I have never made friends easily, probably because I’m more introverted than not. Sure, most people like me because I am a nice person, but I was never the girl who was invited to all the parties. I have been blessed with a handful of true, dear friends, and I am grateful.
However, when we moved back to Georgia, I didn’t have any of those friends around me. As a new mom, I didn’t realize how important friendship was until I truly needed it.
And then five years later, it happened. We became friends. Somehow, we pushed past the acquaintance stage (probably because you’re more extrovert than not) into true friendship. I didn’t realize how much my soul craved this friendship until I finally had it and realized what had been missing.
I love that we understand each others’ craziness because we share the same mental flaws. I love how I can bare my heart, go past Facebook status updates to real updates about my life with you. I can share the bad and know that you aren’t judging me–more often than not, you try to help me. And then I can share the good, boast about how smart or cute or totally awesome my kids are because you just heard how rotten they were the other day and won’t want to gag at my bragging.
Thank you, friend. I needed you more than you know.
Linking up with the Gypsy Mama for her Five Minute Friday ‘On Friendship.’ We write for five minutes without worrying if the words are completely right or not. To my dear friend–I don’t have any pictures of us together, and I didn’t want to find a random one of just you and post it here–I’d feel a little like a stalker–so that needs to be one of our new goals (besides becoming less crazy)
Do you make friends easily, or do you have a handful of true friends? What reasons caused your special friendship to cement?
We came off the plane and walked into the arms of family where hugs and kisses abounded. My mom smiled at my belly which had now taken on the shape of a basketball, and then we began our walk to the car with luggage in tow. Of course, even though it was almost 10:00 in the evening on December 23rd, the most important topic of conversation was where we would eat.
We decided on one of my favorite Mexican restaurants. We had a great Mexican restaurant in Oklahoma (and the cheese dip actually came with the meal!), but they made chilaquiles with egg, and I missed the dish made with chicken. So, of course, I ordered my chilaquiles, and we requested plenty of cheese dip. I was happy, sitting with my family whom I hadn’t seen in months, sharing good food, and rejoicing together for the little boy who would join our family in March.
I was happy until that night. It came fast and hard, and I found myself with pain in my ribs, the same pain I got as a child that normally ended in my throwing up. And throw up, I did. Soon after the pain, I was gripping the toilet seat as I vomited out my dinner while trying to hold my baby in. I found the feeling strange, as my basketball hung below as I held onto the porcelain stand.
All through the night I visited the bathroom, and, come morning, we had a decision to make. It was Christmas Eve, and we were supposed to open presents with Matt’s family in the morning and then head on from there to his aunt’s house to visit with his mom’s side of the family. I was in no shape to go, but I couldn’t ask Matt to stay–we lived so far away now, and he hadn’t seen his extended family in quite some time. Of course, I wanted to ask Matt to stay, but I couldn’t.
That day as I lay on my parents’ couch I felt so depressed. I was sick and without my husband on Christmas Eve. I had so looked forward to seeing everyone and hearing the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ as I showed off my belly. Part of the fun of pregnancy is having that moment as the center of attention, and since we lived in Oklahoma now, I didn’t get to share the excitement with family of carrying my first baby.
Instead I got to lay on the couch. I didn’t have the pregnancy glow or look cute–instead, I looked pale and disgusting. The day wore on, and Matt still hadn’t come home. The only steady company I had was Tabasco.
Tabasco is my dad’s crazy dog. He doesn’t look like a dog; he’s more akin to an orange hyena. My sister and her husband rescued this dog and decided to give it to my dad as a present. They snuck him downstairs in my parents’ basement, and, when they made frequent trips down the stairs with pitchers of water, they told Dad that they had bought him a plant for his birthday. Imagine his surprise when he was, instead, presented with a dog who was afraid of men and had a skin disease. Happy Birthday, Dad.
Basco stayed with my family and by my side on that Christmas Eve. It was as if he intuitively knew he had to protect me, and he thrust my arm in the air so he could nuzzle underneath it. I don’t remember much about that Christmas Eve except that Matt was gone, but Tabasco lay at my side. I can’t recall if I watched TV or continued to throw up or just slept the day away, but I remember that ugly dog under my arm.
