The Gratitude Zone II – The “People Posts”

On July 13, 2019, I mentioned (not for the first time) my first blog, The Gratitude Zone. At that time, I wasn’t aware that I’d saved what I called my “people” posts. They were posts I made once-a-week or so to show gratitude for the wonderful people in my life.

In one of my purging-of-things-and-stuff moments, which happen fairly often, I destroyed most of the posts. In fact, I wasn’t aware that I’d saved a copy – which lived deep in the recesses of my Google cloud – until… uh… today!

You have likely read the post about my parents, and possibly one or two of the others. I can’t remember. The “why you’ve seen them but not others” is a long story (aren’t they all?) and you’ll thank me not to bore you with it. You’re welcome! I’m leaving them here though, for continuity’s sake.

These posts were all written in early 2013. It feels like a lifetime ago and in fact, it is for several who have crossed over and left a gaping hole in the lives of those who loved them. Another has stepped out of my life for other reasons. Life is like that, eh? Always moving forward…

And so, without further adieu…

Please meet a few of my most beloved friends and family.

Quick note: Some of the spacing is wonky and can’t be repaired, unfortunately. Sorry!

My Internet Friends – Jan, 2013

I don’t have a lot of internet friends but the time I’ve known the ones I have can be counted by decades, not weeks or months.There are at least a half dozen women I met online and have had the privilege and blessing to have known for many years. Oh, there are a couple of new friends, too, found this year among online writing or support groups. I love it! Such is life! I love how that happens. Almost everywhere I go, I meet someone who becomes a friend for years afterwards. Jobs and churches are both fertile friend ground. Of course, you are seeing and hugging and touching those people. With internet friends, it becomes a little trickier, but so, SO worth it! I’d like to tell you about a few them today, using initials that only a select few will recognize just in case they’d prefer to remain anonymous. This is the internet after all, which feels very ironic to say. lol

I met all of these women during one of the worst times of my life. I don’t discuss those years much and I won’t now, either. I would prefer to talk about what each of these women gave me… and to properly thank them.

https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-vhYODSL1lDM/WVgvYHOFJ3I/AAAAAAAAOK0/UvS5SJ1q1HUk-4sgJtccsYQTpHcIkzhEACLcBGAs/s320/253650748119827.jpgCJ and a little book called Praying with Katie (by Don Holt) are synonymous in my mind. I first saw the book at a small bookstore across the street from my house. I didn’t have the money to buy it but went to the store once a week and stood in the aisle reading it, hoping I wouldn’t be caught or asked to leave. The subtitle of the book is “God, My Cat, and Me” which got my attention because, as I have mentioned in the past, I had gone through a crisis of faith myself. Also, I love animals but the addition of our new feline family member reminded me how much I love cats. CJ and I talked online and on the phone frequently and soon were sharing cards and letters. On one particular day, I received a copy of the book in the mail. Inside the book, she inscribed: To my dear friend, Gather up your kitty and enjoy this book. It is just what you need. Your friend, CJ. It is dated October 15, 2001. I cried in gratitude that day and many times after that because of her generosity and kindness and not just because of that book, of course, but it is a tangible reminder of my friend CJ.

P is one of the smartest, wisest and most spiritual women I know, and I know a few! It doesn’t hurt anything that she’s utterly adorable, too. She exudes warmth, light and a merriment for life in spite of some very difficult years of her own. She was there when I laughed, when I cried, when I was confused and lost and trying to find my way. She never gave up on me even when I gave up on myself, which was far too frequent. She tried to help me find peace and calm amid turmoil and had a seemingly infinite reservoir of patience with me. Still, I pulled away, as I often did then, not knowing I was worthy of that kind of love. In the midst of one such time, I received a padded envelope with various items in it, from colorful wax pencils to items I could not afford for myself like special tweezers and cosmetic sponges. When I called to thank her, she said it was just a small thing, just a way to feel pretty and take care of myself. Yes, some of the biggest deals start as the smallest, love-filled gestures. This was a very big deal to me. So much so that years later, about ten years later now, I still remember opening the envelope and the smell of those pencils. P, you are a gem.

Dyl, E, J, L and a few others who may or may not recognize themselves by initials were a group who made sure I never felt alone in the middle of the night. My husband worked a graveyard shift and I couldn’t have felt more alone. They stayed up late and we sometimes talked for hours sharing everything from memories to heartbreaks, encouragement, hopes, prayers and even recipes. These women hold a special place in my heart.

Sometimes it feels like you’re all alone but if you open your eyes you’ll see there are new friends just waiting for you to let them in…

Thank you, dear ladies, for allowing me into your lives and for sharing your lives with me. I am blessed.

2003 My Parents – Jan, 2013

All you need to know is that I lost everything. Not just once, but twice. While my story is ultimately one of redemption, there were stops along that road… some in beautiful fields filled with sunlight… some in deep valleys of darkness.

It was the spring, 2003, though you’d never know it by the weather. It had been snowing non-stop for days after an especially snowy winter. It was like a scene from a tragic love story. My husband stood at the curb waving, trying to stay brave. I watched him for as long as I could as I was driven away in a shuttle headed for the airport. I was numb. It felt surreal and indeed, it was. It would be six months before I’d see him again.

