Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Passing Lane

It might surprise some people to know that I am smart. Lord knows I say a lot of stupid things, and I've done a whole lot of things that were even stupider. And I use the word stupider instead of saying "more stupid." And I use the phrases "all y'all" and "y'all all" like they aren't the two most redundant things that a person could string together. And I start sentences with conjunctions. But I don't care what all y'all say. Bless your hearts.

(Sorry, I was getting a bit off subject any smart person would have done.)

I always performed very well in school, and hindsight has shown me that if I had applied the slightest bit of effort at all, (or showed up to more than 3 of my 8am classes,) I could have done even better. Even so, I have always figured that I would be successful. And I'm not saying that I feel unsuccessful now, but sometimes--just sometimes--I have to wonder if it is all because I just lucked out and happened to marry a really swell guy.

I don't work from a window office out of the top of a skyscraper. I don't travel on business. I don't work for a company that fills venues or hosts red carpet events. I don't save lives--or do research to save lives.
And I've been noticing lately that a whole lot of my Facebook friends do. Now I'm a smart person, so I understand that it is unhealthy for me to take such sharp notice of these things. But I am a person, so I do it anyway. And though I am genuinely happy for all of my friends and their success, I get a bit of an aching feeling sometimes like I am being passed up.

Which brings me to last week...

I was doing a short morning run on my usual trail and I had taken notice of a certain girl. She just looked like a serious runner. You know what I'm talking about. It was like her whole outfit looked fast or something; even her sunglasses. For the majority of the time, we were on opposite ends of the mile-long track, but with every lap she just kept inching closer and closer to me. Now running is something I enjoy, and I would even say something that I am pretty good at, but I know my limitations. Even so, I HATED the thought that the girl with the fast sunglasses was trying to pass me.
Eventually, the inevitable happened. I'm telling you, she bounded past me like a gazelle. Runners etiquette keeps you from looking back at the person you just passed, but she didn't have to. It was as if she was looking at me with her unnaturally neat ponytail bouncing along in time with her gazelle feet. It was taunting me.

For a while, I tried to keep her pace--not that it would prove anything. The girl had just half-mile-lapped me, after all. But it was as if the little voice in the back of my head was screaming, "Keep up with her. You're just as good as her."

And then all of a sudden, I got smart again.

I was already good. I didn't need to be "as good as." Watching her pass me, I had lost sight of why I run in the first place. Even more to the point, watching her had made me lose sight of myself.
Her pace is not my pace. Her body is not my body. Her health is not my health. Her purpose is not my purpose...and in trying to catch her, I had momentarily lost sight of mine.

I noticed that my legs were burning and I had run out of water. As I did my cool down and stretched out, I watched her run past me one more time. But this time, her ponytail looked an awful lot like mine.

Lord, teach me to run the good race. Thank you for making a path for me. And thank you for putting a really swell guy in it. Amen.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Once Upon a Parent

A few nights ago I found my husband looking through our old family photos on the computer. (We are peas in a pod, no?!) We oohed and ahhed over the classics. We laughed over ones that we didn't remember. We got all nostalgic about our first home fully furnished with patio furniture. And together we wondered where in the heck our babies went.
Eventually we switched from photos to home videos, and one in particular made me laugh and get all philosophical at the same time (which, if you haven't gathered by now, is kind of how I roll.) My husband was at work and I had laid my then 3-year-old and 3 month old on the bed together. Big sister got up and started jumping up and down on the bed, making her baby brother laugh hysterically, and when she was finished jumping she would flop down on the bed with a scream, which he would happily mimic. I thought it was so cute, I encouraged her to do it about 5 more times. "Do it again, Sissy. Make Bubba scream again."

As I watched that video nearly four years later, I was struck by how much time had changed things. Not only is my baby even older than his sister was in that video, but there is no way we could relive that scenario in our house now. As my husband and I laughed aloud, I interjected my thought: Could you imagine what we would do now if we found those two jumping and screaming on the bed? There would be no 'do it again, Sissy.' More like, "Have you two lost your ever-lovin' minds?! Cut that out right now!"