Basco has never been my favorite pet. He snaps at people he doesn’t know out of fear, and he’s always skiddish. Obviously, the poor dog was abused, and I just want to give him some Prozac to relax. But craziness and all, I can’t help but have a warm spot in my heart for him. He was my loyal friend on a day when I felt like total crap. And I can’t help but love someone or something that doesn’t mind nuzzling with me when I have vomit breath.
Post inspired by Mama Kat’s writing prompt, “Food Poisoning–Yuck!” I don’t know if I had food poisoning or a 24-hour virus, but the end result is pretty much the same.
The shop was every kids’ dream and my nightmare–shelves lined the store filled with high fructose corn syrup and red #40, jelly beans of every variety and gummy worms covered in sugar crystals. Children could grab the scoop and fill their bags with the colors of the rainbow, sweet enough to bring instant smiles to their faces and impressive temper tantrums when the high wore off an hour later. The front glass case revealed slices of red velvet cake big enough for three people, and they displayed how beautiful chocolate covered pretzels could really look.
But our interests were around the side of that case. Ice cream containers full of traditional flavors and creative mixes filled the tubs while cones dipped in chocolate and sprinkles above our heads enticed my children. The challenge was deciding what flavor to choose while ensuring the kids didn’t steal a piece of candy during the process.
This shop was where we came for ice cream. We came in the summer for a cool dessert, rocked in the yellow chairs outside the store while licking the ice cream melting down our wrists. If Grammy was around, we’d visit after dinner at the pizza restaurant down the strip, her treat to her spoiled grandkids. We were known to make an appearance after T-ball games, celebrating a win one season, and consoling many losses the next. And I had even passed through the drive-thru once, bringing smiles to my home. No matter the time of year, we visited, and we were always satisfied.
This past weekend, we visited for the last time. I pulled open the door with the sign that read “EVERYTHING HALF OFF, CASH ONLY” and looked around at the store. The shelves with the novelty candies were sparsly filled, and the display case that once housed huge cakes was empty. And as we made our way around to the tubs of ice cream, our choices were limited. Vanilla, coffee, and peanut butter-chocolate chip filled our cones and cups.
I looked at our kids’ smiling faces, but the sadness in the air was palpable. I listened as the customer before us offered an “I’m sorry you’re closing. We’re going to miss you,” and I almost felt guilty as I ate my reduced-price ice cream, thinking that I really should pay double.
I don’t know why they were closing their doors that night, but, in this economy, I can only imagine. And that night, as I looked at Matt and my kids sitting around that booth, I was surprised at how affected I was by this loss. Perhaps the empty shelves got me. Maybe it was sympathy for the owners who obviously put much care and effort into their store and now were watching their dream come to an end. Or maybe it was the memories…
…memories of threatening to throw away their ice cream if they ever snuck a piece of candy again, memories of messes so big that only a bath could help, memories of being together….
It was probably all of the above. One thing’s for sure, though; that store that I thought was my nightmare…I’m really going to miss.
I’m participating in the Gypsy Mama’s Five Minute Friday, where we write freely for five minutes, not editing our thoughts, but, instead, seeing where they take us.
I remember when I was pregnant, I thought there was nothing more amazing and miraculous than the development of a baby. I’d watch every pregnancy show, and I loved the scientific ones showing the growth from embryo to fetus to a newborn baby being held for the first time by his mama.
I wanted to do everything right. I read every handout my doctor gave me, every article from the online magazines, attended every birthing class and paid attention as if I were earning a grade. I wanted my baby to develop correctly in the womb, and I wanted to ensure I gave him the best start as he entered the world.
And then when that little bundle of joy entered the world, I read every parenting article, memorized the milestones for each age, knew how much he weighed at three months and then six and then nine…
…but as my baby boy grew into a little boy, and as we added a girl and then another–very quickly, I might add–I started to notice something else miraculous. These little people were growing, and while I have helped guide them and protect them and nurture them, I also have to admit that a lot of their growing has nothing to do with me. And it’s amazing.
It’s amazing to watch my daughter combine colors on a piece of paper in the most imaginative* and beautiful ways. It’s amazing to watch my son create a letter for his teacher and sound out words on his own, without enlisting my help, and it’s amazing to watch my two-year-old girl categorize her Memory cards just because she wanted to.
