Advent Candles...

 A long time ago, in a state far, far away...

My Pilgrims, how I miss you. I have been keeping an unbelievable pace since my trip back East at the end of October.  Each and every activity has been filled with many joys... I thought I would take this third week of Advent to share them with you.

Some people call the third week of Advent, "Pink candle week," but its actual name is Gaudete Sunday. The word "Gaudete" comes from Latin which means simply "Rejoice". That seems like a spectacular idea for this post. To offer some hope, some joy and to just rejoice this Advent and Christmas season.  Here are a few of the times thus far, I've been able to "Rejoice" and see the Divine this Advent.

I remember telling Jeff before we had the Beauties, that we wouldn't be "Santa" parents. That we would be raising our children so they would understand that Christ was the ONLY reason for the season. Ian was born in August, the first Christmas card we sent was a photo taken at home with Ian in his baptismal gown. (The gown made by a dear friend from the fabric of my wedding dress.) First year was amazing, I patted myself on the back.

Then along came year two, when Ian was a chubby toddler. I put him on the back of a little tractor with a Santa hat and Christmas tree.  I fell down the Santa hole and haven't turned back.  Both my Beauties believe Santa brings their gifts and that Jesus is what we are celebrating.  Since the second Christmas card, Santa and Christ have been a part of every Christmas... The greatest lesson I have learned with time, and Jeff's patience, is that you can create the Season that offers a multitude of gifts. Not just the ones that you thought you needed. Once again, with the grace of the Divine, I have learned their are oodles of reasons to rejoice this Gaudete Sunday.

As a family, we like having the traditional southern Sunday afternoon dinner, just like the one my grandmother used to host. While I will never master her friend chicken and gravy.... If only. We have created a space where Sunday is for God, family, a little football, and dinner at 4:30. That is Sunday in sunny Cali. Last weekend we were a disaster, all of us going in different directions, and Jeff made the executive decision that what I needed was hot tea, a bowl of soup and my bed. So in lieu of Sunday dinner, Jeff whipped up a kiddo dinner. Our rental cottage is tiny. You can roll over in your bed and all of us can hear you. I was sitting in the living room and Ian was in the kitchen and I heard Ian singing. He was singing the closing song from the family Mass. And he was something! Belting it out from the kitchen. You can hear in some churches the clapping, and swaying and just belting out in song... Ian offered us that from the kitchen.

"Soon and very soon,

We are going to see the King;

Soon and very soon,

We are going to see the King;

Soon and very soon,

We are going to see the King;

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,

We are going to see the King."

I said Ian, you sound great. Ian's reply was a classic. "Mom, I've got an ear-worm and when you have an ear worm... well you just need to sing." An ear worm for all of you who don't know, is that song or commercial that gets stuck in your head and you can't shake it.  As a mother, nothing is more gratifying that hearing that your child has a religious ear-worm stuck...

A classic Advent moment to rejoice.

Last Monday, Norah and I were invited by our dear friends to light the second nights candles of Hanukkah. Norah's classmate and her family are our soulmates, we share the beauty and love of God. Norah and I each got to light the candles of the menorah and to celebrate with joy the miracle of God's unending love.  It is so affirming to share the deep love of faith with good friends. The children singing, playing with the dreidel and of course the yummy food! Our friends were gracious and loving hosts, opening their home to us to love and worship together. It will always be a special part of our Advent season to rejoice and celebrate Hanukkah with such dear friends.

Friday, I met with my prayer group, I made a simple box lunch for each of us and we had some egg nog and prayed together in our special little room at the Mission. Whenever I'm with my little prayer group, it is never lost on me that this was how the early Christians gathered. They ate, prayed and celebrated the joy of small faith communities. Having never visted the Holy Land, living in Santa Barabara often makes me feel closer to the world Christ lived. With our sunshine, the ocean, the terrain filled with fruit and olive trees. Many of my friends who have visited have also commented on the similarities.

But even more, I'm left to realize that in all parts of the world, individuals just like us are gathering to light the candles of Hanukkah, or light an Advent wreath and pray. Many of us take for granted that we can worship in the open.  But, across the globe, far too many worship in places that are not safe, where persecution is the norm, where safety is not guaranteed.

A powerful reminder to be the best of your faith tradition. Don't hide it, wear it with love, honesty and be willing to share your faith, your traditions.  Less fear, more love.

That friends is what is at the heart of a stable in Bethlehem.

My prayer for you is simple, may your face be washed in the love and light of the Divine. May you recognize it and rejoice in all the moments.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Tips for Friendships with Chronic Disease...

My life is different from everyone in my inner circle. My closest friends and my family don't have the medical struggles that I face. I won the medical lottery, I have been diagnosed with multiple severe and at times life-threatening rare diseases. In addition to managing other conditions that have sprung up as a result. Having a rare disease means my life and that of my family is never predictable. Which could make maintaining lasting relationships difficult. But, that has not been my experience.

Over the years, I have learned how to educate my friends and family so they know all about my health.  While I never get a day off from management of my health; I don't want my relationships to be about my health.  You have to find the balance between sharing your truth and still living life. It's a fine line, I want friends and family to understand why I may not be at my best without them feeling sorry for me.  At times, I have tried to make light of some of my struggles with humor to put people at ease. I also work diligently to explain how hard it is to live in a body that has betrayed me and share that truth with honesty and love.

In October of 2014, my husband Jeffrey and I uprooted our family of four from the suburbs of Washington, DC and moved west to Santa Barbara, CA. I grew up in the DC area, my life, my family, my doctors, and my best girlfriends in the entire world live there. While moving from your support network is hard for any reason; it is especially difficult when you have developed networks of individuals that understand and love you with all of your health issues.

The move was the best decision for my immediate family. My health is better on the West Coast, more even temperatures. No more horrible cold winters and hot humid summers. Santa Barbara has less people, less traffic and a relaxed slower lifestyle which all agree with our family. The move came with sacrifices, leaving my support system and having to forge new ones. I have found that when you are honest from the start about your health it makes relationships a little easier. Everyone in this world has struggles, finding and maintaining friends will be so much easier when you up front share yours.

At a certain point, Jeffrey and I realized that we would have to tolerate the intolerable, and manage my health. I would likely 

never have remission

and never be cured. What was essential was within this space, I needed to find tools to live the best life in my body, to make peace with this life.  I needed to strengthen the relationships with the people who could understand this. The ones that loved me at my core, not the girl who "used to" do activities with them.

I found that my "true" friends are the friends who wanted to "be with me" not "do things with me". The two are quite different.  We often forget that underneath the label of chronic illness we are still ourselves.  Each of us is still funny, smart, charming and the life of the party. Often just the party location may need to change. My life is filled with a circle of love, the best girlfriends one could ever dream. I still listen, laugh and be the best friend ever... It just means I'm on the sofa or on the phone, not drinking martinis at midnight. (I'll just add that most "healthy" mothers of two aren't doing that either!)

Here are my tips for sustaining lasting friendships while struggling with severe chronic illness.

My chronic disease is like having a perpetual toddler so plan ahead and have a back up plan

. My husband and I like to joke that we have three children, our two real kids and the perpetual toddler that is my chronic disease. Everyone has seen a toddler lose it in a public place; well some mornings I wake up and realize that is exactly what my body is doing to me. For no reason my body has decided that it is not going to behave today, that means it's going to be a bad day. We all love toddlers; but we all know they can be a hot mess. You never know when she is going to have a meltdown (i.e. a "flare") and toddlers are amazing in that they are fantastically unpredictable. Toddlers have personalities, charming, delightful but one wrong look, twenty minutes overdue for a nap and you are going to pay the price. My body does the same to me, too long in the hot sun, too long on my feet when I should be resting. My body will shut down and I can be in bed for days. So be flexible, be ready to change plans and know that you will need to cancel some activities on short notice.

How about a wine and cheese party in bed

: When was the last time you had your best girlfriends over for a glass of wine? When I have been in bed too long thanks to my health, I know I need to see my girls. The ones who make me laugh and will talk to me about the normal stuff--let's be honest the life gossip!  One of my favorites is when I had a cocktail party in my bedroom. You got it. We had snacks and wine on my bed. They grab the glasses, they know where to find my wine, and carry it all upstairs. My girlfriends come over climb up on my king size bed. I sipped on some tea and they have wine (always in my Waterford crystal glasses) and eat cheese and fruit.  We laughed and giggled for a couple of hours, they went home at seven happy to have been with me and I was sound asleep at 8.  Jeff may have slept on a bed with a bunch of crumbs that night, but I slept perfectly, with a smile on my face for days.

I'm the queen of text parties

. How often does it happen that I feel great only to have my children come down with the dreaded stomach flu the one night in three months I'm ready to go out. My solution, text parties during movie award season. My besties and I send group texts discussing who wore what and who shouldn't have! It's the best. I have had one of my girls over and we are texting the one girl who was home with a husband traveling or a sick kiddo. It reminds us that no matter a friend's schedule or health, we can all still enjoy an evening together. You will also be shocked how often you laugh out loud when reading texts.

I still love lunch dates with my best girlfriends.

How about take-out lunch on your sofa. Who needs to sit in a restaurant all dressed up when your biggest accomplishment for the day is brushing your teeth and showering. I have a favorite Thai place that has the most amazing take-out. It also tastes just as amazing on my sofa in my sweats.

Movie night, coffee or brunch, what about yoga in your home?

