Tag Archives: friends

Eight Years Strong

contra by daniel

Dance Motion by Wubby

There’s a meme floating all over FB that says something like, “If you’ve been friends for seven years, you will be friends forever.” Sometimes, but not always, at least from my little chair.

It all started in 2007, when a blogger suggested I read this. So, I did. It said, “He played me a piece of music, happened to be my all time favorite (still is) although if you can hear the bagpipes I think it’s even better. Sounds like home calling me, some distant island off the coast of Ireland or Scotland. He played Amazing Grace and I went to pieces.” And, as I’m writing this at 12:59 AM, Pandora is on shuffle and guess what’s playing? THAT is what it’s all about. Coincidence? I like to think it’s more than that, it’s divine intervention. For me, it’s God telling me that this was all part of the plan, and the plan is very good.

It was like coming home to a person I’d never met, but immediately knew intimately. (Damn, those bagpipes…) Anyway, the only other person I’ve ever had this kind of connection with is my dearest Hubby, who is wondering why his crazy wife is blogging in the middle of the night when she hasn’t written a word in at least six months. She and I became acquainted in the blogosphere, and it was good.

Then, in July of 2009, I got in my car and drove 352 miles to Hatteras, Frisco to be exact, to spend 4 days with her and her girls. Although we’d never met IRL, there was no awkwardness. The first thing we did was get in the car and go for groceries. An ordinary, everyday task. At the end of those 4 days, we left the island, drove in opposite directions, and returned from Narnia back to normal life on the other side of the wardrobe . But it was a new normal.

She was already in the middle of a very painful new normal. My painful new normal had occurred a few years earlier, and was a different flavor from hers. Regardless, new normals are hard work, and she’s worked VERY hard as long as I’ve known her.

There were some striking commonalities: we both work (or worked) in the IT geek world, she’s an artist, I’m a musician. We knit. Big and little things. There were other meet-ups IRL, back at Hatteras that September, in the mountains of Todd, NC the next September. She has opened her home to me, more than once, so that I could introduce my kids to the glory of the City. We’ve celebrated birthdays in Floyd and Glen Echo, being dance gypsies. And we celebrated a birthday in The Forest.

On January 18, 2016, I turned 55 and we hit the road again, dance gypsies meeting up in Harrisonburg for a weekend of Contra and waltz and pizza and wine and marathon TV (I can now say I’ve seen The Godfather Parts 1 and 2) and silliness and seriousness, and it was wonderful. I would never have even tried Contra if not for her, and it’s become a large part of my life, a place to meet new people and forget the world and its problems and just dance. Hubby dances, Kate dances, and Wubby is making noise about trying it too, which is pretty amazing when I think about it.

We talked about life and beliefs and what is important and what isn’t. From a strictly political standpoint, we are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but there is common ground. We talked a little about religion; we talked A LOT about faith. Again, commonality in an area where it looks like we are on opposite ends of a spectrum. But, religion isn’t very important, while FAITH is vital, and I think we can agree on that. The labels come off, leaving the truth underneath, and it’s good.

We are both going through new seasons in life. Change is hard, and some lessons have to be learned by living them as opposed to looking at them from a distance and deciding that, no, I don’t think I want to walk through that one. There’s a line from Garth Brooks’ The Dance: “I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.”

So, to Alecto, my friend, my sister: I love you. It blows my mind that you love me. You make me a better person. You challenge me to look at my core beliefs, to define what is real and what isn’t, and you do it with love. You also said this, and I will always remember:

Sometimes the heart bleeds out like you’re going to never stand again.  And sometimes there are transfusions in the most amazing places.  And sometimes you find there’s more to you or me than meets the eye… But at the end of the day, we are only worth what we can give away and the score won’t be counted until the end.

You’ve given me so much, and I can only hope that I’ve been able to reciprocate.

Here’s to the rest of our lives. We shall dance on!

(And Pandora says, “Amazing Grace” again, on a solo fiddle)

I want to do this again, very soon.




The Importance of Being Kind

Hubby came to me this morning to ask if Kate was OK. She’s not.

