Friendship, building a tribe

Just Show Up. Building Friendship and Creating a Tribe

Left to Right- Karen, Kim, Anne, Jan, Donna Lyn, Cheryl, Me

(Preface- I wrote a blog post while sitting in my daughters dance studio. I was 75% done with that post and word press didn’t save it as a draft. So here I go again and I hope this one is as good as that draft).

Part 2…

Meeting Tiffany in the scrapbooking class altered my trajectory of motherhood. When I first became a stay at home Mom, I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. I struggled with post part I’m depression and distinctly remember crying at the grocery store while choosing oranges. The young produce clerk came up to ask me if I was ok. With my new baby in the cart in his carrier, I was sobbing and said “I juuuust had a baaaaaaby and I feel so isolated”. He looked shell shocked at me, and went about his day.

The MOMS club opened up a lifeline of friendship and activities as well as a babysitting co-op. We would attend an activity or two a week which was helpful to get out of the house and stop feeling so isolated. As the baby got older I signed up for the babysitting co-op and this is where friendships grew deeper and I got the occasional break.

Tiffany and I would meet with a group of friends to scrapbook every month, usually 6pm-Midnight and it flew by. Ive always been passionate about photos and stories, and this was bringing the two together. Tiffany and I spent a lot of time together raising our kids. We met every Monday night to watch The Bachelor and eat our favorite Boy Scout blue bag popcorn. We vacationed together at her parents beach house, and eventually as our kids got older, we would go on Moms Only weekends to the beach.

The MOMS club was my lifeline in those early years of parenting. From bringing new Moms meals, to my friends helping me as I went through two miscarriages, losing my Mother-in-Law and then being on bed rest when we first bough a house. They were my village. In 2004, I was on bed rest and pregnant with my 2nd child and had a 4-year old. My new house was still in boxes. I was forbidden to unpack anything and was supposed to lay flat for the last 6 weeks of my pregnancy. I spoke with one of the Moms and mentioned how my new house didn’t feel like a home. I needed to get it unpacked. That Friday night, the doorbell rang, and it was a brigade of about 10 Moms who arrived with cleaning supplies, dinner and came to unpack my WHOLE house.

Two weeks later, Tiffany was in town and was able to be in the delivery room when I delivered baby number 2, 4-weeks early. She took photos of the birth and was able to visit in the NICU. She had earlier moved out of town and was back to visit. The timing aligned for her to be there for the birth.

In 2008, I was ready for a weekend away. We decided to rent a beach house and invite some of our crafting friends for a weekend. That weekend was the beginning of a tribe that has been at my side for the past 10 years. A group of eclectic women who don’t do drama, and who would literally give you the shirt off their backs. Over the years, the people have slightly changed, but for the past 5 years it’s been pretty consistent. I have “collected” people in areas of my life. I tend to be a pretty good judge of character and if I thought they would mesh well with the other ladies, I would invite them. My theory has always been, “it’s better to be invited and say no, than to not be invited at all”. The ladies often refer to me as the glue that keeps the tribe together. I’d like to introduce the ladies to you in the order they came into my life.

You have heard about Tiffany. She was a founding member of the Beach Babes group in 2008.

Anne really came into my life first. We met when we were interns at Disneyland in 1993. Anne was one of my three assigned room mates. We both worked on Main Street U.S.A. In the gift shops and in merchandising. Once that internship ended, we kept in touch via letters, eventually email, and then in 2000 we were expecting boys six weeks apart. We have since raised those boys to 18, but still feel like we are 19 & 20. Anne gives great Dr. Laura type advice. She is the sense of reason to my emotions. I always know she will talk truth into my life with love. My favorite trait about Anne is her advice. I remember calling Anne 3-weeks after our sons were born. I had my husband home for the first two weeks post partum and my best friend came from Florida for the third week. On the fourth week I needed to figure out what to do with the baby when I showered. I called Anne and asked her the question. She half laughed, and said “put him in the baby bouncer in the bathroom with you.” Problem solved. Anne and I text a lot about random things, but my favorite is in 2011, I was pumping in the car in the walmart parking lot after we had drove down to visit my husbands family. I texted Anne, “I’m pimping in the Walmart parking lot”. She replied, “surely you can get more in a different location”.

