Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Husband, Our Oldest Angel, and Me

It has been a very long day, and I am at a loss for words!  I was rummaging through my pictures and came across this one, which made me smile and miss my oldest angel, all at the same time.  She is an actress and this photo was taken a few weeks ago after one of her performances.  She is such an incredible human being, and we are so very lucky to have her.

May you come across special things, at just the perfect times, that renew your spirit, and remind you to smile through your most exhausting moments.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Putting Yourself on Your Own List

There is not really a way to describe what it is like to live inside of a body that is never really quite right. Trying to describe what it feels like to know what it was like to be healthy, and to now live life with a chronic illness, is what I suppose it would be like for someone who is now blind, but once had sight. Difficult on some days, impossible on most. But, when people ask me, and I sense that they earnestly want to know, I describe the way that I feel as having the flu, all of the time.

When this illness came on several years ago for the second time, I fought like hell to deny it access into my consciousness. I told myself that I was still recovering from another virus, that I was run down, that I was exhausted from raising four small children. I lied and lied to myself until finally a doctor looked me in the eyes after six long months of battle, and said to me, "Debbie, you have Fibromyalgia and there's not a damn thing I can do about it." Deep down in my soul, I knew it had returned. The cellular memory of this illness is not something that the body soon forgets, even after a blessed remission of fifteen long years. My denial came from the fact that I was a busy, dedicated mother, wife, daughter, friend, volunteer, etc., and I did not have time to be sick. I had recently become certified to work as a Spiritual Care Volunteer at our local hospital, visiting patients as a Lay-Chaplain. My girls were all in school, and I read about the need for volunteers. It was never something that I had ever thought about doing, but when I read about the position, something inside of my heart spoke out and told me that I was supposed to do this. After three months of training, I was on my own. I went from room to room, visiting with very sick people, people who were often lonely and scared. I sat with them for as long as they needed me to, each individual requiring something different when I was with them. I spoke with their families, I listened to their stories, I laughed with them, I held their hands. Our visits would often end with my offering a non-sectarian prayer, and most accepted. Something that I learned during that time, is that if I could offer myself to be fully present for someone, totally and without any other distractions, that was when the absolutely purest form of human connection could take place. Often, when I held hands with someone and looked into their eyes while saying a healing prayer for them, their immediate reaction would be tears. Interestingly enough, if I was to cause someone to cry in most any other circumstance, I would feel terrible, but the tears of these sacred moments left me feeling fuller and unmistakably connected to each person, to the Universe, to God. I was lucky enough to be able to hold on to my position as Spiritual Care Volunteer for more than three years. I did this while my own body weakened, and fought me. I did it until I could not do it any more without putting my own health into more jeopardy.

For a very long time, I felt guilty for giving up on something that I loved doing so much. I told myself that I would go back to volunteer at the hospital as soon as I could. That was until I began to honor myself in the same way that I had honored and respected the needs of my patients. I knew then, as I know now, that there was no way that I would ever begin to feel better unless I started paying more attention to my own needs. Both physically and emotionally, I was allowing myself to deteriorate by paying closer attention to the needs of everyone else(including strangers), than I was to my own. I began to pare down my life into things that were absolutely necessary, and things that I could release. I continued to evaluate my obligations until I understood the things that were truly important. I put my daughters and my husband at the very top of my list, with myself as a close second. That was about three years ago. Now that my girls are getting older, the physical demands of being a full-time mother are becoming less. I am slowly, very slowly moving myself up to an even higher place on my list. As I do this, my family becomes a bit more independent. They start to view me as someone who also has needs, and who requires time to grow and heal. We are all growing up, together.

Thanksgiving just passed, and so our family traveled up to our Mountain home together. We had time to express our gratitude for each other, and for all of the other wonderful people and things in our lives. We spent time alone, together. This is something that I think keeps a family strong and vital, regardless of how large or how small that family might be. But yesterday, my sweet husband and my angel daughters gave mom what they knew she needed. They drove down the mountain, and left me to renew and refresh by myself. And so, I wanted to share the photo of the fireplace at the top of this page. My body is still physically ill, but my spirit is growing stronger. I am learning to advocate for myself, by admitting that I must have time alone, sometimes. I am taking the time to honor my own need for quiet and for stillness. I will be going back home tomorrow, but until then, I will sit quietly in front of this fireplace allowing myself the space that I need in order to be more for everyone else, including myself.

