Practical Ideas

Shasta's Tips for Starting Women's Groups

I love few things as much as gathering women together.  There's often more laughter in groups and more diverse sharing and feedback. Plus, it also saves time being able to connect with a handful of friends at once, and it's more of a sure thing even if 1-2 people end up not being able to come. But there are so many kinds of groups to start! Your first question to answer is: What do I want the focus of the group?

  • Our Lives: This is one of my favorites-- basically we know that we are getting together in order to stay in touch, support each other, and invest in our relationships. We are the subject and ideally each person has time to share with everyone else what matters most in her life right now.  These groups should be started when you primarily want to bond by sharing your lives with each other.
  • A Theme/Subject: This category is one of the most popular types of groups because it includes such things as book clubs, support groups, entrepreneurs circles, mom's groups, Bible study groups, and political gatherings. These groups should be started when you primarily want mental stimulation, resonance in shared interests, and advice or support in a specific area.
  • An Activity: This category of group is primarily for gatherings where an activity is the focus whether it be a cooking club, a dining out group, a hiking group, or a group dedicated to training for an event. These groups should be started when you primarily want support/accountability in doing an activity, to experience new things, meet people with similar activity interests, desire more fun and socializing in your life, or to expand our horizons.

Of course there can be some cross-over, but it's important to be clear what desire is prompting your group.  If the focus is on hiking then one is less likely to leave feeling disappointed if no one asked her about her life, or if the focus is a mom's support group then we can put less attention to coming up with new activities and changing locations and devote more planning to conversations that matter to mothers. Knowing the priority serves as a filter for planning!

 

Another question that must be answered: Who is this group for?

  • Is there an ideal size? A minimum? A cap? If it's conversation-based it may help to be small enough to give time to everyone to share. If it's meal-based, do you want everyone to fit around a table? If it's networking based then maybe the more the merrier?
  • Is there something that everyone has to have in common in order to attend? Do they need to live in the neighborhood, have kids, or attend a certain church?
  • Is this an open or closed group? Can attendees invite others to come with them? Do you want to keep meeting people or go deeper with the same people?
  • What level of commitment is needed? Can attendees simply come when they want or is the intention that they come regularly?

I'll make a note to write more specific blog posts addressing some of the different types of groups since they will each have different needs.  But here are some of my overall tips:

  1. If you already have a few specific people in mind that you want participating-- then invite them to give input to such questions as 1) What type of group interests you the most? 2) Do you have others you'd like to invite? 3) Knowing we'll feel closer the more often we meet-- how frequently would you be willing to commit?
  2. Unless the focus is specifically to "try new restaurants in the city" or "explore new hiking trails" then keep the location as consistent and easy as possible. Every time you "switch" places it takes more brainstorming, planning, and communicating; plus attendees will be more likely to cancel if it feels like it will take a lot of energy.
  3. Similarly, come up with a "routine" and repeat it as often as possible.  People want to know what is expected of them and what to expect. My girls group "routine" is to chit-chat and catch-up while everyone arrives and before we put dinner on the table, but once we all have food on our plates then we switch gears to "going around the circle and each person sharing their highlight/lowlight." Maybe your book club talks about the book and then ends with mingling? Or is it the other way around? Aim for consistency.
  4. Keep the dates set even if someone can't attend.  Groups turn into a logistical mess when we start trying to change dates to accommodate different people. In general, it's best when the group can set their dates ahead of time (either the same day/time every week/month OR set their dates far enough out as a group so that everyone can plan around them) and then stick to them.  Every time you change for one, you risk messing it up for another, plus add to the communication weariness.
  5. Make sure everyone is given time to "be seen."  I'm a big fan of "going around the circle" so that each person has a chance to share--whether it's as small as an introduction before an activity or as big as giving each person 15 minutes to share on the topic of the evening.

What other tips do you have that you think would be helpful to others who are planning group gatherings?

Or, what other questions about group events do you have that I might be able to answer in a future post?

How to Deepen the Long-Distance Friendship

Unfortunately, many, if not most, of the people we claim as our best friends don't live near us. I haven't seen statistics to back up that claim, but since we're moving, on average, every 5 years, I think it's safe to say that chances are high that we have moved away from friends we've loved dearly. And all too often, it doesn't matter how many monthly lunches with local friends we schedule, it's hard to feel as close to them as we do with those long-distance friends with whom we once logged massive hours getting to know every day in school, at that job, or when we lived as roommates.

For those of you familiar with my 5 Circles of Friends-- I call these dear friends our "Con

5 types of friends image

firmed Friends" and they frequently reside in the middle circle because we are too intimate with them to warrant them being on the more casual left-side, but we often aren't as consistent with them as we'd need to be to feel as close to them as we do with our right-side friends. This post is about how to move them to the right, into greater frientimacy.

How to Deepen the Friendship

So what if you actually want to develop a closer relationship with these long-distance friends? What if you want to keep building the friendship, rather than just do the minimum to maintain it? What it you want to feel like you know what's going on in each others lives more often than your infrequent phone calls or more deeply than what you can read on social media?

There are three requirements to all healthy relationships, as I teach in Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness:

  1. Positivity: The relationship, to be meaningful and healthy, must bring more joy and satisfaction than exhaustion or stress, in fact research suggests we need to keep the ratio above 5:1.
  2. Consistency: The relationship, to be meaningful and healthy, must be repetitive and have some regularity to it because this developing history is what fosters our trust in each other.
  3. Vulnerability: The relationship, to be meaningful and healthy, must incrementally and appropriately increase in sharing as our consistency increases with each other. It is through vulnerability that we feel seen and known.

And they are just as true for long-distance friends as they are for local friends. (Bonus: They also are the same three requirements for starting friendship as they are for deepening it!)

Specific Ideas for Applying the 3 Requirements to Our Long-Distance Friendships

I can guarantee that any relationship that isn’t feeling as meaningful as we want is because at least one of these three requirements is lacking.

So how we can practice these three requirements from a distance?

Positivity:

  • Send an encouraging card: Take 5 minutes to send a little tangible love through the postal system telling your friend why you admire her.
  • Recall a good memory: Find an old photo of you and your friend that will bring a smile to your faces, and text it to her with a little note of gratitude for the history you two share.
  • Refrain from giving advice: Most of the time, when we’re sharing, we just want validation and affirmation.  Advice can leave us feeling judged or defensive. When you do have time to share, make a point to respond to her in a way that leaves her feeling better about who she is and how she’s navigating her life.

Consistency:

  • Embrace texting: Even the shortest text exchange in between get-togethers reminds us gives us the sense of the other person being close. When you think of her— text her and tell her.
  • Schedule a regular time to catch-up: We feel far away from long-distance friends when so much time has passed in between conversations that we’re convinced it would take hours to catch-up. Instead, see if she’s up for scheduling a reoccurring 30 minute call every 1st Monday evening of the month, or every Sunday afternoon.
  • Prioritize the Slumber Parties: We don’t need as much consistency to maintain friendships as when we are building them, but it is still in time together that we can create new memories; so no matter how broke we are, or how busy we feel, we have to visit each other to protect and deepen the love we've already developed. These overnighters can be a game-changer for deepening that relationship.

    long distance friends

Vulnerability:

  • Get to the heart of the matter quickly: We may not talk to, or see, our long-distance friends as often so let’s not waste our time by asking all the typical update questions and risk us not sharing what really matters. Instead, suggest, “I know we don’t have a ton of time, but maybe we can each share one highlight and one lowlight since we’ve each see each other?” By leaving it open-ended, we give each person the chance to share in the life areas they want to, while inviting honesty.
  • Risk being an "inconvenience": We so often talk ourselves out of calling each other when we feel down because we don’t want to be a burden or intrude on their busy lives, but it’s only by calling and saying “I just needed a friend” that we will feel the benefit of having a good friend, give her the permission to call when she needs, and help bond the relationship deeper by letting her help.
  • Invite her "bragging": Part of vulnerability is sharing what we're proud of... this can be hard because none of us want to be seen as bragging.  So make it easier and ask her: "Share with me something you're really proud of these days?"

Just because there are miles between us doesn't mean that we can't keep developing these friendships.  In fact, because we've invested so much in each other at one time-- and have the benefit of already feeling close to each other-- we're smart to do everything we can to protect those investments!

What other ideas have you tried? What sounds meaningful to you?

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The Key to Starting a Women's Group

By: Katrina Emery Katrina Emery, a freelance writer from Portland, OR, occasionally interviews a member of GirlFriendCircles and writes a guest post about their friend-making journey so we can all learn from, inspire, and encourage each other in our own quests for better friendships.

It was while she was volunteering at her local hospital that retiree Kris Trainor knew she needed to focus on friendship more. Her role was to talk and sit with people before they go into the Cath Lab, sometimes helping them fill out forms. “Many of them didn’t have anyone reliable to put as a contact on the form. This is Prescott, Arizona--we’re friendly. People know their neighbors,” she recalls. “but then I thought,

‘Who would I put down?’ And I had to admit that I needed somebody.”

After 10 years of living in Prescott Kris had plenty of acquaintances, but not many close friends. Spurred on by GirlFriendCircles, she started a group dedicated to forming new friendships for older women. They meet at her local Starbucks for an hour every single week. Consistency, one of the three requirements of friendship, is the most important thing for them, since it's hard to get to know each other or built up trust without it. And as Kris says, “consistency can be the hardest to establish with new friends”  so the commitment to meet weekly has helped her group connect.

The ladies chat and share every week, using GirlFriendCircles Sharing Questions to dig deeper. Kris laughs that she often has to bring the topic back. “People want to have meaningful conversations, but they’ll drift.” To make everyone more comfortable and ease them in, she’ll often read a list of values and goals she wrote down when she started the group. “I wrote what I wanted to get out of this. It includes 1) don’t take anything personally, 2) practice being open and transparent, 3) learn to express my love and appreciation of others, and 4) be madly in love with yourself. Part of what we’re doing here is learning to be good friends with ourselves.” The first time she read it the group responded better than she thought they would, and now it’s a common way she starts. “They love it!”

It hasn’t all been easy for Kris. The group has been meeting since August, but she’s not sure she can claim any of the ladies in her Committed friends yet. “I didn’t expect it to stay this hard. I didn’t realize I’d have to be kind of like a mom, in a leadership role.” To help, she reminds herself of the natural ebbs and flows of groups, rather than take it personally. “It’s been winter lately--bad weather, sickness, holidays, and the group naturally shrinks.” Going back to her list of what she wants to gain from the group helps, too. “I figured out that I had to go back to my sheet to know what I want.” Even on her end, consistency is a must.

One of the reasons she’s committed to the group is a memory of when she moved to Prescott and was looking at other ladies’ groups. “When I asked to join, they said no!” She was shocked. Her group has committed to staying open for anyone interested in joining. “I’m serious about always remaining open to new people. We’ve got to continue to widen our personal circles.”

Because they’ve all committed to meeting every single week, they’re rapidly getting to know one another. Consistency is key, knowing that they’ll continue to see each other without having to match up schedules. Outside of their weekly meetup, the group has taken classes together at the community college. One makeup class, Kris recalls, ended up to be a thinly veiled sales pitch, but the ladies all had fun anyway and they now laugh at the experience. They’ve started planning other events amongst themselves. Kris loves that, since she doesn’t feel she has the capacity to plan more. “I couldn’t do a bigger event every month," she says, “but I know that it’s easy to get a friend to meet you for coffee.”

