Archive for July, 2015

Family, growing up and group texts

Group texts have been taking over my phone. I haven’t gone on a bachelorette party or been in charge of some other occasion that requires planning and coordinating best done by mass-text. I’ve just reached the point when all of my siblings no longer live at home. And that equals group messages galore.

It seemed to happen suddenly. I’ve been living in apartments with various roommates for three years, and my sister moved out nearly a year ago. But the group texts really hit when my brother moved out early last month. And they have been glorious.

There’s a new tree in our parkway after the previous one bit the dust to the Emerald Ash Borer, my mom decides to text my brother, my sister and me. Complete with a picture! I’m glad she did. The yard looked kind of sad with an empty hole where our struggling tree used to be, and it was neat to see the little baby stick planted in its place. Aww, home, I thought.

Which day would you prefer to come over for Father’s Day, my mom group texts us a few days later. Planning. A classic function of the group-text. My brother responds almost immediately with one word. “Sunday.” I reply a few minutes later also expressing a preference for Sunday. My sister, an emergency room nurse, never replies – at least not on the same message string where we all could see it.

And it’ll happen sometime soon: My dad will group-text the entire family about some weather warning or another. He’ll tell us what he heard on the radio or saw on the Weather Channel, and he’ll remind us of seven precautions that are smart but maybe a little farfetched. He’ll tell us to be safe and end the message simply with “Love,” written on a separate line than the rest of the words. Why say, “Love Dad,” I figure he thinks, when the phone already displays that the message came from “Dad” and takes care of it for him. Instead of being alarming, as some weather alerts can be, these Dad reminders are a comfort. Lets us know he’s there thinking and caring about us. As always.

But these days, everything comes by group text. The lighthearted, homey details like the tree. The planning of minor family get-togethers like the Father’s Day gathering, which did end up on a Sunday, after all. The weather warnings. None of us live at home, yet there are plenty of things our parents still want to tell or ask all of us. At once. With technology, the group-text is the clear way to go.

I never realized I’d see so many group texts or enjoy them so much. But it all makes sense. And when your phone is inundated with family communications via group text because your siblings all have launched lives away from home, you know you’ve officially reached adulthood. How to celebrate? Pull out the old phone and type up a note to mom, dad, bro and sis. Make their phones buzz in unison. You know they’d love to hear from you.


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In the ABCs of twenty-something life, S is for Small World

If you’re lucky (or unlucky) enough to graduate college, find a job and move out to your own place all in the same metro area where you grew up, it really is a small world after all.

People you haven’t talked to since freshman year of high school may make an appearance at the Panera where you’re somewhat of a regular. Girls from the flute section in high school marching band definitely will be there when you accompany your mom to band fundraisers just to be nice.

Anybody and everybody from your public school past may show up at the movie theater, the only non-creepy bar in your town, or that bowling alley/laser tag place where you still occasionally gather with your high school friends when they’re back in town.

But my personal favorite small world moment was when I recently ran into a guy I hadn’t seen since sixth grade at the gym. In sixth grade, this boy was dreamy. He was the apple of the eye of many a girl, but not me. I had other boys in mind.

But before I decided I wasn’t head-over-heels for Pat, (*Name have been changed. It’s more fun that way) I remember gazing at him on the school bus one morning, and noticing something strange – he was blowing small, clear, spit bubbles right off his tongue! Without gum!

I was intrigued. If some of Pat’s other admirers had seen his spit bubble-blowing, they may have been disgusted and decided to move on to a new crush. But I was impressed that he could make a bubble without the assistance of gum and I wanted to gain the talent myself. So I kept watching him, every morning on the bus. And within a few days or weeks, I had mastered spit-bubble blowing myself. I had a permanent metal retainer along my bottom teeth, which probably helped me form the bubbles.

All I had to do was click my tongue down, slowly draw it toward the back of my mouth, then push it forward. Gingerly lifting a bubble onto the tip of my tongue, I’d raise it up out of my mouth and push a soft stream of air until the bubble would take flight.

Ta da!

OK, now I realize I’m way off topic. But when I ran into this guy we’ll call Pat at the gym, I literally hadn’t seen or thought about him for more than 10 years. Even when people would ask me how in the world I learned how to blow bubbles off my tongue, I’d just answer that I learned by watching someone else do it, without giving any mention to Pat.

Seeing him again reminded me that I’m not in control of who from my past will pop up at any given moment. None of us are.

Sometimes the old acquaintances who reappear are a welcome sight, a trip down memory lane. But other times, they can bring up strange or unwanted memories of middle school humiliations or the silly desires of our high school selves.

