Monday, March 14, 2011

See You On The Other Side

I feel like I have buried far too many friends for someone my age. In December of 2003, my best friend died very unexpectedly, leaving behind a nine year old daughter. We actually had only know each other for about six years, but we were instant soul-mates. We were Anne and Diana, though had we ever thought to discuss those two, we probably would have both claimed to be Anne. We were as close as sisters but better, because neither of us really got along with our biological sisters while growing up. I still have a gaping hole in my heart that sometimes hurts so much it is hard to breathe.

Eleven months later, my friend Adrianne and her roommate were brutally murdered. Adrianne and I had only known each other for about 6 months, but we, too, had gotten along like we had always known each other. We were even plotting a blind date with one of Mike's old buddies. They were both engineers, and both just flat out good people, I would have loved for them to be joined together. That plan had been put on hold when she met someone whom she ended up dating for a while, but the last time I saw her, which was a week or two before she died, she asked me if my friend was still single, because she was thinking she wanted to meet him. I never got a chance to set it up.

Then today, my friend Roberta was laid to rest. I met Roberta through a mutual acquaintance who was hosting a Mary Kay party. She was a living large, living loud, having fun, and loving life kind of gal; someone who always knew how to have a good time and brighten anyone's day. Between the Mary Kay parties I put on, the Pampered Chef parties she put on, the Stamping Up parties I hostessed, or the Party Lite getogethers she hostessed, we were always together in fun atmospheres. Then again, even when we would just sit and have coffee we had a good time. She gave us our kitty, who in all honesty, is a member of the family. She and her husband David had six children between them; they were the "Brady Bunch" family. She had been mother to David's children since the oldest was 9 and the youngest was 3; she loved them as her own flesh and blood, and they loved her the same. Her 15 year old daughter referred to her mother as her twin, that they were best friends. That's just the kind of person she was. Roberta and I hadn't actually spoken in quite a while, which happened from time to time, but we always clicked right back together when we did see each other.

Today is not a day to be feeling down about the friends I have lost, but to celebrate their lives and the lives of those still living around me; like my daughter Monica who turned 9 today. I am struggling with this, but I also have the feeling that the cupcakes sitting on the counter in the kitchen will certainly help. They are chocolate, after all.

Friday, March 4, 2011

My Ten Year Old Philosopher (an old Facebook note)

Here is one from a little over 2 years ago.

My Ten Year Old Philosopher

by Gretchen Hall on Monday, February 9, 2009 at 12:51am
Sometimes my ten year old son amazes me. All of my children are awesome (of course), but Tommy just seems to have this amazing insight into life at times. Yesterday he served at the Saturday evening Mass at our parish. We left a little early so we had time to go to confession beforehand, and as we were pulling in to the parking lot the kids asked me how long had it been since they last went. I told them I couldn't remember for certain, but that I think it was 2 or 3 weeks. Catie (the 12 year old) said, "Why do we need to go again? It hasn't been that long." I then talked about how each time we go, we get more Grace to help us be good, etc. Tommy follows that up with, "Besides, you never know when you are going to die. You might as well always try to have your soul clean." WOW.

Then this morning I got up to the lovely tones of Tommy and Monica (almost 7 yrs) arguing. The topic of "discussion" had been Tommy trying to get Monica to cheer up about something, I don't even know what. He gave her some advice, and she didn't want him to talk to her. At all. I asked what he said and he replied: " All I said was that life is kind of like a sandwich. Sometimes when you are making it, you get jam on the counter; but all you need to do is clean it up and then it is ok." This, and the above, from a ten year old boy! I guess this is what happens when you can't pick a favorite St. Thomas, and mentally name him after both Aquinas and More. Our parish is also St. Thomas Aquinas, for those who didn't know...

The Day After (an old Facebook note)

Here is another, written the day after President Obama was elected. I did do some editing that really should have been done the first time around. :P

The Day After...

by Gretchen Hall on Tuesday, November 4, 2008 at 10:55pm
When I called Mike at work to tell him that McCain had conceded, his response was "Well, don't drink too much tonight". He said nothing about eating too much Halloween candy; we have a big bowl of it, I may go swimming in there.

I am not apologetic for supporting John McCain; though I admit it was more to vote against Barrack HUSSEIN Obama than for fully agreeing with McCain on everything. I am sorry if any of my friends and acquaintances are disappointed in me socially; but only on the grounds that it means we have less in common than I would like. One of my major downfalls has always been that I worry too much about other people liking me, particularly when I was still in school. Logically I knew that I could never have *everyone* liking me; but emotionally I always wanted to know *why* doesn't that person like me? What did I do to them? The answer was usually, if not most or all of the time, nothing. Sometimes people just don't like you, and you know what? It is ok. It has taken me a long time to be able to say that, and deep down it may still nettle me a bit, but it is okay. One step beyond that, is not softening my viewpoints around those who I know have different opinions out of fear that they will think less of me. You know, the funny thing about that is: when I stand firm, *I* think more of me, so even if their opinion of me is diminished, it all balances out.

