Book Covers – Revisited

12 07 2015

It was an interesting weekend.

I had a fantastic time at the soccer game yesterday – tailgating and watching a Philly Union win with family and a bunch of friends. There were fireworks too! Today, I spent the afternoon learning… trying to get an inbound marketing certification.

Inbound marketing deals with leads and selling. It has buzzwords like SEO, analytics and other key concepts that helps your information to be found by Google search.

For a personal blog post like this, I don’t worry about search, or keywords, or anything like that. In my very first post – over two years ago – I stated that “I shall write for myself and let the chips fall where they may.” I keep to that…

But I’ll be honest… recognition makes me feel good. Whether it’s a positive or negative comment, or a social media share, or someone just saying that they like what I am doing. Earlier this year I wrote a post about bullying that, for whatever reason, was viewed close to 50,000 times. It was stunning to me, but it taught me that you can never predict what will strike a chord with people.

My previous most viewed post was entitled “Book Covers“… where I wrote about not judging people by their appearances. More specifically, it was about a young woman named Jessie who lost her life while giving birth to her son.

Yesterday I met Cheryl, that young woman’s mother. She works with my wife, and came to the game with another co-worker. I was happy to arrange for them to come to the supporter’s tailgate, and Cheryl was able to meet some of the people who were such a big part of Jessie’s life. I was so glad to hear that they were able to share a couple of beers and some memories.

But the best part of my day was the few minutes of conversation when we met just before the game. She asked me for a hug, and told me that she had read my story about her Jessie.  I was not aware that she knew of the post, or me.

I asked her how long it had been, and she responded quickly, “Nineteen months.” I replied that more time had passed than I thought. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Not that long at all.” She teared up a little, and so did I. And that was the last word on the subject. A moment shared.

We all had a great time, and lots of laughs. I think she was glad to be at the stadium for the first time, to finally share in an experience so important to her daughter. I told her she must come back because she is good luck for the team! And because it’s probably one of a multitude of things that can bring her closer to Jessie.

I can’t imagine losing a child. Clearly that pain remains after nineteen months, and I’m sure it won’t lessen in nineteen years, or ever. But I think Cheryl has the right idea… Experiencing some of Jessie’s joys will, in small ways, bring her back. And keep her close.

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Vintage Maire Brown

7 05 2015

“A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.” ~ Dorothy Canfield Fisher

I was thinking about Mother’s Day this morning, making sure to remind my sons that it is this weekend. It occurred to me that I’ve written about my Dad several times, but not much about my Mom. Although I was always closer with my Father, I’ve certainly turned out to be more like my Mother.

Family 05aBeing the economist that I am, I decided to mine some passages from the eulogy I wrote for my mother in 2004. Hers was the first I had ever done, and now I have three under my belt… an old pro! Lots of memories came flooding back, and some tears. Damn… has it been 11 years since she’s been gone?

The opening line of her eulogy was, “For those of you who did not know, my Mother was Irish.” It was intended to be a joke, and it succeeded. Brought the house down! It wasn’t just that brogue, not one bit tempered after fifty years in America. It was because a lot of the adjectives associated with the Irish also accompanied descriptions of her. She was small, but powerful. Feisty, but sometimes quiet and reserved. And she had a bit of a temper…

She was one of six children born to Charles and Mary Brown, and she was named Maire.  She came into this world in September of 1928 – at the beginning of a new Ireland.  Though living in Belfast technically made them subjects of the British Empire, the Browns were Irish – through and through.  Her brother Michael was supposed to be named for his father. In those days, babies were given names when baptized in the hospital. That morning, the President of Ireland – and famous Irish freedom fighter – was assassinated. So my uncle was baptized Michael Collins Brown, and he was a rebel for most of his life. And my grandfather was more than a little pissed at Granny Brown. It’s clear where my Mother got her grit.

Mom spoke of growing up in harsh times. It was very difficult for Catholics to live and work in the predominantly Protestant Northern Ireland. But the family took strength from their incredible faith and community.

