During Superbowl 51 : Self-acceptance, Gaga and mother/daughter bonding

I had some great moments with my family this Superbowl Sunday, as we gathered at my parents’ home.

Waiting for the game to start, we were chatting in the kitchen. My aunt, who I adore, was talking with my step-mother, Diane.  My aunt is a generous, hilarious, devoted woman– but also quite conservative.

Her reaction to a story Diane was telling about a woman she knows  was to interject, “Without a HUSBAND?”

“You don’t need a husband to be happy,” Diane said in her calm way.

A bit later, my aunt referenced a man I had been texting as I was celebrating Christmas Day at her home. I updated her, announcing that I ended it and have moved on. And that currently, I’m not seeing anyone.

And I’m happy.

She laughed and said “You are a woman chauvinist!” and that I date a lot.

I won’t deny it, I did. Currently I’m off dating, and feeling relieved. I’m no chauvinist.

In stark contrast, anyone who knows me would correctly name me a strong Feminist.

I then sang a few bars: “Oohhhh, here she comes. Watch out boys, she’ll chew you up! She’s a MMMAAAAAAAAAAAN-eater!”

They laughed, I laughed. Finally, I had the perfect clap back! The conversation moved on.

Mission accomplished.

After dating that last guy, I realized I’d rather just focus on my own life– truly. There was a part of me who felt I *should be dating someone, just because I’m 36. And that’s bollocks. I even took the plunge and deleted the dating profile I was using. I don’t need the comfort of having “a line in the water.” The moment it was gone, I felt free.

I only watched the game for Gaga’s half-time show– with was magnificent, for “A Million Reasons.” She was courageous, flawless, mesmerizing.

Gaga is single and she’s having the time of her life! Her career is sky-rocketing.

On Friday, my friend Heather and I dressed up as Wayne and Garth for a 25th Anniversary showing of “Wayne’s World,” at a local theatre. I’m a brunette, she’s a blonde, we put on some ripped jeans and I bought a hat from Amazon for authenticity. She ratted up her hair and donned a flannel. We met Tia Carrere (Cassandra,) who was impressed with our female cosplay and said upon meeting us, “I love your work!” We took selfies and had more fun together than I think we’ve ever had.

I’m becoming more interested in my friends, my family. I’ve been really connecting with my girlfriends in a new way since then– and it’s energizing!

I’m asking more questions of them, listening better to the details. I’m not feeling wistful for a man in my life. I’m grounded in the present- not ruminating on my past exes, not dreaming of a future man.

Rather, I resolved to pursue my friendships and make plans with them the way I used to pursue dating. And you know what? I feel a whole lot better. I’m in more frequent contact with these ladies. I’m less stressed.

At 36, people consider it either tragic or a joke if you’re single.  You can’t just be a woman living her life– you must be either desperate, bitter, or a resigned spinster. I used to feel offended by these inquisitions.

I’m just Amee.

Tonight, I could laugh it off and change the subject with aplomb! What a milestone for my self-esteem.

As we watched the game, I was sitting on the couch on the right of my step-mom, Diane. She then scooted next to me and put her arm around me– which she’s never done before. She’s a wonderful woman but not very touchy-feely or physically affectionate.

I relaxed and leaned back against her arm, into her shoulder. She was sticking up for me. She and her sister are best friends, but she certainly understands being criticized by her. And Diane didn’t marry my Dad (her only marriage) until she was 53. We had a great little conversation. Eventually we sat up and moved apart a little and returned to watching the game, but it was something I’ll cherish forever.

That moment happened because I’m single and she’s proud of me.

She obviously remembers what this feels like, to be judged on a no-relationship status.

And she ended up with my Dad, who is both perfect for her and perfectly devoted to her.

I’m finally at a point where I am at peace.

My thirties continue to become better and better.

Instead: Lyle Lovett Wins

I chose music over fitness tonight.

I drove to Downtown Joliet planning to run this evening. It was after 6. I was driving around looking for a spot to park, when I saw the marquee for The Rialto.

Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt!! Playing tonight, 7:30 p.m.

And decided I can run anytime– but this was not a concert to pass up. I had to try.

So I found parking and rushed to the theatre. At the window I asked if it was sold out– it wasn’t!

I was NOT dressed at all appropriately. Running pants and shoes, a hoodie over it. Bad hair! I wasn’t expecting anyone to see me running solo in the dark. Certainly no make-up. I felt a little ridiculous in the midst of all these threat-going people, mostly dressed up. It was definitely an older crowd— probably mostly ’40s and ’50s. Mostly couples.

I was able to get row M, which is a pretty great seat.

Sadly, I had left my hearing-aids at home. I missed out on a lot of the banter.

The shocking thing is that I knew nothing of Lyle besides that he is Julia Roberts’ ex-husband. I was psyched to see John Hiatt– I have one of his CD’s. I was hoping to hear “Have a Little Faith.”

And once they began, I was smitten by Lyle. They were great together– very comfortable and respectful of each other’s talents. They sang and played together a few times and also allowed each other to shine with solos. The audience was laughing often as Lyle mostly spoke and told stories.

John got better as the eve wore on, but there was not a single Lyle song I didn’t adore. Tragically, I have no idea what most them were that he played. I was able to look a few up on my phone by guessing at lyrics.

Lyle radiated this easy calmness. His songs were so much more inventive and varied, I couldn’t get over it!

The couple directly in front of me was having a wonderful date. She frequently put her arm around the back of his chair and stroked his hair. They leaned in together to whisper and laugh– they kissed a few times. Their shoulders were always touching. Several times, she leaned her head on his shoulder and relaxed. She swayed in her seat, seemingly an equal fan of both. I couldn’t see in the dark if they were married and wore rings– but they radiated the kind of love I imagine most couples would aspire towards. I wanted to ask them how long they’d been together. She had on a leather jacket and shoulder-length hair.

I hope one day I’m part of a couple so unable to hide their affection! It was sweet to behold.

Tonight was something special. Even from where i was sitting, I could see Lyle’s ears sticking out! He had a on suit.

They ended the show, and then re-emerged for an encore. I yelled my song request, along with others I heard.

Luckily, John Hiatt obliged! He did sing “Have a Little Faith,” but it was a  bit anti-climactic. I was just happy that I got to hear the song which motivated me to take a chance on tonight!

It felt so luxurious to be out on a Thursday night enjoying such a wonderful concert.

After that song, I left. It had started circa 7:40 and was nearly 10 and still going! I wanted to beat the crowd. In the lobby I stopped and bought one of Lyle’s CDS: “Release Me.” I played it in the car on the way home. I was a little bummed that more songs weren’t written by him, but all the songs are great regardless.

One thing is for sure! I’ll see Lyle again if I get a chance. And I’ll definitely be exploring his catalog.

What an incredible surprise. Thank you, Mr. Lovett.

The Beauty of “War Room:” Don’t Believe the Bad Reviews

Last Wednesday I heard about the Kendrick Brothers’ movie “War Room,” at choir practice.

Our choir director said it was a prayerful movie and that anyone of faith should go see it. That despite the title, it had nothing do with actual, political war. That an unbeliever who saw this movie would be convinced of the power of prayer.

I was sold immediately. I’m a believer, but it sounded like just my kinda movie.

Thursday night, the next day, I was invited to my parents’ for dinner, along with a longtime family friend. She’s a mother of five, a grandmother and a devout Catholic woman– I grew up next to her family.  I had planned to invite her and my step-mother.

Once I brought it up, SHE said she had heard about the movie and planned to invite ME! We both enjoy movies and are single. My step-mother ended up canceling, but she and I kept our plans.

We decided to share a medium popcorn and she asked for butter– just like me. Apparently there wasn’t enough salt, so she poured a heaping pile of it in some napkins, then folded it up into her purse so that we could disperse it in the middle as we ate our way through it. It made me laugh.

I was so glad she went with me. Like me, she’s a movie talker!

