Posts Tagged ‘ family ’

Crowdsourcing My Own Biography

I have a favor to ask of you.  I want you to write something about me.  It could be anything — a memory of me, an experience weImage shared together, a relationship we have had and maintained, a relationship we had and left off, a first impression you remember about me, an overall impression of me that you have…it can be anything.  It can be good, bad, or indifferent.  I want it to be anything that you think my family, friends, or the rest of the world would want to know about me.  

Here’s the thing:  I will never know what you write.  

Every single thing that you write will be sent to a third party who is sworn to keep it sealed and locked away until my death.  Let me give you a bit of the backstory.

Since high school, my dear friend @thehandsomeweasel and I have looked ahead excitedly in anticipation of what our futures might hold.  You know — all of those “firsts” that you just can’t wait to experience, some of the “firsts” you never wanted…we approached everything new as an adventure, really livin’. However, for all of the late night political and philosophical discussions we’ve had, we are still both keenly aware of the fact that, at some point, both of our lives will come to an end.  

I have been an avid journaler for nearly 17 years now (as this link will further explain), and Weasel and I arrived at an agreement one day over beers, at least a decade ago:  If I kick the bucket first, all of my journals will be sent to him, at which point he’ll go through them, pick out some of the passages I’ve written that are really characteristic of “me,” and put them together in a book of some kind, to be given to family and friends who would want to learn a little something about me they maybe didn’t know before.  I hope to provide guidance (or cautionary tales) to my own sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, even after I’m gone.  Afterward, my tomes will be sent back to my wife, who I hope will keep them in good stead.  If Weasel pushes up daisies first, I’ll be happy to perform that same service for him, should he request it of me.  

Some whom I’ve mentioned this idea to have asked with a smirk, “What makes you so sure your wife won’t go first?”  I usually reply by mentioning that my grandparents all lived to between 67 and 77, if memory serves me, whereas Alli’s family has longevity on their side.  Her grandmother passed away a couple of months ago at 93 (I think), and her grandfather is still around and kicking at 95.  I’m fairly certain that, unfortunately, she’s going to have some time to herself.  


The Life And Times Of Gufferson Q Grana

The entire point of this exercise is to take all of the (probably thousands by now) of pages that I’ve written and will write, and distill my life on paper down into something a little more palatable for everyone I care about to read when I’m gone.  It sounds morbid, but it’s not. I want to be remembered for something significant to those I love just like anyone else, and I figure that my journals will do that for my wife and kids (if we have any), as well as for family and friends.  (I wish my Dad had been even an “armchair” writer…there was so much locked in his head that he took with him when he passed away that I’d give anything to hear him talk about now.)  And you are about to contribute to that goal in a really meaningful way.  

So please, do this for me.  Right now.  Take a second to try and remember what you know about me.  What you like(d) about me, what you don’t (or didn’t) like, something great I did, something sh*tty I did, something I did or said to affect you…it doesn’t matter to me, I just want it to be true and authentic so that all of you who survive me in the future can look back and really get a clear picture of who I was at various stages of my life.  Once you do this for me now, you’ll send it to my friend Weasel at (that’s Kevin R Marten @ gmail.comdon’t forget the middle R).  He will take what you send him and sock it away for later compilation.  Also, don’t forget to include your name, your relationship to me, when you knew me, how old we were when we experienced whatever you are sending him, etc.  Details like those will help make it so that you will have real ownership in the shaping of whatever my legacy turns out to be, as those details will be included in the final compilation of my biography.  When you shoot the email, be sure to put “Project SunshineBoy” in the title line, and he will know that you are sending him something related to this project.  (SunshineBoy was a nickname my Dad gave me when I was a kid, supposedly because I smiled all the time.)  Remember, I’ll never read what you write, so don’t be shy.

Also, don’t be shy about this project of mine, either.  Share this on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and whatever else is out there now.  Forward this post on to anyone you know who knows (or knew) me.  The more help I get from you, the more fulfilling it will be to read in the future, long after you’ve forgotten you did it.  It’s free, takes only a couple of minutes of your time, and really could turn out to be something wonderful because of your participation.  

