The Splash Pad

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My best friend sat next to me Friday afternoon as our kids played in the local splash pad. Months had passed since we last saw each other and the only communication we have had was some texts back and forth and sending each other ridiculous pins on Pinterest.

We don’t talk weekly on the phone, or even via text. We aren’t constantly emailing each other or PM-ing each other on Facebook. If someone asks me what she is up to, I don’t usually know.

If you were listening in on our conversation Friday, you would know right away that we were best friends, and had been for a long time. You would never guess that we lived in different states and rarely talked. Our conversation was just as easy Friday as it had been when we were in high school lying on towels on the beach.

We talked about nothing, but that was everything.

There was a group of moms who were all blonde, thin, and attractive near by. They were clearly a group who got together often with their kids–whom they were not watching. This was evidenced by the very small toddler who kept walking over to us and trying to join our little area. His mom never once looked over. I kept worrying that he would fall and choke on his cracker he was carrying around, but he never did.

We talked about that group. We had both seen groups like it before, but had never joined one. Neither of us felt like we fit into a group like that. Both of us work full-time as teachers, both of us are “advanced maternal age” (shut up).

Then our conversation shifts to summer bucket lists and getting our classrooms ready for school. We even give the palazzo pants a quick shout out–I wondered what shoes you were with them and she said, “um. flip flops. duh.” She’s right. She is always right about footwear.

Sometimes I am jealous of other people’s best friend relationships. Other people live close to their BFF. Other people run everything in their life past their bestie. I see people taking pictures and having girl nights and slumber parties and all these close, fun things.

That’s not how I roll.

I don’t call her every time I’m depressed or anxious. She hasn’t said much to me about her dad’s health problems.

She was the first person I texted each time I found out I was pregnant–all five times–though. Some people didn’t even find out our second pregnancy until we were pregnant with Eddie and relatively sure he was going to “stick”.

She was my matron of honor in our wedding. During her toast at the reception she got one joke out and then started crying so hard, she couldn’t finish. We didn’t have to talk about it.

We both felt like friend fails when we couldn’t drive the almost three hours to be with the other when she had her first baby (or in my case my second and third as well).

I think about her often though. As I started reading The Attachments by Rainbow Rowell last night, I giggled at the email exchanges that would probably mirror ours if we actually emailed each other. When I shop, I hear her voice in my head saying “try that on even if you don’t think you’ll like it. PUT DOWN THE BLACK. No, navy does not count as ‘a pop of color’. Don’t even look at those jelly shoes. YOU LOOKED! I’M DONE WITH YOU!” And I can’t watch Home Alone without texting her that “last year I got a sweater with a big bird knitted on it.”

And I’m pretty sure I am not even capable of watching Reality Bites without her.

I wish our afternoon at the splash pad was a routine happening and not something out of the ordinary. I’d wish for her and her husband and son to move back to our little spot in Michigan, but I know they wouldn’t be happy. They love their Big City life and they are perfect for it.

So instead I will wish for ways to see her/them more often. And if that means I have to stay in a nice hotel and get pedicures in the city, so be it.

Internet Friends are Real and Other Lessons

I’ve been home from BlogHer for over a week and a half now and I’m still trying to figure out how to write a recap.

Ok, let’s be honest, I’m struggling to write anything.

Before BlogHer, my whole family got sick. It started with Eddie and a trip to the ER. He was burning up and was sick and scared. Turned out he had a nasty case of strep throat. Then Charlie got it. Then I got it. Then Cortney got it.

We also have this THING going on (that’s not bad, but I can’t talk about it yet).

Just before leaving, my wonderful friend, The Preacher’s Wife, dropped off homemade soup, salad, applesauce, cookies, and a nice crusty loaf of bread. I cried. I just felt so…taken care of. It sounds silly to say out loud, but other than my mom, I don’t have many women near me who just do that sort of thing.

So then the next day I left for San Jose.

My first full day there I found out Eddie was sick all over again. Or rather he was still sick. The antibiotics hadn’t taken care of it all. Cortney was worried that if Eddie didn’t get rid of his fever, his plans to go to a concert Saturday night would be thwarted. I worried because I felt guilty that Cortney was losing so many days at work (and possibly a fun night out) and I was on the other side of the country.

But something happened at the conference.

While I did spend a lot (a LOT) of time texting with Cortney about everyone’s health, I was also surrounded by women who were legitimately concerned too.

I’ve been blogging for seven years, and over that time I have heard over and over “find your tribe”. I will admit right here that I always thought that was hokey.  Wasn’t that just another way of telling women to find their blogger “clique”?  What was this? High school?  I wasn’t in any “tribe” in high school and I wasn’t going to start now. I just get along with everyone…or almost everyone.

