Monday, December 31, 2012


New Year, New Word

If you were to define the year ahead by just one word, or one simple phrase, what would it be?  Would it embody the hopes and dreams?  Would it be representative of a New Year’s resolution?  Would it be a simple statement about where you are in life right now and where you plan to be in the year ahead? 

Relationships.  Writing.  Momentum.  Crossroads.   More Success.  Pay it Forward.  Dream it, Live it.  Longevity.  Love on. 

These are a few of the responses that came from my family members and close friends as we went around the table on Christmas Eve to answer this question that was posed to us by our friend and professional life coach.  You see, it is our Christmas Eve tradition to indulge in a decadent buffet dinner, drink copious amounts of wine, and then let the combination of food coma and truth serum bring out the true colors in each person around the table.  We have had the same dinner party participants with the same tradition for the last five years and the Life Coach gets to pick the question for all to answer.

I am ridiculously optimistic and, perhaps, naively full of hope when it comes to life and love.  I’ve had my fair share, and even beyond, of tragic romances and some tough luck in life the past year.  But when I  was asked to contemplate the year ahead, I couldn’t help but immediately feel gratitude for all those that extended a hand to offer friendship, love, and support whenever I had a tough turn to navigate.  And then feel moved to make the year ahead one in which I follow their lead and bring light and joy into the lives of others whenever they might need a helping hand.  When it came to my turn at the holiday dinner table, my immediate response was “Pay it Forward”. 

Hilary Swank gives a fantastically written speech in the movie New Year’s Eve when all of New York City is looking at her with anxious doubt about the ball in Times Square being repaired in time for the Midnight Count Down.  She encourages the citizen of NYC to see this moment as sign to pause, reflect on the year past, and reach inward to discover hope for the year ahead so that we are truly ready to embrace it.

I offer you the same words of encouragement, albeit much less eloquent and without a star studded entourage, as we look to the year ahead.  What moments did you embrace in 2012?  Which challenges did you shy away from for fear of failure or being hurt?  The times that brought you closer to becoming the man or woman that you desire to be?  The times that made you realize that you are exactly where you are meant to be?

I agree with those that encourage us to not ‘hold on to the past’ and use the New Year to look forward.  However, our journey is the road map to describe how we became the person we are today.  It is a critical part of our story.  So now, as you look back and reflect on 2012, I ask you:  What will be your word for 2013?

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Life is Beautiful

The holidays are such a, well, tricky time of year.  They tend to mean something different to everyone – starting with the fact that people are celebrating all different kinds of holidays. 

I grew up in a family that could easily be described as a sort of “Leave it to Beaver” cliché and as a young adult I have come to realize what a rare gift that is in our complicated world.   When I come home for the holidays I look forward to spending time with family, laughing with my siblings, eating too much Peppermint Bark, and scrambling for that last minute present because I most certainly forgot someone on my list.

I look to others in my life and know that if they were to illustrate with words the scene at their home for Christmas or Chanukah or, simply, ‘the holidays’, it might be more complicated or less idyllic.  There might be family members not in attendance and their absence leaves a deep void.  There might be fewer presents, if any, under the tree due to the unstable financial position of a home.  The list can go on and on and the only shoes we truly know are the ones that we walk in day in and day out.  I can’t begin to try and understand the world of ‘Celebrating the Holidays’ that exists beyond the table I sit around every year.  I simply don’t know it.

We were watching a Country Christmas Special on television the other night and many of the artists were commenting on the holiday season and their song selection prior to performing.  The lead female in A Band Called Perry was asked why she enjoys singing Christmas songs.  Her response was powerful in its simplicity:  because everybody knows the words and for that 3 minute moment in time we all come together and live in unison.

As I look around at the environment that is built around us between approximately November 15th and January 2nd I can simply say that I choose to see its beauty.  The flowers, lights, bright colors, and shiny décor are begging us to smile and be in awe of this great nation – to come together, if even just for a moment.

We might all attach the holiday season to various meanings, some more positive than others, but hopefully we can all come together and agree that it is a time to try and find something in life to celebrate and be in awe of each morning – even if just for a moment. 

If the department stores, hotel lobbies, or festive restaurants aren’t enough to try and bring out the spirit of beauty then at least ‘Google’ Clark Griswold and look at his lights display.  I can almost guarantee that it will put a smile on your face as it has been doing for viewers of many generations.

Monday, December 17, 2012


As much as I would love to dedicate this week's article to tales of spiked eggnog, mistletoe, and other holiday shenanigans...I can't help but feel compelled to mention the event that continues to be on everyone's minds (and televisions).  The tragedy in Newton, Connecticut.

What took place in Connecticut this past weekend I consider to be an unconscionable evil.  The innocence of the victims pulled at every heart string in America and our nation held their breath as they watched our President interrupt the morning news to deliver a speech that would, hopefully, show leadership and offer unity amongst the broken hearted.

If you were watching television, or even listening live on the radio, then you witnessed a moment that -- to me -- was one of the most striking emotional points of the week.  Our President, the leader of one of the most powerful nations in the world and whose face is recognizable amongst the millions, teared up and had to take at least three deep breaths to collect himself while trying to offer solace and support to the parents and family members of the victims.  Why so shaken?  Perhaps because he is a father.

Think about it -- when we look to the leaders in our lives do we acknowledge the human factor?  The President of our nation, your boss, your professor, your landlord.  All of the people who might play a role and hold a title that represents authority or power are also parents, children, or spouses to someone. 

