Lent 2019: Giving UP and Taking ON

I started this blog on for Lent 2011. Here I am, eight years later!!

For lunch I was finishing up my Super Burger at Taco Shop before I realized — d’oh!

At least I fasted for dinner.

This year I’m giving up anxiety and taking on blogging daily, 40 days.

I want to be in control, like most of us. I really struggle with letting God drive in my life.

And as I’m noticing, God really DOES know what He’s doing. So maybe it’s time to relax. I’m making a conscious choice to trust people more. To make decisions based more on instinct and feeling, rather than just analyzing it all first.

I haven’t wanted to blog much since I moved because it was too vulnerable. I wanted to be “established” first. Well, I’m half-way there.

Today I started my new job as a medical receptionist! I now live in Derby and work in Wichita. Phase two will be finding and moving into an apartment in town.

Now I feel more secure. So I’m going to challenge myself to blog every day.  And not only on the “good” days.

As I drove to my new job I found a new, shorter route. After, I found a parish just down the street and attended Mass to receive my ashes. I felt so calm and happy.  I went to a pizza joint and then a religious book store. Then home.

I have much to learn at this new gig and I know I will. It feels like such a wonderful fit.

Thank you, Father, for all the blessings you’ve bestowed already.

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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!

 

 

 

 

Care, Competency and Consent: What Four Nights in the Hospital Taught Me

Thursday night I was admitted to the hospital and this morning I awoke in my own bed.

It’s been a long time since I was in the hospital that long. I had a lot of feelings about it. At first I felt anxiety and boredom, along with mild annoyance. I had stuff to do. The bed had no back support and was intermittently moving around thanks to new technology to prevent bed sores. After two days I felt like a “sick person,” and didn’t like it.

But on a deep level, I felt secure. I had done my research and chosen doctors affiliated with this hospital after seeking recommendations from local family members. I had established relationships with these doctors and my relevant specialists came to see me. This hospital was close to home, part of a large network, but a smaller branch. It had an excellent reputation and my aunt had recommended it. I knew that I was safe there. And that helped me to relax.

A major reason why I preferred this hospital was rooted in something practical: all the phlebotomists and nurses were competent and respectful about getting lab work done. They found a vein quickly and often without pain. They didn’t argue when I told them to use my hands, not my arm. Staff at other hospitals I had visited for lab work and tests struggled, needed multiple sticks and often had to change staff to someone more skilled. When an IV was needed and I consented to them using my arm for a bigger needle, it was difficult for them. The staff that this hospital were all excellent with such a delicate but ordinary routine– and to me that’s vital.

When you’re hospitalized, it’s easy to let your fear and pain, if you’re afflicted with it, consume you.  Luckily this time I had no pain. Discomfort, yes. But not pain. Regardless it’s to easy to detach from the immediacy of your care and let others take the reigns– if they are competent and you trust them. If you’re able to think on that level, which many are not because they are too sick. My Dad has been there at every hospital stay, and most of my doctor visits. And that was needed, because he was the calming presence who reassured me to trust my doctors and that it was important to make decisions and get things fixed rather than avoid them. He was there to squeeze my hand when I needed blood work or IV’s that caused me to breathe deep because my veins are collapsed and scarred in many places. He helped me pay. In the past I would look to him to help me understand the most important information and usually go with his advice.

But I was younger then. So was my Dad.  Now he’s 76 and I’m 38. He falls asleep in his chair more often. He doesn’t chat as much. I don’t need to ask him as much and we share companionable silences. I have done a lot without his help and done it successfully. Without realizing it, I did absorb his analytical nature and ability to cut through the bullshit and find out what needs answering by the doctors and hospital staff. I taught myself to have a list of questions ready along with suggestions. I have spent much of my life in a hospital setting and handle it better than most. I realized it was up to me to help myself heal and actively participate in my care and recovery.

And I realized something  wonderful: I am a competent woman even when I feel uncertain and stressed. My Dad visited me every day, but was only present once when my doctors were visiting me. That first night. He stayed till 12:30 a.m., making sure there was a plan and I was safe.

