When It’s Cold Out, Special Memories Can Warm You

It’s a BRRRRRRRRRR kind of day here in typically sunny Florida.

Okay, so I know there are people snowed in up north. Kids are off from school. Some offices and businesses are closed. Folks are already skiing or sledding or building snowmen.
Florida Winter
But down here in the Sunshine State—land of sandy beaches, waves lapping the shore, seagulls drifting on the wind—winter jackets don’t make it out of the closet too often.
So, when I say it’s a “bitter 41 degrees” outside this morning, that bitterness is relative. I’ve got friends in the northeast corner of the US who’d love it to be 41 where they live as they bundle up and head out the door. Another friend lives in New Mexico and she’s posting pics of her snow-covered house doing a darn fine impression of a scene on the front of a Christmas card. I got shivers just looking at her post.
But while this Florida girl isn’t too keen on living in a snowy, icy, bone-chilling place, I do think it’s fun to play in the snow. And I wouldn’t mind spending a day on the ski slopes, then heading back to a warm cozy lodge for hot chocolate and a blazing fire in the fireplace. I’ve been known to plop down on the snow and make a snow angel or two. And my family has risen to the challenge when our neighbors pounded our door with snowballs—a definite call to arms initiating an intense, laughter-filled snowball fight in our front yards.
With Thanksgiving around the corner and December holidays not far behind, my nesting instinct starts kicking into high gear. Baking, gift buying, gift wrapping, family get-togethers, gingerbread house building, carol singing, mugs of hot chocolate, old memories shared, new memories made.

Can you tell I’m a big fan of the holiday season? Not because of the shopping and present buying, though I do love to gift giving and bringing a smile to someone’s face. But because it’s a time for families and friends to spend quality time together. A time for fun, frolic and smiles.
I won’t ask about December holiday traditions—that’s an entire blog for later—but instead, I’d like to know what’s the one thing you’re looking forward to the most during the Thanksgiving holiday?

In this high tech world of social media and tweets and Snapchats and Instagrams and all the other apps I’m not cool enough to have heard about yet, there’s still nothing that can beat the feel of two hands held together in greeting. Or two arms wrapped around you in a welcoming hug. Or two lips pressing an I-missed-you kiss on your cheek.

For me, I’m most looking forward to when my family and I’ll gather around the table, clasp hands, and give thanks we’re all together. That’s when I’ll close my eyes, take a deep breath and give the hands I’m holding an I-love-you squeeze.
And even if it’s just for that briefest of moments, all will be right in my world.

So what’s your special moment, memory or tradition this time of year? I’d love to hear what you’re excited about!

Wishing you and yours many many many blessings! And a warm place to snuggle with your loved ones. ☺
couples holding hands.

What’s Keeping You Busy?


My question of the day is: What’s keeping you busy?

Like most weeks, my calendar is pretty full. But, it’s mostly full of blessings.

Sure, there’s some stuff I’d like to erase from my “To Do” list, a few things I’m not looking forward to dealing with, but I strive really hard to remind myself that those not-so-fun To Do’s will only serve to make the really fun things that much better.

So, I thought it would be fun to take a look at our calendars and share a little about what we find filling them up.

With mine, you’ll find that I tend to spend a lot of time with my family,

my girlfriends,

socializing with friends,

and exercising (this one needs to get on my calendar more often).

There’s also rarely a week that goes by when I’m not attending some type of volunteer event or meeting.

But I also try to remember, amidst the hustle and bustle of my life, take care of myself.

Time to regroup, listen to my thoughts, enjoy a good book.

Which is why I try to add a little quiet or alone time to my calendar.
time for what makes you happy
Some weeks I’m better at this than others.

And at the end of the day, when I’m snuggling under my blankets in bed, after racing along checking things off my To Do list, I really hope I don’t forget this mantra:
love urself

So, what’s filling up your calendar this week? Something fun you wanna share? Something important you’d like us to think good thoughts about for you?

I hope you have time to stop by and share!

A Life Milestone

My husband and I recently celebrated our 20th anniversary! I can’t believe it. It doesn’t seem like we’ve been married for 20 years. Is there a secret to staying married that long? I don’t think so. As writers of romance, we love the idea of happily ever after! But every combination of people is completely different, so the same relationship “advice” wouldn’t apply to every couple. While our marriage has not always been rainbows and butterflies, in our particular case I think “don’t sweat the small stuff” has been a good mantra. We had to realize early on we weren’t the same person, and didn’t share a brain, and that our differences were what attracted us to each other in the first place so we couldn’t try to change those personality traits now. We also are very much friends and equal partners in life, without one person being more “in charge” than the other. Also, my husband does all the laundry. 🙂 Enough said. He’s my dream man. Truly, I love him to pieces.

