A Stolen Breakfast and Quality Time

The past three days, I’ve enjoyed lunch with my father, wearing masks except to eat.

Saturday I needed to buy new tires for my car, and he met me while I was waiting.

I had gone in Friday to have my car evaluated since my tire blew Thursday night. I apparently ran over a nail, and it slowly flattened. I didn’t even hear anything or notice any weird dragging like it normally would– he noticed and pointed it out to me. We got the spare on and made it to Discount Tire. They said there was no repairing it, two others were looking terrible. The fourth was okay because it had been replaced about six months ago. So it was more economical to just get three.

My Dad was there as always, ready to go to bat for me if they were going to overcharge. But I told him it’s okay, it’s a good deal and I can cover it. Thank you, stimulus check! I even said he didn’t have to be there Saturday, I would handle it all. But then Saturday I got there for my appointment was sad to realize he didn’t go, and I missed him.

So I called and asked if he wanted to have lunch with me while I waited on my car. And he was happy to go. The shop is about five minutes from his home anyway.

The best thing about my Dad is that he’s always excited to make plans with me, however simple or dumb they may appear. We just like spending time together. How lucky am I?

So we went down the street to Braum’s and that was great!

Yesterday we went to Dollar Tree and purchased some silk flowers to take to my mother, my sister, and my aunt’s graves today. After that, Village Inn.

And THAT is when it gets funny.

He ordered an omlette like he often does, which came with a side of pancakes. I got french toast with bacon! I haven’t done that since December. I only ate two of four.

Things were SO different. There were what seemed to be white plywood boards fastened above all the booths. There was blue tape on the tables. The laminated menus were gone and instead it was just a smaller sheet of paper with a reduced menu. No salt and pepper on the table.

I was driving and in the parking lot, he realized he’d forgotten his leftover box.

He was positively indignant!

“Why didn’t they stop me?”

I teased him with a reminder that he’s always in a rush. I call him “White Rabbit” sometimes because he’s always in a hurry even when there’s PLENTY of time! lol

But that was no excuse, in his mind.

“Go back in,” he asked me. “They stole my breakfast!”

I laughed and obeyed. As I suspected, the table was cleared.

“I’m sorry Dad,” I said, still giggling.

Today we went to the cemetery and the convent for Memorial Day and place the flowers we bought yesterday. And had lunch at Nu-Way, a local loose meat joint.

He always wants extra napkins and I never remember usually.

“I will be your napkin ferry,” I volunteered, and he was happy.

We ate greasy sammiches with pickles, mustard and onions and large ROOT BEERS!

We toasted.

He had on a red shirt, which really is a great color on him.

I feel very lucky indeed to have all this time with my father, three days in a row.

Not everything is bad in this pandemic world.

 

Tiger King by Text

My younger sister Catt and I watched “Tiger King” tonight from Kansas and Illinois!

I wanted to try Netflix Party but she doesn’t have it anymore– so we compromised. She has a fire stick, which gives her access to anything on Netflix. We made plans to watch “Tiger King” at 8 p.m. together. We made this plan earlier in the week and it was great having that to look forward to. We only watched the first episode, and it was just as epic as everyone’s been saying!

We decided to watch it “together” by texting and sending short Marco Polos in real time.

The funny thing is, we could do this any day. I’ve been in Kansas now 1.5 years– and I really miss her. We’ve been inseparable since high school– 1997- when we met at the bus stop. I was a junior, she was a freshman. For some ridiculous reason after school we would often just hang out on the sidewalk for two hours talking when we could have easily just gone to one another’s homes instead! We have the same stupid sense of humor and both have dark features, so people often mistake us for sisters.

I was SO excited about Netflix Party when I heard about it, she was the first person I thought of and I told her about it! Primarily because the thing we usually did together was go to movies. We’re both pretty chatty and would comment and giggle the whole time whilst snacking. So now this is a way to spend time with her and sort of recapture that mutual past time.

Joe Exotic, his peroxide mullet, the Tiger King underwear line, his abiding HATRED of Carole Baskin, deep affection for guns, and weird symbiosis with big cats is COMPELLING indeed!! Nothing about this disappoints. Every single person interviewed is odd and fascinating.

I CANNOT BELIEVE HE IS A COUNTRY MUSIC ARTIST. I MUST WATCH HIS MUSIC VIDEOS.

Especially “I Saw a Tiger.”

