Friday, May 25, 2012

Proud Memories

Proud Memories


Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service.  It was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. This year marks the 139th Memorial Day – observed now when our soldiers are again in harm’s way.

Although originally focused on our nation’s fallen soldiers, many also spend this holiday remembering family and friends who’ve gone before us, and trying to reflect on who they were, what they did, and how their legacy has shaped us. How often do you lie awake at night and reflect on your past; how often do you listen to or remember your grandparents’ stories; and have you written down the names and places and stories that make up your history?

Maybe that’s why and online census records are so popular – they give us a glimpse of the who, what, where and when of our past.  The internet connects us to our past, to our memories – but do we really know the people we find there like those we’re able to sit with and listen to directly?  While memories are important and bind the past with the future, the here and now is also where we should  focus.

Hopefully we’ll all be spending this 3-day holiday weekend with loved ones, those with whom we can share the present while remembering and honoring the past.  On holidays like this, whole families should be together – both young and old – sharing, growing, learning, and strengthening the links that bind them together.  I’m going to spend this Memorial Day holiday fostering new memories and adding to old ones, relishing those standing while remembering the fallen, and loving the fact that life keeps enriching the stories of our lives.  I hope you will too.

My message this week is about how family and heritage can make us proud:
Arte Nathan“Let others pride themselves about how many pages they have written; I’d rather boast about the ones I’ve read.

Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo (1899 – 1986), was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. Scholars have suggested that Borges's progressive blindness helped him to create innovative literary symbols through imagination.

What are you proud of today? Pride is so often associated with the stuff we accumulate, but that’s a rather shallow measure of how we characterize or assess ourselves.  Compounding this is all the media hype surrounding the things that are available and the reasons to want any of them.  But what of the other things in life that could or should help us define who we really are? We should be more focused on the things we learn and the people we learn from, and how they enrich our lives.  We should be open to others and their ideas to grow our awareness of life’s possibilities. And we shouldn’t be lulled into thinking that “he who dies with the most toys wins” – that’s a fool’s race.  The coolest people around don’t pride themselves on how many pages they’ve written, but rather they learn from and boast about the ones they’ve read.  Be proud of being cool like that today!

Have a great holiday, and Stay Well!

P.S.  The picture above is my wife's 96 year old grandmother holding our 3 month old was taken more than 32 years ago.  What a memory!

Saturday, May 19, 2012


baby OliveRelax

Last week’s
Oh Baby blog topic was way too big for a single week. And it just keeps getting better! Our granddaughter Olive went home on Sunday. I remember what the first day was like for us when we came home from the hospital after our daughter’s birth: exhaustion and confusion. We definitely had memories about how difficult that time was and thought it would be the same for our kids and their new baby.  Silly us.

The kids and their baby drove home, got settled and have not missed a beat.  First night, first bath, first walk in the stroller, and first time in the musical swing – you’d think they were pros. Fact is, they’re more prepared than we were for something like this.  Advice from family and friends, and the internet prepared these new parents for more than we ever imagined.

In general they’re less affected or frightened by big things (like this) than we were. And they have some incredible tools to help them. Cameras on their phones: they’re always ready and now we have a steady stream of great pictures to show any and every one.  Internet live-feeds from baby’s room to parents’ room: no need to sleep with one eye or ear open.  A crib that converts into an adolescent’s bed: what will they think of next?  Phone apps for every age and activity: who needs a plain old hanging mobile?  Things have definitely changed, and that’s not a bad thing.

I’m really impressed with how the new parents are handling all of this, and how the baby is reacting to all of this too. They’re adjusting well. I was concerned about them figuring out their role and responsibilities as parents; surprisingly, the harder role to figure out is how to be a grandparent. They don’t need us to help or worry about them; they just need us to love and support them. Maybe that’s why everyone keeps saying how great it is to be a grandparent.

I remember how we felt all those years ago: our parents were nervous that we were so unconcerned about the things that they had been concerned about when they had us.  And we survived and did ok.  But here we are worrying about those same things and forgetting what we knew and learned back then: new parents and their new babies navigate their new lives and roles just fine. So maybe there’s a lesson here – everything and everyone will be fine if we just love and support them.  If people need help, they generally ask for.  Don’t try to do any more than what’s requested and feel good about that. Don’t worry unless there’s something to worry about, and for sure, don’t worry about something just because it’s different.

I see my kids embracing change and growing with it. They’ve got no fear – only a curious excitement about what’s next. They’ve got concerns, but those don’t stop them – because they have each other and the knowledge that together they can discover and conquer anything. That’s a great lesson for this grandfather to learn all over again.

Look at how relaxed my granddaughter is in the picture – maybe I should do that too.  This grandparent thing just keeps getting better and better.

My message this week is about being creative in our approach to the lives we lead:

Arte Nathan“There is nothing like a dream to create the future.”

Victor Hugo

Victor-Marie Hugo (1802 – 1885) was a French poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman, human rights activist and exponent of the Romantic Movement in France.  Outside France, his best-known works are the novels Les Misérables and Notre-Dame de Paris (also known in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame).

What’s tomorrow hold for you?  While it may be more of the same, hopefully there will be some variety too.  Maybe something out of the ordinary or even something good and planned and creative and exciting – any one of those might be nice.  But if it does turn out to just be more of the same, what are you doing to change that? Are you studying, reading and networking to find out what your options and opportunities are – if not, then who’s to blame for the boredom?  Are you collaborating with others to leverage your thoughts and theirs to be doubly creative – if not, then why not?  The future can be mostly whatever you want it to be as long as you follow your dreams, and you’re willing to want it badly enough, and you’re courageous enough to start to create what’s in your dreams.  If you’re not, there’s nobody to blame but yourself; but if you are, then there’s nothing like a dream to create the future!

