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.

I DON'T WANT TO KNOW - A MOTHER'S DAY POST

Dear Moms of the Internet,

Can I  be honest for a hot second here? I don’t want to know how awesome your life is.

There. I said it. Now you know what a terrible person I am.

You post pictures of yourself with your two-year-old baking oatmeal cookies in a perfectly tidy kitchen. My two year old couldn’t sit still long enough to stir a bowl before it would splat on the floor. Besides, where are you getting all this time to bake? Ugh. I don’t want to know.

 

Read More on Kindred Mom


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.

WHY WE ALL WANT TO BE FRIENDS WITH JIMMY KIMMEL

For the last 24 hours, my friends and I have been talking about Jimmy Kimmel like he is one of the neighborhood dads whose kid rides the same bus as our kids. 

   "Oh geez, did you hear about Jimmy Kimmel's son? Heart disease? Geez. I cried the whole time he shared the story."

    "Does anyone know how Jimmy's son is doing? I watched the video on Facebook. So emotional."

  "Oh, my gosh. You HAVE to watch Jimmy Kimmel talk about what happened to his son. Have a box of tissues ready. It's a tear jerker."

   I was nearly ready to organize meals for Jimmy and his wife (Molly) because that's what you do for friends who are going through a crisis with their kid. You make them lasagna and tell them to call you if they need anything.

      If you haven't watched the video of Jimmy Kimmel sharing the emotional news about his son, you should click here. And yes, have tissues ready. It's hard not to get choked up when Jimmy has to pause to swallow back his own tears. I, personally, ugly cried the whole way through it.

   As my friends and I have chatted, the general consensus is that Jimmy Kimmel seems like a dude you'd want to be friends with.  We all felt a connection to a man that we don't personally know at all

 But why?

 Photo Credit:  abc.go

Photo Credit: abc.go

 

There are three things that are attractive in friendship. Jimmy Kimmel displayed all three of these attributes as he shared the emotional story of his son's birth and diagnosis. 

1. Openness

         The story Jimmy shared was personal. He was very open about a very difficult moment in his life. It should not surprise us that we are drawn to people who are willing to open their life up to our's - even the painful moments of their lives. I  recently was with a new friend who I was still getting to know. We had known each other for a few months, but our friendship never really deepened until she shared a pain point in her life and I shared a pain point in mine. Our openness and willingness to be vulnerable were the needed attributes that would take our friendship from "new friend" to "good friend" status. Jimmy's willingness to share and be vulnerable is just the qualities that make us like him all the more. We get this sense that if we ran into him at a coffee shop and told him about our sick kid, he probably would listen and empathize. 

   If we are feeling like most of our friendship linger in shallow waters, perhaps we can take a lesson from Jimmy and dive into the open waters of vulnerability.  

2. Gratitude

   Jimmy took several minutes to thank the people who were there for him and his wife during this crisis. With tears in his eyes, he thanked every medical staff member  (nurses, doctors, and admin) by name. He conveyed genuine heartfelt gratitude for the support of his friends, family, and co-workers. He was very clear on how thankful he was and you just wanted to give him a huge hug and say, "Aw, Jimmy. If you need anything, call me."

    Gratitude is a  valuable currency in friendship.  When we say "thank you, we are placing value on the person who has helped us. We are communicating that their life is needed by our's and we have taken notice. The bottom line is, people want to be around people who will acknowelege their value. This is why it is important to say "thank you" - even for the small stuff. A simple call to say,  "Thanks for taking my kid to soccer practice" will strengthen your friendship because you have communicated that your friend is important to to your life.

3. Concern

    Jimmy asked the audience to say prayers or send positives to the families that he met at the Children's Hospital where his son treated. He talked about his concern for parents who cannot give their sick child the treatment needed due to financial lack. The fact that Jimmy was not making his crisis all about himself was they very thing that made us want him to be our friend. Perhaps, he would have concern for us too. We all want  a friend who will speak up on our behalf when we have need. We want  a friend who will recognize our struggle and empathize with our pain. We a friend who will think of us and not just themselves. Hearing Jimmy speak about these families reminded us that we are all thing together and "together" is just antidote needed when you feel like you are struggling "alone".

 

So, yeah. I suspect we have good reason to want Jimmy Kimmel to be our bestie. He's open...he's grateful... and he cares about others. I'd make lasagna for him and his family any day.

 

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.

THE SILENT TREATMENT: A DEADLY KILLER OF FRIENDSHIP.

   Ugh. The Silent Treatment.

  Good ol' Wikipedia defines the  "Silent Treatment" as the  "refusal to communicate verbally with someone who desires the communication". If you have ever suffered under this form of manipulation, you might understand how it's chief game is to keep you guessing where the relationship stands.

     In friendship, the Silent Treatment is often the precursor to a "silent" friendship break up. One friend pulls away. She stops returning your calls and texts. She doesn't invite you to her birthday dinner that she mentioned she was going to host.  She doesn't even "like" any of the photos you have posted on your Instagram. Although she has not spoken to you about a specific conflict, you understand that something is wrong. Why? Because she is not speaking to you at all.

  

   Here's where I'm going to be brutally honest and expose myself as the jerk friend that I can be:

I have given the Silent Treatment.

   Yes, I have.  I am not proud to admit it and I am not sure if I was always aware of the damage it has caused my friendships. The truth is that when things felt awkward or when I felt hurt, I would pull away.  Instead of addressing the issue, I would simply cut off all communication in hope that the friend would either,

A) Realize their transgression against me and come begging for my forgiveness.

Or

B) Allow the friendship to fade quietly into the distance. 

 

  I know. I have been a complete jerk.

As I research friendship, I often have to process my own "friendship sins" and this manipulating behavior of the "silent treatment" is something that I had to process. 

Why did I do this? Didn't  I know better?

     There are two reasons why I believe I (and many others) have given the silent treatment even at the risk of killing a friendship.

REASON 1: SILENCE IS EASIER THAN SPEAKING OUTLOUD THE PERSONAL FRIENDSHIP HURT

    Let me start with an example: A friend forgets to include me in a dinner party she is throwing. I found out that I am excluded. I decide this intentional. I become offended. I do not confront her because then she will know I was hurt. 

   In the past, I would not want my friends to know how much I needed them or how it hurt me when I was not included. I did not want them to see my bleeding heart. Instead, I withdrew and let the friendship die slowly in the silence. Some friends were more mature than me and would persist with the friendship despite the silence Sadly, many of my "friendship break ups"  occurred because I would not honestly speak about my hurt.     

REASON 2: SILENCE CAN POWERFULLY GRANT US THE ATTENTION WE CRAVE

    "What's wrong? I haven't heard from you in a while." We learn this trick in our younger years. If we suddenly pull back or stop speaking, sometimes people notice. Sometimes it will make them feel nervous about where they stand with us. Suddenly, they start paying attention to us. They try to figure out what is wrong and we have finally caught them in our trap of silence. 

    When my husband and I were dating, I used to do this. Ugh. I cringe as I admit it. If I felt like he was not giving me the attention I wanted, I simply played the all "quiet card". He would take notice and say, "What's wrong? You're not talking to me. What I did I do?" Bam! I would have his attention. Ew. I was such a jerk girlfriend back then.

