My Friend, Cia

Wednesday, October 10, 2001



Today, I share with you a very precious gift in my life.  

Cia at the Volcanoes National Park, Island of Hawai`i, 1999

After conducting Em's well-earned, positive one-year review, yesterday, Cia and I hurried off to have a quick lunch. I love having lunch with Cia. We always have so much to talk about;  sometimes, I have to remind myself to eat!

We went to the Pho Restaurant in the center next door.  I love Vietnamese food.  Flavorful, healthy eating with mounds of fresh vegetables and spare quantities of meat. The prices are affordably right.

Having particularly enjoyed our time together, I thought I'd put my feelings for Cia into words.

Cia and I work together, but we are more than co-workers.  We are friends. Bright and sensitive, with lots of grit, she is a most interesting friend. I am not big on girly things, frou-frou activities, and idle chit-chat.  With rare exceptions, my best buddies, past and present, are guys. In this regard, Cia is an exceptional best buddy: a woman friend.

 As work colleagues, we are each other's sounding boards. Liking and respecting each other over the years, we are increasingly more accepting of our differences,  foibles, weaknesses and imperfections.  We can be very human with each other, recognizing, for all our similarities, we are individuals.  We don't agree on everything, and yes, we've had our mercurial moments.  

Being honest with our emotions is at the core of our relationship. The opposite of love, it is said, is not hate, but indifference.  We are far from indifferent with each other, and so we tackle the turbulence as it arises, and the air clears. 

Overall, we get along, as it is our basic nature to be peaceful.  We realize, however, that the price of peace is having to deal with the occasional emotional upheaval. We deal with it. No one will accuse us of being emotionally constipated.

I value her opinions and thoughts; we bounce ideas off each other, problem-solve and make decisions together. We are a classic case of "Two minds, two hearts are better than one.". By helping each other be the best that we can be, we in turn help our co-workers  and those we serve to be the best they can be. 

A big part of our jobs is upholding and maintaining the high standards and ethics of our office. We like and expect things to get done right and efficiently.  Taking our commitment to service and quality care to heart, and we lead with iron fists in velvet gloves.  In other words, we are not pushovers, but we're not bitch-bosses, either.  

Neither of us subscribe to the "Not My Job" work mentality.  As activists rather than fatalists, if we don't know, we take the initiative to find out. "It's Everybody's Job" rings true.  We pitch in; we help out. Unafraid to get our hands dirty or go the extra mile, no task is below us.  We don't seem to do well with those who are of the wishy-washy, passionless, and uncommitted persuasion.

Blessed with high EQs, we seem to share the unique ability to create love and friendship.  We work hard; we work smart with our hearts, minds and savvy, not egos.

Just as we work hard, we play hard. Fun and playfulness come easily for us. We were at our playful best when we kayaked and played with dolphins in the wild in Hawai`i.  

We are copacetic. (Cia taught me that word)

How does this happen?  Pretty simple.  Although we are insanely busy people, we prioritize and make the effort and time -- and take the risk --  to come together and speak openly and freely, especially when fences require occasional mending. 

These days, our communication lines are so open and direct, we don't hesitate letting the other know if "there's a bat in the left cave", albeit discreetly.  If you don't know what that coded sentence means, think: booger, left nostril.  We giggle, as we reach for a tissue.

It's been an honest relationship from the get-go. When I least expected it, Cia's openness, dimpled smile, and hearty laugh came into my life.  Although we'd never met, I felt as if I was meeting a long-absent friend.  At the time, I was at a crossroads,  determined to leave the office and start life anew.  That was a few years ago.  I stayed.  Out of choice. And Cia has a lot to do with that outcome.

At the outset, over lunch, she very openly shared her handicap with me.  It took me by surprise, as I had not noticed. I pay attention to eyes, and what's behind them. Playing "close to the vest" is not her style, and she was putting "all of her cards on the table".  If her handicap was a turn-off for me, she was not going to waste my time or hers.

It wasn't. How could it?  Although she had no way of knowing then, by the grace of God, so went I.

I did wonder how she was going to handle some of her job duties, some requiring intricate, precision- demanding skills. Anticipating my practical concerns, she gave me very specific examples of how she had worked around and overcome her handicap at her previous job, and that she was determined to do the same at this one. As we talked, I could see -- in her eyes -- that Cia possessed a rare inner strength, accompanied by a tough resilience.  These gifts are not granted to those who cruise through life on Easy Street. 

