The Cloak of Invisibility

There have been times in life when I felt like an outsider, most of my life actually. Instead of dredging up stories from my deep past, let me tell you what the last few years have been like.

I’ve lived in my current community for 14 years and worked at my employer for over eight now, and only now am I finally starting to feel a connection of some sort. It’s like I’ve been wearing the Harry Potter invisibility cloak. Some of that is self-imposed, running around as the working mom of three young kids in a new community. But some of that is inflicted on me. Of course in the latter case, that says a lot more about other people than it does me, but it doesn’t make me feel any better!

All of this sets up a pretty good case for therapy, to talk through why that is, and what that does to me mentally not to mention the very real physical health implications a lack of connection does to a body, but honestly I don’t have the time and don’t want to spend the money dissecting that because it is a never-ending quest.

adam-solomon-472458-unsplashI desperately miss those precious few times when I was warmly welcomed and felt totally loved and included, one of the gang.  I don’t have a posse…a group of friends to hang out with. My friendships are all one on one, spread out all over the US, and believe me, I value those, but frankly, I’m a little bit jealous of Taylor Swift and her squad.

And as a mother, I feel it even more acutely whenever invisibility affects one of my kids. You can imagine, then, how much this article a mother wrote about feeling invisible spoke to me. Take a moment to read it now. She’s got a great attitude and idea about how to manage the pain.

Sometimes the social anxiety, fear of rejection, and actual rejection was so bad, I had to stay at home. For example, there was a time when I sent my husband to dance rehearsals because he had thicker skin than I did. I told him about two young, affluent mothers at the dance studio. One woman had twins who played soccer with our daughter, so we had met her before from those activities. However she refused to acknowledge my greeting whenever I saw her, and she did the same with him. A wall had gone up, and she simply couldn’t be bothered with “others”.

My husband, being the guy he is, let’s most things roll off his back. He thought it was funny how she refused to acknowledge him, so he decided to turn it into a game. This woman and her friend always sat together and talked while our girls rehearsed.

He made it a point to greet them and gently engage them in conversation. They flatly ignored him, every time. This went on, week after week, for the nine months of dance season.

Never once did they crack. Never once did they show an ounce of friendliness.

Now my husband is a personable guy. He can carry on a conversation with anyone and he is well received the vast majority of the time by the people he encounters. But these women specialized in making others invisible. This isn’t a case of one-time preoccupation. This was a mission on their part.

I am reminded of a board meeting I attended. At the start of the meeting, one of my coworkers – someone senior to me – made it a point to go down the line to greet each of the outside directors one by one with a handshake but skipped me sitting in the middle of the line of them. Granted, he hadn’t seen the other people in a few months, but it’s not like I run into him all the time at work. It was remarkable. All he had to do was nod and say hello, but he literally ignored me while he said hello to every other human around me.

That was not an accident. That was deliberate. Believe me, I know to listen to my gut, and that guy is not the warm people person he pretends, or perhaps aspires, to be. How hard could it have been to say hello to me?

It makes me wonder what I have done to make people feel included, welcomed, in my social circle over these many years. Maybe I’m not that good at it. Maybe it’s been so long since I felt “at home”, I don’t know how to reciprocate.

It makes me wonder if our home is literally a safe haven for our kids. Do I cultivate that feeling of inclusion, full visibility, for them?

This brings to mind a funny episode. My coworker Doug was excellent at brokering introductions and making people feel welcome. He and our boss most certainly did that for me when I moved to Pittsburgh…he immediately made me feel at home there, and made it clear I was a welcomed addition to the team.

Doug knew of a coworker, Madison, who was moving back to Pittsburgh and would be working out of our office from that point on. He could not be there to take her to lunch her first day in the Pittsburgh office, but he knew I would be, and he asked me to welcome her. I was happy to do so.

Madison and I went to lunch that day and we invited another coworker, Joyce, to join us. Madison and I really hit it off, laughing and joking about a number of things, talking a mile a minute, such that the much quieter Joyce exclaimed, “How long have you two known each other?” We both looked at our watches and replied, “About 15 minutes!”

Just one. All it takes is just one person to help bridge the gap between unseen and seen, visible and invisible, stranger to acquaintance and maybe even friend.

My husband and I talk about where we want to live when we retire, and our current sentiment is “not here”. However, we don’t want to wait until retirement to make that move. We want to do it when we can perhaps influence where our kids will end up when they are old enough to be on their own, which means we may pack up and go while they are still young. And if we do this, we may voluntarily force all of us into a situation where we feel invisible all over again. Except with the next move, we will deliberately choose a place that feels like home before we go, more so than Ohio has ever done for me despite growing up in this state. It’s a risk, but we’re willing to take it.

You see, the risk of feeling invisible may not impact me as much since I feel this way all the time as it is, but as a mother, I worry about what this would do to our kids. Do I have the mental fortitude to help our kids through this sort of transition? Why is loneliness and invisibility such an issue?

Anderson Cooper said something poignant on CNN’s New Year’s Eve telecast earlier this month. The clock had struck midnight, all the songs had been played, and he and Andy Cohen were signing off for the night. Anderson acknowledged that New Year’s Eve can be an incredibly tough inflection point for a lot of lonely people, who no doubt reflect with melancholy on the year that had passed and maybe with some dread for the one ahead.

