Attitude is Contagious

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I really relish the time I get to spend with these three gals, and I’ve just figured out why. They’re all so “outer-directed.” Sure, they care about themselves and their own growth, development, well-being, health, appearance, and finances, but they care about others too. In fact, now that I think about it, all of my friends are that way. That’s why they’re my friends: I need them to “rub off on me.” Attitude, good or bad, is contagious.

Just think about your circle of friends, acquaintances, and family members. Would you rather spend an hour with a down-in-the-mouth, complaining, grumpy person or with one with an upbeat attitude? Had you rather be around someone who has a positive yet realistic attitude nor who feels like the sky is going to fall in tomorrow? Do you prefer the company of someone who feels that things will work out or with someone who just knows that the worst possible of scenarios is going to befall her/him/us.

The women in the picture above, including me, have all had her share of woe, heartbreak, and anxiety. There are actually several other nouns I could add to the list, but why do that? Why add to the negativity??? We all focus on what we have and not what we don’t have. We know enough about relative deprivation to know that we are indeed fortunate, especially when compared to the deprived and downright horrid conditions in which many of the world’s people have to live.

None of us are wealthy, at least not in the ways of the world. We all, however, understand that there’s a relatedness between all life on Earth and that we have an obligation to make life better for others…including ourselves. I added that last phrase so you’ll know that we aren’t completely selfless. Ha ha. That’s a laugh. If we were totally selfless, we’d be at home cooking up a savory meal, scrubbing the bathtub, or volunteering at our local soup kitchens.

We do our share of cooking, scrubbing, and volunteering, but we also take time to feed the inner vessel. In fact, that’s what we were doing that day. We were sightseeing at beautiful Botany Bay, a feast for the eyes and soul that was introduced to me by another “sister” who understands the power of ocean, land, and sky.  Doing it together enhanced our experience and deepened our bonds as sisters.

“Do You Ladies Need Some Help?”

Here’s what I’m saying: We all need friends, every single one of us. Somewhere, possibly right next door or in that book club you’re thinking of joining, there’s a new friend waiting for someone like you. What are you waiting for?

On Friday, my sister and I spent an entire day together sans cares and responsibilities. Whenever I’m with her, we talk about so many topics that it’s just about dizzying. From husbands and children to money and God and wrinkles, we covered a lot of ground on Friday. She’s a great sister AND a great friend, and I mention that because she wasn’t included in the my recent blog about friends. Neither were a few other people, not because they aren’t important but because, well, read on.

Ann belongs to a separate and unique category; one entitled “Family Friends.” Sometimes family folks who are not  friends, but in my case, I’m fortunate to have several family members who are, and Ann heads the list. My five sisters-in-law are on that list too. And although I don’t really want to include men in my friend countdown, I’m make an exception. My husband is truly a grand friend.

He’s supportive, nonjudgmental, encouraging, and patient. Patient to a point, that is. Last week as he halfway listened (kept reading his Kindle) to me prattle on and on and on about a situation that’s been breaking my heart, he put the Kindle aside for a moment and asked, “Don’t you think it’s about time for you to leave that horse alone?”

“What? Huh? What are you talking about?” I asked.

“That dead horse,” he said. “Why do you keep on beating it?”

And he was right, of course. It’s time for me to move beyond this particular heartache/issue, and he’s the only with the guts to tell me that.

Another group of old friends who continue to impact my life today are some church friends from Myrtle Beach. As soon as I got on facebook after posting Thursday’s “piece,” I saw posts from a few of them. Rather than chance leaving anyone from that era of my life out, I’ll just mention the ones I saw the other evening: Dorothea, Beth, Gail, and Mary. There are at least a dozen more, and all aided in my personal and spiritual development. In fact, it’s scary to imagine my life at the coast without them.

Are you wondering about the photo accompanying this blog? It’s one of some of my friends and me in the bell tower of the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington this past January. Four of us made the road trip to and from South Carolina. The fifth person in the photograph, the young pretty one, is someone we met earlier that day. As we stood poring over our maps and city guides, Alyssa turned to us with a beautiful smile and asked if we needed some help.  We adopted her as daughter, guide, and friend, and all it took was her charm and a simple question.

I don’t want any readers out there to think this is all about me or that I’m boasting about my friends. Here’s what I’m saying:  We all need friends, every single one of us. Somewhere, possibly right next door or in that book club you’re thinking of joining, there’s a new friend waiting for someone like you. What are you waiting for?