My sister gave me a world class meditation class in the sunlight of my living room floor. Just the two of us, her voice and the best meditation warmed by the sun's healing rays. My living room has also been home to therapy sessions, impromptu yoga class and the best prayer group meetings.

Being a good friend also means being able to step outside your illness.  

Being sent to bed is very different from choosing to spend the day in bed. I've lost track of how many times I have been sent to bed by my doctors. 

Everyone has struggles in their life. Everyone. When you live with chronic disease it sometimes is easy to get caught up in your world of doctors and treatments and forget that your closest friends lives are still spinning too. I've been in bed countless times and taken some serious phone calls talking my friends through crisis. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that it's not always about you.

As the world's biggest type A, I love to have my make-up on, and my house perfect, but what I have learned is that no one really cares, when your best friends haven't seen you for however long. They really don't care... They really just want to be with you, to laugh, see you and to know that you are one day closer to being back up and running the world.  You don't have to leave your home when you aren't at your best.  No, you sometimes just need to make sure the key is under the door mat.

As always, the Divine in me bows to the Divine in you.--Namaste

If this post resonated with you, then I think you'll like; 

Chronic disease is like a bad boyfriend

.

I love to hear from you, please friend me on

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. Or send me an email using the form on the right.  Only my eyes will see the email, so please reach out and share your truth. I will do my best to get back in touch. I love updates from all of you, so don't hesitate to send me a note with an update of your journey.

XO

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Photo Credit:

pixabay

What Does Your Sign Say?...

Love is the easiest and the hardest thing you will ever do.

I have found it much easier to love in my 40's. Love in my 20's, it scared me. Why?, because love means you have to be willing to be naked. I'm not kidding. Love means that you show your true-self, you acknowledge your weaknesses; stand naked; openly sharing what they are. Love means being you. For many of us, we struggle with not being "good-enough," we want that perfection. Unfortunately, it's just not possible.

I could easily walk around with a sign on my chest listing all of my weakness. My sign would say:

"Hi! I'm Kathryn. Sometimes I'm a mess. When I'm a mess, it's because I let this foolishness slow me down."

Here's my foolishness:

I worry I will die and leave my children without a mother.

I'm painfully insecure--seriously insecure and that means I have some anxiety issues!

I want to love everyone and for everyone to love me.

I'm super embarrassed about my weight. I mean look at me...

My husband is so amazing, I can't for the life of me comprehend why Jeffrey loves-me.

I worry; I'm a lousy wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend...

I worry; that folks don't understand my illness and think I'm a big faker.

I don't think that I'm smart or beautiful.

I have huge guilt that I don't work.

I'm a huge slob... I'm super duper messy.

I often feel like I'm an impostor.

I can't comprehend why people read or listen to what I have to say.

Here is the thing. Most days I shut these negative feelings down. I don't let them bubble-up. Period. End of story.  Everyone has a bad day and I'm no different.  When I have a bad day, I reach out to the people I trust more than myself. I know these aren't rational feelings, but they are part of being human.  I share that my anxiety and worries are bigger than me.  It's in these rare moments that I fully trust others. The people I love.

I work hard to acknowledge these fears and set them aside.

My fears rarely slow me down. Why? I will tell a person on the street what my fears are.  When you "wear and own" your fears, they no longer hold you back. Today I find my fears self-propel me and make me work a little harder. They don't stop me. It has taken a ton of internal work, but it has enabled me to be fearless.

The fearlessness of acknowledging your struggles, makes it easy to love. I have nothing to hide, so that means I can be transparent.

Transparency is freedom.

Freedom not to judge you and the freedom to allow you to love me. I get that you have messy too. So just tell me your messy, and let's get it out. When you share these "triggers" it also explains why some things make us a little crazy. When I know you struggle with your weight, flying, fear of hospitals, or public speaking. It means I'm never, ever, ever hurt you with that.  It means I love you so much that we will protect your soft spots together. I will hold your hand and never leave your side. It means I know this is hard and I have your back.

My mother-in-law shared with me that she is amazed how I just meet strangers and they become good friends.  I laughed, it's true I do make friends in the most unusual places; but my response is, why doesn't everyone? Life is so much better when you have a big circle of happy people who love you and you love them back.

I want everyone I meet to feel special, to feel important and that our interaction was significant in my journey. Don't you?

Don't you want everyone you meet to feel your love, your connection of happiness and your touch of a little joy? Do we all fail at this everyday? Sure. But, isn't it worth trying?

If you are looking at your life and questioning why your relationships aren't where you want them...perhaps you need to ask yourself the question: What are you really afraid of? What don't you want others to know about you? What are you hiding? Are you open to honestly listening to others? Or are you making fun of or worse minimizing the very things you promised to protect (their fear of flying or fear of hospitals).

Keeping some things under wraps may be preventing you from the greatest loves ever.

Peace be with you,

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Photo Credit: PilgrimageGal Daughter

From Grumpy to Grace

The body of Christ...

I've been grumpy all week. Miserably grumpy. I'm not sure why, and that in itself makes me grumpy. I think all Mom's go through this, the end of the school year, and o'my we have a whole summer staring at one another.  No matter how much of a rock star we are, the inevitable, "I'm bored," will roll off someone's tongue and not one mother among us takes it well. That on top of the broken washing machine that destroyed my favorite sweater. Why not on my children's disgusting socks? Grrrr. You can feel my angst.

But, enough about me. A few weeks ago while at church the Franciscan that celebrated our mass was someone I didn't know. While in the church office, I asked his name. Turns out that the priest was Father Kenan Osborne.  He is a religious scholar, former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, author of dozens of books and articles. As far as theologians go, he is a rock star.

I have a secret passion. I read religious scholarly articles and books for fun. I know it's one of my quirks. I love the gossip rag Daily Mail out of London too. I take Kim Kardashian with almost as much interest as I do the Council of Nicaea which was held in 325. What can I say, I'm complicated. Back to the scholarly stuff. I love the footnotes, the references to obscure councils and documents, the whole bit.  I will read on any faith. Recently I devoured a fascinating treatise on Islam. Amazing, authored by a divinity scholar from Harvard.

As a post Vatican II child of the church; I have delighted in reading the radical ideas from some of my faith's most intelligent minds. I have also delighted in reading many documents that are far from my ideological view that I dive deeper to understand their ideas and truth. If you can construct a good argument, I want to hear your points. It only makes my truth more concrete and my arguments better. So to say I'm a religious scholar geek would be an understatement.

So today while we were rolling into mass in our usual Team Fergie hot messiness. The lovely Father Kenan stopped Norah. He spoke directly to her, asking her her name, how old she was and who she brought to mass. Norah then turned and introduced me. I gulped big and geek-ed out. Telling Fr. Kenan that I was reading his book on Sacramental Theology and had so many questions. He then explained that he had a new book out on 50 years since Vatican II.  I smiled like I was in a candy store. I explained that I would score the book from Amazon today, and then he touched my soul. He told me to read the book and then to give him a call so that we could discuss the book. ARE YOU FLIPPING KIDDING ME!?!?!

Here's why Fr. Kenan touches my soul. He is one of those folks who when you look at him you see light, that shining beacon. He draws you in. You want to hear every story, every detail. Every thought in his head. I want to see the God he sees because that God is filled with so much love you see the light hitting the ground around him.

We have been attending mass in the Franciscan's chapel, its where the priests have their private prayers. It is not a chapel that is normally open to the public, but as parishioners they offer a family mass. And this mass is a hot mess. Kids falling out of pews, talking, singing, carrying their stuffed animals and sippy cups. It's noisy, in a beautiful faith filled messy way. I have always loved family mass, but I will admit that when my Beauties were little... we got some hairy eyeballs during the mass. Which always hurt me. We have all been there, and for some of us it felt like we would never get past those years. My children were good in Church, because if they weren't we were in a cry room or outside. If only we could have gone to this church then.  This mass is for these beautiful children.

The children are the greeters, take up the collections, are the ushers too!

But what touched me most was the consecration.  The most sacred part of the mass in our tradition is at the consecration when the bread becomes Christ's body and blood. The priest holds the bread and wine, sharing old and sacred prayers. It's always moving, but today it made me ugly cry. In 99% of Catholic Churches you are on your knees, watching a priest perform the ritual. It's solemn, formal and set apart from the congregation.

But, today it was different:  Fr. Kenan called all the children forward around the altar and he asked the children to extend their hand over the bread and wine during consecration. So Norah was one of the oldest standing at the altar. Siblings holding younger hands, some stuffed animals were in one hand while the other was extended, in all a dozen or more children aged 2 to 9.  Picture it, all these little heads that were just peeking over the edge of the altar and standing on tip-toes to be witnesses to faith. If the chapel had been in total darkness, these little faces would have been able to light the entire church.  It took my breath away; I was witness, participant and present. These little hands holding up, praying and sharing love and Fr. Kenan sharing what we have been doing for thousands of years, breaking of the bread and wine.

Father Kenan, in his 80's, world renowned author, retired "in-residence", could be resting on his laurels, but there he is, up on the altar, surrounded by children, bringing light into the world.

It is a moment when you stop in your tracks and say. Yep this is why I'm all in. I believe and I'm so grateful for my faith.

It's meeting the face of God in others.

Today in-spite of my grumpiness, in-spite of my ruined sweater, I witnessed my daughter and the other children, shine the light of faith on me.  I was also reminded that the love and kindness of one person can touch so many.

