Somehow, Sunday Always Comes

It’s around noon on Easter Sunday. I’m at my kitchen table with a Bloody Mary waiting for my beloved Carrot Souffle to come out of the oven. In an hour or so, I’ll be sitting around my parents’ dining room table, blessed to still have both my mom and dad. My brother and his wife will be there, and happily, this year I’ll be joined by my son, my youngest daughter and my boyfriend (which still always feels weird to say at the age of 45…) My older daughter is in another state with her grandma, having her own Easter.

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I’ve been thinking all morning about the ways my parents’ dining room table has changed over the past 20 years or so. About the way it is different every year, every holiday. I’m thinking of all the times there were both empty seats and a full kids table. All the memories. The silent tears and heartaches around the table. The laughs. The new life. The new people who have only passed through and those who have stayed.  At some point or another, almost all of us were either widowed, divorced, or sat there with and without our kids. We’ve mourned spouses, grandparents, and kids and babies who should be here.

It’s amazing to me. Life is amazing to me. The way families and relationships and life changes over the years. There are years I sat at that table afraid to speak or I would cry. Years I drank a little too much so I didn’t have to think about being the lone single person there, with or without my kids.  Life is just so fragile and so beautiful and I see it so clearly around the dining room table.

I don’t know what Easter means to you, but on this Easter Sunday, I think about how Sunday always comes. Historically speaking, Good Friday was the darkest day in human history. And Saturday– the time and space between Friday and Sunday– seemed dark. So very dark. Sad. Quiet. Hopeless. And as if it would last forever.

But Sunday came. It did. Somehow, Sunday always comes. Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s not how we ever pictured it, Sunday comes. And in its own way, it is new and beautiful and it is okay. I feel grateful today. Sunday is here. It is hardly what I pictured. But there will be eating and drinking and laughing and celebrating. It is sunny and new and somehow, it’s still going to be beautiful.

Somehow, You Just Do

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Death. Illness. Accidents. Break ups. Broken Hearts. Bankruptcy. Betrayal.

Think of the last REALLY hard thing that went on in your life.

{Or maybe, like me, you’re still in the middle of something really hard.}

But now think back to all the really hard things you’ve already made it through.

And first of all, Bravo, you Bad Ass, you.

Second of all, whichever space you’re in, I’m gonna guess there was a moment–even if it was just a millisecond– when you wondered how you would ever survive. A moment when you thought you never would. A moment when you swore this would be the one hard thing that was TOO hard. Insurmountable. Impossible. Impassable.

Sounds silly now. And maybe a touch dramatic. But it didn’t feel that way at the time.

You didn’t know how you were gonna do it. But somehow. Somehow, you did. Somehow, when it comes down to getting through, a day at a time, you just do.


This morning, I went for a walk. A legitimate walk. I awkwardly strained to wrangle my hair into a messy bun. (An impossible task just a week ago) I couldn’t manage a sports bra, but I pulled up a bandeau bra thingy and leggings. Last night, I asked my daughter to loosely tie my sneakers so I could just pull them on this morning and actually go by myself. (I sound like a toddler. There’s been a lot of that. Not good.)

Side note: Speaking of something else I can’t manage yet: Spanx. Over the weekend, I tried. I really tried. There was a dress I wanted to wear that needed a little…help. And there was a literal moment when I had to choose between potentially damaging my healing wrist with all the pulling and tugging versus the illusion of a flat tummy. I actually had to think about it. Because priorities. But since I  physically could not get them on, the decision was made for me. Dodged a bullet.

As crazy as it may sound, I was kinda scared to venture on this walk alone. (Although not as scared as I felt when I contemplated the idea of having to tell my mom I re-broke my wrist trying to pull on a pair of Spanx. AmIRight??) But there were two things: What if I get too far from my house and I run out of energy and can’t make it home? And the other one was the biggie: What if I fall? What if I trip on a curb or a banana peel or THE SIDEWALK?? Because apparently, these types of things happen to me. But the point is, I wouldn’t be able to catch myself. Then what? It might not sound like a big deal, but for me, it was.

