Archive for July, 2012

Friendship Personified

I have a dear friend whom I’ve known since fourth grade.  Early in our friendship I learned that she’d had open-heart surgery shortly after she was born.  I’d heard tales of my own birth trauma, but her scars were much more exotic, her story, more dramatic.

Drama visited her again in the form of a stroke the summer between fifth and sixth grades.  I’m sure much hard work went on behind the scenes, but at the time, it was just my pal – now left-handed, with a barely perceptible hitch to her gait – back in school and as spirited as ever.

Sometimes I think we need to tell our personal heroes that they are just that.  This is my clumsy, belated attempt.

Dear Rae,

When my mom and I traveled back to Michigan for your high school graduation, you and I exchanged senior pictures.  On the back of yours you wrote, in part, “To Sue Anne:  What can I say to one of my oldest friends?”

That could be a segue to a bad joke about our current “ripeness” of age, but instead I find myself waxing nostalgic, and tempted to open this birthday letter with the same sentiment.

So, what can I say, on this special occasion, to one of my oldest friends?  I suppose I could tell you that I have long been inspired by the example of your tenacity as an eleven-year-old boldly confronting challenges no child should ever have to face, or that I am still warmed to the cockles by shared memories of our carefree childhood:

The sleepovers; the hours spent plotting how to use our clothing allowance; your teaching me how to “rat” my hair; our daring attempt at highlighting our bangs with – gasp! – hydrogen peroxide, with predictably disappointing results; the time we experimented with leaving a grape in a dish of pop overnight, because some scientist had said that cola could corrode your stomach lining and we wanted to see for ourselves; the iced Cokes, hot, home-baked Chef Boyardee pizzas, and gooey chocolate cake, eaten while sprawled on your parents’ living room floor, watching television late into the night.

Or our shared love of animals and playing with your hamster Snuffy; your private collection of ceramic figurines; shopping for baby doll blouses and just the right black leather flats for school; the search for the perfect oxford cloth, button-down-collar blouse, to wear with our crew-neck sweaters and plaid wool kilts, with their decorative safety pins; the time we had to dash out of that trendy little ice cream parlor, incapacitated by a fit of the giggles, before we could even place our orders; my big brother’s attempts to impress you with his goofy antics; horseback riding; Halloween nights visiting the Millers’ garage for cider and donuts.

Still, I think the thing that moves me the most is your long-term loyalty to your friends.  More selfishly, how this appreciative friend benefited from that sterling trait.  I had let you down once in our 20s, when I was living a life of turmoil and I stood you up for a dinner invitation.

Then, out of embarrassment and immaturity, I let us lose contact as I zigzagged aimlessly down the bumpy path of my youth.  Yet years later, when my life was back on course and I tracked down our mutual friend, Anita, she read you my note over the telephone and you were right back in my life again, via a warm and welcoming letter, reaching out to me almost 1600 miles away in Minnesota.

What a door to future delights that letter opened up!  After two-plus decades of being out of touch, soon we were there at your doorstep in Florida, having a reunion. (more…)

July 31, 2012 at 5:17 pm 4 comments

Thundershirts For All!

Some days, it just doesn’t pay to tune in to the evening news.  Between the potentially devastating national heat wave, raging fires in Colorado, rampant gang violence in Chicago, and hit-and-run tragedies closer to home, the fear and trembling can be tough to shake off.  

Turn to the internet, and you end up learning about such things as the defunding of highly successful holistic, abstinence-centered sexual risk avoidance education in favor of expanding the reach of contraceptive-centered programs.  So now I’m afire with indignation.  That’s hard to shake off, too. 

Yes, sometimes the world seems like an upside down and backward place, where staying sane and tranquil translates to an impossible mission.  The ads between news segments – or yahoo headlines – offer plenty of pharmaceutical solutions for the disquiet caused by too much exposure to the raw facts of modern life, but I don’t fly that way.  Enter the pet care industry.  I’m serious.  Semi, anyhow. 

Last year about this time I was complaining about the dreadful effects of booming fireworks on my eight-pound chihuahua-papillon.  Quaking like partially-set jello in a 6.3 earth tremor and panting with anxiety – highly contagious responses, I might add –  it was 3:00 a.m. before I finally convinced her that the threat had passed.  

That’s why my ears pricked up when I saw a promotion for the ThunderShirt®, a swaddling garment designed to calm and comfort your furry companion through storms and other loud events.  Since I’m not big on drugs for my pets either, I made a point to look into the merits of this product. 

Bottom line:  My vet’s office offers it for a lower price than online outlets or pet warehouse chains do, and the goofy looking little spandex gizmo is quite effective.  We survived both this year’s July 4th celebrations and recent thunderstorms with very little trauma for Muñeca or her owners, and sailed into July 5th rested and much less angry at the pyrotechnics industry.  Lessened anger is a good thing.  It clears some emotional space for the angst that goes along with those nightly news reports. 

But wouldn’t it be great if we could come up a human equivalent of the Thundershirt®?  Maybe a stretchy, velcroed version of that ultimate in fad Christmas gifts, the Snuggie®?  Please contact me if you are interested in a little entrepreneurial effort in this area.  I have plenty of ideas, but I’m a bit challenged in the action department. 

Where I am not challenged is in the eating department.  Heat-wave or no heat wave, the old appetite  always chugs heartily along, eager for a novel enticement.  At this week’s in-law dinner it was something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blueberry.  Or cherry, whichever does a better job of floating your boat.  The “old” would be Grilled Marinated Chicken Breasts with Sesame-Dressed Gourmet Brown Rice Blend and Steamed Sugar Snap Peas; the “new” and the “blue,” Creamy Fruit Salad with Pistachios in Wonton Cups; and the “borrowed,” simply the inspiration of Alton Brown’s online fruit salad recipe, which I adapted to suit my family’s tastes. 

No anxiety at our table on this night.  The entire crew was pleased, and my stomach was appeased – two sometimes impossible missions in themselves. (more…)

July 12, 2012 at 6:14 pm 2 comments


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