Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Power of Vulnerability

I've always worn my heart on my sleeve.

Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you that 99.9% of the time, I'm willing to tell you just about anything that you want to know about me and most of it falls in the realm of the intimate or the personal.

I don't know why.  But I find it liberating to be the first one at a cocktail party or a gathering of friends to start spilling the "real" stuff...the brutal challenges of motherhood, the craziness that is marriage or the cons of wearing a thong...not necessarily in that order.

I've just never been very good about talking about the weather or fashion or organic eating or...well, you get the picture.

And so, it was with extreme gratitude and a huge shout of praise to God that I stood humbled and joy filled when five women said yes to participating in an advent event that I'm organizing for a women's circle at my parish.

In a dress rehearsal of sorts, they came and shared their personal journeys of faith in preparation for the event next week.  As each woman spoke and cracked the facade of control, perfection and mystique that we like to show the eyes filled with tears, my heart swelled with love, and my faith magnified as I realized beyond a shadow of doubt that God is indeed alive and well among us.

If there's one life lesson that I want to impart to my children it is that the faster you let judgement, condemnation, and righteousness go in favor of compassion, kindness, and empathy... joy and abundance in the simple will abound.

We should all do ourselves a favor and be not afraid to be vulnerable with one another.  We have nothing to lose and everything collectively to gain. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tough Love

I've never been good at dispensing tough love.

Just ask my friends.  They'll tell you.

I'm that mom that is constantly asking my kiddos how they're feeling in their heart, if there's anything I can do to make them more comfortable and telling them I love them constantly.

And so, it was with much dismay and sadness in my heart that I had to put the smack down on the older two this morning.

Much like you, we have morning rituals that are fairly sacred.  We lay out their school uniforms the night before, place colored cereal bowls on the table and make sure that coats, hats, mittens and shoes are by the door for quick grabbing prior to departure.

Sam is seven and a half years old.  Kate is five and a half years old.  They're both old enough to know exactly how to pour their own bowl of cereal, throw their pajamas down the laundry shoot, get dressed, brush their teeth, and get their coats and back packs on before leaving the house.

But for whatever reason, I find myself assisting more than I should and before I know it, I'm nagging them to do the same old tasks and fighting to get us out the door so that we're on time.

And if there's anything I despise, it's sending my kids to start their day with a feeling of stress or a memory of a yelling mama who's told them that they need to take care of business.  

But, Sweet Fancy Moses...what in the hell is a mother to do?  I can either enable the behavior or nip this shit in the bud.  And it's time to put the boxing gloves on and show them who's boss.

In the process, I'm conflicted wondering whether I should drive to school and bring Sam his mittens so that he's not cold on the playground and Kate her chap stick, so that her lips don't continue to get chapped.

I'm forcing myself to stay put and let the kiddos sit with my lesson of tough love and pray that tomorrow will bring a new found sense of responsibility in the both of them and a new level of patience for me.

The trials and tribulations of parenting. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

3 Half Marathons in 2012

One year ago, in November of 2011, I was ready for change.

I didn't know how it would morph, but I knew that it was inevitable.

After having my third child, I was desperate to inhabit my body again and to rediscover me.  And so, I set out, to do some work.

I put one foot in front of the other and decided that I was going to give running a go.

I could barely run around the block or the track at the gym.  I was frustrated...mortified at the place I'd found myself.  My fitness level was in the toilet.

But bit by bit through will and consistency, I started to emerge.

My goal was to run a half marathon on the morning of my 37th birthday.  It was a daunting task.  I had to be able to run for 13.1 miles which seemed impossible.

And then, I did it. It was the best birthday present ever.  Here's me crossing the finish line.

Once I completed that race, I decided that it was time to go back to my roots.  I registered to run the Chicago Half Marathon to reconnect in the city where I went to college and to claim something for my own. I didn't plan on traveling alone for the experience, but with the help of many, I went and had hands down one of the top 10 experiences of my life.  Here's me post the race.

And finally to commemorate the annual anniversary of the year of change, I ran the North Face Endurance Challenge Half Marathon race in Kansas City.  By far and away the most physically grueling of all three courses, it was the best way to end the year.  Here's a post race photo op.

45 pounds lighter, significantly stronger in body, mind, and's what I've learned.

  • Never ever, ever, ever give up on yourself.  You are a child of God and an investment worth fighting for every minute of every day.
  • Anything that is worth its weight in gold is not easy.  It will hurt.  It will be frustrating.  You will want to give up...many, many times.  Don't.  Keep trying.
  • Failure is good.  Falling on your face while trying something new and outside of your comfort zone is the best way to know that you are alive, inhabiting your body and living your life.
  • You've only been given one life and nobody else will live it for's up to you to decide that you're going to own it...all of it...the good and the bad.
  • You are never alone.  More people than you know are willing to support you.  Just reach out.  We're ready and waiting.
  • Often, change doesn't have to be all or nothing.  One small tweak today overtime can make a tremendous difference in the long run.
  • You are stronger and more capable than you ever imagined.  Your greatest ally is the little voice inside your head and your heart saying, "Keep going.  I believe in you."  Listen to it.  And don't let anyone tell you differently.
  • Life is meant to be joy filled.  If you're feeling less than or doubtful that you're "all-in," don't be.  Do something about it.  Change is the only constant.  And, it's a powerful thing.
I don't know what 2013 will bring, but I'm really excited and extraordinarily grateful for this journey.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Friendship is a Single Soul..."

"Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies."  Aristotle

She knows me. 

No, not just the fact that I'm a coffee addict and that I live to run. 

Or that I'm impulsive and can appear flighty when it comes to committing to events or trying something new.

She accepts that I'm obsessed with the happiness of my children and am constantly asking them, "how are you feeling in your heart?"

No, she's at the heart of me.  She knows the ugly stuff....the deep, tucked away stories that don't get told at parties and aren't part of the resume.  She knows the embarrassing stuff like I'm a cheap date and puke after 2 glasses of anything alcoholic in nature.  And she knows the what I'd be doing if I wasn't living this life.

And she calls me.  And she dreams with me.  And she cries with me.  And she hopes.  And she prays.  And she pushes.

And she calls bullshit when she knows that I can do better.  And she's willing to take the fall if it means that I'll get the glory for a brief moment.

And she remembers when I run.  That I'm scared shitless of races.  And my kids' birthdays.  And that I suffer from Catholic guilt more than anyone should. 

And she celebrates everything from fitness goals to the fact that I told someone to 'Fuck Off' even if it was only in my mind.

And she loves me. 

There is no price tag that can be put on friendship.  When it's real, authentic, gritty, available, and reliable....there's nothing you won't do.

Here's to all the "she's" in my life.  Soul sisters.  My village.  My girls. 

I couldn't do it.  Any of it.  Without you.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Beauty of Being "All In"

We walked into the church eager to celebrate the baptism of a dear friends' little one.

It wasn't our home parish and like usual, we were just fighting to get out the door with the three little ones and so heading to a different location created busyness.

And, everything was complicated by my husbands' injury.  He was in the Emergency Room the night before after slicing open his finger on the kids' picnic table.

So, given the circumstances, I arrived grateful to be there in one piece.  I wasn't expecting anything, just a chance to celebrate in this little ones' joy filled experience.

But then, the pastor started to talk and delivered a homily that I couldn't stop thinking about.

It revolved around asking how much that we're willing to give in much that we're willing to much skin that we're willing to put into the game, especially when they're no guarantees for a win, maybe even when it seems as though a loss is eminent.

I've always been conservative when it comes to betting.  I don't go to casinos.  I've never been to Vegas.  I want to understand what my odds for success are before I ante up.

And to be completely honest, I've operated this way in my relationship with God.  I want to see outward signs that I'm on the right track.  I get anxious if I can't see my way along the path.  I want to be more in control than I'm willing to admit.  I'm not very good at trusting that everything will turn out the way it's supposed to.

So after his talk, I pondered the thought of truly being all in...what would that look like?  What would it cost me?  What would it cost me if I don't surrender to the obvious...that no one is really ever in control.

And then, I stumbled upon this quote from a fellow runner.... 

"I'm glad to be here right now, poking at my threshold. I want to get more comfortable being uncomfortable. I want to get more confident being uncertain. I don't want to shrink back just because something isn't easy. I want to push back, and make more room in the area between I can't and I can. Maybe that spot is called I will." -Kristin Armstrong

Because when you put it all out there, the only thing that can happen is that you lose your pride, your ego gets bruised, you discover something about yourself you didn't know before, and ultimately, you own your life on life's terms and not the preconceived ones that you've been hiding behind.

It might be time to be "all in."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

100% Obligatory Action Free Zone

It was my hip again.

Two miles into the run and I was frustrated.

I should have just stopped and called it a morning, but I needed to sweat out the toxins, the stress, and work through my general malaise. 

I don't know if my state of mind was attributed to exhaustion with the kids, anxiety over my upcoming half marathon race, anticipation of my in-laws holiday visit and the craziness of the house, or just in general, a need to be alone away from the responsibility of it all.

Do you ever feel like that?  Where your body, mind, and soul simultaneously belt out a resounding, "Fuck it," to the world?  And you know that in an ideal time and place, you'd be on a beach in Mexico holding something with an umbrella completely and utterly alone.

No cell phone.  No deadlines.  No upcoming project concerns.  No grocery shopping.  No dinner to attend to.  Absolutely 100% obligatory action free.

That state feels like a slice of Heaven.

A place where you're able to think, decompress, do away with the shit that just doesn't matter.  It's remote, isolated, simple, and hand crafted just for you.

And it's also a place where you don't feel guilty about being there.  You're not worried about being unreachable, non-participatory, or unengaged.

It's a spot where your batteries are recharged, your mind is cleared, your body is rejuvenated, and you're ready to come back to the demands of life with a smile on your face.

That's where I want to go.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing"

I am an old woman, I'll give you that.

Old enough to remember loving Judy Blume books.  I think I've read them all.

Some of my favorites include, "Are You There God?  It's Me, Margaret,"  "Superfudge," and "Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself."