     Sometimes we use silence to get a hold of our friend's attention. Perhaps she has been preoccupied with her new job or boyfriend. She doesn't text back as fast as she used too. Do we call her and say, "Hey, I am feeling a little disconnected from you"? Nope. We decide to stop talking. She pursues. We persist. She gives up. The friendship suffocates due to lack of communication. We explain the friendship's death with, 

"I don't know what happened between us. I guess we grew apart."

Okay, so now what? How can we avoid using the Silent Treatment in friendship?

1. When we are hurt, SPEAK UP.

    When our friend has let us down, whether intentionally or not, it is OUR responsibility to start the conversation. People cannot read minds. They may sense something is wrong because we are not talking but they won't know WHAT is wrong until we speak up. So, it's on us to grow some moxie, call our friend and say, "Hey, can we talk? I was hurt by something that I need you to know about it."

2. When we feel ignored, REACH OUT.

     If our friend hasn't paid much attention to us, perhaps it's important to ask the question: WHY? Is she stressed out over a project at work? Perhaps she needs us to step in and be a listening ear. Has she had her first baby and is overwhelmed by this new season in her life? Maybe she needs us to invite her to a dinner out with no kids and all grown up talk. The only the way to find out is to reach out. Be the first to extend an invitation to talk... or go out ... or simply reconnect. Constant silence will permanently disconnect the  line of communication between friends,  but we can interrupt the disconnection by saying, "Hey. Do you want to do something?" 

 

   My biggest regret in friendship are the times I have given my friends the silent treatment and ultimately chose to allow the friendship to end instead of being the bigger person by choosing to communicate. I had some very close friends I have let go this way. Sometimes I wonder if it's too late to try to make amends. I dream about ringing them up and saying, "I am sorry for letting you go."

  But, silence has a funny way of clouding up the details of what "really went down". Its permanent side effect is that it's hard to hash out what happened when you try to later on. Ugh. It makes me very sad to think about what I have done.

   Even so, I am moving forward and I am leaving the silent treatment behind in the past where it belongs. From here on out, I am dealing with friendship like a grown up.

  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.


13 REASONS WHY EVERY 5TH GRADE PARENT SHOULD WATCH 13 REASONS WHY

 I first heard about the newest Netflix series from one of our Friending team members. She had mentioned that she had read the book, "13 REASONS WHY" and was looking forward to the TV series. She told me the book was about friendship. I was intrigued. Plus, I am always on the prowl for a good series to binge watch.

  I was worried that the show might be too "young" for me. The story is about a  female high school student who commits suicide and leaves cassette tapes listing her "13 reasons why" she took her own life. Nevertheless, I pushed on and invited my husband to join me on this journey that I believe has changed us as parents. Forever.

    After the first episode, I was stunned. I turned to my husband, who caught my watery, terrified eyes and  he said, 

    "Let's keep watching. I think we need too."

   And we did.

Parents, if there was ever a TV show that we need to watch, it is this one.

 Before I give 13 reasons why parents of 5th graders need to watch Netflix's "13 REASONS WHY", I want to give 3 precautions.

1. This show is not suitable for children to watch. At all. I may watch it with my kids when they are in 8th grade. I think it could be a really great way to have some very hard conversations. But a good rule of thumb is to always preview first. 

2. This show is based on a fiction novel by Jay Asher. It is not a true story but it tells a lot of truth.

3. This show contains graphic content that is difficult for parents to watch. Watch it with discretion and a critical mind.

Okay, now that we have gotten that out of the way, let's discuss why every 5th Grade Parent should watch 13 Reasons Why.

 

13 REASONS WHY

1. Although the show is set in a high school, research shows that many of the issues it is addressing are happening to our middle school children. 

2. It is an accurate depiction of how most teenagers view "school life".

3.  There will be times when you will be tempted to say, "I don't need to know that this goes on. Ignorance is bliss." I think the show makes a good point that ignorance is not bliss when it's too late. 

4.  I commented to a younger friend, "How can all these things happen to one girl" and without a beat, she responded, "It happens all the time. Just no one talks about."  If this happening, we need to talk about it.

5. The show highlights the struggle and flaws that our school systems are facing as they deal with suicide, bullying and some of the other issues. Parents cannot depend on school administrations to be the "watchful eye" of what is happening to our children. The problem is too big and we need to be the first ones on watch.

6. The story IS about friendship. In fact, one line that is often repeated is, "Friendship is complicated". For middle school and high school students, one of the most painful things they will face is when things go wrong in their friendships. This show crushes the delusion that friendship drama among teenagers does not have lasting consequences. 

7. It exposes how social media can be a  powerful weapon of mass destruction. 

8.  It challenges the naive parental thinking that, "my kid is a good kid and therefore...".  This show illustrates how good kids can find themselves in bad situations.

9. It reveals a very painful truth that we need to acknowledge and that is: Kids don't tell their parents everything. The show does an excellent job at teaching us why our kids don't want to tell us what is going on.  This is not an easy pill to swallow but I think it will help see where we are closing the door on conversations without even realizing it.

10. It points out how as adults (parents, teachers, administration) we often elevate grades, achievements, and activities over character: If our kids are excelling than they are good people. Sadly, this is not the case.

11. It gives us a framework of how quickly drama can escalate. Again, it is tempting to say, "Well, this is only a TV show," but sadly a lot of college age folks I interview and survey on friendship say, "This is how quickly things happen."

12. It clearly proves that what kids are facing today is different than what we faced when were teenagers. Some of the core issues are the same but the role technology plays shows how our kids are dealing with things at a way different level.

13. Knowledge is powerful. We will NOT be able to shelter our children from pain. I know. I hate it too. They will get hurt and it will probably be from their friends. We do ourselves good to get street smart so we can ask the right questions. Will our kids survive the crap that middle school and high school bring? Probably. But don't we want to be the ones ready to throw them a life preserver when they begin to drown?  This show teaches us what "drowning" can look like as a teenager. 

 

     Dear parent, go and watch this TV series... and be sure to listen to "all the tapes". 

Your friend and fellow parent,

Noelle

      Friending Podcast will be doing an episode dedicated to this book and TV Series. If you are a parent and do watch 13 REASONS WHY we want to hear your thoughts on it. Send us your thoughts here:

Name *
Name

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.


{This website contains links and references to products and services that may have affiliates, sponsorships, or other business relationships. Noelle Rhodes may receive compensation from referrals or sales actions. Thank you for your support! }

   

 

WHY NOT ME? 7 Questions to Ask Yourself When You are Feeling Left Out.

“The only thing worse than not knowing where she belonged...was knowing where she didn't.”.png

"The only thing worse than not knowing where she belonged...was knowing where she didn't."

-Tess Shaffer, Heaven Has No Regrets

   If you ever felt "left out" of a social group, you are NOT alone. Many of us have experienced the pain of being excluded. A question we often will ask ourselves is, "Why not me?" We want to understand why we are not being chosen to be in a specific friend group.

Here are 7 questions that will help you navigate feeling left out:

QUESTION 1 - Do I really want to be included?

        Even as adults, we still secretly wish to be apart of the "cool group". We think that if we are hanging with the "popular people" we may find validation for ourselves: "If the cool people are inviting me to their barbecues, I'm must doing okay."

