28 December 2019

From Open to Fearless

2019 was my year to be Open.

It looks like 2020 is the year to be Fearless.

One of the traditions I have enjoyed over the last few years is choosing a word. I have shared here and there on past words. What this last year has shown me is sometimes the word you start with takes on a whole different meaning than what you originally thought.

I was heading into 2019 with the word, Open. 

I thought it held a particular meaning for me. At the time, I was seriously dating a man (with whom I thought I would eventually marry). I thought this word meant to be open to ways my life would look different than how I always imagined. Specifically, with the serious possibility of becoming a stepmom to his three children.

But early into 2019, I no longer felt peace and ended that relationship. It was sad, messy, and confusing. I was really surprised by my choice, but in the end, knew it was the right decision for my life.

So what did it look like now, to be open?

For me, it looked like giving myself space and time to process and grieve that relationship. I looked at the gifts, blessings, and also the things I did not like or would do differently. In time, I began to date again.

I knew I wanted to date a bit differently this time around. 


I showed up as my authentic, Patty self and went on lots of dates.

I learned to trust myself even more, kindly turn men down, and walk away with ardent certainty on what are the most important things I am looking for in a serious relationship, and someday in a marriage.

I got a lot of practice in healthy dating principles; what it means to lean back into my own life and not try to make something happen with a man. 

As the year progressed, what I thought my word for the year meant developed and changed.

I started out with a certain idea of what being open would look like for me.

As life unfolded, so did a deeper meaning of my word.

So that brings me to the final weeks of 2019 . . .

One night, I was tooling around late on my laptop and at random, decided to pick a word for 2020.

I did not have high hopes for anything terribly profound and was more expecting to get something random like the word toast (that did happen one year!).

I was surprised to see the word fearless staring back at me.

I would use a wide variety of words to describe myself, but fearless is not one I think I would ever pick.

I stared at the computer screen. 

Over the next few days, I sat with the word more. I asked Jesus what He thought about this word, what He had to say to me about it.
For about a week or so, I kept coming back to fearless.

It rings true with me. It sits well in my soul, so 2020 will be my year of fearless.

I will choose to be fearless. I do not know how it will play out or develop over the next months, but I want to be more fearless in all areas of my life, especially when it comes to seeking the will of God in all the spaces of my heart.

Do you pick a Word for the Year? 

Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you or try on several different options until you find the right fit. You can always use Jennifer Fulwiler's Word of the Year Generator!

What is a Word that will guide this new decade of life for you?

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21 December 2019

What I Needed to Unlearn About Catholic Dating

It needs to be said.

There are some weird, unhealthy, and toxic attitudes out and about in the world about Catholic dating.

Dating, especially online, already comes with unique challenges. But throwing in the factor of being a Catholic woman (or man) brings its own set of unique experiences.

There is one particular memory of I have when I was in my mid twenties, that for me, captures much of what was unhealthy that I absorbed in terms of dating and Catholic culture around that.

I am sitting in my mom's gray Sable in the parking lot of the first parish I worked at. 

I was listening to a CD and the talk was being given by the wife of a well-know Catholic writer, professor, and speaker.

Her talk was about dating, courting, and marriage. The point I most remember was something to the effect of: After you date a man for about six months, you should have a pretty good sense if you want to pursue marriage. If that is the case, he would begin to court you, and eventually in the near future you would get engaged and then get married.

(Before going any further, I am not saying people who date and marry quickly are doing it wrong or you cannot find lasting love that way.)

While maybe this was not the point the speaker was trying to make, the point is that is how I as a naive, very inexperienced woman (in relation to men) received and internalized what was said.

I have wanted to be a wife and a mom from the time I was a very little girl. 

But as I look back on my own pscyho-sexual development and lack of experience with men before marriage (not referring to sex), I realized there were a lot of unhealthy perspectives and beliefs I gravitated to as a young woman.

I dated two men before I married. 

One was for eight months and the other just a handful. 
In dating my former husband, there were a lot of red flags I missed in his words and actions. And honestly, while we never had sex before marriage we were not the most chaste while together. In many ways, I think those choices further clouded my better judgment in my choice of a spouse. 

I came into marriage at 26 very naive about my own body as a woman and my sexuality. 

I was insecure, codependent, wanted to be loved, and thought the "right" Catholic man could fulfill in me in all the ways that I did not love or value about myself.

