Tag: friendship

B is for Betsy

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The book I gave to my middle child, Kris

“Betsy returned to her chair, took off her coat and hat, opened her book and forgot the world again.” – Maud Hart Lovelace, Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown

What drew me to the Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books as a child was the cover. It wasn’t the one pictured on the left, but actually the original cover from 1940, when the first book was published. (I have always loved books illustrated by Lois Lenski.)

I can still remember devouring the first in the series, not realizing there were more. Imagine my delight when I saw that I could keep reading more and more about Betsy and Tacy. I didn’t own my own copies until I was an adult and bought them online. Growing up I checked them out of the library over and over again.

The books follow Betsy Ray and her best friends Tacy and Tib from age five to Betsy’s marriage. Betsy was a lively, outgoing, imaginative girl. In contrast, her first best friend Tacy was very shy and sensitive. Tib, the last to join the trio, was more adventurous. Betsy loved telling stories and knew in her heart that she was a writer who needed to write. I admired Betsy’s spirited nature, so unlike my own, but felt a connection with her dreams of writing at such a young age. I was more like Tacy, still am for that matter. More often than not, like Tacy, not wanting to be the center of attention. Throughout my life, I’ve related to Tacy on so many levels and loved Betsy for all the ways she wasn’t like Tacy- or me. But like the quote I chose for today, Betsy and I were kindred spirits, losing ourselves in a book. Even at a young age.

I was the only person I knew in my friend circle who read Betsy-Tacy books. Are you familiar with them?

#AtoZChallenge

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Stay safe!

-Kat

Unlikely Friends

“Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.”      -Elie Wiesel

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Everyone needs friends- even headless Lego guys! 
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Ari makes a new friend!

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Have a great day!

-Kat

On Kindness

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”    -Scott Adams

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When things are tough, it is easy to feel like you’re alone. Even surrounded by loving friends and family, feelings can become overwhelming and all consuming. That’s how it can be for me at times.

And then when I least expect it I am reminded of the wonderful, caring people in my life. Whether it’s a text checking in or a beautiful soft throw, it’s a happy feeling to know that even in most trying times, someone is out there thinking of you. (Thank you, my friend, for both! Every time I see this throw with all of those wonderful positive words on it or feel its softness, I’ll think of your kindness and friendship and know I’m not alone.)

Kindness really does have a larger impact than we ever realize. And I try to keep that in mind. In my quest to boost myself into a better place, I’m so grateful for those kind words that bolster my spirits and remind me that although I might have to do some heavy lifting on my own, I’m never truly alone.

-Kat

S is for School

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For reasons unknown to me one of the childhood keepsakes I’ve held on to is this pencil case. I must have really loved it. Or maybe it was packed away with a few other treasures and I didn’t have the heart or interest to get rid of it. I’ve come across it over the years, along with the dolls and other “memorable” items from my childhood. And I would always do the same thing. Open it. Look at what’s inside- markers, pencils, a red pen and ball point pen. And then zip it back up again. I used it for many years because it held a good amount of writing utensils and it stayed flat on top of my books (because we did not use backpacks back then!) That’s the extent of my memories attached to this pencil case.

But it did get me thinking about what memories I have held onto of my school days and my earliest memory always stands out. My parents and I had moved into our new house mid-school year and I was five years old. Only one moment stands out in my memory of my first day at a new school. It was when my dad picked me up at the end of the day. We were walking back to the car and he was holding my hand. A voice called out from behind, “Bye, Katherine!”

I paused and turned, not letting go of his hand, and I looked back. It was Marie, with a huge grin spread across her face while she waved at me. I smiled back. And then I timidly raised my hand to return her wave. “Bye!” I’m not sure my voice even carried across the distance between us but Marie waved again and skipped over to her mother.

My dad’s voice burst through my little cloud of happiness. “Who was that?” I looked up at him, seeing the curious look on his face that matched his tone.

I looked down and a small smile returned to my face as I happily replied, “My friend.”

This is my first memory of school, which has nothing to do with school other than it happened there. And it’s my first memory of Marie, who is my oldest friend. We have been friends for fifty years and I can’t believe it’s been that long. For awhile she was my best friend but despite our paths going in different directions, we were at each other’s weddings and we have never lost touch over the years. We pick up where we left off despite any time that has passed. We share our joys and sorrows. She has been a constant in my life, a special person who holds a precious corner of my heart- just because. And I really like that.

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Peace, love and friendship,

-Kat

On Friendship

Friend and love.

These words have taken on a meaning that, in my eyes, has diminished their importance. Everyone is a friend. We love everyone. The words just glide effortlessly through our lips as easily as “hello” or “how are you?” I don’t use those words so lightly. 

