L.A. Moms Share Special Friendships

In September, we asked moms to write in and tell us about the important friends in their lives. Then we partnered with Terranea Resort to put together a getaway for one special group of women. Dozens of touching stories came in, and we chose Kristine Willis as our winner. Here’s how she describes her group of mom friends:

Getaway Winner: Kristine Willis

Kristine Willis will be enjoying a Terranea getaway with her girlfriends.

Kristine Willis will be enjoying a Terranea getaway with her girlfriends.

I have known these amazing women from 20-35 years now, and we have kept each other strong and laughing throughout.

I lived and worked with Janet for eight years. During that time, Janet taught me how to listen. When her baby girl was diagnosed with life-threatening myelofibrosis at the age of 6 months (and I was pregnant with my first child), she taught me the grace of holding on tight to your child no matter what. I am happy to report that, after a bone marrow transplant, Janet’s daughter, Ava, is now a fully recovered thriving 4-year old.

Front row, left to right, Dawn, Janet, Lyssa and Kristine.

Front row, left to right, Dawn, Janet, Lyssa and Kristine.

Dawn has been my crazy friend since the 6th grade. She showed me how to be fearless and what the payoff can be if you just take some risks sometimes. She was one of the first people I called when I miscarried my first pregnancy, because I just knew she knew. Who would have thought that the rebellious teenager who introduced me to ditching class would become one of the best moms I know.

Lyssa has been by my side the longest and has chosen to stay there for over 35 years. She walked up to me on the playground in the 4th grade, told me that her mom worked with my mom and asked if I wanted to play. Lyssa has taught me that it’s OK to wear your heart on your sleeve, even when you know heartbreak is imminent. I am still in awe that such a force of light could be attracted to such a cynic as myself (yes, even at age 7) so many years ago on that playground.

You see, all of these girls represent in the strongest of ways all the things that I thought were missing in me. But really, I just needed them to help me find those qualities in myself. They were always there. These ladies have been some of the first loves of my life. And they have allowed me to find the love of my life that I will be marrying next fall with these three girls at my side. How lucky am I?

Here are some of the other great stories we received …

Eileen Hovsepian

Hovsepian

Eileen Hovsepian and friends.

Positive, Supportive, Funny, Loyal, Unconditional, Non-Judgemental, Caring, and Giving are all the core values that make our friendship unique. Although we’ve been friends for over 25 years, it’s not the number that binds us, but the quality of friendship we share on a daily basis. During the past 25 years we have been girls scouts, team mates and roommates. We’ve been in each other’s weddings and given each other the proud title of Godparent to each other’s children. We look up to each other and learn from each other. We are each professionals in a field that cares for people – psychologist, children’s dentist, physician, and special-education teacher. Balancing the life of motherhood and work, we turn to each other for support (listening ear, advice, babysitting, party planning) but most importantly we turn to each for FUN!! We really know how to have a good time and to laugh. However busy and chaotic life can be between all of our eight children, work, and our amazing husbands (who, by the way, are close friends because of us) we know the importance, or rather remind each other of the importance, of having FUN! It just takes a two-hour lunch for us to unwind by talking and laughing–we are better mothers, wives, friends, and daughters because of each other.

Through the years, we have done many family trips to the beach or snow, but last year we experienced an amazing trip to our homeland of Armenia. Our friendship was the reason why some of our children (two had been to Armenia before) were seeing our country for the very first time. Our friendship was the reason why our children got the rare opportunity to experience their history firsthand. There were many emotional and unique moments from that trip that will forever be engrained in our hearts.

Anna Wong

Wong

Vivian, Lisa, Lydia, Anna at Bellagio Conservatory during their first Vegas weekend getaway, 2007.

My girlfriends (Lisa, Lydia, Vivian) and I have known each other for over 15 years from attending the same church. Our kids are around the same ages ranging from the youngest in 4th grade to the oldest in 11th grade. We’ve seen our lives change from young marrieds to young families and now with teens and tweens! Mother’s days, of course, is a very special day for us because of our precious kids who give our lives meaning and purpose (and aggravation, exasperation, you get the picture).

