Natalie and I have been friends for a long time. In fact, the story our relationship has so many chapters that I don't really even know where to start. We met through religious youth group in high school, lived down the street from each other, traveled to Israel together, struggled through teenage torment together, spent weekends and summers on retreats and at camps together, wrote letters and spent hours on the phone throughout college, ended up back in the same city as young marrieds and had our first babies within the span of one month twelve years ago.
Natalie lives the life of an observant Jew, married to a Rabbi and raising three children in the faith. But despite the differences in the details of our homes, our lives aren't that different at all. We struggle with the paradox of motherhood and all it means—being complete individuals while raising kind, thoughtful children who are steeped in community. She is deeply involved in the school and temple and is the center of her family's observance and traditions. She is a creative and wonderful (Kosher) chef and a pretty lousy housekeeper. She has a fantastic, if slightly snarky, sense of humor (let's hope so, after that last comment) and is the person I call when I really need to talk. She always knows just the right thing to say and I inevitably get off the phone feeling better.
One of Natalie's strongest qualities as a woman, a mother and a friend is that she is keenly aware of her weaknesses. She is always striving to be her best self and I can't think of a better example for her to set for her three children. She was raised by her mother and two older sisters, which is perhaps where her strong sense of sisterhood comes from. She is warm and clever and stronger than she gives herself credit for and I can't imagine my life without her in it.