Archive for the 'Friendship' Category

Sometimes, We Stop

By Kathy NickersonJune 5th, 2018Friendship, mercy2 Comments

My editorial calendar had a blog post scheduled for today. But, I couldn’t do it. A dear friend has gone home to Glory this week. Reward for him, sorrow for us. And, I could not bring myself to write about anything else.

(I know my last blog post was a memorial. I hope this doesn’t become a trend.)

When someone that I love dies, I walk around wondering why other people don’t seem to notice the earth has shifted. I feel as if we have entered an alternate dimension. Earth stuff seems so irrelevant. Yet, everyone around me keeps going on as if the morning news actually matters. As if they still care about clothes to wash, bills to pay, and arguments to win.

I just want to stop. I want to sit shiva as Jewish families did in Jesus’ day. (And many still do). Mourners took off their shoes, sat on low stools, and grieved for seven days. They had no other responsibilities but to absorb the new reality of their world. They were “brought low” during this time.

The friends of Jesus were probably preparing to occupy their stools when news came that He wasn’t dead after all. He had come back to life. Can you imagine the emotion of going from the low stools to the heights of glory in a few sentences? (Of course, they had to deal with doubt, betrayal, and misunderstandings, too.)

I am always brought low by death, and God understands that. He never intended for us to die. His original plan was for us to live forever in perfection. And, He has made a way that we still can.

Our dear friend has left his address here on earth. But he isn’t dead anymore than Jesus was. He is very much alive in a Heavenly realm that we can’t see or fully understand. In a little while, that reality will overcome our grief. We will get back up off our stools then. We will start to care a bit about the mundane details of life. We may even argue with one another.

But, for now, we stop.

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When Kindness came to Rascal Flats

By Kathy NickersonMay 27th, 2018Friendship10 Comments

 

 

I wasn’t expecting a fairy godmother that afternoon. So I almost ignored the knock at my front door. I hadn’t wished on a star, rubbed a magic lamp, or even whispered a desperate prayer. I’d simply left work early and collapsed on our sofa. The knock jolted me.

Probably an insurance salesman. Or a religious fanatic.

I didn’t have the strength for either battle. I had come home because I simply could not sit another three hours at my desk. It was easy to blame the pregnancy since morning sickness lasted all day. The truth was much harder to face. A deep, dark depression had slithered around my soul and would not let go.

I had entered marriage with all the enthusiasm of a girl going to the prom. And with just about that much maturity. Being a grown-up had proven less thrilling than I expected. My husband and I moved into a honeymoon cottage on the back street of a small town. The locals called our neighborhood Rascal Flats, quite possibly in honor of some of our neighbors.

Now, a few months after our wedding day, I was pregnant, depressed, and desperate to avoid whoever was knocking at my front door. The knock sounded a second time, and a voice called out my name.

I peeked toward the front porch and caught a glimpse of skinny blue jeans and toenails painted cherry red. If I had asked for a fairy godmother, this would not have been my style. I opened the door.

Evelyn Hagar introduced herself and held out a plate of deviled eggs. She shrugged toward her own house across the street. “I saw your car pull in just now. And I thought, ‘shoot, maybe they can use up some of these eggs I cooked.’” She held the plate out to me. “I always get carried away, and I made way too many for Archie and me. They’ll just go to waste if you don’t eat them.”

I thanked her and accepted the first of many such offerings. As the year progressed, I became certain Evelyn had never lived in a fairy tale. She didn’t talk about her pain, but it was written on her face. Even when she smiled, I could see the sadness.

She bore in silence, though, the sorrows of her youth and the conflicts of adulthood. Even when her only son died in the promise of young manhood, Evelyn grieved quietly. And she kept crossing the street.

She brought the extra biscuits Archie couldn’t eat. And the roast beef she found on sale and couldn’t pass up, which was silly since the two of them would never eat a whole roast beef.

We kept playing the game all through the winter and fall. I didn’t notice the changes going on in my soul at first. They were small, like the first fluttering of life had been inside my womb. When Evelyn brought soup, I found myself wanting to wash her dish before I sent it home. When she talked sweetly about Archie, whether he deserved it or not, I appreciated my own husband more.

Slowly, I found myself coming out of the darkness. And then, our daughter, Felicity, was born. She was sweetness and light itself. My depression lifted the minute we carried her home. Now I had a new obsession. Instead of fretting all day about how sick I felt, I sat in the rocking chair and sang lullabies. I left the dirty dishes in the sink so I could watch her sleep or see her smile. And, I ignored my husband even more.

