Just hand over the chocolate…

“It must be nice to live in your optimistic, sunny damn world.”

That was the insult hurled at me by my truly handy husband at the moment of his exasperation.  He was in the middle of hanging a very large TV from an impossibly uncooperative mount above our fireplace.  At the moment of his greatest frustration, I said something about how amazing he is and how I knew he would have it solved and looking good in mere moments.

Truth be told, had it been me in his place, I’m quite sure I would have been uber annoyed by the chirping of happy thoughts too.

However, I do think attitude is everything, and I know happiness is something you have to help yourself to.  Sometimes, though, I forget.  Moments like this one with Tom happen and they are like little post-it notes from the Holy Spirit.  They help me to remember how my attitude influences the quality of my relationships and how joyful my life is each day.

Some things we can control (like choosing optimism), and others we cannot.

Controlling the fact that my oldest son is soon moving out of the house isn’t something I can or even want to control.  Still, it’s the most bittersweet thing imaginable and it’s never far from my mind.  I’ve read the articles on what I should expect with this “limbo summer” and how normal and natural it is for my kid to do all the things he’s doing.  It’s the slow untangling to his more independent life.  I get it.

I’d been told about the rising tension between us that would come from nowhere and I’d hoped those moms were just wrong about me and Nick Fred.  The warnings were clear about younger siblings lamenting the loss to come and trying to cling a bit to their brother, but that I should expect that will be to no avail.  The warning about him staying up too late, retreating to the basement and spending every available moment with everyone but us was issued.  Those “mentor moms” around me have warned me.  It’s normal.  It’s fine.  I thought I was prepared.  I’m not.

So, today, it’s time to reframe.

What I reeeeallly want is for my son to just stay right here by his mom and talk to me.  I want him to know in his core that he is loved beyond measure and that we believe in him.  I want him to know he must work hard and be honest, and have fun, and dream big and laugh often and be true to himself.  I want him to know I’m not really mad about the giant pile of clean laundry that sat for DAYS in his cubby in the mud room.  I want him to know it’s not really a federal offense that when he did eventually move it that he put it on the staircase and made an even more gigantic mess.  I need him to understand that he DOES need to finish the thank you notes for all the generous graduation gifts but that my nagging tone about all of this really just hides the incredibly proud and completely broken heart that is underneath the noise of my always loud voice.

In 2 months, his giant pile of folded clothes which has fallen over sideways will be gone.  That silly green “Tebow” Jets t-shirt which matches NOTHING will not be waiting for me to fold it again and roll my eyes.  Part of my heart will be living in Cincinnati.   I have this lump in my throat that won’t go away.  Also, I am bursting with excitement and pride.  Reconciling all of that has been a struggle.

What this Jesus girl does when she’s struggling is look for guidance.

“Certainly sons are a gift from the Lord.”  Yep.  It’s right there in Psalm 127.  BOOM!

So, I’m not delusional.  I know I will continue to be a complete contradiction of feelings.

Mostly, though, I just feel love.  How unbelievably grateful I am!

God is love.  That’s another thing I know and good gosh it sure helps.  If God is….well….God, and I am just Shelly then I’m thinking He probably loves my kid even more than I do.  Come to think of it, He must love ME that much too.  It will all be well.

For 18 years, I have known the face of Jesus through this kiddo.  He is indeed a gift from the Lord.  Tom and I?  We have been blessed beyond measure by this big bear of a kid named Nick.  It’s time.  He’s ready.

NickandMe

Nick Fred and me after the baccalaureate mass.

Happiness is available, and I hereby choose it.  That feels like the grateful, optimistic and holy choice I can make that will honor the God of the universe.

THAT SAID:  If you have a kid in the class of 2020 moving into Buenger Hall on the campus of Xavier University this August 18, I recommend you carry chocolate with you.  My research tells me that 20 out of 20 people like chocolate and I am definitely one of them.  Just hand over the chocolate calmly and no one will get hurt.

St. Francis Xavier…..pray for us!

#Soak It Up

It was barely past 7am on a recent Tuesday morning when my phone began to blow up.

First came a photo of Cole and Clay from my dear friend, Ann.  The caption read, “Grab the Kleenex…it’s going to be the year of Lasts!  The last day our boys will go to school together!  Send pics.”