And that’s what she’s done, every week, consistently.

Let's cheer for Kris and encourage her as she continues this commitment! And let's take inspiration from her: What is one way you could increase the consistency (regularity/repetition/frequency) in one of your friendships?

Shasta's Sharing Questions for Group Get-Togethers

This month, in GirlFriendCircles we're teaching "How to Plan a Meaningful Gathering" because we all know that there is a BIG difference between entertaining vs. engaging.

Why We Need Sharing Questions

What we don't want are more stressful or small-talk filled nights with people.  What we do want are more gatherings where we feel "When planning a gathering, always start by asking "how do I want it to feel?" and then plan to that desired outcome.seen, loved, and connected.  But, unfortunately, those are too far and few between these days for the vast majority of us.  So this month we're all committing to plan one meaningful night with friends we want to know better! (You can join us-- a class, supportive community, free advice, etc.)

A really important part of helping women connect is giving them the time and space to do it in a meaningful and structured way. For that reason we love Sharing Questions—they allow everyone to share, provide a focus of what to talk about (otherwise we end up talking about politics, TV shows, or the weather, instead of about us!), and help ensure that women start to feel like they know each other (as well as allowing each woman to be heard and feel seen).

Answering these questions is fun! They not only ensure that each of us has the opportunity to share, but they also focus our conversations on us rather than about celebrity gossip, news, movies, or our jobs and families.

How to Facilitate Group Sharing

Our sharing is shaped by so many things: how well we already know each other, the size of our group, the purpose of our gathering, and how much time is available, but here are a few fun ways to add Sharing Questions into your gatherings:

  1. Pick one question and go around the circle for everyone to answer.
  2. If your group is small and there’s plenty of time to share, have each person pick one question that everyone answers (so you’re answering as many questions as there are attendees, with everyone picking one question and answering all of them).
  3. Print and cut apart the questions and put them in a hat that is passed around the circle with each person drawing out a different question to answer.
  4. If the group is large, invite women to get into groups of 3 and give them 20 minutes to answer as many of the questions together as possible.

(Here are other tips for facilitating a group discussion.)

Sample Sharing Questions

If you're with people who know each other fairly well, here are some of my favorites:

• What is the one thing you want less of in your life right now? And one thing you want more of?

• What title would you give to the current chapter of your life? Why?

• What is one thing you love about your current job/role and one thing you would change if you could?

• In what way(s) are you similar to and/or different from one of your parents (or other family member)?

• What were you like in high school? And if you could go back and tell yourself one thing-- what would it be?

• What is one thing coming up in your life that matters?

• And, of course, my all time favorite question: What is a highlight and low light in the last week/month?

If you're with people who don't know each, here are some of my favorites (best ones are loosely connected to why the group is getting together):

• Share with us your name and how you know _______  (i.e. me--the host, the birthday girl, the bride-to-be) --where we met/how we've become friends.

• Share with us your name and one thing you did this last summer (or over the holidays/fall/spring) that stood out.

• Share with us your name, and tell us what you do for work, but more importantly, tell us what part of your work/job energizes you the most these days.

• Share with us your name, and because we're here celebrating x holiday, share with us one memory you have of a previous one. (St. Patrick's Day, Valentines, etc.)

•Share with us your name, and because we're gathering to meet new friends, share with us how one of your closest friends would introduce you-- how would they describe you?

• Share with us your name , and because we are all ____ (i.e. on this sports team, on PTA, part of this association) tell us what inspired you to join this group and why it feels important to you.

The real value of a Sharing Question is less about the exact question and more about letting everyone share and be seen-- it helps us feel closer to each other even if we don't end up having a 1:1 conversation with each person.  Plus, it gives us the beginning of a conversation thread that we can pick up and continue when we run into that person later.

If you're not practiced at leading Sharing Questions it might feel uncomfortable at first. But remember: feeling awkward doesn't mean it's "bad" to do it-- it just means we're not very practiced yet.  So let's practice!  :)

What have been your experiences in groups that initiate group sharing vs. just mingling or letting only a few share? And please share other questions you've used and loved-- let's compile a list!

The Secret to Moving from Acquaintances to Friends

We learn so much through sharing our stories!  Thanks to Katrina Emery for interviewing a GirlFriendCircles.com member, Jan Link, about what she's experiencing in her friend-making process that can inspire all of us! When Jan retired three years ago and moved back to the Midwest, she was going home. After 40 years away, though, home didn’t come with many friends anymore.  Three years after she came back to her small town in Wisconsin, near the Minnesota border, she still hadn’t met many people to call for a fun day out or lunch date.

“I felt like I should go stand on a street corner with a sign that said, ‘I need friends,’ ” she laughs. When she joined GirlfriendCircles she hoped that would change everything. She signed up and met a few new people, but found herself right back to where she started. Nothing seemed to stick.

She wasn’t sure what was wrong. “I knew I didn’t have any trouble with vulnerability,” she says, pointing out that, “Who I am is what you get!” So she participated in some of the GirlFriendCircles classes and when she listened to "The 3 Requirements to Starting Friendships" she had an ah-ha moment: she needed more consistency with her new friendships.

“I wasn’t being as consistent as I needed to be. I’d meet friendly acquaintances, but I couldn’t get it to blossom from there by just getting together occasionally.” Knowing she needed to give more regular time to new friendships in order to create the momentum that leads to bonding, she decided to commit to growing a group of local friends, using the GirlFriendCircles site and also going beyond. “I made posters and flyers inviting women to join in fun activities, and stuck them everywhere: grocery store, health store, church, the next few towns over, gyms, even gas stations (everyone needs gas!). Every month I put out 15 posters, and I change them up.”

Now, a group of 15 ladies consistently get together several times a month, and it’s still growing. “The girls love it so much,” Jan says. Most of the group is ladies around her own age, retired, some widowed. “With exits and losses, we all need more friends through life changes,” Jan says. “Having someone nearby to go shopping with is so important.”

The group started out once a month, but Jan quickly realized that even that wasn’t enough consistency to really feel close to each other. Now they meet 2-3 times a month, and often without her needing to organize it. They host craft groups, go shopping or out to lunch, and have a regular Bunco game night. Once a month Jan makes breakfast and has everyone over. She’s proud of the fact that they consistently show up, given the distance at times: “In Wisconsin, if someone has to travel over 9 miles, they really have to think about it!”

Jan’s learned a lot about the value of consistency over the course of the group. She had joined a few committees at her church, but since they meet only once every three months, it just wasn’t enough. She plans on urging for more, and volunteering to be a contact and advocate for people who have just moved to the area. From being a new transplant herself, she know what’s it’s like.

Her advice to anyone trying to make friends is to keep getting in touch: “I hear a lot that I reached out and didn’t get any replies. I don’t take it personally if that happens to me,” she says. “Try again. Be consistent. Plenty of people are more than willing to talk.”

Her group of ladies is strong and growing, and they often express appreciation for Jan’s part. “It’s so rewarding, every time they thank me. But it’s all of them: I’m so inspired by them.”

All women are invited to join GirlFriendCircles.com for monthly classes, local events, and new friends!

The 4 Bonding Styles-- Which Is Yours?

Can you articulate what experiences you need to have with others to feel closer to them?  And did you know that while there are the 3 main requirements of all healthy relationships (consistency, positivity, and vulnerability, taught in Frientimacy), how we each judge our closeness to someone else will look different based, in part, on our temperament? With the December holidays often gathering us with friends and family, and the soon-following New Year that inspires us to prioritize our relationships in the year ahead; let's take a moment to look at how our temperaments can inform the bonding process.

By reminding ourselves how we're each wired differently we can better understand 1) how to increase our chances of feeling connected in our interactions 2)  and hopefully also to feel more aware that others might need something different.

In this group of 5 of us friends-- we have 3 of the 4 temperaments represented!

How Myers-Briggs Informs the Bonding Process

There are so many nuanced and amazing ways to better understand ourselves but since Myers-Briggs Temperament Inventory (MBTI) is one of the most popular, I thought I'd use that one today to illustrate how we are each looking for something different in our interactions and relationships.

While there are 16 different types of people identified within the Myers-Briggs sorter, we all tend to fall under one of 4 major groups: the Artisans, the Guardians, the Idealists, and the Rationals.  With that said, we are all incredibly unique and might have elements of many, or all, of them.  What's most important is simply reminding ourselves to take a moment to assess what it takes for us to feel close to someone else AND to not assume that everyone else feels the same.  :)

(It's not imperative for you to know your type to identify with one the following four explanations, but if you'd like to take the inventory, I know there are multiple free assessments you can search for, and if you want to purchase from the official Myers-Briggs Foundation you can do so here.)

  1. The Artisans, or SP's:  Our fun-loving, optimistic, spontaneous, and creative Artisans (roughly 40% of the population) feel most close to people when they play together. They tend to look back on a family/friend gathering and judge it a success if there were fun things-to-do, game-playing, and lots of activity. In general, it will be more difficult for them to feel close to someone they deem boring, or who doesn't share their interests or hobbies. The more they can play with someone or engage in a shared activity together-- the more they will enjoy that relationship.
  2. The Guardians, or SJ's: Our loyal, responsible, hard-working, thoughtful, and organized Guardians (roughly 40% of the population) feel most close to people when they support each other. They tend to look back on a family/friend gathering and judge it a success if they feel everyone participated in a tradition, followed social or family etiquette by getting along, helped prepare for or plan the events, and basically showed priority to the value of being together. In general, it will be more difficult for them to feel close to someone if they feel that person isn't "carrying their weight," or "living up to expectations." The more they feel needed and feel that others are playing their roles and contributing-- the more they will enjoy that relationship.
  3. The Idealists, or NF's: Our idealistic, romantic, deep-feeling, and passionate Idealists (roughly 10% of the population) feel most close to people when they feel seen and understood. They tend to look back on a family/friend gathering and judge it a success if they feel they had meaningful conversations, which included people expressing an interest in their lives, ideas, and feelings; and trusting them to share the same. In general, it will be more difficult for them to feel close to someone if they feel like the conversations were "shallow" which happens if the conversations stayed on "updating" and "concrete" topics instead of on the sharing of lives and feelings. The more they feel expressed, seen for who they are, and affirmed-- the more they will enjoy that relationship.
  4. The Rationals, or NT's: Our pragmatic, skeptical, strategic, utilitarian, and autonomous Rationals (roughly 5-10% of the population) feel most close to people when they feel intellectually stimulated. They tend to look back on a family/friend gathering and judge it a success if they helped solve a problem, were asked for their opinion on something they deemed important, or participated in a rousing conversation that challenged them to think. In general, it will be more difficult for them to feel close to someone if they don't feel like that person values, or is capable of, thinking for themselves, examining abstract subjects such as politics, economics, technology, or the exploration of how things work. The more they feel respected for their intellectual processing and the willingness of others to engage with them in their areas of interest-- the more they will enjoy that relationship.

