Friendship

It was E-Learning Day on Wednesday and it was a nest of elementary, middle school and a few high school kids thrown in for laughs. A cluster of middle school girls had taken up residence near the desk. You see Emily considered Sara her best friend and Sara considered Madison her best friend but said Emily was her best friend too. Emily being quite logical said that Sara could not have two best friends as best is BEST. Much angst came after that. Thankfully, much was resolved over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Going to be honest, at that age, I was on Emily’s side. Best was best and you only got one. I, too, was quite the logical person. Age and wisdom have added clarity (as it tends to do on many topics) to the best friend issue for me.

I’m am amazingly fortunate. I have more than a handful of friends I could call and say, I need help and they would say, ok I will be there. And that is all it would take. I could ask for a cup of sugar, place to stay or a kidney. But I would get the same response. All best friends in my book with no ranking or hierarchy. Now granted I might call Friend K for this thing and Friend M for that thing, but all Besties.

To me that is what makes it the best friend, the unconditional yeah let me help or how can I help. But it is smaller things too. It is when they look at you and say what is wrong and really want to know. It is some dippy thing they picked up for a quarter in a store on vacation that they knew would make you laugh. It is all the guards let down and each person sees the real you underneath. It is awesome and scary.

And that is what makes it so hard when friendships end. And they do. Most frequently, I find without fireworks or fanfare. It is a drifting or a just can’t find the time to get together. I have one friendship that has shifted from the best to genuinely pleased when I see the person but the magical connection is gone. And I have tried to pin point it and reconnect a few times. But it just has run its course. That is hard. I try to focus on the good memories and the value that the relationship has brought to my life, but it is hard.

This time of year it is easy to get caught up in the EVERYTHING that is the season. To focus too hard on those that are missing and not enjoying enough those that are in our day to day lives making it better (be it those that live in your house or deliver your mail or hand you your coffee). Focus on those things today, the things that make us what we are and give someone an extra smile today. They probably need it.

 

 

Sun Card

I pulled the Sun Card on Thanksgiving morning and was sort of baffled. Thanksgiving Day this year involved a lot of last-minute change of plans, four-hour plus drive, great deal of keeping thought and speech bubbles apart, cool hotel room, cold shrimp and some wine.

From my book reading, the Sun Card was supposed to represent harmony and everything coming together. A card of full of joy and happiness. I looked at the card and at the stack, huh was that really what the universe was saying about today? I got dressed and we headed out for our drive. And it was a nice drive, pleasant chatting and coffee. Singing to the radio (though I would not allow Christmas music yet). Very content, calm before the storm. As I drove, I pondered how the Sun Card was going to fit in the rest of my day.

My brother passed away in late July. This is the first major holiday without him. My brother used to spend Thanksgiving Day at my dad’s house and enjoy the festivities there. Traditions that can no longer be traditions make for large holes. It is hard to find new traditions that work and honor those that have passed. As the day went on and I spent time with my dad and his wife, I started to see a bit more out of the box way of thinking about the card.

Maybe it was not my harmony and everything coming together. It was not my focus of joy and happiness, but maybe I was supposed to be a conduit of that. The card appeared to make me focus more on happiness or how to add happiness to the lives of others.

It is so easy to get caught up in the chaos and frantic of the holiday. To forget about being kind and looking out for others. Taking the time to really listen. Taking the time make eye contact with the cashier and tell them to have a nice day when you are done. Give the person the closer parking space and take the further one away. Maybe things aren’t for you to have, but to pass on to those who need them more? Maybe your role is to reflect the sun and make someone’s life brighter?

 

Toxic

I wonder sometimes if toxic people are unaware that they are toxic or they just don’t care. The more I ponder it, the more I am unsure.

We went to a lovely tapas place for dinner. We go each year about this time. The food is delicious with so many choices. The décor is subdued without being full of itself, but candles on each table and servers that clear plates as fast as you clear them and fill your water glass like magic. You can wear jeans and feel comfortable and the sangria is very good. There is normally a casual rumble of discussions ebbing and flowing around you; each table a calm happy island.

When we went in on Saturday, we were seated and promptly brought water. But the vibe in the room was off. The area was almost full, but it is frequently full and tables that leave are immediately replaced with more guests. The sound was louder but there was just something off. I thought it was me, maybe I was tense for some reason and would feel better after a few sips of sangria.

