A Wink and a Prayer

January 27, 2012

The past several months have been exceptionally sad for my extended family.  In June, a 40 year old niece died unexpectedly.   Less than seven months later, her 20 year old daughter died from complications linked to Leukemia.  For half a year, my brother in law and sister in law have been in the depths of grief without relief.  I cannot imagine their sadness, their emptiness.  As a woman who has never even been pregnant, let alone raised a family, I have no concept of what that sense of loss must do to a person’s soul.  I do believe, however, that even in the depths of the worst imaginable pain, little tiny specs of light can raise their heads, even if only for a few seconds, before they descend into hibernation once again.  These specs of light take on many forms.  Sometimes they converge into a family member, or a powerful book or a sermon or a bowl of ice cream. On the heavy day of the second funeral couple of weeks ago, I caught a burst of light among the crowd. At the service honoring this young life, I had the honor of witnessing friendship at its pinnacle.  The funeral had just begun and a cacophony of sniffles was filling the air.  Everyone was watching the family….everyone except me.  My eyes were locked on the two women sitting directly in front of me.  They were Linda and Martha, two of my sister in law’s dearest friends in the world.  The three of them have known each other for a lifetime.  They have shared sickness, sadness, secrets, scandals, births, deaths and recipes.  Martha and Linda sat next to each other clutching hands as their bookend husbands sat upright, stoic, quiet and befuddled at their own incompetency at fixing the situation at hand.  During the eulogy comments were made about friendship.  At the mere sound of the word, Martha leaned in to Linda and squeezed her around the neck, then planted a soft kiss on her cheek  and laid her head on her shoulder.  They looked at each other and smiled.  They continued to gaze at each other and smile, amid all the sounds of sadness and grief that swirled around them, untouched.  They held each other’s gaze for a few seconds, then simply winked at each other, held hands and shared a peace that passes all understanding.  These two women said not a word to each other, but I knew what they were thinking.  Should they have chosen to speak to each other at that moment, they would have said something like this. “I love you.  No matter what ever happens to any of us, we have always had each other.  You give me strength and I am so grateful that you have always been there for me.  I love you and trust you with hall my heart.  Even though I am sad as hell right now, I am so filled with gratitude for you that my crazy heart is singing.  And your hair looks good….I don’t care what your husband says.”  In friendships of this stature, however, often no words are needed, so none were uttered.  I watched those two women throughout the afternoon while they flanked my sweet sister in law as herding canines flank wandering sheep.  They swooped in and out of her presence as needed, a spectacular display of migration into a life without the presence of a beloved grandchild.  They delivered and took away pieces of cake, cups of water and tissues like a road crew servicing a race car driver at a pit stop.  They distracted clumsy mourners away from my sister in law and placed warm hands on her shoulders when she wanted to collapse. These women, these specs of light dressed in funeral garb were my sister in law’s life support for the day.  Odds are that in a year or two or several, they will be pressing the replay button on the process of bidding a loved one farewell, because that is what true friends do for each other as life follows its path.  In between, they will laugh and drink and take each other to the doctor, then go shopping for shoes.  They will listen to stories about each other’s exceptionally wonderful/difficult husbands, children and grandchildren and never repeat a word unless it is flattering.  They will stand next to each other in the mirror and compare wrinkles and sags.  Through it all, they will remain loyal, constant and grateful to each other, for even in the darkest of times, little specs of light like these are the only illumination that we need to take the next step into our lives.

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Laundromat

January 23, 2012

When I was a child, my college professor mother would take my sister and me to my widowed grandmother’s farm in Arkansas each summer for two weeks. The farm was in a one-road town called Little Garnet.  The white wooden house was punctuated by a flower garden filled with aromatic Sweet Peas and Snap Dragons which graced jelly jars in every room and were replaced almost daily.  The uneven floors were wooden and if need be, they were clean enough to serve up a meal.  Scrubbed daily, the farmhouse was pristine.  The entire property claimed a modest smoke house, a hen house with a loft, two cows, a sway backed horse named Sorghum, an outhouse and a deep cold well.  There was no indoor plumbing and my nocturnes were spent on the bunk bed adorning a screened in sleeping porch equipped with its own chamber pot.  Not kidding.   Not only did I benefit from the example of an amazingly strong ensemble of women (grandmother, great grandmother, great aunt) who lived there, but I also experienced a life lived deliberately without the interface of thoughtless convenience.  These women, all widows, pooled their dollars when my mother turned 18 so that she could attend college in Texas, then graduate school in Chicago.  I loved being there with them, for their company and the environment fueled my imagination and my creative spirit.  The TV was not the soundtrack of the day or night.  Crickets, cows, hens, roosters and the occasional truck dusting the dirt road were the only orchestrations accompanying the sizzling summer heat.  Every endeavor, except reading, was a concerted effort.  Before a meal was to be cooked, water had to be drawn, eggs had to be collected and vegetables had to be harvested.  By evening, sitting on the front porch was a luxury, for not only did it bring rest, but it brought a breeze not to be found inside the house.

