Girls’ Weekend–Part Two: Renewed

What a joy to have spent the weekend with my college roommates. I roomed with my original, and only, roommate (the rest were on our floor Freshman year and we all roomed together as Sophomores and Seniors…Junior year the Liberal Arts majors went abroad and my engineering roommate and I held the fort down on campus). We missed one of our group, and Skyped her early on Saturday so that we could all see and hear her. The last time I saw her was a year after graduation when I was in graduate school and she briefly moved back to St. Louis.

The five of us spent most of our time eating, talking, and taking group selfies. The artist amongst us impressed the rest of us with her ability to take group selfies with a small digital camera…no iPhone needed and no re-shoots either.

We started with the stories we shared and then came the stories of our lives as adults. We each had our own story to share, and no matter how different our experiences, we could all relate. The stories poured out. These were the stories not mentioned on Facebook and not included in our blogs. Between us we’ve experienced many things that tend to hit at mid-life. Themes arranged themselves around raising teens, raising a baby in our forties, elderly parents with memory issues, mysterious and hard to diagnose illness in a child, children with emotional issues, divorce, bankruptcy.

imageWe also talked about art (including the Chagall windows that we all gazed into), literature, and where to go for our next meal. We drank the special bottle of French wine that the French major amongst us received for her 50th birthday. We toasted each of us, and our missing roommate, in order of birth, which spans an entire year. I lead off with a November 29th birthday and the last is November 28th of the following year. This is just a reminder to me, that I’ve vowed to celebrate for an entire year!

Too soon, the weekend ended. I enjoyed it immensely. I find it hard to disconnect from the worries of my life, but for this weekend they were suspended. With a smile on my face and tears in my eyes, I said goodbye. We set the first week of August 2015 as our next reunion, and assigned planners to “make it happen” and to include our missing roommate.

The two of us who’d driven, got back in the car. This time I took the Chicago traffic and we switched after clearing it and getting most of the way home. Along the way, she gave me some advice. It was the kind of thing that you want to tell yourself, but you don’t. She told me to take a week of vacation (because I have some to spare) and use it to declutter my house. She told me to hire a cleaning service, that I deserved to have one less thing to do in my busy life. Then she told me to take another week and actually go on vacation. Imagine that. She told me not to worry so much about my oldest who is forging his own way solo…she’s been teaching high school for years and has seen it all. She assures me my child will be ok.

Even though I thought the drive, five hours each way, would wipe out any benefit of a girls’ weekend, I was wrong. The renewal of the bonds of friendship are stronger than I realized. I got home feeling renewed and energized.

Find the Joy in the Journey…a Journey oft aided by the bonds of friendship!

Girls’ Weekend–Part One: Reprieved

Lately I’ve been trying to find an equalibrium. I found it where I least expected it. I had months to think about my college roomate reunion in Chicago…but I was too busy. I let my roomates plan it all. Afterall, I can always visit my sister in Chicago and see whatever I want, even though I haven’t done so lately. I was focused only on the face-to-face time, the talks and bonding.

Instead, I worried. I would be driving to Chicago with one of my roomates. I thought it likely that I would have to take my car…a small stickshift. I worried that no one else could drive a manual transmission car. I felt so stressed about so many things in my life and this was just one more. In the end, I realized just how ridiculous I am.

I finished a three-day, personnel development meeting at work on Friday afternoon and drove to my friend’s house. She had been delayed by traffic, so I killed time talking with her 20 year old son. He and I covered many topics. I have a 20 year old son of my own, but that wasn’t the basis of our conversation. He and I hadn’t met in about ten years. I was impressed that he could hold up a conversation with someone his mom’s age for 20 minutes. I truly enjoyed our talk.

In the course of our conversation I asked if his mom could drive a stick shift. At first he was not confident…but ultimately told me that his mom knew how but he wasn’t certain of her actual capabilities. Fortunately, she arrived forthwith. I asked her right away if she could drive a stick and she stood straight at attention and declared “Yes! I can!”. So interesting how our children view our capabilities! That moment was the beginning of my reprieve.

