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QUOTES, BOOKS, LIFE (permalink) 09.02.2016
so true. so obvious. so ignored.
Even if all the bright intellects who ever lived were to agree to ponder this one theme, they would never sufficiently express their surprise at this fog in the human mind. Men do not let anyone seize their estates, and if there is the slightest dispute about their boundaries they rush to stones and arms; but they allow others to encroach on their lives--why, they themselves even invite in those who will take over their lives. You will find no one willing to share out his money; but to how many does each of us divide up his life! people are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy. So, I would like to fasten on someone from the older generation and say to him; "I see that you have come to the last stage of human life; you are close upon your hundredth year, or even beyond: come now, hold an audit of your life. Reckon how much of your time has been taken up by a money-lender, how much by a mistress, a patron, a client, quarreling with your wife, punishing your slaves, dashing about the city on your social obligations. Consider also the diseases which we have brought on ourselves, and the time too which has been unused. You will find that you have fewer years than you reckon. Call to mind when you ever had a fixed purpose: how few days have passed as you planned; when you were ever at your own disposal; when your face wore it's natural expression; when you mind was undisturbed; what work have you achieved in such a long life; how many have plundered your life when you were unaware of your losses; how much you have lost through groundless sorrow, foolish joy, greedy desire, the seductions of society; how little of your own was left to you. You will realize that you are dying prematurely.

So what is the reason for this? You are living as if destined to live forever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don't notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply--though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all the you desire. You will hear many people saying: "When I am fifty I shall retire into Leisure; when i am sixty I shall give up public duties." And what guarantee do you have of a longer life? Who will allow your course to proceed as you arrange it? Aren't you ashamed to keep for yourself just the remnants of your life and to devote to wisdom only the time which cannot be spent on any business? How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end? How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived.
from seneca's On the Shortness of Life - life is long if you know how to use it

hihglighted passages represent my notes

LIFE (permalink) 04.29.2016
nothing funny!
my favorite public/motivational speaker recently passed through town. afterwards, i checked for what happened during his stay and ran across this video which immediately took a top five slot in my favorite ET talks.

and to save a few of you from having to send an email asking about the top five, here she blows:
  1. when you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe - part 1
  2. when you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe - part 2
  3. eric thomas day
  4. nothing funny
  5. you owe you

LIFE (permalink) 03.31.2016
trouble ahead
i woke on monday to start my week. as per usual i stepped through my morning rituals. wake. pee. weigh-in. log my thankful. log my awesome. for this day i chose an awesome i've been stepping around a bit. the awesome was "Be thankful for the life my mother provided me" and in the because section i wrote, "I learned too late how much of the goodness of my life emanated from the love my mother had for me which led to her endless support, affection, and commitment. Without her love, I would not be as strong as I am today.".

i was skirting this particular daily awesome because i knew it would carry some emotional weight and i wanted to make sure i was ready for it. hence my picking it right at the start of the week. after selecting it, i grabbed my pen and wrote the word MOM on my hand (as it part of the awesome ritual).

jump forward to the lunch-hour. i've just sat down to eat my lunch and stopped by bella's website. she posts a new post every monday and, for about a dozen reasons, i look in to see her latest offering. the title of the day's post was Love Your Mother (specific post can be seen here). i sensed trouble ahead.

i made it through bella's write up of the video she was about to share, but her words definitely primed the tanks. although i don't know that i would have ever made it through the 4:38 second video even without bella's lead in.

like the fella in the video, i too had that mom that would wait up, that wouldn't accept my adolescent distancing. and even worse than running up and down the sidelines, the first time i got hurt playing football, my mother ran onto the field. this did more to make me better than anything my coaches or teammates did as when i saw my mothers face join the circle of faces looking down at me, i forgot about any discomfort i was experiencing and started asking my mother why she was on the field.

for me, i feel like if i just had a few more years i would have woken up to how much my mother gave me. but other times i wonder if it is a lesson that can't be fully absorbed until they are gone. if that's true, it is possibly the most evil design of our world.

so for those who can still punch a string of numbers into a phone and hear the hello of a parent that cared for you, loved you, believed in you (this was another thing i shared with the gentleman in the video) then, please take a moment and attempt to acknowledge all they have given you, if only for those of us who can no longer make that call.

LIFE, MUSIC (permalink) 03.30.2016
work it hard like it's your profession
the art of time and life management has been my main hobby and interest for nearly twenty years now. in this time i've read works from just about all of the acknowledged greats and notables. james allen. marcus aurelius. tal ben-shahar. les brown. david burns. dale carnegie. jim collins. stephen covey. mihaly csikszentmihalyi. wayne dyer. epictetus. victor frankl. benjamin franklin. albert gray. marie kondo. staffan linder. matthieu ricard. tony robbins. martin seligman. seneca. hyrum smith. eric thomas. george e. valliant. and the modern-day master zig ziggler. if the topic has been how to bleed, intentionally, more out of this brief experience, i've probably studied it to some degree. and having consumed most of the usual suspects i always have an eye out for new treatments on the subject.

my latest self-help discovery comes from an unlikely place: britney spears. on our recent family road-trip to utah, during one of our highway dance parties, bella played a song she and marty sometimes "rocked-out" to on their way to or from school. the song's catchy bass-line immediately caught my ear and had my fingers drumming on the steering wheel. it wasn't until later though when i gave the song another listen that the depth and structure of the lyrics struck me. deconstructed, the song can be shown to deliver some top-flight, no-nonsense advice to those with aspirations, and does so in an undeniably intelligent manner. further, the message may be applauded for its pointedness and uncut honesty--i mean things don't get much more direct than the song's title 'work bitch' now do they? there are no quick fixes. there are no short cuts. there are no sugar-coated solutions. it is a truth that has held for thousands of years--work and effort get it done. end. of. story.
excerpted lyrics form Work Bitch

you wanna
you wanna
you wanna hot body
you wanna bugati
you wanna mazarati
you better work bitch

you wanna lamborghini
sippin' martinis
look hot in a buh-kini
you better work bitch

you wanna live fancy
live in a big mansion
party in france
you better work bitch

you better work bitch [3x]

NOW get to work bitch!
so that is how the song starts, by defining some visions. this is a long-held and common approach/belief of many self-help gurus. you gotta have vision of what you want. in this case you may mentally replace her choices with your own. perhaps her bugati is your promotion. or her partying in france is you being more connected with your family or friends. granted, her buh-kini is your bikini and mine because we all share that one. the short of it is though, you have to clearly put what you want out in front of you. and you have to keep it there front and center so you remember why it is you are working. and then the important part, the honest part, the part that most separates the doers from the dreamers--the actual work. everyone has wants but not everyone is willing to put in the work to attain those wants. so nothing like a little slap on the cheek and a barked name to get your attention.

then, with an equal intelligence, the latter part of the song addresses the magnitude of things by emphasizing the effortful (and inevitable) part of the process where your willpower will subside and you feel beat down (defeated even) and no one, possibly including yourself, believes it is possible, and when that happens you just have to "work it out" and stay with it.
Hold your head high
Fingers to the sky
They gon' try to try ya
But they can't deny ya
Keep it building higher and higher

So hold your head high
Fingers to the sky
Now they don't believe ya
But they gonna need ya
Keep it building higher and higher and higher

Work work (Work!) [7x]

Work it out [14x]
the technique at the end with the twenty-one repeated "Works" followed by a litany of "work it out"s gets to the amount of work and trial you are in for. this could be likened to the literary technique used in moby dick where the text is excruciatingly long and dull at times, but then so was life on a whaling ship. striving for goals involves a merciless amount of work. it also involves working though a seemingly bottomless well of challenges, doubt, resistance, lack of willpower, bad days. these drawn out refrains at the end imply what you're in for.

coming in at under four minutes, britney spears Work Bitch may be, word for word, minute for minute, one of the most efficient and effective self-help instruments ever devised. yes, ever. i'd place it in the top ten, if not the top five for potential to influence. as jason kottke recently said of mrs. spears, "Britney has always had something but damned if I know what it is." the mystery that is her brand, portfolio, and ongoing success continues.

but enough talk. time to get to work bitch!

LIFE, FRIENDS (permalink) 01.19.2016
the ultimate re-gift/thank you/karma
speaking of random acts of kindness.

we have some new neighbors. they moved in about a year ago and have a young girl who just turned two. the little girl is quite awesome, in part because she thinks i'm about the coolest cat on the block and lights up a big smile every time she sees me. being a young family just getting on their feet, marty and i usually offer them kid-related things we have outgrown and are giving away. one thing we gave them shortly after they moved in was the changing table we used for all three of our kids as our humans had finally (thankfully!!!) outgrown the need for it.

a few days after christmas, marty answered a knock on the door. she opened it to find neighbor jeff there holding a cutting board. after exchanging the usual pleasantries, jeff held the cutting board forward, offering it to marty. before she could say anything he said he would like to return the changing table we gave them. taking the cutting board, marty asked what he meant. he said the drawers in the cabinet broke and while he was breaking it down he noticed the top board was a really nice block of maple, so he cut it down and made an end-grain cutting board for us using the wood from the piece of furniture all three of our children came up on.

i'm not willing to say bella's act of kindness spurred this karma on but i would be comfortable asserting that my neighbor is probably way cooler and more awesome than your neighbor.

LIFE (permalink) 12.11.2015
inky johnson
if this guy/story can't get you fired up, you're just broke.

PHOTO, LIFE (permalink) 12.09.2015
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.


WIFE, LIFE (permalink) 12.07.2015
makes me wonder what else i could shed to simplify things
remember my financial fast (ref)? as of today i am 41 days into my ban on personal and/or frivolous spending. curious how palpable such an adjustment in one's lifestyle is? marty looks in our credit card statement online after she pays the prior month's bill off to get a sense for what the next month is starting to look like. a week in she usually encounters anywhere from $500 to $1500 dollars depending on what home repairs and doctor visits are on the schedule. this time, it sat at just over $100. i don't think i've seen marty that giddy since we figured out how to go on a nine day vacation for under $500 bucks. granted, this christmas season is about to take a big brown one on that low balance, but at least it will be short one burden (me!) this year.

LIFE (permalink) 11.11.2015
when you want it as much as you want air, or sex
i've recently stopped spending money. i have my reasons and they are good ones. and because they are good ones, i may have a prayer at rocking this financial fast.

the first and best thing about making a serious declaration to stop spending money is the liberation that comes with it (remember this guy). it frees up like fifteen to forty percent of your mind as you get to simply dismiss all of those little nags that happen through the day in this world of shiny material and digital things, all of which are vying for your attention (and money). now i just get to say "nope, not an option" and move on. as i said, liberating.

marty fluctuates between jubilation and frustration over my new declaration. she's jubilant in that she's been trying to get me to stop mindlessly spending money for better than twenty years. she's frustrated that the answer was as simple as putting the right vision in front of me. i can't be to blame in that though. i've been a vision-centric person since my earliest memory. without an end goal in mind (an end goal i viscerally want), i can't marshall a single neuron to act. i have sixteen years of unimpressive school transcripts to support this trait. a piece of computer generated paper with an A on it held no appeal to me (granted, i lacked the vision of the potential enough of those As held for me and my future-self). but, give me a tantalizing goal on the horizon i would love to possess, and my record, to date, has been perfect.

i heard a talk by a life coach who acutely and succinctly addressed this specific foible. she talked about men who would come to her and say they wanted to get in shape. she would ask them why they wanted to get in shape. they would say so they could be healthy and live longer. she told each and every one of those men she couldn't help them. when they asked why she told them their vision was too soft and she couldn't work with it. she instead needed them to say i want to get healthy so i look hot and girls want to sleep with me. to that response she would say, that i can work with. now let's go get you laid.

it's all about that wanna-have-more-sex kinda drive that makes something happen. and i finally found mine in regard to money.

WIFE, LIFE (permalink) 10.22.2015
perception is overrated. delusion is the way to go.
marty and i went out on a date night. this might be the second one of these we've been on in the last five years. i took her to a new eatery i recently discovered and then we went to see kathleen madigan at one of our cities swankier venues (the peabody). after the show marty and i remained in our chairs as the other patrons streamed out. they seemed as intrigued by us keeping our seats as we were with their immediate need to vacate the premises (and willingness to fight the throngs of people). as we watched the parade before us, marty commented at the age of the crowd in they seemed a lot older than we expected. as we did our accounting marty leaned in adding, "or maybe we look like them and are old too". huh? what? when exactly did that happen?

and, it seems we are not alone in experiencing this odd phenemenon.

LIFE (permalink) 09.04.2015
my favorite piano song ever, the waltz of amelie
below is the musical piece i'm trying to learn right now (right now in this case equalling the last year). and no, i don't know how to play the piano. this is the first song i'm learning. presently i'm up to the 45 second mark, but as you'll see that's where things get interesting.

LIFE (permalink) 09.03.2015
a solid question to start your days with ...
What's the best thing you could be working on, and why aren't you?

- As derived from Richard Hamming (of Bell Labs)

LIFE (permalink) 07.14.2015
Padawan seeks master
the question on my mind as of late has been about mentoring and namely about why it seems so challenging for middle-aged guys to find and nurture mentoring relationships with our elders. i mean there are plenty of older men out there. and many of them are certainly accomplished enough. hell, simply by being older, even if you squandered the lion-share of your years in an armchair watching crappy, or even good, television, you're bound to have observed a meaningful thing or two, even if by accident, in your multiple decades of life.

so, these days, when i meet a person around my age i ask them about any older mentors they have and how they came to have them—you know, just the normal backyard party small talk. i posed my question to a neighbor who is a surgeon. through our talks we discovered how similar developing young talent is in both technology and medicine. he was experiencing some difficulties with a new, super-bright doctor his practice had brought on. when he asked one of the senior partners about it, the older doc pithily said with a hint of knowing sympathy in his voice:
good decisions come from experience and experience comes from bad decisions.
and that was all he had to say on the matter. in reflecting on the brief response, i'd conclude, that might be all that needs be said on the matter. while there are many challenges in aging, having a better grasp on the why's and how's of life certainly goes a long way in making those physical deficencies sting a little less.

LIFE (permalink) 06.30.2015
uncertainty settled
i was making some new benches for our front porch (in part due to a new, totally sweet, dowling jig i recently bought). i was modeling them after a bench i made several years ago. between my superior skills (compared to several years back) and improved tools (uhhh, dowling jig), i considered upgrading to a higher grade of of wood. the problem point here is that it would add a fair bit of cost to the project so i wanted to make sure i could pull the benches off without any issues.

while getting things organized, i stepped out to the porch to take measurements on my existing bench. while crouched down and measuring the various parts and pieces, i noticed how the top slabs of wood, where you sit, had deep divots and mars in them from the kids various projects. the most damning of the marks came from our meat tenderizer hammer where, i recalled this day specifically, the kids went through a multi-day period of busting open acorns for sport using the medieval looking meat hammer as the pounder and my hand-made bench as the worktop. i imagined my reaction to them doing this, or any other number of their child-divined games, on high-dollar pieces of lumber versus the simple treated wood i've historically used.

then, from my crouched position, i recalled one of the first and most meaningful parental lessons i ever learned: you can love your things or you can love your children, but you can't love both.

after completing my notes, i, with nary a reservation, went and bought my low-grade planks of wood.

LIFE (permalink) 05.15.2015
and what about you dad?
regarding yesterday's pro-peril story, for any wondering, my part of the peril was installing the rope on the tree. i'm not a fan of heights and for sure know bad things can happen. but if i want my kids to leave their comfort zone and travel to new places, i reckon i should as well every now and again.

granted, being taunted by anthony while going through my trial with chants of "do you want me to climb up there and do it dad?" does not enrich the experience in any meaningful way other than, maybe, egging me on to finish the job.

and i'd never been more thankful for my failing vision because once i was at the peak of the climb and trying to manipulate the thick-as-my-wrist rope into the slip knot my super-neighbor taught me minutes earlier, i was able to slide my glasses down my nose a bit and given my severe near-sightedness, the distant world below blurred out, looking much less ominous.

i don't think folks talk nearly enough about the awesome parts of getting old.

