Sunday, March 28, 2021

Worth a Thousand Words

One of those dating website gimmicks of 'pick which one describes you better' got me thinking recently. It was something to the effect of 'snap a photo' or 'experience the moment' and I realized that I live in both camps pretty regularly and some of my biggest regrets are picking the wrong one for the experience at hand. The elevation of the Eucharist atop a cold and rugged Blanca Peak...I chose not to snap the photo and I'm forever regretting it. Playing with Little Bit and trying so hard to snap a selfie of the two of us that is Insta-worthy...I should've just savored the moment because they'll soon be far too few. I want to be the person like the photographer at the end of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty who says "If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don't like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it." It's got me wondering why I so often want to take the picture and why I find it so much easier to remember the joy or wonder of a moment when I have the photo in front of me. There are certain photos that truly are worth a thousand words, or a thousand seconds of reminiscing, or a thousand attempts of reflection on the good. 


This picture could just be me and E at Christmas time. But there's so much more that this captures for me. This was taken around the time that she was independently and frequently signing "auntie" when she saw me. It warmed my heart so much to see not only the recognition in her eyes, but to have someone so light up when you walk in the room covers a multitude of insecurities and loneliness. This picture brings all of that back. It was also taken while I was in the middle of a shift at the hospital, and it reminds me of some of the best parts of working at South: the relationships I've built over the years, the purpose of our work, the generosity to the community, the unique gift of working at the same place as my sister, my own professional growth and how I've helped others grow.


Wind, wind, wind, click. Wind, wind, wind, click. Ahh, the magic of disposable cameras in 2002. This is one of those moments where I probably should've just basked in the wave of the Holy Spirit that washed over the crowd as JPII rode by instead of frantically trying to snap a lousy photo on a cheap camera. But while there are far more compelling images of our late great pope, this one is mine. It immediately brings back the heat, the soaking wet sleeping bag, the meals in a bag, the flags and banners, the hard gym floors, the fast friendships, the foreign languages, the massive rows of port-o-lets, the bus (mis)adventures, and the soul-altering experience of being surrounded by 800,000 Catholics hearing "JPII...he loves you too." Even the storm clouds bowed to the sacramental presence of God that final day, and this picture still makes me tear up. 


It's Christmas Eve day. It's both an eve and a day. It's a Christmas miracle! Obviously it's not Christmas Eve day in this picture. But again, the photo means more to me than it does to anyone else looking at it, and it's why I think I treasure them so much. This reflects my 14er adventures (Mt. of the Holy Cross, a beast conquered too soon after my flatlander lungs moved back from Omaha) and getting to share those adventures with my family, some of my favorite TV (the above Christmas miracle reference is from a particularly memorable episode of Bones), and most importantly, the fun of sharing inside jokes and constant movie/TV quotes with the wombmate. Only we get it, but that's enough. I love going back through my 14er pics and remembering the good of those days, because in the moment there was good of course, but also a lot of struggle and pain and questioning my sanity. Like with Kilimanjaro, where the farther past it we got, the more awesome the trip was, these pictures are a positive-memories-only version of battle scars. 


I'm tempted to not even write about this picture and just leave it here in all its glory. Definitely one of my favorites for the shock value. But also one of my favorites because that summer was one of the hardest and definitely one of the best things I've ever done, sundaes not withstanding. I credit Totus Tuus for some really solid formation, a chance to stretch myself in ways I didn't know was possible, the ability to drink black coffee, praying regularly for my future spouse, familiarity with Liturgy of the Hours, relationships with some of the amazing men who would become priests and Companions of Christ (leading to Brian Larkin Sundays, Catholic Stuff You Should Know, Gregorian Rant, and other nuggets being a part of my life), and this photo as a reminder that things are never quite as bad as they look. 

