Let The Games Begin…


And so it begins again. Tomorrow is the first day of school here where I live and I will be working again, but in a more random capacity. I’ve worked there all summer, helping wherever I was needed. It was fun actually: with the halls quiet and peaceful.

But tomorrow they will be filled with the excited (and loud) voices of our returning students and the nervous, tiny Kindergarten kids. Lucky for them we will all be there to help them all handle the first day and rein in their jitters.

There are some new teachers this year too–including a man! Whoop whoop. That place needs a balance of testosterone if you ask me, so it will be interesting to see how the kids feel about him. And there is an older (like me) new long-term sub also, which I am happy to see.

All in all, it will be an interesting year. No more full-time lunchroom duty for me! Hooray!! And I also offered to sub in the classrooms, which could turn out to be a total disaster, but we’ll give it a try. Mostly, I actually enjoy the administrative, boring stuff. It’s funny because the teachers keep telling me I’m a hero for helping them laminate, staple and collate. And I think to myself: from saving lives as a paramedic to saving these teachers… hmmm?

They assure me they would have a heart attack without me. But….

I’m not so sure.

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It Takes Kids


If we are lucky, we end up getting more than we expect from something we undertake. So has been the case with the job I started back in December. Just a very part-time and simple one as a lunch room monitor in a very small Charter school, something I honestly felt might not fulfill me as much as my career as a paramedic, but took because of logistical reasons. As it turns out, this non-career position may end up being one of the most satisfying jobs I’ve ever had in some important ways.

I was asked a month or so ago by a co-worker if I would be interested in participating in a 5K race that a bunch of kids and staff members were doing. This race was a two-part thing: one a regular 5K to benefit the Girl Scouts, but the other was called Girls On The Run to get local girls to get psyched and get out there and see what they could do. My co-worker knew I worked out, so approached me and I said: of course! Not really knowing what I was supposed to do though, I registered for the Girl Scout part, which was timed.

Meanwhile, the girls at my school trained, and in the lunch room, we all talked about the upcoming day which happened to be today.

It was held in a lovely park right as the sun was coming up. I haven’t raced in years and planned to just speed walk. The girls were excited and it was great to see some of the teachers out of work.

When the race started, I held to my plan for a bit, but since I had been having a pretty good work out regimen lately (and I’m way too competitive), I thought I’d try jogging just a bit. The paved trail in the park was surrounded by grass, so I was able to jog on it for much of the time. Since the Girls On The Run race started 5 minutes later, a few of the kids passed me and we cheered each other on. One teacher (who had planned to walk too, but was running), passed me also as did a friend’s son. I ended up jogging slowly almost the whole way. It was a miracle.

At the finish line, we all had fun cheering the school in (and collecting thin mints). And it was really crazy when we found out some of us actually placed in our age groups; including me! I was second in mine! Pays to be old. Of course I was 10 minutes behind the first woman, but hey: as a famous woman runner once said, “A win is a win!”

But the really best part was having the girls calling out my name along the way and saying hi, having one teacher telling me how much she loved me (I actually thought she never noticed me), having the kindergarten teacher introduce me to her Mom telling her about how I’m in her class and just hearing from folks how the kids love me (I was asked to be one of the coaches next year).

I worked for 20 years as a medic and rarely got warm fuzzies. Maybe it just takes children and their natural ability for giving joy and love to finally make someone like me feel good in my place of employment!

Joy Through Sacrifice


Watching an interesting TED talk today about a young Arctic surfer (yes, you heard me right, that was Arctic surfer), he said something that really struck me–not about surfing, but about sacrifice. As you can imagine, someone who surfs in frigid waters does a fair amount of sacrificing.  He does it in part to get away from the normal tropic crowds, but also to take these amazing photographs. To paraphrase very loosely he said something like: most things worth any kind of real joy usually involve some kind of sacrifice.

That gave me pause.

