30 Posts of Truth: Something I like about myself

This meme is WAYYY old, but I still want to do it. And since I need to get back into the habit of writing every day, I might just try to do the next 28 posts in 28 days.

My answer to this one came pretty easily, and I hope it rings true to those of you who know me. I hold on to friends. There is a certain threshold in my heart that once people cross it, they can never ever go back. No matter how far this person drifts or how long it has been, I keep people in my heart–always. Some people might call this sentimentality, and while I agree that I am prone to being sentimental about my friends, this is something more. I will do whatever I can to honor not only the friendships I have, but also the friendships that I had.

It pains me to let people go, even when it is so obvious that it’s for the best. But when that does happen, I try to separate what caused the friendship to end from what created the friendship in the first place, then I try not to trample on the good stuff. I always hope for reunion and reconciliation while learning from my mistakes.

Some people drift simply because life and its demands dictate that we spend our valuable minutes elsewhere and so friendships don’t necessarily end, they just fade. Those friendships that have the possibility of reblooming with a little time and TLC is why I love Facebook. It has been such a blessing to be able to reunite or at least stay in touch with so many people I never intended to loose track of, but did. It gives me joy just to be in minimal contact with old friends… keeping tabs… not in a creepy or gossipy sense, but because my heart is built that way. Simply put, if you mattered to me then, you matter to me now.

Lots of people have crossed that threshold. But there are a select few whom I will not, never ever, allow to drift.  Maybe I should say here that I hope they’d never want to. But seriously, you’d have to shoot me dead and sever my arm from my corpse for me to (metaphorically, of course) ever let them go. These people are my tribe. I think they know who they are. As I reflect on this, a few might not realize they they are–which means I need to make some phone calls. But seriously, I find these people if I have to. (Again, not creepy at all, right?) This tribe is not exclusive. It can definitely grow, and I am very happy enough to say that I have people in my life now who, I believe, would be there for me through thick and thin, and would let me be there for them like these special few have over the years.

I know that I am not a perfect friend, but I try to be the best one I can be. Even those who know me best might be surprised at the depth of feeling I carry because (as talkative and open as I can be) I have a hard time telling them. And, seriously, God has put some truly exceptional people in my path and so I’d be crazy not to feel that way. I am truly One Lucky Girl to be able to share life with them. All of them.

I guess, to put it in simply, and I’ve said this before: Once I love somebody, I never ever stop.

December Views-Day 16: Elves

I apologize for the slight blur, but the light was waning and it was coooold outside and hard to hold the phone still enough to take a clearer shot. I gotta say, these have got to be three of Santa’s absolutely cutest elves. There’s a lot of love in that pic, folks.

In other news, this week two different sets of dear friends have welcomed children into their families. One by birth, the other by adoption. I won’t mention names out of respect for their privacy, but suffice it to say that it truly is a joyous season, and I am so very happy for all of them.

December Views-Day 15: 10 ways I would pass my time if I were a Navy wife

To continue with my efforts to give Michelle some Christmas cheer, I present you with how [un]productive I would be if I were a Navy Wife.

Ten things I would do to pass the time if John were serving overseas:

10. A LOT LESS LAUNDRY, THAT’S FOR DANG SURE.

9. Watch a lot of Food Network and Bravo television.

8. Write a lot of angsty poetry.

7.  Cut my shower time in half by never having to shave my legs.

6. Spend very little time cooking, which is NOT a good thing.

5. Redecorate.

4. Not sleep well.

3. Start talking to myself (more).

2. Probably adopt a cat, and maybe keep the dog.

1. Increase my cell phone minutes because somebody’s gonna have to listen to me.

I think it’s pretty obvious that I’d suck at being a Navy Wife, but I sure do appreciate all of you who are who do it so well.

December Views-Day 13: Extra Christmas Spirit for Michelle Edition

This is my friend Michelle. Michelle and I have known each other since junior high. We kind of HAD to be friends because our last names determined that our lockers were very close to each other and our schedules were identical. Before long, we were spending the night at each other’s houses, collectively ignoring each other’s little siblings, walking across town to go get oreo concretes, and generally solidifying our friendship by lusting over celebrities and listetning to music. We lost touch after high school, and finding her again is one of the main reasons why you will never ever convince me that social networking sites are lame. They are AWESOME if you find the people you want to find. I could tell you some stories about Michelle, but since she can share some stories about me too, I think I’ll just pass.

