Tag Archives: online friends

Non-Canadian Thanksgiving: Things I’m Thankful For

24 Nov

My social media feeds are making me hungry today. My Facebook newsfeed and my Twitter timeline are full of people in the United States talking about turkey, wild mushroom tartlets, various kinds of fresh-baked breads, pumpkin pie, sweet-potato-this-thing or roasted-carrot-that-thing. It all sounds delicious, and I am truly happy that everyone is having such a lovely feast. But you know, sitting up here in Canada, the ham and cheese sandwich that looked so nice while I was making it suddenly seems a little sad.

Yes, I know. We Canadians already had our turn last month. While I was Facebooking and tweeting about my own Thanksgiving dinner six weeks or so ago, I got a number of responses that said something along these lines: “Lucky cow!”

Anyway, even though it is not technically my Thanksgiving, I thought I’d take a moment, while everyone is in the mood, to reflect on things that I am grateful for. Because sometimes we get so caught up the busy-ness and stress and noise of life that we forget about the things in our lives that make it all worthwhile.

Like these:

  • I have two gorgeous children who are in perfect health. Yes, my son has autism, and yes, this affects both of my kids, but I get to hug them and cuddle with them and kiss them goodnight. I get to read to them, play with them, and arm-wrestle them into eating their veggies. They are there to wake me up early on Saturday mornings while I’m trying to sleep, and they are there to dump toys all over the house and then refuse to clean up after themselves. There are some parents who have buried their children, who can only dream of all of this. My heart aches for them, and I appreciate every second with my kids – the good moments and the bad.
  • My husband and I have arguments. I mean, who doesn’t? Every couple has arguments. There are times when he drives me crazy, times when he makes me cry, times when I feel overworked and underappreciated. But then there are the good times. The times we laugh together at some joke that only the two of us can understand. The times we go to meetings at our kids’ schools and work together for the betterment of their future. He calls me during the day for no reason other than to tell me he loves me, and when I’m on my way home from work, he walks to the bus stop to meet me because he wants to see me that badly. He is the love of my life and I cannot imagine life without him. And I am truly thankful that I sat in a park that day ten years ago and fell for the stranger who approached me.
  • The economy has been up a certain creek without a paddle for some time now. I know of people who have lost their jobs, who cannot afford a simple visit to the doctor, who struggle to feed their families. I spend a lot of time griping about my commute, but at least I have a job to commute to. It’s a good job, too. Challenging work, reasonable pay, good benefits and for the most part, people I enjoy working with.
  • I have some phenomenal friends. Some I have known for a very long time, and some are relatively recent additions to the fabric of my life. Many people talk about their online friends versus their “in real life” friends. I make no such distinction. If you have hugged me (either in person or virtually), cried with me, advised me, been there for me, allowed me to be there for you – you are my friend, whether I have met you face-to-face or not. Knowing someone exclusively through online media does not make that person any less real. So, to my friends – whether we have physically met or not –  I love you and appreciate you. Truly.
  • Then there are the people who I don’t really know well enough to be able to be able to call my friends – not yet, anyway. I hesitate to use the word “acquaintances”, because that word implies that I merely know these people. It does not adequately convey the idea that they are important to me, and that I greatly value their presence in my life. Many of the people I interact with on Twitter fall into this category. I cannot say that I know them, but they brighten my day, or somehow make me feel that I’m not alone; that no matter what I’m going through, someone understands and more importantly, cares.

Sometimes, life gets overwhelming for me and all I want to do is run away and hide. But when I turn on my taps, I get hot and cold running water that’s clean enough to drink. I walk outside and all of the buildings are standing. There are no bombs flying around and I haven’t lost all of my loved ones and possessions to an earthquake. I live in a house, not on the street. Although I live halfway across the world from my mother, I don’t have to worry about whether she is sick or injured, because through the magic of technology that I can afford to have in my home, I am in daily contact with her.

No matter how bad things may get from time to time, there is always something to be thankful for.

(Photo credit to http://www.flickr.com/photos/lonecypress/3264410416. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)

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The Meaning Of Friendship

15 Apr

When George was a newborn, I joined an online group for parents of living children who had also experienced pregnancy or infant loss. Having gone through two pregnancy losses, I was paranoid about everything connected with my new baby. Did those sniffles indicate a cold or something more serious? Why wasn’t he nursing? Was that little bump to the head going to cause permanent damage? Was I actually going to be able to keep this tiny scrap of a human being alive?

In the online group, I found a home – a group of women whose experiences, while all very unique, gave us a common ground. We consoled and comforted one another, offered advice and reassurances, laughed and cried with one another. We became friends. And as you find in any group of friends, there was drama. We had disagreements and conflict. Some people left never to be heard from again, others left and came back.

