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Celebrate Friendship Day

How will you celebrate National Friendship Day? It’s Sunday, August 6th and I didn’t know it exists until recently. There’s an official day for almost everything and most I ignore, but friends should be celebrated.

The founder of Hallmark originated a day to honor and appreciate friends in 1919, but it really didn’t catch on. In 1935, the United States Congress proclaimed the first Sunday of August as National Friendship Day. It isn’t known exactly why, but as World War I came to an end there was a need for friendship among countries and people.

In 2011, the UN General Assembly proclaimed an International Day of Friendship with the idea that friendships between people, countries, and cultures can inspire peace efforts and after the UN proclamation many countries adopted Friendship Days. The basic idea of all counties is the same: a day to acknowledge friends’ contributions to your life and to cherish the people you love.

Neither Hallmark nor proclamations are needed to convince me the importance of friends. As a young teen, I learned to appreciate friends when my parents often welcomed my girlfriends for overnight slumber parties. Later, I depended on college friends to get through late night study sessions and unravel tangled emotions.

Neighborhood friends’ visits and impromptu lunch dates carried me through long days of caring for my babies and toddlers. When Daughter and Son played sports and attended scout meetings, my friends and I carpooled. Fellow teacher and writing friends encouraged me when I wanted to throw away red pens and keyboards. All along life, friends have kept me going and growing.

Quotes I’ve heard are true. Friends ‘do’ without waiting to be asked. A true friend knows your faults and loves you anyway. A real friend walks in when others walk away. A friend is a gift you give yourself.

Friends sat beside me while I fretted in hospital waiting rooms. They showed up at my front door with hugs and food when my parents passed away. They said, “I’m on my way,” when I called for help. They stood beside me even when I messed up.

And I’ve heard that friends know us better than family and friends are the family we choose. Friends are family? Yes, according to Kathryn.

I commented to Kathryn that she had a large group of friends from different walks of life and she responded, “Yes, I have a big framily.”  Framily? Did she misunderstand what I said? Did I hear her correctly? Then I realized framily combines friend and family.

“That’s a perfect word,” I said. Friends who are closer than family. Friends who know more about us than family. Friends who shoulder heartache when family stumbles.  Although the word framily was first used in 2006, the concept has been around for a long time. Remember the 1990’s television show “Friends” about six people who resembled a family?

National Friendship Day. A day to honor people you love. People who are your framily.

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Straight Line Winds Hit

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 7.18.16 AMLast Saturday night, most of us were carrying on normally, not expecting damaging weather. Husband and I hosted our supper group, friends who have gathered around each other’s dining room tables for decades. Lightning flashed. We heard, and ignored, the rain and the wind.

The lights flickered and then darkness. Of course, someone kidded that we should’ve paid our electric bill. We waited for the lights to come on. “Well, this is a first. We’ve never eaten in the dark,” someone said. I made a mental note to always use candles as part of the table decorations.

Eventually, someone turned on the flashlight on an iPhone. Using it, I found the box of candles stored under a bathroom sink. Christmas red glitter candles, white candles, fall candles. Some tall, some short. Each set on a glass plate and lit. Two under glass globes brighten the dining table.

“Luckily, I turned on the coffeemaker before dinner and we can have coffee with dessert,” I said. We cut pies, scooped ice cream, and poured coffee in the glow of candlelight. All seemed well as we talked and told stories of past times the power went off.

And then a text was received from a someone’s adult child. “Are you okay? Trees and power lines down everywhere.” The message was read aloud three times before we all listened. Another adult child sent a similar message. “Stay put. It’s bad out here.” We were being told by our children to not go out of the house. That was a turnaround from years past.

Twenty minutes later, through phone texts, we all confirmed that our children and grandchildren were safe. By candlelight, we cleared the table, scraped dishes, divvied leftovers, and took our children’s advice.

We settled on the sofa and comfortable chairs and someone told a joke. And that reminded someone of another joke and another. And soon, jokes were just a few words: “Remember that one about the train.” We laughed hard. We reminisced funny past group experiences. Hee-hawing and cackling.

During a moment of quiet, someone said, “So if we’re asked what we did Saturday night when the lights went out, we’ll say ‘Just sat around and told jokes with old friends.’ ” The evening ended. All got home safely, detouring to avoid blocked roads.

