If you don’t have something nice to say…

I was recently having a conversation with a very bright (female) colleague when she made the following remark about someone she was having a challenging relationship with outside of work: “Everything she does with her hands she un-does with her words.”  I was struck by just how appropriate this comment was in describing so many situations.

How many of us have worked hard to produce something (whether it’s a work project or a home/family project) only to shoot ourselves in the foot with an impulsive or ill considered criticism/remark? Sadly, I know that I have. It is a humbling experience.

In my case, it was in pushing others to my own standards, believing that my own way is the very best way. I may get an A for my efforts but if no one wants to celebrate the achievement with me (for being an overly critical snoot) then what joy is there in the result? For those of us who are our own worse critic, this is a very challenging life lesson.

If you do suffer it, be eternally grateful for the experience. Acceptance without ego opens a lot of discoverable, middling ground.

It does not matter how hard a person works to deliver results if they fail to treat other people with respect and with an open mind to another person’s dignity. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our heads that we don’t always step outside ourselves and into someone else’s shoes.  Ever been there?

What Are You Passionate About?

Finding your passion (or passions) in life is such an amazing gift.  Many people float their entire lifetimes searching for something that truly engages them in a meaningful way.

I think it you are one of the lucky ones, it is because you were fortunate to be exposed to it (and/or born with a rare, innate talent/disposition such as a Mozart or Leonardo DiVinci - gah! No pressure there!) and secondly, that you are brave enough to persist in your area of interest until you master it.

I don’t know a single person that lived a successful life that didn’t have passion for something they found meaningful. Whether you are an inventor (like Steve Jobs), a teacher, conservationist, parent, artist, philanthropist, rain maker or CEO, it all happens from a place of joy and excitement in the pursuit of what we love and find to be worthwhile.

I especially love what Mr. Jobs has to say about hiring and developing talented people. The best leaders are those who recognise, cultivate and value a highly skilled team. Leaders who understand the magic that occurs from a passionate, collaborative collective. So, what’s your  passion?

Winter is Coming

Summer in the city is a sight to fall in love with. Flowers blooming in unexpected
places, bocce players in Bryant park, Mr. Softy on street corners, drifting
through the village for late night coffee outside at crowded cafe tables, summer
dresses and tons of tourists who seem surprised at how hot it gets
(there is a reason so many flock to the Hamptons through August!).

In a city with so many buildings, fall is fleeting...yet the winters are magical.
People are breaking out their boots and jackets, flirting with winter wear on the
chillier days. We are looking forward to ice skating at the park, wandering
through museums, seeing the tree come up at Rock Center, hot chocolate at La
Maison Du Chocolate and tea at the Plaza after long, cold walks.

City landmarks look so different in winter white and dressed in elaborate lights.
Window dressings, festive shopping bags and perhaps a Broadway show or three.
I do miss the old Tavern on the Green. Champagne cocktails while looking through
the crystal room at thousands of twinkling lights woven through bare winter
branches. Ah, well. We have our memories and changes can be unexpectedly
delightful. Just like the seasons.

Mummy or Mommy?

Today I feel more of a mummy than mommy. Ever have those days? When you are fighting off a cold and going through the motions of daily life like a zombie while what you really want to do is succumb to exhaustion? These are times when I throw away the checklists and listen in to what I really need.

Today it was about skipping errands that are not important. Ordering in dinner and playing checkers by firelight. Losing those games with a smile at my opponent's glee. Reading and being read to without feeling guilty about the 101 things on that checklist. I'll worry about preparing the garden for winter tomorrow. Tonight I am content with being a mummy. A mummy with a hot cup of Theraflu. Mmmmm.

Boys to Men

Lately I have been thinking about men.

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It started with the search for winter outerwear. Since our son is out of the cute Janie and Jack era, it has been a struggle to find excellent quality clothing for boys that also look “cool” enough for his changing sensibilities. Popular catalogs this season are 90% adorable girl clothing and 10% okay boy clothing. Even the mall stores carry an enormous selection for girls and just a small, out of the way section for boys. I've also been noticing a huge array of interesting toys for girls in the market – with just a couple of aisles of standard cars, balls and robots for boys. What gives?

