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Girlfriends in the Military

August 24, 2012


Kristy and MargE

About four years ago, I was emerged into the military lifestyle. Initially, I was not expecting to make very many long-lasting friendships. The military is constantly changing, and its members and loved ones are moving along with it. I thought I wouldn’t be able to make any lasting relationships, knowing that a new friend could be moved at any time.

As a person not comfortable with change, this was really scary for me.  I have many friends who I‘ve known since elementary school. That’s the kind of stability that I like! Some may say that it’s boring, but I love having that history with my friends.  It’s familiar to me and in my opinion, makes our relationship richer. However, since I was now working on a military base, and I do like to make friends, relationships just naturally progressed.

I ran into a few obstacles while I was trying to build a new social network within the military. I noticed that some of the women I met were not interested in forming relationships. I wasn’t sure why, but there did seem to be a separation between us, even when I extended a friendly hand.

Another obstacle is that the active duty military population is primarily comprised of men. Some of those men have turned into great friends, but there is only so much you can do with a guy.  Chick Flicks at the movies were a definite no.

Another thing I noticed was that military members tend to get married a lot sooner than my other friends. Some of the guys I worked with introduced me to their wives, and that was great! I found myself making some great friends in the spouses of my coworkers.

Ultimately though, the biggest obstacle that I’ve had making new friends in the military is the rank structure. The military has very strict rules against fraternization between enlisted members and officers. Being a civilian, this does not affect me because there are no restrictions regarding who I can have a social relationship with.  However, this means I cannot ‘cross pollinate’ my friends.  The enlisted and officers must stick to their own corners, and I cannot hang out with everyone all at once. This truly has been the hardest thing for me to accept.  It’s difficult to have to compartmentalize my relationships.

All said, I’ve met many people affiliated with the military who I now consider to be some of my best friends. I enjoy that almost everyone has a different background at work—if nothing else you get to eat a great variety of food! I also love the sense of family that the military has. I’ve spent a few holidays away from my family, and each time I’ve been invited into someone’s home to spend time with their family. It has meant a lot to me that I didn’t have to sit at home alone. I’ve also grown to like the ebb and flow of the military summers, when the military families exit and enter the base.  It allowed me to meet some really great people and be exposed to some fresh new faces!

Ultimately, I am really happy that I have made some fantastic relationships with active-duty military women and military spouses.  It’s been a blessing to have these women in my life, and they have all contributed to me in immeasurable ways.  I’m glad I’ve formed these relationships and hope to continue them, as well as create more in the future!

MargE Bhola


Mirroring Our Lives

August 9, 2012

Guest Blog by Christine Buck

Christine (r) and her sister Carolee

If you ask me today which women I’d like to grow old with, it’s a no-brainer: the women who have already seen me through relationships, break-ups, moves, career changes, and family crises for much of the whole uneven course of my life.

There’s Christine, who just seems to know when things are tough and is there to listen and support – we’re at 27 years of steady friendship now. And Susan, who I met during a nonprofit stint in the early 70’s – I was around for the birth of her second daughter back then and she just had a baby of her own last week.

Then there’s Cindy, Ellen, and Frances, all fine colleagues in decades past, and fine friends ever since. And I can’t forget my three sisters, who are spread across the country but always there for a heart-to-heart by phone when needed.

These women see my flaws and love me anyway. We laugh about our memory lapses and the Kegel exercises we should be doing. And we ponder what’s next as we hit the decade when most of our parents actually retired.

Of course, life goes on, and we really don’t know who we’ll have with us for the long haul. Sometimes, when she’s feeling down, I hear my 94-year-old cousin Doras say that all the people who meant the most to her are gone – her husband, of course, and her very dear sister Violet, and women friends I’ve never met.

How must it feel, I wonder, to have your friends and family drop away, one by one, until you no longer have those particular mirrors to your life? It reminds me of that old song from childhood: Make new friends, but keep the old/one is silver and the other gold. Good advice, I think. There’s no guarantee we’ll have the dear friends we enjoy now as we age, but I trust that newer friendships will continue to ripen and keep things interesting.

