13 November 2009

Thirty Years Later

Thursday, November 12, 2009
In a year when I have gone to more funerals than birthday parties, it is always a joy when I am reminded of the value of long lasting relationships and friendships. Today I had such an experience.

In 1978, my mother remarried and transplanted my brother and I from Atlanta, Georgia (by way of a short 6 month stint in Savannah, GA) to the Bronx - Fort Apache - New York. C'mon! Just the name alone would strike fear in the heart of the most stalwart, resilient and courageous teenager around...yeah well...I was none of those! I was TERRIFIED out of my mind to be living in the big, concrete, where are the trees?, jungle that was Parkchester, Bronx, NY. [I should note, my brother took to it like a duck to water - what does that say about him? Hmmmm...] I knew I was not going to fall in love with New York the first time it snowed. Now, coming from "down South" where one snowflake can paralyze a city for DAYS, the first snowfall in NYC was my wake-up call to my hate-hate relationship with the city. "Time to get up for school.", my mother called. "But it's snowing. There must be 8 inches on the ground. Isn't school closed?" "No sweetie, this is New York." SCREECH!!! Send me back to Atlanta right now. Where is the humanity in sending me out in that foolishness. And it was at that moment that I began plotting my escape.

And my new classmates didn't make it any easier. "Ooo, say that again. You have the cutest accent." was a common refrain throughout the day at school - and my two biggest teases were two larger than life Hispanic guys, Alex and Santos. Now, to the Atlanta transplant, the whole idea of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic culture was straight out of movies to me (West Side Story, anyone?)...and here were the two hottest guys in our class (my opinion) and they were the full embodiment of "hot, lusty Latin men". I will go no further since both of my parents read this blog, but you get my drift as to the conversations we had. Hot for 9th graders, let me tell you! Throughout the year at J.H.S. 127, Alex and Santos must have been on a mission to make me blush at least once a day - and most days they succeeded. But after graduation, Santos went off to another high school and we lost touch. Alex and I went to the same high school, but soon found new friends and eventually just became ships passing through the hallways.

And then suddenly it was 20 years later and I was involved with the planning of my 20th high school reunion. Some time during either the planning of the reunion (or right afterwards) I got a random phone call from a gentleman asking me "do you remember me?" and it was Alex! He was stationed in Iran at the time (his 2nd tour of duty) and after a few missed international phone calls, we finally got to talk voice to voice and we rekindled our friendship. Through him and the magic of Facebook, approximately five years ago, I reached out and made a similar "call" to Santos and we reconnected. For about that long, we have played hit and miss with opportunities to actually see each other...until today.

Thirty years later, I was reunited with my junior high school friend...and what a wonderful reunion it was (for me). Our reunion was only about an hour in length (due to his having to get on a plane), but it was wonderful to connect with someone who knew me such a long time ago - and who was as interested in the reconnection as I was. That is a true blessing.

Reminds me of a reunion that will be taking place in heaven some day soon. Lots of people I love have been laid to sleep in the Lord - not only this year, but throughout my life. And there are some reunions I am looking forward to having...my grandparents, some very special friends and of course, with my Lord and Savior. I hope to see you there as well. Let's make a date to meet up there - what do you say?

Be blessed.

05 November 2009

The Value of (My) Friendship

November is always a month of reflection for me. As I approach the eve of another birthday (and this one is a BIG one! 45 years young...), I am reflective of the year just past, and my entire life. 2009 has been an eye-opener for me in a lot of ways. Lots of losses and changes in my life: I don't think a single month has gone by this year where I have not been to a funeral or homegoing service for a loved one or for the loved one of a dear friend. In fact, a high school classmate who calls me EVERY day to check on me, is now almost afraid to ask me what I am doing each weekend because it seems like every weekend for the past few months, my answer has been that I have to attend or just come from yet another funeral. And those aren't the only losses (or changes) I'm talking about: loss/changes in friendships and relationships; changes in job responsibilities and even my job schedule; shifts in paradigms, beliefs and even a change in how I view God and His love, care and concern for me.

For about a month on Facebook, I have been talking about doing "the BIG PURGE". As my number of "friends" neared the 700 mark, I recognized and realized that just because someone has accepted your "friend request", they ain't necessarily your "friend". [And that is true outside the cyberworld of Spacebook or MyFace as my father likes to call the two leading social networks - he hasn't come up with a new name for Twitter yet, but I'm sure he's working on it...] So, I made a grand announcement about "purging" all the dead beats from my friends list. It started out as a joke, but as I moved through the list, I realized the value of it. My "friend count" has been drastically reduced as I have slashed through the list and removed people (I'm below 600 at last count). Some people have been "saved from the purge" because of their familial ties - can't get rid of family no matter what; others because they got decades of friendship under the bridge (although that was not an automatic "save" for some people by no means) and some...really got saved only because of my nosiness about what's going on in their lives. And I am not the only one who is doing this on Facebook. Increasingly, I see my friends' statuses say stuff like: "To delete or not to delete", or otherwise asking the question about the "rightness" or "wrongness" in deleting someone who has been a "friend" on their page. My response, across the board, has been, "Delete, delete, delete".

But then today, after I posted a status that said, "Kristina just wants everyone to know: THIS IS MY PAGE!! Like it or leave it! Geesh.", another close friend of mine made a statement that made me stop and think. He said (paraphrasing), "you act like it's a big deal if you decide to delete somebody. It ain't that big a deal if you do. Not to me anyway." WOW! He went on to explain his reasons for saying that (which I will not get into here), but it made me stop and think. Am I really acting that way? Like I'm all that and a bag of chips? Is that the statement I'm trying to make? "Hey world, stop, look and pay attention to me?" Hmm...maybe. Maybe not. But, for argument's sake, let's go with the "maybe - yes, that is the statement I want to make."

Is there anything "wrong" with that? Why shouldn't I want to be valued by my friends in the same way that I value them? Every name on my friends list MEANS something to me - good, bad or indifferent...every name calls up a memory, a feeling, a reason why when I got their friend request, I accepted - or when I sent them mine, I was glad they accepted me. Shouldn't friendships nourish and sustain you - not only in the good times, but through the bad? Shouldn't, when I see your name on my friends list, there be a feeling of joy and not despair? I think so. As the old Loreal commercial said: Because I'm worth it. And I am.

So, without apology or equivocation...going into 2010, the people who do that for me - the ones who nourish my soul, cherish my friendship, who "know" and value me just as I am and not how because I am the way they want or need me to be, or because of what I do or give to them - those are the people that I want to surround myself with. Excuse my poor English but, I ain't got time for the bull no mo'...I just don't. When I candidly say to you that 2009 opened my eyes ... more than I ever wanted them to be opened ... it did.

The Bible says, "to everything there is a season..." And for those who don't believe as I do, then I am sure you are familiar with this saying, "People are in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime". Well, I am embracing MY season. 44 years for everyone else is long enough. It is time for ME - call it selfish, call it mean, call it whatever you need to call it. THIS IS MY SEASON.

So, on January 1, 2010, I plan to post this as my status: "If you are seeing this status update, you survived my 2009 purge - congratulations!" Take offense if you wish, applaud my decision if you know me and understand ...whatever you choose to do... that is on you. I am doing me ... finally!

Hope I see in 2010. (seriously)
Be blessed, (even more seriously)