Finding hope at a bar-b-que

There are days that I can’t even watch the news because of how divided it portrays the world to be. And that division is only perpetuated by us staying in our homes, glued to our TVs and computers filling our heads with what THEY want us to believe is true about ourselves.

BUT I HAVE HOPE that we are free-thinkers, that we are BETTER than we are made to believe.

But the only way we’re going to come together is through HUMAN CONTACT.

Our neighborhood had an impromptu bar-b-que on Memorial weekend. Two of them, in fact.

But on a Sunday and a Monday evening there we were: swatting at mosquitos with virtual strangers.

We didn’t know most of the neighbors, except to wave “hello” as we pass them in a car, and some lived on other streets, so even that doesn’t usually happen.

It took a generous neighbor with a really good bar-b-que and an excellent marinade recipe for chicken and ribs, to bridge the divide.

We were from different backgrounds, different nationalities, different political affiliations (I assume – no one discussed politics – hallelujah!), and in different stages of life.

We passed around the fussing baby so that the new mom could eat her dinner in peace. We found out that two people worked for the same corporation and never knew it. We talked about where we were from and where we grew up. We discovered we vacationed in the same places. We laughed and ate and made new friends.

On Sunday night, the bar-b-que went until 2am! On Monday, we only made it until 10pm.

So when the news tells me that my neighbor doesn’t think the way I do, I know the news is full of crap. I know they want headlines. They want us to hate, because it makes us watch them more.

But all it takes is a simple neighborhood bar-b-que to prove them wrong.

People are people, no matter where you go. People transcend politics, and headlines, if we’d stop buying into the hype and look up from our Smartphones long enough to smile.

We need each other. We need more bar-b-ques.

I think the men and women whose lives we celebrated on Memorial Day would have been proud to know that they didn’t die in vain. Good neighbors do still exist. People do still want to connect and reach out to one another.

Looking forward to celebrating summer and hanging out together…in spite of the mosquitoes.

What a “Selfie” did to my self-image

 

I’ve never been one to pay much attention to looks. I’ve always had more confidence in my personality than my looks. I’m just average. I’ve always been the tallest in my friend groups, which worked against me all through high school, college and early adulthood. Face it – if there is a group of girls hanging out together, most of them under 5’6”, then the one over 5’10” is not going to be the pick of the litter. And I would DEFINITELY not win any awards for “most photogenic.” (Thus the reason for my lack of a profile picture). I can’t take a good picture to save my life! Really…I’m not exaggerating. I even dreaded taking wedding photos!

Enter “The Selfie.” This last week, I met up with some friends that I’ve known since elementary school. We only had a few hours to catch up, but it was fun seeing them. We decided to take a picture to document the occasion, and since I have the longest arms (a blessing if I want to reach the top shelf, a curse if I’m competing for most petite), I was the one to hold the phone and take the Selfie.

I knew as I pushed the button, it wasn’t going to be pretty. And boy I was right. #selfiefail

My friends look fabulous in the picture. But since I was holding the camera, and straining to get everyone in the picture, I was already at a disadvantage. My head was tipped back slightly, and while I had my hair pulled back (big mistake), the grey hair across my hairline virtually DISAPPEARED in the photo and I look like I’m going BALD! I already have a big forehead, but…my God…IT WAS HUGE!

And then there’s my nose – you can see right up that honker! And it’s now on Facebook, for all our childhood friends to see!

As I said, I generally don’t care about looks. I’m fairly low maintenance…AND IT SHOWED IN THAT SELFIE!

I was using root touch-up on my hairline to cover up the grey, but sadly, that simply will not suffice anymore. The grey is taking over! So I’m faced with a dilemma:

Do I gracefully grow grey or do I do like most every other woman in my area and COLOR….COLOR…COLOR!

I admit that I hate to get stuck in the color trap. I don’t WANT to color. It’s inconvenient and a pain in the you-know-what.

I thought I was okay with my grey hair. I thought I was a confident woman. UNTIL THAT SELFIE!!! I really hate that it shook my confidence.

I guess it’s time to break out the hair color. Any recommendations? I’m not the type of woman to spend money and time at the hair salon every three weeks re-coloring, so it looks like I’m going to have to go the home hair color route. I’ll take any helpful hints you have.

The Sky Is Falling…or is it?

The world seems to be living by standards set by Chicken Little…The Sky is Falling!

It feels like we’re all on edge…no matter what your belief system, your political affiliation, your socioeconomic influence, we all seem to be living like that animated chicken who sadly mistook an acorn falling on his head for the ENTIRE sky falling.

It’s all about the extreme headlines, the ratings, who can get there (where ever ‘there’ is) first. We’re all in a panic! It’s not about whether or not you’ll reach your goal, it’s about reaching your goal FIRST!

And when things don’t go our way we immediately run to the extreme of anticipating the sky to fall. We’re absolutely sure of it! And if we can just scream louder than the next guy, then we’re convinced WE can hold up the sky one more day.

I’ve got news for you…the sky is NOT falling…at least not today. And you CAN’T hold it up ON YOUR OWN.

