Today, our sons, Matthew, Michael and Joseph; our daughter, Julia; our daughter-in-law, Erika and Michael’s girlfriend, Jacque will be leaving on a two week trip to Japan and Vietnam.  We are in San Francisco to see them off.  About one year ago, Matthew and Erika and Michael and Jacque began talking about taking this trip.  The details of how it was planned and how Joseph and Julia ended up joining them are unimportant for the purpose of this post.  

As parents, you nurture and help mold your children into the adults they will become.   We all wish to create independent, knowledgeable and worldly adults with the goal that they stand on their own two feet and go off to make a life for themselves.  Then we all wish our children the success and happiness that comes with that independence.  At some point, you know they are going to leave the nest, but when they are gone, it makes you realize just how fast time passed and that your wish for them is being fulfilled.

Once upon a time, while on a family trip to Disney World, we were all sitting in the French pavilion in Epcot Center when Joe and I suddenly realized that time was passing quickly and before we knew it, Matthew and Michael would finish High School and move on to college.  It was 1996.  By then we had taken a family vacation each year to the beach in New Jersey; we had been to Washington DC, Boston and Florida, but not much beyond that.  At that moment a plan was hatched to start looking into traveling to other places so we could expand their horizons.  Our first thought was Italy, since we had been there for our honeymoon and it is the home of our ancestors.  Our second thought was London because we knew that everyone would speak English.

However, while my good friend was visiting from Las Vegas and we were telling her of our plan, she suggested we test our travel abilities by seeing more of the US.  Of course, she suggested we start with Las Vegas and maybe California.  Suffice it to say, our maiden flight in 1997 with all six of us, included stops in Las Vegas, California and the Grand Canyon.   The next summer was England, Scotland and France and the following summer was Italy.  Many other trips abroad followed as well as study abroad programs for some of them.  Since then, each of our children has traveled to many other places on their own and with friends.  I mention this because all the while we were nurturing and teaching our family about travel and other cultures, we also gave them their wings!

More than once during the planning phases of this trip to Japan they asked us to join them.  As much as we would like to see Japan, we felt strongly that this is their trip.  Although we feel a little nervous as they all take off together to a far flung corner of the world, we are so happy to see them make this trip together.

In a broader sense, besides the traveling our children do, they have all found their way in the world or at least are on their way.  We could lament and even get a little teary-eyed that our children have left the nest, moved away to other cities and forged relationships that bring them into the fold of other families all of which keep them away from us for much of the time.  Instead, I am instilled with pride and feel gratified that we have succeeded in nurturing these four little “birds” into loving, caring and independent adults who always know where they can find their original nest.

Jacque, Michael, Julia, Joseph, Erika and Matthew

Jacque, Michael, Julia, Joseph, Erika and Matthew

On Monday, Joe provides some tips for those taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease in “Alzheimer’s Disease, The Role Of The Care Giver”. 



The cycle of life goes on and on.  Young people find each other, get to know each other, marry and many times create families.  The children in those families grow up and the cycle goes on and on.

Once again, I find myself wrapped up in our children’s milestones in our own ‘cycle of life’ as Joe along with our three sons and daughter-in-law, recently headed to Syracuse, NY for our fourth and final graduation.  The baby has graduated!   Unbelievable!

From 1982 when Matthew and Michael were born to 1985 when Joseph arrived and finally in 1990 when our little girl made her grand entrance into our lives, it was hard to imagine that in 2012, we would be where we are now.  Years fly by.  Work, school, sports and many other activities take over your life and before you know it, you are dropping your first child off at college or in our case, the first two.  Since all four of our children went to Syracuse University, (and our daughter-in-law, too!) we have spent a lot of time there in those 12 years between 2000 and 2012.

Joe made a great observation during graduation weekend.  We were all enjoying a quiet moment sitting on the giant front porch of Julia’s sorority house and he said that ‘40-something’ years ago, when he too was a student at Syracuse, he never could have projected forward to 2012 to imagine that he would be here again to enjoy his own children’s graduations.

