43 Things

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you’? –William Arthur Ward

That's me blowing out the candles yesterday.

That’s me blowing out the candles yesterday.

“You know you round up to 45 now? And 45 rounds up to 50. So basically, you are 50, Shelly!”

Then, gleeful grins followed by cackling.

This is the kind of grief I am getting this week. But, when you dish it out yourself, you’d better be able to handle a little ribbing. For the record, however, I think I should state that I am actually a very youthful 43 this week—contrary to what some have been told by my husband Tom and my good friend Lisa.

In honor of the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of my birth, here are 43 things, some completely silly, some more substantive, for which I am grateful. They are listed in no particular order.

  1. Family. Yes, some of them are goofballs. But they are MY goofballs.
  2. Birthdays. Just love everything about them—yours, mine—life is such a gift!
  3. Yellow Box flip flops. Thank you, Yellow Box people for making the cutest, most comfy flip flops ever made (and making them in size 11)!
  4. The Laudate App. If you’re a Jesus girl who loves your iPhone, it’s a must have.
  5. French chemist Eugene Schueller, inventor of hair dye. ‘Nuff said.
  6. Pansies. You dudes get a bad rap. What an unfair name. Thanks for being there to usher in springtime!
  7. Teachers who don’t give homework on the weekend. It’s tiring for moms trying to pass 3rd grade for the 4th time.
  8. Books by George Weigel. He has an intelligent, faithful, and accessible voice. Love him.
  9. Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. Yum.
  10. People who smile….cuz smiling’s my favorite!
  11. The St. Margaret’s Guild Decorator Show Home. An annual girly tradition with Mom.
  12. Kenny, who bags my groceries and cheerfully escorts me to my car at O’Malia’s grocery store!
  13. Catholic Schools
  14. Diet coke, with a lid and a straw…in a Styrofoam cup. Lent is extra-long without you!
  15. Boys playing ball outside for hours in my driveway.
  16. Jimmy Fallon. Geez that guy is funny.
  17. Happy, chill music. Stuff you can listen to while you drink your margarita too fast so it won’t melt.
  18. People who “follow me” on Twitter….because let’s be honest….they are a rare breed!
  19. The garbage man. Without him, smelly chaos.
  20. The sun. May I never take you for granted again!
  21. Mass. When Jesus is on board, life just works better.
  22. Laughter. What beautiful noise!
  23. That feeling when you know Jesus used you to help someone.
  24. Hugs. My husband actually calls me a “hug whore”. Is that a compliment?
  25. Acceptance. I’m so thankful to people who like me just the way I am.
  26. Kid President. Don’t know him? Look him up. That’s one cool little dude.
  27. Glitter. It’s just fantastic sparkly stuff and you know it!
  28. Friends. “Faithful friends are beyond price…” (Sir 6:15)
  29. Hand dancing. If it was only an Olympic sport, I’d be IN!
  30. Compliments. Accentuate the positive. Latch on to the affirmative. Just sayin.
  31. Confession. It’s like free therapy for Catholics. Brilliant invention. Forgiveness is pretty great, and that is all.
  32. People who can laugh at themselves.
  33. Dangling earrings. What’s not to love?
  34. Pope Francis. Domus Sanctae Martae, regular guy shoes, a Jesuit who chose the name Francis? He rocks.
  35. Sports. Especially games the Thieme boys are playing in. When Nick Fred crushes it over the head of the outfielder, or Z crosses someone over, or D drains another 3….then the smile.
  36. Bonfires—with marshmellows.
  37. St. Therese of Lisieux. Don’t know her? Read Story of a Soul. Saccharine, sentimental awesomeness!
  38. Chuck Lofton, WTHR-13. He just seems like he enjoys his job so much I don’t even get cranky when his forecast is a bust.
  39. Mackey Arena. Not a bad seat in the place.
  40. Songs from the old “Glory and Praise” book. Sing to the Mountains, baby!
  41. My husband’s socks. Warm, cozy, cushy. Sorry, hon.
  42. Vacation sex. (Sorry, Mom).
  43. Love. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)

Mother Teresa said, “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. So, my birthday week gratefulness list is my attempt to smile at you, and to inspire myself (and maybe you too) to notice how big we are blessed in ways “itty bitty” as well as “ginormous”.

This is the day the Lord has made. Let us be glad and REJOICE!

Shaazam, You’re Good!

