Archive for the ‘relationships’ Category

On a wintry January day almost 31 years ago, Destiny opened the door, beckoned, and twirled me onto the dance floor with the man of my dreams.

I was clearing my desk at the end of the work day when the crackle of a radio broadcast caught my attention. I walked outside my office and saw our secretary, Mary, listening closely. This was before  the Internet, mind you, when we didn’t know what was happening every minute.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Mary, the clucking grandmother type, looked worried. “It’s bad out there,” she said. “Already eight inches of snow, and everything is covered with ice. Accidents everywhere. You didn’t drive, did you?”

Why I didn’t take the train that day, I don’t remember. My car was in a lot several blocks away, and I had a long ride home.

The rush of cold air made me gasp as I exited the building, and I paused under the overhanging eave to assess the conditions. About a dozen pedestrians huddled together seeking protection from the pelting snow and ice.

“I heard they closed the expressway in both directions,” said one.

“Traffic is supposedly at a standstill,” said another.

“The roads are a sheet of ice,” chimed in a third. “I almost killed myself trying to cross the street.”

I half listened, half tried to work out my escape plan. A little voice was telling me something. But that little voice was deeper than mine. I turned to find a total stranger trying to get my attention.

“Do you have far to go?” he asked.

I told him about my car being a few blocks away, and my typical 40 minute drive out to the suburbs. I asked about him.

“I live in West Philly, but when I saw it was snowing I thought I’d take the subway down to Third Street Jazz to check out some new music.”

Is he crazy? I wondered. Who would do that in this kind of weather?

I would soon find out that yes, Pete would do that. And that’s who it was. Pete. My future husband.

With the snow falling all around us, we continued talking. I started to like this funny and good looking guy.  When he asked if I wanted to grab a cup of coffee at the Chock Full o’ Nuts across the street, I agreed, and we spent the next hour sharing stories of our lives while the storm raged outside. Turns out we were the same age. We both loved books and sports and worked in the city. I recently got my MBA; he was applying to law school.

We looked out the window. The street wasn’t as crowded, but the storm raged on. For a moment we sat in silence. Is it going to end this way? I wondered. Will I see him again?

He glanced at his watch.  “There’s a great restaurant a couple of blocks from here, Warsaw Cafe. Can you stay?”

I hesitated. What are you thinking?? I silently admonished myself. Are you kidding? He’s a perfect stranger! How do you know he isn’t a smooth talking serial killer? I am horrified at your lack of common sense. Tell him no. Right now.

“I’d love to,” I said.

The restaurant was warm and intimate. Over candlelight I told him about a book I had read that he might enjoy, The White Hotel. He asked if I liked Big Five basketball at the Palestra. We compared notes on our favorite players.

As we left the restaurant, the snow was falling softly. He walked me to my car and waited while I unlocked the door.

The snow swirled and danced around us. I fleetingly thought of reaching up to  brush away the snowflakes on his hair. I wanted to. But I didn’t.

We exchanged phone numbers and said our goodbyes, and he disappeared around the corner.  As I slowly made my way home, I relived every moment of this magical evening. He could be my soul mate, I thought. Will I ever see him again?

wedding. marriage, toast, champagne, bridal gown, flowers


Want to read how other women met their significant others? Take a look at the posts my GenFab blogger friends contributed to this blogroll here.

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I am very lucky to be part of a fantastic group of bloggers known as Generation Fabulous, or Gen Fab (Gen Flab if we’re having a fat day). We “women of a certain age” are holding a Blog Hop this week. I guess you could call it a virtual kaffee klatsch. We are blogging about what we would say to our 20 year-old selves. GenFab women are funny, honest and way talented in the writing department. I can’t wait to read everyone’s posts which you can find at the bottom of the page here. And this is mine.

MidAge Helene: Hey there young one! Great to see you.

Young Helene: Ohhhh. Hey. Um, really? That’s what I’m going to look like in my 50s? (frowns)

MAH: Don’t do that. You’ll get wrinkles.

YH: Wrinkles, and what else? Cellulite? I’m so fat already. My thighs are flabby. I hate my nose. I am ugly.

MAH: (sighs audibly) You look beautiful to me.

YH: You’re just saying that because … because … (shrugs)

MAH: Because I look at you and see a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, riddled with self-doubt but full of promise, overly critical of herself with low self-esteem, but with a big heart. You don’t know yet that true beauty isn’t that celebrity you idolize …

YH: Like Cheryl Tiegs. Or Christie Brinkley.  If only I were super thin and had lustrous thick straight hair and perfect skin.

