Behind every Great Mom is a Great Friend

Confession:  Being a Mom never came naturally to me.  Nor to many of my friends. We were not organic moms who could burp a baby while whipping up a soufflé, running the vacuum cleaner, and making party favors all at the same time.

PROsaltycotton
Flickr: SaltyCotton

Nearly a decade out from having kids in my house, this is what I recall:

Days on end of rising unshiny to whiny kids hell-bent on making me late for work as they shuffled from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen table to closet to begin the fruitless search for the right coat and that one missing shoe, then into the car and on to fighting over radio stations for the longest eight and a half minutes ever drive to daycare/school that made me thankful, grateful I tell you, for my day job, only to pick up where we left off after school once I’d figured out which ball field/gymnasium/ice rink at which I’m to revel in my kids’ respective and relative athletic prowess, then drive them home to dinner made by Dad, then help with homework (how long are we supposed to retain stuff like the square roots and pi?), argue over what to watch for an hour, followed by the death march upstairs to bed for a story and a glass of water and oh I have to pee again, kiss kiss, hug hug, g’night, out goes the light, and I’m right behind you, and thank God the weekend is almost here.

Flickr - Zaskoda
Flickr – Zaskoda

Make no mistake – I’d lay down my life for either of my kids; and my friends, theirs. We loved our kids passionately, completely, messily, and sometimes frustratedly, tiredly, and even angrily. And we were lost, overwhelmed, scared.

 

We’d try to explain this to our partners who didn’t get it. We’d look to our own mothers who would tell us how they would handle it – which often bore little resemblance to how they dealt with us 😉 We consulted the latest tomes by experts on how to grow perfect children, but found them to be a confusing blend of condescension and contradiction.  How could we ever figure out if we should let them cry it out or never let them cry in an environment that felt like Survivor?

Infrogmation of New Orleans
Flickr – Infrogmation of New Orleans

So I counted the hours to the weekend because that’s when I would see my girlfriends – one of them, three of them, who knows, who cares – hugging me with big girl arms before downloading our weeks, a race to the bottom until we were all laughing and sharing insights about how smart, cute, funny, and precious our babies were.  With each other’s help, we fell in love with our kids again.

Jon Siegel
Flickr – Jon Siegel

Thus fortified, we were ready for the coming week and whatever those little precious buggers would throw at us.

Flickr - Gaby Av
Flickr – Gaby Av

Oh, I miss those days. And the kids being kids, though I love, love, love having adult children. If they only knew that my girlfriends quite possibly saved my sanity.

 

Who helps you stay in love with your kids?

 

Happy Mother’s Day. You’ve earned it. You deserve it.

Mom on.

Flickr - Shandi-lee Cox
Flickr – Shandi-lee Cox

In friendship,

Tammy

Boys not included – 5 ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your girlfriends

I’m a fan of Valentine’s Day. We recognize all kinds of inane ideas all year long; setting aside one day to celebrate true love seems perfectly reasonable. And for many man (and some women), it’s time to fish or cut bait – the ultimate deadline to declare one’s love. I like that idea.

But Valentine’s Day can be hell on singles. Even those who are single by choice – and I salute you – wince as the New Year’s Eve swag gives way all too soon to hearts and diamonds and cruises and even more Viagra commercials warning/promising men this is the one day of the year you are guaranteed sex, IF you’ve paid attention to the hearts, diamonds, and cruise commercials.

Steven Depolo
Flickr – Steven Depolo

Then there are those who find themselves single not by choice, but through a bad breakup, like finding out the love of her life is a lying cheating bastard, or a cheating lying bastard, or a bastard who lies and cheats. She is particularly vulnerable to the hyperbolic romancing-the-stone onslaught. At one time we could just turn off the TV, but it’s hard to turn off the internet and city buses and billboards. It’s relentless and inescapable, like the ocean and Donald Trump.

torbakhopper
Flickr – torbakhopper

Do you have a sweet friend being tortured by torrid love scenes sponsored by Kay Jewelers and 1-800-FLOWERS? Make this the year you bring her back to the celebration of true love – your love for her, one of your best friends, the heart of your heart. Here are five ideas:

  1. Dinner – It’s not just for couples. Spring for a table for two – or ten, make it a party! Go to the best place in town and do it right. Shower her with love, fine food, lots of wine, and a safe ride home.

    Jen Russo
    Jen Russo
  2. Flowers – We can give them, too. Have the coupled girlfriends in your circle pitch in $20 each and buy obscene arrangements for the singles, with instructions to compost them in five days before they have a chance to wilt.

    White and yellow rose, and a golden heart, the colors of love, reflected on a shiny black surface
    Colors of Love
  3. Jewelry – Who needs blood diamonds anyway? A beautiful piece of costume jewelry – earrings, a pendant, a special bracelet – can remind her every time she wears it that she is loved utterly and completely.

