Jenny: The Family You Make

I met Anne Stuart online first through the GEnie RomEx boards in 1993.  My first book was just out; she was on her . . . I don’t know, fiftieth maybe?  Of course she’d been publishing since she was eight (not kidding), and I didn’t publish my first until I was 43, so she had a headstart.  She was a role model and a mentor; she talked me through bad times, gave me great career advice, and told me who to get for my first agent.  She was wonderful.  I don’t know when we met in person for the first time,* and even then we didn’t become close for a long time.  Geography, different subgenres, and general life distractions kept us from really connecting except at conferences where I enjoyed her company tremendously.  There was always SOMETHING going on around Krissie.  And then in 2006 we collaborated on a book called The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes with a mutual friend and we bonded.  Something about writing those witches made us really close friends.

I met Lani Diane Rich . . . I don’t remember how I met Lani Diane Rich.**  But I did, and I liked her a lot, she has a great attitude and a great laugh, and I envied her all that youth and enthusiasm, plus I really liked her books.  And we sat together at the 2005 RWA Rita awards in Reno and were both appalled by  the ceremony and delighted by each other’s Rita wins, so that was a shared moment.   Then one day we were chatting online with a mutual friend and decided to write a collaborative novel called Dogs and Goddesses, and while we working on that we bonded.  Something about writing those goddesses made us really close friends.

Then our mutual friend had to drop out of the project, and I said, “You know who would be good to join us in this?” and I became the mutual friend who introduced Krissie and Lani.  And then magic happened.

I know, that sounds ridiculous, but the synergy of the three of us together clicked so strongly that we moved beyond friends to sisters.  I’ve never had anything like this before, true sisters, the kind you fight with and it doesn’t matter, the kind you cry with and it matters a lot, the kind who are there for you even if you’ve been bitchy, if you haven’t showered in a week, if you’re so depressed you can’t scrape yourself off the floor, they’re there.   It’s absolutely amazing to me that these two women still love me after everything we’ve been through.  Lani and I live together, so we’ve had some real knock-down-drag-em-out fights, and I never once thought, “After that, our friendship is over;” I trusted she’d stick by me no matter what.  Krissie and I have done some heavy-duty traveling together and there have been any number of times that we’ve thought about killing each other–“She was so mean,” Krissie said to Lani after our last road trip (she tried to talk to me in the morning)–but we’ve never thought about letting go of each other.  This sisterhood is a freaking miracle to me, the family we made that’s so much stronger than the families we were born into.

And considering all the hell we’ve gone through in the past years, that’s a damn good thing.  I’d never have made it without them, without the sure knowledge that I could turn to them and say, “Help me,” and they’d be there in an instant.  I treasure my friendships with each of these women individually, but I need the family the three of us make together.  We were always meant to be here.

So this is a thank you to my sisters for sticking with me even when they wanted to strangle me.  And to say, the family you’re born with is not your last shot at family, the family you make may be the one that keeps you warm, keeps you safe, and keeps you going.

Thank God for Krissie and Lani.

 

* I ask Krissie how we met and this is what she said:

I do remember how we met face to face. We were at the Romex retreat in … some place in the midwest. St. Louis? Anyway, we were walking from the hotel to dinner and I ended up walking next to you and I asked who you were (in friendlier terms, of course) and when you told me I said “no, you aren’t. Jenny Crusie sounds like a a petite brunette, not a strapping blonde.” Again, there’s always the possibility I was more tactful, but there’s no guarantee.

**I asked Lani how we met and this is what she said:

The first time we actually spoke to each other was in 2003, at the RWA Conference in NYC. You did the keynote, about how the world doesn’t need writers, it needs storytellers, and I was totally enthralled. Then we bumped into each other in the walkway and I vomited my love and adoration all over you. You were incredibly patient.  As far as the first time we met that you might remember… I don’t know. Sometime between then and when we hung out the night of the 2005 Ritas in Reno – the terrible disaster-themed one. I won for Time Off, you won for Bet Me. We laughed all night, and I think that was the first time I looked at you and thought, “I could really be friends with this woman,” but thought it was silly because you were Jennifer Crusie and I was becoming one of those crazy fans who say, “I just know we’ll be best, best friends!” I think that was the first time we ever really connected. It was fun!

