Empathy

‘the noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding’ – Leonardo da Vinci

 

Last week, I found myself at church in Colorado Springs.  It was like nothing I’d ever seen before.  Growing up in New Hampshire, I have a certain expectation of what ‘church’ is, and what it looks like.  It usually takes place in a formal ‘chapel like’ building…with a steeple and stained glass.  But this church wasn’t that.  I’d characterize it as very modern as a facility, and more progressive as a religious institution.  Upon entering the massive lobby, I was introduced to a bunch of gathering areas with attractive seating, an open concept fireplace, touch-screen sign in stations, a cafe, and an aesthetic that seemed to call more for a space for community and sharing, than a strict setting for receiving a sermon.

Now, I would call myself a non-believer…and still feel that way after visiting this beautiful church.  Why did I go?  My daughter and I took the trip to Colorado from New Hampshire to visit my cousin and her family.  Knowing how significant the church is within their lives, and how passionate my cousin is about being part of it, I really wanted to try to understand what it was all about.  I wanted to learn from an institution that I’m now pretty removed from…that I don’t necessarily believe in.  I wanted to practice empathy.

em•pa•thy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

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All too often, we think negatively about the other side of the isle.  We ruminate on the differences between us.  We wonder how someone could be so shallow in thinking in a particular manner.  But progress and benefit comes from finding alignment, seeking out similarities, and respecting one’s position.

The church service began with an amazing band, playing rock/pop type music with a religious message within the lyrics.  Those lyrics were displayed on two huge screens on either side of the band, along with a video of the performance…so you could follow along with the song.  The band was amazing.  After that, there was a guest speaker visiting from another church, filling in for the pastor.  His message was so smart…so relevant to my world, and so easy to grasp onto…even by me (a non-believer)…and even though God and Jesus were central to the sermon.  I could sift the information, and gather the valuable pieces for myself.  I could understand how others could be so faithful here.  I could practice empathy.

This practice of empathy can seem warm and fuzzy, mostly reserved for vegetarians and yoga instructors.  And in some ways it is.  It’s choosing to lead with love as the intention.  It’s honestly taking another person’s feelings into consideration, and honoring and respecting those as you exchange words.  It’s forgiving and welcoming instead of judging.  Do you try to do that?  When was the last time you were truly empathetic to someone with opposite values of your own?  On the other hand though, this practice is very practical.  It’s a win-win for both sides.  It allows for necessary changes within society to more efficiently take place.  And it provides us with a broader perspective…one that leads to a more rich and fulfilling life.

I left the church with a newly found respect for my cousin and her family, on top of the love I already had.  I felt so lucky to share this experience with them, and that they welcomed me so warmly to a sacred part of their lives…without even knowing my thoughts on spirituality or religion.  And I felt really positive about a community that thinks differently than me…knowing that they are practicing something so worthy, and that their doing it just so right.

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When I was 21, I was working at a local car dealership, detailing cars that were traded in when customers purchased a new one.  I had worked there with my best friend for the past 2 or 3 years…basically since high school.  My friend found a gun in one of the cars.  He told me about it, and took it home.  Within a week or two, my friend committed suicide with that gun.

Since then, as you can imagine, I’ve had very negative connotations associated with guns.  I was never really interested in them to begin with…and this situation, being my first real connection to a hand gun, immediately deterred me from becoming comfortable with them.

You see, from my perspective, as naive as this may sound to you, my friend was dealing with something that made him unhappy for some time.  And he was ‘living’ with that.  When a gun was introduced to his environment, things quickly changed.  It seemed to me that had he not found a gun, he’d still be living.  I know, I know… he may have found another way.  But try to understand how it felt to me…try to feel it…practice empathy for me if you can.

Now, many years removed from that situation, I’m still not interested in guns.  I’m definitely not as sensitive to it as I once was.  I just don’t care to have one.  And part of that decision was certainly shaped by that early experience that I had.  Recently though, I’ve had great conversations with two guys that love guns.  They both seemed to believe in owning guns for sport, as well as for a way to protect themselves…their homes…their families.  And instead of focusing on how dangerous that could be, or wondering why they feel they need some of the weapons they have, or telling them why my perspective is more valid in today’s world…I listened.  I gave my best effort to respecting their values…their reasons.  I provided an opportunity for them to voice why they accept that owning guns is effective and significant.  I practiced empathy.

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I hope that by going to church…that by talking guns…I, in some small way made others feel positive about their position.  I know that by doing both, I felt more positive about my own.  Not ‘positive’ as in all-knowing and never swaying…’positive’ as in good…healthy…happy.  When we practice empathy, we expose ourselves and others to the fact that the world is full of vastly diverse perspectives.  We open ourselves up to the multitude of possibilities and opportunities.  And regardless of how small we move the needle, we make the world a better place.

