Better Because of our Real Connections …

Source Unknown But Deeply Appreciated

Source Unknown But Deeply Appreciated

We met with them again last night … the friends we made at prenatal class.  We try to meet annually … but the last time we saw them was over 18 months ago.  Life has a way of changing the best laid plans.  The first time we connected was almost 35 years ago.  We initially met when we were expecting our first born children.  If I recall correctly, our husbands sparked some big belly laughs (no pun intended) during class and then we ‘went for coffee’ (figuratively speaking of course) after class. Bill and John may have had coffee … but Linda and I had tea (Red Rose/Orange Pekoe for her and Earl Grey for me … if memory serves).  And we laughed some more.  A whole lot more.  And it was the start of something ‘real’ … and … something ‘precious’.  It is something John and I still deeply cherish after more than three decades … something that time and distance cannot possibly diminish nor adequately define.

Linda and I were so good for each other back then … calming our mutually anxious minds and perfectionist mentalities with pre-birthing rhetoric like “How hard could it be? ” … “People do it all the time.” … “We can do this.”  I mean, seriously, we were  bright, educated, articulate, capable, caring and competent women.  Surely … having a baby wouldn’t change our lives that much!  Ha ha. HA HA.

Someone famous once said “Ignorance is bliss.”  Confirmed. Only 100% though.  Our post-birthing exchanges reflected none of that pre-birthing nonchalance.  Rather, they were more like wide-eyed, humbled retractions of those innocent and perhaps slightly naive notions that we were actually prepared and ready for this all encompassing motherhood thing.

We still laugh … about how entirely gobsmacked we were when our sweet little cherubs arrived.  All 7lbs and 12oz of my gorgeous girl (Tiana) arrived just less than three weeks before their beautiful boy (Ryan).  And, Linda reminded me last night that in the days and nights I had to explore the realities of motherhood in advance of her, I had phoned her … just to give her the heads up!!  I don’t recall my instinctive effort to protect her (probably due to excessive overwhelm and sheer post-natal exhaustion), but she remembers me distinctly impelling her to “SLEEP.  SLEEP NOW!”

And we laughed again in recollection … but it wasn’t so funny back then.  We were both so sleep deprived for sooooooo darn long enough  … so long that that we had to dig deep and retract the prior ‘how hard could it be’  perspective we had espoused … and … surrender to the “Oh, sh#t … this is da*n hard.”  Oh my, as bright, educated, articulate, capable, caring and competent women we found ourselves thoughtfully reconsidering: “How do people make it look so easy ?” and “How is it that they do it more than once?”   Yes … we found ourselves digging deep. Very deep.

And so we commiserated together . Often … in person and on the phone … and we helped each struggle AND chuckle through all those parts we did not see coming.  Yes. A humbling is always easier to embrace when you do it with someone else. So, Linda … if I haven’t actually said it to you before … let me take this moment to say it now.  I was so much better able to navigate the perils of parenting because of you.  Yes I was. You were so real. You supported me so earnestly and honestly and kindly in the midst of my debilitating self-doubt.  We shared the real deal. Thank you.

It might have made sense for our relationship to fizzle once our children started sleeping through the night and my hubby and I moved away.  But … despite the many spaces in our togetherness over the decades … this did not happen.  And, it never ceases to amaze me that regardless of how long it has been … “we are instantly swept back into the moment it was before it left … with the same wonder and hope, comfort and heartbeat. Real connections live on forever.”

Comfortable and comforting.  That is how it feels! With you, Bill and Linda … it’s always entirely unpretentious.  And that is so comforting to the soul.  And we have been blessed to meet life like this with you  … annually(ish)  … and it makes all the unpredictable twists and turns of life so much more bearable.  The losses, the successes, the challenges, the growth, the struggles, the joys … and everything in between.  And we can still laugh.  A lot.  And my spirit is always so deeply nourished when we connect. I mean it … enough to bring tears.

And I have permission to speak for my husband here.  It is such a rare gift to have two couples whose fondness for one another is not feigned nor tolerated nor forced simply because the wife likes the wife but not so much the husband … or …  vice versa.  Or versa vice.  Well, whatever,  you know what I mean.  It’s rare when all four connect in a meaningful way … and maybe that is why it is so real.  There is no ‘supposed to’ in the space between us.  Just raw, honest, heart-felt exchange.  Usually 4 to 6 hours of it.  We take up a lot of space in the restaurant. So … we tip well.  And often, we find ourselves in the parking lot … still discovering numerous things we never had enough time to chat about.  And it is so beautiful. So damn beautiful. 🙂

Yes, we came home last night, with very full hearts …  again. We laughed with you and we connected with you and we so very much look forward to more annual(ish) laughs and real connections. We flirted, however, with the notion that maybe a year is becoming a wee bit long for us … at our ages. Yes. It’s just that we have so much to talk about.  And laugh about. Yes, we do. I’m guessing we’ll simply trust how it all unfolds … just as we always have. ❤

And so … this special tribute is extended in honor of a very ‘real connection’ with a very extraordinary couple.  Thank you … Bill and Linda … our lives are truly, honestly and most gratefully … better because of you!  Yes, I am speaking for both of us when I acknowledge just how significant your presence has been in our lives … and … our hearts.  Thank you. Deeply. Truly. Really. Thank you.

