Unrelenting Blogging, Running and Courage: Six Year Anniversary!

Word Press informed me today it’s my six year anniversary as a blogger.

Hard to believe this chronicle of my life still stands– I attempted to erase it once. Exes had commented, past friends were keeping tabs on me, fellow bloggers encouraged me. Thank you to those who have subscribed, followed, commented and encouraged this unrelenting literary journey! Some have left, but most have stayed.  It’s edifying.

I went through a period of wanting my life without documentation.

My emerging narrative had no focus, I felt it was a waste  of time. But as events unfolded, I found this humble blog to be a refuge.

I would write what I want, without censor or error by editors. Without deadlines.

This journey began as a public vow of accountability during Lent, to uphold my Catholicism and Lenten promises. To challenge me.

Six years ago, I was searching for meaning in a relationship with a man. I thought that was the dream I should chase. I thought my treasure would be in another’s heart– in the reflection of what he loved in me.

Now I have accepted loss in relationships that haven’t lasted. I wrote about some dates, and the struggles to combat loneliness and failed compatibility. But I kept the details away, not wanting to jinx something still evolving, nor preserve details of suitors who did not work out.

Now I have accepted uncertainty and blog when I feel compelled.

I am still restless, but have re-directed my energy. Now the relationship I feed is that with myself– and running is the mechanism driving me forth.

Now I have races and goals for which to train! The joy I find is in surpassing my doubts.

I seek my own approval, reward myself with courage.

I’m making plans without fear.

I’m still Catholic, but now I forgive myself easier. I don’t depend on Lent to hold me accountable to my own promises.

I allow myself to be human, faults and mishaps included. I enjoy Mass but it’s not the center of my life as it once was.

I’ve chosen to build my life around developing a routine of running. I’m struggling with rising early and getting to sleep early enough to maintain that schedule. But already, it’s bringing me peace.

I’ve signed up for training classes for an upcoming race, my first 10k with lots of hills. I’ve joined the local run club in my community. I’ve attended group runs. I’ve enlisted a running buddy to start soon. I’ve purchased running gear necessary. I’m learning to layer properly in differing weather so I can persevere.

I’ve also failed twice this week on something I consider major: I missed my training class Thursday, and slept through a group run this morning.

I’m worried because my next race has a time limit for me to qualify as a finisher– I usually need 1 hour and 30 minutes to run five miles. This race requires 1 hour and fifteen. I felt intimidated— but signed up anyway. Now that fee has been paid! I want that finisher’s medal.

Today as I ran, I pushed myself. I knew I had to wean my mileage and maintain it below a 15 minute mile. And I did, except for two short bouts of walking. I noticed my knees hurting by the end, 3.16 miles. But I don’t normally feel that when I’m running regularly.

Tomorrow morning I’m meeting someone from our running group early. I’ll go faster.

I’ll be the runner I know is within me.

I think I’ve found something special with running.

And it’s in every road, every time I put on my shoes.

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The Blog You Didn’t Write

Forgive yourself.

In the moment you were inspired– but you waited.

You doubted.

You asked permission.

Your LIFE is permission! The material is yours.

Lead characters don’t defer to extras.

Remember, you’re the heroine. You’re the hero.

Anyone should be flattered to be part of your story. To be noticed.

Believe!

Your ideas, your perceptions, your feelings– MATTER.

Stop repressing those little urges to record your life, because others are in it.

You’re not vain. You’re creative. You’re lucky.

Stop suppressing your ideas, and let them unfold.

As long as you like it, it stands alone.

Merry Christmas– from One Introvert to Another!

So, I can’t sleep!!

Today is Christmas. Will it snow? That would be so amazing.

I suppose I’m a pretty odd mix of extroverted and introverted.

Why else do you think I’m a writer?!

Even at family events, I will go off into a room by myself periodically.

I don’t flirt wantonly, and am annoyed bye those who do. When I do like someone, it is blatantly obvious.

I never give false compliments. I’m generous with them because I like to make someone smile and most people are having a crap day, I’ve learned. Life is hard– be kind if possible.

I will not hesitate to put someone in their place, however, when necessary.

If someone has pissed me off enough to illicit visible anger, they deserve it. They are button-pushers.

I would rather stay home and read or watch movies alone, or go to dinner alone most times. I like my company!

I love the outdoors. It’s innately calming to me.

I also give my full attention when I *do* make plans. I expect the same.

But when I do make plans, I intend to keep them. I hate when people cancel last-minute, or over-schedule themselves and forget. And if they do it enough times I will just stop asking. I like reliable people.

If I think I’m going to be even a nanosecond late, I will notify the person and apologize. I do my very best to be punctual.

