Delta Chi Latte: Accepting late pledges

I have never had a huge group of friends.  I have many good friends.  Cherished friends. But generally, even as a little girl, my friends were not all friends with each other.  The biggest group I was ever part of was maybe three or four girls.  Groups of friends in elementary school formed pretty naturally driven by activities or geography or moms.  But by middle school I had narrowed the field quite a bit.  I think I almost preferred it that way.  I’m a secret introvert and even now if I go to a party where I know I have to make small talk with 30 people, I feel a little ill.  I want to grab one person and hold their face in my hands and discuss their relationship with their mother at length.  I know.  Now you won’t invite me for coffee.  It’s ok. I just generally suck at making ‘light conversation.’

In late high school when we were actual women making friends with other women, I had one ‘best friend’ and we floated between groups of other friends and hung out with a group of boys as a duo. This totally worked for me.  The guys were a blissful counterweight to any drama she and I might attempt to stir up.

1989 and 2014 below…


College was similar.  Again, I had lots of women I spent time with but not a sorority atmosphere certainly. I have several friends from those four years-but they aren’t friends with one another.  I found my future maid of honor in college.  We disliked each other a great deal the first few weeks of freshman year.  She found me bold and over confident.  I found her shy and irritatingly not wanting to be the center of attention.  Plus, she wore mysteriously preppy rugby shirts and I was trying out my REI meets goth look with all black clothing, dark red lipstick and hiking boots.

We must have pushed past all that since now she is the executor of my will.  Below you will find a montage of our early relationship and no, no alcohol was involved in striking any of these poses. Sadly, no mood altering chemicals were involved when I chose any of those haircuts either.  I can own it.

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Then I made “couple friends” and anyone who is over 14 knows how difficult that is to navigate.  The odds of both people in one pair really enjoying both people in the other pair are well…let’s just say even match.com or tinder wouldn’t dare try to code that algorithm.  And then large groups of couples who all enjoy hanging out together?  Even more tricky.                                                                 (note: 3 of my favorite couples to hang out with in our 20’s…all divorced now-maybe it was me?)

Graduate school.  In two years of seeing the same people every.single.freaking. day, I made a few friends.  Three.  And I made one lifelong close friend.  We were like hecklers at a comedy club except we were in Psych classes.  I’m not sure everyone appreciated our bond.  We thought all of the same people were exactly the same kind and same amount of crazy.

Work.  Various settings.  Various people.  Please.  I have yet to find an adult human who relishes attending their own company party let alone hang out with their co-workers every weekend. Worlds colliding.  It rarely works out ideally.

Church.  Surely church is filled with a lot of nice women.  I never did find 6 that all wanted to hang out together though. Never.  Acquaintances yes. Cohesive friend group?  Nope.

Neighborhood.  No.  We live on a street that ranges from newly married to retired couples. There are no block parties.  No progressive dinners.  No pool parties.  Last year we had 0 trick or treaters.  One banner year we had five.  They must have gotten lost. My closest neighborhood friend lives next door and I surely couldn’t have survived the last 18 years without her but we have our differences.  She is 69.

So-over the years when I see on social media photos of 8, 10, 12, 15! women together on trips or dinners or book clubs or scrapbooking weekends or reunions or 5k’s or wine tastings or etc…I always think…really?  How?  How did I never end up having a group of friends?

And then I realized I have one now…my first friend group.  At 44 years old.

I have finally found my sorority.  Accidentally.  It’s my ‘mom friends’.  The extensive group of women who surround me who are raising their children alongside me are my tribe.  Phenomenal, intelligent, strong women.  They know me.  They know each other.  We have a lot in common and the kids bond us together even though some of our kids are different ages and don’t even hang out with one another.  Doesn’t matter anymore.  They are women who work outside the home and women who work inside the home.  They have one child, they have four children.  They are single, married, widowed, divorced.  They are estranged from their parents, have ailing parents, have dead parents, have under involved parents, have over involved parents, all while parenting their own kids.  A few are over the top optimistic and a couple are intensely sarcastic and a couple are so wicked smart and a couple are wild procrastinators. They are volunteers and coaches and organizers and entrepreneurs and piano teachers and writers and religious and not religious and some are great cooks and some are ultra crafty and some exercise and some talk about exercising but never actually do and some are loud and outgoing and some aren’t and I value and cherish them all for their gifts and their challenges and their grit.

