I refer to these other friends as my LOCAL best friend because each place we have moved, I have had a special friend in my neighborhood that has permanently changed characteristics about myself.
These women are amazing individuals like..
Amy through whom I have lived vicariously as she travels around the world doing good. I think she is currently in Brazil trying to push women's soccer while teaching science to adolescents.
Kate who taught me about volleyball, art, and a positive attitude in every circumstance.
Shima, who I can't really talk about because she is an internet recluse and probably doesn't want me to use her real name. I at least can share that she is one of the most generous people I have ever known.
Amanda who cannot be pinned down on social media because she is in the real world floating around serving friends and neighbors constantly in spite having five children and an extraordinarily large number of talents that are in high demand.
Katie who can walk into a room, learn obscure facts from everyone in the room, and then leave without having shared a single tidbit about herself. She taught me that genuine curiosity and interest in another person makes a soul feel loved and cared for like nothing else.
My undisputed local best friend since moving to Utah has been the amazing Diana Larsen. Since today is her birthday, I wish to dedicate the rest of this post to her exclusively.
Here she is in all her glory on the Pioneer Trek. The perfect way to honor her as it represents a time in which, in spite of her busy schedule, dropped everything to help me get ready:
Moving to Utah Valley is really hard. I mean, if you have a large family, it is an astoundingly wonderful place to raise children and beautiful as it can possibly be. It is not difficult in the sense that life is hard, but because everyone has a large extended family and therefore no time for friends, it takes awhile to break in to the crowd.
Diana is an exception to this rule. Not in the busy factor--she has a large extended family that lives locally and she even cares for her nieces and nephews on most days of the week. She lives in the same neighborhood where she grew up and knows everyone in the zipcode. If you go anywhere in public with her, you are likely to run into several people that she has known forever. Where Diana is an exception is that she befriends you instantly. She doesn't actually care what you know, who you are, how weird you are, or where you came from--she is in. She is in your inner circle and she doesn't even think twice about whether you deserve it. You could be a stranger in the grocery store and after five minutes of chatting with her in line feel like you have this magical new friend.
What I find particularly intriguing about Diana is her tireless dedication to the community. In the few years that I have known her, this is what I have seen:
- School service. She attends PTA meetings and signs up to help out, not just projects to put in your time, but ongoing. She has volunteered in every possible way at the local elementary school and I wouldn't be surprised if someone actually handed her a master key one day.
- Church service. Diana is the president of our Young Women's organization currently--but she continues to volunteer to help out in any way needed. With ten minute notice she is up and running with a plate of goodies, a meal for 60 people, or collecting a minion of helpers who know they better show because she has shown up for them so many times. For the last five years, she has also led the efforts for the week-long Girls Camp and is incomparable.
- Constant attention to her family. While she is off giving service to everyone and every organization around town, she never stops thinking about her kids. She picks and drops them off from school everyday (Diana, WHY do you do this??) She provides them with constant enrichment like sports and art classes, schedules fun outings for every holiday and weekend, and is generally one of the most nurturing mothers I have met in spite of a wicked sarcasm that runs through her daily dialogue. See this shot of a typical fun night for the Larsens. Note they aren't just at a game, they have to have those crazy glowing lights too.
- Feeling bad for everyone who is struggling. I have received more than one call from her saying "let's just run over and do x for this person, I feel really badly that I haven't done anything yet." She feels this way about the entire neighborhood, for whom she feels a real sense of stewardship and duty.
- Loving every kid she knows. Any time someone comments negatively about a child that she knows, she usually just says "I LOVE that kid. He is hilarious." She feeds the high school kids at lunch, hosts playdates nonstop and generally speaking always has a kid around. My daughters are constantly asking if they can just go "hang at Diana's" as though she is one of their personal friends.
I am grateful for all of these things that she demonstrates to me on a regular basis, but she is also the first real friend I have had who has earned her education through real world application. All of my other best friends I met while in college, teaching, or grad school living and therefore were more formally educated. Diana is one of the most intelligent women that I know and she has come by her skills by hard work and her own two hands.
When I first got to know her, through Girls Camp one year, I felt so inadequate--she had this set of skills that I definitely had not developed in my article-reading/podcast listening world. She was able to whip together food for a crowd in minutes--and the food tasted amazing. I always thought you had to spend a lot of money to get a decent meal, but she somehow manages to frugally provide an enviable spread. Yet she is always willing to let others help. She never once said "hey idiot, don't you know how to work a camp stove?" but instead simply showed me how to do things. I credit her 100% with my solo camping adventure in which I slow cooked ribs in a dutch oven over coals (her equipment of course). I even incompetently provided her 9-year old with a slippery, freshly-sharpened chef's knife to open a package of bacon and he promptly sliced his fingers--but she forgave me because she is that kind of friend. It isn't just the food--her event management, planning for activities, thinking about how to let other people develop, and general ability to have fun in a crowd sets her apart.
I cannot say enough about what she has done for me personally, taking my kids here or there, reminding me about school events, dragging me places that I need to, but don't always want to go, or letting me know about a community event. We have been on marching band field trips together, served side by side at some scheme or other, and enjoyed a few traditions of our own making together.
I am so thankful that she is a "more the merrier" kind of person that welcomed me into her fold in spite of my excessive travel and I know that I have forever been changed because of her presence in my life. Happy, happy birthday Diana. Try to think about yourself for a few minutes today.