Friendships, High School & Advice for #2 Cherub


My friends (Amy, Holly, Pam, Me, Theresa, Trissi, & Jodi) in our senior year at Kennebunk High School.

Two related things happened this weekend:

First, I learned that my High School Reunion is coming up this summer (!!!). I’ve never been to one, and I’m surprisingly excited to go. And second, #2 Cherub asked if I would preach a sermon series at church about friendships. Specifically, the friendships that happen during the school years of life, when you have less control over things like who is in your class and where you sit.

This sent me on a wild trip down memory lane, as I pulled out photo albums and wondered where my yearbook landed the last time we moved.


Senior Skip Day with my best friend, Amy.


I don’t remember receiving specific advice about friendship when I was a kid. We were taught as toddlers to share, not to push or call each other names, and that if we could manage an hour or so of outside play where no one came back bleeding, there was often cookies & Kool Aid in the deal to make it worth our effort.

As we got older, we were expected not to be bullies (although some kids were.) We were expected to be respectful and polite (although some kids weren’t.) There was a lot of teaching about behavior, but not much that I recall about friendship. (How you handled the former more or less governed how you experienced the latter.) I think this system served us pretty well and prepared us for life: No one was ALWAYS popular, it was okay to have friendships across different groups, and I gained a ton of abstract understanding about humanity – primarily that friendships have seasons and that somehow in the complexity, things work out.

But #2 Cherub wants specifics. She is very “have a plan and work it” in her approach to life, so I want to give her solid pieces to consider as she makes her plan.

So I ask you, fine readers: What specific, tangible advice would you give about making and keeping (and ending) friendships? 

One caveat: PLEASE don’t say, “Be Kind.”

Let me explain…

Kindness is the primary relationships narrative taught at her school right now. It looks lovely on a banner, but is not all that helpful in the depths of actual tween/teen relationships. It’s a starting point, obviously. But it’s not even close to the total skill set you need to build healthy, fun relationships.

I don’t think my friends and I were always kind to one another. We were pretty real. Caring. Occasionally b*tchy. Supportive. We had spats and subgroups and times when some weren’t speaking to others. As challenging as some of those aspects were, were learned a ton as we figured things out.  Yes, it sucks to go to school when one or more of your friends isn’t speaking to you. But it toughens you up. And you learn that these things don’t last forever, and at some point you won’t remember what even caused the rift. And how to move forward (or, as I learned later in life with different friends, to move on.)

When I look at the challenges my daughter faces now, I wonder if all this pressure to be KIND – nice, nonjudgmental, endlessly accepting to the point that there is no room to consider her actual response to people and situations – is part of the mean girl epidemic we see?

Don’t get me wrong. There have always been mean girls. But you could usually look behind it and see, even as a kid, “Oh, I bet that’s why she’s like that.” I don’t remember it being a norm, or something expected of a certain group of girls. I feel like we limit the development of nuanced skills when all the emphasis is on being KIND.  Because if you’re not KIND, you’re pretty much only left with MEAN. So you might as well make the most of it.

So now I’m wrestling with what to teach #2 about friendships. Because I think they matter so much.


See this picture? My Dad calls it, “The National Honor Society…and Trish.” :) It’s not even an insult – just a candid acknowledgement of my priorities during those years (shopping, anyone?)

I applied to colleges primarily because that’s what these friends were doing. I first visited Wheaton because it gave me an excuse to see my then-boyfriend at Boston College. So much of life is what you wind up in the middle of because of who (whom?) you’re with. (Cue joke about needing a iufriend who loves grammar…)

I just don’t think “be kind to everyone” offers enough as a governing principle. It’s like an Allen wrench: it’s either exactly what you need in the moment, or of little use at all.

 But what’s the better advice?

Tell me…What would you tell your school-age self about friendships?

What would you tell a school-age kid today? 

Big Hopeful Thoughts From Our Trip to Hawaii!

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I am way behind where I thought I’d be in sharing with you about our trip to Hawaii! We’ve been home for a week now, and each day I sort of wander around and do what needs to be done, but allthewhile I’m lost in kind of a reverie, thinking about God.

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Our friend Jordan preaching last Sunday. He and his wife Sonya (they used to live in Cambridge, which is how we’re connected to them) founded Bluewater Mission.