Maximizing the Bonding Process

It is imperative that I understand what I most need in order to leave a gathering feeling more connected to those I love. When I can articulate what I need-- be it activities, traditions/support, heartfelt conversation, or sharing stimulating ideas-- I can be more thoughtful about how I might foster those moments.

But just as powerful as realizing that I need to take the initiative of getting my needs met is the realization that I will want to also be purposeful in engaging in the actions that will feel bonding to those I love and cherish.  That might mean:

  • Playing games or lacing up ice-skates with my Artisan... even if I am tempted to go clean the kitchen or don't feel very skilled at the activity, remembering that they will feel closer to me by building that memory.
  • Attending the family meal, dropping off a thoughtful gift, or showing up at the religious event with my Guardian... even if I don't find the event "meaningful" or would rather be playing than helping show support or giving in service, remembering I can love them by supporting the people, institutions, and ideals that they love.
  • Staying focused and asking follow-up questions with my Idealist... even if it feels awkward, remembering they feel valued by the interest that I show.
  • Asking what book my Rational is reading these days and exploring what they think about it.... even if the topic is "boring" to me, remembering that they feel respected when we share opinions and thoughts.

Our temptation might be to judge each others way of bonding as "shallow," "boring," "exhausting," or simply as "not me." But being in relationship with others calls us to be intentional about our needs and theirs.

May you end December feeling ever closer, and more connected, to those in your tribe.

xoxo

p.s.  Does this resonate? Is this helpful? In what ways might you apply this information to benefit your relationships?  :)

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The Act of Vulnerability That No One Talks About

When we think of vulnerability, we all too often think of sharing our insecurities, anxiety, and stories of shame. But that type of sharing is only one out of the 5 ways to be vulnerable with others. It's certainly important to deepening relationships to know we can reveal what we fear is our worst and be reminded we're still loved and accepted; but it is such a limited definition of vulnerability.

Relational vulnerability, in general, is anything that exposes more of who we are to others; and specifically, the actions we take to share life more widely and deeply with others.

Perhaps the Scariest Act of Vulnerability?

And while I teach 5 different pathways, or acts, of vulnerability in my book Frientimacy; there's one of the acts, in particular, that I think could drastically improve our friendships, our self-esteem, our contributions in the world, and our joy, if we practiced it more regularly.  But not only do we not engage in it often enough with our friends, the truth is that most of us don't even know we should be!

What is this secret act of vulnerability, if it's not bringing our skeletons out from our proverbial closets?

It's the act of Shining in Front of Each Other.

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One of the most undervalued acts of vulnerability is supporting each other’s success in this world. Being willing to shine in front of our friends by sharing what is going well, why we are proud of ourselves this week, and what we do like about ourselves. It takes courage to be willing to shine fully in front of our friends, and take in their affirmation, cheers, and love.

And it takes just as much vulnerability to encourage our friends to shine in front of us!  Why?  Because often their shining may trigger our own feelings of insecurity or envy. It can be hard to cheer for her pay raise if we're barely paying the bills, and painful to celebrate her new boyfriend in the midst of our break-up.

But we're called to feel that vulnerability--both of sharing and cheering--and rise the occasion of being women who can shine in front of each other.

When we talk about feeling safe and loved by others we often say, we want to be accepted for "the good, the bad, and the ugly," but most of us actually feel more practiced and comfortable whining about the bad and the ugly, and not being as forthcoming with the good.

5 Ideas to Practice Shining With Our Friends

  1. CHERISH YOUR LIFE: While we want to be honest about the fact that some areas of life aren’t ideal, we also want to actively identify the areas that are good—and be honest about them. Practice saying, “I’m really fortunate that I don’t struggle with X, but I’m sensitive to those who do. And while I certainly struggle in other life areas, in this one I want to appreciate what I do have.”
  2. AFFIRM HER LIFE: Whenever you think of it, affirm everything you can think of about your friend. The number one value of friendship is to boost positivity by communicating acceptance—so cheer for her parenting style, her work ambitions, her beauty, her big heart. Everything.
  3. INVITE HER BRAGGING: We need to practice owning our strengths and joys, but we’re all scared to do it, afraid people will think we’re arrogant. So help encourage it in her by asking her questions that invite her to share what she’s proud of. (“When do you feel most powerful at work?” “What makes you feel the most beautiful?”) Encourage her to really feel her successes!
  4. INVOKE HER GRATITUDE: Women are known for brushing off compliments or dismissing praise. So, when our friend deflects affirmation, we can gift our friendship with positivity by playfully making her say “thank you” or by saying, “Wait, that was a huge thing you just accomplished; are you taking it in and really feeling it? Because you deserve it!”
  5. REVEAL YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Our friends should be those with whom we feel the safest celebrating our successes, so we need to practice sharing those successes—without being asked. Text her, “Just wanted to share: X just happened!” Or tell her, “I’m feeling more scared than excited that I just bought a house. Any chance you’re free to help me step into celebration mode? Takeout at my place?”

Why We Have To Shine

The biggest reason of all is that this vulnerability leads to greater intimacy and feelings of love with people because we'll feel more expressed, more seen, and more celebrated.  Sharing our woes, bruises, and disappointing circumstances can only take us so far-- it's when we start whispering out loud our biggest dreams, the difference we want to make in the world, and the personal growth we see happening in our lives that we become more of our best selves.

But honestly, another motivation for me is because our world desperately needs more people willing to shine!  And if we can't practice it with our friends, then what chance do we have of feeling more comfortable doing it in this world that desperately needs the best of all of us?  If I can't admit where I think I'm amazing, to the people who claim to love me, then chances are high that I won't be able to fully own that amazing-ness and shine it to a world of strangers and doubters.

This holiday season when you see twinkling lights and shiny stars-- I hope it'll remind you to think of something good in your life that you can share with someone!

xoxo

Shasta

P.s. I'm also teaching a 1-hr class called "Vulnerability: The 5 Pathways to Deeper Connection" (complete with a bundle of friend-u-vulnerabilityresources, such as a personal application worksheet and monthly challenge) for all members of GirlFriendCircles.com this month so feel free to join us (for only $20!) and access the class with your membership!  In a month where we can feel inundated with busy-ness and people, it's ever more important to practice adding Meaningful Moments to our interactions!

 

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What If No One Shows Up To My Event?

I LOVE teaching but sometimes we can learn even more through the stories and experiences of each other so I've asked Katrina Emery, a GFC member who lives in Portland OR, to help curate and write up some stories that might help inspire us all.  I love that she started not with a story that we'd all consider a "big success," but rather submitted a story of what many of us would consider a "failure." --Shasta

What If No One Shows Up To My Event?

by Katrina Emery

You know you want more friends, but thinking of hosting a whole event may feel intimidating. What if no one shows up? What if you're vulnerable and stick yourself out there and no one takes your hand? Miriam knows that feeling, but she's here to tell you to do it anyway. Maybe no one will show up. But maybe they will.

A GFConnector in Riverside, California, Miriam has volunteered to be an active

Miriam isn't going to give up on continuing to invite potential friends into her life.

member in the GirlFriendCircles.com community in creating local friendships, both with herself and between others. “I believe that friendships make us better people,” she says. “Feeling lonely is not a good feeling, so I am taking responsibility for my happiness and [having] friends is a hole that needs to be filled.” Her profile cheekily mentions that she enjoys walks on the beach, though it’s even more fun when shared with others!

Part of the responsibility of a GFConnector is to facilitate events that allows members to meet new friends at a local hangout like karaoke, drinks, or just some coffee and conversation. For an introvert like Miriam hosting an event can be a challenge to get out of her normal comfort zone. But she was up to it, as she says, “I figured that if I want to be part of this women’s friendship movement, I would have to push myself into uncharted territory.” Waiting for strangers to show up at a local cafe was certainly uncharted. She kept it simple and sent invites to women who lived nearby, and even a few family and friends, inviting them all to meet at Panera Bread for breakfast.

She arrived early and waited with her GirlFriendCircles Sharing Questions (fun conversation topics to help everyone share!), ready to make some connections. And waited. Eventually her daughter came in to sit with her, so Miriam tried out some of the questions on her. It ended up being a good conversation that they probably wouldn’t have had in a different setting. After her daughter had to leave, Miriam stayed another half hour but when no one else came, she left the cafe, admittedly disappointed. Later, she said it turns out someone did come about 15 minutes before the event was set to end!

Despite the absence of her new friends, Miriam stayed positive, joking about the “almost no-show” event. She knows and deeply understands the difficulties in giving time to new friends. Between working as a Family Medicine doctor full-time as well as caring for family members that have become dependent on her, she faces the challenges of time daily. “I am working on creating time, because it’s important to me. I need peers… with whom I can laugh and play and recharge my batteries.”

Her story has a happy ending--or rather, middle. Or beginning? Miriam held another Connecting Event just recently and this time was able to have a lovely conversation with a new friend! With another event under her belt, she’s already planning a third for more activities. “Remember it takes time,” she says of making friends, “but it is so worth it. Enjoy the journey and take notes. There is much to learn about relationships.”

Leave your cheers for Miriam in the comments or share with us your own experiences about what you've learned from some 'failures' or what keeps you from giving up, even when it's tough!

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Sickness & Surgery: 10 Best Ideas & Gifts for Recovering Friends

My last blog post didn't go over all that well with you--my beautiful community of amazing women--and you were quick to let me know I had it wrong.  :) In hindsight, I probably chose the wrong illustration (a woman recovering from surgery) to make my point: loving acts are loving acts from our friends even if they don't initially read our minds to proactively give to us what we most need at any given time.  I think we too often take personally someone's inability to automatically know what we need. But even my husband who lives with me and knows me deeply can't always guess what I need at different times.  It's ultimately my responsibility to reflect on what I need, communicate that, and trust that his love is no less sincere as he responds to what I requested.

But to make penance for any implication that someone who's sick or in pain is at fault (she's not!) if her friends are disappointing her-- let's make a list of fun ideas and gifts to give to our friends who are in physical recovery mode.  :)

5 Easy and Affordable Gifts Post Surgery/Health Crisis

Easy because much as I admire those of you who can creatively put together something all thematic and homemade, I'm way more likely to send a gift if all I have to do it order it! Just only click and these gifts will be on their way!

Affordable because while we might want to pull off paying for house cleaning, massages, or meal deliveries for one of our closest friends-- most of us are on a budget and will have to suffice with cheaper expressions of care. These are all between $15-35!

  • An infused water bottle "Drink! Drink! Drink!" is what we have to do to recover, but water gets boring after a while! For $14 send her a fun new way to get her fluids down!  And for another $8 you can add a recipe book filled with 80 water & fruit recipes for health!

 

 

  • Coloring Book and Pencils!  Prismacolors are by far my favorite colored pencils (and this 24 pack is only $12!)-- they are the smoothest and the best! Pick out a fun coloring book to go with it and now they have something fun and creative to do while they heal.  (This one is my personal favorite for only $9 but there are soooo many to choose from!)

 

  • Tangible Inspiration: This bracelet may not be the most practical of gifts, but I am someone who loves to wear something that reminds me I am loved and that inspires me as I keep on the journey.  This $34 bracelet says "she believed she could, so she did" but there are lots of other styles and quotes to choose from.

