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Remembering the Importance of Family

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

When I was young, I thought that I knew everything. The older I have grown, the more I have begun to understand how little I know. As a young, determined, hardworking financial consultant in the late 1980s and early 1990s, life seemed rather simple: Work hard, get ahead. As a consultant at BDO Seidman, where I began working while in graduate school at Georgia State University, the hours were long, but my future seemed bright.

Arriving before the sun was up, my work often lasted until late at night, and more often than not, through the weekend. Once I earned my MBA in finance, I set off on my next accomplishment, earning the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. Perseverance and determination worked once again.

It was during this time, just out of graduate school, working long hours and focusing on achievement, that I did the unthinkable (at least in my family) -- I forgot my sister's birthday.

To understand how horrible my forgetfulness was, it helps to understand how important birthdays are in my family. Growing up, it was a full-day event -- presents at the breakfast table, songs being sung and a special dinner cooked for you. It was the one day that you received undivided attention. It was the one day that was your day.

So now you know how terrible it was that I forgot my sister's birthday.

One of the best side benefits of our father, Newt Gingrich, running for president has been the time that we have been able to spend together during the campaign, talking on the phone, traveling together, sharing hotel rooms, even doing TV interviews together. It's reminded me of how special she is, how lucky I am to have a sister that loves me and cares for me.

Plus, it's reminded me that she's just plain fun!

Over two decades ago, while working until after 2 a.m., I realized while reviewing a report for the last time, that I had forgotten her birthday. As I flipped through the page of the report that had to go out that night, I recognized that the date was more that just a date, it was my sister's birthday, and I had missed it.

I felt terrible. Caught up in work, forgetting my priorities.

As a mother of two children, I see from a different perspective how special and wonderful sibling relationships can be. While our oldest child loves her brother, it seems to me that our younger child not only loves his sister but also cannot imagine what life would like without her. All his life she has been there -- she is constant, she is immovable, she provides stability.

So it is with me.

My sister Kathy is incredible, a wonderful sister, a loving wife, a wise businesswoman, a marathon finisher and a fun aunt. Diagnosed over 20 years ago with rheumatoid arthritis, Kathy's determination, high spirits and optimistic outlook on life have inspired me to run several marathons with her.

A decade ago, she had days when it was hard to get out of bed. Now, on a new drug regimen, she has completed four marathons and is training for her fifth. She leads the America to Anywhere for Arthritis fundraising team, which has raised over $160,000 for the Arthritis Foundation.

This year, we are training for the Pasadena Marathon, to be held on May 20. At 26.2 miles to complete, marathon training involves months of long runs every other week, gradually working up to the total distance. This week my goal is to finish 18 miles, and I've decided to attempt the training run on Kathy's birthday, March 29.

No doubt that at some point during my 18 mile outing, I will want to quit, to give up, to call it a day, but my plan is to think of my sister and to listen to, but not heed, my doubts. This marathon is not about me, but about being with my sister, Kathy.

Kathy has helped reshape my understanding of the meaning of life. Are accomplishments and achievements important? Absolutely. But are people more important? Absolutely.

Happy Birthday, Kathy. May there be many more to come!

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