Saturday, July 30, 2011


The title of this is sung in my best voice -- as the song we all know and love from "Fiddler on the Roof"!

I'm not one to always have my camera with me, but I really wish I would have had it earlier today.  I wanted it because I wanted to capture the traditions I saw happening all around me.

I was at the Auglaize County Fair today.  We were setting up booths, both for our 4-H Club, and also I put the finishing touches on our booth for work (in the commercial building).  We always try to get in early to put the booth for the club together, because, although the building is air conditioned, the combination of lots of bodies in the building (all doing the same thing -- putting their booths together) and the doors opening and closing all the time make for an uncomfortable building the longer the day goes.

What I saw today, above and beyond the act of putting the booths together, were some really neat traditions.  Many clubs are handed down through the generations -- with advisers advising their grandchildren, and potentially their children serving as advisers with them -- or parents helping their kids put their things in the booths, as they did years ago.  I always love these days -- I said hi to my friend, Bonnie, who lives not too far away, but whom I ONLY see at the fair each year.  We greeted each other with our annual hello and then went on our ways. 

Although there are many aspects of the fair -- the rides, the grandstand activities, etc., our family has always focused on the junior fair participation.  Sarah did FCCLA one year, but other than that, our family has always gone the 4-H route.  Could be that I was very involved in 4-H as a kid -- and am an advisor for a club -- maybe??  :)

I have to say that I am tickled that my kids have participated.  We haven't ever forced them to -- maybe strongly encouraged to at least try the first year and then figure out if they like it after that.  So, far, we've only had one not return for his second year -- Harry -- but the kids miss him participating and have been asking him to come back next year.  It's a little tough for me sometimes with the boys, because I don't "know" all of the "boy" projects as well to help them pick something, and Jim was never in 4-H, so he isn't fully aware, either.  But we're working on it!

So, although we were at the fair today, I feel like it's been going on for a couple of weeks now -- Sarah and Emily are on Junior Fair Board, so they have been working at the fair several days a week for a couple of weeks.  Putting pens in place, setting up show rings, putting together stages, working judgings and announcing winners, etc.  You name it and they have probably done it the past few weeks!  They both got stepped on and fingers slammed in pens today -- and someone (who shall remain nameless) got peed on the other week!  And yet, they return tomorrow for another day.  Why?  Because Junior Fair Board, and fair in general, is about so much more than that.  It's about figuring out who you are, and what you enjoy doing, and making awesome friends in the process!

Our discussion before judging is the same every year.  I tell them to do their best.  That's all I ask.  Ribbons and awards are great, but those are forgotten over time.  However, the experiences you have are not.  The friendships you make are not.  The interviews and the announcing help prepare you for real life.  The decisions made by the junior fair board impact lots of people -- and learning to make decisions that impact people -- sometimes in a large way -- is a huge part of it all.

On my way out, I stopped and worked in the commercial building for a while on our work booth.  I'm really glad I did.  I got to see the folks in the building (fine arts, maybe?) and watch them work on my trips in and out.  I loved it -- generations sharing their trade -- whether photography, or quilting (one of my favorites), or vegetable gardening, or baking -- it's in there.  People laughing and having fun, becoming reacquainted with one another, and yet here for the same purpose -- to show our best.

I'm sure this won't be my only post of the fair this week -- I WILL share my celebrations with you if there are any :) -- but here's hoping that the fair traditions go on for a long time.

Here's to a great fair week!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

St. Peregrine, pray for us!

Sunday afternoon, Sarah and I went to a prayer service at the Maria Stein Relic Chapel.  I have to tell you honestly that I don't think I had ever been in the chapel before.  I've been in the gift shop numerous times, but never the chapel.  (For those of you who are not local, Maria Stein is our little "gift" with a religious relic shrine (relics are pieces of a holy person's body saved for reverence) among other things:  a retreat center, beautiful grounds, you name it.)