Laundry was cleaned periodically, but not daily for that was not practical.  The nearest town with a laundromat was Star City, so that is where we would venture every few days, coming back with baskets of wet white sheets to be hung on the line to milk in the smell of sunshine.  One particular day we ventured into town for the task.  I must have been around 7 years old for I was able to read just a little bit.  We pulled into the gravel lot of the laundromat and started hauling in our baskets of underclothes, towels, sheets and my prized sun suits.  Our baskets were already separated by color into brights and whites.  I noticed the sign in the window, but was still not confident in my reading skills so I said nothing.  My mother went to task loading two washers with our laundry.  She had just finished loading the second machine with my sunflower play suit when I just couldn’t take it anymore.  As she was shutting the door to the machine containing all the shades of the rainbow, I rushed over and opened it back up, pulling out the clothes and tossing them on the floor.  “No!  We aren’t supposed to wash these!  We are not supposed to do this!  We are going to get in trouble!  Take them out, take them out!” I cried.  My mother was confused and utterly confounded because if I was nothing else as a child, I was cooperative.  A rule monger.  She tried to calm me down and I would have none of it.  I pulled her out the door to the window where the big red sign was posted facing the outside, pointing frantically.  And there it was.  A big glaring post that simply read, “WHITES ONLY.”  My poor mother.  How does one define this concept to a child who has no point of reference for racism?  The dark skinned people in my life were people we loved.  We shared meals, tears and family secrets with those people.  We prayed with them and hugged them at dusk.   She took a deep breath, stooped down to eye level and stroked my hair till my breathing stilled a bit.  “I think it will be OK this time.  I promise they won’t mind.”  I could tell she was perplexed at her own lack of eloquence, but she simply didn’t know what to say, so she said very little and just kept touching my hair.  It worked. I trusted her to keep us out of jail even thought we were washing more than white linens.  I trusted her to protect me from disagreeable people.  I trusted her to make it all OK.  She was kind and gentle and flawed.  Much to my relief, no one else came in to wash clothes that day, so we were off the hook.  We had not been caught.  We finished our task and hauled our wet clothes back to Little Garnet to hang them on the line.  My mother was quiet for the rest of the day and that evening I watched her pour herself a strong drink.  As an adult, I feel sad that she confronted this conundrum.  As an adult I tip my hat to my deceased mother because she never taught me to be a racist and even though much of the world tried, I hope that none of it took root.  I believe that most facets of our character are taught through repetitive drill.  Unkindness, small-mindedness, materialism, greed, self-centeredness, insecurity, cynicism.   Children learn to belittle others by witnessing condescending arrogant behavior from adults in charge.  They learn to be afraid of anything new and different from adults who instill fear of those differences. It works the other way around as well.  Children will learn gentleness from example, not from lectures.  So to my mother, I say thank you.  Thank you for never putting flags on the injustices of the world, but instead for redirecting my attention to behaviors worth emulating.  Thank you for teaching me the value of a fresh laid egg and a carrot just pulled from the soil.  Thank you for letting me play naked in a cool creek when the air was heavy with steam.  And thank you for making sure that on that hot summer day in Star City, Arkansas in the 1960s, my innocence was preserved for a moment and the dirty laundry was not allowed to mold.

