The porch was enclosed with pressed gray plywood, insulated enough to keep us warm in the winter if we draped ourselves with blankets. My parents renovated it when I was three or four, and it seemed to always retain that industrial, new carpet smell. To this day, I love that smell. In one corner of the porch, the TV. In the other three corners, the bean bag chairs, dyed pink, green, blue, and yellow. We each claimed a color; my sister’s was pink, my brothers chose blue and yellow. I was happy with the green. If I crushed my body just so into the chair, and did it quickly, I could create a large air pocket just above my neck, making for the perfect headrest. In the summer months, my exposed legs would stick to the shiny synthetic fabric. I learned how to peel the chair off my legs, slowly and deliberately, an essential skill to avoid red-hot skin burn that would last for hours afterwards. My father owned a vending machine business, a small operation he ran on the side to help make ends meet. Every Friday we were allowed to go into the garage just off the porch and forage through his stash of inventory; boxes of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, M&Ms, and Kit Kats. I still remember nibbling the chocolate off the sides, then the ends, then dissecting the wafer layers one by one, until all that was left was melted chocolate on my finger tips.
I was sitting with my mother recently, both of us sipping tea as my two kids played in the other room, when I learned of a long lost interview she had conducted with James Cash Penney, the founder of JC Penney. The interview was part of a journalism assignment from college; her sister had worked for an executive at JC Penney and that connection enabled my mom to get a sit-down appointment with Mr. Penney. Mr. Penney was eighty-nine years old at the time and my mom was twenty. I asked my mom if she still had the interview. She did, and she kindly agreed to let me publish it on my blog.
The only reason JC Penney came up in conversation between my mom and me was: I had recently purchased a purple coat for my daughter from JC Penney and within a week, the zipper broke. Frustrated, I contacted JC Penney and it started a chain reaction of communications between JC Penney’s customer service team and myself that resulted in my full-throttle realization that JC Penney has GREAT customer service. From my experience, the Golden Rule still reigns at JC Penney.
Enjoy the interview – it seems like he was quite a terrific man.
The Golden Rule Brings Success
by Maureen A. Sullivan
November 30, 1964
On November 30, 1964, the new J.C. Penney Building at 1301 Avenue of the Americas in New York City, will open its doors “to serve the public as nearly as we can to its complete satisfaction.” This new building is truly the result of years of hard work, faith, and perseverance.
In an interview with Mr. Penney last Wednesday, November 25th, he remarked on the opening: “This is something that transcends any idea or ambition I ever had. It’s a result of the principles I started with.” Those principles centered around two words: Golden Rule. Mr. Penney’s whole life has been based upon the application and adherence to the Golden Rule: Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye to them!”
Mr. Penney’s career in the retailing business began in Kemmerer, Wyoming, in 1902. After working for the Johnson and Callahan Company for three years, the owners saw his ability and gave him a third share in the company; they put him in charge of their new store in Kemmerer.
Mr. Penney said of this act: “This trust that these men had in me fired my soul with ambition–by putting such a responsibility on my shoulders, I got my vision of a chain of stores.”
James Penney knew he’d have to work hard for success, but he was willing to do it. His strong faith caused him to name his first store the Golden Rule.
“My wife and I, with our one year old son, lived in the attic of this first store; our dining table was a dry goods box, our chairs were shoe cases. It was rude and crude.”
One evening while working late he said to his wife, “Some of these days I’m going to have stores all over the West.” Mr. Penney had twenty-five stores in mind then; when he had those he aimed for fifty; when he reached that goal he knew there was no limit. Now, in 1964, the Penney Company comprises nearly seventeen hundred stores–and it’s still growing.
As I have said before, Mr. Penney bases his whole formula for success on the application of the Golden Rule. When he first started his business he “was told it wouldn’t work; but I was willing to work hard, get the right kind of men, sharing with them the profits of the company.”