Anyway, Michelle is married to Jim, whom we (or maybe it was just me) met in junior high. I dunno. These memories get fuzzy. At any rate, Jim and Michelle–they’re like two peas in a pod, like milk and honey, like peas-and-carrots-Forrest-and-Jenny, that’s what they are. (Sorry to have to compare you to an idiot, Jim, it’s the only analogy I could think of. I owe you one.)

Well, Jim is in the Navy and he is currently deployed out to sea in areas unknown, helping to keep it safe for me and mine and you and yours to lay our pretty little heads down at night and sleep the sleep of safety and security like only our Armed Forces can provide. In otherwords, he kicks butt (and not just metaphorically speaking) and while he kicks butt he sacrifices. And Michelle? She sacrifices, too. Because it’s not easy, of course, to be separated from your other half. And I imagine that it is especially difficult around the holidays.

Michelle commented here yesterday that she’s having a difficult time getting into the holiday spirit this year. She asked if I had a little extra holiday spirit to share. And for friends, I always have enough cheer and love. So, without further ado:

10 Reasons Why Michelle Rocks! (Not in order of importance, but in the order I think them up):

10. She finds sarcasm to be a beautiful thing.

9. She crushed on Wil Wheaton just as hard as I did in 7th grade.

8. She is compassionate to children, animals, and friends.

7. She unlocked my locker for me every day, several times a day, for the first two months of junior high. (I in turn made sure we didn’t get lost in the hallways).

6. She let me put make up on her, including eyeliner, when it was very, very obvious that she was not comfortable with another person holding sharp, pointy objects near her eyeballs.

(Unrelated: eyeball is a funny word. Seriously. Say it quietly to yourself. It sounds funny.)

5. She likes wine.

4. She likes wine a lot.

3. She speaks her mind.

2. She loves Jim fiercely, unabashidly, and she does not hesitate to show it.

1. She has grace in her sacrifice–she does not complain, she is not resentful, she is a STRONG woman.

You may or may not know Michelle personally, but you are invited to write your own reason why you think Michelle ROCKS!  Seasons greetings and many MANY blessings to you, my friend!

On friendship.

Betsy and Sheri. Two of the most wonderful women God put on this earth, and I get to call them friend.

Betsy, Sheri and I all share birthdays within one week of each other. Weird, huh? Every year, when our birthdays roll around, I find myself reflecting on these two women–so very different, yet so similar in the ways that count–and how much they mean to me.

These women are two of my most treasured blessings.  I honestly cannot remember when I didn’t know Betsy. Sheri and I have known each other since we were 8, but we became close friends in junior high. They both live out of state, and it has been several months since I have seen either one of them. I miss them both very much. But interestingly, distance has only served to grow my friendships with them, and with each passing month time lends its weight in our favor.

For each major milestone we’ve shared–every win, every loss, every graduation, every first day, every resignation, every bully, every new-found friend, every heartbreak, every new love, every exchange of vow, every new home, every same-old argument with our spouses, every new child, every new challenge, every unwelcome wrinkle or jiggle, every same-old disagreement with mom & dad, every scary late-night fever, every first times and last times and thousanth times–somehow we share them no matter how much distance is between us or how much time has passed. Both been faithful to me in times when I was in profound need of friends.

And you know, I don’t really think our story is unique. There must be millions of friendships like this. All you gotta do is look at Facebook…or simply ask people. The loving bonds we form with people who are not kin are both remarkable and common. And I love that. The thing that is unique is the color and texture of that bond–the level of intimacy, the profoundness of the secrets shared, how time is spent together, how often time is spent together, and how much time, how intertwined lives are. I don’t need to see my friend’s faces, but I definitely need to hear their voices. I don’t need my husband to be chummy with their husbands. (In fact it doesn’t matter at all since we only see each other once a year.) I don’t need to know every detail of their day-to-day lives in order to feel close to them, but my heart does ache to think that their children don’t really know me, and my children don’t really know them.

You never know which of your friends are going to stick and which are going to slip. I have had friends who I’ve fervently wished to remain close to, but for some reason(s) or another, they did indeed slip. I suppose long friendships require a delicate balance between maintaining and just letting it ride. You can’t ignore them but you can force them either. As I reflect on it, I’m beginning to think that perhaps our friendships have grown and thrived because of what they are not: we are not jealous, we are not competitive, we do not have our identities wrapped up in each other (i.e. if I’m not your best friend, then you can’t be mine), and there’s never been an expectation that our friendship, or more importantly, we ourselves will always be the same. There has always been room to grow. And in the rare instances when it has been needed, there has been forgiveness and grace. And everything else? We just roll with it.