We will resume next Friday night and maybe get in two episodes!

But I love this new chapter in our friendship.

When I moved we began Poloing a lot– several times a day. When she had her son, Nico, it was hard because prior we had these glorious rambling phone conversations. But every new mom has a lot of demands on her time and thus we transitioned to texting unless we were in person, and we still got together often! It helped that we lived just down the street from each other after I moved back to Joliet in 2006. She in a home with her husband and I in my apartment.

I love how this quarantine is forcing to crave more connection. I hope we keep up this new tradition long after this virus crisis is over!

Rosary by Zoom Meeting: Bible Study Squad!

Yesterday my Tuesday night small group chicas and I “got together” courtesy of Zoom. Formally we gather for a bible study but this week we decided to just pray a Rosary and chat a bit, amidst all this COVID-19 insanity.

It was enormously calming for me. Usually we have six-seven members but it was just four of us last night. I’d never used Zoom before, so I enjoyed learning to use this new social media technology. A teacher friend of ours, Erica, took action and set this up since she is used to attending these meetings for work.

It was a bit of a twist because normally, I’m the one who has trouble hearing others; I have a severe hearing loss and wear hearing-aids in both ears. But they’re not magic.

For some reason, the mic in my pc must not have been functioning fully, and they all could barely hear me. I was annoyed to be the only person in the group who couldn’t figure this out, but they didn’t get annoyed with me. They were all good-natured and helpful and we even got some laughs out of it. There’s also a chat function and Erica pointed that out. If I wanted to say something, I would type it out! You even have options to address the whole group, or individual chats.

We all just talked about how we’re feeling and what’s happening with our jobs.

Being able to see video of my friends in their homes was so uplifting.

And then we got to business and prayed the Rosary with the Luminous Mysteries– because wanted to focus on the positive in this heavy time, especially considering the deep hit the economy is taking with so many businesses closing or reducing hours and services.

It was very well organized, and Jeanna gave us all a screen shot of the Rosary guide we should all follow, since there are different prayers used and small variances. There’s more than one way to pray a Rosary.

We all started praying together and I could hear them all so clearly. I felt emotional and almost cried as we began. Closing my eyes, it felt like we were all in the room together.

It was exactly what I needed.

I had laughed when I saw the screen shot Erica sent us of the Zoom invitation we would all be getting and the link we’d need to click in to join.

It was labeled, “Bible Study Squad.”

I laughed and felt so lucky! I have some faithful, innovative, hilarious girlfriends.

From Detachment to Acceptance: A Journey into the Need for Self-Quarantine

Note: I wrote this March 19. National events since then have not been included.

