Posts Tagged ‘Friendship’

By Justine Stamper, RMU Student.

Do you know how songs, paintings, or poems can take you back to a place in time or make stevieyou think of a special person? The song “Dreams” by Stevie Nicks, Monet’s “Water Lilies”, and the poem“Comes the Dawn” by Veronica Shoffstall evoke monetfond memories of my friend Fawn. I’ll never forget her impact on my wonder years. I carry it with me to this day; Fawn showed me my dawn.

Growing up, my best friend Chrissy and I had a babysitter, Fawn. She was a senior in high school while we were barely in the sixth grade. Her long blonde hair, minimal makeup, sweet disposition, and laid back approach to life signified her hippie chick lifestyle. Her looks and persona were reminiscent of Stevie Nicks. As a bonus she had a good looking boyfriend who sang in a band, and they would take us anywhere we wanted to go. They were the epitome of cool.

Those summers were spent driving around in a station wagon singing along to the radio blaring, playing miniature golf, or tooling around the Brickyard Mall. Dinner was usually fawn-seth-amandaTaco Bell, where we’d always order Burrito Supremes with extra sour cream. Or Gene and Jude’s for rubber dogs (yes, that’s what they call their hot dogs!)

As I became a teenager, Fawn became less of a babysitter and more of an older sister. As I was growing up, so was Fawn. She became a mother and had gone through losing the love of her life. These losses and challenges made her even more of an old soul.

I would stay with her and her children in her small bohemian apartment, adorned with beaded entryways, dream-catchers, Monet paintings and the smell of incense mixed withfawn cannabis. She gave me solid advice during breakups with my first boyfriend. While we mulled over the dirty details of the breakup, she played Bob Dylan’s, Positively 4th Street.

To further solidify her place as my mentor, she gave me a poem with a heart, cross and an infinity symbol drawn on it. The poem was “Comes the Dawn” by Veronica Shoffstall; it read… “After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul and you learn that love doesn’t mean possession and company doesn’t mean security. And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts and presents aren’t promises
. And you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes ahead
. With chrissy-ithe grace of an adult not the grief of a child. 
And you learn to build your roads on today
. Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans and futures have ways of falling down in mid­flight.
 After awhile you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much. 
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And you learn that you really can endure that you really are strong. 
And you really do have worth. 
And you learn and you learn… with every goodbye you learn.”

As the years went by, I remained in touch with Fawn through occasional visits, and now through Facebook. I want to take my daughter to meet her; I’m sure Fawn will get a glimpse of our younger days when she sees my “mini-­me.” I appreciate the advice and support Fawn gave to me. I would love for her to share her life lessons with my daughter; after all it’s my daughter’s dawn now.

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By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

Having just concluded most of my birthday celebrations (an additional birthday brunch scheduled for tomorrow and a birthday trip planned at the end of March), it seems as though I have successfully stretched my birthday celebrations from a day to a week, to a full month.

Ah, but Isn’t life always worth celebrating (my life especially, it seems)?

As a self-proclaimed celebration aficionado, I have hit upon yet another “teachable moment” and intend to continue to make the world a better place, not just by being in it (duh) but by sharing what I have learned and encouraging everyone to celebrate life and themselves as often as possible. Thus, I shall share my successful celebration strategies.

Make a “birthday wish list”

The list should include activities and ingredients for a good time. Share it with those closest to you. My list this year

krisflowers

 

Flowers

Sushi

Art

Music

Dancing

When brilliant, observant, and attentive friend Kris gave me flowers, I was thrilled, but he reminded me that he was just helping me check items off my birthday list.

Know great people

I have often thanked the sun and moon and stars for what I have deemed my incredible “Friend Karma” (my ability to meet, befriend, and build relationships with truly tremendous people). Having good friends is particularly wonderful on birthdays. This year, my birthday celebrations began with a dinner of sushi at Wasabi and a night of classy cocktails at Scofflaw. Then, I spent a magnificent night dancing at Slippery Slope with many friends; we formed a circle of awesomeness and sexiness rarely seen outside of 1970’s era discotheques. In short: Dine, Drink, Dance.

Get out there

Since moving to Chicago, I have included a “birthday trip” to my celebration schedule, an excellent addition if ever there was one, an idea that I learned from a former student at Columbia. His name was possibly Conner Johnson (can’t recall precisely). He himself had a list of brilliant birthday trips that began after a disappointing 15th birthday party. He determined to have much more fun on his 16th birthday, so he completed a road trip from California to Chicago via route 66 with his dad. Can you imagine? Suitably inspired, I added a birthday getaway to my celebration schedule. As a result, I have given myself the enormous and irreplaceable gift of fond memories of time spent with friends! I have travelled to Boston with Hanna and Leah, hannaleah

New Orleans with Leah, Bill, Kait & Alex.

Visited Kait & Alex in San Francisco.

kait

This year, I’ll be hitting the road with Kris to see St. Louis. Following my bliss, every step of the way.

