Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Listening to Youth: Letter to your Future Self

When you’re in your 20s, you tend to think you know everything. The challenge is that you don’t know when you don’t know something. As a result, you don’t shut up when you should and let people with more experience do it.

When you’re in your 40s, you’ve realized that you knew something in your 20s, but may have been naïve about other things. At the same time, you realize there are people in their 60s and 70s who know a hell of a lot more. The challenge is figuring out which is which.

And, I’m guessing, the challenge when you get into your 50s and 60s is that sometimes you overweight experience.

I have been wanting to write a letter to my future self to remind me that, once upon a time, I was in my 20s. I had a pretty good understanding of technology, the Internet, and what would be its impact on the world (although, I didn’t see all of it, of course). Where I was really naïve was in how to commercialize it, how long it would take, among other things, but I was on the right track.

So, I want my future self to know that, one day, I am going to meet a 20 year old who will be full of energy, talking about how the world will change and that, while he or she may be off on a few key things, s/he will be spot on about others.

I just hope I am wise enough to pay attention.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What’s wrong with this list?

I download the list of school supplies for my 3rd and 4th graders today and it made me sad. Here’s the list. Try to guess why.

Then, read at the bottom for my thoughts. Feel free to comment and tell me why I am wrong.


So, here’s why.

With the exception of a small number of items, it’s pretty much the same list I got when I was in 3rd grade.

Given the amount of innovation that has happened since then, I just find it really hard to believe that the tools necessary to get educated are the same.

It makes me very worried about whether my kids are getting as prepared as possible. With technology and globalization the competition is more intense and the need for great education is even higher.

Particularly acute given how much I am spending (granted that some of this cost is devoted to religious/cultural education, so I accept that).

Then, I saw my friend Mike’s status and I was envious:

In an email from my rising 6th grader's teacher: "Students will need daily internet access and a computer in order to complete their homework assignments." Oh, have times changed!

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Dead Presidents—Ohio Day 3

I had one of those “oh wait, I think so-and-so lives here” as we drove through suburban Cleveland.

I saw the Cleveland Clinic and remembered that a friend from college-whom I had not seen in 18 years-Sandhia Varyani, lived near by. So, I called her and got to see her-and introduce her to the kids. A nice side benefit.

As much fun as that was, it wasn’t our primary goal when we stayed in Solon, OH (named after a Greek leader? I should look).

The reason we selected it was because of its proximity to Mentor, OH, the home of America’s 20th President, James A. Garfield.

The Park Ranger was first rate and very kid-friendly in the hour long tour of the home. Garfield, who only made it to Day 200 of his Presidency before he was assassinated by a guy with delusions of grandeur, was extremely well read. His library had over 5,000 books and he could speak French and German as well as reading Latin and Greek.

The Junior Park Ranger program gave the kids some great activities as they went through the house and IMG_2461they also got a sense of what life was like in the 1880’s. The “deep dive” was just what we had in mind when we visited.
2.5 hours later, after a drive across central Ohio, we found ourselves in Marion, home of the 29th President, Warren G. Harding.  While the house was closed (we still counted it as a visit), we did get to sit on his porch and read some facts about him from Wikipedia (where else?)

Harding was known for many scandals during his administration and has consistently ranked near the bottom of US Presidents. However, it seems like some folks are now looking at his stance on the 8-hour work day, women’s issues, and Civil Rights to try and portray him in a different light.

Like Garfield and McKinley, he didn’t make it out of office…though he wasn’t assassinated.
We stopped at a great park on a beautiful day. It felt like Heartland America in small town AmericIMG_2458a. Very quaint.

After sufficient energy was burned off, we drove to Columbus where we had some Graeter’s ice cream (I had to go with Buckeye flavor) and then spent some quality time with my cousins, Lee and Shelby Nathans.

Our Holiday Inn Express had a mini water park (slides and fountains, etc.), so we had a chance to catch up over pizza while the kids seriously frolicked. The NFO is on point during our trips for securing lodging and she rocks it when it comes to finding a place with a pool and a fridge…so we got to swim every night. (I also helped the kids understand why I like hot tubs).

The next morning-and our final official activity on the trip-took us to COSI-Columbus Museum of Science and Industry-which is definitely one of the best museums of its kind that I’ve seen.  The exhibits were fantastic and the bonus was that we had a chance to spend some time with the NFO’s cousin, Bruria Martin and her kids, who areIMG_2474 living in Columbus for 2 years (from Israel). Outside, the kids had the opportunity to sit in some tractors, which they loved.