After, she wanted to stay and watch the credits. We were the last to leave. Afterward, we went for dinner, which I hadn’t been expecting. I had the best time.

I won’t spoil it- -but I will share a few details.

It’s an ambitious movie that works because it’s focused on one small family, and the way the one family member’s decision to surrender to a disciplined prayerful life transforms the family’s circumstances in every area.

The hero is an elderly woman named Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie). I think she deserves an Oscar.

She’s got the sternness of Madea, with a little more empathy. She’s a small woman of fire– but she commands just as much respect as Madea. She’s the kind of woman who commands your attention. The kind of woman who refuses to accept your facade, no matter how good you think you are at hiding the pain. The kind of woman who reminds you that you deserve love. That you are accepted and forgiven, no matter what. The woman who teaches you about God’s grace.

Miss Clara notices something amiss in her realtor, Priscilla, and buts into her business in the loving way that older people tend to do. She wants to know about her marriage, her daughter, if she has a relationship with the Lord.

It parallels “Fried Green Tomatoes,” in that a woman’s life is set right by a deep friendship with an older woman, a mentor, who helps another adult woman who feels a bit lost.  This woman could have given up on a marriage that was held together only by contempt. Their own daughter felt unloved as a result of their constant fighting– there was no affection present at all. On the brink of infidelity, both partners in this marriage might have abandoned hope and ended up divorced.

But Priscilla (Elizabeth Jordan), the wife and mother who befriends Miss Clara, is so desperate she is open to prayer,

Miss Clara challenges her to fight FOR her husband, rather than with him. To fight in Jesus’ name.

And it’s Priscilla’s devotion to changing HERSELF, accepting her husband and loving him as is, and praying unceasingly for him, her daughter, and her own change of heart– that is what inspires.

It’s about acceptance, surrender, owning responsibilities, about amends.

About passing on your faith and what you’ve learned with others.

It’s about creating a physical space in your life to be with God and his Word– to pray for those you love most.

It’s about the Bible.

It makes me want to overhaul my own space– to create my own War Room. To eliminate the clutter.

To put the focus back where it out to be: on God.

I heard a lot of “That’s right!” and “Uh-huh,” and “AMEN!” in the rows surrounding us.

I know I will see this movie again.

Please, give it a chance. Even if you’re a non-believer. Especially if you are.

A Sunset, A Wayward Journey North, and Grace

Just got home from visiting a family that has become my family, up in Evanston.

This husband and wife have the kind of marriage that I can only pray to enjoy myself someday– they are best friends, equals, and still smitten with each other after over 10 years together. I arrived around 10 p.m., and they were somehow shocked that I came anyway after work– but how could I not go? They have invited me into their hearts and their home consistently and always without qualms. No matter what I need, they are there.

It was her birthday, and most of the party was over by then. I was glad, because I enjoy more quiet, intimate parties better. We sat in lawn chairs in their new backyard in their brand new home and chatted, along with another couple they know. It was exactly what I needed.

I really felt the presence of God in my life today.

After work I was walking to my car, when I saw the most staggering sunset in the parking lot. There were distinct rays in a way I’d never before noticed. And I just felt the deepest calm– that one day, I will see everyone I love and ever loved again. That there are family and friends waiting for me in Heaven. That my loved ones who have passed on watch over me with care, guiding my choices and protecting me from grave harm. That my life has a plan, and God is in control– all I need to do just trust him and ask for insight to His will. That my best is exactly enough and even when I’m not enough– that’s okay, too.

And when I drove up to visit my family, I had scribbled directions. They had only moved a block away from their old home– and I had the route to that old home memorized. But I wasn’t sure exactly about this one, so I Googled directions. And that new route took me completely out of the way– really far. I had the direction written down, but I was curious how close I was getting, so I plugged in directions on my Google app– and it re-routed me again completely.

Then my phone’s battery died. And my car charger is broken.

I was alone, with no phone battery, past 9 p.m. in a strange area near Chicago– on the freeway.

