Saturday, March 3, 2018

Mountains, the Counting Crows, and Buzz LIghtyear

Well, it's been two weeks since I returned home from my retreat.  There's a saying I mentioned last episode about 'coming down the mountain'.  I didn't just come down the mountain, I fell spectacularly.  I tumbled, summer salted (why is it called that?), twisted, turned, tripped, all completed not so gracefully.

While they say in the Princess Bride "life is pain.  Anyone else who says differently is selling something" isn't true, it's kind of close.  Yes, life HAS pain.  And, sometimes, it's a pain in the arse.  Life, in all its mucky glory is a struggle.  There are peaks, valley's, and plateaus.  The peaks are to celebrate, the valley's build us and teach us to be strong and who are tribe really is, and are plateaus, well, I don't have an answer for that one.

Over the last two weeks, I have had moments where I shone brightly, and others where I have failed.  In what I have done and in what I failed to do, through my own fault.  I have been less than kind, not so much to others, but with myself.  Why is that so easy to do?  This week has been especially hard.  If you don't know me, the easiest, quickest thing to know about me is that life is not grey for me.  Things are either black or white.  There is no in between.  A co-worker commented last week what an over achiever I am.  I replied "I'm so type A, even my blood is type A!"  Big Daddy is really great at helping me adjust to grey.  It's not always easy.  He's been trying for 18 years to get me to see that just because things don't go the way I think they should doesn't mean it's wrong, I failed, or a reflection on me.  That is hard.  But hey, I'm a work in progress.

This week, I cried, I mean big, ugly cries, 4 out of the 5 days this week.  One of my gurus called me Thursday, which is most likely why I didn't cry that day.  She said "your sister said you need me".  My sister knows me well.  My guru shared her words of wisdom and help me see a little bit of grey.  She said "an expectation is a premeditated resentment".  What's even cooler is that Mrs. Ann Lee said the same thing on my retreat!  I'm getting the grey, but sloooowly.

Today I am spent.  Physically, mentally, and emotionally.  All the crying and all the working this week has taken a toll on my body.  If I didn't have my thrive, I can't imagine how bad I would be.  Yes, I failed spectacularly this week.  However, I made people laugh everyday, I have loved fiercely everyday  and I have lived everyday.  To me, that is a successful week.

While grey may be Mr. Jones' favorite color (listen to Mr. Jones by the Counting Crows), it is not mine.  However, I am learning to appreciate it.  And, while I hate failing spectacularly, I choose to do it like Buzz Lightyear, with style!

Until next time,
Don't be so hard on yourself. 


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Silence is Golden

When I tell people I’m going on a silent retreat, the responses range from laughter (serioulsy?  You? Silent?) to what is it?  So, I thought I’d chronicle this year (year 12).  Don’t worry, I’m not on the internet and this will be posted when I’m back among the talking.  This year is a little different as I’m coming by myself.  Usually, I come with my St. Jude Women’s Group during April.  Once we came during Lent and I loved it (okay, maybe twice.  I remember one year was on Palm Sunday!)  I love coming during Lent.  No clue why.  I just do.  Well, this year, when they are planning to go, my youngest is turning 21 and the very next day, my oldest is getting married.  I wouldn’t miss either event for anything.  Now, I’ve come up before without my group, but I came with one of my gurus, Patti.  This year, no one else could come.  So, I figure God has some cool stuff just for me!  AND, when I registered, I saw that when my group is coming, they’ll have the same Priest I’m having this weekend!  That made me feel like we’re still together.

Day 1 (Thursday)
Big Daddy was gracious enough to drive me to Montserrat after work.  I joke about being married, and stuff being in the marriage contract.  But really, our marriage is basically, putting the other person first and asking what we can do to make the other person’s day better.  Sometimes, more than I’d like to admit, I get off track and focus on myself, my lack of control of situations and things not going like this type A personality, control freak of a girl, thinks they should.  

We arrive and Big Daddy helps me register and take my stuff to my room.  Then, he sits with me in one of my favorite places.  My swing at Montserrat.  No, I don’t own it.  No, it doesn’t have my name on it (someday, Gisela, you watch!), but it is where I spend a good portion of my weekend.  So, I sit on my favorite swing, in one of my favorite places, with my favorite guy until it’s time for him to go, so he can beat the traffic home.

At this point I go back to my room and start putting stuff away.  I check my phone for prayer requests (I let everyone know I’m coming so I can pray for them).  Then, daughter number 1 (my middle child) texts me to have a great time.  She tells me to have fun, play nice, and not to bite anyone.  I tell her she’s not leaving me many options for fun. Lol.  Dinner’s about to start, so I head to the dining hall.  It’s a beautiful place with tables and chairs like you find a Cracker Barrel.  The food is not like Cracker Barrel.  Not one bit.  But, I’ll explain later.

I find a table that calls to me and I want to sit by myself.  Then, I tell Dad “Okay, if you want someone to sit with me, I’m good”.  I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but he puts the most amazing lady with me.  She’s almost 70, Married for 49 years, has great-grandkids and is a GiGi too!  Our tone of conversation goes from light, to heavy to I’ve got her laughing in no time.  I tell her she is my new best friend (I have lots of best friend) and she just doesn’t know it.  Except, I guess she does because I just told her.  We hug, say we’ll pray for each other this weekend, and I let her know in no uncertain terms, we’re sharing contact information before we leave this weekend.

