Honoring Friends

With all the negativity circulating social media and most often in my morning news feed, I made a couple of self-preservation decisions. One was to start my morning with coffee and my journal. In other words, I don’t start my day reading the stuff that gets my blood pumping. I’m journaling “almost” regularly now, like I used to, since 1987. The current journal’s (numbered #38) opening date is August 23, 2013. That’s over three years ago! Which at one time would  have been unheard of.

I’ve also begun writing what I’ll call a “long piece,” because I’m not ready to call it a novel yet. So far, I have 15 pages and 7500 words. Which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s an accomplishment for me to actually DO it. I have so many ideas that I bounce back and forth between this one and that – which do I want to write? So I can now say I’m committed to writing this one.

I met the sweetest woman at the restaurant about a month ago who told me she keeps a Gratitude journal. Every day she writes in this journal, about something she is grateful for. I thought, what a wonderful idea! So positive, so enlightening, so powerful. We ALL need more of this, especially now. I decided that I wanted to keep one too, but couldn’t decide whether to include it in my current journal or keep a separate one just for gratitude, and then I thought that perhaps there would be times they’d overlap and then it would be like writing twice, and who has time for that? Plus, I could be in danger of creating my own version of the Golden Notebook and I already have enough anxiety.

Anyway, back to social media. I started what I’m calling an Honoring Friends Initiative. Every day I choose a friend to honor. So, in essence, it’s very much a gratitude-type of journal, only it’s public.

I’m 8 days into what I limited to a 30-day initiative. It’s been easy so far, with the exception of locating a suitable photo with both of us in it. I clarified that it was random, so that the order in which I introduced each of them wasn’t a declaration of their order of importance to me – which I suspected could easily be misinterpreted.

What I’ve noticed so far, on this eighth day, is that if I had to get married all over again, traditional wedding and all – I would want every one of them to stand up with me.

These eight women are comprised of a friend who traveled with my family to Greece when we were 14, another dear friend I met at the bus stop who 30 years later is still one of my closest, my oldest friend I’ve known for all (but 5 months) of my 47 years, a best friend with whom I shared all the ups and downs of adolescence, my pledge sister from my first college, another long-time friend and maid-of-honor (the first time around), my roommate at NYU, and still another long-time friend who’s been there since the 6th grade.

They are all special in their own ways, they have all been “best friends” with whom I have collectively shared laughter and tears, sarcasm, arguments, hugs, secrets, sleepovers and concerts, late nights, hangovers, vacations and silly adventures, broken hearts and weddings, and most of all – unwavering friendship in spite of our absences.

What is life without friendships? They are all valuable, for they are all different. I want to thank those eight ladies for their friendship and love, in spite of me.

My friends have made the story of my life…. turned my limitations into beautiful privileges, and enabled me to walk serene and happy. ~ Helen Keller

 

 

 

 

Three Times I’ve Felt Blessed

When I really, really knew. I’m talking profound, existential moments.

The first time it hit me, really hit me, I was on a flight home from Santa Barbara. I’d been in California visiting a long-time, on again-off again boyfriend. What was different about this trip, as opposed to a handful of others to San Diego and Laguna, was that this time I fell in love with California. Santa Barbara – its intimately small airport, State Street with its farmer’s market full of vibrant locally grown produce, the little Greek deli’s spanakopita, the flea market/mall filled with old treasures, the Mission and the beautiful rose garden, the State Street Theater, Earthling bookstore, the magnificent cliffs overlooking the Pacific, two old men painting landscapes on the beach. I spent a great deal of time driving and exploring by myself, and the independence I felt brought me back to those solitary New York days where I was discovering who I was.

I got on the plane that last day and felt not melancholy, but … at peace. I’ve never been afraid to fly. I’ve always loved the rush of the jet lifting off, and again when the wheels skidded to a halt on the runway. And, as the plane lifted off and the California landscape grew smaller and smaller, I thought to myself, how wonderful. If this plane never lands again, if I don’t survive this flight, it will be okay, because I. Am. Blessed. I am happy.

The second, profound, time, on a day I can’t exactly recall, I realized again. Blessed to have extricated myself from a painful situation and I knew that God stood beside me as I walked in the light again. My friends stood beside me, they offered prayers and encouraging words, and I was blessed. And I was blessed to have Todd back. I was blessed during this time that he loved me still, and he stood beside me during the worst of the battles I needed to walk through. The revelation and remembrance that I was blessed is what got me through my darkest days.

