Monday, June 5, 2017

I Have This Hope

When someone you love has cancer, people try to tell you to be positive. They encourage you to live your life to the fullest, to cherish every moment, to take one step at a time. And for the most part, you can do that. You can take a deep breath and move forward, living life as normally as you can, accepting that cancer is just a little extra burden that you have to carry around.

But, because cancer is unpredictable, sometimes it decides to sucker punch you in the gut. You lose your positivity. Your strength starts to fade. You can't imagine how you're going to take one step forward, because you're so damn tired. And you try so hard to be positive, to look on the bright side, to hold onto hope, but cancer puts a dreariness over your world that you didn't even know was possible.

I've said before that cancer is a rollercoaster. One minute things are fine, the next you're going downhill fast, until someone or something sends you back up again.

My family has been on the cancer rollercoaster for almost four years now, and frankly, I hate it. We seem to have jumped ship to an even rockier, scarier rollercoaster now. I never asked for that, thank you very much.

It's been about 4 weeks since we found out that my dad's cancer had spread to his spinal fluid. He was put on chemo, which (we think) sent him into a weird state of confusion/unresponsiveness. He has pulled out of that now, but the poor guy is very weak, and very sick of being in the hospital. Of course, we know must also decide how to proceed, if he truly cannot handle the chemo. The medical team is running more tests and discussing options. While that's happening, we wait. We sit by his side and try to keep his spirits up. We test his memory. We support each other. We break down into tears, or fall apart laughing over the most ridiculous things.

I'm used to riding this rollercoaster with my family. But this time around, I told my coworkers, and basically anyone who will listen, that I need everyone to jump on with us. We know how serious this diagnosis is, and that it can be extremely difficult to treat. We have no idea what the next days, weeks, months will bring, but I am certain that they will bring a whole lot of emotion with them, and I am not going to lie and say that we can do this alone. We need prayers, hugs, etc.

Oh, and I'm getting married in just a little under 4 months. So on top of the journey with my dad, I am preparing for a life long commitment to my best friend, and planning for a celebration of that marriage. I have had a few people make suggestions for how I should handle my wedding (or ask what I am planning to do). I really didn't feel like I could write this blog without addressing the elephant in the room. So I will say this: My dad and I have talked. Tom and I have talked. We've got it covered. Trust me, the emotions I feel on this subject are quite intense, but I assure you all, everyone over here on my end is on the same page. I think that's really all anyone needs to know.

I will close this by saying thank you. Thank you for the prayers- if anyone is ever doubting the power of prayer you just need to come hang out with us for a while. Your prayers are working, and giving us both the grace and comfort that we need to power through. Thank you for the sweet texts, cards, messages, etc. Thank you for stepping up when we need someone to fill in for us. Thank you for the meals, treats and snacks. Thank you for being such wonderful, compassionate, beautiful souls. Thank you for everyone who sees me in Church and takes the time to ask how I am doing. Thank you for my coworkers for the coffee dates, encouragement, hugs, and for working so hard to put an end to this disease. And finally, thank you for hopping in a cart and taking this ride with us.

So, so, so much love. Like, an insane amount of love.

Oh- one more thing- of all the emotions I have been feeling as of late, the greatest of them all is hope. I have gotten a lot of that hope through all of you and your stories and your empathy. So thank you for giving me hope.




Sunday, May 14, 2017

Carry You

I am not going to go into the whole long story about what is happening with my dad, because I assume if you are reading this you already know.

The short story: My dad's cancer has spread to his spinal fluid. This is a very serious diagnosis. Tomorrow he is having surgery to put a shunt in his brain, and from there he will get chemo through that shunt directly to the spinal fluid.

How did this happen?

My animated answer is that cancer is a bitch. (Excuse the language). You just never know what cancer will do.

The (sort of) scientific/medical answer is that cancer cells can go rogue, nearly impossible to detect, and they spread to other parts of the body. After 4 years of surviving Stage 4 Lung Cancer with Brain Metastasis, my dad's cancer cells have decided that the spinal fluid seems like a fun place to live. So they broke off from the brain and traveled to the fluid.

Like I said, cancer is a bitch.

A lot of people are asking how we are feeling, how we are doing, what we need. I'm going to try to answer these questions as best I can, right now in this moment. Be warned, this is me unloading my stream of consciousness. Also, I speak only for myself, not for other members of my family.

