Posts Tagged ‘Gratitude’

For some time I’ve been planning a trip in my head. That trip was to drive or train up the Pacific Coastline and enjoy the scenery and feeling of freedom that this country affords us. When my company decided to apply a new vacation policy and forced me to “Use or Lose” my banked vacation this year I knew this was my best opportunity to make this happen. IMG_0710 1

The original plan was more grandiose but given the time available I decided to drive up the coast on the Pacific Coast Highway from LA to the SFO/Bay Area and back in a matter of 3 or 4 days, stopping whenever the I felt like it where my and where my curiosity took me. I have a very over scheduled life so a part of the plan was to not be scheduled knowing that there were a few major beat points I wanted to hit.

This trip if taken on the 101 or I-5 would only really take about 4-6 hours. But that wasn’t the point. The point was to take my time and enjoy the atmosphere and environment of the California landscape and especially the oceanfront. There is an amazing amount of freedom being able to consistently see the expansive view of the Ocean and cruising along the coast at moderate speeds.

IMG_0843 1I’ve discovered a lot of the experiences I think I’d like to have are pretty unique. It’s difficult finding people with the time and desire to jump on board with a similar vision so I’ve decided that this would be a solo trip. In a short conversation about our plans for Thanksgiving my good friend Tara offered to come along. I wasn’t sure if she’d actually do it, cause a lot of people tend to say things they don’t deliver on when they hear about something exciting. There was also a bit of trepidation on both of our parts; I wasn’t sure if she’d really want to be a part of the vision of wanderlust with little structure being “a planner” type person and she was afraid of imposing. In the end I think we hit the perfect balance of “structured freedom” that can enhance any experience. We only listed experiences we thought we’d like to have along the way had an end destination in mind for each day, but were not emotionally invested in where we had to be. We each named our “really like to do’s” on  this trip and the “miss-ables”. Ironically we hit every experience we had  listed and added a few along the way. It was a pleasure finding a good travel partner to as traveling tends to be quite revealing about people’s personalities.

IMG_0844 1Traveling on the road can be a great way to realize how small we are the grandness of our world. I loved watching the scenery of the landscape change from Southern California desert beaches to the Mountainous Pine forests of Big Sur. It’s an ever changing environment of Flora, Fauna and Geology set against the constant waves of the ocean coastline. The Pacific Coast Highway provides a unique seamless experience that is unparalleled anywhere in the world that I know of. In the end it was the perfect detachment from the grind of the day to day. A great way to see the amazing scenery and freedom this nation provides for us.

Tara is an avid photographer and videographer. She really was able to capture the essence of the vacation in this short video.


  • Sunday evening: Got a head start on the traffic.
    • Los Olivos: Thanks to the Nichols family for accomodations.
  • Monday
    • Solvang: The Danish City: Breakfast at Solvang Restaurant
    • Monarch Butterfly Grove: Millions of Monarch Butterflies stop here on their migration to Mexico.
    • Pismo Beach: Arguably the Best Beach in California
    • Madonna Inn, San Luis Obispo: Novelty stop.
    • Morro Bay: The Rock: A stop at Joe’s Surf Shop.
    • San Simeon Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery
    • Cayucos, CA: A bit of backtracking for a nights stay
  • Tuesday
    • Surfing at the Cayucos Pier
    • Hearst Castle
    • Big Sur
    • Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park / McWay Waterfall
    • Nepthune Restaurant
    • Belmont Turnaround point.
  • Wednesday: Head home.
    • Half Moon Bay
    • Santa Cruz
    • Return via the 101 to Pismo Beach
    • Pismo Boardwalk: Meet up with a new friend
    • Follow the Coast home
    • North Hollywood, CA


Other Pacific Coastline trips (I’d like to take)

Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner.

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight

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One of the more favorable things I am grateful for in my life has been the amount of inventive and creatively talented people I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by.

Thomas Crenshaw is one such individual who a few days ago put together this little tribute video for one of his (and mine) favorite TV Shows. The video is fun, compelling and burning up the replays on youtube right now.


