Christmas in Kansas 2019…. Finally, Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was confident.

And they were happy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Owning My Story

That’s exactly what I did — to a local class of nursing students two days ago.

Because I was invited! They’re studying the liver right now and I’m a liver transplant survivor since 1984. Initially, my friend Michael was in that class and asked me last February if I wanted to be his “show and tell” for that unit. I was game!

First, I congratulated them on a wonderful, important, career choice as nurses.

I did ask that no one record or take any pictures. I shared details about my diagnosis, lab results, the financial impact of buying health insurance, prescription refills, and hospital bills. I wanted those nursing students to leave with more empathy for their future patients and an appreciation to how managing liver disease is a part of so many aspects of your identity and daily decisions. With some humor sprinkled in on the fun aspects for comic relief!

But I didn’t want it to be public. This was something I normally keep private, as my Dad had advised me early-on not to talk too much about my illness. Mainly because he didn’t want me to lose any opportunities– especially business-related– based on my diagnosis. Most companies see any “health issues” as a liability and discriminate because of it. It’s not legal– but that’s why we have protections against having to reveal that in a job interview. Because all of have the right to work, even if one of those health issues includes a serious illness or disability.

I grew up to share his stoic views, but for a different reason. I didn’t want to be stereotyped as weak– as a “sick” person. It can also scare people off when it comes to dating. It’s the kind of information I don’t typically share until it looks like it’s headed toward a relationship, rather than the initial dates.

But in this context, I have an opportunity to empower and inspire hope.

In this context, being open about something I normally withhold would be helpful to others. I wanted to be an example of a person managing a serious diagnosis who has a normal life — and I wanted to embody for them a name to go with the diagnosis. To maybe help them become a little more understanding the next time a patient is difficult, angry, anxious or hurting.

The first time I spoke about it, I was more facts-oriented. I made sure to use technical terminology and the teacher sent me her power point so I tried to make connections to their material. It was more about feeling validated intellectually for me– I didn’t want the class to think I was uneducated about my condition and my body. I wanted to impress them with terminology, procedures I’ve had– facts like comparing lab values from when my liver almost rejected and present day, when it’s stable and healthy. Things they may study.

The students were attentive but also quiet. I wasn’t sure how I did, but Michael said I was great and the teacher invited me back.

This second time I spoke, I was confident. I validated myself, I didn’t need their approval. I relaxed. I did include some facts and terms, but decided instead to focus on telling them about me. What I like to do, what makes me happy, accomplishments!

I brought my own “show and tell”– running medals!

Two. From Warrior Dash 2016 (my first!) and the Titan 10k, just in July 2017. Two races which really challenged me. I JOKED about the Derby Firecracker 2017, when I was *dead last and was passed up by a 77-year-old woman and a snotty speedwalker. And I could laugh about it– especially since my Aunt Judy had been there taking pictures. And that was more important than my time and ranking!

And I never undermined myself by saying I was a “slow runner”– it never occurred to me. I got to stand in front of that class and reminisce about defining moments in my life when I did something with passion. I told them how happy running makes me, and that it gives me hope when I feel overwhelmed by the doctors’ appointments, price of medication refills, and those mornings when getting blood drawn hurts.

At the end, I got a bit emotional. I didn’t cry, but my voice broke a little.

The way *I see myself has changed since my first talk last February, and it was reflected in how I spoke.

Now I see myself as more than a liver transplant patient.
Now, I’m also a runner with serious training plans for long-distance races.

This opportunity was something I didn’t know I needed; it was a gift for me. Reminded me how far I’ve come– how resilient my immune system. Most importantly, my faith. My legs!

I told them my training goals for races this fall. I felt not just articulate, but healthy. You can’t run five miles without a certain level of fitness!

And I can run seven. I will run nine after training for this upcoming race.

Those students were all watching me. I had their full attention. And best of all, they really laughed and were more interactive. The teacher asked a few questions, and then I was done. And within the time limit!!

Last time I just left quietly, and then the teacher went on with her lecture.

But this time, two students approached me. They were on a small break. One brought me a postcard for an upcoming local Halloween 5k hosted by the college. She told me her name and that she’d be there. On her way out, she turned and stopped, made eye contact. Smile.

“Thanks so much for sharing your story.”

I’m invited back again. And I feel proud, happy, and healthy.

Inchworms and sprints and plies squats!

I feel so happy.

This morning we had a sub trainer, and she kicked our asses!!

We ran a mile around the track, then the bleachers, then one more round. Then we took the bleachers two steps at time– that small change gave me a terrific burn.

I was third-to-last running the mile– Tuesday I was dead last. My competitive spirit kicked in when I saw a shadow to my left. Nuh-uh, not today!

