Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays 2014 ! !

2014 has been a year our family will never forget, and I do hope you had a very big year too.

US-2014-Redmond-FamilyShots-141117-0133-ToWebA Bigger Year Than Meets the Eye, © 2014, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images) 

As per the usual, Sidd, Paul, Molly and I wish you the best in this Holiday time. We pray this note finds you safe, sound, healthy and happy. If life has gone sideways, our prayers are with you.

Our family has had its share of adventures.

  • The boys are in a good place.  Still the best of friends, still sinewy, still a deep source of goodness and light for Molly and myself.
  • Sidd is 11 (5th grade) and certain his future has 5 pursuits. I see this as the start of a lifelong path that creates one's legacy.
  • Paul is 12 1/2, (7th grade) and discovering, at times the hard way, the deep importance of clarifying your workload and staying ahead of it.  Grade 7 has been a surprise for him and it's never bad when something makes you up your game. One concern I have: for the first time, I don't really see school fundamentally inspiring him.
  • Molly has formally entered back into the “traditional” job market - that is, being a stay at home parent when children are very young is a demanding pursuit unto its own: now that the boys are older, she has taken a project management role at Allstom Grid, and likes the colleagues & new challenges.
  • I am in my 10th year at MSFT - and it continues to be interesting personally. At a macro level the company is materially, cohesively proving a clearer direction, gaining internal momentum, and finding its own rhythm, again.

Here’s 10 Observations from 2014…

  1. Great Teachers Catapult You to New Territories - Two examples. 1) the boys' piano playing is 2x better in just a year due to a new teacher. Why? Her mix of inspired instruction, remarkable pieces and higher expectations. 2) "Let's start by running a two miles" was the opening of soccer practice this year. The boys replied, we didn't do that last year. "So? Have to run to win a soccer game right? C'mon, let's go." Unyielding, greater expectations = the team was in 4x better shape than a year ago.
  2. Focus on Long Threads of Exploration and “Public” Performance. Exploring the many options around you is vital, but as important is a) doubling down on a few, over years of time to really learn the craft, and b) having to execute more publicly, be it speaking, on the field, or a concert hall. You quadruple your focus when there is potential personal downside, and learn to live with, or thrive on, your stage fear.
  3. Illuminating Advice Makes Tightropes Vanish. A good guide can make the toughest, trickiest and oddest paths much more of a walk on land than a crooked tightrope. In 2014, I witnessed a chap, Jeff Shushan, demystify things into obvious, logical steps.
  4. God Bless YouTube - I am continually floored by it - from humor like Substitute Teacher, to Coldplay concerts to drier yet useful pieces like how to bend a soccer ball like Ronaldo or use vLookup in Excel
  5. Reinventing yourself only comes from actually going on the journey, each day. "2 finished pages a day" is the credo of Brandon Sanderson, who took over and completed the "Wheel of Time" series after Robert Jordan passed away. I have aspirations and related plans, but I am not delivering my version of "2 finished pages" - man I am not there by a country mile. Yet.
  6. Comparing is so easy and sooo dangerous. I fall into this LinkedIn racket: I read a person's intro, proceed to their schooling, skim their history, and start down the mental slide of "why am I here and not there?". Then I have to stop, at the least remember my Uncle Jim's comment, "life is relative". And choose to solve whatever I am reacting to by taking action; don't be bothered by it, don't ponder it.
  7. How Does One Stay Enthralled by the World Around Them? I don't hear as many big, bold ideas from my sons - like dinosaur farms, trains with one set of wheels, and drawings saturated in colors - and that worries me. They have homework, and extracurriculars, and phone games. Future, excellent sheep? Yikes, perhaps… But… less of the enthralled, wondrous view.
  8. Focus on Experiences with People, Not Acquisitions. I agree with a longtime friend, Abhay Pande, that most things I buy lose their allure in a day; but adventures and interactions always have an edge. Travel is a prime example. And the boys are amazing travelers - things like airports, exploring new places, chilling out with people - they are naturals at this. Sidd's tenet: "Dad, it's about people, not places. Can we just goof around with family and not go anywhere?" My hope: create a foundation for future, interesting walkabouts.
  9. I Do Prefer News Served With a Smile. 2014 was the first year I felt overwhelmed by the world's crises. Useful to me were Mike Allen's pithy daily political email update, and Fareed Zakaria's weekly "My Take"… but… the only person who sustained my appetite for the news was Jon Stewart. I felt okay as each bombshell landed, because Jon would call out what I felt inside - that it was too much, too crazy, too stupid, and I was not nuts for feeling this way.
  10. I Need to Break My Old Fashioned, Sequential View of Learning. After day 2 of a 2 week summer camp on computer programming basics, Sidd (then 10) was not excited. Paul summarized things,"Java has too much syntax, and BlueJ keeps crashing, dad." But the next day, things were better. Hmm, why? "The teacher said all the machines have Visual Studio Ultimate, and so we used it with C#." My first reaction: no way, a 10 and 12 year old? Using VS Ultimate? C#? Are they too young? No, my mindset is too old. Lord, rewire me, please.

What were your favorite books and movies? Here's a few I enjoyed…

  • ColdPlay's A Sky Full of Stars
  • Yuna performing Rescue on Jimmy Kimmel
  • Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris
  • Cosmos with Neil deGrasse Tyson - simply grand story telling that filled me with the grandeur of astronomy
  • Lunchbox - late in the movie the lead actor says, "all of a sudden I realized it was not my father I saw but myself and wondered, when did I grow old?" - my worry too.