Dealing with my handicap and experiencing its setbacks and embarassments, I knew, first-hand, what she'd been through, especially as a child.  Having experienced the taunting ... the teasing ... the whispers ... the giggles ... the ee-yeeeuws, I knew how people, young and old, can be put off if the packaging is less than perfect. 

Unknown to her, it was her disclosure about her handicap that cinched our relationship. I was  immediately drawn to her. After years of intense therapy and personal maintenance, which is an ongoing constant in my life, my handicap is not easily discernible, except by experts in the field. I've moved on, and I do not dwell on it, discussing it with only a handful. Cia did not learn of my handicap until years later. 

I discovered, when it came to handicaps, we shared the same mindset.  No getting around it. Handicaps makes for a more challenging life, period. But it's HOW you deal with them that matters. 

The road of bitterness, anger and self-pity is an easy route for the handicapped to take, but it is a deadend. Yet, if the handicapped can rise above the pettiness, thoughtlessnesses and unkindnesses -- and choose to take the high road, handicaps miraculously become gifts. Learning to cope, dealing with obstacles, and making the best of challenging situations work together to create stronger, more resourceful human beings.  

Besides, I'm a big supporter of society's underdogs, knowing that underdogs are often top dogs in disguise. Not surprising, we became co-workers. 

Over the years, my admiration for Cia continues to grow. Her maturity is beyond her years, and she possesses a commitment to a productive life that runs deep. 

Her life is her message.  Every day, by her actions, she creates a high quality, productive,  and giving life. I have since learned that she was lovingly mothered by an artistic, free-spirited mother, who had transitioned early on.  Cia was generously gifted with her love, and as a result, Cia's cup of  human kindness was filled to the brim and, these days, is overflowing.

A nurturing person, perhaps like her mother, Cia loves and cares for her family in an intense way that we from Hawai`i do.  Attending to her father, her brother, her sisters and her nieces and nephews, and most recently, a grand nephew, she is clearly the matriarch of her extended family.  She's there for them.

For them and for us at the office, Cia is The Glue. The Mortar. The Stable Force.

By consciously streaming similarities, I see that in myriad ways,  Cia and I are, as Homer said,  ""Two friends, two bodies, one soul".  We are:

  • middle sisters of three; one brother; divorced parents, who were good people who had enough love to procreate four children, but not enough for each other to make their marriage stick.

  • granddaughters of ahead-of-their-times, entrepreneurial grandmothers, who greatly influenced our lives by serving as significant role models

    Their legacy to the world: us, two strong, independent women who are making a positive difference in the world.

  • happily married to smart, sweet guys

    Guys in white hats, knights in shining armor, and doting husbands, all wrapped up in one, are exCiadingly rare, and we're holding on to ours tightly and with great appreciation.

  • significant Aunties to our nieces and nephews  

    Cia's a new Tia Abuella.  A great aunt.  We have embellished our roles as aunts; we are caregivers, school supply providers, shoulders to cry on, softies, and all-purpose safety nets.

  • gifted with handicaps 

    "I asked God to make my handicapped child whole. And God said "No." He said her spirit is whole, her body is only temporary."

  • gifted with an innate confidence and fortitude that come from A Place of Love

  • unspoiled 

    Silver platter?  What silver platter?  No one's ever handed us anything on a silver platter. No thanks, anyway. We earn our keep, pay our way, and create our own opportunities.

  • passionate readers 

    With a passion for books, Borders, Barnes and Nobles bookstores are our favorite shopping haunts and gets our enthusiastic cyber-nod.  We enjoy sitting on the swing on the front porch reading until the day's last light is gone.

  • similar in clothing tastes. 

    Simple. No frills. Appropriate. Comfortable.

  • appreciators of art, who actually enjoy browsing through musty museums, taking in historical tidbits on placards.

  • cyclists

    We ride like the wind.  With the wind. We are the wind.

  • lovers of Israel Kamakawiwo`ole's music

  • lovers of Hawai`i 

    My father's illness limited our discretionary funds, and we were not able to accompany Cia and Doni to Kaua`i, Hawai`i .This was Cia's first trip to Hawai`i. 

    Implicitly, the trip was intended to help them better understand the office's  philosophy, as well as its decisions and motivations, all based on its driving force, The Aloha Spirit.