Looking back, I’m not even sure how the decision for me to leave was made. That part is a blur. He lost his job. I was still unable to work legally, after the September 11, 2001 attacks stopped my immigration process cold. My retirement money was gone. We had nothing left and no way to pay for anything. His mother cleared a space in her basement, enough for a twin bed. She graciously took him in, with our cat. I was heading to California. To my parents house. It had been 23 years since I’d eloped with my first husband and come home the next morning to announce I was moving out. Now I was coming home.

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-VovzYi87ot4/WMLY_cgJMuI/AAAAAAAAMbU/KkAPCL_By84p1rNwp3hvYOhefNjHqUQlwCLcB/s320/Becks%2Bwedding%2Btrip%2B059.JPGWhat can I tell you about those six months? I hardly know where to begin. But I do know where to end. In the fall of 2003, I was able to come home to my husband, who had worked very hard rebuild our life together. There is another story to be told about that – this man who found a job and walked in the freezing rain and snow to get to it, for example. Don’t worry, it will be told, eventually. Today, it is all about my parents. Because of them, the woman who came back to my husband was not the same one who left.

My parents took me into their home and healed me in body and soul. They supported me in every imaginable way and took me with them everywhere, including (if you can believe this!) on a vacation they’d planned a year before – and what a blessing those days were. Our vacation home was in Northern California, overlooking an ocean inlet where an otter came to play every single day. Flocks of pelicans flew by the picture windows that stretched all the way around the house. We walked along the cliffs and went to restaurants and gardens… and the sound of the crashing waves put me to sleep every night. It was a magical time for me.

What I am *most* thankful for is the relationship that blossomed with my parents because of this time we had together. And we never would have had the time together had my husband and I not lost everything the way we did. I will never, ever forget the gift my parents gave me… and I cherish them for it.

Lesson from Laurie – Jan, 2013

I’ll call her Laurie, which is a good choice since it’s actually her name. 🙂 She was one of the prettiest girls in high school. Sweet, too. Our last names began with the same letter so we were always in the same general area for lockers and other things where we were lined up in last name order.

I haven’t talked to many of my high school friends in years. There are a few who I have stayed in contact with over the years, even if there were sometimes breaks, even if they lasted for years.

Then came Facebook. And re-enter some really wonderful people that I may not have ever had the delight and privilege to meet again otherwise. Laurie is one of those friends.

Today she said something really profound, though I’m pretty-much sure she was just typing the first thing that came to her mind. Once again, I am learning that if you open your mind to positive, it enters, sometimes unbidden and always with a gift. Always.

So, you’re probably wondering what she could have possibly said that would make that big of an impact. Here goes… but I have to start with what I’d said first. I said: Don’t laugh, but… and then I talked about this 70’s band that I adore (Bread). Laurie responded with, “Why would I laugh?” Indeed, Laurie. Why would you?

I do that a lot. Assume things. Mind read. Give preemptive explanations. That’s not positive thinking! Positive thinking says I know my own intent and I can’t control my audience – nor should I. It says if someone doesn’t like what I like, that’s okay. It says, I am fine, right where I stand, just as I am.

So, Laurie, thank you. Thank you for the reminder and for giving me something important to put in writing today!

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Have I mentioned my husband lately? – Jan, 2013

I met Richard at one of the lowest times in my life. It wasn’t fair to put so much pressure on him… but … my entire world revolved around him and through him, like breathing, especially when I moved thousands of miles (and over a country border) away from everything I knew to be with him.

He was worth it.

We’ve fought through a lot of adversity, drama and heartache… not from within our relationship but from outside sources. In the midst of it, I was reminded of that old Helen Reddy song, “You and Me Against the World”. Boy, did it feel like we were waging a battle at times… but never, ever against each other. I found this remarkable. I’d married my first husband young and we were passionate about everything as only 20-year-old’s can be, including fighting. And BOY, did we fight! For 20 long years we fought… until all the fight was gone… and the marriage was over. I thought that “fighting” = “caring” = “loving”. My entire life felt like a fight for something. I really thought this was normal. And then normal wasn’t good enough.

My second marriage is an oasis. It is a lifelong relationship with my best friend. He’s the guy I want to call first with good news or bad, important stuff or stupid stuff. He’s the smartest man I know and adorably cute. He’s warm and cuddly… and a dichotomy, too, this peaceful man who listens, plays and lives for punk rock. And not that crap that passes for punk. Real punk. lol

If I had to sum him up with one example, I would talk about the early mornings… the same beautiful routine each day. Our cat, Tess, comes in to wake us. Richard never gets angry at her, even if she comes in an hour or two before the alarm is set to go off. He gets up and says good morning to her and she weaves back and forth between his legs and almost trips him. They walk downstairs together while he goes about the business of getting the day started. Food for Tess, coffee for us. And then he brings it to me in bed, gently waking me. Always. Over and over again, this morning dance… such a little thing. But so big, too.

I said he was worth it and that’s the truth. The truth that was harder for me to see was that *I* was also worth it.

So, today, thank you Richard. For everything.

Jenny – Jan, 2013

We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion. ~ Max de Pree

I met Jenny a million years ago… or forty… and it doesn’t really matter, anyway. It’s like she’s always been here, tucked in a quiet corner of my heart.

I have many memories of our young friendship… back when we were pre-teens… and into high school, our early 20’s and beyond… and then, a silent time apart… and then finding each other again in our 40’s… while we were still young enough to remember what came before it.