It has made me look closer at the world around me.  Have we become a society so focused on the development of girls that we are leaving the boys behind? Educational research has proven that boys learn differently than girls yet public and many private schools are still taught primarily by women with a female influenced perspective. The issue is not boys versus girls. It's about encompassing all aspects about the individual. Women and men are equal in their contributions at every level of society. Yet equal does not mean exactly the same.

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I love my wild boy – we just also expect him to say excuse me and avoid mowing down small children and grandmothers without stopping to check if there is a pulse.

I have taken for granted the loving influence of gentlemen in my life – particularly how they influenced my own feelings of self. Don’t we want to develop young men who can rule the world - as well as cook a meal? Gentlemen don’t develop in a vacuum. More than anything I want my son to find true love in his life. The kind that sustains you and lifts you with laughter during the difficult times and holds your hand as life unfolds.
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Of course I want him to rule the world with wisdom and grace – yet in those life changing moments I want him to be a strong and whole partner in any relationship he chooses. The reality is that I am raising someone’s future husband, father and grandfather. I am eternally grateful to my in-laws for teaching my husband how to love deeply and steadfastly. To be a stand up guy who solves problems and doesn’t run…from anything. That comes from good examples.

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Today I thought about my father and my uncles. I recently lost a much beloved uncle and his loss is still taking me by surprise. Those unexpected moments when you are thinking about seeing him again only to realize there are no more opportunities. It is my second one, the first passing several years ago. These men stood guard over me and taught me life lessons from a masculine perception. In their youth they stood straight and tall, men who look you in the eye and shake your hand with a solid grip. In middle age and beyond, they are still just as wonderful.

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My father is the epitome of the perfect guy. No one is without fault, yet my Dad is pretty close. He never has a bad word to say about anyone and he stands up for what he believes in, no matter the cost. He has done well in life by staying true to his values and as a parent he cared more about molding my character than in buying my love. He taught me to drive a stick, change a tire and keep a checkbook. He has always challenged me and that has taught me to feel capable - regardless of gender. 

There were other male influences.

One uncle served in the Vietnam war and suffered the disability of losing both his legs. From him I learned about the stalwart grace of the human spirit. I have never heard him complain about the great pain he must experience on those occasions he gives up his artificial legs for a wheelchair. I never saw him take out his frustrations on his family. I never heard him blame someone else for his troubles. He raced cars and did as he pleased. A handsome man, his smile could light up Madison Square Garden. A man with an unlimited supply of jokes, he has suffered more in needless remorse for the one occasion he reprimanded me (well deserved!) than he has ever communicated about
his physical condition. He taught me to never feel sorry for myself,
to choose happiness and craft my own perceptions about life.

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My father’s brother is a man of God. A talented musician (as is my Dad), he comes from a very long line of preachers. He has selflessly dedicated his life to sharing this love with communities around the world.  When I was a little girl I thought he was Elvis Presley. He gave me a love of practical jokes and the values to follow one's own path in life, regardless of where others walk.

My gentle Dayi is my husband’s uncle – mine by marriage and mine by fierce claim. He passed this fall and his loss is offset by the legacy of love and warmth he left behind. He was a beloved husband, father, brother, son, grandfather and uncle. Generous and kind, soft spoken and fun loving. My son gets his avid and unusual ability to solve any puzzle at dazzling speed. At a time when I was a young woman lost in a foreign country and lonely, he took me under his wing and folded me in without judgments or reservations about our cultural differences. He made me loved for just being me.

My husband treasures his own memories of his father and uncles - the men who came before. The men who set positive examples of how to conduct yourself as a gentleman in life. He has many treasured friends who act as uncles to our son – lucky boy. He also treasures the women in his life. The women who taught him how to treat a woman, who taught him to view a woman as an equal partner in life and to value and cultivate unconditional love.
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Although women, like my mother, have been a significant influence in who I am, in retrospect, it is the guidance and examples of good men that give equal impact to the development of any human being. The Ying is nothing without the Yang. Our reflection of self from both genders impacts who we become. For all our differences, we all want to be happy in our lives.

So as much as I am raising a boy, I also have the responsibility of raising a human being who we want to make a positive impact on others with his own light – perhaps even with a daughter. He has lots of wonderful men in his life (and women!) that set the bar high.
I hope he shines as bright as those who came before him.