Donna Lyn came to my life when I was at a CAbi home party for a mutual acquaintance. I had just had my second child, and I remeber looking at Donna Lyn sitting with three kids hanging off of her, and thinking “She is so calm”. She spoke so kindly to her kids with patience that I admired. From that meeting she became one of my best customers in my previous direct sales business, and along the way a best friend. Donna Lyn is also a founding member of the Beach Babes and was at the first beach retreat we attended. Donna Lyn walks on a path with God that is such an inspiration to me. She is a faith filled woman who relies on God. She truly prays about things as much as she talks about them. I used to want to be Donna Lyn when I “grew up”, but instead of trying to be her, I am much richer for having her in my life. We have been through some HARD stuff. On both of our sides with our kids. When my Mom died, she felt my pain as deeply as I did and I saw her in tears when she was talking to me. She arranged a meal train, and cleaned my house while we had the Estate Sale. She watched my kids and I never had to worry if my youngest was taken care of, it allowed me to focus on putting one foot in front of the other as I walked the path of grief.

If anything should happen to my husband and me, she and her husband are named the guardians of our children. My youngest thinks Donna Lyn is the best, and when she is angry at me will say “I’m going to live at the W’s.” Donna Lyn and I recently took a trip to Disneyland for her daughters dance competition. We had the best time, being two adults in the happiest place on Earth. I am so thankful to have had that weekend with her sharing our hearts, riding cars 10x, and taking naps before heading back into the parks.

Kim came to me through Anne. Kim was a college friend of Anne’s and we had hung out a few times. Kim was also a founding member of the Beach Babes. Kim and I are often mistaken for sisters with our light hair and freckles. What I admire most about Kim is the way she celebrates EVERY holiday. The smallest of holidays get the grand treatment from Kim. She is building memories for her boys that will last a lifetime. She is a strong boy Mom who has instilled into her boys work ethic. Kim never has a bad thing to say about anyone, and she makes the best coleslaw and pulled pork sandwiches. Kim lost her Mom less than a year after I lost mine. When I saw her in the Target parking lot, we stopped for hugs and to chat. My heart was breaking for her. I knew the road to healing is a long one, and I personally knew what she was going to go through. She finds rainbows that remind her of her Mom, and always at the right times. Just like I find hearts that remind me of my Mom.

Cheryl was a coworker of my husband Marty and they traveled to Tennessee together. Marty and Cheryl had a code word “Mistletoe” (Like in the movie Four Christmasses) if she needed rescued from a gentleman at that business trip. One night they were walking after dinner an ad Cheryl mentioned she scrapbooks. Marty said “My wife does too and is hosting an event at our home in a few weeks”. Cheryl was new to the area, so I reached out to her and invited her. She said yes. She arrived that day with all her scrapbooking bags and her laugh that is larger than life itself. She was an instant Beach Babe. We all adored her. Cheryl is a STRONG woman, who works in a field that’s catered to mostly men. She has made her place at the table with those men, without losing her femininity. When I was put on hospital bed rest with my third pregnancy, I was also insulin dependent diabetic. Cheryl would sneak in half-cut sweet teas for me and molasses ginger cookies from the downstairs deli. After the baby was born 6-weeks early, Cheryl would relieve Marty at the hospital and sit with me. I was on a mangnesium drip for my blood pressure. I would fall asleep midsentance, wake up, apologize and do it all over again for hours. Cheryl was gracious and understanding. Once I was able to go to the NICU Cheryl would wheel me down there in the wheel chair, and we never knew what she was going to run me into. Being an Engineer is great, but she wasn’t a great wheelchair driver, and we laugh about it to this day.