Thomas Crenshaw

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Dear friends, acquaintances and citizens.

I’m going to break FB protocol and add a lengthy status update. The double-edged sword about Social Media today is that it allows us to keep in touch with many people, but it’s format leaves so much to be desired that in topics such as politics we are left to the posting of a link and bound by brevity. It has become the equivalent of running into a crowded conference room, shouting a string of one-sided epithets as if it were a ticking IED (Improvised Explosive Device), then slamming the door and running away.

As we enter this year’s election I make a plea for everyone to remain civil in our attitudes. What good is our democracy if we have to spend the next several years repairing hurt feelings and harsh attitudes at each election? Our lack of trust in each other erodes our ability to stay civil, work together and truly progress.

Politics requires a medium where all sides of issues can be explored or it will only serve to divide. Healthy debate and the challenge of ideas must exist for us to make policy. The first amendment can only serve its purpose when we show restraint and kindness and truly open our minds.

We can disagree without ridicule. We can share a counterpoint without disgust. Humor can be used to relieve tension rather than create it. The mark of true tolerance is being able to share space with a person, with whom you disagree, without feeling fear, offense or that they are the enemy.

Tolerance: The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.

However we as a people have not showed restraint enough to achieve true tolerance to make progress.

  • Tolerance is not the same as acceptance.
    • Our culture has confused tolerance for acceptance.
      • Acceptance: The action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group. Agreement with or belief in an idea, opinion, or explanation.
      • Tolerance sits on the opposite end of acceptance. If we are to have any exchange of new ideas, we must embrace tolerance and be clear about the distinction between the two concepts and value them differently.
  • Tolerance must lead to co-existence.
    • In order for us to have productive, happy, healthy communities, we must coexist. We cannot merely live next door to each other with a brewing sense of hostility.
      • Coexistence: a policy of living peacefully with other nations, religions, etc., despite fundamental disagreements.

We call upon all people everywhere to recommit themselves to the time-honored ideals of tolerance and mutual respect.

I sincerely believe that as we acknowledge one another with consideration and compassion we will discover that we can all live peacefully despite different ideologies or interests and despite our deepest differences.

I used to love election years, because it was a time when people stopped worrying more about Beyonce Knowles and focused on issues that really make a difference in our lives. We have lost what it means to have healthy debate. We surround ourselves with people, books and ideas that only support our preconceived notions. Places where we have found acceptance.  We insist on/attempt to categorize others and their viewpoints in terms of “good” and “bad,” “black” and “white.” and pit the opposite into an all-good or all bad judgment.

American politics have always been full of character attacks and salacious headlines. It is time to evolve. If we purport to have kindness and tolerance, we must ensure our attitudes and our hearts reflect it first, before our laws can truly reflect it. Before we can make policy, we must truly understand it, believe it and be able to exemplify it.

The question is “How can we be better than we believe we are, when nothing less will do?”

No matter which leader you have been inspired by all of them promote the ideal that we can rise above our current condition and have hope for the future.

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

-John F. Kennedy

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Barack Obama

“We can meet in service, in shared moral convictions about our nation stemming from a common worldview.”

Mitt Romney

This election year we can stand for civility.

The only difference in our candidates is HOW they propose to effect change. One statement or stance does not make them a socialist, a woman-hater, a bigot, or a tyrant.

I would like to restore the definition of hate back to its former glory. Hate: (v) Feel intense or passionate dislike for (someone). (n) Intense or passionate dislike.

Not supporting a certain cause does not imply hate or a judgment about the opposite. It implies support for a preferred resolution over another. Hate is an emotion, which is completely controllable. Can you disagree with someone and not hate him or her? Of course. However the propaganda today would have you believe this is not so. How do you disagree with someone and still love and respect him or her? Mislabeling someone’s proposition for change in a different way than you would suggest as hate only exposes weakness of heart & emotional immaturity. It will render us powerless in the long run.

