Finding Friends & Hatching Plans

A toy train and a baby doll. That’s what these brother and sister pairs are exchanging with each other.

My Bible Book 1948, page 32
My Bible Book, 1948   ( 32)

Trading is fun among friends, no matter what their size. Big or little, old or young – most people like to exchange gifts, conversation, sometimes even big ideas.

It is a giant leap from tots trading toys to literary giants exchanging thoughts, but the principle is the same and so are the benefits.

C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, both scholars at Oxford University fired one another’s imaginations in a small group called The Inklings. Both yearned to write science fiction with faith and morality as a central theme. Legend has it that “they literally tossed a coin to decide who would write a book on space travel versus time travel.” Though their early attempts were not completely successful, C. S. Lewis went on to pen The Chronicles of Narnia, and J. R. R. Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings series. Generations since then have enjoyed the fantasy of Tolkien’s hobbits and elves of Middle-earth and Lewis’ charming children and Narnian nymphs.


Their haunt? Frequently The Rabbit Room, a snug space tucked away in the Eagle and Child pub, Oxford, where a roaring fire, animated conversation and pipe smoke fueled their imaginations. At least twice weekly these brilliant minds hatched plans for plots and both nurtured and challenged one another’s brain children.

The Eagle and Child - Tuesday morning meeting place of the Inklings including Lewis and Tolkien
The Eagle and Child – Tuesday morning meeting place of the Inklings with Lewis and Tolkien

* * *

Christiane Northrup, M. D. a frequent PBS-TV presenter, promotes friendship as one of the paths to glorious agelessness. A sub-topic on her website exhorts women of all ages to cultivate varied friendships that she dubs “tribes” of friends. Though I never thought of my friend groups as tribes, I do recognize various kinds of friends I’ve been privileged to know at various times and places in my life.

Church Friends

4 friends party hars

Writer Friends

Standing: Janet Givens, Kathy Pooler, Marian Beaman Seated: Shirley Showalter, Joan Rough
Standing: Writers Janet Givens, Kathy Pooler, Marian Beaman
Seated: Shirley Showalter, Joan Rough at Chincoteague Island, February 2015

Colleagues at Florida State College in Jacksonville

FSCJ English faculty women, friends and former colleagues
Retired FSCJ English faculty women, friends who lunch

Friends at the Gym (They’re bashful!)


Friends from Eastern Mennonite College

Other room-mates and friends: Our name tags imprinted with college yearbook photos.
Other room-mates and friends: Our name tags imprinted with college yearbook photos.

Even sisters can be friends!



My friendship with Verna Mohler Colliver is one I’ve maintained since college days as room-mates at Eastern Mennonite College (now University). I caught up with Verna at our last college reunion.

My college room-mate Verna Mohler Colliver and me
My college room-mate Verna Mohler Colliver and me at EMU Homecoming, 2013


Since the reunion, Verna and I have exchanged photos and slides of ourselves as beginning teachers at Lancaster Mennonite School in the 1960s. Indeed, she helped me hatch a plan to reflect on those early years in our careers by providing some photo “fuel” for two upcoming blog posts. That’s what friends do. And I appreciate it too!

As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17    King James Version



Do you have “tribes” of friends? Do you see them often? How do you keep your friendship(s) alive?



43 thoughts on “Finding Friends & Hatching Plans

  1. I do have groups of friends–I never thought of them as tribes. I have gym friends, too. I really only see them at the gym, but about a week ago, one of them hosted a birthday party for one of our instructors. All of the guests were people who took her classes, and it was fun to see everyone in “real” clothes.

    I have a couple of college friends and friends from when we were first married–who we met through my husband’s job. I also have friends who are parents of my kids’ friends, and some who were their teachers.

    And of course, you are my blogger friend! 🙂


    1. You do have tribes too, Merril. I think Dr. Northrup is using the word for shock and awe. Still, I think she’s on to something.

      We had lunch with one of my gym friends this Sunday after church. I agree, it’s a switch to see friends in fancier clothes.

      I wanted to include my colleagues from the college, but I think their photos are on older media. Maybe I should try to find them. A more diverse group, they certainly rank in the top five. Thanks, blogger friend and often first responder in the bargain.


  2. I am a huge believer in maintaining friendships. It takes an effort but it is worth it. I have kept friends from my school years, all my jobs and places I have lived, and have many tribes. Without them I would not be able to exist. I miss my tribes now that I live in another country but with social media I am able to keep in touch. I Skype monthly with my writer´s group. I hope to build another tribe, here. Family is of course another tribe.


    1. I can tell from your posts that family and friends nurture your creativity and keep you balanced. You also said, “I Skype monthly with my writer´s group.” Good for you! Obviously moving to Spain has not hampered any of your connections.


