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You’ve Got A Friend In Me

It’s amazing how God brings people to us in the season we need them most, even when we may not realize it until later.

I remember when Katie first started working with me. She doesn’t know this, but I just assumed I didn’t like her. (I’m sure she’s laughing right now, because she knows my terrible habit of disliking literally everyone before I even meet them.) I wanted nothing to do with her, actually. So, I said very little to her in the beginning. I regret that so much now, because I think of all the crazy adventures we missed out on due to my stubbornness. Our boss probably misses those days of me hiding out in my office, “working,” though, since Katie and I have become virtually inseparable now.

I have always imagined life as a puzzle. The people we meet, the moments we share, all coming together to form a beautiful picture. One of Katie’s favorite hobbies is doing jigsaw puzzles so it seems fitting to write about her with this analogy.

Katie has become a key piece to my puzzle. Over the last year or so, a lot of my pieces have fallen apart. I’ve lost many pieces: some by choice, some by cancer, and some by geography. Losing these pieces changed my picture. I forgot how lively, fun, and beautiful the picture could be with the right pieces.

In those early days, I assumed Katie’s piece didn’t fit with mine. Boy, was I ever wrong. You see, Katie’s piece is actually the connector to so many of my life’s puzzle pieces.  Her piece brought loyalty, joy, support, silliness, and encouragement back into my life. Once I let our pieces connect, it was like a domino effect. All of these good and lovely feelings came flooding into my life. I was reminded about what it truly means to have a friend in this crazy life.

First, Katie’s piece reconnected my own puzzle with loyalty. She is an incredibly reliable, faithful friend. I know I can count on her, no matter how big or small my obstacle may be. If I need someone to vent to and eat ice cream with, she’s there. No questions asked, even if she’s had a long day. If I need someone to drink too many margaritas with on a Tuesday night, she’s my girl. No judgement, even if she’d rather be in bed.  Katie is the friend that will volunteer to a six hour road trip to help you take care of your niece and nephew on a Thursday night. No complaints, just a willingness to help.

I’ve encountered a lot of people whose loyalty pieces only jammed together with excessive force. They might say “Let me know if you need anything” or “I’m here if you need me,” but they never just showed up. Katie always shows up first, then asks how she can make my life easier. Sometimes she doesn’t even ask, she just jumps in and starts making my life better. I’m not sure if I will ever find someone who has such a natural sense of loyalty. I’m forever thankful for the lessons of faithfulness in friendship that she has shown me.

If there is ever a Red Rover tournament, I know I want to lock arms with Katie because I’m not sure the biggest, toughest man in the world could break through the support her friendship builds. Seriously, Katie’s piece of the puzzle has such a strong, supportive core. If you know me, I like to say that I follow the motto, “Go big or go home.” I can’t do anything halfway or small in nature. It has to be bigger and better than anything I’ve ever done. Unfortunately, my oldest sister got all of the artistic genes in my family. So, while I can envision epic ideas, I can never turn them into a reality. Katie has this ability to understand the craziness of my thoughts and turn them into exactly what I envisioned. Last fall, our boss let me create a game for our annual volunteer banquet. She suggested something basic like BINGO or trivia about our workplace. But I imagined a giant game board, tied into the theme of the banquet and combining elements of many of my favorite childhood board games. I explained it all to Katie and then she produced this amazing, giant game board. And, being supportive, she stayed and facilitated my game when I had a basketball game on the night of the banquet. Then, there was the day last winter when I looked at her and said, “I think we should do a 5k fundraiser.” She got that “bring it on” look on her face, and we immediately started planning. It was an amazing, successful event, and she put so much work into pulling it off. It was my wild idea at the start, but with my busy schedule away from work, Katie picked up the slack and never complained about doing the majority of the prep work. The fundraiser never would have had a finish without her support in the middle. Katie has this determination that inspires people around her. When I give birth to these insane ideas, I get tired about halfway through. I want to give up, and I get discouraged. But Katie comes alongside me and encourages me to the finish. She leads by example rather than words. Katie truly is a woman of action, and I am forever thankful for her leadership in my life.

While I will always be thankful for the loyalty and support Katie has brought into my life, I think I am most thankful for her childlike heart. (I promise, I mean this in a really good way!) She is always, always down for one of my silly adventures. Whether it’s impromptu balloon darts or three-legged races, staff egg races or water balloon fights, or rounds of Guess Who or games of Scrabble at Dairy Queen, Katie is always ready to feed my love of fun.

