Category Archives: Friendship Friday

French Cruller

Friday began at Dunkin Donuts, after dropping the kids off at school. I pulled into the parking lot with cans of apple juice concentrate for the special art show beverage as Steve was exiting his vehicle. He ran to my car window.

Want to get donuts?

With the weeks ticking away, counting down to his last day at Good Shepherd, there won’t be many more opportunities like this. I jumped on it.

Of course! Hop in!

The donut run was not just for us, as four boxes later we were sitting at a table near the window tearing into the brown paper bag holding our two. I pulled out my French Cruller and bit into the chewy, glazed goodness.

We began to process the day as onlookers in the drive thru line outside laughed to see the four boxes stacked on our table. Fridays run on sugar, carbs, and caffeine everywhere.

This Friday was full. Steve has three of them left. Three more Fridays. Just typing those words brings a heavy feeling to my chest and eyes.

My sister received her masters in counseling degree in hand tonight. Where has that time gone? Two years ago there were conversations discussing our plans, mine to do certificate work through the Allender Center, her to pursue her degree for licensure through university work.

Now here we are.

For a brief moment I considered hopping into the car to take a road trip to celebrate in person with her. Then I remembered.

The art show.

Broaching the subject with my daughter to get a feel for the level of the show’s importance, I said, My sister graduates from college tomorrow. Her response? Did she invite you? Me, Yes. Her reply, Too bad about the art show. Do you think she will mind that you can’t come?

And there I had my answer. The art show was important. Very important. And I needed to be there. And no, my sister wouldn’t mind. She would totally understand.

This day began with a French Cruller. I hold the memory of biting into its sweet, sticky, airy goodness while seeing the laughter in the eyes of the man at the drive through and breathe deeply the goodness of change on the horizon. Right now all I feel is anticipation of what is to come, of standing on the edge.

Next week I dive into the second, and final, part of Certificate 2 work. I reconnect in person with faces and hearts that have cheered me on from a distance. When I return the countdown will be on to the end of the school year, the end of an era, and the start of something new.

Until then, I hold close the old, the familiar, and I don’t take for granted biting into the sweet goodness of a donut while sitting across the table from my husband because we can. Something new is coming, and change is gonna do us good. I will choose to believe that.

Friendship Friday ~ Esther

I know what you do in your spare time. 

Esther’s knowing eyebrows move up and down rapidly. She says this each time I tell her, or she overhears, that I have eight children. She seems to know what everyone does in their spare time. When a portly man passes us on deck she looks to me and says, I know what HE does in HIS spare time.

Esther is 88 with bright eyes and a foggy mind. Attentive to her appearance, her thin white hair is updone with various clips and combs, topped with a black floppy bow. This gives the appearance of a crown which helps me to remember her name. Queen Esther. The black bow is a fixture of her look each time I cross paths with her.

She introduces herself as Esther the Pester, but I cannot bring myself to call her that as so many passengers do freely. Hey, Esther the Pester! To me she is just Esther.

She is the one who ends up with the heartiest portion of food at our plated dinner each evening. While my plate arrives with a small piece of fish and some steamed vegetables, Esther’s is piled high with pasta, topped with a chicken breast or two.

Oh my, I’ll never be able to eat all of this. Do you want some? This question is rhetorical, as Esther begins cutting into chicken and sliding pasta onto my plate. She comes from a time when it was a sin to waste so much food. I agree that it is wasteful, but how did I end up the starving child that Esther must feed?

I take the food onto my plate graciously, for along with the generous sharing of her food is the generous sharing of the wine she has brought on board. It is not a bad tradeoff. My glass is filled and refilled copiously.

Esther was a beauty in her day, I am told. I believe it. Her eyes still sparkle, and her smile is free. The deep wrinkles on her face give her character and don’t seem dour at all. She, or someone who loves her, is attentive to her appearance. She looks attractive and smart in her dress.

Each night the photostaff takes several pictures of our table. Esther looks lovely in every picture. She really does. This hints that she looked pretty good once upon a time.

I used to live in Hollywood at Hollywood Studios when I was younger. Several other girls who lived there became actresses in movies. I could have, too, but I wouldn’t cooperate. She says this with that up and down eyebrow movement of hers. It’s pretty clear that cooperating would have involved sleeping with someone somewhere along the line.