May you find a quiet corner in your life, where you can balance your own needs for stillness and connection. May you always give as much as you can, while remembering that there must always be something left for yourself.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Trust That You will Know Your Future when You Meet it

Twenty seven years ago, today, at the young age of eighteen, I met the man whom I would marry just four years later. We were both freshman at Syracuse University, and had acknowledged each other in passing many times before, but on this day, twenty seven years ago, I mustered up the courage to have a friend who knew him, SHOW me where his dorm room was. I emphasize the word "show", because she was only supposed to walk me past it. Nonchalantly, like we were just walking by. You know, kind of on the way to someplace else! Little Miss Cupid ended up knocking on his door, and before I could run for the elevator, there he was. He looked at me with a warm, boyish smile that I have since come to know quite well, and he invited us into his room. He was very handsome, in a youthful, athletic way. He had a friendly, outgoing personality which drew me to him, even more. I sat, shyly, on the edge of his bed, as he and my friend talked for a while. The entire time they were talking, he kept sneaking glances at me. I was smitten. Later that night, we went to a party together, and spent hours just talking. We spent the next few weeks getting to know each other, and the more that I knew about him, the more that I felt like I had known him for my entire life, and then some. I am not sure whether, when I gazed into his eyes, I saw my past or my future. I only knew that I never wanted to be away from him, again. We spent the next four years growing up together, and when we graduated from college, we married, packed the remnants of our college life into a Dodge Cube Van that had over 100,000 miles on it, and drove from New Jersey to California. Because we had another car, we were not able to drive together, and so we caravaned across the country carrying everything we owned, ourselves, and our four cats and our dog. We must have looked like The Beverly Hillbillies, but without the new found windfall of wealth. Looking back, I must admit that it was either a very brave, or very stupid thing to do, because we had no family in California, we had no friends there, and we knew nothing about where we wanted to settle. We just picked up, like the old-time settlers and headed West. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, as Mr. Charles Dickens once wrote. Our married life together, started out as an amazing adventure.

So here I sit, twenty seven years later, thanking God that I had the good sense(or youthful lack of it!) to follow my heart into the arms of the man who, to this day, can make me think that everything will always turn out just as it should. He is my constant, my safe place to hide, my forever love. Sometimes, even at the early age of eighteen years old, we know the exact moment, when our future appears before our eyes. And sometimes, if we are courageous enough to follow-up on that moment, our lives end up following a winding, adventurous path, that leads us to exactly where we are meant to be, twenty seven years later. With immense gratitude, on this eve before Thanksgiving, I am filled with nostalgia for our great beginning, an overflowing heart for our today, and an open place inside of my spirit for all that we have to anticipate. I know, that as long as I can find refuge in the arms of my man, that life will always turn out the way that it is supposed to.

May you remember the importance of your past, find comfort and lots of love in your present, and trust that the future will be everything that it is meant to be.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Trails!

As we set off for our Thanksgiving adventure, I had to take a moment to thank everyone who has read, commented on, and supported my blogging efforts, so far. Sometimes, jumping in and doing something that might scare us at first, turns out to be one of the most fulfilling experiences of our lives. I was truly a bit nervous about starting this blog. I am not computer savvy, I am somewhat private with my feelings, and well, I just was not sure. I am learning to let go. I am learning that it is safe to allow others to share in my life. I am re-learning that the world is mostly good, and that people are mostly good. My heart is healing, even if my body isn't ready to yet. Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who reside in the United States of America.

May this Thanksgiving bring you happy hearts, grateful spirits, and full, satisfied tummies! May you receive warm, heartfelt hugs from those who you love, and who love you...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

It's a Dog's Life and What the Heck Does that Mean, Anyway?

Okay, first off I want to make it perfectly clear that the individual who is standing behind the dog in the basket is NOT MY HUSBAND. I swear my hubby would never dress up a dashshund, put it into his bicycle basket, and ride around a crowded city with it. I swear. And I am a very honest person.

