Archive for the ‘Women’ Category

Sometimes life gives you the opportunity to receive more than what you think you’re paying for. 

I take weekly sculpture lessons with a wonderful and giving octogenarian. She provides sculpture lessons for sure, but she frequently weighs in on life matters. The sculpture studio is an intimate place. When a new person (male) was introduced into the group of female students, it was with the understanding that he “fit” into the group without disrupting it. (He met with her approval.)

Life, challenges of health, family and the world at large are discussed in the hours we spend there together. And our teacher, a wise, strong and loving person, continues to evolve and share what she has discovered.

I have always favored older friends. They have the wisdom of the older generation, like parents, but none of the baggage or judgement that accompanies blood relationships.

The latest lesson was how to slow down. She had recently decided to permit herself to do it and say “no” to even the most tempting activities. She listens to and respects her body, age-related limitations and trusts that it is OK to NOT do something.

I have been experimenting with this myself. I learned that the town I will be moving to has roller skating weekly at one of the schools. My eyes lit up as I remembered the fun I had on roller skates when it was back in style in the mid 70’s, when I was in my twenties. I pictured myself twirling around, skating backwards, dancing with a partner. I was pretty hot on wheels. 

Then reality sunk in. Having had a number of falls and breaking a wrist in the past few years, I realized the lunacy of even considering this. If I couldn’t figure out why I fell while standing in a supermarket line, how could I trust that I could move on wheels? “No,” I said to myself. Just “no.”

My teacher’s words came to me. “You can slow down. It’s OK.” And you know what? I am OK with it. Who needs another broken bone?

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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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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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Whew. What a ride!
It started with my friends’ announcement that she was coming from France. I checked my work schedule (which is per diem scheduled in advance) and identified my time off. I had already planned to go to New Orleans with my husband for four days.
My friend arrived the day after we got home, so I returned to JFK to get her. The day after, we went to Rhode Island for two nights. Home again to unpack and repack, I went to Brooklyn NY for my high school reunion (more about that in a future post!)
I arrived home once again to refresh my suitcase, heading out the following day to Niagara Falls, Niagara on the Lake, and Toronto. Four days later, we were on the road back to Connecticut.
Whew! Tired doesn’t begin to describe the pace of these past few weeks. But, lots of fun was had!

But wait! There is one more trip next week – to Pittsburgh. But at least I have time to wash some clothes, and see my husband and son for five days before I leave again . . . . . . . .


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Best friends for life!

I recently had breakfast with a good friend of mine, to celebrate my birthday. We much more relish time together than birthday presents. Gifts come in many forms. Neither of us needs anything tangible. We both prefer each other’s company.

My friend is 32 years my senior – a greater difference than that between my mother and myself. She represents the best in a friendship. She embodies motherly concern, she is someone to have philosophical and topically interesting discussions with, and she inspires me with her attitude, experiences, and generosity of spirit. She is a disciplined person, much my opposite, but she gives me a different and equally important perspective when I need one. Yet she is never judgmental and always accepts me for who I am. What can be better.

She has lived to see amazing things come to fruition in 89 years. She saw the synthesizing of insulin, frozen foods, TV, scotch tape, electron microscopes, Polaroid cameras, nylon,photocopiers, ballpoint pens, Teflon, Sikorsky’s first helicopter, aerosol cans, microwave ovens, Velcro, the jukebox, the first credit card, superglue, bar codes, transistor radios, oral contraceptives, optical fiber, tetracycline, the pacemaker, the first air crossing of the Pacific, Speedos, letter sorting machines (and to think the post office is nearly outmodes altogether), sports utility cars, penicillin, rotary lawn mowers, permanent press, the airplane black box, plastic optical lenses, ultrasound, latex gloves, the inflatable emergency airplane slide, microsurgery, pop top cans, in-vitro fertilization, integrated circuits, electronic ignition, space travel, personal computers, ATM machines, gene splicing, bionic ears for the deaf, Post-It notes, MRI imaging, laser printing, spreadsheets, solar cells, plastic bone replacements, soft, multi-focal, continuous wear, and disposable contact lenses, roller blades, hepatitis vaccinations, genetically engineered tissue, Doppler radar, HDTV, world wide web, Google, mapping of the human genome, to name a few!

She delights in things that virtually no one else her age would consider. She embraces every opportunity to learn something new when offered. She lives life intentionally – she does not wait around for the inevitable. Every minute she is alive is not wasted. I strive to grow up to be her. And I am blessed and honored that she calls me her friend.

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The power of friendship cannot be underestimated. Particularly among women. I am always humbled by the great gift I have had in these friendships. Each person, or group with its own dynamics, has the restorative power of an antidepressant.

I have been hanging out with a group of ladies (you know who you are) over the past years: with husbands, without husbands, with families, without the kids. We were blessed that all configurations enjoyed each other at different times and for different occasions. We have shared our children’s stories, helped each other when the times got rough and celebrated the happy occasions together.

We used to get together regularly, for birthdays, or just because. Our husbands saw the value in this and began doing this with each other. Slowly our get togethers dwindled: some went to work, some to school, some were just not up to it. Whatever the reason, I have missed those regular get togethers. They were rejuvenating and precious.

We got together last week at someone’s home to celebrate 3 birthdays. We talked about everything from Brazilian waxes to road rage to camel toe (look that one up). But mostly, we let loose, laughing hard and loudly until tears ran down our faces. For the next few days, fueled by the kinship and love we share, I have been calm and content. It’s the medicine we need as human beings – to connect with others we trust and to be able to be yourself. Laughter has its own reward, with healthy physiological changes demonstrated in many studies.

