Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Happy Anniversary!

Congratulations to Bryan and Lisa on their second wedding anniversary!

Back then I wrote a series on marriage that I hope you'll enjoy reading again. It starts here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Witness my fitness


(drum roll please)

Aunt Judie's Excellent Fitness Adventure! It's a new blog I've created just for chronicling my efforts to lose weight and get fit.

I don't get many comments here, but I would sure appreciate your encouraging words there. Please visit often (there's a link on the left side of this page).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Breakaway - Part 7

Read from Part 1

"You can't go home again." That's the old saying my supervisor used when I let her know I was quitting and moving back to Chicago. I didn't really understand what she meant, because of course I could go home. And I did.

I arrived back in Chicago the same way I left. A friend had driven me to the airport in December and that same friend picked me up the follow August. So by age 21 I had moved out and back in to my father's home three times, two of those times being on my own (paying my own way). Over the next few years I would actually do that a couple more times before he finally (and rightly) told me it was time to leave the nest for good.

Breaking away from the life you know to try something new is a good thing to do, especially if you are doing it in a smart way for the right reasons. And sometimes even if that is not the case, it's still an OK thing to do. I left my home and my job and my real friends because I was bored with my life. And the way I did it wasn't well thought out - I moved thousands of miles away to a place I had never been with no job, no car, almost no money and no real friends to depend on.

But it turned out alright for several reasons. First, I had a lifeline. I had not burned bridges when I left home. The foundation of my life - my family - would be there, and I remained tethered to that foundation. And I had my core beliefs. I knew what my limits were, what I was willing and not willing to do. And I was not too proud to admit when I was lonely or broke or scared.

Some people have told me they admire me for what I did back then, that my breakaway was "brave". I don't think of it that way. It was just something I needed to do, and when the opportunity presented itself, I took it. I didn't need to be brave, because I always knew I could go home.

So, to those of you who are feeling the need to take a big step outside or away from the life you know, I say go for it. But do it better and smarter than I did. At least visit the place you're thinking of before you actually move there! Don't assume or fantasize what it will be like to live there. Save up some money so your options (like where and with whom you will live) aren't so limited. Don't be too proud to ask for help when you need it. Hold onto those lifelines of family and friends. You will learn that those lifelines will stretch a very long way, but don't let them break.

And above all, know yourself. Before you test your core beliefs in a new situation, you have to know what those beliefs are. You already do, but you may not realize it until they are tested.

And in the end, maybe that's what a breakaway is really all about.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Breakaway - Part 6

Read from Part 1

When I say "core beliefs", I'm not talking about my faith or religious beliefs. And I'm not talking about what is legal or socially acceptable at any given time. Although my core beliefs may sometimes align to some of those things, they aren't dictated by them. I use this term to describe the boundaries I have put on my own behavior, based on what I believe to be the best way for me to live.

For example, there is my core belief that casual sex is not good for me. There is certainly a religious alignment there for me now, but back then there really wasn't. And then there is my core belief that you don't mess with another girl's guy. There is certainly no law against that, but it is just something I wouldn't do.

So when the guy roommate suggested on more than one occasion that we get on his motorcycle and go away from where we were and see where life would take us, I didn't consider it for a moment. Well, maybe once I did consider it, but just for a moment.

Funny thing was, he never made sexual advances towards me. He just wanted to run away and take me with him. I never flattered myself thinking it was because he had feelings for me. He needed a breakaway, maybe because of a fear of commitment (he had been married three times already). I don't know for sure. But I knew it certainly wasn't the right thing for me.

And considering that a lot of his friends had been from his heroin days, the fact that none of our partying and flirting and kissing led to sex is what may have saved my life. Very little was known about AIDS at that was just starting to be diagnosed (and almost exclusively in the gay community) in the United States. Had I not stuck to my core beliefs, there is a very good possibility that I could have contracted the disease from an IV-drug user.

Don't get me wrong...this does not make me a better person than any of them. I'm not talking about sin or even right and wrong (as seen by others). It just means that those core beliefs served me well in that situation.

By the time I had decided to move back home to Chicago, the roommates were ready to move to their own place together. He had not run away. When I left they were renting a house together and seemed happy. They also both had hepatitis.

We lost contact after about a year.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

I grew up without a mother. She left when I was eight and had very little contact with us before she died nine years later. Thank God for my father, the man who struggled and sacrificed daily to bring up his four children while also conquering his own demons. And thank God for the other people in our lives who helped fill the void.

A girl growing up without a mother is one kind of pain. A boy growing up without a father is something different. Pastor Greg Laurie writes his Father's Day thoughts for the fatherless from his own experience.