The doxie in the basket, with the little hat on his head, is Wally. He is twelve years old and he has been skateboarding, yes, I did say skateboarding, since he was a puppy. The man on the bicycle in the background told me these things after I chased him down with my camera. My girls spotted them when we were on a recent family trip to Seattle, and nearly passed out when I told them that I was going to ask him if I could snap a picture. Of course they followed me into the store that I followed Wally and his Dad into, giggling at their Mother's audacity! I absolutely adore animals and it never ceases to amaze me as to the lengths that people will go to in order to humanize them. Funny, nutty, touching.

Anyway, I guess that Wally is somewhat "famous" up in the area of Pike's Market, Seattle, because when I was listening to the radio, later that night, a reporter for the news mentioned him in a little blurb. You wouldn't think that I would have to travel all the way to Seattle to meet someone "famous", but who knew?

So, just to make you smile, I am introducing you to Wally the Skateboarding Doxie. Kinda makes you wonder, hmmm...?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

With Wings to Fly

Today began with a lot of physical aches and pains. Of course, I could not stay in bed and nurse my wounds, for very long, because angel daughter number two has been fighting the flu, and I had to check in on her. Then I had to rush out the door to make it to my monthly Pain Specialist appointment. This is something that I am used to doing, as without my pain medication, there are days when I surely would not be able to rouse myself out of bed. When the Physicians Assistant came into the room, I apologized for being late, and then explained to her that I was having a rough day. She barely took a breath before she went on to tell me that she, too, was having one of those days because her washing machine, which is on a second floor, had sprung a minor leak. I had to think about where the conversation started, and when I remembered, I corrected her by saying that I wasn't having that kind of a day. I was having the kind of day where my muscles feel like putty and I must add an extra hour on to anything that I cared to accomplish. She sheepishly remembered that she was talking to a chronic pain patient(I can usually put on a fairly good face.), and she stopped herself from continuing. I went on to joke with her about broken washing machines, and all of the little mishaps that take place throughout our lives. Broken washing machines, inconvenient, very annoying, but definitely not enough to ruin a day for me.

I came home and found daughter number two still prone on the couch, where I had left her. I went outside to get the mail, and noticed that there was an envelope with her name on it, and so I came in and handed it to her. It was a FAT envelope from a college(fat is a very good sign when evaluating college response envelopes). I listened to her tear into it from the next room, and then I heard the cheer! Angel daughter number two got her first college acceptance letter! We all high-fived, and I did some victory dances around the kitchen, to which my daughter actually laughed! My husband and I sighed a breath of relief. Another angel is about to fly from the nest, and although we will miss her, it means that we have done an okay job in preparing her for the flight.

So, as I was trying to say in a round-about sort of way. Aches and pains aside, today was definitely a good day. Congratulations, my angel daughter! You may still be grounded because of this past weekends indiscretions, but that does not mean that you will always have to live with clipped wings!

May your spirit always have the energy to take flight, even on days when you are feeling grounded...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Queen of Hearts

My littlest angel dressed up as The Queen of Hearts for Halloween. After she did her make-up and fussed with her hair for about an hour, she reminded me that we still had to carve our pumpkins. She and I stood in the kitchen laughing, and carving, while we chatted about life. When my littlest angel drew the face on her pumpkin and began cutting, she decided that it was not turning out exactly the way that she wanted it to. I told her that sometimes, even when we plan things, the results might just turn out differently than what we had anticipated. Sometimes, we have our hearts so set on the "planning", that we then forget how to enjoy the ultimate outcome. We talked about finding joy both in the process and the final product. We discussed "letting go" , while being creative, because sometimes things turn out even better than what we originally had in mind.

When I stepped outside, this morning, I noticed that our little pumpkin had rotted into itself. It reminded me that another Halloween had come and gone. It reminded me that no matter how hard we try to control the outcome of things, we just can't. And so, I pulled out this picture of The Queen of Hearts and her pumpkin. It made me smile because I still had the memories of that day, and although the pumpkin may not have turned out exactly the way she had planned it would, it was perfect. Exactly what this pumpkin looked like is not something that will forever stick within our minds, but the joyful, relaxed time that we had while creating it, now that is something that will always remain. Once again The Queen of Hearts, stole my heart.

May you always remember to take pleasure in the journey, and never forget that it is not always the outcome that matters, but the moments that you enjoyed, while on your way.

