So I’ve been in a lousy mood this week. There are some issues going on at work…politics mostly but some things that will affect our healthcare benefits. I’ll spare you the details because I’m sure for many they will sound familiar. It’s frustrating and saddening to see how consistently devalued employees are. Even though I was raised in a strict-budget household where “money doesn’t grow on trees” and “I’ll blow up the electric bill and hang it on your bedroom wall” were common phrases, I’ll never understand the ignorance of people who can’t see past the bottom line number. Who don’t realize that businesses are made up of people, not problems. And people are the best damn resource there is. Ugh. I’m getting worked up and I don’t want to get into it. I keep typing and deleting. Therefore, let me get to my gratitude.
In the midst of my crabbiness, I’ve been lucky enough to have, you guessed it, good people in my life. People who have listened to me complain. And changed the subject. Because there is more in my life to be thankful for than not. Tonight I had dinner with my boyfriend and one of my favorite couples. It was a lovely time, as it usually is, and we found much to laugh about. I’m so glad to have reminders that even in the middle of problems, we choose our attitude. I’m going to bed a bit less annoyed. That’s a good thing.
Today I’m thankful for beer. And lots of it. I spent the day with a group of friends at our city’s annual Beer Festival. It was the first year I have gone but I’m thinking it could easily become a yearly must go. Lots of beer vendors, both well-establish and local, food from various restaurants, and a live band that was pretty good all in an area covering a few city blocks, so it was easy to get around. The weather was perfect today too. And my boyfriend was sweet enough to get us VIP tickets, which made the experience even better: lots of extras (t-shirt, nicer glass, bag to carry stuff) and an early entry with an extra hour of sampling. It was the beer equivalent to the speed pass at Great America. For someone who doesn’t like crowds, it was great to have time to check everything out without fighting through tons of people. By the time the place got packed, we were able to just wander and enjoy hanging out together. That was the best part–it was a fun group of friends and we ran into even more people we knew while we were there. We had some laughs, found some new craft beers we liked, ate fantastic oven pizza and were able to drive ourselves home. It was lovely day.
Some friends of mine bought their first house a couple of months ago and today they had a small gathering of friends and family over for a housewarming party. They’ve done a great job of getting themselves settled and are justly proud of their new home. It was fun to see their family members commenting about things and offering advice. Isn’t it humorous how veteran homeowners always want to share their knowledge, whether it’s solicited or not? I’m sure I’ve done the same thing myself. At any rate, it was a lovely time; perfect weather, good food, just the right amount of people to socialize but not be overwhelming. I’m thankful today not only to have been part of their celebration, but also to be counted as their friend. They’re people I’m very happy to have in my life.
Good Friday. And it was a good day. The weather was beautiful. I started the day by running on the bike path with my girls at 8:00 this morning and ended it by spending time with some girlfriends who came by for dinner. Because they hadn’t seen me since my dad passed away, they wanted to stop by but not have me play hostess. Therefore, they brought pizza and snacks and wine. We sat around my kitchen island and had a wonderful evening of talking and laughing. They even brought me flowers to plant in my garden and stepping stones in memory of my dad. Such a beautiful, thoughtful gesture. I’m truly blessed to have several groups of friends, all special in the different ways they enhance my life.
You may recognize the first lines of “The Way of the World” by poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox: Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone. It’s true that it’s easy to have friends around you when things are going well; most people can handle the good days.
I’ve been blessed with a large, close family. Regardless of the moments we’ve gotten angry or frustrated with each other, when it comes right down to it, we are there for each other. And we’ve had times over the years when that’s been proven. Times when one or another of us has dropped everything and gone to be with the other. Not every family is that way. I’m lucky mine is.
But I’m also lucky to have friends I feel the same way about, especially since my family is so scattered. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had numerous people extend their condolences over the loss of my father. I’ve gotten cards from unexpected people. Hugs from colleagues. A plant delivered to my house. But what’s touched me most is that I’ve also had several close friends who checked in with me daily, sometimes several times a day. Grief manifests itself in strange ways. I’m not usually an outwardly emotional person. I don’t like to cry in public. I don’t like to draw attention to myself. I’m much more comfortable being the one other people can lean on. But I’ve found myself close to tears periodically with random triggers. A song, a card, a memory. While I feel like I’m doing ok, I know that the grieving process isn’t over. Death has a way of making you reflect not just on the life of the person lost, but on your own life. For me, it’s reminded me of the brevity of our days and reinforced my desire to live a meaningful life. I’m sure this reflection is part of the process, but it also adds another emotional layer to an already stressful event. And I know that for other people, it’s not always easy to know what to say or do for someone during this time. Therefore, I’m so grateful to have people in my life who look beyond my I’m ok and check on me anyway. It means more to me than they probably realized.
Well this is embarrassing. I forgot about the time change and fell asleep… I’m thankful today for the warmth of friends. That helped me get through today.