        I remember a group of young women getting together to go see a movie. They did not invite me and if I'm honest, I was a little hurt. They were young and hip and I worked alongside them every day. Why did they not consider me to be a part of their group?  I cried to my husband and he asked me a simple question "Did you really want to see that movie at midnight?"  I didn't. Sometimes we need to realize that not every group is a perfect fit. And that is okay. It has no reflection on our worth or validity as human. It simply is not a match.

QUESTION 2 - What are the benefits of being included in this group?

   When we recognize the benefits (or lack thereof)  of being a part of the specific group, we can decide if it's worth taking the extra steps towards connecting with this group. A friend of mine had joined a Bible Study a few months back. When she learned that many of women in the group had a friendship outside of the study, she worried that she was being excluded from coffee dates and dinners, etc. She said, "Noelle, I know that if I was better friends with these women, my faith would strengthen." She recognized that there was a benefit of being included in the additional activities these women were doing together. 

   Not all social groups are beneficial. For example, I had heard of a local Book Club that I was hoping to be invited too. When I really thought about it, I knew that Book Club would be more of a burden than a benefit due to my current time commitments. This doesn't mean that the Book Club is a bad social group. It is simply not beneficially to me at this moment.

QUESTION 3 -  Have I taken steps toward connecting with people in this circle of friends?

     I remember having tea with a woman who was sharing with me how hurt she was because a specific group at her church had not invited her to their weekly "Moms-Get-Together." I was shocked since I knew some of these women personally and would not have considered them to be exclusive. I asked this woman, "Have you invited any them to your home or have you spoken to them after church?" She told me, "No. I doubt they would want to come to my house. Why would I go talk to them if they won't talk to me?" 

     We need to let people know that we want to connect them. We do this by "invitation". If there is a group of women that we want to connect to, why not invite them into our home for brunch? If there is a circle of friends that we would like to be a part of, why not walk over to them and strike up a conversation? We need to be willing to be the first one to take steps towards connecting. Most people are not intentionally exclusive. They simply are not aware you want to be friends with them unless you make it known.

QUESTION 4 - Have I been invited before and have declined?

     A few years back, there was a group of folks who would get together fairly regularly for barbecues.  Nearly every Sunday, they would invite my husband and me to join them. It was a group made up of people who did not have children, so it would have been awkward to drag our two wild kids along (even though these wonderful folk said they were welcomed to come). We always declined their warm invitation and eventually, they stopped inviting us. When I realized this I felt rejected! Once again, I cried to my husband and said, "Look how they have rejected us from the group! It's because we have kids!" He laughed and pulled me into his arms and said, "No. I think you have this wrong. We have been rejecting them."

     It is important to realize that when we continuously decline an invitation from a person or group, they may believe we don't want to be included. If this is the case, we either must accept that we do not have to be included or we must willing to address the fact that we want to be included.

QUESTION 5 - Are there unresolved issues between myself and specific people in this social group?

    This question can feel like an awkward one but it is an important one to consider. We need to understand that tension will always make room for exclusion if we are not willing to tackle it head on.

    A young woman told me about a time when she and her boyfriend of several years had broken up. They both attended the same church and social activities soon became awkward. She had been invited to some of the gatherings but not others... because he would be there. Though her friends at church were trying to protect her, she felt excluded during a very painful time of her life. She finally sat her friends down and said, "I want you to feel free to invite me to any gathering that you have invited him." Her vulnerability and willingness to address the elephant in the room brought the solution to reconnecting with her friends after the break-up.

QUESTION 6 -  What insecurity within myself is being highlighted by the exclusion?

      Pain, if we allow it, can often be an opportunity for self-growth. When we are excluded, insecurities rush to the surface of our heart. This becomes an opportunity for us to address the lies we have believed about ourselves. 

     I once found out that a group of moms I knew had Starbucks together every Friday. I cried buckets over this. They hadn't invited me to join them and I believed it was because they thought I was a bad mother. The truth was that I was feeling insecure as mother and that I believed I was a bad mother. I was able to attack this lie, with truth: I am not a bad mother. This is not the reason why I have not been invited to weekly Starbucks with the other moms.

   Sure enough, one of the moms in the group invited me along to join the weekly date at  "Starbucks". She thought I worked on Fridays and would be able to join them. I was glad that I had the opportunity to address my insecurities and grow as a person. 

QUESTION 7 -  Are there others that I can befriend and include in my circle?

   Let's be honest for a hot second here. We need to stop always waiting for someone to befriend us and invite us into the circle. In fact, being left out of a particular circle of people could be just the gift we need to find our true tribe!  We need to open our eyes and look for the women who seem like they are on the fringe. Who is standing alone? Who doesn't have anyone to talk to? Who is the new girl? Who is the person who no one else is inviting? Let's befriend her! Let's be willing to gather our own circle of women who we can love and be loved by. Being left out does not have to be a permanent destination of our social life. We can be the one who "lets others in" and in turn, find true connection and meaningful friendship! 

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.


Do you ache to have a tribe of women who you can share your dreams or struggles with?

 

Well, I am here to say, your tribe is here. 
You found us.

Each Saturday you will receive an email from Noelle that will...

-Encourage you in your personal dreams/mission/calling.

-Educate you on how to become a woman who empowers other women.

-Enrich you with additional articles and podcasts that will deepen your friendships

-Engage you as a member of the "Hold My Earrings" Online Community where your voice will be heard and celebrated.


{This website contains links and references to products and services that may have affiliates, sponsorships, or other business relationships. Noelle Rhodes may receive compensation from referrals or sales actions. Thank you for your support! }

THE HOLY TASK OF A FRIEND: Helping Her Carry Her Dream

  "A true friend is somebody who can make us do what we can." Ralph Waldo Emerson

       Have you ever had a dream in your heart, so big that to carry it through felt impossible? Would you be surprised to know that your friends have big dreams that feel impossible in their hearts too? 

     The holy task of a friend is to help her carry her dream.

    I interviewed a woman who shared with me that one of her dreams was to become a singer-songwriter. In her early twenties, she became pregnant and was a single mother for years before meeting her now husband. Together, they had three more children and for most of her thirties, she had at least one child in diapers. When she turned forty,  she wondered if it was too late to get back to writing music.  Through the years, she had tinkered on her guitar and wrote a song or two but she had never played before an audience. Her friend encouraged her to play at an open mic night at the coffee shop in town. She laughed at the idea and told her friend, "My days of music are over!"

    The next morning, her friend showed up with a packet of new guitar strings and a note that said, "Your days of music haven't expired. Music is eternal. Start playing."  

    With this encouragement, she began to write and sing. Six months later, the singer-songwriter woman called her friend to say, "This Saturday, I am going to play at the open mic night at the coffee shop in town." Before she could ask, her friend interrupted, "I'll be there and I'll a bring a fan club."

   Just as she promised, her friend was at the open mic night with a large fan club waiting to hear this singer-songwriter's debut. This friend gathered several mutual friends to attend the open mic to show their support. They brought flowers and signs and applauded with whistles and loud hollers after the singer-songwriter  played before an audience for the very first time.

    "What moved me," the singer-songwriter said, with tears in her eyes, "is that this way not her dream but she carried it as if it were her own."

