Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays 2013!

With 2014 is just days away, Sidd, Paul, Molly & I wish you the best in the New Year.

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Another Year Goes By, © 2013, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

As in past years, we pray this note finds you safe, sound, healthy and happy. If things are tough our prayers are with you - and there is the saying, (if one chooses to believe in a higher power) that "we are only tested to the extent we can overcome the test; what’s needed is to discover the breadth of our own abilities."

Overall the family is doing well.

  • Paul is 11 ½, Sidd is 10. Molly and I are well, “young at heart,” right?  :)
  • Sidd has discovered he loves to write and has translated observations at school and home into evocative pieces.  Currently, he foresees becoming “a paleontologist and a scientific inventor.” 
  • Paul still thinks he still MAY create a dinosaur farm when he grows up but is more certain than ever that he will be a coder - a VEX Robotics afterschool program may tangibly propel this forward. He has transitioned well to 6:10 am wake-up time to make the middle school bus – far earlier than Grade 5.
  • Both are still almost entirely sinewy muscle & bone, and dramatically more intense both on the soccer field and when rough housing at home. At least as important - - both are still deep friends with each other and compadres in their journeys and explorations of life.
  • Molly is venturing back into the traditional job market after years as "head of product management," (as I liked to call it) at home. While it can seem imposing to shift back into this realm, it is "not a matter of if, but simply a matter of when."
  • I've now been at Microsoft 8 years (that’s like 1st to 8th grades amazingly) and am now witnessing two transformations underway, first to the cloud and second to apps and devices. One of 2013's unexpected highlights for myself was meeting up with old friends, long overdue & to be continued going forward.

Here’s observations from 2013:

Age brings more awareness of time. Nowadays, Paul will routinely say, "why are the weekends so short?" I tell him that becoming more aware of things you enjoy seems to speed up time. And perhaps it's proof he's growing up?

'Tis but a moment from the sublime to the ridiculous, to quote Napoleon. It can occur at any time. Example: Sidd's passing comment last January, "my tummy doesn't feel so good" turned into an appendectomy hours later. Ever the optimist, when I explained the 3 laparoscopic incisions were for a knife, a forceps and a camera, he mused, "so the 3rd one was the paparazzi, wasn't it?"

Hearing about retirements always surprises me. I get fooled too easily into thinking life is timeless, then I hear of someone's retirement. Two of my uncles are retiring from long time professions. My first reaction: surprise. I still "see” all of them in their early years, new to the US, a small bustling apartment, early marriage, with very young children. "He retired?" is my shocked response. Oh yeah, I guess it has been 35 years. So why am I surprised?

Capturing the phrase of the day is important. People whimsical comments gain value and meaning over time, or foretell their way of being. What’s important “now” is capturing these comments. Example: for a few months Sidd opening comment was “Here’s my answer without hesitation…” Then it passed on.  Yet it shed light on his world view.  He isn’t correct all the time, but he feels good about his responses.

Time boxing time is useful. For me the school years force us to notice cadence.   Adults, in my view, are people out of school and in the insidious place where one day just leads to the next. Why not fight this wicked entropy? The remedy is what schools do: translate goals into projects, declare an expected end, fiercely stick to the deadline, grade your own work and loudly celebrate what was accomplished. Now things won't just numbly slide by in some devilish autopilot mode.

Friends with boats are a good thing. Friends are vital to be clear. But my buddy Tom Aken ALSO has a pontoon boat, and on a lazy July day in southern Illinois, that makes for a consummate afternoon. Of course, Tom is a garrulous, big-hearted host, which in truth is what makes the boating so magical.

Middle vs. Elementary school: "we aren't in Kansas anymore." Elementary school kids: pretty oblivious of each other's trappings and gadgets. Middle-schoolers: too aware, perhaps? What I see at Paul's bus stop makes me ill at ease, & I don't even go to middle school: 8 of the 9 kids strut iPhones & Nokias (and other accoutrements) like trophies. The exception: Paul, though he's a hardcore gearhead. All are glibly talking and texting. And all are in Grade 6 !?  Do we see this as an arms race and "equip" him? Or is it enough to try and set the right context? Am I worried? Yup.

Work and Life do meander up and down, no?  Work "meandered up" this year - from dismaying / perplexing to encouraging / interesting. If you don't like the ride, don't worry, it will change for the better soon. If you like it now, relish the moment, don't sit back, clarify why this is so, and where you would like to be next.

