Tag: friendship

Can You Have an Internet Friend?

If you’ve been following the blog for a while you know friendship is extremely important to me.  I’m not someone who has had luck with romantic relationships in my life and so most of my experience with love has been through my friends. (Why do I still feel embarrassed to admit that? It’s just the way life has worked out…Silly).  Anyway, I have been thinking about friendship lately and what qualifies as a friend. If you were to ask a child they would probably say “a friend is someone you play with”.

Unfortunately as an adult it gets a little bit murky.  A large majority of my friends have moved away from me and so I don’t get to see them as much as I would like.  Even the one’s that are close it can be frustratingly difficult to get together with schedules, kids and everything else.  Thankfully we have social media to help us keep in touch and still feel a part of each other’s life.  It’s so much more difficult to make new physical friends these days because I don’t come in contact with that many new people like I used too. This makes me even more grateful for social media and it helping me keep the friends I already have who are far away.

But what about online friendships?  Are the people we meet while blogging. vlogging and other online communities ‘friends’?  Here are two examples of videos I have done with youtubers who both refer to me as their friend.

I’ve never met either of these individuals and yet I do feel a kinship to them.  I feel like we are friends.  Am I deluded? No, I don’t think so.

Aristotle said there are three types of friend. They are friendships of utility, pleasure and virtue.  Each one has its place and is important in its own way.

A friendship of utility is a useful friendship.  It is a friendship that can be easily dissolved and done away with when a more useful version comes into place.  For example, I took voice lessons for many years and was sincerely friends with my teacher.  I still love her but now I’m not taking lessons we don’t see each other or interact really in any way (she’s not huge on social media).  So no hard feelings but the friendship went dormant because it was more of utility.

I’ve known people who see all their friends like this.  I had a roommate in college who’s view was ‘I’ll see you in the next life’.  She made no attempt to keep in contact with people or keep up relationships feeling they were all in the end friendships of utility.

This makes me sad because you never know what you might be able to do for another person and having such a cynical view of something as special as friendship doesn’t feel right to me.  These aren’t dolls you dispose of but real people.  I know that friendships of utility exist but I don’t go into anything expecting that to happen.  I would love for all my friends to be more than friendships of utility.

But then there are friendships of pleasure.  These types of friendships are built around love or passion for similar things.  For example, my open water swim friends are connected to me because of our love of open water swimming.  In fact, I would put most of my friendships, including my online friends in this category.  My friends who I shared videos above are my friends because we have gotten to know each other over our shared love of movies.  What’s wrong with that?  I have friends I’ve gotten to know because we love Survivor, or are Mormon or any number of common interests that bond us together.  I treasure these friends.  I’ve had the chance to meet many of these friends over the years.

friends friends6 friends5 friends4 friends3Aristotle says these friends are fleeting and start and stop without much pain.  That may be true but what a great ride we’ve had along the way.  I wouldn’t trade the memories for anything.   Plus, even if interactions are brief (even if it is just doing a collab video with someone) I learn something from each person I meet and interact with.  I become better.  They teach me how to be a better person or see the world in a new way.  Both the people in the videos above don’t even live in the US and yet we have a bond and friendship, which I am grateful for.

I prefer to think of life in moments than end results.  Yes a person may not be in my life forever but for that moment we shared an experience and isn’t that what life is all about? Moments of emotion shared with other people?

The third type of friendship for Aristotle is a friendship of virtue.  This is that rare friend which supersedes friendships of pleasure or utility.  This is that bond which is practically sacred it is so special.  I think we are all lucky if we have one or maybe two such friends in this life.

The best description I’ve ever heard of a friend of virtue is from The Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs (or Linda Brendt):

“Friend! It is a common word, often lightly used.  Like other good and beautiful things, it may be tarnished by careless handling; but when I speak of Mrs Bruce as my friend, the word is sacred”.

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I have such a friend and it is a sacred, special thing.  I also thought I had such a friend and it turned out to be more a friend of pleasure, which was extremely painful.   I think many are lucky enough to marry their friends of virtue.  I hope to be so lucky someday!

That said, if we don’t embrace all the people who come into our lives because they aren’t the rare friend of virtue I think we are making a great mistake.  Human beings are for the most part wonderful souls trying to live good lives.  If we can have a moment of their time and learn something from them than I think it behooves us to do just that.

