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We're forced to "put up" with family. But we get to choose our friends. And when we do, we reap rich benefits and opportunities for growth. Friends figured large in BJ Gallagher's bestselling Everything I Need To Know I Learned From Other Women so she decided to delve into what it really means to have a true friend and what it means to be one. No friend is left unturned in this collection--neighbors, best friends, spiritual friends, friends who are family, friends who are lovers, friends at work, friends who help...
We're forced to "put up" with family. But we get to choose our friends. And when we do, we reap rich benefits and opportunities for growth. Friends figured large in BJ Gallagher's bestselling Everything I Need To Know I Learned From Other Women so she decided to delve into what it really means to have a true friend and what it means to be one. No friend is left unturned in this collection--neighbors, best friends, spiritual friends, friends who are family, friends who are lovers, friends at work, friends who help make each other's lives better in dozens of ways.
BJ Gallagher's call for stories went out far and wide, and the stories came back--about friendships old and new, friends who tell you the truth you might not want to hear, who don't place conditions on their love, who help you see your best self, who forgive you when you hurt them, who respect your boundaries. Friends Are Everything is a heartfelt celebration of friendships and a perfect gift to share with a friend as a "Thank you," an "I'm sorry," or an "I can't tell you how much you mean to me" message. After all, there are some things you can only learn from your friends. Who else is going to let you know your slacking off is showing, let you show your true feelings, and leave you a message on your voice mail that makes you laugh so hard you're running to the loo?!
Understand that the little things can make a BIG difference
Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways, it can change someone else's life forever.
—Margaret Cho, comedian
How Do You Love Me? Let Me Count the Ways.
WHEN I THINK ABOUT all the ways in which my friends show their love for me, it is many of the little things that come to mind:
Ruby and Paddy, who live next door and feed and watch over my five cats whenever I go out of town ... so I can travel with peace of mind, knowing that my beloved, furry, four-footed family is safe and secure at home.
My friend Diana, who often leaves a flower or a sprig of berries on my gate at night, just to let me know she's in the neighborhood walking her dogs ... and thinking of me.
My artist friend Antonette, who made some fabulous papiermâché eggs one Easter and left them in a basket on my doorstep before dawn ... just to wish me a happy Easter in a very special way.
My writing partner Steve, who, when I send him an e-mail joke, always has to have the last word—so he tops the joke with a punch line that is better than the original ... leaving me laughing out loud in the solitude of my office.
My mother Gloria, who occasionally slips a $20 bill into her letters to me—"mad money," she calls it. Mom has always been one of my best friends.
My friend Joan, whose quips and quotes, those pearls of wisdom, have guided and inspired me over the past twenty years.... I could write a whole book on the many things I have learned from Joan!
My friend Anita, who welcomes me into her Berkeley home whenever I am in northern California and need a place to stay ... and if she's out of town, she just leaves me a key so I can stay there anyway!
Two of my son's former girlfriends, Nancy and Yvonne, who still send me cards on Mother's Day (even though Michael long ago married someone else).... I still think of those two girls as the daughters I never had.
What do these friends all have in common? They understand that it's the little things, the simple things, the thoughtful surprises that express love and friendship best. These little things make a BIG difference in my life!
Plant a seed of friendship; reap a bouquet of happiness.
—Lois L. Kaufman, author, humorist
True happiness is of a retired nature, and an enemy to pomp and noise; it arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one's self, and in the next from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions.
—Joseph Addison, English essayist, poet, politician
Where are you now, babita, companion, amiga, my friend? Didn't we sit the winter through, snowflakes melting on our tongues, waiting for summers' lilies to hold our dreams? How we loved the bullfrogs and the toads. Ah, dear one, I hope you remember I touched your shoulder with my heart.
HELPING HAND: What's in a Word?
Hearing what's needed
Eager to contribute
Listening with compassion
Paying attention to the little things
Intuitively understanding what's helpful and what's not
Never overstepping your bounds
Going out of your way for a true friend
Healing love, healing touch
Asking "What can I do to help?"
