Christmas in Kansas 2019…. Finally, Home

November 2018, I moved from Illinois to my hometown of Wichita, Kansas. So this is my second actual Christmas here as a Kansas resident— but my first as a Wichitan!

And the first where I truly feel settled in my life here, and have my own place. Prior, I stayed with my parents at my cousin Jerry’s home in Derby. We all did for about six weeks, since they were looking for a home and then waiting for it to close. We were all living out of just a few clothes and basic possessions we’d brought for immediate use while we waited to move into their home. After they moved out and into their home, I stayed with them for awhile and then got my own apartment June 30.

So this is my first Christmas in my own home…. and it definitely feels special.

This year my gift to them was inviting them over for Christmas Day dinner. I’ve been a late bloomer when domesticity is concerned– learning slowly over the years. I’ve never been one to host parties or even just have friends over often. Just a few, my A-List. Part of it was that my apartments were just not that impressive. It was usually a mess.

I had A LOT of belongings I needed to sort through– and I’m still working on it. The move was great in forcing all three of us to really evaluate what has true meaning to us and what we don’t need or could replace upon moving. All of my major decisions have been made but I still need to go through some papers and pictures. I do it a little at a time, it can get overwhelming, all those memories and decisions on what to throw out. I’ve made it easier by dividing family pictures and giving them to my cousins, aunts, and etc. And they’ve all been amused and grateful.

Now I finally have enough sorted that I have the space I needed and wanted to feel comfortable inviting company over. It’s not all cluttered with boxes. I have my furniture set up for the optimal way in my little place. I still need to hang up some pictures, but I will get to that next.

I was nervous about having over Diane, my step-mother. She has an impeccable home, and is naturally very organized and an admitted “neatnik”–  her standards are high! My Dad has been dropping by because I knew he wouldn’t judge me in the process. But I wanted her to approve so much. I wanted to wait until I considered it ready. Finally, it is.

I cannot express how comforting it was to finally welcome them as guests, in my little home. Knowing everything was organized, uncluttered, wiped down and freshly cleaned.  I had a simple Christmas Eve dinner menu planned: omelettes, sweet potato home fries, and fruit with yogurt for dessert. I brought out my beautiful red “Christmas” goblets for them and they enjoyed those, too. We ate on my regular plates because I only have one set that I use every day. I’m keeping things simple and slowly upgrading my home and items over time.

I was confident.

And they were happy.

They enjoyed my little tour and relaxed as I cooked dinner. I had the sweet potatoes in the oven and cooked our omelettes as they waited– it only took about 20 minutes. All the times Diane has served us dinners. All the times my Dad took us both to dinner, and the times he and I eat together and still do.

Diane is one of those people who’s always moving around. Even in their home, there are only two stools at the kitchen island table. She doesn’t sit down and eat with us, she stands on the other side. She’s always had this anxious energy. She asked if I wanted her to help dry dishes tonight after dinner, and I told her to relax. And she actually stayed seated– which she never does. When we go to other people’s homes for parties and as guests for meals, she’s always the first one up to clean the dishes.

It felt important to me that she was relaxed enough to just allow me to do this for them. Acts of service is definitely a love language for them both. Tonight, I got to speak it. And they spoke mine– Words of Affirmation.

And it was really beautiful. Even though the sweet potatoes were a little dry because I didn’t use enough olive oil, both cleaned their plates and were happy to have them! I even forgot to put on the cinnamon– the best part. Next time, I’ll know! My Dad will eat about anything (We jokingly say, “Give it to Mikey!” if one of us can’t finish our food.) But Diane is a little pickier with food and generally doesn’t have much appetite. She did tonight, however.

“You’re a good cook,” she said. My Dad’s smile confirmed it.

The three of us had a wonderful, calm, Christmas Day dinner. We took pictures. Diane wore a blue “Meowy Christmas” sweater– and brought me a bag of sugar-free chocolates! It also means a lot to me because she and I have butted heads a lot, especially since moving. Tonight was my olive branch.