Monday, November 12, 2007

When Your Heart Lives Outside of Your Body

It isn't as often as I would like, that I get to see this these days. My four daughters, walking ahead of me as a little unit. Together, yet separated from myself, my husband, and the rest of the world, by an invisible bond that ties them, and only them, together.

Growing up was a bit lonely for me. Yes, I had lots of friends. I had a family that even included a brother, but he was four years younger than me, and got more of a kick out of making me angry, than anything else.(I should never have taught you how to walk, Rob:)) He would hide under my bed, and when I sat down to put my shoes on, he would grab my ankle and as I had a heart-attack, he would laugh a devious laugh. My parents met when they were fourteen and sixteen, and married when my mother was nineteen. That might work for some people, but for my parents, it was a huge error in judgement. They fought from the moment that I was born, until well, until now, even twenty seven years after their divorce.

But, that isn't what this is about, this was about watching my heart residing outside of my body. I have always wanted a sister. Don't ask me why, maybe it's because it is the one relationship that I have never, nor will I ever be able to have. Sitting here thinking about it, that could be why I have always wanted one so badly. I still have the luxury of thinking that my relationship with my sister would be perfect. I look at women who have sisters as being extra lucky, twice blessed. I am fascinated by their sisterly stories. I feel like something is missing in my life. I know that my sister and I would always watch out for each other. We might disagree at times, but if anybody ever had the nerve to try and hurt either one of us, look out for the wrath of the other one! My grandmother who passed away at ninety-one, had a sister who was six years younger than she was. They spoke every single week until the day my grandma died. They were even born on the same birthday. Interestingly enough, my grandmother passed away on my birthday, two years ago. She and I were very close, too. So, when I think about sisters now, I look at my girls. They are very close in age: from two and a half years apart, all the way down to twenty-two months apart. I joke with them that they are part of an exclusive club that nobody else in the world can ever be a part of. The club of people who once lived inside of my body! They laugh, and say, "Oh ma", but really I think they get it. I can see it in their eyes when they are alone, together. I can see it in their confidence as they walk down the street ahead of me. I can hear it in the giggles of their private jokes. They are sisters. They are a unit. They are four times blessed, and so am I.

God may not have given me the sister who I thought I needed, but he gave me four daughters. Four extraordinary individuals who share something that nobody else ever can. They each lived inside of my body, and on the way out, each one of them, with a tiny hand, grabbed a part of my heart and took it with them. So now, as I watch my heart living outside of my body, I realize that I am no longer lonely for a sister, because I, too, am part of a very exclusive club. I am part of the bond that holds my daughters together, and therefore, my heart is where it is meant to be. Not with a sister, but with my daughters.

We may not always get what we think we need, but in time, we are given what we truly need.

May your heart be safely residing where it is meant to be, and may those who own a piece of it, always, always know that they are twice-blessed.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Juxtaposition or How to Live on a Lifeboat

(This post includes the two other pictures that are also on this page, dated Nov. 9, 2007)
If someone were to look at these pictures, they might think that they were looking at some sweet photos of cute children who are mugging for the camera. They might think that the babies in the pictures are just fortunate, well-loved little people who are out for dinner with their family, after which they will go home, have a bath, and get lovingly tucked into their beds by their adoring Mommy and Daddy. Well, the photos do tell half of the story, maybe temporarily a little more than half the story, as it stands now, anyway. The truth is, that the older children in all three pictures are my three oldest daughters.(I will post a picture of my youngest soon.) They have gone home every night, since their births, and have been lovingly cared for, adored and protected. Their lives have been charmed in so many ways. They have been viewed as gifts, blessings and very special, special people. The juxtaposition which makes these photos so incredibly bittersweet is that the three babies in the photos, were brought into this world by a drug-addicted woman, who abused, neglected and ultimately lost custody of them to "the system". She is the reason that these children, these babies, were forced to scramble for a lifeboat even before the oldest one was three years old. These babies were drowning in the shear neglect and dangerous lifestyle of a woman who could barely take care of herself, let alone three innocent babies.