Never assuming that you know what's best
Desiring to serve and contribute to others' wellbeing
You have not lived a perfect day ... unless you have done something for someone who will never be able to repay you.
—Ruth Smeltzer, author
Statistics of Hope
Every seven minutes, somewhere in the world, someone is falling in love.
Every six minutes, two women pour tea and sit down for a good talk.
Every five minutes, someone, somewhere is doing a good deed.
Every four minutes, someone stops and says, "Thanks, I needed that."
Every three minutes, someone hugs someone else in need.
Every two minutes, someone comforts a crying child.
Every minute of the day and night, somewhere in the world, someone is at prayer, saying,
"Thank you ..." to the Sacred Mystery which sustains us all.
—Christina Baldwin, from We'Moon '98
Boomerang Zucchini: The Gift That Keeps on Giving!
MANY YEARS AGO I LIVED in Minnesota on a lot big enough to have an old-fashioned garden. Minnesota has a pretty short growing season, so it's difficult to grow some things. But not zucchini, which proliferates, and will even "volunteer" the next year if you leave the squash in the garden.
So this year we began giving away zucchini as fast as we could— to all our coworkers and neighbors and friends. And pretty soon it started coming back—sometimes as dinner invitations at which zucchini made an appearance: the big ones hollowed out and stuffed with a delicious meat mixture, the little ones cut into sticks and served raw as crudités. Or delivered to our front steps—all different kinds of zucchini bread, with and without nuts, and even zucchini chocolate cake. Yum!
It seems like such a little thing—zucchini making the rounds in our neighborhood. But as I look back, those were some of the best memories I have of that summer and that community. I still smile whenever I see zucchini today!
ANYONE WHO'S EVER TRIED to get a book published knows how much rejection is involved in the process. When I wrote my first book back in the mid-'80s, I got dozens of rejection letters, one right after another. I often got discouraged, would give up, and stop sending out the proposal. After a few months, I'd get another burst of enthusiasm and send it out again. More rejection ... more depression and resignation ... then another round of optimism and sending out the proposal.
The book was finally accepted by a tiny little publishing house in St. Louis, and in 1985, my first book came out. To celebrate the occasion, my friend Gary threw a book party for me. He rented a room, arranged the catering, and invited all my family and friends— it made me feel so good. The best part was that he took the dozens of rejection letters I had received and enlarged them on a copy machine. He made big posters out of them and used them to cover the walls of the room in which the party was held. It was hysterical. A small thoughtful, creative gesture—but it was perfect. He reminded me that in the midst of much rejection, it's essential to persevere—all I need to find is just one "Yes."
Think big, start small.
—Patricia Fripp, author, speaker
Girl Scout Forever
THE CHILDHOOD FRIENDSHIPS I made in the Girl Scouts have lasted for more than twenty years. Twenty years of big events in each others' lives—as well as little things that brought us gales of laughter and colorful memories. I recall when one of the girls got married ... at the reception the rest of us donned our Walawi jackets over our formal wear and pulled out our green Walawi song-books, mess kits, and badge-covered mugs. As we sang "We Really Do Need Each Other," one of the girls' husbands snapped away with a disposable camera that had been placed on the table. Then we stole the groom away, made him replace his tuxedo jacket with a Walawi jacket, and made him pose like he was in a rededication. It was hysterical—a wedding reception no one will forget. It's the little things like that—the zany, crazy, fun things that girls do—that make our lives so much richer.
—Tori Kay Radaich
Remember, the greatest gift is not found in a store or under a tree, but in the hearts of true friends.
