Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Does Age Matter With Friends?

I'm sure everyone reading the title of my blog will quickly answer, "Of course not!"  I used to believe that as well, but now I'm not so sure. For as far back as I can remember, I've always had friends around my age.  Some may have been a few years older or younger but nothing more than that. When I was 22, I went on a date with a guy who was 30 (gasp!) and remember thinking, "He's so old and he's experienced so much that I haven't....this could never work..."  and that was only 8 years difference!  It actually didn't work, but had nothing to do with age.    ;)

Friends my age have been a blessing because we've gone through similar phases of life at the same time.  We've been able to draw upon each others' experiences and commiserate if necessary.  Our kids have grown up together and the friendships have just seemed to work; no thought or energy required.

Stepping out of my comfort zone and moving to Kentucky has allowed me to become friends with people of all ages from a variety of different backgrounds.  Of course I've gravitated toward women my own age with kids my kids' ages but there are two women with whom I've become close who are 13 and 18 years older than me. The one 18 years older is only 5 years younger than my mother. Kind of crazy to think of it in those terms!  But these friendships work well and again, little to no thought or energy is required.....until I allow myself to fall prey to silly insecurities.

Last night I found myself wondering if I'm able to give as much as I receive when it comes to these two women.  They are like fountains of knowledge constantly pouring out, filling me with information on every topic under the sun.  Every piece of information is wrapped in an envelop of experience and I have learned so much.   What do I have to offer them in return?  Their kids are older than mine, they've been working longer than me, they've traveled further than me, they've been married longer than me, and they've had more time to build and develop their relationship with God.  

I texted a friend my age last night asking him what I could possibly offer these women and he answered, "Well, you could be a good listener."  And you know what?  He's right. Everyone needs someone to listen once in a while. So while I may not fully understand what my friends are going through in regard to preparing to send a child off to college, I can lend an ear and give them what is oh-so-important in life;  my time and undivided attention. Smart friend, that Josh.   :)

Today the friend who is 13 years older than me told me (unprompted, I might add) that I've taught her how to hug and be a good friend every day through my actions.  She always jokes about being a porcupine who doesn't like to touch or be touched much and that hugging has always been a bit awkward for her.  I've pushed that aside and hugged her on many occasions....and I'm noticing now that she initiates hugs.  Love it! So something seemingly insignificant (to me) like hugging has actually been a big deal to her and she credits me for helping her to come out of her shell when it comes to physical contact with friends.  Can't help but think that's kind of cool.

So does age really matter?  Well, I won't lie- I wish there were a way that I could feel more balanced with my older friends when it comes to the give and take.  But maybe a lot of it is in my head.  We never truly know how we influence others and maybe I have helped them in ways I'll never know.  

I can hope, anyway, because they sure mean the world to me. God certainly knew what he was doing when he placed these two incredible women in my path.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Moving from my "f*** it list" to my "bucket list"...

Running.  Ah, running. Just a few short months ago, I could not think of anything more mundane.  I mean, really, you set out on the road and just run with no destination?  No real purpose?  Friends of mine who run always told me that running is good for the soul and brings them a sense of peace and self-fulfillment.  I highly doubted that something like running could ever affect me that way.

Around February of this year, I started hearing a lot about other peoples' bucket lists.  I had heard the term before but never in such detail.  People were sky-diving, traveling around the world, losing 85 pounds, and running marathons.  Why?  Simply because they wanted to see if they could.  As good a reason as any, right?  Running marathons resonated with me.  26.2 miles?  Geez, I would surely die.  How about a half-marathon?  Yeah right.  I'd die then too, just maybe not as painfully.  A 10K?  Eh...still dreaming.  A 5K?  Well, that's 3.1 miles, right?  I hadn't run for speed since high school.  I believe I ran a mile in 7 min 58 sec back then.  But that was years ago and I knew I was slower than molasses at this point.  Well, I thought to myself, I wouldn't necessarily have to run for speed; I would run just to see if I could do it without passing out and needing an ambulance.  Ok, that'd be a good goal- run the entire 5K without walking. Don't worry about how long it takes. Yeah....

