How To Help Your Friends Help You...

      One of favorite songs by The Beatles is, "With a Little Help From My Friends" , which was written for and sung by their beloved drummer, Ringo Starr. This is one my all time favorites because...um, hello?

    We all need a little help from our friends.

     Life can be poop. We all struggle and we all have our down days. Friends can be incredibly helpful in our hour of need...but sometimes we can make it difficult for them lend us a helping hand. 

     So, here are some practical tips on how you can help your friends help you...

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1. Remember that the majority of your friends are not mind readers. Speak up and let them know you would like their help.

     I used to make my friends play a guessing game when I found myself struggling. I would get quiet. I would withdraw. I would leave subtle clues that things may be difficult but then I would confuse them with strong statements like, "I'm. Fine."

   It took me years to realize that this tactic of trying to preserve my dignity while gaining my friends' help was useless. In fact, it would only frustrate the friendship. Instead of causing my friends to realize, "Hey...maybe Noelle needs some help" ... they were thinking things like, "Why is Noelle being so weird?"

     I wanted my friends to recognize that I was in need without ever having to admit it out loud. The best and most efficient way for friends to recognize that they can help you is to tell them so. No one is a mind reader. If talking on the phone or face to face feels too vulnerable at the moment, a text or email can do the job. In my experience, when I have text my friends to say, "I need your help", they have always been ready to give it. When I wait for them to catch on that I am in need... it wastes a lot of unnecessary time. I wind up feel hurt and neglected while they feel rejected and confused. 

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2. Give them a specific and practical way that they can help you.

     When we are going through something, our friends will often ask, "How can I help you?" Sometimes the crisis or difficulty is so overwhelming that we don't even know how to answer them. My advice is to give them the next practical and specific task that you need to address. A few examples of this could be:

Example 1:

     Your have experience a series of difficult weeks at work. You are feeling like your job might be on the line and your self esteem has taken a blow. Ask your friends to go see a movie with you to get your mind off of work issues.

Example 2:

    You are having marital difficulties. Things are really tense. You can't think of anything else but what's going on in your relationship.  Ask a friend to take your kids to the park for an hour just so you can collect your thoughts, talk to a counselor, or even go food shopping.

Example 3:

         One of your parents is very sick. You are feeling very sad and exhausted from caring for them. You have neglected your own home in the process.  Ask a friend if she could help you as you clean your house because you can use a helping hand and the company of a good friend.

   To have your needs best met by a friend, give them a clear and practical task that they can do for you. You're not being bossy. You are humbly asking for what you need. 

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3. Accept the help and don't feel guilty about it.

   The biggest issue when friends try to help us is that we won't let them. There is something about allowing a friend to offer a helping hand that stirs guilt into our heads. Don't feel guilty! One day, it will be your friend's turn and they will need your help. Your vulnerability in asking for help will have paved a guilt-free way for them to ask for help from you too. 

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   Think of Ringo singing to you right now...

   "Said I'm gonna get by with my friends, yeah (Ah, with a little help from my friends)
Oh, yes I'm gonna keep trying, now (Ah, with a little help from my friends)
Keep on trying with my friends (Ah, with a little help from my friends)
Oh, I'm never gonna stop there, oh (Ah, with a little help from my friends)
Gonna get by with my friends"
 

You WILL get by with a little help from your friends.

    When we communicate what we need and how they can meet it, our friends can become our greatest help. In most cases, it is not unwillingness that keeps our friends from helping... it is our lack of vulnerability. We can help our friends help us by letting them know we don't always have it altogether and that's why we need them.

 Always your friend,

Noelle

 

 

 

 

 

         

HOW I'M GONNA BE A BETTER FRIEND IN 2018

    I research and talk about friendship.

I even host a podcast show called Friending (Shut up! Season 3 is coming out 02/13/18...but more on that later). I stalk other friendship experts like Shasta Nelson and Brené Brown (isn't she an expert on everything?)

But still.

    I can kinda suck as a friend ... (all my friends are tilting their heads and shrugging their shoulders about now) ...and this past year, my friendship game was weak.

  Normally, I spend the first couple days of January crafting lists of how I am going to become a better person to benefit...me ( i.e. .lose weight, be less busy, follow my dreams, blah, blah, blah) but this year I am not doing that. 

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   This year, I decided to jot down a few ways I am going to be a better friend in 2018.

    Let's be honest, even if we sustain our "New Year's Resolutions" and become better versions of ourselves... if we aren't better to the people we love... what does it really matter? I can lose all the weight and still be an absentee friend. All that makes me is a more skinny, lonely person.

So, here's the plan:

#1 This year, I am putting "face to face/in the flesh" contact with my friends on my calendar. 

     The problem with social media, texting, and smart phones... is that I can easily stay updated with my friends' lives without ever having to see them in person. This is helpful with my long-distance friendships, but folks, I have a close friend who live 20 minutes away from me that I have not seen in person in months. Why? Because we talk everyday on Voxer. All the research and science tell us that that there is no substitution for face to face/in the flesh contact with friends. Loneliness cannot be overcome virtually or remotely. We need to physically be present with our people to be reminded that we do not do this life alone. 

  My life can get busy with two kids (one with special needs) and the only way I am going to make sure I see my friends in person is if I am make it a non-negotionable on my calendar.

 

#2 This year, I am organizing more fun things for me to do with my friends.

     Look, I enjoy a good "coffee + chat with my bestie" like the next person, but I am starting to realize that there is possibly more to life than coffee (I just heard you audibly gasp).

    As I think back on my most favorite memories with my friends... it surprised me how many of my favorites were when my friend(s) and I did a specific activity together. Even taking a simple walk with a friend stood out in my mind as one of the meaningful moments we have shared in our friendship. We must have sipped on a thousand cups of coffee together... but it was that single walk that was highlighted in my brain as a favorite memory.

   This year, I want to be intentional about doing fun things with my friends (everything from hosting another "Oscar's Party" to going rollerskating at the local rink). It's shocking that how often i help my kids arrange fun play dates with their friends...but I never think to do the same for myself. 2018 is going to be the year of friend playdates for me! 

 

#3 Stop trying to be besties with everyone and invest in the friendships I have already cultivated.

      As an extrovert, one of the friendship crimes I  often commit is that I spread myself too thin with people. I just want to get to know everyone and make everyone my friend!  After 35 years, I have finally come to accept that this is not reality. In fact, this is not even healthy. The more friends I have, the less quality time I have to give to people. The less quality time I have to give to people, the less quality friendships I sustain.

       There is a big difference between befriending everyone and being friendly to everyone. The latter is not optional. I must be kind to everyone but I don't have to make it my sole mission to be everyone's friend. What I do need to do, is take a sober look at the people in my life who I want to cultivate a stronger friendship with... and become more intentional in investing in them.

 

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My friends have made the story of my life. In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges, and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by my deprivation.
— Helen Keller

 

    What is going to make 2018 a great year?

    Our friends.

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MID-THIRTIES AND FEELING BEHIND ON MY MID-TWENTIES PLAN FOR LIFE

       "I am sure others feel the same as you."  I watched her as she  pushed the half-half towards me because she knows its the only way I drink my coffee these days, "Nobody really  knows what they want to be when they grow up anymore." 

        All I could think about as she spoke, was how I should be grown up enough to drink my coffee black and I can't even do that.

   The problem is that ten years ago,  I had this adult thing all figured out. I knew everything. 

        I knew what I wanted to be and how I wanted to live. Ten years ago, I would have imagined myself living very differently than I do. In fact, "mid-twenties Noelle" would be quite surprised that "mid-thirties Noelle" doesn't have her own talk show by now - because clearly, I'd have my crap so together, everyone would want to know how to be me.

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   After having a lived a little bit of life, I feel hardly the expert or accomplished.  If anything, I feel like an adulthood drop-out who is way behind in achieving my mid-twenties plan.

     The American Dream is a quiet and judgmental presence that sits at your table with her arms crossed and a disapproving look upon her face. Like a great-aunt who questions your life choices at every family gathering, the American Dream leans in to you just at your most vulnerable moment and says, "So, what are you actually  planning to do with your life? Cause' clearly this isn't cutting it." One by one, she highlights the failures:

 Don't own your own house?     Slacker.

Drive a car older than five years?    Deadbeat.

No graduate degrees?    Dropout. 

Less than a thousand Insta followers?   Nobody.