I was so touched that he said something to acknowledge these people who were no doubt alone, watching him on TV just then. For a moment, Anderson acknowledged those people…he saw them. In a way, I felt like he was talking to me. He spoke from a place of knowing, talking about one particularly difficult new year’s eve where his father had been very ill and ended up passing away a few days into January. He knew what it was like to stop for a moment and realize that the year ahead promised moments of pain and it would be tough to get through. One has to breathe deeply to muster up the strength to plow through what’s ahead.

It made me think of the years worth of new years, when my husband and I would crawl into bed after midnight, and I’d just cry in his arms over the feeling of invisibility and loneliness I felt living here. I can’t tell if that’s just the fate of a someone like me, a nomad who has moved around a lot, if that’s the small town where I live, or if that’s just society today. What does it take to belong?

Are there people in your life right now who need to be seen, to feel included? What can you do to help them in the coming days? What stories do you have to share on this topic?


Photo by Adam Solomon on Unsplash




Women, Weddings, Friendships, and Homecomings

My trusty red Jeep Renegade Roxanne carted my two youngest children and I to southern Indiana this weekend for the wedding of two beautiful young people, the bride being the daughter of a life-long friend of mine. My spouse and oldest kid had marching band duties and couldn’t join us for the celebration. When your husband is part of the administration responsible for enforcing attendance at band competitions, you can’t very well kidnap him and your band kid for a wedding, no matter how good of friends they may be.

It was a long drive, six hours away from my home. I’ve made this trip only two other times before. We drove down Friday night after work let out and got in past midnight. I don’t remember the last two hours of the drive all that well. Both kids had passed out in the back seat in an Oreo coma right before Louisville. It was dark, and I was slapping my cheeks, drinking cold water, and singing to stay awake. So dangerous! I know I should have pulled over to rest, but I figured I would then wind up sleeping for hours on some random interstate rest stop with two kids in tow. I really didn’t want to do that and be a mess the entire next day, if not the whole weekend. Because, let’s be honest: six hours down meant six hours back.

We three got a good night’s rest and it was time to get ready for the ceremony so I suited up the kids. My daughter chose a tasteful preteen black dress with matching flats. We had to curl her very long hair for effect. I let her wear nude eye shadow, mascara, and a hint of lipstick. To top it off, I let her wear some dangly earrings I brought along. Not overdone but subtle and pretty.

That afternoon I learned that my son outgrew his first holy communion suit in just six months’ time. I just assumed it would fit. The jacket did, but we could barely snap the pants which were almost a full two inches too short. Say what? I whispered to myself he was going for the Brooks Brothers look with no break in the pant leg. Or maybe he was super stylish with a LeBron James capri-length suit. Uh huh. Whatever. I topped off his look with suspenders and a bow tie, and let me tell ya: he was a tiny little stud when it was all said and done. We even put a little gel in his hair to get it to stay put.

I debated between the three dresses I brought, waiting for inspiration to hit me in terms of what look to shoot for. I finally chose a black and white geometric print maxi dress, flat sandals, and bright red lips. The red lips were not subtle. The flats were for dancing. I intended to celebrate.

Much to everyone’s surprise, it was 87 degrees this first October weekend in Indiana but there was virtually no humidity (also surprising), and as we pulled up to the venue, I discovered it was an outdoor wedding. A lovely, flower-laiden arbor was placed beside a small, pretty lake with white folding chairs assembled for those congregated. Afraid we might melt a little, I learned we didn’t have to worry too much. It didn’t feel that hot and a little breeze blew now and then to make the afternoon perfectly pleasant. Correction: picture-perfect.

Right away, I searched the crowd for my friend Stephanie, and found her at the edge of the gathering, working through logistics of the venue.

Mother of the bride! I have a friend who is mother of the bride! She was absolutely gorgeous in a brownish taupe dress with beading, her mid-length blond hair pulled back in curls and waves. Her large, light blue eyes were sparkling. It struck me how beautiful she is and always has been, and the joy on her face made it clear how happy she was that her only daughter was getting married.

Steph had kids when she was younger, and in contrast, I had mine when I was much older. I got to meet her little girl for the first time when I came to visit their home as a single woman. I distinctly recall this beaming, bouncy little 3 or 4-year-old brunette with large, brown, shiny eyes. We bonded. I painted her toes and fingers a sparkly orange while she sat transfixed. She was absolutely adorable and one of the prettiest little girls I had ever seen. I was so happy that my friend had two wonderful kids.

I had only seen this daughter one other time, at the high school graduation party of her older brother. Over the years though, I felt I knew her because I watched her mother recount her life in Facebook pictures. What a joy to watch her achievements over the years in softball, to marvel at her senior pictures, and to monitor her college years and dating life from afar…always with admiration.

At some point her daughter friended me online.  I was completely tickled to have her friendship. Even though her family and I have always lived far apart, she knew enough about me to befriend me, and I was touched by the gesture.