She hasn’t been herself for a while now. She seems to be managing the loss of her best friend, Big Sister, over some childish disagreements that occurred last fall. At least, she was managing just fine until the prom pictures hit FB and comments were made. Not that anyone said anything even remotely negative about Kate. She and Little Sister went to prom with several other friends. Before they left, I took pictures of the two of them together. Little’s dress was very elegant and refined and a bit vintage 40’s. Her mom and I agreed that they looked like they had just stepped off some ocean liner from the days before cruise ships, as first-class passengers, of course.

On the surface, Big and Little have patched things up. They used to be very close, just like Kate and Big were, but Kate and Big had been friends for so many more years. And the reconciliation between Big and Little is superficial at best: their relationship is certainly not what it ever was. Back at the FB photos, Big decided to comment on how beautiful Little looked; she made the comment on one of my pictures of Little and Kate.

If you know anything about teenage girls, and just how cruel they can be to each other, then you probably recognize the insult Big laid on Kate by excluding her from the accolades given to Little. Common courtesy dictates that you be polite and not exclude people from conversation, even people you don’t know very well or are currently having relationship issues with. Had the situation been reversed, had someone left a compliment of a photo of Big and a friend, and Big was not included in the compliment, she would pout about it. More likely, she’d throw a hissy fit about it. (Hissy fit: above the Mason-Dixon, that would be ‘temper tantrum’.) I can hear it now, because I’ve heard it before: “Everyone is so mean to me! They deliberately left me out! They could have said ‘You’re BOTH beautiful’ instead of ‘You, Big Sister’s friend, are beautiful, (and you, Big Sister, aren’t worth commenting on.)'”

Kate noticed the comment right away, but said nothing about it until Sunday afternoon. But when she finally decided to talk about it, the floodgates opened, the tears poured, and ten years of suppressed emotion came flowing out: the difficulties of being Big’s friend; enduring her temper tantrums; wondering what she’d done to cause Big to completely ignore her for weeks at a time, incidents so insignificant as to be ridiculous. Here’s one: In middle school, Big wanted Kate to sit next to her on the bus but there was no room in the seat. Kate sat behind her, or in front of her, doesn’t matter. Big did not speak to Kate for 4 weeks after that, until her dad reminded her that she was being petty and needed to remember who her friends, her one real friend, was and always had been. She called Kate and things were resolved. Big has asked for my advice many times. She’s come to me, in tears, usually upset over something her step-mom had said or done. And I held her in my arms like she was my own daughter, let her cry it out, and then talk her through it. I’ve been her mother when she needed one.

Now I am evil. I’ve never been there for her. As a matter of fact, no one in our family has ever really cared about her for as long as we’ve known her–10 years. She used to call Hubby “dad”; she called my mom “Grandma”. Now, Kate is “NOT her friend.” (her words and her emphasis)

So, back to this morning. Hubby is wondering what’s wrong with Kate. Looks to me like she’s working her way through two of the stages of grief. I think she completely skipped “denial” and “bargaining” and is currently working on “anger” and “depression”. “Acceptance” was the only stage Kate didn’t have any qualms about; she immediately accepted the fact that Big was gone from her life. But she’s still grieving. There is a hole in Kate’s heart, ten years big, and it won’t fill itself back up overnight. And Kate’s not the only one working through this. I am currently mired in “anger”. I tried reconciliation between Big and me, to no avail. Big has no intention of reconciling.

Sunday afternoon Kate poured her heart out, about how hard she’d tried over the years to help Big, to be there for her when she needed a friend, about how her efforts were ignored or insulted. Big has had a rough go of it: emotional and physical abuse by her step-mom; her dad works long hours and has little time for her. The list is long and some of it is downright ugly. Looking back on their relationship, I see an emotionally scarred girl, Big Sister, who always needed someone she could put a leash on and control.  She learned that negative attention is better than no attention at all. She learned how to take, but not how to give back. She learned to manipulate other people, but not how to help them. Kate has been the one on the leash, and we’ve all been recipients of Big Sister’s behavior. We’re all hurting. Maybe Big Sister is hurting too. Maybe she’s realizing her destructive behavior has consequences. Maybe she’s ready to address the real issues.