I’m not suggesting we don’t try to change the world. I’m a writer…it’s why I write. But I am suggesting that we don’t forget to breathe. We calm down. We don’t forget ALL of our manners. Whatever happened to “if you can’t say something nice…?”

I swear there are days that I think we’ve lost our collective mind!

And I am no better than the next guy – I find myself sucked into the mania at times too. And it depresses the hell out of me. And I can’t live like that. Can you? It’s exhausting!

We’ve gotten mean-spirited. Or maybe it’s just the headlines focus on the ugly parts of our world. My soul begs for “feel good” stories most days.

So to prove the sky is NOT falling, please share a brief inspirational story below. Tell me something good, something uniting, something kind. I really need to hear it.

I’ve Lost My Social Skills

 

It seems the older I get, the less social I am.

I think part of that is a natural progression of getting older. I’m in my late 40s and priorities are different than they were when I was younger. The days of “Mom Groups” are long gone, walking kids to school isn’t necessary, and moving across the country a few years ago definitely put a dent in my social calendar. By way of circumstance, I’m just not exposed to as many social situations as I used to be. The opportunities aren’t there.

We haven’t fully established ourselves at a church, which is entirely our fault. But I have to admit, I feel a bit like the weird girl in the corner when I go to a social event these days.

Other than “Did you finish your homework,” or “please put your laundry away,” and “get off the computer,” my vocabulary has become somewhat limited. Can anyone else relate?

My husband and I made an intentional effort to reach out to new people this weekend, which is always awkward because I’m the extrovert and he’s the introvert. It makes for an unusual social combination. We went to a class at church instead of attending the main church service. There were about 24 men and women in the class, and everyone was friendly and welcoming…and WORE NAME TAGS! I’m terrible with names. You can tell me your name, I’ll repeat it, say “nice to meet you” and your name is erased from my memory. But seeing it written on a nametag, that’s my saving grace!

So, we enjoyed the class which had a “Parenting” theme, and there was time for fellowship and small talk. But for my husband and I, there always comes a time when we just run out of things to say. We aren’t good at “inventing” conversation. In fact, we’re TERRIBLE at it! After class, we said our quick “goodbye’s” and headed out to pick up the kids from their Sunday school classes.

We completely missed our opportunity for further fellowship! We panicked at the thought of inventing conversation and got out of there as soon as it was over. We noticed after we were down the hall, that everyone else lingered behind and visited some more. We blew it.

But we aren’t giving up. We won’t be back next week, since the class isn’t meeting because of Easter, but we will be back after that. Fortunately, it is a year-round class, leaving us plenty of opportunity to sit tongue-tied lots more times.

We are determined to make new friends…at least I am. My husband is perfectly happy with a book, but I cannot live by book alone.

Oh, the best part of the class? Not a single person had their phone out! No one was texting!

Do you struggle making friends as you get older?

Letter to my teenage children

 

It’s a precarious tightrope that parents walk: wanting to keep you safe and needing to let you go.

I need to give you enough rope to wander away, but not lose sight of home, yet still enough to pull yourself back home without getting tangled up in the process.

I want to guide you and help you with the circumstances that cross your paths, but I want you to use the tools we’ve given you to try to solve your own problems.

I want to give you freedom to experience things in your young life that will help form your opinions, your relationships and your joy. I want them to be your opinions and not mine, even if they are different from mine.

I can’t be there all the time. The world is a big place. It’s a place of wonder, a place of amazing sights and sounds, and, unfortunately, a place of danger too.

So how do I protect you without smothering you? How do I wait patiently by while you may not make the choices I would choose for you? How do I let you go and hope that you remember everything we’ve taught you? How do I know that you will come home when you get in over your head? How do I know you’ll seek wise counsel, even if it isn’t mine? I have to have faith.

I know you’ll try things you shouldn’t because, like you, I was young and curious once too. I know you’ll make mistakes, because I have, and still do. I pray those mistake can be reversed.

I hope that you find love, but not at the expense of your self. I hope you find success, but not at the expense of love.

So here’s where I have to trust. Here’s where I have to let you make your own decisions, and hope that I’ve equipped you well.

Here’s where I begin to set you free into the world, and hope you remember that you can always come back home.

The door will ALWAYS be open, the table will ALWAYS be set, and I will ALWAYS have the time.

Love,

Mom

I Should Be at Church

It’s a Sunday morning, and I should have gotten everyone up on time (and against their protests) and gone to church. But I didn’t. I chose sleep for the second week in a row, in a long string of sporadic attendance, over worship.

When we lived in California, we never missed a Sunday unless someone was sick. We went to a church of about 350 members. I ran a women’s group on Mondays, my husband helped with Youth Sunday school (both High School and Elementary) and at one point was an Elder. My kids were involved in AWANA and I published the church’s newsletter, not to mention the countless times we volunteered for church events. I don’t tell you all of this to brag, I tell you all of this to show the difference between then and now. To show you I’m not just complaining, that I know things should be better, and that I know they CAN be better.

Fast forward 4 years, and we’re living on the opposite coast, and we should be well established with a new church family. But we’re not, and I know I’m not alone. At least, I don’t think I am.

