Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fading Into the Mists of Time

One of the hardest parts of aging is losing those who were part of my younger years. No one remembers me as a child. Fewer and fewer remember me as a teenager. My childhood television stars are all long gone. The faces of the people I grew up trusting to teach me about the world outside are gone.

I have made new friends, learned much including how to move on. However, that does not take away the hurt or the loss of bits of myself.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Pay it Forward

Many years ago, I was the recipient of the generosity of an old fashioned jewish gentleman. This was in NYC and I was asking for information and a bit of help. What I received was not only my problem solved, but a wonderful new item that I would treasure to this day. When I asked if I could pay/repay the favor, I was told "pass it forward". That was 1976/7 and I have never forgotten.

Many in my parents generation understood this philosophy. In part this was their immigrant heritage. If someone had not taken the first step and then helped the people behind them, we would not have all the wonderful things we take foregranted today.

Recently I was reading about a beautiful example of this philosophy - scholarships to educational institutions; in particular, John W. Kluge. In the 1930's he was a poor immigrant who wanted to attend an Ivy League school. Columbia granted him an academic scholarship. Kluge graduated with honors, became a successful businessman and philanthropist. Over the years he gave over $110 million to Columbia and recently pledged an additional $400 million for scholarships.

While most of us don't have the same financial ability as Kluge, we all have the same ability to make life better for others. Whether you give time, money or things - we all need to pass it forward. In this day, with all its horrors and evil around the world, we need to be the counter balance. We all can make this world a little better - each in his own way. Who knows, the person you help may be another Kluge.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Am I a product of my generation?/Fathers

I know I don't blog often here, but I do have more deep thoughts than I share here -- just have not found the time to share.

Caught 2 TV shows recently that made comments about "baby boomers" that made me think. The first was with Tom Brokaw on a talk show. The comments revolved about the evolving role of "Dads" primarily, but also about "bread winners". Dads from the prior generation - the first half of the 20th C - were "content" to work one job all their lives - to do what ever it took to put food on the table and a house over their heads. As a result they were uninvolved with the raising of the children on a "daily" level. They also did not understand the need for individuality that so many of the "baby boomers" exhibited.

If you were raised in the first half of the 20th C., your priorities were different. I look at my parents and know that while they prized happiness, personal security was more important. They both made sacrifices to ensure that we had more than the basics and that I was given every possible opportunity "to get ahead". Dad worked 3 jobs most of his life to ensure that Mom and I were very well cared for. It was a point of pride for him and he did it with love for his family.

When I chose to leave my job at the Bank, making a salary that was more than my Dad ever made, and go into consulting, it was hard for my Dad to understand. He was concerned for my security. We talked about the fact that they had given me a good education, a belief in my own abilities, and that in a worst case scenario I could temp and still make expenses. Although I must have had part of my Dad in me; as I had put by a years worth of expense money and had already lined up a 2nd years worth of contracts before I left the Bank. While Dad wasn't happy about it, he understood my need and lovingly gave me his support.

It is interesting that my uncle, my father's brother did not understand. He saw it as "being financially irresponsible" and that I could not be trusted with money. That I needed to have someone else as overseer. It was the "security" priority that I was missing in his view.

The Brokaw discussion went on to comment that "baby boomers" wanted individuality and "happiness" more. This resulted in an unwillingness to work as hard as the prior generation at a job, unwillingness to just take any job, bouncing around between companies, and lots of people who retired early. They wanted to do something more with their time than work.

I must say that I resemble this remark. I left the Bank and haven't looked back since. I want more from my life than the job. I am not the job. My happiness is more important and "the job" is not where I find my happiness.

On PBS I happened on Reclaiming Your American Dream with Will Marre, which you can find here . In it he asks "Are you living your dream life?". Of course he then goes on to talk about how you can identify what it is, but mostly it is aking - what makes you happy? Then you evaluate each portion of your life and what you can do to improve it. A lot of the "improvement" is realizing the need to change the way each of us thinks about our world.

While I am not living my dream life, I have taken steps toward it - spouse/relationship and where I have choosen to live (location and the home itself). So as a late baby boomer (born in 1955) - a member of the "me" generation, am I just a representative of the era I live in? I would like to think that I'm more unique than that, but maybe I'm not.

It appears that since I've been out of school, another sub-discipline of social psychology has developed - the field of Positive Psychology. In short - happiness. The U of Penn seems to be a leader in this area. Guess I'll need to check this out .

One of the hardest things in life is managing personal change. Hopefully all our lives we continue to grow and develop. Sometimes it is the result of external events and sometimes internal. This last year has been one of change for me and it seems to be continuing at a fairly rapid rate. However, this also means that there are lots more uncertainties in my life. I look toward tools that give me feedback. Whether I accept the feedback as true or not, is a separate process.

My maternal grandmother, who was the impetus for this blog, was one of the most personally insightful and interesting people that I'd ever met. I'd like to think that I take after her.

Monday, August 08, 2005

News or Entertainment:Both But

Today with the passing of news journalist Peter Jennings, I was musing over the changes I've seen in this field. When I was a child I grew up with Cronkite and Huntley/Brinkley. These men were very much in the image of Edward R. Murrow who pioneered the field. They gave the facts and as much information as they had. Sometime they were sentimental, but always hard nosed about the facts. They maintained a balance between information and not being too intrusive into personal issues.

Then came the next round of national journalists including Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, and Dan Rather. They had a much tougher battle to fight. The "Information Age" - information coming quicker, wider audience, more educated audience, less devoted audience, and much more competition in both the forms of information delivery and demand for attention of the audience. How to balance it all? Not easy by any mean. Journalism has always had an element of entertainment, the problem is how to not let that element overwhelm the job of getting the information out in an as unbiased way as possible. Peter Jennings did remarkable well even when the pressure of making the news more mainsteam and more thrilling became intense.

