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.…


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.…


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.…


Commencement

I created a bucket list before they were fashionable – or even called a bucket list.  I was twenty-five at the time, filled with hubris, and created a list of 51 things I wanted to do before I died.

Looking back at the list, I’m not doing too bad.  I’ve married, become a father, written a few books, taken my mother to Disney World, visited Paris and walked on the field at Fenway Park.  …


Vaccinated

I am now officially fully vaccinated. With the new CDC recommendations, it would seem as if I’m able to go back to doing many of the things that have been long denied.  

While personally, I’m happy to shed masks when appropriate, eat indoors, gather with friends, I don’t feel any sense of extreme joy or even relief. I imagine this is in part because my children, other family members and over 40% of our country are still not vaccinated. Some…


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.…


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.…


Sick

In a year defined by sickness, this week has been particularly so. 

There are many forms of sickness of which I speak. The obvious one is the coronavirus – whose toll mounts  despite having the means right in front of us to control it.  Less obvious is the sickness in our politics and civil discourse – not just between members of different political parties but within our families and amongst our friends. …


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.…


Convention

The Constitutional Convention led to the creation of our democracy. The Seneca Falls Convention was the start of the women’s suffrage movement. The Geneva Convention was a series of meetings that led to more humane treatment during times of armed conflict.

Conventions can be events that unite us, that bring together diverse groups with a shared goal and — as the examples above show — lead to important progress.…


Here

I love the Beyonce song, “I was here.” It’s an inspiring and anthemic reminder and call to action regarding our purpose. Consider these lyrics:

I wanna say I lived each day, until I die
And know that I meant something in somebody’s life
The hearts I have touched will be the proof that I leave
That I made a difference, and this world will see

I was here


In this context and most, “here” refers to the specific time and place that we occupy. 


Catharsis

During these times, many have sought solace in a well-made television series.  One that can at the very least escape the time, one that when done well provides a much needed catharsis.

A catharsis is an emotional release – “a process of releasing and thereby providing relief from, strong and repressed emotions.”

Two shows that have provided that effect in our household bear many similarities and a few marked differences.  …


Schools

It’s like ”playing a game of 3D chess while standing on one leg in the middle of a hurricane.”

These were the words Richmond Superintendent of Schools and former recipient of the National Teacher of the Year, Jason Kamras, used to describe the process of planning for the opening of schools.

This vivid simile captures the complexity (3D chess), dexterity (standing on one leg) and danger (hurricane), that is inherent in what seems like a near impossible task.…


Results

I find “results” to be a perplexing word.  

When you see “results’ in print is your instinct to read it as a noun?  As in “I want results.”  Or do you read it as a verb — “when I do this, it results in that?”

Its origins date back to the French “resilire” which means “to rebound” and is the root word for resilience.  There is a looseness and flexibility in its original meaning that I admire.…


Lines

When I think of a line, I typically think of something that is finite in length or duration.  We may wait in a line for gas or we may draw a line as part of a picture.

I just learned that in purely math terms, a line actually refers to something that is  “a straight one-dimensional figure having no thickness and extending infinitely in both directions.”…


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.…


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.…


Feeling/Doing

“In one word, write down how you are feeling right now.”  

This was how I started each class over the last month at the two different universities where I teach.   

Students were encouraged not to use terms already added to the zoom chat by another student. Some results were predictable.  Anxious, tired, afraid, nervous, unsure – always made the list. More practical needs were also expressed – allergic, hungry – as were, albeit more rarely,  the aspirational – hopeful, grateful.…


mom

Yesterday was a mother’s day unlike any other. Under normal circumstances this would be a day where mothers would either be lavished with gifts, taken out to dinner, or maybe just given a break.

No doubt children and families did their best to try and cobble something together along those lines despite our current limitations. 

To repeat a well-worn cliche, now more than ever, mom’s deserve the recognition that too often gets taken for granted.…


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). 


Open?

There has been a lot of talk and some action about “opening” lately.  Most of it has been focused on opening the economy, or more specifically businesses.  Some are clamoring to get back to life “as normal” while others are concerned that such a move would endanger our individual and collective health. This debate, if you want to call it that, is taking different shapes depending upon circumstance, geography and is greatly affected by leadership of lack thereof.…


Laugh

“What kind of tree can you fit into your hand?”   —- “a palm tree.”

Each morning our daughter’s elementary school principal shares a taped video message.  She concludes it with a joke submitted by a student – similar to the one above. This ritual is a new one, as  previously the morning announcements in school did not include any joke telling.

While not privy to the reason behind this addition. My…