Getting Real – what real friendship is about

There we were, 12 women, sitting on the patio of a neighborhood coffee shop on a balmy summer evening as the sun set behind us. We saw each other nearly every weekend at church. We passed in the hallway, and waved or nodded “hello” as we dropped our kids off at Sunday school and then headed back to the sanctuary for service.

But as we sat on that patio and discussed our study, we began to realize that we were virtual strangers.

We shared the same beliefs, and were friendly enough to carry on small talk about school being over, and swim team starting up, but we never really got into the nitty-gritty of life. We never got messy, or shared the dirt of our lives. We kept that to ourselves, to guard like some dirty secret.

We never really got “real” with one another.

That’s what it’s like for so many women in this technological age. We communicate quickly, usually through a text, and in abbreviations. But we never really hold each other up and bear with one another under the weight of life.

How many times have you answered “Fine” when someone asked how things were going, when you wanted to scream the truth…that you really needed a friend and wanted to just sit and talk about life for a while?

But we say we’re busy…but are we really?

We can’t afford to be that busy. We can’t afford to be autonomous islands who can do ten things at once and still have dinner on the table at 6:00pm and the kids in bed by 9:00pm. And who really reaches that goal anyways?

If we would just be “real” with one another we’d know that there are no Jones’ to keep up with…they don’t exist. The Jones’ are a myth, an anomaly, that we created just to keep us feeling like we’ll never measure up.

So, there we were…12 women, sitting on the porch on a balmy summer eve, learning something about each other. But more importantly, learning something about ourselves. We aren’t so different from one another. I fail just like you do. I will never get the kids to bed by 9:00pm, and dinner might be on the table by 6:00pm, but you can bet it will be take-out picked up on the way home from soccer practice.

Therein lies the beauty of being a woman: we are flawed for a reason. We are flawed so that we can be empathetic and supportive to one another. We’re flawed so that we can hold each other up when life seems too big to stand alone. We weren’t meant to go it alone.

We were made flawed so that we can be “real,” not some fictional character that we can never reach.

Right there on that patio, we decided to be “real” from then on. We decided not to hide behind smiles, or schedules, or texts. We decided to be accountable to one another. To say how we really felt, even if it wasn’t fine. To ask for help if we needed it, and not be ashamed. And to laugh…I mean one of those laughs that starts at your toes and makes your eyes tear and your head hurt where you can’t catch your breath.

Because being “real” is so much better than pretending. Being “real” is the best part of having female friends.

What do you need to do to be “real” with your friends?

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I Need a “Cause”

 

Some might say, “You’re a Mom, that’s your cause,” or “You have a house to maintain, that’s your cause,” and both of those statements are true.

But those causes go without saying. My children aren’t babies anymore, they’re in their teens. For the most part, they can take care of themselves…well, you know what I mean.

I’m talking something OUT of myself that I need.

I used to volunteer at my church, and at the pregnancy center around the corner, and various other causes that came around. But then we moved 2000 miles across the country, and I lost all those connections.

Since we’ve been here (5 years now), I have tried reaching out to find my “thing.” But it seems like every charitable door I’ve tried to open comes crashing closed. I know, it sounds crazy, right? Charities are ALWAYS looking for people.

I’ve tried the senior center right down the street. I had to take a class and everything, and then? Nothing. Not a peep. Most of the women in the volunteer meeting that I went to were senior citizens, so maybe they only want seniors to volunteer. I’m not really sure, but they didn’t want me.

We’re still looking for a church where we feel completely comfortable. In our area, there are mostly mega-churches, and it’s easy to get lost in the “corporation” of a big church. Not to mention, since I don’t drive, I’ve had a hard time finding one that I can get to on my own.

So, I’m looking for ideas. Any suggestion?

I’m fairly crafty. I can sew and knit, but I can’t crochet. I’d like to find something that I can be a part of, and not just send something off to once a month. Volunteering in a group is always more fulfilling.

I’m definitely more of a behind-the-scenes type of person rather than the one out in front of the crowd. I’m one of the “worker bees.”

So, what do you think? Does anyone have any good experiences with volunteering they’d like to share?

The End of the World?

If you haven’t already heard, the world may come to an end this coming weekend. If it does, I guess this may be my last post.

I’m not one to buy into prophesies and panics. I mean, remember the scare of New Year’s Eve 1999? Yeah, well, we all saw how that turned out. No computers crashed, or nuclear sites went rogue. We just partied like it was 1999, thanks to Prince.

