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Who’s The Grandparent (or Wise Mentor) Of Your Dreams?

My lovely grandmother, perfectly composed as always, with Katie

Throughout my life, from one decade to the next, I’ve always been so fortunate to have by my side either a grandparent or someone much older than me- a mentor, guide, confidante, and friend offering the perspective and wisdom that only comes with age.

There’s something so healing about being in the company of an elder–someone who has seen life and understands all its challenges and rewards, a subject I wrote about a few days ago in a Blog about my remarkable friend Bud.

Nana Adored My Dog

And the one person who started it all for me is my maternal grandmother, Essie, known in our family as Nana.

There was nothing old-fashioned about this energetic dynamo–who was physically robust, articulate, and up to date on everything, including movies, music, and fashion. Charismatic and fun to be with, she tended to me and my two sisters with incredible devotion–taking care of us together with my Mom, picking us up at school, helping us with our homework, cooking and baking (her signature crumb cake with yellow raisens being one of my favorites), carting me to piano lessons, sunday school, you name it.

My Favorite Picture of Us At My First Book Launch

Her arrival at our house was always cause for great excitement. As I write in my upcoming book:

I became jubilant whenever I saw her car pulling up into our driveway, her yellow tortoise-shell purse catching the light.

Sometimes we’d sit at the kitchen table, laughing for hours as Nana quizzed me on American history, afterwards treating me to her fantastic crumb cake or signature Cream of Wheat.

She also played the piano—usually “The Skating Song,” a popular tune in the silent movie days. But mostly, she’d sit on the bench next to me, encouraging my efforts at the keyboard, (and years later, attending all my piano recitals.)

When I was hospitalized in my 20’s for a stomach ailment, there she was, nursing me back to health; a few years later, when my first book was published, she was next to me at Barnes & Noble, smartly dressed, as I signed copies.

And five years after that, we marketed Nana’s shortbread meringue cookies, dubbed “Essie’s Crumby Dessert Squares…The CrumbiestYou Ever Had.” Katharine Hepburn, Peter Jennings, Nancy Reagan, Calvin Klein, and Paul Newman all raved about them, giving her endorsements. They were sold at Bloomingdale’s and led to such newspaper headlines as: “Top Stars Clamoring for More Of Buffalo Grandma’s Cookies.” And: “Cookies Turning A Grandmother Into Rising Star.” There was Nana being interviewed on television and signing autographs! (Just click on the picture that says “Cookie Maker To The Stars” to see my grandmother’s famous fans!)


In short, Nana was remarkable in every way—and with me, every step of the way. Like any great grandparent–she was a protective guide, loving us unconditionally and

teaching us about what was right and what was wrong–how to behave, and what to be careful about.

I’m sure you’ve had a grandparent who you were especially close to, who influenced your life profoundly, and whom you miss.

Years after I’d left home and moved to New York, when my grandmother was in her final years and ailing, she was still no less interested or central in my life. And she would always send her fond regards to another great matriarch I’d met, my down-the-hall neighbor, Pearl, who became, in a sense, my co-grandmother. Pearl is the one of the key stars of my book, an octogenarian who we all nicknamed Granny.

In fact, when Family Circle magazine wrote about Pearl’s influence on all the main characters in the book–they titled it “Granny Down The Hall.”  And  like Nana, Pearl was always a source of practical advice, laughter, loving support and fun.

At The Piano, Having One of my grandmother's famous cookies!

Family Fun: My Mom, Katie, my sister Debby, and Nana

As I’m writing this, I can feel the tears beginning. Why? Because I would give anything–anything at all–to have both my grandmother and Pearl at my side in September at the Katie Up And Down The Hall launch party and booksigning. After all, it’s thanks to them that I have a story to tell, coloring it with all their heart and lessons learned.

I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since Nana died,  and six since I lost Pearl, because it seems like just yesterday we were all laughing on the phone, playing with Katie, having dinner together, our little family circle complete.

In short, Nana and Pearl were  the grandmothers of my dreams….and I miss them both more than I can say.

And so, on this day when I’m thinking about these two great women (and about my fantastic Uncle Jack who, at age 94, sadly passed away today, another incredibly wise and loving friend)–tell me about the grandmother, grandfather, or older mentor of your dreams. How did they enrich your life and what are your favorite memories?

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GRATITUDE: THE PRAYER OF THE ENLIGHTENED

Posted June 10th, 2010 in Dogs, Family, Friendship, New York, Reflections by Glenn Plaskin

A few days ago, at an all-day media coaching conference at Hachette Book Group USA, a group of four authors with upcoming books–myself included–had the rare opportunity of being coached for our upcoming radio and T.V. appearances.

