Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Baby!

I've just recently rediscovered this picture of Kensie. I can't believe how much she's grown and changed since then, and how much I can see myself in this expression! People tell me quite often these days how much she looks like me, but it always takes me looking back at her early days to really see it. Here, with her crooked smile, almond-shaped eyes, and wisp of hair laying across her face, I can truly see myself in her. No doubt, this little girl is The. Love. Of. My. Life.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

My Size 10s

After having lunch yesterday with a friend at a local meat and three (working at a farming magazine for a few months now, and I’m struggling with the “meat” part, so I stuck with the “three”), she asked if I’d mind running with her to get some new tennis shoes (OK, walking, running, aerobic, whatever!). Hers didn’t fit right, and she wanted to get a new pair. Since I’ve had “Get New Running Shoes” (as well as “Start Running Again”) on my to-do list for quite some time, I figured this would be an opportune time for me to do the same.

So right after lunch, we hit the Trak Shak. For a store that sells primarily running shoes, as well as exercise apparel sure to excite only the most eager of athletes, I was surprised at how crowded it was. Apparently a lot of people run these days (or at least a lot of people are thinking about starting back again like me). The guys who worked there (only guys on this day, I might add) were all fit and healthy, exactly what you’d expect of an employee at a running shoe store. They were all dressed as if they’d just gotten off the track, and, come to think of it, they were all kind of hot! Oh, sorry, tangent.

Anyway, so when my guy (tall, lanky, college track-star type) finally came over to help me, I explained what I needed. Size 8 1/2 or 9 running shoes, light, comfy, don’t rub my heels or ankle bones, pretty basic. This is when the questions began. “Well, I used to be a runner and would like to start running again.” “No, I’m not really an athlete right now [as you can plainly see], but I used to be and hope to be again in the near future.” “Well, I don’t know if I’m going to start today, but …” “Yes, I believe I would like your opinion on the form of my foot and the manner of my gait.” I’m sorry, am I here to buy shoes or be interrogated by the exercise police!?!

After watching me walk (“Ma’am, you pronate, so you’ll need a support shoe …”) and measuring my feet (A size what!?!), my guy brought out three pairs of running shoes for me to try on.

All women (especially us “big-boned” ladies) know, deep down, “the bigger your feet, the smaller your self-esteem.” I’ve always wished I wore a cute little size 6, but I never have (well, unless you count first grade). Those cute little size 6s don’t look so cute on my size 9 feet. So when my feet measured a 10 in the store, needless to say I was a bit taken aback. “I just had a baby [almost four years ago]; my feet must have grown since then!” I said abruptly. “Did you measure that right? Is that thing working properly?” “My feet must be swollen; maybe I should come back another time?” Needless to say, I let the cute track-star salesman guy bring me some size 10s to try, and I did so.

I’m sorry, but size 10 women’s running shoes are just not attractive. There’s not one pair out there that is attractive in a size 10! They look like you’re wearing the entire shoebox, not just the shoe! After I’d tried on the three pairs my guy brought me, I asked him if I could try the cute Pumas I’d found perusing on my own. “Sure, you can try them, but they’re not as comfortable as the ones you’re wearing, and they run a little bit higher around the edges,” he said. “But they’re so much cuter than the other ones!” I retorted. “Ma’am, I wouldn’t choose your running shoes based on ‘cuteness.’ ” Who is this "ma’am" person he keeps speaking to?

Right then, as the word “cuteness” finished trickling out of my guy’s mouth, an older lady sitting across from me shot back at him: “Yeah, but you’re a man! You just don’t get it! Get the girl her shoes!” Then she winked at me. Damn skippy!