So yes, my internet friends are actually my friends.  It may not be the friend of virtue but it doesn’t mean they don’t give me much joy and happiness.  Life is too short to not embrace the people in your life however they may enter it.  Thanks to all of you readers who I consider my friends.  I really do.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Something to Talk About

calvin_and_hobbes_phone_fun21

So yesterday my friend called me with some exciting news.  I listened and couldn’t have been more thrilled for her success and I told her that.

“that’s so great! Congratulations” I said in a few different variations as she told me the news.  That took a few minutes or two and then we both kind of sat on the phone for a few seconds neither really knowing what to say.  Then I came up with a few follow up questions and we chatted and she went on to tell the news to everyone else.

Contrast that to a call I had with the same person where I was telling her all about Big Hero 6 and then we talked about movies, her kids, Halloween and everything else. We talked for over an hour about silly stuff without any trouble.

Isn’t that weird?  I’ve been thinking about it for the last few days and I find it a very odd phenomenon. Why when someone has something genuinely exciting in their life do we have nothing to say and yet we can talk for hours about stuff that is fun but doesn’t really matter?

I think part of it is with big news there really isn’t room for discussion.  It is just kind of happening and it is either wonderful or sad.  You genuinely express the appropriate emotion and then what do you discuss?  I feel this is particularly true with a baby announcement.  Someone says ‘I’m pregnant’ and you say ‘Congratulations.  That’s so wonderful’. What to say next after you learn the due date?

The only thing I can think of is to ask about her health “How have you been feeling?” or “when do you find out the sex of the baby?”.  But there isn’t really a discussion.  Maybe if you got into broader topics like parenting there would be discussion.

A wedding is different because there are so many follow up questions.  “How did he propose?” “When are you getting married?” “Where?” “Colors, dress etc”.

I guess not every phone call needs to be a discussion I was simply surprised to see I had so little to say about big news and so much about a movie I’d seen.

It makes me wonder how much of my life is spent talking about silly things? But I guess as long as people I’m talking to are happy that’s what matters.  It’s a funny thing we do though. Don’t you think?

Friends with Kids

Friendship-Quotes-5

I’ve never been afraid of a sensitive topic on this blog and this will probably be one of those so be prepared.

I just want to share another side of the story.

Recently seemingly everyone I know with kids have posted this video.

This is a charming video and I get why especially stay at home Mom’s respond to it but as one of those friends without kids let me try to explain the other side of the picture.

First some societal trends that come into play.  Americans, even Utahns are getting married at older ages, usually in the post college years.  This gives sometimes a decade or more for single American’s to form friendships and create meaningful bonds/memories.

These groups of friends are often more important than family to the modern young American as they have shared experiences and group empathy that is not the same in a typical family.  There is no real hierarchy to an urban tribe; where even the most high functioning family has an order and chain of command leading to the main decision makers, the parents. A group of friends provides a space without judgement or the expectations of a family.

This is perhaps less common in the Mormon world as family is universally praised over friendship. Family bonds are eternal and you are after all not sealed to your friends…

Nevertheless, urban tribes do happen and even if not a group of friends the same reliance as with groups can exist in individual friendships between singles. I’ve never fallen in love so most of what I know about love is shared through friends.  I always felt very different from my family but felt at home with my friends.

Last year when I swam GSL the reporter asked me who I was going to call first and I said I wanted to see my friend Etsuko because we had shared that experience together.

But we grow up and people fall in love, marry (or sometimes not marry), and start having their beautiful babies.  We are happy because our friends are happy but we are also a little heart broken…

Is it a selfish response?  Of course it is, but it is also a very human one.  In the 50’s the average age for a girl to marry was 22.  This meant she would be lucky to graduate from college before getting married and having a family.

Now it is 26 (28 for men). Like I said, that means for almost a decade men and women have lived their lives relying on friends and then seemingly overnight their support system and world has completely changed.  Suddenly there are new priorities and they can be pushed to the side. I cannot overstate how devastating that abandonment can feel.  It may be childish to feel that way but I’ve felt it and I bet most singles have too.

Of course, the change in lifestyle the video depicts is necessary but just because something is necessary does not make it any less painful.  In fact, some essential things are the most painful. Giving birth for example.  Do we tell a young mother that her pain is less valid because it is necessary to bring her baby into the world?  Of course not!

