A Respectful Reminder Of Rights

Tomorrow Donald Trump will be sworn in as our 45th President, and what seemed unimaginable and impossible only a year ago will become a reality.  It’s been an extremely weird journey, and many of us are still grappling with what it all means.

il_fullxfull-43546133But whether we figure it out or not, tomorrow everything changes.  We’ll have a brash new President who will routinely use Twitter to communicate his views to the American people.  We’ll probably have a former President who will be much more engaged in national affairs than ex-Presidents typically have been.  From what we’ve seen and heard in the lead-up to tomorrow’s inauguration, we’ll undoubtedly have immediate reversals of Obama Administration policies, a news media that is feeling its way forward in a new paradigm, and bitterly opposing sides on every issue that the country confronts, each ready to paint everyone on the other side as liars, or uncaring, or unpatriotic, or unprincipled, or whatever negative word they can think of and put into an aggressive, over-the-top Facebook meme.

Speaking as someone who’s got friends at many points on the political spectrum inside the far outer fringes, and who would really like to keep as many of those friends as I can, I’d just like to respectfully remind everyone, regardless of where your views lie, of what I hope we can all agree on:

There’s a right to boycott, and a right to attend.

There’s a right to oppose, and a right to support.

There’s a right to protest, and a right to counter-protest.

There’s a right to be outraged, and a right to let things slide.

There’s a right to be active, and a right to be passive.

There’s a right to speak, and a right to decide whether to listen.

There’s a right to care with every fiber of your being, and a right to think that other things are more important to you and your life.

These are just some of the rights we enjoy in this wonderful country, and that we will continue to enjoy in the Trump Administration, whether we’re ardent supporters of the new President, diehard opponents, or one of the mass of people between those poles who just hope we can get through this next chapter without experiencing the fate of the Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat.

I’m going to respect all of those rights.  I think if we all just keep those rights in mind, we’ll be okay.

TFO Rocks The House

IMG_0524Last night Kish and I and a big group from the firm went to the Park Street Saloon near the North Market to watch our friend and colleague, the Jersey Girl, up on stage.  She’s one of ten members of TFO — for the Trans Fat Orchestra All Star Musical Revue.

It’s pretty cool that the Jersey Girl has the talent and moxie to sing under the spotlights to a crowded house.  What’s almost as cool is this:  because we paid a $5 cover charge, that means by definition that TFO is a professional rock band . . . which in turn means that we know a professional rocker in person!  I can finally scratch that one off the bucket list.

The Jersey Girl did a great job, of course, and TFO puts on a really good show.  A little Blues Brothers, a little Steely Dan, a little Joe Cocker, a little Johnny Rivers, some Janis Joplin — the Jersey Girl’s trademark — thrown in for good measure, and a lot else, besides.  As a ten-person group, with a three-member horn section, TFO puts out a really big sound, and they got the crowd to dancing.  (I’ve always liked horn bands, too.)  I’d definitely go see them again.  And the Park Street Saloon is a good venue for a show.

Way to go, Jersey Girl!



Thank You For Being A Friend

Unfortunately, it happens to be the name of a less-than-great song — one that probably now will stick in your head for the rest of the day, sad to say — but the statement above is a sentiment that aptly expresses my feelings, so I’m using it anyway.

I’ve been amazed and touched by the kind words and comments we have received from friends and acquaintances in the wake of Mom’s death.  Whether it is memories shared by my best friend in high school and my college roommate, or a poem and expressions of sadness and support from colleagues at work, or a funny recollection from one of the very nice people who cared for Mom during her time at Mayfair Village Retirement Community, the outpouring of positive thoughts means a great deal.  They help to center the conflicting feelings that you experience when a loved one has finally succumbed to a long and difficult illness, and to focus and lock in on the positive memories that you will carry with you going forward.  It is affirming, too, to know that there are so many good people out there who will interrupt their days and act with a generous spirit when others are struggling with loss.

