Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

Service of Guardian Angels

Thursday, February 8th, 2024

The tiny framed picture was one of the surprises among the letters the guardian angels sent me last week.

A dear friend was admitted to a memory ward last year. His only relatives are distant cousins, one who lives 1,800 miles away and the other in his town. In addition to rescuing him and finding a place where he’ll be well cared for and safe, they emptied his house and sold it, an exhausting, miserable chore.

I never met them, but we’ve been in touch. My friend seems to recognize the local cousin though probably doesn’t grasp their connection, he wrote. My friend no longer knows how to open an envelope.

These guardian angels did something over and above. They’d set aside and sent me a stack of cards and letters my husband and I had mailed my friend over years—even a fax–and included two surprises. One was a box of chocolate from their town’s oldest chocolatier founded in 1902. Why the chocolates? They’d delivered a box to my friend from me from Li-Lac. The store had celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. Li-Lac was his favorite when he lived in NYC. The other surprise was a tiny image of an angel in a frame purchased at a craft fair that we’d sent him for Christmas, 2018. [It’s the smallest of all the pictures in the photo above.] He’d noted this on the back.

I’m overwhelmed. The cousins work, by the way. Can you imagine having to sort through all the things a person accumulates in a lifetime and taking the time, trouble and expense to segregate a pile of things for a stranger? Can you share examples of extraordinarily caring gestures such as this?

Service of Virtual Handholding: Lifesaving Friends

Thursday, September 28th, 2023

Friends on the way to celebrate graduation this spring.

For decades, when I thought my world was being shaken to its core, all I needed to do was hold my husband’s hand and I’d calm down enough to face—and figure out how to play–the music.

He’s no longer here to do that but my friends have leaped into the void. From near and far they have cheered me on and supported me, some sharing coping mechanisms, others wishing me well along with their best advice.

It’s not the same as Homer’s hand, but it is huge, so welcome and essential.

How lucky I am.

I think of how nobody stands up for some public figures who are caught in a negative spotlight–most often the lack of volunteer supporters is because they’ve been despicable/hard on others before the accusations.

I’ve chaired and been on countless committees and several boards and I’ve seen a member turn on a hardworking, vital colleague. It’s alarming when none of the others in attendance dare stand up to such public criticism/rebuke. My father used to condemn what he called sheep mentality so fighting it has been “a thing” with me. At my peril, I pipe up. I cringe when friends share their experiences of being a human dartboard with nobody–even those they considered friends–risking disapproval by defending the verbal projectiles.

Encouragement by even strangers is fabulous. I remembered some who cheered me on at an airport. I’d left my expensive camera on the first flight and realized it as I was boarding the connecting one which was about to depart. I retraced my steps racing past gate after gate for what seemed an eternity while strangers were shouting “YOU GO GIRL!” I swear it made me go faster. As I arrived at the first gate, a flight attendant was leaving with my camera in hand. Back I ran. Standing at the door of the plane trying to distract the flight attendant who was about to close it was a colleague chatting away, until she saw me. I made the flight by a hair.

How do your friends rescue, encourage and support you? Have strangers cheered you on? Do you enjoy doing that for others?

Friends descending the steps from Montmartre, Paris, this spring.

Service of Relationships that Zig High and Zag Low

Thursday, July 6th, 2023


Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Like millions before me I’ve said that if the only friends I want are perfect people I’d be very lonely. When couples say they never argue or disagree I wonder which one isn’t owning up to what they think or wish for.

Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, wrote a guest essay in The New York Times, “Your Most Ambivalent Relationships Are the Most Toxic.” According to him, they are worse than negative ones. His examples:

  • “Friends who sometimes help you and sometimes hurt you.
  • “In-laws who volunteer to watch your kids but belittle your parenting.
  • “The roommate who gets you through a breakup and then starts dating your ex.
  • “The manager who praises your work but denies you a promotion.”

Walking on eggshells isn’t good for your health.

