Thursday, September 29, 2011

Your first time AKA Traveling with friends for the first time

Enough of my bitching and moaning about not seeing my friends –I did something about it.  This last weekend, K and I hit the road for a long beach weekend with our girls.  It can always be a bit awkward to travel with someone for the first time (though my Big Susan T and I cemented our friendship on a fateful ride to Richmond, VA almost 20 years ago) – so many unknowns.  Sing along or not?  Lots of pit stops or the ability to hold it for hours? Scream at the kids or talking quietly and positively like the parenting books recommend?  No singing (uh, too busy talking), hold it and yell. Turns out, we travel well.

An early start in a car full of two 7-year olds, two moms, one dog, two giant bags of snacks, a cooler and the two screen DVD player.  Six hours, Soul Surfer, Alvin and the Chipmunks (OMG….what was I thinking to bring that along????) and one pit stop later (admit it – one bathroom break is pretty damn impressive) and we were at the beach. 

In the course of the weekend, we relaxed. A lot. We got weird ass sunburns because we sat our asses in chairs near the water and for the most part – did not move for close to five hours. Well, except for the brief break K took to put more money in someone else’s parking meter (because well, all black SUVs with booster seats look the same.) I did have a Tippi Hendron moment when an extra from The Birds grabbed a cheese stick right out of my hand (its claws touched my hair and I threw up in my mouth a little.)   That did not deter us. A nearly perfect beach day ended at the pier where we discovered a fabulous new drink and copped a great mom buzz.

I rarely venture far from the beach when I’m in SoCal but K had never been to Beverly Hills so we loaded up and hit Rodeo Drive. Really – you haven’t lived until you watch the sales guy in Judith Leiber (the fancy schmancy purse place) show two little girls the every animal purse in the store (clearly, it was a slow day.)  And, yes, we threatened them within an inch of their lives if they were less than gentle. A great day of wandering, shopping, eating and more talking.

K and I parent in similar ways and I’ve really come to believe, this makes us better friends because we’re annoyed by the same things in other people – including our children.  Now, a word about our girls. They are very good friends. They are very similar and spend enough time together that they fight like sisters.  They will happily wear the others underpants if they can’t find their own.  They are close.  There were more than a few occasions during the weekend when either K or I would sigh with “Girls, please stop…insert whatever annoys you.”  Now K is from Texas. You see her and you think she’s a demure southern woman.  So, after listening to the girls whine and moan about something for the bazillionith time, I was somewhat stunned to hear her say, “Well, tough titty said the kitty.”  I nearly peed my pants. And no longer apologized for my potty mouth.

We both agreed it was a great weekend.  We talk about doing it again – and even letting her husband come along.  I don’t think Kelly and I stopped talking the entire weekend.  This was probably the first time we were ever able to fully finish a conversation.  What’s funnier is that I could say the same about our girls.  I think they are Big Susans in the making.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

To my Big Susan, T......

Today, my Big Susan T is in the news.  In fact, she is the news.  After years of shining bright in a very public position – she’s moving to an even brighter light and taking on a new gig.  I just read the press release* and was surprised by the tears in my eyes.  I am so wildly proud of T that I want to run around my office showing everyone the news, I want to shout “I know her,” – I want everyone to know how fantastic she is.

I immediately blinked back the tears and wondered if this amazing woman they were describing was the same one that once wore shorts held together by a safety pin and a bra necklace (thankfully, not both at once), the latter being just what you imagine only it wasn’t really intentional.  Or pretty.  She has assured me she is one and the same.

I am thrilled that T will be in town in 16 days (but who’s counting) – a visit already scheduled now has cause for celebration.  I’m so grateful for this visit because I know this new gig will keep her busy busy busy. So, for a little more than three days – we will just be us.  We will talk, shop, drink, gossip, laugh and maybe even cry.  We will catch up and listen.  Then we’ll eat, talk, shop, laugh and drink some more.  I will then put her back on a plane to head back to a brand new start. 

