Sunday, January 5, 2014

Boxing Day

Today I spent most of the day taking down my Christmas decorations. I got married during the Christmas season in 2000, so much of the garland and many of the swags and wreaths once decorated the church where Jim and I said our vows. And, with a name like “Holly,” I feel a little entitled to go all out when it comes to decorating for Christmas. No mantel left bare, no staircase unwrapped, no hall undecked. Falalalala…it’s a bit much.

While pulling all the Christmas decorations out of storage and putting everything in its place the weekend after Thanksgiving fills me with anticipation and a little anxiety (Christmas wrecks havoc on my nerves each year), taking everything down, boxing it up and storing it away gives me a renewed sense of order, of peace, of purpose. The craziness is over, the high drama of the season is past, the memories are made. Christmas always seems like a “final stop” of the year for me: one last box to check off, one last hurdle to jump. There are so many pieces that have to come together just right for everything to work out, and I’m sure I’m not the only mom that feels like the grand puzzle master on a crazy deadline to buy every present, send every card, attend every party and bake every cookie before the clock strikes midnight on December 24th.

There are always beautiful moments in the Christmas chaos, and this year was no different: attending a weekday church service with a co-worker, surprise carolers at my neighbor’s house singing in perfect harmony, my daughter’s version of “Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” my doubting son telling me that he will always believe in Santa after finding a sold-out jersey in his stocking. Jesus has ways of sneaking into the madness and calming my soul, if only to get me through the next checkmark on my Christmas list.

But for me, the true meaning of Christmas comes after everything is boxed away and put back on the shelf. There are no more parties, no more presents, no more running. I can look around my house and see not a trace of evergreen. At this moment both of my boys are over at a neighbor’s house and my daughter is sleeping. There is no music, no laughter, no LOUD…just quiet. And in this moment I feel the Peace on Earth that is the message of Christmas. A reminder that the true spirit of Christmas doesn’t get packed away with the boxes—it is here to stay. I am reminded that the peace that passes all understanding will find us where we are: if we made the naughty or nice list, if we hit a home run or struck out with the gifts we gave, if we embraced the Christmas season or simply survived it.

Happy New Year, friends. I hope you find a moment of joy in the everyday, the mundane and the quiet. I hope your race to the Christmas finish line is over, that whether you feel like you finished in first place or were limping along somewhere at the end, that you are right where you should be at this moment. Don’t leave the last Christmas gift unopened. May 2014 be full of blessings, and may you find peace in the chaos.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thirteen Point One

A few weeks ago I ran the Waddell and Reed Kansas City Half-Marathon.  That sentence still has trouble falling out of my mouth:  I.  Ran.  The.  Half.  Marathon.  For those of you that know me, my previous physical accomplishments included twirling and cheerleading in high school (17 years ago for those that are counting) with an occasional Spinning or Zumba class thrown in for fun.  “Running” is usually followed by “errands” or “with scissors” depending on the day and my attitude.
I would hear friends talk of running, ask me to join, and I would blame my seasonal allergies, my bad knees, my general intolerance for anything that involves Lycra.  “I can’t run outside, I can’t breathe,” I would say when they would talk of lacing up a pair or tennis shoes and hitting the pavement.  I joked that I would run if something large and ferocious was after one of my kids.  If the something large and ferocious was after ME, it could just take me down, then and there.  That’s how much I detested running.

How did I get from reluctant walker to half-marathon runner?  In one word:  “tickedoffness.”  More pointedly:  my husband didn’t think I could do it.  Jim mentioned to me this past April that his company was sponsoring a 10K in September.  “Sign me up,” I said in a moment of insanity, “I’ll run it with you.” 

Fast forward to late June, when the idea of running more than a mile was completely foreign to me. 

“Hey, Jim, when am I supposed to run that 10K with you?”

“It’s in September, but I didn’t sign you up.”

“Why not?  I thought we were running together.”

“Honey, I knew you wouldn’t really do it.  I thought I would save us your entrance fee.”

And just like that—I was a runner. 

