How to Stay Friends for 30 Years

This wonderful post was written by Amy Byrnes (who I believe is a kindred spirit due to her past love of Forenza sweaters and Busch light). She has a wonderful blog in which she details her life as a  “Mom. Sandwich maker. Counter wiper. Dream killer. Blogger,” in  ‘A’ My Name is Amy. Her stories will make you laugh, cry and yearn for the days when life’s biggest decision was what you were going to wear out that night. Because, let’s face it, life is hard and messy and, as the years go by, gets harder.

How to Stay Friends for 30 Years will take you back to when you met your best girl friends and the roads that you traveled together (and separately). And makes your re-realize what you already know…that you couldn’t live without them.

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.

Amy’s Girls

Go take a look at what else Amy has to say… A my name is Amy

Look Up

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You can tell that summer is coming to a close. The evenings are now filled with a golden autumn light that encourages all to take advantage of these last, carefree moments. Leaves have begun to drift down, carried to yards of green on soft winds. Parents are smiling a bit brighter, ready for a reprieve from the mayhem of three months of “togetherness” that is beginning to take its toll.

Yes, summer is waving goodbye and I must say this year I’m not as excited as I usually am. There were some things that wanted to do over those lazy, hazy days that I never got around to. Some trips I wish we’d taken but I think that happens every year, you get so busy and pre-occupied with what has to be done that you forget what you wanted to do.

A good friend reminded me of that the other day. She had dropped her children off for their first day of school and decided to take a walk instead of head right into the office. It was something that she had wanted to do for a while, just take a moment and breathe. Many times, she recalled, her walks were focused, determined to complete them in record time in order to get to the “to do” list that waited anxiously. But today, instead of barreling down the road, eyes down, mind filled with pressing thoughts, she looked up.

The sky was a beautiful Carolina blue and the sun shared its golden rays, warming her face and touching her soul. It was the first time that she had allowed herself to walk this way, to take in what was there in that moment. Peace.

In that moment she knew that God was speaking to her in His soft subtle way, telling her to look to Him for all things. To lay her fears and burdens and anxieties and worries at His feet.

No burdens to carry, no worries to ponder what would she do without those things? What do we do without them?

Revel in the majesty of a sunset and let our children’s laughter fill our ears and delight our hearts. Call an old friend and laugh about the past. Realize that all we can do is live in the present, relish each moment we are given and release our future to Him. The One who knows all. The One who creates beautiful golden sunsets, brilliant blue skies and vibrant rainbows to remind us of His love for us.

Look up from your cell phone and your computer and your iPad. Put the pressing list of projects to the side for just a moment and look, really look at the sky and the trees and feel the breeze on your face.

Look at what is real and true.

It only takes a moment.

Look up.

 

You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’

Maya Angelou

 God Bless you Maya Angelou. Thank you for making us laugh and cry and think…and for teaching us that we really are all in this together.

XOXO,

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Not Broken Just Bent-My Messy Beautiful

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This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

 

I sometimes imagine myself on a panel, you know, on a stage where they line up tall chairs for the speakers to awkwardly climb into and talk and be questioned about things or subjects they are experts on. But this panel is different, it is compromised of women, most who have been to hell and back, and they are telling their story of pain and loss and grief. How they survived and overcame and are dealing with breast cancer, infidelity, domestic violence or (unimaginably) the loss of a child. They are there, telling their story, sharing their hell. And then its my turn, my throat is dry and my heart is pounding, I know that my voice will crack or shake or do both if I attempt to speak. I wring my hands to stop them from shaking and I close my eyes and then open them and look down at the line of brave warriors that had gone before me and quietly say ” I got nothing.” Continue reading

In Search of Numen Lumen – In Celebration of Elon University’s 125th Birthday

Elon University

 

 

 

 

 

 

At forty I still feel young, especially when I’m with my college girlfriends. Age and time seem to fade and it’s just like when we were back under the oaks, listening to the Indigo Girls and drinking cold beer under a Carolina blue sky. I long for those days again, when life was simple and major decisions had nothing to do with houses and children and 401K’s. When the biggest crisis was who you were asking to the grab-a-date or finding where you left your bike the night before. It was a time when it was ok and almost expected to be a bit foggy at 11am and when everyone who depended on you was always a bit foggy too.

