Monthly Archives: July 2012

Lovely Days

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One thing I am constantly trying to teach my kiddos at school is that no matter what, no matter what, we are always responsible for how we act no matter how we feel. In doing this, I’m constantly reminding myself of the same thing. There are a lot of mornings that I really don’t want anyone, let alone 25 preschoolers, talking to me and asking questions because I haven’t had at least three cups of coffee. But, regardless of how I feel, I still have to have a genuine smile on my face and a happy heart, ready to have a lovely day. It’s a choice, you know?!? I’ve found there are several ways to ensure I have the best day I could possibly have.

1. Smile at strangers. You never know what battle a person is fighting. Smile at your cashier. Smile at the people in the grocery store. Your smile can bring healing. Plus, it makes you feel good. 

2. SLOW DOWN. Take time to enjoy your day. I know we can get so busy and caught up in everything that is going on around us. But slow down and enjoy the view, enjoy the people around you, and don’t get so busy that you forget what’s most important in life. 

3. Say thank you. Sometimes, just showing a little appreciation for even something simple can make all the difference. When people hear the words “thank you,” they feel appreciated. I know from my own experience that when a coworker tells me thank you, even for the simplest of things, it makes me want to help them even more because they didn’t overlook my gesture. They truly appreciated what I did for them. 

4. Give lots of compliments. And MEAN them. Don’t just start handing out fake compliments for the heck of it. Giving a compliment doesn’t have to mean you tell someone they look pretty or their outfit is cute. There’s a lady that I work with who is the best story teller on planet Earth. When she tells stories to my kiddos, they are all ears and their interaction with her is so neat to watch. That’s something that I can compliment her on and that lets her know I genuinely appreciate her story time with my kids. 

5. Dress nicely. First let me make a confession. I LOVE to be comfortable, meaning I love to be in sweatpants and a t-shirt with my hair pulled back. Some days, I don’t feel like choosing an outfit or making myself presentable to society. But when I do, I always feel better about myself and I have more confidence than I would in frumpy, baggy, sweats. 

6. Observe and listen. Don’t have tunnel vision. Don’t be narrow-minded. Imagine putting a straw up to one eye and closing the other, making it to where the only vision you had was through the tiny hole in the straw. You would miss out on so much that was going on around you. Instead, be observant. Look all around and notice what and who is around you. Notice your surroundings. And listen. Listen to those around you. Listen to what’s going on. The quieter you become, the more you can hear. 

7. Be charming. No one likes to be around Negative Nancy. Let your personality be attractive to those around you. 

8. Laugh. Be willing to laugh at yourself. Laugh at things that would normally make you upset. A few days ago, I was walking across the gym at work and I had a cup full of rice in my hands for a project I was working on with my kids. Right as I walking through the gym, one of the kids through a ball in my direction and it landed right on top of the cup, sending the cup and rice flying everywhere. I could’ve been upset, but instead I just laughed because I’m sure the look of shock and surprise on my face was hilarious to everyone else around me and really, what good would it have done to get angry? Then I’d just be mad, crawling around on the floor picking up rice. Life is too short. Being happy is a choice. 

9. Be kind. NO exceptions. Everyone is familiar with the verse that says to “love thy neighbor.” It doesn’t say to love your neighbor only if they live or act the way you think they should. It simply says love your neighbor. That means you love no matter what. Love thy neighbor– thy homeless neighbor, thy Muslim neighbor, thy black neighbor, thy gay neighbor, thy white neighbor, thy Jewish neighbor, thy Christian neighbor, thy atheist neighbor, thy racist neighbor, thy addicted neighbor–no exceptions. 

10. Wish others a lovely day. I try to make it a point to tell every single parent that drops their kids off in the morning to have a good day. Personally, something as simple as someone telling me to have a good day has made all the difference in the world for me at times. I’ve been rushed, stressed, overwhelmed, and someone, maybe the cashier at the gas station where I stop to get a drink, smiles and tells me to have a good day and that act of kindness reminds me that I really do have a lot to be thankful for and I need to remember that it could be a lot worse. I try to keep all this in mind when parents are dropping off their kids. I’ve said this a million times– we may never know the battle that some people are fighting and if we can be a ray of sunshine in their gloomy day, we should always take that opportunity. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: To know even ONE life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded.   