I’m not touchy-feely– this is the most obvious way I’m reserved. Affection must be earned from me.

I don’t hide it if I’m uninterested in someone who flirts with me– I make it very clear. Some consider that rude, but I consider that respectful. I’m direct and don’t waste either of our time. They are free to move on to someone who will reciprocate. And some people don’t respond to hints– be blunt and don’t back down.

I trust very few, but am candid once I know people.

If I’m angry or hurt, I will sooner leave the room than let someone see my cry or lose my temper. I don’t want to give them the satisfaction.

I may seem stoic, but I feel things deeply.

I am great in a crisis.

I prefer to see people one-on-one, or in groups of two and three.

I like when other people talk a lot– I find them fascinating. I like people who surprise and challenge me, who I can’t figure out.

I’m a good question-asker.

I consider revenge a waste of time.

I adore nerds. It’s fun to hear them rattle on about their obsessions.

I am open-minded but do not compromise my core values for anyone.

I’ve become a bit of a loner, though I was uber-social in my younger days.

I heart blogging.

Checking My Privilege at the Door

I can be selfish and narrow-minded. I need to admit that. I do my best to battle it, but it happens.

Sadly, we need to be selfish to a degree to survive. We’re raised to compete for resources. It’s the rat race.

Although my life has been hard in some aspects, in many others I have been privileged. I do my best to relate to others without judgement. I make a constant effort to view the world beyond my own narrow lens. I admit that I tend to focus on the negatives, what I need to do better. And while that may drive me to make changes in my life for the better, I need to balance it out with gratitude. Otherwise, you fall into self-pity.

Take a moment to consider your own privileges. How do they color your view of your peers, the world around you?

I’m glad when I meet people who challenge me to get out of myself. I like people who are fascinating.

So here is a list of things for which I realize I should never take for granted, and for which I’m thankful:

I was born white and Catholic, in the Midwest of America, to a professional family. My father has a Masters degree and was once the CEO of a hospital. My mother was a stay-at-home mom. My step-mother is the exact opposite: a woman who always worked. My parents have a solid work ethic and take care of their health.

I grew up in a sober home, without alcoholism or drug use. Or even smoking. My Dad smoked cigars when younger, but quit that. His father died smoking– the house caught on fire and he was burned in it. I’m sure that was a heavy influence on my father’s decision toward parenting.

I graduated college, even if I chose to leave my field. At least I had the opportunity to attend.

My parents and I may have yelled at each other, but at least we talked about things. Some families don’t.

I grew up in a world where adults were safe figures during my childhood. Some have neverexperienced that.

I grew up in safe neighborhoods, where we trusted our neighbors.

My father always provided for our family first, putting our needs ahead of his own.

I’ve never been arrested. I’ve never been beaten.

I’ve been threatened numerous times and had people pick on me because I was small. But I was able to escape and avoid escalating the situation. Being so short has been good in some ways– it’s forced me to learn conflict-resolution and diffusion.

I have faced discrimination. I’ve faced rejection. I’ve had a hard time making ends meet.

I still do.

But never abject poverty.

I’ve never gone a day without healthcare. I have parents who were in a position to help me, and did. Even if I resented it at times, at least it was a possibility. My parents are healthy now, which I appreciate.

I’m not saying my family is perfect– we’re not. We depend on each other and because of that, we get in each other’s business. But that is rooted in caring. My step-mother can be very critical and we butt heads because of that. But at least she’s asking– and she’s learning to be more aware and kinder. Think of it this way– even if someone’s criticizing you, they’re still paying attention. We struggle to connect, but are getting better. After a lifetime of conversations, we are finding common ground at last, and mutual respect.

The worst thing is to feel invisible. Who hasn’t felt that way in life? I certainly have.

I avoided people. I just shut down. But once I realized the onus is on me, I did something about it. I worked to change myself so that I can communicate with people what I need, and how I feel. And that is helping!

I have people I can turn to, even if they’re busy or don’t always understand me. They try. And if they are unavailable, I write about it. I get it out of myself onto paper, or this blog. And that helps.

We all feel isolated at times.

But I acknowledge a lot of people have had it much harder than I did.

And that’s why we have to be careful about judgement. Because you never know what someone is battling.

They may be trapped in ways that are invisible to you. They may be great at projecting a facade.

Be kinder than necessary. Take the risk to be direct and confront people. You might be surprised how relieved they are that you cared enough to bring it up. Maybe they are just waiting for you say something first.

Some people don’t deal well with confrontation, or some don’t deal with it at all.

Some people are afraid, or even terrified, to raise their voice. Maybe they were raised to be afraid.