She was always an artist… a shy, quiet, painfully beautiful creator who had no idea of her power. Having grown up in a very large family, she felt invisible. I was the exact opposite. I grew up on a small family and was bigger than life all by myself… in every imaginable way. I had power and I knew it… but it ricocheted haphazardly into everything it touched. Where Jenny created, I destroyed… and in that place between, our friendship existed.

In the last ten years, our friendship has evolved, once again… as most great friendships do. I find it difficult to articulate what this friendship has meant to me… but as so often happens with me, an example will tell the story better than I can.

In the summer of 2011, my son was involved in a serious car crash. What led to it is his story to tell, not mine, but as his mother, of course I have my part in it. There was so much confusion and pain in the entire situation. I hardly remember anything from the night it happened… or the two to three days afterward. I know I called Jenny, incoherent, inconsolable and basically just cried while she listened… though I have no idea what I said. She was a loving voice, a heartbeat on the other side of the phone.

I know I was trying to find a way to get to California where he lives. I had just been to visit earlier in the summer and had no extra money for another ticket. I remember Jenny asking if she could get me a ticket… and me saying I didn’t know… I was sobbing… I remember this moment so clearly. I don’t know… I don’t know what I want! And then, the next day I was throwing things into a suitcase. Jenny had bought the ticket for me. She just did it. As I sit typing this, I feel my heart racing, dizziness, anxiety… tears… and then I feel the calm seep in. I got there for my son, and for me. We both needed me to be there. It was because Jenny heard what was beyond the words… so often the case with her. She has this gift. On that day, her gift was to me.

So today, I pay a small tribute… so small in comparison to what she’s given me… but as heartfelt and expansive as I can be in this venue… to my friend Jenny. I love you!

My Ex-Husband – Jan, 2013

What kind of nut is thankful for their ex? Me!

Over the years, I have come to realize that my ex and I are part of a small club: The Just Because You’re My Ex Doesn’t Mean You’re The Devil Incarnate Club. I know of many hateful, mean-spirited, angry ex spouses… and I’m not saying there aren’t reasons for people to feel this way. I’m also not saying that my ex and I don’t have darned good reasons to hate each other. Make no mistake – we do. We both made some very hurtful, stupid, colossal mistakes in our marriage. Since 1980, he and I have gone through cycles of love, hate, punishment and forgiveness, a few times over… and have finally landed in a place called Redemption. No, it did not heal our marriage but it allowed us to have a relationship we can be proud of.

His name is David and he won’t read this. He’s not the nosy type and if he wanted to know what I was doing, he’d just call and ask me, not that we talk often… we don’t. He has a Facebook account but never uses it… has had the same cell phone number since 1995… and only bought a computer because he needs it for keeping track of his business. He’s what we used to call the strong, silent type… an outdoors man… who would rather hike the hills or install a plumbing system than sit at a desk. We were, and still are, opposites in so many ways.

Just because we didn’t stay married doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate his good qualities… or be thankful for his kindness and care since our divorce. Case in point: I mentioned our son’s car crash in my post yesterday and how my friend Jenny bought me a ticket. It’s not like I had the ability to make reservations for a hotel or rent a car… I could barely function. I didn’t want a hotel room anyway… I wanted to be with my son who was sent home from the hospital to await surgery.

He is an adult with special needs and lives with his dad… which, as an aside, is the first thing I am incredibly thankful for… that he has never had to worry about where he would go. I didn’t drag him away from his home or his life when I moved here and he has always had a place with his father.

So, after the crash… there was no question about where I would go, either. David said, of course you will come here… and we made a cot on the floor of our son’s room, next to his bed. That’s where I slept the first few nights. That’s right, I slept under the same roof as my ex… and was thankful… so very thankful… for the opportunity. I was there for nearly two weeks, right through the surgery… and at one point, all our children (and significant others) were there in sleeping bags, on couches… and we all took turns sleeping on that cot.

I could get preachy here and talk about family being what you make it and romantic love not being the only kind of love there is… and how there are a million big and small ways to show someone you care and that they matter…

I could also talk about my wonderful, understanding and compassionate husband who exudes confidence in our marriage, in himself… and in me…

But today, I am thanking David. I know how lucky and blessed I am and I do not take any of it for granted.

My favorite sister – Jan, 2013

If I had a million bucks and was a betting person, I would put it all down on “I’m also my sister’s favorite sister” because, well, it’s just the two of us. 🙂

The loss of my friend’s sister yesterday kept me awake last night. I’m very sensitive, as I have mentioned before, and after talking with her on the phone last night, I felt her anguish deeply… and also wished I could do something besides listen, which perhaps was enough… now that I think of it.

It also made me think of my own sister, of course.

Tracy and I are 3.5 years apart in age. When I was a teenager and she was 10, it felt light years apart. As we got older, the years pulled closer and closer together like a gathered thread. Now that we’re both over 50, it feels like we’re both the same age.

