Sunday, June 30, 2013

And Poof, It’s Gone

In the past 2 months, Nadia (age 5.5) has exploded as a reader. She’s also figured out how to shower herself.

So bedtime, which used to consist of the NFO and me giving baths and reading books, has morphed somewhat.

We’ll still read a book to her on occasion, but more often than not, she’s reading to us or just to herself.

All those years of giving baths to the kids have come to an end.

Sure, on occasion, we’ll still do it, but it’s more the exception than the rule now.

I’m ok with it. After all, I didn’t plan on giving them baths at age 25, so it had to end sometime. Still, appreciate the milestone.

On to the next one

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Another Reason to Blog…

Elysa Coles Sicard.

Well, sort of.

You see, Elysa and I knew each other when we were both students in Japan in 1997. We saw each other once after that when she lived in DC, but it’s been at least 12 or 13 years…if not more.

She’s been living in Poland and now in France.

We talk every 4 years or so.

The other day was one of them and I was astounded as she recollected and commented on blog posts and observations I had made over the years.

The blog served as a social glue, of sorts, connecting us as friends over time and distance of conversations. Asynchronous friendships. Not the real-time stuff of Facebook, but deeper, allowing her to reflect and ruminate on what I had written and then talk about it live.

There are days when I look at the blog traffic and think, “well, hardly anyone reads,” but then I remind myself that the personal blog is not a professional blog.

It’s a repository for friends to peruse when they feel like it and whether it is one or one hundred posts, it’s a chance to build the connection.

Thank you, Elysa for reminding me of that.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Father-Daughter Tea Party and Solar Exploration…

IMG_2316For the 4th year in a row, Tikkanen and I hosted a Father-Daughter Tea Party. Inspired by the book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, we decided it was a great opportunity to have quality 1:1 time and help her friends and their fathers do the same…and serve my special “extra cheesy Mac and Cheese.” Winking smile

As is our custom, we went around the table and each father/daughter combination said 1 or a few things about the other which s/he appreciated. What was interesting is how the girls have become more comfortable speaking up over the years.

We also had some activities that included:

  • IMG_2318decorating cookies together
  • making souvenir t-shirts
  • writing inspiring notes for each other on stickers
  • painting fingernails (well, the dads didn’t get their nails painted, but hey)

These year, we also extended the party into a Solar City House Party, thanks to our pals at Solar City. Each guest had a nice tote bag, made from recycled plastic and we had an opportunity to talk about solar power (albeit not a huge amount b/c, well, 3rd grade girls and solar power are not necessarily the best combination, though it did look like some of the cookies had solar-inspired designs) However, the dads got a big of info and the packet came with a solar power worksheet, some napkins (“Go Solar!”) and a DVD…which we didn’t watch, I’ll admit.

So, this was the first year that the Tea Party had a sponsor and I want to thank Solar City for that. I have to say…from a branding perspective, it’s brilliant because now, with a highly competitive field of solar providers, I think Solar City is moving to the front of the pack in terms of IMG_2322name recall and awareness. Two of the dads are going to investigate for their roofs, so there you go.

Afterwards, I did take a few minutes to explain to Tonka about how solar works.

Anyway, that was a nice side benefit. The real benefit is spending quality time with the girls particularly as they get older, staying involved in a meaningful way, and showing them that it is in fact possible to have a good time with your friends even if the napkins don’t match with the tablecloth and when you serve mac and cheese out of a big bowl.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Allowing Part of Your Life to Waste Away...

Had a demoralizing talk with a longtime friend when I was in New York the other day.

He's been practicing corporate law for almost 20 years. Big Law, as they say, at a firm. Hasn't made partner and finds really no joy in his work.

As he said, "I don't look to work to provide me inspiration."  He has 3 kids, all in private school, and despite jumping around to a few firms, has never been able to find his groove.

In short, he's stuck.

It's sad, but I get where he's coming from. He's got a lifestyle now that requires the income he makes-even if he isn't excited about it-so he can't go anything about it.

I imagine there are parts of most people's lives that feel this way. It could be work, relationships, health, or psychological.

I listened to him and wished I could help him with some sage advice, but what should I tell him?

Obviously, he wants to be satisfied and challenged to his potential...he's that kind of guy...but he's not and, well, I don't see what he could do to bust out of the cycle and fulfill his obligations at the same time.