  3. What an interesting post, Marian! It was even educational! I didn’t know Lewis and Tolkein were friends, let alone best friends! Where would we be without our friends? Well, I’m now at the age where I’m losing my close friends. My sister, Lorraine; my close friend from high school, Dean; my very good friend, from early marriage days to now, Joan; and others. I’m richer, having had them as friends! Thanks for giving me this boost to think back on my friendships!


    1. You’re welcome, Anita. My high school alumni coordinator posts obituaries of both teachers and classmates who have passed on. They are always a reminder of the brevity of life and the need to maintain our connections so vital to our well-being.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This was fascinating. “Legend has it that ‘they literally tossed a coin to decide who would write a book on space travel versus time travel.” If I knew this as an English major, I forgot it. What a marvelous and rich circle that would have been.

    It is hard to keep in touch with friends from longer ago. I envy my daughters, who all have great ways to stay in touch almost daily (FB etc.) with their college peers who dormed on the same floor. Now they share baby/toddler woes. Still hunting for my Freshman roommate! Love this post.


    1. You are right! Social media was not invented when we went to high school, college. Now we have to make an effort to stitch old friends and acquaintances in with the new.

      Truthfully, I still prefer phone calls and face to face communication to digital connections, but the new “wave” isn’t going that direction it seems.


      1. Marian, I need to tell you this post inspired me to again go hunting on Facebook for my college roommate. Bingo, at last she came up!! I know where she lives now, her job and that she’s a mom–and am hoping she’ll respond to my private message to her! I was thrilled, just to know she’s still out there. Just had to tell someone and thought you would want to know.


        1. Of course, I want to know, Melodie. 😉

          I too have a private message into a friend from Elizabethtown, PA I knew from another Mennonite church in the area when we were teenagers. My friend was a twin, and her maiden came up on Facebook, so I sent her a private message. I hope I hear back. I tried her sister’s name, but no luck – she may be married and I have no idea what her new name may be.

          So the search continues . . .
          As an English major you may remember the line from E. M. Forster: “Only connect . . .” He had NO idea!


    1. Thanks, Dorothy! Your comment reminds me of a quote I heard long ago attributed to Joseph Parry: “Make new friends but keep the old; those are silver, these are gold.” Judging from your blog and Facebook page, you are well blessed with friends too.


  5. Friends are the best. And I happy to be part of your writer friends group, Marian, as I am pleased to have be one of my group as well. I still think about our trip together to write together last winter and hope we’ll more opportunities like that.


    1. You got to read one of my most painful chapters and helped me “birth” my memoir theme and book-in-a-sentence. When I read your posts or your comments here, I can still hear your voice inflection. Here’s to more opportunities, Joan!


  6. Marian — I’m a HUGE fan of both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, so it was fun to learn more about them in this post. More so, I enjoyed looking at the photos of your wide brushstroke of friends: church, writers, gym, college, and sisters.

    Like some of your other readers, I never thought of friends in terms of “tribes” — but I like it! I stay in contact via internet (FaceTime, Skype) with friends I left behind in the midwest when we relocated to Boise. And I’m cultivating new friendships in our new location. Why? Because friendships are vital to ever facet of healthy heartspace—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.


    1. You are the ultimate “tribe enhancer” scattering as you do seeds of connection on Twitter, Facebook and in the blog-o-sphere! And always a kind word or gentle nudge. Remember I recycled piles of paper files at your behest – ha!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I know everyone knocks text and email these days and yet how wonderful modern technology is . I keep in touch with so many people and each and every one brings me joy …including you Marian . Tolkien lived for a time in
    Birmingham which is near to my home town . So lovely to see all your groups of friends .


    1. Tolkien once upon a time an almost-neighbor – wow, I’m impressed, Cherry!

      Yesterday I met a woman in her mid-80s who spends a lot of online. She is not about to let her difficulty walking hobble her connection to people in the outside world including her friends.


  8. Marian, this is wonderful and you take me down my own memory path of dear friendships forged at different times and in different places, the 2015 Chincoteauque retreat being one of my fondest memories. Seeing our picture again brought a big smile to my face. What an interesting and heartwarming post. I so enjoyed hearing the back story of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. So happy to be in your “tribe”. 🙂


    1. So many disparaging remarks have been made about the sterility of e-connections. But they sometimes make face to face connections possible as we sure proved in our confab at Chincoteague. I’m happy for our connection here . . . and continuing until we meet again.


  9. Me, too, Marian. Me too. Happy to connect with you, friend, in so many ways.

    I can’t claim to have lived near Tolkein, but I have been to the Eagle and Child and lifted a cup to a great friendship. Also, though I have avoided most fantasy, including the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, I am going to New Zealand next year, where all these movies were filmed. So I will watch the movies.

    I have many tribes also and have written about my Pilgrim Sisters who used to be college presidents, my college friends who still get together at least once a year (and with whom I will be traveling to Cuba and Iona on two different trips), our writers’ group (yea, Janet and her Chincoteague retreat), and the group of educators with whom I am writing a book.