We got on the road, me driving. We talked and talked and talked. During our conversation, I  started to relax. Isn’t it amazing to have a friend who you feel 100% comfortable with even if you haven’t spoken in years?

As we got closer to Chicago, my friend reminded me that she could drive a stick-shift, so we switched seats. Although her son was not there to witness it, she drove a manual transmission car like a pro…and she drove through Chicago streets, which really deserves even grander kudos.

About an hour out of the city, we got texts from our other roommates. They’d all flown in earlier and were hungry for dinner. We eventually decided to find our B&B and park before joining them. We parked and walked over to the restaurant. Spotting one another immediately, we shone with joy, all of us. We hugged and smiled and sat down and started talking. We had much to talk about, too much for just one dinner. Children from  5 to 21, parents from early seventies to eighty nine…We had more to talk about than we could contain. We were oh, so happy to have another two days to connect.

Back at the B&B, which was the upper floor of a lovely town home, we tried not to disturb the other guests with our boisterous laughter and chatter, but ultimately we headed off to bed. After sleeping in, we went out for brunch to Ann Sather’s . I was a bit nervous, as it had been my suggestion and I hadn’t been to one of the restaurants in close to twenty years. I do believe that the cinnamon rolls were a highlight of the trip for most of us.

imageNext we got Ventra cards and took to the El. We headed straight for the Art Institute and jumped around to hit favorite pieces and exhibits. Mine is Paris Street; Rainy Day, by Gustave Caillebotte. I first saw it years ago when I attended an Impressionist exhibit there many years ago. I recall walking into a well-lit stairwell not expecting to see any art and being confronted by this very large work…I was mesmerized.

Leaving the museum, we wandered to the waterfront and back to Millenium Park. After many “artful” photos at “the bean” we planned our evening. Not one moment of that time did I stop to think about my messy house, my dog (safely kenneled at the vet), my daughter (having her own special weekend with a friend), my work, or any other thing that had me feeling disjointed lately. No, I was reprieved!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the joy in lifetime friendships!

No Country For Old Vines

My friends and I enjoy going to wine tasting events every month or so. We’d been going to a local restaurant, but they kept increasing the price and reducing the appetizers as well as the number of wine selections to taste. We’d been looking for an alternative when we heard about the Michigan Wine Showcase. Wineries from all over the state would be present and the food would be provided by a top restaurant. We met downtown Detroit at The Rattlesnake Club after work on Monday. So many wineries packed the building lobby that we had to pick and choose what to taste.

Garnering a small, stand-up cocktail table, we plotted our moves. Careful never to leave the table without at least two defenders, we took turns dishing up delicious appetizers and purusing the information about the many wineries and tasting the most promising wines. I’ve never been to such a large wine-tasting event. we ventured off in pairs or solo to try the wines and listen to the vintners wax poetic about their boutique wineries. I learned that although the wine industry in Michigan is well established, prior to the early 1970’s it was primarily dedicated to sweet wines and fruit wines. Wines were traditionally made from native varietals, such as Concord grapes, or from fruits such as apples or cherries. The introduction of European varietals in the early 1970’s is therefore relatively new.

Michigan is better known for its whites than its reds. As a mostly a red wine drinker, I decided to search out the good ones and wandered around the tables to find the likeliest candidates. I tasted several and found some that I liked and some, not so much. I accidentally tried a white wine which I actually enjoyed. I was tricked by the name, Ship of Fools, but it was a good trick as it turns out. I later discovered through the Wine Compass Blog, that this is a unique wine. If nothing else, I’ve found myself a nice white wine for summer weather (if it ever arrives here!).

