Posts Tagged: friends

Friday Night Beer O’Clock

 

image from www.flickr.com

Friday night Beer O'Clock at Fionn's with Kelsey, Cathy, Ceri, Slap and pizza.  Life good. 

 

terra firma, rich fabric

Last night I had conversations with four of my oldest and most valued friends.  I wish we didn’t have the reason that we all talked, but that we did made me feel better than I had in the twenty-four hours previous.  I hope that was the case for all of us.  Mostly for Denis, because on New Year’s Day he lost his dad. 

I’d been feeling blue about it on a number of levels.  Mostly because someone I love is torn up; he’s been hit, unexpectedly, with life’s cruellest circumstance.  His dad was a really lovely man; a husband in a seemingly inseparable partnership, a good father and pépé and neighbour and respected teacher and now he’s gone.  

If I’m not censoring (it’s a start, Lisa), I’ll tell you that this is one of the two situations in the past year that threw my own mortality in my face.  Hard.  It sounds so selfish.  My heart is truly with my friend, but a feeling of scared came swift and forceful.  A parent is only one generation away. 

I have all my parents – and none seems like s/he is going anywhere soon.  But I got scared about losing them.  They’re still too young.  Like Denis’s dad.  He shouldn’t have gone yet; his family’s hearts shouldn’t be heavy now.  And yesterday evening I was wondering how to move out of the sudden funk – how could I call my friend and be supportive and somehow make it a little better when I felt like I was teetering on some thin emotional wire; psychically a piece of shit?

And then after supper I talked to Debbie.  And then Denis.  And then Robbie.  And then Lynn.  And at the end of the evening I was back on terra firma.  I’m sure it’s because each of them were part of the journey to now.  Last night I'd got away from the moment and they brought me back to it.   

We all exist here in this unstoppable march of time and we all have to face it, and most of us deal with loss when it happens and maybe we don’t get over it but we learn to move on and to be happy again even if there is a new hole in the family’s fabric.  But then again, isn't the fabric richer and more beautiful for that person having been a part of it?

The fabric is precious and beautiful and it’s all any of us has.  And I’m not that articulate, but I’m sure it’s pretty much the point of it all. 

mud and wine

“It’s still raining.”

I’m walking up to the car rental place on Saturday morning to retrieve the car in which my girls and I will drive down to the much anticipated Shores of Erie wine festival in our home town when Debbie calls. “Bring rubber boots, raincoats, umbrellas, tarps, dinghies – whatever you got. And for heaven’s sake, don’t wear anything white. Or nice.”

I’d been getting updates on the back home weather all week; it started pouring about five days previous and hadn’t stopped; until that moment I’d nicely avoided thinking about the consequences. And call me a reckless avoider, but I don’t even consider taking that freshly ironed white shirt out of my suitcase.

The back home weather report is inconceivable. It’s the most perfect morning of the entire year, and I wish we could move the entire festival four hours up the highway. Luscious September days like this are precious: sunny with a soft breeze – the kind that caresses your skin with the gentlest of kisses. There isn’t an ounce of humidity and the sky is so clear it sparkles.

After collecting the girls we get on the highway, happy in spite of the mucky news. The event is about old friends, wine, food and live music. Last year we had such a good time, seeing so many of my home people dishing out so much love. Add to that memory the gorgeousness of that September and the beautiful setting alongside a familiar river – not going was not an option.

Drive2

The luscious weather remains perfect for pretty much the whole ride down the highway. When we’re down to a half hour away, we begin to see layers of cloud formations: some thick and cotton-like, seemingly miles deep, others wispy and flying fast underneath them. And then the occasional black one hanging like a lame threat over some farm field.

When we finally pull into the yard at Debbie and Len’s, it’s stopped raining and Deb’s looking disbelievingly at the breaks of blue in the sky. We did our best to bring it along, we say.

 

MUD

The rolling grounds of Fort Malden are a sloppy mess. We’re talking barnyard. It seems no less crowded than last year. Apparently wine lovers are a serious lot, and no one is going to let a little rain and mud diminish any of their fun. Kind of like making lemonade out of life’s lemons, what was once a promenade of cute dresses and sandals has morphed into a parade of audacious wellies.

Boots 2

Thousands of pairs of audacious wellies – beautiful thing number sixty-three.

One doesn’t venture away from one’s table much this year for fear of going topsy turvy in the muck. And yes, I wore that white shirt. At one point Kelsey has to ask a bloke to give her a pull because she gets stuck. She isn’t the only one suffering mucky dilemmas. We witness a number of fall-downs one amusing one by a guy who is gallantly carrying a girl on his back. It is amusing because Princess is NOT pleased and climbs BACK on his slimy back for the rest of the journey to the paved walk about five feet away.

