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!

 

 

 

 

 

A Baptism for Liam, an Epiphany for Me

I’ve been to Baptisms before, but today’s was special because it showed me something important about myself as well as celebrating the new faith of my friends’ first child.

It showed me that I do want a family life and I do want a Catholic marriage.

My friends Jenni and Ryan celebrated their first child, Liam. He was born on Ash Wednesday into an Irish Catholic family! They have been close friends of mine since high school, when all three of us went to youth group together. They’ve never missed a birthday of mine! They are both responsible but are silly enough to keep each other laughing, too.

Being there with our other mutual friends– also from youth group– was wonderful. They all have families now, and their kids were playing together in the back yard. I’ve seen them all be pregnant. I’ve been to their weddings and showers. I just felt so grounded and comfortable today with all of them.

A statue of the Blessed Mother was in the left corner of the yard and I found her presence very comforting. I found out it was passed down from someone in their family. My own Godmother has a similar one in her front yard. I’ve always hoped that one day when I hopefully own a home I will have one as well.

I spent the afternoon just catching up with our friends, getting to know both their families better, taking pictures and eating great food! It was wonderful to see them together as parents as well, knowing they prayed and planned for this blessing in their lives. They both have this wonderful, relaxed glow about them. And a big reason for that is their marriage is grounded in a strong friendship and shared Catholic faith.

If I’ve had doubts about whether religion is truly a deal-breaker for me in a relationship, today they were dissolved. Jenni has always been my voice of reason, reminding me that it’s not an unreasonable expectation and showing me that it’s possible in her own marriage. I’ve dated enough Atheists and people who profess no faith. They were all good men but there was definitely something elemental missing. I am unabashedly a woman of faith.

And the highlight of the day? Of course, it was holding Liam. He was so calm and cuddly. He felt comfortable with me and I got to take a few pictures with him. And for me, holding a baby is so natural and it just makes my day. To know this little being trusts you enough to relax and let you hold them is such a good feeling.

I will know when I’m in the right relationship and I’m genuinely happy single for the time being.

I’ve almost renounced my faith in the past because I wanted so much to be compatible with a man who was not religious. I am more confident now and will not compromise my religion again for the sake of being in a relationship. Now I recognize my faith is not only fundamental to my my identity, but my happiness.

“Amuck, amuck, amuck”– in a Pumpkin Patch! My (Early) 36th Birthday Party

I decided to celebrate my birthday about three weeks early this year– since all the fun Halloween/fall stuff is closed by November. I chose a family-friendly, sober activity where we could all just be kids again and run “amuck, amuck, amuck!”

Bengston’s Pumpkin Patch in Homer Glen.

I can’t remember the last time I felt so special. I’m beyond blessed! It was an eve of hilarity, surprises, generosity, memories, and non-stop laughter. It was exactly what I needed.  It was a great mix of old and new friends! I hadn’t seen most of them in quite awhile but we all came together as if no time had elapsed.

In attendance were my dear friends Melissa and her husband Bill; Kaela, Justin and his son, Kai; Leta; Tammie; Ian and Mallory (siblings) and her boyfriend, Camron; Heather and her man, Phillip, and Dawn. I love them all and am so happy they made the effort to come celebrate with me, even though it rained earlier! In your 30’s it’s easy to feel disconnected from people you’ve known for years– everyone is so busy with jobs, families, obligations.

But I was happy to learn tonight that the ties with these people run deep. I see them always being in my life. They indulged me in my favorite love language: pictures. They posed for pictures with me that were classic and adorable, they took pictures of me just being myself and enjoying the day, they took tons of unflattering but hilarious selfies!

My birthday is actually four days prior to Election Day, which is depressing. So I told myself I deserved something extra-special to compensate. Who hasn’t been stressed with all these horrible news stories about our candidates?

My friends were the perfect anti-dote. We took so many silly pictures that I’ll have to finish uploading them tomorrow! Work in the morning. 🙂 It was a small group, which was perfect. Everyone got along great and I got to spend time individually with them all– something I’ve learned from past birthdays is hard to do at a big party.

