Sunday, July 29, 2012


What I wrote to the Chicago Tribune Letters-to-the-Editor section:
Call the Bible full of "bulls!@#" and those who do not listen to the rest of your remarks "pansy a@#ed" and your project, It Gets Better, will remain featured on the White House's official website.
Mention that you support the biblical definition of marriage and offer God thanks that you're still married to your first wife and a Chicago alderman will block your privately owned business from expanding within the city.
It's a strange world and strange times we live in.
What the Chicago Tribune printed:
Mention that you support the biblical definition of marriage and offer God thanks that you're still married to your first wife and a Chicago alderman will block your privately owned business from expanding within the city.
It's a strange world and strange times we live in.
Had I meant to be milktoast and boring, I would have been. Leave my irony alone, Trib!

Friday, July 27, 2012


“Hilarious!”  It’s a word heard often from Terri Boumans.  Always emphasized and usually accompanied by gestures, “hilarious” is Terri’s signature phrase.  She’s likely to pantomime the latest stunt by one of her kids.  She may twirl her arms as she describes what she considers her less than graceful moves at the local Y’s Bodyjam fitness class.   Her humor reflects her humility.  Terri readily recounts smacking into a glass panel the day she met her husband, but downplays the fact that the panel was in the Olympic Training Center and she was there as an elite athlete.  When opening her own volleyball gym for training high-level players, Terri set humor aside and turned to a different word to capture her intent:  mettle.   Mettle Volleyball opened June 2012 and is located behind the Naperville YMCA Fieldhouse.  Terri’s new venture requires both the courage and fortitude suggested by her gym's name.  She’s pregnant, due in December with her fifth baby, and will continue to home educate as she builds her business.

Home educating and opening the gym both grew out of Terri’s devotion to her kids.  After a few years as an at-home mom, Terri felt God leading her to contribute to the financial well-being of her family.  She prayed for the right opportunities.  They included running two part-time volleyball programs at other facilities and coaching summer volleyball camps.  An offhand comment by her husband as he signed the lease for his own wrestling gym led the landlord to show Terri a vacant building around the corner, perfect for her own volleyball gym.  Terri’s coaching incorporates the full range of her experience: the only collegiate player in Big Ten history to achieve more than 1,500 kills, 1,000 digs and 600 blocks, four year team member of the U.S.A. National Volleyball Team, and team captain of the Chicago Thunder in the U.S.A. Professional Volleyball League during the 2001-02 season.

While her middle and highschool-aged players flourished under her coaching, it added stress for her own kids.  Terri would wait in the driveway with the car running for her boys to be dropped off from school.  She would dash off to coach for a few hours then single-handedly get her kids fed, bathed and to bed while her husband Kerry, a former U.S.A. National Team wrestler, continued evening work at his own gym.   Having more family time together is the main reason Terri and Kerry chose to home educate.  Kerry can linger in the morning before heading to his wrestling facility.  Sometimes he takes the kids in with him.  Terri plans their home schooling day according to when she has to leave for her volleyball classes.  She spends the bulk of her day with her children and appreciates the more relaxed pace.  Settling into her third year of home educating, Terri agonizes less now about “doing it wrong” and enjoys the simple pleasure of a rest hour with the kids before she heads out to coach.

The Boumans want a solid Catholic education for their kids.  Her two older boys, now 9 and 11-years-old, attended Catholic school prior to home schooling.  Terri chose Mother of Divine Grace curriculum on recommendation from another mom who also had a large family and ran her own business.  “I love that the entire syllabus for each student is right there,” Terri comments, “and I don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”  The one-on-one time benefitted her children.  One son rose from a C average to an A average in math.  She noticed an increase in her kids’ sharing their spiritual thoughts too.  “Since we are all reading the same thing, usually out loud,” Terri explains, “our conversations can be surprisingly deep considering how young my kids are.”  Like many home educating moms, Terri worries about gaps in her kids' education.  She plans to farm out art and music, areas with which she has little experience.  Terri admits that she finds working easier than staying at home, but asserts that easy is not the goal.  Still, she views her coaching as a “joyful break” from the monotony that can come with being at home with little ones—her daughters are just 4 and 6-years-old--especially during the long Chicago winters.