I'm tired. More tired than I can ever remember being before. Before Tom and I left the house this morning I asked him "Why am I so tired". He just sweetly said "Babe, you're stressed". Right. Duh. I'm stressed. That explains the tiredness, the headache, the craving for carbs and sweets. I'm scared. I'm afraid to see people who I'm close to because I think I might just sob. I don't always know what to say so I make awkward conversation. I'm hopeful but not too hopeful. I'm trying to be strong, but I have moments where I break down, and then I feel guilty because everyone just keeps telling me to be strong and to think positive. I want to spend every minute at the hospital and yet when I get there I just want it to all go away and go back to "normal". But, despite all of this, I am ready. I am ready to keep going. I am ready to fight alongside my dad. I am ready to take on each challenge. I am ready for the breakdowns that will come.

My sister said it best when she told a friend of ours "we are prepared for the worst but hoping for the best". From here on, that is my mantra.

We are not a family that gives up and you will not see us quit no matter what is thrown our way. We may stumble, we may take a time out, we may wonder how we will keep going, but we WILL keep going. For each other.

I love you all, I appreciate the prayers and well wishes and acts of kindness more than you know.




Monday, March 27, 2017

A Maintenance Update

I cannot believe how incredibly quickly March has flown by. It feels like we were just watching the Superbowl and celebrating Valentine's Day, now we are just days away from Easter.

March has been a stressful month for me. I was really sick in the beginning and had to take a few days off work. I never felt fully caught up (and still don't) from just those few days. In fact, I just blocked my Friday to be a "catch up" day.  On the days I was working, things were super busy! I had so many meetings, events, and projects starting in March. It's all super exciting stuff, but also super time consuming, and requiring a lot of careful follow up.

Also, looking ahead, I know how busy May and June will be. So part of my stress is anticipatory.

That being said..... the stress, combined with too many carbs, backing down on my workouts a bit and slacking on my water= I gained a little weight. By little I do mean little, 5 lbs to be exact. I'm still at my goal weight (exactly at it). I just enjoyed being 5 lbs under that weight. It gave me some flexibility. So it's nothing crazy, and certainly something that can be expected during stress and changes.

It was a little painful to see it on the scale, at first. I felt badly about myself, guilty, and immediately started planning for what I can do to lose 5 lbs. It wasn't a great feeling.

In the days since, I have calmed down. I've realized it's okay. I don't need to do anything crazy. I could certainly change some things, like less bread (oh my gosh, after the stomach flu all I ate was bread!), more water, and more consistent workouts (back to 4-5 days a week). I can do this, it may take a while, but I've certainly lost more than 5 lbs and I know I can do it again.

I'm writing this because I don't feel like you often see people talk about the maintenance phase of weight loss. I lost over 130 lbs. I've kept that weight off for a year and a half. That is a LOT to be proud of. And I am proud of it. But it's not always sunshine and rainbows. I still get down on myself. I still worry that I need to lose more. I still feel guilty if I eat a piece of cake. It's just the reality. I don't believe that maintenance is "the hard part" (so many people told me it would be). Losing the weight was much harder. But keeping it off certainly takes discipline...and also understanding, which I am slowly learning.

I can do this and I will do this. 5 lbs is nothing. And I'll gain those 5 lbs back again sometime, and have to lose them again. It's part of my life now. I just have to know that, accept and embrace it, and keep moving on through life without being to obsessed with a number on the scale.

Whatever goals you have, please do not beat yourself up when you get a little off track. There's too many other things in life trying to bring you down, your own self talk should not be one of them.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Being Brave

I have found that the times I am most proud of myself are the times when I was brave. For me, it's not always about the wins, numbers, or titles in life. It's about those moments when I don't think I can do something, and then I do it anyway.

I try to practice my bravery every single day. I try to do things that I am scared to do: make that phone call, send the e-mail, ask the question, make a suggestion, speak up in the meeting. These are all things that seem small, but can sometimes be incredibly difficult for me. But I do them anyways. It may not seem like much on an average day, but the little things encourage me to try bigger things. To be just a little bit braver and bolder.

My constant fear, one that has been there for most of my life, is one of being wrong. It's why I almost never raised my hand in class growing up. I am almost 30 years old and slowly learning that it is okay to be wrong. It's not a fault or a flaw, it is merely a chance to learn from it, ask more questions, gain understanding, and start fresh. There is no need to be embarrassed to be wrong. We were meant to be wrong sometimes. We were meant to trip so that we can get back up again.

When you start to learn that it's okay to make a mistake, you can begin to be a little bit braver. You no longer are paralyzed by the fear of someone disagreeing with you, so you speak up.

