Entries in family (15)


You Can't Go Home Again

I remember this from college: After the first semester of the first year, I went home for the first time. And realized it wasn't home.

People leave their parental homes in different ways. College was mine. A job in another town may be someone else's. Yet the moment comes for everyone: The shock of finding that, even if your parents kept your room the same, you don't live there anymore. It's not your home.

Your parents may make your favorite breakfast every day and your favorite foods at dinner. They may invite people over to spend time with you. They may plan special activities for your visit. The key word: Visit. These are things they do for guests.

Prior to this moment, you may not have considered your new digs "home." Yet you find your childhood digs aren't home anymore, either.

In an emotional sense, you're homeless. Suddenly.

This dawning realization--that you are now a guest in your childhood home, that you do not live there any longer, never will again, and can never, ever go back to the life you had before you left--struck me with a deep, resounding melancholy.

Childhood chafes even kids with idyllic childhoods. All kids want freedom, autonomy, and respect--qualities only available to people who have achieved a certain level of responsibility and integrity. Kids just haven't attained them yet.

Though as much as every kid wishes to be an adult, every adult occasionally wishes for the comforts of childhood. And the first moment when you realize that they are gone forever is stark, indeed.



An angel figure my mother places on a table each year at Christmas. December 25, 2010.

I'm the type to question everything.

Over breakfast with a friend recently, I asked so many questions about his coffee order that he told me it was like sitting down with a two-year-old.

Why does this need to be that way? Why do they call it that? Does it make sense? Does something really need to happen like it always happens? Who says? Why should we listen to them?

Yet even I get wistful about certain holiday traditions.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are the biggies, but even other holidays--Valentine's Day and Easter, for two--don't feel like themselves if certain elements are missing. Even single, Valentine's Day requires a little chocolate. And if I don't get at least a card from my mother on Easter, the holiday is off kilter.

Interestingly, though, certain elements don't matter. For example, some people obsess over special foods served only on Thanksgiving, but nothing on the menu interests me. The entire spread could change; I wouldn't care. (I might even be glad. Pizza and chocolate chip cookies? Bring it on.)

But I feel slightly traumatized when the people on the guest list change. For the first time since his birth, my brother booked Thanksgiving 2012 in a different town. It's hard for me to process and it means Thanksgiving 2012 doesn't really count as a Thanksgiving. The holiday just skips 2012 entirely.

What traditions need to stay the same for the holiday to feel real for you? What don't you care about? And what's been new or different for you over this past year?



With my mother and one of my best friends at a going-away-to-college party for me. Summer 1992.

I went to college before the widespread advent of mobile phones, e-mail, and the Internet. And I went far away to college on purpose.

Other than counselors, upperclassmen, and professors, I had no one to guide me in my new city and the world of college--so different from Houston and high school.

I couldn't Google to figure things out. And without social media, text, and e-mail, it wasn't so easy to communicate with people back home. If I wanted to talk to my parents, I had to call and hope they were there. If they weren't, the answering machine took a message. They'd check the machine whenever they happened to get back--and I'd have to hope I was near my phone when they returned my call.

My grandmother sent me care packages via the USPS, and I would excitedly check the mailbox daily for letters from old friends.

I'd launched.

Case in point: Freshman year, I slid on ice into the back of a work truck. (Texas girls don't learn to drive on ice.) The truck was completely unscathed, and the driver needed to get somewhere on time, so he left. My little Mazda had a smushed hood and leaked green liquid.

I had no idea what green liquid meant. Could I drive it? Should I? Even if I could drive it, I needed to get it fixed. I'd never been in an accident before. What should I do?

From a payphone not too far away, I called my dad. Lucky, he was in his office.

Me: Dad! I got into a car accident!

Dad: Are you okay?

Me: Yes. But there's this liquid coming out, and I don't know whether I should drive it…. What do I do?

Dad: I'm glad you're okay. But I'm not there, Les. You're going to have to figure it out.

If I were a college student today, I would have taken a picture with my smart phone, texted it to my dad, called him from the scene, and gotten his take. Meantime, he would be on-line finding the nearest highly rated auto shop. His heart would be in the right place--who doesn't want to help his child?--but it wouldn't have been good for me.

I'm glad that's not how it happened. That situation--and so many other adventures of Leslie, out in the world--taught me that I can figure out pretty much anything. I'm pretty strong, pretty clever, and pretty resourceful. I can get through more than I ever would have thought. All by myself.

Powerful feeling, that. I wish that knowledge for everyone. We're all stronger and smarter than most of us realize. Find a way to discover this in yourself.

P.S.: Never call me "Les." Dad's the only one who can.


How "Other" is My Brother

Our badges for the Houston Business Journal's "40 under 40" event. May 2011.

My brother is also an entrepreneur. The Houston Business Journal named us both to its "40 under 40" in 2011.

I'd love to interview my brother for this site someday. We are very different entrepreneurs.

That's no value judgment--we're just very different people, and very different entrepreneurs as a result.