Grant reported that “One study found that adults had higher blood pressure after interacting with people who evoked mixed feelings than after similar interactions with those who evoked negative feelings.”

He wrote that bad feelings are amplified when someone praises you sometimes and cuts you down at others. “And it’s not just in your head: It leaves a trace in your heart and your blood.”

Why?

The essayist hypothesized about why frenemy relationships are so harmful as the reasons aren’t definitive: “The most intuitive reason is that ambivalent relationships are unpredictable.” He added: “It’s unnerving to hope for a hug while bracing yourself for a brawl.” And “When someone stabs you in the back, it stings more if he’s been friendly to your face.”

Toodle Loo

Grant reported that at any age people are slow at letting frenemies go.

“A relationship in which you can’t be candid isn’t a relationship at all; it’s a charade.” Regarding feedback, “The goal is to be as candid as possible in what you say and as caring as possible in how you say it.” The wording for a kind frenemy breakup might be: ““The mix of good and bad here isn’t healthy for us.”

Grant posited that most have as many friends as frenemies. Do you?


Image by Bill Shortridge from Pixabay

Service of Little Things Mean A Lot III

Monday, July 25th, 2022

Farmer’s market summer flowers

The nicest thing about this post is how quickly I whipped together this preliminary list. So many little things bring smiles. The first two columns of this title took place early in the pandemic and covered how friends helped others.

A gift from a friend

Here’s today’s list in no special order as all are equally meaningful:


How are you? Image by ijmaki from Pixabay 

Red velvet cake. Image by MartinL21 from Pixabay
  • I ordered a slice of velvet cake with meringue icing at Amy’s Bread, didn’t finish it at lunch and enjoyed a few bites of the leftover the next two days. The cake was the best of a memorable taste sensation, one I’ve not enjoyed in 10 dogs ages. Sweet!
  • I had a food delivery the other day, something I’d only done once before in three years because I pick up takeout. The doorman, in announcing the delivery on the intercom, asked if it was legit. He said “You don’t often order food deliveries.” You’re thinking: “Big deal.” It is: There are 510 apartments here! I thanked him later telling him I felt his attention to my habits made me feel as though I lived in a building on Fifth Avenue. His smile made me as happy as his oversight.
  • I walk on a cloud if a bus driver sees me running and waits.
  • When out of town friends let me know they’re coming to town its a treat to see them.
  • “How are you?” texts or emails from former Baruch mentees and great nieces are heart-warming.
  • When Friday evening comes and I watch “A Place to Call Home,” an Australian soap, on WLIW at 8 PM, it’s fun. Same with Grantchester on PBS on Sunday at 9 PM.
  • A text from friends from a hospital recovery room to let me know they are OK or an email that a medical checkup went well causes joy.
  • Something that makes me laugh so hard I cry reminds me of times my mother, my husband and I could hardly breath. It still happens with a few friends, when reading a great line in a book, seeing a ridiculous comment on Facebook or when my funny bone reacts to a segment in a movie or TV series.
  • I love receiving a stunning greeting card out of the blue. I enjoy the images for weeks. I display them on a chest in my living room. Photo below.
  • “Whooo hooo” I holler, even after these many years, when I get an editorial placement for a client.
  • When yet another person pays a compliment to me for my Kusama tote bag–last year’s birthday gift from a friend– it’s a hoot. I’ve written previously about this conversation starter. It happened again just last week.
  • A friend from school reached out after decades and decades–a nice surprise.
  • Summer flowers from the farmer’s market are fabulous. Photo top center.
  • A friend found an out-of-print book, unavailable in my public e-book library, with exorbitant price tags on the secondhand market. She gave it to me when we had lunch at Amy’s Bread where I devoured that divine velvet cake. Photo top right.

What little things have made you happy lately?

Surprise card featuring a favorite flower

Service of Making Friends When You’re of a Certain Age

Monday, April 18th, 2022


Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

You get to a certain age and you don’t expect to make new friends. When you do it’s a blessing. I have been so blessed.

