Thursday, July 31, 2014

Five Favorite Types of Friends

Of all the joys in this life, friends are one of the most treasured. When I considered what "favorites" to write about today, I thought of the types of friends I've known in my little life. I've loved every one. I'm pretty sure you'll recognize these, too, from your own life.
  1. The Adventurer - You want to go for a night run and try out those headlamps you never saw a use for? This is the friend you call, and this is the friend who will say yes. And it's not all about your ideas, she is a good leader who devises her own fun plans and brings everyone along. You're glad to be one of those who gets to join in. Key words in this friendship: road trip; crazy project; I'm in; we can do it.
  2. The Old Friend - Chances are you went through puberty together, and the friendship that can survive those hormones is built to last. She knows all of your old boyfriends and keeps the stories to herself. You call her mother "mom" and she does the same because really, you spent as much time at her house as your own. This friendship has been through so many years and experiences that it is strong and true and you can rely on it. Also, this friend can cheer the loudest for your accomplishments and virtues because she knows first-hand what you've gone through in life. 
  3. The Honest Friend - It's in her nature to tell the truth, even when it might be tough to hear. Everyone should have at least one friend who will speak up when things aren't right. Also, it's a tremendous relief not to have to wonder what she's thinking - she will tell you!
  4. The Neighbor Friend - She's the one there drinking wine on your driveway. She lives close enough to see plenty of what's going on in your life and having her "in your business" is a good thing. Because of proximity, she's looking out for you. She's the best candidate for impromptu walks and bonus! - you can borrow things right out of her pantry when necessary.
  5. The Best Friend - This is the one they write songs about. Despite the superlative "best," you can have more than one, especially the older you get. You don't have to clean your house for her, nor she for you. If you're pregnant, get a scary diagnosis, feel depressed, mark a victory, or just feel like talking for no reason at all - this is the friend you call.

Read more Five Favorites at Mama Knows, Honeychild

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ten Ways to Combat Writer's Block*

  1. imitate a pine tree
  2. breathe in through your nose and then try making your first YouTube video
  3. say "no" to oceanography
  4. eat an apple backwards
  5. write one haiku for each year old you are
  6. dip your feet into a public fountain
  7. chaperone a middle-school dance
  8. try Vegemite
  9. gain weight
  10. tour more academies

*Make fun if you will. Spewing random thoughts is a good release. So is posting a selfie with no makeup. No, I haven't been drinking. But full disclosure: I had popcorn for dinner. Things are going downhill the longer my hubby is away at Boy Scout Camp.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It Is Good ... That I Heard About The Edel Gathering

I missed a party. It happened in Austin, Texas over this past weekend and it was the kind of good time I am MADE for. It was a bunch of Catholic women (many/most of them bloggers) gathering to encourage each other and have fun. It was a conference, of sorts, in that there were speakers and vendors. But it was a party in that there was dancing, karaoke, and wine. It was called The Edel Gathering.

Over the past couple days, I've been watching posts appear on numerous blogs sharing about how it all went. It was a momentous event. Two women envisioned it, many came together to pull it off, and it was a smashing success. Two things stand out from all of the enormously wonderful things I've read so far:

  1. One of the co-founders, Hallie Lord, gave the opening address and the words that the Holy Spirit gave her to lead with were, "It is Good That You Are Here." (Follow that link to read Hallie's own explanation for how God emphasized those words. It's goose-bump kinda stuff.) Women came to the gathering with all of their usual "issues" but were affirmed for doing so. And then they realized that with the strength gained from attending, they could go home and live their vocations as mothers with renewed passion and courage.
  2. "The Edel Gathering was meant to help us feel less alone." - These are the words of co-founder Jennifer Fulwiler in her post about what she learned at the event. If that had been all I heard about the conference - if there hadn't been a single sparkling photograph of all the fun or a Twitter feed-full of highlights - I would have bought the airplane and conference tickets based solely on this statement.
I need to be re-charged! I love to party with Catholic women! (Any member of our parish moms' group can attest to that.) I often feel lonely in my vocation and I know from many other women that this is common. So the point of this post is to share The Edel Gathering and its fruit with others. And to ask, "Please, God, can I go next year?"