Here's to a non-trivial, remarkable 2015. May you explore, discover, develop and appreciate the treasures, talents and time, and find eye-opening ways to bring them to life. Do visit us while we are here – the summers in particular are like no other.

Take care and God Bless You!

Sidd, Paul, Molly and Abe…

US-2014-SanFran-MithusWedding-140526-0007-ToWebUntil We Meet Again, © 2014, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chuttumbee #2 Turns 11

Okay this is a VERY belated post and perhaps it is indicative of how time is so precious at the “start” and the “end” yet risks being commoditized in the middle by albeit pesky, urgent, trivial distractions.

US-2014-Redmond-FamilyShots-141117-0111-ToWeb

Sidd @ 11 in his new fangled glasses, © 2014, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

Sidd, my precious 2nd son, turned 11.  A couple of things to share are as follows:

He still has a deep enjoyment in sports – he continues to dislike watching from the sidelines or frankly in a living room.  At some point he will say, “I am going out” to do what is shown on the TV

His long term goals seem to be crystallizing – for the past year, he has shared the following repeatedly… “I am going to be 5 things when I grow up… an inventor, paleontologist, writer, illustrator and painter”

He’s still an insufferable fan of his own verbal diarrhea – Sidd will prattle on telling one stale joke after another, or hypothesizing aimlessly and fully enjoy it.  So far it is pleasant at the least and occasionally very interesting

He LOVES hanging out with people – Sidd summed this up repeatedly over the summer vacation trip to visit my parents and sisters, “Dad, it’s about people, not places. Can we just stay home and not go anywhere?”

He is fiercely focused – I introduced him to making lists and now I can find little Post It notes lying around all over the place,  with items crossed off.  “Dad, they say 5th grade is really hard, it’s an odd grade you know, so I have to really try herd.”

The carnivore in his has to be kept in check – we noticed that his weight surpassed Paul’s, then realized, ah it’s all the meat and cheese dude!

He is still his brother’s confidante and ally I am wondering if and when they will go to a phase where they become more distant.  For now, that is not the case.

Ah I am deeply blessed.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Another Year Whizzes By at About Warp 4

Many adults no longer have a natural metronome to mark time skipping by.  For example, no formal undergrad, grad or vocational school programs, no children still in grade school.  Nothing to keep check of the passage of time.  In those cases, milestones like our own birthdays play a vital role.  Each “tick, tock” registers 365 days of living.

US-2014-SanFran-MithusWedding-140526-0019-1200pxDad and the Young Lads, © 2014, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

Without birthdays, decades could sneak by without us taking note, or worse, allow us to play along with the lie that time has not passed under our noses.  So today I look back and measure the year.  As always, it has been a rich one on so many fronts, and a grand test on others.

Start with carbs, & eat dessert first.  Said another way, focus on experiences that are non-trivial, that you can only get enjoy and accomplish “now”.

Use Occam’s Razor in interpersonal relationsLook for the simplest, most straightforward explanation that assumes the best of everybody.

Kids know their heroes, do you know yours? Learn from the people you admire the most, work for them, follow them.

Sometimes good health is only noticed when it is missing. My dad, who is has the healthy regiment of a young British soldier, fractured his ankle at a recent wedding.  Arguably, it was his unwavering schedule of walks and meditations that helped him avoid a more serious injury.  Yet seeing him in the following weeks made me VERY aware of how healthy he normally is.  How did I miss this otherwise?

Oh and count your blessings.  Take stock of every one of your talents, treasures and all the time given to you (so far).  I am amazed at how many times when people pray with our boys, and are asked to cite just 3 things to say thanks for, it is a royal struggle.  Three blessings?  You know it is a God full of unconditional love who can look down and smile on this, instead of fuming. 

  • Pop Exercise:  Take out a sheet of paper, write “Thank you for…” and see how many items you can list in one shot.  Repeat in a week.  Do it for a year.  Now compare today’s sheet and next year’s.  You will be amazed how much more nuanced and aware you have become.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Chuttumbee #1 turns 12

Well an entire dozen years has flown by for Paul.  12 years?  Is it possible the infant I held just yesterday is now wearing shoes just 2 sizes less than mine?  The only thing more surreal is the consummate gift of getting to be his dad.

_MG_1167-1200px-2 Paul @ 12, © 2014, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)

Some observations:

I see glimpses of a much older person in him at times - like in this look above, and perhaps it is his words that imbue that interpretation.  "I am going to be coder, definitely, when I grow up."  This is less ethereal than "making a dinosaur factory" - an intent from 5 years ago.

Perhaps all the exposure to da Vinci has had an effect - he has an equal interest in art (loved a digital media option at school) and science (has demonstrated a steady interest in robotics).

The introvert in him is translating into an empath - he is very tuned into how others may react, and as example will casually turn to me and say, "I don't think that would be good to talk about right now".

He is reliable like the sunrise - I get a text each day between 3:00 and 3:03 saying "I'm home now."

He's still a very engaged sibling - Paul shows concern and genuine interest in Sidd's pursuits.  The two can easily while away a day in long  meandering conversations.  “Connected siblings” is a deeply held goal of mine - I know too many people whose sibling relationships dilute over time, which is to lose the most precious of family heirlooms.

In a mere 6 years he will embark on new adventures such as college (if colleges are needed still) - -perhaps somewhere far away from my place of residence - - - and I for one am in no rush for that milestone.  The last 12 years have been nothing if not remarkable.  Needed is to triple my ability to savor the fleeting moments whizzing by me now.

_MG_1020-1200px-4 Paul, Take 2, © 2014, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)