“Bracketology” as it turns out, is not a word that appears in my dictionary app.  The people at Merriam-Webster have apparently not spent enough time in Indiana during the month of March.  As we speak, there are six completed NCAA men’s basketball tourney brackets posted on my pantry door.  When the “picks” arrive from Grandma Kate and Grandpa Jim, we will have the door completely covered in scotch tape.  It’s a time of year filled with laughs and bragging rights….and the official start of spring here at the Thieme house.

Do you want to know what is bugging me?  NONE of our teams are in the tourney.  IU, Purdue, Notre Dame, Butler, Ball State…..out, out, out and out!  Since I bleed black and gold, it’s the woeful Boilermaker program that is a tough pill to swallow.  I could go on about my opinions with how to fix that, but I doubt Purdue President Mitch Daniels is in the habit of taking the suggestions of stay-at-home moms about the future of the athletic department—which is in embarrassingly bad shape—in case I failed to adequately communicate that earlier.

Let it go, Shelly.

Serving burgers to grade schoolers is what’s up next on my schedule today.  Usually, I really look forward to being lunch lady.  Today?  Not so much.  You see, this morning my youngest son was sobbing before school.  I am sure he calmed when he got to school.  He’s waaaay too cool to cry in front of “the guys”.  You know when you’re upset , containing it, then you see your mom and you just lose it?  That’s my prediction for how lunchroom will go today.

Last week, he spent two days taking I-STEP tests.  Yesterday, he did a “practice test” for the I-READ.  This test is now required in order for students to be promoted to 4th grade in the Hoosier state.  In Zach’s case, he has been getting A’s on all his reading tests in class.  Of course, that doesn’t matter a bit to the state of Indiana.  Zach is anxious because the tests are given on computers.  He isn’t comfortable with the computer test.  He has developed some test taking strategies which help him (like circling questions you aren’t sure about and underlining key sentences in text) which you can’t do on a computer.  He is sure his computer will crash.  Or, he won’t know how to work it….and of course you aren’t allowed to ask any questions under penalty of death.  Needless to say, he is pretty sure he will be in the 3rd grade until he’s 21.   That seems like pretty high stakes pressure for a 9 year old.

I could expound at great length upon what I think of all the standardized testing and how we have taken education away from the educators and turned our kids into dots on a big bar chart.  Instead, I will spare you from suffering further under my black cloud.

Did I mention he will see me right before he takes this “make or break” test that has him in knots?

Let it go, Shelly.

My washer made this morning’s laundry smell like rotten eggs.  Nick’s new car starts—sometimes.  Caesar, the neighbor’s big fluffy mutt, prefers using our yard as his “potty.”   I miss actual keys because keypads seem to hate me.   Energy-saving light bulbs?  The ones that are supposed to last like seven years?  Ugly, expensive, and mine have all burned out.  Again.  Also, you should congratulate the 3 Thieme boys when you see them.  I am pretty sure they have now officially set a record for most leaves and mud ever tracked into a house.   Impressive accomplishment, gentlemen!

All of this junk is a little taste of what is getting to me today.   As I pondered my excessive  negativity and prayed for grace this morning, I found myself suddenly humming.

Here’s the lyrics to a terrific song by Francesca Battistelli,(@francescamusic) whose chorus came humming out of me, without my permission:

This is the stuff that drives me crazy
This is the stuff that’s getting to me lately
In the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I’m blessed
This is the stuff that gets under my skin
But I gotta trust You know exactly what You’re doing
It might not be what I would choose
But this is the stuff You use

Thanks, God, for reminding me that getting my underwear in a knot over the minutia of life is a useless waste of time.  Thanks for the grace to see my shortcomings clearly this day and for sending me a song to lighten my mood and knock me awake.  You gave your grumpy, undeserving daughter a beautiful gift—that song in my heart.  You are light years beyond any kind of fantastic word I can think up.  Thanks for loving me just the way I am, while challenging me to be more.  Thanks for my beautiful boys, including their filthy shoes.   I love you too.

Off I go.  I’ll give those kids a little of what You gave me.  Promise.

Shaazam, You’re good!

I’m Fat and it IS Tuesday

Today in Carmel, Indiana

Today in Carmel, Indiana

“Global warming, my ass!”  This is the response a friend sent when I shared the following tweet from our local ABC affiliate, WRTV:“@rtv6:  Record low for Indianapolis tomorrow is 2 degrees set in 1873.  That record is very much in jeopardy.”Another pal texted, “Why do we keep breaking all these crappy records?!  SERIOUSLY…I need sun and heat!”