Don't have a career that you love and are making six figures from?    Disappointment.

Do any of these things really matter? No. Well, at least that's what we say... but I suspect that we have secretly made these the markers of how we self-grade our lives. And some of us feel like we are failing. Our mid-twenties selves would be disappointed with our mid-thirties selves and there can be a lot of shame wrapped up in that. We are wandering towards our forties mumbling to those around us, "Wait! I don't know what to do with my life! I'm behind!" 

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   "So, what do you want to be when you grow up?" my friend asked as she offered me a spoon to stir my coffee.

  "I don't know. Betty White?" I answered, "Or maybe the Queen of England."

 "Don't we all?" she laughed and then took a tiny sip of her pour over. "But what if we just grow up to be decent and lovely human beings? Will that be enough?"

  I thought about it for a moment. If my life never achieves my  "mid-twenties life-plan", will I be okay with becoming a decent and lovely human being... and nothing more? 

   "Maybe, " I said. "but pass me the half and half again. I can't drink this coffee so strong."


ABOUT NOELLE

   Noelle is a    speaker  , podcaster, and an everyday encourager .   She is the podcast producer/host for   Friending Podcast   and is a regular co-host for the podcast,   Slices of Life  . She lives in North Jersey with her    husband and two children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.         For more random facts on Noelle you can    click here    or stalk her on   Instagram  .

  Noelle is a  speaker, podcaster, and an everyday encourager She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her  husband and two children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

       For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

 

  

 

 

FRIENDSHIP AND THE SPECIAL NEEDS MAMA.

     When your kid has special needs, it's not long before  you are looking hard for your "village". You quickly realize that you cannot do it alone - physically, mentally, emotionally...even spiritually. It's just not possible. There are too many unknowns and nuances to juggle. You'd have to  live  on island of denial to think you could handle it all by yourself.

    Because I know, I can't.

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      When we first realized that Silas was different, I was a wreck. I was not the "we will get on with it" kind of mother. I was in mourning. I mourned the kid I thought I was going to raise. I needed my friends to:

1) Listen + Speak Hope.

     They listened to me share my fears and cry my tears... a lot. My friends were very good at not saying things like "I don't know why you are so upset. It could be so much worse..." My friends possessed a graciousness that I was in desperate need  of - a safe space to fall apart. While I was on the floor of my despair they would gently but directly speak words of hope: "Noelle, Silas is fabulous and his story is going to be fabulous."

      As we journeyed on with our son's development, there were a lot unique challenges along the way. Silas is "behind" his typically developing peers. This hasn't always been easy to watch. I always found children's birthday parties to be particularly difficult for me. It was tempting to compare our son with the other children who were his age. I needed my friends to :

2) Celebrate our Child's Unique Progress + Speak Hope.

          With every milestone, our son was enthusiastically celebrated by the friends around us. Our friends became "fans of Silas". They not only cheered him on but they continued to speak hope towards his future. I remember one friend commenting to me about how Silas showed compassion towards her baby who was crying, "Silas is so  good with people he knows are more vulnerable and helpless than him. I can see him being a great man of compassion who does a lot of good in this world."  I have never forgotten her words and every time Silas stops to  speak to a little baby, I think about his compassionate nature and my friend's words of hope towards his future.

      When your child has special needs, there are  parts of the journey that are painful - even infuriating.  There are moments where you might even want to kick  someone's teeth in. During these times I needed my friends to: 

 

3) Get Angry With Me + Speak Hope.

      When you are parent of child with special needs you can feel a little crazy at times. It can feel like you are the only one who cares. It's painful to see your kid get left out of the social circle that they would have been in had they been "typical". It's infuriating to be in an IEP meeting where you are getting a lot lip service but not a lot of progress is being made. It makes you mad. It makes me mad but one of the most encouraging words I could hear in those moments is a friend saying,

"I'm mad too."

     I can't explain why - but it helps to know that I not the only one who is angry. I remember once Silas was made fun of by a group of boys. I remember being so angry that tears will spilling out from my eyes when I told the story to a friend. My friend said to me, "May all those little boys lose their hair prematurely!" I laughed so hard in that moment but knowing my friend was mad too helped ease the sting of it. She then took me by the hand and said, "Silas is going to be a person who understands what it's like to be misunderstood and because of that - he will have many friends."  Hearing her words of hope made me less anxious for his future. In fact, I was hopeful.

 

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    The greatest gift my friends have given me, as a mother of a child with special needs, is the gift of hope. As they have hoped...spoke words of hope - it has sparked me to hold onto hope too.

    

 

 

           

THE HEALING POWER OF LETTING OTHERS HELP YOU.

       I'm sitting in Panera's right now... crying like a baby. In between sipping my free-refill dark roast coffee and trying to wipe the snot from my face ... I am writing to you. Weeping like a fool.

Here's the thing:

The last 60 days were the worst.

Like the worst.

         Those of you who know me or know of me, may be curious as to "what is going in Noelle's life?" but the details are not all mine to own and I'll need you to understand that. 

But a lot went down.

       And I had to temporarily step back from a few things I love (like the Friending Podcast) to tend to the people I love the most...my family. It was hard to do but it was the right thing to do so I did it. I'm still doing it. 

  In the midst of going through a season that was already terrible, our hearing impaired son's hearing aid broke. It was having problems for a while since it wasn't really suited to support all the special equipment he uses in school (such as an FM system and Roger Mic). Intially, I didn't panic because we had nearly met our son's deductible due to all the appointments he has throughout the year regarding his hearing. I thought, "Surely, our insurance will cover some of the cost of getting him hearing aids that will be strong enough for what he needs them for." 

     To make a very long story short - I was wrong.

    This news broke me. Hearing aids are incredibly expensive and I knew we did not have the money to pay for them. I felt like we had failed our son as his parents. I felt like I had failed in life in general and I was already having a terrible 60 days. I cried and cried and called my closest friends and cried to them.

     I was such in a bad way, my sister-in-law, Jenna, showed up at my house with three cupcakes and said, "I want to start a Go Fund Me to help raise money for Silas' hearing aids."

        I told her "thank you for the cupcakes but no thank you to the Go Fund Me. I can't ask people to help us."   After having been a missionary for 6 years, where we relied on the monthly financial support of others, I couldn't muster up any strength to ask for help. I just cried and ate cupcakes. But my sister-in-law persisted and said, "I want to do this for you."

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    And she did.

     Within an hour of her posting the Go Fund Me, $2000.00 were raised!  I didn't believe her until I checked the link she sent me. Over the next week, more and more people from all over the world began to donate money and share the post. This morning while sitting in Panera's , I received a phone call to tell me that nearly $5000 have been raised to help pay for the hearing aids Silas needs. 

Hence, why I am crying.

   Because there is a healing power that comes when we let others help us. It takes a lot of vulnerability and courage to say, "I can't do this on my own. Can someone help me?" Sometimes we don't even have the strength to say that - the shame is too heavy. We need to let our friends help carry the burden when they see us struggling and say,

"Hey! This is too heavy for you to hold on your own! Move over! I am helping!"

   Yes, these last 60 days were pretty terrible but as I have seen the generosity and genuine care of others (even strangers) come to help us, I have begun to remember what hope feels like again... healing is taking place... and I am learning that:

   Letting others help in times of need is not admitting failure as a human... it's admitting that you are simply human. Period.

We are not created to do life on our own. We need each other. 

   Many thanks to all of you who have donated to help us Silas' getting new hearing aids.  I am humbled by your heart to care for Silas this way. I don't have the words to express my gratitude at this moment. Even as I type these final words, I can sense the ugly crying coming on. So, I'll need to save my words of appreciation for when I am writing in the privacy of my home. But until then,  please know... Troy, Olive, myself and of course, Silas:

Thank you.

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    And to you, dear friend, who is also having a season of pain, shame, and terribleness:

Let those offering, help you.

You and I can't do this alone. We need our people to help us. We do.

Your friend,

Noelle


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WE'VE ALL BEEN THE BAD FRIEND.

Let's face it. We've all been the bad friend.

We've forgotten to call.

We didn't show up.

We told a secret.

We didn't invite.

We made it about ourselves.

We didn't really listen.

We spoke too strongly.

We didn't speak up at all.

We blame shifted.

We gave the silent treatment.

We were too busy.

We stole the limelight.

We took for granted.

This list could on.

