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My crappy Lourdes story

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Lourdes.jpgToday is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the apparition of the Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette Soubiroux, a French peasant girl, over 5 months in 1858. Mary called herself "The Immaculate Conception," confirming the Pope's proclamation of that dogma just four years earlier. She appeared near a cave and directed Bernadette inside, where Bernadette discovered a previously unknown spring.

As far as Marian apparitions go, Lourdes is fairly uncontroversial. There are no secret messages inspiring conspiracy theories, no railing against her as a symbol of colonialism (I won't even get into Medjugorje). About 5 million pilgrims flock there every year out of devotion and to seek healing from the fountain, which has reportedly worked countless miracles. That number swelled to 8 million last year for the 150th anniversary of the apparitions.

I've long been somewhat of a francophile going back to 4th grade when we did country reports and I chose France. I then took French for eight years and it was even my major for a few semesters in college. Furthermore, though my Catholic family wasn't particularly devout, the closest parish to us when I grew up was Our Lady of Lourdes in Chicago, an absolutely gorgeous church which I attended for a while as an adult after I embraced the faith of my Baptism. And spiritually, I owe a great deal to Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity (soon may she be canonized!) and St. Francis de Sales.

So you would be right to think that Lourdes, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and St. Bernadette would hold a special place in my heart (though, to my shame, I still have not yet seen Song of Bernadette).

You might further think that, given the chance, there's no way I would pass up a chance to visit Lourdes -- to pray for my loved ones at the grotto and collect as much Lourdes water as I could carry.

And you'd be right, I would -- if I had another chance.

In the summer of 1994 I traveled to Paris for a week and then stayed two weeks in Tarbes, a small French town near the Pyrénées mountains, with a family who then sent their son (my "correspondent," Paul) to stay with my family in Chicago for three weeks -- all part of an annual exchange program my high school participated in.

One morning, Paul was arguing with his mom over breakfast (they argued in Spanish so I couldn't understand -- they were Spanish immigrants, the irony being that everybody in my extended family but me speaks Spanish). I had no idea what they were arguing about and finally Paul acquiesced to whatever she was asking and we were off on a road trip.

We took about a half hour trip further into the Pyrénées and when we got there Paul asked me if we had seen Versailles when we were in Paris. I said I had and he commented that Versailles was a very beautiful castle, a castle for a king and for diplomats. He said that I was now going to see un chateau très fort. And he was right, we visited a huge castle, parts of which date back to the 11th century. He showed me the narrow slits from which archers could fire without getting hit and pointed out various other nifty features. Then I think we ate lunch and headed home. On the return trip I remember thinking, I'll never get those three hours of my life back.

We got back to the house and the mother, with an eagerness I now find a bit tragic, asked me how the trip was. When I told her about the castle, she first looked puzzled, but then turned to Paul, who was avoiding her look. Another, much more furious argument immediately erupted. I'd had enough of this bizarre day, so I went to my room and let them fight it out.

The next day, I told some of the other students from my school about it, and one of them said something vague about a religious shrine and special water. It would be another 5 years until I discovered that I had been to Lourdes and had not visited any of the holy sites.

I don't exactly blame Paul. He and I got along fairly well (better, if I remember correctly, than any of my friends got along with their correspondents), and if he had told me we were going to a religious shrine, I probably would have talked him into taking me to the cafe where we used to drink demi-pêches (beer w/peach syrup) and check out girls.

Still, I'VE BEEN TO LOURDES WITHOUT KNOWING IT. Every February 11 I think about this fact and my heart breaks a little bit. I used to think about what would have happened if I'd had my conversion there in Lourdes instead of 4 years and a lot of stupid mistakes later. I'm a bit calmer about that now, but yet I can't help but lament that I WAS WITHIN 3/4 MILES OF THE GROTTO AND I WAS PISSED TO BE THERE.

So there, my friends, is my crappy Lourdes story. The story of an incurious dope who missed his chance to visit one of the holiest shrines in the world.

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Pray for a little boy

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My boss's 3 year old is having some trouble. First the doctors thought it might be a bone infection in his leg, but now they think it could be a tumor. He's been in the hospital all week for tests. Please pray for Will and his family!

UPDATE: It's a malignant tumor. He will be starting chemotherapy soon. Please pray for this family. I can't even imagine.

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What did I do to deserve this?

