1. I’m a winner! Nina Badzin was hosting a book giveaway on her blog and I was one of the winners. Honestly I can’t remember ever winning a raffle before. The book is MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche. When Rachel moved to Chicago to be with her husband, she hadn’t considered one important thing: how hard it can be to make new friends. Instead of leaving it to chance, she approached meeting new friends in the same way one might look for a mate (in 2012 anyway). Rachel went on 52 “friend dates” – one for each week of the year – and compiled her experiences, along with research from the latest studies on friendship, into this book.
Thank you, Nina, for sending me this book. I’m looking forward to reading it.
2. On her blog, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin often talks about friendship as one of the pillars of happiness. She says, “Strong social ties are a key — arguably the key — to happiness. You need close, long-term relationships; you need to be able to confide in others; you need to belong; you need to get and give support. Studies show that if you have five or more friends with whom to discuss an important matter you’re far more likely to describe yourself as ‘very happy.'”
She points out time and again that in order to have friends we have to make an effort to nurture our relationships. It sounds obvious of course, but in our busy lives, that’s something that can often fall by the wayside. Women tend to require more interaction from their friend relationships than men. (Rachel describes women’s friendships as face-to-face, as in meeting over coffee or dinner, while men’s friendships are side-by-side, as in watching a baseball game together.)
I just started Rachel’s book, but I’m struck by how hard, read: how much effort, it can be to make new friends and maintain existing friendships as we get older. I think it’s because there’s so much going on in our day-to-day lives, making new friends is not something on our to-do list. Watching my friends who have young kids, it seems to be easier because they’re usually involved with other parents and automatically have something in common. What if you don’t have kids, or your kids are grown? A few months ago, Gretchen posted 8 tips for making friends, one of which is to say nice things about other people because you’ll be linked to that quality. (All of you reading this post right now are the nicest, most hilarious, most beautiful people I know!) She also has 8 tips for maintaining friendships.
Do you think it’s more difficult to make new friends as you get older? Or have a life shift (marriage, baby, new city, etc)? Do you have any tips maintaining or making new friends?
3. Tip of the week: When renewing your passport, do not, under any circumstances, compare your new photo to your old photo from ten years ago. Exception: you have a bag of M&Ms and a box of tissues standing by.
4. Looking for a family saga that is complex and rich and makes you think that your own family isn’t all that bad? Read Maine, by J. Courtney Sullivan. I listened to this audio book on my drive to Tennessee and had moments when I was tearing up, then laughing, then shaking my head. I’m sure people pulling up next to me thought I was losing it.
Here is a bit from the jacket copy: For the Kellehers, Maine is a place where children run in packs, showers are taken outdoors, and old Irish songs are sung around a piano at night. Their beachfront property, won on a barroom bet after the war, sits on three acres of sand and pine nestled between stretches of rocky coast, with one tree bearing the initials “A.H.” At the cottage, built by Kelleher hands, cocktail hour follows morning mass, nosy grandchildren snoop in drawers, and decades-old grudges simmer beneath the surface. As three generations of Kelleher women descend on the property one summer, each brings her own hopes and fears. Maggie is thirty-two and pregnant, waiting for the perfect moment to tell her imperfect boyfriend the news; Ann Marie, a Kelleher by marriage, is channeling her domestic frustration into a dollhouse obsession and an ill-advised crush; Kathleen, the black sheep, never wanted to set foot in the cottage again; and Alice, the matriarch at the center of it all, would trade every floorboard for a chance to undo the events of one night, long ago.
I was struck by the author’s deftness of characterization. The book alternates between four points of view and each woman has a distinct voice with her own wants and needs. They each have their own complex emotional pull. You can open the book to a random page and immediately know the character speaking, that’s how well defined they are. The last time I remember reading a novel with that kind of richness was The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. Some reviews have called this a great summertime read. (Maybe because it takes place over one summer? That could be why some readers were mislead into thinking this was a lighthearted, beachy novel. It’s not.) No matter when or where, I thought it was a great any-time read.
Read chapter one here.
5. Or maybe you’re looking for something that will make you feel uplifted and positive after the latest episode of The Bachelor? I Am is a documentary written and directed by Tom Shadyac. You may be familiar with his other work such as Ace Ventura, Bruce Almighty and The Nutty Professor. Tom lived in a 70,000 square foot mansion in Malibu and lit his fireplace with crisp dollar bills. Maybe the last part isn’t entirely true (he used tens), but you get the picture. A terrible bike accident shifted his perspective and he gave it all up to live a more authentic life. Along he way he decided to interview some of today’s most educated minds, including scientists, philosophers, historians and spiritual leaders, two burning questions: What is wrong with our world, and what can we do about it?
Building on Einstein’s words, “Humanity is going to require a new way of thinking if it is to survive,” Tom Shadyac realized that our current way of thinking is based on notions of separatism. Many of us operate under the assumption that we are separate from each other and separate from the natural world. But really we are all connected. I Am was affirming and it made me feel hopeful. The answers to the questions above might just surprise you.
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Have a great weekend, everyone!