Aug 202009

If you have a moment, I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Gena. Today is her birthday.

Sometimes I tell people that Gena is my best friend. This is ridiculous, because Gena has legions of closer friends who see her every day, remember her kids’ birthdays, RSVP to her parties, call her on the phone, and do all sorts of friend-type things that are much too hard for me. I mostly just think about her a lot, and send her emails. So maybe it’s more truthful that Gena is my favorite friend.

I bet a lot of people fraudulently call Gena their best friend, though. She’s blonde and beautiful and fiercely stylish and bubbly and classy, like champagne. She’s the type that had already made the high school cheerleading squad before trying out. Like when she was five. She has a big, fancy home that is always full of beautiful people and food that looks like it was really hard to make. Her family worships the ground that her perfectly pedicured feet walk upon. People with this sort of charmed existence are supposed to be shallow and mean, just out of general fairness. I kind of thought this was the deal.

Gena has ruined this theory for me.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to share a few things about Gena that she’ll never tell you herself. Not even by fake accident.

Gena’s the sun… and those she loves revolve around her and soak her up. She’s her daddy’s girl, her husband’s rock, her childrens’ everything, and her friends’ favorite.

She helped create a volunteer group that matches local kids with community service projects. They cheer at the Special Olympics, decorate the Ronald McDonald House for holidays, and throw parties at homeless shelters.

She is in a wedding every weekend.

The neighborhood girls show up giggling on her doorstep and she drops everything to help them prepare for cheerleading tryouts.

She takes really good care of her grandparents.

Her son is some sort of anomaly. He’s kind, gentle, and strong, with more than a touch of intellectual and athletic genius.

Her priest visits her frequently for dinner. Everyone visits her frequently for dinner.

She has unshakeable faith and audacious courage. But she’s vulnerable, too

There’s so much more, but I know you’re busy. I’ll just end with this suggestion: If you see Gena today, don’t be intimidated by her fancy shoes. Go say Happy Birthday. She’ll take off her sunglasses, cock her head to one side and hang open her mouth slightly…and even though she’ll have a baby on her hip and another tugging on her shirt, she’ll smile, and make time for you. She’ll LOVE you. And a few minutes later, you’ll want to call her your favorite friend, like I do.

Because you’ll learn that Angels Wear Prada, too.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Gena.

Sep 112009

I have a special friend named Casey. She has twinkly blue eyes that are cozy as faded Levis and a slow, soothing smile. She’s elegant and graceful and a little frilly, like her clothes. Sometimes I wonder if she was born into the wrong era because she has time for people. You realize, as you watch her quietly soaking in a friend’s story, that Casey believes there’s enough love, attention, and time to go around. She doesn’t grab.

Casey and her grandmother write letters to each other. Not emails… letters. Casey likes how letters slow her down, how they insist that she sit and forget everything else. When she’s falling into a letter from her grandmother, she savors the thought that they have both touched the same page. Letters bridge the distance between them, and they are tangible proof of Casey’s life philosophy- that love can and should make time stand still.

About a year ago Casey got quiet enough to hear her heart make a request. Her heart’s request was that Casey combine her philosophy about love and life with her artistic talent to create a career. Casey listened to her heart’s voice, trusted it, and followed directions. And after months of excruciatingly hard work, this week she launched her new custom stationery business, Toast.

It is so incredible to watch someone you love step into her dream. My mom said that to me on my wedding day, and I said it to Casey the first time I saw the Toast website. I won’t do product placements on this blog. But when a friend’s dream comes true, that’s certainly worthy of an exception…

We each have something we know we must do. A gift God’s given to us alone, to share. Because a gift’s not really a gift unless it’s given away.

What does your heart request of you? What do you really want to do? What makes you feel most alive?

Seriously, tell me. I’m going to check in to make sure you’re doing it. Because we need you to do it. It gives us courage.

“None of us will ever achieve anything excellent or commanding except when she listens to the whisper that is heard by her alone.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sep 172009

So…parties. They make me nervous.

I don’t feel like I’m very good at anything that parties require of folks. Like getting off the couch and changing out of sweatpants and mingling and staying up late. There was a time in my life when I fancied myself an expert at all of these things. But that was when I was comfortable with a few dozen helpful drinks before the party and an occasional arrest afterwards. Now, it’s different. My standards for myself are ever so slightly higher. Now I have no armor, no help, nothing to take the edge off and to make myself, or others, more charming. And so partying is harder. And honestly, quite scary.

My neighborhood friends had a party last weekend. Not a terrifying dress up , get a sitter, evening kind of party, but the potluck, bring the kids, you’ll be home by bedtime kind of party. Which is better for me. Except, of course, for the pot luck part. When my friend called to invite us she said “Just bring a side.” I know that’s easy for some people. I can tell because they add the “just.” But my “sides” are frozen broccoli and Lipton bagged rice, neither of which travel or present well.

I have prepared the same Lipton bagged rice every evening for the past 7 years.And every night, I still get nervous and read the directions carefully. I think there are three directions. Something like – add water and rice and boil and then stir. But I still prop that bag up, demand silence from the children, follow along with my finger, and concentrate. Because in the kitchen you must never let your guard down, people. YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN.

Anyway, I was pretty sure frozen broccoli or bagged rice wasn’t the way to go, so I brought another trusted side. Cheetos.The BAKED KIND, friends, because I care about the health of the children. Although Cheetos are already bagged, I put them in another bag, so I could smuggle them into the party without anyone seeing what I brought. I have this system down to a science. So when we arrived, I waved my hellos, scurried inside, and slipped my Cheetos next to all the lovely casseroles that appeared to have one million ingredients each. DO PEOPLE SERVE CASSEROLES AT HOME AS SIDES? Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know. Then I went outside and played with my favorite group of ladies and kids in the world.

All was well and lovely until it was time to eat. Our hostess, Karen, whom I suspect my parents secretly pay to help keep my family running smoothly, called us all in to eat. The kids ran ahead and the parents followed, and we all stood around the table holding our plates and admiring the beautiful spread.And one of the kids said “I want some mac and cheese!”I did too. It was homemade and looked like a mound of love. And then another kid said “My mommy made the mac and cheese!” And I thought, Oh crap. I know where this is going.

So of course, another kid said “My mommy made the pasta salad.” And then another chimed in with, “My mommy made the chocolate chip cookies!” I stared at Chase, willing him to catch my eye so I could send him my “Don’t. Say. A. Word.” signal, which he knows quite well.

But ….no such pot luck.

He looked up, of course, and announced… equal parts loud and proud:


I am seriously considering calling the local high school this week and asking if I can audit their Home Economics class.

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