She always gets behind my love of silly holidays, birthday celebrations, and Taco Tuesdays. She tells me often that she loves my laugh, but the truth is, I love that someone has brought so much joy back into my life so that I can laugh freely again. It has been a long time since I have chosen happiness, and I have no doubt Katie is the source of my choice. 

Katie will always be “my person.” I am a dark and twisty person by nature, and while Katie can be, too, she is mostly light. We tease her at work that, despite being in our presence for a year, she still has some hope and goodness inside of her. We couldn’t quite bring her over to the dark side. Joking aside, I am glad Katie is like the light at the end of a long tunnel. When she showed up down the hall from my office a year ago, I had no idea how much light she would bring me.

While I am sad that the light in her office will be turned off, I am so excited for what lies ahead. I know Katie has amazing things awaiting her. Because of who she is, she will accomplish greatness. Her loyalty, support, and light will make the puzzle a bit clearer for someone else.

I am also excited to see what pieces we will continue to connect together. I know our story is only beginning, and based on the pieces we’ve put together so far, only good things lie ahead. I have no idea what our pictures may look like, but I know, together, we will make them beautiful.

Katie, thank you for being the best work bestie I could have ever asked for. I’ll miss spending my work days with you, but I look forward to spending a lifetime as your friend! 

Cheers.


-rs

Happy Birthday in Heaven

March 17th.

St. Patrick’s Day.

Children’s Day in Bangladesh.

289 days left in the year.

Nat King Cole, Rob Kardashian, and Hozier all celebrate this date as their birthday.

So does Tracey Williams.


As I took a walk today, I found myself thinking of Tracey. As I have shared in other posts, I LOVE birthdays. Of course, I love to celebrate my own special day, but I always find an unexplainable joy in celebrating the birthdays of the people around me. I love making them feel important and loved… often giving back the love and kindness they share with me day to day. 21795_10153127208430699_5489461792317306101_n

Tracey, my former teacher, mentor, and friend, was an extraordinary lady. I only knew her for five years, but she packed so much joy into those years of friendship. It was a privilege to make her feel special on at least one day out of the year.

There was the year I had my classmates help me pull off a surprise party during our English class… in retrospect, locking her out of the room while we lit candles on the brownies sitting on top of her desk wasn’t the best plan. Let’s just say the principal got involved…

There were a couple flower bouquets sent to her… a bright, beautiful bouquet for a bright, beautiful soul.

And then there were the giant birthday cookies. I’ll never forget her message to me after the first birthday cookie… I was experiencing some chaos in my home life that year and Tracey thanked me endlessly for that cookie, followed by dozens of questions and encouraging advice about my own situation. What a truly selfless lady.

To celebrate Tracey’s 45th birthday, and her third birthday in Heaven, I have baked several giant birthday cookies. I will share these cookies with some of the people I interact with daily… people who make me feel important every single day. Some of these people never had the privilege of knowing Tracey so I will also get to share a piece of her with each piece of cookie they take.

I am not a poet, at all. Tracey always told me I had a gift for writing… but I know she was not including poetry in that statement. However, below, ignoring my great rhyme struggle, is the poem I wrote to go with each giant birthday cookie I give away.

Some believe St. Patrick’s Day is full of luck,

while others wear their shades of greens.

Others still search for gold to tuck,

away in the pockets of their jeans.

But I see the 17th of March,

as a day to celebrate,

it’s more than the rainbow’s arch;

it’s more than just another date. 

Today is the birthday of my dear friend,

A lady worth more than a pot of gold,

But, you see, today she will spend,

Her special day in a place where she will never grow old.

As the angels of Heaven sing that birthday chorus,

I know my friend will shine her smile,

Lighting up the sky just for us,

Her whisper, in the wind, “see you in a while.” 

So, today, I choose to remember,

With a birthday cookie, please take a piece,

Six years ago, I made the same kind for her,

Now, I share this day with you as a release. 

As you chew each tasty bite,

Please think of my friend,

Be kind, it would be her delight,

Or give a smile, something we all can lend.

On March 17th, and every other day, I promise to honor Tracey and her legacy by living life to the absolute fullest. She was never without a smile or a cheerful greeting. She was always kind and always laughing. She was passionate with her actions, and she was quick with her love. She woke up and lived as if every single day were her birthday.

Cheers, “Willy!”

