Friendship

This is not friendship day or week or month.  It seems to me that I get a beautiful, sweet message about friendship and friends almost every week and they all end with an order to send it on to my friends because it is friendship day or week.  If I should add them all up there would be a thousand weeks in a year just for friendship.    My friends know how much I value them so I do not mind getting friendship messages but I need no reminders.   My friendship is on tap every day all year.  And it is a two way street.

My friends cross all boundaries, cultural, religious, social, and economic.  There are friends I have not yet met.  I have often opined that I was not blessed with a large family but I certainly made up for that lack with a host of dear friends.  Better yet, I get to choose them even as they choose me!   My friends live all over world and all are dear to me.   My friends fill that need of humans to have companionship who share a commonality of purpose, desires, mores and love.   There are all occasion friends and special event friends but they are all friends of the heart.  I laugh with them; cry with them and the hugs are wonderful.   My friends are full of kindness.   I write about one of my darker days and I get a beautiful bouquet with this card enclosed.

I laughed!   What a friend.    I have been sustained by the outpouring of love since that post.  I was refreshed. 

So it is with a full heart that I say “Thank You” to my friends.  Thank you for giving me strength, love and courage to carry on.  Thank you for sharing the ups, the downs and the in between.  Thank you for being by my side to laugh, to cry, to rejoice at successes and to commiserate with me at disappointments.

Thank you for bringing me back to the light when I have those dark days.  Thank you for the laughs, for laughing with me and laughing at me. 

The Meander:  My friends make the anguish less and me more.  Thank you!

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Penguin Affair

Our love affair or maybe I should say my love affair with penguins did not have an auspicious beginning.

Imagine this.  It is February 13th. I am not subject to triskaidekaphobia.  The number 13 is just that.  It was  Ash Wednesday, the middle of summer.  Yes, we are almost at the southernmost end of the world though that would come the very next day in Ushuaia, and it is bitterly COLD.  We are in Punta Arenas,Chile.  Everyone is shivering and bundling up in all kinds of layers.

I want to see penguins. The ship’s penguin tours to Magdalena Island were all cancelled because of the inclement weather.  We had not signed on for any, rather preferring to go on an overland tour to the Penguin Sanctuary of Otway Sound with a private taxi/guide.  It is a smaller colony of some 60,000 Magellanic penguins spread over quite a large breeding ground and park for public viewing.

We bundled up and went ashore even as the weak sunshine turned to rain.  So what, we thought, we are only a hop, skip and jump from Antarctica so summer can be wintery.  We were very lucky.  There was this taxi driver who seemed to be just waiting for us.  I told him where we wanted to go.  He looked at me with a slight air of bewilderment and said: “It is wide open space and windy today.  Here in Punta Arenas, even in summer we can get rain, sleet, snow, ice and even a bit of sunshine in a matter of hours.  Today is not a good day to go to Otway”.   I said with the confidence of the ignorant.“Well, we can stand a bit of rain and we are Canadians, we know cold weather.”“OK.” He said and it sounded as if he swallowed “but it is your funeral.”

We negotiated a price and felt very simpatico towards eachother.  Bert suggested we go to his favourite bar on our return for a drink. If I was clairvoyant I think I would be able to read a bubble over Carlos’ head saying: “You’re going to need it!” However, we were becoming fast friends.  Carlos told us his wife taught English and would love to speak with us to get some practice and would we mind if she came along on the trip.  Sure, no problem.  Carlos called then drove home and there was the beautiful Ximena waiting.  She had two very heavy overcoats, both belonging to Carlos and said:  “These are for you and your husband.  There is a cold wind out at the colony and you are going to need these.”  How thoughtful.

Off we went. The rain turned to sleet.  We arrived at the Sanctuary with driving sleet and a biting wind.  The attendant asked:“Are you sure you want to walk out to see penguins in this weather?”  I answered: “Oh, yes.”  She shook her head, told Carlos to go on,that we could pay her when we were leaving and waved us in.

I did not think about this being somewhat foolhardy until Carlos opened the door and Ximena gave me a coat.  We were the only visitors.  A blast of wind rocked us as bits of ice hit our faces head on. What a walk!

Penguins!  They approached us all ready for the formal ball!  A group of about seven came toward us.  I crouched down, and mindful about not touching them, spoke softly to them. They spoke penguin and I spoke English and some Spanish and we communicated.   They came right up to me and followed wherever I went.  One came close enough to peck at my hand.  Carlos was quite surprised how comfortable they seemed with my presence and joked with Bert that I must speak penguin.   However, even with the extra coats, both Bert and I were shaking with the cold.  I looked at Carlos and he was not too happy either.  With regret I said goodbye to my penguin companions.  They followed me as we walked away.  I had the biggest closed mouth smile as I thought my teeth would freeze if I opened my mouth.

I approached the attendant with the fee ready.  She looked at me and said: “Senora, if you were so determined to see our penguins in this weather, you don’t owe anything.  Was it worth it?”   ”Oh, yes it was a short but sweet encounter, and they came to me.  It was a love affair.”  She smiled, shook her head and handed me some pamphlets.