My friendship with Stephanie is over four decades long, and dates back to kindergarten. She grew up a block away from me, across the street from our elementary school. For years, we played together almost every day, and fought like cats and dogs, kinda like sisters would but I never did with my own because they were so much older than me.

Monday I would drag my baby doll and crib over to her home to “play house” in her basement. She had, hands down, THE COOLEST play kitchen set. Her pretend husband was Donny Osmond (in retrospect, an admirable choice) and mine was Tony Orlando (really? OMG).  The next day, she’d drag her stuff over my house to play “Little House on the Prairie”, “Happy Days”, Wonder Woman & Isis, or Barbies. Our days would end in a fight or tears or both…yet the next day we’d start all over again, ad infinitum. Our mothers would roll their eyes.

I was terrified of her terrier and her older sister. She was terrified of her older sister, for that matter. At some point her sister warmed up to me and started to call me her “little sister” too. That felt really nice, to think I had won her over.

Somewhere around 5th grade Steph and I grew apart. I had become best friends with another girl in our class. Actually the three of us were known as the Three Muskateers…we lived in the same neighborhood and hung out together but at any given time any two of us got along better than all three simultaneously.

This was around the same time Stephanie was allowed to go roller skating and hang out with boys on Friday nights at St. Joseph’s Catholic School gymnasium around the bend on Route 40 from our neighborhood. Skating and boys during junior high were strictly disallowed in my house.

This is when she started styling her hair while I hadn’t even figured out how to comb mine consistently. She always had the best clothes. I felt a little jealous about that. Ok, maybe a lot jealous. I had polyester hand-me-downs that were any where from 5-15 years out of style.

You see, Steph and I attended grade school in the 70s. Girls wore blue jeans every day in the 70s, but not me. I was stuck wearing dresses with bobby socks, in the 70s. My mom was 45 years older than me and routinely argued that poor people wore blue jeans in the Depression when they didn’t have two nickels to their name. We didn’t have money for things like clothes as it was, but for sure there was no way she was going to dress me in jeans no matter how much styles had evolved since the Depression. It was brutal.

Finally my mom broke down and bought me my first pair of jeans in the 5th grade. I had one pair, and only one, with red satin bands embroidered on the back pockets. Man, I was so proud of those pants. I wore them weekly until they were at least three inches too short for me.

Stephanie clued me in that the kids at school made fun of how I dressed, at how severe my “floods” were. It hurt like crazy to hear it but I appreciated the honesty so I could figure out a way to manage it in the years to come. I still have hang-ups when it comes to clothes.

In 6th grade, I finally learned to ride a bike so we’d tool around our hamlet of Lansing on our ten-speeds. Once we rode to an abandoned construction site of sorts a couple of blocks from our home. I don’t remember why this field was torn up like it was but a giant pond had formed. We took a bunch of boards and rocks that were laying around and tried to build a bridge across it. Engineers we were not. As we tried to cross the pond, one of the boards flipped and we both fell onto our bottoms into this mucky water, LOADED with tadpoles. Neither of us were really outdoor kids. It was the grossest thing EVER to fall into the Tadpole Hole but we howled about it all the time afterwards. I’ll never forget walking stiff-legged out of that pond, just imagining where we might find tadpoles. Ewww…

By the time high school started, our friendship really blossomed again. One of the days I walked across the alley to the elementary school to catch the bus to the high school. She met me half-way across the alley, with crazy eyes, a distraught look on her face, and her hand thrust before me. I remember thinking it was really strange for her to walk toward my house when the bus stop was across the street from her own house, but then she directed me to look at what was missing: the class ring from her long-time boyfriend no longer on her finger. They had broken up and she was devastated. I remember feeling so badly for her…but I can’t remember if I hugged or tried to console her. Some memories are missing. I can only hope I was a good friend to her in return.

We used to laugh about how her mom would critique her hair, makeup, and clothing for the day before she was excused to leave for school. She called it The Twirl. She had to “twirl” in front of her mom so she could take in the whole ensemble. Her mom was tough on her but it was clear her mother loved her. Over time I grew not so much jealous of their relationship, but certainly wistful. Steph had something with her mom that I never had with mine.

In contrast, she always thought my mom critiqued my grades but I had to explain that my parents didn’t pay a lick of attention to my grades unless they weren’t “As” in which case I would get an earful, like the time my dad berated me for getting a B in art. I made sure crap like that never happened.

Still my mom got a kick out of Stephanie. Steph still recites my mom’s favorite line when she was in a good mood: “Dig, dig, dig….” and we laugh.

Her mom Carol liked me, it seemed, and liked her in return. I remember being blown away by this beautiful portrait of her mom in her late 1950s/early 1960s wedding gown that hung in their living room.  I had never really seen a portrait of a bride before, in anyone’s home, so this was unusual, and she was breath-taking.

At some point Steph got a car and then drove us both to school for class. It was awesome. She gave her car a name which I have forgotten…and that’s why I named Roxanne and most of my cars to this day.

Senior year I was named to our homecoming court. Right after school that day, Steph showed up at my house with some other friends to honor me and bring me flowers. I have never forgotten that kindness. It could have been incredibly easy for friends to abandon me – and some did over the years – but she never did.

