Tag Archives: friend

Turn Your Face to the Sun


Lady scarecrow in Dahlonega, Georgia, 2012, Ellie Kuykendall

Lady scarecrow in Dahlonega, Georgia, 2012, Ellie Kuykendall

When I visited Dahlonega, Georgia this fall with my dear friend Mary Jo, the city was having a scarecrow festival. So many unique and charming scarecrows would surely bring the birds in to see them, rather than scaring the birds away!

How was your autumn this year? Mine had its ups and downs, just like my life in general. I was privileged to go to Waynesville, North Carolina, with a high school friend. Our stated purpose was to see the fall colors in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. We did that. We also ate wonderful food, had long talks, and he even listened to me cry a couple of times. We hadn’t spend any time together since high school, really, and we were not looking for romance with each other. Just friends, thanks. And isn’t just having a friend a wonderful thing in itself?

When I picked out the main photo for this blog entry, the lady above seemed perfect. She has her face turned toward the sun.  Is your face turned toward the sun? Mine is, at least most of the time.

“But what about when it’s raining, snowing or foggy,” you ask.

The sun is always there. You can turn your face that way on any day. When you do it, you alter your face, because who can resist smiling on a bright and sunny day? Who wouldn’t laugh in delight when looking at crowds of cumulus clouds in a bright blue sky?

It is not always easy to keep your attitude positive when you feel like you’re being bombarded by the hard times in life, whether they be financial, relationship-oriented, work-related, family matters or health issues. But what’s your alternative?

You can go around frowning.  Sniveling. Shrugging your shoulders. Wrinkling your eyebrows.  Screaming as if you are watching a horror movie. Crying a river of tears with no rowboat in sight. Have an argument with someone. Kick the ball so hard it bursts.

Options? Not for me. I’d rather turn my face toward the sun and feel God’s love shining down on me. How about you?

 

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Kind Strangers I Have Met: #1 Ulsan, South Korea


Korean children, photo by
Ellie Kuykendall

From an early age Korean children are taught to follow directions and respect their elders. However, there are always those who would rather play than wait patiently. I smiled as I walked by these kids that bright spring day in 2008. I was on my way to my new job; it was only my second day, but already I knew I would love it.  Not only was I teaching ESL, but I was also editing students’ papers, so it was a nice mix of my talents.

Two minutes after walking by the children, I was on the ground because I tripped on an uneven pavement. I knew that one ankle was sprained, but when I tried to get up, I couldn’t support weight on either leg. “Now what?” I asked myself.

Thirty seconds later a man came out of nowhere. There were other people walking around, but I hadn’t seen him. He lifted my right foot up and massaged it. One of the things I love about South Korea is that people try natural remedies first. The massage hurt me, so I let him know. He disappeared for a moment and came back with a chair. He lifted me up and helped me sit down. Then he walked out onto the street to hail a cab.

If you’ve ever paid outrageous prices for taxis in the United States, you’d adore the fact that cabs are really cheap in some other parts of the world. The cost of the cab from where I was to my school was about $1.50 for the trip of about 2 miles. I arrived at the school, having called both the director of the school and my minister. My minister was going to pick me up at the school and take me to the doctor.

My director looked at me skeptically, as if I were lying about not being able to walk. I told him I would be fine. He allowed me to go to the doctor with my minister. After we left, we drove down the street where I had hurt myself. We looked for the man who helped me, but we couldn’t find him.

Maybe he wasn’t a man after all. Maybe he was one of my guardian angels. You have them too, you know. They’re everywhere and nowhere.

And the next time you meet a stranger, don’t think of him or her as a stranger. Think, “S/he is just a friend I hadn’t met yet.” That’s what I do. Have a blessed day.

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Filed under Friendship, Helping Others, People Who Have Impressed Me, Travel

Phone Calls and a Boy with a Blue Orchid


For my friend, taken by KeithCR of Melbourne, Australia http://morguefile.com/creative/keithcr

I’ve had many people tell me that they have friends with whom they haven’t talked in a long time. However, when they do talk with them, it’s as if no time had gone by. That happened to me tonight.

I love Facebook. The main reason why I love Facebook is that it puts people in touch with old friends, lovers, family members or school teachers, just to name a few. A long time ago I invited an old high school friend to become my “friend” on Facebook.  I last saw him four years ago at a high school reunion.

Tonight I received a message back from him and gave him a call. That’s what it was like. It was like we had no time go by since we last talked. That is not to say we haven’t both had life-changing events take place in the meantime. We have. His wife of many years died of cancer a couple of years ago. This year he got a staph infection in his knee. He’s on his seventh round of antibiotics.

I, on the other hand, haven’t had a date in 10 years! I purposed distanced myself from men after my last relationship went south. I have had a chronic illness this year, and certainly my prednisone is, in some ways, comparable to his antibiotics.

But talking with him made me feel warm and fuzzy. I was happy to tell him I’d put him on my prayer list, and we both shared how we get so lonely at times.

And we are not alone. I have several friends who are alone. I know they get lonely too, but we don’t often share that. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because it makes us vulnerable in ways we don’t want to be.

As for me, I hug my kitties at night. That helps. Besides, I couldn’t get away without doing that because they pester me until I do! I hug my pillow, too.  And I pray a lot. Praying helps in every situation, good and bad. At least that’s what I believe.

