Happy 18th Birthday, Mary Beth

We have a tradition of birthday posts here. It's a tradition my children look forward to every year (and one for which I'm three behind this month, but there's grace...). We also have a slideshow tradition. For big birthdays or when someone is leaving home, there's a slideshow. It involves much sifting and sorting through all photos, mom laughing and crying at the discoveries of memories, and Mary Beth staying up late to pull it all together. 

Today is Mary Beth's birthday.

Someone else stayed up late with all the memories. The same guy who used to walk across the hall from his room to hers and stay up late talking about anything and everything. The brother who is her hero and the standard by which she subconsciously measures all other men. The one who left her without a best friend when he was called up to the National Team at 16 and went to live in Florida.  Her best friend is back in his place of honor again, and their constant banter continues, if from afar. With some help from the forces on the ground here at home, he created his very first Youtube video for his first little sister.

So, Bee, Happy Birthday from Patrick:

Real Support for the Uphill Climb

Let's just call it what it is: super challenging. If our path to heaven is the vocation of motherhood and the nurturing of a family, especially a large family, it's a hard path. It's a trail run uphill and the hardest part isn't at the beginning; it's well into the run, when you realize that you've agreed to carry a heavier pack then almost everyone else on the trail and there's no leaving anything or anyone behind. You've got to keep on running. 

That's when it's super-helpful to have someone who understands run alongside. 


My friend Linda called one morning. We talked for a few minutes before I had to dash out the door and deliver a teenager to work and a second-grader to dance. I apologized for my hasty hangup, and she understood perfectly. We quickly discussed schedules and decided I’d call her back in the early afternoon. And then I didn’t. Because I forgot. I forgot because I’m the world’s worst correspondent, and because I have a very hard time being still. So, the phone slips my mind.

She called me by mid-afternoon. This is why we’ve been very close friends for more than 15 years. She knows that I want to talk to her. She knows that I need to slow down. And she knows that if she calls, I’ll be very grateful. We had a long talk while I cleaned my kitchen and put dinner in the crockpot. The conversation began with the obvious fact that 2:30 was way too late to start a crockpot meal. It progressed to a lively conversation about the “robber barons” and then was summed up with a genuine sharing of my heart on a matter I’d never expressed to anyone.

I hung up feeling grateful and relieved. I was understood, and I knew it. There’s nothing quite like being understood. There’s nothing quite like an old friend.

In The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers, Meg Meeker writes of friendship: “No perfection is needed. Love is required, but even that can be woefully broken, because at the end of the day what we really need as mothers is a friend who simply stays. Because when she stays, we know that we are loved.”

I think this speaks to the quality of friends that allows us to trust them with our hearts. Over time, we learn that they are connected — bonded, if you will — and so they can be trusted to keep loving us even if we show our failures and our weaknesses. For some women, baring our souls in this way is extremely difficult, and it takes years to build that kind of trust. Bruised and broken relationships in our past or childhoods without unconditional love can make women skeptical that such a friend even exists. It takes loving patience to befriend a broken woman and to show her that faithfulness in friendship really does exist.

Meeker continues: “The hallmarks of inner circle friendships are trust, maturity and faithfulness, all of which work together to cultivate the deep love between us.” I have thought about this quote for months. I've weighed it against every good, solid, longterm friendship I have. I held it up to the friendships I've seen die. Yes, it holds up. She nailed it. Those are the hallmarks. I might add that a shared faith is also necessary, but maybe that's just for me.

Not all friends are very close friends. Those close friendships are ones we cultivate and care for and ones where forgiveness flows both ways. Says Meeker, “(Inner circle friendships) require attention, diligence and emotional elbow grease on our parts. Like a marriage, they need honing, sweat and time.” To this, I would add that friendships lack the sacramental grace of marriage, and they lack the commitment. It is acceptable to walk away from a friendship. Sometimes, it's the right thing to do. The challenge is to know when to stay and work on it and when to acknowledge it's time to move on.