We learned early on in motherhood that Mother’s Day was the one day of the year that our husbands were readily agreeable to anything we wanted with absolutely no fuss. We also learned early on how to milk that day for all it’s worth. We declined elaborate family dinners. We declined boxes of chocolates. We declined tickets to live theater. What my gal pals and I really wanted for Mother’s Day was a “day off from mommy duties” and hanging out with each other. Our “time off” celebration which usually consisted of some combination of spa, mani/pedi, massage and dinner, was decided upon after weeks of plotting and planning beforehand.

These precious few hours with girlfriends were spent catching up with uninterrupted conversation, encouragements, advice, words of wisdom. We have belly laughs. We enjoy fine dining. We like to try new things. As our little ones grew older, my gal pals and I started to ask “Why should we only spend just a few precious hours on Mother’s day catching up?” We dared to dream bigger and since 2007, the four of us have planned weekend getaways to Vegas as an annual tradition. Our husbands have been supportive of our tradition knowing that the refueling we got from the weekend lasted well into the year.

We decided on Vegas as a destination because it felt like a getaway when we got on the plane. And what happens in Vegas does stay in Vegas. Each trip has been a special memory with our conversations, and activities like watching shows, hitting jackpots on the penny slot, shopping, spa time, walking around the strip, doing makeovers on each other, having the guts to bet bigger on the game of Craps, wine tasting, clubbing (though we all agree the music is too loud for us now) and pigging out at buffets. One distinct memory dates back to 2010 when we were at Aureole restaurant in Mandalay Bay enjoying a wine pairing dinner.

We noticed another table of four elderly women (like a mirror image of us) also enjoying the same wine pairing dinner. We thought to ourselves that we hoped we would still be doing these weekend getaways well in our years.

Candace Totten

Totten

Candace Totten and friends.

This group of women keep me sane as a mother! Just after becoming a new mom, I felt very alone. I was the first of all my friends and family to have a child. I desperately needed a group of women that I could relate to. Soon after Mason was born, my neighbor and now dear friend invited me and my family to join their small group. What we didn’t know when we said yes was that this group of people would be invaluable to my family.

Between all of the women there has always been one of us that has been pregnant. We have 13 kids total and two more on the way. Because we have so many kids it is near impossible to have a conversation yet alone truly connect and share with one another. We currently do one girls night out a month which consists of great conversation, wonderful company and the opportunity to enjoy a meal out together. We have never had a weekend with one another and the chance to truly connect and focus on building our friendships.

Julie Dirkse

Dirkse

Julie Dirkse and friends.

Over four months this year (April-July 2014) myself and my three girlfriends together have had five babies! One was born in April, three in June (including a set of twins) and one in July! It has been a busy and blessed year! We have been through so much together infertility, extreme sickness in pregnancy and even enjoying the difficulties of having newborn and a toddler. It has been a busy and great year but we could really use some downtime after the stresses and adjustments of adding a newborn to the family. This getaway would be very appreciated!

Megan Fisher

Fisher

Megan Fisher and friends.

So the girlfriend that I would love more than anything to have this time with is my girl Eden. Eden and I have known each other now for 19 years. First meeting each other at boarding school in Massachusetts. We have stayed close and made a point of seeing each other almost every year since. I don’t want the following to sound like a sob story. It is indeed sad but Eden has been nothing but strong and never felt sorry for herself.

Eden had her first and only child 5 weeks before I had my second. She was residing in Chicago and me in LA. We were both so excited to have children so close in age and excited for them to meet, a few months had passed and we had yet to make a plan. Then came the dreaded phone call the day after Valentine’s Day that Eden’s husband, her soul mate. JP had had a heart attack at work and passed away. Her son Max was only 6 months old and Eden had just fully embraced being a full time Mom. Her life was forever changed.

This girl. I always knew she was strong. But not this strong. She grieved. she drank, she swore, she cried. She survived, went back to school, got a new degree. Got an internship, got a job, cares for her 3 year old boy and up until last month cared for her very sick four-legged baby girl Maddy. Maddy passing was symbolic in many ways. That was the pup that her and JP loved so much and now she was gone. it has been an amazing journey for Eden, she has used Crossfit as her crutch and her therapy.