Thank you Father Kenan Osborne.

I'm ordering a book from amazon and leaving my grumpy at the door of the chapel.

I saw the face of God in a bunch of people today... and that makes this Sunday fantastic.

Peace be with you,

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Photo Credit:

Pixabay

What is Service?...

Sometimes you just got to put in the effort...

I always find it interesting to talk to folks about what is volunteering and what is service.

We all know people who are super volunteers. They have energy that is unwavering and a call to make this world better, and frankly we would be lost without them. We all have these amazing people in our communities who single handily run the events at school, church, community and look amazing. Their kiddos are well dressed, hair perfect and never forget an appointment or responsibility.

I'm not that girl...

I don't know about you, but every so often I get a pang of anxiety about what I'm NOT doing. In a world of busy folks, my plate is often not as full as others. But what I do know is that in my own quiet way, I'm doing service for my family. How you ask?

I keep up appearances.

For the last month, I have had more bad days than good. The bad days have annoyed me to no end. Two rounds of antibiotics to wipe out a simple strep infection has been brutal. The accompanying nausea has had me in bed more than out.

Which means, Jeff is running the show. I have tried to stay aware of our life. Schedules, Jeff's travel and you know the basics of keeping people alive. One of the toughest times of the year for busy families is the end of the school year. It is absolutely, nothing like when we were kids. Between the concerts, plays, living wax museums, countless assemblies, field trips, parent lunches, faculty lunches, planning summer camps, swim lessons, and on and on...  All parents know this is the worst time to not feel well. The end of the school year has more bells and whistles than any preschoolers birthday party!

My people want my face at every single event. Sometimes that is just not possible. When I can, well it comes with expectations.

I may have missed it, but they sent me a selfie...

I missed the school spring concert here on the first round of antibiotics. Jeffrey and I were of very different minds on the concert. I get an ache in my soul when my favorite faces are disappointed by my health. I've talked before about how I

prioritize my week

. On Sunday, Jeff and I review what we have going on, travel schedules, appointments, obligations, fun plans, the Beauties lives--all of it gets tossed on the table for review. Then we talk it out. Sometimes this is a quick conversation over coffee, other times it's a painful one for me. I want to do everything, be everywhere and love every moment. But, this body on her most perfect day can't do half of it. We plan, we make game day decisions, and make it work as best we can.

Which gets me to my brand of service. At this point in my life it is all about taking the best care of my family. My favorite line, "I would love to say yes, but I have to say no," with the biggest smile and bless your heart face ever. My service is taking care of these Beauties and my Beloved. If I can barely get dressed, how on Earth (and why on Earth) would I try to do anything else. (And o'ps and by the way, you owe no one an explanation as to why you say no.)

This has been how we have triaged the last month of our dance. With a couple of exceptions, I have only showered and dressed for two reasons. To attend Mass and to attend the Beauties' programs. I can't recall a time in my life where I have showered less and needed to more.

When I do score that elusive shower, it comes with the expectation that I will look amazing with a full face of make-up. I literately threw out all but one of my lipsticks, lip gloss and chap-stick. Any product that I suspected had strep... gone.  On Monday, I met a new friend for a cup of tea, the location was no coincidence. I needed to run into the department store next to the tea shop for cosmetics.

I have learned one thing on this journey, I dress for others. It has taken me time to learn this fact. But it matters to my Beauties, it's how they can sigh and remind themselves, "she is going to be OK. Mom looks good." Each and every time I have made an outing in the last month, I have been dressed up and had a full face of make-up.  I'm a yoga pants and pony tail girl in my heart and Jeffrey loves that girl.  But, others in my family and those I love most, sometimes need more. They need me looking my best or they worry. So every time I make an appearance, I try to look good. Because it does take effort and if you are making an effort it means you well feel good! Right?

So I deliver, no matter how I feel, if I'm going out in public my appearance matters.

So this week, during one of my appearances at school, I laid eyes on both my Beauties and ran into a friend. My friend smiled the knowing smile and she said, "Good for you Kathryn, you have your game face on. You only have a few minutes left." It gave me that last little boost to make it through. Norah said earlier, "You look good mom. Glad you have that diet coke to give you some energy. It means everything that you made it." And she gave me one of those hugs that makes my heart skip. The one that reminds me... this is why we push on when it's tough.

Because it does matter, each and every event. Each and every moment that we suck-it up and make it work for others, matters more then we can know.

My service may be small but that doesn't mean it isn't as important as our super volunteers. My service is what these Beauties need to feel secure, happy and successful in their life, in their world, for their future.

That is just the service I'm happy to contribute!

So as you plan your summer, please keep in your heart and mind what your service plan looks like. Being busy is not an excuse for not being present.

Open your heart and spirit to what you are called to do. I promise when you follow your path and not others, you will find joy and peace.

Peace be with you.

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Photo Credits:

Pixabay

and Mr. PilgrimageGal

Happy 3rd Birthday Pilgrimage Gal...

I started my little blog on June 1, 2012. I then spent days looking at a blank screen wondering what to say.

Pilgrimage Gal has evolved in three years. I have grown in confidence, witnessing my health dramatically improve and along the way I found my voice. This space began with the support of my Jeffrey and my dear friend Jessica; both encouraging me to share my truth. What began as a sick and frightened women's journal, changed into a place to find hope, courage and little faith. Back in the beginning, I wasn't scared of sharing my truth, I was scared of

dying

.  In my heart, I felt death chasing me and it was terrifying. The blog became a place to share the fear that filled my heart in the darkness of night.  The worries that didn't go away when I woke. I needed my Beauties to know their mom. So as adults they would have my truth of their childhood. The blog would allow them to see in my own words that I loved them with everything that I had. That I fought everyday for their Dad and them.

When I left this world, they would still hear my voice.

A record for the Beauties of what my life, our life was all about.

Total truth.

I never honestly expected to be here to celebrate this blog turning 3. While I was making peace with my death, the Divine was creating my way to life. Each doctor at every turn was a tiny grain of sand to wellness. You never see the beach when you are focused on individual grains of sand, you can't find the ocean--you can only see the grains.

No one has had access to better doctors. No one. I have fought, challenged, cajoled, and laid out a few. I have listened, cried and screamed when I needed to, I did what I was told, and I never stopped fighting. Never given up. Have I had dark moments? Good Lord, yes.  I looked at my Jeffrey and my Beauties and knew NO ONE would ever love them the way I do. No one possibly could. They are as much part of my soul as I am theirs.

I have meet brilliant minds, doctors who love me more than they should. I have given too many of them sleepless nights. My husband who never once has said it's too much. A doctor, Harvard, who stood next to my hospital bed in the darkest moments and who wound't give up on his most unique patient.  I know no person on earth that has more loving friends, soul sisters, more perfect Beauties and my mother who drops everything to support me.

My riches are too vast to imagine. I may never win the power-ball, but I have won more than my share of grace and love.

So as I step back and give thanks for medical interventions that keep me stable. Teachers who love my children as their own, friends no matter my geography that have my back, a husband that loves all of me, every broken part and every super power.

I know one thing that is true, that none of this is possible without my faith. A faith that humbles me. That in all of my abundance, I have been able to walk with LOVE. My greatest gift in all of this is faith that is built on love.  I have a faith that never falters. That faith has enabled me to see love hidden, love flourishing, and how to find it, keep it and make it grow.

It's all of these gifts that make Pilgrimage Gal my safe place as I hope it is yours too. The Divine gave me the love of all of you. My Pilgrims near and far. Thanks to technology, I have virtual tea dates around the globe. Someday the Divine will connect all of us, in London and in Finland and too many of you to mention in Canada and the States. Each and every one of you take a moment out of your busy daily life to walk with me. To share your truth, to give me insight in your life. You share your Beauties, your dreams, your faith and struggles. Thank you, for walking with me; sharing your exquisite every day moments. My life is richer with your love.

Jeffrey surprised me with a huge Pilgrimage Gal birthday cake, chocolate with salted caramel, no words for the yummiest cake ever. The cake was from the talented cafe and my newest Santa Barbara friend Gillian of

Lilac Patisserie

. I washed the cake down with a toast and small sip of champagne (I'm on crummy antibiotics) toasting each and everyone of you. Without you I would just be some lonely girl jotting musings in her diary.

Your loves, your likes, your comments, your shares, and your amens have made me productive, open, more honest and the best version of myself.

I'm beyond humbled by my life and look forward to celebrating all of our joys, celebrations and struggles for years to come.

Cheers, to you all! To Jess and Jeffrey, I love you both with all that I have, thank you for encouraging me in the darkness. You both give me more than I ever give you!

Peace be with you all.

The Divine in me bows to the Divine in each and everyone of you.

Happy Birthday from the Pilgrimage Gal and our journey continues.

xo,

Kathryn

Photo Credit: Mr. Pilgrimage Gal

Exquisite Everyday Moment With Cake...

Exquisite moment eating wonderful treats...

I like to remind everyone that to live well means creating rituals, moments and space for you and your loved ones to experience exquisite everyday moments. These moments are simple, small reminders in our busy lives that life is beautiful and filled with love. The goal is that when faced with the troubles of everyday life, you can call up these exquisite moments, these little gems, to help you get back on track and sustain you until you can create more. 

My family is really good at creating these memories. Jeff and I make this a priority, they sustain not only me, but they are living proof to my Beauties that everything is going to be all right. When your life is filled with taking fist fulls of medicines, and managing doctors like most manage soccer schedules, it's critical that they see we live normally too!

