Testimonies

An Interview with a GirlFriendCircles.com Ambassador!

With thousands of new members joining GirlFriendCircles.com in the last few weeks from across the U.S. and Canada it reminds me how many women know the value of new friends and are willing to do something about it. For some of you, just signing up and trying to muster up the courage to post your photo, complete your profile, or RSVP to an event will be all you can do to prove to yourself that friendships matter to you. And that's okay!  We all take the steps we can!

But for some of you, you may feel as though you have a bit more in you to move you forward in your friendship journey.  This is an interview with Kathy Lombardo, a GirlFriendCircles.com Ambassador, who I was lucky enough to meet at my Chicago Book Party last month!  She lives 30 miles outside of Chicago in Darien, IL and knows what it's like to feel discouraged at the lack of stuff going on in her area. But her willingness to respond with hope has made all the difference!  She's a 46 year-old Neonatal RN who decided to not only make her own friendships happen, but to also help make it happen for others! You don't have to become an Ambassador to be inspired by her story and see ways you can make friendships happen for you!

Meet Kathy Lombardo, a GirlFriendCircles.com Ambassador, whom I was lucky enough to meet in Chicago last month!

Here's my interview with her:

Shasta:  When you first joined GirlFriendCircles.com, you were undoubtedly hoping for tons of new friendships in your area, but since you live 30 miles outside of Chicago, we weren't that robust in your area, right?  So what did you feel and how did you respond?

Kathy: Yes, when I first joined GirlFriendCircles.com last Spring after hearing you interviewed, the web site told me that there were not enough people in my area to match me with. I was disappointed because I had been so excited to find an avenue for meeting other women who I thought may have a similar desire for the kind of friendship I was yearning for. I was also surprised because I did live close to one of the largest cities in the country. Thus…I got off the computer that day dejected.

Eventually, you decided to take matters into your own hands and become an Ambassador for GirlFriendCircles.com in your area!  What prompted that?  Was it a hard decision?

I do not remember what prompted me to take matters into my own hands but I know that I had chosen to continue to receive your blog and various e-mails. In fact,I ended up using one of your blogs about how you wanted people to feel in your presence as a template for the vows I used in a marriage-to-myself ceremony last Fall. Then I think I must have read something about becoming an Ambassador in one of your e-mails? Regardless of the prompt though, I remember that it was about 6 months after I had first logged on to GFC that I decided to get back on and “make this work” for me. I decided that instead of dejectedly giving up on my dream,  I was instead going to do whatever I could to make it a reality. If I was going to go down; I was at least going to go down fighting! This made my decision to become an Ambassador a no-brainer. In fact I was eager to do so, believing it would lead me down the path to what I was looking for, or I'd at least die trying……lol! After reading your book, I realized I was doing exactly what the heart of your message is, “creating a meaningful circle of girlfriends”. As you say, “friendships don’t just happen” and I clearly realized this and was going to go from wishing for it to intentional action to create it.

That's amazing Kathy. How glad so many of us are that you decided to come back and give it another shot! So, after you then signed up to help be this catalyst for friendship, what are some of the first things you did?

After I signed up I spent time navigating my way around the GFC website, which I hadn’t really done when I first went on. I created a profile with a picture and went in search of friends. I had not seen this feature previously because I don’t think I really understood how GFC worked. I then went about “friending” many women in the city and in the suburbs. I also found the Calendar and created an event. The first event I created was to a book launch party in the city last November, which I was helping out with. Four or five women signed up to go and only one was able to make it but I did meet her that night, and brought back the book for another. It was a small start but it was a start and I was very hopeful!

When did you first sense that things were changing?  What signs did you start to see that gave you hope?

I think I first sensed that things were changing when I decided to take action. There was an immediate shift in me, which translated into a shift in my circumstances. “Friending” women on my own, putting my work zip code as well as my home zip code, finding the Calendar, and creating events is when the hope really kicked into gear! I saw that there was more much for to this than actually just waiting to be matched.

Having been an Ambassador now for 6 months (is that right?), what would you say have been the pay-offs or benefits for you?

Yes, about 6 months, maybe less. The benefits have been tremendous! Just making the decision was a huge benefit. But then deciding to put my all into it is what has given me the biggest rewards. I took it very seriously and put up events as suggested and went to events and ConnectingCircles as much as possible, asked questions of Maci, became a book circle leader, signed up with Big Tent with other Ambassadors, posted questions and answered them in the forum, put up fliers, followed-up with people, and continued to do all of that over and over.

Wow.  I am so touched how seriously you took this.  Thank you so very much. You really dove in, far more than most people are willing to. But, that's everything you gave.  Can you tell me what you received from doing that?

OK...let me try this again.....personal benefits to me? A sense of hope. Feeling good about putting action and intention into something that is important to me. Seeing the truth that the things most precious to me in life take not just desire but intention, action, and commitment. I have learned that the more intention, action, and commitment I put into something the greater the reward will be. I have learned that I am able to co-create the things in life I have longed for. I have learned that giving up does not serve me. I have learned that the status quo, while safe, does not serve me. I have learned to let go of what does not serve me or bring me happiness and that the only way to have the life that I truly desire is to let go of my fear, be willing to risk rejection and disappointment, put myself out there, and be patient!

