That’s What Friends Are For

Little Mommies to the rescue!!

Where would I be without friends like the Little Mommies??

In the end, for as much as I’d thought packing up our house to move would be a team effort – I mean, what’s the point of having four kids if not to use as manual labor – the bulk of boxing 13 years of our lives turned out to be a one-man operation. Or should I say, one-woman?

Sure, the four kids did pack up their own bedrooms, which was interesting as each child employed strategies for moving that reflected his or her personality. The two girls were all business — leaving behind neat stacks of cardboard boxes and empty closets when they returned to school for spring semester — while my oldest son waited until close to moving day and then paid his younger brother to help him pack. And that youngest child, who at 13 still struggles with putting his dirty basketball shorts in the hamper each night, had a closet full of clothes on the day the movers arrived but had also carefully labeled boxes he actually had packed – filled with his stash of wooden swords and golden Mickey Mouse ears in homage of Star Wars’ c3pO – as “Sentimentals” and “Sentimentals 2.”


Sentimental items rated not one but two boxes for my 13yo.

And I do not wish to neglect mentioning that my oldest daughter drove eight hours home the weekend before the move with her roommate and spent two full days packing the remainder of our kitchen, color coding all boxes with bright duct tape that correlated to the rooms they were to be stored in the new house and creating a master list noting the contents of each box (so I know that Box #43 contains our crockpot and mulling ball, labeled PINK to head to the living room, and Box #5 – with a GREEN piece of tape indicating it was to go to the office – is labeled Holy Box, which contains a crucifix I received as a wedding gift 25 years ago that I don’t quite know what to do with along with a holy water font) . It’s amazing what can happen when two extremely Type A women are handed clipboards. There was no stopping them.

My younger girl got trapped with me one Saturday during the holidays down in our crawlspace as we weeded through a sea of Rubbermaid boxes filled with Halloween decorations – giant rubber hands on spikes and Styrofoam tombstones – and 20-year-old collection of my oldest son’s Brio Thomas the Tank Engine set (why, hello Percy and Henry), trying to determine where all of it was to go. By the end of the day the basement was filled with piles to be sold (an old Target trestle table and oodles of Skylander figures), thrown out (sorry K’NEX) or dragged to the new house for sentimental purposes (my youngest child is not the only sentimental person in the house and so I decided I could not part with the iron beds my daughters slept on when they were young).

So, the kids did do their part but the majority of figuring out what to do with a lifetime of stuff fell on me. And I mean, I guess that just makes sense and honestly, I don’t know if things would have been much different if I was still married. When we moved 13 years earlier, I was seven months pregnant with our fourth child and don’t really remember my then-husband doing much of the packing and unpacking. He was off at work while I weeded through old onesies and a mountain of American Girl merchandise determining what was coming along.

I thought my strategy for this move seemed at first quite brilliant: as we were planning on staying in our old house for a month after we closed on the new house, I reasoned the kids and I could slowly move all the boxes into the new place while they were home over winter break and then I’d hire movers to handle the big furniture. But, as you may have heard, the best laid plans are often shot to shit during the execution of such and, alas, our closing was delayed for weeks and my strong daughters returned to school in January without moving nary a box.


One of the things that held me back for a long time from ending my marriage was the prospect of being alone. I worried I’d never find someone else. That I’d end up by myself surrounded by stacks of books and cats. And for the most part, so far that’s kinda what’s happened. I mean, the books are all in boxes now and I only have one cat, but it’s been about seven years since my ex-husband moved out and I haven’t really found anyone to share my life with. I guess you could say that in a way, my worst fears have been realized.

Yet strangely, I’ve never felt less alone.

Since my divorce, I’ve made some really wonderful friends and deepened friendships that already existed. One reason might be that I have more time for friends. I don’t have to worry about making a partner jealous of time spent with others. But I think what separates my friendships now versus when I was married is that these relationships are much more authentic than before. I am much more honest – whether through my writing or in person – about things in my life being frankly less-than-perfect. There’s a lot less bullshit now.

Had it not been for the strong group of friends who surrounded and supported me during my divorce – who called me on their way to work each morning or ran by my side through the woods along icy trails and listened to me spill out the latest atrocity or let me lie on their couch and cry while feeding me tea and wine – I don’t know if I’d have come out the other end with my wits about me. I don’t know how strong I would have ended up becoming.