The biggest surprise was doing sprints– probably about five times.

Kelly yelled for us to”Give it all you got!!”

And I found myself third from the lead while sprinting?! Something changed with my body– I felt sleek, powerful, energized. We didn’t need to go far. But it helped me realize that I’m capable of more than I think, physically.

The inchworms were so hard! I loved every minute.

And afterward I had zero craving for a donut. I’m changing. ❤

Good morning to all, time to get ready for the work day!

A Little Confession

Just had my first Confession in probably a year, after Stations of the Cross.

Usually, my Dad and I go together. It’s something that’s bonded us.

But this year we had different schedules. I went to our local cathedral instead.

I had hoped to get my parish priest, but I saw him leave just before Stations of the Cross began. Though a little bummed, I figured there was someone else meant to hear me today.

I reflected prior, but not a lot.

This year, it was different. I wasn’t berating myself with a list of things I’ve done wrong. I had no list, period.  I didn’t feel ashamed or desperate or angry at myself.

My confession was brief. I listed a few things, but mostly I just talked about those I love, and how I want to do right by them. Where I am in my spiritual life. What I’m seeking. And what I need/want from God.

I talked about wanting to be a better daughter.

About struggling to find a balance in my life with my choir/parish and other events that pop up spontaneously on those allotted times for choir and Mass. Feeling afraid that my parish will close, but continuing to belong/participate because that’s where my heart lies.

About how daunting it feels to be so focused on waiting for a relationship with another Catholic, but that this is something I feel that I both need and *deserve* in my life. I’ve sacrificed to adhere to that. It’s so important to me that if someone is another denomination, that’s a deal-breaker. I’ve endured a lot of criticism for that over the years, but most times I shrug it off. Pretty much everyone on either side of my family is who is married is married to another Catholic–happily. I know it’s possible!

But something I’ve realized is that I can’t stop being myself to accelerate finding a compatible relationship. I don’t smoke anything or drink, I don’t do drugs, I’m a Democrat, I’m Catholic. Those are core tenets of my identity. I’ve ended relationships to preserve those aspects in myself, because it’s essential for my own happiness and mental health.

And to my surprise, Father wasn’t punitive. He was patient. His voice was soft.

There was no recipe for salvation by reciting a certain number of prayers

Instead, we was affirmative. He basically told me to just keep doing what I’m doing– examining myself, pursuing my spiritual life, being aware and sensitive to what’s appropriate in my relationships.

I was given instant absolution. I wasn’t made to feel that my confession hadn’t been sufficient, even though I had completely blanked out on my Act of Contrition.

“I absolve you of your sins,”he said.

I didn’t have as dramatic as a reaction as I had in some other years– I didn’t cry.

I didn’t need to cry.

Confession was just an expression of my faith, a part of my spiritual routine.

And I smiled.

I felt like God was telling me, “You’re doing okay, kiddo.”

How to be Happy

Tonight a last-minute movie invitation made my day!

After attending Stations of the Cross at my church for the second week, I was driving around aimlessly in my hometown. I didn’t feel like going home.

And at 6:55 p.m. my friend called and asked me to go see “How to be Single.” We usually make plans way in advance and it’s rare that she calls spontaneously– and I had been in the mood for a movie. My back-up plan was actually to just go to Family Video. Of course I enthusiastically accepted!

“When’s it start?” I asked.

“7:15,” she answered.

I had to laugh! Despite thinking I had no direction, I was headed directly toward the mall where it was playing.

I felt like God was ribbing me just a little.

I felt a profound sense of peace. He was steering.

And we met up inside the theatre and the only seats available were the handicapped seats in the middle– but no one was using them. So there were sat. I had gotten a hot green tea in the lobby, because I had run for the first time in about 2.5 months! I didn’t check , but I’m guessing it was about 45 or 50 degrees when I went running in only a thin hoodie, without a hat or gloves. I had gotten a little cough in that short time.

I made it .64 of a mile– uphill, in fierce wind! But I’m glad I did. Cold air was refreshing. My throat feels better, I’m not coughing.

My friend got popcorn and we passed it back and forth– with delicious butter!

I loved the movie so much that I honestly cried toward the end. Although there are certainly too many ensemble movies set in NYC about motley singles, this one was excellent.

After the movie we sat outside talking in her car for about an hour, catching up.

We’re both 35 and single. We’re both doing our thing and supportive of each other.

We talked about an upcoming 8k we planned months ago to run Cinco de Mayo weekend.

That’s five miles! Neither of us have done that before, but we’re gonna. Even though the shirts for the race are hideous!

It’s good to have a plan.

It was the perfect movie with a gal pal who I adore.

That’s my Friday night and now I’m going to bed early to sleep in tomorrow morning!