 

  • Gift certificate to Audible.comWhen she just wants to close her eyes but is audibletired of sleeping... an audio book may be the perfect distraction!

 

 

  • Dry Shampoo and Other Beauty Care: A can of dry shampoo ($8 for 1 so maybe order 2!) may not heal her faster but it certainly may help her feel more whole! My hair gets so greasy that I'd need a can by my bed!  Here's my favorite brand. Maybe add a package of bathing wipes to it, some amazing hand lotion, or some tinted lip balm from Burt's Bee's so she can feel and look better than she feels!

Are you on Pinterest? I've started a board with all these ideas and lots of others if you want to follow along!

5 Thoughtful Ideas of Time and Love

Most of us would probably concur that any gift or expression of love means so much to the recipient, but if you want to go the extra mile and gift your time then these ideas are as beautiful as they come!

  1. Commit to regular check-ins! Reminding our friends that they aren't forgotten and sending them encouragement is so crucial! Ideas include:  mailing a card every week for the long haul, setting a reminder to text her every Wednesday, or making an extra effort to call her and check in more often (even if it just means leaving loving voice mails!)  @ClinkandChat tweeted me this idea: "text a daily joke or meme for laughs!"
  2. Ask the honest questions and give time for deep conversations.  When we're present during someone's pain, commit to being someone who asks the real questions that give them permission to share what's going on inside of them.  Everyone else is asking about their physical health... be willing to process how that is affecting them:  How has this experience most affected you? What has been the most discouraging aspect of this? What has most surprised you in this experience? How would you describe how you've changed from this experience?
  3. Keep giving permission for them to be just as they are. Lots of women said what they most appreciated were the friends who kept normalizing the process and were comfortable with not needing the other to feel cheered or "better." @GenerousAlix tweeted "Don't rush the process!"  And one friend said to me "The person I was most excited to have come visit me was the one who texted and said 'I'm coming over un-showered and I'll be so disappointed if you dare get out of bed or even brush your hair before I come.' as it made me let go of any need to prepare for her arrival.
  4. Offer your time in direct service.  In an ideal world, if a friend asked how they could help, we'd name a few things, but most of us don't want to be inconvenient or assuming.  So if a friend said to me "Here are some options of things I can do... you either pick one or I'll pick for you, but I am going to do something and I'd rather it be helpful to you... so if you want to vote, please speak up!" then I'd feel that much better picking one!  Two awesome ideas come from a couple members from our women's friendship community, GirlfriendCircles.com: Kim Montenyohl suggested walking your friends dog which I think is awesome! And Julia Krout talked about how lonely she felt when she was physically limited after a surgery so the friends who would call and say "I want to bring you dinner and eat with you!" meant so much!  Other ideas could be: offering to do some online research for her (follow-up care, treatment reviews, best physical therapists in her area) if there's anything she's needing to eventually decide, offering to make her kids lunches if they go to school with your kids, call to ask her what you can pick up for her while you're out running errands one afternoon, offer to attend an important appointment with her or to drive her home, or insist on doing her laundry no matter how much she objects.  :)
  5. Organize food drop-off and donations!  Set up a free account on mailtrain.com and within 5 minutes you can start inviting all her friends to sign up to cook a meal, have food delivered, or make donations to help cover medical expenses! It's easy to coordinate and you can help all her friends get involved so she feels loved and cared for in her recovery!

Please add your ideas in the comments and let's crowd source an amazing list that we can all use as an inspirational resource!

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In Sickness and In Health, Part 3: Making Friends While Sick Or In Pain

This is the 3rd post in our 3-part series on friendships with those who suffer with chronic pain and illness. The first one, written by Lucy Smith (pseudonym) shared her experience with us after having been diagnosed with a debilitating neurological condition. She bravely wrote what she wishes her friends understood about friendship with someone who feels sick or limited. The second one, I weighed in with tips and principles I think are important for those trying to make friends while in pain.  And this final one, is again written by Lucy Smith as she shares her tips, from personal experience, about what she;s learned about making new friends even when limited by her health.  When struck suddenly with a debilitating neurological condition a couple years ago, Lucy Smith's (pseudonym), ability to participate in the activities she used to do with friends became very limited and the challenge of maintaining and making friends while also dealing with major illness has been difficult.

Your situations are all so very different, please take anything that speaks to you, and add your own tips to the comments. It will inspire all of us to see what others are trying and finding helpful! Above all we applaud everyone who dares to connect their hearts, especially when their bodies resist in any way. xoxo

4 Tips From Someone Who Knows The Journey, By Lucy Smith

  1. Create Some Friendships With Others Who "Get It." Finding people with similar struggles in a support group is often a great place to start.   That might be a support group for those living with chronic illness, a local disease-specific group (i.e. the National Multiple Sclerosis Society support group), or maybe some people who were on the periphery of your social network who have had medical challenges that you couldn't relate to before.  In some cases, you might not find those networks you were looking for waiting for you.  In that case, it may be worth creating a Meetup group or some other forum where you can bring people together in the way you were seeking. This doesn't always need to be a big time or energy suck - it might be as simple as stating that the group will be meeting a the coffee shop at 10:00 am on the 4th Saturday of the month and showing up for several months as momentum builds.
  2. Initiate and follow-through, as much as possible. Once you've got a pool of potential new friends, try to follow (as much as you are able) Shasta's normal advice for cultivating new friends: those are the ingredients of a healthy relationship and even if we feel unhealthy, we still want our friendships to be healthy! That means take initiative when you can and have those "open hands" as people with a lot of their plates may not be able to commit as often or may not be able to follow through when the time comes. Though a friend will understand occasionally when you aren't up to getting together as planned, if canceling and rejection is the only interaction you have, that friend may grow weary of making the effort to reach out, even if she understands the circumstances, and may defer to not reaching out but instead waiting for you to make the effort when you are up to it.
  3. Cultivate fun and joy: If you can get a regular group who understands your challenges, work on growing towards cultivating fun and joy where possible through activities that are not illness specific.  Certainly it is great to update each other on your challenges and wins, medical and otherwise, but cultivating activities that aren't centered around the narrowness of illness allows you to reclaim part of your whole self.
  4. Receive, Say Yes, and Appreciate: And for those of us who are sick, it is helpful for us to remember to try to show up on our side when we are lucky enough to have a friend who is willing to stick by us during difficult times.   Allowing others to help you is a gift to the person who is offering to help - both to receive the help and to maintain connection.  We may need to work on being open to receive the gift.  You may repeatedly turn down offers to get together and get out or even to have someone come visit you or bring a meal because you aren't feeling as well as you wished.  Maybe you don't want to be seen when you aren't feeling well, or you haven't showered, changed out of your PJs, and put your make-up on.   Instead of feeling embarrassed about this, it is helpful to remember that you've got a true friend who is putting in the extra effort to show up when things are hard and that she doesn't care much about the shower, PJs, and make-up, but rather she cares about you. Say yes to that.

Thank you Lucy!  I appreciate you reaching out and being a catalyst for this conversation, and for sharing some of your energy with us in such an inspirational and informative way!

And I hope many more of you chime in on the comments!  What tips do you have?

A Practice for "I Don't Have Time for Friends"

Lack of time for friendships is easily one of the most common complaints when it comes to doing what we know would develop our friendships toward greater fulfillment.  We know that time together bonds us, but where does one find that time? Plus, it's a bit of a vicious cycle because the less time we make, the less fulfilling the time together can feel.  Which then undoubtedly leaves us even less motivated to make time again at future dates. We find ourselves musing, "Is going out with her occasionally to just catch up on life worth leaving _____________ (fill in the blank with work, kids, romantic person of interest, or whatever feels more compelling) and we can easily drift apart from someone not because we don't like them, but because we don't spend enough time together to feel really connected to them.

Our lives are crazy busy-- there's not denying that most people feel that way.  And if not busy, then at least full of our routines and responsibilities, which to step away from can feel challenging.

An Ancient Practice Called Sabbath

Enter the practice of Sabbath.

The practice of Sabbath is an ancient spiritual tradition of carving out one day a week to focus on that which is most important to human restoration.  For me, my Sabbath is filled with spaciousness--it's a day where only that which really matters is welcome: family, friends, long conversations, beautiful walks in nature, amazing food, spiritual growth, and acts of service.  It's one day a week where I get off the hamster wheel.

The word literally means "to cease or desist" so for thousands of years people have chosen to stop doing what they do every day: chores, work, errands, consumerism, to-do lists, TV,

Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often.

packed schedules, and rushed meals, in order to make time for that which feeds their souls. It's a practice that reminds me that I don't have to do in order to be be; that my worth doesn't come from what I accomplish; and that my value isn't connected to what I buy and own.  I rest from trying to "get ahead." I remind myself I'm good enough without needing to go buy more things.  I step away from stress and let my body restore itself.

More and more people are practicing mini-Sabbath's-- blocks of time where they engage in restorative acts, or practicing variations like "No Technology Sabbaths."  I practice, similar to Jews, a Sabbath from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night-- a full 24-hours of bliss at the end of my workweek.

The Invitation to Re-Orient Your Life

The invitation to step away from our emails, our productivity, and our household chores might sound nearly impossible for many of us.  But just because we live in a culture that runs on consumerism and productivity, doesn't mean it's the best way to live.

In fact, the more I researched the value of relationships in preparation for my new book Frientimacy, the more sad I felt that we don't live in a world that is oriented to that which we most need: love.  A few more hours of work hasn't made anyone healthier and a few more thousand dollars hasn't made most people happier, but the loss of time for relationships most certainly has made us less healthy and far less happy. Gone is the feeling that we can linger over long conversations, sit on our porches and talk to neighbors, or gather in our tribes every week.  We are strewn across this country, far too lonely, and missing deep and meaningful connection. It can break my heart if I think about it too long.

So for me, I can't snap my fingers and change the world we live in, unfortunately. If I could, I'd make sure we had more vacation days (and actually took them), longer hours to sleep, slower mornings for centering ourselves, spacious evenings with friends and loved ones, and weekends filled with laughter and amazing food. My tendency, if left unchecked, is toward being a workaholic, and yet I know that more work isn't the answer to feeling valuable. Being in connection with others is the only way to really know we're loved and feel seen and valued.  I know that.

So, for me, my Sabbaths are when I remember that truth.  I step away... in order to step in to something that matters more.  I can't reorient our entire culture (but God help me I'll keep trying! ha!) but we can each practice re-orienting ourselves toward that which matters most.  We can choose to let love and relationship be our focus.  We may not be able to do it all the time, but maybe we can do it one day a week?

Because you're right-- we don't have time for our friendships the way we're doing life now.  So we have to decide if we're okay with that.  And if we're not, then we have to stop doing something in order to make time for something that matters even more.  We can't just say yes to more love, without also saying no to something else.

For me-- a day dedicated to that which I most value helps ground me, heal my body,  re-focus me on my priorities, and remind me why I do what I do the other 6 days of the week.  What can you do that would help give you the space and time for your friendships? If you were to try it, what could a Sabbath practice look like for you?

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Announcement: Inviting You to My Sabbath Practice!