Thank you so much for your time,

Jimmy Thorpe

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Fictional Case Study (julie’s jelly)

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When we do more than we think (more actions with less pondering), we create the paths that we choose to walk down.  We make our own life happen, the way we want it to…the way that is most tailored for who we are deep down to the core.  We live, and die on our own sword.  

Take this fictional story as an example:  33 year old mom of two boys, Julie…wants to start her own jelly business.  She’s passionate about the strawberry jelly she makes at home. Her family loves it. She wants to start selling it online, to get it to as many folks as possible, and to create another stream of income for the family.  Her job as an elementary school teacher doesn’t provide her with the income that she really desires.

Julie tells her coworker (John) about her business idea at lunch break.  John says, ‘yeah that sounds fun, but I don’t think I’d ever buy jelly over the internet.’  

Julie then tells her boss Stacey (the principal at her school), who she is really friendly with. Stacey says, ‘It’s a good idea, but I tried selling candles online….and it didn’t really amount to much.  It’s harder than it looks.’

I hope you can identify with Julie.  She is really passionate and interested in her idea, but the two people that she thought would encourage her the most to go do it…actually shot her idea down.  Now, if Julie is thick-skinned, and loves a ‘chip on her shoulder’ attitude, she can use it to motivate her even more so. But most of us would start second guessing our idea, thinking, ‘maybe it is too hard to sell online…I’m not sure people will buy my jelly after all’.  Before you know it, Julie has put the recipe, canning jars, and label maker in the back of the cabinet.  

John and Stacey aren’t to blame for this.  If we went back and told them how Julie felt after speaking to them, they’d probably say that they didn’t mean to deter her at all…she probably caught them at a tough time during the day…and they actually really believe in Julie’s business idea…of course she should do it!  They were telling stories that they thought would be valuable to Julie, knowing what to expect when she does do it.  

This story illustrates the fact that we often put our hopes and dreams in the hands of others.  And we often choose people who aren’t necessarily ready to accept, and then motivate us in a way that’s tailor made for us.  We’re actually expecting too much from others when we do that. We look to others (who aren’t even aware by the way) to inspire and motivate us…to encourage our ideas.  That’s just a losing mentality.

I understand wanting to tell people what your up to.  It’s realistic that we’re going to socialize and share what’s top of mind.  But we need to be totally cognizant of what’s going on, in order to not get discouraged about our own ideas.  We need to be the one in control.

If Julie is like most people, when her husband asks her about that business she wanted to start, she’ll now have excuses and blame to be placed…both of which have nothing to do with her own self.  She may even start complaining more about her co-workers, and the fact that she doesn’t have enough money, and that the government makes it too hard to start businesses where she lives, and that learning to be tech savvy, and to figure out social media branding takes way too long and isn’t worth it.  

Because of what someone else said, and how they seemed to feel about it, she now isn’t going to follow up on her idea.  So sad! Do you see how Julie isn’t truly in control of her own life? She’s now dying on John and Stacey’s sword!

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What Julie could have done, had she considered doing more than thinking, is create an Etsy and Pinterest account and start tinkering with the sites, realizing which would be best for her.  After a couple of hours, she’d be savvy enough to post simple pictures and text.

She could have brainstormed a simple and catchy business name, and created an interesting logo for her brand.

She might have researched prices and locations for strawberries and sugar, and jars and labels, in order to find the most affordable way of getting a jar totally ready for the market.  

She could have created a Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat account for her jelly, so that she’d be able to get the attention of others with her brand.  

She may have called 15 local food, garden, and furniture stores, asking if her jelly could be sold there.  

She even could have started her own podcast…recording episodes mostly focused on everything jelly!

By the way, with today’s technology and opportunity, she could have done all of this on her laptop or phone while lying in bed wearing pajamas!  

And I have a funny feeling that if she had done all of this, and then went and told her co-workers, it would be a totally different conversation and outcome.  And even if the conversation was similar, the confidence and self-esteem Julie built up through her work, would allow her to smirk at the otherwise discouraging words said by John and Stacey.  

This Julie isn’t complaining or blaming.  She’s using all of her time and energy to do more.  She’s putting it all into her jelly business.  And guess who’s sword she’s living and dying on now?  Her own sword.

As much as I don’t want her to die, let’s look at how that actually is a possibility:

If we have to guts to live a life on our own terms, we must consider the fact that we will die that way too.  I respect and believe in that meritocracy all the way. We can’t have it one way, and not the other.

