Live with Time; don’t watch it pass by

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I learned last night that I lost a friend, another friend, a dear friend, a man larger than life with a personality and conviction for truth unparalleled among my friends.

We do not control Time.

It treats us like the peons we are. We can either sit by and watch as it parades or we can swim in it, march with it, dance through it – because it does not stop.

People – friends, colleagues, acquaintances – ask me why I’m traveling so much and doing so much and living so much: visiting two or three countries and several states a year, attending tennis tournaments and concerts, seeing “Hamilton” twice and finding my way to big events such as inaugurals and small ones like PeeWee football games 1,200 miles away from my home.

As I’ve struggled this year with the loss of my mother and surgery that put me on my a– for weeks, I did hear friends tell me to slow down, take my time. But you can’t take Time. It is controlled by no one, save God.

I can occasionally operate at 33 and a third rather than 78. (Google records to understand that). But I don’t have to stop the adventures. I will still rip and run all I want. I plan to live every single day with gusto, frivolity and, occasionally, foolishness.

Why?

Because each sunrise is a revelation. Each day is a gift. Don’t spend your life planning to live. Live!

I lost a friend and didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. I plan to frolic in Time, play with it, laugh with it. Every day.

Because each day is what we have. Each time. And Time is not waiting for you – or me.

Rochelle Riley is a columnist at the Detroit Free Press. Read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley. Read her personal reflections here, where she pursues life, liberty and whatever the hell else she wants. Follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.

The Jar: Counting our blessings all year long in 2013

The Facebook posting stopped me short.

A California nonprofit was encouraging Facefriends to find an empty jar and – beginning January 1 – filling it up regularly with good things that happen all year. Then on New Year’s Eve, anyone who does can open one of The. Best. Presents. Ever.

I’m in.

I’ve done this before – on a smaller scale. When I’ve hosted celebrations, I’ve given guests cards to write notes. No further instructions. Some of those have been among the most moving, special gifts I’ve ever received.

And at a recent work anniversary celebration, I hired a photo booth and I have dozens of photo strips of and with friends.

But this? This is something different. This is a reminder to take a moment every now and again over an entire year and celebrate.

I always say: Celebrate the small victories. They count.

Now, we get to count them.

I’m doing it, and I’m excited about it. Who’s with me?

Facebook chat leads to . . . wait for it . . . an actual phone conversation and a good moment between old friends

So anyway, there was a moment this morning that reminded me of when we used to talk to each other in person.

I had sent a friend a Facebook message that I needed to talk to him. He said he’d call right away. Then he asked for 20 minutes to freshen up. I told him that was fine. It would give me time to put on some pants.

It was funny, for a minute.

But then I realized that I had not seen my friend in a year. It had been more than a year. Now, we’re not great friends. We don’t visit each other’s homes or go to lunch every week. He’s more a friend of a girlfriend who moved to Los Angeles and became a celebrity journalist and was no longer the bridge that connected me to this great guy, who’s a married father and writer who’s awesome but whom a single woman can’t hang out with alone.

But when I said I needed to chat, his response was immediate: Let me freshen up and call you. He was still funny and still my friend.

We talked. It was great. I needed a favor. He was as happy to help as if he’d seen me last week.

So I may invite his family out to dinner because we can’t lose people. When we do, we lose moments we’ll one day wish we had.

A Perfect Fourth of July Celebration: Scrabble, Hot Links and Love

LAKEWOOD, Colo. _ If you ever need instructions on how to celebrate the 4th of July, there’s a couple just west of Denver  who could offer a few lessons.

I went with my sisterfriend April to the ultimate barbecue. Burgers, hot dogs, fruit salad and nachos were the appetizers! And tables were set up across the yard for Bid Whist, Dominoes, chess and, yes, I was in heaven, Scrabble.

But this wasn’t your usual Scrabble. These wonderful women of age played using Independence Day rules. You could look up your word in the dictionary BEFORE you placed it on the board. There was no time limit. If you wanted to stop and talk about each word before the next person’s turn, that was perfectly acceptable.