Ha!  I wish the transition had been that quick.  Actually, at that moment I was forced to make a choice:  agree with Jim and get comfy on the couch, or prove him wrong and lace up my shoes.  Agreeing with Jim meant owning my complacency, my lack of willpower, my chronic “tired-mom-syndrome.”  Agreeing meant admitting defeat.  Prove my husband wrong?  That’s not a choice, that’s a challenge!  I had him sign me up, and then I raced straight to the computer to Google how long a 10K really was.

6.2 miles.  Oh, Lord have mercy.  I couldn’t even run 1 mile without walking a bit.  6.2 could have been 26, it sounded so impossible.

I decided to run a mile that first week, and add a mile each week.  And since my life is crazy trying to balance my full-time job and my 3 kids’ schedules, I knew that I couldn’t run after work, that it would be too easy to be too busy.  So I got up an hour earlier each morning, which for me meant setting the alarm to go off at 4:30. 

The first week was brutal, but as my body got used to the early morning wake-up and my mind got over the insanity of getting up at such an early hour…things started to change.  I started to enjoy the time by myself, in the quiet, without anyone asking anything of me.  I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment, knowing that by 5:30am I had checked something big off my to-do list for the day.  I liked that my mom-of-3 tummy was getting a little less sqwooshy and that even if my body size wasn’t changing all that much, my body confidence was.  I realized that through running I started to care much more about how my body moved than how it looked.

And each week I added a mile.  A couple weeks in, I got a group of therapists from my work together to run the Race for the Cure 5K.  A 5K is 3.1 miles, for those who don’t speak metric, as I don’t!  I will always remember that race.  I took off with the other runners and felt like a slow turtle, plodding along.  Jim was going to run it with me, but after about 30 seconds I gave him the “ok” to go ahead and he raced off into the crowd.  About a mile in, my lungs started to ache and my calves began to burn.  Each hill was more daunting than the next.  I didn’t even have enough energy to speed up at the finish line, and I knew at the end of the race that I would never be able to run TWO of those to make a 10K.

Until I got my official race time off the computer at home.  28 minutes.  Finished in the top 25% of women in my age group.  Finished ahead of so many girls 10 years younger than me.  And I got a little more confident, a little more competitive.  And I kept increasing my miles each week.  And by the time September rolled around I could run 7 miles.

The morning of the Plaza 10K, I was nervous.  This was the moment of truth.  The gun went off, Jim sped ahead of me and I tried to distract myself by looking at the buildings, the stores, waving at the spectators—anything to keep my mind off the fact that I was going to be running for at least an hour.  Mile 3 things started to get hard…and by Mile 4 I was in a constant battle with myself.  Just…keep…running!  I think it was about Mile 5 that I decided that I didn’t want to run any more.  Ever.  I finished in 56 minutes and though it was a good finish time, I felt let-down and defeated.  It was too hard.  I couldn’t do it.  I wasn’t really a runner.

After the race I told Jim that I wasn’t going to run any more, that I was done.  He was proud of me for keeping my commitment to the 10K and that was that.  Until the next day when I got to work.  I started to think about my “bucket list.”  About how I was closer than I had ever been, and might ever be, to running a half-marathon.  About how I might look back one day and regret not trying to go for it when it was just within reach.  About how much I WANTED to run it.  And before I could talk myself out of it, I got online and paid my fees for the half.

13.1 miles.  Up and down some of the hilliest terrain in downtown KC.  Because I wanted to.
I kept training, getting up every morning to run 4-5 miles before 5:30, and getting up at 6:30 on the weekends to tackle longer runs.  Jim was a great support, getting the kids ready for football games on Saturday mornings so that I could finish my runs, not complaining when the alarm in our bedroom would go off at 4:30am and I would have to turn on the light to pull on my shoes.  And even coming to my rescue when I failed to check my GPS one day on a trail run and ended up 8 miles away from where I started in Lee’s Summit, at a skateboarding park in Grandview.  Not my finest moment.