Thanks in advance, and have a great week!!


Fans And Causes

I was talking recently with one of my best friends about the power of sports — how they draw people together, how great the inequities are that athletes are paid so much to do accomplish something of (in the grand scheme of things) so little meaning…Image

One thing that I mentioned while pontificating on what my Dad used to call “The opiate of the masses” was that I, too, get riled up when my team(s) win something great.  It’s silly and I know it, because whatever just happened on TV (or live, if I’m feeling flush with cash I don’t want) isn’t going to bring us peace, or fix the economy, or cure cancer.  I also realize that everyone needs a cause, because humanity is nothing without hope.  

There is a cause for everything with an -ism: feminism, racism, ageism…hell the word itself — activism — is an -ism.  There are fans for everything, too — sports fans, political fans, music fans, book fans, woodworking fans, car fans, plane fans, gardening fans, exercise fans…for every single thing that more than one person could do together (and many that they can’t), there are fans.  

Imagine for a second…what would the world be like if people would take other people and be fans of them?  You know — root for them, contribute time and money to them, push them to perform better and make better decisions?  Hold them accountable?  Think about what would happen if you were the biggest fan of every member in your family.  If their success was your cause.  If you knew more stats about them than about any sports game.  If you fought as hard in discussions and with your money for them as you do for any sports team or politician.

Can you imagine what a world like that would be like?

The Power Of Family Heritage

Any of you out there who have followed me for any length of time may know that I’m really interested in the heritage of my family.  As a kid, I learned through the modeling of my own parents (and their 20 brothers and sisters and in-laws, and my 30-40 first-cousins) that family is the most important thing you can ever have.  Sure, it’s possible to survive without them, but it’ll be far less fun to!


Gram and Grampa DeMasi–my grandparents

My family’s heritage is mostly Italian–we are step-married into Sicilian, English, Norwegian, and Swedsish blood on my Dad’s side, and never really identified with any of them, I guess.  I actually don’t have many pictures at all of the Grana side of the family, either, now that I think of it.  

I’ve been trying to find a way to get my Italian citizenship (or jure sanguinis) to be recognized; basically this is an Italian law that states recognition of citizenship for anyone who can prove a clear bloodline-path back to the Old Country, no matter where you live, or how many generations removed you are.  We are currently missing a long-lost great, great, great grandmother’s birth or death certificate, I don’t remember which.  I think it will ultimately take a trip to Italy, to the town where they were born or passed to find the missing link.  Many countries have some form of similar law, but I believe Italy might be unique in the lack of a generational restriction.

I never knew (as any kid ever does) how important my grandparents would become to me, even so long after they’ve gone.  I wish I could’ve gotten to know them, to know what they know.  I got a Youtube link from my Ma a couple of days ago that really illustrates how the Italian culture in America has evolved, despite everyone’s best efforts.  If you’re Italian and want a trip down memory lane, or aren’t Italian and are interested in how the culture and customs were back then, take a look.  If you want a good laugh, take a look at this clip about the conversational pitfalls that happened to “The Italian Man Who Went To Malta.”


A Look At My Own Family, Christmas 2009.  Me (oldest), Chris, Ma, Dad, and Greg (youngest).

Our family has grown and changed since this picture was taken…all three of us kids are married, my sister and brother in-law have two kids, and sadly, Dad passed away in January of 2010.  Just goes to show that no matter how annoying pictures are to take at the time, they will be so tightly clung-to later on.

If you are Italian and living in the US, you ought to check out your local Order Sons of Italy in America chapter (yes, women are welcome).  My wife and I attended our first meeting (which was kind of a trial-run) this past Saturday evening.  We were the youngest folks there by (easily) a quarter-century, but the folks we met have so much to give in the way of stories and knowledge, and it’s their passion and goal to pass on the culture so that it doesn’t die out here in the US, as time goes on.  

