Tag Archives: friends

In Real Life

Riding the Camel057Several years ago, I lived in Sonoma, California and worked in a small business. I hired a marketing assistant who became a friend. I was single and Trish was married but we connected. She made plans to travel to Tunisia to visit her husband’s family and she invited me to accompany them. It was a unique offer. I had never actually considered a vacation to Tunisia. It turned out that we would need to fly through Paris, so that was going to be a few days’ visit. I decided to do it. It was an interesting trip. I had not thought through the language challenges. Her husband was tri-lingual and I had assumed his family might also be but they were not. So while he spoke English, no one else did. He sometimes would translate into French for Trish (she was bi-lingual) and she could turn around and let me know in English what was happening. Sometimes I could not follow. Perhaps the funniest episode was we were driving and I got excited as we spotted a man walking with a camel. A camel! Live, in person, just walking along the road. I wanted to take a picture, so we stopped the car. Then, Trish’s husband approached the man and said something to him in Arabic, so he stopped to pose for me. It got better! He invited me to jump on the camel. OK—I reacted without hesitation! Perhaps I should have paused to consider it more. As I sat on the camel and it stood, I was almost pitched off its back. You don’t think about it but how a camel is built, with long legs and neck, means it is a bit awkward in its movement. As it stood, it rocked forward and I did not expect to go in that direction. So I squeezed with my legs with all my might because I immediately thought of flying to the ground and having to go to a hospital where no one spoke English and then calling my mother to tell her I was hurt and thousands of miles away. This could not happen. It did not.
Well, Trish ended up quitting, then getting divorced, and she moved to Chicago. Then she returned home to Tennessee. Years passed and I moved to Chicago. I got married and had a son. She became an artist and produced theatre work. We have sent each other Christmas cards and Facebook came into existence, so we have watched as we posted random notes or photos. We have visited each other twice since I moved to the Midwest.
A week ago, I had a business trip to Nashville and she came to get me. We realized very quickly that it had been TEN YEARS since we actually had seen each other in person. TEN YEARS! I’m not sure how that much time had passed. She’s never met my son. I never met her second husband. We ate lunch, we drove to the airport, and we chatted non-stop. It was so much fun and it reminded me that I need to get to Nashville more often. I cherish the friendships I’ve developed over the years and I rely on social networks to keep in touch. For the most part, it feels like it works. After all, we can’t jump on planes and travel all over the country every year. But seeing someone live, in person, really is so much better. That short visit covered so much territory.
I have other friends, who live in California, who I’ve seen more than once in ten years. Like my friend since junior high, Susy, who was in my wedding and has come out to Chicago multiple times. Or, Aileen, who I have known for more than two decades. I saw her son as a newborn and her second son just had his Bar Mitzvah. Their kids have grown up mostly in pictures, so it is nice when you can see them in real life. Status updates or tweets only provide a limited amount of information. It is good to be reminded how to connect the old fashioned way.

My Life Interrupted

The goal or theme of writing this blog was how I intended to make sure my life was balanced. I started a new job in October and as a result I have not been writing. I have been very busy at work and learning a great deal, and I did not have much more to give of myself when I got home. My son started kindergarten and we’ve been surprised to find we had homework every night. My priority was to help him with his assignments and by the end of the night I’ve been spent. Happily, we are seeing all sorts of progress in his reading and writing skills, and how he can illustrate his thoughts. We’ve also had our first two parent-teacher conferences. We’re watching him develop before our eyes.

I have a neighbor who is facing health issues and her husband was recently laid off from his job. As a result, she and I have discussed our mortality. We’re close in age and had our babies within two months of each other, so our lives have been on parallel paths. In recent days, there have been announcements of the deaths of a few famous people that also struck a nerve in me. The most stunning was a news story that Wall Street Journal author Jeff Zaslow died in a car accident. Aside from his newspaper work, his book, “The Last Lecture” was a favorite of mine. I found so many life lessons in it and felt the connection he had made with his subject (professor Randy Pausch). lastlecture_bookcvrHis writing was powerful. Then, to read that he was the father of three daughters and had just published another book made me stop short. We all go through life knowing it will end eventually but are rather blissfully unaware of when that might be. We presume we have decades but what if it turns out there are only months (or less) left for us? Would we do things differently?

