Category Archives: girlfriends

Laying Down One’s Life

Yesterday, seven women “laid down our lives” and gathered in my living room. We left chores behind, we didn’t go out into the beautiful sunshine, we didn’t go to the gym, we didn’t go shopping or mow the lawn or work in the garden.

We knitted and crocheted prayer shawls for our friends who need our prayers.

We talked of many things as we worked, but our focus was the garment we were creating, and eventually the conversation always returned to things of a spiritual nature.

We found connections. Two of the women realized they had met years ago. A different two realized that their social groups overlapped and they had mutual friends. We discovered many things that we all had in common with each other as we prayed, snacked, and talked of this and that, but mostly we knitted beautiful things intended to comfort someone who is in need.

It didn’t feel like much of a sacrifice, as it was a completely enjoyable time, gathering together, sitting and knitting, but I can’t help but reflect on all the things that were likely on each person’s “should do” list for a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon. But because comforting our friends in pain is a much higher priority, we all stopped what we were doing and saw to that first.

Not everybody knew of someone in need of a prayer shawl yesterday, so their shawls, scarves or lap robes will be stored until a need arises. Some of us brought photographs of the people for whom we were creating garments infused with love and the intention of healing.

Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13). I believe that’s what we did yesterday, and the spiritual reverberations will echo through the generations as these shawls are worn and passed along, and the love will spread laterally through the circuits of time and space.

The next time you receive a handmade gift, take a moment to savor the fact that whoever made it, laid down their life for you.

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Filed under Beauty, connections, Friends, girlfriends, knitting, peace, Prayer, Social Consciousness, Spirituality

A February Book Exchange

Well, it took place on the last day of January, but February is such a runt of a month, I think it would be a great time to host a book exchange.

I attended one yesterday, hosted by my friend Christina Lay and a book-loving friend of hers. They had tea and cookies and some delicious teacakes from Germany, and two big tables set up with books that she and her friend were culling from their bookshelves. They put the word out via their respective email lists to come sometime between 2-4pm. The deal was: you can take as many books as you bring.

I arrived about 2:20 with a half dozen books I don’t need any more. I didn’t really intend to bring home more books, as my shelves are currently groaning under the weight of textbooks, so I didn’t consider the strategic effect of timing. If I had arrived later, there would have been more books to mull over, correct? Yet, perhaps they would have been picked over by that time… Christina said the best thing is to host a book exchange. That way you get to see everything that comes in the door.

I left with a small cookbook of sauces and marinades and a novel by Jane Smiley. It was nice to pick up a book and just put it in a bag. No checkout required. Meanwhile, I stood around, munching lebkuchen and discussing our best reads of the year with people I had never met. The only thing we had in common was a rabid love for books, authors, and the need to discuss them.

The hostesses were left with three boxes of books to donate.  Perhaps a few more than the two of them started with, as most people who showed up brought more books than they took.

What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

So grab a book-loving friend and make it happen. Or organize a bigger one within your book club.

Fine (free!) literature is an excellent way to meet other readers and refresh your nightstand.

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Filed under Friends, Fun, girlfriends, Reading

Essential Stress

I have too much work on my desk. This is a cyclical condition. As with most things, it’s boom or bust; feast or famine. Right now, it’s manageable, but barely. Last week I kind of freaked out, but I knocked out a project and so it’s back to just “seriously intense”.

I like it just a little less intense than this, but I do enjoy my stress. I love my deadlines, love a little pressure. Today I want to get out into the nice day on my bicycle, so I have a little added pressure to get my scheduled “must-do” things done on a timeline that will allow for that.

Last summer I decided to take a couple of months off. No work, no school, no schedule. Just work in the garden, lie about and read. Lunch with the girlfriends. Bad idea. I was miserable, and started manufacturing grand schemes (aka “trouble”) in my mind.

Some day retirement will be an option for me, and I’m one of those who will have to do some serious retirement planning so I don’t drive myself nuts with inactivity. Or inappropriate activity (heh heh). But then does a writer ever really retire?

But for now, I have two research papers to finish, an anthology to edit, a weekend retreat to prepare for, two writing projects to progress, a garden to plant, and a husband and dog to keep happy. That’s a little too much for today, especially if I want my bike ride. Next week, I’ll have finished the anthology, one of the research papers and the retreat planning, and then my stress level will be just right.

As with all things, balance is always the goal, and when it comes to self-imposed stress, balance is particularly crucial.

Will I ever get it right?

Probably not.

