3 years, 6 months, and 20 days. The secret to making friends is to focus on understanding others first, and worry less about being understood.

https://i0.wp.com/media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/a4/fb/0a/a4fb0a6f1d3db53d2402d76fed04e8f9.jpg

O Master, grant that I may never seek
so much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love with all my soul.

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

It is my hope that your lives, individually, are full of good and close friends — confidants with whom you could share your fears, hopes, and dreams; and who aspire you to be better.  However, I suspect this is not the case…not because any failing of yours, but because that is the trend.

Several years ago, a study found that “Americans’ lists of … [real friends, as opposed to Facebook “friends”] has shrunk to two, down from three confidantes 25 years ago.”  http://www.livescience.com/16879-close-friends-decrease-today.html.  While this study debunked an earlier study, which suggested that nearly a quarter of Americans had no confidant at all, http://www.livescience.com/846-americans-lose-touch-report-close-friends.html, it did acknowledge concerns regarding the strength of the social ties of Americans today.  Specifically,

Brashears asked participants about a randomly selected friend they had listed, including the types of support that person could provide. Answers included: companionship, a loan of a significant amount of money, and a loan of a significant amount of non-monetary support, such as a place to crash for a while.

“Interestingly, among those respondents who reported only one discussion partner, a number of them reported that their associate would not provide any of these benefits,” Brashears said. “This leads me to think that we should be less concerned about social isolation, or lacking any social contact, and more concerned about social poverty, or not having adequate support.”

In other words, we may have some people with whom we could share matters of importance, but they are fair weather friends (“friends” who are there only for the good times) and no more.  It’s not the social contacts that matter, but the social support that our friends provide that nourishes and sustains us.  This is consistent with my experience.  The five-year battle with the Enron of Healthcare and the current battle with racist CPS officials revealed who our real friends are, and those who were but fair weather friends.

Today, Facebook, YouTube, television, and other social media are chock full of people screaming for attention.  People proudly boast about the number of “friends” they have on Facebook or “followers” on Twitter, etc.  They drive BMW’s, wear the latest fashion, and frequent the most popular hotspots in hope of gaining the admiration or approval of others.

That is so sad.  Is the admiration or approval of such “friends”, “followers”, and strangers all that important?  If you should injure yourself, would these “friends”, “followers”, and admirers rush to your aid?  Do you rush to theirs?  Can you?   Even if you wanted to, most likely you cannot because they are strangers whom you have never met in person, and who may frequently share moments of joy and wit to impress you, but never an intimate thought that would reveal their true selves to you.

Waste not your time on such empty ties.  Make the effort to find and surround yourselves with true friends, who will be there for you and inspire you, and whom you inspire and support.

This is not an easy endeavor, but one well worth the effort.  Start with the strategy offered by St. Francis of Assisi.  He is a wise man, http://www.biography.com/people/st-francis-of-assisi-21152679#devotion-to-christianity, and it is a wise strategy.

(No, I’m not saying go nuts in your youth, and shave your hair and wear a rough tunic in later years!  I am saying value less material goods, and value more the humanity you show to others.)

The strategy of focusing on the needs of others is wise for several reasons.  First, if everyone fought for the attention of others, no one would win.  It’s like a hungry mob fighting over a bag of grain: the grain spills everywhere and no one gets his fill.  Second, even if you got their attention, now what?  What good does it do you?  In mere moments, their attention would be diverted elsewhere on the ethernet.  To keep the attention of these fickle fans, you must constantly work to put shiny new pictures, witty and pithy observations,  or other trinkets before them.  Is this how you want to spend your hours, your days, and your lives?

We all have needs.  Is it not better to take turn helping each meet the other’s needs, than to fight to see whose needs would be met first?  St. Francis suggested it would be best to help another meet his or her needs first.  They would then return the favor in kind.

I frequently meet people who complain about having a hard time making friends.  My first question is: are you a good friend to others?  If you are not a good friend to others, and not willing to lend them your ear, how can you expect otherwise from them?