Of even more interest to me than the wines, having run twelve miles the day before, were the appetizers. I made quite a meal out of the variety of cheeses, salads, olives, nuts, charcuterie, and gourmet macaroni and cheese. Eventually, we were all back at the table and just soaked up the atmosphere. The event was quite diverse in every measure, including expertise about wine. We overheard some quite-serious oenophiles discussing the wines in terms we didn’t quite catch. There were also lots of young people there, dressed up and enjoying the evening without a worry to the proper wine terminology.

My friends and I started gathering up literature and dreaming about a girls’ wine-country trip. Michigan has two wine countries, both along the eastern shores of Lake Michigan. We are leaning towards the southwest part of the state, which is close enough that we could make a day trip but is so full of places to visit that it’s worth a weekend. As we left in a drizzling rain I was glad to have enjoyed a happy evening with friends. I found myself thinking back to my post, My Happiness Challenge, and realized I’d hit on a number of happiness boosters, including smiling, time with friends, and even vacation planning.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the Joy of a night out with friends!

Lighting The Way

It often takes a little hindsight to see things clearly. In the middle of a disaster, there’s no telling what is up, what is down, or even what is supposed to be up or down…it’s just all a swirl of dust and darkness and trying to grab onto something real when all of a sudden reality has abandoned you. That’s how I felt at the beginning of what will be a year of extricating myself from the destruction that I should have seen coming, but didn’t.

Very early on, a friend who can’t be here in person due to living abroad, sent me an e-book and shared her own story of survival. That book was like a beacon, shining light into the dark areas and reassuring me that I had nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of, and that I would survive and come out a year later with a whole new lease on life. That year is almost up, and when I look back, I know that my friend gave me a tool to light my way.

A couple of weeks ago, a package arrived for me at work. Well, it arrived at the mail room where I worked two moves ago. It took a while for the package to be forwarded to my new building. I had to sign for it and the mail room in my new building is only staffed a few hours a week. So, I had some time to speculate about exactly who could be sending me something and what it might be. I was pretty sure it was from the same friend who sent me the e-book because she’d sent it to the last address she knew for me…the building where we met and worked together before she left the company for a new opportunity.

20131027-202030.jpgFinally, I got my hands on the box and opened it up. Inside was a gift box with a brief note. Indeed it was from the same friend! She had sent me a light, this time a literal rather than figurative one. She explained that she was inspired by my posts about running to get back into it herself. She sent me the light, to be worn like a miner’s light on my head, so that I could keep up my running even as the mornings and evenings were getting too dark to run without a light.

I have put the light to use immediately, running after work a few nights a week. I think it annoys the motorists in the neighborhood, but then again, they clearly see me coming…even if I am shining a bright light in their eyes. When dusk starts to fall, the light doesn’t actually light my way, but is a beacon to others that I am coming. As the darkness deepens, the light becomes more visible to me, lighting the sidewalk ahead of me so that I don’t trip.

I have learned this year that it is ok to ask for help, to rely on others. As I come out of my year of darkness, I find myself ever more joyful and for the first time in a very long time, able to lift my head beyond my own immediate family and my own survival to those around me. I am grateful for my friends and family and looking forward to being a light for someone else.

In many ways, this blog has helped me, focusing me on the joy in my life instead of the sadness. It has also allowed me to be a light to others, some of whom I don’t know, by inspiring them to get out and run…whether to try the Couch to 5k program or to up their game to a 10k or even a half-marathon. I’m not sure exactly how I will transform this blog next month when I reach my fiftieth birthday, but I know I will keep on writing.

Find the Joy in the Journey…Be a light for others and let others light your way!

That Fly In My Eye

About ten days ago, I came home at the end of a long week of work and my daughter and I settled into dinner and started into White Collar: Season 4. We were in enjoying the evening when a fly flew past my left temple. I swatted at it to no avail. The odd thing was that the fly was silent…no buzzing. Throughout the evening, that same pesky insect repeatedly bothered me. Eventually I focused on it long enough to realize that there was no fly…I had a new floater.