Then, the adorable Chris sent her shot of Rhett and Rhye.  Her senior looked half asleep, but still handsome.  Her caption read, “Uuuugh.”

Shortly thereafter, more buzzing commenced from Lisa.

“First day of 1st grade, and first day of senior year.”

That was followed up by an adorable side by side of her son, Christian, that would just melt your heart.

A few moments later, “Kleenex needed all day” arrived with a smiling photo of Dominic with his big brother Vinny, from my friend Julie.

I quickly gave into peer pressure and then the morning’s “Last first day” shot of my two oldest. I wrote,  “Let’s just enjoy them all year.”

Drew and Nick on the

Drew and Nick on the “Last first day”

Look at me trying to be sunny!  It didn’t last.  Within two hours I had texted my mom, “Can you just sprinkle a little Prozac in my all my beverages this year?”

I felt a bit like a mom cliche.  I know, it’s silly, and I realize how much God has blessed our family.  Still, there was this wave of sadness, of thinking so wistfully about the last year with Nick under our roof.  God’s grace is sufficient, I thought.  I followed it with, “whatever.”  Then, I found this golden nugget.

Those to whom God gives riches and property, and grants powers to partake of them, so that they receive their lot and find joy in the fruits of their toil:  This is a gift from God.  For they will hardly dwell on the shortness of life, because God lets them busy themselves with the joy of their heart.  Ecc. 5:18-20.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine lost his dad in a tragic accidental drowning.  It appears to all that Mr. Doerr was cleaning the pool when he apparently got tangled in the vacuum hose, hit his head and fell into the pool.  I lost my breath a bit when I read the note I received which laid bare the details, and I imagined the deep grief of the family.

What Fr. Richard reported the day of his father’s funeral was this, which I read on my phone in a bit of disbelief.  He wrote, “It was an absolutely beautiful thing.”  There was no “but”.

His simple words spoke powerfully about his strong faith and grateful heart.  It convicted me instantly, but I didn’t quite understand why just yet.

There’s more.

A year ago, I lost my friend, Shannon, in horrific fashion.  In the midst of their terrible grief, her sister, Colleen, and husband, Doug Stine, adopted the two sons she left behind.  They are being raised alongside the little Stines, Ryan and Maddie…and a brand new baby girl born just days ago.  They named her Shannon Lynn.

I sent my grieving friend, Fr. Richard, this photograph.  It was the moment when Colleen introduced her parents and her older sister, Janet LYNN, to their newest family member.  When I saw it for the first time, I sobbed.

I explained to him that it was one of the most poignant photos I have ever seen and that it was of the O’Malias.  Mom, Dad, and their two daughters– in the delivery room– meeting Shannon Lynn, who is named after BOTH of her aunts.  I told him it was so stunningly beautiful that I can’t stand it, and that it was, to me, a powerful example of God’s grace just reigning down on them.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.   So I won’t write about it anymore.  Here it is.

Welcome to the world, Shannon Lynn Stine

Welcome to the world, Shannon Lynn Stine

To that, the reply I received from the good padre was a link to the homily given by Fr. Rasner at his dad’s funeral.  I thought that was a bit of an odd thing to send but given that I was out of town on vacation during the funeral and regretted missing the event, I was glad to get the chance to hear it.

To say that it was powerful and comforting would do it a massive disservice.  It was perhaps the most beautiful and inspired funeral homily I have ever heard.  The Doerr family is a large and faith filled group which has produced two priests.  The younger Fr. Doerr shared this with me because he recognized in that homily what I felt when I saw that photo.

God’s grace reigns down on us.  It happens all the time in small and powerful ways.  It’s our choice to see it.  We have to cooperate with grace, you see.  When we do, the only appropriate response is gratefulness.  The Doerrs and the O’Malias have provided me (and many, others) inspiring witnesses of faith and gratefulness amid terrific difficulties.  They have given me pause.

Why, oh, why is gratefulness NOT my default position at this point?  I really MUST be the most stubborn, slow learner of all times.

Let’s circle back to my pitiful morning of angst at the realization that this is Nick’s SENIOR year.  It’s the year of lasts.  Sniff, sniff.  Perhaps the storm clouds and film noire attitude is not the way to go?  A little melodramatic– you think??

This is just one small example and one tiny situation.  However, it’s definitely emblematic of an overall spiritual shortcoming.  It was the O’Malias and the Doerrs that inspired me to visit Jesus.  I prayed, “I don’t know what I need, Jesus, but You do.  Please help me.”