WORK, LIFE (permalink) 04.10.2015
thank god it's monday!
today is my 9 year anniversary with my present employer (remember).

and, if you believe in a little rag called forbes, my employer is the 13th best you can work for, in this country at least.

and i've long said i'm the happiest employee at my employer which means i might have a sporting chance of being one of the top 13 most satisfied employees in the country.

and i have the added benefit of being able to walk to my office. that is after i walk my boys to school in the morning (which adds up to 8,000 steps by 9:00am for all my step-counters out there).

and this proximity obviously means, when the kraft macaroni and cheese mood strikes, i can walk home for lunch too.

and i'm not even going to mention the part about my office being a sexy, cool corner office with a bay window or that it would be my first choice of offices on the entire campus. we'll just leave that bit out.

and then there's the little professional part where i love my work, like way more than i should.

sometimes it seems unfair.

but so did unloading trucks after i graduated college.

so if life is going to feel unfair either way, i'll take my current unfair over my past unfair any workday of the week.

WEB, WORK, LIFE (permalink) 03.02.2015
apologies for my recent disappearance. for the past several months i have been putting the finishing touches on my latest work project. it is the most ambitious and functionally coolest thing i've ever made. thankfully, the work has been delightful and invigorating (which equates to many hours of getting lost in the riddles at hand where what seemed like a seven minute span actually turned out to be, per the clock, a four-hour stint). over the last last three months i have worked every weekend, oftentimes both days. even over the christmas break i worked two to four hours every morning (excepting christmas of course).

while this interesting professional avalanche proved a welcome challenge, the life balance i passionately covet and proactivley protect took quite the point-blank hit. the primary victim during these episodes is my body which doesn't get the exercise or sleep it thrives on. the second casualty affects my relationships with my wife, my children and my friends which too require ongoing nurturing and care for a healthful and happy state. and lastly, my daily and weekly rituals that allow me to do things like read, and write (here) and to give back to my home and community become a collection of warm, blurred memories. thus, while it's good (and necessary in my opinion) to experience such professional sprints every now and again, it is also, by my accounting, an unsustainable lifestyle if one wishes to be healthy, married, loved and most-notably content with the full spectrum of their life.

your seeing me now is a sign that i have crested this particular hill (or jagged Himalayan-like peak rather) and am settling back into my less exotic but more steady, sustainable, and balanced (Hooah!) clip. i thank you for your patience and look forward to again visiting with you in these pages on a routine and respectful schedule.

as a curious aside, in the past fifteen years each and every one of my prior projects of similar scale took place during the arrival of one of our three children, dumb luck that, making this the first time we experienced this sort of professional onslaught while marty was of sound mind and body. this convenience helped not just a little, although i did sense her tank, like mine, was running on scant more than fumes in the last few weeks of the endeavor. thanks marta for the support and understanding, both of which share a sizable ingredient in my proudest and greatest successes in life. you rawk!

LIFE (permalink) 01.28.2015
if the first three rules of real estate are "location", then the first three rules of life satisfaction are "framing"
i bumped into one of bella's classmates dads at the pool. we got to talking after showering and i asked him what industry he worked in. this is not a question i usually ask folks but i found this guy to be very balanced and positive and always even-keeled so found myself curious about his trade. he said he taught seventh grade. in fact, he was a 23-year teaching veteran of seventh grade. to this, i expressed great surprise and complimented his easy-going nature saying i'd think he would look more worn and frazzled. to this he said:
look. if you're expecting thoughtful intellectualism from seventh graders, you are going to be immensely disappointed, and many are. but if you take it for what it is it can be a lot of fun and a great career.
if i have repeatedly observed one law of our universe it is the importance of how we frame the world before us. it's like Gale told H.I. in Raising Arizona, "This'll go hard or easy, H l.", and that it did. one's mindset will do more to govern one's fullfillment or disastifaction in life than all the dumb luck, raw deals, or curve balls life might throw one's way.

VIDEO, LIFE, SPORTS (permalink) 10.07.2014
love this guy!

LIFE, KIDS (permalink) 09.16.2014
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

LIFE (permalink) 08.22.2014
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.
JULY 2014

LIFE (permalink) 08.15.2014
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.
JUNE 2014

LIFE (permalink) 08.11.2014
best summer ever
last week marty's summer officially ended.


our last family act of the summer was to have a celebratory "sam-survived-cancer" (rel) dinner complete with porterhouse steaks, giant potatoes, fresh corn from sam's family farm in iowa all chased by cookies, ice cream and cup cakes. there's few things sweeter than appropriate decadence. at 9:30 (or at the end of the third hour of the dinner) and in the middle of a rich conversation about tips, tricks and lessons of growing up (mostly for bella's studious edification) but after her moving thankful about sam and diana, marty pushed her chair back, stood up and said,
as much as i hate to leave, i start work tomorrow and fear i need to get to bed if i hope to be worth anything in the morning. and i guess this also ends our best summer ever.
her final words 'best summer ever' came with oprah like fervor on free stuff day. i and the children repeated her calls of best summer ever and the kids came forward with big smiles, hugging her. en masse the group looked like a sporting team that just played their last game of the season and were ending their run together, never again to field the court in that exact complement. in many respects, this metaphor aptly describes us as we will never again enjoy a summer with a 13, 11, and 7 year old. given this magical age-set, we enjoyed a rare time together full of many things, such as:
  • marty not working (a facet of life we will never again take for granted since her return in 2012).
  • sleeping in (and it's counter-part, staying up late)
  • roller-blading (at rollercade and on our neighborhood's newly paved streets)
  • beach vacations with marty's mom and siblings (to celebrate mama nat's 80th)
  • minecraft-marathons (other marathons include xmen, star trek and x-files)
  • trampolining (a gift from our newly departed neighbors)
  • sleeping on the trampoline (a stellar marty idea and which saw a 5-night run)
  • watching blairwitch on the trampoline + sleeping the night on the trampoline (bella and i only)
  • group reading (both from books, kindle and audio)
  • monopoly (the real-one, no more of that monopoly junior bullshit - thanks to marty's brother mike)
  • eating on the porch (we've evolved to setting a table out there)
  • movie nights (one even at a drive-in, front playground included--which anthony came back soaking wet from)
  • bike rides (my biking regimen is nearly back to pre-kid form)
  • introducing my family to the great world of true, professional comedy (starting with bill cosby)
  • walking to a vp fair concert in forest park (please move it to forest park every year)
  • closeness
  • calmness
  • laughter
  • smiles
  • family
  • health
marty commented that a big difference maker this year was the kids, all of the kids, are now old enough where they can mostly run their own games and we have fully entered that next phase of parenthood where we have more mutually interactive relationships. for me, it is the last six items on the list that make for the core ingredients of great times. marty's summers-off job is what allows for great quantities of this and her working the other nine months of the year, accentuates their importance. at the start of the summer anthony asked me why i didn't get summers off like mom. i told him that mom had a special sort of job that allowed for that but that also, when mom has summer break, so do i, given that she essentially takes all of my chores on (e.g. dishes!!!) during these months and making my time equally relaxing and special. but placing an active emphasis on those bottom six is key:
  • by making attentive time for our kids.
  • by trying to run a non-frenetic home.
  • by ensuring everyone has laughed every day (tickling a human does wonders for that).
  • by breaking a funk by forcing an agitated human to smile (fart jokes and actual farts can distract young boys from a foul mood).
  • by that so often taken-for-granted human need, to know you are loved. it's one of those few, rare things you can never get enough of. so make sure you kiss and touch and wink and smile at someone you love today.
  • and possibly most importantly, by acknowledging daily that there are only two kinds of health—there is the health you have before you are told you have a life-threatening illness and there is the health you have after you are told you have a life-threatening illness—and appreciating every day you and yours spend on light-minded side of the fence (because when you are placed on the other side of the fence, it is all consuming to you and those who care about you).
so while i'm sad to be writing about the end of the best summer ever, i'm thankful to be able to healthily say we just had the "best summer ever" and look forward to trying to top it is subsequent years.

VIDEO, LIFE (permalink) 07.18.2014
via bella

LIFE (permalink) 06.26.2014
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.
MAY 2014

LIFE (permalink) 06.24.2014
best regiment ever
with marty now working nine months of the year again, getting summers off from morning duties is like shedding an early-morning, part-time job. the result is one of the best-ever weekly schedules.

WEB, LIFE (permalink) 06.03.2014
the new normal
first off, sorry for dropping out like that. i do believe it is the first time i have dissapeared for that long, sans explanation in the fourteen year existence of this site, but, well, you know, life.

the lapse began after i had one of my most tumultuous weeks i can remember. there were dramatically high highs which the universe followed up with unexpectedly low lows. by week's end i was a bit of a spent mess. everything is back to great though. it just took a minute to let my mind cut it all down into consumable, bite-sized chunks. minutes up. chunks swallowed. moving forward. trending upward.

if you're wanting examples, i won't bore you with the lows, as who wants to document or read about those, but will share a sample high. on may 25 i drove bella across town to attend a roller-skating party. whenever bella wants to get somewhere on time she taps her time-obsessed father who attempts to respect other peoples' time as much as his own. when we pulled into the lot i commented on how empty it appeared. after checking the invite in her lap bella smiled at me uncomfortably and confessed that she may have gotten the time wrong and we were an hour early. now this may seem minor to some but sixty mid-day, beautiful-weathered weekend minutes to a guy who likes distance bike riding and reading on the porch is like four hours any other time of the week. no stranger to my ticks, my daughter knew this was no minor mis-read. i breathed deeply and circled us out of the barren lot at a clip a police car would have noticed. wanting to avoid the busy avenue that brought us here i turned us deeper into the neighborhoods and we unhurriedly glided our way through the tree-lined streets pointing out houses and yards we found interesting.

after passing a sprawling church complex i made a u-turn and pulled into its lot. i drove to the dead-center of the large, carless, blacktop and turned off the car.

what are you doing?

you said you wanted to learn how to drive.

what? like now?

yeah, why not do something worthwhile with this unexpected free-time.

oh my god! oh my god! yes. ok.

i then taught my thirteen year old (just turned) how to drive a stick-shift ... in seven minutes. the brief experience, twenty minutes end to end, culminated with bella driving figure eights in a church parking lot. my 91 bmw softly and slowly sailing across the smooth pavement, windows down, sunroof open and the biggest smile possible stretched across my fearless daughter's sunlit face. after we traded seats and headed back to the skating rink i told her that she, at thirteen, could do what a great number of adults could not, and she should feel like a bad-ass because of it. her beaming face and quaking frame revealed that she did.

so these are the sorts of things (e.g. the highs at least) i'm experiencing and as long as i'm the one charged with both having and documenting the happenings, the math will quickly show there are just not enough hours in the day. but i don't want to become that guy who just appears every now and again, and only when it is convenient for him and never for you (e.g. like that fair-weather college pal who is only hangs out between love interests) so i've given some thought to how i can continue to nurture this website (and our relationship) and still lead my new hurly-burly life. here's what i've come up with. if you look in on monday and there is no posting, there will be no content all week. but if you look in on monday and there is a post, then there will be a post every day of the week. i think in a relationship like this there needs to be some sort of understood expectation.

of course the thought of just stopping rolls off my mind's ticker-tape machine every now again but for personal reasons i wish to continue recording my family's moments and i have learned this vehicle is an imperative part of that commitment. for those of you that enjoy reading along, you incent me to pull my act together. without you, it's a very hard affair so i appreciate your on-going participation more than you understand.

my two core objectives with this site are:
1. to continue chronicling the funny, sad, curious, and note-worthy moments that occur in my home full of children.
2. to see that what i document is thoughtful, edited, and not being done for the wrong reasons (which has surely happened from time to time in the past).

most important to me is that i don't create an expectation that forces me to produce content against a schedule i can't maintain, well at least maintain and try to keep the content on point and thoughtful. because i find when we let such standards go, pride in the product being produced is not far behind.

LIFE, WIFE (permalink) 05.14.2014
heed your wife
to follow up marty's bit of life knowledge (here), the advice i always give to struggling folks who approach me:
there is one core law of relationships: you and your partner need to want to be with one another.

it doesn't matter if you're dating, committed or married. the only thing that matters to the longevity of a relationship is if both parties want to be together. sharing this vision, you can tend to shoulder anything that comes your way. the moment someone wavers in this conviction, trouble is ahead.

so work to be someone people want to be around by being an interesting, engaging, attractive, growing person. when you are that the rest should kinda take care of itself. and if it isn't with the human you're with right now, if you are the above things, there is surely another human that would be game to spending minutes with you.
in the name of full disclosure, marty is the person who taught me this lesson. she taught it to me when i wasn't making our early dating years as easy as she believed they should oughta be. so in some regards i guess everyone who has ever benefitted from marty's advice has me to thank because if i didn't spend a part of our early relationship being a crotch-face, then she would have never come to this bit of inspiration.

so you're welcome.

LIFE, WIFE (permalink) 05.13.2014
heed your elders
the single piece of advice marty has dispensed more than any other:
if a relationship is not easy in the beginning, get out. get out now and get out fast. at the start it should all be smiles and tingles and butterflies. this cannot be said ten years or twenty years down the line. so if you're struggling at the start, you've got no hope.
people's response to marty's counsel has varied.

marty's accuracy in her counsel has not.

LIFE (permalink) 04.28.2014
the good life
as the boys and i were walking into school, i spied a mother who has been training her second grader to walk to school on his own. she has been doing this by stopping walking with him further away each day. she had built up to the point where she was stopping right when the school came into view. this allowed her to still see the child walk through the building's doors (for that next level you see the parents hiding behind bushes sneaking a look to see the kid makes the last leg without issue). on this day the child was about halfway to the building and a good bit of distance separated them.

the boy stopped next to a dogwood tree which had just started to bloom. he looked the tree up and down and then approached it until his nose was just inches from the closest bloom. he stared at the curious fascinating object with a great intensity. an adult might give it four or six seconds of their time but this child became transfixed. twenty seconds passed. then thirty. my boys were goofing off and not progressing much further much faster so i was able to take in this child's obsessed moment. i looked back to the mother to see her reaction. honestly i expected her to be restless, exasperated even, wanting her child to hurry up and get into the school so she could tap-out and return home to her coffee and facebook stream. but instead she stood patiently. seeing my glance she called across the street, "it kind of makes you remember what the saying 'stopping to smell the flowers' is meant to look like."

i smiled and shared my agreement. the boy continued his review another thirty seconds or more and the mother never prodded him on. after about a minute or so the child came out of his stupor and continued his walk. seeing him now you'd never know the two minute distraction took place (i reckon the same couldn't be said of his young mind though).

from time to time i ask my kids to imagine how blown away we would be if certain things were never part of our world and then suddenly one day, they just appeared, out of nowhere. i've used things like trees, clouds, insects, birds, squirrels, rain, falling stars, mountains. how fascinated would we be by these creations? how long would we stare at them? how long would we spend understanding the mechanics of their being? in short, how long would these infinetly complicated and wondrous parts of the universe intrigue us?

i found this child's quiet and unprodded appreciation of the world before him inspiring. further, i have found it has bettered my eye at spotting the signs of nature around me (which presently is full of action as it emerges from hibernation). in fact, in honor of this lesson and extraordinary span of time in our natural world, i'm logging off this week and am going to sit on my porch to enjoy more of my own dogwood's rebirth.