Monday, July 28, 2014

Just a Few Words on a Night Out With a Six Year-Old

You have enough on your plate. I'm not going to tell you that the secret to perfect parenting is taking your kids on individual dates on a regularly scheduled basis. But if one night all the other members of your family are occupied, why not do something special? So far this has happened for John and I once every six and three-quarters years, so no pressure!

We had a fun night. Here's my advice when you get the chance to take out a kid one-on-one:

Be flexible! I know John loves burgers, so I recommended Five Guys Burgers & Fries. We showed up, he ordered a hot dog. For the record, he said it was really good and I tried it. It WAS really good.

Be generous! If a kid wants gummy worms, gummy bears, lychee, cookie dough bites and M&Ms on his self-serve frozen yogurt, go with it. What's the worst that can happen? Don't answer that.

Laugh! When we walked into Five Guys Burgers & Fries after talking about it all day long and repeating the name a dozen or more times because the rhyme is catchy, apparently - this kid looked around for half a second and asked, "Okay, what do they have here?"

Listen. In a short time, I won't remember what it was like to have a six year-old son. I tried really hard to listen to all of his chattering and to look into his eyes and connect. It wasn't easy -- that kid wiggles a lot even when he doesn't have to pee - but I tried.

Run! I'm certain my kids' future therapists are going to reveal that their mother loved them through food. Five Guys Burgers & Fries will come up, as will the five-topping yogurt. So I added a park visit to our night out, and we ran and played and managed the dog and rolled down a grass hill and chased mourning doves who were miffed that we bothered them, and dug in the sand volleyball court and swung on the swing. Then, back at home covered in sweat, I let him jump in the pool for an after-bedtime night swim in his underwear. Only stuffy adults go out for dinner and dessert and call it a date. Run! Chase birds! You'll be glad you did and so will your kid.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What is it with Chicago?

Somehow - it doesn't make sense - four different friends of mine are visiting Chicago right now. They are posting photos on Facebook and blogging and texting. I, on the other hand, am home in super-hot Las Vegas daydreaming about ... well ... Chicago. [Editor's Note: Why Chicago? I don't know. I don't really have a thing for Chicago, but I couldn't help but notice when all these different people who don't even know each other were heading off to visit there at the same time. In order to raise my jealousy to all-time heights, everyone I know would suddenly have to be vacationing in Denver. Or Portland. But Chicago's nothing to spit at and my jealousy isn't ultra-finicky.]

This morning I was feeling HIGHLY sorry for myself and if you can drive a car in a mopey fashion, I was doing so on the way to Mass. In my head, I sounded like Eeyore the sad donkey from Winnie the Pooh: "Everyone else is in Chicago. I'm stuck at home. Kevin's away at scout camp but I'm here hanging out with the dishwasher and three-fourths of our children."

I tried to have a mature little talk with myself. The top lecture headlines going through my mind were predictable, I'm sure you've heard many of them yourself:
  1. Don't Compare Yourself to Others
  2. God Has a Plan for You Right Where You Are
  3. Be Grateful!
  4. Chicago Sucks! Who Wants to Go to Chicago Anyway?
  5. Life is Good! You Have Nothing to Complain About!
The lectures weren't super-effective, but listen to what happened in the afternoon: A friend texted and asked if she and her kids could come swimming. (Heck yeah!) I invited another friend and her family to join in. (They came!) My exceptionally fantastic next-door neighbors contributed to the joy by sharing with me a helping of the prawns they made for dinner. (Delicioso!)

Almost everyone was in the pool later when heavy gray clouds got more ominous-looking and thunder and lightning boomed and lit up the sky enough that some of the kids were starting to freak out. (One full-grown adult may have contributed to this after a particularly close lightning strike by using the words "everyone could die.") Our group of friends, six adults and eleven children strong by this point, moved inside. The party went on for another couple hours. Kids ran wild in damp bathing suits, adults gathered around the table talking and laughing. Outside, the rain poured. Not once did I think about Chicago. Not even once.

