It’s a lonely feeling when someone you love becomes a stranger. I’ve heard when you break up with a person it takes half the time of the entire relationship to really get over the loss. I think the same applies to the ending of a true friendship as well. Love is love. I unintentionally ended an entire friendship in the space of 5 minutes. Five stupid, thoughtless minutes. I gave my friend unsolicited advice. Unsolicited advice over a very painful topic. It’s the only true regret in my life that I would go back in time to change. I wish I had just shut my mouth and listened. Listened and supported my friend even when she made a decision that I wouldn’t have made. Why didn’t I listen? But I didn’t. I didn’t and I found myself mourning a friendship. A friendship that went from meaning everything to me to a smoking pile of ashes in the space of 5 damn minutes. It’s not like she died, it is like a part of me died. A part of me that is still quiet and dead. friendAt first I didn’t want to believe that the friendship was over. We were just having a fight. A rough patch. No. It swiftly became obvious to me that I had crossed an unforgivable line and my denial became a crushing pain that would grab me by my windpipe and make it hard to catch my breath. My apologies were acknowledged but I was sloughed off like dead skin. Forgiven but cast out. The death knoll was the fact that I had to move away. If I had been able to stay near my friend, my unflagging persistence may have worn her down. I would have been relentless. I would not have faltered from my goal. I would have groveled over and over and over. But I had to move. Friendships can withstand distance and time, they cannot withstand distance and time when they are already smoldering ashes. friend goneI’m pretty sure she gave a sigh of relief to see the last of me, dusted her hands of her judgmental ex-friend. Meanwhile tears would streak down my face and my entire core would clench for two years after I moved every time I thought of her. I thought about her a lot those first few years. A little less the next few, and so on and so forth until now the hope of resurrecting the friendship is gone and I’m left with bittersweet memories and regret. Painful regret. Facebook just makes it harder. I think she threw me a pity friendship online in memorandum of what we once were. I can see what she ate for lunch and what she did on the weekend, but it’s like eating cardboard. It’s flat and empty. I want to tell her that I miss her. The old her…the one that used to call me friend. Truth without love is judgement. Truth given in love can still be taken as judgment. Just because I don’t talk to you, doesn’t mean I don’t think about you, worry about you, miss you, love you, care for you, wonder how you are doing.
If I am the person in the room with the most positive and healthy body image in the room then it is a problem. The entire room is dysfunctional and instead of doing what we are doing, then we should probably all go trot down to a health center and get some therapy. Or at least that is my first thought. But then I realize that isn’t quite true. I have come to realize that it is rare to find a woman with an extremely healthy body image. Rare. Not winning the lotto rare, but pretty darn close to that. Which is a shame. If I stop to think about it, I have a fairly healthy body image, it’s just that I have to work on it every day. Every day. But I also have to shower every day so I won’t stink, I work every day to be a better mother, a better wife, I work on my relationship with Christ every day, and I try to write every day to develop my skill. I work every day on the things that are important. One of the big things that helps me keep my body image healthy is going to work out. I like to do it. It makes me strong, healthy and happy. Once I work out, my brain settles down and it actually stops me from obsessing about looks. I check the box taking care of it and then I move on to other things. That’s why I like working out in the morning. I do it. It’s done. I don’t work out because I’m obsessing. I work out so I can STOP obsessing. When I ‘diet’ I can’t ever stop assessing what I’m looking like. When I work out and eat healthy, I am proud of what I see in the mirror. I break free from the Tyranny of Skinniness. (I know exactly why I have these issues and obsessions, I just don’t share them lightly. Or in print.) Food is a different matter. I associate food with love. I always have. When I’m sad I want to eat, when I’m upset I want to eat, when I’m happy I want to eat and when I go out with people I want us all to eat together. I like to eat. I like everything about it. I still associate food with love and therein lies a big problem. I