I guess our best defense – against unexpected or unwelcome figures from our past who we can’t help but run into – is not to treat the encounter like something we need to defend against. Life isn’t a popularity contest, and even if we didn’t realize that in middle school or high school, chances are it’s at least occurred to us by the time we reach our twenties.

We also can remind ourselves how well time makes memories fade. If we haven’t thought about these prep-school figures from our past in five to 10 years, chances are they haven’t thought about us in that long, either.

But if we get really desperate, we can always blow a spit bubble at them (figuratively, of course) and get the heck out there. Of all the gin joints in all the (small, small) world, we can always find one not frequented by our high school graduating class and make it our own.

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The good, bad, beautiful: Unlimited reasons to run

It’s been said that people become more health-conscious in their late twenties or early thirties. So it seems appropriate at this point to say R is for Running. And there are lots of reasons why.

Sometimes I have such pleasant thoughts while running: “The world is beautiful.” “This is real life and this is great.”

Other times I’m not so lucky: “Ugh, my hamstring hurts.” “I … can’t … breathe …” “Am I not even at Mile 1 yet?”

Sometimes I make minor discoveries while jogging away: “That coffee shop looks relaxing.” “This street smells like bread – aha! there’s the Gonnella factory!” “I didn’t know there was a Kuma’s here. Time for a burger date this weekend.” “And here’s where I went out with my roommate last Halloween!”

Other times I’m bored by familiar landmarks: “That junker SUV hasn’t moved in months.” “I never get this stoplight green.” “Hello mini splash park, goodbye Mile 3.”

During some runs, I’m a philosopher: “It’s not about having time. It’s about making time.” “Why do I seem to worry the most about things that are completely out of my control? I need to work on that.”

Other times, my mind is pleasantly empty: “                     .”

Sometimes the world seems to smile at me: “Sprinkler! Score!” “Aww, that cute kid just waved at me.” “Free donuts beginning at 8 a.m.? Just enough time to finish this run, shower and grab one before work!” “What’s this on the ground? It looks like … it is … it’s $80 bucks!”

And other times, I’m the fly hitting the windshield: “Eek! OMG! OK, you’re OK, that was just a barking dog. Breathe.” “That was kinda squishy … that’s because it was goose poo. Lovely.” “How many oblivious couples with strollers can there be on one street at one time?!? Seriously.”

Running brings the good times and the bad, but all of these times are why there will be a next time. All of these are reasons why I run. Not just to stay in shape, to burn calories so I can eat more food, to enjoy the camaraderie of races or to be outside. (Although those are all great side effects.)

I run to experience the variety of life through one continuous lens – that of a runner – an actively moving, striving, progressing, growing human being. And I run because that perspective makes me a better person.

So give it a try. Go for a run. Even if your knee hurts or you can’t breathe after two blocks or you’re bored out of your mind, maybe, somewhere in that adversity, you’ll find your own reason to run.

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Older and wiser? True, but it takes work

Now that it’s swimsuit season, I find myself thinking back to a piece of “news” I heard on the trashy TV playing in the locker room at the gym, back when there was still Super-bowl Sunday snow on the ground.

This “news” really should have been ordinary by now, but somehow, it wasn’t.

There was a plus-size model in the Swimsuit Edition of “Sports Illustrated” this year.

It’s too bad this happened for the first time in 2015, that plus-size models are just beginning to become mainstream in a nation where the average woman wears a size 12, at least according to my memory of a news report I heard a few months ago.

But more saddening than the news itself was the reaction of a 65ish woman, who heard the plus-size swimsuit model story and then lamented how models create such an unattainable image for the rest of us.

This woman seemed genuinely disappointed that she’d never have a body like a model’s, genuinely torn up about the prospect of having to compare herself to that ideal.

I’d say she’s in her 60s, maybe closer to 70, and that’s how she had to start her day one winter morning – feeling wholly inadequate.

I thought that feeling was something we’d get over. I thought comparing ourselves to others – be it based on the shape of our stomachs, the size of our salaries, the grades on our report cards, the titles on our business cards or any other factor – was something we’d grow out of.

I’m feeling pretty adult these days at 27 and I haven’t grown out of my own bad habit of comparing myself to others at times, so I don’t know when I thought this would happen. But I was holding out hope that it would. Magically. Without any real effort. The way nothing in this world ever actually happens.

And that was my downfall, I guess. I assumed age would instantly solve problems, when age really does nothing but convey the passage of time. Time can heal all wounds, but only if we apply the ointment. Time can make us wiser, but only if we use it to educate ourselves and expand our perspectives.

In this case, time can help us stop second-guessing ourselves … if we work on building confidence from within. Time can help us be happy with our own lives instead of measuring them against someone else’s … if we celebrate our own successes without making others feel inferior.

Time can help us, but only if we help ourselves

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