Friday, November 11, 2011

Life Lessons with My Family, Phil Rizzuto, Lionel Richie & Warren Beatty

Being Veteran’s Day, I woke up with a particularly heavy heart, remembering my maternal grandfather, who was a Marine in WW2.  Though I grew up living directly across the street from him, our time was cut short, as he passed away when I was only 6.  Still, there are invaluable lessons that I learned from him, and am reminded of by my mother.

Sometimes the briefest of moments can stay with us forever.  Here are some tiny bits of advice that have made the largest impression on me…

1.     Always offer your guest a drink.  My grandfather was an electrician, and spoke constantly of working in hot attics for hours on end without the offer of a glass of water.  Now, I am the freak bringing cold lemonade to the neighbor's gardener...

2.     Always have a firm handshake.  This came from my father, as I headed in to meet a city Mayor who would write my recommendation for acceptance to a private school.  Not sure if it's what got me in, but it did prove exceptionally useful years later while in an elevator with Phil Rizzuto at Yankee Stadium.  My brother shook his hand, and Rizzuto said, “Holy Cow! The kid’s got a grip!”  Had he shaken mine, I may have broken it.

3.     While in production, the only thing you “call in” is dead.  On one of my first producing jobs, I stood beside our Executive Producer as someone called in sick.  She lost her shit, and I learned an important lesson.  (Come to think of it, this speaks volumes about my going into labor on set of The Bachelor…)

4.     Train for life.  I kept my Freshman 15 for all four years of college.  Then post graduation, I enlisted the help of an amazing trainer to help me lose my beer gut (which had become a keg).  Erik Hajer is an Ironman Triathlete, specializing in event training.  So during our sessions, fellow gym members would often ask what I was training for.  I’d wince as he answered, “she is training for life”.  He also told me I had lips like Lionel Richie.  A year later, I was majorly insecure about my mouth, but had completed two marathons.

5.     If you let someone turn in front of you just so they will say thank you, don’t bother.  Spoken by my brother as he gave me a driving lesson at a 4-way stop sign, but very true in life.  Giving of yourself- no matter the size of the gesture- should never be for your self-gratification, but for the benefit of the recipient.

6.     Hold on to your hat.  The best part about this one is that it came from Warren Beatty.  I was at dinner with my family, while he and his wife, Annette Bening, sat behind us with their children.  Their young kids were entertained by my daughter, who even as an infant, had an eye for a good celebrity sighting.  Stopping by our table on their way out, they asked if she was our first, and when I told them our second was on the way, he offered those words.  And damn, he was right.

Chances are none of these people know the lasting effect of their words, and some never will (unless, of course, my blog gets some major play).  But despite all the lessons listed above, the most important is this… The greatest gifts you ever give may be the ones that go unrecognized, or so you’ll think.