Sunday, January 31, 2016

Ranking American Idol Contestants

Because I have far too much time on my hands and needed a mindless task to do this weekend, I ranked Idol contestants based on the place they got in the show. If you're at all interested, here are the links to my rankings.

10th Place (9th place)
8th Place
7th Place
6th Place
5th Place
4th Place
3rd Place
2nd Place

Monday, January 25, 2016

Keep In This Fight

Because I had to work on Saturday, I was lucky enough to have this afternoon off. I knew exactly what I was going to do with my time: Laundry, grocery shop, go for a run, and do yoga. I had been in the habit of running once a week for several months, but once it got cold outside, that came to a bit of a standstill. I was also doing yoga pretty regularly, but due to schedule conflicts I haven't made it to a class in a while.

So with the sun shining and a yoga class booked at a small studio, (my gym doesn't have Yoga on Monday nights, and I really needed to stretch), I headed out. Of course, by the time I got to the running route I had seeked out on the Internet, the sun went away. But I didn't let that stop me. I ran my three miles. A little slower than normal, but I managed to run it under 40 minutes, which was my goal with the colder weather, lots of layers and the unknown route.

I had just enough time to sit in a little cafe and relax and catch my breath before yoga. As I mentioned, I had never visited this studio before, but I decided to give it a try today. I walked in to the space and was greeted by the owners, who took my information and showed me around. I peeled off my layers from the run and found a space on the floor. Although, I must admit, I was quite overwhelmed. It was a really tiny space, everyone seemed to know one another quite well, and the heater was on in the yoga room. I don't do well in heat, and I immediately started to sweat, and to worry that I wasn't going to be able to do the class.

The yoga instructor began by introducing me, and then asked the rest of the class "when was the last time you walked into a brand new place? Were you nervous, anxious?". She must have seen those emotions on me. We began our class. Now, the class was titled "slow burn" and I signed up because I figured it would be a slower, gentle class. I'm not very wise on yoga terms. For the record, slow does not equal easy.

I've taken a handful of yoga classes...including a few that had the heat on, like this class tonight. But this class was, hands down, the most challenging class to date. Our instructor really pushed us, calling out for tough poses that demanded balance, strength, and flexibility. There was one pose in particular that I simply couldn't get. She came over to me and told me not to think about it, to just do it. But of course, me being me, I couldn't NOT think about it. I didn't complete the pose. But I tried. With shaky legs.

Then our instructor declared it was going to be a "wall" class. This meant that many of our poses used the wall as a prop. I knew this was going to be a challenge for me because I have weak hamstrings. Plus, I had just run three miles. I was right. It was a challenge. My legs did not want to straighten out on the wall, they were constantly shaking, and I lost my balance quite a few times. I felt embarrassed. I mean- I'm strong! I lift weights! Why can't I do these poses? But just as I was thinking that, the instructor said "yoga is a time for you to try new things, and to laugh at yourself while you're doing them. You don't have to be perfect". With that in mind, I pushed through. I wasn't super successful and I had to go back into child's pose when my legs couldn't take it anymore. But damn it, I tried.

When class was ending, the instructor said, to all of us "I bet you don't feel nervous anymore. There's no more room for jitters". She was right. For as anxious and overwhelmed as I had been when I first walked in, all of those feelings were gone. I had left them on the mat. Where they belong.

I'm telling you this story for a reason. I know no one out there is dying to hear about my yoga escapades.

For the past week or so, I have been struggling with this uncomfortable emotion of feeling "not good enough". I can pin point where this came from, or even why, it's just something I've been feeling. In this Yoga class tonight, I KNEW I wouldn't be very good, and I was right. And guess what? It felt amazing. It was OKAY to not be good enough. Because I tried, shaky legs and all. And if you ask me, that's what counts. That we try our best to be good people, to care for ourselves and those around us, and to work hard. We may not always nail it, and we may shake or lose our balance or fall off the tightrope here and there, but we have to just keep going, keep trying, and to accept ourselves as who we are. And to know that everyone else around us is simply trying their best, too.

Cheesy as this may sound, I know that I was meant to go to this yoga class tonight. I needed a place to clear my head, and I needed something to challenge me and to show me that mistakes are okay. This class did that for me.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Shine A Light On Me

I spent the first 24 years of my life thinking that murder was something that happened to the outside world. It was something I heard about on the news or on Law and Order.  I never thought that it could happen within my world, in my hometown, in my St. Hugo Community. I never thought I would lose a friend to murder.