The day of the race, I woke up by myself, got dressed in the dark and left the house without waking anyone in the family.  I found my starting place alongside runners of all ages and stages.  The gun went off, and away we went—a sea of Lycra, sweat and determination.  This time the race was different.  My legs were strong and capable from the training.  My mind was focused and excited.  This was the moment that I had been working toward for months, and for the first time since the beginning of the journey, I was a RUNNER.  I had a permanent smile during the entire run, and my cheeks would burn for days after it was over.  I had never experienced a runner’s high during any of my previous runs, but instead experienced a high during the entire half-marathon.  All 2 hours, 9 minutes of that run I was overcome with pride, with gratitude and with happiness. 

And I did it all by myself.  I trained alone, I raced alone and I planned to finish alone.  But my sweet husband had other plans and surprised me at the finish line with my daughter in tow, which was a much better ending that I had planned.  To share that moment with my husband, who saw me through the entire process, and my daughter, who I hope to inspire—was priceless.

Would I do it again?  Yes, in a heartbeat.  In fact, I think I am going to try for 3 halfs next year.  And running has become so much a part of who I am that I still get up before dawn to work out the day’s “issues” over a good run.  Jim knows that I am happier if a run is either in my near past or near future.  I love it when my kids see me lace up my shoes and ask “Mommy, are you going for a run?”

What have I learned?  That anyone (even a klutzy, non-athletic couch potato like me) can run, if they decide they want to.  That sometimes the journey is as rewarding as the destination.  That just putting one foot in front of another is enough to cover new ground and reshape who you think you are.  That I like “bling” in any form, including race medals.  That 35 is not too old to take up a new hobby.  That my body can do more than I give it credit for.  That “not having enough time” is a lie I tell myself to avoid doing the things that I’d rather not do.  That crossing off “run days” on my training calendar gives me a rush no drug or drink can match.  That if it’s important I will make a way, and if not I will make an excuse.  That a “13.1” sticker on the back of my minivan is a great conversation starter.  That I am capable of so much more than I think I am.  And that I AM A RUNNER.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Letter to My 15-year-old self

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.  I’ve been thinking a lot about my age.  It’s been 20 years since I was 15—yet I feel like it was yesterday.  I sure don’t feel as old as I thought 35 was 20 years ago.  However, even if I was offered a million dollars I would not go back 20 years and do it all again.  I have been reading so much lately about bullying, about high school girls’ insecurities and how so many of these girls feel alone.  This makes 20 years ago not seem so far away to me, and I wonder if any of my younger friends would benefit from the lessons that I learned during that time.  I wish so much that Holly 2012 could have written a letter to Holly 1992…


Dear 15-year-old Holly,


You are much like what I hope my daughter will be like at 15.  You don’t drink, you don’t party and you have one steady boyfriend that doesn’t expect much out of you.  You get good grades and participate in lots of school and church activities.  There is very little I would change about you at this phase, except your terrible self-esteem, but your world is getting ready to be rocked, my dear, and how you handle yourself will play a strong role in the woman you become.  Here are some suggestions and hints to make the big transitions coming up go more smoothly for you.


Lexington High School is a stepping-stone, it is not a final resting place.  It is as small as you think it is, but you need to appreciate the smallness and learn from your experiences.  You will be able to participate in so many activities that you would not be able to do at a big school.  And the idea that everyone either knows your business or will make up something about you is one that will follow you throughout your life, so learn to brush it off.  If it isn’t true, don’t waste your time worrying about it.


You’re not good at team sports.  You’re a klutz, and it is okay.  However, you should allow yourself to do more things that you might not be the best at, just to learn to be a participant and not always the leader.  Don’t wait until your junior year to try out for the cheerleading team.  Contrary to popular belief, girls who can’t do toe-touch jumps can still make the football squad.


Those girls you think talk about you behind your back?  They don’t.  They are too busy worrying what everyone else thinks of them to be concerned with you.  The girls you idolize today as being the “it” girls will not be people you will envy in 10 years.  In fact, you won’t remember who some of them are.  You will also look back on the day when those “friends” told you that no one liked you and forced you to move to a different table at lunch as a pivotal moment in your life.  Don’t waste your time trying to make people like you.  Instead, spend your time figuring out who you really are.