You are invited to join me for 7 Sabbaths in a row where I will teach and inspire toward deeper friendships for one hour.  I typically don't work on Saturdays but I feel compelled to foster the space for us to spend an hour together reminding ourselves of how significant love is to our lives and what we can do to develop greater intimacy around us. The calls will be recorded so if you can't join us on Saturdays, then you can listen anytime in the week that's convenient to you!  Join me for 42 Days of Frientimacy!

42 days of frientimacy

Hosting a Friendship Book Club

Huge thanks to Kristen Baker for writing up her experience with hosting a book club about my last book, Friendships Don't Just Happen, so her story might inspire a few of you to do the same!  Imagine having a fun evening together and engaging in conversations about your friendships while all learning together what it takes to create healthy and meaningful connections? Win:win!If you do decide to try it, I wrote up discussion guides you can download for free whether you want to do a 1-time book club or a 4-week book-club. Not sure who to invite? Read this post for ideas!

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Girlfriends, I had a blast leading a book club gathering around Shasta's fantastic book Friendships Don't Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Friends.

I read Shasta's book after hearing her guest interview on Christine Arylo's class  (Me before We) on self-love and just loved her content. As I poured into FDJH, I started to see

Huge thanks Kristen for being a part of inspiring healthy friendships by hosting a book club... and thanks for sharing a bit of it with us!
Huge thanks Kristen for being a part of inspiring healthy friendships by hosting a book club... and thanks for sharing a bit of it with us!

patterns from my past emerge, patterns in my friendships, family relationships, even dating. It was truly a book about connection, intimacy, and vulnerability. I had so many "ah-has" and "Ohhhh that's why that happened," moments while I was reading. My eyes even welled up with tears as I read the chapter on forgiveness - releasing some past feelings of rejection.

So naturally, I had to share it with my group here in Houston. I lead a sisterhood for self-exploration, a coaching community - the Divas, here in Houston (and online) and we have a monthly book club, so I added FDJH to the docket. A small group started trickling in, and we started sharing our experiences from the book. The beautiful irony was experiencing these Divas sharing their struggles with vulnerability WHILE BEING VULNERABLE. While being authentic. They showed up, shared their struggles, we connected. It was magical.

The common themes that came up for us:

  • Our right-side friends (the deeper friendships) were not as full as many wanted.
  • We practiced gratitude for the left-side (we even had one ah-ha that if one of the women went back and re-did her circles again and added her male friendships - it would have been a much fuller chart!).
  • We talked about friendship and how it impacted our life goals, how friendship fit into the greater context of our life. We contemplated: how does it all fit together?
  • We talked about the overlap in romantic relationships, family relationships, dating, to what we had learned in the book.
  • We talked about what gets in the way of vulnerability: messages from our parents, past rejections and disappointments, rejection of self, approval-seeking.
  • We talked about opening up the possibilities of WHO we would pursue friendships with.

Some ah-has from our group:

  1. "Accepting yourself is the key to building intimacy"
  2. "Friendships don't just happen" (yes, this was an ah-ha! ha)
  3. "That I am not as vulnerable in my current relationships as I would like to be"

My personal takeaways:

  • I love connecting over a book club. So, yes, check - I want more of that!
  • I continue to deepen my understanding of friendship, and frientimacy as a practice of self-love, self-trust, self-acceptance. And really enjoy deepening that awareness.

I am so glad I chose this book for discussion, I may have a round two because there is so much richness in the book, it is chock full of insights and I could talk about relationships, intimacy and vulnerability for HOURS. And it is really beautiful to watch people open up about their experiences with friendships.

All in all, a wonderful experience and I would highly recommend it.

Love,

Kristen

Kristen Baker is a life and career coach, find out more about her here.

Instead of just reading about friendship, lead a book circle that actually fosters friendships!  :)
Instead of just reading about friendship, lead a book circle that actually fosters friendships! :)

Don't yet have your own copy of Friendships Don't Just Happen!-- Buy it here!

Did you read the book or lead a group? Share with us in the comments a bit about your experience.  Or feel free to ask any questions about how to host-- we'll help!  :)

The Friendship Formula

On Sunday I sat at the front of the room, with my phone in my hand keeping time, and I looked out a room-full of women laughing, talking, and leaning in toward each other. Only an hour earlier they had arrived as strangers, here they were looking a lot like good friends.  I knew that given a few more hours... I'd see women hugging each other good-bye with words like "See you next week!" excitedly hanging in the air.

Friendship Accelerators Bonding Women

There are actually few things more gratifying than facilitating Friendship Accelerators. Undoubtedly, speaking and writing are two of my favorite things since I love communicating and teaching, but the Accelerators give me a chance to go beyond inspiring and instructing an audience to actually helping cultivate the very connection people crave.  They're magical for me. All the motivational speaking in the world can't deliver friendships to people... but the Accelerators can; and for those results, I love them.

I, in fact, have joked that I feel a bit like a scientist in a lab inventing friendships.  Like any passionate scientist who might pour a little of this concoction, a dash of that, and a sprinkle of something else to create something greater than all the individual elements, I have learned that the very high possibility of meaningful friendships is something I can create.  Over the years I am perfecting the recipe, but the fact that the results are more predictable than ever has never dampened my glee when I watch it work, again and again.

Is there a Formula to Love?

Perhaps because I've been vocal over the years that I believe there is more of a formula to friendship than most of us want to believe, several women sent me the recent article in The New York Times titled, "To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This" and said variations of "This reminds me of what you do with friendship!"

In the article Mandy Len Catron shared the story of falling in love with someone through answering the same 36 questions that researchers had used in a study to analyze what helped people feel close to each other.

In that study, they developed a list of questions that were designed to help two people self-disclose in increasing intensity and included questions that helped the subjects talk about their relationship and each other.  The connection to each other was big enough for the researchers to conclude:

"One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personalistic self-disclosure."

Notice that the basis of the connection is self-disclosure and sharing, but that it also has to be consistent, mutual, and incremental.

Just as interesting as what did work in bonding people in a lab is what didn't work that they also tested:  1) leaving two people to engage in small talk for 45 minutes didn't work, 2) being matched with people who agreed with you on important views didn't result in an increased connection, 3) being told the goal was to feel close didn't make a difference in helping the pair reach the goal, and 4) being led to believe that mutual liking was expected based on them being a good match didn't help it pan out.

Think about how much of our dating includes those four things: hoping it will work, believing we're a match, both having the goal of finding someone, and spending time on a date talking... but none of those factors lead to intimacy as much as intentional and personal self-disclosure that escalated incrementally.

Is there a Formula to Friendship?

Similarly, while their research was more focused on romantic intimacy, it confirms what I have long known to be true in friendship, as well:  There are actions we can take to foster a bond.

In other words, it's not just "chance" that will determine whether we'll feel a connection, nor is it only if the other person proves to have the "right" qualities we think we want in someone.  Bonding has far more to do with the verbs we engage in with someone than the adjectives they possess.

It's why the women who join GirlFriendCircles.com attend ConnectingCircles: small groups of 3-6 women who gather at a local cafe and pick questions off a list of Sharing Questions to ask and answer.  We have found the success rates of women feeling connected to others increases when they engage in sharing questions about themselves rather than just let the conversation drift from movies to men to jobs.

And it's why I developed the Frientimacy Triangle which teaches that all relationships start at the base of the triangle and bond when they increase both their time together and the self-revealing they're willing to do. (Read another post or buy book for more explanation.)

Regular time together (leading to commitment) and increased vulnerability is what will help two people bond.

What's so encouraging is that these actions are within your control!  You can 1) initiate time together with people you want to bond with and 2) you can ask questions and share about yourself in a way that helps the two of you bond.

It has far less to do with you both needing to be moms with kids the same ages, both needing to be retired, or both single 30-somethings-- you can build a close connection that is meaningful with far more people than you believe you can.  I've seen it time and time again.

And that's why the Friendship Accelerators work: they commit to a whole day together that I facilitate to help create intentional sharing and then they commit to 4 weekly get-togethers where they will increase their time together and continue to share their lives.

Last summer I was invited to attend the one-year anniversary of a Friendship Accelerator group who was still getting together weekly 52 weeks after they met. I went to a birthday party last month where three women there had all met at one of my Accelerators a couple of years back.  I regularly see Facebook photos of another group who seemingly gets together all the time for fun stuff all over the city.

Last week I received an email from a woman who had been in one of my Friendship Accelerators a couple of years ago who said, "Two of the friends I met at our Accelerator 3 years ago are still very dear to me and an important part of my life.  Even though one moved farther away, we are still in regular contact and get together often.  In fact, I had dinner last night with one of those friends and the 3 of us are going to the theater to celebrate the other one's birthday next week. Thank you!"

The Two Necessary Ingredients in Bonding

Indeed, whether it's romance or friendship-- they both are built upon helping bond people-- we all too often expect more from the things that don't work and are too busy or too nervous to try the things that do.

If you want meaningful connections:

Time together + Intentional Self-Revealing = Feeling Close to Others.

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p.s.  If you want me to come to your city to lead a Friendship Accelerator you can add your email and zip code to our list to be notified when we schedule one in your area!

 

Time to Plan an Adult Sleep-Over with Friends!

The power of sleep-overs is something we don't think much about as adults, or do all that frequently.  But we should.  There are still few experiences that can accelerate our intimacy and deepen our hearts as having un-rushed time together that includes talking until ready for bed and waking up in the same place together. Visiting Friends

Traveling to New York City-- a trip I seem to make at least twice a year-- has become so much more fun since one of my girlfriends from San Francisco moved there a couple of years back.  I see her far less frequently now that we're not getting together once a month for dinner on the west coast, but the time we spend together living in the same place for a few days in NYC is bonding us in ways that few of my friendships get to experience.

When I was back there two weeks ago I couldn't help but observe just how much intimacy these sleep-overs have added to our relationship: making coffee together in our pajamas in the mornings, debriefing our days with each other in the evening, making plans for dinner with her hubby and her cousin on Saturday night, being at home with her when her new dining room table arrived, and getting a feel for their rhythm and schedule.

A few days together did for our relationship what would have taken years of dinners and phone calls to get to.  There's something so magical about staying up late talking, spending time in someone else's life and home, and having a few days together to get past all the updates and still have time to just talk about other things.

Planning Friendship Get-Aways

I experience this same magic every spring during my annual girlfriend weekend with four of my friends who are committed to us meeting up somewhere every year.

This is my dream-- not having to shower to meet up but simply waking up together and all walking to a coffee shop to start our day together.

Although in this case we're not typically staying in each others homes, which means we miss out on seeing each other in normal day-to-day life a bit more, the upside is that we're all stepping out of our lives and making the weekend together entirely about talking and connecting which deepens our relationships in ways that a hundred phone calls couldn't compete with.  It's a bit more like a slumber party in all the best ways.  (And since all these women are mothers of young children, it's even more amazing to me that they all commit to step away for a weekend every single year!)

We don't necessarily do each others hair like we might do if we were teenagers and we don't make movies and boys the focus of our time together anymore, but we still laugh, get silly, tell secrets, and fill each other up with love.