As I prayed, I got thinking about the proper way to handle this year (and my life, and my failings), and then I kept thinking of this crazy, over the top guy we met this year on the baseball field.  “Why am I in the chapel thinking about Skiles Test baseball,” I thought.  “Girl, focus on what you’re doing,” I scolded myself interiorly.

I couldn’t.  That’s when I realized God was talking.  Duh.  When people get “stuck” in my brain, I tend to spiritualize the experience.  In other words, I believe the Holy Spirit is behind it and has placed them there for a reason.

What can I say?  Some holier people probably hear angelic choirs when they pray, or at least think of cool biblical guys.  I tend to go another way.

Stick with me, and allow me to digress….

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel”  — Carl Buehner

Coach Bazan is a lunatic.  No, really, he is.  So is his wife, Coach “Ball.”  Her name is actually Crystal, but everyone calls her Ball.  Really.  She brings bags full of gum and miscellaneous candy to every practice and baseball game.  Sure, it’s just little league baseball, but still…and she video tapes every game.  Why?  So she can send video clips to parents of their kid’s great hit, or awesome catch and enjoy it or send it to a grandparent who lives afar.  Coach Ball only sends highlights.

“We gotta call him ‘All American Thieme’ momma, because that is what he’s gonna be someday!  I was so excited when we got him on OUR team this year because I am sick of playing against him!  He hit 7 for 7 against us last year!”

Those were the first words spoken to me this spring by Coach Bazan about my 10 year old son, Zach.  All I could think was, “Good God!”  Who knows the stats of players from the opposing teams?  From last year?  I don’t think I am ready for this guy.  And do you know what?  I WASN’T!

Before we knew it they all had nicknames. There was “Lights Out Ferrucci” and “Hitman Haas.” He named “Gotcha Goff”, “Max the Rock Johnson”, “Mr. Excitement”, “Tough as Nails Bartlett” and “Lightning Baltz”. We will never forget “Irish Padgett” or “Hammer Hardister.” It was kind of hilarious how the boys beamed when he called them by their awesome nicknames……….which was constantly!

I have to be honest. I don’t know much else about this family but for sure I know one thing. They taught me a very important lesson. That lesson?

SOAK IT UP.

Life is an amazing gift. Live it—in positivity, with gratitude! My heart is so often overflowing from amazing blessings. When God reigns down on us, He intends for us to SOAK IT UP, and then… drip sparkly little bits of joy all around us.  I do feel a tremendous amount of joyfulness. It’s time for me to take a cue from the terrific Bazan family and shake that sponge a little harder.

There is a time for nostalgia, for pining over how fast the time has gone, and if all goes as it should, there will be an entire box of Kleenex utilized when I drop my oldest son off at college next fall. But, I don’t need to make it the longest, most painful separation song in history. Brooding is a colossal waste of time—whatever the crisis of the moment.

Now is the time for gratefulness and generosity of spirit.  Now is the time to honor God and the amazing family, friend and community He has given me with my joyfulness!

Those to whom God gives riches and property, and grants powers to partake of them, so that they receive their lot and find joy in the fruits of their toil:  This is a gift from God.  For they will hardly dwell on the shortness of life, because God lets them busy themselves with the joy of their heart.  Ecc. 5:18-20.

God deals out joy in the present, the now.  He also reigns down His love on us through others.

For me, He has most recently spoken through the beautful witnesses of the O’Malias, the Doerrs and the Bazans, To them, and to God, I am grateful.  Candles have been lit and prayers said for these families with a full and thankful heart.

Has anyone loved you up in a meaningful way lately by their example of faith or their kindness?

Yeah, that was God.

This year’s motto:  #SoakItUp

Then, shake that sponge, folks!

Peace Out!

For Pity’s Sake, She Said…

Easter Season is the time for Joy and Gratitude!

Easter Season is the time for Joy and Gratitude!

