Checks and Balances

“Talk between women friends is always therapy…” 

Jayne Anne Phillips

I have been lucky this past week to have had the opportunity to have lunch with two new friends.

We shared old stories from our past, compared daily challenges we face because we’re now home not building careers, and talk openly about what we plan and dream for our futures.

The power of these luncheons has surprised me. Our maturity and past experiences seem to accelerate our friendships. I feel as though I’ve discovered a strong and ever-expanding circle of new old friends.

All of this could not have happened at a better time to help balance out the stress of filling out tax paperwork. It amazes me at the amount of data requested and how it all fits into some rather foggy and mystical equation. I’m not sure this is at all what the founding fathers had in mind.

This afternoon, I raise my glass to my friends, to my Michael for working so hard on the taxes, and I give thanks for my many blessings.

“This is a question too difficult for a mathematician. It should be asked of a philosopher”(when asked about completing his income tax form)” 

Albert Einstein

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

A Daily Gift

A woman or man of value doesn’t love you because of what he or she wants you to be or do for them. He or she loves you because your combined souls understand one another, complements each other, and make sense above any other person in this world. You each share a part of their soul’s mirror and see each other’s light reflected in it clearly. You can easily speak from the heart and feel safe doing so. Both of you have been traveling a parallel road your entire life. Without each other’s presence, you feel like an old friend or family member was lost. It bothers you, not because you have given it too much meaning, but because God did. This is the type of person you don’t have to fight for because you can’t get rid of them and your heart doesn’t want them to leave anyways.” 

Shannon L. Alder

I’ve been thinking about my friends these past few days.

Getting older is not easy. I think in order to balance that out, God gave us the gift of friendship. If you’re lucky, you’ve been blessed with lifelong friends.

For the past nine months I’ve started my day with morning chats. These texts began early last summer as a way to stay in close contact with a friend going through some tough times. It didn’t take long to realize I could reach out to others. These texts continue to grow becoming a very important part of my daily routine.

I have been blessed with a wonderful group of friends. I get to “talk” with many of them every morning, reaching out whenever I have time. There’s no interruption to anyone’s busy day and they can respond whenever it works for them. It’s a daily gift for all of us.

Try yourself this weekend. Set aside a few minutes to reach out to those you love. It will warm your heart and may be what everyone needs to brighten these gloomy wintry days.

A friend is more than a therapist or confessor, even though a friend can sometimes heal us and offer us God’s forgiveness. A friend is that other person with whom we can share our solitude, our silence, and our prayer. A friend is that other person with whom we can look at a tree and say, “Isn’t that beautiful,” or sit on the beach and silently watch the sun disappear under the horizon. With a friend we don’t have to say or do something special. With a friend we can be still and know that God is there with both of us.” 

Henri J.M. Nouwen

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

 

 

Shorthand

“They talked in the shorthand of old friends and shared memories.” 

Dee Henderson, Before I Wake

This summer has been special because I’ve had the chance to reconnect with old friends. It has been wonderful.

Friendships are interesting and sometimes complicated. My friend, Mary, had to talk with her grand-daughter, Charlotte, this past week because Charlotte’s friend next door was not being very nice. Those early childhood friendships can be hard for young minds and tender hearts to understand. Thank heavens Charlotte had Grandma Mary to help her understand how friends treat each other. Lucky me for being part of the friendship example Mary used in her story. Charlotte was so surprised to hear we had been friends for over 40 years and had text conversations every morning.

Looking back on my life, I have memories of many different friendships. Some were brief and superficial–like those summer time friends I met on vacation or at the pool. As summer ended that connection faded as the new school year began. Other friends I met along the way became part of my life for a year or two. We shared common interests and goals–as those interests changed so did my circle of friends. It wasn’t always easy but it was all part of growing up. I was lucky, though. There were friends I met along the way who became part of my life. Many became my family of choice–there beside me when I needed that level of support. I cannot imagine where I would be today if they had not been there for me. As we grew up and started our adult lives, it didn’t matter how much time passed or where we lived–we knew we would always be there for each other.

