Monthly Archives: January 2010

A Tribute to Roy G. Mansur, Sr.

This is the text of a piece I am delivering at the Memorial Service for my grandfather on Saturday, January 30, 2010.

Good afternoon. My name is Jordan Sadler and I would like to say a few words in celebration of the life of my grandfather.

In recent years, I have gained an appreciation of the fact that I am the eldest of Roy and Dot’s 9 grandchildren. This is not because I have reaped any special benefits or felt favored in some way, but simply because I have been so incredibly fortunate to have these particular grandparents in my life for nearly 40 years.

With each stage in life, I’ve come to perceive and appreciate my grandparents in new ways. Perhaps this is universal. In the earliest years, they were the fun-loving people who took me to Mountain Park, spent special time with me at their house on Cape Cod complete with very complicated breakfasts on the deck, hosted fabulous holidays filled with treats, and surprised me on Halloween by arriving at my house in Hartford dressed as Little Red Riding Hood and the Big, Bad Wolf.

Later, in my busier teenage years, they were the devoted grandparents cheering me on from the audience at every event, from school plays to choir solos at church. They took care of us when my parents had to be away, and enjoyed many adventures – and maybe a few misadventures – with us. At every turn, they went above and beyond the call of duty for their family and friends, everywhere they went. I am certain everyone in this room knows exactly what I mean by that.

As I entered adulthood and started to see the older adults around me in a new light, I began to view my grandparents as separate people. You see, I believe I saw them as a single entity for all those years growing up. In fact, the first time I saw Papa without Grandma was one weekend when I was in my mid-20s. Grandma attended a WAVES convention in Boston and Papa stayed at Joyce’s house, so I took the bus down to Plymouth from graduate school for the weekend and joined them.

I was struck by a couple of surprising things that weekend. First of all, it turned out that my grandfather was incredibly lonely without my grandmother, and missed her a great deal, right from the moment she left. He spoke about her non-stop, talking to me for hours about the trips they’d taken all over the world and the volunteer work she was doing at the time in Springfield. This was the first time I realized that he wasn’t nearly as quiet as I’d previously believed, and also that his world truly revolved around Grandma in a way I hadn’t understood. I discovered it didn’t matter that they disagreed sometimes and even bickered about small matters, like driving directions. In fact, they were true partners. I like to think of them as a matched set. I didn’t see them apart again for many years and that was just the way they liked it.

Last Saturday evening, I stood next to Papa in the Emergency Room. He was very ill, and confused about where he was and what was happening to him. I tried to talk quietly about a variety of things that might soothe him, to no avail. Finally, I sat next to him and told him that everyone in the family wanted him to feel better. One by one, I named my grandmother, all four of his children, his grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Papa immediately turned toward me with complete, rapt attention. His eyes focused on me as he listened. He smiled, hearing the names of his beloved family, and was visibly more relaxed.

We remember and celebrate so much about my grandfather’s life here today: his fabulous sense of humor, his bright and inquisitive mind, his enormous dedication to the success of the Red Sox, and the sweet, quiet manner he had that made everyone who met him adore and respect him. But what stands out most to me was my grandfather’s love and strong sense of loyalty for everyone in his family, and most especially his unwavering love for my grandmother.

We will all grieve this heartbreaking loss in our own ways, and there is no right or wrong way to do so. I know that we will also honor Papa’s memory throughout our lives in very individual ways. But what I hope for most of all as I stand here today is that in some way, every day, each one of us will honor my grandfather’s memory by finding the integrity, generosity, love, and devotion inside ourselves and sharing it freely with Grandma, each other, and everyone around us. Because this is what would make him happiest of all.

May it be so.

August 27, 1919 – January 25, 2010


Guest Blogger Jennifer Recklet on “Princess Week”

Jennifer Recklet is a very dear friend I’ve known since we were 9 years old.  She lives outside of Boston with her (clearly!) wonderful husband Davide, and works in the Spouses & Partners at MIT program for the partners of international faculty.  Jennifer posted this as a Facebook note a few days ago and I was so taken with it that I asked her if she’d post it here for you.  And so, without further ado…

“Princess Week is coming to a close. Thanks to Davide and a beautiful tiara, it was lovely experience. Not having to do any housework or decide what to make for dinner for a whole week was just what I needed after the busy holiday season.

So why Princess Week? I just got tired of cooking, cleaning, food shopping, laundry, etc., so I asked for what I needed – a break. At first Davide laughed a lot at the idea, but agreed to waiting on me hand and foot for a week and also insisted that I get a tiara to make it all official.

I started off the week with a manicure, which I never do. During our weekend getaway, Davide drove me around on a snowmobile in a winter wonderland. I treated myself to lunch every day at work. At the end of the day I relaxed in the recliner while waiting for dinner. I wore my tiara at home in my pjs, when I was out at the grocery store, and during our weekly staff meeting at work.

