Monday, December 29, 2008

this photo ...

The final group
Originally uploaded by justinw
... is now up with the family photos at my mom's house. I was beyond delighted to see it up there! I guess since I am on my way to being the last one of my generation to get married and/or have kids, this is a good way for me not to look lonely among all the spouse & children photos ;) Now I want to bring all my friends home to meet my mom! Though we wouldn't all fit in my mom's house ;)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I heard the bells ...

In lieu of an actual post, here are the words to a Christmas song that I just noticed for the first time this year. I am particularly moved by the last two verses. Enjoy!

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Friday, November 7, 2008

running update

Thanks for the encouraging words many of you shared after the last post ...

Five days before the race I caught a cold at work.  Remembering last winter's killer cold I stayed home on Wednesday (well, after pushing pushing pushing through Tuesday) just to rest up and prevent things from becoming bad.  Then I lived normal life - running myself ragged with work and household and YA group and whatever else came my way - both Thursday and Friday.  Saturday morning at 3:00 and 4:00 and 5:00 I woke and worried, half-awake, that I wouldn't be able to run the race, and wondered whether I even ought to try.

But of course I tried anyway.

I ran the 5K (about 3 miles) and came in with a time around 37 minutes.  I don't know the exact numbers because they don't have the results posted online, but whatever.  I did not come in last.  Hooray!  I think I did come in last in my age group (translation: all the women around my age ran faster than I did).  I also am pretty sure that I did NOT beat my 10K pace.  But, whatever, I was sick.  I am not super-excited about my results but at least I got rid of the burning "I have to do another race" feeling.

This past week, though, I watched the movie "Spirit of the Marathon," a documentary about six people (two pros, four amateurs) running the Chicago marathon.  Man, I was wiping away tears at the end, watching them cross the finish line ... 

I have very small goals right now.  I plan to run once a week through the winter and I hope to improve my 5K time.  (I want to feel good about my 5K before going back to the 10K).  Looking at this year's Sunburst results, it looks like I could put myself in the top 50% of the women's 5K if I could run it in 32 minutes.  It will be hard but I think I can do it.  If I work hard at it all winter.

This year, improve my 5K.  Then maybe another year and I will run a respectable 10K time.  Maybe then a half-marathon.  (Or maybe not.)  Maybe someday a marathon.  (Or maybe not.)  As much as I hate running - I really do sometimes - maybe even most of the time - there's really something intoxicating about simply doing something hard.  Or maybe it's the measurement that attracts me - I have no concrete way to tell if I am improving at social work or household or friendship or prayer or anything else I strive for - but with running it is there in minutes and seconds for me to see, that I am improving, and that I can improve even more.  It feels almost indulgent to carve out a part of my life for it, but I think it's a gift from the Lord - I think he sits back and smiles to see us all running around and using the amazing bodies he gave us.

So anyway, that's the end of the racing season for now.  I'll try to post now and then about training during the winter, but as for races - I'll see you there in the spring ...

Monday, October 27, 2008

zeal (running the race)

This post is all about running, and all about the Kingdom.

I wasn't exactly looking forward to the Fall Frolic - mostly looking forward to it being over. Training is hard. It takes a lot of time, and it doesn't always - scratch that, it doesn't very often at all - feel very good. I don't have a lot of experience with the "runner's high" yet. Not sure if I think it exists. So even though I've had some good training moments in the past few months - discovered that if I only ran a mile I could do so in ten minutes, wow! - overall I was tired of dragging myself out to the Riverside trail to buffet my body two or three times a week.

But race day is always fun, and the morning of the Fall Frolic was bright and crisp, and I was surrounded by friends. Until the gun went off to start the race. Then my friends sped ahead - they're really good runners - and I ambled along like a turtle with some other slow runners. OK, not a turtle, but kinda slow. Slow is OK right?

Slow is OK until everyone passes you. I mean everyone. By mile two, I had lost sight of all my fellow runners. I could hear the bicyclist about ten feet behind me, bringing up the rear of the 10K crowd, making sure no one got lost or collapsed. Finally I turned around and jogged backwards and asked him if he could just come up and bike parallel with me so at least I would have someone to talk to. Thank God for this guy, I mean literally, what a blessing he was to me. He humored me and kept talking for the next four miles, talking about his work, his family, the book that he wrote, Notre Dame sports, anything. I don't know if I could have finished the race without him.

So I did finish. Peter and Sarah and Daniel and Bridget all walked back from the finish line to run me in, and I finished at 1:15 or so - ten minutes faster than I'd run a 10K before!!! But still in last place. Then we hung out waiting for the awards to be passed out. Almost every one of my friends won a medal. Because they are great runners! And I was truly happy for them, but at the same time truly very sad to be so far behind them in skill, and to work so hard and improve so much and then still be so embarrassingly far behind everyone else in the whole race. Gosh, writing about it, I am still sad. Getting over it, but sad.

So anyway, prior to race day, I'd decided the Fall Frolic would definitely be the last race of the year for me. I was sick and tired of training. I just wanted to take my life back and wait until spring to run again. But ... I couldn't end the year with a race like this one. I couldn't just come in last and leave it at that.

So I'm back in training again. Granted, only for a short while - the next race is this weekend, only two weeks after the Frolic - and to be honest, my chances of coming in "not-last" are no better in this race. Probably worse, actually, because it's a very small run. But I just have to do it. It's a determination I haven't really felt before. I can't quit now, I have to keep trying to get better.

So here's the important part of this story. This weekend on the PoP women's retreat, we talked about zeal, and having zeal for building the Kingdom, and 1 Corinthians 9:24 was cited frequently - here it is in the Message translation:

"You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally. I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I'm staying alert and in top condition. I'm not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself."

I joked throughout the weekend that it's not true that only one wins - it's actually several in each age category. Hahaha. But here's the thing - because I came in last (really really last) in the Fall Frolic, and because of this Scripture during the retreat, I understand now what "zeal" means. I didn't understand before, because I didn't have zeal when I was just discovering my own (minimal) ability to run, and thanking God for my body working, and enjoying doing something healthy, etc. That was all really good. But I never had this attitude of I am going to do better at this if it kills me. I am NOT satisfied being last and once I come in not-last, I will only be a little bit satisfied, because I -

(fingers frozen while I wonder if I am actually going to commit this to words)

- I am not really going to be satisfied until I win a medal. Which will probably be at least a couple years from now, and that's probably optimistic. But I am not hitting backspace right now, and the goal is out there for all of you to see, I will win a medal someday.

So what about the Kingdom?

If zeal for running causes me to set a foolish goal like winning a medal then I am almost afraid to see where zeal for Christ could take me. (Where it could take us. As a community.) But it's an exhilarating thought. I'm building the Kingdom at a pretty comfortable pace right now. What would it be like to build the Kingdom until it started to hurt? Until I couldn't breathe anymore? Until I started to feel dizzy? What would it be like to build the Kingdom until I was exhausted and then just keep going? What medals are out there to be won for the Kingdom? And what kind of training do I need to do to win them? A day or two after the Frolic I went to the library to get books on running and I pored over them, searching for ways to do better. Do I read Scripture like that - hungry for guidance, eager to follow what it says, anxious to get there and do it and see the results?

Psalm 69:9. "Zeal for your house consumes me."

Come, Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

a fact and a promise

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." - Mt. 10:39

Recently I was asked to leave my women's group and area, to head up a new women's group in a different area. For a few days after being asked, I couldn't even think about it. My women's group means the world to me - every Monday night I am so eager to hear what's been going on with them - the ups and downs of family life, the ideas they've been pondering, what they think about the latest community event, what they think about the world. Women's group discussions have shaped how I perceive and experience the community. We frequently have to tear ourselves away from the conversation at the end of the night. Between Mondays I jump at any opportunity to spend time with them and share in their lives, whether it's dinner with their family, or giving one of their kids a ride to an activity, or seeing them at a concert. I would venture to say my women's group is the biggest part of how I live community, the deepest and richest connection I have to the branch. So how could I leave it?

Last weekend I finally took a deep breath and sat down to discuss this issue with the Lord. And I couldn't help but start crying. "Lord," I asked, "why do you want me to lose everything?" And the Lord replied, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

The notes in my Bible explain Mt. 10:39 like this: "One who denies Jesus in order to save one's earthly life will be condemned to everlasting destruction; loss of earthly life for Jesus' sake will be rewarded by everlasting life in the kingdom."