love my children and I want to feed them. I want to feed them all the time. When they are sad, upset, happy and on family outings. Teaching my children to make healthy choices is a lot harder than teaching myself. When I deny them a hostess cupcake in their lunch, I feel like I’m denying them love. It doesn’t matter that I know better. It doesn’t matter because that is the emotion that is pitted deep into my soul. When I deny them food, I am denying them love. A few days ago I took a step back and took a good look at what was happening. I have been making healthy meals for a long time now. Grilled salmon and steamed broccoli is a regular meal on my weekly rotation. They love it. They ask for it. However, healthy meals surrounded by a massive amount of unhealthy snacks isn’t doing anyone any good. My love is driving my children down a path that leads to a lifetime of struggle and health issues. Yesterday I threw out the junk in my pantry. Just the junk. I didn’t go crazy. I’m still going to make the meals they’ve been enjoying. I threw out the junk but I replaced it with enough snack size bags of fruits and vegetables that it filled up the entire bottom portion of my refrigerator. No one is going to go hungry. It took me all day to prepare the snacks in an exciting way that could be presented as fun. I bought the fruit and veggies I knew they liked. I called my pediatrician to verify the portions I was seeing online were correct for my specific children. I agonized over the discussion about eating food to fuel their bodies and brains in a way they could relate to and see in a positive way. I was careful to make sure I stressed that no food was bad but we needed to make sure we had our ‘fuel’ first. I have a fun chart to make sure we are all getting enough water each day. Healthy and Strong. Healthy and Strong. Healthy and Strong are the only words I ever want uttered in their presence. I had such a big emotional build up and they didn’t even pause. Barely even blinked. The only verification they wanted was to make sure we were still having cake next week for Lily’s birthday. Lainey asked for more cucumbers and Lily asked for more raspberries for the options in the fridge. That was it. Meanwhile, I feel like someone kicked me in the gut. I feel like I’ve just told them I don’t love them as much today as I loved them yesterday. I feel like I’ve pulled a dirty, rotten, low down scummy trick on them. Like I said, I have to work on this every day. Every. Day.
If I let myself do everything that I wanted to do, watching my life would be like watching a dumpster fire. I usually choose the right path, but it takes me a moment. One really long moment. I use that moment to think about consequences. My first instinct may not always be the right one, but I’ve always had a firm grasp on consequences. Well, maybe not always, but I learned quickly. If I tear my friends fort down, he is going to punch me in the nose and it will forever be bent slightly to the right side. (Thank you Michael Calvin) If I don’t stop talking in class I won’t see recess for my entire 1st and 2nd grade. If I talked sass at Babysittin’ Granny’s house she would make me go pick out a switch off the bush out front. The problem is that sometimes I’m willing to put up with serious consequences. You know what I like? I like being tan. When I was little, all the moms would put Sun-In in everyones hair so we would get blond streaks. Then they would break out the bottle of baby oil and slather it all over themselves when we would be at the lake or the pool. We went to the lake a lot. I have quite a few memories of burning to a crisp. Many memories of my mom rubbing in aloe vera on my burnt skin. In high school I tanned out on my trampoline. I fell asleep and my entire back got so burnt my teachers at school let me lay down on the floor during class for two entire days. Two days. No one said that tanning was bad. Not then. Not with any real voice. That came later. ‘Tan fat is muscle!’ was my mantra while I lived in California. Right before I had my first child, my grandfather was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of skin cancer. It’s fatal in less than a year. His surgeon told us my grandfather is the only person to have survived this cancer. The only one. That was 11 years ago and it’s still true today. They had to take off half of his face and neck to get it. I stopped tanning. I was the whitest white girl you ever did see. But it wasn’t that much of a sacrifice as I was in the midst of having three children and my bathing suit moments were few and far between. When I was forced to be in a bathing suit, I’d rush from my cover up to the cover of the water. Being the whitest white girl was the