|Ms. Robinson on our wedding day|
Friday, December 06, 2013
Ms. Robinson was another who lived for ideals greater than herself. She gave voice to those who had none and amplified their words for all to hear. She did so without regard for acclaim, and for this she earned her place in the hearts of friends who came to accept her more like family.
This was how she became an honorary grandmother to my wife, teaching her English upon arriving in the US from China. Patiently and dutifully, Ms. Robinson was there weekly after school, with exercises and games to bring life to the rules and grammar of an often befuddling English language. Sometimes, those sessions included Disney movies like Aladdin, which explains why the regular trips we take to the Magic Kingdom are a kind of pilgrimage to honor these memories.
I had the pleasure to first meet Ms. Robinson as part of an outing to see her good friend Irene Awret, who became like family to Ms. Robinson as well. Irene was a Holocaust survivor who had a story living inside her that Ms. Robinson helped to bring out, a woman whose artistic talent was the only thing that kept her from Auschwitz during her captivity. It also brought Irene love of all things, through the unlikely connection with her husband Azriel, a sculptor also under captivity who escaped the same fate due to his own artistic skills. Their story became a poignant book titled, "They'll Have to Catch Me First: An Artist's Coming of Age in the Third Reich." (you can also view some of Irene's wonderful art online at this site)
Ms. Robinson would later recount to me her own story growing up in West Virginia around the coal mines, finding her voice in words which catapulted her into a career in media and news reporting. She loved New York City, studied at Columbia University, made an impact in communications around health policy in the 1970's which led her to Washington DC, and gave back in retirement by passing on her gifted knowledge of the English language to people like my wife. She was kind and curious and gentle. She lived a full life, and her gifts echoed much beyond herself - like Nelson Mandela.
Perhaps it is fitting that Ms. Robinson's time came in the same days as Nelson Mandela because I cannot help but think of Madiba and Ms. Robinson in the same thought. They are similar to me as the kind of people who inspire us to become better than we think we can be, beyond the tumult and seemingly insurmountable obstacles of life that are nothing more than tests to our courage and imagination. They also remind us that the greatest gift we can give is nothing more than humanity, to see everyone the same no matter our skin color or ethnicity and to treat everyone as if they were family.
In the memory of Madiba and Ms. Robinson, always and forever.
Friday, November 01, 2013
|Time as colored on the Helmsley Building|
At some point on my walk earlier this week from Grand Central Station, past Bryant Park, down Broadway, and over 34th at 8th where I got an unobstructed view of the Empire State Building, I contemplated about time. Of course, there is the classic novel "In Search of Lost Time", by Proust, who documented in excruciating detail his day-to-day living, transcending the mundane to reveal the humanity of our existence. Or so I have gathered from reading Alain de Botton who wrote about his discoveries of Proust in his popular philosophical wanderings. These thoughts caused pause, at least inside my head, as I briskly traversed the streets and avenues to make my train. I was walking in NYC, after all.
It takes time to write this post. It could have been time spent on other pursuits: a deliverable for work, a meeting, a coffee with a friend. These are all decisions to make, to "invest" the time we have. Which is a fancy way of saying that I passed time writing this post, and if I did something else (or nothing at all), I still passed the time. Whether we like it or not, time keeps moving towards its inevitable conclusion. In search of time, we will always find it in the moment - good to know because if you are searching for time, you have effectively discovered it.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Sunday, May 12, 2013
|Our mothers are as varied and complex as espresso|
For a variety of reasons, we are most attached to our mothers, more so than our fathers, siblings, or relatives. Mothers always seem near, even when they are not physically nearby. Mothers always seem to "know", even when they don't understand what might really be going on. Mothers always seem to care, even when it is hard to do so on our behalf. In some way, these and other factors contribute to the attachment that makes mothers top of the family heap.
Thanks to Anna Jarvis, Mother's Day is now a thoroughly recognized holiday in the US and beyond, although the roots of celebrating and commemorating motherhood run much deeper than the annual second Sunday of May that officiates the event. Motherhood has been recognized as vital to national interests and statehood going back to the Greeks, and Augustus enacted fairly thorough ordinances centered around motherhood to encourage marriage and procreation to maintain the power of the Roman Empire.