Local Slumber Parties

For many, I find that slumber parties and sleep-overs seem to happen primarily with only one circle of friendships:  the confirmed circle, the friends we used to be close to but no longer live nearby.  Like my two previous examples it's either because she lives where I'm visiting or because we've all planned to meet up somewhere together, but these aren't friends who live in San Francisco.

But one thing I've really been enjoying lately is thinking more about sleep-overs with people who live nearby.

When we were kids it was exactly those people-- our closest friends, even if they just lived next door to us-- that we'd beg to have stay the night with us. It was rarely because they needed to spend the night, but more because we wanted extra time with each other.

One of the coolest nights happened earlier this year when one of my husbands best friends invited us to come spend the night at their home only 30 minutes away.

We typically just drive home after dinner, but they begged us to bring our pajamas and spend the night, and even though we had to leave in the morning right after breakfast, I assure you that the time together was several times more bonding than had we left the night before.

I also experience this magic every time my step-daughter asks us if she can spend the night with us when her husband occasionally leaves town.  We're lucky that they're local and we get to see them regularly, but it's an extra treat when she comes and stays the night with us-- the slower conversations, the watching of TV together, the embracing of her into our daily routine is fun in a way that just having them over for dinner cannot replicate.

Whether it's spending the night in normal life or leaving normal life to spend the night with each other-- they are both bonding in ways that can't easily be duplicated by regular get-togethers.  All the 2-4 hour scheduled dinners in the world can't replicate the experience of unrushed time and casual lounging around that sleep-overs afford.

(A few adult slumber party resources for you from other bloggers if you're up for planning a really intentional one:  5 reasons to host a slumber party, ideas for hosting, and fun ideas on pinterest)

Your Invitation

I challenge you to think of someone in your life who you might consider initiating a sleep-over!

  • Maybe it's someone who lives far away and you just want to call and say "Hey, either I should come to you or you should come to me-- but let's get a weekend on the calendar!"
  • Or maybe, it's two to three local friends who have all been getting to know each other better and you're ready to help deepen the bond by saying, "Hey maybe we should all try to find a weekend where we can have a sleepover together, like when we were kids!"
  • Or maybe, it's just skipping the hotel on one of your trips to see if a friend is up for hosting you, or calling a friend you know who travels near you and saying, "Hey next time you're in town, you are so welcome to my place! I know it's not as comfy as a hotel, but it might be more fun!"

We talked about vulnerability in a recent blog and this is an example of the "practicing new ways of spending time together" option.  It will feel a little awkward and it will require a little initiation... but trust me, when it comes to making you feel closer to someone, there are few experiences that can deepen your friendship than the gift of a night under the same roof!

LEAVE COMMENTS: Do you have friends spend the night? Share with us your ideas, how it helps your friendships, etc.! Never done a slumber party?  What's holding you back? Did this inspire you?  Will you accept my invitation/challenge?  :)

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  Come to an already planned slumber party!  :) We are guaranteeing spots to everyone who registers by Nov. 1 for the New Years Retreat that I'm hosting in Northern California this January 2-4, 2015.  This weekend away might be a perfect excuse to call a friend and see if she wants to join you for a slumber party!  You can read all about the retreat by requesting the invitation here.  We already have women in their 20's and 60's signed up to be there-- so all ages are welcome!  It's going to be a super special weekend of celebrating/honoring the past year while preparing for the upcoming year with excitement and anticipation!

Reveal 2015

Comfy lodging, healthy and nourishing food, walks in beautiful nature, jacuzzi under the stars, retreat activities led by me, new friends, tons of laughter, and lots of time to hear your own heart whisper-- if that's your cup of tea, I so hope you do whatever you can to be with us!

NOTE: The retreat was initially designed for two friends to come together, but due to several requests, we're also opening it up for women to come alone and we'll match you up with other women who are coming alone so that you can all meet, share, and have someone witness your journey when appropriate!  So come as a pair of friends, or come and meet new friends-- but if you value reflection, listening to your own heart, connecting with other women, and rejuvenating your spirit-- then know that you are welcome at our slumber party!  RSVP by Nov. 1!

 

 

 

How GirlFriend Circles Saved My Soul

Note from Shasta:  I would love for you to meet Kathleen Kinney, a teacher in Kent, WA, outside Seattle. I first met her when she approached me at an event in Seattle in early June where I was speaking, and with two women in tow, announced to me, "The three of us are friends because of GirlFriend Circles!" My heart melted; these are the moments I live for.  This is Kathleen, her membership profile picture that pops up whenever she writes her notes to new members!  :)

I asked her if she'd be willing to share a bit about how she came to joinGirlFriendCircles.com, and more importantly, some of the tips she does that makes such a difference to her success.  She truly is source of light in the Seattle area as she seeks to make others feel better about connecting.  I hope as you read her story that you'll be inspired to RSVP to a Circle, reach out to other women on the site, or even become an Ambassador-- all actions that will not only make a difference in your life, but could also bring joy to others!

---------------------

By Kathleen Kinney

GirlFriend Circles saved my soul.

In the last couple years many of my BFF's moved away leaving a huge void in my life and soul. Around the same time, More magazine ran an article on the importance of friendships on women's health, and mentioned GirlFriend Circle (GFC) as a place to meet woman in my area. It would be a couple of years later before I actually signed but, eventually I really felt the need to become a member and establish girlfriends.

This is what my profile says:

My friends have moved away...and my son is past the play group stage. I am looking for a few friends that like a bit of adventure without kids. It is time I find some girlfriends that are outside of my mom role. It would be nice to have a stimulating conversation, and enjoy some outings with a friend once or twice a month. I enjoy walking almost everyday!

At first, I was discouraged because there were so few women signed up on the GFC site in my area. But, this last winter I decided to check out GFC to see if the site had gained in popularity. Am I ever so happy I did!! First, I noticed that a woman named Cindy, consistently offered a calendar circle outing. I took a deep breath, and plunged!! Our first outing together was the Seattle Art Museum. Next, another museum outing. So begins my relationship with connecting to other woman.

After attending a few GFC gatherings I was encouraged to become an Ambassador. I thought, "What could I possibly offer GFC?" The answer was really simple, love. Love for friendship, connectedness and most of all companionship!!

So begins a second phase of my journey with GFC. Ambassador. Hmm, what does that really mean? It is not complicated, really. It is about building connections and

I was honored to meet these three women last month in Seattle when I was visiting.  Starting on the far left: Julie opened her home to our gathering, Kathleen is the author of this story; and on my right is Cindy, the woman who kept hosting events in the Seattle area helping give women activities to do together!  Thanks to all three of you for the joy you're bringing to that area!

relationships with other woman!! What does this look like? When a member RSVP's to an event, I almost always send them a private message thanking them for joining the event with an expression of enthusiasm. If they cancel, I thank them for contacting me, give an appropriate response, AND tell them I will miss them at the event (if they have attended before). If I have not previously met them. I usually say, "I look forward to meeting you in the near future." If a member is a "no-show" I message them, tell them I missed meeting them or seeing their beautiful face and inquire if everything is okay. Really, my goals is about building CONNECTIONS and RELATIONSHIPS.

Quite frankly, some woman are scared of building relationships because they have been emotionally wounded. Sometimes, all it takes is a little effort to reach out to a gal and say "Welcome. I am so glad you are part of GFC."   In my life experiences, some woman have been deeply wounded and need TRUST, encouragement, love and acceptance. I LOVE that Shasta asks woman to say, "Thank you for sharing." Not all woman want advice or judgment, they just need an empathic friend!!

Nothing makes me happier than women becoming friends!

What has GFC done for me? For the first time in my life, I have been called an athlete. I am training for a bike event with a group of women from GirlFriendCircles.com! I NEVER saw myself doing this 6 months ago, and have realized that it is FUN!! I have a circle of GirlFriends's that are gold!! What makes them gold? COMMITMENT and TRUST!! They truly are my touchstones in what can seem like a crazy world!! For the first time in my life, I can honestly say, I am so proud to be a woman! I am strength. I am a friend. I am committed. I need woman. GFC saved my soul.

Kathleen-- we're honored to have you in our community, but want to assure you that women like you ARE the soul of GFC-- so really you saved yourself.  :) 

And Cindy-- if you hadn't been faithfully posting events-- she wouldn't have had anything to RSVP to attend-- you are a hero to us!  Thank you!!!!

 

The Power of Women in Circle: Ideas for Women's Groups

I have sat in 5 circles of women and 2 circles of couples in the last 7 days, with two more coming up this weekend, which is a bit more connection than I typically allow for in my schedule, but my heart is feeling such gratitude and fullness today. I want to share a few of them with you because I want you to see how they got started, how different they each are, and how meaningful they are in so many different forms.  So many of you crave having more Circles in your life, and I want you to see what is possible for you to create.

Being in Circle Invites Support

Last Friday I was sitting around a table at a restaurant because I said yes to an invitation from someone I didn't know who was hosting what she was calling 12@12, 12 women she admires coming together for lunch at 12 pm for us to meet each other and find ways to support one another. She had made the reservations and initiated the gathering, and we all reaped the benefits.

Business mastermind womens group

When we went around the circle to introduce ourselves we had to answer three questions: What do we do? What is our super power? And, what is one challenge we're facing right now? Just from hearing those shares, one woman has reached out with an offer to introduce me to a friend of hers who is in charge of finding speakers for an event, I offered to make a donation from GirlFriendCircles to the non-profit that one of them is starting in order to bring art to children. Being in Circle invites support.  When women hear how they can help each other-- they do.

Being in Circle Invites Accountability

On Monday, I hosted six friends in my home for an afternoon of journaling and sharing, ending with dinner and celebrating.

womens circle for journaling and reflecting

This group came about because the day before New Years I had invited a handful of friends (who didn't know each other at all before that date) to come launch 2014 by setting aside the time to reflect, honor, and set intention in the midst of community.  As everyone was hugging each other good-bye that evening, everyone kept saying, "Can we do this again? Sooner than next New Years?" So I scheduled this one to celebrate the end of the first quarter.

It's one thing to pause and make sure I'm honoring my growth in recent months and getting clear about what I want the upcoming months to hold, and it's quite another hearing the honesty of others and getting clearer as I hear myself talk out loud. It was easy planning-- invitations were sent, everyone brought something to share for our dinner, and I just had some journaling prompts (such as "What am I tolerating in my life? and What is bringing me the most energy these days?") to give us some loose structure. Being in Circle holds the space to do things like journaling and reflecting that we value but don't always do on our own.

Being in Circle Invites Brainstorming, Feedback, and Ideas

Yesterday morning, I participated in two beautiful Circles that were both virtual. One was my entrepreneur mastermind circle (apply at Savor the Success to be matched into one!) where 4 of us spend an hour every other week on video chat getting the collective wisdom and expertise to help us grow our business.  I am hoping to partner with a few brands that might sponsor GirlFriendCircles and these women spent 10 minutes giving me every idea they had for what that can look like as I take my next step on a road that is unfamiliar to me.  Being in Circle with these women makes me a better business owner.