You CAN make a living doing what you like. A high school buddy Eric Ulner took us out for an afternoon of rock climbing in southern Illinois. Think Outward Bound, but a superb custom session. The larger lesson from Eric: never tarry far from your interests, just work harder to achieve them, and don't permit unrelated material distractions to fool you. A related rule of thumb comes from my friend John Rood, "Don't educate yourself away from your interests."

I need to laugh more… way more. In September I joined longtime friends for U of I football game. I re-discovered these guys who have of love of jokes, whimsical observations and laughing it up. May be it is work related but it is too easy (for me) to just go from solving one thing to another. More whimsy is needed going forward.

Minecraft is surreal on many fronts. Our boys really "fell into" this game in 2013 and so did I. It is partly "Legos online" - - on steroids. Example: Sidd created a massive tree house, planted another oak tree at the top of the tree house, and built another structure in the mature tree. Then repeated 5 more times. Wonderful AND  nutty? Yes, but as mind bending are 3 business-related numbers reported last Feb in the WSJ for Minecraft: 29 people; $210 million in revenue; $95 million in profit.

Thank you, BillG, for Big History! Four years ago Bill Gates commented that his  FAVORITE course of all time was "Big History". So he bought the rights,& put it online. I made Paul and Sidd go thru it last summer. The loved it, plain and simple, even if some was over their head. You would like it too.

Grandparents and grandkids, just “get each other”. I told Sidd and Paul, “oh by the way, Appa and Amma wants to know 3 possible things you want for Christmas but they CANNOT be clothes or books.” Sidd rolled his eyes and chuckled.  “What?”  I asked. “Obviously, dad, that’s because grandparents just understand us.”

Books and movies I came across in 2013. What were your most favorite reads and flicks? Here's a few that I had a chance to enjoy…

We wish you and your loved ones a tremendous 2014 sprinkled with good, whimsical surprises. My hope hasn’t changed: may you explore, discover, develop and appreciate the treasures, talents and time given to you, and find remarkable ways to bring them to life. Do visit us – the great Northwest has so much to see and do.

Take care and God Bless You!

Sidd, Paul, Molly and Abe…

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hey, I Can Play This Game

Halloween 2004: Sidd's first,  just 1 year and 2 months old; Paul's second.  I had the idea of dressing Sidd as an athlete at the Beijing Olympics.   Molly got an outfit from Chinatown in Boston and I made a sash akin to that worn at the opening ceremonies.

We were greeted at the first house by a lady in her 60s.  She melted into teary eyed smiles, overwhelmed by the deafening cuteness of the two baby boys.  After tossing a couple of candies into Paul's outstretched bag, she paused for Sidd, but he simply looked up at her and smiled.

I nudged him so that his tiny arms held out his tiny bag.  The lady tossed in a couple of candies.  Puzzled, Sidd peered down into the bag, back at her, and back to the bag.  Then those furrowed eyebrows cleared up, and with a big smile he reached down, grabbed the candy and tossed it back on to her tray.  A tiny, mischievous laugh erupted.  His face beamed, "hey, I can play this game, lady!"

She looked at me, thunderstruck.  "Never in 36 years, NEVER, has a child given back candy to me.  Most don't even say thank you.  You have one amazingly generous little one!"  Sidd was still squealing with laughter, and just staring at her.

I tried to clarify that he had no clue how Halloween “works,” & that this may change in the coming years (believe me, it has).  But to no avail: she would not buy any of it.

We only went to a few more homes as the Boston night air was a bit cold yet the same ritual played itself out.   Sidd was having so much fun he would try to trot ahead when we arrived at a new house.  A little boy's mis-interpretation translated into big-hearted generosity that left him short of candy, but having a ball and handing out an unexpected Treat on Halloween.

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Sidd, the Olympic Hopeful...;  Paul, Your Friendly Neighborhood Honey Bear, © 2004, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images) 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Chuttumbee #2 Turns 10

Sidd turns 10 today - 10 solid, unfailing years of joy.  So here are the words of a “proud pappa” - - you will need to bear with me as I am quite beside myself with elation.