With humungous hugs and an abundance of appreciation,  Karen and John


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God, Heaven and Hell: Better because of you … Mom

light remains

It’s my mom’s birthday today. She would have been 89 today … well, unless you asked her. Then she would have been 87. I found out after she died that she had been fibbing about her age … but just for all of my life. I thought my aunt made a mistake when she cited her birth date in the obituary. I guess back in that day, you didn’t want your fiancé to know you were older than him, so she claimed the birth year of her baby brother who deceased at 8 days of age. I found out a lot about my mom after she died …

I am a bit ashamed to admit that much of the time, I didn’t really appreciate her. I was aching to be one of the girls with the ‘white-picket fence’ moms. You know … the ones who baked cookies, had ‘sit-down’ suppers, attended the PTA meetings and took their daughters shopping for grad dresses. I was so envious of the girls who had mowed lawns, and siblings (especially the ones with older brothers who watched out for them). I wanted to be one of the girls that didn’t get their winter boots with a welfare voucher. And … I desperately DID NOT want to be the girl who found out their mom had been picked up for shop lifting. I hated being her. I know ‘hate’ is a strong word … but it really fits right here. I also hated that I got the mom that was found wandering aimlessly on the other side of town, crying and confused and they had taken her to the psyche ward. I didn’t want to be the one going to foster care … again. I wanted to be the one feeling sorry for the one going to foster care …

As I got older, I wanted the mom who made you chicken soup when you were sick, quilted baby blankets and brought casseroles for your freezer to celebrate the arrival of your new little cherub. I think I would have given up chocolate to have a mom who babysat your kids for you. I wanted the mom who would ‘be there’ when you didn’t think you could be a mother for even one more minute without hurting someone. I didn’t want the mom in a wheelchair. I wanted to be the girl that received calls offering to help instead of requesting it.

I really do miss what I wish  it could have been. BUT …

If I step out of THAT pity party for long enough, I can only feel so deeply blessed for all that we DID have. I had a mom, who gave up the very little that she did have to make sure I got the 36” bell bottoms from Black Sheep Boutique that all the two parent kids were wearing. God only knows what she went without and/or had to finagle so that could happen …perhaps this is where the shoplifting comes in?  I had the mom who slept in the front seat at the drive-in so my friends and I could eat popcorn in the back seat. I had the mom who talked with me for endless hours (even on school nights!) about deep philosophical subjects.  I had the mom who read cutting-edge books on psychology, religion, and new-age spirituality. She invited me to read them too.  She never once judged me for reading The Happy Hooker either.

And … what about God, Heaven and Hell?  I had the mom who equated God with LOVE. She said you can’t find God in a moment devoid of LOVE. I believe her. She told me that Heaven isn’t a place you go when you die … it’s an energy you experience when you are serving the greater good. She said Hell was the opposite. Hell was when you were out of integrity with your soul. It was when your spirit was suffering. That is pure hell.  I believe her. 

I had a mom who agreed to let me smoke at the age of 13 so I wouldn’t have to lie, sneak or betray my integrity about it. With her permission, I bought my first pack of smokes with two girlfriends. It cost us 20 cents each. (I forget who got the one cent change).  We each got eight ‘Craven M’s and we smoked them over tea and peanut buttered toast in my friend’s upstairs bedroom. I had the mom who trusted me to set my own curfew. And I came home on time. I had the mom who would put a few dollars (that she didn’t have to spare) into my wallet.  I would find it later, when I was out with friends.  I had the mom who never chastised me for getting puking drunk on dark rum and coke at my boyfriend’s sister’s wedding … she let the consequences teach me instead. I had a mom who bought ‘abstainers’ insurance instead, explaining that it was the best option given our meager budget. If I wanted to drive, I had to promise I wouldn’t drink. She trusted me. I was worthy of it.  I had the mom who left that car with me for a summer college class five hours away from home. She, despite her disabilities, opted to take the bus herself instead.

I had a mom who adored me.   She made sure I believed in myself … and … she cheered me on the very best she could. I had a mom who I KNEW BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT that she LOVED ME to the depths of her being. I’m not sure who I would have become had it not been for her unfailing love of me. Despite all her challenges … and … all the ways she was unable to ‘be there’ for me, I always, always, always KNEW she loved me. And yes … LOVE bridges darkness.

I really am so very grateful for all that we DID have.  I’m not sure I ever told her.

So, today, I am celebrating my mom because the light of her soul is still etched into my heart. And … her undying love is probably responsible for inspiring the very best parts of my humanity. There is no doubt about it Mom … I am so much better because of you … XOXO

Happy 89th 87th Birthday Mom!   And … thank you.   I mean it.  XO Karen


I am deeply grateful for the opportunity for this essay and I to be 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!