By Amee Bohrer

At 5:57 a.m. 14 of us were waiting outside my neighborhood grocery store to open March 19. Anxiety about not finding any ground beef to accompany the Hamburger Helper I bought whilst panic shopping March 18 left me unable to sleep. I had finally began to feel afraid myself of what COVID-19 means for my future. For the past week I had been continually grocery shopping in spurts, but now I wanted to round up the few practical essentials I still needed– dish wash soap, dryer sheets– and stay at home.
As the store opened at 6 am., the carts were all aligned to the left. It was beautiful and quiet.
I swiped my cart handle with the sanitary wipes provided by the store.
We all dashed forward with our carts resolutely, clearly having an agenda of which items to grab first.
In the deli section, a petite woman loaded up half her cart with meat only, wearing latex gloves. I struggled to determine how much meat I truly needed and how much I could spend to have enough left for the other products on my list.
“You need help?” an employee asked me. But only I could answer that question, after several minutes.
Hot dogs were on sale two for $5, but there were no buns when I made it to the bread section next. So I put them back and grudgingly spent more than I had wanted.
Just the week prior, I had been unbothered. Then the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the dying of the Chicago River green was canceled and I knew things were getting worse. As a longtime former Illinois resident I know what a strong tradition that is and if that’s changing, it’s certainly unlucky.
Yet March 14 I had gone to a party with friends for “Fake Patty’s Day,” and it was all still normal. Sedgwick County had banned gatherings of 250 or more, but our group is not that big. We had a “Quarantine Playlist” going and wore as much obnoxious green as possible. We hugged and took pictures. On March 15 I attended Mass and was dismayed to see only a smattering of the faithful. There was no holy water, no altar boys helping the priest, no ushers. No Sign of Peace. Then all Masses are canceled in Diocese of Wichita indefinitely.
Next, Governor Laura Kelly mandated the school year end for all schools k-12 March 17. Classes will continue, but teachers will now teach remotely to avoid exposing students, parents and staff. Whoa.
Subsequently restaurants closed nationwide or reduced to drive-thru and curbside only. Major artists canceled entire concert tours.
People are wearing masks vigilantly. Customers at my work came in searching for thermometers and hand sanitizer.
President Trump declared a state of national emergency at a White House press conference on March 16, limiting social gatherings to 10 people or less.
Now I’m glad I attended those events last week because there’s no ignoring that for now, this *is our new “normal.” We are now making plans to have online joint Netflix Party movie sessions.
I can’t hug my father, who I normally see several times a week. Luckily, we talk on the phone anyway.
I greet my social circle daily via status update, everyone becoming a reporter on social media of the breaking news and how it’s disrupting the careers and routines they’ve cherished. Our psyches are becoming exposed as we witness which of our family and friends are coping and which are in rampant denial. Some stay home, some insist on traveling.
Since I work retail, there is no working remotely. But I’m just grateful to still have a job.
My initial amused detachment has eroded. I have come to acceptance.
As much as I intensely dislike having to ignore my impulses to go into the community or making plans with my family and friends, I know that self-quarantine when not working is the right thing to do.
At least give it a try. Please, don’t ignore it, even if you’re in prime health and youth.
I feel grateful to live in Kansas, where the government is working pro-actively to protect us.
When the virus has been contained and people are recovering sufficiently, we will become ecstatic for the most mundane aspects of human interaction. We will embrace unabashedly, go to the movies, see our favorite bands play again! Crowds will blossom all over the country at house parties and public places we considered landmarks of our daily lives prior to this pandemic.
Until then, I’ll be making phone calls and cooking meals at home.

Mass in the Time of Corona

I attended Mass tonight at Blessed Sacrament, grateful that I still could.

The Diocese of Wichita sent an e-mail informing us that while we are pardoned from obligation to go to Mass, it will still be available to us. And after hearing about cancellations in Chicago and Joliet, where I moved from, I am so grateful.

I can’t imagine a more lonely world than knowing even God’s House is empty and that we are barred from visiting Him there.

I take Mass for granted. Not today.

There were no altar boys. No ushers. Only one Eucharistic Minister.

No holy water. No wine. No Sign of Peace, though that was already in effect.

Today it certainly felt different. But I was gratified that some of the faithful wanted to gather, in God’s House.

I did a little grocery shopping first, so was late. But it was sad indeed. Very sparse compared to usual. Normally if you’re late there are a few spots but they are awkward to get to and so most people just hang out at the side entrance or in the back, standing.

Tonight the priest gave us a message of hope in his Homily. He said God is there with us, and for us. To let Him be the rock in this storm. He could have taken it in a different direction– one of guilt and punishment.

I recognized a friend with his girlfriend, so I went to say hello after. I kept more distance than I normally would. He said that even during the Plague, he heard they hadn’t canceled Mass or the obligation to it.

As a Catholic, you are reminded of sin often. I joked that never in my life did I imagine I would be told it’s okay to not go to Mass! Especially in an official e-mail from my Diocese.

Quarantine is happening, nationwide.  In Illinois, bars and restaurants will be closed by 9 p.m. tomorrow to dine-in customers, as declared by the Governor.

Now any gatherings of 50 or more are supposed to be canceled for the next 8 weeks.

Until today, I was pretty logical and untroubled by all this. Last night I was with my family and then friends for a “Fake Patty’s Day” party.

But on my way out, I thanked the priest. I told him I appreciated his positive Homily.

And I drove home and unloaded my groceries.

A Boy Named Maverick

I’ve never been the “neighborly” type. I usually am a private woman when it comes to my dwellings, and I like to keep to myself. I’m not the type to invite my neighbors over for dinner, and I don’t make small talk. Rarely, I might wave. But not usually. I’m pretty much wholly uninterested in knowing who lives around me.

I always thought this meant I was kind of an a-hole neighbor. Or just awkward.

But right now I’m house sitting for my cousins and they live in a large home in a safe, upper-middle class neighborhood. Officially I’m staying there to take care of their dog and cat, to make sure they stay on a schedule with their feedings, medicine, and bathroom needs. To take Jackie, the dog, on daily walks. She’s an elderly Springer Spaniel. To cuddle Pepper, the cat, so she doesn’t feel lonely. I’ve been there since Monday, so I’m just starting to feel comfortable. I’ve got another week.