Look, Julie’s jelly might actually suck.  Maybe her family is spitting it out, or passing it to the dog under the table, and they’re too nice to be honest with her about it.  Julie could do all of this doing on the back of a crap product…and after the first round of sales, she’d die.  

Or, maybe Julie isn’t kind.  She doesn’t bring any value to the store owners that are carrying her product, she’s very hard to communicate with, and she doesn’t engage with any of her audience on the social media platforms.  She’s going to die.

While the doing should be the baseline…the norm…other variables like quality, consistency, kindness, value, etc. will certainly play their part.   

But remember, it feels so much better to die on your own sword than someone else’s.  As you can see, all of the blaming and responsibility come back to you when you put this into practice.  If your product didn’t work out how you anticipated that it would, it’s because of your own actions, or lack thereof.  This shouldering of all of the responsibility is actually liberating, though it seems more like pressure. Again, along with the control or autonomy you desire to have your own business or live your own life…you must accept the meritocracy…and the fact that it all comes back to you, good or bad.  Ultimate responsibility…ultimate freedom.

Now, if Julie’s jelly really does suck…all of that doing, experimenting, executing that she did, provided her with a foundation of data to sit on. All of the confidence and self-esteem and pride she has built up through the work, allows her a framework to adjust from.  Look, businesses mostly don’t get it right the first time. Great businesses listen to the market, and adjust accordingly. Julie may need to change the recipe, the label, the jar. She may need to adjust her attitude, her kindness level, her methods of communication. This is where we either fail and we’re done (we die on our own sword)…or we fail, learn, adjust, try (wield our sword again), and then win!   

To Do more than you think, means that you’re the one in control of your own destiny. You’re wielding your own sword. Your life isn’t happening to you…YOU are making your own life happen!

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Now, sharpen up that sword…and get out there!

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Last year…on my 37th birthday…I published a piece called 37.  It was basically stating that I’d be starting the process of documenting all of my writing.  And it was thanking all of you for affecting and influencing me…however you have.  Click here to read it.

I also wrote a piece on Medium this past Fall called #roadto40 – a Midlife Manifesto, in which I basically stated my commitment to a more deliberate way of living, with hopes of documenting my journey along the way.  Click here to read that!

Now that a year has gone by, and I’m further down that road to 40…I figure I better check in with myself to see how the trip is going.

In one way, that 37 year contained so much.  The days and weeks and months felt very slow, filled up…fulfilling.  On the other hand, now that the year is in the past and I’m looking back at it, the time went so fast.  Along with that, I didn’t get done as much as I wanted; my to do list actually grew.  By the way, that was the first time I’ve used a semi-colon in forever.  I am an English major, but still have no idea how to use one correctly.  Please advise in the comments.

But yeah…my list!  It’s fascinating that as we age and grow, we become more exposed to potentialities and opportunities we never knew existed.  In a way, when I was younger, I thought I knew my options.  ‘I’ll go do that, that, and that when I’m older,’ is kind of how it went through my head as a naive young man.  But after I got to the first ‘that’, I found 3 others that I was interested in.  And those took energy away from the pursuit of my original ideas!

This may seem obvious to you.  It’s just how life is.  It usually doesn’t go exactly as planned.  And, we think we know more than we really do.  I now have advice and lessons that I could tell my 20 year old self.  What’s more interesting, is realizing that my 60 year old self will have far more lessons for where I am now.  My recent focus on writing, on self exploration, on living deliberately…has provided me a truly humble and grateful perspective.  One that allows me to more effectively understand the road I travel on.

Before I challenge myself with what is next on my current ‘to do’ list, I feel it’s important to reflect on the experiences of my 37 year.  I will now detail that reflection within an interpretive dance.  Hmmm…the upload isn’t working for that dance video…so you’ll have to use your imagination.

In general, I’ve really been able to focus on appreciating others during this year.  Realizing how significant my relationships are, and how grateful I am for anyone who’s influenced me (good or bad), I’ve opened myself up to new opportunities (like I spoke about above), and actually discovered a love for others…instead of a fear that I once had.

Unfortunately, my own insecurities held me back, starting in my teens and sticking around far too long.  I developed a dislikedness (my own word) for other people, which really stemmed from that fear I had at the start.  I’m sorry for that.  I hope it didn’t affect you at all.  I used to want you and everyone else to lose…and for me to win.  It was sad, and lonely.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still an introvert at my core.  I need a lot of ‘me’ time…selfish time…to charge up…to center.  It’s not natural for me to be ‘out’ all of the time, socializing, partying, connecting.  That’s not me…and you won’t see me doing a lot of that.  Interestingly enough, my #roadto40, my self-exploration has been effective in letting me be selfish.  By thinking through and identifying what it is I really want, and doing that as much as possible, I’ve ‘got myself good’.  I’m honestly now in a very happy place…more than I’ve ever been.  I feel content, fulfilled.  And what’s been refreshing through all of that, is that now…all I want to do is connect with others.  I want to hear what you’re up to.  I want to know your story.  What’s your #roadto40 like?  What is in your manifesto?  I want to learn from you!