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I try to be a good man. I love my wife and boys. I take care of them as best as I can, though I've done some things I'm not proud of, and I'll admit I'm lazy as a dog. I'm a lover of comfort and I could work much harder than I do, but my heart is in the right place (somewhere behind my ribs, I think). And it's true, when I was in high school I scalped Cubs tickets, but it's not my fault, my sister totally made me. She would buy all these tickets to games she couldn't go to, and she would give them to me to sell and I hated doing it, but she let me keep half the profits, but even then I was sometimes too terrified of the police to even charge face value, so I'd walk down Clark Street and dump them as soon as I could, usually before I even got to Byron, so you see it's not something that could be held against me. Anyway, I went to lots and lots of games, and we're talking about the early 90s here when the Cubs were truly pathetic, but still I cheered them on and I never ever booed and I was totally on the other side of the bleachers when the three-row battle royale fistfight broke out on 70s night when security tried to bounce the moron who dumped beer on the (Mets?) left fielder. And it's true I would sometimes get intoxicated yuppies to pay me to eat fistsful of jalapenos, but COME ON, THEY WERE DRUNK A-HOLES OUT HANDING OUT $20 BILLS, any enterprising young teenager would have done the same, especially when he needed to make up the loss on "scalping" tickets to his sister, not that she would have broken my legs or taken away my lunch money, but I had teenage pride.

But all of that is besides the point. I've been a loyal fan my whole life and I'm even bringing my boys up to be loyal Cubbie fans. They all have Cubs hats they love to wear and they have a Cubbie flag on the door to their bedroom and if they keep their room clean for the whole month of October they'll get the red Wrigley Field sign painted on their wall and I took Matthew to see the Peoria Chiefs play and told him all about Ryne Sandberg and now he wants to play for the Cubbies when he grows up and it's so totally not my fault that he thinks I used to play for the Cubbies -- I told him I played baseball in high school in Chicago and he knows the Cubbies play in Chicago and he put 2 and 2 together but unfortunately he came up with 5 and I've tried to tell him I played for the Lincoln Park Lions, not the Cubbies, but he forgets and it's kinda cute, but when he tells people I totally correct him so they don't think I really used to play for the Cubs (because they would obviously think it's true, right?).

Anyway, the point is that I'm a decent fellow who's been a loyal Cubbie fan as long as I can remember going back to the game I went to as a little guy when Ron Cey (RON CEY) hit two home runs and I cheered and cheered and it was the greatest thing in the world and I've stuck by them my whole life unlike those fair weather yuppies who just go to the game to get hammered and try to hook up with blondes and puke all over the bleachers and swear at the umps even when there's kids sitting right behind them.

And don't get me wrong, it's wonderful that we've made the playoffs two years in a row, which is something I couldn't imagine happening growing up when I would faithfully and loyally watch the Cubs get ground into the dirt every year, but I lovd them always and never ever gave up.

But why oh why is it that we have to get so totally and completely embarrassed in the playoffs? Why can't our lineup, better than I ever imagined a lineup could be when I was cheering on Rey Sanchez, Jose Vizcaino and Luis Gonzalez (before he started juicing or sacrificing to pagan gods or whatever it was he did that turned him from a scrawny scrappy little dude into a 40 homer guy), do anything against... CHAD FREAKING BILLINGSWORTH, and who the freak is he and how can he make Soriano, Lee and Ramirez look like total chumps and what are we paying those guys for anyway and what is up with Fukudome -- why can't we hit the Asian jackpot like every other freaking team?

Anyway, what I'm really trying to say is that I've shed tears over this team. More tears than any self-respecting man should shed over the doings of other grown men who wear striped pants, but I shed them because I care, and honestly I'll keep caring, but why oh why can't we put up a decent fight? Is that so much to ask?

What did I do to deserve this?

(Cross-posted to my facebook account)

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I Learned Today...

  • ease back in to bike riding.
  • bandage up all open wounds before bike riding.
  • ...not to layer shirts when it's over 80 degrees.
  • ...that Green St. between Mattis and Prospect is way hillier the same strip of John St.
  • ...that the library is farther from my house than I thought
  • ...that I need to build up to the 7+ mile commute to work -- and that it will probably take me about 45 -50 minutes one way.
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I Have Dreams


Last night I dreamt that a friend started an order:The Canons of Wrigley Field. If only.

I haven't watched Bull Durham in about 6 years. Honest.

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Domestic terrorism and lapel pins


Scrappleface hilariously merges -- Seinfield-style -- two of the fake Obama controversies:

Obama Feared Bill Ayers Would Step on Flag Lapel Pin

(2008-05-05) — Sen. Barack Obama admitted today that he stopped wearing an American flag lapel pin out of fear that friend and domestic terror group founder William Ayers would “step on my chest.”

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Hoops Watch


Last week's Thursday night basketball went much better. Hey, no dry-heaving is a good start, but I felt noticeably more energetic from beginning to end. Woot! (as the kids say)

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is stepping on a basketball court for th first time in 5-6 years and discovering just how fat and slow you've become.

And so begins the Papa-Lu Get Into Decent Shape Challenge. There's no target amount of weight to lose and no physical goal to achieve other than keeping up with my boys at the park next summer.