I had no awareness of things like the importance of consent, abuse, or manipulation when it came to a sexual relationship between spouses. 

I had no sense of my own voice to express what I liked, did not like, or was uncomfortable with when it came to our sexual relationship.

Why share all of this?

Because our sexual templates as men and women are formed and shaped by our attitudes and experiences. These were some of things that play a piece in my story.

Now I realize we bring all of this stuff with us into dating and how we navigate that.

It is now at the ripe age of 34 I am able to see the negative, even toxic, messaging I absorbed as Gospel truth when it came to dating, sexuality, and marriage.

What were some of the unhealthy things I have had to unlearn about dating?

  • Date with the intent to marry. All I am trying to say is saying that to an 18 or 22 year old is confusing, not helpful, and I would say spiritually abusive.
  • The whole concept of courting.
  • Needing a spouse to complete me. This has done more harm to me in more ways than I can verbalize.
  • Finding the "perfect Catholic guy" will make everything picture perfect. (False).
  • The idolization of marriage.
  • The idolization of virginity and lack of compassionate care for those who had sex before marriage.
  • The idea that men and women cannot be friends.
  • Marriage is not the end-all, be-all.
  • Assuming that a woman is responsible for the moral character of the relationship.
  • Just because a man appears to be a "good Catholic guy" does not mean he is a good person...or a good Catholic for that matter.
  • Taking dating too seriously. It is a date, not a lifetime commitment.
  • You have to date and marry a Catholic.
  • Do not go on lots of dates. Date only one person at a time.
  • Flirting and being honest about your feelings as a woman is not wrong or shameful.

There is a lot to think about and unlearn when it comes to this stuff in my own life.

More and more, I find myself sharing and talking with other Catholic men and women. Many have similar experiences. Just many others have different ones.

The older I get the more I understand there are messages and beliefs I need to release and let go of because they were unhealthy, toxic, or hurtful to my own identity as a woman.

Maybe you are in the same boat as me, or perhaps you are not.

Are there ideas or concepts when it came to dating as a Catholic/Christian that were unhealthy in your journey?

Is there anything else you would add?

I am fascinated by this conversation and topic right now, and am interested to hear what the experience was like for other women and men.
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19 December 2019

What Jane Eyre Taught Me about Personal Conviction and Love

Over the last few years, I have been trying to take more time to read the classics, especially those written by women. So, after listening to a podcast episode in which the two hosts mentioned their love for Charlotte Bronte's classic tale Jane Eyre, I decided to read it one Christmas break. 

The story of Jane Eyre is one filled with sorrow, suffering, love, redemption, and twists and turns every step of the way. The story begins with an orphaned little girl Jane, who is cruelly treated by uncaring relatives. She is sent away to school, lives there as a student, and eventually becomes a teacher.

Desirous of new opportunities, Jane accepts a governess position at a beautiful, mysterious manner called Thornfield. There she meets Mr. Rochester, a moody, passionate man.

I will stop to there to leave room for those who haven't read it (go do so now!), and I certainly do not want to spoil the redemptive ending. But as I have read and reflected on this literary classic, I realize Jane's life has many important lessons to teach women today, specifically about personal love and conviction.

What are those most important insights?

Hold fast to your convictions.

Love may look different than you imagine.


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13 December 2019

What Locusts are Teaching Me About the Last 10 Years

I am really fortunate to be surrounded by a great tribe of people in my life.

I was recently on the phone with one of my besties who is a priest. I was sharing with him some surprising jealousy and insecurities that rose up inside of me over the last few weeks.

While I am more self-aware than I used to be, I still struggle sometimes with beating myself up for my big feelings or becoming too self-critical.

The good ol' padre gave me some spiritual homework...because why not?

He asked me to spend some significant time these last weeks of December to reflecting and praying over the last decade I have lived in order to prepare for a new one beginning on January 1, 2020.

We ended the phone call. It was already dark outside.

I turned on the tree lights and lit lots of candles in my living room. The smell was like pine and my apartment had a cozy glow as I settled in my prayer to do some talking and listening with God.

I started to name all the many things that have taken place in my life this last decade: starting and completing my graduate degree, marriage, divorce, annulment, healing and growth, a serious relationship and later breaking up, more healing, more dating part 2, writing, speaking, and growing in my creative dreams and passions.

