Tag Archives: friendship

Women Rock Wednesday: Road trips!

Thursday morning, I sat next to my coworker Tammy at a long table in a bland conference room at the Great Wolf Lodge in Wisconsin Dells. It was the start of day 2 of a grueling grantee meeting hosted by the State. State with a capital S. Tammy started to speak.

“You know… I feel like I should say. Actually…” and she stopped abruptly, turning toward me. “No, this is important, this requires eye contact.”

I turned toward her. She started to speak again. “I feel I need to say…” and it was my turn to stop her.

“Hang on,” I said. “This is going to need more than just eye contact.” And I folded my  hands over the top of hers.

Tammy spoke again, “I’ve really enjoy traveling with you. It needed to be said.”

I responded in kind, “Same!” Plus some, “I really think you need some lotion.”

And we giggled like school girls until the presenter got things going. In Tammy’s words, the meeting had been a “fresh hell” and after several good and several bad trips, this had been our friendship forging battle — Tammy and I are travel buddies, through and through.

On Monday, I brought Tammy four travel sized bottles of lotion. She brought me three quarts of homegrown raspberries for pi(es). I absolutely adore Tammy…

Yet, a year ago I could not have imagined this closeness. Not that I had any real evidence to the contrary. Only imaginary. It’s sad that I let that stop me from road tripping for as long as I did. Let me explain…


Long before I started my new job in the Center for Community Outreach I was already working with my newly beloved crew. Believe it or not, a big part of community engagement involves actually going out into the communities. In cars. Even when the community is kind of far away.

So naturally, for the first year or so of all this traveling, I drove myself. Audiobook all the way. Completely on my own dime. Because… what on God’s green earth was I going to be able to talk about with strangers on a car trip for hours on end??? Nothing. That’s what. So I couldn’t do it. Wouldn’t, anyway.

The emails always came out about carpooling and ridesharing, time tables, and rental reservations, but I never jumped in the pool. I just couldn’t take the plunge. The thought alone made me uncomfortable and panicky. So I begged off, out, or around in whatever way I could. Always some reason or another.

But then came last summer and our first ever “Roadshow” — just me and Sheila making visits to all of our HOPE Consortium partners scattered across five counties and three tribes in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. There was no out. And I was nervous.

I tried to think up topics. What would this brilliant, experienced addictions nurse and director of numerous programs want to talk about with her awkward, sweaty driver? I couldn’t even think straight. I sweat some more. Eyes on the road. Hands at 10 and 2.

And because anxiety is pretty much always the same – pointless – our summer 2016 HOPE Consortium Roadshow was a BLAST. Sheila is incredible and I quickly grew to look forward to our long conversations in the car. It was disappointing when we had to go north up Highway 13 and I had to spend the first 30 minutes alone, stopping to pick Sheila up only once I got to Abbotsford.

After a few trips with Sheila, I thought maybe I’d give it a shot with the rest of the crew on the way north for HOPE Consortium Steering Committee meetings. Nerves struck, of course, before the big day — and each time someone different and relatively unfamiliar was going to be in the car — but each time, my anxiety was all for naught. Every trip has been a great time, a chance to get to know some amazing women just a little bit better.

Sheila was first; she is my mother earth and spirit animal. Then came Kayleigh, Leila, Tammy, Becky, and JoAnna. We’re basically a club of enthusiastic chicken eaters and one vegetarian (seriously – if you ever get the chance to have Reuland’s chicken in Minocqua, you’ll want in the club too). Never a dull moment, never a boring trip. I’ve actually even almost shaken the nerves at this point. Tammy and I went to and from Minneapolis a few weeks ago and had our beautiful (and ridiculous) heart-to-heart in the Dells just last week. Leila and I have been cruising all around the state. Every time is a little bit more awesome.

Shortly before Christmas, Becky and I headed up to Minocqua together – she is brilliant AND drives rather efficiently, it’s lovely to ride with her!


I suck in big social situations — small talk is so hard for me. Weather, Wisconsin, Wisconsin weather… it’s awkward and uncomfortable. But something about the car makes you instantly deeper. Maybe it’s the movement, lack of direct eye contact, road noise. Whatever it is, it lets you go deeper faster, be more genuine, and those are my favorite kinds of conversation. We talk about our families and our relationships. Our work and the communities we serve. We share stories, make jokes, laugh, and eat good food. The car, the long trips, the early starts, and coordinated gas stops and key drops when we get home – it helps us bond. We get more personal and it makes work really, really good.

We especially love the food. the rhino crunch from Lola’s Luncbox in Phillips is probably the best thing of all… besides Reuland’s chicken, as noted above 🙂

When I think back to a year ago and my fear of those long trips, I really feel like I should have known better. I work with amazing women. And everywhere we go together — every county, every tribe, there are more amazing women doing good work. (And men too, but honestly – it’s probably 80% women in this line of work.) I’m always scared, but I’m always wrong. And I’d like to really learn that lesson this time.


