Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bunnies, berries, and the burden of tradition.

Easter, 2013


Easter, much like Christmas, is a holiday I find confusing now that I am an adult.

Like most people in this country, my Easter traditions growing up were a hodge-podge of bunnies and eggs and Jesus.  As a Catholic schoolgirl we spent the week of Easter making paper baskets and fluffy chicks with pipe-cleaners.  On Good Friday we ended a somber morning at school by marching over to church for the Stations of the Cross (which, if I remember correctly, took about 639 hours).  Then, dismissed early!  We went home, filled every coffee cup we could find with smelly dyes, and dunked our boiled eggs in over and over until they all looked kind of black-ish.

Saturday was filled with a Christmas-Eve-like sense of excitement and anticipation, and Sunday we woke to Easter baskets chock full of small toys, chocolate bunnies, and plastic eggs containing money or candies.  We ran outside to find our eggs (I, the competitive one, would insist on finding the most and bragging about it all day), and my brother and I then took turns hiding them from each other until it was time for church.  We attended Sunday mass, a quick 1-hour blip of obligation in an otherwise carefree day, then headed home to get ready for dinner.  All of my much-older relatives came over (I had no cousins close to my age) and we feasted on ham, deviled eggs, potato salad, and my mom's amazing strawberry shortcake.

And now?  Well.  There's still shortcake!



I feel like I am in the middle of a process, here. Having a kid has made me rethink (and overthink) the way I do just about everything.  I am suddenly faced with the responsibility of creating the holidays for her, weaving together the tapestry of magic and excitement and meaning that will envelop her until she, too, is an adult and redefines them for herself. 

Easter is confusing for me because I am unsure, myself, what it all means.  We are not Christians, so though she will grow knowing the religious significance of the day, it is not something we will celebrate in our home.  The whole rabbit/egg thing does not make any sense to me.  Why does a magical bunny hide eggs?  What mythology is this based on?  What is the historical significance?  I could Google it to find out, but the fact that I have to research it just underlines my point.  It's silly.  We're not big gift-givers.  Chocolate is a daily reality, not an occasional indulgence.

Don't pay too much attention to me, friends.  I am a planner.  I cannot delve into something until I have researched all sides of it and formed a coherent strategy (I forgive you for eye-rolling).  I am learning to let go when it comes to the specifics of how we celebrate - as a kid, I didn't love Easter because I really understood the meaning of the day, I didn't care that the Easter Bunny made no sense, or that dyeing eggs was not really a sensible craft.  I loved it because it was fun.  My family comes together to talk and laugh.  The weather turns warm around Easter time, everything is green, we eat cold, summery foods.  It feels like a celebration of life, and family, and the start of summer.  We don't need to subscribe to either the religious or the commercial meaning of the holiday for it to be significant.

I am going to try to let our traditions grow organically, year by year.  Which means that we might not do much this year - I bought Amaliya some bunny ears that terrify her so thoroughly, she won't even touch them.  I am not going to spend money on an Easter basket when she has spent the last week obsessed with a wrinkled, taped-together, brown paper shopping bag.  But maybe we will go to the park, soak up the sunlight, and be grateful for the life that surrounds us.  Maybe we'll go to the farmer's market and pick up some fat, juicy strawberries.

Because Easter is just not Easter without strawberries.

What has been your experience creating new holidays for your family?  Are you raising your kids with different traditions than those you were raised with?  


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Life-ish, 4/6 - 4/12

Good decisions

  • Mentioning at a Toastmasters meeting that my coworkers and I exercise a couple times a week at our company gym.  I gave an open invite to join, thinking nobody would, but a couple people were actually interested!  We had a new person come last week, so now we have a good-sized group getting our sweat on at lunchtime.  Fun!
  • Speaking of Toastmasters, I volunteered to give my 4th speech next week, which will bring me one step closer to achieving my goal for this year.
  • I watch a lot of Disney movies these days.  I finally saw Frozen, and loved it of course.  Then I put on Mulan and realized that yes, the animation has improved, but the music from these new movies really doesn't compare to the classics, in my opinion.
  • Spending lots of time playing with my Amaliya.  She really loves simple, repetitive pretend games right now.  For example, she loads up a small bag with all kinds of stuff, gives me a kiss, waves bye bye, walks a loop around the house, stops in front of me and says, "hello!"  We dump out her bag and look at everything inside, then she fills up the bag again and the cycle continues.  Over and over and over.  Instead of resisting, I go with it, and we end up having a great time together.
My beautiful girl

