Tag Archives: friends

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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Spinning Out of Control or Taking One Day at a Time?


This great photo is compliments of Seemann at morguefile.com.

I was trying to think of a subject for tonight’s blog. And then it came from my lovely muse, who takes such good care of me.

Does your life feel as if it’s spinning out of control?

You’re not going in the career direction you want.

Your relationship/s with your spouse/partner, kids, friends, boss or co-workers isn’t what you want.

You get up in the morning, grab a cup of coffee and a piece of toast and then get yourself and/or your family ready for the day. Then you jump in the car, drive to work through awful commute traffic, park and run in to start your work day. After work, it’s the same story in reverse. By 9 p.m., you are exhausted and wonder what it’s all about.

Or maybe you’re a student. You go to school each day and wonder what the payoff will be in a year or ten.

Remember that old song, “Alfie?” Here’s a link to it if you haven’t heard it in awhile or if you’ve never heard it. Hint…you can click on the link and it will open in a new window so you can listen while you read. Pretty cool, huh? Well, I think it is!

Anyway, Alfie was a playboy. He was never satisfied with one woman. That’s all I remember about the move. If you’re so inclined, you can rent it.

One of the lines in the song is, “Without true love, we just exist.”

And that, my friends, is what it’s all about if you want to stop feeling that your life is spinning like a top.

I learned this the hard way. Two years ago I was diagnosed with an incurable illness. Then last year, my doctor found out that I also have an incurable/unfixable (is that a word?) condition. I have to go into the hospital every two/three months to be treated.

Getting this news made me stand up and pay attention. And gradually, very slowly over the last six months or so, I realized that if I want the peace that passes all understanding, I have to slow down enough to recognize it in the small things (and in the big things, too).

I’ve had to slow down so much that I hardly recognize myself. It’s called taking one day at a time. And it works.

I still plan things, but I know that if my condition warrants a hospital visit when the time comes for the plans to come to fruition, that’s the way it will be.

It’s utterly amazing what I’ve seen and learned about myself and about other people.

I had to learn to be patient with medical staff.

I found out that the major medicine I take for short periods causes massive side effects. At one time, I had 17 of them.

I discovered that a lot of people don’t like to visit patients in the hospital.

I learned that the people you love will stick by you no matter what happens. This group includes very close friends and family members.

There is more, but most important of all, I had to accept the illness.

And in doing that, I also discovered that there are a lot of folks out there who are in worse condition than I am. And they keep going. And so do I.

Above everything, I have to turn over my will and my life to God’s care every day. I have to let God lead me down whatever paths I take now or in the future.

And that, dear readers, is the secret above all secrets. You don’t have to do it alone. I Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Have a blessed day.

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Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee


Spring blooms on tree in front of my house

“Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love” has always been one of my favorite hymns. And now, with spring’s abundance all over the place, it seems even more evident to me that God is one of love and glory is due. (Click on the link to hear the hymn.)

What is your joy factor today?

For me it is finding the beauty within and without. It’s not easy for me to see my own beauty within. I’ve spent a lifetime blaming myself, feeling sorry for myself and playing the victim. A friend told me last night, “Lots of people have a hard time forgiving themselves. You have made it an art form.”

And she is right. I find it so much easier to forgive others than to forgive myself.

But today I feel joyful. Spring is here, the trees and flowers are blooming profusely, and everyone seems to have a spring in their step.

Many years ago I had a very rough year. It was 1974. My daughter was born in February and in March someone vandalized our little house. They broke the mobile over her crib, smashed the vases from the flowers people had sent while I was in the hospital and poured cooking oil over our brand new chairs (the first new furniture we’d ever owned). Later that year, our business burned down and our best friend died suddenly. I was talking with my priest and he said, “Ellie, I once had seven years of Good Fridays, but Easter finally came.”

And that is how I feel today. Easter has come in terms of my health. I am healthier than I was a year ago, even more so than a month ago. I’ve always taken my health for granted. I will never do so again.