40 thoughts on “Jenny: The Family You Make

  1. Thanks for sharing you friendships. It’s brilliant making connections that are strong, supportive, always there. I met a friend through a competition and she asked me to join their critique group. I did…we’re the only one’s left in the group, (was it me 🙂 We live thousands of miles apart. I’ve met her once, but that doesn’t matter, we’ll always be there for each other and we’re just a phone call away.

  2. Now that my born-to family is virtually and, for all intents and purposes, non-existent, I am working on making new family. Some old friends have stepped up and taken up the family reins and various new friends I’ve met via the Lucy March blog have become family to me. I could use a little bit of family right here in town, but I am being a whiner about that because I have developed some fine sisters and brothers who just don’t live where I do. I’m very lucky in what I have.

    I love these stories about meeting and becoming friends, and then more. Sometimes, it takes the catalyst of having the whole rather than just the separate pieces. My two best girlfriends and I form a very tight, caring trio that is greater than simply just two of us at a time. It was after I introduced the two of them that we began going almost everywhere as a trio and it’s lasted all this time, over 20 years (altho’ they just don’t get together enough when I’m not there, silly things).

  3. It is wonderful how we get to have a family of choice along with the one we were born into.

    Jenny,
    I’m way off-topic about this, but have you thought about doing an e-book about writing? I bet you could compile some of your blog posts over the years and mush those together, flesh out and have an e-book easily and make some money for the lovely new cottage and cottage furniture and furniture you could paint, all that good stuff.
    –Teresa, off to make the morning’s kale

  4. I have some very good friends who before I became ill I thought of as sisters who (like you 3) would be with me forever. They’re still good friends, but I have to say, the very best friends I have are the two terrors that mom gave to me. I lived with 1 for two years after my first bout with cancer and we did not kill each other even though we came close a time or two … after my second bout she gave me a kitten. My other best sister friend moved in with me in my father’s house (at his request) when he had to be hospitalized. With her teenage son. I came close to killing both on numerous occasions. I now live on my own with 2 cats (from Linda) who boss me around constantly. Last year Debbie moved in down the hall in the same apartment building. She’s been the best sister friend over the past few years taking me wherever I have to go, hugging me, wiping away tears, bossing me, bullying me, whatever was needed to make me want to live again…. I just wish they would stop asking me if my will is up to date.

  5. Jane says:

    I envy the 3 of you your bond. I find myself at the end of 20 years in the trenches of special needs motherhood to be without close female friends for the last few years. It’s very lonely in many ways. I’ve been kind of sitting around gathering the courage to work on that.

    In the family I was born to department though I’m doing pretty good. I’m the youngest of 4 sisters (we have a brother too, but he isn’t much in the equation.) It’s been 4 years or so since Mom got sick and two that she’s been gone. During that time we finally set aside the less productive patterns of our childhood interactions. Now that we’re the oldest generation of our immediate family I’ve been really happy to see that our bond has deepened and strengthened. Something I really didn’t expect.

    So in my case it isn’t the family that I made that sustains me but the one that we’ve remade.

  6. As an only child I’ve wanted to make family forever. As I get older, it get’s easier because I’m less afraid of rejection. So new people see me as I am and they can either fish or cut bait.

    I am very blessed in my made family.

  7. I don’t rely on my two friends enough, although come to think of it, I practically live at B’s house. She’s a five minute drive (45 minute walk, because it’s all uphill) and when things go south on my part of the hill I go up there where it’s always relaxed and there is often lots of laughter.

    I’ve often thought of moving in with one of them, but it seems like such an imposition with four kids. They are the sisters I never had, but better because they don’t wear my clothes without asking – and they aren’t at all interested in stealing my husband. (Too bad!)

    They support me in a way my real family isn’t able to. Mostly, I think, because they aren’t at all interested in changing things about me. I am who I am, and they’re okay with that. Warts and all. It’s a miracle, really.

