The Power of the GIRL

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Not only am I collector of days, but I realized last night while writing in my journal that I am also a collector of GIRLS. Powerful girls, strong women, vulnerable females, tender-hearted moms, sweet-spirited ladies, active and vibrant / bold and daring women, developing and flowering teen-agers – all things bright and beautiful, all magnificent creatures, we women!

The phenomenon of having women in my life circle is relatively new to me. When I was a preacher’s wife, I had few female friends, and I can count on the fingers of my two hands those with whom I felt safe enough to confide in and to open myself up to. There were plenty of women in the churches that we served that I knew and liked; I just never felt secure enough to let my guard down to get to know them or let them get to know me, the real me. Those special women from my preacher‘s wife days who follow my blog know who you are. You each have a special place on one of my counting fingers, and I treasure you even after all these years.

During the years of my second marriage, I still did not develop strong personal friendships. I had workplace friends, for sure. But very few of these friendships spilled out into my personal life, and only a small number have stuck with me to form a new bond of friendship that was born in the workplace, but has spread over the years into deep, lasting personal women friendships. Again, those of you who are reading my blog know who you are. Hint: TAPPI and CoreNet Global!

Last night as I was counting my blessings and writing in my journal, I realized the circles of women friends that have somehow found their way into my life today. These circles sometimes intersect, and I find women friends in more than one circle, making the friendships even richer and more precious. I am so very thankful for these women.

My “Girls”. This is a small intimate group of women, ranging in age from 22 to my wonderful age of 69. I call these fabulous women “Jennie’s Girls”, and have adopted them as my own. Even though the age range is widespread, we are the best of friends and have found common ground for building our intertwined lives into a fortress of support and love. I have discovered that age is meaningless among My Girls, and we love the time we spend together.

The Wednesday Morning Prayer Posse: I joined this group about a year-and-a-half ago. I wasn’t sure if I would fit in, but this special group of women embraced me and my peculiar notions and ideas, and made me one of them. When I was asked by a family member about a year ago about perhaps moving to be closer to my family, I responded by saying that I had my posse here, and I didn’t want to leave them. When I shared this with the girls, it was unanimous that we would from that day on be the Prayer Posse. And that’s what we are! We share our innermost joys, challenges, and struggles, and we pray for each other continuously. I love my Prayer Posse more than I ever thought I would be able to love.

Knit ‘n’ Pearls: If you are a follower of my blog, you already know about this circle of Christian women. They are my rock. They have stood by me through thick and thin, and I can’t imagine my life without my knitting needles, my little felt tote bag, and these fantastic women of faith.

Exercise Class: This is a new group for me. With the nudging of one of my friends from my knitting group, I rounded up all of the introvert courage I had, and hesitantly walked through the doors into the gym at our local recreation center for an hour of exercise class. It was tough – at first. I have a really hard time going into an unfamiliar setting where there are people I don’t know. It didn’t take long, however, for me to meet some fantastic women who exercise there two mornings a week. And what is amazing to me is how friendly these women are. They came right up to shy me, introduced themselves, engaged me in conversation, and we were up and running. My circle of strong women friends has grown substantially through this group.

My childhood, high school, and college girlfriends: through the wonders of Facebook, I have reconnected with friends from my high school and college years. I follow their lives on a daily basis, and they keep up with mine. I have found that it is this group of friends, although I seldom actually see any of them in person, who are my cheerleaders, the supporters of my writing endeavors, and the ones who comment on and enjoy the things I post on my Facebook page. I admire these women, whose lives vary so greatly, and who don’t live in my town, and enjoy immensely reading about their children, their grandchildren, and their lives. I am thankful for the connection that Facebook has given to us.

There is a scripture in the Bible about a mighty cloud of witnesses. I’m not sure what the context of this scripture is, but when I think about the GIRLS in my life, I picture them as a mighty cloud of witnesses. They are the women who are survivors, thrivers, fighters, lovers, nurturers, adventurers, home-makers, trail-blazers, sympathizers, activists, teachers, healers, artists, creators, and so much more. And I am one of them.