—Cindy Lew, author
Bad Hair Months
TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS AGO, I was pregnant with my daughter. It was a difficult pregnancy. I was quite sick in the early part. Then, late in the pregnancy, my hips started to dislocate and I had low blood pressure, so I was apt to faint. Worst of all, to my mind, was that my hair looked so horrible. Brittle and dry— I'd never had hair like that before. One morning, in my eighth month, I went out to go to work and there was an envelope tucked under my windshield. In it was a beautiful red cotton scarf with delicate green and yellow flowers. A friend left it in the night, with a note attached about how she hoped the bright colors would cheer me up. I tied it around my hair and wore it for most of the next month. I still have that scarf. I plan to give it to my daughter one day.
I WENT TO THE MAILBOX, and there inside was a fat little envelope addressed to "The Amazing, Talented BJ Gallagher." "What could this be?" I wondered to myself, smiling in anticipation. Must be something special, for sure. And indeed it was.
Inside was a card, a very funny refrigerator magnet, and a sparkly beaded bracelet that said F-E-A-R-L-E-S-S. What a great gift! It was from Diane Conway, who wrote a wonderful book called What Would You Do If You Had No Fear? I had written an endorsement for her book, and the bracelet was a token of her thanks. I promptly put in on my wrist and haven't taken it off since. The FEARLESS message resonated with me—reminding me how much courage it takes to face life, to embrace its challenges, ride its ups and downs, lick our wounds, fall down, pick ourselves up, take risks, make leaps, and keep going no matter what. While I wear the bracelet on my wrist, its message I carry in my heart.
I called Diane to thank her for the delightful gift, and I asked her to tell me about the bracelets. "I started making them three or four years ago," she said. "I made them to give to special friends who needed encouragement. I also make some that say M-I-R-A-C-L-E, and I give those to people who need a miracle in their lives."
"I'm sure it makes a huge impression on people when you give them one of your bracelets," I said.
"Yes, it does," she replied. "Some people cry, lots of them hug me, and people often write me letters about what the bracelet means to them, and how it gave them just what they needed in a particular moment."
"It's such a little thing," I said. "A single, stretchy thread of beads with a word spelled out—but it's loaded with such significance and meaning for people."
"Yes, you're right," she replied. "Some people need a miracle and others need to be reminded to be fearless. These days, I give them to complete strangers ... especially to people I see who seem to be hanging on by their fingernails and who clearly need a miracle."
"Where do you get the bracelets?" I asked Diane. "Do you buy them or make them?"
"I make them all myself—I make about five every evening, while I'm watching TV or just relaxing with my husband,"she answered. "Each one is a little different and each one is handmade with love."
"The power of little things," I mused.
"I'm hoping these little things will lead to something big," Diane said. "I'm going to start making kits, and make them available so that other people can make FEARLESS and MIRACLE bracelets and give them to still more people. I'd love to start a revolution—a Fearless Revolution. Wouldn't that be great?"
"Yes, it would," I said softly. "It would be very great. I'm thrilled to be a part of that revolution. Thank you for my bracelet. I will wear it fearlessly and spread the word."
Where there is a woman there is magic.
—Ntozake Shange, poet, playwright
If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.
—Maya Angelou, poet, author
Laugh together ... often!
Laughter is the closest distance between two people.
—Victor Borge, Danish-borncomic pianist
More Fun Than a Barrel of Monkeys
KATIE AND I WERE THE TWO assistant store managers for the local I. Magnin department store. We had become good friends over the course of working together, and we had lots of wonderful fun.
Katie's responsibilities included the children's department. One season we had an oversupply of small stuffed toy monkeys called "Monkey Do's." She had sent her boss, Jay, the store's general manager, a memo alerting him to the problem, including a tongue-in-cheek warning that "if you don't take care of this problem, it will multiply."
A couple weeks went by, and Jay did not respond. Katie got an idea. Late one night after closing, she and I gathered up about fifty of these monkeys and snuck into our boss's office. We festooned his entire office with these stuffed critters. We put one on his phone, another on his computer, several on his book cases, in his files, and we even put some of them in obscene positions—fornicating monkeys in the middle of his desk! And we left a note that read, "If you don't take care of your problems, they multiply."