Last Thursday, after Tammy’s and my big moment… and four more hours of the lamest meeting on earth, we joined the boss lady for lunch before heading home in our monster truck (because you never know what you’re going to get when you rent and this time, we had quite the beasty, which is extra funny when tiny Tammy is behind the wheel). We were having a great time and I confessed, over Noodles (with a capital N), how nervous I’d been about carpooling for those first couple years. Ronda gaped at me… and Tammy: “Even ME?!” Yes, I was scared… even of Tammy, the newest love of my life. And I’ve still never ridden with Ronda, the best boss on earth.

But I’ll keep riding with Tammy. Someday I’ll ride with Ronda. And I won’t ever turn away from the opportunity to carpool again — not in this line of work. There’s too much to learn and to share and so many miles of road on which to do it.

Women Rock Wednesday: The why.

I’ve heard far too many times in my life another woman say to me some version of, “I’m not really friends with other women. They’re too: ______” with a variety of choice words to fill in the blank… catty, bitchy, high drama, mean, jealous, and so on. The plot of Mean Girls in real life.


There are a lot of women that are distrustful and unsure of other women, for a variety of reasons. Most likely experiential and painful. The fear of closeness, the lack of trust, the unwillingness to try again is almost always founded in some sort of reality.  I’ve experienced, and admittedly even perpetrated, episodes of pain myself and I’ve read Queen Bees and Wannabes – the real life psychological analysis of the numerous difficulties girls and women face. But it makes me so sad, because female friendships can be unbelievably rewarding, life affirming, positive, strengthening, and beautiful.

Female friendships not only can be all of those things, but should be all of those things. And they are completely worth pursuing.

In every phase of my life, from early childhood to present, I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have such relationships and it’s so important to me to show women who feel that honest-to-goodness female friendships aren’t possible that they really are. In addition, its important that men see the value of what women can give to each other; something different than what comes from romantic relationships– unconditional support, sisterhood, it’s unique. That’s what this little segment, Women Rock Wednesdays, is all about. Of friends who become like sisters. Of intergenerational relationships that inspire and calm. Of growing up to find aunts as peers. Of women finding something in other women that is healthy, fulfilling, and rewarding. Because it’s always possible.


This past January, I planned a big birthday party for myself. I booked my cousin-in-law Megan (who I have known since she was 6 and now she’s 19 and in college and I just adore her) to come to my house and teach a painting party — paint and wine and all that jazz. I sat down at my computer on January 5th to send the email invitation. Party minimum was 10 and I knew not everyone would be able to make it, so I invited far more than that. As I made a mental list of the women I’d love to be there, I was shocked at how quickly it grew. On the day of, I ended up with 20 women in my home. 20 amazing women, packed in like sardines, having an absolute blast. My heart was full to bursting and I felt so much gratitude for all the amazing women in my life — near and far. In my kitchen that day and embedded deep down in my soul from across the globe (because I have an awesome friend in Australia and that means I get to say that).

Painting party for my 33rd birthday in January. That’s a lot of kick ass women!


And as I sat down to write this post, I even thought of some of the “mean girls” I knew once upon a time. The girls whose pictures on Facebook and still give me the heebie-jeebies as I think about the cruel words said to my face, behind my back… but thinking about it now, as much as it sucked for me then, seeing those girls — smiling, still together, in big situations and little — I’m glad they have each other. Every woman deserves that!

Yes, there are hundreds and thousands of amazing women that do amazing things in this world and are worthy of celebration. But that celebration is someone else’s job — Google Doodles and the like 🙂 I want to celebrate something else — the thing that happens when two women connect with one another. That’s what Women Rock Wednesday is all about.

The things you don’t see on Facebook…

As I write this, I’m sitting on the chaise end of an enormous comfy couch located in a gorgeous penthouse suite at the tippy top of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Lagoon Tower in Honolulu, Hawaii. I have a view of Diamondhead Crater and Waikiki Beach through the gauzy balcony curtains. This moment is 100% Facebook-able. Not unlike the large number of other Facebook-able and Instagram-worthy moments I’ve posted since departing the chilly Wisconsin fall in favor of the sandy beaches, aqua ocean, and tropical climes of Oahu early Saturday morning.

intro pic

I posted about the upgrade to first class on the 6+ hour flight en route from Salt Lake City to Honolulu that Seth gifted to me and the mai tai I was offered the second I sat down. It was super sweet of Seth and definitely a cush way to travel, I think I captured that… but I didn’t describe the anxiety the began to plague me the second we left our house on Friday evening. I didn’t describe the panic it turned into before we boarded that plane in SLC. The heartbeat that wouldn’t slow down, the breaths that became increasingly difficult to take, the feeling that something was stuck in my throat and sitting on my chest, the tears that wouldn’t stop coming, over and over again for almost the entire 6+ hours.

This is what anxiety looks like. (On me, in that particular moment.) Not exactly a new profile picture.
This is what anxiety looks like. (On me, in that particular moment.) Not exactly a new profile picture.

We met our friends in the airport — I quickly confessed my unwavering anxiety to Melissa and she rapidly and genuinely assured me that she loves me no matter what. I believed her. Mostly. But not entirely, because anxiety…

But then again, gratitude, you know? And this place, this vacation, these friends — so much gratitude. And we were in Hawaii, and I was wearing a beautiful lei, and I posted a (tired) selfie with the words “Aloha!” and a smattering of super fitting emoji. I posted a snapshot of our view and showed everyone the perfection that surrounded me. And it was good.


