Throw Back and Flash Forward

Share Button

In 1975 I met my best friend Molly. We lived kitty corner from each other and were both attending Mrs. Thompson’s preschool class. Our moms weren’t friends. They didn’t seek out a friend for us. It was purely by chance and by geography that our friendship began. And if you had told me then that nearly 40 years later we would still be best friends, I would have said, “Huh? 40 years, we are going to be so old then!” And there are days that I couldn’t have been more right!
Preschool_crop{Molly is the cute one–second from the left in the front row.  I am the one that looks like a boy right next to her in plaid.  My mom was not known for her snappy dressing skills}

On the first day of kindergarten we met “on the corner” of Peterson and 5th where our streets intersected for the first of more than 2,000 times to walk to school.  Our moms met with us and walked us down Peterson to 8th Street where we were instructed to take a left at the house with a cat on the roof.  No lie, the house had a white ceramic cat on the roof for as long as I lived in Alta.  (I asked my dad to go take a photo of it for this post, but the cat is long gone…bummer!)  Then we had to walk to Main Street, and then take a right and walk the last two blocks up the hill to the Elementary School.  All tolled it was about 7 blocks, which doesn’t seem like much, but when you realize that the town was only 9 blocks square, that’s a long way for Kindergarteners!  And after that day, we were on our own to figure it out.

Kindergarten{Again Molly is looking cute third in from the left in the back and I’m the one in the red skirt hiked up with red tights.  Either the photo has a stain, or I did.  It should be noted that of these kids, I’m Facebook friends with 13 of them.  Molly was not the only long time best friend culled out of this era.}

Even though we walked together on the first day of school every single year for 13 years, collectively we do not have one photograph from a first day of school.  According to Molly’s mom, film was far too expensive to waste on an every day occurrence like the first day of school!  I remember the cameras that we had growing up with the detachable, disposable flashes that would get real hot and smell like burning plastic every time you took a photo.  Can you say carcinogens?

SecondGrade{This is the last class photo that I’m posting, since you see the pattern.  We only had 44 in our whole graduating class, so the faces are familiar year to year.  And Molly always looks cute and I still look like a boy.  I’m rockin’ the 70s collar here.}

On the other side of Molly’s house is a church, which had several plaques at the door ways, which we would pretend the letters on them were really a key pad and we could order up drive through, pretend it was an elevator, and later, punch in what we wanted to be when we grew up.  I had decided by age 10 that I wanted to be an interior designer when I grew up–not quite sure how I even knew what an interior designer was in my town of 1,700 in 1981 without HGTV, and Molly wanted to be a mom.  We both got our wish–and more.

Rendering{Here is my first “perspective” drawing as a budding interior designer at 10.  This interior was inspired by my grandparents’ “sunk in” living room and it’s an absolute marvel that I still have this 33 years later!}

As we transitioned from elementary school to junior high, my fashion did not improve greatly and we both were struck with the awkward braces wearing phase.  Molly took copious notes on who owed her money and I started wearing fake Sally Jessy Raphael glasses and became a cheerleader.

confirmation{Here we are at our confirmation.  Molly selected Elizabeth as her confirmation name and I chose Theresa–ugh!  Why?  As a side note–we had to make our stoles ourselves, which were made from felt, and I fashioned my letters for Theresa from the letters from the Zesta saltine cracker box.}

 Eventually we shed the braces and upped our fashion sense as we entered high school and started to put our college plans into motion.

Prom{Here we are with our other “besties” at our senior prom.  Please keep in mind this was 1990.  It’s also safe to assume that part of the global warming is a result of the amount of Aqua Net hairspray that was used in Alta, Iowa.  Another side note–I designed my dress myself–I call it matronly vamp.}

In Iowa you are either an Iowa State fan or an Iowa fan and it’s something you are almost born with and it’s nearly impossible to coax someone to the other side.  So after thirteen years of daily walks, sleep overs, gossip, and endless laughter, we split ways.  I was off to Iowa State to study interior design and Molly was off to the University of Iowa to study Sports Leisure Health Studies.  Seriously–how different could we be, yet be so inseparable?