It's a slow process for me. I still doubt myself quite often. But man, in those moments where my bravery shines through, I sure feel proud. And I recognize when others are showing their bravery, too. I know this life isn't easy for any of us and that so many of us wrestle with self doubt and worry. So know that when I see you stepping forward, speaking up, and standing out, I'm incredibly proud of you.

Not every day is going to have a monumental moment of bravery. That's not the point. Be proud of the little things, and know that every single day that you are putting positive energy and good things out into the world, you are making a difference.



Sunday, March 19, 2017

Wedding Planning: Let It Go

Tom and I have almost exactly 6 months to go until our wedding day. We've also been engaged for about 8 months, so we are right smack in the middle of the wedding planning process.

We have crossed nearly every priority task off the list. We have booked our venue, DJ, photographer, and florist. We're close to booking our cake baker (she is a friend of mine, just need to schedule a day to meet and sign the contract!). We found someone to do our favors and I booked our hair and makeup team for the day of. My dress is purchased and Tom has a deposit on his tuxedo.

Through all of this, we've managed to remain pretty level headed. We've made decisions together, gone through our checklist, made the guest list, etc. There really hasn't been too much to stress about- yet.

But now we are starting to plan for all the little things. You know, like all the paper stuff. Invitations, programs, table numbers, escort cards (so much paper). Decorations, shoes, jewelry. Cupcake stands and card boxes. All the little things that truly don't make that much of a difference, yet somehow still cost entirely too much money and have far too many options.

So I am writing this post, mostly for me, to come back to when I find myself too stressed out over the little things. Maybe this will help some other brides out there, too.

Remember what is important about your wedding day. It is not the little things that people see for a moment and then forget about. People are there to celebrate you and the love of your life, not to examine your escort cards. You are there to marry your best friend, not to stress about the seating chart. This day is about your marriage, being around your dearest friends and family, and making a promise to your partner. When people walk away from a wedding, what do they remember? Spoiler alert, it's not centerpieces. And they probably never saw your shoes. They want to have good food, hear fun music, and drink alcohol.

So do not let these little things stress you out. And when they start to stress you out, think back to every wedding you've ever attended and think about what you remember about those weddings. Most likely it's memories on the dance floor or the killer speech someone gave...or the beautiful music during the ceremony. Or how stunning the bride looked. You did not remember what kind of decorations were on the "welcome table" or the "gift table" or the "dessert table" and for the love of God, why do we have so many tables?

Just enjoy this time with your best friend and family. Take a breath, let it go, and move onto the next thing.

Cheers to every other couple in the middle of their wedding planning. We've got this.

And to Tom, I love you and thank you for being the calm presence I so need.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Listen to your body

A few weeks ago, I started playing with the idea of planning a mini "staycation". I was having constant dreams about work, and waking up several times in the middle of the night worrying about work related things. In a group text with some of my coworkers, I asked when the cutoff was to use our carryover PTO days. I could sense I needed a few days off. It didn't help that most of my weekends had been completely full of activity, leaving very little time to just relax.

I kept putting it off, this staycation idea. I thought maybe I'd take a few days off in April, maybe around Easter. 

Last Monday, while eating lunch with two of my coworkers who had been battling the upper respiratory stuff going around, I made a comment that I don't really get sick anymore. Which is actually pretty true. The last time I was really sick was over a year ago. I'd made it out of a few season changes (which is when I usually get a cold) without a hitch.

Until last Tuesday, when I woke up with that dry, scratchy, sore throat feeling I always get when I am about to get sick. I immediately went into defense mode and got myself some tea, zicam, and orange juice. I cancelled an evening meeting and went home so I could eat some chicken noodle soup and go to bed. By the time I got home, my voice was completely gone. It was too late- I was sick.

I spent Wednesday-Friday working from home. Most of my days were full of conference calls and webinars, so I could easily stay away from the office and spreading my germs while getting work done. By Saturday, I was starting to feel better. I went and met with the gals who will be doing my hair and makeup for the wedding to sign the contract and test out the style I wanted, and Tom and I babysat my niece and nephew. Ryan and I played hockey and did yoga- aside from constantly blowing my nose, I was feeling better. When Maureen and Dave got home, Tom and I stayed and we all ate dinner together.

On Sunday, Tom and I had an all day marriage class. Again, I was feeling better. Still keeping kleenex at close hand, but doing better. We had a wonderful class, came home and called my family, as they were meeting my brother's new puppy, Mac. While on the phone, my mom mentioned that my sister wasn't feeling well, she was exhausted and her stomach was upset. Since I had been with her the night before, I joked that she better not have given me the stomach stuff.