I just pulled over, took a deep breath, and circled around back to where I had been familiar. I asked God for help.

Let me just clarify– I have NO SENSE of direction. None.

Part of me wanted to go home, but I’d already driven so far and honestly getting home would have been more difficult. I would have no idea how to to that. The only thing to do was keep going and trust myself. Trust Him.

I stopped at two gas stations.

And when I recognized the intersection a block away from their old home, I turned there, and recognized one of the streets on my original directions list. I just slowed down and — EUREKA! I found their street.

It was dark. I couldn’t see any of the house numbers. In fact, I had written the WRONG house number, because the only house with that number was dark.

I was stuck in this narrow cul-de-sac, and all the cars were parked facing the other direction. I had to drive backwards, but I decided, feck it! I’m going park here because it’s open– even if it’s the wrong way!

And I ventured across the street, drawn to this one house because it was bright inside and I saw a painting that I thought I recognized from their old home. My friend had painted it herself. Then in the kitchen I saw a dry erase board with their son’s name written on it.

And seconds later, my other friend– her husband– came outside from the backyard and saw me!

“You’re HERE!” he said, incredulous. He gave me a hug, and I went back and joined the party.

For 2.5 hours, I got to enjoy my friends, and then I made it home without incident . Even though they had been up since 6 a.m. and have two children– and had already endured a 10-hour party, they stayed up to talk with me. And they did it with joy.

THAT is family.

And all this happened despite my having terrible new directions, and my getting lost precisely at the moment my phone battery died and I didn’t have a car charger. I have no sense of direction, but I somehow found it on my own in remarkably short order– even though I had written down the wrong house number– and my friend magically appeared to confirm the correct house I had gravitated toward because I recognized a painting in their living room.

TELL me that’s not God.

What an incredible day.

Single and Writing: A Joyous Epiphany

This blog has been a chronicle of my single life, and my Lenten endeavors. This year I’m basically apathetic about Lent.

Blogging is fun. But it’s ultimately unsatisfying for me. I grew up writing poems. I was lucky to get a couple poems published in college in my school literary journals. I wrote as an intern, a staff writer and then a columnist for daily newspapers. I like more exposure.

I’ve had this blog for not quite two years– and it hasn’t taken off like I’d imagined. I could have promoted it in my column, but chose not to. I’m proud that I put my name on it. A few times, I’ve gotten mentioned in other blogs. But ultimately, I never found a focus for it.

I used to think I didn’t want fame. I didn’t want to be known.

But I’m beginning to change my mind.

Yes, fame is awful. But authors and writers don’t become famous the way the Kardashians do. If so, it’s because they promote themselves relentlessly on TV, cross over into other media, or have very active Twitter feeds. Or they use writing as a springboard to become a celebrity, and never cared much about the writing itself. Columnists become famous. Journalists. But authors? Not as much. I’ve met a few who have been writing for years– they usually toil in obscurity, but keep writing because they love it. Once in awhile, they get a break and ride that wave.

And I admit, my column got me a bit hooked. I loved knowing the people who didn’t like me in high school and my exes opened up the paper and saw my mug shot. Even if that particular column wasn’t so great– it was still an achievement. I was so quiet as a teen. I never said much. I never stood up for myself. A lot of times, I still don’t.

Writing is my bullhorn. It’s my right hook.

Writing is the voice that God gave me. Why else would I have it if not to speak up??

Also, I notice my blogs are often too long and don’t get a lot of comments. I know I don’t always reply! Before I delete this blog, I’m going to try and reply to all the comments I’ve gotten. It’s the least I could do. The most popular ones tend to be around 750 words, but my average post is usually closer to 1300. I just have too much to say! I just love talking too much. I’m too verbose for blogging!

I’ve mainly put off writing because I felt I had nothing to write about. But the last six years alone have given me PLENTY of experience, heartbreak, and fuel. I thought I was too young to start anything. That if was meant to write something, I’d do later in life. But now I just feel like I’m wasting time. What if I die before I finish anything? You never know!