Or it could be that she’s hurting because she keeps burning bridges behind her as she sweeps the people who truly cared for her out of her life like so much trash from the floor? She’s not very adept at building new bridges, and the ones she does build are all one-way. Accidents, some of the fatal, are bound to happen.

I’m proud of Kate’s decision to finally remove the leash. The scars under the collar that bound Kate to Big are still healing and that will take time.


In the meantime, this came from Little Sister yesterday:

“Today, I saw two men. They were on the side of the street. One had a cast and crutches and struggled to walk… The other was strong and generous. He grabbed the guy and slung him on his shoulder. He carried the man down the side walk as we walked by. I have not witnessed such kindness as this until now. If it wasn’t a sign, what was it.”

Well, look at that: a teachable moment.

Dear Kate and Little,

What you witnessed today was an act of kindness. It was someone reaching outside himself, maybe going out of his comfort zone, to help a fellow human being. It’s not hard to do, but it can be scary when you do cross the line that marks the edge of your comfort zone for the first time. Try it. The opportunities are everywhere. You just need to learn to recognize them. If you’re standing in line somewhere, talk to the people around you. You know how many homeless people there are in our little neck of the woods. Next time you and Kate go out for a snack, get an extra one and a bottle of water, and give them to the guy standing at the intersection. Offer to take the shopping cart back to the corral for the young mom with a baby in her arms and a toddler at her side. Say ‘Hello’ to someone who looks like they could use a kind word. Being kind can make you vulnerable to hurt, but it can also make you feel better about the world. It might be the first time anyone has spoken to that person on that day, maybe even longer. If you’re really lucky, you might wind up with a life-long friend like I did. Not everyone is a user. Not everyone is a taker. Not everyone is out to manipulate you to do their bidding. Trust yourself, and do what you know is right.

Love, Mom

Thanks to the human heart by which we live,

Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears.

To me the meanest flower that blows can give

Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

-William Wordsworth

it’s about relationships

What happens when you put five introverted chicks in a Budget Inn motel room meant for four?

You thank the universe that AT LEAST one of them is pretty darned good at practicing her extrovert skills.

So, CG, her two baby girls, my baby girl, and I went on a road trip to attend Parelli Horse and Soul. It was a long drive, there were tons of people, etc. etc. but it was worth the time and effort and whatever else. My baby girl met CG’s family, played with the dogs, and the cats, and the baby goat. We went to CG’s new barn, met some of her barn friends-equine and human. This was my girl’s first exposure to CG’s life. She described it to me as “very homey. I like it.” I’m wondering if CG would be surprised by her description.

Time out: my baby girl needs a new name. I hereby declare it to be: Kate. There are reasons for that name, but they aren’t relevant to this.

Anyway, I’m thinking that CG might be surprised that Kate actually said anything out loud. Funny thing is that Kate talked all the way home. About lots of things, and she is very opinionated about them. Who knew? Kate rarely speaks above a whisper. I can speak and hear “Kate” language fairly well, but I’ve had years of practice. As far as the event itself goes, I found myself watching horses go from fear to confidence, seemingly without effort, and there were several times that the tears  came whether I wanted them to or not. For the past couple of years, I’ve also watched Kate start to move from fear to confidence. First in baby steps, now at full speed. It was a lot of information coming at me at lightning speed, about horses, and people, and relationships between horses and people, relationships between people, relationships with ourselves. With myself.

I’m still processing. One thing that CG and I touched on was the relationship between her and me and Alecto. Specifically, what exactly is it that we have in common? The only answer we could come up with was, “Nothing, really.” I think the answer is: each other. We have each other, whatever that means.


Rabbit trail: I have this friend. I met her when I moved here and started working at the same company, on the same IT team, twenty-five years ago.  (Letting that one sink in myself, was it REALLY twenty-five years ago? Can’t be. Then I remember that, Cielo, honey-lamb, Wubby is twenty-two.) Anyway, I think the last time I talked with her was right before my mom remarried, which would have been in the fall of 2008. We’ve exchanged birthday cards, then birthday voice mail messages. She sent me a FB message on my birthday: “We need to catch up.” So, last Monday, I sat down with an ink pen and started writing. Ten pages later I had scratched the surface of the world as I currently experience it. The pages were folded, stuffed into an envelope, extra postage was applied, and it went into the mailbox. It will be interesting to see what happens next.


