May 8th, birthday gratitude entry:
There are friends. And then, there are Friends.
Joanne and Rose are Friends.
Have you heard the sentiment “it takes a village (to raise a family)” — What. A. Truth. Among the three of us, we have twelve children. That’s twelve souls with their own personalities, destinies, preferences, and dreams. That’s twelve middle school graduation ceremonies, twelve sophomore science projects, twelve senior proms, twelve learner’s permits. We’ve seen twelve children sit in the driver’s seat, awaiting their license test. We’ve been witness to each of the twelve as they trek their way out into the world. We’ve listened, cheered, comforted, and encouraged. Raising one child is a handful. Raising twelve among us… is monumental.
For fifteen years – or more? – we three have met to work out twice a week. Sure, we heft some weights, sweat a little (alright, Jo sweats a lot), keep our cardio up, and make sure to hold our stretches. But waaaaaay more than that, we hold space for each other. We listen; we genuinely care; we pray for each other and all twelve of our children; we laugh at the antics of our goofball husbands (they’re each just so hilarious!) We’ve cried with each other when a child has made a rough choice; we’ve pondered together the advice to give a child who struggles; we’ve wept during funerals and celebrated during graduations.
Like the Friends show says: I’ll be there for you. And ain’t it the truth with these two. We hold each other’s hopes gently in our hearts. We wish the best for each one of our precious twelve children. We remind each other to take time for ourselves. We are a safe space to pour out our heart’s disappointments, frustrations, and brokenness. We dream together. We gab on about recipes.
Joanne is a fantastic cook and at least once a month comes in to our workout with a dish in each hand. Eating her creations is like eating Love. Rose has the most helpful, down-to-earth advice. We each listen well to the other… and, while that sounds like the best thing ever… I think what I appreciate most about them is their simplicity.
They have taught me so well the value in keeping the most important thing the most important thing. There are so many little who-cares that can distract… but at the end of the day, “do our children feel loved?” is what they’ve shown me by example is what makes a happy, healthy home. Truest wisdom around: don’t sweat the small stuff.
Love them. And let them figure it out.
Love them. And cheer for them, pray your guts out!
Love them. And believe it’s all working out in due time.
They keep this on the down-low: they volunteer hours every week at various organizations and are the nurturing backbone of their extended families. The dedication and honor with which they approach their families, commitments, and our community is an absolute blessing. We here in this area may never know the extent to which their vibe lifts the whole of Chautauqua County. Freaking. Awesome. Stuff.
I am not going to dive deep into how much these two have been my rocks. They wouldn’t want it that way. I’m going to end this short tribute to them in the way they would most prefer. By getting us all to laugh.
Because laughter has been the glue that has held us three together when life went way wrong, when the train went off the freaking tracks and everyone’s left screaming and crying. And we’ve had those times. Oh, we’ve had them. But, when the dust settles, the screaming ebbs to a whimper, and the sun once again rises in the sky for a brand new day… we find among the three of us the courage to keep going, to rise up, to believe that today will be good. That among the piles of poop, if we just dig a little longer, a bit deeper, the pony will appear. And so, with three shovels and hearts filled with genuine love and adoration for one another, we’ve been doing just that. Digging.
And some days, we cry. And some days, we growl. But most days, we find a way to get the other ones laughing. We’ve learned that laughter is a high vibe, clears the atmosphere of discouragement and fear, and brings healing. And so, we laugh. We laugh at the hilarity of our wonderful husbands whom we love so much. We laugh at the antics of our amazing children. We laugh at each other’s fun stories of our in-laws or pets or latest menopausal symptoms. Yes, we laugh.
We do life together. And we do it laughing.
Here is our song… a clip from SNL which has caused much laughter among us… probably a bit inappropriate but that too is just soooooo us. Every time I watch it, I am reminded that, whatever else it is, life is also funny. Sure, it’s overwhelming some days or weeks or months to raise your children, stay married, pay the bills, endure parenting your parents, and adjust to a new you through menopause… but, with true blue, I-got-you Friends… it’s good. And it’s funny. And it’s worth every single second.
And so, Jo and Rose – here’s to us, The Three Biotches!
Joanne Pantano and Rose Fitzgerald, I love you.
You. Complete. Me.
Much love & hope,