In “choosing the right kind of men” Mr. Penney bases his judgment on character, training, and responsibility. A fourth prerequisite a prospective employee (or associate as he prefers to call him) must go through does not deal directly with the man himself, for Mr. Penney is quoted as having said, “I’ve never hired a man unless I’ve interviewed his wife first.” He is a strong believer in the saying “Behind every good man there is a good woman.” In an address to the Twentieth Century Club of Courtland, New York, Mr. Penney said, “Whether or not a man likes to admit it, it is true: a woman is the power behind the throne in every man’s life.”
Now, at the age of eighty-nine, James Cash Penney still adheres to the same principles and strong beliefs with which he started in 1902. When he settles himself in his new office on the forty-fifth floor of the modern J.C. Penney Building, he can look back on his life and accomplishments with pride, for he has achieved this success through faith, honesty, and humility. When I remarked to him that he had a great deal to be proud of, Mr. Penney said,
“Pride is a terrible thing to have, Ms. Sullivan. One should be humble rather than proud; humility is the answer to happiness.”
Mr. James Cash Penney continued to serve on the company’s board of directors until his death on February 12, 1971.
The “Bright & Varick Micro Unit Project” has become a bit of a sound byte in downtown Jersey City. From those living outside the Van Vorst Park (VVP) neighborhood or unaware of the full facts, it typically garners responses like “it’s all about parking” or “this type of change is inevitable in a growing city.”
But when you get under the hood of this thing, it gets ugly and unjust. None of us should be treated the way the VVP community has been treated by the city.
First, I think it’s important to acknowledge the Van Vorst Park community’s contribution to the rest of downtown. The Van Vorst Park neighborhood is one the oldest communities in the city and has led the city in a series of “park firsts in downtown…first historic park renovation, dog run, computerized irrigation systems…” The park itself is a city gem, maintained by Friends of Van Vorst Park and offering a summer farmers’ market, two dog runs, swing sets and a sandbox for younger kids, a playground for older kids, a gazebo, and gorgeous landscaping maintained entirely by volunteers. Friends of Van Vorst Park partner with the Van Vorst Park Association to bring us summertime movies in the park, a weekly series run by volunteers and open to the entire city. But the neighborhood is about more than just the park; the community is actively engaged in improving our public school system. The local middle school is MS4 and the local elementary school is PS3, and its PTA is strong, engaged, and has helped spear-head the development and growth of the dual language program which now starts in Pre-K4 and is being implemented in other schools based on its success at PS3.
So why is this community being treated so poorly by the city?
Here is the backstory. A developer wants to build an 87 micro unit project that is billed as “experimental” and targeted at young professionals instead of families. The project was approved unanimously by the city council without density specified. The assumption was that density would fit into the existing zoning permits and neighborhood plan, i.e. an “R1″ (1-2 family) structure. But once approved, the plan went to the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA) where it was transformed into 87 micro units…with zero opportunity for public comment. The city essentially cut the Van Vorst Park community out of the conversation, and the public documents show a trail of city officials seeking to promote an “experimental” project downtown without soliciting feedback from the public. Is this fair? Is this right?
But it gets worse…ongoing concerns laid out by the Bright and Varick Action Group include:
- The city blighted the property despite its ongoing use as classrooms for 60 pre-K3 aged children. Trailers were an imperfect solution to the demand for school space, but now that the trailers are gone, children from VVP’s neighborhood are being bussed out of the neighborhood.
- There was no environmental impact study performed.
- There has been no information provided to the public around regulations or impact of excavating and building an 87-unit structure across the street from two schools.
- There are known sewer issues in the area yet the plan will call for 87 toilets on a plot originally planned for less than 10 toilets.
- The list goes on – read more here.
But the final insult to the Van Vorst Park community was that the new city administration has been lackluster at best in representing the residents’ interests against the developer. It required hundreds of phone calls to City Hall simply to get a town hall meeting with Mayor Fulop, which is memorialized in part here.
