friends and family

What Does It Mean To Be a True Friend?

Lately I have had more than my share of friends and acquaintances ask for my opinion on sensitive subjects, or just share with me a situation they are facing. These are work related, relationship related and family related…all very personal.

My first thoughts tend to be, “Do they want to just vent, do they want me to validate their choices, or do they want my honest opinion?”

I find most people just need to articulate their dilemmas and are simply looking for confirmation that they are reading the situation correctly. These people seem grateful to hear a different perspective regarding implementing what they already know. Sometimes just receiving validation that you are in fact on the right path is very empowering.


The really challenging situations are when friends confide in me that they are doing something causing my brain to yell in big red letters, “RUN AND DON’T LEAVE A FORWARDING ADDRESS!!”


The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Yet whether due to guilt, hopefulness, regret or any other emotion, the reality is that most every human being walking the face of the earth has occasionally experienced this.

So, what does it mean to be a true friend? Do you sit quietly as you watch a friend enter a tunnel hoping that the light at the end isn’t an on coming train? Or, do you tell them that you hear the whistle and see the smoke?

No one wants to rain on a friend’s parade or burst his or her bubble. No one wants to see their friends choose a path that is certain to cause heartache and sadness. We are faced with many situations in our lives where there isn’t a clear and right answer. I watched a TV show last year where a singer accused his former wife of giving up on their love. Her response was, “How could I know that the 9th time you went to rehab it would work”? She gave up on the 8th time.

My point in sharing the above story: No one really knows if this time the outcome will be different, even if the odds seem stacked against it.

Since I don’t have a crystal ball, I have decided to do the following: Unless I am asked my honest opinion, I will keep my thoughts to myself, although wondering whether I am indeed being a true friend. I welcome all comments.


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They say, “You can pick your friends, but not your family.”  Although this seems to make sense, in reality I know many people who have life-long friends who they consider family.  Whether a person becomes an ‘honorary’ aunt’, or  ‘a mother figure’, or one considers their best friend’s Grandma theirs too, the people who are there for you, support you, and who guide you, in my opinion are family.

Over the decades we went from a family consisting of parents and children, to using terms like ‘blended family’ or ‘extended family’ coming from Yours, Mine and Ours.
Getting the privilege of living through a couple of generations now, it is easy for me to see that family is much broader than I ever thought.  Whether it is your community, your place of worship, or the people in programs that help you to conquer your challenges, family is a mind-set.
Perhaps we can’t pick the family we are born into.  We obviously can’t decide whom we share genetics and blood with.  But, what we can do is surround ourselves with people who have our back.  We can choose whom we celebrate holidays with.  And, we can choose whom we give our love and heart to.
When you think about it, the person we marry or create a life with wasn’t family before that time. 
Something to think about?

The Years

It seemed like yesterday that I was at my parent’s house poolside watching my 3 year-old son and nephew splashing and laughing.  My next clear memory is visiting my mom and dad when they moved from the house to a condo.
It was 17 years later and while I was visiting them, I took note of a young mother who was playing with her toddler in the pool.  Without even thinking I said, “Enjoy this time; they are little for such a short period.”

To think that was 21 years ago absolutely amazes me.  We are all saying how fast the years go by.  It seems like we start a new year, blink our eyes and we are looking at end of the year holidays.
In the scheme of things, we are here for a very short period of time.  True, there will be many who make KNBC’s Smucker’s Jam and Jelly jars as they hit 100, however, more often than not, our time on this earth is somewhere between 70 and 80 years.
I am not writing this to be depressing or even to focus on our ‘exit date’, but more precisely to remind people to make the most of the time we are here.  Find your passion.  Laugh when you can.  Cry when you are moved to tears.  Tell those you love how important they are to you.
And, if you truly open-heart, use your time here to learn and grow, you will hopefully be able to look back over your life and feel good about the person you became.