I could not be more proud of the woman and mother she is. She came out to visit two years ago when Max was 1.5 and we had the most amazing week together with our children. We hiked, went to museums, played around LA and also were able to have Mom time and go dance and sing Karoke and be free. We love being active together, being Moms and we still like to party, And Lord knows Eden deserves a little R and R. I would love to give her this gift. She is such a kickass girl and I just love her to the moon. Our friendship means everything to me.

Alina Nadsady

Nadsady

Alina Nadsady and friends.

Three of us are sisters by birth; one of us is like a sister from birth; the four of us are friends for life. Through thick and thin – for 40+ years (yikes!) – we have loved each other and those around us and we have become stronger because of that bond that has grown since we were little girls! We have been with each other through the loss of a dad, our grandparents, through miscarriages, months spent in the NICU hoping one of our baby girls would make it (and she did!), from surviving cancer!…those unexpected and “I never thought that would happen to me” kind of moments. We have cried together through life’s rough patches, but we have also, more than anything else laughed together at the crazy and fun moments that life has thrown at us. We have celebrated each other’s marriages, births, new jobs, and all of those every day little moments that make life worth living.

Christina Tweedie

Tweedie

Christina Tweedie and friends.

Hi! Pictured here are my best girlfriends. We first met in college and it was instant chemistry! It’s now been 14 years. We all have children between the age of 1 and 4 and we are also now all pregnant again at the same time! These girls have been my rock through the best of times and the worst.

Our last girls trip took place last year on the weekend of September 21, 2013. Our husbands gave us the weekend off and took over child duties. We all flew out from various cities in California and met in Phoenix, Arizona for a weekend of shopping, lounging by the pool and a much needed break! As soon as we arrived, we changed quickly to head to the pool and that’s when things took a turn. I was 21 weeks pregnant and suddenly it was evident that something was going wrong with the pregnancy. My girlfriends rushed me to the hospital and there I found out how serious the situation was.

I was diagnosed with Cervical Imcompetency and my body was going into preterm labor. At a gestational age of 21 weeks, the baby would not survive outside the womb. I was devastated. With my husband still back in Los Angeles, my girlfriends held me tight and cried with me. That weekend I lost my baby and I could not have made it through without my best of friends being by my side and spending their vacation with me in the hospital.

Fast forward now a year later. I am now 35 weeks pregnant but it has not been an easy road! Because of the same complications that led to the preterm labor last year, I have been on strict bed rest for the last 5 months. Of the last 5 months, I’ve had to spend almost 2 of those months on strict bed rest and close monitoring at the hospital. I will be turning 36 weeks this Thursday, October 2, and after spending the last 7 weeks here at the hospital, my doctor is letting me go home on that day!

Erica Arrendondo

Arrendondo

Erica Arrendondo and friends.

My girlfriends and I have been BFFs since our kids were in preschool. Now that our kids are preteens and teens. We have been there for each other through thick and thin, supporting one another and offering a shoulder to cry on and celebrating our kids’ and our own personal victories.

When I had a stroke in 2009, at the tender ago of 37, they were there for me, cheering me on as I went through rehab and doctor’s visits. I regained the use of my right arm, relearned how to talk and walk, and even had to learn how to keyboard all over again. Throughout it all, they were really there for me, and I know I wouldn’t have recovered so quickly and fully without the unflagging support of my friends and family! Now that we’re busier than ever, it’s harder for us to get together, but we still meet once a week for exercise and talk therapy. I don’t know what I’d do without my BFFs in my life!

Cheri Herrboldt

Herrboldt

Cheri Herrboldt and friends.

I am a mother, a wife of a cancer patient and a full time hospice chaplain.

I met 3 of my inspiring and gifted “girlfriends” when I began working as a Hospice Chaplain at Kaiser Permanente nearly 5 years ago. While I had been working as a hospital chaplain, these amazing women had been working in hospice as social workers for over 10 years. When I arrived at Kaiser, I felt respected and valued as a whole person by these women. All of them knew what it was like to work in a crisis environment, be a mother, and have a great desire to engage in self-care.

