Open letter to a New Friend…

screen shot 2019-01-30 at 12.18.35 pmMoving in any stage of life is a challenge. Once the basic needs are taken care of and you are able to locate the grocery store, a couple of restaurants, the nearest gas stations and have settled into a routine, the next need comes into play. The need for community and friends. When I was growing up and moved, you were thrown into a pool of peers, almost like forced socialization. When I moved as a newlywed we had the freedom with time and flexibility to meet other young couples. As we transitioned into the early stages of family and moved, again, that stage of life seemed to naturally create an opportunity for friends, motherhood is a time of desperation that brings you together with others struggling in similar life journeys. Early stages of parenthood gave way to connections when the kids entered elementary school and often crossed over into the nearby church we attended. So making friends, while sometimes daunting, in each situation had an obvious “entry point.”

This most recent move, however, has created a new set of difficulties in the realm of friendship. We have moved to an area of the country that is more static with people moving in and out, compared to where we were in Texas. In Texas, there was always a new person who had moved to town and we all had been that new person at one point or another. We welcomed them, just as we had been welcomed. Invited to lunch after church, asked to join other families for a get-together, or every person just made a point to continually greet one another and talk to one another when we ran into one another. Community happened with ease. In our new home in our new state, people have their “set” circle. Comically it reminds me of “Meet the Fockers” and the “Inner Circle of Trust.” To break that circle takes an inordinate amount of time, which brings me to my next challenge. The current reality of my children’s schedules. They are active, smart and involved. I do not plan to change that, however, that severely limits my ability to direct my focus to other things. Namely the time that it would take to “break” into a circle. So I write this letter:

Dear New Friend,

My family came here by unusual circumstances. We were not prepared to move here. We thought our children would graduate from the school district where they had started Kindergarten in Texas.

The decision to be where we are now was one that took an adjustment. We left a lot of things that we enjoyed. Great schools, great friends, awesome grocery stores, incredible restaurants, and a church home. One unusual tidbit, I grew up here in Arkansas, graduated from both high school and college in this state, my parents, sister, and family, and youngest brother and family live in the state, along with an aunt, uncle, and cousins. However, we have not found community here.

Our kids are adjusting, but we worry. We really hope they won’t hate us and they will find life-long friends here and keep the friends that they left behind.

We didn’t come here altogether. It was so hard for us to make our kids leave the only home they had ever known that we tried for me to stay with the kids in Texas while my husband worked in Arkansas. We made the choice to become a two household-still marriage intact family (despite all the rumors of divorce that surfaced). We worked hard to make it work. It kind of did. However, the it kind of didn’t was what brought us together in our current residence as a family after a year apart. My kids still wish we had tried harder to keep up the two households.

Don’t get me wrong. Our kids are great. They have adjusted and made the best of things. They excel in their academics and extra-curricular activities. However, they aren’t making those deep friend connections I would hope they would have by now to the extent I had hoped, and I can’t help thinking that is because I am not making friends either.

I had great friends in Texas. I also have a few great friends from the places I moved before Texas. I think if you met them, they would tell you I am a good friend. Serious, but funny. Will love your kids like I love my own. Loyal like a labrador. Love my husband. Struggle with some of my childhood experiences. Love my immediate family fiercely. Probably brag too much about my amazing kids… see there?

I want to have great friendships here too. However, there seems to be a lockdown on getting into the friendship circles here that is like Fort Knox, and I don’t have the time or the will to figure out the combination.screen shot 2019-01-30 at 2.57.09 pm

I am going to lay it bare here in this letter. My hope is that someone will read it and like it. Maybe you will give things a shot or when you do read, even if you don’t live close to me, you will give that new girl at work, at your kids basketball game or at church a little more of a smile, offer her an invite to coffee, or just chat her up a bit and take the edge off of her attempt at making friends. Trust me, I have put on a brave face, attempted to insert myself into a “set” circle and been “ghosted.” (By the way, I didn’t realize at forty-six adult women can make you feel like a teenage loser like in high school!)

Back to a little about me. I hate to exercise but try to because I know it is best. I love to read but with my schedule, I have become an avid audiobook-phile. I like to craft but rarely do because of time. Not huge into cooking although I am not bad at it. Like to bake, but only from about October 1st to the end of February.  I also love dark beers, a glass of most kinds of wine, a good gin and tonic, or a cranberry vodka. I am a huge college football fan but not so much an NFL fan. My favorite outfit is yoga pants, a soft t-shirt, and bare feet, however, most of the time you will see me dressed semi-casually in typical 40-something appropriate outfits with my TOMs wedges, wishing I was in my yoga pants, t-shirt and bare feet. I have two dogs, two cats, and a pet snake. I have a gift of learning a little bit about someone and determining based on that information what wine they like or would like… I have been given the name of #winefairy, and I carry that honor with pride. I love the idea of going to social events, trying new restaurants and experiencing community, but when push comes to shove, I am a homebody at heart.screen shot 2019-01-30 at 2.57.39 pm

Church has been a constant throughout my life, but the real relationship between me and Jesus has been more real in the past twenty years of my life than it was from age 0-26. If you were to try to put who I am on a t-shirt it would say “I love Jesus, I cuss a little, drink a little more, and love hard.”