Karen was in the peanut gallery with me at intensive swim lessons in 2010. She recognized my son and asked if we attended school at MW. Turns out she ran the marble maze for the carnival and my son and his best friend were repeat customers. We had all summer to get to know each other. Lessons were M-F for 10 weeks. Turns out she is also a scrapbooker so I suggested she join us at a monthly crop, then she came on retreats. She hosted my baby shower for my third child. She is my FUN friend. She is the one who will go into the ocean fully clothed, just because it looks fun. She is light in her worries, and generous beyond comprehension. Her passion is for the kids in the school district and she serves on the school board. She doesn’t scrapbook as much, but shows up instead with paper crafting kits. She loves puzzles and all things blue. She has ran more than two school auctions. She loves her two boys and husband. She’s the type of friend who wants to help you solve your problems. She is a great listener.

I met Jan at the scrapbooking store in Fall of 2011. It was right after I had my third baby and I was back to hanging with my ladies once a month and pumping in the car. Jan is a Pediatric ICU nurse. She came on her first retreat with us in 2013. She is an amazing friend. I used to refer to her as “like my second Mom”, but I realized she’s so much more than that. It was a term of endearment. I used to call her Mamma Jan, because she gave great motherly advice. But it was also a the time the show Honey Boo Boo was on TV, and they referred to her mom as Mamma June. Too close and Jan isn’t anything like that train wreck. Jan was by my side through many hard things in my life. When my Mom coded out in the hospital in 2016, she was the first person I called. She dropped everything and came to be with me in the hospital. For 13-days she was by my side explaining options, asking questions, bringing me food, and helping me make hard decisions like “what day would you like to end life support for your Mom?”. When mom was in the hospital after a bout of peritonitis, Jan helped me clean my Moms apartment top to bottom, after her nursing shift. She has been at dentist appointments for one of my kids, blood draws for another and helped me navigate the emotions of sending my oldest to college this fall. Last year we both had the movie pass and would meet up for a weekly movie. Jan is going through some health things, and she doesn’t let them stop her from living her life. She has so much to offer, and I will forever be grateful she is in my life.

These women all are from different backgrounds, and with the exception of Anne & Kim, they didn’t know each other before. They trusted me to bring them into my group. To love on them and do life with them. These women bring vulnerability to the table and allow it to be seen. We love each other regardless of our different political views. We are far from perfect, but we are perfectly imperfect.

Form Brene’ Brown’s book Daring Greatly she shares a quote that’s from the movie Almost Famous “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is that you have to share with someone else you’re uncool”. Brown goes on to say, “To be on my list you have to be what I call a “stretch mark friend”- Our connection has to be stretched and pulled so much that its become a part of who were are, a second skin, and there are a few scars to prove it. We’re totally uncool with each other.”

Maybe life isn’t about avoiding the bruises, maybe its about collecting the scars to prove we showed up for it. These women have shown up for me, and stood in the gap more times than I can count.

This isn’t to say that I haven’t made mistakes along the way of building my tribe. I will share those in part 3 of this series of posts on grown up friendship.

Until next time,

Jen

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Growing Up, Uncategorized

My Tribe…

As a young girl on the playground, I struggled to make friends. I don’t remember a time in elementary school where I have significant memories of sleepovers and friendships. I do remember the relentless teasing because I had/have freckles. The mean girls used to sit on top of the monkey bars and taunt down at me “freckle face, freckle face, no one plays with a freckle face”. I remember coming home crying many days, but those are the days that parents worked full time, and a stay at home mom was a rarity. Even if your Mom stayed at home, she didn’t come “rescue” you from playground taunting. Instead, my dad found the song “Freckles” by the Oakridge boys. He bought the record, (or was it an 8-track?) and he would sing it to me off key, and dance with me around the house. He told me my freckles were like stars in the sky, and beautiful. To this day, I still listen to that song with fond memories. Isn’t my dad pretty awesome?

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My Mom was never a “stay at home Mom”. Nor did she care to be. You wouldn’t find her at PTA/PSO meetings, or being a Girl Scout leader. I really wanted Mom to be the leader, but instead I was in a troop with girls who had the stay at home Moms, and the Moms felt sorry for me when my Mom couldn’t show up at the middle of the day or after school events. I remember hearing my Girl Scout leaders talking about my Mom the same way their daughters taunted me on the playground. I remember feeling shame for the first time at those meetings and events. Shame that my Mom had to work.