Well, I don't really think this verse is just about heaven and salvation and martyrdom. I think it's also about life on earth, life in the here-and-now Kingdom of God.

The first part is a fact. Whoever finds his life will lose it. Do you know anyone who has achieved his or her perfect life and just stayed there forever? I don't. You find your life - you find blessings, you get settled, you are satisfied with what the Lord has given you - and then something changes. It always will. Maybe you have to change jobs, or move to a new city. Maybe a loved one passes away. Maybe you get sick. The point is, every time you find your life, you will eventually lose it.

But here's the promise. If you lose it for the Lord's sake, you will find it again. If you see an opportunity to serve or glorify the Lord in some way, and to do so means losing your life ... well, you were going to lose your life at some point anyway. But losing it for the Lord's sake will inevitably cause you to find it, because serving the Lord always brings life.

So I had found my life. Quite a life it was, with five wonderful women that I love dearly, in an area that I loved so much too. But I would have to lose it sometime, and this is an opportunity to serve the Lord, so I'm going to do it.

Disclaimer: all this is not to say that my new women's group and area are anything to be sad about. This will be at least my tenth time changing women's group and the third area I will have lived in (plus campus division), and each new situation has had great blessings, and I am looking forward to it! The girls I'll be in WG with now are DELIGHTFUL and I can't wait to get to know them better - can't wait to get to know the others in the area either. So all the sadness I had to work through was certainly not because of what I was going to - it was just because of what I was losing.

And I'm still sad to lose my WG and my area. But the clarity with which the Lord responded to my sadness brought it home for me very concretely that He is with me, and that it's His adventure that I am choosing. And I know that in this adventure I will find my life. Alleluia!

Friday, August 15, 2008

somewhere out there

Out late tonight taking care of things, I saw the nearly-full moon and wondered who else of my friends and family might be seeing the same thing ...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

off the trail

I have never thought of myself as much of a rule-breaker. But sometimes it's just irresistible ... The day after the race, we went to visit Munising Falls. They're very pretty! We stood on the platform at the end of the trail, took some nice photos of the falls, read the signs about "don't leave the trail, falling rock, erosion, blah blah blah", and then we hopped the fence and walked over to the falls. Let me tell you, it's a much cooler experience standing underneath the waterfall than looking at it from the platform. Standing on the platform, I was an observer of nature; standing underneath the falls I was part of nature.

We had a little more off-trail fun on our way back from the falls - there was a terrific mossy ledge on the side of a hill that was just begging to be the background for some group photos. Over the fence we went again. This was one of those moments when it was crucial to have friends around - friends who are better at climbing up mossy hillsides off the side of the trail - I may have chickened out if they hadn't been there to show me the right footholds and lend me a hand to grab onto.

We spent the entire next day at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. One of the highlights was Miner's Castle, a sandstone formation that used to have two castle-esque turrets - now it has just one - but it is still a gorgeous sight to see, perched on the edge of Lake Superior. After the Castle we hiked around to Miner's Falls, which was even prettier than Munising Falls. What a pity that the viewing platform was at the top of a steep rocky-looking hill and we couldn't possibly climb over ... then I saw someone climb over. I can't remember who went first. Even after the first person went, I hesitated - it just didn't look do-able - but after a few moments I knew I would regret it if I didn't climb down.

The climb didn't turn out to be too bad, and it could have been ten times worse and still worth it. [Sheila pauses for several moments trying to figure out how to describe the Miner's Falls experience to her readers. A picture is worth a thousand words, so she gives up and just uploads a couple more photos.]
Later at another waterfall I decided I could not possibly follow my friends across the rushing stream since they crossed on a fallen log that looked really unsteady. Then I climbed down the bank and crossed on the unsteady log and had a great time at the top of the waterfall. Overall, some of the best moments of this trip happened off the trail. And if I hadn't been there with my adventurous friends I wouldn't have had nearly so much fun. Thanks, guys.

Friday, August 1, 2008

on the trail

Our vacation to the Munising, on the shores of Lake Superior, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, was so wonderful I barely know how to tell you about it - but I'll try. Here's part 1:

The inspiration for the trip was the Grand Island Trail Run. Justin, Kyle, Pete, & Pete ran the marathon and the rest of us spent the weekend in awe of the fact that those guys really ran 26.2 miles. Sarah H. and I ran a measly 6.2 miles. I am proud to say I came in 158th out of 170, but the more significant fact is that I had a GREAT time running it. I came into the weekend confident in my decision not to run any more 10Ks after this one: training had been difficult, the Sunburst was awful, it just seemed like 5Ks were probably more my thing. But then I ran the Grand Island 10K. I felt great, the weather was wonderful, I listened to some excellent music along the way ... two highlights of the actual run:

1. At one point my running synced up with my music perfectly so that the inspiring song I was listening to came to a powerful crescendo just as I ran out from under a canopy of trees into a bright golden clearing filled with wildflowers. Gee whiz, was that beautiful.

2. One of the songs on my "running" playlist was "Whatever It Is" by Ben Lee - check out the lyrics here - this song is important to me as a runner for two particular phrases: "Are you changing/Do you know it, do you feel it" and "Awake is the new sleep/so wake up/wake up". It was awesome to be running through the woods on this gorgeous island remembering all the changes that brought me there, and feeling how awake my body was - that's what I've experienced as I've become a soccer player and a runner: that my body woke up to an entirely new part of life. I was so grateful to be doing what I was doing.

So now that I have had one awesome 10K, I am pretty sure I am going to keep doing 10Ks. One reason is that I felt pretty good after this race, barely sore at all. That actually makes me want to run faster and/or farther because the way my legs felt after the first time I ever ran 6 miles, in training, was the most beautiful pain I've ever felt, like my legs were screaming yes! We're growing! Keep doing this! So if I feel fine after a run that probably means I haven't worked hard enough ;) So now I am eager to run the Salmon Chase and the Fall Frolic (we discussed possibly frolicking that whole race, like skipping or jumping rope for 6 miles) to see how much faster I can go. If I really can go faster, which - well, we'll see how it goes. And maybe in the future I will run even farther than 6 miles ...

One last delight of the running experience this weekend was that we managed to convince Christine (one of the Minnesota gals who came camping) that she should begin running too. All she had to do was tentatively express an interest and that was it - we spent the rest of the weekend talking to her about it. I told her all my "didn't think I could do it but by the grace of God I could" stories and took her for a mile(ish) run around the campground Monday morning. It's like a cult or something ;)

Stay tuned for more chapters of our UP vacation stories ...

(ps how do you like my random bolding?)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

a short story of household and neighborliness

Last night was my night to cook. I whipped up a quick frittata with whatever leftovers I could find, made a small salad with our home-grown zucchini and tomatoes, and pulled out some bread. Just a simple weeknight dinner during a very busy week. A few minutes before 6:00, my household and I were about to sit down to eat when the doorbell rang. Our next-door neighbor, who is suffering from Alzheimer's, and her husband walked in and thanked us for inviting them over to dinner ...

... which we hadn't. Of course we've had them over many times before, so it wasn't a strange idea, it's just that we've all been on vacation and this was the first dinner our household has had together in a month. So we were pretty sure we hadn't invited anyone over.

But the Lord provides! We quickly masked any surprise and Anne B. accompanied me to the kitchen where I fried up some potatoes and broke out the pre-made cookie dough we miraculously had in the fridge, and Anne sauteed some squash and added more lettuce to the salad. We set two extra places without anyone noticing, then brought everyone in to the dining room for a lovely meal.

It may not have been the feeding of the five thousand, but it was clear that the Lord provides. I was so thankful for what we, as a household, are able to do and to be for these neighbors. What other Alzheimer's patient could show up unexpectedly for a dinner she "remembered" being invited to and be welcomed like this? I wouldn't fault anyone for gently saying, "I'm sorry, dear, we hadn't planned on having you tonight. Maybe we can plan this for another time." But because we work smoothly as a household - able to expand a meal at a moment's notice, without stress - and because we share the desire to be Christ to our next-door neighbors and to love them the best that we can - we were really able to be a blessing to them, and to be blessed by their presence.