I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t want to feel so fragile. I want to feel fearless. (‘She wants to be fearless. That’s cute’, my mom is thinking. ‘Hire a nurse next time.’) Good news: I went ahead on my walk and made it home just fine.

Today I was thinking about how far I’ve come. A few weeks ago, a three mile walk was unthinkable. I just wouldn’t have had the stamina yet. I was still spending a lot of time crying  resting, which takes up a lot of energy.

And then I got to thinking of all the other things I’ve lived through that I never could’ve imagined. 23 years of parenting. 16 years having lost my first husband. 4 years of being a blonde. 2 years divorced. Lots and lots of heartache and heartbreak. Just life. And most recently, almost 2 months of broken bones and surgeries and depression and recovery.

You can’t really understand at the outset, how you’re going to live through some of these things. But somehow, you just do. And then you kind of look back in awe of yourself. And feel sort of proud. You think,’I did it. I thought for sure, this is how it all goes down, but I’m doing it.’

So what is it for you? What are the things you thought you’d  never live through?

‘Cause guess what? You did it. You’re doing it. And so am I.

Life Requires Time and Space

Green Lake

I get choked up every time. Every. Single. Time. There is something about a morning walk or run through the tiny little park not far from my house. The sunrise reflecting off the water. The stillness of this tiny little corner of the world. The way the trees and branches hang out over the jagged little shoreline. And the dock. The lone, long dock looking like a pathway to somewhere else. Anywhere but here.

How many, many times I have sat on that dock wishing I were anywhere but here.

But not this morning.

This morning, I still got choked up. But this morning it was in gratitude. Gratefulness. I sat on that dock thankful that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be in life. Not because everything is perfect. I have finally learned perfection is not the goal nor is it possible.

But everything is okay. 

Better than okay. But in the very least, okay.

And what I’m learning now is life requires time and space. Kind of like the old adage, ‘Time heals all wounds’, but different. I’m not sure I believe time heals all wounds. But what I do believe is time and space help things change shape. Time and space give life a chance to sort things out. Time and space allow things to breathe a little and work themselves out.

A thousand times I’ve walked through this same little park.

I walked through it as a pregnant teenager, not sure how I would ever manage a baby at such a young age. Then I watched that same baby grow up and play baseball on those  diamonds. And now he’s 23.

I walked through that park as a young widow. I cried my heart and soul out on that dock. I could’ve filled Green Lake with those tears. I had no idea what life would look like or how I would go on. But I did.

Time and space.

I walked through that park and sat on that dock worried about my girl. How she would navigate some of the challenges thrown her way. In the next few months she’ll go to prom, get her license, graduate from high school and head to college.

Time and space.

I sat on that dock after my sister experienced several absolutely devastating miscarriages, begging God to please fix this somehow and give her healthy babies. Now they’re 2 and 4.

Time and space.

I ran through that park and collapsed on that dock during the toughest battles of my marriage, grieving everything I thought my life would be and wasn’t.

Time and space.

I sat there for 5 minutes this morning. Just to say thank you. Just to remind myself of all the times I didn’t know how things would ever be okay. And now they are. I know they won’t stay okay forever. I know there will be a lifetime of running through that park and sitting on that dock, wondering how things will turn out. But now I will take a deep breath. I will remind myself that time and space help life change shape.

And somehow, even if it takes a year, or two, or ten, everything’s going to be okay.

It’s the Little Things that Make a Wonderful Life

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“What if you woke up one day and it turned out your whole life was only a dream?”

My older daughter Casey shared this quote with me the other day. She read it somewhere recently and it really spoke to her.

As she and I went back and forth about the craziness of this concept and how it would feel and what it would be like, what struck me the most was this: She said she’d be devastated. Because– and I quote, “I have a pretty damn good life.”

Woah.

I was not expecting that.

I was not expecting that, given our family history– her father’s death when she was just a baby, my recent divorce and all of the preceding circumstances, and some of her own personal struggles in the past– I just wasn’t expecting to hear that she loves her life so much.