Felicity was three months old when Evelyn showed up on my porch one morning in her mini skirt and halter top with bracelets jangling on her wrists and a basket in her weathered hands.

“I need to run down to the Laundrymat and wash a few things,” she said, “but I don’t have enough to make a full load of whites. I hate to waste a quarter on half a load. Don’t you have some diapers I could do?”

I stared at Evelyn. She was a grandmother with troubles enough to fill several baskets. Yet, here she stood, trying to make me believe I would do her a favor it I dumped all my soggy diapers in with her half load of underwear.

Suddenly, the spell was broken, and something shifted inside of me. I think it was my own emotions stepping aside to make room for someone else’s needs.

Evelyn washed my diapers that day and a few other days besides. She did so many acts of kindness, in fact, that I’ve lost track of some of the details. But, I have never forgotten.

It has been more than forty years since she delivered that first plate of eggs. I’ve never been able to pull off her glamorous style, and I’ve allowed my sorrows to grow audible many times. But, I’ve also enjoyed a great marriage and helped raised a brood of remarkable kids. Best of all, I have occasionally managed to play fairy godmother for someone else. I owe that part to Evelyn Hagar and the year we shared a street.

Rest in Peace, my friend.

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The Balloon that Never Burst

By Kathy NickersonMay 8th, 2016Friendship, happy endingsNo Comments

 

Judy & I with my sister, Martha, and some of our daughters. Judy & I are in coordinating colors, which we did not plan, of course.

Judy & I with my sister, Martha, and some of our daughters. Judy & I are in coordinating colors, which we did not plan, of course.

 

Approximately fifty-four years ago, I evidently began my career with the grammar police. I don’t actually remember that moment in Mrs. Epperson’s first grade classroom when Judy Coleen’s balloon exploded. Judy, however, remembers clearly that when she said, “Oh, it busted,” I said, “No, it burst.”

Such a compassionate friend, wasn’t I?

What we both remember is that we bonded over words as soon as we began learning them. The bond and the learning have continued for decades. Much of our friendship shows up in bits and pieces on the pages of The Secret of Serendipity. Neither of us is any one character in the book, but we are sprinkled all the way through it.

This week, I shall take Serendipity as a gift to the elementary school where Judy and I learned to read. And, she will be there. Judy has been teaching high school students to love and wrangle words for more years than either of us shall mention. But, this is her last year in our school. She is retiring now that some of her students have also become teachers. I hope she plans to go wrangle some words of her own in between other pursuits, because books should be written bearing her name.

***

Judy and I don’t see one another often. In fact, months – even years – can pass between actual conversations. Yet, we pick up as if one of us just walked out of the room for a drink of water five minutes ago. We still finish one another’s sentences, and our daughters know that if we run into one another at the grocery store, there will be happy tears. (In a true-life moment of Serendipity, Judy’s daughter, Vanita, became the illustrator of this book!)

***

I have no idea where I got the idea to correct Judy’s grammar decades ago. I’m pretty sure stuff “busted” in my life all the time. But, here is something interesting: The word “burst” never changes. It is the same in every tense – past, present, and future.

And isn’t that also the mark of true friendship? It is the same in every season, whether we are girls playing dress-up with our mother’s fancy shoes or grandmothers weeping together over the death of a premature baby. That kind of friendship is the balloon that never bursts.

***

If you have a friend like Judy, thank God for her! Then, share this blog and tell her “thanks for sticking with me”.

If you don’t have such a friend, keep looking.

And keep learning how to become a friend. The kind someone else will want to laugh and cry with fifty years from now.

 

 

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How to Choose an Administrative Assistant

By Kathy NickersonApril 27th, 2016Friendship, mercy, work1 Comment

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  1. Grow her up in your own household so she knows exactly how you think and will answer the telephone with your attitude, tone of voice, and ultimate plan to make the world a nicer place.
  2. If this fails because your own daughters have the irrational idea they should live their own lives, seek out some of their friends.
  3. The longer you have known these friends, the better. Start interviewing childhood companions who may have shared such things as matching haircuts, favorite teachers, and a high tolerance for Little Mermaid songs.
  4. Be willing to recruit from a distance. You never know when a friend from Chicago might decide to move to the middle of the Missouri cornfields just to chase your claims and save your life.
  5. Once these Administrative Assistants have been secured, do not take for granted your good fortune. Treat them fairly; reward them for good work; buy them flowers and chocolate; remind them often that they are highly valued.
  6. And, if you forget to do that because they are, after all, like your own daughters, then at least send them an e-card on National Administrative Assistants Day and write something nice about them on your blog.