To the rest of downtown Jersey City: I encourage you consider that if this can happen in Van Vorst Park, then you better believe it can happen in Hamilton Park, Paulus Hook, Harsimus Cove, and the Village. Zoning be damned. Public comments be damned. Passionate representation by city administration be damned. But developers be blessed. Developers wield considerable leverage with elected officials because they have deep pockets and can promise “x” new residents and “y” millions of property dollars invested; such metrics are necessary for city leaders to progress in their careers, but at what cost to the neighborhoods and families that are left behind?
When the city partners with developers against you and your neighbors, do you want to be left out in the cold, standing alone while the rest of the city stares on? Or do you want the rest of the city to have your back, to be standing shoulder to shoulder with you, telling the Mayor and City Council that we are one coalition of neighbors?
The precedent is up to you. Act today or regret it tomorrow.
Call to action:
- Contact our elected representatives and request an immediate HALT to this project by the Planning Board.
- Contact your local neighborhood association and ask them to support the Van Vorst Park community. Tell them you want to stand with your neighbors in Van Vorst Park.
- Help the legal efforts by donating here: http://vvpa.org/about-us/donate/
- Sign up for updates on meetings and how you can help: http://vvpa.org
- Stay in touch with the Van Vorst Park Association on their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/VanVorstParkAssociation or through the Bright and Varick Action Group blog here: http://www.brightandvarick.blogspot.com
Contact information for city officials:
- Mayor Fulop: firstname.lastname@example.org, (201) 547-5200
- Ward “E” Councilwoman Candice Osborne: cOsborne@jcnj.org, (201) 547-5315
- At-Large Councilman Rolando Lavarro: RLavarro@jcnj.org, (201) 547-5268
- At-Large Councilman Daniel Rivera: DRivera@jcnj.org, (201) 547-5319
- At-Large Councilwoman Joyce Watterman: email@example.com, (201)-547-5134
By any serious runner’s forecast, I was not supposed to finish the Marathon on November 3rd. I joined my charity team late, which forced me to play-catch-up to the 18-week training plan. My two kids – aged 2 and 3 – still wake up most nights which left me exhausted for the Saturday morning “long runs” up and down the Hudson waterfront. By late October, my longest training run had been only 13 miles.
But sometimes we are called to see the glass half-full.
I was running with family, including my cousins, Orla, Gearoid, and Eoghan, and their friends, many of whom traveled from Ireland for the Marathon. None of us had run a Marathon before, which gave us all a shared sense of impending doom about the 26.2 mile trek through NYC. But we had a purpose: we were running in memory of Gerry O’Sullivan – father to my cousins and founder of Cork Cancer Research Centre – and raising money for Breakthrough Cancer Research, the fundraising body for CCRC. Plus, all of us had raised thousands of dollars for Breakthrough Cancer Research; family and friends had parted with hard-earned money and lent us warm words of support. How could we not at least try?
On the day of the Marathon I decided, as many runners do, to write my name on the front of my shirt in big, bold letters so the crowds could cheer me on as I ran. Using fabric-grade velcro, I affixed a strip of white fabric with “BRIGID” written across it. Running from the foot of the Verrazano Bridge into the tree-lined streets of Brooklyn, listening to ground-thumping dance music from speakers stationed in driveways and smelling barbecued chicken and burgers wafting through the air, I felt like a star. It was thrilling to hear, in every accent imaginable, “Go Brigid!” and “You can do it!”
But at Mile 3, I got down to business.
As I was heading into Bay Ridge, I slowed down and pulled the white fabric labeled “BRIGID” off my chest and replaced it with a new strip labeled “CLAUDIA.” For the next six miles – through Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Boerum Hill and Clinton Hill – I was running for Claudia Commo, a nurse I worked with in 1998-99 while serving as a Jesuit Volunteer at Omega House in Houston, Texas.