Thanks, Jodi, for letting me use your photo in my story today. I Wish I could have been there with you guys–next time. By the way, you all look marvelous. I love you.

“While they talked they remembered the years of their youth, and each thought of the other as he had been at another time.” 

John Williams, Stoner

I am…

B…simply being…

God bless.

~Peace~

 

Cinderellie

“He died that day because his body had served its purpose. His soul had done what it came to do, learned what it came to learn, and then was free to leave.” 

Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain

In July of 1985, I walked away from my old life and home, packed my car, and headed from Waterloo, Iowa, to Denver, Colorado. My two sisters took vacation time to travel west with me to help me settle into a duplex I had not seen in a town I wasn’t even sure how to spell–was Englewood spelled with an I or an E?

I did learn how to spell my new hometown and we did make it to my new address without any real problems. There was that scary guy in Sterling, Colorado who ran a stop sign. In a nano-second all our futures were in question–thank God our guardian angels were near and attentive.

The three of us arrived, tired, but quickly unloaded the car and moved what we had into my new home. As the sun rose and set, we waited for the moving truck to arrive.

We waited…and waited..and waited. My entire house had been in storage for weeks because there was a high demand for moving trucks in Iowa at that time. I was part of many who were heading west.

As time passed, I was learning how expensive it was to move to a new city in a new state where you had no established credit. My savings dwindled away and we were all still sleeping on the living room floor.

When the moving company returned my many calls, the news was not good. They could not locate “my stuff.”

What? I’m a thousand miles from “home” and I’m being told the moving company has lost all my stuff? And…I’m scheduled to start my new job in a week.

I learned a lot during this time in my life. I learned a cashier’s check does not clear immediately. I learned that the cost of living in the Denver area was MUCH higher than I’d expected. Seven to ten days is a very long time to pinch pennies. I learned even though Denver was a mile high and the nights often cool down, it is still very hot in July. I learned that three women living in an empty duplex for a week with nothing to do lose patience with waiting and with each other.

My lessons continued to come fast a furious. I can’t say it was easy–I struggled. I can say I did eventually learn to trust myself and I survived–alone. There were no cell phones–long distance phone calls were expensive. I had no extra money for phone calls. I had my kind and generous friend, Cindy, who was there for me. The problem was Cindy lived quite a distance away and she had a young daughter and her own new job. Being on call did restrict us but thank heavens calling her was a local call.

My first day at my new job was a whirlwind. My co-worker lived a short distance from me. In order to make it easy for me, she offered to give me a ride that week back and forth to Children’s Hospital in Denver. Lucky for me, both our department and the hospital at the time were small. The cardiology department and cardiovascular surgery shared the third floor of Tammen Hall, expanding the size of my work family. That first day it seemed I met dozens of people, all of them were talking about the Huey Lewis and the News concert they’d all gone to that past Sunday.

As I stood listening to snipets of their conversations and enjoyed their bursts of laughter, I knew I’d found my new spot. My gut told me, with time and patience, I’d find my way into this exciting group of people. I wasn’t sure how. I only knew that they represented a large part of what my new life would hold–I was soaking up their energy and the genuine love I felt they had for each other.

By the grace of God I DID become part of this amazing group of people. We were all the same age or close to the same age. Our work was important to us and we worked extremely hard doing it as well as we know how. We worked long hours and covered call–our time off was precious. We played as hard as we worked. Because we were older, we’d all been “players” in the past and most of us had experienced “being played.” We were done with the games–we wanted people around us we could trust. We encouraged each other when we had bad days, when we made mistakes, when we lost patients, when we had relationship issues, and when we experienced those times when we felt lost and alone. Through it all, we knew we would be there for each other…

I’ll never ever forget how this group of people took me in and made me feel loved and always welcome.

This group I knew I had to join earlier this month–to be with one of our own and comfort her during her time of loss as only old friends can.

The best way I can think to talk about Julie and John is to retell a story she shared at John’s memorial. I’d heard the story before but it’d faded from my memory.