I head back to my room once more.  Check the phone for prayer requests, check emails, and of course facebook befoe my phone is away for the weekend.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  Big Daddy and I pray together every night whether we are together or apart.  When, I am here, we text our prayers.  And, Dad speaks to me in many ways.  One big way, being music.  So, I will use my phone to listen to music (with headphones, of course) but I will not be on the internet.

I call my son, as silence hasn’t started yet.  I wanted to chat with him before silence starts.  He’s been here before.  He knows the drill.  I just wanted to remind him that I love him.  As a bonus, I was able to chat with his fiance, my bonus daughter, for a few minutes too.  Then, the phone is off and I go to talk one, the welcome talk.

The welcome talk basically goes over housekeeping, rules, signing up for jobs, etc.  When I say jobs, they’re easy stuff like leading prayer, being a reader/gift bearer, Eucharistic Minister during Mass, leading the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross and finally bell ringer.   Welcoming those who are new and those who have come before.  Laughs abound.  Father Tran is funny.  In fact, he led my retreat last year.  He introduces our retreat directors this year Father Anthony Borrow and Mrs. Ann Lee.  It’s funny, listening to Fr.’s Tran and Borrow, I know deep in my soul, I was born to be a Jesuit.  But, I am a woman.  I’m sure this is another one of Dad’s jokes.  The Jesusits are so funny (check), love God (check), and follow St. Ignatius way (check, while I’m on retreat, no so much when I am home).  My Guru Patti mentioned to me last week about getting a job here.  I said no, because it’s about an hour from home.  I start to think maybe I was too hasty in my no.  Then, I realized I wouldn’t want to work here because I wouldn’t want this place to beome ordinary for me.    

Fr. Borrow talks and introduces Mrs. Lee. She’s not my first woman retreat directior (third actually).  She’s funny!  Wait, maybe I can be a honorary Jesuit!  I love God and I love to make people laugh.  If that’s all I need, I’m in like Flynn.  But, there is so much more.  So, for now, I am out.  They mention how there are 15 minute sessions with Mrs. Lee and each priest if you feel like chatting, have questions, etc.  

Fr. Borrow talks about prayer and how this first night, our homework is to just relax and sleep.  Easier said than done.  I head out into the night and go sign up for a spot with Mrs. Lee.  Then, I head back to my room and text Big Daddy for prayers and remind him that I love him.  Then, start my homeowrk.  You know those two meme’s, there’s one about having a conversation with a girl and how you better be prepared because we start stories within stories and then the other one about our minds being like the internet with a ton of tabs open?  Yea, that’s me.  I try to sleep but thoughts keep invading.  Usually, the conversations with myself like “oh, this would be great for my blog!” or, “oh, that’s a funny story/joke, I’ve got to remember that for work tomorrow” or something that would go great in my comedy set.  My dear friend Joan has been preparing me for years to do an open mic stand up.  And, by preparing I mean saying “when are you going to do it, you really should?!”  While all this is going through my head, then comes my children and Big Daddy.  And, then while I’m drifting off, the music in my head starts.  For the bulk of the night while I try to sleep it’s Thrift Shop by Macklemore.  Then, at one point in the early morning hours, I awake to ‘take care of business’ and take something for my headache.  I log all my medicine and so, I grab my phone and see I had an instant message from a dear friend with a prayer request.  This friend is one of my best friends in the entire world.  Her name is Mary.  We’ve spent maybe, *maybe* a few hours together in the time I’ve known her, and had maybe a half dozen conversations.  These conversations are deep and profound and prayerful.  I read her request and my heart breaks.  Man does the devil hate her.  With all that she and her family have been through and now more hitting, she can surely give Job a run for his money.  Don’t be surprised if years from now the book of Mary is added to the Catholic bible.  Her faith, I’m telling you, there is nothing like it.  I lay back down to drift off and the music in my head comes back only now it blessedly switched to Golddigger. Lol  I get some sleep and then, the bell starts.

Day Two (Friday)
The bell rings ten minutes before any event (time to wake up, meal, talk, activity, etc.).  I know I’m not showering this morning (I don’t know how, but after 11 years of coming, this is the year I forgot shampoo and bodywash lol  Not to worry, they have soap!) so I can sleep a few extra minutes.  I wake up to get ready for the day and take my time.  I skip morning prayer and breakfast and head to the first talk (again, don’t worry, I say my own prayer and I have my thrive for breakfast!).  Fr. Borrow is so funny!  I’m telling you, I was born to be a Jesuit!  I love it here.  It’s my calming place.  As he’s talking my mind goes different places, still listening to him though.  I wonder where he purchased his hoodie.  This year Montserrat started selling hoodies, although not in my size or they’re out.  His was different.  I look outside the chapel (all the talks are in the chapel) and marvel at the trees.  I laugh more at Fr. Borrow’s stories.  Then, the talk is over and it’s time for whatever I want to do.  Which, is where we are now.  That is the gist of Montserrat.  I’m off to spend my time with God.  I process things better when I write/type, so I’ll fill you in later tonight before bed.  I hope you have a blessed day and remember, I’m praying for you.