I can’t tell you how many times I have been a bridesmaid at a friends wedding, or thrown a baby shower, or something important like that and then I never hear from them again.  I will call and call and then eventually give up.  I will see photos of their kids on facebook and smile.  On my bitter days it can feel like everyone else is moving on with their lives but me.  My support system is gone and I don’t even get a baby out of the deal…

On my peaceful days I smile and hope my day will come and that I can do a better job at keeping in touch with my single friends.  I’m sure like the video shows it will be hard, but I hope I can at least be cognizant of their pain.

She does say in the video that she loves her friends but she is also very judgy.  Assuming her friend has all this free time and can hop off to Vegas whenever she wants.  The truth is said friend probably has worked a 10 hour day with a boss breathing down her neck and this 20 minutes with your kids is the only real human interaction she gets.  Your single friend and you may be catching Shark Tank when you are exhausted in exactly the same way just different exhaustion causes.

Both single women and homemakers with kids sacrifice most of their days for other people and leave completely frustrated and worn out.  A single girl may not understand the cheese or the door slammed in her face by a toddler but she does understand feeling frazzled and pushed around by other people and most likely what’s pushing her around does not love her the way your baby loves you.

I’m not trying to minimize being a young Mom.  It is super difficult but I’m just saying assuming one person has it so much easier than another is a shame.  You miss out on support you could be receiving and ostracizing yourself to only bonding with one type of person, other young Moms.

Of course, singles can do the same type of ostracizing and be too inflexible in adapting to the new situation. But can’t we all be grown ups and just say ‘my daughter threw cheese on the ground.  Isn’t she a rascal?  Could you help me with this? I bet you got into all kinds of messes when you were little…’ A conversation starts and an awkward moment becomes one of friendship instead of distance.

At the very least I would urge you to treat your single friends a little more gently than the video describes.  They may not be calling just to hang out.  Merely assuming that every time a single friend calls you it is for something superficial isn’t worthy of the friendship that was seemingly so important to you before you got that ring on your finger.

I understand there just isn’t time for everything and that some friends will be dropped but perhaps we give up too quickly?  Perhaps we assume because we can’t keep up our original relationship it is all over?  Maybe we could create a new relationship? Maybe it doesn’t have to be completely abandoned simply because it isn’t the same?

I have friends I only see once or twice a year but I know they are there for me.  I know they love me.  There is that gentleness and kindness which tells me ‘yes I have these kids and yes, its tough but I love you and you are important to me’.  At the very least I don’t feel abandoned and that I was a tool for a wedding photo.

A few years ago I went traveled and spent time with many friends with kids.  All of them unnecessarily apologized for their kids behavior.  Maybe I was giving a bad vibe or something but it wasn’t how I felt.  I can’t imagine just sitting there talking while friends are entertaining kids like the video suggests.  I get in and play or talk to the kids, talking to my friend at the same time. Occasionally I may have a day when I am not as kid-friendly but I don’t think it’s the rule of thumb as the video shows.

Most of the time my friends with kids want to meet me outside of the kids, not because of me, but they see it as an escape for them, but I am more than willing to meet at Chucky Cheese or a playground and talk to you, get to know your kids.  The video seems to show it is either going out, getting a sitter or a frustrated experience, and I think with a little creativity it doesn’t have to be that way.

I would also never tell a mother that I am going to be strict with my kids.  I can’t think of a single adult that would say such a thing to their friends with kids when they are with said friend.  That would be super judgy and rude.  They may say it behind their backs which I guess is bad but the woman on this video has strange friends if they say that as part of light discussion during a visit.

In the end, I guess if I made a video it would say ‘be kind’, ‘be gentle’ and spend a minute to let someone know you love them and I bet that will make your time with those little one’s a little easier too.  Maybe it will help you to not feel so alone when you know you have a friend who is rooting for you?  It would for me.

Friends are not simply role-players in our lives- someone we use to get through the day.  They are real people and relationships with real people matter.  So, if worse comes to worse, maybe pray that Heavenly Father will help you find a way to express love to your friends. Just maybe He will inspire you with an idea for a get-together or a cute text.

And if a friend does need to be dropped just try to be gentle about it.  Try to understand how they are feeling and as Jesus taught ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.  That goes for all of us married, single, divorced or widowed.

Friendship is too great a gift to let it pass without much thought.  I promise it’s worth the effort.