So today, give thanks to your heavenly Father for your earthly father, and pray for those without fathers, especially boys. Also pray today for those who have lost their dear fathers since last Father's Day.

And if you can, give each one of them a big hug.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Breakaway - Part 5

Read from Part 1

This is not easy for me to write. It might seem like no big deal to some people, but admitting so publicly what I was like during that time is embarassing.

I was 20 years old and living 2,000 miles from home in an environment where booze and drugs were everywhere. Nobody around me seemed to think it was a big deal. The drugs didn't interest me. I had tried pot a couple of times in high school and I didn't like the feeling. I would try cocaine once a few years later, but that's only because I was drunk at the time.

My favorite way to party was good old-fashioned booze. And because the guy roommate was older, getting it was no problem. The only problem was paying for it. I remember several times when I was so broke before payday that I was literally counting my change to see if I had enough money to get a burger at the corner Jack-n-the-Box.

For the most part I was a weekend partier. It usually didn't affect my work, but there were a couple of times when I had to call in sick because of a hangover. But it was what I almost did several times while under the influence that could have killed me. Because not only were booze and drugs readily available, so was casual sex.

Ever since I found out the specific details of sex (a friend explained it to me during the most boring class of my four years of high school - freshman music), I knew that it could never be considered casual or something to do just for fun. And at the time I wasn't remotely religious, so it wasn't that God would be unhappy. It was just such an intimate act that I could not even imagine sharing it with someone unless it was part of a committed love relationship. This became one of my core beliefs.

So of course I ended up with the reputation of being a tease and a prude. I would party and drink and that lead to flirting and kissing and to the guys that implied a promise of lots more to follow. But it wasn't just during the parties that those opportunities presented themselves. I was living with a guy whose girlfriend spent several evenings a week at school. The guy was a former heroin addict.

And it was 1981...and most of the world was about to hear about AIDS for the first time.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Breakaway - Part 4

Read from Part 1

Back in the 1970s there was a great TV show called Three's Company, about two girls and a guy sharing an apartment in Southern California. My situation wasn't exactly the same, as the other girl and her guy shared a room and I had my own.

The problem was this is not what I agreed to. I was paying half the rent. It took me weeks after I realized the guy wasn't leaving to get up the courage to bring this up to my roommates. They didn't see a problem, as the guy didn't take up much space, and besides, all the furniture was hers so she should have to pay less anyway. I still didn't think it was fair, but given the circumstances I decided I could live with it.

I talked to my dad on the phone every Sunday. One week he would call me, and the next I would call him. And every single week the first thing he said was "has that guy moved out yet?" He really, really disliked the idea of me living with them.

In the eight months we lived together, I experienced several new adventures and witnessed some behavior that, had I gone to college, might not have surprised me. Being so close to the university campus, our building was virtually a coed college dorm. Fortunately, most of the action took place in the recreation room down the hall where I couldn't hear it.

But on balance, it wasn't too bad. The gal was really smart and we had some great conversations, and debates about society and politics were my favorite. She had very liberal views, especially about sex and relationships. The guy roommate was from the South and would make us eggs with biscuits and sausage gravy every couple of weeks. He wasn't even 30 yet and had been married and divorced three times! He had been a heroin addict, but only smoked weed when I knew him (I think).

Some of my personal adventures during my time there, quite frankly, I'm ashamed of and not comfortable sharing in detail here. But what I want to tell you is that my core beliefs almost certainly saved my life.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Breakaway - Part 3

Read from Part 1

The job I had just started was in a fairly large office of an electronics company. I worked in the sales department as a secretary, and another secretary there had a friend who needed a roommate. It seemed like the perfect solution for both of us. So I entered into a shared housing situation with a virtual stranger.

There is something about a lack of fear - along with a lack of funds - that makes you do things that, in a different situation, you would never dream of doing. I guess you really just do what you have to do, but only up to the limits created by your core beliefs. Which, by the way, is why it is so important to have them.

My new roommate D and I found an apartment near the university where she was taking classes at night. It was a pretty cool place in Long Beach, on that great road called the Pacific Coast Highway. We were on the third floor (I think) and on a clear night you could see the lights of the Queen Mary. The apartment was designed for roommates, with two bedrooms on opposite sides of the unit, each with its own bathroom.

Within a week we were moving in. She had her own furniture, which was good since I had none. I somehow acquired a used mattress and box spring and slept on them on the floor.

The day we moved in the terms of our living arrangement changed, but I didn't know it at the time. D's boyfriend A helped us move, and he spent the night. The next day D asked if I minded if A stayed for a couple of weeks until he found another place. Sure, why not?

Well, he never left.