Having Good Friends While Dealing With A Breakup

July 15, 2012

Guest Blog by LaChante Red

Katina and LaChante (l to r)

I recently broke up with my boyfriend of  one and a half years. It was the hardest thing for me to do, but it had to be done – especially after I came to the conclusion we didn’t have the same goals for our lives. I fell into your typical depression: I couldn’t eat or sleep, had anxiety, and was mad at the world. My best friends, Katina and Casandra, would call me, and I’d ignore their phone calls because I wanted to wallow in my sorrows.

One evening I was home on a date with my two favorite guys, Ben & Jerry (ice cream) and my doorbell rang. I went to the door and looked in the peep hole, and it was Katina and Casandra. I was upset initially when I saw them because I didn’t want company. I opened the door, and they came in with an earful about how I was handling the breakup. They gave me an intervention, and I was not in the mood for it! Both of them shared stories on how they dealt with their breakups and gave me words of encouragement. After our talk we prayed, and I felt at peace about being single.

LaChante and her girlfriends at a summer picnic.

Later that evening, we all got dressed up and hit the town. I had so much fun that night thanks to them! The three of us made a pact that evening never to go through a challenging obstacle by ourselves. We are friends, and we will be there for each other no matter what. I always appreciated my friendship with Katina and Casandra, but after that night, I love those two ladies even more!

Yoga Friendships as Rock Solid as a Mountain Pose!

July 1, 2012

Guest Blog by Elizabeth Siamas

Elizabeth, now studying to be a master yoga teacher, hiking with her son Will.

It’s such a gift to find girlfriends in a place you least expect to. Ten years ago I showed up to a yoga class provided by a city recreation department. I didn’t have high hopes for the class. My sister had invited me to join, and she was a beginning yogi.  I was concerned the class would not be enough for me because I was more advanced in my practice, but I was also intent on supporting her as she tried something new.

Little did I know that walking into that class would be such a gift. I had an immediate connection with the teacher – I loved her warm, casual style, and she struck a perfect balance between challenging physical practice and spiritual growth. Because the class met at the same time each week, you saw the same people, and it was very easy to be comfortable and friendly with those around you. Within a few weeks a group of us that ranged in ages and backgrounds formed, and we would stay after class to share our experiences in the class, as well as share our stories from outside of class. Often our teacher would stay too. We quickly became good girlfriends.

A good yoga class can be therapeutic, energizing, and healing in the most profound ways. When those blissful experiences are shared with girlfriends, I believe the positive benefits you feel are compounded.

This group of us signed on for the next session of classes, and the next session, and the next session. We even met outside of class for private outdoor practice with our instructor.

Over time, life did get in the way of us meeting regularly in the same class. But our connections with one another remain as rock solid as mountain pose.  I can’t practice yoga without thinking of these women, and when I do, I am filled with gratitude for the gift of their friendship.

Hull’s Garden Gals

June 24, 2012

By Guest Blogger Liz Kay

For more than two dozen plus years, my four dear women friends have gathered to sail together along the coast of Maine. We have diligently carved three days and two nights from our full and abundant lives to share this sailing time together. We’re so fortunate to sail on a lovely 43-foot sloop, Passage, a 50th birthday gift to my friend Susan. She’s provided us wonderful sails, sheltered us from all kinds of weather, and taken us in and out of fog and around ledges in Penobscot Bay and other environs.

Glorious meals, fine wine, laughter, and tears have been had among the four of us in Passage’s cockpit. We’ve watched stars and northern lights together; we’ve witnessed many of life’s good times and harder times as well. And, we keep moving forward together. Not always in complete sync, but with great respect and honor.

A few years ago, a Labor Day hurricane moving along the east coast kept us in harbor. Using the name, Hurricane Gals, we turned our focus on renovating and painting the first floor of Cate’s house! We were like a hurricane for 48 hours—shedding old stuff, boxing kids posters and school projects from days gone by, and painting and sprucing up the house. A wonderful adventure.

So this year my business travel was really pushing on my calendar, and with a pending sailing trip scheduled, I called in for a possible Plan B. On top of a demanding job and travel schedule, I had offered to put my home in the local garden show. Knowing how precious our sailing trip is, I hesitated for a few weeks before calling in Plan B. Honestly between travel and business pressures, driving five hours to Maine and hopping on a boat, even with dear friends, did not seem like fun. Lately, I find my level of patience for myself has lessened and my need for quiet downtime in more demand. So, I muscled the courage to call in.

“How about the three of you come to Hull?” I asked, speaking of my town down on the water’s edge just south of Boston. “I have a bunch of weeding, cleaning, raking, and pruning projects. Might we switch the plan?”