The truth is it is harder for single women over 30 to get together.  It is just harder when you are older, so maybe that is part of the change.  You can set up plans for weeks, get everything organized and then someone gets sick or there’s a blizzard, or a late assignment at work.  It is just harder post 30 but again worth the effort.

(I have no problems with my friends btw.  Only posted this because I saw the video so much and wanted to share how the person on the other side of the phone may be feeling).

Feel free to share your opinions of what I have written.  How have you made friendship work as an adult? My Dad is a great example of maintaining friendships.  It is a natural part of his expression and I’m kind of the same way.  I need friend, so thank you dear friends.  Love you and your kids!

Friendship at 10, 20, 30

I was going to wait and post about my party tomorrow but yesterday’s post was such a downer that I didn’t want to leave that as the heading on the blog for long.  Friendship has always been a highly important part of my life.  Next to faith there is nothing more valuable to me than a loyal friend.  I was reminiscing with my roommate about groups of friends we’ve had, parties thrown etc, and I had a minor epiphany about friendships.  Friendship is essential to at least my function but it manifests itself differently in different times of life. Hanging on to the old manifestation can lead you to miss out on the current phase.

Let me explain…

When you are a child and especially a teen your friendships are chosen by you but fellow-shipped by others.  For example, I may have chosen Meredith as my best friend in high school but it was our parents, teachers and other activities that facilitated that friendship and made it happen.  At the very least people were driving us places, teaching us lessons and coaching us in choir/sports.  We became friends through participating in these activities and even when we tested out our leadership skills it was under a controlled, monitored environment.

These were my 3 best friends from high school
These were my 3 best friends from high school

It is this structure in friendships that causes some teens to party and rebel- trying to make their own choices when really still relying on others to make those poor choices.  Fortunately I had good friends who were supportive of my beliefs and I never steered too off course (I was also incredibly strong willed).

Your teen years are also the time when your friends center your life, which is why we worry about teens having or cultivating good friends.  No other time in life will who your friends are (for most of us at least) be more influential.

Then your 20’s start and a new degree of independence is given to most people.  You are free to go your own way, make decisions and make friends dictated less by others and more by common interests and personalities.  Aside from classes and maybe an errant roommate nobody is really forced to be friends with someone in the 20’s the way they may be in your teens.  However, you still have a lot of the structure of your teens facilitating activities and the meeting of new people (even dating).

Whether it be through a church group or college setting most people I know met their college friends through some type of organization, fraternity or class.  The interesting thing is in college the friendships are often made in such activities but forged in something much more casual.   This is partly due to lack of time a college student has but also a lack of funds.  Most people I knew in those years didn’t have a ton of money to spend on friend experiences so you spent time together watching movies, TV, sports events and cooking/eating food together.

College friends (my cousin Julia, me, my sister Megan and Emily)
College friends (my cousin Julia, me, my sister Megan and Emily)

 

My roommate Heather and friend.
My roommate Heather and friend.
My friend Miriam and I are still friends from college
My friend Miriam and I are still friends from college
My friend Joni from college as she left for her mission.
My friend Joni from college as she left for her mission.

I have such warm memories of that time in my life.  It really helped me become the person I am and was a very happy, simple time.   Because things were so casual you do end up wasting a lot of time seeing bad movies, eating junk, and for lack of a better word hanging out but there’s a certain freedom in that.  How do you know what movies you like if you don’t see a couple of turkeys?  All part of the learning experience.

After my college experience I had my mission which was so separated from normal life I will skip over it for this entry.  Then you get into my later 20s (I got home from my mission when I was 24 1/2).   This was actually one of the most social times in my life but interestingly enough it mixed the casualness of my college life with a little bit more structure.  At this point my friends and roommates had jobs which gave us a little bit more money but less free time.  We would still see the occasional bad movie but most activities were researched and thought out.

There was also a lot of routine socialization that happened at that time.   For a long time I had a daily dinner group (which I still think was brilliant) where a bunch of us singles were assigned a day of the week to make dinner for the group, so you got a social experience and only had to cook once every 12 days.  So great.    I also had groups that met regularly to watch a lot of tv shows like American Idol and The Office.  For a while in my apartment in American Fork we had 3 or 4 nights a week that had some kind of TV viewing together.  I watched Lost every night for 2 years with friends and then I moved and never watched it again.  That certainly tells you the influence of friends!