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 -rs

 

To My Best Friend, On Her Birthday

Birthdays are my absolute favorite. Whether it’s a friend or a family member, I think it’s important to spend an entire day showering them with love, gifts, attention, and a whole lot of laughs! (I even sing along in a restaurant when they announce a complete stranger’s birthday!) I love my own birthday, of course, but it’s even better getting to celebrate the birthdays of the people I love most.


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“I think one of my favorite feelings is laughing with someone and realizing halfway through how much you enjoy them and their existence.”

September 22, 1992.

Brianna Marie was born, and even though I didn’t know it yet (I wasn’t even born!), my future became a whole lot brighter. Brianna has blessed me with many years of friendship so far, and I can’t wait to walk the journey that lies ahead with her in my life. I wrote in her birthday card: “You are the BEST friend” but I didn’t actually explain. Let me try…

I’m a huge Grey’s Anatomy addict, and whenever I try to describe Brianna, I immediately think of Season 5, Episode 19. “Elevator Love Letter.” True fans will quickly realize this is the episode where McDreamy proposes to Meredith. It may seem odd that I chose his proposal as my description of my best friend, but hear me out:

“If there’s a crisis, you don’t freeze, you move forward. You get the rest of us to move forward. Because you’ve seen worse. You’ve survived worse, and you know we’ll survive, too. You say you’re all dark and twisty. It’s not a flaw, it’s a strength. It makes you who you are.”

  • My best friend has fought through some of the toughest battles life could throw at a person. She has faced each battle with an incredible amount of strength and courage. Rather than buckling under the pain and heartbreak, she picks herself up and fights through to another day. And she doesn’t just push herself forward. She is always picking up the people around her, pushing them forward, too. I admire her strength, because I don’t think I could have even crawled my way forward, let alone charge ahead. Thank you, Brianna, for picking me up during my own battles, no matter how big or small, and carrying me forward with you. Your determination and perseverance are gifts to be admired by many.
  • My best friend is also incredibly loyal. We have been friends for almost 10 years (even though I don’t remember that first year!), but I have learned recently that friendship is less about numbers and more about moments. Brianna has stayed by my side through the good, the bad, the fun times, the sad times, the boring times, and the exciting times. She has dropped everything when I needed someone by my side. She has sacrificed her own time to make sure my time was of the best quality. Thank you, Brianna, for caring about our friendship so much. Thank you for never looking at your schedule or plans when I need you.

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  • My best friend is the hardest working person I have ever met. Throughout high school, she worked unfavorable jobs while I played basketball or took a nap. (I didn’t get my first official job until late in my senior year!) I have admired her work ethic in recent years as she has worked hard to support herself, moving into her own apartment, and paying for her own car and bills. And it’s not just how hard she works at her job, but in every aspect of life. She worked hard in her studies all through school (and helped explained quite a few things to me along the way!), she has worked hard within our friendship, and she constantly works hard at making the world a brighter place for everyone she comes into contact with.
What I Like About You...
What I Like About You…
  •  Some of my favorite things about Brianna include her big, warm smile, her ability to have amazing hair even on her “bad” hair days, her love of cats, her equal (well, maybe slightly less) Doctor Pepper addiction, her encouraging words when I’m feeling down and her laughter when I’m telling jokes (regardless if they’re funny or not), her willingness to join me on all sorts of crazy adventures, and, most of all, her unconditional love and support no matter how annoying, depressing, crazy, or ridiculous I am acting.

This is what I meant by the four letters I wrote: You are the BEST friend, because of all of these things and so much more. I am so thankful for our friendship and how much it has grown in the past year. I am even more thankful that we will share decades of life experiences together. And I’m really stoked to be an old lady with you.

Here’s to your 23 years and all of the ones to follow! But, remember, “no one likes you when you’re 23” so you might want to hurry up and turn 24!

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Happy Birthday to my best friend.

-rs

“How Lucky I Am To Have Something That Makes Saying Goodbye So Hard”

“It’s Rachel!”

While working at Cottage Rehab (CR), a local physical therapy place, over the past four years, I have heard similar greetings from many of the wellness members as they walk through the front doors.

After graduating from Monmouth College this spring, I knew my time at CR was winding down. I decided to continue working throughout most of the summer before tackling my next adventure. A few weeks ago my boss asked me if I had picked a final day for my time at CR; he jokingly asked if I was just going to stay forever. It really is the perfect job. I could hang out (sometimes literally!), do a little work, and maybe watch some ESPN from a treadmill.

