Spring Meltdowns and New Beginnings

son graduating

My soon-to-be graduate

Since late February when I had the honor of being a guest on Jordana Green’s radio show to tell my story as part of National Eating Disorders Week, I have been on a bit of a blogging hiatus. The spring months have always been tricky for me, especially in the last several years. And while this spring has been filled with all sorts of wonderful transitions, they are transitions nonetheless; and change is not my strong suit. There are my internal changes that include, but are not limited to, a certain chemical combustion occurring within my body that cranks up my temperature to a mere 90,000 degrees (especially at 3 a.m.) and turns the thoughts in my brain onto a high-speed, continuous spin cycle, for which I cannot seem to find the “off” switch. And there are the external changes that include, but are not limited to surviving yet another senior spring break trip (can I be grandmothered out of the next two?), my oldest son deciding to head to across the country to California for college, my baby turning 11 (just days after a shower door fell on her and broke her wrist…I know, alert the authorities), my husband turning 50 (and yes, of course he recently joined a band), and my oldest daughter finishing her sophomore year of college and returning home for the summer.

soph and jo

The girls reunited

Turning 50

My husband the drummer

So while the internal changes make it a little more challenging to roll with and enjoy all of the exciting external changes, I am doing my best (thank goodness for yoga). And although I am not blogging as regularly as I would like to be, I am still writing. A lot.  Submitting 5,000 words a week to my amazing editor at She Writes Press  so that my book on self-care for moms can head to the publisher and then finally into moms’ hands.

self-care book

The writing process…

And there are few other fun items to report: At the end of April, I had an incredible experience of being among dozens of Minnesota writers, comedians and musicians who performed at Rebecca Bell Sorensen and Laurie Lindeen’s Morningside After Dark Series.morningside

The spring theme was “Melt With You” and the piece I read, “The Season of Melting and Letting Go” is published in The Mid (with a slightly different title) is about how the spring season parallels my process of letting my son, a high school senior, go. Lastly, I was hired to write a Mother’s Day article for AskMen.Com about how men can win the approval of their wife’s or girlfriend’s mother. While I initially found it exciting to have a 20-something male editor email me and say that he thinks I would be a good person to write this and ask if I would be interested, when I began to write the piece, I felt something different…I felt old. But it also opened up my mind to how exciting the next phase of motherhood will (hopefully) be. Welcoming significant others and eventual spouses into the family —Even more “kids” to love!

But for now, and for the next several weeks of “May Madness,” I will try to remember to breathe amidst the flurry of finals, baseball and soccer games, grad parties and another school year coming to a close. And on June 4th, when my oldest son walks down the aisle to accept his high school diploma, I will be cheering him on (most likely through tears) as he transitions from the first chapter of his life to his next. And I look forward to seeing what this next chapter brings…

“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” –Buddah

The Power of Sisterly Love

DaughtersThis past weekend, I took my 9-year-old daughter to visit her 19-year-old sister at college for the first time. Soph was initially hesitant about having us because it was St. Patrick’s day weekend, which meant there would be lots of not-to-miss festivities­—not appropriate for her mom and 3rd grade sister to attend. But this was the weekend that worked for us and I assured her that we would retire early and she could have her nights out with her friends.

As our arrival date got closer, I could tell that Soph was truly looking forward to spending time with us. As hard as it is for college freshman to admit that they are sometimes lonesome, the truth is, they are…and then they’re not. But my motherly instinct told me that since Soph had chosen to go away with friends instead of coming home for her spring break, the time lapse between winter break and the end of her first year of college would be too long of a stretch to go without seeing each other (and I certainly knew it was too long for me).

I couldn’t wait to see my girl, my young adult, who made the transition to college look relatively seamless (which was not the case for me when she left for college). In addition to the joy I felt in seeing her, something took me by surprise during our weekend visit. It began the moment we walked in to the lobby where Soph was waiting for us. Soph looked at me and smiled big, and then I saw fireworks explode in her eyes as she laid eyes upon her “baby” sister. My two girls made an immediate B-line for each other and Jo literally leapt into her big sister’s open arms. They hugged each other tightly, for quite some time, and I could feel the connective, sisterly energy surge between them.

Sophie has been more than a big sister to Jo. She has nurtured her younger sister with the love and tenderness of a mother figure. Their ten-year age gap took the elements of  jealousy and competition, so common amongst siblings, out of their relationship. Soph was secure with herself when Jo was born, and secure in her relationships with her parents and her brothers. Jo was a huge bonus to Soph—the sister she always wanted, her dream come true.

I watched how proud and happy Soph was when introducing her sister to all of her friends. “Oh my gosh, you guys look exactly alike,” her friends said, as they swooned over Jo. My girls both smiled.

After an entertaining dinner with Soph and some of her friends (of course I had to ask them to share “Sophie stories”), we headed back to her dorm. Talk of a sleepover began. As my girls tried to convince me to let Jo sleep with Soph in her dorm room, I have to admit, I felt a bit left out. But then it hit me. Soph chose not to head out with all her friends on the Friday night of St. Patty’s weekend, and was excited about sleeping next to her 9-year-old sister in her twin bed, in her cramped dorm room. (They declined my offer of spending the night with me in a nice, clean hotel room with two queen-sized beds).

