Age-Blind, Experience Rich.

I was obsessed with my RA in college.  She was equal parts friendly and sarcastic,  her humor was at times sophisticated and other times involved a lot of poop jokes.   She had a phobia of feet, and the fact that I can remember this twelve years later, but hardly any of my freshman year classes, amuses me.  I lived on her floor for 2.5 years, only spending one semester in off-campus housing.  Because I ended up graduating a year early, we were in the same graduating class.  Still, she seemed much older and wiser, and I looked up to her.

In much the same way, I met plenty of other people who were a year, maybe two, ahead of me at college, and they all seemed laden with knowledge I would never acquire, always scrambling to catch up to their achievements.

Then I graduated, and suddenly the artificial construct of grades fell away completely within a few short years.  In the closeness of the North Shore I met plenty of people who had also gone to Gordon College, had been a few years ahead of me, behind me and we hadn’t managed to meet during our time on campus.  I felt that we were all in this together, all the same age, all sharing a similar past experience.

I also started making plenty of non-Gordon friends, some who were 4 or 5 years older than I, even 10. Others were 3 or 4 years younger.  Age started to blur even more as other significant milestones took their place – marriage, baby making, house buying, promotions, second degrees, business starting.  The type of things that happen to different people, at different times.

MSGraduation

Still, I sometimes run into those people I had classes with who were, like my RA, seemingly older and wiser during our college years.  The senior in the lit class, when I was only a sophomore.  It will come as a shock that they were often only six months, maybe a year older than I was, that in fact, we were the same age.   I find myself still somehow mentally believing in their extra wisdom.  Turning to them for advice, checking my assumptions against their vast experience.

The older I get, the more time I spend making new friends, and then the more I find myself to be strengthening ties with wise and mentoring people, regardless of their actual, or perceived ages.  I’ve also been happy to find myself able to be the “wise” friend some of the time too, although this role still scares me.  More and more, I want to become like a woman I know who someone described as “age-blind.” Her friend’s ages span decades on either side of her own.

There is wisdom to be found in people of all ages, whether six months older than me, or sixteen years, or sixty.  So I hope, pray, that I’ll be able to find it.

A Balanced Diet of Friends

After reviewing my New Years Resolutions in July I realized that I was having a hard time with my goal to “Be a Good Friend.”   I was certain that if I just sat down and thought about this topic for an hour or so, I would be able to pinpoint the trouble and fix this goal.  These are some of my thoughts on friendship in adulthood.

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Good Friends I’ve Had:

I follow along with the blog MWF seeking BFF and the premise of the blog and the honest writing style really resonate with me.  A recent post of hers linked to an article from Self Magazine that reassures me that a shrinking friend circle is normal for you as you grow older.  It also highlights some of the benefits of having many friends to fit different roles in your life.

I’ve really enjoyed having athletic friends to run races with, creative friends to see life in a new way, reading friends to talk about books… and plenty of others.  But one thing that I’ve noticed over the last two years is that I’ve tried to cut back on how many “niche” friends I’ve had and just went with the “well rounded” type of friends.  It’s hard to hang out with people individually (especially with a family) and it makes more sense to multitask by hanging out with groups of people or hanging out with one or two friends that fit a lot of categories.  So I need to focus on being a good friend to these few people.

Two pieces of Good Advice on Friendship:

I also remembered two really good pieces of advice I was given about five years ago about friendship that can help you redefine your ideas of what friendship might mean.

1) You can’t always have meaningful conversations – A relationship can get pretty strained if you want to have soul baring vulnerable conversations about your innermost thoughts and feelings every time you get together.   You’ve got to balance out those deep conversations with stuff at least sometimes.

2) It’s hard to be friends if you’re always catching up – You need to have friends that you see or talk to a lot: that is, you aren’t always filling them in on the last three months of your life, or why exactly you chose to take the new job offer.  They’ve been along with you for the whole angsty period of your current job slowly souring on you, or your increasing dissatisfaction with the tasks, or your new passion for another field.  But you don’t need to be attached at the hip anymore as an adult, to still be friends with someone.

What my Nutritionist Taught me About Friendship

It’s important to have a balanced diet of friends.  Work friends, Church friends, Mom friends, Old College Friends…etc.  But just like any balanced diet there are actually a few powerhouse foods that we count on day in and day out.  Most days you’ll find me eating wheat bread, cheese, tomato (in some form), eggs, and coffee.  And, actually, most people who are successful with their diets don’t vary their foods up too much – that creates uncertainty and uncertainty makes people uncomfortable and stressed, which, well, leads to eating more.  So, even though I agree that I need a balanced diet of friends, I think it’s probably find for me to pull on the same few people over and over again and not create stress running after a dozen different friends.

