Sunday, July 31, 2011

I've Said It Before

One of the best things you can do for your WYD preparations is to take care of yourself.

I woke at about 5:45 am this morning. Well before I needed to be up. I woke with a terrible headache and was quite warm (didn't turn my ceiling fan on last night and I have grown accustomed to that - thanks Dad for installing that this past spring!).

Instead of wallowing in my misery, I pulled myself together, rolled out of bed and got moving. Since it was still dark enough I didn't want to walk my dog, I headed to the kitchen. I emptied the dishwasher (second least favorite chore), made a cup of coffee, and did one or two other things while the Excedrin kicked in. Then it was out with Grace, my jungle dog.

When I came back in, with a tidy kitchen in view that matched the fairly tidy living room, I thought this was a perfect opportunity to spend time in prayer. It also gave me more than enough time to reorganize my prayer things at my favorite spot. (Can you tell I'm a Type A?) After some time in Romans, journaling, and spending some time reading from a book, I'm ready for my day.

This morning's prayer time was great. No revelations, definitely no burning bush (would have scared Jungle Dog), but rather the quiet peaceful time being with God.

I get to continue my day with some of my favorite things. I'm heading out soon to take a friend's daughter to Greenfield Village for the morning and early afternoon where we shall enjoy a tea (fantastic thing to do as a treat). Then I hope to convince her to stop at the craft store so I can buy some lace (I want to make something). Once I drop her off at home I will return home myself where I shall make two more skirts and several fabric watch bands. Very Suzy Homemaker, yes, but it is nice to make something tangible and the skirts will be worn in just over a week on the WYD trip (one to travel in and the other will be for in Rome).

It is so important to get your rest, take care of yourself, and even pamper yourself prior to WYD. While I don't have family in the area, make sure if you are married, have kids, or are near family to spend time with them. I get to do that as my brother will be flying in on Tuesday so I am working like mad so I may take the latter part of this week off to enjoy time with him.

Take care. Literally.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Peace, Joy, Chaos

It is probably a toss up whether Matthew 11.28-30 or Hebrews 11.1 wins the favorite scripture verse for me. Usually depends on my mood.

However, in the lens of my normal state of being and, in particular, WYD, Matthew 11.28-30 wins today.

"Come to me all who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."

We stand in a tumultuous time - tragedies of great and small proportions daily make the news; financial woes haunt countries and individuals; fear of others and violence simultaneously immobilize some while leading others to those very acts of violence.

The need for the gentle burden, the rest, that Jesus offers is so very necessary. One translation states: "you will find rest for your souls." That is a rest that goes far beyond a good night's sleep (something that is getting more difficult as the countdown to WYD proceeds).

What I look forward to at WYD is the opportunity to feel this promise. No where and at no time, will I be more physically exhausted than the week spent in Madrid. I know that the heat and sun will drain and dry me physically and strain my mental patience and processes. However, I also know that there are other, far more powerful forces at play than the sun, heat, and wind.

I will never forget the nearly tangible feel of Tor Vergata (Rome WYD in 2000). You could practically feel the communal joy, energy, and hope of the young people in that field. You could also, almost touch the Holy Spirit. Despite frogs, heat, dehydration, exhaustion, and a new found distaste for that Italian version of Spam, it was one of the most wonderful experiences. There, in that packed, frog infested field, I found rest. God showed me that being peaceful has nothing to do with your surroundings, that being given a great mission does not mean an equally great burden.

This is one of the many reason why I go through the exhaustion, chaos, fears, and doubts to lead a group to WYD. Maybe, just maybe, the individuals in my group will experience a similar moment. Maybe, just maybe, they will be given the grace they need to face the particular challenges they will return home to face. Maybe, just maybe, they too will find rest for their souls.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Packing List

I give out a packing list to the group that is pretty comprehensive. I will skip the hopefully obvious items (clothing, shoes, shampoo, etc.). Here are some of the items you may not have thought of (or may be forgetting in your busy preparations):

  • Travel Toilet Paper - Charmin To Go is one brand and camping stores will have their own. This is something that if you need it, you need it. We really made use of it in Germany and didn't touch it in Australia - all depends on how well organized that aspect of WYD is.

  • Dollar Store Poncho(s) - it doesn't seem like we will need them, but these are great because they are $1 for 2. That way you can toss them out instead of having to dry it off and then attempt to fold it back up in your backpack or luggage.

  • Plastic Bags of Various Sizes and Types - quart and gallon sized Ziploc bags are great for containing small items in your bags and keeping wet items from making your entire luggage or backpack contents damp. I always have at least one large garbage bag that can contain my backpack, sleeping bag, and shoes at the vigil. If it starts to rain, I toss it all in there, tie it up and make use of my poncho. Thereby keeping my backpack dry for the hike home and my sleeping bag dry for my attempts at rest.