These women, they make my life so much better.  My circle of trust.  They make the grind of life tolerable.  They are my go to when I have a question about what the heck is wrong with my kid(s) or to tell when something goes well with my kid(s).  They celebrate my successes and lament with me when it all goes to shit.  Some of them I see in person 3 times a year, others I see weekly.  We go on mom field trips and do important ‘doughnut research.’  It is my first experience of having a large number of women who make me feel “we are in this together”. I have 20+ women who would drop everything and pick up my son if I needed it.  I would do the same for them.  They are my emergency contacts.  I have cried with them in Target.  In Target.  Right there next to the light bulbs and laundry detergent and bananas.  That is friendship.  It is an intricate but strong and supportive web of friendship that holds me together some days during these intense parenting years.

These women…they teach me.  They educate me on camps to look into, where to buy something for less, why a particular teacher is so valuable, what to open my eyes to and when to shut my ears.  NO KID REALLY NEEDS TO BE 6 YEARS AHEAD IN MATH.  They know stuff.  They recommend books and doctors and websites and restaurants.  They gently explain the reality of why I could never actually survive being a hockey mom and how many things are likely going to turn out just fine and probably don’t need my micro-management.  They point me in the right direction when I need to get whipped about something and present convincing arguments for when I really need to calm the hell down.    (It’s almost always the second one)

This photo was taken on my birthday last year.  Not even nearly everybody who is important to me is in the photo (obviously)…and I didn’t even have a chance to talk to everyone this day and hold their face and delve into their inner soul.  But it’s ok.  They know I care what happens to them.  I’ve got their backs.  I’ll catch up with them at school or on the soccer field or in the church parking lot or over lunch or maybe at Target.

We will cry at Target.  Together. Sisterhood.

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Hindsight is usually 20/20 but mine is 20/10

I had an eye exam today.  Same prescription. No change. I was pretty thrilled about no change until the Dr. said, “Yep. You are still hanging on.”

I’m still hanging on?

In other words, enjoy these last few months before bifocals ma’am.  Yeah.  Then I got a little lesson about my declining eyes.  Between the ages of 40 and 45 most humans lose 50% of the flexibility in their lens and need bifocals.  By age 70, 100% of it is gone.  (That’s not exactly what he said because I stopped listening after realizing my eyes are living on borrowed time) The lens doesn’t bounce back.  Rigid.  I’m rounding the bend to 44.  My free from bifocals minutes are ticking down.  It bothers me to think about it. And here is why.

I was wondering when the wheels were going to start to fall of the bus.  I didn’t think it was really happening already.  As it turns out-it’s happening next year. I’m scheduled for just a lovely series of tests and scans and checks and exams in the year following my 44th birthday.  On top of the normal things.  Next year I’m having extra things plus I’ll be the owner of a nifty pair of bifocals.   Next year is the year to get a baseline as a reference for all future deterioration.

The aging doesn’t bother me nearly as much as all the necessary maintenance.  Now begins the (hard) work to just stay as good as possible.  I’m just not new anymore. Like an older car, I’m still reliable but stuff needs to be fixed and attended to.  I can get from point A to point B but things need to be assessed. Maintained. A lot.  That bites.  I hate to think of wasting all that time not trying to improve anything but just trying to preserve what is left. I still have all my original parts.  For now.  But I now need to place time and effort into the preservation of things…

Like:

My hair.  I color my hair.  Actually a lovely lady named Patty colors it for me. I have been dealing with unsightly roots for a few years now. Since 2005 I think.   I know I wouldn’t ‘have to’ but I come from a long line of stubborn and proud women (on both sides) who dye their hair until their last hour.  My grandma’s Great Aunt Messina dyed here hair secretly.  She had a tiny dark glass vial of hair dye she hid behind a wood panel behind the barn and only the women in the family knew her secret.  She lived on a farm.  If a farm woman at the turn of the century fought the aging hair, who am I to mess up that legacy.