Bad decisions

  •  Not double checking my alarm clock on Thursday night.  I woke up 1.5 hours late Friday morning and had to split my 7 mile run into 3 miles at lunchtime (in the hot hot heat) and 4 at night (in the dark).  I'm proud of myself for getting it done, but still, it was not my finest moment.
  • Letting myself be too affected by some not-so-great news on Thursday. I like to think I am resilient and handle disappointment pretty well, but after a while, I get worn down like anyone else would.  It's okay though.  Chin up, moving on!
Post-run, having regrets.

Workouts

  • Monday: Bootcamp at lunch.
  • Tuesday: 6 mile interval run before work.  Very tough but incredibly satisfying.
  • Wednesday: Off.
  • Thursday: Bootcamp at lunch.
  • Friday: 3 miles run at lunch (pretty fast, considering I was about to have a heat stroke) and 4 miles in the evening for a total of 7 miles.
  • Saturday: Off

 

Epic moments in parenting

  • I know the stereotype is for toddler moms to be suuuper annoyed that they never have a private moment to themselves in the bathroom, but honestly?  I don't mind.  Maybe it's because I am a working mom and I'll take quality time whenever I can get it!  It amuses the heck out of me when Amaliya stands in the doorway and shouts "Mama shower!!" over and over and OVER again while I fly through my 10 minute shower, and then insists on bringing me my clothes and helping me lotion my legs.  She is so sweet!
Not quite able to fill it out yet :)

Any dubious decisions or hilarious parenting moments to share? I hope you have a good week, friends!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Small Changes, Big Results: Keep Experimenting

I do not have a scientific mind, but I do enjoy conducting experiments of one on myself, especially when it comes to my eating.  When I reached my highest weight and decided to change my lifestyle, I didn't jump on any diet bandwagon or do a complete overhaul.  Instead, I started experimenting with small changes here and there.  I stopped drinking soda with my lunch, I gave up meat for a while, I started cooking at home for one or two meals a week that I otherwise would have eaten out.  I paid attention to how my body felt, maintained those habits that were working for me, and kept experimenting with those that weren't.

Eight years after starting this journey, I am 90 pounds lighter but am still struggling to figure out what works for me.  My Celiac diagnosis, having a baby, and the normal slowing of my metabolism as I get older have changed how my body responds food and exercise.  I'm at my pre-baby weight, but have noticed the number on the scale starting to creep up.  I feel like I am straining more than I should be when it comes to my long runs and tough workouts.  I cycle between feeling overly full and desperately hungry.

Rather than keeping on with the same behaviors and hoping for different results, I've decided to go back to the drawing board.  I am a big believer in small, incremental changes and their power to add up to big results.  Here are a few of the changes I have implemented in the last few months, and the impact they seem to be having so far.


I eat as soon as I wake up


  • Pre-change:  I used to get up between 5:30 and 6:00, run, get to work, and not eat breakfast until 8:30 or so.  I never feel like I need to eat in the morning, and sometimes I wasn't even hungry by the time breakfast rolled around.  Its occurred to me lately that this might be a problem - lacking that hungry feeling could be a sign of a slow metabolism, plus its probably not doing my morning workouts any favors.  
  • Post-change:  Now I grab something that is more-or-less 100 calories - a small handful of nuts, half of a Larabar, or a small banana - and eat it as soon as I roll out of bed.  The result?  I can literally feel my body kick into gear once I've eaten something, and now I am ravenous by the time breakfast rolls around.  I hope this means my metabolism is functioning properly and I'm making use of the fuel I am putting in my body.  I can definitely feel the difference in energy on my runs. 


