Preserving Good Intention

In 2014, my relationship with friends on social media changed. Events happened here in the United States and people took to their Facebook pages, declaring loyalty to one side or another. This is also around the point with Facebook introduced the “hide friends” feature, meaning you could stay friends but just not see their posts.

tree-200795_960_720In some ways, this feature saved many of my online friendships. As people became more and more outspoken, I began seeing them only in relation to their stance on certain issues, rather than as a holistic person with nuances and layers of opinions.

The majority of my friends on social media don’t live near me. We can’t meet for coffee or dinner and our interactions are fairly limited to the filter we choose to present to the world. And, I’d say a lot of my friends have somehow managed to keep social media what it was meant to be: social. They stay away from politics and keep my feed filled with babies and daily life.

I struggle to find this balance. Life hasn’t gotten less complex in the past few years and I know my friends’ opinions on the role of law enforcement, of the conflict in Syria, of the recent elections, and so much more. I know that if I could just invite them to dinner, we either wouldn’t talk about any of this at all or we’d have a stimulating conversation. Maybe we still wouldn’t agree but we’d talk over dinner and our discussion would be infused with our kids and our daily lives.

I’m wondering what the role of justice and activism look like in this age of social media. To stay quiet is to take a stand. To say something can be polarizing. I’m learning to choose my words carefully, to defer to those who have more knowledge and experience, and to use the “hide friend” button as a way of preserving good intention toward my friends.

How do you balance real life friendships with online images? When it’s impossible to sit down face-to-face, how do you remember the nuances of opinion?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “invite.”

BackyardThis post is Day 13 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

Best Friends Forever!

I’m honored to be over at my friend, Debby’s to kick off her series on friendship. Here’s an excerpt and I hope you’ll join the conversation over at her place!

ElleWhen we moved into this neighborhood, we couldn’t have known what awaited us, just across the street. If we had been able to include neighbor profiles in our search criteria, I couldn’t have imagined better. A family with a daughter, just a few months younger than our oldest? How perfect!

Now, hardly a day goes by without these girls yelling out windows, running into open garages, insisting on playdates. They yell through the street, Best Friends Forever!!! and hug and fight and grapple their way through each playtime. No matter how much tattling has happened or how many times feelings were hurt, we always leave with a massive bear hug and the declaration of Best Friends Forever!

I’ve never experienced a childhood best friend. Across the street from our house was a church parking lot and a kind old lady who collected elephant figurines. Read the rest over at Debby’s!

What about you? Did you have a best friend and a child? Are you a Best Friends Forever sort of friend or a seasonal friend?

The Need for Seasonal Friendships

Each year, Frank and I host two big parties: The girls’ birthday in the summer and our Christmas party. This has evolved over the years – first with the fact that Elle was born just three days after Bea’s birthday. We’d always had a “invite everyone” attitude toward her party, but since we could combine both, we decided it’s better to err on the side of lots of kids and friends. Since it’s mid-summer, it’s easy to just open up the doors, let the kids run wild in the yard, and enjoy a barbecue.

img_9395Our Christmas party started when we moved into this house. We hosted our first one week after we moved in, partly because the reason we so loved this house was the ability to entertain, and partly for the motivation to unpack quickly.They’re our two big parties and take most of our energy, so it’s probably a good thing they’re spaced out.

One of my favorite parts is looking over the guest list. We’re in a season of diverse friendships: dance class, church, preschool, friends from forever, work friends, friends of friends who are now our friends, MOPS…. It’s a jumble and it’s fun to bring everyone together.

As a Maximizer, long-term friendships are the ones I look for. It’s hard for me to invest when a friendship is just for a small season. I like depth and seriousness in my relationships, and often these are found with consistency and time.

The funny thing is, you can’t tell which friendships are going to last or not. Friends we met in a brief class turn out to be ones we connect with longterm. Some we see frequently at activities are ones that stay surface-level.

My last few months in Paris, I was the last of my group of friends to leave. Partly because I was a year younger, partly for circumstances. At first, I thought I wouldn’t make any new friends that last semester – I’d just focus on graduating and be done. That’s not how it worked, and I’m so thankful for those friendships I made, even if they were just for a few months. Those friends taught me about life and faith in fresh ways, that my longterm friends hadn’t. Had I closed myself off to those friendships, I would have missed out on a lot.