I admit to having different levels of friends. Some might be more casual. Some closer. Some might fluctuate. And before you start thinking that I have some elaborate system of classifying my friends, you can stop right there. (I don’t have that much free time on my hands!) 

I am extremely blessed to have a small group of very close friends- my best friends. It’s strange for me to have more than one friend that is that close. For my entire life, I had one best friend and quite frankly, had no need for anyone else. It was a flawed practice. It isn’t fair to put that much on one single person. And if I’m being honest here, I’m not the easiest person to be a best friend to. (just sayin’…)

Somehow, somewhere along the way, I found myself to have these three awesome people in my life. When I think of them, I’m reminded of a scene from the tv show, Roseanne. You don’t really need to be familiar with the show to understand the scene. Darlene’s baby is being taken off all support and has little chance of survival. Darlene and her baby are surrounded by her mother, sister, aunt and grandmother as each gives baby Harris words of hope and encouragement. The part I’m referencing comes at about 35 seconds in when Darlene’s Aunt Jackie shares a story from her childhood.

“If you feel like you’re, like you’re starting to fall away, then you’re not..because we’re gonna pull you back inside.” -Jackie

These three people are the ones how have pulled me back inside time and again when I’ve been in desperate need. They have been solid and true throughout more than just what I’ve gone through with Kris. That might actually be the least of it and you can bet that no one is more surprised than me to admit that. They have stood by me throughout relative drama, numerous family health issues, and currently some pretty big ones with a loved one battling a major illness and another struggling with a mental health illness (both hitting very close to home).

When you have friends like that, you don’t use that word lightly. Not many people want to even be around someone who’s going through so much crap layered one on top of the next.

They are amazing examples of friendship.

They remind me-

  • to be patient when the other is struggling with something, no matter how big or small
  • to listen and hear.
  • to ask questions for the purpose of helping.
  • to check in…. often.
  • to offer to help out, whether it’s errands, listening, whatever – and do it often and over and over again, even if I’m sure I’ll be turned down.
  • to give them a reason to smile.
  • to let them know how much they mean to me.
  • to let them know they are never alone.
  • to give them a gentle or not-so-gentle kick in the butt, when needed.
  • to never judge.
  • to celebrate their joys and successes.
  • to trust them.
  • to encourage them when they need a little push.
  • to be open with them..
  • to be honest
  • to let them know that I will always have their back.
  • to be kind, when one is being a major pain. (I would be the pain.)
  • that life is short and making time for friends is important.
  • to laugh, cry, vent, tease, love, hug, humor, and be with them.
  • to pull them back inside when they are starting to fall away.

What I absolutely love about these friendships is that they didn’t explode into full bloom over night. One happened slow and steady, building as time passed. One was quiet and constant and just there all along. And the last took me by surprise by appearing at a time when I needed it most. These friendships help me to value all of the new friendships I have made through this blog.

My hope is that I offer something to all of you, my new friends (who are at various levels of friendship in my fictitious friend system- and it most definitely does not exist!). I can say with certainty that my interaction with all of you, whether it is daily, intermittent, through comments, likes, texts, e-mails, messages, phone calls, is priceless to me. And I openly admit that looking at my list above, so many of you have hit the mark along the way. I’m not surprised. Bloggers are awesome people!

I hope as you move through your days and celebrate, whether it is a holiday or everyday life, that you take time to cherish your friendships. (Mind you, I’m not saying to ignore your family, unless you really want to, that is….. you know what I mean.)

Happy Day! Stay dry, warm, cool, healthy and safe!

-Kat

A Little Teapot

My dearest friend, Ivy, collected teapots. I didn’t know this until just about a year ago when she was preparing to pack up her house to move. The move was bittersweet because she was not only leaving the house where she had raised her child, but also her childhood home and neighborhood.

It was not her choice but she was moving into a smaller place. Therefore, she had to make the heartbreaking decision of what to keep and what to give or throw away. Her house held not only her own precious items but those of her parents, who had been gone for awhile.

Ivy was hurting, sad, in a dark, lonely place and I wanted to do everything and anything I could to help her. One thing Ivy was not- was weak. She was a fighter and she was tough and she did not ask for help. She had been this way since the first time I met her 14 years ago. And remains so today even after what has to have been one of the roughest years of her life.

Packing up a lifetime of memories and making those hard decisions that were forced on her were painful to watch. I wanted to take her pain away but I knew I couldn’t. Sometimes in life, people you love have to go through really trying times and you have to let them. It was difficult to keep it all in balance- the desire to help her with the realization that this was something she was going to have to handle on her own. Like I said, Ivy is tough, so just getting her to let me help was a major challenge. I did what I could and tried to be nearby in case she needed me. I hovered so closely that I’m sure I tried her patience.