Now there are plenty of religious teachers proclaiming this to be “the End,” and who am I to contradict them? I am not a Bible scholar by any means. I just finished reading a very well thought out argument for the planets aligning, and the world ending by a well-read Bible teacher. And it was convincing. But I do know that these teachers are “men” and not God, and only God knows the time and place.

But here’s my main point: I wouldn’t blame Him one bit if He did decide that this weekend is going to be the time and place.

I mean, look at what we’ve done to His plan.

From the beginning, we’ve done nothing but deny Him over and over. He’s got to be getting awfully tired of it.

And I’ve never been witness to so much hate within the human race in all my 48 years on this earth. It’s downright embarrassing what we’ve become. Brother against brother, sister against sister, parent against child.

We’ve made ourselves judge and jury, usually over things we know nothing about. The loudest voices are the ones that get heard the most, whether they are speaking Truth or not.

If the trumpets don’t blare, and the sun doesn’t turn dark this weekend, then maybe we should look at it as a second, third, fourth, or billionth, chance to start over, and thank God for this life that we have.

Maybe we should take this weekend to be introspective. And for those who are believers, then it’s time to look Up. Find out what God wants us to be doing with this life.

Spread some love where there is hate. Share some mercy where there is judgement. Speak the Truth where there are lies. Show some kindness when it isn’t deserved.

God bless, and best wishes. That’s just my two cents.

“Returning the Favor” by Mike Rowe…Have you seen it?

If you haven’t seen Mike Rowe’s “Returning the Favor”  on Facebook yet, you need to check it out! It’s one of the few, if not only, inspiring things you will find on Facebook these days.

You might remember Mike Rowe from a show called “Dirty Jobs” that aired on Discovery Channel a few years ago (2005-2012). I’ve always thought that Mike was an upstanding guy, though I’ve never met him, and this show only does more to improve my impression of him.

“Returning the Favor” airs on Facebook, and seems to come out about one episode per week. The show features stories from around the country of average people doing extraordinary things for others. Get your hanky ready, because the show will tug at your heartstrings, in a good way.

There have been four episodes so far, and I’ve watched every one.

If there’s one thing this world needs, it’s to see fellow human beings helping one another because it’s the passion of their heart. Finally, something to make you feel good about the world.

Every episode, they surprise the designated “Do-Gooder” by giving something back to them. Thus, the name of the show, “Returning the Favor.”

The first episode, “Operation Combat Bikesaver,” profiles a former army engineer who runs a therapeutic bike building program for veterans. His name is Jason, and he gives his talents, and his time to inspire other vets, some of whom are suffering from PTSD, to be part of something bigger. You’ll have to watch it to see how they return the favor.

In Episode 2, “Donovan Discovers,” they profile a young boy, Donovan, who was at one time homeless, but now makes soap to donate to shelters. Its heartwarming to see a young kid use what he’s been through to reach others. No one told him to do it, he just does. Again, I’m not going to give away the ending.

Episode 3 is called “Girls Build.” It’s about a woman named Katie who runs a trade skills camp for girls. Katie is a carpenter, and saw the discrepancy in the carpentry workforce and how it was missing women. She inspires the girls to believe that they can build anything and gets them excited about creating things. They return the favor to her by…well, you’ll just have to watch it.

I just finished watching Episode 4, “Raising the Roughriders.” It’s about Brian, a retired Lieutenant in the police department and Vietnam Vet, who coaches a sled hockey team for intellectually and physically disabled athletes. The best part of his story is that his athletes never have to pay for a thing. He fundraises to get everything they need. Again, watch it to see how they return the favor.

I’m so glad to finally see something positive on social media for a change. Keep it up, Mike Rowe!

QUICK UPDATE: THE EPISODES AIR ON TUESDAYS.

 

Too Much Reality

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Phil 4:8 NLT

Whether you consider yourself a Christian or not, it’s good advice.

There is so much in this world to get caught up in. So many opinions, so many distractions, so many criticisms, so much bad news bombards us daily. And so much of it is not the Truth.

So much of it is distorted, and skewed, and I swear it’s just to get us all riled up. Then we lash out at one another, and accomplish nothing.

It’s enough to make the happiest of people depressed. And it was happening to me.

It’s hard to keep a balance. How do you stay informed and yet not be inundated with a barrage of waste washing into your brain, covering over all the joy?

Since I work from home, and don’t drive, I have a hard time not getting caught in the vacuum.

But this last weekend, I made an effort to turn off the TV, and not read the Facebook “Trending” feed (I HATE that thing). I hung out with family friends, and went to church, and got OUT of the house. And by Monday, I felt so much better about life.