On sleepless nights, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about everything I haven’t been able to give my kids (read: an intact happy family) and the variety of loss they’ve experienced in their lives. I think as parents, especially, we tend to think it’s all much more complicated than it really is. And although at times my kids do feel the rough edges of brokenness rub up against them, it’s not how they define themselves or how they view their lives as a whole. There are tons of little things that give them so much happiness and make them feel loved.

And as it turns out, it’s the little things that make life wonderful, even when the very big things don’t measure up.

My daughter’s remark got me thinking. There are really only a few things any us of need to feel like it’s a pretty wonderful life after all. And the more people I talk to, the more I’m convinced that especially during the Christmas season, we cannot be reminded of this enough.

So what exactly makes the short list?  

Love that makes us feel secure

Feeling accepted for who we really are

A passion that lights us up

Lots of laughter

Being surrounded by people who genuinely like us

These are the things that make a wonderful life. It isn’t about creating an atmosphere of perfection. We never could anyway. It’s about tons of love, grace, and laughter. It’s about really connecting with each other. It’s about pursuing things that speak to our souls and set our hearts on fire. It’s about friends that feel like family and family that feels like friends.

George Bailey would’ve lassoed the moon for Mary. But even that was too much.

Mary toasted her friends simply by wishing them this~

“Bread. That this house may never know hunger.

Salt. That life may always have flavor.”

To which George added, “And wine! That joy and prosperity may reign forever!”

And in the end, it’s the bread, salt, and wine of life. The little things that make it wonderful, even when the big things may not be perfect.

Cheers to the little things~

And cheers to a truly wonderful life.

The Art of Offense and Apologies

Photo on 2014-08-11 at 15.45 #3The years before I got divorced, the year I got divorced and the year following my divorce, as you can seriously only imagine, have been rich with offense and apology. Constantly. Continuously. Exhaustingly so. And not just with the obvious principal players, but with lots of people in my tribe. And on the real, possibly more offense than apology. 

But isn’t this about how it goes for everyone? Relationships. Gah. Seriously. I love ’em and hate ’em all at the same time. There are a few people in my life that frustrate the hell out of me and I want to throw them off a cliff and then run to the bottom to catch them. Because I love them. But for whatever reason, we can’t seem to get an easy vibe going. Which means miscommunication. Misunderstood feelings. Unmet expectations. And Mexican stand-offs. (Sorry to the Mexicans. Sorry. It’s just an expression, yes?)

And so the offense/apology circle is a pitted and well-traveled path. But there are bits and pieces to it that get sort of muddy at times. And so this is what I’d like to offer:

The person who has done the offending

REGARDLESS OF INTENTION

Does not get to judge whether or not the offended person should be offended


 You should probably reread that. It might take a second or third look

{Feel free to sub out the word “offended” for whatever flies your kite: insulted, hurt, degraded, humiliated. We run an equal opportunity shit show here}

 And before anyone gets crazy, I’m strictly referring to one-on-one personal relationships here; Not to social media/political correctness/Merry Christmas and rainbow-flag-waving type of “offenses”. Those are a totally different type of headache. Like a migraine. 

The thing is this– If I’ve hurt you, whether or not I intended to, if I value our relationship and am seeking to live at peace with others as much as possible, then I need to apologize. Period. You get to feel what you feel and I don’t get to decide if it’s valid or not. Because truthfully, the thickness of our skin is as varied as the colors of it. Totally. Completely. Different. 

And how I see it

Is not necessarily how it is

It’s only how I see it

We, each one of us, are masterful lawyers at defending our own feelings and intentions, but incredibly tough judges when it comes to measuring someone else’s.

SorrySaying you’re sorry doesn’t have to mean you were wrong; Saying you’re sorry means that you want to take tender care of another person’s heart and feelings. Being an attentive, mindful caretaker is an important part of growing healthy, soulful, connected relationships.

And so if we can learn to live with this as a core value– to cause as little harm to others as possible– and apologize quickly and easily if and when we do cause hurt or harm, no matter how right we think we are, it will change the atmosphere we live in. And changing the atmosphere changes the world. And at the end of the day, I want to be a world-changer more than I want to be right. Do it with me?

