The Value of Friends

It’s been at least 2 1/2 decades since I met Denise.  I can’t tell you exactly how or why we became friends.  I was already married and living in a campus apartment when Denise moved into the dorms for her freshman year of college.  But our paths kept crossing and somewhere in all of the intersecting, a beautiful, valued friendship grew.

She was in my home two weeks after my oldest was born, leaning on her crib and saying, “You need to wake up, baby.  Aunt Neesy wants to play with you.”  I had to remind her that a two week old doesn’t play much and I might have threatened to harm her if she woke up my sleeping infant!  She babysat as often as her schedule allowed and my kiddos loved to see her coming!

My kids have always called her Aunt Neesy.  My youngest daughter actually cried the day she found out that Denise wasn’t really a blood relative.  My sisters both adopted her as an honorary sister.  She helped out at one of their weddings and did the cake for the other.  When she got married, she stated that the wedding party was going to be all family so I was blown away when she asked me to be a bridesmaid.  My youngest daughter was the flower girl and my hubby was an usher.  When people who knew her “family only” policy asked, her answer was simple – “Like I said.  The bridal party is all family.”

She grew up in Iowa – Cedar Falls, to be exact, where the University of Northern Iowa is located.  3 of my kiddos have earned or will earn their Bachelor’s degrees from that University and two currently live in that city.  She now lives in Michigan with her wonderful hubby and her two lovable kids.  I grew up in Michigan and now make my home – an empty nest! – in a city just an hour and a half from her hometown.  We haven’t lived in the same state for more than a decade so I’m deeply grateful for social media allowing us to keep track of what’s going on with one another!

This past Sunday, Denise and her daughter, Emma, were in Cedar Falls for a graduation party with all of their family that still lives in the area.  (I’m still in denial that all of our kiddos have graduated from high school but that’s another issue!)  The schedules worked out so that hubby and I were able to go.  My oldest and her beautiful 7 week old daughter, Henry, were able to ride over with us as well.  Esther was only 2 weeks old when Denise held her for the first time – she has literally watched my daughter grow up! – so it seemed fitting that she should meet the newest member of the family as soon as possible!  My two kiddos who live in Cedar Falls – and their significant others – were able to stop in for a bit as well.

When I walked into the house and hugged “Neeser”, it was like coming home.  We told stories about one another to our kids and simply enjoyed being together again.  Her daughter Emma loves babies so she spent quite a bit of time holding Henry, even offering to handle bottle duty!  Time and distance hadn’t affected a single thing.  We simply caught up on extended family happenings and talked about work and kids.

I value every single one of my friends.  The reasons why are as varied as they are.  But there is something abundantly precious about those friends that you learned how to “adult” with; those friends that have known and loved your kids pretty much as long as you have.  They are a treasure, rare and priceless.

It Takes Effort

Nothing terribly profound in what I’m about to say.  It’s just something I’ve been reminded of lately.  Here it is – all relationships take effort.  I’m not just talking about marriage although that is probably the most popular focus of such a statement.  It’s also true of all the other relationships in our lives.

Want to stay close to your parents or siblings after you grow up and move on with your life?  Put in the work to stay in touch.  Want to build stronger, closer bonds with your friends? Take the initiative, plan a get-together and work on those bonds.  Think that you and a new co-worker could be really good friends?  Don’t sit around waiting for it to happen.  Invite them to lunch or out for drinks. Do something!

That work may take the form of making plans.  If you are anything like me, you have let fear keep you from taking chances and putting in the work to make relationships last.  Fear of rejection, fear of not knowing what to say, fear of looking stupid . . . you get the idea.  But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a tiny bit braver.  Especially since moving to Iowa.  I could choose to sit around and wait for my friends to contact me and make plans to get together.  Or I can send out a Facebook message or a text to a group of friends and set up the event myself.  And guess what – I usually get at least a couple of people to say yes.  Some of those get togethers last for hours and some are shorter.  Some are filled with lots of laughter and noise and others are calmer experiences.

That work may also take a tougher form – that of mending hurt feelings.  Be willing to apologize.  More importantly, be willing to forgive.  Yes, there will be those who will consistently fail you and you may need to set very clear boundaries with them to keep the relationship healthy. But even the best friend may say something hurtful or do something thoughtless. That includes you and me.  Forgive quickly and apologize even faster.  That’s the tough part of working on relationships but if you can weather the storms, you’ll come out stronger on the other side.

Most of all, let your friends know they matter.  A quick note through the mail, a text message, a quick message via social networking . . . any of these can do wonders for building up your friend, letting them know you are thinking of them and strengthening the relationship.


I feel like I should apologize for another post that is not very profound but the title of this blog is, after all, SIMPLE musings so I’m covered!

I’ve been struck today by the blessings in my life.

I have kids that make me laugh and keep me feeling young.  And they flatter their mother by occasionally seeking advice, venting and confiding, or simply giving me a blow by blow run-down of their day.  As if that wasn’t enough, I have several “honorary” kids who simply add to the fun!

I get to work with people I not only consider colleagues, but also friends.  Do you know how much easier it is for this night owl to get up at 6 a.m. when I know I’m going to see friends at work?!

Of the three part-time jobs I have, two of them are directly related to the performing arts.  One of those part-time jobs is with a musical theater production and I’ve donated a significant number of hours to the theater world so getting PAID to work with a show is a serious bonus!  As if that one show wasn’t enough of a blessing, I will have TWO MORE paid theater gigs before the end of the school year!

I could EASILY find things to complain about, believe me.  But I’m too aware of all the good in my life to feel anything but blessed!