We were always different as can be… she was an introvert. I was an extrovert. She was quiet and studious. I was loud and far too busy to study. She was thrifty with her money, it burned a hole in my pocket. She was careful, I was a risk taker. And as we aged… our differences branched out… she leans to the right, politically… I lean left. Way left. She plans. I tend to go by the seat of my pants. And on and on it goes…

But there was one thing we shared that has grown and flourished through the years… and I believe it is the glue that holds our friendship together: we have the same silly, warped, frankly awful sense of humor.

https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-hkSDqaRopZo/WV_lCenQCvI/AAAAAAAAOM0/4IUibCuiFfgE5FZiZjdjIEIPs5hARcLxQCLcBGAs/s320/IMAG1653_1_2_1.jpgI know who to blame it on, too. Our dad! I mean, C’mon, he watched Monty Python, Laugh-In and Benny Hill. What did we expect? Mom often rolled her eyes at the three of us, overcome with laughter at some ridiculous, inane joke. Not that she wasn’t funny – she was – but she rarely realized it. She would say something in all seriousness and before you knew it, we were all laughing our heads off. She would be saying, “What? What did I say?” I’m telling you, the gang on Three’s Company didn’t hold a candle to my mother’s unintentional double entandres. But I digress.

Each night at the dinner table, Dad regaled us with stories about his day… some of them were flat-out made up tales that rolled into a ball of merriment… like the one about a guy that stole something from the local Ralph’s (a grocery store). I remember this specific story because it was his most ambitious to date… possibly since… very detailed… from inside the store to out in the parking lot… and honest-to-God took a half hour to tell. The best part was… after all that… it ended so badly we literally boo’d and hissed him. Don’t feel bad for him. He deserved it. lol

So, this is where Tracy and I find a magical middle-ground… a place we can always go.

Just this morning we had the following exchange, and I’m still giggling. I texted her to say hello. I have this new phone, you see, and well… look what happened…

Me: Hey! just thinking about you! Home today. Love you!

Her: Hi! Why are you home… all okay?

Me: Just a day off. But been Dick top like everyone else I know.

(Then I realized the auto correct had changed my “sick too” to “Dick top”.)

Me: Dick top… it’s a code. lol New phone, old fingers. haha

Her: I have to say that it DID make me laugh out loud!!

I know it did… I can hear her laughing out loud from three thousand miles away.

This is my sister and me… we don’t talk often but try to check in once a week or so… and if nothing else… we have a laugh. I love that.

Nana – Feb, 2013

I work for a newspaper and a part of my job is to help clients create memorials to honor the life of someone they’ve loved and lost. It is my favorite part of the job. I love what these notices represent: A life… a light that continues to shine in the lives of those left behind.

It is a privilege to become a part of these tributes… to listen… to laugh and sometimes, to cry, though never in front of the client. More than once, I have had someone at my desk sobbing… and at those times I really need to concentrate on the job so I don’t burst out crying myself. These notices are intensely personal and I have seen everything from a simple two or three line acknowledgement to a half page with photos and poetry, angels with trumpets and crosses. Can you tell I love the whole concept?

There was never any question what I would write about today. Eight years ago, at right about this moment, my precious grandmother took her last breath. My world would be changed forever.

How do I begin to describe someone who made me feel like I was the most important person on earth – while somehow making everyone else she met feel the same way?

Nana loved root beer floats, playing gin rummy and the smell of Downey fabric softener. She prayed fervently and loved the Lord more than anyone I’ve ever met, before or after. She cooked liver from the butcher for her dog Cindy, who was her closest companion, especially after my grandfather passed away in 1980. She loved Elvis Presley, Ronald Reagan and Billy Graham. She loved sun-shiny days best and hung her laundry from the line in her backyard whenever possible. She watched One Life to Live and General Hospital every single day. Her home was immaculate and perpetually smelled like coffee and Estee’ perfume… and both of these scents take me right back to her knee. I smell her perfume for no darned reason every once in awhile… even now, as I write, I swear I can smell it and it gives me comfort to think she is nearby… my own special angel.

When I was a child, I can remember bathing in her tub with my sister, surrounded by blue tiles. I remember being dried off with big, soft towels and afterwards, being powdered with a fluffy perfumed puff. It felt so nurturing and lovely… such a small thing, really… but here I am, over 50 and still remembering the decadence of it… but it is more than that, too… it is the loving touch.

Within the walls of her home, I felt as if time stood still. The memories are like that, too… a hazy, perfect place with strawberries on the kitchen wallpaper…

I used to say that when she died you could throw me in after her. I wondered how I would ever live without her. She lived for over 90 years, though her final years were not easy – on her or anyone else. Dementia is difficult… a major understatement. But in her last days, she gave me a gift that I shared at her memorial service and I will end with it here, too.

Nana lived with my parents at the end of her life and I was fortunate enough to come see her the last week before she died. I spent a lot of time in Nana’s room, pulling a chair close to her bed… close enough to hold her hand over the railing. She mostly didn’t know who I was but I told her, over and over again, how much I loved her and the impact she had on my life. Sometimes we simply sat in silence.

On this day, I noticed Nana looking up. I said, “Nana, what do you see?” She said, “Oh, I’m just looking at all the people up there.” I looked up, but of course didn’t see anyone. “Can you tell who they are?” I asked. She said she couldn’t see their faces but they were just floating up there. I said, “Are they angels?” and she smiled sweetly and nodded yes. I said, “Oh Nana, the angels are here to watch over you!” and she turned her face to me and said, “Not just me, they’re watching over all of us.”

This is Nana’s legacy… her faith, her gift… and I honor her memory today.

Annie – Feb, 2013

When I moved to Canada, it was tough making friends, especially since I didn’t like myself much. It didn’t help that I was over 40 and totally discombobulated in pretty-much every way. I’d made this monumental decision to move thousands of miles from everything and everyone I knew to begin a new life with – and for – a man. Sheesh! Feminist, much? lol He was the beginning, middle and end of everything. Yes, I knew it would be tough for so many reasons… but I also knew I’d survive. I always survive. But the cost was a little higher than anticipated.