Anyway, I am joyful because some people recently told me I’m an inspiration to them. Wow. What a wonderful compliment that is.

I’m joyful because I have so many things to be grateful for: a comfortable and serene place to live, friends and family who care, food in my fridge and two cats who adore me! I adore them as well and have not had to get rid of them, thank God.

I am joyful because I’m getting ready to start working on my book again and know I will finally finish it.

I am joyful because I have eyes that see, a mind that works, ears that hear, feet that walk and hands that do what I tell them to do. Not everyone can say that.

I hope you are joyful during this season of renewal. Feel free to comment and tell me about your joy or to contact me by email or phone. Thanks for reading.

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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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Friends, Pets and Families


girl on couch

My friend's daughter asleep on my couch while her Dad, some friends and I moved me.

Yesterday afternoon I sat down in my nice easy chair with the cats on my lap and fell asleep for about 45 minutes. I awoke to the sound of a lawn mower, and I knew it was my friend and former neighbor over here cutting my grass. It was a welcome sound, because the grass in the back was as high as my knee (or should I say the weeds IN the grass?).

But more than that, it was a happy sound because I love my friend. He did almost all the packing when I moved, came over in the middle of the night to fix a faucet that thought it was Niagara Falls, and left straight from work the day he found out I was in the hospital so he could visit me there. He brought me flowers on Mother’s Day in 2010, helped me hang pictures and cleaned out the fireplace in my house here. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We laugh, he’s listened to me cry, and he has the greatest laugh. He’d protect me from anything or anyone, stand up for me if needed, and always has a smile on his face and a good word about life.

Pets are like people friends. They accept us for who we are, snuggle up against us to keep out the cold, and, if they’re dogs, will protect us from anyone who tries to harm us. My cats wouldn’t know how to protect me from anything…they can barely catch a slow-crawling bug as it makes its way across my hardwood floors. They try, but they’re just not very good hunters. Pets only complain if they’re hungry or in pain. They’re different from friends that way, because friends allow us to complain about anything or anyone; and, if they’re very good friends, they listen and don’t judge us.

Some people say they have a closer relationship with their friends than than with their family members. It’s understandable, don’t you think?

After all, our families suffer from the e-word syndrome — EXPECTATIONS. This is not to say that friends don’t also have expectations, because they do. However, family expectations cover years and years of everything from manners to the madcap adventures of teens and those other members who never quite got out of adolescence. Some parents and siblings say the want “the best” for us. What that really means is that they want us to be like they are — to make the same types of decisions, marry the right type of person and live our lives the way they think we should.

The difference between friends and family is often the fact that our friends really encourage us to push on toward our dreams, to give it all we have, and to be fully who we are. We rest comfortably in the fact that if we fall down, they’ll not only be there to pick us up, but they’ll also be there at three in the morning if we have a pressing need to vent about everything from boyfriends to money, from being ill to feeling crazy, or from laughing out loud to sobbing a bucket full of tears.

Lots of families are there for their relatives too. They loan or give us money, remember our birthdays and send us flowers when we’re in the hospital. My mom used to always cook my favorite meals when I would return home for a visit, and my room always had a goodie basket with things like black licorice and red vines, pretzels and apples. She always knew when something was wrong, too. I’d swear I wasn’t going to tell her what was wrong before I made the call; however, she’d ask me how I was and then tell me that I didn’t sound “fine.” So, I always told her. I believe that no matter what we think our parents did or didn’t do, they did the best they could. I know my family loves me, and I love them, even though we don’t always agree. I think I’ve finally learned to accept them exactly the way they are, too, and that feels REALLY good.

We like our friends because they let us know what great people we are. And when they criticize us, it somehow doesn’t sting as much as it does when a family member does it. But nothing felt as good to me as a hug from my mom, dad, sisters or brothers.

This is a rambling blog tonight. I know it may seem as if it almost has no “point.” But it does.

The point is that you can drive the most expensive Jaguar, live in a fabulous restored Victorian home and have $100,000 in your bank account, but if you don’t have people in your life who love you, you have nothing. You’re doubly blessed if you have a faithful Fido or comfy cat.