I could keep going with pictures that represent more than the image. And I'm realizing with music playing in the background that I could do this with songs too. The story is where the magic is at. And I've been reminded frequently the last few weeks that we were made for story. It's been good for my soul to live for a minute in the stories of these pictures, and to find the goodness, truth and beauty in them. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

2020 in Hindsight

I put off writing this for a while, because despite my wholehearted intention to let this upcoming year be one of opportunity and 'yes', adventure and hope, that's not at all how I feel about last year and I wasn't quite ready to relive it. There are still parts I'd rather bury, but looking back on the good primes your brain to look for more of the good. If I can't see it in the past, I risk walking right past it in the present. And I'd hate for the wins of the year not to be logged for posterity. So here are the biggest wins of the year, in the random order they're coming to my brain:

In March, I saw four years of tireless work come to fruition as my article on cosyntropin use in pediatric postdural puncture headache was finely published. I could've written a whole post on that ordeal and the lessons learned. Pretty much everything about the research project was done backwards or wrong, but eventually I got the right people involved, the right data collected, the right words to paper, the right edits and concessions, etc. I actually reread the article last week as I was sending it to a former classmate, and I am very proud of the finished product. The most ironic part is that I don't even have full text access to my article. The journal didn't send me the final proof so I had to have a colleague, whose job allows her extended primary literature access, send me the pdf. If you're only interested in the abstract, you can find it here.

The celebration of said article brought another milestone achievement in the form of my 100th Colorado brewery visited. Several years ago, an article highlighted the growing craft beer scene in Colorado and listed a relatively comprehensive list of breweries. I made it a game to start my own list (around 40 at the time) and watch it grow. Once I got to 95 or so, I had the grand idea to pair the 100th brewery with the publication of my article. It turned out to be somewhat short-sighted as I had to crawl my way to the finish line, enduring outright rejection of the first submission, copious edits from a second submission, and a delayed online release. The party happened to fall as the city was shutting down in the first wave of COVID closures, but it was still the social highlight of my year, celebrating with friends and using the publication and the 100th brewery as an excuse to see my favorite people.

"In non-technical terms, this trail sucks. It is 1,600 vertical feet of misery. Climb three steps forward and slip two steps back. It feels like walking on greased marbles, except that these marbles have sharp edges and wedge inside your sock and prick your sole. More swear words have been uttered by hikers climbing Mount Columbia than any other Colorado 14er. This mountain twists ankles, skins knees, and shreds bottoms of pants." That's a dated description of the hike up Mt. Columbia. Another win from this year is the work that CFI (Colorado Fourteeners Initiative) continues to do on the trail, turning an outright slog into a relatively enjoyable hike. Ten years after our first failed attempt took us off route north to scree fields from hell, dad and I enjoyed the renovated trail and summitted. The trail work is not complete, and the final few hundred vertical feet were a glimpse of why the mountain was so hated, but it was a wonderful hike, exactly what a 14er should be, including not being able to walk for two days after.
False summit, amidst the "greased marbles"

The bulk of my professional year was dedicated not only to COVID, which despite the relatively low impact on pediatric patients nevertheless threw our hospital into upheaval on a pretty regular basis, but also to the completion of my Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification. Starting with 80 hours of class at the beginning of the year, and progressing through a 9-month process improvement project, the experience was the very definition of growth. The excitement of learning new skills and tools was tempered by the missteps of leading an interdisciplinary project team comprised entirely of not-my-direct-reports. My mentor was incredible, and even though I gained valuable experience for my own professional development, the biggest win was her guidance and friendship. The other biggest win was putting on my new green belt. ;)

Shouldn't have thrown away my old karate belts!

