How friends, books, and banter have nourished our souls

Christine Milkovic Krauss

When this author started a book club with seven of her best friends, she had no idea how fulfilling their monthly meetups would be.

by Christine Milkovic Krauss

This is forty. At this stage in my life, I feel I have achieved many milestones. In my twenties I earned myself a career that I worked hard for. I purchased my own home and furnished it to my liking. I saved every penny so I could travel to many continents and immerse myself in a variety of cultures. In my thirties, I got married and became a mother of two healthy, beautiful children, a daughter and a son.

I’d sewn all my oats in my younger days with plenty of parties, concerts, and dating experiences. So when my babies would wake at 3 a.m. for feedings, I rocked them in peaceful bliss knowing that there was absolutely no place else I’d rather be than right there, in that moment, comforting my children. Sleep deprived and so deeply in love with these humans I had created that words can not even describe my joy.

Somewhere along the motherhood journey of pouring every ounce of myself into the needs of my family, keeping house, preparing meals, working, commuting, and juggling varying daycare schedules, I realized that I had lost my identity. I no longer felt like an interesting person. What was the missing piece in my life that I was struggling to find in order to feel complete? Now that I’ve rediscovered myself, I can tell you emphatically the missing piece was friendship. Perhaps it really is that simple.

Until now, our weekends included gathering with other friends and their kids, but the ability to deeply connect when a child’s needs were always a distraction was next to impossible. Somewhere between celebrating housewarming gatherings, engagement parties, stagettes, weddings, and baby showers, those meaningful in-person relationships slowly disappeared throughout our thirties.

Inevitably our lives were entirely consumed with family obligations mixed with the guilt carried by working mothers. Our friendships devolved into becoming spectators of our lives through social media. We adapted and normalized our supportive roles by “liking” each other’s family vacations and children’s growth milestones through picture sharing and post commenting.

For all the reasons mentioned above, organizing a night out with working mom schedules proved to be challenging, but we somehow managed to come together to celebrate a milestone. Cocktails, dinner, and a comedy show with laughs that spilled onto the sidewalk as we lingered long after it was over, delaying our goodbyes.

Our interactions were natural, and each of us fell back into the younger versions of ourselves, rediscovering who we truly were at our core.

What I discovered that night was that I wasn’t the only one who gained so much fulfillment from that one evening. Our interactions were natural, and each of us ladies completely fell back into the younger versions of ourselves. Rediscovering, remembering, and recognizing who we truly were at our core. I look back on this event as my Independence Day.

It felt soulful to spend carefree, non-obligatory time with people who weren’t just interacting in a professional capacity, and who didn’t define our identifies as mothers or spouses.

After many joyful hours of rehashing the old times, conversations inevitably transitioned towards bingeworthy Netflix series and book recommendations. Instead of simply suggesting books or shows for each other that we were dying to discuss, we decided to form a book club. This way, we could all read the same books at the same time and actually discuss them while they were fresh in our minds.

We commit to gathering once per month to meet up and have our emotional cups refilled by surrounding ourselves with supportive, positive, strong, successful women. We pre-plan dates months in advance because we make our tribe of eight women a priority.

We titled our group “Books and Banter.” One month is book discussion, which consists of fun wine labels or kombucha, charcuterie boards, and gourmet donuts, hosted by whoever suggested the reading title.

We appreciate the differing interpretations on the characters, stories, and plot twists, and share relatable bits from our own experiences. Our views and opinions don’t always align, but we do listen thoughtfully and value and respect our various perspectives.

Every other month is for banter. It is completely dedicated to gathering with the purpose of a team-building activity that incorporates our interests and to banter about our life updates. We have attended candlelight symphonies, art exhibits, matinees, and high tea, as well as activities like axe throwing, paddleboarding, succulent planting, wine tours, and brewery flight tastings. We will continue to build on ourselves through experiences and memories.

Our views and opinions don’t always align, but we do listen thoughtfully and value and respect our various perspectives.

To keep things more interesting than the traditional book club vibe, we designate a dress code theme: floral and denim with heels, fancy dresses with over-the-top hair fascinators, super comfy yoga pants, or “PJs only.” At some gatherings, we’ve simply designated a color to incorporate into our outfits so we get an opportunity to challenge our closet wardrobe for added fun.

Our book club celebrations occasionally include our families too. Hawaiian-themed pool parties or picnic beach days.

Our book club is more than just books. Since we formed our group, we have supported each other through divorce, breast cancer, surgeries, marital and parenting struggles, marathons, weight loss, career advancements and opportunities, a pandemic, sickness, grief, death, and so much more. Our bonds only continue to grow closer with each passing month.

While we are enriching our lives through book stories & thoughtful discussion, it is so much more. I’m not sure I would’ve had the confidence or follow-through to publish Teddy Loses His Ears without the encouragement and supportive cheerleading of these ladies.

Teddy Loses His Ears is a wonderfully illustrated, non-fiction children’s book about my real-life rescue pet who lost his ears to frostbite. The story gently touches on disabilities, self-esteem, listening, friendship, and pet care tips. Teddy’s story is dedicated to raising awareness and donations to local pet rescue organizations like the one who saved his life.

Our book club has unanimously voted Teddy Loses His Ears as our all-time favorite read since our induction several years ago.

In addition to being a pet lover and cat mom, Christine Milkovic Krauss is also a mom of two primary school–aged children. Check out Teddy and all his upcoming adventures on Christine’s author website.

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