The Release Project: It Starts with Love

Sitting at mass today, I had a lot of thoughts on my mind: Getting to work, when are ashes distributed, these people don’t belong to my parish, I hope everything is okay at work, just two more days until Spring Break.

As I knelt down, I started with my list: Heavenly Father, please keep me in your grace today. Let me show your grace to others. Gift me with peace, love. Take me worry away. I was doing exactly what I didn’t set out to do. But, then I caught myself—and tried to be as silent as possible. I tried to clear my head, tried to hear what God was saying to me, but it is HARD. To completely clear my head and focus on God Is difficult for me (especially when I haven’t had any coffee).

But, I know what happens when I put all my focus on God—my heart feels like it swells with love and joy. I feel at peace with the world around me, and I know that I would be able to handle anything that happens throughout the day. I knew that I was going to be protected today, and that is exactly what happened (ironically today I taught symbolism, perfect for Ash Wednesday!).

As I listened to the Gospel (Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18) today, something really hit home for me:

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Take care not to perform righteous deeds

in order that people may see them;

otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and inhe streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.


My pastor said that it was interesting that we have this Gospel today about humility and not being so overt with what we do, while we wear ashes today as an outward sign of our faith. He went on to say that the ashes are a symbol of our mortality and our hope for immortality. These little ashes that we wear symbolize the faith, hope, and love that we have in Christ as we prepare ourselves for our eternal lives.

I was thinking about which word or mantra I wanted to focus on today, and I was coming up short. I looked over the list, and nothing was speaking to me. I wasn’t feeling right in the spot to focus on a negative trait I wanted to let go. Not that I don’t have them (God Lord, I do), but I wanted to start this 40 days from a place of love. We are now in a season that celebrates the greatest sign of love that has ever been given; Christ dying on the cross for our sins. When Holy Week comes around, the one thing that I always think about Jesus’ relationship with Mary. My heart always hurts for Mary, because although she knew what Jesus’ was to do, it must of hurt her so much to watch her son die.

I think about love often, but I have never really appreciated love. In all forms—romantic love (that’s another post!), familial love, and the love that we have for our friends. I have always romanticized love, and had a picture of what it should be, but never appreciated the love that I had in front of me this whole time.

My mother and I have always had a rocky relationship. Since I was young, I have never really gave my mother much credit. Growing up, I thought that she didn’t understand me, I thought that she was embarrassed to have me as a daughter, that she wasn’t proud of me, or that somehow if I was different she would love me more. So, most of my high school and college years were spent having an identity crisis. I tried to be more like my mother, but it didn’t work. My mother is a realist and I am an optimist. I always have been, and much of my hardship was trying to get my mother to understand my hopes and dreams; while I thought that she was shutting me down.

It wasn’t until after my father died, when she and I had to learn to lean on each other mutually, did I finally realize what she has been trying to do my entire life. My parents are two of the greatest people that I have ever met in my entire life. My father has the humility that would make people question his motives and my mother is the strongest woman that I have ever met in my entire life. She is no stranger to loss: her father, her grandfather, her brother, her mother, and her husband. She has been through so much in her life, but she is amazing. She has taught me how to be strong in time of adversity, she has taught me how to rely on God when times are tough, and she has been consistently looking out for me since I was a little girl.

What I have mistaken for her “shutting me down” was her trying to make sure that I didn’t get hurt. She didn’t want me expectations to be too high, although she and my father have always wanted me to reach for the stars. She has just always wanted to make sure that I considered all my options; and always wanted me to succeed but never be disappointed. It took me a long time to realize this; it took a lot of tears, a lot of anger, and a lot of soul searching. But, having my mother there beside me has been one of the greatest gifts that I could have ever asked for.

My mother never wanted be to be anything that I wasn’t, but she wanted me to be the best that I could be and never sacrifice for it. To be my true self means to consider all my options, and to consider all the opposition that I have had to face in my life. To make sure that I had what I needed to get through life. Mom has never wanted me to suffer like she has had to suffer, because she knows that heart break is and what that can do to you. She has never wanted that for us, and she has always tried her best to make sure that we can overcome anything in our lives.

