Sometimes the type of friend you wish for is the friend life sends your way.

I read someplace recently that sometimes the reporter becomes the story... Sometimes the type of friend you wish for is the friend life sends your way.

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.

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Kim August 01, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Jen, I emailed your post around to people I thought would be interested in reading it (we all think Jill's pretty wonderful too). One of the people called me to say what a wonderful piece she thought it was. One of the reasons she thought it was so nice was that we don't stop often enough and tell our friends how much we appreciate and enjoy them. I agreed and later that day emailed a friend I had been out of touch with for over a year and told her just that. Because of you the ripples of friendship spread a little farther into the world. Thanks for reminding us how important it is to do that and thanks for being Jill's friend.
Jen Slepicka August 02, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Dear Kim, thank you so much for your words. Reason number #749 happened today as to why I am grateful for Jill. I came up with a silly idea: "Let's have a sky lantern festival." She believed in me and shared my vision and gave it wings. We've connected with the city administrator, the school superintendent, the mayor, the fire chief, and have acquired insurance to make it happen. All proceeds will go to spsamerica.org I launched the website today for the event: www.starsofhopefestival.com I safely estimate that we can raise $5000 for suicide prevention. I cried today. Joyful tears. I could not have done this with out Jill. If you see her, hug her. If you live near Yorkville, join us September 1st for our 1st annual skylantern festival: Stars Of Hope. I can't wait to see how we top this for next year. ;) Many belssings.
Jen Slepicka August 02, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Jillian Duchnowski August 02, 2012 at 09:47 PM
It's with a little sadness that I need to tell you we'll be postponing Stars of Hope. Fire Chief Michael G. Hitzemann is concerned about holding such an event Sept. 1 due to the drought, so we are deferring to his expertise. We will, though, be exploring other, safer options -- perhaps holding it in the spring -- so please don't lose hope in this idea. I really like the image of 50 lanterns taking flight at once.
Becky August 03, 2012 at 12:16 AM
What a thoughtful blog! How sweet of you to honor your friend in such a way! This post just exudes positivity - love feeling those vibes. Friends are wonderful, and good friends can be hard to come by. I'm going to pay it forward and tell my friends how thankful I am for them too.


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