Be a friend to others.  You’ll be surprise how that kindness will return to you manifold.

All my love, always,

Dad

3 years, 6 months, 19 days. Only the boring are bored. Always learn and grow.

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Today’s post comes from people much smarter than me: the folks from Brain Pickings.  Enjoy the lessons they impart.

In October of 2013, as Brain Pickings turned seven, I marked the occasion by looking back on the seven most important things I learned from the thousands of hours spent reading, writing, and living during those first seven years. (Seven is an excellent numeral — a prime, a calendric unit, the perfect number of dwarfs.) I shared those reflections not as any sort of universal advice on how a life is to be lived, but as centering truths that have emerged and recurred in the course of how this life has been lived; insights that might, just maybe, prove useful or assuring for others. (Kindred spirits have since adapted these learnings into a poster and a short film.)

As Brain Pickings turns nine, I continue to stand by these seven reflections, but the time has come to add two more. (Nine is also an excellent numeral — an exponential factorial, the number of Muses in Greek mythology, my favorite chapter in Alice in Wonderland.) Here are the original seven, as they appeared in 2013:

  1. Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate that capacity for “negative capability.” We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.
  2. Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone. As Paul Graham observed, “prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.” Those extrinsic motivators are fine and can feel life-affirming in the moment, but they ultimately don’t make it thrilling to get up in the morning and gratifying to go to sleep at night — and, in fact, they can often distract and detract from the things that do offer those deeper rewards.
  3. Be generous. Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artifact being critiqued. To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.
  4. Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken.

    Most importantly, sleep. Besides being the greatest creative aphrodisiac, sleep also affects our every waking moment, dictates our social rhythm, and even mediates our negative moods. Be as religious and disciplined about your sleep as you are about your work. We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic. But what it really is is a profound failure of self-respect and of priorities. What could possibly be more important than your health and your sanity, from which all else springs?

  5. When people tell you who they are, Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. Just as importantly, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you.
  6. Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living — for, as Annie Dillard memorably put it, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
  7. “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.” This is borrowed from the wise and wonderful Debbie Millman, for it’s hard to better capture something so fundamental yet so impatiently overlooked in our culture of immediacy. The myth of the overnight success is just that — a myth — as well as a reminder that our present definition of success needs serious retuning. As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.

And here are the two new additions:

  1. Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Patti Smith, in discussing William Blake and her creative influences, talks about writers and artists who magnified her spirit — it’s a beautiful phrase and a beautiful notion. Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance.
  2. Don’t be afraid to be an idealist. There is much to be said for our responsibility as creators and consumers of that constant dynamic interaction we call culture — which side of the fault line between catering and creating are we to stand on? The commercial enterprise is conditioning us to believe that the road to success is paved with catering to existing demands — give the people cat GIFs, the narrative goes, because cat GIFs are what the people want. But E.B. White, one of our last great idealists, was eternally right when he asserted half a century ago that the role of the writer is “to lift people up, not lower them down” — a role each of us is called to with increasing urgency, whatever cog we may be in the machinery of society. Supply creates its own demand. Only by consistently supplying it can we hope to increase the demand for the substantive over the superficial — in our individual lives and in the collective dream called culture.

9 Learnings from 9 Years of Brain Pickings

Read voraciously.  Live fully and contently.  Laugh heartily.  Love mightily.  These are my hopes and dreams for you.

I love you always,

Dad

3 years, 6 months, 14 days. Attitude is everything. Know you will be successful. Go to college.

https://i1.wp.com/iqdoodle.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/daily-rituals-iq-doodle-blog.jpg

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

A number of your cousins on your mom’s side have kids before they are married, do not have college degrees, and have dead-end jobs that will lead to nowhere.  On the other hand, your cousins on my side include a president and CEO of a wholly-owned overseas subsidiary of a top American marketing firm in New York, have college degrees, and hold professional jobs with opportunities for advancement.  In other words, the cousins on my side have a bright future, whereas those on the other side do not.