My family, including my children, were very supportive and of course we’ve stayed close. The friends I left behind were supportive, too, but most… while not forgotten… did fade away from the closeness we once shared. I blamed the distance and the time difference… but also, if I’m honest, I also blamed myself and our circumstances, which led to years of misery and let’s face it…that’s just not fun to be around, or listen to.

When I began my current job, nearly seven years ago now, I met some neat women who, through the years,have definitely become pals, some close pals. But there is one woman who has become like a sister to me and I am incredibly thankful that she came into my life.

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-uF-JPLBFeqo/WN5e5M64mXI/AAAAAAAAMrg/mYg6CVHbX-UxJwK0HbmlWPfEeEkWCGqQgCLcB/s200/577878_144157155735854_643171134_n.jpgHer name is Annie. I love her name. It sounds literary and beautiful… and a little bit vintage. She is like a bright light… plus gorgeous, smart and funny as hell. I always gravitate toward strong women and Annie is no exception to that rule. Like so many of my close friends throughout the years, she may be powerful but she has a vulnerable, child-like quality, too, and it makes me want to hug her, giggle with her and protect her from baddies.

We’d been work buds for years before a certain day in 2011 when we sat in her kitchen drinking tea after a work function… and I suddenly blurted out my story, my secrets, and what made me a bad person who didn’t deserve a real friend. I remember looking up from my tea, sweat on my brow and tears in my eyes, expecting her to ask to me to leave. Instead, she was crying. She told me I was safe, worthy, lovable and loved. Remember those snapshot moments I mentioned before? This is one of them. I can still see her, bathed in light like an angel (or maybe that’s just my imagination)… offering me a safe place in her heart and home. I will never, ever forget it.

Since then, Richard and I have been included in outings and get together’s with her husband and her… and their family… but more importantly, we have been made to feel that we’re not just friends, but a part of their extended family. And you know what? It goes both ways. They are a part of our family… our chosen family… which sometimes is the best of all.

Leslie – Feb, 2013

Good Friends are like stars… you don’t always see them, but you know they’re always there.

Her father drew a picture of a beautiful woman (something magical – a fairie? a mermaid?) that she kept in her bedroom… and for years afterwards, when I thought of her, I pictured the woman in the drawing… and they became intertwined in my mind. She was… beautiful, ethereal, and incredibly bright, fun and funny. She was a touchstone… the person I went to when I needed to find myself. My teenage years were weighted with angst… I was the heavy-girl in a clown mask… wrapped in a shroud of pain. It wasn’t fair, but I put her on a pedestal… and she became my safe place in a storm. My oasis.

She smelled incredible all the time, made excellent tuna sandwiches, taught me how to drive stick shift in her Karmann Ghia (good Lord, I know some of the noises that transmission made were not normal – lol), played the acoustic guitar and sang like an angel (John Denver’s Follow Me always reminds me of her). She never forgot a birthday and had a knack for making everyone feel special. Her house had the neatest sun room overlooking a black-bottom pool (I have thought of that room so many times, wishing I could duplicate it). Back before spas were so popular, her house reminded me of one. It felt like a healing place.

But there was this other side of her, too… and that other side had a raunchy, earthy sense of humor.. and she loved to laugh. I loved to laugh with her. And boy, did we. A lot!

Good grief, this makes it sound like she’s no longer around… and indeed, she is! But there were about twenty years in between where we lost touch… and only found each other again several years ago. Facebook and the internet were made for people like me to find people like Leslie.

For years, I hoped I could find her one day to thank her for all she meant to me. When I finally got the chance, I struggled with the words… thank you seemed so small. As she always had, she heard all the words, spoken and unspoken, and opened her heart to me again… or perhaps, it had never been closed at all… just ajar… waiting for me to knock. I like that. It feels just right.

Betsy – Feb, 2013

This post has been waiting ever so quietly and patiently in the background to be written. Why? I’ve been thinking about that.

There is a sacredness to it… this I know for sure. Maybe it’s because she’s come so close to death… and upon reflection, I believe that is it, exactly.

She is a beautiful, golden thread, woven masterfully throughout my life. This is a bond made from love… and prayer… and a shared desire to never, ever let go… no matter what.

From silly antics to braces to first loves to proms… to drunken craziness to treks through the mountains to rainy days in gutters… to marriages to children- loved and lost… to cancer to car crashes…

I think Betsy said it best in my high school year book – though I can’t write what she said because it was four pages long! Up to that point, we had a bazillion things happen… and that was 35 years ago.

I remember when I got her letter about breast cancer, written by hand on lined yellow paper. I was in the kitchen. I can see myself holding that stack of paper… silent, like stone, frozen in time. Cancer. 50% chance. What the… she was in her early 30’s. I thought, she’s a vegetarian, she runs, she’s never had a weight problem, she is ethereal, spiritual in a way I envied… WTF? (Excuse the language but if you can’t think the f-word when talking about cancer, I don’t know a better time!)

Not only did she survive… she thrived and began her own advocacy network. I would follow in her footsteps for my own work… and thank her for showing me the way…

And then it was taken away from her…

And I remember wondering why? Why did this beautiful person with so much love to give have so many rotten, terrible things happen to her?