In the mid-80s, we graduated from high school, and before you knew it, Steph was engaged to be married to a guy that wormed his way into her life. She felt compelled to marry him not because she was in love with him but because he just showed up at her house every single day to visit with her mom, whether or not she was there. He didn’t give her any space to be anywhere but with him.

She asked me to be in her wedding party and I gladly accepted. What did we know? We thought maybe this was how grown up relationships worked. Can you imagine?

I remember coming along to see her getting fitted in her wedding gown and I burst into tears on the spot, seeing a childhood friend all dressed in white.

About a month before the wedding, Stephanie called me in tears to say she was calling it off. She had the guts to admit she didn’t love him but felt coerced by her fiancé into a marriage she never wanted. She was afraid I would be disappointed in her. I couldn’t believe she was worried about me being disappointed. I wasn’t upset. Instead I was incredibly proud of her for being strong and knowing what was right for her. The strength that took! She found it in herself to speak her truth. So incredibly brave of her.

She and I went on vacation to Florida together within the year, visiting Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, and Disney. It was awesome to hang, just the two of us as adult women. And when we landed in the Columbus airport after the end of this trip, her then new boyfriend, now husband, was slated to pick her up. It was the first time I met him.

She and I lost touch shortly after this. They married in a quiet ceremony on New Year’s Day at some point.  Who knows where I was then…in Columbus, traveling like crazy for work? Maybe I had moved to Pittsburgh by then. Hard to say. Distance and work demands got in the way.

I remember arriving for our 10-year high school class reunion, and as I walked in the door, she was the one to grab me in the biggest bear hug, the most thrilled to see me. Honestly, hugs from Stephanie are my homecoming. I can always count on a bear hug from her. Her love and kindness are genuine.

So much has changed from the time we grew up. We both moved far away from little Lansing. They closed our elementary school, tore down our old high school, and replaced it with a new one in an entirely different location. My mother died, too young. Her sister became ill. Her father passed away far too young himself, shortly after my mom. She moved to Indiana with her husband, and her mother soon followed after selling her family and grandmother’s houses. They moved her sister out to Indiana too, so they could all be together. Her mom eventually remarried. My father died 11 years after my mom. We sold our family home to a family member 20 years ago and I haven’t stepped inside since.

I almost never visit Lansing now. Our little neighborhood isn’t the same, especially since our beautiful little houses have lost the pride and love that cared for them and the people inside. The corner candy and ice cream store we used to visit is torn down. The Tadpole Hole is long gone. Nearly every single thing that was my home and my memories of growing up, are, in a sense, completely destroyed. I almost feel like an Ohio Valley refugee, still wandering and trying to find a home 30 years later except I no longer have a physical home to go back to.

But Stephanie? Steph is home to me. And this is where my memory fails me….kinda like that Maya Angelou quote. I often forget what people say or do – shoot, I often forget what I say and do – but I never forget how someone makes me feel. Stephanie and her hugs – her warmth – is home personified no matter where we are when I see her.

So I drove six hours to witness the vows her gorgeous daughter made beside the love of her life. I took pictures, not so much of the bride and groom but of my beautiful, lifelong friend who was radiant. She has maintained a fantastic relationship with her own mother 30 years longer than I ever got with mine, and for 20-25 of those years, she has fostered the same kind of love and devotion with her own beautiful daughter. She clearly adores her daughter and it’s mutual. I got to witness this family and generations of this love pour forth as Buppa (grandma) Carol proudly walked down the aisle, followed by elegant daughter Stephanie, and then finally by their equally lovely granddaughter Cadie. And while this was happening, I blew silent kisses to Steph’s grandma Mary in heaven as she too had to be bubbling over to witness the beauty of the day, this long line of incredible women.

43274533_10216882941967198_2431152004379181056_nYes, there I was, taking pictures of my beautiful friend, who had the kind of joy beaming from her face that I can only hope other parents experience when they see their precious children get married to the love of their life. I watched Stephanie Jo in a quiet joy of my own, gripping the arm of her handsome husband, a good man who is her equal, watching her face smile as it changed through several stages of emotion with elegance and poise, and then finally resting her head on her husband’s strong shoulder knowing their work in raising their daughter, into the confident woman she is today, was done. With overwhelming happiness and content, they witnessed their handsome new son-in-law walk arm in arm with his gorgeous bride on a sunny, warm, October afternoon, taking their first few steps as husband and wife.

That is a happy memory I will carry in my heart forever.

She and I danced a polka at the reception. I meant to tell her I discovered after all these years that I am technically half-Polish to her 100% Polish. Maybe we are related after all! Yes, we did the polka, not the easy, cheating way where you dance side by side one another but the kind where you dance as a couple and swing around. Then I dragged my own daughter out to the dance floor and the two of us old friends tried to snap her out of her pre-teen moodiness with Uptown Funk dance moves. My daughter was close to pulling a muscle with her eye rolls. She almost started laughing at us but the pre-teen attitude within her was too strong. Her arms stayed crossed, and she issued the standard, “Moooooooom….” that comes out in two syllables, not one.

