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Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

When I was working, I once wrote a piece that started “Don’t count your friends on a sunny day…”  The idea was that anyone can be your friend when it is easy.  I suggested that you wait until the sky darkens and the clouds roll in and then you look to see who’s still standing beside you because that person is truly a friend.

Well, I must say that truer words were never spoken.

When my eye surgeon told me last week that he would be operating on both eyes and thus need to put me under a general anesthesia, I thought that meant that I’d be able to go to a hospital close to my house.  “Great!” I thought, “one less stress in my life.”  But, when his scheduler called me several days later, my bubble burst.  She gave me an option of choosing one of two hospitals where he operates.  One was over the state line and the other was in an area I haven’t been to in ages.  And they required that I have someone take me and bring me home.

My friend, Iris, had volunteered to do it, but that was when we both thought it would be close to where we live.  I would also be the first one on the schedule which meant I’d have to be there at 6:30 a.m. and Iris is a night owl, just the opposite of me.  I told the scheduler I’d have to call her back.

First, I Googled driving directions to this other hospital and it was as intimidating to me as I feared, requiring travel on several different highways.  I would definitely have to take a test run beforehand.

And then I sat and thought about it.  There was a time when I would have been able to call any number of people and ask them to take me, but not now.  I mean, to me, this is a BIG favor.  My friend Babs took me to my last outpatient procedure, but she has dropped out of my life.  I’m estranged from my little sister.  Another friend can’t drive on highways.  And still another has her hands full with an ailing mother right now and I didn’t want to add to her responsibilities.  What to do?  I’ve always been extremely independent and I have trouble asking people for help.  I always have.  I don’t want to be a burden to my friends.

I called Iris and explained about the hospital and officially let her off the hook.  After all, this didn’t have to be HER problem.  But, to my utter amazement she didn’t miss a beat and simply said, “Well, if we take a test drive and I know where I’m going, I’ll take you.”  Tears filled my eyes and I said, “No, you don’t have to.  You really don’t.”  She persisted and said, “It will be an adventure!”  Then I told her what time we had to be there and how early she’d have to get up and she countered with, “So?  I’d have to get up that early if I was going on vacation and had to catch an early flight.  No, I’ll do it.”  And with this incredible act of generosity and kindness, she took the weight of the world off my shoulders.  Now that, dear readers, is a FRIEND.  The funny thing about Iris is that she doesn’t often get sentimental and mushy like I do, but she has a heart that’s so big and giving that I feel really blessed to know her.

Then last Friday I was out to lunch with my friend Dee and told her about my surgery and Iris’ wonderfulness.  After I had finished, she very  matter-of-factly said, “Okay.  Then I’ll be your back-up driver.”  I said, “What?”  And she said, “If anything comes up, I’ll be your back-up driver.  I’m putting the date into my Blackberry right now so that I’ll be ready, just in case.”  And just like that I had a back-up plan.

I don’t know what I ever did to deserve these two friends, but they’re the real deal.  I’m so lucky to have them and I thank God for them every day.

And here I thought I didn’t have any family!  Boy, was I ever wrong.

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Question:  What does the U.S. Mail and debris throughout my house have in common?  Hang on, because that’s exactly what today’s post is all about.

It started with Iris calling me on a frigid gloomy day saying she was in the neighborhood getting her car fixed and asking if she could stop by afterward.  I was delighted.  About an hour later she called again, saying, “I’m in the driveway!”  I told her I’d be right down then ran through the basement and garage to open the garage door, only to find…no Iris!  I stood there totally confused for a moment, then glanced over and saw that she was parked in my neighbor’s driveway!  It’s funny how old habits take hold without our realizing it.  She used to live in that house and automatically pulled into her old driveway.

After she re-parked, we climbed basement stairs into the house and as she began to walk down my hallway to the kitchen, I saw that she was leaving really dark muddy footprints on my long runner rug with every step!  “Iris, STOP!” I yelled.  As she looked back inquiringly, I pointed to the floor.  She hurried back to the utility rug that was at the top of the basement stairs.

“Goodness gracious!” she said as she started to slip her boots off.

“Where did you get all this mud?” I asked as I ran to get a dustpan and broom.

“Well,” she said, “I guess I got it in the parking lot at the garage where my car was.”

I’ve been to that garage and I couldn’t figure where she had found mud.  “Do those boots have really big treads?”

As she turned her boots over, she exclaimed, “Oh my goodness me!  The soles of my boots are rotting!”

“They’re WHAT?” I asked, even as I could see the black rubber crumbling – not coming off in strips, but crumbling!