Back to horses and people and relationships and stuff. Actually, now that I sit here and stare at the computer screen, I don’t think I’ve processed nearly enough to be able to address anything else semi-intelligently…as if.

So, here’s a video someone took at Horse and Soul, Lexington VA, Saturday February 11, 2012. What is impressive about it is that the trainer is working with baby horse while Mama horse stands by and watches.

One more thing: there’s a song in this video that will require tissues, particularly if you’re a mom.


Aren’t they absolutely beautiful? My girls.

One of them is my daughter. The other two are her best friends, and my “other” daughters. I never, ever, imagined that I would be a mother when I was younger. We didn’t have a flower girl or a ring bearer in our wedding because, to be brutally honest, I didn’t want any little kids, boys or girls, in our wedding. As W.C. Fields said, “Never work with children or animals.” But marriage changed my mind about children, and six years later we had Wubby, followed by Baby Girl four years after that.

Girls can be very cruel to each other. (Reference: “Mean Girls”) Growing up, I knew all too well just how cruel girls can be to each other, without justification or reason; just because. And the absolute worst thing was to put three girls together. Two of  them would inevitably gang up on the third and the torture ensued in earnest. But my girl, despite the genetics she inherited from her mom, has always been a magnet that pulls girls together. She’s very unassuming, usually quiet (but gradually finding her voice as she grows up), always looking for a way to keep the peace. When she was in third grade her teacher told us, “You know, she doesn’t say much. But every day, the other girls will argue over who gets to play with her at recess. They all want to be around her, and they vie for the chance to be closest to her on any given day.” Hubby and I looked at each other, then at the teacher, and asked, “Are you sure you’re talking about OUR daughter?” We were then reassured that, indeed, yes, she was the glue that held the girls together.

I was thinking about this last night, about my daughter, and about the other girls that frequent our house on a very regular basis. The girls that call me “mom” and my hubby “dad”. We are an anomaly in their world: parents that have remained married to each other for 27 years, no divorce, no step-parents, no deadbeat mom or dad. We took all three girls to be beach last month. One of them came to the local air show with us last weekend. It is indeed a rare occasion that we go on some minor adventure or other and don’t have at least one extra “child” with us.

So what?

Well, this is what. Last night I was also thinking about how many times my family moved from the time I started school through my junior year of high school. During those eleven years I attended 10 different schools. Girlfriends were something I had a great deal of experience with, although not much of that experience lasted. I can name every girl I was “girlfriends” with from first grade through high school:

  •  Mary
  • Sharon
  • Debra
  • CG
  • Diane
  • Cindy
  • Martha
  • Sandra
  • Cheryl
  • Elizabeth
  • College: Chrissy, aka ‘Prissy’. I never did find out  how she got that nickname, because the one thing she WASN’T was prissy.
Fifteen years; eleven girls. And all these years later, I know where four of them are, and am in contact on a regular basis with one of them. Proof that, at least for me, having girlfriends was by and large an isolated, and very short-lived, experience. By the time eighth grade rolled around, I had lost so many girlfriends to moves that I gave up trying to make new ones because chances were good that something would change and I’d lose another one. And that was a pain I was tired of experiencing, so I consciously decided to protect myself from it by remaining an island, unreachable. I became invisible.

When I was younger, I had dreams of living an extraordinary life. The concert stage was where I wanted to be. The problem was the cost. Not so much the cost in dollars, but more so the cost of the incredible amount of time spent at the  keyboard, aiming for a perfection of performance that would never be. A choice had to be made: a relationship with a piano, or relationships with people. I made my choice.

Today I watch my girls as they play in the shallows at the beach, pretending to be fashionistas, or canter the long side of the ring, or walk a few feet ahead of me at the mall, their heads together as they giggle over who-knows-what. I see the evidence of their love for each other, and I pray that their friendship holds through the difficult times they are each having now in their individual life situations. I pray that their friendship will grow and develop as they enter young adulthood. They will need each other.