So Susan, Cate, and Sid showed up with gardening gloves in hand for a 24-hour visit. Following our work time, we sat on the patio looking out on the water…my little cockpit. I felt so pleased my dear friends could tack to windward from our planned course. I’m grateful for their understanding and continued respect for each other. As life continues to throw good times and harder times along our journey, I know they will be there.

The Changing Perspectives of Birthdays.

June 17, 2012

Having a birthday could really be a bummer experience if it were not for the constancy of my birth siblings and my adopted sisters.  They consistently pull through — well, with occasional breakdowns and all is well nonetheless, in the end. In this picture I am holding my brother’s daughter’s baby boy on my lap.  Somehow a whole generation has grown up.  Girlfriends who have outlived two ex-husbands and my parents measure the stability of my life.

I have failed to acknowledge these special girlfriends from time to time for things I have appreciated, and for that I have some regret.  Yet there is an underlying forgiveness that comes with a great deal of love and acceptance for each other’s humanity — eventually if not immediately.

My most recent birthday was Friday, and with it came the sweetest card from my longest time adopted sister — you have seen this card.  It is the lineup of girls, all throwing one leg in the air, wearing the old fashioned bathing suits.  Inside is the precious reminder that we are sisters by choice, not by chance, and a suggestion that since our 50th year of sisterly love and mutual friendship and appreciation is coming up in four years — can you believe it?  — that we plan a big something to commemorate the occasion.  But what?

A trip to Paris?  Actually we’ve done that and this longest standing girlfriend, with whom I’m pondering a commemorative event, lost her purse on the metro.  Maybe something closer — San Francisco?  We could find and visit the place we ate EVERY NIGHT for the three days we were there because the polenta was SO good!  Would it be good again?  We laughed so hard on that trip I pee’d my pants and we had to return to the hotel so I could change. EVERYTHING that trip was hilarious — we saw Beach Blanket Bingo goes to Babylon, or something like that.

OK, we’ve done that.  What about a road trip?  Well, she and another friend (to round out the three stooges act) tried that a couple of years ago and it turns out we have gotten more set in our ways over the years, not more gracious.  Maybe not a road trip.

I think in the end she will visit me or I will visit her.  Those are the most relaxing visits.   Familiar spaces in which to reminisce and remind each other of our better qualities is like getting the tank filled up for the next big trip around the sun.


Pamela Stambaugh

Guest Blog by Pamela Stambaugh

The Power of Female Friendships in a Health Crisis

June 10, 2012

Diane and Margaret

I say that women are the backbone of health. This belief surfaced in the most supportive way in dealing with my husband’s recent health challenge. My family and I suddenly found ourselves making life- supporting decisions. We were confronted with heart disease and what next steps to take. While my family, as always, was there in a most supportive way, what touched me the most was the interest and care expressed by my “women friends”.

I must admit that I initially was in an “I’ll take care of this myself” mode, I did make an adjustment since I am committed to having women in my life who I can count on for support and who know they can count on me. With that in mind, I began calling and emailing friends letting them know what was happening in my life and asking for prayers and good energy and anything else they might think I could need.

The wishes and support came flooding in immediately. One friend reminded me that she was on the board of the hospital where my husband was staying and would make an intervention. Another friend was on the horn to a cardiac physician that we both knew bringing her expertise in integrative medicine. My dear friend, Francie, sent her husband over to see us ASAP as he had undergone open heart surgery a few years ago. His support was very comforting and the immediate action made the whole experience more bearable. My co-author, Diane, was “Johnny on the spot” connecting us with nurses and doctors who are experts in the cardiac field. The list of supportive action and heartfelt concern goes on and on.

The entire experience was one of community and love. In a moment of potential crisis, the sense of partnership and unity brought calm and clarity. It’s human to feel alone and lonely in life and to doubt that there is anyone who really cares. Experiences like this one forever dissolve those feelings. I will never forget this out-pour of love from my women friends. Today I enjoy a renewed appreciation of the many women in my life that I proudly and lovingly call my friends. They are truly the women I want to grow old with.

Perhaps you have a story that acknowledges the women in your life, who will drop everything to support you. We invite you to share it and to use the opportunity to express your love and appreciation for these friends you want to grow old with.

Thank you!

Ravi and Margaret