It Was Time for Growth

Fall has been challenging in the best of ways: crazy schedules for the kiddies + tough classes for me + long hours for the hubby = lots of growth. And on the topic of growth, I just realized that I never wrote about how the week of the family divided went (read this for context: https://foreignmom.wordpress.com/2019/08/30/letting-them-grow/).

So back during the first week of school —ages ago, I know— the older two kids and my hubby went on an adventure that took them to Oslo for half a day, Copenhagen for an overnight and Beirut and the Bekaa Valley for a whole week.

They went to visit the side of the family that gives them their last name. It sounds so far removed from their lives when put that way, but when we are separated by an ocean —and more importantly a different language— it is extremely hard to forge a connection with the family we only see through video apps and online photos.

I guess the main reason for the trip to my husband’s homeland was to find a way to shorten the distance, but the kids were very nervous to have to do this without me next to them. Clearly, I was just as nervous not to be with them and for the first time splitting the three children between the parents to take only two on a trip. However, it was very important for them to go on this adventure with their dad only.

My oldest, who’s nine, was so emotional when we said goodbye that I immediately had the need to call the whole thing off, but I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t keep them from having that very needed family time with their cousins and grand mother, their aunts and uncles, and very closely with their dad. So I wiped her tears off and swallowed mine and instead I took their photo as they waved from the car.

My youngest daughter came home from school to a much quieter house than usual and we too began our journey towards growth. Being away from her siblings, especially her brother, proved to be tougher than we both anticipated, but we kept the photos of our days apart flowing between both parts of the clan and this really helped. The ones in Lebanon were struggling to communicate with their elders, but found a unique friendship with their cousins, even when among the five of them they spoke in a mix of charades, Arabic and English, with a few interventions here and there of their handy interpreter: their dad.

My son, who is the epitome of the middle child, shined in the new environment. He was able to adapt like a chameleon to the different situations and places and let everyone –familiar and not– hug, kiss, and squeeze him to their hearts content. He enjoyed the food, playing video games with his older cousin, swimming, visiting the places from his dad’s childhood stories and made the best out of the trip. He also didn’t seem to mind that Arabic was around him 100% of the time without him understanding much of anything. He was the perfect companion to his big sister.

My daughter, who likes things done her way, was not so easily acclimated. For starters, she did not like how, strangers to her, would hug and kiss her at the first introduction. She was really bothered by the adults’ expectation that she would understand Arabic if they kept talking to her only in that. She was also more observant than her brother and noticed things like trash left on the beach and nobody concerned about the environmental effects, the way in which people drove with great disregard for stop lights and the fact that no one wore a seat belt. In other words, she missed the order and organization of her usual surroundings and could not find a way to simply be on vacation mode.

Here is were her brother came to the rescue with his ease and adaptability. He reminded her constantly of the fun times and served as her go to person to talk about the day’s challenges. He would then help her spin things around and find the positive. All of this I only know, of course, thanks to my husband who kept me up to date of their every adventure. He was a bit frustrated by our daughter’s reaction to his culture, so I had to remind him about her personality and about how we have always taught her to speak up when she didn’t feel comfortable hugging or kissing someone –I mean, she was just being the good rule-follower she has always been.

Despite the language barrier, my sister-in-law made every effort to keep my kids happy by organizing an endless list of activities and places to visit so that they could live and see the Lebanon that their cousins love. The same Lebanon that had been my husband’s home until his early 20’s. So they visited bakeries where they were allowed to bake meat pies behind the counter; they swam at the hotel where my husband waited tables in his youth; they spent time in the family home learning how to make goat cheese from their grandma; they toured the farm where their great grandparents housed their 14 children and where their dad spent the most magical of his childhood moments; and they met so many cousins, aunts, uncles and people who are important in their dad’s life as well as their very own family tree.

All while the little one completed her first week of kindergarten and got the royal treatment of being an only child for a while. Though she didn’t like the silence and wanted to have constant play dates, she loved doing all the things SHE and only she wanted to do. We ate her favorite food, we watched her shows and we had our own adventures. She learned to miss her siblings and dad without making it an obstacle to enjoy the things she had going on herself.

And me? Well, I learned to let go of my not-so-little kids –even if it was only for a short period of time. They needed to go see their (our) family at an age in which they would remember. It was important for them also to learn that they could also go to their dad to share their fears, happiness and anxiety. Apart we grew but coming back together we could translate this growth into conversations, travel anecdotes and into the reaffirmation that the five of us belong together no matter what we do or where we go.