I took a nap, did some laundry, and cooked dinner for Tom and I. But I was feeling exhausted, even though I had my nap. I figured it was just the head cold I had been fighting, plus a long day. As soon as I ate dinner, though, my stomach started rumbling and I knew something was off.

I'll spare you the details of the stomach flu, don't worry. It was rough. I spent from about 9 pm to about 4 am off and on in the bathroom. I was off Monday and Tuesday. It's now Tuesday evening and I am feeling much better. 

Why am I telling you all of this? Not for sympathy. I'm fine, I made it, it was just a bad cold and a stomach flu. Could be worse.

But, remember back at the beginning, when I said I was needing some days off, but kept putting it off?

My body, I believe, was forcing me to rest. I KNEW I needed some days away yet I kept going- and because of it, my body suffered. 

It was a huge reminder to me that I need to listen to my body. If taking a day or two off work to recharge were not possible, could I have cut back on evening/weekend activities and spent that time just relaxing? Probably. 

I haven't been to the office or to the gym in a week. My "step count" since last Wednesday is laughable. I haven't drank coffee in a week. I've had more soup in the last 7 days than I could ever imagine. I've watched more youtube videos than I care to admit. I have had very little contact with the outside world. 

Tomorrow, I go back. I imagine I'll be pretty tired, my first few days getting back into a routine. I'll try to remember to take things one step at a time, to not get too far ahead of myself, do my best with what I have and to take breaks/rest when I need it.

I hope you do the same- remember to listen to your body, mind, and spirit.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Latest Life Lessons....

Lately, I've found myself saying the following phrases either to myself or to people around me. I hope they may serve as a gentle reminder for you, too.

  • You are not defined by a number. You are not your age, you are not your salary, you are not the number on the scale, you are not the grade you get on a test or your rank at your work evaluation. You are a person, who is unique and full of wonderful qualities, and you are not defined by a number.
  • When you are anxious, you are going to want to take it out on the people closest to you. Don't. Or, if you do, remember to apologize, to ask for forgiveness, and to remind that person how much you love them. Go for a walk, write down your emotions, listen to music, do some yoga- try your best not to lash out on your loved ones.
  • Do not shame others for what they eat. This is such a pet peeve of mine. I'm certain I'm guilty of it as well- like when I ask Tom how he can possibly eat Taco Bell. But I absolutely cringe when I see posts or hear people criticize others for their food choices. Sure, I am all about being healthy. But good gracious, let a person make their own choices, and don't make them feel guilty for it. Food is already such a touchy subject- you don't know what kind of eating disorders a person may have. Eat the way you want to eat, and let others do the same.
  • Do not read the comments section on news articles. You know it will just make you upset. I am all about sharing our opinions in this political age, and I don't think it's the time to be silent, but I also know that for my mental health, I can't read those comments.
  • If you're going through a really hard time, it's okay to tell people. They may not understand, and they may not have a response, but I think it's important for the people around you to know that you are struggling.
  • Thank your coworkers. They may not know how much you appreciate them helping you with a project. Or, they may think no one notices how hard they work. Send little appreciation notes here and there, spread the love in your workplace. It helps boost morale, you will make someones day, and you'll probably feel a little bit brighter yourself.
  • Everyone has a different idea of what life's checklist should look like. Your goals will not match my goals. Your idea of happiness is probably not my idea of happiness. What you define as successful may not be my definition. The way you picture a family to look like may not be what I envision as a family.  We've got to understand that all of us come from different paths in life, and all of us are going about this thing in our own way. So long as we are happy (our own version of happy), there's no right or wrong way to do it. 

That's it for now, folks. Just keep living life, spreading love and doing the best you can.

Monday, February 13, 2017

My hope for you...

This Valentine's Day, and every single day of your life...

I hope you know that you matter.

There are people who love you, even when it feels like the world is against you.
Your thoughts and your words are important.
Your creativity is needed.
Your dreams can become a reality.
You have the ability to make a difference.
Your fears do not make you crazy, and you are allowed to be afraid.
You are worth it.
You are enough.

I hope you know that you deserve the love shown to you.
I hope you know that if someone is treating you poorly, it's okay to leave them behind.
Self care is not selfish, and it is needed.
You are stronger than you think.
Even if you feel weak, or hopeless, or helpless, you are not alone. 
You are beautiful.
You don't have to be the hero.
It's okay to have an off day- or week- or month.

I hope you know, I want you to be here. 
I want you to feel love.
I want you to see the love that surrounds you.
I want you to BE love.