So I asked all the important questions to learn about my diagnosis and options. I called and texted my friends and relatives to learn if anyone in our family had my symptoms. I asked my friends if they had ever dealt with something similar. I Googled away to educate myself as best I could. I questioned the nurses about updates and the next step in my treatment.

And I became a strong advocate on my own behalf. I realized at one point I no longer needed input from anyone else, even the doctors. I had made decisions. Obviously every doctor is prepared to make the ultimate decision when necessary and to negotiate aggressively for treatments families may want to avoid because of risk, price, or an inability to accept their loved one is sick enough to warrant that level of intervention. But it’s up to us as patients to make sure we understand what’s happening and draw the boundaries about what is an option and what is a hard “no.” We need to know our bodies and what we feel and not hold back when something makes us uncomfortable.

They had goals for my treatment plan and release and they met those goals in the predicted timeframe. They were patient enough to advocate for the least-invasive course of action, rather than the quickest solution. They decided to use meds rather than surgery and wait it out an extra couple of days to let me heal, and that was reassuring to me. They explained why I wasn’t a good candidate for that surgery and that it was an option but more likely a short-term fix that would bear addressing again in the future. I agreed with them and we proceeded with success. But the whole way through, they cared about my safety and consent.

At 4 a.m. when I was being woken up for blood work, they were kind and did not rush me. Every time, I was asked if it was okay. Most times they knew to use my hand, so a note must have been in my chart. I woke up just enough to move my arm for their access and then luckily fell back asleep instantly.

Once my symptoms were gone for a satisfactory amount of time and my lab work had returned to healthy stable levels for more than 8 hours, I was released quickly. They didn’t drag the paperwork out. I felt exuberant and 200 percent better.

I was grateful. During those four nights I had no responsibility other than seeing to my immediate needs: going to the bathroom, ordering my meals from food service and eating them, and answering questions about what was bothering me and what was working. I asked for a fresh hospital gown, to have a nurse wrap my IV so I could shower, to have another glass of water or more blankets. I brushed my teeth and washed my hair. Otherwise I received the IVs ordered and relaxed. I took my meds when they were brought to me on a schedule. I was able to text and call my family and friends, and receive visitors.

I slept when I needed and watched TV when I wanted. I got to catch up on some re-runs of the original “Roseanne,” which delighted me. I watched the Grammys Sunday night and squealed about each gown and musical performance.

Now I am healthier and comfortable with renewed energy.

I had been telling one of the nurses who I interacted with the most about Lady Gaga’s Grammy win for “Shallow” from her soundtrack contributions to “A Star is Born.” I told him that he NEEDED to watch this song and that it would *CLEAN UP at the Oscars. He hadn’t seen the movie yet but agreed she and Bradley Cooper have insane chemistry and they should just get together already! As he was wheeling me out to exit, my Dad went to get the car. I had declined a wheelchair but it’s just a service they provide to help your transition and show you that last bit of care as you leave. So I allowed myself to accept it.

My nurse surprised me by finding “Shallow,” on his phone and playing it close to my ear. He didn’t tell me, he just let me notice it, which is interesting because my left ear is my deaf ear and it’s a surprise I didn’t miss it.

“Tell me something, girl….” The song was close enough that I heard it.

“Are you happy in this modern world?”

It was so unexpected and considerate. It even seemed a bit romantic. I just enjoyed the moment– that my favorite song for more than six months was being played for me by someone. A stranger, really.  A female trainee nurse was there also so I didn’t comment or flirt, but if I hadn’t already been sitting down I might have swooned or asked him to dance with me.

Maybe that moment was a little gesture from God, reminding me that he’s paying attention to this girl. To keep believing and that the Next Good Thing in my life will be happening soon.

Regardless, not a bad last moment to remember in that hospital. I may be single this Valentine’s Day, but I’ll remember that song and that bearded male nurse and smile on February 14.

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.

Where the Bananas Run: A 5k and a Banana Split!