This conversation took place eight years before its time, back in 2009. The media had not yet exploded with Hollywood (and beyond) sexual harassment allegations. If hashtags were even a thing, they were not yet mainstream. I was just a young woman listening to an old one relate her life experience and a part of her story.

I assure Esther that I’m glad that she didn’t cooperate or we might not be sharing a table on this cruise ship. I have no other words to offer. Only presence. We sit.

If I get ice cream for dessert will you have some? What flavor should I choose?

Something in me senses that Esther is a Butter Pecan kind of girl, which is exactly what I request for her.

I am right!

Friendship Friday ~ We Belong to Each Other

Last fall I sat in a hospital waiting room late in the day drinking a cup of black coffee from a vending machine. I had pressed the code for a cup of comforting hot chocolate, but out came black coffee, so black coffee it was. It tasted good because I was so tired.

I was waiting to see how my friend’s mother was faring after a traumatic accident on my street. When her text came through asking me to come, I went, and remained throughout the day until returning late.

We belong to each other. All of us.

Sitting alone in the waiting room of the trauma center, I plugged my earbuds in to play music while journaling. I wanted to disappear into my own world, oblivious to those around me.

An older woman wrapped in hospital blankets was wheeled out from the treatment area and left beside me. Alone. Unable to stay isolated in my bubble, I felt compelled to demonstrate presence as she dozed.

I unplugged.

A local man recognized her and walked up to say hello, startling her awake. He introduced himself as a friend of her son, and while she did not remember him, he knew her. She began to explain her plight, how she fell the day before while riding on public transit, because her scooter was not secure.

He asked if Ray knew she was here. I sensed that Ray was a mutual hospital connection who would know her and could help. He looked over at me and asked, Are you here with her?

We had never met before, but I was with her.

The man tried to call Ray’s number, but did not get an answer. I’ll keep trying. Maybe he is in a meeting. He turned to leave.

I looked at the woman and she at me. She began to talk. I listened. She had been there since 5:00 that evening. It was 7:30.

A text came through from my friend asking to get some food for her mom who would be discharged soon and had not eaten. I took the order and stood up to go. Turning to my new friend, I asked if I could get her food, as well. She said yes.

I returned with her requested ham sandwich and Dr. Pepper as a nurse was preparing to take her back to receive further care. I was grateful for the handled bag I had taken at checkout as I hung it on the arm of her wheelchair.

She said, Thank you. I answered, Of course. Enjoy! We smiled knowing goodbyes having shared the sacred space of a hospital waiting room together. I took food back to the tiny trauma room that housed my friend and her mom.

The hospital is an hour from my home. We may never meet again in this life. But for an hour in the ER, the woman in the wheelchair and I belonged to each other.

Just like we all do.

Friendship Friday ~ Introvert’s Weekend Away

The first weekend of November found me at a lake house with my friend Angela for what has become a fall ritual ~ Introvert’s Weekend Away.

It is a great space, wherever we land, of reading, writing, thinking, processing, and just being. Sometimes we talk. Sometimes we are quiet. We do things together, mostly taking walks and eating meals. We do things apart, like all of the other stuff.

There is music. We talked about  five songs.

My space at the table looked like this for most of the weekend.

It was lovely to be able to leave works in progress and come back to them.

Last year I was working on work for module 2 of the certificate program and had a strict agenda of reading and writing to complete. This year it was fun to just play with and in the space.

The misty day could not keep me from swinging to the music in my ear buds, soaring high into the air. Little did I know I was creating a safe space for my soul. There was solitude and beauty and much-needed calm before the storm that was brewing.

 

Friendship Friday ~ Dewey’s Doggie Morning

My daughter faithfully rises early each weekday morning to walk and care for her dog. She is often up before me, pulling on a coat and slipping on headphones before grabbing the leash. I remain in my room, doing my morning routine, preparing to engage another day.

One morning, I heard unusual scrambling and barking from Dewey upon returning from his walk. Run-in with ZephyrI conjectured. She’s the boss of us all. I wonder what is up with them this morning. He must have crossed her.

I stepped out of my room to find a ball of white scampering around and under the dining room table with Dewey following closely behind, barking and snapping at it. It was another terrier.

I found Louie this morning on the walk. He was loose, so I brought him here to call his owner.

Sure enough, the name on his tag read Louie, which was kind of funny considering we have Dewey. We wondered aloud if they had been at the SPCA together, and if there was a Huey out there, also.

