Sometimes the hits just keep coming. I’m not here to share the stories of others, so let me say that the past few days have been full of unexpected illnesses, complex surgeries, and sudden deaths among my friends and family. That can be hard on an empath, even one with boundaries.
One death has hit me particularly hard, since it was of a special friend with whom I had a weird and complex relationship since I was 14. I hadn’t heard from him except on Facebook posts for a couple of months, then, wow, I’ll never hear from him again.
We were fellow singers, and spent a lot of time talking about music, since we both did choral music (that’s how we met in high school). Sometimes when I was a mess, he’d call and sing me “Country Roads” or something like that. Everyone needs good friends, and it’s hard to lose one.
I’ve found music to really help me when I’m mourning a loss, and today, in honor of my friend’s habit of sharing music with others, I’ll share my favorite song of all time.
Oddly enough, this song was on two of the first record albums I ever got, at around age 14, as a matter of fact. Once I heard “You’ve Got a Friend,” I felt heard, like I actually HAD a friend. I’ve sung this song many, many times, and it comforts me. Honestly, when I really think about my life goals, it’s always been to be a good friend (and why I get so sad when I lose one to my own human failings).
And, the first “favorite song” I ever had is STILL my favorite comfort song. That’s almost 50 years of comfort.
I’m not much of a YouTube linker, but if you ever want to hear what music has comforted me in my life, there aren’t many. You can look them up yourself.
You Can Close Your Eyes (James Taylor)
Drive All Night (Bruce Springsteen)
The Chorale movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
The Long Black Veil, Chieftains version
Yep, that’s about it. What comforts you? Music, images, books? Do tell. I could use it. I’ll miss my friend. Luckily people live on in our hearts. And remember, you’ve got a friend.
Since work has started up and since groups I’m in have started meeting, I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people I know. I’m seeing similar things in Facebook groups, chats, etc. It’s summed up by something my friend, Barbara, wrote this morning, which I quoted in the title of this post.
I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve been in this week that either started or ended with someone looking into the camera, bewildered, and sharing that their parents are very sick, or that they lost a friend, or that they’ve been exposed and are worried. People tell of losing multiple loved ones or friends in a short time (I’m one of them). A neighbor at socially distanced book group got visibly shaken telling us that she won’t be able to see her frail and elderly mother this year, because she’d reluctantly canceled her flight to Texas.
At one point, the same neighbor looked at us all, and plaintively asked, “When can we hug?” Whew, we miss hugs.
At the end of the Friends of LLL Board meeting on Tuesday, we had some time left over, and people were talking about the challenges we all had been dealing with, a friend who lost her husband recently, etc. At one point, we all seemed to have our heads in our hands, or blank stares, as we just silently sat there. It felt like a virtual hug was really needed.
A work meeting yesterday was similar. It was hard to get started with the latest project’s progress after we’d been sharing about lockdowns in England, a mutual Swedish friend who got sick…all that. But, work is a thing I am lucky enough to have, because it lets me think about other things beside germs, the degrading environment, and the government.
Yes, we are weary. We know we have to keep up what we’ve been doing, and that it’s important. But people, at least in my circles, are feeling helpless to do anything for themselves or others. The separation we’re experiencing is important, but as it drags toward a year, it’s hard to keep our spirits and resolve up, isn’t it?
What Can We Do?
I’ve noticed that a lot of people are decorating the heck out of their houses. I’ve seen a lot of holiday extravaganzas out there! Anita and I have even made a winter wonderland out of our year-round tree and our mantel. Other people are crafting like crazy (my current knitting project is now too long to be even a maxi-skirt on me).
Mostly, though, let’s talk. Let’s listen to each other’s stories and hold those who are having a hard time in our hearts. We’re all having challenges, to one extent or another, right now. If we all send comfort out, we’ll all get some. I feel like by honoring the stories of my friends and colleagues, I’m sending good energy out. I’m appreciating theirs, too. I’d really like to see my husband and my animals.
I’m glad I kept looking for all those wedding photos, because next I found photographic evidence of MOST of a very memorable trip I had in the late 1990s. It’s one of my favorite stories, so those of you who know me in person probably have heard it. But I have PHOTOS to prove I’m not making it up! (I have way more photos, but didn’t want to break the Internet.)
Just Another La Leche League Conference
Back in the olden days, when La Leche League was a volunteer-staffed breastfeeding support organization headquartered in Schaumburg, Illinois, the US part was organized into Areas. Some Areas were one state, some a group of states, and some part of a state. But it had something to do with geographic location. How quaint.
