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.

The 1980s are back…for ONE NIGHT ONLY!

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This weekend was the “Spring Fling Dance” at my daughter’s high school and their theme this year? The 80s!

Yeah…I’m feeling my age. The school brought in a portable roller rink and the kids rented skates. Wow, does that take me back!

All week my daughter and I bonded over old music videos from the 80s as she tried to find her 80s look for the dance. It was a nice change from having to watch (and listen to) the thousands of YouTube stars that my kids find so funny. Talk about a generation gap. I’ve tried, I really have, but I just don’t find most of them funny or entertaining. And every time I have to watch one, I tell my husband that we are working way too hard to make a living if these guys are making money doing what they’re doing. But that’s a different post unto itself.

Back to the 80s. It’s been fun reliving the days of big hair, dayglo, cut off sweatshirts, crop tops, rubber bracelets, and synthesized music.

We listened to Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Dead or Alive (her favorite), Adam Ant, and countless others to try to come up with inspiration for my daughter’s wardrobe for the dance.

She decided to go with a Madonna look. Not the Madonna with the pointy bra, or the Madonna in her Justify My Love phase. We agreed that Madonna in her more innocent (and I use that term loosely) “Lucky Star” days was appropriate.

We cut up an old black t-shirt, found some black lace fingerless gloves, made a gigantic hair bow, found as many costume bracelets as we could, dug out my old black bike shorts (sadly, I still have them – but I don’t wear them, I promise), and of course bought a can of Aqua Net for the extra big hair. I was surprised that we could still buy it. We couldn’t find the pink can, but settled for the purple extra hold can. I was also surprised that they haven’t decided that it’s solely responsible for global warming. LOL And I forgot how much residue it leaves on the bathroom floor. Yuck! Time to mop!

She had a fabulous time and I’m almost sorry that I didn’t volunteer to chaperone this dance…almost.

It would have been fun to relive those days, but I probably would have embarrassed my daughter with my dance moves. Bust a move!

I know my days of hanging out with my daughter are numbered. She’s already started to pull away (as she should) to find her own independence. But it was nice to talk to her about what my teenage years were like, and for her to realize (hopefully) that I was once young too.

I Miss Talking

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Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy blogging and exchanging ideas and stories with people from around the world, but I miss the ONE ON ONE CONVERSATION. How much better would it be to share the same stories over a cup of coffee? #coffeefixeseverything

I miss talking on the phone. I know texting is convenient, but face it, if we’re texting someone it’s probably because we don’t want to “talk” to them. We just want to say what WE want and move on with our lives without all that “messy” conversation.

I also miss hearing my children talk. I know they’re getting older, and the age difference (11 and 14) makes them less interested in each other, but I used to love waking up to hearing them quietly playing together in their rooms. Now they can go whole days without talking except to say “It’s my turn on the computer!”

They really don’t even fight. I guess I should be grateful for that, but aside from fighting over the computer, they have nothing to fight about because they don’t engage with one another. I suppose part of it is the age difference. I know the younger misses playing with the older more than the other way around, and would change it in a second if he had the power, even at the expense of missing computer time.

Our weekend mornings are spent in silence. Sometimes even the weekend days are spent in silence too, each on their own electronic device. I used to try to fight it, to try to get everyone to do things on the weekends. But I got tired of the fight, so the last few weeks I’ve given up and joined the electronic club. And you know what? I don’t think anyone even noticed. They probably are grateful that Mom finally stopped bothering their personal time.

I guess it’s just a part of growing up. Kids speak less and less to their parents the older they get, unless they have to. Maybe it’s me that has to give in and change, and get more creative.

Now to figure out how.

Think I’ll go call my mom even though I’d rather text her.

*A side note: when I looked up images to use for this post I used the key word “conversation” and was hard-pressed to find any images WITHOUT a computer or smart phone in them. Ahhh, the irony.

My Working Man

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I write about my kids on this blog, and about writing, and about myself (sorry), but I rarely ever write about my husband.

I should…I mean, he doesn’t even read my blog so I could post some really good stories and he’d never dispute them or even know they’re on here! As tempting as it is to tell some really juicy stuff, I won’t. Plus we have no really juice stories anyways. #oldandmarried

So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day (a day early) – here it goes.

My husband is a good man. He’s a nerd, for sure. He’s a gamer, a reader, an introvert, and he enjoys being alone (that’s part of his introvertedness – is that a word?). With regards to those things, he’s everything that I’m not. We’re opposites. My 14-yr-old daughter teases me and wonders how we ever got together. There are days when I wonder that too.

Then I remember the circumstances and realize that there’s a good chance that God orchestrated our meeting in the first place. I can’t take the credit.

My husband is a good provider, and I sometimes forget to acknowledge him for that. He works at least 40 hours a week, and always has. He rarely comes home to a spotless house or a wife dressed like Mary Tyler Moore in The Dick Van Dyke Show. My “mom uniform” is yoga pants and t-shirts, and I work at home, so there’s no need to wear makeup. Ever. And he doesn’t complain.

He doesn’t always come home to a fresh cooked meal (I have no idea what I’m making tonight), and often will pick up dinner for me, even after he’s had a long day. He usually walks in the door to some form of chaos, though it’s gotten better as the kids have gotten older. But there’s usually some drama that’s gone on during the day, and it’s usually the first thing he hears about after “hello.”

When I do cook, he NEVER complains about what I’ve made. Maybe it’s because he knows not to bite the hand that feeds him, but I also think it’s because he knows that I get enough grief from the kids about dinner. (Do I have to eat that?!) If I ask nicely, he’ll even cook. He’s better at it than I am, but far messier.

He doesn’t nickel and dime me. Granted, I’m the thrifty one, but he’s never once complained about me buying something for myself or the kids.

He’s okay with watching the kids while I get away for a few hours. He’s seen me go a little insane after being with the kids day in and day out, and he wants to avoid that at all costs. He even watched the kids when they were babies and I went on a 3-day women’s retreat. And they all survived.

In every sense of the word he is my better half. He trusts me. Completely. And I trust him.

Why do I tell you all of this? Not to brag, but because he deserves a corner of this blog too. He provides a lot of the material, after all. And as a testament to his character. He’s a good man, a working man, a Godly man, a nerdy man…and he’s my man. I wanted to tell you there are good men out there, and they aren’t always the ones that you expect them to be.

Sometimes they’re nerdy, gaming, introverts, with weird senses of humor and a strong affinity for Godzilla movies.

Sometimes God sends them to you, even when you weren’t expecting it.

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!