Hot Yoga

January 22, 2012

Anyone who does not believe in evolution has never seen yours truly in yoga class. Seriously.  If they had ever shared that experience with me, there would be no doubt about my direct lineage, for there it all is in living color.  Long torso, gently sway-backed, short legs, feet turned slightly out, antennas up just in case a banana appears out of nowhere.  Trust me on this, for there is no question about it.  Last week, I stumbled upon a studio in Florida with a sign on the door that simply said “Hot Yoga.”  To me this means one of two things.  Either the participants look really sexy fabulous while practicing this discipline or each class is a personal ring of hell inspired by Dante himself.  In my humble, yet peaceful and serene opinion, it is a little of both.  The word “hot” is to be taken literally in this sense for when you open the door to the classroom, a wave of heat that hovers around 105 degrees hits you in the face.  You are to arrive early so as to set up your equipment and get into the mental zone of the space.  Also, you will start sweating immediately.  I decided to take a stab at it. I am no stranger to yoga so there was no fear in my soul.  I arrived 15 minutes early to be greeted in the outer lobby by my instructor, Matt.  Matt?  Really?  Is it me, or is this an ironic name for a yoga teacher?  Isn’t this a little like taking a cooking class from a woman named Whisk?  Anyway, Matt was classic yogi material.  He was wearing long shorts and no shirt (after all the body is sacred so what’s the problem?).  His hair was pulled back in a pony tail and he was bare footed.  There was something genuinely comforting about his presence.  Like being in the presence of a really fit Buddah, or Morgan Freeman as God or, well….you get the idea.  ….Anyway, everyone in the room was younger and skinnier than me.  That is fine except that I am a size 4.  A generous size four, yes, but still. You get the picture.  Some of these young mantises were already in serene, restful poses gazing ahead trance like as cold people entered the room sending waves of winter towards them.  My first question is “Why aren’t these young women at work?  Do these people not have jobs?  What do they have to be stressed about? They are too teeny to have birthed babies at this point.  Goodness, they are barely in puberty.”   Whatever.  Think ooohhhhhhhmmmm.  Oohhhhhhhhmmmmm.  Hot. Lie down in a state of shivernotsomuch.  Don’t laugh or giggle or even hint at a chuckle about Matt’s name.  If I do he may gently exile me to tree pose with my nose in the corner in a perpetual state of shallnoheehaha.   Ohhhhhhmmmmmm.  Actually, there was no chanting which was good because mine would have turned to snickering, not from disrespect of the practice, but out of hilarity at my own attempts at the positions. The class lasted 90 minutes and for the most part it was not too humiliating.  The poses were not completely unfamiliar and Matt was helpful and even cracked a small yoga joke (yes there is one out there).  I could tell he was pleased that one person in the class recognized it as a joke.  Me.  He complimented me and encouraged me the way that one praises a baby for opening its eyes.  My sweat purged my muscles and my monkey mind.  Ohhhhhhhhm.  The images of peace and and quiet calmed my thoughts of cheeseburgers and twofer sales at the mall down the street.  I will definitely return if they will have me.  You should consider it too.  It will be good for your leggies and your spirit and the economy.  And I thank you for visiting this blog today.  Thank you for sharing my thoughts and filling both of our energies with bright light.  I hope you will visit again sometime, for now I am sure you must depart.  So go.  As for me……(get ready), I think (hold on) I will not go.  I will not leave this place. Nah…I’m a stay.

