#ILookToHer FTD flowers surprise

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FTD FLOWERS PROVIDED ME A BOUQUET FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS PIECE.
THE OPINIONS ARE MINE. 

As women we don’t do enough celebrating of each other. Girlfriends are who we lean on, who we count on for support and advice, who we look to when life throws us curveballs and we need the gentle reminder that we can get through it. Together.

When FTD Flowers recently contacted me about a campaign they were launching, #ILookToHer, I knew exactly who I’d be presenting the sweet gift of gorgeous blooms to – my dear friend and business partner, Anne Marie.

Why #ILookToHer

I met Anne Marie two and a half years ago and don’t even want to think about what life would be like if we wouldn’t have been introduced by a mutual friend (thank you, Kiran!). From the moment we met, we became instant friends. Our dedication to mental health awareness enabled us to co-found a non-profit organization which helps people to share their stories of overcoming mental illness through artistic means: poetry, original music and essays, live on stage.

Anne Marie has the warmest smile, such a kind heart, and a drive to make things happen through hard work and dedication. She’s a loving wife to Steve, and has three super smart and handsome boys: Nolan, Daniel and Alex. She loves her family fiercely and does such an amazing job of teaching her boys about the ups and downs of life and how to navigate the tough times.

I was so excited to surprise Anne Marie with this beautiful bouquet of flowers from FTD. It was tricky to figure out a good place to surprise her, but I was able to get her to text me her schedule this morning, and I knew I’d have a good shot at pulling off the surprise if I met her after her 11:30 appointment at an office nearby my house. Timing it perfectly, I was in luck! And to make it even better, her son Alex was there to snap some photos for me. (Thanks so much, Alex!)

#ILookToHer FTD Flower Surprise

Surprising Anne Marie with an FTD bouquet because #ILookToHer

 

This Valentine’s Day, or really, any day, take a moment to celebrate the special women in your life. Because what woman doesn’t love to receive flowers?

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Huge Thank You to FTD Flowers for giving me the opportunity to share a special gift with an important woman in my life. #ILookToHer

 

Just Ask: How a Friend Can Make a Difference

This is a guest post written by Erica, one of my oldest and closest friends. We made it through middle school together, many years of dance recitals, boys and our first parties, a few memorable nights with cigarettes involved, going off to colleges two hours apart only to have her introduce me to one of her new best friends freshman year who would become my husband years later.
I asked her to write this post after a few conversations around the topic of how it’s sometimes tough for friends to talk with each other about mental illness when one has gone through it and the other hasn’t. And how a friend can be supportive when faced with their friend’s mental health disorder. I love her honesty, her willingness to face the hard moments such as visiting me in the psych ward, and her loving friendship over the years. I don’t know where I’d be without her in my life. {The tucks pads, well, let’s just say that I had been through a C-section only 4 weeks earlier, and I might have had another flare-up. Or, maybe I was just hallucinating.}

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“She is so crazy,” I said as we were discussing our love/hate relationship with Miley Cyrus. Jenn and I were on the phone and I cringed as the words came out of my mouth.

We have been friends for as long as I can remember…

Scan_Pic0001{Middle school: backstage at our dance recital}

Scan_Pic0002{High school: football game, cheering on the team from the stands}

Scan_Pic0003{College: Spring break in the Bahamas with the guys who would later become our husbands. That guy in the Hawaiian shirt isn’t one of them.}

photo (4){Jenn’s wedding to Ben: August, 2003}

I never would have guessed that Jenn would be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She first told me about her illness and diagnosis over drinks at TGI Fridays (classy, I know) the night before our friends’ wedding. The conversation was light and I am sure I asked some surface-level questions because I didn’t really understand what she was telling me. I knew nothing about mental illness.

My lifelong friend trusted me enough to tell me and then nothing, we never really talked about it…like really talked about it…until Jenn was hospitalized shortly after the birth of her first child.

I remember Jenn’s husband calling and asking me to talk to her. She asked me to visit and bring her face lotion, tucks pads, mascara, and eye shadow. I obliged and headed to the hospital. In my mind, Jenn was staying in a pseudo-retirement community (it was a geriatric psych ward, the only place they had been able to locate a bed for her).

