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written by Deborah Lowrey

I have a wonderful friend named Annette. She is my 'mother earth'. She is a Jack of Hearts, which for those who are knowledgeable of the Ancient Cards, is my Saturn Card. She is warm and loving. She is family. She is the sister I never had, but always wanted. She is traditional. I, as she politely puts it, am unique. Weird is what I think she would like to say at times. We've been through a lot of things together. We've cried, laughed, goofed off, gotten deadly serious, and a whole gamut of emotions, trials and victories.

We met in college. I was sitting in the fraternity TV room playing solitaire. She comes in the door (with a soft determination, a quality of hers I so admire), and wants to teach me Hearts. We connected and have been friends ever since. We've had our off times and our on times.

I've seen an ebb-and-flow within our relationship, not unlike the ocean tides. She was with me when I turned my life around, and her words 'you're blooming' meant so much to me. I was her maid-of-honor and was even granted the opportunity to sing in her wedding (of course after many, many, 'did I mention many?' vocal tryouts in front of anyone she knew or just met). I missed being there with her when she gave birth to her two sons, but have had the 'honor' of babysitting on a few occasions and hearing all the gory details of their births. Annette took me to the hospital when beaten by my mother. I'm sure she prayed and hoped that I would heal and regain my hearing. And I did.

I am always happy to be invited over for Scrabble and homemade buttered popcorn with of course A&W Root Beer. I used to purposely let popcorn fall to the floor for Sadie the Golden Retriever. I cried when Sadie became very ill and had to be put to sleep.

There are times that I wonder why Scrabble is such an important thing. It's not like I win. Annette has won every game we have ever played but five (and believe me when I say we have played innumerable times). I'm even good for helping her find words. As a matter of fact, I think I seem to get her more points than myself. We even 'cheat' as John her husband has repeatedly pointed out. We respond back in stereo that we are using optional rule #8. He shakes his head. We look at one another and smile. Then the giggles start.

John doesn't seem to understand the whole Scrabble thing between us. He sees two women eating popcorn, drinking A&W Root Beer playing a board game with dictionaries spread all over the table. What are we really doing?

She and I started a little tradition about 6 years ago. She had the idea that we should start our own little tradition. I bought a decorative tin and the first year I filled it with chocolate toffees, the following year she gave me pistachios, and we traded off each year. We only had the tradition for about 3 years. I was thinking about that and that it's a shame that we don't continue. But then I realized. It's not about the tin.

It's not about Scrabble or tins or religions, or self help workshops or work or anything. These are merely the learning tools. I'm not playing Scrabble just so that I can prove to have the worst losing streak, it's the bonding and connection we have. It's not about popcorn, it's about having substance in my life and sharing that with another. It's not about A&W Root Beer, it's about drinking our fill of life and being there through the ebb-and-flow of relationships and life. It's not about a tin can, it's about giving and receiving, not for the one or the other, but for its purest form, the unending exchange of unconditional love between friends.

We have at our disposal a plethora of things to help us help ourselves with awareness, spiritual growth, and more. And there is one thing that I have learned. At times, we confuse our learning tools with the lessons. It's not the candle or the book or the religious belief, or the drink, or the food, or even the tin can; these are nothing more than tools to aid us in the learning, they themselves are not the lesson. Look deeper to find the lesson, within that is where the life altering happiness and love reside. They are within us all awaiting us to bring them to revelation. Look not to those things that are with-out, for all that is precious, sacred and good reside with-in.

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