We are women.We are powerful.  We are special.

Amen.

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The Story of the Knitted Scarf

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I finished knitting a scarf today. Just in time for winter, you might say, but that wouldn’t be quite accurate. You see, I’ve been working on this particular blue scarf for well over a year! I think I began knitting it the summer of 2016!

     This is a huge accomplishment for me, and one that I wondered if or when I would ever knit the last stitch. I can’t believe it is done! Now, I have a new task ahead of me – to go out and buy a skein of yarn to begin another one.
     “What’s this all about?” you might be asking. “And why did it take you so long to knit a scarf? It can’t be that complicated or difficult, can it?”
      Here’s the deal.
      I have been a member of the Knit ‘n’ Pearls group at my church ever since it was created about seven years ago. I never claimed to be good at knitting, but I liked the women who formed the group and wanted to be a part of it. So, I bought a skein of yarn, a set of knitting needles, placed them into a little felt tote bag, and off I went to the new knitting group.
     Over the years, we have knitted baby caps for the local hospital, prayer shawls for shut-ins and people needing a little something comforting to wrap up in, and other items to give away or sell at the church’s Christmas bazaar. We also share patterns and ideas for projects at our meetings, along with prayer concerns and a devotional. We sit around the table relating bits of our lives and histories to one another, laughing a lot, and even crying at times.
     This particular group of women took me under their collective wing when I was going through a very dark and troubling period of my life a few years back, never judging me or berating me for my foolishness, but always lifting me up, supporting me, and praying for me. I will never be able to thank them enough or repay them for all that they did for me during that time. I love them dearly!
     I am the only member of this special group who isn’t retired. They all have more time to spend on their knitting than I do, and they have made some beautiful things – socks, sweaters, hats, blankets, scarves, and shawls. I am in absolute awe of their talent! Since I am still a working girl, it naturally takes me a lot longer to bring something to completion.
     Truth is, my knitting needles and yarn are primarily my prop, my admission ticket to the group. The ladies don’t care if I only knit a couple of rows each time we meet, or that I sit at the table, needles in hand but not doing anything with them, listening to their stories and adding a few of my own from time to time. They don’t care that I seldom finish anything, but bring the same tote bag to the group each week, clearly displaying that my unfinished scarf hasn’t left it since I put it away at the last meeting. They don’t care how slow I am. They are always happy to see me, and I am happy to be joining them at the round table where we sit each week. I love being part of this wonderful group.
     It’s taken a long time, but week by week, month by month, and row by row my scarf has grown longer and longer until today when I measured it by my height from end to end – the measuring stick I used to plot my progress – it was as long as I am tall.
     Today I finished the blue scarf I’ve been working on for what seems like forever. After binding it off, the ladies had me model it and took a photo to capture this momentous occasion, as my Great Accomplishment. They have been cheering me on for months as I ever so slowly knitted my way to this auspicious day.
     There is a lesson or two embedded in this tale of Jennie’s Knitting Project. I’m going to leave it up to my blog readers to discover for yourselves what it might be for you.
     As for me, the lesson is clear. It’s not necessarily what you make with your hands, or how long it takes to make it. What is important is who is sitting with you at the round table.

A Heart-to-Heart Conversation with Facebook

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Facebook, you and I need to have a little talk.

When I signed on to social media in 2008, I did so at the urging of my son-in-law, who told me Facebook was a great way to keep up with my family and friends and to share photos and life experiences with them. It would also be a quick way, he assured me, to check in with my family to know what was going on in their lives and to keep them updated on what was happening in mine.

Facebook, you have let me down. Or rather, people on Facebook have let me down. And I am angry that I can’t visit you now and then to touch base with my family and friends without getting upset. Instead, when I open my Facebook page, I am bombarded with stuff I have no desire to see, hear, or know about.