Oasis

“Sneakers, joggers, hat and jacket, you can’t miss me, I’m sitting right outside the airport,” I texted my friends who were to pick me up after close to ten hours of traveling coast-to-coast. Not looking my best, and perhaps a little too tired, I was greeted by two of my closest “mom friends” (you know, those friends you meet once you are a mother, who are mothers themselves, with whom you share anything from diaper rash stories and the exasperation of not finding missing socks to your hopes and dreams for the future). The excitement took over for at that moment we were finally reunited.

We had been planning this trip from the moment one of the four travelers moved from Michigan to Florida more than three years ago. I was the second one to move away as I relocated to Pennsylvania and a third friend moved to LA about a year ago. We left not only the state where our children had turned from babies into elementary students, but the friendships that were forged among us moms and between our entire families. We wanted to have a reunion and the plans finally came together for us four to meet up in sunny California.

It’s great how life ends up matching you with people experiencing the same things at about the same time you are. If this is wonderful as college students, is certainly a gift as one enters motherhood. These women who happened to be in Michigan having children around the same ages than mine, also were closer to me as we all had Mexican roots. They are some of the ones who ended up becoming part of our chosen family in the U.S.

We left each other while all of us were entirely committed to being Stay At Home Moms (SAHMs) and now that we had come together once more, two of us are currently working on getting our master’s degrees and the other two have started new jobs. It is amazing to me how life has brought us together to face the implications of our career plans measured against our family lives and all of us are going through the transition at the same time.

No matter how different we are from one another, this mom-friendship is a tight one. This trip we took for us, a escape from the routine and fast-paced family lives we have chosen for ourselves, turned out to be the perfect oasis for our friendship and for ourselves. As much as we love the busy schedules and the kids always on the go that we are raising, it is wonderful to find time to just be us: adults, independent and irresponsible (OK not irresponsible in the strict sense of the word, but just not responsible for anyone else but ourselves).

As SAHMs we have about a decade of taking little kids on adventures, but often disregard our own wants, our goals and sometimes even our well-being in the name of family. While is all very rewarding, the need to find our individuality stays latent within. This trip to the California desert, with its beautiful hikes and the lazy times in the pool was a much needed gift to ourselves and to honor the friendship that has held us together during more than one of the trying times that motherhood had put before us.

To all the moms out there who might end up reading this, find the time to give you and your mom friends, the gift of a brunch, a walk, a weekend away for you and your friendship but also because you will come back with renewed energies to be at your A game with your family too.

Coaching From the Sidelines

I’m your typical soccer mom -and I’m proud of it. I love the sport and want my children to play their best while they are on the field. This however, does not mean that I only want them to win, that my children are the stars of their teams, or that we will be contemplating soccer scholarships in the future (although that would be awesome).

What it means is that I expect them to be 100% in the game when we are on the field. That I want to see growth from the beginning to the end of the season. That I am looking for them to commit to themselves and to their teams, no matter if their teammates are mostly new to the game -like it is the case with my nine-year-old daughter.

So yes, I am loud, I coach from the sidelines and I try to infuse the same enthusiasm that I feel unto them. Now, that is not always well-received by my kids -especially my son who has been playing the longest. He thinks I’m too loud and perhaps too embarrassing for him because not all parents are as “intense” as I am.

This year has been different, though, as not only have we found ourselves among other soccer parents who cheer, and coach and yell at their children while they play, but because I decided to help out by becoming an assistant coach for my five-year-old daughter. It has been a wonderful experience as I have met other soccer moms who also want their daughters to give it their best during practice and at the game. But it has been a humbling and challenging exercise in patience.

Being a coach helped me realize that perhaps I should see things from the view point of my children’s age and their experience, mobility on the field and interest. While I want them to be their best, I perhaps need to curve my enthusiasm a bit and cheer for the smaller achievements more.

Seeing that my little kindergarten players have started to pass the ball should make me happier than seeing them scoring goals, for example. But it is easy to forget that while older kids and adults can dribble and pass and understand the concepts taught during practice better, little kids can also get a lot out of a training session, if only we put ourselves in their shoes (ahem, cleats). Perhaps by looking from that perspective, I could see the things that they have already learned as well.

The idea of looking for achievements from the kids’ perspective in mind has been rolling around my head so much, that I had to take a look at other areas of our family life where I’ve been “coaching from the sidelines” a little bit too much.

Is my nine-year-old able of making a meal without me giving her cues above her shoulder? Yes!

