Friends. Most of the time I am aware that I have some, here and there, people to smile at, speak with, do an occasional lunch or other outing with. But then there are those times when people show up, at great expense to themselves, when I am not at my loveliest or in the greatest of circumstances. They are the truest of friends who show up and do life with us, me and Dennis, when they wouldn’t have to. That is what happened last week.
It surprised me when my invitation to come “up north” was accepted not just with “sure, we’ll come someday”, but with “when is a good time – I’ll buy tickets…” Not many visitors make it up here, although it is a great place and to cool off in the summer. I also was thinking of the perfect time for them to come. My whole local family was taking a two week Alaskan cruise. I couldn’t see how we could go with them since I had just done my Grand Canyon trip. I was fairly content to stay home, watch the animals, water the plants and weed the garden. Having friends come would be the perfect thing to keep me from feeling sorry for myself.
Arlette, a.k.a. “French girl” has been one of my best friends for several years. Her husband, Dwight, and my husband, Dennis, started the American Aldes office in Sarasota way back in the 1980’s. They had heard a lot about our Wisconsin home since helping us move last July. Now I had a chance to show them some of its charms.
It started with the three hour trip from Minneapolis airport to Hayward. Then we rushed them off to eat at The River Deck, a waterfront restaurant where my nephew had just started working. It’s also the location of the National Lumberjack Championships, which had to impress them (I think). And although we didn’t visit it, I did point out the gigantic Musky (at least three stories tall) in the nearby park.
Eating out was one of the easiest things for us all to do together, and I had my list of favorite places. In addition to the River Deck, we were able to go to The Angry Minnow, and Garmisch Resort. Each of these places had its own unique vibe and I think we all enjoyed the differences.
One of our lunches was a bit different. It was on a boat, out on my favorite Round Lake. I had heard of the Jacobson’s project from my brother. Ralph Jacobson and several of his friends built the “Galilee”, designing it to host small groups on the lake, as a ministry opportunity. He and his wife Carrene, served us lunch and spent an hour showing us their part of the lake. It was a beautiful day, weather wise.
Thank you, my friends, for your supportive visit.
Dwight and Arlette, the brave ones.
Slapping mosquitoes on a hike. Photo ops were brief.
Yes, leftovers. These things I’ve written about my adventure hiking in the Grand Canyon have probably not taken you more than 2 or 3 minutes to read, on any given day. When you consider that the whole experience was six days in the happening, you know there were lots of things I did not mention, yet.
There are some significant things I want to record for my own sake, and maybe for yours, dear readers.
I want to remember:
- The El Tovar Hotel. Specifically, the ice cream shop and the booth where my brother sat as a teen and was encouraged to apply for summer work at the Canyon. He did, and that started his GC experiences and led to mine. Beautiful hotel with such a history.
- Our knowledgeable, personable female guide, Nina. Her German heritage came out in her motherly care of us, her enthusiasm for beer, and her down to earth “so who needs a swim suit to go swimming” philosophy.
- That it’s very handy to have an empty plastic Mayonnaise jar in the tent with you at night, ladies. Thank you again Nina.
- How big, beautiful and dangerous the Canyon is.
- That people are built to walk up easier (and longer) than to walk down.
- That trekking poles are lifesavers when you are tired. Four points of balance are so much better than two.
- That I can live through pain, and that pain’s memory fades (as in childbirth and hiking the South Kaibab)
- That with enough rain, the desert can look so green and full of flowers.
- That even in a place stamped with billions of years of time, the fact that I can see it, marvel at it, and wonder about it, means I am uniquely created to enjoy it in my brief span of time. Time is not the only measure of significance.
- That I am truly blessed to not be living like I’m camping all the time, but that I get to camp out when I want to.
- That you can get to know complete strangers pretty easily when you camp and hike with them, and most serious hikers are nice people. I enjoyed getting to know you Michael, Marlene, Steven, Mike, Bob and Kim.
I have a friend (at least one, thank God!) who has a birthday today. What a joy it is to me to think about someone who is special and dear, and be able to share those thoughts publicly. Meet my friend Arlette.