Today the weather was just undeniably pleasant. After I returned home from Mass and eating lunch after with friends, I let Jackie out to poddy and spied two of their neighbors outside in their driveways. One has a Labradoodle. The other was a father with three kids playing — he was keeping watch. The middle child, a boy, waved at me. I  brought Jackie over to him, since they are familiar with the dog obviously.

It was so much easier! The dog broke the ice.

And I discovered I’m not the a-hole I thought I was. It’s an entirely different atmosphere when you’re in a cul-de-sac, and everyone lives in a home. First of all, you know at the least these people are home-owners and have achieved basic stability.  You feel a little safer. My apartment complex is in a good, safe area also–  but it’s people just passing on the sidewalk to get where they’re going. They’re walking their dogs, going to the laundromat, or hurrying to and fro their vehicles. You’d have to go out of your way to start a conversation. Also, some people are still sketchy. You don’t necessarily want to know everyone who passes by.

Today, I introduced myself to the father and the man with the Labradoodle. I talked with the kids, who all came up and introduced themselves to me. I explained who I am and that I’m related to the owners of the home I’m watching. It was so natural to chat. There was space. There was nice weather. There were two dogs, who loved playing together!

The big sister, whose nickname is “Juju,” was riding in her garage on a hover board. I was impressed and asked her about it. Her middle brother, whose name I am spacing on, was impressed that I knew what a hover board is! He was the one who recognized Jackie and initially waved to me, starting the conversation. Most times I probably would have waved back and gone inside without a word.

But having a dog, I didn’t have to worry about what to say.

And then I saw a one-year-old, the youngest, and asked the father his name: Maverick.

I laughed.

“You and your wife big “Top Gun” fans?” He nodded and laughed too. “Or is it the Mel Gibson movie?”

“That is one lucky kid!” I said. And already, this kid is cool. He’s wearing a blue helmet, striding around with his head tipped back, chugging a small can of Dr. Pepper. He’s got some snot happening, and is utterly unconcerned.

The whole family was just charming. The man next door with the Labradoodle, too.

Maybe this week, I’ll practice this whole “neighborly” thing. Say hi and wave when I see them. Stop and chat if I’m not in a rush. It would be nice to be a little more familiar when I come over for family events in the future.

I can imagine myself living this life. Owning a home. Living in a neighborhood like this. Actually interacting with and maybe even befriending my neighbors.

I’m trying on the suburban life. And I’m liking it.

Online Dating Adventures: Must Love God and maybe Two-Stepping!

I’ve been on two dates this week.  Two different men. I’m looking for long-term compatibility, so I want to be sure before I commit to someone in a relationship.

I learned so much from both.

Tuesday I went ice skating as a first date. But honestly, I left after 20 minutes. New record! That’s all the details I will give– suffice to say I felt no attraction or compatibility.

Wednesday I went on a second date for dinner. And although on paper we were a 95 percent match, it was clear to me we had nothing to sustain a relationship. He was sweet, cute, stylish. Well- established with both a home and an SUV. A great career. He seemed to be a wonderful father. But we had honestly spent most of our first date nearly arguing– we had so little in common. I had tried to end the date then but he asked me that we both give each other “the benefit of the doubt”– especially about one key issue: religion. He suggested we exchange phone numbers. Something in me softened. I relented. I wanted to know him. We texted the next few days, and he sent me cute and funny GIFS. He was available and eager to see me. All wonderful things.

On his profile he had listed himself as “other religion”– but identified himself as Atheist in person on the first date. I reasoned that he might be respectful and somehow there was a middle ground. Also, we are both passionate Democrats and I wanted to believe somehow that might supersede the chasm between us theologically. How wonderful would it be to share THAT with someone in this overwhelmingly RED state of Kansas?! But I need to learn to just draw a hard line with religion. Sometimes I rationalize it because I find someone charming and a relationship seems like such a comforting idea. I begin to question choosing to be single because I want a Catholic husband. Do I really need it? But the bigger problem is, I could never live with a man who fundamentally disrespects such a vital aspect of my identity. I’ve already endured the condescending remarks. I want someone to be WITH me at Mass. Sitting next to me, kneeling and receiving Holy Communion. I could MAYBE attempt an inter-faith relationship, if they were willing to go with me. Or at least with someone who BELIEVES or is open to converting. But deep in my heart, I want another Catholic. Because it’s not just about sharing that aspect of our lives, but that I want a partner who will help me grow in MY faith. Who has prayed for a wife, who has prayed to one day meet me– just as I have prayed for him.

