I’ll Be There for You

24 06 2015

I’ve written and spoken, more than a few times, about the idea of Coach versus Cheerleader – you know, the difference between giving advice and giving support – and why, while both are important facets of partnering and friendship, it’s crucial to know when to play which role.

This post is dedicated to the third C of partnership. My father embodied this role, so it’s only fitting that Father’s Day week, I write about

The Champion.

One of the most impressive things my dad ever said to me – and he was a very smart, kind, and exquisitely funny man – was

I don’t care who’s right or wrong; I’m on your side, Baby.

Can you imagine how safe he made me and my mother and my siblings feel by letting us know – in his words and his deeds – that he was there for us, not matter what kind of mess we’d made, no matter how big the monster chasing us, no matter how many times we’d made mistakes?

This is not to say he was never Coach; he gave wise and well-placed advice. He was also a very sly Cheerleader, master of effective understatement, laced with humor. No, this is not about celebrating a lenient permissive parent; this is about celebrating the total dedication of a man to his family – first, last, and always – and about the profound way that love empowered me. My dad’s been gone for over twenty years, but his wit, kindness, and love will never dim.

Next time your kid, your friend, or your spouse comes to you with a $#it%torm of a problem, try getting in their corner before you get on their case. You can work out the “how’d you get yourself into this mess and how do you plan to get out of it?” later. First, just declare your allegiance. Stand beside them against their bogeyman. All your coaching and cheering that follows will be so much more effective.

You were made to ride that white stallion. Saddle up.

Thanks, Dad.


WIFM* – Worst Station Ever!

17 06 2015

When an organization forms around some shared ideals or goals, the members must surely feel a commitment or calling to the group’s stated purpose; otherwise, why join it? If members believe in the mission of their group, then they must surely believe that advancing the cause of the group will benefit them, if not immediately and obviously, then indirectly or somewhere in the future, right?

Why is it then, that some who readily sign up for membership find it so hard to remember that?  Lately, I’ve had more than my fill of WIFM* encounters within an organization to which I belong, so when the talented jewelry artist Holly Ginsberg Gage http://www.hollygage.com/ posed this question on Facebook, it resonated loud and long:

What do you think it means to be part of a community?

Here is my reply:

To really be able to claim you are part of a community, you must be able to put the good of the group ahead of your own personal gain, once in a while. In fact, it becomes your own personal gain when your community is bettered, so it’s a (sometimes future) win-win. Community has to mean more than the sum of its parts.

You might play a wicked clarinet, but without the brass, percussion, and the rest of the woodwind section, that awesome Sousa march won’t be heard.

Without ten other players on his team, the world’s greatest quarterback won’t amount to a thing.

Life is filled with tiny iterations of these obvious scenarios; because they are small does not mean they are insignificant. If you like the music, but can’t play, you can stand and applaud. If you can’t run a 4.2 forty, you can buy a booster card from your local eighth-grade tailback.

There is no doubt that, in our own heads, our lives are all about us; we would feel pretty naked and helpless, though, without our supporting cast, so don’t take them for granted.

Whether it’s a family, a club, a neighborhood, state, or country; strengthening the group(s) to which we belong makes perfect sense, even looking through the WIFM* prism. We just have to look . . . past our own noses.


The “star” of this pyramid is at the top, but only with the assistance of the beautiful bases. My friend Holly Hollenbaugh-freundel’s sweet daughter Chloey’s smile is clear evidence there’s plenty of joy to share!






* What’s in it for me?


(Altered) Reality TV

10 06 2015


There is some seriously great stuff on TV, these days. There are exciting sporting events, inspirational documentaries, superbly written and deftly acted dramas. There are also some pretty good talent competition shows.

And then, there’s TLC . . .

What, do tell, are we to learn from The Learning Channel?

The first thing I’d hope is that we’d learn to change the channel.

Years ago, cruel carnival side shows traded on the misfortunes of people with physical handicaps. They called them freak shows.  We know how awful – how absolutely wrong – it is to exploit other human beings.

Make no mistake, what happens on those shows that purport to show the everyday life of families who are somehow different from us – size, wealth, number of kids, number of wives, blah-blah-blah – is this century’s freak show.

It is exploitation.

Even if the participants are willing to have their foibles and foolishness displayed on 50” screens in millions of households, it is still exploitation. What about the children of these sorry excuses for parents; their privacy will have been completely voided.

It is exploitation.

TLC and its brethren’s constant drumbeat of their “reality” is just dangerous.  I fear that, if we hear it often enough – this steady drone of crazy which is about as real as the bustline of a “Real Housewife” – we  will come to believe it.

Isn’t it more than enough of a drain on the wallet and psyche to try to keep up with our neighbors?  Why would anyone even think of sidling up to that artificial measuring stick of crap that is Keeping up with the Kardashians?

Please don’t support the 21st century freak show promoter called TLC. Don’t give them your dignity, your kindness, you humanity.

If you want to know how the rich and famous live, find an old soap opera to watch.

If you feel the need to be entertained by some crazy family antics, spend some time with your own.



Uphill or Upward?

3 06 2015

I enjoy seeing happy little affirmations in my social media feed. I am all for a little cyber cheerleading. I am a bit bothered, though, by the tone of some of them, like this one from #selflovemovement:

6-3 a


Now, before you begin your defense of this true-enough bit of 21st century wisdom, let me explain why I winced, just a little, when I read it.  This sentiment, and many others like it, seem to me to presuppose that we are struggling and life is dealing us one crappy hand after another and it’s so hard to just soldier on  through the constant battle.

Oy vey!

Even if we are in the middle of an F(eces)4 crapnado, we don’t always need to be reminded of it!

