Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Well, it's that time of year again. I've turned another year older. I don't mind that so much, but I am concerned at how quickly life seems to be passing by. I'm not sure where my 30's went, and all of a sudden I'm mid-40's. Ouch. How did that happen?

I'm a little superstitious. Just a little. I admit that this coming year makes me a little nervous. You see, my Mom was the age I am now when she had a massive heart attack. She survived, but there was a lot of damage; she was never the same. Man, did that seem old to me at the time. It sure doesn't now.

Somehow this last year, I've seen the need to move faster, move quicker. It's like there's something driving me. I'm not sure what it is, but there's some urgency to the call.

Hopefully next year, I'll have accomplished something that I've always dreamed of doing.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Art of Letter Writing to your Best Friend...

Today is a day of mixed emotions for me. I'm both excited and feeling sorry for myself. Excited because I have a new cousin. Sad that I couldn't be there to see her join the family.

Let me now explain myself...

I grew up far away from all of my 12 cousins. In fact, many of them were a lot older than me - a lot. There was one, however, who was close in age to me (I was 18 months older) and we were best friends. He was the closest thing I ever had for a brother.

We first met when I was four and he was almost three. We met again when I was nine, 14, and 17. It wasn't until his family came for a full two and a half week visit when I was 21 that we really bonded. That visit had a profound effect on our relationship. Something magical took place. We did the silly things young people do: wandering around Lumberland together looping bungee cables on to the loops on the back of our respective shirts and walking around the store for a bit. One day while we were shopping at the mall with our families, we popped into a bookstore and I purchased a copy of War and Peace. I said, "Well, at least you can say your cousin doesn't read crap." Obviously surprised and impressed, he said, "No. I can't." (And, yes, I did read it in case you were wondering).

I was stunned at how devastated the loss was after they'd left. I literally cried for weeks - perhaps even months - afterwards. I was miserable. And the only way I knew of to alleviate that pain of loss was to write to him - and write lots. It was the start of a furious correspondence. Within days of their departure, the letters started (literally) flying back and forth across the ocean.

I wasn't just spilling my guts on paper for the sake of writing. No. I was writing to my best friend who I knew would read my letters soon. I also knew he'd write back and almost literally every day when I came home I eagerly looked for an envelope with his handwriting. It was the highlight of my day. It always made me sad to read the last page of his letters because I knew I'd probably have to wait a few more weeks before I'd receive another. Letters - especially the missives we sent to each other - took so long to write but could be read so quickly. Our letters were almost literal blow by blow descriptions of our daily lives.

Kids these days. Bah. They knew nothing of letter writing. They know nothing of writing, period. That's my biggest bitch of the Internet: the butchery of the English language. It's shocking how many people (especially young people) can't tell the difference between "your" and "you're" or "there" their" and "they're". It drives me mad.

They know nothing of the pain of waiting. They don't even get the joy of reading a lot of their "bff's" inmost thoughts. They'll never know how just writing to your best friend can be healing in and of itself. Their friends will never see the authenticity of tear drops on the pages as the writer shares the pain of her latest break up. They'll never know the spontaneous card and handwritten (not typed) letter with some mementos (a photo, a sampling of art work from the kids you worked with, or some such thing).

They'll never know the feeling of knowing that no one else would read these words; there was no chance. Those words were on paper and were secreted away and kept close by for re-reading and furiously guarded. It would have been an abomination to have someone else read them. These words were sacred. At least they were to me. Somehow just holding the same paper they had made you feel so close to that person. On the bad side, paper can be lost. And that's a shame. Some of those letters were special, very special. I remember one in particular: the way the letter had been placed in the envelope, he'd accidentally spilled the secret he'd been building up to the whole letter: he was coming for another visit. I'm sure he heard my screams of delight and excitement all the way from my room.

They'll never know the pain of having to wait until you get home to tell them you miss them after leaving them at the airport. But the recipient could tell by the tears on the page when he got the letter a week later. They'll never know the long running inside jokes that if other people read your letters would think you were "stark raving mad". Perhaps we were. I looked forward to writing to him. It was my pass time. It was what I loved to do. He was always on my mind.

My hands would ache from writing sometimes. But this was my best friend and he was worth the physical pain. I'm sure his hand often ached, too. Eventually, the letters went from handwritten to typed - an improvement on our output and was easier on the hands. To this day, I love listening to music while I write which was something I used to do while writing to him more often than not.