The rest of the year is really a bit of a blur. I rode in my first "Courage Classic" which only sorta counts because it was virtual and only twenty-something miles. I successfully navigated my first solo (8th overall) Creighton lecture, and even got invited back to speak to a student group about a career in pediatrics. I said goodbye to my faithful Stella, the CR-V that transported me for the last 12 years, and replaced her with...another CR-V. Name still TBD, it's hard to top Stella. I played mentor and mentee- mentor for the School of Pharmacy's Exemplary Professional Development program which was actually right in my wheelhouse and very fulfilling, and mentee in the hospital's Mentoring Matters program which provided a needed balance to the other stories and advice in my professional life. I did a couple things for myself- a mountain retreat and a virtual conference, which both inspired and taught me and also made me wonder if I need a new career. I did a lot of baking--and watched a lot of The Great British Baking Show--including highlights of Aunt Carol's sticky buns (the second attempt at least), iced brown butter maple pecan oatmeal cookies, my first choux pastry, millionaire shortbread, and at least two batches of Mary Berry's florentines. I also failed pretty epically at a couple attempts with a sourdough starter and decided to stick to store-bought yeast. 

Millionaire Shortbread with Little Bit

I got a new phone which means my normal process of scrolling back through my calendar to find other notable events is off the table. 

I think some of the unsettledness I felt through 2020 came from not necessarily loving the right things (or from mourning the loss of things that weren't the right things). A recent podcast summarized some of Augustine's teaching on desire, and that the life of a Christian is about learning to love the right things, ordering our desires toward the greater good God has for us, rather than settling our desires on lesser things. He says: "The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire. You do not yet see what you long for, but the very act of desiring prepares you, so that when He comes you may see and be utterly satisfied. This...will be effective only to the extent that we free ourselves from desires leading to infatuation with the world." May 2021 be a year of aligning my desires with the desires that God has for my life. 


Saturday, December 5, 2020

In the Words of the Saints

November was a tough month to find inspiration for writing. I actually took a formal step back from my weekly 'Monday Musings and Motivation' emails that I craft for my team because writing was feeling like a chore. And yet, I reread one this week from late summer and was reminded how much language holds. Power, emotion, inspiration, release, growth, knowledge, curiosity, uncertainty, conviction. Words are sustenance, sometimes created or consumed in little snack-sized bites, and sometimes building blocks of a veritable feast. So I sit back down to write, knowing that I can't simply wait for inspiration to strike, knowing that this is a practice more necessary when it is not easy. 

When I am short on inspiration, the Church never fails to shine a light into dark corners, but also often feels too heavy for a blog post. Last week had me hunting for sound bites from the Saints, and that feels a little more digestible. 

This gem from St. Thomas More: Occupy your minds with good thoughts, or the enemy will fill them with bad ones. Unoccupied, they cannot be.

If there were ever a prompt for starting your day with prayer, this would be at the top of my list. I find that setting aside ten minutes in the morning for the daily readings with my coffee doesn't stick well, in part because by the time I hit the office door, those thoughts are long gone. But that's ten minutes that my mind is occupied with good thoughts and unavailable for hijacking by the enemy. Maybe if I was more consistent with the practice, the thoughts wouldn't vacate so quickly. It's frighteningly apparent that the bad thoughts are waiting at every turn to assault our unoccupied minds with lies dressed in glitter and charm. This concept, the cousin of entropy, applies to holiness, virtue, relationships, learning, health (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual). If you aren't moving towards the good, you are moving away, however slowly it might appear to cast the illusion of stagnation. I have felt the conviction in the last few weeks to live the present more intentionally, and I think it starts with good thoughts. St. Paul adds his eloquence: 'Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.' Phil 4:8

A very Chestertonian pearl from St. Augustine: Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.

The few nonfiction books sprinkled into my reading the last several weeks continue to hammer home the message that God is bigger than our finite human minds. His ways are not our own. If we are not expecting great things from Him, how can we possibly receive them? The tiny sliver of the picture that we grasp pales in comparison to His omniscience. I imagine God as a parent, just waiting for His child to ask for something that allows Him to show off His love. I have prayed for miracles and seen them granted, and yet I so quickly forget that I can ask. I've always expected big things of myself, but I've never expected big things for myself. Maybe it's time to start praying big again.

