Storied Tradition

On football weekend Fridays, guests of the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish can walk — for free! — the tunnel every Irish football player has taken into Notre Dame Stadium since the Knute Rockne era in 1930.

View the hanging national championship banners, take a photo with the field in the background, and imagine what it’s like to race into the stadium to the rousing Notre Dame Victory March and the cheers of thousands of fans!

Note: This is my take on Story, this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge topic. The idea is to use a photograph to convey a story. Kind of relates to the English idiom, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” don’t you think?


Settling Back In

My big-mouthed Sheltie has already announced that I’ve been away, so I might as well confess I went to visit Domer in the Windy City.

What a skyline!

What a skyline!

Since my nerves are still pretty raw from my car crash, I took the train (not exactly a paragon of safety there, but I liked my chances better than on the highways!)

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A Magical Season So Far

It’s not easy being a fan.

Fans rally around their chosen sports teams, cheering them on from near and far, unable to affect the outcome of a game, often left despondent by a win that slipped through their very fingers.

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Commencement Wrapup

Commencement Weekend at the University of Notre Dame has come and gone, and I’m left with the following observations:

1) Nobody does Mass better than ND. This weekend was Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the Church, and we had no less than 40 red-robed priests (plus two bishops) on the altar for the celebration!

2) Nobody does food better than the ND Food Services staff. Our Friday feast featured chef-carved beef, chicken, tilapia, and a dessert bar topped with a “2013” ice sculpture. On Saturday, they fed us grilled steak, chicken, shrimp, and made an elaborate display of round, two-layered white cakes with frosting — one for each family to enjoy!

3) Nobody offers better music than ND. Volunteers from the ND Band (minus the seniors) played at most events. And no, I didn’t do much more than tear up at “Pomp and Circumstance,” the Alma Mater, and the ND Victory March, so my desensitization helped!

4) Nobody offers more guidelines (that people don’t pay attention to) than ND. I was told no umbrellas or wide-brimmed hats that might interfere with people’s vision. I obeyed, but others did not. I was told to respect others’ views of the proceedings. I obeyed, but one woman stood right in front of me minutes before my son was to cross the stage to accept his diploma. When I politely reminded her, “I can’t see,” she jumped all over me, arguing that somebody was taking a photo with a camera phone and she didn’t want to block that. Obviously, it never crossed her mind to go behind the photographer, rather than block my view!

5) Nobody does unpredictable weather better than South Bend. Here I was, worried over cold and rain, when Sunday dawned brilliantly sunny and temps climbed to almost 90 degrees by afternoon. Good thing I remembered sunscreen!

I know some of you are also interested in what people were wearing. Comfort, indeed, was the better part of wisdom. And there were so many people milling around that I probably could’ve worn a grocery sack and not stood out!

In fact, I saw all manner of dress:

  • Men in khaki shorts
  • Men in flip flops and deck shoes
  • Men wearing suits and ties
  • Men wearing blue jeans
  • Men wearing Polo shirts
  • Women teetering on sky-high spike heels
  • Women in cowboy boots
  • Women wearing dressy sandals or flip flops
  • Nobody wearing pantyhose
  • Women wearing lace
  • Women wearing sundresses, long and short
  • Women wearing slacks and jackets
  • Infants in carriers
  • People in wheelchairs or on canes
  • People speaking English or their native tongue
  • People wearing sunglasses and ND ball caps

Me? For Saturday’s Mass, I wore a knee-length black pencil skirt with a black and white polka-dotted peplum jacket. On Sunday, I chose a pair of dress black slacks, a black and white jacket with blue-green flowers, and a matching blue-green knit shell.

It was a great celebration, but I’m glad the hoopla is over.

(I’m “going dark” for a week or so while I do some celebratory stuff with my son. Intrigued? Good, I love a mystery! I’ll post more when I get back. Love to ALL!)


“Commencement” really is a Beginning

Playing right now: “Pomp and Circumstance” by Sir Edward Elgar

When I was in high school, our band played “Pomp and Circumstance” while the seniors were marching into and out of the gym for graduation.

It was a tradition, one we eagerly embraced. As we embraced our new (higher!) chair positions without our “leaders.”

A week was set aside to practice. The seniors would walk in as we played; they’d listen as their names were read aloud, then they’d walk back out as we played again.

Over and over until it was right.

So by graduation evening, it was old hat. It never crossed my mind to cry.

Nor did I cry when I was the graduating senior (eager, I recall, to get out of Dodge!)

By the time my son (AKA My Favorite Domer) graduated from high school — Class of 2009 — they’d chosen a prerecorded version of “Pomp and Circumstance” to accompany the seniors’ processional.

Call me old-fashioned, but I liked it better when the band played. Squeaks and wrong notes and all.

So I didn’t cry at Domer’s high school graduation.

But now, he’s completed his final, final exam, marking the end of his four-year stint at Notre Dame, and Commencement is right around the corner.

And I feel weepy.

I’m going to miss ND more than Domer will because, after all, it’s “home” to him. He’ll be back for football games, reunions, and such.