 

So, here's the thing:

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     We've all been the bad friend at some point in someone's life. In fact, there is a strong possibility that someone is out there right now  telling their "Bad Friend" story and YOU are the antagonist.  The hard cold truth is that we have NOT been Mr. Rogers to every person we've ever known. Does this make us terrible people?

No... 

Well,  actually yes...

Alright, maybe.

   Maybe we have been a terrible friend at some point in our life journey but here's what we can do about it:

1. 'FESS UP.

    If we want to be a good friend from here on out, it's important to acknowledge that there has been times where we have been a bad friend. Look at the list above. Which of those things have  you been guilty of? Telling secrets? Forgetting to call? Giving the silent treatment? Take honest look and face your friendship crimes. But don't wallow in your mistakes. Work on them! If you need to make more time for friends, listen to podcasts or read books on the work/life balance. If you need to get better at addressing conflict, talk to a coach or counselor about sharpening communication skills. Fessing' up to your specific friendship crimes will help you know exactly where you can improve.

2. FOCUS IN.

  Focus in on the healthy, consistent friendships you have going on in your life currently. Become intentional at improving your friendship skills. Commit to becoming a great listener! Make room in your schedule so you can show up to your friend's important events! Learn to communicate when there is conflict! Choose to be the cheerleader instead of always trying to steal the show! Be awesome at staying in touch!  It's never too late to become a great friend to the people you are friends with today!

3. FORGET NOT.

     There may come a time when a friend lets YOU down. Don't forget how easy it is to be the bad friend. When a friend commits a friendship crime against you, gently confront them. Give them opportunity to change. Extend grace as one has been a bad friend before. If this friend continues to hurt you, clearly communicate your choice to put a healthy distance in the friendship. It's important that we don't allow others to continually treat us badly just because we ourselves have let others down in our past. Sometimes being a good friend is saying good-bye to an unhealthy friendship.

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    Yes, we've all been the bad friend at one point or other - but hey,

We can be better.

Your friend, 

Noelle


ABOUT NOELLE

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       Noelle is a  speaker, podcaster, and self proclaimed: Friendtor(Friend +Mentor = Friendtor).  She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women find grow in their calling and encourage one another to do the same through the art of friendship.   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

YOU'RE NOT THE ONLY LONELY MOM .

          Let's just cut to the chase, shall we?

Motherhood can be lonely.

       Standing in the school yard, waiting to pick up your kid, you may find yourself  scanning the playground for another familiar "Mommy" face to stand next to.  You may notice the groups of moms all huddled together. They have found their squad to belong to... while you stand on the outskirts looking in.

"Is there anyone here that will be my friend?"

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  When I first became a mom, I naturally assumed that I would find "my people" ... other likeminded mommies that would become my "village". It didn't quite happen as organically as I hoped. In fact, I felt terribly lonely and my loneliness made me feel like some kind of freak. "What is wrong with me? Why I am finding it so hard to connect with other moms?" 

The more isolated I felt, the more overwhelmed I became by motherhood.

    

    I had to do something or I was going to go crazy. I had to find my "mom squad" - women that would support me as a mother. So, I took a deep breath and ...

1. Got over myself.

       I am going to be honest with you. The biggest reason why I found myself so lonely as a mom was because I was very insecure. I was constantly worried and obsessing over whether other women liked me or if they approved of how I mothered. I was a hot mess of low self-esteem. I never asked anyone to hang out because I was terrified of rejection. When I did attend events or gatherings I was invited to, I acted awkwardly because I was always trying to figure out what version of "me" the other moms  would like. It. Was. Awful.

   If I was going to overcome loneliness, I had to get over myself. And that's what I did. I learned to embrace my own awesomeness and stop worrying about what others thought. The more comfortable I became with who I was as a person and as a mother, the easier it became to find and connect with other moms.

 

2. Gave up my expectations.

     I had to give up the "Hollywood" fantasy of what I thought a mom squad would be. In my mind, it was a group of 5 mothers, whose children attend the same school together. We all volunteered for the same events and we would all meet every Tuesday for brunch at our favorite corner cafe - dressed in yoga pants and top buns.

 This is not always reality.

  In fact, my mom squad is made up women from all around the world - and some of them are not even mothers. Once I let go of my "fantasy" mom squad, I was able to cultivate deep friendships with women who have truly made be a better mom.

3. Got together with other mothers.

      Look, moms need to be together. I realized that I needed to find places where this could happen easily. So, when my kids were little, I went to a "Mom + Tots" group and it was one of the best decisions I made as a new mom. My toddler and baby played while I had coffee and cookies with women who were in the same season of life as me. Did I become best friends with all the women? No. But it was wonderful to have adult conversation with someone else who understood the misery of having 2 children in diapers. I used to call those Friday mornings, my "Sanity Hour". It was a place where I felt like I wasn't alone or crazy.

4. Gave it my attention.

      Bottom line: As a mother,  I have made my friendships a priority. This isn't always easy because I have little people in my life who rightfully take up a lot of my time. Yet, if I want to be a good mom, I need to consistently cultivate healthy friendships in my life. When I am feeling lonely, it's often because I have stopping being intentional in connecting with others. Loneliness has only hindered my ability to parent well. Connectedness has helped me find success as a mom.

   Mama friend, if you are feeling lonely - please know that you are not the only one.

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We have all felt isolated at some point in the journey but please believe when I say:

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO STAY LONELY.

And for your kids' sake and your sanity, please don't choose to be. It really does take a village.

From one mama's heart to another,

Noelle

 

PS: If you are mama looking for a friend right now, please don't hesitate to reach out:

Name *
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ABOUT NOELLE

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Noelle is a  speaker, podcaster, and self proclaimed: Friendtor(Friend +Mentor = Friendtor).  She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women find grow in their calling and encourage one another to do the same through the art of friendship.   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

3 WAYS I CAN HELP MY CHILD LEARN HOW TO BE A GOOD FRIEND

 Friendship is learned.

   We learn the art of friendship by observation and practice.  Whether we are aware of it or not, our kids are receiving an education in "how to be a friend" everyday.  The question is, "Are they learning how to be a good friend?"

  More and more, as I research friendship, I am convinced that children learn friendship best from their parents. So, this summer, I sat back and thought, "Am I intentionally teaching my kids how to be a GOOD friend?"

   With all the work I do with Friending Podcast and speaking about friendship, I realized that I have kinda dropped the ball in teaching my kids what a healthy friendship is supposed to look like. So, I put my in butt in gear and decided NOW is the time to help my children cultivate a lifelong skill that will not only positively impact their physical health but also their outlook on their future.

 

1. HELP MY CHILD ESTABLISH "FRIENDSHIP GOALS".

      I sat my kids down one morning and asked them, "How can you be a better friend?" Their answers were mature and insightful: 

"I want to tell my friends that they are awesome more often..."

"I want to not be so bossy when we are playing games..."

"I want to make sure everyone is included..."

"I want to make a new friend this school year..."

      A few days a later, I had them create their own "Friendship Goals" vision boards to help remind them what kind of friend they want to be.

    Dear friend, please know that  I am not crafty. At. All. So, this activity was thrown together because the Christmas Tree Shop had a 2 for 1 sale on blank canvases. My daughter (who is the arty one) found a box of puff paints and old markers stuffed under her bed. "
Friendship Goals" vision boards does not have to be fancy. They only need to be visual

   Both of their "Friendship Goals" vision boards are proudly displayed in each of their bedrooms and they have  become a great conversation piece at bedtime. The "Friendship Goals
vision boards serve as a  reminder of their own desire to be a good friend and the steps they want to take to be a good friend. It's also something that I can hold them accountable to.

 

2. HELP MY CHILD UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HEALTHY AND UNHEALTHY FRIENDSHIP HABITS.

  

    There are healthy and unhealthy friendship habits. Encouragement is a healthy friendship habit. Communicating to a friend how they are specifically awesome is encouragement. Manipulation is an unhealthy friendship habit. Giving your friend the silent treatment because they did not do what you wanted them to do is manipulation. I realized that my kids need me to show them the distinction between what is healthy and what is not.

  There is a popular saying, that even I have been guilty of quoting. and that is,

"Kids will be kids."

    This is true. Kids will be kids, but even still, kids need to be taught what is right. If I notice that one of kids' friendship groups have an unhealthy habit of excluding others, it's my responsibility to say, "Uh, that's not right. That's not healthy." 