That's all to say that motherhood is important and heady stuff, and we should be grateful for our mothers, what they do, and how important they are to our lives. Which brings me back from an afternoon pause with a tasty espresso and a daydream about Ancient Rome, to raise a toast for Mothers. Here's to celebrating my wife (mothering a furry friend counts!), my own mother, and all those family and friends who are mothers on this special day.
Monday, May 06, 2013
|A wonderful birthday surprise included weekend time |
with UCLA nieces and nephews!
Perhaps my reflection is intensified by the fact that my wife is also traveling for business on this day, but I don't feel entirely alone. Starting early in the morning, birthday wishes started to arrive - first from Asia, then Europe, then rolling into the US (east coast, central time, west coast). By noontime here in DC, I had a collection of messages from friends near and far, close and distant, that comprised my own journey through family, school, work, and interests. The wonder comes from reflecting on the fact that all these people and all the memories they represent comprise a life that is always present and always ready to take off if you let it.
For these birthday wishes and for these memories, I am grateful. I pray for the opportunity to follow this beautiful journey and carry many more connections to even greater bounties for many years to come.
Monday, April 29, 2013
|My impulse comes with iPad, espresso, and old-fashioned pen-and-paper|
Most of the time, however, writing is work. So much so that the work, drudgery really, is the the majority of what constitutes writer's journals, notes, and manuscripts. Buried in the pile of hard drives, papers, and words can be the next great American novel - but is mostly proverbial chain-yanks to start the motor of creativity.
On a rainy morning, I start the week with an impulse to generate story ideas which will unfortunately go unstoked - my work is beckoning and showering my day like the light rain falling outside. But I take a small break to capture the moment and remind myself that there is much drudgery left to do for the next story to emerge.
Friday, April 19, 2013
|Nespresso Trieste - worthy companion to morning emails|
After a late night, I wanted something that would be a delightful bounce-back to get going for the day. The tasting notes of this beauty included a "round texture" with "fragrant chocolate" and "fresh hazelnut notes". I'm not sure if that full explosion blew up my taste buds, but it was very good and lingered nicely on the palate. Who knew that a morning break could taste so good?
|Nespresso Napoli - it goes to 11|
So I did. I popped the pod into the machine and let the commercial-grade pump do its work to force a bolt of steaming hot water through the tiny pierced opening poked in the pod by the machine; as usual, it created that just-right crema-topped single shot of espresso.
Lingering over the cup on an afternoon that would be better spent outside, I reflected on that tiny moment, waiting for transportation to another place. I remembered the Nespresso commercials with Penelope Cruz, which embodied the branding and experience for which Nestle was aiming. Then I thought of Spinal Tap, and the classic 11 scene. Since this espresso registered 11 on the 10-point intensity scale.
Perhaps I was tired and not quite in the moment - too many work presentations under tight deadlines can do that to you - but I was not fully transported. Halfway. I'm hoping Friday will get me the other half of the way there. By then, I will be ready for my next Napoli, which was fantastic after all.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
|The classic Peanut Butter and Banana sandwich|
So I tried out the sandwich. Turned out it was a creamy sensation more bland than my taste buds appreciated (there is a variation that includes bacon, which I believe would produce better results). I followed up the Elvis with another American classic, peanut butter & jelly - that turned out more satisfying, what with the smooth savory cream of the peanut butter mixing more successfully with the tart sweetness of preserves. It was a fun study in American comfort food, and I can now cross this particular sandwich, the Elvis, off my bucket list. Not bad, though, for finding another way to get rid of those bananas which somehow always end up in the pantry (bananas have been a top-selling produce item in groceries for years!) but often go uneaten.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Finally, Spring has arrived. The glorious blue sky and explosion of flowers and buds has painted the landscape. Too bad that my parents missed this sight in their time here last weekend - more for me to enjoy, I suppose.
Here's to hoping that the blossoming we have finally experienced means that cold days are finally behind us for the season.
Here's to hoping that the blossoming we have finally experienced means that cold days are finally behind us for the season.