Well, it turns out that she bought these boots from a uniform supply company about a million years ago when she first became a mail carrier.  She wore them constantly “through rain and snow and dark of night.”  When she finally retired many years later, she stuck them into a closet and more or less forgot about them.  Then on this particular day, when we had ice and snow outside, she decided to drag them back out and wear them.

So, she spent the rest of our visit in her sock feet and I didn’t give the situation much more thought, except for the fact that I’d never seen shoes do that before.  When she was getting ready to leave, I said, “go on over to the sofa and put your shoes back on.”

“Oh, I think I’d better wait until we get to the basement.”

Good thing she did.

That’s when the hilarity of the whole situation got to me.  As we went down the basement steps, I suddenly noticed little black “crumbs” on every step.  As she sat down in a chair down there and picked up the shoes, big CHUNKS of rubber started falling off!  As she walked from the basement to the garage door, she left this whole trail of little rubber “poops” with every single step.  It reminded me of a time when I briefly had a pet rabbit.  The first time I let him out in the living room he hopped across the room, leaving little poop pellets in a trail behind him.  As Iris went out to her car, dropping more chunks of her shoes behind her on the driveway, I was overcome with hysteria, laughing so hard that tears came into my eyes.

From her car, she looked up and saw me having a laughing fit and said, “You think THAT’S bad?  You ought to see the floorboard of my car!”  This set me off again and I could hardly wave goodbye as she drove away.  Much later that night I thought about it again.  I know she went to the license bureau after she got her car fixed and now I wondered if she left her little “rubber trail” in both places.  I can just see the people there staring behind her as she walked out, oblivious to the fact that she had become an environmental hazard.  Even as I write this, I’m laughing again, like I haven’t laughed in a long, long time.

Iris says she’s going to try to get her boots fixed.

I say, “Rest in peace, little postal carrier boots.  Rest in peace.”

 

 

 

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Some things in life are just a crying shame.  Losing my friend Babs is one such thing.

Here is someone I’ve known for 27 years.  All through my corporate life we were “partners in crime,” playing jokes, writing notes, having “secret meetings” – anything to survive the work day.

The thing about Babs is that there’s something inside her that “snaps” from time to time and she can go from being your best friend in all the world to someone who withdraws and acts like a stranger.  One time that happened and we were apart for ten years.

Just about a year and a half ago, we found each other again and she appeared to me to be stronger and more in control than ever before.  It was like we were two long-lost sisters.  She had taken early retirement, too, and lived about 15 minutes from me.  What could be better?  We spent the following months having so much fun, I can’t tell you!  Every week we’d hike or go on adventures or  just find a bench and talk for hours.  I felt like we’d come full circle and that we’d truly be sisters forever.

And then she “snapped” again.

I don’t know what caused it and I did everything in my power to draw her back, only to be ignored.  It hurt me tremendously.  I cried and cried and mourned the loss, always hoping that one day the phone would ring and she’d apologize.  It didn’t happen.  I finally decided I had to let go because it was killing me.

But her birthday was at the end of June and she was on my mind.  (She is someone I truly care about.) I wrote her an email that said, “I want you to know that you’re on my mind today.  If you ever need help, support, or a friend, I’m here for you…and I always will be.  You only have to reach out.”

Well, she didn’t.  Not that day, not that week or the next.  Whatever’s going on with her is apparently something she can’t share…or at least she can’t share with me.  I guess I just need to get it into my head somehow and accept the fact that she doesn’t want me in her life.

All I can do now is sit back and regretfully watch her…just fade away.

Goodbye Babs.  I’ll miss you.

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I’ve mentioned Iris in this blog numerous times.  She was my neighbor when I moved into my house five years ago.  As we got to know each other, the relationship morphed into a friendship and we had a lot of fun until she moved about a year ago.  We’ve stayed in close touch though, and when I realized that she would be turning 71 on Tuesday, I insisted on taking her out for a birthday lunch.  As I drove to her house, I got the idea that it might be interesting to interview her.  I mean, reaching the age of 71 and still being full of “piss and vinegar,” is no small accomplishment!  Iris is a remarkable woman.  She has been married and divorced and has two wonderful sons.  She can side a house, carpet a bathroom, fix a computer, do your taxes, wire a light and sew a suit of clothes, and that just scratches the surface of her accomplishments.  She doesn’t take herself too seriously and has a contagious laugh, which I love.

So, as we sat down for lunch, she consented to be interviewed.  My questions are in black, her answers in red.

So, Iris, what was your first thought upon waking up today and realizing it was your 71st birthday?

Well, I was glad to have survived another day!

You appear full of vim and vigor.  To what do you attribute your good health?

I was a postal worker for 31 years and I think my job and working outside every day played a large part.  My doctor is keeping an eye on my kidneys, but, personally I feel fine.

Looking back on your life so far, do you have any regrets?