VIDEO, LIFE (permalink) 04.18.2014

WEB, LIFE (permalink) 04.08.2014
in short
in the middle of last year, i retired. not from my proper day job but from doing freelance work. in taking five minutes to do the math, i observed that the amount of enjoyment (e.g. cash money) traded for the amount of effort (e.g. my saturday nights) were disproportionate, and wildly so. so i forfeited the enjoyment by no longer buying things (things i didn't need in the first place) and instead of working through the night each and every weekend, would read books, and watch movies with my daughter, and go on dates with my wife, and work obsessively on my cross stitch skills.

and equally important, instead of making things i was essentially paid to care about, i now make things i personally care about. some would call these pet projects and is, i'd guess, what many old men of this generation do instead of diddling with electronics on their basement workbenches. while many of my projects are for private use, today i'm sharing the first public project to come from my reclaimed saturday nights, In Short Books.

click to jump

LIFE, WIFE (permalink) 03.14.2014
while beautiful as heck, the girl is awfully hard on a set of dishes
marty believes that if you make it fifteen or twenty years in marriage you should get to have a second wedding shower namely to replace the things you received the first time because after a decade of use, many of them are starting to wear out or are broken or are way out of style. while i chortled at her suggestion when she initially floated out there, holding one of the struggling items up in example as she spoke, i must confess the notion has been rolling around by brain long enough now that it has nice rounded edges and the sheen of a glassy marble, which is the look all our best thoughts take on in time—in my metaphorical world at least.

granted this time through i think marty would kindly request to swap any suggestive lingere purchaces for a more practical set of wool socks. and sad as it is to report, i would support the request. you would too if you ever had her ice-cold feet graze against your calf at 2am on a winter's night.

LIFE (permalink) 03.07.2014
holy dang
i just got tunred onto this ted video (by super-sam). i have no idea how i haven't seen it before now as it looks to have been out a few years (7 million plus views long at least). what a presenter! what a delivery! what a message! super strong all around. i watched it last night with marty and bella. when he talked about our need to stop teaching to the average and start raising the average, marty shouted and clapped as if she were in the original auditorium. when he talked about the ingredients to a healthy day (e.g. gratitudes, journaling, exercise, meditation, targeted kindness) bella backed away from me a little bit as she knows these are part of the metrics i track everyday. she knows this well because she has mocked me several times for my little LIFE spreadsheet i'm often found to be obsessively pouring over, by her telling, like gollum over his precious. obviously, i would like to describe it differently but it is close enough to the mark i'm left a mildly impotent to paint a more reasonable picture.

LIFE, FRIENDS (permalink) 03.05.2014
caffeine, way optional
my young friend that recently shouldered a cancer diagnosis goes in for his final treatment this afternoon. after that, all involved expect to place him in the 'in full remission' category. but as they say, once a survivor, always a survivor which means the big C knows where you live and you'll never again live without the fear of opening the door and seeing its grim face staring back at you.

in our most recent coffee outing, which was our first to come in under four hours, he spoke of the positive impacts this experience has had on his life. the first thing he said, in example, is he could sit in this chair, stare out this window and see the wonder and beauty of the slush-filled road and its surroundings, and he could do so for hours without getting bored of it. i asked him if he thought the feeling would ever go away. he said he could see it subsiding in time but doubted it would ever leave fully.

he then spoke of a new ritual he has adopted. he now greets mornings with a new respect and gratitude. the first thing he does after waking is not go back to sleep as he would in the past (i mean the guy is 23 and fresh out of college). the second thing he does is walk through his apartment and slide each sun-blocking curtain open wide, letting the sunlight flood each room. third he does some sort of full-body stretch. lastly, he makes his bed. once that is done he begins his day with an appreciation few hold.

i think i've discussed how in recent years i've converted to being a morning guy. my only personal sadness is i didn't do it decades earlier. already, i have my own set of rituals i partake in the morning, rituals meant to prepare for and give thanks to the day ahead but in hearing sam describe his morning routine, i see my own practice lacks the reverence i feel in sam's approach. i'm left wondering if the only way to enter our days with like gratitude is to have been part of a medical guessing game of how likely it is you will be around for the planet's sunrise this time next year.

LIFE, FRIEND (permalink) 02.21.2014
raising the bar
this recent post by dan martin stands as one of my favorite-ever facebook posts. granted, i've only ever read seventeen facebook post. still, it's one of the best i've seen. beautiful and thoughtful work dan. kudos.

LIFE, FRIEND (permalink) 02.20.2014
the talking artist
so this friend i've written about the last two days (tue, wed) would be the same friend i recently celebrated reconnecting with (told here) after a multi-year hiatus. as noted when i first brought him up, he is one of my all-time favorite people to converse with as partially evidenced by the last two days postings, both of which came from our most recent outing together (i could probably bleed two weeks of content from that single lunch). that said i fear i may not have properly represented him in those two examples.

one problem in sharing our conversations is i'm not a good enough writer to accurately convey the spirit of our talks and because of this, his inquiries might come off as insensitive or fumbling but this is very much not the case. what makes this fellow so good at discourse is he is able to ask the perfect questions, questions that are way obvious and way probing all at the same time. the special part is he can do so without coming across as aggressive or judgmental—no small feat. this is his art. truly. i've never met a person who can engage another as intensely and innocently (simultaneously) as this guy. and frankly, i don't know how he does it but would quickly trade a skill or two of my own to possess the rare ability. after much thought though, i believe it to be, simply, his natural gift.

the big thing he is able to do that most can't is pose his questions, and he has many, in a way that is not menacing. he is not looking to challenge your ways but instead understand them, possessing a genuine interest to know why you do what you do. it's fundamental curiosity at its basest form. the only time i've seen a like level of interest elsewhere is in small children. the significant difference though is his questions are curated and presented with the grace and clarity of a professional conversationalist, if there is such a thing. and this is not a one-way affair. i share a like curiosity and wonder at his life, past and present, and he is every bit as giving as he might ask you to be. the culmination of this mutual interest in each other's lives makes for twisting, unpredictable, and meaningful conversational journeys that, when we really fall into the stream, could best be described as 'heady'.

i cherish my time with this friend because he routinely gets me to re-contemplate my choices. for me this is big because my choices, our choices, are what will go on to make us who we are three months and three decades from now. when looked at like that, i'd challenge you to name a more critical service or use of your time. in our talks, there are times his curiosity affirms my position and other times it prompts me to adjust or abandon my notions. either way it gets cut up, i'm the better for our vivisection of ideas. in many regards it is the relationship bookguy pined for many years back (documented here).

i reckon it's clear by now that i could easily devote six months worth of posts to my interactions with this friend, known by all simply as luby, as our time has been most interesting pretty much from the moment we first met. i hope to enjoy his magical, elegant way for many decades to come.

LIFE, HEALTH (permalink) 02.19.2014
more wheaties. more piss.
another question my friend, the same from yesterday, asked me about in our last outing was why i worked so hard to lose weight and get in shape. his question, obvious as it was, took me a little off-guard and without much thought i told him, generically, so i could make sure i'm able to keep playing with my kids as i get older and don't have to be the dad that sits on the park bench reading the paper, shooing them back to play on their own when they call me in to share in their climbing and chasing games. later in the week, my sub-conscious, certainly un-enamored with my wanting response, pushed forth the real answer by replaying one of lester burnham's many great lines from american beauty. this particular exchange came when he caught up with the male couple from next door during one of their morning runs.
Lester: I figured you guys might be able to give me some pointers. I need to shape up. Fast.
Jogger: Are you just looking to lose weight, or do you want increased strength and flexibility as well?
Lester: I want to look good naked!
if i were honest with my friend, and myself, this is the core reason i'm working as hard as i am. first and foremost i believe that if i achieve that goal, of looking good naked, many other pertinent and meaningful dominoes will fall, like looking good at the pool, having clothes fit me better, feeling energetic, avoiding doctors/hospitals (!!!), walking into speaking engagements with greater confidence, sleeping more soundly, biking a hundred miles with my daughter, getting out of a chair or off the floor without accompanying groans and moans, and yes, all that and being able to rawk the park with my youngins.

the biggest and most unanticipated benefit of getting my body back more like my college days was surprisingly not on my list: making my wife more interested in me. she had never discerningly reduced her affection for me over the decades as i added better than a pound a year to my frame but once the weight left my mid-section, there was a perceptible uptick in the attention i received from her. for instance, as i passed her in the hallway where before we'd politely skirt by one another without any antics, she might now hold a hand out as i passed and rake her fingers across my flat-ish stomach or she might come up behind me as i did dishes and send a slow hand down my side, leaving a tantalizing comment in my ear before peeling away. again, while this sorta stuff never fully went away, this sorta stuff wasn't happening with the same frequency when i was having to up-size my pants every other year. and even though this perk wasn't on my radar of benefits when i began the trek, i can whole-heartedly say it stands out (and up) as the best part of the view now that i've crested the hill.

LIFE (permalink) 02.18.2014
talking about pissin' in a man's wheaties
a friend recently questioned my practice of doing daily, routine things for my family members as a show of love. these things can include doing the dishes to honor marty, watching suspense movies with bella every saturday night, playing minecraft with alex a few nights a week, or reading harry potter to anthony every night before bed. my friend argued that given my consistency people would soon deem these acts as "normal" and come to expect them. the result of this expectation would be my efforts would lose their shine of specialness. i quickly refuted his claims as short-sighted and immature but can confess that since he planted that seed in my head i've now come to observe the reactions to my rituals with a new eye, an eye that is looking for signs that my rituals are carrying the unintended consequences he predicted, consequences that are injuring the very growth i'm looking to foster. how much would it suck were it true?

LIFE, HEALTH (permalink) 02.05.2014
work smart, not hard
the most important health lesson i've learned in my near decade long pursuit of a healthy body.

it is easy to wreck a strong exercise regimen with a bad diet.

and, it is impossible to wreck a good diet with a bad exercise regimen.

this bit of knowledge has been the difference between me running like mad and making no ground and me nearing my health goals while barely breaking a sweat.

VIDEO, LIFE (permalink) 01.31.2014
a ted talk with a surprise twist

LIFE, WIFE (permalink) 01.13.2014
two dozen
last friday morning i woke extra early, like in the five o'clock hour. i went through my morning routines which ended with a bike ride (e.g. spinning on a trainer in the basement that is). as i logged my exercise results from the handlebar computer, i paused when i scrawled the date out in my notepad. 1/10/14. january tenth marks the date of my first date with marty as well as our wedding day. some quick math told me we had just crested our 24th year together.

knowing marty should be awake by now, i kept an eye out for her as i passed through the kitchen and then upstairs. i didn't see her in the bathroom, the nest (our bedroom), or the ping-pong room. then as i walked down the hall, i noticed movement in the boys room. i looked through their door and saw a bluish light coming from their closet. in peering through the two swinging doors i found my wife inside the space. she stood in front of her wall of clothes (yes, our clothes closet is in the boys room -- remember, we sleep in something called the nest which barely accommodates our bed let alone a closet). clad in a pair of kooky, patterned tights she got for christmas, a bra and a damp head of hair, she scanned her clothing options using a lego-man flashlight whose feet cast a dim blue light upon her choices (the blue light surely wreaking havoc with the true color of each garment). as she sensed my approach she turned her head grinning at being caught in such a curious moment. i kissed her shoulder and wished her happy anniversary. she smiled bigger and said, "yes. you too." i told her i never imagined twenty-four years after our first date to find us standing in a closet, lit only by a toy flashlight, her in funny tights and wet from a shower and me in biking bibs and wet from exercise trying to be quiet as to not wake any of our three children, two of which were sleeping just on the other side of the door. her smile widened perceptibly as she agreed to the sentiment. and with nary more than that, we acknowledged another shared year.

and, the saying "you just can't make this stuff up" continues to show itself to me as one of life's greatest truisms.

LIFE, KIDS (permalink) 01.07.2014
the other side of joy
we recently learned that one of bella's dogs (from her dog-sitting business) had taken ill, ill to the point that the vets told the family they probably had a week left with him before it would become unbearable for all concerned. of all the dogs bella has cared for this one, Guinness, held the top-spot with our family. whenever bella watched Guinness he would stay at our house, sometimes for weeks at a time, sleeping in our beds, walking laps around our dinner table and standing guard at the french door windows for joggers and dog walkers.

marty and i held off telling the kids as long as able due of the holiday break but given the short window we had to work with—as we had to go down to say our goodbyes—we called the kids down to the living room just days before christmas and explained the situation. bella was, predictably, leveled by the news. marty held bella's quaking frame, tears streaming down her own face at seeing her daughter rocked so. i sat with alex who leaned into me silent and staring. we hushed anthony's questions telling him we'd explain better later.

alex and i then left for a lunch we had planned, leaving marty still holding a now quiet isabella. after a few silent miles in the car, i asked my ten year old how he felt. following a longish pause he softly said, "i think i'm a little bit devastated."

if there is one who makes the most of his words in our family, the safe and accurate bet would point to alex.

LIFE, QUOTES (permalink) 01.06.2014
2013 dearmitt-household quote of the year
mom still owes me twenty dollars for calling me the c-word.
i will bet you a boat-load of money this phrase, casually uttered to me by a twelve-year old bella while walking to the bus stop, did not pass before you in 2013, any year prior, or any future year you may be fortunate enough to enjoy.

i'm tempted to let the quote stand on its own without explanation just to let your mind dash madly from scenario to scenario, opening doors and looking behind boxes in search of the event that would lead to such a statement. i imagine the wayward paths your mind might travel down, the stories unfolding with the exciting unusualness of a tarantino narrative would be far better than the actual context, and marty swears there's always context.

i'm equally tempted to explain what led to the exchange because i like you and even if i didn't like you a whole lot, well, i'm not a complete ass-face. not most-times at least.

when i'm torn between two viable options i tend, like most reasoned folks, to act conservatively which in this case is to let your minds imagine how such a moment could develop between a mother and daughter. this path can be reversed, the other path cannot.

oh, and, happy new year. i'm infinitely thankful and excited to be sharing this shiny fresh-out-of-the-box year full of minutes and potential with you. in fact, i'm bristling just like alex did before falling to sleep the night before christmas.

LIFE (permalink) 12.19.2013
an absolute one of a kind
i heard of the greatest christmas tradition this week. the husband of a woman i work with, since the year they got married, has saved a section of the stump from their family christmas tree. he dates the wooden discs, adding significant detail(s) from the year in his custom scrawl. the end result is a rich and personal presentation on their family mantle. this discovery snuck in just before year's end as the idea i most wish was my own. the man to credit for this excellent bit of creativity and foresight is one joe erker. in case it is not apparant, i couldn't be more envious of the thoughtful gift he has made for his family and the future generations it will surely touch.

and, if that large centerpiece stump with the single word POP on it doesn't elicit emotion from you, wether you personally know who pop was or not, you are not properly wired (or you haven't yet lost one of the most important people in your life). powerful stuff. as the movie says, life is beautiful.

click to enlarge

KIDS, LIFE (permalink) 11.21.2013
minecraft update
a quick recap. yesterday i talked about making a change in my approach with alex. in short, i made the decision to allow alex's interest to direct our time together instead of me pushing things i deemed more worthwhile for alex and his development (yeah, i know, what a big-time ass). presently, one of alex's premiere interest is a game called minecraft. as a rule, i'm reasonably derisive towards video games believing them to be an unfortunate use of young minds primed and ready to learn real things with a never-to-be-had-again ability or rapacity. in putting aside my agenda and deciding to support my son in his interest, i called one of my best friends, bookguy, who i knew played the game and asked his advice. bookguy defended this particular game saying it was better than most and iterated through the reasons why, a key one being the intensely creative nature of the game which craftily blends lego-like building with dungeons and dragons-like adventure. bookguy also pointed me to a few things to accelerate and amplify our experience.

so monday night, the first night of the new troy, alex helped me install the game on my computer. he then schooled me on the basics and helped me to build, or craft rather, my first house, complete with a roof and bed. i backed away from the computer after night one feeling good about our progress.

on tuesday night i suggested to alex we try to load one of these maps my friend told me about AND to try to get the local network gaming figured out, another bookguy tip. alex inquired about the map and i said i had one in mind. i pulled up the webpage bookguy directed me to and the second it appeared on the screen, alex lost it, and i mean completely.

herobrine's mansion! herobrine's mansion! that's the map we're getting?

i think so. if we can get it figured out.

oh my gawd dad! that is like the most amazing map ever made for minecraft.

that's what i hear.

oh my gawd! oh my gawd! i can't believe this is happening. this is amazing!

and happen it did. we got the map installed, the texture add-on in place, and the networking figured out. alex and i, with anthony enthusiastically watching, ran around a mightily impressive world made by some mightily impressive dude. there were lots of excited explanations by alex and re-spawnings by dad (namely because i kept hitting the bad guys with a piece of steak instead of my sword). let's just say a certain corner of our house was much more lively than it has historically been for a routine tuesday evening.

when i later put alex down for bed he thanked me for playing minecraft with him and getting the maps and figuring out how we could play together. he then said, "dad, this was the best day of my life" and from the dreamy seriousness in his voice i felt that he was not embellishing his mood, not one iota.

had you told me on sunday afternoon that i would be experiencing this moment forty-eight hours later, i would have wondered what major life event had occurred. it just turns out the major life event was a quiet ten minutes of thought. i knew i wanted something more from a very important part of my life, i just didn't know it was so close at hand.

but, there is a bad side to this story. the unfortunate side effect to injecting an ok life with a plunger-full of awesomeness is it can make ten year olds curse like a target stock boy. it peaked as my minecraft character dropped into the newly installed herobrine world when alex, awe in his wide eyes, shouted in my ear, "ohhhh! this is awesome!! this is so fricken' awesome!!!"

i would have chastised him, but i agreed.