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I began thinking about some of the things that take sacrifice but bring joy:

  • 9 months of carrying a baby: the worrying, the weight gain, the hormone shifts, the vomiting, the swelling, the potential dangers involved…
  • being in a relationship: any kind really. It’s constant ups and downs, bargaining (with the kids, partners, co-workers, family members), tears, give/take, compromises, giving away parts of yourself at times
  • having a dream or goal: these can take huge amounts of time, money, changes in lifestyle and re-evaluating ourselves for the final outcome
  • moving somewhere new: leaving friends and family behind; leaving a career or job, doing something scary, taking a leap of faith
  • starting over (with a job/a person/or alone: leaving your comfort zone, stretching parts of yourself you may not know you had, or totally remaking yourself
  • helping others or someone else: living with less than normal, learning about other cultures (which maybe is uncomfortable), focusing less on “me”
  • giving up something completely: getting used to life “without”, feeling what it’s like when others perceive because we are now “different”
  • changing our point of view for the greater good: getting into arguments (political/family?), battling within ourselves over the old point of view, reconciling what’s right/wrong
  • coming out: about our sexual orientation, addictions, mental health, illness, abuse, political view or anything else we’ve been keeping inside for fear of judgement, shame or condemnation
  • sharing our home with animals: limiting our work day, getting up in the middle of the night, cleaning up hair, poop and vomit off the floor
  • Waiting: for anything you want, it can be excruciating at times because we are a culture of wanting everything now, having patience is like hot iron swirling in our bellies…the loss of precious time while we wait
  • standing up for what you believe when others around you don’t agree: this can be going to rallies or being a vegan, it can bring agitation or arguments from others, confrontations or simply tiresome questions
  • sharing our home with children: never having peace and quiet (or rarely); suddenly realizing you have to sacrifice so much and become a very good teacher when you hardly know yourself (or much else for that matter…)

There are so many more things…what can you add to the list? And it all comes down to mindset like anything else really. We give to get. Nothing comes easily really.  It seems like many things feel like work these days, and trying to pick out the little pieces of joy can be tough. But when you think about the sacrifices we make all adding up to something beautiful–that it’s the wrapping surrounding the gift inside, then it doesn’t feel quite so much like drudgery. 

So when you are climbing that next mountain and it feels like hell: the boots are giving you blisters, the sweating like a banshee and the mosquitoes buzzing around your head: remember that when you get to the top you will see this incredible view of the world below. Every step you took to get there was worth what lies before you as you look out. See it as you breathe the joy and try to remember that you couldn’t have experienced the splendor without a bit of pain.

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Beginning Of The End


So Monday starts the beginning of the end. Well, at least I think so. Monday is my first day of my new job at the hospital. What I suspect is, that it may be the last time that I work in this  type of job–official so to speak, a business, corporation, a career-type position. I will be 60 this year and am mostly here to be near my Mom.  When she’s not here any longer…well, who knows?

My last 20 years in the Emergency Medical field was ambiguous. It had it’s tremendously high moments as you can imagine, but it also left me–as an employee–often feeling inadequate.

There were, of course, a whole range of reasons that this was the case: the poor system of compensation, the attitude of fellow co-workers, the absolute rarity of a woman climbing any sort of ladder upward, poor management in most places, small town politics… Well, you get the picture.

I’m know I was partly to blame.

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When I first came to the field, I was very naive and hopeful. My aim was to help people and save lives. It became quickly apparent that this golden ring was almost a pipe-dream, and only grasped by paying the piper. Bitterness of many others I met along the way turned my attitude sour as well and the grinding days of low pay, long hours and patients without real emergencies took its inevitable toll. I simply became one of the caustic, crabby paramedics just doing a job.

When I had moments of clarity and was able to stand back and look at myself, I was saddened and ashamed of what I had become. It was not what I had ever intended. Never did I want to become impatient with those ‘frequent flyers’ or gossipy at work and angry with fellow co-workers. But the years ground me down into a person I did not like anymore.

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It is partly why I have stepped away and decided to retire. Believe me, it was a very hard choice to make. Becoming a paramedic was not easy for me and giving it up I do with a heavy heart. But I always said when I could no longer do it with joy every day, then it was time. And so it is….

So now I have a chance to recreate myself in a new job. See if I can be a better co-worker, an employee that my company embraces as much as I will embrace it. As I step through the doors Monday, I have many, many years of knowing what not to do for sure–and surely there were some things I did right too.

Hopefully now I can get it mostly right and enjoy each day that my alarm clock goes off telling me a new work week has begun!