But if you ask, they might answer you. You may have to ask more than once… it takes time to build trust.

If you show that you notice them, maybe it’ll make a difference.

Thanks for reading this. And whatever struggles you have, I hope you keep fighting. It will get better.

Whatever life you’ve had, I’m glad you’re still with us. I’m glad you haven’t given up.

You’re not alone, even if you feel you are at this moment.

That’s Aight With Me

It seems as I’m posting in a more confident voice, I’m losing some readers.

My subscription numbers fluctuate slightly. Gain one, lose one.

I’m talking less about God, and focusing more on me.

I’m not as humble. But to be a good Catholic or Christian, you don’t need to put yourself down.

It’s okay to like yourself!

I feel like a common trap with our faith is to become so meek, we compromise ourselves. I’m outgrowing that.

And maybe that’s not something everyone can relate with, but that’s fine.

Because this blog is for me. It’s to validate what I feel. It’s a reflection of my journey and growth and the epiphanies along the way, simple and profound.

But I’m not letting the fear of the unknown dictate what I’m going to write. The right readers will find, and appreciate, what I’m sharing. They’ll stick with me. They’ll “like” and comment, or not.

I’m realizing that I’m not speaking to anyone in particular, it’s not about the reaction I get anymore.

I’m thinking out loud.

By being myself, I can’t lose!

Michael Sweet Threw a Bible, and I Caught It: My First Christian Rock Show!

I’ve been avoiding music shows lately– I’m tired of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll being championed.

The gold set list on my black leather jacket-- God and rock 'n roll!

The gold set list on my black leather jacket– God and rock ‘n roll!

Tired of hearing rants about how wasted they got on the way to the show, challenging the audience to do shots. I know it’s all part of the image and that partying is what the industry is built upon. But I don’t drink or do drugs and although I go for the music and have a great time, I get tired of being one of the only sober people in the room. Tired of being hit on.

Luckily, my friend Tammie had invited me to see STRYPER last night! And I felt totally at home.

Everyone from the bands to the road crew setting up seemed to be sober. Maybe a few weren’t– but it definitely changed the atmosphere for the better. They played Tailgaters Sports Bar & Grill in Bolingbrook, IL.

People DRANK Coke, rather than bragging about doing it. I saw crosses, not cleavage, everywhere. Mostly, I saw a lot of respect. For the band, for the audience, for the venue.

The show was exactly what I needed after work, especially since a co-worker told me, “You look like a nun.”

She didn’t mean it as a compliment, although nuns ARE awesome. I ran home and dressed up for the first time in months, it seems. I wore a white shirt that I love with golden crosses all over it, and my favorite dangly heart earrings. I put on eye-liner and mascara and actually used hairspray! I searched frantically for the Stryper album I still have on CD, but couldn’t find it. My phone was nowhere to be found so I Facebooked my friend that I was leaving, Googled directions and wrote them down, and got to Tailgator’s within about 25 minutes.

My friend Tammie was waiting for me at the door, bless her. She’s always been a steadfast friend. Even better, she had bought our tickets in advance and we had a table RIGHT by the stage! In the left corner, where Michael Sweet would step out later on a few times.

The two opening bands were wonderful– Ignescent, and Signature. The first was definitely a Christian band, and I don’t think the second was, but I really enjoyed both! As always, I missed a lot that I couldn’t hear– but the musicianship and performances were great. I loved the fact that Ignescent front woman Jennifer Benson was a petite woman about my size. Seeing her up there rocking out– for the Lord!– was so inspiring. I loved that she still locked like a rocker, but modest as well. She had on a black dress, black shredded jeans, and a cute black skirt and black shoes. On the way to the bathroom, I met her! She talked to me for a few minutes and had the best smile. She was really sweet.

When I returned, Signature lead singer Sami Carava walked by me and gave me a sweaty kiss on the cheek, and I grinned.

And as set-up began for STRYPER, I saw the set list being duct-taped down, right in front of us! Black tape.

Bass player Tim Gaines was directly in front of us.

I asked Tammie to use her phone to look-up the verse on the banner behind the drum kit, Isiah 53:5. She had a Bible app! We scrolled down and found it, and I loved it.

Once the set began, I was transported.

Earlier, Tammie had posted a Facebook photo of a BIBLE Stryper had thrown into the crowd Friday night at an acoustic show at the same venue. This was the electric show. As soon as I saw that, I decided my goal would be to GET ONE myself! She also had a yellow guitar pick, given away for their 30th Anniversary tour– they began in 1984.

I saw the tiny hornet-yellow picks set up on each mic with an apparatus that had them lined up for the band members to toss to the crowd.