And yet… she still got up again… moved forward… kept on going… and damn if she didn’t build again!

An inspiration? Uh, yeah.

We haven’t hugged in 20 years… haven’t seen each other face to face… but when I think of lifelong friends, she is the first person who comes to mind. We have never lost touch, though there have been quiet times…

When my son crashed, in 2011, she texted me every single day for two weeks. Sometimes just one line: How are you today?… or… I love you. A touchstone. This is her greatest gift… this loving she does behind the scenes… whether she is feeling good or bad, well or sick… up or down… that thread I mentioned… weaving like a master… nimble fingers…

I am here, she says, and I’m not going anywhere.

Betsy, I am here, too… and if holding you in my heart counts for anything… and I know it does, especially to you, I will always be here. Thinking of you… and thanking you for the gifts you have given so freely…

Kim – Feb, 2013

She might think that I’m writing this today because it’s her birthday or because she told me – just yesterday – that she is enjoying my blog. No, and no. I’m using a very scientific method to determine what I write about on any given day. I throw dice. No, just kidding… what I do is… I think about it first thing in the morning. If something comes to me, I make the decision right then and there. If nothing comes to me, I think about it off and on during the day. If, at 8pm or 11pm, I still haven’t come up with something… I make it up. Kidding again. But I do just pull anything out of the air and do my darndest to make it interesting.

But my writing habits are not the reason I’m writing today. Kim is.

We met in the High Desert of California, in a bank where we both worked… way back in… what?… 1988-89? Oh my gosh… was it actually that long ago?

Kim didn’t belong in the desert. I didn’t, either, for that matter. It doesn’t mean we both didn’t find things to love about it: the clear air… the sunshine… the warmth… the lack of crowds. There was something kind of magical about the High Desert back then.

(For those who wonder about High Desert vs. Low Desert, though nobody calls it the Low Desert… High Desert is on the way to Vegas… up the 15 freeway after passing through the Cajon Pass for all the Californians who use travelling markers… and Low is Palm Springs, etc. High has Joshua trees, low has cactus. High gets snow in the winter. Low is warmer all year. Also, people came to the High Desert for only a few reasons: health, cheap housing and/or hiding from the law. It was incredibly beautiful and virtually empty compared to the big cities. Additional Side Note: when I moved to Canada in 2000, Starbucks wasn’t yet in the desert and wouldn’t be for a few more years.)

Oh my gosh, sorry Kim… went off on a tangent there.

She was from Wisconsin and never quite lost the accent. She’ll probably say she has no accent, just as I say I have no California accent, though people tell me I do about once a week. She looked like Jessica Lange back then… do you remember Jessica Lange? She was in Tootsie – the beautiful girl that Dustin Hoffman falls in love with. Kim reminded me so much of Jessica Lange and not just how she looked… her countenance, too. Kim always had a very ethereal quality… she seemed to float on air… but she had a strength, too. I almost don’t know how to describe it. And I shouldn’t say “had” either… because she still has it. She still looks a little like Jessica Lange but is much prettier, more natural, and… well… Kim.

She was the bank President’s admin assistant. Funny story about something we found out. The Pres’s name was Stebbins. Kim and I laughed our butts off when we noticed that Stebbins name always offered a spellcheck correction of “Stubbiness”… Mr. Stubbiness. Hahaha… but I digress. Kind of… because laughter is something that she and I shared… and we did it a lot!

She moved back to Wisconsin years before I moved to Canada but still, she cried when I told her I was going. She was a good barometer and I should have listened more carefully… but that is (perhaps) a story for another day. In spite of her reservations, she supported me fully and continued to support me when we lost everything… and in a very tangible way. She sent the most beautiful, thoughtful, jam packed care packages… and not just once but off and on for a couple of years. All my favorites were there… things I couldn’t get in Canada (like Starkist tuna, enchilada sauce and instant unflavored, unsweetened tea)… and treats, too… like the most heavenly chocolate truffles. Oh. my. goodness. Melt in your mouth…

Kim and I don’t talk all the time, though we do play Words With Friends. lol I actually thought her birthday was yesterday and sent her a message… uh… no… it’s today. See, I had in on my calendar… as today… but thought yesterday was today. Does this make sense? It will if you’re over 50. lol

Happy Birthday, Kim… I treasure our friendship… and you!

Lorraine – Mar, 2013

My ex-husband’s sister, Lorraine, calls me her sister. Sis, for short. Her family was like this. Everyone that joined the family, whether by blood or love, was family… and they stayed that way. It’s something I didn’t fully appreciate when I first joined them. I came from a very small family and we were a private bunch. No, actually *I* wasn’t so private, as you may have guessed. But I had my moments of absolute terror as they bombarded me with love and attention… and tried to teach me that passing gas wasn’t the end of the world. Not the point, though. lol Back to my story. When I married my first husband, I joined the family. 🙂

Funny thing about divorce – you don’t just divorce your spouse. There is all sorts of collateral damage. The children first, of course… although most thoughtful people plan for that. But you don’t often plan for extended family… at least, I didn’t. Instead, I assumed…. and we all know what that makes me.

Prior to the divorce becoming final, his parents came to my ex’s apartment and we had a BBQ. They took me aside and said I would always be their daughter. I completely believed them and agreed. I could not imagine my life without them in it. Twenty years is a long time… and we’d been through a lot as a family.

