Tag Archives: family

A Generation Gone

Eddie Ladd with his bestie, Fred DiBiase

Eddie Ladd with his bestie, Fred DiBiase

Tomorrow would have been my father’s 89th birthday. It’s also a couple of months into the 30th year since he’s been gone. Over a generation has passed since he died a couple of months shy of his 60th birthday. I don’t think of him that much anymore, but when I do I miss him; sometimes terribly. Like so many men of my generation, I had a very stormy relationship with my father. He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy and had served during World War II, and survived the deadly Murmansk runs through the North Atlantic. I know his time aboard ship affected him deeply. I made the mistake – though not very often – of waking him when I was standing too close to his hands and arms. He did not wake well, especially when I was young. I learned to stand back and gently touch his foot or call out to him.

He was raised by a very stern Russian-Polish immigrant who I never got to meet. Assuming my father learned much of how to be who he was from his father, I figure Max Wladofsky was a stern and difficult man to please. My old man really wasn’t capable of showing too much affection, nor was he capable of much in the way of praise. For years after his death, I found myself thinking (after something special had happened to, or because of, me) “I can’t wait to tell Dad.” Of course, that was followed immediately by the recollection he was gone and would never know of it, or have the opportunity to be proud of me. I wanted desperately to please him. Fortunately, in the final years of his life he and I settled our differences somewhat, and finally began building what I’d like to think would have been a wonderful friendship . . . had he not died so very young.

He really was a loving man, but I believe circumstances conspired to make it difficult for him to show affection and acceptance. He was a member of what we now refer to as “The Greatest Generation”, a generation of hard, stoic men who “saved us from Fascism” and, after the war was won, brought home the bacon. When he left the service, he was able to purchase a modest, new home in Panorama City, a suburb in the San Fernando Valley, just north of Los Angeles. I grew up in the 50s and 60s, and have to say much of my life was pretty idyllic by most standards, thanks to his dedication to his family and his hard work.

He was, I believe, scarred forever by his experiences during the war as well. He never saw combat as a soldier, but he spent weeks aboard ship, in convoys being hunted by German U-Boats and sailing through waters in which hypothermia would have killed survivors of a torpedoed ship within minutes. I doubt many on those ships slept very soundly. I’m sure he didn’t.

I hardly ever saw him when I was a young boy, as he worked six days a week at the Grand Central Market, in downtown Los Angeles. He left the house before I arose and frequently didn’t get home until after I was in bed, asleep. Sundays were usually spent with other members of our extended family and, if memory serves, the adults kept mostly to themselves and the kids played together. I got to know my cousins pretty well, but I didn’t get to know my father until much later.

Because I had been told most of my life that I was exactly like my father, I spent quite a few years after his death thinking 59 would likely be the end of the road for me. Since I’m now 66, I’m thankful that didn’t turn out to be the case. Still, I think I would gladly give up a few years if I could have had a few more to enjoy with my father. I wish he were here so I could wish him one more happy birthday tomorrow. I guess I’ll have to content myself with spending a few minutes writing this post and thinking about him . . . and how much I really do miss him.


Out of the Mouths of Babes

Rick's visor

What Geordi La Forge’s visor would look like if it was designed by the British Royal Family.

My youngest daughter, Alyssa (9), says I need to write more blog posts if I expect people to visit and read. Why didn’t I think of that? I don’t know what it is, but sometime you just don’t have a great deal to say. Sure, I frequently post things to Twitter and even more to Facebook, but this is my blog. This is where I give vent to the things that are most important to me . . . or, is it?

I have to admit I’ve always had trouble writing about certain things, not the least of which is my becoming a first-time adoptive father at the age of 55 . . . and doing it again at 59. I want to write about the experience, but I also have long felt the need to protect my daughters’ privacy. It is, after all, their story to tell, and it’s far more about them than it is about me and my wife. I think there may be a happy medium, however, and I’m close to figuring out what it is.

So . . . here are a few goals of mine. I want to continue writing about some of the things that are of interest to me professionally, e.g. Knowledge Management, Social Media (especially as it affects business and civil society), Politics, and Religion/Philosophy. I also want to share some of my personal experiences, especially those I know are a bit out of the ordinary, e.g. International adoption late in life, retirement, becoming a man in the 1960s (including my political activism back then), and maybe some things for which the statute of limitations has thankfully run or for which the trail of evidence is too dry for me to worry about. :)

This is a process and involves (I think) my re-doing how this site is set up. I’ll be getting to that soon. Right now I’m busy looking for ways in which to supplement my retirement income. I’ll probably be writing a bit more about that as well. I have always been somewhat of a late bloomer. Now I’m just hoping I live long enough to see my latest “career move” come to fruition. I greatly appreciate those of you who take the time to visit and read. I think, perhaps, another goal of mine will be to see if I can’t elicit a few more comments. I wonder if writing about controversial subjects will accomplish that? We’ll see.