    The following year, Doni, DH, Cia and I traveled to the island of Hawai`i to a house called Oceansong.  We loved showing them around our home island, and we did things people think about doing, but never do. Cia looks like she's from Hawai`i, and she fit right in.  With a little bit of loud chanting to get their attention, the dolphins showed up within minutes to welcome her.

    Cia has fallen in love with our homeland.  She's been back three more times -- to O`ahu and Maui, twice -- with her sister.  In three years, she's been to Hawai`i five times.  

    She's Hawaiian-at-heart, full of Aloha.

  • foodies who love carbos 

    But carbos don't love us.  Diet is a big part of our vocab.  It doesn't, however, stop us from having our cream of wheat hot cereal with raisins and honey, chicken salad, buffalo wings, breakfasts for lunch, fresh fruit, and an occasional slice of luscious pie.

  • gardeners, who go gaga over flowering plants and herbs

  • fond of similar kinds of people; we especially adore our co-worker, Doni

Most of all, we dote on our furkids.  Along with our husbands, they are our reasons for living. We can prattle on and on about our canine kids, just as proud parents do, without any  self-consciousness or apologies, whatsoever. 

When she lost her Buster, I grieved deeply with her; when I was shattered by Lucky's death and couldn't talk about it for a long, long time, Cia was there for me. We understood the enormity of each other's loss, as only true doglovers can.  We knew what the other was going through, and that empathy was comforting.  

Not having my sisters close by, I am constantly missing them.  For this reason, I especially appreciate Cia, as she is the kind of person I'd love to have as a sister.  In many ways, I regard her as one.  I love her dearly. 

I especially love her sisterly hugs, whenever we part.  We hug with our whole being, as soul sisters do.

The Day's Miscellany 

Cia mentioned Doni has a new hair look. Personally, I like his salt-and-pepper hair, so I was curious and when I got back,  I took a good look.  Well, it's just more brownish-red.  Very natural, his new look suits him. 

Soon, I, too, will be "on the bottle" -- the Clairol bottle, as there are more and more silver threads among the black.  Doni, I trust, will give me a few pointers when it is time.

Sometimes we forget to look at those we see regularly. Looks sometimes seem so  inconsequential when it comes to true friends. Really looking at Doni,  I realized that he is a very, very  handsome man.  

Doni and Cia, what a pair.  I love those two!

Good friends, Ruth Verde and Gail Winnows, just got back from an extended trip to Hawai`i; they were in Kona on 9-11-01. The flights were grounded.  Being stranded was no problem. Their many friends, made over the years of visiting Hawai`i,  offered up their homes. Hawaiian hospitality is alive and well.

Marie Shettuck, an artist and a indefatigable positive thinker and lover of life, told me that she and her husband will soon be on their way to Maui and Hawai`i.  They were NOT going to let terrorism win.  They were NOT going to be fearful.

When on the Island of Hawai`i, they'll be visiting Vernon's recently widowed mom in Waimea.  A very Marie thing to do.  Like Sharon, our mutual friend, Marie has a beautiful soul that radiates goodness and joy. 

When Marie mentioned that this was going to be a leisurely trip, I suggested swimming with the spinner dolphins in the bay as DH, Cia and I had done last year. 

The Hawaiian Spinner dolphins and Marie will thoroughly enjoy each other's company. 

The Michael Certer Family came to visit, that is, Michael and the boys: 

  • curly-haired Matt (12), who gets his homework done ahead of time and love sports 

  • gorgeous eyes Joshua, 9, who wants to be a pastor like Dad or professional baseball catcher

  • joyful Andrew (6), who wants to be a soldier or a police officer.  He made sure his baby brother got a prize out of the toy chest for good children.

Over the last 18 years, I've help to care for three generations of this family. We went to Michael's and Sandy's wedding, one of the most elegant and family-oriented affairs ever. It is gratifying to see their family flourishing.

BJ Bettertin, next door, filled in Mom Certer's spot.  BJ and her officemates have been good  neighbors for almost 20 years.  Couldn't ask for better neighbors.  Or landlords like the Christiansens.  We have been greatly blessed.

I think of every person who comes to us is a gift.  I really mean that.  

Even the rare, misunderstood hedgehog like Elona.


"Life is a Gift."

Author Unknown


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This web journal was created on a September Morn, September 29, 2001.
September Morn 2001