We have a new Saturday schedule, that is relaxed, easy and creates the space to bask in the sunshine of our family. We love to hit the Santa Barbara farmers market to pick up organic and locally grown tastiness. We have made friends with vendors and look forward to our weekly conversations. But our real treat comes when we stroll down the fabulous State Street in our new home town and stop in at our family's favorite cafe;

Lilac Patisserie

.

http://lilacpatisserie.com/home

Lilac is the sweetest little French Cafe. As a family, we are quietly working our way through their cake menu. Sampling treats, as we go from coffee cakes, to olive rosemary bread to brownies and cookies. Every Saturday, you will find us rolling in to sit in the cafe or grabbing a treat to go. I love to sit in the cafe with my pot of tea and Jeff with a luscious coffee drink.

Ian eyeing Dad's coffee...

We order a table full of treats and fork fight over the tastiness of each bite. I love these moments with my Beauties, want to learn about someone's week? Give them a fruit tart filled with creamy softness, you get a full download of the playground politics.  The moment reminds me that despite everything, my life is good, normal and filled with joy. We picked Lilac also for me, you see I've been gluten free for longer than we have had children. But my gluten eaters comment every time, "Mom this cake is ridiculous, it can't be gluten free?!" So in addition to just delighting in my family, I can enjoy every single bite... and I do!

This week was no exception, a nasty bacterial infection landed me in the urgent care Tuesday night, getting IV fluids and antibiotics. Just what every mother wants, to have her children sitting in the waiting room while I'm getting worked on. The Beauties both had the worry face, the one that says please don't get admitted; please come home with us. Even Jeffrey looked a little more pressed than usual. Thankfully I was not admitted, but I didn't get out of bed all week. Once we got home Tuesday night, for the rest of the week, I had my mind focused on one thing, tea Saturday at Lilac. I needed to nurse some tea, eat a sweet treat and let everyone see that I was fine. My mind stayed focused on our past moments and even more focused on creating a new one. I will create even more...

This week was challenging, I still don't feel great, we missed family parties with our cousins. But we did make it to Lilac. We ordered cake to-go, picking several tasty treats for home; as I sat on my sofa in my jammies, I still created that exquisite moment with Jeff and my Beauties filled with cake, smiles and love. 

So as you make your way in the world--Create your happiness, which include your family rituals, your love and your exquisite everyday moments. And if you happen to be in Santa Barbara let us know, we would love to share our table with you. 

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Photo Credit: Mr. PilgrimageGal

PS. The owners of Lilac haven't compensated me for this post. Neither Jeffrey or I have even met them. It's just a great little place that I love, love, love...

Stress, Worry and Disappointing Others...

Unmailed cards and letters...

I met a new friend for coffee yesterday. Making new friends is a lot like dating. You often need several simple easy outings to see if you and the other person are clicking and other times you just know right out of the gate you will be a good fit. My new friend and I were sharing some honest truths when she asked me a great question, "What is the hardest thing in your life right now?"

Let me be totally straight; this post is FILLED with FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS. I mean really, in the grand scheme of things, my life is CAKE. So while you read this post; it's designed to remind all of us, that daily life often derails us. O'my goodness, we can get caught up in-it. The foolishness that just tanks our whole day, that are barriers to being present. The negative thought that constantly rolls across your brain like the crawl on CNN. We all have these moments.

I'm a pleaser. I don't like to disappoint. I don't want to be a burden. I love nothing more than having guests in my home, fixing the sheets, finding treats for their room. I love that experience. But this time, I'm the guest... and I'm a little nervous.

Norah and I are flying to Maryland for a week; my little mini-me and I are having the exact same feelings as we set off. We are excited and nervous.

Excited is so easy, I get to wake-up in my Mom's beautiful condo, with all her mama love and attention. I get to curl up and get unending hugs and snuggles, too. I will sit in her kitchen while she makes me breakfast in my pjs, giggle and drink tea. I get alone time with both my girls; my mom and Norah.  Norah and I have a hit list of favorite restaurants that we need to eat in a billion times! And of course we are on pins and needles to see everyone we love so much. We are spending two nights having sleepovers in friend's houses. Which is amazing since I have never slept in their homes before since we used to live next door!

I explained to my new friend, that I'm loved so well by so many that I'm nervous. Nervous I won't be my best for each and everyone we see. I'm worried about my humanness. I will be tired and my loved ones will be disappointed, that they won't get me at my best. That I don't have time for everyone and that makes my stomach hurt. I want to see each and every person I love.  The leaving was so gut-wrenching, it felt like my soul was being ripped out of my body, it was the death of part of my life. I have in the last 6 months come out stronger and healthier; I need my loves to see that. To understand that I'm really good. That we are on our way; we are all good. To see that in our faces, to feel it in our hugs, to know that we are loved and happy.

I'm nervous that I have to face NIH without Jeff. I need to do it on my own. And once again I have to face this disease. The one I never asked for, the one I tolerate, the one that is the gift that keeps giving. I don't want to answer the mind-numbing questions yet again. I want to play. I want to forget I have this horrible disease.

Then just a few days ago, Norah asked, "Mom, what if the plane crashes?" Thank you flipping 24 hour news channels... We talked her off the ledge, but really, why must everything be so hard.

So my head is just a little busy... With a whole ton of foolishness.

I came across a stack of letters I never mailed. The letters were written on the plane as I left Maryland 6 months ago and in the first days after we arrived. I never mailed them.  I found them last week. I can feel my pain in the letters as I re-read them. Oodles of thank yous and I love yous, and in-between the lines, the pain and worry that the personal connections will be broken by time and the miles of separation...  Thoughts never sent, to my friends and family; people that I love most in the world.

Interesting isn't it?  I'm the girl who spills it all out all the time. But, I just couldn't mail them, or reveal the pain... And I'm still not sure when or if I'll be able to send them...

Which gets me to my busy prayer life:

I have been reading the Act's of the Apostles lately. It really has helped me. This hot mess of early Christians; who find themselves in the same place I've been visiting. Wandering a little lost, but well loved. This group of folks who will build our church. A church from nothing. This group of believers, wandering around the Mediterranean talking about this one guy. We are being kind when we say none of them would have been on anyone's list to change the world.  To wake up and find their whole world suddenly turned upside down... I feel a special closeness.  I feel like them often.

I'm a little lost.

More aptly: I'm in the weeds.

When you wait on tables; often you suddenly have your station filled, you can feel paralyzed.  In the restaurant world, it's called being in the weeds. I'm in the weeds, as I head back to DC. Everything will be there; but I will be in the weeds. Trying to be healthy, trying to see everyone, trying to be my best.

So when I say, "first world problems," it's no joke. What an abundance of joy to be worried about juggling so much. The abundance of love, of kindness, of joy. What a problem to get out of the way of!  We are very blessed to be loved so well by so many... Sooooo many.

So as I rotate laundry, find my luggage, pack my things; I will do what I do best. Take a big deep breath. The Divine has this all in hand. Every second, I will work on being present, and know that the Divine has this all figured out just for us. Miss Norah and I will have so many unplanned moments of Grace, that we just can't pre-plan. We must allow the Divine to orchestrate the moments.

I'm off to pack too many shoes into one bag, find a book for the flight, and sit back and once again be reminded of how much love I'm about to be drenched in!

Norah and I are as lucky as we are Irish; and filled with an embarrassment of blessings--today, always and forever.

I'm taking a week or two off... but promise to be in touch when we are back home and rested.

Till then... Try looking at your abundance of blessings.

And as my dear SP says to me, "Go Gently..."

So as we depart, go gently till we meet up again...

Much love always.

Kathryn and this time Norah too!

XO

Photo credit:

pixabay

Yellow Living Room...

When I was growing up, I had goals. Plans. Ideas. I had a road map for my life. I had expectations of what my life would look like, including my husband and children. In my dream, I pictured my husband and I living in a white colonial with bright shutters and door. We would have a large sunny yellow living room that looked out onto a beautiful cottage garden. I pictured us sitting on matching sofas with our coffee cups, listening to music; all while reading the Sunday paper.  I have no idea where my children were in this dream; but I had them! That was my idea of domestic bliss as seen in my 12 year old mind.  I could create my own stability, calm and security. When I thought of this dream; I always smiled, because I felt loved and cherished.

Children of divorce never feel settled; we are always on the move, sharing time with all the individuals we love. The dream became more of a mantra after losing both my father and stepfather at 15. I never for a second thought I wouldn't go to college. I had to; I had to support myself. I worried about losing my husband, so the dream became a mantra. He couldn't smoke, not be a heavy drinker or do drugs. Smoking killed the two men I loved. In my eyes drugs and booze just increased the chances for mortality. I would make THIS yellow living room world. It would be mine. It would be my reality. As I look back on my 23 years of marriage;  Jeffrey and I have created that life. I have stability. I have calm and security. I'm deliciously happy, in my soul, in my heart and most of all in my head.

I need that world. Jeffrey and I have had some dark times in our early marriage, 22 is young to jump into marriage without tools. I didn't grow up with good marriage models, so I had to teach myself, I learned on the job how to be married. God Bless Jeff, he just needed to learn I was beautifully high maintenance, that isn't a criticism; it's just truth. I needed to talk all the time; about everything, and he just needed to put his arm around me, love me, and tell me it was going to be fine.