I knew it was coming.
“Will all those married couples celebrating an anniversary in the month of May please stand for a blessing?”
My mind flashed back to that surreal day in the ER where her body laid lifeless in front of me and his forlorn eyes looked through me as his words echoed, “We didn’t make it to 50.”
Making no eye contact, I reached over and put my hand on his knee. He grabbed it and as couples in pews all around us announced how many years of marriage they were celebrating, my father-in-law and I just sat quietly, holding hands. This month, Jane and Tom would have celebrated 50 years of marriage.
Sigh.
Weirdly, this seemed like a good way to start Mother’s day to me. Together there at mass we sat, my father in law, my husband, and our three cute boys.
My own amazing mom was due to arrive shortly, and we would casually celebrate the day with a cookout, just hanging out together doing nothing, and doing it on a gorgeous and warm sunny day delivered with love by a God who seemed to spoil me with blessings on Mother’s Day 2014.
Nick and Drew wrote beautiful notes of thanks, and when paired with Zach’s hand drawn rainbow card, I wondered how God could choose me to mother these incredible children. As the daylight was starting to wind down, my hubby and I went on a joyride in his sporty little red car and finished the day with the most delicious margarita and a short walk downtown.
As I headed to bed, I texted a dear friend, “If I don’t wake up tomorrow, you can tell everyone that I died happy!”
So, this week started out spectacularly!!
Life can be a bumpy road though, and so the past 5 days have brought quite a bit of chaos, some interior anger and a touch of impatience. At one point on Tuesday evening, I found myself at an accident scene with my 16-year-old son and two Fishers police officers, with my phone ringing requesting a home showing, and my 9-year-old son feeling like he was going to vomit.
What happened to the convertible ride and the sunset margaritas, God? Sigh.
It’s so tempting to focus on what’s troubling us. It’s tempting to be angry, or impatient. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s easy to forget gratitude when life doesn’t appear to be going my way. The thing is, God knows exactly where I am. He knows all about my sick little guy, my shaken new driver and his crunched car, my 13 unsuccessful house showings, the giant laundry pile, stressed out husband…and on and on. And He placed me right here, right now. So, here’s where He wants me, and it seems like whining about God’s plan is a touch counterproductive.
For pity’s sake, don’t start meeting troubles halfway. –St. Teresa of Avila
St. Teresa of Avila was a brilliant chick and is an inspiring saint. What makes her so amazing to me is that her advice is so accessible to me in 2014. I mean, she has a point. I’m guessing if she were here to give me some guidance, she’d suggest gratefulness to God for my MANY blessings, a joyful spirit, patience and trust.
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess 5:16-18)
In the spirit of St. Teresa, I’m sharing today my rather un-fancy, somewhat inarticulate prayer, offered with a joyful heart. She famously said, “You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him.” So, here I go.
Thanks, God for giving me a terrific father-in-law so willing to take in a sick third grader while my house is unavailable. You are amazing and awesome for keeping my son safe on the road, despite his accident and inexperience. I love you and I trust you with the circumstances of my life this day and plead with you for increased faith and the grace to be all that You mean for me to be for those around me today. Lord, You above all know my every need before I ask. Help me to love you more and to be a light for others. Please bless my family and all those for whom I have promised pray. Oh, and God? I know Your plan is the best plan and I thank You for taking great care of me, even when I grouse at you and act like a spoiled toddler. Amen.
There’s no sin or wrong that gives man such a foretaste of Hell in this life as anger and impatience. –St. Catherine of Siena.

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!

Oh, what a day!

My  16 year old son, Nick, with his first car...a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe!

My 16 year old son, Nick, with his first car…a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe!

Oh what a day! Oh, what a day! 

My baby brother ran away.

And now my tuba will not play!

I’m eight years old and turning gray.

Oh, what a day! Oh, what a day!

–Shel Silverstein

Admit it, this is a lively little poem, huh?  It’s catchy, silly and it rhymes.  Silverstein’s work stuck in my brain when I was a girl the first time I heard it.  Anytime I exhale the words “Oh, what a day” (for reasons either positive or negative) I can’t help repeating this goofy, brilliant little poem at top speed right behind it.  Sometimes I even do it aloud, which typically elicits a stare which wonders silently about my mental capacity.

OH WHAT A DAY!

The forecast this gray day called for 6-10 inches of additional snow in my weather weary hometown of Carmel, Indiana.  Ugh.  But, it’s a big day here at the Thieme house, so I shook off Chuck Lofton and Al Roker with their unfriendly news of the morning and got ready to face the day.

As the mother of a son who has reached the age of 16 years, 183 days, it happened to be the first date on the calendar where he was both eligible to receive his Indiana driver’s license AND the BMV is open.  It’s a big day.