Friday, April 12, 2013
|My personal Masters news room, courtesy of Masters.com|
But that's not why he is a hero. He was known as a Southern gentleman, whose grace and humility belied the greatness that he achieved. Later in life, he maintained the same characteristics when he faced a neurological disease that crippled and later paralyzed him after 22 agonizing years. Herbert Warren Wind wrote about Bobby Jones, "as a young man, he was able to stand up to just about the best that life can offer, which is not easy, and later he stood up with equal grace to just about the worst."
When Spring rolls around, it is signaled by the playing of the the Masters, the perennial tournament in Augusta, Georgia that marks the first major tournament of the professional golf season; it was also started on a golf course that Bobby Jones built with Alistair McKenzie in 1933. I remember Mr. Jones every time I tune in and think about what it takes to achieve great things and do it in the right way.
Learning more about Bobby Jones has been a pleasure; here's a few of the better resources:
Bobby Jones on Golf
Down the Fairway
The Bobby Jones Story: The Authorized Biography
Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius
Bobby Jones, How I Play Golf
Thursday, April 11, 2013
|How and where these words originated|
I am no longer a privileged flier. Call it premier, advantage, select, platinum, elite - I am none of those, these days more of a standard flier. Which leads to more middle seats when flying and the feeling of resignation that accompanies the struggle for elbow room - window and aisle seats have access to the extra space their positions can afford.
I can think of the symbolism of this middle seat, seat 21B to be exact. Sure, it's an exit row, which means more leg room. But it does not accord privileges that spend, flight segments, and miles do - likely what led my row companions to capture the window and aisle seats flanking my position. The work and sacrifice to accumulate what becomes currency is worth it in the end for that seat over, right? Maybe even moving up a class to Business or First? To gain a different level apart from others, even though we are all ultimately heading to the same place on this flight.
That's OK, it's alright - a nice reflection as we taxi to take off. After all, I'm in the middle seat, and this entry forces my elbows close for writing.
Friday, March 29, 2013
|How words feel to me, courtesy of onestopenglish|
As a child, I would dream of writing the perfect sentence, later embellishing phrases with verbal delights. These tendencies later turned into verbosities, as I started to master more words.
Latin helped - I practiced the "dead language" in high school. Studying Italian helped some more, a noble pursuit in college. I've won "awards" from peers along the way for using dense terminology and profundities, most of which proliferated in passages which consumed a collection of journals now stacked in the closet (work and digital publishing has significantly decreased my output via paper).
Words are important as they convey to others what we think and feel. To me, words are like breathing. I find words impactful, fleeting, exacting, and triumphant. Words are also intoxicating - I need to control their use, lest I became mired in their convolution and density when interacting with others. Ultimately, it is the communication, understanding, and meaning that matters - not the vocabulary.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
|Empty airport cafe triggers a feeling of lightness|
I'm sitting at an empty airport cafe. Evening rush hour in the terminal is perking up. A finished espresso cup sits on the table. The moment feels lonely and right.
I have a couple of hours until takeoff. My mind stutters on the words that want to claw to the page. My attention drifts into a subterranean state; I'm grabbing for the trigger that connects this moment to a feeling of deja vu.
Coldplay rotating on my smartphone releases the trigger. I feel lonely because I am pensive and alone, which heightens my attention to all else that surrounds me besides myself. This feels right because I am able to reflect, think more deeply, capture the moment in my mind's eye.
The trigger pulled, I have a feeling of lightness.
Monday, March 25, 2013
|Siri at your service?|
My wife also got an iPad, more precisely a mini. This suits her well, considering she likes smaller things (witness our dog). My wife has taken longer than myself to embrace a tablet, due to the issue of publishing quite a bit, particularly for work and particularly for doing a lot of typing and creating Microsoft Office documents (but I digress...). But little by little, she has started to adopt it as well.
The other night, we were sitting on the couch, and my wife made one of the latest steps towards tablet adoption, by holding down the home button and calling up Siri, the virtual assistant lurking within the latest version of iOS, the iPad operating system. My wife thought it might help her send an email, which led to the following exchange:
- My wife: what does this do (holding down the home button)?
- Me: It answers your questions, if you want to find something
- Siri: beep beep (prompting "What can I help I help you with?")