Their growth is beautiful, and it is their own. But even more amazing is my growth because, while I thought I would be their teacher and guide their way, I’ve realized that I’ve had my own learning to do, as well. I thank them, for I’m the one who needed to do some growing.
*marks where I actually was at five minutes. I took an extra minute to finish, and I reworded my final sentence because it sounded awful. I’m really not trying to be a cheater….
I’m not sure I’m going to make it to try this half marathon. It’s not the distance that has me so concerned (although, the distance does have me concerned) but, rather, surviving the training that has me nervous.
This past weekend I, once again, headed out to a park to complete a run, this time five miles. Previously, I looked at the map of all the trails, and I noticed a trail that was a 5.5 mile loop. Perfect, I thought. I can run the five miles and walk the last .5 to cool down. However, once I arrived at the park, I had the feeling that this run would not turn out perfect.
Unlike the last time when I felt so cool arriving at the park around 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, only to find out that there are a lot of cool people (do people even say ‘cool,’ anymore? The fact that I’m asking shows how cool I really am), this time I was one of a handful of people. Granted, I was at the other side of the park this time, and my arrival was closer to 7:30 a.m., but I felt a little nervous getting out of my car to run under that gray sky.
I proceeded, though. Matt knew where I was, I told him how long the run should take me, and I took Tae Kwan Do for a few months when I was 17; I was good to go. I locked my wallet in the glove compartment, tied my key around my shoe lace, grabbed my phone, and started walking toward the big map of the park.
I knew where I was going, but I wanted to double-check my route. It looked easy enough–I’d walk about a half mile on one loop, pick up another trail, and then the entrance to the five mile trail should cut into that second trail near the beginning. I started my walk, anxious to begin, wondering if I would struggle or find my groove on my big run.
As I entered the second route, I began looking for signs for the five mile trail. I remembered passing them on previous runs, so I knew I wasn’t far. Almost immediately, I saw a wooden sign pointing the way to the entrance…except I didn’t see an actual entrance. All the other trails that I had run were very clearly marked–white lines divided the pavement into two halves, and there were even arrows painted on the ground to signal how to exit the one loop to pick up another. However, I wasn’t noticing any of these clues. Hmm, I thought. I’ll just keep walking. After all, I knew there were a few entrances since the trail was a loop.
I walked, enjoying the quiet and the music on my iPhone. As I came upon the wooden marker showing that I had walked a half mile on this trail, I noticed another wooden marker showing the entrance to the five mile trail. Except I didn’t see an entrance. I saw grass. A field. And woods. “What the heck?” I said audibly, and I just stood for a minute. Now I was frustrated. Between the two loops, I had already walked about a mile, and I hadn’t even begun my run yet. “How am I lost on a trail with a big map and signs everywhere?” Yes, I said that audibly, too. I was talking to myself, but that was okay since I was alone on a trail on a cloudy, gray Saturday morning.
And then I knew exactly how I was lost. I was still the same woman who tried to get to a leadership retreat in Destin, Florida with some friends by taking 1-75 South. After driving for about five hours, we bought a map at the gas station and realized we were in the middle of the state instead of in the Panhandle, which, of course, is the northwest of the state. After screaming for a few minutes, we took every back road in the state to Destin and made our trip in about nine hours instead of six.
I was still the same woman who felt her stomach drop and her head get light when she was handed a compass and told she would navigate her group through the outdoors during the deployment exercise, the final project of Officer Training School. Thank God a hurricane came rushing through Alabama, forcing us on lockdown in our rooms for three days. My group might still be out in the woods had it not.
So I continued on past the marker, thinking that, once again, this sign was just pointing the way to an entrance up ahead. I walked, and when I saw that I was nearing the entrance to the first loop, I turned around. I head back to the wooden marker, stopped in front of it, and stared.
It clearly said, “Entrance to 5.5 mile trail.” I looked at the field. I looked at the grass. I looked at the woods, and I started to walk. My feet stepped through the grass until they felt dirt and pebbles and roots underneath. Yes, I was entering the woods alone on a Saturday morning with nothing but my phone, key, and Tae Kwan Do skills. And in that moment, I remembered that a body was found at this park recently.
