Wednesday, March 29, 2017

IN THE FAMILY WAY


Deja vu
I have to admit that having a houseful of kids is
more than nostalgic. There is a natural ebb and
flow to family relations. Hence much the same
as at their birth, when one's offspring visit one
immediately slips into parenting mode. Yet this
time around, it's not the parent who is driving the
process - rather it's my daughter "M." Somehow
during the time she's been out of the nest she has
blossomed into an amazing parent, spouse, and
human being. Hence for the last two days I've
been watching her in action. And continuously
thanking God that she is part of my life. All as
I try to figure out how she turned out so well!
Reality check
At some point we all have to grow up. Yet most
of us prefer to blame anybody but ourselves for
most of our problems. Therefore it's no wonder
that our parent's reputations get sullied in the
process. Frankly I made many mistakes in my
life - all of which obviously have had impact on
my children. However my intentions were only
good. In saying that I'm not trying to defend my
actions, nor request absolution. Rather I simply
want to put the past in context. You see, few if
any parents purposefully set out to screw up their
children. And in that process we do the best we
can do given the circumstances.
Good intentions aside
You can't blame us for trying. Yet that's exactly
what many adults do for the rest of their lives.
Most of my generation spent a fortune trying
to get some therapists to confirm their parental
conspiracy theories. Sadly, parenthood doesn't
come with an owners manual. Hence like it or
not, raising a child is an exercise in trial and
error. Some are better at it than others. Few
intend to cause long term collateral damage.
Given life ends in an exercise in role reversal,
it's fruitless to try and transfer responsibility
for our failures. That's because someday our
kid's kids will blame them for their mistakes.
Who's in charge?
Achieving maturity is a power struggle. As each
of us develops, at some point our parents must
hand over control. However when, where, and
how said transfer of responsibility occurs differs
based on those involved. If I've learned anything
in life it's that most children want and need some
limitations. Thus the only way to truly be a great
parent is to learn when and how to say "NO."
Once proper guardrails are established, most
children thrive within such limited constraints.
Ultimately pushing the boundaries to suit their
needs. Thus parenting definitely is a give and
take proposition fraught with chances for error.
Share and share alike
Some of us are better at this than others. Frankly
I'm amazed at my daughter "M" and son-in-law
"D's" parenting skills. First of all they definitely
share the responsibility. Both are equal partners
in the establishment, implementation, and most
important enforcement of parental guidelines.
Such a secure base of power means that even at
almost two years old - my grandson "H" knows
exactly who's in charge. And while I'm certain
that at some point he will more than test their
patience, I've no doubt that they will somehow
figure it out together. Which is exactly the same
way our generation tried to rule our roosts.
Equal opportunity
I understand why some of you are still angry
about things long past. Apologies aside, most
parents deeply regret any errors in their ways.
However at some point we all must move on.
The good news is that as we age, parents and
children can become friends and colleagues.
Inevitably there is a shift of power over to
the younger generation. And while some of
you disenfranchised children may relish the
idea of retribution - rarely does said payback
pay out. That's because ultimately we figure
each other out. And see each other for who
we really are. Whether we like "us" or not.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

