The best compliment I’ve ever received…

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The best compliment I’ve ever received…

This week my husband and I celebrated 13 years of wedded bliss. As is often the case with military marriages, my husband was not here to celebrate with me this year. We are kind of used to being apart on “big” days–birthdays, holidays, anniversaries–so it’s become normal for us to not go overboard with gifts or celebrating. That’s one of the things I love about my husband, we both are committed to celebrating our marriage every day, not just on the ones Hallmark tells us we should.

I thought in honor of our anniversary I would post a list of things I have learned during these 13 years as a wife, but something on Twitter made me change my mind. Yesterday on my feed, I saw this tweet by Melanie Weeden, wife of former Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden who is currently preparing for the NFL draft:

@MelanieWeeden: My man@bweeden3 is KILLIN it on ESPN today!!!!! #proudwife

(Very quick aside here: I am a HUGE sports fan, but I have a particular affinity for all things Oklahoma State. While I’m not a grad, my husband and I met while we were both attending OSU and my husband is indeed a proper alum. I will likely address my passion for OSU sports when we begin gearing up for football season again–although with the spring game approaching, it might be sooner than that. Yeah, I’m kind of fanatical.)

Back to the topic at hand, Melanie’s enthusiastic and deservedly proud tweet reminded me of the very best compliment I have ever received as a wife. About five years into our marriage, I was talking to a family friend about my husband and all that he’s accomplished, how he’s followed his dreams, and how that has made him a better husband and father. The friend said, “I really admire the fact that you are your husband’s biggest fan.” There wasn’t a trace of irony or sarcasm in her comment, it was quite sincere. I’d never really considered it from that point of view before, but it really summed up how I felt about my husband. I AM his biggest fan, his cheerleader, encourager and promoter. I want nothing but the best for him simply because I love him. On the days when things don’t quite go his way, I want to be the person he comes to–to renew his confidence and raise his spirits.

On the flip side, he’s also my biggest fan. For some strange reason, he thinks I’m wonderful. He tends to see the best in me rather than seeing me as the mess I feel like I am most of the time. He appreciates and respects me as a wife, a mom, and–most importantly–as a person with her own opinions and ideas. I am a better woman for having the opportunity to see myself through his eyes.

Now don’t misunderstand, we are both painfully aware of the other’s quirks and faults. While we acknowledge those traits, we don’t dwell on them–most of the time anyway. When you are truly someone’s biggest fan you don’t focus on the negative, you promote the positive. You take joy in their success. You support and encourage them in any way you possibly can. And to me that seems like a pretty good foundation for a lifelong relationship. I know that’s what my husband and I are both rooting for.

When I grow up

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When I grow up

One of my favorite questions to ask my boys is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Formula 1 driver, teacher, football player, ornithologist, and Olympic gymnast are just a few of the answers they have given me. I’ve often heard that the key to discovering your purpose and passion (which is the journey I am on right now) lies in recalling your earliest childhood ambitions. If that’s the case, I might be in a bit of a bind.

When I was a little girl, my answer to that question was pretty consistent as I recall–I wanted to be a singer or an actress. I never once said teacher or doctor or veterinarian or even mom. Over the years I participated in talent searches and community theater productions; I took singing and acting lessons; when I was old enough I started competing in preliminary pageants within the Miss America system (that’s the one with talent y’all, not to be confused with Miss USA).Older me--the pageant girl with news anchor hair

But along the way something strange happened. I lost my confidence. I can’t really pinpoint the exact moment it happened, I think it was more of a slow erosion than a sudden epiphany. It might have started the day my sisters and I totally blew a performance at a community festival by dissolving into schoolgirl giggles. When we left the stage that afternoon, our mom met us crying and telling us that we were an embarrassment. (In her defense, we probably were.) Or was it the day in high school that I auditioned for the role of Emily in Our Town? I read the dramatic monologue with such intensity that by the end, I was in tears and so were the other students in the room. Sadly, a girl who was known to be the teacher’s pet got the part. When I was in college I tried out for the show choir. I got lots of compliments after the singing portion of the audition, but never heard from them again after I performed the dance. (The years of dance lessons my parents paid for didn’t help that day. It was pretty bad.) Could it have happened more recently when I sang for a church music minister and was told I wasn’t good enough for worship team but I was welcome to join the choir?

Now as I reflect back, I recognize that the actual events didn’t make me lose my confidence, my internal dialogue did. You see, these are the memories that I fixate on and replay in my mind over and over again. I don’t focus on the time I played Lucy in my high school production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown; or the two other college show choirs I was invited to join after auditioning (Yes, I went to three colleges. Please stop counting.); or that I played the part of the Queen in a large community theater production of Cinderella; or that in our last church I was not only part of an excellent worship team but a featured soloist as well.

