when good friends are hard to come by.

friends-1“When we do the hard, intimate work of friendship, we bring a little more of the divine into daily life.”- Shauna Niequist

***

You were one of the very first friends I made in Sacramento outside of college. My first impressions of you were two-fold: 1) your laugh was infectious, and 2) you had a haircut I could never pull off. I was fresh out of college and clueless about most things; you were working your way up the ladder at a hip marketing agency in midtown.

We were destined to be friends, you and I.

From the very beginning, you were generous with advice and encouragement---doling out introductions and career guidance like it was nothing, but really, it was kind of everything.

You were the one who suggested I join Twitter. (Also: we've been friends since BEFORE I HAD TWITTER?!)

You were also the one who suggested I start a blog. You probably don't even remember that, but I do.

Words of encouragement come naturally to you, like breathing or blinking for the rest of us. When I found out I needed a c-section, you had already e-mailed me a list of nine "c-section pros" by the time Brett and I were halfway home from the hospital. I sat in the car on the freeway reading your little list, smiling through the tears streaming down my face. When I went to Liberia last August, you gave me a card to tuck safely in my suitcase in case of a homesick emergency, which happened on day eight. I have kept every card you have ever given me because they are full of endless encouragement and I can't even bear the thought of throwing them out (which is saying a lot because you know how much I love to throw things out.)

You're the one who introduced me to Shauna Niequist, and thank goodness you did because Shauna has made me a better writer and I love stalking her with you like a couple of fangirls. I loved co-hosting our very own "Bread & Wine" themed Easter last year, and I'm convinced that Shauna would have been proud of us if she could have seen it. I remember your whole kitchen smelled like goat cheese biscuits while our husbands hid eggs in the backyard. That was Everett's first Easter, and it was perfect. Everett also spent his first fourth of July at your house and I remember eating apple pie and ice cream on your front porch swing watching our husbands light fireworks in the street. I sat there swinging with you, stuffing our faces with sugar, and I was so grateful for our friendship.

When we met, we had no babies, and now collectively we have three. I remember sitting at Grange munching on a piece of bread when you first told me you were pregnant. The words stumbled out so quickly, you immediately became flustered and broke out in a rash. A few scratches later, your neck was bleeding, and it was perhaps the most awkward and hilarious pregnancy announcement ever. I went back to work that afternoon simultaneously happy for you and disappointed that I wasn't pregnant also, not because I was even ready to be pregnant (I wasn't), but because I wanted us to have babies together so badly.

Babies. Anna, Everett, and Owen. Can you believe they are ours? I remember going to the hospital when both of your babies were born, and being in complete awe of how gorgeous you looked sitting in your bed eating sushi like giving birth was just something you did sometimes. It really wasn't even fair how good you looked. I remember holding Anna and Owen when they were so new, so fresh, not even full days old yet. And I loved them so much because they were a piece of you, and I couldn't help but love all of your pieces.

I remember getting your e-mail with the news of the unthinkable: Jonathan had cancer. He was young and healthy and a new dad and none of it made any sense to me. I pleaded with God and I begged for a miracle, just like every other person in your army. I remember sitting on the floor in Kat's living room with our hands placed on you, praying out loud with more power than we had ever prayed as a group. And I remember sobbing. I was sobbing too hard to pray but even without my words I felt the Holy Spirit all over that room. I remember babysitting Anna while you took Jonathan to chemo. Anna and I played on the floor on her little blanket in my living room and I reassured her over and over again that everything was going to be okay, even though I myself didn't know if everything was going to be okay. Her innocent blue eyes looked at me with curiosity, totally oblivious to anything other than the toys on the floor. And I was thankful for that.

I remember listening to you that year, time and time again, in awe of your grace and faith during what would be the hardest year of your life. I was always scared of saying the wrong thing to you, and I think I even told you that once. I tried to love you as best I could during that time, and I hope it was enough. When Jonathan's scan came back clear, I cried happy tears. My heart felt such relief, such joy, such overwhelming peace. One of my favorite memories with you is the night we did the pub crawl to celebrate Jonathan's victory. I wore Everett strapped in the moby and breastfed him in bars all over town because nothing would have kept me from being there.