I’ll never forget my own Dad leaving work to come and pick me up at Central Catholic High School the day I was eligible for my license many moons ago.  Mom and Dad didn’t make me wait until a day and time that was practical…when there was no school or sports conflict, for instance.  They let their inner teenager lead the way.  I recall extreme gratefulness and pure joy!!

OH WHAT A DAY!

First, however, there was the carpool full of grade schoolers to escort to St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School.  As I pulled out of the parking lot, I felt a strong inner tug to stop for daily mass.   It’s something I do with fair regularity, but I lack discipline and so hadn’t necessarily planned to do so this morning.  But I have prayed much of late asking for God’s help on this weakness so the tug was all His perfect timing.  Okay, Holy Spirit, I thought.  You win.  I keep praying about how I need Your help with discipline in all things…physical, spiritual, practical.  Thanks for being loud.  I hear you.  Mass it is.

Just moments after my arrival, in came my father-in-law.  I quickly realized God nudged me intentionally and for a specific reason.  My silent quick glance to heaven was a prayer of thanksgiving.

“Is mass this morning being said for Jane?” I quizzed.

“Yes. “

We sat together, sang together, and Fr. John asked us to bring up the offertory.   It was a lovely, intimate mass and I had the opportunity to pray aloud for the souls of two cherished family members whose losses are fresh and for peace for all of us who mourn.  We held hands as we said the Our Father and we hugged at the sign of peace.  It felt like a great and undeserved gift and if I am honest my heart was aching with both the losses and the overwhelming gratitude for a God who would love me so much that He would know just how to nudge me into attendance so that I wouldn’t miss His incredibly beautiful hug this morning.

OH WHAT A DAY!

At midday, my oldest son got his driver’s license, picked up his first car (a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe) and got his first tank of gas courtesy of the thoughtful and pretty terrific Dawn and Craig Miller at Indy Auto Source.  He drove himself to grab and sandwich, and he made his way home across 116th St. for the very first time all alone.  He acknowledged that his dad and I were due “some extra love” and gave me a high five.  Exuberance and joy were quite evident on his scruffy teenaged face.  I told him that if God blesses him with a family someday to remember how he felt this morning, continue to work hard in school, and pass on the moment one day to my grandchild.  I also told him I loved him and am proud of him and that he has given us no reason not to expect he will be extremely responsible with his newfound freedom.  Then, a tear I could not reign in fell down my cheek.  He smartly ignored it.

OH WHAT A DAY!

What else?  They poured the floor in the basement of my soon to be home today.  That job was finished moments before the snow began to fall. That would be the same snow that is not supposed to stop until nearly a foot of it has collected.  I am not a builder, nor have I recently slept in a Holiday Inn, so I don’t understand that decision.

My friend, Kris, asked our help for her daughter at Purdue that suffered a bad fall today and was in need of medical attention.  She reached out knowing our families are both from Lafayette.  We passed along the names of a couple doctors, the best ER in town and our promise for prayers for our fellow Boilermaker.  A CT scan and X-ray later, we learned there’s no internal bleeding….Thank you God!

My youngest forgot his reading book, my carpool partner called to warn of a problem for her 4th grader arriving home in my car, the ball games were cancelled (again), the kitchen is covered in melting snow footprints, and three friends offered to get my kiddo home from school.  Chase is sending me a new credit card because they think someone is trying to steal my identity.  Oh, and the 9 year old is thrilled I remembered the peanut butter crackers on my grocery run.

And NOW, here comes the SNOWVERLOAD!!

OH WHAT A DAY! OH WHAT A DAY! MY BABY BROTHER RAN AWAY.  AND NOW MY TUBA WILL NOT PLAY.  I’M 8 YEARS OLD AND TURNING GRAY. OH WHAT A DAY, OH WHAT A DAY!!

Like moms everywhere, the life I live is completely without glitz.  It used to be that I struggled to find my worth in the invisibility that is the day to day existence of the stay-at-home mom.  Now, I realize this is the most important work imaginable and I only get one chance to give it my best shot.   I am so grateful for every silly moment of this snowy February day.  My 16-yr old gave me a high five for goodness sakes and I got to hold hands with my pretty amazing father in law and pray with him.   It doesn’t get much better than that.  This is the journey.  This is the good stuff.  Today was a crazy day filled with smiles and a few tears.