Joel Roberts

Leading the way were brilliant media experts Joel and Heidi Roberts. Joel is a veteran prime-time talk radio host-turned-corporate media coach, and his partner and perspicacious wife Heidi, is an award-winning TV producer, both indispensable in their astute observations of the day. They were joined by well-known TV producer, publicist, and media coach, Tom Martin.

And as the long 8-hour day unfolded, with each of us receiving critiques of our presentations and being drilled over and over again about how to effectively hone our messages concisely for a national audience–I found myself filled with the one thing that often eludes me–Gratitude.

Heidi Roberts

Why was this the case? Well, there I was surrounded by my Hachette family–the group of people I’ve grown to know so well, each of them expertly helping to launch my book, KATIE UP AND DOWN THE HALL, including the great publicity director Shanon Stowe, Internet geniuses Kelly Leonard, Valerie Russo, and Anna Balasi, Hachette’s marketing guru, Martha Otis, not to mention Editorial Director, Harry Helm, my brilliant editor and book’s greatest champion.

Everyone this day was drawing together, supporting one common mission, making each of our book launches successful.

In the end, this wasn’t just about ego or making money. It was about pulling together as a TEAM. And when I left the day behind–I carried with me something just as valuable as the lessons of the media training–i.e., a profound feeling of thankfulness.

Tom Martin and You Know Who!

In an article I wrote about gratitude for Family Circle, I remember one wise interview subject telling me that the glass isn’t just half-full; it’s always full. Opportunity doesn’t knock just once, it’s always knocking.

Yet, racing through a daily marathon of household chores, obligations at work, and

short-term goals, how many of us take our good fortune for granted, focused solely on what we don’t have?

Perhaps money, time or love may seem to be in short supply. Maybe we don’t have the body we’d like, or the right car or house. Even worse, a crisis of some kind may be intruding upon us. So narrowly fixed on these perceived lacks and problems are we that our days are saturated with panic, irritation, worry, and a sense of deprivation: the tendency to compare and despair steadily depleting us at every turn.

This thankless attitude–or ‘stinkin’ thinkin’,  a phrase humorously coined by 12-step recovery groups–can lead to chronic backaches, ulcers, headaches, depression, and multiple addictions, say medical experts who chart the connection between body and mind.

Today, many health-care specialists,  therapists, and spiritual counselors believe that the solution to such a commonplace dilemma is a simple, yet profound one: putting gratitude into your attitude–”waking up” from an ungrateful mind, and allowing ourselves to appreciate the so-called ‘little things’ in life, that aren’t little at all.

How often do we disregard a bright moon, the taste of an apple, a child’s laughter, or the welcome wag of our dog’s tail? In a perpetual rush, we may ignore the smell of freshly-mown grass, a friend’s concern, the feel of sand in our toes, or the miracles of  technology–not to mention how well our arms and legs work, and how terrific it is to breathe and experience our senses.

What, then, is true gratitude? And how can we cultivate it? I just start by counting my blessings–and find that I have a very very long list. So will you!

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A New Side Of Joan Rivers Revealed At The Tribeca Film Festival

Posted May 6th, 2010 in Celebrity, Reflections, Reviews by Glenn Plaskin
Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers

If you want to know something truly personal and revealing about the Joan Rivers nobody knows, go see the gripping film I saw last night at the Tribeca Film Festival titled Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.

You can read into that title many things, as Joan—a longtime friend, interview subject (and fellow dog lover)—is wildly irreverent, controversial, hilarious, even offensive to the delicate sensibilities of some—but at the very least, she’s the hardest-working woman in show business. Her work ethic is without peer.

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The L-Factor: Likeability—the True Key to Success

Posted May 5th, 2010 in Health, Reflections, Self-Help by Glenn Plaskin
Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

Throughout my life, there are times when I’ve erred on the side of being too directive and exacting, wanting desperately for something to work out exactly as I imagined it.

This—more often than not—is a mistake, for people don’t respond to being pushed or overly controlled. That’s for sure. Whereas, the ability to take an action and let the results go is the greatest relief in the world. It not only relieves stress but it also makes you a lot more likeable which is one of the greatest secrets to success.

Whether it’s Oprah Winfrey or your favorite neighbor down the block—the thing that makes you want to “tune in” to someone is their overall likeability.

Have you ever noticed that when two people are up for the same job, more often than not, it’s the person who is the most likeable who gets the job? regardless of their particular qualifications. The ability to establish rapport is essential in life, I’ve discovered, and there are specific ways you can do it.

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