Friends are not friends forever despite what Michael W. Smith says

While driving to soccer practice, my 10-year old daughter chatters non-stop.  One day she mentioned that she and a teammate want to have a playdate.  I suggested the waterpark or the beach and then she said, “It’s weird.  Whenever I go someplace like that I always meet someone and make a friend.  And then I never see them again.”

I said, “Yes, they are just friends for a day, huh?”

I hate the idea of a friend for a day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love the occasional conversation you have with a stranger you meet in random circumstances:  in the airport or the beach or while walking your dog down the street on a balmy Southern California morning.  I like a temporary intersection with an acquaintance or the getting-to-know you exchange of information and ideas with a potential friend, even if nothing really comes of it.

But what I hate is the abandonment of old friends, dear friends, those friends who have toured the inside of your heart and seen you cry.  I hate it and I don’t understand it.

Maybe I am that kind of person, the kind of person who walks away and forgets her friends, the kind of woman who drifts away on the currents of busyness, the loser who plain-out abandons her friends.  But I don’t want to be like that.  I don’t think I am like that.  I spend a lot of time wondering if I am.  Is it me?

Admittedly, I am an introvert, one of those weirdos who would choose reading over partying.  I am never the life of the party, like some people I know.  I don’t gather people to me like a magnet.  I like solitude and peace and quiet.

But when I find a friend, when I connect with someone on a deeper level, when I find someone who laughs at my jokes  and makes me laugh, who “gets” me, I treasure that person.  Over the years, I’ve had some of the most amazing friends.  We have walked parallel paths as we became wives and mothers.  We’ve shared our lives, our sorrows, our gripes, our dreams, our fears.  We have history together.

But at some point, silence has crept in.  Distance both geographical and emotional has turned from space into a wall, an impenetrable wall without a gate.  I’m alone.  I don’t know why.

I don’t have forty-seven other friends tucked away in a banquet room.  I have loved these few friends with devotion and faithfulness.  I have saved every letter these friends have ever sent yet I feel like my actual friendship has been shredded and tossed out in the recycling bin.  (I know.  Real letters with handwriting and postage stamps and everything!  So old-fashioned.)

Sure, this could just be life, that time in the life-cycle of an American female human being when she only sees her children and her husband and her job and her to-do-list, but I have a hole where those friends used to be.

I can’t stop probing the hollow space.


p.s.  I already know that some friends are “for a season” and some are “for a reason” and all that trite stuff.  I just feel a sense of abandonment and it’s probably me, not you.  I don’t need advice or comfort.  I just wanted to stay what I’ve been thinking because it helps me think better and sort through things.  (I almost didn’t post this but I can’t seem to post anything else until this post stops blocking the traffic in my head.)

Dance Dance Anti-Revolution

Do you ever watch “Regis and Kelly”?  When I return from taking my 7-year old to school, I crawl right back into bed, ignoring the shame of my slothfulness, and watch the first fifteen minutes of the show.  I like to hear them talk about their lives.

Right before their trivia contest, sometimes they have an audience member dance.

That, my friends, is my Worst Nightmare.

I don’t dance.

I have a long history of not dancing.  I remember being a very small child, hanging out in the lower level of a neighborhood friend’s split level (I think her name was Cindy).  The televisi0n was tuned to The Jackson Five (a cartoon?  I can’t remember) and Cindy directed me and the others to stand on the couch’s armrests and dance.


I don’t dance.  I didn’t then and I don’t now.

The only dancing I’ve ever successfully managed was square-dancing during that mortifying unit in Junior High gym class.  The last thing in the world I wanted to do as a tall teenager was clasp the sweaty hands of boys.  But I did and I skipped around and doe-see-doed (phonetic spelling, you’re welcome) and generally moved as stiffly as possible while dancing.  My grade depended on following the directions, so I did.  But I did not enjoy it.

Fortunately, I grew up in a religious tradition that forbade dancing.  Some of the girls even skipped that square dancing unit in gym class, claiming a religious exemption.  I think dancing was forbidden because it might tempt us to throw off our clothes and have illicit relations with the opposite sex, thus resulting in an unplanned pregnancy, but I don’t know.

All I know is that I don’t dance.

I can clap my hands.

I can play a passable sonata on the piano, counting carefully (“one and two and three and four and”).

But I don’t dance and I never will.  I can sway.  I can tap.  I can nod my head.

But do not ask me to shake my booty or moon-walk or accept an invitation to appear on “Dancing with the Stars.”

Other things I do not do:
Raise my hand in group settings.
Sit in the front row.
The splits.