The chapel is beautiful.  Small, but beautiful.  We were only a little early (maybe 10 minutes) and chairs were few and far between.  At first we were going to stand against the back wall, but then we were encouraged to sit in some chairs on the "altar" -- I made sure we weren't in charge of singing or anything if we did that :).  So, up we went.  There were probably only about 20 people on the altar, and 150 or so in the congregation part.  We had the perfect view of the entire prayer service.

Immediately, I noticed our friends Joe and Linda Lochtefeld, sitting out there.  I thought that it was nice that they were there, too, as I didn't recognize many faces.

The prayer service was to honor and pray to St. Peregrine, the Patron Saint of cancer.  So, obviously, the topic of discussion and prayer was cancer, and dealing with the spiritual and emotional aspects of it.  I went to pray specifically for some friends who have been battling cancer, but truly was not prepared for the experience I was about to have.

We started with prayer.  After that, Sister mentioned that there would be a few personal testimonies of people who had survived cancer and how they wove prayer into their lives during that time.  Imagine my surprise when Joe and Linda got up to speak! 

Linda has a beautiful testimony of how prayer got her through undoubtedly the toughest time in her life.  I wouldn't dare try to recreate her story -- but I just have to tell you she is a woman of very strong faith that took a time in her life that could have torn down her faith and made it her own -- and grew stronger for it.  Although they didn't say this, I would imagine it also helped her relationship with Joe and their son Lee grow stronger as well.

They were followed by a couple from Sidney who shared their personal stories of cancer and how it has affected their entire family -- first their son, then the wife, and then finally the husband -- twice.  And through it all they have realized that the power of prayer -- and the power of their faith -- is what they need to see them through.

Following the testimonies, people were given a choice as to what they wanted to do next -- there were candles to light in memory or in honor of someone with cancer, there were pieces of paper to write individual's names on that need prayers for cancer, and there was the relic of St. Peregrine that people could pray with.  I was, undoubtedly, the most touched watching people pray to St. Peregrine.  Really, this is where our choice in seats was interesting.  We got to see each and every person's face as they came through, and how they prayed.  Some picked up the relic (it's in a casing) and simply prayed with it; some touched items to it; some kissed it; and some just simply cried with it.  Sarah and I found ourselves quickly crying right along with each person.  It was so moving.  As people would come forward -- most of them I didn't know -- I would pray for God to help them through whatever they were there for.  It was so powerful!

At the closing, we had a few more prayers -- and then we chatted with folks for a while -- which is when we heard the stories.  The one that touched me the most was the story of the young girl who, on Independence Day, randomly fell off her bike -- and when they took her to the hospital to figure out what was wrong, was diagnosed with brain cancer.  She's 10 years old.  The same age as our twins.  Boy, did that hit home.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the beautiful music throughout the afternoon.  When we sat, I thought that the people picked out the perfect cd to play while we were gathering and praying.  Then Sarah pointed out to me that it wasn't a cd -- it was live -- piano and a flute -- played by none other than my friend Amy Noykos and her daughter Ashlee Carder.  I wish I had the ability to sign them to a contract.  They should really make a cd -- people would buy it.  Awesome!

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who are dealing with cancer right now -- in any way shape or form.  We can't seem to pare down our list of people we are praying for -- it seems someone goes into remission and then we find out someone else has it.  I wish I understood God's reasoning for that a little more.  Until I do, I will continue to pray.

St. Peregrine, pray for us.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Installation of a Bishop

Surreal.  When I try to describe the past couple of days, the only word I can come up with is surreal.

Most of our family travelled to Joliet, IL this week for the installation of our friend, Bishop Dan Conlon, as the new Bishop of the Diocese of Joliet.  Sarah did not make the trip due to prior commitments, so we were without one, and we certainly missed her!

We have known Dan since we moved here almost 15 years ago.  His house sat across the alley from ours, so we had the opportunity to get to know him very well.  I'm glad we did.  Since we met him, he has gone from being our parish priest, to the Bishop of Steubenville, OH, and now is the 5th Bishop of the Diocese of Joliet, IL.