Caneenish

January 13, 2012

Dogs have been a part of my life for as long I can remember.  My parents brought a dog into their marriage even before they brought children and, to me, that seems like a logical move.  For our entire married life my husband and I have brought our dog, then dogs, then single dog again on vacation with us to the beach.  Some of my friends express envy and others express shock and a little bit of horror that my dogs are such intimate players in my life.  As I write on this sleepless night, there are two dogs in my bedroom here at the beach.  The very old, Bubba, is sleeping on his own blanket on top of the rug at the foot of the bed.  He snores like an old man in a Looney Tunes cartoon and dreams, twitching like a young man in a bar.  He is gentle and obeys just as most Labradors do. The other dog, a little Jack Russell/Chihuahua (we think) with no top front teeth, is sleeping at the foot of the bed under the covers warming my husband’s feet.  She is borrowed from the neighbors so that she too can chase waves in the sand.  And honestly, there is nothing more heart lifting than watching two dogs play together, running in circles, spinning around on their backs like overenthusiastic clocks in the sand.  Passersby stop to comment, scratch an ear, laugh and introduce themselves.  People will easily do that with a dog present even if they wouldn’t do it in the presence of only people.  I remember when I lived in New York in the 1980s, a company existed that rented dogs by the hour to people for walks in the park.  Usually, young men were the clients because…well…no young woman can resist stopping to introduce herself to the dog, and in a setting that is full of daylight, most men will not have the courage to introduce themselves to a strange young lady.  I guess this was a precursor to match.com.  A dog can be the conduit for an introduction and immediate clarification of common interests. That is what the dog would do for them. A small percentage of my friends think I am crazy to indulge my dogs to the extent that I do, but that is OK.  That is their prerogative, but it makes me sad for them because that means that they have never known deep down the unyielding loyalty and love that a dog will hand over no matter what. Over the years, first as a child in a family, then as a young single woman in a big city, and now as a just-above-middle-aged married woman transitioning to the next chapter in life, my dogs have stuck by my side.  My dogs have seen me behave badly.  They have watched me treat others without respect and they have watched me treat myself without respect. They have witnessed my sadness, my selfishness, my fatigue and my joy.  They have watched me ignore them.  They have seen me try on and discard millions of outfits and attitudes. They have comforted me in times of grief and illness.  They have sensed my fears and licked my hand because that is what they can do. No matter what I have tossed their way, they have always forgiven me and slept by my side.  There was one exception with a Jack Russell who used to cop an attitude if I traveled without him for any given time, but eventually, even he succumbed to his natural, innate instincts for loyalty, forgiveness and love.  Fortunately, my husband possesses the same weakness for canines.  More than once I have entered a room to see him petting a dog and softly whispering into its velvety ear.  When I ask him what he is saying to them, his response that it is between them and that I wouldn’t understand it because he is speaking Canneenish.  It is their own private language. Funny.  I am glad they have their own language, because nothing brings peace into ones soul like the love for and from a dog.  So as I write this in the middle of the night, I sit in the quiet listening to the waves and whispering a small prayer of thanks for the dogs I have loved. For Buddy Boy, Bud, Poochie, Pepper, Gigi, Scootise, Reba, Deacon, Thunder, Bubba, Rock and Elly.  This is my own prayer, in Caneenish, because nothing brings the gift of joy to a heart like the love of a dog.

Girl Detective

January 10, 2012

Most of us have memories of our first love affair with reading.  My earliest memory of a book I couldn’t put down was for a children’s story called Blueberries for Sal. This book is about a girl, clearly with food issues, who causes her parent a heap of trouble.   The tale is an adventure with wonderful illustrations, and it primed my appetite for what was to become an obsessive reading habit manifesting itself in another character who found trouble. That reading addiction took root one Christmas when my mother surprised me with my first Nancy Drew book.  It was actually the second in the series and is called The Hidden Staircase. Because of that book, I developed a habit of reading in the bathtub until the water was cold and my toes were a bouquet of prunes.  Nancy was the perfect role model for my ten year old self.  She was well groomed, displayed impeccable integrity and taste, cultivated loyal friendships, was fiercely independent and always caught the bad guys.  And she only drove her car as “fast as the law would allow.” Even without a mother in her life, Nancy seemed to forge ahead with a flawless step, often laughing at herself.  Ha ha ha!  I wanted to know Nancy Drew.  Truthfully, I wanted to be Nancy Drew.  Because of all these warm, fuzzy memories, I recently became a part of a small book club in my neighborhood.   Serving as the foundation of this literary salon is me of course, and three other pre-teen girls who live on my street.  The four of us have become The Neighborhood Book Club and we only read Nancy Drew books.  Sounds sweet doesn’t it?  But wait.  Reading Nancy Drew as an adult is different than reading it as a ten year old.  As an adult, I see Nancy as, well…..not quite so perfect.  For starters, this is why.  In the very first book, in the very first paragraph we learn that eighteen year old Nancy is driving her brand new blue convertible that was a gift from her widowed father (guilt, compensation).  It had to be a gift because you see, Nancy has no job.  Nor is she in school.  But ok.  I can accept that, for the books were written in the 1930s when ladies of a certain caste did not work outside of the home.  She then proceeds to drive the car through a rainstorm with the top down so as to drench her “yellow sunback dress, jacket and gloves”.  Can you imagine?  You drive a brand new convertible through a rainstorm with the top down and your big concern is your outfit ?  Seems a little bratty to me, but that is just me. Stay with me on this.  In her defense, she does generally display the essence of Robin Hood, moving into falling down houses with perfect strangers in order to help them get their just rewards, but still.  She regularly wanders in to judge’s chambers, police chief’s quarters and lawyers offices unannounced and is granted audience simply because she is Carson (great name) Drew’s daughter (nepotism at its best).  And maybe this is nothing.  Maybe it is just me, but in book #2, at one point Nancy (in the middle of an investigation) exclaims to her friends that she “got banged pretty good.”  Ok.  Semantics I am sure.  Whatever Nancy, but really shouldn’t some things just go unsaid.   She is consistently putting herself and her friends Helen, Bess and George (yes, a girl-don’t get me started) in harm’s way in order to chase some phantom thief. Then she laughs about it! Not exactly the picture of stability if you ask me.  And another thing, not that it should matter, but in the early books Nancy is described as blonde.  In the later books she is described as a ‘’titian haired blonde.”  Fine with me, but maybe we shouldn’t be so pious when our best friend is Loreal #8RB.  But that is just me.  Since the Neighborhood Book Club is only on our second Nancy Drew book, we have not yet met to Ned, but I remember him well.  Slick.  Handsome.  Probably up to no good and I am sure he is just around the corner.   A Ken doll in the making.  Undoubtedly, we will meet the scoundrel soon.   I know this all sounds extreme, but really, if Nancy Drew were alive today she would be on Dr. Phil.  And that, my friends, would have sold even more copies.

