friendship

The Athletic Supporter

Sometimes I come along for the ride. Someone asks me to be there when they have a big day. When they’re competing.

For this enneagram 2, a helper at heart, this is music to my ears. I live for these moments! Put me in, coach! Some might ask, what do you do all day at CrossFit competition if you’re not competing? Why spend weekends sitting in sweltering lacrosse tents at far flung venues? What do you do with all the down time? Why are you there?

Lots of reasons, really. Here’s just a few.

I’m there to cheer. I’m there to take photos of moments big and small. To capture the day so you can see how amazing you are.

To be a clothes hanger for wardrobe shedding right before the big moment, to carry the bandaids and tylenol, to bring the good snacks and the right color gatorade, to apply the oils to aching muscles.

To provide chairs and blankets and hats. Or sunscreen and water and sunglasses, depending on the season. And umbrellas, always umbrellas.

I am a holder of phones, a fetcher of things from the car when you don’t want to get up from your seat. I am the scouter of porta-potties, or just going along for moral support. I am the counterbalance for quad stretches.

I am the bringer of cupcakes for birthdays or Galentine’s day or just because you like cupcakes. Or bagels. Or whatever you like. I am the maker of signs and shaker of pom poms when the need arises. I am a surprise engineer.

Need scissors? No problem. Sanitizer? Got it. Extra socks or tank top or leggings? Check, check, and check. Plates, spoons, knives, paper towels, Everything but the Bagel on cucumbers? Of course!

Sometimes I am screaming, to be that voice of encouragement you hear above the voice in your head. Sometimes I am wrapping you up in a blanket, hugging you and walking you around in the parking lot as your body temperature and heart rate come down. Sometimes I’m just here to listen to what it was like for you, in that moment. What went wrong, what felt good. The lucky sounding board for all of it.

I’m there for the podium pictures and the postgame meal. For the high fives and the hell yeahs.

Still, some of the most important parts of my day are spent in silence, just witnessing your efforts and achievements. Seeing any moments of doubt and staring at you until you look over and see me, telling you with my eyes, you got this. I believe in you. Being a part of it is amazing. Sharing in the memories, the “team mom” as someone recently said. To be a part of supporting someone I care for deeply. This is my purpose.

friendship, mental health

I Heard the Whisper

I don’t have any friends.

Silence.

I don’t have any friends said the social teen girl. Pause. Reflect. Think.

The beautiful girl is right. She has acquaintances. She has teammates. She has adults that are supportive. She has siblings. Unfortunately she is missing the friends piece of the equation. True friends.

The bestie or group of pals that come over to hang out. The girls that go to the movies. The inner circle of sorts. What could have happened to this social butterfly.

One word sums it up: corona.

Corona has taken away spontaneous trips to the mall. Quarantine has limited gatherings at other homes. Fear has lurked in every home limiting activities. The list goes on and on.

In this community two teens have died by suicide in the last 10 days. I can’t ignore that. I can’t understand a day in the life of these teens. Their desire to end their lives is the solution to their perceived problems at that time. We have to listen to these cries even if they are masked.

So many no you can’t. So much time alone. So many milestones and memories being missed in isolation. So much time is solitude in their room. Many sleep it off. Many struggle for daily motivation.

Who does the cheerleader role fall on when parents work? What if the teen is an only child? Is the school talking about this subject with this vulnerable age?  Are they offering parents solutions? Why no they are talking about tests scores and must complete your assignments or even pick your schedule for next year.

Do administrators even consider what a day in the life of a teen is like in isolation? They lost their friends. They lost their home away from home that is school. They lost competition in the classroom. The lost giggles in the hallway. They even lost their imagery. Always covered in a mask. Gasping for air. The image of themselves in a super cute outfit on the first day of school. Shopping for a prom dress. So many important things for a girl in her formative years.

Instead they get to go to the drive thru with their parents. Maybe a Netflix movie in the same place they eat, sleep, socialize, go to school, etc. (their house). Maybe weekends of extra homework because they lack the motivation to do it on day 1 when it was due. The list of blah goes on and on.

I see this cycle repeated. I try to engage my teen to give her fulfillment in the tiny box that is currently around her. It’s by no means perfect but it’s what I can offer today.

I often wonder if she drove and had a car if it would be different. Would being mobile allow her to wave at friends from the curb but allow her time to smile away from the homestead. I don’t have these answers. I may never have them.