I needed to learn that Jeff was exactly what he appeared; a good, honest, trustworthy man. That he loved me and I was good-enough to be loved. Jeff also had to learn to negotiate and to communicate. But, what kept us together was the yellow living room; we both really wanted the same things. We wanted that safe place where we were loved and that we both were all in, not kind of in; but all in.

We learned as a couple what our currency was; what was our truth, what were our deal breakers as a couple and where was the wiggle room. We also created our own tool box as a couple, the short hand that worked for us to make our life work in the ups and downs of the journey. We are very honest and direct, but we do it with humor and love. Our toolbox is the same as the one I have shared with you and it's why we are resilient.

Resilience is the superpower that helps you through the tough times. We are hinged on faith and one another. Everything else is a bi-product of that. God and Jeff are always at the table with me, then it's the Beauties, then it's everyone else. When we work, it all works. For me there is nothing without them. That is how I remain resilient, I focus on that image, that feeling of the yellow living room and the visual of sitting with Jeff and the Divine having a meal talking it all through, laughing and sharing the breaking of bread.

That image and concept is how I stay strong on the Pilgrimage. I use the tools that we have spent Lent honing, shaping and sharpening. When you learn to treat the stupid shit that happens in your life as irritants, and foolishness as obstacles to your happiness you learn how to pivot, to knock down and get around them. That is how you keep your eye on what truly matters...

For me that is enjoying the exquisite everyday moments with my Beauties. This week included a fantastic family meal at the Beauties' favorite white table cloth restaurant on the beach. Also included some moments during Holy Week when I wanted to flick my Beauties for not getting-it during Stations of the Cross. But, more often than not, we had delightful and touching faith filled moments during Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. We had our first ever lovely California Easter Dinner with Jeffrey's parents, a backyard Bocce tournament with Norah and her "Poppie" (which is her grandad), we dyed eggs, made some ridiculous good cupcakes, we stayed up too late, got up too early. But even with Norah getting yet another nasty cold, and my pain being excruciating, Ian having a seasonal allergy attack, we had much more joy than sadness.

So that is where I will leave this series of posts on Resilience...

You CAN become more resilient.

It takes effort, practice using the tools and the willingness to never surrender.

But, the more you do, the stronger you get, until it's your super power too!

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

I love hearing from you, and I miss it when you don't reach out! So leave comments below, connect with me on instagram at 

PilgrimageGal

 or on facebook at 

PilgrimageGal

 or send me a private email by sending me a note in the form in the sidebar.

Photo Credit: Mr. PilgrimageGal

Tool Five: Faith...



Today celebrates week five of our resilience tool box discussions. Tool Five is faith, and for me it is the linchpin that holds everything together. You can't function without faith in something.  I see faith, like your body's skin, the largest organ in your entire body and without it the rest of your body would fall apart. Faith holds you together no matter the success or trauma, faith goes with you everywhere and just like your skin, it can't be separated from the rest of you. It is in every part of your life.

I find when my faith life is working, everything is working. I heal faster, tolerate the intolerable, and live better when I take care of my faith life first.

When I speak with my tribe, I inevitably ask them all the same question.  "How is your spirit?" The answer offers insight into so many areas. It provides me with what I need to know, which is: "How are you, at your core, how are you living?" When your spirit is wonky, your faith life and the rest of you are too.  If you want to be the healthiest you, have a rock solid faith life. It just makes all of you, work at your best.

I have had some dark times, sometimes when my health was teetering, when I had lost confidence in myself, didn't trust my body. Even during the darkest times, I still held onto my faith, because I knew that even in the worst of times, God was with me and making my path.

The Divine is revealed to us all a little differently and one needs to be open to the path that lies in front of each of us. The hardest part is understanding that you may not like the path that is being paved for you. Hello, California?!  Even when we share the same faith tradition; we both will meet the Divine in a different place. It is the greatest mystery, how the Divine is revealed to each of us. What that revelation is for each of us is different, but what we share is that we are all called to do something in this life, to find what our unique talents and gifts are and then to use them the best way possible.

We all have folks in our life who try to hide from their faith. Who think that they don't need a faith journey or who question why the rest of us have one. But, the friends that my heart hurts for are the ones who say, "If I walked into a church, God would laugh at me or the walls may fall down because; I don't belong in that place."  It is often said tongue firmly planted in cheek, but the intent is all the same. They claim that it is not the place for them.

Why? The Divine is waiting for you. Patiently sometimes, often not not so much. The Divine provides us opportunities time and time again. All you need to do; is listen to the invitation and come along. Perhaps you misunderstand how the Divine is calling you. I find comfort in Church. In a community of folks who share similar comfort in the order of celebration that I call home. How you meet the Divine is up to you, do you meet in your meditation, in your contact with nature, or in your art? Do you meet the Divine in others? All of these are acceptable, but my question for you is how are you strengthening that relationship?  It takes practice and dedication, to have the fluidity to meet the Divine. As with any relationship it requires time and attention.

I have found in my travels that the folks who seem the most at peace are the people who have a titanium inner core of a faith life.  Are they good people? Sure. But in addition to being good folks they have a peace that only comes from an active faith life. It makes sorting through the difficult somehow tolerable. I have found my home in the Catholic church, by no means does it need to be yours. But, what I have learned, is that my dedication to this path, has provided me the quickest connection to the Divine. And to be able to hear what I'm being called to do. Yours will likely be different, but I encourage you to find the right one for you.

So the final question, how does it make you resilient? If faith is the skin that holds you together, then your faith life keeps you together when the world falls apart around you. It enables you to get up, get dressed and move on. Maybe it's the trust in a universe bigger than you... Or maybe it's just understanding that you are never alone and that a more Divine being is looking out for you.

Whatever the case may be, it works for me.

And I hope it works for you, too.

Kathryn
PilgrimageGal


photo credit: Sonnenstrahlen via photopin (license)

Tool Four: Wrapping Up Love and the Hidden Tool...

Wrapping Up Love...
Can I just say, I'm delighted that you have made the stop on week four of our journey to resilience. This week, we are mixing things up a bit! I have created an activity, it's part meditation and part reflection.  Like everything we do together, it's easy and approachable.  I have even done this exercise with my Beauties, who didn't even complain. That is a miracle in my house!  I will call on you to use your imagination; then I will tie the exercise into the fourth tool and show you how it fits into the tool box.

Let's begin with the exercise:

You need to create a few mental images. I think we will call it, "day dreaming for adults!" Easypeasy. To begin, image yourself alone in a quiet and beautiful space. This should be a place you feel peaceful, safe and loved.

Where are you?  The beach?, or maybe it's simply your living room? Or a mountain top in Hawaii? A tulip garden in Holland? A quiet lavender field in France? For some it may be a place of religious significance.

The key is that it should be the most sacred and calming place that you can imagine, the place you feel most peaceful and connected with yourself.

Got it?... Good!

Next, I want you to imagine your LOVE. All the love that you have in your being. Do you have it? Good. Scoop it all up into your arms. You need to imagine it in an inanimate physical form. Maybe it's a heart, maybe its the word love carved in a stone, or just scrabble letters of L-O-V-E , or a piece of red paper cut into a heart, a charm from a necklace, or a vessel of some kind that can hold all your love. Just get a physical image.  I imagine love as the word. The letters carved in little rocks that I can fit into my hand.  Now place that object, your "love" in a box. Let's be clear, you are not losing love, you are for lack of a better description, cloning it.  A strange idea, I know.

My LOVE, I put into a beautiful square box. The box is cream and I have some airy cream ribbon to make a beautiful bow.

So imagine yourself, holding your box of love. You are sitting in this beautiful space you have created. In this place you are positively beaming, you never have been more relaxed, happy, safe, secure, practically giddy, just you and your box. I would have a glass of champagne, because well it's a celebration of me and my big O' box of love.

Now, turn and look around. You have company. You are not alone. Next to you is the Divine.  Yep, the Divine...

How great is that. Right?!

So let's talk about your image of the Divine. Who do you see?

Do you see George Burns from the 70's movies?  Do you see an old wise fatherly figure?  Or Morgan Freeman?  Some will see Jesus, others will see a woman. Some may see some sort of super angel. I'm fine with whatever physical form you use to meet the Divine.  I feel strongly that the Divine comes to all of us a little differently, so what you imagine is perfect.

Keep in mind, that you are not nervous, you are at peace sitting with your Creator.  The Creator that knows you intimately, that created you in the image and likeness of the Divine. So bask in the attention. You are home.  It's the BEST.

Great.  Now hand over that beautiful box O' love to the Divine.

So you give this gift of love to God.  Now what--right? Hang tight for a second.

Why are we doing this exercise?  I know for sure that God is in all of us--each and everyone of us. Sadly, sometimes we tune God out.  If we agree that love is how we connect to one another and to the Divine, then it may be worth considering how we use love.  Should we use it a little bit more? Do others need to stop treating love as a toy?

Recently, I have needed to remind myself that there are three of us in every relationship; you, me and the Divine.  I can't claim to have a relationship with the Divine and not acknowledge that you do too. So the folks who push my ever loving last button; they are in the same relationship with the Divine that I claim to have.

Imagine you just gave the Divine your box O' love and said, "Could you help me with this love business?" Would your relationships look different? If you let the Divine direct you a little bit, how would the Divine use your LOVE with others?  Would the Divine steer you away from some relationships, and shine you in a new direction?  Would the Divine, push you out toward some folks, and give you great insights into others?

