Family and Friends Cheesy and Pompous Microscopic Christmas Newsletter*
Dear Family and Friends,
Greetings from the Land of Lincoln (and ethanol)! Indiana is trying to get into the Lincoln act. The official state welcoming sign now says: "Indiana—Boyhood Home of Lincoln." He is just SO beloved out here. Another year bites the snow! I hope you are all dancing and prancing in Jingle Bell Square in the frosty air. Chicago just gets better and better. Mayor Daley is on his 6th term (if he finishes it, he will be the longest reigning US mayor ever). Word is that he's grooming his son to continue the dynasty. Whatever he's doing, it certainly works. The new bird of Chicago is the "crane." They're all over the skyline, and each new condo that goes up is sold out before construction is completed. This is a city of young adults because the job market is booming. Chicago factoid for you: Buckingham Fountain (right next to Lake Michigan) marks the beginning of the fabled Route 66! AND I think I've finally cracked the secret of the Midwest. The East Coast has roots but no wings. The West Coast has wings but no roots. The Midwest has both. Folks that are grounded and open at the same time.
Da da da da da da da da da da da da da da da da….Batman!
For those of you with too much time on your hands, my "da's" are anatomically correct:16. Try the theme song yourself! So I felt like I never left L.A. because they were filming Batman #17 in Chicago this summer, and LYING to us—telling us it was a movie called "Rory's First Kiss." (Rory is the name of the director's kid.) Whadda they think, we're a bunch of Midwestern bumpkins? We have roots AND wings! But we figgered it out. We had a priest from Sicily staying with us, who kept taking pictures at the outdoor sets and didn't quite get it that when they kick you off the set, they mean it. The film crew told us there was going to be an explosion and they didn't want us to get hurt. Right. An explosion named Christian Bale.
The Real Cranes
You haven't lived till you've seen and heard migrating Sandhill Cranes. (They live up in Wisconsin and beyond.) At first you think they're Canada geese, but the honking is more eerie and prehistoric sounding. They fly with the moon on their wings—no wait, that's the song—they fly with neck and legs outstretched (ouch!) unlike other birds that tuck 'em in. 80-inch wingspan! They spiral up in the thermals (like hawks) to great heights. It's really something quite mystical.
The Fake Eagles
The diocese of Superior, Wisconsin, is huge. It comprises 16 counties, and borders Lake Superior (Canada) at its nothernmost. If you're thinking "Brrrrr," you're right. Diocesan motto: "Not big time, just a good time." I went eagle-watching in Superior. I went to all the eagle haunts where the locals swore I would see eagles and eagle nests. They made it sound like eagles are to Superior what pigeons are to Chicago. Nothing. I have been eagle watching many times in my life--at places named Eagle Lake, Eagle Harbor, Eagle Rock, Eagle Bay, Eagle River, Eagle Mountain, Eagle Pond. Nada. (The only bald eagle I've ever seen is on the Muppets.) I'm beginning to think that our "E Pluribus Unum" friends should be put BACK on the endangered list 'cuz I sure haven't seen any! But then again my Dad, who loved moose and spent many summers hiking and mountain-climbing in New Hampshire before he died, never saw a moose. And moose do exist because I saw TWO of them the ONE morning my Dad did NOT accompany me to daily Mass one summer in New Hampshire.
Of Media Workshops, Blogs, YouTube and Facebook
Yes, I continue to blather about media literacy, philosophy, and Theology of the Body (took a week-long course with Christopher West this summer—wow!) to all who will listen, traveling around the Upper Midwest. We also do book and media exhibits with these talks. We just got IOWA and part of NEBRASKA added to our "territory." Our sisters in St. Louis tried to steal southern Ohio from us, but we weren't having any of that! I began an eponymous blog: www.hellburns.blogspot.com. Again, if you have too much time on your hands, you may want to check out where I have left my footprints in the cornstalks this year (just click on past months and days on the left hand column). I did my first YouTube (just search for "Daughters of St. Paul—Ask the Nuns!") The video is wretched and the audio is worse, but you gutta start somewhere. I am loving Facebook (aka "Wastebook" because of all the time spent on it)! It's really a great way to organize your online life and know when all your friends are brushing their teeth.