LIFE (permalink) 11.20.2013
innovation is in the air.
the last seven days floated more innovative ideas before me than any other week in the history of troy. a few you may have heard or seen as well, assuming you too are not enforcing a news embargo, but a few will be new to you.

item one told of "the coach that never punts or kicks off" (video) but instead runs on every fourth down and only does onside kicks. it seems he read this study by some harvard prof who has the math to support the approach, and this coach has seen a great deal of success from it. i'm confident i'm not the only one wondering if this is all true, as it seems to be for skill levels found in the sub-college ranks at least, i'm left wondering how has no one seen this before?

for the second item, a friend over lunch told me of a teacher at his kid's school who has his students learn the lessons at home via web videos (e.g. what is the pythagorean theorem?) and do their homework in class where, if confused, they have access to the teacher and others learning the same concept. when i mentioned this to marty she had heard of it, being in the industry and all, and said the practice is called 'flipping' the classroom. given all the great web fodder out there, cases in point, i can see this as being a highly profitable approach, especially if it means my kids not having to turn to me for help with things i didn't understand the first time around.

the third bit of inspiration i bumped into came from the mother of one of my former students. she told me that when her three boys were young they got very little television. she policed this in the following way:
  • each boy would pour over the weekly television listing that came in the sunday paper where they circled two hours worth of television from the offerings.
  • the marked up schedule would then get posted, like on the fridge, for reference. then everyone knew when they had to be home for tv, being the pre-tivo age, and the boys would look forward to their windows of time.
  • alternately, and probably more importantly, they could look at the movie section of the same paper and direct their two hours at a theater movie instead of television.
i can just imagine the excitement and anticipation surrounding this ritual and how it would make special something that for must of us has become a completely numb and expected part of life. i'm anguished i didn't learn of this practice ten years ago. i find it beautifully thoughtful, inspired even.

the last item comes from my own desk. perhaps all the innovation happening around me moved me to keep up. the everyday problem i held in my hand dealt with alex and the time we spend together. it's not that our time together is strained, it's just not as vibrant and easy as i would describe my relationship with my other kids. as such, i sat down to reflect on this and inside ten minutes came to the conclusion that i was trying to push alex towards things i wanted him to do instead of leveraging one of his many interests. when i considered how i would feel if someone did that to me, i concluded i would think:

1. that the person was an ass.
2. and that the person might be acting a bit like their own father.

these two lines of thought put a quick end to that. minutes after this epiphany i called bookguy, a fellow i knew to be a minecrafter (minecraft being one of alex's core interest at the moment), and asked for some advice. then, minutes after getting home from work, i sought alex out and after the usual check on the day i asked him if he could do me a favor. being the helpful man he is he of course said yes and gave me his attention. i asked him if he would teach me how to do minecraft like he does. his late in the day expression brightened more than a little bit.

if a doctor's mandate is to do no harm i think a father's mandate could be 'don't be a dick' because who wants a selfish dick for a father. i wouldn't be surprised to learn twenty years from now that those ten minutes of reflection might be ten of the most important minutes i spent in regard to my boy aleo.

those are four examples where things that happen everyday were re-thought and from those re-contemplations, life got changed. these thinking organs we got are pretty dang impressive. so think. think hard. improvement is everywhere.

LIFE (permalink) 11.05.2013
the scoop
for those who know of my practice of not reading news or websites, save a few friends, i have new evidence of how diligent i am to this practice—i just learned two weekends ago that james gandolfini died several months ago. an article i read mentioned his passing. i re-read the sentence three times wondering if there were two james gandolfinis or if i was mis-remembering the name of the recent sopranos star. even at that point i didn't look it up on-line but days later asked a teacher at the boys' school when it occurred to me in a semi-related conversation. after expressing some shock at my ignorance, the teacher confirmed the information. after learning of my news embargo, he offered to let me know if any more celebrities of merit died.

in thinking on that later, i have one friend who sends me funny news stories and another who sends me everything about circumcision. maybe i just need to find a few more genre specific folks to filter through the deluge of news and send me the items they know would be of interest to me. heck, i'd be willing to make an annual steak dinner for anyone who provided such a time-saving service.

FRIENDS, LIFE (permalink) 10.16.2013
it may be harder to move, but it's easier to act.
in partial regard to the book i posted about yesterday, i remember when my former boss and mentor turned fifty i asked her if there was a best part of hitting this lofty milestone. she had an answer ready and looked happy to share it. with more than a small hint of excitement in her voice she said it was the realization, finally, that everyone is not talking or thinking about you and that in the rare moments that they actually might be, knowing that it doesn't matter, that it doesn't matter one iota.

for her, this epiphany proved one of the most liberating and meaningful parcels of wisdom ever set before her. the fact that my boss and mentor was an african american, female executive in a wildly conservative banking environment should add some weight to this discovery. while not yet fully there, i can sense myself trending in this direction. i can also sense the saliva building around my mental jowls at the thought of biting into the philosophy whole.

LIFE (permalink) 08.09.2013
life advice - part 5 : the intangibles
part four is over here

someone recently turned the tables on me and asked if i ever received any good business advice. as you might guess, i'm a better question asker than answer giver, concise answer giver at least.

the greatest lesson i ever learned did not come in a moment but was instead a slow drip of learning over many years, decades really, but an over-arching message was present. my two main mentors were my mother and a female boss i worked for for several years (and i've spoke of before). the message they delivered is that success isn't solely governed by a skillset but also by a host of tangential qualities surrounding a skill set: respect, presentation, honesty, vision, commitment, kindness, persistence, belief, to name a few of the sorts of qualities included. yes, of course, you have to have the base skills but the point is those skills alone aren't enough to deliver success or fulfillment. the import of all of these factors, blended and balanced in work and in life, were repeatedly demonstrated and re-enforced by my two mentors, and their noting them, in my behavior and professional endeavors during our time together. you might call them, en masse, the intangibles.

truth is i learned the intangibles before i learned my end skillset, as i would again be taken under the tutelage of new people who gave me the professional tools i still use today. but i feel it was the presence and honoring of 'the intangibles' that helped to distinguish me among my peers early on and continue today to effectively guide me into and through new waters.

and putting it that way, the intangibles, makes me think of the quarterback tom brady. athletically, tom brady is one of the lowest graded quarterbacks to ever go through the nfl combine (the testing ground where nfl hopefuls are evaluated). yet, he has gone on to be one of the highest achieving and best-regarded quarterbacks in the history of the nfl. were you to ask him and those who coach him, play alongside him, or compete against him, you will often hear words from 'the intangibles' toolbox mentioned.

so that would be my advice to a young professional. mind the details. all of them. and if you chose to ignore one, like say proper dress or good vision, make sure you are neglecting it mindfully and for meaningful, defensible reasons as there are plenty of unknowns ahead of you and it would be a shame to let an avoidable issue slip into your blind spot that might impact your opportunities or potential.

while that may seem long-winded i promise you, it could have have been immensely worse. just ask my daughter or wife. they would confirm you got off easy.

so how about you? did you get any good business or life advice along the way that made a difference for you? if so, i'd super-love to hear about it.

LIFE (permalink) 08.08.2013
life advice - part 4 : be excellent.
part three is over here

a few years ago i asked my students to attend a talk given by a special guest visiting our school. the man speaking was an alum of the university and now the ceo of a large investment firm. he stressed, emphatically, the importance of excellence and making sure that all of your work and all of your interactions were thoughtful and nothing short of outstanding. in the class i teach, excellence in your work served as a cornerstone, if not the entire point, of our lessons and we were deep enough into the semester that my students knew being excellent and thoughtful took time, like a lot of time (e.g. to make a good, passable twenty minute presentation can take four to five hours, but to make a great, memorable presentation you're looking at more like like fifteen to thirty hours, depending on how soon the inspiration comes). to this principle one of my students asked the man, "i understand the importance of being excellent but can you speak to how one is to find the time and energy to be excellent all of the time?"

to say i wasn't proud and impressed by my student's cogent question would be a full-on lie, especially next to the other ridiculous questions being wasted on this guy. unfortunately the man's answer kinda just stuck to the rallying cry of there is no rest for the successful and they are always working and they are always excellent which was a mainstay of his overall talk.

the next day in class we discussed the talk. someone commented that they felt his answer to the girl's question was lacking. i agreed but then defended him saying that it's hard to have a bulk of questions fired at you, moments after completing a talk, and get all of them perfect (which unfortunately soils his be excellent all of the time argument). i told them given his experience and how thoughtful his talk was if he were given a few minutes to properly ponder the question he might have said something like:
being excellent does take time and energy and there are not enough hours in the day or cycles in our minds to make everything we touch be excellent, but the true mark between the successful and those relegated to basements and back offices is successful people know when it is important to be excellent. because not all tasks and moments are equal and thus not all tasks and moments should or can receive equal attention.
fact is, i wouldn't have been surprised to see this man clap his knee while in his first class seat home as he thought of a better answer to the young, eager girl's question. he might have even mumbled audibly as he realized the missed oppurtunity to have been excellent.

LIFE (permalink) 08.07.2013
life advice - part 3 : nike agrees
part two is over here

in leading up to the interview with my uncle, i started practicing my questions on random folks i was hanging out with. before going to pennsylvania to meet my uncle, we spent a week at a beach with a few families. while out in the breakers one morning, i asked one of the dads, also a man who has had a markedly successful professional run thus far, if he ever received any advice that made a difference. he thought through a few rolling breakers and then lit up.
yes, yes i did. when i was young, before leaving home, my dad told me that if anyone asked me if there was something i could do, i should always say yes i could do that and then be a really quick learner. and that's what i've tried to do and most times, almost always, it has paid off.
to add support for his claim i learned he was a ski instructor in oregon while in grad school. i asked where he skied as i knew he grew up in the midwest. he said he hadn't skied. the obvious next question dealt with his 'ski instructor' credentials. the story goes, he was told a resort or school (i can't recall) was looking for a ski instructor. after talking to them (and telling them he could do it) he went to the mountain, got outfitted with some skis and started skiing working his way to the challenging terrain and skiing it until proficient. when it came time for class he proved ready and everyone came away happy. in the end i guess it's as my father-in-law said in regard to parenting "you just have to be smarter than your kids". perhaps the same holds true of teaching.

to add another important detail here, a mutual friend of ours, e-love, has also said of chris, the "say you can do it" guy, that he is the most extraordinary natural athlete he has ever seen. to support e-love's claim, after chris creamed us in tennis i asked when he, chris, learned to play and if he played in college. e-love interrupted the answer saying, "you don't want to know the answer to that question troy". of course i pressed on and e-love was right, i didn't want to know that the guy who just annihilated me in tennis and has the form of a former division 1 athlete, started playing a year ago and for the most part just pretends he's trying to hit a baseball.

LIFE (permalink) 08.06.2013
life advice - part 2 : cousin jerry definitely has the 'and then some' bit covered.
part one is over here

the day after chatting with my uncle jerry about business, i had lunch with a cousin of mine, also named jerry. cousin jerry is also a bit of a business savant (these two jerrys perhaps being the best businessmen in my entire family). i told him of my uncle's advice. he smiled and said, "yeah, that's good". i then turned the question to him and asked if he's had any advice he lived by. his reply.

i have two business rules i live by. first, i'd never buy a horse from an amish man and second, i'd never buy a hotel from a pakistani.

hah. i bet they're not teaching those lessons at wharton. can i ask why or how those rules came about?

sure. if an amish man is willing to part with a horse it means that horse is no good because that's the only way an amish man would let a horse go and if a pakistani can't make a hotel work, i'd wager there's no one around that can because you know that paki has tried everything under the sun to make a go of it, and if he can't make it, i'm pretty sure i couldn't either.

these answers are for-sure every bit as colorful as my cousin. further, i'd put cousin jerry up against any mba you could find to solve a business problem. in part because at the end of the work day and after dinner, i bet your mba wouldn't be sliding back in his car to go work a few repossessions before bedtime (see 'and then some' in part 1).

LIFE (permalink) 08.05.2013
life advice - part 1 : it's like my ma used to say ...
of the numerous things i did while on break, one of them (one of the cooler) sent me to the northeast to interview a relative. i won't tire you with the full evolution of what interested me in such an adventure as that would take me a bit of time to tease apart the dovetailed influences, not all of which are of interest. through the process though, i stumbled into an unexpected landscape of unexpected gems, gems dealing with people's personal thoughts and life experiences. namely it got me asking folks, even those not being interviewed, questions, many of which were ones i usually would not ask someone in simple conversation. one such question that proved suprising was asking if they had ever received a bit of professional advice that helped them succeed. once the answers started flowing, i found myself struck that i haven't been asking this more often. given how much i enjoyed hearing and subsequently thinking on these morsels, this week i'm going to share a few of the answers i received to the 'did you ever receive any especially good business advice' question, starting with my uncle jerry, the man who inspired this whole interviewing-escapade to begin with.

my uncle jerry is a fellow who began with very humble roots. a for-sure country boy, the first home he and his wife shared privately, was weeks earlier a pig pen that sat behind the farmhouse he shared with his family and prior to their occupancy, served sixty-six hogs my uncle had purchased and then sold as an investment. his memory is shady on how long it took to convert the pig pen into livable space but he puts it at somewhere between one and two weeks. in the decades that followed, my uncle went on to become one of the more respected businessmen of the county he called home.

my uncle is now 87 and he pondered on my question for a fair bit before answering. then, slowly, he recalled a fellow he worked with once. he told of a moment at the end of the day where an older gentlemen wagged a finger at a twenty-something jerry and said in what sounded like a near-accusatory tone, "always put in an honest day's work son ... and then some." jerry confessed to remembering that sentence throughout his working life and he recalls many a day where he pushed his chair back to head home when the tail line of that proclamation rolled through his head. he'd then ask himself if he had yet done his "and then some". this contemplation often prompted him to slide back under his desk and put in another fifteen minutes or two hours depending on the task he chose to bite into. with this time he might get organized for the next morning's work or finish a bit of paperwork that had been eluding completion. in looking back on it he admits that it could very well be that "and then some" philosophy that proved the difference between his work product and that of his peers and his competition.

this is one of those magical life tenets i'm choosing to place in the "there's no way it could hurt" drawer right next to eating fruit and smiling more often.

