Lessons on love by the fathers in my life

It’s Father’s Day and I feel oddly like I should apologize for the wealth of positive father figures I’ve had in my life. I know that not everyone is that lucky. But not appreciating the gifts in my life is a big waste, so I’m not going to apologize and I’m not going to brag. What I’m going to do is reflect, appreciate, and share the lessons I’ve learned about love from the men who are fathers to me.

My dad, my grandfathers, and my father-in-law are the authors of these lessons. They might be surprised to know that. But it’s a reminder that in everything we do, people — notably those closest to us — are watching.

Lessons on love by the fathers in my life

1. Love shows up. This is the first thing I think of when I think of my dad. He shows up. When there is a need or a celebration or an open Friday evening, my dad is there. When a stroke kept him from attending Charlie’s high school graduation, he watched it streaming live from the hospital. There was no way he wasn’t going to be there.

2. Love is action, even small ones. My father-in-law could buy my mother-in-law anything she wanted. But one of the greatest, and small ways, he showed love to her was sitting on the couch rubbing her feet. Oh, he did plenty of other things to show he loved her, but that quiet act is something I always remember.

3. Love does not get old, it gets deep. Both sets of my grandparents were married for a bazillion years — or at least more than 50. And when I watched both of my grandfathers (Grandpa and PaPa) be with my grandmothers (Grandma and NaNa), I could almost see them as smitten young 20-somethings. The love they had was deep, forged over decades of joy and heartache. The love they had and showed for my grandmothers, that’s #lifegoals material.

4. Love is funny. So, he’s not my dad, but Mike fills our house with humor. He plays a great comic relief to my often too-serious straight man. And though my PaPa has been gone for a few years, his legacy of PaPa jokes lives on. You know the kind — corny, punny jokes that make you smile and grown at the same time. Here’s one for you: “Why do cows have hooves instead of feet? Because they lactose.”

5. Love challenges. This is one of those lessons that can be infuriating in the midst, but looking back, is the greatest gift. There have been times when both my dad and Mike’s dad have challenged one of us to do something more or better or differently. The response in the moment is sometimes “lay off” or “mind your own business” or “you don’t know what you’re talking about.” But when love challenges, it’s not because we are not good enough, but because it wants the best for us.

So, on this Father’s Day, I’m going to acknowledge how lucky I am and be grateful for it. To Mike, Dad, Tom, and Grandpa — and to PaPa in heaven, Happy Father’s Day.

Green is…

Green is…

an invitation

a welcome

growth

quiet energy.

Green is…

fresh

crisp

soft

peaceful.

Green is…

my favorite shoes

my next car (someday)

a celebration

despite what Kermit says, easy.

Green is…

honesty

gentle

comfortable

familiar.

Green is…

tender

passive

joyful

goodness.

Choose your color. What is it to you?

Double exposure

I wrote yesterday about exposing myself by sharing my postpartum depression story as part of The Blank Monologues (TBM) at Millikin University. But there’s a part two to that story. Not only did I expose my own truth, but I also exposed myself to new perspectives, experiences, and understandings that were shared as part of the show.

I had never attended The Vagina Monologues (TVM) before — that’s the show that TBM was adapted from. If you haven’t either, let me tell you that this is not a she-woman, man-haters occasion. The Blank Monologues (and I assume TVM,) was a platform for sharing some of what it is like to be a woman today and sharing hopes for what that experience will be like in the future.

Being a member of the TBM cast was a powerful experience for me. Not only did I get to watch my daughter practice her craft (proud mama here!), but I also took a closer look at a topic (femininity) that I usually just gloss over without thinking too much about it.

I hadn’t read the entire script all the way through before I got to Decatur for dress rehearsal, but I’d heard a few of the monologues during the rehearsal that I’d attended via FaceTime, so I knew that I was going to have to steel myself for some language that I’m not used to — or entirely comfortable with — hearing.

You know what happened? I was so struck by the authenticity and the power the women in the cast projected that I didn’t even think about being uncomfortable. The opening monologue was original to this performance and was delivered by the young women in the cast (that is, everyone except me and the three professors who were also in the show). It was called “My Feminism” and was a sort of feminist manifesto. And it made me re-think feminism.