I thought I might have some trouble letting go of the dirty dishes in the sink and what we were having for dinner, but for one week, I did okay. But I like things the way I like them, and it would probably drive me crazy after a while if the house wasn’t cleaned and organized the way I want it to be. So one lesson from Princess Week is that I need more practice letting go of control. Let’s see if I can lower my standards a bit.

One surprising thing about this week is how people reacted to the tiara. Those who asked about it wanted lots of details about Princess Week. But most people just smiled at me. How nice! I love how wearing a tiara can make an ordinary day feel special. I wanted to stand a little taller, take my time strolling across campus (princesses don’t have to rush), and make sure I smiled at everyone I passed. Royalty does have a responsibility to their public.

So the tiara is now available to anyone who wants to celebrate her own princess week. Your week doesn’t have to be like mine, just do whatever you need to do to feel like a princess. Take a day or a week to treat yourself like a queen. If you want to borrow the tiara, remember to appreciate your adoring fans, to receive the gifts that come to you graciously, and to smile. And don’t forget to ask me to teach you the official Disney wave.

I don’t know when I’ll ask for Princess Week again, and maybe the next time I’ll need something other than a week off from cooking and laundry. But I do know that in the meantime I’ll be wearing the tiara every once in a while, when I need a little sparkle in my life and a reminder to slow down and treat myself like royalty.”

If you’d like to celebrate Princess Week (or Month…or Year…) leave me a comment below.  I will select one commenter at random and get you your very own tiara  – because we all need to slow down and treat ourselves like royalty a bit more often.

A New Desk, Some Books, and Choices

If your household is anything like ours, major changes have a way of taking place with little to no forethought. One minute you’re in a conversation with your child’s teacher, discussing some additional focused academic work and new strategies that ought to be put into place immediately, and the next moment you’re acting on your intuition that your child will be better equipped to get Important Things Done if he has a more formal desk space in the house.  One with a jar of pencils and highlighters on top, and a set of drawers containing paper, post-its, and the other school supplies he uses regularly.  All this so that he doesn’t have to work on the dining room table and clear everything at dinner time and he has his Own Official Work Space.  With your old laptop on it for research and word processing, and photos of him doing his favorite things in a frame to help him feel good while he’s working through his challenges.

And so you find yourself at home on a Saturday afternoon, moving furniture around so that a desk can be placed in the room off the kitchen, which means removing both a couch and the world’s biggest bookcase and relocating them to other rooms. 8 boxes of children’s books get displaced and stand stacked in boxes in the dining room. You’re grateful that you have friends hanging out for the afternoon so that you have company, extra hands for moving things, and other kids playing with your own for hours on end.  You also appreciate that one of your friends decides to bake a pie in the midst of it all, leaving you feeling like things could be quite normal at that moment if you simply closed your eyes and inhaled.  It’s a 3-day weekend and you know that when both adults are home for three days in a row you need to take full advantage of that time to rearrange large, heavy objects.  And you crave a concrete way to help your child because he’s struggling a bit, so this fits that bill as well.

As you sort through those boxes of displaced books, you create piles to help you determine where they will live next.  Some belong to one child, and others are just right for the other. Some weren’t great anyway, and are heading to Goodwill.  A few have been outgrown and can be brought to the office. And then there’s the stack of books that your younger child still loves to read and that, frankly, you do, too.  You stand there holding some of them, considering the fact that they are preschool books and this is a good opportunity to weed through them – and  you’re hearing your child’s teacher’s voice encouraging you to share more challenging books with him because he reads so well.  But when you glance at the big box of Magic School Bus, Magic Tree House, and Beverly Cleary books, you know that he’s not there yet, nor do you need him to be.  There’s still plenty of time for Corduroy, Miss Spider, and Olivia. In fact, many of the next level books tend to lose a fair amount of linguistic richness; they become simpler, since the kids are starting to read them independently. And so you hang onto all the books you’ve been reading him for the past couple of years, and put the “big kid” books aside in another box for later, marked “1st grade”.

The internal debate about books picks up where some of your thoughts about the school challenges that started this furniture upheaval left off: considerations about individual differences and neurological development, how to know when anxiety about an academic subject is due to an actual challenge versus when it’s secondary to a child’s need for just a little more time to get there.  When can you put aside the big kid books and enjoy the baby books just a little longer, and when do you need to push a little harder for more independence, better organization, and focus on a child’s achievement of “the standards” even when you don’t entirely agree with all of the standards?

And if there’s one thing you see clearly it’s that sometimes, as your kids get older, the choices aren’t so easy – and they’re not even completely yours to make.

Highs and Lows

I’m out of the habit of writing.  My life, which had been relatively mellow (for me, anyway) for a few months in the fall, became extremely busy with pre-holiday, pre-vacation tasks and a sudden uptick in consulting work in December. School ended, we took off for California immediately, and all I’ve been able to manage here since my return are some photos of our trip.  I don’t beat myself up about such things, but I’ve missed this space where I can sit and think and write and process life for a while.

