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21

Aug

Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.
Paulo Coelho (The Winner Stands Alone)

Thoughts of thanks when it’s not Thanksgiving

In the beginning of yoga class, the teacher asks us to set an intention or dedicate the practice to someone or something. 

I often think of my cat (yes, seriously. and no, I’m not a cat lady) as a warm reminder of kindness and patience.  I don’t love cats, in fact most cats I’ve met scratch, scowl and hide under beds, I just really love my 17-year-old, gray tabby-Maine coon cat because he’s special.  Even my anti-cat, no-pets-for-me friends agree.

Other times, I think of the people in my life who deserve some extra thought and send them some telepathic thanks. These people aren’t my quotidian folks, they’re usually characters from a previous chapter or person who left an impression when we crossed paths, however briefly.

I know it’s not November, so it’s not Thanksgiving and the holidays aren’t upon us, which makes thoughtfulness all the more sincere.  Take a minute and think about someone unusual.  Give thanks and appreciate their impact, influence or memory, be it small, silly or sensitive.

This takes me to…

My first grade teacher and her classroom, which she transformed into an elaborate, year-round, paper-machee rainforest, much to the dislike of the principal and janitors but to the delight of our little class of six-year-olds.  She spent her summer vacations living in hammocks in the Amazon and brought her passion to the classroom. We learned about lemurs and tree frogs, how trees grow and why flowers close at night.  We were six and could barely write our names, but we knew the difference between the canopy and the emergent layers and which creatures could live on the forest floor, should anyone ask. She was the silver-hair hippie type, but she was tough, demanding and pissed off a lot of parents.  But she knew what she was doing and she loved it. She inspired six-year-olds to daydream and dream big about the world outside 1-H. 

My third grade teacher who, again to the disdain of janitors, the principal and presumably kids with allergies, kept an Angora rabbit, a cage of hamsters and a cat named Jake in her classroom. She didn’t like me very much because I ate Polly-O string cheese at my desk and left the wrappers on the floor, but I loved her barnyard classroom and how she incorporated the animals into lessons (and classroom chores). It was in this classroom I learned how to care for animals as part of life.

My ancient piano teacher, her two-room apartment that was engulfed by the black grand piano (not a baby grand, a legit grand piano in a 600sq. ft. apartment) and the stickers I earned for every song. The time I spent sitting and coloring on her couch, adjacent to the piano, eating packaged cookies she left on plates, waiting for the student before me to finish.  When I was younger and didn’t understand why this may be offensive, I would bring spare cookies with me to the piano bench, rest them on the piano ledge, and snack on them in between songs, leaving crumbs on my lap and on the keys. We took a recess in between scales and sonatas to catch up on my personal life. She was a mentor and a wonderful listener. On the rare occasion, she would mention her son, her ex-husband, and the fictional novels and full-length scores she wrote, but the focus was on the keys and me, what I wanted to learn and where I was going with my life. She wore more makeup than Elizabeth Taylor, but she never left her apartment, except for our annual recital at the retail piano store and gallery. She taught two dozen students, and I practiced with her for twelve years. I think about her, how she adored my sister and me, and what a truly unique person she is (or was). She was old then, older now. Every time I drive by her building, I’m tempted to pop into the lobby and see if her name is still on the apartment listing to buzz in.  She was the essence of patience and illegible handwriting. 

Our neighbor who passed away at 98. She looked like what I imagine the old lady who lived in the shoe would look like if she baked cookies and pies all day. White haired, tiny hunched frame, furry moles, gray-blue eyes and creased, freckled skin - yet enchanting and adorable. My dad and I would offer a hand in the yard, a lightbulb in the house or company in her walk around the block. Occasionally, my sister and I would invite ourselves in during a bike ride around the neighborhood, randomly deciding now would be a good time to say hi.  We’d usually find her listening to the radio in her kitchen or kneeling in her flowerbed; she was always delighted to have the neighborhood children stop by. Otherwise, she kept to herself in the humble home on the corner. When she passed away, my dad and I went to her funeral. Her children and grandchildren spoke and mentioned my dad by name. He cried, we cried, and I realized just how special we were to her. I thought we were small, insignificant neighbors just doing neighborly things, but, to a 98-year-old lady who lived alone, it meant a lot. 