Both John and Julie worked at Children’s in Denver for years–Julie in the heart room in the OR and John was a radiologist. Even though they’d most likely walked by each other daily, they’d never really met. Now they were both newly single meaning there were several people making it their mission to get them together. As we know, timing is everything–throw in a little bit of luck and you have a grand plan. The date of the annual hospital gala was rapidly approaching. All those great minds came together to nudge John, suggesting he ask Julie to the grand event. He agreed to ask her and the plan was in motion.

John asked and Julie nervously accepted.

John arrived at Julie’s and rang the bell. Carol, Julie’s roommate, rushed to answer, and as Carol describes it, she opened the door to this tall and handsome man, dressed in a black tuxedo, smiling, and holding a single red rose. Carol quickly admits she wanted to say she was Julie but, alas, knew he knew better. Welcoming him in, she ran upstairs to tell Julie he was there. Opening the bedroom door, Carol sings out:

“Cinderellie, Cinderellie, your Prince Charming is here!”

For the next 26 years, John was her Prince Charming, standing beside her through all their trials and tribulations. It wasn’t easy. They faced many challenges and they both found ways to make it all work. They were a good team and they had three amazing sons who will help us all take care of their mom.

It has been an honor, privilege, and a blessing witnessing and being a small part of this grand story. Like so many of our childhood fairy tales, we watch helplessly as the ominous music crescendos, signaling the wicked witch has released her evilness out into our world. We prayed the witch would be foiled. If we could find a way to defeat her our hero and heroine would live happily FOREVER after. Reality strikes again. This time, cancer proved to be the greatest and strongest Witch of the West and that damn clock chimed midnight much too soon.

I love you, Julie. My John rest in peace knowing we will all take care of you as we’ve taken care of each other for all these years. You will not be alone–none of us will be because we all have our memories to give us comfort and eventual peace.

Abba Father,

You hold time within your hands, and see it all, from beginning to end. Please keep and carry these precious people in their sadness and loss. Cover them with your great wings of love, give their weary hearts rest and their minds sound sleep. Lord, lift their eyes so that they may catch a glimpse of eternity, and be comforted by the promise of heaven. 

We ask all this in the precious name of Jesus.

Amen. 

I am…

B…simply being…

Reach out to those who may need you today.

~Peace be with you~

I am so fortunate I have an amazing photographer in my circle of Facebook friends. Thank you, Mr. Chuck Hackenmiller, for allowing me to use your wonderful photos as part of my blog. You can see many of Mr. Hackenmiller beautiful pictures on the Facebook page, I grew up in Iowa. Please note, no re-use of this photo without permission from Chuck Hackenmiller, Boone, Iowa.  

 

 

The Reflection in the Mirror

“A woman or man of value doesn’t love you because of what he or she wants you to be or do for them. He or she loves you because your combined souls understand one another, complements each other, and make sense above any other person in this world. You each share a part of their soul’s mirror and see each other’s light reflected in it clearly. You can easily speak from the heart and feel safe doing so. Both of you have been traveling a parallel road your entire life. Without each other’s presence, you feel like an old friend or family member was lost. It bothers you, not because you have given it too much meaning, but because God did. This is the type of person you don’t have to fight for because you can’t get rid of them and your heart doesn’t want them to leave anyways.” 

Shannon L. Alder

I have been home from Colorado for a few days now and I have some incredible memories.

I was welcomed into my friends’ homes where we talked for hours. The years evaporated as we all remembered old times while sharing our latest adventures and hopes for our futures.

One visit was especially special. It is the picture highlighting my story today.

Not only did I get to see my dear friend, Paula, she set time aside to cut my hair. Now–this probably seems like no big deal.

It was a very big deal–let me tell you why.

I met Paula in 1985–she was just out of cosmetology school and I’d just moved to Denver. We were both searching for people we could relate to–not an easy assignment for anyone back in the 80’s. We sat together through many stages of each others lives. I followed her around to various locations, sitting in her chair as she stood behind me–both literally and figuratively. We supported each other through the big hair days, perms, perm re-dos and more perm re-dos, highlights, blind dates, engagements, marriage plans, marriages, births, deaths, and dozens of other assorted stories we have both sworn to take with us to our graves.

