Friday, September 16, 2011

FRIENDS...what have they taught YOU?!

Friends are a choice we make. My first friend tried to take a bite out of my face. I don't remember this, but so I am told. It was 1971 in Shreveport, La. His name was Todd and our mothers were best friends. We moved north in 1973, and 14 years later our families had a reunion in Texas. Todd and I went on our first, and only, date. I arrived home unscathed.

Melissa and I have a friendship that has lasted almost 38 years, and if I had one dollar for every panicked phone call and only fifty cents for each giggle, I would far-surpass the estate of Bill Gates. We are quite opposite in some respects, but that has never stood in the way of our friendship as our hearts are in tune. We have become women and mothers side-by-side. Melissa and I talk or text almost weekly and she remains a chosen sister.

Sometimes friends come as a package deal, which is the case with Andra, Shannon and Lauren. We spent our teenage years hand-in-hand and most of our adult life side-by-side. We handled heart aches and applauded accomplishments. We welcomed husbands and babies. Over the years, and with the addition of numerous children and some relocating, it has been difficult to remain connected and that saddens me. My heart yearns for that familiarity. But the gift they gave me over those years is priceless.

Ken and I met in college through a common acquaintance. We shared a level of trust and openness I never shared with any of my female friends. I never had conversations of such depth with any friend prior to being blessed with Ken's camaraderie. There were many times that we lost track of time discussing a plethora of subjects and were surprised when the morning sunrise peeked through the shades. We met Sept. 14, 1989, and were married July 24, 1993.

Michelle, a fellow Nittany Lion, followed Ken and I to New York after finishing her Master's degree, where we continued to be the Three Amigos. Having endured a collegiate battle with cancer, she was strong and climbed the corporate ladder by never settling for less than her best. Michelle was beautiful, inside and out. Her zest for life gave her a gentle edge that made her a magnet for friends. The impact of her friendship is tattooed on my heart forever. On Nov. 8, 1996 she was promoted to angel. I still shed tears for her.

Jeri is my twin from another mother. Her husband Jeff, strangely enough, is so much like Ken it is bizarre. They were our first "couple" friends and remain some of our closest. Sharing the same wedding anniversary almost to the hour makes for great celebrations. Jeri and I are so close that sometimes we scare ourselves. I will never forget the day we had lunch together, each planning to surprise the other with our "expectant" news. Jeri is that friend who keeps no tallies. She can't tell you who called who last or how long it has been since we last chatted. It is refreshing to dial the phone after months of no contact and anticipate her voice because I know her tone will not be anything but sheer joy when she hears mine.

My current gal pals on occasion have me laughing until I think my sides will split. Before Anne-Marie, Michele, Goose and Sally, I was pretty certain that my girlfriend laugh meter had maxed out years ago. But our friendship goes deeper than laughter - much deeper. Our faith knits us together. Whether it is a trip to Wal-Mart for random needs, a text message for a good laugh or a phone call to check in on someone's stressful day, we stay connected. Our lives have yet to get in the way of our friendship, in fact, our the chaos, heartbreak and the beautiful celebrations in our lives sweeten our bond as sisters. Even on the worst days the laughter remains. Laughter truly is the best medicine within our sweet sisterhood. I truly owe my sanity to these four women.

From Todd I learned that friendship can span a country as well as a decade. Melissa has taught me a beautiful lesson in unconditional friendship. Andra, Shannon and Lauren showed me how a friendship can shape who you are and who you will become. Ken proved to me that honesty is always the best policy.

Michelle was a beautiful vision of what it means to be at peace with who you are. Jeri has given me the refreshing gift of being "real." Anne-Marie, Michele, Goose and Sally have blessed me with faith-filled friendship.

Think of the friends who have impacted your life. Reach out and thank them. Return the favor; you will be blessed.

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