There was a large table occupied in the middle of the room. Large tables are common at this restaurant and normally not a concern or change to the dynamic in the room. This one was different. The more I overheard (they were not quiet) and the more I sat there; I felt the ooze of unhappy drama. Other tables kept glancing at the table and at one woman. The servers kept trying to move the process along (they had been done eating for a bit). Some of the large table got up and gathered for pictures (there was no real room for that) and at one point the woman decided she was leaving with two others, immediately put on her coat (still pretty oblivious as she almost smacked me in the head with a sleeve) and left.  And the room vibe changed.

Now the older female at the table started to cry, others hovered and talked in low tones. But the anxiousness that had crept to each and every table seemed to dissipate like a low hanging fog that gets hit with a breeze. We as a crowd could handle sad, but the slow poisoning of the atmosphere was making us all on edge.

So, do people who cause that even know? Some people enjoy being the center of attention and the star of the show, but this is different. It is like they carry around them this force field of toxic that leaks out onto others. I like to think they have no idea (and are not knowingly forcing this on unsuspecting strangers who just want a chorizo-wrapped medjool date and cheese (or two). And then I wonder how to help them… as a stranger I am not sure you can or I haven’t figured out a way.

Purpose

The other day, I went to pay for something and took a ten dollar bill from my wallet. I noticed the corner was bent so I smoothed it out before handing it to the cashier. She just stared at me to the point I was sort of embarrassed. It had not taken that long to do it and there was no line and well, I just like things neat. So I apologized (for what I was not sure but she was still staring). And she said, No, oh not at all. It is just that that was really nice of you to do. I get people who just throw balls of crumbled dollars on the counter all the time and expect me to smooth them and put them in order. You really just made my day by doing that. First off, made me really sorry her day was that bad that THAT was the highlight and then made me think: It really is the little things.

At this stage of my life, I am probably not going to be a Navy SEAL or a firefighter. Not going to be a social media influencer or Queen of some kingdom. And that is ok. Maybe my purpose and reason I am here is just to be kind in small seeming inconsequential ways. And that is not a thought I would have hand in my 20s or 30s. I felt like I was her to do SOMETHING. Not sure what that was but it was larger than whatever I was doing at the time.

When my kid was in Middle School they had a unit on poems. But the teacher was smart and made it interesting, lots of free form and lots of mimic of poetry or the like that appealed to them. This is my kid’s poem.

Bull Durham

I believe in the cloning of llamas,
The greatness behind ideas,
The science of friendliness,
The potato’s awesome capabilities,
The necessity of responsibly,
Truthfulness, power, speed.

But I don’t believe in the need for so much money.

I believe in respect for elders,
I believe death doesn’t have to be forever,
I believe in that love shouldn’t rule your life,
Thoughtfulness, Happiness, no greed.

And I believe when I go to college they will have created muffins in a can.

Yeah maybe that is our purpose, little things, respecting others, being truthful and  kind… and maybe creating muffins in a can.

 

10 of Swords… Again

As I had mentioned previously, tarot cards fascinate me. Not as in a doorway to contact people beyond this mortal coil. (Though if Mr. Rogers wants to pop in and have a cup of tea and chat, I am totally fine with that). And not in a tell me the future sort of thing. I just don’t think I am wired that way. I DO think there are people who are more channeled into those things, but I don’t think I am. (and yes, I would like to have a reading from someone who I do think is in touch with those elements of our world) To me, tarot is more a way to think outside the box, get outside of my own head and see things from a different perspective.

But they overwhelm me. Your basic deck has 78 cards. 22 in the major arcana and then 14 more cards per sign. And each one has a meaning or a reading or a thought attached to it. And they aren’t always what you think they might me. Death card… not the worst one in the deck, not the sign of immediate departure from this mortal plain. I would read on occasion and then put them away, my little gifts set two inch by two inch set of cards.

Being a librarian, I started ILL other books from our sister libraries on Tarot. Some were dry and even more confusing but I found one by Melissa Cynova. This kitchen table tarot broke it down in simple, gather around and have a chat terms. There was so much good advice in there but what really hit home for me was that you have to learn your cards and get comfortable with your cards. And one of the ways to do this was to do a card a day reading and write your results in a notebook.  I started that.

I learn more about each card and then write a note down by it, I try to really think about what I feel when I look at the card and hold it in my head. Today I got the ten of swords. Eek. So it is a card of betrayal and back stabbing. It is also the end of the line, bottom of the barrel. There is no light in this card. But Melissa also said something that stuck with me when I read about it. That you are at the bottom and that is a good thing. Sort of like when I used to ask my kid about his grades, “sort of hard to fall off the floor, Mom”. And then she also made a good point of if you are on the floor… at the lowest of the low, it is ok to hang out there and reset and rest. That made such good sense to me. We are frequently told to pull up our boot straps, brush it off or rub some dirt on it and get back in the game. But isn’t that the best place to just reset? To say, ok onward and upward but maybe tomorrow.