My mass communications law professor in my senior year at Penn State.  I sat in the same seat, front row to the left, and never missed a class, not a minute late.  He was so revved on law and journalism.  I had never set the curve on a test or considered a career in law until his obvious passion for the class inspired me to take the LSATs and meet during office hours.  It was my favorite class at Penn State, which says a lot for a school of 40,000 students and thousands of class options. I maintained e-mail correspondence after graduation and learned that he moved to Colorado the next spring to pursue his passion for outdoor adventure and go back to school. It’s true, you only live once. Do what you like; like what you do.

I’m also continuously inspired by the memory of my grandparents, friends I’ve lost touch with and family I don’t see enough.

The sun is out this golden hour, and there’s plenty of time to dream. So remember about those people you don’t usually think about and give thanks to your supporting characters. 

24

Apr

Who knows, you might just be one more at-bat away from a home run.
Nick Hughes, So Entrepreneurial blog

24

Nov

Dad on Urban Meyer

(watching the Ohio State-Michigan game)
Dad:
I wonder if Urban Meyer has a brother named Suburban.

31

Oct

Dad Without Electricity, post-Hurricane Sandy

Me:
do you want me to take your iPad, iPod or phone to work to charge?
Dad:
No. Because I need my music. Then I'd really have nothing left.

10

Oct

Dad on iTunes Ping

Dad:
I noticed "Ping" is gone from my iTunes.
Me:
oh really? I never used Ping anyway.
Dad:
Yeah, the problem is I never wanted Ping... What I really wanted was Pong.

03

Jun

Dad on Fun.

(Fun. - We Are Young opening the MTV Movie Awards)
Em:
Aw, it's the movie awards? I thought it was the music awards - this won't be as fun.
Dad:
What do you mean? This is already Fun.

07

May

Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out.

28

Apr

Calm seas never made a good sailor.

19

Apr

Today was a good day. 

When it rains it pours, excuse my cliche slip, and I’m handling my umbrella with tired hands. So I’ll take the slightest of good days. 

Went to bed happy, and that always lends well to waking up on the right side of the bed. (or the left, depending on your sleeping arrangement. Just be sure to roll off on the sunny side.)

My best friend surprised me with flowers and my favorite vanilla soy chai latte at work. Good start!

I had a great, uplifting conversation with my manager regarding future opportunities. And it was a relaxing day at work.

My Kindle came in the mail! 

After work, I ran for 60 minutes straight - and felt on fire, could have kept going but, alas, it was dark and the trail closes at dusk. 

Mid-run, I remembered I had yesterday’s leftover heath bar crunch frozen yogurt at home - and a kindle waiting! 

Came home to a quiet house and my old, furry best friend, who ate his dinner without puking it up for the first time in a week. 

Today was manageable, so today was a good day. And I felt like sharing that with the world.

Cheers to tomorrow!

Today was a good day.

When it rains it pours, excuse my cliche slip, and I’m handling my umbrella with tired hands. So I’ll take the slightest of good days.

Went to bed happy, and that always lends well to waking up on the right side of the bed. (or the left, depending on your sleeping arrangement. Just be sure to roll off on the sunny side.)

My best friend surprised me with flowers and my favorite vanilla soy chai latte at work. Good start!

I had a great, uplifting conversation with my manager regarding future opportunities. And it was a relaxing day at work.

My Kindle came in the mail!

After work, I ran for 60 minutes straight - and felt on fire, could have kept going but, alas, it was dark and the trail closes at dusk.

Mid-run, I remembered I had yesterday’s leftover heath bar crunch frozen yogurt at home - and a kindle waiting!

Came home to a quiet house and my old, furry best friend, who ate his dinner without puking it up for the first time in a week.

Today was manageable, so today was a good day. And I felt like sharing that with the world.

Cheers to tomorrow!

12

Apr

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs

21

Mar

I’m guilty of still listening to this album.  
But that’s not the problem.  The problem is the album cover. What the HECK is going on with the men?! And how did this not bother me in 1995… or catch my attention in the 17 years since I’ve been listening to this album? Look at their menacing pimp expressions!
Incase you were wondering, my favorite tracks are Lucky Love and Never Gonna Say I’m Sorry.  
A history of Ace of Base: The Swedish quad includes a guy, his best friend and his best friend’s 2 sisters.  The girls left the band in 2009 to pursue their solo careers. The remaining guys recruited new females and said they’d change the name of the band.  They did: Ace.of.Base.  Ace.of.Base, not be confused with Ace of Base, released an album in 2010.  The name “Ace of Base” comes from being the masters of their studio (aces), which was the basement (base) of a car-repair shop.