Taking offense at the prosperity of another only shows a weakness of heart and mind, which will render you powerless.

I make a call to all journalists to raise the bar of integrity of reporting. Retractions & miscued reporting should be treated with the same import as the original article. If there is a headline that is found to be misleading, inaccurate or untrue, you should reprint the retraction as a headline. The small note from the editor in small print on the inside cover does not repair or redeem your credibility. Glenn Beck, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, Sean Hannity, I don’t care about your opinions just give me the facts. And BTW folks as much as I love John Stewart and Stephen Colbert they are comedians. They exploit situations for the profit of laughing. It’s not real news.

The mark of the greatness of our country is the peaceful transfer of power. I’ve had the privilege to attend the inauguration of two of our presidents. This one sacred event is a powerful example of how civility marks our nation’s attitude.

For most part of my life I have lived in places where ideologically I am a minority. Even as a white, heterosexual, male I have felt the pangs of discrimination. Ridiculed for beliefs, without proper foresight and feared for my well being if I were to publicly express my own opinion. We must all have the courage to be able to express our opinions without fear. A community that ensures that safety is the true mark what tolerance can do for us. It is true freedom, rather than following the rhetoric of groupthink as we have today.

News flash: we do not live in democracy. We do not vote for the president the same way we “Like” a Facebook post, vote for American Idol or Reddit threads.We live in a Democratic Federalist Republic. By design we have checks and balances for the wisdom of restraint. (Here some reference links. Democracy, Federalism, Republic)

We cannot afford to make assumptions:
Let’s all read the Constitution, Bill of Rights, All the amendments. Let’s study political & social history. Let’s study how read the results of a scientific study. Let’s listen more than we talk so that we can discover truth together.

I learned long ago that when you accuse someone/thing incorrectly without all the information you’re exposing to people much more about your own heart than theirs, even if they are making mistakes. And for those who think the reversal is too late? Well if we have no room in our society for forgiveness than we have no real hope for progress.

“If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.”

-Nelson Mandela

Before you make an accusation, verify the facts, dig deeper, truly put yourself in the others shoes and try to understand why they might feel that is a good solution. Do not vilify others.

This is our greatest hour, and the world is watching. Our greatest testament of the power of who we are is the peaceful transfer of power.

From my liberal friends in Wisconsin to my conservative friends in Utah to all my friends on the coasts, we can be united in purpose and service. Recognize each other’s efforts as efforts. Accept the good in people and see their flaws as just that. Flaws. No one is perfect, but we would be remiss to throw the baby out with the bathwater just because we don’t agree with someone’s point of view.

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You can get all academic about what you want to do with your life and what you want in your career or job. But no amount of money, status to function can make up for the feeling that you get when you solve a hard problem, overcome and obstacle or build something that’s never been done before.  These are the emotions that epitomize my favorite seen from the movie Moneyball.

At the end of the day I want the job where I get to make this scene happen more often than not. Everything else is arbitrary!

Live life and love it!

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  1. Steve Jobs steps down
  2. Twitter feeds from Apple Employees about Steve’s departure.
  3. kenchangKen Chang  ‘ Just watched Tim Cook’s 2010 Auburn University Commencement Speech… and then I saw this… bit.ly/p2us3J (Will Ferrell, Harvard, 2003)
  4. Conan O’Brien’s  2011 Dartmouth Commencement Address

[21:31]”…No specific job or career goal defines me. And it should not define you.”

[20:52]”..It is our failure to become our perceived ideal, that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right. Your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound reinvention.”

[21:52]  “In 2000 I told graduates to not be afraid to fail. And I still believe that. But today I tell you that weather you fear it or not disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.”

[23:20] “Work Hard. Be Kind and amazing things will happen.”

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Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood won four Emmy awards, and Rogers received one for lifetime achievement.