Whose footsteps do you want to follow?  Would you be willing to work hard today to guarantee a bright future for you and your family, or would you rather goof off today and sell your future short?  (Mind you, those cousins may be “nice” and their girlfriends may be “nice”, but success in life is about a lot more than being nice.)

You can do better.  I raised you to be better.

The key is to have a good attitude and be self-disciplined.  These attributes are more important than ever because I cannot be there to guide you every day, and your mom thinks letting do you whatever you want is good parenting.  (No, that’s lazy parenting.  It takes a lot of hard work to be a good parent.)

https://i1.wp.com/jimfrancisblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Poor-vs-Rich.png

Remember I how I told you that in life, there are doers and there are talkers?  Be a doer.  Be prone to action.  Talk is cheap, right?  Anyone can opine about anything.  But, it is the good man who gets off his duff and lends his neighbor a hand.

But, being action oriented has its price.  You will know the frustration and sorrow failure brings.  But, it’s okay.  Consider the alternative.  If you do nothing meaningful with your life, that would constitute the greatest failure of all.  People often refuse to act because they are fearful.  Unfortunately, those fears often never subside.  Instead, they grow with time, taking on greater significance than they are due.

In her commencement speech to Harvard graduates, J.K. Rowling discussed how fear animates the unimaginative and do-nothings.

They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.
I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.
What is more, those who choose not to empathise enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.
As she said, the unimaginative sees more monsters and, by their silent acquiescence, enables real monsters to exist.  Thus, not putting yourself in others’ shoes and doing nothing exact its own price.  Peace of mind does not lie there.

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. - Thomas A. Edison

The truth is you fail only when you don’t learn from your mistakes.  It is said Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times before successfully creating the first light bulb.  He was late in joining the efforts to create an electric light bulb (other inventors were already trying), but he focused on smaller and domestic bulbs, and ultimately changed the world because he persevered.  J.K. Rowling was rejected by 40 publishers before finally finding a home for her Harry Potter series.  Today, she is a billionaire.

The winner in this world is the man who not only gets back up after falling down (after failing), but who also gets back up the quickest.  That takes mental fortitude and self-discipline.

(I must admit, this last round has me very slow getting to my feet.  I spent five years fighting the $40 billion Enron of Healthcare, not because they denied me health benefits, but because they cheated the sick and dying of the health benefits they needed and to which they were legally entitled.  I brought the health insurer to justice, but the fight destroyed my career and my marriage.  Then, I fought a “Christian” church that thought nothing of bringing 120 convicted sex offenders and convicted criminals literally next door to one elementary school and within 500 yards from a second, and keeping the community in the dark about their activities while enhancing protections for their own church members.  For our efforts, the award-winning reporter who brought this story to light was fired the week before Christmas.  Three other groups of parents had previously tried to get the church to move its ministry but failed to even get press coverage.  That battle was on-going when the fight with your mom for your custody started.  She would rather watch TV and have you play video games than take you to your favorite park right next door, or take you to child therapy for which I had already paid.  That is laziness, not parenting.  This last battle was the hardest because I had to hold back and pull my punches for your sake.  She is, and will always be, your mother.  To hurt her is to hurt you.  But, on the other hand, she had no problem hurting me, and you guys as a result.  She and her piece of shit lawyer lied, played dirty, and completely destroyed our family and your lives as a result.  We lost your childhood home and our lives together in the new home because their convenient lies.  Now, I have to fight fascist and racist government officials who boost their departmental budgets by taking kids from their families.  See, e.g., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5fqaaBpTLY; http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1216573; and, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkIBX0J70b0.  But, rest assured, as long as there is breath in my lungs, I will fight my way back to you.  I may be tired, bruised, and bloodied, but I will never give up on you.)