This particular meeting had a live performance; the former president’s husband is a concert pianist, and has a nine foot grand piano in his living room, and he and a professional floutist friend of his played three separate classical works by different Italian composers as a “culture/history lesson,” of sorts, for the crowd of 12 that were there.  Then we had a potluck dinner, and had a short language lesson before departing for the evening.  The food…I’m telling you–homemade antipasto, gnocchi, baked zucchini, chicken, salad, and three kinds of bread–add that to the red wine, and I felt like I was at home again.  We all left around ten o’clock, but these were the type of folks that you could sit and chat with all night.  I’m looking forward to meeting with them once again.

Is anyone out there involved with OSIA?  And even if you aren’t Italian–do you have any great stories to do tell about how your family is connected to major people or events throughout history?  



In Communicado

Hey All!  I hope that your weekend has been relaxing, and your upcoming week will be moving along splendidly.  Mine is shaping up to be interesting, to say the least.  Lately, I have been back in the rhythm of learning and doing new things on a fairly regular basis, and it feels fantastic!

One end for talking, the other for LISTENING.

This week, I got an email from Chris Brogan like I usually do on Sunday mornings, and its focus was on something that I continually strive to be better at:  Communication.  You may remember that I shamelessly plugged Chris’ company (Human Business Works) once before, and as before, I am not being paid in any fashion to promote his products.  The guy just puts amazing content into my email box for free, and I wanted you to know.  This is an example of great stuff spreading by word of mouth.

This morning’s newsletter talked about communication in a very interesting way.  Actually, the message of this morning’s “discussion,” as it were, was more along the lines of, “If you share/repost/reblog someone’s stuff, give them credit for it because it’s the awesome thing to do,” but here’s what I took from it:

This guy  puts some great content on Twitter (a site I rarely use to post 147 characters of useless information about my lunch), and Chris linked to it.  I clicked, and found something really interesting–which is the focus of my own message today.

As I read down the list of his Ten Commandments Of Conversation, I couldn’t help but nod my head.  I cannot tell you how many folks I come across whose ultimate goal is to convince me of a particular political idea, or complain about something, or dream out loud about things they may or may not ever do, or tell me every last detail of the way their first love ended, even if it was twenty years ago.  I used to think that everyone found what I had to say interesting, until I began to realize that if I’m talking to someone and thinking about other things, they must have been thinking that about some of the things I was saying to them.  In fact, I’ll never forget once when I was in college, I was catching up with my brother one night on the phone, and he cut me off with a, “Dude, get to the point.”

The truth is that when you communicate with someone, it would be helpful to imagine that you can only communicate your message to that person in writing.  Can you imagine how long a rant of yours would take to literally write out on a piece of paper?  You wouldn’t bother.  You’ll sit there and ponder for a second what your message really is, so that you can get it down on paper in (something close to) the least amount of words it will take you to.  Speak as if you were writing, and you will train yourself to hone the message you are trying to convey down to the simplest, most essential points.

You may feel it, but resist it. Smile the whole time. It goes a looooong way!

Combine this technique with the other Commandments (by using your one mouth half as much as your two ears) and people will walk away from a conversation with you with fond memories in their head, and not even give it a thought as to why.  I’ve had people talk “at” me for upwards of 45 minutes, and the entire time, I am the one coaching the conversation along.  I’ll ask pointed questions, get them to tell me about the things that matter most to them–family, home life, pets, jobs, egos, goals, how they’re getting ahead…I’m telling you, some of these folks greet me very fondly on a regular basis, and they don’t know hardly a thing about me.  Why?  For no other reason than they haven’t taken the time to ask.

It feels great when someone wants to know things about you, doesn’t it?  Well, if your goal is to help those around you to be more comfortable in your presence, just ask questionsand actually listen to the answers.  Remember them for future reference.  In fact, if you really want to get crazy with it, you can do what Bill Clinton (one of the best networkers of our time) did and keep track of those you meet.  It doesn’t even matter if this person bores you to no end–if their only interaction with you induces happy chemicals in their head, they will remember you fondly when they get promoted from newbie desk jockey to branch manager.  Whether you know it or not, you guide every person, every day into the place in your life that you want them.  If you want to get ahead, guide those people into a place that makes them feel great about you.  The rest will work itself out.