Claudia was a pioneer in AIDS hospice work in Houston in the 1990s; she was kind and soft-spoken, with a self-deprecating sense of humor but a steely resolve that shone through when she had to intake residents who were still detoxing from crack or heroin. I had not seen Claudia in over ten years, but I felt her loss when I learned this past July that she had died after a long battle of cancer. Claudia was 100% southern – with a thick Texan accent – so I thought it would be cool to run her name through the heart of Brooklyn, past cheering crowds, block parties, and stoops packed with young urbanites holding home-made signs to cheer us all on. It was awesome to hear “Go Claudia!” and “Vamos, Clow-dia!” the entire way.
In Williamsburg I replaced my strip of fabric and ran miles 10 through 16 with “AUNT B” across my chest. Aunt Barbara was my father’s sister and one of my favorite adults as a kid; she stuffed M&Ms and cans of Coke into small paper bags when we left her house for the long car ride home, and she made outings to the video rental store feel like a trip to Disney World. She died on October 20, 2011 after a long battle with cancer. I miss her terribly and wish my kids could have known her, which is why each cheer of her name through Brooklyn and Queens felt like a prayer to the Heavens.
While stretching my calves against the concrete divider on the 59th Street Bridge, I did a final swap of white fabric, peeling the velcro back to replace “AUNT B” with “GERRY O”. Gerry was my mother’s first cousin and “the outstanding Irish surgeon of his generation” according to The Irish Times. His children, Orla and Eoghan, are now instrumental in leading “Breakthrough Cancer Research,” a fundraising organization in Cork that grew out of CCRC and seeks to transform laboratory breakthroughs into clinical treatments for cancer patients. I wrote a separate blog post on Gerry here; he was the reason “Team Gerry” ran 26.2 miles on a cold November day in NYC, and that his children now carry on his legacy to fight cancer is the ultimate testament to him.
In the end, out of 50,304 finishers, I placed 47,493. I ran consistently for six hours, 2 minutes, and 37 seconds, stopping only a few times for potty breaks and to stretch my legs. My overall pace was 13:51 per mile; I was not fast, but I was a Finisher. And more importantly, I helped raise over $3,600 for Breakthrough Cancer Research with the help of friends and family from all over the world, including Ireland, New York, Philadelphia, Houston, Chicago, Dubai, Minnesota, Nepal, Boston, Madagascar, New Jersey, New York, California, and India. That support – from family and friends – is what propelled me through the pain, and gave me hope and inspiration despite my lackluster training.
So, to all who donated to my run, I have just a few final parting words: I did not run the Marathon…WE ran the Marathon. I did not raise over $3,600 money for Breakthrough Cancer Research…WE raised those funds. And finally, I did not give meaning to Breakthrough’s vision “There is hope and that hope is in research”…WE gave meaning to that vision together. And for that, I am forever grateful.
A very special thank you to EVERYONE who donated to Breakthrough Cancer Research to support my 2013 NYC Marathon run. And…if you did not yet donate, you still can – please visit my JustGiving page here. THERE IS HOPE…AND THAT HOPE IS IN RESEARCH.
I recently finished “Sugar in the Blood” and would definitely recommend it.
I started reading “Sugar in the Blood” while on a trip to Barbados with my husband. I knew very little about the history of the Caribbean, and assumed that most of what I would see (at a Hilton resort where my husband was staying on a work assignment) would likely not inform me much about the country or its history. Stuart’s book was a welcome education.