Can my eight-year-old clear the kitchen and start the dishwasher without me explaining how to do it every time? Absolutely!

Is the five-year-old perfectly capable to pick up and organize her shoes and gear without anyone’s help? For sure!

Then I guess I’m going to have to apply the soccer field philosophy of cheering them on and recognizing the victories, no matter how small they may appear to be in my adult mind, and do a little less coaching where there is no need for it anymore.

My motherhood role is slowly shifting from a 100% hands-on to a more independent phase of childhood and is hard to adapt to that. I’m thankful for young children who aren’t afraid to point out where I may be involving myself too much, but I’m even more grateful for their patience and flexibility as we all learn how to be in this new phase of our family life.

Letting them Grow

Silence -loyal companion of solitude- has been around me more than ever before this week. Summer ended abruptly opening the floodgates of the scholastic and extra curricular activities that conform Fall. For nine years I have been accompanied by little persons exploring the world with me. The majority of my weeks were all about caring for my children. But this school year the gig ended with my last child running into that big yellow bus that would take her away from me.

Silence remained with me. And with that silence an endless amount of thoughts kept me company. I thought the toughest thing I was going to face this week was sending all three children to school for the first time together, for the first time for a whole day, every day. However, seeing my joyful five-year-old jumping up the steps of the school bus and happily greeting her friends, made me realize that it is time to let go.

I have missed my youngest one during our shared routines. My little companion. I miss her hugs at all times of the day, her kisses. I miss her hand perfectly nestled in mine, walking into the supermarket, heading to the park. Doing life together. Her and I, my sidekick. Despite me missing her as I adjust to this new stage in life, I need to let her grow.

Silence is now taking a new dimension as in the same week of transitions, I waved goodbye my oldest two as they left on a trip to visit their dad’s family in Lebanon. My heart has been aching since Monday when I had to write and notarize a letter expressing my consent for my husband to take our children out of the country. My hands have been shaking since I signed that paper, making official the first separation of my nine and eight-year-old from me.

So far away, so different, so foreign to all of us. The excitement was present in the children but so was the anxiety. My oldest daughter grabbed onto me. Holding me tight. Digging her nose in my neck as if she wanted to take my smell with her. With tears and little whimpers she said goodbye and that she would miss me. My son kept kissing me wondering how will it be to be apart for a whole week.

I kept it together and shed no tears with them. Assuring them that a great adventure awaits for the three of them, but as soon as I got the photo of them ready to go in the car, I pulled my husband aside and lost a little bit of me on his shoulder as he held me. I had to let them go and as that phrase looped around in my head, I convinced myself that by letting them go, I’m letting them all grow.

Nice To Meet You, Cousin?

Families moving away from each other is nothing new. It is definitely not a particular trend of this generation. However, I had not stop to think of this until our recent trip to Montreal. Before this summer, I had felt as if I was the only one around me living without family close by. No Sunday barbecues at the grandparents’ house, no cousins’ birthday parties to attend; my existence a mere legend for the new kids in the family to learn about “the aunt who lives in the US”.

I have been nothing more than a photo on a telephone screen for my immediate family from the moment I moved to the States. The voice on the other side of the telephone. The daughter, sister, cousin, aunt that goes to Mexico to visit once a year. My children the ghosts of the grandparents’ tales.

While I love having a close-knit immediate family, I do sometimes feel the guilt of not providing my children with the day-to-day interactions that their friends have with their extended families living close by.

I had been so focused in my own experience, that I had failed to notice that my story is a repeated one from the beginning of times. I’m the relative who moved away. Just like my husband did and so many people of his family had done before him. I would like to focus on one of my husband’s relatives in particular, his aunt Marie, who moved from their little village in Lebanon to the big city of Montreal with her family just months before my husband was born.

He grew up hearing about his aunt and his five cousins and bits and pieces of their lives. Their memory a fading one among the remaining family members until a phone call would revive it in their hearts and minds. Only once did my husband got to interact with three of his “cousins in Montreal” when they went to visit the family in “the old country” and then just a couple of times with his aunt before he decided this summer that it was time we went to Canada to meet the rest of his relatives there.

The excitement was palpable even in our children who were looking forward to meeting new family members. It is so rare for them to interact with family in person that they could not wait to get to know their cousins, even though they were all grown ups.