"Jambo!" means "Howzit?" in Kenyan. A young woman studying in Illinois, Jackie Gitonga, is joining the Daughters of St. Paul...in her native Kenya. The United States' loss, Kenya's gain. Please pray for her as she finishes her studies and abandons us. But I'm not bitter. We had a wonderful vocation retreat here this summer which 9 young women attended. Almost 10. Let me explain. The last young woman to be picked up--Anne--called from the train station. "I'm at the corner of Jackson and Canal." I drove there with a few of the retreatants in the car, and there she was, like all the others, sitting on her suitcase, clutching a pillow. We waved, she ran to the car, we hugged, loaded her stuff, she piled in, we drove off. Everyone introduced themselves. She said her name was "Amanda." (Hmmm. Maybe I had gotten the name wrong.) "Where are you from?" they asked her. "Michigan." (Hmmm. Anne was from California but GOING to Michigan.) Then Amanda piped up: "Where's Aleesha?" I slammed on the brakes. (There was no Aleesha on the retreat.) "OK—who are you and who do you think we are and did you or did you not sign up for a vocation retreat?" I demanded. Amanda: "No." All the other retreatants in chorus: "We kidnapped you!" Me: "Why did you get in the van??!!" "Because Aleesha works with handicapped children and I thought maybe she worked with nuns and maybe she sent the nuns to get me." Needless to say we whooped and hollered all the way back to the train station. The police screamed at us for parking in the bus lane as we unloaded "Amanda," but we were laughing too hard to hear or care. "Have a nice life, Amanda!" we all shouted.
Life in the Foodie Community
So I walk in the living room before supper, and there's Sr. Thecla, our community cook (just celebrated her 50th anniversary of profession this year), watching the Food Channel, SOBBING!! She was watching one of those cooking contest shows, and this young man had his culinary creation brusquely rejected. He and Sr.Thecla were sobbing. Evidently the young man said: "It's like someone rejected your son." Typical supper in the Chicago community: Sr. Thecla (foodie): meat, potatoes and veggies. Sr. Susan (ascetic): whatever Sr. Thecla cooks. Prunes for dessert. If it's Sunday, ice cream. Sr. Anne (foodie): whatever Sr. Thecla cooks, with the addition of her own tangerine-feta-ginger-honey-rosemary-balsamic-tumeric dressings. Sr. Helen (Alaskan outdoorswoman): bowl of vegetables and two apples. Sr. Helena (processed foodie): Raisin Bran.
"He Speaks to You" and a new screenplay
The daily devotional for young women I've been working on, "He Speaks to You," will come out in 2008, God willing. Mother asked me, "Didn't Sr. Marie Paul dedicate her first book to her mother?" I'm also beginning a screenplay on the life of our Founder, Blessed James Alberione. I didn't save on my car insurance, but I did lower my cholesterol by cutting down dairy and eating raw flaxseed—a miracle food.
NOT Back on the Road Again
Mother and I were (insanely) going to take a road trip down to the deep South in the middle of record-breaking heat this August to see relatives. But Mom broke her wrist very badly which made it impossible. (Mom was walking "Spencer" the dog—on a 30-ft. cable—who decided to run after "Lucky" the cat. Mom decided to hold on to the cable.) My sister, Mary—a long-time Californian--is moving to Georgia to be with her son, David, so we'll have to try again soon!
172 N. Michigan—Seminarian Depot
We had an inordinately high number of seminarians coming over for pizza this year. One bunch was from Peoria, Illinois ("Boyhood Home of Fulton Sheen"). They plan to drive to Rochester, NY, and steal Bishop Sheen's bones and bring them back to Peoria where they belong.
"We Irish have a streak of pessimism that sustains us in times of joy." –Bishop Boland, Kansas City, MO
"Irish Alzheimers: When you only remember the bad stuff." I just read the life of St. Bridget of Ireland (who wished for a "lake of beer for the King of heaven"—no kidding). What an extraordinary lady! Turns out she was based in Kildare where the O'Byrne clan originally hung their shelaleighs, until they were pressed eastward by the "Scandinavian horror." At the risk of sounding like St. Bridget, I have to share this: "If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every Spring. He sends a sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, He listens. He can live anywhere in the universe, but He chose your heart. Face it friend, He is crazy about you! God didn't promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears and light for the way." –Anonymous Uplifting Cyberspace-Circulating Thingamahooey
"Elf" and "Bella"
I hope you all saw these two movies. Remember the "Elf" rules:
1. Treat every day like it's Christmas.
2. There's room for everyone on the "nice" list.
3. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loud for all to hear.
Colleen is 16, and yes, America and Canada, DRIVING. Actually she has a sweet jeep and is the family chauffeur. Kevin is 14, and playing Lacrosse. Christopher is 5, began kindergarten and CCD, and has to wear whatever Kevin wears.
Christmas in Heaven
My brother, Robert (Bif), 74; my uncles Gilbert Lawlor, 79, and Richie Lawlor, 77; my brother-in-law Guy; and a dear friend's mother, Filomena, 91.
ARE YOU STILL READING THIS?? If you are, please send me your email because a first class stamp will probably be $7.89 next Christmas, and if I send you a Christmas EMAIL, I won't be limited to just TWO pages! You lucky devil you! love and prayers, Sr. Helena xo xo xo
*Remember, Cheesy because it's quick, slick and impersonal; Pompous because it assumes you actually care what I've been doing all year; and Microscopic because I think ALL my news is desperately important!