Monday, July 27, 2009

Life Lessons and The Art of the Handshake

Thanks to everyone for sticking it out during my little summer blogging break. I not so much decided to take a summer hiatus, as it just seemed to be one of those times when everything else around me was taking all that I had, that I didn't have anything left for myself.

Sometimes I feel like I have two realities. I have the reality that is everyday life, with happiness, sadness, ups and downs little and big (and at some points, down right Mumbo Jumbo!). And then I have this wonderful little reality that I've created in blogland, complete with a whole host of friends who are funny, creative and inspiring. But sometimes, my realities don't feel like they mix into one seamless existence and this was one of those times. I am truly grateful for the positive energy, inspiration and people that blogging has introduced me to. It challenges me, excites me and fulfills me in ways I never expected. But there are some times when my created blog reality doesn't seem to go hand in hand with my actual reality.

Two weeks ago I lost a very important man in my life. After a lengthy battle with cancer, my Grandfather passed away and left a hole in our family that we will never fill. The reality of moving on from that just didn't seem appropriate for a blog about wallpaper and watches. But when I came back and was catching up on everything that had been happening here, the posts I found myself reading closely, were the ones that were honest about blending daily reality in with our daily inspirations. My grandfather was larger than any reality I know, able to move mountains as if they were made of feathers. He challenged me to pursue a career I was passionate about and to take pride in everything that I do. There are no two greater lessons that you can leave your children and grandchildren with and he taught them by example.

I had the privilege of sharing some thoughts about another lesson that this important man imparted on me at his memorial service and I've received a lot of letters and emails about it since. I thought I'd share a little bit:

The Art of the Handshake

A proper handshake is truly an art form. Eye contact, a firm grip, a fluid shake and a warm smile. I learned from the best. My grandfather had a formidable handshake-firm, solid and strong. From the time I was little, when others patted my head as a sign of hello, my grandfather stuck out his hand as if I was his equal. As a child, I would look at him with a perplexing stare and timidly stick out my arm to mimic his behavior. Each time I put my small, limp hand in his, he would say, "That's not a real handshake. Shake my hand like you mean it. You gotta let people know that you're here!"

The social lessons of this were above the grasp of my young mind, but I did as he said, griped his palm firmly and gave it a good shake. What he knew that I was still learning was the lesson of every self-made individual. That in life, no one is going to believe in your abilities if you don't believe in them yourself. And, how are people going to know you are there, if you don't stand up and tell them.

I grew older, went away to college, and then to graduate school and finally moved away to the city to take a job. I often meet people for the first time, extend my hand in greeting and hear back "That's a mighty handshake (usually followed by some kind of comment about women, which I attempt to ignore). You don't find many people with a good, solid handshake anymore." And I smile and think that my grandfather would be proud.

Each of us have our own memories of this man who meant so many things to so many individuals. As we pause from our daily activities to celebrate the life of this husband, father, grandfather and friend, please extend your hand to those around you, give them a good firm handshake and let my grandfather know that you are here.

My grandfather and I before and event during his last trip to DC

The intertia to get myself going again after a little time away was harder than I expected, yet strangely I found myself constantly scribbling things down or snapping pictures of things that I wanted to share with everyone. I'm happy to be back and maybe inching my way to that never achieved goal of balance. Back to the wallpaper and watches tomorrow, I promise!



  1. Although I'm a new reader, I wanted to say that I'm sorry for your loss. Your words about the art of the handshake are so true and touching, and I have a hunch that your grandfather would be so proud that you're continuing to remember his lessons and his legacy.

  2. Dear Abby,
    What a lovely and loving tribute. Your grandfather will live on in you. He has prepared you well: lead with your passion and meet life head on, eye-to-eye, firmly and respect. Live your life like you mean it. So sorry for the loss, the hole in your heart. Keep your memories close.

  3. Abby,
    I only met your grandpa Frank a few times, but I do recall his handshake. He was certainly a man with a presence, and I know he would be proud of your tribute to him. The way you are living your life is a tribute to him as well. Take care. We love you.