By the way, I also feel that I have something very beneficial to offer others, whether it be through my writing, or simply connecting some other way.  I so want you to win too now…just as much, if not more than I want to win!  And boy do I want to win!  If there’s any way I can help someone in that…I want to be there, and I’m very serious about that.  Please let me know.

This year, I want to connect more.  I’ll be starting new projects in hopes to bring people together.  I can’t wait to celebrate and learn with you.  Please come join me if you can!  I’ll be in touch.

I’ve also started writing a book.  It’s been both very rewarding and challenging.  I haven’t identified a date yet for when I want to be done…but, it’s certainly on my list.

Thinking about that, I have a favor to ask of you.  Please tune in.  Please follow me.  I’ll never take it for granted, and so appreciate it.  It’s very humbling that someone would choose to read something I wrote…or listen to what I have to say.  Thank you.  Share me, or recommend me to anyone who might get value from anything I’m doing.   I really want to connect with more beautiful people, and that starts with you shooting out your webs!

Here are some things I’m up to currently…and where you can find me:

Home base – jimmythorpe.com

Monthly Book Club – Each month, I send out 1 email, describing a couple of books that I highly recommend.  Find out what I’m reading, and sign up for the email club here!

Podcast – You can find my ‘Breathe upon Waking’ podcast on itunes, Google Play, on the Anchor app, or on my website homepage here.

Facebook – come say hello here!

Cork and Crush Wine Club – I started tasting a different wine every week.  Once I get my palate more educated…just kidding…once I get organized, I’m going to invite you to come join me.  Stay posted here! 

East Concord Grass Roots – I still own and run a landscaping company.  Spring is coming.  Call me!

Dads and Daughters – I’m still in the developing phase of this…but soon, I’ll be starting a group for dads and daughters to meet up and hang out.  I want to provide an experience to strengthen that bond, and to help build a community for us Dads to all learn within.  Please contact me to be part of this.

Snapchat – it’s just fun!  Come find me there @thorpedojam

Instagram – some pics, hopefully some inspiration…I’m loving Instagram stories right now! Follow me @thorpe42

Music! — I’m trying to learn guitar and voice. It’s a work in progress. I’m ‘under construction’ for sure. But I use my YouTube channel to challenge myself to keep learning and post a new one. Come listen!

All love!

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school ties

originally published on July 19, 2017

‘every child is an artist.  the problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up’- Picasso

 

*two books related to this topic…and that I highly recommend reading are The Global Achievement Gap by Wagner, and Home Grown: adventures in parenting off the beaten path, unschooling, and reconnecting with the natural world, by Hewitt.

Also, check out this blog on Unschooling by Leo Babauta


As Matilda grows closer to school aged, I find myself thinking about her education more and more.  She’s 4 years old now, and won’t be old enough for kindergarten until the Fall of 2018. So there is some time…but none like the present to consider options.  I honestly haven’t made any conclusions about how I feel in regards to kindergarten and school yet.  But I have read a bunch, spoke to some others about it, and think on it often.  Hopefully, writing on the topic will allow me to explore it more deeply, and help define what I truly believe in.  




step back

While you may think I’m speaking of a Steph Curry ‘step back’ 3 pointer, I’m talking more about what I believe all of us ‘citizens’ need to practice before thinking about education.  It’s a term that I’ll use to describe a pausing, stepping out of the box, and the employment of a wide and general perspective.  You see, I never questioned school really.  I’m not sure my parents did either.  Maybe your parents didn’t.  It’s just been accepted over time that school is where you go starting at age 5 and ending at age 18.  It’s what everyone does.  We’ve done it for a long time, and now you’re going to do it.  But what does that allow our children?  What does it provide them?  How does it challenge them?  How is it tailored for them?  What will it prepare them for?  And how will we determine their success within this institution?  