The other Circle happens early every Thursday morning via the phone.  There are seven of us who affectionately call ourselves The Rebel Queens. Queens because we are all thought-leaders, speakers, and authors who feel called to bring our messages of love into this world, each in our own domain and expertise; Rebels because that means we'll speak against norms, ruffle some feathers, and invite people out of their comfort zones. We know the power of having space where we can be vulnerable, witnessed, and supported by other women who are big, bright, and imperfect.  We'll each have days and areas where we will feel insecure; and days and areas where we can celebrate the success of each other. We each take time to share our hearts and receive the prayers and reflections of the group. This group was started by a couple of them who were friends deciding they wanted to have more structure to their support and connection, so they decided to start a small group and invited a few others in who they felt would be resonate. Being in Circle with these women helps me practice shining my best self in confidence that my shining gives permission to others to do the same.

Being in Circle Invites Fun

This Sunday is my 10/10 retreat day!  There are ten of us women who meet on the last Monday of every month. I started this group 3 years ago with two other friends.  We knew the power of networking but didn't like the idea of mingling at networking events as much as we liked the idea of a group of women committing to supporting each other regularly.  So we compiled a list of names of women we knew, or knew of, and sent them an invitation asking if they wanted to commit to attending at least 8 of the 10 monthly meetings that were scheduled.

Womens Retreat Day mastermind group

Three years ago we planned one day-long retreat in addition to the evening meetings.  It was so much fun that last year we decided to up it to twice a year.  And, this year, you won't be surprised that we scheduled three of them!  We always keep them easy, meeting at someone's home, adding some yoga or a walk, good food, and lots of laughter and sharing that bonds us way beyond a typical mastermind monthly session.

 

Being in Circle Invites Intimacy

Many of the groups I described above started as Left-Side Circles, meaning that I was either meeting with complete strangers where we became Contact Friends, or committing to the group for the purpose of bonding over what we had in common (i.e. entrepreneurs, speakers) which made us Common Friends.  The groups where we have the most consistency (either by meeting weekly, or because we've been meeting for several years) now are also growing in intimacy.  May of the women I met in these Circles have been invited into my other Circles as we continue to grow our friendships in multiple ways.

best friends, girls groups

But one of my Circles started with my closest friends.  Three of us made a commitment to get 2 dates on the calendar every month, if we can.  We schedule a few months out and plan life around those sacred Circles where three of us, who have now known each other for nearly 7 years, come together and instantly go deep. We have the power of history; the memory of where we've each been, what we've each survived and struggled with; and have seen glimpses of who we're each becoming that we can continue to hold up in front of each other.

Choose Your Circles

Being in these Circles never "just happens."  Your calendar will never just automatically pop up an alert that says "Women's Circle" without you putting it there.  Intention is necessary. Admitting what you want is important. Extending invitations is part of creating a Circle.

If you crave being in Circle with other women, I hope one of these stories inspires you... I wish upon you the opportunity to receive the power of the Circle.

p.s. TIP: If you're a member of GirlFriendCircles.com, our web site to meet new friends, then be sure to post a ClassifedCircle with the type of Circle you want to belong to and see who else wants to join you!  :)

5 Tips To Help Moms Move Toward More Friendships

Oh to all my sweet and loving and amazing momma's out there, I want to write a little note of encouragement to you.

Mommy Guilt & Friendship

When you come up to me after I finish speaking, you often look at me with this panic in your eyes that says, "I don't think I can make time for my friendships even though I know it's important to do."

picture of two friends and bows before fros

And the guilt that flashes across your face is almost more than I can bear.  I hate guilt. (I should clarify that, as I actually love guilt when it informs us that we are doing something out of alignment; but I am not a fan of the vast amounts of false-guilt that we're drowning ourselves in.)

So this is my deal with you:  If you feel a twinge of desire for more connection in your life then you want to listen to that and I'm going to say 5 things to you that I hope will help you move into alignment with what you want.  If, on the other hand, your voice of wisdom says that you are healthy and happy without anymore connection, then I give you permission to feel no more guilt that you "should" be doing anything more on the friend-front.  Seriously.  Either say it's important and do something about it, or say it's not important and let it go.  But no more guilt, okay?  :)

5 Tips To Help Moms Move Toward More Friendships

  1. Repeat after me: Having kids is not an excuse to not make time for friends.  I'm thrilled to have step-kids, but I know that doesn't qualify me as having earned the stripes in the mom-department to say this without incurring wrath, but I have to speak the truth: Having kids is not an excuse to not have friends; it's the reason why you do need friends! Making time for friends actually protects your body from stress!  Friendships don't prevent stressful things from happening, but science shows us how they limit the damage that stress has on our bodies, acting as a buffer so we don't feel the impact as much.  And kids, for all their joys, are also a lot of stress.  Moms, almost more than anyone else, need friendships in their lives that give them the benefits of healthy relationships (i.e. happiness, longevity, stress reduction, increased immunity) without the added stress of those relationships being dependent upon them in the way that spouses,  children, and employees are.  Friends are some of the few relationships in your life that you don't have to schedule doctors appointments for, figure out what to feed them, or lay awake at night worrying about.
  2. Model the friendships you hope for your kids to experience.  Several years ago I used to lead workshops where one of the assignments was to write down all the memories you had of your mom's friendships: who did she hang out with? did she go on weekends away with friends? do you remember her talking on the phone and laughing? did she go out for girls nights? did she invite all her girlfriends over to the house?

    onesie that says I hope my friends love me as much as my moms friends love her

    And do you know, that about 70% of the grown women in my workshops ended up saying they didn't really have memories of their moms engaging in meaningful friendships?  70%!?!?!  I'm going to give those moms the benefit of the doubt and assume that more than 30% of them had good friends, but what I wish I could go back and say to the other 70% is this, "Maybe you had good friends but you thought you were doing your kids a favor by only hanging out with your friends while they were in school or at times where they didn't notice? But unfortunately that means that they have no memories of you making time for friends... for their sake I wish they got to see you prioritizing friendships in your life." Moms, if you feel guilty going out with friends on the weekends or evenings, I'd like to remind you that what you're doing is helping them know that someday they don't need to feel guilty when they need more connection, too!

  3. Think through the childcare options and benefits.  Every situation is different and I know this area of childcare is a big deal and not easily solved.  But I love the approach my friend Daneen has taken to this subject by seeing a weekly girls night out as special Daddy & Daughter night where they get to create their own rituals and memories together.  Many of my mom friends assure me that the more regularly they go out, the easier it is on everyone-- spouse and kids, included.  If it's a rare event then Daddy might feel more like he's the "baby-sitter," but if it's "every Tuesday night" then everyone gets into the rhythm of the routine.  Other friends of mine divvy up the week, making sure that each parent has one night off a week that they are required to take-- even if they're just sitting in a cafe reading or working out at the gym.  Two of my friends are single moms-- one makes a deal with her mom to do her bookkeeping in exchange for one night out a week; the other sets aside money for a baby-sitter and calls it her investment in sanity.  I won't pretend that I can fix this for you, but I do invite you to prioritize getting out and then figuring out how to make it happen.
  4. Talk to your children in ways they understand it.  I adore all you parents who talk to your kids about their friendships, and I hope that you'll also talk about yours with them!  When you're going out in the evening you can say, "Just like you got to play with your friends at preschool today, Mommy needs to

    "I'd rather hang out with my mom's girlfriends!" was made by Karen and includes a picture of our group of friends!  We hope this little baby feels loved!

    go play with her friends now!"  When you're going away for a weekend you can say, "Oh I am going to miss you so much, and I am also super excited to have a slumber party with my friends.  I can't wait to tell my friends about how good you did in dance class this week!"  When talking about your day at the dinner table you can say, "I talked to Debra, one of my best friends today, and she was so excited to hear about your science project."  Let your kids see you doing friendship in ways that light you up, where they feel thought of and loved in those relationships, and where they have no doubt that you have a circle of people who love you outside the house, too!

  5. Foster friendships with non-moms, too!  Frequently, women feel that they can only be friends with other moms "who understand."  But a few weeks ago, Daneen (while her hubby and daughter were enjoying their weekly evening together alone) said to us, "I love hanging out here with my non-mom friends-- it's such a joy to talk about things other than kids and it's actually a bit of relief to not feel like we're judging each other, competing, or comparing our parenting styles and kids."  (Making friends with non-moms might also mean easier scheduling!)  Research bears out that we bond with all kinds of women who don't have the big things in common with us that we think they need to! It's not either/or, but both/and!

The vast majority of my closest friends have kids of all ages.  And I applaud them regularly for how impressive they are in keeping up their friendships with me and other women in their lives.  They inspire me!

Daneen is one of them, for sure.  I think she only took a month off after having a baby before getting back into weekly girls nights out of the house and trusting that her husband could figure out how to put her baby to sleep with a bottle of breast milk when mommy wasn't there to nurse her to bed. Did it feel weird or hard, at first? I'm sure it did!

I also think of Sher who spends at least an hour on the phone with me every week with three kids running around her.  There's always something go on and someone who wants her attention. But as much as she can, she simply says, "I'm on the phone with Shasta, I'll be with you when I get off" or "Hang on one minute Shasta, I'll be right back." And we keep on talking.

And then I have to give mad props to my "SoCal Girls Group" who gets together every year for a weekend away despite two of them birthing two kids each in the last few years, one of them mothering three kids, and the other who showed up for girls weekend one year the day after she found out she lost her pregnancy, and the following year showed up only a month before she was due.  I keep thinking they all have valid excuses for missing a year-- but not a one of them has yet.

My friends wow me with their commitment to their friendships so I know it's possible if it matters to you.  Remember our deal?  Be inspired by these stories if you feel the desire for more relationships in your life; but if you don't, then release any guilt.

You are a good mom, you're kids are lucky to have you. xoxo

5 Tips for Planning a Girls Weekend!

When we were little we knew them as slumber parties.  We'd eagerly look forward to getting to stay up late, giggle, and act silly. Those long nights were bonding in ways that time at recess, afternoon play-dates, and long phone calls couldn't replicate. Our grown up version has come to be known as "Girls Weekends" and they are just as bonding and just as fabulous.

We Need Adult Slumber Parties!

I actually think we need these overnight parties more as adults than we did as kids.  We so rarely give that gift of extended time to our friendships anymore. If you're anything like me, I feel pretty impressed when a friend and I actually carve out time for lunch twice in a month, touch base on the phone a couple of times, or see each other for a long dinner in my living room-- but you add up all those hours and they, literally, still fall short of what a slumber party can offer.

And far beyond the gift of actual hours together is what the build-up of those hours all taking place at once can make happen.  You spread those hours out over a month and at least half your time together is updating about what has happened since you've seen each other last.  But you push all those hours into one gathering and once the "updating" of recent events is done, all the rest of the time is for the stuff that really matters. It builds on itself so that you're sharing stories, secrets, laughter, and tears.

I'm still riding high from my annual girls weekend nearly two weeks ago.  My heart is full.  So ab-so-lute-ly full.

picture of my girls weekend

There are simply no phone conversations, meals, or evenings long enough to provide the level of sharing that we relished in. The vulnerability, the un-rushed time, the radical presence we gave each other, the tears, the laughter, the goofiness, the honesty, and the personal growth all added up to feeling so seen and loved by each other.  Add in the food, the wine, the sleeping in, and the long walks-- and these are restorative weekends in every way!

