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.

 

 

 

 

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The Trails Taken

Today I ran after work, starting at 6:30. I had a somewhat frustrating day and knew this was the stress-reliever I needed.

I returned to yesterday’s location, but took a different route. It was mostly road– I recognized I was running the periphery of the forest from yesterday.

I made a decision again to just let go and try something new, though this time I was on a time crunch, and it would be dark soon. It was a bit windy and overcast– felt like fall!! How I relished that flirtatious breeze hinting of a chill.

This time, I happened upon a group of kids, who seemed to be having a race of some kind. Adults were standing near a stretch of road as kids crossed over and others cheered. I wanted to go where they were going.

I saw a newer friend from this year– turns out she’s involved with a kids’ cross-country team. Her daughter was in it!

It just felt like I was going the right way. My running app announced I’d hit my first mile and I kept going for a bit, but couldn’t resist the pull toward the woods.

This time I DID put on OFF! The last thing I need is a bunch of bites.

Ahh, a hill descending! I skipped down it precisely, angling to the side so that I didn’t fall or slide. And at the bottom, there was my uprooted tree again. I hauled myself up again and this time balanced across it without slipping. I was getting mud all over me– my shoes, hands, legs.

Glorious!

And then the climb back upwards. A short wooden bridge!

Today I had programmed a Prince track into my Pandora– so perfect. I got “Dirty Diana,” and “Jungle Love,” while navigating that tree and the hill and meeting the trail again.

I exited the forest quicker this time, and sensed I was close to getting back to where I began.

I was right– I saw my car but kept going because I wanted to get at least 2.5 miles. I had wanted three, but was already almost late for my plans and it was getting dark.

But 2.55 miles in 43:04 isn’t so bad! It’s only half my distance from yesterday but considering I started early evening after a full day’s work and didn’t have the sunshine, I think that’s pretty dang good.

The biggest change is that it didn’t feel so rough. I remember when I could barely breathe after that distance.

And I got in two runs on consecutive days.

I still had to walk a few little times. But my body is getting acclimated to running.

It’s happening! There’s no going back now.

And it totally worked. I was a little muddy, just sweaty enough, and smiling by the time I ended my run and got in my car to drive home.

I realized I didn’t need to talk out the things that had bothered me, or at least not all of them. Running just made me at peace and renewed my faith that tomorrow will be better.

Yay for endorphins!

Dear Forever Valentine, Thank You

Because you (I!) deserve a love letter today. Self, you are always by my side!

First, I am proud of you.

I see a woman who has nothing to prove this year. She is wearing overalls because they are what she feels comfortable wearing, and she’s STOKED at the ’90s are back in that style! With it, a pink and white baseball shirt because it’s a little feminine but also practical. Today she is wearing no make-up. Her hair is shorn in a pixie, which makes her feel free– she loves the feeling of the icy wind on her neck. She often goes without a hat, but zips her coat up to the hilt instead.

This year has been about realigning with what you need, and putting that into action. And you are making great strides every day! Even when you think I don’t notice the progress, I do. Even when no one else does, I see.

I believe in and admire you, Amee. I adore that name– your mother chose it with care. It’s not something to be found on pencils, which you used to resent. It’s singular and a little bit exotic–French. There is nothing typical about you. You forge your own way in every aspect of your life– you don’t do things like everyone else.

You are unafraid to sacrifice in the present for something you know will be better in the future. You are committed to what you need even when it’s not fun or popular. You are learning to value your own voice most. You can weather questions and the assumptions of others with increasing grace.

Like all humans, you have walls to protect yourself. Your heart is not impulsive as it once was, although sometimes I know you long for those days. Those were beautiful times of innocence, important to teach you lessons. Of loss, of how to lose yourself in giving. Of appreciating someone even when they don’t understand why you love them. You seek to understand others and comfort them.

You know how to love with abandon, commitment and safety.

You accept that not everyone deserves what you want to give– you are more patient. You demand that people prove to you that they are sincere. Never admonish yourself for that– it’s been learned with fire.

You always rise. You may slow down, you may hold yourself back with caution.

But conserving your energy and valuing what you possess to give others is something wonderful and smart.

Keep doing that.

Everything that you need is on its way to you. It is happening at exactly the right time and speed– just continue to trust in your judgement.

You are more real than many who put up a better facade. When you’re not happy, you don’t pretend. You’re polite and professional when needed, but never insincere. That is something glorious– the ability to know how you’re feeling and not be ashamed of it. That takes tremendous courage– it’s a skill not everyone has yet learned.

That writer heart of yours beats steady. I can always depend on you. We are always together.

Whatever comes your way, you will handle it with aplomb.

I am grateful that you preserve that delightful spark of silly, that propensity for wackiness. I am glad that you see beauty in the most ordinary circumstances.

You are loyal, affectionate, serious.

Thank you for not changing for anyone.

You are my favorite. I love you! You are beautiful and strong.

You are making peace with uncertainty and deciding to be your own hero.

