Category: personal

On Friendship and Time

As I was driving to Augusta yesterday on my birthday, I found myself reflecting on what’s changed in my life over the years. Specifically, I was thinking back on all the birthdays I’ve spent with my family, both when I was growing up and after I’d married Denisa. There’s been a lot of change over the years, and that led me to thinking about the friendships I’ve made over time, and how they’ve changed as well.

I’ve had a few “best friends” in my life. Of the ones I had growing up and in college, I no longer have much chance to communicate with any of them. Now and then I’ll get an email or a Facebook message or a Like on a post, but for the most part, those friendships are no longer a functioning part of my life.

I remember the summer before I left on my mission, my best friend from college, Sue, came out to stay at my house in Pennsylvania for about a week. We had an absolute blast. Went into New York City to see The King and I on Broadway. Drove to Amish country to check things out over there. Just hung out and spent time together. But over all of it was this pallor, because I knew it would come to an end.

At last I had to take her to the airport. This was back in the days when you actually walked out with the passengers to the terminals, and you sat together waiting for their plane to board. In many ways, I prefer the modern approach. I’m terrible at long goodbyes, and those old airport goodbyes were the pits. I remember sitting there just feeling sick to my stomach, because this was it. The End.

I already had enough experience with friendships to realize that they can drastically change as your circumstances shift. My friends from high school had all gone different ways. We still saw each other now and then, but life moved on. We weren’t as close anymore, and I knew we would never be. And here I was in an airport, saying goodbye to yet another stage of my life.

Sue and I kept in touch while I was on my mission. She was gone to Honduras on a mission of her own when I returned. Honduran postal service leaves much to be desired, speaking from experience. By the time she was home, I was engaged (secretly) to Denisa. (Though I told Sue about the engagement. Not many people knew. Less than a handful. Sue was one.)

Close friendships like that have a real rough time lasting through one of the friends getting married. Which is as it should be, honestly. Denisa is my best friend now, and there’s only so much room in a person’s life.

One of the things I’ve always valued and prided myself in was loyalty. I don’t necessarily make really good friends that often. I am a friendly person, and I’ll happily talk with many many acquaintances, but close friends take a while for me to develop, typically. Once someone’s in that “close friend” circle, though, it’s generally for life, as far as I’m concerned. If one of my close friends from high school or college were to reach out to me for help, I would try to do whatever I could to help them. Not necessarily for the person they are now, but for the friend they used to be, if that makes sense.

And generally, I’ve found those old friendships have deep roots. They go into hibernation, and when I have the opportunity to see old friends and interact with them, I’m often so relieved and happy to see everything is still there, and it’s like we never stopped being friends at all.

And now this post has gotten far too reflective for a Friday. I’m not even really sure where it was heading. It was more this package of thoughts that occurred to me on a drive home from Augusta, and I wanted to somehow give voice to it. I’m not tragically sad about old friendships that are no longer thriving. My personal feeling is that they will one day be resumed, each one of them. Of course, that gets us onto theological ground, and I think I’ve wandered far enough afield in today’s post to stop short of going there.

But I’ll end with a final thought. I used to actually write poems. True story. My favorite to write were classical Elizabethan sonnets. I loved the constraints the poem’s form put on me. Trying to pack as much meaning into such a structure was a fun word game.

And while I was on my mission in Germany, still reflecting on the aftermath of that goodbye in the Philadelphia airport, I wrote this one on friendship. I can still recite it from memory, and I still feel it sums up my feelings very well on the subject. And so I present it to you.

Have a pleasant Friday, and here’s hoping I’m back to my normal peppy self by Monday. Thanks for reading.

On Friendship

Is friendship’s flame so soundly smothered out
By hushed good-byes that slip through silent lips?
Can certainty be made to mimic doubt?
Does anchor chain the ocean or the ship?
Toy boat that burst and bubbled down the brook
Abruptly stopped. Caught. Tangled by the twigs
That lurk beneath the sunny surface. Shook,
Then merrily resumed its zags and zigs.
Great Neptune never changes for a chain,
And knowledge never dawdles doubtingly.
The silence of goodbye is mute in vain,
For friendship’s fire shouts out eternally.
The current rest may last three beats or four,
But rest assured: the song will play once more.