Even though he didn’t get it (and most guys probably don’t, save the metrosexuals out there who probably wouldn’t date a woman who wears a size 10 running shoe anyway), he got me my shoes, and, as it turns out, they weren’t quite as comfortable as the others, and they kind of rode a little bit too high around the edges. Guess it’s time I start doing my running at night.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Critter Comfort

There are so many things I am grateful for when it comes to my daughter. One thing that occurred to me just the other day as I watched Makensie wrap her arms around her favorite dog, Chloe, is how important a relationship with animals can be in our lives. I was raised with animals surrounding me my whole life. In fact, I don’t remember a time in my childhood when there wasn’t one pet or another by my side. In my family, it’s assured from birth that you will be an animal lover. No matter how snorty, stinky, slobbery, or sickly (trust me, I’ve seen it all!) they may be, my family has always made space in our hearts for the four-legged, and Kensie is no different.

When Kensie was born, her father (also a huge lover of everything furry) and I shared a one-bedroom apartment with two dogs and two cats (homes are a bit more expensive on the West Coast). So the day she was born, one of the first questions I asked my doctor was how fleas might affect her health. (To those of you out there who don’t know, fleabites in small numbers actually help boost little ones’ immune systems. Who knew!?!) Having four animals waiting on us at home, it was necessary to be prepared for anything, especially when it came to our new baby.

From the first day, one of our dogs, Dakota, watched over Kensie quite protectively when she slept. Our cat, Cody, attempted to curl up next to her head and sleep with her in her crib (not a good idea according to every parenting book I had ever read to that point). Both cats loved to swat at her swing as she snoozed during naps, and the dogs lived for afternoon walks on the beach when they could run free while Kensie snoozed away in her baby Bjorn. From the day we brought her home from the hospital to that tiny apartment filled with critters, animals have been a huge part of Kensie’s everyday life.

Though I have numerous friends who don’t have pets for one reason or another (allergies suck, I know), I am a firm believer that raising children with pets is beneficial for so many reasons. The most obvious: Having pets teaches children from a very young age about the importance of affection, compassion, and responsibility. But there are many other reasons why raising children with pets helps them grow into more well-rounded human beings. Taking dogs for walks teaches kids the importance of staying fit. Coming across other animals and learning they’re not all friendly teaches them to use caution. Losing pets for one reason or another teaches them about loss. Already, at only 3, Kensie has had one cat pass away and the other disappear and not return, and she has had to help me nurse one of our dogs back from near-death. Though some may think this a bit harsh for such a young child, I firmly believe that she’s learning invaluable coping skills that will help her navigate her way through what can be a very difficult world—no video games necessary!

Though she has yet to bring home a rabid kitten (I did that to my mom once) or beg me to try to nurse a baby opossum the size of a house key back to health (yep, did that, too), I know my little girl is learning some very important things about life from her furry friends. Yes, one day she will have to deal with the loss of her best friend, Chloe, and that will be difficult. But ultimately, that loss will help her to understand early on that life can be tough, the universe isn’t designed to make things easy for her, and sometimes things happen that are unexpected and heartbreaking. Most importantly, it will teach her to appreciate every single day, because you never know what tomorrow has in store.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Don’t Put Off Until Tomorrow . . .

This week has been an extremely emotional one for me. On Sunday, I got an e-mail informing me that a dear childhood friend had passed away. Though I hadn’t seen or spoken to her in many years, I was flooded with memories of my past, and I immediately burst into tears. It was such a shock that my emotions completely took over, and I have yet to recover.

When I was 4, my family moved to Birmingham, Alabama, from Oklahoma City. At such a young age, many people might say that they have few memories at all. Not me. I remember vividly the day my best friend came to my door and introduced herself (she was the ripe ol’ age of 5). From that day on, we were inseparable. There was another girl who lived in the neighborhood, too, and she joined the two of us soon thereafter. For years after that, the three of us were inseparable. We spent the night together, rode bikes, played softball, the usual stuff kids do. We also got into a lot of fights. Being that there were three of us (and that we were girls), sometimes two would gang up on the other. We could be hurtful to one another, but for the most part, we stuck together like glue.

Interestingly, though we lived in the same neighborhood and were zoned for the same school system, we never attended the same schools. So we each had our own sets of friends outside of the neighborhood. But in the evenings and on weekends, it was just the three of us. Our parents were all good friends, as well. Nearly every evening, the kids were shooed away to the outdoors so our parents could enjoy cocktail hour together. We took trips together. We enjoyed holidays together. We practically lived at one another’s houses. It was an ideal situation for young families with kids, and we loved it!