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Too Small


Inspired by the movie “The Woman In Gold,” I have begun to read the book titled “The Lady In Gold,” by Anne-Marie O’Connor. It is about a famous painting by the Viennese artist Klimt which was stolen during the Nazi invasion of Vienna by Hitler, along with many other Jewish treasures and artwork.

The book goes into much detail about the horrors of that time and it has hung heavy on my heart. And I realize, though, it seems not much different from today.

When I woke up this morning, after having dreams about German invasions of a hospital (because of my new job offer at a hospital I suppose), I turned on the radio and heard about the San Bernardino shooting.

My early walk had already been filled with thoughts of what a violent species we were, and questions about why this was so. And here it was yet again! More death, more unnecessary bloodshed.

NPR was profiling the current types of people who do these sorts of things: the outcasts, the unhappy childhood, the ones that feel separate or not a part or who have been rejected. This was even Hitler! It’s shocking. But what makes that one person turn on their fellow human and decide to harm them–sometimes en masse?

Sometimes this person is so extreme in their behavior they are able to recruit others–even change a nation to be brutal! Slavery of any kind is also a kindred kind of violence unleashed upon others and is filled with superiority and hatred.

In looking through history, what little I know of it, it seems that many indigenous people did not act in these types of ways. There may have been some tribal fighting, but the random ethnic cleansing due to insecure and hateful personalities of individuals seems to be missing.

I often wonder if we are mutating to possess some gene that carries this violence within us. I pray we do not. There are days I fear turning on the radio and simply feel numb when I hear about more dead.

How do we stop this march? How do we make these people feel more a part? Can you start to sense when someone might do a heinous thing and help them see it is not the answer? Are we all simply lost?

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Maybe work places need to provide more time for employees to meet, gather and really talk. And make sure everyone’s mental health is stable. We need to really start caring about one another: our co-workers, neighbors, family members–even people you just meet in the street.

Because if we all are going to live in this volatile world together, then we are each responsible for the action of another. The earth is getting too small to believe otherwise!

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When It Rains…


There have been times in my life where I have felt like I’ve been on a ship that keeps taking on water and I’m unable to fill the buckets to keep it from sinking. I saw the life boats around me, and maybe I even grabbed one and drift on it for a day or two–but somehow I always seemed to end up back on the ship, slowing sinking below the unknown.

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Luckily, those days are long gone. Partly due to circumstance, but mostly because I consciously decided to get off that unseaworthy vessel. It was time to put Her to rest and walk on terra firma!

Once that was decided and I shook off the dark and gloom that had surrounded so much of my life, events began to change. Not only did I see the world as a brighter place, but the tide of my life actually became gentler, more beautiful and bountiful. It’s all in how we decide to pass through this world and craft we chose to carry us.

Today was example of this bounty. So much serendipity was at play today, only explained by the act of some joyful spirit!

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I’ve been applying for jobs for some months and had an interview for one back in October but never heard more. In the mean time, I’ve been madly putting in applications. Today I had another interview at a hospital (the other one wasn’t in one). After the interview had been scheduled, I still put in a couple more apps to that hospital as they seemed ‘receptive’ to me.

My first stop was HR, where a blustery gal simply told me about salary and benefits, then sent me to the OR about a second application I had put in there. So actually, there were two positions I was eligible for in this hospital, both kind of the same, and both ‘foot in the door’ type positions.

A very nice gal, an RN I believe, showed me the way to a conference room while we waited for a big wig (I believe he was one of the Docs). Another very nice RN came to wait with us. As we chatted, they both came to the conclusion that my talents were going to be wasted on the job I had applied for and ran to get the head nurse so they could recommend me for a better and more responsible position within the OR.

Honestly, I was honored and flabbergasted. It was like all my wishes and hopes suddenly came together in that one moment. The Big Cheese RN interviewed me, as did the Doc when he finally arrived, and the final decision was that the team needed me for this primary role! So HR was called immediately to change everything around. Truly, I was almost brought to tears.

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HR told me they would call me. So I walked back to my car, quite elated thinking about how I almost did not apply to the second job in the OR! When I turned my phone back on, there was a call from the job from October–I knew it most likely was an offer at long last. Which it turned out to be.