And another because Augustine was the man: If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself

This year in particular seems to have highlighted so many iterations of self-aggrandizement, self-justification, egocentrism, whatever flavor of the day falls far enough from Orthodoxy to be culturally appropriated. We are urged to 'get with the times' and chastised for defending the Truth, a practice so easily misinterpreted as passing judgment. Moral relativism seems to be an assumed universality, and worse, a prerequisite for willing dialogue with many. Yet I was comforted by the words of Archbishop Chaput (which should come as no surprise), reflecting on those who view the Sacramental life as a right regardless of their moral character and obedience, when he said "the believing community has a priority right to the integrity of its belief and practice." This captured what I could not put to words- the sense of injustice I feel when people pick and choose teachings of the faith as if they were not beautifully, perfectly and necessarily intertwined to form the whole. Catholicism is a privilege, one we should be joyfully and desperately sharing, which is received and not created or modified or arbitrarily defined. I feel a tug when wanting to share my faith, between a desire for others to know the home I've found and the hesitation that it will be distorted and only selectively accepted. I applaud those who stand firm and courageous in their evangelization. 

There are so many more snippets of wisdom to choose from. I often wish that I knew the Saints better, knew them well enough to turn to a friend during a difficult moment of the day and seek intercession, and well enough to share them with others who need their example and prayers. Even this brief exercise tonight reveals that they can inspire and challenge and fill my head with the good thoughts that will keep the enemy from sneaking in. That's enough for tonight. 

 

 

 


Sunday, October 4, 2020

Checking the Boxes

While I admire those who are unashamed and unafraid to speak the truth in these difficult times, I also see the backlash and repercussions of doing so and am sad to say that I have let cowardice take the day in my own life. A recent attempt to engage in dialogue landed badly, and so the fear is rewarded. Nevertheless, silence is not the answer, and in order to speak up, I need to get my thoughts in order. Hence the blogging. 

A recent well-written and, if I may say, blunt post by Mama Needs Coffee called out those who have justified their positions as pro-life while abandoning the most vulnerable and marginalized among us. The idea that supporting a candidate who has done more to protect the unborn than any other in history means that I don't care for the environment, the immigrant, the impoverished, or the minority is as absurd as the idea that all issues are equal and that we should support the candidate who checks the most boxes, regardless of what those boxes are. 

Even our own judicial system doesn't believe that all sins are equal. Can you imagine the outrage if we suddenly started sentencing shoplifters the same as serial killers? There's a reason for hierarchy and weight because there are some rights that are essentially prerequisites to all others.  

As a hiring leader, this all-are-equal stance is akin to saying that I should place all desired candidate qualifications in a table and when choosing between two candidates, the candidate who possesses more than the other should be hired, regardless of the boxes left unchecked. My hiring qualifications may read something like: Doctorate of Pharmacy, Colorado pharmacist license, completion of accredited residency, experience in hospital pharmacy, experience in pediatrics, experience in codes, familiarity with our electronic medical record platform, communication skills, ability to receive feedback, a growth mindset, self-awareness, work ethic, attention to detail, demonstration of longevity, creativity, flexibility, ability to problem solve, and the list goes on. There are obviously "required" qualifications in that list, without which the candidate doesn't even get past the recruiter. They are non-negotiables. And I would argue that there should be non-negotiables in your moral compass. I believe the right to life to be one of those. Some of the other characteristics are still more important than others. I have never thought less of an applicant because they don't have experience with our EMR. It's a nice-to-have. But it will never trump self-awareness. I can teach pediatric nuances, or how to effectively provide medication support in a code, but I can't work with someone who has no interest in self-reflection and self-growth.