Also in the hair category.  My poor eyebrows and eyelashes.  They are getting so lonely.  Thinning.  Really thinning.  I thought it was all in my head at first but it’s real.  I now need assistance with growing adequate eyelashes.  Medical intervention.  What what what what what??? I still have to shave my legs but I don’t get to have eyelashes?

Exercise.  I’m not a fan.  It’s boring and just reminds you of every twinge of pain you may have had and every time you chose the cheesecake over the cup of soup on the menu.  I never had to exercise for the first 30 years so now I apparently resent it extra.  I have found yoga fortunately because it doesn’t feel like exercise thereby tricking myself into doing it regularly. Now I need to exercise for the sake of my heart, my mental health, my sleep, and to wrangle my frustrating diastasis recti.  (that’s when your stomach wall separates during pregnancy from having a giant MOOSE of a child) Do you know what really calls attention to diastasis recti?  Lack of exercise and clothing.

Eating. My metabolism is slowing.  In the last year, I have really noticed a difference and it has moved into the slow lane.  I can’t eat nearly the volume I used to or my waistband will be angry and show me by squeezing the life out of me later.  I’m not willing to live on rice cakes AND I’m not willing to run 20 miles a day so now I just have less.  I figure when I’m truly elderly I’ll be down to one spoonful of food a day, which will free up some time for me to go to the…

Dentist. My teeth aren’t bad. Yet. I haven’t even enjoyed a root canal. My mom has assured me that someday I will ‘clear my schedule’ to have multi-step dental work done.  So I have that to look forward to. It cracks me up when teenagers (when they have braces) whiten their teeth in pictures because they think braces make their teeth look discolored.  Stick around ladies.  Years, red wine and 653,345,678 cups of coffee will someday wreak havoc on those beautifully straight teeth that your parents paid $8000 for.

My skin.  I never went to a dermatologist until 2 years ago. Two years ago I had to go in because I had an unsettling darkening on my face that has faintly taken the shape of South America.  Hyper-pigmentation. After 40 years of diligent sunscreen use, I feel it’s unfair that this shows up on my face. I couldn’t get a skin thing on my ankle??? I could have passed it off as a tattoo.  So 5 trips and a few Dixie cups of liquid nitrogen + bleaching cream + a medical grade sunscreen 46 that I apply DAILY…it looks fine.  Skin is the largest organ.  Plenty of potential for other things to go wrong requiring maintenance.

10 years ago I thought I would have a lot of things ‘done’ by now.  I was a big talker.  I wanted things refurbished, rearranged, up-cycled, exfoliated away and put back to their original locations, restored to their original grandeur.  I took for granted how little I needed to do at the time to look and feel decent but set my sights on having a plan in place for over 40.  But now, I can’t do it.  Now I’m only willing to do the bare minimum (i.e. hair color, yoga, copious amounts of sunscreen).  Now it isn’t worth it to me.  I fear having any procedure done where my husband would have to explain to our children, “Mom died on the table from an unnecessary procedure but her glutes….her glutes looked a-ma-zing.”

All that said. I’m lucky to be here.  Damn lucky.  Only the truly privileged get to age.

But it isn’t for wimps. None of us are going to bounce back from getting older.

When I left my appointment today, I had to sit at the ‘eyeglass’ station and fill out some papers.  There was a mirror.  It wasn’t a great hair day.  It was a tired eye day.  And then I noticed something else. I had a deep crease just below my hairline from having my chin stationary for 15 minutes and my head pressed firmly against the Phoroptor.

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It’s called a Phoroptor. Trust me.  I learned that after writing “pressing my head against his equipment” which for obvious reasons sounds like a different kind of story.

Anyway, even my forehead doesn’t bounce back fast these days.  An hour later it was fine.

So, I guess I’m satisfied with what is.  I’m hanging on.

Do you think he used the word hanging on purpose?

~Sometimes I need to stand on my head to see things clearly~

I went on a trip. (see blog post #5)   Update: The children are alive. I am alive. My husband is alive. A few things got broken while I was gone but none of them were bones.