This morning. After waking up on the couch at 4 o’clock in the morning, alone, with the cat sleeping on top of me and the dog nearby in her bed and the candles still burning on the coffee table… I crawled back to the bedroom where my husband lay sleeping. I woke again 3 hours later, and snuggled up beside him, his hand massaging the pain out of my arm and we spoke the silent language of long-time lovers and friends and I stroked his brown and gray-stubbled cheek, admiring the curve of his nose and the softness of the lips I’ve known for a lifetime. And I felt Blessed.

For I am and have always been blessed. Not more than anyone else deserves to be, but I recognize it – and inside the walls of my soul, no one and nothing can take that away.

In Mysterious Ways

It’s been a difficult couple of days. Without too many details, I haven’t been feeling well and it’s not contagious and I need to call a doctor this morning. And, like the icing on the proverbial cake, my anxiety is off the charts. Watching real-time television is not recommended during these times.

Last weekend we had snow, nothing debilitating but roads were covered and slippery and I wasn’t feeling well and, as I said before, my anxiety had reached the moon. Veruca was supposed to go to her dad’s and so he came down and picked her up, which was very nice and I’m grateful.

So I pulled myself together and drove up to get her last night, driving the usual route through countryside shared with Amish folks. I learned several years ago on a field trip to The Amish Farm that Sundays alternate between church days and visiting days. Church days are great because there are few buggys on the road in the evening. Visiting days, however, are quite the opposite. I always forget which weekend it is.

I came up upon three cars driving 30 mph in a 45, behind a buggy making a left turn. Usually drivers speed up after passing the buggy, but last night the front car continued to drive like there was a foot of snow on the road. I soon found myself driving 20 mph with no buggy in sight and cursing a blue streak at people who shouldn’t be on the roads if they’re afraid of a few snow drifts.

I jumped around radio stations, mistakenly tuning into CNN where the topic was over the cabinet picks’ upcoming hearings and how none of them have turned in their paperwork yet, and some GOP dude was accusing the Dems of throwing shade once again at the Republican party and being sore losers. Bullshit! I changed the channel to Broadway and sang along to Hopelessly Devoted at the top of my lungs, and felt a little better.

By the time I arrived at my ex’s house I was listening to Joel Osteen, who preached about not letting anything steal your joy – for example, when a driver pulls out in front of you and you want to just yell at them and wave your fist? Let it go. Don’t let that steal your joy. Well, wasn’t that apropos?

Veruca gets into the car and we’re not more than half a block away when she tells me this really terrible story that she read in the news. I asked her how she heard about this story and where, because it gave me goosebumps. A woman came home from work one night where she was a bartender, got into an argument with her husband who pushed her down the stairs, and she died. V thought it was so sad and terrible. The man is in jail and the two small children are now with their grandparents. She reiterated her thoughts about it and asked me, isn’t that just so sad. I was stunned.

Stunned, because it bears a remarkable resemblance to another story I’ve heard, except the woman’s fall was broken by a gate at the top of the stairs and so she never fell down and died. But had the gate not been there… I might be telling a very different story.

So Joel Osteen was still on, and the sermon he was now giving was titled, I’m Still Standing. That we all go through difficulties, but God is in charge and we will not be defeated. That divorce or bad break should’ve broken you, or that addiction, or partying lifestyle should’ve killed you – but look: You’re still standing.

And suddenly it had all come together for me in a supernatural way. “You may have been knocked down, but you’re not going to stay down…

JOEL: You may be in a difficult time right now, you need to look back and remember what God has done for you. Remember how He’s made a way when you didn’t see a way. Remember how He opened doors that should have never opened. Remember how He put you at the right place at the right time, promoted you, healed you, restored you. If He did it for you once, He can do it for you again….. when the storm is over, when the trouble has passed, when the opposition has ceased, one thing you can count on – You’ll still be standing.

Know that God brought you through the past, and will get you through the future.

A lovely reminder from above, an affirmation.

2016 – A Year in Review

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Todd and I finally got our vacation! We took several days at the beach and had a wonderful time.

Veruca finished her last year in elementary school and began her middle school career. Much to my surprise, she returned to Cheer again last fall. After struggling for the last two years like a small boat in a perfect storm, her academic performance this school year is off the charts. I couldn’t be more proud. She seems to be taking school a lot more seriously, even as the social scene takes off. She made new friends this year, notably two other Type 1 girls, who fully embraced her even though she doesn’t want to be a part of the all-diabetes, all-the-time, channel.