 

Banana Runner

Today started off early and awesome and continued that way as I participated in the most fun race I think I’ve ever done. It was small, close, and a later start at 10 a.m. We ran through a local trail in a forest preserve, The Hammel Woods.

I woke up at 7:15 a.m. naturally and was immediately AWAKE. An hour before my alarm. I got right up and showered, then made myself an omelet with basil and mozz cheese. I had plenty of time to digest so I wasn’t too full– just energized. I relaxed then did my make-up and got ready. I pulled up just in time to start!! The event is The Banana Sprint 5k, hosted by DNA Athletics, a local running store.

Seeing all these people in their bright yellow banana costumes just made me so happy! I felt like the Bee Girl in “No Rain,” who finally finds her tribe– the Bee People in the field.  For $25 we got a bib and a decent full banana costume. Shirts were extra– I didn’t buy. Especially since everyone wore theirs differently. Some had pinned up the “tail” to free up their legs, since otherwise it dangled in front. A group of women were wearing yellow tutus around theirs, others were actually wearing a running belt around the middle! The kids had tiny banana outfits, too. A couple of families had kids on bikes or tricycles. Adorable.

Someone recognized me right away from a party I’d been to last summer, someone in a run club we both belong to. We took a selfie before the gun went off, making sure the top part of our costumes — the “banana hoodie”– was up around our faces and visible.

We started out running together but I ran out of steam and she went on, then I got my own pace going. I was slow as ever but probably happier than I’ve been in the majority of my races because it was just such a wonderful way to spend my Sunday morning. As long as races like this exist, the world isn’t so bad.

My costume was even funnier because I’m so short– 4’11”. Everyone’s fit differently according to their height. Mine went to my feet but somehow never tripped me.

It was cool this morning– 50’s– but in that full-body costume I was sweating! I took full advantage of the water stop. This race was well-organized and a beautiful path, a lot of it shaded by trees. It was an out and back course with a little side detour after the 2 mile mark. I started seeing people returning, and several had given up and taken off their costumes completely.

They may have been faster, but I’m proud I lasted the whole 3.1 miles IN full costume! Soon into the race, my cell beeped and it was an text from my bestie in Texas, alerting me that labor had begun for her second child. “Thundercats go,” she said, referencing the “Juno” quote that we both loved as a now shorthand for signaling labor. They chose to be surprised about the sex– I was so excited! She’s still working hard now, or at least I haven’t gotten an update saying she’s had the baby yet.

I texted her back some encouragement and love and let her know what I was doing– we had talked about the race before. She said if she were still living here she’d be meeting me at the finish line in a gorilla suit! ❤  I miss Leslie so much.

Today I realized something: I don’t honestly care about my pace much. Although racing and running CAN be social, for me it’s usually solitary. I didn’t have time to put on my Nike Run app, which sucks because I love seeing the maps after my runs and this would have been a good windy one. But in a way, it was liberating. I just let it go. Although I still plan to get more serious about a routine and of course, improving my pace and distance, I just enjoy it for its own sake. I LIKE being alone and enjoying the quiet, the heat, the breeze, the cold, whatever conditions are at that time. Early morning, afternoon, evening. Whatever.

I like seeing other runners and we pass each other. I loved knowing I gave them a laugh, seeing their dogs.

After, it was the best part: THE BANANA SPLIT BAR! That was really what sealed the deal on this race for me, when I saw it pop up on Facebook. Under a pavilion there were all the ingredients and more than I anticipated.  Three different types of ice cream; I chose vanilla-strawberry swirl and chocolate scoops. I chose caramel syrup, my first time. Caramel chips, nuts, m&m’s. Two maraschino cherries. No whip cream.

No guilt, just glee.

Banana Splits

 

I kept my costume on and have never enjoyed a banana split so much in my life. I think it was probably only my second. Or my first? It’s not something I usually order. I may have shared someone else’s once. I earned it today!

And the pictures I got were so much fun. The ones posted by the race organizer were so happy and bright– and I’m in one of them, at very start of the race. Beaming and waving.

