Oct 29 – Amigos and Candlelight

Sunrise / Sunset: 7:14AM, 5:40PM

Foo song: Aurora

Sunrise photo:

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Today was a good day. Not a lot to say about it, just got work done, cranked through to-do lists, got rid of sticky notes. Somehow I always accumulate tons of random notes.

Started out the day making French toast, then rode in car in rain with family (wimped out, didn’t ride my bike in the drizzle), then went to Harvard Square and Peet’s for tea. Definitely missing Harvard Square.

Ended the day with a little candlelight dinner at home. I like that my kids see when Caro and I show affection and like it – they seem tickled by it. Then Caro spoke for a while with my good old amigo, Javier, who gave up a career at Children’s Hospital, Denver, to become a Spanish teacher in a Denver charter school. She passed the phone to me after I got the kiddos to bed and tomorrow’s lunches made (routine…), and it was good to talk – family and politics, kids, his teaching job, old friends, and travel plans – he might come up to Boston with his family. That would be awesome.

Reflecting on my friendship with him and others makes me wonder what has happened to me over years. I’ve definitely had lots of friends, just not a whole lot of close friends.

For some reason, I have been thinking about this a lot lately. It’s never to late to re-connect or fire up some new friendships, and I want to model that for my daughter. She asks a lot about old friends, why I’ve lost touch with them. It’s almost as if I’ve led a series of separate lives. Once, when I was leaving East Hampton, NY after a couple of summers as a lifeguard, living in a really tight knit way with new friends (I’ve had a series of friends, none of whom I’m in great touch with anymore except for on Facebook – preschool friends, school friends, swim team friends, college swimming and fraternity friends, post-college life guarding and open water swim training friends, teacher friends in Colombia, and then some work and grad school friends as a product of specific cohorts I was in at Citizen Schools and the Kennedy School. Oh, and also friends from the Outdoor Leadership Program in Greenfield, a really tight knit group but extremely awkward time of limbo and financial uncertainty and guilt for me as a husband, new dad, and recent grad school grad going back to community college.  Don’t get me wrong, I do keep in touch with some old friends, and for some reason Javier and I have stayed connected across time and space (could very well be that he speaks Spanish, and my wife feels cultural affinity for him and his family, who also graciously hosted us back in 1999 when they were living in Guatemala). I also have some solid friends in Colombia, especially my buddy Fernando, with whom I plan adventures every time I’m there. It’s just in my day to day life and routines, I don’t feel I’ve done myself or my family justice in being so aloof, truly unable to make friends with other parents in school and activity settings. Knowing that my dad’s best friends to this day are people he met as a transplant to Florida and as a parent at sports and activities makes me wonder what I can do better. Maybe it’s that so many people in the seventies in Central Florida were transplants, and they literally had to make their own community from scratch, and here I am in Boston, rich in history but also rigid in social structure? But I don’t entirely buy that. Feels like a cop out. But the cold doesn’t help …

With all of this swirling through my head, I came across this study from Harvard and decided a little over a week ago to tweet it:

Men Happiness

Here are a couple of other interesting articles on the topic of men and friendships to leave you with:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/todd-kashdan/men-making-friends_b_1029001.html

http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2014/05/surprising-need-male-intimacy/

Oct 28 – Soul Cake and Eat it Too, Chin Up

Sunrise / Sunset: 7:13AM, 5:42PM

Foo Song: Exhausted

Sunrise Photo:

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After a night of poor sleep, hence my choice of Foo Fighters song today, the day ended up being all about Soul Cake. It’s a tradition at Alana’s school to explain the origins of Halloween and related traditions. For fifth graders, it’s a rite of passage and was the subject of an assembly today.

The assembly was super short, adding to a choppy day of getting Caro out the door to the train, shuttling the kiddos to get a flu shot (where Alana comforted Mateo, further earning her nickname of hermama – “sistermommy”), dropping the kids off at school, racing to work for a meeting, then going back to the school for the world’s shortest assembly.

But school assemblies always give me something to reflect on. They mark the time in so many ways. On the exact day when Alana caught up to Caro’s shoe size (at age 10!), we also saw her reach this milestone as a school leader. The assembly also served to usher us all, a little reluctantly, into the latter half of the fall, when leaves disappear and the weather, like today’s soaking rain, is more raw and chilly, and it’s harder to roll out of bed.

My goal moving forward this fall and winter is to try not to hibernate (too much) and to find moments of not only sucking it up but reveling in the bad weather, exposing my face straight into the rain with my chin up, not hiding or cowering. That makes me feel powerful, defiant, and energized. Let’s see if I can stick with this plan!