And when you're very different from someone, you can see them at the distance needed to truly appreciate who they are and what they offer.

This is a love letter to my brother.

My brother is a true extrovert.

People gravitate to him. When my brother enters the room, his personality is bigger than the space. Everyone benefits from his energy, his enthusiasm, his sense of humor, and his benevolence. He has always had an entourage--people who feel being in his presence is better than anywhere else.

My brother is 100 percent comfortable with himself.

Confidence may seem synonymous with extroversion, but it's not. People who are extroverts can still be insecure. Not my brother. Not even in the slightest. He knows who he is, he likes himself, and he doesn't care if anyone else has a problem with it. He’s not perfect, but he's the first person to point out his imperfections--and to indicate that he's not going to apologize for them. I could probably count on one hand the number of people who can say the same.

My brother believes things into being.

Self-help gurus tell people to live as though they’ve achieved their dreams--that acting like they're already the reality will make it so. My brother lives this way naturally--without convincing himself or giving himself pep talks. He makes things happen by believing they will happen. Straight out of college, he told my mother and me that he wouldn’t take less than a certain salary. The stated salary was exorbitant for fresh diplomas. Know what? He got that salary. Plus some.

My brother takes risks.

Perhaps because he believes in himself so strongly, he has few inhibitions and few fears. He rushes headlong into what seems to be the unknown without hesitation. This is true in his hobbies and true in his business life. Where most of us would cringe in the face of fear or possible defeat, my brother charges forward--and he’s never defeated.

Me? I'm an introvert who's better one on one than in large groups. I feel socially awkward most of the time and hope no one notices. I doubt myself too much--and I'm often too scared to take the really big risks.

I'll never have my brother's amazing qualities--and I'm okay with that. But there are many, many things I should try to emulate. Appreciating him is the first step.

Love you, bro.

My brother at I at the Houston Business Journal's "40 under 40" event at the House of Blues. May 2011.


On Dads and Daughters

My dad and me in 1979. I think I was getting an alarm clock as a gift for my first day of Kindergarten.

(And on mothers and sons. But I am a daughter, so that's my frame of reference. Sorry, sons.)

I keep thinking about an article I read in the fall of 2011 in Psychology Today. By Christopher Badcock, Ph.D., it was called "The Incredible Expanding Adventures of the X Chromosome."

The article initially discusses how chromosomes are inherited and then drills down into intelligence, behavior, and autism--all of which is fascinating. I highly recommend reading the article for the full scoop. Because as interesting as the drill-down bits are, the basics of chromosome inheritance are what I keep chewing on.

Here's the deal: Everyone inherits half his or her chromosomes from each parent. The pairs are matched, except for the pair that determines whether you're born a girl or a boy. Girls have two X chromosomes, one from each parent, and boys have an X from mom and a Y from dad.

Nothing new from what you learned in high school biology, right? (Ah, Mendel and his peas.)

Yeah, well, don't worry. That's not what blew my mind. This is what did:

"The X chromosome a woman inherits from her mother is, like any other chromosome, a random mix of genes from both of her mother's Xs, and so does not correspond as a whole with either of her mother's X chromosomes. By contrast, the X a woman inherits from her father is his one and only X chromosome, complete and undiluted. This means that a father is twice as closely related to his daughter via his X chromosome genes as is her mother. To put it another way: Any X gene in a mother has a 50/50 chance of being inherited by her daughter, but every X gene in a father is certain to be passed on to a daughter."

Woah. So... the daddy's little girl thing is more than just a cultural/social concept? There might actually be a genetic/biological basis?

Who are you most like, do you think? I've always loved and admired my mother to death, and wished I had many of her qualities. I've long known that I am most like my father, though. That's a good thing, too: He's a wonderful man. Our personalities are very similar. We are introverts. We don't like a lot of fuss. We don't crave public attention. We're not flashy. We are readers. We are nurturers--lovers, not fighters. We bite our fingernails. We have sweet teeth that forever doom our diets. We are sensitive--sometimes overly so.

I could go on.

That doesn't mean Dad and I have always been like peas and carrots. (Aha! An unintended Mendel pun! I’ll leave it in.) Over the years, we've had times when we have been painfully frustrated with each other. But sometimes that happens with people who are so very much alike.

The article goes further, into grandparents. Think about it: Where did Dad get his X chromosome, the one he passed down, intact, to me? From his mom. Of my grandparents, I am most closely related to my paternal grandmother.

No wonder I look so much like her. This is what I'll look like when I'm 82:

Gladys Farnsworth (nee Kennedy) c. 1992. Aged 82.

That does mean, though, that I am least closely related to my paternal grandfather.

Flip this for boys. Boys are most closely related to their maternal grandfather. The paternal grandmother and grandson have no sex-chromosome relatedness, because the X that grandmother passed on to the father wasn't passed on to the grandson. And that means that boys are more directly related to their mothers. (Hence, then, the mommy’s boy paradigm?)

So that's my story. And yours. Who are you most like, do you think?

Dad and me in September 2011, at my brother's wedding rehearsal dinner.

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