The Joy of Serving: A Thanksgiving Feast

Today I was given the gift of serving the clients at the non-profit where I began work not quite four months ago.

We celebrated Wednesday, since we are closed on the holiday and Friday.

Each staff brought something to our Thanksgiving Feast, and we helped prepare the food at a table. We wore blue latex gloves and the clients filed through, pointing to and asking for what they wanted on their plates.

Prior, I had thoughts of being annoyed at having to wait. What if all the good stuff was gone? But once I saw a spot to hop in and help out, I couldn’t stop smiling.

It just felt so GOOD to do this small thing. It was also humbling. It reminded me that because of these clients, I have a job. A job which I adore and which has totally improved my life in such a short time!

And we had more than enough of everything! Even mashed potatoes.

I got to meet the daughters of another staff member who works in the office with me! They are seven and three. I was astounded to see that the seven-year-old WROTE a story– on the computer. And the grammar was mostly intact with only a few misspellings. She knew she was at her mother’s work, at a “Thanksgiving party.” The story was all about her mother, who she clearly adored.  I asked her if I could have a copy, and she graciously agreed.

How inspiring! I need to be more like that little girl. Recapture my wonder at the ordinary events in my life.

When I wake up, I’ll hit the road to visit my Mother’s family in Iowa. I plan to get going early! I am all packed.

I will arrive to myriad hugs, joking, and pictures to be taken!

This is the first Thanksgiving in five years I have been OFF work! I haven’t been to see them in two years.

I am grateful beyond compare.

I want to close with this Bible verse I found in a journal from this summer:

“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17: 7-8

Friendship and a 5K

This morning I woke up early and ran my fourth 5K! My friend Jen and I ran together. It was her first.

And I think it was my favorite one thus far.

Because neither of us cared about our time or being competitive.

We were just doing something to be healthy and to hang out together.

Plus, it’s sponsored by Guardian Angel Services, an organization both of us care about. We’re both in social work.

Jen and I have been friends since freshman year of high school– 1995. That’s 20 years! Holy cow.

The event was called Angels Against Abuse, and before we ran there was a speaker. She talked about how she found the strength to leave her ex-husband, the man who was “the father of my children.”  She repeated that last phrase emphatically– and I got it. Wouldn’t that be the primary arrow aimed at any woman trying to move on and escape an abusive relationship? Aren’t women always pressured to forgive all because they are expected to sacrifice not just her happiness, but her own well-being and safety in the name of keeping the family together? She said she knew if she didn’t leave, one day he would kill her. The most incisive moments for me was when she read excerpts of the love letters he would write her after the abuse. The promises, the begging, the hope he would spark that he really did want to treat her better. Her belief that *she* was the one who could heal him– he’d had a rough life.

She credited her counselor with helping her manufacture courage to start her own life with her children– safely. That counselor was her advocate at each court date, all the way until the divorce was finalized.

Afterward, they hugged. I was definitely tearing up.

And subsequently, the race stated.

There were times she needed to slow down and walk, and there were times that I did. And both of us are happy to comply and wait until the other was ready to run again. We’d talk a little.

And she was always positive, always fun!

It was equal. And both of us suggested running again to the other and encouraged each other to keep going.

We were also laughing because we got hit with not just substantial wind resistance, but rain!!

It was really coming at us! Luckily I had a hoodie from the event, but I was soaked. My toes were squishy in my shoes.

I joked that we were “hardcore” runners now! I I felt like such a bad ass.

Crossing the finish line was such an achievement!! I’ve never had to deal with so much weather in a run.

I did see my time at the end,  but didn’t make particular note of it.

Then we grabbed some refreshments and snacks, thanked each other for a great race,and went our separate ways.

Neither cared about how we ranked. We had achieved our goal!

And now it was time to go home and enjoy it.

In two weeks we have another 5K, in Chicago. Cannot wait!!

Instead: Lyle Lovett Wins

I chose music over fitness tonight.

I drove to Downtown Joliet planning to run this evening. It was after 6. I was driving around looking for a spot to park, when I saw the marquee for The Rialto.

Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt!! Playing tonight, 7:30 p.m.

And decided I can run anytime– but this was not a concert to pass up. I had to try.

So I found parking and rushed to the theatre. At the window I asked if it was sold out– it wasn’t!

I was NOT dressed at all appropriately. Running pants and shoes, a hoodie over it. Bad hair! I wasn’t expecting anyone to see me running solo in the dark. Certainly no make-up. I felt a little ridiculous in the midst of all these threat-going people, mostly dressed up. It was definitely an older crowd— probably mostly ’40s and ’50s. Mostly couples.

