Another Year Older (and deeper in debt)

Well, tomorrow is my birthday…the years keep rolling by…I plan to celebrate! But it brings to mind this much-loved song from my childhood (well, a little before, but I heard it a lot as a kid):

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store

— music and lyrics by Merle Travis

Well, whatever else may rain down on me, at least I’m not a coal miner. I know those who built their lives around the mines are often profoundly loyal, literally to a point of death, but from my lofty vantage point, there’s little return for the workers.

Abstract background of Department store interior , shallow depthWhen I worked part-time at a department store, I used to joke I “owed my soul to the company store.” Hey, my full-time job, at least in theory, paid the bills, so that was extra cash to spend as I pleased…and I did. I kept track, and about half of what I earned there went straight back to the company coffers.

Thirty years later, I still have some of the Marimekko dishes I purchased, one place setting at a time, always on sale, until I had nine settings (eight, plus a spare). So not everything was thrown away on clothes and makeup. The first setting I got on my birthday from my sister, Beth, who thankfully has good taste.

But I digress from my original point. Where was I going with this? Oh yes! Tomorrow is my birthday! Yup, another year older…but not really deeper in debt. Except for the debts of gratitude I owe so many people in my life.

  • My mom, who is always there for me in every way. She will sacrifice just about anything to help me. I would give her the moon if I could (although cash may be more practical).
  • My brother, who has proven his love and commitment to me in ways I can never repay. He has shown me the value of family, and more importantly, myself.
  • My dad, who is so in tune with my thinking (or I suppose it should be stated the other way around since I’m his offspring) and never fails to surprise me with just the right support when I need it most.
  • My friends Beverly and Bill, who, like family, gave me emotional and practical support, often at personal expense.
  • My best friend from college, Laurie, who “gets me” like few others — and still loves me!
  • My friend Deb, who thinks nothing of putting others before herself and finding the right gifts on any day of the year.
  • My blogging buddies, for all the support you’ve given me in the past two years, as well as the gift of your friendship…and blogs!!!

So many others, but I’ll keep the list concise so it doesn’t lose meaning.

Thank you, everyone of you, and have a piece of chocolate cake (or whatever) this Saturday — it’s my birthday, and I want to celebrate with you!

birthday cupcake

Another year older, and deeper in debt — to all who have given me love and support.


Make yourself smile today with this catchy tune from Tennessee Ernie Ford, which spent a combined 16 weeks at the top of the Billboard Top 100 and Top Country hits lists back in 1955-56. (And if you want a good laugh, look up the “Go-Go Version” on YouTube.)


Photo Credits: (Department Store) © torsakarin – Fotolia; (Birthday Cupcake) © Studio KIVI – Fotolia

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Layers & Secrets, Part 3: You Will Always Be My Friend

Dear Friend,

I know you have a secret, and I’ve got an idea what it is. Whatever it may be, it doesn’t matter to me. You will always be my friend.

AdobeStock_108510898 [Converted]We’ve had ups and downs in our friendship, and I’ve taken the blame at times when I wasn’t at fault. I finally figured that out. But here’s the thing: I don’t blame you, either. Life is complicated, and the blame is widespread. You’re doing the best you can.

You’re a complex person. I like that.

When you want to talk, I’m here.

Your friend,

Belinda

Image Credit: ©geosap — Fotolia

Layers and Secrets: A Message to My Friend, Part 2

Years ago a woman I knew casually was tragically killed in a senseless accident. Since her roommate was close friends with my roommate, I was in on a lot of details surrounding her death I would have preferred not to have known.

But one incident stood out in a humorous way. The woman who had died was a tough broad, whose style can best be described as “woodsman’s.”  There was little femininity about her, in appearance or manner. Yet hidden underneath her bed her roommate found not one, not a dozen, but hundreds of Harlequin romances. She had her girly side, you could say.
Two Woman
Since then my former roommate and I always speculate what friends and relatives will find “under the bed” when a loved one dies. We all have our secrets; few in my circle would ever acknowledge reading romance novels of that genre, but who knows what they’re pulling out from under their pillow as they prepare to sleep?

Some of those secrets can be heartbreaking to learn. Discovering your loved one had a secret love could be painful, perhaps even beyond what it needs to be. Decades ago, a friend of my mom’s was killed in a plane accident. She was a flight attendant (well, stewardess, it was that long ago), and up until a short time before this flight, she’d been having an affair with the pilot, who was married. They’d called it off and agreed not to fly together again, personally or professionally.

However, she was on call to work that day, and had to work to fill in for a sick colleague. Everyone on the flight died in the crash. When I learned their story, I wondered, did the pilot’s wife know about the affair?  Did she think her husband lied to her when he said it was over and he’d never fly with this young woman again? As far as anyone in the know was aware, the affair truly was a thing of the past. But that man’s wife may have lived out the rest of her years thinking otherwise.

Or she may never have known a thing about any of it.

As I write this I’m pondering what secrets I have that family and friends could learn after I die. Hopefully that’s ages away, but what if it happened sooner? I honestly can’t think of anything, yet I’m a private person, so there undoubtedly are things about me that would surprise others. Hopefully not dismay, but I make no promises.

I believe in keeping some secrets. It doesn’t need to be deceitful to go to your grave without revealing all sides of yourself to the world. Those who are left to learn the truth, however, need to be forgiving and kind, even to the departed.

(This is part 2 in a 3-part series on Layers and Secrets. Watch for part 3 in two weeks!)

 

Image Credit (Two Women) © Kriminskaya — Bigstock

Layers and Secrets: A Message to My Friend, Part 1

The day after my brother’s wedding reception, the family and a few close friends gathered at his and my sister-in-law Ann’s apartment.