I lived in Texas, which was its own Area. Up north from us was AR/OK, which was Arkansas and Oklahoma combined, due to their lower population. Many of my friends lived there, and I was working on my online projects with them. Since I’d recently become the webmaster for the parent organization (making this probably be 1998), they invited me to give a talk, my first in that capacity where I was invited out of state…ooh. It sounded fun to me!
It Gets Interesting
I had a hard time finding the place, even though I think I followed my friends from Little Rock. It was in an old 4H camp (or something like that) either in or near a reservation.
The minute I got unpacked and hugged my friends who were sharing something like a dorm room with me, I got in touch with my artsy friend from Oklahoma, Kris, who I had yet to meet (I had a LOT of online friends back then). She had her own cabin off from the main building. We met, which involved much squealing and hugging (oh, how I miss squealing and hugging).
Immediately we decided we MUST go on a hike. There were trails! A lake! Rocks! Plants! There was a reason I liked Kris; she was also a nature gal. So, we went on a fabulous hike. The woods were beautiful.
We found all sorts of cool rocks, plants we didn’t recognize, and bugs. Kris also likes bugs.
We even managed to see a deer, which made us so happy. We gabbed and gabbed about our children, our spouses (hers was way more annoying than mine and still is, as an ex), our LLL stuff, our friends, and so on.
We were happy and tired when we arrived back at her little cabin. Then, I felt an itch. And another. I pulled down my socks. Kris had no socks, so she just pulled up her pants. Oh, crap. There were tiny, tiny things on our legs. There were tiny, tiny things ALL OVER us. Almost at once we screeched, “Ticks!” and immediately began throwing our clothing off. Now, only a couple of hours ago, Kris and I had never laid eyes on each other. Here we were basically naked, picking ticks off each other. Tiny, tiny deer ticks.
No photos of this are available. Lucky for all.
At last, we got most of the ticks off, leaving an interesting pattern all over us. We de-ticked our clothing and headed to the main building. We found our friend Barbara. She had gone on a hike. Oops. Luckily hers was shorter and she wasn’t totally infested. Everyone else avoided those trails!
The rest of the conference, we had to keep showing people our bit-up extremities. Now you know why I do NOT get close to deer.
The Rest of the Conference
Things went uphill, and as far as I remember, the rest of the conference was fine. I met a lot of “high-ranking” LLL women, which was fun. I gave my talk, learned to dance the two-step with a very handsome actual cowboy (little did I know that would become nothing special to me eventually), and cemented life-long friendships.
We also got a lot of work done, which always amazed me. My team back then were so good at multi-tasking, since they all had young children, led lots of mother-to-mother support meetings, AND did extra things, like our new email lists, websites, and online communities. I’ve always been very proud of those women.
The other thing I remember about this weekend was that I made a lot of purchases at the sales area, where groups brought things they made, and such, to raise funds. I also bought a LOT of raffle tickets. I was trying to help out an Area that had less money than mine. Plus, they gave me a free trip.
I ended up with so much stuff that I had to take an extra suitcase home, but I had no idea how much I would treasure the things I brought. A lot of the stuff was made by Rudy, the husband of the woman in charge of the area (Wista). He was a talented Native American artist who did scrimshaw on mammoth bones (he was allowed to), did paintings and drawings, and a whole bunch of other art stuff. He was also fascinating to talk to and very patient with all my nature questions.
Among many other wonderful items, I got a picture of a wolf by Rudy for my son that he probably still has. I also won dozens of wooden symbols of the West, like buffalo, cacti, howling coyotes, etc., which were I think made by Wista’s brother. My kids loved them. They sat in the windows in my house for years and years. They bring back such great memories (and yes, some are still around in boxes somewhere).
You just never knew who you’d meet at one of these conferences, but I soon learned that you would always come away with lifelong friends and lifelong stories to tell. Yep, it wasn’t all bad.
PS: If you were there, correct or add to my memories! I am not the best remember-er on earth.
Today is Anita’s last day with me in Utah. I just have to say it’s been great. One of the best things about hanging out with your long-time friends is that you can enjoy yourselves without doing much at all. We did a lot of nothing this week.
We did have a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong, but since we didn’t have access to a car most of the time she was here, we spent a lot of time just hanging around the Canyons Village resort area. All the walking was a blast, and it sure used up a lot of energy. That meant we got to enjoy a lot of food, too! Thank goodness the pho and ramen restaurant finally opened, so we could eat there!
