Monday, November 30, 2009

Meatloaf and Ovaltine

It's meatloaf and Ovaltine, Poison Control and bathroom behavior bartering, chards of glass and new shoes.

I was on parental-assistance duty for Thanksgiving this year while my sisters frolicked about in the Tennessee sunshine. As my sweet mother is in pain and recovering from double joint replacement surgery, and my beloved father is, well, my father, it was an interesting, although not unusual, visit. This recap is provided mostly for my sisters' entertainment, but as it's pretty amusing in general, I'd like to share with y'all a typical day at home, as a temporarily-only-child, assisting parents upwards of 65. Enjoy...

8:00 - Awake to Dad's voice-alarm booming, "Annie, get outta bed. I wanna find the list of Cool Tools judges on the computer internet service world wide web monitor machine so I can send them my garden seeder."
8:15 - Arrive in kitchen, clean Dad's sticky "Magic Juicer" slop from walls, counter, and floor, before getting my sanity-saving coffee.
9:00 - Clean bathroom number one.
9:30 - Clean bathroom number two.
10:00 - Make deal with Dad that I'll help him with the internet if he'll promise to start flushing toilets.
10:05 - Help Dad find list of judges from a DIY Network show based on the first name of a judge from a 2007 episode.
10:45 - Explain to Dad why typing "My Email" into the Google search bar is not the best way to access his Yahoo account.
11:30 - Call hospital on-call number to track down doctor on duty, on vacation weekend, because Mom might have accidentally taken the wrong mix of post-surgery pills.
11:35 - Prepare to call Poison Control before getting call back from on-call doctor.
12:00 - Make lunch for 82 million cousins stopping through to say hello.
13:00 - Go grocery shopping for weekend, fielding a question from Dad, on my cell while in the dairy aisle, about how to change font size in Microsoft Word.
14:30 - Do laundry of Mom's hospital-esque bed's 24 pillow cases.
15:00 - Buy new pair of Anne Klein shoes on Mom, as "thanks" for coming home to help.
16:00 - Fill up tank of premium gas on Dad, as "thanks" for coming home to help.
16:30 - Arrive home to living room floor of Dad's shattered glass of juice.
16:35 - Clean Dad's shattered glass of juice.
17:00 - Clean bathroom number one, again.
17:15 - Clean bathroom number two, again.
17:30 - Say hello to cousin installing a downstairs, walk-in shower in bathroom number three.
17:45 - Make dinner of World's Largest Ever Meatloaf, so the parents, and the cousins stopping through, can be fed the following week.
20:00 - Peacefully watch Forrest Gump in living room, with volume actually at a controlled level because Dad has his "audio ears" headphones on and working, while sipping Ovaltine and eating pie, being thankful I have two working legs, a place to call home, and two married parents who love me a whole lot.

It's not always pretty, and it's sometimes very messy, but that big, old, beautiful house on Summit Street with the creaky floors that is full of family love and cherished memories, will always be home sweet home.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Your opinion doesn't matter.

There was a first-of-its-kind lawsuit filed this week in Milwaukee County of lawyers fighting lawyers over an internet advertising dispute.

You can read the full story here, but basically, the plaintiffs claimed the defendants purchased the plaintiffs' names as keywords for internet advertising, without written consent. Therefore, the plaintiffs claim the defendants violated Wisconsin Statute 995.50 (2)(b) which says, "the use, for advertising purposes or purposes of trade, of the name... of any living person, without having first obtained the written consent of the person," is considered an invasion of privacy.

The defendants' purchase of the plaintiffs' names for advertising purposes is a clear-as-day violation of the statute. But after reading blogs, media stories, and readers' comments, I've noticed all of the commentary basically says the same thing: "It is aggravating for the plaintiffs, but legal in my opinion."

Hey, guess what? Your opinion doesn't matter!

The opinion that matters is that of the law. The question the court must answer is, "Did Defendants use, for advertising purposes, Plaintiffs' names without written consent?" The answer is an obvious yes.

The annoying and over-used personal opinion factor, rather than application to and interpretation of the law, leads me think about how many people apply their my-opinion-logic to their own decisions. Thank Goodness that as members of the Church, we have our own objective statutes and "laws," if you will. The "law" to guide our decision making is set forth by Christ himself, who gave the keys to the Kingdom to Peter instituting the Church, which, continues to give us authoritative moral guidance, standards, and "law," through the inspiration and cooperation of the Holy Spirit. Like it or not, it is what it is. Take it or leave it, folks.

Here's my point: It baffles me how so many Catholics choose the my-opinion-logic, rather than the Jesus-said-so logic, on moral decisions. It absolutely baffles me. That is all. Also, thank God for grace.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Clearly, I need a husband.

Disclaimer: I like slightly facetious writing. Let's review its definition before we begin.

Facetious: 1: joking or jesting often inappropriately (just being facetious) 2: meant to be humorous or funny, not serious (a facetious remark)

Ok then. So, I am currently watching a facebook message chain wherein my two brothers-in-law are fighting for the title and glory of officially being crowned my momma’s “Favorite Son-in-law.” Both of them are really great men, and their continued ambitions to earn my momma’s love are rather endearing; it’s making me think of all the reasons I need a quality husband, too.

CRITTER KILLING: Since last winter, I’ve had this really ugly eight-legged critter living in my basement and he only comes out when I’m home alone. I’ve tried to have visitors hunt for him, but he never shows his face unless I’m alone. Sometimes I try waiting until he comes out and then calling someone to come quickly, but it’s never quick enough and he retreats into hiding again. The critter keeps getting bigger and I want him dead. Clearly, I need a husband.

FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT: I am terrible with finances. I spend more than I should on shoes and sushi and not enough on paying off my car. Yesterday I got a call from Time Warner because I missed my cable and internet payment – not because I couldn’t pay it, but because I just forgot. I’ve been a Netflix subscriber for six months now, but my second rental, which was from April, is still sitting next to my DVD player. The thing is, it’s not that I’m wasteful. Rather, that it’s just me and I don’t think or care about money the same way providers do, so I don’t think about it very often. Clearly, I need a husband.

I DON’T SPEAK CAR: I know my car Bert is blue, has four doors, and is adorable. Beyond that, I’m pretty clueless. Apparently, you’re supposed to get your oil and brake pads changed regularly. So just to be safe, I took Bert into the mechanic today for an overdue oil change and to have his brake pads checked. The mechanic started talking about synthetic materials, rotors, and calibers. To me, it sounded like “I want to take your money even though your car is running just fine.” I didn’t really know any better, so I said ok. Clearly, I need a husband.

And then, of course, I could talk about all of those beautiful spiritual, vocational, Sacramental and sacrificial reasons, but regardless, my point is this: Whoever came up with that whole independent woman mantra is not my friend. I am helpless and need to be rescued – at least when it comes to critters, financial management, and cars. Clearly, I need a husband.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jesus loves our veterans

Jesus said it best...
"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." ~John 15:13

But Ronnie did pretty well, too...
"The willingness of our citizens to give freely and unselfishly of themselves, even their lives, in defense of our democratic principles, gives this great nation continued strength and vitality. I urge all Americans to recognize the valor and sacrifice of our veterans through appropriate public ceremonies and private prayers." ~President Ronald Reagan, October 26, 1981

Ok, Ronnie. Here's mine... May our Lord protect and bless those who did, do, and will serve. May the rest of us learn a greater appreciation for the value of patriotism embodied by our veterans' true and noble love for our country. And in their honor, may we all desire and work to make the United States the land of goodness, hope, and freedom for which they fought. Amen!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


This just in via e-mail from Young Life headquarters in Colorado Springs:

Dear Annie:
You may not drive for Young Life.
We at Young Life have set a high standard regarding volunteers who wish to work with our kids. Our desire is to create a safe environment for our many activities, and provide reliable transportation to and from those events. Our driving guidelines state that you must have less than 3 moving violations within the last 3 years in order to drive. An expired or suspended license as well as a DUI will also prohibit your being able to drive for Young Life. Unfortunately, you have NOT passed these driving requirements, and may not drive any vehicle for Young Life at this time.
Even though you are not able to drive for Young Life at this time, we want to encourage you to continue living God's love in front of teenagers.
Sincerely, Young Life Headquarters

Well I have words for you, too.

Dear Young Life:
Just for the record, I do not have any DUIs. A lead foot and (unknowingly driving with a) once expired license, guilty as charged, but no DUIs. Let's just make that clear.
Thanks, Annie

The funny thing, is they have no idea how many citations I've smiled and/or cried my way out of.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Flying by faith

I’m not scared of flying – I rather enjoy it, actually – but just to be safe, I always say an act of contrition before takeoff and tell the Lord I’m ready to meet Him if it’s time.

This past weekend I made a quick trip to Tennessee to meet my new Goddaughter and celebrate her Baptism. As the plane took off, I was once again convinced I was going to plummet to my death at some point during the 1.5-hour flight.