484575_10151029838858494_1004293327_nShe told stories about hiding under the dining room table when air raid sirens sounded during World War II. As a kid, I thought that was so cool. As an adult, it’s one of those “WTF” things that I can’t get my head wrapped around.

Mom was a singer, and I used to hear from other family members that she was pretty good.  She actually made a record, but its whereabouts was one of the world’s most closely guarded secrets. I think her sister Anne had it at some point, but to this day it remains only a legend.

Mom regaled us with stories about growing up in Ireland. About going to ceilis – Irish dances. She told us of the great times she had with her sister Betty, and her friends – Patsy and Bunty. It seemed they were always coming home too late, sneaking cigarettes, and ALWAYS getting caught by their parents. She was clearly making a point with those stories, and years later I used that same method on my boys.

Mom loved Ireland deeply. She loved her childhood and her siblings – brothers Michael, John, Ted and sisters Anne and Betty. And she loved her niece Mary most of all. She loved her parents, and the home they provided.  But she wanted more.

MomDad02Edit

Off to the honeymoon…

In 1952, she went on a long boat ride with her sister and her friend, and came to America. She settled first outside of Newark with her cousin Jack and his family. After a visit with friends in Philadelphia a year later, she decided to make this town her home.

To Americans she was known to as “Marie” Brown, because Maire was difficult to say. In front of strangers she spoke very slowly, because she always felt her accent was a distraction. She worked at the American Pulley Company, and lived in an apartment with Betty and Bunty. A co-worker, Peg Floyd, introduced Marie to her nephew Joe – a dashing young man just out of the Air Force. Details of what surely was a whirlwind romance were never disclosed, and they were married in August 1956. They lived in a second floor apartment near Oxford Circle, just down the street from his Mother and Aunt Peg. On the first floor were Pearl and Eugene Hegh, who would become their very good friends and my Mom Mom and Pop Pop. What is it about the Irish and having so many “faux” family members?

Family 02b

The Miracle…

If things had gone according to plan, I would probably not have been the first choice to eulogize my parents. Mom lost four children over the years, including a son who is buried in Ireland. But in 1960, the best possible thing happened – I was born! Mom always told me I was her miracle because she prayed so hard for me to come. When I misbehaved, she delighted in telling me this… an effective form of Irish guilt! My sisters were also her miracles, and she dedicated her life to us.

In 1962, Mom, Dad and I moved into a new home on Bandon Drive. My earliest childhood memory is a barbecue at the new house, when Dad and Pop Pop were setting up my new swing set. Mom and Dad were founding members of Saint Anselm Parish. I suppose I was too.

In the sixties, the Dads worked and the Moms were at home running the household. Clearly, that’s a better situation than today. As children we were completely safe, and afforded the freedom to explore and learn. But we were always under that guiding hand.

22683_10153198247460871_6644957615264759857_nI loved to make Mom laugh. If I heard a joke, I couldn’t wait to tell her. She loved Polish jokes for some reason, and I delighted in the irony when my youngest sister became Mrs. Ron Zlakowski. I told her once that we could plug any nationality into those jokes, but she said it was funnier this way.  But no offense to anyone, she loved a good Irish joke too.

But all was not rosy growing up with that wee Irish woman. We had some epic battles in my teen years, and well into adulthood. I inherited her stubbornness, and never recognized that she viewed these battles to be part of her responsibility to see that I did things correctly.

I suppose that all mothers have very distinct relationships with their children. As the oldest, and as a male, I was certainly treated differently than my sisters. But in certain ways she was very consistent. Mom always challenged us to be better – to work hard, to strive, to make good decisions, and to be a good person. Ask my sons today how many times I tell them that they are judged by the decisions they make… vintage Maire Brown.

100_0789From my Mother I got my passion, and also that stubbornness. I got the ability to distinguish the right way and the wrong way of doing things. I’m proud of my heritage… an American, but with pints and pints of Irish blood coursing through my veins. And most of all, I was instilled with the understanding that the most important thing to have in life is love from family and friends. My Dad is always credited with the quote, “Ah family, that’s what it’s all about.” She might not have said it, but again… vintage Maire Brown.