For now, my sons, be self-disciplined and have a good mental attitude to forge forward towards a brighter tomorrow.  Study hard.  Try to get into the best college you can … so that more doors would be open to you.  As you can see from the links below, college graduates earn a lot more money over the course of their lives than those without college degrees.  But, it’s not all about earning money: it’s also about living a good life and leaving behind a good legacy for your own children when you choose to have them.  The last link shows how children of parents who are professionals are exposed to significantly more vocabulary words throughout their live than children of parents of lower education and social-economic levels.  For example, studies show that in a typical hour, children of professionals are exposed to 2,153 words versus 1,251 and 616 of children of working class and welfare parents, respectively.  In a year, that comes out to be 11 million words versus 6 million or 3 million.  Greater vocabulary means greater reading comprehension, better education, better jobs, and brighter futures

Emergence of the Problem

In a typical hour, the average child hears:

Family Status Actual Differences in Quantity of Words Heard Actual Differences in Quality of Words Heard
Welfare 616 words 5 affirmations, 11 prohibitions
Working Class 1,251 words 12 affirmations, 7 prohibitions
Professional 2,153 words 32 affirmations, 5 prohibitions

 

 

Cumulative Vocabulary Experiences

Family Status Words heard per hour Words heard in a 100-hour week Words heard in a 5,200 hour year Words heard in 4 years
Welfare 616 62,000 3 million 13 million
Working Class 1,251 125,000 6 million 26 million
Professional 2,153 215,000 11 million 45 million

 

 

I love you always,

Dad

3 years, 6 months, and 13 days. Start preparing for college, Shosh.

https://shoshandjaialai.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/9370c-pre2.jpg?w=753&h=565

http://grownandflown.com/12-most-salient-ways-to-help-your-teen-through-eleventh-grade/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/11/AR2006041100484.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/emma-adam/how-to-help-teens-reduce-_b_6134006.html

Dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I hope you are well.  I have been nursing a cough for more than two weeks, and it hadn’t been fun.

My father (your paternal grandfather) died of emphysema when I was 7 years old.   I cannot imagine how difficult that must have been … not being able to breathe.  http://www.webmd.com/lung/copd/emphysema-symptoms.  He was a smoker.  Thus, don’t smoke.  Not being able to fill your lungs and get enough air for the last few months of your life must have been a terrible way to die.

Jaialai, you experienced a bit of this when you were a baby: you often had the croup.  It was horrible!  Your windpipe constricted and you’d wheeze and cough like a seal. To help loosen the airway, at the doctor’s directions, I would bundle you up and open the windows to let cold air into the room.  Since this usually occurred during the night, I spent many cold hours in my pajama, holding and rocking you.  I can still remember those cold nights, counting the vapor plumes that formed from my breath and willing my cocooned seal pup to transform back into my baby once more.

I hope you no longer get croup, Jaialai.  If you do, who would take care of you?  When you were a baby, your mom preferred giving you corticosteriods, so as to not interfere with her sleep.  I took a different tact.  Corticosteriods can have significant adverse effects; thus, I only used them as a last resort.  A little cold air and a bit of discomfort is nothing compared to the potential negative consequences corticosteriods may pose to my baby Jaialai.

The prolonged use of corticosteroids can cause obesity, growth retardation in children, and even lead to convulsions and psychiatric disturbances. Reported psychiatric disturbances include depression, euphoria, insomnia, mood swings, and personality changes. Psychotic behaviors also have been reported.

Corticosteroids, since they suppress the immune system, can lead to an increase in the rate of infections and reduce the effectiveness of vaccines and antibiotics.

http://www.medicinenet.com/corticosteroids-oral/page5.htm.

Thus, it is with life, my sons: a moment’s sacrifice today may lead to significant advantages in the years to come.  So, work hard and study well, boys.  Your efforts will pay off handsomely in the years ahead.

Shosh, your count down to college begins today.  Start making preparations.