I don't know about you, but I often find myself managing a very love/hate relationship with the holiday season.  There is so much going on and people can be pretty wound up.  The drivers are more aggressive (hello, parking lot chaos), there are plenty of end-of-year deadlines looming at the office, and I tend to feel resentful of everyone that wants or needs something from me.  This process can lead to angst, impatience, and frustration with those around me...during the merriest time of the year?  In the words of Alanis Morissette, "Isn't it ironic?"

The silver lining, albeit a dull one in contrast to all that has taken place, is that on Friday afternoon I stopped in my tracks and empathized with our President as he had a moment in which he had to take a deep breath and try to collect himself at the thought that one of his young daughters could have been victim to the news headlines of the day.  He's human.  He's a father.  He weeps at the thought of burying his children.

So this holiday season, as you feel inclined to honk your horn at the person that sits too long at the red light or to swear under your breath about your boss demanding final projects be delivered before you leave for vacation, take a moment and remember that we are all human at the end of the day.  And the true intention of the 'Holiday Season' is to reflect upon the year that has passed with gratitude and love for those that made it a bit brighter while also celebrating the beginning of a new year with hope and optimism.

I wish you all a very Happy Holiday Season.  May your days be filled with loved ones, cheer, and thoughts of gratitude.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Speak Up!

I was pouring over love, life, and end of year career goals with a dear friend (red wine was certainly involved) and she made an anecdotal comment about interactions with her boyfriend of the last 6 months.  She plainly said "I've learned that I simply need to be direct and ask for the things that I would like to see and he is typically very responsive and receptive."  Imagine that -- being direct and asking for what you want, or dare we say deserve (!), from relationships.  A simple, yet brilliant, expression that is entirely underrated in life.

Often, my writing centers around the topic of dating and relationships so you might be thinking that this isn't applicable to the single ladies.  I will now take this concept a bit further and use it as a more universal approach to an assortment of relationships in life. 

My brother sent out an email to my sister and I earlier this week and it was so typical 'Simple Man' that I literally laughed out loud in reading it.

               "Dear Barbie & Skipper -- what would you each like for Christmas this year?  Please don't say 'oh                                             nothing' because then nobody wins." 

The holidays are a time of gift giving as a token of appreciation for the people that have played a significant role in our lives throughout the course of the past year.  It is also a time to look forward at the year ahead and identify goals and aspirations to then be used as benchmarks as we attempt to navigate the road of life.  I rarely speak with specific direction towards the more intimate relationships in my life, yet, I admittedly have no problem making specific requests of my work subordinates and colleagues so that they can clearly understand what I will need in order for our relationship to be successful. 

I must confess that I am pretty darn sure that certain non-work related relationships would grow tremendously if I did take such initiative in being more direct.  Now, I am not recommending that we place demands on people in life and stand by a line with our arms crossed in defiance.  No, not at all.  I am simply reminding all of us that being a clear communicator is critical to the success of ANY relationship and sometimes the more intimate ones are easily overlooked in this department.

I responded to my brother's email with a blend of holiday gift ideas ranging from Taylor Swift concert tickets and backstage passes to portable speakers for my iPod.  My brother told me that he probably can't come up with the Taylor Swift passes -- but hey, at least I asked!  Keep in mind that asking for what you want is as important as realizing that sometimes the response to your request is a gentle 'No'.   

Monday, December 3, 2012

Building a House

What if I told you that with each decision you make, consciously or unconsciously, you are building a house that bears your family name over the front door?  Now, what if I told you that your future grandchildren will see this house that you built to be constructed of materials consisting of Facebook posts, Tweets, and Instagram?  If you raised your eyebrows and shifted uncomfortably in your seat just right in this moment then you had the same reaction I did when someone posed this question to me just days ago.

You see, we are living in a new digital era use media in a way that allows the world wide web to contain an unprecedented amount of detail about our lives. We are writing new history books about an ear that has yet to exist long enough to be able to look back with much hindsight. I don't doubt that future generations will say that they choose to use media differently as a direct result of learning from our mistakes of communicating choices and opinions in an extremely public way.

Way back in history a person's last name wasn't perceived to be unique to that individual. The name was representative of a family household and each member's decisions reflected upon the family as a whole. Poor or reckless decisions quickly, and powerfully, brought shame to a family name.

Today we live in a different kind of world. We are much more individualistic and don't often care to associate our name and reputation with a larger group.  We feel entitled to believe that our decisions are set to impact our lives alone and the image that we choose to project in various outlets may or may not be relevant to anything beyond the moment of that post.  If this is a thought process that rings familiar then I challenge you to see things a bit differently.

I found it intimidating and bit overwhelming to realize that being a participant in the forefront of this era of information overload will allow future generations to quickly and creatively associate all members of my household through a simple "googling" of a name. To go even further and more dramatically with this idea, I could suggest that future generations will be able to purchase a DVD from Google or Microsoft that contains all the photos, tweets, check-in's, and status updates posted to your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram timeline.

We are building our own digital time capsule and one day it will be the building blocks that collectively create the house bearing our name.

So now I pose to you again the same question as before but now within hopefully a different context: what if I told you that the decisions you make today are building the house bearing your family name over the door? 

Be mindful and thoughtful this holiday season.  I, for one, plan to start "Checking In" to every important library and museum in town and will be filtering all photos so that my grandchildren will wonder my true age for years to come as they squint through my faded raindrop toaster filtered Instagram photos. #justkeepinitreal