Now this boss of ours—while he did have a sense of humor— was very serious about his job. He was German, very proper and dignified, and he played his role of corporate executive to the hilt. As I think back on it, Katie and I were living dangerously in pulling a prank on such as him. But we lived to tell the tale.
You should have seen his face the next morning at 7:15 when he arrived at his office! And much to our surprise, he didn't call us on the carpet. In fact, he was so amazed (and, I think, secretly delighted at our spunk) that he called his boss, Gerald Napier, the president of I. Magnin, to come to his office and have a look. The two of them—and the two of us—got a great laugh out of the escapade.
Just thinking about it makes me laugh all over again. Ahhhh, memories!
You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.
—Colette, French novelist
One doesn't have a sense of humor. It has you.
—Larry Gelbart, comedy writer
Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? ... To Get Away from the Door!
ONE OF THE THINGS I love the best about my friend, Arleen Gevanthor, is the way she makes me laugh. She regales me with stories that are like something out of a movie—and, better yet, they often have a little nugget of wisdom buried in them.
One of my favorites is about the pet chicken she had as a girl. The chicken was an indoor/outdoor bird, having the run of both the house and the yard. One Sunday, Arleen's large extended family had gathered together to enjoy the afternoon and to share dinner. Arleen's mother, aunt, sister, and the family maid were all in the kitchen, preparing the evening meal. At one point, her aunt went out the kitchen door to get some herbs from the garden and accidentally let the screen door slam behind her. Unbeknownst to her, the chicken, who was right behind her, got hit in the head by the closing door. When her aunt came back toward the house, she saw the chicken's limp body at the bottom of the steps. She picked it up and tossed it into the trash. A short while later, Arleen's mother came to the back door to take some trash out. Seeing the chicken's body in the trash, she picked up the lifeless fowl and carried it back into the kitchen and put it on the counter. She was not going to waste a perfectly good chicken, even if it had been a family pet. When the maid saw the limp chicken on the counter, she figured it was just knocked out. She gave it half an aspirin. Ten minutes later, the chicken regained consciousness and was on its feet again, running around the kitchen.
Arleen's chicken story speaks volumes about these three women— Arleen's aunt, her mother, and the maid. Each saw the same problem but had her own interpretation of the situation and what to do about it. Arleen's aunt, who didn't look beyond the obvious, took one look at the chicken, and deciding it must be dead, trashed it. Arleen's mother, a thrifty woman who wasted nothing, decided to make a meal of the lifeless chicken. And the maid, being an optimist, decided to be resourceful and try to save the chicken with aspirin. Arleen's chicken story is a parable about how people act on their perceptions of life events. Some simply take things at face value— they just accept things as they perceive them. Others might ask themselves, "How can I make the most of this situation?" and look for a creative response. And still others don't accept the obvious, but rather try to change a bad situation (revive the chicken)—they know "it ain't over till it's over."
What I love best about the story is the way it made me laugh— I could see the whole scene unfolding in my head. Thanks for the laughter, dear friend. I needed that!
Laugh at yourself first, before anyone else can.
—Elsa Maxwell, gossip columnist, songwriter, professional hostess
Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.
—W. H. Auden, writer
Laughter is inner jogging.
—Norman Cousins, editor, writer
Whoever is happy will make others happy too.
—Anne Frank, German diarist
I finally figured out the only reason to be alive is to enjoy it.
—Rita Mae Brown, author, social activist
Excerpted from Friends Are Everything by BJ Gallagher. Copyright © 2005 BJ Gallagher. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
1 Understand that the little things can make a BIG difference
2 Laugh together ... often!
3 Help us see ourselves more clearly
4 Love us unconditionally, just as we are
5 Teach and inspire us to be our best selves
6 Extend themselves with generosity and love
7 Comfort and support us through struggles and disappointments
8 Forgive us when we hurt them, just as we forgive them
9 Let us love them back
10 Know the power of community.... Together we can do almost anything!
And Finally ...