Two Loving Parents Who….

I’ve never had the honor or privilege of being a parent, nor have I had the aggravation or lament that comes with being a parent.  I have, however, had the great fortune to know several wonderful parents; family and friends of mine who have raised fine upstanding children.  One in particular is raising several children of varying ages at a time of great unrest in her life.  She has sorted things out so beautifully I thought, with her permission, I’d share her conclusions. 


Our children need TWO loving parents who…

·        Are present and allow them to be themselves, making their own mistakes – even the same mistakes over and over until they learn.

·        Understand that they’ve made plenty of mistakes over and over and probably will continue to do so…until they, too, learn.

·        Make them feel safe enough to tell the truth – the truth about something they may have done terribly wrong or the truth about something that may seem minor to them – such as breaking curfew or forgetting a chore

·        Understand that we, too, forget stuff at times and are willing to imagine ourselves in their shoes

·        Make them feel important and that their opinions are valid – even if a 6 year old has an opinion that makes no sense in a grown up world

·        Leave the lines of communication open – for useless facts that they just feel the need to say or major events that affect their lives.

·        Don’t leave them with emotions they may never have experienced before.

·        Don’t blame themselves every time one of their children make a mistake, are less than perfect or needs extra help

·        Don’t turn every issue into something other than what it is – stay focused on the issue and don’t overdo it

·        Fight or argue in front of them, but take immediate accountability for their actions, helping them understand that even people who love each other have disagreements and it’s not always the end of the world.

·        Pay attention to them when they have something to say – or even when they aren’t looking

·        Catch them doing something good or right more often than when they do something wrong.

·        Are selfless – enough to take control of themselves in the midst of chaos and pay attention to the most important truths – love and protection of your children

·        Teach them how to be strong – by example, not just with words

·        Are willing to go to any lengths to protect them and their home

·        Make mistakes and love themselves enough to accept them – so the children can learn to love themselves as well if they make mistakes

·        Are proud of them and everything they are capable of – not who are always angry at their shortcomings

·        Love each other honestly and safely

·        Are at peace with themselves and the world around them

·        Can teach them about God and the power of prayer

Our children are all amazing and they deserve to be peaceful, happy and proud of who they are and where they come from.  I know that it is my job to make them feel that way.

As their parent, I deserve to feel that way too.

Oh it’s her…….

That’s what I would say every time I’d walk in to visit.  That’s what would make him laugh, out loud sometimes.  That’s what would perk up a sometimes monotonous day.  That’s all I could offer my friend over the past three years, a snappy remark, a bit of a laugh, a break in the monotony and perhaps a pignoli nut cookie on occasion.

After all he did for me was that enough?

Robert E. Cook, family man, friend, former BMW employee, basketball lover, Yankee fan and all around genuine human being passed away today from heart failure.  This after surviving a hemorrhagic stroke on Memorial Day 2007 and battling his way back to a simple existence at home in Monsey NY.

I had the distinct honor of working with Bob for over 12 years and could not have asked for a better learning experience.  In a business that is not kind to women I was given the very precious gift of knowledge from Bob.  His generosity in sharing what he knew made me the car hag I am today.  Oh yeah, all that knowledge came with a title.

I was not the only recipient of his generosity.  There are many people telling were-it-not-for Bob stories of his help and his bigheartedness as I write this.  They will continue to tell those stories for years to come.  I’ve heard many of them before (especially after his stroke), some told by him in his version which was humble, and some told in the recipient’s version which are filled with a unique mix of humor and gratitude.

Humor was his shield, humor was his therapy, and humor was his forte. You can’t tell a Bob story without a chuckle or more likely a belly laugh.  His unique way of naming everyone could bring you to tears of hilarity and those names i.e. car hag had a tendency to stick.  The amazing mix of wit and sarcasm could have you doing a double take.  Believe me we laughed even harder when some walked away shaking their heads not getting the joke.  All in good natured fun, all in the name of reduced tension and conflict avoidance.  Yeah we knew what he was up to….how about those Yankees.

There are many people that considered themselves friends of Bob’s over the years, good friends.  I’m trying desperately to understand that it was too difficult for them to visit and come face to face with what might be their own mortality.  I gladly gave updates to all those who asked about Bob on a regular basis, those people who know him on a much more casual basis but thought of him often.  I applaud and love with all my heart those who came to visit as hard as that could sometimes be.  I am forever grateful to those who sat with him and chatted away never expecting him to answer or engage.  I will keep those people in my heart and prayers for the rest of my life; they understood that to give of themselves was a joy to both Bob and his wife Kathy.

I am proud to call myself his friend, I am proud that I could fulfill the requests he had, “if anything should happen to him” and I am proud that I stuck with him and his family all through these last years. Rest assured his family has become my family.   I have gained more from knowing this man and his family than I could ever have imagined and know that he is looking down right now saying “well done Mrs. LoConti” That is one of my greatest accomplishments.

