Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Belated Birthday Thank You to My Mom and the Super Friends

So, at some an undisclosed point in the last month I turned an undisclosed age in an undisclosed place. (Honestly, what am I saying, I don't care if people know how old I am. I turned 35.)

And my Mom decided to mobilize her quite significant forces to make sure I remembered this particular birthday. Which is why, starting early in August I began to get birthday cards, not just from her but from a lot of other people. Some I knew, some I did not. Some explained their relationship to me, which almost always could be summarized as "I know your mom (ha ha ha)." A few did not, like Jenny McDermott, who it turns out in addition to being my sister is someone else entirely.

So anyway, I just wanted to take a moment to offer personal thanks to each of these wonderful individuals for taking the time to brighten the anniversary of the day in which I was born, 33 years ago.

Marge, your selection of cards is almost as extensive as my mom's. (My favorite--and also somehow the most disturbing card I've ever been sent: "The crab is sorry.")

Cousin Laura, Loved the silence card. Totally reusing that. Also, I make wish for goat. Does goat come? No.

Mom: 1) Love the paper clippings. Very serial killer. 2) Love this card made from a photo of the first day Jen had to wear those glasses you and Dad bought her:
3) Also love the Mom and Dad squiggle heads. Dad's even got short hair and you curly. Hilarious.

Aunt Denny, Thank you for the nicest card of all. (And the funniest. I will find an envelope!) I love you, too.

Eileen and Paul, Cute. Real cute. (PS I am still terrified of the cup.)

Denise Joyce, I'm pretty sure you kissed my envelope. And I don't know how to feel about that.

Marrens, Thanks for the card! I have no idea who half those people are. Sister Mary Adolpha--tell me more.

Tricia Dulkoski -- Thank you, Mom's choir buddy! Sing on!

Ann Solari-Twadell, a great sentiment from Richard Bach. Thanks for it!

Patty and Chuck -- Thanks! I'm sure He did! Then he probably thought, why isn't this building condemned?

Mike and Denise -- Thanks!

Mary Jo, I want everyone to know what you sent me:
A drawing of what looks like a terrible accident or blizzard done by your grandson Declan (thanks, Declan!);
A photo of yourself at age 5 (you were so cute!);
This photo:
Used, dirty sunglasses;
A used candle that smells like vanilla that has been burnt;
An empty cigar case;
A Justin Masterson baseball card;
A packet of soy sauce;
A packet of ketchup;
A dented ping pong ball;
A small metal toy car;
A Marco Scutaro baseball card;
A baseball-shaped eraser;
A small Lego monster figure with one arm broken off;
A small tube that looks like the kind of thing someone would use to snort cocaine;
A "Game On!" wrist band;
A small broken pine cone;
6 pieces of "Tropical Twist" flavored Trident;
A box of Tropical Twist Trident, ripped open and empty;
The eye off a doll;
A basketball shaped eraser;
and the broken arm off the Lego monster toy.
Here it all is together:
Amazing. I'm just surprised it didn't also include a dirty ashtray.

My Mom also sent a care package, which included:
A light-up boomerang that neither lights up nor comes back;
Slippers stolen from the Hilton;
A glow in the dark skeleton hand that will be really cool and probably also give me cancer if I can just figure it out;
(It doesn't do anything but just sit there, so I'm calling it Maverick.)
A giant fold up plastic checkers game;
A skateboard for your finger (which comes with instructions on how to do spins...on your finger);
A Zombie Sea Monkey;
A glow in the dark Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles yo-yo to go with the other two glow in the dark yo-yos you sent me last year;
Another harmonica;
Paint-by-Number plastic Sun Catchers of a Peace Sign and the word "LOVE";
Duck Dynasty stickers, including one that says "Redneck Approved";
A plastic candle that supposedly plays music if you light it, but I can't tell because the instructions are 100% in Chinese;
A homemade card with a fat police man on it.
Here it all is together:
You shouldn't have! (Seriously.)