  • Duct Tape - your best friend. I have used this to keep a tray table on the airplane from constantly falling, repair a friend's sandal, seal a garbage bag before we were drenched in Toronto, and countless other small tasks. They sell smaller, slimmer rolls that are made expressly for travel. This goes everywhere with me.

  • Lip Balm with SPF 15 or Higher - lip gloss is useless, and you want SPF 15 or higher because sunburned lips are simply a cruel experience.

  • Watch - most teens and young adults rely on their cell phones to know the time. However, most US pilgrims will not have their cell phones (due to roaming costs) so make sure your pilgrims have wrist watches. I swear by fabric bands due to the heat.

  • Hundreds of Band-Aids - this is one for you group leaders. I took 200 band-aids to Cologne and came home with 7. Seriously. Between blisters, small cuts, tripping leading to scrapes and so forth, bandages get used quite a bit. Due to the heat, sweat, and dirt, they need to be changed frequently. Make sure to have antibacterial cream too.

  • One clean outfit packed separately (in a Ziploc or vacuum bag) that is your outfit for flying home. After the sweat and dirt of the overnight vigil and the general state of disarray all your other clothing will be in, having one clean outfit to fly home in will be appreciated by your seatmates.

For those in the U.S., don't forget that basilicas and churches in Europe frequently have dress codes. We are heading to Rome first, so we need to be prepared for the no shorts and no bare shoulders rules. Do you homework on that front.

These are just a few of the packing list items, but the rest are fairly obvious. Let me know if you'd like the complete list.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Planning for Post-WYD

Here's something - what's your plan for the first few days to two weeks after WYD?

I have been to 4 WYDs. I have come home sick from each. Ranging from a head cold to the condition I fondly referred to as the deadly, oozing plague of death, each WYD holds a special set of germs just for me.

Now that I know to anticipate the aftereffects of low levels of sleep, high levels of chaos (read stress), huge crowds with their variety of germs, and the reality of not always having the cleanest hands when you sit down to eat your picnic lunch/dinner.

First off, there's the preparations for the trip. First: hydrate. In general, hydration is good no matter what. Second, I pack antibacterial hand wipes and hand sanitizer gel. The wipes get rid of the dirt and will sanitize while you can use the gel if your hands are free of dirt. Third, I pack a few cold and allergy remedies. After once causing my high school English teacher to fear she would have to find the hospital nearest to Heathrow as my sinus headache turned into a near explosion during landing, I now make sure to have sinus medications for myself and the group if needed. I pack some Day-Quill like cold remedy, non-drowsy allergy medicine, and Pepto Bismal. These will general do well for a stop gap measure until you get home.

Second, there's the post trip planning. I know that the phrase "Death Warmed Over" is a generous description for my state of being for the first 48 hours after returning home. I tend to be somewhere closer to "Death Warmed Over twice in the microwave and then left on the counter for two days" state of being. Thus, I plan accordingly.

I make sure that all big projects, small projects, routine tasks, anything at all that might be due in the first two work weeks after I return is completed. Yes, this is a huge headache, but then if I do get horribly ill, I don't have to think about the bulletin articles, email newsletters, or website updates I need to do. I know they are done, pre-scheduled, or delegated out to others. I cannot recommend this highly enough. And should the Heavens smile on you and you maintain perfect health and bounce back from the chaos and jet lag after just a day or two, you are a head of the game and can spend all that extra time telling people how fantastic WYD is.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Of State Agencies

Never is one consoled by back to back emails containing information from two state agencies/departments.

First there was the notice that a world travel advisory was put out by the U.S. State Department. Fabulous.

Second was the CDC's warning about measles in Europe. Fantastic.

More chocolate please! Another coffee!

Seriously, this brings up my advice on prep today. As much as it can annoy some in your group, I am sending nearly daily emails to the group. They contain everything from reminders to begin increasing water intake (best way to prevent dehydration and jet lag is to drink water before hand - even a week or two) to the medical and security updates.

The CDC's notice is a good reminder to make sure you have the medical information for your group. Even the adults traveling, myself included, complete the health history form that we use for teens. It is just a reference point so that we know about vaccinations, major medical conditions (asthma, diabetes, migraines, etc.), and can offer it to medical professionals if needed.

I also highly recommend that you have two emergency contact issues in place.

The first is that you have on one sheet of paper, the emergency contact person for each of your pilgrims with all that contact person's information (work, home and cell phone numbers). This applies to all in your group, including yourself. Give this list to all chaperones, your parish office, and keep one in your hotel room too.

The other is to establish a phone tree. This is useful when you have to communicate everything from something nearly unimaginable to the simple realities of canceled flights. Have the one person at the top that you call with the information. They then call the #2 person. #2 calls #3 and so on. If #2 can't reach #3, then #2 calls #4. Once #4 is reached, they continue to call #3.

