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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Rules for using coloring books for grown ups

 photo 8DCF51B6-51D8-4A19-BE96-8EAD733B3319_zpsc0wr9n2g.jpgAdult coloring books are all the rage and something I'd mentally put on my Christmas wish list. I've always like to color; crayons are my artistic tool of choice.

A few weeks ago, I was offered a chance to snag a review copy of an adult coloring book offered by Put Me in the Story. There were a couple of things that made saying "yes" to this opportunity easy.

  1. It was free. No brainer. 
  2. The PMS coloring book (unfortunate abbreviation) is personalized. So my copy came with my name printed on the front and inside.  
  3. Tucked in the designs are inspirational quotes, for instance "Do one thing every day that scares you." (Eleanor Roosevelt)
  4. I got to create the dedication myself. I chose a quote -- "To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong." (Joseph Chilton Pearce)
Which leads me to the Rules for Using an Adult Coloring Book

1. There are no rules. 

Well, that was quite the short list. But really, that's the beauty of this art form. There's no way to mess it up. Each person can approach each color encounter however they wish. There are a few things I've discovered that may or may not help you if you're interested in picking up a coloring book. 
  • There is no pressure to finish a page. I might color one section of a page and be finished for the night. Or I might color one portion of a page, then decide to move on to another page. 
  • Fine-tips seem to be best for the job. I've been using some regular Target colored pencils. I'd like to try some of the fancy fine point crayons. (Maybe Santa will put them in my stocking.) I'm a little scared to try markers because I worry that they might bleed to the next page, but the vibrancy of color might be worth it. 
  • Working on a relaxing coloring page with 3 boys and a football game on TV in the next room pretty much negates any relaxation that might have been had. 
  • It's been interesting to see what kinds of designs I'm drawn to. Circular designs are my favorite. Straight-line geometrics, not so much. 
  • Challenging myself to try questionable color combinations is kind of freeing.
  • I'm finding that getting to the relaxing part takes time. Despite my chosen dedication quote, it takes me a bit to let go of the need to color it right. I have to try to remind myself that mistakes are part of the creative process. 

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Since I received my copy of Keep Calm and Color On, Put Me in the Story has added another grown up coloring book to its line. Keep Calm and Color On: For Stress Relief.  Each book has 64 pages, good for hours of relaxing coloring. 

The price -- $19.99 for one -- is slightly higher than what I've seen in stores like Michael's. Now through December 13, you can order 2 for $30 with the promo code RELAX.

I don't get anything if you do buy, except the satisfaction that my friends will be enjoying their coloring books too.

Do you color? Do you find it relaxing? 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

So it turns out I do miss my college kid

 photo 7ac17ae5-f724-41dc-9922-64ad5bbb3056_zpsvpkcbylf.jpgWhen we dropped off Annie at college nearly two months ago, I was excited for her. I knew she was ready for this next adventure and I was confident that she would do well. I will admit to having a good cry the night before she left. But when we dropped her off at school, I didn't shed any tears. Heck, I didn't even cry when two hours after we left she posted on Facebook that she'd gotten (and been hiding) a tattoo on her leg.

In the days and weeks surrounding Annie's college departure, plenty of people have said to me "How are you? " Or sometimes "How are you," as if sending my daughter off to college should have left me sobbing buckets of salty tears. I kind of felt like a bad mom when I answered honestly, "I'm fine." Maybe I shouldn't be fine. Maybe I should be feeling my heartstrings stretched to their capacity, crossing off the days until she comes up with big red Xes on the calendar in the kitchen.

My boss, whose youngest child is Annie's age and is off to college himself this year, assured me that I am not a bad mom. "You will miss her at the weirdest times," she said. And it turns out she was right.

The first time I really missed Annie was on the way home from visiting her for Family Weekend. We arrived on a Friday night and hung out in her dorm room with about 6 or 8 of her theatre buddies. We got FroYo and walked around the campus. The next day, we watched her hang lights in the theatre, went to hometown favorite burger place and drove out to a pumpkin patch, where I got some great pictures of Annie and the boys.

The next morning, we headed home. And on our way home is when I really started to miss her. It wasn't so much that Annie wasn't coming home with us. It was more that I didn't have her to myself anytime over the weekend. The family time was fun, but as we were headed back to Indianapolis, I found myself longing for some girl time with my girl.

So maybe, I'm not a bad mom after all.

The other time I find myself missing my college kid is at work. I work on a college campus and lately, I've had a lot of meetings that require me to crisscross the campus several times a week. As I walk past the students who are close to my daughter's age, I think to myself "Annie is probably walking to class right now." I look at the brick buildings and the changing leaves and the kids with their frappa-mocha-lattes, backpacks and school spirity sweatshirts and think about Annie doing the same things on her college campus. And I miss her. Not in a break-down-crying-need-to-talk-to-a-therapist way, but in a happy-for-her-but-wish-I-could-spend-time-with-her kind of way.

And guess what? She'll be home this weekend for fall break! She will be home to see Robbie's football game, eat dinner with us, cuddle with the dog, and go to church with us. And on Monday, she and I will have girl time getting our hair done and driving her back to school.

I can't wait.

Monday, September 7, 2015

It happened Labor Day weekend

 photo Flintstones_LD_zpse950ywvl.jpgI drove through the campus of my college alma mater, Butler University, today after I dropped Charlie off at his girlfriend's house for a Labor Day picnic. As I drove down West Hampton Drive, past the Sigma Chi house where Mike lived for his 4 years of college and past my own Delta Gamma house, I realized that it was 26 years ago this weekend that Mike and I met.

We weren't on campus. Instead we were at the YMCA Flat Rock River Camp for Butler's Freshman Weekend. Mike was a freshman, a camper. I was a sophomore, a counselor for Freshman Weekend. I was there because I'd become involved with Butler's chapter of the YMCA during my freshman year and had volunteered to help out at the Labor Day weekend event. Mike was there because his mom wasn't about to have him come back home for the 3-day weekend so soon after she'd gotten him out of the house for college. 

Mike said he first noticed me, "this really cute girl," when I was in the center of the circle during the game "Honey, smile if you love me." The person in the middle has to stand stoically as people come into their personal space -- no touching allowed -- and yell, coo, holler, sing or otherwise deliver the line "Honey, smile if you love me."

