Monday, March 30, 2015

Post 60: My Favorite Daughter

Looking back over a few of my recent posts, I realize I've written more about Kate than about Mary. As a good mom, this makes me twitch -- I try to keep things as balanced as possible with the girls.

Although, as Kate will tell you, Mary is the "chosen" one.

I always laugh when she says that, but I'm going to tell you a secret. This is a deep, dark secret no mother ever reveals. By disclosing this confidence, I permanently surrender any claim to the coveted Mother of the Year award. Ah well. Here goes ...

Mothers do have a favorite child. 

That's right. All those times when you asked your mom if she had a favorite and she responded, Of course not, sweetie! I love both/all of you equally! -- well, she was lying. I'm truly sorry to crush your illusions.

Naturally, this revelation brings us to the obvious question: Is Kate -- my opinionated firstborn -- right? Is Mary -- my sweet baby -- the chosen child? Is Mary my favorite?

The answer reveals the rest of the secret: Yes. And No.

Mothers do, at times, have a favorite child. But the favorite child changes, sometimes within a minute. Mary strides into the kitchen, grabs her favorite wooden spoon and bakes up a batch of the best chocolate chip cookies in the world. Favorite child. Kate looks at me with those eagle eyes that miss nothing. Favorite child. Mary asks me to go get sushi with her. Favorite child. Kate invites me to spend Saturday with her, wandering through antique stores. Favorite child.

All things being equal, love isn't. So, I confess. I do have a favorite child.


P.S. I know of only one mother who doesn't follow this pattern. My mother. Because I am definitely her favorite child. Always. (Harry and Eva, if you disagree, all I can say is: Get your own blog.)

P.P.S. Maturity is way over-rated.

Sidenote for those of you just joining the fun: Post 60 is a digression on the Creative Instigation blog, part of my 60th year celebration. This is post 12 of the 60. Party on!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Fun: Happy Birthday, Kate!

Sunday is Kate's 25th birthday. 25. Isn't that amazing? Over the years, I've probably shared 25 tales about Kate here on the blog ... including the "bird is dead" classic. And there's the shoe story. And let's not forget the downhill racer conversation. 

Today I'm going to tell you something completely different about Kate: She reminds me to take my vitamins. 

She's 25 years old; she has a demanding real estate career; a crazy schedule; dear, fun friends; and a pup that loves attention and long walks. Yet, in the midst of all that, she thinks about me and my vitamins. 

Kate, at 25, is one of the finest people on the planet. And it's an honor to be her mom. 

Happy birthday, baby! Here's to the best year ever!
And, yes. I took my vitamins. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Post 60: It Could Have Been Us

April 13, 2015, will mark one year since the murders at Village Shalom and the Jewish Community Center in suburban Kansas City.

The writer in me feels obligated to acknowledge the anniversary.

The reporter in me wants to provide accurate information on the tragic deaths of Terri LaManno, William Corporon and Reat Underwood.

The mother in me wants to say, "It could have been us. Thirty minutes earlier, and it could have been us."

On April 13, 2014, my daughter Kate and I both went to visit mom at Village Shalom. It was a Sunday like any other, and that meant bingo at 11 a.m. Since Kate was there to help her grandma, I helped another elderly woman.

I helped Terri LaManno's mom.

A little after noon, Kate and I left her car in the parking lot at Village Shalom -- we both got in my car and drove off for an afternoon of lunch and shopping. About 30 minutes after we left the parking lot, Terri LaManno drove in.

William Corporon and Reat Underwood had already been shot. Terri LaManno was next.

It could have been us. Thirty minutes earlier, and it could have been us.

That's 1,800 seconds -- 1,800 seconds between life and death in the parking lot of my mother's assisted living home, a beautiful facility named for peace.

As soon as we heard the news of the shootings, Kate and I drove back to Village Shalom. Naturally, the police wouldn't let us back into the parking lot, so I drove away -- knowing only that a woman had been killed. I wasn't sure if mom was OK. I drove for a few blocks and then pulled over and parked -- unknowingly, right around the corner from where the shooter was hiding.

It could have been us.

