Educated

In her 2018 memoir, Educated, Tara Westover, shared her incredible life story. She told of being raised by survivalist parents who did not permit her to go to school or see a doctor. In spite of it all and the accompanying trauma, she went on to go to Brigham Young University (her first class there was her first experience in a classroom) and then on to Oxford University and ultimately becoming a bestselling author.…


Humility

The word humility means freedom from pride or arrogance. Stated more simply it means not believing you are better than others. Interestingly the use of the word humility seems to have peaked in the early 1800’s and has been on a precipitous decline of the last two hundred plus years – with a slight uptick over the last few.

It is worth noting that this decline coincides with our shift from a hunter/gatherer society to one focused first on agriculture and then on industry.…


Wit

The holiday, by nature, can be stressful. Throw in another wave of a pandemic that can impact our health, upend our preparations and wreak havoc on travel plans, it would be understandable if many of us are as they say, “at our wit’s end.”

But to quote the writer, Rudyard Kipling, “If you can keep your wits about you while all others are losing theirs, and blaming you.…


Listening

Each Wednesday, I commute into the city to teach. It affords me the rare opportunity to relax, read, listen and think. As I travel by train for forty minutes and then walk the thirty blocks from Grand Central to Union Square, I often listen to podcasts, some that make me laugh and others that make me wonder. You could even occasionally catch me singing along to a tune on Spotify.…


Compliments

“Hey, beautiful!”

A passerby shouted this to the person I was having coffee with a few weeks ago. This “drive-by compliment” from one friend to another brought a smile to all three of our faces on an otherwise dreary day.

It reminded me of a phrase that I learned in one of my many, many hours of online soccer training required to be a travel soccer coach.…


Tickets

I was interviewed recently for this article that appeared in the New York Times.

It was a vivid and important look at how young people around the world assess their potential for success in life and what they think is necessary for achieving it.

Perhaps surprisingly, young people in poorer countries were generally more optimistic about their chances of future success than those in more economically developed countries like the United States.…


Experiment

There is a passage in Richard Power’s thought-provoking new novel, Bewilderment, that I find myself returning to again and again.

It describes an epiphany of sorts he has when considering his son and the undiagnosed mental health issues he is dealing with. He writes:

“Watching medicine fail my child, I developed a crackpot theory: Life is something we need to stop correcting. My boy was a pocket universe I could never hope to fathom.…


Build

I promised my daughter I would make her bed on Friday.

I finished it on Saturday.

Of course, making her bed wasn’t just tucking in her covers, arranging her stuffed animals and fluffing her pillow. It was putting together a new loft bed with a built-in desk and shelves underneath.

Now, I don’t consider myself especially handy. I’ve hung some drywall in my time and done a few projects here and there but by and large I would admit my skills are as limited as my tool box.…


Freedom

This weekend my youngest daughter, fresh off her 10th birthday, began her fifth stint in quarantine.

This time around she will miss two soccer games, one of her best friend’s birthday parties, running a Girls on The Run 5K that she’s been in training for months and of course, trick or treating on Halloween. She will also be spending the next week doing school online. Bringing her total time of unnecessary online learning to over forty days.…


Subtract

Recently, I had two exchanges with family members that did not go particularly well. Both were spurred on by trying to refute or debate claims fueled by divisive media outlets. Since the election, I have largely tuned out of political shows, but like Michael Corleone says in the Godfather, “Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in!”

I called one of them the following day and posed this simple question: “Does watching political shows bring you any joy?”…


Driven

Earlier this week, I was looking to connect with Colby Sharp, an educator who hosts a podcast about children’s books, called The Yarn. I stumbled upon his twitter account and was struck by his “bio” which began with the phrase, “driven by gratitude.”

It was such a wonderful articulation of what motivates him and got me wondering about what drives any of us.

In my own life, I know that what drives me has evolved.…


Appreciation

I’ve just come back from a two-week trip across parts of the country previously unknown to me. We started in Oregon, drove through Idaho into Wyoming and ended our family trip in Montana.

We experienced the wonders of nature in many forms. From Mt. Hood, to Craters of the Moon to the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Custer National Forest.  