I have been lucky to have two mother figures in my life. In my last post, I talked about my friend Judy and how she has been a mentor to me. And she has; part of the reason that I love teaching and wanted to be a teacher was because I had her in my life to direct me on the right path.

And, in many ways, she has always lead me on the right path. In the years that I was struggling with my relationship with my mother, Judy was there to talk to and confide to. Then, she was my principal in high school and I was a senior that needed some guidance. The relationship that I longed for with my mom, I found in talking to Judy. She is patient, she is caring, she is understanding. She filled a void for me at the time, that I was worried that I would never find. However, in a weird turn of events, she has also helped me in my relationship with my mom.

She taught me to be more caring, understanding, kind, and selfless; even when I wasn’t listening. As I went to college, things got harder. I became some radical feminist who thought that she didn’t need people telling her what to do. Which, I learned that everyone goes through that phrase of sowing their oats. Giving the middle finger to the people that are looking out for your best interest and doing what you think is right for you. As a disclaimer, I see no fault or see nothing wrong with being a radical feminist, but that’s just not who I am….in some ways.

Through all of this, Judy was nothing but kind, caring, and compassionate to me during this time. She showed me unconditional love when I didn’t appreciate what she was giving me. During my nights of drinking and random hookups, she talked to me rationally and kindly, but she was met with resistance and anger. I didn’t recognize or appreciate what she was giving me, and I took advantage of her kindness and gentleness with me.

Now I am beyond grateful for the relationship that I have with Judy; because she has taught me so much as an adult. She, like my mother, has gone through so much in her life but, like my mother, does not hold her back from giving to people. She has gone through her struggles and her ups and downs, but in the end, she always bounces back—even when she doesn’t think that she will. It amazes me that she is able to do everything that she does because she does it with a fierce faith in God that can get her through anything. When I tell her how strong she is, she doesn’t seem to believe me. Which, because of her humility, does not surprise me. But, she is one of the strongest women that I know. Not because she simply keeps going, but she keeps goings with love and faith. She keeps going because she knows that ups and downs are normal in life, but she knows that God will take care of her.

The two most important woman in my life are so different in personality, but fundamentally they are the same person. They are strong, they are caring, they are understanding, they have a faith in God that can move mountains, they care about the people that they love so much, and they are two of the best people that I know.

So, the first day of Lent; I think of love and I think of Mary. I think of what she knew and what she had to struggle with during this time. I think about her faith in God, and her answer of “Yes” to the most difficult question a woman could be asked, but I think of her strength and her faith through all things.


The Release Project: Introduction

Lent. Call me a traditionalist, but I love Lent. I love what this time brings, I love the symbolism of the season, and I love that this is a time that people can stop and contemplate their relationship with God. Now, for Catholics, typically Lent is a time that we think about things to give up. In grade school, things to give up were chocolates, soda, candy, or a bad habit that we wanted to break. When I got to college, lapsing in my Catholic tradition, I decided that one year I was going to give up coffee. Such. A. Bad. Idea. Seriously, my addiction to coffee was so high in college—constantly pumping my system because writing papers and going to sorority functions were my life and I needed to keep going.

(The more that I digest this fibro thing, the more I realize that my college lifestyle definitely did not help my condition.)

Even when I walked away from the faith for a bit, I still loved Lent. I would think about giving things up, but would never really do it. I was angry with God at the time, and I decided that I didn’t want to give something up for Him. Once the fire was reignited, it was like that I had a new understanding of Lent. It wasn’t so much about giving up something, and denying yourself of something that you love; it is about symbolizing the sacrifice that Jesus made and giving yourself back to Him.

For the past few years, instead of giving something up I would do something extra. Two years ago, I tried to get to mass everyday—or a couple days out of the week to get myself in the right frame of mind for school. Last night I was thinking about what I was going to do for Lent this year. Getting up for mass every day before work would be hard for me now, so that’s out. Maybe I could get to Mass on Saturday mornings and a Friday morning here and there. I was also thinking about adding in more Eucharistic adoration back into my life. I used to go all the time, but grad school and life seemed to take over and I couldn’t make the time.