  In the same way, when my child tells me that a friend drew them a card to help cheer them up, I need to point out that this is a healthy quality in their friendship: "Wow! I am so glad  you have a friend who notices when you are upset and tries to help you feel better. This is what a good friend does."

  It's important to take the time to make sure my kids know how a good friend treats others. I am always shocked when I hear of stories of children who have been bullied for years by their so-called "best friend". When asked why they let themselves be mistreated for so long many of them say, "I didn't know any different." Whoa.

 

3. HELP MY CHILD LEARN TO BE A GOOD FRIEND BY CULTIVATING MY OWN HEALTHY FRIENDSHIPS

     They say that children learn more from what their parents practice then what their parents preach. If want my kids to learn to be a good friend, than I need to be a good friend. This means, I need to show up in my friends' lives on a regular basis. I need to have healthy boundaries within my friendships. AND I need to actually go out and spend time with my friends... and not use my children as an excuse to not to.

    Friendship is a lifelong skill that I am always trying to sharpen. I don't think I will ever be the "perfect friend" but I would love to become someone that my kids could say, "My mom was a good friend. I learned a lot from watching her."

For more on how to help your child become a good friend listen to Episode 31 (Helping Your Kids With Friendship) on Friending Podcast:

 

 


ABOUT NOELLE

Noelle is a  speaker, podcaster, and self proclaimed: Friendtor(Friend +Mentor = Friendtor).  She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women find grow in their calling and encourage one another to do the same through the art of friendship.   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

RAISING A DAUGHTER WHO EMPOWERS OTHER WOMEN

  On January 21, 2017, 440,000 to 500,000 people gathered in Washington DC along with a  worldwide participation of an estimated five million people for the Women's March.  It is said to be the largest single-day protest in US History.

   Women's rights are important to me and not just because I'm female. They are important to me because I have an eight year old daughter and it's my desire (along with her father's) that she has all the space to grow up to be everything she is meant to be. 

   As much as I want misogyny, sexism, and inequality to end FOREVER, there is a greater present threat against my daughter that concerns me...

The other girls in her class.

    The extremes of bullying between girls has become more disturbing, prevalent and younger. I  cried when I read about the 11 year old girl who had boiling hot water thrown on her face and body when she was at sleepover. In my own community, a 12 year old girl committed suicide after being tortured by a group of girls from her school with bullying-text messages for a long period of time. The last text message  she received from one of these girls was an encouragement for her to kill herself ... and she did. As a community, we are shaken to our core. These are our kids. These are our girls and they are doing this to each other.

       Looking back on my own childhood and adolescence, my greatest pain did not come from heartbreak of boyfriends but rather from the girls who ripped apart my reputation and told lies about me. Fortunately, I didn't have to suffer their abuse 24/7 because they did not have that kind of constant access to me. There was no texting back then.  When I was home with my parents, I was truly safe from those girls' cruelty. My daughter, on the other hand, lives in a very different world and it's only for so long that I will be able to protect from her own kind.

  As women, we have the right to be treated with dignity, respect, and kindness. When we are not, we should speak up... but what do we do when it's our own fellow sisters that are mistreating us?

   This summer, I began to ask myself this question: HOW CAN I BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION? I realized that first and foremost:

I must decide and commit to intentionally raising my daughter to empower other women.

    What does this look like?

1)  I AFFIRM THAT SHE IS WORTHY OF DIGNITY, RESPECT, AND KINDNESS.

      I tell my daughter constantly that it is her responsibility to embrace her uniqueness and it's our responsibility to accept her for who she is. She does not have to become like anyone else to find belonging. In our home, she is accepted. Both my husband and I are followers of Jesus, but our children know that their faith is their own decision to make - and no. matter. what. - they will always be accepted and embraced by us. If my daughter cannot find dignity, respect and kindness in her own home, then what chance does she have in requiring it of others?

2)  I TELL HER THAT GIRL POWER IS TO HELP AND NOT HURT OTHERS.

     Girl power is always to be meant for good. Girls should not gang up to tear down other girls. Girls should not use their voice to threaten or belittle other girls (or anyone for that matter). Girls should never organize themselves to bully or to exclude, but rather girls should rally together to promote the good of the entire community. I have explained to my daughter that if she sees others misusing their power or voice to hurt another person that she should feel free to speak up and to tell an adult. It's not okay for anyone to be unkind ...but girls need to stick together.

3) I ENCOURAGE HER TO LOOK FOR WAYS TO HELP OTHER GIRLS RECOGNIZE THEIR OWN AWESOMENESS.

      I have taught my daughter how to compliment and make positive comments about another. In a world, where gossip is juicy and poisonous, we need to teach kids to speak kindly to and about each other. I told her that when a friend does well on a test ... or is wearing an awesome shirt ... or is super good at 4 Squares, that she should point that out to them. We have a saying in our home and that is, "Catch others doing something right."

4) I WILL HOLD HER ACCOUNTABLE.

     If my daughter is with  group of girls who become catty, I will point it out to her. If I find that she is not speaking up when others are tearing down another girl, I will call her to task. If another parent informs that my daughter has not been kind , I will take that accusation seriously. Mistreating others will not tolerated and will not be excused. Why?

Because women's rights are important and as women, we need to model it's importance by  treating each other with the dignity, respect, and kindness we deserve.

 

           One of things my daughter and I decided to do this summer was to make a pact. We decided to be women who empowered other women. In honor of our pact, we made two made two bracelets. One for her and one for me. Each are similar but different and represent our uniqueness.

 

    We wear our bracelets to remind ourselves that we do not have to change who we are to belong. We will always accept and embrace each as we are no matter what. We wear our bracelets to remind ourselves that we want to be women who really truly use our Girl Power to help others. We wear our bracelets to remind ourselves that it our great duty to help other females recognize their own awesomeness. We wear our bracelets to recognize that we are a part of a great worldwide tribe of women and together....we are better.

    May our daughters grow to be the most fiercely loving and kind generation ever. And may they stand on our shoulders to do so. Amen.

Your friend,

Noelle

* Photos by : Mykowski Imagery

ABOUT NOELLE

    Noelle is a  speaker, podcaster, and self proclaimed: Friendtor(Friend +Mentor = Friendtor).  She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women find grow in their calling and encourage one another to do the same through the art of friendship.   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

  

PRAYING FOR YOUR CHILD'S FRIENDSHIPS

         When you move internationally with a 9 and 7 year old in the middle of the school year - you worry as a parent. You worry...

"Will they make new friends?"

"Will they be able to maintain their old friendships from long distance?"

"Will they fall into the right crowd?"

"Will they be bullied for being the new kid?"

"Will they be bullied for being the kid with special needs?"

"Will they feel lonely?"

     The following above are  just my top 6 friendship worries for my children. I promise you, I often carry an anthology of concerns as a mother. It's something I'm working on but I thought you should know. I, too, worry for my kid's and their friendships.

Friendship is a BIG deal to a child. When they experience friendship pain or loneliness, it can be heart wrenching and powerless to watch as a parent.

      "How do I make these kids be nice to my kid?" I once asked my mother. I'll never forget how her eyes watered when she answered,

     "You can't." 

    This past June, a 12 year old girl, from a local community nearby, committed suicide after a year of being bullied from a group of "friends". 12. Years. Old. Aaaaaaaaaand from what I can tell...she came from a stable, loving home and was a star student and athlete.

 A few mothers at my children's swim practice were discussing this tragic event. One mother said, 

    "I can't imagine 12 year old girls being so cruel that a child would take her own life." Not a beat went by when an older mother with teenagers spoke up:

    "I can. My girls barely made it out of middle school alive."

    You could tell from the tone of her voice that she and her girls had survived some kind of severe friendship pain. No one in that circle of mothers was brave enough to ask what had happened. We were all too afraid to hear what kind of pain that our kids might have to face in the future. 

   As a researcher of friendship and as someone who speaks about friendship regularly, I know the science - friendship pain is inevitable. Not one of us escapes being rejected by our peers or experiencing seasons of loneliness. I also know that friendship is vital to our health and emotional wellbeing. We weren't created to be alone. 

Genesis 2:18 says, 

   " Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”

From the very beginning, our lives were designed to THRIVE alongside of others.

   

  So, what do I do, as a parent, who knows that friendship is important and that friendship pain is inevitable? How to do I help my kids?

I PRAY.