I pray that in my own life, and yours if you choose it, I learn to work a genuine love in to practical things. I want to have words that are kind and loving and a heart that is always ready to ask forgiveness as well as forgive. In doing so, there’s really no way I can have anything other than a lovely day. 

~Rach

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What are you chasing after that is keeping you from reaching the full potential that God has planned for your life?

My pastor asked this question at church this morning. We’ve been studying out of 1 Kings for a while now, and every Sunday, I’m just amazed at how relevant the teaching is to my life and where I’m at right now. Last week we talked about the decisions that Solomon made and how they literally divided an entire kingdom. His poor choices didn’t only affect him. They were like ripples on a pond, or a domino effect. This really made me step back and survey the choices that I make on a daily basis. Take my job for example. Every single day, I’ve got a bunch of little eyes and ears that see and hear everything I do. Their attitude reflects my leadership. I’ve got the opportunity to influence these kids in either a negative way or I can teach them that we are responsible for how we act no matter how we feel. That’s a lot of responsibility resting on my shoulders, but what an incredible opportunity I have to help mold these kids in to who they are becoming. Sure, most of my kids are only four years old, but even at that age, they are watching my every move and they will do as I DO, not just as I say. 

The question that my pastor asked us this morning is the same question I’ve been asking myself for a few weeks now. What is the thing, or things, in my life that I’m chasing that are keeping me from reaching my full potential? I have a tendency to go off on rabbit trails when I’m talking or writing and sometimes it takes me forever to come back to the point I was trying to make. I do this in life, as well. I guess I get distracted and I lose sight of where I was going. I chase the wrong things, thinking that I know best and that if I just take this little detour over here, I won’t get lost. I’ll eventually end up where I was supposed to be in the first place. But it never really works out like that. I just end up lost and then I have to back track. Twenty-eight days ago, I said I was done drinking soda. I haven’t had even a sip of Coke Zero or any soda for that matter, and let me tell ya, some days have been way harder than others. To lessen the temptation, I’ve had to make sure that I always have a healthier alternative when I start to crave a soda, and I’ve had to remove myself from any environment that would make it easy to give in to the cravings. Twenty-eight days later, the cravings are less and less because I’ve stayed totally focused on my goal of making it to at least 31 days and I’ve had a plan for when the going got tough. I am so proud of myself because I’ve never been able to give up any habit for more than a couple hours. The difference this time, though, is that I had a plan and I equipped myself with what I would need to really reach my goal. Had I not planned, it would’ve been like every other time. I would’ve started chasing those cravings and I would’ve found myself sipping on an ice cold Coke Zero with two shots of vanilla. I know there is more to life than what I’ve been chasing. What I’ve been running after has left me broken, empty, and disappointed, and most of all, it’s kept me from the full potential that I was created to reach. Digging deep and discovering those things isn’t always fun and really, it’s painful at times and hurts your pride. I don’t want to admit that my priorities have been all screwed up. BUT, the really cool thing about making this discovery, though, is that it doesn’t end there. You aren’t just left with a pile of hopelessness. You get another chance. You get the opportunity to make things different and to plan and to refocus your eyes and your heart on where they need to be. I’m like a horse, I guess. I need those blinders on my eyes so that my peripheral vision is completely blocked. In the past, I haven’t wanted to do any digging because I felt like if I faced the things in my life that needed addressed, that would be it. I’d just be sitting there with all this crap hanging off of me and who would want to ever be around someone with so much baggage. That’s not the case though. You dig it up, you throw it out. And you move forward. It’s not a part of you anymore.

This morning while I was putting mascara on, I had this thought, and I was just like, oh. Duh. I’ve had the mentality that if ____________ wasn’t “The One” for me, well then there was another MAN out there in the universe that would be better and he would complete me. Then this morning, I just looked at myself in the mirror and I said, “No, Rachel. YOU don’t need a MAN to complete you. You are made whole through the love of Christ, and that is enough.” I’m done chasing what I think is love and what will make me a complete person. I’m Rachel Brooke Cantwell and I am loved by my Creator and if I never hear another MAN say that he loves me again, that’s okay.