I liken learning the cards to learning to read. You don’t start reading looking at a word and just knowing all there is about it, pronunciation, definition, part of speech, etc. No you start with the letters and learn them and then string them into words and learn those. The cards are the same way to me, I will learn them slowly, make friends with them (get less intimated) and then be able to better use them to help me out of my mental box.

Color

I took an oil painting class in college and one of the most delightful pieces of it was how easy it was to blend colors (granted also maybe some of the more frustrating as at times you did NOT want them to blend.) The depth of color, the difference of color from a zinc white to a titanium white, the many shades of yellow was a whole new world for me. I am not a very good painter, but I do enjoy playing with the paints and color.

My friend introduced me to a new mobile game called I :heart: Hue. I find it very relaxing and such a positive game. If you complete a level under the world average it calls you a magnificent sun beam or something of that ilk. Even if you are below the average it says tremendous! Basically, it scrambles squares of color and you must put them back in hue order. Sometimes I can totally see it and other times I have to shut the tablet and come back to see it. I have a friend who does not see hue and said, but they are all about the same aren’t they? Yeah, that would be super frustrating. Color is certainly something I do not take for granted in life.

Right now with the time change, I get to see the sunrise most mornings on my drive to work (granted in another few weeks it will be dark again but I am soaking this up while I can). I am always amazed at how very different each morning sky is and how the weather refrains my mother taught me jump into my head regarding the use of red or not.

I remember coming back from Ireland and telling my mother that I now knew what green smelled like. It was the first time I really combined the sense of sight and smell to that degree. I find myself doing that more as time passes.  As if the more sense used could help solidify a memory.

Driftwood

We are staying at VBRO on the coast of North Carolina and there is a ton of very cute beach side stuff on the walls and then on the top shelf in the kitchen is this tiny picture. The first day, I give it a glance. But I was struggling with this cold and with my mother in law’s cancer. And the next day, I managed to cook a meal and did some beach walking. But that night, I took the picture off the shelf and dusted it off a bit and did the math. He was barely older than my offspring.

Today  and feeling stronger, I put my research background to use. He didn’t seem to be from this area but was stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. which is pretty close as a crow flies. Parents and brothers and sisters that miss him. No ties to people in this area that I can find but stationed here… so maybe adopted one of their own?  or rented this VBRO? Touching lives… and never even knowing… that is life, isn’t it?

Everything is open
Nothing is set in stone
Rivers turn to ocean
Oceans tide you home
Home is where your heart is
But your heart had to roam
Drifting over bridges
Never to return
Watching bridges burn

Driftwood by Travis

 

It is not too late

You are probably thinking it is. It is too late to make that apology; tell someone you are sorry or give someone a compliment. It is not too late.

The human spirit craves these things. And as long as the reaching out is sincere and not about you; well, I cannot fathom it would not be well received.

My brother died three months and six days ago (I just did math; there is no hidden meaning to my knowing this fact). And my friends were lovely, supportive in many different forms. And here is a hint, when you are at ground zero of loss… it is a blur. It really is. You remember the over and beyond kindness and the very humorous stories… but I have found the times I have gone through this… you remember very little else. I don’t even really remember the mean, and I know it is there, it is human nature also. The ying and yang, but I only remember the good and the funny.

I remember Donald’s classmate who told me a tear worthy but changed other lives story about him and her mom’s response to his disappointment. I remember this man who dented my mom’s car with his knee… I think I hugged him twice for bringing such a wonderful memory and backstory to the visitation. I remember the man at my mom’s visitation who told me in high school he and my mom used to run in a group together and then get flustered when I said, I bet you could tell me some stories! You remember the outliers. Keep that in the back of your mind when you go to the viewing, visitation, wake, etc.

I got a package today from a wonderful friend. She was there during this time with text and email and I was thankful for her support. She was one of the first people I reached out to. The card was a thinking of you card. The message inside … well it was an apology for being so late to show sympathy this way, but no excuse (and believe me, to quote my mother, this woman is busier than a one-armed paper hanger) but that was not in the card. It was that she was still thinking of me, that I was a great sister and I wrote one hell of an obituary. She sent me a blanket because she wanted to give me a hug but is 900 miles away. It was perfect. And perfect not because I had been stewing about her prior response (because I had noticed no lateness nor a slight). But because it came out of the blue, after a night of battling dream demons and my sub conscious second guessing my decisions of five years ago with my mom’s health. She reached out and wanted to make sure I knew she had not forgotten and that she cared.