I know the rules of physics and can regurgitate all the book answers. I even know that Lift = .5ρ2ACL (I took honors physics… and might have dated an aerospace engineer… or two). But even with that knowledge, the concept of an 80,000-pound object being suspended in thin air for hours seems contrary to everything that makes sense up in my brain – especially if I’m on that object. I don’t understand it, but I don’t have to. I just have to get on board.

From the good to the bad, there is so much in life I guess I’ll never understand. I will never be able to explain why they had to lose their young daughter to cancer, why she lost her baby, why her heart has been broken so many times, or why he can’t find a job. On the more joyful side, I can’t really explain how transubstantiation actually works, how five loaves and two fish fed 5,000, or how spit made a blind man see. My knowledge alone cannot explain a lot of things, but I don’t have to have an explanation. I just have to trust in the Lord with all my heart, and lean not on my own understanding.

God is big enough to handle our questions. Jesus hung on the cross to open our eyes to what we would otherwise never see, knowing all of the questions we would have from that great act of love, and to answer our questions; I believe there's no place he would rather have been. But when our own insight is not sufficient for the big "why?" questions we often face, sometimes it’s best to toss our lack of understanding up on a wing and prayer, trust in the Lord, and fly by faith. Whenever I do that, I seem to land safely.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not. In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Friday, October 30, 2009

Please act to oppose abortion mandates

No one should be required to pay for or participate in abortion. Doctors should have the freedom to refrain from medical practices they deem immoral.

From the USCCB:

“All committee-approved health care reform bills are seriously deficient on the issues of abortion and conscience. None of the bills retains longstanding current policies against abortion funding or abortion coverage mandates, and none fully protects conscience rights in health care.”

The Bishops are asking for our help in supporting health care that respects the life and dignity of all people. Please do not sit idle on this issue of epic, eternal importance. To let your voice be heard about opposing abortion funding and mandates in health care reform, contact your legislators today. Please send a pre-written e-mail to Congress by visiting

More information about the bills can be found here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I fell in love again

The first time I fell truly, madly, deeply in love was when I was at a Young Life camp as a high school kid. The beach sunsets and starry nights set the perfect stage, and the man’s character was so compassionate, so caring, so selfless, so others-oriented, I couldn’t help but be completely absorbed in him and all his ways.

This week I had the privilege of giving the talk at the end of Young Life Club, and I chose to share the story of Jesus forgiving the adulterous woman and saving her from being stoned – the same story that captivated my heart for him more than ten years ago.

What I love most about this story is how Jesus cares so deeply for this woman just as she was – ashamed and a sinner. When she is caught in the “very act of adultery,” is standing there in front of the town’s social elite, humiliated and probably covered by nothing more than a bed sheet, Jesus grants her mercy from being stoned to death, but he does so much more than that!

My favorite part of this story, is how when Jesus bends down and doodles in the sand, for that one moment, he frees the woman from all the painful ridicule and judgment of the gawking by-standers by drawing their eyes off of her, and onto him. It’s an example of complete care and concern for this woman and all she was going through. A perfect, beautiful example of Cura Personalis in action.

It’s my favorite story about the person of Christ, because it reveals to a world where most of us think of God as a big, lumpy, hairy, angry old man in the clouds ready to beam down lighting bolts of condemnation if we curse, lie, or drink too much, that he is actually a God of perpetual mercy and forgiveness who cares about each of us that deeply, that intricately, and with that much compassion.

The fervor of his love for us all is revealed in such a way by this story that whenever I hear it, and especially when I tell it, I can’t help but fall sweetly in love with him all over again.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Blooming where I’m planted.

For the past three-and-a-half years of my post-college life, I’ve felt like I’ve been waiting for something to happen… some door to open, some relationship to become a commitment, some job to open up in the golf industry, or just some legitimate reason to uproot my life and plant it anywhere other than Milwaukee. But after a lot of prayer for guidance, a door to open, or some light to a new path, for the first time in these three years I finally feel like I am content, at peace, and planted exactly where God wants me to be. It feels great.

I was out and about on Friday night, and over the course of the evening I randomly ran into at least two-dozen friends from Young Life, Café Aduro, my Marquette days, and current co-workers. It felt good to be out in a city of one million people, and bump into so many friends at random. Saturday I was at Camp Randall (for the Iowa victory, holler!) with two of my sisters and I ran into at least a dozen friends in Madison whom I had no idea would be there. Today at Mass I walked in by myself, but was quickly greeted by my fifty-two high school confirmation candidate friends who were just returning from their weekend retreat (which I bailed on for the Iowa game… selfishly, I admit it was sooo worth it). While apple picking today with Cute Attorney I ran into my next door neighbor’s family. And tonight, I was surrounded by the warmth of my Young Life family at an all-area dinner. It was a weekend full of family, good friends, old friends, new friends, and just feeling like I belonged.

I don’t know if I want to stay at my current job for the next year, five years, ten years, or forever. I don’t know if I want to go back to school or not. I don’t know how long I want throw money away at renting my apartment. I don’t know what I’m going to wear tomorrow, when I’m going to finish the laundry, or when I’m ever going to make it to the grocery store. I don’t know a lot of things. But I do know, that for right now, I am exactly where God wants me to be, and am so very content to keep blooming where I’m planted.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I want to be an old man.

As much as I wish I could have been a wide receiver for the Iowa Hawkeyes, I wouldn’t even trade an X for a Y chromosome for that opportunity. I like being a woman. I really, really do.

My gratitude is partially because if I would have been born a baby boy, my name would have been Edward, and I do not like the name Edward. But mostly, it’s because I love rocking life per God’s design of the feminine genius. I like men. I appreciate the fact that I am emotional. I have a deeply rooted desire to nurture and care for children the way only a mother can. There’s not been a single day of my life when I have wished I were born of the male gender.

There is one exception to that. I do, with all my heart, wish that even if for just one day I could experience life as an old man.

Think about it… Old men get away with practically anything they want. The majority are loud, smelly, and without manners and we all say, “oh, what a cute little old man!” You see one at the restaurant with butter smeared on his chin and instead of, “ew, gross!” you think, “Well that’s just darling. How sweet!” You find yourself screeching to a halt for one J-walking through rush hour traffic and you think, “Aww, that’s endearing. He probably doesn’t have much time left.” An old man cuts right in front of you at the grocery store and says, “Thank you for letting me go ahead. I just have a few items,” and you gladly oblige. You are seated on an airplane by one who is repeatedly popping your personal bubble and who reeks of old spice, pipe tobacco, and scalp, but you are nonetheless charmed and comforted by his obtrusive grandfatherliness.

Maybe it’s because they all remind us of Santa Clause. Maybe we are just aware they don’t have much time left. Maybe we assume they’ve seen so much hardship in their long lives of labor that we subconsciously thinks it’s finally time to cut them some slack.

Why we let them get away with anything they please, I don’t know. But this I do know… old men have it made. And, that I’d like to implement their genius strategy. So I welcome any theories you have.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

good news

The last week has been full of good news. I survived surgery, dog sitting, oxycodone, a house full of teenagers, and hauling an oversized-load of a Plinko board across town through rush hour traffic. It has been a busy, but pretty awesome week. Updates in alphabetical order…

Café Aduro: I'm on the team starting a new Young Adult Ministry sponsored by my parish called Café Aduro, which stands for Catholic Adult Formation and Education on fire. Last night was the first in a series of speakers, and we actually had people show up and stick around well past the intended ending time, so we're pretty stoked. Next topic: “I Talk to Dead People.” Check it out here!

Confirmation: I had a living room full of teenagers this weekend for my first small group session with the candidates I’m advising this year. It was awesome. This week we discussed the Trinity, and Salvation. You can imagine the questions! The Most Entertaining Award goes to a question regarding grace and forgiveness... “Wait, what if I was so drunk that I don’t remember being drunk. How can I ask forgiveness from something I don’t even remember?” Oh boy. This is going to be an interesting group; and I’m going to love every minute of it!

Cute Attorney: He continues to be pretty fantastic. Although a bit of a workaholic, he is an ambitious gentleman who shares my affinities for words like affinity, Marquette basketball, side-parted hairstyles, dance parties, and old-school rules of grammar. And, I very much appreciate the fact that he appreciates that I can keep up with him in theological discussions about post-Limbo doctrine and proper consultation of the Magesterium. I’m hopeful there will be more of those discussions to come!

Young Life: My fellow leaders and I have been busy hanging out with high schoolers, together belting Journey songs at the top of our lungs, taking the Taco Bell Value Menu challenge, and making fools of ourselves in hopes of being able to introduce these new friends of ours to the Lord. Last night I went to a swim meet for some face time, and although I could only stay for a few minutes I was able to connect with at least ten kids I knew… it was pretty solid "contact work," as we call it in Young Life, and it has me totally jazzed for the school year ahead, building friendships, and, God willing, sharing with them the best Good News of all!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An ugly kind of blind

It’s been a blustery, rainy couple of days here in Brew City, but I'm seeing more clearly than I have in years.

While most often people celebrate anniversaries, or even half-anniversaries, yesterday I celebrated sixth months of freedom from a relationship wherein I allowed myself to be – pausing to tame my tongue – emotionally trampled on, unbeknownst to me at the time.