Home educating can provide other “joyful breaks.”  After particularly busy volleyball and schooling times, Terri enjoys the flexibility to take short vacations during weekdays when other kids would normally be in school.  This past winter, her kids learned to ski on nearly empty slopes during just such a get-away.  Humor once again creeps in as Terri describes her boys’ first terrified ride together on the chair lift.   She recreates the scene, somehow using her 6’2” frame to convincingly play-act a little boy peering over an edge from seemingly great height, gaze sweeping side-to-side, eyes growing wider and mumbling the Catholic act of contrition.

Terri and Kerry rise before 6 a.m., praying together to start their day.  When asked what advice she’d give to another mom seeking to both home educate and bring in an income, Terri counsels prayer.  “Make sure it is God’s will,” she cautions, “or it may not work.  Relax and know that God is in control.   He will let you know what you need to do.”  With Mettle Volleyball being new, it’s difficult for Terri to forecast her income for the next year.  She knows she will need evening care for her newborn after January.  She asked God to figure out what seemed impossible to her--to have her baby in wonderful family care during those hours and to arrange that for free.  Bartering volleyball lessons for childcare with a family she knows and trusts provided the solution. 

 Terri understands that the perfect solution may not always appear quickly in answer to her prayers.  As she and her kids clean the gym, she talks to them about living in faith, taking the next step and trusting God with the outcome.  As her business and her family continue to grow, one suspects that stories from Terri, accompanied by her signature motion as communication, will grow too.  No doubt they will be hilarious. 

For more information on Mettle Volleyball's Little Diggers program (grades 3-7) and Volleyball classes (grades 6-12), or for private lessons with Terri, please visit Mettle Volleyball's website.  

World English Dictionary

mettle(ˈmɛt ə l) 

- n
1. courage; spirit
2. inherent character
3. on one's mettle roused to putting forth one's best efforts

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Savage Chicken

Call the Bible full of "bulls!@#" and those who do not stay to hear the rest of your remarks at a high school journalism convention "pansy a@#ed" and your organization will remain featured on the White House official website.  Mention that you support the biblical definition of marriage and offer God thanks that you're still married to your first wife and Boston and Chicago will try to block your privately owned business from operating in their cities.  It's a strange world and strange times we live in.

Dan Savage leads the It Gets Better project.  The project's worthy purpose is to provide hope for LGBT teens.   Part of the organization's pledge?  That everyone deserves to be respected for who they are.  I am not certain Bible believing teens felt respected by Mr. Savage's comments at the journalism conference. Dan Cathy serves as President of Chick-Fil-A and admitted to being "guilty as charged" in believing the biblical definition of marriage.  He then released a hate-filled, profanity-laced statement of his own:  "The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."  Whew, strong words.

Interestingly, Mr. Cathy did not single out gay marriage as the end-all, be-all affront to holy matrimony.  Critics rightly point out that church-goers, while often condemning homosexual unions, engage in divorce in numbers equal to the rest of society.  Hypocrisy never plays well.  The churched would do well to work on their own marriages and remember atheists are not idiots.  But Mr. Cathy didn't single out gay marriage.   He upheld it all, offending the divorced as well as the gay in his comments.  "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives," Cathy commented.  Continuing, though some news organizations chose not to report the full thought, Cathy explained, "We give God thanks for that."  Sounds like a man who recognizes that we all stumble and fall in many ways and that it is only by the grace of God that two sinful people can have a long and happy union. 