Sometimes I feel that way with my community. It’s a bit precarious during these preschool years. I’ve been part of my MOPS group for 4 years now, and potentially could stay another 3 or so, until Elle is in kindergarten. That’s a long time, and I hope that our friendships continue after that, but already I’m seeing how hard it is to coordinate schedules, and we’ve only added an extra day to our preschool week this year! Same with our school friends or rec center friends – we are connected now, but what will happen when our kids are all in different schools full time?

This is when I need to live in the moment and recognize that some friendships will stick, beyond proximity, and some won’t. And that’s how life is meant to be. It’s not that our friendship is any less – it’s just seasonal.

I’m always amazed at the ones that do stick – my weekly walking buddy of nearly a decade was a friend from high school. We weren’t best friends then, and I would never have guessed where our friendship would end up. A mom I met at MOPS, but who doesn’t attend anymore, is still a friend we make time to see and I’m always rejuvenated by our conversations.

I’m learning to not compartmentalize friends too much: These friends are from preschool and we’ll only be friends during the preschool years. How sad would that be?! How much would I miss out?

What I’m learning is that, perhaps friendships won’t actually be longterm, but I can treat the moment as longterm. I can invest and know that while some friendships are seasonal, I wouldn’t want to miss out on this season at all.

Do you surround yourself with a few longterm friends or do you like to keep things fresh with new friends? 

livin

This post is Day 9 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

Bike Gangs and Spare Grandparents

When we moved to a cul-de-sac in the suburbs, I had no idea how wonderful the cliche would be. On these lazy summer days, when I’m trying to pare back even our fun playdates, our neighbors keep us from being housebound without an event. (Something Bea loves!)

Regularly, kids are out biking and playing. We’ve got neighbors with a daughter Bea’s age as well as grandparents whose grandkids – also Bea’s age – visit regularly. We’ve laughed that we need to get t-shirts made for our neighborhood bike gang, they’re out so often.

IMG_1048I recently discovered that our monitor reaches out front, so while Elle takes her morning nap, Bea and I head outside for some bike riding. I’ll bring a book to read on the driveway while Bea peddles around. But usually, I don’t get much reading done. More often, we all gather outside. The kids help Judy water her flowers, or they’ll abandon their bikes and dig around Connie’s mailbox. They’ll race down the easement toward the empty lots behind the houses.

Adults will gather and we’ll laugh and watch the kids. Right now, we’re at about 50-50 young families-grandparents. At first, I’d apologize for Bea just biking over, barging in, “helping out.” But I’ve found that these neighbors love the young kids. They often talk about how the neighborhood has regained its vitality because of this little bike gang.

One of the things I love most about our neighbors is this diversity in age and life experience. Bea told one neighbor she could be her “spare nana.” She watches their house from her bedroom window and will yell out, I love you, Susie!!! if she emerges from the house. Susie’s grandkids and Bea are inseparable and even reserved Elle will give a smile.

It’s been a reminder for me, too, on the importance of cultivating friends of all ages. While I get so much support and encouragement from moms in the same phase as me and I love having friends who are in that next phase, who give me hope, these women are able to remind me that life is big and these years are quick.

They laugh about over-scheduling and date-nights. We talk tomatoes and gardening. They always know the gossip – both current and the history of our neighborhood. They watch their grandkids with an enthusiasm a mom couldn’t give. They engage with my kids when I’m tired and answer all the questions because they can. They have spare popsicles and toys and are generous with their flowers.

When we were looking at houses, we looked in neighborhoods that were mostly young families in our same phase; we looked at neighborhoods that seemed old and in need of revitalization; we looked at neighborhoods that didn’t have any chairs on the front porch. When we moved into our house, it was in December and front porch living was in hibernation.

Now, in our second summer here, I am thankful for this neighborhood where we landed. For the neighbors who are in our same place in parenting and for the ones who can give perspective and guidance on this journey.

What is your neighborhood like? Do your neighbors gather out front? Is there a diversity in ages or phases of life?