One of my late-in-life friends died last week. She was extraordinarily generous of her time and treasure, ready to advise or cheer and support, often with creative surprises or thoughtful counsel. She was a courageous woman who suffered for years without telling anyone until she admitted the excruciating pain of an unrelenting many years-long headache. She nevertheless attended events, fund-raised and encouraged her friends, always asking about their families and work; wanting to know what books they were reading, movies or TV series she shouldn’t miss. Four of us spoke weekly for years which, especially during the pandemic, was healing for all.

She had access to the best medical care in the world and after agonizing tests and procedures always said that what was wrong with her “isn’t fatal, thank goodness, don’t worry” and when asked said that she was feeling a little better. I am convinced that her determination to stay alive was driven by her wish to see her beloved grandchildren and adored sons as long as possible. Her voice smiled when she mentioned them. Her willpower kept her on earth as long as it did. We are grateful.

Even though I hadn’t known this friend as long as some, I intensely mourn the loss, miss her and am thankful that I knew her. I trust you have been as lucky as I am to have found precious new friends throughout your life.


Image by Isa KARAKUS from Pixabay

Service of Pop-In Visits

Monday, March 21st, 2022

Frank Morano asked his overnight radio audience how they felt about pop-in visits. He loves them but his wife, Rachel, doesn’t. The host of “The Other Side of Midnight” said his uncle frequently drops in unannounced and he welcomes the interruptions. He felt it was an old fashioned custom people no longer do and he was sorry.

One caller noted that with the advent of cell phones there’s no excuse to arrive by surprise because it’s so easy to give someone a warning. Another observed that social media and technology keep us in touch in so many ways that we no longer need to drop in to be in close touch.

When I was an Air Force wife based in North Dakota many decades ago a civilian friend, Mr. McNabb, who lived north of Minot in a farming community, Glenburn, popped in all the time when he had a delivery to make on the base. He refinished furniture. His visit usually happened as we were sitting down to dinner. He had five children and it didn’t occur to him that a newlywed on a tight budget didn’t make enough dinner for a gang. Somehow we’d stretch the fixings so he too had a plate as he settled into a kitchen chair. I loved him but not always his timing. I like my guests to leave with leftovers.


Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

Our tenants upstate lived over the garage some 50 steps away from our front door but we didn’t drop in on one another. We’d call first. As a renter myself at various times I honor the privacy of a renter.

Plus I don’t drop in. It’s presumptuous to think others want to see me at any old time. My father sounded surprised when once I called him from the payphone across the street from his Manhattan apartment to see if I might come upstairs. I lived in Brooklyn then and happened to be in his neighborhood.

To pop in on someone implies that they have nothing better to do than to entertain you or at the least stop what they were doing to speak with you. Some may be self conscious about their messy home or apartment and resent pop-in guests. If unwell, a person might not want you to see them pale or unkempt. Or perhaps they may be so busy with a ten mile long to-do list that any interruption would upset the rhythm of chores and errands and knock their day on its ear.

I love to see close friends and family who are welcome anytime as are children. If the door staff in my building is doing its job I should have 3 minutes to comb my hair, fluff up a pillow or wash a few dishes before a surprise visitor makes it upstairs. It has never happened.

Where do you stand: Pop-in guests yes or no? Do you pop in?


Image by Robert Fotograf from Pixabay

Service of Sisterhood: Does it Exist?

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

Image by Jacquelynne Kosmicki from Pixabay

Drives me nuts when women don’t treat women as well as they do men. Fortunately I don’t notice it that often in restaurants and stores. I last wrote about a particularly irritating instance in 2015 in “Service of Sales Promotions: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” In my example of “ugly” a young woman attended to a man when a woman was next in line.

I write today about one of my favorite places, Trader Joe’s Manhattan wine store. I’ve consistently been nicely treated there which may be why this occurrence annoyed–and disappointed–me.

Here’s what happened.

The scene: An employee is posted at the exit. His/her job is to take from customers the empty little red TJ marketing carts.