You know, there is truly nothing that can make you feel quite as stupid as starting a new job (except having a child – which can make you feel like an utter moron.)  I know T will be nervous and as excited as she is – change is hard.  So this is my message to T:

You are amazing.  You are my professional hero (and you know that I used to look up to CJ Craig on The West Wing but figured a role model should not be a fictional character.)  Your missteps have been few and your victories great.  You’ve always seen the big picture and worked hard to not get caught up in the little crap. You’ve played with the big boys and won more often than lost.  You are a force to be reckoned with.

So, on your first day, when you walk into your new office and everything is shiny and new and you don’t know where the bathroom is or how to work the phone system - remember how smart you are, how capable and how determined.  There may be lots to learn and the to-do list is long – but you should enjoy the view from the big office.  You have earned it.

Remember you are awesome and you can do whatever you set your mind to do.  After all, you rocked a bra necklace.

I am so proud of you. And so lucky we are friends.  Love you.

*Best line of the press release?  “Headshot available upon request.”  Oh, I got a picture they can have.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I know we'd be BFFs if only.....

Admit it – we all envision being friends with someone famous who, based on what we’ve seen, read or heard – is just like you. Or, it may even be someone in your office, a random friend of friend you often hear about and sometimes see, or an acquaintance with whom you’re friendly You just know you two would be immediate BFF’s if only…….

I definitely have a few on my list:

Jen Lancaster – author and blogger who truly has the gift of snark.  Snark is most appreciated and effective when one has the chutzpah to use it when looking in the mirror as well as looking at others.  If you haven’t read her books and enjoy a good snark – pick one up. You will laugh long and loud.  We would have the most fantastic time making fun of people and I’m sure she’d give me the courage to embrace my inner preppy.  Besides, we both love a good cardigan.

Tina Fey – really, c’mon, who wouldn’t want to be friends with her? We would bond over our darling little girls who are so bossy they could easily take command of the troops.

Tim Gunn – any man who can use the phrase “pubic patch” and admits having no experience with breasts - all with a straight face should really be my friend.  Besides, would it not be fantastic to get drunk with him?  I think he secretly has a potty mouth that is as offensive as mine can be.

James Carville & Mary Matalin – any couple who sit who such opposite sides of the political fence while happily married (yes, to each other) and raising a family – I want to hang with them.  His intellect is intoxicating (yes, I’ve a bit of a secret crush) and her sense of humor and ability to put him in his place cannot be topped.  I’ve actually heard them speak in person.  Not only is there much to learn but Oh.My.God – can you imagine the conversation over dinner?

The uber-cool LW, who is really good friends with R&V and while I almost always see her when I visit, I would never assume she’s my friend. But, man – this woman is hilarious, kind, a great cook and makes wicked pink death. She may only be nice to me because I’m related to her good friends but I revel in the connection. 

MO, a big cheese at my daughter’s school – the coolest school administrator I’ve met. She kept me from going bat-shit crazy last year when my daughter had the worst teacher ever (who I drove to retirement – yeah, me!)  She is funny, honest and I just have a sense that we would have a great time if we could kick back as friends.  I know it’s not possible – protocol and all – but she overheard me mention tequila one day and commented that it sounded great. My kind of would-be friend.

K is a mom that I know. We’re acquaintances but not really friends.  I really admire her pull-yourself-up-by-the bootstraps kind of approach to things. She always seems unbelievably happy and it appears to be a natural state. I imagine being friends with her is crazy fun and nonstop busy-ness.  She loves to toss back a drink and I don’t think she’s ever missed a good time.  I’d worry I couldn’t keep up with her but not too much – she appears to have a ton of equally pretty, super fit, stylish hipster friends to pay me much mind. But I sure would like to have a big dose of her outlook and energy.

I know I will never be friends with those famous folks and I suppose it’s their ability to connect with the every person that makes them, well, so successful and famous.  And, while I may never really be friends with the mere mortals on my list – I count myself lucky that I move in a circle in which I have some level of interaction.

But really, I wish Jen, Tina, Tim, Mary or Jim (I think I can call him that, don’t you?) would call.  If only…….