Before we left we put another date on our calendars – while we were all there and basking in the glow of our friendships. I am looking forward to my monthly “medicine” to cure the ills of daily stress and isolation. I love you all and thank you for blessing me with your friendship.

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Ayn Rand wisely said, “The question isn’t ‘Who is going to LET me?’; it’s ‘Who is going to STOP me?’”

We are all given the same 24 hours in each day. Yes, we are given different “tests” in life; things over which we have no control; things that can be downright unfathomable, difficult, unfair and the like. I can speak from experience, having been tested too many times for one lifetime. On the other hand, I have had opportunities because of the kindness of strangers, beneficent family and friends. The common thread in any of the situations is that while I could not always choose what happened to me, I could always choose how to respond to it. That is the one thing we have control over – our attitudes and responses.

We make choices. Sometimes they are the wrong ones. That’s how we learn to navigate life. To learn and not repeat the same mistakes is what differentiates those of who live happy and successful lives from those who squander their time on earth. We don’t really know if we get a second chance to live our lives, so we need to live this one as if there were no second go-around. Parental wisdom often told us to “Do your best.” With a lot of room for interpretation, mine would be, “Do good. Be happy.” Simple. but covers a lot of ground.

So next time you even think of blaming anything or anyone other than yourself for the way things are going in your life, take a good, hard look and find what it is you can do to change what you don’t like. Whether it is your weight, health, relationships, job, how you spend your time – it is always up to you. Who is going to stop you? My guess is that it’s only you.

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I have long resisted the need (and expense) of going to a “foundation” shop. You know, those paces where a woman fits you for undergarments that hide sags, bags and wrinkles UNDER your clothing, so they look good on the outside. Perhaps my greatest resistance has been that I am a bargain shopper and the thought of paying full price for a bra, is unthinkable! “What? Did you say $55 and I don’t get one free when I buy two?”

As I age, I am starting to change my thoughts on certain things; like when I can be frugal and when I have to pay up. I color my own hair so I can splurge a little on the cut, which I can’t do myself. I do my own nails when it is necessary, but I am rethinking this too since I found a salon that applies a manicure that lasts 2-3 weeks! At least, for the special occasions I need my nails done, at least they will look good for more than one day. Still a good value.

My thoughts on getting fitted for a bra were amplified yesterday when I was in a supermarket, of all places. A grandmother, not much older than me, but clearly not as “chic,” was shopping with her grandchildren. Now, she was a large woman and I know that usually our breast size fluctuates with our weight. But this woman needed the kiddie seat part of the wagon to hold up her breasts! I’m not kidding!

So, when I got dressed this morning and looked at how my top looked over my undergarments, I saw the immediate need to make an appointment at the foundation store. Now, if I only knew where to find one . . . . . . .

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Last week, I christened my studio with an official workshop. My colleague and I hosted five women who were in transition or looking to be. What struck me is that each was in a very different place in life, yet they shared a bond of wanting to know what’s next.

One woman spent her entire career as a prosecutor, working long hours. Though she loves her work, she is restless and thinking of her next act. Another, having reached an age at which she can retire comfortably, is exploring whether she wants to move away from the area, near a good friend. Her grown children live here, but there are no grandchildren tugging at her heartstrings to stay. Another, in the final stages of divorce, is wondering what her next chapter will be, and when love will re-enter her life. One woman has been struggling with a family member’s prolonged illness and the emotional and financial fallout it has caused. She remains remarkably optimistic, yet her face shows the strain. Another, a homemaker, is sending her eldest off to college. While she still has a number of years looking after he younger child, she is beginning to imagine her life when he too goes off to college. She is anxious to explore and express her dormant creativity.

My co-leader and I have only fairly recently met, but there was an instant bond. We share a love of learning, eternal curiosity, and a deep restlessness. So we know and share these women’s pain and hope.

The interesting thing is that given a common challenge, women will bond. No matter from what walk of life or current situation, they will allow themselves to share with each other, in order to grow. An even more interesting and wonderful thing, is that by helping other people explore freely, connect and share, I grow too. I will never cease to be amazed by the strength and resilience of the women who cross my path. They leave a mark on my soul.

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Old Friends

I was doing my internship at Norwalk Hospital. When I had to commute during rush hour, I decided to bag the 1 1/2 hour drive in favor of a more relaxing train ride, with shuttle to the hospital. Nice. But even nicer was the wonderful surprise I received on the bus one morning.

I was sitting in the front row and my old friend Judy appeared! We looked at each other and squealed with delight. As we hugged, the other passengers on the bus smiled warmly, as if recalling their own reunions with loved ones. Judy and I met 17 years ago as AmeriCorps volunteers. I had 2 little ones and was volunteering to get out of the house. Among the young people, were Judy, me and another older man. We bonded not only because of our singular maturity, but because we just clicked as friends. Judy came in and out of our lives over the years. For reasons unknown and unplanned, life took us on various journeys, causing us to lose touch. It was never intentional, we never had a disagreement, we just faded away. About 5 years ago, her friend found and invited my husband and I to her special birthday party, so we connected briefly. Once again, without reason or warning, we lost touch. Then fate again, intervened, causing us to meet that morning.

We talked a mile a minute during the short ride, with updates on family and happenings. It was so special – and time seemed never to have passed between now and our last meeting. We caught up at a few lunches and on a few shuttle rides since, but now I end my internship so we will have to make a deliberate effort to get together.

I hope we don’t let 5 years pass again until the next time.

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