Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

It’s that wonderful time of the year. Good will and good cheer!

And sometimes a bit awkward. The whole gift giving thing.

What’s the first thing we think of when we receive an unexpected present from a friend or neighbor during the holidays?

Not, “Isn’t this wonderful!” but more like,”OH NO, I didn’t get them a gift!”

We feel bad. Maybe a little thoughtless. Not sure why we are programmed in this way.

But what we really need to remember is that most of those people who are giving the gifts are acting without expectation.

Accept the gift graciously and thankfully. And then let it go.

Which leads me to another aspect of gift giving.

Thoughtfulness.

Have you ever attended a White Elephant gift exchange or a Yankee Swap party?

It’s a game where everyone brings a wrapped gift. Something that they’ve found hanging around the house or in the back of a closet. Because it’s unwanted. Might be really nice or kind of wacky but mostly unwanted. There’s a numbered system and also a “stealing” component.The results can be hysterical and entertaining. No one knows who brought what gift.

I recently attended one in my neighborhood. Chatting with the woman beside me while she secretly pointed out the gift she brought to the party. It was a lovely frame that her mother had given her.

She said, “I’m like, Mum, have you ever visited my home? That frame doesn’t match a thing! What were you thinking?”

I laughed because it’s so true.

When choosing a gift are we being mindful? Is it what they would really enjoy or is it what we like or think would be best for the recipient? It can be tricky. Our intentions are, no doubt, always good. But if we are thinking more about us than them then don’t be surprised if it’s wrapped up for next year’s White Elephant party.

This season I wish you all graciousness, thankfulness and acceptance of the many gifts you will receive. Material gifts and the ones that truly matter.

Act without expectation and don’t forget to throw in a bunch of thoughtfulness.

 

 

 

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Many of us are already starting to feel sluggish from the many social events and holiday parties.

Here in Kuala Lumpur there is always something happening on the expat scene. It’s a lively and active social life. I’d say it’s because most of us don’t have our families around us so friends and neighbors sort of become substitute family members. Who tend to congregate with astonishing frequency and celebrate everything. Also a lot of us have extra time freed up for us which we wouldn’t have back home.

Since the second week of November I have attended numerous social events. Not all involved drinking (most) but all involved food.

There was a farewell brunch for a neighbor who was moving to Scotland. Then a 50th birthday party. Followed by book club later in the evening. Next night there was another 50th birthday bash. Different person. And then my monthly cultural club lunch. Had to beg off another monthly lunch gathering due to a conflict.

Then there was a lovely Thanksgiving dinner celebration with neighbors. Jazz night. Lunches with small groups of friends. Canadian Association coffee -and mimosas if one were so inclined. Christmas party with PTA. Holiday party next evening in the neighborhood. Book Club again. Couldn’t make my monthly culture club lunch this time. Unable to commit to an upcoming cookie exchange. Another goodbye gathering for neighbors moving to the U.S. took place last night.

I have one more event tomorrow. A Christmas luncheon with the Canadian and American Associations.

Then I am officially throwing in the towel.

It has totally been a blast. But quite exhausting. I’m feeling a bit sluggish. Need to recharge the batteries.

Here’s a recipe for those of you who have had enough already and want to get ahead of the game. And not wait until that pesky new year resolution ritual rolls around in January. Flush the toxins, suppress the appetite and possibly flatten the belly.

Flat Belly Water

Pour six cups of filtered water in a pitcher. Add one tablespoon of grated ginger. One sliced cucumber. One sliced lemon. Half cup of mint leaves. Let sit overnight in fridge.

Drink the next day.

I meant drink the water. LOL

Wishing you all loads of energy as you embrace the holiday season.

 

 

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John Glenn, a true American hero, died at the age of ninety-five. What an amazing human being.

He’ll always be remembered as the first American who orbited the earth.

What he might not always be remembered for was his attempt at running for the presidency of the United States.

Hearing about his death brought back a lot of memories for me.

I didn’t know him personally but I sort of felt like I did. And I’m pretty sure there is a personalized thank you note from him hiding somewhere in my personal files.

Back in the early 1980s my mom was working for Billy who was elected to the State Senate. I remember being at his house on numerous occasions stuffing envelopes with a bunch of people around the table. It was a great experience being a part of something exciting.

Next thing I knew, I was on a bus with two of those fellow envelope stuffers (friends of Billy’s, Mom’s and mine) and about forty total strangers. We were heading to Nashua, New Hampshire to campaign, door to door, for John Glenn.