A nagging worry started to work on my subconscious. Every time I get my annual eye exam, the doctor warns me to look for sudden new floaters, sudden flashes of light, or a veil descending over my vision. I think I’m at special risk due to my extreme near-sightedness…although, after Lasik surgery 10 years ago, my vision is decidedly sharper. This sudden floater worried me more and more, but it was the weekend. Then the week was incredibly busy. The floater got a bit less noticeable.

A few days after I first noticed the floater, my left eye felt really dry and slightly irritated. I assumed it was all part of the same problem. I thought back to a story I recently heard from a friend. It seems that he had some vision problems while an engineering student. He ended up having emergency surgery for a detached retina. After the surgery, he went right back to school, but he couldn’t see very well. He flunked an engineering exam and his college career was in jeopardy. Then the story got life-changing. A friend of his came over and offered to read his texts and homework to him. It was a few weeks until the first friend’s vision returned, but a lifelong friendship had been forged.

I kept thinking about this story for two reasons. First and foremost, due to my growing fears, I worried that I was suffering from a detached retina. Secondly, I liked to reflect on the meaning of friendship and the sacrifices some people are willing to make, without even thinking of them as sacrifices, to help out a friend in need. I also thought about how many people, myself included, would never even ask a friend for such a favor.

A week after my pesky floater-fly appeared, I found myself at work with a suddenly cleared calendar. I called the eye doctor and was told to come over immediately. Eyes dilated, I met the opthalmologist. She wasn’t my regular eye doctor and she turned out to be a close friend of a work colleague of mine…small world indeed. She focused first on the fact that only my left eye was dry. She said I likely had a lash stuck up in my eyelid. Hmm…this turned out to be true! So, relieved of that burden (don’t make me speak of the flipped eyelid involved in the cure) she turned her focus on my retina.

Happily, my optic nerves are quite healthy and my retinas are firmly attached. Phew! She started by looking at my right eye, the eye with no problems. She told me that my right eye had a floater…one that I don’t notice anymore. Moving to my left eye, she immediately so the floater-culprit. I asked if the floaters would ultimately dissolve, but she informed me that it didn’t work that way. I guess my brain just filters them out eventually. Meanwhile I have a fly in my left eye that drives me nuts!

Find the Joy in the Journey…revel in good health and great friends!

Putting Back A Little Fun In The Run

Recently, a friend who doesn’t run offered to sign-up for a race with me and walk the 5k while I run the 10k. I didn’t accept her offer right away. I was thinking that I only have three weeks until my next half-marathon and I need to reserve my weekends for long runs.

I was still thinking this as I took off on my ten-mile run the next day. As I logged mile-after-mile, I had a long time to think about my training. I had procrastinated more than usual about this run. I had planned to run first thing on Saturday morning, getting out at 7 a.m. while it was still dark. A friend had recently given me a headlight and I was going to get to use it for the first time. When I awoke at 6:45, I could hear the rain and knew it was just above freezing. I also knew that Sunday would be warmer and sunny and that I had no other plans for Sunday. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

When Sunday came, I procrastinated even more. I just wasn’t ready to get out and run ten miles. It wasn’t until 1:30 in the afternoon that I finally laced up my shoes and headed out the door. As usual, as soon as I was out the door, I was fine. After about three miles, I was in my running zone and knew I could get through ten miles just fine. About halfway through my run, I had an epiphany.

This month, I challenged myself to accept as many social invitations as I could, and wasn’t my friend’s offer just such an invitation? I had recently lamented that I had no one to go to races with, and here was someone who doesn’t run still wanting to be part of my new racing life. As I continued my run, I thought how nice it would be to eliminate one of my long runs anyway…I’m sure I can still manage the half-marathon with a 10k instead of an eleven-mile run two weeks before the race.

I let my friend know that I wanted to go to the race, and we both signed up. It turns out that the 5k starts an hour after the 10k, but she was still game. So, I’ll run the 10k and then catch up with her in the 5k and walk that with her. It will give us a chance to spend some time together that we rarely seem to find.