I can't tell you why three wonderful people were killed that day. I can't tell you why Kate and I are still here. I can only tell you that Mindy Corporon -- who lost her father and son in the shootings -- is absolutely, 100 percent right: We cannot be overcome by evil and we can overcome evil with good. I encourage all the Creative Instigation readers in the Greater KC area to take part in the Seven Days event that culminates in a faith walk on April 13 from the Jewish Community Center to the Church of the Resurrection.

I can also tell you this -- we are all connected. The first call I received after the shooting came from my friend Denise, who works at the Church of the Resurrection. She knew mom lived at Village Shalom and wanted to make sure we were all OK. At the time she called, I didn't know who had been killed. Later, after finally reaching mom, I called Denise back to tell her we were all fine. And she told me about Reat, the dear young man who had been one of her youth volunteers.

Reat Underwood is gone. William Corporon is gone. Terri LaManno is gone. Kate and I -- and you -- are still here. And it is up to us to do all we can to bring peace and understanding forward.

Because we are all connected. And it could have been any of us.

Post 60 is a digression on the Creative Instigation blog, part of my 60th year celebration. This is post 11 of the 60. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Post 60: Lost

Yesterday's post reminded me of a poem I wrote a few years ago and recently edited. It's a visual poem -- the list and last line form the letter "L" for lost. I mention this because it matters, and I'm not sure it will be apparent in a blog post.


And the stillborn we chose not to name.


And, on a completely different note, yesterday's post also reminds me of another poem I wrote, one that I think Mrs. Dougherty would have enjoyed:


I told him
he was a
good for nothing
son of a bitch
and I meant
every word but
every word was a lie.
His mother was really
a lovely person
and he was very good
at some things.
Very good,
if you know what I mean.
And you know what I mean
because we’ve all been there.
We’ve all been in love
with a good for nothing
son of a bitch
and the horse
that he rode in on.

Sidenote for those of you just joining the fun: Post 60 is a digression on the Creative Instigation blog, part of my 60th year celebration. This is post 10 of the 60. Party on!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Post 60: Sons of Bitches

Grief is sneaky. It's startling. It sidles up and grabs you, unawares.  

Grief hit this morning, when I was sitting at the dining room table, having my morning coffee and reading the comics online. I got to Zen Pencils, alphabetically last on my organized list*, and was slammed by the end panel:
"Look at that, you son of a bitch." 
-- Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, to the world's political leaders 

Maybe it was the quote. Maybe it was reading the quote while drinking my coffee. But I was instantly transported to a chair in the corner of Mrs. Dougherty's apartment in Florida.

Joyce Dougherty was (and it still feels wrong to use the past tense when talking about her) my bestfriendinthewholeworldsincefourthgrade Lynn's mom. At some point in our decades together, I started calling her Mom, but I typically called her Mrs. Dougherty and that's still how I think of her.

Lynn and her hubby Paul had a mother-in-law suite in their house for Mrs. Dougherty. When I'd go visit, I typically got up before Lynn and would go over to have coffee with Mrs. Dougherty.

We had our places. She'd sit in her corner chair. I'd sit in my corner chair. And, as we enjoyed our coffee and read the paper, she would share her opinions on what she was reading and what she was thinking. She was a woman of strong opinions on everything from Lynn to life to politics to people to me and my daughters.

And, when her opinion was negative -- let's say we were discussing politicians -- one of her favorite phrases was, sons of bitches.

I can still hear her saying it. Isn't it funny how you can hear people long after they're gone, if you think of the right phrase? I can hear my dad tell mom dinner was fine. "How was dinner, Allen?" "It was fine." Took me years to realize that he meant exactly that -- always sounded sort of negative to me at the time.

Dad meant it was fine. Mrs. Dougherty meant they were sons of bitches.

And she was always right. They were.

Mrs. Dougherty was a mother, grandmother, friend, artist, cook. She was incredibly well read. She was amazingly talented. Her eyes sparkled. She had style -- she could wear a cape and a beret and make it work. That's no easy feat.

Mrs. Dougherty missed nothing. She lived and loved wholeheartedly. She was equally at ease with old people and young children. She was the contradiction we all are: painfully direct one moment, kind and giving the next. I always felt that part of the gift of being Lynn's best friend was being included in Mrs. Dougherty's circle of love.