In Joe’s blog, “The Cycle of Life”, he talked about Julia and that is just what I want to do now.  As long as I can remember, since Julia was a little girl, she talked about when she grew up, what she wanted to do.  At times, it was a Marine Biologist, a Veterinarian, a Pediatrician, a Plastic Surgeon and an Orthopedic Surgeon, just to name a few.  The choice was never clear, but it seemed sure that Julia would pursue something in Science.   As she progressed through school, she always had good grades, but it seemed that her aptitude was in Science and Math.  Therefore, it was not surprising that Julia chose Biology as her major with an eye towards possibly going to medical school.  During High School and then during her college years, Julia volunteered and interned in hospitals, nursing homes and a hospice care center.  She also shadowed doctors to get a feel for what operating rooms and surgical procedures are like.

Ultimately, Julia decided that going to medical school was not her passion.  She became intrigued and curious about the work our daughter-in-law, Erika, does.  Julia became more and more interested in becoming a speech and language pathologist.  This summer following her graduation, she will be interning in three different hospital rehabilitation departments so that she gains more experience and knowledge in the field before applying to graduate school to become a speech pathologist.  One of the hospitals where she will volunteer is in California where Erika works.  Julia will spend a couple of months in the fall, living with Matthew and Erika to experience living and ‘working’ in a new city.  While she is in California with them, she is lucky enough to be able to also join them (and her two other brothers) on a two week trip to Japan and Vietnam.  Happy Graduation!

I remember when Matthew and Michael were only weeks from their college graduation, we were visiting them at school and I was so excited that they would be graduating soon.  I couldn’t wait to see where life would bring them.  As we sat with them and a few of their friends, I said something like, “Wow! Graduation is so soon.  It’s so exciting!  I bet you guys can’t wait.”  I think the response was a collective sigh.  None of them wanted to leave college or the camaraderie of all of their friends.  To them, it seemed too soon to grow up and become part of the real world.  I remember feeling so surprised by this reaction because I had never thought of it from their perspective.  When Joseph graduated, he and his friends felt the same way.  I was less surprised by then, but still felt excited to see where life would bring him after college.

Now, I feel that same bittersweet ending.  I am very proud of Julia and excited for her as she embarks on the next phase of her life, but now I have to admit that the cycle of life has brought me to a place where I also have to face the end of one part of my life and the beginning of another.  It only seemed like yesterday when Julia made her grand entrance into our lives and now she is all ‘grown-up’!

And so it goes on.

Julia and the Dean

Julia and the Dean

All of our Syracuse Alumni

All of our Syracuse Alumni
Erika, Matthew, Julia, Joe, Joseph and Michael

All of us in the Arts and Science Box

All of us in the Arts and Science Box

June, 2013 Update:   Since graduating from Syracuse University, Julia followed through with her internships during the summer and fall of 2012.   Julia enjoyed her time in California as well as her trip to Japan and Vietnam.   Julia then returned to NY where she worked for a pediatrician in Manhattan while applying to graduate schools.  Julia has been accepted into the Speech and Language Pathology Master’s Program at Columbia University and will start her studies this Fall.



If you follow my blogs, you know that almost one year ago, in March 2011, our son, Matthew, was married.  It was an exciting time for our family for many reasons, but it was also another “first” experience in his life and ours.  Matthew and Erika live in San Francisco, as does our son, Michael, so we don’t see them as often as we used to when they all lived in New York City and were only two and one half hours from us.

We have been fortunate to be able to visit with them twice since the wedding.  The first time was in September when we took a trip to Portland, Oregon and then drove down the California coast to San Francisco.  Our second time was recently for an extended weekend trip from our home in Arizona.  Ironically, the flight is just a little over two hours.