Praise God.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Just a few words about camping up at Warren Dunes. The days on the beach were nice - lounging around, reading, swimming, sleeping, eating "sand"wiches - but it was the mornings and evenings I liked best. Morning: waking to sunlight, getting up slowly, eating eggs cooked on the campfire, lazily getting ready for the beach. Also, our last morning there a couple of us went for an early morning swim, and it was so delightful to float around without tons of other people there. Evening: dinner at the picnic table, then off to enjoy the beauty of the earth. Friday night we climbed what I affectionately call the "dune of death" and watched fireworks miles away all around us. We could even see way across the lake to Chicago. Amazing. And Saturday night, after an improvised Lord's Day (nine people around the campfire trying to remember all the LD prayers), we sat on the beach and watched the sunset. Overall, a wonderful weekend with wonderful friends.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

stream of life

TJ posted an awesome video on his blog the other day, and the gorgeous song from the video has been in my head since I heard it. It's called "Praan," by Garry Schyman, and it's based on a Bengali poem:
Stream of Life
by Rabindranath Tagore

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass
and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth
and of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

The song is beautiful even without translation, but I like it even more after reading this poem. These words remind me of how I feel about water ... just this weekend while camping up at Warren Dunes (for the Pennsylvanians reading this, that's a beach and state park on Lake Michigan) I was telling Beka about why I love being in the water. I told her, it sounds kind of new-agey, but I feel like it brings some kind of balance or peace to me to be in the lake or the ocean, to have the water in my body rock in the same rhythm with the waves rocking over the earth . I know, I know, it sounds like I'm about to start talking about the Earth Mother or something, but really, the Lord created a beautiful world, and he created it for us to enjoy. This is how I most enjoy it.

Monday, July 7, 2008

one week in Shreveport

So after my adventures getting to Shreveport, I spent a week there working and sweating and having fun. Some highlights ...

... I stayed with Mary C., a member of the Shreveport branch, who was so incredible welcoming. I felt bad that I didn't have more time to hang out and chat with her but we did a lot of chatting during the 20 or so waking minutes I spent with her at the beginning and end of each workday.

... the first night I got there we did some missionary work - visiting nursing homes in Shreveport. We split up to different places and I went to Harmony House. Most, but not all, of the people there are mentally ill in one way or another. I've seen enough mental illness not to be fazed by it, at least not much, but the high-schoolers that I was with were a little freaked out by the lady who proclaimed that she was Jesus. After that incident (five minutes into the trip), the big group of us split up into pairs and trios to knock on doors and pray with people. My little group was especially touched by two elderly people who prayed over us. Another memory I personally took away from the evening is of one particular guy whose door I felt moved to knock on - it was partially open and when I glanced in as we walked down the hallway, I saw him curled up on his bed just looking so lonely. "My heart went out to him" is such a cliche but that's the only way to say it. We went in and asked him if he wanted prayers for anything; he tried to talk a little but we couldn't understand anything he said so we just prayed the best we could.

... during the days I did a lot of throwing cement. (Or was it concrete? What is the difference? This was a major topic of discussion during the week.) The PoP business in Shreveport - Windows, Doors, & More - AKA WDMO, pronounced "Widmo" - needed to get ride of some cement in the back of their property. They got it broken up and then sent a lot of us over there during the week to pick up these big old chunks of cement and throw them into the truck to be taken to the dump. One afternoon we actually loaded the truck up with so much cement that it became un-drivable and someone had to unload some of that cement the next day. Sad but also super-cool that we worked that hard! Throwing cement was really hard work. Which is exactly what I'm looking for when I'm in Allendale. Lots of sweat and sore muscles = major satisfaction.

... some of the work down there did not involve major sweat and sore muscles, and was much less satisfying, at least for me. I spent two mornings working with camp. I'm not naturally a camp person and it was really hard. The girls didn't always pay attention or follow directions, and in some situations that was really understandable, especially for the littlest ones (like age 3), but at the same time, no matter how understandable it is, it still means chaos, and what do you do with that? And the other thing was that one morning two of the girls just randomly decided to pick on a third and I just couldn't get them to stop! What a terribly frustrating, helpless feeling. I ended up spending quite a while sitting with the picked-on girl on a rocking chair away from the other girls, helping her finish her craft, and hopefully helping her feel loved and valued. I came away from the whole camp experience really wanting to get better at working with kids in this type of environment, but unsure how to do that. Since getting back to work I've found out there's a good chance my job description will change drastically within the next few months and I will work with children and not adults. Bring it on.

... other work included digging a drainage ditch underneath one of our houses on Yale (by the way, when digging into Louisiana clay underneath a house, the claw of a hammer is more effective than a shovel), and drilling holes into the seats of the stools the campers made. The first day that I worked on drilling, the drill was not my friend, and I became extremely frustrated. So the next day when I was given a stack of 15 more seats to drill, I said a quick prayer, and had no problems. Praise the Lord :)

... what a great time getting to know the high-schoolers. I was impressed with the girls' openness when we talked about prayer one evening, and the guys' great leadership instincts, and how hard all of them worked.

... but I also hung out a lot with the grownups - Patti and Gerry D., Jack and Haidy B., Susan H., Bruce B. ... they all tended to gather at the same table on the porch of the big house for breakfast and lunch, and that was pretty much my favorite place to eat too. All of these people were super-funny and I had a great time with them.

... I also laughed a lot with Laura, Abby, and Gianna. Thursday night we played the best game of Catch Phrase EVER. And Laura made me laugh pretty much the entire week. One day when I called her old cell phone number, without knowing it was old, I ended up talking to her mom in Minnesota and was delighted to be able to tell her how much fun her daughters are.

... Friday night Nathan talked about friendship - friendship with purpose, lifelong friendship, etc. - and I've been thinking about friendship ever since. More thoughts on this later.

... I was happy to learn that the 17-hour drive from Shreveport to South Bend is a lot easier when you have a relief driver! And more fun too. I got to know Susan H. a lot better and she taught me some songs - a great way to keep both of us awake and entertained.

I would tell you more but this blog post is already awfully long, and also I'm blogging on my lunch break which is almost over and I haven't had time to eat. Please excuse me if anything above doesn't make sense, because I don't have time to read through it again either ;)

The end.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

south bend to shreveport

The first part of my trip to Shreveport, LA was ... the actual trip. To save Action Division $150 or so, I decided to take an Amtrak train rather than fly. I'd done it before - it's long, but do-able. My train was set to leave Chicago at 1:45, so I decided to take the 11:40 South Shore from South Bend to Chicago, leaving me "plenty of time" - 45 minutes - to get from the South Shore station to the Amtrak station and onto my train.

But then the South Shore was late.

I've never had trouble with the South Shore before so I didn't plan for any delays. But as 11:40 became 11:45, then 11:50, and the train wasn't there yet - when it became 12:05 and we were just leaving - I started to realize I was in trouble. I spent the entire South Shore ride panicking, and calling Amtrak to see if there was any other train I could take to Shreveport, and calling Anne B. for help ... in the end, 1:45 came before I even got off the South Shore, and when I finally did reach Chicago, I just hauled my luggage out to the sidewalk and sat down on some steps, because I had no place to go. The next train to Shreveport would be a full day later. It was a pretty weird feeling, surrounded by hundreds of people I don't know, feeling tiny amongst these tall buildings, and just not knowing what I was going to do next.

But fear not, the Lord and the People of Praise will never leave me alone! Back in South Bend, Anne B. was calling everyone and their brother to figure out who I could stay overnight with in Chicago. And praise God! Megan F. is the daughter of Bill and Elena, good friends of Dan & Anne's, and she's also a fellow ND graduate. We'd met a couple times and she's a really neat girl. Within about fifteen minutes of my arrival in Chicago, Megan called me to tell me how to get to her apartment. Within an hour of my arrival I was settled in at her place, completely taken care of.

I made some calls to inform Action of my status, Patti D. said exactly what I needed to hear at that moment: "Are you SO FRUSTRATED? I wonder what the Lord's plan is in all this."

For the record - I don't think the Lord planned for me to spend 24 hours in Chicago. I think I planned things too tight and didn't leave enough time for unexpected circumstances. But once I reconciled myself to the fact that I was not going to get to Shreveport on time, I took Anne's advice to just enjoy Chicago, and once I made that decision, the Lord just threw delights at me.