Don’t cut band class in January of your junior year to go to Maid Rite with your friends.  Even though most of the class skips, the substitute is your neighbor and she will give you and your friends detentions.  She will also tell your parents and everyone else within earshot about it at Wednesday night church supper, so if you don’t heed the advice about not skipping, at least tell your mom by 6pm that night.


Take advantage of the terrific teachers you have.  You will learn more about literature from Mr. McCrary and Science from Dr. Wene than you will learn in any of your college courses on these topics.  Every one of those teachers cares for you and wants you to do well.  Realize the value of mentors like Mrs. Alkire and Mr. Crosson.  The lessons you learn from them will be more vital to you than any knowledge you gain from studying.  And don’t stress so much about Algebra and Geometry.  They really are as unnecessary as you think they are.


On prom night your junior year, you will be offered a red Solo cup with a liquid called “Purple Passion” in it.  Go easy on that stuff.  Alternating it with water and would probably be a good idea.  The same could be said for any bottle of liquid with “Boone’s” on the label.


Even your good, true friends will hurt you every once in a while.  Give them a second, third, fourth chance.  They will be worth it and those true high school friendships will be one of your biggest treasures, even 20 years from now.


You will get nodules on your vocal cords your senior year and not be able to sing or speak for months.  You will recover, but it will be work.  You will have a great speech therapist, and it will give you insight into your future profession.  You are not meant to be an actress or a singer.  Deal with it, you will be okay.


I know this will come as a complete shock, but you will not marry your current boyfriend.  He is a great guy, a good friend and is definitely the best for you right now.  He will get you through some rough times, so go easy on him in a couple of years when things don’t work out.  You will be fine and he will be fine and you both will end up with who you’re supposed to.  Same can be said for your next boyfriend…and the next one…


Get a good haircut.  Stop cutting your own bangs and trimming your own split ends, it’s not a good look.  Please don’t wait until your junior year of college to go to a real salon and not some place in the mall.  Please.


Stick to your intuition about not having sex.  Contrary to what you’re hearing from your friends, you’re not the only one who isn’t doing it.  You will be very, very glad you held out.


Trust your instincts and don’t room with your best friend when you pick the same college.  You will both need room to grow and meet new people, and it won’t hurt your friendship at all—you will be the maid of honor in her wedding.  College will be one of the most fun times in your life.  Enjoy every minute.  It’s okay to go over and annoy the cool petite girl who lives next door when you need a break from your roommate.  She will end up being one of your 2 best friends and you will be the maid of honor in her wedding too.


Do with this letter what you want and change things as you see fit.  However, please, please, please don’t wait too long to take Jen up on her offer to set you up with her boyfriend’s police academy buddy in the summer of 1998.  It will turn out to be a very, very good idea.  And, on date #3 with this new guy, resist your urge to break up with him because things are moving too slow and he doesn’t talk much.  He’s a keeper.  Date #4 you will realize that he is “the one.”  He will be the best thing that has ever happened to you.  And he will give you the most amazing family ever.  And you will live happily ever after.


Much love,


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Letting Go

It's been forever since I have blogged.  Like 5 months forever.  Not that I haven't had things to say, just haven't made time to say it.  But, since Maryn seems content to listen to play with my phone and listen to I-tunes for a minute, I am going to take a moment to tackle this blog thing again.  Oh...wait...Kelly Clarkson's voice has just been replaced by 50 Cent...skip...Maryn screaming because she loves her gangster rap...ok, Train is on and that seems to be okay...What is WITH Train, anyway?  They are like the discount band of the 2010's.  Everyone seems to like them and they sing about...nothing.  They were the house band for the Rachel Ray show last week.  Seriously, Rachel Ray?