In addition to all this, I am a public educator and am passionate about excellence in PUBLIC education. Other than Jesus, I believe education is the key to transforming lives. I am passionate about this part of my life, too.

So here it is. Take it or leave it, but this is who I am and I think it is pretty o.k. I am not sure why making friends has been more difficult this time. It hasn’t been for lack of attempts on my part.

If you have read this far, thank you. I hope as you read this it encourages you to be open,IMG_1668 reach out to the “new people” in your path and invite them into your “circle.” This may not improve my current friend situation, but it makes me hopeful. After all, I am a good friend material who wouldn’t want to be my friend!

Sincerely,

Kirsten

 

 

Running the Race of Life…

Family Vacation to Gulf Shores June 2012

Family Vacation to Gulf Shores June 2012

I have hesitated for some time to write a post on running. Exercise for me is a necessary evil. If I could invent a way to get the benefits of exercise without actually doing the exercise… I would be happy, and rich. Lots of things come easy for me in the academic world, nothing comes easy for me in the physical activity world. I am awkward at best. Now that I have been running consistently for over two years, I think I am safe to tell my story. It looks like this may be a thing I stick with for a while.

In late June 2012 I was sitting on a beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama. I had been on a journey to reach a certain goal weight for this trip, and for reasons I won’t elaborate on, I had missed that goal by a long shot!. Beyond trying to reach the goal for the trip, I had also wanted to reach this goal before my 40th birthday which was fast approaching. August 4th to be exact. Sitting on the beach I pulled out my weight loss app of choice and plugged in my goal and the time line. OUCH… there was no way it would happen… at least not the amount I wanted to lose in the time frame given. Especially if I was going to be healthy, not starve myself and be a good example of how to be healthy to my very impressionable nine and half year old daughter.

I was not happy… I was sliding into 40 over my desired weight and nothing to show on how I was fighting getting older with ferociousness. So, as I often do, I backed out of the weight loss app and proceeded to lose myself in the Facebook posts of the 100s of people I am “friends.” All while the little voice in my head kept whispering… “There has got to be something you can do. You can’t just give up.”  I had given myself the conciliatory resolution that I would still lose the weight, I just wouldn’t do it by my birthday. However, that didn’t seem to quiet the whisper.

Buddy Run PosterAnd then I saw it… “Buddy Run 5K.” A fundraiser for a runner’s family. Buddy Hopkins in the spring of this year, in my community, had been hit and killed while out doing a training run for a marathon. This 5K was in my community, helping a precious family and, wait for it, was scheduled for my 40th birthday.

So on that beach I made a decision, set a goal and most importantly contacted a friend to tell them what I planned to do. I was going to use the next five weeks to train myself to run a 5K. I was going to run and complete a 5K on my 40th birthday. To make sure I did, I signed up for the Buddy Run on that beach, called my friend Sherri Daniel to ask her to run it with me, and found a Couch to 5K app to keep me on pace.

I ran that race and since then over a dozen other 5Ks, some 10Ks a few 15Ks, 4 half marathons and 1 marathon.

At the Buddy Run 5K finish line with my running partner. This is the first of many races we would run together.

At the Buddy Run 5K finish line with my running partner. This is the first of many races we would run together.

I have learned that running is not easy for me. Although I run without stopping for many miles at a time, the first mile for me is as hard as the last mile. I do not get a runners high and lately my body has acclimated to the running where I no longer get the caloric burn benefit of running. But I keep doing it…

Why? Well, it reminds me of how something you can do over and over can continue to be a challenge. It helps keep me mindful of students where school and learning (in the traditional sense) is a challenge every day  and never gets easier. It also has shown me what a community that has all levels of skill can be like. The running community is very encouraging. From the fastest record breaking runner to the slowest wogger (walking/jogging) we all celebrate one another and our quest to finish the race set before us. It has been where I have formed some of my strongest friendships (you do actually talk a lot while running). It has given me the opportunity to connect with others through the IRun4 organization where I get to dedicate my runs to my buddy Abby whose physical limitations do not allow her to run. It has opened my eyes to see things in new ways… and frankly I like the fresher perspective.

A quick selfie with my two running buddies Traci Bear and Sherri Daniel at the Cowtown Half Marathon 2015. First race we have run right after an ice storm!

A quick selfie with my two running buddies Traci Bear and Sherri Daniel at the Cowtown Half Marathon 2015. First race we have run right after an ice storm!

What plans do I have next? Well I am not 100% but I would like to branch out beyond my community for races. I have learned that I prefer locally run races over nationally sponsored races. I also like races that benefit local non-profit programs and organizations. It is nice to bring benefit to something while doing something good for yourself at the same time.

If you run or have runs in your area… do you have one you recommend? Please share and if you have a link share that too.

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