Find Out Who Your Friends Are

I laughed a bit at myself today when I realized how often I write about music here.

I think that’s happened for several reasons.  First, I grew up with music.  It was on in our house, in the car, at my grandparents’ house, everywhere.  We went to musicals and other theater shows, I was in choir for awhile, I played the violin and piano for several years, etc.  It’s just part of me.

I also find that I both channel emotions through  and associate emotions with music.  For every mood I have, for many memories I have, for many people in my life, there’s a song that comes to mind.  Examples:

  • Feeling joy?  “Can’t Stop The Feeling”, Justin Timberlake
  • Feeling zen?  Kenny G, Chris Botti, Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo Ma
  • Feeling angry/rage-y?  “Break Stuff”, Limp Bizkit
  • Remembering my grandparents’ house?  anything by Nat King Cole
  • Celebrating an anniversary with my husband? “Wonderful World”, Louis Armstrong
  • Road trips with my sister?  “Lifestyles of the Rich & the Famous”, Good Charlotte
  • Dancing on stage with a friend at my wedding?  “Save a Horse, Ride A Cowboy”, Big & Rich
  • Getting thru some of the most challenging?  “Stand”, Rascal Flatts
  • Missing people I’ve lost?  “One Sweet Day”, Mariah Carey

This week at work, I’m listening to cancer patients talk about their journey and their attitudes towards their treatment and outlook on life.  One of the ladies we heard today said that through her journey, she ‘really found out who her friends are’.

While that notion kind of sucks – that sometimes “friends” aren’t really friends when you’re battling day after day the beast that is cancer – I actually smiled, because that’s a song that I associate with a very special friend of mine.  She and I carpooled to work for several years before I moved, and we always enjoyed that song (and sang it!) together.

If you haven’t heard it, check it out in the YouTube link below.

“Find Out Who Your Friends Are” – Tracy Lawrence

Run your car off the side of the road
Get stuck in a ditch way out in the middle of nowhere
Get yourself in a bind, lose the shirt off your back
Need a floor, need a couch, need a bus fare

This is where the rubber meets the road
This is where the cream is gonna rise
This is what you really didn’t know
This is where the truth don’t lie

You find out who your friends are
Somebody’s gonna drop everything
Run out and crank up their car
Hit the gas get their fast
Never stop to think ‘what’s in it for me?’ or ‘it’s way too far.’
They just show on up with their big old heart
You find out who you’re friends are

Everybody wants to slap your back
Wants to shake your hand
When you’re up on top of that mountain
But let one of those rocks give way then you slide back down look up
And see who’s around then

This ain’t where the road comes to an end
This ain’t where the bandwagon stops
This is just one of those times when
A lot of folks jump off

You find out who your friends are
Somebody’s gonna drop everything
Run out and crank up their car
Hit the gas get there fast
Never stop to think ‘what’s in it for me?’ or ‘it’s way too far.’
They just show on up with that big old heart
You find out who you’re friends are

When the water’s high
When the weather’s not so fair
When the well runs dry
Who’s gonna be there?

You find out who your friends are
Somebody’s gonna drop everything
Run out and crank up their car
Hit the gas get there fast
Never stop to think ‘what’s in it for me?’ or ‘it’s way too far.’
They just show on up with their big old heart
You find out who you’re friends are.

A Bit of Nostalgia and Inspiration for Music Monday

In early November, I had the honor of attending a friend’s pastoral installation service.  He was officially taking over the head pastor position at a Baptist church about an hour south of where we live.

I hadn’t been to this type of religious service before, and it was both beautiful and inspiring.  Various members of his family, fellow pastors, and folks in both his prior and new congregations spoke, offering words of encouragement and prayers, and lots of songs were sung.

One of the women who spoke, Mother Bea, said very clearly, “If you’re here today in this church and at this service, there’s a reason.  You’re supposed to be here.”  For me, my reason for being there was clear right from the start.

When I walked in, the musicians were warming up and practicing some of the hymns that would be part of the service.  The one that started as I walked toward the front of the church?  “How Great Thou Art”.  It honestly made me stop in my tracks for a couple seconds, as that song was one of my grandparents’ very favorite hymns and was played at both of their funerals.  I haven’t been able to get through it without shedding at least a few tears falling since they passed, but it always makes me smile and think of them.  Somehow (probably due to the quick prayer for strength I said so I wouldn’t ugly cry in front of a bunch of strangers) I got through it – whew!  Proud face 🙂  One of my favorite renditions of this song is below, from Carrie Underwood.

