Can We Talk About That?

March 25, 2009

Community – Then and Now

Filed under: Blogroll,Nashville — canwetalkaboutthat @ 4:17 AM
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As a child I grew up in a small backwoods town. If you drove through it you wouldn’t even believe that we considered it a “town” and might even chuckle at the thought. We had, I think maybe about 300 people in our little town. My family lived on about a hundred acres, so our neighbors needless to say were not “just next door.”

However, everyone seemed to know each other, or at least the adults did ~aka~ the “elders” – when you were twelve years old didn’t everyone over forty or so seem old? Anyways, being a child, I didn’t know it yet but we were a community not just a little town tucked away in the backwoods.

In our little community, as it pertained to anything that happened outside of one’s home, there was none of the “that’s not my kid nor my brother, so I’m not intervening” type attitudes that we often see today. Everyone made it their business to be mindful of all the other community members, especially the younger ones; even when a new kid popped up on occasion [probably visiting, but hey they might stay] they’d keep “one good eye” on him or her too. And if one of those “young-ones” looked to be “up to something” and it didn’t seem to be settling quite right with them [the elders/wise ones] they didn’t care whose young-one it was they’d intervene in some manner or the other.

Yep, we young folks were not so fond of our noisy “elders” [at least back then that is] they always seemed to ruin our grandest of plans! They “bossed” us, even when we didn’t exactly know who they really were, they knew us often by name but when not, by parents name i.e. “That’s Jimmy Barnes kid over there throwing them there rocks.” I use Mr. Barnes kid as an example cause I’d of never been guilty of throwing rocks mind you; I might have missed my target via that method! ;-)

They were a real pain, or so we thought, with their meddling, minding our business, giving long lectures, unwanted [now known to be pearly] advice and even ratted us out to our parents sometimes! I mean really we had a most difficult time getting ourselves into much mischief in that one cart town!

Not to mention they were always picking on, I mean keeping an eye on me because I was pretty adept at mischief, usually the harmless type which they loved to laugh about, but sometimes — you know like if Mary Jane pulled her puppy’s tail, or one of the larger kids was picking on a smaller one — I was prone to get involved and had no fear calling a cease your fire command or it’s a dual with me you mean bully!

Nonetheless, if I only called for one well that might have been Okay, but those nosy elders had come to learn that I rarely backed down from my stance in defending those considered to be our weaker community citizens. Yep, I’d be ready to battle it out for sure [all seventy-five spit-fire pounds of me that is – did I mention I was also a tiny little elf looking child]. Hey, in all fairness, I did give them an option to stop being a bully; by nature I do not like strife. I’ve always strongly preferred getting along with all, peace and love over war, both – then and now. I was a determined one when it came to “justice” for the underdog though – then and still now.

Any whom – Getting on to the point – How many of us did not moan and groan earlier on that we’d never be like Mom, or Dad, or Sally Sue’s parents or so-in-so…in moments of resentment at their all knowing ways?

Nonetheless, over the years I have come to realize most every young person’s worst fear “Oh my goodness, I’ve become just like them!” Well golly, I’m more often than not, so glad that I did! 🙂

Most of the time this resemblance, to my former community elders, it’s a good thing……but sometimes — you know like when an all grown-up Mary Jane is still pulling the puppy’s tail, or when it appears that bigger people are just being outright mean bullies to little people — I can become like that twelve year old spit-fire of a girl from yesteryear; desiring to help save or defend the weak and hence find myself wanting to call the cease fire command or it’s a dual.

And thankfully, although the community has changed, even the new community has community elders around that notice when the [all be them well intending] younger folks are up to something that “doesn’t settle quite right” with them.

I’m also thankful that I’ve learned from many of them that I’m much better off seeking their experienced counsel, before I go grabbing tigers by the tail or challenging the bullies to a dual at dawn…… And am even more thankful that there are still many that have not adopted the new and growing attitude of this world – “that’s not my kid nor my brother, so I’m not getting involved or intervening” in any manner – that is as it pertains to me and my family anyways.

Yep, who’d of ever thought it – That we’d someday be grateful for the eyes, ears and even the [unmerited] advice of our concerned community, both – Then and Now.

March 20, 2009

12 Ways to Make Friends

12 Ways to Make Friends.

By Therese Borchard.