For today I will enjoy the time I have. Tomorrow is not guaranteed for anyone. Memories last forever. Today I will make memories with her.

Parents don’t forget to look around you. Right in front of you. Listen. Spot the abnormalities and take action. Any action that lets them notice you see them. You hear them. You want to be with them. They need you. They don’t always feel like they have anyone left. Corona has taken much from many.

Don’t let environmental conditions take away another bright future.

This post was sparked by the song Pink just released with her daughter Willow, Cover Me in Sunshine. Pink noted they sang the song because it makes them happy and they wanted to share it to make others happy. They did it together. Today I will cover those around me in sunshine for no other reason than to make them happy.

Enjoy today. No matter how shitty things may be tomorrow. Every day is a new day to get covered in sunshine.

friendship, giving

Listen Up!

I often talk about active listening skills in professional settings. I often challenge many participants (especially males) in those environments to engage in activities that test their ability to actively listen.

It may not be every male who can’t listen but it is definitely a higher number than women by far. I often think about the why of this…

Listening is the greatest gift you can give to another human. Anyone can give quick advice when somebody has a problem but those who are actively listening can hear your emotion, feel your pain and generally connect with you. Listening takes time. Listening requires one to be patient.

When I think of my own life and frustrations, I think of how my spouse doesn’t listen a lot of time. Doesn’t engage or empathize with anyone who has an issue or struggle. This makes me think back to something my mom taught me at a young age. Never pass judgment on somebody until you have walked a day in their shoes.

In order to be supportive or helpful one has to be willing to set their own feelings to the side, get down on your level, listen and really relate to your issues or struggles. This doesn’t even have to occur face to face!

If you are struggling and you text your life partner, one would hope they could read your words and really listen to your hurt. Unfortunately, I have seen first hand that many close to me are grossly incapable of doing this. 

I think this honestly comes down to their inability to get down on your level. Feel the hurt. It’s a lack of genuineness. Ask yourself, who do your reach out to when you need to talk? Is it your mom? Your best friend? Your sibling? Your spouse? Who?

Then ask yourself who will listen to you when you feel troubled? Is it the same person? Maybe it’s more than one person. The point is you are never going to reach out to the person who lectures you, passes judgment on you, or just brushes you off.

In order to be a better listener you need to give of yourself. You need to put the phone down and listen to the person in front of you. Maybe you need to stop playing a video game to read the words of a loved one.

Today more than ever our words are powerful. In today’s digital world words are a big way of communicating. Sending a note of praise. Sending a text of good will. Even sending an emoji with a smile is positive communication. We are all capable but not everyone does it.
Positive communication opens the door for building trust. One day somebody may need you. They may need you to hear or read their words. They may need you when they are struggling.

If you are not capable of using your active listening skills you may never hear or read those words. It’s unfortunate that many I know struggle in this area. This why I am opting to write this post.

If one person can make a change based on this blog, I feel like I have made an impact. Listen up. Turn on your antennas. Today’s world is hectic and crazy. We are all busy. We are all trapped in a digital world. But we are all capable of listening to words spoken or words written or even emailed / texted if we just slow down, pause and think about what another is saying. 

Remember “tell me more” offers the one person with words hope that somebody is there to listen to them. Offering hope is free.

I know I am making it a point to listen more listen to all around me and I encourage you to do the same. It’s a new year. Why not make it a goal to be a better listener?

Listen up!

family, friendship

Hello Sunshine

Hello sunshine was on my mind this Christmas. Why? Because that’s what my dad would have said to me on Christmas. Unfortunately this is the first of many Christmases without my dad. 

Instead of being down in the dumps about missing him, I’m opting for spreading sunshine around. A little joking means laughter. Some games mean smiles. New memories and adventures mean giggles and excitement. A new way to honor his memory while making memories each and every year. 

Today I awoke to a dusting of snow. I immediately captured the spirit of the season on my camera as it doesn’t snow often in my area. For today I’ll call it an angel dusting from above. Later in the day I got a pack of gum as a random gift. You are My Sunshine it was called. No big deal to some but a universe whisper to me. A heavenly smile from above. Even when skies are grey from the snowy mist, sunshine is around. The warmth of the rays.

There were many heavenly winks this holiday season. Blessings of new friends to celebrate with. New firsts with my mom. New places to enjoy the festivities. Adapting to the change that has been lingering in 2020, all with a smile as best we can. Different was good this year.