So, to Betsy and Sheri, as we begin our 35th year, I just want to say:  for your strength, for your loyalty, for your humor, for your understanding, for your patience, for your support, for your honesty, for your selflessness, for your beauty, for your grace, for your prayers, for your confidences, for your trust and trustworthiness, for your time, for your hearts, and for your spirits–I thank God every day for bringing each of you into my life. Thank you for calling me friend.

You both are so very precious to me. I love you.

Love Thursday: On beauty and worth.

In January, on a whim, I flew down to Houston, Texas, to do something that I felt compelled to do. You see, I had fallen in love with this little blog called Chookooloonks. I don’t even remember now how I found it… but oh, am I ever-so-glad that I did. Though the photography is just beautiful, it was the spirit of the blog that just kept me going back day after day, without fail. It felt like a comfy space. A beautiful, comfy space.

It was months before I got up the nerve to e-mail Karen, the woman behind chookooloonks, personally and tell her how much I appreciated her words and admired her photography. When she responded, she was, of course, lovely and gracious and just as sweet as she could be. Her frequent message to her readers is, quite simply, that the beauty of our lives is worth celebrating and that we are all worthy to be considered beautiful. Worthy… it’s not a word she uses frequently, but it is infused in every bit of encouragement or uplifting post she writes. It was a feeling I consistently felt when I visited her blog.

And it is something that I have struggled with all my life. Feeling worthy. Now, I don’t want to get all creepy-like and say something really crazy like “Chookooloonks saved my life!” No, but chookooloonks was an open door. A warm, sunny, beautiful (albeit virtual) space where I was not preached at, but gently encouraged to think of myself and my life as worthy and beautiful, and this is important, to see worth and beauty on my own terms. It’s really difficult to describe how it all unfolded, but for lack of a better way of putting it– it just created a space in my own thinking. Just a bit of quiet space that, in time, drew me to prayer, and reflection, and contentment, and allowed me to reconnect with myself, my Lord, and my own spirit. I so desperately needed it at that time.

As time went on I secretly wished that I was a more serious writer/blogger/writing professional so I could justify going to one of these huge BlogHer conferences where Karen sometimes speaks and perhaps meet her or some of these other cool women who are such excellent writers and do such wonderful things to build a network and community among all people, but particularly women on the web. Smart, cosmopolitan, cutting-edge types that are managing to have damn-near it all in terms of career, and a family, and talent, and notoriety, and fabulous shoes. I just didn’t see myself and my worn out Clark sandals as being a part of that crowd. I’d feel uncomfortable and out of place.

So when Karen announced that she was going to take pictures of ordinary folks for her upcoming book The Beauty of Different, and that she was seeking volunteers for anybody who would or could be in the Houston area during MLK weekend, I felt compelled, compelled I say, to do it. 1. Because I was dying to meet this woman. 2. Because I relished the opportunity to tell her face-to-face that her vision of what she wants to do in the world through her blog is working. 3. Because I finally felt like I could be worthy of being considered for such a project even though, I am convinced, I have the most ordinary looking face in the world. Didn’t matter. Karen, I thought, will make me look beautiful because I’ve never seen a not-beautiful person in her pictures.

So I flew to Houston with my niece Leslie and I did it.

And it was grand because… because… well… for lots of reasons. Because I got to run down an airport terminal to board the plane at the very last minute before take off, just like in the movies! Because I got to have drinks at 1 p.m. in the afternoon… and then I got to have more that evening. Because I got to hang with the coolest niece in the world. Because I got to go to a new city. Because I flew in a plane and didn’t cry (I don’t much like flying). I got to stay in a swanky hotel. But the best part, without a doubt, was meeting Karen because, well… she is the real deal. She was so warm, and kind, and encouraging, and real. Two years ago I never would have had the nerve to put myself in a situation to meet her because I would have been intimidated by the fact that she is so well-educated, had traveled so widely, has such ability. A woman like her must have, like, a gazillion friends and I would just be a waste of her time. I’d have been too self-conscious. But see, that’s what’s changed over the past two years… with a daily, little, gentle nudge of encouragement from her blog. So, you see, I had to go and tell her so.

