Cooking At The Kitchen

Last night we had our annual bash with The Mentees (old and new) and their spouses. This year we changed things up and went to The Kitchen, where you help to prepare your meal under the guidance of the friendly and expert staff.

The evening began with noshing on the offerings on a charcuterie board and each of us making our own champagne cocktail. (I used some tasty plum bitters for mine.). Then Kish picked names out of a hat and we teamed up to prepare the different courses, donned our aprons, and got to work. The Red Sox Fan drew the short straw and had to chop, sauté, and stir with me in preparing the sauce for the beef loin, and we also enjoyed a fine winter salad with nuts and apple slices and blue cheese, wild rice, broccolini with pecans, and a terrific gingerbread soufflé for dessert. For the first time in my life, I actually ate some broccolini!

It was a lot of fun from beginning to end, and the food was great. There’s just something about people cooking together in a kitchen that leads to everyone having a good time. I’d recommend The Kitchen to anyone who’s got a group that wants to do something a little bit different.

De-Mented

A few days ago our firm came out with its roster of attorneys and practice groups.  The roster lists all of our attorneys, and for associates also identifies their designated partner mentors.  As I scanned the roster, I saw that this year, for the first time in a very long time, I do not have any designated associate mentees.

As I mentioned to one of my colleagues, I guess this means I am officially de-mented.

I’ve enjoyed being a mentor over the years.  My practice is to take my mentees out to lunch on a relatively regular basis, buy them a good meal, serve as a sounding board if they want to talk about their plans and their problems, and offer my advice if the situation seems to call for it.  What older person wouldn’t like flapping their gums to offer advice to an earnest young person?  My mentees have become friends, and Kish and I have enjoyed socializing with them, having them over to our house for a cookout and cocktails, and hosting them for an annual holiday meal that has become a fun end of the year tradition for us all.

But, in reality, I’m confident that I’ve gotten far more out of being a mentor than I’ve given.  I’ve gotten to know some really fine people who might not have otherwise become friends, I’ve experienced the satisfaction of seeing my mentees move on to success, at the firm and in life, and I’ve gotten repeated reminders of how out of step my thinking is in the modern world.  Unfortunately, I also had to deal with one brutal tragedy that still hurts to even think about, when a wonderful young woman died long before her time — but I guess that’s part of being a mentor, too, in that you have to be willing to take the bitter with the sweet.

The other day I got a call from one of my former mentees who left the firm a number of years ago.  She was asking for a reference, and in her message she said “you’ve always been a great mentor to me.”  Of course I agreed to help if I could, and it made me feel good to think that she still views me as a mentor of sorts.  Maybe I’m not totally de-mented after all.

Life Coaching

Every workday I walk past a storefront that offers yoga and exercise classes and “life coaching.”  That option makes me chuckle a bit and sticks with me as I walk, and I think of a guy wearing a plain gray t-shirt, seat pants, a ball cap, and a whistle, yelling at me to follow the “life playbook” and get my affairs in order.

What is a life coach, exactly?

IMG_6321After doing some internet research, the precise role of a “life coach” is still not entirely clear to me.  It looks like people with that title can offer advice on everything from financial affairs to marital problems to exercise and diet regimens to general decision-making and goal-setting.  Lifecoaching.com says:  “Life Coaching is a profession that is profoundly different from consulting, mentoring, advice, therapy, or counseling. The coaching process addresses specific personal projects, business successes, general conditions and transitions in the client’s personal life, relationships or profession by examining what is going on right now, discovering what your obstacles or challenges might be, and choosing a course of action to make your life be what you want it to be.

It also appears that the “life coach” field is a largely unregulated one, without any legal requirements as to training, licensing, or capabilities, although there are certain industry certifications that “life coaches” can obtain if they choose to.  If you run a Google search on life coach training, you’re likely to get results that tell you about the variety of training programs, on-line courses, or books you can read to become a “life coach” and then lots of results advertising the “life coaches” in your area.

So, as best I can figure it, a “life coach” is someone who a person can talk to in a structured way about what they’ve been doing and where they want to go, and get advice about how to get there.  Although lifecoaching.com apparently disagrees, it sounds a lot like what a trusted and knowledgeable mentor, friend, or family member might do.  And that seems to beg another question:  why would a person pay an unlicensed “life coach” to listen to their problems and offer advice rather than talking to an older, experienced, successful family member or colleague who knows them, cares about them, and won’t charge them a dime?  Is it because they want someone who they consider to be objective, even if they might not know a lot about the person, or because they don’t want to share their problems or personal goals with a friend or family member due to embarrassment?

I suppose there could be lots of rationales for why you would seek “life coaching” at a storefront location in your town, but it also seems like another way in which what used to be a significant, potentially enriching and strengthening part of family relationships and/or personal or workplace friendships is being replaced by paid services provided by strangers.  Maybe that’s a good thing — or maybe not.

 

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.