I caught sight of the tall, cute, beefy freshman when he was assigned to my skit group. When there was some free time, he invited me back to his cabin (blush!). I went (what?!), where he promptly laid down, fell asleep and left me chatting with his cabin mates. Later, he would tell me that he hadn't really fallen asleep, but that he only pretended to be asleep so he could listen to me and see what kind of girl I was.

There was dinner and a few other activities I don't remember. Then it was time for the night hike and bonfire. He held my hand on the hike. I might have swooned a little. We arrived at the bonfire, where there were more games and songs and probably the making of s'mores. What I do remember about the bonfire is that we were playing a game called "Sing a song or kiss a counselor." 

A few counselors had flashlights. When the light of the flashlight landed on you, there were two choices -- sing or kiss. I happily anticipated Mike's moment in the spotlight, the one where he would stand up, walk past the fire and share our first kiss, likely just a peck but a first kiss for sure. 

Sure enough, a few rounds into the game, the bouncing flashlight glow landed on Mike, the brown-haired, brown-eyed man-child I'd become smitten with. He squinted in the light, then smiled broadly. His eyes turned toward me and...

"FLINTSTONES! Meet the Flintstones," he belted out. 

If it is possible to have your hopes dashed and your funny bone tickled at the same time, that is exactly what happened to me right then. 

Lucky for Mike, he did deliver on the first kiss later that week, after he asked me to "go with" him, a statement which he still denies making. I suppose there is no point in arguing the point, since here we are, 26 years later, still laughing. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

My terrible, horrible, no good, very bad trip to Target

target sad face photo target-sad-face_zpsrywkwlf3.jpgI went to Target tonight. It's usually my happy place. Tonight was a different story.

I was already in a bad mood because one of my offspring made a boneheaded decision. Do they have military schools in Australia? But nothing like a little retail therapy to fix a bad mood, right?

Well, I needed to pick up some prescriptions from the pharmacy. The pharmacy that is located in such tight quarters that I am certain  whoever planned the layout of this Target store has never actually maneuvered a grocery-laden cart through barely wide enough aisles. I started to turn down one aisle...jam-packed with people. So I made the turn into the next aisle. There was some guy in scrubs looking at pain relievers. Dude, can't you get those at work?

"Excuse me," I said. He barely looked up and mumbled something, which I'm guessing was "no," because he and his cart stood there, taking their half out of the middle of the aisle. "Excuse me," I said again, this time not waiting for him to move and just forging ahead. He got the idea and inched his cart over, though still not far enough for both of our carts to fit. "He's probably related to the guy who designed the pharmacy," I thought while lifting my cart's wheels past his.

I finally made it the pharmacy and asked for my waiting prescriptions. The pharmacist found them, rang them up and said "That will be $721."

"What the?!" The ridiculous total was enough to make me sick. So I picked up two of the five prescriptions, told him I'd be back after payday and made a mental note to call the insurance company to see a.) if there are any cheaper options they will actually pay for, b.) how close I am to meeting our deductible, and c.) see how much drugs cost in Australia.

Did I mention that Robbie was with me? And he was intent on finding stuff to put in his locker? He was excited at the prospect of buying something for him, so he was dancing in the aisles, touching every box and bag in front of him and generally stomping on my last nerve, even though he was really doing nothing wrong.

Then we had to buy stuff to pack in the lunch boxes. So, I pulled out my phone and started adding items to my Target Cartwheel savings app as I dropped them into my cart. And then, my phone died. There went my instant saving and my Target mobile coupons. Argh.

They were out of the flavor variety the kids like in the multipack of chips. Of course; by this point I was feeling like I'd been singled out for persecution. I was so frustrated that I didn't even bother to look at the prices of what I put in the cart. Budget be damned.

Peanut butter, applesauce, chips and carrots finally acquired, we headed to the school supply section. For the love of all that is holy, I KNOW better than this. I KNOW that the school supply section is the WORST place to be right before school starts. It's a collection of frantic mothers, impatient children, and shell-shocked Target employees trying to keep the shelves stocked.

And yet, for some inexplicable reason, there I was, pushing my cart down aisles (wider than the pharmacy, thank you Jesus!) full of things that will make for a successful year at school. I found the "locker decor" section. Did you know they sell shag carpets and chandeliers for lockers? Because Mitzi's science book will be so much more bearable if it's surrounded by modern touches of wastes of money.

Robbie didn't find what he was looking for; I'm not sure he knew what he was looking for other than "cool stuff for my locker." So we headed for the check out, where the lady in front of me apparently was taking her Sunday drive in the Target check out on a Wednesday afternoon.

"Do you have any coupons or gift cards today?" the cashier asked me when it was finally my turn. I told her my dead phone tale of woe. She commiserated. I told her about my $700 pharmacy bill. She was sympathetic. When she rang up my York peppermint patty, she didn't even ask if I wanted it in the bag or with me. She just handed it to me because she knew nights like this one called for chocolate ASAP.

That cashier was the bright spot in my trip to Target and I headed for the exit feeling slightly better.

Until I got to the parking lot and realized I had no idea where I'd parked. It might be in Australia.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hot & cold...a personal realization

I realized something about myself yesterday as I sat at my desk eating the lunch I brought from home. Ok, eating the lunch I brought from Panera on my way from home to work.

At the Panera drive-thru, where I'd planned to order creamy tomato soup and a Med-Veg sandwich, my eye fell on a picture of a barbeque chicken flatbread. It looked good enough that I abandoned my go-to order and told the voice in the box to fix me up one of those flatbreads. (I'm spontaneous like that.)

I drove to work, popped the Panera bag in the fridge when I got there, and sat down to a busy morning. It wasn't until about 2pm that my stomach reminded me I had lunch waiting for me. So I took the bag out of the fridge and walked back to my office -- right past the microwave.

The barbeque chicken flatbread, chilled by now with its melty cheese solidified in an oozy pattern, was delicious. I almost wished I'd ordered two of them, not because it wasn't filling -- it was -- but because I didn't want to let the flavor go so soon.

And that's when my realization came. When it comes to hot food or cold food, I prefer formerly hot food cold. Does that make me weird? (Ok, so what really makes me weird is the fact that I've thought about this enough to devote an entire blog post to it.)

Cold pizza photo Cold pizza_zpsir5n5cgn.jpgThe cold flatbread was not a culinary anomaly. This morning I had two, formerly hot, panko-breaded chicken tenders, leftover from last night, with a side of fruit salad.

Morning-after-straight-from-the-fridge General Tso's chicken? Yes please!


