Friday, April 5, 2013

12 Days of Spring Break in Haiku (MB)

I lied about writing my next blog post about "everything I need to know I learned from Downton Abbey".  That is/was a great idea but unfortunately the moment passed.  Winter was a great time to be inspired by Downton, but spring may actually be arriving now and it's time to turn my attention to the other long-awaited historic TV pleasure, Mad Men.

Instead, I have a simple reflection on our much-needed Spring Break trip last week (plus).  Here goes.

Day 1:

Comfy on highway
Blackberry still buzzing but
Quiet by Pittsburgh

Day 2:

Finally slept; now --
Sun on Capitol Hill for
Collins wedding fun

Day 3:

Precious and subtle;
Son and daughter, with our clan
In D.C.'s riches

Day 4:

Cousins, kin; we love
That in this big cold city
We are everywhere

Day 5:

Nieces and nephews
Fresh, demanding; fleeting times
Today, back on road

Day 6:

Nana, Mads in back
Peter, shotgun; we stop to
Walk Williamsburg, scan Norfolk

Day 7:

Beach motel, fresh air
Vast seascapes, golf for Peter
Happy fish dinner

Day 8:

Tunes through rich coast lands
Drop Nana with Papa; slip
in stop with old friends

Day 9:

Wake in the mountains
Many memories, echos
Growing parents, kids

Day 10:

We all hike to top
Blue Mountain, huddle, safe perch
End day with art, eggs

Day 11:

Lazy Easter morn
Kids: treats, play; moms: coffee, talk
We take off again

Day 12:

Louisville bridges --
Listen to Opening Day
Home, little snow left

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Catching Up (MB)

Dear, Dear Abby:

You are back in L.A. now with your boys after having been here in Wisconsin with us for 2 plus weeks.  We got to catch up in person some, although not enough for my taste.  I was largely to blame for this.  Catching up with a dear friend during the holiday season and end-of-year at work is a challenge, come to find out.

In any case, I owed you some "catching up" long before you arrived . .  you've now provided a couple really well-done posts that I thoroughly enjoyed, and that brought me a little closer to you even before you arrived here, and I have failed to respond timely.

Life for me has been rich and busy, and that is largely why I haven't written.  I'm not sure if either of us really has really gotten a good survey of the full panoply of stuff we're both dealing with, in our recent visit or through this blog.  I think we've had a lot of miscellaneous snacks from the Abby and Mary Beth vending machines as opposed to the full multi-course meal of Abby or Mary Beth cuisine.  The snacks are a lot better than going hungry but there are still gaps in my understanding of all you do each day and are thinking about over there, as was illuminated by all the new territory we just started dipping into when we were speaking in person in Madison over the last couple of weeks.  Similarly, my life is so full of so many things that I can scarcely do them credit to any one other person.  My kids are well aware of the tidbits from home like running laundry, my latest homecooked meal, my enthusiastic Christmas cookie baking, and my best attempts to getting some modest holiday shopping done and a holiday card out to loved ones.  My co-workers know of the long to-do list at the office and the challenge to meet budget at the non-profit this year. My clients know about those end of year goals of getting documents signed.  My sisters know something of the extended family goings-on.  My neighbors and friends know of the planning to get kids out to the ski hill (which by the way apparently requires about 25 emails. . . . would you like to develop an online business product with me that would serve parents hustling kids in carpools to do fun and necessary things?).  You get the point.  Many spheres of activity, and much going on in each.  Same for you.  The blog doesn't make the cut sometimes.

I do have some reflections on 2012, and 2013.  It is, after all, that time of year.  We must seize the opportunity (however arbitrary it is) to allow ourselves a chance to reflect, re-boot, and feel fresh again.  I know it works for me, however fleetingly.

2012 was a year of things being harder than we thought.  Almost everyone near and dear to me went through a lot of hard work and toil and demands for patience and persistence, even if they began the year thinking there was not a huge challenge on their plate.  It was a year of understanding that these bogs we wade through, slowly, can actually be the paths we must take to move forward.  However, in contrast, for me, a major lesson was that if the bog becomes too cumbersome and you no longer feel that you're covering ground, there's a chance you've burdened yourself with something unnecessary and stifling.  I learned a lot about my capacity for worry this year.  I also learned a lot about my passion for what really, really matters.  My grandma passing away jolted me into clarity around the issue of authenticity.  We can dream up narratives about ourselves, and sometimes we must, just to keep going and have some fun and stick with our plan and vision for the future.  The key is that the narrative really must be real and true to whatever you really are and what you really, really believe.  I think if we can all arrive at a narrative, a character sketch, a self-awareness about what we really do like and believe, that is based on honesty about ourselves to ourselves, we can all become our own greatest selves.  If you feel like you're plodding through a bog you probably haven't re-evaluated your authentic narrative in a while.  It may be hard to face the revision that needs to be made.

I read the book Good to Great this past summer.  There are lots of catchy themes and terms that I can drop (and will, more than likely) from that book, and they are indeed fairly useful, I reckon.  One thing the author talks about is that in good businesses someone figured out to get the right people "on the bus" before you really take it anywhere.  This is all a metaphor for building a team with the right people for your business endeavor.

I hold a similar concept and metaphor dear on the issue of proceeding forward with one's personal narrative.   I use a boat as opposed to a bus.  It must be the Mississippi River heritage in me.  It goes like this.  By our age, you probably know the essential key things that really matter and make you happy.  They can be as important and understood as your children and parents and dear friends, or simple and of an accessory nature, like good books or yoga or baseball.  I think if you know you have the essential components -- big and small -- that serve you, truly matter to you, bring you joy and satisfaction, in your boat, you're halfway there.  Then, you set your boat to sail forward and let the currents and winds blow you a little.  If the boat is moving forward, and you're not stuck in the bog, trudging and dragging, then you're probably on track and being true.  If you get stuck, you might need to unload something or just let go of some assumptions about the direction you're supposed to be headed in.  I think if you just know what's supposed to be in your boat, though, and follow the current -- consistently paddling, mind you (my midwestern self will never accept that one can just sit back and float) -- everything should work out.

This leads me to take issue with your last post which focused in part on your love affair with the "ideas stage".  You may have a lot of ideas that haven't fully come to fruition, but you're the best I know about being honest about what's in your boat and being willing to throw some new things in and throw them out.  You are also very willing to go with the current. In the course of all that you get some great ideas.  They reflect these things you care about (what's in your boat) and your experiences as you continue down the river.  You may well wish to gain focus in seeing some of these ideas through -- that's all fine and good and a great resolution for the new year.  From what I saw when you visited, you've led a hell of an expedition down the river with all sorts of good things big and small in your boat (from all the "little" passionate interests of the Shotwell clan to the Shotwell boys themselves who are remarkable).  I don't see you getting stuck in the bog too often. I think when the idea that's meant to take form is ripe and ready, your expedition will lead you to it.  Don't try too hard, and for heaven's sake, don't get all cynical with yourself about not having developed "the big one" into action yet.  I got a good feeling about this year, and I'm pretty sure you're right on track.

Downton Abbey Season 3 is about to come on Wisconsin Public Television.  I would be revealing how dreadfully pathetic I truly am if I tried to articulate how excited I am.  I love that we connected on this shared obsession when you were home.

My next blog post will be: "Everything I Need to Know about Life I Learned from Downton Abbey."  Seriously.  It's half-written.  Don't beat me to it.

Peace and Love and Happy Paddling.