Finding Inspiration

We meet once a month, this group of strong, opinionated women, to talk about books written by or featuring strong women. Over food and crusty bread and wine, we share our lives and dive into big topics. This group is my most diverse book club, from a life-experience perspective and our conversations about the books and topics surrounding the books (and topics surrounding life that have nothing to do with the books!) always generate lively discussion.

Frank and I were talking about things that motivate us. He enjoys listening to motivational speakers on the way to work. Even though he’s heard the message countless times before, he always gleans something new and it gives him encouragement. For me, sitting around a table and sharing life is what gives me motivation. Talking about hard topics with women I admire inspires me to learn more, to do more, and to view this world in new ways.

I’ve definitely been inspired after going to a conference or hearing someone give a powerful talk, but the inspiration that will most likely lead to concrete changes in thinking and action is when I’m with friends who challenge and encourage my own journey.

I’m thankful for this group of women – most of whom I didn’t know until joining this book club – that we take the time each month to meet, to debrief about life, and to encourage each other on the journey.

Where do you find inspiration and encouragement?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Power Lunches

I taught with Debbie for seven years. At first, our interactions were occasional: Asking for advice, sharing materials, planning lessons. By the second year, we planned each week, scheduled a weekly lunch, and conferred daily.

By our last year, we ate lunch together most days, talked constantly, knew so much about each other’s families, got together during the holidays, and depended on each other for emotional, spiritual, and moral support. I think Bea knew Debbie’s voice as well as Frank’s by the time she was born.

Debbie’s encouragement helped me through the insecurity of my first years of teaching, rough patches with administration, life as a newlywed, pregnancy and impending motherhood. We processed, laughed, cried, had the occasional misunderstanding, and vulnerable apologies.

Debbie & I dressed up for Spirit Week.
Debbie & I dressed up for Spirit Week.

When I quit working to stay home full-time, my biggest shock was the fact that Debbie wasn’t at my house everyday, talking about newborn life and encouraging me through the foggy, sleepless first weeks. Two years later, I still miss that daily camaraderie and perspective.

When I think about our years together, I tend to romanticize how quickly and easily we chose to engage and be vulnerable in our daily lives. Now that I’m making new friendships and discovering new paths, I want to hurry the friendship along, quickly getting to the point of sharing and honesty. I forget that it took Debbie and I a good two years – if not longer – of working toward that depth of friendship.

Now, as I’m surrounded by new friends – mostly stay-at-home moms in my same life-season – I still value Debbie’s friendship and insight so much. We’ve moved from daily conversations to seeing each other every few months. But, her wisdom, life experience, and encouragement are what keep me bolstered. She reminds me not to over think motherhood, to enjoy these moments, and to remember that there is always a new experience waiting on the other side.

Who has encouraged you along the journey?

Linked with (in)courage’s Power of Encouragement.

Encouragement

I’ve never been one to have a best friend. I even feel funny calling Frank my best friend (probably after reading Committed…) My friends fill different needs in my life – some offer encouragement in my faith journey, others are practical problem-solvers, others joined me in motherhood and offer grace and encouragement during this season.

One of my friends, Robyn and I have known each other since our freshman year of high school. We went to different colleges but both ended up back in Denver. Years ago (5 or 7 maybe?) we started walking once a week after work. The parks have changed over the years and there have been a few breaks – holidays, the month after Bea was born, but we have remained consistent. We even trained for a 5k run together. (And I was firmly reminded that I’m not a fan of running.)

Robyn is an amazing encouragement. During our 2-3 mile walk, we talk about everything. We process, we vent, sometimes we problem-solve, but mostly the other listens. It’s so encouraging to be with a friend who has the gift of listening. What an encouragement! To let the other simply be with her processing.

Now that tax season is approaching, Frank and I have been talking about our schedule. I’m part of 2 monthly book clubs, a weekly book club, and my weekly walk with Robyn. When thinking about things to cut back on during this busy time, I can’t imagine foregoing the encouragement they all offer, but especially those walks – that time of doing life with a friend is such an encouragement.

Linked with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday, a time to sit and write without editing for 5 minutes.