Next day, Sunday, the sun joins the party and by after lunch when we go back to the site, the conditions have improved considerably, and continue to do so until the event closes. Sarah Harmer, who we’d stayed the extra day to hear play charms everybody. With the crowds considerably thinned and the sun shining, it is a most pleasant day.

image from www.flickr.com

They say that for a time Fort Malden served as a lunatic asylum. I’m amused by the thought of what those who walked the Fort Malden grounds a couple hundred years ago might be thinking from the vantage point of a netherworld, of these hoards of people in crazy-coloured rubber footwear happily wallowing around in acres of mud and seeming to celebrate that with endless toasting and good cheer.

image from www.flickr.com

If I were one of those netherworld beings, I might see that party down there, mud and all as most definitely beautiful thing number sixty-four.

productivity and love

Between Don Mills and Sheppard-Yonge Stations

Look at me; I’m being one of those annoying people who busts out a computer on the subway.  But if I don’t get a blog post written quickly (in the space of a trip between Don Mills and Union Stations), it’s not going to get written for several more days.  And I miss you, blog people.  What I need is something copyable and pasteable for when I get home.  This time, transcribing notes scribbled around the edges of a newspaper or back of a rental car confirmation is just not going to work. Even if the post-commute-trying-to-work-out-what-the-hell-that-scribble-was-trying-to-capture adds that much to the nuance of a story.

So, I get a new job, and I give my notice in and the Shit. Hits. The. Fan.  I knew it was going to happen.  This big project has been looming for weeks, and before I get the job offer I’m trying to keep a safe distance from it, because I just know I'm not going to be here much longer.  I try to prep the junior writer, without telling him what’s really coming, “there’s this big, high profile project.  You could really show your mettle here.  Step up to the plate, kid, everyone will love you…”

(Train Change)

Between Sheppard-Yonge and Union Stations

So just as the project is kicked off I get the great job offer and I give my notice.  People at work are wanting to be nice to me and wish me well – to talk about my whole leaving thing.  To take me to lunch.  And I’ve not had much more than ten minutes to take a walk and get a cup of coffee.  But it’s okay – even if I’m leaving in two weeks, I still have pride in what work that leaves my desk. 

That’s where I’ve been the past week.  Sitting at a desk, in an office in North York, hammering out documents like I’m some sort of assembly line Training Guide manufacturer.  Making up for an unequivocally uninterested and unambitious junior writer.  You know the theory, that you just keep banging your head against the wall because it feels so good when it stops?  That’s what all the “It’ll be all over soon, Jennifer” sounds like at this point.  They’re right, but I’m bloody tired and not feeling all that reasonable.

The Good News

I did get some fun in over the weekend – big fun.  Meaningful fun.  My sister blew into the city on Friday for an after work going-away party for a colleague.  It was at a pub very close to my house and we hadn’t seen each other in a month because she’s been travelling with her job, and damned if we weren’t going to take advantage of that opportunity. 

 Cathy E & C Cathy E and C
 
No, my glass was not larger than hers.  And yes, it was Cathy, not me, who said, "Yay!  I it's a good place that serves wine in a decent sized glass!" 

And next morning my girls and I got on the highway and headed back home to attend the 50th birthday party for one of my oldest and dearest friends, Denis.  Carly drove and Kelsey operated the stereo while I sat in the back and worked – as my sister said, “you can’t sit in a car on the 401 and not be productive at a time like this!  She was right.  For much of the four hours there and four hours back I was doing what I’m doing now – sitting in a moving car with a computer on my lap.

The time away from work might have cost me a little blood and sweat today, but it was worth it.  At times like this, nothing cures the work-overload-blues like time with a sister and a bunch of people who you’ve loved to be around more than pretty much anyone for three decades.

DebJenDen
Here's to the "50 Club!  (Debbie, Jen, Denis)

I hope you stick with me blog people.  I’ll be back.  Refreshed.  With a new job and a WALKING TO WORK COMMUTE (have I mentioned that part?). 

In the meantime, I’m back to writing about a healthcare database application.  At least it’s a good cause, no?
xoxo

ps – Despite the crappy phone camera shots, the pictures are worth a million.

number four – beauty in a moment

The gruff, drawly voice of one of my oldest and dearest friends, which I haven’t heard in at least five years, growling “Jenn-i-ferrr” when I picked up the phone the other day, was one of the most beautiful things I’d heard in a long time. 