I’m planning our first Spring Break vacation and it will be a trip to Los Angeles. A visit to Disneyland is on the agenda. My husband and I are hoping to surprise our son. We’ve seen those ads where kids are told about the destination and they go nuts. I’m not sure if we can hold out that long but we’re going to try. There are six weeks to go and we’re weakening. We have all this anticipation building for us and we do stop periodically because we want to remember to enjoy it as it happens. Taking too many pictures or having too many expectations may make it less fun in the end. But, it might just be magical.

Part of the fun of the So Cal trip is that I can hopefully see some friends who I have not seen in years. A former co-worker, college roommate, business associate—I hope we can squeeze them all in. Through social media, email and Christmas cards, we’ve managed to keep track of one another for many years but it would be really great to see people in person. Like the ad…we will be creating memories.



Vacation musings

We just spent eight days in California.  It was special for a number of reasons.  As we departed, we just beat a big storm that hit Chicago.  Weather at home was 6-16 degrees plus a wind chill.  In California, while not “warm” by most people’s standards, it was 55-65 degrees.  My son got to see the beach for the first time.  That was awesome!  He and my husband walked down by the water and ran away as the waves almost reached them.  I stood back and took pictures.  I got some very good shots.  It would have been perfect if it had been warmer but he enjoyed it.  And, I did too.  He said it was “the best day ever.”  And here is what else made this week special: he said it was “the best day ever” almost every day.

We visited friends and family and they almost all had gifts for him.  I never expected it but he came home loaded with new toys.  And, many were dead-on favorites.  Lego and Star Wars, Transformers and Toy Story, these all made him very happy.  He had fun meeting new people and seemed surprised at how much family was in California.  He’s seen my husband’s family more often because we live in the same state.  This was his third trip back west but he really doesn’t remember past visits.

We went to San Francisco and there was a street performer who captured his attention.  He was dressed all in silver and wore a silver mask, so he had a bit of a robotic appearance but he would stand still like a statue.  Then, he’d start moving around because he had music playing.  I gave him $5 and he jumped down and waved us over to take a picture.  Funny, now that I think about it, that we understood his intentions even though he did not speak.   That was a bit of an adventure.

There were some more sobering moments, too.  We saw aunts and uncles who are aging and two aunts are no longer with us.  Their husbands carry on now, after 50+ years of marriage, and it is obvious that they miss their spouses.  Those visits brought to mind years gone by but you can’t go back.

We got to one winery, two parks, two libraries, many restaurants and shops.  We enjoyed “Tangled” in 3D and got back to the church where we were married.  How’s that for variety?

As we were taxiing on the runway, he looked out and I told him to say goodbye to California.  He waved and then he quietly started to cry.  He turned away as he wiped away his tears.  He said he would miss it.  Me too.

I do PR

I think PR is one of the most misunderstood and/or not known professions.  I’ve been asked what I do by friends and family and when I say “PR” the reactions vary but more often than not, I get a blank, somewhat dazed sort of look.  So, then I might offer an explanation of the stories in the newspaper or on television were likely set up by someone like me.  We pitch companies/products/services/executives to reporters to tell a story.  That is a really simple way of putting it but it provides a tangible example that most people should be familiar with and hopefully understand.

Here’s the thing: there are so many more facets to the job on a daily basis.  And, depending on the company we can get called upon to help on a myriad of tasks ranging from internal communications, community relations, event planning, town hall meetings, etc.  Of course, the growth of the Internet has also helped my job description to expand to a host of other tasks: responding to consumers online, website content management, social media monitoring, etc.  The news cycle now is 24/7 and stories can be posted at anytime.  The traditional, close of business day deadlines are less common.  Then, there are those crisis management issues that arise out of no where.

