Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Holidays 2010 !

Greetings from Redmond, WA, and a heartfelt Happy Holidays from Sidd, Paul, Molly and myself. We pray this note finds you safe, sound, healthy and happy.

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I am always in awe of and humbled by the hundreds of layers of blessings surrounding us. It is life’s version of Teflon coating. As example, waking up in one’s own apartment, condo or home is an obvious and wonderful one. No longer is this an assumed outcome in the US; just between July - September, 930,000 homeowners lost their homes – that is around 4 million whose lives are derailed in this Holiday Season. The fact I am say my prayers from inside a house is the 1st blessing of each day.

And while the economy is still worrisome, our little troupe has been exploring and stretching ourselves in various ways…

  • The boys (Paul is 8 ½ years old, and Sidd is 7 yrs.) are leaner, tougher, but just as curious of their surroundings as ever.  A toddler is svelte compared to the pudgy geometry of a baby, but a 7 year old replaces the toddler physique with a sinewy network of muscles on top of muscles.  They are still immersed in Legos, but new facets are in motion, like piano, bicycling, Kinect, Harry Potter, increasingly ferocious soccer, and technology in general.
  • Molly has ventured into that one area most of us fear greatly – public speaking!  In a mere 12 months at Toastmasters, she has paced thru the intro set of speeches, increased her involvement and landed as the club president.  It has and continues to be an unexpected journey, like any true journey. 
  • I continue to learn all manner of new things in my current role as the US cloud computing lead, driving “evangelism and adoption” among legions of developers (aka, computer programmers).  For you sci fi buffs, HAL 9000 is not far away.

As for 2010’s lessons, here’s a few (potentially obvious) ones.  (I always love how this garners replies with the insights you have gained.)