The point is that everyone you meet is judging you.  Your face, your body, your clothes, your breath, your skills…they are making judgments on every single little signal that comes through when you communicate with them.  Your job is to convince them that you are worth every second of their time (and you are.)  It’s ironic that the easiest way to do that is to get them talking about themselves, but ignore the irony and focus on the fact that it works.  You’ll be happy that you did.

So…who’s got troubles with those around you?  Caustic people?  The guy with terrible breath?  The guy/gal who wears things to work that no one has any business wearing to work?  The person who dominates every conversation?  The condescending/micromanaging/unconfident/overly-involved-in-your-personal-life/lackadaisical boss?  If you’d like an opinion on how to handle certain people, I’m sure anyone reading here will be happy to help.  We only want the best for you, so if you need a hand with a certain situation, feel free to comment here.  The advice may (or may not) be backed up by PhD graduates, but either way, it’s free!

Here’s to a great week!

GEESH…It’s December Already!

It’s been a turbulent year for me, to be honest…I went through no less than three jobs as an aircraft mechanic before finding the one I’m actually happiest doing (instructing maintenance), and it was mainly because I became disenfranchised by the industry.  Somewhere along the way (beginning about 5 years ago), I lost the hunger to be around airplanes when my work became mundane, routine, and financially limiting.  Inspections, for example, are what I know pretty well.  There is no better way than by doing an inspection to get to know an airplane inside and out.  It’s also boring as hell (to me) after about the third time around, because nothing changes.  Some people thrive on doing the same thing over and over again, becoming an expert in that task or area…not me.  I get bored too easily.  Goal

The other area of aircraft maintenance is called “line maintenance”–it is an entirely different set of tasks, very time-sensitive work.  The pressure is on when you’ve got a plane full of people staring at you, trying to literally will you to fix the plane so they can leave town–and you don’t even know what the problem really is yet.  This type of work tests your mettle as a mechanic, because it is very much systems-based troubleshooting that you need to be good at.  I enjoy this area of maintenance, though I’m not particularly good at it.  Regardless, the money isn’t there.  When I’ve got 12 people in the lobby waiting on their private jet to be ready to fly–12 peoples’ lives in my hands–and I’m not even making $50K a year to do it, the money-to-responsibility ratio just isn’t there for me.  At that point I am beholden to everyone but God to do things right, or 12 families will be devastated, and I’m not making good money as an eight year mechanic?  Not worth the time, in my opinion.

The last half of this year has been wonderful (though slow) and filled with experiences I haven’t had before.  I earned my real estate license, managed to find my first clients (or rather, they found me), and I’m working my tail off to make sure they are well taken care of, in addition to working full-time as an instructor.  I honestly don’t even know where the last few months have gone.  I’m pretty introspective by nature, but the last time I really took stock of my life, it was July!

I can’t wait to see where this next year takes me.  I will make the switch to doing real estate full time as soon as I can–the more I talk about it casually with friends at parties, the easier it comes to me.  A full-time real estate agent works hard, but literally gets paid to talk to people–something I’ve been doing naturally (and for free) since I was a kid.

I hope that your holidays are happy and bountiful.  My family is Italian, and I’m genuinely grateful every year that I get to make it to Christmas dinner.  Only if you’ve been there can you appreciate the food–the homemade pasta and meatballs, the pizzelles and cannoli…oh man, it’s really a great way to culminate a whole year’s worth of working hard and taking care of business.  I hope you get to have endless amounts of your family’s Soul Food, and I hope that everyone who comes in from out of town is safe and sound doing so.

As we roll down the calendar to the New Year (provided we make it past December 21st), I hope that things in your life are going how you planned them to be.  Mine are right now, but not without some significant time and effort on my part.  In order to break out of the norm and steer your life toward wealth, health, more friends, less drama, convenience, or fulfillment…it really does take work.  Not, “Well, I hope this happens” kind of work, but real, hard, “This is what I need to do to start getting there” work.  If you’re already there, God bless you.