One is Silver, The Other Gold

Events of the past couple of weeks have reinforced my belief that people who have friends are the most fortunate folks who walk the earth. As I posted on facebook last night, “I’m wondering how people make it through life without friends. Seriously, in the last few days, they have listened, advised, entertained, shared, inspired, encouraged, and helped me in ways too many to mention.”

Events of the past couple of weeks have reinforced my belief that people who have friends are the most fortunate folks who walk the earth. As I posted on facebook last night, “I’m wondering how people make it through life without friends. Seriously, in the last few days, they have listened, advised, entertained, shared, inspired, encouraged, and helped me in ways too many to mention.”

Before moving back to Camden a little over ten years ago, I felt edgy, uneasy, and well, downright reluctant to leave the coastal area. I had raised my children there, established a career, and made some great friends. Generally speaking, I had done all of the things most young people do when they leave the nest. How could I go back “home” and leave June, Millie, Murph, Marsha, Judy, Ella, and Elaine?

As it turns out, I didn’t have to leave anyone because they all still live in my memory. On occasion, I actually get to see some of them. This past week, I met with June for a few hours as we went over a manuscript that she had volunteered to proofread for me (yes, she volunteered). We also dined on a healthy lunch before sauntering over to check out the renovations to her daughter’s house. A true friend, June has always been forthright and honest with me, even at times when I didn’t want to hear it (the unvarnished truth).

Thinking my husband would allay my anxiety about moving to Camden, I asked, “Who will I hang out with? Are there people there like me, people with my interests? Do you think there’s a book club I could join??”

“There’s no one like you,” he replied, and if it hadn’t been for the snickering, I would have taken it as a compliment. Nevertheless, I took a leap of faith and left the coast. Within a short period of time, I had met dozens of people, many of whom would become close friends over the next several years. There’s Carol, my department chair, who taught me a lesson right away. I was at Central Carolina, not Horry Georgetown, and my parking ticket wasn’t going to go away by itself. Ouch. Talented and creative, Carol hosted the best Christmas parties I’ve ever attended.

Martha, Lisa, Melissa, and Nancy soon became great friends. So did Jim and Mark and Myles, but this post is about gal pals. I’ve gone on trips with the aforementioned ladies, and one of them is responsible for my foray into facebook. After a New York trip, Lisa kept telling me about a picture of me that she had snapped after she and Linda “dropped me off” of the tour bus at the southern tip of Manhattan. “Email it to me,” I asked several times, and each time her reply was, “No. It’s on facebook, and you need to join.”

Martha and Lisa and I like going to movies and dissecting them later. The two of them are movie aficionados and know far more than I about casting, nuances, actors, hidden meanings, and cinematography than I ever will. So does Melissa. We just don’t get to see her too much because she’s busy busy busy working on her dissertation. And did I mention that we share a love of books? We do. In fact, Martha and Melissa coaxed me to join Goodreads. And Martha, like me, is into all things celestial.

If I continue on with work friends, I’ll never get to my church friends, all of whom I love. Really, I do. One afternoon after working in Sumter all day, I walked into the downtown campus of CCTC (Camden), and there was someone I knew I’d seen but couldn’t place right away. “Do I know you? You look so familiar.” I said to the pretty blond woman waiting to see a counselor about her daughter.

“From church,” she said. “You know me from church. I’m Connie Fogle.” Connie was the first of many “sisters” that I met. I hesitate to list them because I know I’ll forget someone so I’ll just say that just since Sunday, Connie, Tilara, Lisa, Cyndy, Valerie, Sue, Carol, and Donna have influenced me in a positive way.

While I love my new friends, the “old” ones have a special place in my heart. Jeanita lives in Pawleys Island now, and when I’m in Myrtle Beach, I often call or text to ask, “Want to meet at Salt Water Creek for lunch?”  Something especially nice about getting together with her is that we have a history that began when we were youngsters, and there’s something comforting about knowing each other’s parents and “beginnings.” I used to think she looked more like Jimmy than Betty, but now I’m not so sure.

Moving on, there are Linda and Shirley, college friends. Linda stopped by to see me on her way home from a conference the other day, and she truly put some things into perspective for me. Since our marriages, children’s births, divorces, and careers followed parallel paths, we’ve bolstered each other up on many an occasion. Shirley lives in Montana so we don’t see her too often. Just gotta say, though, that she was always the brains of the operation, and her oldest child is literally a rocket scientist who helped put Curiosity on Mars this summer.

