Posts Archived From: 'October 2018'

Let’s Give Good Hugs

Allow me to begin with a confession: I hate the one-armed hug, the side hug, and the distant-hug-paired-with-the-equally-awkward-multiple-shoulder-pats. You will rarely IF EVER receive one of these hugs from me. And if you have in the past, I apologize. I assure you I felt horrible long after we parted ways.


I’ve been a hugger for as long as I can remember, and come from a long line of people who hug relatives, friends, neighbors, clerks at the grocery store, nurses at the doctor’s office, bartenders, vet techs, hair stylists. You get the idea. I dole out hugs on a daily basis to close friends, old friends, new friends, co-workers – and yes, sometimes complete strangers.


Hugs are my currency, and I use them at will daily. My hugs involve both arms and, if I am fairly certain you won’t freak out, pull you in close. If I’m going to take the few seconds out of my day to create a meaningful moment with you, I’m darn sure to make it count. Hugging in any way less than that just doesn’t seem worth the effort.


I want my hugs to convey any combination of the following sentiments:


I see you.
Thank you.
You are hilarious!
You are too kind.
You are welcome.
You are such a special person to me.
I’m so sorry that happened to you.
I prayed for you today.
I love you.

You are such a good dog! (Reserved exclusively for Barley and Teddy.)


I recently exchanged hugs with a good friend rather quickly, and in the flurry of our surroundings I didn’t deposit the three heavy bags weighing down my right arm. I was too caught up in the moment and just wasn’t thinking. (Forgive me.) So I went in with the one-armed hug using my left arm (one of the worst!) but attempted to counteract my unintentional misstep for holding the hug a heartbeat or two longer than usual. I think it helped.


That’s another important point I want to make about hugs: LET THEM LINGER. A hug can transform another person’s day in ways that words just won’t. And I speak from a cozy space of experience, because I’ve been on the giving end of these kinds of hugs, and the recipient. A too-quick, sporadic hug on my way out the door doesn’t seem worth it. The extra five seconds I spent hugging you won’t make any difference on the rest of what I need to get done that day.


In our Omaha community especially, the hug, at times, looks forced and uncomfortable. Almost staged. I see it far too often, and I cringe. It’s signaling something along the lines of, “We should hug, so it appears our relationship is far more friendly and close than our words or other body language or shared experience actually reveal. To be honest, I don’t even know you well enough to determine whether you’d welcome a hug from me.” And when that happens, it’s all wrong. A million, billion times wrong. Don’t give hugs you don’t mean just because everyone else around you is doing it.


Last night I heard from a friend I haven’t spoken to in at least six or seven years. Her departure from Omaha was abrupt and hurt deeply. But when her message landed in my inbox, after the first few seconds of surprise and even a bit of confusion, my honest-to-God next thought was, I wish she was close enough to hug.


The hug says things the heart wants to, but that the head sometimes prevents. Let the hug do the work. Don’t be afraid to hug when you mean it. Let’s agree to continue giving good hugs – or, at the very least, begin doing so today.



My Well-Worn Path to Healing

During a Wednesday night dinner for three that convened much later than I’m used to – and involving more wine than I’ve had at such a witching hour – we inevitably touched on topics close to the heart. Moments and experiences gently hemmed together with hurt and grief are less painful today and perhaps a bit easier to talk about, but their borders are still unmistakable. As we talked and ate, drank and shared some more, my inner narrative, among the gentle clinks of wine glasses and flatware, started forming the idea of emotional memory and, very plainly, how we deal.


During trying, testing times of personal trauma, family crisis, and the like, I’ve often found myself fleeing to the familiar. When nothing looks normal or feels even remotely right, my coping strategy is to head down a well-worn path. Here’s the secret: for me, the road not taken in recent years has always been there. I just needed to be in the proper frame of mind to find it.


An example: My return to Catholicism a few years ago came during some very trying times. As I stood in the circle of my own windstorm of uncertainty and foreign emotions, my quickest sanctuary was visiting a place I’ve been before. Twelve years of Catholic school proved a solid, beginning foundation to a religious life. But as I wrote in Nerdy Thirty, I quickly replaced all that church stuff with journalism my first year of college. It was 1997. I had finally found my home at our college newspaper. I prayed daily at the altars of Woodward and Bernstein. My morning and nightly novenas were instead writing snappy lede sentences and clever, two-deck headlines. Rather than church hymns of my youth I developed a love for classic rock of the seventies (a love that remains strong even today), thanks to shaggy-haired photographers who commanded control of the darkroom’s stereo.


My weekly Mass attendance slowly ended, holy days of obligation even more quickly, until I never thought about what it meant to be Catholic anymore.