The process of installing a Bishop is a little different than an ordination (which is what we witnessed 9 years ago in Steubenville).  I wasn't really sure what to expect, since it truly was just a job change (promotion) for him. 

I am so glad we went!  There were about 20 people from Holy Redeemer that made the trek to Joliet.  All of us commented that we felt the red carpet had been laid out for us.  We just went to support Dan!  When we arrived at the hotel, there was a reception, so we could start to figure out the plan for the time we were there.  I had noticed in the invitation that there were shuttle services to all of the events, but I didn't realize we wouldn't have to drive our vehicle for 2 days if we didn't want to!

One of our "vehicles" for the week

We arrived Wednesday late afternoon.  Our original plan was to let the kids swim for a bit before we went to evening prayer, but traffic prevented that from happening.  We ended up checking in, going to the reception room at the hotel for a bit, then getting ready for the evening's festivities.

Evening prayer was kind of the "introduction" of Dan to the diocese.  First of all, the Cathedral is magnificent.  Beautiful stained glass windows, an altar sort of in the middle (there are pews on three sides of the altar, but it sits up a few steps (Jacob Rutschilling told me later that when they remodelled the cathedral, the altar was originally level with the floor -- but after just ONE MASS, they reconstructed it and raised it up so that all could see.)  The Cardinal of Chicago came out and announced Dan (I wish I had had a better seat to watch this) -- and he was standing behind two double doors.  Apparently (I didn't hear it), he knocked at the door and when his name was announced, the doors opened, and the music began.  The procession (which was not nearly the procession we would see the next day!) was awesome and brought tears to my eyes.  This is a truly awesome experience to witness at any time, but to witness this happening to someone we know so well was overwhelming!

Our family in church just after Vespers

The Kaisers and the Rutschillings with Bishop Dan immediately after Vespers
The first of the Knights of Columbus
Some of the many different Bishops present
I found Archbishop Schnurr and past Archbishop Pilarczyk (I missed Bishop Binzer although he was there, too)
Bishop Conlon
Cardinal George

On Thursday, at the actual installation, the pomp and circumstance was amazing.  The procession was led by the Knights of Columbus (who knew there were so many plume colors for their hats?), then deacons, and priests, and bishops, and Cardinal George of Chicago.  Bishop Dan came in and it was very obvious he was overwhelmed.  His vestments were beautiful and it truly was surreal to see this man, whom I have seen many times in his back yard mowing his grass in a t-shirt and shorts, being showered with all of this.  I looked up at the altar shortly before mass began and realized that the Bishop's chair had a "coat of arms" on it.  I was trying to discern whether or not it was Dan's, or the prior Bishop's, and quickly realized it was his.  So awesome and beautiful!

This is not the greatest picture, but was the best I could get from my seat.  I was trying to get a photo of ALL of the religious present.  Please note to the left of the picture -- most of that side was filled with religious, as was the right side of the altar.

His homilies, always one of my favorite parts of his masses, were, both days, inspiring and to the point.  On Wednesday evening, he began with talking about his mother and her pie baking (I glanced over at her and she was smiling and enjoying this topic).  It cracked me up when he left Vespers that night, because as he was walking towards her, she wagged her finger at him.  It's nice to know that even Bishops have mothers that still keep them in line!  :)

(I did give him a hard time about his introduction to his homily at Thursday's Installation, because he thanked the people of Steubenville and Cincinnati for being there for him -- he clarified that he meant the DIOCESE of Cincinnati and that we were, in fact, included in that.  :)

I LOVE this picture of him preparing to consecrate the Eucharist
And now, a moment to celebrate with Joliet's new Bishop
I wish this was clearer, but this moment happened too quickly for me -- Cardinal George stopped to congratulate Dan's parents.  It was a lovely moment.

After Vespers and also after the Installation, there was a reception in the hall attached to the church.  We took some photos both days -- and on Thursday was able to get a photo of all of the New Bremen people in attendance.