~Rach

Failure To Plan Is Planning To Fail

Rachel+Rachel=Double Trouble

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I have a friend named Rachel Auch. Rachel and I were literally inseperable for about two years during our teens. I would say that from 15 to 17 years old, you never saw one without the other. Even on school nights, she stayed over and we’d be up all night on instant messenger or talking about boys we thought were hot. We were together so much we even knew the difference in our moms’ tone of voice when they’d say our names. I knew if her mom was talking to me or her when she’d holler from the next room, “Rachel, stop talking so loud.” I’ll let you guess which Rachel she was talking to then. I’ll give you a clue: it was me.  Rachel was, and is, one of the funniest people I’ve ever been around. It was constant, non stop laughter with her. I remember one time when I was 15 and she was 16, she wanted to come to my house but her mom said she couldn’t come until all the dishes were done. Well, the only problem with that was that her family had had a HUGE party the night before and if you don’t know the Auchs, you will never fully understand just how big that family is. I swear, there’s 14,000 of them. So, Rachel was supposed to do all those dishes before she could come to my house and we knew it would be well in to the next week before they were all done because she didn’t have a dishwasher. They had to be washed by hand. I was standing there in the kitchen looking at all the dishes when I suddenly got a bright idea. I told Rachel to grab me as many trash bags as she could find. She looked at me puzzled and I told her not to ask any questions, just bring me the bags. When she returned, I said, “Put the dishes in these trash bags, we’re taking them to my house BECAUSE I HAVE A DISHWASHER.” And we did just that. We loaded every last dish in those dang trash bags and transfered them to my house, ran them through the dishwasher, and then took them back. Looking back, I realize it took ten times longer and a heck of a lot more effort to take them to my house than it would’ve to just wash them at her’s. But whatever. It makes us laugh when we think about it.

One time, Rachel and I were laying on the couch in my basement, talking about boys or twirling our hair or whatever teenage girls do when they’re 15 and 16, when my doorbell rang. Not even thinking twice, we ran upstairs, opened the door, and were greeted by a tall, dark, handsome Jehovah’s Witness. Normally, I would’ve politely given him a “thanks, but no thanks,” but this guy was too good to be true. Rach and I both stood there, pretending to care about whatever the heck he was saying just so we could stare, and about half way through his lecture, I looked at Rachel, she looked at me, and I knew we were thinking the same thing. So, completely interupting his reasoning as to why we should join his church, I looked at him and said, “Uh, you wanna come inside? I’ll make you a sandwhich.” And then we busted up laughing because who asks a total stranger to come inside for a sandwhich?? We do, that’s who!! He apparently was a little put off because he didn’t even finish telling us about his church and declined our offer to come in (and my mom had just bought the good lunch meat, too…the turkey pastrami! His loss!) and he got in his car and was on his merry way. Without even hesitating, Rachel grabbed her car keys and told me to get in the car–we were going to follow this guy around the neighborhood until he realized just what he was missing out on! I’d like to pause for a second and say a prayer: Dear God, please don’t let my children be like me. Amen.

On another occassion, when I was 15 and she was 16, Rachel let me drive her car from my house to hers and I didn’t even have my learner’s permit yet. The closest I’d ever been to driving a car was taking my dad’s riding lawn mower for a spin around the neighborhood so I was a little touchy with the pedals. I remember slamming the brakes so hard I nearly gave us both whiplash and then we just sat at the stop sign laughing our butts off. I’m here to report that we did make it to her house in one piece, though. How we didn’t get pulled over and sent straight to the slammer, I’ll never know. Luck must’ve been on our side and the cops must have been busy somewhere else because if they’d seen the way I was driving, gas-brakes-gas-brakes, we would’ve been toast.