“The middle years are the loneliest period of life,” I heard reported the other day on my radio while listening to a story on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” The piece on how essential friendships are in midlife shared that “friends are key to our survival not only emotionally but biologically.”

Amen to that.

The segment continued, “Those with a network of friends live longer, recover faster from cancer and even preserve their memories better than those with few or no friends.”

I’m not so sure about the memory part – because I am lucky I remember to put on underwear lately which I totally attribute to old age – but am certain they should have added divorce to that list of life’s challenges made just a little easier by having a strong network of friends.


My movers were scheduled to come on a Thursday in mid-February and at the beginning of that week, an army of mommies arrived on a cold, wet snowy morning to move boxes to my new house. This is the group of friends I have taken to referring to, with great affection, as my “Little Mommies.” They’re the girls whose oldest kids are my youngest child’s age and with whom I sit on the beach in the summer and drink margaritas and watch our boys bob for hours in the ocean atop their boogie boards as we discuss pressing issues like Botox and our periods.

That morning their army of minivans and SUVs pulled up and the Little Moms piled out and started hauling my belongings to the new house. In a couple of hours they’d moved a majority of the boxes that had filled most of the den and deposited them in their color-coded areas in my new place.

“Looks like the cavalry is here,” I overheard one of the electricians working in my new kitchen say to a coworker as he watched about 10 women unloading boxes and lamps from the line of vehicles parked in front of the house.

The Cavalry has arrived.

The Cavalry has arrived.

On Tuesday, my friend Janine came over in the morning and helped me remove swinging lamps from the walls and pack up all the Fios cable boxes and wrapped the cords so efficiently that I tasked her with making all the cords in the house neat and tidy. My friend Dan, the famous Girl Whisperer, came over in the afternoon and he and my oldest son – who’d taken the day off from work to finish packing – hauled some larger items over to the new house in his pickup. He helped find a new home for my big, round table I use for parties and six folding chairs and tried valiantly to help me get a set of wire shelves down the stairs to use in the basement (we failed).

On Wednesday, The Knitters arrived with coffee and donuts instead of needles and yarn and pretty much moved everything else that wasn’t nailed down. That morning, instead of sitting around someone’s kitchen table gabbing and eating yogurt and granola and pretending to knit while talking about life – as we have two Wednesdays a month for the last 6 or 7 years – The Knitters opted to pack table lamps and flat-screen televisions into their cars and carry them into my new house.

Listen, I know it’s kinda trite to say that it takes the proverbial village to do anything nowadays but, man, it really did take a small community of people to help get us out of our old house and into the new one. Friends who just showed up, sometimes unannounced and sometimes bearing donuts, to lend a hand.

And then the movers came on Thursday and I kind of fell apart.

That morning, four very large men arrived at my door that morning and started taking apart beds and wrapping side tables in plastic and every time I resumed packing up my bathroom – all the Band Aids and hair ties and dental floss – I’d hear one of them yell, “Amy!” and suddenly, I felt very alone and overwhelmed by the entire undertaking. Even though I’d had SO MUCH HELP in the days leading up to the move, there were still SO many last minute things that needed to happen to make a clean exit from the place we called home for 13 years. Our stuff just oozed into every corner of the place. There was still a giant, red lacrosse net in the backyard and my bathroom drawers were filled with a decade’s-worth of Laura Mercier products and Q-tips and – just when I thought the kitchen was empty – I discovered the dishwasher was full of dirty dishes.

But it was my youngest child’s room that really did me in. That pushed me over that teary-eyed ledge I’d been teetering on for days into full-sob mode. Ugly cry galore.

Thirteen years earlier I’d moved in and painted the smallest of our four bedrooms yellow to welcome my fourth baby. I’d bought new bumpers for the old white crib used by all of my babies and put the old glider – that I’d gotten as a gift from my husband for my 26th birthday right before the birth of our first child – in a corner of the room. It’s where I spent many nights nursing that baby while the rest of the house slept and rocked him to sleep, feeling the pressure of his tiny head on my shoulder.

That baby, that room, that house. They were everything I’d wanted in my mid-30s. I wanted all of the trimmings of a certain kind of life and thought that those were the ingredients for happiness. I pinned a lot of hopes and dreams on the family that I’d created and moving out of that house was the final nail in the coffin of those dreams. It was time to officially close that chapter of my life.