This my fellow Pilgrims is the very definition of our fourth tool: Vulnerability.  The definition is simple: It's the ability to give and receive love in its most honest form.  Vulnerability is a two way street. In order to share where you are on your journey, you have to be willing to let others share with you.  As I like to say, love is messy.  Being vulnerable means you are saying, "yes" to the messy. You peel back that protective layer that we all like to keep covered.  Will others think my messy is too much?  Will they discover that I'm a hot mess or too broken?

All fair worries.

You are risking that someone you have given your trust to, may hurt you.

Is it a risk?

Yes.

Will you be hurt?

Perhaps.  But I have found that for all of my hurt in this life, the true members of my tribe far outweigh the few trolls who have hurt me on my journey.

Honestly, I have found that the better I use the tools, the more likely I am to find someone who is a perfect fit for my tribe, not an imposter!

So how does vulnerability allow you to be resilient?

Being vulnerable allows us to walk away from unhealthy relationships and toward healthy ones; which is a key component of resilience.  Choosing what is best for ourselves and our spirit. Vulnerability allows us to find others who "get-it," who will ultimately make up our tribe.  As you continue to build your tribe, your ability to use the tools improve.  The tribe members hold you accountable and you them. You create a safe-haven of trust, where you share and grow, you learn, listen and you get stronger in your own truth. When you peel back that layer; you create a space for vulnerability.  It's only when we are in this place (of vulnerability) that we connect on the deepest level and it's then that we see the Divine in each other.

If you are using your tools as keys to resilience; you can look with a loving eye at all your relationships.  You may find that perhaps the healthiest place for you is in fact not with the person you have chosen.  If you are in love with someone who has over time turned the Divine out; you may need to love yourself more and let go. Loving yourself means that you recognize that the Divine created you as a most precious beloved gift.  Love doesn't mean that you are trampled; love means you are treasured.

Which brings me to this question for you: How well are you using your love?  How well is your loved received? How much of your love do you share? How willing are you are to trust and be vulnerable?  Do you give your love away haphazardly?

Here is the kicker: Would the Divine use your love the same way?

O'my, right?

Really think about this: Take a few minutes to really consider it. We know that no one is better at loving than the Divine. So how would the Divine use your love in your life?

Please carry that question around this week. Own it, consider what that means to you and where you are meeting not only your tribe, but the Divine on this portion of the Pilgrimage.

So that is the exercise, everyday you and the Divine, sitting in your special place reviewing your day. Having a snack, or a cup of tea, or maybe even a cocktail.  A chance to look at your day with the Divine, one on one. It's the opportunity to check-in and see how your love meter is working. How you are managing the love around you. It can also be your first step into meditation. At the end of each day to sit in silence, creating the room for you and the Divine and listening to the reflection. If you and the Divine have time to meet up in the morning, even better...

So tool number four is vulnerability, check. You are doing great, really. And I love you!

Can't wait to hear how it works for you this week.

xo
Kathryn
PilgrimageGal

I love hearing from you, and I miss it when you don't reach out! So leave comments below, connect with me on instagram at PilgrimageGal or on facebook at PilgrimageGal or send me a private email by sending me a note in the form in the sidebar.

photo credit: PixaBay/blickpixel

Tool Three: Community and Tribe...

Well done.  I love you more...

Week three of our Pilgrimage on the road to Resilience. We have covered Humor, and Love, and today we will spend some time on Community and Tribe.  Community for me is your larger world, your acquaintances and friends. Your tribe is your close and core group.  People can move in and out of these circles over time.

If you accept the concept that living well is a direct correlation to how well you love. Then those who you love best and most authentically will organically become your community and tribe. The size of your circle is a direct result of how open, vulnerable and truthful you are about yourself. I hear often from folks that they aren't good at making relationships.  If you find your circle lacking, you need to ask yourself some tough questions.  Since it's almost Spring and we are working through Lent, perhaps it is time for a Spring cleaning of your emotional house.

Here are some questions to ask yourself. Some days we are better at these than others. I guess the real question is; in the last month can you feel good about more of these answers than not?

How free are you to love?  Are you positive in your world view? (ie: The world is filled with more good people than bad?)  Are you tolerant of differences of opinion?  Do you judge first or love first? Do you enjoy the company of people who have a different worldview than you do?  Are you willing to try new things?  How willing are you to sacrifice your wants for someone else?  Are your actions more thoughtful?  How easily do you let go of other people's failings?  Do you expect perfection in others?  Do you forgive?  Do you listen?  Do the rules apply to everyone, but you?

A sobering set of questions... I know.  None of us are perfect and I certainly know this list of questions makes me acknowledge that I'm a work in progress.  The questions are designed to make us stop and think.

Real relationships require balance; and the better your balance; the better your tribe.

Relationships that matter may require work; there is always some heavy lifting.  Often in this world of instant gratification we forget how to be thoughtful and kind. Simple kindness of a note in the mail (something I stink at doing) makes people's day. For the record, basic thoughtfulness goes a long way.

If I had a dinner party of the twenty most influential women in my life (and it would be tough to limit it to 20), the table would be very eclectic. The table would include grade school friends, teachers, high school girls, some family, several soul sisters, folks met while working, some girls battle tested by my health foolishness. My tribe is diverse; some share my catholic faith, others don't.  I have friends that aren't so sure about this God business, too.  I love that my female tribe members are all over the political spectrum and the world. Are they different? O'my, yes. Beautiful, honest, funny, battle tested, willing to call me on my foolishness, each one has a special spark that stops me in my tracks. Each and every one makes me better, pushes me to be a better version of myself.

I'm thinking I need to have this dinner party!

What I know about my tribe, is that you need one quality to join. Only one.  You have to be able to share your truth with me. I need to know who you are; who you really are; not who you want to be, not who you think I want you to be; you need to be yourself. And everything else will fall into place. Every woman at the table could tell you my truth, as I can there's. I hope that each one would say that they always know that they are loved completely by me and they love me likewise in return.

Everytime I end a call with someone in my tribe, I say the same thing, "I LOVE YOU."

Because I always want them to know, that they are loved.  I never want that to be in doubt.

To some, my circle of friends seems to be random. I make friends easily. True. Why? I think partly because I'm interested in other people's stories. Who are you, where are you on your journey?  I'm drawn to people who are honest, who are willing to not give up, who have that titanium inner core, who see the world as beautiful and full of promise. My tribe gift is simple, I don't forget your truth. I carry it always, I know your soul and you know mine.

So your tribe may be wider than you think. Your circle may involve more facebook or long distant chats then you know. I thought the move would be devastating in my relationships. I was worried about the lack of daily contact. But what I'm learning is that the depths of my love for my nearest and dearest is likely even stronger. I carry them with me in the grocery store and when I make dinner. I look at my watch and know where they are, I pray more directly for these loved ones than ever before. And that is what your tribe is, the ability to connect in the world with love for the ones who make you stronger, wiser, deeper in your faith, whatever your tradition. What we need to ask ourselves is why we don't extend our arms as wide as we can? To love more, to love with more intention, to speak our truth to every ear. Why do we skirt the tough conversations instead of saying what is really in our hearts? You can have the difficult conversation if you do one thing, put others first. It's not about you, it's about them.

What is the one quality that you need in your tribe? Once you know that quality, that truth, your tribe will blossom and bloom. Just like you...

Life is better when you have someone (or a whole tribe) to walk on your pilgrimage with you.

So how does this help you become resilient? It's simple.

You are never alone when you have your tribe. Your tribe dusts you off, helps to pick you up, sometimes they carry you. Your tribe helps you get back on the path when you make a wrong turn. Your tribe holds you accountable along the journey, loving you and wanting only the best for you. But best of all, your tribe is there to celebrate the joyous moments, the happiness of the journey, the triumphs of this life.

To drink the champagne with you. To hold their glass high, toast and say, "Well done. We love you."

And to my tribe, you know who you are... I love each one of you, more than any words on this page today or ever could say.  Thanks for walking with me, always.

I raise my glass to you and say, "Well done. I love you more!"

Till next week my Pilgrims, make your tribe a little stronger this week. Spread some of that love around.

Kathryn
PilgrimageGal

Photo credit: http://pixabay.com/en/users/Holgi-5825/

Tool One: LOVE Times Four...



Happy first Monday of Lent 2015

As promised, here is my first post in my Lenten Series. I have never done anything like this before; and to be honest, it's hard.  I like to remind myself, you have to make yourself uncomfortable. You have to push out of your comfort zone.  So Eeek, what nerve it takes to say, "I've got my life all figured out and I'm going to tell you how to fix yours."  Anyone who knows me; knows I really don't. I'm just like you. Truthfully.  What I have been told consistently is; Jeffrey and I share skills as a couple and as individuals that have allowed us to live a beautiful and happy life, in spite of our struggles.  We don't often get down and when we have problems, we have the ability to right our ship.  We of course maintain that a big piece is due to our faith life.  We are resilient as individuals, as a couple, and as parents.

Along with an active faith life, I think the most important skill we try to teach is resilience.  We need to own this and teach it in our daily life.  We choose how we are walking in this world.  We tell our Beauties daily; life is flipping hard and you have to have tools and skills to make it through the tough times.  That's resilience.

As we work through the Lenten season, which traditionally is a time for reflection and sacrifice, maybe it's also a good time to share my/our ideas on compiling the tools to live in this big old crazy world and make you and yours more resilient.

