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In March of 2012 I wrote about connecting with people. How by some mysterious force, we are drawn to someone and find a connection. I’ve had a couple of new experiences in this past year, in spite of my limited movements within the outside world.

An old business associate of nearly 40 years, turned friend, emailed me about an alumnus of her college. Did I want to meet her? She had recently moved to my town, shared my religion and knew no one here. She wanted to get involved in her new community and my friend thought we would hit it off. I trust this friend; she knows me well. So of course I said yes. Explaining to this stranger my limited outings, unpredictable medical limitations and inability to eat like a normal person, I suggested lunch at my house. Conversation came easily and we discovered some additional mutual friends and interests. We share political views so there was much fodder for conversation and potential action. The relationship quickly turned into a familiar, comfortable friendship, one I am so grateful for.

On another occasion, the search for someone to do alterations led me to a woman from a neighboring town. She is the mother of a lady in my town, who I know only through the Facebook page our town’s ladies belong to. She was kind enough to come to my house so I could try on the clothes. There was something special about her and she felt the same. She too joined me for lunch soon after and I have been to her home to drop off or pick up more things she has sewed for me. We are on a “hug and kiss greeting” basis and express an affinity for one another like we’ve been friends for so long.

My therapist tells me I am blessed with the ability to make friends easily. I would have to agree. But I attribute it to my father and his mother who also had many friends due to their ability to talk to anyone about something they could find in common.

My life is so enriched by this gift. Some people’s involvement in my life have endured decades and many challenges; some have come and gone in short order. I’ve relished each friendship for its uniqueness and rich dimension they have brought to my life.

I’m a lucky woman.

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I thought this saying up after the mini meltdown passed. Maybe no one recognized the meltdown, least of all, me. It came in the form of 6 awakenings each night, worrying about everything BUT the actual situation I am facing. Apparently this resonated with a lot of people when I posted it, even though the majority of them had no idea I was referring to a specific, new challenge.

No matter how many challenges life throws my way, I never think, “Why me?” for two reasons.
(1) If not me, it has to be someone else and I wouldn’t wish my challenges on another.
(2) It makes me a victim and takes away my power.

So now, I concentrate on number 2.

I am not a victim! Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. We all are victims of uncontrollable events in our lives to some degree, but how we deal with them mitigates them. So I call upon my superpower, victim- fighting arsenal called family and friends, as well as my foundation of having survived 20-ish surgeries, two near-death experiences, one divorce, one spousal death, 11 moves, countless jobs, 6-7 careers and laying beside a live cheetah. Whew!

I have the BRCA1 gene. It means either lying in wait for the likely possibility of getting ovarian (40%) and/or breast cancer (85%), or I can have prophylactic surgery to remove these body parts. I’m not a patient waiter and I like taking the better odds. I can get through another few surgeries.

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I suppose you will be remembered in history books if you founded a country, but what about the founders of smaller things? Perhaps significant on a local level, or important to a cause. When that cause gets a life of its own, the founder is often dismissed as far as having any role in its being.
To be fair, some entities pay some sort of homage to the founder(s) in their history, but most do not.
This line of thought was precipitated by a wonderful conversation with one of my patients. At age 83, he has a sharp mind. We connected on some geographic and ethnic commonalities. The conversation led to Israel and he told me a story about his relative named Ra’Anan (not sure of the spelling), who had gone from NYC with a band of others early in the 20th century, to a town now known as Ra’Anana. He had become their Mayor, hence the name of the city honoring him.
I was fascinated by this as I know two families who live there. So, back at home, I tried to research the history of this town, to no avail. There was some reference to a group from NYC going there, but no one by a name similar to the town’s name appeared in any of the articles. I believed this man’s story. Thus, the founder had been forgotten.
I experienced a similar situation. When I lost a job I hated anyway, I turned to my passion – art – and decided to make a go of it. Practicing the craft was only a part of my goal. I wanted to create a community of artists of all kinds; visual and performing, to feed each other’s creativity, and bring us a sense of belonging. I rallied some people I thought would be interested in helping me. I requested the library’s community room, placed a tiny article in the paper. And they came! The need was evident!
From this group, a board was formed and we set out to deliver a community of artists in my own town. Life was good. When we were offered a chance to hire, at a very heavily subsidized rate, a consultant to help us set a course, make a plan and work out some kinks, the group began to splinter. Just a tiny bit at first, but then a huge, gaping hole opened up. Suddenly, my allies were my foes. They didn’t share my vision, which until then was working. When I started to enlarge the dream, the rebels came out.
Now power was being usurped and when I called them on it, they denied it. To shorten a long, painful story, I left the group behind. My only pleasure is that the organization continues. Sadly for me, the work I wanted so much to do is now happening – but I am not part of the community I brought to fruition.
So, that brings me back to the forgotten founder. I have moved on and do my “art thing” with other, more welcoming people. Some of the original cast of characters and I remain friends. The splintered faction is still splintered. I’m OK with it all. Except for one thing. Wouldn’t it be nice to be acknowledged as the person who brought together this community of artists? Yes, it would be.

