Rant of Appreciation

Today my Grace post comes in the form of a Rant of Appreciation. Yesterday included a harrowing drive to the coast of England from Somorset. I was driving, which I’ve done before on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road. I usually enjoy it. It’s like a puzzle. And a challenge. Can I remember which side of the street to drive on and which side to execute a turn onto? But yesterday we were driving on the tiniest of winding, cliff roads (driveways??) going up, down and around with insane people hurtling themselves toward us as though they were attempting suicide. When we finally reached the hotel I sobbed. All of my pent up fear and anger came bubbling up and I let it out. I vowed then and there that I wouldn’t leave the hotel until Tuesday, sacred sites be damned. When I informed Wayne of this he said, “Okay.” No judgement. No grief. No whining. Just, “Okay.” He’s amazing. After calming down a bit, I told him I’d be willing to go to Tintagel, if HE drives and I can keep my eyes closed.

I’m writing this now on my phone while we are driving on the teeny tiniest of roads (even for one car!!!), as we navigate having to share it with people. At least they have the broadest grins on their faces. That helps. It’s all fun and games. Wayne is thrilled and I’m trying not to look.

So back to the Rant. Yesterday I felt awful and my body needed to cry and I let it. I expressed it. Today I have a bit of a “woe is me” hangover that I want to shake off. Hence, the appreciation. I’m looking for the Grace. So here goes:

I love my husband.
I love heated towel racks.
I love the ocean and craggy cliffs.
I love good food.
I love that we are on this amazing vacation.
I love England with all its sacred wonder.
I love gulls.
I love British children with their sweet little accents.
I love tea and biscuits.
I love warm clothes.
I love the sun.
I love cars with heated seats and navigation.
I love my daughter.
I love the internets that allow me to keep in touch with her while I’m a continent away.
I love my mom who is watching over the dog I love so much.
I love pink houses.
I love civilized cocktail hour.
I love the rain.
I love my friends.
I love getting to do work I love.
I love taking pictures.
I love fall and beautiful, colored leaves that do just that.
I love A roads.
I love comfortable shoes.
I love when people love that you’re from America and want to tell you all the places they’ve been in the States.
I love wild horses.
I love bleating sheep.
I love the countryside.
I love street signs that look like flaccid penises and make me giggle.
I love red telephone boxes.
I love that my husband can make me laugh so hard at just the right time.

Deep breath in. Let it out.

And, good.

This is the fifth of 31 {or more} posts that I am writing on the topic of Grace. I’ll be writing about what Grace means to me and the ways in which I’ve found it in my life. Please leave a comment any time about what Grace means to you or if you have any questions for me about Grace.

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Jolene Marie

When I was born I had an older sister, Jolene, and an older brother, Ron. When I was two and a half my sister passed away. She had a brain tumor that, even though they caught it late, was operated on and successfully removed. What she ultimately died of was pneumonia. Back then they didn’t get patients up and walking around or breathing into spirometers like they do now. They just let you lie in bed and recover. And sadly, she didn’t.

Fast forward several years and I was about to turn seven, the age Jolene was when she passed, and I was terrified that I was gong to die too. It made perfect sense to my six-year-old brain that females in my family die when they turn seven. I was petrified to go to sleep, even going so far as to try holding my eyelids open with toothpicks that I had snuck from the kitchen cabinet at night. If my eyes couldn’t close, I couldn’t sleep and therefore, couldn’t die. It was very clear to me.

At six I was a nervous wreck.

Thankfully, my parents made the decision to put me into therapy and didn’t just tell me to get over it. It was a kindness that means so much more to me now than when I was a child, but even then I knew I was receiving a gift. I was blessed with the most wonderful woman as my therapist. Mary and I met weekly. She let me make myself hot tea and put as many sugar cubes in it as I wanted. I liked it very, very sweet. I felt so grown up and special. No children I knew drank hot tea. She also brought in pomegranates and let me pick out the seeds and eat them during our sessions. It was nirvana. Mary created a very safe haven for me to go and tell the truth and be held and be heard. I was a lucky girl.

During our time together she brought in an anatomy book and carefully explained to me about the tumor my sister had, where it was located, and showed me on my own body where it would be if I had one. She explained my sister’s symptoms and asked me if I had any of them. I didn’t. It was such a huge comfort to know that because I didn’t have those symptoms, I likely didn’t have that tumor and I wasn’t, in fact, going to die.

