Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Today, I turn 50.

Isn't it a funny expression, "turning" a certain age? It's as if I woke up this morning and noticed my eyes were a slightly different color, or that I had grown a tail. Turning is what leaves do....they are a brilliant green, then vibrant red or orange, then they brown and wither before they die. Is this the turning I'm to expect?

But I'm not turning. Not turning in, turning over, or turning Japanese. I'm fifty. That's cool. I'm about eight hours in and so far it feels fine.

Our culture tells us that it's one of those landmark birthdays that are supposed to be acknowledged with special events and gifts. That's cool, too. I like parties and gifts (and trips to Mexico) just as much as the next guy, and I'm happy to be experiencing or anticipating those good things. Our lives have seasons that deserve recognition. We are made for times of fasting and feasting, days of looking back and looking forward.

Since my birthday falls just before Christmas, near the end of the calendar year, it's always an emotional time of reflection for me. I'm a year older, and soon I'll be starting a New Year, with all the pressure to make resolutions and become The Person I Was Always Meant to Be. Now that I'm fifty I want to say, "I'm here! I've done it! I've figured out how to stop gossiping and begin praying every day. I know the secrets to fast, permanent weight loss and effective closet organization. I don't let the negativity of others get me down, and I have my dream job."

But I don't possess any of those things.

I know that I am older and wiser than I once was, but that I will continue to make daily mistakes. I will likely fight the same demons for the rest of my life. And well, if resignation is maturity, I'm finally growing up.

This is truth: we have very, very little control over the circumstances of our lives. Bad things will happen to us, and for us, and around us. And so will absolutely amazing beautiful things that we don't deserve.

We can't choose much, but most of the time, when our mental and spiritual unwellness don't prevent it, we can choose our attitudes. I'm going to choose a good attitude more often. I'm going to choose gratefulness and joy.

Last Sunday I attended Mass at a neighboring parish. I had dressed nicely, which I try to do when I go to church, but also because I'm vain, and I like clothes, and I was going to a party later. Objectively, I probably looked put-together. But I felt ugly. I felt fat and old and unattractive, and while I tried to pay attention to the service, I kept thinking about how I didn't like my haircut and that I still hadn't lost the weight I wanted to lose by my birthday, and that I wouldn't like the pictures that would be taken of me at holiday gatherings.

Despite my self-absorbed distracted state, I got up to go to Communion. When I did, I recognized a woman in the row behind me - she and I had attended the same high school. She touched my arm and commented on how much she and her daughter, who was with her, liked my scarf. I thanked her and told her it was a gift from my daughter. Then I noticed that her daughter was helping her stand. They walked together up to Communion, with her daughter supporting her the entire way. I could see the pain in her face, and it became clear she was suffering from some disability or illness.

I returned to my seat, ashamed. Here I was, about to turn 50, and by all accounts in excellent health. Yes, I have arthritic knees and my blood pressure and sugar are a little high now and then. But I can walk unassisted. I am not in constant pain. My face is not lined with suffering, and I look younger and healthier than many.

My good health is a tremendous blessing that I take for granted. So is the gift of my marriage, my children, and my large extended family. I don't thank God enough for my job, my friends, my home, or the many natural gifts I've been given. I'm blessed. I'm lucky.

As I left the church an elderly man came up to me. He walked with a limp, and he was missing more than a couple teeth. He mumbled a question, "What's your name?" I told him, and then he asked me how old I was. I thought it was an odd question, but I answered. "I'll be fifty on Tuesday! Wish me a happy birthday!"

"Happy Birthday, Cathy!" He looked me in the eye and took a hold of my hand. "Happy Birthday!"

Happy Birthday, Cathy. Yes, it is a happy birthday. I'm going to make it a happy year.

Friday, December 12, 2014

"quicktakes" and TAKE AWAYS!

I was invited by another blogger to get back into the swing of things by sharing in 7 Quick Takes Friday. Wow...it's been awhile! I see the festivities have a new host (hello Kelly!) over at This Ain't the Lyceum. When I get done here I'm going to look up "lyceum." I'll get back to you guys when I learn more. :)

Seven quick takes from the last week? Not hard to come with seven things to write about. It's the quick (read: brief) part that challenges me. I'll do my best to say more with less and all that.

ONE: I got my nails done, and they look just like Dorothy's ruby slippers. Isn't that amazing? I can't decide if they are a little bit tacky or oh so glamorous, but I love them. Looking at them makes me smile and feel festive, and reminds me of the great time I had while my friend Debbie did them for me. Debbie is positive and sweet and when I see her, I feel encouraged (and a little bit prettier.) Isn't that what time with other women should do for us? Doesn't it often have the opposite effect? Take away: Do fun things for myself with fun people, and encourage others and make them feel beautiful - not torn down - after spending time with me.

TWO: Last fall, I bought a conservative grey interview suit. (I spelled grey with an "e" to make it sound more edgy, because it was not that at all.) After discovering, sadly, that I had no urgent need for said suit, I returned it. But no worries, my credit card balance was nary affected (let's keep the economy humming, right?). I went back for a jacket that caught my eye months ago...I couldn't justify it then, but I'm turning 50 in less than a fortnight, and it was deeply discounted and IT HAS A FUR (fake of course) COLLAR. I love it so much and it has such deep metaphysical meaning to me that I am going to write an entire post about it soon. Take away: Be yourself. Don't put on the gray suit or even the grey one if you are more comfortable in the moto jacket with the fur color and did I mention it's navy leather???

THREE: I got my hair cut this week. It is very short and the blonde highlights have returned. I feel like myself again. Take away: see points one and two above.
This picture here to the left is not me, not my hair, but I wish it was!

FOUR: I am really, really vain, materialistic, and self-centered. At least this week. But take a chance on me. I swear there is more to me than glittery nails, a leather jacket and blonde hair. Really. Take away: Don't focus too much on the externals. Have fun, be yourself, and then realize it is all fading, girlfriend. Prettying up the inside is WAY more important.

FIVE: I have been fighting the concept of "prayer time" for pretty much my entire adult life. The thought of entering my "prayer closet" is about as attractive to me as swearing off makeup, dying my hair and shopping. The phrase has always sounded overly pious to me. I'm one of those people who claim to "pray always," which means, as my son pointed out to me, that I don't make personal time with God a priority. Now, even though I'm often busy being vain, I go to Mass at least weekly, Adoration sporadically, and begin each day with my version of an offering. (Dear God help me survive this or something of that nature.) But a number of things have happened in my life recently that are leading me to the same conclusion. I need to make a specific daily prayer time a priority. But I'm going to call it something different. Maybe Inner Beautification Session or something like that. Take away: you can run from God but you can't hide. He is the initiator of all Good, and He Himself put this desire for prayer in your heart. Who are you to ignore Him?

SIX: It's never too late to develop a new affectation. I noticed this week that I now make "air quotes" ALL THE TIME. And I've begun to PUT THINGS IN CAPS FOR EMPHASIS. They are both such charming new habits. I can't wait to see what new weird thing I start doing next. Take away: Getting older is humbling, but it's also entertaining, if we take the time to realize how goofy we are.

SEVEN: I'm not too old to make new friends! I have met some really incredible people lately, and I'm excited to get to know them. I've been praying for direction in so many areas of my life, and one concerns whom I should spend regular time with. What is so fascinating to me is that my new aquaintances are incredibly diverse but all so attractive to me. The common denominator? They radiate positivity. Take away: Be positive, seek positive, share positive and LIVE "positive."

Head on over to the not Lyceum to read more quick takes!