I'm not celebrating the arbitrary numeric aspect of the six months themselves. Rather, I guess I’m celebrating my long-awaited, recently attained realization of just how pathetically blinded I was. So, Happy Half-Un-Anniversary to me!

If there's one thing I've learned in the past incredibly edifying year of my life, it's that love can be an ugly kind of blind, but, thank God, the twenty-twenty view of hindsight is a thing of beauty from above.

So whether it takes six months of begging our Father for mercy and healing, a stellar date with a super cute attorney, or some combination thereof, when you reach that point of clarity, see your blindness, and put it behind you, Hot Dang does it feel good!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Against all odds

My beloved Hawkeyes upset Old Man JoPa’s then-ranked-number-5 Nittany Lions on Saturday – for the second year in a row. My usually terrible kickball team managed our first victory last week, fully ninja-masked and all. And, I actually arrived to work on time a few days last week. Lately, it seems things are going in my favor, even against all odds.

When I first picked up the hit book, He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt, I was getting over my very first “love.” I was twenty-years-old, thought I was experiencing a broken heart, and was searching for any practical means to help me see the light at the end of my miserable tunnel vision. My Bestie fed-exed it – The Book – to me overnight, I read it cover-to-cover in one sitting, and my perspective on dating was instantly changed for life, and for better.

Second only to the Bible, The Book is the most liberating piece of literature any single twenty-something could possible read. Its mantra can be summed up very simply: If a dude is into you, he’s going to make it very, very clear. If he does NOT make it clear, don’t waste your time, because, “he’s just not that into you.”

More specifically, it says if a guy wants to see you again, he will confirm the next time he gets to see you before the first encounter comes to an end. Conversely, if he doesn’t confirm the next time to see you while still in your presence the first time, it means he’s not going to call, at all.

Well, I recently realized I have ample data to compile my very own statistically conclusive facts on the aforementioned matter. The calculations are in, my friends, and while The Book says he’s just not that into you if he doesn’t ask to see you again while still on your first encounter, and you’ll eventually get an “awkward e-mail rejection,” my experience says otherwise. It turns out that, in the life of yours truly, even if he doesn’t ask to see you again at the conclusion of your first encounter, there is still a 63% chance you will hear from him in the near future.

So to all the single ladies, keep your chins up. The odds are in our favor.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

When the Lights go Down in the City

At 11 p.m. last night the wind outside was howling, I was on my couch with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc watching TV, and all of a sudden the lights flickered and, aw snap, everything went out in my neighborhood. There I sat, me and my lonesome, in darkness and silence. God bless charged laptops!

Whether in your home, or in life in general, there are several things we can do when we find ourselves powerless and in the dark.

Light a candle… or nine
There’s an ancient Chinese proverb now used by the Christophers, “It’s better to light one candle that to curse the darkness.” You can choose to sit in the darkness, or you can get off your couch, dig through your messy drawers to find matches and a candle and be amazed as its flame pierces the darkness.

Put the candle in front of your cute nephew
When you muster up the means to light some candles, see the bright side, and get the flames-a-blazing, focus the candles' light so it shines on something clearly, obviously joyful, like, a picture of your adorable nephew Jack. His smile, coupled with the flames, will light up the room.

Hang with the Big Guy
Even if you already offered a rosary that day, pick another method of prayer and pray harder. It’s a great time for prayer when the lights and noises of the world are gone, and the Lord is the only one - no people, tv, radio, internet - to occupy your time and receive your love and affection.

Appreciate the night
I’m reminded of my favorite Pat Green song, “Crazy,” from his Three Days album. He sings, “Yeah, sometimes I sleep with all the lights on. It helps me to appreciate the night. Don’t you think life would be awfully boring if the good times were all that we had?” You’re right, Pat. You are so right. So take the time to appreciate the slower, more mellow pace of the darkness.

Call Customer Service
When you have no power on your own, chances are a friend does who would love to help you out. In a power outage, you’ll be lucky to have We Energies’ Customer Service line in your cell phone for an ETA on power restoration. In general, a cell phone can reach a friend at any time of the day or night, so be sure it’s charged up and has plenty of numbers stored, ready to heed your cry for help.

Eat all the ice cream in your freezer
Because it's delicious, and, tomorrow it will be melted.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Can I get a re-do?

I play pick-up volleyball at my gym twice a week, and while sometimes I get lucky and it approaches almost competitive, most of the time it's approximately the level of my 8th grade South East Junior High A-Team. Recently, those of us with some degree of skill have adapted our strategy to, rather than pass-set-spike, just keep the ball away from Chuck, a darling but 80-year-old grandpa with thick goggle-glasses who moves at a pace slightly faster than a giant sea turtle.

Last night there was a new girl. I'll give her 9th grade, freshman team skills - you know, where some people start getting cut. So my team was down 5 - 7 when the serve comes over, hits the tape on the net, and my teammate dives in front of the ten-foot line to pop it up. I get under it and set to the middle hitter, who swings and has a kill right in front of Newbie. My team celebrates the well-deserved side-out, but Newbie across the net breaks up our party with her whiney shriek of, "But I didn't know the ball could hit the net on the serve!"

Ummm, gosh, I'm so terribly sorry, Newbie. Here's an idea - how 'bout you learn the rules before you step on my court.

Her whining continued, so in order to shut her mouth, the majority decided to allow Newbie's team a redo, which, to me was absolutely ridiculous. Instead of throwing a fit and demanding justice, I chose to roll my eyes to myself and I thought of all the times I wish I could have a re-do.

Like the time I thought I had a month long grace period to renew my expired driver's license, but didn’t, and I ended up getting pulled over during that month, fined for both speeding and driving without a license and being mandated to call a tow truck AND appear in court, which happened to be the day after a break-up, to-boot.

Or like the time I spent .2 seconds too long gazing at the pretty dresses in the boutique window and crashed into the Honda in front of me.

Or like the time I was on a date with the cutest, most Irish, most athletic, most intelligently Catholic man I'd ever been on a date with and I said the dumbest things a chick could ever say.

Truth is, we all do a whole lot of stupid stuff, and people don't always give us re-dos. But we have very Good News that God is much more gracious than all of us, especially me in the midst of any competitive activity, and when we offend him, he gives us a re-do whenever we approach him with contrite heart.

So go to the Ultimate Referee, tell him you're sorry for screwing up (insert plug for the awesome Sacrament of Reconciliation here), let our gracious God impart more grace to you than any opponent/date/policeman/Honda driver ever could and be refreshed, renewed, and re-done.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lessons from my corner pick up

So I picked a guy up on the corner yesterday. I was stopped at a red light and he was waiting to cross the street. He smiled and said I was cute, I smiled and said thank you, we chatted for fifteen seconds, and as I drove off I invited him to join my group of friends at our local watering hole destination.

I sat down with my group and was joking about my corner flirtation, when in walked Corner Flirt himself. His name was Rob and he was an attractive and tall young professional with a cute accent from the deep south. Rob got mad bonus points for just showing up at all! But then Rob went ahead to display ten of the most annoying male flirtation habits of all time. While I know Rob won't be reading this entry, I know other single men will. So, for you, single men, I offer the following advice in your honor and wish you much success in your future flirting:

1. Do not stereotype and slam a faith group before taking the time to consider how the object of your affection might feel about that group, and the fact that her entire identity as a human being might rest in the fact that she is a joyful and willing participant of that group.
2. Do not slam and stereotype the people of a particular state before taking the time to consider where the object of your affection might have been born and raised and still call home.
3. Do not stare at an area of the object of your affection's body unless that area happens to be her eyes.
4. Do not attempt to win the object of your affection's heart by boasting about the specifics of your salary.
5. Do take a hint when the object of your affection starts responding to your obnoxious comments with "hmmmm. interesting." and turns to talk to her friend.
6. Do not attempt to occupy 90% of the table conversation by telling stories about how awesome you are.
7. Do ask the object of your affection questions about herself.
8. Do ask the object of your affection's friends questions about themselves.
9. Do not flaunt and wave your cash around as you prepare to pay for your drink.
10. Do not expect the object of your affection to call you if you royally bombed on all nine of the above instructions.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ice Cream Socialism... not

Although it seems rare now-a-days, I love seeing a good example of a governing body actually looking out for its people and protecting their wallets from the tax-and-spend frenzy to which so many have become accustomed. This from today's Journal Sentinel reports the Village of River Hills voted to cancel its annual ice cream social (a mere $3,000 event) this year because their budget is already projected at $658 over budget.

Being $3,658 over budget is nearly negligible, especially considering the standard home in River Hills is $700,000. The Village probably could have easily gotten away with hosting the annual ice cream social and nobody would have cared about the minor budget overage. But the principle of the Village's bottom-line, balanced budget decision making deserves praise.

So three cheers to you, River Hills. Thank you for doing your job. And to any of your residents, I personally invite you to my house for a privately-funded ice cream social... and I won't even mandate your toppings.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Let's make a deal

I was buying some Stargazer Lilies recently at Trader Joe’s when the clerk asked me how much they were. I couldn’t recall the exact price, so I replied, “I’ll give you $7.49.” He said, “sounds ok to me.”