  8. Maria Seager/Maria Powers says:

    How blessed are the three of you. I have this with my biological sister and mother, and several friends, too. This is the type of friendship that I love. Thank you for sharing yours with us.

  9. This makes me smile.

    I’m fortunate to have my blood family, my work family (Yes, we do consider ourselves a family), and my family of friends.

    My life would be very poor without these people and I’m grateful for them every day.

  10. It’s good to have sisters. It really is. Yesterday, Jenny and I were driving around running errands and shopping, and we thought about the last five years and how any of us would have survived without each other. I can’t imagine.

    I’m a lucky, lucky girl.

  11. Creating your own family is wonderful. Finding like minds is great. Developing true friendships is hard.

    Do you ever ponder if you had met each other at a different point in your lives would you have connected?

    I know some of the friendships I had as a younger woman would not sustain me today. I’ve never been the Alpha dog, happy to just follow along, but in recent years have found several female friends who wanted, almost demanded exclusivity. And they had husbands at home. It was confining so I eased out of both friendships and began to make conscious choices. I need a lot of alone time. I need to be around confident women who have their own full lives and many friends and family so when I go into my cave they aren’t upset or angry. There are now three women who I feel comfortable with, have to make no excuses with, and we always pick up wherever we left off. I like that.

  12. Courtney says:

    Thank you for sharing how you all met and became friends. For some reason, I thought that Krissie had been a lifelong friends (I knew the Lani story from her blog and the Bettyverse). It’s reassuring to me that you all met each other relatively late in life.

    I have one close friend from high school and one from law school and that’s it for close friends. I am lucky in those two friends though. However, our lives are diverging so much that it’s really tough to keep the friendship up at this point so I’m happy to know that I might have a few more sister-friends in my future.

    Let’s not get into my biological sibling–it’s been a tough few years there.

  13. redwoodkim says:

    You know that scene in Bet Me where Diana mentions Min’s group, and Min realizes how lucky she is? When I first read the book, I was Diana, had pretty much always been Diana. Then I had a baby and met some other moms, and first three of us clicked together and then we added two more, our husbands like each other,and the kids keep coming . Now I have conversations with other women, and I’m Min. I’m Min! I knew how badly I wanted children, but I didn’t realize how badly I wanted sisters, too.

  14. This is lovely.

    I’m blessed to have a real sister and also a couple of sister friends as well – both from HS. I’ve been close to and kept contact with one continuously since our freshman year of HS, through all of my many moves and her many relationships. The other friend and I had a falling out when we were both about 20 and only found each other again through FB and started writing email to each other and found that it was very easy to pick up again and that we were at similar points in our lives. When my family was evacuated from Cairo, we lived with my real sister for about a month and then my children and I lived with my newly-found friend sister for four months more before my live started to sort itself out. There’s nothing like sisters 🙂

  15. Mostly, I find it tough to share personal stuff on the internet. Everybody knows, and you can never take it back. So I was a little dubious about this new blog but now I must say it’s very inspiring, it makes me think (and act) concerning various topics.

    When I first started writing (long before I was published), I think I used my characters for a kind of vicarious life that I didn’t have (or better: dared to have). They lived out on the page (yes, it was still paper at that time) what I felt was missing in my life. Do you know Marianne Faithfull’s “Ballad of Lucy Jordan”? When she regrets “she’ll never ride through Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in her hair”?

    Then, a few things happened that made me think. You’ve only got this one life, and it can be awfully short. So I decided to live my own life and not just write it into the people in my stories. This is the point where a lot of this blog comes in: I needed to take better care of myself (because I am worth it!!), I needed to become closer to people (those who are worth it), and I needed to live my life at this instant. Every minute of it.

    It hasn’t always been easy, but I loved the changes this included. And I think that it’s what this blog is about: exploring the possibilities of our own lives to the max. Thanks so much.

    By the way: I’ve never been to Paris yet, but I did ride through Houston at midnight in an open Jeep, wearing a formal dress, and it was magic. I’ll always remember that.

  16. Ylva Hedin says:

    So true. I keept nodding my head while reading. You create your own family with people you really love no matter what and that loves you back… Great read!!

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