During the 1997 Daytime Emmys, the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Rogers. The following is an excerpt from Esquire‘s coverage of the gala, written by Tom Junod:

Mister Rogers went onstage to accept the award — and there, in front of all the soap opera stars and talk show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence.”And then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, “I’ll watch the time.” There was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn’t kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch, but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked. And so they did. One second, two seconds, seven seconds — and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier. And Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said softly “May God be with you,” to all his vanquished children.[13][21]https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Fred_Rogers#Personal_life

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Have you ever done something and then looked backwards and thought… what the what?  I never thought I would do something like that.  For the last 25 years I’ve made  a conscious effort to keep an open mind to all possibilities. That one effort has taken me to places I never could have dreamed of, meet extraordinary people, and has also put me in places I never wanted to be.  Yet there is grace and beauty in understanding the details of a situation that you think you understood from the outside. It’s that one effort that continually puts me on the road less traveled.

I hope that I am not crazy, but I have gone a sold the farm, changed my life completely and committed to doing to two things I never thought I’d ever do in my life.

1. Live in Utah. I could tell a long drawn out story about it, but I think the statement “Live in Utah” is sufficient.

2. Work for a real monster company again. Knowing my personality and my experience I really feel the best place for me to succeed is a company that is mid-major sized. Big enough to matter, small enough to make progress. After a couple of experiences with Monster enterprise level companies, I was sure that road wasn’t for me.  In a sincere effort to discover what I truly wanted I felt I really wanted to help people better their lives in real ways. So I’ve joined the technological effort to save lives by Joining GE Healthcare.

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost (1874–1963).  Mountain Interval.  1920.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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You know you are blessed when little gems like this occur in your day.

Check out the people LinkedIn suggested I might know today:

People you May Know

Hack, Spam or otherwise. This made me laugh!

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eplayA week or so ago, I was at the gas station about a block from my house. Where there is an e-play video dispenser.  You’ve probably seen the Redbox at your local grocery store. This a similar experience, but it’s actually located outside, near the building. A convenient way to get a movie anytime. We must be grateful for the convenience we are served. In fact we are super-served in that way. Almost to a fault. I’ve definitely exploited the fact that I can pay up at the very last moment given our current technology. In fact I’ve often wondered how much of a slacker I would be if I were born 50 years earlier. Having to remind myself of all the things to do on time, wait in line. Put it in mail…. ugh.

Anyway. This experience was great, not only could I be recognized by CC, but also by an email address, or barcode on the sleeve after purchase.It then has my history when I showed up. The return was easy and simple. No instructions really needed. The only weird thing was the sleeve they give to you when you purchase a rental. it doesn’t actually fit the CD/DVD well. But who cares. Plus you pay just a buck for every night you keep it. One night, one dollar. Two nights, two dollars. So you have incentive to return it but it’s not going to kill you if miss it for a day.

I hope you’re more responsible  than myself but that you also find yourself super served cause it just feels good!

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Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch

“If you wait long enough people with impress you and surprise you.”
Wait long and people will surprise and impress you.

“When you’re pissed off and angry with someone, you just haven’t given them enough time.
Just give them a little more time and they’ll almost always impress you.”

– Randy Pausch – The Last Lecture

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A couple of years ago, when my little sister, her husband and new baby, were planning to visit for Christmas, she made the requirement that there must be a tree if they were going to be there.  I thought this was a good idea, but the holiday snuck up on me quicker than I expected and I was stuck two days before Christmas without a tree or decorations. Looking around for a Christmas tree was really tough, since most everyone had sold out of the any reasonably priced real trees,not to mention any decent ornaments. But, thanks to the expert creativity and consultation from my good friend Davy B. who is a Christmas atmosphere aficiando extraordinaire, we ended up traipsing through the left over pickings at Wal-mart, and “made do” with what we could. I ended up with probably the most decadent tree I’d ever dream of having. In my opinion it ought to be in the window at Macy’s. I’m always amazed at how making do, usually ends up better than what you expected in the first place.

