Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays 2012 !

Another year has passed so quickly – even Paul now comments about time’s quick pace, “I can’t believe summer is already gone, dad!”

US-2012-NycAtlStl-Vacation-120730-1755-1600px All Dressed Up, © 2012, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

Sidd, Paul, Molly and I send our best wishes for a very Merry Christmas during this holiday season.  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.

  • Paul is 10 ½, Sidd is 9. Both are still sinewy, almost entirely muscle and bone (the consummate opposite of myself), but now taller, far stronger, and more physical in their sports and rough housing at home. Computers are an expanding presence in their lives, from gaming (like Minecraft), to game design (they took a 2 week computer game design course last summer that they loved), to reading (Nook), to homework - - Paul now uses Word and Excel for his science homework, Sidd watches Khan Academy.
  • Molly completed a tour of duty as a Toastmasters “Area Governor,” - - mentoring a collection of Toastmasters clubs and earning the western Washington state “best of” award. What happens in 2013 – we shall see.
  • I continue at Microsoft as the company goes thru a pivotal time with the world shifting away from PCs to mobile phones and tablets. As they say, what does not kill you will make you stronger, no?  Two pursuits that consume me are a) guiding our boys’ amazing journey and b) taking photos, and writing about a photo’s related story. I cannot say I put enough time into deepening my skills in the latter – a gap I plan to address in 2013.

Observations from 2012:

1. Travel (for the fun of it) is an amazing gift.

  • As a family, we meandered for >3 weeks to NYC, Atlanta, & So. Illinois; the journey was an exquisite & unique mix of family, friends, landmarks, museums, a fab wedding and food. I stepped out in the middle for work while we were in Atlanta, but for the others it was of no matter. No longer are Molly and I in the role of Sherpa, lugging baby paraphernalia; and the boys truly participate and enjoy the adventures.
  • Now the boys and Molly are in India, which in part is possible due to the independence and help the 2 young gents now provide to the journey.
  • Traveling on “off days” can bring its own good luck, not just b/c of the cost savings. Our SEA-JFK flight landed July 4 evening – as the plane made its approach, fireworks were soaring from surrounding townships – as if we were in the middle of a Felini movie.
  • As important, family travelled to Seattle area.  For example, Sidd’s 1st Holy Communion was the reason for the grandparents, aunts, uncles & cousins coming to town for a week stories and laughter, and an early birthday celebration for me.

2. The blessing of time is more apparent with each passing minute

  • More than ever, my birthday really made me take notice of my age. (“What ? ? Have I really traversed MULTIPLE decades?)
  • Any purposeful list of goals and desired experiences now seems an even better idea to clarify one’s compass.
  • With age comes random maladies that can, well, stop you in your tracks. Any notions that it will happen “later” or to someone else are gone.  All the more reason to moderate, and put the mind, body and soul through its paces.

3. Paul and Sidd are each other’s best friend, something I hope never sputters

  • From ruminating about school & home, to cracking fart jokes, to walking to / from school, to playing MineCraft, they are each other’s “go to” guy.
  • On the rare occasion where one is gone on an excursion, the other really feels the absence.

4. Book snobs start young

  • I did not expect rigorous analysis of movies at this early age. But waves of shock and howls of dismay proved they were not sitting back while watching the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies. The term “movie adaptation” does not sit well with them.
  • The 9 year old: “Dad, there are good surprises, and rip off surprises. The Hobbit movie is not like the book, it was a rip-off surprise.”

5. 2012 was a year of exploration and making choices

  • Paul came home one fine day to say, “hey I can join the band so I want to learn the saxophone, it’s pretty cool.” Wow, no nudging to try out something the parents would have suggested? Perhaps the piano lessons were paying off?
  • A week later, Sidd declared, “there’s a running club for the Seattle Children’s Marathon, and I told Mrs. Denney I want to join. Can you take me to school every Monday, Friday and Wednesday at 7:45 to go running?”  Hard to say no.
  • “I like this one,” said Paul as he fished a Fedora out of a pile of hats.  It has been the source of hundreds of complements, from older couples in particular.
  • For Molly and I? It is a similar question of what to do “next”.

6. Relationships, like anything that is alive, take careful nurturing

  • I see it all around me and with myself: left untended, friendships and relationships take a lot of time & effort to get back on track; but when one makes real investments each day, the opposite is the case.
  • The problem is akin to the proverbial story of a beaker of water slowly brought to boil, with a frog in it. One may not realize that things are slowly going out of whack. For example, all the happy distractions of a new baby take away time from the couple. To that end, And Baby Makes Three is a relevant read.

7. Five Sources of learning that were interesting for me:

8. The power of forgotten keepsakes –

  • In a drawer I found a cassette tape. Yeah, one of those “analog things” that has been culturally eradicated from the earth by the digital invasion. The contents: voicemails spanning from 3 weeks before, to two weeks after, our wedding. Remarkable after all those years: the voices are still unmistakable thumbprints of each owner. Perhaps it is the intersection of tone, accent, energy, phrasing. All the authors exude a great vitality and optimism.