Last Saturday the middle aged woman at this post left it and raced, all smiles and hearty greeting, past several cash registers to the farthest cashier from the door to relieve a handsome white haired man of his store cart. He was also encumbered with a personal shopping cart. I was at the register nearest her and had the same two carts to juggle. She didn’t budge to take mine from me and she hissed, “thank you misssss,” when I handed it to her. [I haven’t been called miss for decades and haven’t heard anyone use the term either.]

After a dozen years at an all-girls school and at least the same number at a woman’s industry association I have no rose colored glasses where women treating women respectfully or helpfully is concerned: Some do; many don’t. In my experience the sisterhood word is a figment of a creative or wishful marketing person’s imagination.

That said, I’ve always been blessed with a wonderful number of supportive, dear, beautiful women friends–men friends too. I enjoyed mentoring both men and women and representing men and women in business.

Have you noticed when women end up on the cutting room floor in retail or restaurant situations that another woman is wielding the scissors or is my experience/observation a one-off? When organizations of women refer to “sisterhood,” or sisterly relationships among their constituents, is there something to it or is it fiction?

Service of Lopsided Friendships

Monday, July 12th, 2021

Image by michael maggiore from Pixabay

I’ve written about friendship over years. A favorite post is “Service of What is Good Company,” from 2012.

Some friendships are lopsided temporarily either during crises such as illness, job loss and death or at happy times, to celebrate milestones: births, marriages, raises, promotions, new jobs, clients, relationships or homes. At these times most conversations involve the special events/circumstances.

Image by Here and now, unfortunately, ends my journey on Pixabay from Pixabay

Other relationships seem chronically out of balance. One example: Person A, who lives alone and is retired, has enjoyed a lifetime relationship with Person B, also alone, who still works and is in frequent contact with siblings and their offspring. Person B has little patience with A, often cutting off B saying “I don’t need all those details” or “I know what you are going to say,” or “everyone knows that,” or “you’ve said that before.”  B doesn’t understand–or care–how important it is for A to share thoughts even if at times they are heavy with minutia. It’s not as though A is wasting B’s time. Conversations–or putdowns–often take place when the two are on the road.

Friendship should be like a game of ping pong or tennis between two people of similar ability, with back and forth conversation–equal amounts of listening and talking. Do you agree? Are your friendships even Steven most of the time?

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Service of Traveling Companions: Spoiled Trips or Saved Voyages

Monday, June 14th, 2021

Many think traveling with someone will ensure a great trip. Obviously you should know the person you’re planning to travel with–or think about what kind of companion they would be abroad or far from home 24/7, for a period of time.

These true stories show that even the smartest and well-meaning of us can be tripped up. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Drastically Uneven Budgets Ensure Disappointment

We’ll call the first twosome–dear childhood friends–Mary and Agnes. They lived thousands of miles apart and thought a trip, just the two of them, would be just the ticket.

Mary was on a modest budget and Agnes, it turned out, had barely a cent to spend. Before the trip Mary didn’t realize Agnes’s financial constraints were so dire. On their return Mary confided that she was disappointed at not being able to visit a single restaurant as Agnes wouldn’t let her pay yet she couldn’t afford such a meal.

Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Then there was Tricia and Polly–also made up names. Tricia said her trip was one of the worst experiences of her life.

Polly invited Tricia to Europe. Tricia grabbed the chance of a free trip.

She’d get up early to fit in as much sightseeing in a day as possible and Polly slept late and didn’t want Tricia to leave their hotel room without her. For dietary reasons Tricia needed to eat three meals a day. Polly would eat a candy bar at 11:00 a.m. and say she wasn’t hungry for lunch and wouldn’t stop for Tricia to grab something.

Tricia told Polly that an office friend had asked her to bring back a few bars of chocolate naming an ordinary brand not yet available in the States. Polly had never heard of it. Tricia would duck into store after store and come out empty handed because they didn’t have the milk with nuts favorite.