And cold pizza? Well, if eating pizza cold is wrong, I don't want to be right.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My writer friends, an Amazon gift card giveaway & #SunshineSharing

typewriter photo: Vintage Typewriter 16012010233.jpgI fancy myself a writer, but if it weren't for the internet, my writing would be unknown. (Well, it's practically unknown even with the internet.) What I mean is that I haven't written a book, yet. I have a couple of ideas rolling around in my head and even have one that I've gotten a small start on.

Several people I know personally are writers, as in written, edited, and published real books writers. When my friend Jennifer Parker announced the publication of her book, Messy Blessings, earlier this Spring, I thought about all the people that I know who are published authors. It's kind of amazing, really. Honestly, what an accomplishment.

So I wanted to share those people and their accomplishments here. Check out the books and let me know what you think.

Messy Blessings by Jennifer Parker. I first met Jennifer in college. It turns out that she has actually known Mike since they were both in diapers. Messy Blessings tells the very true story of Jennifer's youngest daughter Hope who was born with a severe heart condition. Miraculously, Hope is a happy 8-year old today, despite a stroke that robbed her of her speech when she was very young.

Slaying the Debt Dragon by Cherie Lowe. I met Cherie through the blogosphere and flew beside her in a WWII stunt plane several years ago. Cherie and her husband Brian have been on a journey to pay off debt and find riches that money can't buy. The amount of debt they slaughtered in just four years will astonish you. Cherie's approachable writing style will make you feel like you've made a friend.

How Sweet the Sound by Amy K. Sorrells. I met Amy through a mutual friend when Charlie was just a baby. She is a nurse. When she told me she was a writer too, I thought, "yeah, right." When How Sweet the Sound was published, I bought it and promptly left it on the nightstand for a while. When I finally read it, I was sorry that I waited so long and I had doubted that a nurse could also write. This story is a modern-day retelling of the story of Tamar in the Old Testament.

Then Sings My Soul by Amy K. Sorrells. I haven't read Amy's second book, yet. But it's central figure is a 90-year old man and you know how much my heart loves elders. This book is definitely on my to-read list.

The Forgotten Girl by David Bell. Ok, so I don't actually know David Bell. But his wife, Molly McCaffrey was my roommate for our first week of college, before we moved into our respective sorority houses. Molly and I re-connected via Facebook and that's how I came to know David. So he "counts" for the purpose of this blog post. The Forgotten Girl is a thriller, as are several of David's books.

Listen to Your Mother by Ann Imig. Ann is the brainchild of the Listen to Your Mother speakers/readers series that takes place during the month of May all over the country. Like David, I don't personally know Ann, but I've been honored to be in two LTYM productions, so that's enough connection for me. What's more, one of my Indianapolis cast mates, Natalie Cheung-Hall, has her piece "She Knew It," included in Imig's anthology.

The Giveaway with Sunshine Rewards
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As I was thinking about writing this blog post, an opportunity from Sunshine Rewards came along to do a giveaway for a $50 Amazon.com gift card. I thought it would be a great tie-in for this post. So, there are three things you should know:

1.) The links above will take you to the Amazon.com listing for each of the books. If you buy one of the books from that link, I will earn a few pennies from your purchase.

2.) Sunshine Rewards provided me with a $50 gift card of my own for participating in this giveaway.

3.) I totally love and support independent bookstores and make purchases at them whenever I can. But I also really enjoy the ease and efficiency and don't-have-to-leave-my-chair of Amazon.com. So I felt ok about hosting this giveaway. If you win, you are free to spend your gift card on anything at Amazon.com, not just books.

What is Sunshine Rewards?
Sunshine Rewards is a shopping and discount site that offers you the opportunity to earn cash back on online purchases, shares special discount opportunities for members, and allows you to earn rewards for surveys. The owner of Sunshine Rewards is someone whom I have known through the Indiana bloggers network for several years. For a little more info, check out the FAQ on their site.

Enter to win! (Begins at midnight on July 1)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Excellence in human living...

Last night was Annie's graduation from high school. (PAUSE). That short sentence holds inside of it 18 years of WOW.

I sat in the Hilbert Circle Theatre waiting for her to appear at the top of the stairs, ready to make her entrance as "Pomp & Circumstance" trailed from the quartet on stage. Why didn't I think to ask her what side she was walking in on?

And then, there she was. It was the first glimpse I'd had of her in cap and gown. She had a rose in her hand and smile on her face. Time stood still.

As tears streamed down my face, I captured her frozen in my gaze. A sudden panic rose up inside of me. How did we get here already? Have I taught her everything she needs to know for life? I think I need more time...

I watched her move down the stairs toward her seat with the rest of the Class of 2015. She was confident and happy.

When her name was called...Anna Michelle Magan (prounounced correctly, thank you very much)...she glided triumphantly across the stage. She graduated with honors, but even better, I think she graduated with Excellence in Human Living. She is both passionate and compassionate. She seeks to be a righter of wrongs, still unjaded by life. She is stubborn and sometimes maddeningly insistent. She is creative and inquisitive and determined.

As she crossed the stage, there was no hesitation, no panic on my part. Oh, there were a few tears. It was as if I could physically feel the separation happening as my firstborn child, my only daughter, stepped into her own life. It's a life where she will need me still. Heck, I'm almost 45 and I still need my mom.

But it is her own life and as she came down the stairs, diploma in hand and something bigger than a simple smile on her face, I thought to myself, "She's got this."

 photo B017E86E-5F45-414D-8223-07071B3C3C8F_zpsxsexvcog.jpg

Monday, April 20, 2015

Useless

Useless photo Useless_image_zpszkr4d5dj.jpg
“I feel so useless.”

She didn’t say it looking for attention or for pity. She didn’t say it as a statement for dramatic effect. She said it almost in passing.

She is an almost 96-year old lady I met yesterday. I had stopped by her home at the retirement community to bring her Communion because her ride to Mass had fallen through. It was the first time she’d missed Mass in almost 60 years, she said. She doesn’t have a car – although she said that she could still drive if she’d had it. But when she moved to the retirement center a few years ago, there was a shuttle bus that she could ride to church. So she sold her car.

Selling that car was one of her big mistakes, she said. That, and selling her house on 10 acres and moving away from the community where she’d lived for her entire adult life, where all of her friends are.

She used to volunteer at the hospital and at the retirement center, but health concerns have taken her out of that.

If it wasn’t so far to church – at least 3-4 miles – she said she would walk. She always thought she would like to live next to the church so she wouldn’t have trouble getting to Mass. I suggested she call our priest and ask about moving into the spare bedroom in the rectory. We both laughed, even though the eternal optimist in me was 1/16th serious.