Here’s my prayer today.  Maybe a few of you will find it suits your needs sometime.  My great honor would be if you pray along.

Dear Jesus,

I praise you and I thank you for my very full and often invisible life.  In each small detail, in each circumstance, I am given a chance to praise You, Lord, and thank You for loving me perfectly.  When I choose to smile through both routine and chaos with peace in my heart, grateful for the blessing of my family and friends and the life You provide me, I honor You.  Like St. Philip Neri, who was famous for his joyful spirit in right relationship with You, I invite You to be part of all the smallness of my life.  I ask Your help with the discipline and desire I need to grow in holiness and ever closer to You.

Amen.

And now, I’ve gotta go!!  It’s time to work the snow shovel!

PEACE OUT!

Forgive Me, Father, for the Crappy Attitude

All Saint’s Day and Halloween were on a collision course this year here in Carmel.  I don’t ever recall a government entity before changing the date of a holiday because of rain.  I remember loathing the whole “when I was a kid, we used to walk 3 miles uphill both ways…” line of chatter that seemed to emanate from some members of my extended family.  They always seemed to think that we “young people” were “soft”.

I have to say, I am old enough to finally understand where they were coming from.  My thought process a couple weeks ago was that Halloween belongs in October and the kids need to “man up!”

Therefore, it will be of zero surprise that I decided we would NOT postpone Halloween and we just marched forward with our annual party.  The house was filled with the laughter of 21 kids and many of their parents.  Captain America, Jake from State Farm, a “Cereal” Killer, Cliff Paul, a Taco, a Tennessee Volunteer, an Artist, a Mouse, a Cowboy and several other children ages 9-16 took to the streets in the rain in search of giggles and some chocolate!

Returning to the house soaking wet and with precious little “loot”, their spirits were high nevertheless.  We dug through drawers and passed out dry t-shirts from my sons’ closets and the kids ate chicken and noodles and downed the candy that I had purchased for neighborhood trick-or-treaters who stayed home this year.  Some played X-box, some sat around the table and laughed, some played foosball………and they all laughed at each other’s rain soaked Halloween hair.

All I could think was about how blessed we all are to be surrounded by the smiles of happy, healthy children—and that of all the Halloweens, it’s this uber- wet 2013 that they’ll all surely remember.

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God.  Yet so we are.” (1Jn 3:1)

The next morning at All Saint’s Day mass, I heard this bit of scripture in the second reading.  It struck a chord.   Actually, it kind of stung me.

SEE WHAT LOVE!

God is so good to me.  I would have to bet He is getting a little bugged by my lack of a grateful heart in return.  He pours on blessing after blessing, and I shrug them off, take them for granted and grumble back at Him like my son does when I ask him to take out the trash.

He gave me amazing parents, 3 healthy thoughtful boys, a cute, funny husband, a wonderful city to live in, a parish full of compassionate people, terrific schools for the education of my children, 2 gorgeous Goddaughters, a fav sis, sunsets…mad air hockey skills….and on and on.

So, why is it that I so often fail to gracefully carry the small crosses of everyday life?

The rude neighbor, the pounding headache, the coach who doesn’t seem to appreciate the “awesomeness” of my child, the little boy who prefers not to bathe—I am not gracious interiorly on these matters.  Even my most patient moment is far from what I would deem “Mary-like”.

“Everybody’s got a little larceny operating in them, surely you know that?”  –Bing Crosby

Sidebar:  If you know the movie this quote comes from, then you are eligible for an automatic upgrade to first class in my book.  Bing’s made a good point though, hasn’t he?

Allow me to digress and provide a just one specific example representative of the greater series of failures that has been on my heart lately.

Several days ago, my youngest came home after practice a bit overwhelmed.  He was tired and hungry and his teacher was clearly out of control.   It seems he announced there would be a big test THE NEXT DAY!  Ugh!  My sad, freckled faced boy was frustrated and exhausted.

“How long have you had this 4 page study guide, hon?”

“Today, Mom.  We just found out today.”

“Are you sure?  You didn’t have any more notice?  1 day?”

“Uh huh.”

Well, I was irked.  You see, my little man is not quite there yet when it comes to independent study.  This 8pm development also occurred just moments before the Colts were going to take over my large family room TV.  I was already in my jams, ready to watch Andrew Luck get it done on Monday Night Football.  NOW, I was in the study helping my third grader understand wavelength and amplitude.