When in rains it pours.

So now–what to do? Not long after I got home, HR from the hospital called to offer me that position for sure! I took it! Better money, better place and using my 20 years in healthcare. Plus it was all just so….meant to be….

Even if the other job had called just one week ago, or maybe even days ago, I might have been inclined to take it. But they called while I was in the interview. And those amazing women saw my worth–something I have not felt in a very long time! Why wouldn’t I want to be among those sorts of people? It was such an incredible feeling: like I’ve been saying: karma.

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Now the HR hoops to jump through: pee in a cup, prove I’m not a criminal, getting vaccines because I’m too old to show that I really had the mumps etc., buy scrubs–but nothing compared to the raft I’ve been on. That turbulent sea of job hunting, riding out the waves of refusals and applications.

Instead I can be prepared to step onto the shore and face the new horizon. And with my sea legs I am ready to walk on stable ground. And with the ups and downs of not knowing, maybe the “sea sickness” will eventually be gone too!

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New Growth


This summer has not only been a time of budding new plants, vegetables, shrubs and trees, but also a time of growth for me. As I grow older, it becomes easier to notice the changes within myself. Maybe because I take certain things more slowly, react more cautiously, contemplate more deeply and feel on a totally different level. Whatever the reason, there are times I feel as though I stand outside looking in, watching my interactions and hoping now that I do the right thing.

It’s been a challenging week. There was a difficult interaction with a co-worker, one who from the very first day has had difficulties with me. Her own demons make trying to do right by her almost impossible (try as I might), so after eight years I’m frustrated, exhausted and ready to be done with it all. When you’ve hit a wall with someone, enough is a enough. There is so much wasted time at work fixing mistakes, smoothing hurt feelings, mending gossip and defending myself. I simply can’t take much more. And with little support from management, well, it’s been tough.

In the past, I would engage with this co-worker and loop in my own head. But this time I was able to keep my cool. While the dirt was tossed at me, a calmness swept over me and I could see through what was going on and did not let myself be pulled into the maelstrom. Instead, I stepped away, got my documentation in order and instead will simply prove she was not telling the truth. It was oddly satisfying and sad at the same time. When dealing with an ill person it’s not completely gratifying when they get in trouble, but by the same token, the turmoil created must end.

On another note, the man my Mom has lived with for years fell on Thursday. It’s a long story, but he ended up breaking his femur. It’s not as bad as it could have been, but he will be in rehab. Luckily he did not need surgery. At 91 or 92, he never would have survived. The sad part is that now my Mom realizes he will have to go into an assisted living care facility after he leaves rehab–if he does leave. His dementia is getting so bad now and she just can’t handle it all anymore.

I was so happy that she and I have been talking again. Honestly, we’ve never been closer. And my oldest daughter, who can be distant from us, called her immediately upon hearing. She was kind and had a generous heart about it all.

Here too, I realized had I not backed down and reached out to my Mother, she would have been going through this alone. I’ve been hurt over the years by our relationship, but it was time to let it all go and live in the present. She stepped up too and we both decided to put the past behind and love today and it’s been a blessing.

And while I’m sometimes sad that my oldest daughter and I aren’t closer, it truly warmed my heart to see her care about her Grandma. There have been thoughts about her caring because she wants something from her, but I’ve grown enough now to see that this isn’t true, that indeed there is a closeness between them. My oldest is special to her and vice versa. It’s wonderful and precious.

Finally, my youngest told me last night while we were out to dinner that she is shy and has difficulty in groups. Funny, I always had just figured she couldn’t be bothered with my friends. But I learned something last night: that she takes after her father! Who knew? I just figured she would be like me.

So while it’s been a week filled with tough stuff, it’s also been one where I know I can handle it all now differently, maybe a bit better than I used to and learn from everything now. My growth is measured, just like the flowers in my garden. It’s noticed and felt within me. It’s also beautiful, bright and will happen every minute.

The fall and winter are coming too (the geese are flocking already), so growth may be more internal and quiet, but it’s never-ending. And I only hope it is making me a better person.