Be delighted by surprises

Good surprises in life are fairly rare, so I am thrilled to report that my lovely family (one marvelous mother, four fabulous sisters, and two terrific brothers) decided that I deserved a great gift this year: a new bicycle! The fun of bicycle shopping and selection coupled with the promise of faster and fancier biking throughout my neighborhood and beyond surpasses just about every other (material) birthday wish I can imagine. The fact that my ideal birthday gift today (at my age) is essentially the same as when I was ten years old seems a remarkably good sign.

Cheers, as always, to another year wiser!

Happy Little Trees

Posted: March 4, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.~Emerson

Great friendships have been a hallmark of my life. The reason for this is a mystery. I can’t claim responsibility for such an extraordinary advantage. Doing so would be akin to a great singer taking credit for the astonishing beauties of music. Like a devoted musician, I develop and nurture my friendships, but the realization of so many close and lasting relationships is a mysterious and innate talent I have somehow been bestowed. how_i_became_a_fairy_godmotherI shall presume an incredibly wise fairy godmother worked to ensure that my life positively overflows with enchanting friends.

My closest friends possess similar traits, but are all different types of people. Early on, I established a habit of seeing a potential friend in any and every kind of individual. Happily, contemporary life allows for my friendships among men and women to thrive, no matter their relationship status. Throughout much of history, the kind of intimacy between the sexes would have been perceived as odd, or problematic. Childhood friends have remained close, spending time with me with or without their partners. My friends are wealthy, middle class, and struggling, or in some state of flux. I find that money rarely matters, and if I any of us have a bit more, the only thing that changes is the regularity and expense of gifts and trips. I have friends in every age group. Many of my friends are a decade older or younger than I am. Whether older or younger, these friends provide an opportunity to witness the exquisite, shapeshifting nature of life, the eagerness and anxiety of youth transforming into certainty and contentment. I am privileged to have friends from different backgrounds of every sort. I like all types of people, and, fortunately, they like me, too.

Fantastic friendships are phenomenal treasures.Of the things my friends do have in common, here’s the only absolute: they all make me laugh. As for the rest, they are just geaudennerally too good to be true. They tend to be graceful, and find my clumsiness amusing. Often they are beautiful, in ways subtle and intense. They surprise me with thoughtful and generous gifts of time and attention. They inspire me to try new things; they challenge my rigidity; they encourage me to stay up late and go out dancing.

Good friendships are profoundly beautiful, deeply comforting, and just plain fun. I suppose I ought to write a friend-by-friend discussion and analysis, but that would require much more time than I have at the moment, and I fear accidentally forgetting someone, which would be unforgivable.

 

I have been planning an art project affectionately described as a “friend orchard” along the lines of a family tree. In this orchard, trees would designate different friend groups: Cleveland friends, graduate school friends, library school friends, Chicago friends, 826 friends, work friends, and the Urban Family. This strategy would always allow room to add new friends.

Whether or not the project is ever completed, I delight in the idea of growing friendships enough to fill a forest.

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty. 

My friend Kris is a wonderful man, and not just because he always keeps his promises. He does much more. When the summer heat finally arrived, I asked him to help me install my window A/C unit. He said he was happy to help. In fact, he suggested coming over to get it done the next day. The next morning, he called me asking when I would like him to come over to help. Kris is an extraordinary friend.Image

After he’d assured me that the A/C unit was securely in place in my dining room window, I asked if he wanted to stay for lunch. He cooled down in front of the freezer and fan while waiting for the A/C to cool the room, and I prepared two salads, placing his closest to the now churning A/C unit. I love a good talker, and Kris possesses championship conservation skills. We talked about our plans for the day. We talked about our tendency to be attracted to difficult men. We talked about the books we were reading. We happened on the topic of biometrics, because I had read an article in Smithsonian magazine (a great read www.smithsonianmag.com). He was quick to offer more ideas and examples of biometrics in action. Have I mentioned that he’s smart, too?

Feeling sure I should offer him more than a salad for lunch and eager for our conversation to continue, I remembered I bought cherries at the Farmers Market. I jumped to wash and serve them. We began discussing whether or not life is, in fact, like a bowl of cherries, analyzing the simile in which a bowl of cherries signifies the easy sweetness of life. But a bowl of cherries is not so simple. I suggested that, like cherries, life always includes some sort of unpleasantness, the pits, naturally. Kris added that when people think about cherries, the pits are overlooked, most people are happy enough with the sweetness of the cherries that the pits aren’t even considered, or, once eliminated, they are quickly forgotten. Cherries aren’t always in season, either, signaling the need to accept that the happiness we want cannot be expected to be immediately available. Pleased with our insights, we continued, discussing interpretation more generally.

Then, we began eating the cherries. They were exquisite. We talked about their perfection—the cherries melting on the tongue, the pits just falling away. He observed, “These are the best cherries I’ve had, ever.” I agreed. We ate slowly; I went back into the kitchen to get the rest, dividing them equally between our two bowls.