MAH: In a few years you’ll learn the term “air-brushed” and start to realize that appearances can be deceiving.

YH: I wish, I wish, I wish …

MAH: Be happy with what you have. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders. Be proud of your strengths and don’t dwell on the imperfections. You’re a little confused, but everything’s going to be OK.

YH: And what about love, and marriage, and kids … will I ever find Mr. Right?

MAH: The guy you’re with right now is a schmuck. We both know that, don’t we? But this too shall pass. You will have your happily ever after, I promise, and share it all over Facebook.

YH: Face what?

MAH: Never mind. Listen to me. In about a year a singer named Eric Anderson will come out with a song, Be True to You. You will play that song ad infinitum on your record player, along with every melancholy tune ever sung by Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian and Laura Nyro. Here are a few lines:

All I ask is be yourself, free yourself
Love yourself when no one else will do.
You be true to you.

YH: And that means what, exactly?

MAH: Be the best “you” you can be. Don’t worry about measuring up to anyone else. Believe in yourself. Because I really, really do believe in you.

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According to the calendar it is still summer, but for those of us in higher education summer will soon be a faded memory. I work in a marketing and university relations department on a college campus, and the new academic year is just days away. Goodbye summer, hello students!

I won’t deny that I’ll miss the quiet (and clean bathrooms). But I do love the start of the semester, greeting returning students and getting to know the freshmen. The campus practically hums with positive energy and new possibilities.

Part of the fun of my job is having a student intern each semester who assists with writing, website updates, research, list management, etc. Many of our interns have minimal experience but plenty of enthusiasm, so they get a semester’s worth of Journalism 101 in a matter of days. They learn about deadlines. About suddenly having to shift gears when necessary. How to write in AP style, conduct an interview, take photos.

What do they get out of it? In addition to receiving college credit, they acquire new skills (and beef up their resumes) and get a byline in our publications. That’s great to have in a portfolio.

We benefit from this experience as well. In fact, lessons learned from our students have been invaluable to me, both professionally and personally. Here are just a few reasons why I admire them so much.

They are expert multi-taskers.

Most of our students carry a full course load but have outside obligations that require a good amount of their time. Some hold full-time jobs. Others are responsible for the care of family members. Yet these are often the students who consistently make Dean’s List and hold leadership positions on campus. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m pretty sure they don’t get much sleep.

All it takes is a little creativity.

Who wants the same old same old? Not us! We’re open with them about our expectations, but from the get go we encourage the proverbial thinking-outside-the-box. Out of these brainstorming sessions have come some really cool ideas, things that we hadn’t thought of before. One of our interns taught himself video production and editing, and made several fantastic videos that we added to our website.

They are self-assured and driven.

I am often awestruck by the composure of our students. They are well-spoken and respectful, but do not hesitate to question the status quo and offer alternate solutions. Many of our students are first generation college students, and very motivated to succeed. The dream of a college degree, and the doors that will open for them, keep them going even when the challenges seem insurmountable.

Take two LOLs and call me in the morning.

They are funny, these Generation Y-ers! Just in the nick of time, when the work is accumulating and the stress level is inching up, they come out with something that tickles our funny bone. Finding the humorous side of things can make the tension dissipate: just what the doctor ordered. We have a laugh and then get on with it.

It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.

It is gratifying that our interns stay in touch. Just when we start to wonder what ever happened to so-and-so, we’ll get an email or an impromptu visit. Occasionally it will be to request a reference, but most often it is just to say hello and catch us up on their careers, their families. A good thing that is, staying in touch.

We feel good knowing they’re out in the world making a difference. And what they’ve left behind has made a difference for us.

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Lois was a doe-eyed brunette from Squirrel Hill, a soft-spoken co-ed studying child development. Irv was handsome and funny, an all-around great guy and proud member of Phi Ep, a science major full of ambition.

Irv was friendly with a hometown girl, Anita, whose dorm room was next door to Lois’. The girls helped each other out with phone calls: if the phone rang when one of them was out, the other would answer and take a message. Lois and Irv got to know each other over the phone, when she would pick up to take a message for Anita. It got to the point, Irv admits, where he secretly hoped Lois would answer the call.

“But he knew me by sight,” Lois says. “He just didn’t know that I was the person on the phone. I thought, well, he’s seen me on campus and hasn’t asked me out. But when he finally realized I was that girl and asked me on a date, I said yes.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

My parents, Lois and Irv, met at Penn State, just weeks before my mother would graduate. My dad had been in the army and was attending Penn State on the GI Bill, so he was a year behind her. Their first date was a basketball game and, afterwards, dinner at a club called Paradise in Bellefonte. Just weeks later, my mother graduated and moved back to Pittsburgh to work at Fineman’s, the family store in Turtle Creek.