Michael shares his apartment with others so it is not conducive to hosting overnight guests, but Matthew and Erika purposely rent a two bedroom apartment so they can entertain out of town guests AKA the Parents.  This brings me to my observation-when children grow up.

In past years, as our three sons have rented various apartments in New York City and had various roommate situations (Joseph still lives there), occasionally, we were able to squeeze in an overnight visit and stay with them, but most times, it was just easier and more convenient to stay in a hotel.  Roommate apartments tend not to be as clean or comfortable as home even though it is home to them at the time.  Of course, with Julia still in college, she hasn’t had the opportunity to host us for an overnight visit.

There is a big change in Matthew’s surroundings now that he is married.  The décor is more coordinated and purposeful.  There are matching dishes and towels.  There are curtains on the windows and best of all, there is actually a guest room and guest bathroom!  It is such a pleasure to be hosted by our son and daughter-in-law, who each are proud and happy to reverse the roles and take care of us while we are visiting.

Not to minimize our visit with Michael, although he does not have room for us to stay with him, he lives in a very nice apartment and one of the nights we were there, he and his girlfriend Jacque did cook and host dinner for all of us at his apartment.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with all of them and had great fun with the many activities they carefully planned for us.  We look forward to many more “firsts” in our children’s lives.  Erika’s parents will soon make their second trip to San Francisco and then along with Matthew and Erika will visit us in Arizona to celebrate Matthew and Erika’s First Wedding Anniversary.

PS – Happy Anniversary to us!  33 years yesterday.

On Wednesday, Joe comments on how painful it can be when your trust in someone is lost in “Loss of Trust.



             While in high school and even in college, our two oldest sons and their friends spent summers and school vacations working in the office.  They loved being able to bring their friends there and their friends loved getting a small paycheck, from time to time.  The boys learned the value of working in a family business by doing any jobs we needed them to do.  At times, it was data entry, filing, organizing our stored files, making calls to update member information, or stuff envelopes for billing.   No matter what it was, they enjoyed working here.  

             By the time the two older boys graduated from high school in 2000, our son, Joseph, would work at USFSB and he, also, brought his friends to work here.  After he left for college in 2003, only our daughter, Julia, was left at home and she too came in to the office to work, from time to time, along with her friends.  I believe it was a valuable experience for all of them and helped form the great work ethic each of them has today. 

             In 2005, after our two older boys graduated from college and had worked in respective fields for a year, they became intrigued by becoming business owners.  They always had an entrepreneurial spirit.  As early as the age of 14, they started their own ‘handyman’ business which, by the time they left for college, they had sold to other kids in the area.   They approached us about starting a NYC branch office of USFSB.  Although we didn’t necessarily want them to do this, they convinced us they were serious and we finally agreed. 

             They spent about a year working at this endeavor with a couple of friends as partners.  They worked very hard at growing the membership in the NYC area.  They made many contacts with business leaders, brokers and politicians and ran a monthly networking event.   I attended many of these events and was very impressed by the speakers they engaged and the activities they planned.  They had some success with their activities, but eventually, when it didn’t grow at the rate they might have expected, they all realized that they wanted to move on to their own careers.  They each went back to school to obtain Masters’ degrees and work successfully in their respective fields.   

             Our son, Joseph, never had the opportunity to join them in this endeavor because he was still in college.  He is now an Art Director with an ad agency in NYC, but during his college years he worked with us during breaks and in the summer.  In addition to the usual office activities, he used his talents to help create some of the marketing pieces and helped work on design ideas for our website.  We considered beginning a small business website at one time and Joseph was instrumental in helping model the design.

             Our daughter, Julia, continued to work in the office during summers and breaks right up until last summer after her freshman year of college.  Her pursuit of going to medical school will prevent her from joining us this summer as she has to begin doing internships in that field. 



My father had operated his own small business when I was growing up and I spent several summers helping him.   Annemarie and I soon came to the conclusion that our children should work at USFSB during the summer and on school breaks.   We felt that it was important for them to understand how our family business operated and to learn the value of working for their spending money and to start saving for the future.

