It's 'International Be Silly & Stick Your Tongue Out' Day!

Tongue by you.

Now go get your camera, stick your tongue out, snap a picture and post it on your blog! Spread the word and tell others to do it too!

Okay, so what really happened here is this…

On Sunday, we were at Kacey’s fall softball state tournament. Of course, we were there ALL day during which the weather turned from summer-like to distinctly fall-like, complete with gale-force winds and rain. During the last game, I escaped to the truck to warm up and stay dry. Kacey sent her cell phone with me so that it could be protected from the elements. As I sat in the truck, I was browsing through the photos on her phone. It seemed every other one was a picture of Kacey and/or her girlfriends with their tongues sticking out. Why do teenagers love to photograph themselves with their tongues sticking out?

I decided to give it a try myself and took a self-portrait. I then posted said portrait on the front screen of her phone. I was quite amused with myself, I must say! After the games, I gave her the phone and waited to see how long before she noticed.

We went to Wendy’s with her friends to grab a bite to eat. As we sat in the restaurant, eating and talking, all the girls had their phones at the ready, as is typical of teenage girls. Kacey got a text-message, picked up the phone, and as I watched carefully, she responded. I watched with disappointment as she again set her phone down. Then came the moment I’d been waiting for…

The double take…

The snort…

Laughter… side-splitting laughter!

She looked at me and said, “I can’t believe I didn’t notice this sooner! You’re crazy, Mom! I’m leaving this picture here!”

You gotta be silly sometimes. Otherwise, life just gets to stressful.

Now go. Stick your tongue out and spread the word! There’s a reward for doing it. You’ll laugh at yourself all day. So will others. You’ll be spreading smiles. DO IT! Then let me know, so I can come see your silly photo!

Reconnecting

Way back in my high school days, I had a friend named Kendra. We met in an art class on our first day of high school and it wasn’t long before we became inseparable. We remained that way throughout all four of our high school years. Wherever one of us was, the other was sure to be too.

Kendra and I were so close that on any given day, one of us was eating dinner at the other’s house. There were countless sleepovers. We held part-time jobs at the same bakery. We attended all of the school social functions together. We went on double dates. We were the best of friends.

We stayed connected for several years after we graduated from high school, but somewhere along the way, our lives took very different paths. I married young and soon was busy with my babies. Kendra had a serious boyfriend, and moved in with him, actually living just a few miles down the road from me for several years. And although she was with that boyfriend for many years, they never married or had children. While I was busy with the demands of being a mother to three young children, Kendra was still living a life of her own with many more freedoms than I had at the time. Our phone calls and visits grew fewer and fewer.

Eventually, there was a messy break-up for Kendra and her boyfriend. They had been together for eleven years. I remember getting the phone call when she described what had happened and felt bad that I hadn’t been close enough to her in recent years to be there for her when she was going through such a difficult time. Kendra moved into her own place not long after that call and our separation became more pronounced. There were a handful of phone calls in the years that followed, and a lot of regret on my part for a friendship that seemed to have dissolved.

As my children have grown older and I began to find that I have more time available for myself, I have often thought about reaching out to Kendra and reconnecting with her. A Christmas card a couple of years ago told me that she had met the love of her life and married him in Hawaii. But I had no phone number for her and she appeared to be unlisted. I thought I might eventually contact her parents to get her phone number. I just never seemed to get around to it. I’ve thought of her more and more over the last couple of years.

Fast forward to about two weeks ago. A glance at my email showed a Facebook notification with a friend request from…you guessed it…KENDRA! I accepted, then sent her a message telling her I had tried to find her there too, but was unsuccessful. She replied that she had just joined Facebook and that was likely why I couldn’t find her. She now lives about forty minutes away from me. In fact, for the past several years, she has never really lived so far away that we couldn’t have seen each other if either of us had reached out to the other. We were just so busy in our own separate lives that we never made it happen.

For the past couple of weeks, Kendra and I have begun to reconnect. We’re finding we still have things in common. She’s a runner too. We’ve exchanged a handful of messages and have both stated on more than one occasion that we need to get together again. It always brings about a bittersweet feeling; one that reminds me that for all of these years, we have been so close, yet so far apart. That feeling was reinforced on Friday night. I was enjoying a lazy evening and browsing around on Facebook and thought I’d pop over to Kendra’s page. There, I saw her status update written the previous Wednesday. It said, “Off to my first night of league bowling at Mattie’s…Wish me luck!”