My nutritionist also told me, If you’re okay with what you’re doing, it’s okay to keep doing it.  Just because the latest research might say that you should live carb free, only eat dessert on alternate Sundays and give up diet soda – you don’t have to.  If you’re living a moderately healthy lifestyle and you have only a “few” bad habits, you don’t have to change them now.  Maybe you will in the future.

As for how this relates to friendship –  as long as I continue to keep in contact with the friends I do have and enjoy, and make new ones occasionally – it’s okay if I don’t have women who I do “girls night out” with, and it’s okay if I don’t have people to go on vacation with to summer houses in the Poconoes.  Even if really really envy other people who do that.

So, what does friendship look like for me as an adult

So, it turned out I was using an old definition of friendship from my pre-baby, pre-marriage, pre-adulthood days.  This definition went something like – if I’m going to have friends I need to see them at least five days a week, talk on the phone,  and pour my heart out to them at least monthly.  (Hello College Roommate!) No wonder I was getting cognitive dissonance about how well I was doing on my goal.

oh wait… plus my husband is my friend too,
and I see him every day.

I think a Good Friend:
Knows what her friends need – coffee, a meal, an idea, a pat on the back, a hug, advice, space.
Organizes parties
Provides a listening ear
Keeps in contact through social media like blogs and facebook

And a good rule of thumb for me:
I need to see women friends at least 4 out of 7 days a week, or I’ll go crazy.

There’s still a lot more I want to discover about friendship, but I think this is a good place to start for now.

New Years Resolutions – July Edition

It’s been about two months since I reviewed my New Year’s Resolutions so I feel like we’re due for a re-cap here.

 Lose 15 Pounds – total pounds lost so far this year – 13! – I am so close to meeting my goal, and I’m pretty dang proud of myself. I’ve been running three or more times a week and lifting weights at least twice a week.  I’ve also got a lot of clothes to go through by the end of the month and decide whether to discard or keep them or give them away.

Be a good friend – I honestly thought summer would be a time of non-stop hanging out with people all the time… and that hasn’t quite been true. But I have been spending more time with a few new friends of mine, and of course, my lovely co-bloggers at Connect Shore. I’ve been trying to teach Ethan how to be a good friend – which for him mostly means, not hitting people in the face, or on the head, or at all. And suddenly, I found myself asking – what does friendship look like in adulthood? I think I should probably spend a little more time defining “friendship” instead of just meandering through life trying to do it better. Yeah, That’s probably a blog post that’ll show up in August.

Read 15 Important Books– I can’t say that I read any of the books I marked as important in July. But I caught up on a great deal of fiction books that I had wanted to read – Gilead, Game of Thrones, Little Women and Me, That Hideous Strength for a few. And reading fiction after quite a bit of statistics readings in June was a welcome change.

Family First – I’m proud to announce that we managed a rough draft of our family mission statement. It’s scribbled into a corner of my notebook, the one that I use as a planner, idea jotter, and list holder. Hopefully as we ease into what will probably be the most relaxing month of the year, I will be able to approximate an appropriately beautiful representation of these idealistic thoughts.

Practice Better Blogging – Ha. Honestly, I thought it was too hot to blog in July. I sat on my couch reading said fiction books and felt only a small bit of guilt about my lack of posts. Hey, it’s the summer, right? Now that it’s been back in the 70’s I find the ideas are coming back, and I’ve been toying with looking into attending a blogging conference sometime in the next six months.  (Looking back on last year, the same thing happened.  July really IS too hot for blogging.)

Be An Active part of my Communities – What are my communities again? Oh yeah, Church, Blogging, Salem, Moms. Hmm… I think I’m gathering dust here… not sure that’s a good thing.

Improve my Sustainable Living – Got the compost bin. Finally. Eating my weight (well, at least my left leg’s weight) in vegetables from Farmer Dave’s CSA every week. Learning to check Craigslist before buying anything is my goal for august. Also,I’m going to have to sort out my thoughts on Amazon offering used options for almost everything. Is this a good/sustainable thing, even if it’s still shipped from six states away?

Grow Spiritually – I was reminded this month how important journalling is to my spiritual growth. If I can get myself to take a moment to pause and pen some words, I’m well on the way to appreciating God’s hand in my life. I realized I’d never make a good missionary because I have a hard time seeing God’s work when it’s happening and therefore giving credit where credit is due. It’s only in retrospect that I’m able to definitively say “That was an answer to prayer.” Certainly something to ponder and improve upon in the future.