Somehow I have decided my negative experiences carry more weight than any of my achievements.

That thought is totally taking me by surprise even as I type it. I have decided that my negative experiences carry more weight than any of my achievements.  Typing it again doesn’t make the thought any more comforting.

In reflection, I can see that I have applied this apparent principle in more areas of my life than just my childhood performing ambitions. For example, when I was in 8th grade I decided to run for student council representative in my homeroom class. There might have been 20 or 25 kids in the class, a few of them were my friends so I thought I stood a pretty good chance of being elected. I found out very publicly just how wrong I was. You see, my homeroom class was civics–the study of government and her processes. My homeroom teacher thought it would be a good idea to tally the votes on the chalkboard (this was long before whiteboards) in an effort to teach us more about elections I’m sure. When the votes had been counted, it was revealed that my opponent had won by a landslide. Looking at the chalkboard, the only thing next to my name was one sad, solitary tally mark. I had received one vote–the vote I had cast for myself. Retelling that story now (25 years after the fact) fills me with immense sadness and shame. When I think of elections, this is where my mind naturally lands. What I don’t consider is a day 5 years later when, as a senior in high school, I was elected by my peers as a state officer for a large marketing education organization. It should be obvious to anyone–including me–which of these events I should assign more importance, yet I have chosen to focus on the negative experience for these many years, not the positive.

I started this post thinking that I needed to find my purpose, but it appears right now I should be more concerned with finding my voice. The quiet internal voice that only I hear as it whispers what I have believed to be truths. The journey I should be on is rewriting my internal dialogue, beginning to claim my successes and leaving my failures in the past where they belong. Going forward I want to make Paul’s words in Philippians 3:12-14 my desire, my aspiration: I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. (The Message)

In Him is where my answers lie. Lord, I may not be singing yet, but help me find my voice (Your Voice). Amen.

I *do* have friends!

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I *do* have friends!

I was a little worried that people might think I am totally friendless after that last blog.  While that’s not the case, I will say the vast majority of my friends live in far-flung zip codes.  I have Navy friends who live on both coasts and in other countries.  I have two wonderful sisters and a mom who I count as friends–they live in Oklahoma and Texas.  I have friends from my college and high school experiences.  I have friends from my time in Nashville who still live in the BNA (I totally covet their zip codes).

But the friends I want to share with you are the girls I like to call “My Faves”.  All together, there are 10 of us.  We all grew up in the same small Oklahoma town and graduated from the same high school in 1991.  We were all born in 1973 (which means we will ALL turn 40 next year).  We are all moms and wives (some are ex-wives).  For the past six summers, we have come from all over the country to meet in a different location each year for a long kid- & husband-free weekend. This year we will be meeting in Park City, Utah flying in from Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, Colorado, South Carolina, Missouri and California eager to catch up on the happenings in each other’s lives.  While together we’ll shop, re-live old memories, get pedicures, cook together and stay up way too late.  But most of all, we’ll LAUGH!!  Over the last six years we have collectively mourned divorce and tragic death. We have celebrated new babies (The ten of us have a total of 20 kids ranging in age from 3 to 18!), new jobs, and soon we will celebrate the first of our children graduating from high school and moving on to college.  Individually, each one of these women is remarkable–several have backgrounds in education, one is a physical therapist, another is a nurse, another still works in the financial industry, one friend is the Creative Director for a nationally known magazine, a few of us have worked in ministry of some kind, some are full-time moms, others devote their spare time to volunteering and charity. We were not all the best of friends in high school, but I can honestly say now that I don’t know what I would do without their love, support and influence in my life. After yesterday’s sob-blog, I woke up this morning to a text from one of these sweet girls just checking on me.  It made my day!  The funny thing is that part of the reason this group works is that we do get to gather together so infrequently.  Each one of us treasures the time we get to spend together and going on our trip every year is a priority of highest order.  If it happened every Friday we wouldn’t look at it the same way.  So while I miss my faves desperately, I am thankful for our weekends and that I always start to look forward to the next one even before the last one ends.

After our first trip in 2006, I wrote down my thoughts and shared them on MySpace (it was 6 years ago, social networking options were limited, don’t judge me).  I recently rescued my musings about that weekend from the near defunct site and I’d love to share them with you.  Even after 6 years, I still feel the same way…

The more things change, the more they stay the same

June 7, 2006

Whenever I go into a situation where I know I will be seeing people from my past, I always worry about how they will remember me. I haven’t always liked the person I am and I’m sure there are people who feel the same way. I feel like I have grown and changed over the last several years (for the better!), but I know that sometimes other people might not realize that. Well, this past weekend was one of those times.

