Thursday, October 30, 2008

“At Home” in Indiana?

I’m one of those souls blessed, and cursed, with what can only be called a form of wanderlust. When I was growing up, we never went anywhere…except for a very occasional one-day trip to Indiana Dunes. My father apparently considered that enough “vacation” for the family. He took my brother to an occasional Cubs’ doubleheader—when those things used to be regular occurrences, on selected holidays—but, of course, my mother and I never went along on those trips.

That’s how it came to pass that, until I went to New York over one college spring break, I’d never been farther away from Chicago than a few inches over the Wisconsin and/or Indiana state lines. People who had summer cottages three, four, or ten hours away? Alien life forms, for sure. Families who thought in terms of “where are we going this year?” Speaking a foreign language.

So I’ve grown up figuratively Down on the Farm and couldn’t wait to escape—which explains why I’m one of those people who, if she is at an airport, a train station, or the like for whatever reason, longs to simply walk up to the counter and buy a ticket out of town. Wouldn’t even much matter where.

But the flip side of that wanderlust is a paradoxical mirror-image sentiment: the obsession to find “the best place” to live, put down roots, and stay there…perhaps even at the exclusion of trips to see the Rest of the World.

From time to time, you’ll hear it said that if you truly found the right place to live, you would be “on vacation” every day, in a sense, and thus have no real desire to spend any time anywhere else. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Life as a permanent vacation?

Getting to that ideal place, however, can be trickier than it sounds.

Back in the Chicago area, to live in a place I would have considered “ideal,” I would have had to have the income of a brain surgeon, (the late) Johnny Cochrane, or a drug dealer (or maybe all three). Even if one did manage to score the coup of getting the income in place, finding a great house in a great location, and protecting one’s environment so that some bright-eyed developer wouldn’t end up putting a strip mall behind one’s back yard…the hidden cost of a “perfect” place in an area like this is the lack of time to actually enjoy it. Many suburbs in the Chicago area are practically legendary as vast stretches of breathtaking neighborhoods that, during weekday daylight hours, are ghost towns. The irony of the fact that, during the week, the “help” spent more time in these gorgeous homes than their owners did was inescapable…and illuminating. Seeing such a thing, a normal person starts to think, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

I used to say I liked to be close to the city for the sake of “culture,” “concerts and plays,” and the like—until I asked myself how often we actually did those things. The fireworks downtown, maybe twice or three times; we went to one opera, no plays, no concerts. It was embarrassing to realize that this great “cultural” life I claimed was so important to be a part of, I wasn’t even using…but it was freeing as well. If you don’t “have to” be tied to a city for any particular reason, you can live anywhere, including a place where it doesn’t take you 25 minutes to drive three and a half miles.

Inertia is a tough thing, however—as is a job for the primary breadwinner located smack-dab in the city center. It’s a rotten tradeoff: you go to where you can breathe the air, see the stars, and afford a decent house…but you pay for it by commuting 4 hours a day to that job.

Until you lose that job…and suddenly, everything changes.

Long story short, we had a job in Chicago vaporize, one in Indiana appear, and so—swallowing my inborn revulsion to embrace all things Hoosier—I signed on the dotted line. (Although I will admit, I passed up this job listing at least once because I didn’t want to move to “godforsaken, where in the h*** is Huntington, Indiana?”) I got here on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, in the black of early-winter evening, was esconced in the Parish Center of a local church, was pointed in the general direction of the new office, fed dinner, and bidden goodnight…and I was on my way.

Fast forward to now, and an odd thing is occurring. I’m beginning to see that one has to be careful what one wishes for—because one might get it, in the most unlikely place one could imagine.

For the first several months I was here, when I was trekking back and forth between the still-unsold house in Illinois and the various apartment places I landed in as temporary housing in Huntington, I wondered approximately once a week what kind of insanity had prompted me to do this. I would get home from Illinois and just sob for a couple of hours. No doubt part of the emotional turmoil was missing the family, the cats, or just the fact that our ties were rapidly being cut with a church we’d been in for 17 years and an environment that was at least familiar…but interwoven in that conflict were a whole bunch of generous “pluses.”