I should probably point out here that I don’t usually get too riled up about gender equality and pink hats and marching on capitols. I like to be agreeable (at least on the surface) and choose not to rock the boat. I am not comfortable with anger, but this devised manifesto helped me to better understand what people are angry about.

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Yet, my experience of womanhood includes certain joys — feeling a baby moving within me, being able to talk about my feelings, and wearing dresses with pockets. I would love to see them included to fully represent the experience of womanhood.

The show included music performed by a transgender woman. It was not my first encounter with a trans woman — you might remember Emma, but it’s not something that happens every day. Mel, the musician, talked briefly about her experience living as a woman in a world that doesn’t always acknowledge that and I was most struck by her humanity. She is just a person who wants to be accepted. Aren’t we all?

Another group monologue was called “Why I Didn’t Report.” Some of the “whys” were statements that have been given by others over time and several of them were these brave young women’s stories — stories that made me sad, and shocked, and has me re-thinking what constitutes assault.

“These Are My Sisters” spoke of all the women in the world and how much we are connected, how much we owe to each other. My favorite from that monologue was “The teachers that pushed us to the top, and not over the edge, are my sisters.” WOW.

I looked around the room, especially at these amazing young women who believed in this project so much that they gave up dozens of hours over two months to bring these stories to light. I looked at these Millennials, who I have at times judged as loud, hysterical, and inexperienced, and though I might not agree with everything they believe in, I thought to myself, “This generation is going to change the world.”

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Exposing myself

I just spent the past two days exposing myself and I am exhausted. No, not THAT kind of exposing myself. I’m talking about revealing truths about myself that, in the anticipation of it, left me feeling vulnerable, nervous, and maybe a little scared.

Annie and three of her closest friends put on a show at Millikin University last night called “The [Blank] Monologues.” It was an adaptation of The Vagina Monologues. They had seen a production of TBM in St. Louis earlier this year and knew right away that they had to bring it to their campus. In less than two months’ time, they put out an audition and submission call, casted the show, scheduled and held rehearsals, and promoted the show, all culminating in two performances at Millikin on Friday night.

What made this show different from The Vagina Monologues is that they wrote and accepted submissions of original content, to be performed alongside some of the original TVM content. That’s where exposing myself began.

When Annie told me about their plans and that they were asking for people to submit original content, I suggested that maybe I would submit something, which I assumed would be immediately shot down. It wasn’t.

But what did I have to say that would fit in with the spirit of The Vagina Monologues? I don’t have a bikini wax story. I don’t claim a place in the #Metoo movement. What exactly would a heterosexual, Catholic wife and mother of three have to say to the world (or at least to 150-ish people) that would be remotely connected to her vagina?

When I sat down to write my submission, my story spilled out onto the page as if it had been waiting for a long time to be unleashed. I wrote about my experience with postpartum depression and postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder. Without much editing, I emailed my story to Annie, with a firm directive that I did not expect them to accept it and that my submission should be viewed with neutrality, not as a something Annie’s mom wrote. The next day, I got the call: I was in.

I FaceTimed in to the first rehearsal. Hearing the scripts for show’s other monologues, I felt like mine didn’t measure up. I wasn’t sure it belonged in the show. I told Annie as much after the rehearsal. She insisted I was wrong, my story needed to be told, and it would be.

Rehearsals went on without me, though I promised to be at dress rehearsal the night before the show. True to my word, I showed up and immediately became intimidated and a bit overwhelmed. These young women are AMAZING at their craft. They delivered their monologues convincingly, naturally. During a break, I told Annie I was feeling uncomfortable, especially because I would be using notes to help tell my story. She assured me that two of the professors in the cast would also be delivering their monologues with the help of a script. This girl was not taking no (or even maybe) for an answer.

I’m not afraid of public speaking; in fact, I enjoy it. But this was going to be the first time I had told this very personal, very vulnerable story to a large group of random people. Annie had told me that many cast members cried when they read first my piece in the script, which is what happened when I delivered it during dress rehearsal. I was surprised. For some reason, I didn’t expect my story to resonate.