Rachel and my mom threw me a surprise 16th birthday party. I’ll never forget that day because as I said before, you never saw one without the other, but on this particular day, Rachel just suddenly had plans and couldn’t be with me. I was so mad at her because how dare she not spend every second with me on my birthday. Can we say brat!!! Little did I know that Rachel was putting the final touches on my party, putting all the decorations out and picking up the cake, etc. She made my sixteenth really special. Thanks, Rach. Sorry I was brat.

I  moved to Dallas for a couple years after school and Rachel and I didn’t stay in touch as much as I wish we would’ve. But we both knew that life happens and no matter what, we’d always be friends. I came home for the birth of her first child, Jamir, and I know that she’ll be there if that day ever comes for me. Friends like her are hard to come by. She lives a few hours away now and has the cutest little guys on Earth and a man that loves her the way that she deserves to be loved. It’s really neat to see her with her own little family. And then I get scared for her because if her boys act anything like we did, dear God, she’s in for some trouble. HA.

I love ya, Rach. Thanks for all the memories. Thanks for making me laugh till I cried. And call me soon because I haven’t heard you say “tootsie wootsie pop” in a really long time. HAHAHA.

This is a picture of Rachel and me in our glory days. I was 16 and she was 17 and I totally blame her for letting me dye my hair blonde.

~Rach

Sonic Giveaway!!

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Today, because 1.) it’s Friday, 2.) I found the bottoms to my swimsuit (which is nothing short of a miracle considering the outrageously fun night I had the last time I wore them…all innocent fun, mind you), 3.) I took 50+ kids to the city pool today and didn’t lose any in the deep end, and 4.) because I’m on a diet and can’t eat anything except flax seed and raw carrots, I’m giving away Sonic gift cards to TWO people that answer the question below in the comments section of this post:

If you had the ability to be transported anywhere in the entire world at this very second, where would you choose to go? All you’d have to say is, “Beam me up, Scotty!” and off you’d go. Anywhere in all the world, where would you go and why?

Winners will be picked randomly on Saturday afternoon and the Sonic gift cards will be mailed out or delivered on Monday! Good luck, you guys! Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I’d be in Isla Mujeres with these sweet little babies:

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Nathan

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I spent a couple hours at my BABY brother’s house tonight. Whhhhhaaaaaah. I can’t believe he lives on his own and in just three months, give or take, he’ll be married to a beautiful girl that I just love. She fits in so well with our family. I got lucky when it comes to sister-in-laws. Anyway, on my drive home from his house tonight, I started thinking about different memories I have with him from when we were younger. Nathan is five years younger than me, so most of the memories I have are of me bossing him around and making him be my pretend child while I played the mother role during countless hours of “house.” I remember my mom would mow the yard and I’d make Nathan go around and scoop up the mowed grass and bring it to my make believe kitchen in the back yard and that grass would then become soup for his supper. And he was always such a great sport, letting me boss him around. I also remember when he first came home from the hospital after being born. He must’ve only been a week or so old and he was laying in his bassinet when the doorbell rang. My mom told my middle brother and me not to mess with Nathan while she went to get the door. Well, you know me, I just HAD to pick him up….. so I wrapped my little (almost) five year old arms around him and tried to pick him up but the brat started crying and had to blow my cover. Thanks for nothing, Nathan!!! All your crying got me was a spankin’ and sent to my room. Now that I think about it, you owed me all those countless hours of playing house. That’s why you had to be my pretend child and eat grass soup for supper! 🙂 He got smarter the older he got, though,  and began to gravitate towards my middle brother and that’s when they decided to plot against me and bit the toes and fingers off all of my barbies. There really never was a dull moment while growing up in our house. Maybe one of these days I’ll devote an entire blog to childhood memories. 