My life is pretty stellar.

 

 

 

 

Choir Pinned!!

Yesterday at Mass, the choir were given pins by Father Ray.

This is my second– the first said “Minister of Care,” when I was bringing Holy Communion to a family. Now I’m serving our parish in the choir instead.

When I saw Father holding them, I went over to claim mine. He pulled his hands back.

A few minutes later, he blessed them all with Holy Water.

They were all the more special for that.

I had to take a picture– you can see the Holy Water droplets on the plastic case holding it inside.

Reminds me of fourth grade, when my class were given a Bible. They were blessed with Holy Water. I still have mine.

Though I admit I don’t read it often.

This little gesture from Father Ray to our choir made me feel so included, part of something special.

Official.

I had someone take a picture of me wearing mine on my shirt. It’s gleaming there– my smile is huge!

I love our white and red choir robes! He asked us to wear our pins with pride each Sunday.

choir pin

I’m delighted to oblige.

My First 5K!! No Looking Back

I ran a 5k this morning. The 4th Annual Theresa Lang 5K, in my hometown of Joliet, IL.

I got to say that today! My first ever. I chose this one because I was friends with the woman honored in this race– it only makes sense that her event be my first.

I felt her spirit with us when I saw a young girl in the parking lot, a volunteer, totally jazzed with energy. She was yelling and dancing and positively HOPPING with joy. She just exuded fun. That’s how Theresa was, and why she is still mourned deeply by myriad people. That jubilant spirit is why she is worthy of this event.

FIrst, it is so wonderful to wake up early, run, and then go on with my day. Like it’s just part of my routine!!

My biggest fear had been that I would tragically sleep through the race entirely. But I made it!! I started with everyone.

Second, my experience was made so much better because my close friend Jennifer signed up to support me– so I wouldn’t have to run my first race alone. She’s invited me to other 5k’s this year, coming up soon. I think it’s so cool that this is a part of our friendship– something we have in common and can do together! Plus, it’s healthy.

This was only her third 5k, so we’re both beginners. And though she can run faster than me, she never left me behind. She stayed within 5 feet and slowed down if I was really struggling. She’d ask me if I wanted to walk or run. She was very accepting of my ability, which was such a gift. My original goal had been to run the whole thing, but I didn’t. However, I’m still proud!! I finished. And I wasn’t last!

Just having someone there with me made the race so much more meaningful.

I heard there were 140 runners signed up– online, it says that I finished in 42:18, 96th place. I’ll take that!!! And though a 5K is supposed to be 3.1 miles, somehow my Nike Running app calculated us at 3.42 miles? I’m not complaining!

When it started I was pretty intimidated– it seemed like most of the runners passed me up right away. But I took the advice of Jen, who told me to just run steady, that we’d end up passing a good amount of them who would be walking and etc.  And she was never annoyed when I had to slow down. But she would also encourage me to go faster.

When I had to walk or was losing motivation, I told myself I wasn’t allowed to look behind me. It didnt’ matter who was back there– it only mattered that I keep going!!

She also tried something out of her comfort zone– for the first time, she ran without music. She wanted to get the full experience of the other runners. I didn’t have music either.

And considering that I ran late last night and didnt’ get enough sleep, I think I performed extremely well. Lesson learned for the future: NO RUNNING the night before a race!!

I’ll continue running 5K’s, and I will continue to grow in ability and endurance.

Running is a skill and a passion for me.

Today is such a milestone!!

Probably the best was taking a few pictures after the race, with Jen and I, one of me alone with my arms in the air– holding that gloriously cold bottle of ice water. And one of me near the “Start” sign.

Theresa Lang’s 5K today marked the beginning of my official running life.

I’ve already got my eye on another next month!!

A Soul on Fire! Singing, Sushi and Running

This was a great week for me– I gotta tell you!

Yesterday morning on the way to work I was listening to Christian radio and heard the perfect song– “Soul on Fire,” by Third Day. Even better, the lyrics talk about RUNNING!

I felt like God was telling me, “Keep it up, kiddo!” That’s the song I’ll be thinking of as I run.

It was a bit chilly tonight but I put on a stocking cap and a hoodie and I was good to go.

I took two days off running this week, Thursday and Saturday, to give my feet a break. Eleise and I kept to our schedule of three runs, and tonight I did .96 by myself without stopping! I checked my phone at the end of the block and then kept going till I hit 1 mile! And then I walked a bit, and ran to finish my goal of 1.75 miles– I made it 1.81 by the time I got home.

I’m getting mindful of what I’m eating, as well. I had a good lunch with my Dad today after Mass, and later tonight I passed on cheesecake and coffee.