Even still, their reaction did not prepare me for the reaction of the audience when I delivered the monologue. First, the girls in the cast (yes, they are young women, but they’re 25+ years younger than I am, so they seem like girls to me), applauded me to the stage in an audible show of support before I even opened my mouth. They knew I was a little unsure. As I told my story, I looked out into the audience and saw that people were completely dialed in to my story, many with tears streaming down their faces. When I finished, there was a standing ovation. It was, as my castmates would say, FIERCE.

After the show, several people came to me to thank me for sharing my story. A professor complimented my writing and suggested that I submit my piece to The Moth, a storytelling podcast. I think the most meaningful feedback I received was from a student who told me that she’d always wanted to be a mother, but that she deals with depression and didn’t know if she could be a good mother. My story, she said, gave her hope.

That made all the uncertainty and hesitation to expose myself and my experience with postpartum depression worth it. I write to make connection. Because I was willing to risk putting myself out there — and because my daughter could see the importance and pushed me to own it — that connection happened. And I am so grateful.

Blank Cast

 

 

 

On growth and risk

Take calculated risks quote via Carol's Country Sunshine on FacebookI’ve been thinking a lot about growth and risk and the connection between the two lately.  In my experience, being a responsible adult lends itself to playing it safe. Stick to what I know so I know what I’ll get. But what happens when what I know doesn’t feel like enough?

Going outside of what I know is risky. However, is there a point at which staying within my safety bubble becomes risky, too? Are the only two options in life to grow or to shrink? Does stasis really exist?

This growth and risk question can be applied to a lot of areas of life. For instance, church and faith. Mike and I have belonged to the same parish for more than 26 years. It’s the church we attended when we got married. It’s the church where our children were baptized, where we made some really good friends. But it’s different now. Many of our friends have left the parish. We no longer have kids in the school so we don’t know as many people. And instead of an important part of my life, a vibrant community, church feels like a building.

The way I see it, we have three choices. Stay, going to Mass on Sundays and not much more. But the status quo leaves me feeling unfulfilled. The second choice is to leave, find a new parish. That’s risky, for sure, and it doesn’t feel right, at least not right now. The third choice is to stay and make an effort to be more involved, to get to know those people we don’t know at all. That feels risky, too, but it also feels more like something that will lead to the kind of growth I’m looking for.

Work is another area where I’m really feeling the connection between growth and risk. I love the people I work with. I love the people I work for. I don’t really love the work that I’m doing, in part because I’ve been doing it for almost 14 years. But this job is safe. I know what the expectations are. I know what the salary and benefits are. I know that my bosses are terrific at encouraging work-life balance. All that is safe…is it enough?

I’m two semesters into the risk I decided to take that might lead me to career growth — pursuing a master’s degree in an area unrelated to my bachelor’s degree. But when I think about leaving the safety of the job I have, I get 27 different kinds of nervous. That’s ok. I don’t have to make that decision right now. What I have to do right now is stay the course on this commitment I’ve made to get a master’s in healthcare management. There is growth in that, too.

Even my choices within this master’s program offer a risk/growth opportunity. I have to complete an internship in the fall. I could likely do my internship at Joy’s House, an amazing adult day center that is near to my heart and where I serve on the board. But I know Joy’s House, so I’m pushing myself to accept the challenge of putting myself into unfamiliar territory; I’m hoping to do my internship with a hospice organization. I believe that’s where I’m being called to grow.

That’s a big risk. I think I want to work with families as they near the end of a loved one’s life, but I don’t have any experience with that. What if I’m wrong? What if I hate it? What if I’m terrible at it? You know what, there is growth in being wrong, too.

I heard a quote recently: “Fortune favors the bold.” It resonated with me. Safe just doesn’t feel safe anymore.

 

What I learned from logging out of Facebook for Lent

GfL

I decided to log out of Facebook for Lent in an attempt to quiet my mind and be better able to focus on other things. I learned a few things in the process…

1. Progress, not perfection. I stayed entirely off Facebook for about one out of the six weeks of Lent. Then I let myself slide back in just to stay in touch with a small, private Catholic Moms group and our private family group. I was able to keep up with that for about three weeks. Then I started doing some scrolling, but not commenting. And in the final week or two of Lent, I began commenting on people’s posts here and there. So was it a perfect sacrifice? No. But I think it was a useful exercise.