Moving right along (Has anyone else noticed how I kind of go off on these little rabbit trails from time to time? And it takes like four or five paragraphs for me to find my way back. I’m gonna work on that. Next time. Maybe. No promises.). Like I was saying, I spent the evening with my baby brother and we had such great conversation. That’s what I love about both my brothers. The older we get, the closer we become. They are two of my best friends. For being five years younger than me, Nathan really has a lot of wisdom inside of him and listening to him share his heart with me tonight just made me happy. Nathan and I are a lot alike when it comes to wearing our heart on our sleeve. Jeffery holds things in, he’s very private. He had one friend all throughout school and that’s how he wanted it to be. Nathan and I are the most talkative, the most outgoing, never met a stranger, kind of people. And we most definitely wear our heart on our sleeve and struggle with letting our emotions control our behavior and mood, etc. Tonight I was talking to him about something that was on my mind, something that was bothering me, and to be honest, I was just bummed out when I got to his house. Then we started talking and he reminded me of something that he had dealt with close to a year ago. For Nathan, it really was one of the hardest, if not THE hardest things he’d walked through, I remember hurting for him and seeing how broken he was made me want to go back to our childhood days when our only concerns were fighting over who got to ride the Big Wheel down the giant hill in our backyard. I couldn’t take his hurt away, though, and he will tell you now, that looking back, he realizes that season of his life was a blessing. I’ve seen a significant growth in my baby brother since then. He didn’t allow the pain of the situation to overtake him. He was telling me tonight that he had to literally train himself to stop what he was doing every single time he started to feel sad or overwhelmed with what was going on around him and he had to turn that sadness in to thankfulness and remember that there’s never a rainbow without first having rain. I sat there, tears just flowing down my cheeks cause, as we’ve established, I’m a crier. But to hear him telling me all these things and knowing how much he hurt during that time, and to see how far he’s come gave me such a sense of peace. He could’ve allowed the pain to control him and I can bet you almost a year later, the outcome would’ve been a lot different. I respect him so much for that. The obstacles in our life are what develop us. Every moment we struggle, we are being developed. Those obstacles are what teach us persistence, determination, and stamina. But it’s up to us whether or not we allow them to develop us. Don’t wallow in self-pity. Don’t wallow in what-ifs. Don’t wallow in whatever your obstacle is. I told Nathan tonight that I’m so afraid to let go. That fear is an obstacle in my life and I can choose to be the victim of fear or I can learn to FACE that fear head on and show it who’s boss. 

My brothers really are the best. Heck, they’ve put up with me their entire life. There should be some kind of award for that. Thank you, God, for allowing me to be their sister. And thank you for the lessons you are teaching me.

Goodnight from the Mother Hen,

Rach

Were You Born In A Barn?

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I’ve dealt with my ghosts and I’ve faced all my demons,  I’m finally content with a past I regret. I’ve found you find strength in your moments of weakness and for once I’m at peace with myself. I’ve been burdened with blame, trapped in the past for too long, but now I’m moving on.

Why do we, as human beings, feel like we need closure? Or is that just a female thing? Or am I the only one that has such a strong need for closure in my life? Surely not. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a tad bit unique in comparison to the rest of the human race (I chose the word “unique” very carefully there. Don’t try to argue with me.). Anyway, I have all these weird little quirky things that I do. For instance, when I leave a room, I almost always shut the door behind me, no matter what. If you walk down the hallway in my house you will see six doorways and every one of them are going to be closed. I’m just weird like that. I mean unique. My youngest brother, on the other hand, isn’t even aware of the fact that there’s a door hanging on the door frame. And don’t get me started on the kitchen cabinets. When he opens one, it stays open until someone (ME) comes behind him and closes it. It drives me nuts. I feel like the Earth almost stops rotating when things are left open or unfinished. When I’m cooking or baking, I absolutely always clean as I go. I start by lining all the required ingredients up in the order they will be used. As soon as I’m done with one ingredient, it goes back in the fridge or pantry where it belongs before I move on to the next step. I need that closure before I move on. The only place that I don’t find this happening in my life is my closet. At any given time, it is not unlikely for there to be two or three (okay, five or six) outfits laying on the end of my bed. Please don’t judge me, I’m a work in progress. The problem is that I’m a woman and I was cursed with the “I have nothing to wear” syndrome and yeah, don’t judge me. I will say though, that my clothes are organized by sleeve length, color, etc., so I’m not as bad as you probably thought. It’s like I’ve said before, I’m funny and charming but not a size two. God had to be fair, people. Anyway, I do have a point I’m trying to make, I promise. Back to needing closure……..