First, study for the SAT this summer.  Buy a Kaplan 2016 or 2017 Premiere SAT study guide.  If you are not aware, as of this year, the SAT has a new format.  Thus, you must buy the new, updated study guides instead of using old ones.  https://www.amazon.com/SAT-Premier-2017-Practice-Tests/dp/1506202284/ref=dp_ob_title_bk.  Practice makes perfect.  Do as many practice exercises and practice tests as you can.  You will thank me when you get top scores and gain admission to top colleges in the U.S.

Second, improve your vocabulary and your reading and critical analysis skills.  Having a strong vocabulary and good reading and critical analysis skills will not only help you in school today, but also with the SAT next year, and with college and work in the years ahead.

The best way to improve your vocabulary is to learn Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes.

One study has shown that a set of 20 prefixes and 14 roots, and knowing how to use them, will unlock the meaning of over 100,000 words. A similar study showed that a set of 29 prefixes and 25 roots will give the meaning to over 125,000 words.Imagine adding suffixes!

http://www.readingfirst.virginia.edu/elibrary_pdfs/Building_Vocabulary.pdf

Why?  Because a sizeable proportion of the English language has roots in Latin or Greek.  Some studies have estimated as much as 75 percent of English words come from Latin or Greek.  Drs. Rasinski, Padak, Newton, and Newton posits that as much as 90 percent of English words with more than one syllable are Latin-based.  https://www.teachercreatedmaterials.com/media/uploads/tcm/documents/webinars/building_vocabulary_handout.pdf.  Thus, knowing Latin and Greek roots can help you decipher a significant proportion of multisyllabic words you will come across in your SAT and other readings.

For example, consider the word unforeseeable.  You can deconstruct the word into its three component parts:

  • prefixes: un-, which means “not”; and, fore-, which means “before”
  • root: see-, which means “to see”
  • suffix: –able, which means “able to”

Combined, the word describes something that cannot be predicted or seen beforehand.  Thus, by separating and analyzing the meaning of a prefix, root, and suffix, you can decipher unfamiliar words such neonatology (neo- means “new”; nat- means “to be born, to spring forth, to be from”; and, –ology means “study of”– combined, the word neonatology means “the study of newborns, or the branch of medicine concerned with the development and abnormalities of newborns”); and, holocaust (holo- means “whole or complete”; and, caust- means “to burn” — combined, the word holocaust means to burn something completely, and is often used the refer to the process used by the Nazi to try completely burn the bodies million of Jewish children, women, and men during WWII).

This method is but one tool in your box of English tools.  It helps you decipher the majority of new vocabulary words you will encounter.  However, it is not 100 percent foolproof.

First, not all the words you will encounter while living, studying, and working in America will come from Latin or Greek.  For example, you boys love sushi.  That word comes from Japan. Pho, a Vietnamese word, has now made its appearance in the Oxford English Dictionary.   The words pretzel and knapsack come from German.  The words pajama and jungle come from India.  The list goes on.  As America is a melting pot, most immigrants to America have made their contributions to the language.

Second, the Latin or Greek roots may not give you the entire meaning of the word.  For example, consider the word exportable.  Breaking it down into its component parts, you get the following: ex- means “out”; port- means “to carry”; and, –able means “able to”.  Combined, you would guess the word describes something that you can carry out.  But, out of what?  Here, you would have to rely on the context of the sentence in which you found the word export to help you get a better understanding of the word.  Let’s say the sentence reads, “Certain technologies are exportable to China, but others are not.”  This, then, suggests exportable means something that can be carried out of one country into another.  (This would be correct: exports are goods sent from our country to another country; and imports are goods sent from another into a country into our country.)  On the other hand, let’s say the sentence reads, “The data is exportable in txt format.”  As used here, exportable means the data can be transferred or carried out into another computer program in txt format.  Thus, use context clues to help you decipher new words.