   This may seem elementary but it's something that I have overlooked for many years. I have failed to pray for my children's friendships. Only when crisis hits, do I think to ask Jesus for a little help. 

    As I have been preparing my kids for a new school year with new backpacks, lunch bags, and supplies, I realized that I need to prepare them for a new school year of friendships too. The best way for me to prepare is to pray. I began to outline a 31-Day prayer schedule for myself. I told a friend about it when I was confessing that I was going to battle my friendships concerns for my kids with prayer. She said,

  "Send me a copy of it. I'd like to pray for my kid's friendships too."

This is how the 31-Days of Praying for Your Child's Friendship Podcast Prayer Guide was born. 

It's free.

It's short.

It's not rocket science or magic.

It's simply prayer.

And if it's something that you would find helpful, by all means...

'Cause I am just like you - a parent who wants my kids to have healthy and life-giving friendships. 

Your friend,

Noelle


ABOUT NOELLE

 Noelle is a  speaker, podcaster, and self proclaimed: Friendtor(Friend +Mentor = Friendtor).  She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women find grow in their calling and encourage one another to do the same through the art of friendship.   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

 

        

 

 

       

MOXIES FRIENDS AND WHY WE NEED THEM.

The definition for the word, MOXIE, is: 

 

1. vigor; verve; pep. 

2. courage and aggressiveness; nerve. 

3. skill; know-how. 

 

     Moxie friends are the energetic souls in our life who always seem to have plenty of nerve in supply when it comes to challenges and opportunities they face. These are the people who never ask themselves, "Do I have the ability to do this?" They just do it. Almost always, they are met with success in whatever they dive into and we are always left scratching our heads saying, "If they could do it...could I?" 

 

    Our moxie friends are the living proof that some risks are worth taking.

 

    The audacious spirits of our moxie friends is contagious. Watching them achieve their  dreams or wade through their challenges gives us reason to pause and consider our own possibilities. When we are around these kinds of friends we begin to wonder that perhaps our own dreams are not as unrealistic as we had once believed.

 

      We begin to muster up our own portion of moxie.

 

      Moxie friends are incredible encouragers. They truly believe that "anything is possible" and generally have a positive outlook on life. When you are going through something difficult, they are the ones that come along your side and cheer, "You can this! I believe in you! Don't give up!" These friends help stir courage inside of us when we feel afraid or alone. They are natural speakers of hope.

       Moxie friends want to cheer on our dreams. Over a casual cup of coffee, a moxie friend will ask:

   "So, what about that book you said you wanted to write? You should do it! Get it published!"

    When you tell them that you work a full time job or that the publishing industry is difficult to break into, your moxie friend will hush you with, "You've got to least try! What's the worst that can happen?"

 

   Moxie friends don't let us give up or give in.

   They are not easily manipulated by our self-pity and they are rarely are influenced by our self-doubt. Their super power is bravery and as they exercise it within their own lives, they instinctively share this strength with us. This is why need them.

 

    So, who is the moxie friend in your life?

Tell them. Tell them that their moxie makes you a braver person in this world. Tell them that you appreciate the positive outlook they bring and the hope-filled words that speak. Even a moxie friend needs to have someone to encourage them too

   Your friend,

Noelle

 

***FOR MORE ON "MOXIE FRIENDS"  LISTEN TO EPISODE 30 OF FRIENDING PODCAST'S "MOXIE FRIENDS, FRIENDS WHO MAKE US BRAVE".


ABOUT NOELLE

     Noelle is a  speaker, podcaster, and self proclaimed: Friendtor(Friend +Mentor = Friendtor).  She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women find grow in their calling and encourage one another to do the same through the art of friendship.   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

 

HOW MUSIC HELPS US MAKE FRIENDS.

    When I was in 7th grade, my best friend knew all the words to Blue's Traveller's hit song, "Hook". If you know the song, you can see how a 7th grader living in the mid 90's could be impressed by this feat.

  When I discovered that Lindsey also owned the CD  (yes, I did just date myself there) of "FOUR" (Blue's Traveller's breakout album), I knew we would be besties.

     She and I would lay on her full size bed and replay the song over and over again.  Lindsey would sing the words perfectly each time as I marveled. Truth be told,  I was grateful that I had friend who didn't mind playing Blue's Traveller over and over again. Together, we pinky swore to remain their loyal fans forever... 

     Music has a magical way of connecting us to others. When children/ middle school age students begin to identify their musical tastes, they have a tendency to align themselves with other musically like-minded peers. I can still remember when I met a girl at camp who was listening to Lisa Loeb on her Discman. I distintcly remember saying to her, "Oh my god! Lisa Loeb! We should be friends!"  

  Even as an adult, looking to make new friends in a new neighborhood, I am always looking out for a person who likes the same music as me. Anyone who loves Motown, knows who Better than Ezra is , or is not ashamed to admit that they have wept at a U2 concert, will be probably find a friend in me.

    There is no doubt in anyone's mind that music influences us. So, when you come across someone else who is influenced by the same lyrics and melodies as you - you take notice. "Oh? You like this music too? Could you be my person?"

  Music helps us find each other. 

  Music also give us good reason to get together.

  I have watched my mother and her friends come alive on wedding dance floors when one of their old favorites is played. Nobody boogies likes Mrs. P boogies - it just takes the right song.  The music not only inspires her little posse to kick off their heels and let loose, but it intrinsically sets them apart as a group. As if to say, "This is our song from our time and we belong to each other."

      Just last night, my eight old led a choir of her friends in a karaoke of Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off". They danced and sang the song with gusto. This wasn't just "play" . This was making "music" together. Every once in while, when I get fed up hearing that karaoke machine blast through my home, I have to remind myself, "She has so much fun singing with her friends. I will hold off in murdering this machine just a while longer..."

    Bottom line: Music helps us find each other and gives us good reason to get together.

 

So, turn up your music.

You never know who you might find singing along with you.

 

Your friend,

Noelle

*For more on music and friendship, listen to Episode 29 of Friending Podcast: THE SOUNDTRACK OF FRIENDSHIP.


ABOUT NOELLE

 Noelle is a  speaker, podcaster, and self proclaimed: Friendtor(Friend +Mentor = Friendtor).  She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women find grow in their calling and encourage one another to do the same through the art of friendship.   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

 

 

 

 

LETTER TO MY EX-FRIENDS.

Dear Friends of the Past,

      Some time ago, you and I were friends. For various reasons or perhaps no good reason at all, our friendship came to an end. We don't talk. We don't meet up. We do not even connect via social media with a click of a "like" or the annual birthday greeting posted on a news feed somewhere. Simply put, we are not in each other's lives at all

    The research tells us that this is normal - "friendship breaks ups are inevitable". Whether the ending of a friendship is specifically verbalized or the silent drifting apart quietly suffocates the life of a friendship..... the experts all agree that friendships ending is a common social pain. We will all make friends and lose friends.

      The initial anger, confusion, hurt, and shame all faded with time. In same cases, it took a lot of time but each of us made new friends and the loss of what you and I had was filled in with new memories shared with another.

 

       I am not writing to highlight any blame on your part. I know that I carry a good portion of the cause of why we ended in the first place: I stopped showing up, I didn't know how to be there for you, I was to self-preoccupied with my own life, I moved and was bad at keeping in touch, I hurt you with something I said, I hurt you by not saying anything at all, I took the other person's side, I required too much and I gave you too little. Did I miss anything? I wouldn't be surprised if I did.

 I wanted to say that I am sorry. 

     And I wanted to tell you that I remember the good times and the good things you gave me too.

    I remember how you poured me a cup of tea when I landed on your front stoop one early morning, crying my eyes out. I remember how you made me laugh so hard that I literally did pee my pants and then you pinky swore not to tell a soul. I remember our long drives, on our way to a great adventure, with the windows rolled down and us singing along to the music from the top of our lungs. I remember all ways you celebrated my birthday because you knew I have "birthday issues". I still smile when I remember one of our inside jokes and the silly nicknames we affectionately bestowed upon each other.

I remember it all. 

     Truthfully, I don't know if our paths will ever cross again. I am doubtful that we will have some kind of  dramatic moment "of talking things out" or reconnecting "like old times". I am not opposed to this but I am realistic that our lives have moved on.

Most friendships are just for a season but all friendships leave a  life-long impact. 

