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Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

Community

Sometimes, you finish a year or two of JVC and you realize it wasn’t what you expected. The community didn’t turn in your best friends for life, and while you’re happy you got a husband out of it and all, you just thought it would be a little different.

Then you get a call and a text and a message to find out a man had died. A good man, one that you knew. Who lived next door to where the JV house used to be, years ago.

And you call your one housemate who lives in New York, even though you haven’t talked in, gosh has it been a year already. And you run across town to hug your other former housemate and friend. And you cry, and you talk, and you hug.

You wonder if anyone has told your husband’s aunt and uncle  (who live across the street from the couple), who met when she did JVC in the house next door. You wonder if you’ll see your professor at the funeral, who also used to be your landlord, and lives in the next-door house now.

And you realize that maybe its a pretty small town after all.

So then you talk, and you remember. You remember the man who had a harder life than you’ll ever know. A man who would always ask you how things were going at the shelter you worked at, start talking local politics with you, and was usually more up on everything than you were. You remember a man who had an apple tree with so many grafts on it, he had forgotten what kind of a tree it originally was.

You feel blessed to having known a saint during his time on this earth.

You remember the pie that he had baked that set on your counter when you first moved here. How you ate it for dinner late that night and breakfast the next morning before you found your way to a grocery store. You eat the sweet cherries and the cakey crust.

You put down your fork, and think to yourself – this is something big.

This is community.

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This weekend we were off to New Hampshire.

Please, any rumors about one of us declaring our candidacy for presidency is purely rumors.

Actually one of our darling housemates from JVC was getting married to the love of her life.

This is the only picture I have of the eight of us. The bride was the girl to the far right.

So yeah, I hang out with one of my former housemates 24/7 but other than that I don’t get to see the crew as much as I’d like. I have seen everyone since the day we left, but we haven’t all been in the same place since August 3, 2009. Sadly, we couldn’t make that happen this weekend either, but 7 out of the 8 of us got together.

It was a short trip. We only got about 24 hours together then John and I headed to Boston to spend the day with my cousin. But it was worth it. It was so worth it.

Getting ready the morning we were going to meet up, I was blow drying my hair. I was not enjoying blow drying my hair, which is not saying much because I very rarely enjoy it. But I remember thinking “ugh, why am I trying to make myself look nice?” Then I remembered I was meeting up with people that I haven’t seen in years and thought, eh, maybe I should put in the effort.

But why?

This group of people has seen me at my worst and and at my best. They know what I look like in the hospital (little GI bug, no big deal), after getting 1 hour of sleep, after a night of too-much-fun, after being puked on by a baby, after hiking 15 miles, after biking home in the rain.

Let me tell you, none of those are a good look for me.

But they love me anyway. And with this group – I feel no need to impress them. You know how when you get together with high school friends you want to show your successful side, your college friends you want them to see you as cool or hip or one of those things I’ve never been able to manage.

But with my former housemates there is no point of putting on a facade. I can be honest with these guys. No point in being someone I’m not. They’ve seen me in good and bad, and I’m not just talking about hair days. Times when I’ve been a great friend and when I’ve been a flat out jerk. When I’ve needed some love and when I’ve been up for adventure.

It’s a relief to be authentic for a day. I should try it more often.

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Family and Friends

So back home last week, I got the same question everyone gets when they go back home.

“So tell me about your friends. Are you making any? Who do you hang out with?”

Normal question, right? But I always feel really awkward answering it.

“Well…we hang out with each other mainly. And then we hang out with the JVs/FJVs (former Jesuit Volunteers) a fair amount. And we see John’s family a lot. We both are friendly with a few people from school, but we don’t really hang out with them.”

“Oh.”

Truth be told, we don’t have a ton of friends. And quite a few of the ones we do have are moving away/have recently moved away this summer! Part of me feels a little self-conscious about this. We don’t have roommates (besides each other) like my sisters do. One of my friends back home is always buzzing about this friend or that, this new guy she met, etc. And really – our circle is pretty small.

It’s not “I just moved to a new city” small. We know people through work and school. I run into people I know at the grocery store. We go to parties, barbecues, potlucks occasionally. But we don’t have a “hey let’s get the gang together for the usual this Friday” or anything like that.

And while that would be great, to be honest, I’m pretty okay with where we are. We’re enjoying figuring out our new married life out together, and after two years of JVC, it’s nice to have some peace and quiet. I keep in pretty good contact with a few friends from college and JVC. The kindergartners who live in our apartment complex are always really excited to throw a frisbee around with us. And really, we hang out with family a lot.

