Tag Archives: help

Dancing queen

“You are so brave,” and “I couldn’t do that,” were the most common reactions when I told people that I was going to participate in a dance competition as part of a nonprofit fundraiser.

Turning Point is a resource center for survivors of domestic abuse/sexual violence, and I have been a Survivor Speaker for them for the past two years. I know how important their services are, and I am happy to be able to share my story to help their cause.

Turning Point’s annual fundraising dinner features Stepping Out With the Stars, a dance competition that pairs a professional dancer from the local Arthur Murray Dance Studio with someone who is involved with Turning Point (called the Star). This year, there were five star dancers.

For the past two years, I have attended this fundraiser and watched the dancing competition.

Last fall, when I received the email invitation to be one of the Star dancers, I waited a few days before responding, asking myself if I could be brave enough to perform a ballroom dance in front of hundreds of people. Could I risk public humiliation if I wasn’t a good dancer or if I forgot my steps?

I decided to accept the invitation because I believe so strongly in Turning Point’s mission and because I know that real courage is what it takes to walk away from an abuser or to report a rapist, to ask for help and to survive. The courage it takes to dance pales in comparison.

Preparation included dance lessons with one of the instructors at our local Arthur Murray Dance Studio, who choreographed the dance and taught me the steps.

I have never taken ballroom dancing lessons, so everything was new to me. At the beginning of the first lesson, my instructor explained the rules of ballroom dancing. Rule one—the man leads. Oh, oh, I thought. We are in trouble. Being led does not come easy for me.

That first lesson, my instructor repeatedly said, you took the lead. and initially I disagreed, but soon I could see he was right. I kept trying to take the lead. He suggested I close my eyes, and that helped.

During the second lesson, my instructor explained the foot positions of ballroom dancing, and I came home and printed out footprints and placed them on the floor in the correct positions so I could practice.

Then I went to as many lessons as I could and also found other opportunities to practice ballroom dancing, even if it was not my routine. I just thought that the more practice I could get, the better prepared I would be.

I wanted to try my hardest to do a good job because the instructor was volunteering his time to support Turning Point, and I wanted to honor his commitment of time and effort.

The event was last Friday, and I was the first to dance. Family and friends came, and I felt very supported.

I felt quite brave.

Waiting to be introduced to the crowd of 630 people

The least likely

At Mass today, we heard that God sent Samuel to Jesse to anoint a king (1 Samuel 16) and that God selected the least likely of Jesse’s sons—David, the youngest son, the baby of the family, the son who was out in the field with the sheep. David, who probably went unnoticed by most of the people most of the time.

His brothers and maybe even Jesse were probably gob smacked. I can imagine them asking, “Why him?” I wonder if David asked, “Why me?” And I can imagine Samuel shrugging and saying, “Don’t ask me; I am just the messenger.”

This story reminded me of others God had chosen (Moses, Jeremiah, Jonah, etc.) who seemed equally unlikely representatives of God’s mission and message.

There is no explanation for God’s baffling choices.

Samuel seemed to be wise to God’s ways, though, and accepted that God had a plan, even though God’s choice might not have been Samuel’s.  

Listening to this story and acknowledging that God often chooses the least likely candidate invites me to reflect on my own life and when I am the least likely person God would choose.

A few months ago, I was invited to participate in a nonprofit fundraising event. Turning Point is our local resource center for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault, and I have been a Survivor Speaker for them for the past three years.

I have spoken at their annual dinner, so I was familiar with the dance competition portion of the evening’s program when I accepted the invitation to learn a dance for this event. Our local Arthur Murray Dance Studio provides professional dancers who train non-dancers (me and four others) and then we perform our dance at the event.

Learning my dance is both exciting and a work in progress. Twice a week, I go to the Arthur Murray Dance Studio for lessons with my dance partner Jim (who has 30 years’ experience in ballroom dancing). I love to dance, but this dancing is a challenge–controlled steps/movements as opposed to my usual free-style dancing.

I am having fun with it, though, and the people at the studio are very welcoming, supportive and encouraging.

The biggest surprise for me in this process, though, has been the number of people who have shared their stories of domestic abuse or sexual assault when they hear what I am doing in support of Turning Point. One woman I have known for several years shared how Turning Point helped her when she was raped at fifteen—a story she had not previously shared with me.

Shining a light on the issues Turning Point addresses feels like something God has selected me to do, and I have come to see that bringing those issues into the light is so much more important than the light that will shine on Jim and me when we do our dance at the event.

I am still nervous about the dance, though, but trying to keep perspective.

Grateful for you

Ten years ago this month, I started this blog; my dashboard says I have posted 668 times. At the beginning, I committed to posting once a week. A few years ago, my spiritual director suggested I try writing poetry, and I added a second weekly post. Recently, I have been sharing pictures of my garden and reflections from my travel.

I like that my blog has evolved and continues to evolve, that I can be free enough to let the Spirit lead me, because that is how it feels—like I am being led in what I write and share.

Before I published my first piece, I sent it to a friend who was a newspaper editor and asked for his advice. He said that people want to read what is real and raw. He encouraged me to hit “publish,” and I did. Those first few months, I asked for his approval before each posting, until finally he told me I didn’t need his approval and I should just publish.