 

Exploring Beauty 

sister solidarity is the new black

Or: In which we are inspired by Selma opening up a can of whup-ass

Some things just demand to be written.  They sort of grab hold of your collar out of the blue and get their nose right in your face and say “Hellloooo!  Get on it sister!”  The signs were coming at me from all corners this morning: "This is what the story is about today."

Sometime in the mid-morning I read this fabulous post by my friend Selma, which prompted a too-long and impassioned response.  But as I read over the thing before burdening her blog with it, it started screaming "I BELONG ON YOUR OWN BLOG."  Then I caught some catty jesting coming over Twitter.  Then there was an unnecessarily barbed comment in a meeting.  And here I am. 

Selma’s piece was about several things, but mostly about her rising up and taking a stand against some uncalled for catty behaviour by some acquaintences.  Opening up the proverbial can of whup-ass and the subsequent "Whoo! I rule!."  But the issues she raises have resonated with me for many years. 

So, a few hours prior to reading that I’m on the streetcar headed to Union Station, and there are two attractive young women in the seats in front of me having a conversation.  It is just chatting about mutual friends and what-are-you-doing-this-weekend kind of conversation, nothing real interesting to your average eavesdropping blogger.

Then another attractive young woman gets on and sits near the front.  She’s turned sideways in her seat and is surveying the people in the car behind her.  Again, nothing so remarkable, until she fixes on the two women in front of me and starts giving them the old “up and down” look.  Not just an “up and down checking out the outfit” kind of look, but a repeated “'I scorn thee' up and down;” increasingly scornful with each journey of the eyeballs.  She “ups and downs” them for so long I wonder if she is trying to get them to notice her doing so.

So I get thinking, what is it about them that irks you so?  All three of you are attractive, well dressed and seemingly going off to decent jobs – certainly luckier than the majority of the women on this planet.

I get to the station and onto the subway and forget about them; until later in the morning when I read Selma’s story about self confidence, soldiering on, nightgowns, cows catty sorts, words and brown eggs.

This is not a new issue – us women have talked about us being catty to each other for decades.  Most of us have probably behaved this way on one level or another.  At the very least we've seen it – starting in elementary school.  There are numerous explanations for it put out there by various factions – from the “you women are petty and shallow creatures anyway” to (what I consider to be the most logical one) the notion that we have a good deal of fucked-upness based on centuries of cultural oppression and objectification. 

I can just see my mother cringe.  She and I differ greatly on the merits of the women’s movement and women’s issues.  I expect that’s related to her devotion to Christianity, one of the biggest culprits in the objectification of us gals as far as I’m concerned, but that’s another post. 

And let me say, this is not a man-bashing post.  I love men, I adore them.  I’ve often said I’d rather hang around with the men at a party than the women.  Maybe that’s got something to do with womens' inherent prickliness toward one another.  But I can say with confidence, I have many amazing men in my life and I do not hold them responsible for my, or anyone else’s, fucked-upness.   Our fucked-upness wasn’t their idea.

I guess you could say it’s more of a women-bashing post.  Because let me put this out there sisters: as long as we are divided, we’ll always be conquered.  As long as we are judgemental of each other and our bodies, our looks, our beliefs, our actions, our intentions – as long as we make catty, underhanded remarks designed to make ourselves feel somehow superior to each other – we will not rise above anything that held us down in the past.

Selma says she thinks people should have to obtain a license before they speak.  How about we just think for a minute about the power of words?  I am still working on rising above someone telling me I wasn’t talented enough more than 30 years ago.  And once, in my early 20s, I was dancing with a guy who told me I was a bad dancer.  At 49, I’m only learning to dance with joy now. 

I take 100% responsibility for my own life.  I’m not shifting blame for my issues to other people – but I am trying illustrate the power that words have.  I would suggest that my best qualities – my strength, self assurance, compassion and competency are no doubt also the result of the many positive messages passed on to me. 

What I’m trying to say is that maybe us gals should think more about these issues that seem to pit us against one another, wherein we see each other as the enemy.  Because there’s room for all of us.  We’ve shown we’re strong, capable, innovative, and, by nature, we work great in team situations.  Imagine what it would be like if we focused positive energy on one another; imagine if we directed our attention away from our privileged selves and directed our energies to our less fortunate sisters, and said “yeah – rock on girl.”  The world, in turn, might be rocked right off its axis.