What did we do for Christmas break? Flew home to visit my folks and then to get out of the house, drove to N.C. to visit my grandparents. What about Spring Break? Salt Lake City by ourselves, LA to see an FJV housemate, and San Diego to see John’s aunt, uncle, and cousin. What’d we do for Memorial Day ?  Okay, well John worked but the day before we stayed up at his family’s cabin. With his family. And some snow. Today – John’s off to a good-bye party for his Uncle who is about to take his solemn vows with the Carmelites.

So maybe we’re lame for not having a Friends or How I Met Your Mother style group of friends. (And don’t get me wrong, one day I’d like to have that). But we’re happy spending our breaks visiting family and old roommates. It may not be the most glamorous lifestyle, but the truth is – its hard to meet people after college. But we have a great group of people we enjoy and can rely on. Even if we’re related to most of them. And did the same volunteer program as the rest. No one is going to base a TV show around our fab 20-something lives, but that’s fine by me.

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Last night I popped over to the JV house to say hi to a few old friends. They were two JVs doing their second year in Hays, MT, a tiny, tiny reservation town out in Eastern Montana. Their year had finished up (since they were teaching at a school) and were now touring Glacier and Yellowstone Park before heading off to their final retreat. A few hours of sharing JVC war stories made me all nostalgic, and so I thought I’d share my one biggest lesson from JVC.

Just a brief info session of JVC if you haven’t heard of it: JVC is the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, a program that sends volunteers to sites all over the country and the world to commit to a year of full time service to an agency and the community they are living in. It began in Alaska back in the 1950s, when college students were sent to help at a small school up in St. Mary’s, Alaska. It was founded by the Jesuits. If you aren’t familiar with Catholicism, their are basically different orders of priests, monks, nuns, etc. That doesn’t mean they are separate religions, just different organizations within the church. The Jesuits are known for their emphasis on education and  social justice, as well as “Ignatian spirituality.” St. Ignatius was the founder of the Jesuits, and promoted self-examination and constant reflection as a spiritual practice.  JVC has four values it lasts its members to live by: social justice, simplicity, community, and spirituality. As far as community goes – you live in a house with other volunteers. For simplicity – you make $80 a month, plus get a community stipend that covers room and board. That stipend is pretty small too; last year ours was about $450 a person to cover rent, food, electricity, travel to and from retreats, heat, & our phone bill.

Now JVC has three branches: the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (which serves the East, Midwest, South, and Southwest parts of the country), Jesuit Volunteer International (the world!), and JVC Northwest, which focuses on Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. The Northwest region is where JVC started and so it has many more placements and thus its easier for it to be its own organization.

I did 2 years in JVC – one in Spokane, WA working at a day care center, and one in Missoula, MT working at a drop-in center for homeless people who were under the influence.  I met my husband in my first year of JVC.

So anyway – what is this life shattering realization I came to whilst in JVC?

I can be friends with anybody.

Okay, scratch that. I’m not going to be friends with everybody. Some people will just have personalities that I don’t mesh with. I won’t get along with everybody. But what I mean is, the variables I used in high school and college to determine if someone was a potential friend (are they similar to me? about my own age? do we have the same interests? same values?) don’t really hold up anymore.

My first year in Spokane, we established that out of the 8 of us, none of us would probably have been friends in college. I mean, we would have probably been friendly, and maybe good acquaintances, but we probably wouldn’t have hung out in the same social circles to really get close. But nevertheless – we were great friends. Okay, we had our issues, and things got bumpy in the winter, but really, we complained a lot over nothing. Community is stressful and difficult, but the relationships I developed were priceless. Even if they had to go through fire first.

My second year, I hung out with homeless people. A lot. I worked 12 hour shifts, and my job description was basically “keep the peace,” so I had a lot of down time to shoot the breeze with folks. Can’t really say before that I would’ve enjoyed chit chatting with a high school drop out, or a convicted felon, or drug addict, but heck, I got along with a lot of them great! I’m not saying we became ‘friends’ because that’s obviously a boundary issue, but I realized I could share with, talk, relate to, and enjoy people whose lives were vastly different than mine.

It might sounds simple, but really, it was pretty life-changing. I don’t have to look for friendship just in 20-something college educated girls anymore (okay, sounds awful, but lets admit it – that’s what we tend to do!). The whole world is brimming with potential teachers and friends.

Hopefully that doesn’t make me sound like I was an awful, judgmental “to good to be friends with you” person before I did JVC. But heck, I probably was.

Have you had any life-changing lessons?

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Los Angeles

Next stop on our road trip was LA. We got there late Friday Saturday evening, just in time for dinner. We have impeccable timing. We were staying with one of our housemates from JVC in Spokane, Jon. He’s also in law school, so the guys had lots of (boring) things to talk about. It made me laugh because whenever John and Jon get together they usually talk sports non-stop, but this time they threw things like tort reform and habeas corpus into mix.