It's not about the flowers or the candy or the cards.
It's not about going overboard to show your love and affection.
It's about celebrating love, in all it's forms, today and every day.

You are loved.
You matter.
You are enough.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Remembering how to embrace every moment.

Lately, I've found myself eagerly looking ahead. I am constantly looking at my calendar, both work and socially, to see what my next "thing" is. I keep a close watch on my wedding and honeymoon countdown.

I don't know if it's because I'm ready for spring and warmer weather, or all the fun outings, concerts, and adventures that spring and summer bring.I don't know if it's because world events have been getting to me and consuming my brain. All I know is, I keep looking ahead, wishing time would go by faster.

Yesterday I had to give myself a stern talking to. WHY am I looking ahead when I know the importance of living in the moment and cherishing every step of life?

I've written about this before. I bet I could find at least a dozen blog posts that I have written about the importance of living in the moment and taking life day by day.

So why is that so easy to forget? Why is it easier to want to rush through life, only stopping at the really exciting moments?

Why can't I realize that every moment of life IS really exciting because I am a living, breathing human being who is given a chance to truly make a mark on this world?

I want to learn to truly be okay with every moment of life without wishing it would go faster. I want to remember that we are not guaranteed another day, so we should make the most of each one we do have. I want to remember to make sure my friends and family know how loved and appreciated they are, before it's too late.

It's nice to have things to look forward to, of course. I think they motivate me, they spark a little flame inside of me. But I don't want to depend on those things to be my sole source of happiness, only to be sad and even let down when they are over.

I will be grateful for every day.

Or at least, I will try.

How do you live in the moment?




Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Some thoughts amongst the chaos

I had a rough Sunday. Political news alerts were coming left and right on my phone, I was seeing passionatley wirtten social media posts. And the worst of it was- I couldn't stop looking. I just kept reading, even though I knew it was doing some serious damage to my well being. I couldn't keep straight what was true or false, where my friends or family stood, or how I wanted to respond to it all.

Early this morning, on my drive into work, I had a sort of epiphany.

We all want the same thing, in the end.

We want a safe, unified Country where we can raise young children to be happy and healthy.

We're just going about it different ways.

Some think that we will be safer by building a wall, by banning refugees and immigrants.
Some think that will trigger our enemies even further.
Some think that we need stricter gun laws, keeping guns out of the hands of people who want to hurt other people.
Some think that guns are not an issue.
Some want to make abortions illegal.
Some think that is taking away women's rights, and worry about the safety of some women carrying a pregnancy.


I could go on and on.

We may never agree on the right or wrong way to protect ourselves and our families. What we do need is to understand that we DO have common ground.

And beyond that, we are all human. If you've ever said the phrase "All Lives Matter", think about what that means. It does not mean that some lives matter. It does not mean that, yes, all lives matter, just some more than others. It means all lives matter. It means people who are different than you? They matter. It means people who disagree with you? They matter. People who speak a different language, who come from a different place, who are of a different religion? They matter.

Frankly, I'm tired of having to explain that. I'm tired of having to point out that the refugees who are escaping to the United States are running from the very same terror we are so scared of, yet we want to turn our backs on them. I'm tired of explaining that while healthcare in this country is nowhere near perfect, it saved the lives of millions of people. I'm tired of having to explain why it's scary that our President is signing one executive order after the other, ignoring checks and balances. I'm tired of having to explain that Planned Parenthood provides life saving cancer screenings, wellness checks, and counseling. I'm tired of arguing. I'm tired of the name calling, the racism, the stereotypes. I'm tired of having to explain why we should care about other people. It doesn't seem like it should be that complicated, but somehow, here we are.

And I know that I have friends, or strangers, reading this who are shaking their heads. They have an opposite point of view. I know that they have full support of our President, and faith that he will be great. While I can't understand that, it is what it is. To those friends, or strangers, know that when you asked me to give him a chance, when you told me "he really won't have that much power anyways", that I listened. But in just a few short weeks, I'm afraid I've lost some of that hope- not just in him, but in the people surrounding him.

So.

We all want the same thing (Except the few who don't really care about the safety for anyone). We are not all in agreement. We are all passionate. We all want what we think is best.

The next time you are fired up over a post, or a news article, take a step back. Learn the facts. Know your stance. Stand firm, but be open to another person's thoughts. Do not attack. Do not name call. Take a deep breath. Take a walk. Find some light amongst this chaos, and hold onto it.

Be good to yourself, and one another.




Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Things I've Learned.....

I meant to write this post at the end of 2016 as one of my "End of the year" reflection posts. But here we are, mid January 2017.