I have never been a runner. In fact, when I started out that first day at the end of February, I ran to the corner and was already huffing and puffing. Someone told me to buy new sneakers so I did.  Another person told me to get an MP3 player and download some decent running music.  Check.  I had heard about the Couch-to-5K program online and although I did research it, I decided in the end that it wasn't for me.  I needed to go a bit faster than that and see a little more progress week to week.  I was never on the couch; the kids didn't allow me to be. But I was no runner either.

I guess you could say I made up my own program.  It was called RUN UNTIL YOU CAN'T ANYMORE.   GET MAD BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T MAKE IT VERY FAR AND RUN SOME MORE. STOP.  MAKE SURE YOU GO FURTHER THE NEXT TIME.  It was a little painful at first because I felt like giving up right away but I set little landmark goals for myself such as "I just need to make it to that white sign...."  that worked surprisingly well.  What worked even better was when my pregnant sister-in-law came to visit one weekend in March and insisted that we go running.  I couldn't be shown up by a pregnant woman, could I?  Come on now.  And no, it didn't matter that she was in the military and in top shape.

By mid-March was was running a mile and a half without any pain or heavy breathing.  I signed up for my first 5K to take place on May 13th.  I told myself I had two months to double my distance. The weather was getting better and I was feeling healthier.  Things were looking up.

Then, for some crazy unknown reason, I decided that I would accomplish my goal of running 3.1 miles while I was still 32.  That meant I had until April 16th. Only one month!!  It was pretty thrilling because several people had told me my new goal was unrealistic, which provided much-needed fuel for the fire.  I would do it come hell or high water!  Running at night helped because the temperature was cool and I was more relaxed.  I got out there 3 or 4 times a week and pushed myself to run just a bit (even a tiny bit, like two houses) further than the time before.  Before I knew it, I was running two miles without stopping.

On the night of April 15th (one day before my birthday), I successfully ran 3.1 miles. I believe I finished around 9:45 PM and literally crawled the rest of the way home. My body was shaking and I was speechless.  I had set out to run a 5K before I turned 33 and had actually done it.  Running had once been on my f*** it list and was now being crossed off my bucket list. Please excuse the profanity (or fake profanity with symbols) but there is no other way to describe how much I loathed running.

I'll admit that I did slack off just a little after my birthday but got back on the running wagon at the end of April.  I ran 3.1 miles two more times before my race on May 13th.  The day of my race brought pouring rain with no sign of stopping but God generously pushed away the clouds and sun shone down on us the last half of the 5K.  Ok, so the sun was pretty intense and maybe a tad much but I suppose it was better than showers.  Hard to run soaking wet, ya know?  The man in charge said there are usually 100 people who show up for these races but that day there were only 20.  It was Mother's Day and very wet, so we understood the low turnout.  Only the die-hards and I came to run. I knew right away that I couldn't let myself become intimidated by my fellow runners.  They looked fierce and wore those weird 5 finger Vibram shoe things.  They had bicycles strapped to the backs of their vehicles and I overheard a few of them talking about how this was the 3rd 5K they'd done today.  Must not become intimidated...must not become intimidated.....

"Runners take your mark, get set, go!!"  And they were off.  Almost every last one of them.  There were a few behind me but it was hard to remember that while watching the blur in front of me whiz by, nearly out of sight before I rounded the first corner.  Man, they were quick!  One guy ended up completing the race in 17 minutes.  I was only halfway through at that point!

The race was truly mind over matter and the encouraging people at the checkpoints helped a lot as well. I just kept telling myself I could do it and I would finish no matter what.  Time wasn't important; I just needed to continue to run.  I tried to focus on landmarks again, like I did while practicing.  I made sure my favorite songs were in queue in my MP3 player.  One foot in front of the other...