Our jobs are tough. Each week we individually see over a dozen patients, of all ages, who are facing the end of life. We are there to journey with patients and their families at one of the most stressful times in their lives. Our goals are to help people find hope: hope to find peace, finish important goals, reconcile with others and gain spiritual and emotional closure. We often work together as a team, facilitating family meetings and / or tag-teaming to make sure that all family members get their needs met. We all serve many critical roles: a compassionate listener, an empathic healer, an intuitive truth-teller, a death doula, a witness, and a guide.

While we all love our jobs, it is emotionally and physically exhausting, not to mention the stress involved in driving to people’s homes which may include driving a 100 miles a day in congested LA traffic. Yet, we are tight. Our goal is to care for each other, knowing that we will definitely need it ourselves. There are days when one of us will call and cry and another listens and normalizes the feelings. Other days, one of us will put out an “All-Points Bulletin” and say that lunch is an absolute must and ask when and where we can meet. Every day we are on the phone with on another – checking in, encouraging and caring. We know and understand the long term stress of working in emotionally demanding situations that produces compassion fatigue.

And, after a long day of working in these situations, we all return home to serve our families as the CEO of the household, personal chef, taxi driver, errand runner, grocery shopper, birthday events director, vacation planner and chief ticklers! This is our “real” job. And, sharing our family joys and challenges makes working with these unselfish and generous women such a pleasure. They have taught me more than they can ever know.

Amberly Crouse

Crouse

Amberly Crouse and friends.

Well, all of our kids are BACK to SCHOOL and the hustle and bustle has begun. The early morning routine, the packing of the lunch, the running out the door without the back pack, shoes untied crazy. And then of course there are those days when you show up to school and your kid is the only one not in his/her PE uniform.

Going back to school takes some calculation of the mind that becomes a FULL TIME job. My girlfriends and I all have full time jobs as well. This group of women are not only the most dedicated soccer moms that hit the valley but they are also graphic designers, music supervisors, PR consultants and marketing strategists. We all go to bed at night with our minds swimming. We have all gravitated to each other because we have one common goal in common “Stay Sane”.

No really? We give each other tips on how to make the morning routine easier, or we make each other available for car pool, or quick recipes for that delicious meal and we babysit when one of us REALLY needs a date night with their hubby.

I am so lucky to have this group of friends that I call my “VILLAGE.”

Dana Manpearl

Manpearl

Dana Manpearl and friends.

As full-time working and very dedicated moms & wives, my girlfriends and I truly juggle everything! We are room parents at school, we work long hours at our respective offices, and then come home to make sure a healthy dinner is put together for our loved ones, homework is done…and then prep begins for the next day. And repeat and repeat! 🙂

We have also really begun to step in and take care of our parents, and without being able to lean on one another, I don’t know what we would do! Over the last year, we have all been dealing with our respective parents’ diagnosis of various illnesses. My dad who just turned 70 was recently diagnosed with early onset Dementia/Alzheimers. With the help of my girlfriends, we have really been there for my dear mom to lean on during this difficult time, all of us taking turns with food delivery, transportation for my dad and mostly just being there for whatever my mom needs. My friends have been everything to me, and my family, this last year and I would not have survived it without them.

We call our foursome the true “Sandwich generation”! While busy making “sandwiches” for our kids lunches, we are sandwiched daily in between taking care of our children and our parents, caring equally for both, and depending on our girlfriends to get us through each day!

Patricia Jackson

Jackson

Patricia Jackson and friends.

My friends and I work with preschool children with special needs. We all find it very rewarding, especially when we see our students meet their goals,but it is an extremely challenging job. Our students are amazing, and wonderful, and fun, and so full of life and at the same time very challenging. We love coming to work every day, even on the days that leave us exhausted and wondering why we chose this profession.

I don’t know what I like better, working with these fantastic little people or being able to work with such great people. We have become great friends and invaluable coworkers. We know that whatever the need is we are here for each other. We might have a student with a behavior that we don’t exactly know how to handle or maybe we forgot our lunch at home. Whatever the problem, we can count on each other to help solve it. We brainstorm about the classroom, and our students as well as how to celebrate a friend’s birthday.

We rally around each other at the loss of a loved one or if we have an angry parent yell and berate us. No matter what, good or bad, we can depend on each other.

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