I never really dated in jr. high or high school. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to date (uh hum) and maybe it was because I teased my bangs. I don’t know. But either way, I never really dated until I was almost 17 years old. So when I finally got a boyfriend, I fell hard. At the time, I thought it was true love. After three or so years of total infatuation, that ended and very abruptly. There are so many details that I’m choosing to leave out because I don’t want to make the other person look bad or appear as though I’m pulling the victim card. All I’ll say is we were both young and experienced things that a 21 and 22 year old shouldn’t have to. And we parted ways without ever saying so much as good-bye. There was zero closure. About six months later, I met the man that would become my second boyfriend, and truthfully, I never saw that relationship coming. It just kind of happened. And then I woke up close to five years later and found myself at a point where I had no clue who I was, no clue where I was headed (other than down), and absolutely no idea how I got there. I had lowered myself to such a disgusting spot. Like, lower than whale poop on the bottom of the ocean floor, kinda low. I was angry for what I’d been through and not with just that relationship, but the one prior to that. So, I walked away from a life that was anything but glamorous, and from an outsider’s point of view, you would think that I’d be happier than ever. But I wasn’t. I needed closure. I wanted these people to tell me WHY they did what they did. WHY couldn’t they love me the way I needed them to? Why didn’t our relationship work out when everywhere I turned, I was seeing friends that I’d grown up with happily married and starting new lives with their perfect husband or wife? What was wrong with ME? For the most part, I just wanted to hear the people that had hurt me tell me WHY.

A little over a month ago, I hit a fork in the road, so to speak. I knew I could go one of two directions. I could choose to continue wallering around in my misery and trying to figure out what was wrong with me and why I was “unlovable.” Yeah, those words came out of my mouth more than once. I really asked that question, why am I unlovable? OR I could wash my hands of all those people and things that hurt me and I could choose to walk away from a door that would probably never be closed the way that I wanted it to be closed. This doesn’t mean the door wasn’t closed, it was just shut differently than I would’ve done it. I wanted to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with those two men that hurt me to my core. And honestly, when I began to deal with this issue in my life, I discovered that I was harboring anger and bitterness towards more than just those two men. I was allowing myself to be angry with several people that had hurt me, whether it had been during my childhood, or last week. I found myself unwilling to forgive them UNLESS THEY CAME TO ME AND ASKED FOR THAT FORGIVENESS.I kind of feel sorry for myself (haha) because I missed out on a lot in life by carrying a chip on my shoulder (What does that saying mean anyway? A chip on your shoulder? I don’t think I’ve ever had a chip on my shoulder cause I would’ve eaten it. Just saying). I visited my uncle Roger a few weeks ago and he gave me the best advice I’ve had in a really long time. He’s good at that. He told me that I will probably never have the closure that I want, meaning these people coming to me and having an adult conversation with each other. So instead, he told me to write a letter to these people. Write whatever I wanted. He said I shouldn’t hold one single thing back. Say whatever I knew I’d never be able to actually say in person. And when I was done writing them, he told me to find a picture of the person I’d written the letter to, sit it on a chair in front of me as though they were sitting there, and read the letter to that person. I had to get it all out and when I was done, I burned the letters. Burning them was a symbol of complete and total closure. Had I torn the letters up, I could’ve spent a long time trying to tape them back together. But burning them to ashes literally made that impossible. I forgave those people and the door was closed. I don’t have to have the answers that I wanted. I don’t even need them anymore. And most importantly, I don’t need that closure to feel like I’m worthy of being loved. I can hold my head high knowing that who I am is enough.

This isn’t to say that I’ve reached perfection in not needing closure. I think that’s just part of who I am, part of my make up. Heck, I’ve dealt with it very strongly this week. I’ve been waiting since Saturday to hear that a door is or isn’t closed (I need a life). I’ve found myself struggling with it for three or four days and then this morning, I just had one of those “ah ha” moments and recognized what I’d been doing. How can I move forward in my life when I’m always looking back? I’ve never been good at walking backwards so if I’m going to make any progress, I have to turn myself around and move forward and not worry about hearing from that person or persons WHY this or that did/didn’t happen.My mom is in New Orleans and she texted me this morning saying, “I love you from the bottom of my heart. You have no clue how deep my love is for you.” I couldn’t help but smile because I know that regardless of anyone or anything that has hurt me in the past, I’ve got a multitude of people in my life NOW that would never hurt me intentionally and that love me unconditionally.

