Breakfast with the Ancestors

This past weekend my wife Margie and I participated in a fun event we call Breakfast with the Ancestors. Margie made a couple of egg casseroles, our friend Mike baked some banana bread, and we took our feast out to a little cemetery at the end of the lake.

It all started many years ago when my sister, Sandy, passed away tragically at the age of 42. My grieving mom didn’t know where to bury Sandy. That got Margie and me thinking about mortality, and where our family might want to be buried someday.

When Margie asked her mom where she and her dad would like to be buried, her mom didn’t hesitate to answer. “On the hill in that little cemetery at the south end of the lake, in the town of Scott,” she said.

So back in the 1970s Margie and I bought five plots in that cemetery—with lifetime perpetual care—for the exorbitant price of $50 each! We got a plot for my sister, Sandy, a pair of plots for Margie’s mom and dad, and a pair of plots for ourselves.

Today, Margie’s mom and dad and my sister, Sandy, are buried in that little cemetery. Plus, there are two empty plots with tombstones that read, “Ken Blanchard, 1939—” and “Margie Blanchard, 1940—”.

Some people think that’s a little sick—particularly when Margie and I lie down in front of our tombstones and pose for photos! But we are enjoying living our “dash”—that interval between the date of our births and the date of our deaths.

Celebration does wonders for the soul. By having a picnic around the tombstones every summer—sharing stories and remembrances of relatives and even beloved family dogs who have passed away—our family celebrates everyone’s dash. How do you celebrate yours?

Happy Families are No Accident

Years ago, Peter Drucker said “Nothing good happens by accident—put some structure around it!” So if you want something good to happen, put some structure around it. This doesn’t just apply to business; it’s also for family life. I can name several traditions that are perfect examples of Drucker’s line of thinking.

 

Like many families, we like to get together on every family member’s birthday. As part of the celebration we all sit at the dinner table and, one by one, tell the birthday person what we like about them. Our kids Scott and Debbie used to protest this tradition, but today they encourage their kids to take part in it, too. It’s an easy thing to do and a great way to make someone feel extra special on their special day.

 

Here’s another Blanchard tradition: every Christmas Day, between dinner and dessert, all our family and friends who are gathered share something special with everyone. They can sing a song, recite a poem, or tell us something important in their lives. This not only delights all those who are gathered, it makes the day more memorable and meaningful.

 

We know several couples who plan a date night at least once every two weeks. They make a rule that they can’t talk about work or the kids—only about their relationship. “How are we doing with each other?” If every couple did that 26 times a year, I guarantee there would be a lot fewer divorces.

 

Structure also helps our family business. You may or may not know this, but The Ken Blanchard Companies is family owned. Margie and I cofounded the company almost forty years ago—and Scott, Debbie, and Margie’s younger brother, Tom, joined the company around twenty years later. Sometimes family businesses work well and sometimes they don’t. We didn’t want to run the risk that our family business would mess up our family, so Scott had the idea that the five of us should meet one day every quarter with an outside consultant/facilitator. And what a great idea it was! We’ve been holding our “Family Council” meetings for a number of years now. More recently, Tom’s wife, Jill, and Scott’s wife, Madeleine, have joined us. We all know it’s due in no small part to these meetings that we still love each other and often vacation together, even though we work together almost every day.

 

So follow Drucker’s advice. If you want good things to happen, put some structure in place—it’s as easy as starting a few simple family traditions. When families find new ways to celebrate their positive relationships, life gets more enjoyable.

 

Thanksgiving Thoughts from Ken

This week brings one of my very favorite holidays—Thanksgiving. I love it because it’s not focused on gifts and things like that. It’s about what everyone brings to the table. You pass around the turkey and the dressing and all, and it’s a chance for everyone to really express what they are thankful for. I hope you’ll be able to do that.

I’m thankful that I live in this country. I’m thankful that I had a wonderful mom and dad who always lifted me up and a great sister who encouraged me constantly. I’m grateful that I met my wife Margie and she’s been my companion and my love and my partner for over fifty years now—it’s unbelievable. I’m thankful for our son Scott and our daughter Debbie and what they’ve brought to my life, and all of our grandkids who are all really special. I’m blessed to have a sweet little dog, Joy, who is a perfect example of unconditional love. I’m thankful for a wonderful God who loves me and loves you and loves all of us. I’m grateful that I’m healthier and in better shape than I have been in years. I’m thankful for everyone in our company. I think we’ve created a wonderful place and we want to continue to build on that as we go forward. We’re all in it together and we support each other.

I like to say, “Life is a very special occasion—don’t miss it.” Part of that is being thankful for the blessings you have. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t troubles along the way. But life is a very special occasion. Every day when we wake up we need to be thankful that we have another day to share and be with people and maybe make a difference.

So this week, reach out to the people you really care about and love, and tell them you care. I’m wishing you all the very best and I’m thankful that we all have an opportunity to make a difference in the world. Have a wonderful holiday. Recognize how blessed you are and reach out and tell people that you love them.  Take care.