And that brings me to today…or yesterday actually. I had lunch with Nancy, someone who attended school with me for 12 years. Having different interests and friends during those years, we didn’t see each other too often. It wasn’t until I moved back to Camden that we became reacquainted. Now we have lunch together at least once a month, and it’s been a great experience for both of us. Because of our conversation yesterday, I’m committed to becoming involved in volunteer work.

One of the things Nancy and I discussed yesterday at the Carolina Café is the power of the internet in bringing people together. While there are pros and cons of facebook, we both agreed that because of it, we’re able to reconnect with long lost friends and acquaintances from our youth. Polly, Vicki, Debbie, Harriet, Joan Ella, Cheryl, and dozens more are more “real” to us now, and we often find ourselves thinking of these friends and their lives.

For those of you who managed to read to the end of this, congratulations! Although it was a long post, writing it put things into perspective for me and increased my gratitude for my friends, old and new. And just think, I haven’t even gotten to my book club and writing group chums yet.

Web of Connections

All week I’ve been thinking of a few shining moments last weekend when 18 people were in my little bungalow at the beach. It was crowded, yes. And it was fun, yes again. Not everyone stayed for dinner, but everyone stayed long enough to choose a specialty cupcake that Elizabeth and I had bought the day before. Yummy! My favorite was called “Day at the Beach,” and it had a tiny umbrella perched atop the icing.

Since my daughter Carrie and I hadn’t had the opportunity to celebrate our August birthdays together, we chose last weekend, and I’m smiling as I remember the lively singing that went on in the kitchen as my brother Mike’s family and I sang Happy Birthday to me. Yes, you read that right; I sang to myself too. As a matter of fact, Sarah Beth claims that I’m the one who started us off. We sang to Carrie later that evening when she returned from the duck pond where she and her kids had sneaked off  to feed the ducks.

Within three short hours, just about everyone had gone home, and by the next afternoon, I was completely alone. And yet, I keep thinking of how although everyone had scattered and gone back into their separate lives by Monday, we had come together for a few magical hours. I can’t speak for my visitors, but as for me, those moments together have buoyed me up several times during the past week. If I need to chuckle, I just have to remember little Colton propped up on my bed watching television, my Kindle Fire clutched  to his chest as if he planned to read.  That was right before, grinning, he called me an egghead.

It’s nice to be part of a network of family and friends who genuinely care about one another. This past week marked the anniversary of the passing of a friend’s child. Much beloved by his family, this young man is sorely missed. As I told his mother, he’s still her son, and she’s still connected to him. Just because she can’t see him, that doesn’t mean that he’s not living his life somewhere else.

Later in the week, another friend told of watching an old family movie in which her mother-in-law was a young woman. Although her MIL (abbreviation I picked up from my DIL) left this life decades ago, she was there in the movie, young and vibrant as she laughingly walked towards the camera. The recipient of her DNA, one of her grandsons, also watched the film.

Living or dead, nearby or distant, there are people with whom we are connected. We’re all a part of a marvelous web of family and friends, and although we don’t get to see these folks on a daily basis, the threads of connection are there. My son sent me a picture of his infant son all dressed up for church this morning. “Who does he look like?” I asked myself as I thought of the web of which this precious child is a part.

Confessions and Revelations

Confession: My friends and I aren’t perfect. Revelation: Neither are you!

A facebook post from my friend Connie has motivated me to say a few things that have been on my mind and in my heart lately. She and I attend the same church and see eye-to-eye on most (maybe all) things spiritual. She’s a “sister” who, like me, does her dead level best to be kind, honest, caring, giving, and all those other positive things that we’re supposed to do. We turn the other cheek, work on being nonjudgmental, love our families, attend most church meetings, pay our tithing, and even visit sick people in the hospital.

Connie and I often laugh and joke at where we’d be and what kind of lives we’d be living without what we refer to as “the gospel” in our lives. It’s only a skip and a hop to pondering the same thing about our friends and acquaintances who are apparently farther along the path of enlightenment than we are…or so it would seem from the outside looking in.

