Friendship and a 5K

This morning I woke up early and ran my fourth 5K! My friend Jen and I ran together. It was her first.

And I think it was my favorite one thus far.

Because neither of us cared about our time or being competitive.

We were just doing something to be healthy and to hang out together.

Plus, it’s sponsored by Guardian Angel Services, an organization both of us care about. We’re both in social work.

Jen and I have been friends since freshman year of high school– 1995. That’s 20 years! Holy cow.

The event was called Angels Against Abuse, and before we ran there was a speaker. She talked about how she found the strength to leave her ex-husband, the man who was “the father of my children.”  She repeated that last phrase emphatically– and I got it. Wouldn’t that be the primary arrow aimed at any woman trying to move on and escape an abusive relationship? Aren’t women always pressured to forgive all because they are expected to sacrifice not just her happiness, but her own well-being and safety in the name of keeping the family together? She said she knew if she didn’t leave, one day he would kill her. The most incisive moments for me was when she read excerpts of the love letters he would write her after the abuse. The promises, the begging, the hope he would spark that he really did want to treat her better. Her belief that *she* was the one who could heal him– he’d had a rough life.

She credited her counselor with helping her manufacture courage to start her own life with her children– safely. That counselor was her advocate at each court date, all the way until the divorce was finalized.

Afterward, they hugged. I was definitely tearing up.

And subsequently, the race stated.

There were times she needed to slow down and walk, and there were times that I did. And both of us are happy to comply and wait until the other was ready to run again. We’d talk a little.

And she was always positive, always fun!

It was equal. And both of us suggested running again to the other and encouraged each other to keep going.

We were also laughing because we got hit with not just substantial wind resistance, but rain!!

It was really coming at us! Luckily I had a hoodie from the event, but I was soaked. My toes were squishy in my shoes.

I joked that we were “hardcore” runners now! I I felt like such a bad ass.

Crossing the finish line was such an achievement!! I’ve never had to deal with so much weather in a run.

I did see my time at the end,  but didn’t make particular note of it.

Then we grabbed some refreshments and snacks, thanked each other for a great race,and went our separate ways.

Neither cared about how we ranked. We had achieved our goal!

And now it was time to go home and enjoy it.

In two weeks we have another 5K, in Chicago. Cannot wait!!

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Far from Home

My Uncle Jim just passed today…. cancer.

And I am heartbroken because I can’t be with my family right now. We’re from Kansas but live in Illinois.

And while I love my new job, I haven’t earned any time off and have barely been there a month– I can’t ask. Even if I could, I don’t have the cash to go by car or plane. My parents can’t either.

And you can send flowers and make a tearful phone call to express sympathy…. but nothing replaces a real hug. Or holding hands together at a service, and those wonderful stories people tell that breaks the tears into laughter.

So many times, we’ve been stuck here when family members passed on both sides– my dad’s and my mother’s.

I have an incredible, hardworking, loving, affectionate, close family. But I hardly know them beyond visits for a few hours or a weekends when we can make it back– usually every few years. Phone calls.

I got to talk to my Aunt Judy, his widow, for a few minutes tonight at least. I’m glad we got to cry a little bit together.

I feel terrible because Uncle Jim sent me so many cards over my lifetime– birthday cards and even money for years even into adulthood. He even wrote me letters for awhile. Usually it’s the woman in the family who maintains correspondence but he was the one who signed their cards.

He was a journalism major in college also, and a competitive runner in the senior Olympics. He was so happy I’d found running. Even when I would call to check on him and how chemo was going…. he barely mentioned himself. So humble. He was always “okay”– he wanted to know what was happening with me. He was honest about how he felt, but he had such a deep faith that he always had a positive attitude about it.

His Catholic faith was part of the bedrock of his life. He was a husband, father and business owner.

Uncle Jim, I miss you so.

Thankfully, a good cry usually makes me tired and I sleep well.

Please keep him and our family in your prayers.

My Dad’s First Selfie and Acceptance

At age 72 today, my father said, “Let’s take a selfie!”

I couldn’t help laughing.

“Aww Dad, you said ‘selfie!’ I’m so proud.”

Today we celebrated by going to Mass at his parish, then to brunch, and finally a father/daughter movie date– our tradition.

I then suggested we go into the back yard and take some pictures. We always take them in the house, with the worst lighting. They all look the same– in the kitchen or living room. It was nice to get outside with all the grass and the plants he and Diane meticulously plant and tend to each spring.

We took one of he and I, and then Diane and I.

Then the three of us.

Then it was Bohrer Family Selfie Time.

My Dad proclaimed, “I’ve got long arms!” The better to aim with, I suppose.

But he lacks the know-how otherwise. First, he’s a tall man. Six feet, broad shoulders. Huge hands. A jock for most of his young life. An Army veteran– officer.

