"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for April, 2014

My House Was Clean Yesterday—Sorry You Missed It

I actually have a sign in my laundry room that says that. Don’t get me wrong, I love when my house is clean and in order—I just seem to have a hard time keeping it that way. It’s not because I mind actually cleaning, either, other than there are so many more fun things to do instead.   It’s never bothered me to tackle a dirty toilet or soap-scum filled tub. What bothers me is that no matter how clean my house might be one day, the tendency is to fall back into chaotic disorder the next. Phyllis Diller was quoted as saying, “Cleaning your house while your children are growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.” Yep. Our family is a little apathetic when it comes to clutter. Or at least more tolerant of it than most.

I watched a segment on Dr. Oz he had about clutter and he pointed out the old tried and true rule, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” It sounds so simple, but I feel like my stuff needs a purgatory of some kind. I am a very visual person, and if it’s out of sight I forget about it, so I like having my stuff out where I can see it. It wouldn’t be so bad except we as a family have a lot of stuff. And, it’s usually items we use on a regular basis. (My son and all his shoes comes to mind.)

Consequently my desk has lots of writing books, cool notebooks/journals, tons of pens along with things I am not supposed to forget to do—like bills to pay and field trip permission forms to return. If I “put it away”, it’s a pretty safe bet that it will be gone forever—or at least until it’s past the time I was supposed to take care of it. I’ve tried different systems to keep it to a minimum, like having a special folder for all my ongoing projects, but then I still need to have the folder where I can see it!

But, hey, I know where my stuff is. As does everyone else who visits.

What I’ve learned is that a mess won’t go anywhere.   In fact, it seems to multiply. The kitchen island is a great example. It starts with a piece of mail I want to make sure my husband notices, so I put it on the island. He comes home, eats, doesn’t notice the mail and I forget to tell him about it. It stays on the counter and is joined by a few other “husband pile” items, like safety glasses and an odd screw I found on the kitchen floor that might be important. In the meantime, the kids notice that there’s empty, horizontal surface space on the counter and add their school papers to the mix. It’s amazing how little time it takes for the paper monster to grow.

The worst part of being tolerant of a mess is that most of the people I admire are naturally organized or admittedly OCD about cleanliness. At any given time I could drop by their homes and probably eat off their bathroom floors. They suffer from the inability to leave a mess or aren’t able to sleep knowing there are dishes in the sink that didn’t fit in the load in the dishwasher. They alphabetize their spice racks. There’s no such thing as a junk drawer. I need my junk drawer.

I like to think that my friends and family understand this about me and think it’s one of my cute, quirky characteristics. Or that dog hair dust bunnies are a new trend I’m experimenting with in my décor. Thankfully I do not have to remind them that they shouldn’t attempt eating off my bathroom floors. After all, they’d have to fight with my dogs if they did that. I have to hope that they love me anyway, even if my philosophy on housework is more Erma Bombeck than Martha Stewart.


Friendships Then and Now

My friend and cousin, Kim, texted me that she wanted to have a girlfriend get together just for fun. Jeans, t-shirts wine and food. Not for any particular reason, or to be the hostess at a handbag/makeup/jewelry sales party. Just the girls hanging out and catching up.

I told her that she needed to hang out with us “old” women more, because truthfully we find any excuse to sit in jeans and t-shirts, stuff our faces and wash it all down with wine. But I understand her dilemma. Seasons of life dictate how we live our friendships.

My friendships at 42 are so much different than the ones I had at 22 and 32. (We won’t even go as far back as elementary/junior high days-whew!) At 22 I was fresh out of college, newly married and ready to dive into a career—it was an adjustment enough just to be working 40 hours a week and having a house to take care of. My college friends and I kept in touch via Christmas cards and the occasional lunch, but it was my work friends that I spent the most time with—great people, but not as deep of friendships that I’d had with the friends I grew up with.

Fast forward a decade and I’m in the throes of being the mother of young children. A stay-at-home mother of young children, and they outnumbered me. As much as I felt very blessed to be staying home with them, honestly there were times I would greet my husband before he even got in the door, talking his ear off, desperate to have a conversation beyond “magic words” and how many bites of vegetables were required to leave the table. There were a few years when I felt like he was my only lifeline to the adult world. I remember praying in the car one night that God would put more friends in my life, and crying over it because I felt like such a loser for having to pray for friends in the first place.

I did get out of the house beyond the grocery store by attending Book Club, Bible study or taking the kids on an occasional playdate with other moms. Those friends really helped me grow beyond Mommy Mode, as we bonded over things like helping each other hang curtains or paint a room in one of our houses. I still craved the days of close friendships with my girlfriends where we went places sans children and were just wiser versions of our younger selves, but I became a new kind of grown up from these friendships—and I cherish them.