I lived in a place where I commuted 5 minutes to work.
I lived in a place where I could walk to church, to the library, and to a grocery store…among other places.
I lived in a place where, bare minutes out of town, I had not one but two major reservoir/lake picnic and camping areas—including one with a swimming beach—reachable by country roads lined by woods.
I lived in a place where I was close enough to Fort Wayne to get a “mall fix” but far enough away that when I’m not in the mood for a mall—which is often!—I don’t have to contend with the incessant traffic of those who love them.
I lived in a place where most people in the local shops didn’t let you get away without a conversation.
I lived in a place where, for the last year of my son’s baseball career at Michigan, I was a full hour and a half closer to him than I was in Illinois.
And best of all, I lived in a place—eventually—that is as physically close to my “dream house” as I’ve ever been…a house I couldn’t even dream about paying for in Chicago.

When the rest of the family got here, and we began the real adjustment process—otherwise known as “no, we’re not living in Chicago anymore”—of course, things were a bit rocky once again. And more than once, after having visited some neat place in Illinois for some fun reason, I’ve wished that I could just transplant what I have here…back there.

But I knew I’d turned a corner of sorts when I drove to Illinois one Sunday to sing at a special anniversary Mass—requested by my former pastor—and realized, once I got to the church, that I was really glad I would “get to go back home to Indiana” that night.

Back home to Indiana. Four words that I never thought in a million years would be reassuring to me. Four words that I never, ever imagined would come out of my mouth. Four words that I still can’t believe I say.

But four words that are starting to really feel comfortable. Strange, yet comfortable.

Don’t get me wrong. You can take the girl out of Chicago, but you don’t take the Chicago out of the girl that easily. Any glance at the links here will tell you that. :-)

But, living as I am a “red” girl finally in a largely “red” state…has produced an ease of spirit I can’t say I’d readily want to give up. And I know this because, at one point in here, a job possibility actually opened up for my DH to go back with his previous employer on a contract basis…for scandalous money, in terms of what we really could use here. And it was tempting to jump at it.

Until we realized that would mean we’d have to live a commuter marriage again—because we couldn’t give up my job here and still make ends meet, even on what the potential contract job would give him. We had no reassurances that the contract job would last any particular length of time; it was a “permanent” position…but so was the one he was laid off from after 21 years. And knowing that we’d go from everyone living together to, once again, one of us having to set up new housekeeping somewhere else…with all that that entailed…

…we couldn’t do it. PM stepped back from it, making the decision to stay here and commit himself to his new career rather than trying to “play both sides of the fence”…and we are now rooted to our spot, for better or worse, for the duration.

I still don’t consider this necessarily the ultimate “perfect” place to live, not by any stretch of the imagination. I’d love to be on water. I’d love to be in the Snow Belt.
I’d love to be further north, with more pine in the woods than oak. And as far as “embracing all things Hoosier” goes…that ain’t gonna happen any time soon. In fact, I’ve taken to referring to this place as “the far east side of Chicago.” It makes things a lot easier to take. :-)

But when I drive down Route 24 to go sing at the beautiful new performance hall at IPFW…
…or I go swimming in the reservoir…
…or I take a jaunt uptown to look in the shop windows…
…or I walk to my church and, once again, am convinced it’s the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen…
…I do feel “at home in Indiana.”
And…in Chicago…not so much anymore.

Scary? Yes. I don’t know if I’m ready to consider the possibility of never being back in Illinois again…or living the rest of my life here, as opposed to any other “near perfect” place.

But for now, one day at a time, it’s not all that bad.
For right now, it’s home.



Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Religion of Eeyore?

An interesting comment came through on my previous post about the enthusiasm of Scott Hahn—to the effect that no doubt, his “on fire” nature came out of his Protestant roots.
Catholics, it seems to many people, are not “on fire” for anything; Catholics, it seems to many people out there, are kind of glum, cynical, lazy, dull, depressing, sad…

Yeah. Kinda like our friend here.

