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.

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Everyday (Spreading the Love!)

I am bursting with gratitude right now.

I’ve been given so many blessings– I just want to share some love with the world.

All my life, I’ve been lifted up. I’ve been put down too– of course. But the good has exponentially outweighed the bad.

I love the guy in this video– just offering hugs. At first people think he’s a whackjob and avoid him. But once that first old lady decides to give it a go, suddenly his luck changes. There’s something about him. Everybody wants a hug! He even makes the news– and works his way into the studios of Conan O’ Brian and then Dave Matthews Band!!

I want to give the world a hug right now– and this is the closest I can get! Thank you. For being you. For reading. For loving others.

Keep the love going, man. We all need it. We all deserve it. We all need to be like this hugging man– giving love, without expecting it.

Just because.

Just because everyone feels better when they’re met with trust and benevolence. Because everyone deserves it, even if they’re mean. Those need it the most of all– because people don’t get that way unless they’ve been treated that way a long time, and it’s a hard thing to undo. The only way to undo it is to love them persistently, without conditions, and to always forgive. And the one day?

They start to feel human again. A little love gets in. And they begin to change. Like the Grinch!

His heart started out “three sizes too small,” and he stole everyone’s presents. He wanted everyone miserable, like him. And by the end, he just wants to give to everyone! He’s a ridiculous softy, a grinning fool.

That’s how God works. Even if you don’t know it, or you don’t believe– he’s still there. Putting people in your life to change you. Bringing you small treasures, no matter how small. Hoping that one day you’ll notice. That one day, you’ll see him, and let him in your heart.

And then suddenly, you see everyone as good, and all you want to do is trust and give.

God is amazing.

I’m starting to understand Christianity better than ever right now.

Everyone deserves kindness.

After Mass: On Religion, Love, and the Gift of Faith

During Mass today, I realized what it’s about. Why I go.

Why we put up with all the idiosyncrasies of religion– the demands, the divisiveness.

We do it to be part of something bigger than ourselves. To share our lives in the midst of chaos and find a still point.

We do it to admit, “I need help. I can’t do do this alone.”

Admitting we need help is the hardest thing for most humans to do. We want to be self-reliant, we want to be okay, no matter what.

I love my church, because during peace, people walk around with open arms. They shake your hand, look you in the eye, smile.

My parents are local, and I enjoy seeing them. However, I don’t have siblings, and my family lives out of state. So I do feel lonely at times.

But in this church, I get hugs, just like I do with my family. And although there are still a lot of things I’m figuring out about my life, this church makes me feel anchored. Singing songs of praise makes me feel anchored. We spend the week busy, scrambling to get things done– we deserve to rest and just be thankful for what God has given us! To stand with others and testify that yes, we’re glad to be standing here, together. The services in my church usually run two hours– and I love that! At other churches, they are usually only 45 minutes to an hour, and everyone usually rushes right out after Holy Communion, and barely talks at all if they do stay. People in this church linger. A few times a month, they head into the parish hall for coffee. There’s no rush, they want to meet you, get to know you.

That makes me feel so happy. It’s just a simple church– and that’s why I like it. It’s not high-falutin’, it’s not about artifice.

It’s just about love, service, and appreciation.

Knowing that a family is depending on me to bring them Holy Communion anchors me.

I know that I can’t live my life alone, and that I’m never alone.

I’m learning that God is more than Bible verses and dogma. It’s more than prayer and Confession.

God is truly very basic.

God is a secure feeling of love.

God is a warmth in your heart that says, “Go ahead, you don’t have to be scared. I’m with you.”

God is the absolute confirmation that all you are, and all you haven’t been– is enough, because you’re doing the best you can.

And mostly, God is feeling so overwhelmed with that truth that all you want to do is share it with others.

And not by conversion– but by acceptance. By example. By trusting.

Be kind. Forgive. Help, with no expectations or conditions.

I feel God with me today. It’s an incredible lightness, to help us float through the storm.

We don’t need to know where we’re going or why– only that we’re on the right path.

A Year without Theresa Lang

By Amee Bohrer

For the past year, I’ve tried to live the way Theresa Lang did: boldly, with joy.

And a year later, I stand humbled.

How did she do it? How did she love so much, and pursue happiness with such zest?

Her short life, only 29 years, shattered the collective hearts of the Joliet community. I’ve never seen a memorial service packed the way hers was for such a young person. There was a line out the door. Usually you only see that for people who have been teachers or community leaders for decades.

I’ve never seen men cry the way some of my closest male friends did for Theresa.

A year ago, I was thunderstruck with how much her death affected me: for 15 years, Theresa had been an acquaintance. And yet I sobbed like she was a member of my family at her beautiful funeral Mass.

I had just been getting to know her better, she had asked me to go to a concert with her the weekend before she died. I had said no, thinking I would have another chance.

This year I’ve tried to be kinder. I’ve prayed more. I’ve cried a lot more.

I’ve laughed more.

I resolved that by the first anniversary of her death, I wanted to make peace with some old hurts and reconcile connections that were broken if possible.

I’ve dared to forgive, and asked for forgiveness in a way I never was brave enough to attempt until I lost the light of Theresa. I didn’t succeed in all my attempts; sometimes I was too afraid, and others I’m still working on.

But even in those situations, I have a new sense of empathy and compassion.

We met in youth group during high school, because our parishes shared a youth minister.

I went to St. Paul the Apostle, and she the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus, both of Joliet.

I don’t remember the first time I met Theresa, but I do remember a retreat we both attended at St. Charles Borromeo Pastoral Center, in Romeoville.

And because I’m a sentimental fool, I still have the affirmations from that retreat. I meticulously put them in a binder, and now I’m glad I did.  Affirmations were little notes we wrote to the other students, small group leaders, and youth group staff to make the experience special. Even if you had just met someone, you were encouraged to write them a simple note to say you enjoyed meeting them.

Luckily, I have two affirmations from Theresa saved. One is yellow, a piece of scrap paper, written in pencil. The second looks like it was ripped from a spiral journal or notepad, written in blue pen. Both times, she spelled my name right—a detail that many overlook. Some of my friends for years periodically spell my name “Amy.”

But Theresa paid attention to details. Both are signed, “Big Hugs, Theresa Lang.”

The messages were simple. But the point is, she took time to write them. At these retreats there were sometimes 20-50 people. It was impossible to write them to everyone, and some people chose to only write a few that were more in-depth, to their closest friends.

Theresa made time to write one to a girl she had just met, me.

Mostly, I regret that I never realized what an incredible friend was on the fringes of my life, and never ventured beyond being acquaintances with Theresa.

She was a blazing spirit. She hugged you with her whole heart.

When I feel a sudden urge to do something ridiculous and fun, that’s Theresa.

When I feel confident enough to talk to a stranger and find some little thing in common, that’s Theresa.

And when I can throw my head back and cackle until I lose my breath, that’s Theresa.