Which reminded me of not long ago when I walked into a boutique and saw the cutest bright pink and orange plaid shoulder bag. The clerk could tell I was enthralled by its vibrancy, so she shouted the price from across the shop. I checked the tag to confirm her holler, and replied, “I’ll give you ten.” Shrugging her shoulders, she said, apathetically, “eh, ok.”

As I trimmed my flowers and pondered my newly honed bartering skills, it got me thinking about how I sometimes try to barter with God in my prayers.

“Ok, let's make a deal, God. You bless me with _____ and I’ll do _____ for you. Deal?” Or my most recent, “Seriously, God, just bring our Young Life team some more female leaders and I’ll quit picking fights with liberals over health care reform. How 'bout it?”

Sometimes I think a barter system with God would be awfully convenient… but time and time again I am realizing what I think is best for me is not at all – not nearly at all – what God knows is best, and that his free gifts to me are worth so much more than any deal I could cut him!

How lame would life be if there were no surprises – if everything we asked for was granted – and we never had the chance to be blown away by God’s hand providing gifts of blessing beyond our wildest dreams?

Free market bartering is great for our wallets and economy, but does not belong in our prayers, which is good news because I know I can’t dream up half the deal God wants to give me. Friendship with God, who is the provider of all things good, comes only through the cost off the precious blood of Jesus, and no barter of mine comes close to matching that.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mat Kearney Mondays

I hereby institute Mat Kearney Mondays! Only I'm starting on Tuesday because I just came up with the idea but don't want wait until next week. Mat Kearney is hands-down my favorite artist of all time, mostly because his smooth melodic rapping and lyrical genius couples to produce some quality music, but I also love how he gives praise in his music and the secular masses obliviously adore his work anyway.

I've seen Mat in concert a few times, and it always makes me smile to see the variety of his fans - some, with hands open and eyes closed, are obviously sharing in the praise and worship of his music, while others just like his sweet beats. So with that, each week I'll be introducing you to some of my favorite lyrics from my second favorite lyricist (second only to Eminem, of course).

This week's selection, from his hit song Closer to Love on his newest album, City of Black and White, is a beautiful reminder that whatever shock-and-awe events we might be asked to endure or suffer through, the pain is only temporary and in that suffering the Lord pulls us closer to his true, lasting, perfect love and peace.

She got the call today
One out of the gray
And when the smoke cleared
It took her breath away
She said she didn't believe
It could happen to me
I guess we're all one phone call from our knees
We're gonna get there soon

Oh, it's your light
Oh, it's your way
Pull me out of the dark
Just to show me the way
Cryin' out now
From so far away...
Pull me closer to love
Closer to love

'Cause you are all that I've waited for
All of my life
You pull me closer to love
Closer to love

Friday, August 21, 2009

a VERY small world after all

After discussing my most recent I'm-a-jaded-jerk episode with my best guy friend, whom I'll call Chief of Staff, he said, kind of in jest, "Don't feel too bad. I'm sure he'll find you online."

As most readers know, for better or worse I've played around on for about three years now. Lately I've not been very active on it, a. because I've exchanged legit contact info with anyone I'm actually interested in, and b. because I'm a jaded jerk. That being said, I do sign on when I get a message or something.

So here's where it gets interesting... Two days after rejecting David from Irish Fest (see previous blog entry for complete story), I received a message from a David who, like 44.4% of the male population, is about 6-feet tall with brown hair.

Although the evidence wasn't totally convincing, I just had to ask... "Were you at Irish Fest? Maybe, oh ya know, at the bagpipes around noon on Sunday?"

I literally laughed out loud when the response quickly came (edited for grammar's-sake): "Was that you?! Hi, Annie! I should have told you I was on Catholic Match. I was wondering if I would meet any of the women in Milwaukee from Catholic Match out in the city and now I guess I did. For some reason I did not recognize you though. Are you going to go out with me now? God bless you, Dave"

So there you have it... proof positive that we do live in a very, very small world after all. And, that God is gracious even to Jaded Jerks like me.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I am a jaded jerk.

I was being my Irish Princess self sitting at Irish Fest today enjoying some acquired-but-delightful music from the bagpipe and drum corps, when all of a sudden a shy but cute young man approaches with the absolute best pick-up line I’ve ever heard. Shaking my hand, he says, “Hi, I’m David. I just came from Mass in the Amphitheater. Did you?”

Well yes, yes I did, David. He was visibly nervous, but nonetheless proceeded to strike up a conversation with several awkwardly delivered questions. Through his stuttering he found out that a. I’m Irish, b. am a practicing Catholic, and c. am beyond my college years. With a yes to all of his apparent laundry list requirements in his quest for his perfect woman, he bravely muttered, “so, um, y-y-you and me, um, you w-w-want to, um, go out some time?”

Although I’m not sure why, I politely declined. Oh wait, yes I do know why - I am a jaded jerk! I am. I really, really am. He delivered the greatest pick-up line I’ve ever heard. He was tall, cute, and Catholic. While he was certainly no comedian, at least he attempted to me laugh. And although he was super awkward and totally a dork, well, so was every guy I’ve ever dated!

I'll give you one guess at what song came on when I got in my car to leave… Ok I’ll tell you: Desperado. That’s just great.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Big government = failure

Below, please find the full context of President Obama's comparison of the government-run Post Office versus privately-run FedEx and UPS.

CNN - U.S. Cable - 08/11/2009 13:50:31 Obama: "... I recognize, though, you make a legitimate -- you raise a legitimate concern. people say, well, how can a private company compete against the government? and my answer is that if the -- if the insurance -- private insurance companies are providing a good bargain, and if the public option has to be self-sustaining -- meaning, taxpayers aren't subsidizing it, but it has to run on charging premiums and providing good services and a good network of doctors just like any other private insurer would insure i think private insurers should be able to compete. they do it all the time. if you think about it, you know, ups and fedex are doing just fine. they are. it's the post office that's always having problems. so right now you've got private insurers who are out there competing effectively even though a lot of people get their care through medicare or medicaid or the va. there is nothing inevitable about this destroying the private marketplace as long as it is not set up where the government is basically being subsidized by the taxpayers so even if they are not providing a good deal, we keep having to pony out more and more money. i have already said, that can't be the way the public option is set up. it has to be self-sustaining."

A few points to ponder:

1. The Post Office is on track to lose $7 billion this year. How much confidence does that instill in you about a government-run health care plan, which encompasses much, much more money and resources?

2. When you have a letter or package you need delivered on time, do you send FedEx, UPS, or USPS? Who do you trust, the government, or the private company?

3. How "fair" can the competition between government-run organizations like the Post Office, and private companies like FedEx, really be? When the federal laws give government-run organizations an advantage, it discourages private competition, which we all know is good for the market and the consumer.

Obama may have hit something with his spot-on analogy of the Post Office. If he'd only listen to his own logic...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Where have all the cowboys gone?

Friday evening I busted out the back door of my office and headed straight to the golf course for a celebratory it’s-the-weekend! 9-holes. After I paid my greens fees, I turned around to gaze upward into the eyes of a smiling, tall, attractive, gentlemanly-looking twenty-something who had found his way into line right behind me; and thus my planned solo round turned into a party for two.

I was pretty excited; this was clearly my cowboy knight who had searched for me high and wide and had come to sweep me away on his white horse to our castle in the hills with prancing ponies and our own private golf course – yes, I was sure of it!

At first, he was quite the courteous companion. He opened doors; he let me tee off first; he graciously admired my beautiful drive even though his was terrible; he extended great appreciation when I located his shanked tee-shot; after a great recovery shot he told me I was clearly his lucky charm; he even offered me his last beer -- now THAT'S what I call chivalry! I was obviously impressed. Next, he started opening up to me about life as a kid, his hopes and dreams. And then, in mid-sentence about his childhood, the firestorm of F-bombs started dropping like second-chance balls next to a lateral water hazard.

When – I beg for an answer – when did it become acceptable to use such crude and offensive language around strangers? around ladies wearing Nantucket-red golf skirts with ribbons in their hair? in public at all? I jokingly made some comment about his choice of words, to which he responded, “Well, you have no idea how @%*#$<-up my childhood was.” He then proceeded to be quite arrogant, and rode his high horse for the next five holes as if I could never understand the pain he had endured.

Well, sir, maybe I can’t. But regardless, I assure you I don’t care to hear anymore about it if it’s going to be told with language like that!

Maybe he was just verbally expressing his frustration of not being able to keep up with my consistent and stellar 230-yard drives in the fairways. Maybe he really was the sad product of a very dysfunctional childhood. I don’t really know what his deal was, but by hole number four, I knew that cowboy had already ridden himself long gone from my fairy tale.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I’m Blitzed!

Forgive me, friends, for I have spent a solid three-hours tonight gazing into the tempting, captivating, colorful eyes of my new love, Bejeweled Blitz – the facebook game that’s taking over the lives of innocent homebodies everywhere.