“I feel so useless.”

It was my turn to feel useless. I wanted to fix the situation for this sweet woman. I suggested maybe she could write letters and cards to soldiers. There is a need for that. She nodded and then held up her tremoring hands, saying that writing is more and more difficult these days.

I told her that I would be happy to give her a ride to Mass when she needed one. I wrote down my phone number even though she said she wouldn’t call me because she was sure my life was so busy. I promised that I would tell her “no” if I couldn’t help, but I’d be happy to drive her if it worked out.

We shared the Eucharist, said a few prayers, and visited for a few more minutes. Then I left to get back to my busy life. But I’m still thinking about her and wondering how many thousands of older people feel useless and what I, what we can each do, to embrace them, letting them know how needed they are in our world. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Vague post: a morality tale

Someone did something not very nice to me & my family. I know the reasons behind it, but I still don't like it.

I was hurt. I still am if you want to know the truth, especially because this someone should know better. But no one will die over this. Probably no one will lose sleep. In the grand scheme of life, it's probably just a speck. Not even everyone affected by it will know about it. 

But I know and I'm kind of stung. Sometimes things happen that are out of your control. That's when you want to know someone has got your back. And sometimes you learn that they don't and you find yourself adrift.

But you know what? That floating out there on the stinging raft led me to look at another situation in my life. A situation where I've been the not-so-nice one. Oh, I had reasons. But those reasons probably don't matter to the person that I've stung. Maybe that person doesn't even realize what I've done. Or maybe they do. But I know. And I know better, so now I have to do better. 

The moral of the story is: 1. Treat people the way you want to be treated and 2. when you realize you've failed to do that, go back to number 1 and start over.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

10 ways to get out of being a line judge at a volleyball game

Tonight was the first volleyball game Charlie got to play in. I was so happy that I volunteered to help the coach in whatever way she needed help. That turned out to be line judge. Oh, anything but that. I think I'd rather pick up the entire team's dirty sweat socks than have to be the line judge.

The job of the line judge is to stand at one corner of the volleyball court and to wave your flag in various directions to indicate that the ball is in or out or that the server stepped on the line or that the wisp of someone's fingernail touched the ball before it sailed out of bounds. Being the line judge is completely stressful. Winners and losers can be decided all based on what one line judge did or did not see. Plus, being a line judge totally interferes with the chatty mom role I prefer to play during volleyball games.

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So while I was doing my line judging duty, I used lulls in the action to think up ways that I could get out of the job. Here's what I came up with:
  1. Wet my pants enough to cause a puddle to form beneath me. (That wouldn't have been much of a stretch...note to all future line judges: pee first.)
  2. Throw up on the court. Definitely not sanitary, but a sure-fire way to make sure no one argued with me about stepping down.
  3. Re-enact the high school drill team's half-time flag routine with the small red flag I was supposed to use to indicate in, out and whatever else the flag is for.
  4. Cheer loudly for the home team. As a line judge, you are supposed to remain impartial. 
  5. Yell "miss it" in the middle of an opposing player's serve (see above re: impartiality).
  6. Stand with my knees locked and will myself to faint right on the spot. 
  7. Call for a do-over several plays in a row, saying "I really should have worn my glasses for the game."
  8. Yell "Way to go, Paul" every time a player messes up. 
  9. Order a pizza to be delivered mid-game and assure the official that I am an excellent multi-tasker.
  10. Duck and scream every time the ball comes within 3 feet of me.
Alas, I did none of these. Instead I stuck out the shift, did not have to make any controversial calls, and made a mental note to be first in line to sign up for ticket sales at the next game.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Bad jokes for my PaPa

 photo MomPapaSchulers_zpse9ehuxvo.jpgMy PaPa passed away peacefully yesterday morning. He would have been 90 years old today. I guess he decided for his birthday he wanted to be reunited with NaNa.

There are a lot of things that I will remember about PaPa.

  • How he left college in his freshman year because he missed NaNa too much. 
  • How he drank "neer beer." 
  • How he would rub my knuckles together when he shook my hand. 
  • How he loved Schuler's Donuts (which are the only ones that could hope to compete with a Long's Donut from Indianapolis). 
But mostly, I will remember PaPa for his corny sense of humor and his never-ending quest to find and share bad jokes.

So PaPa, these jokes are for you:

What do you call rabbits running backwards? A receding hairline

Why did the golfer wear two pairs of pants?  In case he got a hole in one.

What is a bear without teeth called?  A gummy bear

What did the beach say when the tide came in?  Long time, no sea.

What do you call a cow with no legs?  Ground beef

What did one toilet say to the other toilet?  You look flushed.

This one comes from my Uncle Bill:

My favorite by far is his Hammond organ joke. I would be sitting in the living room while he was practicing the organ. PaPa would stop playing and said "You know, Hammond wasn't always in instrument business. He used to be a farmer. Back then the company was called Hammond Eggs..."

So PaPa, though we are sad to say "Wieder auderheisen," we will laugh on in your honor.

Readers, if you have a "PaPa joke" to share, please leave it in the comments and then spread the laughter today by telling the joke to someone who will groan appropriately.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Listen to your mother (in-law) #LTYM

 photo LTYM-logo_zps21ae9409.jpgDrumroll please...I am incredibly excited to announce that I will be part of the first cast of Listen to Your Mother Evansville and I have my mother-in-law to thank for it.

 photo EPS_0078.jpgKaren was the inspiration for my submission. This piece is very different from the piece I read at Listen to Your Mother Indianapolis two years ago. There will be laughs (I hope). There might be a tear or two. What there will not be is me teetering on wedge sandals that I will wear for that event only and never put on my feet again. Lesson learned.

I am excited and nervous for this show. I'm coming in as one of two outsiders -- everyone else in the cast is from the Evansville area. Other than Hilary Melchiors, one of the directors and a castmate of mine from Indianapolis, I don't know any of the other women. 

I'm excited for the energy that I know will surround this show. I'm nervous to read a piece about my mother-in-law with my father-in-law in the audience. I'm excited to "introduce" my mother-in-law to so many people who probably don't even know that she had an impact on their own lives. I'm nervous that she won't approve of something I say and will come back to haunt me from the grave.

Mostly, I hope that though this piece is about my own mother-in-law experience, people will be able to relate in some way and will leave feeling like my 4 minutes was worth their time. 

