilities or injuries received from accidents.

The majority of the women were recovering from addictions and some were mandated by law to undergo recovery treatment.  Therefore, the focus of the semimonthly support group meeting I led was the workbook entitled The Twelve Steps – A Spiritual Journey to Healing Damaged Emotions.  The common belief of the group was that through God, and especially God as revealed in Scripture, all things are possible, and it is through prayer that addictions can be overcome and conquered.

My ministry of presence with the women moved in various directions throughout the year. At one point I considered my role to be that of midwife, the one who helps new life into being and protects it, who does things with, not “to,” the person giving birth, who helps the birth giver toward ever greater self knowledge. It is helpful to have a midwife to accompany us in any birthing process.

A primary key growth area for me throughout my ministry site experience was recognizing when to be flexible.  I learned repeatedly that relaxing into the flow of what is happening lends to greater awareness of the situation

Discernment is a way of life.  I tried to actively listen to people as well as to my inner being as I traveled on the road to vowed life.

By the way, Hyde Park was the center of my education; Lake Michigan my haven.

Big City travels …

Hyde Park pic

Compliments of the free encyclopedia … Wikipedia

August 22, 2002

“Today Paula and I did a dry run via the Chicago Transit Authority to Hyde Park, situated on the shore of Lake Michigan and located seven miles south of the Chicago Loop. The trek required two buses — the first one stopping on our street corner, and the second at Midway Airport. From door-to-door, the trip took one hour and forty-five minutes.

On our return trip we managed to catch an express bus back to Midway, hoping it would be quicker. The lady driver reminded everyone who boarded that it was an express bus, which means it doesn’t stop at every side street. She also blew her horn frequently, reminding me of New York City. Paula and I were eventually the only passengers, and the driver shared her frustrations and struggles with us.

‘People just don’t listen when I remind them that stops are more infrequent… and I feel bad when they get mad at me.’

As we listened and conversed with her, she revealed several of her difficulties. Her mood became much brighter. She said we were the best thing that happened to her today; we returned that she was good for us, too, because this is our first ride on public transportation since we moved here a month ago. Her response, ‘You mean you aren’t from Chicago? NO WONDER YOU ARE SO NICE!’

We chalked that experience up to bus ministry. Our street ministry consisted of meeting the neighbors on our daily walks. Needless to say, this close-knit Polish neighborhood knew much about us and asked questions, like, ‘Who has the small bedroom?’ Paula immediately responded , ‘That would be me!’ Most of the neighbors lived here forty-plus years and knew the lady who lived in our house until she died. One even asked how we like the Jacuzzi (another story coming down the road)!”

Let me step back in time to share some of my history.

My roots sprouted in the International land of Northern Ohio and thrived over the next sixteen years. Each set of my grandparents originated from European countries. Great Lake Erie was my playground, as was the Metropolitan Park system in that it preserved the land’s natural beauty. Euclid Beach Amusement Park provided fun for all ages, from amazing rides to homemade taffy, candy kisses, and their famous popcorn balls.

Accessing downtown Cleveland was an adventure: we traveled by bus or by the Rapid Transit that dipped underground in spots and ended underneath the Terminal Tower, a 52-story “skyscraper” built in 1930. Shopping experiences encountered huge buildings with revolving doors, elevators, escalators, and crowds of fast-walking people. As a child, I found the blustery winters difficult to maneuver. Mother taught me how to angle our backs against the wind and snow as we turned each corner,  then lay into the fury an inch at a time, and walk backward until we reached the next store.

More than fifty years later Chicago became home. Its well-known nickname, “Windy City,” does not speak of the wind off Lake Michigan. In fact, it was coined in reference to Chicago’s braggart politicians who were deemed to be “full of hot air.” Since I was raised in a big city, my enthusiasm was high, and I felt secure knowing how to battle the forces. The truth be told, Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States while Cleveland ranks forty-fifth.

Regardless of the largeness of Chicago, I navigated the city without a problem, loved riding the “El” above ground, and treasured my two-year stay. Navigating my old Toyota Corolla around town was a cinch; however, parking was not and the car incurred several indentations.

And, at no time did I ride another bus.

Gypsy_Journey_Cover_for_KindleNumerous thanks to all who delved into Gypsy Journey, and to those who shared their thoughts with me. It is hoped that you enjoyed re-reading the excerpts and their related pictures on this Blog. Now it’s time to move on and delve more deeply into the life stories.

The most noteworthy and overwhelming part of my life journey was my husband’s illness and death. Consequently, I was inspired to navigate my life into one more deeply spiritual. Several years down the road, after having bonded with the Franciscan Sisters, I made the move to Chicago. It was a decision my adult children supported, knowing it wasn’t a wild dream that Mom just dug up, more like an itch that wouldn’t go away.