Here’s a thought. Anyone interested in the intricacies . . . and the legal and moral issues . . . of International adoption should read this. It’s one of the issues I plan on writing about as I loosen up on the subject. It was not something we thought about prior to our first adoption, but was definitely part of the thought process when we adopted our younger daughter. Now it just haunts me. One of my goals is to live long enough to see my girls to adulthood. Then I’ll be able to discuss it with them. The reality is we just don’t know for sure what happened before they came into our lives. I’d much rather it haunted me, and not them.


Dream On!

I posted the other day about my vision getting to the point where it seems everything I look at has a drop shadow and one of my friends tweeted me the following:

This got me to thinking about dreaming in general. I don’t know about others, but I hardly ever remember my dreams nowadays. I assume I dream because I’ve read we all do and, sometimes, I have somewhat of a recollection of having dreamed. I just can’t seem to recall what it was I dreamed about. I think that’s likely a good thing, as I interpret it to mean I’m not terribly troubled.

Which brings me to nightmares. I suspect if I had a nightmare I would remember it. My eight-year-old has them occasionally and she seems to be able to remember them pretty vividly. On the other hand, my 10-year-old has them but refuses to tell me anything about what they are. Drives me crazy! I want to be able to comfort her, but she’s having nothing of it.

I’ve also come to the conclusion not having nightmares is an indication that I’m pretty well grounded and don’t harbor any unreasonable fears about the unknown or . . . even the known. The closest I come to a nightmare is worrying about having enough money to take care of our bills, maintain our current lifestyle, and have enough left over to send my kids to a reasonably decent institution of higher learning. Trouble with those nightmares is they keep me awake, so they aren’t really nightmares I guess.

Speaking of dreams, the last one I recall vividly happened many, many years ago. It was a couple of years after my father died in 1984, shortly before his 60th birthday. One night I dreamt I was on the beach (I had been living a couple of blocks from the ocean in Playa del Rey, CA for some time) and I ran into him. Now my father and I did not get along all that well for most of my adolescence and a substantial portion of my adulthood. However, we had begun to get to know each other better and were growing quite close when he died. Though I missed him terribly, I was happy we had left none of the really difficult issues unresolved before he was gone.

In my dream, I approached him and asked (somewhat incongruously), “Where have you been?” to which he responded . . . actually, I don’t recall what he said. What I do recall is the dream seemed to last an entire day, during which time I was able to share with him how my life was going and enjoy what was a real deep sense of peace and contentment. We joked, relived some old times, and generally just basked in each others’ glow.

I haven’t dreamed about him since, though I do miss him sometimes. I think the quality of that dream allowed me to move on a little more comfortably with my life. I know it left me with a sense of accomplishment that I still feel the residue of, nearly a quarter century later.

So here’s some unsolicited advice. If you have a parent you are a bit estranged from, make an effort to resolve whatever issues remain. Don’t take a chance of having nightmares after they’ve gone and you no longer have the chance to bury the hatchet. That is all.


Move Along Now. There’s Nothing to see Here.

Be Careful What You Say

So . . . after deciding to open up a bit and start to share a little more of what I want to share, rather than what I think I need to be sharing (mostly business stuff), I’m still struggling with how best to do it and what, exactly, I feel comfortable with writing about. It’s actually bothering the hell out of me that I can’t pull the trigger and get out some posts on the things that matter to me: My children and the circumstances of their joining our family (international adoption); my feelings about the direction our nation is heading in (backward), as well as the responses to it; education as it relates to where our nation is going (both school and life-long); and my thoughts regarding these subjects.

My biggest conflict revolves around my children and how much I can share without violating their rights to their own story. Yes, I believe they have rights like you and I and I wish to respect them. On the other hand, I’ve learned so much from raising them and from dealing with their circumstances and my role in them that I want to share how it’s affected me as well as the things I think need to be done to lessen the burden for them and those like them, many of whom I now call friends and from whom I’ve learned much.