So I went, and just the whole experience of doing this for myself, it happened at the right time for the right reasons. And I have to tell you that I so wholeheartedly agree with Karen’s perspective on beauty. I know that I am not the only woman who has struggled with feeling beautiful or worthy or deserving or good enough. But she is absolutely right when she says that we are ALL beautiful. Her book, The Beauty of Different, celebrates this truth, and I encourage you to buy two copies: one for yourself and one for someone who needs to be reminded that he/she is beautiful.

This is the photo that Karen took of me that day.

When I look at this, I don’t necessarily see beauty, but I see worth. And I see strength. Two things that, for a long time, I had been feeling a lack of, but I do not any longer. So to my friends, to my family, to Karen @ chookooloonks, and especially to my husband and children, and Jesus… I say thank you. Thank you.

Sprint to summer.

Last summer was about getting some much needed rest and peace after having a really difficult winter and spring. Last summer was the beginning of getting better. I’ve managed to let go of a great deal of negativity in my thinking and in my life this past year. And when I reflect upon it, so many good things have happened since then. And even though I am rather stressed about the end of the school year, that’s nothing new. This summer I feel ready.

Just—ready.

ready for long mornings in my backyard with my girls (yes, including her)

ready to take Karen‘s advice and shoot every day

ready to take long walks and enjoy nature

ready to be barefoot in the grass

ready to expand my itunes library with some old CDs

ready to see lotus blossoms

ready for impromptu cocktails with good friends, who also happen to be neighbors, in the front yard

ready to devour grilled cheeseburgers and pasta salad

ready to read things that make me laugh

ready to take weekend trips to museums and sight-see with John and the girls

ready to write

ready

Just ready.

Drawing inspiration

This weekend I did something “crazy.”  I just got back an hour ago. I’m tired, it’s time to tuck the kids in bed, and I need to be near my husband, so I’ll have to fill you in on the details later. However, I will say this:

If it’s crazy to follow my heart’s desire, to meet an inspiration who quickly becomes a friend, to widen my circle, to dare to feel worthy, to bring more light and positivity into my world, to reach out, to connect, to revel in womanhood, and motherhood, and pasts and presents and futures, to give and receive encouragement (words of encouragement that I will not just remember, but treasure), to share love—If that’s crazy, well then, baby, I don’t want to be sane!

I believe it was Mark Twain who wrote, “I can live for a month on a good compliment.” After Saturday, I think I’m good for a decade. Thank you, Karen, not just for the opportunity to be photographed, but for the gift of your time and for your encouragement. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

For Timmy.

Today I am sad. My day went on as planned, but for some very old friends of mine, life will never be the same. It is impossible to say anything about death that has not already been said before. And it feels wrong to talk about someone else’s death only in terms of how it affects me when I know there are others whose hurt is unspeakable.

I’m forced to fall back on the overwrought metaphor of life being a tapestry (and I know nothing about weaving). The Coffmans are one of those important threads stretch all the way back to nearly the beginning… lots of beginnings, actually. Tim Coffman, Sr. helped coach my very first softball team. Softball… the sport that solidified three of the four most important friendships I have to this day. Stacey Coffman and I were friends all the way through school, and if it weren’t for her, I would not have met my husband.

Timmy is Stacey’s younger brother and a part of a very well-known, well-liked family in my hometown. Timmy was always, and I mean always, unfailingly kind and sweet. Unlike a lot of younger brothers who could be annoying twerps (I have one, so I should know), Timmy was the kind of guy who seemed at ease and happy no matter who was around. I remember Timmy and Stacey painting a welcome home banner for my cousin when she returned home from Saudi Arabia after serving in Desert Storm. Stacey and Tim are both the types of people who would do anything to help anyone, and do so gladly. Tim’s sparkling blue eyes, easy smile, and gentle nature just made his kindness even more apparent.

I am sorry to say that I did not know the man that Timmy became, but I have a feeling that if I were to bump into him tomorrow, we would be able to chat and laugh as though barely a day had passed. I have to stop and remind myself that he was a husband and a father, which makes his sudden passing even more tragic. My memories of Tim’s warm spirit and sweet nature make me certain that he was an amazing husband and father. The condolences I see written for his family merely confirm what was obvious to anybody who knew him then, now, or all the years of his (too) short life.

And so, though this loss is not mine, it is huge nonetheless because the world needs more people like Timmy Coffman. He is exactly the kind of person that it can truly be said that he will be missed by so many… even by those of us who have not really known him or seen him in years.

My heart goes out to his wife, child, mother, father, sister, brother-in-law, nieces, newphews, friends.