LIFE (permalink) 05.29.2013
it's all relative man. it's all relative.
yesterday's definitive call to summer's start can be attributed to marty having completed her first year of teaching. to the astute eye, this means of course i also completed my first year with marty back in the classroom. and while summer for me may not equal sleeping in or lazing poolside or reading stephen king into the wee hours of the night, it does mean that for the next three months i don't have to share marta with others from 6am to 3pm every weekday which equates to a lower impact experience for troy and when you're in your forties, lessening life's expectations and responsibilities upon you is every bit as good as waking at noon, napping on a drifting pool raft and reading suspense stories through the night.

LIFE (permalink) 05.28.2013
best summer ever!
the schedule says it all but in case you don't read "schedule" what it says, namely, is that (A) i have fully made the switch to being a morning guy and (B) lots of good things are going to come out of this summer, like the best things ever.

or view the six year evolution...

click to enlarge

VIDEO, LIFE (permalink) 05.22.2013
lots of dinner question fodder in there
i'm a bit of a commencement address junkie. i reckon i've admitted this before. last year my employer put forth one of the best of the year. remarkably, they've come through again with what i'd say, even though others aren't, is again one of this year's strongest offerings. and i'm told by someone on the stage during the talk, the man didn't have a single note or scrap to reference through his thirty plus minute address. remarkably good.

each year as i spin through the selections i'm struck by how good the good ones are (and surprised that the bad ones aren't better--c'mon people, if given the platform you gotta get your obsess on).

LIFE (permalink) 05.13.2013
computer-free week
Last Tuesday my laptop stopped working. Signs pointed towards hard drive failure. Being a faithful user of the wondrous and reliable Time Machine, I feared not for my data making the situation merely inconvenient. Being the middle of the week I didn't have free cycles to give to the repair so tabled it until the weekend.

I mentioned my downed machine to a friend later in the week. When he proffered the expected 'bummer' I replied it surprisingly wasn't much of a bummer, and it was actually kinda nice. Without a machine to mindlessly, magnetically be drawn to in the evening, I found my time at home sedate, like the most sedate I can recall (caveat disclaimer-an iphone allows me to see I have no pressing email and/or issues (which I never really seem to have, like ever)). Wednesday night after dinner and getting the kids down, I finished a book. Thursday night after dinner and kids I visited a bookstore walking the aisles for over an hour considering candidates for my next read. Friday night we were out but when I came home I was spared the usual draw to my machine to just check on 'the state of the world'. Instead I made ground on the much more personally relevant book I had bought and actually slipped into bed at a sane hour like a sensible human instead of wrecking my weekend, the crown jewel of my week, before it really got underway by starting if off bleary and unrested.

Saturday evening, aleo and I ran out for a replacement drive. Upon returning, aleo, looking at directions, fully completed the repair-- opening my machine, pulling the bad drive, installing the new, and closing up his titanium patient--pretty dang neat to watch. I planned on using my post-kids Saturday evening to restoring my machine from backups. Upon firing it up the machine still struggled. Further inspection makes the culprit look like, not the drive but the drive cable. Another night without a computer, which translated to another night of reading and enviable quantities sleep. In fact, after we discovered it was the cable I told aleo drats and confessed we might need to pull the drive he just installed. He said, "That's alright dad. But maybe we should do it in the morning. We don't want to be tired and crabby on mother's day." Rock star!

The good news is I scored a few more days without my digital crutch, which aside from chatting with you all I find I don't really require much these days outside of work hours. In the same conversation mentioned above with my friend I told him of a local business-owner here, like one of our city's most successful and creative and certainly the modern-day architect of my community, does not and never has had an email account. If you want to do business or interact with this fella you call him or make an appointment for a live conversation. I find myself regularly thinking of this man's choices. My friend put it best when he assessed his chances for such a lifestyle by saying
Technology has become nothing but a tool to me and I'm no longer excited by its offerings and just get annoyed when it doesn't do what it should. But, it is admittedly my only viable skill that I can offer people so I think I'm stuck with it for the moment.
His sentiment pretty accurately describes my boat as well. And let's be clear, I'm not angsty about my situation. Without the technology boom of the late 90's I can't imagine what I'd be doing for a living but I can near guarantee I wouldn't be enjoying it as much as I do. If I've learned anything this week, it is that not only can I manage with less digital minutes in my life, but that my life would be more pleasant and sedate without them (this realization is no kinda good news for my kids as I was already a bit of the amish-style dad on the street). Now if I could just find the strength to break the hold my computer has on me without using a hammer to do so, i'll have more restorative evenings and proper nights of sleep in the time ahead.

note: the astute eye will see the above post uses punctuation. worry not. this does not mark a new and conforming troy. just a troy that doesn't have his usual tools at his disposal and given the temporary nature of his plight doesn't feel like losing minutes with an amazing book he stumbled upon to correct the annoying side effect of an auto-correcting word processor.

LIFE (permalink) 02.26.2013
limited resources
i fear i'm up against it once more and being one who tries to subscribe to the if you can't do it well, don't do it philosophy, i need to step away for another moment.

i will plan to return on march 11th.



LIFE (permalink) 01.07.2013
up against it
i have two deadlines in the coming weeks and rather than subjecting you to quarter-cooked thoughts, i'm going to make the mature choice and step away for the month.

as to not totally send you from the doorstep empty-handed, i'll share the most salacious bit of conversation i enjoyed over the christmas break. i don't recall how it began but i surely liked how it slipped and tripped about.

see you in february.



LIFE, PERSONAL (permalink) 12.04.2012
makin' and bakin'
last week (friday, saturday, sunday respectively) i hit three meaningful milestones i've been working towards; one professional, one personal, and one family related.

professionally, a project i've been giving effort to for the past year (not exclusively) went live for our collaborators. for those who create you know what sharing something you've invested that heavily in means. for those who aren't in a creating-sort of occupation, you could liken it to taking a naked picture of yourself standing in front of a full length mirror, posting it on the internet, and asking what folks think.

personally, the everyman matured once again. this year proved particularly poignant as over the past few years i lost my focus to the professional version of the contest. while i funneled my energies that way things slipped a bit with the original jewel. when i stopped the ride long enough to look around i became truly dour. the low point was last year's competition with barely 500 entries. then i had to cancel the wrap party days before because of a lice scare. such dumb luck would usually sadden me but given the nose dive the contest took, it proved to be the most merciful action through the long, embarrassing, public decline. but that reflection brought me to mothball the pro contest, swing all the guns back to the original everyman. this year saw more than 1800 entries from over seventy countries roll in. and they were wonderfully varied and rich—what i love most about the everyman. in reviewing the winners, i can say i'm predominately thrilled with the results (i'm especially smitten with the winners of the spirit award).

and lastly, the family success, we have broken bones on our home's floor plan once again and have everyone shuffled into their new rooms. since before the birth of my first child i had visions of building each of my children a loft bed slash desk. not from a store. not from a plan. just from a bunch of thought and observation. barring a custom cut piece of glass for the desktop, the final deck screw got seated, flush might i add, on bella's desk last weekend and she began settling into her new space. more on these room transitions soon.

part of my process involves a fallow mental and productivity period after large bursts of creativity or making. while i've earned and need a brief respite, my problem is i'm just as excited at my next endeavors (on all fronts) so fear my mental lull is already under fire by vibrating neurons and fanciful visions of what can be. the classic "good problem" to have.

LIFE (permalink) 11.07.2012
bad life day
we know a man who self-destructed. timing smacks a bit of a mid-life thing but people are tricky and complex so who knows. whatever the source the man lost virtually everything he had amassed over the last few decades: wife, kids, job, home. seeing him since the falling has been strained and when we cross paths he predominately ignores us. marty saw the man's brother and stopped to ask how his brother was making out. she also asked him to pass along the message that she wasn't judging him since his troubles and is ok continuing a relationship. ultimately, she said she wanted him to know she wasn't turning her back on him and if he needed a friend from before, she'd be there. the brother smiled knowingly and assured her she mis-read his brother's behavior. he then summed the situation up by saying, "he's like a grown man standing in the middle of a party with a diaper full of shit."

given how self-conscious i feel sporting a sizable zit or wonky hair, i reckon i can vibe this man's unease. the thought of a more permanent blemish that can't be washed or cut off must surely be debilitating.

LIFE (permalink) 10.11.2012
this is turning out to be time-week.
in a recent family meeting talking about what and wasn't getting done in the house, marty confessed that she didn't know how i, their father, is able to get his stuff done and be calm and have leisure time when she's struggling on all fronts.

i was readying my dissertation on my methods and strategies, yesterday's regiment being part of it, when alex beat me to it. without even lifting his head from his plate flatly said, "it's because of coffee and tea." the whole table looked his way as we absorbed his unusual contribution.

not only was i surprised by his agility to so rapidly connect the two, i was also embarrassed that his answer was far more insightful, to the point and more accurate than my own.

PERSONAL, LIFE (permalink) 10.10.2012
my band-aid against that relentless foe: time.
the latest installment of my weekly regiment. the fall 2012 schedule has more change than any update in the past. the factors inducing this include:
  • marty's return to work
  • bella's starting middle school
  • my commitment to addressing some long-tabled house work.
  • because i have to get up earlier, i had to move the lion-share of my workouts to earlier in the day.
  • my enjoyment of swimming has grown to where i'm now doing it twice a week.
  • a new friend recently turned me on to a high intensity strength program called tabata.
another factor not entirely evident on the schedule is my new commitment to sleep. i've hit some point in my adult life where proper sleep has a profound impact on my productivity and effectiveness. of course it's possible this has always held true but i'm just now paying attention enough to realize its effects. either way, i ravenously protect my seven hour sleep window, giving it priority over virtually all else.

or view the five year evolution...

click to enlarge

VIDEO, LIFE (permalink) 09.28.2012
good weekend lead-in
yesterday i mentioned eric thomas, a speaker i've been enjoying recently. he's the voice on the how bad do you want it videos i posted a few weeks back. here is another talk he did earlier this year for a company in vegas. it starts a little slow but after the ten minute mark, there's a lot of meat on the bone. great message(s) with a strong style.

LIFE, VIDEO (permalink) 09.06.2012
you're already in pain, you're already hurt.
here's my new favorite orator in a treatment that expertly mixes video and music with one of his better know presentations.

part 1

part 2

TELEVISION, LIFE (permalink) 08.10.2012
we get one shot and it is happening now.
we haven't seen much of the olympics. sad and curious. sad because i would have enjoyed much of what there was. curious because we were traveling when they started and always found ourselves in spots with great, sometimes multiple, large televisions. the problem we encountered--we were always out. and when we got back, we were often too spent to do anything but go to bed. of the nights we did watch, i observed something about the coverage: commercials, and lots of them. of all the ones i saw, the one below struck me the most.

LIFE (permalink) 06.18.2012
i did say i collected them, remember.
i've been sittin' on this one for a few weeks. a past student shared it with me before it exploded. it you haven't watched it yet, it's juicy good, like a just right porterhouse.

LIFE (permalink) 06.13.2012
an oddish thing i collect
a few people named two of this year's commencement addresses as the best, or most inspirational at least. the first, by cartoonist mike peters, happened where i work, the second, by author neil gaiman, took place at an art school in Philadelphia. as someone who dabbles in presentations (and is a commencement speech junkie) i was struck by how stupendously different the two approaches were. peters started out in such a meandering fashion you wondered if he prepared anything. gaiman's talk was so dense the first thing i did after watching it was find a transcript and re-read it marking it up with my symbols and notes like it were an academic text.

while i enjoyed both, gaiman's was rich with insight. in example:
People keep working, in a freelance world, and more and more of today's world is freelance, because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don't even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They'll forgive the lateness of the work if it's good, and if they like you. And you don't have to be as good as the others if you're on time and it's always a pleasure to hear from you.
that has to be one of the most cogent insights into the professional world ever made. and i know the guy writes for a living but the compact, precise articulation of his concept is breathtaking in a literary and observational sense. if i ever met that guy, the question i would ask him is how he came upon that insight. did it bleed out over months or did it appear in a flash while showering or exercising. furthermore, gaiman demonstrates how life experience blows the doors off most other forms of learning and how the art of introspection is the prism that allows you to understand what unfolds around us. spectacular.

LIFE, WIFE (permalink) 05.10.2012
how could you doubt me, after all these years.
to the question of do i have the note mentioned in yesterday's post? of course i have the note. it even includes a greasy spot from the food.

regarding my penmenship, while it's never great, it's really quite un-great at six in the morning when i'm trying to be quick and sneaky.

and in case you want to read the backside too.

LIFE (permalink) 05.09.2012
topsy-turvy - part 2
in all the hubbub i never finished our topsy-turvey tale. i left off with me having knee surgery (see topsy turvey part 1 for the detail). so i had my surgery on a tuesday and everything went fine and well. prior to the procedure i asked what to expect recovery wise. i was told i would walk in and i would walk out. i took that to mean it would be like nothing at all had happened and that my life would resume as soon as the anesthesia wore off. with this understanding, i told my office i'd be be out tuesday and back on wednesday. the first sign this was not the case was the prescription for 60 vicodans they handed marty on our way out the door.

in addition to the prescription there was the direction to keep the knee perpetually iced and elevated for the next 72 hours. while the week was shot to three kinds of hell, on the good side of all this dour news, marty and i discovered downton abbey. while laid up and bored in bed, i trolled the netflix hallways looking for anything of interest. something took me towards downton abbey. i watched the first five minutes of it and hit pause. i called for marty and said she should plan on having lunch with me in bed as i had a show for us to watch. so we sat in bed, my knee wrapped in ice and atop four pillows, eating sandwiches and discovering a 1912 english village while our children were at school. possibly our most quaint and romantic workday afternoon since our college days (and certainly our most peaceful moment in recent weeks).

i gingerly returned to work on friday to begin the dig out. it went slow but steady. at three in the afternoon marty called. she said the principal from the high school she used to teach at called. a teacher had taken ill and they needed someone to fill in for three weeks ... (pause) ... starting monday. after another pregnant pause i noted that by her calling me at work and positing the question, she was expressing interest. yes. after a third pause in the conversation, i said i supported whatever she wished and said we could talk about it further that night.

before children, marty taught for nine years (at this same school that was calling now). marty then took off nine years. returning to teaching is something that has definitely been on her thoughts especially now that our youngest, anthony, is slated for full day kindergarten next year. but next year is the earliest we'd ever thought about her return and would have, in an ideal world, preferred two years to give marty one year to breathe and collect herself before returning to the fray.

marty was interested on several levels which i'm sure i'd botch if i tried to represent them so won't. suffice it to say marty's brain was above an idle with the notion of challenging her mind beyond innovating on what went in her kid's lunchbags or reading a new goosebumps book to her five year old. i get this need. fully. when i returned home that evening and saw how lively her eyes were, i made three points. i asked that she didn't start monday because the still-broken fridge was scheduled for repair on monday. i asked that she not let this sudden jump back into a professional routine, taint her notions of returning for real because she wasn't giving herself a chance to re-enter work life with a proper amount of time to plan and prepare, professionally or mentally. and i said, i could handle the kids in the morning but she had to find places for them, especially anthony, when they got out of school. within twelve hours she returned the call saying she would do it. fortunately, because of paperwork she couldn't start on monday anyway so the fridge got repaired (thank gawd!!! as post-knee surgery is not the time you want to be without a working ice-maker).

her first morning of work she left at 6:00 am. i woke up early to make her breakfast. as she ate i confessed this was only a "first day back to work after nine years off" treatment and she shouldn't expect it everyday. i also made her a lunch and stole a little note in there in case she was getting treated poorly by the day or the kids. then she left. after a short bit of quiet, i started prodding kids out of beds.

