Friends

Friends come in many shapes and sizes. I’ve found that it’s not their shapes and sizes that makes a friend, but the size of their hearts.

As with anything in Life, there is a certain chemistry that steers a person to another. There is that same interest in a hobby or an activity that captures the attention—similar tastes in foods, a certain adventurous spirit, an attraction to the same kinds of music or art and so much more. But, there are also differences that attracts as well and this becomes a learning experience for both.

There are different kinds of friends.

There are Casual Friends—these are people who pop into our lives briefly, but are likeable and personable. I include among them  the produce person, the baker and my favourite cashier at the supermarket; the friendly barista at the frequented coffee-bar or the wait-person at the bistro who knows your preferences; the same people I briefly encounter on my walks. An exchange of “How are you? Great weather for walking!”  makes the start of a day an enjoyable one.

There are Fun Friends I like to do things with—-they are more than casual friends. They are my concert friends, my art friends, my writing friends, my line-dancing friends,  my burlesque-fit friends and my going-out-to-eat friends. I’ve learned a lot being with my fun friends.

Finally, there are the True Friends. If you have one or two true friends in your life, then you are a rich person. I am extremely fortunate to claim a few true friends. Nothing else matters because your true friend(s) is/are always within your reach. This is a friendship that may have been forged in your childhood or as recent as a few years. No matter what has happened in your life over the years, TFs are there for you. Even if you live in opposite ends of the country, there’s always that joke or  message in your email or even a long-distance phone call. And yes, nowadays, that on-screen face-to-face video call. Even if you haven’t seen each other in a number of years, TFs connect immediately, as if you had only seen each other the day before.

TFs are a combination of fun friends as well as true friends. It doesn’t matter if you spend only an hour or a full-day because the time spent is always enjoyable and amusing. They can talk you into doing something you’ve never considered and you realize afterwards, it was fun. They leave your rainy day filled with rainbows and sunshine.

TFs are supportive, comforting and good listeners if there are problems. They may offer solutions or just lend a shoulder or merely listen. Help is there if you need it. I know that they know I’m there for them too.

I like most people I encounter from day-to-day and I delight in my fun friends. But, I feel most blessed with my few true friends who have been with me through all the ups and downs of my life.  They are the ones I adore, appreciate and enjoy very much. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best:

“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

Mr. Murphy and Costco

 

I always enjoy my excursions to Costco.  It gives my Volvo a nice run along the highway and I get to check out the books, samples, snacks, food and yes, sometimes even clothes. I have a list of things I need to get when I go to the Super C. And then, there is my mental list that I check. Chocolate, of course, is on that second list.  There is a certain route one takes to get to that particular aisle and by golly, there was my sack of Dark Chocolate Almond Nuggets—healthy because there is dark chocolate, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds. Not sure about the chia seeds, but everything else sounds tasty as well as healthy. Normally, it takes me at least 90 minutes to check out everything on both my lists as well as enticing stuff along the way.

I checked my needed things and swooped down the aisle of dried fruits and nuts to get my dry tart cherries for trail-mixes and baking. Browsed through the books and picked up one by John Sanford that I hadn’t read yet. Zinged down to the paper towels and hauled 2 huge packs into my cart. Whipped around the corner and straight down a clear aisle to move into line at the cashier, but not before grabbing a pack of 3 reading glasses with a discount of $6. Since I recently had cataract surgery on both eyes, distance was awesome but the close-ups needed a nudge.  These reading glasses were perfect at $12 and a  great bargain to boot!

This trip was phenomenal as my entire time in the store was 35 minutes. I was ready to roll out the door, load up the car and head back down the highway, EXCEPT I COULDN’T FIND MY CAR.

Has this ever happen to you?  Everything is humming along, tickety-boo and then BAM—that happy flow goes kablooey. The morning had started out so well—blue skies and sunshine, but between the time I parked the car, entered the store and exited, the weather had turned colder with a very brisk wind. As I wandered the rows of cars and trucks in the humongous parking lot, the wind got brisker and colder.