So how did we memorialize this milestone in our life? We splurged and went on a trip a-l-o-n-e, which we never do. We live in Texas, and we traveled to Banff, Alberta Canada and stayed in the “Castle of the Rockies” the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel.

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

We took bad selfies…


Ate ourselves silly and found that YES, we can hike all the way up the mountain to Tea House above Lake Louise!
Lake Louise
We made some beautiful memories. It was WONDERFUL! I can’t wait to do it again. Here’s to twenty more years with Mr. Dalton!!

What about you? Have you celebrated any life milestones year? Made any big changes? Tell us about them!


Shortly after the tragic news about Robin Williams broke, when messages of shock flooded Facedbook, a friend of mine posted this:

Where was your wingman, Robin Williams? For all the joy you brought to people, all the fans mourning your loss and others condemning, who among us was there for you? We never really know what’s going on in the mind of someone else.

Over the next few hours, her words became a constant echo through my mind, poking and prodding, nudging, shifting into new questions: Who’s my wingman? Who can I call? Who can I lean on? Who’s there for me? But then…Whose wingman am I? Do they know? Do they know they can call me anytime…about anything? Do they know I am there for them? Do I demonstrate the things that I think in my heart? Do I reach out? Do I touch base and check on them? Do I let them know when I think about them?

For the past several weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship. It started earlier this summer with my dreaded annual mammogram. I believe in them, but wow, do they stress me out. Because of that, I’d put this one off a bit. But I knew it was time to go, so I mustered my courage and went. Then I waited. A day went by with no phone call. Yay! Day two. The morning went by. Yay! Maybe I’m in the clear….but then…the phone rings. It’s the hospital…the nurse…they’ve found something…an abnormality…I need to come back…my head is spinning…I’m feeling dizzy…

Okay, maybe you know that drill. I do. It’s happened before. But I stood there, all barely able to breathe and freaked out and…alone. And I wanted to call someone. I needed to call someone. I needed someone to take my hand and tell me it would be okay. I needed a wingman.

But I had no idea who to call.

At first I thought about my husband…but he was working and I didn’t want to worry him while he needed to be focused on his job. Then I thought about my sister…but she’s got massive big stuff on her plate, and I didn’t want to stress her out. Then I thought about my sweet neighbor…but I didn’t want to lay that on her. Then…

I just stood there, because I honest to God had no idea who to call. Because somehow I’ve reached this point where I have lots of people with whom I’m friends, but I’m not sure I have…a wingman.

There, I said it.

It’s odd that I can be surrounded by so much, a loving husband and wonderful kids, by great neighbors and friends, but still sometimes feel alone. And I know that part of that is my fault, because sometimes I don’t know how to reach out, to say, hey, I’m scared. I’ve got a problem. I need help. I need someone right now. I need a friend. I need YOU.

It takes a lot of courage to make yourself vulnerable like that. It’s like standing before someone naked.

But just like you have to get naked with your spouse (or significant other or whoever you’re crawling in bed with), I’m realizing you have to get naked with your friends too (figuratively speaking, of course.) (unless you’re like trying on swimsuits or something.) (but maybe that’s a topic for another day).

Sometimes I wonder when things got so complicated. Maybe they always were, but it seems like marriage and careers and motherhood, LIFE, all add extra layers and pressures to our daily existences, and sometimes it’s friendship that takes the backseat.

Have you ever felt like that? Like someone just took their friendship away? I have. Maybe we don’t mean for that to happen. We don’t want for it to happen. Maybe we don’t even realize it’s happened. Then one day we realize it’s been weeks—months—since we’ve talked to someone. Maybe we’ve missed someone’s birthday or some other important milestone in their lives. Maybe we’ve hurt them and haven’t even realized it. Maybe they’ve hurt us. The next thing you know you’re estranged, and you’re not quite sure why. (Or maybe you are, but you don’t know what to do about it, because doing something about it is HARD and SCARY.)

Recently I’ve reconnected with two longtime friends (Hi, Stacey, Hi, Wendy…you better say HI back!) and having them back in my life has been like this great big GIFT dropped down in my lap. With them, there was no falling out, just a drifting apart. Our life paths diverged. Technology (okay, and baseball) brought us back together (thank you, Facebook!), and it’s been wonderful But there are two other friendships that did experience a fracture. I’m really not sure why, but I’m working on fixing those. And yeah, it’s scary. But that’s okay. Friendship is worth it.