Another benefit: I don’t need to buy a Halloween costume this year! I’ve had plenty of years with sexy costumes and money spent building detailed, creative costumes involving wigs, accessories and props. Not this year.

For $25 I’ve got what I need. I’m going to a Pirates and Ninjas Housewarming party in a few weeks. I’m going to be a banana. And if I’m feeling sassy, I’ll just put on some black leggings and my black lace-up boots and I’ll be the Sexiest Banana Ever. Halloween 2018!

 

 

The Great Pumpkin Run II: Luda Crisp and Cornstalks

Today was my first fall race kick-off!! A 5k called The Great Pumpkin Run in Oswego, IL.

Nothing went as planned, but I had a wonderful time.  Felt good to pin on a race bib.

It was only 67 degrees but still brutal. I’ve run hotter races– actually run them. Today, honestly, I probably only ran a mile. I’m not sure why the heat affected me so differently today. Probably because I tried to cram training into this past week only. I ran three times since last Saturday.

But that’s not what matters. What matters is that I had everything prepared when I went to bed, I got myself up early, I had food ready. I got my car parked, got a second pumpkin for the race since I forgot my five-pounder in my car — I got a 2.5 pounder instead, luckily.

And I did it! I wore the same outfit as last year: black skull tank top and gray shorts. The only additions to my “costume” for this race were some fun sparkly jack-o-lantern antlers on a headband and cheap orange sunglasses, found ’em at the dollar store. The antlers headband kept me cool

My hair is shoulder-length now; last year it was a black pixie. I just felt free.

The route started in an apple orchard and I saw a taped sign labeling them. One said, no joke, “Luda Crisp.” That’s GOT to be some farm humor, eh? Then we were passing what I think was a soybean crop, and finally, a corn field.

I stopped several times to take pictures. I was in the back of the pack with the turtles and the walkers. People just hanging out with their friends, significant others and families. Moms with their littles. Last year, I felt lonely.

This year I felt determined.

I asked a few random people to take my picture at different points. I overhead a woman making a comment that awhile back I had asked for one and needed another.

And I decided to let her comment go. Who cares if she’s judging me?

I’m not able to run fast today, so at least I can enjoy myself. Who says that races have to be about PR’s and beating your previous time? For me, I think running is about enjoying the journey. I’m not fast, probably never will become a fast or competitive runner. I have good races and bad ones. I used to be so hard on myself with races. I’d constantly put myself down if I had to walk a little. Or if my shirt fit tight or I had to go up a size.

Today I was just happy that I knew to wear a tank and shorts instead of the hoodie we got in our packets and some leggings, like so many others. I’m very sensitive to being over-layered and it makes me miserable. I know, for the most part, how to dress for my body’s needs now in most runs. That is a skill in itself. It’s not just about pace and distance.

The only thing I missed this year was actually running THROUGH the corn maze, like we got to do last year.

But it was wonderful. At the finish line I received both my finisher’s medal and the promised second medal, the “Tough Pumpkin” for carrying a pumpkin the entire race. We got a banana, Boxed Water, and then redeemed our coupons for free cider.

And I didn’t forget to turn off my running app at the finish line. I was delighted to see the map pop up, and all the beautiful turns and squiggles representing my journey.

I think I enjoy running because it’s a great metaphor. At the end of my runs, I see the map pop up showing me how far I traveled– the larger picture. Just like God has a plan for us, and we often don’t *feel that while we trudge along, just trying to make it forward. Just doing our best to keep moving without having the answers.

That map at the end of my runs, good or terrible, always comforts me. He’s taking me somewhere, and I’m reminded that I have nothing to fear.

After getting home I took a nap. I don’t know why today was so taxing, but doing the race on grass and dirt certainly made it harder.

I feel so happy. My next race is next weekend!

It’s Never Too Late to Mend: The Old Joliet Prison Break-In! What a Night!

I’m home and glowing with affection for Joliet, my hometown of the last 30 years. People here really are decent, friendly and hard-working folks.