I want to share some of the things I've learned...maybe in the last year, or maybe they've been slowly creeping up. But I know that 2016 was all about learning.


  • It's okay to say "no": This is something I am still working on and will be learning through 2017. But 2016 was the start. I used to say yes to everything- and then get too overwhelmed or over commit and have to back out of things. Now, I've started to learn that it's okay to say no. It's okay to tell someone "I'm sorry, that just won't work for me" (a phrase I learned through Oprah!). In 2017 I'm trying to feel less guilty about saying no.
  • I am a big picture person. In the midst of wedding planning I have quickly learned that I am not so good at the little details. Decorations and  Centerpieces and programs and invitations? No thanks. I'd rather book the big stuff and let the rest happen. I've also decided I'm not going to stress too much about the little things. People remember food and fun at weddings, so we've made those our priorities. Everything else is just detail, and we'll slowly chip away at it. But I'd much rather have someone do it for me, because the little details overwhelm me.
     
  • I absolutely need my recharge time. After a full day of meetings, I need a few moments to myself. After a busy weekend, I need my Sunday afternoons/evenings to be quiet, low key, and a chance for me to gear up for the week. It's hard for me to jump from activity to activity. I have to schedule down time.
  • My love language is Acts of Service. Have you ever read the Five Love Languages Book or taken the quiz? If not, you should. I took it a long time ago, before I even met Tom. I don't feel like I have to take it now, I KNOW it's Acts of Service. I feel the most loved/appreciate when Tom cleans the apartment or takes out the trash or goes out of his way to do something nice for me. For me it is not about gifts or money, it's all about doing little things here and there.
  • You just have to try. One of the greatest managers I've ever had, Kerri, once gave me feedback that I should share more of my ideas. She said I had good ideas and thoughts, but that when it comes to sharing them in a group setting, I hold back. I've gotten so much better at this. I still hold back sometimes, but I push myself to try. I've adapted the "it's worth a shot" motto. Also, on the days I don't think I can possibly run or workout, I push myself to try anyways (but sometimes I listen to my body and force a rest day in). I have learned, truly, that you will NEVER know until you try.
  • Self talk is how I get through most situations in life. Good or bad, celebration or challenge, I talk myself through everything. Literally everything. I practice what I am going to say at meetings. I talk to myself while I run. I plan my next moves, no matter how big or small, in my brain. I write my to do list first thing in the morning and talk myself through which tasks to accomplish firsts. I am constantly talking to myself. And I will continue, because it works.
  • I am not spontaneous. I need a plan. This is something I've always sort of known, but it came up quite a bit this past year. I do not like the unknown, I cannot easily just "go with the flow". I have to plan. So when things are up in the air about my dad or when someone asks me to do something with them at the last minute, my anxiety is triggered. These things were not part of the plan. I'm trying to learn to be flexible, to adapt to God's plan and God's timing, but it's insanely difficult for me. I look at my calendar weeks in advance to prep for what is to come. I put nearly everything I do on a calendar. I am a planner. Which may seem ironic since I'm not a small details person. I can't explain my mind....I can just tell you how it is.
  • The perfect sleepy time combination: Lavender, Fuzzy Socks, and my Lullabies album. I've had nighttime anxiety for as long as I can remember. As soon as I lay down in bed, I start to rehash my day. I think about the mistakes I made. And then I start to worry about the future. Like, every single detail about the future. It has taken me a very long time to find a remedy for this, but for now, I have a three step combination that has actually been working. First, I need to make sure I have soft, fuzzy socks on to keep my feet warm. Then, I spray my pillow and sheet with Lavender. Lastly, I turn on my Lullabies (By Jill and Kate) album. And so far, I've been sleeping better than I have in quite some time. Fingers crossed that it continues.
  • At the end of the day, family is what matters. All we have is each other. We must hold onto that, capture that love and spread it back into the universe. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Back to Church

I went to Church tonight. I also went to Church last week. Why is this blog post worthy? Because I honestly cannot remember the last time I went to Church two weeks in a row.

I got out of the habit of making Church a priority a few years ago, when I stopped leading the youth group at the church (And to be honest, even then, I didn't always go to Mass- I just showed up in time for youth group). There are a few reasons that I stepped away from Church. Some of those, I will share here.

1. I don't 100% agree with what the Church teaches. I know I am not alone in this. And I know it doesn't always matter. But I was stubborn, and felt like I couldn't sit there through Mass in anxious anticipation that there would be a topic brought up where I take an opposite stance. What would I do? Walk out? Sit silently? I wasn't sure, so I just didn't go.