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Filed under Bicycle, Discipline, Gardening, girlfriends, Marriage, Stress, time, Writing

Investing in friendships

I just got home from a long weekend trip to visit friends I don’t often get to see. We had a great time. I enjoyed the break from my work/school routine, the Oregon winter, and got to see sun, thrilling desert and important people.

On the complicated and frustrating way home (travel can be such a pain in the ass), I realized that investing in friends and family is the most rewarding effort possible. Spending time with each other, even if it’s just watching television side by side, lets our spirits commune. A cup of coffee (or ice water, as the case may be) for an hour at the kitchen breakfast bar is more important than a thousand emails.  I mean I know this. I’ve always known this.

But this trip, for some reason, turned my head around. None of us is getting any younger, and some time I’ll go to Arizona and find that I have one fewer friend to visit. That will be a sincerely bad day. But it will be much less horrible because of the trip I just had–the time I just invested–in wonderful friendships.

So I say this: If there’s someone you want to visit, get on with it. Time’s wasting. Your relationship is languishing. Forget the stock market and invest yourself in the most important, lasting, reality in the universe.

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Filed under Aging, connections, family, Friends, girlfriends, Personalities, Possibilities, relationships, Spirituality, time, Travel

One Good Story

Rarely have I gotten so involved in a television series that I feel absolutely connected, in an emotional way, to the chracters and their lives.

St. Elsewhere did that to me. So did Chicago Hope (what is it about hospital dramas?), and China Beach. Other series have come and gone — good series like The Sopranos, which was fascinating like driving past a train wreck, and currently Boston Legal, but as much as I enjoy it, it’s a little too silly to become too involved with.

Today I went to see the movie Sex and the City.

We didn’t get HBO when the series first started, so I rented all the seasons from Netfix, and became more and more emotionally involved with these four friends and their trials. This show had the smartest writing on the tube.  The mark of good writing is when the reader (or in this case, the viewer) can step into the skin of the characters and say “Is this what I would do if I were in her place?” If the answer is yes, we see what would happen to us from the comfort of our own living room. If we say no, we can watch what might have happened if we had taken the risk. Either way, the characters and their dilemmas have to be so realistic and so well drawn that the reader/viewer can believably be in those shoes.

This was the case with that series, and this was the case with that movie. It was brilliant.

I laughed out loud, I shed a couple of tears, and at the end, I felt as though I had just had one of the most satisfying film experiences of my life. Not that this was the best movie I’d ever seen, just one of the most satisfying, given my history with those four spectacular women.

Bravo, I say.

If you haven’t seen Sex and the City, watch the series first. I can’t imagine watching the movie without the history.

And then see the movie. Wow.

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Filed under girlfriends

Life is messy

A friend has just ditched me. This is the fourth time in my life that a girlfriend who I valued has walked out of my life with no explanation. Each time I have called and emailed, apologizing for inadvertent, unknown transgressions, and asking for an opportunity to mend the rift. Each time my requests were met with silence, and I was left to search my soul. Did I do something? Am I a bad friend?

Sunday, I talked with a friend who had once ditched a gal pal. She said that she didn’t like the person she became when around that woman, and that she didn’t want to hurt the other woman’s feelings by explaining all that to her. So she just stopped taking her calls.

Am I difficult to be around?

I don’t know, but I don’t think so.

In those four instances, I will likely never understand what happened–and in retrospect, I see that those four women were not the friends I thought they were, or they would have cared more for my feelings than to dump me in such a heartless way. I do know that life is messy and that cleaning it up is a daily event. I have to apologize for saying inappropriate things (my most common housekeeping task), clarify things that were ambiguous or erroneous, say things that have gone unsaid for too long. This reverse-entropy relationship work is some of the most unpleasant work of life, especially if I allow it to build up. I try not to do that. I try to fix things as they arise. Anything that keeps me awake at night needs to be remedied first thing in the morning, if possible. It’s especially important with regards to families. I can’t afford to have a serious falling-out with anyone in the family, so I work hard to keep things good with my family, my husband and his family, my kids and their families.

But there was a time when I had quite a list of people I avoided. I went to great lengths to avoid them. My life was messy indeed, and now that it has been cleaned up, I don’t ever care to go back to that place.  I try to keep it clean.

So what of these four women who I once counted as my friends? Are they hiding from me down the grocery store aisle? I hope not.  It would be good to get a phone call, if for no other reason than to say, “have a nice life.”

That is precisely what I wish for each of them.

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Filed under girlfriends, relationships