It Takes A Village

I have a friend who is VERY closed and private when it comes to her personal life.  She gets it from growing up during a time, as I have, where our parents would always say “What happens in this family stays in this family.”  Yes, Vegas was not the first to coin the phrase.  It was followed with, “We don’t air our dirty laundry.”
There are some instances where sharing our troubles with others is actually beneficial.  My friend, who as I said normally would not open up, did just that.  In doing so she got advice and a perspective that she hadn’t thought of herself.
The end result was she took action that helped her immensely.  Without her opening up, she would not have considered another option.

Many of us tend to think we are being a burden.  Many of us tend to think we should be able to handle our own problems.  Many of us tend to think we will be judged.
We all need help from time-to-time.  We all need support from time-to-time.  When you have a problem or a situation that you can’t seem to handle on your own and someone you trust offers help. 
My advice?  GRAB IT!  And, be grateful that someone took the time to be there for you.

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree

Usually the expression, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” is said in a negative way.  Children taking on the not-such good habits of their parents.

I feel fortunate that yesterday I got to experience this expression in a sweet, positive and affirming way.
I attended a Bat Mitzvah that has left me with thoughts and feelings of hope and respect for the generations to come.  Although I am on the outer circle of the family of the young lady, I have watched her grow from the stories her mother told and the Face Book pictures of family vacations and her accomplishments.
The Bat Mitzvah had no theme, there weren’t fancy decorations, there wasn’t a disc jockey, and it wasn’t a lavish party.  The food was simple yet delicious, and the hall was the recreation room in the community where they live.
What there was, was much love, warmth and genuine pride.  As I watched Ella read from the Torah, give her speech and receive her parent’s praise of the little girl who now approaches adulthood, I was almost spellbound.
Questions of how to parent.  Wondering what to say.  Wondering what to do.  The answer seemed almost too easy for me:  Be the kind of person you want your kids to be.  If you want them to be kind, be kind to others.  If you want them to be grateful, be grateful yourself.
Kids do not do what their parents say (as my dad believed), they do as they do.  They are little sponges.  They want to please.  They want to be just like you.
Would you really want a mini-you?  Think about it, because more likely than not, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”.

Always On My Mind

This song made famous by Willie Nelson brings to mind relationships.  I have always associated it with girlfriend, boyfriend kinds.
I was watching the show The Voice, and a young woman chose to sing it, and said she dedicated it to her grandmother who passed away four years ago.  She said, with tears, that she didn’t spend enough time with her.
I felt badly for her.  There is no question she loved her grandmother.  And, she probably was a good granddaughter.  The truth is we are all very busy.  Work, school, friends, activities, etc. keep us with little time left at the end of the day.
Although we are a culture that buys the latest toys, wants the latest technology, and are always replacing our old gadgets with new ones, the people in our lives are NOT replaceable, and won’t be around forever.

The other day a friend and I stopped by an assisted living facility.  Although we were there for another reason, her best friend, who passed away several years ago has a mother who lives there.  Since we were there anyway, she looked her up and spent about 20 minutes with her.  It had been a very long time since she had seen her, although she lives only five minutes away.
Tears on both sides were shed as they talked, hugged and reminisced about the past.  My friend has committed to visiting more regularly.  Her friend’s mother got so much out of the visit.  I think, perhaps, my friend got more.


I spent last weekend playing in a Mahjongg Tournament.  During the rounds of play I listened to women a couple of decades older than I am talk about the sets they have from their grandmothers.  I heard stories of how they learned the game when they were just children and their love for it.  It isn’t just the playing that they love.  It is the chatter, food, and most importantly the closeness they feel from sharing in an activity that gives them a familiar feeling of home and tradition.
This morning I was reading an article about the game of scrabble.  On her honeymoon the writer and her husband packed a traveling game that they played on the plane, in their hotel suite and on the beaches where they vacationed.
Her husband grew up playing board games and this love was passed on to their children after they were born.  Both of their boys are avid players and their family tradition lives on.

With the age of technology and the individual activities and games it brings, it is even more important to teach our children and grandchildren the traditions we grew up with.
A bowl of popcorn, a deck of cards (crazy eights come to mind), and an evening sharing stories, laughter and fun is on my list of things to do the next time my grandson spends the night.