Receiver

Today started out as a day of giving and turned into a day of receiving.
I dropped my son at work, got a snack and headed to Evanston hospital to donate blood. There was an urgent need for the victims of the Highland Park tragedy so I signed up. Giving blood is how I help when I feel helpless.
I chose to take the advice of my friend Julie and wear my Free Mom Hugs shirt. Entering the hospital, I got a few looks from people.
Soon I was seated in the donation chair and one of the phlebotomists said, “I like your shirt!”
“Thanks!  Need a hug?”
“Really?” I nod.
“Sure…” She says.
So before I get hooked up to all the machines, I give her a big hug. She smiles and says thanks. 
As she is removing needle, one of the other women says, “11:11!  Make a wish!  That was your official finish time!” I laugh and she then pulls out the pink bandage…it was like they knew me! 
We 3 chatted while I recovered and then I left.
I walked toward the exit and an elderly man said, “Really? Hugs?”
“Yup!  Want one?”
“Well I guess so….” And we did sort of side hug as that was what he could manage with his cane.
“That was really nice. Thank you.” And he shuffled away.
Once I left the hospital I was feeling all sorts of things. So, I decided to take a drive. I found myself driving around the Northwestern Campus. As an homage to my old man, I clicked on my old school Spotify playlist and the soothing sounds of Billie Holiday filled the air.
I gazed you the window at the old and new buildings. So much has changed over the years. I wound up in the older part of Evanston and grabbed a coffee. I treated myself to a fancy lavender latte (at the suggestion of the barista).
“Do you really give hugs?”
“Yes!  I love it!”
She took my payment and directed me to coffee pick up. While I was waiting, she walked around the counter and, “Can I have a hug?”
“SURE!” and we hugged in a café full of people.
She said thanks and went back to work, handing me my coffee. I got back in my car and headed home….the long way….along Sheridan Road, past the Baha’i Temple, Lake Michigan and beautiful homes all the while listening to old jazz and my girl Billie filling up my heart.
Today was a reminder of my many gifts. A reminder of my blessings. A reminder of times gone by. I keep hoping that my daily excursions…. giving some hugs, spreading a little kindness and putting some love back into the universe…. create a little more peace for others. It certainly soothes my soul and replenishes my spirit.
Peace.
#tutulady
#forwardisapace

4th

Artist unknown

I woke up feeling a bit melancholy. 4th of July at my parents home is always nostalgic. I total throwback to a simpler time.
This year the golf cart parade was smaller than ever and there was a float that had Christian nationalism on full display. That has NEVER happened before. The people in red, white, and blue were in smaller numbers this year.
Then I heard about what happened in Highland Park. I was worried for my friends, victims and all involved.
I’m so tired. I’m tired of the divisiveness in this country. I’m tired of the mass shootings. I’m tired less rights than a man and less rights than a gun. I’m all for individual political and religious beliefs but the divide seems like it is too wide now.
This country is headed down a dangerous path and I’m worried about our future.

Choice

I will begin with a trigger warning.
*This post contains opinions on abortion.
*This post contains opinions on faith and religion.
*This post contains facts that may change your perception of me.
******
All that being said, it is time. I have authored this post over and over again in my head for years. I have thought about the way in which I wanted to tell my story. I have talked myself out of sharing this time and time again ….. mostly due to shame.
Over 30 years ago, I had an abortion.
Full stop.
The story of how and why…those are mine to own. I do not have to share my reasons with anyone. I share those parts with those who deserve the details.
I live with the choice I made each and every day. To dismiss my choice by saying it was the easy way out is to not understand the weight and gravity of the choice.
I remember every part of the events leading up to and after the day of my appointment. There are certain sounds and smells that trigger the memories when I least expect it. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my whole life……and I went alone. I lived with my secret for years out of shame from my church, from my friends and my family.
I was raised Catholic and taught Catholic school for over 20 years. Once I got married and had more children, I raised them Catholic. I went to mass every week and I prayed every day for forgiveness. But the longer I stayed and prayed, I could not escape the nagging feeling that the God I loved thought less of me because of my choice as a young woman. The God, the Jesus, the Mary that I pray to each day were ones that believe in forgiveness. I just needed to forgive myself. Not for having the abortion….but for allowing the church and others to make me feel ashamed for the choice I made.
Once I forgave myself, I made another choice. The choice to leave a church that preaches shame over empathy, condemnation over acceptance and hypocrisy over sincerity.
I have written before about my faith. My faith is steadfast and strong. I still pray daily, but I pray to the loving, accepting God that I believe created each of us in their image.
I live with the choice I made every single day. But here’s the thing….I HAD A CHOICE.
I had a choice because the government recognized that the choice is personal and should be made with a medical professional not a priest, pastor or politician. I am fortunate enough to live in a state that protects a woman’s right to choose but I fear for my children, especially my daughters. They now live in a country with less reproductive rights than I had at their age.
The reasons a woman would choose to have an abortion are as individual and unique as each woman. Each and every woman should have agency over her own health and choices.
I realize that finally sharing my story opens me up to criticism and commentary. I am ok with that. If the fact that I had an abortion in my 20’s changes the way you feel about me, well then that is your choice to make and I respect that choice.
I will always help those who need support. I will always be a safe space and place for any woman. I will always support a woman’s right to choose.
Peace.
#tutulady
#forwardisapace

Parade

I struggle to find the right words as I am overwhelmed with emotion.
I began the day with high anxiety but as the morning wore on and my group grew, the “mom” energy was high!Our group may not have been the largest but we were the most energetic and impactful.
The hugging started before the parade began. A young woman came and asked for a hug. It was tight and it was long. There were tears….. and that was just the beginning.
Once the parade began, we were ready…. Arms wide open!
“I need a hug!”
“I want a mom hug!”
“Can I have a dad hug?” (We had several dads with us too!!)
Some people just opened their arms and waited for us!
For four miles, we high fived, waved and hugged. There were many times I had to run to catch up because the hugs were long…I don’t let go of a hug until they do! I tell each person I hug that they are loved and they matter.
I lost count of the hugs that ended with tears.
I heard more than once as I walked away, “that’s amazing” “what a wonderful group” “she gives great hugs!
Just when I thought it could go on forever, we were at the end of the parade route.
Our group sat together in the shade, relishing in the endorphin rush, recounting stories of epic hugs and soon we went our separate ways.
What I didn’t realize is that my job was not yet done.
As I walked back to my car I was stopped on a corner by an older man. He asked if I believed in fate and I said yes. He told me that he had seen me in the parade but couldn’t get to the rail and he really needed a hug. As we hugged he told me his mom never accepted him and she had just passed …. But now that she was gone, he wished he could have hugged her one last time. So …. I was her stand in.
I continued my walk and ran into a young guy I hugged during the parade. He said our group was the best of the parade and what he will always remember.
The last hug is one I will remember a long time. A young woman walked past me at the el. She made eye contact with me as she passed. A few minutes later she had returned and was at my side.
“Do you really give hugs?”
“Yup. Want a mom hug!”
“Oh my god! Really?! You have no idea how much a need a mom hug today…”
So we hugged a long time. She pulled away suddenly, said thanks through tears and walked away as fast as she appeared. I stood there in the middle of the sidewalk stunned. Not sure why she needed that hug so bad but I’m glad I was there.
Today was one I will remember for a long time. One that I will look back on fondly. One that will be a constant reminder of the need we all have to feel loved. One that reinforced, once again, the power of a hug.
Peace.
#tutulady
#forwardisapace