Chris came to join us from his hustle bustle, fancy wedding-in-the-mountains lifestyle on Sunday afternoon and he made dinner plans for us at Roy’s Waikiki. (Have you been there? This sentence, how is this my life?) As we piled into the car and headed down the beach, I felt the panic rise again. There were tears burning the back of my eyes and a tightness in my chest I couldn’t swallow away. There was no reason, yet over pre-dinner drinks Halekulani, Seth put a hand on my back and asked me if I was ok and I lost it. Lost it and couldn’t get it back. There was this picture that Chris took, and it’s nice. But I can see the white knuckle grip my fingers have on my own arms, the strained smile, the panic…


Dinner was lovely. I had a perfectly cooked local butterfish in a deliciously complex orange sauce followed by a few bites of chocolate souffle perfection for dessert. That’s all Facebook-worthy, Twitter-perfect… but the moments in the fancy bathroom spent messaging my mental illness guru (<3 <3 <3) and fighting tears and the constriction in my chest at the table… not those. Those (plus Seth’s, shall we say, insistent urging) were enough to convince me to message my psychiatric nurse practitioner about perhaps calling something in for me — a temporary solution to get me through the flights home before I get back to Wisconsin and into the clinic.

I was so hesitant to take the drugs. Depression is my thing. Not anxiety. This is not me. Was not me? And the Hawaiian restrictions on prescriptions for anxiolytic drugs that wouldn’t allow the local pharmacy to fill the Rx faxed in by my provider (I get it though, Hawaii, I really do — and I’m totally not upset) and the necessity to seek out a walk-in clinic and explain my situation all over again nearly did me in. Fortunately, my sweet husband and amazing friends didn’t give up on me and, with their encouragement, I did what I needed to do to get some help. I went to some weird places and walked some strange roads through Honolulu on Tuesday, but met the “helpers” that Mr. Rogers (the elderly, sweater-wearing, shoe-changing variety) tells us about and got the help that I needed for now.

It was on Monday, as I pondered the absolute absurdity of my goings-on that I thought about all that I was showing and all that I wasn’t and how utterly ridiculous it is for me to know with absolute certainty that that is true about myself, but to constantly and consistently doubt the same must-be-fact about others. We don’t post selfies in the lobby of the Japanese-only (except apparently not because they treated me) walk-in clinic we stumble into while in Hawaii. We don’t become facebook friends with the also Japanese MA who hugged me when I told her I had a miscarriage a few weeks ago and then told me about her own journey through IVF with no success; the woman with whom I shared a surprisingly sweet moment of sadness and mutual understanding. We don’t chat about the kind Walgreens clerk who explained Hawaiian prescription laws and then discussed our mutual love of the Packers and cheese with me while waiting for my sketchy almost-in-Japanese-but-from-a-Hawaii-licensed-prescriber prescription for valium to be filled. Nope. We post the leis and the luaus and the sunset and the smiles. Because those are the things that belong on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and whatever the kids are using these days.

But then again… Tuesday night happened too. And while some of it made it to Facebook, the most amazing bits are relegated forever to my memory because, well:

black sky

iPhones, at least in my hands, don’t take pictures of stars. Facebook can’t really capture the beauty of Melissa’s face when she looked up and nearly screamed, completely giddy from altitude and excitement, “is that THE MILK from the Milky Way?!! Am I seeing the milk???” You guys… it was the milk. The faint light of millions and billions of stars in our beautiful and enormous and amazing and mind boggling galaxy. The milk.

But not just that. It was the whole trip. The warm sun and strong breeze on the ground in Kona while we ate lunch overlooking a little harbor. The stop at the little abandoned sheep station for dinner on our way up. The stars, the stars, the stars. I saw Cassiopeia and followed her arrow to the north star. We saw a dusty little nebula, a star cluster that might as well have been fluorescently stained cells in a dish (the feeling that I had seen that before, wow), and even a glimmer of the “nearby” spiral andromeda galaxy.

The next day, we came back to Oahu early and then headed to the Polynesian Cultural Center as Super Ambassadors where our sweet guide Danica took us from island to island where we heard music and helped to make it, watched beautiful dances and shook our hips as best we could when they taught us how. The Maori gave me goosebumps, the Samoans made me laugh hysterically, and the Ha Breath of Life show brought tears to my eyes in a truly good way.

music in fiji

I took pictures in all those places, at all those times. Facebook-worthy, Instagram-perfect pictures — but there’s no way to capture it all. I can show you the pictures, but I can’t show you the best parts. I can’t describe to you how beautiful my friend was when she saw that milk, how happy my husband was to have finally made it to the top of Mauna Kea. There’s no way to adequately explain the feelings, the real meat of the experience.