And I said to myself, “Kendra bowls in a league, just like me.!”

But the fact that Kendra bowls on a league too wasn’t what struck me as so amazing. The amazing part of that realization was the fact that Kendra bowls in a league at Mattie’s.

I bowl at Mattie’s!

Kendra bowls at Mattie’s…and has been for the past five years. I’ve been bowling at Mattie’s for the past year and can be found there at least once or twice a week. And our paths have never crossed! Of course, I bowl on Mondays and she bowls on Wednesdays, so I guess it stands to reason. And even if I had been there on a Wednesday when she was bowling, I probably wouldn’t have noticed because I would never have expected her to be there.

I posted a message on Kendra’s page on Friday letting her know that we both bowl at the same place. Being that it was a Friday night, I didn’t expect a response from her. Imagine my surprise when the instant messenger opened and there was Kendra. We chatted for about forty-five minutes and the first thing I did was tell her that now that I know I can find her at Mattie’s, every other Wednesday, I am definitely going to make it a point to be there when she is so we can finally catch up again!

We went on to catch up on all of the kinds of things that need to be caught up on when two people have gone years without connecting. We talked about parents and siblings and jobs and kids. (She now has a step-son.) I suddenly missed Kendra’s family, the people who had been such an integral part of my life during those high school years. Kendra didn’t always get along so well with her dad, but he really liked me for some reason. I never called him Mr. (Kendra’s dad.) I just called him Dad. And he called me Terri Mary Berry Cherry. What a weird name. But it always gave me a warm feeling to be greeted that way whenever I showed up at Kendra’s house.

I can’t believe it. I’m back in touch with Kendra. God I’ve missed her! And to think I resisted Facebook for so long!

Proud

There wasn’t much excitement around the office today. The last hour of my workday seemed to drag. Shannon, who works part-time, and therefore, spends fewer hours in the office than I do, was cleaning up her desk for the day. Near 4:30 I made a comment to her that I only had thirty minutes to go.

“Actually, you’ve got thirty-seven minutes left,” she informed me.

“Thanks, Shannon. You’re a such a good friend,” I said sarcastically as she smirked over her shoulder and headed out the door.

The evening brought much more excitement. We went to see Kacey’s volleyball game. She’s a strong and consistent player on her JV team. While other players rotate in and out of the game, the coach rarely takes Kacey off the court. Our kids have always been involved in athletics and have always held their own, but this is the first time we’ve enjoyed seeing one of our kids in a lead role. They lost tonight, but after the games were over, Kacey came running to the bleachers to inform us she had been asked to suit up for the varsity game again. She figured, like last week, she would probably just sit or maybe get in for one play. Not so tonight. She played. A LOT!

Serving by you.

Passing by you.

Running for the block

I was so nervous and excited for her as she went in during the varsity game. She kept her composure and made her plays. I couldn’t help catching her eye when she rotated out and went back to the bench and I couldn’t help the huge smile that spread across my face when she looked back at me and I saw her face beaming with happiness!

I’m so proud of that kid!

Church

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to church. I think the last time was in May when Kacey was confirmed at the Cathedral in St. Paul. And I think that by that time, I had long since fallen away from any sort of regular habit of going to church. I don’t know why I do that. I get in a good habit of going to church, and then I let circumstances allow me to fall out of the habit. I guess because sometimes I think too much and let the complications of life dictate my desire to go visit with God.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a subtle little nagging feeling of wanting to go back to church. I ignored it last weekend, but this morning I woke up and knew that I was going to go. I knew if I tried to get the kids to go with me, one of them might join me, most likely Kacey. But it would probably only be out of some sense of obligation to me that she might go. That’s not what I wanted to be on my mind when I went to church today, so I knew I would go it alone. My subconscious did a good job of trying to sway me. It kept telling me how much I hate going to church alone. I always think people are staring at me and wondering what my story is. I answered back to my subconscious this time and told it that my life would be a LOT easier if I’d quit being so damn concerned about what I think other people think about me. No one cares if I show up to church and sit alone. No one is wondering about me. Lots of people show up to church all alone. Yes, lots of them come as couples and as families, and with friends. But lots of people come alone too. No one cares. My subconscious went off to sulk or something and my positive attitude and I went off to church.

