The Sisterhood of the Salsa Bowl

I love the ways God works when we aren’t even looking. Like today, for example. 

We’ve lived in this neighborhood for eight years, and while the people here are LOVELY and I have made lots of friendships that I treasure, I have really struggled to find my tribe, my friend GROUP. I have lovely friends, but I lack a “crew” if you will. I have college friends and childhood friends and work friends and neighborhood friends, but they don’t seem to overlap. I love that because it keeps things tight for this introvert, and then sometimes — like this week, I don’t. Everywhere I look I see friend groups and walking buddies and dinner buddies and workout buddies and vacation buddies and groups of people who all seem to be dialed in to the same channel, and a lot of days I feel like “square peg – party of one…” (For the record, I am aware that I tend to have a flair for the dramatic, but this has been my headspace this week.)

Part of that is because I have friends all over. Some of it’s that my girls don’t play sports and many friend groups are forged sweating it out on the sidelines. Part of it is that we pulled out of the neighborhood school for two years, so two years of friend-group building time was lost to location and circumstances. A large part of it is because I’m an introvert and probably didn’t work hard enough to get outside my comfort zone early on in our residency here. I’ve also been much more guarded with my thoughts since we did the school shuffle because it doesn’t take my mouth very long to find the wrong thing to say. But mainly, I think it’s the fact that I don’t ask to be included in things because I have a middle-schooler’s tendency to sit back and wait to be invited. 100% of these reasons are up to me. 

So, for those 100% of self-made reasons, I’ve been feeling physically lonely lately. I am aware this is completely ludicrous as I know lots of lovely people who I like and who like me back and who are warm and loving and lovely — but nonetheless, I’ve been craving COMMUNITY and feeling lost as to where to find it. 

So earlier this week on an impulse, I picked up my phone and sent a group text to my favorite group of mom friends from Briarwood suggesting a dinner meetup. Before 20 minutes were out we had all agreed and nailed down a day and time. Quick “yes”s as easy as breathing. That’s something I would never have felt comfortable doing with any group other than them, and believe me when I say that I’ve been unpacking that realization all week too. And as I sat there at dinner talking and laughing and enjoying easy time with these women I realized that I hadn’t been lonely at all — I was just looking in the wrong direction. 

There’s something beautiful and brutal about being the mother of a child with a learning difference. It’s not the same. We have no idea what it’s like to have an “easy” school experience. No clue what it’s like to have a child who doesn’t struggle in some way with situations most other kids don’t. No clue what it’s like not to walk on eggshells at 3pm every day waiting to see what’s about to walk in the door. I like to think it makes us scrappy, less tolerant of time sucks, more focused on solutions. Positive, resilient, open. And when we meet another mother of a kid like ours it’s like meeting someone who speaks your exact same language, and suddenly you can breathe more easily. It sounds crazy I know, but it’s the truth as I have found it as we’ve walked this path over the last six years. 

This group of women and their friendship is so very precious to me. It’s a different breed. Not better or worse, but different in a “they all get me the same way I get them and we all get each other” kind of way. It’s COMMUNITY. They are my walking/dinner/vacation buddies — we just live all over the city and don’t actually do any of those things. They are my crew. Silly me. I had one all along! And while I am grateful for my friends who live closer, I am so very cognizant of the gift I have in these women also. 

Friends. They are everywhere and come in many forms for many situations. And they are good. All of them. All the time. And I am a very lucky girl. 

I wonder if I’m the only one who needs to be reminded?

Grocery Store Gospel

Have you ever been put on the spot about your faith? And I mean put on the spot with actual strangers waiting for your answer? It’s scary. You’ve got to get it right in about 10 words and 3 seconds, and it seems like when it happens I never get it quite right. 
.
.
.
Ash Wednesday noon service at MDUMC is hands down my favorite service all year long. It trumps Easter and Christmas Eve in my book, and here’s why: I CAN GO IN MY YOGA PANTS AND SNEAKERS.

This may seem like a lazy way out, but I assure you it’s bigger than that. I love this service because it says…

“Hey – I know you’re in the middle of your day, but slow down for a minute and sit awhile. I don’t care where you’ve come from. I don’t care where you’re going next. I don’t care what you’re wearing. Just come in and sit by me and we’ll be still together.”

Couldn’t we all use a little more of that?