Ivy tells me that I’m very complex and private, that there are many layers to me and I’m very particular who I let close. I think everyone is like that to some degree and at this time, Ivy, who lives out loud and whose emotions I can read a mile away, closed up shop and shut herself away. I understood.

She was at a turning point in her life. The biggest yet. And she was scared, hurt, worried, tired, angry, and more emotions than I could list. But as I watched her pack up her life and give away, donate or throw out possessions, I was concerned. She reached a point where she was getting rid of everything. I’m all for new beginnings and fresh starts but I feared she was going to regret this. I knew it. I offered to let her store things in my garage, which she turned down. Everything had to go. Even if she didn’t realize what she was doing, I did. She was punishing herself. See, Ivy blamed herself for arriving to this place. What she didn’t want to understand is that none of us lives in a vacuum and she hadn’t gotten there alone. But she was and remains very hard on herself. Ivy is the most loving, caring person I know. She would literally give a person the coat off her back, no questions asked. She is always thinking of others and she’s so outgoing that she has no problem making everyone around her feel her love with her words, looks and hugs. And she beats herself up, mercilessly at times.

And that’s when I found out that she had collected teapots. She asked me if I knew anyone who wanted them. She expressed sorrow that the collection had to go. I offered to store them until she confirmed that there was no place in her new home for them but she refused. She asked if my daughter-in-law might like them and if not, she was donating the lot to Goodwill.

I wasn’t sure how important these teapots were to her. (I had never seen her drink tea once in all the years I had known her.) But I knew that I had to take those teapots. She might want them back one day, even though she insisted she did not. (And maybe she will never want them back.) While she packed up her collection, she gifted me with her most special teapot and I placed it in my kitchen, where I think of her every time I see it. I also took possession of her collection and stored it in a safe place.

And then last week I was browsing around my local thrift store and I saw teapots on a shelf.

Ivy came to mind and I felt a familiar twinge of sadness at the sight of someone else’s teapot collection sprinkled throughout the shelves. There’s always a story behind the items on these shelves and I often wonder how they came to be there.

And then I saw it. It was hidden behind the bigger, flashier teapots. It was actually a sweet little white teapot. Not at all Ivy’s type. But then again, her favorite teapot that she gave me isn’t my type so I hope when I give it to her this Christmas that she will remember that.

She can categorize it as Christmas and pull it out once a year. She can store it in the corner of a cabinet. She can donate it. Or she can spray paint it some cool color, because I’m itching to do it myself before giving it to her. (Can you tell I discovered the many wonders of spray paint and want to paint just about everything?)

I hope she will accept this teapot for what it symbolizes. I hope she realizes how much I love her. How proud I am of her. How much I am in awe of her. I hope she knows that I wish her happiness and joy for the rest of her life and that I hope to be part of it-that I’ve hurt every step of the way along side her but there were times when she had to go it alone. I want her to know that even if it hurts, it’s okay to keep things from the past. Less is not always more. Sometimes that item represents something so much more.

She once said that if she decided to start collecting teapots again that she would start fresh. I don’t know if that is something she will ever do or if the teapots represent a part of her past, a part of who she no longer is.

I do know that life goes on and one day we will look at that teapot (or just talk about it) and remember this time when we were SO in this moment of our lives that we thought this is what it was going to be and we will realize that we had no clue. Just like we didn’t have a clue when we met all those years ago when our kids were so young.

I will do anything for Ivy and her child, and I know she will return the favor. I’m not pretty sure nor do I feel a false sense of security. We have been to hell and back together and I KNOW that we will always be friends.

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I hope she likes it!

Park Days

Park Days

I remember being at the park with the mom’s group I belonged to at the time with my two kids. Andrew wasn’t around yet. Michael was probably just under 4 years old which would make Kris around a year and a half old. Every week we would join the other moms and kids at the park.  For me it was a lifeline to other moms who were in the trenches along side me.

It was no small feat, facing that outing. It required great planning. I had to make sure our blanket was clean- and still in the car. I had to make sure I had a large supply of snacks and water bottles and a little juice. (Too much juice just bought you countless outings to the porta-john- and if there’s one thing I wanted to avoid, it was visiting there at all.) We needed sunscreen and bug spray, wipes, paper towels, changes of clothes, bandaids, diapers for Kris. The list was endless, or so it seemed. And after loading up the car and taking one last trip to the bathroom, we would head out for a morning with our friends.

We all looked forward to going to the park. Michael and Kris had many playmates to choose from, in addition to the playground equipment and exploring the grassy area, trying to climb the trees, digging in the dirt. And the best part of all is that I got to see the other moms. We sat on our blankets, swapping war stories, sharing advice and new discoveries while keeping an eye on our kids. Park days were the best!