I was able to get row M, which is a pretty great seat.

Sadly, I had left my hearing-aids at home. I missed out on a lot of the banter.

The shocking thing is that I knew nothing of Lyle besides that he is Julia Roberts’ ex-husband. I was psyched to see John Hiatt– I have one of his CD’s. I was hoping to hear “Have a Little Faith.”

And once they began, I was smitten by Lyle. They were great together– very comfortable and respectful of each other’s talents. They sang and played together a few times and also allowed each other to shine with solos. The audience was laughing often as Lyle mostly spoke and told stories.

John got better as the eve wore on, but there was not a single Lyle song I didn’t adore. Tragically, I have no idea what most them were that he played. I was able to look a few up on my phone by guessing at lyrics.

Lyle radiated this easy calmness. His songs were so much more inventive and varied, I couldn’t get over it!

The couple directly in front of me was having a wonderful date. She frequently put her arm around the back of his chair and stroked his hair. They leaned in together to whisper and laugh– they kissed a few times. Their shoulders were always touching. Several times, she leaned her head on his shoulder and relaxed. She swayed in her seat, seemingly an equal fan of both. I couldn’t see in the dark if they were married and wore rings– but they radiated the kind of love I imagine most couples would aspire towards. I wanted to ask them how long they’d been together. She had on a leather jacket and shoulder-length hair.

I hope one day I’m part of a couple so unable to hide their affection! It was sweet to behold.

Tonight was something special. Even from where i was sitting, I could see Lyle’s ears sticking out! He had a on suit.

They ended the show, and then re-emerged for an encore. I yelled my song request, along with others I heard.

Luckily, John Hiatt obliged! He did sing “Have a Little Faith,” but it was a  bit anti-climactic. I was just happy that I got to hear the song which motivated me to take a chance on tonight!

It felt so luxurious to be out on a Thursday night enjoying such a wonderful concert.

After that song, I left. It had started circa 7:40 and was nearly 10 and still going! I wanted to beat the crowd. In the lobby I stopped and bought one of Lyle’s CDS: “Release Me.” I played it in the car on the way home. I was a little bummed that more songs weren’t written by him, but all the songs are great regardless.

One thing is for sure! I’ll see Lyle again if I get a chance. And I’ll definitely be exploring his catalog.

What an incredible surprise. Thank you, Mr. Lovett.

The Same Moon

I just went outside to check out the Supermoon Lunar Eclipse….

and met a new neighbor.

“Are you out here to see the same thing I am?” an older woman asked me. She lives in the building next door.

And I did something usually foreign to me.

I befriended a neighbor. Her name is Peggy and she said I’m welcome anytime. She’s very grateful for her new place and I told her the neighborhood is great, which it is!!

She kept using my name and she just seemed so genuinely happy and friendly.

Typically, I’m just uninterested in my neighbors– even inside the building. Sounds bitchy, but that’s me.

Takes me awhile to warm up to people. I just usually hate small talk.

But as we talked, we interrupted the conversation to just gaze at the moon.

It was just so beautiful. The clouds were flirtatious– gliding away and then covering up.

Because of that moon, I made a new friend.

We probably chatted 20 minutes.

I said goodbye because I had left the back door open, only intending on a couple minutes max.

I had to walk to the end of the driveway because the moon was hiding–not visible from the back yard.

What was YOUR moon experience like tonight??

Reminded me of one of my favorite movies, “Moonstruck,” with Cher and Nic Cage.

Was that Cosmo’s Moon tonight??

I think so.

Clap Until

your hands turn red

your hands they sting

that rhythm strong

your palms they sing!

We got harmonies down,

but apparently

our rhythm ain’t so sound.

Thus our choir director did preach

as we get up outta our seats

to stand vigilant and

step our feet up

and down, smiling

and shouting

whilst our hands dance

in time, and loud.

Took off my rings

my bracelets too

they got in the way

of the message

my palms had to say.

That gospel clap,

I’mma learn

gonna keep up fast

and raise up

my spirit along with

my joy, bubbling

up for the Lord!

Choir practice tonight! Ahhh! I love it so much.

I learned that keeping up a clap is a skill.

I’m gonna learn how to CLAP like a respectable choir member.

My Second 5K: A Hard Lesson

Yesterday morning I ran my second 5K, The Shorewood Scoot.

It was difficult and I lost motivation quickly.

I hadn’t run at all in a week, and I could feel the difference. It was my first slightly cold run and I *did* love that!