The morning routine continued as Dewey and Louie dashed around underfoot, reminding me of why I was hesitant to get a dog in the first place and why we have only one. Steve called the number on the tag which went directly to voicemail. He then offered the following words while preparing to drive Kirk to school:

I’m going to walk Louie around the block to see if someone is looking for him while Kirk finishes getting ready.

I got in my car to wait for the girls to come out for their ride to school. They exited the house as Steve returned from his walk around the block with another little dog under his arm.

I think they belong together, because this little one came running up. I had to grab him quickly before he got away.

Then there were three! I was laughing out loud in disbelief. The little brown dog had no tag. Of course we called him Huey.

Please don’t call the SPCA until I get home. The little brown dog is SOOOOO cute! Can we keep him?

I was beyond my comfort zone as Steve deposited the dogs in the backyard while I assured my daughter that I would make no sudden moves without her. We left for school.

I am not exaggerating when I say that at the top of our street there was a large white dog off-leash doing his business. No human in sight.

We are not even stopping for Donald! We have GOT to get to school. 

I returned home to the sight of two dogs looking longingly at me through the fence.

Inside, Dewey was waiting by the back door. I opened it for him to join his friends in the back yard.

There was an incredible amount of cuteness.

Then it was time for me to go to breakfast with my son. This meant bringing Dewey inside but leaving the others out in case their owner should come looking for them. Can you guess the dynamic here? Which dog is supposed to be coming inside?

Please can I come in, too?

After a leisurely breakfast downtown, my son and I returned home to an empty yard. The dogs had been picked up. At least I hoped so!

The call came later. The dogs had, indeed, made it home, and we had made a fun family memory. I’m grateful for caring hearts, bounding dogs, and healing laughter.

Also for a fenced-in yard.

Oh. And the little dog’s name is Chance.

Friendship Friday ~ Alex

I am blessed with the gift of built-in best friends. Many moons ago, my fourth little friend was brought home from the hospital. That gave me two younger sisters and two younger brothers by the time I was eight years old.

When Alex began to talk, he called me teacher. That is the family folk-lore. I am not surprised, because I played school with all of my siblings and stuffed animals. I probably roped him in as a nursery student before he could talk. By the time he was four or five, I had him well-trained, as seen in these photos from a school picture day photo shoot I did with my class one summer.

I did individual photos, hands properly crossed over a book, most likely a Bible for that extra spiritual touch.

I took a class picture, as well.

Clearly I was inspired by the real school picture of this little preschooler.

Fast forward a few decades and lots of stories to this summer when Alex brought his entire family from Bolivia to the States. We were on the same continent for three months, though not all of that  time was spent in the same location.

It was so fun to catch up and connect. It felt like always. Just really good. Like this good.

There is so much love on our faces. So much contentment in this captured moment. Shalom.

Alex was ten when I left for college. One of my favorite letters from that season reads

Dear Julie, I love you. I miss you. We are still brother and sister. Love, Alex

We are still brother and sister.

This summer we took a trip with our mom and teenage girls to visit family in Ohio and Michigan. It was such a sweet time of laughter and conversation. And after this goodbye picture was snapped, I climbed into my car and sobbed down the driveway as I drove from Ohio back home to Virginia.

Happy Birthday, Alex! I love and miss you so much! I am thankful for your life. I am thankful that we are brother and sister.

Friendship Friday ~Jesus Showed Up

Jesus showed up at just the right time.

My Bible reading plan this year is chronological. That means intensive Old Testament time. Nine months to be exact. God’s word is always alive and powerful, speaking to wherever we are in the moment. The minor prophets were calling to me for months. As was the weeping one. There was lots of weeping.

Steve would tease me before bed, Time to be encouraged by a dose of Lamentations.

In a strange way, I am encouraged by the Old Testament. It is full of mess and grief and people who see God directly, hear from him specifically, and still do the opposite. It has people who follow the rules and are foiled and who break them and are blessed.

There are stories that occur over chapters and those in just a few verses, whose magnitude is more real to me the more I live and experience life. The Old Testament is a reminder that there is indeed nothing new under the sun.

Nothing. New.

In the midst of poor choices, direct disobedience, chaos, and confusion, God is still glorified and working all things. I am neither a theologian nor a Bible scholar. That is not what this is about. I am not trying to prove points or make cases. I may be a kindred spirit with Jeremiah, but I digress.