I always knew it wouldn't last forever and I dreaded it. I knew we had something very special and I didn't want it to end - but I knew it would one day. I knew we'd both eventually get married and even though we'd always write to each other, it wouldn't be the same as what we had at the moment.

We've always kept in touch, though since I got married not as much as I would like. We originally scorned the idea of email. After all, we both agreed that there was nothing like seeing a package in the mail at the end of a long, hard day. I wonder now if there was email back in the 80's and early 90's if we would have been as close. Somehow I don't think so. It was because we had to put so much effort into our letters that kept us close. There's no effort to email; there's no privacy.

So, it's with great joy that I'm excited that he has is now married to his best friend. It's also tinged with a little sadness that I can't be there to share that special day with him.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Carpe Diem

I have a new favourite song. Okay, I have a couple, but I'm only going to talk about one today. But I'm going to keep you in a bit of suspense for awhile longer while I give you some background.

Lately, I've been having a lot of morbid thoughts. I know that Duchess' death has made me re-evaluate my mortality and look at what I'd like to leave behind when I'm gone. I've really wondered, "Crap. What if this is all there is? Wouldn't that be awful? Surely there must be more to life than this miserable existence." I get depressed just thinking that.

I was generally a passive creature; passive by nature and passive by "molding". If I tried to do something and it didn't work out, I accepted it as that was what God wanted; that that was the way things were meant to be. Yet, somewhere, inside there was a spark that wanted freedom - but I was too scared to "steal the fire from the gods" and face the consequences of my actions. Occasionally, if I wanted something badly enough I would fight back against the forces of the universe. I do have a stubborn streak.

I don't know why, but on Monday I found myself humming a song I don't think I've (consciously) heard in months. When I got home, I "you-tubed" it ("is you-tubed" a word?)to watch the video. And it amazed me. I'd been aware of the band's existence since about 1987, but didn't pay that much attention to them. What few songs I'd heard of theirs I liked. You can see the video: here.

And here are the lyrics:

This ain't a song for the brokenhearted
No silent prayer for faith departed.
And I ain't gonna be just a face in the crowd.
You're gonna hear my voice when I shout it out loud.

It's my life. It's now or never.
I ain't gonna live forever.
I just wanna live while I'm alive
(It's my life)
My heart is like an open highway.
Like Frankie said, "I did it my way."
I just wanna live while I'm alive.
'Cause it's my life.

This is for the ones who stood their ground.
For Tommy and Gina who never backed down.
Tomorrow's getting harder, make no mistake.
Luck ain't even lucky, gotta make your own breaks.

It's my life. And it's now or never.
I ain't gonna live forever.
I just wanna live while I'm alive.
(It's my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said, "I did it my way."
I just wanna live while I'm alive.
'Cause it's my life.

You better stand tall when they're calling you out
Don't bend, don't break. Baby, don't back down

It's my life. It's now or never
'Cause I ain't gonna live forever.
I just wanna live while I'm alive.
(It's my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said, "I did it my way."
I just wanna live while I'm alive.
(It's my life)
And it's now or never.
I ain't gonna live forever
I just wanna live while I'm alive.
(It's my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said, "I did it my way."
I just wanna live while I'm alive.
'Cause it's my life!

Okay, okay. If you haven't figured it out by watching the video, it's Bon Jovi's "It's My Life." (And how did I miss Jon Bon Jovi being such a hottie all these years?) What a passionate call to life, to freedom. It's an anthem. It's a challenge to take accountability for one's actions and to take charge of one's life. The symbolism of having to go underground to sing to young people about freedom wasn't lost on me.

It's a song about desperately wanting to do something with your life and being true to who you are. It's about looking at your life honestly and a call to take steps - even leaps if necessary - to live life to the fullest.

Notice in the video, there's a clock running; time is running out. The young guy has only five minutes to make it to the tunnel. We don't know why it's important to him that he make the concert. We only know it is. The first time I saw it, I was on pins and needles: will he make it, or will he miss it? will this have a tragic ending? (I actually thought the semi might get him).

I've heard the call. Changes are coming. Slowly but surely, I'm learning to take some responsibility for my life, instead of being blown by the wind. This is my new theme song (yes, theme songs like on Ally McBeal. Speaking of Ally, wasn't Jon Bon Jovi on a few episodes?)

