Thursday, August 28, 2014

Girls and Friends

Every girl needs a best friend.

Recently another blogger explored the idea that as much as girls are raised to search for a man in their lives, you know, "the one", the antiquated Prince Charming, they are also supposed to have a true blue, soul sister, joined at the hip BFF.

Maybe you are taught that, in reality, you need a best friend, more than you need that romantic partner. You need your rock. You need your sister. You need that Cristina/Meredith relationship where if you murdered someone, they'd be the one you called to help you dispose of the body.

Not that I am advocating murder, or body disposal. But it's important to know that they'd do it if necessary.

When I was in middle school, a friend of mine asked some of us to make a list of all our friends. I really, to this day, do not know what her purpose was. I mean, on the surface, it was probably to make sure that she was on all our lists and that her list was the most populated, but what caused her to come up with the idea in the first place...who knows. Like middle school girls do, we complied. I remember agonizing over my list. What if I added someone who didn't add me? What counted as a friend? A girl I talked to in French class? The girls I was on the team with? Did you have to talk on the phone? Could I count my best friend from when I was in preschool and elementary school? She moved away and I didn't talk to her much! Could I count my pen pal, who I saw once a year? We shared stories and secrets - but only in letters. We didn't even talk on the phone since long distance was so expensive.

I remember that I came up with what I thought was a list of friends - real friends. I want to say I ended up with ten or twelve girls I would have easily said I was friends with and I knew they'd reciprocate. I don't remember my exact "number", but it was somewhere in that ballpark. When asked about the list making, I mentioned this to another girl who was also compiling her list and she was blown away. Apparently, she'd made a quick (and she did emphasize the word quick) list on the bus and had about seventy!

I was in a panic. Seventy? Was I on her list? And if I was, I was one of seventy? She'd made my top ten, someone I thought I was close to. But was I just one of the herd to her?

So if the point was a middle school mission to make girls feel inferior and question all their relationships? I'd have to say it was a rousing success.

Now I'm older, I have a husband that I love, and I still have that core group of great friends. I have friends who are on my speed dial, who I talk to often. I have friends who I mostly text with, but I'd still say I'm close to. I have friends who have moved more into social media. I have "mom friends" - women who are more friends in training. We know each other because we have kids the same age and we'll chat endlessly at the pool, or in a waiting room or at the playground.  Are they on my speed dial? Not yet. We don't have nights out. But they're there.

I'm watching Madison make friends now, and experiment with the label "best friend". With kids, it's usually whoever they wind up in activities with. Madison got very close to a little girl when she was in Gymboree, and although they were in separate preschools, they did dance class, and both took cooking class, and Madison still calls her a "best friend".

She also had a girl who was her best friend in preschool. As soon as I heard that, although they both had Belle as their favorite princess, Madison was willing to wear Aurora's dress when they played together I knew she must love this little girl. If you ask Madison about her friends, these two ladies are the first ones she'll mention.

But this year Madison doesn't have dance class with her best friend, and since her preschool closed, she won't have school with her other. The relationships won't be as easy to maintain.

She'll have the chance for playdates with these two girls, and naturally, she'll make friends in the activities she's in. But I have to wonder if my little girl will suffer her first loss of the "best friend" label. Will these two friends be the first she mentions after we settle back into the fall routine and she doesn't see them every day? Will Madison still hang onto the label, while these girls move on? Will it be the opposite? Will Madison be the one who moves on?

I read recently that moms of girls tend to stress more about their children's friendships, mostly because they relive all the choppy waters they themselves navigated through their daughters. Most - if not all women - remember a painful friendship moment and all they want is to spare their daughters this agony. The not wanting someone at your birthday party. The sides that girls take. The whispers and the rumors.

Now, Madison is four. I remember my best friend from when I was four, and although we definitely still talk, we certainly have moved on and grown from our early start. I wouldn't call her my best friend, but I also wouldn't say that with pain or regret. Making friends beyond preschool is inevitable, Madison is very social, and she'll be just fine, no matter how many transitions she goes through.

I know I'm worrying about nothing. Madison is a happy kid who manages the preschool social circuit without much strife. She talks about the girls in her new dance class with enthusiasm, she hopes she has her best friend with her in cooking class, and she's already trying to schedule a playdate with her preschool BFF (actually, the two of them seem to be trying to arrange it without the assistance of either mom, which is pretty darn cute).