Beautiful.  Love it!  And now the flip-side.  To be fair and honest, what has been the hardest, or most disappointing part?

Hard? Nothing! Honestly, nothing has been hard. It has been sheer joy for me to be so involved. Being an Ambassador could practically be the job description for who I am as a person. It suits me, it lends itself to the gifts God put me here to share with the world, and it is completely me! It comes naturally to me and I am good at it…not to be a braggart, just to speak the raw truth of it. This is who I am. As you describe in your book, I am a 100% initiator and bringer together of people!

I think the most disappointing part has been something that you actually spoke about in your book. I appreciated reading in Chapter 6 you saying, “I cringe when I hear that….several women cancelled their attendance at a ConnectingCircle the day before-or worse, someone simply didn’t show up.”  I absolutely lean in the direction of naivety and thinking that everyone has the same jolly, happy, this-is-so-fun, let’s-do-this attitude as I do. But the truth is that even people who take the time to sign up for GFC have different levels of desire and commitment. And all I can really worry about is to continue my own level of desire and commitment, knowing it will lead me to who and where I am supposed to be. I also appreciated reading you say that, “The girl who showed up may feel embarrassed or frustrated, but she has proven to herself that she is willing to be present for something that she says is important in her life. I believe that energy will serve her.” These sentences touched my heart because that is a principle I think I have spent my life standing on even if not everyone else who has been in my life has.

What has been one of your best memories as an Ambassador so far?

Well…that is an easy one! It is at your book launch party when I asked you a question and one of the women I was with told you I was an Ambassador.  Then after telling you my name you said, “Oh yes, I know you. Maci told me I HAVE to meet you and that she thinks you are great and so wished she could have come here just to meet you!” I felt like a mini-celebrity! It was awesome to see that all the effort I had been putting in was really, really paying off….  I was with a large group of women I had met through GFC, was meeting you, was being sought after by other women there, and got to meet a woman who was there that night as the result of a flier I had put up in a Caribou coffee months previously and many, many miles away! It was an amazing night!

Look at all the friendships Kathy has helped make happen! It made me SO happy to see the love and joy among these women!

Well that was a highlight for me, too!  What a difference you've made Kathy.  It's amazing how one woman can just start reaching out, and how much others will respond to that!  What a difference you've made!  Okay, last questions, if you were to give advice to others who might be willing to be Ambassadors in their areas, what would you like to tell them?

Like Nike says, “Just do it”, or more specifically, DO IT! It has been worth every moment of effort I have put into it and has changed my life in so many ways! It is not really “hard” and the rewards far surpass any time and effort that it may take. I would also definitively say that patience is required, as is tenacity. It didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t happen with the first event I created. In fact, the first 3 events I created were attended by either only one other person or no one at all. But I was patient and tenacious and would not give up!! And look, I am now being interviewed by YOU!!!  :)

Oh how grateful so many of us are that you didn't give up.  Thank you for continuing to post events, for not taking it personally when people didn't RSVP, and for continuing to reach out and introduce women to each other. I'm so very thankful for you!

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If you're interested in possibly being an Ambassador for Friendship in your area, go here. But whether you sign-up or not, I hope you got lots of good ideas from Kathy's story and that it gives you the courage necessary to go post an event on the GirlFriendCircles.com calendar in your area and maybe send out a few "Let's Connect" requests to introduce yourself to other women nearby!  Make your friendships happen!

 

 

New Friendship Making in NYC: Two Real Stories

Note from Shasta: This week's blog highlights two short pieces from actual members of GirlFriendCircles.com in New York City.  They have hosted events on our calendar and started many new friendships, including with each other. I asked them both if they would share a bit of their experience for you.... My Experience With GirlFriendCircles.com

This post is written by Laurie Wicksman, an active member of GirlFriendCircles.com.

Wow, I met Shasta Nelson (who's a knockout by the way) at a Channel 7 news interview, along with Kelly (aka. Nashville) and Michelle.  Besides her successful career as a life coach, Shasta is responsible for connecting me and thousands of others with some talented and sincere women, such as Michelle (a PHD student), Laurence (a French Professor) and Larice (Coordinator at Prominent Broadcast Cable Company).  Unlike, Kelly and Michelle, I wasn't starting over in a new city.  I longed for quality friends, not simply the people I was friends with purely because we had a shared history.  My boyfriend, Tim, and I had gotten "pre-engaged" for our four year anniversary in September.  At last, I had found love.  Now, I needed a real friend.

Michelle, Kelly and I originally met at the first event I had attended.  Although my palms were sweaty and I was nervous, it opened doors to a whole new world.  Being that my fiance, Tim (my mad scientist), is away quite often at MIT, he suggested that I throw an event of my own.  As mentioned on my GirlFriendCircles.com profile, Max Brenner's is a NYC hot spot.  He asked me, "What do women love?"  That was obvious.  "Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate."

