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Entries in family (15)

Wednesday
Jul102013

Mom and Entrepreneurship

My mother and me at brunch. December 2010.

My mother is an entrepreneur.

I know what you’re thinking: Aha! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Maybe so. But if you’d asked me even in graduate school if I would start companies someday, I would have scoffed: No way. As a child, I planned to turn into a writer. In college, I thought academia lay ahead. After I tried academia, I went into publishing as an editor and freelance journalist.

Me? An entrepreneur? Not in the plans.

And then something happened. I saw a better way to do something. I saw a business opportunity. And then I started FrogDog.

That was 1997. I haven’t looked back. I’ve even started a second company and am assessing a third.

At the time, a friend called me brave. It didn’t feel like bravery. It felt natural. Not easy, not simple, and a little scary—sure. Yet starting a business, knuckling down, making business happen—even with a background in academia and publishing—felt completely, well, normal.

Thanks, Mom.

Currently, my mother serves as the CEO of her seventh company. The first company she started in my infancy. As I grew up, I spent time in conference rooms, corporate lobbies, and board meetings. I watched her give presentations. I saw her receive awards. I attended business dinners. I heard her talk with my dad over meals about business successes, challenges, conundrums.

I grew up watching an amazing woman build powerful businesses in a time when few women had careers—much less worked as CEOs. (Alas, few do even today. We need to change that.) She had few peers. She blazed a trail.

And I sure as hell benefitted.

Sunday
Jun302013

Marriage: Why Bother?

Scene from a recent wedding I attended. Indianapolis, Indiana. July 20, 2013.

After years of telling a long-term boyfriend that I didn’t see the value or importance of marriage, I slowly realized I’d lied.

The truth: I didn’t want to marry him.

A bout of mulling the matter made me realize that I did see the point in marriage, even though I don’t need it in the traditional sense:

  • Financially, I support myself quite well.
  • I’ve always said having children would hinge on the partnership I forged with someone and what we wanted from the relationship.
  • I do not believe a higher power or the state needs to sanction any interpersonal union to make it legitimate.
  • I’m not lonely and I don’t have buckets of unfilled time.

Yet do I want the communion of a true partnership, the life-sharing, the entwinement? Unquestionably. Can two people have that without an official marriage certificate? Absolutely.

So why would I like to wed someone, someday, if I find a man I deem worthy?

For me, a wedding means standing up in front of people for whom I care deeply and trust implicitly and stating that the man next to me is the man to whom I want to give my utter devotion for the rest of my life—and asking them to hold me accountable to the commitment.

If I wouldn't stand up in front of others and make this declaration about someone, something is wrong.

Never finding someone to marry won’t crush me. Yet it sure would feel nice to find someone for whom I feel so strongly.

Do you believe in the institution of marriage?

Friday
May172013

Trouble

Me playing Pac-Man at about the same age and in about the same belly-flop position I would have read and written past lights-out. (No one caught a photo of that.) c. 1980

Ready for me to out myself as the most boring person on the planet?

In my youth, I got into trouble most for reading and writing past lights-out.

Yep.

No surprise to my followers here: From the moment I gained the ability, I loved to read. (Before then, I loved to have someone read to me.)

I’d read by the dim glow of the Disney night light plugged into the socket by my bed. When my parents remodeled the room and the bed no longer abutted a wall, I’d sneak as close as I could to the edge of my bedroom without risking detection to read by the hall light, which we kept on to scare away boogeymen (mainly vampires).

Also, as I wanted to be a writer, I’d take my notebooks of novel into the same dim circle of hall light to sprawl on my stomach and pen as many scenes as I could.

My dad made a sport out of catching me. I could sometimes hear his knees clicking as he tiptoed toward my room to ensure I slept—but not always. Looking back, I detect his pure delight in making a “nab.” Back then? I felt too terrified to notice the game. He’d jump out of the darkness and boom: “What are you doing?” and “Get back in that bed right now!”

My punishment? Lost privileges. No television, for example.

I can’t say that hindered me much.

For which deeds did you get into the most trouble growing up?

Saturday
Feb162013

Grandparents are Wasted on the Young

 Me with John and Winona Bowers (grandparents) at the front door of one of my childhood homes in Houston. Circa 1976.I remember a snit one summer in my early days. Upset about something, I had stormed upstairs to my room. My grandfather, John (called “Jay”), stood at the foot of the stairs and called up in frustration,“Would you rather we leave?”

I remember a tete-a-tete lunch at my Grandma Gladys’s favorite Houston restaurant, Clementine’s, when I learned she had broken off an engagement before she met my grandfather, George (called “Dode”). A little curtain pull to hint at an entire life she'd led that I knew nothing about! I wanted to know more, but didn't know what to ask.

  Gladys Farnsworth (grandmother) waiting for Christmas brunch in Denver, Colorado. December 25, 1997.

                                John and Winona Bowers (grandparents) waiting for lunch in Indianapolis, Indiana. May 10, 1997.

Grandchildren miss out.

Grandparents are wasted on the young.

Children’s worlds revolve around themselves. Parents and grandparents don’t have histories or sadnesses or worthwhile perspectives. They exist to serve the child—at least, so the child feels.

Today, I wonder about my grandparents’ childhoods, adolescences, and the reasons for things that happened. I wonder what they thought about world and life events. I wonder what they would think about where their descendants have gone and what they have done.

Note: I’m not telling a tale of missed opportunities or asking while you can (although you should). During my grandparents’ lives, I hadn’t yet reached the stage when I would have known what to ask or how to appreciate their answers.

And they may not have told a youth the truth, anyway.

All our histories, which we cannot know!  

My mother holding my brother, me hoisting a squirrel (?), Bill Revis (great-grandfather), Hazel Revis (great-grandmother), Winona Bowers (grandmother), and John Bowers (grandfather) in front of my main Houston childhood home. Circa 1979.

Friday
Feb082013

Houses and Homes

I grew up in Houston. When I reached five years of age, we moved into a house on Bermuda Dunes in the Champions subdivision northwest of town. I lived in that house until I left for college.

And no matter where I went after that time, I called that house home.

When people asked from whence I hailed, I’d always say Houston or Texas. Sometimes I’d say, “Texas is home, but I live in London now.”

In all the places I went after I left Houston, I lived a fully integrated life. I had serious relationships. I built incredible friendships. I owned property.

So why couldn’t I call those places “home?”

Over the years, I learned that you can only have one home at a time, even if you have multiple residences. You can also have no home for a short while, even if you have a place to live. None of my family members live in my old childhood home; when the last person moved to a new house and another family moved in, I had no home anymore—until I moved to where I am now.

And even “where I am now” didn’t immediately feel like home.

Slowly, over eleven years, my house in central Houston became home. How? Through accumulated years of holidays and dinner parties and projects, finished and unfinished. Through a community of neighbors who form an extended family group. We look out for each other. We have fun together. We bend for each other’s sorrows.

All my intervening residences missed at least one of these components.

So here’s my verdict:

To qualify as a home, a space needs to

  • provide comfort and nurturing,
  • welcome friends and family for shared moments, and
  • offer a soft cushion of neighborhood community.

What makes a house a home for you?