I have so many more memories with you, more than I can even count. I remember dancing the night away at Mix with my six month baby bump crammed into a sequin dress to celebrate your 30th birthday. I remember taking Anna and Everett to the pumpkin patch dressed like a cow and monkey. I remember texting you for prayer the night Brett was flying in a storm and my pregnancy hormones had me convinced something was going to happen to him. I sat in my car with a bloody nose and you and Sharon were the only people I could text who wouldn't think I was insane. I remember ringing in 2013 with you and Jonathan at 33rd Street Bistro and talking about writing and blogging the entire time. I remember your baby shower, my baby shower, so.many.baby.showers.

Since the start of our friendship, we've celebrated twelve birthdays, lived in four houses, birthed three babies, and studied probably close to twenty books together in the same bible study. You and I have talked about everything under the sun.....on your couch, on my couch, at the park, on a walk, in the car. We've talked about marriage and motherhood and challenging family dynamics and faith and writing and friendship. Also, boobs. Don't you think we've talked about boobs a lot? You are my friend, my sister in Christ, my free therapist, and so, so much more.

And now, you're leaving Sacramento. You are stepping out in faith to start the next part of your journey and while I am beyond excited to watch you do that and see all of the wonderful things God has in store for you, I am also incredibly, wholeheartedly sad. I know you will just be a phone call and e-mail away, but we both know it's not the same as living, breathing, and giggling in the same room.

We've been friends for a good chunk of my twenties, and if I have learned anything in my twenties about friendship, it is this: good friends are hard to come by.

And you, Lesley Miller, are a damn good friend.

You're one of the best friends I've ever had, and I am so grateful to have had you as a friend and sister and neighbor and part of my village. I truly would not be the person I am today without your influence, your Godly wisdom, your refreshing honesty, and your endless love and encouragement.

Thank you for being you, and even more so: for letting me be me.

I love you to the moon and back.

stalking rachel mcadams.

Processed with VSCOcam with f3 preset

Remember that one time I had a girl crush on that chick at Starbucks who looked exactly like Rachel McAdams?

Well, there was actually more to the story. Click here to read how I sort of accidentally stalked her for months without realizing she lived down the street from me.

In related news, my friend Melanie is writing a book about Dating for Moms and it's going to be hilarious. Read this to get acquainted with her philosophy on mom-lationships. So. Funny.

Have you stalked any moms recently? You can admit it here. This is a safe space. ;)

when you stop keeping score.

WMHR-1As long as our schedules permit, my friend Brandee and I do a babysitting swap every week. It’s simple: she watches my son for four hours on Mondays and I watch her son for four hours on Wednesdays. Our boys are only six weeks apart and get along famously so this arrangement is a win-win for everyone. Seriously, do you know how much I can get done in four hours?! A. Lot. When we first started swapping, something came up one week and I wasn’t able to watch Brandee’s son. She had already watched Everett that week, and I felt terrible about throwing our swap out of balance. I threw out a few dates and times that I could babysit, insisting over and over again that I “owed” her.

It wasn’t until I had thrown a small fit that Brandee finally confronted me about my guilt. She gently reminded me that I didn’t owe her anything, and that we were both friends and sisters in Christ. She told me that sometimes it would work out for her to babysit more, and sometimes it would work out for me to babysit more.

A friendship that doesn't keep score---what a simple, beautiful idea.

What if instead of keeping score we simply poured into each other as best we could and helped each other with whole, generous hearts?

What if we stopped keeping score in our marriages? Married folks, you know what I'm talking about. Who has emptied the dishwasher more? Who has gotten up with the baby more? Who has folded more laundry? Who has changed more diapers? Whose job is harder? Who is more tired? Who is more deserving of a break?

Keeping score is not only exhausting, it's also the exact opposite of grace. When our favors and acts of service are contingent upon reciprocity, they're not really gifts at all, are they?

Brandee was right about our swap. Sometimes it has worked for her to babysit more and sometimes it has worked for me to babysit more. When I was having a rough week last month, she brought me flowers. When she had the stomach flu a few weeks ago, I brought her soup and popsicles. Whoever is in need always receives help; it's a natural give and take. Letting go of my desire to keep our babysitting swap perfectly "even" was a worthwhile, albeit slow process. Our friendship grew because of it, as did my overall attitude about helping friends.

I know we're in the middle of February and resolutions have come and gone, but today I'm making a new one:

I want 2014 to be the year I throw away the scorecards.