The shopping and sight-seeing was also fun, and we sure were grateful for the family visitors for taking us around. Yesterday we did a bit more shopping, and Anita got some great coral Zuni earrings. I’m so glad she got to have fun, while Kathleen and I were drooling over a huge jewelry selection AND Navajo blankets. Not bad ones!
My favorite thing she got is a huge cactus-shaped birdhouse thing. It’s going to be her “travel pillow” so she can get it on the plane. It is stuffed with excellent newspapers from Nepal!
The best part was just hanging around in the condo, eating our random foods, watching the snow, the birds and the one giant black cat that hangs around here. It was so good having someone to watch election coverage with and talk about things.
And of course, the four seasons of Schitt’s Creek were a blast. Neither of us had laughed so much in a long time.
She got out while the weather was still great, which is good, since a snowstorm is a-brewing. I’m sure the rest of us will figure out something fun this evening, though!
The intent of this post is just to say treasure your friends, and make the most of times you get to spend together. Usually Anita and I are both working a lot, so just hanging out was a real treat. Relaxing, truly relaxing, is rare, and I am glad we got to do it together. Only she and I would laugh when I pompously declare that I just realized that for every mountain, there is a valley (that’s after I looked at a team photo in the newspaper stuffed in the cactus and wondered where people played soccer in Nepal, with all those mountains).
Tell your friends you care about them! (Hey, friends, I care about you!) Write me!
I probably mean who are MY friends. I’m not talking about my inner circle of friends and family, which is a small number, like with most people. I mean the larger group of folks I care about, respect, and am interested in hearing from.
Thanks to my career on the internet, I know and have gotten pretty close to lots of people from a wide range of backgrounds. We all have something in common that ties us together, but we’re all different, too. I honestly like that, even though I also like being around my “tribe” as well, which is very human.
Most of the people I know are great about respecting the rights of others to express themselves, even when they are TOTALLY WRONG (i.e., on the other side of an issue). A few aren’t. I’m okay with that, unless I get accused of thinking or believing something I don’t think or believe.
I got my feelings hurt pretty badly when I shared the recent news article about people who,as a group, aren’t big on following rules sinking their compatriots’ boats by going too fast in a parade. I thought it was a funny example of logical consequences. (I am having trouble linking to an article, so just Google “Lake Travis boat parade” and it will come up.
Someone took offense to my posting it, even though I didn’t comment, and said: “Pretty sad that you take pleasure in this. I’ll bet you wish some of these people had drowned.”
Wow. That’s the kind of thing that hurts a lot. Did they really believe that? Knowing I’m a pacifist, nonviolent, Buddhist-leaning tree-hugger?
So yeah, I said that was mean. But I didn’t delete this person’s comments, since they have a right to insult me and lump me into some hypothetical evil group of people. On the other hand, I didn’t delete any subsequent comments, some of which agreed and some that didn’t. Everyone gets a say.
Im not surprised someone treated me like that. I’m learning that people who speak out, in today’s climate, will get bashed. Others have it lots worse, so I’m grateful for the kindness of people I know. Maybe that’s what matters more to me than beliefs, kindness.
I just hope the bashers (ha ha autocorrect hat it as badgers) stick to words! Dialog or one-sided rants are fine. But I’m against hurting others or their businesses because you disagree on things. I want to hear all sides, even when it’s hard. But I’m not super. I have to deal with my own knee-jerk reactions. Don’t we all?
What I Discovered
After all this, I checked my Facebook friends list. I was relieved to see quite a few people I care about who disagree politically or socially. This is GOOD. I don’t want to isolate myself in my comfort zone!
I want to share what I wrote on Facebook, mainly as a record for myself, but also to try to say how much I care for all my friends and family. Please don’t think I’m a horrible stereotype!
My Post.It’s Long.
I just culled my friends list. I saw a beautiful parade of faces from all over the world, in every color. From teens to my elders, there they were. Some I hear from often, some haven’t posted in years. I just like seeing their precious faces. Who did I cull? A couple of leftover fake people, people who have passed from this life (cause I get sad at their birthdays), and a lot of animals who long ago passed over the Rainbow Bridge.
