A Circle of Friends

BURLESON, TX — It was a wintery day in 2008 when Mary Slaney and Peggy Harkins invited eight women to join them for lunch. The date was February 14, Valentine’s Day, and everyone arrived at Peggy’s home eager to sample her chicken enchilada soup and share the dishes they brought. “After lunch, we gathered around my TV to watch a video that Mary and I had borrowed,” Peggy said. The video featured best-selling author, humorist and motivational speaker, Nicole Johnson, performing a skit called “Girlfriends.” Its point is that “every woman needs a good girlfriend and having one is as good as cash in your wallet.” With her ingratiating style, Nicole expressed how female friends laugh and cry together, see movies that men will not see, stay
up with each other and, most importantly, enjoy doing what they do best — talking. “As I watched everyone watching the DVD,” Peggy smiled, “I was moved by their reactions. I could see bonds beginning to form, and I knew that Mary’s idea was good.”

Interestingly, Mary and Peggy met in a women’s group, and when that group began to dissolve, it was Mary’s inspiration to start something new. “I moved to Burleson in 2005 and didn’t know anyone,” she said. “I’m married, yet I also treasure my women friendships. When I met Peggy, we decided to create a circle of friends who value the importance of women sharing and supporting each other.”

Peggy’s motivation was a little different. “I had recently become a widow,” she said. “And through the challenges of meeting people and becoming involved in new experiences, I learned how difficult it can be for anyone surviving the loss of a spouse after 30 or 40 years and how helpful friends can be.”

As it turned out, the Valentine’s luncheon more than fulfilled their expectations and, as a result, a group known as “The Circle” was born. “Mary came up with the name,” Peggy said. “When I think of the circle that formed around the video screen at our first gathering, I cannot imagine a name that would be more appropriate. Also, we often begin our meetings by forming a circle and saying a prayer.”

Brenda Huskins and Diane Lybbert were quick to join Mary and Peggy as founders of The Circle. Like Peggy, Brenda had lost her husband after many years of marriage. And, like Mary, Diane is married. “I retired from Bell Helicopter at the end of 2006, and after 33 years

of working, I wanted to find women friends to do things with. I belong to the Burleson Monday Night Book Club that meets at the library, and that’s where I met Mary. I was at the right place at the right time to become a founding member of The Circle, and it has been great fun! Since I always have my camera handy, I started keeping scrapbooks for the group beginning with that first luncheon,” Diane shared.

“We welcome any woman with a happy heart, open mind and the wish to participate,” Peggy explained. In age, the group ranges from 50 to 82 with the majority in their 60s. Ninety percent are retired, and over half have enjoyed professional careers. While most live in Burleson, the group also includes members from Fort Worth, Arlington, Crowley and Granbury. Women, married or single, may join and religious affiliation is not a factor. “There are a lot of personalities and histories,” Peggy shared. “It’s what makes The Circle so special.

If one of us encounters tragedy, sickness or simply needs support, we are there for each other.”

Since Valentine’s Day 2008, members have celebrated and cried with each other through illness, family deaths and life changes. “Most of us continue to stay connected,” Peggy said, “except for some who may not be as mobile as they used to be or have shifted their energies toward a new relationship.”

“It’s an honor to be part of this group,” Brenda added, “and it means a lot to all of us. Within The Circle, there is always someone to talk to and share activities.” As an outgrowth of her involvement, Brenda rediscovered her love of dancing. “I am now part of the Hi-Steppers,” she smiled. “We line-dance every day, often up to seven hours a week, and perform in the community.”

Last February, The Circle celebrated its third year. The membership has grown from 10 to near 20 regular members with up to 50 participants per activity. “This group doesn’t just go shopping,” Brenda laughed. “We have an activity every month and an annual trip. We’re going to San Antonio this year, and last year, we rented a five-bedroom, bed-and-breakfast inn in the historic area of Jefferson, Texas, where we took a swamp boat ride, toured the museums and some of us visited the casinos in Shreveport.”

“We meet in January to plan our

calendar and decide who will be responsible for coordinating each activity,” Mary explained. Completing this year’s calendar, they look forward to touring Fort Worth’s Texas Civil War Museum, attending the “Miss Firecracker Contest” at Theatre Arlington, enjoying a train ride from Palestine to Rusk and back, visiting the State Fair of Texas, spending two nights in San Antonio, participating in the Women’s Holiday Tea at Burleson Baptist Church and enjoying lunch and shopping at the Montgomery Street Antique Mall/ Tea Room in Fort Worth.

“When women get together, ideas explode,” Mary said. “We participate in the American Cancer Society Relay

for Life of Burleson and last year, we generated close to $3,000 toward the fight against the disease. We also bring gifts to our annual Christmas party to donate to a charity.”

As the director of first impressions (truly her title) at the Burleson Area Chamber of Commerce, Mary coordinates the new “Power of Heels” program — a uniting of female business leaders to make a difference in the community. “We’re working with the local Women’s Jobs Corps,” Mary said, “and I would love to add a ‘Golden Division’ to include the support of our Circle as mentors for the women in the Job Corps program.”

Sporting a tiny multicolored feather woven into her short hair, Mary is a woman who wants to reinvent the world. According to Nicole, “every friendship arises out of an invitation.” By inviting women into their circle on that exciting day in 2008, Mary and her friends not only enriched their lives, but began a process of touching many others. After all, when women with happy hearts, open minds and the willingness to participate join forces, it stands to reason that the world will surely benefit.

Written by Carolyn Wills.