Something moved my oldest, and dearest friend, D, to opt for becoming a foster care parent, about a year ago. D and her husband have three wonderful children of their own, ages 17-22, and had seen an advertisement that talked about the need for foster parents in their state. Being the loving parents that they were, they decided that they had room in their homes and in their hearts to share with children in need, and so they signed up to become foster parents. They didn't plan on taking three children. They wanted a younger child who they felt they could have some positive influence on, but never three. We all know what is said about the best laid plans, and so, they opened up their home to Michael, Marie, and baby Mark(names have been changed). I know that they did not expect all of the issues that laid ahead of them, but they were willing, open and ready to take on the challenge. D has a huge heart, and she was willing to open it to three babies who were left to begin life without a Mommy or Daddy. I won't go into all of the problems that this family has had to encounter throughout the past six months, but I do feel that I should share a little bit about what these babies have been exposed to in their short lives.

Michael, the oldest one, is a loving, sweet-hearted little boy. He loves to play with toy trains and has an affinity for making friends with most anyone he meets. On the day that these pictures were taken, he had adopted my husband as his buddy, and made sure that he stayed by his side for the entire day. If my husband left his sight, he would call his name and look for him until he was able to grab onto his hand again. Michael suffers from fetal-alcohol syndrome. He has learning disabilities, attachment problems, and ADHD. He loves to eat, presumably because his birth mother was generally too high to provide him with regular feedings. His birth mother taught him that food was something that would not always be available, and so he ate as much as he could, when he could. He also sees food as comfort.

Marie is a 22 month old princess, who talks constantly. She loves baby dolls, and staying tidy. She is a very independent little toddler who took to my 15 year old daughter, and stayed constantly by her side for the entire day. My girls wanted to bring her home. When we went into the Disney Store(we were at Disneyland for the day), so that the kids could pick out a stuffed animal to take home, Marie took every princess doll into her arms, and gleefully chimed, "Baby". She, too, has many problems that she will be able to thank her birth mother for someday. The therapists think that she was left in a playpen all day, in a room that had trash and junk piled floor to ceiling. They think that she was abused, as well as neglected. She sometimes has uncontrollable fits of rage. The only way to calm her down is to let her work it out by herself for a while.

Mark, the baby, was taken from birth mother in the hospital. He was born addicted to meth, alcohol, and spent the first five days of his life in intensive care. His birth mother, or BM, as I respectfully like to call her, never had the opportunity to take him home, thank God. It was after his birth, that her home was raided by the police, and all of the children were removed and placed into foster care. Because he has had only the loving influence of my friend D, her husband K, and their kids, he is a very happy, smiley, well-adjusted little baby. He thinks they are his Mommy and Daddy. He thinks that D's three other children are his siblings, too. Mark gets passed around from one set of arms to the next. He thinks that D is his Momma, and K is his Dada. D is the first person he looks for when he gets tired or cranky, and she lovingly cradles him in her arms, while he tries to eat her hair. In a way, he is the lifeboat that saved the lives of both his sister and brother.

Herein lies the absolutely unforgivable part of this story. Instead of giving these children up for adoption, and having her tubes tied so that she can go on to ruin nobody else's life but her own, she is going through the motions of trying to regain custody. Instead of doing one good thing in her life, BM, who has relapsed since D has taken custody of these babies, continues to insist that she wants these children. What in the world????? She admits to eight, count 'em, eight pregnancies. She is 26 years old and a third generation drug addict, but she thinks that she should be able to parent these children? This woman tore up her parenting card on the day that she chose drugs over her children! Of course, there is always all of the welfare money to consider in her choice to continue trying to regain custody. You can always park your babies in a crib for the day, but money, now that isn't something that shows up on the doorstep everyday.

My friend D is spending her days up to her ears in diapers. She is constantly juggling therapists, social workers and court appointments for these three little souls. Once a week, she must hand these children over so that they can have supervised visits with BM, so that BM can fulfill her court appointed duties. When BM decides to show up for these visits, if she shows up, she lies on the floor and naps as the babies run around wildly. When D gets them back, they are disoriented, confused, and harder to manage. D's days are spent trying to keep these children happy and fed, as well as trying to reverse some of the major damage that BM has caused them. She admitted to me that some days, she feels like she is a prisoner. Her daughter is a huge help, and loves these children dearly, but she is 20 years old and has her own life to think about. D is not sure what she will do if all three of these children are put up for adoption. She is 45 years old, and on the verge of becoming a grandmother, herself. Her own daughter got married in June. I do know that D could not put these children back into the system, nor could she hand the littlest one, Mark, over to anyone's arms other than those of another loving parent. I can see in her eyes, that she has taken on a world more than what she had expected. I can also see that she has given a huge chunk of her heart to these children. That is something that she will never take back, regardless of what the end of this story turns out to be.