Through the night, the city employees and volunteers worked to restore electrical power and clear roads. And Sunday morning, like so many people, Daughter and Son-in-Law and their children discovered their yard covered with large limbs, branches, and twigs. They called a friend and asked to borrow his truck. He brought his truck, his chain saw, and his children. Two other families pitched in. The dads sawed, big kids carried big limbs, little kids toted branches. Hours later, the yard was cleared.

I hope such fierce winds never hit again. It’s a time Husband and I will never forget and Daughter’s family won’t either. We’ll remember the winds, the darkness, the damage, and most of all, the friends.

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Come for Tea

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I’m making a tea cozy.  Or a tea cosy, as the Brits would say.  Its history begins when tea was first introduced to Britain in the 1660s.  I like the word cosy – it’s much more dignified than cozy.  This time last week I didn’t even know I needed a tea cosy and just a few years ago, I would’ve said, “A tea what?”

Now I’m a good Southern girl that grew up drinking iced tea – sweet, of course.  My Aunt Doris introduced me to a ‘spot’ of hot tea when I was a teenager.  And I’ve enjoyed afternoon tea at an upscale hotel restaurant.  But I didn’t expect that inviting my out-of-town college girlfriends to join me for afternoon tea would lead to searching through my stash of fabric and learning how to sew a tea cosy.

My friends responded eagerly by email and June agreed to serve as hostess  – she’s my tea party authority.  My friends insisted that they bring the food: cucumber sandwiches, asparagus roll-ups, ham tarts, cranberry scones, and stuffed strawberries.  Fine with me.  I’ll provide the tea and hot water.  But June said we must use good loose tea and she knows exactly where to buy it.  So it seems that hot water is my only contribution to my tea party.

I don’t have a fancy silver tea service, which includes a teapot for keeping water at perfect hot tea temperature.  But I do have teapots.  One that matches my very first set of china.  One that a family friend gave me when I was ten years old.  And one that my brother-in-law bought and brought to me all the way from China.  A real teapot with a loose-leaf strainer and four dainty teacups.  So I’m set or so I thought.

June agreed that the idea of several lovely teapots would be wonderful.  “But how will we keep the water hot?  I wish we had a tea cosy or two,” she wrote in an email.  I think my microwave heats water pretty fast, but since all I’m providing is hot water, I must follow tradition.

A tea cosy is a knitted or embroidered covering (I don’t have time to knit or embroider) or it’s made from heavy brocade or fabric with a lovely design, and it must be insulated and lined.  It fits right over a teapot.  Got it!  A piece of printed floral cotton material that I inherited from my mother’s scrap fabric box.  And for some reason I’ve saved an unused insulated fabric leg covering from when I had knee surgery.  And there’s plenty of solid colored material for lining.

How could I possibility serve hot tea without tea cosies?  One for each of my three teapots.   The tea cosy was invented not only to keep the contents of the teapot hot, but also to prolong social occasions.  And I want to keep my long-time friends sitting around my dining room table as long as possible.

One cosy made.  Two to go.

A Teacher’s Lament

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I said I wasn’t going to write about the tragedy at Newtown, Connecticut.  But now that Sandy Hook Elementary School has reopened, I hurt for the teachers who survived.

On that day in mid-December when I first heard about the senseless killings, I was stunned.  Just like when I turn off the TV or leave the room when a news story is about an abused child, I had to walk away.  I listened to the news periodically throughout the day and stayed busy.  I knew it would be a day, like 9/11, that I’d remember where I was and what I was doing.

A week or so later, a friend said, “Newtown must have hit you doubly hard since you were a teacher.”  We had talked about the children who wouldn’t open Christmas presents.  And we wondered how their parents and grandparents would make it through the holidays.  We ached for those who’d loss a child, whether student or teacher, on December 14th.  But my friend had the insight to allow me to bring other memories and grief to the surface.

I remember when my school first practiced lock-downs.  Fire drills and tornado drills were routine.  Lock downs weren’t.  Lock the classroom door.  Herd my students into a corner.  Pull down the shades over the windows.  If there’s time, cover the twelve-inch square window on the door.  And keep everyone in that one corner, along the same wall as the door, where someone couldn’t look through the small window and see us.  It was never said aloud – a corner where a bullet shot through the door wouldn’t hit anyone.  I huddled my 24 fourth graders into that corner and they learned the term ‘packed like sardines.’  The girls giggled and scratched each other’s noses.  The boys wiggled.  We learned the secret knock on the door that signaled ‘all clear’ and that it was okay to open the door and carry on with learning about electrical circuits.

Even after four years of retirement, I still miss visiting with teacher friends.  Laughing during a hurried lunch.  Hearing about a son’s baseball game.  A daughter’s gymnastics meet.  The funny things a grandchild said.

I can’t imagine the pain that the Sandy Hook teachers are feeling as they stand before their students.  They survived a school shooting and lost friends.  During my teaching days, our faculty lost two teachers.  Tammy to cancer.  Marcia in a car wreck.  Two young friends who should have had many more years to read aloud their favorite books to children.  Teachers who left their mark on students and fellow teachers.

Our faculty mourned together.  Questions swirled through my head and heart.  Where’s my friend who wanted to borrow the foldout book about the human skeleton to read to her class?  Where’s my friend who was planning her daughter’s wedding?

I can’t imagine the questions that haunt the teachers at Sandy Hook School as they carry on, teaching young children.  I can’t imagine the horror of a school shooting.  I ache for those teachers.

John Stories

Sunday morning.  I stood in my closet choosing clothes for church when the phone rang.  “Susan, do you have a minute to talk?” my college roommate asked.  I sat down as she spoke.  John, her husband of 40 years, was breathing his last breaths.  John, whose doctor had just a few days before declared his heart valve replacement a great success and told him to carry on with normal life.  John, who had planned an evening out with friends to celebrate.  His passing was quick.

I first loved John because Jo Ann loved him.  She and I had shared a 10’ x 12’ dormitory room for three years at Tennessee Tech University.  Sisters by choice.  In 1972, I stood beside Jo Ann when she and John promised to love each other until parted by death.  For four days, I stood behind Jo Ann while she made difficult decisions and received condolences.  And I heard stories.

A ten-year old neighbor boy hugged Jo Ann and said, “I liked when he threw the ball with me.  I’ll miss him.”  The next-door neighbor cried as he told me that just two days before he and John had stood in their driveways.  “He hugged my girls (ages 2 and 3) and said ‘How fast can you run?’  When they ran to him, he laughed and told then they could run faster.  The girls wrapped their arms around his legs and John pretended to fall.  He made everybody laugh.”

Jan and John had an on-going joke about birds flying overhead.  John didn’t want to sit at the outside restaurant table under a tree.  Surely there was a place inside for six people to eat dinner that May evening.  Jan teased him that his bald head would be a perfect target, but she’d make sure that birds didn’t deposit anything on it.  When John turned his back to her, Jan poured water into her hand and dumped it on his head.  John stood, hollered words that his mother would’ve washed out of his mouth, and swiped his head with a cloth napkin.  His friends laughed, and John laughed loudest.

Only his generous heart surpassed John’s sense of humor.  January 1976, a snowstorm hit the Nashville area at rush hour and immediately turned roads into parking lots.  My fifteen- month-old daughter, Alicia, and I were stranded on a neighborhood street, miles away from our home on the other side of Davidson County.  After two hours, my new best friends, whose cars were parked on the snow-covered, icy street, pushed my car into a driveway and watched as I knocked on a stranger’s door.  I asked to use her phone and stay inside her warm house.  The snow finally stopped and the main roads were cleared.  John left his workplace in downtown Nashville.  He drove out of his way to rescue Alicia and me from a stranger’s house and took us to his and Jo Ann’s home.  Midnight supper never taste so good.

‘John stories,’ Jo Ann calls them.  Stories that remind me to laugh and hug.  Stories that make me happy that John was my friend.  Stories that help heal hurting hearts.

 

 

 

 

Fall’s Biggest Social Events

How about the tailgating at TTU?  Lots of food and fun.  A bounce zone for the young and young at heart.  Fathers and sons playing football.  Corn hole games.  Frisbies.  Some folk bring their own food.  Some dine on the free food and beverages that are provided by local churches and businesses.  Tech cheerleaders pump us up for the game, and my favorite, the TTU Marching Band performs.

When did tailgating begin?  The American Tailgater Association, on its website, details the history of sharing food and drink before events and says the first documented tailgate probably took place in 1861 at the Battle of Bull Run.  It states, “At the battle’s start, civilians from the Union side arrived with baskets of food and shouting, ‘Go Big Blue!’  Their efforts were a form of support and were to help encourage their side to win the commencing battle.”  The Romans ate and drank outside the Coliseum before gladiator games.  Doesn’t that fall into the broad definition of tailgating?  Surely, they shared food and spirits and talked about the upcoming sports events.

In 1869, a group of Rutgers fans and players, wearing scarlet-colored scarves as turbans, paraded before the football game between Princeton and Rutgers.  This was one of the earliest recorded celebrations before a sporting event.

There are all styles and levels of tailgating.  Tailgating was simple when we drove a big wood panel station wagon.  We lowered the tailgate, spread out a plastic tablecloth and food.  Pimento cheese sandwiches, chips, and store bought cookies.  Then came vans.  We packed chairs, coolers with drinks, upscaled to ham rolls, fancy dips for chips, and cupcakes decorated with our team’s mascot.  Or we picked up a family-pack barbeque dinner on the way to the game.

For some folks, RV tailgating is the ultimate.  As good as life gets, I’ve been told, and an event that can go on for several days.  No need to go to the game.  RVers park close to the stadium and watch the game on big screen televisions.  They relax in their comfortable chairs, eat and drink all through the game, know there’s been a big play when they hear the roar of the crowd, and maybe even the game announcer, and celebrate when their team scores on the big screen.

Football fans on the Ole Miss campus take tailgating to the extreme.  And when I tailgated in The Grove, I made a check mark on my bucket list.  Ten acres in the center of a campus shaded by oak, elm, and magnolia trees.  Thousands of fans under a sea of red, white, and blue tents.  And the table settings and fare were fit for a southern girl’s wedding reception.  Elaborate centerpieces, silver candlesticks, tablecloths, fancy hor d’oeuvres, barbecue, fried chicken, shrimp, and all the fixings.

Tailgating isn’t just about the food.  It’s getting ready for the big game.  Food, friends, and fun —what’s not to like about one of fall’s biggest social events?

How Girls are Wired

Last week I visited a kindergarten class.  Two little girls sat on the floor side-by-side and stacked blocks on each side of a balance weight scale.  I watched and asked them what they liked about school.  Millie answered quickly.  “I like my two best friends.  Lydia and Lora.”  She didn’t know their last names.  Lydia said, “I like my teacher.  She’s nice.  And my two best friends.  Millie and uh……..What’s her name?”  I laughed.  It’s good to know that some things about little girls haven’t changed since I was a child.

Young children are friends and don’t know each other’s last names.  And sometimes, just like Lydia, they don’t know first names.  And it hasn’t changed that girls have best friends.  Boys have friends, but seem to run in packs.  During the twenty-five years that I taught elementary age students, and more than that as the mother of a son, I’ve never known a boy who wrote BFF (best friends forever).

According to a study reported in TIME Science and conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health and Georgia State University, girls are hardwired to care about one-on-one relationships with their best friend forever, while the brains of boys are more attuned to group dynamics and competition with other boys. (http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1911103,00.html)

I was ten when my best friend’s family moved twenty miles away and my friend went to a different school.  I cried for three nights.  Who would I sit with at lunch?  Who’d swing with me on the playground?  And who’d ask me to spend the night?  On Friday, the girl who sat behind me in my 5th grade class wore her red shirt that was just like mine, and she went home with me after school.  And the next Friday night, I stayed all night at her house.

We females latch onto a friend and declare her my BBF.  In high school, a best friend loans her glittery sweater and keeps secrets.  As maid of honor, she stands beside us when we say, “I do.”  She babysits so we can get a haircut when our days are filled with dirty diapers and play dough.  She picks up our children at school when we’re sick.  She plans our surprise 40th birthday party.  She’s the first person we call with good news.  Or bad news.

Among a listing of Truths for Mature Humans I read, “I think part of a best friend’s job should be to immediately clear your computer history when you die.”  I agree.  And I hope she cleans my bathroom and throws away the molded casserole on the bottom shelf of my refrigerator before my relatives arrive.

As Millie and Lydia grow up, I predict that they’ll have many different best friends and they’ll know their names.  First and last names.  But the names aren’t important.  What’s important is that they have a close friend for each stage of their lives.  That’s just the way girls are wired.