My intentions were good and I had a productive evening all planned out – I grabbed dinner with a friend after work and was headed home to toss in some laundry, stop by my church for a rosary, and dart to the gym for Monday night volleyball and a workout. But I got a bit side tracked; three hours later here I am, owning up to the wasted hours of my life.

There I sat, blitzing myself silly with the allure of sparkly jewels on my MacBook while I ignored my phone ringing in the other room, left my middle-aged volleyball buddies to fend without their star, and intentionally disregarded Bert (my car) on the street with his windows down while the rain soaked his innards. If that’s not blitzed, I don’t know what is.

You might be wondering if this embarrasses me; the answer is yes, absolutely. But it also makes me stop and realize how lucky of a kid I was to have a parents who made me go water the flowers, pull weeds in the driveway, and walk to Seaton’s Grocery (which to this day I promise you is uphill both ways) to pick up milk for dinner, instead of being glued to the Nintendo for my entire childhood.

I admit I had my share of failed attempts of trying to beat my oldest sister’s Tetris score and gathering berries to stave off Scurvy on the Oregon Trail, but I was never allowed to be blitzed, and years later, I am so grateful for that. Although I hated the orders at the time, I sometimes, like tonight, wish I was back at eight-years-old dragging my feet down the stairs as my dad lovingly barked orders for me to go clean up the dog’s kennel; the sweetness of those memories is far more precious than any bejeweled blitz.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Awkard Family Photos

In celebration of a successful recent family photo taken at our reunion bash in July...

I bring you snapshots from my favorite website:

And one that I'll be adding to the website soon, because no matter what the fashion magazines say about men's fall fashion, the 'stache will NEVER be not-awkward for women:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Camping in luxury thread-count sheets?

I’ve never really understood the appeal of camping. It seems to me we’ve moved well beyond the days leaf-stuffed pillows in caves and raccoon tail seared over a fire. And I’ve even been camping a few times, so I speak from experience – a week no-trace backpacking through the San Juan Mountains in Colorado, a Girl Scout trip because it involved a boat, and a high school drum-line outing because my fellow drummers all treated me like a princess. So my favorite things – Colorado, boats, and princess-dom – can get me to sleep under the stars without hesitation. But when given a choice between my pillow-top mattress with luxury thread-count sheets, or a leaking tent across town, it’s really not a difficult choice.

This weekend, however, I’ll be giving it another go, because I have some friends coming through town and camping is on the agenda. I guess it turns out friends make the rank of my “favorite things.” So while I’m tempted to let my friends pitch their tent in my 20’ X 30’ backyard while I am all nestled in my cozy oasis of nightly comfort, I’m saying yes to nature’s call, and am going to “offer it up” while I suffer through the night doing my best to rejoice in my sufferings of a cold, damp, wet, raccoon-infested campground.

And please, let the record state I totally call “dibs” on the first shower.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dear Iowa City:

Dear Iowa City:

I write to inform you that in approximately 24 hours, the four-generation family of my late grandparents, D.C. and Margaret, will be returning to your proximity for a reunion. As all good Catholic families do, we come in massive droves, so take head and prepare for the invasion of the families of D.C. and Margaret’s eight children, their combined 31 children, their i-can't-keep-track children, and their i-really-can't-keep-track children. Read: there will be a lot of us. Additionally, we are Irish – I’m just sayin’.

Friday we will be enjoying a pizza and pool party at the Elk's club. Saturday we will be taking over the Hi-Point golf course before heading to a steak-fry at the Knights of Columbus. From there, the fun folk will head downtown for a tour of the unmatchable Iowa City night life. Sunday morning we’ll be celebrating Mass in memory of our beloved D.C. and Margaret and setting an official World Record by taking the largest family portrait ever before departing, taking away approximately 1/4th of your temporary weekend population.

We are big. We are loud. We are probably more fun than you have ever seen. We are “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” in real life, except Irish Catholic instead of Greek Orthodox. I hope you’re ready for us!

Stoked beyond words,
The youngest of the 31 second generation, Annie

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I want to date a hippie

Although I am far from one, I've always taken a liking toward hippies. Growing up in the People's Republic of Iowa City, a hippie commune of sorts, I've had more than a handful of hippie-ish friends in my day, so I've experiences firsthand how wonderful they are. Besides the fact that they sometimes smell, I tell ya, they are a great group of people! They are kind, generous, forgiving, loving, and best of all, they adore giving flowers... how romantic!

After a friend recently pointed out to me that I tend to be attracted to men who end up being little more than a great game of talk, she suggested I branch out from my typical sporty, all-American, "I talk a fantastic game" Ken doll.

So I'm going to give it a try. Hippies are not about impressing anyone. They don't try to talk a good game. They appreciate the beauty and value of things and people for what they are, and they don't earn their self-worth from their most recent athletic feats that will be a mere memory by the time the kids are old and moved away. With a hippie, what you see is what you get. And I think I could find that oddly attractive. If you know any cute hippies, please send them my way.

And until then, I'm getting one of these...

Love is a choice

I recently had a, shall we say, unique conversation with my friend Dan who commented that the “feelings” of being in love and being intoxicated have the same effects on a person (you can check it out here). I’ll be the first to admit he has a point about the idiotic things we do when we are blinded by the emotional, subjective, fleeting feelings of romantic love. But his statement got me thinking about how that type of love is subject to the changing tides we call life, and how the crux – that which upholds and sustains it – of real and lasting love, be it parental, romantic, brotherly, whatever, is not a feeling, but a choice.

Which brings me to a true confession: I probably should have been a Theo major. I do things like read Papal encyclicals the same day they are released, like today when I spent a good bit of time getting into Pope Benedict’s third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth). He writes….

“Love and truth ... are the vocation planted by God in the heart and mind of every human person… Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love. It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions, the word “love” is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite."

Unless we understand the truth about love and charity – that they are choices we make, rooted in God’s creation for humans to seek and choose both truth and love – then we will only ever be trying to fill that shell in arbitrary, subjective, fleeting ways that ultimately result in emptiness.

Confused? Consider the greatest act of love ever conducted on this earth: Christ enduring a heinous crucifixion and descending into Hell so you and I might be forgiven and be granted eternal peace and joy. Do you think Jesus felt all warm, fuzzy, emotional feelings of love for us as he hung there dying? I hope to ask Him that someday, but for now, I sure don’t. Yet that act of will - that choice - shows more love than any other human could ever possibly give.

While political hacks try to spin the Holy Father’s latest formal message to push their agendas, I hope we can all take one simple concept away from his writing: Love is so much more than mere subjective and passing sentimentality; love is a choice. Please choose it with all you meet today.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It's official: God thinks I'm hilarious

They say if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. I'm glad at least He got such a kick out of my "vacation" week, because I sure didn't.

I had it all planned out. I was going to make it up to Door County by 7 p.m. on Thursday night for dinner and a weekend with my family, depart for Milwaukee two days later to get on the bus with my high school friends for a relaxing and spiritually rewarding week at Castaway where every single one of the girls in my cabin was going to fall in love with Jesus and commit her life to Him, and then we'd get back on the bus on Saturday night, return to Milwaukee by 5 a.m., and I'd have all of Sunday to recoup before being ready to head back to work on Monday morning.

But after my blown out tire on I-43 during rush hour traffic causing both lanes to close, my nasty foot/leg rash from an allergic reaction to the grass at camp, a camper busting her foot open and needing me to take her to the Emergency Room while I was simultaneously trying to manage 40 high school kids who were mad at me (the trip leader) about a bus driver who didn't show up until 12 hours later than he was supposed to, getting pulled over by the Detroit Lakes police on the way back to camp from the ER run, a nasty sinus infection, and really no kids who decided to follow Jesus for the first time, I feel like I was just dragged out of the trenches of the spiritual warfare battlefield.

Hey, you're very welcome, God; I'm happy to give you a good laugh anytime. I'm just glad you're the one in control of that battlefield, because it's becoming more and more clear to me with each passing day that I'm not.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Risking the burn

As I lathered up in aloe tonight after a delightful weekend in Door County with the company of my family and too many UV rays, I thought about how much I hate getting burned. It is incredibly painful, in the worst cases it leaves blisters that scar, and in the end, I just feel like an absolute idiot for not recognizing the burn until after the pain sets in.

Thinking about how in my quest for a sun-kissed summer glow I had to risk the tomato-red-skin sun-mauling that I was sure would not happen if I stayed out for just another hour, I realized falling in love is kind of similar. Falling in love means allowing yourself to be vulnerable to the risk and burn of heartache, but trusting the one you love not to burn you. And I realized, no one would ever get a sweet tan, or, find love, if they did not at least risk the burn.

In four hours I am getting on a bus with some of my closest high school friends for Young Life camp. They’ll hear the Gospel, and they’ll wrestle with what to do with the message. It is my very deep prayer these kids risk falling in love with Jesus, because in time, I know they will come to realize his love, unlike the sun or other people, will never leave them burned.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The ethics of dating

Since I've been back in the feral game of dating after nearly a two-year hiatus, I've become re-acquainted with the annoying rules of etiquette, blurry lines of nuance, awkward dances of polite but honest communication, and, most importantly the ethics of keeping the well-being of others’ hearts at the absolute forefront of consideration.