She has been my professional confidant for decades. I had no idea just how much I’d missed her.

It’d been well over three years since I’d been in her chair. To have the opportunity to plop my rear into this spot once again was both powerful and healing. In a manner of minutes, I saw my old self emerge.

My haircut was the immediate visual part of our visit. It was during the quiet moments that followed as I made my way across town I realized my soul was once again rejoicing in another much needed Denver re-connection.

Thank you, Paula. I love and treasure you.

“While they talked they remembered the years of their youth, and each thought of the other as he had been at another time.” 

John Williams, Stoner

I am…

B…simply being…

I am blessed and I am grateful.

~Peace be with you, my dear friends~

 

 

 

The Gift of Friendship

In your entire life, you can probably count your true friends on one hand. Maybe even on one finger. Those are the friends you need to cherish, and I wouldn’t trade one of them for a hundred of the other kind. I’d rather be completely alone than with a bunch of people who aren’t real. People who are just passing time.” 

Sarah Ockler, Fixing Delilah

My trip back to Colorado last week began with this wonderful woman picking me up at the airport.

As we made our way out of DIA, she handed me a little bag filled with sandwiches and a glass of chilled Chardonnay.

It was the beginning of a week I’ll remember and cherish for a very long time.

Thank you, Ann, for being there for me and making all things so much easier.

I love you.

“A good friend is a connection to life – a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.” 

Lois Wyse

I am…

B…simply being…

God bless.

~Peace be with you~

The Gift of Friends

“No friendship is an accident. ”
― O. Henry, Heart of the West

Today is the birthday of three of my friends.

Happy Birthday, Jodi, Linda, and Jim.

Each of you came into my life at different times, each bringing your own special and unique gifts. I am so thankful.

As I take a walk down Memory Lane, the first person I’d meet is Linda. Linda and I were friends in grade school and junior high. She always had a smile and was full of energy. I loved her for her sense of adventure. She seemed fearless. An added bonus was the fact that my Dad knew her parents meaning I could actually go to her house after school. Linda lived in the country. For a town kid like me, that was so incredibly special because that meant I got to ride the bus. I never knew what to expect when we arrived at her house “out in the country.”

Now…I have to confess…as fearless as Linda was I was her direct counterbalance in this Universe. I was afraid of EVERYTHING.

Of course, I could not act like I was afraid so I had to devise all kinds of maneuvers to appear to be just fine with whatever it was we needed to get done as far as completing her chores. The most consistent thing to challenge my acting ability was the Houdini escape pig who always seemed to get out just before the school bus arrived. That pig was HUGE in my skinny little town kid eyes! It was our job to herd that big beast back home to the pen. I spent more time and energy running in some sort of zig-zag pattern making every effort to stay as far away from the pig as possible. I really really really disliked that hog. I was little, if any, help. We (meaning Linda) did eventually get him back where he belonged. Thank you, Linda Wendt Mossman, for being a friend then and now. Happy Birthday.

The next person I’d meet on the stroll today would be Jodi. She was one of the first people I met after moving to Waterloo from Traer. What a culture shock for me–moving from a small community school to a small city school. I was scared to death most of that first month of school. Jodi and I had many things in common–which neither one of us really shared until we were much older. I think kids are so open we felt our common bonds even without speaking about them. She never ever gave up on me and was successful in breaking me out of the house for different get-togethers. I was so grateful to her for never having to explain some of the craziness she saw going on at our house. Now, we laugh about some of those times. After we graduated we stayed close friends until I moved to Denver in the mid-eighties. I still miss those weekend nights when we would sit around her kitchen table and share stories from our week. When I count my blessings, Jodi McGrane Verbraken is definitely at the top of the list. Happy Birthday, my dear friend who has been by my side for so many life-changing things. I cherish you and love you.