Mrs. Dougherty was a tiny woman physically -- shorter than I was by the end, if you can imagine that. Much thinner. But she gave meaning to Shakespeare's phrase, "Though she be but little, she is fierce."

Grief is fierce. Loss is fierce. They are emotional sons of bitches. This morning's sneak attack reminded me of how even a quick memory of someone we love can bring unexpected tears and a palpable ache.

And isn't that wonderful?

The people we love stay with us, forever. They are part of who we are, who we will be. I am who I am because of Mrs. Dougherty and Dad and so many others. Loved, but never lost.

*Yes. That's right. I have to tear apart my entire office to find tax receipts, but my comic strips are alphabetized. We all have priorities. 

Sidenote for those of you just joining the fun: Post 60 is a digression on the Creative Instigation blog, part of my 60th year celebration. This is post 9 of the 60. Party on!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Creativity Tips: Surround Yourself with Talent

I once worked for a man who said he only hired people who were dumber than he was.

I'll let you mull that over for a moment. La-de-da-de-da. OK, moving on.

One of the great joys of my life is surrounding myself with brilliant, wonderful, talented, creative life forces. Today, I want to applaud three:

Chandler Johnson! Chandler just designed my first new logo in 13 years of business. We talked about my brand and, during that discussion, I mentioned that many of my client relationships turn into friendships. Chandler took all that, and did this. And he did it quickly. Hire him.

You don't think I'm sunny? Back off, bud. Chandler does. ;-)
I love that he presented the creative strategy as a visual. That approach sets a designer up for success -- knowing his thought process, I was ready to fully appreciate the resulting logo.
Thank you, Chandler! You totally rock. 
Tyler Shane! Tyler is my other daughter. And, after years of snarfing down my green bean casserole, this amazing woman is coming through for me BIG TIME. She's now a chocolatier with Christopher Elbow. And she brought me this scrumptious chocolate bar, handmade by her own talented hands. Life just doesn't get much better than a personal chocolatier.

I'm eating this one square at a time. Mmmmmmmmmm.
And, yes. I know the squares are rectangles.
You're messing with my sunny personality again. 

Chandler is Kate's friend. Tyler is Mary's friend. But, just for the record, I do have a couple of talented friends of my own. And I want to sing the praises of one right now:

Leslie Adams! Leslie is part of this amazing new community called ViewFinders. Check it out. The words and photos are gorgeous and inspirational -- two words that also describe Leslie and all her work. She's amazing and I count myself blessed to have her as a colleague and a friend. How can you not love someone who says: "... don't leave home without some way to capture the magic around you."
She photographs, she writes, she bakes.
I should have her take a picture of Tyler's chocolate bar ... 
Go out there! Surround yourself with talent. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are. You might just learn something, as you capture some of the magic that surrounds us.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Post 60: The Only Beauty Secret You Need

Years ago, I got a glimpse of the prettiest woman. She was playing with her daughter, a toddler, and they were both laughing out loud with pure delight.

Now, I have to admit ... if I had known who this woman was, I wouldn't have thought she was pretty. And, if she had realized I was looking, I’m sure her expression would have changed – we women can be awfully self-conscious.

But, just for a moment, I didn't realize who she was and she didn't see me. So, in that moment, I saw her honest face. And I discovered the one true beauty secret:

Joy is irresistible.

Joy is a magnet. Eye-crinkling smiles, head-back laughter, whole-hearted happiness – joy draws us in. It’s an irresistible physical attraction, my friends, like flowers turning toward the sun.

No one notices a bad hair day when they're captivated by giggles.

I keep that in mind now, when I look in the mirror and see that map of laugh lines. Because I know, if I look with gentler eyes, I might again see the reflection of that pretty, joyous woman, laughing with her baby. 

Sidenote for those of you just joining the fun: Post 60 is a digression on the Creative Instigation blog, part of my 60th year celebration. This is post 8 of the 60. Party on!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Post 60: Any Landing

Harrison Ford's plane crash last week reminded me of one of my all-time favorite sayings:
Any landing you walk away from is a good landing. 

