The First Real Dinner I Cooked!

Tonight, I made history in my kitchen.

I made a meal that was healthy, delicious, and filling. Just for myself!

A zoodle caprese with chicken and fresh mozzarella and Parmesan. I had gathered some of the ingredients last weekend but hadn’t found time to make it yet. Tonight I went and got the chicken and some sparkling grape juice, and said a prayer.

And ya know, it was relaxing. I put on some Prince.

I put on my cute new apron! I assembled the ingredients, the bowls and plates and pans I would need– washed and prepared everything. And just followed the directions. I’ve never cooked meat beyond sloppy joes prior.

But tonight the chicken turned out wonderful.

I used to feel so intimidated by cooking, I couldn’t even try. But lately I’ve been feeling brave and excited to search for new recipes, shop for ingredients, and prepare some simple meals for myself.

It helped that I bought a cookbook specifically for runners, and everything is healthy. I started with that and now I’m garnering ideas from Pinterest!

I took pictures and sent them to my parents and my friends by text. They were so encouraging and said it looked wonderful and asked what I made.

Diane called me and had the best reaction: “Don’t get too fancy, now!”

She was impressed and it made me laugh. She was joking because she doesn’t cook really herself. She makes sure my Dad is fed but mostly microvwaves, uses the crockpot, and just does basic things. She’s domestic herself but in a different way: she likes to clean, organize, decorate their home. Water the plans and feed the animals in the backyard.

I used to always think that I’d learn to cook when I was in a relationship, to please and attract a man. But now I’ve decided to cook for myself– because *I want to be healthy and well-fed.

I’m so tired of crap fast food. And though I’ve only made a few simple meals, all of them have been edible! 🙂

It feels good to provide for myself in this way. To connect with that domestic femininity I’ve always envied in other women and wanted to cultivate in myself.

It’s happening. One meal at a time. Thank you, Lord.

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!!

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.