“I know that feeling!” called a cheerful voice as I wandered the aisles and looked hopefully for my familiar silver Volvo station wagon. “I finally found mine because I pressed the alarm button on my remote,” the cheerful voice offered helpfully. She found her car with no problem and unloaded her cart.

I had already tried the alarm button on my remote but I couldn’t hear  my car. There were several other vehicles that had flashed their lights and sounded their alarms, but those were other people’s cars.

“Lost your car, too?” queried a short, plump man anxiously peering down the aisles.

“Yep,” I replied, “looking for my silver Volvo wagon.”

“Haven’t passed any yet, but I’m searching for my red Honda. And if it isn’t here, then it must be stolen. Hondas are on the ‘wish’ list for crooks”

“I passed a red Honda two aisles that way and just past the gas sign,” I offered helpfully. The frazzled Honda owner pushed his loaded cart towards that general direction, frantically pushing his remote’s alarm button. His grateful smile said it all as his car responded with a nasal honk.

“Yoo-hoo!” a silver-haired woman with her loaded cart of garden flowers, waved to grab my attention. “Hello, Hawaiian dancer,” she beamed at me. “Don’t worry, Honey—your car is here somewhere, just keep pressing that alarm button on that remote thingy. I’m sure you’ll find the car before you freeze to death in this wind! Good luck, Hon,” and my Hawaiian dancing classmate stopped at her car and proceeded to unload her “treasures.”

I met up with two of my former work colleagues, who waved “Hello” and gave me sympathetic smiles. Apparently the phenomena of “losing one’s car in Costco’s parking lot” happens quite frequently. Passing a large cart depot nudged my memory that I had parked near a huge cart deposit when I ventured into Costco a gazillion years ago. Carefully navigating down one aisle, I pressed my remote’s alarm and practically did a happy dance when I heard the familiar cry of my Volvo!

Happily reunited with my “Silver Bullet,” I made a couple of mental notes to myself.        1)  park somewhere closer or at least, near a distinctive parking lot landmark and           2)  bring a friend along on the next trip to remember where the car is parked!

As for Mr. Murphy, aka “Murphy’s Law”—just as you think it’s smooth sailing, it’s not. Murphy’s just around the corner and ready to crimp your perfect day.

Uncle Harry

My Grandma had a best friend who loved all the things my Grandma did as well as having a few quirky beliefs of her own . All the cousins  plus  my brother and I called her Aunt Belle. At that time, my brother and cousins managed to disappear whenever Aunt Belle came to visit, as the visits tended to be boring to a group of active kids. One day, my Grandma went to visit Aunt Belle.  Aunt Belle’s grand-daughter was also visiting, so I was drafted to meet Winnie. She was the same age  as I.  Both grandmothers hoped we would entertain each other while the adults enjoyed their coffee and gossip undisturbed.

I thought I knew a lot of stuff at 7 years. After all, I was the one with an older brother, a toddler sister and gazillion  cousins. Winnie was an “older” 7 year old and an only child. She knew things I had never heard of and delighted in educating me.

“I want you to meet Uncle Harry,” she said.

“Okay,” I agreed. I never knew there was an Uncle Harry at Aunt Belle’s, but maybe he was visiting too. Winnie walked over to the pig pen. Climbing onto the lower rungs of the fence, she leaned over and called out, “Hi Uncle Harry.”  And a huge pinkish-gray pig waddled over to the fence and grunted at her. Winnie proceeded to introduce her “uncle” to me. He swivelled his head to glare at me and belched a belly-rolling grunt that resulted in a cloud of toxic fumes. I looked at the pig in disbelief.

“That’s not your ‘Uncle Harry’—that’s a fat, ugly, smelly pig!”

“Nope—this is really my Uncle Harry. Grandma said just before Uncle Harry passed on, Desdemona gave birth to two piglets. One died at birth and at the exact moment, Uncle Harry died, the surviving piglet was born. My Grandma called it karma and declared this was Uncle Harry. As a final word on that subject, Winnie fiercely added, “Grandma doesn’t lie.”