After gently telling one suitor I was not interested in dating him any further, but his pursuit fervently continued, I finally replied to a message by text saying, "I’m busy and traveling a lot. Take care."

Yes, I gave him the “Take care.” And by text! Ouch. This is a brutal game indeed.

Now on my checklist, this guy is great; but I'm just not into him, and I've expressed that. But even after punching him in the face with the “take care,” his pursuit continues, which, although mostly annoying, is incredibly flattering and even mildly enticing. I made my point very clear, several times, but he is a determined little booger and his persistence might actually be making me reconsider.

So here’s the thing… I've expressed my explicit disinterest several times, but he continues to pursue a golf and dinner date with me... in Kohler. So you see my difficult dilemma. I mean, it's KOHLER!

So please help me out: Is it ethical, given my several-times-expressed disinterest, to allow him to take me golfing in Kohler?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fertile Ground

Ever notice how you can hear a song a billion times and be clueless about its context, and then one day you hear it again and simply because you've had a similar experience, you’re suddenly comprehending a whole new language?

Maybe it was a death, a broken heart, a new love, a birth, or any number of emotionally heightened scenarios, but regardless of the specifics, it was the fertile ground of experience that led you to understand a song’s lyrics in a new way.

I had one of those moments today when I heard Kari Noble’s "Ooh oh.” The title alone is enough to let you know the lyrics are super cheesey on paper, but I assure you, they are heart-wrenchingly beautiful if you've been in her boat.

Suddenly feeling like my soul had been poured out onto paper, when I previously thought nothing of these lyrics, immediately led me to consider how humanity’s response to hearing the Gospel is very similar.

People hear the Good News of Christ all the time, but until it resonates, and I mean really resonates, it ends up being the same old story they’ve heard before and the message is destroyed -- eaten up, withered, or choked -- instead of being realized as the awesome fury of the Lord. In order for the message to grasp a person in a life-altering way, to come alive and be put into action, it has to land on good soil and take root so it can grow and bear fruit (Mark 4:3-23).

I was thinking about this need for fertile soil because I'm gearing up to lead a group of 14 high school girls at Young Life camp later this month. There is so much about Young Life camp that prepares good soil and makes the Gospel message resonate with kids in a life-altering way, and I am stoked to see what the Lord is going to plant this year at camp!

Please keep Whitefish Bay Young Life in your prayers as we head off to introduce a bunch of high school kids to the joy and peace of Christ's passionate love and sacrifice. Please be praying that the ground on which the seed is planted is prepared, fertile and ready to receive the very Good News of Jesus!

Monday, June 8, 2009

If we had a Bishop, I'd call him.

I went to what I like to call Milwaukee's "Last Chance Mass" last night, which takes place in an East-side parish at 7 p.m. I generally try to avoid this Mass, because I prefer a more, shall we say, reverent form of worship. But because I fell asleep on my couch watching Cider House Rules, woke up late Sunday morning, and wanted to get some golf in, I attended this evening service. I assure you, that will not happen again.

This friendly parish is on the trendy East-side, and, for better or worse, does a wonderful job of reaching out to those in its community by catering to their progressive lifestyles. At this parish, I have frequently seen same-gendered couples cuddling during service, female alter-servers with their arms raised and lips moving pretending to consecrate the host with the priest, etc.

Well, last night, they had interpretive dancers during the Responsorial Psalm and during the two readings. Yes, I said the two readings. There was no second reading. We went straight from dancing the Psalm into the Hallelujah and the Gospel. The second reading was was forgotten, likely because of the distraction of the midriff-bearing interpretive dancers. And the reading was from Romans. I love Romans! What's even more absurd, is that the 22-second homily was mostly about the reading from Romans, about uniting our sufferings with Christ, which I was able to identify because I had read it beforehand, thank Goodness with a capital G.

Now I'm no pre-Vatican Two-er. I even like Life Teen Masses and think they have their appropriate time and place in the Church, and I was once broken up with because my taste in liturgical music was too progressive. But some things are just not right, and participating in behavior so distracting it spoils the sacred Liturgy of the Word is certainly one of those things.

If we had a Bishop, you can be sure he would be hearing from this one.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hello, my name is…

My name is Annie. It is not Ann. It is not Amy. And it is most certainly not Andy.

It’s a simple name, really, reasonably common and easy to pronounce. I had a speech impediment until I was six (once I told the doctor I had “goose” for breakfast, when I meant to convey I had juice… my mother was horrified), but I have since overcome that obstacle, and I like to think I articulate my name with clarity. Apparently that thought is wrong.

At work, I frequently have people returning calls to “Amy,” and it takes me pulling out NATO code (“apple november…”) for the caller to get it right. But it’s the phone and I understand. What I fail to understand, however, is when I introduce myself and the introducee replies, “Nice to meet you, Andy.” I ask you – how many females do you know named Andy? Maybe one, two if you’re popular. Twice tonight at volleyball I introduced myself to new people, and both thought I was Andy. As I am confident I neither sound nor look like an Andy, I am utterly baffled by this Andy phenomenon.

Why does it matter? Here’s the thing: I believe with all of my heart and soul that at the root of every human being is the desire to be intimately known and passionately loved. I believe those desires are because God created us to long for His passionate love and intimate friendship, which He joyfully and gracefully gives us. And because our names provide the first introduction to who we are – God’s beloved creation whom He knows more intimately than we know ourselves – we want to be known by name.

I remember being a freshman at City High and feeling on top of the world when my sister’s senior friends would say, “Hey, Annie!” through the bustle of the hallway during passing. I felt unexpectedly known and befriended, and it felt wonderful. Or how about this -- are there any sweeter words than hearing, "I love you, *insert your name here!*," when you know with all confidence it is sincere? My heart beams with joy when my momma or daddy tell me they love me, because they have proven it through the actions of their selfless service as parents. There is no doubt that they know me and they love me, and hearing those words is a beautiful reminder of God's intimate and passionate love for me.

As humans, because of how we are intrinsically created and wired, we want to be known and we want to be loved, and our names are the first point of introduction to who we are. So please, don't call me Andy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cubicle Survival (of the funniest)

There's a new kid on the block at the Prospect Avenue mansion, and the bosses are splitting up my current officemate and me. They say it's because they want us to share our wealth of knowledge and experience with the newbies. I say they’re full of it. Really, they’re jealous of us laughing hysterically all day every day. I'll be the first to admit we can be slightly obnoxious, but a daily dose of "ugly-face-laugh" makes office culture a heckofalot more tolerable, and, if you're really lucky, a lot of fun!

So while you may not think of life in a cubicle as thrilling, I posit to you, the joy you experience in the confines of your cube each day is what you choose it to be! As a farewell tribute to Bowens, the greatest office roommie ever, here are a few tips for cultivating office fun, all of which are tried and true, to keep you enjoying life in a cubicle as the summer months have you wishing you were anywhere else.

NICKNAMES: Give nicknames that are totally obnoxious, but have a good bit of truth. For example, you might call your feminist friend an artsy-fartsy liberal elitist, and she might call you an argyle-and-pearl-wearing prude. When those get boring, try mixing up the order of the components and the laughs are sure to keep rolling.

ACCENTS/IMPERSONATIONS: Pick an accent, or a movie, to quote for the day. I personally recommend quoting Mean Girls or impersonating Miss South Carolina’s infamous pageant answer, but ‘Hood Day is a guaranteed winner, too.

THROW THINGS: It’s a simple concept; people getting mildly injured is always good for a laugh. Recently jellybelly wars have been popular around here, but I most recommend lightly tossing a spoon at your officemate when she’s on the phone with a reporter... just be sure to aim for her fatty tissue or it could hurt… or cause temporary paralysis… be careful with this one.

NEW FRIENDS: Never underestimate the fun that might ensue from meeting a new vendor. They are full of stories, like the process of and reasons for getting, and removing, that tattoo. And if you're lucky, you might get a free lunch, a few dates, or a man so into you that he jumps through your ceiling just so he can come clean up the plaster on your desk.

SNACKS: Self explanatory, but note that afternoon homemade guacamole breaks do wonders for lightening the mood after any number of angry reporter rejections.

HOLLYWOOD: A fun scene to act out is to pretend what an afternoon would look like if you weren't concerned with keeping your job. Or, try living on a cat farm. If you’re feeling really adventurous, alpacas are cute animals to have as imaginary friends. But what really tops the list of scenes to act out, is to reenact the hairstyles and smiles of each of your awkward K-12 school pictures.

DANCE PARTIES: Jump on YouTube and find a dance party. Recommended from experience are Justin Timberlake’s rendition of “Single Ladies,” or “We’re All In This Together” from High School Musical. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can become a star.

GAGS: There are all kinds of gags you can pull. Try wrapping the ball of your officemate's computer mouse with foil and watching her restart it several times before you bust out laughing and tell her not to call the IT folks. Or, if she happens to be OC, unwrapping every piece of candy in her jar and taping the empty wrappers around her desk can be a lot of fun.