The kids are at a good age now. A degree of self-sufficiency that makes movement easier. They can cooperate and assist and with the iPads, they are generally placid for the ride.
All of this makes the ultimate objective-instilling curiosity and a passion for discovery-easier to accomplish.
The theme of “visiting the homes of Presidents” makes it easy for us to get motivated and have a core focus.
Whatever it is…I would call this trip a success.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Halls of Fame and Presidents—A Summer Road Trip to Ohio


A few years ago, after a visit to Jefferson’s home at Monticello and Madison’s at Montpelier, the kids developed an appreciation for history and excitement for the Presidents.

Somehow, we came up with the idea that a worthwhile goal would be to visit the home (or some place) associated with each President (and, no, the White House doesn’t count.)

So, when we were thinking about summer vacations, we were using this as a criteria and we discovered that Ohio has connection to 8 Presidents (albeit, some looser than others).

Still, it seemed like a good idea and when we combined our love of football (a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame) and Music (the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), it seemed like a manageable trip.IMG_20130812_091919

Day 1 took us from DC to Canton and with summer hours going to 8, we were able to explore the Football HOF with plenty of time to spare. The kids-all of them-loved the history and the interactive exhibits. Even the NFO got into the swing of things.  Any time you have tablet computers and videos, you’re going to do well…which is exactly what happened.

I stopped to pay homage to Joe Gibbs and explain some of the great moments of the game. I am proud to say that it seems to have worked.

Once we were in Canton, OH, it was a very short hop to the William McKinley Memorial and Library. The 25th President was assassinated in 1901 and it’s interesting to think what would have happened if that hadn’t happened…his VP was Teddy Roosevelt.

The Memorial is built on a hill with a significant number of steps leading up to it. Entombed with him are his wife and 2 daughters who, sadly, died when before reaching age 4. It included an impressive biography of his life as well. Adjacent to the Memorial is the Presidential Center which had a mock “street” demonstrating what life looked like in the early 1900s…printing press, saloon, and all.FB_IMG_13762584554657872

There was a also a great Science Center which the kids loved.

Afterwards, we headed to the First Ladies’ Historical Site, situated in the family home of Ida McKinley. Alas, it was closed on Monday, but we did get a chance to visit the gift shop, so all was not lost.

Moving at rapid pace, we then visited the Harry London chocolate factory, part of the Fannie Mae family (and now owned by where we not only got to sample some great chocolate (of course), we had the chance to see it being made.  The kids LOVED this in all facets.

They’ve been great travelers, minimal complaints, and enjoying most visits. Of course, family trips with iPads and GPS aren’t what they used to be.

Since the point of this trip (and really all travel) is to widen horizons and instill curiosity, we figured a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland would fit the bill (and, let’s be honest, I wanted to go there).

While the kids only really knew The Beatles and Elvis Presley (they were surprised that Carly Rae Jepsen and Beyonce weren’t in the HOF yet), they still had a great time. Even Paco (the erstwhile sports fan) said he had more fun at the R&R than at the Football HOF. Go figure.

The most fun part, if you ask me, of any visit is asking the kids what their favorite part was and hPANO_20130812_153011earing the unexpected answers, but walking through the big mouth/tongue to the Rolling Stones exhibit did make the cut.

We did have to navigate the museum with some care as (to be expected) there were a few exhibits/comments that weren’t, shall we say, family friendly… Winking smile

I don’t think the guys picked up on it and we were no worse for the wear. At least now they know who the Rolling Stones are and I think they also know names like The Kinks, Supremes, Stevie Wonder, the Who, the Doors, and ZZ Top, so I would consider it successful.

Tomorrow is our next big Presidential day when we try to get James Garfield in Mentor, OH (interestingly enough, he was also assassinated) and Warren Harding in Merion.

Friday, August 02, 2013


Beginning way back in 1998 when I read the book “Adversity Quotient,” I’ve settled on the idea that one of the key determinants for success (beyond talent and skills, etc.) is RESILIENCE.

The ability to dig deep, leave it all on the field, never give up, push on in the face of tremendous odds.

For me, the Tough Mudder was just a practice run for that in real life.

The latest book to drive that home came to me courtesy of my wonderful (seriously) mother-in-law.

It is called The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Whyand provides anecdotes and evidence about why, ultimately, it’s resilience that matters when a disaster (9/11, Katrina, etc.) occurs.

Do you believe you will make it?

Have you thought about it in the past and previously practiced/convinced yourself that you will make it?

These are critical factors and traits I hope to instill in my kids. That’s why I was super proud when I saw Paco’s basketball camp report card…and the praise he got for pushing as hard as he did.

Shooting, dribbling, etc. All of that comes…but grit. That has to be cultivated.

And it seems like there is a good reason why.