Friday, July 30, 2004

Grape spitting for the glory of God

I'm back! The suitcase is emptied, the laundry is started and the sleepy time train is approaching the station. This was one of the most awesome weeks of my life. God was working big time in the hearts of all the Convo participants - youth and adults alike. I'm exhausted, but wanted to whet your appetite for the full report by giving you just one highlight.

The Wednesday night talent show ended with our own Father Mark breaking the Guiness Book record for grape spitting. Fortunately (especially for those of us near the front) it was a distance record as opposed to a quantity record. He topped the record by a couple of feet. The paperwork and evidence will be on its way to Guiness next week. As soon as I hear any more about this I'll pass it along.

I have so much to say about the Convo, but I want to do it right. Meaning I must first make up for the lack of sleep by crawling into my own bed and staying there as long as I possibly can. Actually, don't expect another entry until Sunday night (got something to do tomorrow).

Nighty night, my friends. And a special goodnight to my buds Eric, Steve, Alex, Chelsea, Alissa, Adam, Nick, Stephen, Katie and Lauren. Discussion Group #3 RULES!

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Out of touch

So just as I'm getting back into blogging regularly, I'm going out of town. I doubt I will have internet access, but if I do I will try to report every day. I will be chaperoning our Youth Convention. That's always a fun time, except for the sleep deprivation. There's nothing like hanging out with a bunch of young people to make you feel young again, and yet old at the same time.

Bye for now.

Do what you love

The other day as I was driving to work I saw something most people don't see every day. A horse! An absolutely beautiful honey-colored horse with a cropped mane. The horse was ridden by a woman decked out in riding apparel - helmet, breeches, boots...the works. Both the woman and the horse looked quite happy.

Last week one of my co-workers was on vacation pursuing his passion for sailing. He drove 1800 miles (one way) to race his 17-foot Hobie catamaran in Monterey Bay, California. He told me recently that he "works to sail, but would rather sail to work". 

While it's possible that the woman riding the horse was working (maybe horse walking is her job), it's more likely that, like my co-worker, she has incorporated her passion into her life even if she cannot make a living at it.

If you can find a way to make a living doing what you love, that's great. But don't give up what you love even if you can only do it part time. That's some advice I should take myself.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Two goodbyes and one hello

Goodbye to Marzano's Miami Bowl, which is closing next month after almost 50 years.  I spent several years bowling at Miami on Monday nights. It was a church-related league, and the bowling alley was about 25 miles away. Most Mondays I got home around midnight after hours of fun with my friends - three games and a late dinner at the Red Barrell (now also gone).  I came home with a smile on my face, a burger in my tummy and smelling like (second-hand) cigarette smoke. It was on Lane 43 (or so) that I bowled my all-time high score of 197.  

Miami Bowl was 80 lanes of good times!

Goodbye to Pat, my friend and co-worker, who retired yesterday and is moving with her husband to her dream house in southern Illinois. Pat has given me some sage advice about life, men and work over the years. I'll miss seeing her smiling face every day. But we will still see each other once in a while. She has invited me to visit her new home once they get settled in. She's also always on the lookout for a good man for me (the one she got was not the last one, I hope).

Hello to the brand-spankin'-new Super mile away and 218,000+ square feet of everything from books to underwear to Dom Perignon Champagne ($127 a bottle) . The bakery sells yummies from Krispy Kreme and The Cheesecake Factory. There's also a Starbucks Coffee, so you don't have to bring it in from the Starbucks store right across the parking lot.

While the hello doesn't exactly make up for the goodbyes, I'll bet there are some good times ahead at the Super Target.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

LOTR Update

I borrowed The Return of the King from the library instead of listening on tapes. I enjoyed it, but was very pleasantly surprised to find myself finished 2/3 of the way through the book. The last 1/3 was filled with Appendices. All that is left is to see the last movie, which I expect to do this weekend.

Then I'll write my final post on the subject.

I've seen the Bean

Yesterday I worked in our downtown office, which is always a real treat for me. I LOVE downtown Chicago, and even lived there for a couple of years before I was married.

Downtown is a different world. I saw hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people throughout the day, just walking from the parking garage to the office, then out to lunch, then while I drove around after work looking at the sites. Of course driving is not the ideal way to see downtown Chicago. But it was rainy and very hot, so my plans for a walk after work were dashed.

When you drive downtown you have to be extra cautious. With all those people and cars it would be very easy to hit something or someone if you aren't paying attention. Then again walking can be kinda dangerous too. Right outside the office in the morning I stepped badly on the edge of a depression in the street caused by an ancient sewer cover, twisted my ankle and almost fell over. Luckily I recovered and the twist was one of those that you can "walk out" before it swells.