US-2012-NycAtlStl-Vacation-120730-0494-1600px NYC Afternoon, © 2012, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

We wish you and your loved ones a tremendous 2013.  My hope is the same: may you explore, discover, develop and appreciate the treasures, talents and time that are 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…

Sunday, September 23, 2012

There’s Nothing Like Grass, Sunshine, & Whispy Clouds

How history repeats itself!  This time, in Yakima, WA where we joined friends to pick apples and taste wine.

The late afternoon found us parked on a lawn and the youngsters magically took up the very tradition I suddenly recalled vividly from grade school.

That is: meandering conversations while staring up at clouds trundling lazily across the sky, the cool sensation of grass underneath, the dull warmth of the sun above.

What made this possible?  Manitoba-style summers - - 75 degrees Fahrenheit, low humidity, big sky, pure sunshine.  Simply change the location, to eastern Washington.

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Enjoying the Sunshine 
© 2012, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

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Joel Orbits the Conversation in the Middle 
© 2012, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

Monday, September 03, 2012

The Long Tradition of Siblings Helping Siblings

Brothers helping brothers.  Likewise, sisters helping sisters, and siblings in general helping each other.  It happens across geographies, time and culture.

Here is my dad and his younger brother, Ellisuncle, getting ready for the wedding of my cousin Aruna.  And one hotel room over is my son Paul, with the same intense focus helping his younger brother, Sidd, with his zipper tie.  (Yes, a zipper tie.  Hard to know what sort of help is needed.)

Age-wise, ~60 years separates these two pairs.  Yet a blessed pattern repeats itself.


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Dad Helps His Younger Brother Get Ready 
© 2012, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

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Paul Helps His Younger Brother Get Ready
© 2012, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Partners in the Journey

Here’s an engaging set of gentlemen:  a grandfather and his two grandsons.

Dressed up for a snappy event and ready to make their way thru the evening’s crowd of party goers. 

The younger two have the optimism, energy and unfettered whimsy of youth.  The older one carries the wisdom, appreciation and peacefulness of years of great work helping thousands of patients, staying involved with immediate and extended family, and applying nuanced lessons from many journeys. 

(Perhaps due to my outsized interest in Mafia stories like The Godfather and The Sopranos, I personally saw a benign version of a Mafia Don and two Consiglieri.  I know, I know, it’s a stretch.)

Together they create a rare brew, a natural fit with each other.

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Sidd Looking Pensive;  Paul in His Hand Picked Fedora
© 2012, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

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Appa, and the Two Chuttumbees
© 2012, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chuttumbee #2 Turns 9

9. Yes, he is now 9.

And, yes, he still tracks his birthday’s like NORAD monitoring an ICBM coming from Siberia. Certainly, things are evolving perceptibly – I did notice he’s not as vocal about the birthday, the excitement is not as unbridled. But unchanged is the underlying anticipation, & birthday related questions that casually arise 10 weeks prior to the event. “I wonder what Susieauntie will get me…” “That would be so cool to have a party when we visit Pappa and Momma in Atlanta, and Amma and Appa in Murphysboro, AND then have one at home.” “I hope Grant comes to my birthday…”

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Sidd @ 9, © 2012, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

So how else is Sidd changing? 

  • In the past year, some of the magic of his world, and the related initial cast of mystical characters, are under scrutiny.  “Okay Dad, tell me, is Santa really real?”  “The tooth fairy didn’t take my tooth last night.  Maybe she only goes to see really little kids.”
  • Computer Games are making a firm presence in his (and his older brother’s) life. Our parental defense is vigorous and so far keeping things in moderation. But computer games have the same remarkable, relentless urge of a cigarette, or shot of whiskey, or a slot machine. I am hoping Kodu and Digipen will channel this energy.
  • His social side is increasingly pronounced. He continues to prefer hanging out with people more than visiting a museum or monument.  Less expected: about 6 months ago, he declared that he would take care of getting everyone their juice, water, etc. Then came mixing mango juice with cranberry juice. Seeing the positive reception, he started tinkering with portions and names. “Would you like one of my Red Tornadoes”? That is 4 parts mango, 1 part cranberry.  Keeping the party going, all good people in one happy room, that is his mission.

If there is one relentless anchor (aside from his brother, parents and extended family) it is Legos.  The mythology of Bionicles, the trance-like immersion when using the actual bricks, the ephemeral ideas so vividly created so rapidly by each new contraption.  On many mornings, I seem him up early, eyebrows furrowed in deep thought on how to create a new gizmo.  It is humbling how something so seemingly simple can keep his interest.  (Long overdue is the well earned induction of Legos’ creators into the Nobel Prize’s hall of fame.)

The other constant: his deep engagement with his brother, Paul.  They wrestle together, increasingly chat about school, go round and round with fart jokes until they melt onto the floor from the exhaustion of laughing, and generally show support for each other.  This may change as time goes on, but so far, its been a deep collaboration.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Lego Party = Magically Focused 10 Year Olds

To celebrate Paul’s 10th birthday, we had a “Lego expert” come over and throw a Lego party.  6,000 bricks.  90 minutes of continuous instruction.  Drills on the names of specific pieces.  These boys were in the presence of one of their modern day shaman working the true magic of Lego as they had never seen before.

