It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to sit down and write, as my life has been a whirlwind since April. My hope is by the end of this blog, a point will be made, or a lesson learned, but I’m not promising anything.
I’ve always been a fan of change. Change is good. When we stay in one place for too long, we tend to become complacent. Think about a body of water that sits still and doesn’t change. The water becomes stagnant with no current or flowing water, and an unfortunate consequence or by-product of this situation is usually an unwelcome stench. Like water, we need to keep moving with life’s ebbs and flows, seeing where the current takes us. To do this well, many times we have to take a leap of faith—-step out of our comfort zone and move toward new horizons.
As I reflect on all the change that has occurred within my family, the song “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” is playing in the background (figuratively). I’ve always been a Buffett fan—-probably not of Parrot Head proportions—- but his songs always find a way to resonate with me.
For years, I really never understood this line from “Margaritaville”—–“I blew out my flipflop”—–until it happened to me. It was my first day at work in a new job, and one of my cute Yellow Box black sparkly flipflops failed me. Without a bit of warning, the strap between my toes broke.
Have you ever tried walking in a blown out flipflop? Oh my goodness! It can’t be done!
So as I slid along the sidewalk, dragging my right foot as I traipsed between the buildings on a campus where I had just started working, I fully understood the pain Jimmy Buffett experienced (and I also had an out-of-the-blue hankering for a margarita, or even a shot of whiskey)! Just kidding, Mom.
If you’re not familiar with the lyrics to “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” here’s the chorus:
“It’s these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes,
Nothing remains quite the same.
With all of our running and all of our cunning
If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.”
On April 30th, our family gathered together to celebrate my husband Brian’s retirement. The party was fabulous! So much thought and detail went into making this event perfect, and one that will be remembered forever.
In many ways the day was bittersweet, but as we celebrated the end of an era (37 years in public education), we were all witnesses to the legacy of an outstanding teacher, coach, and administrator. And I have to add that Cooper was “on his game!” We had no idea how he would fare, given that he’s a COVID baby, and has had little interaction with anyone outside of the immediate family.
As Brian spoke to the crowd about his future, and the days he would be spending with his grandson, Cooper squealed with glee, and even clapped as if it had been rehearsed for days! We were so proud!
As I was holding him while talking to one of Brian’s former basketball players (whose young son was with him), all of a sudden he jumped out of my arms. He ran to the little boy, (who was around seven years old), and began touching his arm—-checking to see if he was real! You see, Cooper had never seen another “little person” up close. While it was heartwarming, it was also a little heartbreaking to see how this Pandemic has affected little ones.
We knew that the weekend of the Retirement Party would be filled with all kinds of emotions, memories, and hopes for the future, but we had no idea that it wasn’t going to be the big news of the weekend…
Our oldest son Chris told us that he was going to leave the SFA basketball program and pursue a new career. We always knew there was a chance this would happen, but were still a little surprised. Working as Director of Basketball operations and being an assistant coach in a college program has always been Chris’ dream.
There are so many emotions that go with this decision. Brian and I loved being a part of the SFA basketball family. We loved that Chris was in Nacogdoches, and lived with my mother. Just knowing he was there with her gave us so much peace of mind.
Over the years, we watched SFA beat Baylor and Duke. We were a part of championships, and seasons that were unfinished. We saw our son living his dream—-but we always knew he wanted more.
Sometimes, dreams change directions. Sometimes your heart tells you to stay, but your mind tells you to go. Sometimes, you have to be strong enough to take that leap of faith, knowing that in order to make all your dreams come true, you have to change.
I am so proud that my son was able to do this. And I know that he did the right thing. It was indeed, the hardest decision he’s made up to this point in his life, but one that will open up a new world, with new opportunities and challenges.
So with this change, comes another one. My mother will once again be living alone. For twenty-five years she did this, but then she had Chris and his dog Ace. She loved the companionship, and even though Ace seemed to get into things, and track in mud, and eat trays of brownies, she had become attached to him and enjoyed his presence. Five years now seems so short…
And now, she will begin again, too.
As happens all too often, things never seem to go smoothly in life. I always question why everything seems to happen at once, but I’ve learned that there isn’t an answer that makes sense. Again, we have to have faith, and wait, and it might be days, weeks, months, or even years, but at some point it will all make sense. The reasons and the lessons.
The day after we moved Chris to Houston, one of my mother’s best friends was killed in a car wreck. It was shocking. Unexpected. And very, very sad.
Her friend was always there for her and so many others. She owned a business in town which was a gathering place for my mom and many of her friends. Shortly after my father died, my mom stopped by the store, where she sat and visited with her friend and her friend’s husband. This soon became a part of mom’s routine. On days when she didn’t want to go home to an empty house, she would stop by for coffee and chat. I give this couple credit for helping my mother heal. Their love, support, and friendship sustained my mother as she adjusted to her new solitary life.