So what if I change more diapers? So what if I text a friend 3x more often than she texts me? So what if I did someone a huge favor and never got a thank you card?

So what?

Let's let it go. Let's accept help when it's offered to us without the guilt of owing anything back. Let's throw out the scorecards and put forth our best hearts with nothing but generosity as our intention. Let's offer help when help is needed and accept help when we are the ones in need. We don't need to count or check boxes or make sure the scale is balanced---it's okay to let it tip back and forth over time through different seasons.

After all, if Christ wasn't keeping score on the cross, who are we to keep score of anything?

the messier the house, the better the friendship.

bestfriends2(we dress them alike because we can)

A few weeks ago, my friend Christina and I were sitting on the floor in her living room, watching our boys attempt to share blocks and toy cars. As usual, we were simultaneously chatting about everything and nothing.

I made a comment about my house being a mess, to which Christina gave me The Look.

"I don't believe you."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Your house is never messy! You have one of the most uncluttered houses I've ever seen," she said.

I laughed. Clearly she had never popped by my house spontaneously.

"It IS a mess," I protested, "My kitchen is a disaster. There are Christmas presents that still need to be put away. Dishes everywhere, Target bags everywhere, laundry everywhere. I swear! IT IS A LEGIT MESS!"

She still didn't believe me.

"I'll tell you what," I said, "I am going to text you a picture of my kitchen when I get home."

So I did. I went home, threw the diaper bag on the floor just like I always do, and snapped a picture of my messy kitchen.

She replied: "Disaster area!! Kiiiiidding. It does make me feel better though since mine looks similar most days of the week." (Mind you, I have NEVER seen Christina's house messy. Not even a little bit.)

The next morning, in an attempt to even the score, Christina texted me a picture of one of her messy closets. I immediately one-upped her and sent a picture of our office, which was littered with boxes, shopping bags, paperwork to shred, and other miscellaneous items.

It was kind of a joke, but a refreshing one.

For reference, Christina and I see each other 2-3 times a week, sometimes more. We live walking distance apart, and our boys are good friends. We go to barre class together and get pedicures together and meet up at the park with our toddlers in matching outfits together. We talk about motherhood, marriage, and friendship; we share babysitters and crockpot recipes and date night recommendations. We are very, very good friends. If friendship bracelets were still a thing, I would have already made one for her.

But what does it mean when your very, very good friend has never seen your house a total mess?

Let me clarify: Christina has seen my house less than perfect many times. I don't scrub the floors when I know she's coming over, but I usually do the dishes and attempt to put 15 of the 25 toys scattered around the living room back into the wicker baskets where they belong.

The funny thing is---I like a little mess when I come to your house. If I see a stack of mail on the counter or a small pile of laundry in the corner, I breathe a sigh of relief. Oh, you're human too? You leave mail unopened for three days on the kitchen counter too? Thank goodness.

The truth is: I love seeing your mess but I hate showing you mine.

Sometimes I think of friendship as a process in peeling back layers. When we first meet a new friend, it's almost like there are 100 layers between us---imagine 100 sheets hanging between two people. With time and conversation, shared secrets and confessions, the sheets slowly start dropping.

Eventually, there are only 50 layers.

Secret, confession, secret, confession.

37 layers.

Secret, confession, secret, confession.

23 layers.

When you purposefully allow your friend to see your house in a state of total mess, you are intentionally dropping a layer.

There's practically a scale for this in my house. If you're an A-list friend, a friend who has seen me without makeup, I'm much more relaxed about the house being a little messy. If you're a friend who only comes over twice a year, I'm probably vaccuming every room before you walk through the door. My scale is simple: the messier the house, the better the friendship.

But what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Do we let our good friends see our mess after a solid friendship is established? Or do we let the people who see our mess become our good friends? Does friendship lead to the mess, or does the mess lead to the friendship?

I don't know the answers, I'm just thinking out loud.

What I do know is that in the day to day grind, I'm making a new resolution to leave some cheerios on the floor for anyone who comes into my house. Just two or three, to make everyone else feel more at ease. When you come into my house, I want you to see the stack of mail on the kitchen counter, the coffee mug on the nightstand, the toy cars on the bathroom floor.

This is where I live. This is my home. This is me.