Some extremists might say that I should hire her only if she possesses all the qualifications. There is no such thing as a perfect hire, just as there is no such thing as a perfect political candidate. You will never find someone who has it all, and if you think you have, you haven't looked deep enough. But that doesn't mean they can't do the job well. I've watched colleagues sit on an open position because they passed over many qualified candidates who didn't fit their "ideal" only to watch COVID eliminate that open position in favor of financial stability for the organization. While I don't believe that you should fill a hole with any warm body, somebody probably would've been better than nobody. Our country doesn't have the option of sitting on an open position until the perfect candidate comes along. And sometimes you have to take your non-negotiables and learn to work with the gaps. This may look like surrounding the candidate with colleagues who possess strengths in those areas of the candidate's weakness (hmm, also seems to apply to politics and our checks and balances government).

For those who might not be with me yet, let me put it another way. If we look at marriage (again, realizing that for your lifetime partner, you would not settle for the better of two evils, but bear with me), many people generally have a list of what they are looking for in a spouse. Let's pretend I have two prospects:

Now, I'm not saying that candidate 1 doesn't have a sense of humor. But let's pretend that in objective comparison, candidate 2 is funnier, smarter, more active, etc. I hope I don't know anyone who would choose candidate 2 because he has more boxes checked. You could even move two more 'x's to the left and candidate 2 would still be numerically better. But it's kind of like "Mom's vote counts for three" when it's her vs. the two kids and they are deciding on dinner. Fidelity kind of trumps the other characteristics (assuming you believe in the sanctity of marriage, which I realize in current culture is not an assumption to make lightly). 

I don't ever want to be a one-issue voter, just like I hope to never be unwilling to think outside the box as a hiring supervisor. But until our country respects the dignity of the unborn, the tragedy of those millions of lives lost dwarf the tragedies of racism (though abortion is racist), poverty (though the poor comprise a significant majority of the aborted), police brutality, environmental destruction, and the issues of immigration, education, and healthcare. Standing for life is a prerequisite for standing for the family, which I believe to be the single most important change that needs to occur to turn our society around. The family unit, honored and protected and upheld, must flourish for our country to do so. 


Friday, September 11, 2020

Your Next Job Interview

I may be an anomaly, but I will literally find myself in the middle of an experience, particularly difficult situations as work, when I think ‘this would be a great story to tell in my next job interview.’ Have I applied for a new job? No. Am I looking for a new job? No. Am I preparing for my next job interview? Abso-freaking-lutely! I prepare for my next job interview every single day, even if I have no idea when or where or for what that interview will be. Part of this is probably driven by the shift in interviewing questions (at least in my world) toward a more behavior-based mindset—“tell me about a time when…”. Interviewers are looking for examples of how the candidate has historically exhibited certain behaviors that predict success in a particular or universal situation. If you can be self-reflective enough to recognize why you succeeded or failed in a particular circumstance, and speak intelligently to how that has driven adjustments to your behavior or skill sets to increase the likelihood of your future success, that tells me far more about you than your resume. 

The challenge is, you never know in the moment when an event or experience will turn into something relevant for teaching you how to learn, grow, or improve. Therefore, every day could be the story you tell in your next job interview. It could be how you gracefully handled the unsolicited feedback you received from a coworker. It could be how you navigated the hurdle of a catastrophic IT downtime. It could be how you put forth a little extra time and energy into developing a relationship with a peer who seemed to be struggling that ultimately led to effective collaboration. And when you are living it, it may just be one more good or bad day. But if you take advantage of the opportunity to reflect and process, it may become the characteristic example of one of your strengths in your next interview.

One of my former roommates was a medical resident navigating the transition from her first year as intern to her second year as resident having to supervise those darn first year interns. She came home one day complaining about a difficult conversation with one of her interns who had shown repeated unprofessional behavior. She was frustrated by his actions, more frustrated that she was expected to be the one to correct him, but mostly exhausted because the crucial conversation had drained her physical, emotional and mental energy. This is where I think I’m an anomaly because my first words to her were, “Yeah, but what a great example you can use of effective communication, constructive feedback, and courage when you are interviewing for jobs in another year!” It was true though. Those moments that feel so challenging and hard to navigate often teach us the most- about ourselves, about how to be better, about skills that may be worth investing in. 