And that’s when the sob that had been simmering in my chest for days burbled up my throat and came out as a gasp that echoed in the empty room.

“AMY!” yelled one of the men from downstairs, and that’s when I knew I needed help. I couldn’t do it alone. At that moment, I needed someone to hold my hand.

And in no time, two dear friends arrived and started packing up all my shoes and cleaning the crumbs out of the bottom of my toaster oven. They accompanied me to the new house later as the movers began cramming all the big stuff into the rooms already filled with the boxes moved earlier in the week. As many of my best-laid plans began to fall apart – the furniture I was going to use for my youngest son was way too big for his new room and those iron beds I couldn’t part with a few months earlier needed to find a home in my storage-challenged new home – my friends helped me make quick decisions and then move on.


I’ve learned to do a lot of things by myself since my marriage ended. I’ve had to figure out how to dispose of dead critters in my pool and shovel snow from my driveway. I comfortably navigate gatherings of couples as a single person and even sailed around Greece on my own. And it was just me standing alongside the man I’d married almost 20 years before in front of a judge on a hot day in July when we ended our marriage for good.

It’s good to know you can handle things on your own. To know you are capable of tackling whatever life throws your way. But it’s also good to know that you have a couple of people quietly cheering for you from the sidelines and will be at your side in a flash should the need arise.

I think a lot of my strength has come from knowing I have people in my life who I can count on. Folks who have my back. And probably, that’s what I really needed all along. I didn’t need someone to celebrate Valentine’s Day with or be my de facto plus-one. What I really needed was someone who was on my side.

What I really needed, it turns out, was a friend.

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How to Stay Friends for 30 Years

768b919fa22206ad0360afc9e99e9a8eThirty years ago this fall, I moved into a tiny single room in an all-girls dorm at the University of Delaware with another girl I’d never laid eyes on before who lived in a city I’d never even thought much about before at a school I’d never even visited before. And it all clicked.

Long after we’d become good friends – after spending months lying on our bunk beds and talking late into the night – she’d confided that based on my fancy-sounding street address she figured I was some New Jersey princess and given that she hailed from Baltimore, I assumed she lived in the projects. But our preconceived notions were quickly dismissed after we met and bonded our first night at school trying to haul a case of Busch beer, which we had talked someone into buying us, about a mile back to our dorm room concealed in a duffel bag. It turned out that when it came to underage drinking, we were both resourceful and well matched.

It was dumb luck that landed the two of us together and that we happened to get along so well. In 1984, decades before incoming freshmen hand-picked their college roommates on Facebook to coordinate color themes and bedding, you just showed up and hoped for the best.

The first indication that we belonged together was that we both ended up squished together in a dorm room meant for one person after we failed to submit our housing forms in a timely fashion. We were both pretty slovenly and liked to drink beer. I was introduced to George Thorogood and NRBQ and she tolerated my infatuation with Prince and the poster I hung of him on our wall. She brought with her a two-foot-tall red ashtray, one of those industrial type receptacles where you stub the butt out and then press a button to release it into the can. And because our tiny room became the hub for all of our new friends to come and smoke cigarettes and watch General Hospital most weekday afternoons, the can quickly filled up — which excited us to no end.

We both also brought our good friends from high school to college with us and they became our core group of pals at first. Over time, our gang expanded to include another girl in our dorm and a few more who we met through the sorority I rushed sophomore year. We were kind of a mismatched crew. Some of us would never have ended up friends with others were it not for the group as a whole. But beer and boys were a common denominator with a big dose of bossy thrown in. Somehow when we were all together – despite everybody wanting to be in charge – it just worked.

By the time we graduated in the spring of 1988, the eight of us had been through a lot – failed romances, missed periods and more than a few drunken nights. A few days before graduation we gathered in a tiny side room of the sorority house and passed around a bottle of champagne for each of us to sign and vowed to save it to drink when the last of our crew got married. We finally drank it in September 2000, when the final one of our crew got hitched and right before I celebrated my own tenth wedding anniversary.

How could we have known then, as we passed the cheap, fizzy wine around for each of us to sip, what the following ten years would hold? That three of our marriages would collapse and that the union we celebrated that night, dancing under the stars far out on the east end of Long Island, would be so short-lived? That in less than a year the groom would go to work on a bright September morning at the top of the World Trade Center and never come home?