Painful and difficult as it is, I’m determined to write more frequently, though the past few weeks surely haven’t evidenced that. Nevertheless, I intend on pressing on even if I trip, stumble, and fall. I’m deeply thankful to those of you who take time out of your precious day to read what I have to say and I really appreciate the comments I occasionally receive. I’ve sat on this post for far too long, so I’m going to fire it off even if it feels more like a placeholder than anything else.


Facebook and Family. Another Plus

Isadore Edward Wladofsky

My dad during training, circa 1943

My last post was about how Facebook has made it easier for me to remember birthdays and, because of that, send my salutations and good wishes to people I respect and care for. It was meant to be a little bit light-hearted, but not too much. Recently, I’ve had occasion to think about another element of my personal life Facebook has enhanced. For Memorial Day this year I replaced my profile picture with one of my long-deceased father. It was taken at Great Lakes United States Naval Training Center, sometime during his training as a Radioman. Subsequently, he served aboard Liberty ships and LSTs (Tank Landing Ships) and was a participant in at least one of the notorious Murmansk runs. As somewhat of a side note, as a result of researching links to include in this paragraph I discovered that my father was likely in what is referred to as the U.S. Navy Armed Guard, a special group of sailors tasked with defending U.S. and allied merchant ships during WWII.

He never talked about his experiences in much detail, but I know first-hand he never again slept all that well. I learned at a very early age not to be within striking distance if I was asked by my mother to wake him up! I would gingerly grab a foot, shake a bit, then quickly back toward the door. I do know he also acted as somewhat of a ship’s journalist and cartoonist, as he had saved copies of the newsletters he wrote and published. I also know he was quite familiar with Morse code.

So, back to the point of this post. As a result of my putting the picture up (I’ve put it here as well), my niece – my brother’s youngest daughter – saw and commented on the picture and the few words I posted about why I put it up. She commented “Very cool Ricky…I knew he was involved somehow with World War II but I never knew specifics. Thanks for sharing :)”, to which I responded mentioning how I was glad I could share what I remembered before I’m gone as well. She then said “I agree! It is a shame that I never got to meet him, but I always love hearing stories about him, no matter that they are second hand :)”.

It then occurred to me that, despite the problems we’ve all had with Facebook, especially around issues of privacy, I have never connected with my family as completely as I’m able to do through it. I have managed to scan old photos of relatives and share them with my family. Many of them had never seen, and never would have seen, any of them save for my placing them on my wall. I know there are other ways in which I could share and, believe me, I’ve tried many. However, nowhere does such a large group of my family spend time than on Facebook.

I don’t wish to defend anything untoward that Facebook does, and I have no doubt they’ve overreached in some areas. I can’t image serving a customer base of some 3/4 of a billion users without something being amiss now and again, so don’t color me surprised or even terribly offended. I am also not interested in getting into a discussion of how you or someone you know has been wronged by the service or any of their numerous applications. I believe there are more useful forums for that kind of a conversation.

I merely wish to point out the slightly unappreciated capability Facebook has given me (just me, that’s it) to connect with family and friends that I otherwise would likely not have. As social media expands and becomes more useful and sophisticated, I have no doubt there will be rough spots and mistakes (possibly some very big ones) will be made. But, to use an old adage, I don’t wish to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I still like what I’m getting out of the offering . . . and the price is right in my wheelhouse :)


Can We Have a Little Empathy Here, Please?

Happy Birthday, Whoever You Are

And Many More . . . .

I keep discovering new ways that Facebook has changed my life. I began noticing that every time the birthday of one of my FB friends would show up in the top right corner of the page, I would take a moment to click on the person’s name and send them a greeting on their wall. At first I would note how Facebook was slowly eroding the old saw about men never remembering birthdays. Obviously, it wasn’t me who was doing the remembering but, nevertheless, I was aware of the existence of the birthday and was able to extend my wishes for an enjoyable one.

Frankly, I had always felt a little guilty about not remembering birthdays because I kind of enjoy experiencing mine. However, in all honesty the guilt wasn’t quite strong enough for me to always remember when birthdays occurred. I had made some valiant attempts, through entering the dates for most of my family in my Outlook calendar, which I transported from computer to computer over the years . . . sometimes ending up with multiple listings such that I began to tune the whole business out. Additionally, there were recurring periods where I just wasn’t very good at checking my calendar.

This has been an ongoing struggle, but it’s only been 64 years (a week from this Saturday, but I’m not fishing), so perhaps there’s hope for me yet. When I was in the corporate world, it was always one of the things I put down on the mandatory list of items I needed to work on – “improve my use of personal organizational tools to increase efficiency and effectiveness”.

