Accepting

I’ve read countless memoirs and interviewed dozens of people about their journey but none have been as honest, conflicted and raw as Acceptance by Emi Nietfeld.  Her story is marked with countless issues and circumstances that she has had to overcome and her book looks to reconcile them in the context of a culture that likes these stories told in a very particular way.

Her experience in crafting her college essay is particularly telling.…


Being

Last week, I took a few minutes to create a list of all the major things I’ve done professionally so far this year. While the list was relatively long and I felt a certain amount of pride in reflection, something was just a little off.

I tried to recall how I felt at the time each project was being created. Did I enjoy the process? Did it bring me joy?…


Act

I have been watching the riveting and thoughtful documentary series, The Last Movie Stars – that chronicles the life and legacy of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

Before they were married, Newman and Woodward studied together at the Actors Studio, alongside contemporaries Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.

The first episode shares their experience in the studio. A cast of current actors, including Ethan Hawke who directs the documentary, recite The Actor’s Vow.…


Fame

Spiderman came to Hastings this week. More specifically, Tom Holland was in my town shooting a new anthology series for Apple TV.  Throngs of kids lined up in a marked off area to catch a glimpse of him. When he finally arrived, clad in period 70’s garb, they screamed.  Calling out his name, filming his every move, clamoring for him to come by and say hello – which to his credit he did.…


Belief

What or who do you believe in?

Beliefs can be a tricky thing. We all have them, in fact hold them dearly. Yet seldom do we explicitly state or share them. More often, beneath the surface, they inform, influence or dictate many of our actions.

Beliefs, according to the Oxford dictionary, can be defined in two ways:
One is “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.”…


Rich

Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke is a charming and wisdom filled slim book. It is written as a letter that one of his ancestors left his children before heading off to a battle from which he was unsure to return. He shares twenty values that his children should live by – if they wish to be a noble knight like himself. Within each there is a brief fable that illustrates the value in practice.…


Wishes

As part of my end of the year project to get both my literal and figurative “house” in order, I found myself cleaning out my dresser. The sock drawer is always the most interesting part of this chore. Seeing what miscellaneous artifacts of your previous year were stuffed in between unpaired socks always comes with some mixture of dread and surprise.

Amongst the flotsam of old receipts, lottery tickets, and cards was a plain white envelope.…


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.…


Fun?

I’m not sure if I would describe myself as a fun person. Sure I can be funny and I like to have fun – who doesn’t? I also lead a happy and satisfied life. But am I “fun”? Are you?

By “fun,” I’m referring to someone who is naturally disposed to fun. They seek the company of other people, enjoy novel experiences, always up for a good time, like to be the life of any party – even if it’s a party of one or two.…


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.…


Kindness

What is the relationship between kindness and success?  Some might suggest that to be successful we must, to some extent anyways, be driven, achievement oriented, perhaps even a little selfish. You know the old adage, “Nice guys finish last.”

I recently stumbled upon some old research that debunks that thinking.

In this study, kindergarten teachers measured their students across a host of “kindness” metrics – such as “shares materials” and “is helpful to others.”…


Dogs

It seems as if every other person I know got a dog during the pandemic.  A testament to the many perceived positive attributes of man’s best friend.

While we welcomed our dog, Scout, into our family four years ago, I can attest to how much their love can do for a family during the most difficult of times.

Whether in a human home or within their own families or packs, dogs by and large are loyal, cooperative and caring.…


Broken

Last week, I finished Broken Horses, Brandi Carlile’s new memoir.  While reading it, I struggled to understand the reasoning behind the title.

Literally it is a reference to the horses Carlile has had throughout her life. They are broken in the sense that they are insufficient in the qualities we typically value in a horse. 

Upon further reflection, the entire book seems as if it is a triumph of broken-ness. While


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.


Struggle

We often romanticize the idea of struggling. We believe that some struggle on the way to achieving any desired outcome is somehow noble or part of how our character is forged.

But to see anyone, especially a loved one, truly struggle, is heart wrenching.  When I say truly struggle, I mean in the strict definition of the word, “to make strenuous or violent efforts in the face of difficulties or opposition.”    …


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. …


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.…


Better

I did not see the straw that broke the camel’s back. But the reasons that compelled my 9 year old to repeatedly whip a tennis ball into her sister’s masterpiece lego house on wheels presumably ran deep into the sinkhole that was 2020.

After going all Godzilla on her sister’s prized creation, she ran down the hall and locked herself in her room. I had been getting ready for the day and missed the fireworks and the twenty minutes of sequestration that followed.…


Blessed

I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as blessed as I did this Thanksgiving. It was a day of almost complete harmony among my wife and I and our three daughters.  

Our day began with a simple exercise of writing down the many people and things we were grateful for this year, in spite of all that has engulfed our nation and impaired our daily lives.

Under different circumstances, this request could have been met with eye rolls and pleas to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.…


Gratitude>>>

Daddy, 2020 sucks.”  It is this year of sickness, sacrifice, sadness, sucktitude and overall political jackassery, my youngest daughter succinctly summed up what has become all too obvious.  

Thanksgiving will soon join the long list of traditions, celebrations, holidays, and rituals that must be adjusted to conform to our new “less than” reality.  

Perhaps, though, Thanksgiving is uniquely suited to be “more than” during these times.…


We

Which word do you use more often, “We” or “I”?

David Brooks’ column “How to Actually Make America Great Again” reflects on the new book by Robert Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett called The Upswing It chronicles America’s swing from solidarity (we) to individualism (I) over the last fifty years.

As one point of evidence, the authors cite that the use of the word “I” in American books has doubled between 1965 and 2008.


Integrity

Are you a person of integrity?

Before you answer this question, consider these two definitions of the word integrity.  

“The firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” (Merriam Webster)

“The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles that you refuse to change.” (Cambridge)

The key characteristic of both definitions is not the presence of moral principles or a strong moral code but it is the fact that there is a firm adherence to them and that we refuse to change them.…


Speak

Zadie Smith is a brilliant writer distinguished by both her accessible prose and astute observations of the human condition. Reading her slender, new volume of six essays called “Intimations” – all written during the pandemic – is like having a conversation with a friend as you go through a difficult time. It is a salve of words.  

Among her many gifts is humility. At one point she acknowledges a basic conceit of all writers. …


Teach

Our children have many teachers – in school and in life. The role of any teacher, defined either by profession or practice, is always critical to the success of our children. But is profoundly more so during times of great uncertainty — much like the challenging times we live in now.

Teaching is often associated with instruction, but observation and modeling are equally important.  We may say, “do as I say not as I do” but in the long run they are more likely to remember and follow our actions than our words.…