This was actually a hard time in my life personally and it’s amazing I fit so much socializing in when I was working 60 hours, serving at the temple, had 2 other callings and going to grad school.  I wouldn’t have done much of it if it wasn’t presented at my door with little to no effort.  The house in American Fork was especially good for socializing because we were the only one’s with our own apartment in the ward.  Everyone else lived at home so our place became something of an escape for our friends.  It’s funny that time in my life is probably where I maintained the fewest of my friends.  People got married, moved, and the friendships are mostly through facebook or gone and that’s ok, just interesting.

During my later 20’s is also the only time in my life where I through big parties with lots of people.  Or I should say my roommate and I did.  We had great Halloween and New Years parties, planned outings and group dates together, concerts (went to more concerts then than ever again), and seemed to find excuses to wear costumes on a number of occasions.  Despite it being a challenging age, I have many warm memories.  I often drive by the house in American Fork and feel a wave of nostalgia for the good times had just watching TV together with my friends.

fair dance gifts new years girls party tracey dinnerThen my 30’s came and things started to change (really more at 28 but close enough).  Seemingly overnight the big group TV sessions and parties stopped and everything became more one-on-one, highly planned, intimate interactions with friends.  This may not seem like a big deal but I remember feeling so sad that I had no one to watch American Idol with any more or celebrate Halloween (our last ‘big’ party was 2009).

While still loving to entertain it takes a lot more effort now than it used to.  No just casual ‘let’s go to the apartment and watch The Office every week’ kind of thing.  It takes work but that work can be a joy.  It took me a long time to realize that I really enjoyed gathering my friends together and coming up with fun activities.  I did swimfests, book clubs, baby showers and dinner parties and loved every one of them.  Occasionally I could still pull off the big party like last year for my open house (or tomorrow to celebrate 40 book club books!) but it’s just different.

In 2009 I wrote a post on this very blog about a book club I threw where nobody came and how discouraged I was.  https://smilingldsgirl.com/2009/06/10/thoroughly-uncool/ I remember feeling so sad that nobody had come to my party:  “I am merely puzzled by my recent inability to attract new friends.  It isn’t just with Enrichment but the few times I have had parties the turnout is low.  I used to be able to always attract a crowd. Weird, hah?”

The problem I was truly dealing with was looking at a new era of friend-shipping through old eyes.  Like I said, sometimes I still feel nostalgic and a little sad for those times.  It can feel like I make so much effort and in a selfish mood it can seem underappreciated when it really isn’t.  People love it and it means a lot to them but it just takes a lot of work to make friendships in this era of my life function.

Truth is those friendships are better because I’ve had to work hard for them.  Unlike the fun time in my late 20s where most of the people have come in and out of my life I have a feeling the friends I have made in the last 5 years will always be a part of my life.  That’s what work tends to do.  Plus, in a way it is kind of a circle of friendship.  When I was a teen others allowed me to make friends, now I am facilitating that experience for others.  That is a great gift not a burden.

Anyway, I don’t know if this will mean much to any of you out there but even my friends online (twitter, facebook, this blog) take work but I’ve learned so much from that process.  I’ve learned to cook, decorate and entertain. Plus, I’ve learned to actually appreciate and discuss the arts, movies, theater, etc.  It’s not casual like those days in my 20s but it’s very rewarding and great.

In the end, enjoy the season you have now. Look fondly on the past, remember the smiles and moments and then try to learn and serve as much as you can in the present.

It’s a good life and I’m grateful for my friends!  To a fun day tomorrow!

 

UP Housewarming/Birthday Party

So today was the big day!  My ‘Rachel Turns 32 and Gets a House Party’.  My birthday was actually a few weeks ago but I wanted to combine my housewarming and birthday parties into one big bash.  I hired my Dad’s tenant and our friend Dax to come over and assemble furniture, hang artwork and that was such a great move.  It made the house feel really done. Outsourcing is almost always a fabulous idea!

My roommate was a wonderful help with cleaning and organizing for the party and my cousin Danielle came down and got balloons and helped me to clean (she’s the best!).  I was a little worried that the emerging storm might scare people off but luckily there was a steady flow of people from 5 all the way to closing time at 10.

I saw old roommates, ward friends, swim friends, cousins, just good friends.  It made me feel happy that I have such wonderful people in my life.  There were also many who could not come because of illness or other concerns and I could feel their thoughtfulness light up inside of me.  I really do have the best friends ever.