I didn’t do a very good job with the girlfriend thing for myself. But, for my girls, I think that maybe, just maybe, I’ve helped them to get it right.


I met him sometime during the late summer of 1986. I was about nine months into my first programming job, a very small Burroughs mainframe shop, and had just become the senior programmer. With nine months of experience.

About three months earlier, the company had hired a new IT manager from the rival Burroughs shop across town. He came in, held a meeting in which he said he wasn’t going to hire or fire anyone. Twenty-four hours later, he introduced us to his new hire, the creepy programmer guy that had worked with him across town. And the two of them immediately began to dismember our system and start making up a new one. When that didn’t go so well, they decided to purchase some software that had been successfully deployed at a similar company. After a couple of months of fiddle-farting around with that, they decided to hire someone who had actually worked with the software.

And…that’s how I met Johnny Cox. He was going to be the brains that would make this installation work. Poor guy, he hadn’t spent enough time with the new guys to know what he was up against. He walked up to my desk that first day, around 5:00 and said, “There’s no way in hell I can work here.”

I had come to a similar conclusion right after the new guys came in, had my resume out, and was in therapy. Johnny was an experienced systems man; he only needed about 5 minutes on-site to figure out how screwed up the place was. It took me 6 months.

Turnover being what it was, we had some awesome going-away parties every time someone else escaped. People were escaping with frightening regularity, so we were doing some hard partying that fall. (Ask me how many Long Island Iced Teas I consumed at one time….) Johnny was from North Carolina, and had decided he wasn’t staying at this place very long (it was VA), so he lived in the company apartment, didn’t know anyone except us, and was more than happy to party with us.

Somewhere during the parties and the stress of our work environment, we started talking and discovered that we had a common interest: music. One day he mentioned, in passing, that he had been in a band during the 60’s, but I probably wouldn’t have known who they were, what with me being a kid during the 60’s. But, I was a kid during the 60’s who spent some time with my teen-aged aunt and uncle…..so I recognized the song title right off: “Double-Shot of My Baby’s Love”.

Johnny was the saxophone player for the Swingin’ Medallions.

Finally, after 13 months (I used to know the days, hours and minutes) of working in this miserable place, I got a job offer that brought me to NC. And, we got to have MY going-away party. There were maybe 5 or 6 of us; everyone else was already gone. We went to a dance club, had margaritas. Johnny tried to teach me the Shag, official dance of the Carolina beach scene.

And we parted company.

I heard a few months later that Johnny, too, had managed to escape, but no one seemed to know where he’d landed. I knew that he came from the area of NC where I now live. I tried to look him up a couple of times, but never found him.

I always thought we’d meet up again sometime.


Last Friday I decided to put together the ULTIMATE Carolina beach music playlist which, of course, includes “Double-Shot”. I had it on a CD I purchased about 15 years ago called “Preppy Deluxe”, so into my playlist it went. And I started wondering about Johnny, where he was now, what he was doing, etc. And, being the geek that I am, I started doing some internet searches. I had tried to find him before, but with no luck. Sad to say, I did find him this time.

Johnny died March 28 (I think), 2009. I did some Youtube searching and found several videos of Johnny playing the sax at a beach club in Ocean Drive, SC during 2007 and 2008. He was indeed a helluva player.

As Greg Haynes said,

Another ticket has been issued for “The Party to End All Parties”

May Johnny Cox rest in peace.

facing reality

They say that the traits that annoy you the most in others are the ones you posses within yourself. The trick is to recognize and deal with them.

A friend acknowledged a couple of things about herself recently that, I have to admit, hit home in a couple of different  ways. First, I had been on the receiving end of  what she had confessed about herself, and at the time did not confront or question her actions or my response to them. A couple of years back I wrote something called “The Invisible Woman”. I wrote for a couple of reasons. One was because I was in Cielo, where women are considered to be the lowest of the low, except for Haitian ex-patriots living in the area. The other was because, for most of my life, I have felt invisible in many ways. So when I didn’t say anything at that time I was able to justify it to myself by internalizing: “Hey, I’m invisible. I’m used to not being listened to or actively engaged in conversation.” And life went on, as it usually does.