There are many good web sites to help you learn Latin and Greek roots.  In addition to the short list found via the above link, consider using the following site as well:

There are many other web sites that offer Greek or Latin roots.  Use them with caution.  As you should know by now, the Internet has a lot of useful information, but also a lot of junk.  Anyone can post anything, regardless of its truthfulness, validity, usefulness, etc.  I have seen a number of list that contain incorrect entries.

Learn a few words every day.  Review what you’ve previously learned every night.  This will help with retention.

I love you always,

Dad

 

 

3 years, 6 months, 7 days. Don’t ever lose your sense of adventure, Jaialai.

214603f00e96f6c13ab2383ee2a1d714

Dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Jaialai, one of my favorite sayings of yours is this: “Daddy, let’s go somewhere we’ve never been before!”

That is the essence of why you and I get along so famously.  You have an amazing sense of adventure.  Life is an adventure.  It is a journey.

My wish for you boys is to experience life in the fullest and most positive way possible.  If anything, collect experiences, not things.  If you remember one thing from our time together, I hope it’s that.

Remember how, during that last summer together, we explored many of the surrounding waterways?  We even ventured to Scotts Mills, where I used to catch crawdads and guppies as a child!  Remember how cold the water was? Even Little V braved the water to catch fish, remember?

Remember our trip to Okinawa? the second largest aquarium in the world, where we saw three whale sharks?  Shosh, remember you were so excited that you wanted to go through it twice?  Jaialai, remember how you hated water at the start of our trip?  Heck, you even tried to deck Auntie C when she pulled you into her swimming pool!  But, midway through our Okinawa trip, after days of hanging out the beach and using the outdoors shower, you shouted at the top of your lungs “I LOVE WATER!!!” as you used the outdoors shower.  I have that on video.  Both Shosh, who is like a fish, and I were so proud of you!

Live, boys.  Enjoy life.

I’m always with you in my heart.  Look upon the night sky and know that where ever I am, I am also looking at the stars and thinking of you.

All my love, always,

Dad

3 years, 5 months, 34 days. Embrace life, Jaialai!

DSC09941 - Copy

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

If Shosh were my genius, then you are my magical elf, Jaialai.  (Have you ever seen the elves in the Lord of the Ring movies?  They are cool!)

Shosh’s memorable lines includes such gems as seaweed “tastes like bean!”  Yours include such lines as, “We’re all from Africa!”  (Anthropologically speaking, that’s a claim most scientists would agree with.)

Shosh grew up during the “good” years, when I worked hard but earned a good income.  His life was of leisure and not one of want.  It was only later, for example, when I bought a car with GPS that I came to better understand what life had been for him.  Apparently, while I worked, mom, being bored, would drive him around all over the place to explore.  Often, they would get lost.  That’s why he hated to explore and would rather stay home!  That’s why he hated streets that lead to dead-ends!  (“If I see a dead-end, I’m going to roll it up and put it in my pocket!”)  That’s why, when I bought the car with the GPS, he positioned himself in the middle of the back seat so that he could always see where we were on the map at all times!  (Of course, during the divorce, your mom got rid of both cars with GPS.  Mother-of-the-Year stuff.)

On the other hand, Jaialai, you grew up during the lean years.  These were the years when I lost my job because I blew the whistle against the Enron of Healthcare.  (For example, the insurance company was lying and telling members their insurance plan didn’t cover bariatric surgery when the insurer knew well it did.  Even their Vice President of Legal and General Counsel participated in the fraud.)

It was a dark time for me.  I had been a well-paid and highly valued problem solver with top firms and corporations.  (For example, shortly after I joined the company, they promoted me to management and gave me a 30 percent salary increase; however, because I refused to let go of the numerous violations of insurance laws that I subsequently discovered the Enron of Healthcare was engaged in, senior leadership eliminated my position.  Fortunately, a couple of directors stepped forward and fought the decision, arguing I was the only one working to resolve problems; thus, until they finally got rid of me, the company had to keep me at my management salary level despite the demotion.)