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The green-eyed monster AKA Jealousy is a bitch

I’m envious of many people.  Incredible business success (that comes from massive amounts of hard work and many air miles logged) has afforded my brother and sis-in-law a life I only dream about (and one I happily take advantage of whenever I visit.)  But, I’m so wildly proud of my brother and what he has achieved that that overshadows any feelings of animosity. My sister-in-law has had the luxury of not working outside the home (note V that I did not say “stay at home”) and has truly been able to fully volunteer in her son’s school and in the community, learn new things of her choosing, and manage (very well) a home that is rarely still  or empty.  I have friends who travel extensively, shop exclusively and/or have access to luxuries that make me squeal like a 9-year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.  I may envy some of these things but know it is simply not my life and most of the time I accept that graciously and live vicariously through them.  Jealously just doesn’t enter into these relationships.

But…..there are times when that green-eyed monster does rear its ugly head.  I’m not talking about being jealous of the awesome tickets a friend scored to a concert or because they went on a fabulous trip.  I’m talking about being jealous of them in a way that makes you (or me) behave badly.  It’s not often and generally not directed at any one person overall. More often than not, it’s situational – isolated to once incident or one topic 

I know I’ve been quick to point out flaws or the possible downside (no matter how remote that possibility may be) to good news or a spectacular achievement.  I try and catch myself but sometimes the jealous edge slips in and I hear that my words of congratulations were curt and less than genuine.  I don’t always understand why someone would do “that” when another option (likely more in line with something I also could achieve) is out there.  I may respond with “That’s great but…..”  I’m not proud of these moments but I can’t criticize someone else doing it if I’m not willing to own up to my own inner jealous bitch.

I’ve been on the receiving end of this, too.  There was one instance where someone blew a gasket – I mean really yelling at me about something I was doing (that had nothing to do with them and had no affect on them whatsoever).  This person was clearly projecting crap they were experiencing but when I tried to remove myself from the conversation, I was told that I can’t just run away from my problems. WTF?  I have had to pull back (or stop altogether) communicating with some friends because their reaction to something I chose to do was so angry and resentful (and unrelenting) that it actually made me question my decision. Was I doing the right thing? Was I making the right decision?  I don’t know who I was angrier with – them for projecting that onto me or at myself for allowing them to make me question myself.  Note: to my friends that talked me down from that ledge – you rock!

Being on the receiving end of someone else’s jealousy pretty much sucks. Some relationships have survived and some are forever changed. I’ve been told more than once that it’s not me – it’s the other person’s issue and as right as that may be – it still sucks.  I’ve certainly tried to learn from it. I’m so much more conscious of how I react and push whatever jealous feeling I may have to the back, be happy and wish my friend the very best. Because I really do want that for them.

There is much to envy about my friends.  In some cases, they are what I aspire to be when I grow up. In other cases, they are doing or have done things I only dream about.  And really, their generosity is overwhelming.  But jealous of them?  No.  Jealousy is a bitch and I just don’t want her around.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What happens in NYC stays in NYC aka JackAssery with Family & Friends

I’ve been itching for a girl’s night out. You know – get together with some friends, have a few drinks, maybe have dinner or go to a movie. Just a fun night out.  Times sure have changed.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that a girls night – or weekend – out involved travel, custom made cassette tapes, many, many drinks and perhaps some lost clothing.

Welcome to JackAssery with Friends and Family – Vol. 2 –The NYC Edition

Trip 1: I had a job interview in NYC and dragged T along.  T is not one to miss a good time and having heard way too much about my brother and sister-in-law, it seemed a good opportunity to combine the two.  We were northbound out of Union Station with no fanfare. Given the rest of the weekend, this was good.

T and my brother must have bonded well while I interviewed because the three of us immediately headed to Grand Central Oyster Bar where we proceeded to drink until we were stupid while waiting for my sister-in-law to meet us. No worries about a reprimand from her – she was more peeved we were so far ahead of her.

I have to say, a train is not a bad way to commute – especially if one can sit in the bar car. There was lots of laughter until T decided some man bore a striking resemblance to a certain former senator from MS.  She felt compelled to point this out him and share her feelings on how he (the elected official, not the random man) was the anti-Christ.  We were the only ones who thought this was hilarious.
After a night in the ‘burbs, T and I headed back into the City.  I’d like to tell you where we went but I can’t remember (a combo of age and well….).  I can tell you that good manners prevailed and we graciously accepted any drink that was offered. Our mothers would have been proud. Sort of.