Well, I should have made better choices in men, definitely!  And I would have gone to college before I got married.  The thing was, very few people in my high school went to college.  It was hard times back then and few of us could afford it.

What advice would you give young women today?

Get an education and make yourself independent!

You worked for the post office for thirty-one years.  If you could turn back time to when you were eighteen and could choose ANY career, what would you have liked to do?

Oh, back then I wanted to be an airline hostess because it looked like such a glamorous job.  I looked into it but, back then they had height and weight restrictions and at 5’2″ I was too short.

What do you consider to be the biggest problem in the world today?

Corrupt government.  We put people in office and then they get seduced by the power and money and forget all about the common people.  And I’m not just talking about the United States.  I’m talking about governments around the world.  We need to kick all the bums out and start over fresh.

What one word best describes your whole life up to now?

BUSY!

Whoa!  I didn’t see that coming!

Well, I’ve always been busy, all of my life, but that’s okay.  I’ve also had a lot of fun!

Well, it looks like our lunch is coming.  Any final thoughts you’d like to add?

Just that I’ve had an awful lot of good luck in my life.  When I remember all of the crazy stuff I’ve done in the past, I shake my head and think, “How did I survive that?”

Well, thank you, Iris.  I hope your birthday is a very good one.

It’s already a special day.  I get to have lunch with Star!

Aw shucks!  That seems a good place to end.  What a woman!  If I’m even half as amazing as she is when I turn 71, I’ll consider myself extremely lucky.

Happy Birthday, Iris!









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Having taken early retirement has proven to be such a blessing in my life.  I worked hard and saved a long time to make it happen, and I give thanks every day for my freedom from the corporate rat race.  I really do.

But there is a downside to retiring many years before the traditional retirement age.  Many of my good friends are still working.  So they’re tied up during the week when I am free and their weekends are taken up with housework, errands and family.  I remember that time crunch well.  But it means that my time with them is generally relegated to quick lunches now and then.

Last spring I lucked out.  I reconnected with a friend I’d known for twenty-six years who had also retired early and, wonder of wonders, lived close to my house.  We picked up right where we’d left off and set out to have fun.  We discovered that we both like to hike, explore neighborhoods and have new adventures so we jumped into the summer with both feet.  You might remember many blog posts I wrote about the things my friend, Babs, and I did…like the time we were stalked by a pit bull in this post. Or the time we tried to hike prematurely and froze off our ta-ta’s in this one.

We discovered so many neat places and made so many great memories that I was sure that our friendship would go on forever.

I was wrong.

Due to circumstances beyond my control or understanding, she apparently has opted out.  I believe this was due to other things going on in her life, but it broke my heart all the same.  After awhile though, I realized that this was a choice she made, fully knowing the consequences and yet doing it anyway.  In my world, true friends do not try to cause each other pain.  Life is just too damned short for that kind of thing.  So it’s time for me to get back up, brush myself off, and move forward with my life.

And now with spring creeping in, I’m getting an itch for adventure again.  Thus I am in search of a playmate.  I have other retired friends, but they either live too far away or else they’re not into the whole “hiking and exploring” thing.  I can and have done it on my own, but it’s not as fun without someone to share it with.

So, what do I do?  Advertise?  I can just see the ad now:  WANTED:  Retired playmate.  Must have a few gray hairs and obvious wrinkles.  Ready to hit the highway or back roads in search of adventure.  Singing with the radio is optional, but honesty and loyalty are not. Must like a good joke, eating at Steak and Shake, and acting immature when the situation requires itPerfection is not necessary, just a sincere desire to make the most out of every single day.  Contact Star at Star, Simplified, as soon as possible.

Think I’d get any takers?  I wish it were that easy.

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holding_handsWhen I was growing up, I had my friends and I had my family.  Both groups were important, but I had a message embedded in my brain – “blood is thicker than water.”  I took this to mean that, when the chips were really down, the only people you could count on were your family.  Well, my experiences of the past few years have shot that theory to hell!  When the chips were down for me, my family just threw me away!

This was shocking and hurtful  but it was something else, too…embarrassing. I kept asking myself, “How worthless must I be that I’m so easy to erase out of their lives?”  I felt so alone.  But then I was surprised to find out that I wasn’t…

Several of my friends came forth with tales of their own, of hurt and humiliation perpetuated by their families, and laid them on my doorstep like gifts of love to let me know I wasn’t alone.  It happened again and again until I realized that “being family” is no guarantee of anything.  And, as I heard their stories it became clear to me that sometimes family members can be the cruelest of all.