We’ve been to something like five churches trying to find our fit, our new church family. The churches have varied in size from nearly nonexistent to mega-church all in attempt to find the fit…not God, but the fit. God has been in every one of the churches we’ve been to. But the difference is the people, and not God.

I mean no disrespect to the Church. I love the Church. I believe in the Church. I’m just a little frustrated. The churches we’ve encountered are just different than what we are used to, or it could be a symptom of the times. They are much more corporate, especially the mega churches, which my area seems to have a lot of. I don’t think they mean to be, and I know it’s probably a symptom of trying to serve so many different people. But classes and groups meet generally in 6 week spurts or from September to May, so you never really get a chance to share in one another’s lives. I WANT MORE. I WANT the dirty, nitty-gritty that our lives hold. I WANT to stand shoulder to shoulder with my Christian brother or sister and go through their trials and celebrate their victories. And an hour on Sunday or a few hours during a class won’t get me the intimacy of those friendships that I miss.

The one thread I’ve found running through ALL of the churches, no matter what size, is the feeling of ISOLATION. It doesn’t matter how long we attend a church, we just never seem to connect. And we’ve tried. At the large churches, we never see the same people twice. From the time we walk in the doors and are greeted with a “hello” and a smile to the time we leave with a “goodbye, have a nice day,” sometimes those are the only words that will be spoken to us. Fortunately, my kids have managed to make friends in Sunday school, but those friendships seem to end as we leave the church doors. They seem to be reserved for “while in church only.” No one seems to linger after church is over. Most people race for the parking lot to get on with their Sunday.

As Christians we’re called to be part of the “Body of Christ” but that body has to RELY on one another and LEAN on one another to function. And it seems like a bunch of body parts not communicating, but rather working separately from one another.

I know there are other people within the church walls feeling the same as me. I know it’s up to us to get involved and reach out. But the times that I’ve tried, I’m either too late because a class has already started, or a group is already established. Not to mention that, for me, not being able to drive makes it really hard (if not impossible) to get there sometimes. And the church is just too big to make a friend that would be willing to give a girl a ride now and then.

So if you’re in a large church this Sunday or next, do me a favor and turn around and greet the person seated behind you. It may make the difference in them ever coming back again. And if you’re brave enough, go one step further and invite them to an upcoming church function, AND OFFER TO MEET THEM THERE so they won’t feel so alone. I promise you that you’re effort won’t be wasted. They may think you’re weird, but it’s a chance you should take. You may even make a friend for life.

Have you had similar experiences with church? How did you get past it?

Taking care of an aging parent

 

It’s been simmering for quite some time…the idea that my mom should not be living alone. There are a myriad of reasons to reconsider her current living situation.

The first and foremost being that her quality of life is diminished because she just can’t afford it anymore, and my brothers and I can’t afford to keep sending money to the money pit. There are also, of course health reasons that come with many septuagenarians that need to be addressed and watched over.

It’s a hard line to take: when the child becomes the caregiver of the parent. No one likes the ramifications of what that entails. There will be power struggles, the first of which is actually convincing her that her quality of life would be better living with one of her adult children. No parent wants to give up their independence, and having to rely on an adult child is not part of their plan usually. You don’t raise your children thinking “I can’t wait until I can get under their roof.” But there’s a whole generation of parents right now, who didn’t save enough for retirement because they didn’t have to. I know it sounds foolish to our generation, but for my parent’s generation, there was always going to be a pension that you’d rely on. It’s what their parents did, so why think to plan for anything different. But those pensions disappeared and here we are.

To my detriment, I’m a planner, and I woke up this morning around 6am and my brain started “planning.” My mom hasn’t even agreed to the new arrangement yet, and already I’m going through all the possible scenarios, the logistics, the financial and legal details in my head. I’ve made lists, and researched the possibilities, both good and bad, of taking in an aging parent.

But here’s what it boils down to: it’s my turn to return the favor. All the nights she spent pacing the floor, all the financial sacrifices she and my father made, all the emotional collateral they spent raising me has brought me to this moment. It’s time to give back.

I have a fabulous husband, by the way, who happens to share the same responsibility to family that I do. We decided long ago that whether it was his mom or mine (both of our fathers passed away years ago) that we would open our home if we needed to. It’s just what you do.

But convincing my mom to sell her home (that’s falling apart around her), move across the country, and move her entire life into one bedroom (basically) is going to be a hard sell. I get it. Would you do it? Things would have to be pretty bad for me to convince me to do something like that. The opportunity at the end of that bridge would have to be pretty encouraging. And my mom is not one that likes adventure – she’s a planner too.

Fortunately, my brothers and I agree on a plan for Mom. We support each other and her. We just want her to be better off. Her “Golden Years” haven’t been very golden so far, and now we have the chance to help her make them better.

I only hope I remember this when I’m aging and my kids step in to take charge. I hope I remember it’s because of love that they want to see me in a better situation.

Have you taken a parent into your home? I’d love to hear some of your experiences or advice as I go into these uncharted waters.