It is pretty obvious to me that a student that attends 180 days of school (let’s say a first grader), will know more facts and things than a child that doesn’t go to school for that 180 days.  The schooled student will test better, follow rules quicker, and be better prepared to take on the 2nd grade curriculum.  They will be ‘ahead of the curve’ compared to the unschooled child.  ‘Stepping back’ though…is saying ‘who cares’ to all of that.  It’s saying, standardized tests are not what define my child.  It’s recognizing that rules can be bent in life outside of school…there is always a loophole…and questioning everything is actually very beneficial.  It’s submitting to the rat race of parent’s claiming high percentiles of where their child sits, admitting that the curve that we’re all trying to get ahead of is a slippery slope that doesn’t matter as much as we’re drilled to believe.  Stepping back is believing that it’s ok that my child doesn’t ride a bike as well as other 4 year olds.  It’s ok if my child’s reading level isn’t where the common core says it should be.  I understand it’s difficult to be ok with that, especially considering societal pressure.  But…we don’t need to constantly compare each to another…and rank accordingly.  We all contain multitudes.  These microcosms and measurements are small pieces of our entire selves.  

math/statistics

6 hours per school day (approx) multiplied by 180 school days = 1080 hours per school year.  


12 school years + kindergarten = 13 school years.


13 school years x 1080 hours = 14,040 hours of total schooling through completion.

Is it too much?  Is it enough?  Are the hours used most effectively?

The average American 15 year old spends about 5 hours per week doing homework…and since students with a more advantaged socio-economic status tend to do more homework than less fortunate students, ‘homework helps perpetuate existing inequalities in education’, says the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) researchers. 

According to the Pew Research Center, the United States ranks ’38th out of 71 countries in math…24th in science…24th in reading’.  

While there have been some very small gains since the 1990’s, standardized test scores in the US have gone down since 2013.  

How are our schools failing us?  How are they preparing our children for the unpredictable, ever changing future?  Do test scores matter?  Do world rankings matter?  How are our children allowed to fail, and encouraged to try again…a different way? 

This TED talk is one of the most watched ever.  It asks the question, ‘do schools kill creativity’? And I highly recommend it! …the video…not killing creativity.




How kind is kindergarten?

Recent NH news has described how full day kindergarten will finally be funded here, as it passed through the NH legislature.  

Having discussions with many parents about this, I’ve heard a common thread…and that is that the schedule of full-day kindergarten will allow parents to send their kids away without having to pick up or drop off midday.  So basically, it’s the logistics that people are most happy about.  This is just what I’ve heard the most…not the entire story.  

I’ve also heard a bit of ‘my child will be more ready for 1st grade, which will then lead to future success’.  This argument is somewhat obvious to me again…but another area in which I use the step back approach.  Of course, any student that goes through the routine of a full day school schedule will be ahead of one that doesn’t.  They will test better, follow rules quicker, possess a deeper understanding of how a school day functions, sit at a higher reading and math level, etc. etc. However, the ‘leading to future success’ part has been proven wrong. The intellectual and social/emotional gains from kindergarten are found up to a 3rd or 4th grade level.  After that they drop off.  So if we step back and consider what the real pros and cons of full day kindergarten are, there is more of a story that I need to be told.  Some questions I have about it are:

How much ‘free play time’ will children have?  What is the curriculum, and where I can I find it?  What arts will be part of the school day?  Is funding this thing with Keno (a lottery game that I believe is currently illegal in NH) a wise decision…sustainable…respectable?  It feels…icky.  

I don’t believe anymore in sedentary, sitting in the desk, receiving curriculum from the teacher, following structure and rules, no risk involved, being told how to think and learn.  I know this isn’t every school and every teacher.  There are so many good ones out there…and they make a difference.  But the structure/institution seems to be broken…or lacking…and not providing the best possible return on investment.   

Take a look at this kindergarten in Tokyo, and look how different it looks from something our children will receive.  It’s experiential, creates wonder, involves risk, allows bending of rules, includes inherent challenges (physical and emotional).  

what now?

I was a teacher once.  I didn’t leave because I ‘disagreed’ with school.  I had surely lost the passion I once had though, and was feeling totally burnt out, lacking resources, lacking technology, looking at a pay cut the following year, wondering how to best provide for my young daughter in the years to come, and trying to run a small business on the side.  It was a multitude of variables pulling me away.  

I was a student once too.  I remember some good moments in elementary and middle school. I had some fun, and made some great connections with people.  The early years of school felt easy to me.  I got good grades, and I had good manners.  On the other hand, I remember often staring off out a window, or at a wall.  Not an inspired and dream-filled daydream.  It was always filled with the thought, ‘when will this be over?’  I remember feeling insecure, especially as I got older and entered high school, not fitting in, not knowing where to sit, how to get along.  Things became much harder for me then.  I failed.  I quit.  Fortunately, I went right back and finished.  But high school is a sad memory for me, and very negative.   I envy others when I hear they loved high school so much.  I’m happy for them, but that is foreign to me.  