Wingmen are worth it.

Make sure you’ve got one. Make sure you are one.

You never know just how important it might be.

(And oh yeah. The whole mammogram thing? Everything turned out fine. Cysts.)

Writing beach retreat.

So for years now, Emily & I have gone on writing retreats to the beach. Usually 3 or 4 days where we sneak away from our regular daily lives and hole ourselves away to focus on nothing but writing. We’re here now with our 4 kids and we’ll play and chat and write and the kids will have a blast. But it hasn’t always been like this. Once upon a time there were 4 of us that would come, us and 2 other writers and that’s what I want to talk about today.

When we started these retreats, we were fortunate that one of us had a lovely beach house we could use and it made our twice yearly trips (usually February and September) even more of a treat. For the brief stint I lived in Tennessee, it made things more difficult as I would see family when I went to Texas and there simply wasn’t time to carve out for those writing retreats. But one  November we decided it was time for another one so I flew into Austin and together we piled into the minivan (this time with a very pregnant Emily and a rather chatty toddler) and we hit the road for the five plus hour drive down to Bolivar peninsula. We had these traditions with these trips, we’d usually stop at Chili’s in Houston and then make our way to Galveston where we’d load onto the ferry that would take us over to the smaller strip of land that housed the beautiful Crystal Beach.

I suspect that many of you might not have heard of Crystal Beach or Bolivar peninsula unless you remember Hurricane Ike, the one that hit shortly after Katrina. Ike’s damage didn’t get quite the media attention that Katrina did – Bolivar is obviously not as populated as New Orleans, but still many people lost their lives and even more lost their homes.

It wasn’t just writing retreats though that mark my memories of this blue house on stilts, it was a family vacation spot a few times, a place where I went with several friends for just a weekend away at the beach.

Before the storm, you could see rows and rows of houses, these are the pictures of the aftermath of Ike, you can see how nearly everything was leveled. Now I only lost a place where I have memories, I didn’t lose property or land or belongings or loved ones, and I can only imagine how those people will begin to put their lives back together.

I’m one of those beach people. You know, how some people prefer the mountains – The Professor is one of those, but me, I’m all about the beach. The waves, the sand in my toes and the sun warming my face. I can sit there and watch that water for hours. Or walk along the shore and pick up shimmering pieces of sea glass. It is a refuge for me, the one place on earth that fills my soul more than any other.

Changing beach locations is not the only way our retreats are different. As I mentioned before, now we have kids in tow, whereas when we started, we were both kid-free. Not only that but our dear friend, the one who owned the beach house that we lost now has late-stage Alzheimer’s. Our trips are different, but we still write and recharge and laugh and enjoy a few days away from our “normal” lives. But I miss those early retreats, I miss that blue house and I miss our dear friend.

Advice: Let’s Be Kind

Have you ever been a recipient of unwanted advice? It happens to me sometimes. Not often enough that I’m prepared for it, but just often enough that when it does happen, it throws me. Most of this unwanted advice is from moms. Here’s a scenario I witnessed on the playground recently. These moms are not friends, just acquaintances who know each other because their kids go to the same school.

Mom #1: Johnny is still not potty-trained, and he’s four!

Mom #2: Mine was potty-trained at 22 months. You just have to take the diapers away. Be tough.

Mom #3: That will traumatize him. Just be supportive. He will get it eventually.

Okay, first of all, did this mom ask for advice? No. She was venting, just talking to moms she thought might “get it.” Secondly, was the advice at all helpful? No, because it was completely contradictory. Does she listen to Mom #2 or Mom #3?

What she really needs to hear is “It’s tough being a mom. You’re doing okay.” Because the truth is that none of us is in another mom’s home. We don’t know what their situation is. Maybe the husband and wife fight a lot, and the child is stressed from the conflict and taking longer than average to potty train because of it. Maybe this kid is the sort who, when pushed, regresses. Maybe this kid is the type who does really well when challenged to do something new.

I’m not perfect. I like to give advice too. We all do because it makes us feel smart. Sometimes when we’re giving advice we are, in effect, bragging about how our own kids didn’t have that problem (and are perfect) or how we were super mom (and a better mom than you) in solving it.

In other words, what’s wrong with you Mom #1 that your kid isn’t perfect? What’s wrong with you, Mom #1, that you have this problem? But maybe nothing is wrong with her. Maybe she’s doing the best she can without help from her husband, with a fulltime job, and with a high-maintenance child. Maybe she doesn’t need our advice, but our support.