And that’s really my point I think. I can post things about my miscarriage, my grief over the loss of our first baby, and the consequent (I think) anxiety and panic I’m experiencing. But even if you know, even if you have experienced it yourself, you haven’t had my experience and I haven’t had yours, so there’s a whole depth there, beyond social media and even the words, words, words I share here, that we really can’t cross. Similarly, you have had beautiful experiences — weddings days and amazing vacations, deep and important friendships and tiny perfect moments — and so have I, but again, there’s a depth of experience that make these things so personal, so uniquely our own, that no amount of photo sharing or photo shopping can ever really capture or convey what it meant to be there, to have lived it.

But it can give us a clue — a clue that something is worth digging in over. Several years ago, when a friend of mind posted something hinting at depression, I messaged her. And a couple days ago, when I found myself in that fancy bathroom, we had another nuanced and deep conversation, despite the panic, that was exactly what I needed in that moment. Similarly, Aunt Becky, PhD, saw our pictures of the sunset from Mauna Kea on the Big Island and was reminded of her own sunrise trip to the top of Maui’s Haleakala and shared her own beautiful photos, reminders of another beautiful experience, with me.

Life is so complicated and messy, yet it sets up up for so many moments that are beautiful beyond words. Sometimes we manage to capture some of that beauty and little snapshots of frustration or grief. It’s not the whole truth, though. It can’t be. We can only live what’s real and show the highlight reel. There’s no other way to go about it. And, for me, it’s so important to remember that the beautiful, picture perfect moments are only a very small fraction of the story, but that all of the experience matters.


On Monday night I was in a complete state (as I imagine a genteel southern woman would delicately call the messy ball of anxiety I had become). I went up to our room, took a sleeping pill, and came back down to say goodnight. But my sweet friend Melissa saved me from myself. We went out onto that beautiful penthouse balcony and I sobbed about my miscarriage, the struggle with infertility, the unfairness of it all… the pain, the grief, the self-pity. I unloaded it all. It was not pretty. And then I couldn’t stop apologizing because one of my biggest fears before we left was being the ruiner of vacation — I couldn’t bare the thought of ruining this beautiful trip for people I love so much. Instead, my friend said to me, with the most Melissa-y quiet confidence the likes of which I have never seen in another person, that she was sure we would look back on this trip someday and be grateful for this moment. This moment that felt so ugly and pathetic, yet truly was deepening and strengthening for our friendship. She talked about how well we’ve walked together through the highest of highs (our vacation dossier is ridiculous) and how this was truly our first opportunity to run our friendship through the lowest of lows. She’s right, of course. And those are the things you would never see on Facebook.

What is a “sphere of influence”, Alex?

–News Bulletin–

A-a-ron Rod-gers just won celebrity Jeopardy… so that was kind of awesome. And got me re-hooked on Jeopardy. Which I love love love. Even though I don’t know anything about classic literature or operas of the twenty-fourth and a half century. True story though, one time I took the online Jeopardy test. They never contacted me. I’m convinced that it’s because in a moment of complete and total idiot-level panic I typed in “positron” instead of “proton” for “this positively charged atomic particle…” or something along those lines. Such a ridiculously dumb answer, and for a chemistry major no less. This has been my secret Jeopardy shame for many a year.


Even more secret a shame than the fact that I was all about middle school Quiz Bowl once upon a time and took great delight in the fact that 1) I was the only girl on the team (boom!) and 2) that I wore the most gloriously denim jumper that ever denimed to the competition in 8th grade. Holy crap did I rock that thing. In my own mind anyway. Smart. Denim-clad. Barettes in my hair. Maybe I’ll make that my story if I ever do get on Jeopardy. I hope I can tell it awkwardly enough– lord knows that people with legitimately cool stories at the break never get very far. Just, next time around, it’s proton… proton… proton…



Seth and I are headed to SoCal to visit the Lemas over the long weekend and I’m crazy crazy excited about it. SoCal because that’s where they live. Like all the time. Can you even imagine?

One of the coolest things about the Lemas is that we have never lived any closer to them than whatever the astronomical distance between Michigan and California is (but also never further than the even more astronomical distance between DC and Cali, so we’ve got that). And yet, we’ve remained super close. I’m sure it helped that Chris was Seth’s boss for a good long while… but he’s not any more and we still super love them and I’m pretty sure that was never the only thing. Regardless, as a result of that distance, our relationship is completely and totally travel-fascinating. FASCINATING! We have gotten together to hang out all over this lovely country of ours (plus Mexico!) and that makes any and all of my Lema Memory Montages extra special and fun.

This weekend, I spent a TON of time doing yard work. I got a bug up my butt about needing to remove all the plastic lining from the garden beds in our back yard and replace them with brick and for some reason, I decided that removing all the plastic, trenching the sod, pulling all the weeds, and purchasing, laying, and securing 126 individual 10 lb bricks would be a one person, one day job, most certainly… and when I was done, I was going to maybe mow real quick and use the string trimmer around the trees and along the fence line.

Completely delusional. Also, my hamstrings are still KILLING ME.

But, in my delusional state, I had lots and lots and lots of time for mind-based montages. And the Lemas kept popping in on account of, as I said above, 1) we’re going to see them this weekend and 2) such montages are especially brilliant.