Four years later, we ventured out the other side of college bright eyed and ready to make a difference.  I took a summer job as a nanny on Cape Cod in Massachusetts and then went on to work as a corporate interior designer at a firm in Boston and Molly went on to run and oversee the new construction of a Aquatic/Recreation complex in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

5Year{Here we are, back with our friends, to celebrate our 5th year high school reunion.  Molly was sporting the body of a woman that exercised for a living.  Mine spoke of my love for Rocky Rococco pizza.}

 Through the next 20 years our lives changed dramatically.  Molly had two kids, made a move back to Alta, got her MBA with an emphasis in Accounting, married the man of her dreams and then moved to the western suburbs of Chicago.  I had had high hopes of moving to New York city when I met my match, I got my MBA with an emphasis in Finance (you see our lives are converging), got married, quit my job as an interior designer, started my own company and a family.  In these years, we spent endless hours on the phone and trips back and forth nursing ourselves through heart ache, baby dramas, and venting about our parents.  In there somewhere, we started working together even though we were 1,000 miles apart, which gave us an excuse to talk on a weekly and daily basis.  Without even realizing it we were morphing into well oiled machines of “busy working from home moms” that did everything that needed to be done for everyone.

Reunion{Here we are with our “besties” (reference the prom photo above) in Chicago for a girls weekend in 2013.  We started to live for our every other year gatherings to reconnect and get away.}

But in 2013, we started having serious conversations about needing to retreat, reconnect, and figure out what is next in our lives.  We needed to stop the madness for a reprieve to focus on ourselves for awhile, much to our husbands’ dismay.  So we searched the world over for conferences, retreats, online programs, anything and finally found the ticket–The Bigger Game Living Retreat on Lake George in upstate New York.

Schedule{To assure that everyone was going to survive while I was gone, I did a full schedule, by day and hour for the time I was going to be gone.  I joked while I was away that I couldn’t extend my trip, because they wouldn’t know what to do when the Sunday schedule ran out.}

Molly flew into Albany, NY where I picked her up and then headed further upstate.  We had spent so much time and energy planning for the trip and all of the logistics that it takes to coordinate two kids back home, that we hadn’t even focused on what lie ahead.  Which was probably a good thing, because we were in for an awakening!

 LakeGeorge{Here is a view of Lake George from the Silver Bay YMCA that the retreat was held at.  Think Dirty Dancing.  It was spectacular.}

If you are not familiar with Play Your Bigger Game, go immediately out to get the book to start–you’ll thank me later!  Rick Tamlyn is the co-founder of this program, which grew out of corporate America as a way to help teams innovate.  Over the years it has blossomed into a program for all that helps you realize that your whole life is made up–why not play it and make it what you want!  The premise is simple–there are nine squares on the “playing board”–Comfort Zones, Hunger, Compelling Purpose, Assess, Bold Action, Gulp, Sustainability, Allies, and Investment.  At any point in your life, you are standing on a square, and perhaps straddling two for a bit of “Twister” action.  When I arrived in Silver Bay I was firmly on Hunger and heading into Gulp–I had a preconceived notion as to where I was headed (or I hoped so).  Molly was between Comfort Zones and Hunger–she knew she wanted something, but didn’t know what.

20141024_085438{The campus where the retreat took place over a four day period was breathtaking and so inviting.  This is a shot of the fireplace in the building where we met that never went out the entire time we were there.}

As we were heading across campus the first afternoon to meet the other participants we pondered how many people were going to be there.  We assumed a lot.  We hoped a lot.  But we opened the door, and saw 20 chairs and we both panicked–we were going to be dumped out of our comfort zones in a heart beat.  We were met by 18 other participants from across the country and the world–all hungry for something more.  Rick Tamlyn and Shannon Kelly, the co-facilitators for the retreat, started us off with acknowledging the big accomplishments that we had made so far in our lives and it was downhill from there.  Over the course of the next four days we conquered our comfort zones, we walked a labyrinth, we did visualizations, we found our compelling purposes and we set our bold actions into place.  Selfie{Here is a selfie of us from Day 3 (I think).  Please note just how much bigger my head is then Molly’s–crazy town!}

I cried a lot during the process–so much so, I was extremely dehydrated by the time I got home!  But almost none of the tears were for sadness, but rather the huge connection I felt for the other participants and their stories, my reconnection with Molly and having the ability to share this weekend with her, and for the joy of finding my compelling purpose and setting the wheels in motion for the next chapter in my life.  While the next Bigger Game Living Retreat isn’t until next October, I would encourage you to think about what square you are standing in right now, and start thinking about where you want to go next.  Take some time for yourself every day to contemplate, and…who am I kidding–forget contemplation, use the time to go to the bathroom alone!  It’s about the little steps, not the huge leaps.  What brings joy into your life and focus on getting more of that!

Class{Our Bigger Game Living Retreat class of 2014 all with their jazz hands!  And while I came to the retreat with one life long friend, I left with 21.}





  1. Molly Nelson-Braland

    “The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.” – Elizabeth Foley

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *