For Love of My Kitchen Cabinet

If presidents can have them, so can we!

By Di Chapman

Happy Valentine’s Day, Everyone!

Y’all, I know it’s February, and this column title and introduction might surprise you as a Valentine’s Day piece, but please indulge me in my stream of consciousness. You, my regular readers, know the way my brain works, and to you new readers, welcome to my unconventional style! I hope you’ll find it engaging. That said, I’ll dive into a Valentine’s column that is a tribute to friends.

In addition to Valentine’s Day, February is a month of presidential birthdays, and I’ve had an idea about writing a column paying homage to my personal “Kitchen Cabinet” of friends and family for a long time. So, allow me for a moment, if you will, to explore a miniscule piece of presidential history.

When President Andrew Jackson decided that his official Presidential Cabinet was being screwed up by rivalry between Vice President John C. Calhoun and Secretary of State Martin Van Buren around 1829, he cancelled all cabinet meetings. He started an unofficial (and somewhat controversial) group of trusted friends and personal advisors who then made policy decisions with him, often referred to as his “Kitchen Cabinet.”

Informal Presidential “Cabinets,” as such, go back to our number one. George Washington met with his “crew” regularly at Mount Vernon, with Martha cooking meals and their many dogs  underfoot. My Kitchen Cabinet literally brings everyone into the kitchen. I have no doubt that when George and Martha hosted his trusted advisors, they hung out smoking their pipes and drinking ale in the kitchen, as well. Everyone loves kitchens. Standing in the kitchen is a God-endorsed, all-American constitutional.

Heaven knows I stand in the kitchen waiting for a donut to magically appear every day. My Kitchen Cabinet members sip wine, drink sodas, and munch.

So, ladies and gentlemen (Yes, you too!), check out some of my Kitchen Cabinet members. We’re posing in my, well, kitchen. These are some of the treasured folks I turn to when I need the real deal, the logical scoop, a humorous take, grounded advice, or emotional support. And it works both ways. It’s give-and-take. My Kitchen Cabinet supports me, and I support them, like their many other friends and VIPs do. Like sets and subsets, our lives overlap, and the advisory realm grows and reciprocates.

Since Jackson, many other presidents have had “Kitchen Cabinets,” too. Like them, with mine, we’re easily saddled with our own conundrums, critical decisions, heartbreaks, breakthroughs, and uncertainties. Maybe we aren’t debating waging war (!!!), thank goodness. Maybe our concerns are about which toilet to install in the master bathroom, or how we accidentally stepped on the car’s accelerator instead of the brake and took out the side of the house. And the heartbreaks and tough decisions? We all know what they are.

Mind you, we’re not a mastermind or accountability group. I’d flunk those groups and slink away with embarrassment. With my Kitchen Cabinet I feel safe to be what I’m certain is a low-IQ overachiever.

That’s the great thing about a Kitchen Cabinet. Like architect Gil Schafer said, “True authenticity is a lack of perfection.” Was I his model or what? So, moms, dads, spouses, and siblings can be advisors. Friends, bosses, teachers, and retired neighbors can be advisors. Invite them into your kitchen.

My phone tinkles every night at midnight (Seriously, I just don’t know what to call the sound it makes.), announcing texts coming in. My sister and friends text me the latest facial expressions on their dogs and cats, along with their hysterical sleeping positions on their backs with all four paws in the air; or to tell me about an ocean visit. They inquire about my health and really want to know. They relay what the day brought them, and the real stuff of life. That’s my Kitchen Cabinet. In between serious matters, we take time to swap stories that make us belly laugh. Memories surface. Like the date I had with one of the O.J. Simpson trial’s TV legal analysts, and the LA Rams’ lawyer dates, after meeting him in the grocery store. Or the time I gave a speech and my slip fell down. Or the speech where my blouse fell open. (I promise I thought I had it secured!) Of course no one mentioned the unmentionable, and I discovered it afterward.

My Kitchen Cabinet hums along. There’s the story of my girlfriend who went to her first ever church camp at 70. She returned shell-shocked about the “cellblock” architecture, disgusting bunks, and communal bathroom. She confessed she took a SILK nightgown. She and her companions talked all night, and particularly loved musical chairs. She’s going back, next time with PJs. I’m clueless why church camps never change.

At 72, she went to “Camo,” where she and the ladies trained in fending off attackers. Kicking those creeps in the family jewels is no longer au courant. Apparently, they’ve prepared for that now before stalking. My inquiring mind wants to know how. But now, ladies, you poke fingers in their eyes. Hard. Hooah!

This friend/Kitchen Cabinet advisor is an inspiration, as are all of my friends of all ages. I’m convinced they’re all wise, and their accumulated stories and smarts keep us on our toes. They’re healthcare professionals, athletes, teachers, bankers, IT professionals, and more. What do these advisors know well? The wisdom of George Burns, for one: “New dreams, new works in progressthat’s the ticket for a long and happy ride.”

To my sister, sister-in-law, and friends (here and across the country), who are truly at the heart of my Kitchen Cabinet, Happy Valentine’s Day! Business guru Brian Tracy once said, “The amount you laugh in your relationships with others is the true measure of the health of your personality.”

On that note, dear advisors, everyone into the kitchen!

Di Chapman is an inspirational author and speaker, and a branding consultant. Di’s latest book is Rekindle Your Purpose: Break through your disappointments, discouragements, and detours to resurrect your purpose and live it!