Back to serious blog business.  If you've never read my blog before, hang on tight and try to concentrate, I have the attention span of a fruit fly.  I love the whole 'three periods in a row at the end of the sentence to show that I am still thinking', I streeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech words out for emphasis, I love to use BIG LETTERS, and I use parentheses way more than is necessary.  I don't pay attention to punctuation or sentence structure.  And sometimes I write from personal experience and sometimes not, so if you think you might know someone I mention in my blog, trust me, you don't.  And it's not about you (unless it's flattering, and then by all means, assume that it's about you!).  Get over yourself and write your own blog if you have issues.  Or just read my issues and bask in your normalcy.  Totally your call.

If you're my friend, or at least my Facebook friend, you probably know that I spent the greater part of April getting my tonsils removed (thanks for all of the well wishes, I needed them!).  More specifically, recovering from getting my tonsils removed.  The actually removal took about 20 minutes, the recovery took 2 week.  It sucked.  There's no sugar-coating it.  It was rough.  I have also parted ways with my wisdom teeth and my gallbladder (I am becoming the real-life version of the Operation game!), and my tonsils seemed to hold the biggest grudge on their way out.  Like the boyfriend that comes back to your apartment after the breakup to get his/your favorite sweatshirt, and then rips the sweatshirt in front of you on his way out.  Again...I digress...(true story, though!)

I have been putting off this surgery for over a year since my doctor recommended it.  However, with 25 cases of strep throat in as many months, it was time to part with this flagrantly disobedient part of my body.  Tonsils, for those of us that are not Otolaryngologists (look how BIG that word is=look how smart I am!) are supposed to be our first line of defense against breathing/swallowing potentially dangerous micorscopic junk.  They are supposed to keep us from getting sick.   My tonsils had become hoarders:  they refused to let anything go until it was big rotten pile of festering disgust.  Time for an intervention.

We didn't always have this toxic relationship.  My tonsils and I were BFFs for over 30 years.  They were amazing, actually, and I never had even a single case of strep throat for 31 years.  And then they let me down.  I'm not sure where we started to part ways, perhaps it was my sudden obsession with coffee or my early-30's fascination with the Neti-pot, but my tonsils and I stopped getting along.

And I waited.  I waited over a year, because I heard that the pain was unbearable.  Because I didn't want to put my family through it.  Because it just seemed easier to deal with the infection.  Honestly, because I was freaked out.  And it wasn't a guarantee that I would never get it again.  So I kept putting the surgery off until I got to the point where I realized that I was missing so many irreplaceable life moments because I was sick with strep throat.  I got to the point where my hope was greater than my fear.

And so they went.  And it was a rough recovery.  Rough on me, rougher on my family.  But we made it through the process and hopefully I will be rewarded with a strep-free future.

Laying in bed in the early days after the surgery, I thought a lot about my tonsils and the idea of something that works so well in the beginning, and makes complete sense...then, everything changes and what was extremely helpful becomes horribly damaging.  Like a friend that was a perfect fit when she and I met, and as I grew and changed I realized that we no longer hae anything in common.  Like the sweatshirt-ripping boyfriend who morphed from a knight to the dragon in a few short months.  Like the church group that meant so much to me during a certain life event, that now doesn't quite have the same sense of relavancy.  And then there are the non-relationship items:  the family traditions that started out to bring everyone together that over the years have become impossible to continue without stressing someone (or everyone) out, the volunteer events that seemed like such a good idea at the beginning and ended up eating so much time that more important events were missed, the "perfect" job that pulled so much attention onto itself that "work to live" became "live to work."

All of these connections started out symbiotic.  All of them were "good" to begin with.  And then they weren't.  When is it ok to just let go?  To count your wins and losses and get out while you're even (or can at least walk away)?  Why don't we just go ahead and get it over with at the moment we know it's a lost cause?