Finding One’s Purpose


Today my middle daughter came over to see me. It’s rare that she does and today it was for a reason. This daughter has struggled most her life with a multitude of disabilities: emotional,  health, psychological and even, to some, degree physical. We were all shocked (even her) when she finally got her driver’s license and they issued her a handicapped plate for her small stature!

She came into our family when she was two years old as our foster child and we adopted her some years later. The family blending has never been easy, for any of us, but especially for her. Family life, school life, her social life and just life in the ‘real’ world has been a challenge for my daughter. But she plows on.

At 19 it was time to graduate HS. I wanted her to stay on, stay plugged into HS and continue to get as many skills she could to deal with the big, bad world. But the odds were against me. The teachers wanted only to push her out, my ex-husband didn’t want to fight with them and my daughter couldn’t wait to get out and be an ‘adult’.

So off she went, completely unprepared for what awaited her! And of course, spend three years unemployed. She also moved in with her boyfriend’s parents and has spent many unhappy moments there. Since then she has found a job here and there, but is usually fired as she is ‘too slow’ according to most reports from management. This is hard for her to hear as she is a hard worker and so willing to do anything.

These cumulative years of unemployment and being fired brought her sadness and discouragement. Finally there was hope when she was hired by none other than the huge corporation of Wal-Mart! Generally I hate that place, but was pleased they were giving a disabled person a chance. And she’s been flourishing there for many months.

Until I heard from her yesterday. She called me to tell me they instituted a new blood born pathogen policy. My daughter may or may not be a lot of things, but one thing she knows about is this topic! She has studied it, researched it, read about it and most importantly: LIVED it! So when she read it, she knew something wasn’t right. Now while she doesn’t comprehend things so well, I read it too and saw immediately she was correct.

The policy not only left out important facts, but appears to be violating basic medical rights. It’s sketchy and looks like it is hard-arming employees into doing something that they should not have to do. My daughter focused on this and said: NO, I will not do this and don’t have to because I have rights!

I explained to her that if she pushed management she would mostly likely be subjected to losing her job. She fully understood this fact. She said: I lived with this disease my whole life and am saying: no more. I never felt more proud in my whole life! Here’s a kid who struggled for years to find a job and a purpose, when all along, it was right there under her nose! She’s an advocate. And who better to be one, then someone who lives with this every day of her life?

We all struggle to find our life’s purpose. Some know from a young age that we are born to help others, or to be an astronaut, or to sing, paint, write or teach. But those of you who are like me are still struggling. Purpose can be elusive and slippery. It may not be a career that we do, but a characteristic we have; we might be a giving person that touches every person we meet. Or maybe we volunteer at many local organizations. We might have dedicated our lives to being the best parent we could be. That might be our life’s purpose. Maybe it’s caring for our planet by being a vegetarian, gardening, recycling, using solar and going off the grid. Our religious beliefs may guide us towards our purpose on earth too.

Maybe we’ve never looked closely at what our purpose might be. Or like me, I frequently toss in bed wondering what it is supposed to be. I’m sure my daughter hasn’t worried about it one bit. But it was so clear to me what hers must be. She has touched my life in many ways for sure. My journey with her and her HIV status opened my eyes to other’s struggles. We never know the inner struggles someone may have that we cannot see. Whether in their blood or in their soul, mind or heart. But they too may have a purpose for being here, like you.  And we must all help one another cultivate, share and expand our purposes here on this planet we call home.

Photos : Mood


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I guess these photos reflect my mood today. Lately I’ve been very upbeat and happy at work, but today I’m feeling out of sorts and grumpy. It has a lot to do with a co-worker that I’m letting get to me. It’s a vicious cycle because the more I let him bother me, the more I’m upset with myself for letting that happen.

Not long ago he quit his full-time job to be at the fire station morning, noon and night. His intentions are very noble, but his way of going about things are often not the best in my opinion. He was elected Captain, for a variety of reasons: one for lack of competition and another because he does care. I’ve tried to be very supportive, but like anyone, I feel in the end power has taken over part of his personality.

I’ve struggled for many years myself with wanting things my way and having a big mouth when it came to expressing my thoughts and feelings. In recent times, I’ve been working hard on trying to bite my tongue and letting go. While I do have a good feel for seeing things from other’s perspective, being a perfectionist, I often would just rather do things myself to get them done. It’s not that I have the best ideas or don’t want to listen to others, I just find that often others just don’t work to get the job done like I do–or as quickly.