One of the beauties of recognizing our God-given FREE WILL is remembering that even if we feel someone has a magnet stuck up under their own moral and ethical compass, *we* are not responsible for that person's eternity and that God will be the final judge. Don't get me wrong; I am not saying we can sit idly by and do nothing. I think we are still obligated to set a good example in all aspects of our lives. That includes educating ourselves on important issues, making moral decisions rather than emotional (though for me they are often one and the same), and not being afraid to speak up when we hear someone saying something that we feel is fallible; even if it means they may think less of us afterward.

I am not the type to be overly vocal about politics; I believe in the sanctity of human life but I will never chain myself to an abortion clinic. I do not seek out debates, but I rise to the challenge when presented with one. Then there is the whole debate about the gay community. I may not like a lot of what some will do to gain attention (anyone ever been in San Francisco during Gay Pride day? It can get pretty raunchy.) but I recognize them as people and deserving of love. To be honest, some of the gay people I have known have been some of the NICEST people I have ever know. For the most part I avoid talking about politics because my stomach knots up and quite frankly, I could do without the stress. There are those whose lives are destined to be in the spotlight, destined to lead, destined to make history; I don't want to be one of them. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, I think I do well to provide love and a stable atmosphere for my family. My children are young, and it is my job the shelter them from the evils of the world; at the same time preparing them for what they will face when they are no longer so young. My faith, my family, and my job (being a mom, a wife, and homeschooling my kids) are my top priorities. As long as I live my life according to that list I can sleep with a clear conscience, and worrying about politics only keeps me awake.

These have been my rambling thoughts as I sit here feeling tired, but at peace with my efforts. May God shed His grace upon our country, and guide our newly elected leaders, so that their souls will also feel at peace.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Growing Up Girl (an old Facebook note)

Here is the first of my old Facebook notes that I wanted to share on here. This one is from a little over two years ago.

Growing Up Girl (Guys, you don't want to read this, be warned)

by Gretchen Hall on Tuesday, December 23, 2008 at 4:54am
Seriously, if you are male and reading this, there is going to be too much detail for you. You have been warned...twice. Turn back now.

For those of you still reading, be also warned that I am writing, yet again, during one of my insomniac episodes. I take no responsibility for spelling, grammar, punctuation, or content.

As many of my family and friends already know, I have been going through what is apparently early peri-menopause. (I will be going to the doctor soon, to make sure it isn't just thyroid or something else.) Ultimately, this does not bother me; a couple weeks ago when it was so cold (I know, I know, wimpy Californians) I was grateful for the hot flashes that kept me warm as I went about my grocery shopping. We will likely also save money on heat this winter; my kids look good with blue extremities, not to mention it is a good excuse to stay in one's pajamas all day.

What I am finding less than pleasant is the similarity to the last major hormonal change I went through...AKA, puberty. I have not had acne issues like this in nearly 20 years. Keeping track of my monthly cycle (thank goodness for the NFP training so I can keep a close eye on things) is reminiscent of learning what it was all about and getting used to it in the first place, nearly 22 years ago. It makes me feel like the rubber ball on the end of the string attached to a paddle; you get smacked and sent flying and once you reach the extent of your length of rope you are yanked right back and smack into the board. From what I have read, this rebounding can go on for 5-15 YEARS before the string finally breaks and I can stop banging my head on the paddle. (Maybe that is what is causing the pimples on my forehead...)

I am grateful, however, for a few key differences between puberty and it's reversal of fortune. My boyish figure disappeared around the age of nine, nine-and-a-half. This led to an extreme level of embarrassment, even around my female friends. A couple years later when I officially became a young woman it heightened even more. For a few years I was off and on uncomfortable spending the night at some of my friends houses; whether because I was "on the spot" right then, or because that friend might not have started yet, or I just plain moooooody. Of course I couldn't explain this to them, let alone to myself half the time, so I often disguised it by coded messages to my mom when I would call home to see if I could stay. I would whisper near-silently into the phone "Say no, say no!" so that I could in turn tell my friends that my mom said "no". I admit, there was a part of me that felt guilty about this deceit, but it was usually quashed by that other part of me that needed to go sit in my room and sort out the mess in my head. Angst. I *don't* miss it.