It was about as a casual an occasion as you can imagine, so I took out my knitting. I happened to be using some beautiful hand-carved needles for a project made of angora and lambswool. Ann’s friend David, an artist, took note of the needles.

“They’re a piece of art by themselves,” he commented, and graciously asked me about what I was making. In turn, I told him how beautifully he’d sung the night before, something I’m sure he was used to hearing. David has a phenomenal voice; at one time he was a soloist in the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus. Let me assure you that is an accomplishment.

We had a really pleasant conversation. Seventeen years later, I still look forward to the time we speak again. David later commented to my brother how nice I was, and my brother was  certain he hadn’t spoken to me. Nice? Not how viewed his sister.

I am nice, to a fault. But while I can be very, very good, I can also be horrid. Less so as I’ve gotten older, I suppose, but yes, I can be nasty. Family dynamics being what they are, I’m guessing this was a time when there was more tension between my brother and me than happiness.

December 2014
Friends typically are taken aback by this shot of me from Dec. 2014. I generally look so much “nicer.”

A few years ago I went through a hell I’m working hard to move past, and it changed me. Initially I found I was much better able to stand up for myself, and a layer of anger seemingly charged all of my actions. The anger still exists, but it’s only a small part of the whole now.

Sometimes, though, my anger and frustration can’t help but eak out, and I have to have a long talk with myself. I choose not to become someone who resorts to passive-aggressive tactics to communicate her feelings, but in order to do that, I have to monitor what I’m feeling and and why.

I am not someone it’s easy to get to know. I constantly surprise those who think they know me well with an offhand comment that reveals I’m not so naÏve or sheltered as they think I am. I frequently hide much of myself from others and conform to their image of me. It’s easier that way.

The blessing for me in all of this is I understand people are more complex than we often realize. I tend to be less surprised about someone’s hidden talents or quirks because I accept that that is the norm. We all have layers we hide beneath the everyday aspects of ourselves.

Layers, and secrets.

(A three-part series on Layers and Secrets.  Look for Part 2 next week!)

Layers

Peace and Grief

“Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.”
― Helen Keller

If you believe in an afterlife, as I do, than you believe my friend Laurie’s brother Monte is whole now, healed from the cancer that took him from us. More than that, he is free from all other physical, mental and emotional constraints that held him back in this world. Helen Keller’s blindness was a significant disability, yet we all exist in an imperfect state, and there are things we too don’t “see” in this life, things that limit us in other ways.

While there is a peace that comes from faith, there is still grieving. Family & friends will miss his laugh, his strong opinions, his kind heart. A good man was taken from us way too young. Monte would have been 50 this August.

My thoughts, prayers and love go to Laurie and her family, as well as all who cared about Monte. Thank you to those of you who prayed for him and Laurie in the past few days.


Image Credit: © pelinni — Bigstock

Facing the Fire

One of my best friends’ heart is breaking this week.

Her younger brother is dying of cancer; he may be gone by the time you read this. He was diagnosed several years ago and immediately went in for surgery. After the surgery, he developed an infection, which prevented him from getting chemotherapy in a timely manner. Despite that, once he did receive that treatment it initially seemed to be successful, however, eventually the cancer spread, and he will lose his battle.

He is a man of faith,

and while this is not a blog about spiritual things, it’s important to know I share his faith and look forward to an eternity of fullness with God. I speak of it here only because for a long time I wondered if I really believed in an afterlife. Faith is a funny thing. You speak the words, but do you believe them? When I learned how close this young man was to death, my immediate thought was, soon he will be with his Savior. My faith, thankfully, is real.

Stormy skies IIIMy friend, Laurie, has faced so much in recent years. I don’t know how she bears it, but she does it with grace and humor. And probably the occasional meltdown. About seven or eight years ago her husband Dave, whose mental state had been failing steadily throughout their marriage, was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. He was on the verge of death when he had his surgery. Fortunately, he’s had an incredible recovery from that trauma — and it is a trauma, don’t let the word benign fool you — but his troubles weren’t over.

Sometimes the hits keep coming.

About the time Laurie’s brother was declared cancer-free, before it came back with a vengeance, and maybe four years after her husband’s brain surgery, Dave was diagnosed with the exact same kind of cancer her brother had. She was in shock. Thankfully, mercifully, his treatment went beautifully, and he was cancer-free at the end of the chemo treatments.

Except — wait — a brand-new tumor developed three months later. So they started all over again. By this time they knew her brother was in dire straits, and while Dave’s situation still looked a whole lot better, it was cancer. Cancer is a bitch.

Oh, I forgot to mention. During this entire time Laurie’s mom’s health was steadily failing. She died last December.

Dave is cancer-free now and we’re believing the best.

It can be a lonely journey sometimes.

Those of you who’ve been through this sort of thing know the myriad of challenges that come along with trials like these. Laurie has had to take time off of work and that has put a strain on her relationship with her employer. Their finances have taken a hit.

The golden moments have come from their children. Their incredible daughter will be a junior in college next year and their adorable son graduates from high school shortly. Thank God for healthy, happy children, although Laurie is aware there are probably issues from the time Dave’s mental state was deteriorating.

lightstock_209357_medium_user_7579580 [Converted]There are people in our lives who face a far greater share of life’s challenges than others well before they should. Laurie had more than a few burdens to bear before this as well, but her faith, her family, her friends have carried her through the hard times.

I went through a hell myself of an entirely different sort several years ago and she was there for me. We need people who have faced the fire and survived to help keep us strong. How unfair that seems, so let me be strong for my friends in return.

I will face the fire with you.


Image Credits: (SuperWoman) © Pearl — Lightstock (Sailboat in Storm) © brickrena — BigStock (Stormy Skies) water © AG — Fotolia; skies © Andrii Salivon – Fotolia; clock © Jakub Krechowicz – Fotolia; dock © Filip Miletic — Fotolia