Canterbury Bells

Canterbury Bells
Canterbury Bells represent Gratitude in the Language of Flowers

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Paddle Boards and Brownie Badges

There’s a saying, ‘Surround yourself with the kind of people you’d like to be like”.

I’d like to be like the four ladies in the photo for many reasons.

As I sat on the beach on Coronado Island (walking distance from Deb’s house) with the lame excuse that someone had to capture their paddle boarding adventure on film) they braved the experience of paddle boarding in Glorietta Bay all the way to and under the San-Diego Coronado bridge (3 of them for the first time).

Their willingness to jump out of their comfort zone  (and in a few cases into some very cold and deep water) reminded me that life is to be lived with try new things even when we are not sure of the outcome.

It also reminded me how much I value their friendship. 

Our meeting in Coronado at Deb Kaller’s home (gracious hostess) was under the guise of a “book discussion”.  We did discuss Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls for about 10 minutes but we discussed everything else under the sun the entire three days. 

From the airport the five of us made a stop at the Farmer’s Market in San Diego and stocked up on beautiful veggies for healthy but delicious meals. We played tennis, we ate, we walked, a few of us got massages, we ate, we played games on our Iphones with each other as we sat across the table, (games I think that were meant to be played with people not in the same room) we ate, we talked.  Did I mention wine?  Yes, wine and Mimosas for Saturday brunch which was a lovely frittata by Deb.

And in one of those serendipity moments, we stumbled onto a community theatre that had a play that night about five women called Brownie Points. In a nutshell it was about 5 mothers who are chaperoning a Brownie outing / sleepover in the Georgia woods.  Of course there is conflict among the women—some control issues—but as the play evolved the message was that only when we truly open ourselves to others can we be accepted for who we really are.  When we let go of the titles, the roles, the personas we think we should be does the real and often more lovable self shine through.

I thought about the play a lot the last few days and realized that that is perhaps the very reason our time together at Coronado was so special (and every time we get together).  There is a trust that we can be need to impress or prove anything.  In fact, perhaps the opposite as we expose our vulnerabilities.  Some of our most laughable moments on the patio where we lingered over each meal with talk, talk, talk (did I mention wine?)  were  “My worst dinner party, the first Thanksgiving dinner I cooked that was a disaster”—you get the gist.

Carol Burnett said humor is tragedy plus time.  Perhaps enough time had passed that we could laugh about these events, but there is a closeness that comes from sharing such moments.  And a more special bond when they honestly rejoice in your present day successes as well.  Those friendships are to be nourished and treasured.

But getting back to what I admire most about these 4 ladies (and keeping with the Brownie Points theme).  I’d like to award some lifetime badges:

To Deb:  Achievement Badge. In the years I have known Deb I see her applying 100% to whatever she takes on—she strives to master it.  Ceramics, swimming, golf to name just a few.  Also a Health Badge as she prepares healthy but deliciously creative meals.  I’m not sure what to call the 3rd badge...something like Minimalist. Her home is lovely with no clutter, clean lines, and the result is a relaxing haven which she so graciously shares.  She has made me aware of the beauty of simplicity.

To Wendy-The Multi-Task Badge. Raised on a farm in Kansas, Wendy can be the poster child for how 4-H prepares a person for life. She is the most capable person I know. She drives the huge motor home with ease and confidence, can fly an airplane, or whip up 30 pairs of pajamas for ranch employees on short notice.  She can organize groups to take action and her level head is the one I would want around in any type of emergency.  She has earned the Generosity Badge as she shares whatever she has freely and lovingly. And those who know Wendy realize Parker is the shining example of what can be accomplished if one believes that there are no limitations to what a person can achieve.  Believe It, Do It Badge.

To Dianne:  The Humble and Creativity Badge. Her photography, her quilts, and beautiful craft projects have been shared with so many yet she seems unaware of how talented she is.  How many babies are the lucky recipients of the “I Spy” quilt where they first discover bright colors and objects.  A Laughter Badge is definitely hers as she always finds the humor in life and often at her own expense.
I would also award a badge called Priorities in Order as she gave up a good career and the dollars associated with it to raise three outstanding children.  A good return on her investment I would say.