But friendship break ups are real. I've had a chance to read some of the stories in the new book I'm part of, and if nothing else, it has clarified to me that losing a friend can be just as painful as losing the love of your life. Whether we are four, fourteen, forty, or beyond, when your relationship changes with someone you are deeply connected to, you feel it. You think about it. And you don't forget it. I'm deeply honored to be a part of this anthology, and it's reminded me to cherish those true blue friends as much as I treasure my family.

And I hope that lesson is one my daughters carry with them forever.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Little Pink Ball...and Me

From the first day we joined the golf club, the invitations started.

"So when are we going to get you out there?"

"We have a ladies' night next week! You should come!"

"Oh it doesn't matter if you're good. It's just for fun".

If you join a club that centers around golf, it's expected that, at some point, you will play golf.

Never mind that we joined so Adam could golf. Never mind that we actually didn't sign up as a "family golf" membership. Never mind that my stock answer "nah, not my game" rolled so easily off the tongue. Never mind that I had two small children and no time to play the game that I wanted to play. The invitations were persistent. There were so many chances to get someone like me playing.

Ladies' Nights (Nine and Wine) where the focus was more on the wine than the nine. A ladies' weekly clinic/league where the focus was on learning the game with no pressure. Friday night events where you were expected to play with your spouse. All of these events were open to anyone. Complete newbie to experienced, golf member to spouse, reluctant to enthusiastic. My excuses were beginning to fall on deaf ears.

Some people were politely persistent. Some people were a little more...naggy. No one was rude when I continued to defer - they just all seemed pretty confident that they'd get me eventually. When one of the women I am closest too finally started learning with her husband, I knew that my resolve was weakening. It was a matter of time before they got me too.

And they finally got me.

Adam and I were having dinner with the girls on the porch and were chatting with some friends of ours. A Friday night event was coming up - a nine hole scramble followed by a lobster dinner by the pool. The wife finally said, "Meredith, you can just ride in the cart, or you can throw the ball. But we're doing this together".

And just like that, I was signed up for my very first golf outing.

I immediately became concerned about how I was going to do this. I didn't have clubs. I didn't have shoes. Or balls, or a glove, or any actual knowledge. I fretted about getting the right look more than I'd like to admit. In the words of Rosetta, if I'm going to look bad, I'm not going to LOOK bad. You know what I mean?

(If you didn't understand that, you watch far less Tinkerbell in your house than we do in ours).

Adam pieced a bag together with my sister's clubs, my grandmother's clubs, his old clubs, and whatever else he thought I might be able to hit. We found some balls that he said might work for me (including a couple of pink ones that had somehow found their way into the house - probably in the pockets of the girls). I borrowed a glove from a woman who had a spare. The pro shop assured me that sneakers would be absolutely fine for my first time out. It seemed that everyone I encountered knew that I was building up. I got teased good naturedly, I got encouraged, I got assured that I'd be just fine.

As for the knowledge...well...

I thought I had myself covered. Adam and I had determined long ago that he is not the teacher for me, but the Wednesday before the event there was a ladies' night. I signed up to play with a friend of mine, figuring I'd get a little practice in - at least I'd learn how to swing.

And it thunderstormed.

So there I was, Friday afternoon, with a ragtag bag of clubs, the sneakers I wear to Zumba, and no club experience at all. When our sitter came (Adam had already played that afternoon and was meeting me there), I took myself for a pedicure (again, didn't want to look bad) before stopping at the driving range. Rather than giving myself fifteen or thirty minutes to get my act together, I zoomed into the parking lot with pretty toes only moments before the pre-round cocktail hour started.

It should be noted that Adam texted me while I was at the nail salon asking if I'd remembered my clubs. I indignantly texted back that I wasn't that clueless. Then I realized I'd forgotten most of the balls - with the exception of the pink ones.

I hit a total of ten shots before nervously making my way to the carts. No whiffs, lots of dribblers, all straight, three in the air. Not bad, but I wouldn't be lighting the world on fire. I literally stood there clueless with my bag until the pro's daughter took pity on me and showed me where our cart was. Adam took me over to the putting green and was pleasantly surprised that my mini golf experience hadn't been totally worthless.

And thank goodness for nice people and pre-round cocktails. By the time we climbed into the cart I was ready to have a good time, no matter what happened.

Ready for the shocker?