    As we age, friendships and family become paramount. All the investments we’ve made in both come back to us — with interest!


    1. Yes, I remember seeing some of your college friends and faculty featured on Facebook and in some of your blog posts. Another tribe I’m especially proud of is that of my academic friends. I think photos of them have been stored on my old computer, (Yes, I now have a MacBook Pro!) and I didn’t get them ready in time for this post — Drat!

      One of these colleagues has a professor daughter in New Zealand. Their visits are infrequent because it’s sooooo far away. The scenery is exquisite, other-worldly. I look forward to your capturing it all for us, your friends and readers, Shirley!


  10. Tribes that’s interesting but probably some truth in it…I to prefer face to face and even letter writing( not e-mails) but more and more it’s becoming the norm but as I live far away from school and old work colleagues it’s becoming more of the norm and I suppose is a way of keeping in touch. I have a couple friends who do yearly newsletters which I love recieving and always think I will but never do. 🙂


    1. We all have our favorite ways to communicate. Years ago, it was either the phone, letters, or face to face visits. It was a simpler time, I guess.

      I like Christmas or New Year’s newsletters too because that’s the only way I get caught up on what some long-time friends or acquaintances are up to.

      Nice to hear from you again, Carol!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I have friends I first met in 1970. My recent California trip focused on spending time with two of them. Another is in Tuscon, so I see a trip to AZ in my future. It takes effort and it’s always nurturing and delicious.

    It’s a special challenge for me because of hearing difficulties, so I have to push through my resistance. When with a small noisy group, I have to allow myself hearing breaks or I have difficult symptoms. Today my brother called, the one who is doing well with cancer therapy. He said he wants to visit me this fall and said how important it is to him to nurture our relationship. How sweet it is that he feels well enough to envision a six hour road trip and I won’t have to do the driving as I’ve done the last two years.


    1. Yippeee for your brother. How sweet of him to reach out and spare you the rigors of road tripping. I expect we may hear something about this visit in a future posting.

      Cliff has difficulty listening to conversations with hearing aids too, so I am mindful of the difficulties you face – to some extent at least.


  12. What a “friendly” and delightful post, Marian, and your title is a gem!
    I’m sorry your gym friends were so bashful 😉 but they must have been seriously focused on their routines.
    You said so much in these pictures. Well done.


  13. I struggled with the title, so your commendation is a plus. Thank you, Marylin.

    My gym friends are not at all bashful, but we buzz in and out of our classes so quickly, and I haven’t thought to get a photo with a face. I did capture a video of our instructor doing sit-ups which I used in another post a while back, but it didn’t seem appropriate here.


  14. Hi,
    I met you on Debby Kaye’s site. She is a good friend. I know others here as well: Aquileana, Yelling Rosa, etc.
    You sound like you have a great personality which accounts for your engaged community. Congratulations.
    As far as your post: I’ve been to Hershey Pennsylvania and have fond memories going there as a child with my parents. Nice to meet you.


    1. Welcome, Janice. I have a sister with the same name, so it will be easy to remember yours. I checked out your website and note that you are interested in all things BLOG: co-scheduling, self-hosting, increasing followers. By the way, when I first began blogging I read Michael Hyatt’s book Platform, which I noticed appeared on a recent post.

      I love blogging and appreciate my readers who are supporting my writing memoir, a WIP. As you can tell, I’m a nostalgia bug and love connecting my past to the present.

      You mentioned visiting Hershey, PA as a child. I wonder: Did you live in Pennsylvania? Are you familiar with the Amish or Mennonites?

      Again, thank you for visiting “plainandfancygirl.” I hope you will return often.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Lewis and Tolkien, what a great meeting of the minds. How lucky they were to have that kind of friendship, one that was supportive and nurturing.

    Marian, you’re lucky to have a tribe that completes you in a number of ways. Some of my “tribe” remains in Central New York. We keep in touch thru social media. Others in my “tribe” get together for dinner or to discuss books and writing. I really enjoy them all. 😉


    1. From reading your posts and seeing you on Facebook, I see glimpses of your tribes. One of my most important tribes was not even represented here, my academic friends. Somehow photos of them have been stored somewhere in a file I can’t find. Nevertheless, our friendships are real and enduring. One of them, Professor Carolyn Phanstiel, initiated a writing partnership that has since grown into material for blog posts and provided seeds for memoir writing.

      Yay, for book clubs and writing groups! And thanks for checking in here, Judy. You are a part of my faithful blog “tribe” for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I am blessed to have many friends, in many different categories too. I don’t get to see them all too often, but the beauty of friendship is that when we do get together, we pick up right from where we left off without condemning one another for long absence. 🙂


  17. It’s interesting how we gather friends as we move through life. Funny too his the ones that stick around and meet up years after you have moved on or away are not always the ones you expect.


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