Megan was going to be out for the evening so she gave me a spare key and advice on where to get dinner. It was a lovely night in Chicago so I strolled down the road, ate a delicious dinner out in the sunshine while reading a good book, visited a chocolate shop, watched a DVD at Megan's place, got a call from South Bend friends who just wanted to cheer me up, finished the book, and got a solid, lovely night of sleep.

The most precious detail of the evening for me, though, is that for several months I've been wanting to paint my toenails, since it's sandal weather, and up til I left for Shreveport I had been so darn busy that I hadn't had time. That had actually been my marker for myself of how ridiculously busy life had become - that it was late June and I didn't even have my toenails painted. So my unexpected visit to Chicago gave me that time. I stopped by a drugstore after dinner and then while I watched the movie, I painted my toenails a lovely red. Now that I am home, life is very very busy again, but I am so comforted by the fact that my toenails are painted.

The loveliness continued Sunday morning - I got to go to breakfast and Mass with Megan and we had lots of time to chat. She works with the disabled and I work with the homeless and we're both really interested in each other's work and in our different experiences working in the nonprofit world. It was so lovely - Megan was the perfect person to stay with.

Then I got back on the El, and got to the Amtrak station, and got on my train. Hooray!

The story of the actual train ride is much less interesting. I will say that one small downside to my lovely time in Chicago was that with one book finished, I had only one left for the 20-hour train ride, and it only took me three or four hours to finish. Boo! Fortunately while I was in Chicago I picked up a copy of StreetWise and it included a crossword and a Sudoku ... and since I am terrible at Sudoku that kept me busy for a long long time.

The Amtrak train was delayed too, due to the Midwest flooding, but that was OK. It took me to Longview, TX, then a bus took some of us to Shreveport, where due to poor sleep quality on the train, I became incredibly dismayed by the fact that we got dropped off someplace different then I remembered from my other train trip to Shreveport. But Susan H. and Joan P. managed to find me and take me to Allendale ... and that's where I will leave things for now.

Until the next time I find a moment to blog ...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

my keys and what they mean to me

Honda Civic. This is my key to freedom. If I want to, I can at any time take to the open road and drive anywhere on the continent. Usually "anywhere" is home to Pennsylvania or a road trip with friends - but at anytime I could just drive to the coast and hang out on the beach ...

Bike Lock. This is me being environmentally conscious and physically fit. It's also another kind of freedom, cruising through the streets of South Bend, obeying stoplights only when there's someone around ;) It also makes me feel more rooted in this place, getting to know the city better, having more time to notice the houses and businesses and people on my way to and from work.

Choir soundboard. This is competency - getting all the mics set up before Mass, making sure everything is balanced. In reality I just barely know how to work the board - it usually doesn't need much adjusting - but being the one with the key makes me feel like I know what I am doing.

House(hold) key. This is belonging. This is not my house but it is my home, there to keep me warm and safe, and where we live life in common.

Work keys. These have a lot of different meanings for me. Responsibility, when I am unlocking doors to evacuate the family dorm during a fire drill. Authority, when a shelter guest needs my permission and my key to get into the kitchen or someplace. Ownership - this is my place, I know how things work here.

Soccer keys. These almost always give me a sense of gratitude, for being able to have soccer at our second home, the Center, and also a continuing sense of wonder that I am a soccer player. If I have the keys that must mean I am there almost every Sunday night - that's just crazy ;)

Anyone else have keys that have meanings for you?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

just a song i like right now

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby
Temptations lose their power
When Thou art nigh

I need thee, oh, I need thee, every hour I need Thee
I need thee, I need thee, I need Thee every hour

I need Thee every hour in joy or pain
Come quickly and abide or life is in vain
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee, every hour I need Thee
I need Thee, I need Thee, I need Thee every hour
I need Thee, I need Thee, I need Thee every hour

Oh, bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee
Oh, bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee
I need Thee every hour, teach me Thy will
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill

I need Thee, oh, I need Thee
Oh I need Thee every hour
I need Thee, I need Thee, I need Thee every hour
I need Thee, I need Thee, I need Thee every hour

Oh, bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sunburst: the good, the bad, and the funny

Let's start with the bad first, to get it over with.
  • I felt pretty bad (physically) for the entire 10K run and did a ton of walking, which I just didn't want to do. I don't know if it was the heat & humidity, or what, but I just couldn't keep up.
  • This is only my second race but during my first one, last November, Nora ran with me (a great sacrifice for her - she could have gone 50% faster without me!). I didn't have anyone to run with this time, and couldn't even find other friends doing the 10K to stand with at the start time, and that was lonelier than I expected.
  • I also didn't expect how sad it would be to be so far behind the pack. There were 840 people running the 10K but for parts of the race I was around only two or three other people. Makes it feel not so much like a race.
Hm, let's do the funny next.
  • I beat a bunch of my friends to the finish line! Because they ran seven miles farther than I did. ;)
  • This is not funny, it's cool: one of the other 10K runners was a woman with a prosthetic leg. This is the funny part: I had trouble keeping up with her.
And now for the good ... this list is much longer ...
  • Anne made me a sign saying "Go Sheila Go!" with a little picture of a running person on it. She wasn't in town to hold it up during the race, but I thought of it often while I was running :)
  • I got up early-ish to cheer on the marathoners as they hit Mile 2 about a block from my house. I was the only one out at that time of the morning so I stood around for ten minutes clapping by myself, until the last marathoner went by. I got to see Fr. Mike and Fr. Brad go by and I shouted, "Go Holy Cross!" probably too loud for my neighbors who were sleeping. That was fun.
  • Jen T. was in town! I got to see her just before she started the half-marathon, and wish her luck, and we got to chat a bit after the race.
  • Running into the stadium at the end, I felt like my legs were being powered by something other than me. Just kept going. They announce people's names as they run over the finish line and since I was not in the middle of a pack, my name was one of the ones announced. They kind of mispronounced my first name, but still. My name, over the loudspeaker, in Notre Dame Stadium.
  • Once I was finished running I had a really fun time hanging out by the finish line waiting for friends to get in. I knew TONS of people who were running one race or another.
  • There were all kinds of good refreshments at the end. I like the green popsicles :)
  • Despite how hard things were, I am still looking forward to the 10K trail run in July. Bring it on!
One last note - I didn't know what list to put this one in. When I got to the finish line, someone handed me an icy-cold wet washcloth. I sat down heavily on the grass while someone took the ChampionChip off my shoe, and I put the washcloth to my face and started crying. Maybe because I was happy because it was over, or maybe I was crying for all the disappointment and discouragement that I had been pushing through for six miles, or maybe that's just what I do when something icy-cold hits my very hot face ;) I don't know, I couldn't figure it out.

So overall ... the Sunburst was good. And it was bad. And it was funny. And it's over.

Friday, May 23, 2008

what am I doing?

since I've been busy out here I thought I would post all the things I would have put on Twitter, which by the way I am now putting on my site ... look at the right-hand sidebar ... Twitter is a site that's all about answering the question "What are you doing?" in 140 words or fewer to keep in touch with family and friends.

So here are some of the things I would have put on Twitter the past couple days if I had bothered to get on the computer, or if I wanted to pay for texting it from my phone ...

driving through the most glorious mountains I have ever seen
washing an endless supply of glass candleholders
running through a lumberyard
cutting fake cherry blossoms with bolt cutters
driving to Harrisburg with GPS to pick up two people I've never seen before
pickup successful.  Now arguing with the GPS voice

 ... and that brings me about up to date.  Who else wants to get on Twitter and tell us what you're doing?

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Uncle Jim tagged me with this ...

I am (a/an):

a. audible singer
b. bike-to-work kind of gal
c. charismatic catholic
d. delicious cook
e.  excellent writer
f.  free human being
g.  gracious hostess
h.  humble ;)
i.  inquiring mind
j.  justice-and-peacenik
k.  kan't think of what starts with k
l.  loving sister, daughter, niece, aunt, cousin, friend
m. mistake-maker
n.  nearsighted  8-)
o.  optimist
p.  pushy when I have to be
q.  quiet sometimes
r.  road-tripper (also recent runner)
s.  sinner (also swing-dancer, also soccer-player)
t.  tenacious
u.  unpretentious
v.  victorious
w.  willing to try new things
x.  ???
y.  yarn user
z.  ztupendous

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

from PA

Just a quick update from Liberty, PA, one of the prettiest places on earth. I had a lovely drive out here Monday - ten hours just flew by :) My favorite part of the whole trip is this little five-mile section of PA 64 that I drive on right after getting off route 80. The loveliest valley you've ever seen. I'll try to stop and take pictures on the way back. The other cool part of the trip was seeing the work they're doing on 15 North out here - they're ripping up the hillside to make the highway bigger or something - it was neat to see the bare, raw, red earth and the smoke where they were burning up big tree roots. They're going to begin blasting on Monday - ooh, maybe I'll get to see some of that.