I shook off the thought. I let a brief feeling of triumph wash over me because I had, in fact, found the trail. It wasn’t a paved trail, yet, but I clearly was on the path of the 5.5 mile loop. I started running, but not on purpose. The trail immediately sloped downward, and I jumped over roots as I made my way down. As I dodged a branch, I thought, This is ridiculous. I’ll just go a little further until this natural path leads into the paved loop where I will find a crowd of people joyously running in a five mile circle while little birds sing above their heads in a sunny sky full of puffy, white clouds.
Yeah, that didn’t happen. I did see a deer, though. As I came to a flat surface and could stop hurdling over roots and dodging tree branches, I looked to my right where I saw her. She was beautiful. I tried to remain still so I wouldn’t scare her away, and I stared. She stared back. “Hi,” I offered.
I had hoped that we would have a spiritual moment that transcended the need for language, that we could communicate in the forest together and find harmony. Instead, she looked at me and pounded her hoof into the ground two times.
I didn’t need to understand ‘deer’ to understand that deer. She was calling her family, and I now knew how the body found in the woods had met his demise. He pissed off a deer and was trampled to death by her and her family. So I turned around and ran back up the trail, looking, but not stopping, at the six deer that were hidden on the other side of the forest. Yeah, if I was going to die, I didn’t want my obituary to read Local girl dies after being trampled to death by a herd of deer. No, it needed to read Local girl dies after vicious bear attack. Bear found alive but with broken arm and puncture wound most likely made by a key.
I returned to the second loop, and walked around to where it picked up the first loop. I called Matt to tell him I was on my way home. I had walked nearly three miles in the hopes of running five. Yeah, it was time to go home and get help reading a map.
I hate fitting the role of the stereotypical woman who gets lost all the time. I want to ask for others to comment if they can relate, but maybe, instead, I should ask for stories from women who have a great sense of direction. Make us look better than I!
He danced wildly, with abandon, befitting of the red hair atop his head. Jumping and turning, landing in karate-like stances, he moved to the music. His mother stood in the back row with her infant asleep in the carrier, but he danced. Whenever a person walked up the aisle, she would gently touch his shoulder, and he would reign in his movements to allow the individual to pass. But when the aisle was once again clear, he reveled in the music.
I watched as he stood still for a moment and lifted his arms to the sky. I was not singing the words on the screen at that moment, and I wasn’t as focused on my own worship as usual. But as I watched him dance, my affections turned to the sleepy one in my lap who, with arm around my neck, stared in wonderment at this little boy. I smiled.
I’m participating in The Gypsy Mama’s 5 Minute Friday where we paint pictures with words for 5 minutes without editing–just let the words flow.
When I saw the topic this morning I felt stumped. I’m not sure why–I have plenty in my life which produces joy–but I wasn’t sure how to write about the joy I feel at certain moments. Perhaps, because if I’m writing honestly, I don’t always feel that joy that I should have. So I pondered the meaning of joy this morning as I got ready for the day. I looked up definitions, hoping that I would see a big difference between ‘joy’ and ‘happiness,’ but our English dictionaries all produce similar definitions.
However, as I brushed my teeth and straightened my hair, I pictured my friends. Friends who had lost babies. Friends who had lost husbands. Friends who had lost jobs. And I pictured my son in the backseat of the van when he told me we should turn off the news–we didn’t need to listen to three different reports of people getting shot.
And in that moment of picturing, I knew that this world was too hard–it could crush the spirit–apart from God. Finding joy isn’t about finding happiness in every moment of this fallen world. Finding joy is experiencing contentment and remembering the grace that God freely gives.
Because apart from that grace, I would see too many bleak days outside my window, but instead, I can throw my hands up in surrender to Him. I can yell, “Okay! This is the lot you gave me in life!” and know that He will hold my hand as I walk it. And while holding His hand and experiencing His grace, I can whisper it is well with my soul, even when the circumstances around my life are not.
Okay, I can’t lie, especially when writing about God. I, again, took more than five minutes. I swear, I must have the slowest thinking brain of all you bloggers out there. Oh, well. Forgive me. And to be honest–I’ll probably break the rules again (but I still didn’t edit). How would you define ‘joy’?