I, on the other hand, won’t have a reason to go back without him there.

The other day I was in the car when “Pomp and Circumstance” — the long version — played on Sirius radio, and I couldn’t help myself.

The tears just started flowing.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be emotional when Domer walks across that stage to accept his diploma. So I’ve decided to desensitize by listening to “Pomp” every chance I get.

And it’s helping.

When I left for college, my late dad termed it a “four-year paid vacation.”

Not so. I worked too hard.

Stayed up late too often studying. Involved myself in a gazillion activities. Reported for the campus newspaper. Had a scholarship to the Band.

Yes, I had fun. But not “vacation” fun.

Domer wouldn’t call his four years a “vacation,” either.

For the first time in his life, he’s been surrounded with young people just like him.

Bright. Talented. Big-hearted. Idealistic.

Kids who are athletic. Musical. Scholars. Volunteers.

Kids who recognize that they’ve been given many advantages and “To whom much is given, much is expected in return.” (Luke 12:48)

I predict good things for the Class of 2013.

Now, if I can just get past the Alma Mater. . . .!


Love Thee, Notre Dame

What is it about the University of Notre Dame that evokes such passion?

People who love Our Lady’s University and those who abhor it can rest assured they share one thing — they aren’t sitting on the fence.

I graduated from a state school (Ole Miss — Hotty Toddy!!), so I know about rivals. We had our share of them, and we knew they “hated” us as much as we “hated” them.

But our SEC Conference was the uniting force.

If one of our rivals was playing a football bowl game against a team outside the SEC, why, we’d up and root for our rivals. We wouldn’t necessarily like it, but we’d do it.

Probably because Home and Family are strong concepts in the South.

Kind of like your momma telling you not to make fun of crazy Aunt Lulu behind her back because she’s family and Family Sticks Together.

Notre Dame has long prided itself on its independence. The drawback, of course, is independence equates separateness.

And for many who hate ND, separateness equates aloofness. Haughtiness. Exclusivity.

Anyway, I was poking around Twitter the other evening, the same day as ND former linebacker Manti Te’o held a news conference in Indianapolis. To further explain how he was a victim of “catfishing.”

And the media had a heyday with it. So did Twitter users.

Frankly, I was embarrassed by many of the comments.

What is it about a football player, a 21-year-old kid, that draws such rage? Such hatred?

I guess none of the tweeters had ever made a mistake. Done something that in retrospect they’d have done differently. ‘Fessed up earlier and taken their licks then.

Perhaps it’s the anonymity of the Internet that lures folks to strike out against others, to leave biting, cruel remarks without regard to the consequences.

Don’t they know the Internet is forever? That all their comments can be rounded up and will paint a picture of just who they really are? That someone they’re trying to impress — a potential employer or that cute girl in their Botany class — might just cast them aside when their true colors are revealed?

So while I understand rivalries on the athletic field, I guess I’ll never understand meanness. Hatred. Pettiness.

Or how trying to bring someone else low somehow elevates you.

It doesn’t. Never has, never will.


Strike up the Bands

My son (AKA My Favorite Domer) departed yesterday.

For Miami/Ft. Lauderdale.

The BCS National Championship football game.

Notre Dame vs. Alabama.

Monday, Jan. 7, 8 p.m. EST, televised on ESPN.

He was excited. And a tad nervous. After all, he’s never been to Miami before. Never participated in a National Championship game.

And doesn’t particularly like to fly.

Especially the taking-off part.

But he looked all spiffy in his Band “traveling clothes” — collared shirt, nice jeans, dress shoes.

Dress shoes, I asked. In Miami?

C’mon, Mom, it’s the BAND, he told me. We don’t want to embarrass the University.

Or the BAND.

Well, okay. There is that.

So I put him on a plane after a big hug and made him promise to not “be a stranger.”

In other words, to let me know every once in awhile that he’s alive.

And well. And safe.

Who’d have thought, back at the beginning of this season when the pundits were talking up everybody but Notre Dame and the Irish were struggling to eke out wins, that the Fighting Irish would be where they are?

With a perfect 12-0 record.

Going up against the SEC’s Big Boy, ‘Bama?

With its “Million Dollar Band”?

Should be a great game.

But don’t be surprised if it’s the BANDS who put up the biggest fight!


Is Moving Ever Fun?

Stupidity is one of my pet peeves.

So is disorganization.

Imagine my “delight” at finding both — in plenteous amounts — this past week when I helped My Favorite Domer move back to Notre Dame.

I don’t mean to sound petty. Truly I don’t. But the “powers that be” have known for a long time that these kids (and their parents) would be descending on campus this week. They’ve had more than a century to get the “move in game” down pat.

Yet they still can’t seem to make it work.

Picture dozens of cars lined up single file in a parking lot “staging area.” Said cars are loaded to the roof with Junior’s stuff — guitars, TVs, clothes, refrigerators, plastic storage crates — or with Princess’s stuff — ginormous stuffed animals, clothes, tennis racquets, futons, shelving, area rugs. You get the idea.