And there was more. He promised he would never even try two-stepping or line dancing. He said “If dancing is important to you, I will disappoint you.” He absolutely loathed everything about country and Western culture. The fashion, the music. He complained that cowboys only reinforced “toxic masculinity” and “Alpha males.” He said he could do a little slow dancing, but that’s it. I was shocked to find THAT was important to me! In the year since I’ve moved back to Kansas, I’ve been quite the slow learner on the dance floor– but I still get out there and have fun with my friends. I try, and they are good sports and lead me and show me the steps and just laugh and appreciate that I try at all. It’s something our group of friends does on the regular. I imagined giving that up to spend time with him. I imagined him going out with us, but not dancing with me– and that he would just be bored anyway. I’ve been in a relationship before with a non-dancer. I was miserable. I’m the type of woman who dances till I’m out of breath at weddings.

Dancing as a requirement may seem trivial. But it’s a deeper issue. I want someone with enough confidence to go out there and make a fool of himself to amuse his friends. Who just wants to have fun and doesn’t care if he’s “good” at it or not. Who find dancing romantic and would think nothing of grabbing me and pulling me close to make me laugh and show his affection toward me. Who sees that dancing is a wonderful way to connect with people and spend time together– you get to know people better out there! People change on the dance floor. They lose their inhibitions. They flirt. They fall down. We help each other back up. We shout out lyrics. We dance badly– and laugh about it together. We take lots of selfies and group pictures! Dancing together is a casual and instant way to bond with someone. It makes memories that you keep forever. Why else would this activity be the penultimate event of nearly every wedding?? Because it’s awesome. That’s why.

I thought because I was so “bad” at line dancing and two-stepping, that I didn’t care about it much. But now I resolve to dance more, dance with more partners, so that I can learn and become more confident myself. Luckily the male friends in our posse are all pretty strong leaders and happy to be patient with rhythm-challenged dancers like me. It’s very difficult for me to pick up choreographed steps– I need A LOT of repetition! I prefer to just let go and improvise. But I ADORE country music, country life, and I even have a pink cowgirl hat. That’s a big part of why I moved to Kansas at all. My family are farmers, hello!! I’m not just a cradle Catholic anymore. I’m now a legit Kansas woman who appreciates that, as Kip Moore sings, “There’s Something ‘Bout a Truck.”

He hated selfies and taking pictures.  He would never karaoke. He felt disdain for social media– “It’s not real,” he said. Sure, it’s kind of dumb. But it’s also FUN. Why such a sourpuss? I like sharing my life and taking pictures of my friends and yes, myself! It organizes my social network. I did delete my facebook account for two months in 2012. But I went back after two months— because I realized I had nothing to prove and it was okay if I enjoyed it.

I just felt like someone let the air out of my balloon. So I told him it won’t work tonight. He was a bit arrogant, but wished me well. I did, too. And now I feel better.

I’m in no rush. I’m nearly 40.

I’m DONE trying to force a relationship. The good ones I’ve enjoyed have happened easily. The chemistry is as strong as the friendship. We fall together. We evolve.

And it will happen again when the time is right. Until then, I’ll go on dates sometimes. But it’s not a major priority.

I’m living my life. I’m honestly happy for the most part. I’m excited about 2020!

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!

 

 

 

 

Best Confession Ever: I Laughed, I Cried, I High-Fived!

Friday night to Saturday afternoon I attended my first Catholic retreat since moving to Kansas, and my first TRUE retreat since college. It was groundbreaking for me.

I chose to go because it was based on the Blessed Mother, and I have a devotion to her. And also because I thought it would be a wonderful way to meet some new Catholic friends, as it was hosted a local group for Catholic singles in the their 20’s and 30’s.  I already had some friends in it, who invited me and encouraged me to attend. It was meticulously and lovingly planned with a good balance of themed talks, group worship times such as Adoration and Mass, and also opportunities to break into small group discussions and prayers. Overnight accommodations and meals were included.

