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.

That’s Aight With Me

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

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

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

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

It’s okay to like yourself!

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

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

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

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

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

I’m thinking out loud.

By being myself, I can’t lose!

And I Went Home

I went out tonight, briefly. 

I went to a church picnic, but it was ending. Then I went to see a band, but they were delayed in starting. 

One person was complaining about how she was sick but was staying out anyway though she had to work at 8 a.m. Kept coughing. “Go home and sleep! I said. “You should take care of yourself.” She laughed and went back to coughing. 

Another woman walked up and declared, “I need a girl to make out with.” I looked down– not my scene. She laughed at my reaction and walked off, looking for a new target. Everyone was dressed sexy and rock and roll, and I’m standing there in my long skirt with boots and 3/4 sleeve top like a librarian! I had finished my cherry coke and didn’t feel like ordering another one.

I just felt old. It was hot, dark, boring. 

I glanced at the set list and realized, I’m not up to standing crushed against the stage anyway. I’ve got Mass in the morning– I was more excited about that! 

And I left, and felt relief. 

Then I rented “Beaches.”  Still one of my favorite movies. It’s about half-way through, and I pretty much can recite much of it by heart.

And now I’m blogging from my place in the quiet, enjoying my own company.

Perfect Saturday night. 🙂 

BLOGGING in the Void: 200 Followers!!

I’m at TWO HUNDRED FOLLOWERS!!*Doing Bloggy dance!* 

First: THANK YOU!

I’m starting to feel like a marathon runner hitting my stride. Still going since 2011, though I almost deleted this! I stopped and realized that was a mistake– that it wouldn’t solve anything to delete the archives. That I didn’t want to give this up.

This blog is certainly an evolution. And a testament to my stubbornness.

A quiet refusal to give up my identity as a writer. A way to publish on my own terms. I’ve accumulated readers and followers without promotion. I don’t want to be one of those obnoxious people who talks to everyone I meet about my blog. 

It’s also a slow and measured transition to accepting the pitfalls of writing. There’s danger as well as glory. 

It’s changed the way people treat me. Some pitch me story ideas or clearly suck up to me because they see me as a PR opportunity, a convenient friend who may get them some publicity. I’ve learned to recognize these sycophants and retain my integrity. 

I’ve had some rude awakenings in refusing to cave on this, but it’s been worth it. I always find my true friends. 

I’ve been surprised and grateful for friends and family who staked their devotion and support by becoming subscribers and commenters. I’ve learned that people I never imagined are reading this– people to whom I didn’t consider myself close and who may not comment, but they would contact me individually, a tremendous comfort.

I’ve learned to not be intimidated by who may or may not be reading this. Or worried about its effect on my job prospects. Or to be bothered by subscribers who I told I wanted to detach from, who are still reading for reasons I don’t understand. They stopped commenting, but they continue reading, and I’ll never know if it’s because they enjoy my writing that much, or they just want to keep tabs on me.

It no longer matters. I’ve learned to keep living my life and moving forward. I’ve dealt with stalkers. I’ve dealt with danger in my personal life from those who may have used things I’ve posted to gain my trust and then exploit it. 

I’ve learned to trust others less, and myself more. I’ve learned not to be silenced. 

This blog as brought a shocking assortment of old acquaintances back into my life. Some which I embrace, others which I denied. But regardless, it’s given me awareness that more people remember me than I would have assumed.

Lately I’ve been thinking, why am I still doing this? 

And I realized it’s not for the feedback– although I enjoy it! Keep those likes, comments and shares coming. It’s not for notoriety, either. In fact, I cherish my privacy– my fundamental conflict with writing remains.

I blog because writing is powerful. Whatever changes occur in my life, this blog is mine. I enjoy the conversations I sometimes have with people because of it. I enjoy complimenting my friends when I feel they deserve it, preserving memories and details of my life. 

At it’s most basic, this blog is me declaring myself. Putting it all out there into the universe. Connecting with other writers, interacting with readers, connecting with what I need to say. 

It’s my choice to be heard. 

When Being Single is Your Default Setting

A lot of people call me independent and strong.

And I’ve become those things out of necessity– like all people in these categories.

But the tough part is when someone wants me to let them in. I’ve been single so long, my first instinct is always to slam the door. Then I feel relief in my solitude.

And that’s because in my past I have loved, and been loved, deeply. I have high expectations for a relationship now because I refuse to settle for less than I enjoyed in the past. Once someone treats you really well, you can’t accept less.

I’ve dated the past few years– but nothing has gotten serious and exclusive. There’s always a part of myself that I hold back.

I’m great at protecting myself. No one is better at being single than I am!

