Read about our Pilgrimage at Way of the Star

Hello faithful readers (AKA Mom!)

John, Luke, and I are going on a pilgrimage to Europe. I was going to write about it here at Bouncing Ball, but the photos won’t post properly. So I created a blog exclusively for the pilgrimage at Blogger. It’s called Way of the Star and it’s at

I welcome you to follow along or check it out from time to time!

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How It Came To Be

A path at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington.

A path at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington.

Some time in the mid 90’s, I came across a book, “Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim’s Route Into Spain” by Jack Hitt. I read it and despite the author’s agnostic bent was seized with the general notion of making a religious or spiritual pilgrimage and the more specific thought of walking the Camino de Santiago–the 500 mile trail across northern Spain to the alleged burial place of St. James the Apostle.  For a couple of decades, the closest I got to making this pilgrimage was thinking about it.

So last October, when my friend Peggy Arizzi called me to tell me about an opportunity to make the Camino de Santiago through a tour offered by the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House and said, “I want you to think about it,” she didn’t realize that I had been doing that for 20 years. When Peggy approached me with the idea, I immediately moved into the phase of, “How can we make this work, not just for me but for John and Luke too?”

And as I thought about it, while flying across the Atlantic to walk the Camino seemed like a fantastic idea, what seemed even better would be to visit Ireland, Scotland, and France also. To pay the money to travel that distance it seemed to make sense to see other places. With Luke in 7th grade and understanding, excellent teachers at St. Mark’s prepared to make it work academically for him, the timing was now-or-never.

Why these Ireland, Scotland, and France?

Ireland: the beautiful home of our ancestors. John has never been there, and I know he will love it. He is very Irish.

Scotland: the home of our friends Ailish and Leo, who have adopted five children from Haiti and who have extended many invitations to us to visit.

France: John’s dad was a World War II veteran who was part of the D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy. We have 27 letters that he wrote as he made his way with the 90th Infantry Division through France to Germany. We want to visit the D-Day sites, including the cemeteries, where a friend of his is buried.

So, it will be a four-part pilgrimage.

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Camino to the Camino

IMG_9931John, Luke, and I are going on a pilgrimage. We begin in Ireland, the country from where our ancestors came. Luke has European blood in him too, and it could be Irish. In fact, did you know that every person on the planet is carrying around DNA from ONE woman who lived in east Africa about 150,000 years ago? (Subject for another post!)

So we will see some sites in Ireland and visit some relatives before moving onto Scotland. There, our primary purpose is to visit our friends, Ailish and Leo, who have adopted five children from Haiti.

From Scotland it is onto France and the Normandy beaches where the great offensive of the Second World War, Operation Overlord, took place. One hundred sixty thousand troops, including John’s dad, landed on these beaches on D-Day.

We finish our pilgrimage in Spain, walking about 100 miles of the Camino de Santiago, the 500 mile trail across northern Spain to Santiago, the alleged burial place of St. James the Apostle.

So, it is a once in a lifetime trip. We leave in two and a half weeks and–Yikes!–there’s a lot yet to do to prepare. The way to the Way.

I will be posting about our pilgrimage, here at Bouncing Ball, and would love to have you follow along.

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Introducing: Lessons From A College Dean

High Resolution Front Cover_5147444 High Resolution Back Cover_5147444

For the past few years, I’ve been working on a book about my dad, Ed King. I finally finished it, and Lessons From A College Dean: The Story Of Edward M. King  is now published through CreateSpace, a division of Amazon. (See the link below.)

Writing the book was a good project, for a number of reasons. First, and most importantly, I learned a lot about my dad, the events and people which shaped him. Secondly, taking his stories and the interviews with others also and turning them into what I hope is an interesting, enlightening narrative was a good discipline for me. Finally, learning to navigate the world of self-publishing was a valuable endeavor as I hope to write and publish other books.

If you’re interested in learning more (or buying a book!), here is the Amazon link.

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“I will grow and bloom!” said the Amaryllis.