One of the last signs that I should write this post:  After I drafted out part of this piece, I saw that a friend had posted this on her facebook page:

Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.  ~ Buddha

everything’s strange and everything’s the same

My girls and I leave the city Saturday morning and head southwest to my hometown for an oft-lauded wine festival and visiting with old friends.  We listen to classic rocks songs on the radio which instigate one memory after another - a nice accompaniment to the flat, boring stretch of highway.  As we get close to Essex County, the sky gets more and more overcast and we curse the imminent rain for intruding on the much anticipated party. 

Navigating the once-daily haunts due south of HWY 401 is like I always say: everything’s strange and everything’s the same.  I drop the girls off at their dad’s and go to Debbie’s where we catch up over a Guinness.  I hope you have a friend like her

The rain is coming down hard and steady and we carry on cursing it over a drive to the grocery store to pick up what will become the beautiful spread of a breakfast the next morning. Once we’ve all gathered back at the house we pack up golf umbrellas and plastic sheeting to cover wet picnic table seats, and the rain lets up just then.  Even the weather gods shouldn’t mess with serious wine drinkers intent on a good time and happy homecoming.

The grounds are a bit mucky but certainly not “Woodstock” as some grim souls had predicted.  As soon as we walk into the place and before I can get some wine into my glass we start running into old friends.  I didn’t send out a “facebook blast” saying I was going down, thinking that with the short turnover in time I’d be content to bump into people as the fates would have us do. 

There are lots of long hugs.  I don’t know if I can describe my gratification in the love I got from my old friends – to still "belong" to them.  I make my home in Toronto now, but despite a number of moves around different neighbourhoods I still don’t feel as if I “belong” anywhere.  Maybe that’s related to my single, empty-nester state.  But whatever it is, these wonderful old pals can’t possibly know how easily they filled what has been a rather empty vessel for quite some time.

Next morning at Debbie and Len’s we all sleep late, maybe a little groggy from all those bottles of that excellent D’Angelo Foch.  After the big breakfast, Deb and I sit out in the backyard with spiked orange juice and admire the day – particularly the clouds.

MaillouxFarm 
Not willing to waste the weather gods’ change of heart, we go back to the festival site and see some more people, and try some foods.  It's such a beautiful spot beside the river, and it is great to look around the town and all its changes. 

NavyYard1 
CloudsOverRiver1
The Detroit River – such a feature of that town, fundamental to the peoples' sensibility.  My father sailed tugs on those waters for many years.

As I told a couple of my colleagues about the weekend Monday morning, one said she thought I looked particularly happy.  She’s right.  This sort of weekend is one of those reminders about what exactly it is that sustains us.  I don’t care what they say.  You can go home again, and they will all love you as much as they did the day you left.

sunshining

Shucks you know I've been handed this sunshine award.  Even better, I've been told I'm welcome at Happy Hour at the Blogland Bar and Grill.  Somebody should have told Tricia that you shouldn't invite me to free drinks at happy hour. She said free right?  Never mind. If there's anyone I'd love to have a chance to belly up to the bar with, its Tricia.

Because Tricia is the kind of writer I aspire to be.  She puts it all out there on the table, whereas I might give you my specialty soup course and hope it fills you up enough that you don't notice that it's all over.

And I love that she, like the Dr. who bestowed the thing on her, doesn't attach any rules to the receiving and the offering of the thing.  It's kind of like the book I'm reading right now, which discusses the idea of a gift, and argues that the "movement" of a gift is its value.  The nature of the gift is changed, sometimes killed, when you apply a quantifiable value to it.  If you give a gift and just expect that it will be moved on down the line or around the circle, you can rest assured it is alive and doing its job. 

And the theory goes with this phenomenon of blogging.  We offer our work and creative efforts out there not knowing if anyone will care or appreciate it, but it doesn't matter.  The reward is in the giving of it.

So it's kind of timely Tricia passed this on today.  My first inclination was to offer the gift to my longest and most faithful blogland friends.  Like Gina and Selma and Susannah and Willow.  These gals have given me real inspiration and motivation because they know the treasure of loyalty.  They are no doubt the force behind the reason I'm moving forward with this thing. 

But the thing is called Sunshine.  Tricia's bestower called her a ray of sunshine.  Which implies something new, like morning.  So in honour of the whole bloggy process, I'm going to hand the award off to some of those blogs which are new (or sort of new) among my daily reads.  Like the beautiful, honest and original "average jo" writer at That's Mrs. Mediocrity to You.  And to my new and very talented friends Marilyn and Carol, both of whom I've got to know through their blogs and through a group blog we participate in, Beautiful World.  Each has a perspective on life that inspires me.  And lastly there is One Girl Trucking.  She'll be surprised – I'm not sure I've ever even commented on her blog.  There's no reason for that - but there's a reason I've followed her for some time – she's got a fresh writing style and a fresh perspective and she journals blogs with a focus we should all try to capture: a unique and personal window on the world.  (Love her Hood Shots!)