In actuality, the situation wasn’t pretty. I remember the person at the entry desk taking the CVS bag from me. I mean, did I really think they would let me give her mascara? Sterile is the best way I can describe the hospital. I fought back tears as I saw Jenn in her barren room looking like a shell of herself. We went to a common area and she introduced me to some of the other patients.

I couldn’t focus.
This is serious.
I don’t know what to do or how to be a good friend.
Will we talk about this when she gets out?
When will she get out?
Why didn’t I realize she was so sick?

I had so many questions and the hospital visit was a wake-up call. No more sweeping this under the rug. I needed to ask the tough, sometimes uncomfortable questions.

And I did. But you know what? It wasn’t so tough.

Jenn told me that not getting enough sleep is her trigger and shortly after finding out she was pregnant with her second child, she told me she had stayed up all night getting organized. I knew something was wrong. I called her husband and he told me that she wasn’t taking her medication and indeed needed help. Just as soon as I hung up the phone with him, I received calls from two other friends who were equally concerned. Jenn is so very lucky to have such a strong support network. Immediately we all knew the signs because we talked with her about her illness when she was well – so much better than waiting for a crisis.

Just Ask.

Be part of someone’s success story.

As the inaugural This Is My Brave show approaches, I marvel at Jenn’s success story. But so many people play a role in her story. I hope if there is someone you know or suspect is living with a mental illness that you can be part of their support network. Because talking is therapeutic – and therapy comes in many different forms.

As for Miley…she is still engaging in shocking behavior and singing some pretty catchy songs but I am done calling her crazy.

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Erica blogs at ConflictedPixie.com and has recently become a stylist for KeatonRow. She created a fun look book of affordable special occasion spring dresses for me to choose an outfit for the show. It’s free to sign up and have Erica create a look book for you, plus the best part is that Keaton Row offers FREE shipping AND returns! Check out her blog today – budget conscious style for your home and self. Follow Erica on TwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

On friendship

“A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside.”

~ Winnie the Pooh

I remember a conversation I had with my mom about friendship back when I was in high school, probably about 16 years ago or more. I was describing to her how my relationship with one of my friends had changed, and how it made me sad.

She sympathized with me and explained that as the years go by, my friendships will evolve. Some people would remain in our lives forever, and we would grow closer and closer. And others would slowly fade away, leaving only the memories behind to savor.

Looking back now, I can understand exactly what she was trying to teach me.

I have several friends – people I have known for fifteen or more years – who I don’t get a chance to see more than once a year if I’m lucky given the distance between us. The best man from our wedding and his wife are two of them. He had a work conference this week and so they came to visit and stay with us this past weekend so that we could catch up and visit with each other. We hadn’t yet been able to meet each other’s youngest, and our two older ones had only ever met once before that.

The beautiful thing about our friendship with them is that it’s easy. We can come together after not having seen each other in a few years, and it’s like we haven’t skipped a beat.

Those are the absolute best friendships to have, in my opinion.

We talked and laughed and reminisced. Took hundreds of pictures and stayed up late playing board games. Our daughter was smitten with our friend and would walk over to him with her head back and arms lifted high up towards his head to be picked up. She doesn’t do this to anyone other than me or my husband. We hung out on the deck and had drinks and dinner. We threw all four kids in the big tub and watched them splash around in the bubbles, smiles all around. We shared little stories about them, our favorite iphone/ipad apps, and had lots of quality playtime.

In short, it was the best weekend ever.

We’re both celebrating ten years of marriage next year. The guys were each other’s best man. To honor this milestone, they invited us to join them on a vacation sometime in the Spring of 2013. Adults-only. The kiddos will get some quality time with the grandparents. {get excited, grandparents} Oh yeah. We’re in.

We’re so in.

And although we may not get the chance to get together again before then, it won’t make a difference. We’ll pick back up right where we left off.

Because that’s what great friends do.

 

“Friends are the most important part of your life. Treasure the tears, treasure the laughter, but most importantly, treasure the memories.”
– Dave Brenner