You will notice that she has a name which I think both looks and sounds French. She is of French origin and this comes through in so many of her ways. Of course, there is the accent which she has not been able to shed (nor should she) even though she is fluently English speaking. I hardly ever have to wonder what she is saying. I love the way she and her French-speaking husband call each other “chere”. Sometimes, she will be thinking of an exact word in French but not able to immediately find the English equivalent. She will question Dwight and together they will come up with it. Endearing.
I met Arlette because our husbands were thrust into work together. The men set up an office in Sarasota for their company, an American subsidiary of a French corporation. Although we women knew each other and the Shackelfords were very kind in helping us get settled in Florida, we did not automatically jump into friendship. That started when Arlette agreed to tutor my home-schooled daughters in their French lessons. Merci beacoup mon ami!
As time progressed, we became better friends, mainly because Arlette is an accomplished hostess (which she has trouble admitting, but it is true). Her invitations were NEVER turned down. I don’t have any other friends who do a small, intimate dinner evening for two or three couples so excellently. She loves beautiful flowers in simple vases, interesting tableware, luxurious touches like cloth napkins, just the right music, and well-planned food choices. She believes in appetizers, which I have to admit were a new thing for me. My family experience – we sat down and ate. At Arlette’s house I learned to enjoy a warm up meal before the real thing.
We deepened our friendship in the last ten years because we learned of common things in our faith worldview. I felt Arlette would really enjoy Bible Study Fellowship, which I was attending. She finally agreed to check it out, hoping to put an end to my annoying requests. I was right, she liked it. We have had nearly ten years of enjoying spiritual growth together. It is hard to put into words what sharing our hearts, and mutually acknowledging what God is doing in our lives has done for me. I view her friendship as a gift from God, evidence that he kindly answers my need for companionship.
Arlette is my friend who says she is not brave but nonetheless allows herself to be talked into outings a bit past her comfort zone, like expeditions in the kayak. She has braved a weekend in a motel with me, let the husband and I have free overnight stays in her home, exercised me with many long walks, hauled my furniture and boxes around, advised me on home décor, helped me plan parties, listened to me for hours on end. There are some things I haven’t convinced her to do with me yet, but the potential is still there. I don’t intend to let this girl rest.
So, happy birthday, my friend. Don’t worry about getting older. You are still younger than me and, barring a miracle, will always be. God bless you today and always. I love and appreciate you.
Meet “The Sisters” who are part of my extended up north family. Michelle, Susie and Judith are three women who have been near and dear for years now. Susan and Judith started out life in Vietnam but were adopted by a kind lady who was in government service. Michelle was the lady’s biological child. These three sisters have lived in several parts of the globe growing up. They have a delightful accent which is hard to place because it’s from all over. Even they don’t know what to call it.
The sisters have resided in Hayward for about 20 years, running a child daycare business in their home and various other jobs. They happily participate in any community event they can manage to get to. They especially did not want to miss the upcoming annual hospital picnic.
Michelle was talking to Mom, planning our Saturday outing together and in addition to the picnic, she wanted us to spend time at her house and also go out for dinner. Mom tried to say no because she doesn’t like to plan more than one “event” per day. But as Mom says, Michelle, who is only 91 “has more energy” than she does so dinner ended up in the plan too. (Michelle is amazing. She wants to cruise the Panama Canal next year. She has more energy than I do!)
Our first event, the hospital picnic, was a genuine, small town, delightful event. I’ve never lived anywhere else where hospitals had picnics. The hospital personnel were great hosts and were giving out free health information at the welcome tables (the colonoscopy pictures were “to die” for…). They had a raffle and I won a prize, which happens almost never!!!. The food was really good. Games, music, pie and ice cream. Perfect.
Keeping the Christian sabbath on Saturday is routine for the sisters and they love to spend it with family and friends. We joined them this Saturday after the picnic, at their house. The sisters are gift givers and our family has been blessed many times over with their generosity. Sometimes it’s a chocolate bar, sometimes it’s a basket full of delicious food, or a book. They always think of something and today was no exception. We came away with so much! But I will tell you the really remarkable thing. Like most people I am more comfortable with reciprocal gifting, but I would not be able to keep up with Michelle, Susan and Judith. They truly give without expecting things in return and they do it to make their love evident. Their joy in giving makes me feel loved.
