On Meeting Robin Williams, Twice in a Lifetime

A sweet story of Robin Williams in the part of…an ordinary man. Hugs to this generous soul for allowing us to see the humble side of a genius.
………hugmamma.

Obzervashunal

Robin Williams memories As a remembrance to one of the greatest comedic minds of our times… R.I.P., Robin W.

I only just learned he passed. I found the news on a blog post and instantly recalled the two times I met the incredibly gifted artist, named Robin Williams.

The first instance was a chance meeting, me walking down an unassuming sidewalk at dusk stuck in my thoughts when a puppy jumped on my leg. I didn’t do much thinking, I simply bend down and started playing with him. The voice offering an apology was one I knew also without the use of my thinking apparatus, Robin Williams was saying sorry for his puppy… who couldn’t talk (I think!).

We actually talked for a few minutes, mostly about the puppy. I remember having the feeling he needed not to be recognized, but to be treated like a regular guy walking a friendly, cool puppy. …

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good samaritan #11

Saw CBS hit show “Undercover Boss” last night, and realized I had to write about this particular segment when I saw that my husband was tearing up along with me, routine for me, not for him. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the reality show, it follows a corporate CEO who shows up at company work sites to witness the day-to-day operations, first hand.

Kim Schaefer, CEO of Great Wolf Resorts, is the first female boss to do the show. Changing her appearance, with a new haircut and color, she, with camera crew in tow, pretended to be a stay-at-home mom being filmed for a reality TV show. Dressed down, that is, not in her usual suit and high-heels, Schaefer buddied up with an employee in each of the following areas: the day care center, the water park, the front desk and the restaurant. I’m pretty sure some, if not all, were at different locations, of which there are 10 throughout the country.

As a result of her findings, Schaefer reported back to her management team that  no drastic changes needed to be made, but there were things that needed tweaking. Front desk registration took too long, sometimes up to 15 minutes, causing long lines to form. The sweltering heat in the water park was great for guests, but unbearable for employees. Schaefer asked managers responsible for these departments to look into making the necessary modifications. She went on to say the company should look for ways to acknowledge its appreciation to its employees, for their dedication and great service. Credits at the conclusion of “Undercover Boss” noted that Great Wolf Resorts is now rewarding all its employees by allowing them free access to any of its locations for family vacations.

Schaefer acknowledged that while her motivation to go undercover was prompted by her position as CEO, her on-the-job experience as working stiff reverberated with her as that of a working mom. “My expectations were that I was going to come in as a CEO and look at it through the eyes of the CEO…It ended up being about the people and me as a working mom.”

At the show’s start, Schaefer was shown with her family, her husband who enjoys being a stay-at-home dad to 2 teenage children, a son and a daughter. Schaefer acknowledges that she is passionate about working, that she couldn’t imagine not dedicating herself to a job outside the home. In observing the family dynamics, it’s obvious she is a loving mom and appreciative spouse. She looks and behaves nothing like the domineering, sharp-tongued, controlling Miranda Priestly in the movie “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Unlike Meryl Streep’s character, Kim Schaeffer seems perfectly capable of being a top-notch CEO while maintaining the warmth of a normal, human being who loves her husband, children, and yes, even her employees. In the “great reveal,” Schaeffer invites to corporate headquarters, the 4 Great Wolf Resorts employees whom she shadowed during filming. Each arrives separately for a meeting with the CEO, unsuspecting that they’ve already met, albeit under very different circumstances.

I couldn’t help but think, as I’ve thought before, that moms would make the best bosses, the best leaders. That’s not always true, as in Sarah Palin’s case, in my opinion. But Kim Schaefer was as warm and unassuming in her CEO attire, as she had been in a camp counselor’s get-up, aquatic assistant’s shorts, waitress’ uniform, and receptionist’s drab garb. Schaefer spoke from the heart, reaching across her desk to hold the employee’s hands in hers. Her appreciation for their service was genuine, as were her tears. Her words weren’t “office speak.” They were the language of compassion, of empathy, for the plight of the working man and woman. 

To each of the four, Schaefer made a personal gift in addition to promotions and pay raises. For the mom who supervised kids in day care, her daughter was given a full scholarship to college. The young man who oversaw aquatic operations would realize his dream of becoming a pilot, with fully paid flying lessons. The receptionist who suffered with knee problems because of a bad fall would not only have surgery, but would be guaranteed the day shift so that she could better parent her children as a single mom, and some extended time off to be with them.

The most heart-wrenching to watch were the tears shed between Schaefer and the waitress, who’d lost a 9-year-old daughter years earlier in a car accident. Of all her employees, this woman resonated the most with her boss who realized how precious her own daughter, and son, were to her. The waitress’ positive attitude about life, “I live each day as if it were my last,” and “I do my job, regardless of the size of my tips,” was an amazing testament to her character. The fact that she worked double shifts to support her family, including a baby, moved Schaeffer to cut her employee’s work hours without reducing her pay, by making her a floor supervisor. In this capacity she would impart valuable customer service experience to others.  And she was also given extended vacation leave to enjoy her family.