least of my concerns. A few years ago, I joined Weight Watchers and lost my weight I had gained on my baby making journey. Then I joined the gym so I could be strong. The result was being able to fit into a bathing suit I hadn’t worn since my honeymoon. Time to tan. The knowledge of the destruction skin cancer causes didn’t go away, it was just overshadowed by the overwhelming urge to prance around in a bikini. A bikini! Judge all you like, but if you had gone from obesity and tent swimsuits to being able to fit into your honeymoon bikini and weren’t I-Won-The-Lotto excited, then you are a better person than me. I went from telling my husband that we should go on an Alaskan cruise where I could be covered from head to toe our entire trip to envisioning myself climbing out of the surf sporting the dark sheen of an island native while people gasped in awe of my marvelous tanned, bikini body. I’ve never lacked in the imagination department. I realize no amount of tanning is going to make that happen. But tan fat is muscle. So I tanned. I tanned and when I tan, I look acceptable (if not island goddess) in a bikini when I look in the mirror. At the end of last summer my 10 year old asked if she could lay on the lounge chair next to me and tan with me. My response was somewhere in the vicinity of, “H*#$ no you can’t tan with me. You look perfect exactly how you are and it’s bad for you. You will ruin your skin and it causes cancer.” She justifiably looked horrified. Her eyes got big on her face and she asked me why I was doing it. It’s amazing how the consequences get much bigger, much faster when you are trotting out examples for your children. Time to stop tanning. But you know what I still like? I like being tan. Today I got a spray tan. I got a spray tan in a machine that looks like a spaceship emergency escape capsule while I wore a hair net and prayed I didn’t come out looking like a nacho dorito. It was cheap, it was clean, it was fast, it didn’t make me smell or look like a dorito. They have 4 levels and I just picked level 2 out of thin air. Let’s roll the dice and see what this gets me. It’s January in Missouri. I was a very white, white girl this morning. Tomorrow I am going to go to church looking very ethnic. Very ethnic. I accomplished in 5 minutes what I couldn’t get after an entire summer in the sun. My husband saw me and rattled off some Spanish to me. I’m pretty sure he said, “Island Goddess, I will love your tanned bikini clad body forever.”
I don’t always take selfies, but when I do it takes 50 tries to get a semi decent one and the people around me think I’m a narcissistic idiot. When I was younger, I remember my entire family giving my aunt grief for always wanting to take a picture. In retrospect, they should have been thanking her for being the Pictorial Family Historian. In no way did she take the amount of pictures that are snapped, edited, posted, tweeted, texted, snap chatted, bought and framed by everyone these days. She didn’t even have a real camera. She aways had one of those cheap disposable cameras that would only take 24 pictures and then it was done. If it was a holiday event she would bring two of them. She was really good about getting one group picture at each activity and then during the entire moment or activity she would be grabbing quick snaps along the way. She would buy doubles of those pictures, she would get a set and the rest of us would grab the few that we liked out of the bunch. She had (and still has) pictures all over her office, her house, her car, on her keychain, and her bathroom is an aquatic theme with our lifetime of lake and ocean vacations on display. While you poop, you can enjoy photos of us holding up fish throughout the years. She has a lifetime of pictures shoved into all the drawers, nooks, crannies of her house. Do you know the one thing that most people take with them when they have to move into a nursing home? Pictures. Pictures to remind them. Pictures to refresh them. Pictures to comfort them. Any pictures taken before I left to go to college are still at my moms house. My hoard of pictures began the moment I stepped out the door to go to college. Admittedly my one album of college pictures for my entire 4 years of college is much less than the 5 albums that college kids now take of their first day of school. I have a lot less pictures, but the pictures that I do have are meaningful and they are physically in my possession as opposed to cyberspace. We have maybe 3 pictures where we are all just standing trying to look as fabulous as possible. Three. Three pictures in four years of college where we cared if we looked amazing. The rest are proof that our time in college was epic. Epic before epic was even