I look to the future with some hope. I pray there's still time left that I will leave behind something I will be respected for, so my life will not have been a complete and utter waste. I think I understand the pyramids now; why someone would want to leave a monument. It's so they won't be forgotten. I can almost hear the voices of the dead pharoahs mockingly say, "Who will remember you? I reach for the skies. They know my name. I am immortal".

What my "monument" might be, I don't know. I have some ideas of things I'd like to be remembered for. I've always wanted to be a writer. However, would I want to be a Stephenie Meyer, or a Margaret Mitchell? Let's face it, Twilight is NOT great literature (decent potential, poor execution). Margaret Mitchell's - though she only wrote one - is a classic and one that will never go out of print. It's still popular today, 70 years later. No one (hopefully) will still be reading Twilight in 70 years. Mitchell's one book? None other than my favourite novel, "Gone With The Wind." I'd like to think I could leave something that wonderful behind, but I'm not sure I could live up to the standard she set.

Join me in taking up the challenge to do something meaningful with your life - and I don't mean just going to work for the sake of making a living. Life is a gift - and we never know when it will snatched away from us. Life is eerily fragile. From now on, I'm going to try and take some "baby steps" to actually do some of the things that up to this point in my life I've only dreamed of doing.

Carpe Diem - Seize the Day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Eulogy to an Aristocat - RIP Duchess

I know I'll never get through this without sobbing, but I have to do it today while the memories are still fresh.

This morning, we lost our beloved pure bred lilac point Siamese cat, Duchess. She was 12 years old. We're both taking this pretty hard. Let me tell a little bit of her story.

We first met Duchess at the mall. We were newlyweds and we were in search of a cat/kitten. Originally, we were looking for a young adult, maybe a year old or so. I had hoped we'd find a Siamese, as that was my favourite breed, having had two previously. We'd been to a couple of animal shelters but couldn't see a cat/kitten we both agreed on. Then DH suggested we go to the mall and look at the pet store. Sure enough, not only did they have kittens, but Siamese kittens.

We asked to see the kittens. There were at least two on display, maybe three. One leaped over the other kittens and beat them to the door. She climbed up DH and started purring. Then she turned to me and climbed up me and started purring. That did it. We were both smitten. We looked at one of the other kittens they had, but it just didn't have the personality. This one was THERE. She was vibrant. As this was a Monday evening, we put down a deposit and came back for her on the Friday after work.

We were so excited to take home our new baby. I originally wanted to call her "Esmeralda" as when I'd read the "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" two years previously, I thought, "What a cool name for a Siamese cat." I remember talking to a friend on the phone the night we took her home and telling him about our new baby. Kitty was down at the end of the hall, and when I called her she came running; gamboling was more the word. She was all legs.

We took her to the vet the next morning to get checked out, and then we went to lunch. While sitting in the car eating our McDonalds, we said, "Well, if we're going to get a second cat, now's the time to do it." So, we went to the local SPCA and there was a little Siamese. She was obviously the darker markings, whereas our "first born" was the lighter. I picked up the little fur ball and said to DH, "What about this one?" And he said, "I can live with it." So that was how we added a second kitty. They meowed all the way home in their respective cat carriers.

When we got home, we opened up the carriers and let them meet. I put down food for them and let them go at it. The first born immediately started eating. The second one let out a cry, as it to say, "Hey! I want some, too." Firstborn, immediately put her paw on second born's head, as if to say, "Be cool, kid". To which, the second born literally had a hissy fit.

Now we had a problem. What would we call them? As I said, I originally wanted to call the first born "Esmeralda" but somehow, that didn't suit her; it suited the darker markings of our second born. So, the second born had a name: Esmeralda, but what to call the first born. I suggested "Duchess" after the mother cat in Disney's "The Aristocats" and because she was a pure bred. DH agreed, so that was how we ended up with Duchess ("Duch") and Esmeralda ("Essie" or "Es").

Duchess accepted Essie right away and wanted to play with her, but Essie wasn't so keen on Duch. It took about three days before she accepted Duch. By the Wednesday, they were sleeping together. That was it. From then on, they were siblings. They loved each other, yet could get on each other's nerves. I saw them "bitch slap" each other as kittens.

Having two cats - let alone kittens - was new to both of us. I'd never had more than one cat before, and neither had DH. It was fun. It's sad, but I can't remember a lot of the mischief they got into, but I do remember some stories. Notably, the time Duch climbed out on to the patio railing, stretched herself out and put her front paws on the window to the right, exposing herself to a fall of 13 stories. I'm glad it was DH that was home and not me. I might have freaked out and she would have plunged to her death right then and there. Somehow he coaxed her back down, all the while thinking, "Heather's going to kill me."