It was Friday evening when the two youngest cousins, the ones that had never been back to Lebanon, where coming to meet us (quite literally) at the hotel. The warmth of their smiles was the immediate welcome into the family that my children so craved. We felt at ease and happy from the beginning. The conversation plentiful and effortless. When the rest joined us at a restaurant for dinner, we turned from a group of strangers into a cheerful family reunion that widened our hearts to fit them all in.

My children were immediately drawn to their cousins, a few of them already had admirers among my little ones. In the upcoming day, the kids enjoyed touring the city but they could not wait for Sunday to see their “big cousins” again.

We drove to the suburbs where one of them was hosting us at his house for the kind of Sunday family barbecue that is the staple of so many childhoods. We parked the car and we were greeted by a committee of cousins who wanted to witness the embrace of an aunt and her nephew. As I saw that from the distance, I understood it all: family bonds are stronger than distance and time; legends told by other family members do bring you closer with those who had left.

As we came in and we made ourselves at home, our cousins took care of us all and made sure to spend individual quality time with the five of us. We felt so loved and the afternoon was so special that it did not matter all the time that we had spent without knowing one another, once we looked into each other eyes, we knew it, we were among family!

Guest Speaker

The little hands of second graders kept rising as I repeated: any other questions? It was certainly the highlight of my week!

At the beginning of the school year, like any dutiful parent/guardian of grade school children, I filled out the endless repetitive school forms not checking the box to volunteer as the homeroom person nor to come make copies of participate in the classroom on a weekly basis. No, those jobs are not for me. Although I really enjoy meeting my children’s friends, I am just not equipped with the patience and classroom management tools required to keep a smile and my cool while working in a class of more than 20 kids on a weekly basis.

I however, love volunteering for special events, field trips, parties and above all to come as a guest speaker and teach children about the world, languages and Mexico. Thus, like every year, I wrote down on the form what I would be willing to come do for the class. My son’s teacher quickly took note of that and finally last week, we were able to coordinate a time for me to come and talk about Mexico.

It was very special to me as I projected the map of the U.S. and Mexico with a little plane tracing the route between Philadelphia and Guadalajara, the great attention with which the second graders listened to my story. I talked to them about what it means to be an immigrant, how proud I am of my dual nationality and how one can be loyal to two different countries -except, of course, when it comes to soccer, there the kids learned, I will always go for Mexico!

Their eyes opened wide in amazement as I showed them a map of the vast flora and fauna of Mexico and they learned that despite many cartoon characterizations of the country set it in a desert, Mexico has jungles and valleys, oceans and volcanoes and rich colors.

The students loved learning a few words and phrases in Spanish but were even more excited as I told them that the most important thing to remember as they may encounter new classmates who might still be learning English, is that everyone smiles in the same language.

I showed them some of the colorful buildings and landscapes of the country and brought a few things crafted by artisans. They loved touching them and recognizing the vibrancy of the paints and fabrics utilized to make them.

I closed the presentation by talking about the DREAMERS and reading the book by that name by Yuyi Morales. To my surprise, they enjoyed the presentation so much that they showered me with questions about monkeys, jaguars, types of jobs, games and toys, money, language and so many other things I can’t remember.

Children’s minds are so ready to learn about the world. We often forget this and don’t take advantage of this prime time to teach them empathy, social justice, equality, and the role they have in making their world a better place. Children are so ready to be helpful and accepting and to grow. I’m so glad that I had a little part in them learning about the world this school year.

The Mitten in Your Kitchen

You answered the video call as it would have been if I had arrived to your house for coffee after dropping the kids off at school: with that morning rush of wanting to get a million things done while having time to catch up with a friend.

You were just getting back to your house, walking while talking, you showed me your newly renovated kitchen and then “we” headed to the living room to get our chat going. As you walked around your new home in California, I noticed familiar sights. Mementos from our departure from Michigan at different times.

In your kitchen was a cutting board in the shape of this wonderful state accurately nicknamed The Mitten. I was gifted one too. Then you showed me your metallic picture frame in the same shape, just like the one you had given me before I moved. Then a collection of Christmas cards proudly displayed in the kitchen way past Valentine’s Day just like I had kept mine the year before to help me feel the love of our friends in the distance.

The conversation was a repeat of last year’s. Except this time, it was me listening and you sharing how the kids are taking longer than anticipated to adapt to the new school. How sometimes they wake up crying because they miss their friends and their old school; the Lakes and their after school classes.

You were, as always, greeting life with your perennial bright smile but worried that things were not settling down as quickly as you had hoped for. Moving across state lines is harder with older children. Our role as the main caretakers is to comfort and listen and hope that the following week will be the one when the kids are finally excited to go to the new school.