  • Technology connects us – video chats, email, Facebook. None of this is news; I am simply pondering how profoundly they can change our lives. Video chats have effortlessly retooled how-to discussions, be it a baby tooth Paul lost, or a Lego concoction the boys created by gutting pieces from 2 different kits. The trick with any tool is to stay in the driver’s seat. Facebook can derail our future opportunities, and necessity will teach us how to be mindful – as example, many employers and the military will peruse your FB pages 1st thing after a job interview.
  • The learning resources on the Web will change how we learn – KhanAcademy.org, TED.org, iTunes U and puzzle games from sites like kongregate.com…. they expand your mind & leave you in awe. I feel transported out of my current environment via a thought provoking (and usually free) session other media cannot deliver.
  • Few treasures are as sublime as a sibling you can explore life with. Ah this is a daily observation. The boys are 16 months apart and well within the “Four Year Rule” – so they experience life in a collaborative, complementary, simply remarkable manner. They play off their differences: one is introverted, the other extroverted; ready/aim/fire vs. ready/fire/aim. Long philosophical or design-related debates result: whether 2 velociraptors are more dangerous than one T-rex; some pushy kid at school; how to proceed with an undersea Lego city being constructed given the creatures on the fictitious planet Lexecon they dreamt up. My hope is they find the balance of independence and collaboration, so the path outlined in Dr. Suess’ “Oh the Places You Will Go” is that much overflowing in its experiences and lessons for them.
  • How do you measure the value of a crackerjack teacher? One never forgets a teacher who opens new vistas, inspires you and gives the courage to reshape your very self. I watched this happen thru Paul’s 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Ellis, who deftly navigates a whole roomful of kids, can keep them in line and yet draw them out into unexpected places. The students walk away loving to learn, perhaps the most important outcome of all. When a sales guy has a big year, we have well-oiled mechanisms (sales contests, accelerators, kickers, etc.) for measuring success and rewarding them. Someday, we will know net present-value of a gifted teacher’s work and put it in her or his bank account.
  • It is never too early (nor too late) to try something new – Paul and Sidd had their 1st sales gig this year, and sold a relatively modest $800 of popcorn for their Cub Scouts troop. But the learning was remarkable, such as getting across a message in 12 seconds to people coming out of the Safeway grocery store. “Hello, would you care to support our scouts by sending popcorn to our troops in Afghanistan?” More valuable was the tough optimism and broad minded advice of one of the Scout moms, “don’t worry that most people will not buy something, the Cub Scout way is to say thanks and wish them well.” So rejection of any kind resulted in Paul or Sidd calling out “Thaaannnks, have a nice daaaayyy…” This usually returned a sheepish smile from the person as they turned around and said, “yes you too”… We can all do start new things today. Molly was resoundingly placed as the president of her Toastmaster’s club – not expected by her when she originally joined. My mom built her first Web site using actual HTML code, simply to show off her artwork. Molly’s dad secured a faculty post at Emery University. What should you try today, to “educate yourself toward your interests”?
  • “Time boxing” our adventures is never a bad thing – I attended my cousin Reshma’s medical school graduation. It struck me that after our last stage of schooling, we often don’t frame our ensuing endeavors within pre-defined start / stop dates, and hard core “conditions of success,” but both can be a good thing. Such a practice is certainly healthy, as it makes it easier to assess what worked, failed and was missing, and course correct the path ahead.
  • We may be in the eye of the parenting “storm.”  (By no means is the intent to suggest any bad connotations of a hurricane…)  As a family, I hear it is an unfettered place when children reach the 7 – 8 year old age. Gone is the physical maintenance (diapers, late nights, etc.), not yet started are the socially confounding teenage years. The boys like to cook with Molly, I have the sublime pleasure of long bike rides as they ponder some trivia point (next summer’s goal is a 50 miler), and we can actually find a Netflix movie interesting to all four of us.
  • Going home, to your childhood - During my 2nd to 10th grades we lived in the Mennonite prairie town of Winkler, Manitoba. I had a chance to go back in September for the first time in 20 years and the divine providence of growing up there was again clear to me. As just one example, the neighbors made a colossal impact – funny how you buy a house or a plot of land based on lots of things but usually not the people around the location; that part is left to chance. My dad’s med school classmate Dr. Jacob & family were always part of the experience. And we had the luck of the Sudermans next door with their youthful exuberance (even now); and Mrs. Buhler who was hard-wired to be productive at all times (only now has time slowed her down at a surreal age of 111).
  • Simple fun abounds right under our nose. Not a new takeaway but still remarkable to me: I fear we too easily gravitate away from unstructured, meandering play into packaged, franchised, time bound, monetized activities. Nowadays 4 people going to a theatre to see a 2 hour movie can set you back $50, not including any popcorn, etc. But sledding down a miniscule hill after a fresh snow is as free as sunshine. And results in hours of high-octane, goofy, genuine humor. It does require a different way to look at what’s around you.
  • Adventuring out of the US seems like a prudent thing, no? Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs coined the term “BRIC” for Brazil, Russia, India and China, whose economies are expected to surpass the G7 by 2050. So why not spend some time in one of these soon, expose yourself and your children to a land or lands where they you and they may retire to?
  • Never stop asking questions. We all need to ponder like a 7 or 8 year old. What does a senator do? Which is faster, a meteor or a comet? What is the color inside your heart? Why do some people get so wound up? What is “the government?” Are scientists still arguing about what happened to the dinosaurs, if it was a meteor or a volcano? How does an ear ache happen? How exactly does Santa keep his clothes clean? Is Mrs. Claus real name Mary Christmas?

With this, Molly, the "2 chuttumbees" and I wish you and your loved ones a 2011 that is simply breathtaking.  May you explore, discover, develop and appreciate the treasures, talents and time that is right under your nose, and find remarkable ways to bring them to life. 
 
Take care and God Bless You! 
Sidd, Paul, Molly and Abe…

PS: If the above is too heavy, here’s lighter fare - us (sort of) singing Feliz Navidad!