During one such sweat-soaked, sun blasted (because, guys, it got up to like 75 degrees this weekend– snap!!!) montage, I stumbled upon Chris’s notion of “sphere of influence” and realized that finally, after something like7? maybe even 8? years… I think I finally get what it means. Finally! And it’s not even ridiculous at all. In fact, I love it. Just like all love every other thing that is Lema. Of course.

I don’t remember what hotel or what city or what year it was… but once upon a time, long ago and far away, Chris mentioned something about his desire to have influence. To have a sphere of influence, I believe, or at least that’s how it imprinted in my brain. I don’t know that I was necessarily even part of that particular conversation, I may have just overheard something between Chris and Seth, but it was such a weird thing to say (I thought) and such a foreign concept (to me) that I really did just kind of let it tumble through my mind over and over and over again over the last several years.

Like a pebble in the sea, that idea is smooth now.

(And that’s a particularly appropriate metaphor here because I have been to not just two oceans with the Lemas, but also a legitimate sea — The Sea of Cortez.)

Sea of Cortez
Sea of Cortez

At the time, way back when, I knew Chris as Seth’s boss. At a software company. He was different, of course, because he’s from California and really introduced the whole “working from where you are” concept to the company. He put a lot more emphasis on intelligence and value and culture than most (well, any) other “boss” I’d ever known and he super appreciated all of those things about Seth, so naturally, I loved him. At the same time, Chris also had this little side life that I was vaguely aware of… computers, internet, WordPress, something…

And in that arena, influence was his goal.

Sooooo… what? Like he wanted to be the boss of computers and the internet and WordPress or something? Because that’s what influence means, right? Being the boss, in charge, in control, telling people what’s what and how’s how and who’s who.

Not to Chris. And not in reality. Where Chris lived.

Turns out, influence is not synonymous with power or control or position. If it’s forced or mandated or manufactured, it’s not genuine influence at all.

What Chris has taught me is that influence comes from sharing your story, building trust, and cultivating interest.

Chris taught me this not by actually saying any of it (although he probably has, because Chris has basically at one point or another said all the words— kind of like, if you give enough monkeys enough typewriters and enough time, eventually they’ll stumble on a literary masterpiece… but seriously, most of Chris’s words are on purpose insightful, I believe)… nope. He taught me this by doing it. By letting me hang at his beach house for a week as crazy fascinating and ridiculously “California” people came and went to celebrate my husband’s birthday and smoke cigars and play in the sand. Then again when we went on a cruise with a bunch of WordPress folks that scared me (on account of coolness). Sometimes they talked shop, most of the time they laughed and told stories. Built trust, relationships… influence. More recently, Chris transitioned full time into the WordPress world. He’s no longer technically Seth’s boss, but it wasn’t really ever about being Seth’s boss. He and Seth had a relationship that really transcended work roles and that lives on, regardless of what company Chris calls home. And when Chris did join a new company, he did so with a big old sphere of influence spread out in every direction (because that’s what spheres do) and that meant sooooo much more than his new fancy job title, high up position, standing in the company.

Like I said, completely fascinating.

So yeah, being an influencer, that’s a pretty worthy goal. Not a weird one at all. Watching Chris do it was kind of spectacular. And I think building a solid sphere of influence is kind of my goal too. Not power or position. Not fame or fortune or money. Definitely not in the WordPress community (I mean, thank goodness for WordPress, allowing me to blog without understanding a dang thing about it, but therein lies the problem in that sphere, you know?) Not even an appearance on SNL. Rather, to have a sphere of influence because I shared my story, I built trust, and I cultivated interest.

Anyway, I’m off to SoCal… got to go pack a bag! Woot!

Age is just a number; it cannot touch your soul.

A couple stories to get us pointed in the right direction.

First story:

My little Marshfield-based book club took a recent turn for the non-existent with the start of the most recent academic year. I suppose that’s bound to happen when you base a book club too heavily on transient people like med students and residents and young marrieds, but determined to begin anew, I started recruiting again.

After begging my friend Kristen to join (over and over and over again over oh so many coffees) she finally agreed to participate so long as she wasn’t the oldest person there.

Ugh. Not a good caveat given the people I had been focusing my recruitment efforts on. But we’re working around it. My invite went a little something like this:

“Also, rest assured that you will neither be the oldest nor the youngest there, should that be an issue for you. I am both–youngest in capacity to be socially un-awkward, oldest in nerdiness, trust me, I cannot be outdone. So just come.”

How can anyone argue with that? Also I sent everyone a copy of the book with an invitation book mark– nothing more powerful than a guilt trip!

Second story:

Maybe a year or so ago, my friend Melissa told me about how her daughter, Emily, had discounted me as a “friend” because in her mind, I was actually just Melissa’s friend. Melissa assured Emily that I was indeed her friend and I confirmed Melissa’s assertion. I am indeed Emily’s friend. She’s nine (today!!! happy birthday, little friend!) and I’m thirty, but I think if you’ve been reading along for a while, you know without a doubt that Emily is one of my nearest and dearest on account of me talking about her here and here and here and here.

Also, my therapist knows her by name. Not joking.

