Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thanks, my friend! (Jan. 31)

Serendipity? I don't know if I believe in it. Coincidence? I'll call it that. And an unhappy coincidence last week when pondering a friend to thank in my (semi) weekly "Thanks my friend!"  
My friend, Kathy, came to mind when I replied to a FB status on a scrapbook magazine page asking who I would most want to scrapbook with me. She and I used to do so when we lived nearer each other, and I have yet to meet anyone who wants to do the same where we live now. It's crazy, because I gave Kathy so much crap about being a scrapbooker until she sucked me into the hobby! Karma from those remarks led me to spend countless income at Michael's. 

We're also good friends outside of "cropping." I miss working with Kathy, who was the first one to reach out to me in that environment, and loved our lunch-time errands and conversation. Lunch at her mom's house is now a bittersweet memory, too.

Kathy's mother died unexpectedly last week, the same day I'd been thinking about her and posted the FB reply about getting crafty, even though we hadn't talked in a few months. A mutual friend gave me the news about Kathy's mom, Joyce, that same night. It was just odd that I hadn't thought about giving Kathy a call for awhile, but I still don't believe it when people say, "I just had a feeling something was going to happen..." That's stupid and unreal. A weird coincidence nonetheless. 

One thing I always say about Kathy is she has more common sense than anyone else I know. She worked on a farm almost her entire life and could mend a fence, bake and decorate the hell out of a cake, and get one kid to a ball game while she's on the way to get another to a 4-H meeting -- practically all at the same time! Kathy is the only person I know who actually cleans her house every Saturday, and I mean EVERY Saturday. This woman is a dynamo -- a mom of four kids who has enough love and energy to go around for all of them.  

I don't remember ever seeing Kathy in a bad mood. Maybe justifiably perturbed at something, but not in a long-lasting pissy sort of way. And I don't think she'd show it if she was. She has grace under pressure and has always been a pure joy to me. I hope she knows that, so I want to tell her "thanks, my friend!" 

Think of someone you love but haven't told that lately. Tell them ... now!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Without Kids - Studio 30+ writing prompt

In reading the book How to be A Woman by British author Caitlin Moran recently, I was struck by a statement she made regarding the power of personal stories and how they lend credibility to greatly contested subjects.  Moran is a journalist who offers her own experience of having an abortion long after giving birth to her first two children.  Much earlier, she’d lost her first baby to stillbirth just before her wedding day.  There seemed to be some equalization present there – in my opinion – one lost by chance and the other by choice. 
Moran talks about what happened in an unashamed manner that I admire, mentioning a very private experience in a public forum with no excuse necessary.  She is strong enough to air her own story so readers may stop to think of her circumstances as more real, more immediate, not speculative.  Doing so helped lend to her credibility in my mind.  She wasn’t proselytizing on an unknown topic.  It was real for her. 
Her words reinforced my belief that people don’t need to justify themselves to anyone.  A wise woman I know always says, “Your friends don’t need an explanation, and your enemies won't believe you anyway.”  Moran is confident of having made the right decision for her and drives the point home with her brave openness about it. 
That chapter of Moran's book took me back to the memory of a gynecologist‘s waiting room several years ago.  Patients were called to a separate “holding area” to be weighed and have urine samples taken for pregnancy testing.  Some eyes were downcast, most likely of those woman crossing their fingers for a negative result.  Others waited, nonplussed, dreading the cold steel exam table, stirrups, speculum, and backless gown of a routine checkup.  And some likely sat anxiously hoping for what they considered good news of being pregnant. 
A particularly joyous young lady was there giving up her day's fluid intake to the sacrificial paper cup in hopes of her own positive reading.  I, being at what is considered “advanced maternal age,” unwillingly eavesdropped on the ensuing glee at her test results.  What a happy day for her and her partner -- if he was, in fact, a willing participant in co-parenting.  Good for them.  
My husband and I married in our 30s, and I doubted whether we’d ever have children.  Throughout childhood, and even into my teens and early 20s, I had always wanted to eventually be a mom.  I had taken it for granted there would be babies in my future, not a life without kids.  It just didn’t happen, and I'd accepted the facts.  My life was happy, and I'd accomplished lots in my 37 or so years on the planet.   
But I gave the woman a sidelong glance as she gushed about her impending motherhood.  Young, inexperienced, over the moon with happiness, she had no idea what other people around her were experiencing at that moment.  Justifiably, she wasn’t thinking of anyone else’s reason for being there – only the insular bubble of her own proverbial pee stick.  So, once again … good for her.
The first-time-mom-to-be had no concept of how her actions were perceived by other women there.  Someone like me, who was there under the not-so-happy conditions of her first exam post miscarriage.  Our chances at having a family grew even slimmer with the subtle creep of the clock on the wall and the one in my body with its ever-dwindling yet life-sustaining hormone levels. 
I wasn’t really bitter toward her, then or now, but the circumstances gave me pause to reflect on my own behavior.  Maybe it isn’t always a good idea to put on such an emotional display in public.  I’m not much on acting a certain way because of what other people think, but I was given a new perspective on that October day in my now distant past.    
In facing the death of a loved one, most people wish they hadn’t left a word unspoken.  They mentally beg for another chance to tell that cherished family member or friend how much they cared about them.  There is no opportunity to tell your unborn baby, especially at fetus stage, goodbye.  If abortion protesters feel life begins at conception, I wonder what they think of a fetus having a soul, a persona, an identity.  What about having a chance to tell that “baby,” that person, goodbye?  So many words left unspoken there, especially with no physical presence to make our baby a real person. (via creative commons)
My husband and I are now lucky enough to have a happy, healthy almost six-year old son.  He completes and enlivens our family, so this chapter of our life book has a good ending.  What happened at the doctor’s office that day put me in the other person’s shoes, so to speak, where I could look at circumstances in a different light. 
This is the first time I’ve opened up to anyone outside my immediate circle about losing that first pregnancy and do so only to encourage empathy.  It’s not the same as sympathy and takes even less effort.  I simply hope sharing my experience might urge someone else to think of how her/his actions, even good ones with no malice intended, might affect another person.  Take a minute to think or act compassionately.  I believe our world could greatly use more empathy and less judgment.     