 

The holy task of a friend is to helping her carry her dream..png

 

      Galatians 6:2 takes on a deeper meaning for us,

"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."

        A burden is a a heavy load. A dream can feel too overwhelming or too impossible to carry through. It is our wonderful responsibility in friendship, to help shoulder the burden of a friend's dream.

 

 

 

    2 REASONS HOW  WE  ARE QUALIFIED TO HELP CARRY A FRIEND'S DREAM:

 

1. We know the song in the heart of our friend.

    Joan Chittister shares this beautiful quote in her book, "The Friendship of Women: The Hidden Tradition of the Bible":

"A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can it sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words."

    If we have spent consistent time with our friend, we will know what she likes to do. One of my friends loves to cook lavished meals for her family. I know that one of her dreams is to write a cookbook. When I call her on a snow day, I know to always ask, "What is on your menu?" With great joy and detail, she describes to me what she is cooking. I know that cooking is a song in heart. 

 

2. WE KNOW THE JOURNEY OUR FRIEND HAS BEEN ON.

     We know the unique path our friend has walked. We know what has broken her heart and what has been her greatest joy. We know who has been her best support and who always seems to make her feel small. We know her journey which means we have an important perspective that is helpful in carrying her dream.   

 

     When we know both the song in our friend's heart and the journey our friend has travelled,  we are then well equipped and qualified to help carry her dream.

 But how?

  I have identified 6 ways to help carry a friend's dream and have condensed into a FREE download for you. To receive "6 WAYS TO HELP CARRY A FRIEND'S DREAM", fill in the form below:

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      When we help carry our friend's dream, we share in her joy and her growth. This is the honor and reward of being a good friend.

 

 

Your friend,

Noelle


ABOUT NOELLE

10675670_10155127289855468_143793331215396730_n.jpg

     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.


WANT TO BECOME A WOMAN WHO EMPOWERS OTHER WOMEN?

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3 WOMEN WE NEED IN OUR TRIBE AS WE PURSUE OUR DREAM

   When we begin to pursue our dreams, I believe there are  three types of women we need to be a part of our tribe,

The Light At the End of the Tunnel
The Fire Under Our Butt
The Candle in the Dark



 Let me explain:
 
   The Light at the End of the Tunnel is the woman who is a little older than us. She is ahead a  few "seasons of life" of whatever season we are currently in. This is a woman who has seen and survived a lot of crap. She is a woman who is able to speak honestly about her own mistakes and comforts us as we navigate our own. "Oh honey, " she will say with her hand on our shoulder, "I did that too. It was a mess but I learned a lot. You will be fine."  This is a woman who has taken risks and has seen some of her own dreams fulfilled but nevertheless, has not stopped dreaming. She is our "light at the end of the tunnel" - the marker of our destination. You can find her in your own family (an aunt or grandmother) or in church or even in an online community. She is out there and she will be delighted if you ask her to help light the pathway of your dream.

    The Fire Under Our Butt is the woman who is pursuing a dream similar to our own. She is the writer friend who is also trying to knock out her first book proposal... or the neighbor who also bakes and is trying to launch an online bakery. She is the woman you have met at a conference and instantly clicked with. "Hey," she texts you, "Do you want to meet up once a month and keep each other accountable to our dream?"  This woman becomes the fire under your butt because her active steps towards her dream will motivate you to take active steps in your dream. She will share resources that she has discovered and you will do the same for her. The ONLY way you will find this woman is if YOU start to share your dreams with others.

   The Candle in the Dark is the woman who is excited for your dream even though it is not her dream. She is the friend who shows up to your first art show (after years of not lifting a single paint brush) and brings your favorite yellow roses. She is the woman who asks you, "How is your dream going? Tell me more about it!" She is the one that you call when you feel like the dream will never happen. In a gentle but firm tone, she reminds you, "Your dream WILL happen. Stop doubting yourself." This is a friend who you have allowed to speak frankly to you in the hard times. She is the candle in the dark, reminding you that no matter what obstacles may come our way, hope and possibility still remain. 

     Can you identify who these women are in your life right now? Send them a note/text/ gift to thank them for being so important to your journey! If you cannot identify who these women are, it may be time to think about HOW  you can cultivate these types of friendships in your life. It may require stepping out of your comfort zone or to think outside of the box. 

    If you are feeling very alone as you pursue your dream, feel fee to send me an email! I would love to hear about it!
 

Name *
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We need each other as we walk out our personal mission and calling. Even Jesus chose 12 men to walk with Him as He carried out His mission and purpose on earth. This should encourage us to do the same.

 Your friend, another candle in the dark,
Noelle


ABOUT NOELLE

10675670_10155127289855468_143793331215396730_n.jpg

      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.


Want to become a woman who empowers other women?

Receive weekly notes on how you can become a woman who empowers other women through the art of friendship.

3 REASONS WHY PERSONALITY TESTS WILL STRENGTHEN YOUR FRIENDSHIPS

    Have you ever felt tension with a friend and cannot figure out what the tension is rooted in?  

 

   Does it seem like you are always saying something that causes your friend to become offended or to withdraw from you?

 

   Is it hard to make a deeper connection with a friend and your current efforts to grow closer are simply being ignored or failing miserably?

 

The famous developmental psychologist, Erik Erikson, said these words:

"The more you know yourself, the more patience you have for what you see in others."

       

     How can you get to "know yourself"? By taking a personality test

 

A  personality test is a great tool to strengthen your friendships and here  are 3 reasons why:

1. A PERSONALITY TEST WILL REVEAL TO YOU THAT  YOU ARE NOT CRAZY OR WEIRD. You simply have a personality.

     Have you ever wondered why you feel so exhausted after brunching with a few friends? So, maybe you ate one too many pancakes but carbs don't make you want to turn off your cell phone for the day and  hide away in your home  so you can recharge from all that "people time". You start to panic that something might be wrong with you because you feel so drained by the friends you love.  A personality test might reveal that you are an introvert and what makes you operate as your "best self" is that you require " alone time". Nothing is wrong with you at all. You simply need to give yourself permission to be you so you can be your best you!  There is fantastic site called: 

16Personalities.com

    It is a free personality test that only takes 12 minutes to complete. All you need is your honesty and a maybe a nice mint tea to sip on for moral support. At the end of the test, you will receive a fairly accurate (depending on your honesty) and comprehensive description of your personality type and how your personality translates into the following areas:

STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES

ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS

FRIENDSHIPS

PARENTHOOD

CAREER PATHS

WORKPLACE HABITS

    One of the things that many life coaches and counselors suggest is that you record the results of your own personality type in a journal or maybe in the "NOTES" app on your phone. 

         As you encourage your friends to take the personality test too, make sure to record their personality type as well. You can than look up their personality type and compare it to your own. How are you the same? How are you different?

      Some folks have thrown "Personality Parties". Friends gather together over some wine and pizza and take personality tests together. It can be helpful to have a friend nearby if you are stuck on answering a question. After everyone has received their results, they can compare notes and discuss how to appreciate and better relate to one another's personality type.

 

   If you would like to throw your own "Personality Party", fill in form  below and I will send you the FREE "PERSONALITY PARTY PLANNING KIT". 