This year, I was waiting for my new floors to get installed before putting up the tree and it seemed a little difficult to keep the Christmas feeling going. But once I had a bit of help the tree seemed to trim itself. And I’m no longer void of any Christmas spirit in my home.

Thanks to Amy & Family for the the impetus. Thanks to Dave for his superior tree trimming skillz, and to Shelly, Clay and Sharon who were a part of the tree set up this year. Last but not least thanks to the following artists who’ve all cashed in on the Christmas Collection Albums to provide us with a superior soundtrack for getting us with the spirit of it all. AOL FULL CD LISTENING PARTYTony Bennett, Amy Grant, Manheim Steamroller, Harry Connick Jr., Mariah Carrey, Kristin Chenowith, Loreena McKennit, Sarah Brightman, Straight No Chaser, Barenaked Ladies, Chipmunks Christmas, Christina Aguilera, the Holidays are coming Coca-Cola Christmas Commercial Music.

Voila! This years tree! Note: there are still 1/3 of the ornaments still left to hang.

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Ok folks, as the fireworks of a Virginia fall season is in full bloom and the temperatures gradually become chillier, I can’t help but get excited for the Holiday season.

Shenandoah Autumn Leaves

Shenandoah Autumn Leaves

I don’t have to explain to you all of the good, fun and heart warming feelings that come from the Holiday season. I do however, have one thing

Our world as of late is obsessed with being so politically correct (or politically influenced I should say) that what used to be Christmas, Hanukkah and/or Kwanzaa parties are now Holiday parties. We can’t actually reference the real reason for the season without somehow being beat up for not being “sensitive” to the ideas of diversity. I always find this odd because unless you actually can understand something how can you be enlightened and tolerant about it? So if we can’t use vernacular that accurately describes these holidays for what they are, how are we going to understand anything about them? Nonetheless, so as to “not offend ” we’re all supposed to play the game of homogenizing our culture instead of truly celebrating it.

The real point of this post is a wonderment. How is it that we are so obsessed with inclusion and diversity as a culture but seem to skip right over Thanksgiving and head straight to the “Shopping” season?



OK I know the answer to that. ($$$) But seriously folks Thanksgiving is the one Holiday which ANYONE, regardless of creed, color, size, shape, belief system, gender, etc. can celebrate. In fact there are no rules! You can eat whatever you want. Or don’t eat for that matter. The traditions are only based on what the pilgrims had at their convenience at the time. The one requirement that is that we as a country come together and recognize that we are THANKFUL for what we have. That’s it. EVERYONE is included.

My wishes to you are that you find a time everyday to be thankful for the gifts you’ve received and that this week you share that with everyone. This is the time that we have set aside as a country to love and be loved for all that we are and that we have today.

Thanks everyone for making us who we are today!


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Race Finish

Last Spring a co-worker of mine asked me if I wanted to train for a 10 mile running race together. A 10 miler led to a Half-Marathon with some other friends and just recently I finished the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. Prior to that I had participated in various small triathlons and small running races.

Marine Corps Marathon Start 2008

It’s only a been a few weeks and yet, I look back and I can’t believe that I actually did it. I’ve fantasized about it time and again, but having done it, I can replace those hopes or figments of my imagination with a real memory. I know the strength of community everyone feels at the start, the friendship along the way of miles 4,5,6; the joy of catching a glimpse of family and friends on the side, enjoying the friendly support of perfect strangers at mile 16, the loneliness and pain of miles 20-21, the shear will power over pain of miles 22-26 and the satisfaction of completion, when you don’t even really care to celebrate because you’ve got absolutely nothing left to actually use on emotions. Dreams can fuel you do to great things, but be sure you’re doing something everyday to make them happen or you will always be stuck in the vault of your own mind.

Mile 10 - Near the Lincoln

Truly the unsung heroes on race day are the countless numbers of supporters and race volunteers who give their own time just to support others accomplish their goals. It can’t be all that fun, to stand around for more than 4 hours and cheer on perfect strangers you’ve never met.  I wish there was a way to adequately let each race supporter know how much their cheers, chants signs, and presence helps. Every high school band that played kept me in a cheery mood.  People’s signs of encouragement kept me thinking of things other than my gradually slowing body. My favorite sign was posted on a 20′ stick, it read, ” The Kenyans are Just Ahead!”, Occasionally I caught someone’s eyes and instead of being odd it was almost as if I had known them.