This is about Jesus showing up this week, as I finally made it to the New Testament. How timely to read about his entrance into our world on a day when the horror was magnified. Even though he has been here all along and is well-acquainted with our sorrow and grief, it brought comfort to be reminded again.

He chose to come to us.

It reminds me of one of my children and the Baby Jesus story.

One year, a particular child was in kindergarten. His Sunday School teacher gave each child in the class a plastic nativity scene to assemble. She gave each parent a sealed envelope with a note and the Baby Jesus inside. The note contained instructions about helping the child assemble the nativity scene and how to respond when they noticed the baby was missing. We were to put it in the manger on Christmas Day.

This particular child tore into the box immediately in the van after church. Where is he? Where is the Baby Jesus? He demanded.

Determined to follow the plan, I mentioned that it was not Christmas yet. We would have to wait and see.

Come on, Mom. He already came! Now where is it?

Laughing, I had to admit that he had me, as I pulled it out of the envelope.

That is how it feels. Jesus already came. He has been in my Old Testament reading, and I know that. In the midst of all that is wrong, there is also right. I am not pretending to have the answers. I am just grateful to be resting in the comfort of the Gospels.

 

 

 

Friendship Friday ~ Cousin Day

Yesterday was a special day. It had been written on a calendar block, cleared of all else. We spent all day with the Boston little boy cousins and their amazing parents.

My anxiety about having little people around for the day was alleviated quickly when this little one walked in, grabbed a recorder, and began playing while his brother accompanied him on the piano.

recorder

Uncle B patiently listened to Little Mae tell all about King’s Dominion adventures using her map of the park.

Mae and Uncle B

My baby and my sister’s baby smiled at each other a lot, which was a huge milestone for anyone who knows my baby and her thoughts about babies.

Baby B

Baby B won her over.

Mae and baby

Meanwhile, lots of creating happened. The cry of Guys, Guys! Look over here! caught my attention. I looked to see this little one with his airplane.

airplane

My much younger sister was caught wearing my perpetual mothering face in this picture. I so know the feeling.

mothering face

With everything happening at once, there were problems to solve, like the one of figuring out how to find all of the pieces and get this track to stick to the green board. Daddy to the rescue on that one! Problem solved.

track

It was sweet for my littles to get an opportunity to experience the life of their big siblings. Here Coco gets to feel like her big sisters when the littles were being born, holding a babe in arms.

Coco and baby

And these eyes and little chewing mouth. I could not get enough of them.

chewdalee chew

And this snuggly sleeper. I might have cried a little.

sleepy baby

Of course, a day with littles (or bigs for that matter) is not complete without some down time with a screen and a cuddly blanket.

screen time

This day was so full, pictures don’t do it justice. I finally had to put down the phone and just be in it, because everything was so much to take in.

I want to remember the moments of sweetness like a two-and-a-half-year-old cousin wandering into the TV room with his bowl of shredded cheese and climbing up next to Kirk and asking questions about Minecraft. My thirteen-year-old’s patient response and offer of letting him play reminded me of how Caleb treated his little brother, and my heart swelled.

I want to remember the conversations with my brother and sister that felt natural and relaxed and made us forget that we live hundreds of miles apart and that this doesn’t happen every day. Moments of falling asleep on the couch or walking out into the yard or playing UNO Attack (thanks, B!!!!) felt like they happen every day.

And dinner time. Oh, the dinner table.

I want to remember shopping with my sister and planning our meal like it’s the most normal thing in the world, all while talking about everything. I want to remember cooking and being together and living life.

I want to remember what it was like to have a full dinner table and the littles getting to be the bigs and experiencing the noise and cries and trauma of food touching other food or too much ketchup coming out of the bottle or corn on the cob rolling onto the wrong place on the plate. Our table was full and loud and fun.

Our day was full and loud and fun.

My body, mind, and soul felt full and tired and happy and sad and grateful, so very grateful.

sister selfie

At the end of the day when, Sister Selfie! was called, here is what we got. Sister selfie, plus one. I am old enough to be this girl’s mom, so I could technically be a grandma. Technically. Not yet.

For now I relish being auntie to this precious little one and his brothers and will hold so many special memories close to my heart.

It was a very good day.