We went out for dinner. We waited a few hours, hoping we wouldn’t still feel stuffed from the picnic (didn’t work), and went for Chinese food. I don’t know how we happen to have a Chinese restaurant in Hayward – somehow it always seems a little out of place in this land of lumberjacks and Nordic skiers – but it is a welcome break from McDonald’s. Michelle does not have dinner out without treating everyone to dessert as well. We finished off the evening with a trip to Dairy Queen.
An eventful sabbath day with the Madison sisters left me knowing that Hayward is blessed to have them. This is not the last time they will appear in stories here. Some people fit so gracefully into a small town, a town that still has hospital picnics and Dairy Queens, a town with three stop lights and a park with a giant Musky, a town “up north”. Just sayin’…
To write about things you like is fun. To share what others have written about things you like is fun. To hear back from others about what you like is rewarding (and fun). Probably the most fun of all is when others are stirred to do something, maybe something surprising, that acknowledges they have read what’s been posted. They take advantage of the opportunity to engage, respond and, well… be nice and have fun.
My recent post on coffee was reblogged from James Radcliffe and in describing the perfect cup of coffee that he had made, he mentioned that he uses a hand grinder to grind the beans. Tonight, I got a text from the husband telling me that he found a coffee grinder outside our door. He didn’t know who it was from at first but did notice a card in it a little later. I LOVE SURPRISES! And I didn’t have a hand coffee grinder. I can’t wait to have that next cup of coffee with hand ground beans! Thank you JCB, Cracker Poemer, for reading and following up with a fun surprise that made my day, just sayin’…
They were friends. She didn’t know why it happened and she hadn’t really asked for it. They had moved in to the house where her new friend apparently had lived sometime in the past. Let’s call the new friend… call her Kitty.
She knew Kitty hung around, a lot. Most of the others ignored her or actually shunned her. But she hung around outside a lot too and that’s why she and Kitty got used to each other to the point of toleration. She didn’t look for Kitty, ever, but Kitty evidently kept an eye out for her and came running whenever she came out the door. As she walked around the grounds she had a companion at her side. When she sat on the deck at the top of the stair, Kitty sat with her.
Although they didn’t have a lot in common, except the time they spent together, that was enough. They became a pair, a pair of friends.
It looked almost like love.
Yeah, love comes in crazy forms.
It was love. She didn’t mind at all.
What? Who did this? To those of you reading who are not also bloggers, I will explain. One of the latest updates to WordPress, my blog host, includes a cute little “beep, beep, boop” message wiggling around in the center of a blank screen for a few seconds after certain commands are instituted. It’s a thing to look at while you’re waiting. Evidently someone thought that us bloggers would lose interest and wander off if we didn’t have something new to look at for three seconds while our post is being published. I’d like to meet the originator of this idea and try to figure them out. I’m always amazed at the things people will think to do. Actually, sometimes I’m also amazed at the things people don’t think to do – the old rule, never say never, applies equally to never say always. Both good things to remember.
This last week, every time I sat down at the computer I lost interest and wandered off. One day I didn’t even turn the thing on. But that’s ok. A week of inactivity online doesn’t bother me much and gives me the opportunity to write about what I have been into while I haven’t been writing.
– Equate extra strength Headache Relief, for the headache that doesn’t seem to want to quit. Although I’m probably not doing my stomach any favors, I’m grateful for the four or five hours of relief and super wakefulness that I get from swallowing a couple pills.
– Intraocular injections (shot in the eyeball), for the eye problem that was dramatically improved, in the doctor’s own words. I’m grateful that it’s working and that I don’t have to get another one for five weeks, although I am getting used to everything about them (except the cost…)
– Childcare, for several of my yòoung friends who I realize I’ve been missing. How come you guys can grow up in what seems like no time at all? Gracie, Lydia, Josh, Zeke, Shiloh – grateful for time spent with you that makes me feel younger even while I marvel at you getting older. I’m troubled by the fact that I’ve never played X-box. Is that weird?
– Old letters and old files, for the urge to purge and to organize. Lots of stuff has been burned or shredded, but lots else has been rediscovered and readied for the next project, memoir writing. I’ve always been alarmed by my lack of memory for details of the past. Not only did I forget all those details, but I forgot that I’d written them down in letters to others. This morning, reading letters written to my mother ten years ago, all I could think was “Really, I did that?” and “Did some other person’s life sneak into my letters?” Grateful for the written record of the past.