To Mary:  I give Mary the Best Preserved Award...she’s the one at your high school reunion who gets the “aged the least” award... and when our book group had our “prom night” where we tried on old prom dresses and even our wedding gowns, Mary’s was the only one that still zipped.  You want to hate someone like that but you can’t because Mary also gets the Just So Darn Nice must be that good Midwestern Iowa upbringing.  She also gets the “Best Grandmother Badge” flying back and forth to Minnesota when needed on a moment’s notice.  And talk about need, Mary is your 2 AM friend...the kind you could call at 2 AM and know she would be there for you...whatever the reason, no questions asked, no explanation needed.   Dependable Badge.

I never imagined twenty some years ago when Pageturners Book Club started (now 200+ books later-- some great, some lemons) that it was never really about the was about the ladies who read them.  We discussed a lot of interesting women in our books, but none as fascinating as those who discussed them.

At the end of the three days, we  hug goodbye, send each other back to our normal lives—to husbands, children, parents, co-workers who need life’s challenges....and to create more stories to share at our next girl’s weekend.  But we leave with a renewed sense of Life is Good.

I can’t imagine life without books or girlfriends. How wonderful to get both in one package....or should I say Badge?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cousin Lillian

We’re never too old to have a role model, nor can our role models ever be too old.  My newest goal is to be like my cousin Lillian, from Laguna Beach, who just spent the night with me when she came to work in Phoenix for a few days.

Lillian has been a nurse for, I would guess, 54 years and at age 75 she is still at it...going strong.  She flew in yesterday, got her rental car and although I met her at the airport to ride to my house with her, there was never any doubt she could have found it on her own. She travels with her portable GPS, but her internal GPS radiates a spirit of confidence. 

After a late evening where we laughed and talked about our childhood memories, she was up at 5:00 am...well, let me clarify. She asked me to wake her at 5 but when I went to do so, she was already up and preparing for her day.  Donned her white nurse’s uniform and packed up for what would probably be an hour commute in rush traffic to the west side of Phoenix where she would begin conducting eye exams at 8 am.

Vibrant and energetic with no signs of slowing down, she is exactly the type of professional. person you would want in any medical situation...emergency or routine.

But none of this should be a surprise to me.  As a child growing up, I would spend some of my summer vacation at her home in Pennsylvania where her family owned a bakery and hotel. Everyone worked. (They lived above the bakery and what a wonderful smell to wake up to each morning.) She in turn would visit us in Gary, Indiana with summer day trips to the beach on Lake Michigan.  Four years older than me, I looked up to her then... and still do. 

Lillian says her mother was a strong and determined woman (or as she puts it...a pistol) for her day, so she comes by this confidence quite naturally.  I’m sure she witnessed a strong role model on a daily basis.

And I owe a great debt to her mother too.  In 1934, she arranged my mother and father’s marriage...yes, Pandora (Lillian’s mother) thought they would be a good match.  She introduced them and they married ten days later.  (Although there was no Facebook or Twitter involved, I guess you could say this was the first instance of  Speed Dating?) Did Pandora get it right? I guess so...their marriage lasted 43 years until my father passed away.

But what was even more remarkable to me was the story I heard just a few years ago.  Pandora drove my mother from Pittsburgh to Gary (near Chicago) approx 500 miles in one day – remember this is 1934 –to meet my father’s family. In fact, the marriage was all arranged and they were greeted at the front door by my grandmother, Vaska, who welcomed Pandora with these words.  “Thank you for bringing us a bride.”

So even without a GPS, Pandora found her way... and her actions are still showing us still on this earth the way to live life....with courage, determination and a sense of adventure.  Thank you Pandora for choosing my parents... and thank you Lillian for continuing to inspire me.

You could be a poster woman for the saying, “I’d rather wear out than rust out.”