Instead of wrapping his left arm around my step-mom and I, he held both hands outstretched in front– leaving Diane behind my Dad so you can only see the top of her hair and eyes. I’m in the bottom left corner, jutting just barely in frame.

We’re all making ridiculous faces, having no idea what we look like.

I think these two might be the best pictures we’ve ever taken! Stupid, random. All of us were tickled by the results.

Selfies have been a thing for so long now that most people find them annoying. But today, I reconnected with the wonderful silliness that made this behavior such a standard.

The delightful awkwardness of assembling into frame somehow– the comedy of viewing the results. Trying again, to see if you can get a better one with everyone in-frame and without some goofy expression.

It’s just about having fun. We’re not a family that insists the pictures be perfect.

We were all in a great mood today. I feel so abundantly lucky.

Earlier my Dad and I went to see “Jurassic World,” at the mall.  I couldn’t have had a better date!

And somehow, we matched! He was wearing a bright plaid shirt with many bright colors– blue, white, red, yellow. My dress was blue and white with large horizontal stripes– I felt very Eighties in it!

My father is the strong silent type. Like Silent Bob. But also with a gentle, dry sense of humor. His words are concise and meaningful. And I’m so lucky to be his daughter.

I found a wonderful peace this afternoon with him. An acceptance.

I am happy.

Also, my father is the reason I am single and happy. He’s always on my side.

Because my father is the man who has always and WILL always stand by me. My father’s love is unfaltering, always steady. When he makes a promise, he keeps it. When I call, he answers– if only to tell me he can’t talk right then. On the rare occasions he doesn’t, he will usually text or call me back within a short times pan. He is always eager to spend time with me, even if it’s just to help me fix something. My father shows his love most through acts of service. He helps me any way he can, when I accept it. Sometimes I don’t. But what I’ve learned is that sometimes being a good daughter means having the humility to accept the help my father willingly offers. Not always. But today for example. I mentioned this week that I don’t have a can opener (I know, ridiculous!) and borrowed one from them. My practical father noted the information and today presented me with that item.

Sure, I could refuse it and buy my own can-opener. But it made him happy to give me one.

And I’m happy he cares and pays attention to little details like that.

So today was a wonderful day with my favorite person.

Order My Steps

Mass today was, again, wonderful!

I woke up late but still made it on time. Thankfully I had my ensemble laid out before I went to bed.

I’ve only been in this choir less than a month, but already I’m feeling such a part of it!!

And I discovered a bonus— when it’s a little windy, choir robes keep you warm.

I feel so much more engaged with Mass. I never realized before how many songs we actually sing. It’s a hustle to keep up with them all, and I love it! I still need my book and sheet lyrics for most, but the other members assured me it took all of them awhile to get it, too.

Everyone is so welcoming and laid-back. So many smiles and laughter. But what’s most amazing is that they’re not cliquey. They greet me with the same warmth as they do other parishioners they’ve known for years.

I’m beginning to open up a little more each week. People are beginning to call me by name and I’m slowly learning theirs, too. That’s one reason I love that we have a small parish. It’s mostly the same people each week. That stability really does make a difference.

Our big song today was “Order My Steps,” by Glenn Burleigh.

And today I noticed people so into the music that they stood up, hands up in the air.

After the song ended, most of the parish gave applause!!

I’m including a video of a different choir– I don’t have any footage of us. But I love this song.

Singing to our Lord is my new favorite way to praise Him!

Uncle Donnie’s Last Thanksgiving : Saying Goodbye and the Power of Touch

*This is the speech I read today at his funeral, written last night.

HERE is his obituary, if you’d please take a moment to read about his life.

Regrettably, I didn’t spend much time with Uncle Donnie. But I was happy when he moved to Illinois circa six weeks ago to Brookdale Assisted Living.

I never knew my grandfathers– both died before I could meet them. I visited his room three times, and twice in the ICU at Presence Medical Center in Joliet. I didn’t know exactly what to say– I felt a bit intimidated. But he made and effort to make me comfortable as if it were his own home. I found I liked him, though he was a bit gruff. He sat in his leather chair and I sat on the bed, and we shared a companionable silence. We watched TV.

Both of us had a hearing-loss, but he really struggled to hear me. I could see how much he struggled to communicate. Even speaking slowly and enunciating well, often I still failed to convey my words in a way he could understand. But he took an active role in our conversation and asked me questions when I was feeling shy.

In his mini-fridge, he had a few basics: green grapes, Cheesehead’s string cheese, Sprite and Hershey’s milk chocolate bars. Each time I visited, he would offer me anything available– he wanted to be hospitable. He ate the string cheese in bites, while I peeled it. Thought he possessed little, he was instinctively generous and wanted to share.