Okay, that sounds creepy. But it’s not. It’s filled with surreal joy.  These thoughts aren’t dreamy or delusional. They’re the outcropping of the incredible, concrete things we heard and saw and got to be part of in the Bluewater Mission faith community over the ten days we were on Oahu. (When you click on the link & see the slide show of pictures on the home page, imagine me & Steve under that basketball hoop, looking VERY untanned and New England-y, doing church with these awesome people – most of whom hugged us at one point or another. There is much hugging in Hawaii!)

photo copyAmidst all the hugging and warm welcome, we got to hear peoples’ STORIES. We got know men and women who not long ago were homeless, or victims of human trafficking, or strung out on drugs, who are now clear-eyed and excited, working really hard and getting real help – not just prayers and pep talks (although there are lots of those) but also a place to live, friends to love and do life with, a restaurant called Seed in which to work to earn money and learn skills.  Home, friends, a job, hope for the future. That sounds like the recipe for a new life, doesn’t it? I mean, who DOESN’T need these things?

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Shopping for baskets for Seed with our friend Robyn, another former Cantabridgian!

And it wasn’t just this sort of transformation. On a more behind-the-scenes level, we also got to witness the redemption God has brought to the leaders who are making this all happen: how Jesus has taken negative things that have been said to them or about them in regard to their personality/talents/dreams (“That will never work, stop suggesting it,” or “You’re not the person I think of when I consider a project like that…”) and turned the world upside down to create space for them to live into these dreams and THRIVE.  Of course, it’s practically killing them. They’re exhausted and beyond themselves and in water so deep they have no hope of finding land anytime soon, or perhaps ever. But they are swimming. And experiencing, minute-by-minute, that miraculous thing where God breathes air into your desperate lungs and keeps you afloat in the midst of impossible situations, giving you a front-row seat as He rescues people.

I tear up every time I think of it. This is why I’m walking around in a happy daze talking to God, asking Him what this means for us here in New England. Getting excited about transformation and redemption and seeing in real time Jesus’ promise that what is impossible with men is possible with God.  I am so excited about this, I’m having a little trouble functioning like a normal person again. But that’s okay. Being a normal person was never my strong suit :)

If you’d have told me years ago that one day, friends would send my husband and me on a 10-day trip to Hawaii, pay for our flights and hotels (I mean, WHO DOES THAT? Jesus’ people.

That’s who!),  and that the highlights of swimming in turquoise blue surf in late-February

Painting trim at Seed!

Painting trim at Seed!

and drinking mai-tais on the beach at sunset would be more than matched by the wonder of painting trim and washing dishes and shopping for 20 lbs of onions and 25 packages of shabu-shabu beef at a grocery store hidden behind a concrete wall (our credit card balked at this – apparently guests of the Royal Hawaiian don’t often find their way inland to make bulk purchases of beef & produce. Which  is a shame. They should!) for a new restaurant founded to bring justice to a community we’d never heard of and could barely pronounce…I’m not sure what I would have said. It’s all unbelievable, and yet it’s true.

Such is life in the Kingdom of God.

Wherever we go, that’s where the party is

Thank you all so much for sharing in my sorrow as I said goodbye to THAT DOG. It has been harder than I expected. Your words and comments (and voicemails and texts) helped more than I can describe. Thank you.

Okay, on to today!

imagesNormally, I’d post my notes from the weekend sermon. And I wrote a sermon! It was a hum-dinger, guaranteed to change your life and connect you to God in ways that would transform EVERYTHING! Well, I’m kidding about that. But it was a good one.

But on Sunday morning, as we were setting out the bread and wine and preparing to spend time with God (rather than painting, or sawing pieces of old wainscoting to reuse, or trying to figure out what type of sandwich to make for dinner), my friend Pascha called. “We’re at home today,” she said. “Want to come over and do church together?”

We put the glass of wine back in the fridge & repackaged the bread. We spent an hour shoveling our way out of the driveway and went to spend the morning with our friends. It was glorious. A bonus blessing that caught me by surprise.

When we got there, Pascha’s husband Paul pulled out the bible passages from the Book of Common Prayer, and we spent the morning talking about Jesus’ admonitions to stay in our own lane, let his light shine through us, and be salty (one of my favorites of Jesus’ marching orders).  And I was reminded of the verse from a song that I guess was popular 10-15 years ago, but I just found recently. It describes a life where you see God doing cool stuff everywhere you go. The main line goes, “Wherever we go, that’s where the party is!” This strikes me as solid choice for a life theme :)  Paul and Pascha, Gretchen, and (now that I think of it) most of my friends all have this quality. It makes life fun.

Pascha fed us all delicious soup & homemade challah, and I decided on the spot that I also want to be the type of person who has the necessary items on hand to have an assortment of people over for a spontaneous gathering and feed them well.

It was a good day. The basis of the sermon I’d prepped was this passage where Jesus tells us not worry about the things we need in life, but to seek first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness, and all the other things will be added to our lives, too. Dropping our plan to gather with friends felt like step in that direction.