What tools do you need in your tool box in order to build a resilient life?  Over the next few weeks, I will share my thoughts on several of the tools, including; Love, Community/Tribe, Faith life, Sense of Humor, and Vulnerability.  I will do my best to keep the posts topic based.  But, this is new for me, so we will see how it goes.  Let's start with the most important tool:

LOVE

We are built to love.  Hopefully, you do it daily without much thought, to be honest.  But, often it is just on the surface and superficial.  We need to dig a little deeper.

We know in scripture there are four types of love: The Greeks they love BIG. A quick review includes the following types of love:

 Storge: Brotherly love, familial love.
 Philia: Friendship.
 Eros: Passionate/romantic.
 Agape: Unconditional/selfless love.

I'm not an expert in Greek; I'm not trying to offer a new thesis on the biblical uses!  We are going to keep with the simple; Us Weekly/People magazine worthy definitions.  Nothing heavy here! I'm good with easy.  I'm not looking to footnote with scholarly definitions.  I'm not even going to go into each one.  I just ask you to consider how do each of the four touch your life?  And I don't think you need to have all four; what I do believe is that you can never have too much!

No one dies thinking I wish I had loved less... I think everyone wishes that they had loved more.

That leads to the first series of questions:

How do you LOVE?
Are you a consumer of love or a generator of love?  Do you make room for love?  Do you close yourself to loves' invitation?  Are you not good enough to be loved? (that is the lie so many say to ourselves.)  Do you love yourself?  Your imperfections, your weaknesses and strengths?  Do you surround yourself with lasting relationships that include love?

There are no wrong answers here.  It's the opportunity for a wee bit of self reflection.  There is no scale at the end to rank your "love quotient".

Also for this reflection, please take Eros off the table and the Agape form of unconditional love for your children.  If you have it, more power to you.  But, you don't need it to live well, to have fulfillment or frankly to love fully.  Keep the Agape in your heart and mind for the Divine's love for you, though.

The relationships that include service to others; that is Agape too.  When you give of your time and talents to others, you serve, you are knee deep in others, wanting nothing in return.   It is this ability to be selfless that fills your love bank.  It does the heavy lifting in good times.

You have to put your money where your mouth is. You have to work on filling your love bank on the sunny days.  When you are at your best.  Do you send that text, do you call when you have five minutes (or 2 hours) when you're needed?  I try my best, but can always do better.

I got one this week. I got a text that told me to "call me when you get up!"  It was all that I could do not to call immediately at 1 am EST.  Do you have folks that can count on you?

One of the most important lessons I have learned is that in my darkest, darkest times.  There was ALWAYS someone who had it worse than me.

And that is the grocery store moment.  Have you ever been in line at the grocery store at 5 pm on a weeknight gritting your teeth for the one flipping item you need to pull dinner together.  Have you ever looked around at the folks surrounding you?  Everyone has struggles, some are big and some are huge.  For the love of all that is good in the world... Stop judging people.  It's the surest way to cut an enormous hole in your love bank.  Everyone has a "cross."  Be grateful that you don't have theirs. And when you can, reach you hand out and offer it to another.  It will make all the difference; I promise.  Because no matter what my trial; I have always had someone who could take my hand and walk with me.  Who loved me, even with all the Kathryness of it all.  And that makes the journey so much more beautiful.

I have held out my hand so many times to find someone else holding mine.  Just this week, I've been worrying about the blog.  Is this really what the Spirit wants me doing.  I guess you could say my love bank was running a little low.  I don't feel my best, my Jeffrey is traveling.  And what do I have to offer?  Does it really resonate with anyone?  And that's when the email appeared in my in-box; the email that made my heart sing, the one told me that I helped them, that my words "resonate FULLY" and that my writing is a "blessing to them."  Now that is some good love and it was just what I needed at that moment.

So that is what this post is asking:  How well are you loving?  How well are you allowing love into your life?  Who are you holding out your hand to?  And have you welcomed, accepted and allowed yourself to feel the glorious light of someone elses love?  I promise it makes all the difference.

When you love, it keeps your scales balanced, it keeps you giving and receiving love, and with a little love everything's easier.  The good days are great and the tough days are tolerable because you can feel the love and you've got a whole bunch of folks holding you up!

If you feel that your "love bank" is more than half full, then take a second to pat yourself on the back. That's the first step to mastering this crazy thing called resilience.

Till next week...

Love,
Kathryn
PilgrimageGal


photo credit: Love via photopin (license)

Ash Wednesday and the Beginning of a Journey...



Today is Ash Wednesday.  An important day in the life of Christians. If Christianity isn't your tradition, no fear; just hang on for a teeny weeny second. I'm burying the lead. I promise.

Lent in my world is a journey.  A journey that includes some token sacrifice, that this year includes giving up sweets.  And ends in the gloriousness of Easter morning, rejoicing in the resurrection of Christ, his triumph over death, a beautiful Mass and finally a really good chocolate bunny washed down with a glass of champagne.

As always I digress... Today we wear our ashes and are reminded:

 "For you are dust, and to dust you shall return".

For some it may come as sobering words; for me not so much.  Every Ash Wednesday the words remind me to get busy.  As I love to say; "GET to the GETTING." I still have much to learn and much to do!  So with that I commit to you every Monday, look for a post from me! This weekly post will help us work on our toolboxes together. I'm reading all the blogs, and spiritual resting spots for suggestions; then I'm going to toss it into the Kathryness of it all and make it work for us.  So for my Lenten sisters, just punt on the heavy lifting; I've got ya.  For the rest of you, the weekly posts will help us get on track and stay there.

The goal: find that seemly elusive rainbow, that place of balance.

I don't separate faith from daily living, it would be like removing my lungs from my body. And with my shady lungs, I kind of need them for living.  My tools therefore are part life skill and part spiritual conditioning.  If Lent isn't in your faith tradition; I encourage you to join me and tag along for awhile to see where we go. Think of this as a nondenominational detox or spiritual cleanse; minus the Hollywood foolishness.

You need not make a sacrifice or give up anything.  Just read with me and nosh on the Girl Scout cookies calling your name. Hopefully together we can re-frame some old habits and rethink assumptions and come up with some new ideas.  Besides I need folks to talk with along the way... I'm missing my chocolate and the foolishness of the gossip websites that I consider very important reading!  (another dirty little secret out of the vault!)

I look forward to sharing this Lenten Spiritual cleanse with you...

Lace up your shoes, we will walk just a little farther than usual.

Until Monday,

Kathryn
PilgrimageGal


photo credit: Lent votives via photopin (license)

Medical State of the Union and Sheer Will...

Looking for balance, finding peace...and walking with the Beauty.

It seems only appropriate that with January done, I spend a little time talking about my health. It was the primary reason I started writing this blog, my chance to explain and define for everyone where my life had taken me! So I call this post my

Medical State of the Union

.  It's something about being from DC, every January means the State of the Union address. My friend, Andy a couple of years ago told me I needed to "speak my truth" about my health. My first reporting was the hardest most gut wrenching post I have ever written. (

The Real Scoop...

)

Two years later, I'm blessed and amazed to see how far I have come, to realize that my life is so much better. I'm happy to report; this State of the Union, won't be hard. Not that my life is perfect, but my health is far better, my life happier, lighter and full of more joy.

Officially, I have called Santa Barbara home for just three months; while I'm still unearthing boxes, we have certainly started to feel like we are "settled".  The holidays were filled with tons of entertaining, Jeff's entire family is here in California, so we hosted the West Coast family for several dinners and celebrations.  My mom visited during this time from DC and it was wonderful to have my slice of home here a midst the celebrations and chaos.  As we settle into the "Winter" filled with sunshine and 75 degree days; my life has quieted enough to really offer some news on where my health finds me.

First and foremost, I'm better than I was a year ago. That is for sure. My doctors at NIH are always asking me to describe, "how much better?" I find that impossible to really quantify. What I feel comfortable saying is that moving West has been the best thing for my health.  Simply... it's warmer. Do I still have cold events? YES. Still almost everyday? YES. But my drug regime coupled with the constantly warmer temps have changed the quality of my life. The warmer weather has kept me from having the issues with anaphylaxis that haunted me for years. I didn't really realize till I arrived that I have forever been cold, in my bones, possibly in my soul.  I find myself sitting outside as often as possible for the Vitamin D and just the ability to feel the warmth. While it may be hard to describe to people who don't suffer from this disease, but imagine if you just walked around taking a cold shower all the time... It's that chill, where you can't get warm that has been my struggle. Since arriving, my cold attacks aren't nearly as severe. Small attacks that would have had me coughing and wheezing now seem to have the effect of a bee sting: itching, hiving and uncomfortable but without the follow on nausea, aches, coughing and inability to get out of bed the day after.

I still have had several nasty attacks, just not with the frequency or intensity of the East Coast versions.

Which gets me back to where I should have started. No, I'm not in remission. No, I'm not even close. I have a serious, currently better managed; at time life threatening disease. This is mine and I can't change it. But what I have done is not let it define the outcome of my life.

Sheer will should be my new mantra.

Many people have contacted me to ask, "How do you do it?"  My simple answer is: I don't have a choice.  Or after more thought, I think it is more than that. Basically, I don't like the other options. And I doubt you do either.

We manage our health, with our choices. I think every week, what is the most important thing I'm doing, where do I need to be?  Can I call in, can I miss this, can someone else drive me if I need meds?