One fun thing is that my curtains got installed today and while I was at Costco getting party trays (yum!) the guy worked on the install so when I came home they were done which was a fun surprise.  They look so good.  I love them!  I just love my house!  It was so fun to share it and maybe show off just a little bit to my friends.  It was a happy moment and I feel full of joy.  I really do love my house!

The party was super fun and I’m so grateful for everyone who came.  The cake turned out amazing!

back of cake.  See swimmer at the bottom. That's me!
back of cake. See swimmer at the bottom. That’s me!
front of cake
front of cake- I couldn’t cut into it but we had a sheet cake for guests.  Will cut into Sunday when my family is town.  Too pretty to eat!

Everything else in the party turned out great.  There was a yummy spread with sandwiches, shrimp and super good strawberries all from Costco.  Seriously the strawberries were delectable.

The party spread!
The party spread!

The favors were really cute from etsy store http://www.etsy.com/shop/JegasCreations.

pin
If you’ve seen the movie Up you should recognize this pin. We also had grape soda to drink.

I made this guest book for the party which I think turned out super cute too.

If you've seen the movie Up you should get this adventure book. Isn't it cute?
If you’ve seen the movie Up you should get this adventure book. Isn’t it cute?

Here are some photos of some of the friends at the party.  There were of course many people I didn’t get photos of.  Thanks to everyone who came!  It’s always so nice to see that old friends are still good friends and that you don’t have to see someone everyday to still be tight.  I am a very loved person.

Emilee and Tiffany
Emilee and Tiffany
Sarah, Megan and Camille
Sarah, Megan and Camille
Anna and Becca
Anna and Becca
Danielle came to help early.  Thanks!
Danielle came to help early. Thanks!
My friend Rachel
My friend Rachel

It’s going to be a party that will be hard to top and while I am exhausted it is a happy kind of tired.  A feeling loved and a sense of satisfaction tired.  Its a job well done and feeling of accomplishment kind of tired.  It’s the end of a journey and the beginning of an adventure. Most importantly I feel so loved.

 

 

 

 

 

5 Love Languages at Christmas

Think of the 5 languages next time you are watching your favorite Christmas movie!
Think of the 5 languages next time you’re watching your favorite Christmas movie!

Having a relationship free Christmas with no family/spouse to spend it with has made me think a lot about past holidays and why some were more effective and loving than others? What made one Christmas happier and lighter in feel than others?

I’ll be honest when I was in college we had a pretty mean streak of chaotic Christmas breaks.  For about 3 years some or all of us ended up getting sick, my parents had a new baby (always tough) and they had just moved to California and hadn’t really settled in.  Life was a challenge.

That said, we did always manage to leave the season with a sense of unity and purpose and particularly Christmas Day never failed to be magical. A lot of this credit goes to my Mother who does whatever she can to make our somewhat odd family united.

Anyway, I was thinking about what I could have done in some of those hard years to make things better?  It’s hard to say because I was exhausted from school and ill equipped to deal with a family under duress.  I was also immature and eager to get back to my independent life. A baby and young toddler were the last thing I wanted to deal with and my response was probably on the selfish side; although I do think I tried.

I sometimes think it would be easier if I had friends in California but since I only lived there for 9 months, even today, I end up working most of break which doesn’t make it much of a break for me.  Plus, I find I turn into this different person when I am home.  More of a nag and less of a carefree, happy person.  Do any of you see that with your own behavior at home? I’m not sure why I do that?

While I was pondering these past Christmases I thought about how Christmas is like a little microcosm of all the ways we experience love (and its opposite) jam-packed into one month. There are so many opportunities to think of others and to receive love in return that it is really like no other time of the year, but again how can we make those interactions more effective?

I’m sure most of you have heard about the 5 Love Languages.  They are by Dr. Gary Chapman and have been a part of a number of his bestselling books. While possibly a bit gimmicky, I have found them to be very helpful in my friendships and family relationships over the years and today I was thinking about how much they relate to Christmas.   In fact, I think the success of a Christmas depends on our ability to express love in each of the 5 ways, and in the way others need that love:

5 Love Languages of Christmas

1. Quality Time-  This is the type of person that will get very frustrated by a slew of activities that are rushed through (how many of us do that at Christmas!).  They want time for ‘meaningful conversation’ and ‘eye contact and shared activities are needed to feel loved’ (I  wonder how many people felt ostracized from me because I couldn’t make eye contact with them with my strabismus?).