Later in the service, my friend’s wife sang a song I had never heard before, “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”.  It hit me like a ton of bricks, both because of the message within the lyrics and her angelic voice singing it.  Seriously…I have not been moved that profoundly in a very long time.  The song is related to the Gospel story of Jesus walking on water and summoning Peter to come to him.  When Peter gets out of the boat and starts walking, he becomes afraid and starts to sink before Jesus reached out and saved him.

It rocked me to my core because of all the junk going on in my life at the time – having just dropped my husband off for a 2.5 week trip to Africa, dealing with an uncertain health issue, etc – and the anxiety and worry it was causing.  Clearly, this was another reason for me to be at that church that day.  Mother Bea was right 🙂  It was a reminder I needed to hear, to trust and have faith.  Lyrics and a YouTube video for you to listen are below.  (Skip to about the 30 second mark in the video for the song to start.)

“Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”

You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown where feet may fail.  And there I find You in the mystery.  In oceans deep, my faith will stand.

(Chorus) And I will call upon Your name.  And keep my eyes above the waves.  When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace.  For I am Yours and You are mine. 

Your grace abounds in deepest waters.  Your sovereign hand will be my guide where feet may fail and fear surrounds me.  You’ve never failed and You won’t start now. 

(Chorus)

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.  Let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me.  Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.

 

I hope one of these songs inspires you or at least brings a smile to your face!

Cheers,

SMR

The Privilege of Knowing Too Much

Shortly after the emotional high of celebrating two family weddings in October – literally, it was three days – I was at an imaging center getting an ultrasound on my neck after my physician had felt something unusual during a routine physical the week prior.

I was told a couple days after the ultrasound (of course during a crazy week at work in the middle of a two-day conference) that the report indicated the appearance of possible growths but that they were likely completely benign.

Should this have happened in early 2016, I would have said “great, awesome, woohoo, they’re likely benign” and moved on.

But eight months ago I started a new job at a pharmaceutical company working in oncology market research.  And quite frankly, I no longer automatically take a singular report or opinion on a potential health issue for me or anyone else as the final answer.

Aside from my husband and my parents, only two friends and two colleagues at work knew at the time.  And when I shared the ultrasound results, I got two sets of answers.  From my non-work people, the excited “that’s great! now you know”.  And from my fellow oncology work buddies, it was a nod and then some version of “what are next steps?”

See, we know too much.

We know that results can be misinterpreted.  We know that symptoms that don’t seem like a big deal can sometimes be an indicator of a more serious problem.  We know about the ins and outs of the cancers that our medicines treat.

I’m sure folks in other professions feel similarly, that they know too much about something – doctors and nurses, law enforcement officers, counselors, etc etc etc.

You’re probably thinking that this level of knowledge can lead to some dark and anxiety-inducing places, yes?  Well, while that can be true, I choose to view it as a privilege that I know too much

I choose the word “privilege” very purposefully. I can and will be an advocate for myself and the people I love.  I know some extra questions to ask doctors.  I know about resources that I can share with others to help them learn or get help.  I now believe getting a second opinion should be considered more often than not.  

It kind of goes back to the “State of Mind” poem I shared here a few weeks ago.

You choose how to view things.  You choose your own state of mind.  You choose whether to find the positive or dwell in the negative.     

Not to say that worry didn’t creep into my mind from time-to-time during the last three weeks, because it did.  (Didn’t help that my husband was on another continent during this whole thing…bad timing.)

But it really is amazing how much the simple act of changing how you think about something can affect your mood, your day, your energy.  Try it the next time you’re faced with a challenge.  Change your state of mind, reframe the issue in your brain, find the happy (or at least the positive).  And figure out how you can get peace of mind, if you can.  For me, that meant getting a second opinion.

I’m happy to report that after meeting with an ENT last week, it turns out that I am a-okay.  Additional monitoring may happen in the future, but for now no further testing or appointments are needed!  #canIgetanAMEN 😀

Cheers!