My professional counterparts  add to the problem by using different terms and insisting upon drawing various distinctions.  Marketing communications (“MarCom”), corporate communications, integrated marketing communications (“ICM”), media relations, public relations, etc.  Do we really need to argue over “having a seat at the table” where we can “be strategic partners” with the executives in the company when we can’t figure out what to call ourselves?

In my more in-depth conversations with my husband I share that at the end of the day, I will continue to roll over in my head the conversations I had with reporters or how announcements will be received and I wonder about the impact of my actions.  You see, for most people if they screw up on their jobs, they worry about their bosses discovering it.  My mistakes will be public.  The audience size grows now that articles live on the Internet and they do not go away.

Adding to the confusion, though, is the use of the term “PR” by people in conversation when it may not be pertaining to my profession.  How often do I hear “that was good PR.”  And often it is a mixture of promotions or advertising being discussed.  Certainly situations like the BP Oil spill bring into focus a PR disaster for all to see.  The analysis of how the company did or did not address concerns and the missteps along the way might actually educate more about the function.

I was reading someone else’s blog today and it made reference to a recent ranking of the most stressful jobs in America.  It was actually reassuring that mine is among the top ten according to this study.  I’m not sure if that will bring me any sympathy, or better awareness by friends or family, but at least I can validate those nights when insomnia strikes.  I’m not alone.


I’ve been in various conversations with colleagues about social media and how much information people share.  It seems that “Millennials” are accustomed to being online and posting nearly everything.  However, it has been shown that more employers are checking social networks before making hiring decisions.  All that information can cost people job offers.

Then, there is the issue of sharing personal stories and/or pictures of friends and family.  I may think about this too much because of my job in public relations.  I have had to secure releases from people who agree to let a company use their name and/or likeness before I can issue a press release or photo with caption.  I look through online albums (especially in Facebook) and I wonder how many friends knew they would end up online after attending a party?

I am particularly conservative with my son and husband.  That’s how I refer to them—not by name.  I figure if someone knows my family, they’ll know them.  Since my son is only 4, he is also too young to consent to having his image all over my page.   When I do include him, it is typically a profile shot or his face is otherwise obscured.  Or, I’ll wait a while and include a photo after he has already grown and changed a bit.  Do I overthink this?  Perhaps, but I also am too aware of the many creeps out there who might misuse my personal details.  I would rather not risk it.

That being said, there is a wide range of people linked to me and we all need to decide for ourselves how much to share.  Do you use Foursquare?  When you check in, do you let that information go out to all your friends and twitter network?  Sometimes I do, sometimes not.  I’ll occasionally use it to indicate why I’m offline for a while.  I’ll also check in as I am leaving someplace rather than arriving.  I guess I don’t mind people knowing where I have been.  I don’t necessarily use it to meet up spontaneously.

If you are on LinkedIn, do you post your Twitter updates there, as well?  I tend to think that is too much information and the communities are different, so I don’t link the two.  I’ve seen others with an often-updated status and I wonder what the benefit is of doing that.  If you have had success by connecting your networks this way, I’d like to know about it.  Otherwise, I tend to agree with Chris Brogan, who recently suggested there ought to be limits to that sort of thing.

In the end, I think we all share the desire to engage and create relationships.  How we go about is still open to interpretation.  I think that is what I like the best about social media: it affords us all the ability to chart our own path and use it how we like.

The Council of Dads (Moms)

Dealing with death is not easy and it seems to pop up in our lives when we least expect it.  Seldom are we ready for death but it does often provide a moment to contemplate our lives.  At least, I do.  Since I began my relationship with my husband, he has lost his grandparents, an aunt and an uncle.  I have lost an aunt and an uncle.  I just learned another aunt has been diagnosed with cancer.  This is her third battle with the disease in ten years.  I cannot imagine how tired that must make her.  Her brother, my father, passed away 14 years ago.  Her sickness reminds me of him, my childhood, and the dynamics of our family.

