Assigned Reading and Viewing

• You’re interested in adolescent mental health and like long-form, non-fiction journalism. The Silicon Valley Suicides.

• You wonder what it would be like to be a young Syrian woman who escapes from The Islamic State. ISIS Women and Enforcers in Syria Recount Collaboration, Anguish, and Escape.

• You dig athletic excellence and redemption stories. After rehabilitation, the best of Michael Phelps may lie ahead. Mid-story, I wondered, has there ever been a more physically dominant athlete in any sport?

• This Thanksgiving you want to be more intentional about giving thanks. Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier.

• You’re thankful Adele is back. “Nannies talk very slow and very calm to try to make the world make sense.” Who knew?

• You’re grateful Adele is coming to Thanksgiving dinner.

Don’t Ask Me How to Raise Teenagers

My daughters have early August birthdays, meaning more than turkey was cooking lo’ those many Thanksgivings ago. Four day weekend, frosty outside, fire burning inside, what do you expect?

J, now 20, is a fun and funny girl. The day before her birthday she proudly declared that she had now officially “avoided teen pregnancy”.

And a few days from now, a few blocks from Wrigley Field, A turns 23.

I’m proud of my daughters and love them dearly despite their making me feel old.

They’re a talented duo, especially skilled in reclamation projects. Through an interest in and feel for interior design, and lots of paint, A has transformed her utilitarian Chicago apartment into a nice home.

And through practice and steadily increasing technical know-how, J can wield her camera to transform almost any subject, no matter how ghastly into something nearly tolerable. For example.

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Pivoting Towards Gratitude

Seventeen years ago I got an unexpected call at work. My 69 year old dad had died from a massive heart attack, in his car, at a red light, on his way to his office. Today, Mother Dear’s health is precarious.

My story isn’t unique because the cycle of life doesn’t discriminate. Baby boomers’ parents are dying every day. How do we avoid being overcome by grief?

My dad’s sudden, unforeseen death taught me important lessons. A few weeks afterwards I realized I had a stark choice to make. Should I continue being upset at the fact that he’d never get to know our daughters, that our friendship wouldn’t continue deepening, that my mom wouldn’t enjoy his company anymore, that a taken for granted future was cut short? Or should I be grateful that he was a great grandfather for a few years, that he was my father for 34 years, and that my mom and him spent fifty plus years together.

I chose to be grateful for the time we enjoyed together. “And,” as Robert Frost once wrote, “that has made all the difference.” In the short-term, this intentional pivoting towards gratitude doesn’t inoculate anyone from tremendous sadness. But it’s indispensable in avoiding longer term paralyzing grief.

On a Thanksgiving Day car trip, the conversation with Betrothed turned to our parents’ declining health. I shared this perspective with her and my related opinion that since our parents are in their early 80’s everything from here on in is “extra credit”. We’ve been blessed beyond belief to have them as parents. We won the lottery of life without having to buy tickets. We’re blessed to have a treasure trove of positive memories with them. We need to consciously choose gratitude by celebrating the quality and quantity of time we’ve enjoyed with them.

As a cyclist, I reminded the Good Wife that I run a real risk of getting hit and possibly killed by a drunk or distracted driver. I told her if I die at 52 or 62, I wanted something from her. I said, “Grieve with gusto. Be as sad as you want for a few weeks or months. But then consciously choose to be thankful for the three or four decades we spent together. For the fact that we met. For the specialness of our friendship. For the team we made. Our daughters (who may be younger or the same age I was when my dad suddenly died) will need that modeled for them. Show them how to choose gratitude.”

Stoicism, Minimalism, and Dried Mangos

Happy Thanksgiving. Extra credit points if you’ve been reading me over the years and remember this is my favorite holiday.

As I age, my wants and needs are shifting. I want less. Which is cool because there’s less need to make and stash mad money.

Maybe it’s all the Stoicism and minimalism I read, think and occasionally write about. I used to think I needed a big house on the water, a nice car, and silk underwear (not really, I just like the way that rounded out the sentence).

At the same time, I am not quite Seneca. I haven’t self actualized or achieved an otherworldly Stoic or minimalist form of enlightenment. I want perfect health. I want to grow the blog readership without posting pictures of bikini-clad snowboarders*. I want an even nicer small to medium-sized house, preferably on water. I want a nicer car. I’m in the process of building a nicer road bike. I want a mini iPad, but I’m waiting until the retina version comes out next year sometime. When I browse Sunset Magazine, I want a personal chef to cook different vegetarian meals for me every day. I want a weekly massage for the rest of my live long days and a steady supply of dried mangos and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from the hippy food co-op.

