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Posts Tagged ‘friends’

Photo: Suzanne and John’s Mom.
Suzanne and Kate on Cape Cod. They laugh a lot.

When I saw today’s article by Teddy Amenabar at the Washington Post, I knew it would be blog material. That’s not just because friends have been important to me since childhood (Hello, Hannah!), but because I’ve been learning about the particular virtues that conversation with friends has for older people. There’s the value of relaxing, having fun. But there are also cognitive benefits from focusing on what friends are saying and responding thoughtfully.

Amenabar writes, “One of the more surprising findings in the science of relationships is that both romance and friendship often start the same way — with a spark. … A growing body of research shows friends are essential to a healthy life — and they are just as important for our well-being as healthy eating habits or a good night’s sleep.

“ ‘We’ve always had this hierarchy of love with romantic love at the top and friendship seen as second class,’ said Marisa G. Franco, a professor at the University of Maryland and author of Platonic: How The Science of Attachment Can Help You Make — and Keep — Friends. …

“Platonic love trumps romantic love in a number of ways. People with strong friendships tend to have better mental health and studies suggest they’re in better physical health, as well. Researchers have found large social networks lower our risk of premature death more than exercise or dieting alone.

A six-year study of 736 middle-aged Swedish men found having a life partner didn’t affect the risk of heart attack or fatal coronary heart disease — but having friends did.

“A 10-year Australian study found that older people with a lot of friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period than those with few friends. Notably, having a social network of children and relatives did not affect survival rates. …

“There are multiple theories about the association between friendship and better health. Part of the effect may be due to the fact that it’s easier for healthy people to make friends. A strong social network could be an indicator that someone has more access to medical care. And, someone with more friends may just have a better support system to get a ride to the doctor’s office.

“But there is also a psychological effect of friendship that likely plays a role. Friends help us cope with stress. In one study at the University of Virginia, many people were intimidated at the prospect of climbing a steep hill. But researchers found that when people were standing next to a friend, they rated the hill less challenging than those who were alone.

Brain imaging studies suggest that friendship affects brain systems associated with reward, stress and negative emotions, offering an explanation for why social connection benefits mental health and well-being. Friendship even seems to affect our immune response. In one remarkable study, 276 healthy volunteers were given nose drops containing a cold virus. Those with diverse social ties were less likely to develop cold symptoms. …

“Friends don’t just appear out of thin air, Franco said. Here’s her advice for making new connections and maintaining the old ones.

Take the initiative. Trust your gut when you’re meeting new people. We’re particularly good at knowing when someone is a potential new friend (remember that spark). And, you should assume people like you. We often underestimate how positively others think of us, Franco said. …

Start with a text. Start small by scrolling through your phone and shooting a text message to an old friend you’ve been meaning to reconnect with.

Show your gratitude. If a potential friend reaches out to you to grab coffee or pizza, tell them how happy you are they reached out, and that you appreciate the effort, Franco said. In a University of Utah study, researchers asked 70 college freshman to keep a check list of certain interactions — like going to see a movie together or calling just to say hello — they did with new friends. After three months, the researchers found that close friendships were more likely to form when the pairs expressed affection to each other. …

Invite friends to things you’ve already planned. If it’s hard to find time for friends, think of the tasks you already have to accomplish and tag on a friend, Franco said. The next time you workout at the gym, for example, you could invite someone to join. ‘Ask yourself: Are there parts of your day right now that you’re doing anyway that you can just do in community with other people?’ Franco said.

Join a book club, take a class or play a sport. Regular interaction with people who share the same interests as you could lead to friendship. Another University of Maryland study that found cadets who sat next to each other in police academy were more likely to become close friends. …

“While having friends is good for your health, not having them can be detrimental.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, loneliness has been associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. For older women, loneliness and social isolation can increase the risk of heart disease by as much as 27 percent.

“Loneliness is essentially the perceived gap between the relationships you have and the relationships you want in your life, said Adam Smiley Poswolsky, the author of Friendship in the Age of Loneliness.

“A 2018 study found that loneliness is common across age groups. … Social media can exacerbate our perception of loneliness by bombarding us with photos and videos of friends and acquaintances seemingly spending their time without us, said Poswolsky.

“[Said] Poswolsky, ‘No one feels like they can talk about it because there’s a lot of shame associated with loneliness.’

Billy Baker, the author of We Need to Hang Out, a memoir of his personal journey to find new friends as a middle-aged man, said he realized he needed to build beyond the lifelong friendships he made in high school or college.

“Baker said he didn’t have very many people he could call in the middle of the night if there was an emergency. To remedy this, he started a fraternity for neighborhood dads to meet every Wednesday night, and the group now gets together on other days and on the weekends.

“Baker said he’s spent years ‘checking off so many other boxes,’ to be a good father and husband, but he’s never had ‘hanging out with my buddies’ on the list.

“ ‘We all know how to do this,’ he said. ‘What very often happens in those moments is you feel that spark with someone and you say: “Hey, we should grab a beer some time!” But, how often do you go grab that beer?’ ”

As Suzanne and her fellow Girl Scouts used to sing,

“Make new friends
“But keep the old.
“One is silver
“And the other gold.”

More at the Post, here.

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1956-CAROLINE-BIRTHDAY-no-12

This is a photo from a time when I still liked to celebrate birthdays. I found it while sorting through boxes of old pictures last summer.

I’m the one in the middle with a hat and (typically) eyes closed. The girl to my left in glasses is a blog follower who attended my Sunday School. On her lap is my dear baby sister, who died of glioblastoma last year. To my right is one of two friends from my nursery school days that I keep in touch with on Facebook. The other is standing a bit behind her and to her right, with glasses.