Ximena, who had wisely stayed in the car, invited us back to their home saying we needed to have a hot drink.   At the mention of something hot Bert forgot the bar date.    We accepted and were soon chatting animatedly with Carlos and Ximena , their children Carlos Jr, Gabriel,Stefan and Paulina.  The tea was ambrosia and a panacea.  They offered a meal but that we politely refused citing the plenitude on the cruise ship.  I could not stop talking about my penguin affair. A Good English lesson, I thought.

The Meander:  I fell in love with penguins on that miserable day.   I have seen them in South Africa, In Ushuaia, The Falkland Islands, all over.  I have penguin memorabilia.  February 18th in Puerto Madryn, Argentina we went on tour. It was a marvellous summer’s day.  I was surrounded by penguins.  If only I had waited!   No, Otway Sanctuary remains my penguin first love.  Why?  As the only visitors the experience was personal.  It also had Carlos and Ximena and their kindness.   Gosh, I love to travel.

I Am Thankful

Gratitude n. being thankful, appreciation of and inclination to return kindness.

I believe that every day there is something for which we can all be grateful.  It can be small or large, internal or external.  It can encompass all nature, thought, the physical as well as the meditative.  No doubt you have heard the variation of the theme of being alive.  The simple, polite inquiry of: “How are you?” will bring an answer like: “Well, I’m still alive” or: “I woke up this morning so everything is good.” My favourite answer is: “Well, I am still on the right side of the grass.”  That always brings a smile to my face.  I am grateful for that smile.

However, these last few days I have been filled with a special kind of gratitude.  It is one that came after my unwanted but necessary visit to the ER.  I am feeling poorly, in pain and my number one priority is the care for my Bert.  How will I cope?  There are so many little chores to see to, too many to count.   I was worried but I should not have been.   We are blessed by having the sort of neighbours and friends that come to your aid swiftly, competently, caringly, without question.

I am grateful to the Lifeliner who was at the door to pick up the prescriptions and get them filled.  I am grateful for the neighbour who instantly took away the worry of getting my Bert to his Day Programme.  “Just tell me what time to pick him up and I will take him.”   How precious an offer that was.  Here is someone my Bert will find familiar enough to accompany without a fuss.  I can go back to sleep and with the Valium still coursing through my body, I have no choice, really.

Then there is the neighbour who brought dinner in a beautiful wicker basket which had everything including two lovely serviettes, such a cheerful and most welcomed gift.

I am grateful to the Lifeliners who could give practical, hands-on help and those who could not who sent words of cheer, good wishes and prayers.   I even got instructions to turn off the phone.

Once friends heard, the offers kept on coming with a couple wondering why I had not called immediately.  When I explained that I was calling the ambulance at 2 A.M. the reply was: “You can call me at anytime.  You know that.”  Yes, I do and I am grateful.

Our family of friends and neighbours came through like a ray of sunshine to scatter the dust motes of my anxiety.  Yes, we do appreciate the kindness and have more than an inclination to return it.  That is how kindness works.  There is a continuous lightness of being, a positive feeling that things will work out well.  I am grateful to all the people who turned my darkness to light.

Thank you!

The Meander: In this troubled world where everything seems so dark, selfish, and full of hate it is good to be reminded that there are so many more people who are kind, thoughtful, caring and filled with the milk of human kindness.

Lifeliners Friendship Songs

Recently, it seems every Lifeliner  was experiencing something a little beyond the ordinary.  (See Post: My Lifeline) I opened my inbox and there it was in very large and bold print:  LIFELINERS THEME SONG.  Jay had sent it with a beginning note that just said: “Have to share”.  The message contained the entire lyrics of “Thank you for being a friend.”  Immediately The Golden Girls television show came to mind but what resonated was that as I read, the words took on a very special meaning.  They seemed created for us, this little group of Lifeliners.  It was the perfect theme song.  Through the marvels of the internet we adopted it in minutes and were emailing each other saying we were singing as we wrote and signing off with thank you for being a (or my) friend.

In replying to Jay I wrote “…that’s what friends are for and, thank YOU for being a friend…”  Seeing the juxtaposition of the two songs I smiled to myself.  I could picture all of us holding hands and dancing as we sang our newly minted Theme Song.  We do like to dance.  Then I wrote suggesting that we should put together a list of songs of friendship that was illustrative of the special friendship we share.  I am not sure my finger was off the ‘send’ button when Jay responded with a list she found at the following URL: https://www.thoughtco.com/top-friendship-songs-3248289

It was an interesting list as it did contain almost all of the suggestions made by us for our Lifeliners song of songs.  Here is a NOT a playlist but a compilation of Lifeliners friendship songs. The collection ranges from a 1927 song to Bob Marley, Frank Sinatra, Rihanna, Bill Withers and more.  Perhaps, if you are interested you can find out for yourself who sang what if it is not already included in the above URL. Here goes:

I am “Tongue tied” as my Lifeliners “Stand by Me” through thick and thin.  We know “Everybody hurts.” I know that “Anytime you need a friend” a Lifeliner will say “You’ve got a friend in me”.  I am never lonely as “I’ll be there for you” yes, “I’ll be there” is the assurance from each Lifeliner.  “With a little help from my friends”, “I believe I can fly”.   Sure, “The road is long” and hard but, “That’s life” though none of us have any intention to lie down and die.  Rather, on dark days when it is raining tears we will gather together under the “Umbrella”.  When we say: “You’re my best friend”, we say it to each one and also to the group who singly and together are the “Wind beneath my wings.”

