Sunday, August 24, 2008

Friends of a feather ...

Feathers in sage "tubes" from Paul

I think the youngest of us was 18 and the oldest 21 when we all first met. But when we did meet, through a mutual friend, we all just clicked and became the best of friends: me, my then-husband and six guys who were already friends. We shared a bend-over-and-hold-your-stomach sense of humor, a quick wit, a teasing (only mildly insulting) sarcasm. No sacred cows; every topic was fair game. We all became instant, closely knit, do-everything-together friends. Some friendships are like that.

Very soon, the guys were at our house most every night. It was like a family; we'd eat together, talk, play music, watch TV, play backgammon, go to the store, play "washers" in the backyard and laugh and just completely enjoy the ease and comfort of good, close friendships. When one of the boys came over, they just walked right in; it would seem weird if they were to knock on the door and wait to be let in. They weren't guests; they were family. It was the late 70s and we were free spirits, late hippies (I wore halter tops and macramed large wall hangings for the living room - LOL!), enjoying the freedom and fun of being young and happy/hippy. In the summer, Fridays after work would find us spontaneously decide to drive out to the river for the weekend. None of us had any "real" money; we barely had "real" jobs. But we had "real" fun together, sitting on the river or at a river bar by day, all of us sleeping in the van together in the campground by night.

It's said that people come into our lives for a reason, or a season, or a lifetime. Over the years, there were marriages, babies, divorces. The guys each got married, one by one; some of us were in the weddings. As we all started families, we didn't see each other as often as before, but we were still the closest of friends ... although we knocked on the front doors now, in consideration of the spouses, you know. A few of the friends moved on to other life situations and other locales. When my husband left in 1980, I was lucky enough to keep the friends.

There are four of us now who still stay in touch, who still call or visit, usually at my place. The guys don't knock at my place; they never have. Walk in, big hug, big kiss, big smiles all over the place! They were all over at my place yesterday and we had fun all afternoon and evening, eating, talking, laughing, playing backgammon. I'd forgotten how men can eat! Good thing I ordered a sandwich platter because they ate every single one and it was good to see them helping themselves, so at home in my home, as they alway are and always have been. I'm not a hostess when they visit (I didn't even bother with shoes yesterday); they know where everything is, or they know to ask, and they just help themselves. (One of them even installed a new toilet flapper for me just before he left. Yay!)

I'll sometimes stand aside and just watch them talking and joking and I smile all the way to my liver, utterly contented and filled with love. I love these three wonderful, terrific, loving, caring, hilariously funny men that I've shared a friendship with for over 30 years. For some reason, we all just clicked.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

summer dancing ...

Oh, Hi! So good to see you! ... hug ... You remember so-and-so? ....Say Hi, girls. ... Hi! ... You hungry? Sit down ... How've you been? ...

Summer parties ... summer gatherings ...
seeing friends ...
enjoying summer evenings outdoors.

Summer parties, back-to-back ... strung one after another- like summer flowers in a daisy chain - stretching through the months of summer ...

I'd love to see you ... is this weekend good?
Hey, save the 16th, OK?
Evite invitations where you can see who else is going to be there to add to the fun!
Do you want to carpool together?

A summer patio filled with laughter ... friends doubled over ... one tossing his head back in delight. The candles lit on the cake ... Happy birthday to you ...

A pool party with kids splashing, sharing goggles, the boys playing "chicken" ... hey! Not so rough! Someone's gonna get hurt! ... My granddaughters, shy at first, but the older boys grab and toss them in the water and soon they're all laughing and having a grand time.

Adults and kids sharing summer together, generations spanning from grandparents to newborns. Meeting new people and enjoying the conversation, the discussion, the quick quips, the subtle excitement that comes with meeting strangers in happy circumstances. Meeting folks again that you met at the last party with this crowd. Oh, you do yoga with her, too? Yeah, she got me to learn to love plank, too.

Friends and friends, old and just-met ... friends at parties, friends on phone calls that seem to be more frequent in the summer. "Yes! How are you? Hey, why don't you come over this Saturday?" and plans are made for another summer gathering ... and I quickly get to cleaning my summertime mess that seems to appear when the days are filled with light and irresponsibility calls me outside to play instead of doing chores.