Stephanie cupped my daughter’s face in her hands more than a few times and planted a couple of kisses on her cheek. My girl didn’t know what to make of it. I tried and tried and tried to explain to her who this cherished friend was to me, but I don’t think it really sunk in. I told her that when she marries, hopefully no less than twelve years from now, Stephanie and her husband are invited. Who knows if they’ll be able to come? Who really knows what the future holds? It’s nice to imagine it, though.

Time passes so incredibly fast and simultaneously slow, but in the span of a single day, I lived almost all 50 of my years over again, remarking over a friendship that has endured all this time despite the distance of many miles and the challenges of raising kids in wholly different generations from each other. She still loves me, despite the crazy, often annoying political stance I’ve recently taken that’s very different from her own. She still loves me even though we don’t get to talk or see one another that often. She still loves me, despite our daily cat fights over Barbies and baby dolls once upon a time.

And I still love her. I always will. She is my warmest reminder of home. She is my homecoming.

New Year Blessings


Image courtesy of Ian Schneider on

Wishing you all a wonderful 2018. It’s my sincere hope that you be happy, healthy, and prosperous in the new year. Count your many blessings.

Following the example of a relative of mine, I thought I’d recap the top highlights of 2017 concluding today. Earlier this afternoon we held our family meeting, the Louie Scoop, and recounted 219 celebrations we acknowledged as a family over the year.


Items both big and small. It brought smiles to our faces to remember the wonderful things that happened. In a year when so many crummy things can bring us down, whether it is the state of politics (I’m really struggling with this), natural disasters (how horrific), or other matters of chance that bring bad luck, it’s imperative that we remember the things that make us happy and bring joy. They are everywhere.

So here’s my personal year in review…and an attempt to look at the bright side of things…COUNT MY BLESSINGS.

1) Celebrating my 50th birthday first with family at one of my all-time favorite restaurants Gervasi Vineyard, then with my husband on a last-minute cruise to the Bahamas, beating the hurricane the entire time. Relatively healthy and happy. Living in a warm, welcoming home in a charming, safe, small town. Blessed beyond measure with my family. Working professionally in a job that I mostly enjoy at a good company.

2) Traveling with my oldest son to Seattle for a special mom-son getaway. Eating dinner at the Space Needle, catching the Seattle Sounders play, and seeing the Terra Cotta Warriors in person at the Pacific Science Center. It was so good we may make it an annual event each year he is in high school.

3) Celebrating a dear friend’s successful battle against ovarian cancer with a girls’ weekend trip to Bedford Springs. You MUST celebrate moments like that.

4) Connecting and reconnecting with so many friends this year, most involving travel and trips of some kind…a high school friend I haven’t seen in over 30 years. A couple of friends from my Pittsburgh days that I have lost touch with over the years. A couple of friends locally whose friendships have strengthened. Thank you all. You have no idea how you warmed my heart and I hope that I can return the favor. After years of intense loneliness and honestly wondering why can’t I be “normal”, it was a huge relief to just be me around these friends of mine, not having to worry about putting on an act, if I’m talking too much, or not enough, or wondering if I’m likable enough…. These friends of mine, God bless them, love me for exactly who I am. What a gift!

5) Taking that amazing 9-day California trip we took with the kids to Los Angeles and San Diego in the summer. I didn’t think I’d enjoy LA since I didn’t particularly love it during my prior work trips out there but through the lens of my kids it was incredible. How I love the internet and the ability to search where to go at the touch of a button! True to form, I reconnected with a couple of other friends I haven’t seen in years (I kinda do have friends all over the country). We jammed so much into that time: the film studios, Hollywood, USC and UCLA, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Pier, Zuma & Huntington Beaches, the USS Midland, San Diego Zoo, and Coronado…and it was incredible. Tried an AirBNB condo for the first time in LA and it was huge, clean, tastefully appointed, the right price, centrally located, just PERFECT. Breaks my heart to think about how much of this area was caught up in the wildfires…

6) Watching our kids excel in something they love. The oldest playing snare in the marching band as a freshman, our daughter dancing her heart out and performing her first duet, the youngest learning the piano and loving every second….and performing an accidental solo without missing a beat (since we forgot his music book at home and I  didn’t realize he was performing at all that day!)

7) Having Easter dinner with my three siblings and three cousins at one cousins’ home for the first time together in 40 years. Our mothers were sisters and we seven cousins may as well have been siblings, we spent so much time together. This was true until I turned 10, when my aunt died. Most of my cousins and siblings are much older than me, so they were adults then or almost adults. Two of the cousins and two sibs moved away, then it was my turn. So not only did we have a death to change the family dynamic, we had distance to do it too. Now all of our parents are long gone, and most of us have married with kids of our own, and now some grandkids in the bunch. I don’t know how many of us gathered at the home….40-some people? Tables everywhere. Some tears of remembrance. It was pretty old school and awesome having the seven of us cousins all together like that, like we haven’t really done in 40-some years. Plus watching my brother and my youngest play baseball together was priceless.

8) Welcoming one of my nephews back to Pittsburgh from Colorado just last week. He moved away for college, traveled in Europe, moved to Austin, and then Loveland for the 13 years or so. As an extended family we get together for holidays but there were many times he wasn’t there, and I definitely felt his absence….I’m so glad he’s back among family and we can see him more.