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In November 2012, I posted about a decision my husband and I made to relocate to Pittsburgh “some time in the future.”
We did end up buying a home about 15 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh and have rented it out since then. Our move was predicated on two events: my son’s graduation from college and the passing of my husband’s mother, whose health had been declining for years.
Both events happened within weeks of each other, signaling the time to begin preparations for the move. I realized the timing of events meant we could be relocating in under a year. Fear and panic set in. I asked my husband if he really was ready to go so soon, or did he want to extend our tenant’s lease. “I want to go,” he said.
I learned quickly, that fear and excitement can thrive side by side. I also realized what it would take to get this done – a lot of time and substantial about of money. After the grueling task of disposing of mom’s assets and home, I had to begin our own weeding and pruning. The task has been made more difficult by the uncertainty of my sons’ needs for household articles in the coming months. Much of what we need to reduce is serviceable, so I’d like to preserve whatever they could use before dispensing with our excess. Also, our new house is larger and can accommodate a lot of what we have, – so I don’t want to dispose of things we might need to furnish it.
At the same time, we need to make room just to begin the repairing, painting, etc., to make the house salable. That’s why some days I am overwhelmed.
When I get started, I can usually make some decisions and put things into the tag sale or a Goodwill piles. But after a few hours, I am stymied. It feels like it will never get done, even with so much time ahead to do it.
I realize that some of the obstacles are emotional. While a new adventure awaits (and I love the idea), we leave friends behind, and will have to start all over. And that makes it hard to pack up.

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I know from experience (my own included) that if you were to judge someone’s state of happiness by their FB posts, you would often get a very distorted sense of reality.

We are told to “put our best foot forward,” “soldier on,” “keep a stiff upper lip,” “practice gratitude,” etc., etc. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it doesn’t allow us the true freedom to share our challenges, sadness, anxiety, etc. In spite of all the public discourse on depression, we are still not good as a society, in recognizing or treating it. Not everyone presents with the same symptoms – in fact, many cover it with a mask of cheeriness. Drugs are widely available to treat it – it’s fast and cheap – as opposed to talking about and resolving issues that need to be processed.  But sometimes things need to be faced head on, not temporarily blunted.

As is evidenced by all the shootings and general chaos, especially among our young and veterans, we are not, as a society, attending to mental health care needs. Unattended, things get worse. More turmoil creates more societal anxiety and a downward spiral of the individual.

Some have suggested that global meditation and/or yoga practice would reduce stress, creating a calm over the earth. It’s an interesting idea. It would cost less than other modes of treatment and have fewer side effects than medication. It would address the shortage of skilled mental health practitioners as it could treat groups, not just individuals. It could ultimate lower healthcare costs and reduce violence.

But I digress. The point of this article is to ask that  you remain vigilant to the signs of stress that may cause those you love to break. If they are behaving differently than usual, there is probably a reason. Offer a hand – even if it is just to lead them to get the help they need.