As she got older we argued less, if at all. I think she realized that I was okay… that she done a good job. I know she was proud of the person I became, and of the choices I made in my life. She loved my wife and her family. She loved my friends, and always asked about them.

Mom did a hell of a job with me and my sisters. Because of her, we are strong. We have made good choices. Our children are fantastic. And the best part is that we are all very close, and always will be.

No conversation about my Mom would be complete without mentioning her partner in crime, Aunt Betty. I guess raising us – or as Mom always said, “rearing” us – was a two person job. Aunt Betty lived in our home, and she was a big part of who we are today. It was a surprise to no one that they passed on only months apart… always connected.

100_0065My mother’s final chapter was typical… she exited this life on her own terms. When faced with a long list of medical challenges and aggressive solutions that were far too risky, she decided to accept God’s will and use the time she had left to be with her family. Instead of lamenting her fate, she wanted to prepare us for life without her. But she had been doing that for years. She visited with old friends. She made sure – one last time – we did things the right way. Most importantly, she delighted in her grandchildren’s laughter. She left nothing incomplete… vintage Maire Brown.

For a few years, one of our parish priests would sing to his Mom during mass on Mother’s Day. Mom loved this, and would cry every time. It’s an appropriate verse to close this post, a great tribute for Mother’s Day. It is an Irish folk song from “only” a hundred years ago…

There’s a spot in my heart, which no colleen may own.

There’s a depth in my soul, never sounded or known.

There’s a place in my mem’ry, my life, that you fill.

No other can take it, no one ever will.

Sure, I love the dear silver that shines in your hair.

And the brow that’s all furrowed and wrinkled with care.

I kiss the dear fingers so toil-worn for me.

Oh, God bless you and keep you, Mother Machree.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom… Miss you.





A Damn Good Week

14 03 2015

_DSC0027This had all the makings of a shitty week.

I departed last Monday on a four-day road trip for work, driving south for meetings with six customers in Virginia. As I’ve gotten older, I dread trips like these… three different hotels in three nights, lots of car time and traffic. I don’t sleep well in hotels, and too much crappy restaurant food gets old.

People who don’t travel for business on a regular basis think it is glamorous and fun, and sometimes it can be. And I am grateful for the benefits – hotel points and frequent flier miles. I don’t complain much because I’ve been fortunate to travel all over the world and experience great things. This week was a good one…

Any trip through Virginia gives me the opportunity to visit with an old friend. Mike and I grew up on the same street, but really didn’t become friends until the summer before seventh grade. In those days, young kids didn’t wander far from home, and Mike’s house around the corner might as well have been ten miles away. His home atmosphere was much different from my conservative household, and his family had the perfect combination of cute sisters and a younger brother we could pick on together. So I spent a lot of time there. newspaper_readersCritical to the development of our friendship was our mutual discovery of the girls our age blossoming during that summer. It was a magical time…

We went in separate directions after high school, but remained in contact. I was an usher for his wedding, and he was for mine. We started families within months of each other. When Mike and his family moved to Virginia, they welcomed us for numerous visits. We usually talk on each other’s birthday – much easier for him to remember because his daughter was born on mine. And since his wife and I are Facebook freakazoids, we keep up with all of the family news.

Dinner with Mike this week was great as usual, cranking out multiple laughs and stories. We caught each other up on our kids, Philly sports, and our friends from back in the day. We had a good chuckle that we were both sporting Rite Aid bought 3x reading glasses. And we had a cathartic chat about our childhood friend Pudge, who passed away a couple of months ago.

IMG_2446We also talked about his Mom, who is now experiencing early stages of dementia. Marilyn has been living near Mike in Virginia for years now, and has entered an assisted living community as her condition has grown worse. Growing up, she was like a second Mom to me. She remains someone I admire very much. When we were young, she was very active in the community and city politics. She also worked with mentally challenged adults for many years. Most of all, she was smart and funny, and respected people – including us kids… adult behavior we were not used to in the seventies.