 

   Although, we are no longer friends, I wanted to tell you that your friendship is meaningful to me. Despite what has "gone down" and despite "growing apart", I recognize the good part of the story you wrote in my life. I am thankful for the good times and the good things you gave me.  I am thankful for you.

  Yours truly,

Noelle

 

FOR MORE ON FRIENDSHIP BREAK UP, LISTEN TO EPISODE 28 OF FRIENDING PODCAST'S "DEATH OF FRIENDSHIP".


ABOUT NOELLE

 

 Noelle is a  speaker, podcaster, and self proclaimed: Friendtor(Friend +Mentor = Friendtor).  She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women find grow in their calling and encourage one another to do the same through the art of friendship.   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

    

 

3 THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN YOUR FRIEND LOSES A BABY

      Several years ago, my friend lost a baby.

     I remember when her husband called me. His voice pushed through as he choked by the tears, 

"There was no heart beat."

     I didn't know what to do. I had no idea of what to say. I was terrified to do or say anything that would cause my friend more pain than what she was already having to deal with. So, I did nothing.

All I could offer her was a vague email to say, "If you need anything, call me."

   Her husband called me  and said, "Do you think you could come see her?" 

   I was hesitant.  "Are you sure?"  Miscarriages often feel like it a "private" matter. I assumed my friend wanted privacy as she grieved. Her husband pleaded, 

              "Please, Noelle. I don't want her to be alone."

 So, I went.

         I called my mother, who had lost baby in utero when she was six months pregnant (with my brother, Jonah, who would be 23 this October if he was alive). I asked my mother for advice for how I can be there for my friend. She said in her beautiful,thick Jersey accent,

"Everyone grieves differently but everyone wants to know that someone cares. Show her you care."

     

 It was the best advice that anyone could give me.

   

   Sadly, a few of my dear friends have lost babies over the last 15 years. My mother was right - each of them have grieved their losses differently - but each one wanted to know that I cared.

3 Things to Remember When a Friend Loses a Baby.png

 Here are 3 Things To Remember When Your Friend Loses A Baby:

 

1. A baby is a baby.

      Some of my friends have lost their babies days after founding out they were pregnant. Some of my friends have lost their babies in their third trimester. Although these experiences are different, a baby is a baby. They have lost a baby no matter how far along they are in their pregnancy. 

    Once a  friend confided in me, "Sometimes I feel ashamed that I am so sad. I know was only 5 weeks pregnant, but I already had names picked out. I had dreams and hopes for my baby."

    A baby is a baby.

I stopped saying, "I am sorry you miscarried." I have started saying, "I am sorry that you lost your sweet baby." Sometimes I will ask my friend, "What is your baby's name?" If they have a name picked out, I will use the name as I refer to the loss. It is important to affirm the validity of our friend's grief - they are, in fact, actually grieving the loss of baby

 

2. a new Pregnancy doesn't mean the grief is over.

    I have made the mistake of assuming that my friend is "done grieving" the loss of her baby because she gets pregnant again. This is not true and I have found that some of my friends have struggled with real anxiety during their subsequent pregnancy after the loss of a baby. They are fearful that they will loss this baby as well. Some of my friends have felt like they couldn't celebrate their new pregnancy in fear of something bad happening or because they feel it will take away from mourning the baby who had died. 

     My mother who had two children after the loss of her son (my brother), Jonah, still tears up when she talks about holding his lifeless body in her arms. This was 23 years ago. It is important to not assume that "everything is okay now" because our friend is pregnant again. She still needs the support of a friend who will walk closely with her as she carries this new baby.

 

3.  an Invitation is more  helpful than information.

      When tragedy happens, it is our natural inclination to want to offer an explanation of "why it happened" and "how it can be prevented in the future". I have found that this not helpful. My friends who have lost their babies have told me how they have had to wade through unexplained guilt and inevitable fears for the future as they grieve. Information from a "well meaning" friend can feel too heavy of burden to carry on top of everything else. 

    Instead of offering our friends "information", we have an opportunity to offer our grieving friends an invitation to

  • talk openly about the loss in the presence of a safe and listening friend
  • go out for coffee or to the movies to be distracted for a brief time
  • ask for a set of helpful hands to tend to house chores and other day-to-day tasks (such as: food shopping, yard work, child care, etc.)
  • be encouraged each day for set a time with a regular text or phone call ("I'm thinking of you. How are you feeling today?")
  • remember together the baby that was hoped for with cards and gifts with the baby's name on it
  • and much more.

 

       When a friend loses a baby, she needs a friend.

And you are it. You are the friend. You don't have to have a counseling degree or even have experienced this particular kind of loss to show her that you care. All you need to do is take a step towards her and let her know that she is not alone.

 

   For more on what to do when your friend loses a baby, listen to Episode 27 of Friending Podcast.

 

Until next time,

Noelle


ABOUT NOELLE

 

 Noelle is a  speaker, podcaster, and self proclaimed: Friendtor. (Friend +Mentor = Friendtor).  She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women find grow in their calling and encourage one another to do the same through the art of friendship.   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

   

 

SQUAD CULTURE: What is your group of friends known for and why does it matter?

Culture: the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices.

       Every friendship squad has a culture. Even yours. Each friendship group holds a set of (often, unspoken) values, attitudes and practices. This matters because "culture" determines the health of a group of people. If the culture is toxic, the relationships became dysfunctional. If the culture is healthy, the relationshipS become life-giving. 

   Here is an example of a healthy squad culture I observed in a friendship group that began in middle school and has carried through 12 years:

SET OF VALUES

-Spending time together face to face.

-Showing up to the important stuff to show support.

- Speaking honestly with each other.

SET OF ATTITUDES

-  "We are willing to travel to each other so that we can spend time together".

- "We will drop anything to support each other through the tough times".

- "We are not afraid to speak truthfully with each other even if we disagree".

SET OF PRACTICES

- Planned weekend trips, visits to each other's apartments, spending holidays together, etc.

- Attend family members' funeral, makes every effort to celebrate each other's birthdays in person, help each other move, and show up to big events to show support.

- Speak honestly (with careful thought and love) to the friend who has compromised their integrity, well being, dreams or priorities. 

 

       Some examples of toxic squad culture would include:

  • Gossip
  • Chronic cancelled dates to hang out
  • Saying what the other(s) wants to hear
  • Exclusion
  • Jealousy
  • Dominating personality that calls the shots
  • Unwilling to be inconvenienced to help

 

Healthy squad culture will make you feel like you have a safe place to belong. Toxic squad culture will keep you guessing if you are "really in the group" or not.

Healthy squad culture will make you feel supported as you pursue new adventures. Toxic squad culture will make you feel paranoid that your friends will disapprove of your pursuits.     

Healthy squad culture will make room for new friends to join the tribe. Toxic squad culture will keep the doors closed to newcomers.

Healthy squad culture will address issues with openness and compassion. Toxic squad culture will discuss issues behind each other's backs and with judgement.

Healthy squad culture will make sure every one has a voice. Toxic squad culture is controlled by a dominating personality who throws a fit when he/she doesn't get their way.

Healthy squad culture commits to showing up to each other's lives. Toxic squad culture is too busy to make the effort.

 

    Many women have described their friendship groups to me which often sound terribly toxic. I am always amazed what women are willing to put up with. When I ask them, "Why do you still hang around these people?", the answer is nearly always the same:

 

"I have known them forever."

   Tennessee Williams said, 

Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.

      We cannot stay in a unhealthy friendship group  for the sake of "history". When we choose to remain in a "toxic squad culture", we short change ourselves. We need to surround ourselves with people who will encourage us to be the best version of ourselves. 

   It's never too late to start a friendship group that will have a healthy culture. No matter how old you are or what season of life you are in, there are plenty of people in this world who want support, encouragement and honesty too. It will take bravery to step away from a toxic group of friends and it will take even more bravery to go out and make some new friends. But. It's worth it.

    Culture determines future. If you want to have a healthy future, then you need to have a healthy group of friends to walk the journey with you.

 

Your friend,

Noelle


ABOUT NOELLE

  Noelle is a researcher,   speaker  , and podcaster. She is the podcast producer/host for   Friending Podcast   and is a regular co-host for the podcast,   Slices of Life  . She lives in North Jersey with her  hot  husband and two  wild  children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.        Noelle is passionate about helping  women   empower women through the art of friendship .     For more random facts on Noelle you can    click here    or stalk her on   Instagram  .