I have never had to use either of these contact lists. I don't plan on ever having to use them. But unexpected things happen and it is best to be prepared.

P.S. Here's the CDC's general WYD announcement.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Final WYD Prep

Here we are, 15 days to departure for our group. I know everyone has their own prep work, but here's a few highlights from mine:

  • Double checked my first aid kits - plenty of band-aids, ibuprofen, instant ice packs (good for sore ankles and headaches), etc.

  • Double checked health forms for all adults and youth on your trip. Know what conditions you are dealing with - from migraines to diabetes to clumsiness. Having at least a surface level knowledge in the various conditions will help you know if you need to make certain things a higher priority at particular times (meals, rests, etc.)

  • Finished the book for each pilgrim with reflections, daily itinerary, emergency contact info, etc.

  • Gather all the items I'm giving to each pilgrim - exchange items, fan, water bottle, bandannas, book, etc.

  • Get all currency needed - I need to have currency for our two days of guided tours in Italy so that was taken care of and separated from the rest of the currency. Separate your personal currency from any that is given to cover professional expenses.

  • Put together final meeting information - emergency contact information, final itinerary & flight info, airport carpool lists, extra copies of packing information, etc.

I also am realizing that I need to take care of myself this week. I am enjoying good coffee, making myself eat the fabulous meals I made over the weekend and froze, longer walks with my dog, and some fun things this weekend (taking a friend's daughter to tea at Greenfield Village, amongst other things).

I'll post more as the week goes on. My goal is to be basically set by August 1 as my brother arrives the next day. Then I can just do the few last minute things and get my own things together.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's Here

That time has started. Where my brain cracks from the pre-WYD stress and creates unusual dreams while I get my 32 minutes of sleep each night.

A coworker said the same thing a friend did, that WYD is like giving birth. You have to forget the stress, chaos, agony, worry to allow yourself the absolute joy of going yet again somewhere to the ends of the earth with young people in tow.

All kidding aside, things are heating up. With less than a month until our group departs for our pre-WYD pilgrimage to Rome & Assisi, I'm scrambling to finish all of August's work, September kick-off preparations, and the many publications (bulletin submissions, parish newsletter articles, youth newsletter, parent emails, etc.).

Ultimately, I know all the late night (and bizarre dreams) are more than worth it. WYD is a life changing experience. The previous four I have attended each profoundly affected me and it is an absolute joy to see it affecting those youth and young adults who attend.

One added headache is the 'opus' (as I've dubbed it) that I am working on for the group. I am giving each pilgrim a booklet - so far 100 pages (50 double sided). In it contains the itinerary, emergency information, details on some of the major basilicas in Rome, scripture related to the patrons of those basilicas, quotes from popes and saints, quotes and reflection questions, prayers, daily morning and evening reflections, a chart with all the nations (including South Sudan!) so that they can check off what countries people they meet are from, pages for recording quotes from the trip (always a favorite, often embarrassing as my exhaustion leads me to say odd things), and a few other items. I hope to finish the last three days of reflections tomorrow so that next week I can print, copy, and then take them to be spiral bound.

For now, I get a break from WYD - tonight is our youth group's Sundae Party. Or as I fondly call it the "How did they get every surface in the youth room sticky party."

Friday, July 8, 2011


I love the Sister Act movies. Yes, even the second one. I don't just mean I appreciated them when they came out (the first one was way back in middle school for me). I mean I excitedly change the channel from a favorite TV show if they are on. There's something about the combination of Whoopi and Maggie Smith that is so so delightfully odd that I love it.

In the second film, Whoopi's Sister Mary Clarence has the dubious challenge of teaching the music class. The line she uses on the exuberant youth (much like our teens), is that "If you want to be somebody, you've got to wake up and pay attention."

Conversations are floating on the web about making sure our youth and Church are awake and paying attention. But are we?

Since WYD is going to pull me out of the office for two weeks in August and I'm then taking time off to recover, I'm trying to do all of August's work this month. My to-do list is a pad of paper. I've used more Post-Its to remind me of things than I thought possible. The teen leaders have worked together and set our calendar for this year. There are all the usual programs and a few new things to prepare for those first weeks of September.

With all the busyness to deal with, am I awake? Am I paying attention? Yes, I am well caffeinated and checking off things on that list. But am I awake to the movement of God in my life and the lives of others? Am I paying attention to the people, not just the programming?

It is far too easy to let ourselves become inundated with the work and to lose sight of the people. It is even easier to lose sight of God.

So tomorrow, instead of working on NCYAMA at home all day and adding to the pilgrim booklet I'm making for our group for WYD, I'm going to the zoo and Chick Fil A with a friend and her girls. When I get home, I'm sure I'll settle in at my laptop for a bit, but first, I will remind myself of the joys of friendship and the wonders of God's creation - especially the one month old elephant who apparently is quite the class clown at the Toledo Zoo.