I’m glad I didn’t go in with a plan. I just had people text me when they arrived and we found each other and decided what to do. And we did everything fun! The Fun Slide (twice!) — I finished first both times! The petting zoo, a hayride, the haunted barn, and mostly just hanging out, catching up, and taking myriad fun pictures because I’m an obsessive picture-taker! Luckily, they were all good sports and everyone jived well together, too.

I had a Toasty Cheese sammich, an apple cider donut, and apple cider ice cream with a flabbergasting hyper-color orange spoon that turned purple where you ate!

Somehow it was 75 degrees but I luckily had found the perfect ensemble yesterday, including a big loose sweater that matched my very ’90s black floral dress, which I wore with black tights and brown leather lace-up boots I’ve had for eons! I felt stylish and beautiful in it.

Tammie, Dawn and I closed out the park together, including a manic spinning session on the Honey Pot ride (like the Teacups at Disney!)– which Dawn commandeered. Tammie was in the Teapot behind us and went “Live” on Facebook to record it– which I’ve always wanted to do but never thought anything I was doing was cool enough. Haha ! I got my chance. She had us spinning so crazy all I could do was hang on, cackle with abandon, and do my best not to hurl. (I didn’t!)

Party on, Wayne.

Then the three of us gals walked to our cars together and I separated from them to find mine. However, we were all in a muddy field. It was dark. I couldn’t see the path. I went down a hill and then tried to turn right and power up a hill to get out and realized I was spinning in the mud. I tried second gear. Nothing.

Luckily, both Tammie and Dawn were still there– I texted them about my problem and within minutes, they both came to find me. Tammie got out and suggested I put in in the “L” gear and drive slow– Dawn gave me a push from behind with her SUV and told me via phone to get on the grass, out of the mud. It worked!

For a few minutes before, I almost panicked. There were no parking lot attendants. I was in the back of the field, alone, in the dark, past 8 pm. at least 30 miles from home on a Sunday.

But God heard me. And with a little help from my girlfriends, I was back on the road going home within a few minutes.

Today is one of those days I’m loving being single. I love that I can spend five full hours at a pumpkin patch with my friends having adventures among the ordinary, and that they will not leave me when I truly need help. I’m more than okay– I’m loved and cherished.

I already know that 36 is going to be my best year yet! But I’ll also cherish my last few weeks as a 35-year-old, indulging in as much Halloween fun as possible! The actual weekend of my birthday I will be traveling to see family.

And now, it’s time for a hot bath and a good sleep! Goodnight, my pretties.

 

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.

A Surprising Conversation

Today, I tried to end my commitment to bring Holy Communion. I never expected she would protest.

Going in, I saw her son about to drive her daughter to a doctor’s appointment. And her daughter was happy to see me, and she squeezed my hand as I told her goodbye and wished her a good appointment. I offered her Holy Communion, but she said no this time. I wasn’t going to bum her out right before that, but realized I would miss her, too. I waved to her brother, and let myself in as usual.

And their mother was watching TV as usual, but turned the volume down for me to give me her full attention.

She always wears a Rosary, which I find endearing. She put her hands together to accept Holy Communion, and I administered it to her.

I then tried to have a conversation explaining why I would like to continue visiting them, but as a friend– not to continue on as I have been, as a “Minister of Care.” That’s what it’s called to visit people’s homes who can’t make it to Mass for health reasons or due to older age.

She listened and was understanding…. but was also visibly disappointed. I was surprised by that!

I found myself apologizing, saying I thought she deserved someone to could be more consistent. I told her my schedule may be changing soon, that I can’t commit to coming every week like I have been. That I’d like to continue visiting her and her family, that they’ve become special to me. But that I’d like to just be friends.

And it felt like a break-up conversation, honestly. And in a way, that’s what I attempted. I wanted to keep the friendship without the responsibility. But to my shock, she didn’t mind that I have to re-schedule at times.

She accepts me and what I’m able to give her unconditionally.

She said it’s been nice having me there every week. That she’d miss seeing me. Could I still come by?

And it forces me to wonder, what exactly am I searching for in a different parish? Is it worth giving up the connection I’ve built with this family?

I’m valued more than I realized. I would miss them, too.

I called Sister Bea and talked to her about it and she said it was up to me. But she said this family and I have developed a special friendship… and I found myself smiling.

Am I really searching for something different? Or is it already within me, if I give it a chance?

Something to ponder. Something to pray on.