TRAIN OF THOUGHT


All together now...
My father loved trains. As a boy nothing was
more exciting than the powerful majesty of the
steam locomotives criss crossing our country's
massive railway system. And little seemed as
elegant or exciting than hopping on board to
spend the night in a sleeper car or devour a
steak in the dining car. However by the time
I came along, said speedway was but a rusted
remnant of a forgotten mode of transportation.
By the seventies, Amtrak became something
of a joke. And subsequently what is left of our
passenger trains continue to carry on. In a way
that actually is quite wonderful.
On the right track
On the east coast there remains a strong rail
system. Trains convey millions of suburban
commuters into Manhattan on a daily basis.
One can travel up or down the eastern coast
via rail. Including the super fast Acela trains
that glide from Boston and Washington D.C.
Rather than flying, such a mode of transport
is beyond easy. One boards a train from a
station located in the center of town then
gets off in the middle of whatever city of
their choice. Imagine no airport security,
baggage claim or the like. So why is it that
most of us never ride the rails?!
National tour
My first transcontinental journey was by rail.
The owner of my company insisted that I see
the country first hand rather than fly above it.
Soon he booked me a private compartment to
Los Angeles via New York, Chicago, Seattle,
and down the west coast to my final stop. As
a jaded easterner, the vastness and beauty of
our nation literally blew my mind. Hence by
the time I arrived, I was all the better for the
ride. Even if it took three days versus seven
hours - it was worth every moment. Such a
journey not only grounded me - it helped me
see America in its proper context.
High anxiety
Speed isn't everything. Sometimes we must
pause and reflect upon all that we have. The
allure of air travel has always been about life
in the fast lane. However one might argue
that whizzing along at the speed of sound
dulls one's senses. Thus while one may get
to where they're going quickly, they arrive
without any understanding of what it took
to get there. Such a limited scope can easily
enable us to disregard the challenges and
needs of those we've passed over. Myopia
may be the reason why America struggles
to keep in touch with our collective reality.
Local color
There is no doubt that my perspective changed
after my introduction to Montana. Growing up
in the densest of population centers in America,
I had a rather warped sense of reality. It wasn't
until I started to venture beyond the metro area
that I discovered the depth and breadth of this
great country of ours. The population of which
is even more diverse than ever imaginable. Yet
trip by trip, mile by mile, I came to appreciate
all that truly makes American great. I've seen
the good, the bad, and the ugly. All of which is
the physical manifestation of a diverse living
and breathing democracy.
Round trip fare
Yesterday my youngest daughter "M" and her
family pulled into Pennsylvania Station after
a nineteen hour train ride from Chicago. They
opted to travel via rail because it seemed the
best option for my soon to be two year old
grandson "H". I booked them a "family room"
which provided plenty of space, privacy, and
their own bathroom. Tickets included free wifi
and meals in the dining car. Post boarding they
were soon asleep in their own berths. The next
morning they had breakfast somewhere in Ohio.
After lunch "H" took a nap before they arrived
in Manhattan rested, relaxed, and ready for fun!
All aboard
While taking a train trip may not be in your
immediate future, maybe it's time to slow
down and enjoy life's ride? As citizens of
this great republic, we all enjoy freedoms
unreachable for most others. Somehow we
allowed a schism of conflicting perspectives
to tear us apart. Most of our differences in
opinion are driven by our limited spheres
of influence. We don't know what we don't
know therefore to some ignorance is bliss.
However what would happen if each of us
traveled to places unknown? Why not try
to see life from another's perspective?

Monday, March 27, 2017

FORMULA FOR SUCCESS


Refresher course
Given my youngest is now the mother of a two
year old, it's obviously been awhile since I had
a toddler in the house. However that changes
today with the arrival of my grandson "H" and
his parents. Frankly one forgets about all of the
accoutrements required to properly care for
a little one. However slowly but surely Frank
and I have been preparing for his visit. Saturday
we ventured downtown to a baby superstore.
Our mission was simple - to purchase foam
corner guards for our uber modern yet sharp
edged glass coffee table. And it was a journey
into the unknown. We were two lost lambs...
Adult education
Frankly, no such places existed when my kids
were tots. The equivalent was Toys"R"Us and
trust me, it was an aisle or two at the most. At
times we were in awe of the dazzling array of
seemingly unnecessary parenting equipment.
For example there were a dozen humidifiers
to choose from including a deluxe Dyson that
was ticketed at almost five hundred bucks.
Then of course we had to buy some diapers.
In olden times parents had but two disposable
options - Pampers and later Huggies. Now one
can choose from a dozen brands plus their sub
categories, and finally wipes. HOLY CRAP!
Less was more
Next we strolled past the prams and strollers.
In my day those with something to prove had
a British perambulator. Today that category
is obviously on a roll with a broad variety of
international brands and options. By the time
we left the store, we frankly couldn't believe
that even with a population explosion there
would ever be enough humans on earth to
buy out this store location alone. How much
stuff do modern parents need to raise their
child in the way they should go? Back in the
day we followed in our parents footsteps and
kept things simple. It all seemed so easy!

All mixed up
Well, not exactly. The fact is most baby boomer
offspring were raised in a chemical haze. Until
the early eighties many mothers still smoked and
drank through their pregnancy. Children were fed
canned formula not mother's milk. Once weened
they transitioned to manufactured mixes packed
in portion sized jars. Upon growing up they ate
whatever we ate which meant chemically laced
prepared foods straight from a box. Whereas my
daughter "M" has never fed "H" anything that
wasn't organic and prepared by her for him alone.
And we wonder why our children struggle. Did
we poison their chances for happiness?!
Balanced duet
I'm amazed at the passion, commitment, and
perseverance of modern parents. Unlike my
generation, most share the responsibilities of
parenting. Proving that for the young folks -
most traditional sexual stereotypes have been
usurped by common sense.  If only the same
could be said for corporate America. Sadly
women are still the minority in the executive
suite. Invariably their compensation lags far
behind that of their male counterparts. When
are we going to realize that two sexes are
better than one - both at home and at work?!
Let's hope our grandkids finally get it right!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

7th Day Surprise: HOT DISH



Mother knew best.

Somehow she could
create something out of nothing.
\
Assembling an assortment of pantry staples
into a magnificent melange.

Only to pour it into a casserole
and pop it into the oven.

After an hour at 350 degrees - voila!

HEAVEN IN A HOT DISH!