I’m talking primarily about the recent presidential election. I was for neither candidate, and I felt that we had pretty poor choices for our country’s leadership. But one of them was elected, and I am still – three months later – reading horrible things from both camps about the other. I understand that you are an avenue for people to express their opinions and beliefs, but I don’t understand why I have to read through these in an effort to find the kind of news I want to see. Before you were part of my life, I didn’t know (or care) who won the Golden Globe Award or what the winner’s speech was about. I wasn’t subjected to venomous rantings about people who followed certain political parties (and I am talking about BOTH of them). I wasn’t exposed to the hatred that seems to permeate throughout the postings on your pages.

I have already unfriended some folks that I really care about, because they are using you as their platform for airing their grievances, fears, and anger to the universe. And I am seriously considering saying goodbye to you altogether. I hate to do this, because I truly enjoy keeping in touch with my Facebook friends, looking at photos of children and grandchildren, learning about travel and life events, finding delicious new recipes and neat DIY ideas, and offering up a prayer when someone is hurting or ill. This week I have watched as my son travels cross-country to his new home in California from New York, and I have savored each message and photo that he has posted along his way. I have also celebrated a few birthdays with some dear friends, and have read about life milestones, major decisions, and other bits of personal news that I wouldn’t know about if it weren’t for your presence in my life.

Facebook, I have tried to figure out a way to block messages that I don’t want to look at. As a librarian, I would love to catalog them into neat little boxes, and then have the ability to choose those categories I want to look at. But I don’t have that luxury or choice, beyond your birthday bar on my personal bulletin board. I have to plow through the venom to get to the new grandchild, the family reunion, the latest travel destination, or the graduation celebration.

On a personal basis, I have to admit that I am easily sucked in. I have a hard time scrolling past items that look distasteful to me. I am compelled to give them a quick perusal, almost always ending up with an upset stomach and angrily clicking off of you until I can settle down and breathe normally. This is not my idea of social media. It seems more like anti-social media to me.

I don’t know what to do, Facebook.

I am holding on by a thread and not pulling the plug completely yet, because I know you have many redeeming qualities that I value. But I am not happy with you, Facebook, not one bit. And I’m not sure what to do about it.

For now, I think I will continue to write in my blog and share my collection of days with my Facebook friends. And, yes, I will use you as my portal for sharing what I write. I will also post photos on your pages that I want to save and share.

But I’m going to have to think long and hard about what our relationship is going to be for the future. Facebook, you and I are in serious trouble. I think we need to separate for awhile and give each other some needed space. Whether we split for good will be something to consider down the road. I am hoping our relationship can be salvaged and that we can reconcile our problems. There is so much good in you, and so much potential, I can’t cut the cord quite yet.

Facebook, I have some thinking to do.

Reunion!!

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I did it. I almost backed out, but I didn’t. I went to my 50-year high school reunion last night. Thanks to a wonderful posse of long-time friends, I fought back my childish insecurities, sending them packing to the far corners of my brain, and I went.

I had a wonderful time. It was amazing.

It was a 50- year reunion for most, but for me it was 52 years, since I moved away from my hometown the summer before my junior year. And one of the best serendipities of the event was the representation from my elementary school. There was a bunch of us there who grew up and went through the grades together. It was more than wonderful seeing these kids again.

While some faces seemed to be ageless, I had to do a little bit of searching on others to discover the teenager that I remembered. But they were there, just beneath the surface, and once conversations began, they emerged in smiles and were easily recognizable. It was a night of remembrance, celebration, and yes, even healing of old wounds.

There were several discoveries. Among them was the realization that I still have no sense of rhythm and am a terrible dancer. But nobody seemed to care, and I was whirled around the dance floor a few times by a boy who grew up around the corner from my childhood home. Another good friend and I did our best to catch up on a half century, and finally concluded that there is much more to talk about, with a promise that we will keep in touch and find out more areas where our lives strike similar chords. Hugs were plentiful all night long, as I ran into people from my past, and as others searched me out.