Now I’ve got Facebook, which keeps improving my ability to track things I otherwise never paid much attention to. Of course, birthdays don’t exactly make all that big a difference in my professional life, so there are numerous other tools I’ve come to use. However, the concept of gathering information from my contacts, associates, friends, family, etc. such that I can keep continuously better track of the things that matter to me most, is an awesome thing. Facebook, despite whatever shortcomings we may all ascribe to it, has played somewhat of a major role in this continuous development. For that I’m thankful.

BTW – I was reminded of this cultural shift by Euan Semple, a wonderful blogger and someone I’m happy to say is a Facebook friend of mine. Euan’s birthday is today and he posted the following on his wall: “I turned off posting to my wall because of the amount of hacking Facebook was suffering but doing so just before my birthday and preventing people sending birthday wishes was a bit dumb!” I guess that about explains it for me. I am getting no small amount of joy from being able to send birthday wishes to my friends; all because of Facebook. I like to think, in some small way these acts are bringing us closer together. Has Facebook changed the way you interact with your friends, etc.?


What’s In A Friendship?

I remember the day I realized my Facebook friends consisted of old and new friends, colleagues, and family. My initial reaction was one of horror and despair. The horror was in realizing being myself with one set of “friends” might not be as well understood, or as welcome, by those who were in another set of my “friends.” I was paralyzed, but only momentarily.

Since then I’ve come to accept (or should I say I’ve come to realize my “friends” must accept) the diversity of relationships and viewpoints we all have. Perhaps it is partly because I am not at the beginning of my career, but much closer to the end, and – therefore – I have little need to worry about impressing an HR department. My professional experience is long and varied, running the gamut from very small (2-3 employees) businesses to large (100K plus employees), multi-national corporations. My accomplishments stand on their own and, besides, my main interest is in small business now.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t wish to offend anybody, but I really don’t want to worry too much about somebody not agreeing with or liking what I have to say. If you are a friend of mine, it means I find something valuable in what you have to offer. If we all thought alike, how would we learn anything . . . ever?

So, please forgive me if I offend. My political and religious views are far from mainstream, but I’ve arrived at them through many years of thought, study, and introspection. I am probably far more aware of the intricacies of mainstream thought than others are aware of those I adhere to, yet I have lived quite comfortably with them. I hope you’ll do the same for me. Can’t we all just get along? =;^D


Companies Should Pay Attention to Former Employees

Today, my friend (I consider anyone I can have a decent, useful conversation with on Twitter a friend) Kelly Kraft (@KRCraft) posted a blog asking the question “How much and what kind of a relationship do you have with former employees?” Her experience is much different than mine, though I think her conclusions make perfect sense for any organization contemplating doing as her former org did. The question is not – in my mind and, I think, in Kelly’s – whether or not to have ongoing relationships. Rather, it is what kind of relationships, and how extensive (or intimate), will they be?

KM Through Social Media

Over eight years ago, in response to a perceived need for understanding (and locating) the depth and breadth of expertise at Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power (then a division of Boeing’s Space & Communications business unit – whew!), I did some research and found a company that provided a tool that was a predecessor of many of the social media offerings of today. In my opinion they were way ahead of their time. The tool was called AskMe Enterprise and it offered profiles, Q&A threads (including forwarding, commenting by others, feedback as to quality and efficacy), file and link uploading and sharing, etc. We later had a customization added that provided for posting Lessons Learned and, about four years ago, they added a blogging capability.

Unfortunately, the larger percentage of our workforce (especially leadership and management) adamantly refused to participate. This wasn’t unexpected, however disappointing it may have been, and we continued to use the tool and work on building acceptance by example and through its ever-growing usefulness. Many years ago, I suggested we consider finding a way to stay connected with the constant flood of experienced Engineers, and others, who were retiring or moving on to other pastures. Inasmuch as we had a history of bringing some of those people back as contractors, I thought we might be able to find an inexpensive method of remaining in contact with the majority who didn’t return.

The proposal I thought made the  most sense was to provide retirees with a secure connection to our network and, as compensation for being available for questioning within AskMe, perhaps covering the cost of their Internet connection. I don’t believe anyone took this idea seriously and it essentially died on the vine.

Intellectual Property & Communication

Now here comes Kelly, pointing out how valuable her former organization, Exact Software, has found maintaining continuous relationships with former employees can be. She also addresses the issue of what kinds of relationships make sense for different types of employees. Specifically, she notes the difference between outward-facing, highly engaged employees as opposed to somewhat sequestered, internally focused employees like many of the Engineers I worked with. She is, however, right on the mark suggesting each of them can be successfully engaged.