But truly I want what everyone wants– to let down the gate. To relax. To be cherished. To have someone I can rely on, check in with, and be accountable to as well, every day.

Being in a relationship means letting go– giving someone the power to hurt you, but trusting them not to do it. Or maybe it means accepting that the very nature of love entails disappointment, because everyone is human. But deep down, you know it would be more of a disappointment to forfeit knowing THIS person. You accept the risk.

I trust my ability to judge compatibility and character.

The magical thing about love is that it keeps drawing you deeper. The curiosity about each other doesn’t end. The more you learn, the harder you fall. They surprise you when you don’t expect it, and when you need it most but were afraid to admit it. The more they open up about insecurities and their past, the more you understand and respect them for the journey they’ve taken on. The more you feel absolutely giddy to be CHOSEN by them.

Most of all, being in a relationship means trusting YOURSELF. Trusting that you chose the right partner, that you are both available and willing to invest in a future together. And it means accepting that you have power to hurt someone else, should issues come up that aren’t able to be resolved and you break-up. It means respecting your partner’s choice to take that risk of being hurt by you, even if you’re afraid. It means accepting that you can’t control the outcome or how long it might last– but that you both want to sign up for the adventure together, nonetheless.

And I’d rather be single than with the wrong man.

I no longer believe in “timing.”

Love is a conscious, repeated choice you make together. It has nothing to do with timing, and everything to do with devotion and compromise. A person who truly loves you will accept your faults and recognize that your positive qualities more than balance them out. They will see the light in you and want to help you shine brighter. They give you a sense of security, because you know you can rely on their feelings for you, despite whatever imperfections they may carry.

Recently I briefly dated someone, but we were exclusive from the first time we talked. He messaged me via online dating and had listed himself as “strictly monogamous,” which was a huge attraction for me after dealing with other ambivalent men prior. It felt great to not have to worry about him pursuing others, so I could just get to know him without any pressure or insecurity.

But dating him taught me that commitment doesn’t equal intimacy. You can be exclusive with someone you respect, without any major conflicts: but that closeness is either there or it’s not. I need a good banter. I need someone who makes me feel like a woman, but also treats me with dignity.

There was nothing “wrong” with him, or me. It just wasn’t there.

I felt comfortable with him, sure. We held hands and both liked PDA, which was great. It felt really good to have a man so proud to be seen with me, who liked to take pictures together and who said cute little things. But the more we got to know each other, the less we had to talk about. Our phone conversations were getting more strained.

Emotional, verbal intimacy is the most important thing for me. Without that, nothing else matters or will stand the test of time. A person’s body, job and circumstances will change. But their imagination, they way they think, the way they see and GET you– those things never change.

I felt we had both genuinely tried our best.

And after almost a month, I realized that we didn’t have enough between us to sustain a relationship– especially with radically different schedules and living circa 50 miles apart. Some people would say I’m really jumping the gun to make a decision to move on so fast. But truly, it’s about mutual respect. I wasn’t going to lead him on, so I set us both free. I’ve never been one to date someone just because I’m lonely, or because they want to take me out and I want a free dinner. If I choose to commit, or want to commit to someone, it’s only because I’m attracted by HIM. It’s not because I want something from him, but because I want to give something to him: my time, my affection, my promise of fidelity. I’m attracted by energy– something about that man draws me in and makes me want to spend time with him and be in his life. Usually I find myself very attracted by his words and the way he expresses himself. When I really like a man, I want to write down what he says often– I find him infinitely “quotable.” Everything I learn about him fascinates me, even the mundane. I want to note small details in my journal about what I learn about him, and write about our dates. I save things he gives me. I write poems. I’m a total sap.

More than anything, I develop a deep admiration for him and feel he inspires me to be my best self and to continually grow.

And though I felt sad to end it, I knew it was the only choice. We had a very civil break-up. We talked about what we would miss, what we could have done better and what we enjoyed about each other. And we haven’t talked since– both of us are looking for a serious relationship and respect each other’s need to move on. I haven’t cried since or felt bad about it, and I feel ACTUAL closure for the first time. But it was interesting that I got to know more about him and how he felt about me in that break-up conversation than I had the entire time we dated. What is it about having the pressure of a relationship relieved that frees us to be more honest about our feelings?

But ultimately, I feel good about it. I got to know someone, and we ended it peacefully and without a power struggle. That was a milestone for me– there was no egos clashing. He respected my feelings and agreed that it wasn’t happening for us. We don’t feel the need to hang on and be friends. It was nice to not feel insecure about my decision– to be supported in it.

I realized that although I do want a relationship, I’m not in a rush about it.

And who knows what’s next? But I feel good about my journey.

I’m going somewhere good.