a word. Sometimes we looked unintentionally fabulous and sometimes it was the picture where you see nose hair and crossed eyes. We were disheveled, we were real, we were having a lifetime of fun in those brief four years. After college, I moved to California and during that part of my life, pictures became a little more important. We were all a little older, we had a little money, and the San Diego nightlife is a world away from college town West Texas. We still had disposable cameras but we would be taking 20 min worth of pictures before we left the house to make sure we all had that one perfect photo. Perfect from a 20 year olds perspective, not perfect in the sense you could show them to your mom or your children. We took pictures in the car, in the club, and of course the pictures of at least one of us making a fool out of ourselves that night. During that point in my life I actually knew which way to stand, angle my head, smile just right and hold my body to get the best picture. Even with all the deliberate posing and picture taking in California, I still only have about 10 really amazing pictures that are framable keepers. With disposable cameras you get what you get. No one gets a do-over. Good or bad they all tell a story about my life. Once I was married, it’s no longer endless pictures of me going out with my girlfriends, it’s pictures of the two of us. Which is great and horrible at the same time. It’s great because you are taking a picture with someone you love. It’s horrible as my husband is willing to take ONE picture on the way out of the door. If I hear, “You need to enjoy the moment, not ruin the moment with pictures” one more darn time I might take a hostage. A big, burly man hostage that is also the father of my children. That one picture is in front of a door, most of the time he is still griping about taking the picture as it is being snapped and if the picture is blurry or unflattering that is too bad because you had that one chance. No more posing, switching sides, adjusting clothing for a good picture. I have a 9 year time span where I zero amazing pictures. Zero. Zero amazing pictures, but they still hold the memories. They still show the love. They still tell our story. I spent the last week organizing my lifetime of photos. I gathered them all up from the nooks, crannies, boxes and closets I had shoved them into and spilled them all out over my living room floor. They are now all in albums, frames, one bookshelf and then a huge box with the remaining organized by periods in our life. It took me most of the week, but it was a worthwhile journey down memory lane. I will admit, I still love my amazing pictures. The ones that are framable and the ones that you can never let your children look at. They make me happy. But the ones that hit me in my heart, punched me in the gut, took me back in time were not the amazing pictures. The pictures that took me on a journey through time and made my memories vivid again are the pictures that would never make it into a frame. Would have never even made it to the printer by todays standards. And that is a darn shame. The pictures with the dirty house in the background, the action moments where everyone looks stupid but happy, the ones where you look fat but have love in your eyes, the pictures where the background was the most interesting part of the picture. It’s the background that tells most of the story and holds most of the memories. These days you can read countless eloquent quotes about taking pictures when you don’t look wonderful. Blogs written about and for moms struggling with their new physical image and being present in their family pictures instead of the background. I fully support that but we need to go a few steps further. Stop editing the horrible pictures. The pictures that are random, but have a critical moment captured or the realness of your situation. The pictures with no actual focus, but have a ton of people not looking at the camera. Stop editing and deleting those pictures and print them out. Print them out because 20 years from now you won’t give a hoot about those pictures you look fabulous in. You will use those once thought lame background pictures and it will bring that moment back with crystal clear clarity. Clarity you won’t get with a selfie. You won’t be able to tell when or where you are in those selfies because you are zoomed in on your face. Your perfect face that doesn’t tell a story. You will care about those pictures that actually tell the story. Print those selfies but also print your story. The amazing story of your life. It’s the details that matter. The messy, unframable details. Let’s not be the nursing home generation that only has a box full of selfies.