I thought that something was missing. I was talking to my friend about what else I could do, and things that I would give up for Lent. Judy is my mentor. Next to my mother, she is one of the most influential people in my life. Our friendship started out as one of student and teacher. When I decided that I wanted to become a teacher in my senior year of high school, she was the person that I looked to for advice. From there she and I developed this wonderful trusting relationships where we can talk about everything. She was the one that also helped me back into my faith after a particularly rough time in my life.

When my grandmother died, I was angry with God…angry with everyone. She was the one person, at that time in my life, was there for me when I felt no one else was and it hurt to lose her. So, during this time, I wasn’t going to mass or praying, and honestly thought religion was stupid. Judy never gave up on me. She was patient and kind, and talked me through so many rough patches. Although at times it was really hard, we came out on the other side of things, and I would like to thank her for the inspiration for this project.

The Release Project is what I am going to be doing during Lent to focus on developing my relationship with God and with myself. Yes, at first, it might sound selfish. But, it’s totally not. If we focus on the positives things in our lives, and the positive qualities that we have, then it makes it easy to see God and Jesus in those around us.

Judy sent me an article from Daily World, part of USA Today titled, “19 things to give up for Lent that aren’t chocolate.” This list is awesome, and was exactly what I was looking for. The 19 things are:

  1. Fear: God is on my side. In Him I am more than a conqueror. (See Romans 98)
  2. The need to please everyone: I can’t please everyone anyway. There is only one I need to strive to please.
  3. Envy: I am blessed. My value is not found in my possessions, but in my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
  4. Impatience: God’s timing is the perfect timing.
  5. Sense of entitlement: The world does not owe me anything. God does not owe me anything. I live in humility and grace.
  6. Bitterness and Resentment: The only person I am hurting by holding onto these is myself.
  7. Blame: I am not going to pass the buck. I will take responsibility for my actions.
  8. Gossip and Negativity: I will put the best construction on everything when it comes to other people. I will also minimize my contact with people who are negative and toxic and bring other people down.
  9. Comparison: I have my own unique contribution to make and there is no one else like me.
  10. Fear of failure: You don’t succeed without experiencing failure. Just make sure you fall forward.
  11. A spirit of poverty: Believe with God that there is always more than enough and never a lack.
  12. Feelings of unworthiness: You are fearfully and wonderfully made by your creator. (see Psalm 139)
  13. Doubt: Believe God has a plan for you that is beyond anything you could imagine. The future is brighter than you could ever realize.
  14. Self-pity: God comforts us in our sorrow so that we can comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
  15. Retirement: As long as you are still breathing, you are here for a reason. You have a purpose to influence others for Christ. That does not come to an end until the day we die.
  16. Excuses: A wise man once said, if you need an excuse, any excuse will do.
  17. Lack of counsel: Wise decisions are rarely made in a vacuum.
  18. Pride: Blessed are the humble.
  19. Worry: God is in control and worrying will not help.

What is great is that there are Bible verse to go along with some of the things that we should give up. So, after reading this list I started thinking that I am going to take one things every single day and meditate on it. 40 days in Lent, I could work through this list twice. On Easter Sunday, my hope is that I will walk into mass and release all of thing that do not serve me. Hence, the release project. I want to be able to work on the negative parts in my life that I want to change, and bring out good qualities that I want to show people.

So, here how The Release Project is going to work

  • Word and mantra for the day—I might go in any way what might inspire me, or I might go down the list.
  • I might right this down in the morning, jot my thoughts about the topic,
  • Read a Bible verse that discuss the work or mantra
  • When I get a quiet moment in my day, pray about this. Ask God to free me from this problem
  • Now, this hardest part. Sit and let God talk to me. When I pray, it’s total stream of consciousness. I make lists, talk about problems, but I want this time to be about God talking to me and I need to be receptive to listening to Him.
  • Then I write about a blog post about my experience for the day and if this would be something that I should revisit during my 40 days.