And third story, because three always seems like the appropriate number:

Just last week, I had a big grant due and my sister sent me a text message (filled to the brim with excellent emoji) that I showed you back here. What I didn’t show you, because it would have destroyed a surprise I had been carefully crafting for months was my response to her:



The part about my dad and my two besties over 50. That’s the part I’d like to bring to your attention today.

Because age, as big of a thing it is in popular culture, in the media, in our minds, is really of very little consequence when it comes to friendship, and I’d like to chat about that very much.

I recently went to a talk given by a woman who described herself as vintage and she said, “I see you out there in the audience– some of you have a little vintage on you!”

Vintage. I loved that.

I went to the talk with three of my friends: my dad, Marie, and Margaret.

Yes, I include my dad in the friend category and that’s kind of the point of this whole post. In adulthood, my dad is still my dad, the man I’ve loved since I was an itty bitty baby and the man who responds instantly and instinctively to the word “daddy,” but also he is my friend– he turned me on to Call To Action, a progressive Catholic organization, and we talk about the church and about social justice and kindness and generosity and love and faith and all those things like friends. Because we are friends.

Just hanging out, eating ribs with my dad-friend!
Just hanging out, eating ribs with my dad-friend!

My friend Marie is in her 50s and has a daughter my age. We work together and hang out besides and the 20 something years between us really makes no difference. (In fact, I suspect we’re basically married to the same man one generation apart, it’s bizarre!)

Ha ha!
Ha ha… look at the face I made Marie make! So spectacular!

My friend Margaret is in her 70s and started off as someone my dad was friends with… but I think I can legitimately call her my friend now too. We’ve spent Christmases together, after all! I just adore Margaret and her honesty and her joy and her clearly innate ability to recognize good in people.

Guys, Margaret is just the best! You’d love her!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I made another new friend on Wednesday. Her name is Lola and she’s 11. She’s the daughter of a physician I work and he suspected that she and I would hit it off– correct! We’ve started our own little mini book club. She’s reading West of the Moon for an enrichment program at school. I picked it up at the library yesterday and we’re going to chat about it. So there’s 20 some years between us the other way… I’m super lucky to know how little that actually matters.

she brought
She had her book with her at the event– how could I not love a girl like that?!

Why doesn’t it matter though? I mean, it always seemed like it did… growing up, when friendships were based primarily on life stage and experience, I suppose age did matter.  And some of the friends I met because of life stage and/or experience are still some of my nearest and dearest even today. But that’s partly because it wasn’t always so ok with me to have friends across the continuum of age. At the age of 23 or so, I remember going out with a friend and a friend of hers, both of whom were in their 40s, for a belly dancing class and drinks afterward and despite having an absolute blast, some of my same-age-friends thought it was a little odd. I may be odd, but I’m also crazy insecure and I don’t love people knowing about it… so, you know…

Then I met people like Kristen I. and Emily W. (book club book ends, age wise), Melissa and her daughter Emily (one a little older than me, one much younger, both my friends), Michele and Marie F (co-workers sent from heaven, my two besties greater than or equal to 50), Margaret and Marie K from Call To Action (Marie was 95 when we met!), and Lola (my newest young friend). I also recently recognized my dad and my mom and my Aunt Susan and my little sister and little brother as friends. And none of it was weird. Because when friendship is based on attraction between two souls, age has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Age matters, of course, in other ways. It affects the container that houses our soul and it changes the lenses in the glasses through which our soul sees. Time puts a little vintage on them. But the soul, I believe, remains unchanged– no matter the vintage. And that’s why, now, at the age of 30, I can happily say that my friends, my dearest most amazing friends, range in age from 8 to 80. (Eighty because, sadly, Marie Kennedy passed away a few years ago. She was so incredible though, even at 95!)

If I’m honest, it’s the vintage I’ve picked up myself that has allowed me to see this fact. And to recognize that maybe, even as a little girl, I had some adult friends that I ought to be a little more grateful for– Grandma Roz and CJ and Janet and Joy. As un-vintaged as I may have been at the time, my soul recognized another like it in them.


I don’t want to discount all of the time- and place- and life stage- and experience-based friendships I have made over the years– in high school, in college, in grad school. Those friendships are crazy important too. Interestingly, though, sometimes I didn’t even fully recognize the impact of the people I met in those places until later– I told you about Nicole and Dawn. But also my friend Sarah, who was my roommate at the 2001 Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference (another nerd camp for political nerds… I’ve been to a lot of nerd camps, for real), and who I still find to be absolutely, completely, and totally fascinating, inspiring, gorgeous, amazing, etc, via social media… I feel like our souls just clicked and I’ll never ever forget the girl who introduced me to what this Midwestern girl can only describe as urban A-MAZ-ING.

Tapered pants from Ypsi-tucky, Midwest, USA on the left... super cool Sarah from Hoboken on the right.
Fashion Bug (not kidding) tapered pants from Ypsi-tucky, Midwest, USA on the left… super cool Sarah from Hoboken, New Jersey, on the right. Supreme Court in the background. Obvs.