Stuff about me you probably don’t know

I haven’t read a single Harry Potter book.

I have never worn a two-piece swimsuit.

I don’t dance, never have, never will. (Unless you count square-dancing in eighth grade P.E.)

My eyebrows have never been professionally waxed.

I do not own an iPod.

I hate to watch DVDs at home.

I don’t drink alcohol.

I didn’t have my first date until I was in college.

Every time I hear a kid say “mom,” I think I’m being paged.

I’m between generations, not a “Boomer” nor a Gen-Xer.

I don’t drink coffee. The only thing I’ve ever ordered from Starbucks was hot chocolate.

I hate to spend money on purses. My current purse was purchased at Value Village.

These are random facts listed for no reason at all.

Now where did I put that?

I had an actual thought today, the kind of thought that made me say to myself, oh, I need to blog about that.  I think I even composed the first sentence in my head.  And now it’s gone.  If you happen to find it, will you please return it to me?  Thanks.

Meanwhile, how about this picture I took a few weeks ago?  I adjusted the light a little so the foreground was more of a shadow.  This is Mt. Rainier and the moon.  See the moon?


A survey of my interior

I want a day without shouting.  I want my children to be the Brady Bunch, bell-bottoms optional.  I want the house to clean itself.  I want the cats to stop pooping.  Forever.  I want a pedicure.

I think scattered thoughts.  I think best when no one is talking to me.  I think talking is overrated. 

I need to vacuum.  I need to change the sheets.  I need to sort through my daughter’s closet to rid us of her outgrown clothing before she reclaims it.  I need more sleep.  I need an agent.  Or a cheerleader.  Or both.

I regret laziness.  I regret burned bridges.  I regret burning all my diaries that I wrote before I was eighteen. 

I dream strange dreams between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.  I dream of a day when my children are grown.  I dream that they’ll turn out all right and, in turn, create happy and healthy families of their own.  I dream of a cottage where I can dream.  I dream of writing stories that change people’s minds and hearts.

I love chocolate chip cookie dough.  I love reading good literature.  I love People magazine.  I love my husband, the man who makes me laugh more than any other.  I love blue skies and tall trees and crashing ocean waves.  I love my children, even when they spill whole pitchers of water on the floor and leave a trail of Cheez-Its from the kitchen to the playroom.

I hate being misunderstood.  I hate fleas.  I hate hearing children in movie-theaters when the movies are not intended for children.  I hate running out of a key ingredient while I’m in the middle of baking something.  I hate stepping in gum.  I hate being stuck behind a bus in my car.

I like sleeping in.  I like shopping in thrift stores.  I like hearing people’s stories.  I like farmer’s markets.  I like daffodil fields.  I like parades and fluffy clouds and shade on a hot day.  I like walking.  I like comfortable shoes.  

I dread making mistakes.  I dread making phone calls.  I dread conflict. 

I need to telephone potential volunteers for Vacation Bible School (VBS).  I need to find a babysitter for Saturday night.  I must catch up on laundry.  I need to return all my shoes to my closet.  I need to find a way to get all my work done and still carve out time to feed my soul.

What about you?  What do you want, think, need, dream, love, hate, like, dread, need to do? 


Being a mother is harder than I thought.

My daughter is four and a half and as the youngest child and only girl in my family, she exerts her will on her brothers by crying.  Sobbing, weeping, screaming, in fact.  Which makes my ears bleed and my head spin on my neck.  Her brothers, ages 14, 14 and 9, cannot remember being four years old.  They can’t remember being irrational or whiny or unreasonable.  They demand that she act fairly, that she adhere to rules, that she not follow them around.  They accuse me of letting her get away with everything.  They critique my parenting and tell me how I ought to do it.  And they cannot get get along with her.  So she cries.

This dynamic is driving me nuts. 

They whisper something to her just to get her goat.  She wails.  I holler.  They protest.  She sobs.  I lecture.  They comply.  She stops.  Until the next time. 

I am a terrible mother, no doubt about it.  As I mentioned to someone in an email, I thought I would be a dandy mother, a singing in the kitchen, humming under my breath, eye-crinkling, smiling at all times mother.  But then again, I thought I’d give birth to Jo, Beth, Meg and Amy and we’d sit around embroidering, playing sonatas on the piano and conversing in quiet tones about Papa.  (In lilting British accents.)  I would have been a terrific mother to reasonable, sane, crafty, gentle girls.  (I would.  Don’t argue with me.) 