I’m so glad I went.

I have another ongoing struggle about going to church and that is the fact that I have lost my desire to worship in the faith in which I was raised. This causes me a lot of guilt, because I was raised Catholic. And if the Catholics are known for anything, it is guilt. And even though I am clearly an adult… have been one for a long time… and I can make my own choices, my subconscious has a tendency to step in on this issue too. It tells me I should be in the Catholic church. It tells me I’m deeply disappointing my family by exploring other places of worship. (And I know that I am.) But after forty years of feeling like I was just… missing something… in the Catholic mass, I think I’m entitled to go in search of it elsewhere.  In fact, I think I’m more than entitled. I think I’m obligated. So when I’ve gone to church willingly over the past couple of years, I’ve gone to a particular non-denominational church where I feel very comfortable (once I get past being there alone! )

It was good for me to go today. As so often happens when I attend this particular church, I felt as if the message was directed right at me. In this place, I feel as if I can hear God speaking clearly to me, answering all of the questions I’ve been asking of late, through the voice of the pastor. I know God speaks through all of his people. I know.  I can almost hear my dad, the Catholic deacon, trying to convince me that God speaks just as clearly, maybe more so, through the Catholic priests. I’m sorry, Dad. When I go to mass, I try to hear God. I really do. It’s just that when I’m there, it feels like I’m trying to tune into a radio station that only comes through fuzzy and staticky at best. When I go to this other church, I hear God in surround sound! How can I ignore that?

Today, the pastor spoke about praise and celebration. Ironically, he even touched on a habit of Christians living in Western Civilization. He said we have a habit of thinking it’s ok to let our moods decide whether or not we’ll worship on any given Sunday. (Ahem…Terri?) He cautioned that it’s a bad habit to let yourself fall into; and that even when you least feel in a frame of mind to worship, doing so can completely turn you around.

Duly noted!

But the main message was about how it is important, at times, to let our worship be a celebration. Other more traditional faiths might frown on the raising of hands, shouting in praise, dancing in worship and displaying sheer, uninhibited joy for the Lord. They say it’s not becoming. The pastor says it IS becoming. We’re allowed to cheer and shout in celebration of an athlete or team’s success. We’re expected to display excitement, sing and dance when we hear our favorite musical artists perform in concert. Our outbursts are a sign of our support and belief in those people. Why wouldn’t we do the same for God?

Why wouldn’t we?

He talked about how this kind of worship can often change the entire atmosphere in a faithful gathering. He described times when he has actually felt a change in pressure, or a physical change in himself, like an electrical current running through his body, but in a good and positive way. I wasn’t sure I could ever be capable of feeling a physical change during worship, but I believed it had happened to him and could happen to others. I figured it’s all in your frame of mind and what you’re open to. A lifetime of leaning on the somewhat reserved side would probably prevent me from ever experiencing God in such a physical manner. I think God had other ideas today.

When the pastor finished speaking, the band began to play and sing. The music was joyous and grew louder and louder. I just listened and felt the words within me. Out of the corner of my eye, I was aware of a young girl sitting on her dad’s shoulders, waving her hand above her head in praise. All the people surrounding me sort of faded from my vision and I felt a sense of peace falling over my shoulders, like a blanket. I took a deep breath and just felt my heart fill with serenity. I didn’t jump or shout or dance. That’s just not me. But it was amazing. And it was physical and tangible and I want more of it. How can that be wrong?

…Think I’ll try this again next week…

Perspective

Awake before the sun today. I had my alarm clock set, but my internal alarm had my eyes open before it went off. Kacey had a volleyball tournament today and I had to have her at school to catch the bus by 7:00. I tossed on a t-shirt and shorts and got her there by ten to seven. The bus was already there.