So, far I have attended 2 talks, had lunch, took and nap, and a shower (YAY!  Luz was gracious enough to find me shampoo!)  The first talk this morning was Mrs. Lee.  She’s gracious and funny.  She looks like a cross between my Mama and my podmate, Julie.  Her personality is that of my
Mema, so warm, funny, and a spitfire! Lol  She went over the daily examine.  
It’s a Jesuit prayer.  The Jesuit’s say it twice a day.  Basically, looking over the past 24 hours and thanking God, asking where you didn’t do so hot, where you did really well and then just chatting.  This is nothing new for me, the prayer.  Practicing the prayer, notsomuch.  I know it, but I rarely say it.  Mrs. Lee mentioned today about when you come into prayer how we’re not alone.  How the Holy Triinty is there.  I found that very cool.  So, when I went back to my room, I decided to give it a whirl.  And, not only did I talk to Dad, Jesus, and Bob (the Holy Spirit.  We’ve been on a first name basis for over a decade), I decided to add Mama Mary and later, my guardian angel Gabriel.  At some point during my prayer, I drifted off for a nap.  Now, the thing about coming here, I’ve been told, is the weekend is what you make of it.  You get what you need.  I have a friend who came years ago and slept the entire weekend except for meals.  Clearly, she needed rest.  In the past, I’ve missed talks and opted for a walk, or sleep.  So far, the three talks this weekend have hit home.  Very close.  So, I awoke to the dreaded bell.  I don’t want to miss the talk.  However, I was so tired.  So, I asked the Holy Trinity and Mary, what should I do?  Do I rest or go.  As clear as a bell, all at one time, I heard “GO”.  But I was still waining.  I had a headache, I had to use the restroom.  I really needed sleep.  Then, Bob was all “why ask what you should do if you’re not going to do it anyway?”  Bob is a smart alec like me. Lol  So, I go to the restroom and there in the tile is my guardian angel with his head in his hand (ala face palm).  “FINE!”  I said, “I’ll go!”  So I went.  And of course, it was a fantastic talk aimed specifically at me (not really, but it sure felt like it).  Then, I went to the dining hall for a snack while I pondered the talk.  Came back to my room, showered and am getting ready for Mass in about fifteen minutes.  Tonight, after dinner is confession.  I have the confession app.  It helps you do an examination of conscience and you can put in when your last confession was.  However, the app doesn’t save when you get a new phone.  So, I don’t remember.  It’s a good thing Big Daddy and I went together last time.  He at least remembered the timeframe.  Clearly, I need to go more often that a few times a year lol.

I’m off to prepare for Mass.  I have all of your intentions with me to offer up.  Remember, God loves you and so do I.

Why I love coming here so much, in a nutshell, is it is where I am reminded who I belong to.  The director of each retreat has a different personality.  And, I come away with messages be it from the directors, a song I heard, a book, whatever Dad uses to speak to me.  This weekend, however, Dad felt the need to tag team me with Father Borrow and Mrs. Lee. lol

In her talk earlier today, she reiterated, almost verbatim, what my converstion with Dad was prior to walking in the chapel.  It was a great reminder, that I am not the only one who feels the way I do.  That all though I am uniquely made, wonderfully so, there are millions of women out there who feel the exact same way.  That is comforting to me.  Knowing I’m not alone in the way I’m feeling.  A few times a year, I go in a downward spiral.  During this time, my friend Sheila can usually sense it.  She tells me not to stay down for too long, and at times has even come looking for me to bring me back up.  I know Dad, heck, the whole Trinity love me.  I know that with my brain and I’m pretty sure with my heart too.  I have a hard time sitting in that love.  Resting in that love.  And, so, that is what I’m focusing on this weekend, as Matthew Kelly puts it so eloquently, being ‘perfectly yourself’.  I’ve got your intenetions covered.  Remember, He created you and He loves you more than anything in the universe.  Sit with that for a while.

As usual, confession is amazing.  If you’re not Catholic, (I feel) you should become a Catholic just (well, not just for this one) for this Sacrament.  There is a moment that happens in the confessional, while I am being absolved from my sins (there’s a prayer so I know when it’s happening lol) where my shoulders just fall.  All the weight I didn’t realize I was carrying just disipates and it is just me and Him.  If you are Catholic, do you get the same feeling?  I’d love to know.  

Lately, say maybe the last two weeks at work, I’ve been feeling like I need a hug.  Not just any hug, but a HUG.  There are all kinds of hugs.  There’s hugs from my Mama where I feel home and comfort and love, like all is right with the world.  There are hugs from Big Daddy where I feel enveloped, protected, and loved.  Where nothing can get to me.  Where I draw strength from him while not reducing his resources, it’s weird, I know, just go with it.  There’s a hug from my Dad (technically, Big Daddy’s Dad) where that simply says I love you.  Then, there’s hugs from my bunco sisters.  Each one tight, fierce, loving.  Liz’s feel like what I think a hug from Mama Mary would feel like.  Loving, supportive, comforting.  But all of their hugs, they’re not just nice to see you hugs, they’re strong, here, let me fill your soul up hugs.   But, I digress.  Lately, work has been a little stressful for me, and for other’s I’m sure.  I have lamented to anyone and everyone who will listen how many hours I’ve worked.  Not cool, I know.  Not one of my finest moments, I know, but I’m not a saint, yet.  I’m still human.  While I’m at work, I think “man, I could sure use a hug”.  Now, not that I would go around hugging random coworkers.  I mean, I don’t want to end up in HR.  Plus, who wants to sit through a video?  Not this chick, that’s for sure lol.  Anyways, there is a point to all this talk about hugs, I’m getting there...After confession, I see this girl (we’re all girls regardless of age lol), she reminds me of Merida from Brave (great movie).  She has beautiful, long curly hair.  She is lovely.  We do this weird door dance as I move to let her in (she was opening the door) and she holds it for me to come out.  As I walk out, I smile at her and I feel a pull or a push who knows and I mouth (can I give you a hug?)  She smiles and nods and we hug each other tight.  It was a great hug.  It was a hug I’ve needed for a couple weeks (aside from Big Daddy hugs).  Not only was I lighter from confession, but I was even more lighter now.  My gut feels amazing (thank you Thrive), my spirit is lighter, and my heart is comforted.  What more can a girl ask for?