After a particularly long stretch over  the 14th street bridge on mile 21 where there were no spectators, and the wind started to whip over the Potomac, it felt as if you were crossing the Sahara Desert. Seriously. The muscles start to contract and you feel like a lost member of the French Foreign Legion. Coming back into Arlington to a crowd of spectators was the just the catapult that was need for those final but lonely 2 miles around the Pentagon to the finish.
Thanks to Friends and Family, who made the trek to support me. I really wanted to stop the last 4 miles but just kept thinking that if I could just keep going they were there to see me finish well. Running maybe a singular activity but truly no one, can stand alone. We are as strong as the community we are a part of.

The Fam

The runner’s rewards are endless; views of  the early morning sunrises and golden sunsets, glimpses of cardinals and blue jays, an occasional run in with a deer,  a brief “hello” shared when passing by a fellow trekker on your daily route, hidden wildlife that only come out for those dedicated enough to run in the rain to see, views of twilight stars, the feeling of accomplishment and physical work, the runner’s high. But none are as great as the unexpected feeling of being a part of a larger community. Thanks to everyone who’s volunteered their time to support their communities.

Marine Corps Runners

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Somehow I knew when Princess Leia turned out to be Luke’s sister (knowing they had kissed in the the first movie) that the world was going to be much more complicated than the fantasy world Stars Wars created for me.

About a week ago or so, I got called out acting in a way that was far more disrespectful than I ever imagined. While my intentions were not malicious, I can see how they were also seemingly and actually  quite selfish.

In that moment, I was glad to have been reminded of the anatomy of a good apology…

A good apology has three parts: (See the Randy Pausch speech below)

  • I’m sorry.
  • This is my fault.
  • What can I do to fix it?

When being right is so wrong: The “conversation” that enlightened me, was also filled with lots of false accusations, which interestingly enough are quite reveling in themselves.  But in the end, none of that mattered as much as taking responsibility for the things that I could control. My behavior and making my wrongs right.

The power of the right apology: When reconciliation occurs, through accountability and forgiveness, a bond of freedom is created for all involved.

Authenticity and honesty creates true intimacy. Another friend of mine (from a different crowd) once stated…”I know I am loving someone when I am not trying to control them, impress them, or (vainly) trying to gain their approval.”

The right kind of friends: In the end, as unsettling as that experience was. I’m so grateful to have friends who are willing to have hard conversations, small arguments and/or confront me with their concerns. The best of friends are the kind that are willing to go toe to toe with you, in the face of a difficult situation. How else would I know how to change, get better, when to re-evaluate my priorities and have moments of self-introspect? Who else is going to be willing to hear your difficult concerns if they’re not willing to go there themselves?

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This weekend I ran the Charlottesville Half Marathon, with a few friends of mine.30am start of the race!

It was a tough course but still really fun because lots of friends did it together. I ran mostly all of the race with a good friend of mine. This is fairly interesting since she is quite a bit shorter than I am. Every once in a while when we passed a few spectators I thought. That must be a funny image to see such an unlikely duo running in tandem.

Charlottesville Half Marathon 2008 Sharyn and Ben

At first glance, so I’ve been told, I have what people call a “runners body.” I’m 6′ 3″ and have skinny arms and legs, but what people don’t really know is that the magic of genetics and middle age don’t preclude “skinny people” from the proverbial spare tire effect. Good thing I wear shirts… most days.

Despite having long skinny legs, I’ve come to realize that even though my body looks like I have to run around in the shower to get wet, I’m still a fairly slow runner. Certainly it comes more naturally to me than weightlifting or sheer power sports but I don’t have as much speed coupled with endurance as one might expect.