Now picture a bunch of elderly volunteers, walkie-talkies in hand, trying to move these cars from the parking lot to the dorms in a semi-regulated way.

Now throw in a major campus construction project, just to make the ordeal more memorable.

That’s what we faced. And Domer got to move in early because of Band Camp, so we didn’t even have to face the tsunami of regular move-in.

Maybe we were the guinea pigs.

The day we moved, at least five different “ushers” gave us five different sets of instructions on where to go to unload Domer’s stuff. One said here; one said there. Finally, another suggested we drive up a gravel road closer to the dorm. As we were doing that, we noticed cars that had been behind us in the parking lot queue were now ahead of us; in fact, many had already unloaded and were driving off before we even got to my kid’s dorm!

How had that happened?

To sweeten the experience, another usher was on hand to remind us not to leave our car unattended, to unload right onto the grass, then move the car to a faraway lot, return on foot, and haul the stuff inside.

Up three flights of stairs.

Without air conditioning.

And only a freight elevator that’s on the temperamental side.

Did I mention it was HOT, too??

Still, the kids were great — greeting friends and parents alike, offering to help, stepping aside for those carrying precarious loads. They lofted furniture, started setting up TVs and laptops, even hung up their clothing.

In preparation for a new school term.

New classes. New friends. New memories to make.

Perhaps it’s a bit like giving birth — you don’t remember the pain of move-in day, in the wake of the clean slate which awaits.

But honestly, couldn’t someone have done a trial run in a golf cart beforehand??


Lady Bears Beat Lady Irish

History was made last night in Denver during the NCAA women’s basketball championship game.

I won’t bore you with the statistics, which I never remember anyway, but the Lady Bears from Baylor University demolished the Lady Irish from Notre Dame 80-61.

The Lady Bears became the first team ever to go 40 wins and no losses during a season; this was their second national title.

While it’s kind of exciting to witness history in the making, my heart aches for the Irish. Bringing a 35-3 record into the final (and besting a scrappy UConn team in the semifinals), the Lady Irish were hoping for a victory to ease the disappointment of losing last year’s championship to Texas A&M. A win also would have been their second championship (the first was in 2001).

It wasn’t to be.

Early in the game, the Irish led by a couple of points and was only down six at halftime. Typically, after a hesitant first half, they come out blazing for the second half.

Not last night.

They ran into foul trouble, their shots turned ice-cold, and their ability to grab rebounds proved nonexistent.

No wonder.

They were up against Baylor’s Brittney Griner, who stands 6’8″.

That’s six feet, eight inches!

Now everybody expects good basketball players to be tall, but Brittney is taller than the average male in the U.S. (5’9.4″).

She’s also GOOD.

She scored points from the floor, snatched rebounds, blocked Irish shots — in short, everything asked of her to bring her ‘A game’ to the finale.

And she did it with class. No trash-talk. No super-sized ego. Just praise for her teammates and Coach Kim Mulkey.

So, while it’s disappointing to lose — especially a national championship, especially for Notre Dame’s graduating seniors — if you have to lose, it’s palatable to lose to a team like the Lady Bears.

After all, I seriously doubt whether any team, men’s or women’s, could have bested them last night!


Junior Parents Weekend

Recently I received Notre Dame’s brochure promoting this year’s Junior Parents Weekend, and I’m still debating what to do about it.

JPW is billed as an opportunity to “become part of the academic, spiritual, social, and residential life of the University.” The weekend offers parents a chance “to learn more about the people and places that comprise your son or daughter’s home away from home.”

Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? Almost like going back to college myself, only this time, actually knowing something!

But guess when this extravaganza is to be held?

Did you say October, when the weather cools a bit and the campus trees are brilliant with reds and golds and coppers?


Maybe April, when a profusion of multicolored tulips poke through the soil, buds pop out on the trees, and the grass greens, turning everything into an emerald oasis?

No again.

JPW is scheduled for February.


Whose idea was that?

February, the shortest and dreariest month in the entire calendar.

February, when mountains of snow and patches of ice make travel by foot or vehicle treacherous.

February, when PermaCloud (that pervasive cloud cover over Northern Indiana) is ever-present to darken the skies above and the spirits within.

February. Seriously.

But maybe there’s more to it than at first glance.

Is it possible they deliberately chose February as the month for JPW?

So parents and their students could come aside for a few days deep in the heart of winter, when daylight is shorter and campus is quieter, when all you hear is the soft crunch of footsteps on the snow, when few other activities or holidays or demands compete for our attention, when the laughter of students blends with the camaraderie of professors and parents in a celebration of gala feasts and live entertainment.

Yeah, that must be it.

But I still wish they’d chosen another month. Mid-September through mid-November is nice; so’s mid-April through mid-May.

February is the height of basketball season. My Favorite Domer probably will be otherwise occupied with Band obligations, leaving little opportunity for “family bonding.”

If I could even get to campus through the ice and snow.

Another thing — they invite us to a celebration, then expect us to pay for every activity. Plus our own hotel rooms.

Call me cheap, but couldn’t they at least throw in free tickets to a home football game??