I had a lovely last week in the Bend before coming out here. Wednesday I got to have lunch with "Uncle Jim", fellow blogger and brother from the Muncie branch. Maybe this is a wierd metaphor, but I kind of think of him as a tree God planted - strong and full of life - sturdy and unshakeable - he has a lot of love to give and seems to just give it unhesitatingly. He told me a great story about inviting a bunch of people (was it 11, Jim?) over to dinner even though he has minimal cooking experience :) What a blessing, meeting him was the highlight of my week.

I did get ANOTHER six-mile run in on Saturday - still pretty amazed. I am struggling to figure out how to keep up my training while out of town but I do think I will have time for a run tomorrow morning - from here to town and back is four miles. After a run and a shower I am down towards Lewisburg for MY BROTHER'S WEDDING! The words still feel funny to say. "My brother is getting married on Saturday." Crazy! Anyway, I am super-looking forward to all the wedding prep we're going to do these next three days - I am ready to roll up my sleeves, pull back my hair, and dive in headfirst. Can't wait.

I hope to get back to a computer soon to give you more updates on how it's all going, but we'll see what happens ... in the meantime peace to you all!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

i like running too

... so with the help of the HOLY SPIRIT ... this morning I jogged six miles straight.

Monday, May 12, 2008

i like basketball

Only six of us showed up to soccer last night, so after an exhausting forty-five minutes of World Cup (and the loss of one player who had to get up early this morning), everyone kind of wanted to play basketball instead. Basketball? OK, I still have vivid memories of the last time I tried to play basketball - I didn't know what the heck I was doing, I was surrounded by about a billion people, it was one of my classic sports-torture moments where all I wanted to do was hide somewhere and cry. Absolutely, totally miserable. Even after I started playing soccer, and learned a bit of volleyball, and began running, basketball was still firmly outside of my comfort zone. I mean, way outside. Like no, I will not consider playing it, thank you anyway.

But five people is just not enough to play soccer, and none of us wanted to go home, so what else were we going to do? "If y'all want to teach me how to play," I told my friends, "and if you'll bear with me when I start crying ... then OK."

But you know what? No tears. Michael gave me an EXCELLENT two-minute explanation of basketball and how to dribble and how to shoot. By the way, another vivid memory - trying to dribble a basketball down the pavement in grade school gym class - it just seemed impossible! I could not get the hang of it. Oh man, gym class, how I hated it ... anyway, last night was a different story. I was able to kind of get the basics of the game, enough to play in our little three-on-two game ... and I made a few good passes. And I actually got the ball in the basket once. And, I had fun. That is really the most amazing part. And it's really quite a tribute to Michael, Sarah, Justin and Kyle ... it's really amazing to me, to have friends who love me so much that they'll play a game with me that I barely know how to play, and that they can break through this terrible lifelong barrier I've had and actually help me have fun playing basketball. Amazing. Can I overuse that word a bit more? Amazing. Amazing. Amazing.

In other news ... running is still hard. The Sunburst 10K is 19 days away and I continue to have LOTS of trouble jogging even a mile without stopping to walk. As I told Pete the other day, at the rate I am currently going - and many people can literally walk faster than I am jogging - it will take me an entire two hours to finish the 10K. "And that," I told him, "is just not acceptable." Not just because it would be a ridiculously embarrassing time, but also because I really don't want to be running for that long of a time! Running doesn't feel very good, and I don't really want to feel that way for two hours.

But for some reason, today I feel differently about it. I've mapped out the run I plan to do tomorrow morning - three miles up Riverside and back - and it probably will take me two hours, and I'm just going to be OK with that. I don't know why running has been so bad lately, and I don't know if it will ever get better, but I'm going to do it anyway.

OK, so go back to that last paragraph and erase that "for some reason" part. I know the reason. Yesterday was Pentecost, so at our People of Praise meeting we got into small groups and prayed over one another, and among other things, one thing I asked for prayers for was that the Lord would help me with running. JUST NOW as I was writing all this I realized this is his answer. He's (probably) not going to magically make me a better runner, but he will pull me through and jog with me for the whole two hours.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

meaningless blog post

Shameful! It's been a month and a half since I last blogged. The longer I go without posting, the easier it is to say "I have nothing interesting to blog about today,"but today I am just going to get back into it despite the fact I don't have anything important to say. Let's go with my favorite format, the Random Listing of Random Thoughts.

The Power Outage.
I think storms are totally awesome. Driving home from Sarah's Friday night, being pummeled by wind and rain across the field by Mayflower, I drove by a tree that was down - I think it had fallen on a power line - it was flashing and sparking. Kind of scary, like, "is something going to blow up when I drive by it?" - but also awesome. Called 911 'cause it kind of looked like it was on fire. So then when I got home I was all like "who forgot to turn on the porch light?" But nobody forgot, it was just that the power was out. Saturday morning I discovered why when I looked out my bedroom window and saw the next door neighbor's huge tree fallen over onto the power line in the alley. Lack of electricity made for a very interesting day! Thinking hard before opening the fridge so that I didn't waste the cool air. Being free from my hair-styling slavery for a day because I just plain couldn't use a hair dryer or straightening iron. Absent-mindedly flipping the light switch all darn day. Carting all my cooking supplies over to Tia's house to use her kitchen. Super-fun. (No, for real, I don't mean that sarcastically. I had a great time chatting with Tia and Jeff and Molly, and letting Mason play with my keys.) The power was back on when I got home last night so now I have lovely hair and the option of cooking in our own kitchen :)

Earthquake! The other super-cool experience of the past few weeks was the earthquake that centered in southeastern Illinois but woke me up in northern Indiana. I also experienced the aftershock via the shaky table in my supervisor's office. I had an interesting conversation with a friend yesterday - being aware of the possibility of earthquakes in the Midwest was rather worrisome to him - I told him, "Why worry when you can't do anything about it? What are you gonna do, stand over the fault line and hold it together with your hands?" I don't worry much about natural disasters. Maybe I should. Well, not worry, but think about them a bit - like when we had the talk at the community meeting about what we would all do if the bird flu hit us. Yeah, I think I'm in favor of thought and preparation, but not worrying. No matter where you live you could get hit with some sort of natural disaster. And we're all going to die someday anyway right? Is that attitude too cavalier?

Running is HARD. That may be the only worthwhile thing I have to say about it.

Biking is fun. I got my old bike fixed up so I could do some cross-training and now I bike to work 2-3 times a week. Just in time for the gas prices to go up! The ride to work is only about 20 minutes, if that, and I also have a really short ride from work to my favorite coffee shops on my lunch break. And I'm being nicer to the environment. And getting healthier. Super fun.

OK, well, that's enough for now. I will blog again another day. Probably.

Monday, March 10, 2008

a very long post from a very short trip

Eight hours on the road after a full day of work, then three days in the Twin Cities, then another long drive back ... we had a GREAT time on our crazy road trip. Here are some highlights ...

... us girls (Sarah H., Cat and me) woke up Friday morning to find the Coleman's kitchen covered with post-it notes telling us where to find cereal, silverware, and anything else we might need ... so that our sleepy little minds had little to no thinking to do :)

... MC Ferber (not to be confused with MC Hammer) guided us to the Mall of America where we parked on the Indiana level of the garage ;) It's hard to say whether we had more fun riding the roller coaster or running down the up escalator at the mall. We (mostly I) were (was) dismayed to find that PB Loco was closed, but I did get some fun gifts at Sox Appeal, which later prompted Bill R. to tell Anne B. that she was looking soxy. I also finally found the mandoline I have wanted for so long, which I used to make homemade potato chips last week. Only about half of them burned, the rest were tasty ;)

... we then joined up with Sarah C. at the end of her day working at the Mill City Museum. It's hard for me to explain to people how interesting this place is! The museum is about the history of the flour milling industry in Minneapolis. That sounds pretty dry but I love learning about labor and industry so I found it fascinating. Our visit included viewing the Minneapolis in 19 Minutes movie, which was pretty fun. Did you know that Minneapolis owes its existence to St. Anthony Falls?