The last ten years have held a lot for me.

I started thinking about how this decade, in many ways, was filled with a lot of growing, pruning, weeding, plowing, and tending the soil of my life. I remembered certain images God has given me in prayer related to those farming analogies, even though I am the furthest thing from a farmer girl.

So I sat in the silence, remembering and reflecting.

I prayed a bold prayer: Jesus, can this next year of my life and into this next decade, bring about the fruit and harvest of the previous decade? Can all that healing, growth, and transformation come to fruition in these next years? Can this decade be my decade?

I did not hear an audible voice, but it felt so honest and true. And I know God heard my prayer.

As I wiped the tears from eyes, I remembered a specific memory.

It was when I was married and going to a support group for women whose husbands struggled with sexual integrity issues. I was crying to her, wondering if life would always be this way or if it would ever change. She quoted to me a verse of Scripture I had never heard before, Joel 2:25: I will repay you double for what the swarming locust has eaten.

I remembered the verse that night sitting in my living room. I sat with the words and asked Jesus that this next year especially and into my next decade would bring a harvest in my life.

Fast forward to the next day when I was sitting in a Walmart parking lot. I had a list of items to get ready for a day retreat that weekend I was hosting at the parish I work at.

I was finishing a podcast episode of Ruah Storytellers. It was this episode.

Rachel expressed similar longings and desires that I wish for in my own life. Right there in my car, she mentioned that verse in Joel I just recalled the night before.

Cue the waterworks.

I burst into tears and started to sob.

Jesus saw me. He heard that little prayer. It did not necessarily take away the big feelings or change my reality in an instant, but I felt seen and heard by God.

I mopped up my face and thanked Jesus for hearing that little prayer. 

I am believing and holding tight to that promise in Joel 2:25.

God will repay double for all that I endured, healed from, and the many ways I have grown over the last ten years.

I have no idea what 2020 or the next years will hold for me. But I am claiming that Scripture over my life in expectant faith and trust, that this decade will bring about the harvest of those difficult and painful years.

Who knew locusts had so much to me about the last decade of life.

Come Lord Jesus.

I am waiting with openness and expectancy.

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30 November 2019

How to Deal with Difficult Family Members During the Holidays

The holiday season is my favorite time of year.

I remember childhood memories of our favorite family traditions - everything from camping out watching holiday movies in the living room to baking our favorite desserts and treats in time for family gatherings or parties with friends. To me, life generally feels a little happier, a bit more joyful and magical, around this tie of year.

However, for many, the holidays can be a difficult, perhaps even painful time.

Some of you have endured the loss of a loved one, spouse, or child. Perhaps you have estranged relationships with people in your family and you're not sure how to deal with them, especially as we head into what performer Andy Williams calls, "the most wonderful time of the year."

One of the best tools my counselor has helped teach me over the years is how to deal with difficult - even unhealthy or unsafe - people.

It is a tool I think we all need in our emotional toolbox, especially if dealing with certain family members around the holiday season is messy or difficult for you.

Read more on the five helpful tips over at Blessed is She  . . .

What else would you add to the list?

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23 November 2019

The Whirlwind of Fall

Today was a rainy, cold day in SE Michigan. It seemed to set the tone for the cozy setting of meeting with my spiritual director in her office.

After we prayed, she asked me to describe what the last month has been like.

My response? Full, rich, and beautiful.

The last month or two this Fall have been so busy, but in the best possible ways.

The first weekend of October, a dear friend Hope and I went up north for a writing retreat together. It like an old fashioned girls slumber party and we had the best heart chats on all the things of life: dating, marriage, babies, sex, politics, religion, and spirituality. I have known Hope professionally for awhile but we have developed a friendship over the last year or so, and she is such a gift to me.

The weekend before Halloween one of my favorite human beings Christina came to visit for the weekend. This beautiful soul is proof real, authentic friendships can be formed over Instagram. Her encouragement, laughter, sass, and friendship have been one of the best surprises of 2019.

We spent the weekend eating good food, wandering downtown Detroit, hitting up a used bookstore, dinner + dessert with my sister Annie, and equal doses of snort laughing with heart chats. 
We ended the weekend with a walk in the rain in Detroit and matching avocado friendship tattoos.
I legit cried when she drove away.