I don’t know what time we got back to the hotel. I do know we rallied the next morning. After a call to my brother to assure him we were alive, we wandered around, had lemon Italian ice on the steps of St. Pat’s, we rested.  We were less than steady on our feet – must have been something we ate from the night before.

We boarded the train to head home (our luggage lighter because we, uh, each came home with one less article of clothing) - we were at least walking upright and somewhat straight. We collapsed into our seats, feet up on the seats opposite us and promptly passed out. For four hours. Thank God, we woke up right before our stop but I shudder to think what we looked like.

Trip 2:  T and I drove from WDC to CT to visit my brother and sister-in-law.  T and I had custom made tapes and massive water bottles for the ride – because, it’s healthy to drink a lot of water, right? As if that could balance out the sheer amount of alcohol we were about to consume.

R & V thought it would be fun to have lobsters for dinner.  We bought the biggest ones they had, made a big pitcher of Sangria and sat outside.  No lobster crackers? No problem. A hammer and chisel did the trick (and it was way harder than you think.) I don’t think the patio was ever the same.

City-bound the next night with R&V for dinner.  R says he just knew we were looking for trouble – he could see it in our eyes. More likely, he could smell it on our breath as we were many martinis in by the time dinner arrived.  After dinner, off we went.  We met up with a friend T made on our last trip (she’s a friendly girl; I attract psychos.)  He took us around town, on the subway, and into a really cool bar that had no name or sign and that we danced. A lot. 

But, really – it’s the ride home that gets good.  You see, we had to take the train back to the ‘burbs.  I will gladly share that T can get a wee bit belligerent when she’s had a few and insisted on a big piece of cake (which was really a pre-made tuna sandwich – ewwwww) from the gross kiosk in Grand Central.  I more shamefully share that I know why the last train out of the City is called the “vomit comet.”

We were easy targets for R & V the next morning.  T could not lie on her back because the ceiling fan made her a tad queasy.  She was only mildly mocked while I was brutally abused by my then toddling nephew.  Sent to check on me and see if I was okay lying on the bathroom floor, he stood in the doorway and said, “Aunt Wandi, what’s wong?” (yep, the letter “r” was a real challenge for him) while R & V shrieked with laughter in the background. Bastards.

The scary part was T & I had to pull ourselves together and drive back to WDC.  We loaded up my car and we got in. Clutching plastic bags – well, just in case.  Off we went to sound of laughter coming from the driveway and my sweet little nephew Ty asking T, “Will you be my best fwiend?”

Too bad Ty, she already has one. And we made jackasses out of ourselves.

Jackasses Pending

I just wrote a great post. But, it involves T, drinks and youthful indiscretions so I thought I would let her "approve" it. 

I'm waiting for her to give me the go-ahead and/or at least confirm that my memory isn't totally shot. I mean, we were jackasses back then but I'd hate to be one now and post without her knowing.

So, jackasses pending.  Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's that most wonderful time of the year

I would love to have some witty repartee to share today about my friends.  Sure, I could dig up something about their fabulousness or some random jackassery with friends (long overdue, I know) but to be honest – I haven’t seen my friends.

These last few weeks have been crazy busy – school started, Sunday school is about to start, back-to-school nights, Brownies, the never-ending shopping for school supplies and the school year activities are underway. Throw in some out of town guests, travel and house projects and you come up with a rather hermit-like situation – except way busier. And louder. This results in near-meltdowns and whining (from me, not my almost 7-year old) and crankiness with a side of sugar high (from my almost 7-year old.)

J and I met for what we hoped would be a relaxing lunch.  Bad sense of direction and an unexpected conference call cut that short but at least I now remember what she looks like.  I had hoped to at least see my friend T at the Sunday school parent orientation last week but she couldn’t make it (don’t think I didn’t call her to tell her she sucks.)  There I was at a virtual snark buffet and no one with whom I could partake.