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2. A PERSONALITY TEST WILL REVEAL WHY THERE IS CONSISTENT TENSION IN YOUR FRIENDSHIP. Your personalities are misunderstanding each other.

      When my mother was in her late thirties, she had a miscarriage. It was a painful time for her and more than anything her friends wanted to surround her with support. One friend told me that as soon as she heard about my mother's miscarriage, she drove to the house to embrace my mother and offer her a shoulder to cry on. When she walked through the door, my mother's first reaction to her presence was to run away upstairs and cry alone in her bedroom. Initially, this friend was hurt. She felt like mother had rejected her support. She went home feeling that my mother did want the care she offered. The next day, my mother called to ask if she would accompany her to the hospital while she gave birth to her stillborn baby. This friend said,

        "It was in that moment  I realized, your mother was not rejecting my support. She simply needed time to process. Her personality needs space when pain arrives. She still needed me, but she needed me to allow her to be her."

 

     Understanding each other's personalities will help us communicate more effectively, care for one another more sufficiently, and encourage each other to embrace our personalities with honesty. There is less tension when we know what each other needs.

3. A PERSONALITY TEST WILL REVEAL WHO YOU DON'T EASILY CLICK WITH AND WHY. She is not stuck up or aloof. Her personality simply clashes with your's and you need to be mature enough to see that.

  Look, we've all felt this way about someone at some point in our life. We meet this person  and they just rub us the wrong way! We want to roll eyes every time they open their mouth. We want to throw up  when a mutual friend says:

 "Oh, by the way, I invited (INSERT NAME OF ANNOYING WOMAN) to join us ...."       

    We can't understand why we dislike this person so much but we do! When this happens, it serves us well to go back and brush up in understanding our own personality. Perhaps it is our personality's weakness that we feel so judgmental or irritated by this person. Maybe we keep misinterpreting their motives because we don't like the way their personality communicates. 

   Several years ago, I find myself always feeling terribly insecure around a woman who seemed to speak her mind so easily. She was happy to share her opinions and was not concerned when other's disagreed with her. My ENFJ personality type was bothered by this. Why didn't she care that her speaking honestly about her beliefs on a subject could possibly offend another? When I realized it was a personality clash, I was able to recognize the gift this woman brought into our friendship. She was willing to disagree with others without guilt and I needed someone like that in my life to encourage me to do the same. She is one of my best friends  to this day.

    Understanding the personality in another may help you turn a frenemy into a bestie. When we choose to get to know someone and how they operate, we tend to find ourselves less annoyed and more appreciative of their differences.

 

   So, now what?

 

STEP 1

Go to 16 Personalities right now and take the personality test.

 

STEP 2

Study your results and record your personality type in a bullet journal or in the NOTES app on your phone.  

 

STEP 3

Send the personality test to a few close friends... or...BETTER YET... host a PERSONALITY PARTY!  Gather a few friends in your home, feed them delicious food,  and take the test together. Afterwards, discuss your results and how you can better relate to each other's personality types. To get you started, fill in the form below to receive your FREE kit to help  plan this awesome party...

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STEP 4

Don't be shy about sharing what personality type you are with a friend and don't hesitate to ask them if they know their's!  If they scrunch up their face in confusion as to what you are talking about , just send them the link to this post and invite them to your Personality Party!

 

    Knowing yourself will ultimately help you become a better friend. So, find out who you are and take the time to get acquainted with your friends' personality types.  This will strengthen friends and equip you best serve your friends!

 


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 art of friendship.

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


Want to become a woman who empowers other women?

 

    Receive weekly notes on how you can become a woman who empowers other women through the art of friendship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 WORDS THAT ARE KILLING FRIENDSHIPS EVERY DAY

    As I research friendship, I have discovered there are five words that are killing friendships every day. Chances are, you and I will have said them at least a half a dozen times before this day is over. What are these five words? I am so glad you asked... 

"I have been so busy."

Imagine these 3 scenarios with me:

  1.  Your friend texts you when you are on your way to work and you suddenly remember that you hadn't responded back to her last text. You quickly respond with: "I'm sorry I didn't get back to you earlier. I have been so busy."
  2.  You run into a friend at your child's soccer game. You talk about how you have been meaning to get together but,  "I have been so busy running my kids to their extracurricular activities. It's been impossible to find a spare moment to have coffee with anyone. "
  3. You have been meaning to send your best friend, who lives in another state, a birthday card. Days and weeks go by after her birthday. You finally get a spare moment to call her and wish her a belated happy birthday and you qualify the tardiness of your greeting with: "I wanted to send you a card weeks ago but I have been so busy."

    We have all have found ourselves in some variation of the scenarios above. Why? Because truly, we all are (so) busy. 

 

    Our "busyness" is not a lie or a made up excuse. Sadly, it is the reality that many of us find ourselves trapped in. Barbara Ehrenreich, an author, coined the phrase that captures a place of where many of us find ourselves living in: "The Cult of Busyness".

   The Cult of Busyness is where busyness is elevated as a virtue above the rest: "I am busy, therefore I am important. I am needed. My existence is validated by how much of my time is occupied by doing."  We try to maintain full schedules in order to avoid empty lives: (ahem) loneliness.  The irony is that the busier our schedules become, the less opportunity there is for true social connection. 

    Psychiatrists, Jaqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz, wrote about this problem in their book, The Lonely American:  "It's (a) vicious cycle of staying busy to avoid seeming lonely and feeling lonely because there seems to be no time to cultivate relationships."

    When the words "I have been so busy" are communicated to our friends, we are communicating that their friendship does not hold a high priority in our lives. Time with them is not as valuable as all the other stuff we are busy with. After awhile, our friends get the hint. They stop calling or texting as much. They don't bother us with dates for when we can together. They would never dare to stop by our home without ever scheduling it first. Why? Because we are so busy.

     A young mother sat at my kitchen table in tears. She was very busy with two small children and a new business she just started from her home. While scanning her Facebook feed one night, she saw that a few of friends had gone out to dinner together without her. She was crushed. Why hadn't they called her to include her? She felt left out and cried as she told me, "I am so busy with so many things and yet, I feel so alone." 

    Many of our friends grow weary of waiting for their turn in our lives. They eventually move on.  In a recent survey I did, I found that the majority of "friendship break ups" were not caused by conflict but rather, allowing too much time to pass before connecting with that friend again.

   So, how do we keep the busyness of our lives from starving our friendships to death? Here are three practical keys that we start living out today.

1. PRIORITIZE. 

    Friendship is not only important to our health and sanity but it is invaluable towards achieving our goals and dreams. If we want to be successful in our personal mission, we need to spend time with our friends. The first place we begin in protecting our friendships is by making them a priority.  

     When we set up our weekly/monthly schedules we should intentionally mark out time to spend with friends. I know a woman who is writing a book, finishing her master's and preparing her child for college. She is very busy but she has marked out on her weekly schedule a day that she can grab lunch with friends. Every Friday, her schedule says that it is,  "Friends on Friday". She communicated with her friends, that each week, her schedule is open on that day for them to grab lunch. By setting aside regular time with her friends, she is making her friendships a priority. These weekly lunches have become a source of encouragement for her as she finishes her master's, writes her book and sends her baby off to college. She also has the opportunity to be that same support to the friends in her life. When we make our friendships a priotity on our schedule, we will find greater strength and support to get all the other stuff done.