And that is the best Valentine’s gift I could ever give you.

Always,

All the Love You Possess

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.

People I Admire the Most

are not the most successful.

The ones with the best jobs, the newest cars, the impressive homes and apartments.

But the ones who are independent– who pave their own way, even if the progress seems slow.

Who live within their means and are debt-free, or working toward it.

Who work constantly because they don’t want a hand-out, even if they barely get any sleep.

I admire those who are sober, or aspire toward it. It’s a hard road, but worth the struggle.

I admire people with the biggest hearts.

The ones who listen and remember.

Who challenge you, and inspire you to grow.

The ones who enjoy one-on-one time with you, and never care what you look like.

The ones who are kind and merciful. Who bring out the best in everyone.

What I value is peace and loyalty. A history with someone is special… it is to be cherished.

Preserve it, if possible. Growing up without siblings, I don’t take friendships for granted.

Sometimes forgiveness seems like a weak thing to do. But it can also be incredibly powerful.

Forgiveness is what sets you BOTH free.

Radical forgiveness is the epitome of unconditional friendship.

And friendship is the highest form of love.

The Couple in Gray

At Palm Sunday Mass today, there was a young couple behind me.

They were both brunette, conservative. A tall strapping man, a petite woman with long beautiful hair.

When it came time for “Peace,” I turned behind me to shake their hands.

But he pulled her to him and kissed her forehead. It was casual PDA, second nature.

She closed her eyes and the whisper of a smile came to her face. She looked as if she felt cherished.

And I was glad for her– for both of them.

They were both wearing a gray long-sleeve cotton shirt, and blue jeans. They matched perfectly.

I’ve seen them before.

I love that this couple incorporates going to Mass together into their relationship.

I hope to have that myself one day.

I especially enjoyed that moment of affection because most Catholics don’t do that in Mass– there may be a quick hug, but not usually a full embrace. Usually you’ll see a lot of eye contact, smiles, waves and of course, people shaking hands.

I remember once a former youth minister of mine kissed his girlfriend in church– and said he got several LOOKS because of it. Just a peck. Why should that natural expression of love between a committed couple be a problem in God’s house? Afterwards, he talked to us about why that bothered him. He thought it was so petty– and it was.

This young couple wasn’t worried about what anyone thought– and no one seemed to begrudge them for it.

Seeing reaffirmed a bit of my hope for love.

One day, I hope to have man who will go to Mass with me– who will think nothing of such an innocent display of love. I see it as something protective and genuine.

But until then, I will keep going on my own.

And I will be happy for those couples who have found each other, and celebrate God together.

“The Year of Faith” Ends, but Mine Continues

I caught a late Mass tonight.

I’m lucky to live in a very Catholic town, where I can choose which time to go.

And I’m lucky that right now, I have the luxury of going to Mass. For many years, I didn’t– I always ended up having to work. And I have to say, I think missing it did effect me. It’s been a gift to have Sundays off for the last several months, so that I could go.

I think that’s helped me to grow in faith more than anything. I understand why it’s a day of “rest.”

My faith has been tested a lot this year, and I’ve doubted more than ever. But doubt is a normal part of your faith journey, as are moments of despair. Those are called “dark nights of the soul,” and hopefully they bring us closer to God if we turn to prayer.

By admitting that other traditions are valid, I’m not invalidating Catholicism. I’m merely acknowledging that there is more than one path for us to walk in the light.

As a Christian friend of mine once said, “God doesn’t mind which house you visit him in.”

I’ve personally visited him in several houses– attending services in different denominations.

But the one that always brings me the most peace is a Catholic Mass.

Tonight, there were two families seated behind me. One was a mother with three young children, and behind her, a father with two kids? I think two. I could hear the littlest girl, maybe about 3, chattering away and playing with books. It reminded me of myself– I used to be very hyper in Mass. My parents had a challenge! But her mother was patient with her– never scolding. At one point I glanced behind and she was holding the girl in her arms, upside down, nuzzling her face. The girl was laughing with joy. And I was glad for her, glad that she has a mother that embraces her spirit rather than tries to quiet her down out of embarrassment. During peace, I shook hands with most of them. A blonde girl with her father in the second pew behind me had on a bracelet that said, “Trust.”

I had a wonderful feeling of peace, of joy.

I don’t know if the decisions I make are “right,” or not. But all I can do is make them in good faith, pray for strength, and keep walking.

Trust. The foundation for everything we need, and every hopeful interaction and decision.

This year I’ve let God into my heart in a way I never dared previously– and I’ve learned more than I ever have previously. I’ve learned to let go, to forgive, to humble myself, and to love myself and others unconditionally. To ask for, and accept, help. To give it, without being asked.

I’ve still got a long way to go.

But I’m grateful to have this chance, and even the challenges.

I’m grateful for this blog. I’m grateful for my family.

To those who have been devoted, and tho those who support me and give space when needed.

I’m grateful for self-awareness.

I’m just grateful, every day.

And that, I think, is the true gift of faith.