2. Take the humble road. One thing that I was committed to during my time away (or lessened) was not making any original posts myself. OK, there was one exception — a request for prayers for my husband’s current job search. But other than that, I did not start any conversations. That was a deliberate decision on my part and one that I made out of a desire to practice humility. If you don’t post anything, there’s nothing to check to see how many likes or comments your post has garnered.

3. I can fill my time with anything. I have never in my life scrolled the news feed on Linked IN or the curated articles on Google like I did over the past six weeks. I learned that it’s not Facebook that can highjack my night; it’s my own unwillingness to set boundaries and stick to them.

4. I am not a very visual person. In lieu of posting on Facebook, I found myself posting to Instagram. The problem with that is that Instagram is an image-based platform. I have a word-based brain. Limiting myself to Instagram forced me to think differently about how I wanted to convey what I wanted to say. That was a learning experience.

5. Online relationships can be very real. Part of the reason I slipped back into at least the scrolling of Facebook is that I missed people — people I might not often (or ever) see in real life, but people who are important to me nonetheless. For me, Facebook fills — in part — a need for connection.

6. Facebook serves up plenty of drama and angst. This is likely no surprise to anyone, but backing out for a while did provide an opportunity for a refresh. Even when I was scrolling, but not responding or posting, I had the ability to just scroll on by and not be weighed down by whatever drama was bouncing around my newsfeed.

7. News travels fast…on Facebook. At least in my little corner of the world, Facebook is the hub of communication. I find updates from Robbie’s bowling league there, and nowhere else. Friends who have happy or sad news to share do so on Facebook in an effort to be efficient. Photos and stories of my nieces and nephews find there way to our private Facebook group when they might not be shared otherwise.

8. It’s on me to cultivate more direct communication. This stems from #6. I love being able to check in and find out what is happening in the lives of people I know and love. But I also learned over the past six weeks that I should be more intentional about making contact with people I care about outside of Facebook.

Am I glad that I chose a Facebook fast for this year’s Lent? I am. Will I spend less time on Facebook now after all that I’ve discovered? The jury is still out on that one. Will I give up Facebook for Lent again? Hmmm…I guess I have a while to figure that out.

 

I’ve made a big mistake

It’s Lent, the season during which Christians prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus by choosing to fast from something or, in more recent years, adding a spiritual practice to their days. I’ve tried to elevate my Lenten sacrifice from the giving up of chocolate that was my default in my younger years. This year, I chose to give up Facebook and Twitter for the duration of Lent. And I’m feeling like it was a BIG. MISTAKE.

My motivation was a recognition that I was spending an inordinate amount of time on the two social media sites, that all the time spent on those sites was drawing me into judgement, snarkiness and sometimes anger over things that really weren’t mine to be angry about, and that I was seeking approval from the people who responded to my posts — “do they like me?”.

All of those seem like good reasons to take a social media hiatus, and I still believe they are. However, what I didn’t really count on is how much I would miss the connection with the people who’ve become regulars in my little internet bubble. As crazy as it sounds, there are some people who I only interact with on social media who I absolutely consider friends. This Lenten sacrifice of mine has cut me off from those people.

I also didn’t consider how much I use social media as a crowd sourcing platform for life’s common questions, like “how much should it cost to replace a car’s back windshield” or “what’s the best way to cook a rump roast?” And to answer the obvious question, yes, of course I could Google those things, but it’s so much nicer to hear from friend or two or 17.

Despite the fact that I am pretty sure that I made a big mistake giving up Facebook and Twitter, I’m not giving up giving up. I think there are things I can — and need to — learn and do. I want to get back in touch with my own thoughts and feelings outside of the influence of whether or not other people agree. I’m feeling drawn to creativity, which I’ve let be squelched by mindless scrolling through newsfeeds.

There’s a big world out there and I’m hoping to find it again. And when I do, boy will that make a great story to tell on Facebook.