I hope this post finds you all well, and there will be more to come.  In the event that I miss you, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year 🙂


Winter’s Doldrums…

I used to think that Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) was a bunch of excuses for why lazy, whiny people aren’t happy during the winter.  I’m sure there are all kinds of studies which make SAD a legitimate condition–a lack of sunlight produces a lack of Vitamin D which somehow affects the dopamine levels in your head, for example–but my goal here is not to prove or disprove it.  I know exactly what causes my irritability and frustration levels to go up, and my patience level to go down, each year around this time.  I’m working to change these factors (or cope with them), but here it is.

My Dad’s been gone for a couple of years now, and it still hurts during this time of the year–his birthday is November 28th.  He would have been 68 in a few days here.  As it gets colder and greyer out each year around this time, I am constantly reminded that his birthday is in November, he won’t be there at Christmas in December, and he passed away in January (the 8th).  This part of the year more or less sucks for me (and my siblings and Mom), and that’s why.

There are other things that happen each year that don’t help things much–like rarely being able to make it home for Thanksgiving, and always having to beg, borrow, and steal for time off from work around Christmas–but these are things that will change as my career changes, at least.  This year, I’m merely frustrated at our financial situation because we can’t sustain taking two weeks off around the holidays to be with family (who can, these days?)…that time is so precious to us that it is Christmas gift enough just to give our families a hug in person.  But again, I have hope that my efforts this year will change that for next year.  It’s one thing to lack money, but another entirely to lack optimism. 

I guess it’s mere coincidence that Dad’s months of birth and death make a sandwich with Christmas, but it’s why SAD is true for me, at least.  I know that all of you have painful anniversaries and memories that are tied to the calendar in some way, and it occurs to me that SAD is a real thing, no matter what time of year it happens to you.  When is your SAD season?  I appreciate you listening to me, and if you decide to share, I promise to listen to you.

Making The Distance A Little Smaller…

I have this fantasy (it’s a goal, actually) that I’m currently working toward, as I find my footing in the real estate business.

Black circles are where everyone’s from. I want us all in one place some day!


See, all of my family, and most of my wife’s, live in the Chicagoland area.  I’ve lived away from the Chicago area for a sum total of nearly ten years now–2 of them in college, and the past 8 for various reasons–and it has made things difficult when it comes to having access to family.  When I was living in Salina, KS during college, I couldn’t make it in for several cousins’ weddings, and one cousin’s funeral because I had no money or transportation.

Having further lived in Wichita, Tucson, and now outside DC does not make things easier.  In December of 2009, Alli and I went home for a week for Christmas.  When my Dad passed away suddenly the next month (January 2010), I dropped everything and drove home for a week.  The following month, I went home to see my brother marry the love of his life.  Three trips home in three months.  I had no paid time off built up for any of it.

The goal that I am working toward right now will be one of my life’s biggest accomplishments once it happens:  I want to get everyone I care about in one place for at least a weekend–a ski trip, or maybe a cruise.  I was thinking about what it would take to accomplish this a couple of days ago, and I didn’t realize the sheer magnitude of the number of people I would want to be there.  My extended family on both sides is enormous (I grew up with 22 aunts and uncles, each with two to four kids), and Alli’s whole family would probably be another  thirty to forty people.  But beyond that is how scattered everyone is.  I haven’t made any kind of head count yet, but I personally have family or dear friends from the states of IL, KS, AZ, OK, TX, VT, WI, VA, CO, LA and FL.  Eleven states.

It’s been my goal since I got into real estate to make enough money to fund quicker and easier access to friends and family, but it just hit me recently how cool it would be to make my wish of having everyone in the same place actually come true.

There’s one key point about this goal that will make me happy to see it all happen:  As my wife mentioned, “Well, I’m sure you’ll reach your goal if you die.”  Heh…the goal is to be alive for it the first time.  I guess she’s right, though–part of my legacy has been set in motion already, and I have no real control over it.  *wink*

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