One of the most exhilarating feelings was seeing my husband's smiling face as I crossed the finish line (long after the majority of the runners, I might add).  I was not last but darn close to it.  Oh well; it didn't matter.  I had accomplished something I never in a million years thought I'd be able to do. Running had become somewhat pleasurable. There were muscles in my legs that I never had before!

My new goal is to run my next 5K in less than 34 minutes.  Oh wait, have I become one of THEM now???    ;)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Double Standard

I decided to log off of Facebook around noon this afternoon because I was becoming more and more discouraged by the posts/comments/pictures in my newsfeed.  Like everyone else, I had heard about the outcome of the vote in North Carolina.  The majority of voters voted against gay marriage.  We live in a country where we have a right to vote and make our voices heard.  It was wonderful to find out that so many residents of NC exercised that right.  As with any vote, the majority rules and people have to be accepting of the fact that the result might not be in their favor.  We all win some and we all lose some.  There will be more elections and more chances to be heard.

Instead of expressing sorrow and disappointment in the results, an overwhelming number of my FB friends decided to openly bash anyone they believed was responsible for this "tragedy."  As you can guess, at the top of the list were Christians, namely Catholics.  It started with sayings such as, "North Carolina:  where you can marry your cousin. Just not your gay cousin" and calling the people of NC "close-minded bigots."  The name-calling escalated to include several combinations of curse words and statements about how the Bible means nothing, God's law has been watered down, and people should be able to do whatever they want to do, regardless of morality.

Up to that point, I could take it.  It was no different from other careless remarks I'd heard before.  People don't always think before they speak or write. I get that.  Because religion isn't important to them, they don't care that others might be sincerely offended by their words.  They don't seem to realize that when God flows through your veins, it's impossible to separate Him from the rest of your life.  It would be like cutting off an appendage.  People want to hear a stance against a moral issue that doesn't involve religion; I challenge them to throw a baseball without an arm.

Around noon I stumbled upon a picture of a cartoon Jesus hanging from a cross with the words "gay rights" scribbled across his chest.  What utterly cruel, intention, cuts-to-the-bone mockery to a Catholic, who holds the cross in such high regard.  How dare they?  HOW DARE THEY?

I understand that people are upset that the majority of residents in NC still have a strong moral compass but that doesn't give anyone permission to be downright nasty towards anyone who believes in Jesus. It was a low blow.  It does nothing to help the cause.  It certainly doesn't create dialog between believers and non-believers.  If anything, it causes people to shut down, much like I did today on FB.  I was disgusted and felt that if my newsfeed was going to be clogged up with hateful garbage, I was better off without it.

I have never and would never post offensive comments about gay people, gay marriage, gay civil unions, etc.   I happen to believe that marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman and that the sanctity of marriage should be held in the highest esteem. Biologically, men and women have "parts" that fit perfectly together.  They complement one another.  The natural purpose of sex is procreation.  We were wired to want to have sex (hence sex being enjoyable) so that our species could continue.  Yes, we could have sex with any person, animal, thing, we desire but that doesn't change the original purpose for sex.  I also believe that sex should be reserved for marriage.  Sex outside of marriage devalues the sacrament and lessens the importance of the union between husband and wife.  Unfortunately in our society, marriage has been reduced to quickie celebrity weddings that last 70 hours, cheating left and right, and people who kick their spouse to the curb when things get a tad bit challenging or boring.  Where's the commitment?  What happened to 'till death do us part?  It has gone by the wayside.  We have normalized feelings of lust.  We have adopted a "do anything that feels good" mentality.  We try before we buy.  God isn't in the bedroom anymore (or we try to convince ourselves He is not).  All this so we can do whatever we want without the feelings of guilt that creep in from time to time.  And the more people on board, the better.  But that doesn't make it a marriage.