Using her great social and organizational skills, Michelle brought a successful turnout of an event to life, at my favorite restaurant. Thanks Michelle, for making it happen!  For those of you who don't know, Max Brenner's specializes in chocolate dishes, including cocktails.  So of course, as I had said to my fiance earlier, nothing comes between a girl and her love for chocolate.  There was nothing more thrilling for me than seeing thirteen women from very diverse backgrounds come together, sharing two common interests: dessert and finding friendship. I finally felt like I was part of something fun and exciting!

At the end of the day, however, what truly matters isn't who did or did not come to the party and why.  Nor is it, marital status, religion, or income level that is relevant.  But, meaningful relationships are inspiring one another to be the very best that we can be and not letting each other down.   That's what friendship means to me.

Laurence, a lovely woman of French extraction, attended my Serendipity event as well, and loved both events!  These are two amazing women that I've met through GFC, and hope to stay in touch with for a long time.  This was just the tip of the iceberg, however.  GFC has opened the door to countless other possibilities and friends for me.

Most importantly for me, it's about sharing those life experiences, that although alienating and painful, ultimately, have changed my life.  What I've learned from GFC is that we're not alone in our unique situation.  Whether you've lost a loved one or suffer from chronic pain, like myself, there is someone out there who has gone through it too.  Somehow, you meet that person who brings you out of the isolation to simply let you know that you're not alone in your physical or mental challenges.  They can provide you the strength to go forward.  I am reminded of a quote from my friend Larice, who inspires me everyday by overcoming obstacles, achieving success and persevering in her own life.  “The deeper your scars, the more room there is to fill them up with love.  Don’t hate your scars, appreciate their depth.”

What’s next in the chapter of life?  I don’t know but, GFC has certainly helped me along.  How many of us have a true friend?  "A diamond in the rough" is priceless and difficult to come by.  You just have to keep looking and you'll get lucky.  I did.  Thanks, GFC!  I'll never forget you!

Note from Shasta: It was a privilege to meet you Laurie! I'll never forget that you brought me a bag of yummy snacks (including chocolate!) while I was traveling-- your heart is made of gold. Thanks for sharing.

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A Year After GirlFriendCircles, I Have Real Friends

This post is written by Michelle Scott, an active member of GirlFriendCircles.com.

Last year was the most challenging year of my life for a number of reasons. I moved from the Midwest to New York City to live with my husband, who had already been living and working there for two years. I moved away from a home and life we had built together. I left a fulfilling job in which I felt valued and needed. I left wonderful neighbors, long-term friends, and family. I knew life in the big city would be different. I knew selling and giving away the majority of our possessions in order to live in a small, furnished NYC apartment would be quite an experience in surrendering and adapting. I knew making new friends would be a critical part of enjoying my new life in this new city.

One surprise was my first-ever challenge in finding a job. With a graduate degree and over halfway through a PhD program, I thought landing a job would be a cinch. Enter the importance of encouraging friends. When I preferred not to express my frustrations to my husband, I could seek the advice, comfort, and encouragement of friends. They helped with networking and shared stories of how they and their friends had struggled and succeeded in the Big Apple. It was a camaraderie that I did not expect. While my friends “back home” were encouraging, there is something unique about leaning on those who live and strive in this city that never sleeps.

Almost a year after the move, I am working various jobs, nearing the finish line of my education, and am better settled in New York. I now have several circles of friends I can call on to meet for coffee, share a laugh, or ask for prayer or advice. Unless you have lived in New York City, especially Manhattan, you cannot understand the pull for and limitation of time. As a student, working multiple jobs, volunteering and attempting to maintain friendships can be challenging. How does one find enough time and energy for everything that is important?

My main goal this year is to be more generous with my time and my heart. I believe Woody Allen is credited for saying “90% of life is just showing up.” While showing up is extremely important, it is not always enough. I need to be able to give of myself to others. It is possible to show up and still be stingy with our time. It might come through with checking our watches or phones, giving the impression that something or someone else holds a priority over the current activity or person with whom we are engaged.

A secondary goal for this year is to become more organized. Glancing through the 2012 IKEA catalog, I came across a small quote: “Fika (fee-Ka) is something all Swedes love to do. Simply put it means grab a friend, some coffee or tea, and something sweet to nibble on.” This little quote jumped out at me in the midst of the kitchen section. I’ve never been to Sweden, but I think this is what we long for: joining a friend for coffee, a sweet, and a time of togetherness. No matter your challenges or what you hope to achieve this year, let’s join together in our intentionality to show up for our friends and treat them and ourselves to the joys of great friendship.

Note from Shasta:  Michelle-- thank you for being a Connector in New York City, a woman who joined and immediately started scheduling events and reaching out to other members. Thank you for helping foster friendships right where you landed.  Best to you in your goals for the upcoming year!

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If you aren't yet a member of GirlFriendCircles.com we invite you to join! And if you already are-- I hope you'll go RSVP for an event (even if you're nervous like Laurie admitted she was) or that you'll jump in and host an event like Michelle did!