He asked, “If this lunch we’re having—salads and cherries in a cool room on a hot summer Sunday were in a novel, how would students interpret it?”

A good question to ponder while eating the season’s most perfect cherries.

The variety of accurate interpretations, and the individuality inherent in them, has always intrigued me, which is one of the reasons why I so thoroughly enjoy my work as an English professor. How might this scene between my friend Kris and I be interpreted? A student could begin by noting the balance of opposites—heat and cold, in this case. The interior coolness, the cold salad and washed cherries creating an oasis in the midst of summer heat. Another student might discuss the shared pleasure derived from the fruit, symbolizing perhaps a harmonious relationship between equals. Another could note the post modern tendency to address the multiplicity of possible interpretations. And they’d all be right.

For me, the appeal of analysis rests in the excessive attention given to the small details that comprise life. We must capture the moment, inspect it, and turn it over in our mind like a fine sculpture, noting the nuances, attempting to know what it could mean. Interpretation allows us to linger in moments we wish we could stay in forever.

I went back to the Farmers Market the following Sunday, but the cherries were gone. 

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty. 

The Lady Woolfs met at 826 Chicago, a tremendous non-profit that supports and promotes literacy in the Chicago area, where we all either worked or volunteered. 826CHI is a rarified space devoted to creative writing, community engagement, and general wackiness. We all fit in perfectly. I’m not exactly sure who started the book club. I could find out, of course, but all the best stories begin with mysterious origins.

At first, we were six: Corinne, Janet, Julie, Kait, Leah, and me. Ultimately, three of the Imageoriginal Woolfs moved away, but they are far from forgotten. Corrine was the first to become a long-distance Woolf when she, our proud Canadian, returned with her husband to their favorite state: Kansas. Corinne’s exit resulted in Kara’s addition to the Woolfs in 2011. We thought that was the most our club would ever change. But, as my 8th grade history teacher Mr. Johnson always said, “nothing’s constant except change,” and Julie and Kait were each offered remarkable professional opportunities in quick succession. In Spring 2012, Julie earned an important fellowship at the CDC and Kait was promoted to 826 National, in San Francisco. Our book club had room for more local members, so Jeni and Kendra, two more 826ers, were asked to join. Thus, there are nine Lady Woolfs, six local and three long-distance. Once a Woolf, always a Woolf. And though the departures are reluctant, the going-away parties are fabulous. None of us will forget Leah doing an actual spit-take as Kara grabbed and chugged each remaining glass of wine on the table as we said “goodbye” to Kait at Bin Wine Café. We all collapsed into giggles, barely summoning the strength to leave the restaurant.

We always discuss the book, for how long is flexible. Some books require discussion and scrutiny. Others seem strangely forgettable, still others downright dreadful. We analyze character, plot, style, symbolism, irony. We reveal remarkable insights. We disagree. We help each other see books in new ways. We all complain, perhaps me most of all, about the depiction of female characters. Women in literature—even in literature written by women—are so frequently oversimplified types: the earth mother, the unattainable beauty, the resilient misfit. What’s truly frustrating is that in every room where The Lady Woolfs sit, there are astonishingly complex, authentic, flawed, magnificent women. Why are women like us so uncommon on the page? Each one of us is nurturing and loving in marvelous ways. Each one of us possesses unique, captivating beauty. Each of us has failed to fit in. We are all that and more, and we search to find portrayals of women equally as vibrant, finding them only rarely—in Austen and Dundy and Wolitzer—cherishing them, like each other, all the more.

The Lady Woolfs’ meetings have grown over time, just like our relationships. A meeting can easily run four hours, as we devote ourselves to the extraordinary experience we’ve been gifted. Naturally, the stories shared aren’t limited to what we find in the books. It’s impossible to remember who said what, the words and wine flow so freely, so our own stories have intertwined with the novels and memoirs: french-fry-fueled hangovers, dissections of countless bad dates, two incidents involving fetish gear, exotic vacations, romantic engagements and preposterously hilarious (at the time) taglines, including the ridiculous “Tito, Tito, Tito, Relax.”  

ImageWhen I was convalescing last August, spending summer vacation in my darkened living room on the pulled-out couch, the Lady Woolfs hurried to my door with food and wine and gifts. Janet made me three eye patches, one green, one purple, and one red marked with a “T,” making me the envy of everyone in the eye clinic. We didn’t have a book to talk about because this was a “special session,” so we watched the Olympics on TV. The Lady Woolfs proceeded to get excessively drunk and exceedingly funny. Julie had us laughing so hard our faces ached, but we all agreed that was hysterical, too, so our laughter roared on and on.

When the next Lady Woolfs book club meeting approaches, the host sends out a reminder, and a volley of witty and wonderful emails builds until the appointed time. We descend upon the host’s house, adding wine, cheese, fruits, salads and chocolates to an already overflowing table. Yes, I am a member of quite possibly the world’s most extraordinary book club. No, I’m afraid we aren’t looking for new members.