But are things always the way they seem? I know folks who darken the church doorway more frequently than I probably do, but they’re judgmental, unforgiving, and rumor mongering (always wanted to use that term). Others are pessimistic beyond belief although throughout the scriptures we’re told to be of good cheer. They worry incessantly about tomorrow despite the frequent Biblical instruction to have faith. Remember the tiny sparrow?

And then there are those who could spout off the 10 Commandments like nobody’s business, but they put possessions and “other gods” before God, take His name in vain, and/or treat their parents abysmally. And let’s don’t forget those who think keeping the Sabbath holy means going out to eat after church and sleeping the afternoon away. Don’t even bother responding to this by telling me that going out to eat as a family keeps unity going AND helps insure that those working in restaurants have jobs. (As an aside, I’ve been known to do all of the above.)

Here’s the difference between Connie and me and “those other people.” We KNOW that we aren’t perfect, and we don’t need anyone to tell us that or to remind us of the shoulds and should nots. We know them, and we’re trying to incorporate them into our lives as best as we can. All of us are in different spots in our spiritual progression.

Time to bring this to a close. Here’s what I know: LOVE is the word. As I write this, I can’t help but think of my former mother-in-law and the many acts of love and compassion that I’ve seen her perform. This afternoon, I’m thinking specifically of how she’d often leave church early to go home and put the finishing touches on a scrumptious meal for her family. Lots of mothers do that; I used to too (although my children might take issue with the scrumptious part).

Here’s what set her apart from me and the other mothers. Before any family members partook of the Sunday feast, she fixed a plate of goodies for a “shut-in” neighbor and sent it over by one of her sons. Did she leave church early? Yes. Did anyone at church have anything to say about it? Yes. Did she show love? Yes. Did you?

Here’s my goal as found in Micah 6:8. I rediscovered this scripture after reading Same Kind of Different as Me.  “And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

Take the Time

What am I saying? Connections are important. Things like parties and signings and dinner dates with friends take time, but they’re important. Take the time for them!

I was a little tired after Wednesday’s 180 mile drive to Rincon, GA to see Braden on his 9th birthday. His great grandmother and I went down for the day so that we could share a Dairy Queen lunch (Braden loves that place) and some birthday ice cream.  After a few hours, we hopped in the car for the return trip.

Then on Thursday, the weekend got off to a great start with a movie at the Nick with Melissa, Martha, and Brenda. We went to see Kid with a Bike at the Nickelodeon and then walked down Main Street to Hunters and Gatherers for a bite to eat. When Brenda asked if anyone wanted to do some hunting and gathering, I thought she was asking if anyone wanted to go shopping! I didn’t know about this cool restaurant on the corner of College and Main, a superb location to soak up the ambience of downtown Columbia. That night there was some mellow music wafting outside to our table on the sidewalk, and we loved it. Loved the huge orange sun setting in the west too.

Then it (the weekend) got even better on Friday with Whitney’s pool party followed by a dinner date with Connie and Tilara. Whitney is turning 7 tomorrow, and her parents hosted her party a few days early. Although I couldn’t stay at the celebration very long, I can still hear the kids squealing and splashing in the pool. I joined my buddies at Salud for a great meal as we commemorated yet another birthday, Tilara’s. To our delight, there was a band playing that night, and I recognized the keyboard player from the night before.  Mellow and relaxing, the music set the tone for some good conversation and unwinding.

On Saturday, there was the book signing at Nephi’s Books, and afterwards, I scurried off to Wal-mart to get some last minute provisions for a honeymoon shower that we were hosting for Chris and Angie that evening. It turned out to be a fun event with lots of good food, especially Cindy’s and Judy’s yummy desserts. Mrs. Bowers’ slaw and Karen’s baked beans were a big hit too. And just in case you’re wondering, my fruit tray from Wally World also got some praise.

Sunday morning’s services were especially enjoyable. The speakers were awesome, and today I’m thinking of Brenda’s humorous opening sentences and Zach’s well-organized and confidently delivered talk. His parents have every reason to be so proud of him. And Primary was enjoyable too. The little children are funny, sweet, entertaining, and “fresh.” Their leaders are caring and concerned, and it makes me even more convinced that Primary leaders just like the ones in our ward were instrumental in helping to teach, guide, and love my children into the people they are today.

