Negotiation

It was Thanksgiving Day. My daughter wanted apple pie and asked her mother to get it for her. My brother-in-law noted that he had read some parenting advice from Esther Wojcicki that suggested children should be encouraged to do whatever they can for themselves.

As Wojcicki had raised two CEOs and a doctor, the joke became – future CEOs get their own pie.

For the next three hours, no one budged.…


Connecting

I have always considered myself a luddite – slow to adopt new technology, warning against its potential downside. Yet here I sit, typing on my MacBook Pro, Apple Watch strapped to my wrist as my iPhone plays music through a bluetooth SONOS speaker. All after another evening ended with my ass firmly planted in my couch watching mindless television wirelessly projected onto my wall.

Lamenting our use of technology is not particularly helpful.…


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.…


Take

Last week while walking my dog, I noticed what I thought was one of those awesome free standing “Lending Library” kiosks.

However as I approached, I saw that this one did not include a single book. Rather, it was filled with canned goods and other non-perishable food items. The sign at the top read, “Take What You Need.”

The presence of such a structure was both a sign of our difficult economic times and a refreshing public display of community kindness.…


More

I knew what I wanted to write about on Tuesday. I am still not sure what I have to say.

Speechless and helpless are two natural reactions when the same thing happens over and over again and you are at a loss for what to do about it.

If you read the number 19,  you know exactly what I’m talking about.  But let us not forget the two – teachers who died in the line of fire.…


Savor

My friend recently told me the story about a lunch he had with another friend of ours. They were getting together at an old stomping ground where we had all had lunch dozens of times before. The circumstances this time were different.

Our friend had terminal cancer, was very weak, and it was clear that this would be their last lunch together. Eating his burger took longer than usual and the waitress seemed to hover a bit.…


Anything

My last cycle of REM sleep often occurs just before I wake. It is during this time that your brain processes emotions and emotional memories. It is also when we dream. Lately, it seems as if the emotions I’m processing range from mildly troubling to deeply disturbing. As I often remember my dreams, this can lead to an unsettling start to my day.

As it was this morning.…


Chairs

It is a common misconception that Thoreau was a hermit. That when he went to “live deliberately and confront only the essentials of life” it was an act of seclusion.

His choice of furniture and its reported use is a direct contradiction of this.

Among the few possessions in the tiny cabin on Walden Pond, were three chairs. He said one was for solitude, two for friendship and three for society.…


Back

I’m rushing to write this before I embark on six hours of travel soccer on a Sunday. This is after six hours of practice on Saturday. The joys of coaching all three of my daughters’ soccer teams.

This is on top of an email inbox that has gotten out of control, a calendar suddenly packed with appointments and a to do list that is seemingly endless.…


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.…


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.…


Wishes

On any given day, approximately 800,000 people in the United States will celebrate their birthday. When we are young, we sit with a birthday cake before us, surrounded by friends and families and we make a wish to blow out the lit candles marking our years. 

In any given year,  many of these wishes bear some semblance to one another despite the diversity of the wish makers. …


Wonderful

While walking my dog in the woods nearby, I stopped to marvel at a giant fallen oak. Uprooted from the ground, it was hard to surmise what had toppled this mammoth tree. I was full of wonder at the extensive roots laid bare for all to examine the many connections severed.  Feelings of both loss and hope filled me as I was reminded that soon that tree would decompose with its nutrients revitalizing the soil that it would soon become part of.…


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.…


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.


Investments

Two weeks ago my daughter asked me for some help on a school math assignment. She was given an imaginary $100,000 to invest in ten stocks and track how they performed over the course of two weeks.

In selecting her stocks, she picked things she believed in or liked. She likes to listen to music, so she chose Spotify. She loves to read, so she chose Scholastic.…


Understanding

There are so many things about life that are beyond my current understanding. Chief amongst these are the experiences of people whose backgrounds are different from my own.  

I do not understand what it feels like to be the victim of an injustice or to perpetrate it.

I do not understand what it is like to be discriminated against daily, to patrol the streets, to fight in a war, to live in fear for myself or my family.…


Tears

It happened as the parade of cars drove through our town, our children’s teachers beeping and beaming as we waved.

It happened as I attended the virtual graduation ceremony at City College and read the students and parents’ supportive and proud comments and emojis scroll down the Youtube Live chat box for an hour.

It happened as I watched each episode of Some Good News, as each story chronicled one beautiful act of appreciation after another.…


Sharing

My two favorite parts of “It’s a Wonderful Life” are both born out of crisis.

The first comes as there is a run on the Bailey Building and Loan, the small community bank led by the movie’s protagonist, George Bailey. Fearing insolvency the customers descend on the bank with the hope of withdrawing all of their money out of fear caused by the stock market crash.…


Public

One of the defining American debates is the ongoing question of Public vs. Private.  Another way to think of it is — what is mine vs. what is ours?  This question runs through issues related to economics, rights, education, health, property and so on.

Some see these ideas of public and private mostly at odds.  An example of zero-sum thinking (see here for a great summary of research on how this thinking plays out politically). 


Insufficient?

In the face of our current challenges, I’ve heard many echo my own feelings that our personal actions have been insufficient. This is especially true when we compare ourselves to others whose roles are deemed essential and actions heroic.

This sentiment at times comes when people reflect on their relative good fortune or privilege. But it is not limited to the lucky.

I’ve also spoken to those directly impacted by events.…


Canceled

They came one after another. A work event I’d been helping prepare for months. Both universities where I teach canceled classes and would move the rest online. A trip to Boston with my youngest daughter for her first basketball tournament. Another local tournament for two daughter’s soccer teams. Then the postponement of the youth soccer season altogether. Then their basketball season. Then one’s theatre program, another’s gymnastics etc.…


Heroic Hospitality

Recently, we took our daughters to go see the play, Come From Away. It tells the story of how the small town of Gander, Newfoundland came to the aid of over 7,000 passengers whose planes were forced to land as American airspace was closed in the minutes after the 9/11 attacks. They provided not only lodging, food, and clothes, but also comfort, compassion and love to the strangers who doubled the size of the town’s population for almost a week.  …