2. PURGE

    Let's be honest. Some of us are busy with things that we do not need to busy with!  We need to purge our schedules a bit and take honest inventory on how we spend our time. Do we really need to volunteer at our child's school, in our church's women ministry, AND run our town's softball league? Are we doing things because we really want to or because we feel we have to?

    If we cannot find time to spend two hours with a friend once a month, then there is something seriously wrong with how we are spending our time. We are created to be in and enjoy the company of each other. God does not call us to be so busy that we cannot regularly connect with our friends. It's time to purge and cut out some things of our schedule so we can  make room for relationships to grow and deepen.

   I recommend consulting with a life coach when you begin the "purging of your schedule" process. I have done this several times with my life coach, Elise Daly Parker. The value of having an objective and skilled person helping me to craft a healthy schedule has saved many of my relationships, especially, my friendships.

3. PERMIT

   Give your close friends verbal permission to interrupt your busyness. This is counter-cultural. Sebastian Maniscalco, a comedian, talks about how 20 years ago when the doorbell rang in your home, it was a happy occasion. It meant you had unexpected company! Your mom pulled out a cake, made some coffee and no one was ever annoyed that friends had "dropped by". Nowadays, when your doorbell rings, you panic or even a little annoyed because your schedule has been interrupted. 

  We need to allow chosen friends to interrupt our schedules. We need to verbally tell them that they have permission to call us when they are having a bad day. If we can't talk, we will let them know and get back to them later on.  They need to know that if they happen to be in our neighborhood, they should absolutely call us to see if we are home! Their spontaneous presence in our home is welcomed! They need to be told that when they feel like they haven't spent much time with us, they have permission to tell us so.

    We need to permit our friends to have this special place in our lives so that when life does get busy, we have safeguarded our friendships. 

      

 

     If we prioritize friendships, purge our schedules from unnecessary activities, and permit friends to interrupt our busyness, we will find that there will be no need to say, 

"I have been so busy." 

   The allusion that busyness tries to sell us is that busyness will produce success. This is simply not true. At the end of the famous movie, "It's a Wonderful Life", George finds a book that his guardian angel has left for him. Inside the cover of Tom Sawyer, his guardian angel inscribed these powerful words:

"Dear George,

Remember, no man is a failure who has friends."

 

     As we confront our busyness and try to redefine what success in life truly means, let us keeps these words close to our hearts. Our friendships are one of the things God has created in bringing meaning to our lives - without them, we are simply alone... running on our hamster wheel with no end in sight.

 

Your friend,

Noelle

   

 

    

 

   

 

 

    

3 MYTHS OF CHRISTIAN FRIENDSHIP

      Have you ever stepped foot into a new church and your hearted started racing a million miles per minute as you looked for a friendly face to sit next too?  Has a friend from your bible study ever made you feel small or unimportant? Did you ever wonder if you could be doing more for your Christian friend besides simply telling them, "I'm praying for you" ? 

  Yup. Same here.

    I have come realize that I have believed three common myths of Christian friendship. Maybe you have too...

1.  The people in my church will automatically be my main source of friends.

       A young pastor wife pulled me aside at an event that I was hosting. I could tell that she was holding back the tears when she said, "I hear that your researching friendship and are writing a book about it." I didn't know what she was getting at but before I could ask she said, "I have no friends. It's hard to be vulnerable with the people in my husband's congregation. Everyone looks to me to be their leader and always having it all together. The last time I shared in a small group that I was feeling anxious about my children, someone went to the elder board about it. I have never opened up since. I feel so alone." 

   Another woman had been attending a church for three years and even had belonged to the same small group for those same three years. She said that people were friendly and always willing pray for her but no one ever had time for a coffee or to do anything outside of the church.  The friendship was simply limited to church-only activities.

    Church can be an excellent place to cultivate meaningful friendship and it also can be a very difficult place to cultivate meaningful friendship. It does not happen automatically just because we regularly attend. The young pastor's wife was able to find a local group of other pastor's wives that she became friends with. It was there that she was able to share her struggles and speaking honestly about her life.  The woman who been attending the church for three years and still felt friendless, still attends that same church but her expectations have changed. She found a group of Christian women who share a passion for writing. Each of the women come from a different church but they have been able to build a deep friendship with each other. 

2. My Christian friends will not hurt me.

    There is a misconception that Christian friendship is pain-free. We are Christians and because we love Jesus,  we always are loving each other, right? Ugh.  I wish this was true! If we are honest, we know that despite our common faith, we are incredibly capable of damaging each other with our words...our silence...our neglect...our control... our expectations...our abandonment....our jealousy... and well frankly,  the list could go on.

    I remember speaking with a woman on the phone who was sobbing because she had thrown a birthday party for her ten-year-old daughter. Recently, her and her husband and felt like God was moving them on to attend a different church but she had hoped to still maintain the friendships at her past church. She invited several of these friends and their children to attend her daughter's birthday party. Not one of them showed up. This woman was devastated. She called one of her friends from her past church and asked, "Why didn't you come? Is it because we go to a new church?" Her friend answered honestly, "Yes. I think it's best if we let our friendship go since we do not attend the same church." 

  I met another woman who shared that one of her friend's husband had sexually abused her child. When she confronted her friend, her friend accused her of being a pathological liar and for a season,  was able to turn many of her church friends against her. It wasn't until the authorities were able to prove the husband's guilt that people began to believe this woman's story. 

   The pain that is found in Christian friendship is deep. It can ache for a very long time. Though we know that people are not perfect, we often our surprised when others who share our faith, show their imperfections through hurting us.  I know, personally, I have hurt many of my Christian friends. It grieves me to think about it. 

3. The extent of my responsibility to my Christian friends is to pray for them when they need something.

We are required to do far more than just simply pray for our friends.  Beyond prayer, we are called to:

  • Encourage them in their dreams and calling
  • Serve them when there is a need 
  • Give generously when there is a lack
  • Practice hospitality by opening up our home
  • Remind them of the faithfulness of God
  • Keep them accountable to a godly way of life
  • Celebrate them in their victories and when they have experience goodness
  • Mourn with them when they are met with heartbreak and loss
  • Commit to living peacefully together and always working towards reconciliation when there is conflict
  • Speaking honestly to them and about them
  • Allow them to do all the above for us

Prayer is important but true Christian friendship requires a lot more than just saying those 5 easy words: "I will pray for you." 

 

     So, now what? What can we do?  Well, here are three ways we can address these myths...

 1. If we aren't finding friendship in our church we need to decide to be proactive. We either actively try to build relationships with those church people or we can look to find Christian friends outside of our church. It is not a sin to have Christian friends outside of your church.

2. If we have been hurt by Christian friends and are finding it difficult to heal, we need to honest about it. This is where we start. Forgiveness is a journey. and honesty is the starting point. A counselor can be an excellent support as we journey toward healing and forgiveness. Working through the pain will also make us better friends to others.

3. If our Christian friendship is simply limited to praying for each other, perhaps it's time to embrace the privilege of giving more. Starting with small steps, begin to practice ways that you can be more intentional in helping your friend walk out their God-given mission in life. In the same way, become willing to allow them to do the same for you.