I gotta tell you that though it seems impossible to believe right now, things do get better and slowly everyone finds their place in the new house, school and city. Nevertheless, the transition process is a much longer one than the one we imagined in our heads.

I’m glad we have each other to discuss the happy and not so happy changes that come with the move but I’m infinitely thankful that we both had Michigan.

Capable Kids are Caring Kids

I came home late from school last night directly to kiss my sleeping children goodnight. My oldest daughter was surrounded by eight or so stuffed animals on her bed. My son and youngest daughter were asleep together, on the same bed, as it has been the case since we moved to our new house. My son says that it is so that our preschooler is not afraid at night, but I know he is very glad to have the company himself.

As I came into my little daughter’s room, I saw a small board -one of those that you can write on and then press a button to erase everything- and a few board books on the ABC’s and the numbers. This sight made my heart full. My son, who is in second grade, loves to read and has made it his nightly task to read to his little sister. This week he took his role as the big brother further deciding that he would teach our preschooler the alphabet so that she would no longer hesitate when we help her spell out a word.

This gesture has made me smile the whole week. Sometimes I feel like I ask too much of the older two kids because they are independent and capable of helping around the house and with small tasks related to caring for their little sister. This week in particular helped me realize that I am wrong in second guessing myself.

Kids have the natural desire to be helpful and they are perfectly capable of taking on chores and family duties according to their age and development. As soon as my school-aged children had been able to keep things organized in their backpacks and at school, I started asking them to do the same in their rooms. They make their beds every morning and put away their clean laundry.

Does this happen automatically and with the high organizational standards in which I would like to keep our house? Well no. The point is, that with a bit of coaching and asking a few times, the children can definitely be helpful.

It is thanks to the oldest two that we get out the door on time every morning. Without their help reaching clothes from my preschooler’s closet, putting toothpaste on her toothbrush and sometimes even serving her cereal, I would not be able to make their lunches, clear the kitchen and get the laundry going every day.

The best part is that being helpful makes them feel proud about themselves and gives them confidence to take on new challenges such as my nine-year-old making scrambled eggs and toast for her siblings on the weekends or my eight-year-old playing teacher with our four-year-old.

Kids can do so much if we just let them.

Colombia Had Been Waiting

We are that family who likes to give our children the sort of things that do not come in boxes (most of the time) and adventures are our most preferred option. Like I have talked about in some of my previous posts, travel is the one gift that as you unwrap, as it takes over your surroundings, it makes an imprint on you, changing you forever. That was in my husband’s mind when he decided to buy tickets for the five of us to go to Colombia in lieu of a party for his momentous fortieth birthday.

Colombia had been waiting for us. It had been on our radar ever since my dear friend moved there following her Colombian husband. They were supposed to be there only for some months but those months have now amounted to four years and it was time that we went to see them.

Our findings suggested that we explored more than one city while we were in the South American country and it made sense that if our first stop was going to be Cartagena, right at the beach, the second one to be Medellin, the city surrounded by mountains and greenery that has been our friends’ home.

Since we were going to be on the move, we decided to pack lightly. The usual one big suitcase that we would check-in, two carry-on roller suitcases, backpacks for us adults, and for the first time in nine years, no stroller. This last piece of information is important because our preschooler, the baby of the family, is not the walking type. She likes to be on a stroller or carried most of the time. She still takes naps when she’s been pushed around so we knew this was going to be the one particular challenge to overcome during the trip.

I packed the Ergo Baby in which she still fits, just in case, and went along with the plan. This frugality in our packing allowed us to go swiftly through the airport and only 30 minutes after landing, we were already at our hotel, ready to explore.

It is magical to witness the look in my children’s eyes as they start to take in the new sounds, the music, the smells. Our first daughter is rather observant but not one to say much in the moment. She keeps it in until she decides to tell you how she noticed even the color of the shoes the hat peddler was wearing. Our middle child, our son, is the one who still acts like a puppy, as I like to describe; he jumps around and climbs everything he can climb -from benches to short walls-, he’s the one who would be describing things as they interest him, the one ever-ready to try new foods. Then lastly, our preschooler who usually tries to follow her older brother. She would do whatever he does if she can, so she’s easy to get to try new foods. She also would tell you how tired she is from walking -even when you have been carrying her for the last 5 blocks.