One morning stands out in my memory. It began just like any other park day. One by one or sometimes in pairs, moms arrived. Depending on the ages of their children and how light they packed, they might bring the kids out of the car first, asking the other moms if they could keep an eye while they unpacked their car. Others, like me, were determined to do it all in one trip- kids, blanket, bags and all.

This particular morning I remember this mom, Cathy, who did not travel light, taking 3 trips back and forth as she brought food, chairs, blanket, bags and toys. Her children, Eric and Ashley, were the same ages as mine and Michael loved playing with her son. As she brought the kids up along with a bag and blanket, Eric ran off weaving in and out of swings in search of friends. He almost collided with a younger child who had come down the slide and skidded to a halt when he found Michael, giving him a friendly shove down. Cathy reprimanded him, reminding him to be careful around the smaller children. Before she had even completed her 2nd trip, Eric was throwing dirt. Cathy told him to stop throwing dirt as she was walking up with the chairs. Her back was barely turned before Eric had bent down to grab another handful. Michael had caught my eye as he had also squatted. All it took was a menacing, “Michael” from me for him to straighten up. Michael was no angel but he knew, as did Eric, that throwing dirt was not allowed.

The rest of us moms all sat on our blankets, failing miserably at holding a normal conversation, as Cathy walked back up. She set down the diaper bag and this time as she took in Eric, both hands full of dirt, arms raised, the weariness that lined her face was obvious. We stumbled at conversation while she gave Eric his first official warning. Then she uttered the words we all avoided like the plague. “If I have to warn you one more time, we are leaving.”

Yes, she went there. She had issued an ultimatum. I think we collectively held our breath.

Eric considered her threat and his arms slowly lowered, his hands opening to drop the dirt.

We could breathe again. The moment had appeared to pass.

Cathy unpacked her belongings, set up the kids’ little chairs, smoothed out her blanket and sat back, ready to join in on the conversation.

And then it happened. Without warning, Eric scooped up a handful of dirt and flung it at a passing toddler.

Time stopped.

I will never forget the defeated look on Cathy’s face. She couldn’t look any of us in the eye. I’m sure she was fighting back tears. She sighed and got to her feet. She slowly began the packing up process, folding the blanket and chairs, placing food and drinks back in the bag, gathering up toys. She turned our direction as she loaded up everything for one trip and asked, “Could you please keep an eye on them?”

We all nodded and/or murmured our consent.

And as she trudged back to her van, arms loaded, a cry arose from the playground equipment. It was coming from Eric, who had just realized what was happening.

A very resigned but determined Cathy scooped up little Ashley, who had never quite made it onto the playground area, and grabbed Eric, whose cries had escalated into screams. As Ashley realized that she was not going to be playing today, her sobbing joined her brother’s.

We sat in silence until the cries were muted by the closing of the minivan door and we watched Cathy back out of the parking space.

We talked quietly of how much we respected Cathy for following through on her threat. We felt awful for her. We knew that she had been having a rough time with Eric. Like most of us who had kids over the age of 2, 3 had been a much more trying year than 2 could ever be. We did not judge Cathy or the choices she made. If anyone had needed that morning out among her people, it had been Cathy. On any given day, one or more of us WAS Cathy. Although our parenting styles varied as much as our personalities, we still shared a common bond- that of being women who chose to leave their professions to raise their children. We did this at a time when being a stay at home mom was not valued as much as it once had been. Parents who worked did not know what it truly meant to be home with your children full time, or maybe they did and that’s why they worked. 😉  We were each others’ lifelines.

The next week when Cathy arrived at the park with all of her stuff, she brought a much 1 week wiser Eric who had learned that there are consequences to your actions. Or maybe he just learned to not get caught throwing dirt. Regardless, we greeted Cathy with a warm welcome back and sat back and listened as she shared the recounting of her week. We shared some of our own horror stories and frustrations and we felt the tension melt away. We were among friends who understood, not only because they were caring, empathetic people, but because they had been there too.

Recently for the first time I sat at a table talking with other parents of transgender children. There were five us. Other than one fleeting conversation 6 months ago, I had never had a live conversation with another parent going through the same thing I had been experiencing for the past 4 years. It was so nice. Although I’ve always known I wasn’t the only one with a transgender kid, I was sitting there thinking, I’m not the only one. As one of us spoke, the rest nodded their heads, not just nods of sympathy, empathy, compassion but nods that said, “Yes, I know exactly how you feel. I feel/felt/experienced the same thing.”

And I was reminded of those long ago days, sitting on my blanket, talking to other moms. This connection with other parents is priceless.

Park days were the days that got me through. They were the best.

They still are.