During, “Call and Respond,” Michael Sweet was throwing Bibles.

I JUMPED out of my chair and waved my hand without shame. “ME!! ME!!”

He looked at me, smiled and tossed one to me. I caught it!! It’s pocket-sized, perfect.

And suddenly, GOD is rock n’ roll. I am so excited to see a legendary band like Stryper endorsing the Bible. Plus, it’s the most genius gimmick ever. It’s the NIV, New Testament. It’s black, with a black band sticker.

They embodied the virtue of charity, throwing out several Bibles and guitar picks.

Sweet was riveting. I loved the Abalone squares on his guitar, and the fact that he wore nice black leather shoes, like a gentleman. Black jeans with yellow crosses down the leg and on his back pocket.

And it was so clearly about the MUSIC, the Lord, and the fans. He talked to us. But unlike every other front man I’ve ever seen, he wasn’t leering or gyrating. He was there to praise, not seduce. To commune with the fans, not challenge them to get wasted. He asked for a show of hands of fans who had been to past shows– smiled in recognition at some of them.

I realized why MUSIC is the booming business it is. It’s healing, on a soul level. And how much pressure Christian bands must face to conform– the gigs they lose and the money the pass up, to adhere to their faith. The pressure they all face to sexualize themselves to sell more albums.

I’m going to look for more Christian bands. Not so say I’m abandoning secular music– but I love the atmosphere of a Christian show and I’ll take the challenge to find more!

During a set break, Tammie showed me the Rosary she had made with rose petals from her mother’s funeral, 15 years ago. I was so happy she let me hold it, it was the most intricate Rosary I’ve ever seen. I’m Catholic and she’s Non-Denominational Christian, but we focus on what we have in common. Earlier this week, we’d talked about attempting to learn to pray the Rosary together. I love that she wants to share that with me, even though she’s not Catholic. What an extraordinary display of friendship.

Whenever I have doubts about this blog, Tammie is there reassure me I should keep going. She’s been a subscriber since she learned about it.

I felt Christ’s presence in that room. Maybe that’s a bold thing to say, but I’m alright with that.

I’ve been looking frantically for His presence– I only thought I could find it in Mass. I’ve been anxious because when my work schedule changes, I won’t likely be able to go to Mass as often, or maybe at all. But now I know you really don’t need to go to a church to find Him.

God, Christ, whoever you identify with– He’s all around us. If you only have the courage to look.

Seek the GOOD– and you will find it.

And I was reassured that I’m not alone in my faith walk. I never wondered what denomination anyone was– it didn’t matter. I felt united under God’s rock concert. We’re all struggling. We’re all trudging forward, best we can.

A man at the table to my immediate left held up two fingers in a cross sign. I saw people closing their eyes, being still- seemingly in prayer.

I loved when he said the band was going to “stop trying to be modern,” (If I heard that right!) and just go back to their roots. This was their last American tour stop before heading out to Brazil. What are the odds that I got to see them!? God’s brought me there for a reason.

I’m an old-fashioned gal, who doesn’t often feel at home in this newfangled world. Hear, hear! I was bummed that earlier I couldn’t find the CD of theirs I had bought in 2005, which still have! I wanted to show it to them, maybe try and get it signed. But look what I got instead!

God’s abundance. Thanks for reading this far– I know I’m a verbose lady!

They closed with an encore performance– “To HELL with the Devil!” That’s the only song I previously knew, and it was absolutely perfect. I was AWED that Sweet’s voice really IS as operatic as it sounded every time I played it in my car.

I bought my first and only Stryper CD in 2005, when I was living in Freeport and working as a news reporter. I interviewed a woman who was selling a bunch of random things in her home– and I snatched up that album.

Now I write on my own terms– with this blog.

The best moment of the night was after they closed with their encore performance, “To Hell with the Devil,” of course!! FINALLY, the audience all got to their feet. I had thought they were a little TOO respectful, all sitting down the whole time.

But it was also just like any other rock show– there were still drunk women lunging at the stage.

Last night was I reminded I’m right where I need to be for me, right now.

Especially when as the road crew packed up, a man HANDED ME the set list with a smile! I screamed and taped it on the back of my leather jacket. I didn’t worry about anyone stealing it, and no one did.

Tammie was so happy for me, too.

Robert Sweet fist-bumped me, and Ox Fox shook my hand as they exited the stage. They were so gracious.

We stopped at the merch table on the way out, and I decided to buy myself a birthday present: I’ll be 34 next month. I don’t have anything planned as of yet. I’ve gotten down on myself in the past for not having the markers of “adulthood” yet– not being settled down with a family and mortage.