 

New Year’s Day was a going to be special for me, not because of the obvious transition to 2012 but because this year it fell on a Sunday and my BFF, a Yale Divinity School student, was scheduled to deliver a sermon at the Episcopal  church in my town.  This would be a landmark for any seminary student, but for my friend Kit, who started this particular journey later in life, it was going to be extra special.  I did not want to miss it for anything in the world.  In the interest of planning ahead, my husband and I scheduled a very early New Year’s Eve dinner with a few friends.  We would be in bed by 10:30pm so that we could be bright eyed and bushy tailed for Kit’s big moment.   As scheduled, we were in tucked in early.  Sadly, a pesky cough began to descend upon me as the night grew deep.  I barely slept at all and my poor husband was jolted from his slumber by my hacking every 30 minutes or so.  Finally around 5:00am, he couldn’t take it anymore.  He pleaded for me to take some cough medicine.  Luckily, he had a bottle of the prescription stuff in his medicine cabinet.  “Shake it up and take a teaspoon.  It will stop the coughing and we can still get a little sleep.”   If the stuff worked quickly, we could still get three or so hours of shut eye.  I stumbled into the bathroom, located the bottle and searched for a spoon.  Having none in sight I grabbed the little cup that comes with the bottle of Nyquil, filled it and drank.  It tasted like cherry.  Yum.  Almost immediately I stopped coughing.  Soon I was all cozy inside and getting drowsy.  We didn’t have to be at the church until 10:00am so three hours of sleep, maybe four if I didn’t wash my hair…….Deep sleep came.  No coughing did, only a little weird itching all over as I drifted away but who cares.  Strange dreams.  Sleeeeeep.