Friendship Friday ~ There’s Something About Second Grade

Maybe second grade friendships are in my face, since I just finished the school year, and my daughter just finished second grade. Maybe it is because one of the generous donors to my counseling certificate was a friend from second grade. Maybe it is because of this. Whatever the case, second grade has been on my mind, lately.

I corralled my three little girls one spring weekend to watch The Sound of Music while all of the boys were away. Forgetting that it is long enough for an Intermission, I settled in with them, to much initial protestation.

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Immediately I was transported back to second grade, when I sang that very song to a girl in my class named . . . Maria. I thought it was so funny and clever, until the call came from a mother that I had called her daughter a demon. She didn’t appreciate that much. Turns out, it wasn’t so funny or clever, after all. Or kind.

I don’t remember if I found out from a parent or teacher, but either way, that lesson stayed with me always. It was my first experience with the blow that I had hurt someone’s feelings unintentionally and that words have meaning and consequences.

Take a minute to watch this clip. Seriously. Excuse the poor quality, but it’s the only I could find that played the part that I sang to my friend.

A few things stand out to me as curious about this incident and movie.

First, I knew the song well enough to sing it through, which means I must have watched the movie or listened to the soundtrack quite a bit. Second, I can remember facial expressions and things about this particular scene that intrigued or bothered me as a girl . . . the nun who pipes up, Except for every meal with a friendly smile on her face ~ intrigued.  Mother Superior singing, How do you hold a mooooon-beam in, your, hand? ~bothered. Third, I remember acting out scenes from this movie, including putting on my twirliest dress and running up the “hill” in our back yard, and then twirling down singing, The hillllls are alllllive, with the sound of muuuuuusic.

I am serious.

I didn’t really think that my friend, Maria, was a demon. I did think that it was interesting that she had the same name as one of my favorite characters in my favorite movie. I risked getting too playful and too carried away, and that is a big part of second grade.

Second grade is playful and funny and innocent and hurtful all rolled into one. Friendships need help to grow, and little people need help learning to care for one another’s feelings and hearts.

The sweetest thing about second grade is how golden the friendships can be. There is something about someone seeing and knowing you and liking you for who you were at the beginning, before the messages of not good enough began to set in.

As I watched my second graders signing each other’s yearbooks, I was reminded of that same activity with my own second grade friends and pulled out a yearbook from 1979 to take a look.

Jennifer

Here is a signature and drawing by my generous donor.

II Timothy 2:15

Next to that is a Bible reference. Always an important part of a Christian school yearbook signing.

best friend

And this message signed by a friend who I didn’t realize considered me her best. That is the beauty of second grade friendships. Every one is the best!

I love you, my grown-up second grade friends. You, too, Maria.

You’re a lamb, wherever you are.

Friendship Friday ~ Holding Down the Fort

Sometimes being a good friend to your spouse means holding down the fort so they get some time and space away. Holding Down the Fort is really hard for me. In my world of longings, one of the deep ones is longing for time to just be off.

I would love for space to not be in charge all most of the time. I have been in charge for all most of my life, and responsibility is wearing and wearisome.

I long for the day when my husband’s time away means my own time alone here in the quiet, not shouldering the weight of solo parenting. I long for the day when we can go away together without requiring what feels like an act of congress to make it happen.

I realize that many readers long for a spouse or for a child or to not be solo parenting all of the time due to death or divorce. We ALL have our longings, our hard stuff, the things we wish would pass, the do-over desires.

Since this is my blog, I am writing about my struggle to be a good friend to my husband. He needs time away with friends to be refreshed. And, really, this time away isn’t totally his, because it sweetly lined up with the weekend that our son is playing in the Virginia All-state band concert at George Mason University. He will be able to catch the concert tomorrow and spend quality time with his son on the ride home.

So while he hangs out, I hang on. That’s how we roll. He has done it for me more.

But it doesn’t make it easy. It’s always more fun being the one heading off in the car up or down the interstate, leaving on a jet plane. It’s always the most fun taking off together.

Left behind looks like agonizing over how much screen time is too much while trying to maintain sanity. It is having to stand hard ground alone. It’s breathing in the vapors and fumes in the air that seem to only be released when spending quality time around Mom. It’s negotiating the strife solo and dealing with the dog.

It also looks like making memories and learning to relax and being thankful for middle school lock-ins, reducing responsibility by one. It looks like being content with the space that I do have and resting in the fact that while tweens have needs, at least they sleep at night!