As I walked out to my car to head to the hotel by myself, I was completely overwhelmed with gratitude for my daughters; for my relationship with each of them, the relationship that the three of us share, and  the relationship between the two of them. I felt comfort in knowing that Jo will have Soph as a strong and solid role model to help guide and support her throughout her life, and that they will have each other long after I am gone.

All of my concerns about whether or not my daughters would be able to have a close relationship because of their age difference melted away. It became clear that the strength of their sisterly bond is not measured by the years or the distance that divides them, but the strength of their love and their commitment to each other.

Reason, Season and Lifetime: Motherhood and Friendships

High School buddies Julia and Katy

I am so excited and honored to be a part of Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger’s upcoming book The Her Stories Project. The piece I contributed is about the relationship I share with my sister today and how we got here.

I am extremely excited not only to be a part of this book but to read this book. As I mother my four children and help guide them through the ups and downs of their friendships, I am continually reminded of how important and sometimes complicated friendships are, and how even at my age, some friendships can still be tricky to navigate.

“Reason. Season. Lifetime,” my friend simply stated when I began talking to him about friendship. “What do you mean by that,” I asked. He went on to explain that there are three different kinds of friends: Reason—these are friends you have for a reason—you work out with them, you attend a study group with them, you serve on a committee with them. They serve a purpose and a fulfill a current need for companionship in your life. Season—these are friends you have for a certain period of time, and these friendships often happen as a result of something that brings you together and keeps you together for, on average, five to seven years—your kids go to school together, you are in the same book club, you are neighbors or you work together. Oftentimes, these friendships are “seasonal” and come to an end when the season that brought you together ends—one of your kids switches schools, you change jobs or move. The third kind of friendship, which you are truly lucky if you have even one, is, of course, the lifetime friend. Your relationship has stood the test of time. She knew you when and she knows you now and she still loves you, and you feel the same way about her. These friendships are often the most sturdy and reliable friendships. (I truly don’t know where I would be without my lifetime friends.)

Women need all three of these types of friendships, and they are each meaningful and fulfilling in different ways. And certainly a “reason” friendship can evolve into a long-standing friendship. When I step back to look at women and friendships in general, I see that there are many subtleties in friendships. Many women shy away from talking about their friendships, especially those that are more challenging (which is why Jessica and Stephanie’s book is so important). Women often think their friendships should be easy and natural, but when they are not, many women feel a certain amount of shame and they just want to move on. Dr. Irene S. Levine takes a close look at women’s friendships in her 2010 article in the Huffington Post.

“Despite the romanticized myth of BFF, the hard truth is that most friendships don’t last forever. In fact, research suggests that when it comes to friendships, a phenomenon occurs that is somewhat akin to the seven-year itch: Half of our close friendships turn over every seven years. Women are reluctant to talk about their friendship problems which turn out to be quite common: losing friends, having unfulfilling friendships, or having no friends at all. Just like other life-affirming relationships that we treasure–relationships with lovers, husbands, siblings, children, and pets–our closest friendships tend to be imperfect. Friendships are fraught with disappointments and misunderstandings—resulting in some of the highest highs and the lowest lows of our emotional lives.”

For mothers, I feel that our friendships are extremely important. We are all exploring unknown, sometimes terrifying territory that involves raising kids and managing the relationship with our partner (whether you are married, separated or divorced). When we need to make sense of things, need support, guidance, love, trust, we often turn to our friends, sometimes even more than we turn to our partners. Our friends are there to help us get through the through the day to day challenges, share in our joys and sometimes give us the strength (or kick in the ass) we need to make dramatic changes in our lives.

An integral part of being a healthy woman and mother (which I cover in complete detail in my upcoming book…really, it’s almost done), is to be mindful and thoughtful about your friendships. It is important that women don’t take each other for granted, make assumptions, or treat each other unkindly. Raising children is hard, being married or in a relationship is hard, work is hard—our friendships need to be something we cherish and nurture so that we can count of them to help us feel good about who we are. Women need to feel accepted and loved, more than any of us would like to admit, and sometimes we need it more from the women in our lives than anyone else, including our partner.

I am not saying that it is always easy. For me, I know that I have been an amazing friend and I have been a shitty friend (not intentionally). I have SO been there for friends and I have SO missed things. I have hurt friends and have been hurt by friends. But from each friendship, I have learned and grown, and I hope my friends feel the same way. The older I get and the more I look at myself and my friendships, I realize how important it is for moms to feel connected to other women in a positive way. It doesn’t have to be the Cosmo drinking, lunching or hitting the town several nights a week, Carrie Bradshaw and her girl gang types of friendships. However, do not underestimate the power and importance of friendship.

So, try this: On a regular basis, make a point to reach out to a new friend or an old friend, or maybe even an estranged friend, and say or do something that could literally make her day. Really, try it! Sometimes it can be as simple as a phone call to say, “Hi, I am thinking about you.”

And let me know how it goes.

Her Stories: You and Me: A Story of Friendship and Love Between Sisters

This blog is featured in HerStories (a collection of stories about women’s friendships) and  is about the bond of friendship and love between my sister and me and how life-changing it has been. 
nat and me

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