But Friday night was the most pivotal time for me. During Adoration, we could sign up for Confession if we chose. Three priests were available. It was also our choice between the traditional screen or face-to-face. I chose face-to-face and didn’t need to wait long. Maybe 20 minutes.

I was surprised to find a young, hip priest. Probably younger than me. He wore his red hair cut short and a long beard, along with a black hoodie with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows. He had on black sneakers to match his uniform, but no visible tattoos. He looked like someone I might be friends with if I met him somewhere else. He was in no hurry. He allowed me to talk a bit and then asked some questions, such as which sins I wanted forgiven. There was no judgement in his eyes or voice. He then asked WHO I wanted to forgive and I surprised myself when I named someone I had been struggling with a lot of resentment towards. I had no idea that apparently deep down, this anger at that person bothers me and I wanted to let it go. He then asked again and I was even more shocked to name… myself.

But it was clear he had expected this answer, and maybe had been gently leading me toward it. I’ve always been someone who enjoys the Sacrament and ritual of Confession. But this year if I’m honest, I’ve been disappointed because I missed out on it when I traditionally go, during December near Christmas. I moved from Illinois back home to Kansas with my parents in early November and at first we stayed with a cousin. Then about five weeks later, we moved into the new home they closed on, in the same city. So December was about unloading and unpacking, and my parents needed a lot of my help. I had abandoned my plans for Confession when they asked for my help and I never made it up at a different parish.

But now here was the opportunity to do that.

This priest listened with the patience and focus of someone much older. But especially, the  way he heard my confession belied how much he cherishes his job and his personal connection with Jesus. I’m used to a few questions, maybe a few “Mmm-hmmms,” and ultimately a “Go in peace, my child,” with the spiritual prescription of how many prayers will restore my soul. A lot of times I’ve left feeling that I wanted something more, wishing the priest had talked to me. But I always reminded myself that I had no idea how many people they were listening to and that my expectations were too high.

This priest also spoke softly and sparingly.  But like Silent Bob, the words he did choose were profound. Somehow I found myself laughing, most likely at my own astonishment that I was enjoying this so much much. Then I cried, after I forgave the person I named and myself. The relief was instant and total.

It was the first time that I felt a deeper meaning during Confession. I realized that through this priest, I felt the grace and love and holy presence of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

At the end he priest raised both hands above his head to bless me. And I first I raised mine too. Then he spoke, and I lowered my head and hands and surrendered all the feelings I had been carrying. Doubt, anxiety, depression, shame, envy, resentment.

He verbally released the “spirit” of several of these feelings. And I felt lighter.

Then I looked up and admitted with a joke,

“I thought at first you were going to high-five me!”

Of course then *he laughed, and we DID actually high-five overhead with both hands. Like we were teammates who had just played a great game together and were sharing the victory. Which, I suppose, we kind of did. Confession is a team effort.

I was lucky to have a priest who allowed me to feel safe in vulnerability and who cared enough to respond in detail to several things I shared. That is special. So of course, I asked which parish he serves and what his name was. I have been visiting several area parishes trying to find my *home, but there are so many! I will now make a point to attend a Mass there and seek him out next time I need to confess.

It was like having coffee with a friend who knows you well. Who has compassion for you but also gently calls you out and points you toward self-awareness.

I felt healed, full of hope. It was like the best runner’s high ever, only in my heart.

I’ve always felt more comfortable with Mary, but held Jesus at somewhat of a distance. Now, I feel open to the possibility of knowing Him more. What if I could replicate that feeling I had in Confession– directly with Jesus? It would take some work and time.

But oh, would it be worth it.

And quickly, I also had a wonderful moment of connection Friday night before that.

I met a new friend with electric blue hair and we talked non-stop! I noticed a beautiful navy prayer veil with her things, since she was sitting next to me at a table. I asked about it, having read about them online and how prayer veils were making a comeback with many modern women. She was happy with the compliment and asked if I wanted to try an extra one she had brought with her? It was in her room and she offered to get it and let me wear it to Adoration.

It was a white infinity style veil and she even had a little metal comb to fasten it to my hair. Walking to Adoration and then Confession wearing it, I felt something extra. I loved that my first opportunity to pray with one was an offer of friendship. I had wondered about buying one for myself and this showed me that it is absolutely something I want to do. I felt even more connected to the Blessed Mother, adorned in her beautiful veil.

What gifts I received this 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.