With so many changes in my own life, as well as changes in our country and world, I’ve been struggling of late. I think part of it’s due to the Pandemic. I became accustomed to being at home. I did keep in touch with friends, but gathering together was rare. In a way, I have drawn into myself. I guess you’d call me an “introverted extrovert.” I love people, and love being around others, but I’ve found I now listen more than talk. I’ve also noticed friendships have changed. Some are stronger, and some are not.
Brian and I were talking about friendship a few weeks back, and he said this: “I’ve always heard that a friend is someone you can never do enough for.” I have pondered this for weeks. I have questioned my own worth as a friend. I have wondered if I’m “that kind of friend.”
If you look at if from the recipient’s point of view, it seems a little selfish—-like you want a friend who is constantly doing for you. I thought about this a lot, and then I realized I had it all wrong. It’s not at all about what others do for you. It’s the desire, thought, feeling that being a true friend means you want to do as much as possible for another person. You want to be like my mom’s friend. You want to be there…
To have good friends, you have to be one. It’s that simple. Of late, I’ve been thinking I haven’t been the greatest friend. You see, I do keep in touch with friends. Sometimes, it seems I have to be the one to keep things going. Being “Facebook-less” is also something that has made it more difficult. I don’t know “everything” going on. While that’s honestly a good thing, it often makes me feel left out in certain conversations where it’s assumed that everyone knows what’s being talked about.
I don’t want to sound haughty, or condescending, but for me, giving up Facebook has been a blessing. I have more time to write and think without being influenced or distracted by all that’s going on. Again, it comes with the price of not being in-the-know.
And then there’s your birthday. When you’re used to hundreds of Facebook birthday greetings, your first Facebook-less birthday reveals a lot.
I always try to send texts to people on their day of birth. I am by no means like Rain Man, but remembering birthdays it the best and only good thing I can do with numbers. I remember those special days. I understand we all aren’t geared that way. But none-the-less, I allowed this to let my feelings get hurt on my special day. I associated my position and importance in the lives of others by their ability to remember my birthday. UGH! So pitifully shallow!
I was surprised and not-so-surprised by those who remembered me. I spent the day in San Antonio with my sweet little family and it was perfect. But in the days that followed, I began to question my own worth. Yep. That’s me. The over-thinker, and over-questioner.
One of my spiritual gifts is that of being intuitive. It is a wonderful gift, until it’s not. And by that, I mean until I start reading things into situations that really aren’t there. Again, I think that’s part of my post-shutdown personality. I’m not as good at reading others as I thought. We’ve all changed. And what do you know? Everything isn’t about me! Shocking! (I say this tongue-in -cheek, so please don’t judge me!)
Over this year, I’ve changed a great deal. I listen more. I don’t fight to be the center of attention. I still reach out to friends, but I have backed off from being the ring-leader, or the friend who always has people over. My circle is smaller. I understand that right now people are trying to get through so much.
I try to always think of others, but I also think of myself. Not in a conceited way. But in a way where I try to give myself some breaks and not be so hard on myself.
I’ve heard it said that you shouldn’t cross oceans for people who wouldn’t jump a puddle for you. I completely disagree with this! Just as my husband said, a friend is someone you can’t do enough for.
This doesn’t mean you have to buy gifts, or bake cookies, or call or text someone constantly. Be the kind of friend who is sometimes silent. The friend who prays for others at night, and all throughout the day. The friend who checks in, but also gives space. The friend who is always there in spirit. The one who is a phone call or text away. The friend you know will cross oceans, and jump puddles.
So you may think I’ve veered away from the topic of changes in my life, but I haven’t. You see, I’ve changed my attitude, and many of the platitudes I’ve held so dear. While everything around me is different, and still the same, I am that way too.
If you listen to all the “self-help” gurus, they tell you over and over, “You are enough!” But you know what? You’re not enough! There is no way you can do this life alone! You have to have faith in God. A real relationship where you spend time in prayer, and conversation, and the Word.
And you need other people. Just like Cooper reacted to the first little person he had been close to, we know when something is real. We know those who are there for us no matter what. We know the ones who are a call away. Even if we haven’t spoken in a while. We know the ocean-crossers and puddle-jumpers. Remember, “Life and love isn’t about what you gain, it’s about what you give.”
As locations change, and relationships wane or grow, it’s our attitude that we can control. But we can’t do it all on our own.
And yes, don’t be so hard on yourself! (I’m preaching to the choir) But also, don’t think “you’ve got this” on your own. You have to employ the lessons you’ve learned, knowledge, trust and faith. Empower yourself with the truth that you do need other people. You can’t do it alone.
When you do this, you will be living life like Gayle Sayers who said, “The Lord is first. My friends are second. And I am third.”
In closing, I’ll share that I’m changing my Latitude a tiny bit. I’m moving from the Junior High campus to the Primary one. I’ve boxed up years’ worth of stuff, and in many ways, I’m starting over. It’s a new challenge, a new set of friends, a new adventure.
I’ve already dipped my toes in the water, so to speak, as I’ve spent one day a week with the littles. I’m excited, and feel abundantly blessed to have this opportunity, and am looking forward to a great year of crossing oceans, climbing mountains, and jumping puddles.