– Appliance shopping, because the washer and dryer that have wanted to leave my house for years, finally broke free. Grateful that within hours of starting to shop for replacements I came across a used set that is probableyten years younger. After only one session with the furniture dolly, the truck, the hoses, wrenches and plumbing tape, they are installed in my laundry room and functioning almost correctly. The printed message under the temp dial that says “all rinses are cold only” really means they are scalding hot only. I think I know how we can fix that.
– Air travel websites, for the supposed improvement of doing it yourself. Instead of calling a knowledgeable person and telling them when and where I want to travel I can now spend hours online hunting for the best connection at the best price. And American Express Delta Frequent Flyer card, how dare you revoke the companion ticket feature without telling me. Planning my revenge…
– the garden that was, the heat that is, that yard that will be. Grateful for the healing work that takes place in me when I’m outdoors. Grateful for green things, if they’re plants – not, if they’re worms.
– Face time, with friends and family who care. I am realizing that the purpose and value of life is all in the relationships I find and nurture. Realizing also that God is that friend and that family member who makes it all possible. Having less work away from home has given me more time to nurture the relationship with him and I am so grateful for that. Gives me some precious times of discovery, comfort, peace and excitement. Arlette and I took a lovely walk yesterday and talked of all these things.
I’ve had a bent toward independence most of my life and kind of wrestled with the question of whether I had ever had a mentor. I had my mom – she was always my first “go to” person, but being mom was her job, a position all its own. There were a lot of other people I knew and I spent a lot of time thinking about their experiences. I did that in order to avoid their pitfalls. It seemed like a good idea not to learn firsthand what I could learn vicariously. But a mentor?
So I was a bit surprised when I did think of someone. I thought of Elaine and immediately knew why she came to mind.
It wasn’t because she had any kind of corrective role in my life. I don’t think she ever pointed out specifics about my child rearing or my work habits. She didn’t tell me to keep house better or spend more time with the kids. What she did do was make time for evenings playing cards with the husbands, and invite us to watch fireworks over the golf course from her nearby yard. She had tea parties with my young girls and met me for breakfast after my night shifts at the hospital. We went to a crazy restaurant where they had beaver on the menu and laughed while she tried it (she tried it). She loved people and was always telling me about the interesting ones she met. She wanted to be better at helping them and studied to be part of the Stephen ministry at her church. And the thing that fed my soul the most, she always acted like she enjoyed our times together.
Part of the attraction for me was the difference in our ages and stages of life. Elaine was already married to my cousin and living in her first home when I was a young teen. She hosted me and several of my same age cousins at a family wedding, putting up with our late night antics and endless harmonizing to “Moon River”. She was beautiful, but not arrogant. Years later when I was married, working, mothering and struggling to keep it all together, she was still beautiful and gracious in a way that time and experience had only magnified. She was honest about the parts of life that weren’t perfect, but didn’t dwell on them. She gave me the message that those imperfections didn’t have to define one’s life, that they offered opportunities for growth and satisfaction.
We moved away. For a couple of years I only saw Elaine when we came back to the hometown on vacation. I worried when she was diagnosed with leukemia, but she went through chemo, bought herself a wig and carried on as she always had. It was a shock when her disease took a turn for the worse. Within days she was gone. I did not get to say goodbye.
I did not fully realize how much I loved her until she was gone. Knowing her was a singular experience. I can’t think of anyone else who gave of herself and spent time with me in quite the same way, noticing the highs and lows of my life and responding with encouragement and love. And that, simply, was it. She loved.
I can hardly talk. I’ve had this predisposition for laryngitis since I was a teen but I’ve been so healthy the last few years I had almost forgotten what it was like. When it happens I know I’m going to attempt to say something but I don’t know if I’ll be able to make a noise or not, and if I do it will probably not be audible as speech. Then I’ll have to push myself to talk louder and my throat will tighten and actually begin to hurt. The first cough will come, very dry and bark like. It won’t satisfy the dryness, the itch, the involuntary spasms in my larynx until I cough again. And the more I try to stifle it the worse it becomes until tears are streaming from my eyes and I’m in a coughing free for all.