I have issues, it's true. I need to work on my perspective, and truth be told I probably do need a vacation. But more valuable than a vacation is a great group of friends. Throw in a desert thunderstorm, a neighbor's good cooking, a tasty beer, laughter, and super-happy kids and Chicago isn't necessary anymore.

*Photo credit - AA, PVdR, KE - thanks to good friends who responded to my call for photos 

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Mustache and the Kazoo

I got into my mini-van today and noticed a fake mustache on the floor in front of the passenger seat. I thought it was kind of novel so I started looking around to see what else I might find and discovered a green kazoo and a few pistachio shells.

Something about those three random objects made me think about where I am in my parenting life. There used to be a day when I would have seen Cheerios and sippy cups on the floor at any given time. Diaper wipes. A baby shoe. But not anymore. My kids have graduated from the baby/toddler/little kid era and have moved on. Why do I seem to be lagging behind them? My youngest is six, which means he hasn't been in diapers for three years, almost four. He can do nearly everything on his own now. But every now and then I still catch myself being surprised when I'm just sitting in a chair at home or at a social event and my kids are functioning quite nicely without my help.

Does this happen to everyone? This failure to realize when your parenting enters a new era? There were SO many intense years of sleep deprivation, diaper changes, chasing toddlers, cutting food into kid-sized bites at meals, butt-wiping, etc. Now there are days when one of the kids MAKES LUNCH FOR EVERYONE. Or bakes a batch of cookies without my input. They do their own hair, chores, and packing for trips. It's so weird.

I admit. I'm having some moments of "what do I do with myself?" Things seem too easy. Not that there aren't new challenges, but it is different and less labor-intensive. I'm afraid that this is a precursor to empty nest syndrome. What is THAT like? You get home from taking the last kid to college and the house is empty and quiet and how many fewer loads of laundry a week will that be?

You don't have to tell me to get a life. I have plenty of interests and hobbies and identity outside of parenting, although none quite as consuming or rewarding. But there is this weird stillness all of a sudden since the kids have gotten a little older. It's like silence after a noise you'd gotten used to. It's not a bad thing, it's just different. I may have to put on the mustache and play that kazoo to keep from getting melancholy.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Nightstand's Piling Up

I have criticized people before for reading more than one book simultaneously. But suddenly there is this PILE by my bedside!

Journey to the Center of the City, by Randy White because I wanted to recall the story of his family moving into inner-city Fresno and what a difference it made to the neighborhood and in their lives. All the social justice concerns we had as college students have seemed trickier to keep up with and that makes me sad. Perhaps I'm trying to shake myself a little.

Tweet Naked, by Scott Levy, because I have a huge crush on social media. I want to know it better and delve into my fantasy that one day I will use it to encourage and minister to more people.

Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. The back of the book sucked me in where it said, "we should look at the world that surrounds the successful - their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing." Amen, we should! We should spend lifetimes analyzing this stuff! Man I wanna sit around researching and writing and talking about it. I guess that's called a Master's Degree.

John Adams, by David McCullough. I'm absorbing every word of this biography. I can't bear not to underline multiple passages every few pages - passages describing who this man was and how he worked, especially little glimpses of insecurity. God, it's comforting that this great figure was "miserably unsure of himself" and had "acute anguish" from time to time. I don't mean to glory in his weakness, but I find it a tremendous relief. We all have a chance!

The Holy Bible. I try to keep this one near me at all times. It saves me. Convicts me. Wipes away my tears and gives me hope. Plus I'm tight with the author so I got that going for me.

My journal. I opened it up to see what I wrote last and it was in June. "Strategies for Self-Control." Intriguing. I'm going to guess this pertains to my yelling but I can't recall the source of the note or the reason for the entry. And it was only a month ago. Sheez Louise. I'm slipping.

102 Ways to Earn Money Writing 1,500 Words or Less, by I.J. Schecter. You all know how well this is going. I better keep reading! And writing.