I’m guilty of still listening to this album.  

But that’s not the problem.  The problem is the album cover. What the HECK is going on with the men?! And how did this not bother me in 1995… or catch my attention in the 17 years since I’ve been listening to this album? Look at their menacing pimp expressions!

Incase you were wondering, my favorite tracks are Lucky Love and Never Gonna Say I’m Sorry.  

A history of Ace of Base: The Swedish quad includes a guy, his best friend and his best friend’s 2 sisters.  The girls left the band in 2009 to pursue their solo careers. The remaining guys recruited new females and said they’d change the name of the band.  They did: Ace.of.Base.  Ace.of.Base, not be confused with Ace of Base, released an album in 2010.  The name “Ace of Base” comes from being the masters of their studio (aces), which was the basement (base) of a car-repair shop.

15

Mar

Do you get tan?

Spring is here and treating us to unusually warm temperatures unusually early.  It’s 70 degrees in Philadelphia today, 15 degrees above average, and it hasn’t even hit St. Patricks Day yet (but, oh, it will hit - and it always hits Philly hard. See: Erica Palan’s spot on  preview of the imminent St. Patty’s debauchery in Philly). 

With warm weather comes more color and less layers (time to dry clean my winter coats - dare I jinx it…), fresh air and fresh skin.  And with the fresh skin, seasoned by winter to an unsightly white, at the first sight of someone’s comes the question: "do you get tan?" And I ask, “why do you care? Why does it matter?”

I think it’s a very strange curiousity to ask someone if they get tan or if they just burn.  You’re forced to uncomfortably divulge that no, you just freckle or yes, you just get red and burn.  Maybe that red turns to a tan (but as we all know, that’s not really a good thing.  Just an indication that your body’s natural sun defense has given up, waved the white flag, if you will, giving way to the red flags).  Or perhaps you grin and gloat that yes, you tan, oh boy do you tan.  Just wait and see how tan you get.  (Again, we know that’s not really a good thing.  Pick up any copy of Cosmo for at least 3 references to SPF, skin cancer and the importance of wide brimmed hats.)

We are all guilty of constant comparison, be it weight or wealth, clothes or cars, and perhaps our skin’s genetic ability to tan or not to tan is yet another trait up for discussion.  The difference is, when we all start wearing swimsuits, showing more skin and spending more time outside, we don’t ask each other: “how do you gain weight?” or “how do you respond to tree pollen?” It’s personal and publicly-irrelevant knowledge, same as melanin levels and uncontrollable tanning capabilities. So, why do we ask our friends “do you get tan or do you burn?”

Next time you see your friend’s forearm in the sun, don’t ask her how she tans, instead, tell her her epidermis is showing. 

07

Mar

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

All the same, even when Western parents think they’re being strict, they usually don’t come close to being Chinese mothers.  For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments for thirty minutes every day.  An hour at most.  For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part.  It’s hours two and three that get tough. […]

Some might think that the American sports parent is an analog to the Chinese mother.  This is so wrong.  Unlike your typical Western overscheduling soccer mom, the Chinese mother believes that (1) schoolwork always comes first; (2) an A-minus is a bad grade; (3) your children must be two years ahead of their classmates in math; (4) you must never compliment your children in public; (5) if your child ever disagrees with a teacher or coach, you must always take the side of the teacher or coach; (6) the only activities your children should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal; and (7) that medal must be gold. […]

As I watched American parents slathering praise on their kids for the lowest of tasks - drawing a squiggle or waving a stick - I came to see that Chinese parents have two things over their Western counterparts: (1) higher dreams for their children, and (2) higher regard for their children in the sense of knowing how much they can take.”

Just picked up Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua.  This is how we’re getting started. 

For a critical point of reference, Amy Chua, a professor at Yale Law and mother of two daughters, has also authored World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability and Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance and Why They Fall.

If someone had to shed light on the stereotypical demands and achievements of Chinese mothers, their children and families, I think Chua would be the one.

29

Feb

Beer Runners!

This is so, so, so excellent.  I don’t know how I just found out about this - but I can’t wait to have a Thursday off from work this spring so I can run a quick three to five miles to a local pub in stride with strangers and share a craft beer (or two) at the end.  What an awesome, awesome idea.