Yes, I'm hung up on semantics.  I value marriage so deeply and I respect those couples who have stuck it out through thick and thin and are still happily together, honoring their commitment to marriage. To call my relationship with my sister a "marriage" would be wrong.  A relationship between two friends is not a marriage.  A relationship between a parent and a child is not a marriage.  A relationship between a caregiver and a patient is not a marriage.  Let's call it what it is. Let's use the proper term.  We know what a marriage was designed to be and all I'm asking is that we stay true to that.  Anything that deviates from marriage is not "less"...it's just not marriage.

I'm traditional.  I'm old-fashioned.  But I am not a bigot.  I am not a hypocrite.  I do not resort to name-calling when interacting with someone whose beliefs are different from my own.  Why must it be done to me?  Why must I be bombarded with hurtful pictures and belittling remarks when I log onto FB?  I always try to use my page as a medium for conversation and there has been much successful dialog between friends on opposite sides of the spectrum. I'm proud of that.  But today things crossed the line.  The blame, ridicule, and nastiness were uncalled for.

I'm hoping tomorrow will be a better day.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Why Don't You Work?"

I walked into Bobby's preschool at 11:00 like I do every Monday and Thursday morning.  He'd been there since 7:30 and it was time to pick him up.  His classmates seemed extra bouncy this morning, and it made me wonder if they'd done anything out of the ordinary.  All of a sudden I felt a tug at my shirt.

"Bobby's mommy....why don't you work?"  I glanced down at Kinsey's precious little inquisitive face.  Another student, Audrey, chimed in.

"Yeah, how come you don't have a job like my mom?"

The logical part of my brain understood that their questions were reflective of 4-year-olds' natural curiosity but the emotional part felt a bit defensive.  I wanted to respond, "What do you mean, why don't I work?  I work harder as a Stay-At-Home-Mom than I ever did at any of my previous jobs.  It's 24/7 with no vacation and no sick days! And I haven't slept well in four years!!"   Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to answer because the teacher signaled to the class that it was time for lunch.  And it was also time for me to join her in the office for a parent-teacher conference to discuss Bobby's state testing results.

Anyone who's ever had a parent-teacher conference with two young children present knows how crazy it can be.  Some of your attention is on the teacher (who's explaining extremely important information) but most of your focus is on your children (who are yanking books off the shelf, hiding staplers, throwing erasers, or playing in the garbage can).

What I managed to gather from Bobby's teacher in between re-shelving books and redirecting my Curious George-esque children was that this particular test was administered in February to all of the 3-year-olds in the school.  It covered twenty areas including: gross motor skills, fine motor skills, sequencing, spacial relations, patterns, predicting, identification, matching, and rhyming. Bobby's score was broken down like this:

2/20 questions= on a 4-year-old level
13/20 questions= on a 5-year-old level
5/20 questions= on a 6-year-old level

He was 3 at the time and scored above age/grade level on every question of the test.  I was very impressed!   The teacher told me one of the test questions was, "What would you do if you walked into a dark room?"  An age-appropriate answer would've been, "I'd turn on the light."  or "I'd be scared." Apparently Bobby said something to the effect of, "I'd pull my art desk over to the light switch, stand on it to turn on the light, push my desk back to where it belongs, and then find my train track under my bed.  I like to set up the track the way Daddy does so that it looks like an 8...."   He went on and on, giving the teacher much more information than she needed/expected.  There's a rubric to score these types of open-ended questions and the content of his answer matched something a 6-year-old might say.  

I know every parent brags about his/her child and I'm no exception.  Bobby has always been intelligent in my eyes but it's reassuring to hear it from someone else (who's not family).  In a way, it validates my decision to stay at home and raise my children.  I've worked with Bobby out of workbooks since he was 2 and 1/2 years old.  We do puzzles, flashcards, and constantly talk about what's going on around us and why.  I'm a teacher by trade and I love being able to teach my own children every day.  It's hard work and tiring at times, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Bobby's classmate asked me this morning why I don't work.  Now I know how to respond.  I may not have a traditional job with a paycheck but I'm doing the best I can with what I have.  And it seems to be paying off.