And perhaps that’s what it really is– Nicole embraced her curls and her intelligence and her otherness in a way I never dared in college, but I recognized her anyway. Dawn was Army-style intimidating in her camouflage fatigues and combat boots, but I recognized her anyway. And Sarah owned a bright blue wig at a fancy inaugural ball and proudly voted for Ralph Nader (and I was, gasp, a wannabe Republican at the time– silly girl, thankfully only 17 at the time), but I recognized her anyway. And the older I get, the more vintage I accumulate, the easier it is for me to recognize the lovely soul underneath the otherness, the camo, the blue wig, and that’s what attracts me now, every time.

I told you-- she owned that blue wig! I've never been more impressed with anyone in my entire life. Ever.
I told you– she owned that blue wig! I’ve never been more impressed with anyone in my entire life. Ever.

No matter the age, the place, the time, the person.

So, thankfully, at 30, I can see Lola at 11 and know that we’ll probably talking about books until the end of my days and I can make plans to push Marie’s wheelchair around when I’m in my 70s and she’s in her 90s.

Except who am I kidding? Marie will probably be 90 pushing my wheelchair around when I’m 70. It’s much more likely to happen that way. She’s tough like that. And I’m not. Either way, we’ll still be friends.


L is for a very special Lema.

L is for a Lema.

No, not a llama.

But seriously-- look at these llamas by thebobguy! He's a genius!
But seriously– look at these llamas by Bob Guy! He’s a genius! Loch ness llama? Too awesome!

Lllamas are cool, and with the exception of donkeys (of course) they are my favorite state fair animal in a tie with alpacas (because I’m not talented or patient enough to tell the difference). But L isn’t for llamas, so I really need to stop belaboring it. L is for a certain Lema I know and love.

It’s funny that this post was in the works because last night, I invented something completely new with Melissa Lema. You’ve heard of butt-dialing, right? Well, I managed to arm band FaceTime dial my dear friend Melissa. I made it to Michigan yesterday evening and felt the need to stretch my legs a bit with a jog after all that time in the car. It was lovely, except I got totally lost in my sister’s neighborhood and while fumbling with my arm band to look at my map (my magic smap, if you will, Tom? Ab?) I managed to arm band dial Melissa. On FaceTime. Super weird. Especially since I thought she was calling me…

Totally worked out though, she didn’t pick up right away and texted me after I’d arrived back at Abby and Stu’s that she was available and she got to see baby Claire and give Ab some tips on how to keep Claire from falling asleep “on the boob”… speaking of boobs, Ab’s are out right now and she says that I should title this post “Interlude for a triple X”… HA!

Anyway… L is for a very special Lema. Melissa Lema.

I’ve mentioned the Lemas like a thousand times, I know, but they are definitely worthy of the obsession, I promise– all of them. The Lemas seem to truly embody  the perfect American nuclear family and they seem so normal– mom, dad, daughter, son, and pup– except they’re not normal at all. They are extraordinary and I am crazy lucky to not only know them, but to love them like they’re my own family!

I met the Lemas (including the youngest, Christian, in utero) back in 2007. I told you about that already though– it was the first time I tried to destroy their daughter Emily (the baby, the broken glass, you remember the story, I’m sure). I’d heard good things, of course, Seth was already a big fan of the boss man, Chris, his main squeeze, Melissa, and their little girl, but I had no idea how much I was going to come to love them.

And how incredibly little time it would take to become completely smitten!

Me and Melissa on one of our first transnational trips-- Seattle!
Me and Melissa on one of our first transnational trips– Seattle!

Because, you guys, it was pretty much instant.

Oh, that’s Melissa? Excellent. I’m in love.

I’ve told you before that I become overly familiar overly quick. For me, when it’s right, it’s right. And Melissa was it for me– my soul friend. I am so thankful for her every day. And for Chris for bringing her to me. And Emily for making her understand me. And Christian for being his momma’s sweet little boy. But truly, it’s all about Melissa Lema.

I am completely serious when I say that you have not known true beauty in your life until you’ve known someone like Melissa. (And yet… is there really anyone else like her? Perhaps not. Perhaps everyone just needs to know Melissa…) Melissa is beauty– inside, outside, and upside down side. In every way, no matter how you look at her, you see abs-o-lute beauty. You know that Roald Dahl quotation that I love so much? “If you think good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely…” that’s about Melissa. She’s friendly, she’s kind, she’s brilliant, she’s passionate and compassionate, thoughtful and musical, gifted and well-read, understanding and tolerant, interested and interesting, and 100% genuine. Plus, she’s beautiful in the physical way, too– perky blonde curls, happy smile, and all! What a bonus, right? (Also, she’s humble so she’s about to be super embarrassed… but too bad, because it’s all true.)

Melissa and I looove palm trees and beaches. Especially when we're together!
Melissa and I looove palm trees and beaches. Especially when we’re together!

Never in my life have I felt so naturally comfortable around someone. I talked to you about grace before, but I didn’t know grace until I knew Melissa (and her little girl). Because she gives it– in spades. I know that no matter what I have done, where I have been, who I have been, Melissa loves me anyway.

(And it’s reciprocal! I love her SO so SOOO much!!)