During my drive around in the evening I caught a glimpse of Chicago's newest attraction, Millennium Park. Finally opened years behind schedule and millions over budget (typical Chicago), the park is getting rave reviews. From the car I could see the bigger structures on the Michigan Avenue side, including the Cloud Gate sculpture which has already been nicknamed "the Bean". I'll have to visit the park someday soon, if for no other reason to get the full view of another sculpture which looked like some kind of aircraft wreckage. To me most modern art is like electricity - I don't understand it, but can certainly appreciate it.

Your next visit to downtown Chicago should include time for Millennium Park. And my next visit will be on foot (I'll be sure to watch where I'm walking).

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Bumper sticker wisdom

Saw this one on my way to work yesterday:

We live in the land of the FREE
because of the BRAVE

Freedom is not free. It only comes at a very high cost - paid for by brave men and women in uniform, and by leaders who do the right thing even when it isn't the popular thing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Feels like home for a reason

I've written before about my second home. Well, I'm here for another visit and having a wonderful time.

Sunday was the annual church picnic which this year was especially enjoyable. The parish celebrated its 75th anniversary. We had a beautiful outdoor mass followed by a picnic complete with all the usual salads and side dishes, but this time headlined by roast pig on a spit stuffed with smoked Polish sausage. That was a new one for me! It was delicious! But the best part, as usual, was spending time with dear friends.

People come into your life with whom you bond in a special way. As you get older and go your separate ways, you may only see each other every couple of years. But the bond makes it seem like no time goes by in between visits. The only evidence that some of my friends and I have been apart is the growth of their kids, who are just about the age now that we were when we became friends (wow)! This place is full of such friends.

Every time I visit here, my mind wanders to the first time my friends from Chicago came here for a youth meeting or something and slept over at P's house. There were visiting kids all over that house, sleeping on floors and couches. I remember waking up early and looking around. I somehow knew then that these would be life-long friendships (although I had no way of knowing that I would one day marry P's cousin).

God bless those parents who suffered us kids invading their homes for sleepovers. And God bless those friends who still let me sleep over even though I'm in my forties!

How cool is that?

Friday, July 09, 2004

My kingdom for some decent slacks

I have a beef with somebody I whose name I do not know, who I have never met, and who might be a man or a woman. This person wrote a style book of some sort used by clothing stores, or at least one of the clothing store chains I frequent, that defines what is currently "in" and "out" in the world of fashion.

All I want is to buy some slacks for work. Some cotton blend, crisp, new slacks with pleats in the front. I've been looking in the usual stores for large women, and in the department stores which all now seem to carry large sizes (although, alas, not quite large enough for me when it comes to slacks).

Despite being overweight for a very long time, there remains in my mind a degree of hope (delusion?) that the right style of clothes will disguise my true bulk. Reality comes crashing in one minute after walking through the fitting room door. But there is still such a thing as comfort. Not just the physical comfort of clothes that fit. There is an emotional comfort of knowing that you look the best you can, despite your flaws. You know what it is like. It's that feeling you get when you are dressed up for the prom, or a wedding, or any other occasion when you are likely to get your picture taken.

All I want is to look decent and professional for work. But no! According to the style book at the clothing store, slacks with pleats are a "big no for large women". So said the gal I finally asked out of frustration at not finding what I wanted. Apparently what is a "big yes" is "flat panel" slacks in stretch material. Combine that with the fact that none of these stores is carrying long shirts either, and the look is akin to a stuffed sausage with every lump, bump and curve well defined for the world to see.

There is one thing I know for sure about the person who wrote that stupid style book. That person is NOT overweight.

Maybe it's time for me to go back to dresses for work. Which means pantyhose every day. No, wait. Hose are "out" as well. Don't even get me started on that one!

Sunday, July 04, 2004

THIS should be our National Anthem

Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!

Oh beautiful for pilgrim feet, whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat across the wilderness!

Oh beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!

Oh beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!

America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!


Thursday, July 01, 2004

Book Suggestion - Seabiscuit, An American Legend

"Seabiscuit was an unlikely champion. He was a rough-hewn, undersize horse with a sad little tail and knees that wouldn't straighten all the way."

From all outward appearances, Seabiscuit just didn't have the right stuff. But there is a lot more to Thoroughbred horse racing than physical build. It is a sport of strategy, psychology and athleticism. A trainer's job is to know the horse's moods, its likes and dislikes, and the conditions that are best for the horse's success in a race. The jockey has a similar relationship with the horse. And a jockey is a world-class athlete:

"The extraordinary athleticism of the jockey is unparalleled: A study of the elements of athleticism conducted by Los Angeles exercise physiologists and physicians found that of all major sport competitors, jockeys may be, pound for pound, the best overall athletes. They have to be."

You need to read the book to understand how the combination of knowledge, hard work, and a desire to win made the Seabiscuit team one of the most winning in sports history.