THEN, it hit me.

I  texted my friend whose son is in Zach’s class.

“How long has Anth had the science study guide?”

The quick reply was “He brought it home Friday, why?”

AHA!!!!  The irritable feeling I was having towards my son’s science teacher was irrevocably transferred to the little criminal I am raising.

Suffice it to say I had an ugly temper tantrum and followed it up with an inappropriately loud homily about honesty.

Sadly, this one might be my holiest child.  He’s the one who asks me to read to him about the saints, and who says things like “Jesus likes it when we come to mass.”  I couldn’t seem to recall that while I was missing the Colts game to try and pass 3rd grade science….AGAIN.

But Bing was right.  There’s a little larceny operating in all of us.   This poor kid clearly inherited an extra dose of it from his maternal side of the family.

Still, a grateful, grace-filled mother would certainly have handled this situation with more patient affection than I did.  I believe it may even be possible to sincerely and lovingly teach the lesson on honesty to the little criminal (ha?), or endure the headache without grumbling, speak well of the coach who cut your kid from the team, or smile at the difficult neighbor who dislikes your every move– for the love of Christ who loves us tenderly– even though we might be filled with piles of imperfections and a healthy dose of larceny ourselves.

I am screwing it up.  God just loves me up.  I give him back attitude.  Real mature huh?  I am not proud of myself.

So I went to confession this week.  I told my confessor that I have a crappy attitude.  I told him how blessed my life is and how I just interiorly feel bugged and exhausted every time God asks me to bear a little tiny cross.  I might outwardly even be sunny, but inside I have an ungrateful heart.  He smiled and he let me exhale—at considerable length.  The guy is going to heaven.  Then, he absolved me.  He reminded me how I profess to enjoy St. Therese—whose life literally is a book on this exact subject of bearing our little crosses in love.  He told me to get over myself, carry my crosses, and go to the chapel and say a prayer of gratitude.

Geez I love that sacrament.  I went to that chapel and I did my penance.  There, I read this:

“Brothers and sisters:  we, though many, are one Body in Christ and individually parts of one another.  Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them; if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others; with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold onto what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.  Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord, Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, and persevere in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”  (Romans 12: 6-15)

Okay, God.  I hear your marching orders.  Thanks for giving me a do-over…..AGAIN.

 

 

Humdinger of a Week

NantucketHumdinger. –noun. (informal)  A person, thing, action or statement of remarkable excellence or effect.

Additional context:  This week was a humdinger.

Typically, I spend my time in a state of chaotic constancy.  I go forward, day by day, and the sanctity I am afforded through grace is gained by raising kids.  There are early morning wakeup calls for my three bleary-eyed boys, lunches to pack, carpools to drive, practice drop offs, and math facts to learn.  Dinner should be hot and ready to eat anytime between 5:30-9pm.  Text messages arrive while I am in my “office”—a light blue Chrysler Towne and Country—which smells very much like the inside of old baseball cleats.  “Mom, I forgot my bat bag.  Can you drop it at the school office before 3:30?”  or “Mom, Z and I are wondering if we can eat the chocolate muffins on the table for our after school snack?”

There are 3rd grade CYO football games on Saturday mornings which are usually happening at the same time as basketball practice for the older boys.  Sometimes, I am called on to help with a research project on Belarus or Azerbaijan, and we try to wrap those up before Sunday morning mass after which the Colts game takes over the family room.  It’s a joy filled family life and extremely busy.

However chaotic this week has been, what is has not been is a typical week in the Thieme household.  I went AWOL on Saturday and headed to the Windy City to catch a flight to Rhode Island.  You see my little sister, Robin, is turning 40.  The Dykhuizen family doesn’t mess around with birthdays and so for this auspicious occasion, Mom and I “kidnapped” Robin and we took off to Nantucket for a couple nights of celebration.  The sunny little isle might be a tad light on Pinot Grigio and lobster bisque until the next ferry comes to port.  But, I digress.

“Kidnapped” is really a poor choice of words.  It implies a kind of spontaneity that is impossible for mothers with children at home.  You cannot sweep away from reality a dedicated mom.  It requires logistics:  Willing and able grandparents, a friend (or 3) who have kids at your kids school, and a Pulitzer prize winning four page instructional essay.