I’ve recently became infatuated with this idea of Unschooling.  It’s not homeschooling, with a curriculum and standards.  It’s simply not going to school…and allowing the parent and child the decision on what to learn, when, and how they want to…ultimate freedom.  It sounds scary at first…and those thoughts of meeting grade level standards, keeping up with the Jones’, and how will my kid be successful with that? start to creep in.  But if we step back, we can accept that those worries don’t truly hold weight.  They don’t define us as individuals when we leave school anyway….and the same questions can be asked of a schooler…with similar validity.  There are so many other meaningful experiences that can be had within 14,040 hours, that may lead to more influential lessons learned.  

Take a look at this talk by an unschooler.  He brings up some intriguing ideas, and it’s refreshing to hear his perspective.  




Music:  This song is beautiful…and speaks about when a girl just has a way about her.

  

song of summer

you can sleep in September’  – Casey Neistat
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this week…we made calloused feet as we said ‘no’ to shoes in the cool mornings.  That small decision would shape our day…shape our minds as we walked out into summer without lacing up and becoming leather tramps.  A sense of freedom washes in with the tide, and then…draws us out toward the sea.  We feel the vulnerability of vagabonds, releasing our ties and our ability to be held in the sway of a work week. This is summer.  This is vacation. And now every step must be carefully selected, as the ‘souls’ of our feet finally have a chance to be part of the story. They have been waiting…and can now actually lead.  But our gate and pace is halved, and a more mindful tale becomes etched in the sand.

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we laugh
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we love



our edges are also exposed, as the subtle curves of our shoulders seek the sun.  Sleeves are considered low brow this week and the dresser drawers of our cottage bedroom are a mess of tank tops, sun dresses, jerseys, and cover ups.  There are no neatly folded piles.  No color matching consideration.  No heavy cotton, or burdensome long-sleeves.  Simply reach into the swirl of colors, and lift out the first least-restrictive piece your hand comes upon.  Along with the lightness in our step, our arms find a wider range, and we reach to what we choose to hold with a new and more deliberate purpose.  



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wells beach, Maine


there is no 9 to 5.  No lunch break.  No desktop computer.  And a morning shower isn’t necessary.  Deodorant is optional.  It’s all coolers and ice packs, blueberry and apple fritters, hair ties and flip flops, cold, hard, sandy cottage floors, warm, soft, sun kissed skin, cherries and spf 50, pails, shovels, and skim boards, blue matted public ways opening to salty marshes, grassy dunes and piping plovers, drift wood and beach roses, sea weed, faulty umbrellas, billy’s chowder house, fish and chips and lobster rolls, everyday ice cream, Wells and Ogunquit and York, taffy stretched in store front windows, arguments over parking spots, coastal drives and Marginal Way walks, swim suits at dinner and wet car seats, arcades and beachcombers, jetty’s and a Perkin’s Cove, barnacles in tide pools, sunglasses after sunsets, salty kisses, sun burnt hugs, air conditioned naps and then hatching into humidity…it’s the song of summer…and I’m always ready to hear it again.  






releasing ourselves from the career, the work week, the grind, and the frequent phone and email checks, we allow ourselves a recharge.  Paradoxically, by unplugging…we become more plugged in to what matters most.  A true vacation provides opportunities for an assessment of our home, work, and family balance from outside the box.  A reevaluation in a sense.  A fresh perspective.  And a check in with ourselves to say…’hey, how ya doin?’  

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too big for this yet?



Do what you must to insert a getaway into your annual goals.  Stop drinking Starbucks and put that money away for the next trip…start a micro business that will pay for one…cancel cable tv for the Spring and Summer.  Whatever you have to do…do it!  The experience of a vacation has such a valuable return on investment (click here for my post on r.o.i.) compared with buying tangible items.  


Happy Summer to you!

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Music:  Click here for one of my favorite bands…and a song that reminds me of summer. 

dear dad

originally published on father’s day, 2017

 


fathers be good to your daughters, daughters will love like you do’  – john mayer

fäT͟Hər:  a man in relation to his natural child or children

Dear dad,


today is a celebration of you…of all the characteristics and actions you take on in your parental role.  There is probably no greater responsibility in this world, so I hope you’ve taken the entire journey seriously.  And even considering that I’m now 37 years old, your job isn’t done.  You can’t retire from this one.  I need more from you.  I’m going to ask for more help and advice in the future…and your related position as a grandfather is just beginning.  