SMR

Music Monday! Best Friend

You know those times when you’re letting your iTunes run on shuffle and you hear a song you haven’t heard in a long time and you get REAL excited about it?!?

Maybe you do, maybe you don’t.  I certainly do – but I get easily excited about things 🙂

One such instance happened over the weekend, and I just love Jason Mraz’s “Best Friend” for so many reasons.

No official music video, but you can listen to the song in the YouTube link below and read the lyrics, too (pulled from www.azlyrics.com).

Enjoy!

Jason Mraz’s “Best Friend”

Love is where this begins
Thank you for letting me in
I’ve never had to pretend
You’ve always known who I am

And I know my life is better
Because you’re a part of it
I know without you by my side
That I would be different

Thank you for all of your trust
Thank you for not giving up
Thank you for holding my hand
I’ve always known where you stand

Yes, I feel my life is better
So is the world we’re living in
I’m thankful for the time I spent
With my best friend

(You’re my best friend)

Thank you for calling me out
Thank you for waking me up
Thank you for breaking it down
Thank you for choosing us
Thank you for all you’re about
Thank you for lifting me up
Thank you for keeping me grounded
And being here now

My life is better,
Because you’re a part of it
‘Cause I know without you by my side
That I would be different

Yes, I feel my life is better
And so is the world we’re livin’ in
I’m thankful for the time I spent
With my best friend

You’re my best friend. 

Cheers!

SMR

I refuse. 

Yesterday, today, and all the tomorrows… I refuse to hate.

Hate is something that has NEVER been a part of me, and it sure as hell isn’t going to start now.

Simply put, hating or berating folks because they have a different viewpoint or opinion than mine does absolutely nothing to help tough, challenging situations. It has zero place in my heart and inmy life.

The hateful words and attitudes from people on all sides of the political spectrum are discouraging to say the least.  And it make me more thankful than ever that in have this place to celebrate and share fun, positive, inspiring, uplifting things 🙂

Talk, respectfully.

Disagree, respectfully.

Celebrate differences, respectfully.

Check out these remarks from Barack Obama. Thank you, Mr. President.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1343279539039078&id=444654488901592
– SMR

You Just Figure It Out

Today marks 14 years of being with my high school/college sweetheart 🙂

rob-steph-crop
Our very first photo together ever, Nov 2002

We’ve been married since May 2008, and the past couple years have been particularly interesting from a work and relationship perspective.

My husband’s career revolves around birds and the environment.  The short version is that he started by building a website from scratch shortly after we were married that helps people know where to go bird-watching.  In early 2009, he began working at a local Wild Birds Unlimited store and volunteering for various not-for-profits.  Birds and Blooms magazine invited Rob to be their online bird blogger in October 2013, and then he became co-owner of a birding and photography tour company in the summer of 2014 (Sabrewing Nature Tours).

I work in market research for a pharmaceutical company.  Pretty straightforward 😉

Over the years, many people have asked him, “how have you been able to do all this bird stuff” or “how are you making a living out of this”.  He usually responds with something along the lines of me having a really great job that provides for us financially while he’s building his business and that it’s a lot of hard work every single day.  And that I support him in a lot of ways.  Such a sweetheart ❤

I’m so proud of everything he’s accomplished, but it hasn’t been without its ups and downs.  For awhile, I didn’t understand all of this bird business.  (And heck…sometimes I still don’t.  But I don’t need to.)  And we struggled to communicate effectively about his vision for his future and his career.  Right before he joined the tour company, we hit a pretty rough patch for a variety of reasons that I am going to keep private.  But we made it through and honestly have been rock solid since 🙂

Around that time, we started thinking of ourselves as #TeamRipma.

team-ripma-crop
On the beaches of Espanola in the Galapagos Islands, Sept 2016

We realized that in order to give the tour company the best shot possible, and to maintain us as a couple, we both needed to be all-in with business efforts and our marriage and our friendship.  We committed to fully supporting each other 1000% and outwardly showed that support to each other and other people, too.  (Which admittedly is something we had previously struggled with at times.)

And because that wasn’t enough, a couple months after the tour company started, I began a new position at my then-employer that had me traveling to Chicago for 2-4 days every other week or so.