My father is already 70, Diane 71. I don’t know if I’ll ever marry or have children, but I’d love to do something in his lifetime to really make him proud. I think the main reason that I kept my column as long as I did is because my father honestly just loved it so much. My step-mother would cut them out and mail them to relatives too, that made me feel fantastic.

I loved hearing my father say, “My daughter writes for the paper.”

Maybe I’m single so I can write. Maybe that’s what all this solitude is about! All these lessons.  Maybe my legacy won’t be children, but a life set forth in the printed word. And then I can live forever.

Maybe I’ll write scandalous poems. Maybe I’ll try some slam poetry. Maybe a memoir. Maybe some fiction!

I used to worry about offending people. My parents are Republican! But offending people can be really, really fun. Not in an insane, Ann Coulter kind of way. But in a Sharon Olds kind of way. In a Vonnegut kind of way. In a Prince kind of way!

Either way, I don’t have many blogs left in me. I may keep it going until March 17– which will be my 2nd Anniversary of Unrelenting Amee! That would be some wonderful symmetry. But I’m impulsive, and once I finally decide to be done with something, there’s no going back.

When I end this one, I will not be starting another to replace it.

If if I ever do, it will be something focused, professional. Someplace to showcase a body of work and promote myself. Sometime in the future. This was just a playground where I enjoyed seeing how high I could swing, kicking my feet in the breeze. I can drop in here when I feel like it, but there’s never been a schedule.

I’m changing my life, making it more structured. And a big part of that is going to be writing. I’ve been saying for years I’d do it. But now, I’m ready to do it.

I’m reading Julia Cameron’s “The Right to Write,” and it’s definitely getting through to me.

Blogging lets me cave in to impulsive publishing.

Deleting this blog will help me become disciplined, and reignite my hunger to publish. Force me to submit.

To hustle.

On the Gift of Solitude

In person I seem outgoing– and I can be extroverted at times. I work in sales! I have to be.

But when it comes down to it, I’m a very introspective person who enjoys solitude as well.

Maybe that’s why I adore driving so much. I used to constantly rock out to music in my car– I’ve never been a talk radio fan. I’ve had my share of phone conversations while driving, not gonna lie. But I find myself doing it so much less often these days.

Lately, I’m really enjoying the beauty of silence while I drive.

And I’m usually alone, or only have one person at a time in my car. Once in awhile I have two or three passengers–but rarely. I prefer to hang out with people one-on-one. That’s for practical reasons as well, since with my hearing-loss even small groups of three can be exhausting when trying to keep up with conversation.

But I wonder, how do mothers do it? I see mothers driving with their cars or SUV’s full of children, and am flabbergasted. How do they concentrate? It seems like one of the most dangerous things you can do. And on top of having to drive defensively, they are mediating sibling arguments and worrying about the safety of all the occupants of the car– are they wearing seat belts? Are the doors locked securely? What if one of the kids is crying or an older child is angry?

There must be special angels for mothers, because I’m in awe of how they somehow deal with all that distraction and navigate traffic simultaneously. What is it like to have your entire existence devoted to the safety and care of others, to the point where you sometimes don’t have time for your own basic needs?

As a single woman, I don’t know if children are part of my future. I’d feel honored to take on that role, but I admit it’s quite intimidating. I imagine every parent questions themselves– do they have what it takes to provide, to overcome their insecurities and be a role model?

But right now, I feel grateful for this time alone. I realize that although periodically lonely,  most people never enjoy the amount of quiet and time alone that I’ve been given in my life. Either they grow up with siblings, always trying to claim space and time of their own, or they spend most of their lives sharing space with others. Some people move directly from home to college roommates or in with a spouse, and then they have children.

They’ve never had their own space, they’ve forgotten long ago what it’s like to have quiet.

Someday I will gladly share my life with a man who wants to be in it.  And I don’t assume I’ll have children when I’m not even in a relationship, because that’s a decision you make as a couple. But right now, the calm is nice. All things come in their own time.

And this has been Deep Thoughts, with Amee Bohrer. Hee.