Which leaves my needs, which again I’m happy to report, keep shrinking. I need my wife and daughters to be happy and healthy, I need friends to workout with, I need a bathtub of really hot water coupled with good reading material most every night, and I need clean sheets and a comfy bed. And an amendment to the last pgraph. In light of the last three or four days, I need a steady supply of dried mangos.

Thanks as always for reading.

* Six months ago or so I wrote a post titled “Education Slowdown” based on a Wall Street Journal article about how some young people are avoiding college because of the costs. One character in the story was snowboarding nearly half the year. I wrote maybe there are some fringe benefits to his lifestyle and attached a picture of two scantily clad young women on snowboards. Gradually it captured the attention of horny young men (or old men, or young women, or old women) all over the world. I was crushed that people were way more interested in bikinis than my amazing insights into better schools, families, and communities. Initially, I was caught up in the rise in readership and mindlessly road the fleshy wave. Then the artificially inflated readership stats started to gnaw a bit. So, with a brief apology to the Snow Queens, I deleted the pic from the post. Since the deleted post was still Google’s 13th highest ranked link under “snowboard” and “snowboarder”, the bikini-lovers kept coming. So I pulled the plug on the whole post and single-handedly caused a spike in global sexual repression.

Rethinking National Holidays

Happy President’s day. I resolve to act more presidential than normal today (which means a tiny bit).

Most Euros take a solid three weeks off mid-to-late summer.

Could we benefit from a more European approach to national holidays? What if we give back six of the second through eighth holidays listed below and then add the Friday after Thanksgiving since it’s my favorite holiday and also insert a week-long national holiday where most everything shuts down.

In exchange for sporadic three day weekends, everyone truly goes on some sort of vacation, reconnects with loved ones, and recharges.

If this idea catches on and is ultimately adopted, I expect a national holiday in my honor.

Friday, December 31, 2010* New Year’s Day
Monday, January 17 Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Monday, February 21** Washington’s Birthday
Monday, May 30 Memorial Day
Monday, July 4 Independence Day
Monday, September 5 Labor Day
Monday, October 10 Columbus Day
Friday, November 11 Veterans Day
Thursday, November 24 Thanksgiving Day
Monday, December 26*** Christmas Day

Brotherly Love

Thanksgiving is a time to take account of one’s blessings. I am fortunate to have two older brothers. In high school my oldest bro was an excellent junior golfer who I looked up to and followed out onto the golf course at the ripe age of 5 or 6. So I have him to “thank” for my four decade-long journey to find my game. Oldest bro left for college when I was 6 or 7 so I have a few more memories of my other brother who is only three years older than me. Here’s some of what I remember.

He was an original X-game dude decades before the X games. I’m positive he has that crazy adrenaline chromosome that makes people repeatedly do irrational things. Jumped off the 10 meter tower in early elementary school, routinely jumped off our SoCal house into our smallish pool, loves big waves, and prefers skiing in the trees. Any day now I suspect he’ll take his kite board over the Seal or Huntington Beach piers.

Sadly though, despite growing up with long blonde hair, muscles, and dare-devil bad boy persona, he really struggled with the ladies. As a result, whenever he headed out, he’d ask me if I could tag along. Occasionally I’d throw him a bone, but I grew impatient when he proved to be a slow learner. Eventually he compensated by buying homes on the SoCal coast.

As you can plainly see from the “gift” he just sent me, he’s never really forgiven me for not spending more time with him during his formative years.

Seattle Half Race Prep

A Sunday after Thanksgiving tradition. Run 13.1 miles around and through Seattle for time. GREAT course and a fun race.

I haven’t really been training for it apart from the regular 3 runs, 25 miles/week routine. However, I did throw in a little speed work a few weeks ago and have added a fourth run once or twice and did do 35 miles two weeks ago.

On the other hand, my training partners have been pushing me and I’ve been feeling good as a result of their prodding. One person though has not been helping. This is the person that does the family grocery shopping. This dastardly person has been bringing these circles of caloric goodness home from the hippy food co-op. Can you read the fine print? 1 pound. The FGSer advises cutting the PBOCC cookie into four parts to which I say hell-to-the-no. Let’s just say my normal defenses have been laid to waste by these babies and I expect to make up time on the down hills this year.

Post-race report in two weeks. Two goals, sub 1:34 and burn enough calories to guiltlessly dig into a PBOCC post-race.

And yes, if a product tastes this good, advertising is permitted.

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Resistence is Futile