Stay well

Friday, May 11, 2012

Oh Baby

Oh Baby

Tuesday, May 8th: I’m on my way to Las Vegas for the birth of my first grandchild. I’ve been preparing for this forever and have tried not to project about how I’ll feel when I first see her. Every grandparent talks about what a unique and overwhelming experience having a grandchild is, and I’m getting excited to find out if that’s true.  And now that the birth is imminent I find myself filled with expectations of this event.

Reflections: I remember seeing my daughter for the first time, and even though there have been countless shared experiences since then, that first vision is the one I remember the most.  The many things that have gone on since that first day now make up the composite images of our life together. Everyone tells me that grandchildren are different from children and I guess I’m going to find out if that’s true or not soon enough.

Fast forward 24 hours: Olive Natalie Lewis, 8.3 lbs. was born at 6:52am today (May 10) – mother and baby are doing great; the new grandfather, however, is a bit wobbly. The first picture my son-in-law sent immediately after the birth, and the baby’s name, got me all choked up – and now I’m sitting and waiting to see and hold her for the first time. My wife and our son-in-law’s family are here as well, and if the talk among us is any indication, this kid is not going to want for love and affection.  This just keeps getting better.

Fast forward another 2 hours: So now I’ve held my granddaughter, and frankly, it was not easy letting her go.  Funny how swaying and bouncing comes back so naturally, but the real surprise for me was how in love I was at first sight.  Her cheeks, the fuzzy hair on her head and ears, her little fingers, that cute cap they give newborns – it’s all there and pulling on my heart.  And I know what they say: it’s easy to give a grandchild back and know they’re someone else’s worry and responsibility; but in reality that’s too simplistic.  This little girl is our next generation, the link from years ago to the future; she’s the one I want to make sure develops the values that have led to today and will tie us all to tomorrow.

And in that instant when I first held her, I knew she’d be winning hearts and making an impact from this day forward.  Oh baby, it’s so great to meet you; welcome to our world!

My message this week is all about how the best among us choose to live their lives:

Arte Nathan“Integrity is the essence of everything successful.” 

-Richard Buckminster Fuller

R. Buckminster Fuller (1895 – 1983) was an American systems theorist, architect, engineer, author, designer, inventor, and futurist.  He published more than 30 books, inventing and popularizing terms such as "Spaceship Earth", “ephemeralization”, and “synergetic”.

What’s the essence of your success?  Hopefully you’ve lived a fairly long and productive life, and along the way you got to see, hear and experience many things: a loving and nurturing family that watched over and shaped your early development, some interesting school and learning years with teachers who tried to excite you with knowledge, a career working with smart and interesting people who were driven and committed to producing quality things, and a community of diverse and passionate people who were and continue to be into all kinds of things.  But at the end of the day, the most important thing you hopefully were able to learn from each of them was not what to do, or how to do it, but rather how you should approach all of the things you do.  And that’s more about attitude than aptitude, more about the will than the want, and all about the why versus the what.  If you approach everything with a commitment to doing what’s right, then you’ll be more successful than if you don’t; because integrity is the essence of everything successful.

Stay well

Friday, May 4, 2012

Coming and Going

Coming and Going

”I don’t know whether I’m coming or going” is another one of those sayings that you hear a lot but don’t know where it originated. While it’s the name of a long-ago hit song by Billie Holiday, it's also a way of looking at things - so it’s really interesting how your view of the things changes depending on whether you’re coming up on something or going away from it.
I was thinking about this while riding the train recently.  I sometimes sit next to the windows while facing forward, in the direction the train is going, and see things as they’re coming towards me; and other times I sit facing backwards, looking at things that pass by and move off away from me.
These are two very different perspectives. In the first – when stuff is coming at me – it’s all about using my experience and instincts, because there’s no time to fully interpret an object or situation before seeing, focusing, acting or reacting.  In the second – an after-the-fact view – it’s more about analyzing and interpreting and getting things into context. The first is like drinking from a fire hose, the second is more reflective; the first is more action packed, the second is more laid back; the first is all about fighting fires, the second is more about managing the heat. Each is important, and each is needed to get things done and to get through life effectively.
So, are you coming or going these days? Are you building things up or straightening them up?  Are you coming to get something done or going to figure it out?  In either case you need to keep your eyes and ears and all the rest of your senses open and sharply focused. Life certainly isn’t easy, and you rarely have control of what comes next around the bend, but if you’re confident and competent enough then you’ll probably be able to handle all that comes and goes. So the next time someone asks, or you ask, am I coming or going, you can answer in a way that lets others know you understand and are good at both.  And that’s good for all.
My message this week is about always participating in whatever you’re doing to the best of your ability:
Arte Nathan“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 – 1962) was the First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945.  She was a delegate to the UN General Assembly from 1945 and 1952. President Truman called her the "First Lady of the World" in tribute to her human rights achievements while at the UN.
Have you made a contribution today?  You’ll most likely be involved in lots of things today, participating with others either as a colleague or a leader.  Whatever your role, you should focus on being a contributing member of that effort. Because if you don’t contribute, then you’re wasting your time and the time that others put in. Questions may be asked: you should weigh in on the answers.  Points will be raised: you should put your two cents in. Some things may be unclear: you should add or ask for clarification.  Work will be on-going: you should stay engaged and participate fully. Others will do good work: you should complement and thank them. Work may falter: you should help and mentor everyone. Faults may occur: own up.  Kudos may be given: take them humbly and graciously.  And no matter what happens: never cease making contributions or you’ll begin to die!
Stay well!