Tag Archive for family

Hitting the Mid Century Mark

Jack PalanceNot that I’m overly thrilled about it but next week I’ll be celebrating enduring my 50th birthday. While visions of creeping toward decrepitude whilst holding a pair of knitting needles in my hand filled my brain I’ve mentioned to people my dread of hitting the big 5-0 and have heard, repeatedly, “you’re only as old as you feel” and “age is a mindset.”  Oh I know; trust me when I affirm that I’m not anywhere near moving to The Villages.  Yet the number brings trepidation for this is grandma age and AARP membership time.   Sure, when people ask “where were you when Kennedy was shot?” I’m able to reply “not born yet!” yet I must confess to drawing breath by the time the Beatles made their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Therefore, like any crusty old-timer would do, I decided to reflect on life’s biggest lessons. What, I wondered, have I learned in my 50 years on this swirling planet of ours that can be summed up in a few words?

First I came up with ‘people are awesome’ because I’m a believer in the resiliency of the human spirit and the tendency of most people to truly do the right thing even when it’s tough.  But then I got to thinking about people like Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot and Bernie Madoff; after all, for every Maria von Trapp from The Sound of Music there’s a Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca.

Next I considered  ‘people are assholes’ but I quickly decided that was not only too cynical but also too harsh.  Sure, I’ve had people stomp all over me, discuss my business when it was none of theirs to worry about, and do things that just left me breathless with shock and awe.   But I don’t really believe that people, in general, are jerks so I discarded that one.

So after amassing a great deal of knowledge in my first fifty years there are a few truths I believe will carry me on valiantly through the next fifty.  I have learned that:

  • Surrounding yourself with amazing people means you too can be amazing
  • Giving is always far better than receiving
  • There’s no point in beating yourself up over past mistakes; learn from them and move forward
  • Forgiving is not the same as forgetting but…
  • … you should provide forgiveness with the same goodwill with which you seek it from others
  • One of life’s greatest pleasures is sitting in a darkened movie theatre with a big tub of popcorn
  • The people who love you will have your back no-matter-what
  • Life is short … so do what brings you joy

Perhaps I’ll celebrate after all; my 51st year could be the best one yet. 



Why I care about Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy – and you should too !

Kim KardashianThis year will bring all sorts of celebrity babies; Will and Kate will be birthing a future monarch; Jessica Simpson is entiende again and Kim Kardashian will bring forth a Kanye West, Jr.  It’s not like I ‘follow’ this stuff – it’s really more a matter of I just can’t escape it in this celebrity-obsessed 24/7 news cycle in which we live.

Now I’ve never given one whit about the Kardashians.  In the interest of full disclosure, however, I must admit that several years ago I got momentarily sucked in to 10 minutes of “Kim and Khloe take over Some City” at which point I instantly dropped 5 IQ points.

But I digress.

The impending arrival (at some point this year) of the Kardashian/West bambino is a hugely anticipated event – or so the entertainment outlets would have us believe.  I do, in fact, find it fascinating from a purely observational standpoint.  And yes – I care because:

I’ve learned a lesson in living up to one’s self-proclaimed prophecy – Most people shake their heads in wonderment and ask the obvious question “why, exactly, are these people famous?”  Interestingly enough, other than the sex tape stuff, no one seems to know the answer.  These celebrity overlords have defined their very own reality and the collective public has bought into it.  Talk about the power of positive thinking!!  Imagine if we could all bottle that and make it work in our careers? 

I’ve been reminded how society views women – No matter the opinion one may hold in regards to Kim’s questionable talent, her 72 day marriage or her shameless self-promotion, one has to admit that she is not afraid to show us that women come in all shapes and sizes.  And will I may not personally go for the over-made-up doll look nor would I be caught dead in a skirt that is so tight I can’t bend my knees, I’ve got to commend KK for not feeling the need to adhere to some unrealistic twig-thin standard as demanded by the fashion Hollywood police.   Sadly, however, as an indictment on our culture, I have recently seen stories that call into question her weight gain and exploding curves – essentially pondering “is she getting too fat because of her pregnancy.”  What a sad freakin’ indictment of how we (the collective we) view women.

I’ve come to understand that a ‘family’, no matter how dysfunctional, can be a powerful thing – Sometimes I think the collective lot of Kardashians is on a one-way express train to Krazy Town.  But, wherever they’re headed, it is refreshing to see them go there as a group.  They start business ventures together, they rescue each other from jams and difficult situations and they are the FIRST ones to publicly defend and support each other when there’s some sort of questionable activity.  So who’s got your back?  Cuz it sure is nice when family/co-workers/teammates/friends can travel with you.  Am I right?

And that, my friends, is no doubt the first and last time I will spend any amount of time contemplating the Kardashians.

Well, until the baby comes along……

Safe at Home

I grew up on the outskirts of Milwaukee in a town that was every suburban cliché come to life in the mid 70’s.  We walked to school, we rode our bikes to the neighborhood park, and we stayed out playing until the streetlights/houselights came on.  We had tree houses and hidden “forts” in the overgrown and empty fields where the older kids (once they hit 7th or 8th grade) hid their contraband cigarettes and Playboy magazines swiped from either dad’s dresser or the closet of an older brother.  Very few people locked their doors and we ran into/out of each others’ kitchens as if we were all part of the same family.  A few folks had swimming pools and nothing was better than being able to take a dip on a hazy, humid Midwestern summer afternoon. We had older brothers and sisters who wore bell bottoms and smoked pot and wrecked cars back in the day when the drinking age was 18 which meant everyone was drinking by age 16.

And we played baseball. Lots of baseball.

