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.
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.
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.
I felt it coming as I was reading that morning, and it did several times. The words on the page set the tone for the whole day. The tears came again as I gave Mom a good morning hug, and again in church, and again as I talked with my friend, and oddly, again when I stopped to “air up” my tires at the WaWa station.
I’m brought into these seasons of crying not by hormone imbalance – that I recognize and this isn’t it. It happens when I realize that I’m on to something important, maybe life changing, certainly life enriching. It happens when I become aware that I’m learning something, not by my own doing, by through God’s hand, his methods, his inspiration. It’s so cool, it makes me cry.
Suddenly, I feel kind of raw, hyper-aware of people and circumstances around me. There is possible meaning, potential meaning in EVERYTHING because I feel God in action and I have no idea what he’s going to do next.
I guess, to start with, I’m just so impressed that he’s dealing with me, on a personal level, giving me something I didn’t have before. That happened, with the aforementioned book. Later, the same subject came up with a little more to think about as I listened to the sermon. And the friend thing… I think it’s pretty common to lose it when a friend who knows you well notices that something is going on. All it took was a sympathetic word and I was crying again. Sorry Christine (haha, and thanks).
The hyper-awareness part comes when I realize that I’m being taken care of by someone in high places who is listening in on every conversation, every thought and is literally everywhere around me, even as close as the air I breathe. Small favors are no longer coincidences, they are blessings and assurances.
How does the gas station work it’s way in there, you might wonder. Lately I seem to be searching for air pumps at gas stations all the time. I felt pretty lucky when I started finding that they accepted credit cards and I didn’t have to hunt for change. But last Sunday when I pulled into the WaWa, I found an air pump labeled FREE AIR! What unexpected generosity… It was a sweet machine with good instructions. It gave me a digital reading for each tire before it pumped it up to the amount I punched in. And I was crying again because it was cold and raining and I was grateful for something that worked, worked well.
Today, to match this season I’m in, the sky is also crying and I feel somehow aligned with it. We were made to have seasons, the sky and I, and I’m glad for that. Just sayin’…
I have no one to blame but myself. I think it all started for me with that first picture (I have no actual memories of the event), the one where I’m in my high chair with a cake with one candle in front of me. I have an unknowing look on my face but I’m about to start a lifelong habit of expectation. People are lined up on both sides of the table and I’m obviously the center of attention. And why not, it’s my birthday.
Ever since then birthdays have presented one kind of problem or another. Sometimes it’s a problem for those who remember and must plan an event, a card on time, a meaningful greeting or those who forget and have to assuage their guilt. Other times it’s a problem for the birthday boy or girl who can’t decide if they want people to know or if it would be better to pass the day in anonymity
There are some people, the husband for instance, who must not have had their birthday expectation pump primed in infancy. There is never a hint about the approaching holiday. There is never a post birthday let down. It’s just another day and these people might even be surprised if you remind them that they are a year older on that day. There are others who, like me, anticipate what might happen with a fair amount of excitement. I have a list of these kindred souls. Some years I even go out of my way to feed their birthday appetite.
And so it was several years ago with my friend J. Carroll Barnhill. He talks about his memorable birthdays and always includes the one where I kidnapped him out to the beach with a picnic supper. He hadn’t been there in years and it was quite a trick to get him out of his boots to wade in the surf. A little sand on the fried chicken, a picture of the sun setting with a sailboat silhouetted against the sky, and you have a birthday memory.
There was also the year that he actually cleaned off the back porch and I got him a swing to hang from the rafters. Another time we had a breakfast party with a stack of whipped cream frosted pancakes for a cake. And the year he turned 80, I managed to get the word out to most of his family and friends for a get together complete with presents and pot luck food. Why do I do these things? Because I know he loves the fuss. How do I know that? Because, like a kid, he is reminding me that his birthday is coming. Sometimes once, sometimes twice or more. He clearly hopes to have fun because of what happened on seven, twenty-seven,thirty-three.
This year, knowing I would be out of town on the infamous day, I took him out to dinner at a restaurant. It wasn’t his favorite restaurant but it was convenient and he had a good meal. And we enjoyed ourselves. It’s your day J. Carroll and I’m giving you a little notoriety on my blog to memorialize the event. Happy birthday fella!. Hope you’re having a great day.
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 met her several years ago because her son was needing help with his English schoolwork. I was a tutor for the “No Child Left Behind” program and arrived at their home one day after school to spend some time meeting the family and assessing exactly what was needed. Our friendship went from being centered on her son to food rather quickly. She was always cooking something in large quantities and urging me to take some. She packaged hot meals and sold them to workers at her husband’s workplace.
She and her husband were Hispanic and back in Mexico she had gotten a degree in Accounting, I think, but that didn’t count for much here in the States. She did whatever she could find to do in between her children’s school schedules. Her husband worked in construction but this was in 2008 and Florida’s economy was taking a hit. They were barely making their house payments, but they had their own place. It was clean and neat.
Our friendship deepened later on. Hispanic women (and men) have a thing for fragrance and Zenaida signed up with me to sell cosmetics and perfume. We marketed together, got dressed up and went to sales meetings. Later still, when my daughter needed an extra hand in her house-cleaning business, I suggested she try Zenaida and it was a good suggestion. The clients loved her integrity and work ethic. When my daughter moved on to vet school, Zenaida inherited her business.
Zenaida is still the friend who shows up at birthday parties and graduations with a full tray of home cooked tamales (my daughter’s favorite). She still wants to help with my cleaning and yard work and is the hardest one to take any pay for her work. She just wants to be a friend, and she is. And her name begins with Z (for which I am thankful).
Zenaida is a common name for women in several cultures and is also the name given to the Zenaida dove which is our mourning dove.
Unusually long silences in which readers get bored and lose interest are a dreaded reality for me in my blogging life. I think I speak for many people when I say that sometimes the things we generally like to be doing (writing) isn’t what we want to be doing most (entertaining out of town guests) or have to be doing (work). But it is crucial that we avoid guilt over things not done if we are being true to our priorities.
What I’ve been doing:
– a pre Thanksgiving event for the husband and other friends and relatives that I won’t get to see on the actual Thanksgiving Day. This took me days of prep, planning, cooking and cleaning. Twenty two of us had a great time and a good meal.
– reconnecting with a long time friend and her family, visiting from afar. We kayaked, walked the beach, swam in the ocean, braved the mall, and ate several meals together. Oh, and Mexican Train up to number 7.
– worked for my employer, who is having trouble with staffing right now. I am a so called resigned, retired nurse who works about as much as I did before I resigned. Go figure.
– spent much enjoyed time doing music for my church (for my God). Volunteered a little more than usual since others were out.
-spent hours and dollars on my computer, resurrecting it from death (or near death). Now if I can just figure out where all the missing files are, we’ll be fine and functioning.
– put out my fundraising letter for medical supplies for the Cambodian orphans. I don’t want to go empty handed. God will supply what is needed, but I have to ask.
– overseeing major house washing. Who knew it could take a week to pressure wash a house? It looks great again, except in the places where the paint needs to be replaced – but we knew that would happen. All the accessory trees got trimmed too.
In the big picture, I think I made good choices,
putting God first,
and things last.
I have to say, being a consistent writer is not easy when you have another life of any kind …