I was totally out of my comfort zone. The only two people I knew, John and Chip, were organizers of the event so I was on my own. With strangers. Yuck.

The first night I stayed with a host family. It was kind of creepy. I just remember feeling really uncomfortable. First time ever staying in a home with strangers. Did not want to stay another night.

So the second night I stayed in the hotel room with John and Chip. Totally not creepy.

Because I was friends with John. I went to school with him and we belonged to the same parish. He was one of the truest people you would ever want to meet.

Chip was always at Billy’s house or his office so I was also comfortable with him. He was one of the funniest guys.

Anyway, we ate pizza that night and laughed and laughed.

Of course, Chip just couldn’t wait to get back to Rhode Island to tell my mother that he spent the night with me. She got a chuckle out of that one. LOL.

It was over thirty years ago and quite a lot has changed since then.

Except the wonderful memories.

 

John Glenn was a courageous, respectable and decent gentleman. It was an honor to campaign for him.

Thank you for your service to our nation. Thank you for your authenticity and thank you for making me travel down memory lane today to fondly recall special people and moments.

You most definitely had “The Right Stuff.”

Rest in peace.

 

 

 

 

 

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When I lived in Southern California I had the most wonderful dentist. Loved going each and every time. I wouldn’t be lying if I said it felt like I was visiting family. Everyone always asking about the kids. Even asking about Thumper the dog. The staff had been the same for years. Never any new faces. That’s very telling.

She was actually my neighbor -lived about five doors up from us. But I never saw her in the neighborhood so we caught up during my appointments.

Kind, funny, smart, beautiful on the inside and outside.

And she was a refugee.

When she was just five years old her parents, four siblings and a ton of other family members boarded a boat to escape Vietnam. No idea where they were going but the Dad knew they had to flee.

She told me she could remember being in a sack and thumping her head on the bottom of the boat.

They were rescued at sea, after floating for days amidst bombs, by a ship and soon found refuge in the United States. A Catholic Church in the Midwest sponsored them.

Sadly, her mom died from cancer some time after they arrived in the U.S.

Dad, a physician, ended up doing a fine job raising his children.

My dentist originally was pre-Med but once completed decided on dentistry. Her father had five children. All chose medicine or dentistry.  That’s a bunch of Drs. in just one family.

That is truly a success story. Against many odds.

Being a doctor might not necessarily be everyone’s idea of the pinnacle of success. We all know a profession is not the whole person. Doesn’t make you a better person or a person who is better than anyone else. But it is a wonderful accomplishment, an honorable profession and requires tremendous hard work. For anyone but especially for folks who start off fighting the odds without the usual support systems in place.

During the recent elections I read that a woman said her candidate would win if only the people whose four grandparents were born in the U.S. would vote.

I pondered that one. And I’d say she was probably right on the money.

But what she missed with that statement was that we all should be reminded that America has always been a nation of immigrants and refugees. Always. Even folks whose four grandparents (or great grandparents) were born in the U.S. have immigrant blood coursing through their veins.

 

My dentist arrived in a boat. Fleeing murder and mayhem. No papers. No nothing.

It was only through the goodness and generosity of the American people and a church community that allowed her family to not just survive the ordeal but to flourish. To serve the greater community. To become respectable, outstanding, tax paying citizens.

This story just reminds me of why I always loved my country. Her essence. The goodness, generosity and community of the people. Candidates and politicians come and go but I have every hope that the essence of America will and should remain the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When you grow up with an Irish background-even if you weren’t reared in Ireland- you grow up with a bunch of phrases your non Irish friends would never hear or would probably never even understand. We don’t even understand them so how could they?

My Nana laughingly called the little boys and/or the male dogs in my house, “McGuffin.” As in, “How’s McGuffin?” Or “McGuffin was over today.” Or “McGuffin barked all night.” You always knew who or what she was talking about and responded accordingly without missing a beat.

I had a boyfriend, S., and he liked my grandmother. All of my friends did. We went to an Irish festival one weekend and he bought something for her. She loved it. It was a coffee mug with the name “Mc Govern” on it. Nana’s mom was Maggie Mc Govern.

I asked him, “How did you know that??? That it was a family name?”

He said, “Well, I bought it for her because she’s always calling everyone McGovern.”

I laughed out loud. All this time he thought she was saying McGovern when she was actually saying McGuffin.

So you sort of had to grow up with it to really get it.