I was fortunate to get some free time the next day for a visit with this wonderful woman. We chatted for an hour about her life today, her family, and the old days back in Philly. She was pretty sharp for most of the conversation, but I could see her struggle a bit staying focused on her thoughts. And she did repeat herself a few times. But she remembered who I was through the entire hour, and I think the conversation made her happy that morning. It did much more for me.

Both of those visits gave me the energy and positive vibes to power through the rest of my grueling trip. It also gave me a lot of stuff to think about, some items to mentally organize… families, friends, neighborhoods, kids, life, mortality, priorities… just to name a few.

My business trip was a success, but the real wins were measured in conversations, smiles and laughs. We all scored well.

It was a damn good week. Can’t wait to do it again.





Colors

4 07 2014

The colors of the flag of our nation are on my mind today, maybe because of all the World Cup/USA soccer fever over the past three weeks. Here are a few red, white and blue thoughts on the anniversary of our nation’s birth…

photo (2)Speaking of the World Cup – Although it’s still going on, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a sporting event more than this World Cup – and I have no idea who these people are in the photo! With very few exceptions, the games have been edge-of-your-seat fantastic. Even if you are a soccer novice, it’s been the sports story of the year. Our U.S. team performed admirably, and I think soccer has finally reached the level of acceptance it deserves. Who could have pictured hundreds, and in some cities, thousands of people getting together to watch the World Cup? I can’t wait until 2018! There is a lot of work to be done, and many matches to be played before the next World Cup. But it’s a great time to be an American soccer fan!

If I Had A Time Machine – I often wonder what our Founding Fathers would think of our United States today. These brave, brilliant men could never have foreseen this future, as I’m sure none of us could accurately paint a picture of our world 238 years from now.

6a014e8c33f773970d017ee7f226ce970dImagine if we could pluck Thomas Jefferson from the past… I think he would revel in flying back and forth to his beloved Paris in a jet, and look in wonder at the massive cities that have sprung up across the wilderness he knew. (He might wonder how we got all of this done without slaves.) And, I think that he would be in shock to learn that his two century old parchment writings are considered by some to be the letter of the law.

By definition, a patriot is “a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors”. Today, many describe themselves as “patriots” because they are convinced that their beliefs are the only solution to the ills of our nation… and all non-believers are to be treated as enemies of the state. They cloak themselves in the Constitution or the Bible, and spit upon those who dare to question their ideas. But they forget those very writings were made to be a beautiful framework for a vision of a free state, or a guide for all of us to be a better, kinder people.

We should continually inspire to be just that.

tumblr_l5aly0HcB01qa944oo1_1280Family and Friends – I’m looking forward to a great weekend. It looks like rain today for the actual 4th of July in Philadelphia, with remnants of Hurricane Arthur that making his way up the east coast. But it should be clear, blue skies on Saturday, and I’m heading to my sister’s place for a fun-filled afternoon by the pool with a bunch of family and friends. Sunshine, good conversation and cocktails are the only things on the menu… maybe a burger or two. Be warned, sis… watch out for a great big cannonball, and – to my chagrin – much water displacement.

As a wise man once said, “Family… what it’s all about!”

Quoting Myself – This time last year I wrote this tidbit, and then stole something from a “so-so” author:

Here’s something you’re not used to seeing on my page… great, great writing:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Happy 4th of July, my friends.

Red-White-Blue-Stars-Stripes-Flag





Ode To Joey

14 06 2014

Dad 01Tomorrow is Father’s Day. One year ago, I wrote a post about how celebrations like it can get lost among all of the other “fake” holidays on the calendar. I also noted how much I really like the Father’s Day, and how much more special it was with my Dad after I had children of my own.

I think about my Dad all the time, and he’s been on my mind more frequently leading up to this weekend. I wanted to write about him, and share some of my memories,. But as I started to gather my thoughts it all seemed eerily familiar. Deja vu all over again? Then it hit me… I’ve written this post many years ago.

One of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life was eulogize my Father. It was a sorrowful, yet exhilarating process. I relived some of that this morning as I sat in my living room reading it… bawling my eyes out.