It’s My Birthday: Level Up!

I know that as some people get older, they begin to dread birthdays. One more sign of the body breaking down, or whatever. But why not view it differently? What if, instead of saying “I’m now 39 years old,” you said, “I’m level 39″?

In video games, we celebrate when we reach a new level. It means your character is able to do things it wasn’t before. It got smarter. Added abilities. Mastered new skills. And isn’t that pretty much what life is?

At 39, I definitely can do much more than I could when I was 19 or 9. Sure, some things have changed. I’m no longer able to pull an all nighter and not feel the effects, but I’m also smarter than I was. I no longer *want* to pull an all nighter, because I know its effects.

I’ve racked up a whole slew of achievements. Two masters degrees. Three children that I’ve successfully raised to level 13, level 9, and level 4. First house. Fourth car. And on and on.

Getting older isn’t a liability. It’s an accomplishment. It’s hard work, getting through life in one piece. Making it around the sun one more time. The fact that someone managed to do it so many times is something that should be admired, right?

Right.

In any case, thanks for all the great birthday wishes. As always, anyone wanting to get me something special could review one of my books on Amazon or Goodreads. MEMORY THIEF is sitting with just 6 reviews on Amazon at the moment, and I’m sure those reviews would love some friends. Especially that 1 star review. That person needs lots of friends to cheer up some. The Goodreads reviews are a bit more robust, at 41, but they could always use some more too.

Have a good one!

The Two Types of Motivation: Thoughts on the First Day of School 2017

The kids are off on the bus again. Another first day of school in the books. Tomas is in 8th Grade now, and DC is in 4th. In two weeks, MC will join DC on the bus for the first time as she goes off to Pre-K.

As always, this is a time I think back to what I was going through at this time in my life compared to what my kids are going through. And because I have this blog, I share those thoughts with you. Aren’t you lucky?

8th Grade was a big year for me. It was the year I moved schools from New Jersey to Pennsylvania in a sort of surprise move. (I left all my friends in 7th Grade fully expecting to see them all for 8th Grade. And then we moved unexpectedly over the summer.) I was put into all honors classes, except for English. The new school district (Council Rock) thought a great deal of their honors English program, and they didn’t believe I’d be able to cut it. So I was in Mr. Kosmo’s class for the year. He was the first teacher to ever tell me he thought I wasn’t good enough to succeed in honors. (Actually, the only teacher. Ever.) At the end of the year, he refused to recommend me to go up to honors the next year. His reason?

I couldn’t write well enough.

Honestly, I have no idea if he had cause to say that or not. I don’t remember what my writing was like at the time. I’d like to think it was pretty spiffy, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Then again, I got straight A’s in honors English when we decided to override his recommendation and enroll me in it anyway, so you draw your own conclusions.

I’ve heard of other teachers doing that to students over the years. Telling them they’ll fail. Encouraging them to aim lower. To not apply to the hard schools. To settle. And I just don’t understand that mindset.

Compare that to my experience in college, when I took Writing for Children and Teens from Louise Plummer. I had a great time in the class, and she was encouraging across the board. She helped students write better. Told them they could succeed. I remember sitting in her office, asking her if she thought I could ever get a book published. She smiled and nodded. “Of course, Bryce! You’ve got it!”

I don’t know if she told that to all her students. She might have, and I wouldn’t see anything wrong with that. But she told it to me, and it gave me the self confidence to keep going. To keep writing. To try to succeed.

Ironically, both those experiences with teachers motivated me. Mr. Kosmo made me want to prove him wrong. Professor Plummer wanted me to prove her right. Speaking from experience, I prefer the latter.

In any case. That was my 8th Grade. Math with Mr. Larsen. Band with Mr. Z. I made one group of friends early on. By the next year, I had almost a completely different set of friends.

My kids are going through life differently, of course. By this point in my life, I was into my . . . fourth school district? Something like that. My kids are all still in their first. (And I’m hoping it remains that way.) On the surface, I think back to how life was for me back then, and I don’t think things have really changed. But then I think about all the changes in technology, and I realize how wrong I am.