Other Great July Things: Got the assistantship for Salem State, learned to crochet, and saw a beautiful friend get married in Pennsylvania.

Where does the Money Go?

In April I wanted to do a money inventory.  Budgeting, recording, penny pinching – none of these things are new to me.  Over the last five years of my life I’ve gotten fairly good at sticking within budgets I’ve set, so I wasn’t really interested in how much we spent, so much as I was interested in the ways we spent it. After all, you can tell a lot about what a person values by observing their spending habits.

Well, these are some of the things I would say I value that I think money can buy:

Preparedness and Peace of Mind

Family Memories

Friends

Community

Health

Education.

But, as it turns out, do I spend my money on these things?

When it comes to Peace of Mind – I spent a fair amount of money this month buying up tools for organizing the house.  I mentioned that I read some books about organizing, and after doing the types of assessment recommended – such as figuring out problem areas – I purchased some storage containers and made plans to buy a cart to store our “current projects.” It turned out organizing gave me a lot of peace of mind.  I had been thinking we needed to move before we could deal with some of my house woes.  Actually, some of them were just the result of, to put it one way, bad design.

My new craft space

We spent money on friends when we went out to eat once, and when we took a hike in New Hampshire to celebrate my birthday.  But… that was it, and it wasn’t that much.  Actually, seeing how few times we spent money buying gifts for others or taking others out to eat (or even inviting them over to eat) made me remember that I want our main family mission to be hospitality – and we’re not living up to it.  We can do better – we just have to figure out how.

The Fire Tower at Pawtuckaway State Park, NH.

Healthwise I finally buckled down and made a purchase during the last week of April I’ve been contemplating for about 6 months.  I bought the p90x DVDs used on Amazon.  This is cheaper than a gym membership and the odds of me doing it are very high.  I’m pretty motivated when it comes to doing exercise DVDs, and I’m planning to start the program on May 14th.

But… we didn’t spend much on family memories, community, and education.  When Steve and I first got married we joked about eating ice cream every Monday at the ice cream store for the rest of our lives.  We had just spent a blissful summer doing that and it is a really good memory.  Thinking back on that I really want to bring it back.

We could certainly spend more money in our community – not just by giving to charities but by purchasing more things downtown.  In Salem I bought a few things at Scrub, Lifebridge, and of course my weekly coffee break at Jaho, but not too much more.  As I’m looking to upgrade my wardrobe this year, I want to make more of an effort to purchase clothes at some of the boutiques downtown.  I probably also need to look into some of the other non-tourist non-eatery type businesses downtown as well so I can get an idea of what else I could buy there, instead of at Target or on Amazon.   Spending money within the local downtown helps out businesses and the community.  If you want to know more about this, I wrote a post about it here.

How do you match up your values with your spending?  What areas could you improve on?

The Secrets to Making Friends and Influencing People

This is part of my ongoing series of posts related to Secrets of Adulthood, inspired by Gretchin Rubin’s book “The Happiness Project”

Quite a few of my Secrets revolve around better people relations.  That’s not so surprising considering community, hospitality, and connection are important things to me and most others.  Moreover, it’s impossible to do any of those without other people.  Yet, I’ve got a set of personality quirks that frequently impair my ability to connect with others. To combat these, there are three Secrets I know, but that are more aspirational than they are achieved.

The best thing you can do to be friendly is say “Hi.”

I’m a New Englander, personality-wise as well as locale; and though some tests have labeled me an extrovert, that doesn’t mean that while walking down the sidewalk I’m high-fiving others, grinning from ear to ear, and stopping to remark on the weather.  In fact, most of the time when I walk into a place I like to observe what everyone else is doing and then follow suit.  On the streets, I like to look to the ground and find I’m most confident in sunglasses unable to make eye contact.  However, I’ve noticed that to get more out of every situation in life (more information, friends, and laughter) the first step is simply to say “Hi.”  It’s an easy way to convey approachability and camaraderie.  But oh, it’s so HARD!  What I often want most is to avoid embaressing myself, or being trapped in what could potentially be an awkward conversation.  However, I also don’t want to appear aloof.  So, I know what I should do, and what will satisfy me in the long run, is simply to say Hi.

If you want to feel connected, Talk More.