And sometimes I'm a straight up mess. 

Challenge of the day: text your best friend a picture of your messy kitchen. And then e-mail it to me (ashlee.gadd@gmail.com). I'm going to do something fun with it.

texts

friendships worth fighting for.

Oh, friendship. So good, so hard. My friendships have changed a lot in my twenties. I think that's a pretty normal post-high school and post-college transition for most girls, right? It's a time where most of us are soul searching and changing, chasing dreams and getting married, a time where we are hopefully becoming more comfortable in our own skin and more grounded in who we are.

As I've gotten older, my friendships have also changed. In my early twenties I went through a process of letting go of a few friends, while one close friend let go of me. It's ironic how being on one side doesn't feel like a big deal, but when you're on the other side, it can be The Biggest Deal In The World. In my mind I had plenty of reasons to let go of friends (We've grown apart! She's so condescending! We have nothing in common anymore! I'm the only one putting in effort!). Friendship can often be selfish in that way---as soon as we're not getting what we want out of it, we can choose to walk away. At the time I felt justified in my actions, but after being on the other side of the coin, I often wonder: did I give up too easily?

I have been the friend who leaves and I have been the friend who is left. By far, the latter is much harder to accept. This happened to me once a few years ago and it cut me deeply, like a wound that never fully healed. This friend and I were close. Very close. Like, she-was-in-my-wedding-and-I-was-in-hers close. To this day I am still unsure of what really happened between us. There was an e-mail full of accusations, and then it was over. I tried to understand, I tried to reason, I tried to defend myself, but it was over before I really got the chance to do any of those things. She was done. Years and years of friendship, gone, poof! Just like that.

I was crushed. How could she give up on our friendship so easily?

I remember telling the story to a group of close friends right after it happened, repeating the hurtful e-mail contents through tears on Sharon's couch. Everyone consoled me and reassured me that it was her and not me, which is irrelevant but probably what I needed to hear that night. Sharon e-mailed me the next day and promised that no matter what happened between us, she would never abandon our friendship. She told me that if an issue or conflict ever arose between us, she would bring it to me and we would work it out.

It was one of the most profound, yet simple e-mails I had ever received from a friend. Sharon was, essentially, promising to fight for our friendship.

Her words made me feel surprisingly safe. No argument or misunderstanding would rip us apart over an e-mail; our friendship was too good for that. Our friendship was too strong for that. And what an amazing feeling that is, to be secure in something as essential and life-giving as friendship, to know that your relationship is not contingent upon your ability to always do the right thing or say the right words. How comforting to know that we are all human and we all mess up from time to time, but that with forgiveness and grace, we can move forward together in friendship with one another.

I'm not a perfect friend. I'm not even always a good friend. I certainly try to be. Sometimes I wonder what friendships would look like if we treated them more like marriage. When Brett and I get into a disagreement, for example, it's not my first instinct to walk out the front door. I don't hire an attorney and file for divorce every time there is conflict between us. We are committed to each other, forever and always, no matter how hard things get.

That level of commitment is obviously designed for marriage, but sometimes I wonder what would happen if we applied a lesser version of it to our friendships? What if we vowed to love our friends for better and for worse?

What if we stopped giving up on friendship so easily and vowed to fight for it instead?

Make no mistake, I understand that there is a time for letting go of friends. I've been there. But once you get to the point in your life when you've found your inner circle, your people, the ones who visit you in the hospital after giving birth and bring you chocolate when you're having a crappy day and let you cry on their couch about the hard things and pray for you on a regular basis, isn't that worth fighting for?

I believe it is.

Have you ever experienced a friendship breakup? Did someone give up too easily, or did you fight to fix it? Let's chat about it in the comments...

we met on twitter before that was cool.

Hello friend! The world is a funny place. We see "New York, I love you" the first time we "meet"....fast forward two years, your photos inspire me to move to NYC. And then, it's a coffee date with one of your friends that leads to the interview that leads to the job that I'm off to this morning on Madison Avenue.

Love, Christine

(postcard from NYC, 10/3/2012)

_______________________________________

Christine and I started following each other on Twitter back in 2009 after we were both mentioned in the same local article. A few casual tweets followed, and before I knew it, we were making plans to meet up at the movies. I had never done anything like that before, and I remember Brett asking cautiously as I flew out the door, "Wait....you're meeting a girl at the movies? From the Internet?!" It seemed preposterous at the time (little did we know I'd be making a lot of friends on the Internet in the coming years).