The thing is, when I read what she had said about herself, the reality hit home for me: I do the same thing to other people, especially Wubby. He’s been screaming at me for months, “You don’t really listen when I talk to you.” and he was right. So, with a great deal of tears and apprehension, I apologized to him for being the person he had been trying to tell me I was. He talked, and I listened. I talked, and he listened.

The timing could not have been better, something I like to call a “God Thing”. Because 36 hours later Wubby’s world was rocked to the core, and we were able to talk about it, really talk, and Wubby and I both will come out of this as better people. The mama grizzly in me does want to seek out and destroy that which has so completely devastated him, but that wouldn’t help anyone. There’s enough pain to go around already.

Good grief but growing up is a damned hard thing to do, and it takes a lifetime.

Yeah. Love.

So I’ve been turning the past few days over in my mind, looking at them from all directions, thinking about everything Alecto already said about them, and wondering what, if anything, I could possibly add.

Not much.

But I’ll try.

I was blessed with the opportunity to meet Alecto at Hatteras back in July, so I knew what to expect as far the campground goes. Plus, I’d already gotten past the weirdness of meeting someone in person for the first time after getting to know her for the previous two years or so.

There was no weirdness to that first meeting, though. Not for me anyway. I don’t think there was for Alecto either. We met in the parking lot, I followed her to our cabin, got out of my car and into hers, and off we went to the grocery store for dinner fixins’. It was like we did this every day.

Since July I’ve found myself lapsing into Alecto-speak. I likes it. And I’s keeping it.

This time I got to see CG meet Alecto in person, and the magic happened again. And CG and I got to meet Florkow, and there it was again.

I’ve probably mentioned somewhere on here at some point that I moved around a lot growing up. Girlfriends? Had a couple of them, early. When we left CG’s hometown I was fourteen years old. Leaving those friends hurt so incredibly badly that I swore I would NEVER allow myself to hurt like that again. And mostly I didn’t. Spent the rest of high school and college all by myself in the girl department.

CG and I have known each other a long time. We lost each other for a long time. When we found each other again she said something that floored me. You know how you wonder sometimes if anything you did or anyone you met as a kid made an impact on the world in any way at all? Maybe not, but I do. After that first reconnection I knew that I had indeed made a difference in her life, and was amazed at that. Confession, repentance, acceptance, love. All of it. She’s been there ever since. And, through CG, along comes Alecto and damn if lightning doesn’t strike twice.

Sunday was a bad fibro day for me. These women saw me at pretty close to my worst. And it was OK. I did grab my sunglasses a couple of times so I could hide behind them, for a couple of reasons. One was to cover up the ouch-face. But the other, well, that was to hide a bit of sadness because I knew Monday morning was coming, it was coming VERY early, and we’d all go our separate ways.There were these moments when my brain said “girl, you better enjoy this ’cause it’ll never happen again, not in a million years.” Other times I thought “so this is what all those girls did after graduation when they ran off to the beach together”, only I think this was better, deeper, more real than any of that.

What will I remember? Everything. Who knew you can’t actually see the battery underneath the hood of a BMW?? Not us, and not Jack the weener dog’s daddy either. You know the little green plastic plug-thing that comes with a bottle of camping fuel? We learned what not to do with it. The best food to eat for lunch on the beach: leftover pancake and link sausage pigs-in-a-blanket, and peanut butter, jelly and potato chips on white bread. The best food to eat at the campground: stuff we cooked that had ingredients grown in the backyard, or on the farm. I learned that I can indeed eat raw clams. I have the shells to prove it. And three of us were wishing for a demonstration of Demond. There are surfers at Hatteras that really know how to surf, and waves big enough for them to show off their skills. They has skills.

How do you explain to anyone that you’re going to the beach with people you’ve never met, but you know in your heart that you’ve known each of them for a million years? For me, the answer still is: you don’t. There’s not a soul in this part of my world who would understand it, except my husband. And besides that, I’m greedy and if there was someone who could understand it, I wouldn’t share it anyway.

Because it’s mine; it’s ours. And I’s keeping it.