BFBNF [best friends, but not forever]

Someone I’ve known since grammar school celebrated a birthday recently.  We once were best friends, but as with many things that happen over time, our friendship eroded to the point where we call each other on our birthdays and send Christmas wishes via mail.

When I think back on the time we spent together as young girls, I remember all of the silly things we used to do, the arguments, the break-ups, becoming friends again, moving away – cities apart, and then states apart.  We took different paths in our careers, different approaches to relationships, and now we find ourselves calling each other “friend” but in a very distant way.

One thing I’ve learned through the years is that good friends are hard to come by.  When my family first moved from the city to the suburbs, my best friend and I tried to stay connected.  I’d take the train to the city to see her and she’d do the same.  She’d come over for family gatherings or we’d go to a renaissance festival during the summer.  We even went down to Disney World one year.  The thing is, growing up means dating, work, and getting involved in other things with other people.  Time moved on and so did we.  She continued with her education and career advancement; I worked, went to school, and then one year found myself getting married.  She, of course, was my maid of honor.

My married life and my having a baby caused us to drift apart even further.  She never married.  Our worlds became even more distant.  I did things as a wife and mother; she did things as a single woman.

And then moving to another state sort of sealed the deal – we were now long-distance friends.

You would think the advent of email and social web sites would have reversed the effects of physical distance, but they did not.  I wish they would have.  Truth is, I really wish we were as close as we once were.  She could be someone I could confide in wholly and without reservation.  I believe I feel that way because of our different careers and how we spend our lives.  We live in different worlds and to me that makes it all the safer.  Our life paths do not intersect except for our past.  We could provide advice and thoughts based on our separate experiences without the complexity of being too close to the situation.

I have to wonder if it’s ever too late to rekindle old friendships that long-ago verged off onto different roads.  It would be nice to think it so.  But both parties need to desire being on the same path of friendship again.  It’s not a one-way decision.

Here, Right Now

Spring is on its way.  My forsythia has buds already, and last night when we went to my boyfriend’s daughter’s birthday party, something was peeking out of the ground in front of her house – crocus maybe or hyacinth?  I love to watch nature all around me come to life in all of the wonderful greens and pinks and yellows and all of the other colors of the rainbow.

Do you ever have one of those moments when you feel fluttery inside but you’re not sure why?  It’s like there’s this feeling that something is happening – or is going to happen – and you desperately need to know what it is but you just can’t put your finger on it.  I get those feelings now and then.  My senses seem heightened, my heart beats a little faster, and I can do nothing but wait for whatever it is that is coming.  I believe in the power of positive thinking and I force myself to believe that whatever is heading my way will be something good.  Is that unrealistic?  Silly?  Just plain weird?  I bet you’re leaning towards that last option, aren’t you?  Sometimes the best thing for me to do in these moments is to write – just write without thinking too hard about what to write.  If it’s meant to happen, the words will just flow out of me.

Do you know the song THE CARTER FAMILY by Carley Simon?  Great song!  It was on her NO SECRETS album released in 1972.  I was 15 years old, and not only did I love the songs (man, you should have heard me wailing away with her on the radio and on my record player) but I remember the comments about the album cover.  Her nipples are showing through her blue top.  How shameful! J

THE CARTER FAMILY is a song about having something, not really wanting it any longer for one reason or another, and then realizing later on how much you miss that something.  In Carley’s song it was her grandmother, her childhood friend, and her lover.  It’s funny how a song like that can touch you and make you think about things you may not have thought about for a long time.  Are there “things” in my life that I regret getting rid of?  Sure.  There have been all kinds of “things” throughout my fifty-some years and I bet that you’ve had similar experiences.  I think it’s just one of those facts of life that sometimes we can’t think things through and envision what the future might hold.

We live in the moment.  We rely on instant gratification.  We want what we want and we want it now!  If something doesn’t fit our needs or doesn’t provide us with good feelings, we get rid of it and move on.  Material things, pets, friends, lovers – we push things aside without really thinking.

I guess what I’m feeling is that we need more awareness of the things we have and thing that are around us.  We need to think beyond the “here, right now.”  We need to believe that those things (people included) can change just as nature changes from season to season.  Things are going to get better; things are not going to be so good sometimes – but it usually circles around.  We should not be so quick to be like the person in Carley Simon’s song; we should hold on and expect that our attitude towards things and people will change at some point – that the “here, right now” isn’t necessarily a view into the future.

Expect good things from people even if you don’t feel it at the moment.  You never know what’s going on their lives that are affecting how they are in the “here, right now.”  I’m not so unrealistic to believe that everything is meant to be forever, but I’ve learned that you have to give things time before you make a rash decision that will impact the rest of your life.

Oh, good – I’m not feeling so fluttery any more.

“Through a Dog’s Eyes” by Jennifer Arnold

"Through a Dog's Eyes"

"Through a Dog's Eyes"

If you love dogs you need to read this. Even if you’re not a dog lover but believe in the value of service canines, you need to read this.

I had the great fortune to meet Jennifer Arnold, the author of THROUGH A DOG’S EYES (Spiegel & Grau, 2010). I personally was aware of service dogs for people who can’t see, and I had seen dogs in airports or shopping malls walking alongside sighted people but I never realized the extent of what these dogs do. I have a new perspective and a new love and admiration for canines.

Jennifer Arnold’s story starts with her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis as a teenager, and her father’s idea to get a canine assistant for her. But things didn’t go according to plan, and what you learn from the author is that there is not much that is more important in life than to keep dreams alive and pursue your passion no matter what.

