Sunday, February 27, 2011

of girl parties and girlfriends

I love this photo. Unabashed giggles at my daughter's seventh birthday party. The theme was "spa party" that year — I vividly recall the time and effort involved in giving 12 girls manicures and pedicures after they frolicked in our candlelit jacuzzi spa. Add party games, dinner, birthday cake, cleanup, bad pop music, and unending girl screaming, and I'm ready to be carried off to the nearest insane asylum. Of course, they always wanted a slumber party, but it never failed — just when I'd gotten them all quiet in their sleeping bags at some ungodly hour, there'd be at least one girl who decided she was homesick and needed mom or dad to pick her up. But it's all been totally worth it.

My girl turned fifteen this week and we just put a cap on her most recent birthday bash. Many of the same girls from those early years were in attendance, along with some darling new acquaintances. And although the guests are now texting boys from their cell phones and socializing on facebook during the festivities, things really aren't too different than the birthday bashes of old. A similar cast of characters enjoyed a hilarious afternoon of bowling followed by a video contest, pizza dinner, gourmet cupcakes, groovin' to whatever the kids are listening to these days at full blast, screaming, and chattering into the night. And a first: No one went home early!

Over the years the guest list has been altered. Those who've proven to be kind and supportive have kept coming year after year. My girl seems to have an innate radar for selecting friends who are genuine and unselfish and build her up rather than tear her down. I'd go so far as to say these friendships will serve as the building blocks for every tough situation she'll encounter in life.

I don't know if her mother has provided her with the best example in this area. I made the grave error of replacing my girlfriends with whatever boy or man happened to be in my life at the time. This began in my teenage years and lasted until after my divorce when some wonderful, selfless women came out of the woodwork to rescue me. I thought I had friends when I was married, but I didn't fully realize that maintaining these friendships meant constantly working on them — scheduling lunches and girls nights out or simply picking up the phone to ask "how are you?" Never did it. I was waiting for them to call me. They did, sometimes, but for the most part, I depended on the poor man in my life as the outlet for all my girl-motions. Yeah, that went over really well. Point is, we girls need to vent, and we need to vent to each other. If we're lucky enough to be blessed with girlfriends who are, as my grandmother put it, "old shoes," the love and support we receive from them will be genuine, constant, and beyond measure.

As girls — and women — all is right with the world when we feel loved and supported by our fellow girlfriends. And we are happy to oblige when a true friend needs us. I cannot stress enough the importance of this concept to my daughter. Good supportive girlfriends, along with strong faith in her higher power, will carry her through each and every life mishap. She'll be well-equipped for the journey.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

detours in the highway of life

From April 26, 2009

Watched another Woody Allen movie last night. Manhattan. I love that film. If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching it, it involves a love triangle between Woody, Diane Keaton, and another guy (forget the actor’s name). Filmed in black & white with a George Gershwin score — a really beautiful film. Woody has a 17-year-old girlfriend (Muriel Hemmingway), and he knows the relationship’s totally wrong. After he meets Diane Keaton (his married friend's girlfriend), he comes up with a classic line to drop the 17-year-old. “Think of me as a detour in the highway of life.”

I just love that line. And it gets me thinking. Which events in my life are merely detours, and which are the real thing? If I take out all of the fluff in my life based on bad decisions I’ve made, would I end up with a straight line of a life that has purpose and makes sense? Can anyone but the Dalai Lama do this? Maybe it’s all about trial and error, and the silly events in our life we’d like to forget really do matter. Like that weird dude I met at a dance club in Pasadena who took me to Green Street CafĂ© and ordered us an appetizer-only dinner with water. His father was dying of cancer and he took me to his boyhood home in Lancaster to meet him. His mom worked at a supermarket. I think we went out about three times. I don’t even remember his name. Does he count?

I recently discovered a diary I wrote in 1989. My thoughts, feelings, and accounts of each day for the entire year. I read it not long ago. I’d forgotten about most of the events of that year, but there they were — the gospel truth of Kirsten in blue and black ink. It was a rough year for sure. Cliff and I were newly married and had just moved to Texas to make a new start. We were living with his parents. I was 25 — way immature and insecure. I got a job at a home security company and I spent way too much ink wondering whether they’d promote me and/or give me an office (both of which never happened). This was before the kids were born, and even then, there were big troubles in the marriage — but I digress. That year DID matter. I made lots of mistakes. But I learned from them. I’m not the same person today. Thank God.

Maybe instead of a straight line, we’re supposed to have detours and those detours are actually part of the line. And maybe the line’s supposed to be crooked with only brief periods of straight. I believe what I’m doing with the kids is pretty much straight (OK, I’ve had my detours there, too). It’s all an ongoing project, I guess. But I keep trying. And I get better. And then I fall off and do something completely ridiculous —and the line gets curvy again. I feel like I have a vague clue sometimes, and when I don’t, I pray. I should really pray first.

When my dad used to phone us from one of his exotic travel locations, he’d say he was calling “from the highway of life.” Maybe that’s why I like that line so much.