I had a couple of spontaneous get-togethers today that were lovely and uplifting. One was coffee with a coworker after a budget meeting. We chatted for a while about a whole range of topics, both work-related and personal. I admire this person greatly; she is both intelligent and wise and extremely gracious. She is the type of person who can express herself in ways that are both eloquent and emotional, so I’m always trying to take notes. I’m the type of person who, when I get emotional, my words fail me. It’s not that I’m prone to angry outbursts. I rarely get worked up enough to yell, but if I’m passionate enough about something, I find it difficult to speak at all. That’s saying a lot since I was on the speech team in college. I know how to speak in public and have no fears doing so, but only if I’ve been able to carefully craft my language ahead of time. I could not compete in debate. I’d fail miserably. I can barely even hold a meaningful conversation and walk at the same time. But this woman, she’s the real deal. I’ve watched her discuss frustrating issues with people at work and not cross that line of being disrespectful or embarrassing, no matter how irritated I knew she was. She’s also the type of person who can ask probing questions without sounding nosey, because she seems to genuinely care about the answer. My daughter and I were discussing friendships tonight and she asked if I had ever had a “squish” which apparently is a platonic crush on someone. On anyone, guy or girl? If so, it’s my coworker. The other get-together was this evening with a friend from an old neighborhood. We don’t get to see each other as much anymore, so once I knew my evening was open, I asked her if she could stop over. We have been trying to get together for while. We drank some wine and caught up. She too is a classy lady. Beautiful both inside and out. Her way is more subdued, but just as genuine. I know when she asks about my life and what’s new with me, she honestly wants to know. There’s no pretense and there’s no judgment. Sitting and chatting is easy and appreciated. I am grateful today for both of these moments with friends. I hope I was able to give them the same sense of friendship that they gave to me.
Valentine’s Day. A day of hearts and flowers and smarmy poetry and red and pink everything. I know it’s a Hallmark holiday, manufactured for gift-giving, blah, blah, blah. I know we shouldn’t need an actual day to express our love and appreciation for the people in our lives, but I have to admit, the hopeless romantic in me enjoys this day. Maybe it’s because my mom used to go out for all holidays that I can’t imagine a life without these celebrations. Even when single, I found ways to make a fuss. I give my kids stuff, usually silly themed socks and candy. I send my friends notes signed BFF. I bring candy or cookies or cupcakes to work to share. I usually try to give some kind of treat to my students. Today I gave my kids a 3 pound bag of gummi bears to share, Hershey bars, and little glass hearts on ribbon. I passed out two bags of candy at work and sent a few sappy emails to friends. I even got some emails sent to me and a couple of sweet surprises –one involving Skittles, my addiction, delivered in a big red heart.
However, the best part of today was getting to spend time with someone who’s just as weird as I am. And I mean that in the best possible way. Isn’t it cool to find someone who clicks with you in a way not everyone else can understand? We had a nice dinner but then spent most of our evening being silly. Laughing at dumb jokes, making up our own dumb jokes, poking fun at each other. It’s the beginning of something I hope lasts a long time. In my effort to enjoy the journey, I’m not looking too far ahead. Instead, I’m thankful for the hours tonight and the anticipation of more to come.
A couple of quick things today.
First, my snow blower works great. And I was able to help out a neighbor with her drive. Ok, I didn’t actually use the snow blower on her drive, but I did send my kids over with shovels to help her while I figured out how to start my new machine. I’m just sad I actually needed to use it. Show of hands on who is tired of winter.
Second, I have a friend who asked me to attend her daughter’s school play with her tonight. I ended up not going, which is not what I am thankful for (not really). Although I do have to admit to some harsh parental realism…school plays and other general, auditorium-based functions at the grade school level are torture for me. Don’t get me wrong, I was as proud as any parent to see my kids squirming and semi-singing from 50 yards away. They’d be dressed up in whatever holiday attire was appropriate at the time and inevitably standing behind someone twice their size, with me thinking…why? Why were they required to wear a Hawaiian grass skirt when it’s not even visible? My kid looks like a floating head. They should just require headgear. But even that isn’t what bothered me the most at these school functions. It was the lack of space and terrible sound systems. So many family members crammed into a hot, smelly gymnasium to hear a mashing of voices or just those couple of really loud kids… Then again, maybe it was just the schools my children went to. I’m sure there are probably schools that put on wonderful programs by talented children in spacious auditoriums that have fabulous sound systems. I would then have to amend my thinking.
I jest, a little. I know these school functions are a passage of child rearing that plays an important role for kids and their parents. They are moments to be proud of our kids and let them know it in a visible, public way. My children always looked for me in the audience and I always smiled and waved excitedly. And I would have done that tonight for my friend’s daughter. Being asked to go made me feel like family. And when it ended up that her boyfriend was able to get off of work, I let them go as a family without me. I’m sure there will be other opportunities over the years to join in. But today, I’m thankful to know my friend thinks highly enough of me to be part of her child’s life in that way. For that, I would have happily gone.
I love how my days can start out one way and end completely differently than I expected. Everything I had planned for my day somehow changed as it went on, and that was ok. I didn’t get my dining room painted. I didn’t go to the gym. In fact, I got nothing done on my invisible to-do list. Instead, in a rather impromptu way, I ended up spending time this evening with a couple of girlfriends. We shared a meal, some laughter and then went to see a movie. I’m thankful I have friends who are spontaneous and a lifestyle that allows me to be.