We will move on, of course, because that is what people do — and, in this case, what Mom obviously would have wanted us to do — but all of these positive and supportive thoughts will make the moving on process much, much easier.  I know that everyone in the Webner family feels the same way.

I am a strong proponent of saying “thank you” in response to offers of help and acts of kindness — so thank you to everyone.  We really appreciate it.

A Man And His Sauce

IMG_3149Tonight we went for dinner to the house of our longtime friends.  Chuck wanted us to try his pasta sauce — and it was spectacular.

Chuck comes from a Sicilian family, and he is proud of his heritage and his sauce.  It’s a tomato-based sauce, based on a recipe that Chuck got from his Dad, but Chuck has made his own improvements and refinements.  His sauce is seasoned with a pork rib or two, and it’s dense and meaty and packed with flavor.  Combined with some Barolo and Amarone wine, some al dente pasta, Laura’s fine appetizers, and excellent desserts, it made for a fabulous meal.  The company was even better than the food, and the Patron coffee liqueur was just icing on the cake.

Great job, Chuck!  Your sauce is excellent.

Farewell To A Friend

I lost a good friend today, and the world is a meaner, sorrier place because of it.

Jocelyn Prewitt-Stanley, left, and Alycia Broz

Her name was Jocelyn Prewitt-Stanley.  She died from complications related to the birth of her first child, Emmerson — a child that she and her husband Ted dearly wanted.

Jocelyn was a lawyer at our firm.  I first worked with her when she was in our Cleveland office and had the misfortune to get a project from me.  When she moved to Columbus a few years later, I began to work with her more and more.  She was a fine trial lawyer, a hard worker, a good thinker, and a skilled advocate who was justifiably proud of the good results she achieved for clients.  When I had to assemble a dedicated “core team” to work on matters for an important client, I chose Jocelyn because I knew she would do a great job — and she did.

Of course, being a good lawyer was only a tiny fraction of what made Jocelyn a wonderful person.  No one should be defined solely by their work, and Jocelyn surely wasn’t.  She possessed a deep and indefinable serenity — yet she also had one of the great guffaws you could ever hope to hear.  She had a marvelous sense of humor, and when she became animated while telling a war story, the fingers on her hands splayed wide and her eyes lit up.  She had a dazzling smile and a dazzling personality to match.  She was active in charities and professional organizations.  She loved dogs and happily advised me, all too frequently, on how to better train the canine miscreants of the Webner household.

After we had worked together on several occasions, Jocelyn asked me to be her mentor.  I accepted with pleasure, and Jocelyn became the senior member of our merry band of mentees.  Although I technically was the mentor, I’m quite confident that I learned far more from Jocelyn than she ever learned from me.  I admired her candor and appreciated her trust, and was grateful for her patience as she listened to my side of the issues we discussed.  She worked tirelessly to help me see things from a different perspective, and she succeeded.  As I mentioned, she was a very effective advocate.

The world is a beautiful place, but it also can be inexpressibly cruel.  When an occasion of great joy like the birth of a child arrives, it is unimaginable that death might also be lurking around the corner.  Those of us who are religious may be able to find comfort in faith; the rest of us can only rail at the gross, cosmic injustice of a fate that snatches away a person like Jocelyn much, much, much too soon — and also be thankful that we had the privilege of getting to know her, even for a short period.

My heart breaks for the loss experienced by Ted, by Jocelyn’s family and Ted’s family, and most of all for the void left for little Emmerson, who will never get to know the mother who was so very ready to shower her new baby with all the love she could muster.

Picnic by the Pool

In Columbus today the temperature hovered in the mid to low nineties so it quite frankly didn’t make any sense to be anywhere other than close to a pool with good friends. Our picnic lunch consisted of ham and swiss sandwiches with spicy mustard, pretzels and apple wedges with carmel dipping sauce along with pickles and cheddar cheese chunks. A large pitcher of crystal light with a hint of vodka and my friend Mary in her hot pink bikini with matching nail polish made for a fun and memorable day ! I hope everyone enjoyed their day as much as we did.