But in January 2012, I did. I lost a dear friend because she was killed. Perhaps it seems taboo for me to talk about, maybe telling people that I had a friend that died would be sufficient. But what good does that do, really? I choose to tell the truth, no matter how painful, shocking, or scary it may be.

Our St. Hugo Community was no stranger to loss. We had lost people before, all of whom were far too young. We'd lost people to cancer, heart attacks, accidents, and suicide. But never this. And it shook our entire world upside down. In the next few months to follow, we were woven together as tightly as we could possibly be. We held onto each other for support, to share tears, to vent our misunderstanding and our frustrations, to pray. It was really quite beautiful, how we became this stronger community through such a tragedy.

Now it's four years later. And while I can't speak for everyone, I know that many of us still feel the pain of that loss.  A lot can change in four years, and a lot has changed. We've all grown up, in our own ways. We've had other celebrations and other losses. Some of us have moved away.

But the very beautiful thing about this community, and perhaps because of this tragedy, is we can always come back home. My biggest connector is my mom, as she is still a teacher at the school. Through her, and her past students and the parents of those students, I'm able to have a world of loving, compassionate, dependable people right at my fingertips. In any moment of need, I know that all I have to do is reach out, and someone will step in...or at least try. I am forever grateful for my mom for this connection. I may not be as active in the church as I once was, but I know that I can walk in on any given Sunday and feel the love. I know that it will always feel like home. 

Susan was a very bright light in that home. And while I will never again see her smile or be able to have a cup of coffee with her, her light still shines. Every single person that knew her carries a little piece of her with them. She was such an influential, strong, beautiful person. I have no doubts that each of us who knew her strive to be just a little bit more like her.

To Susan, I miss you and sure wish we could talk in person. Your legacy lives on through your beautiful children and through each person who met you. May your heaven be full of coffee, shamrocks, the French language and hugs.

To everyone in the St. Hugo Community, my hope for you is that you always see the beauty, the grace, and the love that grows in abundance- and not just in the halls of the Church or the school. You don't have to be present on campus every day or even every week or month to know it's there. You can always go back home, even if it's just for a visit . I also hope for peace and protection for you and your families, and for gratitude for being such a huge part of my life, but more importantly in my mom's life.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Give Love and Receive love.

A few weeks ago, I was texting a good friend of mine while I was getting ready for an event. Said event was making me anxious. I was going to be seeing people whom I had not seen or spoken to in quite some time. I was not on great terms with some of these people, either. I was getting nervous for how it would all play out. When I told my friend this, she replied

"Just go in expecting to love and to receive love".

It really hit me. I took her words to heart, and I tried to live them out as best I could. Unfortunately, there was a minor incident at the event that left me a bit tangled. It made me question some friendships and feel overall guilt and sadness over something that happened several years ago. I felt down about it for a day or so, but I kept going back to the words my friend had texted to me. And I decided that instead of rehashing and letting my emotions get the best of me, I had to let this go and turn it over. I silently forgave myself and the others involved and I let it go.

Although I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions, I think my friend's advice is going to become my mantra for 2016. In everything that I do, I am going to do my very best to love and to receive love.  It won't always be easy and I won't always succeed, but by focusing on love in this sense, I think my mindset will be positive and accepting. It also may bring me some surprising blessings. It may mean that I focus more on the good. That after a meeting or a party or even in my every day life, I can sit and reflect and think, okay, where was the love there? What did I give, and what did I get in return?

It will also come in handy in regards to my self and my self worth. I have a confession to make: Even losing 135 lbs does not suddenly make you love yourself without doubt. I still pick apart my flaws. It's something I am working on every single day. But it's HARD. I beat myself up mentally over the silliest things. In 2016 I am going to work on being kinder and more loving to myself. I am going to try to let the harsh words and negative thoughts go. The other night I was having a particularly down night. When the thoughts came through, I imagined them as balloons and I watched them float away. It was powerful, and something I am going to try to practice daily.

That is my focus for 2016. To love myself, to love others, and to find the love in every situation, and to accept the love that is given to me.

What is your focus for 2016? No matter what it is, I hope that you, too, find your days full of love.

Melinda Doolittle's song "Give" has the perfect message for my 2016 mantra.