My dad spent his senior year studying during the week and driving to Pittsburgh on weekends to spend time with my mother. The following June, he graduated, they got married and the young couple moved to Reading, his home town. They settled into married life, and after three years I joined the family, followed by my brother two years later.

I was pretty darn adorable.

This is my favorite picture of my brother, ever.

Penn State felt like another sibling, always referred to with love and affection. It was a presence in our household and in our extended family, since dozens of family members were proud Penn State alumni. Uncle Lew even had a life-size cardboard replica of Joe Paterno that sometimes appeared at family functions. My parents were always devoted to their alma mater, involved with programs at University Park as well as the Berks campus.  There was no question in my mind that, like them, I would be a Penn Stater myself someday.

Well, things did not play out exactly as planned. An indifferent student in high school, I did not have stellar grades or SAT scores. Penn State accepted me to a branch campus but in the end I decided to go elsewhere.

Fast forward many years. I was married, had children, pursued a career in marketing and communications. To my utter delight, an opportunity arose at what was then Penn State Delaware County, now Brandywine, and I became an official member of the Penn State community almost five years ago. At the same time, our youngest daughter, Laurie, started her freshman year at Penn State’s main campus in University Park. Both life events were thrilling and a source of pride.

Laurie graduated this past May after four fantastic years. She worked hard and played hard, made lifelong friends, participated in THON, spent a semester in Paris, had the college experience everyone should have. Her first job came about through a Penn State connection. Penn Staters look out for Penn Staters. This is a fact.

My three Penn State grads: Dad, Laurie and Mom.

Penn State is in my DNA. Penn State will always be family to me, a family member for whom I have enormous respect. Penn State is world-renowned faculty, unlimited opportunities for learning, international programs, internships, a Big Ten education. It is the fabulous students — bright, caring, talented, spirited, driven. It is brilliant professors, THON,  stickies and Creamery ice cream, singing the alma mater, the biggest alumni association in the world.

Penn State is bigger than the actions or inactions of a few. We Penn Staters will get through this crisis because we are strong and resilient. We will do what we can to right the wrongs, to give back as Penn Staters do, to heal others and ourselves. Our reputation as a university with the highest ethical standards will be restored. I am so proud to be a Penn Stater. We are … I am …   Penn State.

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All too quickly, the summer has ended.

This might puzzle you. After all, it is August 17. There are at least two more weeks of summer left.

But for those of us in higher education, fall is resoundingly here. Freshmen and new students report for orientation tomorrow, with classes beginning on Monday. Oh for the good old days, when the fall semester started after Labor Day!

Griping aside, there is a buzz on campus today as last-minute preparations take place. Tents and chairs in place? Check. Giveaway t-shirts in stock? Check. Perfect weather ordered? Well … keep your fingers crossed.

It’s always a thrill to welcome the incoming class, to watch this exciting new chapter unfold with so many possibilities. Who will be the campus leaders? Who will dazzle us on the playing field? What gifts will this class bring to this community of learning?

By the way, orientation is wayyy different nowadays. (I am probably showing my age by saying “nowadays.”) Everything is done online. You just show up for the festivities.

If you’re an old-timer like me, you might remember your first day something like this.

You arrive on campus and have no idea where to go. A cheerful upperclassman directs you to the gym.

The gym is at least 125 degrees because, after all, these are the dog days of summer. You stand in line to register for a course. Finally it is your turn. An unsmiling administrator hands you a course slip. You suddenly realize, uh oh, there’s a conflict. You’ve made a mistake. Unsmiling Administrator is motioning to the student behind you. You back away slowly.

Ugh. You’ve scheduled Sosh and Econ for the same time block. You glance furtively around the gym. No one else seems to be having an issue. Students are happily exiting the gym with their well-timed course schedules.

You stand in line, again. This time to drop/add. You drop Sosh and add Ballroom Dancing. It’s the only course that is left.

Off to the bookstore you go. There are lines snaking around the store. You search the shelves for dozens of required textbooks. Almost finished, you manage to drop your arm load  of books. All over the floor. Which you wish you could drop through. You feel many eyes boring into you. Someone nearby snickers.

Cute guy standing in line offers to help you collect your books. He asks you where you live, what your major is, what your sign is. Turns out he’s taking Ballroom Dancing, too. Things start looking up.

Welcome, Class of 2015. Enjoy every minute. The next four years will be amazing.

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