Though there are plenty of situations when “Hi” and “Bye” are really all you need, there are others where I know I can do better.  In this regard I once remarked to a friend “I wish I could go through life just a little bit drunk.”  I’m far from an alcoholic, but it’s no mistake that they call alcohol liquid courage. There are plenty of tips I’ve read about making conversation, but when it comes right down to doing it, it isn’t really knowledge that helps, it’s just action.  Whether you start with the weather, the latest sensational story, or divulge some personal information is of course, your own preference.  I’ve noticed in my informal observations though, that people who are willing to confess a personal foible, or tell a funny personal anecdote are more likely to end up with friends.

Try to Invite a Friend

Finally, like many others I’m fiercely independent and want to do activities on my own timetable.  I also believe strongly in my own schedules, and ability to determine what is the most “important” thing I need to be doing.  Sure, I may be productive (at times) but the downside is I’m likely to ignore or devalue spontaneous interaction.  It takes a good minute sometimes for me to remember that building community (and memories) pays off in the long run.   I need to take time to invite a friend with me when I’m going somewhere, likely to do a craft, or just watch a TV program.  This is pretty much that sage business advice “Never Eat Lunch Alone” dressed up for the rest of your life.  And the truth is, more often than not I’m sure people skip lunch, work through lunch, or catch up on internet gossip during lunch.  I’m the same way when it comes to going to events.  I see them, I make plans to go, and then I either attend, or I chicken out.  But, this whole process could (and is) greatly enhanced when I do things with others.  First the anticipation is extended, second the experience makes more neural pathways in my brain strengthening the memory.  (Okay, I made up that last part, but it might be true, right?)

These are three things I know make life better, but I’m still trying to do them every time.   What are you thoughts on these Secrets?

Responding to Christian Smith: Conclusions, Solutions

This is Part 5 in a 5 Part series of posts responding to Christian Smith’s Book “Lost in Transition.”

After all this talk, what are the conclusions presented in the book, Lost in Transition?   The dismal outlook is that if emerging adults are unable to approach basic issues of right and wrong and possibly collaboration, they will be unable to lead lives which require significant investment “in the common good, or even actively contribute to institutional functionality by sustaining and practice moral virtues such as acts of care and goodness that go beyond simple procedural justice.”

They will also be unable to participate in the process of civil disagreement or community building.  They are falling quickly into the hands of marketers, advertisers and salespeople who are growing rich off shrinking emerging adults idea of what their lifestyle should look like now and in the future. Their horizons are bounded by money and a comfortable lifestyle, nothing much more exciting or life changing than that.

Do I hold with most of the analysis and statistics presented in this book?  Well, I think that based on the statistics Christian Smith provides some compelling critiques, and one of his final conclusions is simply emerging adults live in a vacuum of influences and responsibilities and duties.  We/They live and party with people their own age, few wise voices, and lots and lots of time. (comparatively.) How then can we get out of this mess?

Smith suggests regulating advertising companies to not advertise to minors, offering required courses in moral reasoning, and families and older friends staying in contact with emerging adults as a starting point.  What he’s advocating is an entire culture change however, a lifestyle change.  And change of this sort won’t happen overnight, and possibly couldn’t happen for an entire generation (20-25 years) or more.  That’s depressing news.  But, this is hardly reason to give up, or to stop doing what it is that needs to be done on a personal level and more.

I think, speaking as an emerging adult, what needs to be done is community building specifically amongst and between the old and the young between healthy well adjusted emerging adults and their peers.  There are young people that do contribute civically, that are committed to moral reasoning (or at least to discussing difficult issues) and to learning what types of dreams might bring more satisfaction than money.  And how those dreams can be extended from themselves to include and prosper those around them.  I guess, my answer to this problem, is to bring the solution back down to community and family, and even more so, to deep conversation.

Much of what passes for conversation in day to day life is trivial, mediated by television, blurbs, texts, and plenty of mediums designed to truncate discussion.  It is easy to make it through the day with few meaningful interactions with friends, or conversations about morals and life dreams. So that is where I think we need to start, to form deep friendships, to form deep connections to others, and to dream and envision what might be created together with other.  We must make places where we are connected and responsible.

The New Year’s Resolutions

Yes, of course I made New Years Resolutions! Any interest in finding out what they are?

As an incorrigible list maker.  (I think most blogger’s are.) I am also, of course, obsessed with New Year’s Resolutions.  I mentioned a few weeks ago that last year I made over 50 of them for 2011, and that I was in the works of making fewer for 2012.

When I was brainstorming what types of things I wanted to resolve I wrote down dozens of ideas.  Seeing the sorts of things I wanted to accomplish in 2012 written out helped me organize the details into large goals, which could be comprised of smaller objectives reached by various strategies.