By the time my Dad passed in March 2009, I had become a eulogy veteran. First Mom, then my Aunt… both in 2004. I also reread those two speeches this morning… more bawling! But after reading my Dad’s, it occurred to me that I was going to say anything more – or say it any better – than I did that day five years ago. So I’m going to “steal” from myself.

Some thoughts about my Dad…

I would like to start my speech by going over my Dad’s various nicknames. There is Joe, of course. Joey. Yukon Joe. Daddy Joe. Pop. Pop-Pop Joe. And Jello… my cousin Karen gave him that one. When I moved out and left him with a house full of women, some called him St. Joe. Only one person that I know of called him Joseph, and that was our pastor, Father Dunleavy. I referred to him by a few of those names, but I mostly called him Dad. And to anyone who would listen, I also called him the nicest guy in the world.

This week my sisters and I have been flooded with accolades and stories about my Dad. Almost all of them contained that word – nice. To quote a few… “He was such a nice man.” “The nicest person I ever met.” “He was so nice to me”. A former neighbor called him “the nicest person on Bandon Drive”. I’m sure she meant no offense to anyone of the other neighbors.

In all of my years with Dad, I have never heard him say a bad thing about anyone. Not once. I’m sure you will agree that this is an incredible feat.

Dad 02When we were growing up, my Dad worked two jobs – mostly to keep us in Catholic school. Throughout our childhood, Mom ran the home and Dad was the silent provider. When I was 15 years old, Dad got me a part time job at the Four Chefs Caterers in Mayfair where he worked that second job. It was great to have that extra connection with him, experiences that only he and I shared. I think I worked there for three years or so. Dad had worked there since I was very young, and a couple of years after I left. Looking back I realize how hard that must have been – working 15 hour days three times a week, and most Sundays. In later years I would often say how I missed some of the traditional Father/Son time. But he did it for his family, he sacrificed for us – without question or hesitation.

My Dad was simple man. He worked hard, and delighted in the time he spent with his family. “Ah Family, that’s what it’s all about.” That was one of my Dad’s favorite phrases. When he was getting therapy after the strokes, the therapists would ask me what hobbies or interests he had. His favorite things in the world were his children and his grandchildren. He would rather have a conversation than read a book. He would rather have a laugh with you, and sometimes a cry. He would rather do something for you, than do anything for himself. His favorite thing was just being there in the room, while all around him the chaos of grandchildren would reign. In the middle of it all was Dad, sitting and smiling.

Another of his phrases was “God bless us”. That was usually reserved for when technology was placed before him. Like cable TV versus 3, 6, and 10. Or the microwave that he seldom used. Or the VCR that he never used. He delighted that he had an answering machine after my Mom passed away. I remember showing him my digital camera and explaining that I just looked at the pictures now on my computer or iPod, instead of prints. He would just shake his head and say “God Bless Us”.

He would really enjoy the computer technology that allowed me to print the font on these pages so big that I don’t have to use my reading glasses – what he called his “cheaters”.

Dad 04When cable TV did come to the Langan house, it awakened Dad’s other love – sports. Especially Philadelphia sports. I knew his morning routine by heart… Wake up to watch SportsCenter, listen to KYW radio while making his breakfast, then switching to Comcast SportsRise while eating. Sundays during the fall were spent at my house watching the Eagles. We would always be recapping the previous night’s Flyers games. And when he came to live at our house last April, we got to enjoy one of the finest seasons of baseball ever played in this town – together. We watched almost every game, and even got down to see one in person. As the regular season ended, Dad had another stroke, followed closely by a third a few days later. He missed the playoff run and the championship we all shared. The Phillies Word Series win was bittersweet for me because I didn’t get to experience it with my Dad.

And “so forth like that”… another of his favorite phrases connecting almost every sentence he uttered. 