Well, that and being able to play ball for more than, say, 20 minutes of full court play before dry heaving.

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Craig's List


We're using Craig's List both to buy and sell a car. It is working out quite, quite well, but doing both at the same time is a bit exhausting. Hopefully, it'll all be done by the weekend.

By the way, I'm selling a 1990 Camry. Anybody looking for a fixer-upper, drop me an email.

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9/11 Where I was


I logged into my email from the worship office at the U of I Newman Center, where I worked as a sacristan. There was a message on a Church email list (the K-list, for those who know what that is) from, I believe, John Bambenek, stating that one tower had been hit and that another plane had gone missing. A follow-up email from somebody else reported that the towers had fallen. Struck with disbelief, I went downstairs to the Newman Hall lounge. The first person I saw simply said, "They're gone."

I went to one class at mid-day, and though we discussed the events, nobody really knew what was going on. The rest of the day I spent in or around the chapel. Fr. Stanley, the associate chaplain there at the time, had asked the Sacristans to be around in case students wandered in looking for people to pray with or a priest to talk to.

I talked to a few distraught students, not very many, and instead spent much of the time in the chapel or sacristy, alternately praying and reading a book for an upcoming paper. Later, we locked up the chapel and some of the sacristans converged to relax after a long and spiritually tough day.

It was then that I first saw any images of what happened. Throughout the day, I had heard snippets of info from friends: people jumping from the towers, maniacs in the Middle East dancing in celebration, etc, and so I was intensely curious to view some of these images myself.

It was jarring to see the second plane hitting the tower, but I found that I was not nearly as disturbed (or distraught, or pissed, or whatever adjective you wish to use) as many other people I talked to in the following few days. It kind of bothered me, and I really wanted to get to the bottom of why I felt this way. Was I that heartless?

The answer - to an extent - is yes. I did some self-examination of my disposition in the months following 9-11-01 and I realized that death has never much disturbed me. I've found that at funerals and other situations of grief, I tend to be moved and saddened more by the grief of others than by the actual events that transpired. Deep down, a part of me gets frustrated with people who get overly-emotional. It's not something of which I'm particularly proud, but I dealt with some pretty rotten stuff by myself when I was a kid, and I think some of this inner hardness of heart stems from that. I don't like it, but to be honest, it's there.

On the other hand, this was different. I *was* pissed. I was horrified by what I heard and angry at the injustice that had been perpetrated. I saw people all day - many of them friends whom I love dearly - who were wrecks, and more than anything THAT made me angry and frustrated. Why were they more "affected" than I?

Quoth the trauma experts:

In a nationally representative sample of 2,773 adults, clinically significant distress was associated with hours of terrorism-related television watched per day and number of different types of graphic terrorism-related content watched. It should be noted that the prevalence of general distress was not greater than that typically seen in community samples.

Furthermore, in a subset of 691 New York City dwellers, number of hours of terrorism-related TV coverage watched was significantly associated with higher PTSD symptom endorsement but the content index was not (Schlenger et al., 2002).

Every time I think about that day, I'm grateful that I wasn't sitting in front of a television watching that second plane hit and watching the towers fall. Death is real and terrible. Evil is real and terrible and cannot be ignored or wished away. In that sense, the terrorist attacks on 9/11 were a wake-up call to our county. But that is all too metaphysical. The cold reality is that many of us watched mass-murder live on TV.

The real-time video coverage of the events of 9/11 did real psychological harm to citizens of our country. We should all pray that we never again experience something like that day. We should all desire to protect our families and our children from witnessing such evil. Yet the next time it happens (pray it does not), how many of you will let yourselves watch and be wounded? Or expose your children to it.

I count myself lucky, blessed, that I had all day to reflect and pray before being confronted with the images. I refer back to them as rarely as possible, not because I can make 9/11 go away and forget about it, not because terrorism is an over-hyped myth, but because it's masochistic to repeatedly and intentionally introduce such tragedy into life.

This is why I don't understand those who think a good way to commemorate the occasion is to replay the massacre in slow motion. It's like ripping open the wounds all over again. Yes, it may ensure that we "never forget," but it also ensures that we never forgive or heal.

Far better to remember those who perished, both on that day and from the ensuing wars, to give thanks for their lives and to recount the real heroism that took place amid the horror, to pray for their eternal rest, and to ask God to forgive their murderers and to forgive and convert those who conspired to kill them.

Mary, Mother of Sorrows, pray for us!

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I have dreams

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Last night two of my great loves converged in my sleep.

The opening hymn for the Cubs game was one of my own creation - a hymn sung to the tune of "The Church's One Foundation" that was a call for various Protestant sects to return to the one true faith.

Hmm, come to think of it, that sounds pretty nerdy...