Duchess was a smart cat. Man, was she ever. Being the pure bred, she was also a feline jumping machine. I once saw Essie charge Duch and Duchess avoided Essie by jumping straight up in the air, about two feet. Ah, the joys of kitten hood.

Everyone - including pets - have their flaws. But not Duchess. Seriously. I can't think of a single bad trait she had. The worst I can say is that she could be stubborn and a bit proud, but those are good things. She was patient, she was loving as well as smart.

Like all pets, she had her quirks. Hers was what we called, "playing with dolls." She used to take her toys, carry them in her mouth (like a mama cat) through to the kitchen and dump them in the food and/or water bowl. I had to be very careful when I stitched that I picked up all my bobbins of floss afterwards, or she'd steal them, too. Many's the time I had to chase her around the apartment in an attempt to take back my floss, or it, too, would suffer the fate of her toys and take a bath in the water dish.

People used to say, "Oh, Siamese? I bet they're noisy." No. Neither of them were. Of the two, Essie was more vocal. Duchess had a very quiet meow. In fact, she hardly meowed at all. When she was one year old, we moved down to the U.S. for the first time. It was late August/September and the mallard ducks were starting to congregate beneath our window, two floors down. Duchess used to sit in the window and watch them, fascinated. Then we noticed she started "quacking." Seriously. She was walking around imitating the noise of the mallards. She wasn't meowing; she was quacking.

Eventually she found her voice. When she wanted to, she could turn on the full volume Siamese yowl. When we lived in a townhouse with three floors, she often could be heard at night in the basement "tuning up."

She was a perfect pet. When DH's mom died, it was Duch who climbed up on DH and started purring in an attempt to comfort him. She didn't go to me. She went to him. Somehow she knew exactly who to go to. Essie just didn't get it. I used to say that Essie was "brainless but beautiful," which is a fairly accurate description. I've often joked that she may have been deprived of oxygen at birth.

Essie and Duch took turns being top cat. Eventually, however, Duchess seemed to emerge as the dominant one. I guess Essie pissed off Duch one day, and I saw Duch grab Essie by the throat and smash her head against the floor a couple of times to teach Essie a lesson. But it would take Duch a LOT to lose her cool like that. She was very patient; always dignified; always a lady. She never took a swipe at us, of scratched us, or tried to bite us. EVER. I can only think of one time in all her years where she hissed. It was the first time she met a child: when she was four months old.

She became DH's cat; she favoured him. I was all right with that. They had a special relationship. He used to play with her with his keys. He would jingle them for her, and she would try to swipe them. Whenever she did, she would start doing the "Duchess dance" (as we called it) to demonstrate her superiority. The "Duchess dance" consists of kneading into either a person or some piece of furniture with the claws, while swinging the hips, in an attempt to show off.

They were our babies and I loved them dearly. I dreaded the day that I would lose either one of them. Being Siamese, I expected they would live a long time. One of my previous Siamese cats lived to 21. Being a pure bred, I knew that Duchess would probably be the first to go.

Everything was fine and I had two healthy (eventually three, but Hesperatu doesn't really figure much in this story) cats. That was until about nine months ago. Duchess - almost overnight - lost weight. I was concerned, but thought, "Well, she'll put it back on." I watched her to ensure she ate. She always was the more picky eater, so I tried to do what I could. She seemed to lose more weight. I took her to the vet and she was five pounds, down from the nine pounds when she was last weighed. The vet did a blood test and it came back clean: kidneys and liver were fine, and she didn't have diabetes. He did express concern about the lack of protein in her blood and hinted that it might be cancer and that she would need to come back for an x-ray to see what they could see.

Unfortunately, due to finances, I wasn't able to do the x-ray until last week. Up until that point, she was doing pretty well. Still eating, still peeing. True, she'd lost a step or two, but I put that down to the fact she was 11 years old, approaching 12. I didn't think it was cancer. I thought she just might be clogged internally. I did notice she'd had a problem going "poop" and added more fibre to her diet to help her go. I even upped the fibre and it worked. Ten days ago, she laid a ping pong sized ball of poop (sorry if that's too much information). But something happened after that. From then on, she refused to eat. I had to force feed her. I took her in for the x-ray and the vet said she was "bad off." She was dehydrated and was now down to three pounds. She was literally skin and bones. The x-ray showed that a lot of her organs were "fuzzy" looking. They weren't clear like the heart and lungs were. He gave me some antibiotics and I was told to bring her back once they were finished.