2 Kays and a Betty -- Thanks! I loved your last album! When are you teaming up with One Direction???

Bonnie Eiffes -- Thanks! What a lovely photo!

Joji -- Thank you! Love the card. Enjoy your new archbishop; he's fantastic!

Pam and Rich -- Thank you! And thanks to your granddaughters! What a cool looking card. (Bedazzled!)

Club Sister Jo, you are never too late!

Myles and Annie -- I hard the angel singing! (Is that what an angel alert sounds like??)

Scott--Puzzle card: Best. Idea. Ever. #FTW

Mary R -- Hola, y muchas gracias! Hope Spain is treating you great. My parents are looking forward to coming.

Roberta and John -- Thank you! And you bet, my prayers are yours.

Steve and Jeanne, Thanks! Can't believe you have two boys born on the same day. They must be very very special.

(Other) Jenny McDermott--Thanks! It kind of freaks me out that you have my sister's name.

Lynn-Thanks!  (I want to say something clever here, but I threw out your card before I decided to do this! All kinds of classy, me.)

Maverick -- NO. BAD DOG! BAD.

And in case I forgot anyone -- and I bet I did -- thanks so much to you, too. You are too kind! (And kind of crazy, to boot!)

Best 30th birthday gift ever! Thanks, Mom! And thanks everybody!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Blase Cupich, the Next Archbishop of Chicago, A Man of Great Kindness

While in my Jesuit training, I spent three years teaching high school at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwest South Dakota. You've probably heard of Pine Ridge; the New York Times and Washington Post love to send reporters out for week-long jaunts after which they write about how sad and desperate it is out there. They're not completely wrong, but they miss an awful lot. 

PRIMARY TABSWhile in my Jesuit training, I spent three years teaching high school at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwest South Dakota. You've probably heard of PIne Ridge; the New York Times and Washington Post love to send reporters out for week-long jaunts after which they write about how sad and desperate it is out there. They're not completely wrong, but they miss an awful lot. 

When I started at Red Cloud, there was a great young Jesuit at the helm, Father Bill McKenney. He was from Michigan, he looked like Fred Flintstone (the kids at our school there actually called him that when he used to teach there) and he had endless energy and passion for the people there and our work. A great joy to live with.
Four months into my stay there, Bill died suddenly, age 38, of a massive coronary. No warning, no priors, just dropped dead.  
And, if you can believe it, the same thing had happend three years earlier; Assistant Principal Brother Denny Ryan, a Jesuit from Omaha with a wicked sense of humor and an uncanny ability to connect with even the angriest of student, died of a sudden heart attack at age 38, just after Easter.  
The months following Bill's death, we lived like zombies, shells of ourselves, working as hard as we could just to keep going, trying desperately to run away from the incredible sorrow we all felt. 
In April of that year, we had our first visit with the new bishop of Rapid City. It's a long trip, Pine Ridge to Rapid, 90 minutes to 2 hours drive, and it was unusual for the bishop to come without some liturgical function involved.  But this guy, he just wanted to come and spend some time with us, get to know us a little bit. 
I remember him walking through our community on the way to our dining room. He was pleasant, reserved. And very observant. And as he looked around, had dinner with us, heard about Bill and about all that we were doing, you could see something flash across his face momentarily. Concern. Deep concern.
When dinner was over, the 15 or so of us moved to our living room, where the bishop said a little about himself, thanked us for our hospitallity.
Then he stopped and looked us all very deep in the eye. And he paused, maybe debating whether it was approriate to speak his mind so early in our relationship. Then, with real feeling in his voice, he told us that we were all working very hard. Too hard. And that we needed to take care of ourselves.
It's been 17 years since that conversation, and I've never forgotten it or him. When you're lost in sadness like we were, to have someone see the truth and speak to it with such gentleness and love -- it was infiintely kind.
If rumors are true, this morning that man, Bishop Blase Cupich, will be announced as the new Archbishop of Chicago. How blessed that city will be.