I’m looking ahead to other races this fall and making some plans. My younger daughter wants to go with me to a chocolate run in mid-November. She doesn’t want to run, but she’s fine with doing the 1k “cocoa” walk and then repairing to the post-race “chocolate tent” for refreshments while I’m out running. On Thanksgiving, I’m planning on running a Turkey Trot with my older daughter…we just have to decide if we’ll run the 7:15 a.m. 10k or the 8:15 a.m. 5k…I think I know where that one will end up!

Find the Joy in the Journey…sometimes that means pausing to see the forest and not just the trees!

A Tale of Two Alumni Events

This week I attended two alumni events for my college…and this just after attending my 25 year graduate school reunion last weekend. I got a BS in Chemical Engineering then stayed on at the same school to earn my MBA. So, that means I am doubly enthusiastic about my alma mater!

Event number one was put on by the Young Alumni Association and held in a nearby college town. Typically their events draw heavily on the graduate school population…in other words, folks much younger than me. This time, they made a point to reach out to all ages of alumni, using the words (in the original caps) ALL AGES EVENT! So, I decided to go, although before signing up I reached out to a friend close to my own age who lives in the college town. It turns out that two of the college’s professors are parents of her girls’ classmates, so three of them were going.

As it turned out, I didn’t mix and mingle at all. I sat with my friend and her friends and had a great time talking about how much the school had changed over the years and reminiscing about “the old days”. I had the most recent experiences, given my visit there earlier in the week and having attended my nephew (and future niece-in-law)’s graduation just the year before.

We left the event and walked back to our cars. I hugged my friend goodbye at the parking garage where I was parked and we promised to try harder to get together more frequently than every 5-8 years. Seriously! But even so, it is wonderful to have friends who, even when you don’t see them often, fall right into a conversation as if you spoke every day.

Next up was a wine tasting event with the regular alumni club. I’ve been to many events over the years and expected an older crowd…most of the folks I know through the club are 10-15 years my senior. The hosts were a couple I met through the club over 25 years ago, but I was surprised that all the other participants were new to me. I embraced the mixing and mingling challenge!

I met a couple who are 15 years my junior, who met their first week in engineering school. It turns out they live in the same town as me. Further, it turns out that their 18 month old daughter is in the daycare of my 13 year old’s school! The husband works at my company and we have colleagues in common. The wife is a chemical engineering grad who works for the state in environmental engineering. Much other common ground was uncovered as well. Who knew!

Also at our table was a woman a few years older than me who originally came from Brooklyn. The group of us sat with the alumni coordinator and we brainstormed ideas for events that we thought would really draw people in. We had such a lovely time! Meanwhile, we were at a wine tasting. Here is my plate, roasted veggies, charcuterie, and cheese. Mmmm.20131013-220500.jpg

We were offered tastes of wines by the sommelier, world-famous Madeline Triffon. She gave us a great wine tip…buy the cheapest wines from the best producers. She told us that a great winery will offer lower-priced wines designed by the same wine masters as their high-cost brands. They aren’t about to use inferior methods with any of their wines and they have the clout with growers to make sure their grapes meet their highest expectations.

So, I learned that I’d been right to follow my instincts and accept every social invitation that comes my way. What a wonderful way to meet new people!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and embrace friendships old and new…I learned in Girl Scouts to “make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold!”

A Tale of Two Colleges

I live with a dynamic young woman, also known as my younger daughter. This weekend, we jetted off to St. Louis for a dual-purpose trip. It was my 25-year graduate school reunion and our first visit to my older daughter since we moved her into her dorm in August. We got off to a rough start when we were sent to a gate and never notified of a gate change. Fortunately, we made our flight with only one, panicked, run across the airport. I learned that I should not sign-up for a high heels run any time soon…

Once we arrived, we drove straight to my school where we had a room in the campus hotel which is part of the graduate business school. It’s a bit of a secret spot…most of my classmates didn’t even know about it…and they surely must not have known about the “guest pantry” on each floor. The pantry had been a major selling point in convincing my daughter to stay with me the first night (her sister had a free ticket to see a favorite band on her college’s campus that night).