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Concord monitor photo – White Park – circa 1982 – fundamentals



Thinking of when you began the dad journey, I often wonder what you were thinking then…if you planned it out…how you anticipated the experience.  Did you put money aside…try to work extra hours?  Did you want a boy?  Were you nervous as hell?


I know that when I found out I was going to become a dad, a sway of emotions overtook me. And I immediately came to, ‘ok, how the heck am I going to do this?’  I read some books, inquired with other parents, and planned out many ideas…like my daughter will only eat fully organic foods, mixed up in this trendy new blender, and…I will only put reusable diapers on my daughters bum, and…I need to open a bank account for Matilda’s college fund asap! However, I found that some of these efforts were unrealistic.  Some too lofty.  And some came from advice from parents who made a ton of mistakes themselves.  In the end, we’re all ‘winging it’ as parents…doing the best we can…and practicing a lot of on-the-job training. No one knows all of the answers.  And many of the answers work only for specific children, or at specific times. Therefore, we can all judge a little less harshly.  

 

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presence


So dad, whatever you did during that time?  It’s great.  You probably made some tough decisions and came through with some great execution.  I thank you so much for that!  You probably made a ton of mistakes too…and you know what?  I forgive you for all of them.  I mean, look how I turned out!

I believe it’s easy for parents to get caught up in the details of what they must do in order for their kids to be the best on the block.  I find myself wrapped up in that all too often.  But if we step back and take a more general perspective, understanding that parents are more than the sum of all of their parts, we can cherish dearly the fact that our simple ‘presence’ within our children’s lives is what can contribute to a successful cultivation, an overall healthier society, and a fulfilled ‘next’ generation.

 

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Mom, Dad, and the Tilly Monster – this makes me happy



After all dad, I don’t remember you teaching me how to shave.  I don’t think it was you who showed me how to tie a neck tie.  And I’m not sure if you showed me how to tie my shoes with the one loop method or if that was someone else.  But I can’t remember a time when you weren’t present in my life.  You were always either there, or one simple thought away from being there.  I’ve always known where you were…or at least thought I did.  I can always think in my mind where you most likely are.  That must be so significant!  37 years of that presence.  That takes effort, and unconditional love, and careful attention.  That describes effective communication, and respect, and integrity, and strong morals and values. 

 

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Matilda’s 2nd Easter…with her Grampa
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the next phase…grandparenting

 

Sometimes I wonder how I became a certain way, or came to understand something, or why I believe in particular ideas, or practice parenting how I do.  I have to conclude that your presence has greatly contributed to that.  And again, many of these things seem to have been passed down with no direct speaking of, no detailed lesson taught (even though there were those too).  No, this feels more like a security that I was afforded and a comfort that I was allowed…in which I was able to grow and learn and start holding things as my own.  Thank you.  




I honestly do hope to be as good of a dad to Matilda as you’ve been to me.  There will be so many things I do differently though, and I know that’s ok.  I am trying to use that ‘presence’ though…and will continue.  Time will tell!



                                                                                  your son,

                                                                                  emailsig

 

Music:  I love this song…and it does have some ‘Dad’ connections within it.  Enjoy!

yes no, maybe so

your life changes the moment you make a new, congruent, and committed decision’ 

-Tony Robbins

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when the details on the surface are wiped away…what is left?

There are times in our life when we have to make a decision.  We find ourselves standing at a crossroads with options in front of us.  A typical crossroads would determine that we would have three options or choices. Picture driving up to an actual intersection of roads. It’s best to think of west.  The desert, tumbleweed, cacti, cactuses?  Both are accepted.  This setting just feels more serene and secluded.  And it’s just cool. No one is there to witness your decision.  It is just you and this place and the road you choose.  You can take a left, go straight, or take a right…3 choices.  Maybe a good way to use this analogy would be to match up each choice of road with an answer to the question, ‘should I do this?’  Of course ‘this’ can fit whatever situation you may have in your life.  With 3 choices of roads, road 1 is YES!  Road 2 is NO!  Road 3 is OTHER or MAYBE SO.


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she could make a new road with this!