Ironically, I recently read a story about a man who was diagnosed with cancer and it prompted him to create a “Council of Dads” to help raise his daughters.  It was a terrific concept: he selected friends from different times in his life to instill various lessons in his girls.  Realizing that one’s hometown might have been a factor in his foundation, that’s where he started.  Then he moved onto college, picked a co-worker, found a fellow traveler, etc.  We all have different facets, so identifying those traits is really smart.  It makes me think how I might do the same.  I intend to give this some thought.

I joke that if I were to die suddenly, my husband would not have to shop for clothes because I constantly buy ahead.  Half of my son’s closet is filled with things a size or two bigger than what he wears today.  I find it fun to do but one aspect of it is imagining my son as he grows and develops a sense of himself.  Part of that process is to have a sense of style and I also really like to cultivate his uniqueness.  Copying others drives me crazy.  I like to think I am contributing to him finding his own identity.  So what would happen if I was gone?  Obviously clothes are very superficial and passing.  It is more important to develop morals and knowledge, etc.  I hope he has my love of books and learns to give to those who are less fortunate.  I think his closet is just one example of how I try to plan for the future.

So now I have a new project for me for my son.

Worlds Colliding

When I think of Facebook and my collection of friends there, one phrase comes to mind: “Worlds Colliding.”  Over the course of my life, I have moved multiple times.  So there is the simple issue of geography keeping groups separated in my real life.  Jobs came and went and now I am able to reconnect with former co-workers.  But there are deeper divides that exist.

I attended a private, Christian school during grades 5 through 12.  If you can remember the setting for the movie “Footloose,” you have a close approximation of that environment.  There were no school dances.  There was a strict dress code (read: dresses for girls) and demerits were given out in an effort to manage our conduct.  In science courses we were taught how evolution was wrong.  Bible was a required course and there was a weekly chapel service.  Now, I should mention I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Who would expect such a conservative group mere miles from Berkeley?

When I went away to college, just across the bay, I lived in a co-ed dorm.  My next door neighbor that freshman year was an atheist.  Imagine the culture shock!  So then there was an entirely different set of friendships cultivated during those four years.  Another dorm experience: the emergence of gay students.  I obviously had been exposed to that lifestyle by virtue of my proximity to SF but now I was meeting and living with guys and had a more personal knowledge.  Learning about the religious differences was also really interesting to me.  I started to develop friendships with Jewish students, too.

I have lived in Los Angeles, New York and returned to the Bay Area, but now I live in Chicago.  My friends have dispersed across the country and are scattered across the U.S.  When I look at my news stream on Facebook, I read updates by Democrats and Republicans, parents and singles, issues of faith, the desire for gay marriage or protection of Christian values, all mixing in a way that does not seem like it should be part of one person’s life but this is the quilt of friends and family that I have collected over the years.  It gives me pause when I think of how some friends might not accept others.  I wonder who might be offended by another.  But I also believe that some would have a sense of humor and laugh off the rest.  It makes me wonder where I fit in the mix.

One newer group is the virtual friends I am making in social networks.  On Twitter, in particular, there are people who I follow and who I engage in conversations with but I may never meet them in real life.  I managed to attend a social media conference recently and I did meet a handful of people there who I ‘knew’ online.  It was rather surreal.  You realize how limited your perspective is when you only know what they say in 140-character messages.  Of course, most of these people also post to blogs, etc., so there is more to learn.

Worlds colliding: I am connected to pals from grade school and then I correspond with these new friends online.  It makes life much more interesting.  So, do you keep your various ‘lives’ separate or let them mingle?  How’s that working for you?

That’s me in the picture with my childhood friend who I have reconnected with on Facebook decades later.