We travel this road “Side by side”. We support each other, we share, we care because “That’s what friends are for.”

Lifeliners theme song is “Thank you for being a friend”.  What a precious gift we give to one another.  We are grateful that we can share this giant, amazing “One Love” that lightens the darkness of our unique night and makes us feel alright.

The Meander:  In writing this I realized how closely aligned friendship and love are.  I realized that friendship is the amalgamation of Agape, Filial and Eros those major columns of love.   Friends have been very special all my life.  The best friends just are, no subterfuge no wearing a face. That is the power of friendship.  Friends choose to be friends.  You love them, you like them; you are in communion with them. To all my wonderful friends: Thank you for being a friend.

Hugs

Family, friends and anyone receiving mail from me know that my usual signature is ‘Hugs’.  Sometimes it is ‘love and hugs’ or ‘lots of hugs’ but somewhere the word ‘hugs’ will appear. It was our younger son who turned me on to hugs and in whose memory my signature is delivered.  In fact, when I hear of something particularly happy or sad, or needing that little bit of extra, you not only get my hug but a ‘Damien hug’ also.  Close friends will call and tell me that they need a Damien hug when they encounter one of life’s more challenging moments.  Damien hugs are special.  He gave the best hugs.  They are happy hugs and also healing hugs.

Hugs are wonderful.  You cannot give one without getting one in return.  Talk about a win-win situation. I am so in love with giving hugs that I almost got myself in trouble because of that.  I give them freely, often and always with a smile.  When I cannot give them in person I send them in snail mail,  emails and messages. Even my voice mail ends with a suggestion to hug someone.  One unexpected and dear friend I have is a result of an email hug.

Here I was sweating over a letter asking for support for one of my community volunteer projects.  This was perhaps the tenth iteration of this most important missive.  I wanted it to be the best ask ever.  Outline the project, say why I believed this person was the most appropriate for the task, show a commonality of purpose, emphasize the positive, and predict a most favourable outcome and personal reward in helping to make the project a success. It also had to be grammatically correct, persuasive and not overly long. Phew.

I had been told that all I had to do was to put the request in writing and forward via email it to a particular address.  Once I decided on the final version,  I took a deep breath and clicked ‘send’.

Feeling good about a task accomplished and reasonably done well I decided to print the letter and put it in the relevant file. Yes, I keep hard copies.  I have no idea where that paperless society is.  Smiling complacently, I looked at the printed copy and gasped.  My wonderful painstakingly written, grammar perfect letter boasted ‘Hugs’ above my legible full signature.

After the moan, the groan and swear words in English and languages I did not know, I could only become philosophical.  I rationalized that I had aimed too high, that I would not have received a positive response in any case and so this mistake was from the philanthropic gods preparing me for  the let down.  I resigned myself and began to winnow my lists of contacts to select a second choice.  Well, I reasoned, I already have a letter that I can  edit, I would not have to start again from scratch. Faint consolation.

Surprise, surprise!  Almost one week later I received a call.

“Hello”

“May I speak with Paula de Ronde”

“This is Paula”

“Ahem, do you always close your letters of requests with hugs?”

Omigosh, here we go. Do I tell the truth? As I hesitated, I heard a laugh.

“It’s OK.  I really needed a hug that day and then came your letter and my day brightened immediately.”

A huge sigh, and in my relief, I gushed: “I wanted the letter to be perfect and was totally distraught.  I could hardly believe my eyes at what I had done. I thought this was it, a harbinger for me to prepare myself for a negative reply.”

“That’s interesting, as I thought this was an omen that I should say yes to your request.  It is yes, and by the way, you may send me hugs anytime you wish”.

We have been sharing hugs whenever and wherever we meet and our messages always end with ‘hugs’.

Among Damien’s personal effects was this laminated card.  It says: FREE HUG COUPON; Good for a minimum of one HUG; Redeemable from any cooperating HUMAN; A Hug improves anyone’s appearance; (and the small print reads) “Greet one another with a holy hug” Romans 16:16

 

The Meander:  The reverse of the card is an article entitled Hugs Called Good Medicine . The social scientist lists many benefits and says: “You need four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance and 12 for growth.”   Here is a hug for you.  Now you only need 11 more. Oh heck, here are some more…

HUGS!