Canine Assistants in Atlanta, GA is the fruition of her father’s dream. Through many years of determination and hard work, Jennifer Arnold was able to create the very thing her father wanted for her. And Ms. Arnold is helping children and adults live better lives with the dogs she and her staff train to be canine assistants.

So what is a canine assistant? It’s a dog that has been trained to recognize various signals that people may not be able to see such as an on-coming seizure. The author tells many stories of how dogs saw the signs and guided their “people” to be safe during a seizure (this is basically done by having the person sit or lie down so that they do not get injured from a fall). These dogs can turn on a light switch, open doors, open drawers to retrieve medications, and get phones into a person’s reach.

The book covers a wide variety of topics that are intended to show us how dogs think, why they react the way they do, how they learn, how they hear, what they see, and so much more. The thing to know is that some people need to re-think how they train their dogs. There should never be force and choke chains involved in training. Dogs respond the way people would – to care, and love, and patience, and respect.

I could go on and on about how wonderful a person Jennifer Arnold is and how incredible her book is, but I encourage you to read the book for yourself. You won’t regret it. Her second book is due out this summer.

You can read stories and view video clips on her non-profit organization’s web site here.

You can also view the PBS documentary here. Neil Patrick Harris narrates the program 🙂

A Paisley Girl

I grew up during the 1960’s and 1970’s. I’m a child of guitars, flower power, paisley, mushrooms (drawing them, not eating or otherwise ingesting them), folk music, classic rock, peasant blouses, white go-go boots, and all of the other wonderful things of those years. No matter how old I get, those things will remain a part of me. That mostly is a good thing, but sometimes – not so much.

Let’s take paisley, for example. No matter where I am, if I see something that is paisley I stop to take a look at it. If it’s a scarf or a blouse, I might buy it. If it’s a new Vera Bradley something-or-other, I might buy that too. A notebook? For sure! I can get away with having paisley things, but I’m learning that certain items are not considered “age appropriate.” Say what?

I have a very cool blouse I bought last year that is a deep blue paisley beauty. It looks stunning on the hanger is my closet. But when I put it on, I feel like I’m a 90-year-old woman trying to look 20. Not that I’m 90 yet (I’m only in my mid-50s). But the woman in the mirror doesn’t look like me when I see myself wearing that blouse. I expect to see me, only not so old-looking. It’s kind of hard to explain, I guess – unless you’ve been in that situation.

There are so many things I recall when I see paisley. I remember sitting in English class in high school and drawing little paisley patterns while the teacher lectured on some topic (okay, I admit my attention span wasn’t always on target). I remember this freaking awesome paisley dress I had gotten from a neighbor’s daughter when she outgrew it – all blue and purple and pink and absolutely wonderful. Most of all I can still see a different English teacher and the brown paisley shirt he sometimes wore, and oh, how I loved him … I mean, how I loved that shirt. Deep sigh …

Why are we so concerned about wearing things that are “age appropriate?” I wear Uggs® – is that a crime? I have an old copy of THE LITTLE PRINCE on my dresser. I have a C.F. Martin Hippie guitar. I play Barbies® with my boyfriend’s nine year old daughter. And I want to wear paisley blouses.

Are the age police going to come and take me away?

David Rakoff, You’re a Hoot! (Part 2)

"Half Empty"

"Half Empty"

I finished HALF EMPTY by David Rakoff on my way home from Vermont this past weekend. All I can say is, Mr. Rakoff, I love your style!

Okay, well, actually there is more that I can say. I plan to read Mr. Rakoff’s other books at some point in the future. I like the way he writes and what he has to say. I especially like hearing what he has to say in his own voice. Audio CDs are awesome. In some cases I think it’s the best way to read a book.

HALF EMPTY is funny. I like the way the author intertwines jokes into his narratives. Very funny stuff – subtle humor, dry, categorically appropriate. Some stories that border on the sad side; some that give us a historical perspective on things (like the story about the Mormons and Disney’s Dream Home). Personal insights; personal issues; personal perspectives. Mr. Rakoff’s book has it all. The funny thing is, I can actually picture myself sitting at a table across from David Rakoff, his elbow on the table and resting his chin in his hand, looking at me and saying, “Really? You really think I’m that funny? Well, let me tell you about this time …” [voice trailing off into some rather cute tale of one of his encounters with someone or something phenomenally interesting].

I think one of the things the reader walks away with is the feeling that no matter how bad things may be at the moment, there’s always some back-story that sheds perspective on things. David Rakoff has been battling bouts of cancer for many years. And yet he still writes with a satirical and self-probing style that leads me to believe that he’s one hell of a guy who will probably get through just about anything. In the last chapter he recounts his latest cancer scare and how he was seemingly on the path to losing his left arm and shoulder. Did he hide in a corner and wail, “why me?” Well, if he did, he didn’t write about it. Instead, he tells us how he faced the situation head on and starting transitioning to having only one arm. Luckily, his body is still intact and hopefully, it will be for a long time.

One thing did bother me though – David Rakoff mentions that he uses (or did use) OxyContin for pain. That stuff is dangerous! It can cause hallucinations and serious misconceptions about things that are going on. I know firsthand. Many years after having done and said some totally insane things based on perceptions of reality, I am still paying the price. My mantra regarding pain relief – DO NOT USE OXYCONTIN!!!

I provided a link to this book in Part 1. I want to point out that the cover artwork is very cool. It’s cartoon-ish, two little bunnies, one holding the sign with the author’s name, the barrel of a gun jutting out from a bush and pointing at the other bunny. There’s a guy in the background in a canoe waving and heading for a fall (literally). Volcanoes erupting behind the guy in the canoe. And a lovely yellow sticker burst that reads “WARNING!!! No Inspirational Life Lessons Will Be Found In These Pages.”

I beg to differ.