My simple tonsil-related answer:  because it hurts.  Any kind of "-ectomy," from a appendectomy to a tonsillectomy to a relationship-ectomy is going to HURT.  And it will probably hurt more perople than just you, and if you're like me, that's the hardest part.  There's no guarantee it's going to solve all of your problems.  The hope must be greater than the fear.  A good friend of mine once told me that if you are filling your life with the wrong stuff, you're deciding not to make room for the right stuff (she's a keeper, that one!).  Making room, letting go, "-ectomy."  Choose hope, choose healing.  Seems to have worked for me.  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sign of the Times

I am fortunate at my job to have my own office, located within a larger office that houses the therapy staff. I am also fortunate to have a terrific job, where I have the honor of working with a group of incredibly talented people (I can gush here because don't think that most of them know I write a blog--and I really hope they already know how great I think they are anyway!). On my office door is a half wipe-off board/half cork board thing on which I post the monthly schedules for the department. Everyone checks this spot at least once a week. When I first started working at my desk, I noticed that the corkboard side was getting quite a workout holding the schedules and the wipe-off board was looking a little neglected and sad. I felt sorry for that blank, empty space that was taking up real estate next to the corkboard. So, I wrote a funny little quote in the whiteness and every week I change the message.

For those of you that know me as Holly Rich, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise, as I come by this quote obsession quite naturally. My dad has been posting random snippets on the First Baptist Church sign in my hometown for over 35 years. I remember going out to help hand him letters when I was a little girl, and watched him get creative when he ran out of letters for a quote and had to improvise (in a pinch, an extra "E" can be bent to make a "C"). He would measure the spacing of the letters so everything was centered the way that it should be. I think I probably learned as much about spelling and grammer from my church-sign making dad as I did from my kindergarten-teacher mom.

Some of the quotes were funny, some were thought-provoking and others were spiritual--some were a combination of the three. Through the years as my dad became infamous for his signs he would receive phone calls, letters, and e-mails from people sharing their favorite signs my dad posted and friends would also share notes offering their own sightings of signs they had seen on their travels.

I remember my dad coming back into the house in the winter, his cheeks red and freezing from the hour that he had spent outside in single-digit temperatures, changing the church sign (did I mention that there are TWO sides to the sign, with two separate snippets each week?). Or putting up the sign "If you think it's hot here...just wait" sign in triple-digit temps. Dad has never received any compensation for the hours (at this point, probably MONTHS) that he has spent at the sides of those signs. And I am sure he wouldn't want to. Why in the world would such a tedious task be worth it?

Perhaps he has a hidden agenda. Although, in a small town--or even in some large ones--there is little that stays hidden for long. Perhaps it's a way to voice a political view or make a big statement. Nope, my dad could simply care less about any of that. Not that he doesn't have opinions, I am sure that he does. He's just not the kind of guy that thinks his opinions are any more relevant or any more entitled than anyone else's. If he were forced to put his personal creed on that sign, I am sure one side would read "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength" and the opposite side would read "Love your neighbor as yourself." And he would have borrowed those quotes as well.

I asked my dad once why he began changing the church sign, and he said that when he started attending the church the deacons had mentioned that they needed someone to change the sign, and that no one else volunteered. And 35+ years later he is stil devoted to that mission. Some are called to teach, some to preach...others to put metal letters in grooves.

For that moment when a person reads a sign, they make the choice of how to apply or dismiss what they have read. Regardless, that moment challenges the reader to stop and think. To stop and appreciate. To stop and smile. To connect with others who might have read the sign and had the same reaction. To appreciate the message for whatever it means personally, and to realize that it might have a completely different meaning for the next reader. To appreciate the growth and acceptance that comes with realizing that different interpretations are okay. And suddenly, in that light, putting metal letters into grooves becomes just as profound as the greatest of teachings or the loftiest of sermons.

And so, it is with great pride and a smile that each week I write a new quote on the wipe-off board outside my office. To encourage, to challenge, to inspire, to motivate, to cheer, to connect. Thanks, Dad, from your biggest fan.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

'Tis the Season...

It's the middle of November, and a certain familiar tightness is finding it's way into my heart and winding it's way around my stomach. When Halloween decorations give way to Christmas commercials (because Thanksgiving is just not a marketable holiday unless you are a grocery store) I start to get a little breathless, my heart starts to beat a little faster...and my anxiety level starts to climb into the stratosphere.