“Mother Machree!!!” was another one spewed out on a regular basis. My mom said it when she was exasperated. I suppose it’s better than swearing. Machree means “of my heart.” When I was young I just thought there once was some old lady who went by the name.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” frequented our home. The exclamation not the trio. Most everyone I knew in my neighborhood was Catholic but they weren’t Irish. Never, ever heard any of my friend’s parents utter this. Just mine.

I remember when I first started working at AT&T and sitting in the break room minding my own business. I heard this gal, Tracy, exclaim, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” Probably over spilled coffee. My head instantly popped up and I thought, “I don’t know you but I know you.” It’s like when little kids notice other little kids in a crowd. You just know.

This one I never really understood when I was little. Just accepted it like all the others. They’d say, “Oh, sitting there like Lipton’s Orphan.” What?? I understood it to mean a woeful being and I was correct. But what?? Where on earth did that phrase originate? Adult research shows the origin of the phrase stemmed from a Lipton Tea marketing campaign. An Irishman, a pig, etc.

Sorry for your trouble. A phrase used for bereavement. Trouble means to agitate spiritually or mentally.  Not just as we commonly think of it when referring to that pesky neighborhood kid. But a bit more than that. One will never be more agitated spiritually or mentally than when a death occurs. So the phrase is not wordy but totally appropriate. And very Irish.

As an American kid I (and my friends) used the word “terrific” for everything. The weekend was terrific! You look terrific! The concert was terrific! My grandmother used the word in its original form. As in terrifying. She would tell me about a terrible storm the night before (she was deathly afraid of storms and would stand on the cellar stairs until it passed) and say, “It was absolutely terrific!” I have to think that was an Irish thing as I never heard anyone else’s parents or grandparents using it in that context.

Plenty more phrases and sayings were thrown around the house. Those were just a few that popped into my mind.

The truth is that I’d give anything to hear a few of those sayings. From the mouths of those who used to say them.

But still very thankful I had the opportunity to hear them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We’ve all heard people say that Facebook is so fake. That the lives presented and wonderful photos are not a true (or I should say full) representation of the people who are posting. And that your list of “friends” is also fake. Most are not your real friends.

I agree with some of this. The part about most not being real friends. But I don’t agree with all of it.

A Facebook page can be a true representation of the person. Their loves and passions. Oftentimes their foibles. But one can still be genuine and not post every little thing, right?Isn’t that why kids (and adults!) are told to be careful what they post? There are future employers and admissions officers out there just ready to take a glance and make a judgement based on what they see. You don’t need to share every aspect of your life even if the red plastic cups are totally real.

I can pretty much predict what my FB friends will post. There are obviously some things that cannot be predicted like the loss of a loved one, an illness or a move. But everything else is just about a sure thing based on the past Facebook postings that demonstrate the interests of my FB friends.

That doesn’t mean those who are posting actually share every aspect of their lives.They share only what they want you to see. And that might be positive or negative. But not fake.

Facebook can be just like real life. We don’t always share everything with our friends in real life. We share exactly what we want to share. And that might be positive or negative. But not fake.

Which leads me to something else. What some people choose to share on line but might not share in real life. It’s quite surprising and this makes Facebook an interesting thing. People share things on their wall that they never would have shared with you while you worked together in an office. Or at the neighborhood block parties. Or at the church picnic.

Facebook provides a platform for folks to put absolutely anything out there. They are making the choice to share. Good or bad. My husband (not the biggest FB fan) likens it to writing on a bathroom wall.

Those filters that were firmly set in place at the workplace or at the church? Gone.

The platform became a regular Pandora’s box with an unleashing of all sorts of things. And none of it fake.

Like the over posters who have a rhythm and a choreography of their own. Almost oxymoronic. Ugly rant. Ugly rant. Ugly rant. Ugly rant. Insert beautiful Bible verse. Ugly rant. Ugly rant. Ugly rant. Ugly rant. Have a nice day! Ugly rant. Ugly rant.

I can’t imagine hearing all of that in real life. In the office? Oh my gosh! But it is still real, isn’t it?

And that leads to this.

Defriending. I’ve seen the FB postings,”I would never “defriend” anyone over politics!” That’s really lovely of them. But what they don’t understand (or can’t) is that most folks aren’t being deleted because of their politics but because of the deplorable way some people present their politics, views and postings to their on line audience. They are being real but it doesn’t make it palatable or even acceptable. It’s all in the presentation, my friends. Always has been.

Maybe those who choose to present negatively are seeking validation from like minded people or they really believe their posts will change opinions of others. Spoiler alert: That never happens.

