A letter to my "tribe"

A letter to my "tribe"
Photo by Tim Marshall / Unsplash

January 7, 2024

Dear Shannon Magee, Lisa Zeik (Fedorchak), Terri Naughton (Richards), Shari Cook (Clark), Kate Naveau (Colopy), Katherine Kitts (Powers), Julie Ricks (Briggs), Shelby Brommer (Wenzlaff), Lauren Huff (Saavedra), Haley Parker, Natalie Taylor, and Korie Wishart (Miller):

Over winter break I wanted to write to all of you and not only celebrate the new year, but send a thank you for being my tribe. I use your maiden names here intentionally as I want to think about you as YOU–before being part of a married team–although those partnerships have undoubtedly shaped us into the women we are. When I think about where I am and where I am going, I know that you will be with me and that I am promising to remain intentional about making that happen. Time, distance, and circumstances have separated me from you at times, but the relationships here are the glue that helps hold me together. And makes my world right. At varying moments of every day, one or more of you come into my mind and push me into (and get me out of!) situations and conversations, and inspire my creativity. Your influences guide me through to successes in professional, personal, and relational spheres and I am grateful for your sticking by me and for your love and camaraderie. 

This past summer when Terri Richards lost her husband, Jim, to pancreatic cancer, she and I began some very real conversations about what “life” is and can be. When we have a partner of 30+ years who dies, who do we become? Katherine, I know you went through this, too–and my conversations with Terri were heavily drawn from your experiences– thank you. (Boy, I recall some crazy times through Scott’s first illness! Some of our best conversations, too–I am so happy to have shared what we did. I feel like at only 34, though, I didn’t fully understand what you were going through …)  

Those in this list who have already, or are losing our parents,  know we can't do this alone. As Shannon’s and my dad’s illness gets more severe (Shari’s, too), our situations in being there for him will become more complicated. Ed and I will be going to see her and Marc this spring break. I am certain it will be part of our conversations despite our attempts to vacation and relax.  Life. Just. Keeps. Moving. 

When I think of you all–I see you as my personal Valkyrie: strong, mythical women who scoop me up off of the many “battlefields” on Earth, bless me in some version of Valhalla, and send me “back down” to keep moving, creating… more than merely existing but making a difference with every day I am fortunate enough to have. I know it might be surprising to hear me lean into the supernatural, but these stories helped shape early human understanding of things that were unable to be unexplained at the time and I see so much value in that shared part of our humanity. There are some things not easily explained yet–and one of the most fascinating to me is the bond humans share. What is a “friend”? What constitutes “family”? What serves as a “village” (when travel and geography are not impediments)? How deeply can love run?

When I was in college, our friend, Mike U, had a radio station that broadcast on the south side of Pittsburgh on Friday nights. He called it Megahertz Valkyrie–a nod to the strong feminine and the power of community through music. (Man, do I miss those days and his house parties!)  I remember his wistfulness at asking me for advice about this moniker–I was amused. I was grateful for a male friend secure in himself to title his project after women like us: powerful. Deciders of fate. You rescue me on days when you may not even be aware. I am not left to return to the Earth nameless and featureless. You help resurrect me all the time.  

The real cycle of birth and life can feel so arbitrary and I am sad for those who don't have a sisterhood of support like I have in you. Each of you fill a different role. Each is a part of my self-recognition. Each is a part of the strength it takes to keep being a good human.

There is no poetry nor song that can convey my thoughts right now–I looked. I tried to write some! (The first in years…) I hope this letter does what it can: a long-winded way of saying I Love You. I see you. I need you. And thank you for not quitting me. For offering your time and heart. Your joys and sadness.  

This is a promise that I'm not going anywhere–I'm in your corner. And I'm saying it because I want you to know how valuable you are to me and because people don't share that with each other often enough. Until it is too late. I'm not taking that chance!

No one knows what events will befall us in the coming years, the only thing I can promise is that I will be standing right with you. Making a cocktail. Or a casserole. Or a phone call. Or not a single sound–whatever the moment calls for.  





And I love you!

Happy 2024, you crazy betches!  

Let's keep making the world a better place–starting with ourselves!  😉

I'm going to go lay down, now… stare at the ceiling, reminisce about being 25 visiting Pittsburgh, and listen to Moby’s “First Cool Hive”... and think about all of you and the world we are making.  Together.