Later Thursday evening, we were invited to his home for a casual supper with his family and a few close friends.  It was nice to finally be able to chat with him in a relaxed atmosphere, even though we didn't have nearly enough time to spend with him.  His home is beautiful -- even though he's only been there four or so days.

Betsy and I were ready to welcome everyone to the party!  (and Jacob, too!)

View of the deck from the backyard area

I mentioned to him how much I appreciated being able to bring our children.  I know that they will remember this forever -- they had some really neat questions during and after, watching what was going on......he made me smile when he said that he was so glad that they were there. 

We somehow found out that he was celebrating the 8 am mass on Friday morning, so we went -- "we" being the Rutschillings, Dan's parents, and myself.  I think he was pleasantly surprised to see us there.  He asked why we were there!  LOL  I said, "Well, where else would I be?" to which he replied, "Hmmm.....I don't know, bed??"  LOL  His mom was so worried that he would oversleep and miss mass.  :)

I really can't believe this is the last stop for him.  I hope that wherever the Lord leads him, that he will answer the call and allow us to continue celebrating with him.  He is such a gift to the Catholic Church.  I ask your prayers for him as he enters this new phase in his life, that he will be able to give to others what he has been delivering to folks all along his path:  a love of the Lord and the Eucharist.

In the meantime, I thank him for all he has done, and continues to do for our family, both our blood family and our church family.

God bless you, Bishop Dan!

Photo of the very front of church -- but eternally the reason for our being.   Beautiful.
(as a side note, this is up far enough I saw a guy get out a ladder to extinguish the candles)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

All ATwitter!!!!

So, social networking is all aTwitter this week.  Seems the Pope joined Twitter, so he can be part of the new millenium.

Do you Twitter?  I have to admit, I have an account, but don't really use it.  I follow a few people -- I started when the girls were at NCYC a couple of years ago and they were going to update via Twitter.  I didn't really know what it was, or how it worked (not so sure I'm any smarter now!), but I wanted to feel like I was there.

I just signed up to follow the Pope.  We'll see how this goes.  LOL  What I found interesting was how many "fakes" there were!  I "followed" Pope Benedict, only to read some of the things he posted, and quickly realized I didn't follow the right guy!!  LOL

Here's the web address, if you're so inclined:!/PopeBenedictXIV

So, what do you do on Twitter?  Follow anyone interesting?  I would be interested to hear if you do.  Probably my most interesting person I follow is Kent Boyd.  LOL  Or, maybe Kelly Ripa.  She's always off to somewhere fun!

Hope you are having a great week.  Things seem to have slowed down on the Casey Anthony story, at least until her sentencing (or non-sentencing).  Time will tell.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Rest is Still Unwritten.....

Sunday's homily, given this week by our Deacon, really hit a note with me.  I keep wondering if I'm in a mid-life crisis or what -- but as I have watched Sarah graduate this spring, and help her prepare to leave this fall, I see my other kids getting older as well -- heck, next week, our twins will be double digits already!!  I will only have one child left in single digits.  I find myself wondering if I'm doing the things I should be doing -- the things that God wants me to be doing.  I pray about it, but often have to figure out if what I'm hearing is what God is telling me, or if it's what I want to hear so I'm making it up in my head!!  LOL

At any rate, he had one line in his homily that really struck a chord with me -- "God writes the book, you just fill in the lines."  I love that.  So often we try to figure out -- if God has a plan for us, why do we have free will?  Do we really have free will?  Well, we do -- and God has a plan for us, we just have to work through it and find our ways.  Will we make mistakes?  Most certainly!  Have I?  Oh, gosh, yes!  But do I think I'm still on "the path"?  I guess I can't know for sure, but I certainly hope so!

I've been struck today by this thought again -- with the verdict in the Casey/Caylee Anthony case.  Honestly, I'm probably one of the few people who really don't know all the details in the case.  I've heard about it -- and I know what supposedly happened, but I don't really know all about it.  I DO know that Facebook is all atwitter about it -- everyone is upset -- she was guilty in everyone's book.  But here's the thing.  None of us know what really went on.  And that jury?  They didn't say she was innocent.  They said she was not guilty.  There is a big difference there.

