Tag Archives: love

Shared

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“It’s not nice to be selfish…”

It has been more than 2 months since I wrote a blog post.  These months have been fraught with extremes in my emotions, as I have tried to process some of the relationships in my life and determine which ones matter.  I suppose we all have these moments, times when circumstances force us to realize who needs to stay in our lives and who we need to sever. I’m in the process now, of both bonding and severing.

I remember when I was a little girl, my sweet Mama teaching me how important it was that I learn to share.  “Share your toys, Leslie…”  “It’s not nice to be selfish…”  Being selfish might feel good for a minute, but sharing feels good forever.

A stark, beautiful and painful thing has come to light for me in this process…some people just won’t share.  Anything.  Not time, feelings, words, truth.  As painful as it has been to try to salvage a “friendship” that turned out never to have been genuine in the first place, it has been liberating and beautiful to compare and contrast it to the ones I cherish that are, indeed, the “real deal”.  So more than being sad over what is not, I am happy for what is.

I am happy for the friend who, among other caring gestures, always wants to know I got home safely after we’ve shared supper and said good night.

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I am happy for the lifelong confidante who shares what my company does for her.

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I am happy for the new-ish friend whose genius I admire, whose goofball humor I enjoy since it is much like my own, and whose insight I take to heart.

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I am happy for the friend who sings, laughs and cries with me, who stops when he finds a feather and picks it up to bring to me when we see each other just because he knows that feathers bring me joy.

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And I am happy for the friend whose love for me is abiding, selfless and genuine.

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So, when I have friends in my life, LOVE in my life, like this…why in the name of all that is sacred would I ever settle for anything less?  Answer:  I won’t.  Never again.  Love like this gives me the strength I need to sever from my life the people who don’t care for me.  Because this…this is connection as it should be.  This is love…Shared.

Not Just Goofball Funny

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Thirty years and counting…

Yesterday was a special occasion as Sweet Pea and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.  I remarked on social media that when my parents had their 30th anniversary, they seemed like such…ADULTS.  And they did.

I have rarely felt like an adult during the course of our marriage, and I mean that in a positive way.  Jeff, my wonderful husband, has the best sense of humor of any human I’ve ever met, so that has made our time together way more fun than I think most people are blessed to enjoy.  I remember once, when Jeff and I had been going out for a few months, coming home from a date and sitting down with Mama in the living room for a glass of tea.  Jeff had spent a decent amount of time with my family by this point, and Mama said, “You seem to laugh a lot with him.”

She was right, of course.  But it took her saying it to make me realize how different being with him was from the other fellows I had dated.  I had only had a couple of “boyfriends” prior to Jeff, and those relationships were not marked by laughter as much as by angst, jealousy and my need to assert my freedom as they tried to assert their control over me.  This thing with Jeff…this was definitely different.  Laughing with him led to loving him, a kind of love I never imagined and still marvel over.

Even after 30 years of marriage and 4 years of dating/engagement prior to that, Jeff can still explode with some kind of off-the-wall remark that makes me laugh so hard I cry, or pee my pants, or both.  And since he is the funniest human I’ve ever met, it gives me a special kind of joy when I can make HIM laugh.  Has our life together always been a barrel of monkeys?  Of course not.  Have we dealt with issues, tragedies, losses, illnesses and all the other not-fun stuff life is made of?  Definitely.  Has our ability to laugh made the not-fun stuff a little more bearable?  YES.

I know I come with a lot of baggage and I am no picnic to live with.  I can be stubborn, overly emotional, petty and selfish.  Sweet Pea has his hands pretty full with me.

Here’s the thing.  A good sense of humor speaks to all the other qualities that make my husband special and wonderful.  I think–and this is just me, I realize—that someone who’s genuinely funny also possesses strength, intelligence, compassion, generosity and warmth.  I think those qualities are prerequisites for real wit, real funny-ness.  Not just goofball funny, but loving-smart-strong-warm-funny.  I give thanks for a partner who embodies such attributes.

And as we begin another year of life together, I pray that I can be for him a fraction of the wonderful things he is for me…smart, strong and warm. Loving and kind and generous.  And not just Goofball Funny.

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June 21, 1986.

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June 21, 2016.

 

Lost And Found

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And great rejoicing…

I usually wear a ring on my right thumb, and the ring I wear there is usually one that belonged to Mama.  More specifically, there are a couple of her old rings that I take turns wearing on that thumb.  Unfortunately, I often fidget with my ring, rolling it up and down my thumb, and sometimes it slips off entirely.  Several months ago this happened at work, and the ring got lost.