This specific week in question, the maternal guilt was ratcheted up for me, the “kidnapper” a notch by the fact that my husband Tom, was in DC with the 8th grade class from St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School exploring our nation’s capital—leaving both parents gone at the same time!  Here’s the thing Robin and I seem to both struggle to admit:  we are raising a total of 5 bright, lovely children who are quite capable of thriving in our absence.

What’s my problem, anyway?  Do I believe I am doing such a poor job that my boys are completely unable to bob and weave, unable to think and do a bit more for themselves than is typical?  Am I so utterly filled with pride that I believe I am irreplaceable even for a day?  I don’t think that’s it.

“If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother.”  –Gilda Radner

My instincts tell me all this is really about guilt.  There’s a maternal guilt so ingrained in us that it’s reflexive.  It’s so utterly acceptable to blame mom when anything goes wrong with a child or a family in our culture.  It’s why we mothers are natural Catholics.  We have very little trouble with grasping the reality of our own sinfulness and failure.   As a result of the unholy and unnecessary guilt, we struggle taking time for ourselves and the other women we cherish.  Sadly, we take it for granted that they will completely understand.

So many times when I have gotten busy with my responsibilities and family life, I have let go of cherished time with other women I love.  Their personal anecdotes, the nurturing we afford one another as women, it feels like a luxury.  It’s not.  It’s essential.

“For a lack of guidance a people falls, security lies in many counselors.” (Proverbs 11:14)

Women are especially cognizant of our innate need to hear and be heard.  I try to be a good listener myself, in order to build and strengthen my relationships.  I need that girl time to gain strength, I desire those words of affirmation and guidance, to do the work that God calls us all to do.  In my everyday life, there is joy, but there is jeering, baiting, demanding too.  There are swollen egos and plenty of lumps.

“Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter, whoever finds them finds a treasure. Faithful friends are beyond price, no amount can balance their worth.”  (Sir 6:14-15)

From a spiritual standpoint, when I go too long without a few laughs and the counsel of godly people, I am quick to remember my mistakes and very soon I get caught in my unworthiness.  Jesus could never use you, the devil whispers.  You are sinful and you are useless.  I hear his whispers loudest when the wick is getting short.

My candle burns at both ends

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –

It gives a lovely light.  –Edna St. Vincent Millay

Around my neck I often wear a medallion featuring St. Matthew.  On the back is inscribed “Come follow me”.  I bought this little treasure for myself a few years ago after a no-nonsense priest (who I find God uses to teach me about Him) sent me a beautiful photo of a painting by Caravaggio named “The Calling of St. Matthew”.  I was riveted.  Jesus saw a sinful man, a reviled tax collector, and looked upon him with love and called him to be His own.  In the painting, Matthew appears to be placing his forehead in his hands.  He makes this gesture as he is being called by Jesus.  To me, it has always looked as if the great gospel writer is saying “Oh no!  Not me.  I am a mess.  You don’t want me.”  However, Matthew couldn’t refuse Our Lord.  He followed.

“I am a sinner.  This is the most accurate description.  It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre.  I am a sinner.”  –Pope Francis

Calling of St. Matthew by Caravaggio

Calling of St. Matthew by Caravaggio

It appears I have something in common with this Pope.  We are both sinners the Lord has looked upon.   I have even heard it said he finds inspiration in the Caravaggio work I have come to admire, even if just via “Google”.

So, this week was a humdinger.  There were planes, rental cars, hotels, ferry boats, field trips, babysitters, boarding passes and a big birthday was celebrated with my one and only sister.  While my amazing mom, my sis and I lolly gagged in Nantucket for a few days, I would argue we were doing the work God called us to this week.

We were hugging, inspiring, listening, delighting, comforting, questioning, sharing, respecting, understanding, accepting, and zinging with joy because we have each other.

I came home reminded that there is indeed holiness in the chaotic constancy of raising children.  There is also holiness in letting God just empty His dump truck full of love all over you for a couple days….and thanking Him for it.

Love you, Mom.  Happy 40th, fav sis!

Let it shine this week everyone!!

……………………………………………………………

P.S.  Here’s a post script “Hoo Haa!” for Grandpa Jim, as well as Nana and Didai (aka Irene and Bill Beck) for the babysitting love!   Thanks also, Nick, Drew, Zach, Maddie and Ellie for being so flexible this week!  You guys are all THE BOMB!