In any case, here’s hoping they have a lovely school year, full of the right kind of motivation.

And So the New Semester Begins

Yesterday was the first day of the new semester, which is exciting in many ways, but also kind of daunting. Exciting because we’ve got new students running around campus. Daunting because it’s going to be a very, very busy semester.

Denisa is teaching three classes and advising seven students. That’s a lot of work. So much that she’s stepping back from baking for the semester. (She’ll be providing loaves to a local food store, but that will be pretty much the only way to get her bread for this semester, and it’s going to be very low on supply.)

When Denisa is teaching and busy, that means I’m that much busier. Because the work around the house and our kids is done as a team. When one of us has more time, it’s easier for us all to get things done. The past month, as I’ve been working on my MEMORY THIEF 2 revision, things have been much busier for Denisa. I haven’t had the time to do chores. Thankfully, I’m almost done with that, and so I can turn my attention back to other things. (Yay!) Though of course, I might have another round of revisions to do soon, so there’s that on the horizon.

But Denisa working a ton isn’t the only thing we’ve got going on. There’s the yearly round of renovation projects. We’re having a shed and patio built, our second bathroom finally put in, the front porch taken down, a staircase in the garage demolished, perhaps a garden fence installed . . . It’ll be a busy fall for that.

And then Denisa’s brother is coming over for a month from Slovakia. The kids are heading back to school. We’ve got a vacation to New York, one to the coast, and I’m heading to a conference in Atlantic City. Then of course there’s football that must be watched (must!) and the holidays are coming.

In other words, if I don’t seem all that responsive when you try to contact me, or you wonder at times if I’ve fallen off the face of the earth, don’t worry.

I’m just really really busy.

Irrational Fears

So there’s this whole “total eclipse” thing happening today. Not sure if you’ve heard about it.

In librarian circles, it’s been notorious of late. So many articles were written that said “Libraries have free eclipse glasses to give away.” And many of us did have glasses. But not nearly enough. I mean, it’s not like these were airlifted in by the ton or anything, you know? And so you have people literally still calling today, asking how they can get some of those glasses. Because procrastination. Gotta hate those “last minute total eclipses” that just sneak up on you . . .

If you’re desperate for your eclipse fix, try making a pinhole camera. It’s what I did for the kids last night. Here’s a great video on how to do it. Took me about fifteen minutes.

But I digress.

Today’s post is about irrational fears, such as people who are afraid of eclipses, which are really nothing than really big shadows. (So today’s sort of like a huge Groundhog Day festival, right?)

Over the weekend, I played Operation with MC. I’d forgotten how terrified a young child can be of having that buzzer sound when it’s their turn. Poor MC just couldn’t handle the pressure. She’d actually do a pretty good job of removing the organs with the pliers, but she was so scared of getting beeped that she’d just give up way too soon.

So it got me thinking: what things am I irrationally afraid of? Afraid to the point of altering my behavior so that I can avoid doing them, even though I’m pretty good at doing them.

My list is pretty simple:

  • Phone calls. I hate calling strangers on the phone. I hate leaving messages. I hate explaining myself to someone I don’t know. And I will actively do whatever I can to avoid having to do this. Strangely enough, I love talking on the phone to people I know, and I’ll happily chat for an hour to a friend. But calling strangers is totally different. Hate it.
  • Planes. (A no brainer inclusion on this list, if you know me at all.)
  • Talking to strangers, period. It’s different than the phone (which I dislike more than this), but I don’t like talking to new people at all, really. I can force myself to do it, but if I have any out whatsoever (like a wife who will go ask the salesperson a question instead of me), I will totally take it.
  • Small spaces. Not a fan. If I can avoid them, I will. Not a full blown phobia, but I just don’t like the thought of being trapped.

But that’s all I can think of off the top of my head. One of my kids is terrified of wasps. Another is really afraid of spiders. I don’t have those fears. Heights don’t upset me much. And I’m not afraid of the Operation buzzer at all.

How about you? Any irrational fears that make you alter your behavior?

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