What is tolerance?  Tolerance does not seek to silence those who hold contrary viewpoints.  True tolerance requires respecting those with whom one disagrees.  Christian tolerance requires respecting and loving those with whom one disagrees.  As President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, Wade Burleson had a meeting with a homosexual rights group, SoulForce.  The group sought to change his mind and stance on homosexuality and told him they would picket his church until he did.  Burleson responded "that they were welcome to picket our church, and that if their members were driving a long distance to come, we would provide a meal for them after church. In addition, if SoulForce intended to picket after the evening service and wished to remain overnight, I was positive we could provide for them some accommodations."  

Christ-following teens exhibit such tolerance as well as or better than adults such as Cathy and Burleson.  After the Day of Silence each year, when high schoolers use silence as a protest against bullying of LGBT and other teens, many Christian teens then engage in a Day of Dialogue.  "Christian students in particular should be the first to stand up for those around them being hurt or harmed," states one of Day of Dialogue's guiding principles.  Rather than remaining silent, Day of Dialogue participants believe those of differing viewpoints can and should have civil discourse about healthy relationships, sexuality and faith.  Sounds a lot like true tolerance to me.

I like Chick-Fil-A.  I've met the owner of our local restaurant a few times.  He donated chicken sandwiches for a community winter festival our church sponsored.  His restaurant put on a fantastic field trip for my local homeschool group.  Each kid got to make his own free milkshake and ring up her own order.  The place is always clean, the play area well-maintained, the staff always ready to take my cup and refill it for me.  I can order grilled chicken nuggets, mixed fruit and milk for a quick, guilt-free, healthy lunch for my kids.  It arrives in a bag with educational games on the side and a quality book or toy that reinforces positive character traits.  I'm never told "You're welcome," but always "my pleasure" when I thank an employee.  And they say it in a way I believe.  As Chicago tries to block CFA from expanding within the city, it's worth noting that Chicago also has a long standing grudge against Walmart operating within the city limits.  They don't like Walmart's labor practices.  Chick-Fil-A, on the other hand, is closed every Sunday so its employees may worship or rest.  While many franchise opportunities require hundreds of thousands of dollars, Chick-Fil-A intentionally lowers the barrier to success by requiring just $5,000. 

Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day, suggested by Mike Huckabee, is August 1.  Count me in.


Friday, July 20, 2012

On Hair, Herons, Hot Air, Homes and Hope

If you haven't yet read Dana's story, please do!  Stay tuned for Terri's story, coming shortly.

Mr. Wonderful and I celebrated our 21st anniversary on Friday, June 29.  Panicked preparations began for me on Thursday when I realized my hair was not up to celebratory standards.  I originally planned to go gracefully gray in my middle age and mentioned this fact to my best buddy from my college years.   This friend is as accepting and tolerant as they come.  As an attorney, she's trained to see and anticipate all sides of an argument.  "Gracefully gray?  What does that mean?  That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," she non-judgmentally barked when I announced my intentions.  "Gracefully gray is an oxymoron."  I blame her for my every six week regimen of trying to fool the world into thinking I am not a woman in my mid-40s.

By Thursday, it became apparent the ruse would not hold.  My husband might figure out that his bride is no longer 23.  The lady who does my hair comes to my home (I know, how lucky am I?) and she squeezes me in during times when she's not helping her husband run a non-profit charity, when she's not directing the elementary program at a church, when she's not planning a summer camp for a few hundred or a carnival for 800 and when she's not home educating her own three children.  I explained the dire nature of my follicular folly.  She immediately agreed her other obligations paled in comparison.  That same evening, she restored my youth in mocha hues, preventing a Portrait of Dorian Gray anniversary reveal.  