Having Dad live with us was an adjustment, one we were very happy to make. His first stroke was pretty mild, so after a few weeks he was almost back to normal. Our various routines were quickly established and my sons loved having their Pop around. He was so easy to live with, and he wanted to help with more things than he was capable of. If I was going to the store, or to soccer – or anywhere – it was “Come on Dad” and off we would go. Johnny’s job was to take him for his $5.00 haircut every few weeks. He loved the Senior Citizen Discounts. Dad would delight in seeing Colin burst into the room, usually at 100 miles per hour with a pratfall at the end. He loved that he and Colin shared birthdays, but after the stroke he sometimes couldn’t remember the date. 

And the man never met a meal he didn’t like! Robin loved that about him. She would say, “Are you hungry, Dad?” His response was always, “Getting there.” An hour later came the familiar refrain, “Robin, THAT was delicious!!” But Dad’s best friend in our house was Stan, our dog. They were already buddies before he moved in, and now they were daytime companions. Dad loved to give the belly rubs, and Stan loved to get them. And his frequent walks on our street introduced him to more neighbors than I know.  Some of them probably considered him the “nicest guy on Orion Road”.

Dad 03Last September we all enjoyed Irish Weekend in Wildwood. That weekend produced the YouTube sensation Dad Dancing video (below)… the best laugh you will ever have. One night, Dad and I decided to forego the boardwalk and slip into a bar to watch the Phillies. It was the best of times, and it was also the last drink we had together.

And “so forth like that”… A few days later he was back in the hospital, felled by the first of a series of strokes that eventually brought us to this day. It was only five months ago but it seemed much longer at the time.

Along the way there were many hard days and nights. But in this time I discovered that our family is so strong. My sisters and I have the best and most supportive spouses, and our children make us proud… most days. But I would like to thank several people that helped me through these difficult times.  Bob and Rita Kiessling, Dad’s neighbors for over 40 years – who he missed so much. And all of the neighbors on Bandon Drive who kept him in their thoughts and prayers. My coworkers and friends at Penn Emblem supported me, and granted me the support and flexibility to take care of the things that needed to be done. And if you ever have to go through something like this yourself, seek advice from people who are experienced. I thank God for Marie Gallagher who helped me tremendously, and never told me what a pain in the butt I must have been.

And when it came time for Dad to leave us, we were so lucky to have the staff at the hospice floor at Saint Joseph’s Manor. All of us were there, supported by family members and friends, Dave Carr, Rose Poretti, Chris and Bob Taylor, Helene Borell, and Sandy Bickel and Richard Saunders. For the rest of my life I won’t forget my cousin Joanne Langan stopping in around midnight on Saturday… to say good-bye to Uncle Joe.

Thanks to you all.  “And so forth and so on”…

Forever, when I think of my Dad I will remember his laugh and the smile that never left his face. I’ll never again experience the big greeting I got when we saw each other. But what I will miss most is the sense of peace that he had – very calming to all around him. I won’t be able to watch a Phillies game without thinking about him. And I’ll also remember this past week, last night and today.  When all of his friends and relatives told me what I already knew – that my Dad was the nicest guy in the world.

“Family… That’s what it’s all about.”

That’s what I said five years ago, with a some changes because I’m a bit of an editing nut these days. I have nothing to add, other than I miss him very much.

Happy Father’s Day, Joey.





Get Acquainted

5 03 2014

pls-friends

“Surround yourself with creative people. Dammit…” ~ Epitaph of John J. Langan  (1960-2060)

In October 2007, when filling out my Facebook profile for the first time, and with my tongue firmly in cheek, I stated that my Political Views were “Conservative, But Willing to Learn”.

I was quite the joker six and half years ago…

I’ve had a bit of a journey since then, especially in the last couple of years. Nothing earth shattering and don’t get me wrong – I’m still the brash, opinionated asshole that my family and friends have come to know and love. But over these years I’ve left my mind open to new ideas that have certainly changed me. Most of the credit goes to my sons, who are more open than I ever was at their ages. It must be a generational thing. And I’ve been shaped by my friends… who are in greater numbers because of social media and a conscious decision to allow time for them.