Day 3 (Saturday)
I was so excited last night from all that transpired yesterday, I was giddy and had trouble settling in for the evening.  I went to the dining hall for a cookie and some hot tea.  Then, I attempted to sleep.  I say my prayers and as I’m drifting off, more thoughts for my comedy show emerge and I think how I should right them down.  Yet, I do not.  I drift off and then the music begins.  Last night were the vocal stylings of Eminem.  More specifically his song Without Me.  I know where these songs and selections are coming from.  At work, we’re allowed to listen to headphones.  I listen to Sirus radio, but no channel has a playlist where I like every song and it’s not easy to switch channels constantly while I’m trying to work.  So, I made a playlist on youtube with about 10 songs I like and I listen to them at some point everyday.  The aforemoention songs are on that playlist.  

I went to bed with a migrane (thank you mother nature) thinking I could sleep it off.  Waking up after midnight with the headache part, I realized sleeping it off was a big fat no.  So, I took care of business and took some stuff for my head and tried to get back to sleep.  Tried being the operative word.  I was SO JUDGEMENTAL last night!  OMGSH that fan in the next room is so loud!  Why do they have their heat/air on?  Does maintenance know about this?  Calm down, Gina.  It’s their room.  Let them be comfortable I say to myself.  I am working on judging and gossiping this Lent.  Not sure if gossiping/judging that I keep in my head counts, but that’s what I’ve been working on since Wednesday.  So, at this point, I pretend the fan next door is a CPAP machine (note I have no idea what they sound like) and I pray for the person next door.  I feel a little better, but the fan is SO LOUD!  I checked the weather before bed last night and saw it was going to start raining around 1am.  This made me happy because there is no better sleep, I am convinced than when it’s pitch dark outside, raining.  The sounds of the rain are comforting.  Yea, well, that didn’t happen.  I tossed a bit.  But, there are other reasons:  Going from a king bed to a twin (what if I roll off?), Big Daddy not being here (I don’t sleep well with out him, he’s like a human security blanket lol), just to name a couple.

I woke up a bit ago to take care of business.  Yea, you do that a lot here (remember, Tina!? lol)  If you are not shall we say ‘regular’, come here and give it a day.  Plus, I eat weird anyway.  I cannot tell you how many chef’s they’ve had in the 12 years I’ve been coming here.  I can tell you, every Friday, regardless of it being Lent or not, there’s fish.  Over the years I have leared to eat Talapia as the way the chef made it was palatable (Julie, TALAPIA!).  This year, the chef is all about 2 things seafood and cilantro.  Both, of which I do not care for.  Thursday’s dinner was seafood gumbo.  So, salad bar for me.  Yesterday’s lunch was lentil soup and breaded fish.  I tried the lentil soup and it was good until it started tasting like soap.  Ah cilantro, my old nemisis.  So, I had the fish which were tasty, and the salad bar.  Dinner was 2 skeweres of grilled shrimp and some sort of lo meinish looking vegetables.  So for me, I couldn’t do the salad bar again, so I had a vanilla cupcake and a danish.  Lol  Hey, it’s nutritious.  There’s eggs in it and fiber!  Whoever the new chef is, what he lacks in always having seafood/cilantro he makes up for in the baking department!  I don’t ever remember having fresh baked danishes or some new baked dessert everyday!  So, most of the time I’m here, I exist on the salad bar.  I do branch out and try things, but I don’t always like them.

So, this morning, I beat the bell up.  I was going to try and lie back down, but the rain started about 20 minutes ago.  I don’t want to sleep just for an hour anyway.  So, I’ll get up for the day, put on my bright yellow, Gorton’s fisherman rain coat with my yellow sunflower umbrella and head out in to the most marvelous of rainy days.  I’m confident that Karen Carpenter didn’t know what she was talking about.  Rainy days and Monday’s are my favorite.  

Breakfast was lovely.  Eggs, which of course I passed on.  Salmon, which I passed on, sausage patties.  Winner, winner chicken dinner!  I had them on sourdough toast with coffee (decaf) and my strawberry thrive lifestyle mix.  Delish!  This morning my normal routine of being here set it.  It’s day two of conferences.  I’ve got a tension headache and I’m arguing with myself.  I hear you, loud and clear.  “Tension headache?  You just went to confession last night and felt so free!”  Yes, yes, you are correct.  However, I am the type of person who wants to know what’s going to happen before it happens.   While I’m here, I look at people and they remind me of people, my friends, people from St. Jude, my loved ones, etc.  So, I immediately say a prayer for that person and the person they remind me of.  So far this weekend, I’ve seen Mary Boyle (not the Mary mentioned earlier), Yvonne Arrossa, Deena Ross, Patti Jones, Toni Chehan, Brenda Stephens, the older lady from church whos name I do not know, and my sister Carol.  Oh, and the other lady, she used to work in religious ed department.  Tall blonde lady.  Her.  So, prayers for everyone.  I feel like Oprah, you get a prayer, you get a prayer, everyone gets a prayer!