During the Christmas holiday, I got together with a few friends from high school. This year marked what should have been our 15-year high school reunion, but since there wasn’t an official reunion we decided to have a small one of our own. Over the next few months, we figured out who to invite and where we would go. We decided where we would stay and where we would eat. But truthfully, as the date approached this feeling of dread came over me, and I started wondering if I should go or not. I was just so concerned that the girls–some of whom I hadn’t seen since graduating from good ol’ Po-Hi–wouldn’t understand that I had changed or, even worse, that they wouldn’t like the person I have worked so hard to become. In spite of my minor panic attacks, I decided to go and I am SO glad I did!

What I learned this weekend is that we all had changed in some ways, but in others, we were exactly the same. We have all experienced life, love, heartbreak, motherhood, and so much more, and those experiences affected us in different ways but our lives had been enriched. I (hopefully we) discovered depth in each woman there–physically, emotionally, and spiritually–that we couldn’t have even imagined when we were in high school playing tricks on each other, arguing over boys, and breaking curfew.

I also realized, in many ways, we are still exactly the same. I wouldn’t say we are the same as we were when we graduated in 1991 though. I think we are more like the pre-teenage girls we were when we entered East Junior High in 1985–easy to laugh, not yet self-conscious enough to stop being silly, or spiteful enough to be catty.

We had each found a beautiful balance of self-confidence, humility, joy, and peace with the women we had become, the flaws we recognize in ourselves, and the lives we are living. And in spite of all that growth and change I thought I had experienced, it made me happy to realize that I am still the girl I used to be.

Making friends…

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Making friends…

We moved to Iowa three years ago.  While there are many things I love about living in this state, there are some things that have been very difficult as well–one of which is making friends.  Iowans are renowned for their friendliness and I wouldn’t disagree with that at all.  There’s never a lack of people who say hello or politely hold a door open.  Iowans are very welcoming.  But Iowans are not terribly inviting.  The relationships I have made here have been very surface and shallow, there’s very little “investing” going on in the few friendships I have.
I think part of the problem is that my frame of reference for friendships is quite skewed.  My husband was an active duty Navy pilot for more than 10 years before he left the service and we moved here.  In my experience, making friends in the Naval community was a breeze.  It went something like this:
Me:  Hi my name is Gina.
Girl:  Hi my name is Amanda.
Me:  You seem really nice.  Not at all like a crazy animal hoarder or a drug addict.
Amanda:  You seem nice too.
Me:  We should totally be BFFs!
New BFF Amanda:  Absolutely!!  Want to come over for Christmas dinner??
Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but honestly not by much.  It might have been that our husbands were all going off to places unknown to fly jets onto aircraft carriers.  It might have been that the Navy life lent itself to the same kind of women signing on for the craziness.  It might have been pure loneliness from not having a single family member within an 800 mile radius.  Whatever it was, the years we spent as a Navy family gave me some of the best friends and best memories a girl could wish for.  Friendships were created with near total abandon and were kept tight until one party or the other proved unworthy.  Those friendships are part of what has made moving here so much more difficult.
In Iowa, I have found that it’s quite the opposite when it comes to making friends.  (Yes, I realize it’s taken me nearly 3 years to learn this.  No one ever accused me of being quick on the uptake.)  Friendship is not automatic.  To call someone your friend means they have earned the honor, over time.  There are several women who I have met and would like to be friends with, but cultivating a new friendship seems to be waaayyy down on their “to do” list.  The women I have met all seem to have very full lives–full of children’s activities, extended family obligations, good friends from high school or college nearby, appointments, and jobs–with no time, energy, or desire for new friends.  As a result, I know and recognize many women, they know and recognize me.  But we are merely acquaintances; nothing more, nothing less.  I’ve found this to be the case at church, in my children’s school and in my neighborhood.
Slowly, very slowly over the past three years some of those acquaintances are beginning to precariously tip into the friendship zone.  Those relationships can’t come soon enough for me.  I’m ready for some real friends.

Sea Glass Mom?

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I love sea glass.  Looking for the small colorful pieces in the sand is my favorite beach activity–finding a new piece is like stumbling upon precious treasure.  I love the irony of sea glass itself.  Basically it’s ocean trash.  Junk thrown away because its purpose has been fulfilled.  Tossed into the ocean as garbage, a no longer desired bottle goes through an amazing transformation.  It’s shattered, tossed, tumbled, buffed and polished until it no longer resembles its original shape.  The former common bottle has been changed into something uncommon.  A jewel of the sea, rivaled only by the pearl.  I like to think of sea glass as a perfect analogy for what God does as he transforms our lives, the process making us nearly unrecognizable from where we began but more precious for what we become.  At least that’s how it’s been for me.  I’m still being shattered, tossed, tumbled, buffed and polished.  I have no idea how I will look when the process is over, but I know I am more beautiful than I was when it began.