Wednesday night was our choir’s last rehearsal of the summer! I had such a good time and will miss them for the next few months! Our choir director, David, ran threw several songs so that I could get up to speed and they could review. Rehearsals are laid-back and equal parts fun and music education.

The best part of our rehearsals is always at the end, when we stand in a circle, hold hands, and pray for whomever we feel called to with our intentions, be it out loud or just in our hearts. I specifically asked if we could get all of us together after Mass today and take a few quick pictures of us looking all spiffy in our choir robes! This is also the last week we’re wearing them– they’ll be taken to get cleaned and we’ll resume them when it cools off. Although I’ll miss the pride of wearing one, I do admit it’ll be a nice reprieve in the coming heat!

The whole choir (those I’ve met, some are currently not singing right now) wasn’t quite there today, but we got most of the group who have regularly been at rehearsals since I joined. I asked a tall gentleman to take pictures of us and he did! He was kind enough to take several, and I found two I really liked. We are diverse, happy, and coming together to share our joy in the Lord! I was so proud to post it today on Facebook.

And as for the sushi, I declared last night Date Night for myself and my book and went out for sushi! Why not? I got a lot done this week! I wanted to celebrate. I put on a cute outfit, a bit of perfume, and brought a book with me. Between the meal and the words, I had a great time.

Today is just one of those days that I feel grateful, motivated, and healthy.

I’m ready for June!!

I Did It!! This Runt is a Self-Defense Bad Ass Today!!

My arms are sore, my voice is raw, and my heart is thumping.

I can’t stop smiling.

I GRADUATED my self-defense class tonight!!

And to think I almost didn’t go. I couldn’t find my book, I couldn’t find anyone to practice with, and I was worried that I wouldn’t remember what I’d learned. I was worried I was too weak. Happy to say, I WAS WRONG!

Reminds me of being in school, the anxiety I used to have over tests. I would study like crazy and not get any sleep, and sometimes miss class. In the past I would find all the worst-case scenarios about why I would fail.

But instead of worrying, I decided to believe. Since there was nothing for me to study with, I had no choice. I decided to have faith in my own muscle memory, my instincts, my adrenaline.

I realized I wanted to see my classmates. I wanted to be there for and with them. We were all being tested. It wasn’t just about me. And I wanted to prove to MYSELF that I can do it.

There was just one condition: Don’t quit.

I told myself, “You are going to do it!” I shut out fear and focused on being positive.

I didn’t do anything physical to prepare. I did get a good night’s rest. I asked for some prayers, and I prayed myself. And I met up with one of my best friends, Catt, for pie beforehand. We caught up, we laughed, we ate pie, we hugged. I went to our final class in a great mood.

I watched a few people go before me. We were all rooting for each other. It was hard to watch the other women struggle and I could see when they were losing strength and wanted to quit. But we all yelling, “You can do it!” and our instructor would be right there, encouraging us too. And they triumphed! I could see I wasn’t alone– it was just as hard for them as it was for me.

When he called me up, I was ready. It was nice, again, to be called, “Miss Amee.”

To be respected.

The test was designed to make us tired, to catch us by surprise, to test our endurance. It was scary, and real.

I got through the push-ups, punches, blocks, and surprise attacks.

But mainly, I USED MY VOICE. That’s what he taught us the first day. My VOICE is my biggest weapon!

I can say this for myself, I screamed the loudest! It felt good, too. I feel like A LION!

It’s amazing to know I’m capable of it.

Our instructor said afterwards that using your voice provides a burst of energy, and it’s true.

The adrenaline DOES work. I used some of the techniques, but I was good at blocking punches and getting out.

I learned that it’s not easy to knock me down. I have more energy and instinct than I realized.

He asked us all how we felt afterwards. I told him I felt PROUD.

He had us line up and receive our certificate of graduation, and he gave us our t-shirts in a traditional way, then shook our hands.

The last time I got an award for something was my sales, at work. And I was happy about that!

But this was so much MORE exciting.

In this class I learned that it does not MATTER that I’m small. I am still a FORCE! I had someone take a picture of me with it, and also my classmates and our teacher.

I feel happy, confident. Strong. Like a total bad ass.

I’m glad our instructor didn’t take it easy on us in that last test.

I had been worried I might fail– I had thought before, “Who is this guy to pass or fail me?!”

But he had our certificates waiting, printed up. AND MY NAME WAS SPELLED RIGHT! My whole name! So many times, it’s been bungled. That’s the price of having two unique names.

He believed in us all along. He knew we would graduate. It was just up to us to go forward and claim it!

He did his job, we did ours. Everybody won. It wasn’t a competition.

And I’ll tell ya one thing: I am FRAMING that certificate!! And I already put on the-shirt, it fits perfect.