He is smart, affectionate, bursting with energy, fart jokes (and farts too, to be frank,) a great fan of his own comedy, and for the most part quick to come to a decision.  He's his brother's best friend, and vice versa. The chap loves long, meandering and all too mumbled a conversation, not just with his peers, but with his grandparents, aunts / uncles and cousins. And because of the good guidance of his older bro, he has become a voracious reader.

His over-confidence may get him into trouble (as example this past spring, when as a 3rd grader he played soccer with 6th graders at some personal risk to himself) but it also will mean he will try new things. His current schtick when asked a question is to start his response, "Here is my answer with no hesitation…"  So far, he doesn’t tie his outcomes so tightly to himself that it makes him gun-shy on the next round: when an endeavor or effort fails, he usually shrugs it off with a laugh, "well, I guess that was not very good."

Like Paul, he has embraced snooty foods but is more of a carnivore: as you see here he is sitting happily with cheeses, especially smoked gouda (his preferred temptation after my dad introduced it to him), hot Capicola, and a brick of Callibaut French milk chocolate.  Nice choices, Sidd!

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Happy as a Clam, at Big John's PFI in Seattle...;  Back at Home with friends, Chocolate, Gouda and Capicola, © 2013, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

How lucky I am today - I have not one but two children blessed many times over with more goodness that I could ever expect.


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SIdd @ 10, © 2013, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Chuttumbee #1 Turns 11

Eleven blustery years ago, Paul Sebastian Allessandro Pachikara came barreling into this grand world, bristling with ideas, observations, a hearty laugh and a big heart. I am so very proud of how he is growing up, but a bit wistful at the speed of time.

  • He is pure muscle and sinew still - when he raises his arms up, his entire back comes alive with ripples.  He can run 20 mins after school, walk 1/2 mile home and then go for a solid hour of soccer practice on a high school sized field with the only result being a flushed face.
  • He is a prolific creator - Minecraft is his current tool of choice.  Concoctions range from a Greek styled hotel, to a dream house perched on a mountain top surrounded by a moat filled with lava, and a train system that zips from this perch, to his hotel, to another villa across the bay. Architecture and design swirl in his head. Dubai airport and the gadgets in the Emirates Airlines 777 were as head spinning as the rest of the trip to India this past December. 
  • “Dad, I want to be a polymath, like Da Vinci.”  Paulito is fluent in Lego Mindstorms (just built his first "Sumo-bot") and dabbles in Kodu and Khan Academy coding exercises, and has expanded this year from Piano to also learn Clarinet.
  • He’s self-awareHe truly understands temptation and how it can be easier to avoid it than challenge it, and has gracefully grokked the growing demands of school, adjusting accordingly.
  • He’s active yet detachedHe ran for treasurer ("something told me in my heart to do more, dad") including making a humorous poster & speech video, but was not too set back when he lost.  "Dad, Rotum won, she's super nice and everyone knows her.  Oh well."
  • He’s filling in the gaps.  He has methodically addressed each part of schooling that was a gap.  God bless JK Rowling and Rick Riordan’s for making reading fun.
  • He is still a vivid, engaged compadre. Paul is still a very active brother to Sidd, knows and easily chats with extended family, and keeps a loyal friendship with a couple of other kids, particularly his long-time buddy, Will.

I don't know where the future will go as 6th Grade means no more daily meandering walks home with Sidd (Paul needs to now take the bus), more workload, more juggling. But I am deeply blessed by the chap he is turning into. Life is full of blessings and surprises, and Paul and Sidd are the most humbling yet.

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Paul @ 11, © 2013, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

In the Land of Magic and Logic

In the toddler era, magic exists and is real, plain and simple. For example, the anticipation of a visit by the Tooth Fairy for a newly fallen tooth. First she is a mystical being, magically swapping a precious tooth for a well earned buck. A "few teeth later", she is someone from whom a service is expected. Then it transitions to a re-assuring tradition but not one that meets increasing expectations.

And then, logic and knowledge crowd their way into one's conscience. Concepts like "permanent teeth," and how they naturally push out “baby teeth.” Magic of a medical kind, yes, but, well, it extracts a dear expense: the tooth fairy's sparkle fades a bit. As interesting to me is how one does not immediately realize when an "old era" is fading. There's usually a new tradition or habit distracting us away.

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Envelope 1: An Early Request, © 2011, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

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Envelope 2: Clearer and Bolder, © 2012, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

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Envelope 3: Pushing for Too Much, Perhaps? © 2012, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)