... Friday night we had dinner at the Colemans' house with some folks from the campus area. We all prepared it together and had a ton of fun! Afterwards the guys (Justin, Peter, Michael B) went to hang out with some guys in Dinkytown while the girls hung out with Sarah, Rose, Janelle, Christine, Mary Clare, and Beth. We played Pop 5 and the South Bend girls tried not to fall asleep too ridiculously early, but it was hard ;)

... Saturday morning was the Minneapolis Institute of Art where one of the highlights for me was the flying baby Jesus picture. I don't go to art museums much and didn't realize how much I enjoy them ... after half an hour looking at art - slowly, taking my time with each painting, then trying to catch up with my group ;) - I felt a delightful kind of peace and contentment. I need to spend more time with art. The modern art was not as peaceful, but only because I had to think about it more. I don't always understand modern art, but I try hard to appreciate it. (Aside: one time, years ago, as I was beginning a watercolor for a high school art class, I brushed a stroke of red onto my paper and was struck by how beautiful it was. Red is beautiful. White is beautiful. The curve of the stroke was beautiful. Ever since then I have tried to appreciate modern and abstract art.)

... we ate lunch at the Global Market and enjoyed food from: Vietnam, Cuba, East Africa, Jamaica, and Trinidad. Since one of my favorite coworker-friends is from Trinidad, I was especially excited to try a Trini drink called sorrel, which I didn't particularly love, but Rose did so she finished it for me :)

... we took a quick trip to the Cathedral of St. Paul. The interior of the dome was encircled by Psalm 150 - it was in fancier language but here it is in the Message translation:

Hallelujah! Praise God in his holy house of worship,
praise him under the open skies;
Praise him for his acts of power,
praise him for his magnificent greatness;
Praise with a blast on the trumpet,
praise by strumming soft strings;
Praise him with castanets and dance,
praise him with banjo and flute;
Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum,
praise him with fiddles and mandolin.
Let every living, breathing creature praise God!

... we also did a mini-visit to the Como Conservatory which was lovely and warm and full of fresh flowers. But the name of it just called me back to days of studying at the CoMo (Coleman Morse) building at ND ... Peter and I shared fond memories of the comfy couches and free soda :)

... we went to a terrific Mass at St. Peter Claver church. It was lively and diverse and the sign of peace took a nice long time. Check out this article on the parish.

... and then we had dinner in Dinkytown. We ate with different sections - I was delighted to spend time with the Action section and get to hear more about what they are doing - I hear that another section was celebrating Dan Ficker's birthday - so we all had a great time. After dinner people hung out and chatted or played a game of bowls that was so loud that although it was being played on the third floor, you could hear it in the kitchen. Personally, my favorite thing about Dinkytown was that every time I turned around I saw another person that I met some time in Allendale :)

... Saturday morning was brunch with the Theis family where Mary Clare is in household. Oh my gosh, Jen Theis's pancakes are the best. I copied down her recipe. I also had a ball talking to her about household. But the highlight was definitely when one of the little Theis girls sang "the Little Mermaid song" to us ... unfortunately there is no way to convey that experience in a blog post. If only I had recorded it.

... Our last hurrah in Minnesota was the campus area meeting. The coordinator apologized that he hadn't planned anything special for the meeting - he was a wee bit distracted by the birth of his daughter Charis just a few days before - but it was really one of the highlights of the trip. The campus area was the most tight-knit, we-are-a-family, let's-really-live-life-together area I've ever seen and it sparked a discussion during our ride home about what the role of the area in PoP life should be. I was also delighted to see my friends the Wilsons who took care of me during my summer service project in Indianapolis and now live in MN with their gorgeous little daughter Claire. I also got to re-introduce Mike Wilson to Cat, whose household he lived in when she was very small. Fun times.

... and that's all for now. I promise to post photos later ... also in coming attractions is a post about our day trip to Chicago ... stay tuned!

Friday, March 7, 2008

sarah and sheila blog from Minnesota

So here I am again, blogging just so that nobody yells at me for not posting in so long. Today I have a special guest, Sarah Heintzelman. We're hanging out in the Colemans' house after a long day/night of driving yesterday.

Sarah, do you have anything you'd like to say to the world?

"The sun is out and it's beautiful."

That's true. It's chilly up here but the sunshine is gorgeous.

Our trip was uneventful - no speeding tickets or car accidents ;) I have a great photo I'll share with you later of Sarah kissing a fake bear at the rest stop ("my hunka hunka burnin' love," she says) and another of Michael drinking, or being attacked by, a can of soda. Our photo of Justin's headlights that he used for reading in the backseat of the van didn't come out quite as we would have liked - from the front seat where I was driving it looked like he had two blue eyes in his forehead - didn't quite get that effect.

Sarah, what else should I tell everyone?

Oh yeah, we watched "The Client" in the backseat in the early part of the trip. Sarah and Justin, in the front, just listened so periodically I would pretend to be helpful and tell them what was going on onscreen. "OK, so the guy killed himself now ..." "What guy?" "The guy in the car that the kids saw ... "What kids?"

Anyway, soon here we're off to the Mall of America (what a stereotypical thing to do! but it will be fun). In a couple days I'm sure I'll have a much more interesting post for you, full of our Minnesotan adventures, Until then, this is Sarah and Sheila, signing off!

"How's that, Sarah?"

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Over the past few years I have developed an unhealthy dread of winter. Bitter cold. Brushing snow off my car (or worse, scraping ice off) every time I went to drive anywhere. Continually taking my boots on and off and carrying extra shoes in my big purse. Sliding through the occasional stop sign and feeling the pulse of the anti-lock brakes. What an annoying season! For a long time I was uneasy every fall, knowing what was ahead.

This year, though, I managed not to dread winter. Sure, it would be cold and snowy and annoying, but I'm a South Bend girl now and I know how to handle all that. I've polished my snow-driving skills so I am competent and confident traveling in the white stuff. I resigned myself to the four-times-daily brushing off of the car. I bought myself some cute boots and thought I was ready for winter.

But I wasn't ready for this winter.

It's been brutally cold, a lot. We've had BIG snowstorms, a lot. "Is it just me," I asked Anne the other day, "or are we having an uncommonly cold and snowy winter?"

"The weatherman was just saying that everything's actually been pretty normal," she told me. "The last few winters have been pretty mild."

My spirits plummeted and for just half a second I doubted my love for South Bend. I don't know if I can keep on enduring winters like this one ...

But when it comes down to it, it's still OK. Last night, driving home from women's group, I was reminded how much I love the way the South Bend sky glows during a snowstorm. Everything is quieter, too, and I felt surrounded by peacefulness. I might not like snow on my car, but I still love to watch the snow fall. And I got up today and remembered to budget five extra minutes for brushing off my car. And it wasn't even that cold. When it comes down to it, I really can manage to keep on going in the midst of all this.