Life is strange right now.  The highs are high and the lows are low, and I find myself floating between these poles, often quite quickly, feeling neither here nor there, just doing what needs to be done.  It’s hard to know what to write about or even focus on, in this life of extremes.

I’ve felt surrounded by death for the past few days, deaths which have been particularly shocking because it’s been young people who are passing away.  Within 24 hours I heard of three people younger than me who had died; two of them were relatives of friends and I didn’t know them, but one was the incredible, young, energetic executive director of the music studio the boys attend for private lessons.  It is so hard to fathom the loss of someone who was so full of life and apparent good health just a few weeks ago when she sold me the beautiful bag her mother had made for her to sell to the students, with the hand stitched name of the studio on it.  At the time, all I could think of was how proud her mother must have been of her daughter’s business venture and success when she made them – I visualized her, living out of state and carefully sewing these beautiful bags for kids to carry their music in to lessons at the studio and this image moved me to buy one – and now I picture that same mother grieving this illness that led to the sudden loss of her young daughter and it’s more than I can stand to think about.

In the midst of it all, at the other end of the age spectrum there’s my grandfather in Massachusetts  (the one I spent time with last fall when my grandmother was in the hospital) doing very poorly.  After spending a week in the hospital with a blood infection and cardiac problems, he was moved to a skilled nursing facility yesterday; he won’t be going home this time.  He’s asleep much of the time, but somehow still manages to crack his favorite old jokes in his awake, lucid moments.  His body is failing him and we are not sure how much longer he will be with us.  This leaves my grandmother living in their apartment alone, blind, and often confused, still deep in her denial of aging and death that has, no matter how frustrating for the rest of us at times, probably been what allowed them to live independently into their 90s.  I had to make the difficult decision yesterday not to try to go spend a few days with her next week, much as I would like to help her.  My cousin is there now and my parents will be there later in the week.  I am not prepared to leave my home or work life behind again after our recent two weeks away, and have some major conflicts this week;  unless something significant changes (e.g., there is no one else to visit with my grandmother and take her to see my grandfather each day), I am hoping to get grounded here before flying off again.  It was hard to make this decision, living as I do by a “family first” motto, but I am at peace with it.  I can’t do more than I can do.

The lows are very low.

And, as is the case so often, in the midst of being hit over the head with death of people far too young and the difficult realities of the end of my grandfather’s life, there is simultaneously new life on its way.  Tomorrow we will celebrate the upcoming arrival of my friend and partner-in-crime-colleague Lorell’s baby girl, due in just a few weeks.  I’ll be hosting the staff and mothers from the clinic here at our house, and enjoyed preparing the house, shopping for food, and buying all sorts of pink decorations to hang on my walls today.  (Truly, there has never been this much pink in our home!)

Further, there have been some bright spots in my first week back at work and I feel hopeful that 2010 is starting off to be a stronger year and full of new possibilities that I look forward to pursuing.  Back at home, I had a fun night out with a wonderful friend on Wednesday, and the boys are currently the best of friends and spent the day playing together non-stop and peacefully.  They seemed to bond in a huge way over the winter break, having no other kids around on a consistent basis. It’s remarkable and makes me so happy.

The highs are very high.

Without a doubt, this is life: highs and lows.  The difference at the moment is the intensity of each, and the speed with which things are happening.  It feels a bit like six months of ups and downs have been fit into a few days, and so I’m taking it slow whenever possible, sitting down to watch TV some evenings, getting the house professionally cleaned in preparation for the party, and sleeping in until 8 AM today.

And so I’ll hang out here in the midst of the chaos and be grateful for the chance to sit in a warm house by a cozy fire and think about it all for a while, because really, what a huge privilege this life of highs and lows is.

California in Pictures – Bay Area Visit

After Christmas, the four of us dashed up to the Bay Area to visit family and friends.  It was a whirlwind 2 1/2 days filled with lots of great fun, friends, and delicious food.  We spent one night in our old neighborhood, The Sunset, and another on the peninsula with my aunt and uncle.  We visited friends in San Francisco, Piedmont, San Carlos, and Redwood City, before heading back down to my parents’ house in Pacific Grove!

photo credit: Chris and Christa

California in Pictures – Christmas Day

The boys were thrilled with all that Santa had brought – including the fake mustaches we all tried on!  We had some relatives join us at my parents’ house for brunch and then later we enjoyed the setting sun at Asilomar Beach together.

California in Pictures – Christmas Eve

We spent most of Christmas Eve day with my aunt, uncle, and cousin. We started out at Carmel Beach where Matt, Dana, and the boys staged a very dramatic battle.  Later we went out for a great lunch at Quail Run Golf Course in Carmel Valley, where my uncle took the boys for their first spin in a golf cart.