Who did I keep? A large group of very diverse people I truly care about. Family, old friends, new friends, locals, people in other hemispheres, people from the whole spiritual spectrum (Yes, including Christians, Jews, Muslim, Buddhists, Wiccan, agnostics, and atheists). Straight, gay, trans, questioning, bi, gender fluid—they’re all good to me. There are people across the range of political and social groups, too (that’s right, from MAGA to Antifa to Communist to pacifists to gun rights activists to Capitalist to Socialist to fans of dictators to fans of the US Constitution (many interpretations) to people who just don’t care).
I’ve kept people who are vocal about their beliefs. I’ve kept people I agree with. I will keep people I disagree with. I’ve kept people who don’t post controversial things and people who do. Why? Because we all get to express ourselves however WE see fit.
We have the option to scroll by things that bother us or to react. Then we deal with the consequences. When I screw up, I can count on others to point it out. I am not going to censor friends I agree with or disagree with. I’m not going to invite people I disagree with to leave. Nope. We all get to stay.
Sometimes my humor upsets people. I hate that! But I’ll keep trying. If I hurt your feelings, tell me. I’ll do the same, though. Thanks to all of my diverse friends for sticking with me in these troubled times. I treasure YOU.
Take care friends. The US is in a bad place and it will get worse the rest of the year, I’m afraid. Do your best not to pigeonhole your friends, acquaintances, and family. Try?
You know what’s extra-extra nice? It’s nice that people care. And people do care about me! One way I know is that I am very frequently told I am too busy, or asked why I do so much. This is not new. Sensei Larry, who taught the kids karate, always called me “the Joiner,” because I did so many things at my old church.
And when I was in La Leche League, I certainly had a lot of jobs, though all that volunteering led to an actual paid job, followed by a career!
It’s true. I may be an introvert, but I like to keep busy. Boredom is not an issue for me. My whole life I’ve had a book in my hands, knitting in my lap, or some meeting to go to (choir, yarn shop, LLL, political things, my women’s group, etc.) I like being around people who are doing things. That’s how I learn.
Sure, there have been times when I’ve over committed. I’m able to figure that out and eliminate some things, honest. Right now I am totally at my limit. I can’t take on another committee chairmanship, event to organize, or new hobby (even though I’d love to learn to paint).
In the last week I’ve said “no” to several things. I’m mentioning this so that those of you who are concerned will see that I DO say no. I just don’t write about those things, since the Joiner always is sad to disappoint people. I was born this way, sigh. But I’ve had therapy!
The things on my plate right now support the things I care about passionately: animals, nature, writing for my LLL friends, our new business, and my paying job (which I love, so I’m not quitting). I’m going to be careful to not take on any new sub-jobs, and to ask for help when I need it. I just LOVE to do work I’m passionate about.
You, my friends, can help by pointing out to me when I’m frazzled and short-tempered and reminding me to ask for help. I’m glad you care. And I know that a lot of my busy-ness is to keep me from thinking about losing contact with my beloved son. I know.
Still, I’m glad I have such kind friends in real life and in the virtual community. You help me see that life always has positives and negatives, and that you can make your own positives by getting out there and DOING rather than STEWING. Hey, did I make a meme? I’m too busy to go create one and post it, though. Heh heh.
By the way, having spent the week here in Cameron, I tell you what: I’d be exhausted if I were here full time. My goodness, I went to a lot of meetings, events, and such. I think it was just an exceptional week, though. At least I got some relaxing social time with my Cameron friends, too. Cheers to my new Bistro wine happy hour buddies, and to the wonderful servers and staff friends there!
I was about to start writing this, when I got more and more annoyed at a phoebe flying around me. It got SO loud. I looked up, and she was sitting right on the porch with me. Missed that photo op!
Speaking of photos, you might enjoy a visit to the Master Naturalist blog, where I posted some photos of yesterday’s field trip. I’ll have more later.
Not to worry about missed opportunities, though. I got plenty of photos today, since my dear former work friend, Mike Y, finally came to visit after quite an absence. I sure was happy to give him a hug and show him what’s going on around here.
Of course we visited the chickens, who have finally figured out how to climb up their ladder. See proof below.
We had lunch at Dutch Towne, where he fit right in with his VFW hat. Too bad he took it off to eat.
I then showed him all around the Pope Residence and introduced him to the family. He really liked the upstairs bedroom, where he just had to try on the church lady hat.
He also found a 3D Jesus, which we had not noticed before, which I gave him as a souvenir. We then ambled over to the Hermit Haus, where Lee tried to convince him to also take Buddy Jesus home. But, no. We still have him.
I got a real treat when we went up to the sanctuary and Mike fired up the organ and played me a rusty version of the Marine Hymn. He even used proper pedal technique. I was impressed. He had me take many photos of himself preaching and worshiping, which I do hope he made into a photo montage!