And as disturbing and blasphemous as this is going to sound: by knowing Melissa and knowing what it feels like to be loved unconditionally by someone who doesn’t have to, I feel like I get the whole idea of God a little better. I’ve always thought abstractly of God as the manifestation of unconditional love without purpose or reason– Melissa made that a concrete notion.


Miami Vice-- half pina colada, half strawberry daquiri, 100% delicious!
Miami Vice– half pina colada, half strawberry daquiri, 100% delicious!

… As much as the rest of this post has made Melissa sound totally other-worldly and ethereal, I want you to know this: she’s just as human as you and me. Get her in a card game late at night in Mexico and you will see just how weird a person can be– even sans booze! But doesn’t that just make it all so much better? If Melissa can be so amazing, maybe it’s something I can aspire to too! Maybe we all can! I definitely think we all should, because seriously, this is an amazing woman I’m talking about here!

On the San Diego Boardwalk-- with a balloon horse.

On the San Diego Boardwalk– with a balloon horse.

L is for LIFE, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of LEMAS!

Happy Independence Day!

Hoggle Goes Organic, Makes Friends

(Like my newspaper-style title? Made me feel pretty clever…)

Have you ever seen The Labyrinth?  Please say yes… because David Bowie plus the Muppets, it’s too good!

The Labyrinth

In case you haven’t had the pleasure, let me give you a very brief synopsis:

Angry at her parents for leaving her home to babysit her little brother, fantasy-loving Sarah wishes that the Goblin King would come and take him away. Which, unfortunately for Sarah, he does. In order to get her brother back, Sarah has to make her way through a massive labyrinth, replete with many interesting characters, both good and bad… on a deadline. I’m sure IMDB does a better job here.

While I love the movie for a lot of reasons (like I said, David Bowie AND the Muppets… what’s no to love?), I’m especially fond of the character Hoggle and I found myself thinking about him the other day.

Hoggle Face

Hoggle is the first person (or person-like thing) Sarah meets in the labyrinth and she immediately clings to him as a friend. To which Hoggle replies:

“Friend. Huh! I like that. I ain’t never been no one’s friend before.”

But Hoggle messes up. A couple of times. And ends up reassuring himself that he doesn’t need friends and that the only person Hoggle needs is Hoggle. But you can see that he’s totally dejected and lying even to himself as he says it. (Hoggle may be a classic introvert, yes.)

The best part is at the end, when Hoggle realizes that not only is Sarah his true friend, but so are the others in their unlikely band of heroes– Didymus and Ludo. (Didymus is a little foxish dog-like thing who rides a dog around as his noble steed, I just love it!) Ludo even says in his slow, sweet, growl-y voice:

“Hoggle and Ludo frieeeeends…”


It makes me so happy; that organic growth of friendship out of shared experience and necessity.

And I’m delighted to tell you that I’ve somehow managed to scrape together a similar sort of (heroic) band right here in Marshfield.

As I partied with my crew on Friday night (ugly Christmas sweaters and white elephant gift exchange*) I thought about this group of people and how it came to be and the word that kept springing to mind was that old, standby buzz word:


Organic growth is a good thing in business. It’s also valued in the marketplace. People are pretty into organic fruits and veggies, meats, cleaning products, and personal care items. The idea of something being natural, or as-intended, generally has a very positive connotation.

And I guess I’m not sure why I ever thought that friendship would be any different.

I had a really great group of friends in grad school and it was hard to leave and go to a place where my crew wouldn’t be quite so ready-made. And I wasn’t really sure what to do about that. I signed up for several fitness classes, I scoured craigslist and meetup and the library bulletin board for some sort of group or club to join or get involved with, and nothing really worked out. I even got overly excited about a new potential friend after we ran together at an early morning conference 5K and invited her to go fly kites with me (I’m not even kidding… I’m such a nerd…), but it was so forced and just didn’t work out. I was so sad. And somewhat resigned.

I had essentially decided that I would forgo friendship for the time being and focus on family. I assumed that someday I’d have kids and they would make friends and I would become de facto friends with their parents. Problem solved.

As I pursued that route of action (or non-action, really), hanging out primarily with my husband and his sister and brother-in-law, something rather curious happened. We got involved in sand volleyball at a local supper club, Sister Doctor invited people she knew from the clinic, Seth invited another soccer referee and his wife who were also new to the area, and things kind of just… happened. Turns out, one of Sister Doctor’s resident friends lived next door to the soccer ref and his wife. The wife is a teacher and had another friend from work interested in getting together… the weather got cold, volleyball ended, and we started playing board games… and then started a book club…. and then had a Christmas bash… and planned another for New Years Eve… and look at this. Friends.

Hoggle has friends.

It wasn’t fast, but it also wasn’t forced. And I think, for me, that has made all the difference.


*A white elephant gift exchange is something I was not familiar with. I assumed it was a small secret santa-style gift exchange. Wrong. But I didn’t bother to google it until after I’d already bought gifts for Seth and me. So I was the nerd who brought a homemade pan of apple butter cinnamon rolls and a jar of cream cheese frosting to go with and a lovely little Christmas cactus and box of frosted Christmas tree pretzels. White elephant fail! Although, I walked out with a sweet inflatable ninja turtle punching bag, I don’t that’s a tacky gift at all!!