In my psychotherapy practice, when someone is feeling lonely and craving more from their friendships, I encourage them to work on making one dear friend that year who could be someone they already know.

The landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development suggests that close relationships are the most significant factor in personal well-being — yet it is not the number of relationships, but the quality of the connection that matters. Gaining one closer friend in 2024 may significantly boost your life satisfaction, as friendship is known to protect against stress and improve mental health. And one friend a year is manageable, yet could lead to three friends in three years and a handful of friends in five.

Read the full essay on The Washington Post

Artwork by Celia Jacobs for The Washington Post


Eight years ago, I unexpectedly joined the other 38 million unpaid caregivers in the United States. The AARP estimates that 11.5 percent of the U.S. population are caring for family members in 2023. We are many, and somehow, we are still grossly overlooked and under supported in nearly every way.

My daughter, Eden, now in second grade, was born with a rare genetic deletion—so rare it does not have a name. She lives on a feeding tube, endures various chronic medical challenges, cognitive impairment, severe autism, and requires around-the-clock care. The genetic testing I completed during pregnancy had not indicated any atypical trajectory.

The level of care that Eden, our second child, needed jolted my husband and I into sleepless nights, exhaustion, and ongoing uncertainty about the future. Because of her autism, it is hard for my daughter to go places—even the library generally ends poorly because of her tendency to bop unsuspecting bystanders with her tiny fist or drop to the floor insect style on her back and thrash. Coupled with her medical issues, I have often felt like a shut-in over the past almost-decade since she was born—I have missed countless social gatherings, activities and events for my other child, and even everyday outings like going to the grocery store as a family. Our house looks and runs like a very loving, slightly disorganized hospital, complete with the syringes, nebulizers, and medications to prove it.

I’m not going and there’s nothing you can do to make me. As a mother, I know this statement all too well. My son, a bold-hearted first-grader with curls that don’t quit, shouts this rallying cry on most Sunday mornings.

When it comes to religious life, he leads with the word “no.” For whatever reason, that’s his signature statement. Normally I roll with it, and by rolling with it I mean he’ll be on the steps of Temple Israel at 9 a.m., whatever it takes (lately Ghirardelli caramel chocolate squares).

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Baby in parent's hands

It’s our daughter’s first birthday tomorrow. And while I am indescribably happy/relieved/grateful that we’ve made it this far, it hasn’t been the year that we thought it would be. Far from it.

Some things were expected, especially since she is our second child—like the epic, sprawling nights, and how it feels to hold our sleeping baby (like praying). And the way her smile sparks up the kind of love that is wild, primal—like absolutely nothing else.

What was not expected: Around 6 months, our girl was diagnosed with what we refer to as her own unique genetic map. She has a genetic disorder that has no name. It is a diagnosis that has been documented in only four other people worldwide. It’s associated with developmental delay plus a host of other concerns that I didn’t even know existed. Because there are so few cases, it is unknown what her strengths and limitations will be. Everything in her life is unfolding for us—when and how (and if) she will walk, talk, eat solid food, and process information in the way that we had imagined.

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Let me start by being totally clear: I’m not pretending to have this all figured out. I’ve cried more about my daughter’s life-threatening medical condition than I’ve cried about anything else. She has a rare genetic difference that affects her eating—she does not eat (she lives off of a feeding tube), and throws up regularly, sometimes without being able to stop.

I thought my life would be one way, with healthy children who needed me only for a while as they learned to do the things at the ages that kids usually do things. But, it’s really not like that. So, yes, I struggle to adjust to my expectations of parenthood—trips to see the primates at Como Zoo, the boredom of playing blocks in the basement—with what our life is actually like—rehabilitative therapies, intermittent hospitalizations, and somehow, along the way, acquiring semi-legit nursing skills.

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