9) Finally buying a new car, a white Honda CRV after nine years of driving Rocket, my red Jeep Patriot (Rocket was named by my oldest, using Little Einsteins as his inspiration…) . “Puff Betty” is her name, a mash-up of contributions provided by my kids and friends.  “Puff” because being white, the car reminds my kids of a cloud. “Betty White” was the suggestion of my friend. I decided to pull a Sean Combs and call her Puff Betty. My heart was originally set on “Bianca” which is white in Italian but I decided that a Honda CRV wasn’t nearly sexy enough for that kinda name. Maybe one of these days I’ll drive a sports car and name her Bianca or something even better.

10) Starting this blog. 33 followers so far after three months. I warned you guys I would be all over the place in terms of what I write about. Hopefully you like what you’ve seen so far.

So take a moment and count your blessings from this past year. Wish a happy new year to the people you love the most. Kiss. Hug. Mean it. And give 2018 all you’ve got!

#10 – Socialize More

Part of a series of ten segments, checking the progress of my 2017 New Year Resolutions.

The last of my 2017 resolutions begs for a back story, and one that I may get to over time, because it runs as long, as wide, and as deep as the Mississippi. And no, the story I’m telling here is not that story. There’s a lot to today’s story but it is not the whole story.

To start with yet another confession, I’ve been excruciatingly lonely for the last 16 years. I have no idea if this fact surfaces as an underlying current in my Facebook posts or not. I can’t care about that anymore. Time to just spill the truth.

16 years happens to coincide with the year my husband and I met, married, and moved away from Pittsburgh, a city where I met the most wonderful group of people, a large group of friends I had made by choice and whose interests mirrored my own. They came from all sorts of different backgrounds which thrilled me to no end, and many of them rawpixel-com-250087had moved to Pittsburgh from elsewhere same as me…but we all fell in love with its charms. I had come into my own during those young, single adult years in the city of three rivers, and never felt as much at home, in every sense of the word, as I did there.

As newlyweds, we left the Burgh to start a new adventure: my husband’s new job in Omaha and my own business which I could operate from anywhere. We planned to  return, and I always assumed we would, to those friends and that rich, multi-faceted life. It never happened.

Now being married is wonderful and along with it came my precious family and a whole new dimension to my life that I cherish greatly. So every time I talk about my aching loneliness, it sounds like a criticism of my husband, marriage, and kids, and that’s not the case at all. It’s just that a HUGE number of things about my life changed simultaneously when we left Pittsburgh, and it was undeniably life-altering how unsettling it all proved to be.

But my husband? He’s been a rock in my life, and stood by my side no matter what. I’m not going to cheapen our marriage by talking about it and defending it on a blog. I don’t need to and he knows how much I love and value him. Plus he knows what’s in my heart and prompting me to write this. I’ve discussed every single bit of this with him over this year and over these many years.

levi-guzman-268866I just miss having girlfriends, a squad. And for that matter, I miss having guy friends. I had a lot of both at one time, and I treasured the sense of belonging, perspective, and pure fun those friendships gave me. Moving away loosens those bonds pretty significantly. Getting married loosens them some more. Doing both, you damn near destroy what friendships you had. I don’t even have someone who is “my person” in Grey’s Anatomy parlance.

I can’t tell you how many new years’ days in a row I have cried in my husband’s arms, reflecting on the year passed and the year ahead, about my loneliness. I swore this was the year I’d do something different about it. I swore I would really stick my neck out there and socialize. It’s so incredibly hard, discouraging, and downright intimidating, for a couple of reasons.