Not really those two things specifically, but they are the only two legal terms I can think of at 8 am.

Can you read that sign? It says “Doctor Office.” We were in Venice Beach, and several street vendors asked if we wanted to “get legal.” Marijuana, people, I’m talking about marijuana. It has been a big fight here about if its regulated enough, but California makes Montana’s laws look like a dictatorship.

Dodger Stadium

Jon pointed out that while the Lakers are popular, the Dodgers are really LA’s team, since real people can afford to go to them. We sat in front of a hilarious 4 year old girl, who was determined to cheer despite knowing zilch about baseball. She kept yelling “Strike him out!” no matter who was at bat and attempting to start a “Let’s go Dodgers!” cheer with her squeaky little voice. After one failed attempt she turned to her dad and asked, “Why is no one clapping?”

We all got Dodgers snuggies, too. Win.

Beautiful sunset behind the stadium.

After the game (Dodgers won!) we spent an hour walking around the parking lot looking for our car. We didn’t park in one of those areas that had a number, and every corner of the parking lot looked exactly the same. Plus it was multileveled. It was awesome.

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Cabin fever is such a tricky thing.

It makes you want to complain about never being able to leave the house, and then when opportunities arrive, it makes you just want to keep on hibernating.

The weather has turned bitterly cold this week in our corner of Montana. I’m talking wind chills in the negative double digits. Of course we still have school, although by the time I walked 1/4 mile to class my face was so wind-chapped it just plain old hurt for the first 15 minutes of class.

But this weekend turned nicer. And so I forced myself to leave our apartment a few times.

Friday, my husband and I went to talk to our Congressman’s office about saving Americorps. It actually went really well. We voiced our concerns that Montanan’s would seriously be hurt through not only the loss of services but also the loss of jobs. We also pointed to a bill our Congressman Rehberg voted against, that served only to recognize the accomplishments of Americorps members and thank them for their service.

It’s a little weird to have your congressman refuse to thank you, huh? I guess you aren’t welcome.

Apparently, some people are against Americorps because a few Americorps members work at Planned Parenthood (not providing abortion services, but providing health education). Okay, I get the pro-life thing and why people would be against PP. What I don’t get is how you can be pro-Life and vote for cutting out WIC (Women, Infants and Children), a program that provides food to low-income mothers and their children. Rehberg voted against that, too. Hello? If we want babies, we should make sure they are fed. That’s what I was trying to say here, what’s more important to me than out-lawing abortion is creating a culture that is actually pro-life.

Phew. Didn’t plan to go down that road. But I couldn’t resist.

Saturday I was craving some dessert so we went on a late night run to Applebees. And then they didn’t have any dessert that I could eat. ‘Cause it all had chocolate, walnuts, or fruit in it. Boo. I have to admit, I was a little jealous of my husband’s maple brownie bar, but I ordered a plain vanilla ice cream and was fine. I’m working on moving past the feeling sorry for myself thing.

Sunday night, I headed over to a friend’s house to watch the Oscars. I’m not a huge Oscars fan, but  I figured I couldn’t complain about being bored and lonely if I passed up chances to hang out with people. It was a potluck, but I didn’t really feel like cooking myself something that was transportable, and that was something I could eat. (I had planned on having acorn squash for dinner, but that doesn’t make a great potluck contribution). So I figured I would just go buy a white pizza and share that. Turns out the grocery store didn’t have a single IC-friendly pizza. Boo again.

I bought myself a sandwich and a loaf of bread to share. I think I’m coming around. I didn’t have any problem admitting to my friend I just bought something for myself cause I figured I wouldn’t be able to eat anything anyone else brought. When someone asked me if I had lots of allergies, I just simply told them I couldn’t eat anything with acid in it. And you know what? It was fine. I don’t know why I have such a hard time admitting that I can’t eat stuff. I think I don’t want to come off as picky or difficult.

The show was fun to watch, but halfway through the pain started to flare up a bit. It was too crowded and I was positioned too far from the bathroom to make going an easy task, so I told my host I wasn’t feeling well, thanked her for the party, and went home. And you know what else? It was fine.

So that’s my big accomplishment for the weekend – leaving the apartment (we went to Mass too, but we do that even when its cold out, so I don’t think that counts), as well as learning to not be super embarrassed for needing some modifications to my social life. So, successful weekend.

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>Community

>Two of my old housemates are in town, one just got engaged, and I spent an hour catching up with another on the phone a few nights back. And of course, one lives in Missoula! One of my current housemates is staying in Missoula next year.

So this week I’ve been thinking a lot about community. I’ve been very blessed in the relationships I have found and formed in the past few years.

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