With all of these sure-to-please office games, gags, and gimmicks, I trust you’ll have no problem choosing to have some fun and find joy each and every day, even in your cube!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Uh-oh... I think I'm growing up

A funny phenomenon happens every time I go to Target. I walk in with my list intending to spend around $30, and like magic, I come out with a full cart, at least $100 poorer, and still in need of everything on my list. Never failed... past tense.

But today my Target adventure was different... I proudly managed to sneak away with most of what was on my list, and only $96.38 poorer.

“I absolutely need those pink plaid wedges,” I thought to myself as I strolled through the shoe isles. “No, Annie, you don’t. You want those pink wedges. You’re plenty cute enough without them! Keep walking.”

So as self-ordered, I contently stepped away from the cutest pink plaid wedges ever, thinking about all of the more virtuous and wise ways I could spend that money. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but for anyone who has seen my hallway shoe pile, it is.

As I walked away, it made me smile to see that little bit of personal growth. It’s comforting to know that while I have so much to learn, so far to go, and so much virtue to grow into, the Lord continues to do a good work in me*, and I trust He is pleased with my baby steps.

And that’s a dang good thing, because then I entered the sports section and decided it would be a good idea to buy the golf balls that “promise” ten more yards, for ten more dollars.

So baby steps are what I continue to take... at least they're not being taken in unnecessary pink plaid wedges.

*“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Friday, May 22, 2009

A crusade of prayer for our country

Because "...reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle..." (George Washington), there's a new campaign dedicated to righting the course of our nation's morality, and it's worth your next two minutes.

From the website:
The constitution of the United States of America states clearly that we as citizens have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Yet in this great nation that holds individual rights as supremely sacred, the most basic right, the right to life is systematically denied to its most vulnerable. Faith and God in our nation are under attack and new government policy is moving us even further down the path to atheism, secularism, and from the vision of our founding fathers.

Two things can right our course... prayer and action! Join a growing army of faithful in a national prayer campaign for our country, our President and all of our elected officials.

Please visit America's Prayer Campaign, make your pledge of prayer offerings, and do them!

The campaign invites Americans of ALL FAITHS to participate. I'll be participating in the Novena to the Holy Spirit that starts today, but all prayerful people are encouraged to commit to prayer for the renewal, restoration and reawakening of our nation as well as for our President. Together we can help return our country to one that indeed grants the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Flavors is a virtue

As I reapplied my berrylicious lip gloss for the fourteenth time today bc it tasted so very good, I thought to myself, "I wonder how many calories are in this." Not that I particularly cared, or had any plans to change my application habits based on the answer, but I’m a google addict, generally a curious spirit, and I wanted to know.

So, I googled my question, expecting a simple (number/measurement unit) answer. But instead, the following google hits were poppin', which I just have to share...

"If people are concerned about calories in lip gloss, they need to realize that it is not in the normal realm of diet-thinking."

"How many calories are in lip gloss? This question may only be asked by an anorexic. Sorry, I’m very straightforward."

And my personal favorite:

“No man ever said, ‘dang girl, you packin’ on them pounds! You better lay up off that lip gloss!’”

Ok. So I'm a special case for looking that up. And while the answers actually made me laugh out loud, the best part of this research was looking down at my desk to see the empty sleeve of thin mints, that I had just finished off over the course of a week, laying there on my desk, ferociously laughing at me, next to the same keyboard with which I pondered the caloric intake of using my Berrylicious Beauty Rush lip gloss.

So I'm over that curiosity. And in the words of Lil' Mama, "flavors is a virtue." So I'm'a keep 'em poppin'.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Not in my back yard!

What happens in print the day after you see tweets from your daily paper's journalists about it being a slow news day?

This. And it's hilarious.

My personal favorite, is "We’re moving to where we can have chickens."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The American Idol Machine

DISCLAIMER: This is my last Danny Gokey post (until he releases his first album, of course), and I will soon return to topics with some application to reality.

If there is one thing I've learned from my recent encounters with reality TV celebs from Milwaukee, it's that there is nothing real about reality shows. It was obvious The American Idol Machine (The Machine) was rigged this season:

1) The producers Darbied Danny by having Paula pick a song for him that none of the mainstream voters [read: Teeny Bopper Americans] of The Machine had ever heard, thus leaving Danny voters less enthused and less likely to vote 200 times each (not that I'm admitting to that... ok, yes I am).
2) Adam Lambert was the third of the three finalists to have his hometown footage shown, leaving the most lasting impression on The Machine's fans' hearts as it built up the intensity in advance of announcing the two finalists. And what's more, the final shot of Lambert in his hometown footage was of him in front of a GIANT American flag.
3) Katy Perry, The Machine's selected and chosen performer of the evening, was posed with Lambert's name on her cape.

Clearly, The Machine has long had Lambert selected as the 2009 winner, and will run tirelessly and shamelessly until Lambert – the edgy, melodramatic, guy-liner-wearing rock star, whom The Machine is using to bring in a new and different crowd of followers – is crowned Pop Star King.

So why even have a finale? Why not just announce to America that it doesn't matter how they vote because The Machine has already secured Lambert as the 2009 Idol? Because then there would be a week less of revenue.

So needless to say, I was sad – not just at Danny's loss, but at my own hopeless optimism that The Machine is actually the people's unadulterated choice. While the calls/texts/fb messages of condolence that flooded in to me at 9 p.m. CST were helpful, and hilarious, the real light on that yesterday’s dark, tragic night, was the realization that a) this means Danny gets to come home to Milwaukee sooner, and b) he is now not under the raging fury of the domineering hand of The Machine, and is free to record as he wishes!

And on that note, here are my top ten picks for songs I hope Danny someday covers (and yes, I’m serious about number three):

1. I Want You Back, Jackson 5
2. Forever, Kiss
3. Forever, Jesse and the Rippers
4. Man in the Mirror, Michael Jackson
5. Signed, Sealed, Delivered, Michael McDonald
6. Isn't She Lovely, Stevie Wonder
7. Smooth Criminal (Are you ok Annie?), Michael Jackson
8. Don't Stop Believin', Journey
9. Love Song, Sarah Bareilles
10. I'm bringing sexy back, Justin Timberlake

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I hold these truths to be self-evident…

*Sometimes saying nothing IS the last word.

*Praying is like flossing; we can’t always see it working, but we know it works.

*Climbing up on the rooftop to have lunch with a friend in the sunshine and watch the sailboats, instead of working on that deadline, is so worth it.

*God answers prayers in mysterious ways; have confidence in those ways even when you don’t understand them.

*You catch more flies with honey than vinegar; and even flies need friends.

*Dating someone who displays more indecision than Brett Favre trying to retire is not a good idea.

*Knowing thyself is imperative to living peacefully.

*Honesty is always, always, always, always, the best policy.

*Granting undeserved forgiveness is a humbling, beautiful path leading to the heart of Christ.

*When you get bit by a snake, you don’t bite it back; you suck out the poison.

*Old friends are invaluable, no matter how different you may be.

*The cream always comes to the top… eventually.

*Adversity that doesn’t kill you will indeed make you stronger.

*Acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

*The sweetness of the Lord’s grace can turn even the most bitter batch of lemons into delightful refreshment.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Yes, I am Ga Ga for Gokey. But please ask me why!

Friends keep asking me if I’m Ga Ga for Gokey. As one who, generally speaking, is completely unenthused by anything pop culture, my simple answer in the positive comes as shocking to some. 

But my official “ga ga for Gokey” status has little to do with pop culture, really. I mean, I fully acknowledge the man has dreamy vocals; and I almost melted into the concrete when he sang my all-time favorite song, “Signed, sealed, delivered,” at the Summerfest grounds free concert; and I love that he is a hometown hero, born, bred and brewed in Milwaukee. But really, I’m ga ga for Gokey because the man is a testament to what it means to have hope, peace, and joy in the Lord. 

As most know, just a year ago Danny unexpectedly lost his young wife Sophia during her surgery. The pain he endured must have been beyond unbearable. But despite his loss, every time you see Danny, he is beaming that big old grin of his. It’s miraculous, really.

In a world where many are angered at sports team losses, traffic congestion, lattes not being just perfect, or other petty annoyances, the way Danny Gokey has overcome such a significant loss is proof positive of the presence of the Spirit in him, and it’s inspiring.

Life can throw us unexpected curve balls. Jobs, dreams, loves, hopes, people – you name it – can be stripped from us unexpectedly at any minute. When those things happen, I hope we can all be a little more ga ga for Gokey by following his inspirational and resilient example. The Lord may, for reasons we don’t understand, give and take away blessings. But because He, not the blessing He gives, is the source of joy, we are still able to march forward in His joy even in the most troublesome times. 

Danny Gokey is an encouraging reminder that when life throws extra lemons in my grocery cart, I can always make lemonade by going home to the Lord and allowing the sweetness of His grace and comfort to infuse my life. And that, my friends, is why I am indeed ga ga for Gokey. 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I love my Momma!