The person furthest down memory lane is Jim. I met Jim and his wife, Jan, at a little RV park in one of the most beautiful places on this planet. Michael and I had our RV parked in Pleasant Valley, in the little town Howard, along the Arkansas River,  for many years. Jim and Jan and many others used this little spot along the river as a weekend getaway when we were all still working in Denver. I didn’t get a chance to really get to know Jim until we had retired. Both Jim and his wife, Jan, have the most contagious laughs on the planet along with being two of the most giving people on the planet. I am so grateful I have them as friends. Happy Birthday, Jim Finegan. I am looking forward to seeing you and Jan next week.

It’s not Carolyn’s birthday today but that is her needlepoint wall hanging I am using as my story photo. Carolyn and I worked together at St. Francis Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa, for many many years. I carried this little wall hanging with me for decades–some of the age shows around the edges. I hung it where I could see it every morning–its last place was just inside my closet door–Carolyn greeted me every day before I hit the road to work. When we sold our house and became full-time RVers, I had to let many things go. This was one. So, tearfully I took a picture of it, knowing it would now be well-preserved. Thank you, Carolyn Nederhoff for this wonderful gift that symbolized our friendship and helped get me through my working days without your giving spirit. I think of you often and send you my love today. I hope one of our old hospital gang will share this with you. Many hugs sent to you today and always.

“A spiritual connection with someone lasts forever, even when physical presence fades.”
― Danielle Barone

I am…

B…simply being…

I am blessed and I am grateful.

~Peace~

 

With the Help of Friends

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves  

 

It is a very cold and blustery day here in the hill country of Texas. It is a good day for thinking about things. It’s days like today when I miss my friends who are now scattered near and far. I am so grateful for each special and unique person who is part of my little circle of friends–the precious new mixed in with the beloved old.

My photo today is borrowed from my friend, Jane “Olson” Fredberg. Thank you, Jane, for being one of those souls who has been part of my life since junior high. We were classmates, sharing our common history of the loss of our mothers at an early age, followed by sharing your own cancer survival story when we were neighbors and I was one of those healthcare workers who were part of your journey.  Thank you for allowing me to share your Minnesota sunset and for being one of my beloved old friends.

I am blessed to have many friends who take their time to read and support me as I learn and grow as a writer/author. The mere thought of putting my words out there paralyzed me for a very long time. It is your encouragement that helps guide and stokes my hesitant passion. Thank you. I am grateful to you all every single day.

“A good writer possesses not only his own spirit but also the spirit of his friends.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

I am…

B…simply being…

Wishing you all many blessing and love.

Peace

 

 

A Lunch at Killians

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

I found this picture today as I was organizing my desk–AGAIN. It is a picture packed with memories.

It is a picture packed with memories.

The picture was taken sometime in the 1980’s. I’d recently divorced and this was the house I had to keep. I thought it was the most amazing little house on the planet. I loved this little place.

This picture was taken in the living room. The little wicker desk was my Dad’s sister, Ruby’s, and fit this space perfectly. What caught my attention today was what surrounded this desk. It was such a nice surprise, I had to share.

The macrame wall hanging and the plant hanger were gifts from my friend, Mary. When we downsized from our home in Colorado to our RV two-plus years ago, choices had to be made. These three items did not make the cut so I was so happy to find this picture.

While I smiled at the princess phone sitting on the desk and the little bottle of wine on the mantle,  I remembered a lunch date Mary and I made with each other shortly after we passed our boards. That was no small feat–we wanted to do something special.

Over the years we had shared our stories about going with our older relatives to a Tea Room for special occasions. Mary had gone with her Grandmother to the Tea Room at Killians in Cedar Rapids. I had gone with my great-aunt to the Tea Room at Brandies in Omaha. We both felt we had to have this type of experience again. So we dressed up and headed to Cedar Rapids the next day we had time off.

Cool. A road trip.

Mary picked me up and we headed to Cedar Rapids from Waterloo. It took us about two hours, arriving just in time for lunch. We did a quick pass through the store but our goal was lunch. We followed the signs to the Tea Room. There was no person to greet us–our first clue–so we found our own seats. We waited at our little table. We waited and waited.