Church behind me, we scooted over to Irmo for another birthday celebration, this one for Olivia Jayne who turns 2 on Tuesday. She danced, talked, put on jewelry, ran around with boundless energy, devoured a chocolate cupcake, squealed with delight when her Uncle Matt threw her up in the air, and in general, just held her grandmother in awe as she (I) considered how much she had grown and changed in two short years. Olivia’s parents had come to Atlanta with their two little ones to spend Memorial Day with Amanda’s brother and his family, so I got to see the whole gang. Loved it! It was especially gratifying to see Ethan, my youngest grandson, being held by his paternal great grandmother.

Back in town, I scooted up to the hospital to see my aunt who’s recuperating from pneumonia. As an added bonus, I got to talk to one of my cousins, Sue, and to look at some beautiful family pictures.

What am I saying? Connections are important.  Things like parties and signings and dinner dates with friends take time, but they’re important. Take the time for them!

Sisterly Thoughts

Sometimes people look at me a little curiously when they discover that I’m LDS. And no, it’s not my imagination. I’m a pretty intuitive person and can pick up vibes, both positive and negative. That’s a topic for another day, however. This evening I just want to share a little something about one of the major reasons that I love this church so much.

Are you ready? It’s my sisters. Truly, no matter where I am or what I’m doing or who I’m with, when I see a “sister,” I feel an immediate connection. I know that she knows and believes the same things that I do and that we speak the same language. I don’t have the time to go on and on about this today so I’m going to mention only one person, Lisa C, and her influence on my life. I chose the above picture becaue she’s artistic and likes to ride horses.

I don’t want to embarrass her, but she needs to know that these three incidents made a deep impression on me, on my soul.

When my grandson Seth was born last July, I had the privilege of being there when he made his entrance into the world. In fact, the doctor and I were the first ones to see him. Right away, I could see that he wasn’t the rosy color that I thought he would be. He didn’t seem to be moving very much either and appeared to be kind of flaccid.

My amateur impressions were correct, and right away the doctor signaled for the neonatal specialists to come in. If I recall correctly, three nurses came in and began working on the little fellow. What did I do? I stood looking at him, trying hard not to cry. My beautiful daughter kept asking, “What’s wrong? Why isn’t he crying? Is he breathing, Mama?”

“He’s fine,” I said. “Just fine.”

I began talking to him as gently and soothingly as possible. Although I can’t remember the exact words, I probably said some things like, “Hey, Sweet Boy. Do you hear me talking to you? This is Grandmama. How do you like being in this big old world so far? Huh? Come on now. Open your eyes so I can see them.”

I pretty much repeated the same ramblings over and over as the nurse competently cleared his lungs and throat. And then a miracle occurred. Seth opened his eyes and looked right into mine. Yes, I know babies don’t have 20/20 vision for several months and that he didn’t know me from the television hanging on the wall, but still….He looked at me for several seconds as I continued speaking in low, calming tones.

Months later, I told Lisa C about his birth and remarked that I liked thinking that I was the first person he saw when he opened his eyes and that he sensed my love for him. Without blinking an eye and with complete sincerity, she said, “You communicated spirit to spirit.” And you know what? We did. We absolutely did.

Here’s the second incident. One day in Relief Society, the women’s organization in our church, Lisa told a story about her daughter going to school. I can’t remember all the details, but it was probably one of the first days that her child went to middle school. Like every pre-teen in  America, her daughter was a wee bit nervous about the situation.

There are a number of ways that a parent can handle a child’s apprehension about new things, but here’s what Lisa C did. She reminded her daughter that she was the daughter of a Heavenly Father who loved her very much and that she was a princess, the daughter of a king. That might sound corny to people who aren’t LDS, but I love that way of thinking. Lisa, her daughter, my daughters, and you and I are also of divine origin.

Okay, here’s the last scenario. Months ago, one of Lisa C’s young sons (I think he was 11 at the time) was speaking in Sacrament meeting, and he said how grateful he was for his mom. Here’s a paraphrase: “Moms are the ones who keep everything together. If it weren’t for them, we’d probably all be floating out in space somewhere.” He said this with the cutest smile ever, and I thought, “Wow, what a tribute!” If a child can stand in front of a congregation and say something like that, then the mother is doing something right!

There are probably some errors in the above paragraphs because I’m in a hurry to get to the grocery store (story of a woman’s life), but I wanted to share these thoughts about one of my sisters. Anyone with an open heart and mind can understand a little bit more clearly about why I love the LDS faith so much. It’s because of Lisa C and women all over the world who are just like her, women who speak my language.