As I tied my shoe laces Saturday morning, I felt such pride in myself. It was 7:30 a.m., and here I was getting ready for a run while the rest of my town was sleeping. I grabbed a banana and my water bottle and headed to the car. Today was the day–four miles–and I was going to get them done while the air was cool and crisp, while my neighbors snuggled under their warm blankets.
But as I pulled into the packed parking lot of the park, I realized I wasn’t nearly as awesome as I thought. Evidently, a lot of people exercise early on Saturday morning. Nevertheless, I got out of the car ready to start my goal, albeit feeling slightly less important.
About a month ago, I had decided I wanted to train for a half marathon. I had run one about six years before, before I had kids, before I had become, apparently, out of shape. The training so far wasn’t going as well as I’d hoped. Running long distances has never been easy for me, but the first time I trained, I was able to increase my mileage each week. Now–well, let’s just say that if those heart sensors on treadmills had an alarm that goes off when one’s heart is about to explode, the paramedics would be ready and waiting most days of my training.
This particular Saturday was no different. As my feet hit the pavement, my mind was thankful for the cool morning air and a change in scenery from the gym, but my body didn’t care; it wanted to go to bed. I knew from past experience that I take a few minutes to get going, to get a good pace and rhythm, but after five minutes, I was already struggling. My legs didn’t want to move, and I had to pee. Why, no matter how many times that I pee before starting, do I still have to pee two minutes into a run (I would guess childbirth has something to do with that answer. You men have it so good)?
It’s way too early to quit, I told myself. So I moved along and decided by a mile in, I’d find my groove. But after running one mile, I was still running at the pace of toddler learning to walk. I tried to stay positive and kept going. I smiled as a little chipmunk scurried in front of my path. I reflected on the wonder of God as a beam of light rays pushed through the tree branches ahead of me. I found a moment of joy.
And then I watched the 70-year-old man pass me on the left while I was contemplating if my own lungs would collapse.
I had run almost two miles, and I was still struggling. The little inclines were killing me. I was huffing and puffing. My legs felt tired, and my breathing hadn’t adjusted to a comfortable rhythm. I never found my groove.
I might have to stop. I didn’t want to have to holler after that 70- year-old that I was dying and needed his help to get me to my car so that I could go to Starbucks. I was ready to quit.
But I couldn’t.
My plan said I was supposed to run four miles that day, and if I didn’t run four, then the rest of the weeks of training would be that much harder.
So I kept going, shuffling my feet one in front of the other, hoping I didn’t see anyone I knew. But then something amazing happened.
Shortly after two miles, I noticed I could breathe. All of sudden, my body began to run on its own instead of me forcing it to move. I was now running at the pace of a four-year-old walking. I had found my groove. For the next two miles, I ran. I even passed some people. On a long, flat stretch, I picked up the pace again, and for a few moments, I slightly enjoyed myself.
When I saw the small, wooden sign marking my goal, I pushed myself and yearned for that finish. And when I finished, I felt good. My face was beat red, my stomach hurt, and I wanted to throw up–but I felt good. I could finally pee. I had finished. I had finished.
I wonder how many times we quit something one mile too soon.
While I was running, I felt like for the first time I could truly understand what it means to run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12: 1-2). Sometimes marriage is not easy. Raising kids is not easy. Having a positive attitude at work is not easy. Sometimes, it’s easier to quit.
But if we would’ve held on for one more mile, would we have finally found our groove? Or would God have sent a little chipmunk or light rays through the branches of a tree to cause us to smile for a moment, distracting us from the discomfort of not being able to breathe easily, giving us just enough of a boost to continue a little further?
I’m convinced that my life is very much like running four miles. For some, they seem to run with ease, passing me on the left while I’m huffing and puffing and wondering if this is the end for me. But there are always those moments, always those moments scattered throughout my run to bring a smile to my face. And once in a while, I even fall into a groove, and when I do, I’m always glad that I didn’t fall down on the ground and ask the 70-year-old man to take me to Starbucks instead.
Two days ago, I watched my two-year-old daughter play with her best friend. I’ve never seen two children so small actually play with one another and not just alongside one another. They talked in their baby voices and laughed and chased each other, and they gave me that boost I needed to run uphill that day. So when I was digging through my son’s poop later that day looking for a Lego, I just thought of those sweet, little girls and realized now was not the time to throw in the towel–even though I still hadn’t found that stupid Lego and will have to dig again later this week.