  •  

    I cut lunch calories, and eat more snacks


    • Pre-change: I have never been a snacker.  I like big, substantial meals that give me that feeling of fullness (sometime overfullness), and so would eat three big meals per day: a breakfast sandwich around 8:30, a fairly large lunch around 11:30-12, some fruit or a protein bar in the afternoon, and a big dinner.  
    • Post-change: Now my day before dinner looks something like this:

          • 6am - handful of roasted peanuts (100 calories)
          • 8:30am - breakfast sandwich (300 calories)
          • 10:30a - one or two small mandarin oranges (150 calories)
          • 12pm - small lunch (less than 300 calories, vegetables and some chicken or a veggie burger with a tiny bit of salad dressing).
          • 2pm - Kind bar or a Larabar (200 calories)
          • 3:30pm - 1/3 cup Greek yogurt with strawberries (150 calories)
            •  
            That's around 1,200 calories consumed during the day which, considering I burn between 200-600 calories a day during my workout, is a healthy range for me.  The result?  I no longer have a slump of energy in the afternoon.  I don't feel like I desperately want a nap, need a cup of coffee to finish the day (though I still love my decaf), or can't focus on what's in front of me.  I credit this to more stable blood sugar levels resulting from constantly taking in food. 
             

      I divide my dinner


      • Pre-change:  We eat early, around 6pm.  I used to be extremely hungry by the time dinner rolled around (thanks to my early lunch and minimal snacking) so I would overeat.  Since I didn't go to sleep until 3-4 hours later, I'd be hungry and want to eat again before bed.  Besides, that meant between 6:30pm and 8:30am I wasn't eating anything - that's 14 straight hours! 
      • Post-change: For the last couple of weeks I've been dividing my dinners - I'll eat a small portion on a salad plate and go back for seconds, but instead of heading back to the table, I put my second helping in the fridge and go back for it around 8pm.  I have an easier time controlling my first portion if I know I get to eat more later.  The result?  I am not overeating at dinner any more.  I haven't measured, but I'm almost certain that I am eating less spaced between two meals than I was eating in one giant meal before.  I feel less sluggish in the evenings due to my belly not overflowing. 

      •  

        I always eat dessert


        • Pre-change:  I would tell myself I don't need dessert, would refuse to buy any dessert options to keep in the apartment, and then would have a mad craving in the late afternoon/evening and end up making myself a single-serving muffin, hot chocolate, or heading out to buy something.
        • Post-change:  I have decided that, for me, dessert is not optional.  I am unapologetically addicted to chocolate, and have decided that striving for moderation instead of elimination is much more realistic for me. I've started buying dark chocolate with 80% cacao or higher, and eating 2 generous squares every night after dinner.  The result?  It totally kills my craving for sweets, and I get the mental satisfaction of feeling like I've indulged every day.



        •  

          The decision to make some simple, small changes instead of a total diet overhaul was a good one.  I feel empowered, like I'm doing something good for myself, but without feeling overwhelmed or deprived.  Plus, I'm eating more often!  Who doesn't want that, am I right?

          What have you done lately to get healthy or change up your habits?

          Sunday, April 6, 2014

          Life-ish, 3/30-4/5

          The last week was a little bit rough.


          Not for any particular reason - I was moody, the office was tedious, and I was just feeling stuck in my circumstances and attitude.  Meh.  MEH.  Funks happen to everyone now and then though, right?

          Good decisions

          • I did my Tuesday run despite the rain (and I didn't even melt!)
          • Despite work being B-A-N-A-N-A-S on Wednesday, I made time to go to the gym and do a strength circuit during lunch, and it really helped my mood.
          • I spent some time with my oldest and best friend, and it was soothing to my soul.  Seeing her interact with my daughter is priceless.
          • A pedicure and a car wash.  When my feet and my vehicle are on point, the world just feels like a friendlier, more orderly place to be.
          • My husband had a job interview (pause a moment to put some good energy out in the universe for him......... okay, thanks) on Thursday, so I came home two hours early to watch Amaliya.  We took a long walk, she pushed her own stroller all over town, and I drank a full fat mocha latte.  Bliss.