I had the great good fortune of being present at a Fred Friendly Seminar. It was a special one done on first amendment issues with a local panel. For those not familiar with Fred Friendly, he was a partner of Edward R. Murrow in creating See It Now. He was a believer in looking deep into topics of our personal freedoms and all the various things that affect it. He was Executive Producer at CBS of CBS Reports and President when 60 Minutes was introduced. In 1974 he became a Professor of Journalism at Columbia University and started a series of seminars on Media and Society. Out of this came a couple PBS series including Ethics in America. The last in this series was on Privacy and Journalism and Peter Jennings was one of the panelists. These are all worth watching time and again, but this last one on the "limits of the public's right to know" was, I thought, exceptional.

Looking for programs that make you think - check out the website for the Fred Friendly Seminars on TV.

In case you were wondering - I currently like Ted Koppel and Cokie Roberts. Charlie Rose when he is at his most intense with questions is also well worth tuning in. Otherwise, I think there is a real void out there for good reporting of world news (versus business news).

Saturday, July 02, 2005

A Bit of Sunshine in a Bite of Fruit

I grew up with fruit as part of the diet. But more importantly getting the best fruit, and vegetables, was part of a way of life. When we lived in San Francisco, grandma and grandpa lived downstairs and we lived upstairs. Bright and early on Saturday morning Grandpa, Dad and I would go to the Farmers Market on Alemany in San Francisco.

We would try to get there before the crowds - 8 am or earlier if we could manage it. We would walk the stalls where farmers were literally selling off the backs of their trucks. The market was made of cement bays where the trucks would backup and could off load boxes or just put down the tail gate.

The farmers would offer their wares, with free tastes to those walking by. If you bought 2 lbs of fresh peas the farmer would add in an extra handful with a big grin. We would buy the weeks fruits and vegetables. When we couldn't carry anymore, we would return to the car. Next to the market was a store that sold primarily to the Mexican community. We would stop for fresh hot corn tortillas and fresh tamales some weeks, as well. During the summer when the anaheim chiles came in, we would buy a couple dozen and make chili rellenos from scratch.

For a while, after we moved down the Peninsula, Dad and I would get up early and go to the market during the summer months. It was the only time I ever saw my Dad unshaven. We would leave around 6:30 am and return laden with produce by 9 am.

Nothing beats fresh! I am pleased to see the small farmers markets opening up all over. Our local one is open 9-2 on Saturdays May to November. But it just isn't the same some how. Little can compete with all the bustle and wonderful smells of fresh produce of a large farmers market.

Now back to my bowl of fruit - a white nectarine, 2 apricots, 5 black mission figs, 6 plump strawberries - the ones with the fragile skins that never get near a grocery store, and a handful of rasberries so plump they fall apart and squish if you look at them crosswise.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

I Don't have to Iron the Napkins --- Really I Don't

I was brought up to set a nice table for guests. You used a white or off white tablecloth. You used the good china. You used the good silver. The tablecloth and napkins were ironed -- if not by the French Laundry then by Mom. The china sparkled. The silver was polished and touched up if there was any tarnish discovered when the table was set.

So a couple of times I've had friends over for dinner in the dining room. I used a washable tablecloth that didn't need ironing -- boy was that hard to do. Breaking all that training. I did use napkins which had been ironed. I did use the silver and polished it/touched it up. I did use the good china.

In the modern world time flies so fast I don't have time to spot, wash, partially dry, and then iron a tablecloth. It means I would need to find 3-4 hours of time that I wasn't focused on other things. Once in a blue moon I do the whole bit, but if I want to do more entertaining I need to give myself permission to do it less formally.

I can use the placemats and napkins that just get thrown in the washing machine and dryer -- and don't need to be ironed. I can use the kitchen table (a very nice redwood table) and have friends in the kitchen for dinner. I can use the kitchen china - which is very nice vintage Spode and not get out the Minton or the Lenox. I can use the nice stainless or the silverplate - I don't need to get out the sterling silver. I can use fun glassware and it doesn't need to match. I DO need to set a nice table and be a good hostess by making my friends comfortable (and of course well fed).

I am not less by doing it differently. Times change and "casual" is just fine. Boy is that a hard lesson.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Looking Beyond Yourself

I know it has been awhile since I've blogged on this board, but sometimes life just happens. Sometimes we let it happen to us and sometimes we make it happen. Sometimes we just go along for the ride and sometimes we fight the whole way. And sometime we lose our direction.

In short I was so busy doing I lost sight of what was important - just being! We only travel here once (maybe more, but I'm not counting on it) and we need to make it count. At the very least make it count for yourself. Then you can reach out and make a difference for others. I thought I made a difference for others and I probably did. But in the confusion that reigned after, I lost sight of me. I reacted without thought. I let others define me. No more!

A friend said she thought this would be a water shed year for me. Maybe so. I'm letting my hair go gray/white. I'm doing more to get myself in shape. I am doing projects I've wanted to do for awhile. But the funny thing, is the more I do for me the easier it is to share - it and myself. I find myself reaching out to others to draw them in and share the fun and knowledge. I find I can be kind (see prior post) and it is real. I still will have my own style, but it need not be as defiant. I will go my way and if other want to come along - wonderful. If not, as least I will have done what I feel the need to do.

That is the other thing. Listen to your feelings. When life happens to us we lose our way when we don't listen to that inner voice. Mine is saying have fun - be happy. And so I'll work toward that. I hope you will too.