2. Going along with number 1, I started to feel like maybe I wasn't welcome in the Church because of my beliefs. I started to feel like a bit of an outsider. And no one likes to be an outsider.

3. I got lazy. Yep, I'll admit it. I started to choose couch and Netflix time over going to Church. Or my weekends would be busy with family time and Tom time and I chose to "Recharge" in the times that I could have been going to Church.

So here's the thing- I don't believe I am a bad person, or a bad Catholic, because I've missed so much Church. I have an incredibly strong relationship with God. I talk to God quite a bit. I'm a good person. I find my faith through ministry, love, and community with the Sisters and Associates of Mercy. My "Faith bucket" is filled in other ways besides going to Church.

But- I find a strong desire to go back to Church. I'm not really sure where it came from. Maybe that I am getting married soon and starting to think about raising a family in the Church. Or maybe it's just something I want to do for me. Either way, I'm happy to be back.

Tonight, a member of the Church shared why St. Hugo is important to him. He talked about how some of the most important moments of his life have happened at that alter. I could totally relate. I, too, received my Baptism, First Communion, and Reconciliation at that Church. I am going to get married in that Church. My Godson, my nephew, and my niece were baptized in that church. I have attended some of the most heart breaking, yet comforting, funerals in that church. There was a prayer service for my dad, when he was first diagnosed, held in that church. And, for most of my life, my mom has taught at the school right next to that church.

That's what's bringing me back. I can talk to God (And I do) anywhere. What I need, and what St Hugo gives me, is that comfort, security, and community.

Tonight when I sat down, I prayed to have something speak to me. I quickly got distracted, watching people fill the pews and letting my mind wander. But a voice kept telling me "Shut out the distractions, and focus on you". That's what I did (or tried to do) for the rest of Mass. And the message that kept coming back to me, loudly and clearly, was "you do belong here".

Will I make it every weekend? Probably not (I'm being realistic). But will I try a little harder? Yes.

I know that there are plenty of others who have felt the same way I do. and I know it can be hard to go back into a place you haven't visited in a while. But trust me, the walls will not collapse on you. No one is judging you for how long you have been absent (And in reality, they probably have no idea). So if you're feeling in your heart to go back, just go. You never know what might be waiting for you.

With all of that being said, I totally, 100% support that some people get their own "church" through nature, yoga, family, etc. In fact, I often have my best conversations with God when I am on a run. So while I personally am feeling a desire to go back to Church and be with the community that has been such a big part of my life, I know it is not for everyone- and I think that is okay.


Monday, January 9, 2017

Five Years

I am a different person than I was five years ago.

Heck, I'm a different person than I was a week ago.

One of the many gifts of life is that we are able to evolve, to grow, to create new experiences and memories. To take chances. To live.

Five years ago, a dear friend of mine had these gifts taken from her when her life was taken from her. We don't know how her life may have flourished over the last five years. I imagine she would still be teaching, enriching hundreds of lives. I imagine she would be the biggest cheerleader of her three children, watching them excel in their sports and academics. She would be strong in her faith. She would be a shining light. She would be all of these things and more.

I've spent countless moments over the last five years thinking about Susan and her gentle, sweet soul. I've tried to piece things together, and I've tried to find peace. I take great comfort in knowing her children are healthy and happy. But I still-quite deeply- feel her loss.

I recently have been wrestling with fear. There are a few things consuming my mind that keep me worried and anxious, and I haven't been sleeping very well. Today, I came across these words

"The honest truth is that we are really only meant to carry one day's worth of worry around with us...we know it's tempting to let your mind wander down the dark "what ifs"...but you've got to try with all you've got to shut those thoughts down. Be present in the moment and try not to let fear be your operator. Fear is a punk and will try and steal your joy from the present moment. The more you can focus on the today and the here and now the more your heart and mind is forced to be and stay present."- Jill and Kate

I couldn't help but think of Susan as I read these words. She was one of the bravest people I ever knew, but she lived her life with such passion and meaning. I have always said that I strive to be like her, and I know that those words were meant to find me today. I know that she would want me to set my fear aside and to live my life passionately. So to honor her, and to be the best me I can be, I will try my hardest. It is NOT easy, I know that, but hopefully with grace, and practice, I can do it.

As the years go by, I find it more challenging to write about Susan, to honor her in a way I feel gives her any sort of justice. But should their come a day I cannot find those words, there will never be a time I do not have her on my heart. She left an everlasting impact on me, even in the short time we knew one another. She continues to radiate light- I can feel it.