I decided to open up and share on allll the "interesting" experiences of online dating and even created some funky hash tags...because why not? Thanks Patrick for the inspiration and feedback! ;)
The quality of my dates and men has shifted, and there is one very good man I am enjoying getting to spend more time with these days. Hopefully more on that in the future. ;)

My sweet nephew/godson Xavier turned two on November 1. How is he already two!? When I got out of my car to bring him his birthday present, he came running out of the house in his footie jammies yelling my name. Seriously, I can think of few things that make my heart so happy.

The second week of November we got our first snowstorm of the season. I was less than thrilled but having a snow day to babysit X-Man was a-okay in my book.

I have new speaking opportunities that have opened up and are on my schedule for 2020. I have started writing at Grotto Network as a regular contributor and will begin writing at Endow in the New Year.
I am grateful how doors continue to open for me to grow and use my creative skills.

It is crazy to think Thanksgiving is one week away and Advent starting shortly after.
I am looking forward to an RCIA team dinner tomorrow after work, cleaning my apartment, reading, and dinner with a priest friend this weekend.

God continues to show me in little ways even there are spaces of life I wish were different, joy and beauty can be found right now in my current reality

Did Fall feel like a whirlwind for you?

What is new & exciting in your life?

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21 November 2019

The Practice of Daily Gratefuls

I was driving home from Mass one Sunday this summer. 

A friend suddenly was unable to attend our plans for a concert at a local church. She had double booked herself on her calendar. While I understood, I drove home feeling a little disappointed. 

My disappointment led me to thinking about other parts of my life I feel less than thrilled about at times: being single, navigating online dating (oh ladies, it is special!), or coming home to a silent apartment.

Begrudgingly,  I knew what I needed to start doing to acknowledge how I was feeling in the present moment: counting my daily gratefuls.

I coined this term several years ago when my counselor gave me a homework assignment to practice for several months. Each day I had to write in a gratitude journal for 5-10 minutes all the things in my life I was grateful for, all the ways God loves and blesses me in the present moment.

Some days I sat down and wrote in the journal and other days I counted my gratefuls as I drove to work or was out running errands. After several months, my counselor asked me to report back what I had learned.

Learning to count my daily gratfeuls each day has taught me some important lessons about myself and life, regardless of whether I felt hopeful or messy about life, or a little bit of both.


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14 November 2019

How I'm Becoming My Best Dating Self (at 34)

I sometimes wish the lessons I know in my mid-thirties were things I knew in my twenties.

I have wondered if I was more emotionally aware and healthy in my twenties, could I have avoided an unhealthy marriage and divorce? How much different would my life look if I learned all these lessons before ever getting married?

My counselor often reminds me that "You know what you know, when you know it. And now, you know differently, so you act differently."

After my divorce, I dated in a much more healthy way than before I had gotten married. I went on a handful of dates before meeting someone and deciding to seriously date each other. While that was the healthiest relationship I ever had with a man, it did not last and I lost my peace about moving forward.

There is not much I would have changed from that relationship. 

As time passed, I began to see things I would want to do differently moving ahead. I saw we became exclusive very quickly and almost as quickly, began talking about marriage and a future life together. I saw some spiritual differences that I realized were more important to me than I initially thought. Very early on, I became emotionally attached to the outcome and automatically assumed this was the man I would marry.

Fast forward to the present.

I am almost a year outside of that relationship I ended last January.

I have been dating again since April.

I recently realized how at 34 years old, I am finally becoming the best version of my dating self.
I feel more free to be my authentic self and am finding more joy (and yes enjoyment!) in the dating process.

So what am I learning?!
How have I become the best dating version of me?!