   Wrong assumptions about Christian friendship, cause us to miss out on the beauty of truly walking with someone else who loves Jesus.

 

  

 

 

 

WANT TO CHANGE THE WORLD? BECOME A GOOD FRIEND. 3 Ways To Get Started in The Friendship Revolution.

        The proof is in the science. Friendship has a direct impact on our health and culture.

      Shasta Nelson, a friendship expert and author of "Friendships Don't Just Happen" reports, "There are numerous studies and articles that link a circle of supportive friends to lower stress levels, greater happiness, prevention of diseases,  faster recovery rates from surgery and accidents, and greater chances of reaching life goals."

    If we want to create a healthier and happier space for our world to exist, we need to cultivate and nurture our friendships.      

    Carlin Flora, another friendship guru, and author told this inspiring story in her book, "Friendfluence":

       " Prior to Rosa Park's act of defiance on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, others had been arrested for similar transgressions, yet they hadn't launched the civil rights movement as a result. Parks, it turns out, had many close friends who sprang into action upon hearing the news of her arrest, and furthermore, she had less close friends throughout the city, from different walks of life, enabling support for Parks to spread far and wide."

      Friendship can launch a world-changing social movement. Rosa Parks had the support and voice of her friends. Little did they know that simply being a "good friend" to Rosa would help open wide the door to a social movement that would still be impacting us today. 

    Do we want to change the world? Do we want to see our world become healthier and happier place to live? We need to become better at being a "good friend".  But how? Where do we start?

 

1. Practice "Consistency".

       "Friendship may have felt like it just happened to us when were kids at recess, campers in the same cabin, playmates on the same street, or suitemates in the same college dorm, " writes Shasta Nelson, "What did just happen was consistency. Seeing each other regularly without our ever scheduling it."

     Consistency is the necessary ingredient in becoming a good friend It is the repetitive time together that helps us get to know each deeper and understand how can we encourage and empower each other more effectively.  Here is the thing: We cannot have "consistency" in friendship with every single person that we call "friend". It's impossible. The best thing to do is to take an honest look at our lives and ask ourselves, "Who are the people in my season of life that I can easily practice "consistency" with? Who encourages me to be a better person? Who has a dream that I want to root for? Who has similar availability?"

     Consistency doesn't mean, "every day". It can mean a weekly skype call, or a monthly meet up or traveling to see each other twice a year. Consistency is intentionally carving out the time to invest into the friendship on a regular basis.

2.  Stop Trash-Talking.

    Recently, I have come to realize that I do an awful lot of trash-talking without even realizing it. I criticize other's values or situations as if I have already mastered life and therefore have a free pass to comment on how someone else is  navigating their own journey.

     Trash-talking, gossiping, and unsolicited criticism is destroying the quality of our friendships. Instead of speaking honestly to each other, we are speaking poorly about each other because we underestimate the power of our words. I am aware that is has taken a long time for the female voice to have a place in our culture. Though we may have ways to go, we still have made strides in this area. However, I am shocked at how often I use my empowered voice as a woman to tear down other women unknowingly! This should not be!  If we really want to change the world - particularly the culture of which women currently live in, we need stop trash-talking other. We need to fight to speak about our friends with honor and respect

   Friends, I am so convicted of this and I am the first to admit that this is an area I need to make a change in! 

3. Ask Questions and then Listen Carefully.

       I have a tendency to monopolize the conversation. It's a terrible habit I have. In doing this, I lose out on understanding the people around me. One of the things that I believe makes us a "good friend" is being able to ask questions that go beyond the usual, "How are you?"

    I started to ask my friends, "What are you most excited about right now?" and "If money and time were of no concern, what kind of work would you throw yourself into?"  In addition, when friends share their struggles and anxieties with me, I have been trying (although not always successfully) to simply listen instead of offering solutions.

   When a friend shares a dream or desire, I have been trying to be intentional in asking them about their dream/desire in future conversations. Sometimes, I will even ask, "How can I help you achieve your goal?" I have several friends who have responded with, "Keep asking me about my dreams."

    

    There are many ways to become a good friend. The ones I mentioned above are the ones that are currently highlighted in my own heart.  I encourage you to sit down and take inventory. Where are you lacking as a friend? What could you do better? Your list may look different than mine.

 

  Who knows what good will come from us individually deciding to be a better friend? Furthermore, how much good can we accomplish without the support of our friends? 

   We need each other. We just do.  Helen Keller said, "Alone we do so little; together we can so do much."

 

Your friend,

Noelle
 

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I HAVE NO FRIENDS: THE LONELINESS OF BEING A NEWLYWED.

    It was 2003 and I had no friends.

   My friends would disagree with this statement but this is how I felt as the first person to get married in my squad (friendship group).

     Being a newlywed can feel incredibly lonely.

     At first, it was fun!  My friends rolled up their sleeves and helped me plan a beautiful wedding! We had so much fun picking out dresses, planning the bridal shower and enjoying the bachelorette party. Frankly, I felt like a rock star. Everyone seemed to be excited for me. There were so many special moments that I had shared with my friends leading up to my wedding... and then... I got married.

    Things changed.

  The spontaneous adventures with my friends became less frequent.  I was still invited to birthday dinners and special occasions, but those last minute calls to "go to a movie" or "out to do some shopping" were rare. My husband and I moved an hour and a half away from the majority of my friends. All "get together's" had to be scheduled well in advance. A new job brought a new schedule with less flexibility. We also were newly married and very broke. At a rapid pace, I was becoming the odd man out within our little friendship circle. 

     It seemed like my friends and I lived in two different universes: Married and Not Married.        

   I tried to make friends with the wives of married couples that went to our church. Most of these wonderful people were 5+ years older than me and I  felt like I was the young "newbie" they had to mentor. They were kind and welcoming but it was hard to relate to them. Some of them were starting to have kids and buy their first home. I felt like I was several steps behind them in the game of life.

    My loneliness became glaringly apparent to me on our very first New Year's Eve married. We had not been invited to any parties. Not one. My non-married friends had assumed I was celebrating with new friends in our new location. Our "quasi-new" married friends assumed we would be celebrating with our non-married friends. It was an innocent misunderstanding but I was heart broken. 

   "I have no friends, " I cried to my husband, "and I don't understand why."

     My husband would scratch his head and try to find ways to help me feel more connected but it was a lost cause. I was pining away for what "used to be" with my old friends... and I was finding it awkward to start over and make new friends as a newlywed.

    Finally, after several months (and many tears) I decided to do something.

    I started to host a yearly get together with my "old friends".

    This was a weekend getaway where we would simply gather together to eat and chat for three days solid.  As it turned out, life began to change for many of us within our friendship group. Some moved far away for jobs. Other friends got married and started families. We all became busy in our new lives and we found it difficult to keep our friendship "as it was". This yearly get together was a way we could stay in touch without the pressure of trying to stay in touch all the time.  

   I also made a decision to not get so caught up in having "married friends". It was more important that I had "local" friends that I could connect with.

    I put myself out there and invited potential new friends out to lunch or over for a dinner. I made an effort to get to know people where I was working. I also made a conscious decision to be a person who is willing to start a conversation. When I wanted to get to know someone, I made the first move.