          Bad decisions

          •  Chocolate.  Lots and lots of chocolate.  Too much.  Despite the progress I've made, I am still an emotional eater.
          • Letting my bad mood carry over into the weekend.  I only get one day per week to wake up naturally, laze around and make breakfast, and do things with my family.  Whenever I waste one of these precious mornings feeling pissy and resentful, I inevitably regret it.
          • Putting old mashed potatoes down the garbage disposal, which clogged it.  Irritating.

           Workouts

          • Sunday: 15 fabulous miles.
          • Monday: Off.
          • Tuesday: 3.6 miles in the rain.  Very unpleasant.
          • Wednesday: 30 minute strength circuit, focused on legs.
          • Thursday: 45 minute full-body strength circuit.
          • Friday: 6 miles.
          • Saturday: Off.  Spent an hour walking around downtown carrying a toddler.

          How was your week?  

          Wednesday, April 2, 2014

          The Play-By-Play

          This blog means a lot of different things to me.  It's an outlet, a way to forge a community, a platform to speak about the things I am passionate about.  It's also a good ol'fashioned journal, and I love being able to look back at my old posts and read about what I was doing months or even years ago.

          I've wanted to do a post like this for a while, and thought Tuesday, April 1, 2014 might as well be the day!  I bring you: a photo an hour, capturing a typical Tuesday in my life. 


          5:30am: The alarm goes off, I drag myself out of bed to get dressed for my run.  The sound of rain outside bums me out and I momentarily reconsider the workout.  I'm only scheduled to run 3-5 easy miles this morning, so I vow to run closer to 3 and call it good.  I tape up my feet, eat half a Larabar, put on my headphones, and I'm out the door!


          6:30am: Back from my run, showered, dressed, drinking a sad cup of coffee that was actually reheated from yesterday's pot.  I have about 5 minutes to suck it down before I have to pack my lunch and wake Amaliya up to get her dressed for daycare.


          7:30am: We made it to daycare!  It wasn't easy - Amaliya wanted to flop on me and snuggle in front of Thomas and Friends instead of getting ready.  Before we left she cried and asked me to sing her songs while she curled up against my shoulder.  Ugh.  These are the kind of days PTO was made for.  Alas, I dropped her off, and drove myself down the street to work.


          8:30am:  Breakfast!  I eat the same thing every morning - an egg with hummus on gluten free bread (Trader Joe's brand) - but it never gets old.  I'm super hungry this morning.  I pop a couple Airborne and fish oil pills for good measure, and get to work.


          9:30am:  The state of my inbox has me seriously close to violating my strict no-crying-at-work policy, so I attempt to drown my sorrows in coffee.  Yes, I use my Christmas mug all year long.  It's the perfect size!


          10:30am:  I need some air, but unfortunately, I was so busy getting Amaliya bundled up this morning that I forgot to bring a jacket for myself.  I spend a few deep breaths outside, appreciating the rare rainy day, before heading back to my desk.


          11:30am:  I usually eat a pretty early lunch, and again, I eat the same thing almost every day - quinoa with veggies and shredded chicken, topped with a little bit of salad dressing.  It's seriously tasty and filling.  I eat at my desk while answering emails - not ideal, but I prefer to spend my actual lunch break running errands.


          12:30pm:  Today I  need a mental break, so I head to Stell for a half-caff Americano.  It does the trick, and I also found a piece of free art sitting on the counter!   I was psyched!  I've been following the local Free Art Movement (where people leave art around with just their Instagram handle and #freeart as identifiers) for a while now but have never had the chance to pick up a piece.  Now I found one without even trying!



          1:30pm:  After leaving Stell I ran across the parking lot to buy some salsa to use with dinner.  On my way to the car I was stopped by a guy who was promoting a salon in the same plaza.  He had really nice eyes and a good sales pitch, and I was feeling very stressed out, sooo I ended up spending $40 to purchase a spa package including a hair treatment, traditional facial, back facial, and some other stuff.  Random.