What are his greatest accomplishments; the love of family, a life of generous service to others, and enough stories to be told for decades.  He is loved, he will be missed.  This is no ordinary legacy.


Not Just a Walk

It’s one of those weekends.  Moments of wonderful and moments of sadness.  I took the girls on the loop to break up the boredom and because they (read I) needed some fresh air and exercise.  It’s a beautiful cold but sunny day today and the loop was especially bracing.  Half way around the bend there he was, a beautiful cardinal sitting on the edge of a bare birch.  I know it’s you, I always know it’s you.  Happy Birthday Thomas we miss you every day.

Christmas Fa Fa

There comes a moment in January when, if you decorate for Christmas, you can’t stand another minute of looking at Christmas Fa Fa.  A wonderful term that my summer sister got from somewhere and has used for years, it represents all that is glittery, red, green, snowflaked, cute, etc.  You get the picture, your house looked like this too.  I’m not an over the top Christmas decorator, in fact I think my home has that Christmas feel about it all year, but at that moment in January it must all come down.

For me it’s all about the packing.  Yes, the entire world laughs at my organizational skills but there is something to packing Christmas up in such a way that it’s like opening presents the next year when you start again.  Each type of ornament has a separate plastic box (oh shut up) and once all the ornaments are inside I place in some crumbled tissue paper, so they don’t move around, and close the cover.  The following year those bells that have lasted over 50 years will be as much a surprise as ever.  Jeanette’s old glass ball ornaments will bring a wonderful memory of her flooding back and I will pause to miss her as I always do.  The brass angels and the noisey bells will still scare Lina and Toto will have her nose into the birds with the real tail feathers.

This moment in January is one last chance to read all the Christmas cards again and then tear off the covers to be used for gift tags next year on those few gifts that actually get wrapped.  I don’t know about you but the gift card has taken over almost 50% of my giving.  I thank God for itunes cards for every teenager in my life and they thank me back.  Teenager’s actually thanking you without rolling their eyes, priceless.

This moment in January used to lead to celebrating my father’s birthday and then mine and then spring.  The winter has gotten a bit longer now that he is gone but I’ve found other ways to get to spring…can you say White Flower Farm catalog.

Emails from Pdski

I have a collegue and friend who periodically shares his thoughts via email.  I don’t know who is in his distribution list, I consider myself lucky to be one of its members.  He truly understands the concept of ordinary legacy and puts forth his musings on a variety of subjects.  Mostly he works to build his own legacy for his beautiful family through the memories and values his parents left for him.  With his permission, his New Year’s message:

Happy 2011 !


When I was a kid my dad worked at B.F. Goodrich Plant 1 in Derby, CT.  He worked on a Banbury Mill treating and pressing raw rubber that ultimately went into an extruded product that ultimately became the window and door moldings on thousands of American cars being produced in Detroit.  During the height of America’s finest years in this business he would work 12 hour days, sometimes double shifts and he and my mom seemed really happy when the crew he was on got called in on Saturdays and sometimes even Sunday.  That was triple-time.  In the very best of years he made ten grand.


Most nights when he got out of work he stopped at the River Restaurant for a beer with his buddy, Johnny Duck.  When they were done he would drive John to his house in Ansonia and then come home to us.  I can always remember him sitting at the table reading the New Haven Register when he got home.  We had a big kitchen table that was pink in the center with a black pattern around the entire edge.  It had heavy ornate wrought-iron legs, and the chair legs matched the table but in a miniature size.  The chairs were covered in pink naugahyde and there was a little picture window in the back of each chair with a small wrought iron ivy decoration in the center of each window.  My Mom was always replacing the stick on rubber boots on the chairs so they wouldn’t tear up her kitchen floor.  I often remember my Dad saying out loud that so-and-so had died and he seemed somewhat forelorned.  I’d ask who was Ray Collins Dad?  And he’d answer, “Oh he was a guy that played in Perry Mason”.


I’m not exactly sure when the first time was that it happened to me, but I do know that it was after my dad passed away, and there I was sitting at the kitchen table reading the New Haven Register and I said out loud, “Ahh gee, Fred Gwynne died”.   I really don’t remember who the first one was, but Fred died in 1993, and would have definitely made my list.  While he had countless successful roles, to me he would always be Herman Munster or the Judge in My Cousin Vinny.  In any case, every time it happens I think of my dad and realize the reason he looked a little sad was because he was.  He lost an old friend.  Celebrities have that unique ability to entertain and often to make what can be an exhausting life just a little bit more bearable and enjoyable.   