Thanks, Heather & Leslie! You help me breathe.

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Have Yourself a Merry Little

By Kathy NickersonDecember 22nd, 2015Friendship, writing4 Comments

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Hello, Dear Reader.

You may think I hover over my desk every week dreaming up ways to lure you to my website so I can sell you more stuff. Like, you know, books. Here is the more realistic scenario:

I sit in my rocking chair in the corner of our living room before dawn and think, “What would help (insert your name) today?”

It’s true I may not think of each of you by name. But you’d be surprised how many of your faces actually go through my mind as I write. I think about your lives, the struggles I know and the ones I only suspect because we all share the human experience.

And, I pray. That somehow these simple words will reach into your world and make some slight difference. That the act of writing for me and reading for you will help all of us figure things out a bit more and gain the strength we need for the day.

That’s pretty much it. The why of what I do. It’s to help the both of us.  And, if I sell a few books to support my art along the way, that’s a lovely perk.

So, today, I wish you a Merry Little Christmas. And I do pray, fervently, that it won’t take a whole year for your troubles to be far away. (Even thought it’s a beautiful song in one of my favorite movies. )

Blessings.

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Better than being Homecoming Queen

By Kathy NickersonAugust 12th, 2015Friendship, happy endings, writing2 Comments

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Among the distinctions I hold which mean absolutely nothing in the whole scheme of things is this one: I was the first Homecoming Queen in our high school. Our little school had never done homecoming before. And, evidently, we didn’t know it was supposed to be a popularity contest. So we held a competition where faculty and staff interviewed the candidates and then selected a winner. That is how a lowly freshman stole the crown from all the upperclassmen.

A lot of wonderful and way more important things have happened in my life since then, but I’d be a liar if I told you that moment doesn’t still hold a bit of a thrill in my heart. I mean, come on, I got to wear a princess gown. And they gave me flowers. And a crown.

The moment I remember most, though, was even better than those. It was the moment when my friend, Judy, told me how happy she was for me. I think it was the first time I ever understood what it meant to really celebrate someone else’s success. I saw it in her face. I heard it in her voice. I felt it in my heart. Pure joy with no competition, no comparison, no gosh-I-wish-it-were-me.

I’ve had the privilege of feeling that a lot lately.

For my friend Josh when he started having publishing success and then went to his first writers conference.

For my friend, Jillian, when her husband published his first children’s book and started working on an amazing series. (Which you should support.)

For my favorite daddy-blogger when he sent me sneak-peeks of some upcoming projects.

And, for my friend, Judy, when she took brave, new steps into the writing world that we have both loved since we walked into Mrs. Epperson’s first-grade classroom together several decades ago.

It turns out the principle is true. Celebrating the success of someone you love really is better than getting your own crown. Let’s have a party here on the blog this week. Who do you want to celebrate today?

 

 

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When The Dots Connect

By Kathy NickersonJune 16th, 2015family, Friendship, happy endings, writingNo Comments

 

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Next week, I’m going to be dancing in the streets. Okay, maybe just in my kitchen. The cause of this celebration is that one of my friends/students/fellow artists will see his first story published. And, if you have ever struggled to bring anything to life – a child, a plant, a song, or a dream – you know this is a Big Deal with capital letters.

I’d be deeply thrilled for Josh even if I had never played the tiniest role in seeing this dream launched. But, the fact that I got to play third chair in the clarinet section for one short song of his symphony makes it all the sweeter.

This weekend, I discovered a starting point that I’d completely forgotten. A letter from my husband’s aunt thirty years ago. I’d written to Aunt Carol back in the days when I was still too embarrassed to admit out loud that I wanted to be a writer. But I wrote my secret dream in a letter to the aunt in California whom I’d never met through anything except letters. My mother-in-law had told me, erroneously it turned out, that Aunt Carol had once written a book.

Aunt Carol did, however, give me detailed advice on how to learn the craft. (Subscribe to writing magazines. Take classes. Buy books.) And how to get published. She even suggested some excellent publishing houses.

I’ve always felt Aunt Carol is my kindred spirit in the writing world, but I had forgotten that she was the one who made me brave.

And now, years later, I have helped Josh be brave. So the dots connected this weekend. And, if Aunt Carol ever reads Josh’s story, I think she will be pleased. Because the hero reminds me a great deal of a certain cowboy who once lived on a ranch out west and was married to our dear, Aunt Carol. Josh has never heard of him, of course, but we all called him Uncle Charlie.

I call that lovely.