Basically bonding time is what they need most of all.   For example, this person would probably not be well suited to seeing a movie Christmas Day but would rather sit and talk over cookies.

My parents aren’t really ‘event’ people, meaning they enjoy doing things with all of us, but I don’t think they see it as an important expression of love.  They would see all the time spent with me on the phone as more important than any activity we might do together (which for me is definitely the case; although I am also an activity person).  In the past I have gotten frustrated when my family doesn’t seem as energized as I am about something important to me but maybe that is just not the way they express love?  Hmmmm

2. Receiving Gifts- This is probably the clearest link to the holidays and most treacherous.  Following the example of the magi of old we give gifts during the holidays and most of us try to give something thoughtful that the other person will like.  With children it is often the quantity of the gifts that stand out where an adult may get one or two more carefully chosen gifts.

Here’s the rub- some people, as Dr. Gray points out, just don’t think gifts are an important expression of love; for others it is key.   I can think of people in my family who land on both ends of the spectrum.  My Dad, for instance, is not a huge gift person.  He likes them fine but it’s definitely not his language.

One year I got my brother in the Christmas drawing and he said ‘ughh, Rachel is a bad gift-giver’ and I was so offended.  (It may have been his strategy because I gave him a sweet gift to prove him wrong!).  Giving and receiving gifts is important to me and I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to give an effective gift- https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/good-gifts/

Dr. Gray says “When you are with a partner who love little gifts and surprises, this is precisely what you will get. You will constantly be showered with new clothes, flowers or even chocolates. This is how they want to be loved, so this is exactly what they do for their partners. Giving the gift of self is also an important symbol of love to these people.”

On the other hand when someone is not a gift love language person it can come across as cold and distant to those who are. I can think of several Christmases I would have been happier had my expectations of both receiving and giving of gifts been aligned with the person on the opposite end of the gift.  Something to think about!

3. Words of Affection- This is a person who needs positive reinforcement vocally to feel loved.  Dr.  Gray says “those who speak this language are sensitive people and don’t take criticism as well as others. They may illustrate their frustrations by using sharp words or even by harassing you.” (sound like a holiday you have experienced!).  I probably fall into this language most of all; although, I have also learned over the years to hold feelings inside causing me anxiety and even panic.  That’s how unnatural it is for me to not communicate my feelings.

This type of love language can be a powder keg when large gatherings combine lots of personality traits together, giving ample opportunity for snubs, slights and over-reactions.  Even just the anxiety of reinforcing others and then not getting it back like you might have hoped can be difficult.  For example, someone who is shy and private may have a hard time communicating with someone who needs words of affection.

On the other hand, this expression can be full to overflowing in the positive during Christmas as people share testimony of the Savior, and we feel Jesus’ love stronger than the rest of the year.  Plus, cards, carolers, party-goers and family members all get ample opportunity to shower each other with words of love.  It just helps to know that is what your loved one needs.  Watch out for his or her patterns this year.

I can think of so many people who are great at this.  My best friend Emily comes to mind.  She is loving and thoughtful and we have a very similar type of love expression which is good for a best friend! :).  My old roommate Camille is also excellent at absorbing large personalities.  She is such a great listener, a necessary companion to being a words of affection person.

4. Physical Touch- This is probably the least visible during the holidays but certainly present.  As we visit with loved one’s hugs and other physical touch are a part of feeling warmly welcomed and loved.  If you are someone like me who is not a cuddly person sometimes such affections can be difficult to initiate but still appreciated.

It’s interesting after I showed my new roommate the house we were chatting and at the end of the conversation she said ‘Can I give you a hug?’.  I don’t know her well enough to say she is a physical touch person but suffice it to say I would never have made a similar gesture and t was very friendly.  Made me feel all the more confident in her character and that she would be a good roommate.

5. Acts of Service- Dr Gray defines this as “Some people find pleasure in doing things for others.  This may mean that they will feel loved when their partners help out with chores or does things for them.  However acts of service should be done out of love, not obligation”.

I was not always so great at the doing it out of love part but I did it and that counts for something.  Again, I was immature and craving my independence.  This did not always make for the most willing servant for my family, but we did work hard.