This morning as I sleepily stumbled around the kitchen, making my husband coffee, my gaze fell upon the two plants that I have in the dining room window, a shamrock that is almost six years old (very hearty plant, that) and a not-as-hardy miniature yellow rose plant, which is still alive though no roses currently.

“I really need to water those,” I thought. I walked into the dining room to take a closer look and then guiltily noticed in between the two plants a box containing an amaryllis that my mom gave me a few weeks ago. I say guiltily because I forgot about the amaryllis and had done nothing other than set the box on the stand near the other plants. Look what happened:

IMG_8205Without preparing the dirt, or giving the bulb water, or even the slightest bit of attention, the amaryllis has bloomed. I can only surmise that some sun rays sneaked into the box and activated the plant’s innate ability to grow. And grow it did, pushing through the box lid.

There’s some kind of lesson here for us.

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The Passing Of Time


The older we get, the more we comment on how fast time goes. As we age, most things may slow down, but time speeds up.

Above is a picture of Luke with his friend Sister Paula. Sister is the current president of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception. Luke and Sister Paula have been friends since he was four years old. We took her to lunch at the Field House today for a belated birthday celebration.

Luke attended the preschool at Immaculate Conception, as his father did 50 years before. They even had the same teacher, Sister Elaine. When I would come to pick Luke up, he would joyfully run to me calling, “Mommy!” I thought about that moment today, when I sat across from Luke and Sister Paula. Luke is 12, now, and a big junior high student at St. Mark’s.

We lament the passing of time and then sometimes we don’t. But even when we don’t, life goes fast.

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In Honor of Mick. In Honor of Life.


John, Luke, and I went for a run on the River Trail this evening in honor of our friend of Mick Kenny. A week ago tonight, Mick went into cardiac arrest after a run on the same path. He was resuscitated and after spending a few days in the hospital is now home, seemingly unscathed.

It could have so easily been a different, much worse outcome. We are grateful to God and thankful for Mick, thankful for life, thankful for each moment.

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A Sky Full of Beauty

IMG_7239One of the unexpected bonuses of the iphone 6 plus is its great camera.


This is my favorite feature of the phone, and I click away with abandon. (It would be interesting to know how many more photos are taken each year since the advent of cell phones with cameras.)


I particularly like taking pictures of the sky; I think it’s my favorite feature of the natural world–next to all of us humans, of course.


Throughout are some recent shots of the central Illinois sky.



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Kickapoo Creek

John and Luke descending into the creek.

John and Luke descending into the creek.

These pictures are from a couple of weeks ago. John spent a chunk of his youth knocking around Kickapoo Creek in Bradley Park with his friends. I spent time there also. We decided to take Luke there and these are pictures from our little hike. This creek is a minute drive from our house.

Postscript: we had a tremendous storm today. Tomorrow I will post pictures of a different looking creek.

A dry creek bed.

A dry creek bed.

The creek bed up close. Paradise for a rock collector like me.

The creek bed up close. Paradise for a rock collector like me.

For some, the creek may be more than a place to play.

For some, the creek may be more than a place to play.

Which way now?

Which way now?

On the way home.

On the way home.

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Remembering my father-in-law on D-day


Utah Beach (picture by Rich Bertschi)


I never met my father-in-law, John Carroll. But listening to my husband, who has the same name, and his mother and brother talk about him, I feel like I know him at least a little bit. He was quiet and unassuming. His nickname was Honest John.

John was born in 1915, and was drafted into the Army during World War II. He was a member of the 358th Infantry Regiment of the 90th Division (The Tough ‘Ombres) that landed on Utah Beach during the Normandy Invasion.

Like so many men who served in World War II, John came home and didn’t talk much about his wartime experiences. Seven years later, he married Mary Sullivan. They had two sons. This gentle man spent the rest of his life probably marveling to be alive and at his good fortune in the wife and sons that he deeply loved.

Memorial to 90th Division at Utah Beach

Memorial to 90th Division at Utah Beach (picture by Rich Bertschi)

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