That statement alone should have ended the conversation, but I was a 7 year old who didn’t believe that an uncle could somehow morph into a pig. How was this even remotely possible?

“It just is and I believe my Grandma,” Winnie insisted. Since Winnie and I were supposed to like each other like Aunt Belle and my Grandma, I reluctantly let this moment of truth slide past.

I spied the swings by the apple orchard. It was basically a wooden board, worn smooth by the countless bottoms and feet of past generations. The “seat” was held by ropes on either side and attached securely over a sturdy wood frame. We each took a swing by standing on the seat. Holding firmly to the ropes on either side, we propelled ourselves into space by furiously pumping our legs. Winnie was really good at gaining great heights. She was fearless. If there was a competition, she would have been the one who gained the highest heights and farthest swings than any one else.

The apple orchard had the best apples at the top, where it was impossible to reach, even if you climbed to the higher branches. Someone who could swing higher and farther could quickly stretch an arm out and snatch a few large, juicy apples to share with her new best friend. In our young minds, this was definitely do-able. What we didn’t count on was that apples had to have that certain ripeness that made it easily pluckable. These apples didn’t have that yet. Each pass that Winnie made only gave her a handful of leaves. By this time, failure was not an option. There was determination to grab an apple or two—even one apple would be enough to prove  the theory was possible. The final  attempt had Winnie high enough on her swing out but, before she hit the downswing, her hand quickly reached out to grab an apple from one of the branches. Success!  Giggling we slowed our swings to a stop and examined our prize. One side was  a lush, juicy red while the other side held a hole large enough to see a fat, contented worm, blissfully drunk on the warm juice. We both shrieked and Winnie threw the apple into the pig pen. Uncle Harry enjoyed his snack.

Sighing with disappointment that we didn’t even shared a bite of the fruit, Winnie suddenly asked, “Have you ever gathered eggs?” Shaking my head, Winnie grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the hen house. “It’s really fun. All you have to do is lift the hen off her nest and grab the egg.” She demonstrated by marching up to a plump white chicken, deftly plucking her off the nest and grabbing the warm egg. Then she gently set the chicken back on her nest.

“See? Easy-peasy.  We put the eggs in this basket after the chickens poop them out.”

“This is so fun,” I said enthusiastically. “Let me try.” Copying Winnie’s attitude, I marched over to another plump hen to lift her off her nest.  Somehow, Winnie had made it look easy. But she never told me the chicken would weigh a ton. Sensing my inexperience. the chicken began to flap her wings and shake her feathers while staying firmly in her nest. Looking disgusted, Winnie lifted the chicken, grabbed two eggs and set the bird down again. The next chicken made us both pause. That chicken had a mega-size black rooster with  a brilliant red comb and distinctive wattles, guarding her nest.

“That’s not another ‘uncle’ is it?” I asked nervously.

“Of course not,” scoffed Winnie. “This is Big Red. He rules the barnyard and keeps all he hens happy. At least, that’s what Benjy told me. I don’t really understand that but I think it’s the ‘birds and bees’ stuff that adults are always yammering about. We’ll skip the next two and try that one over there.”

Again, I tried lifting the hen. Shocked, she expelled an egg directly into Winnie’s palm just as I dropped her in her nest. By the time we finished in the hen house, we had collected 30 eggs.

And before Winnie could show me more stuff, Aunt Belle was yelling for us to return to the house. Why is it that just as things were getting interesting, adults tend to interrupt?

 

PRUNES AND STUFF

There are many things that shapes us and influences us as we travel along Life’s highways—prunes are one of them. I’ve always loved prunes. I didn’t know how important it was to my grandparents, but when my Mom packed raisins, dates and prunes into my school lunch, it was a good day. I would trade anything else in my lunch box, but unless the trade involved a chocolate bar, the dried fruits were mine.