Ash Wednesday gives us permission to strip away all the nonsense that we burden ourselves with – the trappings of wealth, or success, or popularity, or what we think we need to present to the world – and come back to center. To remember that none of it matters in the story of Jesus. He doesn’t care about any of it other than that you come in and sit with him awhile, that you are willing to lay it down, to admit that you might have gotten just a scosche off track, and that you’re looking forward again now – eyes on the prize.

That’s the Jesus I know, the “I saved you a seat” guy.

So when the checker at Kroger just asked me “what does it mean?” as she gestured to my forehead, a million thoughts of Lent and wilderness and 40 days and all the things rushed in and I started to panic. And then I took a deep breath, looked her in the eyes, and God gave me this…

“It reminds me of what really matters”.

And she cocked her head to one side, looked at me for a second, and then said “cool” and went back to scanning the spinach.

Lent. 
Simplify. 
Re-center. 
Remember. 
It’s all just dust.

Cool.

Elementary, My Dear Watson

Ok. Let’s talk about these holiday parties. And I should preface this by telling you that I am well aware of my “old mom” status and am, in actuality, quite proud of it.

I hate them.

No. That’s not right. Hate is a very strong word. I don’t hate them. I dislike them. Strongly. And here’s what: I think deep down, WE ALL DO. Let that steep a minute. I mean seriously — does anyone derive extreme amounts of joy from watching a first grader smear green icing all over an ice cream cone? I don’t. Not anywhere remotely close to making my bucket list. Don’t even get me started on the 5th grader who made me promise I would look cute and make an appearance – and who then promptly ignored me the whole time. I cannot believe I put on a bra for that mess.

Now don’t get me wrong, parties have a place. I think. But the fervor with which we prepare is a bus that I have no desire to jump on anymore. None. Even if they were passing out free jello shots.

But God bless the mothers on the bus. I was one once. So were you. We had young kids. We did the Pinterest. We made the crafts. We sang the songs and did all the things and it mattered to us to make sure our kids had the most magical and wonderful time ever. We had energy and time to spare. We thought everyone did life the same way. And then we learned.

I met a mom who wanted no part of me when we first moved to the neighborhood. None whatsoever, although I would put us firmly in the relatively friendly category now. She had three kids, two of them much older than Reese and you could tell that she had done her time in the class party trenches, earned her stripes, and was well and completely OVER IT. At the time I thought she was insane and grumpy. Now, eight years later I realize that she was less grumpy and more busy. I also realize that I am now her, which means I probably owe all the young cute moms an apology. It’s not them. It’s me. I have been there, done that, frosted the ice cream cone and have graduated. Elvis has left the building. I am more than happy for them to take over. But while they do, I feel compelled to sprinkle a little wisdom of experience into the mix. Let me know if you feel me fellow OGs…

• Clean crafts. No glue. No paint. No glitter. Ever. Ever ever ever ever ever. And bring your own garbage bag. We all known the tiny can can’t handle twenty four plates and assorted craft detritus. Nothing says Merry Christmas to the janitorial staff like a trashed classroom.

• Let them make an ornament. It’s all spelling tests and math facts now. Throw me a bone. Shaped like a snowman. These little years pass so fast, I need the mementos – but I don’t have the energy to make them myself.

• No more organic juice boxes. I mean FOR THE LOVE. It’s a logistical nightmare because they can’t open them on their own. You’re organic and better at parenting than I am. I get it. I’m not advocating giving them a Jack and Coke, but would anyone expire with a Capri Sun? I think not.

• Cookies. Give them a dang cookie. Come on!!! Nobody wants grapes made to look like a Grinch. You ever see a 6 year old make polite conversation over a plate of grapes? It’s painful. Break open the cookies and everyone’s smiling. Including me.

• Let them move. Dance games. Charades. Pictionary. Hula hoops. Something. Anything. If I had to brush my hair for this I need to be able to laugh at something. Preferably my child.

I cannot go into the line around the building that looked like it was for a Beyoncé concert but was in actuality just the line of parents waiting to get through the check-in process. I’ll save that trauma for another post. I’ll just say that I think it goes without saying that one must approach party day with a hugely intact sense of humor. And a heaping bucketful of patience. And a crew of equally old parents who can commiserate with you while your children ignore you.

THIS is the stuff the last day of school is about — parties and the Prozac required to get through them. And it’s all good. It’s all part of the process, and is all to be treasured because it all goes by too fast. So no matter where you fall on the scale of beaming Pinterest hero to grumpy old yoga pants mom today, I am sincerely wishing you the happiest of winter breaks. We have all earned it. No alarm clocks. No schedules. No homework. No spelling tests. Just lots of naps. Lots of laughs. And lots of love.