My baby boy began his 10th grade year starting in football, and moved around a bit until he found his success in defense. I was thrilled to hear his name announced during games, and more thrilled that he finished the season unscathed. He also turned 16, and I marveled at how quickly that happened. He doesn’t have his permit or a girlfriend yet, and I’m not bringing any of that up. He made distinguished honors in an all-honors curriculum, during a busy football season.

I am still working in the restaurant business. It’s not quite a fate worse than death but, after resisting the reality for the last 30 years that I’m actually good at it, I accepted the fact that I might never fully escape. At least until Mom retires. Meanwhile, I took on grant writing and research with the college and have met some amazing people.

I paid off my legal fees. That is all.

I watched with a slowly dwindling sense of humor the course of the presidential election. I got sucked into a handful of volatile FB posts and watched friends and family slinging mud and calling names. I was unfriended by someone who I’m convinced is either completely delusional or an alcoholic, or both. It really bothered me, as these things do, but in retrospect I’ll defer to her oft-used quote that the trash took itself out. This was a year for removing offensive people from my friends list.

I didn’t fulfill my JDRF Ride plan, but I did attend the gala in April and continued to volunteer my help to the new School Management of Diabetes Guidelines for Maryland, which took more time to complete than anticipated. I believe these guidelines are set to roll out very shortly. We also had our annual fundraiser at the restaurant in September, topping our donations from the prior year. The art show didn’t receive the attention it required to be a success and so was scrapped in the eleventh hour.

We had my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary party in our backyard on a picture-perfect day in June. The catering came from the restaurant and the music by Mr. Entertainment, Bobby Newton. It was a beautiful event that I wasn’t the slightest bit nervous about, but the professional in me saw flaws in the execution that made me nuts (which I’m sure no one else noticed). My mother-in-law looked stunning in the most beautiful dress and was every bit the happy bride all day, which made all the hard work worth every minute.

2016 was a banner Exit year for far too many big-time celebrities. Sadly, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Harper Lee, Nancy Reagan, Garry Shandling, Patty Duke, Merle Haggard, Doris Roberts, Afeni Shakur Davis, Muhammad Ali, Anton Yelchin, Buddy Ryan, Elie Weisel, Garry Marshall, Kenny Baker, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Fidel Castro, Alan Thicke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, William Christopher (MASH’s Father Mulcahy). I left some out.

And then there was Prince. I am still reeling from the shock. Veruca was playing music from our MP3 list last night and she put on Purple Rain “for you,” she said. And it made me cry. A friend of mine posted on FB a week ago, “my youth died in 2016.”

The biggest personal loss of 2016 was Pi. She would have been 16 on December 17th this year, but she left us in August. She was a great dog. Sabra, meanwhile, took nearly two months to recover from this loss, but today she is back to her old self – a super sweetheart who knows her special place in our house.

My ex got remarried. She’s lovely, and I’m genuinely happy for him. Really.

Finally, in a heart-stopping, breathtaking, shocking, offensive, almost laughable, seemingly impossible presidential win… Donald Trump takes home the prize. What becomes of the U.S. and our democracy, is anyone’s guess… and there are more than a handful of outspoken #notmypresident folks who are waiting for a miracle.

But the good news is, Betty White is still alive and we have a roof over our heads and food on the table. I worked on the last night of the year, as I always do, and rang in the New Year with my man and one of my very best friends, hugged about 20 people, and nearly peed myself with helium-infused songs.

So here’s to 2017… may it be full of surprises and re-affirmations.

 

 

 

 

 

Where I’ve Been – Holiday Edition

By the dim light from the windows of today’s cloudy day, and the twinkling of a too-old Christmas tree and a fire in our fireplace, I’m finally sitting down to recount the holiday adventures. I’ve been MIA for almost a month. I can’t honestly say what I’ve been doing, as the days melted into one another until I woke this morning and realized it’s two days to 2017.

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It’s now the next morning, before the crack of dawn because the pets don’t understand holiday breaks and days off…and Sabra decided it was time to go out NOW. I laid in bed trying to ignore the dancing routine she was doing, but I kept hearing these whispy, squeaky sounds coming from her ass and so I jumped up before the dance became more urgent… and possibly more messy.