I remember one of the most difficult Christmas times my mother was injured and my Dad was sick and when we came into the house my Mother said ‘I hope you have come with an attitude of service’.   I’m sure I wasn’t perfect but I remember trying to serve.  My Sister (who was always better at this than me. Perhaps it is her language of love?) and I planned and cooked for a church party my Dad had scheduled weeks before the injury or illness nearly cancelled it.  I know it meant a lot to my Mom to have our help and I look back on it with gratitude to my Heavenly Father for giving me the chance to serve.

I have always been involved with service for the community around Christmas.  For years I did sub-4-santa, even when I was in high school, and have one planned this year for a family friend.  I am also taking the lead on Swimfest which I see as service to my swim family.  Next Tuesday I am going with my activity days girls to sing at the senior center near my house- another great opportunity to serve during Christmas.  (The girls requested going to the center! Isn’t that cute?)

So those are the 5 love languages.  I hope that you can think about them as you try to express love this Christmas season.  The most important thing to remember is that Jesus Christ, the reason for the season, understands our language perfectly and can love us like nobody on earth. In fact, He already has shown the ultimate love by giving us His life so we could be forgiven and be happy.  Returning to His presence with our eternal families makes all of life’s struggles worth it (and the happy times extra sweet).  Merry Christmas!

NativityScene

Reunion, Wedding and House

So a lot of memorable events happened lately.

First, I have walked in my house!  The framing is up, no sheet-rock yet but I’ve gone over all the floors and I’m so excited about it!  I also think I might have found the right fit for my basement apartment.  I had tons of interest but have narrowed it down to 2 great choices.  Tough call.  Will be checking references and doing some careful thought but either would be terrific.  The whole thing is so thrilling!

I think my shirt says it all!
In my master bedroom!!!

Then Friday I had my 10 year reunion at BYU.  I still can’t believe its been 10 years.  I’m not goona lie it was an introspective moment for me.  Thinking about the last 10 years, what I’ve done, what I wish I could have done, the pains, the triumphs, everything.  Sometimes I worry that I peaked at 21. That I had my happiest years then and have never quite been able to duplicate it. I’ve had great times and moments but as far as whole years that was one of the best.  Do any of you feel that way looking back at your life? I guess the older you get the more muddy your life gets. I envy the simplicity of that year.

Anyway, grateful for a moment to think about my life and all that I have accomplished and the great memories.  I was in charge of creating a video entitled ‘Then and Now’ for the reunion.  It was more challenging than I expected but here is what I came up with.

The reunion was a lot of fun.  I enjoyed chatting with fellow graduates and hearing from Setema Gali, former Super Bowl champion for New England Patriots.  I was very moved by his heart felt words.   I was expecting just a pep talk but it was very raw.  He said ‘be prepared’ for whatever God wants you to do and look out for ‘compensating blessings’.  That last concept really struck home with me.  There are usually compensating blessings whenever God gives us a trial.  Hard to see it sometimes but true.

I will include the group photos when I get them but here I am with my friend Shawn.  I am honored to be able to participate in the reunion committee and will forever be grateful for my BYU experience.  If I am any good as a human being today it is because of my BYU experience.

I don’t know how you go to a reunion without wondering- what do the next 10 years hold?  What does God have in store for me? We will see… 🙂

My friend Shawn and I at the reunion

Next up yesterday I went to the wedding of my dear friend Camille.  She married Tom Griego and while I haven’t had a chance to get to know him he seems like a wonderful person (just loving Camille means he’s a smart guy!).  Camille was my roommate for nearly 3 years and we grew up together.  I went to Hawaii twice with her and our relationship has always been dear to me.  She is a great listener and has always given to others more than focusing on her own needs.  I’m glad she has someone who can focus on giving to her.

The pretty bride and me.

More than anything it makes me happy to see my friends happy!  I have always been blessed with good friends, the best. I got to visit with a bunch of friends I haven’t seen for a while in addition to seeing Camille, which made the whole wedding a lot of fun. I don’t know what I did in the previous life to deserve such wonderful friends.

3 girls from the Maryland ward. We made it! 🙂 Me, Camille and Bekah Denhalter
Camille and Tom

Anyway, it was a great weekend! I feel so blessed.  Blessed for new starts with my home.  Blessed for the memories of the past at my reunion and blessed for the comfort and happiness of friendship at the wedding.  God is certainly good to me and I know that He has a path for me that if I am faithful my life will keep being an amazing journey.  In truth, I know I have not peaked.  What is to come? I’m excited for Him to show me. More than anything I know that I am loved by God and my friends and family.  Who can ask for more?