What I love about 5K’s is getting up early, meeting friends and taking pictures before– the camaraderie of being with a bunch of people who don’t care about the weather and want to do something healthy for fun.

Everyone seems to be relaxed and people are wearing so many different colors! It’s a wonderful environment.

And I LOVE crossing the finish line.

But yesterday early-on I felt defeated– I was too focused on the outcome– on my rank. On who was behind me.

I slowed to a walk in less than a mile. People– walkers!– from behind me kept passing me up.

Then I began to see elderly people who were running slowly, but still running– they passed me too.

I barely ran this one. I just didn’t have the energy, though not sure why. I did get enough sleep.

One  con about this race was far fewer volunteers– and they didn’t have much enthusiasm. They merely clapped and pointed, but most of them didn’t smile or cheer or even make eye contact. I was surprised how much I missed that enthusiasm from my first 5K.

I also had in a lined rain jacket and it felt too hot over the thermal shirt I had chosen. But my bib was pinned on it and I didn’t want to stop and re-do it. Also, that jacket never stays tied around my waist.

The race actually began on a trail I’ve run several times. I kept seeing entrances off the path to the woods. I had such a strong urge to ditch the race altogether and just explore alone in the woods.

But I kept on. I believe I crossed the finish line in 50:25?? That’s what I remember the clock saying.

I have no idea how I ranked– after several searches online there appears to be no link posted.

But maybe it’s better that way??

After, I had plans to go with a friend and her two dogs to a local arboretum. I was so psyched!

Especially since her little lady, Kaia, sat on my lap most of the way. She enjoyed being hugged, and I loved holding her. It was comforting to have this calm little creature snuggling up to me. Once we arrived, we both walked one of the dogs and marveled at all the pets and vendors! And the threes, of course.

It was a laid-back, beautiful day that felt like fall. We both had long-sleeve shirts on.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long.

Her little dog was pulling me and I couldn’t keep up with walking her. For some reason, my knees were really sore. I had to keep slowing down and stopping.

I felt like the Tin Man with rusty joints. I felt like every bit of 34.

It was confusing, because I’ve run 5 miles without any pain. What’s the difference in running a 5K and then doing some walking? It wasn’t even a large dog!

Regardless, it appears I over-did it by making those plans directly after the race.

A lesson for next time!

And although that race was a hard one, I’m not giving up.

I will simply run more often and continue doing 5K’s until they get easier.

I’m not waiting long to get back out there. Probably tonight!

Because when I do well, I love it!

I’m going to tr y and have the mindset that I’m running to ENJOY it. To take in the beauty of fall. To challenge myself. To have fun with my friends. To visit places I haven’t been.

And yes, to compete. The two 5K’s I’ve run have both been small and local.

I think I would enjoy a big one more. The anonymity would comfort me in a bigger group.

What’s a race that was difficult for you?? How do you motivate yourself when you start to get inside your head and lose heart during a race?  Tell me in the comments!

A Coloring Party!

Tonight I attended my first coloring party!

I told my Dad about it and he asked, “What’s the point?”

“To relax,” I said.

As I was driving home I realized that was exactly the point. My friend Daisy had mentioned this and I jumped at the invite.

There were six of us total at Daisy’s table. I hadn’t met the other ladies prior.

All of us brought our own coloring books and coloring materials– crayons, colored pencils, markers, sparkly gel pens.

At work I had mentioned my evening plans tonight to a male co-worker.

“Adult coloring books are a thing now,” I said.

“ADULT coloring books? What kind of pictures *are* they?” he teased.

“Shut up,” I laughed.

What’s the difference between regular (kids) coloring books and those for grown-ups? The adult patterns are more intricate– lots of swirls and opportunities to really have fun with your imagination. They would take the average adult probably more than one sitting to complete.

Kids’ designs are simple and can be done quickly.

I had three kids’ coloring books given to me by a friend when I was in the hospital a few years ago: Lisa Frank being my favorite!!

My favorite “grown-up” design book has a faeries theme.

The ladies chattered a bit.

But mostly, we all just sat quietly and became absorbed in completing our pictures.

No pressure to talk. Rather, artistic freedom in community.

Daisy’s two dogs were underneath the table, whipping us with their tails and demanding to be petted.

One is a Chinese-crested and the other is a Pitt mix.

Her Pandora station provided the soundtrack.

When Bon Jovi came on, all of us sang under our breaths,

“Take my hand, we’ll make it I sweeeeeeearrr…”

“That’s what Bon Jovi does to you!” I said.

At 9 we packed up and returned to our lives.

We had tea and nuts and pretzel bites.

I am so hooked on coloring with friends.