Oct 27 – Apurate Ketchup Plan, Fallout, and Uma Thurman

Sunrise / Sunset: 7:11AM / 5:43PM

Foo Song: No Way Back

Sunrise Selfies:

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So you may wonder why I’d mention Uma Thurman here. There are basically two reasons, both having to do with time.

First of all, I can’t get the time challenge out of my head, and dealing with the fallout of getting behind is tough – tough to catch up, tough to feel like I can never quite live up to the expectations I set for myself. Time for self discipline!!! Fallout Boy’s song Uma Thurman deserves a quick reference:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VTxYQL2SbA

Second, trying to get a move on with my goals brings me back, for some weird reason, to a memory when I was baffled by a subtitle in a movie while learning Spanish. I saw Pulp Fiction in Mexico while studying abroad. I couldn’t help but read the Spanish subtitles that flashed across the bottom of the screen. During the ketchup joke, I saw “apurate” come up as the punchline. Knowing ketchup is “salsa de tomate,” I was confused.  But once my Spanish came up to speed, I actually got it. That’s always magical. When I understand something better now in retrospect than I did in the moment.

“Three tomatoes are walking down the street papa tomato, mama tomato, and a little baby tomato. Baby tomato starts lagging behind. Papa tomato gets angry, goes over to the baby tomato, and smooshes him… and says, “Catch up”It works great in English and Spanish yet kind of magically with different lines.

It works great in English and Spanish yet kind of magically does so with different lines. When poets translate verse from English to Spanish and vice versa without losing the underlying meaning and tone, that’s really an art form, so much better than literal translation, and probably pretty tough for Google Translate to emulate. I also like that. As much as I love technology and innovation and new apps, a sliver of me remains a Luddite and fiercely independent, hating to use GPS’s, preferring to wander and get lost to find my way. If that makes sense.

Anyway, in Spanish, the punchline is one of more elegant double meaning: “apurate” means, “yo, move it / hurry up!!” but could also mean “puree yourself.” Amazingly enough, there’s actually a Facebook Group dedicated to the Tomato joke … https://www.facebook.com/The-Ketchup-Joke-pappa-mamma-and-little-baby-tomato-Pulp-F-171829926167296/info/?tab=page_info

Why do I bring this up here? Because I’m madly trying to catch up, on a bit of a treadmill. So, even though my readers may browse this blog in chronological order after I’ve completed my 42nd lap around the sun, that’s just because WordPress allows me to post retroactively. In truth, I’ve composed this thing whenever possible with notes all over the place (literally) and stealing bits of time whenever I’ve been able to write posts.

However, one of the aims of this blog was to train myself to write more consistently, to develop routines, and to become just a little more systematic in attacking goals. As I lamented in yesterday’s post, time always seems to get away from me, yet almost all of my ideas and aspirations take time. Lots of it. Since I haven’t figured out how to clone myself, I feel more and more pressure every day that I lose in getting on top of my goals, but some days are more harried than others. Some days I just give in and relax, stop trying so hard, and things just flow.

Here’s the plan I came up with, what I’m calling a Tomato Sandwich Approach to getting it done, one slice at a time, with enough variety and consideration of busy periods in my calendar over the next month to be totally caught up by the time I go to bed on December 1, assuming I can stick relatively close to such a systematic plan:

lap42ketchup1 lap42ketchup2 lap42ketchup23 lap42ketchup

Time management is either learning to pack more into less time by finding efficiencies or learning to say no and actually doing (or trying to do) less, focusing on greater focus (!) and effectiveness. Considering the first definition, yesterday I had the good fortune of “meeting” (via Skype) a true multi-tasker named Enrique Rubio. It’s odd, but there are some people you just click with automatically. Enrique reached out to EcoLogic basically with a blind/cold sales email from his startup social enterprise, Projectionary. A colleague passed his inquiry along, and I almost dismissed it, especially conscious of managing my time (thinking about the second definition of better time management). But something about his email grabbed my attention. The powerful one word name? The simple, fairly elegant platform?

In any case, I spoke with Enrique yesterday, saw his Twitter handle and bio, and noticed that not only does he work full time at the Inter American Development Bank (IDB), he’s also part of this startup team, he runs his own blog and advice column on topics of leadership, and he’s an ultrarunner. After we met, I connected him to Deborah Elizabeth Finn at Tech Networks of Boston (she’s a huge connector, the kind of person I really admire) and wrote him from my personal email, explaining that I had seen his non-IDB and non-Projectionary stuff and was impressed. Just like that, after a brief Skype call and an email back and forth, I identified someone with whom I have a ton in common. I invited him to join me on the Ultra Trail Los Nevados in Colombia in August 2016 (something I want to commit to, but I need to make the time – time, time, time …) and told him of my dream to build an AT in Colombia. His response was almost exactly what I would have said (and did say, back in 2004, with my Switzer Fellowship interview, and which always makes me wonder what I’m doing living in coastal Boston …):  “Your idea of creating the “AT” in Colombia sounds amazing!! I’m Venezuelan, but I’ll be more than excited to help you with this when the time comes. The mountains are my most sacred place and I love them more than any other type of landscape!”