For instance, she points to her own experience as an Implementation Consultant for Exact and the work she did in the years since, noting there probably isn’t a great deal the enterprise needs to do to engage her. She is also, I believe, referring in part to her use of Twitter to stay in touch. My Engineer friends are not terribly likely to engage using Twitter (or blogging, or anything else that public for that matter). There are considerations of IP protection they can’t afford to ignore, as well as governmental restrictions like ITAR that, contravened, will surely bite them in the ol’ behind. This can be, and has been, quite expensive and can be done somewhat inadvertently.

Nevertheless, as Kelly points out, there are numerous ways in which an enterprise can stay in touch, and engaged, with its former employees. In Rocketdyne’s case – especially – with those employees who have retired and are not working for another company. She is also pointing out, in my opinion, that CRM (or SCRM) isn’t just for sales and marketing to dun customers with either. Social Media have many applications. Many of them are useful for engaging with an enterprise’s customers, but many are also valuable for engaging one’s own employees (current and former). The lunches and parties sound pretty cool, too.

PS – The article she credits me with was a few paragraphs of my opinion of what Hutch Carpenter (VP of Product at Spigit@bhc3) had to say at his blog, “I’m Not Actually a Geek” (which he really is, but you didn’t hear that from me).


Now I Remember!

One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed about Facebook, not including the brouhaha over privacy we’re all acutely aware of – at least most of us are – is how it’s slowly changing my relationship to things I didn’t really used to have a relationship with. I am talking about the manly art of remembering birthdays.

Yesterday, I found myself on Facebook and noticed it was a friend’s birthday. Normally, I don’t pay a great deal of attention to birthdays. Like most men (I think) they come and go and we don’t spend a great deal of time at a Hallmark store poring over dozens of cards, looking for the perfect one to give our friends, etc. As far as I can tell, based on the yearly stories surrounding no less a card-remembering day than Valentines, men are notorious for waiting until the last minute to get something for their girlfriend, wife, etc. – if they get anything at all.

I’m not here to argue whether or not this is a good thing. I suspect my wife will be happier if I remember special occasions each year, though this year we both spaced our anniversary : ). I question whether or not it means anything to my male friends, though I suspect it does to some extent. I think everyone likes to be remembered or to know they’ve been thought of by loved ones and even acquaintances.

So, social media continues to fascinate me. Today I’m off to Boston to attend my first ever Enterprise 2.0 Conference. My goal is to learn what I can but, more importantly, it’s to cement some relationships I’ve been conducting virtually for – in some cases – several years. This is also the first conference I will ever have attended that wasn’t under the auspices of the company I worked for during the last two decades. It’s kind of nice to be doing it on my own dime. Somehow, it seems even more valuable.


Return from Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Falls

All Levels of Yosemite Falls

I was careful not to disclose our location on Twitter recently (well, at least not too blatantly) as I didn’t want anyone figuring out where we lived and coming by and overfeeding our cats or tropical fish. Yosemite Valley was a great place to spend five days camping with two other families, despite the fact the first evening and night were cold and wet. We arrived on Thursday evening and set up our tent in a light, continuous rain – managing to keep reasonably dry. Unfortunately, we immediately discovered we had a couple of minor leaks in the floor and were not able to repair them enough to keep a few small puddles from forming.

Normally, the sound of rain falling  can be quite soothing for me, but that night it kept me awake most of the night. It was coming down hard and I was sure the tent would be flooded or something would collapse and we’d be inundated and miserable for the rest of the trip. The following morning I discovered it had actually hailed during the night, which explained the ferocity of the sounds I had heard at times. Fortunately, though there were some leaks in the tent, for the most part we remained dry through the seemingly endless, cold night.

The following morning I was awakened by what sounded like an elephant pissing outside our tent. I heard our friend’s voice and, being tired from my lack of sleep brought about by anticipation of our tent’s imminent collapse during the rain, I chose to ignore it. I learned later the rain had collapsed the center of an older EZup canopy and the only way it could safely be emptied of the large quantity of water it had managed to accumulate was to take a knife to the center and cut a slit in the canvas. Hence, it was actually the EZup that was pissing. There truly are no elephants in Yosemite Valley, I’m pleased to report.

At any Rate, we had a great time and I just wanted to share a picture of the entirety of Yosemite Falls, which I took with my BlackBerry. I can’t believe how good it came out!


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