Archive for June, 2010

A Few Ruminations on “The Girls from Ames”

Recently I was able to switch gears and put down the Dr Seuss library in favor of a book aimed at my demographic.  Yang Daddy was gracious enough to continue the rhyming with our tot while I dug into an “adult” book all about a special group of women and their friendships.

The Girls from Ames, by Jeffrey Zaslow, is a biography of sorts of 11 women who have been friends since childhood through to present day; they are now in their mid-forties.  Some of the women have been friends since toddlerhood, others since elementary or middle school.  Each woman appears to have one strong bond with another woman, a “best friend” in the group if you will, and then all these best friends are also close to each other.  As the author reflects, “they were (are) their own little clique.”

The story of their continuing friendship was amazing to read, mainly in part because it’s true and not a work of fiction.  Plus, it was interesting to read their story as written by a male journalist, and not by one of the Girls.  Through extensive research and many interviews, Zaslow has pulled together an intriguing and complex portrait of their friendship over the years.  In fact, it seems as if I, the reader, were sitting down at the reunion dinner table with them, listening to their stories and anecdotes.

As I read The Girls from Ames, I imagined what kind of friendships my own daughter would form.  Would the young children she plays with now be around in another year, 10 years, or even 20 years?   One can only wonder.  The book also caused me to reflect on my own friendships, which at times during my read, either brought me great joy for those bonds that have remained strong and good, or some sadness and regret for those friends that have parted ways.  And more so, the book struck home to me that it is indeed, a lot of work to keep a good friendship going.

People in America today are busier than ever and distractions abound, from texts and IMs to just keeping house and getting the family hither and yon.  It isn’t easy to always make time to catch up with a friend, whether that’s picking up the phone or dashing off a quick note (email).  Sometimes I wish I could just communicate with them telepathically while I juggle all my other tasks! I have friends I chat with on a daily basis and others with whom I only catch up with every few months, maybe even once a year.  And although I wish we’d all keep in touch more, and be larger parts of each other’s lives, those times that we do connect feel as if we’ve never stopped hanging out.  (And TG for social media sites too, but their impact on friendships is an entire other story!)

Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that making friends is easier than maintaining them.  I attribute it both to the stage of life myself and my friends now inhabit as well as it just being a by-product of the culture I live in. Today, having a to-do list a mile long is envious and to some, even seen as prosperous  (but if you look at some of these schedules, I’d say “preposterous” is more like it) as opposed to only desiring the Jones’ green lawn a few decades ago.  But these Iowa friends have pulled it off, maintaining and growing their relationships over the years, giving and taking through the good and the bad times.  It takes work; but anything that’s worth its salt takes work, right?

The Girls from Ames is a delightful read and one in which you can percolate on and ruminate about later.  While having that many close friends may be more extraordinary than ordinary, we can definitely learn from these Iowa girls that it pays off in the end.

So with that, I’m off to the store to get a box of notecards and pen a few personal notes to my own circle of friends.  Or at least, dash off a few email missives!


Have Toddler Will Travel


Currently my family and I are zipping north on the Florida Turnpike headed to Disney World to celebrate my daughter’s 2nd birthday. What was I thinking?

It’s about 3-4 hours for us to get there and we don’t have a SUV. So the car is packed to the gills with a playpen (that I’m sure she’ll refuse to sleep in), luggage, a stroller and a small cooler of food. Oh and three people.

We don’t own a portable DVD player because I’m old school and think that children should entertain themselves in the car instead of being zoned into submission. There has already been the requisite meltdown but I blame myself because in all the packing and planning I forgot to make a sandwich for her. We stopped at what has to be the worst service plaza on the FL Turnpike (sorry Port St. Lucie) and got her some peanut butter crackers and now she’s sleeping.

Once we get to the hotel we’ll hit the pool and then Downtown Disney later. Tomorrow the Magic Kingdom awaits. Judging by how excited she was to see a Mickey Mouse shot glass (yes they make them) at the plaza I’m sure the day will be a hit. We’ll be breaking the day in half so we can all get a nap and still maybe be able to watch the night parade.

I love traveling and we often take our daughter on trips. Even though the effort of traveling with a toddler is tedious, and I always forget something, it will be worth it if my daughter ends up loving getting to see the world as much as I do.

We’re taking Amtrak to New York and Washington DC in August. I’ve got to see about getting that portable DVD player I’ve been avoiding.


I just think Yin Mama is so brave to travel via train with a toddler! And a little nuts, but bravery does involve a little bit of insanity, afterall.  We’ve taken several long road trips with our tot, about 4 1/2 hours each direction for vacation, but have not yet attempted other means of transport. In fact, since having our daughter, the radius of our vacation destinations seems to have shrunk compared to pre-tot days. It’s all our own doing, of course.

See, I’m rather intimidated to go on a plane with my toddler.  Instead of envisioning a fun vacation ahead of me, I conjure up the enormous list of what I’d have to pack just for her, including toys/books for the plane ride, let alone clothes,wipes, etc. It seems like a monumental task, yet moms just like Yin do it all the time. I have a mommy friend who took her pre-schooler around the world to the Philipines! And another who just returned from vacation at the Magic Kingdom with 2 kids under the age of 3. Both moms survived intact and had tremendous vacations.

Despite my trepidations of tot travel, I too have the travel bug like Yin Mama, which was instilled into me at a very young age.  When I was 18mths old, my parents flew from NY to London with me, so that I could meet family members and be baptized in the family church. I don’t remember a thing, of course, but it’s a great story to tell. I want my daughter to see the world too, to experience new cultures and meet all sorts of people. But at the age of 2, I don’t think she’d remember anything. But I would, right…?

So as I type this, I’m mentally chewing on the idea of all of us going to Tuscany next spring to visit family. Under the Tuscan sun, tot in tow. Hmmm….maybe the reward of going there will be enough for me to pack us all up and attempt the travel challenge!