Our schedules became insane.  Like really, really insane.  His tours and scouting trips lasted for 2-3 weeks at a time, and I was seemingly always cruising I-65 in one direction or another.  It took awhile to get used to, and more things have changed since then (like me changing jobs and no longer working from home full-time), but now it’s simply our new normal.

Let me be crystal clear on one point.  Just because Rob has an amazing career where he gets to do what he loves (and gets paid for it), and gets to travel to some amazing destinations, this does not mean it’s not still work.  He loves what he does, truly.  And so the long hours and challenges and successes all ladder up to something he really, really enjoys.  This gets lost on people sometimes who just focus on the destination and experience rather than thinking about who planned all (literally ALL) the logistics for that trip for a group of people he may or may not have met before.  And this doesn’t even take into account all of the volunteer work he does, both here in Indiana and throughout the Midwest.

I heard Mark Cuban say once, “If you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”  PREACH, Mark.  We’ve been on the other side of the coin, the one where you hate your job and those feeling seep into your personal life.  It sucks.  There is no replacement for finding your passion in life and throwing everything you’ve got into it.  Rob busts his behind every.single.day to build his business and career.  I’m lucky to have a front row seat to it.  But I digress slightly….

The questions we get about our lives now have shifted to “how do you two do it?”  And honestly, the answer is pretty simple. There’s no magic formula…

You just figure it out.  

One day, one situation, one thing at a time.

Whatever comes our way, we just deal with it and get it done.

  • Stepping into a puddle of water in our garage as I’m heading to Chicago before 6am due to a broken water heater?  Rob had to figure it out.
  • Juggling mystery sounds in one of our cars and tire issues in the other while Rob was on another continent?  That one was on me.
  • One of us serving as representative from #TeamRipma while the other was away for work, whether at a birthday party, funeral, friend’s get-together, etc?  Both of us have been there.
  • Dealing with unexpected potential medical issues and determining what friend or family member we’d like to accompany us to doctors appointments in place of our spouse, if needed?  This one’s newer, but it’s happened.

We stay connected as best we can when we’re traveling and make lists of things we need to be sure to tell the other. We regularly do ‘calendar checks’ to make sure that we have our schedules straight.  We plan date nights months in advance so we can reserve evenings after one of us returns from a trip so we can catch up face-to-face.  We’ve even been known to have dates at the airport as paths were crossing, one of us returning home and the other leaving.

Our sweet little 19 month old godson has heard “figure it out” a time or two over his short lifetime as he’s trying something new or is confused about how something works.  It’s said with love and encouragement, of course.  He’s just learning, growing, and adjusting.  And he eventually gets there, as he’s one smart little kid.

We do the very same thing everyday with my husband’s business, with our marriage, with our friendship, with the life we’ve built together.

We learn.

We grow.

We adjust.

We just figure it out 🙂

Happy 14 years together, love.  Saying ‘yes’ to a date with you when we were teenagers was just the first of our many adventures.  Cheers to many more!  #TeamRipma

-SMR

 

 

 

Choosing Your Friends

I don’t remember where I first heard or saw it, but I’ve always liked at the phrase:

“Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.”

And I’ve always believed in its validity.  But I’m not sure it’s been more clear to me than last weekend when one of my best friends got married.  

See, I’ve been invited to his family’s get-togethers and celebrations since I met my husband, as they’ve been buddies since age 14.  They are some of the kindest, most welcoming people I know, and we both consider ourselves blessed to have them in our lives and feel like adopted children/cousins. 

As I was looking around the reception venue toward the end of the evening after mingling with a variety of people throughout the night, I realized that I very much felt like I was at a family member’s wedding 🙂  It was similar to how I felt at my actual sister’s wedding earlier in the month, LOL.  

While this is more of an extreme example, it underscored that quote of mine above – that the friends we choose to have AND keep in our lives can and often do become as close as family. 

We have a handful of friends who we really do think of more as brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and heck even sometimes secondary parents.  We’d do anything for them at a moment’s notice, and we know they would do the same.  We’ve seen each other at our best and worst moments and everything in between.  We can enjoy a big day of plans or just an evening hanging out doing nothing but watching YouTube videos.  

I guess at the end of the day, recent events have just reminded me that I’m really lucky with the choices I’ve made in the friend department  🙂

Cheers!

SMR