But I am the mother of whiners and kids who stink.  I am the mother of kids who have the temerity to point out my faults to me.  I am the mother of children who sass me on a regular basis and question my authority on the basis of my flawed human judgment.  I am the mother of boys who have devoted the spring to digging a coffin-sized hole in my backyard, the mother of a daughter who will not wear shoes outside even when it’s only forty-five degrees.  I am the mother of children who demonstrate no interest in contemplation or meditation or quietness.  And they leave wet towels and underpants turned inside out on the floor.

I am a mother with chipped edges and missing parts, a mother who lost the map and wonders if maybe she ought to turn around rather than forging ahead into the wilderness.  I am a mother who has no clue if I’m doing all right or if I am destroying my children with my temper tantrums.

Tonight I thought of that sunny afternoon in September of 1989 when my dad called my sisters and I into his brown-toned living room.  He sat in the rocking chair.  Terror filled me because we were not a family who had family meetings or a family who sat around and chatted for no good reason.  I knew this was a meeting with a purpose and that purpose would be bad.  I knew in my thumping heart.

The sun shone through the blinds marking a horizontal pattern on the carpet.  My dad took off his glasses, wiped his balding head and face with his hand.  His hands were always rough, his fingertips so dry they cracked and sometimes, I’d say, “What did you do to your hand?” and he’d shrug and say, “I don’t know.”  I couldn’t imagine that, not knowing where the blood came from, but now I’m a mother and my hands are worn, dry and sometimes, I find a streak of blood on my finger and I have absolutely no idea where it came from.  I don’t even notice the pain. 

He started at the beginning of the story, describing the time he noticed he couldn’t read some writing on a piece of paper.  This puzzling event led him to the ophthalmologist, who sent him immediately to a neurologist who sent him for tests which revealed a brain tumor.  That news led to a prognosis:  four months to two years.  As he told us this, he broke down and cried and I reached for him in an awkward hug–we were not a hugging family, but this news called for a hug, even an awkward one.  Some time passed while we sobbed, and then we stopped. 

Then he mentioned a hidden two-pound bag of M&Ms and we broke it open and ate M&Ms in defiance of the certainty of his impending death.  Which is odd, but that’s the way it was.

I wondered for the first time tonight if he wasn’t actually crying for himself.  I don’t think he feared death at all.  But as a father, did he look at us and see orphans, victims of his cancer?  He knew that we’d suffer the loss, that we’d be broken, that we’d have to find our way through his illness, his death, his funeral, the grieving, the unknown.  He’d miss his grandchildren, his retirement, the vibrant changing colors of fall, Kringle at Christmas-time, hot-fudge sundaes, bratwurst you could only buy in Wisconsin . . . but he was a father and I think he cried because he knew that his death would cut us to the bone. 

Almost twenty years later, that occurred to me.  What’s shocking is how keenly I feel the loss of him the older I get.  He was the guardrail, keeping me on the road, keeping me from fall off a cliff to certain doom below.  And although I can stay on the road without a guardrail, I drive so much more carefully, I worry so much more, I fear sliding off the road entirely.  I resent the fact that my father was taken from me when he was so young, while I was so young, just when we were getting the hang of being father and daughter. 

I suppose that has nothing to do with the fact that I feel like a substandard mother on days like today when I said too often, “Please!  Go play!” and rushed to judgment instead of walking down the stairs and investigating the crying.  Being a parent is hard.  I thought that my parents were just not very good at parenting, but as it turns out, they did the best they could under the circumstances.  The job itself is just really difficult.  Especially when you aren’t parenting little women but real kids who forget to brush their teeth unless you walk them into the bathroom and point at the toothbrush.

I’m a whiner.

I’m feeling all neglected and wishing someone would email me . . . because no one has emailed me in the last ten minutes since I last checked.  And then I realize that I have 82 emails sitting in my box at this very moment and perhaps it would behoove me to answer one or twenty-seven of them.

Or not.

Shame and Joy

Shame:  I have yet to teach my 9-year old to tie his shoes.  Velcro has turned me into a negligent mother.  However, yesterday for the first time, he mastered riding his bicycle which has been a challenge for him until now.  (I take no credit for this at all.)

Joy:  Max & Ruby are back.  I can’t help myself.  I really love “Max & Ruby” and so does my 4-year old.  She completely identifies with Ruby. 

That is all. 


I’m marinating in a delightful broth of guilt and stress today. You should see the carpet right next to the fireplace–it’s lined with smashed Cheez-Its cracker crumbs. I need to vacuum. In fact, the whole family room carpet looks like a remnant you might see at a garage sale . . . after a hundred people have walked over it with filthy shoes. I need to get the carpet cleaner guy out here or rent a Rug Doctor, but neither will happen before I go.