Thanks to the WWII pilot who gave me that advice, I've felt much better about any number of crashes, including heart-rending relationships, broken trusts and disappointing business deals. I've also used the line as reassurance after a dangerously stupid lane change at 70 miles per hour.

Any landing you walk away from is a good landing.

As I approach 60, I'm still walking. On the journey, I've found a few mantras that keep me moving in the right direction. For example ...

Look up. 
Whenever we took a family vacation, or just went on an adventure in downtown KC, Mom would urge me and Harry and Eva to look up. Why? Because if you don't look up, you miss the gargoyles on the old buildings. You miss the cloud that looks like a tiger. You miss the stoplight turning red, and step in front of cars. (Any landing you walk away from ...)

Everyone needs a little sweets.
Ah, that was from my grandmother. We all need a little sweets and that needs no explanation. She also told me that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. And that men were like buses -- not to worry when one pulls away, there'll be another one along in a few minutes. She was right on all counts.

Breathe in. Breathe out. 
I'm sensing a trend here. My mantras come from the women in my life. Breathe in. Breathe out. is a Kate-ism. She started telling me this years ago, when I was so busy trying to do everything -- and perfectly -- that I was too stressed to do anything well. She was 10 and had more sense than I did. But, I did have enough sense to listen. Put your own oxygen mask on first.

Wherever you go, go with all your heart. 
This one came from Confucius, and I'm not quite old enough to have heard it from him personally. However, Mom and Dad used to say basically the same thing all the time: If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well.

While breathing, of course. And possibly enjoying a little sweets.

Sidenote for those of you just joining the fun: Post 60 is a digression on the Creative Instigation blog, part of my 60th year celebration. This is post 7 of the 60. Party on!

Post 60: Be Kind

Every time you venture out in the world, there's an opportunity to be kind. For example, you could smile at someone who's struggling with her yogurt selection at the grocery store. Have you ever tried to figure out what's the best vanilla Greek yogurt to buy? You have to compare price and sugar and calories and fat and taste and ... well. It's traumatic.

You could let another driver into your lane during rush hour. That's right. Let the other driver move in front of you. I promise, you'll still get home in time for dinner.

You could answer when the clerk asks, "How are you today?" You could say, "I'm well! How are you?" And listen for the answer.

You could hold a door for someone. And, yes, smile as you do.

Here's the amazing thing. IT DOESN'T TAKE ANY LONGER TO SMILE.

That's right. You're going to be in that grocery store line for 3.4 minutes, regardless of whether you're grinning or grimacing. And the grimace creates such unkind wrinkles over the years ...

Does it matter, other than wrinkle prevention? You betcha. Every single act of kindness makes a difference. It make be a tiny act that makes a tiny difference. But all those tiny differences add up.

And, while we're talking about kindness, let's bring this conversation home. How kind are you to you? Do you follow the other Golden Rule? Do unto you as you would have others do unto you.

In the process of being kind -- to yourself and others -- you're going to discover a wonderful reward. Kindness boomerangs. The more I smile and listen to others, the more they smile and listen to me. It's lovely.

Why, a nice man in the yogurt aisle even helped me make my selection recently.

So here's my wish for you, as you venture out today. Be the kind of person who attracts kindness. Be kind.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Creativity Tips: My American Sniper

I went to the doctor yesterday for my annual physical, which included a blood test. I'm a talker (you never noticed?), so naturally I had a conversation with the guy who was drawing blood:

Jan: I've had a million blood tests. I never look.
Guy: Neither do I.
Jan: Ha!
Guy: Seriously. I've been doing this for years. I don't look. I feel for the vein. And I tell the technicians I'm training, they shouldn't look either. Looking is just a distraction.

Isn't that fascinating? Looking for the vein distracts him from finding the vein.

And that makes me wonder ... what are you and I looking for that's just a distraction? Are there steps we take, every day, that really aren't necessary? What could we do -- possibly better -- if we focused on the end goal, rather than the first step?

As you ponder that, let me address the immediate distraction: What does this post have to do with a sniper? In chatting with the technician, I found out he had spent 30 years in the Green Berets as a sniper. Everybody has a story, my friends. Everybody.

And, by the by, he got the needle in my vein on the first try. No pain. No bruise. No looking.