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Some people manage to stay connected with friends from childhood. Whether it is continued geographic proximity or shared college experiences, they maintain the relationships throughout their lives. I have only one childhood friend still. Perhaps it was because all of us scattered in different states and keeping in touch meant writing letters (before internet, and when long distance was expensive, for all you young readers!) Because my one long time friend was great at writing to me, and writing, and writing until I finally answered, we remain friends to this day.

Before you go feeling all sorry for me, this has not hampered the rich experiences I have had with friends made along the way. Perhaps it was because we shared similar life experiences at the same time. I had early married friends (out of college), who were largely an extension of the high school friends. Then I had work friends, some of whom I still keep in touch with, or reestablished contact with since Classmates, Facebook, Linked In and HS reunions. Then there was the “single” friends period, after my divorce. Remarriage brought children and children bring many other parents into the picture. These people, as it turns out, still mean a lot to me, even though the kids are grown and (almost) out on their own. We shared the intense experience of child rearing, which is both rewarding and scary as hell.  We came to care for and about the well being of each others’ children. And our children remain friends, even after high school and college.

When I embarked on my creative chapter – becoming an artist – there were new friends again. Friends that shared and understood the “need” to create, and supported me in finding my creative voice. And now, just when I thought it was impossible to include another person in my life, I did. A connection in a business meeting led to more personal conversations. We learned we grew up so near each other in Brooklyn, which was likely some of the appeal. I am enjoying the unfolding of another new friend and she will not be my last “new” friend. (Unless I die tomorrow! Sorry, a little black humor!)

My ability to love them all never diminishes. Rather it swells to embrace all of it – all of them. And lucky me, to have so many wonderful people in my life.

Thank you all dear friends!

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I deliberately used a question mark in the title of this post because that has been the reaction I got when I told people I was going to Pittsburgh. They would ask why and I said it was because I wanted to see It. They didn’t believe me. Except for one friend, who said she wanted to come too.

It all began many years ago, when reading an article in (I think) Business Week or some similar publication. It hailed Pittsburgh as one of the most livable cities. It defined livability as a place that offered cultural, educational and outdoor opportunities, with good housing prices and safety. Recently cited by the AARP, of which I am a card carrying member, as one of the best places to retire, I got even more curious. So one night, over dinner with my friend and our husbands, the subject came up. Before you knew it, we decided to go, abetted by our husbands.

We enlisted a realtor and told her we were on the first stop of a several year tour of potential retirement places. We wanted to see the housing stock and the city. We spent nearly two full days looking at homes and neighborhoods and one day exploring what Pittsburgh has to offer.

We were smitten! I saw many homes that I liked, and one I loved – mostly because of the kitchen. My friend, who is not afraid of taking calculated risks, said, “Why don’t you buy it?” I got excited. It felt right. There were several “signs” that I should do it, not to mention the mortgage interest rates being at their lowest ever.

I got on board immediately. There was only one hitch. My husband. Typically ultra conservative about any risk, as am I, I could not imagine him considering it. I would be able to do it without him, but I would face a penalty on early withdrawal of my retirement funds. It would be better to tap his, since he is old enough to withdraw funds without penalty.

All the way home from the airport, my friend and I sang the praises of Pittsburgh. My husband laughed in a way one does when not taking chatter seriously. When we got home, I told him I had something serious to talk with him about. I reiterated how much I loved the city. It had all the important elements I was looking for in a location: affordability, diversity, access to education and excellent healthcare, culture, good restaurants, an art scene, nearby airport and the ability to live in a suburban setting that is only 10 minutes from downtown. As a bonus, it was beautiful. Hills, parks, rivers, hiking and bike trails.

Then he said, “If you think you can buy this house for the price we can pay, do it!” Sixteen words that changed our lives! Not only did it determine where we would go next, it was the first time we took a risk – together. It is a calculated and safe risk – I did the math, interest rates are at an all time low, and the investment will hold its value. Further, time goes so fast and this next stage of our lives is only a few years away.

Well, the house negotiations did not work out, but I am returning to Pittsburgh to find another. Our paths have been forged and I am excited about it. Who knew, several weeks ago, that I would be retiring to Pittsburgh?

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