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So I laid it out there, took a risk in telling him a little more than you might normally tell a new acquaintance, and voila. I’m amazed at how many people I’ve already amassed as possible collaborators for a TransColombia Trail. And at a time when hope is in the air, but time is in short supply, as always.

Apurate muchacho!

Oct 26 – Times Like These Tickin in My Busy Head

Sunrise / Sunset: 7:10am, 5:44pm

Today’s Foo song: Times Like These

Sunrise photo:

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned the hard way, it’s that time is such a finite resource, but somehow I never seem good at managing it. It just gets away from me. On this 42nd lap around the sun, I’m more sensitive than ever about my shortcomings. Quotes like this embolden me and infuse me with a sense of desperation simultaenously: “No such thing as spare time, no such thing as free time, no such thing as downtime. all you got is lifetime. Go.” – Henry Rollins.  Thanks sister for sending this my way. Eh, I think.

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Today was no exception. The sunlight faded away. I’d planned to leave work by 4pm to have time to run before biking home and going to a (really fun) condo meeting, but somehow I didn’t make it out until 5:45pm, then had to rush home, struggle through the condo meeting hungry and distracted before ticking off a fellow condo owner by speaking a little too frankly about our collective financial responsibilities for a building flood that happened last year and has dragged on since then. Normally, I’m an expert at sugarcoating things and avoiding conflict, but not tonight.

All of this reminds me a bit of my old Anthrax shirt. My classmates at Dartmouth ridiculed me for it, but I loved it. From the song “Got the Time.” (Fun fact: “In 2012, Anthrax became the first metal band to have its music played on Mars when its Got The Time was chosen by NASA to wake up the Mars Rover.” http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/anthrax-celebrates-the-30th-anniversary-of-its-classic-spreading-the-disease-300161544.html)

Somehow, the way the bass guitar sounds on songs like that one, keeping time, repetitive, just grabs me.  Always has. Maybe it’s my need for an external timekeeper, or to calm my brainwaves meditatively?

As today’s Foo Song goes, it’s times like these where you learn to live again. I keep trying to learn, to change habits. It’s not easy, but one small step at a time is the only way to do it. At least the publishing of this blog post happened on schedule!

Speaking of times like these, I’ll leave you with some Douglas Adams wisdom (i.e. listen to you know who!):

Arthur: You know, it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and I’m about to die of asphyxiation in deep space, that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.
Ford: Why, what did she tell you?
Arthur: I don’t know, I wasn’t listening.

Oct 24 – Don’t Let the Workout Control You, Megamind

Sunrise / Sunset: 7:08AM / 5:47PM

Foo Song: Gimme Stitches

Sunrise/Selfies:

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Woke up with Nina Bo Bina, my squishy little niece. Mateo, acting as he does as a big brother to Nina, got her ready for pickup by Tio Alex and Tia Lauren (Nina’s parents).  Then Mateo and I experienced some local culture shock, picking up Alana at a friend’s new house – a huge spiffy mansion in Cambridge. Wow. Then I was feeling down and jealous, and Alana was asking why she doesn’t get to grow up in a house like that if I grew up in a home on a lake in Florida that was so awesome. I simply don’t know what to say, realizing how my choices may limit the possibilities of my children, though that also seems absurd given all that my kids, especially Alana, have been able to experience – much of it not material at all. Then all of a sudden Carocalled to tell me how happy and positive she felt. That was great and very out of the ordinary. Almost always I’m the one bringing her up from feelings of (sometimes Facebook-fueled) jealousy.

When we got home after our regular Saturday routine of Boston City Singers and some birthday party fun, I decided to attack some things on my never ending to-do list. Including this blog. I honestly never knew how demanding writing daily posts would be. Gives me a ton of respect for columnists and comic strip artists. So I decided to make an Excel sheet / Google spreadsheet to organize the blog and keep up with it:

Blog Post Tracker image

This reminded me of the following advice: “Don’t let the workout control you.” You have to control it. Jim Wilson, one interesting, mildly aloof guy, my college swimming coach (who just announced his retirement), gave me this solid advice. Swimming 8 to 10 miles a day had a way of breaking me down emotionally, giving me the energy reserves of a sloth, especially when he would show us the entire workout on paper in advance (in high school, we often just worked through a mystery workout one set at a time, with no opportunity to get worked up with worry in advance). But Jim’s contention that I couldn’t let my mind get the best of me was great advice. Just stop overthinking things. I guess I need to revisit this advice. Frequently.