What am I missing here?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Honoring the True Heroes on Father's Day

If I am not mistaken, the first and only time I visited the World War II Memorial before today was with my grandfather, Stanley Robinson, on Father's Day, 2006.

To honor his memory and his service, I thought it would be nice to take the kids down there today. The two older ones had gone last time, but were too young to remember, and the youngest wasn't born yet.

It gave me a chance to remember him and reflect on his heroism while flying in planes over China, surviving 75 missions, and tell my kids about the sacrifices of the "Greatest Generation."

While we there, we were privileged to see a number of vets who had flown in on the Southwest Airlines Honor Flight (this one from New England) and receive a hero's welcome. It brought tears to my eyes.

Being a father can be a heroic undertaking, but standing in the shadows of these men makes you really appreciate the meaning of the word.

Here's the video.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Half-Marathon—On a trail, in a park

On the bus from the parking lot to the beginning of the North Face Endurance Challenge Half-Marathon at Algonkian State Park, I was chatting north-face_thumbwith my seatmate.

I told her, “this is my first half-marathon.”

She looked at me, wide-eyed, and said “and you chose to do a TRAIL half for your first one?”

I wasn’t sure what to say, so I said, “well, since I am on the bus to the start line, I think we’re kind of past the point for making that decision.”

And so began my day.

When I signed up for the race, they asked “what is your expected finish time?”

My answer: SUNDAY.

After the Tough Mudder, my teammates said to me, “well, you’re already capable of running 9 or 10 miles at once, you can do a half,” and when the opportunity presented itself, I figured I would go for the challenge.

Standing in line for the pre-run bathroom run, we were chatting with a great guy named Bruce who had done a few marathons and 50 mile races. When he asked me why I had decided to do the half-marathon, I told him.

“Wow. Tough Mudder…that is truly hard core.” I’ll take that. Winking smile

Anyway, it was a trail run and the first 3 miles were slow, but fine.

As the race wore on, the heat and humidity picked up considerably. There were no water stations between mile 2 and mile 8, so it was getting tough, and with no mile markers in the middle of the woods, it was a bit disorienting. You just didn’t know how far you had gone.  I don’t have one of those GPS watches.

So, roughly between miles 5 and 7.5, I was in a total groove. The kind of groove where you don’t even think about the fact that you are running. It was Zen-like.

Then, we hit a creek that was full of mud and a muddy bank (almost Tough Mudder-like) and it required me to slow down considerably and use my hands. Killed my mojo.

About a mile later, we came to a water station and I hydrated. The sign there said “8.4 miles” but all the runners with watches said, “no, it’s 9.2.”

I figured I had less than 4 miles to go and since I tend to run about 5 miles per day, I felt like I had it in the bag.

I counted chickens a bit early as we shortly hit two hills that must have been 50 degree inclines. All along, my goal had been to just not stop running, no matter how slow, but on these hills, I had no choice. I had to walk.

Fortunately, my running partner, Yak, was with me, even though he is much faster. He claimed ulterior motives—if I finished, I’d be more likely to sign up for a marathon with him. Fair enough.

Those hills-at mile 10-took a ton out of me and I was soon relieved to hear someone say “only 2 miles to go from here.”

I mentally calculated how much energy I needed (I knew the last 2 miles were flat) and set off. I ran for what seemed like 12 minutes or so and then came to a water station where I was informed I had 1.65 miles to go.


I was basically running on fumes and I still wasn’t done. I had miscalculated the burn. All of that resulted in a pretty long last 1.5 mile of the run.

Yet, that’s the part of the activity that I love the best. In some ways, it’s the reason I do it. The physical challenge is great, but the mental challenge is what makes it special. When your body wants to give up, but you force yourself to go on anyway.

And, so I did.

Then, you hear the crowd (no spectators on the course b/c of the trail) at the finish area and you are uplifted…

They brought me home.

Considering the heat, it was my first time, and the fact that I had a calf spasm that required a house call by a physician friend, icing, and massage on the day before, I am thrilled with the 2.40 time I posted.

Next challenge? Open to suggestions.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Night at the Ballet

As many of you know, the NFO is a serious dancer. So, it’s no surprise that Tonka and Nadia and, to some extent, Paco, are also fans of dance.

So, it was particularly fun to take them out (on a school night, no less!) to see Ballet Across America at the Kennedy Center.

If you’ve been there, you know what a great environment it is all the way around. The Halls of Nations and States, the huge bust of Kennedy, the river overlook, and the great rooms for the performances (we were in the Opera House), so they really enjoyed that.