I regret that I waited till the tend of his life to cultivate a friendship with this gentle man. He wore a beautiful gold watch, and allowed me to clean it up for him. He trusted me so easily with what must have been a prized possession. He also wore two medals on a gold chain– St. Christopher, and St. Francis, I believe. He had a beautiful crucifix on his wall. Clearly, he was a devout Catholic man.

I never called him in Florida for the same reason I never reach out to many family members I wish I knew better- I don’t know what to say. But I learned while visiting that what we say does not matter-rather, it’s our gesture of reaching out that matters.

When my Dad told me he was in the ICU on Black Wednesday, I went to visit him. He had a breathing apparatus on, but recognized me when I touched his arm. A nurse came to draw blood and I held his opposite hand for support. I knew how much it can hurt. He didn’t fuss or complain as she did her job.

On Thanksgiving my parents and I went back, and I was able to see him one last time. He was less responsive, but still fighting. Breathing was hard for him. We watched TV.

Other family arrived. Uncle Donnie never spoke that day, but he responded immediately to touch. He would turn his face toward the person and it seemed to deeply relax him. I watched our family keep a vigil at his bedside- holding onto Uncle Donnie. Letting him known we were there, that he was loved. We took turns being alone and saying goodbye. We were sitting around his bed just talking normally, when I left for maybe 20 minutes. I came back and he had just been unhooked and passed. All of us cried. We prayed over him.

I’m grateful I was given this chance to know him. To have a few moments to experience what it must be like to have a grandfather. Our love for him brought us together on Thanksgiving and he made his peace with life, his beloved family, and departed.

Now I bet he’s up in Heaven, smoking his Pall Mall Menthol 100’s, eating a Hershey’s bar, and watching over us.

As my father said, our dear Uncle Donnie went home for Thanksgiving. Home to rest with our eternal Father.

Checking My Privilege at the Door

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I still do.

But never abject poverty.

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

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

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

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

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

We all feel isolated at times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minimalism: The New Goal

I’ve been raised in a family of keepers.

The typical reaction to getting rid of something is, “Wait a minute! Don’t you need that?”

Or, “Let’s give this to Amee! Then she won’t have to buy it.”

They’re givers. They mean well.

But at some point, you gotta just decline.

Nothing crazy. We throw away garbage, we clean. We don’t collect animals.

But we do keep paper! And pictures. And furniture.

And for me, being a writer, I have A LOT of paper.

I felt that everything I’ve ever written was something precious. I WROTE IT, it’s gold! This will be worth money! For awhile, I thought I wanted to publish this some day.

But I realize, I don’t. I wrote it for ME. It helped me express what I felt at that time. But that’s not the person I am today. I have no need to make those feelings public or share them now– they’re not true anymore. I’ve grown beyond them. Ripping up the majority of those poems is cathartic. It’s also hilarious to read my angsty love poems from seventh grade, about boys I would never kiss. I was so shy, I could barely flirt! It’s served a purpose, keeping it. It reminded me who I was growing up. It provided some laughs. It impressed me, with my own grip on language at such a young age.

But if I keep it, I’ve got to manage it and store it. And I’m ready to let it go and move forward.

It takes up a lot of space! And I’m only 33.

In a week, I’ll be 34. And I find myself envious of friends with apartments that have barely any stuff.

Zero clutter!

“But it’s just a ROOM!” my Dad will say.

Exactly. A beautiful room with lots of space.

And I want to move. That’s another goal for this year.

And it can be fun, if I try. If I put on some music or TV and just sit down and ruthlessly make decisions.

I don’t want to bring all this with me. I want to have less to pack. I’m making a point to go through all those boxes I just shoved things into each time I moved, and forgot about. I’ve gotten through the majority. It takes a lot of emotional energy to sit with those items and make decisions. But I’m doing it!

To those of you who are gifted with organization, how do you make decisions about photo albums, family pictures, and old correspondence? Letters, cards?

I can either organize, display, or pitch them.

Already, my closet is gloriously vacant. I would say I’ve donated or given to other friends about 80 percent of the clothes I used to own. I had kept things dating back to high school! Old slutty Halloween costumes from my Twenties. Everyone had them! I don’t need that kind of attention anymore. Now I feel sexier wearing something with class, that covers me up. Things that don’t fit me anymore. Old bridesmaid dresses. My Prom dresses. They were the trendy Jessica McClintock corset types from 1998 and 1999 with the big tulle skirts that looked like a pumpkin if you squatted down in them. I kept them thinking, “Maybe I’ll make a pillow out of the skirt!” But I’m not gonna.

And taking them to a thrift store was so liberating. Someone else will enjoy my dresses and costumes. They will have a new life, in someone else’s closet. Maybe even for Halloween. I donated a gypsy dress I wore many times for Halloween. I certainly got my money’s worth! I donated a couple of toy swords I had. I always went all out for Halloween and bought props and accessories.

This Halloween, I just want to be myself! No costume, no make-up, no wigs.

I don’t want to try on a new identity. I like my own!