 Noelle is a researcher, speaker, and podcaster. She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women empower women through the art of friendship.

   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

HOW TO SURVIVE MOTHERHOOD THIS SUMMER AND STILL HAVE A SOCIAL LIFE.

The summer is here and you know what that means...

School is out and the kids are home.

(Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.)

I am well aware that there are some mamas out there who love the flexibility that summer brings. I don't.

I like structure. I like routine. I like to be able to keep a set schedule. Basically, I am a control freak in recovery. Judge me if you will, but I know some of you mamas out there are hyperventilating along with me... "How in the world am I going to keep these children entertained all summer and still maintain some sense of sanity?

I'll tell you how. Friends. Our friends will keep us sane.

But let me share this one *small* warning before we dive into this any further. Summer has this really sneaky way of making you believe that you will have "all the time in the world" to spend with friends because of the season's slack in "structure". I am here to tell you that is a big fat lie. Summer is lying to you. The reality is that everyone is either away on vacation or are driving their kids to and from the three million camps they are attending. It's hard to keep a social life in the summer.

      So. If we want to survive motherhood this summer and still stay connected to our friends for the sake of our sanity, we best be ready to put up a good fight.

Okay. Here is my game plan:

1. Inviting the squad to a "weekly beach day" pilgrimage.

       I live in Jersey and Jersey folk go down the "shore" in the summer. This summer, I am taking my crew to the beach every Wednesday and inviting other brave friends to join us (kids or no kids). It will give my kids something to look forward to each week and it will give me an opportunity to connect with my friends. If you don't have a beach within a reasonable driving distance, feel free to host a weekly "BABY POOL PARTY" or head to the nearest lake, park, or town pool.

 

2. Hosting open house BBQs throughout the summer.

      It's nearly impossible to get all my friends available on the same day for a BBQ. So, I am getting rid of that expectation and I am going to host a few "open house" BBQ's. Basically, if you can come, COME! If you can't come... come to the next one! Also, to make it a lot let less stressful for me... it will be a "BYOM/V" (Bring Your Own Meat/Veg) to grill on the BBQ. We'll provide a couple sides, ice tea, and s'more for the kids. 

 

3.  Starting a Rainy Day Survival Squad. 

       If it's raining, I'm calling you to join forces with me in keeping our kids safe and mildly entertained despite the bad weather. Together we will bake cupcakes, make blanket forts in one brave mama's living room, facilitate a "craft hour" where we make our kids craft with the recyclables we forgot to put out on the curb, throw a Kids Bop dance party, and host a Pixar movie marathon. Together we will stand strong.

 

4. Committing to Mamas' Night Out.

       At least twice this summer, I want to get a little dolled up (translation: showered and wearing something other than running shorts and old "Color Run" tees) and go out with a few other mom friends to celebrate being something other than a "mom". I am committing to eating overpriced grilled chicken and talking about anything other than orthodontics, fall soccer, IEP's, and who is going to be the fourth grade teacher this year. You in?

 

5. Sending some snail mail.

          Remember when we were teens and use to send each other letters from camp during the summer? I am resurrecting that ancient practice and am going to send a few chosen folks a letter. I know. This is so old school that it might even be fun.

 

     For some of us, surviving motherhood this summer is no joke. We will need a little help from our friends to get by with our sanity *mostly* in tact. This will require planning and putting ourselves out there. It means we must be willing to be the inviters and not always waiting for other moms to invite us. We'll need to get creative but most importantly, available. If want to maintain our social life for the sake of our sanity this summer, we'll need to make friendship a priority.  Our kids will thank us for it in the end. After all, a  happy mama is the best kind of mama there is.

 

   Your friend,

Noelle


ABOUT NOELLE

  Noelle is a researcher,   speaker  , and podcaster. She is the podcast producer/host for   Friending Podcast   and is a regular co-host for the podcast,   Slices of Life  . She lives in North Jersey with her  hot  husband and two  wild  children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.        Noelle is passionate about helping  women   empower women through the art of friendship .     For more random facts on Noelle you can    click here    or stalk her on   Instagram  .

 Noelle is a researcher, speaker, and podcaster. She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women empower women through the art of friendship.

   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

THE ONE THING YOU NEED TO PRACTICE IF YOU WANT TO BE A GOOD FRIEND.

Okay, at the risk of sounding cheesy, I am just going to say it. Because it needs to be said.
 

To be a good friend to anyone you need to be a good friend to yourself first.


I see that eye roll.



        But listen, friend, many of you have been talking to me. You have been telling me of your loneliness or lack of connecting to other women. Some of you have shared deep friendship breakup pain with me. Some of you have told me that life has done such a number on you that not much is left of yourself to give to another human being in the form of friendship.

I want you to know that I get it and I hear you.

And this why, I need to say this. In fact, I tried to talk about this via Facebook Live on Thursday (insert my own eye roll) but technology is evil and never wants to play nice with me.

Back to the issue at hand:

To be a good friend, we must practice self-care.


I know. I know. Self-care sounds so...well...selfish. Friend, I am telling, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Even Jesus practiced self-care.

I heard you gasp.

       Let's look at the pattern of his life: Jesus would spend time with people and then He would go away from them to spend time alone with His Father, God. He was practicing self-care! He knew that in order to care for others, He would need to connect to His Father. This would require, taking time out to be by himself.

And no, I am not talking about devotions (reading your bible and praying). I am not even talking a  taking a "Sabbath" because "Sabbath" is not something we necessarily do by ourselves.

    I am talking about being alone and connecting to something you love... and ultimately connecting to Jesus

What does self-care look like?
A lot of things.

It could be a bi-weekly pedicure.
It could be a daily habit of taking bubble baths while reading a book.
It could be a nightly walk around the neighborhood.
It could be participating in a pilates class 2x week.
It could be a nap (especially when you are a mother of littles).
It could be stealing away to a coffee shop every Saturday morning to write poetry.
It could be baking a loaf of fresh bread.
It could be anything.

It just needs to be you, plus something you love to do, and time

Why?

      If we are not healthy (mind, body, and spirit), we will not empower others because we ourselves will feel drained. Suddenly, that friend's birthday dinner we were asked to attend will feel like a burden. Or when a friend calls to talk about an issue in her life, we will find ourselves too empty to offer her encouragement or advice. Making new friends will become an impossible task because we feel too frazzled or overwhelmed to make enough space in our lives for another person.

We need to take up a rhythm of self-care. 

      How does Jesus factor into all this? 

        God designed us with specific personalities, giftings, and desires. Each of us is a unique individual and how we replenish ourselves will look differently from each other. There is a reason why taking a bubble bath while reading a novel is refreshing to you! You were designed to enjoy bubble baths and reading! When we connect to what brings us joy, we can find the connection to Jesus. However, we must be intentional about it. Here are three things I pray when I am practicing self-care:

  1.  Jesus, help me to relax and receive joy as I spend this time alone.
  2.  Jesus, talk to me about my heart. How am I doing?
  3.  Jesus, talk to me about the people in my life. How are they doing and what can I do to help them?


   This may surprise you, but I have found profound spiritual insight in the midst of manicure. Jesus has spoken to me through a set of french gels nails and I am not ashamed to tell you that.

   Caring for ourselves is not selfish, but rather it scaffolds for what needs to be in place as we care for the people in our lives - including our friends.

     Here is where I am going to give it to you straight:
 

Some of us are too stressed out and it's making us a lousy friend.


 Now, listen, resist the urge to jump in that quicksand of guilt. I am not telling this so you'll get stuck feeling like a failure. I am telling you this so that you will give yourself permission to be by yourself to do something that brings you joy! Your friends need you to take care of yourself. Sometimes, it is the most loving thing you can do for them.

      Okay, I have said enough. Now go out and practice self-care! You'll be a better friend for it.  I promise.

Your friend,
Noelle 


ABOUT NOELLE

  Noelle is a researcher, speaker, and podcaster. She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women empower women through the art of friendship.

   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

7 BOOKS ABOUT FRIENDSHIP TO READ TO YOUR KIDS THIS SUMMER

Summer is nearly here and there is no better time to talk to our kids about friendship than when then during the summer break! Here are a few of my favorite children's and Middle School grade books that deal with themes about friendship...

