He’s NOT Wearing Green

Life is beautiful; It is a gift even when it is lived in difficult circumstances.  It is always a gift.  (Pope Benedict XVI)

One of my rarely broken rules of this blog involves not invoking stories which include what could be construed as unflattering tidbits about my husband, Tom. You see, I’m pretty into harmonious marriage. For the sake of making a point which I feel is valuable, I’m letting that one go today. He’s working so many hours right now, maybe he won’t notice, ha?

Tom and I, at our anniversary dinner. It wasn’t 6:45am when this was taken. Ha!

As you likely know, today is St. Patrick’s Day. I got up a few minutes early so that I could dig out some appropriately green clothing item and still get to 8am mass on time. Like any sane long married couple, we usually start our days best when NOT sharing bathroom space first thing in the morning. I like sleeping in and Tom likes seeing zero other humans, so it usually works out.

 Use of blow dryers is frowned upon in the wee hours, as is casual conversation.  Tom is NOT a morning person.  In fact, my irritatingly cheerful “Good morning!” used to be greeted with “Is it, though?”  I outed my handsome guy on that one, and he’s curtailed it.  I’m proud of him, as I know it’s not easy being married to me, especially at 6:45am.

Today, my mistake was pointing out that he wasn’t wearing green.  “Do you think I give a rip about wearing green?” he barked. I retorted by pointing out that his Irish grandmother is looking down disapprovingly at this move and steered him to the area with the green golf shirts just begging to be chosen.  My idea was summarily and immediately rejected. 

Transparency is important here.  It’s tax season for my favorite CPA.  When I went to bed well after 11pm, he was still in our home office working.  Also, we’re on the verge of WWIII, it costs $100 to fill up a tank with gas, the pandemic refuses to end, and his Dad has end stage colon cancer.  This moment in history is a difficult one for so many of us.  Some of the reasons we share, and some are our own crosses.

Voracious.  That’s the word I’d assign to myself where reading is concerned.  I definitely read my fair share of beach smut, but I am also drawn to historical works—fiction and nonfiction.  Many of my favorite books are based on the stories of ordinary heroes who stepped into the gap for the sake of others at some of the most cruel and terrifying moments of World War II.  For much the same reason, I am inspired by the stories of the saints.  The tie that binds the most inspiring people I’ve read about is hope.  They were hopeful folks, which allowed them to be fully present in the moment.

Hopeful people show others the light.  They are sacrificial and kind.  They raise money for one small family fleeing the Ukraine.  They show up with Starbucks on a rainy day.  They clear a stranger’s sidewalk of snow or offer to take a friend to the airport.  Hopeful people are upbeat, cheerful, sanguine and they keep the faith.  Interiorly, there is something inside these heroes.  I’ll call it grace.  This grace allows folks to somehow intuit that they start the world spinning again towards peace, towards compassion.

Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. (Colin Powell)

The Lord isn’t calling most of us to do something as dramatic as say, St. Maximilian Kolbe.  He was a polish priest who volunteered to die in place of another man (who had a wife and children) at Auschwitz.  However, Jesus might be calling you and I to be beacons of hope. 

Are you feeling down?  The absolute best solution that exists is to be present in the day you’re living and think “what can I do to make someone else’s day sunnier?”  Then, just choose one small, optimistic thing.  Call your Dad.  Buy coffee for the fireman you see at Panera.  Teach a first grader how to play “crazy 8’s”.  Pray a decade of the rosary for a friend—then tell her!  These signs of hope send goodness into the world, and it is transformed.  The same goes for your own heart. 

I’ll give you a personal example.  At the beginning of the year, I was having a particularly blue week.  I then learned that several of the regular volunteers at the Merciful Help Center (a food pantry and so much more) near me were all out with Covid.  I offered to fill in for a day doing whatever was needed.  The hours that I spent that day simply making phone calls to folks in need were nothing special—or so I thought.  The truth is, that day left my bucket filled.  When we focus on what we can do for someone else, the Lord has a magical way of using our compassion for the good of folks in our path to other ends as well.    

Hopefulness expressed outwardly is a big fat “Get behind me, Satan.” 

The world is full of overwhelmed people.  The danger of surrender to the collective consciousness, to the attitudes that surround us have long been a warning siren.  Mark (chapter 8) tells us “Do not go into the village” for what I personally think is this exact reason.  The polarization created by technology is absolutely an existential threat to us as well in this same way.  We can no longer agree on truth. 

The solution I propose is this.  Focus on being the best friend you can.  Don’t wait to be invited.  Notice.  Listen.  Smile.  Give more than you take.  Make the time. 