          2:30 pm:  See the little block in the middle?  That's the free art I picked up!  I'm going to display it here alongside Charlotte's heart print.  My shelf is the only splash of color I see in the sterile office environment, so I look over at it quite frequently.  Work is insane.  I bury myself in emails again.


          3:30pm: Over it.  So over it.  One hour left.


          4:30pm:  Freedom!  I pick up Amaliya and head home, arriving at the same time as my husband.  We all head upstairs together.


          5:30pm:  As soon as we walk in the door I start prepping dinner.  Tonight I simmer cubed turkey breast in salsa, and then stir fry it with some kale and wild rice (made the night before and refrigerated).  It was a totally random compilation of food, but seriously delicious!  We had it with guacamole on the side.  Amaliya ate two entire bowls full of rice, along with most of the guacamole.  She must not have eaten much at daycare.  I'm happy to see her filling up on healthy foods!  She even ate the kale!


          6:30pm:  This is the most relaxing part of our day.  We usually turn on the Big Bang Theory and crash out on the living room floor for an hour.  Amaliya plays with us or on her own, sometimes we snuggle, we usually chase the cat for a little while, and tonight we all piled up on the beanbag.  There's momentary drama when she has to get her pajamas on and her hair braided for the night, but otherwise she's happy and silly and we enjoy some time together as a family.


          7:30pm:  We brushed Amaliya's teeth, and I read her books in the rocking chair for a while.  She's been extra clingy today so we spend 10 extra minutes hugging and singing songs before finally turning out the light.  She cries a little bit in protest, but then goes to sleep.  I eat the second half of my dinner (I've been dividing my evening meal into two small halves lately; since we eat so early, I find I'm more energized for the next day's workouts if I eat something a little closer to bedtime) and immediately sit down at the computer to work on this post!  Tuesday evenings are usually devoted to the blog. Two squares of dark chocolate are consumed while I work.


          8:30pm: I finish up all the last minute chores around the house and make sure our bags are packed for tomorrow (the large bag is full of cloth diapers and clothes for daycare). Usually this is when I do some food prep for tomorrow's dinner and finish up the dishes, but I'm stumped as far as dinner goes and my husband already cleaned the kitchen!  I spend some extra time on social media and answering texts before calling it a night.


          9:30pm:  I sleep best when I read for a while before bed, so I spend about 45 minutes with this book (phenomenal, by the way).  I also consult my training plan, which I keep beside the bed, just to make sure I'm on track with my workouts for the week.  I double-check the alarm before switching off the light.

          10:30pm:  Sleep!

          This is a normal Tuesday for me, meaning it's hectic, busy at work, and light on any kind of social interaction.  Honestly, I'll be happy to look back on this post in a few years when (hopefully) I am not tied to a cubicle all day and dealing with daycare drama.

          For now, though, this is life!

          Tuesday, March 25, 2014

          Amaliya - 20 Months


          Amaliya,

          At 20 months old, you are truly a little person and no longer a baby at all.  I've loved all the stages you have passed through but... dare I say it?  The last few months have been my absolute favorite so far.  You are so active and energetic now.  You communicate.  You play.  You know me and love me the same way I know you and love you.  We have little conversations that go something like...

          You:  "Hi, mama!" 
          Me:  "Hi, baby!" 
          You:  "Eyebrow!" 
          Me:  "That's my eyebrow!" 
          You:  "Mole!  Face!"
          Me:  "Yep, I have a mole on my face!"
          You:  "Banana?"
          Me:  "Not right now"
          ***cue hysterics***

          It's pretty magical.

          You have so many words now.  Over 60!  You say Abby, arm, baa, baby, bag, ball, banana, bang, "beep beep," belly, bite, blanket, blueberry ("boo-bah!"  Adorable), bra, Buddha, bye bye, car, Daddy, diaper, door, "down please," egg, Elmo, eyebrow, face, fish, flower, hair, happy, hat, head, hello, hi, ice cream, keys, kitty, Mama, meow, mole, more (always said twice, eg. "more more water!") mushroom, Nanny, neigh, Nemo, no, nose, oil, owl, pants, Papa, peepee, poopoo, potty, puffs, puppy, remote, rice, "see ya!" (also adorable), Sheldon (as in, the Big Bang Theory; pronounced "Shasha"), shirt, shoes, socks, toes, "uh oh," "up please," wall, water, "woof woof", yes, and "one, two, three!" (with the "three" proclaimed loudly, and with no actual understanding of numbers).

