The Perfection of our Imperfect Grandchildren

I continue to try to really understand what it is about having grandchildren that kidnaps our hearts. My latest insight is that we have a chance to see a work in progress without judging it, grading it, editing it, revising it, or blaming it.

Our infant grandchildren cry at inconvenient times, keep their parents awake and make them crabby, drool, dribble, and make all sorts of messes -- and we forgive them.

Our toddlers get bumps and bruises, spill paint on our kitchen table, get loud in restaurants, want burgers for every meal, and sometimes run their bikes into our ankles. And we love them absolutely anyway.

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The Unspoken Agreements Mothers Make

It’s not easy being a mother. At the beginning, you are expected to love totally and fiercely. And just when you start getting good at it – resigning yourself to the fact you love this human being much more than you love yourself and you’d fight tigers or sharks if it meant saving them -- you have to start letting go. What's the truth it takes a long time to learn?

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Media as Government Watchdog...Whimpering Now

As we watch the war of words between the new president and the mainstream media, who and what are the casualties?

The true cynics say there is an intentional effort to de-legitimize the media. If so, that is of real concern because back before social media, the press played an important role in our democracy. But the media needs to step up their game, too, and get back to the truth.

What happened to our news sources anyway? Here's what I think...

 

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Harmonious Holidays

How many of us actually live that pastoral picture of a horse-drawn sleigh bringing rosy-cheeked grandchildren to our home for the holidays? Not many. But a holiday is what we make of it.

Grandparents have a lot to do with how it all flows. One of grandparents’ roles can be as the link to family history, the keeper of traditions -- and yet sometimes a holiday with a new baby is more about transition than tradition. As a new grandparent, you know the baby won’t really remember what you do this year, but other family members will. So how we celebrate does make a difference.

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Why I'm so impressed with Gwen Jorgensen (U.S. Gold Medalist in Women's Triathlon)

Why I’m so impressed with Gwen Jorgensen

(US Gold Medalist in Women’s Triathlon)

Before Saturday morning, I’d never heard of Gwen Jorgensen. I tuned in to the Olympics and the featured event was the women’s triathlon. The announcers quickly said that a woman named Gwen Jorgensen was the favorite to win the gold medal. Her story was interesting so I pushed “record” and went about my Saturday morning.

While Gwen was swimming, biking, and running, I went to Starbucks, walked the dog, stopped by the bank to make a deposit, and did some laundry. All that while, she was still at it. That was impressive.

Her story caught my attention because she’s a Midwestern girl. She was a stand-out runner at University of Wisconsin and thought her athletic career would end when she left college so she earned a master’s degree in accounting and went to work for EY (Ernst & Young).

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Daddy's Girls

Even if your father has been gone a long time -- in my case almost 30 years -- the mark he made on you is indelible. Was he the motivating kind? The hard-to-please taskmaster? Or, like mine, the slightly bewildered nice guy who did the best he could? In honor of Father's Day 2016, I reflect on a dad and his daughters.

I heard about a CEO who grew up in a house where they always had fascinating, meaningful dinner table conversations. When she asked her parents for something, her dad had her draw up a business plan. That's a wonderful story - but...

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Memories of our Mothers

Think Donna Reed without such a tiny waste and perfect makeup. Think June Cleaver without quite so much patience and deference to the man of the house. Think of the very rare college degree and even rarer career. Think of Sunday dinners of roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy. Think of neighborhood coffee klatches. Think of PTO members and brownie troop leaders.

 

Our mothers were often the thread that held the fabric of post-World War II communities together. Most were full time "housewives". Their domestic duties took longer (fewer appliances) and expectations for what they could do outside the home were lower.

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The Mid-Life Surge -- Reality or Wishful Thinking?

I enjoyed reading David Brooks’ recent column in the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/22/opinion/the-middle-age-surge.html?_r=0 about what happens to people when they reach mid-life. The cliché is that it’s a crisis, but there’s evidence to the contrary. Brooks is in his mid-50s, so he’s right smack there in that rare air, and I especially like to find a man writing about the opportunity to “achieve a kind of tranquility, not because they’ve decided to do nothing, but because they’ve achieved focus and purity of will.” Tranquility, focus, and purity of will -- great qualities in anyone! And given a choice, I'm going to go with a mid-life surge as "Reality!"

This confirms what people told me when I was researching Good to be Grand – my book about how an informed and inspired grandparent can be a positive force in a child’s life, while at the same time experience personal growth for themselves.

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The 12th Important Thing About Creativity

Liz Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray Love recently put forth 11 ways to “think smartly about creativity.” http://ideas.ted.com/fear-is-boring-and-other-tips-for-living-a-creative-life/

Even choosing 11 is creative. Most people would come up with 10, right?

Liz is brilliant. She makes smart, fun. I was in the audience of the Oprah Show when Liz was interviewed shortly after her shockingly successful book. Oprah enjoyed what Liz had to say so much, she extended the interview to a second show.

Now, Liz has taken on the topic of creativity and she ought to know. She says that fear shouldn’t be an obstacle. But I’d say an equally big barrier is indifference, causing people to neglect or even abuse their own creativity. I’d like to add a 12th insight into the topic: Creativity has a life of its own, so don’t kill it.

Except in the case of driven genius artists who forget to eat or take a bath when their creative streak is running hot, I’ve found that creativity can be submissive. It can move aside and let almost anything else in your life take precedence. It’s like the Omega wolf that lies lies down, tummy up, and licks the face of ordinary stuff that acts like Alpha in your life. Running to the food store or answering emails or whipping off that memo for work or watching a basketball game or The Bachelor.  

Creativity sometimes speaks in a soft voice and says, “You go on and do that first. Get it out of the way and I’ll be here when you get back. You won’t miss a thing.” Trouble is, creativity often gets tired of waiting and goes back to sleep.

I’ve concluded that almost nothing we have to get in a car and drive to encourages creativity. We can throw our creativity in the trunk and take it along for the ride. Every now and then, we might hear a little tap or a small voice saying, “Let me out…please.” But if we don’t let it out to give it some freedom and oxygen, it might smother.

I’ll never forget a story I heard about the cartoonist Joe Martin (creator of “Mister Boffo,” “Porterfield,” and “Willie ‘N Ethel.”)  As the story goes…he used to take a long walk every morning and expect that somewhere along the way, he’d get an idea, so he carried paper and pen with him and he’d stop and write down that day's cartoon. That makes me think he put his cartooning first, because who has the time to take a long walk every morning unless something good will come of it.

It’s about time management, folks. Competing priorities. Jam-packing your days so creativity can’t sneak in. I thought I had discovered a major truth in life, which is “You become what you do.” So if you buy a piano and look at it every day, you become a piano-looker. If you play it every day, you may become a piano-player. I thought this idea was so original I could copyright it until I googled it and google credits it to Tony Robbins, the motivational speaker.

The way I see it, writers write. Painters paint. Scuptors sculpt. The best way to become whatever you want to become is to do it – if not more than you do anything else, then at least a lot. Maybe Liz didn’t mention this because she has successfully put creativity as a priority. But for the rest of us, let’s try it.

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How to Explain the Rivalries Among Women

This article appeared in The New York Times Letters section on Nov. 9, 2015.

In “Why Women Compete With Each Other” (Sunday Review, Nov. 1), Emily V. Gordon reaches into her personal history to propose that competing with other women and undermining them comes naturally.

Certainly, even as successful, professional grown-ups, we’ve run into women like that. It’s a glass-slipper syndrome: If there is only one foot in all the land that can fit into the shoe, allowing its owner to become princess, then all other feet just get in the way.

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