When I pictured myself all grown up, I imagined a beautiful wife (somehow age would completely transform my looks) who was loving and kind. My husband and I would have passionate sex all the time, the excuse of tiredness never creeping in our bed, and when we had a disagreement, we would fight fair.
I saw a mother who laughed and played and performed puppet shows and dress-up frequently. My children displayed evidence of their mother’s discipline, all having exceptional manners and self-control. And when they went astray, my temper did not, and I never yelled or spanked out of anger.
And one day I woke up in real life.
I woke up without makeup many days. Sometimes sleep really did sound better than sex. I didn’t always fight fair and carried more grudges than grace. I yelled at my children, my children who were far crazier than the children in my vision, and I found that I carried many of those traits that in others I hate.
Luckily, God never had to wake up. He knows what real life looks like and was prepared a little better than I.
Linking up with the Gypsy Mama for her 5 Minute Friday. What surprised you most about your real life?
If my marriage ever has a downfall, it will be the garage. Every time I park the van outside its doors to walk through the space intended for two cars but, instead, is used for boxes upon boxes of only God knows what, I clench my jaw. I look at the shelves filled with electronics and think Why won’t he give that stuff away? I see crates full of papers and wonder what important documents might be looming beneath the stack. But, mostly, I see that the majority of that crap isn’t mine.
However, I was given a slight wake-up call when we attempted to move a year or so ago. We cleaned out closets and did our best to show that our home had great storage–no need to ever use the garage for that–and my husband spent many hours straightening up the garage (not throwing things away…aargh). In the process, I helped out in the garage a little, too, and after putting book after book in boxes, I realized that I might have a few items leading to the mess out there.
But they’re books, and books don’t really count.
A few months ago, I attended a writer’s workshop, and one of the presenters came and spoke to me during the break. I had mentioned that I was a former English teacher, and the conversation carried on from there. She spoke of how students don’t enjoy reading because we force them to read books to which they cannot relate. I nodded my head in agreement. She then went on to say, “Why do we make kids read The Catcher in the Rye? I hated that book. It is completely pointless.” At that point in the conversation, my chin hit the floor. She was bashing my favorite book, the book that is in my nightstand drawer, taped together and with pages full of underlined sentences. On and on she continued to go–I couldn’t even interrupt to tell her how much I love that book. Shut up, I thought. I really, really want to punch you in the face right now.
Perhaps my reaction was a little dramatic but it illuminates what reading means to me. When we decided to have three kids in three years, I always had a baby to nurse, which meant I was always up at really odd hours. And then of course, when I was finished nursing, I then had children learning to sleep (and escape) in toddler beds. I was the one not getting much sleep, so when I even attempted to read a book, I found myself instead drooling all over my pillow.
It wasn’t until recently when I started consistently reading again that I realized how important diving into a book is to me. I love finding myself in a novel and learning what makes me tick. While Jay Gatsby and I live very different lives, I know what it’s like to pursue a dream that wasn’t a good dream in the first place. I didn’t grown up in the ’60s, nor have I ever had consistent help, but I can analyze the complexities of my own relationships, acknowledge my prejudices, and understand the fact that we all have more in common than we think. When I read a book by Donald Miller, I laugh at his humor while struggling with the challenges he has given me to strengthen my faith. And when I travel to Afghanistan in A Thousand Splendid Suns, I experience for a moment what it would be like to grow up in a culture and faith very unlike my own.
I mean, I’m not really expected to give away one of those books, am I? Each book in a box or on a shelf represents a part of me–except for the books that I haven’t read, yet, but one day when I do, those books will become a part of me, too–and if I give away a book, it would be like giving away one of my arms. Yes, I guess I could give away those books that aren’t my favorites, but what if they would’ve become one of my children’s favorites someday? Okay, I admit it. I hoard books, but my question is why doesn’t everybody?
I walked through the garage this morning, clenched my jaw as I stepped around pool noodles and bikes, and looked at the shelf with a stack of hardcover books. Yeah, that garage is never getting cleaned.
Linking up today with Mama Kat for her Writer’s Workshop. Do you enjoy building your own private library, or do you prefer checking out books from a public one? If you don’t hoard books, what is one item that you do hoard?