I think we were the best looking group of grownups (I refuse to use the term “senior citizens”) I’ve ever seen in one place – the most interesting, fun-loving, and friendliest. Although I was hesitant about going, and even somewhat nervous upon my arrival at the registration table, it all evaporated with the first, and then the second, and followed by a quick third hug from old friends. And one old wound in particular found its healing touch in the form of a smile, a hug, and a warm greeting from one I was especially apprehensive, yet eager, to see again. From that moment on, all was well with me, a load was lifted, and I was able to fully enjoy the evening.

50 years – for some who didn’t make it this far with us – they were honored in a special display of remembrance. It was tough walking over to that board and looking at the photos of those who have passed on. How I would love to see them, to remember special times with them, and to embrace them one more time. It’s all a part of reunion, but not the part that we like or enjoy. They were truly missed last night.

And so, today, I return to my home, my life, and my adult world. I feel different this morning. Tears well up in my eyes without my bidding, my heart is full to overflowing, and I am very, very grateful.

I want to thank my wonderful friends who encouraged me to attend, who stood by me and had my back, and who love me for the sometimes insecure, introverted adolescent who at times sneaks back into my life. You’re the best!!

Reunions such as this one remind us that history, and having a history, is a very good thing!

My Friend, Big John

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I had to say goodbye to a very special friend today. When we were teenagers, he was Johnny, but when we reunited in 2008, he was affectionately known by everyone he knew as Big John.

I didn’t know that today was going to be the day. If I had known, I would have gone to his house for a visit yesterday. I’ve been going over to see him almost every week for the past two years. When his health declined, he asked me if I would pick up his mail at the post office for him. Of course, I said I would, and even during the times when he was better and able to drive, I still got his mail. I think he enjoyed my visits, and didn’t want them to stop. I enjoyed them, too, and never suggested that I return his mailbox key. Some afternoons he’d phone me and ask me to stop and pick up a hamburger or fish dinner for him, or something from the grocery store, on my way home from work. I was always happy to do so.

I found him this morning when I delivered his mail. The door was open, and his keys were still in the lock. I called out his name, with no response. I stepped into the house, wondering why the door wasn’t closed. He hadn’t answered the phone when I called him to tell him I was on my way, like he usually did. I knew something wasn’t right. He was in his lounge chair – asleep, I thought – at first. I didn’t want to disturb him. I knew he had trouble sleeping, and recently had been having problems with his breathing. I didn’t want to startle him, but then it sunk in. I gently touched his arm, feeling its coolness and knew he was gone.

I stood next to him for a few minutes wishing he would wake up, but knowing he wouldn’t. He looked so peaceful resting there, my heart sang and wept in harmony. Finally, I pulled out my phone from my pocket and dialed 9-1-1.

Soon a police officer arrived, followed by paramedics, and then the coroner.

I knew this day was coming. Just last week on my visit with Big John, I sensed something different – maybe a look in his eyes? Or was there something in his voice when I asked him how he was doing, and his reply, as always, was, “I’m doing well. What have you been up to?” Or the way he hugged me, and said when I got ready to leave, “I love ya, darlin’.” I stayed longer that day than I usually did; I didn’t want to go. I told a friend later in the day that I didn’t believe Big John would be with us much longer. But I’m not ready to say goodbye today.

Big John helped me through the toughest two years of my life. He listened, offered advice, propped me up when I was weak and frightened, and cheered me on during those dark days. I will forever be grateful to him for his love, his loyalty, and for the special bond of friendship that we shared. I think he was Big John because he had such a big, big heart.

So now, my friend, I must say goodbye. Soar with the angels on warm and gentle winds, free from the oxygen tubes and insulin needles that held you down.

Please check on me now and then, Big John. I’ll be watching for you.