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It’s Okay to Be Vanilla Bean

By Kathy NickersonApril 27th, 2015Friendship, happy endings, writing4 Comments

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My friend, Anna, who is pictured here being swarmed by some of my grandchildren, often reminds me a writer needs new experiences to stay inspired. So last weekend we loaded up for a road trip to Omaha, Nebraska, to attend a writers conference together. (And to see some grandchildren.)

Among our new experiences was a walking tour of the lovely Dundee section of the city. Rather trendy for a couple of girls from the cornfield. We stopped in at eCreamery which is famous for appearing on Shark Tank one season. (and for flavors you can name and ship all over the country.) I was more impressed by the fact that it was the site of a young man’s famous selfie with Paul McCartney and Warren Buffet last summer. Even though it was dark outside, I insisted we pose in front of the bench where the famous Beatle once sat.

And, of course, we ate ice cream.

ice cream shopAnna ordered a scoop of mango coconut, and the girls got something pink and exotic. I struggled with all the choices and finally landed on Vanilla Bean. Which seemed appropriate for the grandmother in the crowd. But I was a little disappointed in myself. I had come on this trip for an adventure, new experiences, inspiration. I should have gotten something I’d never tasted before so that I could write about it my next novel!

Later that night, I Googled Paul McCartney, Omaha, and Ice Cream to read about that incident. When the article popped up, I saw the two famous gentlemen relaxing on the bench, and the eager youngster giving a thumbs up in front of his camera. Among the small details in  the article was this one: The flavor of ice cream Paul McCartney had just eaten at eCreamery. Yes, Dear Reader, Vanilla Bean. Sir Paul and I have shared the same experiences in Omaha, Nebraska.

I am definitely feeling inspired.

Thanks, Anna

 

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Sometimes You Improvise

By Kathy NickersonApril 11th, 2015Friendship, happy endings, mercy, work, writing4 Comments

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The windows in my gorgeous new office space are tall. As in, high off the ground, not tall as in long and elegant. I’m not sure where we missed this in the design. I don’t remember a measurement anywhere that said, “the windowsill shall be 48″ from the floor.” But they go well with the tall ceilings. And they let in gorgeous light! And, they give lots of privacy in patient rooms.

What they don’t give, is a nice view in our offices. So, my doctor husband fixed that with a stand-up desk worthy of John Wayne. It is strong and tough and handsome, just like my husband. He is doing a standing desk more for the health benefits than for the lake view, so I decided to do the same thing. (Mostly for the view.) He does have a stool for those afternoons when one must sit for a while.

Trouble is, I have a perfectly wonderful writing desk that has never been adequately used due to space limitations. I worried over this for a while, until I came up with the brilliant idea you see pictured here.

Now, if you are like my good friend, Dave, you are probably worried that this look doesn’t fit in our elegant, new office building. But don’t worry, this is just a test pattern. Our contractor pointed out that the legs to my desk can actually be removed and replaced with tall ones!

Dave is so relieved.

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And, I care what he thinks. Dave is one of those faithful friends who is so important in life that he makes a brief appearance in all my novels. He’s a doctor in Thirty Days to Glory, which explains his deep interest in our current move. I gave him an even better career in Rose Hill Cottage. But you’ll have to wait until next summer to read about it. I’m finishing up the edits at my stand-up desk with a perfect view of the lake!

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What to Do When Systems Fail

By Kathy NickersonApril 8th, 2015Friendship, Marriage, mercy, work5 Comments

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Many motivational speakers/writers/salespeople will tell you systems are the secret to success. And, I love that. I have a system for just about everything in life including the order in which I wash my body in the shower. (Too much information?) What’s more, I learned that particular system from a novel! (Cheaper by the Dozen)

But, sometimes, systems fail us. Right now, our clinic is in the disorienting transition of a physical move. Nothing blows a system faster than realizing half your tools are in a box somewhere. The distraction that comes from this massive move – how many trash cans do we need for six exam rooms and four offices, and did I order all of them at the best price? – has rattled all my systems. Did I put on moisturizer before I brushed my teeth? Have I written my newspaper column for this week? Did anyone feed the dog?

So, what do we do when our systems fail us? We hang on, of course. To Jesus, first of all. He is still our Rock and our Peace. Stopping in the middle of the chaos to whisper a prayer or sing a bit of a song can quiet every storm.

And we hang onto one another. People are more important than any system in the world. When your system or your world fails, try these fixes: Rock a baby. Hug a friend. Kiss your husband. Call your mother.

Times like this will pass. But relationships with God and with one another are eternal. They will sustain us long after our silly little systems have crumbled into dust. I’m going to go kiss my husband now. Then I need to order more thrash cans.

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