The Rice Fast

February 24, 2010

Image via quinn.anya

My¬† housemates and I are fasting. We’re eating rice every for every meal for nine days straight. Rice at every meal for Nine. Whole. Days. That’s 27 meals. For nine of those meals (dinner each night), we’re having Haitian rice with kidney beans, garlic, and onions. Other than that, we can only eat 3-6 cups of rice a day with seasonings or basic sauces (e.g. not with chunky salsa or meat sauce), and drink any type liquid.

So, to answer your question, yes, we are crazy. Why would we want to put ourselves through the hunger, the same meal every day, and the temptation to eat anything other than rice?

Three reasons: Solidarity. Simplicity. Sacrifice.


Rice is a staple for more than half of the world’s population. Most of the world quite literally lives on rice. It’s cheap, relatively filling, and has become an important part of many cultures across the world. Simply put, rice means life for many people. In this way, we’re attempting to gain some solidarity with much of the world.


Coordinating meals, grocery shopping, and cooking for six people each week is time consuming. Rice is a simple meal, and it doesn’t take much time, effort, or planning to make. Put it in a pot with some water, cook it, add seasoning, and eat. Boom. Done. So, what does that mean for us? Well, we can spend more time on things like prayer, community, and Lenten activities. It’s a way to simplify our lives for the week.


It’s Lent. Lent prepares Christians for Easter and Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for mankind. The forty days of Lent represent the forty days that J.C. spent in the desert fasting where he was tempted by the devil, but held true to G.O.D. So, fasting and sacrifice are big parts of Lent. By sacrificing what we usually eat and resisting the temptation to break the fast, we’re acknowledging and honoring his actions for our sake.

So, we may, in fact, be crazy, but really it’s not much different from what most of the world experiences. Plus, it gives us a chance to simplify, and allows us to pause to honor Jesus. So far, 14 meals in, I’ve been hungry earlier before each meal and feeling “full” is rare, but it hasn’t been a huge deal, especially with these three things in mind. It’s definitely been a challenge, but, like this whole year, it’s been a good challenge and one that allows for great learning and reflection.

For more information on rice and rice fasting check out these websites:

How to do a brown rice fast

Free Rice – A cool website where you can donate rice simply by answering vocabulary questions.

Operation Rice Bowl – Project from Catholic Relief Services

Rocky Bleier and One Damn Good Attitude

February 18, 2010

It seems like my dad’s been giving me news and opinion articles to read since I actually learned how to read. When I was younger, I used to roll my eyes, skim the article, and say, “thanks, Dad,” to feign interest (hey, the Wall Street Journal wasn’t exactly my cup of tea in middle school!). As I got older, however, I began to take these pieces more and more seriously, seeing the value that they provided.

This week, Dad snail-mailed me an issue of Investor’s Business Daily. There was no note, just a few articles checked off for me to read (he’s been e-mailing me articles now a days). Since I had had the last 13 days off from school, I was pretty hungry for something to do, so I sat down and started reading the first article, “Rocky Bleier, A Super Boulder”. Now, at this point, I’m thinking, “who the heck is this Rocky Bleierboa character, and why does he matter to me?”

Well, it turns out that Rocky Bleier is one pretty bad dude (bad in a good way). He was “too small” for college football, but became captain of the football team at Notre Dame. One of the last NFL draftees of 1968, he was a long shot to make a Pittsburgh Steelers team, but made it as a special teams player. Later in 1968, he was drafted to go to Vietnam. After sustaining a wound to the left thigh and severely damaging his right foot in an explosion, doctors told him he would never play football again and that he could kiss his career goodbye.

But the doctors forgot two things: Rocky Bleier is a bad dude (again, bad in a good way) and Rocky Bleier is a damn positive guy, too.

The article reads, “His sunny personality was forged in childhood when he woke up one day and realized it was his choice to be happy, and being optimistic made everything better.” Read that again…

Done? … Okay, now read on.

Instead of becoming a lawyer or an NFL scout, he learned to run on the side of his injured foot, returned to football in 1971, gained the starting fullback job in 1974, blocked for NFL great Franco Harris (a thankless job in many cases), won four Super Bowls (that’s even a lot for this Patriots fan), and continued to be bad (in a good way, of course). The man worked hard, shed doubters and naysayers left and right, and took life head on with the best of attitudes.

Of his mostly blocking, supplementary role on the team, he said, “I wasn’t pouting because I wasn’t getting enough playing time or carrying the ball. I was happy to be there and to be able to contribute.”

Rocky chose his attitude, knew what his goals were, and worked hard to reach them.

(You can (must) read the rest of the article by Michael Mink here: “Rocky Bleier, A Super Boulder”)

The lesson I take from this: keep a positive attitude and be optimistic. Rocky’s right, it is a choice. Be happy with what you have and work hard to attain your goals. We’ve all been there when life is exceedingly difficult (read: it sucks), and we’ve all been there when everything seems to be stacked against you. But who says you can’t grab some optimism, rally, pick yourself up, and, as my dad says, “press on, baby!”