Before the empty lot across the street from my house was subdivided into 3 lots in order to build a few more houses to up the population density, and thus the tax base, it served as our neighborhood baseball diamond.  We played almost every day, sometimes beginning in the morning, with a break for lunch and dinner, and then going back at it again until it was too dark to see anymore and/or our parents began to call us through the screen doors.  (Speaking of which, why does no one seem to have screen doors anymore?)

We were a mixed group; more boys than girls, although there were often 4 or 5 girls at any given time.  We had athletes and stoners (as we called them); we had the decidedly non-athletic (that would be me) and the kids who never played but hung out with us all day anyway.  We ranged in age from around 10 to 15, with a few younger siblings occasionally filling in when we needed more players.


Now I was never the most stellar of players.  And unless I happened to be the captain, and thus the assembler-of-my-team, it seems to me that I was quite often one of the last chosen when we were picking teams.  But that was OK; no one put too much pressure on each other and we played for the sheer joy and exuberance of being outside, hanging with each other, and earning neighborhood bragging rights.

Interestingly enough, when the school year began, none of us really “hung out” much AT school.  We moved in different circles – the brainiacs, the band and theatre geeks, the detention kids.  Our baseball club had straight-A students and those who had been held back a year…or two.  Oh sure, we played a bit in the early days of fall; and we resumed in spring before school let out for the year.  But primarily we played in the summer.  For a few brief years.

On those glorious sun-filled days, with our thermoses and snacks; our hand-me-down gloves, our wooden bats and our aluminum bats, we WERE a team.

And we were safe at home.

Believe in Yourself

When Trish McFarlane over at HR Ringleader agreed to host the upcoming Carnival of HR on November 24th, she asked contributors to share stories of events that were turning points in one’s life.   While quite personal, and not particularly HR related, it’s an event that certainly changed my life.


I was a Grandpa’s Girl.  As the only grandchild of an only child (my mother), I was the apple of my Grandpa’s eye.    I was loved and cared for; not spoiled by any stretch of the imagination, but from a very young age, I was provided with warmth, attention, and lots of hugs, kisses and praise.  Not false-praise (“everyone gets a trophy!”), but the sort that can instill confidence in a child.
Grandpa thought I could hang the stars and the moon.  In 3rd grade when I wanted to be a lawyer (hello Perry Mason!) he had me present a school paper to him as if I were in the courtroom.  He played “the cross-examining” attorney and wow – was he tough!  But we ended up collapsing in giggles, not tears.

He never laughed when I wanted to be a professional musician.  Or an author.  Or, God help me, when I wanted to marry a pony.

In middle school when I was appropriately awkward and gawky and generally mad at the world, Grandpa could dispel the gloom.  I may not have wanted to speak to my parents at age 13, but I still went to spend the weekend with my grandparents every chance I got.  Grandpa and I would play cards and look at old family photos and tell the same old silly jokes to each other  over and over and over.


Will, my Grandpa, was born in 1910, and was just slightly older than his brother Oliver.  Their father Phillip, my great-grandfather, died in 1913, when Grandpa was just 3 years old.  When their mother Ella found herself with two toddlers to raise and support, she opened a market.  A corner market where, as he grew up, Will learned to tend to the customers and eventually apprentice to the butcher, until he himself took over the business.  He set his path in life – opening and relocating several corner markets over the years.  He sold the last one before I was born, and in his ‘retirement” worked for a small grocery store as their head butcher.  He used to love to take me to the store with him; I got to put on a butcher’s apron and a white paper hat and stand behind the counter.  I watched Grandpa cut the meat and wrap up the fresh chops or steaks in their white butcher paper.  I was just entering grade school, but I vividly recall helping him weigh the packages and mark them with the red wax pencil.


But one summer day, my world changed.  A call came as my parents and I were at a neighbor’s wedding.  We rushed home to find that Grandpa was no longer with us.  I was 14.  And I was devastated.

One of the last times I saw my Grandpa was when he and Grandma made a weekend visit to our house.  Being a sullen and moody teenager, no doubt in the midst of some imagined drama, I refused to talk to anyone.  I sighed.  I sulked.  I went downstairs to the basement rec room to pout and BE ALONE.  Gee – why couldn’t my family understand I wanted to be left alone?  And as I sat there in the gloom and the dark, the light suddenly came on.  Grandpa had come down to check on me.  He even brought an apple as a peace offering, which, against my desire to be dark and sad and moody, made me laugh – because Grandpa knew I couldn’t stand apples.  And then he talked.

He told me he knew I was mad at my Mother, but she loved me.  He told me he was sorry I thought my Dad criticized me, but that my Dad was only trying to help.  He reminded me about all the good things I had in my life.   And then in one last attempt to break through my teenage melodramatic angst, he told me the “Center Street bus joke.” (a classic in the family – trust me).  And I left the basement and went upstairs with Grandpa to rejoin the family.  Teenage mood temporarily lifted.


The loss of my Grandpa was very rough.  He was such an integral part of my life that all these years later I still find myself thinking “oh, Grandpa would like that” or “I wish he could see this.”  He gave me love and support and believed in me no matter how silly or ridiculous I was.  He was firm and had rules, but he stood up for me.  And he never doubted that I could do anything to which I directed my energy.

I recall that last conversation in the basement often; I can picture him sitting in the chair next to me holding that apple.  Perhaps it was that conversation – that last interaction – that was the defining moment; and not his death.  For that conversation was a true representation of my Grandpa – and the legacy he left for me.

And one thing I’m pretty certain of – he would probably be relieved to know I didn’t marry a pony.