Greek Dancing with Nico: My Favorite Little Boy

I’m Catholic, German and Irish, but I’ve got the soul of a Greek Orthodox woman! I’m loud, I’m a big hugger, I have big hair, and I LOVE DANCING. I love eating meat. I love PEOPLE. Before I was sober, my shot of choice was Metaxa– I loved the reactions on people’s faces when they tried it the first time.

I stopped by the Greek Fest in Joliet tonight, to see my friend Catt- who was working.
I saw her son, Nico, who is two and will be turning three next month, running amuck and joined him. We were in a pavilion and she was working the bar. Her husband, Vic, was watching him.

Nico is the most friendly little child I’ve ever met. He’s got curly light brown hair and pale skin and bright blue eyes with killer lashes. He just exudes love. And that’s because he has two parents who are very close to their families, Greek and Italian. They have a strong marriage– they are best friends. They talk all day long. They are a team. Nico is always with his family, getting plenty of cuddles and attention and supervision.

And WOW, does Nico like to move around! I tried to take pictures but gave up because he moves so fast every picture I took is blurry. I decided to forget about pictures and just enjoy keeping up with him.

I tell you, playing with kids is the best exercise imaginable. I worked tonight and I was tired, I didn’t think I’d stay long. But once I saw Nico, all my energy returned. We were inseparable.

First, we just ran back and forth, racing and yelling with our arms up. Then, we tried Greek dancing. We danced together, and with a little girl and her mom. I picked him up, and we kind of slow danced– he held his right arm out and grabbed mine. I just followed him wherever he went, but made sure he was safe.

He’s so confident!!

But my favorite part was when we just went off together and hung out on the grass. Catt and Vic let us because they trust me. They know I would never let anything happen to him, and when he’s with me, he’s safe. We didn’t go far– I stayed where they could see us. He wanted to sit down. So I convinced him it’d be better to sit down in the grass– over by a tree. And he just followed my lead, and it was such a natural interaction.

I’m trying to write before I forget the best parts!

But we laid in the grass and looked at the sky. I raised one leg, he raised his. We made a game out of it. I put up both my legs, then he did. He left one up, I did the same thing. We were just imitating each other.

Then we sat up, and I picked him up and we looked at the tree. I showed him the leaves, and he reached out and touched them. And he knew that his shirt was blue, and I asked him what color mine was ? Green. He knew that he’s a guy, and I’m a girl. He knew about the sky.

I was just in awe.

And then we got up and I started just crawling forward. And I growled, and he growled. He followed next to me, and he kept up with me!

And he had this little yellow toy, a tiny little man. Maybe an astronaut? I’m not sure what he was, but I noticed he was gone. I think I had referred to the toy as his “guy,” earlier– he has a great, quick, memory.

“Where’s your guy?” I said. And it was dark, but we went through the grass, retracing our steps. “My guy!”

And it wasn’t long before we passed a few benches and there the toy was, sitting on a bench. Nico picked him up and took him with him in his tiny hand.

I was so happy he hadn’t lost his little toy.

I told him we had to go back because I was tired and had to leave.

“No!” he said. He looked sad.

My heart felt bigger than the moon!

I picked him up and took him back to his dad, Vic. Nico was saying goodbye to the girls– all the girls wanted a kiss from Nico. They were friends of Catt’s, people who know the family and who were also volunteering. He stood above them all, tall– he knew his power. He kissed them and they all said goodbye.

Catt was finished, and they walked with me as a family to the parking lot.

An older woman was driving a golf cart just ahead of us.

Nico is so smart– he ran and jumped on the back ledge. He wasn’t afraid. Catt was right behind him and laughed at his ingenuity. The woman was driving slow, of course.

Nico saw a shortcut to walking, and he took it!

Vic was looking around for a moment, “Where’s Nico?” We pointed and Vic turned and saw his son right there and was amused at his confidence.

The woman slowed down and stopped, and Nico climbed over to the seat. Catt encouraged him, waving and smiling. The woman driving was positively charmed.

Nico does that– he just enchants people with his energy, his happiness, his physical affection.

We reached my car and I said goodbye to them all with hugs. They asked Nico to give me a kiss, and I squatted down, offering my cheek. Not pressuring him.

But Nico went out of his WAY to kiss me on the lips! It just fit into my heart.

“That’s the most romantic thing that’s happened to me in months!” I said.

And it’s true.

That’s why children are so pure. They have no agenda. They just LOVE you. They accept you, they notice your feelings, they’re in tune with what’s around them. They express themselves with their whole bodies.

God bless that little boy. I don’t see him often, but when I do, he runs to me. As if I’m family! He remembers me. He singles me out, when so many people wanna play with him. He’s sad when I need to leave. He’s just so easy to be with– my little buddy.