My daughter raided the pantry…mostly cookies, a donut, Rice Krispie treats, and a couple of tiny cans of Coke…and I headed down one floor to the “industry” mixer. I headed to the corner of the room designated for my industry and met a couple of younger alumni. Soon enough, I was eyeing my classmates around the room and excused myself to catch up with them.

Time speeded up and the next thing we knew, my class was congregated in the center of the event and everyone else was leaving. I texted my daughter to come meet up with me and she enjoyed some toasted ravioli and cookies before they were taken away. My classmates wanted to go to Blueberry Hill, an iconic sandwich/comedy/live-music spot. My daughter preferred to hit the guest pantry and watch some TV, so we parted for a couple of hours.

In the morning…I woke my daughter up to catch the continental breakfast while I took a 3 mile run around campus and the surrounding community. When I got back, she hadn’t taken a shower yet, so I cooled down while she showered. She exited the bathroom with bad news…she wasn’t used to a single shower curtain rather than a curtain and a liner…she’d left the curtain on the outside of the tub and flooded the bathroom. Not to worry, she assured me, she’d used all the towels to mop it up. She must have seen my eyes widen as she quickly assured me that she’d left me a dry towel.

After my shower, we went downstairs to have “coffee with the Dean” and get a hard-hat tour of the new graduate business school buildings. Even though nothing was finished off yet, it was amazing to see the state-of-the-art space…I seriously thought that maybe I should leave private industry (where, working for a big manufacturer, there are no luxury accommodations or even rudimentary office supplies) for the academic world.

After the tour, we went back up to our room to grab my daughter’s suitcase so we could meet up with her big sister at her college a few miles to the east. I should have been more suspicious when my daughter wanted to borrow a large bag to grab a “few” more items from the guest pantry. When we got to her sister’s dorm room, she opened her suitcase and we all counted 25 items she’d picked out from the guest pantry for her sister. *sigh*

Time turned for my older daughter…we went to Verizon to try to get her iPhone repaired (it had slipped off of her lofted bed, shattering the screen and a month later it died altogether). Verizon sent us to CPR (an acronym presumably for “cell phone repair”). $45 later, they declared it unfixable. Fortunately I’d brought her old phone with me and Verizon activated it at no cost. Next we headed for Target to top off her necessities. Finally, we headed for the Central West End to have sushi at The Drunken Fish.

Before we knew it, it was time for me to drop the girls off at the dorm and head back to my hotel to get dressed for my reunion party. Fortunately, I’d brought a raincoat and umbrella. Dressed in my favorite (i.e. only) party-appropriate outfit, I walked through the misty rain the short distance from the hotel to the sophisticated student union (nothing like the student union of my own student days!) and, for the first time in 25 years, walked into my reunion solo.

Find the Joy in the Journey…even when you journey into the unknown…

A Month of Mingling Ahead

I didn’t plan it this way, but October has shaped up to be a month of mingling and getting reacquainted with old friends and classmates. It started with TEDx this week and coming up are a reunion, a visit to my daughter in college, then two local alumni events, and a fundraiser. That takes me to mid-month, so I’ll have to be on the lookout for more events to round out this month of fun and reminiscing!

I’ve been to all five TEDxDetroit events, watching the group grow from start-up to over-reach to just right. Every event has been full of amazing speakers and performers and I’ve applied to go each year hoping that someone I already know will be there, as I’m really not much of a networker. This year no one mentioned going, but four people from an organization I’m involved with were there. It was great to have someone to sit with, someone to go to lunch with, and someone to reminisce with later about how wonderful it was. If nothing else, when anyone starts trash-talking the D, I have story after story to relate about all the wonderful, vibrant things that are going on below the radar of the news.

