Friendship by the blog

“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but real friendship is a slow-ripening fruit that needs our time and attention.” — Artistotle  

Group2With so much going on in our lives, it’s hard to find time to nurture our longterm friendships, let alone start new ones. Yet countless studies show that social relationships are crucial to our well-being — especially as we age.

Furthermore, the benefits of using social media don’t rank as high as person-to-person contact. “Face time” isn’t a luxury; it’s key to our health.

With that in mind, Dr. Irene Levine (“The Friendship Doctor”) created The Friendship Blog — a terrific resource for anyone who wants to master the art of friendship or resolve sticky relationship issues.

Featured in national media, Levine is a psychologist and author of Best Friends Forever.  As she notes in the introduction to her blog, friendships are both rewarding and complex: “These unique bonds often run deeper than family ties, and sometimes last longer than our relationships with spouses or lovers. Yet there are few agreed-upon ground rules or roadmaps,” she says.

Maybe you need to detoxify your relationship with a difficult coworker, or regain balance in a one-sided friendship? Or maybe you’d like to rebuild your network with new contacts — but worry about appearing too pushy or needy? Does your child need help making friends? Whatever the dilemma, Dr. Levine’s Friendship Blog invites community conversation on any friendship topic you can imagine.

Plastic surgery face-off

“Welcome to the Great Plastic Surgery Debate — between women who do and women who don’t, and between the pressure to look 25 no matter the cost and our desire to be true to ourselves.” — Jane Ganahl

IMG_0349Timing is everything, isn’t it?  This week I’ve reached the two-month anniversary of the Mohs skin cancer surgery on my right cheek. As I mentioned in my essay on this topic for Michigan Prime, the five-hour procedure included plastic surgery reconstruction techniques to repair the three-inch incision.

Calling it an ordeal would be an understatement, but the pain and numbness are improving now, and the scar is healing … slooowly but surely. And there’s comfort in knowing the cancer was successfully removed.

Yesterday, the September/October issue of Spirituality & Health arrived in my mail, and the cover story caught my eye immediately. Written by veteran journalist and author Jane Ganahl, “Staring Plastic Surgery in the Face” delves beneath the surface (pardon the pun) of this controversial topic. The excellent piece shines a light on the spiritual and psychological aspects of aging — and why so many women go under the knife in order to meet the beauty standards of our youth-obsessed culture. Ganahl approaches the topic even-handedly, admitting she used to “judge” women who paid surgeons to tighten sagging jawlines and erase wrinkles.

Ganahl’s debate got me thinking. After undergoing Mohs surgery to repair a potentially disfiguring skin cancer, I’m not sure, now, if I’d submit myself to a facelift or cosmetic fillers to “fight” aging. For now, I’m grateful to be healing, and hoping to remain skin-cancer free while my new scar slowly blends into the laugh lines on my cheek.

What’s your opinion on this topic? Would you consider cosmetic surgery?

— Collage image by Cindy La Ferle —

Small-town romance

When it comes to staying young, a mind-lift beats a face-lift any day.”  ~Marty Bucella

CedarCoveIf you’ve spent any time in front of your television, you might wonder if midlife romance is a seasonal rarity or a gratuitous joke. And I’m not just referring to the Viagra ads. Hollywood doesn’t cast many older women in romantic leading roles.

So I’m cautiously optimistic about “Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove” series on the Hallmark channel. The new TV series is based on Macomber’s best-selling Cedar Cove books (I’ve lost count of how many there are) which feature several central characters over the age of 50.

In the Hallmark series, Andie MacDowell — looking fabulous at 55 — plays Olivia Lockhart, a municipal-court judge who presides over the fictional coastal town of Cedar Cove, Washington. This storybook universe manages to spin minus the grit of urban violence, but its resident characters still get divorced, struggle to overcome addictions, and rally to save their town’s landmarks while trying to balance careers with family.

Some — like Judge Olivia and her best friend Grace (Teryl Rothery)– are looking for midlife romance, post-divorce. At this point in the Hallmark series (episode 5 airs tomorrow night), Olivia is falling for Cedar Cove’s handsome newspaper editor, Jack Griffin, played by Dylan Neal.