 

Road 1

I think whenever we are asking ourselves ‘should I do this’, it’s usually because we already have a hunch that we want to do it.  ‘Go with your gut’, ‘follow your instincts’, ‘lead with your heart’, are all phrases that tell us we already know the answer.  Yes is the answer.  We know what we’d like to do, and deep down we know what we desire.  However, before we commit ourselves to road 1, we are faced with obstacles like fear and insecurity that will ostensibly reveal that this decision was a bad choice.  That’s terrible and very sad.  I think everyone needs more of road 1 in their life.  Be more of a ‘yes man’, and stop turning everything down. Embrace change and moving forward.  Covet growth and the learning process, especially when you find yourself on the edge of comfort.  Many of us talk about our passions and what we truly want to be doing.  We describe it to others.  We visualize it in vivid detail.  We think about how it will all play out in the future.  But then we don’t act.  This is why some psychologists have found that we shouldn’t actually talk about our goals.  By speaking about them, and receiving feedback from others, we actually feel a sense of accomplishment and we lose the passion, the edge, the motivation we once had.  This has happened to me many times.  It’s hard because we want to share our passion with others.  We want to bounce ideas. Maybe we should just share the tip of the iceberg…or bounce one small ball to someone. Don’t spill it before acting on it.  When is the best time to start acting on your passions?  Right now.  Immediately.  The clock is ticking.  

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‘Do what you want’ sounds negative and detached but if I teach and use effective language, I can help Matilda hold onto ‘acting on her desires’.  It’s really the same thing.  When we’re young, it’s natural for us.  But much like creativity, we tend to lose it along the road


 

Road 2

Being a ‘yes man’ and taking road 1 on your decisions can bring you places you never dreamed of.  However, there are often times when we have to say ‘no’.  Maybe you’re just done spending time with a certain person…maybe your schedule is full…maybe you’re just wiped out from being the challenges of parenting.  All these are totally justifiable.  I’ve learned that ‘no’ doesn’t have to be negative.  If we communicate to others our feelings and/or reasons along with our ‘no’, we should be comfortable and content in our position to turn something down.  Withing my business, I now notice myself saying ‘no’ more often.  I always try to say ‘yes’ and take road 1 when people have requests.  But for a variety of reasons, sometimes I turn things down.  In the past, I felt guilty or insecure about this.  But that doesn’t hold any weight.  I tell myself that if I can’t commit wholeheartedly to this decision, it won’t work out for either party.  Therefore, taking Road 2 can be understood as the best decision for all involved.  Road 2 shouldn’t be as worn and trodden as road 1, but don’t be afraid to lay new tracks when warranted.    


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‘I’m not ready to be done Dad.  I don’t want to leave yet’ is a phrase that I cherish and honor when I can. 
She’s taking Road 2, and saying ‘no’ to being done with something.

 

Road 3


Sometimes we can’t commit to a yes or no right now.  We aren’t ready to.  I actually use road 3 often.  I’m not so great at deciding on things right away.  I like to ruminate on the idea for a while…sleep on it in a sense.  I have come to realize that spontaneity is powerful and rewarding, and have started implementing that more in my day to day.  However, on some big decisions, I still hold value in deliberate consideration, weighing pros and cons over time and as I think of them, and documenting thoughts in a journal, before making a final choice. While mulling over an idea for a couple of days, an important variable will often arise that easily determines the outcome for me.  It’s like a subtle, ‘did you consider this?’  And I will know right then and there whether it’s road 1 or 2 that I’m taking.  Road 3 seems to be a loop around that brings you back to the same intersection later on.  It allows some soul searching, some road tripping, and a few pit stops to get your bearings and reassess your current location/situation.  

Maybe you have to let some time pass before you become close with that special someone. Perhaps you’re waiting for them to work something out on their end.  

You may need to save some money up, or line up your budget differently first.  

Maybe you feel overwhelmed and need to put a decision on the back burner until you feel more centered.  

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Decision making at the Scoop Deck

 

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What would you choose?  I go with something different every visit

 

Whatever it may be, we all have reasons to take road 3 at certain crossroads.  As I spoke of in the Road 2 section…be confident and content with your choice to wait on the decision.  It’s not a ‘non-decision’…it’s a decision to wait, and lock in to something when you are totally ready to do so.  With the quick pace of our lives, I’m often telling Matilda, ‘let’s go, make a decision quickly!’  But I try to catch myself…thinking, ‘wait…she can have all the time she wants to make a decision’ (within reason!).  I believe it will strengthen the ground she stands on, and empower her ability to make wise and timely decisions for the rest of her life.  

Be aware of your surroundings when you come to a crossroads.  Simply pay attention to your emotions and the physical changes taking place.  Take a breath before accelerating down the next road.  Remember, each and every even small decision will set your life onto a different path…possibly a different plane.  So choose wisely!  I wish you the best in your decision making!

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The sun is on me…and it feels good.

 

Music:  Kaleo is a band that started in Iceland.  That might contribute to their unique sound. I often forget about them for a while, and then hear them on the radio.  The sound is always intriguing…and since I don’t own any of their music, I always go home and put on some of their live stuff.  Matilda and I caught them live at the Newburyport Riverfront Music Festival last year.  They rock!  Give this song a listen!