I showed up at the Crest theater feeling slightly awkward and nervous, as much to be expected on a blind friend date. I had only seen a small photo online, but recognized Christine the minute she walked into the theater. We took our seats and made small talk, mostly about Sacramento (her old hometown, my new hometown). About two minutes into the conversation, she casually mentioned that she had just broken up with her boyfriend, was quitting her fancy PR job, and moving to France.

That's when I almost spit out my diet coke.

You're doing what?! She told me all about her plans (or should I say, lack of plans), as I listened in complete awe. Who was this girl? She was so....cool. So adventurous. So low maintenance. So....unlike anyone I had ever met.

That's the moment when I realized Christine and I were complete opposites. Me: married, homeowner, steady job, already thinking about babies. Her: carefree, single, world traveler, babies not even on the radar. For the last three years she's been traveling the world: France, Australia, Bali, Thailand, Croatia....are you impressed yet? Meanwhile, back in Sacramento, I've been working and popping out a baby. She's now living the high life in New York City, working in the fashion district and spending her lunch breaks at the MoMA, while I'm living out of the same two pairs of sweatpants, tickling a baby all day.

And yet, despite our differences, we both have a mutual affection for writing, social media (obviously), traveling (me: daydreaming, her: actually traveling), sunshine, Sacramento, and perhaps our most shared passion of all: gelato. We've spent hours talking about everything from our careers to our relationships to our hopes and dreams for the future. We've helped each other establish writing contacts and job leads and friends in new cities. She has, quite literally, sent me snail mail from across the world on a regular basis.

Which, when I really stop to think about it, is what I love most about Christine. To me, Christine embodies what a true friend really looks like: she is intentional in pursuing our friendship. By that I mean, every single time she is in Sacramento, even if it's just for a quick week, you can bet she's e-mailing me to set up a gelato date. She was in town for a brief time this summer (post Thailand/pre-Croatia, I think?), but still found time to meet Everett and bring us a delicious home cooked meal (with the recipe handwritten on a card!). Even though we have often lived on different continents, and now live on opposite sides of the country, I would never hesitate to call Christine a friend. And not just a friend, a great friend.

Have you ever made a real life friend on Twitter?

girl crush.

(I am completely aware that this post is going to make me sound like a total loser. But this really happened, so...whatever.) I was standing at the counter waiting for my nonfat extra hot tuxedo mocha to appear when I saw her walk through the door. She had killer bangs, a huge smile, and the second cutest baby boy I've ever seen holding on tightly to her hand.

She seemed to know everyone there, probably a former barista in her pre-baby days, although I had never seen her at my Starbucks before. Her little boy flashed me a smile and I couldn't help but mention that I had a baby of my own at home. We exchanged polite mommy chit-chat, the good kind with familiar nods and no judgments. She was cool. Cooler than cool. And she looked exactly like Rachel McAdams, which made her even cooler. I freaking love Rachel McAdams.

"Tuxedo mocha for Ashlee!"

I grabbed my drink, said bye, and left to run as many errands as I could possibly fit in to the two-hour babysitting window I had that day. It was one of the first times I had left Everett at home, and was still getting used to being out and about without him.

I later mentioned the Rachel McAdams lookalike to Brett, who joked that I should have asked her out on a play date.

"Am I really that desperate?" I joked back.

Well, apparently I am, because I have run into the Rachel McAdams lookalike four times since then and every single time I contemplate inviting her and Rory to hang out with me and Ev. Is that weird? Is that desperate? I know we live in the same city and share a mutual love for baby boys and caffeine, but is that enough to form a friendship? Is this what stay-at-home-mommyhood has done to me? Made me so desperate for new friends I am willing to hit on complete strangers at Starbucks?

It's possible. At least I'm willing to admit it, right?

Question of the day: how do you ask out a new friend? Would you be creeped out if a person like me asked you out on play date at Starbucks? I'm trying to be as non-creepy as possible, but I feel like the fact that I just blogged about this encounter is the ultimate creep factor.

(BTW, if me and Rachel McAdams lookalike actually do become friends in real life, I will have to delete this blog post immediately. Thanks for understanding.)