I don’t want to limit myself. If I feel like I need to spend two days on fear of failure, then I am going to spend two days on fear of failure. If there is one word or mantra that you just want to solely work on, do that! This is something for you! This is taking care of yourself!

Part of the process with fibro is taking care of myself mentally and physically, and I have been trying to get a handle of the physical part, but I want to be able to work on the mental part—with the help of God.

the quiet man.

Things I did today:

  • Work
  • Graduate classes
  • Did 30 minutes on the elliptical (after doing 45 yesterday)
  •  Shower and Bath
  • Watched The Quiet Man

A few months ago, these would not be things that I would celebrate, or even bother to worth mentioning. So, why am I? Because this is the first time in months that I felt like I nailed EVERY SINGLE THING today. Work, easy and the kids were good in class. Graduate classes, I didn’t feel like I was in a fog and was just on top of the readings. Plus, I remembered to print out my paper (damn it, has fibro messed with the simple tasks).

Now, working out two days in a row is a feat to be celebrated. Yesterday, I was having a pretty good day and I decided that I was going to go to gym. I ended up doing way more than I expected-45 minutes of a decent sweat on the elliptical. Once again, this is such a little task. This is something that is a day in the life for most people, but for me…I was just like “YASS Queen!”Okay. I didn’t say that…But, the constant drive in my head was saying that I could keep going.

I woke up this morning thinking, “Okay, this is going to suck.” But, low and behold; I felt good. Legs were sore, but they were a worked out sore…not the sore than I have been dealing with for months now. I was happy. Going up the steps at work, I was pissed off at my body like I usually am. I felt like I was back to what I used to be before the fibro. So, I did a little but more today. Now, I could only do 30 minutes. It was hard, I was tired, and I could feel it in my body that I needed a break. So, got off. Making sure that I didn’t feel defeated by the time, but more focusing on the fact that I did to cardio workouts in a row. Maybe next week I can do three in a row, maybe I’ll stick to do. I decided that I am not going to worry about what next week and what next month will bring–because I have to focus on the present. What I can do in the here and what I might be able to do tomorrow. I’ll worry about that later.

Now, I was flipping through the channels when I got home I saw that The Quiet Man was on. Now, if there is anything at all that you should know about me is that I love all things Irish. I love John Wayne. And, I want to be Maureen O’Hara when I grow up. This movie has all three things. This was a favorite movie of my father’s, and I think about him every time it’s on. It instantly puts me in a good mood. I long for the time that I will be able to retire in a Irish cottage on Galway Bay, for my children and grandchildren to listen to the stories of my family and their lasting history in their world.

I was in high school when I first watched this movie, and I decided right there and then that I wanted to marry a man like Sean Thornton. Strong. Quiet. Dependable. Thoughtful. Compassionate. Passionate. He was a man that gave up fighting because he killed a man, but he fought a man for the woman that he loves. There is something so perfect and wonderful about that, and something that I always have wanted in my life. My father, in many cases, reminds me of Sean Thornton–besides for killing a man that is. And, I am pretty sure that Dad, to my knowledge, has not been in any fights. That I know of. But, he was quiet. He was strong. He was most certainly dependable and thoughtful. Compassionate and passionate all in one.

After having several bad weeks in a row, coming home from classes and seeing a truck for the company that he used to work for and being able to catch The Quiet Man on TV was my father throwing me a little smile from heaven. I try not to get sad about things like this, but it does make me miss him. I try to rejoice in the little pieces of my Dad that are still revealed to me. So, when I am able to feel like the me I know I cam be, and have my Dad reach out to me, it’s a good day.


The start


I first came to grips with my fibromyalgia diagnosis two weeks ago, I was sitting in my principal’s office, crying because I was having a bad day. The boys were particularly difficult this day, and ever adult in the building was getting on my last nerve. Now, I work with a small faculty, so we are like a little family; but even family has their limits. I snapped at almost everyone on my floor before lunch, and that was when I knew that I needed to take a day to myself. My first, actual, sick day.