Another of the partygoers has since died. One became a celebrated author and professor. One was ordained and headed a school in Wilmington. Another became an artist. She’s the one sitting next to my sister and wearing a big grin. On her lap is a girl who became a professional weaver. A cousin in the picture taught in inner city schools for years and later went into politics and conservation. I’m not sure what everyone else ending up doing, but I’m enjoying remembering each in turn.

I’ll also mention someone not in the picture, a former neighbor, now known as Caroline, who follows this blog. She helped me one year with writing birthday party invitations. I still remember her line about how the invitee should come “to my humble abode on Haverstraw Road”! Too funny. She thought an invitation should rhyme.

Art: Wayne Thiebaud/ National Gallery of Art

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I’ve been meaning for some time to post about writer friends, and I’ve hesitated only out of fear I’m leaving someone out.

Laurie Graves is someone I met through this blog. I’ve ordered one of her books and although think I’ll like it as much as I like her blog, I haven’t read it yet.

Speaking of bloggers, there are a couple others whose style I admire. In addition to the inimitable KerryCan, I find the writing of APiermanSister and ABereavedDad frequently amazing.

I also want to highlight writers I know personally. You can read about poet Kate Colby, here; about poet Nancy Greenaway, here; and poet Ronnie Hess, here. And check out the gifted interstitial storyteller Francesca Forrest here, at GoodReads.

Providence-based Colby has numerous books to her credit, often about New England. She has taught in Gloucester, Mass., and co-led art-and-poetry tours at the deCordova Museum in Lincoln. She and her husband were enormously helpful in providing a pied-à-terre to Suzanne and Erik when those sneaky characters were looking at houses in Providence without telling family members they were leaving New York. (We were over the moon when we finally heard.)

Nancy Greenaway is the muse of New Shoreham, R.I. She only just retired from a long and inspired career of teaching English at the island school and engaging students in poetry. I visited her classroom for her recent going-away party and was impressed with all the sources of imagination activation on her walls and tables. A happy place.

Ronnie Hess is someone I met in childhood on a different island. When I think of her, I think of so many shared experiences — the way we wrote and directed our first Ocean Beach teenage play, for example, and the way I envied her dancing the Slop with Stuey Shaw. Her poems about her Fire Island childhood are wonderfully evocative, as are those about about her husband’s family escaping the Holocaust and about Wisconsin, where she lives. She has a special gift for describing nature.

Francesca is a cherished friend I first met when we were copy editors at the Harvard Business Review in 1995. We have continued to work together off and on and to share a wide range of interests. She taught me a lot about blogging. I once created a haiku for Francesca about a dream she’d described one lunchtime. I wrote that in her dream “the moon was trending downward,” adopting some of the business jargon from our workplace. We still chuckle about that.

I apologize if I’ve left out any good friends. I blame age. In fact, lately I’ve startled myself with weird forgetfulness. Like sending graduation checks twice to the Anderson sisters or wondering why the world was blurry that day I forgot I still wear glasses despite cataract surgery. I don’t think it’s going to get better.

dreamtrenchescanoeingcoversmall

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Imagine how chuffed I was to see this article about Suzanne by Charmaine Gahan!

A close friend since kindergarten, Charmaine has been a huge support to Suzanne and the birthstone-jewelry company that hosts this blog, Luna & Stella.

In a delightful report, Charmaine describes how her whole family joined Suzanne’s family in New York City over school vacation to lend a hand at the Playtime trade show, a big deal for promoting new products to retail shops around the world.

Among the highlights of Suzanne’s growing collections are sweet Mama + Me bracelets, just in time for Mothers Day (May 8), and some stunning vintage lockets.

Notes the website, “All of the lockets in the Luna & Stella Vintage Collection were made in Providence, East Providence or Attleboro between 1880 and 1940.”

Why vintage mixed with contemporary? That’s kind of an interesting story, too, being the result of a hunt for beautiful hinges to use in new lockets. After the long search, Suzanne concluded that they just don’t make smooth and subtle hinges like they used to.

But sometimes an apparent dead end can lead to even better ideas, and Luna & Stella’s cool mixing of old and new seems to be an idea that is catching on.

At the Concord Journal (here), you can read more about the two friends and their families working the trade show in New York during the coldest week of the year.

Photo: Charmaine’s girls join Suzanne to look over the Mama + Me collection from Luna & Stella.

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At around age 2-1/2, small people begin to be ready for friendship. My almost-three-years grandson plays with his friend now, instead of just in the same space.

They understand each other’s words. They find the same things funny — leaning way, way back on the swing, climbing back up the chute of the double slide, feeding wood chips to mitten puppets, getting ready to kick the ball down the hill when suddenly it decides to go ahead without you.

I spent a little time Saturday morning with my grandson, his friend, and her mother. I told the mother how much I love the learning-language stage. She agreed and gave me an example of how it can be confusing when one word has two meanings.

She said she had told her daughter that the new baby brother had no teeth you could see but that the teeth were in his gums. Sometime later, when her daughter asked what she was chewing and she answered that she was chewing “gum,” the little girl thought her baby brother’s teeth must be in there.

Two and a half is a time so full of strange new things, she probably didn’t think it was any stranger than anything else.

A WordPress blogger in Australia [subsequent correction: not Australia but B.C Canada in the Okanagan] has another cute story, here.

Hungry mitten puppets

get ready to kick

the ball got away

casting light, not shadow

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