Where do I not want to be when all this takes place? Several places. My worst memory of it was in a plane over the north pole during a 16 hour flight from Cambodia to Atlanta. I was trapped in my window seat by two other people, and I don’t know where I would have gone even if I could have gotten out. Another inconvenient place is church, on stage, playing the piano. Not good. And then there was today, on the quiet, serene orthopedic floor of the hospital. I had been talking too much and it triggered an episode that I thought would not end well. Fortunately I ran into a sympathetic nurse who not only brought me water, but cough drops as well. Coughing like that makes one feel like a major source of the plague. Maybe I was.
I was visiting my client/friend, well, back up a little.
Last Monday I got a text in the evening from my client who is mostly paralyzed, having a C-5 spinal injury. She does drive a specially equipped van and had been out doing errands that day. It simply read “I almost got killed today on Manatee Ave.” With an opener like that, I thought surely she would tell me more but no.
I talked with her again a day or so later and learned that her electric wheel chair had gone off the sidewalk, over a four inch curb and nearly dumped her in the street. She had been saved by her seat belt and two young men who pulled her back into the chair and the chair back onto the sidewalk. Other than losing her lunch during the panic she didn’t think she was injured. But over the next couple of days there was evidence of pain, then swelling in her leg and finally an x-ray that showed a broken femur. I knew nothing about this last finding until last night when I got an email from a friend with a partial name of a hospital and a room number. It was late. I went to bed.
This morning I got up early, before testing my voice, and scurried over to the hospital. Her room number was 932 but, funny thing, there was no 932 in that hospital, and no one registered by her name. And it took a lot of vocal energy to find this stuff out, believe me. So I sat in my car and thought of another hospital where she could have gone. I experienced the agonizing frustration of talking on the phone, having no voice. It’s not like I could use body language or charades or pencil and paper. She wasn’t at that hospital either. I went home and sent out several queries by text and waited for answers.
I did finally find her in the next town south and made it down there by mid morning. Other than the above mentioned coughing fit, the visit went well and I was glad I went. This is why. She is scheduled for surgery and when going to surgery, jewelry is removed if possible. My client had a ring that no one had been able to remove from her finger. It was valuable and she was not wanting to have it cut off. I knew a nifty trick to remove a tight ring that I had learned years before from a youtube video. I was dying to use it on this perfect occasion. Everybody should know this method because it really works great and is so easy. You can use thin elastic, ribbon, even dental floss. I used crochet thread because I happened to have it with me. So, I’m going to end with this and you should watch it because you never know when you might be someone’s answer to prayer.
I have no control, not really. I may make appointments and think I know where I’m going to be, but it’s never really the case. It’s such a true saying “wherever I go, there I am” and that’s about all I can count on. It’s okay. It relieves me of a lot of responsibility. I didn’t even get upset last night when the post I’d spent a couple hours thinking through and writing down disappeared when I inadvertently moved my hand in front of the touch screen. I guess WordPress doesn’t have automatic update/save. That’s the way things are.
Today I am put in charge of a situation to solve for someone else, if I can. I have total compassion for people who by some strength of body and mind have managed to live to be old, like over 90, and still are taking care of themselves. But things get difficult and maybe it’s hard to remember how you used to take care of difficulties with contracts and bills and harassing phone calls. So you are happy to let someone help you. I was volunteered for this job.
My friend C. who is younger, only a year or so past 80, has taken to looking after a neighbor, the above mentioned person. A while back she fell in the driveway on her way to the mailbox and couldn’t get up. Someone noticed and came to her aid. Later when C. was with her he suggested she get some kind of device she could use to summon help. She had one – it was in the house, when she was in the driveway. He found out she was a bit disturbed with a bill she had gotten from the security company. She had an experience with a rather sharp tongued customer service rep when she called to ask about it. She didn’t understand and C. couldn’t explain it to her but he told her Shirley would take care of it, not to worry. Right.
After half a dozen calls I finally get to someone who might have info on this account and, as usual, I have to have a password or they won’t address the issue with me. That’s the way things are. What are the chances our 90 year old friend will remember a password she chose three months ago? I don’t remember passwords I chose last week.
It’s a strange day outside. It is bright and sunny except for the three or four times (about every hour) when a cloud has coasted overhead and dumped torrential rain for 10 minutes or so. We are in Florida and that also is just the way things are.