LTYM Evansville will take place on May 9 at 7pm in the AIS Diamond Auditorium. If you're within driving distance to the 'ville, get your girlfriends together and make a night of it. You can buy tickets ($15) here

Friday, March 6, 2015

Open for prayer

This weekend is my annual silent retreat. I'm posting from my phone in the pedicure chair right now...because everyone knows that spiritual wholeness begins with fabulous toes.

After this our crew will head toward the retreat center, making a stop for lunch at a local winery...because delicious food and good wine opens your senses to God's, grace, of course.

Once at the retreat center, I will have lots of time for prayer and reflection. I want to take your needs and desires with me. If you have a prayer request, you can leave it in the comments here or email it to 4thfrog70 (at) gmail (dot) com.

And even if you don't send me a note, I'll be praying for you anyway. I'd love it if you pray for me in return.

Peace to your day...and your weekend.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

10 things it took me a long time to like

If there's one thing age has taught me, it's that just because you don't like something at first doesn't mean you won't ever like it. That thought struck me as I was sitting at Panera Bread enjoying a You-Pick-2 of black bean soup and a half a Mediterranean Vegetable sandwich (a MedVeg to us regulars).

I was sopping up the last of the soup with the final bits of the sandwich and thought to myself how it was that it took me so long to figure out that I like black bean soup. So I started thinking about things that I like now that I never used to like. You know, that whole "try, try again" thing.

  1. Black bean soup
  2. Tomatoes
  3. Spongebob Squarepants
  4. Beach destinations
  5. Oatmeal
  6. Beer (Ok, so I drank a lot of it in college, but I didn't really like it.)
  7. Going to confession
  8. Cream cheese
  9. Folding laundry
  10. Fruity desserts
Some things, however, never change, including my dislike of

  1. Cottage cheese
  2. Tomato juice
  3. Watching golf on TV (Sorry NaNa)
  4. Hogan's Heroes
  5. Ugly animation
  6. Copious amounts of bass (as in sound, not fish)
  7. Loud belches
  8. Coca-Cola
  9. Roller coasters
  10. Putting laundry away
What is on your "now I like it" list? How about your "never liked it, never will" list?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The worst Lenten sacrifice ever

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This year I made my worst Lenten sacrifice ever. No, I didn't give up chocolate or Diet Coke...that's child's play. This is even worse than when I gave up sitting on my couch. This year I gave up Facebook and I am struggling, people.

I know that lamenting here about the sacrifice makes me a Pharisee who walks around in ashes and cloth asking for attention. I promise this is a one-time only whine because holeeeeey smokes, what have I done?!

I've been nudged to give up Facebook for Lent by a good friend for a few years. A couple of times I tried to dictate one day of the week during Lent would be Facebook-free. I called it "Holy Thursdays." Let's just say I had minimal success with that. 

A few weeks ago, I got this urge from inside that I should give up Facebook for Lent. I ignored it. Then some friends started saying they might do it too. I let the idea rise to the surface of my brain again. But I just didn't know. Finally, on Fat Tuesday, I just decided to go Facebookless or go home. I hastily wrote a "see ya after Easter" note on my 4th Frog Facebook page and my personal timeline. Then I handed Annie my laptop and told her to change my password. 

Wow. This is hard. It hasn't even been a week yet, but I feel so isolated. I can't tell you how many times I want to shoot a quick message to someone, only I can't because I don't have their email address or phone number. I'm just connected via Facebook.

I wonder how certain friends are doing and what new fun my group of blogging friends is up to. And my Catholic moms group is no longer just a keyboard away when I want to share a prayer request or tell them that Robbie decided for this Lent he is going to start listening to the homily.  

Of course, I could give up this giving up of Facebook. I could say it's too hard. To which my mother would reply "Do you think Jesus thought it was too hard to climb up on that cross and die for you?" But I am determined, at least for today, to persist. 

It's the community that I miss on Facebook. Ok, and some of the "which color M&M are you" Buzzfeed quizzes. I've attempted to find community among the tweeps on Twitter. I'm not new there, but it's just not Facebook. In my experience, tweeting is like farting in the wind...you never really know if anyone realized you did it (or tweeted it in this case) before the wind takes it away unless someone says something. I can count on one hand the number of times a Facebook post went unanswered or at least unliked. (So, I might be supposed to learn something about humility I suppose.)

My resolve is strong because Annie changed my password so I don't have a choice I truly believe this was a message from my heart. I consider this first week the detox phase. I've spent the time trying to fill the void with Twitter and Words with Friends, you know, just until the shakes pass. Now I feel myself ready to move into the purpose of this Lenten sacrifice, to seek what I'm supposed to find in this digital isolation. I have some books to read, some letters to write, and yes some praying to do. 

Can I make it five more weeks without Facebook? I'm going to try. But I'm pretty sure that on Easter morning the first thing I'm going to do after I snatch the Reese's eggs from my basket before Mike can get to them is to have Annie log me back into Facebook for my own resurrection of sorts. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Give her an inch, she'll get her nose pierced

Remember when I gave in and let Annie dye her hair black? Let's call that an inch.

As her 18th birthday approached, she asked if she could get her nose pierced. I had to think about that one. Mike was definitely against it. I was about a 6 on the "don't do it" scale. But I thought of the several people I know who have tiny little diamondesque studs in their olfactory organs and decided it wasn't so bad. I talked to Mike and we agreed that yes, when she turned 18 she could get her nose pierced.

There were a few stipulations:

1. She had to get it done at Metamorphosis, a reputable, hygenic "body shop" that was recommended to me by my young-and-hip-go-to-colleague at work.

2. No nose ring. Not on the side. Not in the middle of her nose so she looked like a bull. She could get a stud.

3. She had to pay for it herself.

Yesterday was the big day, which conveniently coincided with a day off school. Annie made plans with two of her besties to go their favorite restaurant for lunch and then head to Metamorphosis. I suppose I could have tagged along, but it was also Robbie's birthday and his school got out early. So I picked him up and took him to lunch at Chick-Fil-A, his favorite.

After our lunch, I came home to take a little nap -- I was up until 2am getting the requisite birthday wrapping and birthday decorating done. Just before I dozed off, I sent Annie a text asking for a picture of her new jewelry. Then I promptly fell asleep.

About 45 minutes later, she called me. Sleepily, I answered the phone.

"Hello."

"Hey mom, it's Annie. Did you get the picture I texted you?"