  It wasn't always easy,  but after time, I found a new tribe of local folk I could call "my friends". I realized that the  problem was not so much that I was a newlywed but rather that I was in a "new" season. It wasn't until I accepted this "new" season that I was able to accept how my current friendships would take shape.

 This is normal.

     If you are a newlywed feeling alone in this new season of your life, please know that you are not a freak! Many of us have felt like you have. Many of us know what it means to feel like you have no friends. But you do...and you can.

   Take the first step and find a way to connect with your friends.

    Set up weekly Facetime chats with your friends or schedule a standing monthly dinner where you and your friends can get together. Whatever you do, make the first move.

   Take some risks too.

     Invite your coworker (the one who seems to love all the same TV shows as you) out for coffee. Make some cupcakes for your neighbor and strike up a conversation. There are many ways to get to know people, but again, you may have to be the one who takes the first step

    Fast forward, 14 years later... and I can say that no matter what season of life I am in... I have friends. It looks different in every season... but I am not alone. You don't have to be either.

  Your friend,

Noelle


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THE MAGICAL POWER OF UGLY CRYING: Why Good Friends Let You Lose Your Crap

Ever felt like life has gone absolutely mental and everything (and everyone ) is so overwhelming, you are going to lose your crap at any moment?

Yup, me too. This is why I am a BIG fan of the "ugly cry".

It is the ultimate melt down where you can expect  tears flowing, snot dripping, hair frizzing, nose snorting and even some  drooling (yes, sometimes I drool when I ugly cry).  Somehow I always feel better afterwards... no matter how "ugly" I looked doing it.

Here are some of the reasons that I have ugly cried ...

  • A family member died.
  • The bridesmaid's dress I was suppose to wear for my brother's wedding wouldn't zip.
  • I had to send my first born to their first day of school. I wept so loud, the other mothers began to stare.
  • I fell down a flight of stairs and hit my elbow. It hurt really bad. (This was last week, by the way)
  • I left a country and church that I really loved to come back to the States.
  • I lost one of my children's passport before going through Border Control at the airport.
  • Whenever I watch "Biggest Loser". It gets me every time.

Ugly crying is good for the soul. All that pinned up raw emotion is let loose and suddenly I surrender to the fact that I  cannot "keep it together" ALL THE TIME.  I am undone. 

Friends who let friends ugly cry unashamedly,  are the best friends to have.

They are  the ones who hunt down the tissue box when the tears begin to pour. They let you snot all over their shoulder and borrow their compact mirror so you can count how many black lines of mascara streaks are on your face. They are the ones who put their hand out when  people get nosey and say, "She needs a minute." These friends hold you up as you fall into pieces. They listen closely and are able to interpret your words through snobs and snorts. They don't wince when you drop in a swear word or two. They don't questions your emotion or accuse you of overacting. They just let you do what you need to do and that is...

Ugly cry.

Our "ugly cry" friends are special because they get to see us at our most vulnerable moments. They get this privilege because we feel safe with them. We trust them. We know that they think the best of us even when they see us at our worst.  

Today I want to give a big shout to my "ugly cry" friends! You know who you are. Thanks for letting me lose it. Because of you, I am able to admit, "I don't have it together."  My soul is lighter and my heart is freer knowing I can fall apart in front you.

Who are your "ugly cry" friends? And when was the last time you had a good "ugly cry" session?

Your friend,

Noelle

 

A HARD TRUTH: Some Friendships Fade With Time.

 Recently I unearthed a box of old letters from when I was in middle school, high school, and college. I had saved every note, birthday card, and letter from anyone who considered themselves my "friend" from that era of life.  I sat on my living room floor for a good 3 hours reading through each one of them.

    Several times, I would poke my head up from reading and say to my husband, "Oh my gosh! I remember this person! We used to be friends!" Memories of middle school antics would flood my mind and I find myself smiling. In an instant, I could recall all the punch lines to our inside jokes.        

    The were were other times I read letters from high-school boys from other states, and finally realizing at 34 years of age that perhaps they were looking for something more from me  than just a pen pal friendship. I completely missed their not so subtleties when they wrote things like, "You are beautiful. I love you. Would you ever date someone like me?". The degree of naivety I possessed at age 16 alarms me. How am I still alive?

    Then there were the college friends, offering words of encouragement and the sage wisdom they had acquired after a few months of a sophomore year at university. Dear heavens, we allthought we knew everything about everything in our sophomore year of college. Boy, were we all wrong.

     Are these people still my friends? Well, according to Facebook they are. Occasionally, I stalk their present world with a few clicks to see what their spouses look like...and how many kids they have and if any one of them  became what they used dreamed of becoming (rock stars, famous actors, writers, professional athletes, etc). It always makes my day, when I discover that one of them really did pursue their dream.

   But do I talk to these "friends of old"  on a regular basis? No.

    I don't even talk to the mothers I used to be friendly with at the preschool my daughter attended nearly four years ago. Sure, we "like" each other's posts and pictures on social media, but do I have a clue as to what is going on in their lives? Not even an ounce. Does this make me a bad person? A bad friend? I don't know. Probably.

    Several months ago, I gave a survey where nearly 100 women answered questions about their personal experience with friendship. When asked, "What thing do you believe hinders a friendship the most?", the number one answer given across the board (age demographic, religion, race, social economy) was:

"Season of life change."

     It's easy to stay tight with someone who is in the same season of life as you. But what happens when one person's journey moves fasters than yours? What happens when you move on to something completely different and that friend you use to share "life space" with, is still hanging back? Friendships often will fade with time.

    Researchers talk about friendships of commitment vs. friendships of convenience. The stark truth of it is that most of our friendships are made up of  that which are "convenience" (the moms at the bus top, the co-workers at our present job, the roommates we share a dorm with, etc.).

     It is those friendships of commitment, that are rare. I have a friend who is rarely in the same season of life as me. The only thing we share is our age and our faith. We don't share the same city or family dynamic. We are not even close to sharing the same "work season". I work at home. She works at a school and is going to school on top of that.. However, we are fiercely committed to each other. We are friends of commitment.

    The important things to remember is that both friendships of convenience and commitment are valuable to our growth. Okay, so  maybe you are no longer besties with the gal who gave you a "Best Friends Forever" "halved heart necklace" in sixth grade. However, the friendship she extended to you back in those days were important in shaping how you give friendship today. Maybe you don't talk as much to your old college roommate, but when she does call, those  20 minutes of reminiscing reminds you of the person you used to be.... and how far you've come and how much you have stayed the same at the core. Perhaps, you are not in regular contact with the old co-worker that used to share a drink with you every Friday after a long week of work. Honor the fact that you had someone who you could complain to, celebrate with, and survive  5 days a week of the 9-5. Sure, these were friendships of convenience but they were necessary to surviving that season of life you were in.

                Yes, some friendships do fade with time. It would impossible to keep up with them all. Some, we wish we could have held onto longer, but regardless, the value of those friendships still remain. They may be here today and gone tomorrow, but deep in our heart they are kept safe for the keeping. Like a box of old letters, they remind us that we were loved and continue to still be.

 

Your friend,

Noelle