the kids knew my getting them ready was going to be different. marty is definitely far more accommodating that i am. she is known for making them pancakes, kraft macaroni and cheese, or even crazy time-consuming waffles. when they ask me for such things, i look at them as if i didn't understand the questions, which in some regards is true. in the early days, they'd repeat the question and i'd tell them to go get a muffin and yogurt. now they don't even repeat the question. they just look at my face and head to the muffin tin all on their own. progress! and, if i'm known for anything in the morning it is when i am ready and they are not i stand in the foyer and yell, "you're putting me behind schedule Dufresne. don't make me come up there and thump you." rabid fans of shawshank redemption might recognize this loose translation of one of my favorite lines from the film. my kids obviously have no idea what i'm talking about or who this Dufresne cat is, but they get the gist that i'm getting irritated and they best up the pace.

i wasn't too intimidated about getting the kids off to school. this is something i usually do on wednesdays so i have a sense for what is involved. but there was one variable i failed to consider. every time i've taken the kids to school on my wednesdays, marty was there, in the house and part of the morning. we'd really not gone through the drill without her. the problem stemmed from anthony's morning ritual, which goes like this. when anthony wakes up you will often here a stretch and a yawn. this gets followed by hearing the creaks of the slats in his upper bunk as he moves to the ladder. once down, you hear a quick patter of feet, and might see a flash in the hall, as he quick steps it to the bathroom. urination. more patters—this time to marty's side of the bed. then you hear one word in a very business like tone: cuddle. with this marty's arm raises the covers like batman might swoosh his cape and anthony lithely slides into the warmth of her space and the covers drop, engulfing him. this is followed by three to ten minutes of silence which is broken, always, by the same question: is it a computer morning. computer mornings are weekend mornings where the kids get a few hours of computer to start the day.

on the first day marty was away anthony woke, he went to the bathroom, then the empty bed, then came and found me.

where's mom?

at work. remember she's going to be working for a few weeks.

but what about my cuddle?

oh. i can do your cuddles while mom's away.

but you don't know how.

i'm sure they won't be as good but maybe you can teach me.

now i'm doing nuthin'! and i'm not going to school!

with this declaration anthony turned and ran back to his room, climbed his ladder and cried for the next ninety minutes. although to say he cried at the news is like saying i was merely disappointed when i re-injured my knee. what he really did was screamed for a full hour and a half that we wanted his mommy. bella, alex and i quietly ate breakfast to this upstairs tirade. as i told bella and alex to suit up to go, alex asked me what i was going to do about anthony. i answered honestly that i didn't know.

i climbed the stairs and entered his room. he repeated his missive that he wasn't going to school. i told him he had to. it was the only choice. no one was going to be home. he said he didn't care. i said i wished i could leave him but i just couldn't. it wasn't safe. he pleadingly said he'd lock the door and not answer it, no matter what. i told him i wished that was enough but it wasn't. he was just too young and he had to go to school. when he said no again i had to pull out the big gun, the one thing for which anthony seems to have no defense: 1-2-3. immediately after i said the single word "one" anthony yelled, "okay stupid head, i'm coming." and he did. he immediately came down the ladder descended the stairs, headed toward the kitchen but i stopped him saying he missed breakfast and now there was no time. without protest he sat down and i put his shoes on. he put his coat and backpack on and headed towards the car without breakfast and still in pajamas.

he sulked on the way to bella and alex's school. he sulked after their drop off and on the way to his school. when we pulled up he got out of the car still fully under protest and began a slow walk into the building. just as we started i saw anthony's best friend grady get out of his car. i called hello to him and when he saw us he yelled a gigantic, arms-in-the-air, ANTHONY!!! he then charged towards us and ripped his coat open showing a large scooby doo shirt. he said his mom let him get one just like the one he gave anthony for his birthday. astonished anthony unzipped his coat to show his scooby shirt and the boys happily marched into school arm-in-arm.

that proved to be the turning point for anthony and i had no more problems after that. in my second week i was heard to say things like "did you get your milk out of the freezer and put it in your lunchbag" and "don't put your shoes there because you won't remember them in the morning." which is really good news because after marty did her three week stint filling in, the school offered her the job, full-time, starting next year ... (pause) ... and, she accepted.

VIDEO, LIFE (permalink) 05.04.2012
more support for the importance of failure
circumstance recently led me to j.k. rowlings 2008 commencement address at harvard. for me, her twenty minute speech surpassed the combined value of all her potter books. mostly because she's pro-failure, something i'm quite ravenous about as of late. my favorite line, of many:
some failure in life is inevitable. it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you fail by default.
next, we just need to figure out how to move this message down from post-college to pre-kindergarten.

also, as i had to remind bella as she shoulder-hacked me crafting this post, the real meat of failure is not in failing itself, but in the building of tools needed to climb out of life's many divots, holes, ditches, cliffs and canyons. so maybe perseverance is the better term. less ambiguous is the fact that the landscape is treacherous and circumstance requires us to travel large swaths of it in the dark.

LIFE (permalink) 04.19.2012
there's more than one reason they call them scratchers
at my last job once a week the database guy at my shop walked the aisles of cubes collecting money for lottery tickets. everyone would hand him a wrinkled buck or two, he'd make a scratch on a small piece of paper, and move to the next. then at lunch or on the way home, he'd buy a block of lottery tickets with the money. routinely i was the only one who did not participate. routinely he was the one who would shake his head and tsk-tsk my decision, saying i'd be really sorry if they ever won because i'd be the only one left in the office to hold all of these systems afloat. to this i said if they all won, in a year's time i'd be the happiest one of everyone involved. that comment bought me many a debate on the merits and ills of an average person coming into an un-average flood of money.

my belief on the lottery system spread through the office and my lottery-playing co-workers would appear at my cube in twos, threes, and fours to confirm what they heard and question the source. i would confess to the row of bemused expressions that i did believe they would all be miserable if they won the lottery. when pressed on how that could possibly be i would explain. i would single out one of the gawkers asking about their family. parents still living? how many siblings? aunts? uncles? friends? after getting a sense for the inventory of friends and relations i'd ask what their plan for all of them was. they always had a plan which i imagined got drawn up in their forty plus minute commutes home. their presence would gain a beat as they excitedly stepped through the awards each tier of the family would get thinking they were the first to stagger the amounts with such acumen. i'd then move us along saying ...
ok. so you give the sister you don't like so much and her husband fifty grand just like you did for your other siblings and in nine month's they're reporting the t-shirt decal business they invested in went under because there are now printers and special paper that can make decals every bit as good as theirs. but now they have a great new idea and it can't loose but they just need another thirty grand to get it off the ground. what do you say to this? (now some people say they will give them the 30k. when that happens, i bring the bad business duo back in another five months asking for more. and again. and again. eventually everyone says they have to at some point say no.) i agree. you do have to say no. but what do you think that eventual line in the sand will do with your relationship with your sister who you previously had no significant angst with? and then how do you react when your other siblings call and express shock that you wouldn't give her more, and they just had a bad break, and you've got so much, more than you can even use, and it's not like you did anything to earn it, how could you tell your own sister no, how could you be so heartless? then your dad calls. and then your mom. and then what does the next family gathering look like? you pulling up in your fancy car while you're sister couldn't come because she and her obnoxious hubby are getting put out of their duplex because they lost their business just because you wouldn't give them another thirty grand which for anyone else under the picnic gazebo would be like dropping a dollar bill in the turned up hat of a sightless beggar. you're fully convinced it was the right choice. maybe it was the right choice. but do your friends and family agree?
while all of my arguments were based on simple conjecture which were based on scenarios i'd drawn up in my head, after more than a decade of my lottery-conviction, i heard my first bit of first-hand evidence through the aunt of a close friend of mine (and a woman i had socialized with as recently as six months back). four years ago this woman's christmas list was 225 addresses long. then her husband died and she was awarded one point five million dollars. guess how many names were on her christmas list last year, or rather, three years after she was handed one point five millions dollars? when i asked bella this question, she guessed 1,000. i had to tell her the real answer was seven. and then less than three months after the seven-name christmas she took her life with a handgun she had from earlier times.

LIFE (permalink) 04.11.2012
speaking of thankfuls.
yesterday was my six year anniversary in my current job. as i told someone recently, i suffer from the dire problem of having found my dream position about thirty years too soon (as i fear it may change before i'm ready for it to). but i will say of all the problems one can have, this surely ranks as one of the best to call your own. upon arriving at work yesterday, i had an email from my boss waiting for me. it was a generous and thoughtful email, the kind anyone who ever worked for anyone else would be grateful to receive. then later in the morning, i received an email from a former student who noticed (via my archive viewer) that it was my anniversary and sent me a lovely note saying he was thankful circumstance had us cross paths. as i told a colleague over lunch, marty, through her love and support, helped me to flourish as an individual and my present job and superiors, through their respect and support, helped me to thrive professionally.

now if i could just find someone who could help me dress better ...

LIFE, PERSONAL, HEALTH (permalink) 02.20.2012
on the good side, this one is totally in my hands.
there was a time i coveted and envied people's girlfriends and relationships, then i met marty.

there was a time i coveted and envied people's jobs/careers, then i landed my current position.

my current covet and envy is fitness and health. it is my present white whale but unlike most whales, mine is slender and toned and plays with its kids easily and ably.

i hope in ten years time i'm listing that covet/envy in the past tense and pining for something new (and sexy and cool and fun and, most of all, something worth chasing).

WEB, PHOTO, LIFE (permalink) 12.22.2011
that's a wrap!
to round out this year's content, i'll leave you with my favorite photo from our colorado trip (since i've been chatting it up all week). i still remember when bella walked back from rinsing her hands, she commented on how ice cold the water was, and this in august. i'm thankful marty and i had a year with enough health and friendship and opportunity for our children to feel the cool bite of a rocky mountain lake. it is a small mark of many other fortunes. may next year prove as fruitful. best to you all.

click to enlarge

LIFE, SOCIETY, HOW-TO (permalink) 10.14.2011
good living.
if you haven't guessed by now, i track just about everything in my life. one of the more unusual things i keep tabs on are my favorite reads of the year. this extends beyond books into websites, magazines, office notes, commencement addresses, and even wall graffiti. this year's front-runner has been carrying a strong lead since early march. i've been thinking something would have knocked it out by now but it just hasn't happened. i think part of its success with me resides in the way it snuck up and held me tight before i even realized it had laid hands on me. i've wrecked its chance to quietly sneak up on you, but hopefully you'll still enjoy my favorite story in 2011 (thus far), the tire iron and the tamale.

LIFE (permalink) 09.30.2011
hug, kiss, and love 'em if you got 'em. that applies to both the people and the minutes in your life.
my mom died one year ago tomorrow. since her death, four other people i know have died. all men. three of them had children under ten. two of them had multiple children under ten. to say the least it's been a tiring year with more questions then revelations, especially for a guy who had previously been to a total of four funerals prior to this time last year.

QUOTES, LIFE (permalink) 09.16.2011
drip-drop, drip-drop.

Each year one vicious habit rooted out,
In time might make the worst Man good throughout.

my man B Franklin as Poor Richard.

LIFE (permalink) 07.29.2011
last weekend the family of erik rogers held a memorial reception and concert in his name. after the event marty said to me that was the best memorial she'd ever been to and was certain it was what her father meant when he used to talk about how he wanted party, with a keg, instead of a funeral. i would agree that this was something special and thoughtfully and lovingly crafted.

it began with a open-bar, reception in a storied concert hall where people from all over the country who hadn't seen each other in as much as a decade shared time again. after an hour of cocktails, people were moved into the concert hall. here, people from different eras of erik's life went to the stage to share memories and emotions about erik. between these remembrances a remarkable jazz triplet played music from some of erik's favorite artist while his own saxophone sat in its stand on the stage.

the founding members of the secret cajun band were one of the first groups to speak. eddie o'neill, known by scb circles as swamp daddy, evoked laughs and tears with his memories of his friend since their boyhood years. after the event i asked eddie/swamp if he would share his writing with me and if he minded if i shared in on my site. his swamp-like response, "share it with the world!"

My Friend from Across the Alley
By Eddie O'Neill
On a hot August day in 1982, the moving van pulled into our new house in the 6600 block of Kingsbury. University City MO. We had arrived from Virginia. I was ten years old. It didn't take long before someone had given my parents the "there are a couple of boys in the neighborhood that your kids could play with report." The list as I recall ended at two. There was Eddie Fairchild a few houses down on Kingsbury and Erik Rogers who live behind us just across the alley in the 6600 block of Waterman.

Eddie Fairchild didn't cut the mustard. I remember he came over once and I thought he was a little strange bordering on nerdy. However, Erik Rogers was okay. Our connection was sports - he liked sports; I liked sports. And thus began my close to thirty year friendship with my pal who lived just across the alley.

Some of those early memories of Erik and I being together consisted of going to St. Louis Steamer indoor soccer games outings organized by our dads. There was underlying tension of sorts in those early years due to the fact that I went St. Roch's grade school and he went to the public junior high, Britney Woods. Neither of us knew where the other was coming from. He probably thought that we Catholic schoolers had our rosaries in our hands and were on our knees in prayer for most of the day. At the same, I had no idea what kind of raucous activities went on at public junior high.

Sometime during those first few years in St. Louis, Erik's Dad installed a basketball hoop on the back of the family garage. When I heard the ball a bouncing after school I would usually head out back. We spent a fair amount of time together playing horse or tips or a variety of other games that we would fit the small confines of the 6600 block alley. Conjuring up strange sports with bizarre rules would be a reoccurring pastime for me and my U City cronies throughout much of me formative years.

Another connection that Erik and I had was music. I took up the trumpet as a freshman in high school and he played the saxophone. He was much better than me at his instrument. In short he took practice much more seriously. There were a number of times on warm summer evenings with our windows opened when we practice together trading riffs from house to house. I can recall him introducing me to something called the Jazz Fakebook - a thick tattered, worn spiral bound book that had the transcriptions to every imaginable jazz classic you could imagine. And he knew just about every one of them.

Erik was a man who sought authenticity and truth. He would have much rather listen to the sounds of John Coltrane than the new saccharine jazz of Kenny G. He was a man of convictions and he knew what he wanted and was willing to do what it takes to reach those goals. Second place wasn't an option for him.

He was a gentleman who liked to have things clean and in order. He wore his shirts tucked in. He was never one to put you down because you weren't as good at something such as athletics or music. He respected you for where you were at.

As I reflect on those teen and college years, I cherish those memories. I am so grateful for all my U City neighborhood pals. As I look at my own family situation, I'm not sure my two boys will have an Erik Rogers to pal around with. These days real friends have been replaced with an endless list of Facebook friends. And Wii baseball in the comforts of one's living room has taken the spot of backyard whiffle ball on freshly cut grass.

While we grew up and went our separate ways, Erik and I kept in touch here and there, always picking up from the last stale sarcastic joke where we left off.

I was shocked when I got the news that Erik was unresponsive in a hospital in Kansas City. These things aren't supposed to happen. Thirty something dads with two little precious girls aren't supposed to die while trimming trees on a Sunday. Why Lord? What are you doing here? This doesn't make sense.

And as I shook my fist at the heavens angry and in disbelief, two silver linings have come to mind. First, I was touched by the fact that he has given new life to a number of people who have his organs. Someone can now see clearer or get off dialysis because of Erik. Death has brought new life.

As well his accident and his death are a wakeup call of sorts for us that life is so, so precious and it can be taken away in the snap of finger. It is a reminder to us what's really important such as family and friends.

I haven't been back to the old neighborhood in a while. I suspect that the old basketball hoop on the Rogers garage has long since been taken down. But the memories of my first U City pal, Eric Rogers won't go away I just wish they didn't have to end so abruptly.

Thanks Erik we sure do miss you!

July 24, 2011

LIFE (permalink) 05.11.2011
on message
here's the latest installment of the troy regiment. a few thoughts about this rendition before the reveal. something i just recently observed about my regiments over the years is that it began as a very simple model and as i had success with it, i added more routines thinking that my system could shoulder whatever i threw at it. what i found though was that i made it too difficult to sustain and instead of bringing order and calm it caused stress and fervor. as such, i've returned to a more simplistic model. only weeks in, i'm already thrilled with the shift. it's been awhile since i've routinely given myself more time to do something than i needed. i've already experienced boredom more times in the last ten days than i have in the last year and for someone who seldom experiences boredom, the sensation can be quite scintillating.

and next, to answer a few questions i routinely get to save you (and me) the email:
(1) the chart is made using excel.