We love our kids and love that we have a large family.  On our anniversary, we couldn't wait to get as far away from them as possible.  Our oldest is nearly 17 and we felt that we could safely leave them for one overnight.  Mr. Wonderful searched far and wide within a 45 minute radius of home.  He picked The Herrington Inn in Geneva (IL...maybe another season of life might bring that other Geneva into the realm of the possible).  Good choice from a good man.  We arrived to a beautiful room--four poster king size bed, corner fireplace operated by flip switch, waiting chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate mousse with a personalized congratulatory note from the innkeeper--and a balcony overlooking the Fox River.  I settled in on the balcony, watching the island directly across from us.  Mr. Wonderful doesn't do nothing well, but he alighted fidgetedly beside me.  For the next hour, we chatted and watched the great blue heron on the island.  This heron must be used to visitors; he paid us no mind as he preened and flapped and spread his wings to warm?  dry?  in the sun.  The heron briefly shared the island with an egret and many cute ducks dabbled in the waters.  There was not a goose in sight, making the scene perfect to my way of thinking (I hate geese).  Even watching what my Southern born and raised hubby termed a "varmint," and what I hope was a genteel muskrat and not just a big, fat rat swim across the river instilled a bucolic charm, in so far as varmints can be charming.  On your anniversary, on a balcony two stories above, when the varmint is swimming away from you, all things are possible.

Over a delicious dinner of skate wing (me) and prime rib (him), I listened to my guy talk about hope.  The specific topic was something entirely different, but hope formed the core.  There is determined positive outlook, a gritted choice we make on how to view things and then there is hope, which bubbles up from another place entirely.  Long seasons in life can be filled with that determined will in choosing one's viewpoint and there is a certain maturity that comes with that disciplined practice.  But nothing refreshes a soul like hope.

We concluded our anniversary getaway with an hour long morning walk along the Fox River and a stop in the All Chocolate Kitchen.  The shop is part chocolate and spun sugar art gallery, part bakery, all stupendous.  We arrived home anxious to see the kids again and with, I thought, the best part of the weekend behind us.

Not so.

The Midwest, at least this part of it, possesses a startlingly nasty summer habit of getting light in the middle of the night.  I never encountered anything like this anywhere on the East Coast, but if you wake up anytime after 4:30 am in Chicagoland in June, it will be getting light.  Sunday morning, I woke up early to hear my oldest easing out the door.  He wasn't on tech at church that weekend, but some tech folks were going early to make sure all was set for our church's first weekend in our new permanent home.  He planned on riding his bike rather than wake us (how did I get such a great kid?), but since I was up, I offered him a ride.  We walked out of the house to see three huge hot air balloons almost directly over our home and another two in the distance.  I felt a little like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  Mr. Wonderful took off with the two youngest kids in the van, forming his own unofficial chase crew.  Not only did they chase down three landings, but were rewarded with balloon trading cards and candy from the pilots.  I opted for a jog, following the balloons along the river trail near our home.  Crickets, birds and the whoosh of the propane burner from the balloon above formed the only early morning sounds.  The river next to me suddenly exploded and a startled heron--significantly less adapted to people than his Herrington Inn cousin--took off before me.  
That was possibly a more spectacular flight than even the enormous colorful blobs above.  I returned home, convinced that my day had seen its most satisfying moments.

Not so.

My family gathered, all of us nearly filling an entire row at church, to celebrate our first service in our building.  I hadn't expected it to feel as monumental as it did.  God's church is not a building, of course, but it does feel deeply satisfying to have a home base.  The worship that day felt sincere, filled with joy and thanksgiving.  My hubby and teens no longer have to get up at 5:30 am every Sunday to set up in the middle school our church called home for more than a year and a half.  With our new building, we can host more outreach and ministry events during the week.  Our building sits next to the YMCA, where scores of moms of preschoolers flock to work out during the week, and just shy of the local high school.  The school likes to tout its Grammy award winning music program, but beneath the glitter we live in a district with seven heroin overdoses in the past year amongst the student body.  My community looks like one that has its act together, but it is often just that, an act, a Stepford play where people hide their real selves, their problems and dare I say it?  their sin.  It's a place that needs hope rather than gritted self-determination.  And in that rather nondescript brick office building cum church, we sang and celebrated the Author of Hope.

It doesn't get any better than that.