Friends Old & New

There is a definite downside to moving halfway across the country to be with the man that you love at the age of 27.  You leave behind a lifetime worth of memories, and all of the people who made them with you.  Like the one who helped you devour multiple cans of Planters Cheezballs on family road trips in the back of an ’89 Dodge Caravan.  The one you played beauty parlor with in elementary school who gave you bangs, just because she could.  The one you kidnapped on her sixteenth birthday, and at whose wedding you read Scripture.  The one who shared your life day-in, day-out for over three years and who just KNEW he was going to pop the question on that final trip out to Colorado.

How do you match that in a new town?  A new state?  A new time zone?  I’ve shed a few tears and mourned what I thought were losses many times since that move.  But you know what?  Every time I go home, they’re there.  We pick up exactly where we left off.  Sure, most of us are married now, and some of us have little ones (or are rocking that expectant mama glow!)  But nothing can come between us.  They are my forever friends.  But more importantly, I’ve learned that you don’t make these kind of friends over night.  Putting expectations like that on new-found friendships is bound to disappoint.

When I moved out here, it took me a long time to make even a few new friends, but I’ve done it now and am learning to be okay with taking things slowly.  I no longer share my day-in, day-out life with those friends back home.  It is a new group of women who are watching my son grow up.  Women who may already have three or four of their own at home.  And it’s okay that they don’t know my middle name and have never had dinner with my parents.  Each season of life has its starring cast and supporting roles.  As I spend more time with these wonderful new friends I’ve made, I learn to open up a little bit more.  To share a little bit of my heart with them.

And as we pack up our house to embark on a double-move adventure (ha!), I am excited at the prospect of strengthening these friendships.  We’ll be leaving our home in March, moving into an apartment temporarily for 6-8 months, then finally landing in our new home by the fall of this year.  This new home is right in the heart of where the vast majority of my new friends live.  We are so blessed to have found a community that cares for one another selflessly and immediately – the type of people who bring you meals after you’ve undergone surgery and prays for you whenever the need arises.  I’ve prayed so long for the Lord to bring more forever friends into my life, and this move seems to be a huge answer to that prayer.  And with that, I whisper a thank you to my God for friendships, both old and new, that show me His love and maybe even a tiny glimpse of what heaven might be like.

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30 in Thirty

On the eve of my thirtieth birthday, my thoughts wander and I reminisce.  Here’s my list of 30 things I’ve learned in my thirty years here on Earth.  And here’s praying God is gracious enough to bless me with another thirty!

1.  Put God first and the rest falls into place.

2.  Family doesn’t always mean blood relatives.

3.  There are very few things in life that can’t be fixed with chocolate.

4.  Marrying your best friend is, hands down, the best decision you’ll ever make.

5.  Learning to laugh at yourself is so much better than the alternative.

6.  Be real with people who love you.

7.  Guard your heart from all that is ugly in this world.

8.  Smile at passersby.

9.  A warm bath and a good book are pretty close to heaven.

10.  The sound of your baby’s laugh is even closer.

11.  Dancing around in the kitchen like a fool should be mandatory in the mornings.

12.  Coffee tastes so much better when shared with a friend.

13.  Distance will either wreck a weak relationship or strengthen a true one.

14.  Don’t ever hang up without saying “I love you.”

15.  Snuggle all the little people in your life as often as they’ll allow.  They grow up too quickly.

16.  God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation is one of the most beautiful gifts we have here on earth.

17.  Our parents are real people with struggles and successes of their own.

18.  Proofreading is much more fun done on paper with a green pen.

19.  When you move to a new state, get your library card first, then worry about your driver’s license and all that other stuff later.

20.  Your siblings are the ones who will live your life with you – from beginning to end.  Be nice to them.

21.  Cultivate a spirit of thankfulness in your heart.

22.  Choose joy.

23.  Snow tickles your nose as it falls.

24.  Hearts do break, but the Lord heals us in His good time.

25.  Getting connected to a community of like-minded women is vital for your sanity.

26.  Record all the moments – both big and small.

27.  But know when to put the camera down and just live in the moment.

28.  Listen more and talk less.

29.  Love your family ferociously.

30.  Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

Wherein I Step Out in Faith

When creating this blog last week, I wondered to myself when I was going to get to the heart of the matter here on Crazy Catholic Mama.  Yes I am Catholic, and yes I am a Mama.  But my heart for this blog is mainly to share my struggles and triumphs living with anxiety and bipolar disorder – and most importantly, how our God redeems all situations for good.

I won’t get into a whole lot of background here today, but suffice it to say, these mental health issues have been my cross to bear since I was a teenager, and probably even younger than that.  Social situations scare me.  Not just intimidate or make me nervous – they down right terrify this girl.  Every time I’ve gone off my meds (for whatever reason), I fall into a pit of depression.   We’re talking stuck in bed for days at a time sort of stuff here.  And when I am on medications, there’s a good chance I’ll have some pretty nasty side effects to deal with: memory loss, inability to concentrate, inability to sleep as much as my body needs, racing thoughts and words, weight gain.  But I’d rather be a rambling idiot than so someone who can’t physically get dressed each day to face the world.

Which brings me to the heart of this post – community and stepping out in faith.  I moved out here to the Rocky Mountain West a little over two years ago.  Up until a few months ago, I could count the number of people I knew and could call a friend (or even an acquaintance) out here on one hand.  But when I stopped working in my third trimester with Stephen, I knew things had to change.  Staying home with him all day every day with no friends to call up or planned activities to look forward to was a recipe for disaster.  Please don’t get me wrong here – I L.O.V.E. being a wife and mama.  My two boys are my entire world.  But man (and certainly woman) was not meant to live alone.  We were made for community, for relationship, for people.

So back when I was rocking my ginormous baby bump, I took to the internet in search of local moms groups.  I found one for a neighboring community on Facebook and joined up.  I began following all of the playdate posts longingly, to the point where I’d RSVP yes then back out at the last minute with some sort of a lame excuse.  I couldn’t very well say, “hey, I really, really, REALLY wanted to join y’all today but my social anxiety got the better of me so I stayed home and slept for ten hours in the middle of the day instead.” Or, “I’m so desperate for friends, but the thought of showing up and meeting a whole group of strangers makes me sick to my stomach.”  So I just don’t show, and use my pregnancy or new mama title as a cover-up.

But eventually I did step out in faith.  I showed up to an event and was welcomed with open arms.  That combined with new meds was the impetus for me to not only attend gatherings, but to organize and plan events of my own.  After reading just a few short chapters of Shauna Niequist’s wonderful food memoir and cookbook, Bread & Wine, I tossed out the idea of a cooking club to the ladies in my moms group.  The response was overwhelming, and on a warm July night, this scared-silly mama opened her home and heart to nearly a dozen other mamas, all relative strangers.

The night was filled with chopping vegetables, simmering a homemade sauce, overflowing pots of boiling water and frying up batches of chicken cutlets.  And by the time dinner was served, we had each found ourselves immersed in conversation with somebody new.  You see, the ladies that showed up that night, most of them did not know each other either.  We were a house full of near strangers that became friends over bruschetta, chicken parmigiana, and cheesecake.

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I thank God for the courage to put myself out there and open my home to a dozen new friends.  And I thank Him even more for putting just the right women on my doorstep that night.  I pray that as we continue to meet monthly, each of us will be blessed by friendships and community and a homecooked meal.