Summer breezes, light foods, juicy melon ... laughter and sharing and catching up with people who make us smile.

Summer people, light and laughter ... a celebration ... a dance, a delight.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

once upon a time, there was a verrrrrry ugly staircase ...

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
- William Morris
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Well, my old staircase was certainly useful, but was the ugliest thing about my home. I had carpet on my wall. Sage green carpet making its zig-zaggy way down my wall. Whenever I watched TV, I'd sit and look at the carpet on my wall. Zig. Zag. Green. And on my wall.

And the handrail; it looked like an exterior metal garden rail, not something you'd put in a home. Carpet on my wall and a garden rail. Sigh ...

So, it took me 10 years but I saved up and finally had the staircase re-done! White skirtboard, white risers, white, square balusters. Maple treads, handrails and newel post all stained a rich walnut. Oh, my! I love my new staircase.

There's wider tread space now, too. The previous garden rail was set in about 3 inches from the outer edge of the step, so there was 3 inches of tread space that wasn't usable. I had the stair guys (who did fantastic work) move the balusters out to the very edge of the treads, so the steps are much wider now. The handrail no longer goes all the way to the top step because of this change, but it's so much better to have a wider staircase to me even if it means one handrail ends at the lower ceiling height.

It's late, so I'll just let you see some pics now. My blog isn't a photo or decor blog (I have no talent in either), so set your expectations accordingly. [smile]

Before: The carpet-on-the-wall, garden rail staircase before:

After: The beautiful wood staircase:

Before: Words fail me. Ugh!

After: Beautiful now, and even more useful with a wider step.

Monday, August 4, 2008

talking to my self ...

Randy Pausch's body could no longer sustain life and so he left it and crossed over this week. Thank you, Randy, for showing and sharing so generously what you've learned on your journey.

Last year, I first learned of and watched his "Last Lecture", as so many others have; like others, I've watched it many times since. I've read several articles and watched Diane Sawyer's special with Randy and his wife, Jai. Although his body was being killed by pancreatic cancer, he was one of the healthiest of people, with wisdom, grace, dreams, spirit, acceptance, understanding and love to sustain him.

He had an incredibly graceful acceptance of the situation and was even able to find the humor and irony in this life transition. We all go through many trials in our lifetimes. We get sick, experience great loss, have our dreams shattered. Some people become destroyed by their sorrows; others become stronger, learning the lessons and moving forward with greater knowledge and awareness and new skills for coping with the vagaries of life.

How do we cope with such things? I remember on the Diane Sawyer interview, being impressed at how Randy's wife, Jai, told of sometimes drifting down into the sorrow of the situation and then stopping herself with a quick and effective "Not helpful."

"Not helpful." Two short words, but with so much meaning. Jai would use those two words almost as an automatic reflex, drawing herself back from the edge of despair because there was nothing helpful or positive or encouraging in that darkness. Self-talk often helps us get through trying circumstances. Helpful words to encourage our selves or to prevent us from negativity.

"Not helpful." I think many of us have phrases, self-talk, mantras, prayers, sayings that we repeat to ourselves, sometimes reflexively.

Mine include:
  • Receive what you have been given (to rremind me to accept and embrace my circumstances)
  • I have everything I need (a good reminder to have a grateful heart)
  • Everything's temporary (things pass us quickly, both the good and the bad)
  • Everything always works out (one of my personal favorites because it's absolutely true. It may not work out the way I want it, but it always works out nonetheless)
  • I am perfect just the way I am (a phrase given to me by a friend)
  • Five years from now, no one will really care about this (a reminder when I'm tempted to work much too late)
  • Do only positive things (this one got me through the first few months after my husband left)
  • Not helpful (I find Jai's phrase incredibly useful in many situations)
  • And one of my favorite meditations when I'm forgetting to connect with the Divine within:

    Be still and know that I am God
    Be still and know that I am
    Be still and know
    Be still

    What phrases, self-talk or thoughts help you connect to the center of your self and get you through the tough times?