She cascaded downhill after that. Mom and Dad came round on Sunday evening to say "good bye".

By yesterday, she could barely walk. She dragged her hind legs around. Last night, she slept in the cat basket, which was balanced on my night table. At some point during the night, she moved and reached out towards me. I picked her up and took her into bed with me. I'm not sure what time that was, but it was still very dark. When I woke up about 7:45, she was gone. She was still warm, but she was dead. We sat with her for about three hours, reminiscing - looking at photos and videos we'd taken. We placed her body in the cat basket. She looked like she was asleep. I kept saying, "Wake up, Duch. Come on, wake up."

What killed her? We did, ultimately and I'll never forgive myself. This has hit us hard, and it's more than just losing a precious pet and companion. It's the guilt that we just couldn't afford to help her in her hour(s) of need. She's the innocent victim of our mistakes and she was forced to pay for our "sins." Naturally, there is no guarantee that if I'd taken her in to the vet right away that they could have caught whatever it was that was ailing her. But it might have. She never once complained, or showed signs of being in pain. She may have looked miserable, but more like she was fighting a nasty flu, not fighting for her life - until this last week.

Duchess, I'm so sorry. I hope you know how much we both loved you. I'm so sorry we let you down. I'm glad you're away from your suffering. You were the perfect kitty.

I sign off with her theme song, the title song from The Aristocats sung by Maurice Chevalier. You can listen to it: here

Which pets' address is the finest in Paris?
Which pets possess the longest pedigree?
Which pets get to sleep on velvet mats?
Naturalment! The Aristocats!

Which pets are blessed with the fairest forms and faces?
Which pets know best all the gentle social graces?
Which pets live on cream and loving pats?
Naturalment! The Aristocats!

They show aristocratic bearing when they're seen upon
an airing, and aristocratic flair in what they do and what they say!
Aristocats are never found in alleyways or hanging around the garbage cans where common kitties play. Oh no!

Which pets are known to never show their claws?
Which pets are prone to hardly any flaws?
To which pets do the others tip their hats?
Naturalment! The Aristocats!

Naturalment! Naturalment!
Oh, Naturalment!
The Aristocats

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Wax Museum...

You're just never sure what things will impact you for your entire life. I have three stories I'd love to share that have formed some sort of conspiracy (OMG. The spelling of that "c" word is pretty hilarious considering what I'm going to be writing about) to profoundly affect my life.

When I was about four years old, Mom and Dad somehow got the dubious privilege of taking some of us kids from church over to Victoria, BC for the day. One of our destinations was the Royal London Wax Museum. If you know the museum, you'll know there's a figure of Cleopatra bathing there in front of Julius Caesar. Dad, being the dutiful tour guide asked, "So does anybody know how she died?" None of the kids knew, so he said, "She was bitten by a snake."

Something happened at that moment. It was like some genetic memory switch had been turned on. I refused to get into bed that night as I was convinced - somehow - that there was a snake in my bed. I howled and set up such a fuss that Dad came in to see what was the matter. He pulled back the sheets to prove to me that my Mom was telling the truth that there was no snake in my bed. He then reaffirmed her orders to get into bed. I was "disinclined to acquiesce to their request" (that means "no") and continued my assertion that there was indeed a reptile hiding somewhere betwixt and between my sheets. I'm fairly sure I lost my case based on the lack of evidence on my part. Considering who the judge and jury were, I'm sure I couldn't have had a fair trial anyway. I should have launched an appeal. But I digress...

From that moment on, I have been irrationally afraid of reptiles (in general) and snakes in particular. I loathe them and despise them. It's something I've never outgrown and probably never will. I even get queasy watching nature shows, as I get so upset over watching some poor animal getting devoured by these vile creatures. Okay, wildebeest sort of don't count. They're too stupid to exist. "Oh, look! There's a pair of eyes swimming towards me in the water. I wonder if it will be friends with me." Um, no. Not unless you are thinking in the Hannibal Lector sense of it "having an old friend for dinner."