I went to my principal during my prep period, and explained to her what happened. What I said, what I did, and that I needed to take the next day off. Thankfully, she understood–her sister has fibro, so at this point I was happy for the sympathy. As I was telling her that I was struggling with my illness, I started crying. I felt so overwhelmed and helpless. Like the world was crumbling around me, and I finally admitted to myself and someone else that I do, in fact, have a chronic illness, and there are going to be times that I am going to need a break.

Prior my illness, I could not sit still. I was always working, I was always doing something, teaching, volunteering at church, helping my family whenever the needed. Always making time to do things for other people, but making little time for myself. Before I got a full-time job, I was a substitute teacher. I bounced from job to job worrying about where my next paycheck was going to come from. I did a daily subbing gig for a while, until I finally landed my first long time sub job. It was only supposed to be from December until March, but somehow God was looking down on me and I stayed until June (This story is for another post). The first two years out of college were the years that I had never worked so hard in my life. I was tired, I was miserable, I was poor, and I didn’t feel safe in what I was doing. I had no security.

Stress. Stress. Stress. These two summers were all about stress. From not having a stable paycheck, to helping my grandmother with her cancer diagnosis, eventually dealing with her death, and trying to find my way in the world. I didn’t know where I was going.

Finally, I was hired for my first full time position–a position I have now held for three years. It has its ups and downs, but the job itself and teaching the kids that I do, makes me so proud and so happy.

In my second year at my job, around this time my family and I noticed that my father wasn’t feeling well. We wrote it off as a sinus infection, at first, but as the days went on we realized it was much more serious. My father was suffering from a stroke–and for some reason, he kept having these strokes despite what the doctors could do.

I held a lot of pain in during this time; I felt that I needed to be there for my mother and my brothers. Someone had to be able to get things done, and my mother needed her time to grieve and I wanted to help her. This is something that is just automatic for me; when I sense someone needs help, needs someone to think for them, or help them work through a hard time I just go on autopilot. Part of me is still dealing with my father’s death every single day, and it never gets easier.

Stress. Stress. Stress. When I was in college, two of the most stressful things in my life were pledging a sorority and being president of my sorority my senior year. I cried, yelled, bottled up, and usually drank my stress away. Which, albeit is not healthy at all, but I just always kept things inside until I hit a breaking point and I can’t take it any longer. Some of these things, sadly, I have carried with me as an adult. The stress that I have experienced in the past three years, makes my college years look like child’s play.

When my doctor asked me if I have experienced a lot of stress in my life, I laughed. It was defense mechanism, way easier to make something a joke than dealing with your feelings. Wait for the post about being Irish Catholic for more of an explanation. I know I have experienced with stress, but at that time–I didn’t need to deal with it. I compartmentalize it. I bring it out when I need to deal with it, or when it’s relevant at a certain place and time. Or, honestly, when I have had one too many glasses of wine, and literally cannot stop talking. Also, wait for the Irish Catholic post.

Stress was just something that I dealt with, when I wanted to deal with it. Which is probably why I am bad about going to a therapist. I thought that it would help me, but I don’t think that I am in the right place in my life for it. I’m certainly not denying that it cannot help, or that it could have some benefit; I just don’t think I am ready yet. Or that I will ever be ready.

But, I have learned that this stress has been doing terrible things to my body–which has manifested itself as fibro. And. I will tell you…it sucks. This is the most annoying chronic illness. My body is in pain constantly (shifts from place to place some days), anything can set it off, I am tired ALL THE TIME, it’s wiped out most of my desire to workout, muscle spasms at night are annoying, sleeping is terrible, walking, standing, sitting is uncomfortable. There are so many things that I can be annoyed at with this illness, and it took a long time for me to even accept the fact that I had an illness. But, I do. And I am still here. Fighting.

So, this is my journey with this annoying illness. This is my journey with my faith, feeding my soul, and learning how to take care of myself.