But time passes and life throws curves and rocks at you, you fall in and out of love and you find what matters most, all while amassing an adult life that you thought that you were supposed to have and aren’t sure that you really want. And with that brings problems and crisis and you find that your family and friends are real people with real problems, not the fairytale figures you created them to be in your youth.

People disappoint you and surprise you and horrify you and you realize that you are grown up and have to be strong because being weak is not an option. Yes, you may have moments of weakness but they can’t last because you have others who depend on your strength so that they may live their own lives and figure out this cycle for themselves. You see people who cannot be strong so you try to give them your strength to get them through and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Continue reading

As Tall As Jesus

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I was in my late twenties, sitting in a church pew, clutching my (then) new husband’s hand, tears streaming down my face, I listened to my Mother and Uncles eulogize my Grandfather.

A story was told of a time when they had asked my Grandfather if he wished he was taller. This was a question that caught me off guard as I never thought of my Grandfather as short; he always seemed larger than life to me. When they asked him how tall he wished he was, his response, “As tall as Jesus.”

Gasps were audible throughout the church. The magnitude of the statement just uttered caused spontaneous inhalations of incensed church air. We Catholic’s are good at acting astonished.

My uncles, being the inquisitive bunch that they were (and still are), tried to determine the true height of Jesus through research and general “asking around” but never found a definitive answer. Finally, they went back, feeling discouraged and explained that they weren’t able to figure it out and looked to my Grandfather to solve the puzzle. He laughed a little and said that he didn’t know either but that was the point. Jesus was as tall as he needed to be. Continue reading

What if Moms Took Over Congress?

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Let’s face it, Mom’s just know how to get things done. It’s because they have to, they have no choice. In many cases they are the ones making the lunches, waking the children, getting them breakfast, playing referee between those same children who are eating breakfast, making sure they put on some sort of clean clothing, tie their shoes, get their teeth brushed (on a good day) and scooting them out the door all within a forty minute time frame. Continue reading

C is for Courage

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Reality knocked on my door in a big way this summer when I got a call about a friend from college. We lived on the same hall freshman year, pledged together, gained the “freshman fifteen” together and, though our lives took us in different directions, we always were connected. She had just received the news that she been diagnosed with breast cancer and had made the brave decision to have a double mastectomy. Shock, fear, heartbreak, tears all came at once. She, on the other hand was composed and strong stating that she would be fine, that they had found it early and the prognosis was good. Most importantly, she let me know that it would not define her. She was consoling me, telling me that she would be fine. Right then, listening to her soft, reassuring voice I understood the true meaning of courage.

It is doing something afraid. My beautiful friend is doing that every day and that’s not easy. But no one ever said that it would be and so we are left with the opportunity to choose our path and either smile as we walk over the rocks and stumps that are in our way or complain about what is under our feet.

Courage is an extraordinary quality, but I have found that it also exists in the ordinary of everyday life. It’s not only for those who risk their life in seemly no win situations, it’s also just getting up in the morning and making the coffee and having hope for a better today. Continue reading

The Value of Losing

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“Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.” - Wilma Rudolph

Children are learning, at a very early age, that winning is everything. That if you don’t win the game, the match, the meet, that somehow you are less of a person than you were before. Those ninety minutes of their lives (by some people’s standards) define who they are and what they will become.

There is always a winner and a loser, that’s just a fact. But I think how you act when you are defeated more so defines who you are than when you are celebrating your victories. Anyone can jump on that winning train. When you’re feeling good and at the top of your game, when you are getting high fives and pats on the back and your head is held high and your smile is bright, that’s the easy part.

But when the numbers aren’t in your favor and the self- pity and guilt begin to settle in, that’s the defining moment, where you choose between hanging your head or holding it high. That’s where your true character shows through. Continue reading