As I graduated to Jr. High things got slightly better. I continued with Girl Scouts into 7th grade, and then the troop disbanded. It was better that way. After so many years with that same group of girls, they came to be frenimies. I would invite them to my March birthday parties, and they invited me to theirs. My Mom went all out with my parties. Almost making up for the fact that she couldn’t do so many other events. We usually ended the night toilet papering someone’s house in the neighborhood, and Mom usually drove us there.

Jr. High graduated into High School, I made the freshman cheerleading team. When I tried out, I was crying so hard coming out to the car, my Dad said he didn’t know if I had made the team or not. Those girls became my squad, the ones that had my back. I loved cheerleading and finally felt like I had found my people. Then it all changed…

 

The end of my sophomore year, my parents dedcided to put the house on the market and move to Oregon. So I couldn’t try out for cheerleading again, and I was devastated. In reality, I probably could have, since we didn’t move until the middle of my Junior year of High School. We moved from a suburb of San Diego, to….wait for it…Cottage Grove, Oregon. I went from a graduating class of over 800 kids who I had grown up with most of them, to a graduating class of 154 and everyone hated me for being the “new girl”. When I walked through the indoor high school for registration, everyone literally stopped to look and you could hear a pin drop. Not to mention I showed up in a fashion forward DENIM on DENIM, with WHITE appliqué stars jacket and matching jeans. I’m just thankful they didn’t break into song and start singing the National Anthem.

Advanced theatre was where I made my small handful of friends. During my registration I was told I wouldn’t have to perform on the first day. However a kid named Marty, had other ideas. As I sat in the front row of class during improv, from behind me I heard, ” Let’s see what the new girl has to offer.” Never one to shy away from a challenge, I got on stage with a kid named David, who had this one long strand of hair in his face, but all his other hair was short. It was weird. I don’t remember what I did during that session, but after, I had won favor amongst my class mates and the confidence to try out for the school play.

I auditioned for the school play, and took a leading role as Jessica, in the play “The Tim Machiene”. It was during that play that I met my boyfriend, the preachers son. Also, another guy that would be important in my life, my husband.

School was pretty uneventful and the coursework was less than challenging. I remember begging my parents to allow me to take the GED and get on with my life, but they didn’t. So I suffered through a curriculum that I had already done my Freshman year at my old school. I barely graduated, due to a physics teacher who wasn’t impressed with my lack of gravity. He pulled me outside the classroom and told me, “You’re too smart to have to take this class again, and I know it’s the only one you need for your diploma, so you’re getting a D so you can graduate”. I didn’t believe him and was shocked when the diploma was actually in the cover after I walked across the stage.

Graduation was surreal, I went on to a community college until I ran out of money, and then worked numerous jobs hoping to get back to college “one day” and become a teacher just like my beloved grandma who passed on in 1991. Aside form completing an internship with Disneyland in the merchandising department (aka-Main Street USA) I never went back to college.

Instead, my early twenties were a blur of bad mistakes. Remember the kid who put me onstage that first day at the new high school? He’s now my husband of almost 20 years. My mid twenties, were some of the best and most challenging times of my life being a new wife and a new Mom. I had never felt so alone in Motherhood, until I met Tiffany at a scrapbooking and photography class. She told me about the MOMS CLUB, and I finally found my tribe.

To be continued…

 

Uncategorized

“Mabel get your gun” 1980 something…

My Mom had a lot of friends. Growing up there was never a shortage of adult friends around. Many of my Dad’s Navy buddies, and even my NICU nurse was a close family friend after I was born.

My Mom “collected” people. Much like I do. “The more the merrier” she would say. We had a cabin up at Big Bear mountain. Mom and Dad bought the cabin when my grandmother passed away. It was a modest place, two bedrooms, an odd little bathroom and a huge kitchen and living space. We went to the cabin often.

