In 2010, I entered a Best Dressed Holiday photo contest. The rules were: Send in a picture of your kid dressed up for the holidays.
There were 6 entries. Ryan's picture won. We received a gift certificate to Stonefire. It was a neat, unexpected surprise.
Some of the best things in life are neat, unexpected surprises.
A few months later I met the face of the person who hosted the contest. I hugged her. For the sake of the story, let's call her Jane.
I knew Jane from her photo and explained who I was. I thanked her for the contest and how it tickled our family to have won.
I ran into Jane more and more. At the local coffee shop. Down by the river. Ryan grew familiar with Jane and would greet her with a hug.
We began collaborating on ideas. It was simple stuff initially. Fundraisers for Suicide Prevention Services (SPS), or city events.
She even hosted a breast cancer awareness event at Cobblestone. I helped pour wine.
The volley of our friendship made me feel like a little kid. It felt like "Want to play?" with a response of "Yes" every time. Positive reciprocity. She was reliable and present.
It was very common to get a call, "Hey, do you want a cupcake?" (Who would say no to a cupcake? And delivered??? Me = Lucky to have such a thoughtful friend.)
I remember a time she came to visit. The week had overwhelmed me and she comforted me as I had a meltdown in my kitchen.
I am fantastic at keeping life and emotions in order, but I felt safe enough around her to know I could blubber and be in tears and vent and it would be Ok. I think that's a sign in a friendship that you'd moved to a deeper level of offering emotional support and understanding. A safe place in your friend's presence.
I am pretty passionate about SPS. Suicide prevention is a big piece of my family and I. On my birthday, Jane had a special surprise planned for me.
She had an ice cream sundae custom made in my nickname, the Peeka Bear. I'm lactose intolerant, so I always order watermelon ice from White Water Ice Cream Shoppe and then get it topped with marshmallow topping and gummy bears. I swear this is a good concoction. There was a video she had made of the owner, Robyn Sutcliff, making the Peeka Bear and explaining that the first 30 people to White Water Ice Cream Shoppe on my birthday would get the Peeka Bear Sundae for FREE. In addition, a portion of the proceeds of the day would go to SPS. All of this was on my Facebook page the morning of my birthday. I was so touched at the intricate thoughtfulness of this!
When I flashmob danced, she was there to shoot video and offer support- both times.
When I called and said, "Want to go white water rafting downtown Yorkville in an hour?" As I had hoped and almost expected, the answer was "Yes."
I dreamt of an idea to bring hope and joy to Yorkville. It's in the works because she believed in the project and helped to give wings to make it fly. (Details soon!)
Lastly, I've been given the gift of being able to blog, because she urged me to. Jane is Jillian Duchnowski. I love her. I just wanted Yorkville to know what an amazing, dedicated, beautiful person they have working for our city.
Jill, thank you for being an amazing friend. Reliable, lifting, encouraging, inspiring, motivating, and more. Thanks for expanding my vocabulary and my heart. You're my unexpected surprise and I am forever grateful. Cheers to many years, sister.