  1. It feels like every last minute of my day is caught up in laundry, making doctor appointments and other plans, helping with homework (ok, truth be told, that’s eased up a bit and my husband does most of it), chauffeuring for soccer or dance (and oh, let’s throw writing into the mix now!) and while I may get offers to social outings, I often need to shortchange the time I spend out or I’m just too tired to even go. However, it’s gotten better. When the kids were really young, it was far easier on everyone for all of us to stay home. Now that I can leave the house to run some errands and the oldest can watch the younger two, it’s amazing! I tell people I am emerging from an early childhood-raising coma. They understand what I’m saying…
  2. My energy levels are plummeting. Call it diet and lifestyle, call it age, call it making a living, call it overwork/over-scheduling…I don’t know what to call it but it is really difficult for me to summon the energy to socialize, relax, and do nothing because even if I’m physically doing nothing, mentally, I’m thinking about #1. I’m thinking about #1 because there is no backup. It’s me and my husband and that’s pretty much it. No extended family I can call upon for 100+ miles. Nobody to rely upon. No babysitters we can hire every single night of the week because that just feels wrong and I won’t throw money out the window like that or outsource raising our kids to a teenager. It’s just us, always. Nobody else. To rely on someone else, we’d have to know them well enough (which requires socialization) and trust them, not abuse the help (which is so easy to do), and be in a position to reciprocate. So we don’t have a backup. I can’t mentally handle the math of “who can I call on this time?” and everything else I juggle in #1.
  3. I’m a cross between an introvert and an ambivert. When I’m overwhelmed with #1 and #2, I’m definitely introverted…small talk (the weather, “how are you” exchanges) drains me. I’d rather talk about something unusual, funny, or substantive, however you just don’t make acquaintances and turn them quickly into friendships over a deep conversation. Now there are days when I can easily be the center of attention and “hold court” telling stories and yukking it up with those around me. I have a spunky, zany side, and I will bust a gut laughing every chance I can get…it doesn’t get to come out to play too often anymore. There’s just a heavy, wet blanket on that side of my personality most of the time. So crazy enough, there are people who are convinced I’m an extrovert and astonished to hear otherwise. They don’t see the downtime I need. Then there are others who only know me as an introvert and have zero interest getting to know me better because they think I’m boring, quiet, uptight, and maybe even aloof. It’s extremely hard to break out of that kind of first impression, but that’s what a lot of people see. Sometimes I just wish I could be a normal person but most of these days, I just use my energy to stay upright.
  4. It feels like I’ve spent the last 15 years introducing myself to people. No matter that I spent the 15 years before that doing the very same thing, going off to college and working as a consultant and it didn’t drain me. Now it does. And the amount of life change I’ve had in the last 15 years was enormous: I’ve moved three times to two different states, had four jobs, and birthed three kids. I know a huge number of samuel-zeller-362021people superficially. It’s exhausting to introverts like me. And I scare people away, over and over again with my intensity, my constant striving to grow and be better than I was yesterday, so I don’t really try to get to know people any deeper. Besides, many of the people I know in this town have been here a long time and have their long-term friends…they aren’t really looking to make new ones.
  5. Everyone told me that it would get much better: I’d make friends with the parents of my children’s friends once my kids started school. Yes and no. I’m a working mom with no time for school volunteering or the PTO so that avenue was kinda cut off. I mean, if you’re finding it difficult to read through your child’s papers every evening, do math facts and reading, then sign and return what is supposed to go back the next day, you don’t really have the bandwidth for volunteering and the PTO too. You just don’t. Which means, I don’t have the inside scoop on the teachers, administration, or other moms, so I didn’t have anything to contribute to the conversations anyway. I couldn’t even reciprocate on the play dates that other moms were able to do. During pickup and drop off they were always able to stay and chat for 10-20 minutes but I felt I always needed to go go go….run home for another load of laundry or to go get someone else from their activity, etc.
  6. And let me share this: some of the early moms I met were 10+ years younger than me with bodies and energy levels to boot. I’d see them wear tight mini-dresses and four inch heels to go clubbing once every week or two. Clubbing? Not that I was asked to go, but I hadn’t been clubbing in well over 10 years. Drinking all night? See #2 above. I can’t function properly as it is; I don’t want to revisit what a hangover would feel like under these circumstances. I just cannot do it. Besides, I just come across like a prude because I know I can’t drink like that. I love wine but two glasses tops, and Mama Louie’s gotta call it a night. And then there was the lovely family we met somewhat early on where the one parent became a felon, I believe. And I’m a working professional who adheres to a code of ethics… so… just makes it a bit awkward because you can’t just come out and say, “um…we understand you were arrested for theft, and well….we just….can’t be friends. We wish you well, we really do, but no. For our own peace of mind, and my professional reputation, we can’t invite that kind of drama into our lives, thank you very much.” So yeah, socializing in my town became this increasingly impossible, insurmountable obstacle. I can’t tell you how many nights I just slumped in a puddle and cried because I just didn’t have a wellspring of strength to draw from, to overcome the intense loneliness I felt.  How do you crawl out of that hole? One freaking day at a time, and I’m still crawling. And Facebook was a lifeline when I had no other.
  7. I had all three of my kids pretty late in life, and was bracing myself for the day we sent the youngest to kindergarten. I was waiting, just waiting, for the perky fellow kindergartener mom I could have given birth to. Thank God my youngest loves me, loves me, loves me, and doesn’t blink an eye at how much older I am than the other moms. And THANK GOD, these moms are mostly only 10-15 years younger than me, not 20, and they’re pretty awesome. Nevertheless, it’s really hard being the oldest one in the room at all times. Especially when I never used to be the oldest one. Honestly I was always the youngest one, so I truly don’t even know how to relate to everyone. I feel like the odd man out every where I go, in everything I say and do. It just pulls the introverted covers tighter over my whole being.
  8. For 10 of the 12 years we’ve lived in our town, I was convinced we would move back to Pittsburgh at any moment. Why make friends when the moment you move away you’ll never hear from them again? Been there, done that…don’t need to do it again. I had always been one of people who cherished friendships for life, and it crushes me when it isn’t reciprocated, especially if the friendship had been pretty strong at one time. But there came to a point, 10 years after moving into our house, when I had to give my family some sense of stability, and commit to staying put: agreeing I would permanently abandon a move back to Pittsburgh. My long-held dream was gone. I can’t just dangle that out there and disrupt my family’s sense of home and need to feel rooted themselves. So tell me, how do you make friends when your opening line is, “I’ve lived here for 10 years and I don’t know who I’d call at 3 am if I needed to. Other than our sitter, I don’t know whose ‘local contact’ name to put on the emergency papers at school.” I don’t who is close enough friends to call “family”. Because the truth is, I need friends to be my family because I just don’t have that here, and my sisters are over a hundred miles away and consumed with obligations toward their own children. My parents have been gone for 30 and 20 years respectively as are all of my aunts and uncles. My mother in law lives 2000 miles away and rarely visits. I need that “village”, but I am so afraid to ask for it, or open up and receive it. I’m so afraid to be rejected. I’m so afraid the people we’ll end up knowing are people we don’t want to know: addicts, liars, snobs, bigots….  Oy….  Believe me, we’ve encountered some characters over the years. I am not going to deliberately bring those kind of people into the orbit of our family.  I’d rather be alone, so I am, but I worry about the impact it has on our immediate family. The five of us spend a significant amount of time alone. Now don’t get me wrong, we have tons of acquaintances and dare I say it – friends – who are absolutely lovely, but I can’t and won’t demand the intimacy of deep friendship with them. It comes over time….over a long time…and it must be mutual. I’ve danced that tango and I’ve stepped on toes. I’ve been dipped and dropped.  So no, I no longer know how to broker those kinds of friendships…not when a husband and kids need to jive with the relationship too. I just don’t. I know I can’t force it. Suffice it to say, it’s incredibly hard to make new close friends at this point in my life. I wish I hadn’t moved away. I really wish I hadn’t. And frankly, I ought to just shut up about that because that’s old news. Really old news.