Here’s what it’s like inside my head this morning and probably why I’ve got the tension headache.  “Breakfast was lovely.  I love the rain.  Why did it stop?  I can’t sit on my swing.  It’s wet.  That two days in a row.  At least I was able to sit on it with Big Daddy on Thursday.  I’m so tired.  I need to rest.  But I don’t want to miss the conference.  What if it’s directed at me again.  I have Monday off, I can sleep then.  Who are you kidding, you have stuff you want to do on Monday.  Am I having dinner with Katie on Monday?  Did we ever decide?  I need to text my She when I get home and see what day she can go to dinner this week?  Should I offer up Monday, as Tuesday is my lunch lady dinner?  What if we decide on Monday, but Katie answers back with Monday as well?  Well, they’re both amazing, maybe we should all have dinner!  No.  I need serious catch up time with my she.  Just us.  Ugh, the bell rang.  I’m probably going to go.  Please don’t let me yawn in the talk.  I don’t want them to think they’re boring me.  I so want to text Carol.  Is Brian any better?  She wouldn’t text me to let me know of any change because I’m here.  I’ll just say extra prayers for them.  I miss Tina.  I dreamt about her last night.  It’s pretty bad when the only time we can get together is in my dreams lol.  I need to call her.  We need a serious bestie date.”

I forgot how cathartic writing actually is for me.  Getting everything down on ‘paper’ empties it out of my head and makes my head feel much lighter.  Truth be told, I type way faster than I write.  So this is a win win.  You guys see what it’s like here and I get to process and empty my head.  Mine, you, I’m not sharing everything (even though I’m sure it feels like I am), there’s some stuff meant just for me and that is personal between, God, Jesus, Bob, Mama and I.  I’m off to the dining hall.  I need a drink.  No, not that kind.  Although, the do have wine.  I’m not big on wine.  My stomach is a little woogaly, thank mother nature.  So, I need a sip of sprite to calm it down.  And, maybe a cookie ;).

When I was 35 and much younger in my faith, I would ask God for a billboard.  See, I can’t always hear Him or what He’s trying to tell me.  So, I would talk to Him about a situation and then ask for a billboard and boy would I get them.  I’m not sure when in my faith journey I stopped asking for them, but let me tell you, this weekend is nothing short of Him with a bullhorn making sure I hear Him loud and clear. Lol  Every talk, there is something just for me.  He is even using my retreat mates to help.  One of them, mind you, I’ve never met this person ever in my life, wrote me a note and gave it to me after confession last night.  It was exactly what I needed to hear exactly when I needed to hear it.  I got to spend time with Mema today.  That was a huge gift.  Oh how I miss her.  Every.  Second.  Of every day.  I am so thankful to have a visit with her.  It makes my heart ache and burst with joy all at the same time.  I went and had my annual dance with my guru Patti on the dock a bit ago.  No, she is not here, but we dance on the dock regardless.  When she is here, we dance, spin each other and sing ‘Good, good, father’.  Today, I danced, spun, and sang.  It’s a tradition.  
I just finished a ‘conference’ with Mrs. Lee.  Those 15 minute chunks where you can chat.  I have 2 back to back with her tomorrow.  God is so awesome!  This entire weekend has been one big confirmation that I’m exactly where I’m suppose to be when I’m suppose to be.  I feel like Dante fro Clerks…”I’m not even suppose to be here today!!”  I was going to come in April, but clearly, God needed me here now.  I’m so okay with that!

Tonight’s dinner was the best meal I have had in the twelve years I’ve been coming here.  Everyone else agreed.  We were enjoying the meal (roast beast!) that we broke out into spontaneous applause!

If you asked me earlier today, if I was ready to go home tomorrow, I was torn between wanting to see my family and staying one more day (do they even have five day retreats?).  Now, after tonights talk, I don’t know.  I’m still torn.  Usually, by this time in the weekend, I’m ready to go.  Ready to see my family, packing up my room and then come morning time I’ve mentally checked out of the retreat.  And, every year is the same, they ask you not to do that so you can get the full experience, I guess.  However, I’m always excited to see Big Daddy and my kids and hear about my friends weekend and their revelations.  It’s different this time around.  I’m not sure if it’s because I came by myself, but I’m not ready to let go of the quiet yet.  I’m not ready to let go of the routine, breakfast at 8, lunch at 12, dinner at 6.  Conference in between.  Prayer time.
I like it.  I so need it.  I’m excited for seeing my family, but I’m not exicted about coming down the mountain.  What that is, is when you are on a retreat, at some point you hit a high point (most people, anyway) and you want to carry all you have learned with you.  Then, you have to get back to ‘real life’ and have to go back down the mountain.  It’s sneaky how it happens.  I don’t even realize it.  Sometimes, it’s so quick, days even, and other times, it lasts a bit longer.  “Wasn’t I *just* at Monserrat a few weeks ago?!”  “I miss the peace I felt there”.  That’s the thing, the challenge if you will.  Putting into practice, what we’ve learned here.  Prayer, meditation, whatever message you received.  Whatever you learned.  The one thing I have been able to keep since I learned it a few years ago was from Fr. Arcenaux.  Just because I forgive you, doesn’t mean I have to reconcile with you.  That was huge for me and still is to this day.