Theirs was accepting my invitation and giving me a beautiful Christmas card.

I’m realizing that the relationship I always wanted with Diane is happening– because I’m learning to relax about *myself. At times I was so insecure, I was afraid to be closer to her because I assumed she would judge me harshly– which she has in the past. But we’ve turned a corner. We’re both more accepting of each other. There’s grace there.  She’s 78 and beautiful, everyone comments on it. She has wonderful style and a fun personality.

And I’m learning to be like her, in the right ways.

It’s manifested in the way that I unplug the coffee maker when not using it. Doing the dishes as I use them, carefully washing them. Wiping down my counters with cleaner and the satisfaction I have in the way it smells when it’s freshly clean. The pride I now take in cultivating and keeping up my own home, just as she has showed me all along.

Before they left, we all crammed in for a selfie, and it was cute! I walked them to their car. I gave them both a hug.

Christmas is about Jesus and the Holy family. Today, I felt the love within my family.

And now I will open my home to more visitors. I’m excited to see what 2020 brings!

Merry Christmas to you, dear readers. Rest well and conquer the day tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

Wimpy Palms and Tradition

Ever since I can remember, my father and I have braided palms together on Palm Sunday. I have written about this previously, but each year is special for different reasons.

Now my father is aging and the most obvious aspect of that is neuropathy in his hands. He struggles to write legibly and my step-mother and I help him when needed for correspondence and etc. The way he eats has also changed. His hands don’t shake, but he’s lost the grip that he once had and now it’s a more deliberate process. He holds onto his utensils differently, but still makes it work.

He and Diane went to Mass last night he and brought some good palms home. The long, green, thick kind. But it was a bit late and so we decided to braid them today. I went to Mass this morning but the ones I got weren’t good for braiding. They were short, cut off at an angle. No base to work with. Then today I had to study and do some things first, so it took awhile before we could do this together.

I saw him tonight sitting with the palms, struggling to fold them the way he’s always shown me. Not complaining, just quietly persevering. The palms were partially curled up and dried, so not as bendable and sturdy. More yellow and crinkly than green.

My father’s sheer determination and doggedness has gotten him through life. I am happy to say that I am mostly the same way. I’ll figure things out, even if it takes me longer or I need to find a different way that makes sense for me.

Tonight I offered to help him finish the braid. “The palms are wimpy,” I said, commenting on how they had changed from last night.

“MY palms are wimpy,” he said. We laughed, but I reassured him that his own hands are still strong. He still gets done what needs doing. He doesn’t just give up on things if he’s frustrated.

But I’m glad to share this with him. We only made one this year. It’s small. I asked him to take a picture with it and he was happy to do that. I feel very blessed, indeed.

Valentine to My Parents and Single Chicas

I think my Valentine this year, truly, is my parents.

November 2, we moved from Illinois to Kansas. They were retiring here and I have been wanting to come home to Wichita at least five years, since all our family is still here.

I took a huge risk. I left 30 years of stability — and 3.5 years with a job– to start over.

I just wanted to be where all the love is. I miss my Illinois friends, sure.

But some four months in, I don’t regret any of that decision. I’m slowly building a life in Kansas. I haven’t found a job yet, I’m still searching.

And I tend to be an anxious woman, imagining the worst case of every scenario.  But in the past month I’m settling into a burgeoning sense of optimism. I believe that I will continue to propel myself forward.  That only good things are coming my way. I believe in my own judgement and ability to discern the right time when making choices.

And my parents are the ones who gave that to me. They are both conservative people raised in large, close families. Both deeply rooted in Catholicism, Stoicism, and work.

One of my biggest doubts when deciding to move here was about whether I should give up all my independence and live with them again. I’ve been out of the home since 18 except for summers in college and a few months until I got my first job after graduation.