Self, and anyone else reading this, let's not live our lives in fear. It's too short for that. Let's embrace the changes, cling to the ones close to us, share our feelings, and be loud with our love. Susan would have. In many ways, she still does.



Tuesday, January 3, 2017

30 Before 30

I'm turning 30 in 2017. To celebrate, I decided to create a list of 30 things to do before I turn 30. Some of these are pretty easy, some a bit more of a challenge- but I'm determined! I will try to update every month. I am looking forward to new adventures and to making memories while I cross items off this list!
  • Run (or be ready for) a 10k
    I mastered the 5k last summer. And even though I'm taking a few months off from running, I hope to get back into it by March and start training for a 10k. I'm not sure if I'll be ready by my birthday, but I hope to run that 10k before my wedding in September.
  • Attend a Yoga or Silent Retreat
    If anyone knows of one coming up, let me know!
  • Make a gourmet meal
    I'm a pretty decent cook but I stick to easy stuff. At least once, I want to attempt to make a gourmet meal.
  • Try Crossfit
    My Y offers Crossfit (for an extra fee) and while I don't think it's for me, I want to try it at least once.
  • See a play or musical
    Even if it's a community theatre show, I'm long overdue!
  • Pay off my credit card
    Over the last few years I have worked really hard to increase my credit score and decrease debt. Right now my debt includes student loans, my car payment, and one credit card. I'm determined to get that credit card paid off.
  • Try "Cycle" class at the Y
    This should be a little bit easier, these classes are free with my membership-I've just been too intimidated to try!
  • Be a mentor
    I have wanted to do this for years, just haven't gone through with it. This is the year!
  • Try a new restaurant
    There are so many new restaurants popping up. This should be a pretty easy task.
  • Take at least one free online course
    Not sure what the topic will be, but I'm going to try.
  • Take a day trip (or two) with Tom to a nearby city
    While I would love to attempt to travel out of state with Tom, that's just not going to happen with our wedding around the corner. Instead, I'd love to take a day trip to Grand Rapids or another Michigan city.
  • Read at least 10 books
    My goal for the entire year is 30, and I'm pretty confident I can get 10 read by my birthday.
  • Send out 30 handwritten cards, postcards, letters, etc.
    This is something I always do around Lent, but I may break it up and do it a couple times a year.
  • Submit a piece of writing to a magazine/website/podcast
    Pretty self explanatory.
  • Learn to say no
    I'm trying so hard to practice saying no to things that do not serve me!
  • Be more active in Church
    I want to attend Mass more, become a Lector, and maybe join a prayer group.
  • Cook one of my grandma's recipes
    Another one that should be pretty easy. The challenge will be choosing one!
  • Go to more local community events
    My community does tons of events- at my library, at the college across the street, downtown, etc. I need to take advantage! I often don't go just because Tom is working. I want to learn it's okay to go by myself.
  • Do something outside of my comfort zone
    I'm not quite sure what this will be. I thought about putting "ride a horse".....but I'm so terrified of that I'm not sure I should put that in writing.
  • Eat vegan for a week
    I have seriously considered adopting a vegan diet, but I just don't think I'm ready. I would love to explore it for a week and see what recipes I can come up with!
  • Declutter
    I need to get rid of clothes, of "stuff", of documents on my computer, etc.
  • Get my old t-shirts made into a quilt
    I have been wanting to do this for years and I know exactly who can do it for me! Just need to actually do it!
  • Treat myself to a spa day
    I'm talking facial, pedicure, AND massage. It will be pricey, but worth it.
  • Buy myself a new laptop
    My personal laptop "died". For now Tom and I share one but I would love to buy myself a new laptop.
  • Take each of my parents to something they really want to go to
    I know the band Chicago is coming to town in July and that my dad would love to go- and I'd be happy to take him! Would love to find something for each of them and have a "date night".
  • Go to a local con/expo
    I think I'm actually crossing this off this weekend- twice! Going to a "healthy living" expo on Saturday and a Bridal expo on Sunday. But open to more!
  • Attend a class (use groupon!)
    Not sure what kind of class- I'm thinking dance or art.
  • Attend a fancy dinner/gala with Tom- or go out for a fancy dinner!
    I think it would be so fun to get all gussied up and go out to a fancy gala- or just a fancy dinner.
  • Ask 30 people to tell me an album or a movie that means a lot to them- and then listen to or watch it!
    I'm the kind of person who loves to share music/movies I love with other people- and I want to hear what is meaningful to my friends!
  • Try to complete this list, but understand that it's okay if I don't and just live my life :)