Granted, viewing every day as preparation for my next job interview is really just a surrogate for viewing every day as a chance to improve myself, but that doesn’t mean I can’t write down these experiences for future reference. If you are not actively looking for a new job, spend a week pretending you are and ask yourself how your behavior in each situation would have made you a better or worse candidate if you were to share the story in your next job interview. And then tomorrow, be the better candidate.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Success Between Grit and Grace

 Attempt #3 of my exhale via writing: 

How do you define success? It’s a question asked in many contexts, and previously I’ve given a lot of thought to how I would answer it in a job interview. I’ve wordsmithed my way around what I think sounds the most professional and what I consider my greatest successes to date. Usually I land somewhere in the camp of maintaining a growth mindset and helping the team achieve goals, which is true, and I generally find myself most fulfilled when I am effecting positive change for the team. But in reading Between Grit and Grace today, I realized it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Dr. Sasha Shillcut defines success for herself as living authentically and measures her achievements in work and in her personal life against that standard. Rephrased to capture the wisdom of Brene Brown, she lives into her values. I recognize living into my values as living authentically, but never before have I equated it with living successfully. Game changer.

After hours of agony attempting to define my top two values (you don’t get more than two; read Dare to Lead to learn why), I pared everything down to Accountability and Home. I could write a whole blog post on why those are my top two, but it ultimately doesn’t matter for the purposes of using these values to redefine success. The world—secular, capitalistic, egocentric culture that we live in—would judge my success based on my salary, my title, the length of my CV, or even, if measured against millennial standards, my work-life balance or the breadth of opportunities provided to me. By those measures, I have made it. So why do I so often feel like I’m not succeeding? Because I’m not always (or even often) living into my values.

Granted, it’s been a challenging year, with personal and global crises putting Murphy’s Law to shame. But in the midst of it, I have had successes, and it’s apparent that those were the times when I let go of the outside drama and drilled down to what mattered most to me. Green Belt classes and project read-outs? That one is all Accountability. Even when the VP was expecting me to throw in the towel and blame a pandemic, I honored the commitment I’d made to myself. Monday Musings and Motivation? Both in equal measure, attempting to hold myself and my team accountable while still inspiring them to be their best selves in a culture that treasures individuality and uniqueness. When I think back to what hasn’t felt like success, or even those missteps I’d go so far as to name failures, I either dropped the ball on giving my best or using my talents in the most meaningful way (missed Accountability) or I sacrificed relationships or warmth or empathy in the name of accomplishment or task completion (nowhere near Home). What I know without a doubt to be true is that if I live into my values, I can be successful by my own standard, but interestingly also by the standards of the world if that is what I am aiming for. My best, lived as my best self, is good enough.

One could argue that there are many ways to define what has led to success and failure in my recent months, and given the circumstances one could even make a good case that what we previously defined as failure may be reconsidered in light of new obstacles. But what matters to me and how I show up every day is whether I feel like a success. My emotions don’t lie, and they certainly can be a lot more stubborn than logic. So reframing success and giving myself a foolproof way to achieve it every day is a hopeful way to start the next several months. Accountability is my grit, Home is my grace, and that is me living authentically.


Sunday, August 9, 2020

Be Not Afraid

Attempt number two of my new writing efforts:

All the good ones are Schutte. This phrase, uttered by my family many times over the years, passed through my head as Mass this morning closed with Blest Be The Lord. Without a hymnal (hazards of mid-COVID liturgy), the words nevertheless returned with perfect recollection, the mark of a great song. Growing up in the Catholic Church from the mid-1980s on meant repeated exposure to the post-Vatican II musical stylings of the St. Louis Jesuits- a prolific quintet of composers so named because of their inception during their time as Jesuit Scholastics at St. Louis University. While not all would go on to complete their formation, the moniker stuck. Songs like "Be Not Afraid", "Here I Am, Lord", "Though the Mountains May Fall", "Come to the Water", "The Cry of the Poor", and "One Bread, One Body" were ubiquitous in my upbringing. That "all the good ones were Schutte" wasn't necessarily true, but his did seem to be some of the more frequently sung- "Table of Plenty", "You Are Near", "River of Glory", and "City of God."