We tell our Beauties everyday, "You can't do it all." AND if we are being honest, if we don't do as we say, what message does that send to our children?  Why are we killing ourselves for activities, organizations and events that are not critical or crucial to our happiness?

Or as my dear friend Mick (OK we have never met) reminds me: "You can't always get what you want... But if you try sometime, you find. 

You get what you need."

So that is my message to all of us: my fellow chronic disease warriors, my loves with mental health struggles, medical issues, my other dear ones battling other challenges that we just flipping didn't see coming.

You have to own this struggle, whatever yours is, be it this disease, this challenge in your life, you don't have to like it... HELL NO; but you need to own it and not give it the power to own you. Manage it, keep an eye on it, treat it, but don't let it overtake you or define you.

And for the record, SHEER WILL will only take you so far as the men in my life are apt to remind me.

I thought when I moved, the two most influential men in my life would be separated. My husband and my doctor. But, they still manage to conspire even in their separation.

My dearest Doctor, aka Harvard, always shakes his head when I tell him I struggle with balance... "You think!?"  After all these years, he can tell if I'm behaving by my voice on the phone, or when he would see me in person, just one look at me, drop his head and say, "Please take it easy."

Harvard reminds me in a text message just this week, "Jeff, Ian and Norah need you healthy not sick."

Fair point. Well said Harvard.

Jeffrey is a little more direct and always challenges me when he sees me burning the candle at both ends. He reminds me, "You know where this is going, you can either slow down; climb in bed with the remote and take it easy;  OR you can keep this up and your body will decide for you. And we both know when your body decides, you like that even less."

Or even this morning,  I didn't wake and Jeffrey didn't wake me,  I woke with a start hearing the Beauties heading out the front door for school. What Mom oversleeps when her Beauties are headed to school? This one does apparently, when she is exhausted! I jumped out of bed, raced for the door, standing like a sleepy toddler with my bad breath and bed head, all that I was missing was a stuffed animal under my arm... while the Beauties each gave me a quick hug and all suggested I return to bed! Which I did for another three hours!

Balance... I'm working on it...

These two men are so flipping smart it's IRRITATING. That they are correct, yet again...

(This post is going to be printed and laminated and held over my head for a lifetime!) These two men in my life...

So there you have it, the State of the Union is super strong! Balance aside, more great days than lousy! I'm happy, healthy and eager to report on my good news! As you review your State of the Union, please keep in mind that you are the center of you family's world. And while we may have different struggles, I hope you see the take a ways are the same.

We are all works in progress; we all have struggles; and many of us are working on finding just the right balance. The journey continues....

Namaste

Kathryn

The PilgrimageGal

Photo credit: Mr. PilgrimageGal

Betty...

I met Betty today.

I met her in the place you would least expect to find her. My Mom, who is visiting from DC and I were getting pedicures at a little toe shop in Santa Barbra. You know the kind, the nondescript store front with the neon-lights that say, "OPEN" in the strip mall. It has rows of sparkly clean and cozy chairs with little whirlpools for your feet. That was where my mother and I were getting emergency repairs for our beleaguered feet. The holidays were tough on our tired toes. Too many children with ever growing feet stepped on them! While mom was getting her "French" and I was watching my "Blame it on Rio" dry, in walked Betty. She spoke to the owner about getting her nails "buffed" and her toes "polished" and then as luck would have it, she sat in the chair next to me.

Betty had a little trouble getting into the chair and getting her black Reeboks off. I helped her stow her bag and she comfortably got her bright pink toes into the tub. No surprise to those who know me, I introduced myself and we started to chat. Turns out that her sparkly clear blue eyes had seen many things in her 92 years of living, including 4 children and over 70 years of marriage. Along the way she had lost one of her four Beauties and a year ago on December 23, she lost her True Love, her husband. I loved Betty from our hello. Betty is tiny, but not frail and she drove herself to get her nails done... I know right!!!  Inside that tiny little body was more wisdom than I could get out in our brief conversation. We have a friend in common, Jeffrey's 101 year old Grandmother lives in the same complex. Apparently they are bingo buddies. Guess I may need to crash bingo next week.

I asked Betty what makes a happy life and what tips could she give me for launching happy, healthy and purposeful adults into our big world.

About the happy life, she told me simply that we live in a world full of judgments. In her experience, the happiest and most joyful folks were those who didn't judge, but who loved.

Betty tip number one: Don't judge--Love!

She also told me that none of us are perfect and that many people seem to take their time focusing on other's foibles and not seeing that they themselves have just as many shortcomings.

Betty tip number two:  Remember you aren't perfect.  Focus on everyone's strengths.

About raising Beauties, she explained that children learn from example. She talked about how she and her Love were partners in every sense. That neither of them were perfect individually, but by working together they became an amazing team. I'm thinking Betty created the term co-parenting! She emphasized that we are models and examples for our children in how we live our life... As we live our's, so they will live their's.

Betty tip number three: Lead by example.

Her last lesson was the best.

Betty told me that Mothers are by nature, made to nurture. She explained that it is one of our primary roles.  Even after our children have grown or in my case while I'm still raising mine, I must pay attention to see others that need to be nurtured. And as mothers, it is our responsibility to reach out and fill that need.

Betty tip number four: Yep, we must find those who need our love and love'em.

It was a fascinating conversation. I was smitten by Betty, a women so open, so filled with life and joy and willing to share her truth in such a simple and beautiful way.

There we were, three Moms just sitting, talking over red toe nail polish... (She had tired of pink and needed something a little flashier!)

When I got up to leave, I couldn't resist, I walked over and gave her a hug. I told Betty she had made my day at 10:15 in the morning.

And I thanked her for providing us with an amazing exquisite moment at the start of a day that was planned to be filled with many more.

Today was filled with just that--so many moments and Betty was just the first one and it occurred when and where I least expected it.

Perhaps that is the most important lesson that Betty taught me.

Always be open and ready for an amazing Exquisite Moment. You never can know when they may occur.

Thank you Betty, wisdom figure, life teacher, wife, mother, grandmother and lover of red toes!

Thank you.

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

photo credit:

Disco-Dan

via

photopin

cc

Red Pen Take Two... Happy New Year.

Thank you to everyone who reached out to say my last post resonated with them. I love that by walking together, we share a combined truth. When you let me know how your journey is going, I can focus my energies on speaking to you directly. So thank you to everyone who collectively sighed and said, "Yep, that's me too!"

There are so many of us out there in this big busy world.

I thought maybe that this red pen post had a second part. I don't think there is a trickier time of the year than the time from Halloween through the New Year. In our little family, that extends through January. You see, I have a very special January birthday in my house.

Norah's birthday has always needed a little extra love. Jeff, Ian and I are all August birthdays, so we make a big deal about the month of August. We usually have our family vacation in August as well. So I'm a little extra sensitive that my sweet one needs her birthday month not to be the January blues. I'm not alone. Some of the closest women in my life have December and January birthdays and we have all spent much time sharing notes on how to make them special. From rocking Halloween though January, it is an exhausting time for the battle trenched mom's of this world. During these stressful times, it can be too easy to pull out the red pen and grade our personal performance.

How many of us, would give ourselves a passing grade?

As we prepare ourselves for the collective sigh of the January marathon completion, many of us will begin the quest to start our New Year's Resolutions. My hope for all of you out there, is that you tell your resolutions to stick it.

This year's resolution should be simply, to throw the red pen away. Be a little kinder to yourself. Not your Beauties, not your spouse, not your parents, not your besties... First, be kinder to yourself.

I've been thinking about this, if I were my own bestie, I would have dumped me years ago. I'm never that good to me. I'm good to everyone else, but not to myself. I beat myself up when I'm tired and need to have a rest day.  I feel guilty when I take myself out for a cut and color, or a new lip gloss or even if I just sit on my tush and watch horrible, mindless television all day. I always say I should be doing more. I exhaust myself with my own self critiques, I have a tough time just relaxing. Have you ever wondered why so many of us sleep terribly? Because it's the only time of our day we have our minds to ourselves where we can really invest in long red pen moments!

We need to end the madness and make 2015 about loving ourselves.

I'm going to encourage all of us to date ourselves. Make time to date yourself, discover what you love, what brings you joy, what inspires and fascinates you. I always say, put the oxygen mask on yourself first, but it's more than that... Take the time to really listen to yourself, meet yourself and love being in the room with who you are...

Let me be the first to tell you, I think you are amazing.

Maybe this is the year that you do a little therapy and find some of your patterns. Maybe you try a different house of worship or you reinvest in your faith life in a profound way.  Or this is the year you think about that career you have been too scared to consider. This is the year you love your body just the way that it is. You worked hard for those stretch marks, and your boobs are amazing they gave some Beauties the only food they needed. I look at my stretch marks and think I laid in bed for months to bring these fantastic Beauties into this world. Or maybe this is the time that you just sit back and you own the fact that you are smarter, braver and more beautiful than you ever realized and just own it! At 44, I'm finally starting to do some of these things, and I'm finding, I'm healthier, happier and more in love with the fantasticeness of what God has created in me!

I think we are told as women not to brag, or even at times to step back and push others forward. Maybe 2015 should be about, owning our own internal fabulousness and sharing that light to the world.

So that is my prayer and New Year's hope for all of us. To throw the red pens out and hug ourselves just a little bit more.

You my love are amazing and I love you just the way you are!

Happy New Year!

Namaste my loves, namaste.

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

 photo credit:

theilr

via

photopin

cc