(2) yes, there is flexibility in this. there has to be. it is a schedule, a goal, a guide, it is not a mandate. for something like this to work, you have to be malleable to life (just like with our menu). that said, i often have days that line up well. i've never had a perfect week. close, but never perfect.

(3) for those who look at the chart and think marty is getting ripped off attention-wise, you're daft. if anything, marty wishes i'd sit around less looking at her to say something to me. my take, if you're going to error in marriage, it is the side to error on.

(4) and yes, i still get my books knocked out of my hands in the hallway and pushed down in the sandbox at recess. but not as frequently as i used to.

or view the four year evolution...
also note the summer of 2010 was when i finally became a morning person

click to enlarge

LIFE, HEALTH, SWIM (permalink) 05.05.2011
never has five minutes seemed so long
here's a swimming update. for those who may not have been following along or don't care or can't remember, a brief re-cap. i spent three years trying to swim a mile (starting from not swimming at all). on december 12, 2010 i made it, swimming 2000 yards (a pool mile) in fifty-five minutes. upon reaching that milestone i set a new long, long, long-term goal of swimming those 2000 yards in under thirty minutes. in pursuit of this goal i plan on swimming 2000 yards once a week for the rest of my life. as a first sensible step towards the thirty minute mile i set out to get my time under fifty minutes. after a mere five months (!!!) of effort i made it last week with a time of 49:24.

a funny thing about the time is that i've been feeling stronger and faster each week. a few weeks back i felt so good while swimming i half expected to blow by the goal coming in at forty-seven or even forty-six minutes. on that swim it turned out i dropped two and a half minutes logging my worst time in weeks and ending at almost fifty-three minutes. then last week walking to the pool i felt terrible. i felt so fatigued and dull i almost turned and went home. i decided to go though the paces and assume a low time for the workout. instead of just limping through the forty laps it turns out i got my best time ever. as nike sagely and often suggests; just do it.

so i don't get called out again and have someone send me a chart, i thought i'd better go ahead and chart my progress ahead of time.

and if anyone besides me thinks me ever getting to a thirty minute mile sounds ludicrous, i figured out that if i can just improve my time by five seconds every month, i'll hit my mark by the spry age of sixty-two. if that sounds like a ridiculously long time away, i have an inkling we'll all be there before we know it.

also, the more accurate times starting in january are thanks to a super jazzy lap-counting watch i got for christmas.

next stop ... forty-five minutes.

LIFE (permalink) 04.13.2011
hey beavis, after five years you get wood, heh-heh
when i quit the bank for the university, i left one week shy of my fourteen year anniversary. fourteen years felt like a long time. last sunday i received a note from my boss wishing me happy anniversary. it was my five year badge. suddenly, fourteen years seems less impressive.

as an aside, i went to look up what the anniversary gift for five years was and it seems there are now two lists, one traditional and one modern. the first five years of the traditional set was paper, cotton, leather, linen, and wood. the new first five years are clocks, china, crystal, electrical appliances, and silverware. it seems the marketers have hi-jacked our traditions in the name of progress and commerce.

another thing the modern list has done for us is that in the past there were gaps in the gift years, like you'd hit the 20th year but then wait until the 25th year for another gift. the modern capitalist, i mean list-makers have filled those holes leaving nary a year that doesn't require a gift purchase ... for those who honor such things.

it's also worth noting that the U.K.'s list doesn't sport two versions and is still the same as it always was.


LIFE (permalink) 02.28.2011
missed love
in re-reading last week's deepak breakdown, i fear i may have not been entirely fair in my review. while it is true that he did not spoon-feed me answers to the questions he initially posed, his book still contained its share of pulpy goodness. my favorite mouthful (and i'm paraphrasing):

if you're in the business of trying to change others or waiting for others to change to your way of thinking/living, consider something difficult you have tried to change in yourself and how challenging it was, even when you had all of the control. then consider making a dramatic change in another when you have no control over their thinking or actions.

i've bumped into that very problem a great many times over the years. and here's one i didn't get from deepak but i've leaned on plenty over the last ten years:

you will never be able to change your past, but you can have all sorts of opinions about your future.

i don't know who to credit for that one as i've read it, or some semblance of it, in many different places. i've even had marty remind me of the point a time or two as well.

LIFE (permalink) 02.18.2011
what's your horse look like?
i teach a college class. it is called Presentation Matters. it is a class i designed from the ether three years ago. presentation matters is about, in short, applying the traditional creative process, as taught in basic composition and the like, to technology and/or digital problems. this may seem obvious and unnecessary, but i've got a semester-long curriculum backed up by 1.4 trillion bad powerpoint decks and generic files that says otherwise (and yes that was a troytistic!). if i could have renamed Presentation Matters in the second year i would have called it Thought Matters. and, if i could rename Presentation Matters this year, its third, i would call it Focus Matters. what happened to zavisa and the recipe, as detailed yesterday, is what i try to get to happen for my students. his saturday afternoon is a study on the power of passion, intent, and focus. more importantly (most importantly!) is that the experience zavi had can be captured and ridden, like a horse in the wild. one just has to go look for their palomino on the prairies and in the woods.

when we're doing things we don't like, our minds wander, often to things we do like. so if you're able to position yourself doing what you like, good things are bound to come from such focused time. if nothing else, we'll all enjoy our workday a bit more which translates to a little something called our professional lives.

were i saying this to bella, her brow would have furrowed several sentences back. in fact, if she made it through the fifth sentence, i would have been glad to get that far. but odds are she would have held a hand up pausing me long enough to say i was getting "lecturey". if you feel as bella surely would (and surely will again), apologies, but it can't be helped as such things are a passion of mine, they are my horse, and i get excited every time i see one dash by.

if you need further evidence, check out the final product of zavi's passion product which i forgot to share yesterday. hopefully he won't mind that i plundered his facebook gallery for this week's content. i steal only in the name of love and respect.

click to enlarge

LIFE (permalink) 02.17.2011
a meaningful four hours
i was at a small dinner party of a friend almost ten years ago. while there an older lady struck up a conversation with me. she had a thick accent which she told me was bosnian. she asked what i did for a living and i told her i was in technology, web-technologies specifically. to this she lit up, put a hand on my arm, and asked if i would talk to her son, zavisa, who was in school studying graphic design and had interest in "this web stuff". being part of a burgeoning industry such requests were frequent so i easily said sure, of course i would talk to her boy, knowing that serious inquiries rarely followed, especially ones that began with a mother's nudge.

this was not to be the case here. a few days later i received a message from the lady's boy, zavisa, or zavi to be kind to ethnocentric, american mouths. the message was quite long by today's hurried, email standards. in it he explained his studies and interests. he forwarded me a number of websites he had done for friends and university organizations and asked my opinion about his work. given the effort he put into this message, i replied in kind, reviewing his sites, making notes where i thought things could be improved, and commenting on his work's general strengths and weaknesses. when i hit reply i figured he would deem this mine empty and move on. again, this was not to be the case. he replied with another long email asking for clarification on some points, questioning others and with this our exchanges continued for several rounds. in time he gave me a profuse thank you and that was that.

more than five years later i bumped into zavisa through a co-worker. zavi was doing well in life and work as his earlier, voracious emails would imply such a mind would. he's gone on to become an everyman judge and represents one of my most thorough and eager eyes. at last year's everyman party he and his girlfriend arrived late, coming through the door as marty and i were saying goodbye to what we thought was our last guest. zavi, his girlfriend laura, and i sat by the fire and chatted, catching up. he expressed dissatisfaction in his job. i'm going to blame my severe fatigue at the moment but i fear i came on strong in my response. i all but chastised him for staying at a job he was unhappy in. i listed his many skills, his many gifts and said it was crazy that someone as talented as him do anything he doesn't want to. i even pulled out the dreaded "if i had your skills when i was your age, what i could have done" bit, which in some regards is valid but in so many more is not. again, i was deathly tired. his response was that the market sucked and no one was hiring. to this i said i never knew a passion that waited for a market. passion is passion and if you have it you just do it whether you're paid or given benefits or not. when he left i felt poorly about the conversation. i like and respect zavisa and felt that i was overly heavy-handed with him at what should have been a simple and relaxing social encounter.

a few months later i received an invitation to zavi's thirtieth birthday party. these days i go out a handful of times a year, but he's always been supportive and helpful to me so i decided to turn in one of my few kitchen passes with marty to go to the saturday night event. when i arrived the apartment was filled with people all more than ten years younger than myself that i didn't know. i made my way through the shotgun layout to find zavi and laura churning out custom pizzas for their guests (it was a make your own pizza party). i chitted and chatted with folks practicing my cold conversation skills and then got to catch up with zavi in the back. remembering something he lit up and said he had a cool thing to tell me. it was this. laura was out of town at a conference and he was left alone for the weekend. a friend had asked him for a bread recipe. when he went about getting it together, he had a notion of doing something a little different than just boringly typing out the steps and sending an email and instead spent a few hours of his solo-weekend afternoon making a graphical version of the recipe (shown below). when it was done he posted it to his facebook page. shortly after that it was picked up by reddit. and shortly after that he was contacted by two men asking if he wanted to collaborate on a project with them. when he asked more about the two men he came to learn one of them was an internet pioneer who created a recent-ish technology anyone reading this page uses and benefits from daily.

i'm surely not going to imply that my passion talk in december had anything to do with this success (believe me, i wish i could take credit for zavi's body of work) but this is definitely what my passion-talk was about. kudos zavi for this success and the others that are sure to follow in its wake. beautiful and inspiring stuff.

click to enlarge

PERSONAL, QUOTES, LIFE (permalink) 02.15.2011
happy birthday momma
after my mom died, i found the below card among her things. i don't remember how old i was when i wrote it. more truthfully, i don't even remember writing it. that said, i can tell you that seeing i wrote it, and that she kept it, has spared me untold agonies. i would suggest, if you have things to say you haven't said to people you deem dear, get them said. and after you do that, keep doing it. because even though i felt infinite relief at this discovery, i still carry the regret that i needed it to remind me i said it in the first place.

click to enlarge


dear mom,
i hope this got to you in time, sorry if it didn't. i hope you are having a good day (or had). lately i have been hearing a lot about adoption and i hear girls talk of insecurities they would have in adopting children. they think that the kids would want to find their biological mom. and i hear adopted kids say they want to find their mom. i hope you don't have any such insecurities regarding me, because i assure you, you don't need to. to me i have only one mother and she it the greatest mother in the world. i love you very much and feel very fortunate to have been blessed with you. thank you for everything and never forget that i love you very much. thank you for everything mom - i love you.

your son,


LIFE (permalink) 01.26.2011
this is going to make swimming the mile in three years look trivial.
for any of you who have deemed my current year's goal of knitting as less substantial or impressive than last year's goal of swimming a mile, i wanted to share a bit more about the endeavor. this time i have a teacher. this is unusual for my yearly adventures as i usually take them on alone. but a few things made me realize i would be better off with a mentor for this one.

in my first lesson i learned how to (1) cast on, (2) knit, and (3) cast off. my teacher would be proud to see me using proper terminology as she was quite non-plussed when i would say things like, "will you start my thing" or "look, i'm sewin' a coaster" or "can you do the endy thing for me". my love of repetitive, tactile routines like this made me a quick study. when i confessed to having mastered the first three elements, i received lesson two (below). i'm wondering if i should have picked something a more accessible like ascending everest or giving birth.

OK, here's another practice exercise:

Cast on 26 stitches

Row 1: (K2, p2) across to last two stitches, k2. This is a four-stitch repeat, because the bit inside the parentheses (which serve to indicate the pattern repeat) is 4 stitches wide - two knits, and two purls. So you'll just do that over and over - k2, p2, k2, p2, and so on, until you have two stitches left on your left needle. Knit those two stitches.

Row 2: (p2, k2) across to last two stitches, p2. This row is the opposite of Row 1. See what's happening? You're building narrow columns of stockinette stitches, two stitches wide. So your knits will always be stacked on your knits, and your purls will always be stacked on your purls. The fabric at this point is also, actually, reversible. Both sides look equally good, because the backside of the purls on Row 1 is a pretty column of knits, and the backside of the purls on row 2 does the same thing!

Repeat Row 1 and Row 2 for several more rows, or until you think you have the hang of it. You'll always be able to tell if you're on a Row 1 or a Row 2 based on what the first stitch should be - if you start the row looking at a purl, you're on a Row 2 (since it begins with p2). If you start the row looking at a knit, you're on a Row 1. Also - as an aside - this is called "reading" your knitting. And if you're a really proficient knitter, then you'll be able to read your lace or cables, find a mistake six rows down, ladder down to fix it, pick up the stitches in order, and no one will be any wiser. Or if you're me, you'll read your lace, find the mistake, throw the damned shawl across the room and cast on for a pair of socks instead.

A ribbing at its most basic level can be made from any alternating number of knits and purls - the cuff of your sweater, for example, is something like k1, p6 (viewed from the outside - "right" side), or p1, k6 (viewed from the inside - "wrong" - side). Most ribbings are described in shorthand as "__ by __" or "__ x __". For example, I often use 3x1 on sock cuffs. Any knitter will know what that means - k3, p1. And later there's twisted rib, and mistake rib (actually a deliberate technique), and lace rib and cabled rib, and even faux ribbing. But we won't worry about those for now :-)

Anyway, after you're tired of doing ribbing, you'll want to switch and do stockinette for a few more rows to help transition for your decreases. To make this switch, start after you've finished a Row 2 of ribbing (so that when you start the next row, you're looking at a Row 1 section). Instead of knitting and purling, you'll just knit all the stitches. Then on the next row, purl all the stitches. And so on and so forth, for another inch or two.

Now we're ready to learn how to do decreases. At their most basic level, there are two types of single decreases ("single decreases" are any decreases where you turn two stitches into one): left-leaning (the SSK), and right-leaning (the k2tog). Think of them as slash marks on the keyboard: one type of decrease will make your stitch look like this: / and the other type will make it look like this: \ . There are also many ways to do these decreases - I'm just going to show you one way of each - the most common way.

This decrease: / is done by making a "knit two together" (and is abbreviated as "k2tog"). It's just what it sounds like - when you're ready to make the decrease, instead of knitting 1 stitch, you will actually grab the next TWO stitches on your left needle, and knit them both as though they were just one. Once you've finished the stitch, those TWO that were on your left needle will become ONE on your right.

This decrease: \ is done by making a "slip slip knit" (and is abbreviated as "ssk"). This is a bit more complicated. What you will do is slip one stitch "knitwise" (poke your right needle in as though you were going to knit the stitch, but instead of knitting it you just slide it over to the right needle), then do the same thing to the next stitch - slip it "knitwise" as well - do this to each stitch one at a time, not both at the same time! Once both stitches are on your right needle, then you'll poke the tip of your left needle into those stitches, and knit them together. This has the same - but also the opposite - effect of the "knit two together": you're turning two stitches into one, but in this case you will notice that instead of looking as though the finished stitch is leaning toward the right, now your stitch appears to lean to the left. This is important in achieving symmetry in shaping! (for example, the neckline of a sweater will have SSK's on the right side and K2tog's on the left, so that the columns of decreases lean becomingly away from each other, rather than haphazardly all the same direction.

Here are videos demonstrating each technique:

OK, so here's what you should do, beginning on a right side row:

K3, ssk, K16, k2tog, K3

Now you should have 24 stitches on your needle, since you DECREASED two of them. Right? Yes.

Purl the next row as normal - decreases are generally (though not always) only done on right-side rows.