Friday, January 18, 2013

Thanks, my friend! (January 18)

People think I remember weird stuff, trivia if you will, and maybe I do. There are lots of cool reasons to watch the credits roll on a movie, such as random actor or director names that I will remember for no other reason than to amuse myself with that nonsense knowledge some day. I used to recall license plates of family members and friends so I knew from far away if it was them approaching me. That's back when I could see further distances and lived in a small enough town that we passed each other on the road a lot.

So many other things are more important to bring to mind.  I unabashedly boast that I'm the "calendar" to reference birthdays that help my family members remember to send a card or give the person a call. Then there are just some details that jump out in my mind for one reason or another.  So it surprises me that last week I forgot the significance of the day I last posted a thank you like this.  Mnemonic devices help me with doing so.

That's why January 11 usually sticks out in my mind.  My dear friend, Karen, lost her battle to cancer on that day in 2007.  Just six years ago but seems like forever.  It's the length of my son's life.  It feels like much longer since I've seen or talked to her.

She and I worked together in my first so-called real job after high school. Her unique demeanor was one that led me to first think she'd be very prim and proper, which she was to a certain extent, but there was a clever smart aleck hiding beneath that facade.  Karen was nowhere near as sarcastic as some in our travelling group (like me and Dena), but she'd catch us off guard with a zinger now and then.

The five of us took several extended weekend trips together.  San Antonio, Memphis, Chicago twice, an overnight b&b in bfe Kansas.  Some of the funnest times I remember, especially struggling with our shopping bags whipping straight out behind us in gale-force Chitown winds.  We spent a lot of time site seeing but even more shopping and having cocktails!  Oh, geez, the stuff, the stuff Karen would buy for her kids, her generosity overwhelming!  I think Karen brought extra bags simply to schlep it all home on the plane.

Those kids were her world. She was an older mom, like I eventually became, having her children in her late 30s. She doted on them like crazy, because she was lucky enough to find the love of her life to have and raise those kids with her. I hope she can see Keith and Caitlin growing up the fine adults they are becoming.  Karen and Randy gave them some incredible brain power, ambition and some damn fine looks as well.

I was very pregnant back in late December '06 on into January '07.  We had Lamaz class at the local hospital where Karen was admitted in her declining health.  She didn't get to actually ever see my son, but she sort of met him when I felt a kick and placed her hand on my stomach for her to feel it.  I am not a super touchy-feely foofoo type of person, even while pregnant, but that seemed right at the time.  Now it's a bittersweet memory for me.

January 11 reminds me every year, 1/11, how sad it is to be without Karen.  I can't even imagine how her family feels.  Karen helped care for her aunt and ailing parents in the "twilight" of their lives. She gave her parents a home next to her own as her father watched Karen's mom succumb to dementia.  Her beautiful home was full of love, and I hope it is not empty without her.

A crazy grin appears on my face when I think back to sombreros and big margaritas in TX, laughing our asses off at the tarmac blackout in TN, going through Dunkin Donuts drive-thru in a limousine en route to catch a glimpse of O Studios, and how sweet it was of her and Randy to help me remove a plastic price tag from my cat's mouth one morning before work.  I don't want to get all sappy and cry thinking of her struggle with that unfathomable pain of the wretched disease she fought so bravely and with never a complaint.  It's happier to think of her opening the door wide to welcome us into her fabulously decorated house at Christmastime, where almost every surface inch was covered in the glow of soft light from windows of every little decorative structure in a winter village.

Life hands us different opportunities through work, activities, being at the right place at the right time, etc.  I'm still not extra foofy about showing or admitting feelings, but I was so fortunate to have the universe put my friend Karen in my life when it did.  I miss her support and friendship, her warm smile and laughter and blow a kiss out to her in thanks.

Tell a friend how much she means to you.  She may not know, or she could just use some kind words spoken about her.  Do it now instead of wishing you did so when you no longer can.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

In Honor of Women ...