And I'm not gonna lie...that kind of bums me out.

Once upon a parent, I was surprised to find I was pregnant with a baby girl. I loved babies. I always wanted to have a baby. I was lucky enough to grow up with exposure to babies. But I had no idea what to do with a baby. So when I became a parent, I simply played with them.

Like all the time.

I don't own that outfit anymore. Face palm.

It was so natural to play with them, I didn't even notice if I looked like a fool while doing it.

I played with them so much, sometimes it didn't even register that what we were doing might be dangerous.

Seriously, who reads to their kid in the middle of a sidewalk?!?!

We made messes and we celebrated them.

I'm not always so sure I know where that mom went. Between the carpooling and the scheduling and the schooling and the growing up, she's not always that easy to find. But I hope I haven't lost her altogether.
I know that I can't let my kids jump on the bed and scream in the house anymore. We have to, at some point, make a collective effort to get our food into our mouths instead of on our faces. And if I ever tried to pile us on to a swing at the same time a) we'd break it and b) my daughter would probably die of embarrassment. But I want to try to play along with them as long as they'll let me.

And maybe if I'm lucky, they'll let me for a long time.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Your Friend, the Flake (Revisited)

I don't know about you guys, but about 95% of the time I waste on Facebook is spent looking through my own photos. Maybe it's because I'm slightly narcissistic--I like my stuff the best. Or perhaps it's because I'm very sentimental--I love my little ones' snotty baby pictures, and I am only partially embarrassed by the lingering evidence of my college days and bachelorette party.

In addition, I am probably one of the last people I know to keep honest-to-goodness photo albums in my living room, which I look at on a semi-regular basis with my kids and visiting family members. (Further proof that I have not fully latched on to the digital technology of my day.)

So with that in mind, it should come as no real surprise that I reread my own blogs. Again, narcissism or decide.
As I was sorting through them, I happened upon this gem that I had written right before my husband deployed. Of course, reading it made me extra appreciative of the friends that have stuck with me through all of my flakiness. But I surprised myself when I realized that most of that post read with a heavy guilt that I just don't feel anymore. Do I feel sad when I don't get to spend time with my friends? Of course! Do I miss them? Like crazy! Do I feel guilty? Not even a little bit.

I am a wife and a mom first. Then I am a friend. It took me a while to finally see that. (I guess that's called growing up.)

Of course, none of the former statements mean that I don't need my friends. Oh, how I do need them.

Our last duty station was a horrible time for me. I was just not my fabulous self. (I don't reread those blogs because they still make me sad, so I won't make you do it either.) Making friends was both difficult and awkward. I was very fortunate to have had that year of quality time with my husband, but I was jealous that he was making friends in class and I was solely dependent on him to meet my need for adult companionship. Try though he did, he couldn't fill the void. After all, he is a dude and his capability of producing quality girl talk was extremely lacking (as was his capacity to tolerate it.)

I am determined to not relive that saga in our new home, and that is forcing me to step a bit outside of my flaky comfort zone. For one thing, I would rather be in a large crowd where people are slowly drawn to my subtle awesomeness, but that avenue has yet to present itself here. So I have to do things like go up to strangers and talk to people to make them like me. It would seem like a person who holds a communications degree would be good at that, but as it turns out, I am so very not...
However, my husband's work schedule is more demanding here--making it all the more important for me to "pimp my friendship out" the way that only military wives can.

For anyone who has no idea what that means, it looks a lot like this:

You have kids? I have kids!!!! Wanna have our kids play together?
You like to run? I like to run!!!! Wanna meet for a run?
You like coffee? I like coffee!!!! Wanna grab a cup of coffee?
You like wine? We will be best friends foreverrrr!!!!