This particular weekend, my Mom and her Friend. Mrs. P decided to take all their kids to the cabin for the weekend, and let the Dads have a break. I was close to 10, it was the mid-80’s. Mrs. P’s oldest kids were 5-10 years older than me, and they each brought a friend with them.

My Mom and Mrs. P were always up to shenanigans. In the cabin there were two twin beds with itchy brown comforters. Mom and Mrs. P decided that Mom would take the big kids on a snipe hunt once it was fully dark outside. Then they took it a bit farther and decided to dress Mrs. P and Me up as BEARS with those brown comforters and used hair ties to make little ears on us. We resembled a big bear and a littler bear and the two of them were roaring with laughter.

About 10pm Mrs. P and I left for “the store” and went to the woods where Mom would be bringing the big kids for the snipe hunt. We leaned against a giant fir tree surrounded by other huge trees. About a half an hour later we hear my Mom and the kids with their flashlights and saying “Here snipe-y snipe-y”. Just as they were approaching us so we could jump out and scare them, we saw a little wood cabin around the corner with one light on. The next thing we heard was “Mabel, get the gun, there are two bears out here!” We heard the gun cock and load. We began running as fast as we could pulling off our costumes while we were running. Mom saw us and said “we weren’t close enough, what are you doing?” Mrs P. replied “running for our lives!”

Later that night we all met back at the cabin and were laughing around the  fireplace with hot cocoa and popcorn at our sides. 30 years later my Mom still laughed until she cried when she was telling that story.

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Stories and Photos Matter

Hello.

It’s been years since I have blogged. No real excuse other than just living my best life. A lot has happened since my last post. I originally started this blog as a place to vent about my mothers different kind of crazy.

I’m sad to say that on July 21, 2016 my Mom passed away from complications from kidney failure and pneumonia. There were family and close friends at her side. More on that later.

I have decided to blog about my childhood and other stories of my crazy family in short essay form with pictures from my childhood. I believe that stories and photos matter. I’m all about wearing my  heart on my sleeve and being vulnerable even with the risk of being judged. I want these stories in print for my kids and someday my Grandkids. When people stop telling stories, and taking photos, those stories die with the last person who told them.

The photo above is of the “original four”. My Mom, My younger but much taller brother CR, me and my Dad.

My Mom always wanted to write a book about her different kind of crazy. We always said “It’s another one of Gail’s adventures”. There will be lots of stories. Funny, tragic, ones that make you scratch your head, possibly ones that make you cry but I hope you enjoy the ones that make you laugh the most.

This blog was a brainchild of one of my best friends who is also a writer. She is the one that told me I should start blogging these stories, and maybe someday make them into a book. (Yes, I have that many)

Thank you for being here. I look forward to making connections with you through the comment section, and hopefully making you laugh.

Cheers to a different kind of crazy,

Jen

 

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That Pretty little head of hers.

Welcome to my blog!

My mother and I have a unique relationship. The grass is always greener on the the other side. Having said that, where there’s alot of craziness there’s also alot of love.

In the fall, my friend Cheryl and I took a trip to visit my mom in Sisters, where moms new boyfriend lives. (she and my dad divorced after 35 years of marriage last year). Cheryl got to experience some of my moms crazy antics first hand. From her baking a cake while we put away the warehouse garage sale (a post for another day) or wanting to take a photo of Samantha (my daughter) right after she had been stung by a bee on the face.

On the way home Cheryl told me that I should write a book about my mom. A memoir, if you will, and that I should call it “That pretty little head of hers” The more I thought about it, the more I thought I really should write the book. I plan to use this blog to tell some of those stories, as well as life lessons that I have learned from my mother.

As my mother has gotten older, she was diagnosed with stage 5 renal failure. She is on dialysis 3x a week, and still looking for a new mate. Our roles have reversed from parent child to me “parenting her”. The last 4 years have been the makings of stories that I couldn’t possibly make up. There have been fun times, incredibly frustrating times, redeeming times and more. I want to remember it all.

The one thing I have learned to be true, is that while I have a ton of craziness to share with you all, she always taught me to love deeply, forgive quickly, show Grace to those around, and never leave the house without Mascara and lipstick.