Juxtaposition is the only word that I can think of when I look at the happy faces of all of the children in these photos. It is the difference between knowing that life is a wonderful thing, that it is safe and joyful, full of promise; and learning that life is something that is unpredictable, unsafe, and extremely hurtful. Interesting how it is said that a picture is worth a thousand words...how true those words are here.

The prayer that I keep tucked deeply inside of my heart is that Michael, Marie and Mark are able to move from the lifeboat of D and K's family onto ground that is steady and safe and everlasting. I pray that the rockiness of the life that they lived before being rescued by D and her family, is NEVER allowed to be made part of their lives again. I pray that adoption becomes part of their future. And I pray that all of the other children who are out there living in the same horrible conditions in which these children were, just eight short months ago, are able to find someone who will provide them with a lifeboat. Someone who will bring them all to safer ground. Someone who will open their home and their heart to the littlest ones who don't even know yet, how to swim.

May you always find dry land to rest upon. Even if you need to use a lifeboat in order to get there...
My fifteen year old angel daughter, and adorable foster baby, Marie.

My oldest angel and sweet foster baby, Mark.

Skipping Right Past Gratitude

As I walked through our local shopping mall, yesterday, I began to feel an undeniable compulsion to head for the exit. I had not been to the mall for a while, nor had I left my home for several days, and so I thought that a bit of "retail therapy" might be good for me. As I began meandering through the shops, I noticed that my body was becoming increasingly more and more tense. I was not relaxing into a "browsing" mood, nor was I enjoying my time away from home. I could not quite pinpoint where this feeling was resonating from. Then I heard it...a gangly young man with a child who was about six years old sitting upon his shoulders, was YELLING, not singing but outright YELLING the song Jingle Bells at the top of his lungs. The girl who was perched high upon his shoulders was taking the lead from her adult counterpart, and at the appropriate moments, she too would yell, "HEY!". Their voices echoed throughout the mall and as I looked around to see how other shoppers were responding, I could tell that people were outrightly trying to ignore their little performance. It was not cute or touching. It was downright obnoxious, and this young man did not care. He went right on singing, as if everyone there had been waiting for his arrival. It was then that I looked around, and noticed all of the Christmas decorations that had already been carefully hung. Like the voices of this young man and his little partner, the fake Christmas greenery and shiny red and green balls, screamed loudly and echoed throughout the mall. It was a rueful display of "too much, too soon". I quickly purchased the things that I had gone to the mall for, and then hightailed it to my car. The hum of people's voices rang inside of my head, asking, "Why are there Christmas decorations covering every inch of the mall, and it is only November 8?" I sat in the quiet solitude of my car for quite some time, trying to figure out what the heck was going on, when a moment of clarity struck me. Somehow, some way, we were skipping right past gratitude, allowing the retailers, who make very little money off of Thanksgiving, to dictate that it was now time to start singing Jingle Bells. My heart sank to a new low.

Gratitude is something that should be celebrated for more than one, short day in November. There are studies that show that grateful individuals are more likely to maintain friendships and family connections. Those same studies show that it is psychologically impossible to be both stressed and thankful at the same time. Think about how wonderful it feels to be grateful. Think about what it feels like when someone shows their gratitude for you. Why then, is a holiday that is so important to our psychological well-being being skimmed over? I truly believe that Thanksgiving should not be a holiday that happens to be crammed in between Halloween and Christmas. It should be honored and respected because gratitude is something that we all believe in. Regardless of religious beliefs, Thanksgiving is a holiday that is celebrated by individuals of all faiths, in our country, and therefore deserves more than a momentary glance. November should be a month that is dedicated to counting our blessings, and not a month that should be filled with thoughts of what gifts we are going to give or receive in December.