Something else that is helpful at this end of the stick, is the general difference in my own knowledge. There are so many things about being a girl that you just can't truly understand unless you yourself are a girl. While I may not have experienced the complete phasing out of this chapter of my life, I have certainly experienced the phasing in (obviously) and can draw on my own experience of how to deal with myself, and hopefully those around me. For example: eating extra chocolate is better that screaming at the kids, screw the carbs; letting the husband know how you are feeling without hurting him is also a good thing, as it will often result in the delivery of more chocolate, and even the occasional chick-flick. Naps are your best friend. Naps are your friends' best friend too, because naps help you to be less cranky. So does my anti-depressant. Comfort foods are essential, just not too soon before you lay down; I have discovered that I can no longer eat like I did as a teenager without heartburn and indigestion.

Prayer is, of course, a must. I kid you not that I pray every day for more patience, especially towards my children. It is a good thing that I do, I would hate to think how I would be without that extra help. I also thank God every day for my wonderful husband...and the fact that he works in the grocery business. Besides the whole 21 years in and the economic job security, it is awfully convenient when I am in need of chocolate.

But one of the most surprising things that seems to help me right now, is Facebook. I have been so grateful for this opportunity to reconnect with long-distance friends and family, surrounding myself with loved ones, whether geographically far or near, is really the most effective cure-all for the emotional roller coaster that comes with erratic hormones. It also gives me a place to sit and write my rambling 4AM thoughts when there is no one to talk to that is not covered in fur. While my cat Whiskers can be a good listener, she tends to get mad at me when I have to push her off of my lap because I can't stand the combination of the flashes and her extra heat.

I think it is finally time for me to try to go back to bed. I hope I have made you chuckle, or at least smile with this note; whether it is with me or at me I don't think matters, as long as I didn't make you fall asleep or cry, I think it is all good.

Good night, my family and friends!

Warning...possible inundation

For those of you who are subscribed, I am going to be moving some of my FB notes over here, since they were written before I started this blog, and really do belong here instead. I apologize if I overwhelm your in-boxes.

Long time, No See

As an avid Facebook user, I have said before how much I love reconnecting with old friends via the social network. I cannot remember exactly when I first discovered Facebook, but it has been a few years and I have had the fun of finding friends over and over. A couple in particular stand out as especially exciting for me.

A couple of years ago, I reconnected with Lisa F, who had been a frequent companion growing up. We were "mall rats of the 80's" together, Barbie aficionados, and movie lovers. Upon occasion, we even did homework. We first met when I was 3 and she was 4, which, I am almost frightened to be able to say, was a little more than three decades ago. As with many of my friends, we had somewhat lagged in the communication department after my family moved to California in 1992. We had a few letters and Christmas cards here and there, but we had lost touch with each others' day to day life; we didn't really know each other as well any more. Enter Facebook, and things amazingly enough felt like they picked up almost right where they had left off. I was able to go out for a visit about a year and a half ago, and it was the greatest feeling to be back in with my other family. I swear I spent nearly as much time with her parents as I did my own. We laughed, we cried, it was better than a chick flick.

More recently, as in just last week, I was able to reconnect with yet another friend I have known for over thirty years. Christy S lived across and up the street from my family, and we were often to be seen playing around the neighborhood. I cannot possibly count how many games of  Hide and Seek, Ghost in the Graveyard, and Red Light Green Light we played. We didn't go outside the neighborhood together very often, but we were each always there to talk to or hang out with. When we did go out, though, we always had a great time. (Chinese fire drill, anyone?)

As it turns out, Christy and I had each been looking for the other on Facebook for a long time. I was, and am, embarrassed to admit that I had been spelling her last name wrong whenever I did a search, and she had no idea what my married name was, so it took me seeing that "Lisa F is now friends with Christy S" to find her. It was literally like Christmas morning, I was so excited! While Christy and I have much more of each others' history to catch up on, I know that we will, and I can also say that the reconnecting that has happened so far has felt just like not a day has gone by. There really is nothing to properly describe that feeling. The closest I could come up with would be going to a great party with a great friend, and waking up the next day only being able to remember half the night. The best part is, no hangover!

To add a cherry to the top of the ice cream sundae that was finding Christy, she let me know that another neighborhood friend, Michelle P, was also on Facebook. Michelle moved to the neighborhood about a year before we left it, but she lived right across the street from us, and we connected so quickly that it was like we had known each other for years. We enjoyed a lot of the same music, same cartoons (Batman the animated series... LOVE!) and just enjoyed hanging out.

These three are just a small sampling of the people I have found or been found by on Facebook. I have enjoyed getting to know many of my cousins as adults, getting to know my nieces and nephews who are halfway across the country, and even keeping in touch with my own siblings has been easier. So, thank you, Facebook, for all the love.