Stuart’s book is a thoroughly detailed, at times emotionally wrenching accounting of the history of Barbados, with very little sugar-coating of the truth (no pun intended). The first half of the book is dominated by narrative (vs. plot), which is necessary to give the reader an understanding of time and place for the first English settlers to Barbados, one of whom was Stuart’s ancestral grandfather (a white man from England). This is necessary context, as it shows how/why the slave trade was so critical to Barbados’ history. The pace then picked up towards the 40% mark of the book when Stuart started to get into more detail about the most significant ancestor in her sugar-related familial history, a man named Robert Cooper who sired many children with his slaves (one of whom is Stuart’s ancestral grandmother). Through Robert Cooper’s story, we learn about the the plantation class in Barbados, including the vast slave system that allowed Barbados to exist and produce sugar for the rest of the world. Robert Cooper’s story informs the reader about how men ascended the social ladder in Barbados, about the horrors of slavery in the Caribbean and why it was even more brutal than some of the American slave experiences, about the pros and cons for a female slave being forced into a conjugal “relationship” with a white planter, and the impact on her children. It is a nuanced history that does not use broad brush strokes, but uses detailed diary accounts, concrete historical references, and informed speculation about motivations of both white and black men/women of the time. Then, with Robert Cooper’s descendants, we see the impact of the eradication of slavery from Barbados in the early half of the 19the century and the subsequent trajectory that Cooper’s offspring will follow, which varied depending on Cooper’s inclusion (or non-inclusion) of the children in his will.
The book is beautifully written. Her prose was worth highlighting at times (“violence lubricated the entire slave system”). Her attempt to relate the slave experience to the reader was admirable and well placed (“Today we use the term “attachment disorder” to describe the profound impact on children’s emotional and psychological development of being denied a consistent and intimate relationship with a trusted caregiver. We can only guess at how John Stephen and millions like him were affected by being denied the core human experience of a parent– child relationship.”)
In general, I think Stuart has done an excellent job of conveying to a 21st century read what the experience was like for a slave, both in physical, emotional, and mental terms. I view this book as a worthy companion to Roots and Cane River, two other excellent books about the slave experience in the U.S., viewed through a writer’s familial history.
As one additional aside, I wanted to add that I learned something profoundly tragic in this book, a tidbit of history that I never knew before: Starting on page 175 (of the e-book), Stuart explains that Haiti is a country born out of a slave rebellion, yet it suffered for its rebellion, which threatened the entire slave system in the early 19th century. When, after the English and French both failed to re-take Haiti as a colony in the early 1800s, the U.S. and Europe refused to accept Haitian independence unless Haiti was first recognized by France. Yet to gain recognition, Haiti was asked to compensate France for loss of property during the revolution against France. For 21 years, Haiti refused. But finally they relented in the face of international pressure, paying France in 1825 a total of 150 million Francs that would impoverish the nation. That poverty continues to this day.
Stuart sums up perfectly why reading her book is so important, particularly in America where our own revolution and emphasis on freedom and liberty is so integral to our national identity and pride…of Haiti she writes: “What was just as terrible was that the bravery of the Haitian people, their resourcefulness and tenacity have been virtually written out of history; and many have little idea of how this indomitable people struggled and died to become the first free colony of the New World.”
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This is a post of thanks.
It’s been a wonderful a week. On Tuesday, my debut novella “Silo Saga: Unhinged” rose to #1 in Kindle Worlds. Then, on Friday, I was informed by Amazon’s business development team that “Silo Saga: Unhinged” was selected to be the “title spotlight” in a singled-out email to Amazon customers.
As I write the follow-up to “Unhinged” – and feel with each keystroke how much hard work goes into writing fiction – I feel an overwhelming sense of thankfulness with where I am today.
I feel thankful to have a mother who nurtures my love of writing and a father who makes me feel like I can conquer the world.
I feel thankful to have a husband who reads everything – yes, everything – that I write. He is my ultimate beta reader and champion who told me “just go for it” when I was ready to sit on “Unhinged” instead of publishing it, then insisted on getting a bottle of Champagne when “Unhinged” hit #1 in Kindle Worlds.
I feel thankful to have a sister who encouraged me to read Hugh Howey’s “WOOL” back in 2011, then told me about the fan fiction phenomenon that was building up around Howey’s books. My sister doubles as an *amazing* beta reader and editor…she ferreted out errors, anachronisms, and other nits from early drafts of “Unhinged” and helped shape it from rough-hewn to published.