I’m used to living alone. Taking a bath at 4 a.m. if I want. Coming in whatever time I want. Having all the living space to spread out. To make and receive calls randomly.

It’s been an adjustment, three adults sharing living space with vastly different habits.

It’s also been a tremendous gift. I will get my own place and move out, but this time right now is something I’ll remember. Proximity forces you to notice each other in new ways.

My parents have also made Valentine’s Day a special day for us as a family by exchanging gifts with each other and me each year. My Dad brought chocolate for us both and a generous bouquet of red roses. I got some dark chocolate truffles for Diane and deviled eggs for my Dad, and a card for them both. Diane does so much for us every day. Little practical things like getting the coffee ready to go.

One of the best moments today was putting make-up on with Diane. I’m going out with some new chicas tonight to see “Isn’t it Romantic?” starring the brilliant Rebel Wilson. We bought our tickets ahead online. I’m smuggling in some candy to save cash– cherry Blow Pops. I suggested wearing red lipstick and they were game!

Diane complimented my make-up and I showed her what products I used. She then showed me some of her reds and let me try a few on. I had said that my original one made my lips look a little thin. She thought I looked better with a slightly darker tone.

I don’t remember doing this with her as a young girl. But I’m glad we did tonight. Just having her share her make-up with me and look at me to give me advice felt special.

She is going out tonight to dinner with my Dad and another couple. They’re helping each other find pieces of their ensembles, fixing collars. It’s sweet to watch.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to do that with my own husband. I can hope, right?

So this year, I claim Valentine’s Day for celebrating family love and new female friendships. All my female friends back home were either married or in serious relationships or had moved away, so I could never make “Galentine’s Day” plans like this with them. Now here in Wichita, I have new single friends and I love it!

2019 is off to a great start!

 

 

 

 

My First Cowgirl Hat! A Real Kansan.

I have a valid Kansas driver’s license and a Voter ID card, but buying my first cowgirl hat is what made me feel like a LEGIT Kansas woman!

pink cowgirl Club Rodeo

 

I was with some new friends at a bar called Club Rodeo in Wichita, last Friday night. This place is so country it’s got an actual live RODEO inside, plus a mechanical bull if you’re inclined. It smells like dirt and sweat and testosterone. Everyone is dressed as country as they can afford, be it a cute dress, shorts, denimn, flannel, boots or a buckle.

“Hicktown” by Jason Aldean was playing when I got there and I was amazed at the dexterity of the men doing some impossible high kicks! Line dancing is a major thing at this place, and I am tragically incapable of picking it up. But I figure with some YouTube tutorials and maybe some time with a friend who is feeling charitable, I can learn it one day. I can’t even master a basic two-step thus far!

After a trip to the ladies’ to check my hair and lipstick, I spied an older gentleman selling a wide variety of cowboy hats in the back of the bar, displayed on two folding tables. The least expensive were reasonable and one was pastel pink! I tried on two sizes and decided on a medium. I told the man I needed to get the cash in my car and would return, but he said I could just wear it for now, there was no rush. Why was he so trusting? I was charmed. My ensemble was a white plaid flannel with a pink stripe to match that hat, so it was perfect. All my friends were loving it and I had a blast taking selfies to show it off! Finally I claimed it with the cash.

So now in my closet, that hat is ready for next time. I think it’s some type of plastic, as its’ hard and water- proof. It’s just one more aspect of my new life here that’s coming together.

Cowboy boots and western wear is an everyday staple in these parts. I love it.

I’m still connecting some dots to get settled in, but I definitely feel more at home now.

A Baptism for Liam, an Epiphany for Me

I’ve been to Baptisms before, but today’s was special because it showed me something important about myself as well as celebrating the new faith of my friends’ first child.

It showed me that I do want a family life and I do want a Catholic marriage.