This is what I get paid for??
This is what I get paid for??

As I’ve thought more about what my boss said, I wish I could keep this job forever. Most of the members have 30+ years of life experiences on me, but I still consider them my good friends. In fact, many of these people stopped by my recent graduation open house. My mom noticed that the majority of my friends at the party were 65+. I just smiled at this comment, because I am blessed to have friends with so much wisdom. From them, I have learned what it means to truly be a “friend.”

  • Friends are constant. My friends at CR constantly checked in about my school plans, my job(s), and they always remembered my weekend plans. While I was still in school, they asked what books I was reading and what papers I was working on. They would remember these assignments throughout the week, and they never failed to check in the following week: Did you finish your reading? What grade did you earn on your paper? I have worked many random “side-jobs” throughout my time at CR. I have been a babysitter, dogsitter, housesitter, and even plantsitter. (Some of these jobs have actually been for the members of CR!) My friends here always ask me how these jobs are going. They never forget. Every Saturday, many of my CR friends ask what my weekend plans are. They are genuinely interested, and they always ask how things went the following week. They also hold me accountable by reminding me to “Be safe” and “Don’t do anything that I wouldn’t do.”
  • Friends notice the small things. Like when I get my hair cut or what my t-shirt says. (I have had entire conversations evolve from the few simple words on my t-shirt.) My friends here noticed when I straighten my hair versus wearing it up in a ponytail. Sometimes, my friends came inside and immediately asked if I recently washed my car, claiming it looked shinier than usual. They went beyond simply noticing these small things, however. They complimented me. They made me feel happy. Whether it was the headband in my hair or the color of my phone case, my CR friends made me feel good inside through these kind-hearted compliments.
  • Friends share in major life moments, but they also congratulate each other for the small victories. While I received cards from my CR friends for my birthday and graduation, I found far greater joy when they shared in my small, day-to-day victories. When I went through the teacher education program at Monmouth College, they shared in each small step of the process. Whenever I finished a long paper for a college class, they praised me for my work ethic. When I survived a long week of being a full-time student and working multiple part-time jobs, they cheered me on and motivated me to keep pushing forward.
  • Friends share endless encouragement through every step of life’s journey. I will share more in future posts, but 2015 has been a year of self-growth. In January, I made the decision to flip my entire world upside down. I took everything I had been working toward for many years, professionally, and packed it away. Instead of pursuing teacher certification, I made the decision to explore alternative methods of learning and with different age groups. It was crazy.. to leap without seeing the safety net. Most people expressed their immediate disappointment or frustration or confusion with my choice. However, my friends at CR never once criticized my decision.image3 (2) They asked questions until they understood from my perspective. They offered constant advice and shared their own personal experiences. I felt comforted, encouraged, and determined to continue forward with my new journey.

Through these moments and many others, I have learned one more critical piece of friendship: it has to be two-sided. These friendships would not have developed if I wouldn’t have offered a friendly hello as the CR members walked through the doors. And I wouldn’t have continued saying hello if these people brushed away my greetings.

Friendships are not easy. They require hard work from both people invested in the relationship. Throughout my time at CR, I found common interests with my eventual friends. I also discovered what topics were unique to each of my friends, and they learned what topics made my eyes light up with passion.

Throughout my time at CR, I kept working on these friendships and the members here worked towards knowing me better. In the beginning, our evolving friendships were often like a match of tug of war. I would pull too hard and knock down my friends by asking about a topic that made them sad or upset. My friends would then pull me to the ground by asking too many questions or being overly enthusiastic on those early Saturday mornings (did I mention I’m not a morning person??). We eventually found the balance, and the topics and hobbies, that made our friendships grow.

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After spending four years at a physical therapy place, it might seem odd that my biggest take-away is an understanding of authentic friendship. It has nothing to do with the exercise equipment or my daily work tasks. It has everything to do with the people on those exercise machines. People are what matter.

If friendship were a flower, I have learned that it must be rooted in unconditional encouragement. It must be watered with consistency. The gardener and the flower are in a relationship together; the flower relies on the gardener as much as the gardener relies on the flower. The gardener must not overlook the little complexities of the flower, and the flower must appreciate the extra moments of pruning and care given by the gardener. While blooming is the ultimate goal for the flower and the gardener, the bloom will not happen without the aforementioned pieces.

-rs

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