And yet, some fifteen years later, when large swaths of my daily life spun in unimaginable, unfamiliar, and at times terrifying directions, I headed directly to what I knew best.


I never stopped writing, but I started going to church. And it felt weird at first. But I kept going every now and again. And, at some point, it started to feel familiar.


Weekly Mass lead to a trial run of skimming daily devotionals and faith-based writers. Some were inspirational, others a bit too preachy. It took awhile to find a few that spoke to where I stood and what I needed – especially as I struggled to identify just what that was. I was desperate to feel better by any means necessary; Simon and Garfunkel and Sauvignon Blanc just weren’t enough anymore.


And so I prayed and wrote and read, often in the morning and sometimes before bed. My prayers became less like the standards I learned in grade school and more like an ongoing conversation – much like time spent with friends you don’t see that often. The best relationships are those that pick up right where they left off, as if no time or distance has passed.


The more I allowed faith and spirituality to slowly spread into my life, the more familiar it became. And on the worse possible days, I started to feel just a tiny bit better.


I suppose it was deliberate at first, the same way you might react with a stomachache: you reach for what you think (hope?) will work. Anything to ease the pain. As the days turned into weeks, the weeks into months, and life started resembling something more conventional and more ordinary, prayer became something I sought less for relief and more out of routine.


In this world and time we are all moving through together, we can use a respite to the familiar every chance we get. It varies what I need from day to day, but what has changed is I now have a map to find those places of healing.  And, if I’m being honest, I’ve never been more eager to help others find theirs. That spirit of support is what inspired my latest tattoo, song lyrics lifted from the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi. His message was simply this: life’s meaning and purpose are realized by using what you have to help others. Lessons learned from heartbreak shouldn’t remain hidden. Put that pain to good use and lend a hand whenever you can. You will be amazed at the grace you will receive.



Where I Have Been

In recent months I have pulled back considerably from all forms of social media. My blog has sat quiet since 2017. This has been somewhat intentional and somewhat a byproduct of who I am and, perhaps most importantly, who I am becoming.


The older I get – I turn forty in December (!!!) – the greater the pull to put my personal needs first. Like so many of you, I imagine, I strive to meet each day’s goals. My ever-growing task list is at the ready. The bed is made each morning. The trash is taken out. The dogs are fed. The laundry is washed, dried, put away. And on. And on. And on.


At work and in my various community commitments and passions, those lists are just as long (if not more so). Emails, text messages, and phone calls are returned. Meetings are scheduled. (Sometimes they’re rescheduled.) Meetings take place. And then comes follow up. And follow up. And even more follow up.


Precious time with my husband, our dogs, our families brings me tremendous joy and peace. It is a balm that I find increasingly necessary in a world of my own choosing – a world of important work and human interaction on a daily basis.


Which is why my need to share Every Waking Moment and Every Fleeting Thought on social media and even this very blog has dramatically declined. Radical self care, personal creativity, knitting, gardening, reading, journaling, time alone each morning in prayer. Those hours populating my social media accounts have been replaced with daily habits that have proven far more satisfying and far more beneficial to my own wellbeing.


That’s not to say I still don’t find laughter and comfort and solace and hope in what all of you are sharing on social media. I am. These days I’m just far more selective about what I am sharing.


I have my dear friend Angel to thank for helping me find a morning prayer routine. She introduced me to the Prayerful Planner late last year. When 2017 became 2018, and I dove into the Bible each morning, I was called to reconsider my day’s priorities. And since then, my life has changed dramatically.


The Illustrated Faith community has brought me equal amounts of joy. The 100 Days of Bible Promises book was a creative exercise I gingerly joined back in April, and quickly found the melding of color and words to be inspirational. The book itself was a soft landing for so many emotions – emotions that I imagine you experience on a regular basis. Those one-hundred days changed me for the better, and I’m eager to continue on this journey.


And just yesterday I spent six hours blissfully alone in silence at the Rainforth Retreat Center. My morning hours were spent sprawled out on the most comfortable, oversized couch with coffee and in prayer. As a few passing thunderstorms moved through after lunch, I put the finishing touches on the manuscript for my next book. (More details on that coming soon. Promise. And fingers crossed.) At 2 p.m., I clicked send on an email to the publisher of my first book, Nerdy Thirty. It has been eight years since Nerdy Thirty was published, and it has taken as many years – if not more – to determine what my next foray into the book world would look like. Hammering out another collection of breezy essays could have easily come sooner, but it would not have been the book I wanted to write.


I needed to live life more, figure out the stories I wanted to share. Selfishly, I wanted my next book to be just for me. And it took me a while to determine what that looked like. But yesterday afternoon I landed on a collection of essays that I hope gives you a sense of where I have been and who I am becoming.