Their relationship was so frayed by the time they arrived at a picturesque village that they finally agreed to explore it separately. Tricia found a newspaper store and asked about the elusive chocolate bar. “A woman just left with the last five,” said the shop owner.  Guess who showed up with a little bag and the chocolate? And she wouldn’t give even one to Tricia for the office friend.

This Gift Horse Who’d Had It

Another pair–let’s say Gail and Francesca–were cousins. Gail invited Francesca on a Viking River Cruise. [I love their tempting commercials on PBS.] The women hadn’t seen each other in years. Turns out Francesca had gained so much weight she could hardly walk and wasn’t up to taking side trips or moving much at all, putting a damper on the experience for Gail.

She changed partners for her next Viking Cruise. This time her friend/guest Marilyn made troublesome disappearing acts. In one port she took off in mid land tour. Gail waited for her at one stop and missed most of the side trip. In addition to that frustration she feared something had happened to Marilyn. As great as the cruise was otherwise, Marilyn’s childish games spoiled Gail’s time.

My Guidelines for Traveling with a Friend

With the exception of business trips, my travels have been mostly with a parent, significant other or spouse. A trip alone eons ago to an intimate island resort turned out to be one of my best vacations–but I digress.

Before the first trip with anyone, even the love of your life, an adult would be well served to explore their traveling companion’s expectations and to spell out theirs so as to agree on a few guidelines before taking a step.

Given the experiences noted above, my druthers would be:

  • We each get up when we want [unless we are catching a flight or train].  No resentment if one wants to veg out in the room and the other is raring to explore.
  • In cities, if we want to visit different things, we can meet back in the room at a predetermined time.
  • Especially if a shared bedroom is small, keep it neat as possible.
  • Address budgets–level of restaurant expense and timing of meals. Figure out how to make it work–or at least know about it beforehand–when one eats no breakfast and the other, no dinner.
  • ID each person’s “must see” attractions before departure and make sure each departs the vacation happy.
  • No problem if one or the other doesn’t care to go on a tour.

Have you had–or heard of–a ruined vacation because of a mismatched travel partner? Would you discuss guidelines/druthers before a first trip? Are there rules-of-the-road you insist on? Have you been happily surprised by the experience of traveling with a pal? Would you rather travel alone?

Service of Peeking Out of the Pandemic

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021

Image by bridgesward from Pixabay

Last week represented a few firsts for me since early 2020: I took a short ride on Metro North to have lunch with my sister and a few days later I went to a bustling landmark Manhattan restaurant filled to the gills.

As I exited the train in a Northern NY suburb the air was clean–different from the cocoon  Manhattan had become. There were no homeless people sharing the sidewalk by the railroad. In fact, there were few people around as most in this commuter town were probably at work either at home or in the city.

Image by analogicus from Pixabay

A few days later staff took guests’ temperature at the Manhattan brasserie. The room temp was warm and merry. Exhilaration of wait staff and guests practically levitated indoor and outdoor tables. I felt the same wonder I’ve felt as a tourist in a wonderful foreign city, but I was in my hometown.

Alan Burdick wrote that while exciting it felt “slightly nerve-wracking” as “social life has begun to bend toward a semblance of normalcy: dinner parties, restaurants, spontaneous encounters with strangers, friends and colleagues on the street or in the office.” I didn’t find it “nerve-wracking.” Joyous and grateful was a closer description.

And I didn’t experience “a period of heightened anxiety as we meet people face-to-face,” as Adam Mastroianni predicted people would in a phone conversation with Burdick reported in the latter’s New York Times article “So You Want to End the Conversation?” Mastroianni is at Harvard working towards a Ph.D. in psychology. For one thing, we each knew the others had been vaccinated so there was no worry there. And we were so glad to see one another.

I admit I’m not in a rush to attend a gathering with many people and I did have concerns about the safety of public transportation I needed to reach my destinations.

Were you apprehensive about first in-person gatherings or experiences after an overlong intermission?

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

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