I grew up in West Texas. I was born in 1976 and my teen years were the late 80’s and early 90’s. Do you know what everyone was doing in West Texas in the 80s and 90s? We were dancing. It wasn’t often you would encounter someone not being willing to dance. It wasn’t often but it happened. But being willing is quite different from being unable. I only have two memories of someone stating they didn’t know how to dance. Two. Two that encompasses my first 20 years of my life. People joke about pre-teens and teenagers attending dances and everyone lining up against the walls in pubescent fear as they stare at an empty dance floor. That’s not the experience I had. Even in junior high we had several dances a year and I don’t remember the dance floor ever being empty. If you weren’t dancing, it was because no one wanted to dance with you specifically. dance2I’m not sure how anyone else learned to dance, but I took country dancing lessons at the local bar in the hours before the bar opened. You paid your fee and for 3-4 days you showed up and learned how to dance with a group full of strangers. The classes were packed. I was roughly 15 years old. I learned to two step, waltz, the cotton eyed joe, the cowboy cha cha, and once I got the basics down I was able to add a little swing if I had a partner that knew what he was doing. As far as I can tell, the only skill you need to learn how to dance is to be able to hear the beat. I grew up dancing in my home, at my friends houses, at weddings, Quinceaneras, receptions, banquets, birthday parties, at the lake with the radio tuned in, and I always enjoyed teen night at the local bar. We couldn’t drink, but we could dance. As a parent, I can’t imagine letting my underage daughter go dancing at a bar but at the time, and in West Texas, it was the norm. Tuesday night in high school meant we could end up dancing with guys from other schools at Santa Fe Junction. I think it helped that my father was a cop. He would call the off duty officer moonlighting as a bouncer that night and tell him to keep an eye out. I hope you danceThe first time in my life I walked into a bar without a dance floor I was already out of high school. Blake was living in upstate NY attending a nuclear power school and he flew me up to visit. I remember having an in-depth conversation where he told me all about these weird yankees going to bars where the only thing they did was drink and talk. No dancing. They didn’t even have a single bar in town for it to be an option. It was Footloose without the raging preacher suppressing the entire town. People had stopped dancing on purpose. I wasn’t impressed. Years have gone by and I’ve lived in quite a few places. It’s harder and harder to find a place to country dance. I used to believe that it was simply because I was no longer living in Texas. That’s not the case as when I go back home, Santa Fe is closed down and my hometown has no place to dance. It’s just a lot of bars where people drink and talk. People have stopped dancing on purpose. I’ve gone from unimpressed to a sadness deep down to my soul. Oh, I’m sure we still have plenty of clubs where you can find other types of dancing. But that doesn’t restore my faith in humanity and how we connect with each other. Country dancing is such an innocent, light flirtation. It can be fast or slow and it’s a short yet intense connection while you get to know each other. You can dance one dance or many. You can dance with your family, with friends, or with a romantic partner. It is pretty amazing when you can dance the same dance with your grandfather and the boy you like and it mean two different things and yet it’s joyous and fun with both. Grinding your privates on a stranger to hip-hop doesn’t have quite the same results. You take all the subtly, respect, romance, and joy out of dancing and go straight to thoughts and motions of sex. I like that type of dancing as much as anyone, I’m no prude, I just don’t think that needs to be the first and only option you have for dancing. Where the heck is the mystery? Why did we throw out the fun of the journey and the dance and tell ourselves we have to go straight for the goodies? Last of the MohicansCountry dancing seems to be the last frontier in the world of romance or light hearted fun. Joy for the sake of joy. A prayer in motion thanking God for our lives. It’s the last frontier and we are giving it up on purpose. ON PURPOSE! I feel like my husband and I are some of the last men standing. We are the Last of the Mohicans on the dancing frontier. Last night we celebrated my husbands birthday and we drove to the country bar alone. No big groups of friends excited to dance came with us. Nothing but comments of not knowing how to dance and not being willing or even vaguely interested to dance echoing after dinner. We arrived and no one was on the dance floor. The people at the bar weren’t even talking. They were mostly on their cell phones. Dancing with my husband still thrills me deep down to my tippy toes. 20 years as his dance partner hasn’t lessened the experience one bit. As we danced I looked out at all the lonely people focused on their cell phones, unable to dance, I just wanted to scream out. Scream out in defense of the entire act of country dancing, “You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you! ” When you dance, the purpose isn’t to get to a single place on the dance floor. It’s to enjoy all the steps along the way. To stop the dance is to stop the joy. Don’t give up the joy. Don’t give up the joy on purpose. Never on purpose. Don’t give up the dance. Sincerely, one of the last of the Mohicans on the dancing frontier.