          I am keeping track of your first hundred words, just because.


          You are an incredibly loving child.  You want to be held and hugged and kissed all the time.  You come over and throw yourself into my arms for no reason.  Making dinner is always difficult since you are wrapped around my legs or tugging at my skirt.  Every day starts and ends in the rocking chair, snuggling and singing songs.

          Speaking of singing, it's your favorite thing ever.  You sing along (in fluent, nonsensical Toddlerese) to the ABC song, Row Row Row Your Boat, the Wheels on the Bus, If You're Happy, and Old MacDonald.  You know all the little dances and hand motions that go along with the songs.  Lately you want to be sung to instead of read to before bed, so I rock you and sing either Disney songs or the Les Miserables soundtrack (please, Amaliya, have a better singing voice than your mama does). 


          Your most dreaded time of day is hair-combing time (which, too bad for you, happens every morning and evening).  You throw the most horrible, back-arching, tear-streaming, floppy-limbed shrieking fit every single time, forcing me to clamp you between my legs so I can get the job done.  I try and make it fun for you, I really do, and I try not to be rough.  We need to work together a little more effectively on this, Amaliya, or else we are going to have some very long years ahead of us.

          You really are an easy child, though, and such a good girl.  You bring me things when I ask, you voluntarily throw your tissues in the trashcan, and you are extremely well behaved in public and at home.  Fingers/toes/heartstrings crossed that this never changes.  You are stubborn and strong-willed, determined to do what you want, when you want to, and not follow anyone else's schedule.   You are active and energetic, running around non-stop all day long, finally starting to climb on things and embrace some of your daredevil tendencies.  And yet, you are still cautious, scared to be tossed too high or to swing by yourself.  You are messy like all toddlers, but never destructive.  You get upset if your books are not neatly arranged on the shelf before bed. 

          Checking the mail.


          You are still a great sleeper, conking out for 11-12 hours at night and 1-3 hours during the day.  You eat everything, almost.  Tonight you had wild rice stir-fried with carrots and mushrooms, and a huge portion of salmon.  You are a big fan of breakfast, and all fruits, and whatever your Daddy happens to be sharing with you from his plate.  Blueberries, hummus, guacamole, and ice cream always make you smile.  Asparagus and other types of meat you can do without.

          Your imagination floors me.  Watching you swaddle and rock your stuffed animals, patting them on the back and calling them "baby," then saying "shhhh" as you lay them down for bed, I am just amazed.  I am aware that this is normal toddler behavior, but still.  How do you know how to do this?  Imagination is something we're born with, it isn't learned, which makes seeing yours blossom all the more thrilling.

          You love bath time, the swimming pool, and being outside.  You hunt for wishing flowers and make me blow on them for you.  You chase the neighbors' dogs down the sidewalk screaming, "puppy!!"  You wave bye-bye at other kids when we leave daycare.  You like to say "bye, mama!" and run in the other direction, only looking back occasionally and laughing at me before continuing on.  Nothing makes you laugh like bouncing on the couch or playing hide and seek.  You do a dozen totally mundane yet completely astounding new things every week.

          You are starting to seriously annoy the cat.

          It is impossible to capture all the moments I want to, all those instances where I am cracked wide open with my love for you and the beauty of who you are.  How can you really capture the essence of a person in a blog, anyway?  You are silly and ticklish.  Reserved and observant.  Adaptable yet determined.  Eager to please and so, so smart.  I am incredibly proud of you, baby girl.  I can't wait to see what the next few months bring.

          Love,
          Mama



          My silly beast

          Wednesday, March 19, 2014

          On community, unity, and you.

