Thursday, December 29, 2011

Presence and Absence

My oh my, I am shocked how far away a loved one goes when they die.  I personally find it so hard to get used to the total and complete absence of their physical presence – there is just not a trace of them to be found. I keep expecting them to come thru a doorway, to call, to bump into them at a get together of the usual personalities, to see them at a table sitting. 

Yet, they keep showing up, unannounced, into my thoughts.  It is maddening how I cannot predict the next time a rumination will come into my head that is related to them. Places. Food. Stories. People. They hit me with the speed and sting of a jab by Mohammed Ali. Before I can see it, it has struck and I am lucky if it only stings; many times it feels like a freight train with 117 cars rumbling thru me.  Please Lord, just let me know it is coming, will you? I don’t like it when these remembrances come unannounced and uninvited in the middle of my drive home, a call, or a meeting at work.

Of some solace after a long search was the following prayer, which has helped me greatly:

Prayer for the Dead

God of life,
Those whom we love die,
but our relationship to them continues.
Lead me to be thankful for all that they have shown me
about loving deeply, living wisely, and knowing You.
 
Help me to notice those
moments of my life
when I act, think, or believe
because of something
that they have brought
to birth in me.
 
Remind me to pray for them
and to ask for their assistance
in my need.
 
Even though I miss them deeply,
allow me to understand we still belong together
and will one day embrace again in your kingdom. 
 
Amen

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays 2011 !

Another Christmas has blustered upon us, and Sidd, Paul, Molly and I send you a heartfelt Happy Holidays!

As said in past years, we pray this note finds you safe, sound, healthy and happy. We have been blessed many times over with treasures, time and talents and the year has seen us continue to grow and change. (Bored already? Well here’s the whimsical eCard from last year, updated with current photos - - it may take a moment to load.)

US-2011-Redmond-FamilyShots-111023-20-1200px

The Best Fall Colors in Years, © 2011, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

US-2011-Redmond-FamilyShots-111023-22-1200px

Whimsical Troopers, © 2011, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

  • Sidd and Paul are now 8 and 9 ½, respectively. I am shocked at just how much they have changed from even their toddler ways. Their questions continue to surprise us, like “why is Newt beating Mitt Romney?” One notable leap is that Paul has started learning to code a computer using Kodu – a brainchild of Microsoft Research. Xtranormal and Mindstorms are just around the corner. Their physiques only get leaner and more sinewy; they play soccer expecting a bruising. Even our bike rides are more “real,” stretching to 25 miles, with the feel and look of a 3 man peloton. Perhaps the only constant is Legos.
  • Molly’s foray into Toastmasters continues to expand. She has gone from orchestrating club speeches, to club president, to “Area Governor” meaning she guides a half a dozen clubs. Needless to say, the new role has been invigorating.
  • I continue as I did last year in the role at Microsoft leading US developer adoption of the Windows Azure cloud computing platform. This is balanced with the endeavors of our family, and a couple of interesting photography projects (shooting the TedX Seattle event, and a gallery show), but I did not spend nearly as much time writing posts for this blog as I had intended.
  • We had the good fortune of family visiting us and vice-versa. There is something precious about the feeling of a home away from home.

Here are 10 observations from 2011 – please let me know the insights you have gained!

  1. Creating a tradition is immensely enjoyable: Back in 2010, I started reading Harry Potter to the boys. Now it is a benign addiction: Sun – Thurs, I read while the boys drink their end-of-day milk, take an evening bath and before we say prayers. We are now on book 7; on deck are The Little Prince and Lord of the Rings. It has been an amazing journey into new words, more complex plotlines, and the allure of “chapter books” in general.
  2. Honeymoons can endure: August marked 50 years of marriage for my parents. It is the fruit 18,262 days (and counting) of active work, one day at a time. Whimsy and curiosity keep them invigorated, while their common values serve as a very powerful suspension system to traverse completely opposing ways of approaching things.
  3. Travel still is sublime: Our own family did a very traditional driving vacation – rocketing down I-5 from Seattle to San Francisco like a Shinkansen, then meandering up the Oregon coast. In between: chatty visits with extended family; immersion into SF’s museums; standing in awe of Mother Earth’s biggest kids, the Redwoods; and loitering in the dreamy coastline of Oregon. It was 20 pounds of memories, stuffed into an all too brief 5 pound bag.
  4. Time is precious but so slippery: This year I saw the passing of family. With it, I felt I still don’t fully embrace a lesson that’s been in front of me for a half century – spend more of our fleeting existence with those who make our souls smile, and be one of them for others too.
  5. The coming teen years concern me: The boys are now well beyond toddlers – that was more an issue of my own perceptions. But what’s over the horizon is concerning: the hurricane of pre-teen and teen years, including bullying, the status of trinkets, gadgets, & cars, and the sexualized energy of personalities like Justin Bieber. How to keep tethered to the remarkable visions and dreams that 6 year olds have, and how to help them “find these again” when they are back on track in college and beyond? How does one give the right context, anchor, map and suspension system to counterbalance the insane forces of middle school and high school?
  6. Express love through collaboration: Two years ago my mom and my sister Cindy raised the notion of a gallery show of paintings (mom’s), installation work (Cindy’s) and photos (mine). “The Brush, the Lens & the Light” came to life in March. I am sure I drove them more nutty than they did me, but we also laughed and learned. 60 photos out of around 60k that I have were shared and I felt sheepish that it has taken this long. You should and can do the same: get your friends and family to push the talents you now have sitting on the bench.
  7. Napoleon’s quote can come to life, just like that: “ ‘Tis but a moment from the sublime to the ridiculous” happened at least once in 2011. An idyllic 25 mile bike ride with the boys was cut short when I (blunderously) hit the front brake, and catapulted over the top of the bike. The landing bruised my TMJ and fractured both pinky fingers. All in the blink of an eye. But I am grateful to be Teflon-coated by Microsoft’s Cadillac health care plan (for instance, zero co-pay) – think of the millions who are uninsured, what a quandary this becomes, no?
  8. Rediscovering the tradition of making things: School and Scouts have been a catalyst for something fading in today’s world: creating objects from scratch! Two examples: Paul’s science fair project, “Infinity is the God of Numbers”; building winning cars for the Pinewood Derby
  9. Skype is like no other: It’s easy, it harnesses your visual cortex so phone calls are replaced with show and tell, it lets family join a wedding or other gathering even if health or finances hold them back from traveling. What is not to love about it?
  10. Time to go for a walkabout? Molly and I loved the 6 months we spend in London back in 2000. Hence I continue to explore ways to land a Microsoft gig in Singapore or India. It will rewrite the boy’s view of the world; I will learn loads from a professional sense; and it will enable Molly and I to travel a bit.

With this, Molly, the "2 chuttumbees" and I wish you and your loved ones a 2012 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. Do visit us while we are here (one never knows what the future holds, right?) – the great Northwest has so much to see and do.

Take care and God Bless You! 

Sidd, Paul, Molly and Abe…

US-2011-WestCoastRoadTrip-110801-760-1200px

Afternoon in Marin Headlands, © 2011, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)