A few months ago I was slammed on Facebook for something I posted related to my daughter. Again, hadn’t been asking for advice, but boy did I get it. People who don’t know me or my child in real life jumped all over me. It was my bad for posting what I did, and I took my medicine. I won’t make that mistake again. A friend of mine had the same thing happen to her a few weeks later. She asked if she should just delete the post. I said yes. We moms are vulnerable enough without being pummeled by “friends.”

So what I’ve been trying to do since that incident is to practice what I preach. When a mom says something, and I’m tempted to give advice, I don’t say anything right away. I let her keep talking, or I say something neutral. I try to be supportive, even if I don’t necessarily agree 100% with what the parent is doing. If a mom does ask me for advice, I give it but also try to support the mom working through the issue. She may not want to take my suggestion. That’s fine. I still support her.

Moms, is there anything you’re working on? Anything you want to put into practice in your daily lives?



I Wish I’d Known

I’m a fixer. Yes, I know, pop psychology assigns that role to men, labeling women, instead, as nurturers. A nurturer is someone who takes care of people, while a fixer is someone who takes care of problems. That sounds all nice and tidy, but I’m not sure the reality is that mutually exclusive. At least it’s not with me. When someone I love is hurting, I want to wrap my arms around them and hold them tight. But I want to know why they’re hurting, too…and I want to FIX that. Make the problem go away. Sometimes this is simple, such as buying a bigger size of shoes or remembering to put sunscreen on before a day at the beach. But other times it’s harder. Sometimes the problems aren’t of the flesh, but of the spirit…and the heart.

My kids are young. Our problems are still relatively simple. But I have other young people in my life whom I’ve known and loved since the first time I held them as babies, and their lives are getting more complex. And when they hurt, when they stumble and fall, when they walk in front of a figurative firing squad, everything inside me goes a little nutso with the desire–the NEED–to fix whatever it is that’s causing the pain.

But I can’t. At least not all the time. Because life doesn’t work like that. Wisdom is not something magically transferred from person to person. It’s (too often) something attained through personal blood, sweat, and tears. How many times when you were a kid or young adult and someone tried to give you advice (that you didn’t really like) did you think: But you don’t understand! You don’t get it! I’m different. This situation is different. You’ll see. I’ll prove it to you…

Bottom line: some life lessons have to be lived.

Realizing this, I sit here feeling nostalgic and melancholy, feeling helpless at what I view as an inevitable train wreck involving someone I love…someone I’ve nurtured and cared for…someone I’ve tried to coach and teach…but someone who is convinced I am dead wrong. But I’m not. I know I’m not. I’ve seen this particular story play out too many times, and it always ends the same. Always.

So..out of curiosity, I tossed a question out there on Facebook and Twitter:  What do you know now that you wish you’d known at 18?

And the answers were pretty fascinating. And wise.

I wish I’d known:

  •  …how much I loved certain things later in life so I could have made the education decisions to align my job with my loves.
  •  …how important it is to enjoy the moment. When I was 18 I wanted to rush to college, then rush to career. Wish I’d savored the moments.
  •  …that one thought, one call, one letter, one misspoken word can change the course of so much.
  •  …that I was stronger than I thought.
  • …how much I would continue to change during my twenties. I thought being eighteen, then being twenty-one, meant I was a grown-up. And maybe I was by definition but it didn’t mean I was finished “trying on” who I was and wanted to be. I was much more comfortable in my own skin at twenty five than at twenty one. And more comfortable at thirty than twenty five. Actually this has continued and I’m pushing fifty! Take your time. You have time. Relax. Get to know yourself and be kind to not only others but to yourself.
  •  …that what goes around comes around.
  •  …I was going to live this long because I would have taken better care of myself.
  •  …nothing is really as dramatic as it all seems at that age.
  • …that people don’t change; instead they only become more of who they are.
  • …someone who hurt you once will hurt you again…but someone who’s loved you always will love you forever.
  • …sometimes even real deep love isn’t enough.
  • …if people are jerks to you more than twice stop wasting your time with them because They Will Not Change. Move on because the 18 yr old self deserves better and is worth better treatment.
  • …I was nowhere near as smart as I thought I was…or that I would one day become.
  • …that lust is fantastic, but there’s so much more to building a future.
  • …to take more time getting where I am now. I rushed thru years thinking I had to cram it all in. I should have slowed down & enjoyed my simple life more.
  • …all dark clouds pass, that possibility is endless, that you really are the designer of your own future, that dreams really can come true, and that few things are as toxic as doubt.
  • …that words really are as powerful as sticks and stones, that a single smile can light up the whole room, and a simple hug work miracles.
  • …that there is no love like the love you have for your children and realized my parents had this love for me.
  • …that just because you love someone, doesn’t mean they are good for you, or that you end up together. It’s okay to love someone, but not have them in your life.
  • …the value of keeping a journal. It would be nice to show my kids that I really do understand what they are going through at various times. I may seem ancient to them, but I’ve “been there, done that” with most of their issues and know what I’m talking about.
  • …how to tell girls the ‘bad boy’ they were chasing was nothing but trouble and have them at least listen to what I said. Trying again with my daughters… don’t think I’ll have any better luck this time around.
  • …that this world is a lot tougher on the inside than it is on the outside. I would have gone to college instead of a trade school in my thirties. And that boys aren’t all they are made out to be when you are that young!
  • …and BELIEVED that possibilities are ENDLESS at that age. Want to go to school in a different country? You can make it happen. Want to graduate school and join the Peace Corp for a year? IT CAN happen. BELIEVE what you know are possibilities!
  • …that your best friend today won’t necessarily be your best friend for life. It is OK for separation to occur. If it was a true meaningful relationship, you can still be good friends without seeing each other or talking every day.
  • …that regret sucks. I also wish I knew how good I looked, how funny I was and how kind I was to others. We don’t love ourselves enough when we are young. I also wish I knew how powerful my college friendships would be in my life.
  • …that I should have let the good teachers/people influence me more and the bad ones less. I stopped singing in HS because the teacher played favorites in a huge way and she was fairly horrible to others. I stopped writing in college because of a teacher who tried to beat the love for it out of me and succeeded—for a while. I started writing again but never started singing (though now that we have a piano I find myself eyeballing it….)
  • …that anger is a mask for fear or hurt, and that when you really love someone, you’ll try like crazy to prevent them being hurt, even if that means you get cast as the bad guy.
  • …that love is supposed to be kind.
  • …that being popular doesn’t mean a hill of beans beyond high school. It’s a clean slate once you graduate, and you can forge your own path after high school.
  • …that life isn’t fair, never has been, never will be and to get over it. Also, there are always people better off than you and people worse off than you.
  • …that getting married young closes many doors. My first marriage was a huge mistake and a waste of years. I wish I had known that I am enough for me.
  • …how to have faith in myself and what I could accomplish. I wish I’d realized that a mistake doesn’t equal failure, that there are many new beginnings that start with learning what doesn’t work.
  • …that depression isn’t in my imagination. It can be treated.
  • …sometimes you have to jump to learn to fly.
  • …to take every opportunity you’re given since you may not ever get it again.
  • …that sometimes “getting serious about your future” means not giving up on your dreams too.
  • …that aside from family and friends, nothing you think is important then will be important to you ten years later.
  • …that family is home.

We all learn. Life teaches us. There is no greater teacher. But sometimes the lessons themselves really stink. I wish I could fix what I see looming on the horizon. I wish I could prevent the inevitable pain. But I can’t. It’s not my life, and the more I try, the more I’ll only create other problems. We all have to choose, then walk, our own paths. In the meantime, I’m working to suppress my inner fixer and be ready to nurture when the time comes. Because it will.

Feel free to add to this list. I’d love to know what YOU wish YOU’D known when you were 18….

Guest Post: My Annual Sanity-Saving Scrapbooking Vacation

The PBKMoms are pleased to welcome Amy Moss and her sanity-saving vacation tips!

It started so innocently, like most life-changing, amazing ideas do.

I was sitting around a dining room table with my four close girlfriends.  Two years prior we had all taken up scrapbooking as a hobby.  This is not a story about scrapbooking; so if you are not into scrapbooking, don’t worry. In place of scrapbooking you can insert knitting, crocheting, needlepointing, cross-stitching, quilting or any other favorite craft.  We’d found a hour or two here and there on rare weekends to get together, drink wine and try to put pictures of our children into scrapbooks.  Scrapbooking is a great hobby because it is a shopper’s dream.  There is always something new to buy – sparkly jewels, Mickey Mouse die cuts, just the right shade of black paper (It does not exist.) and on and on.  I have more scrapbooking supplies than I will use in my lifetime, but still I buy that new Victorian Halloween paper that would be perfect for my imaginary fall layout.