          As someone whose introversion borders on hermitude, it is not surprising that my relationships with my friends is an area of my life that I struggle to keep in balance. After work is done, my family is fed, my schoolwork is completed, I seldom have much energy left over for socializing.  My life is busy and operates on a schedule, and I find it difficult to make time to go out and be with my friends - I want to be home to put Amaliya to bed, I can't stay out late because I'm up extremely early to run, I'm not much of a drinker, movie-goer, board-game-player... it seems like most of the "normal" ways people get together and have fun just don't appeal to me.

          But I am a coffee-shop dweller, a morning-at-the-park lover, an evening walk taker.  My apartment door is always open, and I'll gladly meet you at dawn for a run.  I've often felt bad over the years that I couldn't "keep up" with the people in my life because I just wasn't interested in the things they were doing.  I've learned an important lesson over the last couple years:  do what you love, and what interests you, and you will draw in wonderful people who share your passion and drive.  That's where I am now, and for the first time, I'm starting to find balance.  I have moved away from those relationships that left me feeling pressured and unfulfilled, and what I have left is not just a list of friendships but a true community of amazing people.

          Pablo Picasso, "Friendship"

          This post is a small tribute to those people in my life who support, amuse, inspire, and lift me up every single day.  In no particular order:
          •  My old friends. It amazing to me how much my old friends, those I've known for 10 or more years, have in common with each other.  They are bold, independent, adventurous.  Extremely extroverted, social and brash.  Nonconformist. Loyal.  Most have not paired off, settled down, or started reproducing - they are living life on their own terms, accumulating stories and compiling glorious experiences.  Their loyalty keeps me in their circle, despite the fact that I am different from them in so many ways.  I am grateful for that.  Friends that have known you for so long and so well are irreplaceable.  Some of us don't have a lot in common any more, but that's okay  We have so much shared history together - a shared childhood, in some cases - and that bond is hard to break.
          • My older friends.  I am blessed to have people in my life with a diversity of backgrounds and life experiences.  Lately, I have been especially grateful for my older friends.  Those in their 30s, 40s, 50s and older, some with kids and some without, some married and some divorced.  The perspective I gain from them is invaluable, and their sage advice and guidance is always appreciated. 
          • My mom friends.  I mean, do I even need to say it?  The community of mamas that I have found (or did they find me?) since becoming pregnant has become so very important to me.  I hear rumors of mommy-wars, harsh judgements, and silly competition among mothers, but I am happy to say this has not been my experience.  I get a fair amount of unsolicited advice and black-and-white views on parenting from the folks in my life without children, yet from my community of mothers, nothing but empathy, hugs, helpful suggestions, and a wealth of experience for me to draw on.  In my most trying moments as a parent, I would be lost without your kindness and wisdom.
          • My work friends.  Roughly 23% of my week is spent in a cubicle, starting at a screen. I enjoy my job, but honestly, the biggest reason I love it is the diverse, passionate, interesting group of people I work with.  I don't know how many people can say that they work in an office with nearly 100 people and don't have any beef with any of them.  Whether it's running out for coffee, hilarious comments via instant messenger, lunchtime workouts or breaktime conversations, I can honestly say that my coworkers make every day I'm at work that much better.
          • My running friends. I never imagined this solitary sport could lead me to such a fantastic group of people.  Having never been athletic or involved in any sort of physical activity, I had no idea what it was like to really feel supported in that way.  To have people encourage you, cheer for you, help you push past your physical limitations and keep going when you desperately want to quit, and then celebrate your accomplishment as if it were their own.  This is what my running friends do for me.  Besides, something magical happens on the run, when you're sweating and struggling and fighting with yourself to keep going.  Your inhibitions disappear, you end up talking about any and everything, opening up about things you wouldn't imagine saying to someone at any other time.  There's a special bond you form with the people you run with.
          These are the people who get me out of the house, give me the space to be myself, help me work out my problems, and make me aspire to be a better friend.   These friends of mine are the reason I smile when I think back on my nearly three decades of life, and why I so much look forward to the next three decades and beyond.  If this post is about you, I hope we can grab a cup of coffee and catch up soon.

          My door is open.