I might just make it until spring.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

updates and miscellany

Uncle Jim will harass me if I go over a whole week without posting so I guess I better write something ...
  • the killer cold has subsided to a slight cough and as of yesterday I am not taking any meds! Though if you need some, I still have Benadryl, ibuprofen, benzonatate, and cough drops in my purse. Also Nyquil and promethazine DM in the medicine cabinet.
  • I started feeling so much better that I registered for a 10K trail run in Michigan in July. The guys (Justin, Kyle, Pete, and Pete) are doing a marathon up there and it's on an island and it looks like a ton of fun so Sarah and I are going to run too. Though not nearly so far. Personally though, I bet the guys run the marathon in a shorter time then I run the 10K.
  • Last night my household went to Stations of the Cross and soup supper at Holy Cross. All the coolest people in town were there: Sarah & her grandmother Helen, our next-door neighbor Anne, Veronica, Valerie and Larry ... it was a happening' place.
  • After soup supper it was time for another super-cool place, the Niles Wonderland Theater. Cheap tickets, cheap snacks, mediocre movie selection. After a 16-e-mail exchange throughout the day on the young adults list about what movie to go see, Sarah and the guys took in "Jumper" and Cat and I saw "Vantage Point." Which was an enjoyable movie, I liked finding out different parts of the puzzle from different people's views, but then at the end of the movie they abandoned their own method and it was just standard action with a too-long car chase and lots of things going on at once. Plus, Cat thinks I'm funny for minding this, but at this one point there's a terrorist sprinting up the back stairwell of this hotel where the president is staying and hello, they would totally have that guarded, he never would have made it up there. But whatever.
  • Two weeks to Minnesota. The group is taking a crazy road trip, weekend after next, we're leaving SB Thursday night and going all the way to the Twin Cities, hanging out with other young adults there for three days, then driving back Sunday afternoon/evening. It's going to be super-cool.
  • That's all for now. Have to go get ready and go out for coffee with Elizabeth, then cook Fusion Chicken for dinner, then hang out with friends and puppies later tonight ... have a good one everybody!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

dinner at Brian's house

Every Thursday we have dinner with our extended household - Marge, Beka, and Brian. It's a super-fun time full of conversations about (among other things) Trinity, vegetarianism, and Brian's dogs. This past week, we spiced up our routine a little bit by going over to Brian's house, and we had a ton of fun! Turns out Brian is a fabulous cook - dinner was scrumptious. We also got to enjoy his Christmas tree which was alive and well for Valentine's Day! After dinner we watched The Illusionist on Brian's humongous TV. Brian has five recliners in a row in front of the TV so we were all pretty comfy. Since I am still recovering from the killer cold, Brian also gave me some hot tea and a comforter straight out of the dryer. I got so comfy that I may not have been awake for the entire movie. But I definitely woke up when Brandy and Brutus, the legendary dogs, came in to meet us after the movie. Check out the photo where it looks like they're trying to bite Brian's head off. These dogs are huge! But they were cute. In a huge sort of way. In any case, the night was super-fun. Hooray for extended household!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

moments from THE DANCE

For the past several years, February means only one thing to me ... no, not Groundhog Day ... the Action Division Valentine's Dance. It's our biggest fundraiser of the year and we work on it for months and months beforehand. This year's dance was last night - here's how I experienced it ...

... the mother of all colds hit me the week before the dance, kept me out of work for two days, even kept me from making necessary phone calls because I lost my voice! Friday evening I hung out on the couch feeling wretched and wondering if I would really be OK for the dance. But praise God for cold medicine and adrenaline - I made it through the whole day without falling over (although I came close to not surviving the polka).

... I got to be in charge of beer, wine, and bartenders for the dance, despite the fact that normally I drink neither beer nor wine. Here's me at Belmont Beverage a week before the dance: "OK, I need to order five cases of wine, they told me to get Oak Vineyard ..." "I'm sorry miss, we don't have that brand, is there another that would be OK?" ... "I don't know ... I don't know anything about wine ..." Fortunately Citywide Liquor had what we needed, no questions asked. Meanwhile, one of the highlights of the bartender-recruiting experience was finding out that Rob and Suzanne and Tony and Nancy love to bartend! They acted like I was doing them a favor by asking them to spend half of the dance behind the bar. Praise God for people whose gifts and interests match our needs ...

... working with the Action kids is fun. During food prep yesterday morning I saw Patrick slicing a pepper slowly and awkwardly and went over to show him how to do it properly (I taught my brother how to do this too, a few years ago) and it was cute to see how relieved he was to see there was an easier way of doing it. Meanwhile Ben is an aspiring chef and volunteered to make several cheesecakes for the dance ... he hung in the doorway and watched as a few of us sampled a small piece, and was clearly quite pleased when we all oohed and aahed over how yummy it was. Calla reminded me of Monk, the obsessive compulsive detective, as she meticulously laid out lovely patterns of crackers on red plates.

... I wanted to dance and by golly, I danced. I ran back and forth between the kitchen and the dance all evening, trying not to slack off on work OR miss too much of the fun, so every time I was on a break I was not shy about asking (OK, telling) the guys to dance with me. I may have been a little too forward. Lately, in a lot of ways, I have been realizing how pushy I can be ... is pushy the right word? Maybe assertive ... maybe overly assertive ... in any case, later on in the dance I put my assertive personality to better use when I directed the guys to dance with the other girls. Some of the gals were standing around wanting to dance and the guys were standing around chatting. And honestly, you can chat anytime but how often do you have a live fifteen-piece band to dance to? So, "Dan, you need to go dance with Emily. Kyle, go get Beka. Justin, let's see, who needs to dance ..." And then stood back and watched, satisfied, as my gentlemanly friends took care of the ladies.

... and lots of people had a great time dancing so we renewed our late-summer discussion of how can we get out to dance more? Although most of hadn't danced since September, we were pretty good at remembering the she-goes, the he-goes, and the belt-loop, although the cuddle and the dishrag were a bit more difficult. Well, with my assertive personality you can be sure I'll get us dancing again soon, somehow, somewhere.

... I kind of forgot to eat dinner. I honestly don't know how I managed to work and dance from 6 PM until 1 AM on nothing but a latte and one bite of cheesecake, especially while fighting this killer cold. I am truly sincerely astounded.

... at the end of the dance everyone in Action gathered in the Oak Room and Matt told us that the fun really begins with cleanup. Oddly enough, it was true :) I had actually remembered to bring a stereo to liven up the kitchen atmosphere so we all packed leftovers and washed dishes while singing "Do you believe in magic, in a young girl's heart ..." Well personally I didn't sing because that would have given me a coughing fit, but it was fun all the same. One of the highlights of the entire evening was looking at the clean, empty kitchen and marveling at all the work we'd managed to do in there. I moved on to other odd jobs like rolling up long strips of red ribbon and just had a ball watching the high-schoolers get goofier and goofier as it got later and later. But they're a hard-working bunch and the dance that had taken several days to set up came down in two hours. Praise God.

... and then I slept until 11 AM. Praise God.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A bunch of us went to watch a Notre Dame hockey game last night. Super fun! Though personally, hanging out with Emily and Abby (the other two girls in last night's group) was more fun than actually watching the game. (Which ND won, by the way.)

Pay no attention to the hand. Abby is calling the game from the official (but unlocked) NCAA box behind the goal.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

WG spa night

we celebrated Nora's birthday last night with a foot spa, facial masks, and wax all over our hands :)

Monday, January 28, 2008

first habit

began this habit today ...

The first habit is the morning offering, when you kneel down and using your own words, or a formula, you briefly offer up all the day ahead for God's glory. What is not so simple is what has to happen before the offering. As the founder of Opus Dei put it "Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a set time, without granting a single minute to laziness. If with the help of God, you conquer yourself in the moment, you have accomplished a great deal for the rest of the day. It's so discouraging to find yourself beaten in the first skirmish (The Way, 191). In my pastoral experience, those who can live the "heroic moment" in the morning and in the evening going to bed on time will have both the physical and spiritual energy throughout the day to stop what they are doing in order to live the other habits.
- from The Seven Daily Habits of Holy Apostolic People by Fr. John McCloskey

My new year's resolution was to stop using the snooze alarm. I have been semi-successful but have been reminded several times, in different places, to follow through with it. Yesterday at Mass Fr. Brad was talking about Simon, Andrew, James and John - about the way that they dropped their fishing nets immediately to follow Jesus. Do we follow like that when Jesus calls us? The first call of the day is the alarm clock ;) to get up and do what we need to do for the day.

Friday, January 25, 2008

how old are you?

Check out this time duration calculator. I am 9618 days old. Or:
  • 830,995,200 seconds
  • 13,849,920 minutes
  • 230,832 hours
  • 1374 weeks
How old are you?

Monday, January 21, 2008

ankle, soccer, etc.

... because I know you are all so intensely interested in my ankle and in Sunday night soccer ... at least I know my mom is ...

... I had a revelation a couple weeks ago when I realized my ankle was still hurting because I wear high heels all the time! Duh! I mean, I'm not talking stilettos or anything dumb like that, but still pretty dumb ... I am about 5'2" and have been wearing "tall shoes" since sometime in college when I discovered how cute they were and that I could reach top shelves a bit more easily with them. But you know, they're not really good for my feet ... and they're really not good for my ankle ... I had to do some Goodwill/Meijer shopping to get some flats and some shorter slacks to go with my flats, but my ankle thanks me! Hasn't really ached in days. Haven't decided yet whether flats are going to be a permanent lifestyle change or just until my ankle is all healed up.