I’m still renting and I’m single.

But God gave me this FREEDOM for a reason. And I’m grateful. I’ll enjoy it as long as I’ve got it!

I spied a hoodie with– what else?– To hell With the Devil– on the back, in yellow script lettering. I asked if there any smalls?

ONE left.

Most of my money these days goes toward basic expenses: food, bills, gas. Books. I rarely buy clothes.

But I decided I deserved this. And I gave myself permission to splurge and get it. Now I’ve got a perfect new hoodie for fall, and I can’t wait for Stryper fans to stop me and talk to me about it!

I’m sure that’ll inspire some conversations about religion and God, with all sorts of people.

I can’t wait.

Taking Back the Night in Will County: Marching with a Drum

Tonight was my first time marching with a drum during Take Back the Night.

My friend Jenny and I both attended– it was her first event.

We chose to sit near my friend Sandy, who was going to be leading the march with a drum. She had told me earlier to find her if I wanted to participate, and I did. We were on the right side of the gym– the event was moved inside because of weather. I knew I probably wouldn’t hear the speakers anyway, since PA systems are tough for me. I’d rather be where the action was and be able to participate somehow.

I didn’t catch anything that was said, sadly. Hearing-aids don’t work in every situation.

But I saw the dignity of the women speaking.

And as they spoke, I read the survivor stories in the program. I read about women who tried to fight back within the courts but who were exploited by their lawyers– I can’t imagine. You PAY someone to protect you and they still take advantage? About a woman living with PTSD, a survivor of DV (domestic violence)– who laments that no one has empathy for her. They all want her to just “get over it,” when she still deals with a nightmare.

One by a woman whose ex is an NFL player– and she is afraid to come out about her abuse because of his fame, titled, “Sports Stars Above the Law.”

She writes, “It all seemed to start off like a fairy tale, but it was far from that in real life. If he had a bad game, I had a day full of bruises, pain, despair, tears and hopelessness.”

The most intense story was a letter called “Dear Sister,” and this is the light at the end of the tunnel:

“I am proud to say that I did marry again and that we are raising that lovely little girl in a strong stable environment. So don’t panic and think there is no one else for you, there is a way out and when you get there the possibilities for your life are endless but you have to take control, not be controlled.”

Sandy told me one thing she’d heard that stuck with her: “Danger is real, fear is a choice.”

I thought about how right now, I’m coming up on my fourth week in a self-defense class. I felt proud.

I chose to empower myself because at 4’11”, I’m tired of men feeling they are entitled to flirt with me or pick me up (literally) or asking for a hug because they think I’m cute. And some of these are my male “friends!” It seems like such a small thing, but I have given hugs that I didn’t want to allow just because in that moment, I didn’t feel comfortable saying “No.” A hug seems so harmless, right?

Even a hug demands consent. This class is teaching me to use my voice and enforce my own physical boundaries– so that I can feel safe anywhere. So that I know I can protect myself.

I saw the women and men and children who were there to witness survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

I saw a table for purpleproject.org, founded in memory of Alisha and Ava Lucille Bromfield. And that they were giving away small plastic baggies containing purple woven Rosaries, containing instructions on how to pray the Rosary, a Jesus icon card explaining the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, and the Fifteen Promises of Mary to Christians Who Recite the Rosary.

I put the purple Rosary on and began marching.

I was happy to see prayer represented– and the Rosary– as a choice. As a show of solidarity. As hope.

I was wearing a navy Gamma Phi Beta shirt, it was my mother’s when she was in college. I’m a Gamma Phi legacy, though there was not a chapter at my college. I just received it from my aunt and uncle in Kansas. They gave it to my parents for me and they gave it to me last night. I washed it today and it fits perfectly. I felt like I brought my mother with me, in that way.

I thought about my friends over the years who have been in abusive relationships. Some have gone on to healthy relationships and success– others haven’t; they’re still fighting. Some become advocates. And some remain trapped in a cycle of abuse, with new partners.

Sandy gave me a plastic bucket and we took the front of my program and stapled it on there. The bucket came with two sticks. I had no idea how to keep a rhythm.

But after a few tries, I found my own. I held the stick in my left hand like a drum stick, and hit it once. It was in sync with a few others’. We mostly walked in silence.

There was a boy walking behind me– he had a sign I’ll never forget:
“Because of my Grandpa, we’ll never know my Grandma.”

Wow. That brings it home. It seemed to be a family thing.

Jenny and I had orange balloons– and when we returned from the march, everyone let them go.

She took pictures. I’m glad she did.

I’m glad she walked with me.

I’m glad all of us gathered and marched and listened and prayed– to Take Back the Night.