As things naturally go in life, one of my girlfriends (the third to join us) moved away when we were still in grade school. Her father had been transferred overseas. We stayed in touch for a while. My best friend and I sent her audiotapes and letters, which she later said really helped her through what was an extremely hard time for her. And after a few years, she moved back. Though her family didn’t move back to our neighborhood, they did move back to Birmingham. But as things go in life, we pretty much lost touch.

In 1987, my best friend, who still lived in the neighborhood with me, was killed in a tragic accident. Unfortunately, this is what brought my other girlfriend and me back together.

Kids can be so cruel, and I will always remember how my girlfriend was treated at my best friend’s memorial service. She came in on crutches, and she wasn’t from our school system. None of the kids knew her, and they whispered and stared and pointed at her. Some even said things like, “What is SHE doing here!?!” and “Why is SHE crying?” Many of the kids were just awful to her, and I remember wondering, at age 13, how human beings could be so cruel to one another. I will always remember that day for so many reasons—the way my friend was treated being one of them. That day, my girlfriend and I embraced, we cried, and we remembered my best friend. But then, inevitably, we again lost touch.

Though my girlfriend and I have been in touch periodically since then, the instances have been few and far between. We simply moved on with our lives. She got married and had a child a lot younger than I did (I was a late bloomer in that area). She moved out of state. I moved all over the country before finally settling back in my hometown with my daughter. We ran into one another a couple of times over the years, and we e-mailed here and there. She and her mother even wrote a beautiful letter for my mother’s 60th-birthday album, which I reread just last night. But that was about it until a few weeks ago.

Recently, I took a trip to Kansas with my mother and daughter. It was a very busy weekend, and during one of only a few moments in the hotel, while rushing around trying to get ready, I quickly checked my e-mail and got on Facebook. And there she was! I had a friend request from my childhood friend to whom I had not spoken in what seemed like an eternity. I was excited but racing out the door, so I told myself that when I had a little bit more time, I’d get back online, and we’d catch up. Of course, life got busy as it always does, and I pushed that friend request into the back of my head telling myself I’d get to it when I had a little extra time on the weekend, or when Kensie got over her illness, or when I didn’t have to stay at work late or get there early, or when I didn’t have to deal with bathtime and dinnertime and bedtime and . . . Needless to say, I forgot about it.

Sunday night, after I put Kensie to bed, I checked my e-mail. And there it was. My dear childhood friend, who just weeks earlier was thinking about me and wanted to catch up with me on Facebook, was dead. Yet another tragic accident. I was heart-broken. I am still heart-broken sitting here writing this. Of the three of us, the “Terrible Threesome” as her dad called us, I am the only one still alive. 37 years old, and two of my dearest childhood friends are tragically gone.

Right now I’m in the process of quite a bit of soul-searching. I’ve never been particularly religious, mostly because I have a hard time wrapping my brain around the tragedy I have seen in my life, which started at such a young age. Having some sort of faith would be a comfort, I would think. But I just don’t have that.

This recent loss has once again brought to the surface the myriad questions that I have asked myself since that day in 1987, when my carefree childhood was so suddenly ended by the loss of my best friend. Why am I the one still here? Have I made better decisions than they did? Is there some purpose that I am still meant to fulfill that they fulfilled earlier than me? Is life just a random string of coincidences and luck? The list of questions in my head goes on and on.

Since the day I lost my best friend so many years ago, very little has changed in the way I think about life. This recent tragedy has simply compounded the uncertainty I feel on a daily basis. I don’t understand the meaning of life; I struggle to accept the tragedy of death; and the monotony of the in-between sometimes makes me crazy. But one important thing I have learned along my journey: If you put off until tomorrow what you can do today, especially when it has to do with the ones you love, you may never get a second chance.

Rest in peace my dear friends.