I heard it drop to the floor and roll briefly…then I heard it drop a second time.  The environment I work in has elevated floors to allow for electrical cables to pass underneath, between layers of flooring which are several inches apart.  And in a number of spots there are small access holes for those cables to plug in to the machines we use in our daily work.

When I heard my Mama’s ring drop that second time, my stomach dropped with it.  I scrounged around on the floor on my hands and knees, with a flashlight, scouring every inch of floor in that little room, hoping to find my lost ring.  I even dug into the tiny access hole as far as my hand would reach (which wasn’t very far at all), shining my flashlight into that minuscule space.  No luck.

I gave up hope that it would ever surface again.  I even bought a “replacement” for it on eBay, an ersatz ring that resembled the lost one.  But I knew it was just a poor substitute for the original.  The thing is, it was not a valuable ring in terms of money, really.  Its real value was that it was Mama’s.

We’ve all had similar experiences, haven’t we?  We’ve somehow managed to lose something that we treasured, whether it had any real monetary value or not.  And even if we were able to find another item that looked like the lost one, it was never the same.

Fortunately, my story has a happy ending.  The area in which I lost that ring is currently under demolition/construction as part of a major rebuild happening in my department.  When I learned that the area was going to be demolished I spoke with my managers and told them I had lost a ring in that room, and asked them to alert the construction crew in case it turned up.  One day last week as I ate lunch, one of the construction fellows found me and asked if I was the lady who lost a ring in that room, and I responded that I was.  He held up a slim gold band and asked, “Is this it?”

And my heart soared!  What was lost had been found, and with tears in my eyes I said, “Yes, that’s it!  Thank you so much!  It’s not really worth much, but it was my Mama’s and I am so glad to have it back.”

It reminds me of the Bible stories where something, or someone, is lost for a time and then found and restored to its/his/her right place.  In each story there is great rejoicing when what was lost is found.  I’m grateful to have Mama’s ring back…and it seems fitting that it should be restored to me during Lent, a time when I contemplate Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, a love that restores me to God, no matter how lost I feel.

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Present Tense

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Do it.  Do it NOW…

I hate to be late. HATE it!  So, I always wear a watch.  Sometimes I wear more than one watch at a time, as both a fashion statement and a reminder to be where I need to be, when I need to be there.

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If there is one lesson God keeps trying to teach me, it is that time is precious.  Life can change in an instant. Opportunities are presented—or lost—in the blink of an eye.

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Throughout my life as well as in recent months, my world has been altered by deaths of people I love.  Not “loved”.  LOVE.  Present tense.  I cannot bring myself to say that I “lovED” a person who is no longer living.  Just because someone died doesn’t mean that the love stops.  I don’t even believe that the relationship between us stops; it changes by necessity, but I don’t believe that it ends.

It’s as though the person I love has changed addresses, relocating to a place where I am temporarily unable to see or touch him or her.  I have, however, been known to speak to my departed loved ones (not in a way that will result in my being hauled off to the asylum!) and they often visit me in dreams.  The relationships and the love go on.  We are just temporarily separated.

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Still, I tend to take my relationships for granted.  I think most people do…until we get a stark reminder that nothing lasts forever.  For example, several years ago a friend and co-worker was killed in a wreck.  Gone in a split second.  Suicide, both attempted and and completed, has touched my life, more than once.  Fast passings from aggressive cancer, slow goodbyes from Alzheimer’s disease and COPD, sudden massive strokes and heart attacks have all taken loved ones from me and my family.

It doesn’t matter whether a person leads a charmed life of wealth and success, or a humble existence of  living paycheck-to-paycheck.  It is immaterial whether one is educated or not, privileged or not, a have-or-have-not.  Suffering and death are the greatest equalizers, and if we live long enough, we’re all going to get some of both.

Whatever needs doing in my life, I need to do it.  Do it now.  Speak the truth.  Write the letter.  Make the phone call or send the e-mail.  I need to hug and kiss, laugh and cry, and go about the living of my big, loud, messy life.

Do it.  Do it NOW.

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Heart In Hand

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Living my life the only way I know how…

Valentine’s Day is upon us once again.  Sweet Pea and I have not made any special plans to celebrate the occasion, and that’s fine with me.  I am working on Valentine’s Day and I’ll be happy just to get home and spend the evening together watching Netflix.  Pizza Palace spaghetti might be a nice touch!