I have so much going on in my regular world.  I’m sure, if I just boil it down, it would only be like 2 things, but you know me, I like to make mountains out of molehills.  I should have a business card “M2M-From Molehill to Mountains, I can build it for you!”  I have my youngest turning 21, the very next day, my oldest is getting married, then 3 weeks later my youngest is graduating college, two weeks later we’re taking her on a trip for her present.  Don’t forget my middle child.  I would never, ever forget my middle child, especially, because I’m a middle child.  She has stuff going on too.  I’ve got work, I’ve got my Thrive.  I so want to grow my business and take care of people!  I’ve got plans.  Like the rapper says “you got ways and means, we got hopes and dreams” .  I have friends I need to catch up with.  I know you’re all ‘Gina, you don’t NEED to catch up with them, you WANT too.”  And, that my friends, is where you’d be wrong.  I am made of my experiences and my family and my friends.  I have a group of friends that I NEED to be with once a month.  We are a family in and of ourselves.  These people, these friends, ground me.  The teach me how to deal with myself.  How to love myself and others and especially how to be patient with myself and others.  We have faced life, death, weddings, funerals and even MATH!  There is nothing we haven’t faced.  These women keep me in check.  I need to catch up with some of them this week.

This has been one of the better retreats, I must say.  They’re not all winners, mind you, but I l always come away with something, even if it is just rest.  This one has been profound.  I made friends, shared experiences, had a FABULOUS meal (I’m pretty sure the chef is my new best friend, remember, I’ve got lots), I learned I don’t have to have all the answers or even some of them, and I think I just might have found my purpose (other than being an okay wife and a so-so mom lol  Actually, I’m an amazing wife and a so-so mom! lol) and that is a lot for anyone in a weekend.  For now, I’m heading back to the dining hall for some water (I may have went back earlier for some garlic knots, but I’ll never tell! lol) and then do some reading.  I wish you all a great night and be comforted knowing that God loves you more than you can ever imagine!

Day 4 (Sunday)
Well, I’ve been up since about 6:30.  I wasn’t planning on getting up so early, but I was tossing since about 6, so I figured it was time, plus, the song in my head this morning was All I Really Want by Alanis Morriset.  Good song, but weird, because it’s not on the aforementioned playlist.  

Today will go by rather quickly.  I know this from experience.  Breakfast at 8, conference at 9, Mass at 11, then lunch and dismisal at noon.  After Mass, we congregate in front of the St. Ignatius statue and take a group photo.  I’m hoping to take some photos with Fr. Borrow, Mrs. Lee, and my two new friends.  Oh, I didn’t tell you what happened last night!  Did you ever see Monsters, Inc?  Remeber Roz “I’m always watching”?  Yea, God is like that.  He’s always working.  So, I’m in the dining hall for water and a cookie.  Go ahead and judge me, it was about 8ish maybe 9, but those cookies are amazing.  Anyway, I’m reading Lino Rulis book “Saint”.  A few years ago, I read his book “Sinner” while I was here and laughed so very hard.  I tried reading “Saint” a couple years ago, but it wasn’t grabbing me.  This year however, I’m guessing it was the right time.  Anyway, I was reading my book and this lady comes up to me and say’s “I’m so sorry, (about interrupting me) but I just wanted you to know, you look like a friend of mine who just passed away).  At this point I stood up, thanked her for sharing that with me and gave her a big hug.  She said “I just wanted you to know why I was staring at you”.  I just thought that was so lovely.  See, many years ago, after Mema passed and I came here, there was a woman who was a dead ringer for Mema.  I stared at her most of the weekend and when we could talk, I did the same thing.  I even showed her a picture of Mema and she agreed they looked alike.

Something struck me after she walked away.  I spent the weekend in my own little bubble.  And when I would judge someone, say a prayer for them and me (did I mention that?).  I said about 37 rosary’s worth of Hail Mary’s this weekend.  What can I say, I’m a big judger.  I told you I’m working on it for Lent.  But, I digress.  I watched a few people this weekend.  I judged.  I prayed.  But I had not noticed this woman.  God is so awesome.  Last night was the healing Mass.  I think it’s my very favorite Mass when  I come here.  The sacrament is Annointing of the Sick.  It used to be called the rite of Extreme Unction and if you received it it was pretty much time to say good-bye, you were on your way home to God.  Somewhere over the last 48 years it changed.  It’s for any kind of healing, physical or mental.  So, Fr. Tran is explaining this before the sacrament last night and he says it covers physical or mental so we’re all covered!  Then he says, when he goes to the hospital and performs the sacrament for people who are about to pass, he has a 50/50 rate of people getting better, but that we’re good.  So, after I get the sacrament I’m back in my pew and I get a shooting pain in my head.  Not bad, but definitely uncomfortable.  One of the greatest graces I’ve ever been given was abour 14 years ago I was in a women’s study group and I asked if they ever get shooting pains in their head and quite a few of them said ‘yes’.  That was so freeing for me.  I don’t get them all the time, just every once in a while.  But, having confirmation that other people get them too was life giving to me.  So, there I was in the pew, shooting pain, right after the sacrament of healing and I thought, “This is it.  This is where I’m going out.  I had confession last night.  Healing today.  But I’m not ready yet”.  My anxiety peaked, I was sweating and so I started praying to Mary.