  1. Dating takes time, practice, and skills. It is okay to go on lots of dates before choosing to be exclusive with someone. We only learn how to become a good dater and trust ourselves with practice. So go on dates, be open, and have fun!
  2. I am learning to not become emotionally attached to a man too soon. 
  3. I am learning the difference between feminine and masculine energy; what it looks like, means, and how it plays out in dating and romantic relationships.
  4. It takes time getting to know someone. The end goal is not to rush or jump into a romantic relationship. Lay the foundation for strong connection and friendship first. Take time in dating to really get to know someone before becoming exclusive with each other.
  5. Know what you are looking for. I have two lists to guide me as I have met and went out with different men. I call this my "5 Must-Haves" and "5 Can't-Stands." I know what are the most important traits I am looking for in a partner and what are the things I will not tolerate in a relationship.
  6. I am still learning and growing! A dear friend (Mave!)who is a life coach has shared with me a lot she has learned from coaching groups she has attended. I have watched a lot of dating coach videos on YouTube (my favorites are Helena Hart and Anya Grace!) and they have rocked my world in the best possible way. I am learning a lot of practical tools. As I implement them in my life I see how powerful they are. Dating in healthy ways is a continual learning and growing process.
  7. I am showing up as my authentic, radiant, feminine self! No games or expectations. My perspective on dating has shifted from a scarcity to abundance mentality. When I am confident and fully alive, I will attract the right kind of man into my life. 
  8. I cannot make anything happen with a man. If I am trying to control the situation or "forcing" things to develop, that never works out. My job is to not convince a man he should date me, but just be Patty! Eventually, being my authentic self will attract the right man for me into my life. 
  9. While I do want to be married and have a family, my main focus is not to "find the perfect guy." I am living a rich, full life as a single woman and now I know having a man is not what completes me. The focus is no longer the end result of marriage + babies. Instead, the focus is on the beauty and goodness of my current reality. 
  10. I am realizing while I have more knowledge and self-awareness, I will (and still do!) make mistakes from time to time. When I encounter this, I try my best to be honest and own my part. Dating is messy and its okay if you make mistakes.
  11. Lean back deeply into my own life. Stop obsessing or over-thinking about the guy I went on a few dates with or am starting to like. Lean back into living my rich life and focus on myself. If a man is interested in me I will know, and he will pursue me. My job is not make him want to be with me. That is called manipulation.

I have no idea how long I will be single. 
Perhaps the man I will end up with is already in my life or maybe I have yet to meet him.

This much I do know.

I am dating very differently at 34. 
I feel it in my bones, there is a shift inside of me.

Yes - there are rough days that feel lonely and scary from time to time. 

Overall I feel happy, content, joyful, and excited where this new attitude of dating and relationships is taking me.

I am no expert in this department, but I think at this stage in life I am finally living my best, healthiest life as a single woman.

No matter how long I am single, that truth is one of the best gifts I can give myself.

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18 October 2019

The Book on Healthy Marriages that Helps Me as a Single Woman

Over the summer my sister and I were having a conversation. We shared on what we each were like in dating relationships.

She giggled and gently teased me how I like doing things that help build a stronger relationship. I am all about learning about love languages, healthy boundaries, and love maps (thanks Dr. John Gottman!).
Maybe it sounds a little bit intense to you. Or perhaps some of this drive comes from having been divorced, and I just want to have healthy, strong relationships moving forward.

I think on some level I need to be a bit more present and let things happen organically as a relationship develops. But I do think there are a lot of great resources in the world to help couples (whether dating or married) to have long-lasting relationships.

So much of what I have learned about relationships in my early thirties, I wish I knew in my twenties. Between reading and therapy, I now know more about things like boundaries, codependency, and healthy sexuality.

And this knowledge has expanded my self-awareness and healing as a woman. Currently single, I regularly take the time to read and educate myself about the tools that make a good relationship great.

When I am in a serious relationship, I want to put into practice everything I have learned.

But when I reflect on which book has taught me the most about healthy relationships, I find myself returning to the work of Dr. John Gottman. Most especially his bestseller,  The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. 

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15 October 2019

Advent, Dating, & Life... Oh My!

This time of year is my jam. 

If it could be Fall all year long, I would be the happiest of happy campers.

With all this talk around the autumnal season, it feels weird to start talking about Advent.

A few weeks ago, Blessed is She launched their new devotional for both the Advent + Christmas seasons - All the Generations. The theme this year is healing in families.
At the heart of All the Generations, are Scripture passages that introduce you to the lineage of Jesus and encouragement to reflect on and pray for your own family.

We walk through the story of Jesus' own family tree, while reflecting on our own families' stories and how they have influenced our lives. We will also face and address the messy parts of what it means to be a part of a family. 

This year's Advent Journal is written by the entire Blessed is She team. Each daily reflection from a different woman, sharing her perspective and experience on healing in the family.
Along with a unique reflection each day, there is a Scripture with some questions to more deeply pray with.
I hope you will join us this Advent + Christmas season.