The first chapters of Gypsy Journey speak of that move to Chicago where I spent two years contemplating whether or not to join the Franciscan Sisters. Mature women, such as mothers and grandmothers, divorced or widowed, who enter religious life as a second vocation, are referred to as Sister Moms. Those who enter a community to discern religious life are called Novices; that would be me and another woman named Paula.

After my Lexington house sold, I willingly gave the money to my children and donated my furniture to the Franciscan Sisters for the new house in Chicago. Relief settled in my soul. I didn’t want to own things. There’s freedom in that.

This sequel adventure is entitled Windy Cities and begins promptly.

Please reply via the blog should you have any comments, questions, or just want to chat.

P.S. If you haven’t read Gypsy Journey, copies are available at

Peace and all good!






Orangeville, Ontario Canada, May 2013

DSCN2037_bA tradition Master Moy incorporated into the Taoist Tai Chi Society is celebrating certain occasions with a Chinese Banquet. Tonight we board school buses and travel to Toronto to celebrate Mother’s Day at Dim Sum King Seafood Restaurant in the heart of Chinatown, Master Moy’s favorite place. This is one of three Chinese banquets the International Society hosts each year; the others are on Thanksgiving and the Chinese New Year. …

fresh_catch_bThe Toronto banquet consists of a twelve-course meal lasting five hours. We are entertained by musicians and singers, introductions of dignitaries who say a few (or more) words, and table talk. Several people at my table are French-speaking. My rusty French is tested; we nod and smile a lot. … There are approximately three hundred people in attendance; service is unhurried, hence the length of time. it is a wonderful introduction to the Chinese culture, as well as a testimony to the merits that the Taoist Tai Chi Society has bestowed upon Toronto, thanks to Master Moy. (p247-248)

In his youth, when he was suffering from poor health, Master Moy made a vow to Kuan Yin (Guanyin), the bodhisattva (Deity) of compassion, that if his health improved, he would devote his life to helping others. Master Moy Lin Shin made good on his vow. (p249)

Orangeville, Ontario Canada, May 2013

IMG_10_0068A year or more after practicing Taoist Tai Chi in Louisville, I heard a few members speak of their visit to the International Center in Orangeville. They had participated in a program called Health Recovery. The program is open to all and is specialized for people responding to aging, chronic illness or the consequences of injury. The movements are adapted, as needed, for people with reduced mobility. I was interested in learning ways that would help rather than hurt my injured back. Others showed interest in the program, too, and four of us Kentucky members headed north to Canada.

Gordon_Andrew_bDuring that first visit, I witnessed many unique lifestyles. All week long I watched people who were confined to wheelchairs, walkers or canes, sitting as they practiced Tai Chi. They never complained; to the contrary, they talked about how their conditions had improved since coming to the center. I enjoyed being with them because of their uplifting attitudes, and they modeled patience and the gift of gratitude. The main lesson for me was learning how to live with pain. I will never be pain-free again. However, finding gratitude for everything, including the pain, allows an openness to and a befriending of all that is. Complaining only enhances pain.

Today I am back to assist in the Health Recovery Program, accompanied by several other volunteer assistants from Canada and the United States. The instructors … meet with us each morning to discuss our tasks. We are each assigned at least one person with whom to companion  … (p243-244)

Our instructors are dedicated to helping people learn the health benefits of Tai Chi. They explain that their intention is to have the caregivers participate in Tai Chi too. They need it more than their challenged partners do because they are responsible for lifting and tending to them. By the end of the week, I see their goal accomplished in (several) ways. … (p244-245)

… a young woman here with her husband, is wheelchair-bound. She regularly attends Health Recovery programs and sits immobile in a stationary chair in the back of the room to do Tai Chi. She works hard. … . At our last class, (she) asks all of us if she can do Tai Chi amid the group in her wheelchair because she really wants to be an active participant. She places herself in the middle, her husband practicing beside her. She manipulates her wheelchair to keep up with everyone. 

pat,cristy,carla_pat cropWitnessing the progression of these participants gives me the resolve to keep practicing, too. (p245-246)

The final day of Health Recovery arrives … My body is limply relaxed yet energized. When a marathon Tai Chi session ends, my body bends like a weeping willow tree, and my legs collapse into a baby squat. It is the goal of Tai Chi–to return to our infant flexibility. It is the most limber I can get … (p248)

Orangeville, Ontario Canada, May 2013

logo-1The neurosurgeon told me the disease would eventually require surgery. It’s called lumbar spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal that causes leg weakness. I asked him if there is a form of exercise I can do to keep it at bay. He said no and to call him when the pain gets intolerable. Well, I wasn’t going to sit around waiting for that to happen. I made up my mind to keep moving and to learn Tai Chi. (p235) …