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip C. Stead

  • Age Range: 2 - 6 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 1

"Friends come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. In Amos McGee’s case, all sorts of species, too! Every day he spends a little bit of time with each of his friends at the zoo, running races with the tortoise, keeping the shy penguin company, and even reading bedtime stories to the owl. But when Amos is too sick to make it to the zoo, his animal friends decide it’s time they returned the favor."

The Friend Ship by Kat Yeh

  • Age Range: 3 - 5 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - Kindergarten

 

"Little Hedgehog is very lonely. But then she overhears passersby talking about something that gives her hope-something called a Friend Ship!  

Hedgehog imagines a ship filled with friends of all kinds, and soon she's ready to hit the open seas in a boat of her own to track it down. Along the way, she meets other lonely animals eager to join her quest.

They search north. They search south. They search east. But Hedgehog and her new friends can't find the Ship anywhere! Until she realizes she knows just where the Friend Ship is. . . 
"

 

 

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers

  • Age Range: 3 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 2

"What is a boy to do when a lost penguin shows up at his door? Find out where it comes from, of course, and return it. But the journey to the South Pole is long and difficult in the boy’s rowboat. There are storms to brave and deep, dark nights.To pass the time, the boy tells the penguin stories. Finally, they arrive. Yet instead of being happy, both are sad. That’s when the boy realizes: The penguin hadn’t been lost, it had merely been lonely.

A poignant, funny, and child-friendly story about friendship lost . . . and then found again.
"

 

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 7

"It was the perfect summer. That is, until Jeremy Ross moved into the house down the street and became neighborhood enemy number one. Luckily Dad had a surefire way to get rid of enemies: Enemy Pie. But part of the secret recipe is spending an entire day playing with the enemy! 

In this funny yet endearing story, one little boy learns an effective recipes for turning your best enemy into your best friend. Accompanied by charming illustrations, Enemy Pie serves up a sweet lesson in the difficulties and ultimate rewards of making new friends."

 

Flora & Ulysses by Kat DiCamillo

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7

"Flora starts off her 10th summer by promising her mother that she'll spend more time reading real books, and less time poring over the pages of her favorite superhero comics. But neither she nor her mother could have predicted that her summer would be one long superhero adventure, starring none other than Flora and her new pet squirrel, Ulysses. Ulysses gains super-squirrel strength after being sucked into a vacuum cleaner, and he changes the Buckman family's lives, renewing a sense of hope and optimism in Flora."

 

Holes by Louis Sachar

  • Age Range: 10 and up 
  • Grade Level: 5 and up

"Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnatses. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the boys build character by spending all day, every day digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. But there are an awful lot of holes.

It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. But what could be buried under a dried-up lake? Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption."

 

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7

"August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance."


ABOUT NOELLE

    Noelle is a researcher, speaker, and podcaster. She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women empower women through the art of friendship.

   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

REDEEMING TRAGEDY IS NOT MY JOB.

"God must have someone better for you."

      I wish I had never spoken these shallow words to a friend whose husband had just left her and her children for another woman. I could kick myself in the stomach for being so insensitive. If I could go back in time, I would. I can still hear how her voice cracked when she mustered up what strength she had left to answer me, "I do not want someone better. I want my husband".

      It was not my job to redeem my friend's tragedy by offering her a reason for it. But this is what we do, isn't it? This is what we offer to the friend who undeservingly suffers pain. Their brokenness makes us feel uneasy and so we attempt to fix it with a cheap imitation of redemption.

    We are not called to be redeemers. There is only One who can redeem. We are, however, called to be carriers.

"Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

 

     We are called to help carry the burden of the tragedy. What does this look like? It means that we walk at the pace, shoulder to shoulder, with the friend who has suffered the tragedy. A friend has lost their baby. After a few months, she mentions to you that she is ready to take down the crib. You do not question her timing. You do not say, "Don't you want to leave the crib in case you get pregnant again?" You simply reach out your hand and say, "Would you like my help?"

Many times I get an emails or text messages asking,  "My friend has gone through a tragedy. What should I do?"

I almost always answer back, "Mourn with her."

 

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Romans 12:15

 

Redeeming Tragedy is Not My Job..png

We are not asked to be redeemers. We are asked to be mourners.

      What does mourning with a friend look like? It looks like when you are out to dinner with her. She begins to cry about missing her husband who has left her. You do not say, "He is not worth your tears," or "Soon you will meet someone so much better".  Instead of speaking, you listen to her. You offer her your napkin to wipe away her tears and you do not hold back your own.

 

It is not our job to be the redeemers of our friends'  tragedy.

 

It is our job to carry the burden of the tragedy.

It is our job to mourn the pain of the tragedy.

And we can do this.

 

Your friend,

Noelle


ABOUT NOELLE

    Noelle is a researcher, speaker, and podcaster. She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women empower women through the art of friendship.

   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

HOW TO HELP A FRIEND WHEN SHE HAS LOST HERSELF

   I could tell she had been crying.

           "I'm sorry to call you so late, but I needed to talk to someone."

     The woman on the other line of the phone was a friend who has been going through a particularly busy season of her life. To say that she was "under pressure" was an understatement.

" I just feel..." her voice began to crack as her throat choked back the tears, "I just feel like I have lost myself."

     My intelligent, creative, and beautiful friend was drowning in a special kind of despair that only "busyness" can bring. She was asking me to throw her a life preserver.

    Women today are busy. We just are. If we are working full-time, we are busy. If we are at home with kids, we are busy. You would be hard pressed to find a lazy, lounging woman hanging around doing nothing.

      In addition, women can experience several severe "Season of Life" changes. In one year a woman can go from being high-powered CEO to a stay-at-home mommy with an infant. In the same way, within months a woman can go from schlepping teenage children around to their soccer practices to having an empty nest. Women are the ones that typically care for their aging parents. There are a lot of life changes women experience and it's easy for one to lose herself along they way.

So, how can YOU help?

1. Notice.

   Does your friend seem distant from the things she once to loved to do? Has she stopped writing music, baking macarons, running marathons, arranging floral pieces, or anything else that once brought her joy and excitement? There is a difference between being busy and being disconnected. Busyness depletes time. Disconnectedness depletes joy.

 

2. Remind.

      It is easy to lose ourselves when we are constantly giving ourselves to others (work, motherhood, parents, church, etc.) A good friend will remind us of who we are and what are good at. Recently, a friend wrote an email to her boss and she asked me to proofread it. She is an exceptional writer and although it was a work email, I was prompted to remind her that she is a talented writer and gifted with communicating hard things with soft words. It is our job as friends to be the excellent detectives in uncovering the evidence of who are friends are.  If a friend saying, "I don't know who I am anymore," we can be the voice that reminds of the song the use to sing.

 

3. Interrupt.

       If our friend is feeling lost, it may be our cue to interrupt her daily pattern with an activity that will reset her soul. If she loves music, take her to a concert. If she is a foodie, take her to the new restaurant in town. If she is inspired by art, kidnap her and bring her to a museum. She needs you to be the one that interrupts her thoughts of "lostness" by bringing her to a place that will give her soul space to breathe. The truth she is, she most likely will not give herself the permission to reset her soul. She needs you to do that for her. I would like to add that sometimes, a simple activity that connects a friend to one of her central joys can be the most spiritual acts of service we can do for her. We need to recognize that God has created her with passions, personality, and desires. If she is feeling lost, we can help pave the way back to herself and ultimately, Him.

 

         Who is the female friend in your life who seems frazzled and disconnected from who she once was? Who seems like she is lost herself in a season of life that is drained her of joy? Do not be tempted to "mind your own business" but instead, move towards her with empathy and encouragement. Take up the holy responsibility of pointing out to her who she is and what she is good at. Interrupt her thoughts of "losing herself" by bringing her to a place where can connect to her central joy again. Be willing to pay the bill, make the plans, drive to the destination, and create space for her to remember her joy.

 

This is what we do for our friends. We don't let feel like their alone but rather, we tighten our cords of friendship and once again say,

“I am here with you.”

Your friend,

Noelle


ABOUT NOELLE

    Noelle is a researcher,   speaker  , and podcaster. She is the podcast producer/host for   Friending Podcast   and is a regular co-host for the podcast,   Slices of Life  . She lives in North Jersey with her  hot  husband and two  wild  children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.        Noelle is passionate about helping  women   empower women through the art of friendship .     For more random facts on Noelle you can    click here    or stalk her on   Instagram  .

   Noelle is a researcher, speaker, and podcaster. She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women empower women through the art of friendship.

   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.