I feel thankful to have two brothers and sisters-in-laws who helped beta read “Unhinged” and have shown amazing support for all of my writing. I will never, ever forget the conversation I had with my sister-in-law Melissa after she read a beta draft of “Unhinged”…it was euphoric to hear her simply say “I enjoyed your story.”
I feel thankful to have a mother-in-law and father-in-law who I love as my own parents. They support my writing, they read “Unhinged,” and they are like parents I never knew I had until I got married.
I feel thankful to have friends who are role models as women and as mothers, who help me relax and feel comfort in my own skin, who make me realize that – in true friendship – time does in fact stand still.
I feel thankful to friends – some of whom I had not seen in years – who helped me chin up when I received my book’s first negative review. Simple words of support when you’re feeling low can mean the world.
I feel thankful for Hugh Howey’s willingness to open up his world of “Wool,” a story and series that I devoured and that became a fan fiction phenomenon. Hugh signing on with Kindle Worlds enabled amateur authors such as myself to take a stab at writing a story for a targeted audience.
I feel thankful for readers. That is worth repeating. I feel thankful for readers. And that especially includes those who read SpeckledNotebook.com regularly. You…are…awesome.
Success, as with much of life, is often fleeting. But when it comes, why not grab it, hug it, and share it with those who helped us realize it?
And that is why I wrote this post – to thank so many in my life who have made this week such a special one.
I am training for the ING 2013 NYC Marathon to help raise money for Breakthrough Cancer Research.
Dr. Gerald O’Sullivan was many things in life.
The Irish Medical Times called him “the outstanding Irish surgeon of his generation” and “an Irish Giant.” His medical peers in Ireland elected him President of the Royal College of Surgeons in 2006. He lived and worked in Chicago, Canada, and even Baghdad during the Iran-Iraq war. He served as mentor of the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa. He was an Honorary Fellow in the American College of Surgeons, a prestigious award since it is limited to only 100 living surgeons worldwide at any time. He was loved by those he worked with, as evidenced in a touching YouTube video created after he died. But perhaps most notably, Gerry founded Cork Cancer Research Centre in the 1990s, a world-class research organization driven to improve treatment and prognoses for the most devastating cancers.
He was a premier medical doctor in Ireland and beyond, but to me, my parents, my brothers and sister, and my cousins here in America, he was just Gerry. Gerry, my mother’s first cousin, a man who took time out of his hectic schedule to visit us in New Jersey while on work travel to the U.S., his booming voice and lilting brogue filling our entry foyer when he arrived. Gerry, the crazy-smart cousin who loved American history so much that he could recite every president and vice president going back to George Washington. Gerry, whose sense of humor tickled you to your core, like when he surprise-crashed a family party in suburban Pennsylvania (where his daughter was living) disguised as a hobo…ambling down the quiet, meticulously manicured street wearing a mask, an old trench coat, a ratty old hat, and carrying a stick with a bag tied around one end of it…he had the entire party in stitches. Gerry, who could talk and talk and talk over multiple pots of tea about topics as wide-ranging as cricket and hurling to current affairs, especially U.S. politics.
Gerry died on February 12, 2012. He succumbed to multiple myeloma, a cancer that starts in the plasma cells in bone marrow. It was a huge loss, both personally for our family but also for the community of medical professionals dedicated to eradicating cancer. Fortunately, his legacy lives on through his family and Breakthrough Cancer Research, the new fundraising arm of Cork Cancer Research Centre. Breakthrough Cancer Research collaborates with cancer organizations worldwide, from Sweden, Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Slovenia, Scotland, as well as here in the U.S., including Harvard Medical School.
Cancer is horrific, cancer is cruel, and cancer is seemingly ubiquitous. But cancer can be beaten. As it says on Breakthrough Cancer Research’s website: There is hope, and that hope is in research.
You can donate easily and quickly by visiting my marathon fundraising site on JustGiving.com. Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell your details or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to Breakthrough Cancer Research. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.