If you are wanting to purchase yourself a copy, thank you for using my affiliate link. :)

Ahhh Dating.

Apparently I am now sharing the highs and lows of my adventures in dating via Insta - stories. I may regret it, but it seems to connect with some...so why the heck not? I am using special hash tags #helpmestjoseph #swipingforsaints #theologyoftheswipes

I have mostly had weird - bad dates. However, I was pleasantly surprised with not one but two great dates last weekend! The word on the street is there will be two more second dates. ;)

Someday when I write my memoir, there is going to be a whole chapter on the wonderful world of online dating.

Life is grand.

My sister and I are working on a fun, new creative project together...well we've been at it since the summer. I am hoping in the next few weeks we can share it.

I have received some new freelance writing opportunities. One of my best friends Christina is coming to visit me the last weekend in October. 

I am reading good books, enjoying the smells of my autumnal candles, and getting excited to help at the Trunk or Treat party at my parish on Halloween.

What is new and exciting in your life?

I hope these autumn months are full of good and happy things for you in your own life! :)

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04 October 2019

Freshly 34 & Loving It

I spent the summer living a rich and full life.

As my birthday neared in early September, I was excited and hopeful for the promises and surprises ahead in the coming year.

The whole month felt like one long parade of retreats, birthday celebrations, joy, and new things God is saying to me.

My last weekend of being 33, I went to Nashville with a close friend to attend the Blessed is She SHINE retreat. I saw old friends and made real-life connections with faces from social media. Jesus reminded me of things He said to me this past summer, Just remember your sunflower.

Before heading home, I geeked out at the Johnny Cash museum (see below), ate some great BBQ, and tried on my first pair of Western boots. Pink sparkles included.

My mom and I started my birthday with a good heart chat on all the things going on in life from work to writing to my string of mediocre dates along with some hopeful potentials. 

Later that weekend, a friend hosted a joint birthday party for the both of us at her new home.
Twinkle lights, a roaring bonfire, good food and drinks, even better company, all topped off with singing and a cake topped with candles. It was the makings for a perfect night. I felt cherished and loved by my friends and it made me feel so grateful for the people in my life.

At the end of September, the writing team for Blessed is She got together for a weekend of prayer, writing, and the largest slumber party I have ever attended.

It was good, deep soul rest at every level.
I flew back to Detroit tired (that three hour time change is no joke!) but happily so.

 Do you ever have a birthday that leaves you feeling the possibilities are endless for what could happen in the next twelve months?!

I feel that way as I start 34, the anticipation, hope, and excitement of what lies ahead.

And no, I am not talking about meeting Mr. Patty Breen, though I would love to find a good man to share my life with.

But I feel excited about what lies ahead in whole-hearted living, just me right where I am. Bit by bit, more speaking opportunities are unfolding in my lap. I have new avenues opening up to write. I have new friendships that are so life-giving to my heart and travel adventures I am excited to try.

I have had more than my share of mediocre dates. Online dating is "interesting" to say the least. I am just showing up, being open, and telling Jesus I just want to do His will.

I sometimes forget that my present reality is smack dab in the will of God, not my future but right where God has me. And there is a freeing sense of peace living like that in a way I never really known. It is hard to explain.

So here we go 34.

I am ready for all you have this year for me.

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22 September 2019

Learning to Listen without Getting Defensive

Have you ever been in a conversation and felt that the other person was not really listening to you?

Perhaps you have observed a conversation and realized, Hmmm, that person is not really listening but just waiting to respond. Chances are, if someone was giving you feedback instead of making you feel truly heard, your first response might be defensiveness.

We all have flaws in our personality - things we are not proud of that perhaps affect how we act or relate to other people. Over the last five or six years, I have become more aware that one weakness of mine is defensiveness.

Relationship therapist Dr. John Gottman uses the metaphor of the Four Horsemen to describe four types of communication styles that can predict the end of a relationship. 

They are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. The third in Gottman's list, defensiveness is typically a response to criticism from another individual. It is a way of reacting, but you might not always notice that in the moment.

How do we listen authentically without getting defensive?

It may be more difficult now than ever. People seem to be more divided on topics, which makes it exhausting to enter into healthy dialogue rather than reacting and getting defensive.

Read the rest over at Verily . . .