Not a day goes by I don’t thank our God for the blessing He has given me in the love of my parents, and for the Domestic Church they established and brought me up in. On this Mother’s Day, I want to publicly declare my gratitude for my momma, who, like a steel magnolia, has endured both the joys and hardships of life with fortitude and grace. I am one blessed girl to have her example to learn from and follow. I love you, Momma!

This year, in addition to standard flowers, I put my media relations skills to work to get her awarded the "Mother of the Year" award. You can watch news coverage of the announcement here!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sometimes saying nothing IS the last word

Not to dredge up your painful memories, but for the sake of me making a point, recall one of those moments when someone did or said something to you so callously cruel that it made the English language seem absolutely incapable of expressing the pain and hurt that person caused you. Recall feeling as though even if you could come up with words to articulate how burned that person made you feel, your words would still not even begin to approach the justice due to that person.

Got that moment in mind? I sure do.

Created in God’s image, humans are prone to desire His ways, two of which being our desires for truth and justice. For me, my inclination toward truth and justice often leads to my disordered and selfish desire to have the last word. It’s as if by having the last word I feel like I’ve made a declaration of truth and put the unjust person in his place. You’d think after years of that pursuit failing to bring about justice I would learn to quit trying. Well, maybe I finally have…

As I pondered what to say back, and expressed to my friend Bowens how badly I wanted to have the last and final word, Bowens said, "Annie, sometimes saying nothing IS the last word." How right she was.

Because sometimes – when all that needed to be said has already been said, and even though you feel like your brain will explode out of your skull if you don’t say more, but you know the words required to reach truth and justice are still lacking – saying nothing, biting your lip, and taking the high road says so much more than any words ever could. Sometimes saying nothing says EVERYTHING, in a way so much more powerful than any compilation of verbalized feelings, and with grace, poise, and kindness to boot.

We cannot control the deficient behaviors or choices of others; we can only control ourselves. So when you’re treated unjustly – slopped around through someone else's failings, lies, weaknesses, or general human deficiencies – don’t waste your efforts on looking for words that will never result in bringing about justice. If you can’t seem the find the words due, it’s probably because they’re nowhere to be found. So instead or fighting for the last “word,” just FORGIVE, remember God, not us, brings ultimate justice, and get the H out of Dodge on the highest road possible.

And know with confidence, sometimes saying nothing is in fact the very last word.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

God thinks my golf game needs work

By 3 p.m. today, I had already: gone to Mass; played 9 holes of golf; swung by the grocery store to smile at Blue Eyed Butcher; had my car washed by church kids raising money for a mission trip; thrown in some laundry; prayed a rosary; gone for a run; stopped to stretch, rest, pray, and do some crunches on the beach; caught up with three friends on the phone; made chicken tetrazzini for myself and a friend who’s in town visiting later today; and baked peanut butter brownies, vacuumed, and planned a Bible study for campaigners. Now I’m not bragging here, but I really do think that’s some kind of record, and I am pretty sure it can only be accomplished by a single woman.

On my run through Klode park, I couldn’t help but feel my heart melt upon seeing the family with 6 kids under the age of 10 racing up the hill; another family with the father teaching his toddlers how to play catch; another with the sisters calling for their mom’s attention to their kites soaring high; and another father encouraging his boy who was in a wheel chair to keep trying and he would make it up the hill. God was radiating beams of love, joy, and selflessness through every family I saw in the park this morning, and while that put so much gladness in my heart, I couldn’t help but long for a family of my own.

I like to think I am ready for that – for the joy that comes with the sacrifice of laying down one’s life for his or her family. But, what I think doesn’t matter. One day I will be able to see how God has, because I love Him, worked for good with every step I’ve taken.* But in the meantime, I’m going to keep blooming where I’m planted, which I am quite glad, for the time being, includes ample time for 36-holes of golf each weekend.

*"We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

Friday, May 1, 2009

Uncanny, unintentional, and (mostly) unwanted

In my recent adult years, I’ve realized three things about my dating abilities:
1. I have an uncanny, unintentional, and unwanted knack to make men fall in (what they call) “love” with me in five dates or less.
2. I have an uncanny, unintentional, and unwanted knack to send men into priesthood discernment.
3. I have an uncanny, unintentional, and (mostly) unwanted knack to attract men in the food services industry.

I have yet to figure out the "why" of any of these realizations, but here is a select sampling of stories from the third point, which is, although debatable, the most entertaining of the trio.

Sandwich Sabotager: First, there was Sandwich Sabotager. After a year of delicious sandwiches and friendly chatter at his shop, he asked me out. I said no thank you, but thank you. The dude proceeded to intentionally sabotage my sandwich by globbing mayo and melting american cheese between each layer, knowing full-well I detest both items, all because I politely declined to go out with him.

Miller Man: Then there was the dude who worked at Miller Brewery, whom I got to know at the corporate Miller Pub, open to employees and their guests. Really, it was a pretty sweet deal – for a month I got to hang out on a pretty patio in nice weather while sampling the newest trial brews before they were made public. But that fun had to end when we ventured to life outside of the pub and I realized his frequent trips to the restroom were not just because he was consuming liquid – the dude had the worst case of frequent urination syndrome I’ve ever known. There were ample other reasons that had to end, but they aren’t nearly as amusing.

Cheese Carver: Earlier at work this week, I got the fun project of getting a price quote for carving a laptop out of cheese for one of our clients (which is great story, but doesn’t belong here). I contacted the semi-famous cheese-carver from Wisconsin for a quote. After a friendly chat about what I was looking for, the conversation ended with Cheese Carver agreeing to send a few sketches over along with pricing, and along with my quote came some quite flattering post-script commentary about my staff profile photo that appears on my company website, which, he took the liberty of looking up based on my work e-mail address I gave him. It was rather sweet, really, and not at all cheesey, pun totally intended.

Blue Eyed Butcher: And then there is the cute butcher at Sendiks who for the past year has been beaming his beautiful blue eyes and smile at me, which until lately totally freaked me out. But upon recently realizing that over the course of the last two years of my life taken mostly up by being a good girlfriend to one or another, I have totally lost any and all flirting skills I never really had anyway, I’ve decided Blue Eyed Butcher is a great chance to get back on that saddle. So, if you get an invitation to a BBQ from me, please come – I’ll need your help to consume all the frozen meat that’s piling up in my freezer.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why are you still searching as if I’m not enough?

Ok, that’s the last of my cheesey Christian music lyric blog titles, I promise. But the other day as I was driving my friend Brooke home from campaigners (that's Bible study, for those non-YL fluent readers) I had one of those God moments, related to that question, that sent chills down my spine.

Brooke is a high school senior, and I’ve spent the last four years getting to know her. It was one of those case-study Young Life leader / bratty high school kid relationships that started out with Brooke ignoring me in public when her friends were around, or, if I was lucky, she would give me a scoff, eye role, or rude comment; those were awesome – she was responding to me! With that as the opening act, it’s pretty awesome that my friendship with Brooke has turned into one that will truly last a lifetime. God has transformed her life in amazing ways, and while I’ve been blessed to be a part of her faith growth, I now find that I am often learning faithfulness from her, and that, my friends, is a beautiful, glorious, divine gift direct off the God train.

As we were driving back from campaigners, we were catching up on life. Brooke was telling me about how awesome 30 Hour Famine was at her church, and about how peaceful she is with life in general, despite this grand turning point of heading off to college in the fall. Just being silly girls, we started jamming a-cappella to some Francesca Battistelli about dents in our fenders and rips in our jeans, and then started gushing about our new favorite songs being played on K-LOVE. She quoted the chorus of Tenth Avenue North’s “By your side,” and then as we were paused at a red light, she said, “But you know what my favorite line is?” We looked at each other and together, like clockwork, we quoted the line, “Why are you still searching as if I’m not enough?”

I was reminded of that beautiful moment upon reading yesterday’s Gospel passage* when Jesus says, “For the bread of God is that which comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world. I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Truly, Christ our savior, present at every Mass in the Eucharist, is so much more than enough.

*John 6:30-35

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Come Rain or Come Shine, Danny Gokey is FINE!

I have plenty of opinions on Senator Specter’s switch; suffice it to say good riddance!

I have ample excitement about Scott Walker’s formal announcement of his second gubernatorial run; suffice it to say I’m already signed up for lit-drops!

Or I could tell you about how I was 808% sure my apartment was being broken into last night at 3:30 a.m. and how I laid in my bed paralyzed until I heard the neighbor outside with his dog and I thought it was safe to get up and attack the attacker because Neighbor Tom and Juno would hear me scream, only to find that my attacker was the wind repeatedly trying to bust open my door.

But after tonight’s performance of “Come Rain or Come Shine,” by the next American Idol Danny Gokey, I have no more important words than to say Danny Gokey is one fine, fine, fine, man, on so many levels.

So, I’m wracking my brain to come up with the winning photo of Fox 6’s Ga Ga for Gokey contest for my chance to meet him. Any creative suggestions are welcome!