There was one older waitress who was literally running from person to person. It was not busy–maybe three or four other people in the dining room–but she was working hard to cover a lot of square footage as quickly as she could maneuver.

This was not the Killians’ Tea Room Mary remembered and nothing like my memories of the Tea Room in Omaha. Even with the subdued lighting, we could see that the furniture was cracked and worn, the carpet threadbare, and there were none of the special touches we expected to see on the tabletops. No cloth tablecloths or napkins. No flowers. Nothing. We didn’t even see menus.

We were beginning to think we were invisible. Our waitress, whose name I remembered for a long time, would glance our way but not venture further. Maybe she thought we’d leave? Well–she did not know the two of us–we had talked about this lunch forever. We’d driven all the way down from Waterloo for this lunch. We weren’t going anywhere.

With a head shake and a loud sigh, she headed our way. Head down, arms swinging, order tablet flipping back and forth in her hand. As she got closer, she put her hand in her pocket, took out two short yellow pencils, turned her order pad around, and threw all of the above at our table.

With a tone of voice that told us not to ask any questions, she said, “Write what you want!”

We’d been watching her but were still caught off guard. Quickly, we each grabbed the different flying objects. We quickly decided it was smart to just write down something that would be fast and easy. I remember writing grilled cheese sandwich–so much for special. Whatever we had, we ate quickly and got out of there fast.

We still laugh about that day. I wish Mary was sitting here beside me so she could fill in all those details I am forgetting.

Little did we know that this was just the beginning of many years of experiences like this. Thank you, Mary, for being one of the best things that ever happened to me. God bless you.

I am…

B…simply being…

Love and peace, Y’all.

Rosh Hashana

Tomorrow at sundown, the first of the Jewish high holidays, Rosh Hashana, will begin. This holiday signals the beginning of the Jewish new year.

Years ago, one of the physicians I worked with would talk with me about Rosh Hashana. I listened because I knew it was important to him. I was young. I was not ready or engaged enough to listen fully and hear all he shared with me.

The relationship the two of us had was something I took for granted. We were friends. We were both able to leave our work roles at the door and be ourselves. We could lean on each other one minute and get upset with each other the next. It wasn’t until I left Iowa that I realized I had been gifted a very rare and unique friend.

The last Rosh Hashana I remember sitting with him and toasting the new year was the year the holiday fell on my birthday. It was significant, he said, it meant the year ahead would be a special one for me.

I thought of my friend many times these past few days while I read about Rosh Hashana. It seemed appropriate to me since the part of the holiday he stressed was the looking back on the year passed. It was important for him to look carefully at mistakes he’d made so those mistakes would not be carried on.

I have to tell you, reading about this holiday is overwhelming. It was difficult to know where and when to stop. One huge reward of the research was being reminded of how beautifully the Jewish faith uses symbolism. An example follows which illustrates the tradition of Tashlich, which translates to “casting off sins.”

In some communities, according to Lesli Kippelman Ross’ article found in myjewishlearning.com, before sunset the evening of Rosh Hashana, people walk to a running stream or river, throwing in pieces of bread. These breadcrumbs symbolize their sins of the past year, tossed away so they are not carried into the new year. As the crumbs travel downstream, the last verses of the prophet, Micah are read: “He will take us back in love; He will cover up our iniquities, you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

Special Rosh Hashana services are held at the synagogue where a ram’s horn, the Shofar,  is blown. The sound of the Shofar is part of the high holidays and is used to remind people to go within for deep personal reflection.

Rabbi Yonah Hain of Columbia/Barnad Hillel, tells us that the Shofar is an alarm telling us to take stock. He was asked, is this holiday about celebrating the past year or is it about reflecting upon the lessons learned? Rabbi Hain feels it is up to the individual to determine what the year has been. What is more important is to put those lessons learned into action over the months to come. Go out and greet your family and friends, he says,  with a sincere and strong “Shana tova.” Shana tova translates to “may it be a great year.”

I am…

B…simply being…

I love you.

Shana tova