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06 September 2019

My Sunflower Summer

I have never been the type to enjoy gardening. 

When we had family work days growing up, I would make some excuse about needing to go to the bathroom. I then proceeded to grab a stack of books and go sit in the bathtub reading until my parents noticed my long term absence.

When I started living on my own, my mom helped me take the time to garden herbs or have some potted plants in the spring and summer months.
Nothing fancy.
Just enough to brighten up my balcony.

This year around Memorial Day, we were filling some pots with different flowers and Mom came across a package of sunflower seeds. We tossed a few in one of the larger pots, watered it, and I took it home.

This entire summer I faithfully been watering my sunflower plant. It grew tall and strong. Green and stocky.

But the frustrating thing was it never produced any sunflower blooms. I was getting frustrated. 
I did my part in the watering. 
Come on already, give a little!

I jokingly started referring to it as "the sunflower plant that never bloomed."

I kept on watering, but in my mind just accepted it may never happen.

The second week of August I went to Florida to visit a dear friend. The Tuesday I came home and saw the wind blew over my sunflower plant. After I hauled in my luggage, I went on the balcony to tip up the plant. 

As I stood the plant up, I saw one solitary sunflower bloom on the verge of opening.

In that moment, Jesus stopped me and caught my attention.

"Do you see that sunflower bloom?" 

Yeah, so what?

"Come back to this. Let's talk about it more."

The next few morning over my coffee and morning prayer, I talked with Jesus about that one sunflower. I listened to what He had to say to me about it.

And that was?

"All summer long, you thought that plant would never bloom. You thought things would never change. But then all of sudden, something changed. You were surprised. That sunflower is analogy for your life right now. Life will unfold and just surprise you."

Yes, Lord. 
Those realizations and early morning heart chats were exactly my little heart needed.

Life often does not go how we imagine, dream, or plan. But to hear the voice of the living God speak to me in moments of loneliness or uncertainty is pure gift. 

There is such a comfort in knowing the voice of God, that He desires to speak and reveal Himself to me in the smallest, simplest ways.

Even in something like a sunflower. 

In a few days I turn 34.

I have no idea what the year will bring. In some ways I was shocked to see how certain things went this past year.

What I have learned from my sunflower summer is that you cannot prepare for your life. It will unfold in time. Just be open, live with open hands, and allow yourself to be surprised.

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22 August 2019

The Best Advice I Received as a Single Woman

I think I have the best spiritual director in the whole world.

And yes - I completely acknowledge I am slightly biased. ;)

She is a laywoman who was my favorite professor in graduate school. I attended several of her classes and she coached me on the development and writing of my thesis. She is passionate, wise, discerning, and challenges me when needed. She is a woman of faith and strength I greatly admire and respect. 

I like to think someday when I am her age I will reflect some of the characteristics that I admire in her.

At a recent appointment, I was processing with her a recent breakup with a man I had been dating for almost a year. While I was sad, I had perfect peace about why it was the best decision for me in my life. I was talking through some things and starting to over think the next steps to take in my life with being single, dating, and stepping outside my comfort zone.

We were sitting in comfortable armchairs, and with a twinkle in her eye, she leaned forward and said to me, "Patty, be open. Just show up. There is no formula for life."

I took a long, deep breath as if to allow those words to settle in my spirit.

She repeated them again as if to make a stronger point for me to understand.

You can read the rest over at CatholicMatch Institute ...

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22 July 2019

Saying Goodbye Just Sucks

This summer has been wonderful in many ways.

But there has been one sting that feels messy and hard right now.

My Dad's oldest living sister Carolyn (AC to my siblings and I) was told her chemo for ovarian cancer was no longer working. The last weekend in June she was told she had weeks to live. On July 13 she peacefully died in hospice with her husband, my Uncle Bob by her side.

The almost two weeks we had left with her were spent visiting her in hospice, slowly watching her body decline. As a family we shared the Eucharist at Mass while she was anointed. She and my uncle renewed their wedding vows. We shared memories and laughed while we said our personal goodbyes to her.

After her wake on Wednesday, I went out with family members to a dive bar for beers and burgers to celebrate a life well lived. My Dad's favorite childhood cousins from Boston who flew in for the funeral also came. We laughed, shared memories, and were just together in a hard time.

Her funeral Mass on Thursday was beautiful. 