I fumbled to open the text message, glanced at the picture and with my eyes still cloudy from sleep said, "Oh, cute." She had a little silver stud on the side of her nose.

"Um. Did you see both of them?" That would be the mile.

 photo 99C68B7A-21D5-416B-BE7F-A2BAA67434E6_zpsdfnrjhxi.jpgBoth?! With that I sat straight up, fully awake and clicked back to the picture. Holy boogers, Batman! She had two studs in her nose, one on either side. I was honestly speechless.

"Mom? Mom...are you there? Are you ok?"

"I thought you were going to get a tiny, sparkly stud and instead you had a BARBELL put through your nose?!" I wasn't quite hysterical, but I wasn't quite in love either.

Annie assured me it was not a barbell. It was two individual stud piercings.

"Are you mad," she asked me, although I could have asked her the same question with a slightly different meaning.

The truth is that I wasn't mad. I was a little stunned. But honestly, I did think the picture she had sent me was pretty cute. Plus, look at that oh so happy smile. So, I promised her it was safe to come home. Then I sent Mike a message:

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Perfect response.

So here it is, one day after Annie's 18th birthday and I'm the mother of black-haired acTRESS with not one, but two nose piercings. 

Little did I know on the day that she was born looking like this:

Annie2 photo 452DD86B-BC9B-4C0F-A2D4-CC6006232541_zps32ncxw8d.jpg
that 18 of the shortest years in history later, she would look like this: 

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What a spirited, lovely kid, double nose piercings and all.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

8 things you can do about 50 Shades of Grey

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Yesterday, I wrote a post called "Fifty shades sick of this" describing my sadness and disgust over the existence of and hype surrounding the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. I didn't know what the response would be. Maybe people would call me a prude. Maybe people would call me out for being judgmental. Maybe people would just ignore the post all together.

What happened was the post resonated with a lot of people. It has been shared many times. It has started multiple CIVIL conversations on the topic. Not everyone is in agreement. A few see the story as a romance. Others find some redemptive value in the story as played out in the trilogy. The majority, however, expressed similar feelings to mine, that the film and the books are a glorification of sexual abuse and the permeation of the story into nearly every media stream is dangerous.

So now what? Do I sit back and just periodically check my blog analytics to see how many people have read what I have to say about Fifty Shades? Nope. Now, my mind is on to thinking about what can I do, what can you do, what can we do in response to both the movie and the media hype surrounding it.

The list below is a start. Although I compiled the list, the ideas and links were shared with me throughout the day today. Please, if you have other resources or ideas to share, add those in the comments.

1. Don't go to the movies. Well duh. Don't go see Fifty Shades. But maybe don't to the theater at all this weekend. Show the theater owners that you won't support a company that chooses to show the Christian Grey trash.

2. Go to the movies (hey, it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind) and see a movie called Old Fashioned.  It also opens this weekend in limited release. The website says "Chivalry makes a comeback." I could get behind that.

3. Educate yourself. Read from people far more educated than I am why Fifty Shades and the
circus surrounding it is harmful to young people. Dr. Meg Meeker, a pediatrician, said "There is no question that any child under 25 will be negatively affected by it." Read more of her thoughts here.

If you haven't read the books -- or if you have -- educate yourself about what's in them and why it is harmful. This article discusses 50 abusive moments in the novel.

4. Talk to your kids. Need some help? Check out this article written for young people by a psychiatrist.

5. Talk to your husband and your girlfriends. Share with them why you feel so strongly about this movie and the messages that it sends. Maybe they feel the same way. Maybe they don't. Just start the conversation.

6. Put your money where your outrage is. Huff Po shared an article about an advocacy movement #50DollarsNot50Shades which is encouraging people to make a contribution to a domestic violence shelter instead.

7. Have sex. This author suggests the best thing you can to combat a world that celebrates sexually abusive relationships is to nurture your own loving and intimate relationship.

8. Pray. If you are Catholic (or if you're not) there is an "event" on Facebook called the 50 Hail Mary Pledge, asking people to pray 50 Hail Marys on the show's opening day (February 13). Or set aside 50 minutes of time to pray, or even 5 minutes. You could even get radical and pray outside the theater.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fifty shades sick of this

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Dear Christian Grey: Go away.

Dear E.L. James, creator of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy: Stop writing.

Dear American media: Find something worthwhile to celebrate.

I am sick to death of hearing about Fifty Shades of Grey the movie. I'm tired of turning off the commercials as they air on TV. I switched radio stations about 4 times today because every station I tried was having some discussion about or parody of the movie.

When I googled the name of the author of the series, I saw that the Fifty Shades franchise (books, movies, "pleasure packs" that are advertised on the radio) is identified as "provocative romance." Yes, and ISIS is just a "bully."

There is a part of me that doesn't feel qualified to host this conversation here because I haven't read the books. I was going to. I had plans to borrow them from someone I know. Everyone was reading them and I didn't want to be left out.

Then a friend, who is also a child sexual abuse survivor and an author, posted one short message on Facebook. She said that proliferation of books like Fifty Shades of Grey made her sad because the idea of dominance and sexual power is what fuels so many child abusers. Suddenly, the books weren't just something to read and chat about on Girls' Night Out. They were...and are...seeds of evil.

So, I haven't read the books. I haven't tried heroin either and I'm still strong in my belief that it's not something that I want to get into.

As a mother, I felt an obligation to talk to my kids about the movie. Annie will be 18 (!) in two days, old enough to go to an R-rated movie. But that didn't stop me from asking her not to see it.  Charlie is only 15, but I told him the same thing. I said that some kids may go see it, might sneak into see it, but that I was really adamant that he not watch the movie.

Sex, I told both of them, can be an awesome thing. But it's something for two grown, consenting, married adults to discover together. (Yes, I said married. Yes, several people will disagree with me and that's ok. They are my kids and this is how I choose to parent them.)

Reading a book or watching a movie that reduces sex to animalistic urges is not going to lead to a healthy adult sex life. Watching a movie is, in my mind, worse, because the images are provided to you. Nothing is left to the imagination. Instead, those images become burned in your mind. When I was a teenager, some of the families I babysat for had HBO. I watched a few of those "HBO After Dark" shows and I'm sorry I did. Why? Because now, 30 years later, those images still come back to me. There are some things that can't be unseen.

Both kids promised that they would not watch the movie or read the books. Of course, what else would they say? "Actually Mom, I planned to buy a ticket to the Spongebob movie and then sneak in to Fifty Shades." I'm not with them 24/7. But at least I made it abundantly clear what my thoughts about the movie are and if they are presented with the sad opportunity to watch it, I hope they remember our conversation.