I'm also a big Beverly Cleary fan.  "Mouse and the Motorcycle." "Ramona Quimby, Age 8."

And then, there's the greats like Roald Dahl.  "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."  "The BFG."  "The Twits."  "Fantastic Mr. Fox."

And so, it is with great delight that I watch my seven-year old son and five-year old daughter devouring these books. 

They too are falling in love with the authors, the characters, the brilliant stories and begging to trek to the library to dive into new tales...enabling me to relive my childhood all over again.

And so, I leave you with one of my favorite paragraphs from "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing."

"Both my mother and my father are always warning me never to talk to strangers in the park.  Because a lot of dope-pushers hang aroung there.  But taking dope is even dumber than smoking, so nobody's going to hook me!"

I guess some things have changed since the '70's. Maybe I need to have a chat with my kiddos about the resident dope pushers or maybe how not to get hooked?  Good times.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When Does the Soul Enter/Depart?

I've never been a fan of cemeteries.

In fact, since my grandparents have passed, I've not gone once. 

Not on Memorial Day.  Not on Christmas.  Not on the anniversary of their deaths.

To me, they're not there.  Their souls have departed.  They are in Heaven.

When I want to pay homage or connect, I just start talking to them.  Usually, it's on their birthdays or when my children do something that I know my grandmother would remark about or love. 

And so the other day it hit me during a fascinating chat with a friend...if I believe that the soul departs the body upon death, when does it enter?

Upon conception?

Upon birth?

What happens to embryos that are frozen during various In vitro fertilization processes? 

Is the soul only available to us as human beings when it inhabits the body because we're limited creatures?

It all seems so complicated and ethereal until your child asks, "Where is Great Grandma now?"  or "Did you always know that I would be your daughter?"

And then, the philosophical conundrums feel a bit more real and important to try and process.

In my quest to determine my purpose for being on this earth, I'm mindful that my life is intentional and my soul is here for a reason.  And that ultimately, the real question is figuring out what I am here to do?

So maybe it doesn't matter when the soul enters the body, as long as it seeks to make the world a better place than when it discovered it.

The gifts that we bring are intended to create a more meaningful, peaceful, loving experience for those who come after us.  If we're seeking to do so, we know that the legacy we leave behind will no doubt be impacted by our presence.

So, in many respects, arguing over the soul's inception or exit is far less useful than the contribution that the soul makes while she's here, which is what I've shared with my children. 

Since we have no idea how many days we have on this earth, we should seek to make each one count, so that we're living a soul-filled life and helping others to do the same.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Traveling Up...Together

Look down. 

Nose to the grind stone. 

Focus on the cracks.

Study the leaves.  the sticks.  the grass.

Hear the music reverberate.

This is doable.  It doesn't matter if you haven't been here before.

You'll come back again.

And again.  and again.

Your ass is supposed to burn.

Your eyes are too. 

And the palms of your hands and the insides of your ears.

Sweat is telling.

Listen to it.

It's your heart.

It's got this.  along with your head.  and your soul.

Almost there.

Apex in sight.

Control it.

Release the fear.  You are not alone.

I am here.

Look up and out.

It's you and me at the top.

Of the hill., for the descent.

You've earned it.

Push down....for the up...

is on it's way.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Not Giving in to the Demigods

It was her hair that I loved.

I distinctly remember that.  It was blonde.  Not white blonde.  But that really cool California blonde with a million yellow, brown, almond, caramel colors strewn through it.

And she had blue eyes.  I did too, but hers were better...Mediterranean like and infinitely sparklier.

And she was smart, extraordinarily so.  She took all of the same advanced placement courses that I did, but different than me, she breezed through them as if it was nothing but a thing.

Oh, and she played the violin.  And when I went to her house, her father, a professor played classical music and asked if we wanted tea or to see their recent photos from Europe.

And I wanted to be her.

We were 16 and I was certain that she and her family epitomized everything that was right and beautiful in the world.

If I could just somehow transform my dark brown hair into blonde locks and lose 3 or 4 inches off of my 5 foot 8 inch frame and play a musical instrument and get a passport and learn to like tea and....

And I remember it like it was yesterday, the ways that we as adolescents turn ordinary people into demigods not realizing that when we do, we diminish the beauty and importance of who we are in the process.

This memory came back to me as I was talking with my beautiful five-year old daughter Kate.  She was sharing how she wished that she had curly hair like a little girl in her kindergarten class and that she played soccer.

I told her that curly hair is fun until you have to wash it, comb it, and manage it.  And that all of my friends with curly hair envied my straight hair because they hated maintaining their lioness locks.

Then I told her that soccer is super cool as well and she could certainly try it this spring, but that we shouldn't forget what an amazing ballerina that she has become.

And finally, I conveyed that its completely normal to "fall in love" with other people and to want to "be" who they are.  It's part of being human.  But the best skin to live in is your own.  It's true that if you don't live your own life, no one will get the best of you and everyone will miss out on the blessing that is you.

And yet, it's so hard when all you want to be is a blue-eyed, blonde-haired, Chopin listening, European traveler.  Alas, someone has to hold down the fort in Omaha, Nebraska.