At the same time, you can have no money for a car of any kind, live in a neighborhood where drive-by shootings occur occasionally and live from disability check to disability check, but you have people in your family and group of friends who tell you every day they love you — and somehow life seems worthwhile after all.

We can’t change our brothers, sisters, moms or dads. We usually don’t try to change our friends. Wouldn’t it be great if we could give that same acceptance to our families and thank God every day that we even have a family?

Acceptance of others exactly the way they are brings a multitude of blessings, which include less stress, more smiles and more of a sense of purpose.

My wish for you tonight is that you cultivate acceptance of others, grin from ear to ear and understand that God loves you more than you’ll ever know.

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RESPECT – or how I’m learning to listen to others instead of myself


Bootsie and Annie, respecting each other

I’ve been thinking about the word “respect” today.  I love words. They have so many meanings and contexts. In particular, I was thinking about how we show respect to the people in our lives.

Of course, there are those whom we pretty much have to respect: our bosses, law enforcement personnel, the IRS auditor, our teachers, students, and our cats and dogs. When we were young, most of our parents demanded respect. “Obey the rules.” “Do what I say because I say to do it.” “Clean your room.” “Eat your veggies.”

What about friends and family members? How do we show respect to them, or do we?

Do we think carefully about what we say or write before we do it? Do we take their needs into account as much as we do our own?

Living in a fast-paced, technologically-oriented world, the days spin by faster than we can count them. Email, instant messaging, texting…all these take up more and more of our time. I think most people expect instant replies to messages and even to phone calls.

There was a time when if I didn’t get a response to an email within 24 hours, I started wondering what was wrong. Then I would turn that wondering inward and wonder if I had done something wrong. It was a vicious circle. The more I worried, the more I got depressed thinking that the person must be mad at me, upset at something I’d done or was just plain ignoring me.

It took me a long time to figure out that it isn’t about me. None of it. That doesn’t mean I didn’t (and still do occasionally) upset people.  I do.  But people have their own lives to live, and just because I don’t hear right back doesn’t mean they don’t care.

How often, I wonder, when a person asks for something from someone else does the person doing the asking consider the impact of that asking on the other person?

How many times, I ponder, do we project our own expectations onto the people in our lives?

In other words, if you ask someone a question and you don’t like the answer, do you show that in your tone of voice? Do you ever make judgments about someone’s life based on the answers they give to the questions you ask?

I have done all of the above.

And I don’t want to anymore.

I want to learn to respect people for where they are in their lives. I want to be the kind of person who stays calm during conversations and doesn’t get emotional or angry or frustrated. I want to be a rock in people’s lives — a rock to whom they can turn for advice, a pebble that they can toss across the water in fun, a person who makes them feel good.

Just because I don’t agree with someone doesn’t mean I don’t care. It also doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. It just means I don’t agree. Just because you don’t agree or approve of something I do or say doesn’t mean you have the right to tell me how wrong you think I am.

I spent most of my life as a person afraid to express my feelings. I thought that if I showed people how I felt they would judge me and go away. I was afraid of being alone.  I was afraid of being lonely.

If I stay focused and calm in my spiritual nature, I believe I can express my feelings in a way that doesn’t trample someone else’s reality.

In the same way, if I concentrate on helping others and on respecting their boundaries and opinions, I think I become a better person.

Look at your pet or pets. I have two calico kitties who (mostly) respect each other. When one gets in the way of the other, the first one usually moves. They chase each other up and down the hall, wait patiently to be fed, and they both have their spots next to me in bed. Recently, though, Annie has been trying to steal Bootsie’s spot. Bootsie waits until Annie is settled and then comes in on the other side of the bed to sleep in her new spot. I like that.

Respecting others doesn’t mean giving up who I am. It doesn’t mean that I’m not entitled to my opinions or that I expect others to agree with them. It does mean that I am learning to respect myself, probably for the first time in my life. (I’m a slow learner.)

And that is something worth waiting for.

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