Obviously, I’m still here, so for me that’s a plus! Lol  You would think, being here, having as great a weekend as I’ve had that I’d be ready to go.  Ah, but you forget, like I do, that I am human.  I want to see my amazing husband, Big Daddy, and my kids.

This is the first year I’ve really put off packing.  I’m still not really ready to go.  I’d say 60/40 in favor of going.  This is going to sound weird (so, normal for me lol).  I’m glad I brought my chromebook.  It helped me process more than I wrote (typed) this weekend.  It’s almost time for breakfast.  I’m going to go get some pictures if I can and enjoy my morning.  You guys really should come here.


It has been a very long day.  Mass was incredibly beautiful as always.  After the homily, the retreatant are given a chance to talk about what graces we received this weekend.  It’s totally optional.  It was beautiful to hear how others live were impacted this weekend, not just my own.

After Mass, I headed to my room to pack up then, headed to the dining hall to talk with my new friends.  Then, at 12:30 Big Daddy came and we went home (and stopped at Whataburger of course!)  Since arrive home, I’ve spent time with my daughter, Big Daddy and Iggy, all who missed me very much.  My other daughter was out, but I’ll spend time with her this evening.  I am officially unpacked.  Clothes are in the wash, and I am spent.

So there you have it.  A retreat at Montserrat.  I highly recommend you go.  You will love it!
Until next time,
Carve out some quiet time for yourself.  
Me with the Great Father Borrow!

Just me, hanging out with St. Ignatius!

Montserrat's Pet Turkey Iggy!

My Favorite swing, in my favorite place, with my favorite guy!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Happy Birthday!

For those of us who have lost a love one, some days it feels like yesterday and others it feels like a lifetime.  I wonder if that's what heaven is like, when a thousand years is like one day and one day is like a thousand years.  I woke up excited this morning as tomorrow is my daughters 22nd birthday.  Then, it dawned on me.  I confirmed with Big Daddy, today is Mom' birthday.  Not just that, but it's her tenth birthday in heaven.  I miss my Mother-in-love more than I can explain. 

I miss talking with her every week.
I miss hearing her voice.
I miss making her laugh.  I think I miss that one most of all.
She was so easy to make laugh.  Not one of those 'I'm humoring you' laugh', but an honest-to-goodness laugh. 

My time with her was so very short, only 9 years.  That's not a lot of time.  I was lamenting to Big Daddy this morning on how much I have missed out with her.  How many hugs.  How many conversations.  How many laughs?  What would our relationship be like now?  She genuinely liked me.  Loved me.  Not because I was her daughter-in-love, not because I gave her three grandchildren, but because of who I am.  Just me.  Perfectly imperfect me.  This is a huge deal for me, because when you grow up with one of the people who is suppose to love you unconditionally, doesn't, it's surprising when people actually do.  When you grow up with that deficit, it causes you to think that people only like you because you're friends with so-and-so, not because you're your own amazingly, wonderfully, eccentric self.  Mom did that for me.  She loved me warts and all.  She (and Dad) accepted a low self-esteem, domestic abuse survivor, with three tiny children with open arms.  She (aside from my own amazing Mom and Mema) is one of the greatest women I have had the blessing of knowing.

Happy birthday, Mom.  Have a great day and share a birthday shot with Jesus for me.  I love you and miss you!

Until next time,
Let's go EAGLES!


Saturday, January 6, 2018

One down, 51 to go!

The first week of the new year is complete.  I worked on getting better (and by worked, I mean, took my medicine, went to work, and slept) and kept a few of my goals that I set for myself!  The great thing about life is I have 24 hours everyday to try it again!

Flossed daily?  Nope, but I used my water pic once!
Extra time for prayer?  Once.
Got up earlier?  Nope.
Went to bed earlier?  Nope.
Ate better?  Yes!  I made conscience decisions about what I was putting in my body.  Don't freak out, it's not like I'm all "Kale is life!" It was more, "Peanuts are a better choice than potato chips". 
No drama?  Yes!
Stay positive?  Not as much as I hoped, but better than none at all. 
Avoid negativity?  Mostly!  I removed negative people and content from my social media as much as I could (stuff pops up every now and again).
Be kinder to myself?  Nope.  But, I wasn't as negative to myself as I usually am.

But, like one of my favorite sayings go "If you don't like where you are, move, you are not a tree."  I am not a tree.  So, like I said, every day is a new chance!  So, that's what I plan on doing :)

What is working for me this week?  I'm feeling wonderful, minus the getting better part from being sick.  My energy level normal thanks to thriving!  Like I said before, I cannot imagine how worse my cold would have been if I wasn't thriving!  And, I'm so exited for what the year is going to bring!  Each day is so full of love and promise!

So, I sit here this morning, watching one of my favorite bad Christmas movies (the 12 dates of Christmas), enjoying the smell of my Christmas tree, enjoying the quiet time, enjoying my life.  If I could give you all one present this week, it would be to realize you are enough.  You are lovely just the way you are, warts and all.  Remember, you are amazing!