A Simple Card And The Spirit Of Christmas

Christmas isn’t about getting gifts, it’s about giving them.  Sometimes the gifts can be material, but often the best gifts are intangible ones — in the form of expressions of good will, or sharing a happy memory, or spending time together while holiday music plays in the background.

This sweet and simple story about a Christmas card that was sent back and forth between friends for 60 years, and now is treasured by the survivor, speaks to what Christmas really is all about.  We can only imagine the pleasure and good humor that the two friends felt when the holiday season approached and they looked forward to their annual card exchange.  The unremarkable and corny Christmas card produced enormous happiness and lasting memories for those two friends.

I hope every one of our Webner House readers is enjoying similarly wonderful Christmas experiences.

The Empty Office Next Door

On Thursday I learned that a dear friend and colleague, Ken Golonka, had died unexpectedly.  He was one of my oldest friends at the firm — we’ve known each other since we were summer clerks, 26 years ago — and he worked in the office right next to mine.  We saw each other every work day, and he was one of the finest people I knew.

Ken was one of the best real estate and commercial lawyers in Ohio, yet he was completely unpretentious about his intellect, his lawyering abilities, and the high regard in which he was held by his colleagues, his clients, and even opposing counsel.  Ken served for years in one of the most important jobs at our firm, as chair of the committee that evaluates associates, and it was as if he were made for that position.  He was fair, thoughtful, and keenly interested in listening to other viewpoints and achieving consensus.  He had great credibility because it was obvious to all that he was not trying to pursue an agenda, he was just trying to do what he believed was right.  His untimely passing is an enormous loss for our firm.

Of course, that loss pales in comparison to the devastating sense of loss felt by Ken’s family and friends.  Ken loved his wife, Denise, and their six children.  They were the central focus of his life, and that fact made Ken a very happy man.  He was always going to a play, or a sporting event, or making a college visit, or peddling Girl Scout cookies.  He loved to talk about Denise and the kids, their many achievements, and their adventures together, and he seemed to have almost perfect recall of everything they did.  His close relationship with his family left him comfortable and fulfilled.  Those qualities showed in just about everything he did and made him an easy person to be around.  He never felt he had anything to prove.

Physically, Ken was a memorable character.  Big and bear-like, he had a pleasant, open face and a ready smile.  He wore his remaining hair close-cropped.   He certainly was no slave to fashion, and it was typical to see him with glasses askew and shirttail falling out of the back of his pants.  He had a goofy sense of humor and liked to laugh.  And when he laughed — when his eyes would crinkle and the high-pitched hee-hee-hee would erupt from that happy face — it would light up a room.

I called him Skip, and he called me Skippy.  I cannot believe that I will never see this wonderful person again.  It hurts like hell to walk past that now-dark and empty office next door.


When “Friends” Aren’t Friends At All

From England comes the disturbing story of a woman who posted on her Facebook page that she had taken pills and was committing suicide.  None of her Facebook “friends” who lived nearby did anything to check on her condition, and some of her “friends” chided her.  By the time authorities checked on her, some 17 hours later, the woman was dead.

What does it all mean?  Well, one person’s story is just that — one person’s story — and it’s important not to draw too many broad conclusions from one incident.  This tragedy is reminiscent, however, of the Kitty Genovese incident, which indicated that not all neighbors necessarily will respond in a “neighborly” way.  In this instance, we are reminded that Facebook “friends” may not really be friends at all.  Real friends would not mock or taunt a friend who was struggling with suicidal thoughts, and real friends would act promptly in response to what seems obviously to have been a desperate plea for help.

People who spend huge amounts of time on Facebook, working to build their roster of friends, need to understand that there is a difference between the real world and the virtual world.  Who cares how many phony Facebook “friends” you have, if none of them will lift a finger to help you in a pinch?  Perhaps this very sad story will help to get that point across.