And when it was time to eat, the game wasn’t paused. It was over.

Oh, the eating. Our hosts, Clinton and Barbara, took to a microphone to announce the rules: Guests aged 55 and older had to go first.  I’ve never seen so many people announce their retirement dates, AARP card numbers and how many grandchildren they had to get to the front of the line.

But why not? The menu was: ribs, collards, potato salad, bean salad, tossed salad, corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, hot links, corn bread and pasta.  (Oh, there also was catfish, but it was a third course!)

Other rules? Children were not allowed at the food table; parents had to make their plates. (I LOVE that rule) and anyone making a plate for a senior could enter the house first. One woman announced she was making a plate for her mother. Her mother said: “I can make my own plate!”

There was an entire separate table with 19 cakes, cupcakes and pies. And there were six coolers of every possible drink you could crave. Sangria flowed from a dispenser on the patio.

No gathering that large on a holiday could end without talk of politics, and there was plenty. But I’ll save that for my column.

This big moment was about meeting new people, watching children with painted faces play and enjoying hot sausages that make your eyes water and potato salad made the way it should be (with pickles, boiled eggs and a dozen spices). Continue Reading

With a friend like Mark . . . and an Otter Box

Celebrated the eve of my birthday with wonderful friends in Washington, D.C. and learned two valuable lessons. My friend, Mark and I had a small accident on the way Jaleo’s, my favorite restaurant, in Arlington, Va.

We were chatting and laughing and Mark turned the corner to sharply, running over the extremely high medians (as Arlington tends to have in the city center). He got out and tried to push the car back over the nearly-foot high concrete barrier. No go. So he asked me to get behind the wheel.

I was holding my coat (The weather was gorgeous!) and my phone in my lap. I jumped out, ran around and took the wheel. I steered in reverse, while he pushed us out of a predicament.

Only when I got to the restaurant a little while later and got read ty take photos, did I remember that my Iphone had been on my lap!

Mark dutifully went back to the car to, hopefully, find it on the floor.

We got worried when he had been gone for more than 20 minutes.

Suddenly, he walked in and handed me an Iphone. I said “This isn’t mine.” LOL! Silly me. Of course it was mine, minus one Otter Box case that had kept my phone from being destroyed when it landed in in the street and was run over.

Yes, run over.

When Mark didn’t find the phone in the car, he dialed my number, and a Marriott-Crystal City Gateway employee who had found it on the street answered, saying “Is this your phone?” Mark drove over to get it.

Phone is FINE!

Two lessons: 1) Everyone should use an Otter Box to protect their Iphones.

2) Everyone should have a friend like Mark.

The best gift of all

This Christmas, I am working harder on holiday gifts than ever. This year, I’ve decided not to buy them. This year, I am writing letters, notes of admiration, realization and reflection, for my dearest friends.

The decision really made itself. I just returned from a trip to Dakar, and just didn’t have time to spend in stores trying to decide which thing that my friends already own I should try to replace. I imagined strolling down aisles and through department stores and the very idea gave me a headache.

Which one could use another sweater? Which one might like another pair of earrings that are more my taste than theirs? How many more ties can I buy?

Nope, this time, this year, I am using the gift God gave me to create a unique gift for each of them: notes of encouragement and gratitude, words to let them know how I feel about them, how much I appreciate them being in my life.  If they take them in the right spirit, they won’t think I’m dying and saying goodbye, but will understand how much I love them.

I made three exceptions: my friend, Shelley, who is among the smartest, funniest and most practical people I know. I got her a picture frame. She’s already decided what to put in it. my friend, Phyllis. I had decided before I left that I wanted her to have something tangible that she could show off; and daughter, sister, brother, aunt and cousin, who comprise my nuclear family, the core that is left back in North Carolina. I knew before the plane took off for Senegal that I would bring them something back from there.

Everyone else gets the best of what’s inside of me, what I think of them and feel about them.

I hope they appreciate the words as much as I appreciate them.