I knew this would be the event of the summer and so I had to score myself a ticket soon after hearing about it. And my, did it deliver! It was bigger than the Taste of Joliet, with a 21 and only crowd and fantastic music all night. There were 3,000 tickets available and I’d say they probably sold out from the looks of it!

I arrived about 6:15 and already the designated parking lots were full except for the last one. I didn’t have plans to meet anyone specific, so just meandered around and looked for anyone I might know and checked in on fb. A few people commented and I found one of them! At first I felt kind of lame because everyone had brought lawn chairs and that had never occurred to me. But it ended up being a good thing because it forced me to do a lot of walking. I saw down to eat my pizza and once more to rest a bit. But mostly I just people watched and surveyed all that was going on.

So many people were dressed to theme, some in full-on convict black and white stripe costumes, complete with hats! Others were in suits, fedoras and sunglasses a la The Blues Brothers- another J-town legacy incorporated into the evening. As most know, the first scene features Elwood picking up Joliet Jake from this very prison, in an old police car he got for a deal.

A lot of people had on black t-shirts with Blue Brothers faces and quotes or they were wearing something black and white striped, or just the black fedoras and glasses. They were being sold as a $5 combo at a merch tent, along with event t-shirts, sewing kits, etc. I’m glad I got the hat and glasses! Later they came in handy.

There were food trucks and tons of props serving as photo ops: an old J-town cop car and a white board painted with black stripes and height markers for patrons to take “mug shots.” In the right corner, there was another cop car– this one a prop for the headlining and closing act, The Blooze Brothers. A kind woman I talked to took a shot of me leaning against it and in exchange I got one of her and her boyfriend over by it.

I saw my friend Hallie in line for a tour and she invited me to cut in with her friends and tag along, so I did! The tiny, broken down cells were very sobering. But probably my favorite part of the evening was visiting the tent for the Old Joliet Prison Burnt District Artists. I’ve been seeing posts from them on facebook as they helped clean up and also found raw materials they could incorporate into their artwork. A lot of cool things are happening in Joliet right now, a lot of new business and breweries are opening up. There’s some intense Joliet pride and I’m proud to see it manifested artistically. That’s where I found the young and hip people. I really liked a piece by Ruben Calderon of Art of Breath Galleria (facebook) — it featured a male prisoner in what seems to be prayer, with a guardian angel visible behind him. The cell bars are in the background, along with a phrase, “It’s Never Too Late To Mend,” written on the cell wall to his right. If I had the cash I would have made an offer.

I met some really nice people just ambling around. One woman offered me a chair at her table to eat, and another told me how much she and her boyfriend love live music and had the best anecdote ever. Her boyfriend had actually BEEN a prisoner here at The Joliet Prison more than 20 years ago, and came back tonight a free man to this event. She said he had told her he’d grown as a person and learned a lot while doing his time. He was glad to come back and reflect on it because it was no longer a painful memory to him.

Then when The Blooze Brothers took the stage, I ran up and spied a friend front and center! We just kinda jammed out together, he was more quiet; bopping his head but clearly really in the moment. I was more wild, dancing around and joking with the woman on my right. We were both being totally silly.

I got one of three free CD’s they passed out because I put on my fedora and black sunglasses and was dancing like crazy– it pays off to be festive! Can’t wait to re-live tonight and play the whole CD when I’m driving around next.

I thought it was beautiful that the band did a tribute to Aretha Franklin’s recent passing. The lead female singer was Shelia Pepple, as far as I can tell from the liner notes from their CD. She sang “Respect,” “Natural Woman,” and a few others I didn’t know with some impressive pipes!

And as for Elwood (Chuck Little) and Joliet Jake (Jeff Sismelich)– they KILLED IT!! They really had the dancing cold, and Elwood wailed on his harmonica. They did “Soul Man,” “Rawhide,” and “Jailhouse Rock!” I left before the end of the set, but didn’t see “Sweet Home Chicago,” it was probably the last song.

I danced my tail off, re-connected with old friends, took some fun pictures and left feeling very glad to be a Jolietian.

In this historic prison, I was freed.