The more I think about going, the more things I realize I ought to do. I suddenly decided that perhaps I should clean the oven. And the refrigerator. And I absolutely must get some new kitty litter and clean out the litter box.

The sun is shining today which means I have no excuse not to be out in the backyard sweeping up the litter of dead leaves that have gathered in every nook and cranny. I should pick up the scattered toys and rake the playground mulch evenly and dig up the giant dandelion that has rooted next to my three-foot square garden.

I feel preemptive guilt for leaving my family for five nights and six days. I watch my unsuspecting daughter and know how much she’ll miss me and how much I’ll miss (her musical rendition of “Jesus Loves the Little Children” in the shower, for instance). I worry that my husband will be overwhelmed by the noise, the mess, the constant demands for food. He won’t have anyone to watch “Deal or No Deal” with . . . no one who will mock him or call him Mr. Safety. I feel guilty that I won’t be cooking meals, folding laundry . . . and I feel guilty that I haven’t taught my kids to be self-sufficient.

I feel guilty about spending money on this venture. I feel guilty about devoting time to me and me alone. I feel guilty that my housekeeping is not up to par.

And then, as a distraction from the guilt, I add two more things to my list of stuff that should be done right away. The bathtub still needs to be caulked and the entryway to our house needs to be redone. Now. The outdoor carpeting must be ripped up and replaced . . . or maybe the stairs should be painted (Martha Stewart would know what to do) and flowers should be planted.

But the more I have to do and the more guilty I feel, the more I am paralyzed.


The most ridiculous navel-gazing post ever.

I’m rather nostalgic for the days when only twelve people came to read my daily postings.  Now, sometimes–like today–I feel self-conscious, worried about what people will think of me.  (Especially since some real life people read this now.)  I feel vulnerable when I pull back the curtains and let people have a glimpse inside my house.  If I describe my kitchen full of dinner dishes and abandoned glasses, everyone will know that I’m a slob.  A lazy slob.  If I exclaim that I am so tired, just so weary from my responsibilities here at home, everyone will roll their eyes and wonder just what is so difficult about maintaining a household in alignment with my very low standards of housewifery.

If I tell you about the pile of eighteen books near my desk, everyone will realize that I have pack-rat tendencies (and a lack of adequate bookshelves).  If I talk about my non-existent relationship with my sister who no longer speaks to me, you’ll assume that I am a rotten person, especially since I talk about the estrangement.  (How disloyal of me to speak the truth!)  If I offer details about life with teenage boys (stinky shoes, stinky armpits, repetitive noises, broken beds), you might think that I have no idea what I’m doing as a parent.  (You’d be right.)  If I mention my 4-year old daughter’s impressive ability to write letters . . . on her face, her pajama pants, the wooden arm of the child-sized rocker, her little table in the kitchen, as well as on paper . . . you might think I’m bragging.  Or that I have no control since she won’t stop marking every flat (and not flat) surface with neat little rows of letters.

It’s funny because I’m not really concerned with fitting a certain stereotype.  I don’t care if people think I’m not a picture-perfect pastor’s wife or a holy enough Christian.  It makes no difference to me that the Almas and Eleanors (anonymous commenters of prior days) of the world think I’m judgmental.  I do worry about appearing to be a messy housekeeper with an abnormal level of clutter.  If I knew you were coming by, I’d work myself into a lather putting things away and dusting and washing the kitchen floor on my hands and knees.  But on a daily basis, I don’t want to devote time to bringing my household up to higher standards because that effort is ultimately such a losing battle.  The kids undo what I do almost as quickly as I do it.  (I know.  A better mother than I would make the kids do it.  I told you I have no idea what I’m doing here.)  I just don’t want to work like a slave cleaning and tidying.    

What I want to do is read.  I want to think.  I want to plant flowers–will the ground ever warm up?  I want to be uninterrupted.  I want to enjoy just a day or two of an empty nest.  I wish I could exchange a couple of days of the normal chaos for a couple of future days of quiet.  Alas, time is linear . . . no loop-do-loos, no skipping ahead, no backtracking.  Just today.  And then tomorrow, another today.

I need to shake this self-consciousness.  You can help by pretending that either 1) you are just like me, thus feel no judgment, only empathy or 2) you aren’t reading this blog and won’t look at me cross-eyed when you see me in public.  Also, if you’re going to stop by, give me a few hours’ notice so I can find someplace to stash all these books.