Mind over matter, but don’t let the mind matter so much, either. Nevermind…

Oct 14 – Chrysalis, and “Goodbye Pooh” Twenty Years Ago

On Oct 14, 1995 my mom passed away. No other way to say it. I made it home just in time, on Friday, Oct 13, flying down from Hanover, NH. I’ll always be grateful for my coach (who, incidentally, announced his retirement today) urging me to skip taking the GRE’s and get home fast. I still remember my dad waking me up on the couch, where I barely slept, telling me that mom had stopped breathing. Wandering downstairs numb. Joining around my mom’s bed with my family, holding hands, and then watching my dad lunge forward, hugging my mom, crying out “Goodbye Pooh” – his nickname for her. A scene etched forever in my memory.

So I remember her today with two Foo Songs:

  1. Resolve. I resolve to do a few things to honor my mom from now on. Live every day with intentional zest. Honor commitments with family and friends. And never stop dreaming big no matter what but remembering to take joy in simple things and good books.
  2. These Days. To explain the significance of These Days, I’m re-posting an excerpt from the Lap42 blog launch: 

in the Foo Fighters concert in July, there was a point when I stopped feeling euphoric and connected to all the thrilled, chorus-chanting concert-goers and instead felt melancholy and pensive, suddenly alone with my own thoughts, remembering my mom and the mystery of death and what lies beyond. During the song “These Days,” with the line that one of these days your heart will stop and play its final beat, I found myself transported back in a breathless flashback to that October morning in Florida 1995 when my mom took her own final breath just after I had made it home from New Hampshire (Dartmouth College, my senior year) the previous evening. Perhaps the Foo Fighters aren’t the deepest of all bands, but that concert flipped a switch for me, giving me a sense of Resolve to live every day with passion and energy, not unlike Dave Grohl (playing to the sold out crowd with a broken leg, clearly loving what he does and how he lives his life as a genuine, authentic rockstar – and father).


Today’s Sunrise: 6:55 A.M. – Just before sunrise, I honored my mom with short walk in park and a cup of tea. Nope, mom, I still ain’t drinking coffee. Went to spot where I spent the final morning with Doah-dog back in October 2013. Beautiful early morning pre-dawn glow and planets / moon in sky. Came back and looked at the new altar.

grainy altar selfie

Had a really fun, simple morning with kiddos. Alana happily doing homework, so in a groove. Whipped together breakfast and lunches. Got out the door. Drove my kiddos to school. Enjoyed being all together in the same car, them singing in the back, Alana leading Mateo in falsetto imitation of Maroon Five’s Adam Levine. Took Mateo to class. Looked together at a chrysalis, thought about rebirth. Here’s a fuzzy picture of the classroom’s chrysalis:

chrysalis

Went to Peet’s. Enjoyed stroll through Harvard Square. Took train to Alewife.. Got off random way and wandered. I love to wander. Forget GPS and Google Maps. Ended up in Fresh Pond Apartments public housing with no way to cross the tracks, so just ambled back to street and fond my way to work, here in time at 9AM-ish. Ish 🙂 Could have been annoyed at waste of time, but it was cool to explore little pockets I didn’t know existed. Saw the bright red sumac in the Alewife wetlands, discovered an outdoor pool as part of the Russell Athletic Complex that I had no idea existed. Always amazed when I discover stuff even after having been in this town for 15 years. Like we did the day we went apple picking.


Wrote this on Facebook around noon:

Mom, twenty years gone but never really gone. I’ve thought about you every single day since October 14, 1995. As a parent and spouse, there have been so many times I’ve wished I could seek your advice in addition to the awesome counsel of Lawrence Kramer and wished I could share life’s events with you, take you to the highest mountaintops in Colombia, and tell you about my day. So lucky to have been raised by you. If I can be one tenth of the parent you were to me, my kids are going to be awesome. Thanks forever for giving me inspiration, strength, and resolve – plus true zest for life.Carolyn Kramer-Fountain & John P. Reed Here’s a small altar my amazing wife Carito Cali put together in our living room to honor you. The beer’s my addition just for you, though I know you prefer a stiff margarita 🙂

mom altar

After Cholly (my sister) wrote this:

Wow. I can’t believe you have been gone 20 years already Mom. I miss you still each & every day… Although some days are easier & some are still so hard. If I am really lucky I dream about you Time flies! With Lawrence Kramer & David Kramer & John P. Reed

mom great lady

Ended the day just after sunset (6:05 P.M. today, days are getting shorter fast!) with first run home from our new office. Felt buoyed by my mom’s memory. Blazed the eight miles home with energy and a feeling of real lightness under foot, singing the chorus of Resolve over and over in my head, winding along the Charles River and Boston’s Emerald Necklace. And finished the day off with this blog post and a double IPA beer for mom.

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