More friends? That used to be my question. “Why do I need more friends when I don’t have time for the ones I want to see?” What a stupid thing to say…  In the past few years I have discovered such richness and variety of life because I have opened myself to more people. Not everyone can be your close friend, but I no longer place any limits on acquaintances. I’ve been fortunate to have travelled to many places in the world, but lately I’ve been more interested in meeting people and hearing their thoughts. “Where” doesn’t matter, it’s the moment that counts.

Opening yourself to new thoughts can’t help but change you. I’ve altered my thinking on so many things in the past few years… from conservative to liberal (maybe not all the way). Simple things like not keeping score in youth sports so we can teach the fundamentals, to stricter gun control laws, to gay rights, and for god’s sake… Let’s make love, not war! Take care of your fellow man, man…

And there are life lessons… In the past couple of years quite a few people I know have passed on. Some were acquaintances, some slightly more than that, and some were family and friends that I loved very dearly. It happens that we all go through stretches of attending funerals. That’s life, and we have no choice but to accept it. Loss, like any experience, shapes and changes you. And it creates a void that must be filled with new experience. With people!

562187_10150691436993494_214597061_nMy mantra is “Surround yourself with creative people.” Seek them out… lots of them. Interact! For this, quantity beats quality.

I can’t predict how much time I have left on this earth, but I do know that the bulk of my time is behind me. I’m sure my sons are shuddering at the thought of their 104 year-old Dad passing gas in their living room. I still want to travel and experience things and events, but going forward the true richness of life will be with my family and friends. And lots of acquaintances!

And that’s living, my friends…





Book Covers

23 12 2013

Susan-Boyle

One of my Mother’s favorite sayings was, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” She was trying to teach me that you shouldn’t form an opinion on someone or something based purely on what you see on the surface. Because usually after taking a deeper look, the person or thing will not be what you expected it to be. Well… that didn’t take! Despite her teachings, I had been guilty of exactly that. I’m much better with it now, but there is always room for improvement.

In the past couple of years I’ve changed a great deal. At least I think I so. For many reasons, my world is much more open than before… to new ideas, to different philosophies and beliefs, to people in general. I was very close-minded and opinionated. In some ways I still am, but I am willing to learn. I have met many people, especially in the last year. People who did not cross my path before, but have enriched me so.

All of this relates to a sad story…

290d99a1-e372-4950-a960-14b648f942d3I didn’t know Jessie Miele, or her husband Drew. I recognize them from the photos I see now, and I’m pretty sure that I sat next to them at Union match in DC a couple of years ago. I say that I’m pretty sure because there were no introductions, and we didn’t converse that day at all. At that time I jokingly referred to the their crazy looking group as the Tattoo People, and based on their appearance I probably didn’t initiate a conversation. This saddens me greatly.

The reason I know about Jessie and Drew now is hearing about their tragic story. A few weeks ago, Jessie was about to give birth to their first child… a son. There were complications, and Jessie passed away shortly after meeting her baby boy. Devastating, beyond comprehension. A vibrant, young woman was about to have her world changed in the best possible way, only to be silenced. I was relating this story at home, and my wife said it sounded familiar. A woman in work suffered a similar loss recently. It was Jessie’s mother…. a small world.

Jessie and Drew are members of the Sons of Ben and the Corner Creeps, supporter groups of the Philadelphia Union. Those organizations have rallied around their members, collecting some money to help Drew raise their beautiful son. It’s been a tremendous outpouring of love and support, that has expanded to supporters of other teams and throughout the soccer community. The people who have supported this effort have not asked who these people are, but “how can we help?” And those that have given so generously certainly have not judged a book by its cover.

I’m sad that I missed so many opportunities to meet great people throughout my life. I’m sad that I will never meet Jessie. I hope to meet Drew and his son one day, and let him know that his family’s story has touched my hard, stubborn heart.

Going forward, I’m going to remember that everyone I meet – if they have tattoos, piercings, ripped jeans or pink mohawks – is a person that is worth knowing… someone’s child, someone’s parent, or someone’s friend. Maybe my new friend.

If you would like to learn more about Jessie and Drew’s story, or make a donation, please visit the Jessie Miele Fund site.