At last I can see life has been patiently waiting for me. And I know there’s no guarantees, but I’m not alone. There comes a time in everyone’s life when all you can see are the years passing by, and I’ve made up my mind that those days are gone. I sold what I could and packed what I couldn’t, stopped to fill up on my way out of town. I’ve loved like I should but lived like I shouldn’t. I had to lose everything to find out that forgiveness will find me somewhere down this road. I’m moving on.

Love you guys,

Rach

FRIENDS

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It’s been said that everlasting friends go long periods of time without speaking and never question the friendship. These friends pick up like they just spoke yesterday regardless of how long it has been or how far away they live, and they don’t hold grudges. They understand life is busy and love is there.

What would life be like without friends, right? I’m a huge fan of the TV show FRIENDS. A couple summers ago, I got all down in the dumps over a stupid guy who will remain nameless, and decided I wasn’t leaving my apartment until I’d watched every episode of FRIENDS starting at season one all the way through season ten when it ended. And I am here to report that I did just that. Now, I did have to rise from my slumber from time to time for the necessities such as food and drink and occasional shower, but other than that, the cast of FRIENDS and I became very well acquainted with each other. I also watched every single episode of Gilmore Girls that summer. I love Lorelai and Rorie Gilmore as though they are two of my closest real life pals. And don’t even get me started on FRIENDS. I’m taking an Earth and Space Science class this summer and we had a guest speaker visit our classroom a few weeks ago. He just so happened to be a paleontologist and without even thinking, I raised my hand and asked if he knew Ross Geller. I can’t believe I just admitted that, but whatever. No shame.

I often ask myself where on Earth would I be without friends? And especially my girl friends. I’m really one of the luckiest people I know because I have the best of the best when it comes to girl friends. It’s so hard for me to just rattle off a couple names because once I get started, I realize how long my list of friends really is.

I’ve got Julie. We met close to five years ago at the gym. She started out as my personal trainer and then we developed a friendship that, to this day, can not be shaken. Julie was able to get me to do things that I never imagined possible. I ran my first 5k with her and she ate her first slice of triple chocolate cake with me. I’m probably not as good of an influence on her as she’s been on me. But whatever. I love Julie and don’t know where on earth I’d be without her. She’s the best listener.

Sam is my birthday buddy. We share the same day of birth. The other day we were talking about zodiac signs and she looked at me and asked, “What’ your zodiac sign?” I just stared at her. I couldn’t even blink. We have the same birthday. Our signs are the same. I didn’t say she’s the brightest of my friends, but I love her anyway. HA. I’m kidding, Sam. She’s actually a really smart person. She’s carried me through the entire teaching program, if the truth be told. I was one of Sam’s brides maids and that was such an honor. We have the oddest sense of humor and there’s not a whole lot of people who get it, but we do, and that’s what matters. “Live outside the burple.”

Christin and I have been friends since elementary school. I think I met her in second grade. So, almost 20 years ago. I feel like the ancient of days when I say I remember stuff from 20 years ago. I think I found a gray hair this morning. I’ll be checking myself in to a nursing home soon. Ugh. Anyway, Christin and I talk just about on a daily  basis. Sometimes, it’s quite a bit, other days, it’s just a quick, “Hey, how are ya?” and then we’re on our merry little way. Either way, I love love love Christin. We joke around sometimes and say that we are each others logic. For anyone that knows both of us, this is a scary thought. But she is full of so much wisdom and insight. And I have to say that my favorite texts that I receive from Christin are the ones where she’s been Facebook stalking our old high school classmates and they’ll read something like, “Rach, have you SEEN _____________. How did they get married before us?” HA.