I’ve been skipping past blogs that only stir up frustration and anger. And I don’t read hateful comments anymore…people can be so mean to each other. You aren’t going to change someone’s opinion by making a contrary comment.

If you want a real feel-good story, just see how people are helping one another in Texas right now. It’s inspiring seeing them come together.

And another thing I ran across is a new Facebook Series by Mike Rowe called “Returning the Favor.” It’s a breath of inspiring air that we could all use about now. You should check it out.

Here’s to reaching for happier days, and good conversation with friends.

How do you balance staying informed and not getting sucked into the vortex?

No Opportunity Wasted

Where I live, I am surrounded by over-achieving adults, and they’re passing that on to their kids, not that there’s anything wrong with that. If you have that kind of drive, more power to you.

But sometimes I think we look too far ahead to the “end product” and miss a whole bunch in between.

We miss the opportunities that happen our way, and consider them a waste of time or not worth the effort.

But life isn’t about the “end product,” it’s about all the stuff in between birth and death, and what we do with every opportunity we get.

There seems to be a big portion of the population, mostly millennials (sorry guys, I don’t mean to stereotype you, but it’s what us “old people” see – and by “old,” I mean middle-aged), who are reaching for the brass ring and missing all the silver, pewter, and aluminum rings on the way.

One thing my husband and I are teaching our kids, is that no opportunity should be wasted…ever.

Every opportunity, whether it works in your favor or not, should not be wasted.

But what does that look like?

For kids: Say you didn’t make it into the advanced placement math class this semester. Disappointing? Yes. Tragic. No. Any opportunity? Definitely. First, figure out why you didn’t make it in to the class. There are those moments when you just weren’t “smart enough” I suppose, but more likely, you just didn’t try hard enough. You didn’t study as hard as you could have. You didn’t take the opportunity for the extra credit questions because it didn’t seem as interesting, or fun, as your video game.

We carry this into adulthood too.

How many jobs have we passed up because the pay was “beneath us?” Now if you’re unemployed and have a family depending on you, chances are this won’t happen. If you’re unemployed, and the sole provider, you’ll take any job you can get. But every job can be looked at as an opportunity. Maybe it isn’t what you want to do for the rest of your life, or even for the next month. But what can you learn from it? Nothing, you say? Don’t be so sure.

You may learn how to work with people, especially the ones you don’t like. You may learn a new skill. Maybe this job is just a stepping stone to the next job…a better job. Maybe it inspires you to be the entrepreneur you’ve always dreamed of being. Maybe you’ll make connections that can help you further down the road. You may even learn something about yourself, if you’re paying attention, that is.

Opportunities stretch us, and grow us into the people we need to become. Don’t waste them.

Life rarely turns out the way we plan, but sometimes the plans are better than we could have ever imagined. But not unless we take the opportunities given us.

Have you ever passed up an opportunity and you wish you could have a “do over?”

Here we go again…novel finished…and waiting…

Here we go again…

Novel #3 is finished and ready to find a literary agent!

Now I know, it’s never really “finished” until you actually FIND the agent or publisher and it’s sitting on a retail shelf complete with bar code. But that could take some time, if ever.

So, in the meantime, what to do, what to do?

I don’t know about you, but I immediately start brainstorming on the next book. Since I write women’s fiction, I usually start with a character or characters and then build from there.

I had a “Character Journal” until my last laptop was stricken with the “Black Screen of Death.”

It was a sad day, or a liberating one, depending on how you look at it. Nah, who am I kidding…it was sad…tragic even. All those ideas lost. They’re still on the computer, I just have to get to them.

I already have a name for my next main character. Besides starting a new “Character Journal,” I’ve started a “Name List.” Names are just as important as character development. You know how sometimes a name can conjure an entire character? That’s the sort of name I have in mind. Now I just have to figure out her story.

Tragedy? Comedy? A little bit of both? Hmmmmm…..maybe it’s time to head to the coffee shop and soak in some color. Am I the only one who does that? Hijack someone’s conversation? Think about that the next time you’re at the coffee shop and there’s someone sitting there all alone on their computer.

Or maybe the woman in the grocery store will wander into my next novel…or the sales woman at the department store…or the clumsy waitress that served me dinner last night.

Thank goodness we don’t have to pay royalties to the strangers that inspire us. But thank you to all the strangers that let us writers into your lives, if only for a moment, or even from afar. Stories are inspired and you are our inspiration.

Where do you go to find your best inspiration? Do you keep a Character Journal or a Notebook of phrases and ideas?