Quite frankly, I feel a lot like this guy as I'm doing it:

They are frivolous starting points to be sure, but sometimes I get lucky and true bonds are formed. And these friendships stick because the other people in them realize at some point that they are friends with a flake.
Sometimes I will meet you out, but usually I would rather you meet me in. I'm lazy, I'm cheap, and I don't like to drive in the dark. My kids make me tired early, babysitters are expensive, and I live in a house that already has a bar in it. I will talk about my kids a lot. I will bring my kids with me most of the time, or you will have to meet me during their scheduled childcare hours. I don't call. I don't text. I hardly ever initiate any kind of meeting.
It actually takes a non-flake to make our friendship work...or a dude, because boys don't need constant interaction to validate their friendships. I realize that sounds extremely one-sided. I also realize that by those standards I should not have the amazing friends that I do, which makes my friendships that much sweeter to me.


Have you ever felt like you wasted an entire day before you even had lunch? That was me today. I spent three hours of paid childcare looking at my own pictures on Facebook and fussing over this blog, and at the end of it I realized that my blogs don't matter to me as much as my friendships. Thursday afternoons would be better spent over a play date, or a run, or coffee, or--when I FINALLY get to Europe--a glass of wine. I will probably always be a flake in some respects, and I'm sorry I'm not sorry for that. But I will be a flake who tries harder now, so you will forgive me.

So in case I have flaked on it lately and forgot to mention, I do love you, my dear friends. Get ready for me to bug you a little bit more often. Now please get on Facebook and post some new stuff for me to look at, because it is getting pretty boring ;)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Against the Wind

This morning the sky is overcast and it is very windy. A storm is on its way. But I guess our community already feels like it has been through one.

I was one of many people today out on the trail at one of the city parks. I've never seen it empty, but today it was very crowded, especially given the appearance of the skies. But I guess it was a good day to burn off steam. Some people were walking their dogs. Some were holding hands with a loved one. Others, like me, were trying to run off some stress. All of us seemed like we were trying to process--to decompress--to move onward.

We all desperately want to move on from the past hurt and history of this post. And yesterday, I know, felt all too familiar for some.

For the wife who within 30 minutes gets two separate texts: "Trying to leave early to make it to the game on time" and "Gonna be late. Active shooter on post."

For the mom who drops her kids off in hourly care for a quick meeting and can't get to them for the next six hours while the post is secured on lock down.

For the family members who are stranded in town indefinitely because they can't get back to their home on post after work/school.

For the soldiers who are trained to respond to attacks such as these overseas, but are forced to hunker down helpless on their home land.

For the families that were not fortunate enough to receive a text that all was well before the signals got tied up and had to rely on the fluid reports of the Internet for their information; who had to sit silently and worry while they waited.

For the families who feel relief when they realize that their soldier is unharmed; for the friends who feel relief when they know their friends were unaffected; both feeling guilt afterward that not everyone found relief this day.

I circled around and around the track, people watching and silently praying. There was about a quarter-mile portion of the loop where you ran face first into the gusting winds. Moms with strollers slowed to a walk. Men and women with little dogs on a leash moved ahead of the dogs and braced them from the wind so they wouldn't blow up in the air like a kite on a string. I actually watched some people "about face" and take the track the other direction. I stubbornly pushed onward. (It's the Texan in me, I guess.) At one point, I wondered if I was even still moving forward or if the wind was pushing me backward. Dust from baseball dirt and mowers spit at my face. I was about halfway done with the windy stretch when I decided that I would finish it out and be done. There was just no reason to go running against the wind.
I put my face down to the ground and I unzipped my jacket to help let some of the breeze cool me down. But then, something better happened. A gust of wind caught my open jacket and it blew up behind me like a cape. I know it sounds silly, but I suddenly felt empowered. I lifted up my face and I charged through the wind. I finished up that windy stretch and I took an additional loop around the track, letting my "cape" fly freely behind me.

Sometimes in life we will feel like we are constantly running against the wind. We'll want to slow down. We'll want to turn around. We'll want to stop. Today, I realized that the greatest way to overcome is to simply push onward. That's the way everyday heroes are born.

The moment I "earned my cape," this song came on my playlist. I don't think it was the song's original intent, but today I think it lends itself well to our community and to our fight. We will push onward together. Because if tradition has taught us anything, it's that the Army goes rolling along.

Trace Adkins: Bring It On

Here's hoping that today the wind is at your back---or providing your cape!