Next up is a dual-purpose trip to St. Louis to visit my older daughter at college and attend my 25 year graduate school reunion. I’m really not sure who will show up for reunion, as it seems a low-key event this time around. When I signed up, it was just me and 9 guys. Not that I’m complaining! The bigger excitement is bringing my younger daughter with me and reuniting with her sister. I know…it’s only been two months, but it’s a lot longer than we’ve ever been separated in the past.

After I get back from St. Louis, there are two alumni events near me…well, one is thirty miles to the west and one is 20 miles to the north…so I decided to attend both. The one in the west is likely to be very recent grads, but knowing a fellow alumna there, I sent her a message and was glad to find out she would be attending. As for the other, it’s more of an older crowd, many of whom I know, and I may even be the youngest there. All I know is that I am ready for some socializing and mingling with people who have similar interests.

The last event I’m planning to go to is a fundraiser in an old “lumber baron” mansion. I understand it’s newly purchased and needs a lot of renovation work. I can’t wait to see it and its fading beauty and imagine what it will look like when it’s all fixed up. And that is just the venue, the charity is near and dear to my heart and I can’t wait to catch up with my former, fellow board members and hear about all the exciting projects that are in the works.

Find the Joy in the Journey…just remember that you have to be on the journey first!

Girlfriends and Christmas in July

Some of my friends and I like to get together around Christmas time for a dinner. It started 24 years ago when I was a new employee. It started out as a lunch. We used to go to the local Hyatt to the Italian restaurant that had a “market stand” option for lunch. When we were young, it was a big extravagance to go out to a fancy restaurant for lunch.

In later years, our work schedules got crazier and we started to plan Christmas dinners instead of lunches. We experimented with other restaurants. Rarely, one of us couldn’t make it at all. But, as we approach 25+ years at our company, we are more flexible about our Christmas lunch/dinner rules. After all these years, the most amazing thing is that we are all still at the same company…surviving multiple downturns in the industry. We have survived love, marriage, kids, loss of parents, betrayal, break-ups, and (soon) divorce.

Meanwhile, three of the four of us who live much closer together, get together more often and have added friends from outside of our company to our social gatherings. We got together at Christmas last year, as a bigger group. Recently, one of our newer members had a job-schedule change and we could not meet with her at any of our usual get togethers. So we decided to have a dinner similar to our Christmas dinner but in the summer. We picked the first date where she didn’t have to work at night, and planned a dinner. We jokingly called it our “Christmas in July”.

We chose to eat at an iconic, Italian restaurant in a non-descript suburb. Each of us, individually, remember eating there more than 20 years ago. It is the kind of place run by a family, everything homemade. Our dinner did not disappoint. I had hand-rolled cannelloni…the kind that is filled with fresh veal and beef, the kind that only hits the menu when the chef has time for such a labor-intensive dish.Christmas in July--Christmas Stocking

After a delicious dinner and delightful conversation, our newer friends surprised us with…Christmas in July! This surprise was replete with a Christmas card, a Christmas stocking, and multiple gifts. What fun! We were having so much fun, we decided to stop for a drink at another place, a bar that is generally populated by a younger clientele, but with friendly staff and a fun atmosphere.

The youngest of us is 49 (and it’s not me…my girlfriend’s birthday is a few weeks after mine!) and two of our friends are the mother of another and her friend…so we were two generations and beat the average age of the place by at least 15 years. Other than it being too loud, it was a nice place to cap off the evening. It was also a great place for people watching given that they were having a summer beach party and the waiter and waitresses were dressed more for surfing than serving.

I said goodbye to my friends, new and old, and walked home. I recalled the song I learned as a young girl in Brownies…Make New Friends…”one is silver and the other’s gold”. Yes, all are precious and I am so happy and blessed to have both.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and treasure your friends, those you met as a child and through every phase of your life!