Seven years on, the core group of us are still friends. The online group itself is not as active as it once was, because most of us are friends on Facebook, and we communicate that way. But we are still as much of a support for one another as we always were. Through seven years (and in some cases, more), we have seen each other through births and deaths, marriages and divorces, relocations, bankruptcies, illnesses, post-partum depression, and even a prison sentence. We have been there for each other through everything.

In 2007, George was diagnosed with autism. As I dealt with the implications of this, including my own emotional fallout, my girls were there for me. Their love and support helped keep me buoyant at a time when it would have been so easy to drown. These amazing women, who had already helped me stay sane through relationship and financial problems, the loss of my father, and my pregnancy with James, once again banded together to help me cope.

And then, a little over a year ago, I found another online group of friends – these ones parents of children with autism. They wormed their way into my heart in the same way my first group had. Although the general conversations centre around different issues, the sense of love and support is present in both groups. My autism friends have been part of my life for substantially less time, but they have helped me over so many hurdles. They tell me I’m a good Mom when I’ve struggle to deal with George’s behaviours. They celebrate with me when he achieves a milestone, and they commiserate with me when a stranger in a grocery store says something ignorant about my child.

Both groups of people are brutally honest in their opinions. They have the strength and the integrity to tell me what they really think, instead of telling me what they believe I want to hear.

From the two groups combined, I have met exactly three people in person.

Occasionally, someone makes a distinction between online friends and IRL (“in real life”) friends. To me, there is no such distinction. Just because you communicate with someone primarily through email or Facebook, that doesn’t mean they are any less real. The only word in the equation that means anything to me is “friends”. And that is truly what these people are. I cannot imagine my life without them. I do not know how I would have weathered the storms of the last few years if they hadn’t been there to keep me afloat and give me reality checks when I needed them.

This post is dedicated to my friends at PALC_group and Parenting_Autism. Thank you for being the wonderful people you are. I love you all.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ilamont/4329364198)

What’s On My Bucket List?

29 Jan

One of my friends recently showed me a list of the things he would like to do before he dies.  “See the Eiffel Tower” was one of them.  OK, that sounds reasonable.  I’m more into the Pyramids myself, but the Eiffel Tower is nice enough.

“Learn to Scuba dive”.  “Go skydiving”.  Those are pretty good ones, actually.

“Go for a Bungee jump”.  I did that once, and when people ask me how it was, I always tell them it is something I’m glad I did once, but that I will never do again.  It is a worthy addition to a bucket list.

“Go to the moon”.

OK, my friend lost me there.  The moon?  I can appreciate that the view must be spectacular from up there, but it’s cold and dark and there are no good places for trail runs.  Besides, don’t you make lists in order to be able to cross completed items off?  Isn’t that the whole point of a list?  Not to put a damper on things, but the chances of my friend going to moon are about the same as my chances of fitting into a size 32B bra.

My own bucket list is not as comprehensive as some other people’s.  There are not, say, 100 things that I absolutely have to do before I die.  And my list does not include things that I am never likely to achieve.  I’d like, for instance, to be a contestant on Hell’s Kitchen, just for the pleasure of telling Gordon Ramsay to piss off, but that’s not on my bucket list because what are the odds of it ever happening?

No, my list contains a few things that I really, really want to do, that are achievable, and that I actually intend to do.  Here is a sample of a few of them, in no particular order.

  • Run a marathon.  Someday I will do this.  When my kids are a little older, and I am able to devote more time to training, I will get myself into really good shape and run a full marathon.  I’m not sure which one, but possibly New York.
  • Get into full-time writing.  This is a long-term plan that will require much planning, but it what I want to do.  I have finally realized, at the age of 41, what I actually want to do for a living.
  • Meet in person the friends I only know online, who are real friends nonetheless.  To name a few: Margie, Amy, Kerry, Ray, and quite a number of others.
  • Travel to the very Northern part of Canada to see Aurora Borealis (a.k.a. Northern Lights). This is a beautiful phenomenon that has always intrigued me, and now I live in a country where it can actually be seen.
  • Go on a cruise.  I’ve never, ever done this, and I’ve always wanted to. Someday I will do it.
  • Travel to Colorado to meet the parents of my friend Jason who was in North Tower on 9/11.  I want to tell them what a wonderful son they had, what a good and true friend he was.
  • Finish the fictional novel I started writing, AND get it published.  It’s a good storyline, really.
  • Run the Disney Princess Half-Marathon.  Happens every year, in Disneyland, at the end of February.  And it’s apparently TONS of fun.
  • Weigh the same as I did when I was 30.  OK, so I’m eleven years older now, I’ve had two kids since then, and I had a long period of inactivity that only ended a couple of years ago, but YES, it’s achievable!
  • Stand on top of Table Mountain with my two boys. Someday I will take my kids to South Africa and show them where I came from.  We will go up Table Mountain in the cable car, and we will stand there together feeling like we’re on top of the world.