Since that conversation with the neurosurgeon, I’ve become more aware of how important it is to think positive and act courageous. My motivation to do so arose out of my annoyance at the surgeon’s response, which was to operate without giving credence to any therapeutic alternatives. When I first got the diagnosis, fear surrounded me. I began envisioning myself crippled, bent over, in a wheelchair, or in constant pain and confined dscn2030_bto bed. My thoughts just wanted to go there, but my heart knew better. Hope is eternal and healing, worry is debilitating. Some people live their entire lives dreading the worst and die in the process of emotional turmoil. The key is to overcome anxiety and make proactive choices. I made the choice to keep moving. (p235-236) …

My diversified life continues to whisk me back to Canada. This time I’m heading to Orangeville, Ontario, to volunteer at the International Center of the Taoist Tai Chi Society … It was established in 1984 in a rural location near Orangeville. It quickly became a gathering place for practitioners from around the world to study and train in the arts founded by Master Moy Lin Shin. My work will include setting up the Health Recovery Program, assisting in the program and then cleaning up afterward in a span of two weeks. (p236) …

DSCN3193_cropWhile driving down the lane, I recognize familiar buildings, the most impressive of which is the nearly five-thousand-square-foot Great Hall of the Three Religions. In this pagoda-like, pink-trimmed temple, guests and members can observe the unified teachings of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Every morning at 7:30, people gather to chant. Having previously observed it, I find the fast Chinese chant directly in contrast with the slow, melodic music of the Gregorian chant. Yet, each fulfills ancient traditions. (p240) …

The huge Practice Hall is a big part of this area. It houses the giant paper dragon that “performs” at various events like the annual Awareness Day for Taoist Tai Chi in downtown Toronto. Its length takes up the entire circumference of the building. I once watched about thirty people gently put it to bed. Most of its body is hung from above, dscn2097_bwhile the large, bulky head rests closer to the floor. The process of tucking each section into its proper place is tedious. Several times they had to stop, back up and start all over. The hall is also decorated with ornate Chinese lanterns and strings of colorful triangular banners. The atmosphere of the practice hall is intended to enhance our Tai Chi. (p240-241) …

After dinner we are invited to join Tony’s class. More than 150 people file into the hall and start practicing before Tony arrives. My body likes doing Tai Chi. This is my way of keeping the spinal stenosis in check. (p242) 

Canadian flagA meandering relationship with all things Canadian comes to mind as I embark on the final leg of my Gypsy journey. Traversing through this country played a significant role in my emotional development, from childhood to adulthood to senior citizen. Each trip, with the exception of the first, provided leeway for loving Canada. For this reason I selected Orangeville, Ontario, to conclude my adventure as a way of traveling full circle in my lifespan. (p225)

I often wondered if Canadians were different from us and if their shoreline is as rocky as ours. My family told me that Canada is a friendly country, but I was skeptic after Canadian soldiers invaded our side of Lake Eerie. (p226)


silver cabin

Not long after my initial exposure to Canada’s soldiers my family dragged me on a camping trip to Burnt River in Ontario, Canada. We crossed the USA/Canadian border in Buffalo, New York. The men came to fish; the women were destined to cook the fish, trout to be exact. I suppose my only purpose was to discover how much I hated everything about camping. I was perfectly satisfied living in the city; the great outdoors was not appealing. Besides, I was still wary of our northern neighbor. All the same, what I thought inside never made it to my lips, and even if it had, it wouldn’t have changed things, so off I went with my family. Deep down I was scared and uneasy–everyone else was excited. (p227) …

me and aunt jeanne at the outhouseIt wasn’t until we ventured inside the cabin that I understood there was no indoor plumbing (or maybe I was the only one who hadn’t been told). The upshot of this fostered an unpleasant thought: we would be forced to walk outside and into the woods to use the bathroom. The biggest, most disgusting part of camping was using an outhouse. I refused to go there and instead left my waste and tissues at the base of many pine trees. (p228)

Mother and I carried buckets down the steep descent to the river to collect spring water. On the way down, I started counting the days till we’d be back home to indoor plumbing. I convinced myself that after this wilderness adventure, I’d appreciate city life even more so. …

scanNow you need to know that this part of Burnt River is far from tame. Fast and furious rapids are plentiful because of the hilly terrain. Flat, bed-size rocks protrude at an angle in the fast-running water, which border the bank on our side of the river. The surface of the rocks is smooth, but traversing them on a slant is tricky.

… That’s when I spotted my first snake. It was fat and gray, coiled up in between my mother and me. When I screamed, “SNAAAAAKE!” my mother (precariously hunched over the water on a rock that slanted downward) almost slid into the rapids. I froze, unable to help her. Fortunately, she hung on and pulled herself back up, but she suffered a long, bloody scrape down the side of her leg.

When we came home that summer, I was convinced I’d never return to Canada. I also knew I didn’t like the wilderness, an outhouse, snakes, bears, and on and on. My checklist of things I despised grew. I decided to start a list of things I cherished, knowing that would be far more enjoyable. (p230-231)