Until next time,
Give someone a smile.  Yours is amazing!


Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!

I started 2018 by bringing with me some things from 2017.  Namely, my grit, spunk, determination, and good Lord help me, this cough! lol

Today has been a lovely day!  I've enjoyed so much.  I chatted with my mom, my sister, and my daughters.  I spent a bunch of time with Big Daddy, and the only side effect from the new medicine is being light headed now and again.  Trust me, that's a lot better than the side effects from the other medicine!  I've officially been sick a week.  I was at work last Tuesday and at the end of the day, was working some overtime at home.  I finally clocked out at 7 because I was spent.  Then, an hour later, my fever spiked to 102.8.  And, that my friends is when I called in to work.  For two days, I slept, fought the side effects of the wrong meds, and hardly ate, although I drank water like a camel. lol  Since Friday, when I started better medicine, I still slept, but my appetite has slowly returned.  And, I'm feeling better.  Big Daddy says I have my color back!  On the plus side, I lost 3 pounds! Hey, I'll take it!

I spent the day today getting crap off my facebook feed.  There's was so much negativity that I just unsubscribed to it all.  That's not me and I don't need to see any negativity.  Oh, I know it exists, mind you.  I just don't need to be party to it.

Now, I'm just about ready for work tomorrow.  Truth be told, I really loved my time off, even though I've been so sick and sleeping tons.  But, I am ready.  I'm ready to face the day, week, month, year.  Let's do this!

Happy New Year, everyone!
Until next time,
I pray you all have a blessed year!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Closing of the Year

Being sick the last few days of the year has had  me feeling rather maudlin.  I miss my mother something fierce this time of year.  Mind you, she's alive and well, and living in Myrtle Beach.  And, I did get to spend time with her in July as well as talk to her all the time.  Still, I miss her.  In addition, I miss my Dad.  He wasn't able to come down for Thanksgiving this year.  And, as wonderful as the day was, it just wasn't the same without him.

This Advent season flew by too fast.  I didn't do any of the things I had planned.  Not a one.  I started coming down on myself, per usual.  Then, something changed, clicked if you will.  Yes, I did not get anything I wanted to do started, let alone finished.  But that doesn't make me a bad person. I've been trying to focus on that.  And, while I've been sleeping a ton, the last two days I am up more (thanks to the new medicine) and am feeling loads better.  Not well enough to go to Mass today or to my sisters for our annual NYE celebration.  These things are important to me.  And, here I sit, in my bed, feeling a little sorry for myself.  My faith is important to me.  I wanted to go to Mass.  So, while Big Daddy was at Mass, I watched the Mass on my Laudate app.  That helped me feel connected.  Afterwards, I called my sister and chatted for a bit.  Just hearing her made me feel better.  

2017 was a busy year:
I became full time at my job.
I celebrated a year at my job.
I started in a new department in my job.
I started working from home 4 days a week.
I grew closer to friends and distant with others.
I left a business that wasn't working for me.
I started with an amazing company that supports me.
I learned how to eat better.
I learned how to meal prep.
I lost 20 pounds!
I lost 4 PANT SIZES!!!!
I took a vacation with just Big Daddy.
I renewed my vows (twice!)
I took a family vacation.
I started going live.
I created 'Live with Thrive'.
I made new friends.
I had medical procedures.
I leaned I have a new 'for now' normal.
I cried.
I rejoiced.
I shared.
Most importantly, I loved.

For 2018 I am leaving behind self doubt and negativity.  I'm not going to wait until I reach a goal to be proud of myself.  I'm going to be proud of myself the whole way!  I'm going to celebrate.  And, most importantly, I am going to love.

I wish you all the Happiest of New Years and that the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding will be yours this year.

Until next time,
Please call a cab/Uber/Lyft!  Don't drink and drive!

Thursday, October 19, 2017


So, for those of you who don't know, I recently started a new adventure and I couldn't be happier.  AND it only get's better!  I was featured on the official LE-VEL FAN PAGE!!!!!

My name is Gina Marie Schafer, and this is my Thrive Experience.
I'm a 48 year old mom of three adult children (23, 21, and 20) and my adorable grandtwins who are about to be 2, CJ and Justin and married to my amazing husband, George!
I've been Thriving officially for 8 weeks! I watched my friend Sheila post about Thrive time and time again. I watched Sheila's posts talk about mental clarity among other things so, I said 'let's do this' and contacted Sheila.
Truth be told, I was a little nervous. Would I be jittery? Would I feel like I was going to burst out of my skin? Happily, the answer was "no.” I'm an all day person (versus being a night or morning person), however, by the time I get home at 4:00 I'm exhausted and ready to be a couch potato. That did not happen! I came home and was doing laundry, not only that, I FOLDED and PUT IT AWAY!!! Who does that?!!! Not me, that's for sure! lol All I drink now is water, it's all I want these days. My favorite thing has to be the mental clarity! I heard about it, but didn't know what to expect. It's not like the clouds part and angles sing and all of a sudden I have an IQ of 170. No, this is SO MUCH BETTER! I didn't realize I had mental fog until it was gone! I can focus a lot easier now!
I haven't even mentioned how I get up before the opportunity clock goes off, how my stress is just about I'm able to better focus and handle a situation with less emotional stress, and how my energy level is through the roof!
I can't thank Le-Vel and Thrive enough for giving me, 'me' back!