As Nancy DeWolf Smith said in her Wall Street Journal review, the characters in Cedar Cove “seem to have time, to make time, to smell the muffins. The reason more of us don’t do that is because slowing down doesn’t work unless everybody around you is moving more slowly too, and that is not likely to happen anyplace but in fictionland.”

And yes, Hallmark’s “Cedar Cove” is fictionland — as neat and cozy as the clapboard art galleries and tea shops that line its quintessential Main Street. It’ll never be as enthralling as Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” series, or “The Walking Dead” — both of which I find highly entertaining, too. But if you’re over 50 and you appreciate small-town drama, you just might warm up to Hallmark’s sweet Saturday-night break from zombies, politicians, bloodied medical examiners, and murder investigators.

One more year …

Someday man will travel at the speed of light, of small interest to those of us still trying to catch up to the speed of time.” ~Robert Brault

IMG_0442

Lately it seems as if I’ve swallowed summer in one big gulp, like the last swig of Long Island iced tea on a scorching afternoon. I wish I had more in my glass.

I turned forty-nine this month, and already I’m wondering how to make forty-nine last as long as I can possibly stretch it. I plan to age gracefully — no dragging my heels into my fifties. I’d like to become one of those plucky old women who wear purple and “learn to spit,” as the Jenny Joseph poem goes.

But not so fast.

Recently, my son Nate and I were having a mock philosophical discussion about the velocity of time. He was anxious for the arrival of the new family car we’d ordered, which had been delayed in production. To him, the days weren’t accelerating fast enough; time was stalling like a faulty engine. Later he complained that summer break was ending too quickly.

His senior year of high school started last week, and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that idea, too. We’ve been shopping for colleges since May, and applications will be mailed soon.

Just one more year.

Another mom, whose only child is my son’s age, also tastes the bittersweet tang in this last swig of summer. Our lives will change too, she reminds me, when high school ends.

This will be the last year we rush to nuke meals in time for play rehearsals and tennis games.

This will be the last year we quit work early to snag front-row seats at concerts and award banquets.

This will be the last year we snap photos of our kids in tuxedos and prom dresses. And the last year for school uniforms, bagged lunches, bake sales, teachers’ luncheons, fund-raisers, permission slips, and field trips.

Of course, there’s the sweet ring of freedom in all of this, too. Don’t think it hasn’t occurred to every middle-aged parent who stands teary-eyed on the same threshold.

I chose to work at home when Nate was younger, combining freelance writing with Tiger Cubs and carpooling. Later on, I tried to stay involved in high school activities. Meanwhile, I’ve put a few dreams on hold, not to mention the career goals I’ve filed away. I’ve looked forward to the time when I can start my day without checking the school calendar. But I’ll miss other aspects of having a kid in school. I’ll miss the sense of community I’ve felt while comparing notes with other parents; I’ll miss all the Mother’s Club meetings and school conferences. And I’ll miss the incomparable satisfaction I get every time I work on projects involving young people.

This hit me on the long ride home from the campus of the University of Notre Dame, which I toured earlier this month with Nate and three of his closest friends – Andrea, Lauren, and Ryan. Though I’ve known these kids since they were small, it had been a while since we’d spent so much quality time in my compact station wagon. Between long stretches of road construction, periodic rain showers, and the Bare Naked Ladies blaring on the CD player, I remembered how much I’ve enjoyed the easy laughter and awesome energy of these kids. And I’m excited about this next phase of their lives.

But whether they head for Notre Dame or Michigan State next fall, I’m going to miss them. A lot.

As we drove closer to suburban Detroit, my backseat crew quieted down. The sky cleared, and one of the richest sunsets I’d ever seen suddenly appeared in my rearview mirror. My right foot instinctively moved toward the brake pedal – as if that would make it last a while longer. I didn’t notice the cars tailing me on the expressway until Nate pointed out that I was driving like an old woman, way below the speed limit.

Just one more year. Pour it slowly, please. –Cindy La Ferle

This column was originally published in The Daily Tribune of Royal Oak and is included in my column collection, Writing Home, now available in print and Kindle editions.