My family wanted a relationship with my ex-husband, too… and at first, he agreed. But a “not haha” funny thing happened on the way to the courthouse. My ex and I were both angry and hurt and our belongings were split down the middle, including (to my horror) our families.It wasn’t meant to be that way… it wasn’t planned… but it’s what happened.

As the years passed and healing progressed… my ex and I built another relationship from the ashes and this allowed us to reach out to our extended family members, too. He carried my grandmother’s casket, as she most definitely would have wanted. I held his father’s tear-stained face in my hands at our daughter’s wedding, just as he had held mine decades before. His mother told me how much she loved and missed me. Lorraine and I talked and laughed… just like we had years before.

Lorraine and I have tried to keep in touch over the years. It’s been up and down. Doesn’t matter. You don’t just stop being sisters because a piece of paper was thrown between you, or the miles separate you or you can’t talk for awhile…

There were never any limits on the size of my family. And once you’re in it, you stay. I learned this from the best.

Written in memory of Bill and Janet Steiner and for my sis, Lorraine. I love you.

Bob – Mar, 2013

Some people save your sanity a little… Bob is one of those people.

He probably won’t read this because I’m guessing his life is way too busy to comb through blogs, even if a post is named after him. That’s okay. I’m writing this for me to remember… and to put good energy out there… and maybe to entertain you, dear reader.

Back to saving sanity. Bob saved mine in high school. High School is difficult enough for most kids, I’m sure we can all agree with that. Well, I was… um… mostly chubby and funny. I guess kind of cute, too, in a chubby, funny kind of way. I was the class clown. (I joke, but I was actually voted Most Humorous in my senior year and it is a title I wear proudly, even 35+ years later! lol) Funny doesn’t always translate to popular, though, especially if you’re just this side of weird-funny. I was -and still am- just this side… Bob was also just this side.

He and I were kindred spirits, although people didn’t say stuff like that back then. He was a guy and I was a girl… but yeah, didn’t matter.

I never worried about being left in a corner at a school dance because Bob was there to dance with… I was never alone at a football game because Bob was there to cheer with… he kept me company between classes, we went to Naugles for tacos… yes, Bob was there a lot. He was there when my heart was broken, which was too often. He made me laugh – all the time. We were even extras in a movie together. Sadly, it never came out… lol… bummer, that!

He drove a Capri… gosh, I’d forgotten that until just now… and we drove all over town in that car. But we got bored easily and had to make our own fun. Remember me saying we were just this side of weird-funny? um…. well…

My grandmother had this old pair of glasses – cat eyed, silver, metal rims, from the 1950’s. We’d take turns wearing them… which always cracked each other up… they were so out of fashion and too small for either of our faces… for some reason this tickled us to no end. Anyway, always on a quest to amuse ourselves, we had this thing we did.

We’d drive up in front of a place like the Broadway department store. Whoever was wearing the glasses would ask someone walking in:

“Um, excuse me, but do you know where the Broadway department store is?”

They would look around, then up at the huge lettering on the side of the building that read “The Broadway” and then back at us…

“Isn’t this it, right here?” they’d ask.

“No, I don’t think so,” we’d say seriously, squinting through the glasses. “But then, I can’t see that well…”

By then we were usually giggling like idiots and the tires would squeal as we sped away.

Explaining is now sounds kind of lame. It soooooooooooooowasn’t lame. It was hilarious! Oh, I wish you could have been there!

Bob was… well… wonderful. I was so lucky and blessed to have him as a friend.

However, and you may have seen this coming (which would make you a party of one because *I* sure didn’t)… I kind of fell in love with him… just a little. Looking back, I’m sure it was as obvious as a freight train… but he was such a gentlemen… and let me down gently. It was never meant to be…

The last time I saw him in person, we met at this cool restaurant called The Bahooka. It was 1980. I’d married my first husband… and he was the jealous type and didn’t think girls could be friends with guys. He had nothing to worry about but I couldn’t convince him… and once again, Bob was a gentlemen, just as I knew he would be.

And so, tonight, I am sitting here grinning as I think of my friend Bob… and on second thought, I hope he does read this. Bob… thank you… for saving my sanity.

Eileen – Mar, 2013

Sometimes you get second chances. In fact, you often do… but you have to keep your eyes and ears open… and watch… because the window of opportunity may be short. I am so thankful that I got a second chance with Eileen.

I first met her in 1990 as I was applying for my job at the college. In trying to remember what I thought at the time, words like powerful, beautiful and aloof come to mind. She had this English accent, you see…

It took a grand total of one day to realize how incredibly warm and funny she was… and yes, powerful, too. I always gravitate to powerful women. The surprise was her vulnerability. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

She has the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen… seriously, like Liz Taylor beautiful. She is one of the most highly intelligent people I know – off the charts smart. (Hey, that rhymes! lol) She is spiritual and earthy, loves all kinds of music… and dogs – oh, how she loves dogs… and sunshine and flowers. I remember how we used to put on Rock Lobster and dance around the offices before the students got there. She was so much fun! She saw the humor in absolutely everything – me, included, which is a very good thing.

