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.


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 :)