I had the privilege of getting to know one of the famed St. Louis Jesuits during college and while they were no longer making music (aside from an early 2000's reunion album resulting in one of my favorite new liturgical songs- "O Beauty, Ever Ancient"), I was still a little star struck by Fr. Roc O'Connor. Fortunately, Fr. Roc oozes humility and hospitality and joviality, so it wasn't long before he was just another priest, and the lead clergy in our weekly Eucharistic Adoration nights. Every once in a while, his musical prowess would make an appearance, reminding me of the mark he'd left on liturgy. Each week, a different student would take point on the Adoration programming, noting the daily readings, selecting music that fit the Scriptures, and preparing a short reflection for the other students in attendance. One week I led, I selected "Lift Up Your Hearts" for our opening song. While sometimes music was selected for relevant lyrics, other times I was just seeking a familiar well-known song that would promote participation. This week, it was just a familiar, faithful standard and one I didn't give a second thought to until Fr. Roc, with his 12-string guitar, started enthusiastically jamming out with accompaniment. #facepalm Of course I realized after the fact that he had written the song, and of course he would play it with gusto. 

Another memorable night found the Adoration planning team gathered in a Jesuit lounge in the Admin building. Not the "upper room" lounge, reserved for very special occasions and those with high connections (I claim at least two such VIP nights, ending in access to the coveted rooftop), but still a much cozier atmosphere than a classroom or the library. We held these planning nights once or twice a semester, but this night we hosted a very special guest, Fr. Roc's fellow St. Louis Jesuit, Fr. Bob Dufford. "Duff", as Fr. Roc called him, put us quickly at ease with a witty sense of humor and ready smile. He told us the story of writing "Be Not Afraid", arguably one of the most beloved, relevant, and masterful liturgical songs of our generation. But it didn't start out that way. He had written a first draft and felt like he had a real winner on his hands, so he eagerly shared it with the others. After he finished, they (he probably told us which Jesuit specifically and I've forgotten) jumped in with criticism. Each of the lyrical lines we know so well today have been edited from the original version. 

You shall cross the desert, but you shall not die of thirst

You shall wander far, though you do not know the way

(Taking artistic license as I don't recall the exact words but) The lyrics and cadence of the melody had put all the emphasis on the "You". And the St. Louis Jesuits wanted the emphasis on the despair of the circumstances and the journey, ultimately on God, not on the person who was faltering. By adding a couple key words and modifying the syllable structure of each line, the song went from mediocre to pure genius. As a songwriter, I remember this lesson so vividly and treasure that we got to hear this story straight from Duff's mouth. 

One fall semester, I found myself on an adventure retreat on the Western slopes of Colorado with a few members of the Candlelight Mass choir. The second night of our trip, they were planning music for our outdoor mass and wanted to incorporate the majestic beauty of the mountains surrounding our campsite. "Though the Mountains May Fall" seemed an excellent choice but none of them could remember the words of the verses. I could, because all the good ones are Schutte, which meant I was suddenly an honorary choir member for the night. Less vocally gifted to be sure, but lyrically confident. 

I doubt I'll come across many outside my family and a couple other Creighton Adoration alumni who feel such a continued connection to the St. Louis Jesuits and the music that changed an entire generation, but I am blessed by these memories and by the songs. 

I reserve the right to make this blog as worthless to read as I feel like, and also to write as infrequently as I deem necessary. Just thought I'd let you know since I finally decided to share my blog.