I’ve come to understand that true friendships are of immeasurable worth. With passion, Meeker writes, “Women friends are vital because they help us become or stay emotionally more stable. They lift us out of despair, they make us laugh when we want to sob, they force us to keep living when we don't want to.” There was a time in my life when I would have thought this statement melodramatic. But now I know the feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know that the person on the other end of the phone is in so much pain that she just wants the world to stop turning. And you can't turn back the clock. And you can't change the horror in her life. And you can't alleviate the pain. But she needs you to say something, anything. Because she needs to hear your voice and she wants, somewhere deep down, someone to tell her how to keep going. And you know why she called you.

She is secure in knowing that you are truly a friend. “The deep mystery of friendship is its intense security which accepts us exactly as we are and, at the same time, yearns for us to change, to improve and live a better life.” Intense security in a friendship: I don't think that can be overstated.

Read about the rest of the journey here.

I Almost Gave Up

This morning's run was supposed to be a  5 minute walking warmup, 22 minutes running, and a 5 minutes walking cool down. Since I'm running a little behind my intended 9-week schedule because of time taken to travel, I thought I'd get a little ambitious and skip to the following workout and run 3 minutes more. I want to finish the app program by the end of October and then just keep running 3 miles until the 5K on Thanksgiving. Last week's runs were all really good, so I was sure I could do the 22+ .

I also told myself I wasn't going to look at the app. I was just going to run until I couldn't run any more. Things got off to a good start; I got to the end of the asphalt that's right around the 10 minute mark, maybe a little more than 10 minutes and I felt decent. Then I didn't. I started talking to myself earnestly. I persuaded myself to run to the corner and then to the next corner. Nah. Not that far. I'll just run to the corner. Well, maybe not that corner. Maybe to the tree. Yes. Stop at the tree. 

Stop at the tree.

Look at the app.

15 minutes running time. Five minutes fewer than Santa Barbara

Oh, dear. Walking fast, I headed for the fitness trail, an internal battle raging in my head. Clearly, I'm not making progress. Clearly. I'm three weeks from the end of this training program and I'm no where near comfortable running 3 miles. I'm not cut out for this. Clearly. 

I continued to walk. The app chimed the end of the workout.

.63 miles walking. 1.19 miles running. 25 minutes. 

 I kept walking the trail. I've read a ridiculous number of running books. They seem to fall into two camps. In the first camp, there is gentle encouragement to walk/run/ waddle if necessary. It's all good. In the other camp, there is the keep pushing, hone your work ethic, reach your goal and set a new one philosophy. 

My body is in the first camp.

My head, my heart, and my soul, and every male in my family is in the second. We eat the second philosophy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It seriously never occurred to me that I would commit to a 5K and walk a single step of it. I'm going to run the whole thing. Or not run at all. 

Because I'm married to a man who has raised elite athletes and apparently it's rubbed off on me. 

So, after the app disclosed the dismal results of the day, I decided I'm not going to sign up for the 5K.

Still, I kept walking. Because I love to be outside and I love to walk, too. (I think I might love to run, just not very far?  I don't know. I can't even figure out why I stopped. I just stopped.)

I thought about all those really long walks last summer. I thought about the early runs, on this very same trail, where running a full minute seemed hard. I thought about Isabel. 

You see, I told my kids about the 5K, and Kristin rallied a whole bunch of them. They said they wanted to run it with Kristin and me. Mary Beth, who has yet to even start training but is in great shape, told her friend, Isabel. And Isabel has already signed up. I haven't registered my kids yet, but if Isabel's already in, I pretty much have to register them.

I thought about how hard it would be to go and just cheer them on from the sidelines. This running thing? 

It was supposed to be what I could do with them. It wasn't supposed to be from the sidelines. 

I forced myself to look up. And there, was my familiar trail, looking all golden in the morning light. 

Nearly eight weeks until Thanksgiving. These woods, this trail--they are going to light up in the next few weeks. I don't want to miss it. I want to be out there, anyway. Might as well keep trying to run it the whole way. 

The app isn't going to work. Until now, I've trusted the app, but I spent the next half hour of my walk, thinking it through and holding it up to what I know about my body. By the time I got home, I wasn't going to quit. I was going to revise the plan. I texted my friend Nicole and ran the new plan by her. She assured me I had time to get to a place where I could run the whole way and she found a printed plan that looked very much like the one I'd devised for myself. 

I'm still dubious. But in this house, we don't quit. And we don't walk. 

So, Wednesday morning, it will be time to head out anew and work a brand-new plan.