Several times over the years, I have thought of stopping, because of other commitments in my life or because I was tired of the discipline of writing/posting each week, but every time I entertained those thoughts, someone would reach out to tell me how helpful my writing was. So, I continued.

Writing and sharing requires courage. I have shared many personal parts of my life—my grief when someone has died, my history of abuse, my prayer life, my spiritual journey, my loves (travel, gardening, reading, knitting, etc.); and each time I share something that feels “private” (or as my friend Ted would say, “too private”), I have felt freer.

My life goal is to have nothing to fear, nothing to prove and nothing to hide. This blog has moved the needle and helped me become more transparent. It is because I have shared so much here that I was able to become a Survivor Speaker at our local domestic abuse/sexual assault resource center.

I have overcome many challenges and obstacles in my life and have come through them all with a deep sense of gratitude. I feel so blessed, even by the adversity, because through adversity, I have come to know my own resilience.

One of the greatest gifts of blogging, and one I did not expect, is the connection with other bloggers. Before I began, it did not occur to me that I would get to know people from around the world who share their thoughts, photos, hobbies and passions. Yet I have a feel for so many of you. I know I don’t have the whole picture, in the same way you are only getting a slice of who I am, but I am grateful for what you share, for your willingness to put yourselves out there.

Writing this blog has helped me see strengths I did not know I possessed, and your comments have helped me persevere. Thank you for sharing this journey with me.


Critters in my garden

Yanking some of the Golden Alexander in my garden (which is technically not invasive, but does spread and needs some aggressive yanking to control it), I happened upon this little critter enjoying one of the leaves. I was happy for the help in keeping the plant under control.



Like many people, my life seems to have become limited during the pandemic. I get together with family and friends less frequently and now am only going to restaurants and stores that require the staff to wear masks. I have spent lots more time alone, especially these past six months since my mom died.

One thing I have noticed during this increased alone-time, though, is how often I see silver linings and notice joy.

I am much more aware of the little things that make me smile—my lighted Christmas tree outside my picture window, every dog I meet on my daily walks, funny videos friends send. I seem to be more aware of how often I feel joy.

Perhaps joy was always there, but I was too busy and distracted to take note of it.

Now, though, with my life less cluttered with outside activities, I have the time, space and focus to notice the little things that make me happy. 

A reflection in Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening recently cited this quote:


Nepo went on to say that responding to need is a “way that scarcity can direct our lives,” and he encourages “finding what we love” in order to build a “life of passion.”

I have been pondering what brings me joy, what stirs my passion, what makes me come alive.

I think that at my heart, I am a caregiver, and I am quite happy when I can help someone. Also, by nature, I am a connector, and it brings me joy when I can bring together two people for their mutual benefit.

In the past, I have tended to diminish the little things I have been able to do, small ways I was able to help, but now I am more inclined to value the benefits of those little efforts. It is the starfish story of helping this one in front of me.


During the Solstice Gathering this week, Krista Tippett invited us to ponder the questions we are living. Here are some questions I am asking:

How do I live my best self?

How do I use what I have learned in life to help others?

How do I grow into the person God created me to be?

How do I let go of fear and grow in trust?

What questions are you asking? Where are you finding joy?

God winks

God wink is an expression I first heard when I moved to Michigan eight years ago. A God wink is one of those serendipitous events, something totally unexpected, which has a hint of divine intervention in it.

Since moving here, I have heard God wink on several times, but not used the phrase myself until the other day.

Two days after I came to the aid of the woman who fell off the ladder—and knowing only my first name and my street name—this woman went house to house on my street to find me. She wanted to thank me for helping her. One of my neighbors pointed out my house to her, and she pulled into my driveway just as I was coming home.

We chatted a bit and she thanked me (and gave me a lovely gift).

“No one else who would have helped me,” she said.

“I wasn’t supposed to be here,” I told her. “I was meant to be in Europe this week, but I canceled because of Covid.”

And then I gasped. “This was a God wink,” I exclaimed.

The next morning, the Liturgy of the Hours had a reading from St. Ephrem, who wrote, “When the Lord commanded us to be vigilant, he meant vigilance…against lethargy and timidity.”

Being vigilant is a theme for me this Advent, and I think of helping the woman who fell off the ladder as an example of being vigilant.

When she visited me, she told me a car had been parked in front of her house the entire time she was hanging lights. There were two people inside the car, and they only drove away after I had left her. Even though they were closer to her when she fell, neither of them got out of the car to help her.

Reading St. Ephrem’s words, I wondered about being vigilant against timidity and if the people in that car were too timid to come to her aid.

Timidity is defined as “a lack of courage or confidence.” Perhaps they lacked either courage or confidence.

One of the gifts of aging for me is having the confidence to respond in a crisis. I may not have medical training, but I can tell when someone needs medical help—and I can certainly call 911 or drive someone to Urgent Care.

Are there other times, though, when I lack courage or confidence? When I am, in fact, timid?

John the Baptist comes to mind. He lacked neither courage nor confidence, but boldly proclaimed his message of repentance.

Advent is a time to take a step back from daily life and look at where we might need more courage and confidence to speak of love, forgiveness and hope. Advent is a time to pray for the grace to be vigilant against timidity and to act on the urgings of the Holy Spirit to extend a helping hand.

When we act with courage and confidence, we can be conduits of God winks.