It's not that I don't love the holidays. I do. I was named after the Christmas holidays (thanks, Mom!). I even chose to get married the week before Christmas in 2000. My childhood memories of the holiday season are of magical days and events that started the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as we drove to St. Joseph, MO or Quincy, IL to celebrate with my extended family and didn't end until we were banging wooden spoons against skillets and pots outside our front door at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve. Food and love was and is prevalent at all Pryor/Rich celebrations, and family is the theme.

Fast forward 20 years, and now I have a family of my own. We have our own traditions to establish, our own memories to make. And just about this time every year I start to get nervous: can I possibly give my kids the magical experience of my childhood? Will they feel as special and as loved as I did (and still do)? How can I squeeze these new memories and traditions in with the old ones that are still an integral part of my family's mode of celebration? Honestly, I wonder each year how I can keep my sanity and schedule without leaving anything or anyone out, and without hurting anyone's feelings or making anyone angry. Keeping everything organized and everyone included often leaves me drained, stressed and exhausted. And definitely not in a festive holiday mood. I feel like Oz behind the curtain, making the magic but not getting to be a part of it.

So...this year, I am going to make some holiday 2011 resolutions. I am going to celebrate the madness, the disorganization, the chaos. as part of the joy. I am going to try to cut myself a little slack. I am going to remind myself that I can't be everywhere and do everything, and that I might have to make some hard choices to save my energy and sanity for my kids (and my husband!)...and that despite my best efforts I am probably going to upset someone at some point. I might have to forgo some old traditions that don't "fit" anymore to make room for those that do.

Santa's cookies might be break-and-bake this year, and I might not be able to attend every event on my calendar. But, I will be PRESENT, I will slow down and enjoy, and I might even find a moment for myself.

When 2011 gives way to 2012, I want to look back over November and December with a reminiscent smile, not an exasperated sigh. And, most of all, I want to be a part of the magic.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Friendship for Grown-Ups

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Women of Faith conference at the Sprint Center. Two days, six thousand women and some terrific speakers and singers. I got to hear Mandisa, Sandy Patti and Amy Grant sing live in concerts throughout the weekend. Wow!

One of the speakers was Lisa Welchel, better known as "Blair" from The Facts of Life TV show. Her topic immediately got my attention: "Friendship for Grown-Ups." I was all ears. Back in high school and college, the relative short-distance between my life and those around me made keeping up with friends easy. The relative little responsibilities we carried made time spent together almost a daily occurrence. I remember talking on the phone with my friends until the early hours of the morning, only to have my dad ask what we talked about the next day...and I truly couldn't remember. What we lacked in quality of conversation we made up for in quantity!

Fast forward 15 years, and some days I feel pretty worthless as a friend. The time to return phone calls, send birthday wishes and e-mails gets pushed aside to wipe noses, cook dinner, help with homework. And girl's nights? Forget 'em! Since most get-togethers now require babysitters and must be scheduled around 15 different types of practices and games, getting together with the girls happens less regularly than Leap Year.

During her time on the stage, Lisa focused on teaching how to find friends, and suggested that the best friends are women who aren't perfect and don't try to be. Ladies who have experienced the grace that comes with failure and are happy to spread the grace to other women who are in those trenches. That was the best, most reaffirming news--if imperfection makes a good friend, then at least I have that going for me!

At this stage in my life, I constantly worry that I am falling short: as a mom, as a wife, even as a friend. It was through Lisa's affirmation that I was able to realize that the old adage "to have a friend, you must first be one" is true. I don't know any perfect friends, I don't have any perfect friends--and honestly, I don't want any perfect friends. So why in the world do I think that I need to feel guilty for not being a perfect friend?

I am blessed to have friends of all ages and stages. Friends that I have known since birth and those that I met just this weekend. If you are reading this, you are my friend, and I am very lucky that our paths crossed at just the right moment. So, forgive me if I forget to return a call, if I accidentally send you a text the day after your birthday or fail to get together with you as often as I would like. I appreciate and love you, my "Grown-Up friends." And hopefully I will see you all soon--2012 is a Leap Year, after all!