Well, yeah, there are some glum Catholics. For good reasons, in most cases. But, no, the reasons aren’t contained within the Church, her teachings, or her character itself. The reasons are a bit closer to home — like, say, Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy. With people like that claiming to be in our Church, who needs enemies? Think on that too long, and you will get glum.

But what Archbishop Noll said so long ago is true. It has always been true, and it will always be true. The Catholic religion—faithfully followed—is a religion of joy. So if you’re encountering joyless Catholics, it ain’t because they’re “too Catholic” or “too constrained by rules and regulations,” or such. If anything, it’s because they’re holding themselves back from the real joy that comes from total surrender, from embracing Christ in His Church, and from being embraced in turn by the world’s biggest family, with God as its Head.

You see, the best kept secret in the world is that being Catholic is really easy. It’s easily the simplest way to be a Christian. The most supported. The most rewarded, and rewarding, and grace-filled. But that secret is so murked up nowadays with people who make false claims about Catholicism, or who muddy it up with their own agendas, that “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” can, at times, sound like a bad joke to the people in the pews.

But it doesn’t have to be thus. At its heart, it isn’t. At its heart, Catholicism is simple, one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. And the more one learns about this Church, the more one comes to love her, and her Spouse, more deeply.

“Getting” that might just make even Eeyore smile.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

And Now, A Brief Commercial…

…for someone other than my day gig. Don’t worry…this isn’t a corporate blog, so I doubt I’ll get in too much trouble. (!)

Just listened to a CD last night called something like “
how a Protestant minister became a Catholic,” featuring Dr. Scott Hahn, former Presbyterian/evangelical pastor and teacher who is now one of the most on-fire Catholics you could ever want around you. I tell you, this guy’s infectious—but even better than that, he knows what he’s talking about, because he’s a gentleman and a scholar…to the point that I’d actually seriously consider studying Biblical theology under this guy. I’m not kidding. He’s that good, that engaging, and that enthusiastic.

The “brief commercial” has to do with where you can pick up a copy of this kind of thing:
Lighthouse Catholic Media. Yeah, it’s not OSV…but then again, we don’t do CDs. We have, of course, done a few of Dr. Hahn’s books, and I have had the pleasure of hearing him in person at our humble abode as well. But I cannot recommend his CDs highly enough.

If you’re a cradle Catholic who feels uncomfortable about your perceived “lack” of Bible knowledge…
If you’re a former Catholic who is feeling the “tug” back to Mother Church but worry about whether you’re going to be led astray from the “real Gospel”…
If you’re a curious Prod who wonders how and why so many of us are so gosh-darned happy to be here…

Listen to Scott Hahn. You’ll get it.

Okay, commercial over. But go to the site.

Go there now. Get a few of his CDs.
I’ll be here when you come back!

More in a bit,

Thursday, October 09, 2008

One Down, One (or More) To Go

Well, today the proposal for Rainman’s Bride—and its accompanying spinoffs—goes out the door to Beth Adams at Guideposts Books. This is the signal, boys and girls, for everyone to start praying hard…because I truly feel that Guideposts’ “happening” to decide to expand their fiction line (s) to go into the trade market in a big way is a wide-open door for me. Added to that the fact that Beth and I got along like gangbusters at our ACFW appointment—well, let’s say that as much as I’m afraid to hope for anything anymore, this opportunity has tempted me to start believing again. I truly believe that Guideposts is as close to an ideal match for my style as it gets; time and experience will tell. But it’s time to get that Golden Heart book out on the shelves where lots more people can read it!

The next project to pitch is Voice of Innocence, which I’ll be putting together a proposal on and pitching to an agent electronically. This doesn’t stop the pitching for that piece, but it may end up being the last stop it needs to make…until it sells. Let’s hope so.