And, so Oliver decided it was time for breakfast as soon as my feet hit the floor. And he’s not very quiet about it. Which is why we have a squirt gun on the kitchen counter, in case you ever come over and wonder why there’s a squirt gun on my kitchen counter. He is a smart kitty and a very quick learner and so therefore I need only pick up said squirt gun and he stops his verbal assault. Okay, really, the squirt gun was for redirecting his desire to sleep on my dining room table. Except that he still does it anyway. Also, we have this understanding that I get to have my coffee first. Except that it turns out he really doesn’t give a shit what I want.

So now I’m sitting here with my coffee trying not to be pissed off that I don’t have to be up at 6 a.m. today but I am anyway. And you know what? The dog and the cat have both gone back to bed.

So, anyway. I started shopping online on Black Friday because I’m not masochistic enough to enter a store. I worked for Macy’s in King of Prussia in my 20s and I swore after that experience I would forevermore avoid all malls/stores on Black Friday.

Opac has been itching to join a gym and also to own a weight bench. This Christmas he got the latter. It was ordered online and shipped in 3 parts. Which is probably a good thing. Except that the exact delivery time was sketchy and so I quickly learned that if you order big stuff online, you better make sure you’re home to drag it inside before the recipient sees it.

Box #1, which weighed roughly 50 pounds and actually had the word “Heavy” printed on it just in case you wouldn’t know that, was dropped just outside my front door by the postal carrier, blocking the storm door so I couldn’t open it to retrieve the box. How it never occurred to her that WE WERE HOME since there were TWO CARS IN THE DRIVEWAY, I’ll never know. I managed to shove my weight against the storm door enough to stick my arm out and push at the box on the steps until I could pull it inside. Box #2 arrived on another day late in the afternoon, leaned up against the front door, but this time I was coming home to it with the recipient in the front seat of the car. I made Opac stay in the car with his big sheepish grin, and knew it was useless since I was sure he saw the tall oblong box with the picture of the weight bench printed on it.

Box #3 was by far the heaviest of them all, but someone this time had the good sense to leave this in front of the garage door so I was able to just open the door and drag this 120 lb cardboard box of questionable sturdiness inside the garage by those sharp plastic cords that hold the box closed. It wasn’t easy and I had the cuts in my hands to prove it, and I was again reminded of how weak I’ve become in my middle age.

I took Veruca shopping in the mall two days before Christmas, against my better judgement. I felt my nerves tingling close to what could easily have been a panic attack, and decided if I was going to survive this trip I was going to have to just ride the wave. The left turn lane to the mall road was a half-mile long with cars, and V was bitching about the traffic. I told her this was nothing compared to Christiana, the other mall she wanted to go to, and definitely N-O-T-H-I-N-G compared to KoP. And it really wasn’t.

My biggest anxiety stems from parking, and remains an open wound from my youth when my mom would drive around and around the KoP parking lot looking for the ideal spot when all I wanted to do was get out of the damn car. But she wouldn’t give up and a handful of times got in skirmishes with other drivers who also wanted the ideal spot. So when I go to the mall, I park the car in the first empty space I can find – and I don’t care if I have to walk a mile to get to the door. I hope you’re happy, mom, cause I’m in therapy now.

V wanted a gift for Opac so I suggested we go to Spencer’s – a novelty store full of inappropriate paraphernalia, that’s been around since I was a kid. Except that either it’s gotten far more inappropriate or I’m just old now and no longer amused by the inventory. Anyway, they have great t-shirts – of his faves like Tupac, Eminem, and Bob Marley – just inside the door and so the risk of corrupting V is relatively low. We found 2 we liked and then V thought that posters would be a good gift too. The posters for some ungodly reason are located in the back of the store. I heard her say “mom” once or twice and the word “inappropriate” (she likes this word almost as much as the word “mom”) and I realized that my tactic of not looking around was not her tactic and she said something about “boob balls” and THAT’s when I noticed the WALL of dildos just two feet away from us. Yes, I took my daughter into a store that sells dildos. But – in my defense – I didn’t know they did. There are stores for that sort of thing. And I still don’t know what boob balls are, because I grabbed her by the sleeve and ran to the register.

So, this is where I tell you that Christmas was lovely and the kids were very happy, and Veruca forgot about the wall of dildos and I didn’t have to do any explaining. I got some lovely gifts this year, but the greatest gift was the reminder of how good life is today. I reread some old posts from Decembers past for inspiration, and while I don’t often dwell on the past – I do believe in acknowledging where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. I highly recommend it to everyone. Keeps you humble and grateful.