I don't normally "do" Pinterest. The last thing I need is another time-sucking activity besides this one that keeps my obsessive compulsive ass online. You can apparently look at things on Pinterest, sometimes very cool things, that someone linked to you without having to create a profile. Shew! Minimizes the hours thrown into the black hole that is the internet. 

An amazing homage to women is available via One Plaid Aunt at  Simply amazing.  

It's crazy to see so many incredible creators, inventors, musicians, celebrities, and other artists all pictured on one page. Kudos to One Plaid Aunt. I'll have to take a few more minutes, hell ... I've already blown this much time, to find a way to tell her how cool it is.

Just a sampling:
I found this shot a finger hop, skip and jump from the first website. It is a fabulous encapsulation of a young Angelica Huston, as captured by Annie Leibovitz. Say what they will about time, aging, blah blah blah, this woman was and is so striking. Of course, it's not all about looks, but some of the similar images on the OPA board are just mesmerizing.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Thanks, my friend! January 11

If you're lucky, inspiration seeps through Facebook. It can sometimes put a smile on your face and a plan in your mind even if you don't have the source near to give you the good vibes. That's the case with my now online friend and former yoga instructor, Meg, who moved away and left me in metaphorical tears by doing so.
Some of my yogic calm went with her, but she left a legacy I can still  conjure up from time to time.
Meg left a strong impression with her personality's ever present positivity. Her example keeps me striving to be mindfully at peace and in the moment. During yoga, my otherwise-should-be-blank mind goes back to her coaxing to concentrate on your breathing and heed only your own practice, no one else's. Her instruction spoiled me on future yoga instructors, left me wanting in comparison to Meg's classes.
This woman is a hugely talented writer as well whose humor jumps from the screen when I have the happy occasion to find something new of hers online. The creative fictional pieces make me literally lol, which is so fun in otherwise spirit-sucking days of mundane activity or bad-news bombardment. I want to share the wealth, so try some for yourself at The Nervous Breakdown. I promise you'll be glad you did.
Her more personal posts reveal a strong mother, a woman whose life experiences were character building, an anti-crazymaker. Humble honesty is apparent through her words. You get the gist of what she's all about from any of her postings.
Meg seems a master in rolling with the punches. Her generous spirit is palpable, and she shares with anyone lucky enough to be around her. Our loss in the Midwest is the gain of her new-ish west coast friends. You can imagine he truth of that statement simply from her Twitter bio:
Health Coach. Author of Salad Alchemy. Writer of other things. Curator of beautiful. In service to you.
Meg's website intimates her many qualities. She has a blithe spirit who left a great impression on me. I hope to always remember her serene example. Thanks, woman - carry on!

It's important to take a few minutes to tell someone how important they are to you. Tell a friend you love her -- do it now!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Thanks, my friend! (January 4)

Twenty-five years ago I was invited along on a family trip to Florida by a group of wonderful people who aren't my family of origin. My ticket was meant for a then son-in-law-to-be, and I was more than happy to take his place. Living in the Midwest makes a person jump at the chance to visit the Sunshine State in December. Of course, it was the first December in forever that had a frozen orange crop there, but I digress.

Seriously, who would take someone outside of their own children on an expensive family vacation like that? My friend, Lori, and I had know each other since middle school, so her family eventually became kind of an extension of my family. Her mother, Esther, and Lori treated me like one of their own and took me along.

Esther became a friend and supporting mentor to me. She was there for me when I moved to a bigger city in my 20's. She lived in one of the suburbs and offered her home as my second home during those years. It was different becoming a friend of my friend's mom, but in this case it was a good kind of different.

We had several similarities in our backgrounds, chief among them dealing with fatal illness in family members and surviving alcoholic households. Esther gave me a positive perspective on reaching the other side of those situations, coming out on the winning end of otherwise very trying circumstances. She helped me learn that "normal" is only the setting on a clothes dryer, and it's okay to be who you are where you're at in life as long as you learn from it and grow.

Esther gave me opportunities to do things I wouldn't otherwise have been able to do as a poor college student. She took me to dinners, plays and to see other strong women like Marianne Williamson and Mary Tyler Moore. Those were experiences I would have never been imagine otherwise. Esther also provided great emotional support and her companionship when I was at a lonelier time in my life.

A mentor is someone who will help you no matter how many times you call and bug them. Esther took my call at work regardless of how many times she was asked to help with one or another car issue of mine. She did so for several other young women than me, too. I was at many family birthday celebrations with mine being near her son's and granddaughter's. They didn't have to invite me, but they did.

Sometime later, Lori and Esther drove an incredibly long way to be at my wedding, and they were ecstatic at the birth of my son and lavished us with gifts. They are crazy about their own families and inclusive of sharing that joy. There's no end to the helping hand Esther extends to any one of us when needed.

She's a great mother, grandmother, and friend. Esther is intelligent, has a great sense of humor and fun, is strong in her faith, and bends over backward to help others. I miss not seeing and talking to her. There are so many people who don't have the luck I've had to know and learn from someone like her, and for that I say thank you!

I want to extend this weekly tribute and encourage other women to take a minute to tell a friend how much you appreciate her. She deserves to hear it!