Anyway, it was not for a lack of supplies that led to the great revelation, but rather an over-abundance of them.  We had so many neat scrapbooking toys that it made it hard to get together.  Even with Creative Memories rolling luggage bags, it was a hassle to pack it all up.  We’d complained about this problem at several crops.  Then enlightenment hit – What if we went away for the weekend and scrapped?

blog pic three

Wait a minute! Could we go somewhere away from the kids, away from the husbands, away from the jobs, away from the cleaning, cooking, laundry, playdates, swim teams, etc.??  This idea was pretty unheard of outside of bachelorette parties to Vegas or New Orleans.  Our voices dropped to whispers, lest anyone hear of our novel scheme.  The more we talked, the more we loved the idea, and so we made a list of requirements:

  1. Location must be within driving distance – shorter the better.
  2. We each need our own room – Ladies, after college you are too old to share a room.
  3. We need a place with a large space to all sit together.
  4. We need a TV, DVD player and sturdy blender.

blog pic one

The plan was born: Friday through Sunday in a rented house on the beach in Galveston, Texas.  Just us girls – all together with no responsibilities (and, as it turns out, a lot of tequila) for three whole days!  After our first weekend together we knew that we had something unique and precious.  Something we were determined to do again… regularly…  and our annual scrapbooking weekend was born!

Unlike other girls-only vacations there is no running around to see antiques or museums or going out to restaurants or bars.   And no shopping.  No need to worry about what to wear or wanting to go home because you are tired when everyone else wants to party.  With this vacation there is no schedule!  You get up when you want to.  You go to bed when you want to.  Hell, you even get to take a nap if you feel like it!  You also don’t need to worry about what to bring.  Pajamas, t-shirts and yoga pants are pretty much all you need.  No one to see you.  Your girlfriends don’t care that your hair is in a scrunchie and you are wearing old Eeyore pjs.

blog pic two

Remember there is no schedule here and you have nowhere to be.  So cocktails start whenever you want them.  It is a safe drinking environment because there is no driving.  Your girlfriends are watching out for you with Advil and water.  So have that mimosa with breakfast and smile!

This is the time to watch all those chick flick movies that your husband and kids don’t want to see.  So pull out the Notebook and the tissues!  Haven’t seen the first season of Downtown Abbey – you can watch the whole thing this weekend!  Want to watch Gone with the Wind again – all four hours of it – with enough vodka you can do it.  I also recommend a PBS mini-series, any Jane Austen movie and missed seasons of Glee.   

blog pic four

 Now is the time to indulge in the food you love.  Never have you seen a grocery cart so full of delicious and unhealthy junk.  Oreos, five different kids of cheese, salami, BBQ potato chips, peanut M&Ms, etc.  You name the junk food and we eat it guilt-free.  This is vacation and the calories don’t count.  We take turns cooking dinner or we decide to just eat olives and cookies.

However, the best part about these scrapbooking weekends is being with friends that are family.  We talk.  A lot.  About everything.  Life’s scary challenges have been tackled with laughter, tears and loving support (plus a little drunken dancing).  If I have a problem, I know these girls will be there with at least three possible answers and a shoulder to lay my weary head on.  Their experience with home and business matters is invaluable and this weekend gives us the opportunity to swap stories and best practices.  It is a safe place to bare our souls…. and we get a little scrapbooking done too.

In short, this is a wonderful stay-cation away from home with your best girlfriends doing a hobby you love.  This relaxing time is the best weekend any over-stressed mom could have.  I hope you can plan your trip soon!

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Amy Moss is Corporate Securities and M&A partner at Haynes and Boone, LLP in Houston, Texas.  She is the proud mom of two amazing kids, Z-Girl who is finishing up third grade and Z-Boy who starts kindergarten in the fall.  She is lucky to be married to Z-Husband, whose idea it was to pick names for the children that start with Z.

C, D, P, M and K – can’t wait till scrapbooking weekend in September!

One of THOSE Moms

I am not one of those moms. At least, I don’t think so. I know a few of us have written about this before, but it’s come up again for me, so I’m revisiting.

My daughter’s day school is in a very affluent neighborhood. A lot of the parents are very, very wealthy. They send their kids to this school until the children are three and can enter the more prestigious private pre-schools in the area. These require interviews and teacher recommendations, etc. You get the idea.

We are not rich. We’re not poor. We do okay. But we’re not rich. Baby Galen is going to public school—a good public school, but a public school. She goes to the day school not because my nanny needs off a couple days a week or so that I can work with my personal trainer (don’t have either one!) but so I can write books and blogs and all that.

Friends--NOT the friend in question

Friends–NOT the friend in question

I grew up with friends who were both wealthy and closer to the other extreme. I’m not impressed by wealth, and these moms are cordial to me and we do the chitchat thing at pick-up and drop-off. But lately my daughter has become friends with the daughter of a mom from the wealthy clique. Every day she begs me to invite this little girl over. These kids are barely three. They don’t go to play dates without parents yet, and I don’t really know this mom. But Baby Galen talks about this little girl all the time. They play “princesses” and “run-away-from-the-bad-guy” together.