Many of my single friends are bewailing their uncoupled status as the day approaches.  Maybe I take being in a relationship for granted…but I think of Valentine’s Day as a time to celebrate all kinds of love, not just the romantic-candles-and-roses kind.  Case in point—my friend Anna sent me a cute and thoughtful Valentine earlier in the week, an expression of friendship in a Snoopy card.  Certainly not romantic, but I appreciated it just the same.

Valentine’s Day brings to mind images of chocolates, flowers and, of course, hearts.  So many of our day to day figures of speech refer to the heart, like wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve, or being tender-hearted.  Heartbreak, or heartache, is something familiar to us all.

I tend to live my life with my heart in my hands.  I’ve tried other ways of living, trying to close my heart after having it broken, trying to shelter it behind an emotional wall of protection.  But living that way was, for me, like being half dead.  My heart is most comfortable extended toward the people in my life who matter.  My husband, my friends and my family members who love me unconditionally all cradle my heart with gentle, tender care.  Their love gives me the courage to extend my heart to others who may or may not respond.  It’s risky to live with my heart in my hands, but for me, there’s really no alternative.

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What 50 Looks Like

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And why it does and doesn’t matter…

Feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem once responded to a reporter who kindly remarked that she did not look 40, “This is what 40 looks like.”  Now, whatever your thoughts and opinions about Ms. Steinem may be, her response to that reporter has always resonated with me. As a woman who has always felt judged by my appearance (not by age as much as by shape and size) I love it when appearance-based stereotypes get shattered.  But this post isn’t really about physical appearances as much as what my life looks like today, as I turn The Big 5-0.

In the spirit of full disclosure I will admit to being a little freaked-out by the prospect of turning 50.  It’s a milestone different from any other birthday that happens to have a zero at the end of it.  A woman turning 50 often finds herself subject to the slings and arrows of menopause and all the changes associated with the end of the childbearing years.  And I am so there.  I am relieved that my new GYN actually listened to my concerns during our initial visit and started me on treatment that I hope will help me feel better soon.

I went today and renewed my drivers’ license, and I was pleasantly surprised by how similar my photo today looked when compared to the one from my last license 10 years ago.  Aside from a marked decrease in weight, I don’t look too different, or too much older.  That was a big relief!

The biggest surprise about this birthday is how much more content and comfortable I am in my life and in my own skin than I’ve probably ever been before.  I remember other birthdays with zeroes on them, and the various kinds of angst I was experiencing with each of them.  My life is in a better place now.  God has blessed me with a husband who still loves me after all these years, makes me laugh, warms my heart, has been a wonderful dog dad, and makes me feel safe.Image

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I have several longtime friendships like that as well. Those relationships are priceless.  My friend Mary K. and I spent the weekend between our birthdays together.  Her birthday is May 15 and was also a milestone.  We first met at a Methodist youth assembly when we were 13 or 14 years old.  Living in different states, we were pen-pals for decades but didn’t actually see each other again until 2009 when, after about a decade of being out of touch, we reconnected via Facebook.

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Over the years we have shared everything from braces and boyfriend stories to college, marriage, the births of her children to the deaths of our parents.  This friendship and a few other cherished ones like it sustain me, nourish my soul and, again, make me feel safe.  Above is the picture from our initial reunion in 2009, and below is from our most recent get-together this past weekend.  It just dawned on me that she is wearing the same top in both pictures, and I am wearing yellow in both.  (My sweater from 2009 would swallow me now since weight loss surgery!)

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The losses of so many loved ones have all affected me in different ways, but that old adage, “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” is one I believe in.  Yes, the deaths hurt terribly…but I am so incredibly grateful that I have known and loved these precious family members and friends.  My life without them would be unimaginable.  And they’re not gone forever.  They’re just in a place where I can’t see them right now, except when they visit in dreams.  The relationships with living family members are all works in progress, just as they’ve always been.  I’m grateful for the ones still here who make me feel safe, valued and loved.

So I guess my life turning 50 is looking pretty good after all.  God has been so faithful and brought me through more sadness, disasters and changes than I ever could have imagined experiencing by the time I turned 50.  He has also brought me more wonderful surprises, happiness and joy than I could ever hope to deserve.  So, what does 50 look like?  

Sometimes it looks hazy and crazy.

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Sometimes it looks goofy and spoofy.Image

 

 Mostly, though,  it just looks…Blessed.

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Cinco De Martha

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Because I had many mothers…

Last week’s calendar contained both Cinco De Mayo and Mother’s Day, which got me thinking about the many women in my life who mothered me in addition to my own Mama.  Because Cinco De Mayo/May 5 was also Aunt Martha’s birthday, I naturally had her on my mind.  She would have been 87 years old.

