Hello, it’s late in the afternoon on Friday, and around this time there’s nothing I like to do more than reflect on the week and then bore people with every detail of it. Here’s a Week in Review.
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Some time ago I got an amusing email that asked “Why did the chicken cross the road?” and then listed answers from different famous people. Ernest Hemingway's was, “To die, alone, in the rain.” That’s a good summary for all of the Hemingway I’ve read so far, and yet I decided to jump into another one, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. It’s considered his best.
There’s some unusual writing going on in this book. The main character’s name is Robert Jordan, and every time he’s referred to in the narrative Hemingway uses his full name, Robert Jordan. Every time. No Robert or Bob or “our leading man”, just Robert Jordan. Every time. I’ve never read a book that’s done that before. In fact at some point in the first chapter after the 15th “Robert Jordan” I thought, “Does he do this through the whole book?”, and then I looked ahead to the last half of the book and sure enough there it was, the full name. I’ve gotten used to it now, but at first it seemed like a lot of work to read a full name. I was thinking that maybe I would just read the Robert and skip the Jordan and save myself some time. But the full name feels natural now, almost necessary. Hemingway also has the characters talk to each other in very formal terms. They use a lot of “thee” and “thou”, which seems odd for a bunch of civil war guerrilla fighters who live in a cave. But that, too, has grown on me. And, in spite of all of this crazy wordiness, I’m enjoying the book. I was pulled into it from the beginning without knowing exactly why. I just know that I care very much about what happens to these people. Of course, given that it’s Hemingway, what happens will probably be a lonely death in the rain.
I don’t like to have much, if anything, on my feet. I don’t know why. It’s not something that I’ve ever thought through or come to a conclusion on. In fact, I didn’t fully realize that this is the case until last week. I’ve been walking in some flimsy little things that didn’t give any support, and my feet hurt all of the time, so I decided that it was time to go shopping for some quality walking shoes. Melissa and I went to the outlet malls in Park City where I found good shoes on sale for only $20 at the Nike store. Nice.
I’ve had tennis shoes in the past, of course, but it’s been a long time since I’ve worn them. In fact I can’t remember the last time I put on a pair of shoes that had to be laced up. Everything I own is a slip-on with thin soles and very little over the top of my foot. My new shoes were very exciting, and I couldn’t wait to take a walk in them. On Tuesday I got them out of the box, tied them on and set out. I hadn’t gone very far from the COB when I thought, “Man these things are HEAVY!” I felt like I was wearing bricks. And those huge soles! I couldn’t lift my feet up high enough to clear the ground. I kept shuffling my feet, and then tripping up a little. And all of that shoe around the ankles is so constricting. For crying out loud! How do people walk in these things? My legs were getting tired from the heavy lifting. I didn’t walk near as far as usual before I called it good, turned around and went back to the office. It was like having giant canoe feet.
That’s when I started thinking about my feet and my shoe history. I guess there have been hints in the past – when I’d take my shoes off while sitting at my desk in elementary school, going barefoot all day every day during the summer, Melody pointing out “Angie shoes” when we’re in a department store together. But now I know for sure. I don’t like having anything on my feet, and my shoes have as little to them as possible.
I have kept walking in the tennis shoes, and it’s getting better. And, my feet don’t hurt anymore. I do like that.
And now I have a story that I’m almost hesitant to tell because I have very personal feelings about it, but here it goes. Last Wednesday Cheryl came up to me at work and said that she and her husband wanted to do something for me for Christmas, but she didn’t know what to pick out. She asked if I wanted to meet her at Kohl’s and she’d take me shopping. I was surprised, but said sure, that would be fun. Cheryl has brought me little Christmas and birthday presents in the past, so it’s not unusual for her to get me something. But this seemed more serious than “I’d like to take you to lunch.” She wanted to go shopping.
I got to Kohl’s first and looked around. I’m getting a new big-girl bed soon (more on that later!), and thought maybe a blanket or pillow would be nice. She had mentioned clothes, too, so I looked at some sweaters. When she got there she asked if I had found anything, so I showed her a sweater first. She agreed that it was very cute, picked it up off of the rack, and then asked about bedding. So we went to the blankets and again I showed her what I had looked at, and she grabbed the best of the blankets and then said, “Ok, pillows.” I said, “Well this is enough.” And she said, “No, come on now, I’m having fun.” I was beginning to realize at this point what she meant by shopping. I really wanted to protest, but I also felt sure that she really wanted to do this, and that I should let her. So we found a pillow that I could add to my new bed.
We walked around Kohl’s some more, and talked and then realized that there wasn’t anything more there that we wanted to shop for. I was at a loss as to what to look for, really. How do you say, “Ok, well why don’t you buy me this next”? You don’t. We checked out and left the store. While in the parking lot Cheryl pointed out the TJ Max close by and suggested that we go there next. Um, ok. We went in and started looking through the clothes racks, found two sweaters and then moved on to shoes, and found a great pair of brown dress shoes. She bought all of it. It was fun to spend that time with her. We talked and laughed and pointed out horrible shoes and skirts and laughed some more. But I’m sure you can understand why it was a little strange for me to have her buying me so much.
When we left the store I said, “Thank you Cheryl. I really don’t know what to say.” And she said, “Just say thank you.”
I got in my car, and that’s when the tears came. I felt what it was to be on the receiving end of genuine kindness. I was still a little uncomfortable with it all, but at the same time I was sure that Cheryl did this for me out of real friendship and because she wanted to.
Of course, that didn’t stop the other voices in my head later that evening. “I must look awful at work every day or else she wouldn’t have thought that I needed new clothes.” And, “Do I look like a charity case? Is my poverty so obvious?” Stupid, isn’t it, that a person can’t just accept generosity without questioning the intent, or beating herself up? Stupid, but natural I suppose. But then I thought of things that I do with my nieces and nephews, and that I do these things for them because I love them, and because I enjoy it, and because I want to. And then I thought maybe Cheryl’s reasons weren’t so different. It makes me all warm inside. It really does.
I’ve learned a lot over the last few months about the value of my relationships, including the one I have with you (each one of you). There are some wonderful people in this world, and I am lucky to have known a good number of them, and even luckier to have had their friendship. It’s beautiful.
Thanks, as always, for your continued greatness.
You are loved.