My Dad gave such a tender homily. Choked up the whole time, he got through the Gospel and what he wanted to share. As he ended, he shared with all gathered that the living memorial to Carolyn is how we live our lives and emulate the traits she so passionately lived. 

Gently patting her casket, he whispered, "And Carolyn, like you you always told us those final weeks, I'll see you when I see you."

The bagpiper played Amazing Grace as we watched her casket leave the church. Watching my Dad incense her casket for the final journey was one of the most surreal things I have witnessed in my life.

In the few days since her wake and funeral last Wednesday and Thursday, I am realizing how much of a void there is without her. 

Saying goodbye just sucks. 
The finality of death is really hitting me.

I cannot call or text her anymore. I won't hear AC call me by my nickname "Patsy-kline." She will never plan another holiday party or family get together. She will never see me get remarried.

It is just weird. 
Growing up, AC seemed invincible to me and yet she is gone from this earthly life.

The loss of my beloved aunt is making very real to me that someday my siblings and I will have to do the same thing for my parents, for each other. In a sense, that adds a unique level to missing her.

Perhaps (in a slightly selfish way) it reminds me that right now there is not that person to share life with for me. I cannot imagine the huge loss my uncle feels going to an empty house without his best friend.

I know my Dad is having a hard time. He and AC were very close, and in a deep way he feels her absence.

We all do and it is just hard.

While the sad feelings feel uncomfortable, I am so grateful for the message of hope our faith is. In the Rite of Christian Burial it says, "life has changed, not ended."

In my heart of hearts, I know this is truth. I believe it.
But of course in the present it still sucks.

I look forward to the day I can hug AC in Heaven.

And until then, I am praying for her and asking her to pray for me and my future (whatever it holds).

The last text message exchange we shared was in March and I was telling her about breaking up with a good man. In her typical AC fashion, she was both validating and giving me advice. 

The last thing she texted me was, "Patty, there is a life with a good man for you. It will come to you."

I am cherishing a lifetime of beautiful memories and asking AC to get on the job of praying for my future.

I believe I will see her again.

But until that day ...

AC - I will see you when I see you. 

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19 July 2019

Sometimes the Bravest Thing is Something You Don't Expect

Sometimes the most fun adventures in life are when you are open and just show up to live life.

It may sound silly, but I love to celebrate the little victories in my own journey of self-awareness and growth.

The last Saturday of June was an opportunity where I was brave and showed up. 

My dear friend Sarah was getting married in Cleveland. I went to the wedding without a date/significant other and literally only knew the bride. Even as a loud-mouthed extrovert, I felt a little nervous.

The wedding was beautiful in charming old church and Sarah was stunning.

After the Mass, I made my way to reception venue over looking the water in downtown Cleveland. During the cocktail hour, I confidently walked around and eventually started chatting with a group friends who used to be roommates with the bride. 

We laughed and made small talk over tasty drinks and appetizers.
Our mutual friend, the bride, made her way over to chat and we snapped some pictures.

Eventually it came time to take our seats for dinner. I sat with the most fun group of married couples and singles who knew the bride from college days at John Carroll University.

It was fabulous! We laughed and talked about all the topics you are not supposed to talk about at weddings or family parties, religion and politics. I laughed so hard and met some wonderful people. 

After the official wedding dances, it came time to the DJ to turn down the lights and pump up the music. I was ready to get my dance on.

Now I love to dance, but I have never had so MUCH fun dancing at wedding. I tore up the floor the whole night and only walked off to use the bathroom once or get hydrated with some water. 
I danced my first polka and a few guys asked me to dance on several occasions.

I felt happy, excited, confident, and comfortable just being me...even if I did not have a date.

I cannot remember a time as an adult I had such a wonderful time at a wedding reception.

As I drove home the next morning, I spent some time reflecting and praying in the car.
I felt brave by just showing up and being open to the experience. That openness led to a wonderful, fun evening.

Sometimes we have to celebrate and own the little wins of our daily lives.
Maybe for you it looks different than going to a wedding not knowing a soul or without a date.

It may sound silly to you, but this felt like one of the bravest, most bad ass things a single woman could do.

I am proud of myself. I left thinking and reminding myself I can do scary things in life.

Show up to live your life.
Be open.

You might surprise yourself and learn that sometimes the bravest thing to do is something you were not expecting.

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