This past fall, I heard a great talk from a Dominican Sister.  My takeaway from that talk was the pairing of these gems spoken by our Blessed Mother.  They are out of wine…do whatever He tells you.

In other words, if you spot someone whose eyes are are dead today, if it’s your own heart that’s battered, (or even if it’s just that your husband doesn’t even have the good sense to put on a green shirt on St. Patricks day, because life is just A LOT) first, notice who’s “out of wine”.  Then, listen to Jesus and do what He says. 

My solution for Tom was pretty small. It won’t solve what ails him that I ran a couple errands specifically for him today or that I have pork chops waiting for him when he gets home (because no tense German guy wants corned beef after working a 14hr day) even if it is St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe, though, a little part of him will be assuaged by love.

Trust in Him.  In defiance to all that is difficult or even evil, be hopeful today.  In optimism, there is victory. 

St. Patrick, Pray for Us!

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!

Holy Silence at OLMC

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, Carmel, IN

Today, I returned to a place I had vowed to avoid—the perpetual adoration chapel at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (OLMC).  OLMC is conveniently situated a couple of miles to the west of my son’s high school, Guerin Catholic.   It’s much closer if you want to make 8am mass after carpool than my own parish—which I want to state for the record that I love– before you read on.

Still, I have been steering clear of OLMC.  Allow me to explain.

Several months ago, I visited the OLMC chapel during my son’s baseball practice which was nearby.  40 minutes or so with Jesus would be good, I thought.  So, as I walked in there, I think I spot a friend (which I am not expecting since it’s not my parish)….so I am distracted a bit.  One hand is in holy water, the other holding my purse, and my shoes are damp from the wet pavement.  All this and I am attempting to genuflect.  I fall right on my rear.  I kind of land half in the lap of some old gray haired guy.  I take a big, dramatic, humiliating tumble.

The man is worried am I ok, and I get up as quick as I can, find a seat, and just put my head down hoping to never raise it again.  My cell phone starts to buzz.  I drop it on the floor grabbing for it, and parts scatter.  No one is praying at this point, and I am officially a menace.  There were probably 15 people in that chapel.  It was a full house.

Then, a woman says, “let us pray together the litany of humility”.  The gray hair comes toward me, puts his hand on my back, kind of rubs it….and hands me the prayer.  He whispers, “maybe you want to pray along.”

Humiliating?  Yes.

For the unfamiliar, here is the dreadful prayer.


O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.

I decided after that day that the people of OLMC deserve a break from yours truly.  A permanent break.

Today, I returned to morning mass at OLMC because a friend wanted company.  I admit my own tank was a little low, as was my enthusiasm.

But then, I arrived.  As I walked in, I remembered they observe a beautiful holy silence in their chapel and in the church.  Jesus is present in the tabernacle behind the altar, and also in the perpetual adoration chapel nearby.  You cannot miss this fact, because you feel the respect of everyone present by their observance of silence.

As with most daily masses everywhere I’ve been, morning mass is quick at OLMC, but here it’s not rushed.  The friend who accompanied me noticed a “special vibe” in that place.  She noticed it after mass in the chapel where we prayed kneeling next to each other.  She noticed it in the beautiful wall tapestries which contain images of several saints.  Most of all, she noticed it in the amazing numbers of parishioners who were present to receive the Eucharist and to pray in His presence in the chapel.  Joy was palpable on her face and in my own heart too from the lovely grace-filled morning.

This is when I had today’s light bulb moment.

Gathering as a community does not make a group holy, any more than attending mass makes an individual holy.  God uses grace as a tool to mold His church, to correct her, to grant us a collective passion for others, and to enable us to love Him, each other and the world.  Some means of grace are personal—like solitude, or the sacrament of reconciliation.  Others are corporate—like the mass—or a Jesus loving parish who welcomes visitors with the gift of holy silence and their collective witness of faith.  It’s about doing small things with great love, just as Mother Teresa famously said.

People of OLMC, my hat is off today to you.

Thank you for preparing for mass in prayerful silence.  Thank you for sharing your well prepared priest, Fr. Adam Mauman, and for the witness of the reverent server (whose name I do not know).  Thank you for reaching with two hands at the sign of peace.  Thank you for sharing your sunshine filled adoration chapel.  Thank you for knowing all the words to “Sanctus” in Latin.  I’d like to learn them.   It was all beautiful.

I left OLMC having received bread for the journey, my empty tank refilled and my heart renewed today with love of Jesus I saw in those around me.

“If only one little child is made happy with the love of Jesus…will it not be worth…..giving all for that?”  Mother Teresa