So, today, tomorrow, and every day from here on out, we need to be more positive and keep a better attitude. That and we need to be bad (in a good way) like Mr. Rocky Bleier.

I am from…

February 15, 2010

I’ve written about some of the Community and Spirituality nights in the past (The Perfect Heart comes to mind) and how great they are for community and personal growth. This past week’s Spirituality Night, led by Amanda and Stacey, was no different.

They led off with a meditation centering around self examination regarding our values, regrets, loves, risks, sufferings, influences, achievements, and the people who have made considerable impacts on our lives (read: Mom and Dad).

They ended the meditation with this quote from John Powell, SJ:

“To reveal myself openly and honestly takes the rawest kind of courage”

With our meditation and this quote in mind, they asked us each to write a poem with each line beginning with “I am from…” to share with the community.

Here’s what I wrote:

I am from unconditional love.

I am from Holden, Massachusetts.

I am from a mother’s sacrifice, a father’s hard work, and both of their love and care.

I am from a brother’s trust and good spirits.

I am from family stepping up for me when I didn’t know the difference.

I am from Chaffins Elementary and Mountview Middle.

I am from countless homework assignments, tests, recesses, and teachers who cared.

I am from support, encouragement, and acceptance.

I am from smelly locker rooms, dusty dugouts, somewhat-grassy fields, summer camps, and stuffy gyms.

I am from great opportunity, luck, and “putting the nose to the grind stone”.

I am from oldies in the car, summer buzz-cuts, backyard football, and dodging support posts during basement hockey.

I am from family struggle and great family harmony.

I am from freshly cut grass, dirty knees, and hot chocolate after sledding.

I am from big smiles, big hugs, and even bigger smiles.

I am from reading, watching, hearing, and experiencing.

I am from laying in bed late at night, not sleeping, and simply thinking.

I am from the people around me.

I am from camaraderie, brotherhood, Poker Nights, and being a St. John’s young man.

I am from Call of Duty with Lionshead, 2 hour college dinners, and Nova Nation.

I am from missed opportunities, mistakes, and regrets.

I am from teamwork, picking up the pieces and pressing onward.

I am from JVC, Baltimore, Arrupe House, and Cristo Rey Jesuit.

I am from wanting better and wanting more.

I am from standing on the shoulders of giants.

I am from unconditional love.

Where are you from?


February 7, 2010

So, we got snow this weekend. It started on Friday at 11am and didn’t stop until about 4pm on Saturday, which was actually 6 hours earlier than what meteorologists had called for. In the end, we only received about 2 feet (they were calling for as much as 30 inches. THIRTY!). Even for my hearty New England standards, this is a ton of snow.

Seriously, people were running through the streets yelling, “Snowpocalypse! Snowmageddon! SnOwMG! Snowly Moly! Snowtorious BIG! Snowva Nation! Stay in your igloos… err… homes!”

Well, I may have been the only one yelling, “Snowva Nation!” but I was really excited about the Villanova-Georgetown game (THAT one ended well- NOT).

…OK, so nobody was actually yelling anything, but you get the point: people were not taking this storm lightly.

I spent most of the early afternoon today (Sunday) shoveling my car in preparation for work tomorrow, but it turns out Baltimore City has already canceled school! I’m definitely not in Massachusetts anymore!

Anyway, here’s a few pictures from when the storm died down (click to make them bigger):

8 Things I’ve Learned This Year

February 1, 2010

I know I’m a teacher this year, but I am constantly trying to be a student of life. So, inspired by Emily Jasper‘s post, “Lessons I’m Learning From Being an Adviser and Teacher”, I’ve decided to share some things that I’ve learned (or learned to do better) this year working at a school and being a Jesuit Volunteer.

1). PATIENCE. To work with kids, you must be patient. Not everything goes to plan and it’s so important to realize that high school students… are high school students.

2). Trust. Great relationships don’t just happen over night. They must be built and nurtured to create a sense of trust between both parties.

3). Community isn’t easy. People have different views, expectations, passions, and habits. It’s so important to be accepting of each other and to be aware of these things. Concessions, sacrifice, and awareness are integral parts to any community and it’s something I’m constantly working on!

4). Eating vegetarian (most of the time) isn’t so bad after all. Seriously, I eat healthier in better quantities and have been able to expand my food repertoire considerably this year.

5). Teaching is hard. Holding the attention of a high schooler for 50 straight minutes is no easy task and you must be ready for anything. The teacher’s I work with are so dedicated and caring. They set the tone and are great leaders and people. I’ve learned that teaching is not for me, but that it is a job that people don’t appreciate nearly enough. This being said…

6). I love the one on one and small group interactions I have with students. It’s the highlight of my day when I tutor or get to work with students individually. I’ve also been able to create a level of trust with many of my students and hope that they get as much out of our conversations as I get from them!

7). The saddest thing in life is wasted talent, and the choices that you make will shape your life forever. – A Bronx Tale. So true. And especially true for my students.

8). Blogging is incredibly fun.