I keep reflecting on her "book" that she was given at the beginning of her life.  God has a plan for her.  Was this part of it?  Is she just filling in lines?  Or did she start her own chapter? 

In the end, it's not between Casey and Caylee, or Casey and her parents, or anyone at all.  It's between Casey and God.  And, as my friend Jacob so wisely put it:  There's a big difference between what's true and what can be proved in court. Ultimately, we need to realize that only God can provide true judgement.

My guess is that Casey Anthony is not going to be living an easy life, in or out of jail.  Many people have convicted her on their own terms.  And, if I had to guess, I would guess that she would have been safer in jail for a long time. 

But, no matter what happened, there is a precious little body that is no longer with us.  May that little angel watch over all of us and help guide us, and especially her mom.  RIP, Caylee.

And the rest of us?  We still have time to write our books, or change our paragraphs.  After all, the rest is still unwritten!  :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A remarkable conversion story

I've often wondered what I would say or do if I met Jesus.  Would I know it was Him?  Would he look like I think he looks?  What would he be wearing?

I've spoken here before about the various angels who have come into my life -- and I always do wonder just a little bit if any of them are Jesus.  Just wandering around, living the life.

I used to have a 7 am youth bible study (a long time ago, I think most of them are 28 or so now!) at our local coffee shop, and on more than one occasion, that was a discussion point of the day.  We would watch the door for a few minutes and wonder if each person coming through was Jesus!

I ran across this conversion story a couple of months ago (just before Easter, to be exact), but have never published it.  I love this story.  It tells me that Jesus IS with us, always, and sometimes when we least expect it, he may just show up.  I hope you enjoy it.  It's a little long, but worth it.

“I Just Can’t Make It Alone!” Tom Leopold’s Conversion Story

My name is Tom Leopold and I’m a comedy writer (Seinfeld, Cheers, Will and Grace...). I am a Jewish comedy writer, although I always felt saying that was kind of redundant. So much of my humor — practically all of it I suppose— comes from who my people are, what they’ve been through and how they were able to turn it all on its head and find the funny side, even and especially if there was none to find.

I know it sounds odd, but I always liked Jesus. I was never “deep” enough to wrestle with the concept of his being the son of God. For me he had this James Dean-Bob Dylan-daring rebel-hero “thing” about him. Once in a while, I did wonder, had I been nearby when Jesus walked among us, would I have had seen him for who he said he was? And, if so, would I have had the courage to say “Hey, everybody says we’re waiting on the Messiah. Well, the ‘wait’ is over!” Fast forward two thousand years later and I’d follow Jesus anywhere if he’d have me.

Come Easter I’ll still be a comedy writer, but a Catholic one. I consider my upcoming baptism a blessing. One that ranks right up there with the day I met my wife or the birth of our two daughters, to say nothing of having the good fortune to have made a living in a business that I love.

So here is a flashback of how I became Catholic.

We’re a couple of years into my youngest daughter’s life-threatening eating disorder. It also happens to be Christmas Eve and our girl is under doctors’ care at still another rehab center. This one is in the Arizona desert. By the time we had come to this point our ravaged little fourteen-year-old had been too ill to attend any but three weeks of her 9th grade school year, she had spent days locked in a psych ward, and both she and I were nearly run over by a cab as I tried to catch up to her after she’d bolted from a doctor’s office.

So, we’re in the desert, it’s Christmas Eve and my wife, our oldest girl (17) and I are decorating our hotel room with Christmas stuff from the only store still open in the little desert town, the Dollar Store. We are all Jewish, but for some reason we’ve always celebrated Christmas too. There was something kind of sacred about the silly little tree we bought...It reminded me of the tree Charlie Brown dragged back to his gang.