You might notice some of the language in the last paragraph that I use to talk about these 8 things: resolutions, accomplishments, goals, objectives, strategies.  I learned a lot of this terminology as a case manager for adults with cognitive disabilities.  Even though I no longer work in that position, I find that language very useful in my day-to-day life as well.

Loosely, I think of resolutions as unperformed actions.  This is my current-self wishing to be a different-self in 12 months. Goals are nearly the same as resolutions, but more theoretical and idealistic.   They are big and broad, whereas objectives are focused.  You might think of objectives as nouns, and following them are strategies behaving as verbs.  My strategies are what will actively turn my objectives into reality.

I know some of my Goals are going to change over the year, and some of the strategies are going to evolve to fit this.  However, here are my goals as I’ve conceived them now.

1. Lose 15 pounds.  (I know, so cliché.) Prior to being pregnant I knew how to eat as a (very) active, single young woman with a job where I stood or moved for approximately 4 -5 hours, and exercised for about an hour a day.  Things have changed in my life as well as with my body in the last year. I’d like to re-learn how to eat and exercise to fit my current lifestyle.  I’d hope this results in a weight loss of 15 pounds.  Some of my strategies for this include finding exercise partners, eating more mindfully, and getting back into the habit of lifting weights 3 times a week consistently.

2.  Have (or Find, or Make) a consistent friend group.  I know a lot of people, and I would consider many of them close friends. However, I also consider a number of them “loose cannons.”  They don’t know each other and hanging out with all of them separately is time consuming (though delightful) “work”.  I’d like to merge some of my friendships, and I’d like to (counterintuitively) see less people more often.  I am least sure of how to accomplish this goal, and would love advice!  I think a way of doing this would be to invite more people over, or start more recurring activities.

3.  Read 20 Difficult Books.  One of my side projects is this blog about sociology, which is pretty much just book summaries.  I want to read the ISI list of 100 Sociology Books of the last century in 10 years.  Therefore I’d like to read 10 books from the list this year.  I’d also like to read 10 seminal works in other fields, some of those books you always say, “Oh yeah, It’d be good to read that.”  For example: Wealth of Nations

4. Family First. Now that I’m a mostly stay at home mom a lot of my accomplishments of the week are cooking, chores like grocery shopping and bill paying, caring for my son, and being a good wife.  Three years ago I would have thrown up even thinking that, and writing it just made me gag a little.  But, times change.  I would like to perform these tasks with the most joy possible, and the least complaining.  Doing that is way harder than writing that just was. Some of my strategies for this include: keeping up with documenting our trips and daily activities through photos and tangible mementoes, being thankful for small things, and planning “spontaneous” activities.

5. Practice Better Blogging.  Over the last year I’ve really started to enjoy blogging a lot, so I’d like to get better at it.  First off, I’ve finally figured out that what I have can be called a “lifestyle blog.”  (Who knew? Probably everyone but me.)  I finally figured out what my “niche” was, and now I’d like to focus on writing more on those topics.  I’d also like to write more creatively, humorously, descriptively and of course, regularly. Also, I’d like to find a blogging community with others that write on a fair number of the topics I write about.  Finally – I made a facebook page.

6. Be a Part of my Communities.  I consider myself to be part of several communities; my church family, my friends, and my physical place –  The North Shore.  I would like to spend more time this year strengthening my ties in my communities. I really enjoy my Tuesday morning mom group in Salem already, but I think I could be even more involved in the area through: making a soccer team, volunteering, attending some of the networking events around town like the Salem Wine Women, and the Green Drinks.  I think the other two communities can be strengthened as part of my goal to be a better friend.

7. Improve my Sustainable/Local Living.   In 2011 I stopped composting, but I’d like to start again in 2012.  I’m already a zealous recycler, but I could be doing better.  I’d also like to be part of a CSA, make “real” purchases at small businesses, which are over 25 dollars every month, and simply learning more about “Green” business, technology, and other innovators by reading websites.

8. Grow Spiritually. There’s a couple main parts to this, finding a Christian woman as a mentor or attending a Bible Study, practicing a few spiritual disciplines (prayer, fasting, study) with my husband more regularly, and hopefully discerning a vocation/calling for myself with prayer and study.  (As you may notice from my posts about work, I’m kind of lost in this area.)

That’s about it!  I’m looking forward to tracking my progress on the first of the month each month, and developing in as yet unforeseen ways.  Anyone got any resolutions they want to share?