It’s A Start

Not our friends or our living room. But note the squished in-ness.

Not our friends or our living room. But note the squished in-ness!

Steve and I are starting a faith community here in our living room.  We’ll meet for the first time on Sunday, December 29th, at 10:00am.

There will be prayer, a sermon, and some time to quiet the chaos of life and listen in to what God might be saying to each of us.

Steve and I are starting this because we like being in a community where we help each other figure out what God is saying and doing. It adds to life, shaping the rhythm of your week in a way nothing else does. Our approach to faith was formed in this sort of gathering about a decade ago, in what was called a small group – a phrase always spoken with a hint of irony, as those groups rarely stayed small for long, and were comprised of people willing to squish over a bit on the couch or floor to make room for new people each week. We talked and laughed and hoped together, looking at the Bible to help us make sense of it all and figure out how to respond. It was a powerful, transformative thing.

Part of what we learned was that when you explore Jesus together, you become a sort of second family. It’s surprising, actually, how people you may not have much in common with outwardly become allies in your life. There’s something about believing together – that that Jesus cares for us, speaks to us, and has a purpose for our lives…and that a primary way we discover what that is and how to pursue it is by squishing together in the living room to talk and learn and pray.  It’s kind of miraculous…and also very cool.

More than a decade later, we are surprised (and grateful) to realize that these ties are still strong – we are STILL family, still helping and encouraging and being for each other in amazing ways, even though we are all living in different places and attending different churches. The bond still holds.

This feels like a time and a chance to “add to the family.”

If you live in Greater Boston and are wondering what God might be saying to you, or how to respond to what He is doing in your life, this might be something to check out.  Send me an email (TrishRyanOnline AT Gmail dot com) and I’ll give you directions to our house and answer any questions.

So that’s the start: On Sunday the 29th, Steve and I (along with THAT DOG) will be in our living room, celebrating God. You’re invited.

5 or 7 Things

images-2There’s one of those memes going around on Facebook right now where a friend gives you a number and you post that many things about yourself that most people don’t know. I love these. I love learning things about people that just don’t come up in everyday conversation – pet peeves, secret talents, childhood memories that stuck with you. It’s awesome.

Yesterday, two friends gave me numbers after I liked their posts. That’s when I realized that, as someone who has been blogging since before Al Gore was born, there’s really not anything you guys don’t already know.

I’ve covered my deepest fears (the dentist, salad), my weirdest summer job (butter girl), assorted things about the place I grew up (Maine), and all the ridiculous things I tried in my 20s to make my life work (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, now on special for just $3.99!)

As I wrestled with this, I realized that not much has changed about me since I wrote those things. But lots of things have changed about life. So I’m amending the meme just a bit, to be 5 or 7 Things That Have Surprised Me recently. Here we go:

1. A family member I hadn’t see or talked to in 13 years tracked me down online by Googling “Trish, Maine.” It has been so awesome to be back in touch with her.

2. Friends surprised us recently with an act of stupendous generosity. I can’t get over it (and still don’t entirely believe it’s real.) I’m inspired and grateful.

3. I’m REALLY sad that Friday Night Lights didn’t continue forever. We just watched all the seasons, and I care about those characters way more than is rational. I get a little heartbroken whenever I see one of them in some other context and am forced to admit that these are actors, and that Matt & Julie aren’t living in Chicago, finishing school and planning their wedding.

4. We’re packing to move. The more stuff I hide in boxes, the better the rooms in our place look. I think I might be becoming a minimalist. Which is not like me at all.

5. I’m not jealous of authors who are more successful than I am anymore. This wasn’t a big problem before. It was just something I was aware of, floating inside of me, that I chalked up to an occupational hazard. But now, for whatever reason, it’s gone. It feels really good to be super excited about different books and not wish I had written them.

6. We stopped going to church about a year ago and it’s been a pretty good thing for us. Weekends where you have two full days off are kind of nice :)  We’ll go back soon, I think. I miss it. But it’s been healthy to realize that all the stuff written about how if you’re not always in community, always serving, always using your talents for building the church, your faith will slip away…are just opinions.

7. A couple of weeks ago, I went to two gatherings of friends from our old church. It was amazing to realize how those years together knit us into a family, and how that has not changed. We’re scattered all over now, like a bunch of cousins who grew up in the same town & then spread out. But our roots are the same, and that makes us “for” each other in a way I hadn’t considered. It was wonderful.