5 Things (it’s okay) to Tell a Struggling Friend

images-17When people we care about are struggling, it can be so hard knowing the right thing to say or do. And even though pain, grief and loss are such a universal part of the human experience, for some reason we suddenly feel so awkward on how to handle it. There are lots of WRONG things to say and you can find those here or here. But to be honest, the worst thing to say is NOTHING. To ignore it altogether. To pretend it didn’t happen or that you don’t know about it. That. is. the. worst. For the love. Don’t be that person– use one of these instead:

1.  I‘m so sorry you’re going through this.”

“I’m so sorry you have to walk through this.”

“I’m so sorry this happened to you.”

“I’m so sad for you.”

Any variation of “I’m sorry” is a good place to start. C’mon. You can say that. It’s not that hard. This is the universal sympathy phrase for a reason. It’s easy to get out of your mouth. You should use it. And please don’t ever qualify this with a “But…” As in, “But I don’t agree with your divorce.” (That must be so hard for you. Because I lose sleep at night over whether or not you agree with my situation.” Smile. I’m kidding. Obviously.) “But you deserve it.” or “But I told you so.” No. Stop. Don’t do it.

2. “That must be so hard.”

“That must be awful.”

“That would be so hurtful.”

Validation is a gift. People who are struggling often keep apologizing for all of their emotions when it’s probably all very normal. In the midst of chaos and pain, it’s a wonderful thing to be told, “It’s okay that you feel this way.” When you tell someone, “That sounds horrible”, it’s not a sudden revelation to them. They already KNOW it’s horrible. But what you’re really saying is, “I see what you’re going through and I can see why it’s so hard.” Do this.

Important side story~

When I lost my first husband, everyone thought it would be helpful if I attended some sort of support group. Except there weren’t any support groups for 26 year-old widows. (What I really needed was a support group for 26 year-olds who had to attend a support group) Ultimately I ended up attending a group filled with– wait for it– people over 65. I was mortified. It only continued to point out the rarity and devastatingly “bad luck” of my situation. Except for one unforgettable moment that night. Everyone had to tell their story; Who they had lost and why they were there. As I listened to tale after tale of people who had been married for 50 years, people who had to discontinue life support and feeding tubes, people who had needed Hospice, it was my turn. And as I told of my husband being killed in a car accident and leaving behind myself and our two small children, the elderly gentlemen sitting next to me grabbed my hand, looked in my eyes, and said, “You must be in hell.” I wept with relief.

Finally. Finally someone was acknowledging exactly what it felt like. How bad it was. How hard it was. Naming it for me. To finally NOT hear that God must have needed another angel (more than my kids needed their dad??) To NOT hear that I was so young– I would surely find someone else (as if the true problem was the vacancy and filling of the position of husband and father). To NOT hear that everything happens for a reason (because there is no reason thorough enough that would justify this loss). Finally. Validation of the hell I could not escape. I never went back to that support group. But I also never forgot the words of that man. It was a healing moment in my grief.

3. “I may not completely understand, but I can sit here and listen.”

Most struggling or grieving people have a need to talk. And talk. And talk. If not right away, eventually. External processing is a powerful way of understanding and sorting out the jumbled mess of emotions locked up inside. No one is looking for you to have any answers or come up with solutions. And really, don’t. All you need to do is sit and listen. And then get used to responding with simple phrases such as, “That’s awful.” or “That sounds so hard.” Or even, “Mmmmm.” There are very few requirements to be a good listener– a little bit of time, a compassionate heart, and gentleness. Lots of gentleness.

4.  “What would be helpful right now?”…And then offer something specific. Or just do it.

Most of the time, people will add, “Is there anything I can do?” And in the middle of grief, it can be very hard to answer. Ideally, if YOU can think of something thoughtful and helpful (as long as it doesn’t cross any major boundaries), just do it. Or offer something specific that requires a yes or no response. “Can I drop off dinner on Tuesday night?”, “Can I do all the driving for baseball this week?” If none of that seems right, stop by for 5 minutes with a coffee, muffins, beer, a new purse, shoes, anything with a bow on it…Wait. Sorry. That’s maybe only what I would like. But. You get the point.

Another important side note~

Sometimes when my girls are struggling or sad, I say to them, “What would make you feel taken care of right now?” The answer can be as simple as a cup of hot chocolate, a nap, snuggle time with me or a quick date somewhere. I especially like that this teaches them to recognize what they’re feeling and then ask for what they need. And it teaches me, too. I think women, especially, are bad at this. Or maybe it’s just me. I’m bad at this. But my girls won’t be. They will know how to ask for what they need.

5. “You are not alone.”

Grief and loss. Pain and struggle. It’s all very isolating. The rest of the world is moving on while yours has stopped. It’s a very lonely place to be. Depending on your relationship,  it’s such a relief to hear someone say, “You’re not alone. I’m with you in this. Text me or call me 24/7.” And then, even if you have to set a reminder in your phone, YOU text THEM every few days with some love and encouragement. A friend and I stumbled upon a little code– when one of us is feeling really low, or thinking about the other one, and we don’t really want to talk or don’t really know what to say, we will text  ” …” And it just means “I have no words. I’m here. I’m with you.”

And believe it or not, it helps. Easy. Small. Simple. Gentle. Kind. You can do it.

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Running Through the Pain

This is not a post about running. I mean, it is. But it isn’t. Running is so metaphorical with life that it’s hard to avoid using it as a continual source of inspiration.  So many of my blogs formulate while I’m running that it can be hard to disconnect. Unfortunately, I  haven’t been running as much lately because I’ve been sidelined with a little injury known as Plantar Fasciitis. This is code for “super intense foot pain especially when you get out of bed in the morning.” If you’ve gone through PF, you feel me right now. Because you remember how totally sucky it is. Thank you for feeling bad. It helps. And so I have spent the past few months on a seesaw of trying to find the balance between resting and running.  Trying to manage the pain. Half-heartedly doing some of the prescribed therapies that supposedly help heal and lessen the symptoms of PF.  But it’s been super frustrating. I am a horrible patient. And my foot was seriously hurting even when I hadn’t run in over a week! I was getting discouraged. And feeling chubby. And feeling jealous  of other runners and runner friends working toward their goals while I sat out. And yet every time I got back out there, the run itself would feel so good–mentally, physically, emotionally–that I got to thinking: Maybe it’s time to just keep running through the pain.

Predictably, this got me thinking about life. And what it means to keep running through the pain. What it means to keep going when you want to quit; when everything feels too hard and hurts too much. And how tough it can be to find the balance between giving yourself tons of slack and tons of grace and time to heal from painful circumstances– or just forcing yourself to get up and get out there, kicking ass and taking names– knowing that life goes on. Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into years.  Life is happening right now, whether or not you participate. 15 years ago when my first husband was killed in a car accident, the ocean of grief was deep and dark and frightening. Life with two small, now fatherless children seemed utterly insurmountable.  My first thought when I woke up every morning  and my last thought when I went to bed at night was that I wanted to die. That life was too hard. That I couldn’t face this kind of pain everyday and survive. A year later, that type of thinking  had taken its toll.  I was only 26. I had a whole lifetime yet to be lived. And so did my kids. Something had to change. This was still my life; this new normal. It made no difference whether or not I chose it, liked it, wanted it, loved it or hated it. I needed to learn to run through the pain.

And so here I am again. In life AND in running. It’s not exactly where I wanted or planned to be at this point. And now I’ve sat around with this injury for a while, really feeling bummed about it. Disappointed and sad. Crying. Lots and lots of crying. But truthfully, I hadn’t really followed the advice I was given BEFORE the injury– and then it took several more weeks and bouts of pain until I decided to follow the NEW advice I was given to heal the injury. (I’m a slow learner. I like to take my time with my mistakes and make them repeatedly. You know, just to be sure.) But when I was out there running today, feeling like a rock star in 45 degrees and sunshine, I decided, once again,  it’s time to run through the pain.

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