Catt and I have always been sisters, since we met. She’s three years younger than me, but we are both silly and loud and have a crazed imagination. That’s what bonds us— making up silly things together– we call it “Vision.” It’s always fun when we get together, and she’s always easy to talk to. She never tells anything I tell her. She’s sentimental. We both have dark hair and eyes– more than any of my other friends, people have often asked if we’re sisters.

And we are! But I have to say, Nico is the best “Vision” she’s ever come up with.

And because of him, I’ll sleep wonderful tonight. Because I ran hard, laughed, WROTE  and now I’m absolutely exhausted!

Falling in Love (Again) with Books

It’s been months since I gave in.

My obsession has always been a harmless one– books.

I made a conscious choice to go out more, interact more with people– to not hole up so much with books. And I’ve done that, and it’s been healing and needed. To stop recording everything compulsively in my journal, to not write so many poems. To forget about fiction.

At a certain point, life is easier if you forget about dreams. I’ve got a steady job, I’m happily rooted in my hometown. I work for a great company, which I’m proud to represent. My boss tells me often I’m doing great, and I can bond easily with my clients and they thank me often for helping them find exactly what they need.

But in other aspects, my life has become so routine that it just hurts. That’s a by-product of becoming a Thirtysomething, I know it’s not a unique predicament. Most of my friends feel that way as well, especially if they’re married with children. Of course, they feel privileged to have the opportunities and stability they’ve achieved– but everyone needs a creative outlet.

Everyone needs to save a little piece of themselves, untouched by obligation or family.

I substituted books for movies. And I’ll always love them! But I can feel myself losing my intelligence– my brain is stagnating. My vocabulary is diminishing. I’ve got to keep myself growing, especially since right now taking classes is not an option and I don’t know if it ever will be again. Most likely, no. I was fortunate to get an undergrad but my schedule and finances have not allowed for me to pursue grad school.

But recently, I dated a man from Chicago, Jonathan. And one of the main things that drew us together was a shared love of literature. However, it turned out we didn’t actually have that much in common. He loved critical essays and philosophy, I dig fiction. He was very sincere, and a writer himself. But he was intellectual, not emotional. It’s rare that I feel insecure when talking about literature or reading in general– that’s always been my getaway. My undergrad is in journalism. But I could tell he was struggling to connect with me and I got tired of missing his references. When he came to my apartment, he noticed a collection of Flannery O’Connor short stories and his eyes glowed. Looking up at me, he said, “This might be the best collection of short stories, EVER!” But I just felt like a fraud, because my friend’s mother loaned it to me since she’s a Catholic author. I hadn’t gotten into it yet. I smiled awkwardly, and thought he tried not to show it, there was clear disappointment.

Everyone’s got books they haven’t read– but it sucks when that’s the one your date zeroes in on with such excitement. Not one other book I had elicited a comment??

On our first date, he drove to Joliet and I took him to a local bookstore– which he loved. And I thought it was sweet that he bought me not one, but TWO books: “Middlesex,” by Jeffrey Eugenides, because I hadn’t read it and he wanted to get something. It didn’t look like my kind of novel but it was such a surprising and promising gesture, I accepted. And then I had wanted to get Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway,” for myself– a novel I’d been wanting to read for quite awhile, and he surprised me at the check-out counter by getting it for me.

But I tried getting into “Middlesex,” and I just can’t. I may try it again, but it’s not grabbing me. I’m currently reading “The Fault in Our Stars,” WAY late– because I just wanted something simple and emotional. Something that’s not complicated or literary– just a love story, because I liked the movie. And although I’m ambivalent about Augustus Waters, the more I read the more I’m loving Hazel Grace. Reading a book is a lot like a relationship. Everyone has a different reaction to each novel and its characters– but as more is revealed, you fall deeper into the lives of these characters. And it’s their flaws that makes you grateful they exist.

Next, I have something totally different lined up– “Jealousy: The Other Life of Catherine M.,” by Catherine Millet. Because who doesn’t love smut once in a while?

Right now, I’m not a monogamous reader. I’m flirting with several books- and they’re never jealous of the others. Only happy I return.

Last night, I stayed up late reading a book for the first time in months, it seems!

What an indulgence. I loved it so much, I’m doing it again tonight.

John Green and I have a thing, for sure.

But I’ll certainly have a date with Virginia Woolf.

And something curious is happening. My brain is cracking awake.

I’m daring to imagine. I’m beginning to Write again.

I love my friends, and my family is amazing.

But books make me happy. I’m a nerd, but not a snob. They’re legal and cheap.

And the more I read, the more ideas I get to Write.