Maybe in the end it’s the loss that all of us in the group has experienced in one form or another that has brought us even closer than those days when we piled on a couch to watch Moonlighting or borrowed each other’s Benetton sweaters for tailgates. Going off and living our lives became the glue that held our friendship together.

We’ve become so much more than the one-dimensional girls who met 30 years ago. All that loss – of spouses, parents and dreams of the perfect lives we thought awaited us – has let us connect with each other in a much more real way. We tease and joke and boss but there’s a softness to it now.

Inherently, we’re still the same girls we were 30 years ago – The Boss and Study Buddy, The Spy, The Nice One, the Senator (aka Honeypot) the fabulous Jet Setter and the GDI (Goddamn Independent). And I’m always good for laughs. We just have a lot more layers now. So much has happened since we signed that bottle of champagne all those years ago.

The eight of us gathered last weekend for a few days of eating, drinking and laughing as we have almost every year over the last decade. It’s an easy friendship, the kind where even though we don’t keep in touch the way we should and only half of the group is on social media, we can pick right up where we left off.

We’ve long since given up on the notion that we’re actually going to do something when we get together. We usually muster a walk along the beach or through a park under the bright autumn leaves, but mostly, we sit around and talk. And while we probably logged about 100 hours of conversation between the eight of us – on the couch over early morning cappuccinos or curled up together on a bed late at night after one-to-many glasses of red wine – I honestly cannot share any of the discussions with you because they were either too honest or too raunchy.

Most every conversation ended with someone turning to me and saying, “Do NOT blog about that.”

I was describing the group to another friend when I got home, and she laughed and said, “Sounds like it’s the family you get to pick.”

And maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, because even though I’m not sure if we would have picked each other 30 years ago – like in what world would you even think a nice conservative Visitation girl from D.C. would pal around with a Jersey Girl with big, permed hair? – somehow it all works.

But, much like family, over time you don’t love people despite their differences but often because of them. So maybe the secret to staying such good friends over 30 years is learning to appreciate people for who they are or maybe, just like ending up in a tiny room with some girl from Baltimore, it’s just dumb luck.

8 friends + 19 kids + 9 weddings + 3 ex-husbands + 2 boyfriends = 30 years of friendship.

Eight friends + 19 kids + 9 weddings + 3 ex-husbands + 2 boyfriends = 30 years of friendship.

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Remembering Gratitude When You’re Not Really Feeling Too Grateful

photo(72)Someone nominated me to take part in that Gratitude Challenge that’s been going around on Facebook over the past week or so and my initial response was, “Fuck you.”

When I first saw the notification from Facebook pop up on my iPhone screen that I’d been tagged in something, I was coming off of a weekend spent by myself and feeling – I’ll be honest – kind of down-in-the-dumps. Which makes no sense because I had a really fun weekend, for the most part.

But I spent most of Sunday, which at least here in New Jersey was a pretty stellar day weather-wise, inside, emerging only for a quick trip to Trader Joe’s. I then started guzzling wine promptly at 5 p.m. and watched Netflix until the kids got home later that night from their dad’s.

And I don’t know if it’s my plummeting estrogen levels at this time of the month, my unemployment status or an as-of-yet undiagnosed case of ADD, but I feel incredibly unmoored and unfocused about what I am doing with my life. And having to fill up my weekend with activities to help me forget that the family that I worked so hard to create is fractured is exhausting.

I’m cranky, y’all.

So I stomped around on Monday gritting my teeth and muttering a lot but woke up Tuesday with a much smaller chip on my shoulder. I started to remember just how good my life really is.

It’s ridiculous, my woe-is-me attitude, really, because in theory I have absolutely everything: my health, four healthy children, a (pretty nice) roof over my head, a brain in my head, thin ankles. I need to stop acting like such a little bitch, moping around and feeling sorry for myself and give thanks.