Outcome:  mesmerized, silent attention.  No fart jokes.  No crazed rampaging, wrestling, throwing, jumping.  Not even a desire for Nintendo, Playstation, etc.  Just hard core questions about why this piece and not that.  Rapid iterating and reworking of the assignment.  The instructor was nothing short of a mystic, casting a spell that Rasputin would have envied.

To add to the sense of mystery:  at the end of the session, all the boys frantically helped the instructor put away the thousands of bricks into their exact locations in the myriad of boxes.  Yes, the same boys who struggle to notice the disarray they create all around themselve on any other day.  Not sure where we had “gone to,” but damn it was amazing.

Once the session ended, it was time for burgers, fries and cake.  The familiar characteristics of time and space returned.  Will we do it again?  Shoot I sure hope so.

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Getting Drilled, © 2012, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

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Boxes and Boxes of Fabulous Bricks, © 2012, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

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A Triumphant Day: Legos, Burgers, Cake, © 2012, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Chuttumbee #1 Turns 10

I am again humbled at the speed of time.  Here we are at Paul’s 10th birthday.  Just “yesterday” he was just a rolly, polly little tike hyperventilating as he considered the thrill of trying to walk 3 feet. 

So much has changed. 

He is far more athletic than say at age 6.  Physically, he is still sinewy as last year; and mentally, he is an abstract thinking lad. More importantly, he is pretty much fearless.  He will try new things, stand up to an opponent in soccer or basketball games, get in front of his class to share his POV, and do so with a smile.  I have hundreds of game photos of him, in the throws of a soccer game, big Cheshire cat smile on his mug.  Even his coaches will raise this – “the one thing about Paul, he is always enjoying his time on the field.”  We should all hope for this outcome when we are immersed in combat, no?  Actually, it must be a bit unnerving to engage him. 

And his somewhat introverted ways shield him (so far) from worrying too much what others think.  I would have never realized introverts carry this advantage without seeing him in action.  He undertakes a course of action because, well, he wants to; other opinions don’t have much gravity.  (How do we preserve this way of thinking?)

Computers and him have some manner of intersection.  Two weeks ago my mobile phone rang.  This is Abe, I said.  “Dad, it’s me.  DId you know you can make shapes in Microsoft Word?  Like triangles and boxes?  It is amazing!”  If that rocked his world, you should have seen his reaction to “Track Changes” in Word.  “Wow!  That is amazing!  I have to use this!”  Really?  What, in your homework?  Are you pulling my leg or does this really wind you up?

Paul’s dramatic manner of viewing the world is articulated elsewhere also.  “Dad, it rained so hard today, it felt like the whole world was weeping!”  Today I say more prayers of thanks for such a treasure wafting its way into my life. 

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Paul @ 10, © 2012, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Counting on Dad

I recall Father's Day back in 2008 when Sidd’s classroom had an event for fathers to join.  I came 5 minutes late.  I was ambling down the hallway in the school and saw his face peaking around the edge of the doorway, hoping to see me.  Immediately, he came trotting out, whispered "come on Dad" in his soft spoken voice, grabbed my hand and led me into the room. 

I realized (once again) how much these small moments count and reinforce our relationships, how I had in truth trivialized it in my head, and how missing such an occasion is a much bigger deal than I had realized.

I had put much less weight into my attendance than he had.  On the way back to work, I said a small prayer of thanks that I had NOT missed this event for some pedestrian commitment at the office - I do that far too often.  Again, good dumb luck had prevailed over ignorance.  Make no mistake, I have certainly had precious moments occur without my attendance.  But I have come to realize the experiences we create with our family and friends are among our most sublime treasures.

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Father’s Day, 2008 with Dad, © 2008, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

False Positives

Over time I have come to a sobering realization: all around are relationships at a standstill.  They are not divorcing anytime soon, but they are living in an environment lacking some combination of companionship, intimacy and whimsy. It is akin to an unemployed person who no longer looks for work.

It is best described by a very close friend who, still in shock, shared the comment of one of long time drinking buddies, “Yeah, me and the wife are going to stay together until our youngest one gets in to college. Then we’re done. Definitely we’re getting a divorce.”

For most of my life, I have surmised (incorrectly) from the upbeat mood of a social event that the couples present are engaged and catalyzed by each other.  The shine of the event is literally spillover from the fruits of productive relationships.

But in truth, most if not virtually all these events do not compel spouses to socialize together the way a three legged race requires tightly coordinated, tandem motion to win the race. The social occasions allow interactions as individuals.

This distracts away from the truth of the matter.  One may incorrectly conclude (as I have) that the laughing, ruminating, and listening one sees in the individuals means the twosomes are therefore close, affectionate, and supportive away from this scene. All the trappings of healthy relationships.

What we don't see is the chemistry when the couples are back in their cars, heading home, nor how they engage once under their own roof. Many years ago, a Married Encounter weekend termed this as "married singles." I ponder that observation a lot.