Then I went to my husband. He is certainly an adult and can make his own decisions. But I wanted him to know how I feel about the movie and to ask him to respect me by not watching it. If we didn't talk about it, how would he know?

I'm not a Puritan or a prude. I wouldn't presume to tell people what they should or shouldn't do in their own bedrooms and their own relationships. But I don't need or want a front-row seat to what goes on behind their closed doors.

The only fifty shades I'm interested in seeing are variations of pink, yellow, lavender and green -- fifty shades of springtime.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Can't we all just get along?

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I love social media and technology. I love living in an age where I have access to news from around the world and opinions from people who are not mirror images of myself. I love being able to connect with and stay connected to people I would not have even ever heard of if Al Gore hadn't invented the internet (wink). But sometimes social media wears me down.

The conflicts and heated exchanges between the vaxers and the non-vaxers. The tales of politicians losing sight of the people they were elected to represent. The constant "you have to stand up, speak out, do something about..." The evil lurking in our world and the video proof that exists to dispute claims otherwise. Even my favorite morning radio show has made a weekly feature of "mean tweets" where they share downright ugly things people have tweeted about the show's cast. Sometimes it's enough to make me want to chuck my computer and iPhone into the nearest body of water.

Today is one of those days. Today is one of those days where someone on Facebook or Twitter would argue that drinking milk after 10pm will give you colon cancer and make your children ugly. I know I shouldn't shoot the messenger -- it's not the vehicles of communication that came up with the ugliness and terror and incivility they share. But when so much of the world's hatred and disrespect and even just foolishness are out of my control, cutting these stories/tales/opinions off at the source is one thing I can control. 

When I wake up tomorrow, I will ask that God help me face the challenges of my day and of the world with renewed vigor and hopefulness. I'll focus on what I can do to make my corner of the universe a brighter, more loving, more peaceful place. Maybe I won't turn on the radio. Maybe I'll choose to not engage in a conversation that won't matter in five years anyway. Maybe I will step out and take a stand for something that will indeed matter in five years. 

I don't know exactly what I will do. What I do know is that it's time for me to walk away for today. To log out of Facebook and turn off the TV. To lay my head on the pillow and have a conversation with God, thanking him for my blessings and seeking forgiveness for the wrongs I've done.  And to pray that tomorrow we can all just get along a little bit better. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Curtain call...on studying theatre in college

My recent post, "My kid wants to study theatre and I'm not sorry about it," was met with several comments, most of them supportive. I have a feeling that the nay-sayers, those who are shaking their heads at my naivete, were just being nice and holding their tongues.

Usually when there are comments, I try to reply to them within the context of the comments. But there were so many things I wanted to say, that I decided to give it another piece of real estate here in the blog.

I loved what Ellie had to say about her son's non-traditional major in college (he studied library science): "He didn't treat college like a vocational school." Yes! Exactly. What happened to the idea that college is the place where people go to learn about different perspectives and different ways of viewing the world?  There is nothing wrong with vocational education, but the idea that going to college to be an X is so limiting. What happens when you've spent so many years learning to be an X, working as an X, and you wake up one morning and figure out you are really not meant to be an X, that your true calling is to be a Y or, God forbid, an H -- something so far removed from what you were trained to do? There is a difference between being trained and being educated. It does put the burden of work and creativity on the person willing to seek true education, yes, but what an exciting way to face life.

Heather has had some experience going from being an X to an H. She said "If it doesn't work out, use that experience to build on and remake yourself." We are no longer in an era where people work for the same company for 30 years. For some, we are no longer in an era where people even work in the same field for 30 years. I want my kids to go into life knowing that remaking themselves is an exciting, even enviable, option -- not the mark of failure.

Tricia is a mom like me with an arts-loving kid. Yet, based on her own experience, she is encouraging her daughter to look into related careers. That is a prudent path. I've spoken before to Annie about "Plan B." She nods her head. She understands. She had her first kick in the gut when when audition led her to a spot in a program, but not the program she wanted. It hurt. She was angry. But she is undeterred.

I could have circled back with a discussion about other career options, but as a mother, as much as I watch how theatre feeds her, I also see how "Plan B" sucks the wind out of her. This is her time. This is her life. If she wants to throw herself into a "crazy" dream, then who am I stand in her way. If she willing to drive herself to live her dreams, then I'm not going to go around deflating her tires.

Momza had a really interesting thought -- should the cost of a degree be based on future earning potential? Working in higher ed, I can tell you right off that no professor in the world would go for that. In fact, some theatre programs charge a premium above regular tuition. If the cost based on potential was the equation, there are a lot of schools who would find themselves on the short end of the stick when their graduates go on to make blockbuster films and platinum albums. Maybe the cost of a degree should be based on future giving potential -- how much will the degree earning be giving back to society when they work in their chosen career. Based on that equation, teachers would be earning millions.

I loved hearing from Jennifer, whose son is also studying theatre, and Kimmybee, who is counting on the day when she can say about Annie, "I knew you when." But in the end, it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks. It doesn't even matter what I think. What matters is that my kid has found a passion and is willing to go all in for following her dream. So once again, my kid wants to study theatre and I'm not sorry about it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Can magic happen twice? #LTYM

 photo LTYM-logo_zps21ae9409.jpgNearly two years ago, I was part of something magical. It was the first Listen to Your Mother show in Indianapolis. A group of women from different parts of Indiana, the Midwest really, with different jobs and experiences came together to discuss what tied us all together -- motherhood. Being in the show was fabulous. Getting to know these women was even better. And now, the call is out for submissions to this year's Listen to Your Mother show and I wonder if I have it in me to make the magic happen again.

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The deadline for submissions to the Indianapolis show is January 31. I've been mulling over some ideas in my head, but nothing seems to stick. My entry for the inaugural Indianapolis show was a humorous piece (see the video here). Should I go that route again? Maybe I should dig in to something more emotional? Or something with a spiritual bent? I guess I need to just sit down and start writing and see where it takes me.