We only made it for 2 of the 3 Acts (people were getting antsy), but we were priviliged to see the Richmond Ballet perform a piece that was inspired by the ghettos of WWII.

From the website:Ballet Austin (Tony Spielberg)

Premiered in the Richmond Ballet (Stoner Winslett, Artistic Director) New Works Festival,Ershter Vals features music based on poems from the Jewish ghettos of World War II. The captivating choreography focuses the ballet on the moments of light that can be found in even the darkest of times, creating a penetrating message of hope.

The music that accompanied it was all Yiddish and I, who would not call myself a ballet aficionado (though I am certainly on the cusp) found myself mesmerized and really enjoying the right brain expansion that was taking place.

The kids had a lot of questions and we had to remind them to hold them until the intermission. All in all, they handled themselves quite well.

The second act was a bit more difficult. There was NO music whatsoever and the moments of total silence were a bit awkward. Still, the movements were graceful.

While I enjoyed the dance (really), I really enjoyed watching the kids enjoy the dance and be captivated, wide-eyed, and wondering about not only the dance, but everything…the chandeliers, the orchestra, the lighting, and the steep stairs.

I love the challenge of giving the kids new experiences to help shape their minds into flexible, dynamic, creative organs.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Does the mission change when the passengers change?

I really don’t think this will translate well to the blog, but here goes anyway…
I was dropping Paco off at his friend, Josh Daniels’ house. (names are changed to protect innocent).
Nadia was with me. We had walked over.
When I arrived there, I saw that another family, the Smiths were there for lunch.
The Smiths know where I live and said, “Oh, are you headed back to your house?”
I told them I was.
“Our daughter, Gina (age 8), is going to her friend, Amy King, who lives down the street from you.”
I responded, “I’m happy to take her there now,” seeing as Gina would be able to get to Amy’s house anywhere from 1 to 2 hours earlier than if she waited for her family to finish lunch.
At first, Gina (who has knows me—she’s in the same grade as Paco), indicated she would rather stay with her family, but while I was organizing the return plans for Paco, Gina changed her mind.
No skin off my back, I was headed in the direction of the King’s anyway.
So, Gina, Nadia, and I left the Daniels’ house and headed for my street.
Where things get interesting….
Along the way, I saw my friend, Jon Cole, walk out his front door and, since we were at the halfway point, I turned to the girls and said “do either of you need a bathroom stop?”
I had been walking with Nadia for about 45 minutes and if there’s one thing in which I believe in, it’s pre-emptive bathroom visits.
Both of the girls said no.
Jon said, “hey, you want to come in for a few minutes just to chat?”
I said, “well, are you guys having dessert? Maybe I can hook up the girls with a cookie?”
He said, “yes, we’re having dessert.”
Turning to the girls, I offered them a cookie. Nadia said she was interested. Gina said she wasn’t.
Now, you should know that Gina had never met the Cole’s before, but my assessment of her character was that she is pretty happy, go-lucky (we had been chatting along the way) and that a short detour wouldn’t be a big deal.
We went in, the girls sat on the couch and we were there for a maximum of 10 minutes. We took our leave and I safely delivered Gina to Amy’s house.
The Questions and The Controversy
Here’s where you get to vote/decide/weigh-in.
The NFO thinks that once I accept the responsibility for delivering Gina to Amy’s, I have no right to detour from that mission.
I think that since I am doing Gina and the Smiths a favor (one I am happy to do), that I am able to keep some degree of flexibility in how I get her there.  I would agree that a visit to the Cole’s of 2 hours would be excessive, so there is some point (for me, it was more than 10 minutes), at which point it is simply not right to stay and not fair to Gina. In my view, Gina comes out WAY ahead in terms of when she gets to Amy’s house, regardless of whether I stop at the Cole’s or not.
The NFO, however, disagrees and thinks that the point is 0 minutes. Once I take the job, I lose all flexibility.
Analogous might be….you offer to give your friend’s child a ride to your next door neighbor’s house from soccer practice. On the way, you pass the drugstore and you remember that you forgot to pick up a birthday card for your Mom. You see an opportunity to get it.
Is it ok to park, run in with the 2 kids, get the card, and run out? (assuming it is 10 minutes or less AND there’s no explicit time expectation for when your friend’s child will arrive at your neighbors)
Anyway, as I said, it doesn’t translate perfectly, so fire away.