And so, herewith, the Top 10 Things in Absolutely No Order For Which I’m Thankful:

  1. Call the Midwife: Mom, I know you’ve been telling me to watch the British series for a couple of years but I resisted. But as with many things in life – like that time you told me to pack a rain jacket to go camping with my Girl Scout troop and I resisted and then spent the weekend cold and wet – you are often right.
  2. The Girl Whisperer: The man stands in my family room twice a week and makes me and my girlfriends do more squats and push ups (real ones, like, on our feet) than I could ever have thought possible two years ago. He’s freed me from jumping jacks and running and my back and knees have never felt happier and my legs have never looked better. But more importantly, in the 18 months I’ve been working with him, I’ve never eaten better. I now eat stuff like quinoa and smoothies with egg whites in them as opposed to CheezIts and Doritos. What’s even better is that the healthier eating has trickled down to how I feed my kids, too. I can’t remember the last time I grilled a hot dog, and we should all be grateful for that.
  3. Checking the School Calendar by Chance: Had I not just done that, I would have missed Back to School Night at our middle school tonight.
  4. Turning Off the AC: I am as thankful for and dependent upon air conditioning as the next person but was glad to turn it off Sunday and let the cool air in from outside. I like hearing the birds tweeting and the neighbor’s kids riding their Big Wheels around the neighborhood. It makes me feel connected to the rest of the world without the Internet’s help.
  5. My Trip South Next Weekend: Okay, they might think I complain about them here incessantly, but I had a really nice summer with my two college kids and really miss them. So I’m looking forward to seeing them next weekend and drinking Jungle Juice before a football game. Good times.
  6. My Journals: While some people may dispute the accuracy of some of the stories I tell here, I do have a safe-full of journals in which I’ve been taking notes for the last decade. Sure, there are a lot of holes in some events that have occurred, but I can totally tell you how much I weighed on March 21, 2012 and how many glasses of wine I drank the night before. The journals have also come in handy recently as I’ve tried to tackle some bigger subjects in my writing and unearthed descriptive nuggets like the broken television trapped behind plexiglass at our hospital psych ward and lying on a boat in the Aegean and hearing the sounds of rooster crowing at dawn.
  7. Fortunate Timing: I went paddle boarding on the river Saturday afternoon and even though I had heard on the news that there were storm warnings and my two friends and I heard the thunder while digging through the choppy water, we kept on going. Finally, one of the girls was like, “I think I’m turning around, y’all,” and as we changed direction, we noticed the giant black clouds quickly moving towards us. Luckily, it was only as we were hoisting the big boards out of the water that the gusts of wind really kicked in and white caps formed along the river where we were just paddling frantically moments before. We took comfort in the house margaritas at a nearby bar where we told anyone who would listen about our adventure for hours afterwards. And yes, we totally learned a valuable lesson about the force of Mother Nature. You do not fuck with her.
  8. My Cat: She made me write that.
  9. My Blog Readers: I went for a walk in a nearby park yesterday and ran into a woman I know who immediately started telling me how much she could relate to something I had just written about here. And I’ve gotta tell you, that happens at least once a day, running into someone at the market or at a local restaurant who tells me they read my blog. And if you’re a writer you know that it never gets old. Your ego would never let that happen. I love hearing that people can relate to the things I write about that are going on in my life and that sometimes I even make them laugh. It helps me know that I’m moving in the right direction in my life.
  10. Friends With Benefits: I am blessed with being able to call a ton of people “friend.” They sit on the beach with me and are happy to share their limes and Coronitas. They invite me to their place in Florida and put up with me after one too many Hendricks cocktails. They invite me to their gorgeous beach house – like, on the beach beach house – and feed me things like Halibut Oreganata with Pesto and Peach Macaroon Crisp and then take the time to email all the recipes, just in case. And they nominate me on Facebook to remember all that I have to be grateful for and then graciously remain silent when I act like a bitch about it.

Oh, there’s one more thing! I’m always super grateful when you guys sign up to get my posts delivered right to your inbox. I love knowing I’ve made your life a little easier! What are you grateful for?

Gains and Losses


Credit: Susan Buchenberger

In theory, you would have thought I’d be happy they were leaving.

I mean, I scored a lot of swag over the last few weeks as my next-door neighbors frantically cleaned out their house so they could pull up stakes and move to Hong Kong this past weekend. They needed to clear out for another family in town who are renting their house while they’re gone.

Here are just some of the bigger items that I am the new – and in some cases — temporary, owner of:

  • Sauna
  • Trampoline
  • 2 paddle boards
  • Potted boxwoods
  • Multiple bags of quinoa
  • Not one but three iPhone 5 chargers
  • Trader Joe’s Frozen Mahi Mahi steaks

This is not to mention the two shopping bags full of frozen and refrigerated items, about 10 bottles of assorted alcohol and one final bag yesterday containing everything from Trader Joe’s popcorn to a new bottle of Nivea lotion and Band Aids that I brought home.