Okay, there is my attempt at the meme. Even with the change, this took me 2 hours of thinking. In the time I wrote this post, I also took THAT DOG to the groomer and back, packed 4 boxes of stuff, and wrote a book review.  Which tells me that I need to find a way to be much more interesting between now & the next time this meme comes around!

Happy Weekend All :)


I have whiplash. Emotionally, that is. There’s this weird “What next?” question that hits after a big event is over. It leaves me casting about for some fun new distractions around which to organize my free time.

A13042350A friend from the West Coast messaged yesterday and said, “I miss you guys!” She and I haven’t seen each other in person in months (years?) because our lives are on different coasts, so it was so great to watch the games “together”  knowing we and a bunch of our friends would be be glued to our televisions and our computers, trading complaints about the Fox Sports commentators, and bolstering our certainty that Twizzlers served in a Red Sox travel mug are THE snack that would ensure World Series success.  (I credit the 6th inning of Game 4 to our group decision to switch from popcorn to peanut butter-based snacks, a choice that involved fifteen minutes of weighing options and a conversation about Jimmy Carter.)

You can see why now I’m at a bit of a loss.

UnknownSpeaking of Jimmy Carter, I imagine this is how former Presidents feel the day after leaving office. Yesterday, there were so many weighty, vital decisions to make. Today, there are no decisions, and I’m just trying to write my memoirs and wondering what to have for lunch.

Yes, that’s it. My life is JUST like that of the former Presidents! (Filing that under #perspective and #delusion)

I’m grateful for how events like this bring me back together with people from every part of my life.  I’m terrible at keeping in touch. Really, epically bad. The kind of bad that lets loose all the adverbs.  But today, as the first day of the month during which we have platitudes about gratefulness shoved at us from every direction, I’m going to scroll through the comments here on the blog, and friends on Facebook and Twitter, and think about how happy I am to know all of you. I think that will soothe the whiplash :)

It’s a Hoot!

photoI spent Saturday at the Wheaton Alumni Leadership Conference, soaking in the gorgeous foliage (Wheaton is SMART to have us return to campus in October rather than February) and connecting with new and old friends. I’d forgotten how good it feels to get together based on this one shared facet of our life experiences.

One of my favorite moments was in a social media workshop (I’m the social media chair for my class) where Molly Galler from the class of 2006 did a great job explaining Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & WordPress to a group of older alums. The take homes for me:

FIRST, how Wheaton is a place I find mentors, even now. Each time I return, I’m reminded by other alums how part of being a Wheaton grad is an ability to think, grow, and expand your horizons. Not that graduates of other schools don’t have this too – It’s just such a focus at Wheaton that after four years of immersion, it’s sort of in you in a way most of us don’t shake, even after graduation. Returning to campus stirs that back up in a way that’s really helpful. How often do you get to go to a place where people tell you BOTH that you’re doing great where you are…AND that you can accomplish something bigger or new or other if you want to? That’s a powerful combination.  I love how our older alums resist the temptation of, “Oh that’s for the younger folks…”  They’re willing to be beginners, ask questions, and try things.  I suspect this is the work-around for midlife crises: staying engaged and interested, being willing to be the only one in the room who admits you don’t get it yet, but that you’re going to.  I’m grateful for this annual reminder that as life keeps getting bigger, I can grow with it.

images-1-The second thing that made my day was this one alum – I think she’s in the Class of 1977 – describing how a couple of hours earlier, she’d posted her first picture to her new FB page, and had already seen two or three friends respond online.  “It’s Just a hoot!” she said.  At first I just giggled the way you sometimes do when someone uses an expression that’s no longer common. But then later that afternoon I thought about my own first experience years ago, figuring out how to get a picture to appear on my FB page, picking a funny caption, and then watching over the course of that day as friends from all over the country responded. It was a hoot!

Once in awhile (read: way more often), I need to step back from all these things that are now “normal” parts of our lives and marvel at them for a moment. It’s incredible, what we’ve learned and adapted to. And as much as naysayers love to prattle on about how awful screen time is and how online friendships can’t replace connecting in real life over coffee, I’m feeling the urge to celebrate what networks like Facebook and Twitter (not to mention my new obsession, Happier) make possible. Thanks to those, I’m connected with you all, and I enjoy more support, connection, camaraderie, and friendship than any other time in my life. The likelihood that I’ll remember anyone’s birthday has gone up 100% (I’ve never been great with dates) and over the course of a typical day, I get to interact and catch up with great people, and build relationships across a far wider slice of life than I could pull of via connecting in real life over coffee, no matter how many miles I travelled (or how much caffeine I could hold). As a memoir writer, I love how we’re all building our stories here online, one post at a time.

It’s a hoot, and I’m grateful for the reminder.