My first eye-opener on the importance of this innocuous fruit was when my girlfriend and I did our first Mississippi paddle-wheeler cruise. As we pulled away from the New Orleans dock to begin our paddle-wheeling adventure, there was an “emergency” announcement that there would be “no prunes available for breakfast” the following     morning—in fact, there would be “no prunes” for the entire week on the river. That     was our first indication of the general age group on board. It was also our first indication that we were out-of-luck meeting “hot guys,” but really safe in meeting their grandparents.

I think “aging” is big bucks in a market geared to capitalizing on staying forever young.     This makes it especially delightful to note the older women competing for “Best Actress” and “Best Supporting Actress,”—actresses like Frances McDormand, Meryl Streep, Mary Blige, Laurie Metcalf and Lesley Manville. How wonderful that the  directors’ choice of talent and skill far outweighed the prejudice of age.

Lotions and potions have always been big bucks for women focused on remaining ageless. The more the companies claim they have the ultimate formulae for their “fountain of youth,” the higher the price-tag for the tiny bottle of “miracle.” I always thought mild soap and warm water, along with a good moisturizer did the same job.

Last week, Milly, a very lucid lady celebrating her 102nd birthday, daintily sipped her tea, while answering questions.

“How do you remain so young in your looks as well as your thinking?” And she replied,

“Don’t smoke, eat right,  get plenty of sleep, wash your face with a gentle soap and warm water, use a good moisturizer,  wear a hat with a large brim to keep the sun off, don’t fuss about the rough patches Life throws at you, but enjoy all the good bits while you can.”

“But,” persisted the reporter, “what about drinking?”

Milly winked impishly and smiled. “Well, my Dear—drink plenty of water flavoured with a big dollop of whiskey and serve it in a teacup. This is guaranteed to ward off colds and anything else that ails the body or mind. Works for me, every time!”

Happy Birthday, Milly. May you stay forever young. . .

 

TECHIE THOUGHTS

My one and only niece plus my four grandchildren are brilliant at figuring out their techie toys. You know the ones I mean–the electronic notepads, laptops, iPods and cellphones that do everything except cook your dinner. Yep–all these and more.

Hubby and I usually hold our breaths if the TV or our computers begins to act erratically, finally blooming into a full-blown emergency where we have to call Telus, our service provider. It takes a wealth of time, patience and a big sack of snacks to finally break through to an actual living person who can correct the problem, from wherever he/she lives. It’s always a revelation that someone in Malaysia, Thailand or India can handle the problem.

I have what the salesman solemnly called the “senior” cellphone. I can call out and receive calls on the phone; take photos as it does have a decent camera and I recently discovered that I can text. However, if I return a text message, it takes forever as the alphabet  is similar to my push-button phone. In order to type a, b, c, it means a tap for “a,” two taps for “b” and 3 taps to get “c.”  I can see why spelling using short-cuts is a really, really good idea. AND, thank the stars, I rarely get any text messages unless it’s an advert from Rogers, my cellphone carrier or from my forgetful friend or my out-of-town cousin. My friend had recently taken the plunge and bought a Smartphone that did everything. She was only discovering a teensy bit of what it could actually do–texting was one of them.

Heading out to do my errands, I turned on my cellphone and stuffed it in my coat pocket. The cellphone immediately gave an ominous buzz and did a frantic jiggle, twitch and bounce in my pocket. “Oh no,” I groaned. Did this mean I had to get a new phone? Did the carrier finally realize I was still running on my old contract that had expired a number of years ago? Can I even get my basic phone fixed? I truly like my basic senior phone. Maybe I could rustle up a group of rabble-rousing, gray-powered citizens to rally for a     good cause. All these thoughts tumbled at warp speed from my brain.

Reluctantly I hauled the phone out to see what the problem was. It was my friend who forgot that I didn’t text. She had texted three frantic messages—bing, bing, bing—causing my quiet, peaceful senior cellphone to react hysterically. I checked the time and date. It had been sent 2-days ago—that was the last time I had turned on my phone.  The emergency was the loss of a pair of glasses. She had retraced her steps from all the shops, businesses and errands she had been doing two days ago. Hastily, I emailed from my computer,  that since she had checked all the obvious places—what about  all the not so obvious places like the trunk of her car, the freezer or the dog-house. After all, lost things are never where they’re supposed to be and often take to roaming to more exciting locales.