Another friend--NOT the new one, though

Another friend–NOT the new one, though

What should I do? Ask the mom if she wants to do a play date? Keep putting Baby Galen off? She has plenty of other friends, whose moms are my friends or whose moms have more in common with me. Help! Why do I feel like I’m in high school and have to ask some mom to the Prom?

The Ties That Bind

Today I’m thinking of a friend.

I remember the first day of ninth grade. I made my way through the crowded hall to homeroom, uneasy because I didn’t know that many people. (Many of the kids I’d been going to school with fed into a different high school.) There were lots of new faces, and somehow they all seemed to know each other. I remember finding a seat and sitting down, and I remember seeing a girl sitting across the room. She was so pretty, with thick dark hair and beautiful eyes (blue, I would later discover). And her smile, that was what I really noticed. I was nervous and unsure, but she had one of those thousand watt smiles that spoke of warmth and inner confidence, that could light up a room and immediately put other people at ease.  I was drawn to her from the start. She sparkled. I think she’s always sparkled. I soon learned she’d been wildly popular at her junior high. A cheerleader. Her boyfriend had been the star of the football team. I, on the other hand, was basically a bookworm. A nerd. A straight A-student not exactly known for anything other than my grades. Not only had I never even had a boyfriend, I’d never been kissed. Never even held hands. People like her didn’t usually have much to do with people like me. And yet she did. We became friends with crazy ease.

I think back on all that now, those friendship that dominate the early years of our lives. When we’re little girls, long before we fall in love for the first time, it’s (usually) other girls who form the nucleus of our lives.  Sure we’re aware of boys, but for the most part, it’s the girls that we gravitate toward. We hang out at recess and pass notes in class, have slumber parties where we challenge ourselves to stay up as long as we can. In those early days it’s all about fun and games, laughter and being silly. I remember playing music and dancing, singing and braiding each other’s hair.

Somewhere along the line, maybe when hormones set in, things get more serious. We talk about guys, school, our parents—and other friends. We find ourselves sharing dreams and problems, frustrations and fears, and of course, all the intoxicating wonder and anticipation of dating.  We get emotional. We get gushy. We share poems.

That’s also when we start talking about kissing—sex. Who’s done what, and what it was like. We giggle about certain boys, and wonder how they kiss. We give nicknames (lizard tongue, anyone?) We talk about drinking, and drugs.  We talk about college. Our future. Sometimes we talk about out future weddings and speculate about who we’ll marry and the kids we’ll have, the lives we’ll lead, jobs, how it will all play out. But even with all that sharing, most of what we “see” follows the storybook script. We never talk about what will happen if the first guy we ever loved one day commits suicide, or if a parent walks out the door and never comes back. If our pregnancies don’t reach full term. And we sure never imagine that one day many, many years later we’ll be sitting in an exam room at a pediatrician’s office, waiting for the nurse, when suddenly a text comes in, and while our toddler babbles, we’ll be staring down at the words sick—very sick. We never quite see ourselves on the phone with our friend’s mother, the mother you once felt never approved of you as a friend, grasping for the right words to say as she falls apart. You never see yourself in a grocery store, frozen next to a rack of nail polish as you stare numbly at another text, this one with the words inoperable, no chance, so scared, and don’t know how to tell the kids. You never see yourself at a funeral.

That’s not part of the dream. That’s not the future we see when we’re sixteen and invincible, drunk on innocence and possibility. Maybe it happens to other people, but not us.

Sometimes I watch my daughter and her friends exploring the ropes of early friendship, and feel my heart ache. They’re third graders. Their lives are still blissfully simple. They’re silly. They laugh a lot. They make up cheers and chants. But the inevitable complications are starting to slip in: “Mom, I think Friend A is spending the night at Friend B’s house tonight–why didn’t she invite me?”  “Friend A and I were playing at recess, and we saw Friend B by herself and asked her if she wanted to play with us, but she just turned around and walked away.”  “Mom, Friend A got upset with me and I’m scared she won’t be my friend anymore.” “Mom, we’re changing tables next week, and since my table won the quiet award, we each get to pick one person we want to sit next to. But I don’t know what to do. If I pick Friend A, Friend B will feel bad, and if I pick Friend B, Friend A will feel bad. What do I do?