It was really incredible and life-changing stuff.

There are a couple of amazing and Grace-filled parts to this story. The first is that I learned very early on that  therapy can be such a gift. That having a space to tell the truth and be heard is invaluable. And I became person that for my friends. I had one friend tell me that her parents were getting a divorce. NO ONE’S parents were divorced at that time, in our Catholic school community, and she didn’t want to tell anyone. She told me. I don’t know if it’s in my DNA or if it’s because I was blessed with Mary, but I have always wanted to create that space for anyone that needed one. I can’t remember a time that I didn’t.

I also learned about self-care during those sessions with Mary. Self-care can be really simple. It can be pomegranates. And it can be hot tea with as many sugar cubes as you want.

Grace is that simple. Grace is safe place to be, a person to listen and hear. Grace is hot tea and pomegranates.

This is the fourth of 31 {or more} posts that I am writing on the topic of Grace. I’ll be writing about what Grace means to me and the ways in which I’ve found it in my life. Please leave a reply any time about what Grace means to you or if you have any questions for me about Grace.

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Hail Mary, Full of Grace

I’ve written a couple of posts on the topic of Grace and I thought that I would define exactly what it is that Grace means to me.

I was raised Catholic and for those others of you that were, the title of this post will ring very familiar to you. It’s the beginning of prayer that Catholics say around the rosary. The first line of it is, “Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you.”

Free and Unmerited Favor

If you look up the word Grace in the dictionary you’ll find that most of the definitions are religious in nature. “The free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.”

Favor of God seems to be a prevailing meaning of the word. I like that definition. I’m a believer in God or Spirit or the Universe or whatever it is that you want to call That Which Has Always Been and is the Creator of All.

I love the idea that we all have access to FREE and UNMERITED favor. And I believe it wholeheartedly. We don’t have to do a single thing to be worthy of favor or blessings. We don’t have to earn them. We just have to be and that is enough. Do you believe that? I sure do.

But Grace is not only for believers in God or Christians. Grace is for everyone. Grace, by definition is not something you have to earn, which means you don’t need to believe IN anything in particular in order for it to be available to you. It’s that whole “just be and that’s enough” thing. Grace and blessings are available to everyone.

Tender Mercy

My definition of Grace as I apply to myself and others is a Tender Mercy.

Offering Grace both to myself and others is a huge part of my life. I have called myself before the “Queen of Self Care” and to me that’s what offering myself Grace means. How can I be kind to myself right now? Especially when I’m beating myself up over something, which I am wont to do. How can I offer myself tender mercy? How can I show myself kindness? Grace?

Offering Grace to someone else is all about extending myself in love and kindness to make someone else’s life better. It can be as simple as telling someone what I find amazing or beautiful about them. Or it can be giving people my time and attention when they need it. It’s one of my favorite things to do. 

Hail All of Us, full of Grace. Because we are. Filled with blessings and filled with unmerited love.

This is the third of 31 {or more} posts that I’ll be writing on the topic of Grace. I’ll be writing about what Grace means to me and the ways in which I’ve found it in my life. Please leave a reply any time about what Grace means to you or if you have any questions for me about Grace.

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When my dog passed away last year it was a blow that brought me to my knees. She was my first real pet, my first dog, and she was like a child to me.

She was precious. And that was her name.

I was so devastated that I had to take time off of work. I had no idea how long it would take to move through the stages of grief, but I gave it my all. I cried all day every day for six weeks. I yelled, I screamed, I bargained, I sobbed, I begged to re-write history. I have never experienced grief like that, not even when my dad died.

There were a several things that got me through that time.

One of the most amazing and Grace-filled parts of the whole experience is that my daughter, Dani was home from school when it happened. She had been away at college and was home for a week or so on summer break. She got to experience Precious alive one final time and then was there with us to grieve and help us move through those first difficult days. I found Grace in that serendipitous timing.

Another was my husband. He missed her as much as I did and we grieved her loss together. Being able to share our sweet memories of Precious with each other brought so much solace to our lives. We found Grace in each other.

Another thing was Modern Family. Have you seen it? It’s freaking hilarious. We had never watched it and I was determined to find something to make us laugh and bring us joy. So every night when my husband got home from work we watched episode after episode until we fell asleep. Season after season, laughing through our tears. We found Grace in comedy during our misery.