Having spent a good balance of years of my life training for races I’ve never end up running I was determined to finish the Cherry Blossom 10 miler , when invited by another great but vertically challenged friend from work. I’m amazed and encouraged at those who determine to do things outside of their “natural” propensities.

Tom O. and Ben - Mile 6Tom O. and Ben. Mile 6 - Washington MonumentsTom and Ben - Mile 6

Running with a partner is sheer joy in comparison to the mental difficulty of the boredom or singularity of thought one must have to run long distances alone. I tip my hat to the thousands of solo distance runners out there. As Sharyn and I battled the rolling hills that nestle themselves into the Blue Ridge Mountains, we discussed our own personal emotional obstacles we’ve removed in order to become “finishers” of what has become several races, runs, and triathlons over the last few years.

My Dad was a distance runner back in the late 70’s and early 80’s before it was mainstream and when the term “jogging” was popular. His response to questions of whether or not he was a jogger always came with a distinct and sure message “I’m a runner.” he would say. Personally, I’m both competitive and a chronic dreamer. A powerful combination if you add the right type of effort to the equation. But without giving it proper perspective in the face of the difficult of the reality of life’s challenges it can lead to a defeatist’s attitude. I’m afraid I misinterpreted his statements to mean that I had to always be competitive, or that somehow just being in it wasn’t enough.

Charlottesville Half Marathon 2008 FinishlineIt has taken me several years and as many failures before I was able to set aside my youthful pride to truly enjoy and relish in noble accomplishment of being a “finisher”. However I could not have done it without the support of my encouraging friends who have invited me to at least participate with them. The great thing for me about running with people is that we set the pace together. When running with a partner I let them set the pace, which chills me out enough not to burn up all of my energy for 3 or 4 short miles. These days, I’ve gotten to the point where I miss the days I can’t do something active and covet the days I do an actual workout/exercise. It would have been a lot harder to finish as well as I did in the last two distance runs without the companionship of both Tom and Sharyn. It’s true that the greatest gifts come in smaller packages. Thanks!

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This weekend I watched a movie I had always wanted to see. Ironically, I received the movie as a Christmas gift, having never seen it and now after watching it feel as though it should be on my list of top 10 favorites.

The movie Stranger Than Fiction, about a man with a mundane life discovers he has a narrator to his life and that the author/narrator of his life is planning to kill him off, possibly soon. Now what does he do? Such an interesting idea, because I have wondered if I had a biographical movie, who would be the narrator? Or what are the tunes to the soundtrack of my life. Or how would others talk about me at my funeral.

But more than that. This movie was a sheer pleasure, because of the script and the clever, well thought out writing which was then served by an all-star cast who to my delight were cast in roles outside their normal expectation. Will Ferrell, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Queen Latifah and a few other you may recognize.

In trying to discover a way to describe this film to my friends I thought this is not particular type of film but a comedic tragedy, then I realized by every sense of the phrase this was really a tragic comedy. And yes the order makes a huge difference. But it’s just that type of difference that makes the writing in this film so insightful. Another element of this film that was truly unique and spoke to me was it’s form. As the main character Harold Crick moves through his daily activities a GUI is blended into the film in a non-intrusive way that represents all of the mundane routines he calculates throughout that day. I loved this, since I spend so much of my day trying to discover ways to create visualization for people’s experience. (I’m a UI designer). Lastly, the soundtrack truly served the story, the storytelling and the form.

If you’ve seen the movie, you can probably guess what I mean. If you haven’t this probably sounds a little over the top and vague. If you’re going to watch this movie, make sure you have the time to pay attention and watch whole thing. (that’s for all you out there in familyland with kids)

If you haven’t seen it, stop reading right now. Cause I’m going to ruin it for you.

I’m sorry, but it’s the only way I think I can communicate what I got from the film is to quote the end summation.