The doctors would only let us have our daughter for Christmas Day, so the three of us went to bed early, each trying not to let the others know how sad we were that one of us was missing. Lying there in the dark that night was the closest I have ever come to breaking — not breaking down, breaking! It’s a whole lot easier to hold your heart together when it’s you who does the suffering, but when it’s your child and nobody can fix her...Well, it would take more than a comedy writer to say it how it feels.

I was praying before the thought dawned on me that I was praying. Maybe begging is the better word... “Please God, give me even the smallest sign you’re up there, I just can’t make it alone!”

The next morning we’d arranged for our girls to go horseback riding, and my wife and I took a walk in the desert. Out of nowhere this cool old guy drives up in a motorcycle he made himself...It had antlers for handlebars and the guy looked like the old Marine that he turned out to be. He skidded up next to us, practically popping a wheelie, and started talking. I’m a New Yorker, so I just figured he was just one more weirdo...But the guy had this great intensity and a mysterious charisma.

He started a long monologue about how he was once married to a woman named “Shepard” and how his present wife brought him to Christ at the age of 33, and all the while he keeps nodding his head towards me and saying to my wife “This one knows what I’m talking about!”

Here we were, on Christmas morning in the desert, and this odd old character is throwing the word “Shepard” around along with the number 33. “Wasn’t Jesus a ‘Shepard’ to his flock and wasn’t he 33 when he was crucified and isn’t this day, his birthday?!” As I’m thinking of this, the old guy keeps telling my wife that I know what he means! And the weird thing is I do, kind of, know what he means! Not what he’s saying but what he means...

My cell phone rings. It’s our kids. They’re through with their ride. Without even knowing who’s on the other end of the phone our desert prophet says “Hang up, they’re fine!” I hung up. After the exhaustion of all we’d been through, it felt nice to be, well, led!

He finally stops talking, guns his engine and peels off only to stop a few yards away, turn back to me and say in a voice somewhere below a whisper and above mental telepathy that “God is watching you!” It wasn’t a threat, it was a reassurance.

There were more things like that. Coincidences? I no longer think so. But the biggest and most rewarding was the day I ran into Father Jonathan Morris.

Thirty-eight years ago I went to a psychic down in Nolita (North Of Little Italy) who pretty much predicted my entire career path...I wasn’t even a writer at the time. Out of the blue I had this idea to reconnect with him and, to my amazement, he remembered me right away. Our daughter had gotten a little better after her last treatment but was falling back again even though she was now strong enough to attend school. I thought I’d go visit Frank (my old psychic) just to check in and tell him how right he had been about all that’s happened to me and to ask if he saw a recovery for our daughter. Frank told me to bring her to him. A few days later we did. Walking up the steps to Frank’s townhouse, a car pulls up right in front of us and out steps Father Jonathan Morris. I recognized him from a picture in his book, “The Promise.” The book dealt with grief and I was getting a great deal of comfort from it. Suddenly the very same, kind, face was right before me.

“Are you Father Morris?”
He nodded.
“Your book is on my bed stand.”
He had already started towards me. He had his hand out.
Why I said what I said next I will never know.
“ Father, do you think you might have a few minutes to talk to me sometime?”

I had seen and admired Father Morris many times on television but thought he lived in Rome. He smiled, holding on to my hand and said: “You can find me right here.” He turned and pointed to Old Saint Patrick’s Church. It was as if I hadn’t even seen the church until he pointed to it. He had just started as parochial vicar there...True to his word he found time for me and room for my family in his prayers. He even met with our daughter.

I don’t think there’s room now to describe all I found “right here” at Old Saint Pat’s. The minute Father Morris took my hand I knew I’d be a follower of Christ. Does my daughter still suffer? She does, we all still do, but now I feel the Lord’s grace. We are not alone.

Happy Easter!

-Tom Leopold

If you wish to read comments, etc. here is the link to the article:

Have a great weekend, all!  Stay safe!!!  Thank you to our military for always giving of themselves and keeping us safe.  We appreciate you much more than you will ever know!