I swung by the post office on my way home. I had an envelope for Brad that I’ve been meaning to send off – some toothbrush heads for his electric toothbrush and a copy of the Darius Rucker CD I promised him weeks ago.  Nothing too exciting. Of course, the post office isn’t yet open at that hour of the day. I swung through the drive-through on the side of the building and tossed my envelope in one of the boxes there.

Driving the short distance home from the post office, I realized the streets of our little city were quite empty. There’s something I love about being out while the day is just beginning. It’s like the world hasn’t come to life yet and I get to be there before all the hustle and bustle begins. I’ve always been a morning person. I can think so much more clearly when my mind isn’t being assaulted by activity and noise.

When I got home I went out for a run. I love the fact that the gym doesn’t open until 8:00 on the weekends. It gives me an excuse to run outside again. I welcomed the sounds of birds singing, crickets chirping, geese honking, and the general hum of life in the air. I needed this today. It helped me think and put things in perspective. I needed some perspective.

I’d been allowing my thoughts to turn in a pretty negative direction last week. There was a lot of doubt and self pity running around my heart and head. Today things look so different. You want to know why? Two things.

On Thursday, while sitting in the bleachers watching Kacey’s volleyball games, I became aware of some excitement going on in the next section where most of the student spectators were sitting. The boys were calling out to one of their classmates who was just coming in to the gym. I could hear them all shouting, “Tyler! The MAN! Tyler!”

I looked back toward where their accolades were directed and recognized the boy they were welcoming. He had been a classmate of Kacey’s since her early grade school days. It wasn’t clear to me why everyone was making such a big deal of his arrival and presence. I hadn’t realized Tyler had become so popular.

Later, after the games were over, I saw one of Kacey’s team mates holding a newborn baby. She was parading that baby all over the bleachers and I was worried she would drop him. I leaned over to Mark and said, “I wonder whose baby that is?” Mark just shrugged. I thought about the viruses already making a strong impact in the schools and worried about the baby catching something. Who was allowing their newborn to be so easily exposed?

Soon all of the junior girls were flocking toward the girl holding the baby, begging for a chance to hold him too. I watched the whole scene with curiosity. Someone asked whose baby it was and a young, blonde girl said, “It’s my baby.” I thought I recognized the blonde girl, but couldn’t quite remember where I had seen her before. She was absolutely eating up all the attention as her classmates oohed and ahhed over the baby. Suddenly, Tyler appeared at her side (looking a little shell-shocked) and it all came together for me. Two years ago, I had run into Tyler and his mom at conferences when the kids were freshman. The blonde girl had been Tylers girlfriend even back then. She had been there that night I talked with his mom at conferences when the kids were just starting their high school lives.

And now Tyler is a father. He and his girlfriend have just begun their junior year of high school and they have a newborn. Sixteen years old. Maybe seventeen. And they have a baby. I know it happens all the time, but this hit too close to home. I felt almost sick as I watched all those girls marveling over the baby. I wondered if any one of them stopped to think how difficult the next few years are going to be for this new little family. How many pitfalls will they face? How many opportunities lost? I truly hope they are able to make the most of their lives in spite of this. The odds are against them though.

And I thought I had problems.

Driving home from the game that night, Kacey and I talked a little bit about Tyler, his girlfriend and the new baby. I asked if the girl had been in school last year during her pregnancy. Was she back now? Kacey said she didn’t remember seeing much of her and guessed she was taking online classes. She approached the whole subject with an air of disbelief. She just can’t imagine being in that position. GOOD!

Kacey told me something else Thursday night just after we got home. A sixteen year old boy who attends her school was driving to school that morning. There may have been dew on his windshield and the sun was blindingly bright that morning. The rumor is that this combination made him unable to see what was in front of him. His car hit a 33-year-old woman who was out walking her three month old child in a stroller. He couldn’t see her. The baby is fine. The mother suffered head injuries and died in the hospital that evening. For both the boy and the woman, and for their families, the day started out as normal as any other. And in the blink of an eye, their lives have been irrevocably changed. I can’t imagine the anguish and heart ache that is being experienced by the families of each of these people.

And I thought I had problems.