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Lincoln Park II

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Following up on this post from a year ago, my alma mater moved up one place on Newsweek's top 100 public high schools list. Lincoln Park is now ranked 30th.

Something new about this year's list is that in addition to the index of total AP and IB tests taken divided by number of graduation seniors (LP: 4.338) and the percentage of students who qualify for subsidized lunch, which serves as a sort of poverty index for each school (LP: 50.1%, one of only four in the top 100 over 50%), this year's survey includes the percentage of all graduating seniors who passed at least one AP or IB test. LP scored a whopping 86.3% on this measure. That is amazing, and surely is an improvement over when I was there.

As I said last year, the survey is deeply flawed, but bragging rights are bragging rights. The only other Chicago Public School to make the list was Whitney Young, coming in at #541. Ha! Oh and what about New Trier, with all it's Northshore millionaires? #407.

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Pros and Cons of working at home

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  • Starting at 10 PM when Mama-Lu puts Matthew down. Getting sleepy.....
  • Missing out on the only TV I watch all day.


  • Blogging breaks :)
  • Sipping a Black Russian while I work. Oh yeah, that's the good stuff!
  • Working topless.
  • The smile on Mama-Lu's face at seeing me a few hours more than she otherwise would.
  • Do you need any other reasons?

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Merry Christmas!


A Merry Christmas to all of our friends and family.

To all those in Chicago, Delavan, Cary, Chamaign, Philadelphia, Westerville, Southern California and elsewhere who are looking for updates, there's nothing to update. The due date was Monday so we're in overtime. As soon as Baby Lu part deux makes an arrival, I'll be making the phone calls and trying to get pix up here. The one snag is that the cord that connects the camera to the 'puter isn't working, so I don't know when I'll be able to post the pics. But I'll find a way!

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Been busy


The first full day at the new job was yesterday and went great. I'm still part-time at the old job, so things will be busy.

Our due date came and went and no baby, so now we're on the reverse countdown. T + 1 day and counting. I'm bucking for Thursday, as it looks like I'm going to have a 4-day weekend.... :)

Don't expect to see anything here for a while... maybe baby pics once the new arrival comes. In the meantime you can use the time you would normally spend here praying for a safe delivery!

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The next two weeks

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Well, it looks like next week I'll be splitting time at my jobs, training for the new one while wrapping up things at my old one. I also have two finals - one for the world's worst class and one for Intermediate Accouting, which I learned last night will thankfully not be as hard as I thought, but which will be comrehensive. I haven't taken a comprehensive final in about 4 years.

Oh, and by the way, Mama-Lu could theoretically go into labor any day now. Which reminds me, I also have to give myself a crash refresher course in birth-coaching. The due date is the 19th, which is the day I'm scheduled to start my new job. It is also the Eastern (Ukranian Rite, I believe) feast of St. Boniface, one of our family's dearest patrons.

I, however, was bucking for the 12th as the due date on account of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The name we have picked out for a girl is Maria Regina Caeli Lu-. I commented with Mama-Lu that she should go into labor today (Immaculate Conception) and give birth to a girl on Monday (Our Lady of Guadalupe), then we could name our baby Maria Concepcion Guadalupe Regina Caeli Lu-. Unfortunately, she didn't seem enthusiastic about 96 hours of labor. Some people...

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As a postscript to my post two down about my new job, I wish to say to any of my family members (specifically my mother, brother, sister) reading this, the reason you have not heard the news from me directly is that we can't find our cell phone and it's dead so we can't call it to find it.

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It's official!


Friday I gave my two week notice, sort of...

I'll be staying on where I am now part-time, probably through the spring, which is exactly what I had hoped would happen. I was already planning on not taking classes next semester, so the time will be there. I've long thought my position could easily be done by a part-timer (not the kind of thing you advertise though, ya know?) My boss actually feels the same, and I'm sure she likes the impact it will have on her bottom line. :)

Additionally, Mama-Lu and I spent Saturday setting up an office in the apartment. Much of the work at my current job can be done from home, and now I'll have a place to do it (relativey) undisturbed.

The next 4-5 months will be incredibly busy from me. I'll have two jobs and a new baby. I suspect I'll have little time to blog, but really for a while I've been doing more "linking" then "blogging" anyway.

I'm very excited about this move, and I really think this is best for our family and for me professionally at this time.

Praise God!

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Hotel blogging


Apparently this hotel has Wi-Fi!

This won't be a long post, as I'm tapping away on my PDA and my hand is cramping up.

We're in Columbus, OH right now. Had Thanksgiving with Mama-Lu's fam. It's been fun; I'll have pictures next week.


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Crossroads, of a sort

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Please pray that I receive the gift of Counsel.

I went to an interview today for a part-time job for next spring. I came out with an interview on Wednesday for a new career.

Here's the situation:

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Mama-Lu's Etsy Shop

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