As I said before both my husband and I wiped a few tears from our eyes, watching CEO Kim Schaefer interact with her employees. I even said to him, he should keep his eyes and ears open if he ever heard that someone was looking to hire an amazing person to run their operation.

from my lips to bill gates ears…hugmamma.

Following are the 10 Great Wolf Lodges and their locations:

  • Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
  • Poconos PA, Scrotun, PA
  • Grapevine TX
  • Charlotte, Grand Mound WA
  • Mason OH
  • Williamsburg VA
  • Kansas City KS
  • Traverse City MI
  • Wisconsin Dells
  • Sandusky OH     

McGarrett, no replacement

As I sit typing away at the keyboard, Steve McGarrett’s face lights up the TV screen behind me. The low, husky voice is enough to conjure up the handsome Jack Lord. I’m reminded that in “Hawaii Five-O’s” heyday, I had a crush on the actor. So while I was disappointed in his marriage to someone other than me, I took comfort in his wife’s dark-haired good-looks as indicative of Lord’s preference for exotic types.

Beyond Lord’s presence in the series, “Hawaii Five-O” was a favorite of locals because it was filmed in the islands. The production company’s home base was located a few miles from my mother-in-law’s house. Filming on location meant natives would be used not only as extras, but possibly in featured roles as well. I think one or more of McGarrett’s  detectives were island men. Not only did the series provide jobs for locals but they, along with the islands as a backdrop, gave the show authenticity. Viewing the show I could identify every place they filmed, streets, buildings, restaurants, night clubs, malls, parks, beaches, hotels, churches, temples, airports and more. It was thrilling to see local celebrities like Danny Kaleikini and Genoa Keawe perform. Don Ho also guested but wasn’t a favorite of locals, who viewed him as a cheesy rendition of the true Hawaiian artist. Besides, Ho was always seen with a drink in his hand. Islanders did not relish being dubbed as slap-happy alcoholics to an audience of television watchers.

While not knocking the socks off of critics, the dramatic series entertained “Hawaii Five-O” fans for years. I know my family watched it with regularity. We probably set our dinner schedule around its time slot. After all, watching the show was like witnessing real life as it unfolded on our streets, in our homes, in our work places, among our people. We weren’t watching look-a-likes, so imagining that “Hawaii Five-O” was about us wasn’t far-fetched. And Jack Lord imbued the Hawaiian spirit, if not in looks then in his love of the islands and its people. During the series and through his retirement, he and his wife lived in Honolulu, calling it home. We were as enamored of the man, as he was of Hawaii, its culture and the natives. So while another reprise of the TV series is in the offing, there’ll never be a replacement for Jack Lord, the one and only Steve McGarrett. I wonder if the theme song will be updated as well; the old one is like “comfort food.” Right now, watching the original “Hawaii Five-O”, I’m remembering the “good old days” of my youth.

they can try, but…hugmamma.

a very special mom

Rather than wait for Mother’s Day a year from now, I wanted to acknowledge the extraordinary love of a mom for her children. She no longer lives nearby, instead moving to be with her daughter in another state after the dissolution of a 26 year marriage.

Our daughters were both aspiring to be ballerinas, hers a few years older than mine. For a brief period, I worked with my friend at the dance school where our children studied. She’d been there longer, having been a fixture shortly after its inception and continuing well after my daughter left to train elsewhere. 

Friends because of our daughters’ shared passion for dance, we knew of each other’s tribulations. Through the years, hers became more and more challenging. Both her daughter and a slightly younger son seemed on the verge of promising stage careers. Unfortunately they were sidelined by life changing illnesses.

The daughter pursued ballet with a passion that was singular. The son was touted as an up and coming actor in musical theatre. They were strikingly handsome, pale complexions framed by hair the color of espresso. The daughter was tall and elegant, the son equally tall yet casual. Their mom was understandably proud of both.

Without warning both children suffered illnesses that were difficult to diagnose. First, the daughter experienced digestive issues which have until this day gone unresolved. But through it all she, and her mom, have weathered the ups and downs with as much vigor as they could muster. 

Some years later the son developed serious sleep deprivation which affected life as he knew it. His situation also remains unresolved. But as with his sister, his mom has helped him press forward to live his best life.

In the midst of my friend’s ongoing crises, she and her husband went their separate ways. She never faulted him, at least not publicly. She may have vented privately with those who loved and cared about her well-being. She started a new life near her daughter, and is finally reaping personal rewards of which she is so deserving. My blogging has brought us back in touch. I’ve learned that she is once again enjoying her lifelong love for singing, in a church choir. And she is acting in small theatre plays! She has earned the spotlight. She is not just a survivor; she takes life by the “horns” and rushes headlong into each day. She’s never asked “Why me?” She’s always demanded to know “What can I do?” And she’s always answered her own question.

she has taught me to live life, as it is…hugmamma