I could have also had a cat, dog, bunny and various houseplants, but I drew the line at anything that required being kept alive. I can commit to quinoa but not animals, nowadays.

Initially, when my neighbor Susan started to offer various pantry items to me as she began clearing out her kitchen to prepare to move to Hong Kong for a couple of years for her husband’s job, I demurred. I was okay in the herbal teas and balsamic vinegar department and felt bad taking hers.

But then she told me how she tried to get another friend to take items from her pantry, and that friend also politely declined, and Susan said to me, “All I could think was: For fucks sake, please just take it!”

She needed us to help take stuff off her hands. It made her life easier.

So I stopped saying, “No,” every time she offered me something, which turned out to be a lot since I lived right next door, making it relatively easy to unload giant things like trampolines and saunas. I stopped feeling embarrassed or guilty for taking their stuff and saw it as something that made the giant move to the other side of the world with her husband and three young boys a tiny bit easier.

But of course, all the Kahlua and frozen Mahi Mahi steaks in the world could not make up for how much I was really losing. I told Susan that as we hugged good-bye in her garage Sunday morning as the giant black van waited to take her and her family and their 17 bags to JFK to fly to Hong Kong.

“You’ve been such a good friend,” I cried as we stood their hugging each other and she hugged me a little tighter and I thought about what an understatement that was. How critical her friendship has been to the quality of my life.

She was a major part of the safety net that kept me from falling to the ground during and after my divorce. She always included my youngest child – who’s 11 and around the same age as her boys – in whatever they were doing.

“Does he want to come over to watch a movie?”

“Does he was to stay and eat pizza?”

“Does he need a ride to lacrosse?”

“Does he want to stay at the beach with us?”

“Does he want to go to the movies with us?”

“Does he want to sleep over?”

It was always so easy and made the transition from stay-at-home mom to single working mom a lot easier.

She never said, “No,” when I asked her for a favor, never even hesitated or made me feel bad. She often asked if I needed anything if she was running to Costco or Trader Joe’s, and gave my family more free cupcakes from the cupcake business she ran on the side, than we could ever dream possible.

And she looped me into her group of friends — who have kids around my youngest child’s age — which helped me not only meet a great group of people but let me find a niche after my divorce and needed to find a place to set up my beach chair in the summer. She gladly welcomed me into her circle and had a spicy margarita waiting when I got there.

Her husband, Michael, was just as good. He was the boys’ lacrosse coach and helped us with the complicated equipment and always made sure my son was on his team, which came in handy this past spring when I forgot to pick my guy up from practice and Mike just scooped him up with his own kids to bring home.

“I literally forgot him,” I texted Michael back in May. “WTH is gonna happen when u guys r gone?”

WTH is right.

When I first told my 17-year-old daughter that our neighbors, whose boys she has been babysitting since they moved next door seven years ago, were definitely moving to Hong Kong, she started to cry. “Not my babies,” she sniffled.

But we knew that the move was hard enough on Susan and the boys without us being all weepy in front of them, so we put on a good face. We talked about how exciting it was, this new adventure, and how they’ll be back in New Jersey with lots of stories to tell in a few years.

In the meantime, for the rest of us, it’s kind of like a temporary death. I’ll miss the day-to-day interactions, the ease of having someone just a few yards away who I can ask to borrow an egg or sesame oil or drive me to the hospital if I’m feeling especially crazy. I’ll miss being able to tell my son to go outside and see what the boys are doing and watching them all play soccer on her front lawn for hours on end. I’ll even miss all the pieces of crap they set up in my driveway as they practiced for their future jobs as professional skateboarders and BMX riders.

So when I walked around Costco and Wegman’s yesterday crying after they pulled out of the neighborhood, it wasn’t really for Susan’s family that I was weeping. They were going to be great. I mean, they already have a trip planned to Thailand in October.

To be honest, I was really crying for me.

Because I might have gained a sauna and lots of quinoa, but for now, I’ve lost some wonderful friends.









Just Like Me

photo-2I don’t know what I’d do without my friends.

They lift me up when I’m sinking, listen patiently to my many stories mostly about myself, celebrate my victories, teach me to knit (and then tolerate when I show up for knitting with nothing to knit), critique my resume, go speed dating with me, invite me to their homes to write and always, always share their wine.