Success!  Not taking any chances that I wouldn’t immediately see her text, my friend phoned on her Smartphone. The missing glasses had been found neatly tucked inside a stack of clean, folded laundry.

Now my question is—if technology is so smart and there was a Smartphone involved, why can’t there be some sort of “dot” placed on the glasses and accessed through the GPS system on the Smartphone.  WHAA-AT?   There is no GPS locator on the Smartphone?  What about snacks?  What about coffee?  What about. . .

And those techie-mind whizzes wonder why I don ‘t have more techie toys—not in my house, Buster!

Warm and Cuddly or. . .?

Looks are everything. Don’t let anyone tell you different. If a slender red-headed female, with long curly hair, big blue eyes and a warm, friendly smile, stopped you for directions, what red-blooded, healthy male would rush by without stopping? Would this hold true if a short, plump senior lady stopped for directions? I hope so, but I would team with the skinny red-head for faster action.

Looks really are everything in some situations and let’s face it, certain images conjures up certain expectations. If a respectable male approached for directions who had that air of dignity, wore a dark suit and classy tie and looked like your mental image of a banker or corporate lawyer, then yes, I think I would stop and help. He may well be a terrorist or a mass murderer, but hey, I’m going on what I think is a picture of respectability. On the other hand, someone with a thin ferret face and squinty eyes, wearing a worn jogging outfit, with a suspicious smear of red on his sleeve—-will be the one I’d run from. After all, he looks like my mental image of an unsavory character ready to rob us or worse. It doesn’t matter that he’s probably the reputable lawyer on his day off, who had accidently brushed his sleeve in the ketchup. But, he would definitely be someone to run away from.

On a recent 90-minute ferry ride between Vancouver and Victoria BC, I had ample time to do my favorite past-time of “people-watching.” We are a very diverse group of humans and when you mix in cultural differences, it is a fascinating subject for “research.” I like to pick certain people who would make great characters in my forever-on-going book. I carry a small notebook in my coat pocket and jot down the details that initially caught my eye.  One time, it was this brilliant plaid scarf—red, green and mauve colors—wrapped several times around the scrawny neck of a tall, gawky male, who carried a black cane with a falcon’s head carved in the top of the handle. Heading for the buffet lunch on the top deck, I was pleased to be seated next to the “scarf.” The owner had left his scarf and  papers there to mark his seat.

Returning with my laden tray, the scarf was again securely  wrapped around his owner’s neck as he perused his newspapers and enjoyed his buffet. Glancing over at my tray, he remarked, “Desserts are not good for you, especially macarons.” Beaming back at him, I replied, “The ferry’s macarons are fabulous and I love the way they do the chocolate trifle. But I did take a bit of that mish-mash stuff with the veggies and the chicken pasta with the cherry tomatoes.” I looked over at his tray. Yep, healthy. A generous helping of mixed greens, a large scoop of broccoli/cauliflower/ zucchini mix, a serving of the salmon in dill sauce, a heaping portion of the fresh fruit salad—no real dessert. Since I had 6 macarons on my side plate, I offered my neighbor one. “Thank you, but not for me. You do realize macarons are nothing but egg-whites and sugar. Probably white sugar which is very bad for you.”

I looked at him and asked, “Are you a food writer or a health-food expert?” He replied, “I have just been to Vancouver to discuss a book I have written called “Eating Badly.” Nodding that I was listening, I dived into the mish-mash veggie thing which was surprisingly tasty. I proceeded to mix the remains into my chicken pasta which made it even better. Then I poked out all the cherry tomatoes because it wasn’t acceptable to do this back at the buffet table. He watched fascinated  but refrained from any comments.By this time, we were on first-names.  His name was Kenneth, not Ken or Kenny, but “Kenneth.”  Before I tackled my macarons, I offered again. “No, thank you,” and unabashedly watched me nibble my way through 2, then carefully placed the remaining 4 into my handy-dandy zip-locked bag. As he tackled his fruit salad, I dived into my chocolate trifle, which was superb.