I admit, the 55 inches of snow we have received in Indianapolis this year is making me start to wonder whether the locusts are next.  I know I am supposed to wake thanking God for the day, but I am feeling something less than gratefulness.  It’s March 4th and it’s 11 degrees outside.   I just want sunshine and a temperature warm enough to take a walk outside without my nostrils freezing when I inhale.

So, what’s my point?

Well, besides being another in a long line of frigid days, it’s also Fat Tuesday—Mardi Gras!  Meaning what?  It’s our last day to “revel” before 40 days of penitence, sacrifice during the season of Lent?  Umm.  This thought is a major struggle for me.

Here’s what I’m really feeling:  I’m fat and it IS Tuesday.   That’s about the only commonality between “Mardi Gras” and the space I am this day.   I just put a roast in the crockpot and that’s the closest thing to a “king cake” happening at the Thieme house.  It’s tax season and we are missing our resident CPA.  The whole damp, white of the outdoors plus the frozen, slate colored sky is a winter that has been like the longest Lent I can imagine.  Add to that the rawness we feel from losing my mother-in-law, followed shortly thereafter by the loss of a treasured uncle, and now I have painted you a picture of our emotional and physical state here at the Thieme house.  Now, God wants 40 more days?  What if even just being nice is starting to feel like a stretch?

“My soul is sorrowful even to death….” 

Those are the words of Jesus that feel meaningful to me this day.  He spoke them about how He felt knowing He would be put to death—for you and me.

I think the call for me today is to GET OVER MYSELF.

Like the older son in the famous “Prodigal Son” story, I have acted as if I am put upon.   There he was, obeying his father, trying to do the right thing.  Little brother disrespects his dad, runs off with his share of the money, blows the wad, and then comes back to a hero’s welcome.   “Hello?  Over here, Padre?  Been doing all my work plus that little goofball’s jobs too?  Now, you’re making over that guy?  How about a little love pour MOI??!”   I completely get that big brother.  Legitimate beef, if you ask me!

I’m a lot like that bugged older brother as I think to myself how “poor me” this winter and growl at those around me (sometimes aloud, other times with my evil stare).  Class act, huh?

Here’s a quote that reflects my feeling for what Lent should really be about in terms of my frame of mind:

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”  –C.S. Lewis

Lent is about reflecting on what Jesus did for us.   It’s about gratefulness permeating us to the core of our being.

I, for one, can clearly see that my heart is not yet ready.  It’s possible that I am just a touch crabby.  So, MAAAAYBE I do need Lent.

It’s comforting to me knowing that Jesus spoke these words, “The flesh is weak, yet the spirit is willing.”    The mind of a Christian should be open to God’s will even though we may not understand.  It should be filled with compassion, showing love for others.  We cannot suffer with those around us, we cannot love them as Jesus wishes, if we are too busy thinking about ourselves and grumbling about [fill in your irritants here].

We are called to live outside of ourselves, dropping any self-righteousness or self-pity we may surmise is justified.  It isn’t.

“But You, O Lord are my protector, my glory, and the lifter up of my head.” (Ps. 3:3)

So, as Lent begins, I plan to make a conscious effort to begin my day with something slightly better than “Good morning, God.  Talk to you later.”  By focusing on all that is positive and beautiful, I know that I will open my heart to the great truth Jesus wants me to live— that all is a gift.

The saint to whom I will call for intercession this lent is Mother Teresa.  She’s the perfect choice.  Think about it.  Where did she live most of her life? Calcutta.  Google it.   It’s similarities to downtown Carmel, Indiana are mindblowing—NOT!   Who did she serve?  The poorest of the poor.  AND YET, instead of grumbling like yours truly about gloomy surroundings, or people that irritate, she was just such a cool chick, always quick to smile.  She is famous for posting the following on the walls of her convent:

The Anyway Poem

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;  Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;  Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;  Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;  Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;  Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;  Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;  Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;

It was never between you and them anyway.

Is it just me, or does this pithy little poem seem like a great Lenten list from which to choose?   I believe I will start with a very intentional “Do good anyway” for my first week of Lent.   I’ll let you know how it goes.

Let’s light the darkness, all!