I didn't hate it. It wasn't a drag and the two hours actually flew by. I'd never actually seen a full course before. It was beautiful. Although I was by no means the hero of our foursome, I did contribute and it was a team effort. I didn't resort to the throwing the ball once, and we even used one of my drives and several of my putts. When you are with a group that enjoys each other's company (and no one is taking themselves too seriously), it can be downright pleasant. I played with my lucky pink ball for every hole except one where it seemed I was destined to put it directly in the water (I did, and was glad I'd played an old one of Adam's) and we started referring to pinky as my "beginner's luck charm". We drove in as the sun was going down, happy and ready for lobster.

And only one person chose to say "told you so".

Will I be out there every weekend? No. Am I planning on wasting gift opportunities asking for golf clubs? No. Do I plan on taking lessons, focusing on "improving my game", extending our membership so I get all the golf benefits? No. But will I play again in these events?

I sure will. My little pink ball and me.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Getting it Together

We've had a free and enjoyable summer. We were at the pool as much as possible. We played outside. We didn't stress about dinnertime, about getting to bed exactly on time.

And it shows.

My wall calendar is two months behind.

My planner is a mess.

I have piles of paperwork all over the bedroom.

I have piles of clutter everywhere.

What happens when a Type A organizational neat freak ends up living in mass chaos?

She shuts down.

That doesn't make sense, right? If I like things neat, and planned, and organized, why don't I go on a blitz and get everything back together?

Why am I so unable to catch up? Why am I forcing myself to pile everything onto my bed, just so I'm forced to clean it off so I can sleep? Why am I frantically cleaning up moments before the plumber or the babysitter appear on my doorstep, because I'm terrified they'll judge me? Why is everything in such a state of chaos?

Why can't I get it together?

Last summer, I had a good handle on things. I had my babysitter once or twice a week - every week. One day I'd go out and run errands and work on writing, and the other day I'd send her downstairs or outside with the girls while I cleaned their rooms, organized closets, prepped meals and got myself together. I still had a solid naptime block where I knew I could get at least an hour or two of work done - with time left over for eating my lunch, reading a magazine, catching my breath.

This year, I didn't have that reliable time. And although I had a babysitter every Tuesday morning, I wasn't organizing or writing, I was playing tennis. Nap time is gone - although I can typically convince Madison to rest in her room for an hour, that time flies by as I do the very basic catch up that keeps us from living in squalor.

I've neglected most of my writing. I have topics - plenty of them - but I keep telling myself I need a solid block of time to sit and write. If I can't get that block, I figure I'd better not even start.

I think that is the main issue. If I don't think I can finish, I don't start. And when I do finish cleaning something the girls will have it back to chaos within twenty minutes, which frustrates me to my core. So I'm not starting. And not starting. And not starting. And by my current calculations, at this point I need about a twenty four hour block with no kids, no sleep, and no interruptions.

Uh oh.

Now I'm not making excuses. I've had some opportunities where I could have caught up, and I've wasted the majority of that time.

I'm not looking for sympathy. I was very aware that letting little things slide can turn into a mess.

I'm not even looking for help. I certainly know what needs to be done, how to best organize myself to do it, how to break down the big jobs into small ones, how to get things set, and if you offered to come over and help, I'd probably turn you down, because it needs to be done my way. 

With the fall activities starting, I'm getting a real wake up call. I have to get it together. Madison's activities alone have the capacity to push our current tenuous state over the edge, and Reagan has a few things on deck for the fall as well.

I've let meal planning slide all summer - I can't do that now. We have three evenings where Madison's activity is finishing up at 6:00. If I want us to eat before 8:00, I need to have that meal planned and prepped before we leave the house.

I have more activities that I need to plan for each day. We're doing preschool at home, which means that I have to get those activities organized and plan time for them. I need to know when I can have some time alone with Madison.

So I'm taking this next week to get it together. This week is the calm before the storm - the low key week before all our fall madness starts.

Thank GOD I've got a good planner. Up until June (when I apparently took the summer off from any and all organization) I swore by my Erin Condren life planner. My parents gave it to me for my birthday, and I loved it so much I already ordered one for next year. That splurge is my motivation to get myself back on track.

That, and the spa day Adam got me for our anniversary. When the chaos at home is gone, I can indulge in some pampering. With that hanging over my head, I'm bound to get it together.

That, or I'll start a bonfire. Because that works too!

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