How about reminding ourselves that, even in the most difficult times, there are moments of light and joy to be grabbed and savored.  I propose an alternative, or complement, to #selflovemovement’s admonition.  I offer you:


6-3 maybe aa


I believe that one of the best things we can do for our emotional well-being is to stop listening to people who, many with the best intentions, tell us, in so many words, that life is hard. If they really want to help, they should just tell us a joke.



27 05 2015

On virtually every media platform, there is a steady drum beat against cyber-bullying. Of course, I agree that we should do everything we can to put a stop to bullying, but, today,  I would like to talk about the other side of the coin that is the currency of internet social interactions.

Instead of focusing our time and energy on rooting out cyber bullies, we might do as much – or more – good by providing some antidote to their vitriol, their cowardly behavior, and their senseless cruelty.

(Because, as my frequent readers know, I can’t keep myself from making up words,) I have come up with an ideal – a hero in the battle for civility and kindness.  Although it does not involve a leotard, cape, or the ability to fly, this force for good against evil, the power to improve someone’s mood by a gentle word is surely one of the super-est of super powers.

I give you Cyber-Mensch*.

Think about how you felt, the last time someone paid you an unexpected compliment, held a door for you,  smiled and wished you “Good morning.”  It gave you a little lift, right? Now, consider what that little lift might do for someone who has been on the receiving end of a whole lot of crappiness.

What if we take a moment, here and there, to write/post/tweet/say something kind, true, and generous to folks we know well or casual internet acquaintances or total strangers who cross our paths?  We could do it in a flash, with no monthly payments, and no contracts.


No, I am not a doctor, but I can assure you, from experience that small doses of Nice, administered over an extended period and via numerous deliverers can do a lot to heal a battered heart.  If you want to stop bullies, one way is to dilute their venom with kindness.

I often say, “Just be nice!” Now, I’d like to ask you to go a step further.  Please DO nice. You’ll feel a little superhero-y – and you won’t have to do a single dangerous stunt.




*  For those who aren’t familiar with the term mensch, Leo Rosten’s  The Joys of Yiddish is a good reference.

Brotherly Like(ness)?

20 05 2015

DISCLAIMER: This is really NOT about politics. Really. Well, not much.

Sometimes, I can’t avoid it; I hear “news” about the 2016 race for the White House.  When I do, it invariably makes my head hurt from shaking it HARD. Sometimes – okay, a lot of times – it’s because some candidate says something stupid.  Other times – okay, a lot of times –  it’s because some (alleged) reporter or expert or pundit says something stupid.  At any rate, ibuprofen seems to be the early winner.

One such “Huh?!” moment occurred when I heard a news panel discussing how Jeb Bush is going to have to “deal with his brother’s legacy.” Let me tell you, a lot of stuff floods my brain when I think of George, the 43’s time in office, but none of it has to do with candidate Jeb Bush. Just like every other candidate, he’ll be auditioning to handle circumstances created by W and all the other previous occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Before you go all political – you might need to re-read the disclaimer – let me get to my real issue:

Does the media have no siblings? I can’t believe every one of them is an only child, but if they had brothers and sisters, they would KNOW that just because you share a set of parents, it does not mean you share anything else!

My sister and I are just a few years apart in age; we shared a room until we graduated from (the same) high school; our parents spoiled us equally; and no one believes we are sisters! She’s all about math and science and political awareness and I am about as shallow as a birdbath.

Just look at her - already doing math, counting her fingers. Meanwhile, I am practicing my "Deer in Headlights" face.

Just look at her – already doing math, counting her fingers. Meanwhile, I am practicing my “Deer in Headlights” face.

I know we are not alone in our totally mismatched personalities. My brother-in-law has two brothers. Aside from all of them being skyscraper tall, they have only two parents and a last name in common. My husband and his brother are half a world apart, geographically and intellectual-stimulus-ly. (Trust me, that’s a perfectly fine word.)

Just because we share DNA does not mean we share tastes, interests, abilities, or ideals.

There will be a lot of factors that determine whether or not Jeb Bush is a good candidate for US President. Out of respect for my sister, whose brilliant mind would snap were she to be judged by my behavior; his brother George won’t be one of them.


p.s.  Although we don’t share everything, we do share a fine sisterly love.  Hopefully, you have siblings who make you smarter and happier like my sister makes me.


Oil Can!

13 05 2015

I am not religious.  I am not overtly patriotic.  I did not grow up loving horses, race cars, or aircraft.  I am also not particularly sentimental . . .

So what is it about the Kentucky Derby, the start of the Indianapolis 500, military jet flyovers at big football games that stirs my heart?

I can’t watch these things without feeling a lump rise in my throat – and that pisses me off.

It is maudlin. I am not romantic; I am strong and rational and sensible. I am Spock, not Kirk. I am Holmes, not Watson. I do not like this feeling, not one bit.

I also can’t not watch these things because they take my breath away – just a little – but they do. It is moving. I am not heartless; I am engaged and caring and . . . human.

There is nothing wrong with getting a little verklempt when they play America, the Beautiful.  Nostalgia for middle-American-made cars and our innocence lost is reason enough for a little reverence at the sight of those three-wide eleven rows at Indy.  I felt a little bit silly a few Saturdays ago, as tears streamed down my cheeks from the call “Riders up” until the Run for the Roses was over, but,


For a lot of my life, I steadfastly refused to be moved by sentiment – at least on the outside. My armor would have been the envy of even the greatest warrior. Ah, but when you shield something from light and air, it withers. What I thought I was protecting, I was killing.

So, I stand, alone in my living room, when the Blue Angels buzz an NFL playoff, dab my eyes at the playing of My Old Kentucky Home, hold my breath a little at “Drivers, start your engines.” These things are glorious reassurance that, although there’s no denying that my joints could use a good oil can, I do, in fact, have a heart.


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