    Carol Alejandra Hernández Sánchez
    Carol Alejandra Hernández Sánchez
  4. Movie Night – There are so many friendship movies out there. Pick one or two or three, extra butter on the popcorn, and wine.

    simone tranquilli
    Flickr – simone tranquilli
  5. Friendship Book – There are lovely keepsake books with inspiring friendship quotes, and then there is fiction – from elementary school age Anne of Green Gables, to young adult Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants to such adult fare as the classic Beaches or contemporary Sex and the City. Or my personal favorite, STELLA ROSE.                                                                                                                                                   Cover2

How will you show your single friends the love this Valentine’s Day?

Mom teaches me about real friendship

When Mom called to tell me Flossie was at the Hospice House, her voice was quiet, blanketed in sadness as deep as the ocean. “There isn’t much time,” she said. “I’ll take you,” I said.

Flossie’s five kids, with their kids, packed the comfortable visiting area. We reintroduced ourselves, now adults evolved from the kids who were neighbors in Highgate Springs, Vermont, decades ago.

Paula brought Mom to Flossie’s room. When Paula returned in tears, Julie, the oldest and my age, asked, “What’s wrong? Do we need a nurse?”

“No”, Paula said. “I’m crying because I’m happy! Theresa told Mom she wasn’t sure if she should come, and Mom said ‘I’m so glad you did.’ And she smiled and held out her arms. She smiled!”

The power of friendship.

Flickr - SuperFantastic
Flickr – SuperFantastic

I took my time walking down the hall and entered the hushed room. Mom was holding Flossie’s hand in one hand, patting her shoulder with the other. Flossie was only semi-conscious, yet clearly comforted by my mother’s touch.

We sat quietly for half an hour until Flossie’s grand-children entered the room.

Mom leaned over and kissed Flossie’s papery cheek, tucked her sheet just a bit tighter, and said, “You sleep now. I love you.”

As we left her room, I put my arm around my mother. She wept quietly as we made our way back to the family. We said our good-byes. They promised to keep us posted.

Flickr - Will Jackson
Flickr – Will Jackson

On the way home, we shared stories of Flossie, familiar stories of my early childhood now cast clearly as stories of friendship between newly married women who were new moms. Women tossed together by geography as neighbors, meshed together by a similar life’s milestones.

I can see Flossie standing at the stove over huge pots of food, Mom talking her ear off, stories (soaps) playing the background. These are my earliest memories. Now I wish I’d paid more attention to the content of those conversations. I see their mouths in constant, often simultaneous, motion. What did they talk about? Even in sharing the stories, Mom didn’t share details.

Flickr - Joel Kramer
Flickr – Joel Kramer

She didn’t have to. I know what they talked about: new husbands, new babies, more babies, so many babies, diapers, rashes, bottles, naps, ear infections, recipes, hopes, fears, dreams, frustrations, desires.

Flickr - lou & magoo
Flickr – lou & magoo
Flickr - Nerlssa's Ring
Flickr – Nerlssa’s Ring
Flickr - Peter Kaminski
Flickr – Peter Kaminski
Flickr - tiffany terry
Flickr – tiffany terry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know because this is what I talk to my best friends about. This is what best friends have talked about forever, and always.

Flickr - peasap
Flickr – peasap
Flickr - Stephanie Chapman
Flickr – Stephanie Chapman

Flossie passed that night. The next day we returned so Mom could say one last good-bye.  I know Flossie appreciated that.

Flickr - Kate Ter Haar
Flickr – Kate Ter Haar

I did, too.

22nd Annual Girls Weekend – In The History Books!

There is NOTHING like Best Friends time. Though our annual weekends morphed into five day events, we still say Girls Weekend because, really, The Annual Girls Five-Day Extravaganza is a mouthful.

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We converged on our lovely vacation rental in Chatham, Cape Cod, by mid-afternoon, hugs and kisses all around. By 5:00 we had toured the grounds, assigned beds, tossed clothes into drawers or onto hangers, and were talking dinner. The only thing we like more than talking is eating, so we talk about eating a lot. We headed downtown and ate outside casual at The Captain’s Table.

Captain's Table

Then we hit the Stop&Shop. Hard. Breakfast staples and mixers were just an excuse to buy Hershey bars, Hershey minis, chocolate covered almonds, and chocolate chip cookies. Because chocolate pairs perfectly with Grey Goose & Cranberry, and/or white wine. We returned to the house to talk, talk, talk. Lots of catching up to do – besides, who could sleep after all that chocolate?

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We awoke early, rotated five of us through the lone shower (second shower broken!), then drove to the ferry for a wind-smacked 80 minute express ride to Nantucket Island. Okay, Julie, Laura, and Lori enjoyed the wind-smacking; Jo and I stayed inside because, you know: hair.  On the island, we ate wonderful food, walked for miles, drooped in the extreme heat, and grabbed an early ferry home. I made the spaghetti dinner solely to get out of clean up. Worked like a charm. Another evening of eating and drinking in jammies until bedtime. Perfection.