That brings me to friends.  Oh dear Lord, where would I be without my friends?  Over the past month, I’ve been lucky enough to be with or be in contact with many of my friends and it’s occurred to me that they have become the family I always dreamed of having.  They are all different and yet, each of them fits like puzzle pieces into my life, filling a space that is just their size and shape.  There’s the ex-neighbor who grew into a friend.  The friend who has emailed me once a week for years and years.  Two friends I lost and then found again, only to be closer than ever.  There’s the one who moved away and yet calls and emails faithfully to keep our bond strong.  There’s the mentor I don’t see often, but who has a permanent place in my heart.  All of these people I have chosen to make my family, and the miracle is – they’ve chosen me, too! What grander compliment is there than that?

It’s said that “When God closes a door, He opens a window,”  and now I know that’s true.  What I didn’t know was how much love would pour through that window and bring me from the darkness into the light.

So, maybe I’m getting sentimental with age, but I think it’s important to tell the people how much they mean to you, and tell them often.  We never know how long our lives will be.  The healthiest person could get hit by a truck tomorrow.

So, to all my friends – I can’t imagine what my life would be without each and every one of you.  Thank you for choosing me to be in your life.  Thanks for becoming my family.

Star Signature

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Recently I’ve written about  how I was worried about my emotional state this Christmas, in view of the fact that this past year has not been the best in my life.  Well, I’m pleased to report that lately I’ve been doing really well!  And, in part, I owe this surprising development to some advice I got a long time ago, but had forgotten.  Someone once told me that we all should treat ourselves with as much love and compassion as we show our friends and family.  Easier said than done.  But I’m in a place in my life where, without a mother or a sister or significant other, I need someone to care about my feelings and my needs, not just when it’s convenient, but twenty-four hours a day.  And I’ve finally found such a person…ME.

Now I’m not talking about the “Everyday Star.”  I’m sorry to admit that I’ve always tended to react too emotionally to things.  I’m the kind of person who can often be wounded with a dirty look and demolished by acts of disloyalty.  When something goes wrong, I always wonder if it’s my fault.  No, I’m talking about another part of me that I’ve just recently let emerge.  Let’s call her “Sister Star” because she’s nurturing and loving and helps keep things in perspective. She’s the part of me who always takes a deep breath and thinks before reacting.

This is the part of me who, when I’ve done something really nice for someone and don’t even receive a “thanks,” steps in and says, “Don’t get angry.  Their ingratitude in no way diminishes the fact that you’ve done the right thing.  This says more about them than you.  Let it go.”

When I see too many Christmas commercials showing the “perfect” family and am starting to sink into depression, Sister Star steps in and reminds me that being in a family is no guarantee of happiness.  She recalls past stressful holidays with my stepmother and my ex-in-laws.  She points out that we’re going to have a lovely Christmas because we’re free, independent and at peace.  Whatever we say – goes.  She points out all the blessings we have and how very lucky we are.  And she’s right.  God has been good.

Just this past week I had a Christmas lunch with a good friend of mine, who has moved from the city where I live to a very small town.  We had a nice time, but, as we sat and talked, I realized that the shape of our friendship has changed.  I could sense that she has started to distance herself from her city friends in favor of her new small town friends.  They’ve become her priority.  I don’t doubt that I’m still important to her, but I feel our bond is weakening with time and distance.  When I was driving home, I started to feel sad, like I was being abandoned by everybody I care about.

That’s when Sister Star popped up and said, “Whoa!  Slow down, sister!  First of all, remember that whole Serenity Prayer thing where it says, ‘accept the things I cannot change?’  Well, you can’t change this.  It is what it is.  This long-time friend may be changing her life, but what about all your other friends?  What are they?  Chopped liver?  What about your friend, Francie, with whom you’ve only been close for about three years, who was there every step of the way for you when your sister broke your heart?  Remember how she called you long distance and helped you talk it out…for two hours?  Doesn’t she make you feel loved?   Or Charles?  You and he have been email and lunch buddies for like…forever!  What would you do without him?  And he hasn’t gone anywhere!   And your ex-neighbor, Iris, who may have moved, but is still a friend?  And what about Shar and Dee?  Girlfriend, you’ve got friends!  I will NOT let you brood about this!”

And the miracle is – I didn’t.

I’m feeling stronger and much more positive.  two-friendsMaybe Sister Star has always been a part of me, since I was a little girl, but I’m just now letting her out.  Maybe I’ve always been afraid to put myself first, even when it was a matter of survival.  I just feel that for too long I’ve let the emotional side of me rule my life and I’ve been hurt too many times when I should have been strong.  My Sister Star part of me is better, stronger and more in control of my life and my future, and I’m sure glad she showed up when she did.  Better late than never.

And oh, yeah, I’m going to let her stay… As a matter of fact, I just may have to buy her a real nice Christmas present!  I know just the kind of thing she’d like.

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