“…Sometimes, when we loose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And fortunately when there aren’t any cookies we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or some encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys, and nose plugs, an uneaten danish, soft spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties which we assume only accessorize our days are in fact here for a much larger and nobler cause, they are here to save our lives…”

It’s wisdom like this that makes you thankful for, things like tomato pie, seeing old things with new eyes, and every interaction you have with friends, family and strangers throughout the day. My theme for 2008 so far is Gratitude makes every day great. You may still worry, you may still fear, but gratitude allows you to recognize the larger and nobler cause the nuances in our life create.

Check out this clip of the last 6 minutes of the film.

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So of course I have all these grand ideas of how I was going to backlog some of my thoughts, blah, blah, blah. I’m in love with the idea of making experiences right the first time. However, the one thing I know about that, is that the more you plan for the perfect plan the more you procrastinate the crux of the experience or the point of the story. So without further ado, I present to you why life is so great. This week I visited my sister and brother-in-law for the Christmas. They live in the Manyaunk/Roxborough neighborhood of Philadelphia. As I drove up Umbria Street, I saw a line of people that wound around the corner, coming out of a little hole in the wall Mom & Pop shop bakery. Marchiano’s Bakery. http://www.marchianosbakery.com I love new experiences so a little later I walked in to the shop and told the cashier I was visiting from out of town, saw the line and wanted to know what the big deal was. She laughed a bit and said. Oh well, it must be this. Tomato Pie. Here’s the description from their menu; “Our WORLD FAMOUS tomato pie is a sheet of hand-rolled dough covered with crushed tomatoes, olive oil and a mixture of italian spices. It is baked until the crust is golden and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.” Now that might sound a little like a pizza, but believe me there’s nothing more satisfying. First of all the tomatoes sauce is FRESH. This makes for an amazingly sweet and light taste, but the bread/crust is hearty so it’s filling. As we ate we kept saying how perfect it was. Pizza gets too heavy with the meat and cheese and spices. This mixture of bread, tomatoes, oil and light spices is in short, perfection. And $7 for a half pie there’s no better, inexpensive meal. I love Tomato pie.

Next, we tried the Oreganta, one of their specialty breads. Menu description: “This exceptionally thin hand-rolled dough is filled with just the right touch of Italian spices and oils. This circular masterpiece can be enjoyed sweet, mild, or hot or filled with pepperoni, broccoli, or spinach.”

We tried the mild, which honestly was pretty spicy, but absolutely amazing! When you cut into it the cross section looks like a cinnabun sideways. But the insides are filled with again a light but hearty blend of fresh ingredients and spices, that make your mouth zing. It’s hard not to eat the whole thing in one sitting. The dipping sauce is fresh crushed tomatoes, which highlights the flavor, just enough to keep your mouth moist so you can enjoy more at one time. Truly amazing.

Later on in the week when we went back for another Tomato Pie, we tried one of their other Specialty Breads. Despite having sausage and peppers inside, it was a light and satisfying experience, but my favorites remaining, Tomato Pie and Oreganata.

So here’s my point to the story! Life is great! Sometimes the stars align and all is well with the world because you’ve discovered something new, or you’ve been able to connect with people in ways that you hadn’t thought about. The European neighborhoods of Philly at first seem a little run down, but if you spend just a few minutes, you can a feel sense of character. That run down look becomes charming and quaint. When you step inside you find the warmth and charm of peoples lives. Marchiano’s Bakery is nothing less than stereotypical Italian family bakery, but what charm. The WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) ways of Philadelphians or East Coast Urbanites for that matter, may be a little abrasive, but for as over-the-top it is there’s something great about knowing theres’ sheer honesty and sincerity standing in front of you.

My Christmas visit with Mike, Amy, Libby and little Ben, turned out to be nothing less than perfect. There’s still a lot of problems of in life, but gratitude is the best of things. It allows you to let go of the stress, instantly or momentarily to see new things and see old things with new eyes. I love Tomato Pie, Oreganata and charming urban landscapes. I love my family. Happy New Year in 2008! I hope you make it to Marchiano’s Bakery this year!


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