Within each, we witnessed majestic views, the vastness of the great plains, spectacular waterfalls, lush forests, impressive geyser fields, herds of bison and elk, soaring hawks, eagles and osprey, two meandering moose and one adorable bear cub eating berries on the mountain side.…


Rejection

I have kept a file of all the rejection letters I’ve ever received. Two novels, dozens of short stories, even several poems all rejected by one agent, publisher or publication or another. In my emails, there are probably thousands of other examples of my ideas or proposals being turned down. Of course, there are also those instances where I never even received a reply. This says nothing of the slew of personal rejections that have amassed between my socially awkward high school years until I met and married my lovely wife.…


Expectations

Two teams compete in the Olympics.

Both win the Bronze.

One country is elated and the other disappointed.

So goes the power and toxicity of expectations.

When considering the word expectations, it’s almost impossible to imagine it without some qualifier.

High, low, exceeding, diminished, raised, wildest, lowered, defying, beating, surpassing, failing, great, outsized, living up to, playing down and on and on.

So unhealthy is our relationship with this word that when we say that something has “met our expectations,” we shrug our shoulders, suggesting some level of mild disappointment.…


Eventful

This Sunday was quite the eventful day for me for multiple reasons.

CBS Sunday Morning segment featuring the story behind my new children’s book, Three Little Engines was scheduled to air. The excitement was palpable for several reasons. The idea of having my book and its message shared with an audience of millions is obviously pretty cool.  Selfishly, the idea that my mom, my family and friends would be able to gather around the TV to see me talk – not just about the book – but about how grateful I was for all they had done to get me “over the mountain” was a tremendous gift.…


Blind

We knew this moment would come.  

Throughout the pandemic, our family has been watching Little House on the Prairie.  It has in many ways been a cathartic experience, watching the Ingalls family with all of its struggles persevere through no shortage of difficult times.

While the book has been subject to recent criticisms, the television series from my youth has held up remarkably well – tackling issues of poverty, race, Native American relations with nuance and compassion largely unseen today. There…


Fairness

Consider this scenario. One daughter goes to the pool and her mom buys her some candy. Another daughter goes into town with her friends and uses her allowance money to buy some candy. A third daughter gets no candy that day.

Is this fair?

This was exactly the debate that unfolded in my household last week.  

One one level, you could look at this one particular situation and conclude that it isn’t fair. …


Histories

“Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”  This lyric from the final song in Hamilton, captures not only an important question about our history but also about our present.

There are different versions of our histories – within our families, our institutions, our country and our world.

In many ways, it is less important to reconcile our complicated personal and national histories than it is to at least spend some time examining them.


Frustration

I write this at the end of an especially frustrating day at the end of an especially frustrating week.  The sources of my frustrations are irrelevant. By its very definition, frustration is less about the outside world and more about our perception of it.  As this article from Psychology Today points out, “The majority of anger and frustration in life, no matter what the situation, has at its basis one simple thought: It shouldn’t be this way.


Grace

Several months ago, I was listening to Marc Maron interview Glenn Close for his podcast. It was fascinating on many levels — for example, who knew that the actress was raised in a religious cult? 

One story, in particular, has stuck with me. As a young address, Close was an understudy looking to make her Broadway debut. One particular Saturday, the director, Hal Prince, told her that he was thinking of letting the leading lady go and was going to make his decision after the matinee. …


Success

What makes for a successful day?  If you’re like me, you might take a look at your calendar, figure out in your mind what you have to get done, and what you’d like to get done. Depending on how many things you tick off your mental list, you’ll do some calculation and determine whether that day was successful or not.

On Friday, my day was destined to be tight, small windows existed in between various obligations that included bringing my children to and from school and most importantly taking my wife to a minor medical procedure an hour away and waiting until it was completed so I could escort her back home. …


Evident

Consider the parable of the two fish swimming in the ocean. As one swims by the other it pauses to ask, “How’s the water?” The other replies, “What the hell is water?”

It is an admonition for us to stop and look at our surroundings. To not go about our days unconscious of the world in which we live.

In the daily deluge of information and activity, it is easy to miss what is right in front of us.…


Abyss

I struggled with figuring out what to write this week. Conflicting instincts pulled me to either express rage at the events at the Capitol last week and look back at all that led up to it or  to move past them and share some thoughts of hope or even beauty.

Stuck in the middle, I remembered this quote from the movie Wall Street. “Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him.…


FWD:

With just a few days left in the year many, if not most, of us are ready to consign 2020 to the trash heap of history. Eager to look to 2021, we will set goals, make plans and share our hopes for a brighter future.

If you believe that everyday is a blessing or understand recency bias, you will realize that by looking ahead we may be missing an opportunity right in front of our face.