1. Join a book club.

Am I in one? No. I don’t have time. And if I did, I wouldn’t read novels or a book straight through, from cover to cover. Remember, I suffer from poor concentration and was saved by CliffsNotes back in high school and college. But most of my friends are in them, and, I have to admit, I’m a little envious of the discussions that happen in these groups. They seem so much more interesting than AA. Better coffee too. If your neighborhood doesn’t have a book club, you can usually join one as part of the local library, the recreational or community center, the community college, or online, of course. Many papers will post book club notices, as well. Hey, and you could start one. Then advertise in local coffee shops, recreation centers, etc.

2. Volunteer.

That one seems like a no-brainer, but, seriously, have you ever considered how many charities to which you could give your time? Your local civic association is always in need of volunteers for projects like “let’s clean up the park before a hundred dogs crap on it again” and Greenscape (the same thing), toys-for-tots, Christmas In April, and so on. Don’t forget about all your local politicians who need help with their campaigns. If one impresses you, offer to knock on a few doors for her or him. Host a cheese and cracker party for the community to get to know the candidate. These are not only friend-making possibilities, they are networking opportunities and a chance to give back and feel good about that. Remember that “Seinfeld” episode where Jerry gets a girl’s number off of an AIDS walk? Bingo. That’s what I’m talking about.

3. Go online.

If you’re reading this, you have probably already taken this step! Good for you, because according to a 2002 study published in the “American Journal of Psychiatry“, Internet support groups have been shown to help those suffering from depression. The study followed a group of more than 100 individuals with high severe depression who joined online support groups. Though many had received other forms of treatment, such as face-to-face therapy (86 percent) or antidepressants (96 percent), more than 95 percent of users agreed that participation in the depression Internet support groups helped their symptoms.

“Yeah, but those guys are kids,” you’re thinking to yourself. WRONG. Less than half of Facebook’s 35 million users are college students, and by the end of this year its executives predict less than 30 percent of Facebook users will be sleeping in dorms and eating dining hall food. I’ll get into this more in my next post, but just let me say this: several of my supportive friendships have been born online, and the others (that weren’t born online) have been sustained through online technology.

4. Seek out a support group.

Folks, there’s more than AA out there today. Have you ever looked through all the local listings of meetings in your area? There’s even ACOMP (Adult Cousins of Mean People) … just kidding. At one time, my goal was to attend every single kind of support group. I was thinking that would bring me karma. Now I know that it would only lead to exhaustion. But seriously, for depressed folks there are Recovery meetings (based on Recovery, Inc. founded by Dr. Abraham Low), DRADA (Depression and Related Affective Disorders) groups, NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) groups, DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) groups. I’ve also considered assertive-training classes at my local YWCA (and they have all sorts of programs) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy groups at the community college.

5. Take a night class.

That’s where you can supposedly meet men (or women) if you find yourself single in your late 30s or 40s or 50s. For example, my one friend was sincerely interested in welding, so she took a class at the college. Naturally, she was the only chick in the class. I asked her if the movie “Flash Dance” (the flick about the Pittsburg woman who held two jobs as a welder/exotic dancer who wants to get into ballet school) had anything to do with her interest in welding. She said no, but she still loves to wear the sweatshirts off of her shoulder. If you take a class in something that you are interested in, you’re very likely to find potential friends with similar hobbies.

6. Get a dog.

I’m not talking about using the dog as a companion, although studies do indicate that pets are natural healers of depression. I just mean that dogs are people magnets–and usually nice-people magnets. A (male) friend of mine wanted to borrow our Lab-Chows when they were puppies because he noticed that when a cute fluffy creature was on one end of the leash, women swarmed around him, kneeling down to pet him (the dog). In Annapolis we have dog cults. If you walk your mutt in certain neighborhoods, you will meet approximately five to ten friends per mile. Double that if you’re walking a Golden Retriever. Triple it if you head to the “dog park,” designed specifically for doggy play, or proper socialization for dogs. (These owners might be wrapped a little too tight in my humble opinion–the kind of parents who buy mechanically-elaborate, safety-insured high chairs for their kids, replete with helmets in case of a drop.) Dog people talk dog language. Horse people talk horse language. And here’s another benefit: if you become psychotic, people will automatically assume you are talking to your dog. Bonus!