But more important to telling you all the benefits to these adult slumber parties is to actually help you see how to plan one in your own life.  Even if you don't yet have this perfect group of friends... you can get started.

How to Plan a Girls Weekend:

  1. Decide Who You Want To Invite.  In my opinion, the who informs everything else like location, price, and activities; based on where everyone lives, whether they all consider each other friends, or how bonded everyone is already. When you think about bonding and connecting-- who comes to mind? A group of friends you've lost touch with from long ago? Random friends from here-and-there who don't know each other? A local group of women you are close to? Or, some local women you'd like to get to know better?
  2. Be Clear on Why Everyone Would Want to Get Together. If the women all know each other and consider everyone else a friend (as opposed to them all being your friend from different places who don't know your other friends), then the why is often a little easier because "just getting together" is reason enough so then the location and activity take a backseat to why the women would come.  If the women don't know each other well, then we usually need a bit more of an "excuse" such as for celebrating your birthday or other milestone; and the focus on an activity is more helpful whether it's for a concert, destination, or experience.
    1. If they don't know each other well and are all local then start with one night and keep it local.  I'd suggest finding something fun, such as a concert or restaurant you've been wanting to try, and send out an email to see who wants to join you and then either a) come back to your house for a slumber party and brunch the next day or b) share a hotel room downtown as part of the fun.
    2. If you're a group of friends who know each other decently well and are all local then I'd either start with the above step or throw out the idea to the group to gauge interest in doing a get-away weekend sometime.  The goal of this one is to keep it driving distance and priced low: you want to make it easy to say yes. Try to make it at least 2-full days, with 1-night of housing that is in everyone's budget (lots of homes to rent on places like AirBnB!). Invite your group to it as a chance for us to all get-away and play!
    3. If they don't know each other well and are not local then realize that it's a bigger ask (airfare and travel time, and time with women they don't really know) so the motivation will be for you and/or the focus of the trip. It really needs an excuse like "this year for my 42nd birthday I really want my closest friends with me!" or an event like "I want to run the Nike Half Marathon this year" or "I've always wanted to do a girls trip to Vegas!"-- with a "Who's In?" and being okay with whatever group of 3-5 women say yes. (The benefit of this is that once they all hang out for a weekend together, chances are high that someone will say "We should do this again!" and you might have the birth of an annual ritual on your hands that will be easier now that they know each other!)
    4. If they know each other well and are not local then the bigger issue is usually someone just needs to be a catalyst who says, "I miss all of you! I'm jealous every time I hear about others have girls weekends-- what do you all say we do one and catch up?" Again, keep the price as low as possible (does anyone in the group know anyone with a vacation home that can be borrowed? where is it cheapest to all fly into for everyone?) as that will be the objection for many women who feel guilty taking family money to do something for themselves.
  3. Plan the Easiest Time Away Possible. The biggest mistake is made when the price tag starts climbing and the stress of planning outweighs the intended benefits.  Keep it as simple as possible.  The goal is to get you together overnight with some of your friends.  That's it.  You can always dream bigger in following years once everyone is SOLD on that time together.  But at first, just err on the side of keeping it affordable and relaxing.  The truth is we can all go sight-seeing with our families and romantic partners so that's not what we need; what we need is uninterrupted girl time so make sure your trip factors that focus in! Way better to have more unscheduled time with everyone just hanging out than to be on any schedule packed full of activities.  The highest priority is quality time together.
  4. Get the Dates on the Calendar ASAP.  The rest of it can come together later.... what is highest priority is that a weekend is actually selected and committed to-- dates and location need to be set.  Then everyone can keep a look out for airfare deals or groupons to local restaurants and start to make the arrangements necessary with their obligations.
  5. Be at Peace If Not "Everyone" Can Come.  Not everyone can/will prioritize this in their calendar and finances.  That's okay.  Keep planning for those who can.  If even 3-4 of you can go, you'll still get the benefits, and chances are high that next year others will try to come.  Just get it going....  :)

    girls weekends someday

This time next year, you can have a photo album filled with memories of a get-away with women you grew to love even more.

And, if you're lucky, some of the group get-aways you start might even turn into annual traditions will bless your life far into the future!

 

 

I'd love to hear other tips you'd give for planning Girls Weekends-- feel free to add them in the comments.  Or, if you have questions or reservations, I'm happy to brainstorm, give suggestions, or offer up any other tips you might want.

 

 

 

 

Gifts for your Friends this Valentine's Holiday!

Not all of our friends are going to be spoiled and loved on by a romantic partner this Valentines Day.  Some of them may have even gone through a recent break-up or disappointment that is sure to make the holiday even less fun! Let's make sure that 1-2 of our girlfriends, no matter where they live, receive a beautiful box in the mail with a thoughtful gift from you reminding them that they are loved! (And good news: all featured gifts are only $10-$25!)

 Remind her that she is loved with this "loved" bracelet

New Loved Necklace

This beautiful bracelet is dainty, but bold!

This gift is accompanied by a card that says, "Every time you wear this remember that you are loved."

This bracelet is only $24 right now!

 

 

Give her a necklace and buy one for yourself to match

interconnected circles necklace

Like little girls who wanted to wear matching bracelets or shirts, this is our grown-up and classy version to remind us that we are connected.

This gift is accompanied by a card that, "Remember you are connected!" and with you both wearing one you're bound to think of each other often!

This necklace is only $25, or put 2 in your cart for $45.  (Matching earrings are available, too!)

 

Send love that she can sip and savor

Our tins of tea are not only adorable, but the teas are custom-blends filled with love!  And they are de-li-cious!!!

cute tin of tea

Passion is the New Black is our passion fruit black tea. Fruity Frientimacy is our floral and fruity herbal tea.

This gift is accompanied by a card that reads, "Every time you sip this tea, remember that we are connected!"

Each cute tin of tea is only $10, or send her both for $18.

 

 

Visit ConnectedGifts.com for All Gift Options!

I Don't Feel x (Accepted, Connected, Loved)... What Do I Do?

Last week I shared a bit of my process for choosing my feeling words or themes each year... so this week I wanted to share how I take those words and plant them in my life. Because it's one thing to find words that resonate... it's another thing to remember that you chose them, why they matter, and what wisdom they have for your life right now.

I am a person very comfortable in the world of the "unseen"; I love talking about spirituality, ideas, and feelings. And while I think it's important to start there, and spend as much time there as you can--journaling about your word(s), making lists of how you already see that word showing up in your life, defining it in a way that excites you, and getting comfortable with owning that word--for me, the power only continues if I figure out a tangible way to take the word with me.

In other words, I can have an amazing journaling session and get excited about my word(s), only to forget them a month later, if I don't choose how to plant them.  It's akin to going on a retreat and having that "mountain top experience" that stays on the mountain if I don't intentionally figure out how to bring those ah-ha's into my day-to-day life.

Unlike goals (i.e. "Lose x pounds," or "Go to x networking events each month") that can feel all deadline-y, guilt-heavy, and task-focused; our feeling words should feel inviting, hope-full, and come with a sense of ease (i.e. "I desire to feel invigorated" and "I desire to feel supported.")

Transforming Feelings into Tangible Form

So where I get excited is in figuring out how to plant that word into my life so I keep seeing it, regularly choosing to feel the hope of it, and remembering that it's guiding me this year.

It's similar to why some people get tattoos to remember someone or to recall a significant transition in their life, others do vision boards where they can see their dreams manifested, and others make altars that center them immediately in a certain feeling.

Almost all my jewelry reminds me of something that matters to me.  Just touching it or seeing it can focus me immediately on what I believe matters.

I actually do quite a bit of my remembering with my jewelry. Here's a picture of my left hand right now....  every time I touch or see these things, they act like a "string around my finger" to remind me to not forget something that I've said is important to me.  That thumb ring has been there ever since my divorce fourteen years ago.  I remember crying as I took my wedding ring off... and my naked finger just kept serving as a reminder every time I felt for it, and it wasn't there, that I didn't feel loved.  I was living in Guatemala at the time and bought a ring to put on my thumb to remind me that I loved me and God loved me and that was enough.  That ring rarely comes off my hand-- and every time I feel it, play with it, and see it-- I think "I am loved." That belief has been cemented in my belief system in ways that fuel me far greater than I could have ever imagined.

That red string is from a retreat I went on in September where I realized that I was showing up with hesitation and fear in some areas of my life and I wanted, instead of fear, to show up with willingness.  So now, I tug on that string and whisper "I'm willing" whenever I feel fear.  I'm willing.  I'm willing... to show up and stay open even though this person hurt me.  I'm willing... to walk into this room of people even though I feel insecure.  I'm willing... to do what's in front of me even though this project feels so overwhelming. I remind myself I'm willing and my entire body changes almost instantly to match the new message my brain is giving.  (In fact, it's a spiritual truth "by beholding we become changed" that has been proven truth also by neuroscience!)

As a pastor I used to love sharing all the stories in the Bible of how people chose to remember their truths by infusing meaning into physical form.  Whether it was the Israelites miraculously crossing the Jordan River and collecting dry stones from the riverbed to pile up on the other side so that they could "tell their kids about the time that God parted the river" or the story of Jesus in the upper room with his disciples saying "When you eat this bread... remember me" which has turned into the practice of the Eucharist, or Communion, we know the power of being triggered to remember.

We do this almost automatically for much of our life when we want to remember something that has happened.  We take photos to remember events, we save a piece of hair from our child's first haircut, and we bake a family recipe to recall a person or a memory.

I'm inviting you to take your word and choose how you want to remember it this upcoming year.  Not to remember something that has happened, but to remind yourself of what is happening--what is true for you, what is already present in you, and what is also being called out of you in more ways this year.

I'm gifting this friendship bracelet to the women in my upcoming program so that they can remember their intention for the year ahead!

In fact, I think it's so important that I am including a bracelet with the word "connected" on it that will be given to all* the women who are signing up for my 21-day virtual program on friendship this month.  I picture them spending the rest of January just planting their feeling of connection, (or intimacy, acceptance, inclusion, or whatever other word resonates most deeply) as they listen to the interviews and journal for their own awareness, and then receiving that beautiful bracelet that they can wear as a reminder of the connection that they are inviting into their lives this year.  I want them to touch it and see it and remember that they are pursuing the feeling of being close to others in meaningful ways.  I want it to guide them to say yes even when it feels awkward, to initiate again because that's what it takes to build a friendship, and to hold hope that no matter their circumstances or personality or past experiences, they can experience more connection.

This year... I invite you to take the word you want to feel with you.  Infuse it into something tangible that can remind you to feel that feeling every time you see it or touch it.

We get to choose how we feel.  I don't have to feel unloved or fearful-- my ring and my red bracelet pictured above whisper to me repeatedly that I am loved and willing.  And that, I want to remember all year-long.

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* Just wanted to clarify that the bracelet (and the entire Gift Package valued at nearly $100) is only being given to the women who sign up by Wednesday at 10 am PT at FriendshipsWanted.com.  You're welcome to join us... I'd love nothing more than for you to pursue feeling connected all year-long!  (Or, you can buy your own piece of jewelry that says "Loved" or "Connected" here:  www.ConnectedGifts.com.)