So…….I had a new year’s resolution to socialize more. Was I successful? Eh…

I deliberately connected with more acquaintances in the neighborhood and such on Facebook. Believe it or not, that’s a struggle for me to do. Since I can’t get out much, so I thought maybe I’d get to know people and vice versa online. It has worked in some cases. In others, people didn’t accept my friend request. I know not to take that too personally.  For example, I don’t have 1000 “friends”. I have a few hundred…and that’s a lot for me. There are people from high school I refuse to connect with because my family is sacred, and my thoughts are deep and personal, I don’t just share them with anyone. [Ignore for a moment that I now have a blog that’s open for anyone to read. This is different, uncharted territory….]

One of my high school friends, Barb, reached out and wanted a girls’ weekend with me this year. I hadn’t seen her in 30 years but it was touching to be asked, and wonderful to plan it and go. It was balm for the soul to talk to someone who knew me back then, where I didn’t have to hold back on anything I said or try so incredibly hard to be likable. To Barb, I want to say: thank you from the bottom of my heart. You thought our weekend was healing for you. Little did you know what you did for me. And as icing on the cake, our weekend away allowed me to have breakfast with my childhood friend Stephanie, who I don’t get to see often. You have no idea how huge these gifts are to someone like me, because I know that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.

Another friend also named Barb reached out to me out of the blue this year. She and I had both moved away from Pittsburgh and lost touch. I chalked it up to one of the many friendships that just died due to distance. She has no idea how heartwarming it was to be remembered and for her to resurrect the friendship. She said she missed me. She has no idea how much I have missed her over these many years…she was so much fun to hang out with. I am so grateful for the gift of hearing from her, even if it turns out to be just that one time.

Another friend Vonda made a point to come visit this year with her husband and daughter. We sat and talked and talked.  Sitting so much couldn’t have been that much fun for these incredibly active people but again: this was a friendship that I deeply cherished and had all but lost as we both moved from Pittsburgh and our lives took wildly different turns but turns toward motherhood nevertheless. She will never know what a positive influence she has been on my life, and how much I admire her drive, intelligence, humor, beauty, style, and initiative. She is a force for so much good.

I had the good fortune to travel to Arizona for work, and shortly before the trip, another dear friend from the past serendipitously reconnected with me. Madison happens to live in Scottsdale, and we got to see each other. We met up, hung by the pool, had dinner together another evening, and dear God, we picked up like we last saw one another yesterday, not 15 years later. I felt normal again, totally myself. She herself had been going through so much in her own life but she has no idea how comforting it was to snap me back into my old self, telling stories and jokes like I used to do, and feeling like I was on par, like an equal.

I had a couple of other weekend visits, one with two long-term Pittsburgh friends Stephanie and Angela (a few true friends who have stayed in an orbit of friendship no matter what time or distance passes between us), and two I met since I returned to Ohio, Carol and Kristin. These were so healing for me…and yet the people involved have no idea.

We hosted a single picnic and a brunch, which isn’t much but it’s more than we’ve done before. Baby steps… And I’m trying hard to be fully present when I’m around other hannah-rodrigo-320734people, and to engage in small talk just to make a connection of any kind.  I try to accept invitations out but if you see my struggle, you’ll know why.

Is there more I could do? Sure….there are a couple of people where we swore we’d go out for a glass of wine or coffee this year…and we never did. I have hope that one day I’ll have a squad where I laugh like crazy, talk deep, and feel like I fit in. It would include guy friends like I once had, and absolutely no one would feel weirded out by it because the guy friends would become good friends of my husband too.

So there you have it: #10 socialize more. It’s gotten a little bit better. And here, maybe you thought I wanted to hit up a few more happy hours this year. Baby steps, and more to come in the new year.

Photo credits in order of appearance:, Levi Guzman, Samuel Zeller, and Hannah Rodrigo on
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