In describing Mama I have always said that if she were a color, it would be red because of her fiery and passionate nature.  I also noted that all of Mama’s sisters, in my mind, have a color of their own.  Aunt Martha, to me, is purple…regal, unconventional, stand-out-in-a-crowd purple.  Like Mama and the rest of The Big Five, Aunt Martha was a true original, and in many ways unlike her sisters.  But she and Mama were very much alike in their big-hearted, laugh-till-they-peed-their-pants humor and personalities.

Aunt Martha never had human children, choosing instead to be a dog mom.  I have followed in this path, and I think that being around her and her little canine companions so much as a child shaped the love of dogs I developed over the years.  The first of Aunt Martha’s dogs (or anyone else’s dogs for that matter) in my memory is Susie, a Chihuahua, the breed that Aunt Martha and Uncle John always favored.  She was a tiny little thing, even though she was overfed, and because her bones were fragile, Aunt Martha was forever reminding Reed and me, “Don’t run the dog,” meaning not to chase her.

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When Sweet Pea and I were finally able to adopt a dog, we chose a Beagle/Basset mix from the shelter.  Ernie The Wonder Beagle was not a huge dog, but he was larger than Aunt Martha was accustomed to.  She asked me once, “Ain’t his teeth awful big?”, to which I responded, “Well, they fit in his mouth so they must be the right size.”  She and Ernie would see each other at Dad’s occasionally and she was always sweet to him, and he loved her as well.  Big teeth and all.

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Some of my musical genes came from Aunt Martha as well.  She had a lovely soprano voice that I loved listening to when we would gather around the piano after Christmas Eve supper, harmonizing out of the ancient hymnbooks that lived in Mama’s piano bench.  Her voice singing songs like “Ivory Palaces” and “Sunrise Tomorrow” echoes through my memory.  She wanted to take voice lessons but Granddad would not allow her to, so to spite him, she quit high school before graduating.  When I graduated from college with a degree in voice, she wrote in the card she sent me that she was proud of me and doubly proud of my majoring in music.  Maybe she lived out a piece of her dream through me.  I hope so.

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She and I always seemed to be kindred spirits and we spent a lot of time together throughout my life.  I spent many nights at her house as a child and teenager.  There were the Friday night TV shows we both loved watching and the trips to the Pixie Drive-In for onion rings and milkshakes.  There was the favorite housecoat I wore when I was there and the stash of “feminine supplies” she kept on hand for when I visited.  (She was always very compassionate about cramps.)

She was a meticulous quilter, her stitches so tiny, close together and uniformly spaced that even a machine couldn’t have done better work.  It seemed like there was always a quilt up on frames in her basement.  Countless nights I would go with Mama, Aunt Ruby and Mrs. Allred to Aunt Martha’s house.  They would work on whatever quilt was in the frames until they couldn’t see straight anymore, drinking tea and Cokes, telling stories and laughing.  ALWAYS laughing.  And even though I wasn’t helping them, they included me.  I didn’t sew then and I don’t really sew now.  But when I concentrate, I can do decent hand work.  I wish now that I had pulled up a chair with them around the frames.  I suspect that I would have learned much more than how to stitch.

Christmas Eve 1994, I presented her with a special little gift.  I had found a picture of her and me together with Susie, the one from earlier in this post.  I set about shopping for the right frame for it and ended up choosing a beautiful silver frame with a heart-shaped opening that fit the photo perfectly. It was like it had been made to hold that very photograph.  I placed the picture inside and gave it to her that Christmas.  The picture below is of her opening that gift as I looked on.  Her expression is priceless.

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I think my penchant for collecting things comes from her as well.  She collected all sorts of things.  Cartoon character glasses and figurines from fast-food places, Beanie Babies, state quarters and California Raisins.  Little things like that gave her huge pleasure.  She also really enjoyed jewelry and sparkly things, another trait I inherited.  She was gone before I bought the Original Kissy Shirt, but I know she would have loved it, because it is funny and splashy…much like she was.  She would approve of the new smaller Kissy Shirt as well, although the weight loss surgery I had and the shrinking process that made the smaller shirt necessary would have worried her to death.

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I miss her all the time, just like I miss the rest of them.  I imagine that her house in Heaven has quilting frames and that she and Mama, Aunt Ruby and Mrs. Allred are reunited there from time to time, working on a quilt for the next family member who arrives there, a warm covering for the bed in their mansion.  When I go to meet them, I will have sense enough to pull up a chair and join them around the frames.