I’ve got the group of people that I grew up with in church. Jess and Joey, Nasty (as we so affectionately call him), Seth (my brother from another mother)……the list could go on and on. I don’t see these friends that often but when we do see each other, it’s as though we haven’t missed a beat. Honestly, some of my best memories of growing up are with these people. I went to the Philippines with these guys, and endless youth group trips to the Barn Swings (only in SW Missouri), and countless nights at Jess and Joey’s watching movies and playing tag in the hay bales (again, only in SW Missouri). Ah, the good ol days.

Then I have Amanda and Heather, or Bird, as we like to call her. Okay, you guys wanna hear about some good times, well then, grab a chair and get comfortable cause I could go on for hours about stories with these guys. My favorite memory is when Bird and I got the bright idea to sit Amanda on the roof of Bird’s car and drive her around on the church parking lot. It was all fun and games until Bird got nervous and hit the brakes and sent Amanda sailing through the air. When she landed, we couldn’t see where she was laying and we just knew that Bird had run over her and we’d murdered our best friend. I’m laughing so hard as I type this because I have the visual of Amanda in the air. Anyway, we threw the car in park and ran around to the front of the car where Amanda laid, the contents of her purse scattered all around her, and she looks up at us and says, “Am I dead? Where’s my lipstick? Oh my GOD. My mom is gonna kill me. I just ruined this mini skirt and it’s my mom’s!!!!!” At this point, we knew she was gonna live. So, I bent down, scooped her up and ran to our friend, Josh’s, Jeep  (because I no longer trusted Bird to drive Amanda anywhere) and I tried to throw her in but I couldn’t quite get her through the door of the Jeep and she slammed her head on the railing and honestly, I don’t know how the three of us made it out of our teen years alive. Some days I want to go back and relive them, but I’m honestly afraid we WOULDN’T live through it another time.

I met three of my best friends in all the world while I lived in Dallas for two years. Jen, Jess, and Ariana are three ladies that, no matter how far apart we live from each other, will always be my favorites. We’ve been through so many chapters in our friendship of seven years. I’ve watched each one of them become wives and two of them are mothers now and it has been such a wonderful treasure to see how life changes but our friendship remains constant. I love the time that Jen broke her nose and wasn’t supposed to laugh because the pressure made her nose bleed, and anyone who knows us knows that when are together, we laugh. A lot. So, I was standing on the coffee table showing off my new shoes and I slipped on a towel that was laying next to a wine glass and when I slipped, I kicked the wine glass that just so happened to be full and it splattered all over the wall and Jen started laughing so hard her nose bled everywhere and I felt so bad but I couldn’t stop laughing either. I have so many memories with all these girls….I could write a book.

I met this lady named Shontell a few months ago on Instagram. Yes, the photo app for iPhones. I can’t remember exactly how it happened but I think I “liked” one of her photos of the sign hanging in Luke’s Diner and then she “liked” one of Anne of Green Gables on mine and one thing led to another and the next thing I knew we discovered that we are literally so much alike, it’s scary. For real. I swear we were separated at birth. She gets me. I get her. It’s creepy. We even text back and forth asking for “teacher advice.” I love her. She lives in Reno, though, so we don’t get to each others houses often.

When I was 10 or 11, there was this brown kid named Barry that always made fun of my laugh at school. To this day, he claims that he could hear me laughing clear at the other end of the middle school. Well whatever. My laugh brought us together, and to this day, he is still one of my very best friends. He was home on leave from the Marine Corps about a week ago and I swear, we had the best time. We got tattoos together ( I got his zodiac sign and he got mine), we stayed out all night being crazy like we were in high school, we rented movies from Redbox and looked at hundreds of old pictures. He’s back in California now and I miss him a lot. I love that he’s one of those friends that just picks up where we left off and never asks a question.

I could seriously go on and on. Like I said, I’m a lucky girl to have so many friends in my life. I’ve got people from West Africa and the Philippines that I consider dear friends that I keep in touch with very regularly. I make friends everywhere I go. You can never have enough friends. Friends are a gift from God. They’re the family that you get to choose. And I love each one of mine more than they know. Thanks for putting up with me, ya’ll!

I’ve never met a stranger,

Rach