It was a hug in a box. And it was perfect. It is never too late to reach out.

Oh, This is Sure Stirring Up Some Ghosts for Me*

If I try to picture my brain, it is filled with banker boxes.

Probably because I spend 20+ years of my life in a very paper heavy profession (only to join a more paper heavy profession) that required we hold all forms for 7+ years. Hence, I am very familiar with storing in banker boxes (look it up, I’ll wait) and the exact labeling of what was in each box before it was sent offsite for storage (so you could ask for it back if you needed it; yes, you would need them back).

Sadly, my brain is not that organized. I like to think that things are stored by topic or idea or heck I’d even take color, but I fear they are not. And some boxes, well some boxes have been marked destroy without my knowledge. I look at picture that I am in, on a vacation, at a place, and have no memory of this.

And then sometimes, life is going ok, and I am doing my thing and a box falls off the shelf and just implodes all over everything…

My MIL is one of the strongest women I have ever met. I love her like my own mom but more importantly admire deeply her, and I have bumped heads with her on things we do not agree. But we always end up in a place of mutual respect. How many people can you say that about? One of my best memories of her that I will carry to my grave, is her throwing a banana at me and calling me an asshole for not eating it after doing the Indy Mini (uh yes, I did eat the banana). I’d give her the shirt off my back or my kidney if she needed it. She is a quiet badass, sometimes she forgets that part of her. She is battling aggressive breast cancer right now… like the ninja she is. But it is hard on everyone.

I strongly believe we go through things because we are supposed to help others with that hard-earned knowledge that we gain going through that. There must be reason to have to go through those things and what better reason is that.  So, I try to help with this… I has primary advocate for my mom for years, I learned more in 3 years about our health care system than I knew in all my years before. I try to share what I know with her and her family, not in a I KNOW THIS way but more, yeah, that is a landmine, we should step around it. (like the clock resetting if you stay out of skilled nursing or hospital or a certain number of days for Medicare or in a nursing home they are required twice a week showers)

It has been years since I dreamed of my mom. And about a week ago, I dreamed she and I were in a car, driving down a tiny gravel road to a dry creak (uh, for those that are not aware a dry creak does not mean no water, it means less water that you could probably drive across). And I was like uh, seems high might want to just a back up. And she was all NOOOOO I got this and she tried to turn and the car started to float (uh yeah, IRL this did happen more than once, welcome to my childhood). This ended in an argument and her telling me that I always thought I knew better (uh did we NOT just try and float down the creak?)

I woke all messed up and needed coffee and shower. I was upset. And angry. Looking for meaning and answers and …

The box had fallen off the shelves. No hidden AH HA moment. No spirit reaching from the past. Except for this. She told me one time, You do the best you can at that moment with what you have and you have no regrets. And she was right. I forget that sometimes especially when I’m floating down that Crazy River.

 

*Robbie Robertson – Somewhere Down the Crazy River

Playlist in My Head

I asked a friend about this (ok he is also very musical so it may have been a bit of deck stacking). When it is quiet, a song will start playing in my head and I asked if this happens to him also. And I think I have mentioned that most mornings when I wake up, a song for the day starts to play unaided in my head (today was she’s cute but psycho). And I can change the song if I focus but if I don’t focus, it just plays in my head or at least as much as I remember and then starts again or I put music on from an outside source.

Anyway, he said yeah when it is quiet it does happen if he is not actively listening to music but most of the time these days, he is listening to music so that trumps the brain playlist. I did feel a bit better and not so odd.

I went to my friend Google and no it is not an earworm. I do get those also but that is really not it. And then after about 20 minutes down rabbit holes, I realized I had not written a word on this post. There did seem to be others that this happens too so that helped. I did remember my mom, who worked many years in a nursing home, talking about how speech and singing came from different parts of the brain (hence the abilities of people after stroke) and wondered what part of the brain was “music in your head.”

I feel better knowing others have this also. It really doesn’t bother me a great deal as many times it is songs I forgot I liked or I try to see some deep profoundness my brain worked out. It is just when you mention it to people who have non song brains… and they give you the odd look, it gets unsettling.

You’re laughing out loud at the thought of just being alive

And I was wondering if I could just be you tonight

Credit: Rob Thomas/Matchbox 20