All of our children would come to the office to do such things as stuff envelopes for mailings, filing, and special projects that we would create for them.   We even gave some of their friends work to do at USFSB, at times, so that USFSB truly became both a fun and meaningful experience for our children and their friends.

Matthew and Michael are twins and our first born.  They both obtained engineering degrees from Syracuse University in 2004.   Matthew in civil engineering and Michael in mechanical engineering.   Matthew started a job in the Philadelphia area with a large engineering firm and was going to Villanova at night to pursue his masters.  Michael already knew that he did not want a career in engineering and went to New York City to pursue several business opportunities.

It was not long before both Matthew and Michael approached us about letting them start a New York City office of USFSB which they would run with several friends.   Annemarie and I were reluctant, at best, since we felt that they were too young and too inexperienced to start, essentially, a new business even if it was with our help and the backing of USFSB.  Also, we tried to counsel them on the possible problems to be encountered when you try to mix friendship with business.

Further, we had many conversations with Matthew about the merits (or lack thereof) of giving up his engineering career and moving to New York City and with Michael about pursuing his MBA before embarking on a business venture.

They were persistent and would not be dissuaded.   They worked up a reasonable business plan for the new office and we, finally, gave them the green light to proceed.   They had grown up working at USFSB and Annemarie and I felt that if USFSB was to really be a family business, we could not deny our children the opportunity to find their place at USFSB.

Annemarie and I decided that we were not going to unduly interfere with the way Matthew and Michael ran the New York City office since we viewed their involvement, to some extent, as a learning experience and we wanted to give them room for some experimentation as part of that learning experience.  We knew that this venture could wind up just becoming a costly and time consuming lesson; however, we also had confidence in them and believed that they would be successful even if some mistakes were made along the way.

Our children  were raised to be respectful which was a great asset for them when interacting with our employees.   They never tried to take advantage of their status as our children when dealing with our employees and always treated  our employees with respect.   In return, our employees were very helpful to them and also treated them with respect.

The element of trust is very important.  Annemarie and I enjoyed working with Matthew and Michael at this level since we knew we could trust them without question.   This allowed us to let them into our “inner circle” and to share our thoughts, concerns and aspirations about the business with them.

Matthew and Michael, with their friends, reached a certain level of success with the New York City office over the course of the year that they kept it open.   They came up with some very inventive business plans, expanded the government affairs and networking activities, and worked very hard at developing new business opportunities for USFSB.   In the final analysis, there just was not enough growth to justify the costs of a separate office in New York City.   Eventually, we all came to the conclusion that it was time to close the office and for our children and their friends to move on and get back to their lives where they had left off before USFSB.

Annemarie and I were proud of their efforts and they left USFSB better than they had found it.   We also believed that they learned a lot about business and themselves and that this experience would serve them well in the future.   In fact, both Matthew and Michael have successfully moved on with their lives and careers.

Matthew obtained his masters in civil engineering from Columbia University and recently secured his Professional Engineering License.   He now works for a large engineering firm in New York City helping to oversee a billion dollar project in Brooklyn.

Michael went on to obtain an MBA degree from Columbia University and now works for an up and coming online business in the San Francisco area.

We believe that all of our children have learned and benefit from their involvement with USFSB.  Our son, Joseph, graduated from Syracuse University in 2007 with a degree in Advertising Design and works for a large pharmaceutical advertising agency in New York City.   Our daughter, Julia, is a biology major at Syracuse University (I detect a pattern here) and intends to go on to medical school.

Even though USFSB will not be a career for any of our children, it has had a meaningful and lasting impact and influence on their lives.   They have seen what can be accomplished when a family works together for a common goal.   I believe it is clear that USFSB has still fulfilled its mission of helping to provide our children with the tools and skills to have  productive and rewarding futures.

Come back on Friday to hear Annemarie’s side of the story!