Just over a year ago I found myself in a blogger tribe. A group of women who where, at first, my go-to for all things internet and writing. But as we all communicated, it became so much more. Since we are all personal bloggers, personal stuff gets intertwined in the discussion about blogging. We have been there for intense high moments (births, graduations, etc) and horrible lows (pregnancy loss, deaths in the family, divorce, etc).

Many of these women were at BlogHer. Whenever they saw me, the first thing out of their mouths was always, “how are  you? Is everything Ok with the boys? How is the THING?” I felt loved and cared for even though I was worried and exhausted from stupid jet lag.

And that extended to the rest of the conference too. It was smaller this year than in the past years I went and I liked that.

Every presentation I went to from Jenny Lawson to Kerry Washington, from Tig Notaro to all the 10×10’s, and especially the VOTY (which is my #1 reason for wanting to be there in the first place, I felt this mad supportive vibe. The conference was intimate and more intense than ever. Over and over I felt the message was TELL YOUR STORY. TELL IT.

And the stories we heard: hilarious, heart-wrenching, horrible.

I tried to say hi to everyone that I know online if I saw them, but I know I missed a few.

I didn’t feel stressed out by the conference this year because there weren’t a zillion things going on at once. I liked that they eliminated all the outside parties and events and kept everything close.

I was a little bummed by the food choices. I mean, I get that we were in California, but a side salad is not a meal, yo. As Homer Simpson says, “You don’t make friends with salad.” And of course, as usual, the water/beverage situation was lacking. I will say breakfast was yum though. #baconrules

But in the grand scheme of it all, those are minor complaints.

Overall BlogHer was what I needed. I needed to hear those stories and be encouraged to tell mine. I needed to be reminded of the greatness of being a blogger…of being a personal blogger.

Voice matters.

And the voices of my friends were loud and clear: you matter to us, Katie.

In the span of two weeks I experienced something that I never really did before: women taking care of women just because it’s the kind thing to do. Because it’s how we hope our fellow sisters will treat us.

My blogging “tribe”, The Preacher’s Wife, and so many others just praying and helping where they can.

It’s a gift to realize you are loved.

I spend a lot of time an energy thinking about how I am not good at female friendships, but the past few weeks have proven to me that I don’t suck at them either.

just a few of the women who I call my friends. Photo credit: Elaine of The Miss Elaine-ous Life

just a few of the women who I call my friends. Photo credit: Elaine of The Miss Elaine-ous Life

The HerStories Project: celebrating female friendships

This spring I read a collection of stories about women and friendship called The HerStories Project. I’ve admitted my lack of awesomeness at female relationships here before.

Even when they are at their best, I feel like the weakest link in all of my female friendships. I feel unsure, inadequate, and anxious.  And that is when things are going WELL.

I thought maybe this anthology of essays could give me a clue to the elusive female friendship. What I found out was that I am not alone in my pain and questioning in friendships.

female friendships

I read this book  of female friendships while sitting in my bag chair in the shade of our tree during spring break while my kids played in the yard and rode bikes and trikes. Like any collection, there were stories I skimmed over because they didn’t reach me, but for each of those there were stories that deeply connected with something in my heart.

Vicky Willenberg had me nodding along to her piece, “Big Girl Friendships” as I related to how my friendships have changed now that I am an adult.

Pam Moore’s piece “Pen Pals” reminded me of my best friend who lives almost three hours away. We send notes and texts to each other randomly, yet we rarely speak on the phone. However when we see each other it’s like no time has passed.

Alexa Bigwarfe’s piece “Birds of a Feather Flock Together” encouraged me to get to know the women in my real life better–the moms in my subdivision, the ladies in my church, the teachers who I work with.

I cried through Allison Slater Tate’s piece “To My Best Friend on the Occasion of Her First Pregnancy.” My best friend married five years before I did, but had her first baby four years after I had my first. I had two kids by the time she had her first and my excitement for this new journey was summed up by Allison.

And it was like Alexandra Rosas was writing my life in her piece “On Feeling Lonely.”  We both suffered severe loneliness and depression after the birth of our first sons. Her words are exactly perfect.

Story after story I was reminded that I am not alone in my messy feelings about female friendships.  I thought this stuff was supposed to get easier as we get older, but no. Not so much.

This is why I am so excited to announce that HerStories is coming out with a second anthology in September called My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends and I am a contributor! That’s right, I’m going to be published in print…again! I am sharing my story about how I am in the season of losing friends right now.

Can’t wait until September to read stories of friendship? The first anthology is still available and I highly recommend it.

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In other fun news, I am taking over the Bonbon Break Instagram Feed today! Come follow along!

Bonbon Break
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