Now I’m in a good place in life with my friends—probably my favorite so far. My kids are no longer solely dependent on me—I don’t need a babysitter to go anywhere. Coincidentally, a lot of the friends I’ve made in the last ten years I’ve met through my kids and their activities. My friendships with other women vary in so many ways. Some friends I see all the time, others I won’t catch up with for months at a time and yet we still connect like we always have since seventh grade. In part, I think the reason why I’m in such a good place with friendships is that I’ve gotten better at knowing myself—what kind of people are good for me, and what relationships are not. Many of my friends have fed my faith life and all of them have shaped me to who I am right now. The friendships I’ve had with women who were older than me by decades have taught me that getting older is whatever you want it to be. So, despite wishing I had the metabolism of my twenties back, I wouldn’t want to go back to that time in my life. It’s taken me this long to figure some things out!

I’m hoping Kim will have a chance to hang out with us soon. We might even forego the jeans and wear sweats while we make toasts to friendships with our wine. To old friends and new, who loved us as we once were, love us for who we are now, and will be there for us as we move towards knee surgeries and Depends undergarments. Thank you, Lord, for friends!

My Life as an 80s Sitcom

In the 80s, when I was the age my kids are now, families like the Huxtables, the Keatons, and even Mrs. Garrett from the Facts of Life could take any problem wrought with teenage angst and solve it in half an hour. Sometimes it took a “To Be Continued”, but yeah, they were able to talk to the kids and give all sorts of insight and advice and actually be listened to. Did I mention this was on TV and thus FICTION?

Fast forward 25 years. My life is not a sitcom. If it ever were, it’d probably be dropped after a mere three episodes for its lack of Drama. A lack of Drama is a good thing when you have two teenagers and a pre-teen. I’ve never been a fan of confrontation and conflict in real life, even when I was a sometimes dramatic teenager myself. Except when you have kids in middle and high school, Drama personified exists—like it or not. Not so much with my son Tyler, other than his lamentations over playing a bad round of golf during qualifier rounds to play Varsity. (Whole other post there!) But with middle school girls, Drama is mean and nasty, and sometimes she leaves scars.

For some reason, Drama likes to visit our home when my husband is away out of town for his job. And I am not Mrs. Keaton. I try—I really, really try to be that solid, listening ear that knows just what to say to make the girls see the big picture. That middle school is only a season of life, and sometimes friends are mean and you get to move on eventually. I tell them my experiences in middle school that were similar. I hug. I wipe tears. I share cartons of ice cream.

But it’s not enough.

Because when your kid hurts, you hurt. And you want to do battle for them. Even those times when you see how they played a role in Drama’s script. Except in this script there are no Take 5s—the tears they cry are real, and you want them to know it’s all going to be okay eventually.

If my life were an 80s sitcom, I’d come home from the gym with my leg warmers and sweatbands only to find my daughter upset about her school day. It would be something like Jenny inviting Susie, but not her, to the big party. She would confide in me, telling me how sad she is because she thought Jenny was her best friend. I’d console her and in a lightbulb moment of epiphany she’d see how Jenny was just a person who wasn’t meant to be in her life at that time, but it was okay. In the next scene she’d make an even better best friend and forget Jenny, who’d move away to live in Alaska, and it would all be okay. We’d have a good laugh and the ending credits would play. And it would all be okay.

Yet, as much as I hate to admit it, life unscripted is better. It’s better because we as humans have feelings and experiences that grow us as people. These hardships, these trials really do make us stronger and teach us valuable life lessons like perseverance and loyalty. If simple words from a parent kept us from feeling emotions and living life, we’d have been cheated like two dimensional sitcom characters who get to have the ending all worked out for them.

Will my children experience heartache and sadness as they grow up? Of course. Is it sad to see someone hurt them? Yes. But guess what? It is all going to be okay. Even if it’s not all worked out in a half hour.

After the Race

Amy and I before the GO! Half Marathon 4-6-14.

Amy and I before the GO! Half Marathon 4-6-14.

I ran last Sunday in the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon. The day dawned clear—a little chilly, but no rain. I ran with my friend, Amy, who I’ve been training with since January. As usual, my 20/20 hindsight really doesn’t know why I was so worried. We finished with a time of 2:45:56 (that includes a line at the bathroom in the middle). We had a great race—no walking breaks at all—and at the end I felt fantastic—no knee pain. We even crossed the finish line to Kiss’ Rock N Roll All Nite. Epic!