Family meals that had everyone busting at the seams to erecting the most crazy looking gingerbread house covered in sweet treats. Each sugary piece placed on that gingerbread house by my tribe. Whether in spirit or in person. It was named Nana’s house. The crazy year was summed up with an array of sugary treats. A hot mess of sorts like the year of 2020.

To the unexpected text I received on Christmas morning from a new friend I met in 2020:

Merry Christmas! Thank You for making me laugh every morning you are a special person and thanks for your friendship

The text above was an unexpected blessing but one that made me smile ear to ear. As I live my life to the fullest I want to spread joy to others. Laughing, smiling, joking and having a fun spirit is one of my ways I like to spread sunshine each day.

Hello sunshine. A good morning of sorts or just a peppy greeting while I working on a special holiday gift for my mom. Hello sunshine from a new friend in a message. He would never have known those were the words my dad spoke to me often. He made my day. Was it a heavenly wink or an angel kiss from above? Either way I got the message. I felt the message.

My dad is with me in spirit. Now it’s up to me to spread joy to others one smile, one giggle, one joke at a time. Somebody is watching. Somebody is listening. Somebody might just need that joyful pick me up.

If you need a pick me up today, I hope the rays of sunshine are coming through this blog. You deserve to be the sunshine in the day today.

Hello sunshine!

friendship, giving

Longest Night

When became an adult, got married, moved into a house and had kids (not necessarily in that order), I joined a Methodist church. I was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic school, so this was a big change. One of the first new traditions I embraced was the Longest Night. Each year, on Winter Solstice, the Methodist church had a service that focused on the darker times of the past year. People came who had experienced loss, depression. grief.

At that point, I had recently lost my mother. I had a new baby, a new home, and was overwhelmed and heavy-hearted. I joined the bell choir and played for that service. That first year, I remember just crying through the whole thing.

As you can imagine, the service is not just about loss. Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Once Solstice is over, brighter days are literally ahead. So the service is also about finding hope. About persistence. About the triumph of good and light.

I love symbolism so this service always meant a lot to me. I like the idea of things getting better. Of marking time. The cycle of increasing light. And it always comes just before Christmas, a time of frantic preparation. It is a moment to just be still and reflect.

I don’t attend that church these days, but I still take time to reflect every Solstice and remind myself that lighter days are ahead.

This year the Solstice seemed both especially poignant and especially necessary. COVID has wreaked havoc on many lives. So many in my circle have lost loved ones this year. Some due to COVID, others for other natural reasons, but COVID took away our ability to gather and mourn in the way we all want and need to. Still others are hunkered down at home to protect themselves and loved ones, which brings all the pain and challenge of isolation, disruption of routine, and more.

It has just been a heavy year.

I started hearing about the “Christmas Star” (or Great Conjunction) a few weeks before Solstice. Again, the symbolism of Solstice, this unique astronomical happening, and the stars were literally aligned.

I also had it in my mind to go caroling this year. I say every year I want to sing for people more (and not just the poor people at the gym who have to hear me sing along to the soundtrack when I’m squatting). I don’t know why I expect opportunities to be a backup singer for Yacht Rock Revue to fall out of the sky. This Solstice I see I need to create those opportunities.

Who could I bring some light to? We decided to visit two special Moms who have had challenging years, each in their own ways.

I loaded my car and started the night by going out to see the Christmas Star. I went to a parking lot in a remote park about 15 minutes from my house. I was surprised to find about 25 other cars in the lot, all there to view this planetary wonder. I just took some time to quietly look and think about this year and its gifts.

Then, it was over the river and through the woods to the first grandmother’s house. A couple of friends and family members joined in. We dressed silly, I brought my sleigh bells and song books, and off we set to spread some cheer. Our living room concerts brought laughter and tears, smiles and singing along. We took requests. We flubbed the lyrics and stumbled over melodies. We jingled our bells, giggled, swayed and twinkled. In the end, we brought cheer and good tidings and light. On the way to grandmother two’s house we saw lights and so many other holiday sights.

Both these women have lived through this challenging year. They’ve made the most of it. I hope we brought some light and hope to their lives this December. I know their smiles and delight lifted me up. As one of them put it, when we said our goodbyes, “same time next year!”

It’s a date.