Monday, August 31, 2009

Best friends forever!

Is anyone more cherished than a best friend?

Mary Olsen Kelly and I met 25 years ago at a life-changing motivational seminar when we were assigned to each other as "Perfect Partners." Our task as a team was to set outrageous individual goals for ourselves and then do "whatever it takes" to achieve those goals in only three weeks. The stakes were high--failure was not an option! With daily phone check-ins we kept each other on track and accountable in achieving those goals "no matter what."

Mary's naturally ebullient energy and enthusiasm made our assignment of talking on the phone every day a joy. As our friendship and trust deepened, we realized we'd found the best friends we could each imagine. We did achieve those goals because we were great cheerleaders for each other and learned that we could be and do and have so much more that we had imagined.

In the 25 years that followed I comforted her through a painful divorce and consoled her as she yearned for a deep and lasting marriage just like mine. A few years later she met her future husband Don Kelly, and as she made plans to move to Hawaii to be with him, my husband Paul von Welanetz lay dying of cancer. Mary buoyed my spirits during that painful and poignant time, reminding me of my many blessings and how much life I had ahead.

Mary obtained a ministerial licence so she could perform ceremonies as a "celebrant" (no better descriptive word for Mary exists!) and when the time came for me to remarry, she officiated at Ted's and my ceremony and the weddings of two of our daughters.

When Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer ten years ago she rushed into our arms at the airport and found new resolve in our loving embrace. She told me how, because of the successful Tahitian pearl stores (the Black Pearl Gallery) she and Don built together, she always finds inspiration in how the pearl oyster deals with an irritant, turning the experience into something exquisite and unique. She was determined to do that through her treatments and she did by writing three inspirational books:

Here we are at one of her booksignings . . .

Mary and I have celebrated together over time far more than we have greived, and we stay in touch by text or email daily no matter where we are or how busy our lives often become.

Sometimes we travel together with our husbands. On our three week trip to Asia we dined in the oldest Peking Duck restaurant in Beijing . . .

Now she and Don have two homes, one in Maui and one here in Corona del Mar. The three of us look forward to our "Yoga Tuesday" when we meet at a restorative yoga class nearby then try out some local restaruant for lunch where we bubble over with news and catch up, still encouraging each other to go for it in our creative lives.

Husbands and hairstyles come and go,
but devotion as best friends endures forever!


No menu is more fun for me to create that Mary's annual birthday luncheon. We invite the members of our "Emergency Book Club," so named when a meeting was suddenly called when one of our members faced a crisis. Because Mary loves salmon, this year I made her a salad and topped it with salmon roasted in the manner of the Herbfarm Restaurant outside Seattle.

For 4 to 6 servings


1/2 pound wild (not farmed) salmon per person, skinned

Olive oil to coat

Salt and pepper

parchment paper for roasting


6 cups mesclun or Herb Salad Mix

2 nectarines, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 box each fresh raspberries and blackberries (if out of season, use 1/2 cup dried cranberries)

1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted

2 teaspoons capers, drained


1/4 cup raspberry balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon or stone ground mustard

1 teaspoon honey, or more (depending on the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar)

1 medium shallot, minced

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

To make the dressing, combine all but olive oil in a small mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil--the dressing will emulsify and thicken thanks to the mustard. Set aside.

To roast the salmon, preheat oven to 225 degrees, or to 200 if using a convection oven. Coat the salmon with olive oil and place on a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet, seasoning it lightly with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes. (The salmon will be cooked through, but will have a translucent appearance.)

Toss salad ingredients in a large bowl with balsamic dressing. Divide between serving plates and top with salmon.


  1. What a wonderful post Diana!

    I liked Mary already having learned of her in your book.
    I'm so happy that you two found each other and have shared so much love. What an inspiring friendship indeed!


  2. what an inspiring friendship... you truly breathe life into each other. love the husbands and hairstyles quote.. lol!