OTOH, I’m having nagging doubts about this piece, I will admit—if for no other reason than it’s met with such resounding indifference in the agent marketplace. Yet when I entered it in a contest where booksellers judged, they gave it overall high ratings, including one perfect score. One particularly poignant comment came off those contest sheets, from the bookseller who said, “I want to meet this author, and I want to read this book.” To which I murmured, “From your mouth to God’s ears, honey.” All comments were anonymous by nature, but I wished I knew who and where this bookseller was…I would have e-mailed her, or maybe even gotten on the phone, and asked her if she knew any literary agents with taste like hers!

So it’s a mixed bag this morning, but the good news is I’m bringing myself one step closer, on at least one front. Now, does anyone know Guideposts’ response times????

Staying the course (as best she can),

Monday, October 06, 2008

Cubs Post Mortem...and I Mean That Literally

The playoff crash? Too depressing for words. That being said... I think now is also not the time for Cubs players to be spouting off the way Soriano supposedly did in the papers. If they are quoting him correctly...that boy needs a few lessons in being a team member. Not to mention maybe some extra BP next time we make the playoffs, so he looks better than a Little Leaguer up at the plate. Oh, for the Fabulous Bret on the North Side.... (sigh) More in a bit, Janny

Friday, October 03, 2008

No Joy In Mudville... least for the moment. Our poor Cubbies have picked a baaaaaad time to forget how to play baseball. BUT...I still believe.

I’m not kidding. I have a bracelet on that says, “Cubs...Believe.” I think I got it in either 2001 or 2003, saw it in my jewelry drawer this morning and said, “That’s it.” I put it on when I was getting dressed for work, and it will stay on for the duration. Shoulda thought to put it on sooner, I think.

Some Cubs bloggers and forum posters believe the sunny clime of southern California will do these guys a world of good. I can’t help but agree, if for no other reason than that the atmosphere at Wrigley over these past couple of days was weird, not Wrigley-like at all. Blame it on the playoffs and the hierarchy of “VIPs” who take over ballparks at times like this…people who wouldn’t normally bother to go to a baseball game if it were the only entertainment in town. But, hey, it’s a prestige ticket, it’s an opportunity for face time on national TV—and that’s how you end up with a blasé crowd that not only forgot how to cheer “Fu-ko-do-me” at the right times, but didn’t even bother to chant “Let’s Go Cubbies” except at a few scattered moments. Even then, it was a pale shadow of the normal chant we’re used to in Wrigleyville. By rights, that place should have been rocking—literally—every single inning. Yeah, you cheered for Soriano’s base hit…but then where did you go?

Infielders bobble the ball? That’s the time they need support, folks, not silence. Think that rewards bad play? Think again. No one in the ballpark felt worse about those flubs than Derosa, Lee, et al. What do they need to hear at that point, do you suppose? Catcalls from the stands?

That’s not how Cub fans operate. Which means that the majority of people at these games must either not have been Cub fans…or must have been struck with a severe bunting-triggered amnesia.

All I know is, had I been at either or both of those games, I would have no voice today. If any of you do, shame on you. You need to act like you actually care about the playoffs. That comes out as cheering on every pitch a patient Cub batter takes. That comes out as cheering, loud and long, on every out that’s made by a Cub fielder. If you need a refresher on how to cheer at a ball game, remember the last series we played at Miller Park. Those people were pumped…as you in the stands should have been. It would have made all the difference. But it didn’t…for reasons only you ticket holders who sat on your hands and talked on your cell phones—or whatever you occupied your time with instead of cheering—know.

As I said, shame on you. In a weird, sick way, you got the kind of play out of that team you deserved. You couldn’t tell they were pushing too hard? You couldn’t tell how much it mattered? You couldn’t tell they needed to be reminded that this thing is supposed to be fun?

Real Cub fans would remind them of that. Next time, leave the tickets to games like this for real Cub fans who
get it.

We’ll probably get more noise out of West Coast Cub fans than we got out of Chicago’s own, and that might be cause for a far worse worry than the Cubs going “flat” from nothing more than trying too hard. But if it propels us to win three straight, I ain’t gonna complain.

I’m just gonna wish you weird “corporate” types would get over yourselves, and realize that legitimate baseball fans deserve to be in a baseball park for an experience like this. You, apparently, don’t.

My take,