Seriously, between my family, my writing and my friends, I have a very full and happy life.

But aside from the friends I actually know, the ones I spend the day with learning how to shoot guns or going to see Ira Glass, I have a handful of people in my life who I consider to be my friends – I’m sure we’d hit it off – although we’ve never really met.

Now, this could be perceived by some as the very definition of what a stalker might say when found hiding in a stranger’s closet, so stay with me.

Throughout my life, there have been certain writers who have given me hope that I was not alone. Their voices sounded so familiar and they were able to put thoughts and ideas down in words that I, too, had felt but had never been able to express.

“That’s it!” I’d think, reading a certain sentence over and over.

Because on the most basic level, we humans need to feel connected. We want to feel like we’re not alone. It brings comfort to our lives and reassures us that we’re really okay.

When I was a kid, growing up in the 70s, Judy Blume did that for me. Her characters weren’t living on the prairie or trying to solve mysteries but were real girls, some of them even living in New Jersey (like me!), and were strong and had opinions and were confused about things like tampons and pubic hair and friends and boys and all the stuff that filled 12-year old girls’ heads. She let me know I wasn’t the only one struggling to make sense of it all.

I met Anna Quindlen when she was writing her “Life in the Thirties” column in The New York Times and although she was over a decade older than me, I could not only relate to what she wrote about, but it made me want to do the same thing some day.

When I was in the thick of my divorce, I was lucky enough to hear Anna speak at a small gathering about everything from her writing to her kids to politics — and even shook her hand — and later, would ask myself during my darkest days: “What would Anna do?” It became my yardstick for measuring what was acceptable.

Because i knew Anna Quindlen wouldn’t be taking any bullshit.

Then of course along the way I met Nora Eprhon and Tina Fey (the writer), who taught me you could be both smart and funny. I read Bossypants once and have listened to it while driving in the car at least four or five times.

And when I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, so much of what she wrote resonated with me and we seemed so similar except that she  ended up the COO of Facebook and I became a New Jersey housewife.

More recently, I’ve gotten to know Ann Patchett, Anne Lamott and Dani Shapiro and through their essays I am inspired as a woman and a writer.

I met my girl Kelly Corrigan, so to speak, when her first book arrived in my mailbox courtesy of one of my college pals who lives in D.C. and happens to be friends with Kelly’s college roommate. My friend had gone to one of Kelly’s book signings and for whatever reason, had thought of me and shipped the book to New Jersey.

The Middle Place was published right around the time my 18-year marriage was falling apart and while at that point I had a hard time focusing on reading things like the J.Crew catalog, I blew right threw her book.

She’s so likable – funny and smart, not afraid to laugh at herself – that I felt like I knew her. She could totally be a part of my college crew. She’d fit right in.

She came to my neck of New Jersey to read from the book not long after and patiently chatted with almost each and every one of us in the audience as we filed by where she was sitting to get our free copy of her book signed.

“Take notes,” she told me after I shared what I was going through and hoped to write about it some day. And it was that advice that I used to motivate me when I was feeling too sad or lazy to write things down in my journal. Ultimately, I ended up with an entire safe in my closet stuffed with cute notebooks from Target I filled with rants, affirmations and observations of that time in my life.

Last week, a sorority sister messaged me on Facebook to tell me Kelly was on the lookout for photos for a video she was putting together to coincide with the release of her new book, Glitter and Glue.

“You should send her that fantastic shot of you dropping your son off to college. Made me cry when you posted it,” she wrote.

So I did, and not long after Kelly asked if I would email it to her, which I gladly did as well.

“It’s so, so good,” she shot back.

The Big College Good-Bye

The Big College Good-Bye

So yesterday I thrilled was to see the photo included (about 4:06 in) as part of a video that accompanies Kelly reading an essay about what she sees as the real adventure that life gives us. It’s the one that’s happening right now. This very second.

Whether we’re siting in the car waiting for basketball practice to end or giving the finger to our teenager behind her back (although some of us aren’t as good as hiding our displeasure from our kids), they are the pieces that make up life’s puzzle, along with Christmas mornings, kindergarten graduations and dropping your oldest kid off at college.

“This is it,” Kelly reminds us.

I’ve loved that picture since my daughter snapped it three years ago and couldn’t think of a better place for it to live right now, even if everyone gets to see my ugly cry.

It’s real, just like Kelly.