So that's the first thing. Here's the second:

In 1975, when I was eight, my parents finally gave into my years of, "Can we go to Disneyland, Dad? Can we go to Disneyland, Dad?" (Well, I'm not sure I really was that big of a pest, but I'm sure I did ask). We left on a Friday morning and drove down to Anaheim. I was warned that repeated questions regarding the arrival at our destination would not be tolerated and that we'd be there Monday. In the meantime, I was encouraged to stick my head in the books I'd brought along for the ride.

On the Sunday morning, upon waking, I was informed that our ETA had been adjusted and we would be arriving in Disneyland that evening. However, we would be arriving too late to go to the park. It would have to wait until tomorrow. I found this new change of itinerary satisfactory.

I know we spent two days at the park. I'm not sure what day we went on Pirates of the Caribbean, but it might have been our first. I don't think I'd heard of the Caribbean before (I vaguely remember asking my Mom where the Caribbean was as we were walking in) and I'm not sure if I'd heard of this attraction or not. Yet, something is ringing a faint bell about hearing about it on a Sunday night episode of "The Wonderful World of Disney" that featured a tour of Disney World in Florida. Something happened on that ride. It began my love affair with pirates. It's the only explanation I have for my love of pirates. One of my all-time favourite movies is "Captain Blood" starring Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland. So, yes, I loved pirates long before they became cool thanks to Captain Jack Sparrow and the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise. I was so ahead of my time.

So, when DH and I started dating and I mentioned that I loved pirates, he asked if I knew that pirates were Templars. I said, "What's a Templar?" Well, thanks to Dan Brown and the DaVinci Code, we all know what they are. There does seem to be some evidence that pirates were, indeed, Templars.

So, that's the second thing. Here's the third:

One of my favourite books as a child (under eleven-ish) was "Heidi." This was before I read the "Anne of Green Gables" series. I'm sure I read Heidi many times. I was always fascinated by how Johanna Spyri described the beauty of the mountains of Switzerland. I loved to pretend I was from Switzerland, which I can only attribute to reading Heidi. Reading it made me crave cheese and milk as a child. (Who funded this book, the Swiss dairy guild?) Oh, and guess what my name is in German? Heide. No wonder I loved the book.

Now, here's where things get interesting. The Swiss have a legend of the founding of their country by some knights in white. This legend dates back to around the time the Templar order was dissolved in the first decade of the 14th century. If you look at the Swiss flag, there is a strong resemblance to the Templar cross. Also, the Templars were the first international bankers, and well, what's Switzerland known for? (other than cheese and chocolate?) Banking. Some very interesting coincidences.

So, there you have it. Templars and pirates and snakes, oh my. So that's it then. I'm off to commandeer a ship, "pick up a crew..., raid, pillage, plunder and otherwise pilfer my weasely black guts out." Who's with me? And guess what I just found out? There are no poisonous snakes in Jamaica!!! (but they do have constrictors).

Drink up, me hearties, yo ho!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Where True Friendship Begins...

You never know when you'll find yourself facing a moment when you're challenged. I had one of those moments the other day. If you've ever read some of my older posts, especially the ones dealing with religion, you'll know I'm an outspoken "radical gracist". But lately I've been confronted with the fact that though I preach such things, I can still be quite ungracious.

Here's what happened: I met up with someone from the distant past. Someone I never kept in touch with once we left high school. This was someone that was from my viewpoint, at the top of the social order. I can't say that I looked up to her exactly, but I know that I sought her friendship and approval and that I would have died of happiness if I thought that she considered us to be friends.

Twelve years ago, we ran into each other at a reunion and the first thing she did was grab me into a big bear hug and say, "I'm so sorry for the way we treated you." Wow. That was something. The funny thing is, I never felt that she was mean. Sure, she teased, but it was all in good fun and I played along. We both had a sense of humour.

We recently found each other online and we met up in person the other day. Naturally, part of the conversation consisted of the shared experiences of our youth. I was shocked to hear how she considered herself an outsider during her early years at school. Really??? No way! I was also stunned to hear how she had been hurt by the same institution. In fact, I think her story was probably far more painful than mine. We talked about the legalism of the institution and how damaging it was. It was a bonding moment for me to realize that I wasn't the only one who was affected. The legalism was NOT what I was used to. The group I hung out with from my home church wasn't like that at all.

Somehow she has managed to not only survive, but has kept her faith and her graciousness. Yet, here I was, someone that considered myself a radical gracist who in many ways just wanted to close the door on the past and let it be. The past was the past and it was dead. It was what it was and I wasn't really interested in looking back. I didn't think I held a grudge, or was angry. I just didn't want to go back.