It has taken me a couple of weeks to think of what to say about it and what I don’t want to say about it.

If I had to sum up my experience with one word it would be…Amazeballs.  That is not a Sanskrit word but we say amazeballs in our house often and it conveys the mood I’m after.

I meditated. I did yoga. As in, I took 11 yoga classes in 7 days. I ate delicious, healthy meals, that were delivered to me while I stared at the ocean. I got massages. I actually got a “I am a skeptical person but I’ll just push past it because this is a new-age type massage and oh sure I’ll just hang onto these crystals while you clang a gong in my ear massage”.  (highly recommend it)    I had acupuncture. I did Zumba. (this was more difficult for me than the crystals or the needles in my head. I have 0 dance ability when I have to follow someone else at a rapid pace)  I spent A LOT of time on this platform.

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I attended a full moon ceremony.

I attended a cacao ceremony.

I found a live sand dollar.

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I met some really lovely new people.  Some were in their 20’s and some were in their 60’s and it was  so much more enjoyable and interesting because of the age range. It felt like a multi-generational women’s slumber party and it was fun. We were so all so much more alike than we were different.

I had a chance to enjoy and appreciate some people who I already know. We had some good laughs.  I rode a horse on the beach at sunset.  I watched a horse ahead of me (carrying my friend) collapse onto the sand, crumpling from exhaustion at the end of a long day and I nearly peed in my pants laughing.  (The horse and the friend are both fine)

One day, my eyes were closed (while I was still awake) for six hours.   And apparently, I become a much calmer person when I do this.

I drank Mescal out of this and then I took the cup. Don’t tell.

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I danced. Wildly. If a video surfaces of this, I am denying everything.

I saw baby turtles hatch and walk into the ocean.

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I cried. I laughed. I wrote. I read part of a book. I didn’t miss reliable wifi. I didn’t miss text messages. I stopped importing emails. I loved leaving everything in my open air hut with no lock.  I relaxed into rotating my same 5 items of clothing.  (Turns out I didn’t even need my fleece socks that I brought in 88 degree weather) Everything fell away and the things that don’t matter really didn’t matter. I missed my people at home but nothing else.

I let my guard down. This was tougher than the Zumba.

I was thinking about what it is about travel that is so appealing. It is more than the sun, the lull of the ocean, the escape of daily responsibilities, the novelty of a foreign place.  Okay, the scenery was pretty incredible.

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But I think even more than that, it’s the perspective gained.  It is being able to take 5 minutes to resolve something that you have been trying to resolve in your head/heart for weeks at home.  Or to decide you are done with it altogether.  It is doing one thing at a time.  It is the indulgent 30 minutes spent on thinking about a dream, a plan, a possibility, a change you want to make.  It is the simple pleasure of having a conversation in its entirety.  It is the decadent hour spent on nothing but being.

I have been thinking about how once you are a ‘certain age’, you are surrounded by people and reminders of things you no longer do. I hear things along this vein daily.  Things that people used to do that they can’t do any longer.  The losses.  They used to ski but now their knees are bad.  They used to drive but now their night vision is poor.  They used to go out and hear new bands play but now they don’t.  Used to. Used to.  Then there are the losses of things that never happened. Things that they wanted to do but they can’t. Or think they can’t.  They wanted to go to Venice but now they won’t make it.  They wanted to live in a rural area but are stuck in a big city.  They dreamt of being a painter/doctor/singer but never thought they were good enough.  Maybe logistics or family or money or health or circumstances  or previous choices are standing in their way.  Maybe we all stand in our own way sometimes.

But for a week I was encouraged to do everything.  I can’t tell you how restful it is to be given a blanket permission slip to do everything or nothing with equal value placed on both.  Restful.  I was exposed to things I had never tried and surprised myself with this:

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Yeah.  That’s me.  I had no idea I could stand on my head.  I’ve never done it before and when the instructor asked if anyone wanted help trying it…the elderly woman behind me said, “Go on. Just try. You should.”  And it worked.

So that is what I am going to try desperately to hang onto at home…Life isn’t full of things I used to be able to do.

The world is abundant with experiences I haven’t even yet entertained.