And so, yesterday, I made a little promise to myself. In the name of sanity and out of respect for all of the people whom I have enormous amounts of gratitude for, in my own life, I will be staying as clear of shopping malls, and people yelling "Jingle Bells", as I possibly can in the next couple of months. As a matter of fact, I will do much of my holiday shopping online this year. I will take more time to love on all of the people who are important in my life. I will make sure that Thanksgiving, at our home, is given top billing throughout the month of November, and I will remind my daughter's to be thankful.

May you have much to be grateful for, and many who are grateful for you.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Thursday, November 1, 2007

For Those Who Longed to Find a Best Friend and Found it in Themselves.

I just began reading a novel called, The Book of Bright Ideas, by Sandra Kring. I picked it up, along with about four other books, on a recent trip to Target. As I was deciding which book to read first, something about this one called out to me, and so, I started reading. Books, for me, represent journeys to places that I might never visit, but they also connect me with lives that are not my own. For the period of time that I get to spend with them, it is like getting to know someone whom I've just met...fascinating, fresh, and mysterious. Almost everything that I read, leaves me feeling accomplished, more knowledgeable, and hungry. Hungry for the next book to enter my life, hungry for meaning through words, and well, hungry because I probably read through lunch, but I'll save that problem for another time. So back to, The Book of Bright Ideas. The dedication grabbed me immediately. It tugged at my heartstrings. The statement was simple, but also quite profound. It read, "For those who longed to find a best friend and found it in themselves." Before I knew it, I had been staring at those words for several minutes, until it occurred to me that there were tears forming in my eyes. Sentimental, yes, but also powerful enough to reverberate inside of my heart until my mind was able to absorb the full meaning.

I had to consider this statement for a while before I began to understand why it had struck such a chord with me. It is not a new idea. We have heard time and time again that it is "important to become our own best friend", but after hearing something like that so many times, it starts to sound like mumbo-jumbo. So why now, why this book? Why this particular arrangement of words? I think that it has to do with "timing". There were times in my life that I had so many friends that I took for granted that I always would. There were also times when I felt so strong and healthy, that I did not realize that many of those friends, were there because of what I could provide for them. The relationships were not reciprocal, but I could not see that at the time because my own needs were minimal, or so I thought. We all reach different points in our lives when things change for us. There are mountains that we are able to climb without much assistance, because our lives are in such balance,and our ropes are so long, that we do not feel a need for someone else's help. But a few years ago, my rope broke, and I had to humble myself by letting my friends know that I needed them to help me. I needed a return on the investment that I had made in the friendships that I tried so hard to cultivate and nurture. Nothing drastic, nothing that would take very much out of someone else's day, just some kindness, and an occasional "push" or "pull" up the mountain. Slowly, very slowly, I realized that when I turned around to look for some encouragement, my "friends" were scurrying back down the mountain without me. It almost seemed, at first, like they were even clawing harder at my fraying rope in order to keep me in my place. One day, I turned around and realized that the only people who were still standing there behind me, were my husband and my daughters. They were with me all along. Those "friends", some of whom had been in my life for as long as eighteen years, went scattering back down the mountain when they realized that I could no longer be the strong one, that I no longer had much of a rope to share. I was alone, battered by illness, frightened by loneliness, and I was in disbelief.

"For all those who longed to find a best friend and found it in themselves." I am getting to that point. I am learning that I may have invested way too much time and energy in people who would never have been able to stand up to the challenges of friendship. I am not jaded because of my experiences with those people. I just know now, that I must honor my loyalty to myself, first. I know now, that when I cultivate new friendships, I must make sure that the individuals who I choose have enough extra line to share, whether times are good or times or bad. I am learning, that in order to find a "best friend", or any friend at all, for that matter, I must not only share my rope, but make sure that they are willing to share theirs, as well. I am also learning that a friend's rope does not have to be very long or very sturdy, for that matter. It only has to be long enough for two small hands, so that if need be, there will always be enough to share. I will always be ready and willing to take one of my hands off of my rope in order to lend someone else a "push"or a "pull", and I know that there are others who are willing to do the same. I have spent the past several years cultivating a friendship with someone very worthy...me. I have learned a very valuable lesson and the words came together in the dedication of someone else's story. May you find the "best friend" in yourself.
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