Happy Holidays 2013!

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


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…

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  1. Jer December 25, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    I have read a lot of these letters and yours is one of my favorites. Thank you for sharing it with me. A few comments.

    My wife can relate to Molly. It's not an easy transition. I hope the WHEN happens soon.

    On age and time…it actually DOES speed up. Think about it. When you are 5, a year is 20% of your entire life. When you are 50, it is 2%, so in absolute terms, the year you just experience is a much smaller percentage of your overall time, therefore it seems like it went much faster.

    My son had pretty much the same experience on the appendectomy. See here: http://jer979.blogspot.com/2011/04/appendectomy-real-life-moment.html

    Love the phrase of the day. Could be a blog in and of itself.

    Time boxing could be very fun. Like, ok, on June 20th, Microsoft closes down and we start again Aug. 27th 😉

    I agree with your buddy Eric Ulner. Few have the cojones to do it though. And then realize it too late, sad to say.

    The question of kids and phones is intriguing. The right balance is really hard to strike. I sympathize on that one.

    As for laughing, you can go with this: in your family picture, it looks like have 1 daughter and 2 sons.

    On the Big History…I didn't even know about this. I will check it out. Thanks for that.

    Alchemist is a great book. I was similarly inspired. http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?link_code=ur2&tag=jeremysblog-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Fgp%2Fproduct%2F0062502182%2Fsr%3D8-1%2Fqid%3D1155000302%2Fref%3Dpd_bbs_1%3Fie%3DUTF8

    War of Art is also good stuff.

    Thanks for taking the time. Happy Holidays.


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