The next thing I knew I was looking at a clock that said 9:33am.  Yikes!  We jumped out of bed and into our clothes as fast as we could.  My husband was moving at a clip but I was having a little trouble.  I was having a hard time getting my balance.  My head was in a fog.  I thought back to the evening before and recalled that I had not had much to drink, but I was soooo dizzy.  Not to mention that my shoes looked like they were on the wrong feet, except they weren’t. I sat down at my vanity to put on a little makeup and gazed into the magnifying mirror. Eeeee gads! My pupils were tiny.  I didn’t look so great, but at least I was not coughing.  Oh no!  The cough medicine.  I grabbed the bottle and immediately spotted warnings all over the label.  “May cause drowsiness…caution when operating machinery….etc.”    Baloney.  It should have said, “Improper dosage may cause hallucinations, itching, pin-eye and spinning sensations.”   Too bad.  It was now 9:44am and I was not going to miss Kit’s day in the pulpit.  Somehow we got out of the house dressed by 9:57am.  I was hoping that the fancy scarf I was wearing would distract from the fact that my pupils looked like the bulls eyes at a shooting range for ants, and also I couldn’t walk very straight.  It didn’t.  We hit the sidewalk at this Norman Rockwell of a church at 10:00am sharp.  And there she was standing at the door in a white smock looking ethereal. Like a cross between Murphy Brown and Mother Theresa.  My husband kept prodding me to hurry up, hurry up!  “Leave me alone!”  I snapped.  “I have short legs, high heels and I am loaded.  I am doing the best that I can!”  Even from the corner of my beady left eye I could detect a smirk on his face.  We made it inside and I practically fell into one of the pews next to my friend’s family, who no doubt assumed I was having….uh…issues.   In all the hustle to get out of the house I had left my glasses at home so even attempting to follow the liturgy in the bulletin would have been simply for show so I didn’t even try. I can usually fake it with the music, but these Episcopal hymns are not what one would categorize as catchy tunes so my singing was that of a drunken cat in heat.  Finally, Kit spoke.  She was graceful and gentle.  She was calm and she was inspiring.  I was squinting and tilting to one side in my seat but ,still, all was right with the world.  When the service was over I got to my feet hugging and kissing friends I had not seen in years.  At my age, friends have drifted in many directions and it was a reunion of sorts for some of us.  My guess is that some of them were quietly shaking their heads as they studied my bob and weave, and my reptilian eyes.  Kit’s husband even invited us to join the gang at the family home for a (ha!) glass of champagne.  As much as I wanted to go I couldn’t think of anything worse for my condition than a glass of bubbly, so I bowed out and sweetly asked my husband to take me home so I could get some sleep.   He did and I did for the rest of the day.  As I once again drifted off, I realized that throughout the entire service, I may have wobbled and squinted and weaved a bit, but never once…not even a little bit… did I cough.  Also, I am pretty positive that at least a couple of folks were praying for me.  So Happy New Year! And Amen.

Balcony People

January 2, 2012

A wise friend once told me that there are two types of people in our lives.  There are basement people and there are balcony people.   She explained that the basement people are the ones who pull you down in life and the balcony people are the ones who lift you up.  If one person is down in a hole (the basement), basic laws of physics make it easier for them to pull you into their hole than for you to lift them out of it.  Yes I know that variables apply but, generally speaking, the latter is more difficult.  It is especially challenging if you are not doing your part to help them.  Making little hops, holding on tightly, etc.  Stick with me, for this is going somewhere.  This metaphor is a fairly simple illustration of how the people around us can drive our moods, actions and attitudes. As this truth clarified itself for me several years ago I made a conscious decision to increase the number of balcony people in my life and to reduce the number of basement people.  Sounds a little harsh doesn’t it? Sounds shallow right, because maybe those people are simply your cross to bear.  Maybe feeling mildly unsettled in their presence is your duty?  The prospect really makes you squirm a bit doesn’t it?  Do  you know why?  Because the basement people in our lives are usually those who are the closest to us.  They are (yikes!) family.  They are (horrors!) love interests.  They are (tough one!) coworkers or  (awkward!) lifelong friends.     They are those people whose mere presence brings a little sinking feeling to your mood.  Their name on caller ID sends a tiny shiver down your spine.  An innocent mention of their name stops you in your tracks but you cannot really define why.  Being with them feels like homework and when they enter your thoughts you can just hear the Debbie Downer music start to play.  Waa-WAAAA. You know the people I am talking about.  On paper, you would be challenged to justify why they do this to you but they do.  They bring a shadow into your mood and make you doubt your own potential.  They eat up your time and your thoughts.  They are emotional vampires. These are the basement people.

Then there are the balcony people.  They are the ones who make you feel a little lighter, a little happier, a little smarter and a little more  fascinating. When you know you will see them soon you have a little more spring in your step.  You blossom in their presence and there is never even a hint of heaviness in your heart when they enter a room. They require nothing from you and simply shower you with optimism.  Often, they are smarter than you, more attractive than you, speak more languages than you and are more creative than you. They don’t have time or interest in anything negative.  They do not gossip or even drop a snippet of a mean spirited comment about others, and they seem to be totally unconcerned about them selves.  They say gentle things and even if they are sad, they treat it philosophically.  This too shall pass…much for which to be grateful…..when God closes a door blah blah blah.  The balcony people will poke fun at them selves but never at anyone else.  They don’t feel the need to compete with you, but they simply seem to take delight in your company.  You owe them nothing.  These are the people by whom I not only want to be surrounded, but whom I want to be like.

So for 2012, I plan to put more balconies in my life and fill them with people.  As for the basement people, I will give them a little bit of my time,  only kind words and my prayers, but I will not turn my days and my thoughts over to them.  They have enought to deal with simply by virtue of living in a basement.