Next row:K4, ssk, K12 , k2tog, K4 (You should have 22 stitches now)

Purl the next row

Next row: K5, ssk, K8, k2tog, K5 (You should have 20 stitches now)

See what's happening? Your decreases are becoming visible on the right side (knit side) of your fabric, and they're starting to make a little pyramid shape! Like this:

  /      \
  /       \
 /        \

This is the same basic concept of how we will decrease stitches to shape the crown of your hat.

Carry on in this manner until you only have a few stitches left on your needle, and your pyramid is almost at its point - then I'll show you a double decrease :-)


HEALTH, SPORTS, LIFE, SWIM (permalink) 01.19.2011
a good quarter for dearmitt stock
when i talked about swimming a mile and shared the schedule, i commented that it looked less impressive on paper than it felt achieving the goal. a surprising number of people commented on my choice of words and said i was wrong and it did look impressive. but yesterday one fellow in particular, a friend i used to work with, took it a giant step farther than the other folks by vividly proving me wrong.

fact of the matter is, he was a bit astonished that i didn't graph it myself and instead used a pedestrian and mockable table to showcase the data. i have no defense but his email charting my effort put a big and excited smile across my face. thank you ryan b.

and he named his chart tdawesome.

more smiles.

HEALTH, SPORTS, LIFE, SWIM (permalink) 01.05.2011
the road to 40 laps
some more to yesterday's post about swimming the mile. below you will find what is essentially my buildup to a mile after i learned how to decently swim a single lap (without looking completely embarrassing). the telling thing about the below data is that once you get to ten laps, the world starts opening up because if you can swim ten laps, you can almost surely swim twenty. and then if you can swim twenty, thirty is just around the corner. and after swimming thirty, forty ain't much more than a drip in an already full bucket.

swim date
total laps swam
max consecutive laps in a row
09/08 15 2
09/12 20 3
09/15 20 3
09/19 22 3
09/22 23 4
09/25 20 2
10/13 22 5
10/17 26 6
10/23 27 7
10/27 30 8
11/03 35 10
11/14 22 20
12/04 35 30
12/12 42 40

sadly, it looks far less impressive on paper than experiencing it did. and i imagine the same will hold true for my twenty year effort to get my time from 54:27 to 29:59.

HEALTH, SPORTS, LIFE, SWIM (permalink) 01.04.2011
for any wondering
you may remember my earlier declaration to swim a mile. on december 12, 2010 @ 2:20 pm, i joined the club of humans who can swim one mile.

transcript of a fictitious interview of myself by myself in the head of myself as i pulled myself out of the pool just after.

for those not familiar, how many laps do you have to swim to swim a mile?
well, there are two schools of thought here. some people quibble over the exact distance and claim anywhere from 33 to 36 laps is the number, but non-tourist divined something called the pool-mile which is simply 2,000 meters and in a 25-meter pool is an even 40 laps, or 80 lengths. this is what i swam, a pool-mile.

and how long did it take?
the first time i swam it, it took me 54 minutes.

how did you feel when you were done?
giddy, great and grand.

how long did it take you to be able to swim the mile?
technically, three years, but i started not knowing how to swim. the first year was learning the stroke, the freestyle, which some folks call the crawl. the second year was spent learning how to breathe, while swimming the crawl of course. and the third year was mostly about conditioning and bringing it all together.

now that you've achieved this goal, what will you do next?
well, regarding swimming, i plan on swimming one mile, once a week for the rest of my life with the hope of getting my time to under 30 minutes. regarding the next thing i'm going to learn to do, i've named knitting as the thing i will focus on in 2011.

well, it was going to be drawing, but i was convinced (or rather cajoled and coerced) by a new friend to switch to knitting. actually she won me over with a cogent and spirited argument which i'm now glad and excited about.

and is there a knitting goal akin to the mile?
yes. to knit a sweater like the two jCrew ones i've been wearing for the last fourteen years.

and do you think a year is enough time to learn how to do this?
i'm told it is.

and if it isn't?
i guess i'll just have to then knit me a thong to wear while swimming my laps. this should properly incentivize my teacher to see that i make my sweater goal.

PERSONAL, LIFE (permalink) 09.22.2010
new troy, quite unlike old troy OR troy 41.5

or view the side by side comparison to see what's changed in eight months

click to enlarge

HEALTH, PERSONAL, LIFE, SWIM (permalink) 09.03.2010
swimming update
one month ago i talked about how after three years of working at it i finally swam my first official 50m pool length. three weeks later, august 22, i swam that same 50m freestyle length but this time when i reached the wall, i did a flip-turn and swam a return 50m length back. had you seen me after i completed this circuit you would have thought i was just accepted into the space program.

last weekend i swam fifteen full laps with flip turns in each (resting after each lap), and this weekend, the last weekend the outdoor pools are open, i hope to swim twenty laps, still with a rest after each, which would represent my new distance goal of a nautical pool mile (2,000 meters). the last step is to remove the need to rest after each lap. the only sad part to this story is i'm going to have to do this in shorter (25m), indoor pools during the winter months.

HEALTH, PERSONAL, KIDS, LIFE (permalink) 08.25.2010
PART 3 : a powerful alchemy
if you haven't read PART 1 or PART 2, you should do so before reading this.

there is a reason i thought to share my personal values at this time. two fridays ago bella and i were to spend the day together. this father-daughter event was to celebrate her successful completion of another year of school. in the past, this ritual took place on the last day of classes but now that she and alex attend the same school i couldn't take them both out individually. bella was kind enough to give the day to alex as it was his first full school year.

before i knew it there were just a few weeks left of summer and bella and i hadn't gone out for her day. marty and i scrambled to find a date. we squeaked it out on the last weekday of summer. bella requested to go to six flags (again) followed by a steak dinner. knowing it was going to be a long day, i went to bed early the night before. when i awoke, i checked the day's weather. 96 degrees. and i was to be out in it all day. add to this i was to spend the day with bella who for the prior week hadn't exactly been a model citizen. marty chalked her vinegar up to the fast approaching school year. i pointed at the late-summer weeks of going to bed after 10pm. whatever the source, times with the girl had been unpredictable and tumultuous, and i was about to navigate those erratic waters on my own, all day long, and in an inhumane heat.

after groaning at weather dot com i pulled up my values document and began my daily review. personal growth - check. value my time - check. care for myself - on it. care for my marriage - check. enjoy my children - uhhh, yeah, sure. equip my children for life - trying as always. professional excellence - got a pass today. be grateful - uhhhm, yes, gratitude, could use more effort here.

i then drifted down to the images, glancing at them in order. i take in the visual. depending on my troubles and/or the day ahead the various images wash over me differently. as i move through them, the first one to give me pause is the bride and her father. this picture always emotes something from me but especially when bella is on my mind and as noted, bella was on my mind today. every time i take this picture in i project to a day in the future when i will be in this man's position. and i'm sure it will seem like just yesterday when i was doing things like dreading taking my nine year old daughter to six flags. and i know whether i show it outwardly or not, i know, i know already, that this is how i will feel on the inside the day bella dedicates her life to someone else, someone else our family doesn't even know at the moment.

i then moved forward. my eyes next paused on the image of randy pausch. if you don't recall, randy pausch was the last lecture guy. the forty-something year old who went to his doctor with flu-like symptoms and was told he had six months to live. and he had three children all under the age of six. he died last year as his doctors predicted. so this is the image i find myself studying in the pre-dawn hours while thinking i don't want to go out for a dedicated day with my daughter because of the heat and because she hasn't been as pleasant as she's capable of in her last week of summer break. i stared at this image, this simple, low-res image of a smiling father holding his three children ... this father holding his three children shortly before he passed away with a cruelly inadequate warning. as i took this image in, i wondered what randy pausch would do to spend another day, a single day, with his daughter. i then wondered what randy pausch's daughter would do to spend one more day with her father.

bella and i went on to have an amazing, friction-free day that included hand-holding and smiling and stories and laughing and closeness and very little worry about the heat.

and this is why i chose, at this time, to share my private ritual with you.

HEALTH, PERSONAL, LIFE (permalink) 08.24.2010
PART 2 : yesterday i left my socks on. today i'm going full monty
if you haven't read PART 1 yet, i'd consider doing so before continuing as this will seem incomplete without it.

yesterday i shared my personal values. something i didn't share was that in addition to the written definition of my values, i also have a set of images that go with them. i'm a visual guy and somewhere along the way i learned that these images had a power to reach me in a different way and added a depth my written words alone lacked which is how the addition of photos to my simple written values came to be.

again, before the share, a few things about the pictures:
  • i use one image per value.
  • like the words, these sometimes change. but i've been pretty happy with the current set for awhile.
  • how it works is these images reside just under the written portion, so every morning i first read through the text posted yesterday and then i take a moment to glance at these photos, reflecting on each as i move through them.
  • aside from two of the images, the actual people in the photos are not the significant part of the story. it is the emotion the image elicits that makes them powerful for me.
  • i don't know who sgt joe hall is. it just seemed like a quintessential photo all family scrapbooks might have. oddly, it is the name in its elderly scrawl across the top that makes this picture not so pedestrian for me, or perhaps it is that it makes it perfectly pedestrian.
  • i reckon some folks might like an explanation for my selection for the professional value. i'm not going to explain. it's not important. it's the picture i have chosen and i have my reasons. were you to do something similar, you'd pick a picture that speaks to you.
  • the equip my children for life one could also possibly use some explanation too. that is one i might one day speak to but i'm not going to today.

unbuttons shirt ... again ...

personal growth
value my time
care for myself
care for my marriage
enjoy my children
equip my children for life
professional excellence
be grateful

now i'm naked, really.

Goto PART 3

HEALTH, PERSONAL, LIFE (permalink) 08.23.2010
PART 1 : please allow me to undress before you
for the last few years, i've been posting my daily and weekly regiment. this is the schedule i created to help me meet my personal goals. to be truthful, there have only been a handful of times where i've come close to a perfect week. but to be truthful again, hitting my marks or not, my weeks prove far more fruitful trying to adhere to this plan than if i entered life's fray without it.

it occurred to me very recently that i have never shared the counterpart to that schedule. this would be a list of the things that i, in long periods of contemplation, have come to know are important to me. some folks would call them my values. without this list also in hand, the schedule would be rather pointless and the same would be true the other way around.

before i share, a few things about my list:
  • i've been working on this document for about thirteen years. that would be three years longer than i've spent producing all of the content for this website.
  • there is no other block of text that i have ever spent anything near this amount of time and effort on.
  • the list does see edits but changes at this late point are usually fairly minor and have more of a nuanced effect rather than massive shifts in thought.
  • without this list, it is very possible my life would be in a complete shambles.
  • i read this document just about every morning.
  • i sometimes read this document twice in a day.
  • the most i've ever looked at this document in one day is five times. and it wasn't the day that was trying, it was me trying not to wreck something i'd later regret.
  • the red text is what i read if i only have a minute or two for my morning review.
  • i would liken this text to a daily chiropractic adjustment for my mind and soul.
unbuttons shirt ... the list:

personal growth
employ the collegiate spirit of continued growth, expansion, and improvement. live introspectively but do not compare myself to others. only compare myself to how i was last week, last month, last year. recognize and eliminate the bad. recognize and nurture the positive.

value my time
there are limited minutes in our lives. the clock is ticking. use each day to achieve things that matter. ritualize the things deemed vital. leave a mark. avoid the typical and unnecessary regrets.

care for myself
do not deprive myself of life experiences through poor, selfish and gluttonous behaviors. stay healthy. stay fit. stay away from doctors and hospitals through wise living. do not go down behind something i can control.

care for my marriage
always remember my luck in finding marty. she is the one. cherish her. make her feel special. work to make her dreams come true.

this relationship is the only up-close, intimate partnership my children will see first-hand so marty and i are teaching them, the primary ones teaching them, how to be part of a loving, respectful and healthy relationship built from friendship, adoration, and love.

marty is who i will be eating breakfast with and sharing porch-time with long after the children have moved on. it is vital i never stop nurturing and caring for the relationship thus keeping the friendship not only in tact but vibrant.

enjoy my children
this experience is tragically temporary. they will be gone soon. too soon. do not take my time with my children for granted. when i spend time with my children, actively BE WITH my children. do not squander these moments, i can never get them back and will forever regret not doing more with the relationships.

create an environment my children want to be part of so they cherish the memories of their father, family, home, and childhood.

equip my children for life
treat my children as i would treat another adult i respect. be even-tempered. be consistent. be patient. be just. don't spoil them to the point of ill-preparing them for the world they will one day enter. remember, you're raising adults, not children.

professional excellence
make my professional contributions be thoughtful and of consequence. never let my role be questioned or compromised. control my experience. remember my fortune in being employed and show my employers and clients this respect and gratitude daily. be consistent. be timely. be reliable. be conscientious.

be grateful
be grateful for the quiet fortunes in my life that i did nothing to create, earn or attain but benefit from daily (e.g. birth, health, family, locale).

pants dropped...

Goto PART 2

SPORTS, HOW-TO, LIFE, SWIM (permalink) 08.02.2010
jimmyD put the soul in my stroke
when bella was born i couldn't swim. swim officially that is. i could swim underwater and dog paddle, but no for real strokes. three years ago i set an annual goal for myself to swim a mile. that is with no-stopping, flip-turns and all. at my city pool, which is an olympic-sized pool with 50m lengths, this would mean 18 laps, or 36 lengths. for most pools, it would be 36 laps and/or 72 lengths.

after one summer with much help from marty and by studying other lap swimmers, i learned how to swim freestyle, which some people call the crawl. this was the stroke i chose because it is the style i most coveted when watching other swimmers. at the end of the first year i could swim a 50m length with a reasonable amount of effort and needing several minutes of rest afterwards and before moving to the next length. since two lengths were out of my reach, the 36 i needed were astronomically distant.

i continued working into the next summer. my stroke was improving but i was still very much struggling with the oxygen management. by this time i knew there was something tragically wrong in my technique. i kept practicing thinking that something would click, akin to learning to drive a manual transmission, and i would just figure it out. the click never came in year two. there was a bright spot however in that while on our summer vacation, the fifteen year old son of a family friend taught me how to do flip-turns while we stayed with them for a week. i didn't get the technique truly figured out and working for several weeks but he definitely gave me the tools i needed. so even though at the end of year two i seemed no closer to my goal of eighteen laps, i was invigorated by my ability to do a flip-turn (a skill that was far more daunting than the actual swimming).

this is my third year working on this goal and i 'm calling saturday, july 31, 2010 (@12:30pm) the day i learned to swim, for real, because on this day the click came. it started as every one before it had. i drove to the pool, found an open lane, set my towel and stuff down on a chair, slid into the water, glanced at the pristine blue sky, stared down the 50m lane, got my goggles situated, took several deep breaths, thought about my mechanics, and pushed off just as i had hundreds of times before. but this time was different because this time i reached the other side ... and with plenty left in my tank. no racing against my fading breath. no pulling up. no switching my stroke to an above water option mid-way. i just went and went and went and went and then i saw the painted T at the bottom of the pool and i was there. elation! i rested for a few moments and pushed off back the other way. stroke, stroke, stroke, T. more elation. and i would go on to be elated six more times that day. and eight more the next.

it seems my stroke did not have a pronounced enough body swivel in the water and in addition to being inefficient was causing me to swim 'flat' which was making it hard for me to get good breaths of air. i'm crediting getting over this three year hurdle to a confident-rich, moxy-full kid i've never met named jimmy dshea. he posted a youTube video about the freestyle and stressed the importance of swiveling your body. his emphasis put this in my head and made me more conscious of this mechanic the next time i swam, which was this last saturday.

so while i still haven't yet gotten my mile, i now possess everything i need and plan on making quick work of this next bit. for my next challenge, i'm going to try to become as charismatic as my new and revered swim mentor, jimmy dshea.

HOW-TO, PERSONAL, LIFE (permalink) 01.14.2010
still regimented

click to enlarge

or view the side by side comparison to see what's changed in three years

click to enlarge

HOW-TO, PERSONAL, LIFE (permalink) 04.03.2007

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