I learned something this time around about Gu. If you’re not familiar with it, Gu is a product that runners “eat” during a race to keep the carbs/electrolytes in check. There are various other products that you can eat to accomplish this…some people eat Stingers or Chomp Blocks or even just gummy bears or candy. I love the gummy products if I’m going to be able to actually chew and eat them—say before a long run when I’ve not eaten in a while, but during a long run, I just need something simple that won’t have me landing on my face. Gu is the consistency of cake icing. You rip the top off, squeeze and slurp it in. It makes me gag, but I’ve gotten used to it—the citrus ones are pretty good, and so is the salted caramel (my favorite). The chocolate and vanilla ones I can do in a pinch, but I think they’re a little too sweet. In any event, I’ve had training runs where I’ve waited for a specific mileage or time to use the Gu instead of just seeing how I feel. The problem is, you don’t necessarily know you’re in need of Gu until you feel like a deflated balloon and then it’s too late. So at my race Sunday I adjusted when I did the Gu to mile 4 and 9, and I really think it helped me. I know adrenaline at the race also plays a part in your energy level, but moving up when I did the Gu kept my energy level strong.

The other highlight of our race was the Will Ferrell impersonator who banged on the cowbell with his belly sticking out of his half shirt wearing a curly-haired wig. (In the fall, St. Louis is host to a race called the MO Cowbell. Last fall, the theme song for the race was Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear the Reaper. You have to watch the SNL skit with Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken to know why that song was chosen. https://screen.yahoo.com/more-cowbell-174128899.html) This course-side cheerleader had enough energy he probably could have ran the full marathon, but I’m so glad he decided to cheer for the runners. There’s nothing like running and seeing something that makes you belly laugh. And yes, I’ve been told I’m easily entertained!

Speaking of easily entertained, the Comic Con convention was in town the same weekend as our race, so we got to ride in an elevator with Gandalf, spot a fully decked out Transformer and sit next to a guy at lunch who had buttons glued to his face over his eyes. No celebrity sightings, but who needs a celebrity when you’ve got these people with amazing costumes! The people watching was fantastic.

So to summarize this race/weekend:

  • No logistical worries (those who know me know how I freak out about being late, lost or in need of a bathroom!)
  • Great running buddy! (Thanks, Amy!)
  • No knee pain issues/hitting a wall/sag wagon
  • Awesome personal Cheer Squad of Darrell, Tina, Rich and Anna to see us through to the end

All in all, I couldn’t have pictured it any better. Okay, maybe not hitting that post in the garage at packet pick up. But overall, a successful race—and one I will remember for the rest of my life!

Time to GO! St. Louis

I always overthink things. It’s not a “tendency” to overthink things. It’s truly an always. It’s a paralyzing character flaw. There are a lot of times when the smallest decision stymies me, causing the sort of unnecessary stress that comes with procrastination. I wasn’t always an overthinker or a worrier, it seems to have crept up with me along with my number of birthday cake candles.  I’d like to think it’s because I’m so intelligent that I weigh every possibility, but I am horrible at strategy games like Stratego, so I’m guessing that’s not it. I’m blaming hormones, because they are my scapegoat whenever I have lapses in energy, bad moods or unwarranted anxiety.

Tomorrow is the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon I’ve been training for since January. I am ready. I’ve put in the miles. I’ve fueled my body with healthy foods and I’m well-rested. I’ve read and re-read all about the course. My gear is packed and I’m ready for any kind of weather. I’ve set up to have my friends and family texted with where I am on the course. Yet I am more nervous than I’ve been about any race before, including my first half marathon last fall. All because I’ve overthought everything about each of the 13.1 miles.

At last fall’s half marathon, I started out so well that I scared myself. I felt so good and excited to finally be achieving what I’d trained so hard for that I was waiting for something to happen that would zap me so that I couldn’t finish the race. It never happened, and although around mile 8 I dragged a little, I found my second wind. Two weeks ago we ran 13 miles in our training run, and I hit the wall around 11, but I made it and it felt fantastic after it was done. In short, I’ve finished whatever distance I’ve been assigned and lived to tell the tale.

So I’m not sure why when it comes to this race I am focusing on the times when I’ve had a tough run instead of the times when I’ve made it through the miles easily. Normally I’m an optimist.

I will point out that preparation for this race has come with some hiccups. First, there was the weather—that endless, snow and ice-filled winter that didn’t seem like it would ever end did affect meeting up with the training team. (But, we ran on our own elsewhere and got the long run miles in, finding some great running trails nearby in the process.) My training team shirt got lost at the running store. (It was found and I picked it up Thursday, all ready to go for Sunday). And yesterday at race packet pick up I hit a pole in the parking garage and mangled my front bumper (I really shouldn’t drive my huge SUV in tiny parking garages—luckily I’m RUNNING the course, not driving it)!

I’m reading a lot more into these events than I should, I know. Just saying aloud these worries forces me to see how silly and overthought they really are. And the optimist in me thinks that I should consider all these goofy little mishaps as “the worst part” and that part’s over and done with.

Trust your training, says my training team coach.

Use that nervous adrenaline to your advantage, says my head.

Just shut up and run, says my heart.

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