... Played soccer last night and had a good time! Hooray! It helped that we had only 11 people total instead of 11 on each side. So I wasn't so in fear of getting run over or hit by the ball. I played absolutely terribly - praise God for teammates who didn't get mad at me for the sixty times I kicked at the air while the ball rolled slowly by. I was super-exhausted by the end of the night (actually by the beginning of the night) but I had fun.

... and, totally random comment. My previous post (from Saturday night) was a video with one of my current favorite songs on it. I didn't pay any attention to the video but it turns out that it's of an orphanage in Haiti ... this was brought to my attention by Carrie who is adopting a baby from Haiti with her husband Matt. Pray for Matt & Carrie's adoption to work out quickly, and for the health and safety of their daughter Lauren as she waits to come home to them!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

when the saints

This is one of my favorite songs right now - "When the Saints" by Sara Groves. Video isn't anyone I know ... would love to see one with pics of PoP missionaries. Listening to this song, I get kind of revved up - how can I work for the Lord, what part of the world can I take for Christ? It gives me a renewed sense of vocation - even though I'm not a missionary - Lord, give me that fire in everything I do!

Here's the lyrics:

Lord I have a heavy burden of all I've seen and know
It's more than I can handle
But your word is burning like a fire shut up in my bones
and I cannot let it go

And when I'm weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought

I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars
And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

Lord it's all that I can't carry and cannot leave behind
it often overwhelms me
but when I think of all who've gone before and lived the faithful life
their courage compells me
And when I'm weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought

I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars

I see the shepherd Moses in the Pharohs court
I hear his call for freedom for the people of the Lord

And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

I see the long quiet walk along the Underground Railroad
I see the slave awakening to the value of her soul

I see the young missionary and the angry spear
I see his family returning with no trace of fear

I see the long hard shadows of Calcutta nights
I see the sisters standing by the dying man's side

I see the young girl huddled on the brothel floor
I see the man with a passion come and kicking down the door

I see the man of sorrows and his long troubled road
I see the world on his shoulders and my easy load

And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
and when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
I want to be one of them
I want to be one of them
I want to be one of them

Friday, January 18, 2008

in lieu of my own blog ...

I feel like posting something new for all my faithful readers ;) but haven't had anything bloggable rattling around in my mind lately. So instead I am going to direct you to Uncle Jim (not actually my uncle. But his name actually is Jim.) who has one of the coolest blogs around. Jim posts almost every day and kept me very entertained over the holidays by posting about each of the 12 days of Christmas. Also, his "reflections on being a Christian man" series was beautiful and challenging and not just for men ;) So anyway, on all those days when I fail to post anything, go look at Jim's blog.

Monday, January 14, 2008

from ND magazine

Wanted to share this story with you ... it reminds me a lot of the way I feel sometimes at work when I have "so much to do" but I keep getting "interrupted" by little things.

In the Silence of that Hallway by Ed Stubbing '64


Ignore it, Ed. It's a dream. Just a dream.


Uh-oh. Maybe not a dream. Maybe it's . . . Lu.

"E-d-d-d-d! E-d-d-d-d!"

My mother-in-law, Lu, 89, is a 16-year veteran of the Alzheimer's Wars. Three years ago a stroke took its toll, and Lu needs a walker to move about. I press the Indiglo-light button on my Timex: 3:30 -- earliest ever. Time for an Action Plan. Sit up in bed. Shift legs. Place feet on rug. Stand. Stare into darkness.

"E-d-d-d-d!" Louder this time, loud enough to cause my wife, Lucille, to stir. Not good. Lucille is a nurse who works to the point of exhaustion and needs a good night's sleep. Must move quickly to silence the E-d-d-d-er. I tiptoe to the door that leads to the stairs that leads to the wake-up caller. I gazelle right on down those darkened stairs.

"Oh Ed, I'm so glad you're here."

I nod.

"What day is it?"

Placing my finger over my lips, I motion for Lu to follow me into the kitchen where our conversation would be less likely to wake my wife or son. The creak of her walker follows me from foyer to kitchen. I flick the light switch: "Today is Tuesday," I respond. I know what's coming. We've been there a thousand times before.

"Do we have to go to Mass today?"

"No, it's Tuesday, not Sunday."

"It's not a Holy Day, is it?"

"No. It's an unholy day."

She smiles. Her humor survives within the damaged memory bank. I look at her. Once 5-foot-2, she now registers 4-foot-10 on the shrinking height chart. But her eyes of blue are as blue and as beautiful as ever.

"Thank God it's not a Holy Day."

"Right. But it is 3:30."


I nod. "You should go back to bed."

"Well, once I get up . . . I stay up." She crosses her arms and stares at sleepy Ed. There it is, the most dreaded of Lu's declarations, dramatic pauses and all. This is serious. Lu is fully awake, cross-armed and dangerous.

"Well, let's just think about it," I suggest.

"Why?" she queries. I consider a persuasive argument relating to the merits of sleep in the middle of the damn night, but logic has become a fading memory in Lu's mind.

"Tell you what. Go to the bathroom, change the pad, and then we'll check things out."

"Check what things out?"

Damn! She got me on that one. Sleep deprivation in action. What do I mean by that? Empathic listening is my last hope. "Tell you what. As a favor to me, go to the bathroom. Okay?"

She hesitates. We stare at each other. I am close to losing it. She smiles. "I just want to do the right thing, Ed. You know that, don't you?"

Oh, brother. I melt completely. "I know. I know you want to do the right thing." I turn and she follows me down the hallway. I flick on the bathroom light.

"Should I leave the walker in the hallway?"


"Can you get by?"

"I'll just jump over it."

She laughs. One of the pleasant little secrets of Alzheimer's is that the same joke works a thousand times. I laugh. Grand fun in the a.m. I open a pad and place it on the counter. I shut the door, amble to her bed and sit. I close my eyes. Peace at last.



"I went to the bathroom."

"Good. Now change the pad that's on the counter."

I wait.

"What do I do with the old pad?"

"Brown bag on the floor."

Lu flushes the toilet, comes out and shuffles into her bedroom. I make my pitch. "So it's 3:30, and you said you wanted to get right back to sleep."

"I did?"

I nod.

"What day is it?"


"It's not Sunday?'

"No. Tuesday."

"I was worried about Mass."

"You don't have to worry because it's . . ." I point both forefingers at Lu, a wacky expression on my face. She smiles. "Tuesday!"

"Yes!" A long pause as I await her next, critical move onto the bed.

"What do I do now?"

"You're exhausted, and you want to go back to sleep."

Lu sits on the bed. I pray to the unknown saint of sleep.

She lies down. Thank you, saint of sleep.

"What time is it, Ed?"


"Do we go to Mass today?"

"No, it's Tuesday."

"What should I do now?"

"Sleep. You are exhausted -- totally, completely, thoroughly exhausted. If there's one thing you want in life right now, it's the chance to go back to sleep."

"What time is it?"

"Three in the morning."

"Three! What am I, crazy?"


"I'll go back to sleep."

"Exactly! Good night, Lu."

"Good night, sweetheart."

I leave, close the door quietly and tiptoe down the hallway.


Tiptoe paralysis sets in. Motionless, breathless, sleepless, I turn at the end of my getaway hallway and face the closed, now feared, bedroom door.


"God bless you."

I don't answer. In the silence of that hallway all thoughts of sleep and concerns about the tasks awaiting me that day flitter away. An Indiglo moment of the soul takes hold. I realize that nothing I would do this day, or for many days, would be as important as what I had just done.

"And God bless you, Lu."

"I couldn't be happier living here with you and Lucille."

I stare at the bedroom door and lie. "We couldn't be happier either."

"Are you going to be around today, Ed?"


"Thank God."

"Yes." I stare at the door. Seconds pass in the silence of the darkness.

I'm not one to sit down in a hallway at 3 a.m., but that's what I do. I sit, and ever so slowly my eyes well up with tears of joy.

Ed Stubbing, who lives in Stony Point, New York, writes articles and screenplays. He can be reached at