7. Steal friends from friends.

I realize this technique was frowned upon in the fifth grade. You would surely earn a reputation as a friend-stealer if you tried this too many times. But many (NOT ALL) people in their 30s, 40s, 50s (skip two decades for the boomers, just kidding) and 80s have loosened up a bit. I have found this to be a very efficient method of making friends, because someone has already done your dirty work–the interview process–and weeded out the toxic folks.

For example, when Eric and I landed in Annapolis ten year ago I knew no one but my husband and his mom. My sister-in-law, Julie, lived in Arlington, Virginia and came up sometimes on the weekends. I’d tag along with her to many of her social events. Julie became a very good friend of mine. We have several common interests and I respect her very much. It was no coincidence, then, that I also liked her friends. So I “adopted” them. Of course, I asked her … “Do you mind if I ask you best friend, Vange, to lunch? I really liked her!” Within a year, Eric and I were hanging out with his sister’s friends and their husbands more than his sister was (and this was okay by her). We were even included in the very elite “game night group,” a cult who gathers to drink, gossip, and eat dessert.

8. Knock on doors.

Yep. That’s what I did six years ago when I was stuck home with a fussy baby and going absolutely crazy. I walked around the neighborhood knocking on every porch that held a stroller. “You in there. I know you have kids. You want to be my friend?” I might have been a tad more subtle, but not much. I hung up signs in coffee shops, in office supply shops, and I told EVERYONE WITH A KID AND THEIR FRIENDS AND RELATIVES that I was started a playgroup on Wednesday mornings, 9 a.m., coffee and doughnuts when I felt generous, to try to regain my sanity. It lasted a year. Every bloody Wednesday it was at my house. Did I try to get other moms to host? Yes. My request was denied, so I finally had enough. But by then, I had found three really good mom friends to whine and laugh with, so I didn’t care about the other guys who had to find a new home to wreck.

9. Carpool to work.

Hey, it works for elementary school kids. Many six-year-olds meet their best buddies on the bus because 1) they live in their neighborhood (what could be more convenient?), 2) they are on the same schedule, and 3) they know the same people (“Susie has cooties.”) Not only is this technique eco-friendly, it makes sense on many levels: you already know a lot about these people (and if you don’t, you can always ask someone in your office who knows them better if they are friend-worthy), they have already been screened for drug use (score!), you already have a few things in common.

10. Attend a conference.

I’m a tad embarrassed to admit this, but I am a conference addict. I love conventions, mostly because I get to feel like a grown-up: there’s a smaller chance of someone vomiting on my shirt (unless she has had a martini too many) than if I stay at home. I’ve met some of my best friends at conferences that I attend on a regular basis like the Religious Bookseller Trade Exhibit, which is more of a retreat than a professional trade show. I try to get there as often as possible, because these get-togethers serve as a reunion of sorts. And I usually fly home with a stack of business cards, or potential friends.

11. Connect with your alumni associations.

I used to be much better at this before kids came along. I still pay my dues. Alumni associations are gold mines for potential friends. You already have a major experience in common: you can rehash old times as a conversation starter if you need one. Plus many associations sponsor community service events, workshops, or trips abroad that you can take advantage of even if you don’t need friends.

12. Talk to strangers.

I know this goes against what you were taught in elementary school. But, yes, the way to meet friends is to strike up a conversation with absolutely anyone. This means becoming the annoying lady everyone dodges on the plane: “So … what are you reading? … Oh, ‘Left Behind.’ … Have you gotten to the part where everyone except a handful of people burn in hell?… No? … I hope I didn’t ruin it for you.”

If you put yourself out there, yes, you will get rejected many times, and that hurts a little (sometimes a lot). But you will also find your best friends and guardian angels! That’s how I met Ann, my guardian angel. I plopped down next to her on an Amtrak train, and not even five minutes outside of New York, we were talking meds, shrinks, and dysfunctional relationships. Had I kept my mouth shut, I would be without one of the most important people in my life today.

Every day life is full of potential friendship moments: waiting rooms (Think shrink! You got something in common right there!), church, trains, planes, automobiles, office meetings, support groups, coffee shops, gynecologist exams (“So tell me, been to a good movie lately?”).

Get on out there!

To read more Beyond Blue, go to, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.

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