I needed to run today. I needed to feel the air on my skin and see the sun in the sky and the wildflowers surrounding the ponds and the mist that hovered in the distance over the railroad tracks. I needed to breathe the fresh morning air and remind myself that I am able to run. I am able to see and hear and smell and experience. I am free to leave my house to go for a run. I have a home to return to. I have my family to return to. They are safe and healthy and as happy as can be expected.

My plans about the kids and life might not come to fruition as I’d expect someday. Who ever said everything was going to work out the way I planned? The world as I know it might come to a screeching halt tomorrow, next month, or five years from now. Am I going to let that stop me from enjoying the gifts I’ve been given today? Am I going to let my fear of the worst cripple me?

No.

(Could someone point me toward this post the next time I decide to host a self-pity party? Thank you!)

Life is Good – September 18, 2009

Homemade Salsa by you.It’s been a beautiful week; sunny, with temps in the eighties every day! Here’s some good stuff from the week…

A couple of months ago, after it became obvious that I was really getting into this whole bowling thing, Mark clearly became jealous of all the fun I was having, and also realized he was unable to live without me for the few hours a week I was out with the girls (and Dave. No offense, Dave. I know you’re not a girl.)  Mark  said he wished we could join a couples’ bowling league so he could bowl with me. I told him, “Forget it buddy. Bowling is MY thing! You have your own things. Do I ask you if I can go on your hunting and fishing trips? NO!”

I’m kidding. I didn’t say that.

Actually, I really might have said that. But if I did, I was kidding. No, really! Mark would wonder what was wrong with me if I didn’t give him crap every time I spoke to him. He likes it that way.

The couples bowling thing actually sounded like a great idea at first. And then I remembered Mark has a stupid rotating work schedule that prevents him from being able to commit to anything that requires his presence on the same day and time each week. That great idea went straight out the window.

Enter Paul. Paul is Mark’s buddy and also the husband of my good friend and coworker, Megan. Paul and Megan bowl on a couples’ league on Saturday nights. Paul called last Sunday and said that one of the couples in their league had quit, leaving the other half of their team in the lurch. They were looking for another couple to take the quitters’ place. I said that we would love to join, but reminded him that Mark has to work every other weekend. Paul said that was ok. The league only plays every other weekend and the schedule just so happens to run on the weeks that Mark is off work. So… we accepted the invitation and joined! And there’s a bonus! It was brought to my attention that our new bowling partners won the lottery a while back and are living the good life. We haven’t met them yet, but I’m thinking it couldn’t hurt to get tight with these people! I told Mark to be sure to turn on the charm. (I kid, I kid! You know I’m not that shallow!)

So there will be even more bowling for me! YAY me!

Oh, and uh… Yay Mark too.

And as long as we’re on the subject of bowling (which happens every other post around this place, I know…) our Monday women’s league started up this week. My friend Shannon from work joined our team this year. She forewarned me that she didn’t have her own ball and it’s been years since she bowled, so we shouldn’t expect much from her. I told her that was fine. We’re just in this for fun. And then came Monday. And Shannon proceeded to kick all of our butts, racking up the highest scores. She fit right in too, and we had a great time. It’s going to be a fun season!

It’s been kind of quiet around our house this week. Jake worked a lot of hours. He’s always sleeping when I leave for work, and every evening when I’d get home, he’d already be gone, not returning home until midnight when I would be sound asleep. Finally, yesterday, I got a chance to catch up with him again. He was off during the day, so I made him do little things like come to the grocery store with me to pick up a few things. He pretended to be annoyed. Or maybe he really was annoyed. The grocery store really isn’t all that exciting, come to think of it.

When we got home, I got to work in the kitchen. One of my coworkers had given me some tomatoes, onions, jalapeno and chili peppers from her garden. I had picked up cilantro and garlic and some bell peppers from the store and decided to make salsa. (That’s right. Homemade salsa. Just call me Susie Homemaker!) I got more tomatoes from my parents – about eight pounds more – and without me even asking, Jake grabbed another cutting board and knife and helped me chop all those tomatoes.

We had a nice time working together like that. Jake had left the television on in the living room and we could hear it. He had just discovered that old series Just Shoot Me with David Spade. And since we’re both big fans of David Spade, we laughed at the show while we talked to one another and worked together. I really enjoyed having that time with Jake.