At the end of each year I’ve started to look at the list of entertainers, celebrities and noteworthy people that have passed from our lives.  At first it was almost unintentional, but now I seem to make a point of it, and this year the list is a doosey.  Something like 215 entries.  I didn’t select them all, but here’s a bunch that would have probably got me to look up from the kitchen table.  May they all rest in peace and I thank them for the memories –


Pernell Roberts  81              

My family spent most Sunday nights with the Cartwrights, including Adam.

Fess Parker  85                    

So long Davey.

Art Linkletter  97                  

Sure he was on TV, but did you know he was Canadian and a major investor in the original Hoola Hoop?

Blake Edwards  88

Leslie Nielsen  84                

And don’t call me Shirley!

Denise Borino-Quinn  46    

Johnny Sack’s wife on the Sopranos

James MacArthur  72          

the “Dano” in Book ‘em Dano!

James Wall  92                     

Mr. Baxter on Captain Kangaroo

Tom Bosley  83                    

Mr. “C”

Barbara Billingsley  94        

Sorry about your Mom Beeve

Tony Curtis  85                    

If you’ve never seen Operation Petticoat with Tony, Cary Grant, Dina Merrill and Directed by Blake Edwards – rent it soon.

Eddie Fisher  82

Glenn Shadix  58                 

Interior Decorator in Beetlejuice

Rue McClanahan  76

Robert Culp  79             

My 4th Grade Teacher, Mrs. Goldberg, was mortified that Eddie

Wolynec and I were allowed to stay up ‘til 11 PMon Wednesday nights

so we could absorb every detail of the I Spy duo Kelly Robinson (Culp)

and Alexander Scott (Cosby) on NBC.

Gary Coleman  42                

What chu talkin’ about Willis?

Dennis Hopper  74

Lynn Redgrave  67

Dixie Carter  70

John Forsythe  92               

Now he’s really with “Angels”

Peter Graves  83

Merlin Olsen  69

Doug Fieger  57                   

ma ma ma My Sharona lead singer

J.D. Salinger  91                  

His works are forced, and mostly wasted, on 17 year olds.

Jennifer Lyon  37                 

Finished 4th in the 2005 Survivor Palau.  Reminder that breast cancer still takes beautiful young women.

Johnny Maestro  70            

“Maybe it’s the best thing for you.  But it’s the worst that could happen to me.”

Lena Horne  92

John Wooden  99                

Passed before his “88” record was broken.

Jimmy Dean  81                   

Big Bad John was one of my first 45s.  He made sausages much much later.

Manute Bol  47                     

7’ – 7”, played with Washington Bullets, Warriors, 76ers, and Miami Heat.

Edith Shain  91                    

The actual Nurse being kissed by the sailor in the Times Square V-J Day photo.

Erich Segal  72

Teddy Pendergass  59        

To all those that can’t live without someone’s love….

Steve Landesburg  65

Don Meridith   72                 

Dallas Cowboys Quarterback and Monday Night Football Announcer.  Known for his quotes, in 1970 on a Monday night game vs. the Jets the Cleveland Browns had a receiver with the unfortunate moniker of Fair Hooker.   Really, that was the guy’s name.   Dandy Don stated: “Fair Hooker, that’s a great name, isn’t it? But I haven’t met one yet”.

Jill Clayburgh  66                

Do any of you remember Portnoy’s Complaint?

Sparky Andersen  76           

Cincinnati Reds 2X World Series winning manager

Ernie Harwell 92                   

Voice of Tiger Baseball

Bob Shepperd  99                

Voice of the NY Yankees.  Called 13 World Series and his debut at the original “Stadium” was a 5 – 1 win over the Red Sox.

Bobby Thomson  86            

New York Baseball Giants, launched the shot heard ‘round the world in 1951.

Ralph Houk  90                    

Succeeded Casey Stengel as the Manager of the Yankees 1961 – 1963.  Also spent some time doing something up in Boston.

George Steinbrenner  80     

And you think your Boss is tough.

Maurice Lucas  58               

Played in the “ABA” and then Trail Blazers, Nets, Kincks, Suns, Lakers and SuperSonics.

Bob Guccione  79                

I never bought his magazine for any “articles”.

Edwin Newman  91              

 NBC Newsman

Mitch Miller  99                    

Now we have no one to sing along with.

Art Clokey  88                       

If he never created Gumby where would Eddie Murphy be???


I’m sure there was a few on this list that seemed like old friends to you too.  The pause to remember them is good for your soul and hopefully an inspiration to try and do something great yourself this year.  The number of people that each of us affects is most likely less than most celebrities, but we do have an effect none-the-less and at a minimum I hope you find a way to make yourself smile a little bit more in the new year.  Worse case is to always remember Pedenski’s 3 Rules of Life:

1.      Try to Have Fun Every Day

2.      Have Plenty of Life Insurance

3.      Don’t work with A-Holes


Best Wishes in the New Year,




Paul A. Pedenski

Thank you Paul, looking forward to hearing more.