I remember those feelings, the uncertainty and insecurity, the fear that you’re not good enough, that a friend might one day decide they don’t want to be your friend anymore. Freshmen year, I wanted so badly to fit in with the new girls I was meeting, the ones who’d grown up together and shared countless memories and jokes, even fun nicknames, but despite how nice they were to me, I often felt like a third wheel, like I was hovering on the edge of a circle, but not quite part of it.  Of course, now I realize that was my own junk, that place inside of me that never felt good enough as a friend, a student, a daughter. In retrospect, it’s obvious why I threw myself into Cross Country running, but at the time, I didn’t see the connection. All I knew was that sometimes friendship was hard. Sometimes it hurt. Sometimes it made you feel every bit as vulnerable as romantic relationships. The highs were really high, but the lows could be really low. But somehow, when that connection is there, you get through it.

You love your friends. You grow together. You laugh. You cry. You learn. They touch your heart, and you theirs. You share secrets and dreams, hopes and fears. You learn how to give and understand, how to trust, and apologize. You learn not to walk away just because things get complicated. You learn you’re stronger together, than apart.  There are no vows, at least not the spoken kind. Not usually anyway. But the bonds are there, and they can be as strong as those to our spouses.

That’s why I know that no matter how badly I want to fix things for my daughter, I can’t. I can’t call her friend’s mother and try to smooth things over. I can’t wave some magic wand. All I can do is listen to her and let her know everything she’s feeling is okay. Normal. I can give her advice and coach her about the importance of being authentic and owning her actions/reactions, her emotions. I can give her a shoulder to cry on. But in the end, she is the one who has to walk this road with her friends. They’ve got to work through tough times and hard choices. They’ve got to feel the love, and the hurt. That’s the trick, the key. That’s how they learn, and that’s how they prepare themselves for what lies ahead. Those hard times, the ones that seem devastating and insurmountable at the time, they teach you how to be friends, and make us so much stronger. Planting seeds, laying a foundation, whatever cliché you want to use. I know that, because I know what the road looks like. I know things now that I never imagined when I was a freshman, smiling at the girl with the amazing blue eyes—and crying months later, because she invited someone else to spend the night at her house.

Now I realize we’re each a thread, beautiful and unique and strong, but more beautiful, more unique, and infinitely stronger when woven together.  The end result is a tapestry, a safety-net ready to catch us, hold us, support us, when life takes those unexpected curves.

In that small exam room, when I saw those words—sick, very sick—images flashed through my mind like a slide show stuck on fast forward. I saw my friend laughing, being silly. I saw her smiles, her tears. I saw her cheering on the sideline of football games, on the beach, graduating. I saw her in college, and later, five hundred miles from our hometown, as my roommate. I saw her gushing about the guy who lived in our apartment complex, the one she said if I didn’t date, she would. I saw her a year and half later, standing in our wedding. I saw her eyes dancing as she told me about a guy she’d met, and I saw her standing at the altar, taking vows to love and cherish, til death do they part. I saw her pregnant. I saw her holding her first child, and her second. I saw her at our high school reunion, and I saw her sitting across the table from me, sharing a beer as we talked about Days of our Lives. I saw all that in one blinding heartbeat, and everything inside of me hurt.

So much hit me at once, shock and fear, dread and sadness, anger–an intense, soul-searing anger. THIS was not part of the script, dammit. But along with all that, a fierce need filled me. I couldn’t fix what was wrong. I couldn’t stop the disease shattering her life, no matter how badly I wanted to. But I couldn’t shrink back, either. I couldn’t abandon her. I was her friend, and she mine. I wanted to be there for her, to stand beside her, love her. It wasn’t enough, it could never be enough. And yet sometimes life takes that choice from us. Soon I found myself in contact with all those girls from before, the ones with whom and from whom I learned so many valuable life lessons, and as one we came together three years ago today as our friend said goodbye to her amazing husband, the father of her children and the light of her heart. We stood together, the girls we’d been and the women we’d become, and wrapped our friend in the invisible, Teflon bonds of love and friendship, forged all those years before, through the fire of good times and bad. We held her and we held each other. We cried and we prayed. We stood together as our friend, the girl with the beautiful eyes, the woman with the broken heart, turned to face a new chapter of her life, one of grief and fear and uncertainty, but strength and courage, too, and with time, healing. It was a long way from the skinned knees of playgrounds and late night angst sessions, and yet it was those experiences that ultimately created the support system, the sisterhood, that carried us forward. It was friendship in action, the culmination of everything that had come before.

Today I’m thinking of my friend and seeing the girl she once was—with the wild dark hair and laughing blue eyes—and the strong, beautiful, courageous woman she has become.

Today, I’m thinking of my friend, and loving her with all my heart.

Today I’m cheering her on.

Today I’m grateful for the ties that bind.