On our way back to the ranch and a glimpse of the Nash house, his check engine light came on. Ugh. So, we cut the day short, and he headed to the auto parts store to see what error he got. It appeared safe to drive home, so off he went.
He WILL visit again soon! He missed Sunday dinner!
I just wanted to share two little things that didn’t fit in with my previous blog.
One is those silly chickens. I realized today that their ramp up to the egg laying and roosting area was upside down, and they’d never figured out how to get up there for shelter, roosting, and such.
So, I fixed it and put little bits of chicken scratch on each step, with more upstairs, hoping to entice them to go up. I did see them inspecting it, but haven’t yet seen one go up. I think maybe Miss Fancy Pants went up, though I was watching from the house.
Poor dears. I hope they do figure it out. But, they are happy and growing away! They like spinach and clover cuttings a lot!
I hung out with my Milam Touch of Love friends today as they held a very successful micro-chipping event at the Cameron Farm and Ranch, where there’s a really useful drive-through area. I enjoyed seeing all the dogs getting chipped, but was sad to see that some of the nicest dogs at the pound still don’t have new families.
I’m saddest that Penney’s sister still hasn’t been claimed. She is as nice as Penney, and just as soft and cuddly. But, we know better than to adopt two siblings.
There’s another dog at the pound, Ghost, who is so beautiful and sweet. He is all spotted, but has something in him other than Dalmatian. I know if I had space for another white dog, I’d be taking him home. Sigh.
It’s hard to care so much about animals and work with them, when you know you can’t take them all home. I guess that’s why they call it volunteer “work,” rather than play.
I’m grateful to my MTOL friend Danelle, who not only gave me a big hug and a crystal to cling to when she saw I was a bit nerved out, but she inspired me to take some “me” time this afternoon. I’d been worrying about a situation that I can’t do anything about, but a nice bath with lavender bath salts and some orange soap Danelle gave me really has helped.
And on that note, I’ll wait for Sunday dinner and all my friends and family.
Hey, kind readers, thanks for all of your feedback on yesterday’s post about friendship and jealousy. You all gave me a lot to think about, and the BEST part was finding out I’m not alone in having difficulty becoming a member of a group of friends. It’s important to think about it, and I realize I do it a lot. I even wrote that “friend” is my favorite word back in May!
A couple of comments made me think about WHY some of us have this issue. My son’s partner realizes she has some issues being in groups, thanks to her autism symptoms, which make forming friendships difficult for her, but make her value her real friends even more (I am happy she is MY friend!). She’s not alone. Many of us note that forming friendships is hard due to personality challenges. Some of us are shy; others aren’t great at (or fond of) the kind of bonding but non-substantive conversations that lead to deeper friendships. [Insert your own reasons here.]
A neighbor texted me wondering if people even realize I want to be their friend. I found that amusing/ironic, since this was someone I want to be friends with and have no idea if they realize it. The point was that sometimes people appear to others as if they have some kind of boundary or other presentation that makes them appear to want to keep their distance. Aha! That was an insight to me. Maybe people misinterpret my “resting hermit face” for not wanting to socialize. And maybe I misinterpret others, too!
Here’s a fact about me (I know you were dying to read one): I’ve never had many close friends. Let me explain. I always have a few people I can talk to and do stuff with. But I think I always wanted to have a group of close friends who could get together and talk, travel, and share experiences. The couple of times I’ve tried that have made it clear in no uncertain terms that I’m not cut out to do that and will end up being “that member” that everyone talks about behind their back and wishes would stop showing up (hello, yarn store clique; I still like many of you as individuals). No wonder I have so much sympathy for the pariahs in my social circle and keep doing my best to be kind to them.
Why is this relevant?
Well, over the past weekend, I watched as a couple of groups of people from work went on fabulous trips and had fabulous times together. I found myself wishing I could go along. These are friend groups I tried to be in, but didn’t fit in. Yep, I had a bit o’ jealousy. I’ve always wanted to be a member of a close group of friends that were drawn together because of shared bonds, not because they are members of the same club or somehow paid to be together.
Maybe this all stemmed from when I was a kid growing up, when our neighborhood was a merry band of young folks who did everything together, regardless of our differences and actually cared about each other (I feel warm when I remember how the autistic child, Gay, came along with us wherever she could, and stood on the sidelines, rocking back and forth, but a part of the group; of course we had never heard of autism).