So now there’s this power struggle here and I don’t like it. Things I’ve done for a long time have been pulled from me. It’s fine, but the minute he leaves, they will be dumped back in my lap. And mistakes are happening, and there was no communication when the tasks were taken from me. I felt it done all very unprofessionally. Hard to stay mellow and peaceful when things like this are happening.

And then there’s the personal stuff: the mocking tone, the ‘put-down’ type ‘joking’, the often lack of cooperation. Trying to communicate about it doesn’t seem to help either, so it’s frustrating.

Personal growth can come slowly and our own growth can take steps backwards when buttons get pushed. I’m the first one to admit these things. But I’ve been working on my issues of patience and letting go–today was a day where I reached a point where I couldn’t handle it. I felt like these clouds. I was ready to burst, felt like crying and just showing my emotions.

Maybe tomorrow will be better. Writing and talking about it make me feel calmer. Ultimately I know this all isn’t really that important in the grand scheme of things. Nothing in my department is so important that I can’t let go and let someone else have control. And if someone else screws it up, well, that’s their problem I suppose.

So I will let this dark moment pass like the clouds. I will breathe and try to be at peace within myself. Let go of trying to have perfection around me and try not to take things so personally all the time. The sun is just there behind the rain ready to show me that it’s all really fine in the end.

Crossing Paths


In the pool today I was struck by all the people who cross our paths and how our interactions with them can be on such different levels and intensities. For instance, today this thought came to me particularly while I was swimming because I’ve met a wonderful young woman who is an intern where I swim. She will only be there for six months and is coming close to the end of her time. We’ve become great chums as women do that share a locker room together. Maybe it’s the intimacy of showering together and sharing our stories. But she and I just clicked, had the same politics so followed the election very closely together even though we are vastly different in age. It’s sad to me she will be leaving and I will miss her. I was struck that I will most likely never see her again.

And this made me think about all the relationships like this we have in our lives. The intense and real friendships we have that are brief and final. Maybe with a co-worker in a place you once worked. But then you move on to a new job. You keep in touch for a while, then move to the Christmas card, then even those stop. This person maybe really was a good friend at the time you worked together, but now they are out of your life forever.

Or what about the orthodontist or doctor that you may see for years and years. I saw my orthodontist all the time for five years! And then poof…he was gone. Not that he was my friend, but he did change my life in one way. It just seems odd that someone like that is just suddenly gone from one’s life.

Of course there’s the really strange relationship like the one you have with the ex-spouse! Someone you actually loved and lived with for so many years. And one day they are gone. It may take longer for that person to leave your heart, but when they do–it’s odd to think they ever took up space in your life.

There are so many of these crossings–big and small. Where do the spaces go when they are left open? Are they just filled by someone else, or do they remain a hole? Is it OK to just let people go from your life as though they never existed in the first place or should we work harder to keep people with us? I’ve had friends who have just disappeared from my life with no explanation. Even when I’ve tried to get one from them. I’ve never understood this and it hurt a lot.

Now with the days of social media it is much easier to stay in touch. Facebook, email, texting, cellphones, computers make it much less likely to lose someone if you don’t really want to lose them. And to find them if you want to find them! I found my second ex that way. And we talked after 25 years! It was very cathartic. We are even in touch via FB now. I found my first ex on the computer and wrote him a snail mail letter. And got a lovely reply back. It was all very healing.

But there are some people who leave and are gone for good. I think about these people now and again and wonder about them. I wonder if they think about me. They were friends at a part of my life, weren’t they? If I bumped into them now I’m quite sure we would still be friendly. I work so hard to make a real connection with just about everyone I meet. That is my blessing and my downfall. I used to send 60 gifts across the country at Christmas time! Not anymore.

So now my goal is to keep my friends near to me and hang onto them no matter where they go or where I go. There’s no excuse now to lose people anymore. And the ones that drift in and out, well I just be as kind as I can when our paths do cross. I’ve come to accept now some relationships we have now exist online, not in person like in the old days. This is the way it has to be in some cases, and, I suppose…it’s better than nothing at all.