So today was glorious. I felt better than I have in a VERY long time. I actually went to Costco and walked all over the store, even though I only needed one thing. Then I went to Ingles to get some more Weight Watchers food (mostly fruit and yogurt on this trip), and I walked all over THAT store, too…WITHOUT getting out of breath once! Yeah!

While I was sitting and having a Diet Coke, I watched people at Costco. I love watching people. You learn so much about them. All of a sudden, a man and his two sons walked by. One of the boys was carrying a blue orchid. Now, I must say here that I am NOT a fan of blue orchids. I think they are one flower that deserved not to be dyed. Regardless, I watched the boy hold the orchid up high and pictured the look on his mother’s face as he presented it to her. A big smile came to my face.

And so, I end this blog dedicating that blue orchid to my old friend. He’s worth every petal.

I hope you have a friend or friends like I do. They are such wonderful additions to our lives.

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Endings and beginnings – more about friendship


children

I wish I had a picture of me and Janet, but I don't. So, I found this one on morguefile.com. Phaedra is the gal who took it. Her page is here: http://morguefile.com/creative/phaewilk

I’m going to Fayetteville, GA next week to see my friend Janet, who has cancer and the most amazing fighting to stay alive attitude I’ve ever seen. Janet is the person who opened her home to me in 1998 when I came back from my first year teaching in South Korea. She never charged me a  penny’s rent, helped me buy a computer and a car, and most of all, she accepted me exactly the way I was.

I was raw. I didn’t want to come back to the states, because I think I’m a true expat at heart. We’re both Scorpios, so we got along pretty well most of the time. Her husband was dying of Alzheimer’s and in a nursing home. I was so self-absorbed, I don’t think I was much comfort to her. We met online through a writing group. Janet was more of an editor than a writer, and she ran critique groups for budding writers – all online. Her site was writelinks.com, but it’s no longer on the Net.

However, while it was up and running, Janet did more good for more people than you can imagine. She encouraged, advised and just listened. She had a huge list of links to various other writing sites, resources which were invaluable to all the wannabe writers and pros alike.

A few years ago, Janet started knitting. She got so good at it that she started teaching classes at Michael’s, the hobby store for those of you who don’t know. Then she branched out. Instead of just knitting for friends or friends of friends, she started knitting baby things to be donated to an organization, the name of which I don’t remember. There are lots of these organizations, though, so if you’re a knitter, you might want to do a search for them.

Janet knitted me some washcloths to give as gifts to my family. I also got one. I still have it. It’s off white and the best cloth I’ve ever used to really get the dirt and grime off my face and body.

She has a mind like a steel trap — it traps information and keeps it to throw up as trivia or to explain some complicated medical process or to answer questions about everything from parenting to literature. I love her mind.

She’s traveled all over the world. Her husband Len worked for Delta Airlines and that was during the time when a buddy/family pass was exactly that. The pass cost a pittance compared to today’s rates. That was also when baggage was free, meals were free, and people took real books on planes instead of laptops and Kindles or Nooks. She has a map with little red push pins showing all the places she and her beloved husband went together.

When she was sixteen, she started a restaurant. Later she got advanced degrees in psychology and was a school psychologist for years. She’s soft-spoken and rarely gets angry, but she loves a good debate.

She’s from California like I am, and we had lots of laughs about how most people in the South don’t know what Swiss chard and artichokes are.

The night I arrived in Georgia from Korea via California, she took me to Ryan’s a buffet restaurant, so I could have my favorite stewed tomatoes and okra. She bought my favorite foods at the grocery store until I started making money with my writing and we challenged each other on computer games that didn’t involve killing monsters, aliens or humans. They were mostly word games as I remember. We both love words.

I call her every day now, just to see how she’s doing. Some days are good, some are bad. She’s in a lot of pain most of the time now. Treatments for the cancer are finished.

I like to think that God will answer my prayer for a miracle for Janet so she can go on being herself here on earth and enriching others’ lives.  On the other hand, if God doesn’t answer that prayer, I know he must need another angel. Janet will be an awesome angel. I hope she’ll visit me often, but I know if I’m not on her visitation list others will be, and their lives will be all the better for the time with her.

So, I’m going to Fayetteville on Tuesday next week. I’ll stay in a hotel and visit her once a day for two days. She says she doesn’t need me to stay with her. I guess the way it’s going, it will be the last time I’ll visit her. But instead of thinking of it as an ending, I’m thinking of it as a beginning.

Why?

Well, it’s a beginning because our friendship will ever be new. It’s the start of another phase of her life and mine without her.

What I know today is that my mother used to say I would be lucky if I had two true friends in my life. I have been more than blessed with quite a few more than two. I don’t believe in numbering a list of best friends, with this person being number one, the next being number two, etc. However, I do know that Janet is at the top of my unnumbered list today. The hope she gave to me, the consolation she provided when I was down, the good and practical advice she always gave – they will always be with me.

Lord, I hope I can be as good a friend to others as Janet and others have been to me. I hope that I can give people strength when they are feeling weak, the words they need to hear when they have a problem, and the ability to bring a smile to their faces when they are with or think of me.

Who will you be a friend to today?

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