I've also given some thought to auditioning for the show in my husband's hometown of Evansville, Indiana. This is Evansville's first year for LTYM. One of the producers is Hillary Melchiors who was a member of "my" cast in Indianapolis. It would be so great to be a part of growing LTYM to a new city. Auditions there take place next month, on a day it just so happens we will be in town for a college visit.

 photo e70332c3-a369-4ad1-b64a-c51e605ee328_zps7860e9ed.jpgAnd if I were even to get selected for the Indy or Evansville show, would the magic still exist? It would be different magic for sure. I'm a different person and the cast would be different. But I choose to believe that the camaraderie of the cast and the electricity of sharing my own words on stage would be magical in its own, new way.

What about you? Is there a LTYM show near you? Probably -- there are nearly 40 shows this year! Do you have something to say about being (or not being), having (or not having) a mother?

If telling your story on a stage is not your style, I really encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and give it a try. Or just write your story for yourself. There is real power in that, too. At the very least, find a LTYM show near you and be in the audience. You won't be disappointed. I swear on my mother's grave (except she is happily alive, but you get the idea).

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My kid wants to study theatre and I'm not sorry about it.

 photo Notsorrytheatre_zps9aac70fc.jpgGet into a conversation with a parent in which one or both of you have a child who is a senior in high school and the topic at hand inevitably turns to college. "What does your child want to study?" "Where does she want to go to school?" My daughter Annie plans to study theatre and I'm not sorry about it.

When Annie first started talking about majoring in theatre performance and making the stage her life's work, I was excited for her. She has a passion for it. She doesn't just memorize lines and spit them back out. She studies her craft. She reads books on the techniques of acting, seeks critiques of her performance, works tech to learn another side of production. You can see in her eyes and her smile how theatre makes Annie come alive.

But when people started asking me what Annie plans to study in college, I kind of felt like I had to apologize for her career choice. After all, studying theatre isn't exactly a "responsible" choice like studying finance or medicine or education. I would deliver my answer of "theatre" with a slight smile and a quick roll of the eyes, as if to say, "You know kids and their unrealistic expectations." I thought that was how people expected me to react.

My husband and I have talked to Annie about the realities of a career in theatre. Jobs may be scarce and may not pay well. Waiting tables to make ends meet is a real possibility. Grad school may be a necessity; apartment sharing will definitely be. But this is what she wants to do. She is willing to make those sacrifices. No one goes back to school to study theatre. Now is her time.

And so, somehow in the course of Annie moving from her junior year in high school to her senior year, I've lost that obligated, apologetic feeling and the eye roll that came with it. I think about all the joy that the arts -- theatre being one of them -- bring to people. Without people invested in creating that art, that joy would be lost. I look around my own community and see adults working in the realm of theatre -- on stage, back stage, in promotion and development. I can see a future in that for Annie.

Does everyone who goes to theatre school end up winning a Tony or a Golden Globe or inking a deal for a network television show? Of course not. Just as not every finance major ends up being president of a bank and not every med school student wins the Nobel Prize for medicine.

Those who do end up with those career superlatives have certain things in common: they work their butts off; they seize opportunities when presented; they don't take no for an answer; and they do what they do because they are passionate about it.

My daughter is passionate about transforming herself into characters on a stage for the purpose of entertaining, and sometimes educating, people in the audience. And you know what? I'm not the least bit sorry about that.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

When death is an occupational hazard

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Photo adapted from Three Crosses by Tim Green
Someone I cared about passed away on Saturday morning. Her death was unexpected; at least I wasn't expecting it.

I came to know Pat about 18 months ago when I began taking Holy Communion to her -- and others -- once a month at a nearby nursing home. I didn't see her every time I visited. When the weather was good, she would take the city bus for people with disabilities to go to Mass at our church. But in the winter, I'd get to spend some time with her. It was time I looked forward to.

Pat was blind, but she saw with faith. She used a wheelchair most of the time, but she walked a life a service, even until her death. When I would visit, she would ask me to read that day's Gospel to her. Then I would do my best to recount the message of the homily. On certain days I had to admit that my mind had wandered during the homily and I couldn't recall what the priest had said. Pat & I would talk about the Scripture and what in the passage spoke to each of us. Most of my visits with other residents at the nursing home are fairly brief, made so by the residents' limitations with communication, so these conversations with Pat were opportunities I looked forward to.

Based on how old she told me her children are, I would guess that Pat was about my mother's age. Maybe a little bit older. She was determined to really live the life she had. She had a large reading machine that she would use to read books, letters, the church bulletin. Although she was dependent on others to meet most of her physical needs, Pat still lived the call to serve.

Over the past several years, she handmade more than 1,000 cards of encouragement for members of the Indiana National Guard. In her room, she had photos of herself with some of those soldiers who had been on the receiving end of her kindness. So often people think of nursing homes as a place where old people are warehoused until they die. There was no putting Pat on a shelf.

My last visit with Pat was on Christmas day. I'd gone over to the nursing home in the early evening to visit a few people. She and I sat and talked for close to an hour that night. I learned that she had been a nurse and that she preferred working with psychiatric patients. She told me that it had been her birthday just a few days before. She mentioned that she was having some difficulty with her new reader and that she thought some brightly colored tape might help her see where to line up what it is she was trying to read. I told her I'd find some and bring it with me on my next visit. I had no idea that the Christmas visit would be my last visit.

When the phone rang last night and I saw it was a call from one of the other women in this ministry, I knew it had to be bad news. One of our ladies has been fading and has hospice care set up. I had a feeling that this was a call to let me know that she had passed away. When I heard that it was Pat who was gone, I could not believe it. She seemed so good -- finally recovering from a nasty fall, upbeat and like her old self. I halfway thought that there must have been some mix up and that she would be sitting in her chair waiting for me when I got to the nursing home this morning. I wondered whether I would tell her about the errant message and we would laugh about it or whether I would just silently give thanks that it had not been true.

That was wishful thinking. When I arrived, her name was already off the placard outside the door. I hoped I might see her daughter there, clearing out her mother's things so that I could let her know how sorry I am and how much I really liked her mom. But no one was there at the time. The bed had been stripped, the dark blue plastic cover on the mattress piled high with Pat's belongings -- many of them the holiday decorations that probably would have come down soon anyway. I put my hand on the pile and said a prayer for my friend.

Visiting a nursing home on a regular basis, it's not unusual to know people who die. Since I started, I can count six people who've gone on. Most of their deaths have made me briefly sad. Pat's death? It has left me weeping with an aching sadness.

One of the volunteers told me a while ago that I shouldn't get too close to the people I visit. I don't know how to operate like that. So I just accept this feeling of loss as an occupational hazard, because in the end, the losses are so outweighed by the faith and love I gain.

Rest in God's peace, Pat.