Do what you will with the award gals – post the image on your blog – or don't.  Pass it on in the spirit of keeping the gift moving along, or don't.  Just know you give me consistent enjoyment.

Blogging has added much to my world – particularly the people.  Some say sustaining a blog is work.  Maintaining your own creation is one thing, but it's as much about connecting and interacting as it is creating.  I'm so grateful for the friends I've accumulated to now.  And I'm over the moon to discover the writers/photographers/artists/world citizens as often as I do.  If this is work, it's my kind of work.

Sunshine award

thinking about a pal and wandering about gardens

Recently my friends Jamie and Frank moved to a new house, and with it got themselves a substantial, well-established garden.  Jamie, who has never been, well, “outdoorsy,” has taken on her new project with a little trepidation and lots of gusto.  Lately, as the garden begins its springtimey flourishing, she’s been posting pictures of the various plants on Facebook with the request that her friends near and wide identify them so she can learn what to expect and how to care for them.  It’s been a fun little exchange, with people from all over the world arguing whether a thing is a hydrangea, some kind of ivy or a forget-me-not.  (And I since this is my blog, I’ll just say that I have NEVER seen a forget-me-not as big as a PERIWINKLE.)

Anyway, it’s been really wonderful connecting with Jamie again on that funny old forum called Facebook six years after I left her back in Windsor, and it’s been great seeing her embrace this garden life.  Last night the posts got me feeling lonesome for my wonderful pal Debbie, who still lives in the country near where I embraced gardening for the first time, back when my ex-husband and I started out on our own. 

We first lived in a charming white farmhouse with red wooden outbuildings, lots of old fashioned shrubs and an apple orchard.  I didn’t know much what I was doing, but I tried.  And it’s no doubt where I got my love for un-manicured country and cottage yards, with bits of flora growing up willy-nilly in every corner. 

Later when we built our own house nearby, I constructed a rock garden down the length of the driveway.  It was hard work, slugging and lugging those rocks, but exceedingly satisfying.  And by the following summer that garden was bursting with growth, with help from my Aunt Martha and my Grandma who shared plants from their own gardens.  Aunt Martha even shared with me a fragrant violet which had originated in the garden of my other Grandmother who had died long before I was born.

Debbie lived directly behind me on the other end of the country block a mile away.  Those were really happy years; our families were together all the time, raising our small kids, going for walks, feasting on seasonal produce and barbeque, chatting around kitchen tables – and gardening. 

Every spring we would take an excursion out into other parts of the county to buy our bedding plants for the year.  Debbie and I have always shared a sense of the aesthetic, and there is no one I’d rather wander through gardens and greenhouses with, lingering over some odd leaf formation or stunning hue of orange.  Or just wander in particular – Debbie is undoubtedly the easiest friend I ever had – we never had time for anything but enjoying each other’s company. 

Those summers we walked our country road daily.  We’d fill bowls with wild mulberries and admire little pink roses growing wild in the ditch.  The last summer we lived out there was the time Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines.  While the volcano wrought terrible destruction to people there, it, ironically, gave us on the other side of the world a summer of spectacular sunset skies.  (It was something about those nasty little particles, like those that grounded Europe a few weeks back, reflecting light.)  Every evening we walked and marvelled at the colours we saw beyond us.  And just at dusk millions of fireflies would come out and join us along the overgrown abandoned railroad adjacent to the road. 

My marriage was coming undone that summer and we were getting ready to move to Windsor.  But I’ve never forgotten the magic of that time.  Because I’m certain that without Debbie to appreciate it along with me, the magic would have been greatly diminished.  In fact, thinking about the consequences of having lived that particular time – and this life – without those shared experiences with her is devastating – I would look back on a life with much less colour and substantially less appreciation for beauty. 

every little thing’s gonna be alright

Beautiful thing sighting today: Two elderly ladies sitting on a bench at the mall waiting for a taxi.  One has a walker.  The other one reaches over and pats her forearm, not in a mild way, but with a robustness that comes with years and familiarity.  Giving the arm a squeeze she leans in and nudges her friend with her shoulder and says something in Italian. 

I don’t know what she said but the gesture said, “I love hanging out with you pal.”

(that'll be number 21)