- My wife: ok
- My wife: Email Todd
- Siri: I'm sorry, I did not get that.
- My wife: Email Todd
- Siri: I'm sorry, I did not get that.
- My wife: You're worthless.
- Siri: I understand.
- My wife: I'm sorry. I feel bad.
- Siri: It's all good
After the exchange, my wife decided to just tell me what she was going to write instead. Not quite the fully-functioning virtual assistant that was advertised, but random and entertaining (not to mention understanding and polite). One day, conversations with Siri will be more productive (although perhaps still random and entertaining).
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
|The far reaches of bungalow island destinations (those blue pins) on Google Maps|
Vacation planning often mimics the same anxiety, frustration, and exhilaration of the trip itself. Case in point - today my wife is trying to work out a trip to Japan with her brother that coincides conveniently with a remote beach destination. Of course, we encounter a couple of hiccups:
- Remote beach destinations are quite remote - literally in the middle of the ocean, thousands of miles from anything
- Traveling in and out of Asia with US airlines is not as well networked and connected as Europe (read: multi-stop flights are difficult to arrange)
- Airline award flights are challenging to book, particularly with "saver" awards, for lack of seats available to use those miles
- Rewards points and status with particular hotels get you quite a bit with those hotels - but only with those hotels, which leads to a search through a particular hotel's directory for attractive destinations
The orchestration is now entering its second day, with no end in sight (yet). I'm sure we will get to the point of exhilaration by the end of the week, but until then, we will keep trying to get Tokyo with the outer reaches of island destinations, preferably with bungalows. We go on looking for huts.
Monday, March 11, 2013
|Here comes Mad Men - but which direction goes Don Draper?|
Counting down the days until April 7, when the two-hour season premiere hits the airwaves.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
|Ragu' alla bolognese, tipicamente Italiana|
Case in point - I had a craving for "Italian spaghetti" this weekend. The kind that Italians debate in terms of recipe origin and what constitutes tipicamente lo stile. According to most Italians, the simple spaghetti with meat sauce is pasta bolognese, which supposedly originates from Bologna (a great city, by the way, and well worth a visit when you make your way to Italy). As is customary, Italians like to officiate these debates with a sanctioned version of the food, usually sponsored by a group of local artisans or the chamber of commerce; once that is done, all can go back to disagreeing as to which is official and which is better in their own versions.
Putting those debates aside, I only needed to follow four steps to fix my bolognese craving:
1) Google bolognese recipes, which led me here and here for the starting-point "sanctioned" version(s)
2) Head down to Balducci's, which is the local source for Italian imported ingredients, particularly for getting pancetta and the right sort of tagliatelle for the dish - two or the more essential ingredients to make this right, in my opinion
3) Mince the meat - flank steak is a great choice stateside as the meat for the sauce, by the way - which is painful, time-consuming, and well worth the effort
4) Make 4 hours of time to do the proper simmering, reducing, and tasting to achieve bolognese tipica - you cannot get to the flavor complexity with adhering to "slow food" principles and letting the sauce take time to mature into perfection
In the end, I was transported to my days wandering the streets of any given Italian city or village and stopping for comfort food, Italian-style. Top it off with a nice dolcetto, and I can think of no better way to spend a Sunday evening.
Saturday, March 09, 2013
Thursday, March 07, 2013
My wife has jury duty this week. Not just the court summons but a jury selection and trial case that has ended up consuming the week. As of 10pm on a Thursday, my wife is finally home after a lengthy deliberation that has not reached conclusion; she will have to return to the courthouse on Friday. Without knowing the details (she is sworn to secrecy in her service), this case seems headed for a mistrial. Unless something crazy happens (makes me think of the movie Twelve Angry Men).
How this case turns out, it has been a frustrating yet instructive experience for all involved. No doubt the plaintiff and defendant but also the jury and even, in this case, Ruby and myself. We will be happy when this week is over and jury duty comes to a close. Then, we can return to "normal" family life.
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
|My own Calvin and Hobbes, trying to potty in the wet snow|
Luckily, we still have power (fingers crossed we avoid the fate of storms from prior years). So I wrote an entry to celebrate working at home with my wife on a snow day.