Due to the nature of the education, we were fairly isolated as students. We each sat in our own cubicle. There wasn't that much interaction with the other students. It wasn't until my last year when the format of the curriculum changed and we had more interactive learning that friendships really developed, but she had graduated by that point and missed out on that.

I recently saw a quote from C.S. Lewis that I loved: “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, "What! You too? I thought I was the only one." Friendship was born the other day; true friendship. She introduced me to her family as her friend. And, now, I realize, yes, that's what we are. We *are* friends.

I can't under-estimate how healing the experience of that visit was. I found myself almost literally, physically healing. Again, the odd thing was I don't even consider myself angry or holding a grudge. I found myself letting go and realizing that we were all just kids, all in our own little worlds. I didn't know much about their backgrounds and they probably didn't know much about mine. That's just typical narcissicic kids. I bet there were a LOT of stories of painful pasts at that place. A lot. No wonder some of the kids were so miserable.

A friend has suggested that perhaps in my rejection of mainstream literalistic Christianity that I was throwing the baby out with the bath water. I now am beginning to realize how accurate that statement might have been.

I think I've passed a milestone on this journey I'm on. At least I think I have. Thank you, friend, for sharing your heart the other day. It's helped me more than you will ever know. We are fellow pilgrims on this journey and may God guide us both in our search for truth and grace. I love you.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

25 Years

It's hard to believe, but I graduated from high school 25 years ago today. In many ways, it feels not that long ago; in some ways, it feels like it was a different lifetime.

Let me start off by saying that I hated high school. I went to a high school that was run by a church that we didn't attend. Having gone to Catholic school and having been picked on because I wasn't Catholic, I was looking forward to going to a school where I figured I would fit in better. How wrong I was.

I was shocked at how mean spirited and ignorant most of my classmates were. Most of the guys weren't bad; it was the girls. Some of them out downright nasty. This is NOT what I expected. I put my head down and did my work. I also had the "misfortune" to be a good student, so I got picked on almost every time I hit 100% on tests. Occasionally, the teachers held me up as an example of good behaviour and that "their" kids could learn a lesson from me. Oh, man. Did that ever do wonders for my social standing. Yes, the movie "Mean Girls" was fairly accurate. You know you were treated like crap when the most popular girl in school grabs you in a big hug at a reunion and the first thing out of her mouth is, "I'm SO sorry for how we treated you." I'll never forget that. She wasn't even, really, one of the "mean girls." She had a heart.

I was pretty lonely. I had no friends. The only people I hung out with were other "outcasts". The one time I remember ever being shown some friendship was during a school trip to Dallas in 1982. Part way through the trip, two girls took me "under their wing" and insisted that I bunk, eat, and go around Disneyland and Magic Mountain with them during the latter part of the trip. I've never forgotten that kindness, either. (I like to think it was because they wanted me to be with them and not because some teacher told them to).

It was completly opposite to my home church youth group. NO ONE there was nasty; we didn't treat outsiders that way. New friends were always welcome. At least that's how I remember it - and I'm sure that most of us from that youth group would say the same thing.

By the time I got to grade 12, the format of the curriculum and method of instruction had changed, making it easier to interact with classmates. That was when friendships started to form. Yet, once graduation happened, within a couple of years, a lot of us had lost touch with each other. I only kept in touch with one, but that was sporadic and we'd sometimes go for years without talking to each other.

Recently, I've reconnected with some of the people I went to high school with. Some of them I welcomed back to my life, others more reluctantly so. It's not that I judged them by what they were 25 plus years ago (as I certainly wouldn't want to be), it's just that other than the fact we went to the same school, there wasn't anything to talk about. Even then, our perspectives on the school would probably be quite different.

I look back at the intervening years and wonder, "So, what did I accomplish?" Sadly, I don't see a lot to be proud of. Because I lacked any self-confidence, I never went to university. That was because I was scared of math. Little did anyone know that I had a physicial disability that caused me to struggle with it. Yet, because I was good at everything else, it was swept under the carpet. I don't blame the school for that. No one would have known. I'm just sad that it wasn't caught early, for it would have made a huge difference in my life.

So, I guess today is a day to remember and look back, and also to "go home and rethink my life" to see if there is yet time to accomplish something I can look back at the end of my life and be proud of.