I asked about his unique cane with the falcon’s head. Pleased, he told me that this was his grandfather’s cane. When Grandfather was a young boy, he had gotten lost in the woods surrounding his family’s estate. It was a falcon that had swooped down, circled around him and got him to follow. The search party found him just as he emerged from the woods. His father commissioned a wood-carver to craft an ebony cane with a carved  falcon head’s head on the handle. The cane was passed to the first-born son in each generation.  Kenneth had inherited it a decade ago.

Remember what I said at the beginning? Looks are everything. Well, I really must stop thinking that.  My curiosity got the best of me with the colorful plaid scarf and the falcon head cane. The ferry trip was not a long one but for me, it had been a fascinating one.  Before we docked, Kenneth confessed that not many people would carry on a conversation with him as he was often too blunt in his opinions. However, he felt comfortable with me since I ignored all his food opinions and carried on enjoying my   selections. I shook his hand and wished him well with his book. Kenneth held my hand and wished me healthier choices at my next buffet.

I can hardly wait to take another ferry trip. . . . .

 

 

Holiday Fever

There is definitely something wrong when a flu-bug hits after or over the Holidays. I’m never sure if it’s because we were all so busy doing this and that, that our bodies got neglected and tired-out. And, since the body was now in a state of weakness, bam, a sneak virus attack. Flu-bugs should be labeled as weapons of mass destruction. Flu shots should come with this warning as well since these preventive inoculations doesn’t stop you from getting the flu, just prevents you from getting it worse. . . .or so they claim.

January, for me, has always been celebrating New Year’s day, then my birthday and finally, Chinese New Year. However, this year Chinese New Year doesn’t appear until February 16th.  My birthday arrived as it always does and Hubby made it a special day. By evening, my poor guy was feeling ill and by the next day, we knew it would be a bad one. I held out a bit longer but one day later, it was my turn. My one positive thought was, “Goody, I can now lose a few pounds without exercising. . .”   Mother Nature had other ideas because when the worst was over, I hadn’t lost one single pound which just goes to show that I’d be the ideal person to land on a deserted island.

My good intentions of joining a gym and being active with my two gym buddies fell by the wayside. They, too, were victims to the onslaught of the insidious flu-bug. So we all agreed by email that we would meet after the bug attack was over. Well, by mid-January, no one had moved a step. That gung-ho-let’s-do-it attitude seems to have left the building, along with the bug.

I sent out another email suggesting we meet at the local coffee bar, closest to all of us. It turned out “Timmy’s” was our favourite place for coffee because there were doughnuts and chocolate croissants and healthy muffins.  Needless to say, we managed to grab a table, settle in with our coffee, doughnuts and chocolate croissants.  No healthy muffins for us as we were needing sugar for our brain-storming our exercise strategy. Comparing symptoms, we discovered none of us had lost any weight despite not eating for 3 days. Mazie impishly remarked, “If we meet like this every time we do a gym session, none of us will lose anything!” Jan and I laughed as we both chorused, “”We have to keep our strength up!”

By the end of our meeting, we decided to try “walk-and-talks.” This was our favourite way to exercise. We would meet at various sites and do a 5-8 kilometer walk, eventually increasing to at least a 10-kilometer walk. So far, this has worked  well. Each of us have set a route and we have all enjoyed our walks and conversations. Besides choosing a route that is scenic and interesting, there has to be a coffee-bar and/or cafe at the end. Next Wednesday will be our 4th walk and we are discovering different local neighbourhoods and experiencing new eateries. Best of all, walking is a form of exercise that keeps us out of a stuffy gym and into the fresh air. Dressed for the West Coast Winter weather, we have all stuck to this exercise strategy despite the sometimes freezing temperatures, cold winds and always relentless rain.  Our positive mantra is “Spring is just around the corner and we’ll have the best-looking legs in our Summer shorts!”   Amen to that thought. . . . .