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Archive for June 2009

This can’t be.

I am still shaken by Steve Persall’s column about a former co-worker of mine who morphed from a solid newspaper reporter into a crack-addicted, homeless woman after she was laid off two years ago. He didn’t name her, but it didn’t take long to find out her identity and realize it was someone who I liked, someone whose work I respected.

To be sure, this is not a story of hard times turning a once stellar professional into a homeless drug addict. She has a history with depression and mental illness. Severe mental illness ran in her family.

I don’t know what triggered her fall, but it breaks my heart to read that this beautiful woman has spent nights curled up on the streets, being beaten up or urinated on by men.

Most reporters have written at least a few stories about once-successful professionals who fell down and became street people and crack addicts. I have never known a journalist to actually have the same experience. It seems so unlikely. She was too intelligent. Too beautiful. Too exposed to the consequences of drugs. But, she’s still suffering, and I wonder if she will ever traverse the chasm between lost cause and respectability.

I hope she will write a book about her experience. Sure, there have been other stories of people who have suffered the same ordeal, but she can write. I wish she’d remember and use her talent. I wish she could come back to a safer, saner world. As it is, it’s too sad.

My True Brother. My Sister Down the Block.

Teri and Doug

I have two brothers: One is blood, the other one should have been. My blood brother has been a source of great heartache, but my “chosen” brother has brought me as much love, security and friendship as any blood brother could have offered. I’m so blessed.

Five years ago, when I moved to Clearwater, Fla., I met Doug and Teri Swift at a neighborhood Fourth of July party. When Doug mentioned he had a subscription to Star magazine, I knew we were destined to be friends. Just like him, I have an insatiable appetite for Hollywood gossip. So there. Now you know what intellectuals we are.

I call Doug my “brother” because, if I sent God a list of what I would want in a brother, it would  be him. He watches out for me. He’s always got some kind of adventure for us. We never run out of things to talk about. It’s the most amazing friendship —  one that extends to his wife, Terri, who is a sister to me. It is hard to explain what she has come to mean to me, except I keep thinking of the word, “home.” She’s a safe place. She’s the thoughtful, reasonable one in our bunch. She’s an absolute, true friend.

Family sometimes comes to us in passing, rather than by birth. I could sit here and lament the disappointments from my real sibling relationship, but all I have to do is look to Doug and Teri and realize that God sent me the best brother and sister in the world — even though we aren’t technically related. There is nothing better than double dating with the Swifts.

Last year, I completely renovated the pool, deck and landscaping in my back yard. Two days after the deck was down, I woke up to a half-empty pool. It was leaking, and one end of the deck had to be ripped up so the pool could be mended. I was crushed. The project had already consumed way more time and cash than I’d been told to expect. The men who repaired the pool left the bricks from the north end of the deck in piles. My office is right next to the pool and an hour later, while I was working, I heard tapping out back. I turned around and saw Doug putting the deck back together for me. He knew how stressed I was and just stepped in to help. It made me cry.

Then there was the day I turned around and looked in the pool, only to see Dougie floating in the lounger with his People magazine.

Teri is a great listener who has great advice. She hears my heart, whether the issue is relationships or work or whatever happens in the news. She gets me.

Every time I get an electrician or a plumber, Doug comes over to see what’s going on and make sure nobody rips me off. The morning after I closed on an investment home last year, I showed up to begin the renovations and found Dougie had beat me to the site, already fixing things. When I bought a pontoon boat and couldn’t get it on the trailer, he got it on the trailer.  When the water department realized my sprinkler system was hooked up wrong, guess who fixed the problem before I even asked for help?

The cool thing about Teri is that we get to check back in with her and report on our latest shenanigans. I love when she rolls her eyes or goes, “Oh, God.”

The point of this is that so many of us have difficult family relationships that cause us great pain. I am lucky because I have the most incredible, loving, devoted parents in the world. But, there is that brother… And while I could go into a loop wondering why that relationship is so tortured, I don’t anymore. Maybe my “real” brother was put in my life to help me learn that I am part of a much larger family, and that gives my life a richness and dimension that is far more real than anything I ever hoped to have.

Helpless Female or Hopeless Captain?

What I am about to confess is heresy for a woman known for pushing women to push their limits. But, in the last week, it appears that I have been cast in the role of the helpless female needing to be rescued by strapping, testosterone-fueled  males.

Let me explain: I am a new boat owner and, as a captain, I suck. I suck to the point where, on a four-hour excursion Saturday, I  beached my pontoon boat on a sandbar, got us stuck in forceful cross-currents that required all of us to jump out and pull with all our might to free the boat, nearly ran out of gas and continued to stall out repeatedly for the day. The stalling out was the engine’s fault. The rest of the blame is all mine.

If I ask you to join me for a leisurely ride to the beautiful coastal islands near Clearwater, Fla., do the smart thing and go to a movie. Saturday, I putted out of the marina with three of my very best friends. Thank God my friend Art was there to use his boating skills and muscles for one disaster after another. And, thank God that, on every previous trip, I was joined by my friend Doug, who is the closest thing to a true brother that I have ever had. Doug’s tried to teach me what I need to know, but so many crazy things keep happening.

I fear I sound like some sort of a ditz. How hard can it be to drive a pontoon boat, right? If you spend 20 minutes at any boat launch, you will see that there are a lot of good boaters around, and a lot of them don’t seem to have much going on upstairs in the brain department. Now, if they can figure all this out, why can’t I?

After I stalled out in the middle of the channel, Art quietly scooted me over and took the helm. And, as a good feminist, what did I do? Did I say, “NO, let me handle this!” Heck no. I grabbed a Diet Coke and my cell phone so I could call Doug and tell him to meet us at the marina to help us tie up the boat. Even less work for me.

Now, I hate looking like a helpless female. But, if these guys feel better about themselves by taking charge and saving the day, who am I to stop them?

Is it that I am a helpless female or a hopeless boat captain? To be honest, I wouldn’t care if the person taking charge of my boat were a strong man or a strong woman or a chimpanzee wearing a tutu. I just wanted to be back at the dock.

Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of five books. She is one of the nation’s top speakers on leadership and performance.

It’ll All Work Out

I have a friend who is on the brink of losing everything. Her home. Her savings. Her retirement…

It isn’t pretty. She says it’s a matter of weeks before she bottoms out.

This year, we are learning to redefine “bottoming out.” I have had several friends give up their homes, spend down their savings and drain their retirement funds.  On paper, they have nothing. But, they are showing a resilience that is profound. They are finding out what they are made of, and counting on support from people who love them. As bad as things get, they still hang in there to fight another day. At some point, the days do get easier.

We’ve learned so much about loss and sacrifice this year, particularly when it comes to a concept like “security.” Most people deluded themselves into thinking their secure jobs meant secure futures, but their jobs were not secure. The only thing any of us can really count on is our own resilience. Let go of the things that don’t matter and build your own security once more. There is security in the knowledge that, the less you have, the less you have to fight to protect. You can downsize yourself out of a lot of headaches.

Sure, the future is uncertain — but, it always was. Just get up every day and have faith. It’ll all work out.

I’m BACK. Whew!

I spent last week on the legendary cycling adventure, the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia. I can’t tell you how much fun I had — but, I can show you.  The good was that I had seven days of hard cycling. The bad was eight nights of sleeping in a tent. That may have been easy in my early 30s, but in my 40s? I was ready for my bed about halfway through it. Anyhow, enjoy these photos. And, if you cycle, check out this great trip!