My friends Jenni and Ryan celebrated their first child, Liam. He was born on Ash Wednesday into an Irish Catholic family! They have been close friends of mine since high school, when all three of us went to youth group together. They’ve never missed a birthday of mine! They are both responsible but are silly enough to keep each other laughing, too.

Being there with our other mutual friends– also from youth group– was wonderful. They all have families now, and their kids were playing together in the back yard. I’ve seen them all be pregnant. I’ve been to their weddings and showers. I just felt so grounded and comfortable today with all of them.

A statue of the Blessed Mother was in the left corner of the yard and I found her presence very comforting. I found out it was passed down from someone in their family. My own Godmother has a similar one in her front yard. I’ve always hoped that one day when I hopefully own a home I will have one as well.

I spent the afternoon just catching up with our friends, getting to know both their families better, taking pictures and eating great food! It was wonderful to see them together as parents as well, knowing they prayed and planned for this blessing in their lives. They both have this wonderful, relaxed glow about them. And a big reason for that is their marriage is grounded in a strong friendship and shared Catholic faith.

If I’ve had doubts about whether religion is truly a deal-breaker for me in a relationship, today they were dissolved. Jenni has always been my voice of reason, reminding me that it’s not an unreasonable expectation and showing me that it’s possible in her own marriage. I’ve dated enough Atheists and people who profess no faith. They were all good men but there was definitely something elemental missing. I am unabashedly a woman of faith.

And the highlight of the day? Of course, it was holding Liam. He was so calm and cuddly. He felt comfortable with me and I got to take a few pictures with him. And for me, holding a baby is so natural and it just makes my day. To know this little being trusts you enough to relax and let you hold them is such a good feeling.

I will know when I’m in the right relationship and I’m genuinely happy single for the time being.

I’ve almost renounced my faith in the past because I wanted so much to be compatible with a man who was not religious. I am more confident now and will not compromise my religion again for the sake of being in a relationship. Now I recognize my faith is not only fundamental to my my identity, but my happiness.

My First True Long Run: 8.33 Miles!

Today I proved to myself that I really am improving as a distance runner.

Next weekend is my first 15k, and I have admittedly slacked off in my training. I went out the first two Friday nights and missed my Saturday runs, which is very unlike me. Usually I’m very responsible. Honestly, I think it was passive-aggressiveness because I was afraid to try. I want this so much. Deep down, I didn’t think I could do it. Why find out the truth?

But swag saved me! I got an e-mail telling me that since this is my 3rd consecutive year doing the Hot Chocolate Run in Chicago, I qualify as a “legacy.” I will get an extra medal with a pink “bronze” level diamond shape, plus a pin and a black beanie with the same design and “3” on it. SOLD! That was when I officially signed up– the money had been paid. No backing out!

So this weekend I told myself this 8 mile training run needed to be DONE, because I can’t fail in Chicago October 29. I need to be ready and confident.

Why? Because my Dad is going to support me. It’s my birthday present. I asked that he come to one of my races, and thought he’d pick a local one. But he instead committed to the one where I need him most: my first TRUE distance race! (I define that as a race beyond a 10k.)

And my Dad does not like going into the city. I think it’s been years– he’s 75.

But he’s going to do it, for me. We’re going to ride together. And while he’s not going to hold a sign, it’s enough for me knowing he’ll be out there at the finish line. I plan to text him when I’m coming close so that he can keep an eye and yell loud for me! And of course, take pictures. 🙂 Then we’ll go eat!!

This especially means a lot because he cancelled the original delivery date of his new fridge– the 29th– specifically to keep his promise to me. When he first brought it up, I thought it was his excuse to cancel. I hadn’t wanted to get my hopes up.

My Dad used to go to all my volleyball games in grade school, even though I rarely played the first two of four years. I was 4’7″ and uncoordinated. In college, he once drove 2+ hours to my college to see opening night of a play on a Thursday night! And brought flowers. I was just an ensemble character.