Monday, February 25, 2013
Nostalgia can be a powerful sensation. A feeling of longing, ghosts real as persons filling the senses of what recalls a place. These things are lurking just beyond reach but perceptible nonetheless, often palpable to the blood coursing through veins.
I remember this same hotel, a room similar and a brisk night when I met my wife for the first time. I remembered the same last year when I visited then, and this feeling is fitting. After all, nostalgia is powerful like that.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Sunday, February 03, 2013
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
|"As a young man he was able to stand up to just about the best that life can offer , which is not easy, and later he stood up with equal grace to just about the worst." -Herbert Warren Wind on Bobby Jones|
Occasionally, we meet people that leave a mark. It can happen in a few short moments or over a long period of time, but that mark becomes pronounced when it is real and meaningful. That mark is often imperceptible until life events reveal its depth and breadth. At which time, clarity emerges as to the impact that people can have in our lives.
I met Rok in the first days of our MBA program at IMD in 2005. Our initial connection was his Slovenian background and the fact that I had visited his home country in 1998 when I studied abroad in Milan; we became fast friends. This relationship deepened when we were lucky enough to work together in "G7", our first group in the program. Deep relationships means something more than pleasantries and parties at IMD due to the intensive nature of the program. After braving the (in)famous group dynamics work together in G7, I learned that Rok was truly special; his genuine enthusiasm for life and the people that surrounded him was extraordinary. He was as gentle and thoughtful as the rolling yet bellowing cadence of his voice, and his smile was as infectious as it was a permanent fixture whenever we crossed paths. Some of my best memories from IMD revolve around experiences we shared closely together - the integrative exercise, the MBA Olympics, and the summer trip he organized to Bovec after our class expedition to Bosnia. Those memories continued after IMD, even though we lived continents apart, he in Geneva and me in the DC area. He was an honored guest at my wedding in 2007, and I will never forget the daring road trip he made in the 2010 "snowmageddon" from Delaware to Maryland for an afternoon visit.
Our last quality time spent together was in Geneva after our 5-year MBA reunion in September 2010. He invited me to stay at his flat before I departed the next day. We walked along the lake on an impending Sunday afternoon, his voice soothing and meditative against the backdrop of a brooding weather pattern moving across the sky. The cancer was already present, but I would never know it; as usual, it was about the moment and the time we had together, his smile ever-present and glowing. No doubt, the treasure of this memory and so many others will measure far beyond the too-brief period of time we were able to share together, and his mark is well-pronounced and palpable. In remembrance of Rok.
>>> You can help fulfill Rok's wishes of providing educational opportunities for impoverished students from the former Yugoslavia by giving forward here, in lieu of flowers.
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
Monday, January 07, 2013
|Sometimes a good espresso helps to unblock things|
Here's to hoping a quick blog post helps to unblock my creativity, which would be handy for the big push needed to get these requirements documents over the finish line!
Saturday, January 05, 2013
Weekends are sacred time, particularly with hectic work schedules. My wife loves shopping, and I love spending time with her, so out shopping it is. At least I have a fancier smartphone to jot posts like this while sitting outside the dressing room!
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
|A fresh start is aided by good food, like my in-laws cook up in spicy Chinese form|
More often, a resolution takes years to accomplish. For instance, my goal of achieving 100 entries in 2012 (which I did ultimately accomplish) was five years in the making. A quick search through my blog timeline produced reference to a "fresh start" in several entries (ie. jump-starting a regular writing schedule) across 2007, 2009, and 2012, with the outcome a sputter of output. It was not until this past year that journaling ensued, and even then, at a pretty big struggle to get going in the second half of the year.
And now I am here, writing another blog entry titled a fresh start. But somehow, it does really feel different this year. Not because I set another goal for another 100 entries for the year, but because I feel like the creative juices are flowing again. Not since writing a diary for my MBA class in 2005 or scribbling poetry back in 2003 as a heady consultant on expense account in NYC do I feel energized to explore words and contexts and meanings. I suppose eventually we find ourselves entangled in our own interests and callings, but it can take awhile - and many fresh starts along the way.