And one other thing that got me through that sorrow-filled time in my life was my friends.

One of these is Jen, a lady that I met kind of as a result of Precious passing. I have come to cherish this woman so much. During a Facebook conversation with her regarding Precious she said these words to me, “Maybe there is a place for a ritual/altar/ceremony for your dear pup… Maybe there is a way your soul wishes to honor the gift of her presence in your life…” I was so wrapped up in my grief and how my life was changed that I hadn’t stopped to think about anything like this. Her simple words changed everything for me. I did, in fact, create a little altar with her ashes and a few of her favorite things that I could look at every day. A year later, it’s still up and every time I see it, it brings a sweet smile to my face. Another thing that I did as a result of what she said was write a eulogy for my sweet dog. Wonderful memories of her came pouring out of me; her peculiarities, her verve and vigor, her sweet kisses. It was so cathartic and I never would have dreamed of doing that if she hadn’t mentioned it. I found Grace in ceremony and a sweet friend.

Another one of my friends, Kelly, texted me EVERY DAY for months to see how I was holding up that day. I spoke to her a few weeks ago and she didn’t even remember that she had done that. Her check-ins with me were a lifeline to the real world. Someone out there cared how I was doing. Every. Day. I found Grace in connection.


The day Precious Passed, 2013 Me and Penelope The Great

On the day that Precious died I took myself outside and raised my face to the sun and thanked God for the gift of Precious and for the joy that she had brought to our lives. I made a specific point to do it that very day because I knew that it’s easy to get mired in grief and it’s easy to find yourself adrift without something to tether you. So even in the shit of that day, I found the Grace and the gratitude and I made a point of expressing it in my way.

This is the second of 31 {or more} posts that I’ll be writing on the topic of Grace. I’ll be writing about what Grace means to me and the ways in which I’ve found it in my life. Please leave a reply any time about what Grace means to you or if you have any questions for me about Grace.

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Everyday Grace

Grace {A Divinely Given Blessing, A Tender Mercy, Elegance}

In seventh grade I had a teacher named Sister Mary Brendan. She may look sweet, but she was a hard ass and something of a nut. She frequently gave the girls hell for trying to shrink our jeans and called one classmate by the wrong name because his parents “named him wrong.” What the??? She particularly didn’t care for me because I was constantly asking, “Why?” Especially during religion. You don’t do that in Catholic school and particularly NOT with Sister Mary Brendan.

Sister Mary Brendan, 1980

Sister Mary Brendan, 1980

Which was why it’s a little shocking that this woman changed my life. She said something to the 12-year-old me that hit me like a ton of bricks and then seeped into my pores and has become as much a part of me as my heart – as breathing.

Here is what she said, “In every situation there is Grace. Sometimes it might not seem like it, so you may have to look really deep to find it, but it’s there. Look for it.”

She went on to say that some people might challenge that notion, “Oh yeah? – What about people dying in earthquakes (I grew up in Southern California and we had a lot of them.)? Where is the grace in that?” To which she replied that there are always helpers. There are always people that will leave the comfort and safety of their homes to dig through rubble to help save a person or a dog. And that THAT is what Grace can look like in a tragic situation. Look for it. It’s there.

To me, who was growing up in a dysfunctional home, to hear that Grace could be found in the crazy of my life felt like a life raft and it felt like freedom. It became a game for me to find the Grace – especially in the shit times. I would immediately look to see where I could find Grace. And without fail, I could. Without fail. It’s always there.

I’ve spent my whole life since then looking for and finding the Grace. It is so ingrained in my being that it didn’t occur to me that other people don’t do it.

I think that it’s also why it’s so natural for me to have such a deep gratitude practice. Every day I have so much to be thankful for. Even during the shit times.

When you are looking for and finding the Grace in every situation, gratitude follows. “Thank you for the helpers.” Like that.

It is my mission in life to help people reconnect with the Grace in their lives so that they live richer, deeper, more meaningful lives. Without fail. It’s always there.

This is the first of 31 {or more} posts that I’ll be writing on the topic of Grace. I’ll be writing about what Grace means to me and the ways in which I’ve found it in my life. Please leave a reply any time about what Grace means to you or if you have any questions for me about Grace.

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