If I read a posting and it sort of makes me sick to my stomach I probably shouldn’t be FB friends with them. Right? They’ve crossed some sort of line. We all have our lines. Doesn’t even have to be political. This does not mean I won’t still have fond memories of those people from a different place and a different time. Just no more FB memories.

This blog posting was probably a long time in the making but prompted this week.

One of my FB friends died a couple of days ago after a battle with cancer. We worked together back in Providence many, many moons ago.

I was thinking about his postings and how I enjoyed them because they were a reflection of his life and what obviously meant the most to him. His moments with his kids and wife. Friends around the pool. Photos of childhood friends. Photos of adult friends. Many sports references. BBQs with his extended family. His love of New England even though he had moved to Florida. His heritage. The beloved dog. Favorite music and bands.

He never posted about his illness. Because he chose not to share that. And probably many other things. What he did choose to post was very real.

Because Facebook isn’t fake. I’m thinking what you see on a wall is a pretty good indicator of the type of person sitting at that keyboard.

Yep, your list of friends might be fake. But the walls? Not so much.

Of course, this is totally my opinion and in the end not much of it matters.

But.

If it’s on our wall we have chosen to make it real.

Most will not litter their walls with red, plastic cups overflowing with vitriol. Most will choose a reflection of their love. That’s my hope.

 

 

 

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There is a ten year anniversary coming up in the next week.

Not a happy one.

It was ten years ago that a school friend of my eldest daughter lost her life in an accident. Veronica was fourteen at the time. She held on for awhile but finally succumbed to her injuries on October 20th.

Her mother asked me in a message the other day, “Does it seem longer than ten years or shorter? Or both?”

So hard to answer. Ten years seems like such a long time ago for me. A lot has happened since that time. I moved from Dallas to California. And then overseas to Malaysia. My eldest, who was Veronica’s friend, graduated from university. I lost a parent.

Life went on and just happened.

And yet I can remember the day of the accident like it was yesterday. It was a beautiful autumn afternoon.

I’ve always been one for denial. When my daughter told me that Veronica had been in an accident I asked, “How do you know?”

She said, “Some of the football kids who were at Sonic came back and said it.”

I said, “Well, we don’t know for sure.”

Then we passed by the site and her yellow backpack was sitting there in the street while the rescue and police were securing the area.

Felt like I could vomit.

I didn’t know Veronica’s mom except for a community service project at the parish, communication about cross country car pooling and a confirmation of a birthday party.

But I did vow that I would not be one to drop off a casserole and just forget about them.

Can good things come out of bad? I guess her mom would have to answer that.

I remember, after we got word of Veronica’s death, thinking that I needed to make that call. Also thinking it would be the worst thing ever. How selfish of me.

Talking to my husband who was away at the time I said, “I can’t call her.”

He said,” You have to….”

I replied, “I know I have to but…”

He told me, “Call her tomorrow.”

I said, “I will.”

And then I paced and paced. Smoked a bunch of cigarettes. Went into my bedroom, locked the door and picked up the phone to dial. Shaking like a leaf on a tree. Knew I wouldn’t sleep if I didn’t call that very night.

Veronica’s mom picked up the phone. When she heard from me she said, “Oh, Mary, I am so glad you called. Your family is one I had hoped I would get to know better.”

We had some things in common. Being on our own in Texas while husbands were working in the Northeast. Cross country girls. Same parish.

A few days later Monsignor called me to say that the family wanted me and another mom to be the speakers at Veronica’s service. I agreed and it was one of the few times I actually felt God’s presence with me. I honestly did not think I could do it but I felt like God was just sitting on my shoulder.

This posting is getting a little long.

Veronica’s mother amazed me in so many ways. When she needed help she knew it and asked for it. And she never wanted to be known just as the mother of the child who died.

When she knew the yard needed raking she said it. And all the cross country kids came out and raked away and bagged up the leaves.

When the thought of taking down Xmas decorations was overwhelming she called me.

When she needed help cleaning the house she let me know. And we got it done. Laughing and crying.

She and her eldest came to my house for dinner and we went to hers. Went to movies and dinner. Had a celebration of life with balloons soaring into the air for Veronica’s birthday.

I guess my posting today is to remember a sweet girl who will forever remain a fourteen year old child to us. Even if ten years have passed.

But it is also a testament to the strength of her mother.

And it is also a reminder to not take even one single day for granted.

A beautiful autumn day or a muggy day.

Seems like a long time ago. Seems like yesterday. Seems like both.

RIP Veronica Grace Sheer

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