My favorite stupid-moment-with-Eileen story (and I honestly do have a million of ’em) is this: We were at one of those outdoor strip malls in the desert. It was lunch time. We’d just been to Payless, a drug store and were walking to Vons, a grocery store. I have no idea why this came to my mind at the time but I simply said, “You know, if I were a lesbian, I would want kd lang as my girlfriend. She could just sing to me.” I realized, a few steps later, that Eileen was no longer next to me. I turned back and she was standing there… with a straight face, in silence. Then she started laughing… not just laughing but doubled over, choking and laughing. All she said is, “Oh My God!”…

When I think of Eileen, it is so often that moment I picture… her, doubled over, laughing her head off.

When I moved to Canada there was a lot of drama surrounding it, especially at work. The reasons why are a story for another day – or never – not sure yet. Point is, there was a lot of drama… and my dear friend got pulled into the vortex. We tried to stay in touch but some things got in the way. I picture the tornado in Dorothy’s Kansas… the cow, the barn, Toto in the basket, and Eileen, along with some other people and things… just swirling… close by… but not close enough to touch. Soon, it was just easier to let it go, say goodbye and quit watching for it. And so I did.

But every once in awhile, I would see something fly by… a moment that could be grasped… if only I’d reach out. A second chance… which I grabbed onto with both hands recently… and I am so glad I did!

Amends made, tears shed, friendship restored… love never lost though a little crack here and there… mended now.

Is there anything better?

Thank you, Eileen, for trusting me with your heart… as I do you with mine. Our friendship was, and is, worth it.

Deborrah – April, 2013

She introduced me to my first husband but I won’t hold that against her. (Hee hee)

We met while working at Bob’s Big Boy (for those from the area, the one on the corner by West Covina Plaza – remember that place?). It was 1977 or 78 and that would put us around 20 but honestly, I don’t remember too many of the finer details. It was the late 1970’s and I (quite frankly) spent most of it drunk.

Anyway… she and I did not like each other at all.

Back in the day… well, it was actually between the day… oh shoot, I have to take a short rabbit trail and tell this story: Back in the day, Bob’s Big Boy waitresses were required to wear hairpieces. Yes, you read that right… the women had to wear hair pieces to look like a beehive hairdo. No kidding! Anyway, I say “between the day“ because Deb was at the tail end of that hairpiece business and I was in the hairnet era, although I was sporting a Dorothy Hamill type hairstyle so didn’t have to wear it. Deb’s hair was long, so she did, which she preferred to the hairpiece for obvious reasons.

Anyway…

I was hired as a hostess and she was the person who trained me. Let’s just say I had a bit of an attitude back then (say it ain’t so!). I was having too much fun in those years and this job was no exception. We had to speak into a microphone and I would hear myself laughing in full stereo sound as I called, “Butt family, party of 3″… which tickled immature-me to no end… the Butt family did not find it so humorous. This caused a problem. So, I was relegated to simply leading the people Deb would call to their tables. “Go stand down there,” she’d say… “on that dot”… there was a dot on the floor. I found this ludicrous and annoying but did as I was told.

Then there was an employee party and I needed a ride. Don`t ask me how, but somehow, I ended up in Deb`s car. After that, we became “instant“ friends. While my other friends were listening to the Who and Queen and going to concerts, Deb was into the disco scene. Soon, we were going to clubs and dancing ourselves into Disco Heaven. Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen, we wore spandex dresses, pantyhose from the egg, stiletto heels and glittered our way into the hearts of men in very, very tight polyester pants.

We drove everywhere in her little brown sportscar with a license plate that said “Lil Hot 1“… those were certainly the days!

Somewhere along the line, I found out that Debbie was kind. Not just kind but truly good people. She knew how to have fun but she never ran over someone else to do it. She had her own code of ethics that she lived by and never deviated from it. I was a wild child… she was fun and social… but… more careful, especially with her safety. She and I had many discussions about settling down… and in fact, it may be why she introduced me to my ex. It worked, because only weeks later, I was married and settling down. A year later, I was a mother for the first time. And Debbie was an honorary aunt.

In the early years, she was there… helping to plan parties, making quilts for the kids, holding my hands when my marriage went through its first bumpy roads in the late 1980`s. In retrospect, that may have been why I began drifting from her. She knew too much. Also, my little family and I moved 100 miles away to start over after an especially rough patch. And we started going to church… a fundamental church.. and those who didn`t agree with our beliefs were quickly pushed aside. Not very Christian or loving (a shameful realization, but there it is). We did attempt to stay in touch but once my ex and I divorced and I moved to Canada, Deb and I completely lost touch.

And then my ex-husband`s mother died. My love for my in-laws is well documented so of course I wanted to be there… but couldn`t. However, my sister was able to go and share my condolences… I was so thankful. My ex`s family members came to her with phone numbers and addresses for me.. including Debbie. So, this lovely blessing came out of something very sad.

The rest, as they say, is history. However, we are now thousands of miles apart with conflicting time zones and schedules and limited phone service. Thank goodness for Facebook, though she rarely checks in. She probably won`t even see this… but it`s okay… because, as everyone who reads me knows, it`s about putting the good out there not recognition.

So, today, Debbie, it`s about you. It`s about who you were and have remained: the kindest person I have ever known. A simple statement… that carries profound weight. Thank you for being my friend.

2 comments

  1. Where do the years go?? What a great post. It says far more about you than about any of your peeps. It is we who are fortunate to have you in our lives, far more than the reverse.

    Isn’t it fun to read things we wrote years ago? Your voice (and heart and spirit) shines through so perfectly.

    xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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