But I’ve been racing since 2015, nearly three years, and he hasn’t been to any of my races. I felt sad and resentful about it. But I told myself that he’s older, he’s set in his routine, and I shouldn’t take it personal.

Maybe he’s going now because I’ve proven that I’m serious about running? Or because this year I finally expressed to him how much I *wanted his support.

A 15k is 9.3 miles. And I’m running this alone, without a friend. For that reason, I almost backed out — a couple times. I didn’t want to face such a monumental moment in my running career without SOME kind of support. But I ultimately wanted to advance my training more than I wanted company. I could have easily signed up for the 5k, since that distance is on the circuit for my running club.

Instead, I chose to push myself. I even corresponded with my running mentor and she drew up a plan for me. I didn’t follow it, but I knew I was still capable. I was still touched she made the time to draw it up and is still encouraging me.

The race is next Sunday. But I’m smart enough to know that I can’t get in a long training run the day before; my legs will need rest.

So today when I went out, I set my distance for 8 miles. And I had heard of possible rain, so prepared by wearing a rain jacket specifically for running. And am I glad! I faced headwinds nearly 15 mph on an incline and the last four miles it was raining! My arches were hurting inside my shoes, too. I ran on.

I have never exerted myself so much running. The inclement weather half-way only motivated me to keep running, rather than slow down. When I got home, I was legit exhausted in a way I’ve never been prior!! I ended up surpassing my goal and making it 8.33 miles instead! I thought about 9, but my feet hurt too much.

I was laughing to myself, flushed. Ecstatic. Talk about a runner’s high! I took a post-run selfie and posted it via Nike Running Club on facebook!

Eight hours later, my legs hurt. But it’s a gleeful pain. It’s a runner’s rite of passage.

And of course, my music helped tremendously.

Lord, THANK YOU for this glorious burst of athleticism and confidence today.

I need it. And I earned it!!

Mile by mile, I’m proving to MYSELF that I’m strong and disciplined.

Excavating the Splinter

I feel seriously tough tonight!

For a week, I’ve had a splinter festering. The culprit was a wooden fan.

I kept hoping it would work it’s way out– but it was burrowing deeper. Worse, it was underneath the skin; nothing was poking out.

Like most kids, I grew up with my Dad doing the minor surgery required in the past. We always used a needle and alcohol– usually at the kitchen table.

I could feel it had already been too long and knew I had to take action today.

I asked a co-worker who is a mother of two to appraise it: she suggested tweezers. Obviously I didn’t have the tools at work.

This evening, I called over and asked for my parents’ help.

I brought my own needle and alcohol pad wipes over.

With a new sewing needle wiped clean and sterilized, my Dad broke the skin and then used the needle to try and push it out by dragging the needle across it. It wasn’t working. It made me sad that he didn’t seem to know anymore how to fix it.

He’s always known exactly what to do– always able to make quick decisions.

Luckily, I was paying attention all those times as a kid. And *I remembered the routine he had shown me myriad times in my life. Plus, my hands are smaller. I can maneuver better.

But he did help me– with moral support. My Step-mom Diane, too. And I needed it.

He held my finger steady while I poked around with the needle to dig it out. I YELLED. Doesn’t matter what age you are, splinters are always a bitch!

Then I asked Diane for some tweezers and she went upstairs to loan me hers. As she returned, they were gleaming. Might as well have been a surgical instrument! She stood by.

I grasped the edge of that splinter and –with my LEFT hand, mind you!!– yanked!!

I GOT IT!

It wasn’t long, but was a good size. Underneath the skin. It was square and jagged. It appeared to have all come out intact, what a relief! I yelled in joy.

“YES!!”

We worked as a team. They were happy to help and we all laughed about it.

Sometimes life gives us those little problems to remind us that we’re loved.

That it’s okay, and even good, to ask for help.

And maybe one day, I’ll be lucky enough to help my own kid excavate their splinter– just like my Dad taught me.