The walled city with endless souvenirs to buy, the pool at the hotel, our first encounter with our lovely friends, the boat ride to the islands, the day at the beach, our stroller-less strolls, the sounds of Cartagena are all gifts that we were all able to unwrap and savor together during this part of the adventure. Cartagena tattooing itself in our hearts. However magical and romantic of a place, I think the most important part of the trip unraveled in Medellin.

We landed there to be greeted by our friend who had arrived the day before. She was ready to regale us with anecdotes, with touristy bits and pieces of information, with her performing the task of the tour guide in a country that now shows to be the greater piece of herself -Colombia had been waiting in her for us to come, to teach us all her love for her new country. It was a wonderful day for us all as we met our hosts’ extended family and were, at last, able to visit with them and their children in their new home.

Everyone enjoyed having time with our friends in their house in the mountains, but perhaps above all of them myself. This visit represented so much more to me. It was the first time since I reconnected with my girlfriend of almost two decades, that she was hosting us, in her home. Welcoming me into her kitchen where I was able to contribute chopping veggies for dinner; welcoming me into her living room where I was able to win over her three-year-old son who, since last time I saw him, was now able to tell me stories; welcoming me into her day-to-day life as a way to understand the stage of motherhood she currently finds herself in.

I wonder if this happens to my friends when they see me in pure mommy-form, but there was something very special in seeing my friend, comadre, confidant and cheerleader in this role. Her two boys wrapping around her legs and torso, conducting half conversations between them and I and my children who also love her and wanted her attention. She danced the dance of chaos that young children bring beautifully and it was such a joy, the biggest gift to me, to witness her in her home, in her element for once.

Seeing my friend in this early stages of childhood with her boys showed me too that the stages of childhood that we have graduated from with our two oldest children, are still very present in our youngest. It was hard to avoid the comparisons. While my oldest is posing questions about the unfairness of life as she saw humble housing next to rich ones, my middle child wondered why the fruits and plants were different than the ones in Pennsylvania, and the youngest was just happy cuddling with her godparents, eating chorizo y morcilla.

It is important to meet every child where they are at, not rush them to grow and to be like the others in the family clan. If this important in the quotidianity of life, it is even more important when you are teaching young children to adapt their needs in new environments.  I repeated this to myself many times as we walked only for a little bit when my preschooler would already be asking to be held missing her stroller. My husband and I held her willingly and gladly. Childhood is too precious to be rushed around.

Colombia had been waiting for us with its natural beauty and our lovely friends. It turned out to be the best gift we could have gotten for my husband’s fortieth and a most extraordinary place to celebrate our oldest’s ninth birthday! Now imprinted in us all, we come back with our hearts full and our minds filled with fun memories ever more aware of our children’s individuality and the particular stages they find themselves in.

 

Tough Love

This week, in honor of Love and Valentine’s Day, of course, I want to share how love has touched me in a different way lately. Relocating to a different state shook me to my core and perhaps helped me put my life into perspective, propelling me to find ways to move towards achieving different goals.

Serendipity guided me back to school and my long hours of self assessment, have turned into dynamic ones with great purpose. All these opportunities for self-improvement had started to be filled with positive ways to get closer to my goals. All but in the area of fitness.

Perhaps the fear of adding yet another failure to the list of unaccomplished task, kept me comfortable in my routine of hot yoga and cycling. I had not wanted to go back to lifting weights or boot camp, or anything really that would show me, once again, that my performance was inadequate, that I was just not up to par.

Then just as I was feeling a bit more settled, more capable of accomplishment, a friend’s push to follow her into a healthy lifestyle ended with me winning a makeover at this highly personal strength training gym. Talk about intimidating. I was now there alongside my extremely fit and agile friend who is basically a poster child of determination (literally, there’s a poster at the gym with her photo at a sporting event with the legend “Determination”) and I was supposed to participate in the same class? Where there not different levels like at yoga?

She’s not one for hugs and cuddles. She instead high fives me and looks into my eyes and persuades me that I too can get it done. She makes fun of me for using weightlifting gloves for my newly-acquired calluses, but at the same time sends me encouraging texts to keep me going, to lift more, to keep challenging myself or to check out the latest trainer’s post that applies to me. She doesn’t see my goals as hefty or unattainable, she sees some kind of hidden strength in me and she informs me of its existence. She has me convinced that I can really set this as my personal goal without the fear of failure. She wants me to achieve and to thrive. She truly has my back.

Her drive, her pep talk, her tough love is something that I have come to highly appreciate and her friendship is one I know I want for the long haul.

Love comes at you in different ways, true friendship is the one that lifts you higher.