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Saturday we slept in, then moseyed down to the Chatham harbor to watch the seals. I have 100 pictures of seals, but I’ll subject you only to a few.

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Then The Girls indulged me while I visited Where the Sidewalk Ends and got the manager’s contact info to set up a Stella Rose event – fingers crossed! We had lunch at Bistro on Main (YUM!), then power shopped. We returned to the house early to begin our ministrations for the Main Event.

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About the Main Event: Every year eat fine food, then find a (dive) bar that plays music we know, and we dance our asses off. This year we found a Bon Jovi cover band, Living On A Bad Name, playing at the famous Sundancers. Oh, it was EPIC. (Note to LOABN: Your foray into Boys of Summer … stick to Bon Jovi.)

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Sunday was Beach Day – YAY!! Who’s lucky enough to get five days of sunshine and 80+ weather on the Cape the last week in August? We are!! The waves were stupendous, knocking us down and plying us with sand in every crevice. The highlight of Beach Day was our inept attempt to FaceTime our two besties who couldn’t come this year. The connection was lousy, but we did catch glimpses of Angela’s lovely face and heard Dawn muttering epithets at her iPhone; they saw Laura’s cleavage.

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Our last night, Jo taught us a new card game called ‘31.’ We had been drinking just a little before she pulled out the cards, so it took us a while to get the hang of it, but once we did, we were fierce. Not saying Laura sucks at cards, but she was the first one ‘out’ in each game. This is when she warned us she was a poor loser. Funny thing about best friends – we loved her even more, the pissier she got. Lori won both hands, so she’s officially the card shark. To her credit, she was a much better winner than Laura was a loser, which was impressive. Deep down inside, the rest of us knew we would have been a teensy bit Trumpish. #Winning.

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The last morning is always tough. Anxious to get on the road for long trips home, we have already made the psychic break from the weekend, already half-way home in our minds. But the physical parting, with all the hugs and love-yous, always makes me misty. We’re pretty efficient at it, none of us lingers, but our hearts are a little sore as we climb into cars. We all carpool, so we can stretch it a bit further until that final good-bye to our car-mates.

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Then I’m trundling bags into my house, greeting my frenzied dog, my indifferent cats, and my handsome husband, already missing The Girls sweetly, already looking forward to next year.

Lone Wolf: Why Women Tear Each Other Apart in the Boardroom

Too many times in my career I have been the OWR: Only Woman in the Room. I got used to it, as did too many women who found themselves OWRs in rooms around the world.

Center for Jewish History
Source: Flickr – Center for Jewish History

Finally, another woman enters the room. Let us rejoice!

byronv2
Source: Flickr – Byronv2

NOT SO FAST

In my early encounters with other women in the room, I was the junior female. Eager to please, I smiled a lot, nodded vigorously at every word uttered, offered a thought or two. I was ready to support my team, and contribute. So why the hell was the only other woman in the room glaring at me? Slighting me? Did she just dis me outright?  I limped out of many meetings with hurt feelings if not full-on hostility toward the bitch of the boardroom, vowing never to be one of those women.

Until I was.

Eventually I was the senior woman in the room. It didn’t take long to realize I was one of those women. The younger and brighter the other woman in the room, the more I resisted her, found fault, gave her an uncharacteristic cold shoulder.  After spending years mentoring and coaching women, I was exhibiting the same behavior I deplored.

How could this be?

I examined my behavior closely, looking for the motivation. During meetings with one or two women present, I paid attention to my feelings, my gut. And my gut spoke loud and clear: Survival.

LONE WOLF SYNDROME

Shanen Kringen
Source: Flicker – Shannon Kringen

While women as a gender have made great strides since the sixties, few have made it to the top. The higher you go, the fewer women in the room. Women have been programmed over decades to be the only woman in the room (on the list, on the board, at the retreat, sitting in First Class), and we have internalized this one tenet – there can be only one woman in the room. When another woman shows up, we subconsciously feel vulnerable. We must eradicate the threat. Kill or be killed.

It’s not bitchiness or pushiness.

Suburbia Bullies at ECE - 084
Source: Flickr – gt8073a

It’s survival.

THE CURE

Eventually and ultimately, half the participants in any given meeting must be women. We can learn from resources like LeanIn.org and Women in the Boardroom; we can start simply by rolling out the welcome mat.

Let’s overcome the fear, replace the survival instinct to kill with the survival instinct to nurture – to plant and grow more women in the room with us.

Torbakhopper

Let’s high-five each other, or fist-bump, or whatever – let’s get physical, joining energy, bolstering each other.

north Texas Daily

Let’s talk about our weekend plans or kids or cats or yoga or books, the same way guys talk about … sports. We can speak in code, too, you know.

League of Women Voters of California$udhakarPedro Ribeiro Slmoes

Let’s get comfortable with being with other women, then let’s thrive on it.

Nilofer Merchant

Have you been victimized by a Lone Wolf? Have you been the Lone Wolf?