A last minute call on Saturday resulted in an unexpected get-together with a friend who was in town for one afternoon.  It was great to see her and visit, while we simultaneously dealt with a gaggle of tired elementary school aged girls in a swimming pool. At a hotel.  Thank God the bar was giving out free shotsuh samples – of their new cocktails (happy to see the first, by the time the third was being passed, we were ready to flag her down.)

Tried some last minute get togethers – half-hearted on my end was met with exhaustion on the other.  I don’t know if I was disappointed or relieved.

I was able to catch up with my Big Susan L, who is wildly grateful that her power is back on and that school started. (The latter likely bringing more joy.)  Had a good chat with my sister-in-law S. She, too, is doing the back to school jig.  My Big Susan T had a house full of wee ones this weekend and was surely doing the naked dance of glee through a house that is once again quiet and empty.  My other Big Susan, M is just relieved to be on this side of recovery and that things are getting back to usual. Yep, this involved back to school, too.

I’m sensing a theme.

It’s a crazy time of year and the next few weeks will continue to be that way. I’m hoping to not only RSVP but actually show up to a mommy night out with E and a few others.  K and I are hitting the road in a few weeks for an end of season beach trip.  S and I are hoping to celebrate Rosh Hashanah together.  T is coming to visit (that closet cleaning did the trick.) E has talked me into at least considering a camping trip in the Spring (okay, just the thought scares me and makes me laugh.) Talked to the person I’ve know the longest who told me she would attend our 30th reunion if I would.   

So, it’s life on the run right now – and we’re all heading in different directions. I like knowing that there are certainly things to look forward to - good friends and good times. Surely, there will be good stories to share.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Friends, loss and grief aka Being there

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” ~Oprah Winfrey
Today I called an old friend. We didn’t connect but I left her a voice mail. I’ve put off calling to catch up and see how she’s doing. I’ve put off calling to tell her that her grandson is so damn cute.  I put off calling her when I saw something that would have made her laugh.  Today, I couldn’t put it off.  I called in sympathy because her husband died.

As someone who is rarely, if ever, at a loss for words, I am speechless. Sadly, I am too familiar with grief but I truly don’t know what to say. How do you comfort a friend who has lost their spouse and partner?  What message can you send the children and grandchildren? What words can say that even remotely convey how you feel? “I’m sorry” doesn’t seem sufficient but is often all that I utter.

I have watched friends bury their parents, their children, and grandparents.  I’ve seen them mourn for their pets, their friends, aunts, uncles and cousins.  I’ve seen the loss in their eyes and in the way they hold their head.  I’ve sent notes, fruit baskets, flowers, plants and made donations. I’ve made dinners, cleaned house, made calls and done the dishes.  It never seems like the right thing or enough.

Grief is an odd thing. It brings out the best and the worst in people.  It may be full of ritual and tradition but there are no rights or wrongs for those that are grieving. Who are we to say what they should or shouldn’t do – or how they should feel.  For me, it makes me remember why we’re friends and that being there – just being there – is what friends do.

It’s so easy to be friends when things are good. When things are flush and fun – when it’s all about dinner, a movie or a good time.  It’s when things get rough that I believe friendships strengthen or begin to waver.  I’d like to think I’m the Labrador of friends – loyal through thick and thin - offering a shoulder or a wet nose just when it’s needed.  I don’t do that out of any sense of martyrdom but because I want to be the kind of friend I would want in return.

This is not my first friend to lose a spouse. My old friend, C, lost her husband a few years ago. We had long since lost touch when I found this out. I was so surprised at myself when I cried. Not because I knew him and felt his absence but because this was a friend that I really cared about. This was a friend I had embarrassingly lost touch with. This was a friend who was hurting – and still hurts.  And, I am ashamed to admit that I did nothing. There has so many years of silence it seemed awkward to say something at such a vulnerable time.

Today, my heart aches for my friend. She is far away and I cannot help her in any conventional way that I know. I do know that I will keep calling and writing. I do know that when the chaos of what she is facing today is settling into a new normal, I will still call.  We may not be able to meet for coffee, but perhaps the miles will seem less if we each have a drink and a good connection.  And, then, I’ll call again.