Also yesterday, I got to watch Kacey play some great games on her JV Volleyball team. She’s a middle hitter and played hard and strong. The whole team played well and they won the match. After her games were over, Kacey came running over to where we were sitting in the bleachers. I could see the excitement on her face and wondered what was up. She could barely get the words out fast enough to tell us the varsity coach had asked her to join the varsity team for the evening. She really didn’t plan to do anything but sit on the bench, but she ended up getting in the game for one play and made the most of it. She did her job perfectly. After she came out and took a seat on the bench again, I caught her eye. She had the biggest smile on her face I had ever seen. It felt great to see her rewarded for all of her hard work! What a great way to close out the week!

Life is good!

Jerry

Jerry has lived only three doors away from us for most of the twenty years we’ve lived in our house. As long as I’ve known him, he has always been a single man. He has never come outside much or socialized with the neighbors, enjoying a beer and conversation in one of the front yards as much as some of the rest of us do. But I’ve seen him enough just to know who he is and exchange a friendly wave now and then. He never did much with his yard other than mow the lawn when it needed it. The blinds in the front window were usually pulled shut. I have rarely seen visitors to his home over the years. I figured he was just a bit of a loner. Years ago, I had a garage sale and Jerry came over and bought a set of dishes I was selling. It was the first time and one of the few times I ever really talked with him. I remember him mentioning his sister with fondness. Nice guy, that Jerry. Bob, the retired guy who lives across from us probably got to know him better than most because Bob spends a lot of time puttering out in his yard and talking to whoever might pass by.
 
I was dead tired last night after work; crabby and stuck inside my own head and worrying about my own problems. I haven’t slept well the past few days. I figured a small workout at the gym in the evening would wear me out enough to ensure I got a more solid night’s sleep when I called it a day.
 
When I came back from the gym, it was dark. I could see there was a gathering of people in Bob’s driveway, but I couldn’t see who was there. It was Bob’s wife, Mary Jo’s 50th birthday yesterday. I guessed which neighbors were sitting in the circle of chairs on the driveway and imagined they were all enjoying a beer together. I was too tired, sweaty and crabby to join them.
 
In the dark, I didn’t even notice the two cars with their lights on in front of Jerry’s house. Furthermore, I didn’t notice they were a police car and an ambulance. I didn’t notice that there were no people in the circle of chairs on Bob’s driveway because they had all migrated over to the side of the yard that is directly across from Jerry’s house. I did notice that Mark wasn’t in the house when I went in, but the t.v. was still on. I assumed he was across the street with the little party. I headed for the shower and when I finished, I sat in the family room and read a few blogs. Mark came home eventually and asked if I’d noticed the emergency vehicles in front of Jerry’s house. I admitted I hadn’t.
 
“I think Jerry’s dead.” His voice was even; just sort of matter of fact. We didn’t really know Jerry enough to be overwhelmed by this possibility. “He was talking to Dan yesterday and said he wasn’t feeling well. He was supposed to go to the doctor today.”
 
“Oh,” was all I could come up with. I didn’t know what to say.
 
The phone rang. Mark answered it. It was Bill, another neighbor. I heard Mark explaining, “I’m not sure. I think Jerry’s dead.”
 
There was a pause, then more explaining. “Linda looked at the computer through the window of the police cruiser. It said ’69 year old male, not breathing.’” He hung up shortly afterwards and went back across the street. When he returned, he confirmed what he had suspected earlier.
 
“Jerry is dead. The paramedic said he thought it was a heart attack.”
 
“Wow,” I said quietly. “Ok.”
 
I never really got to know Jerry. Never made much effort. His path rarely crossed mine and I never bothered to even think about it. His life ended while some were celebrating the beginning of another year of life. His life ended while I was working on keeping my body healthier so I can continue to enjoy mine for as long as possible. Jerry lived three doors away for twenty years and now he’s gone and his passing was barely a blip on my radar. He died alone and I barely knew him and now I’m feeling sorry. I could have been a friendlier face, but I never bothered to think about it. Maybe Jerry didn’t mind. Maybe he was a bit reclusive and preferred it that way. Maybe I’m just telling myself that to make myself feel better.
 
I’m sorry I didn’t try harder. Rest in peace, Jerry.