As a man and a workaholic, it was extremely hard for me to be stuck at home babysitting every morning when your mother returned to work.  What made it even worse was that, despite years of her nagging that I should stay home to let her go back to work because she was bored babysitting Shosh, after I lost my job and she returned to work, she quickly hated work and complained incessantly of that and the fact that her salary was insufficient to cover expenses for our lifestyle.  (I told her so when she wanted me to quit earlier.)  She started going around the house, pointing to this and that, saying “Mine!” She considered everything hers because she was earning a salary and paying for expenses at the time.  This cruel and petty act ignored the fact that she voluntarily chose to quit her job and was a housewife the majority of the time we were married; thus, until this short break where the roles were reversed, I had been the breadwinner and she had been the one staying home.  Did I walk around the house saying everything is mine? No!

I became depressed.

You saved me.  You’d come around and say, “Are you sad, Daddy?  Let me dance and make you happy!”

That’s you.  You spread joy.

Gramma used to laugh so hard when playing with you.  I had never seen her laugh that hard.  You would make up all these games and rules, and you were a stickler when she broke the rules.  (Half the time, I think she simply didn’t understand your instructions because her English was poor.)

Despite all that has happened, Jaialai, don’t change.  Embrace life.  Bring joy.  That is a gift.

All my love, always,

Dad

P.S., quick, what do you make with young pumpkin leaves, the vines of the root vegetables, and a piece of tin?

3 years, 5 months, 33 days. Be the story teller you were meant to be, Shosh.

100_4961 (2)

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Forgive me, Jaialai.  Allow me to talk to Shosh a little more today, OK?

Shosh, you were always full of stories — vivid and exciting tales.  Our world was filled with adventures about balloons, dinosaurs, cement mixers, and superheroes because of you.  As a child, you were constantly drawing, reading, or telling stories.

DSC09797 - Copy

You wove into your stories your favorite dishes, aunties, story characters, etc. You loved the color red; thus, it often made entry.  The number 8  captured your fancy early on, so that was another frequent theme.  (One of your first words was “EIGHT!”  Yes, you shouted it out with pride and joy: it was never a mere utterance.  In time, you trained your mother well because as we listened to a CD, you’d shout out track numbers — eight! four! ten! — and would throw a fit if she did not immediately changed the CD to that track.)

Juggernaut and Darth Maul were among your favorite characters because of their primary color, but you created your own superhero who could beat them all.  Do you remember his name?

One day, your stories stopped.  It wasn’t an abrupt event, but in time I noticed the stories became less frequent.  Their absence was pronounced.

I fear I am to blame.  You see, for most of my career, I worked 90-100-hour work-weeks.

I made you two promises when you were born.  For the most part, I religiously kept them until recent events made them impossible without jeopardizing your well-being.

First, I promised I would always be there to take you to the doctor.  During our time together, I was there for each and every single one of your doctor’s and dentist’s appointments … even when your mother wasn’t.  (That included appointments with Ms. Nicole, your child therapist.)

Second, I promised I would always be home for dinner.  With extremely rare exceptions, I was also home for dinner with you every night.  After dinner, while still in my suit pants and dress shirt, you and I would convene to the play room where we played or read … or, more often than not, you’d regaled me with your tales.

Unfortunately, most evenings ended with you saying, “Daddy passed out!”  Too often, I was exhausted from the early mornings and long work hours.  Thus, the comfort of your company and the warmth of your voice released my stress and invited sleep, something which has eluded me most of my life.

I would be false if my recollection stopped there.  My “passing out” was no cause for the cessations of your tales.

Because of the nature of my work, I usually woke up at 3:00 A.M. and worked late into the night (after you’d gone to bed), mulling over complicated problems and figuring how best to resolve them.  (This was why, for example, I was able to gain in a few months a new insurance license which three different departments at the Enron of Healthcare had failed to obtain in each of the three previous years, and to resolve years-long compliance problems where the insurer cheated tens of thousands of policy holders of medical benefits to which they were entitled.)  The down-side of this work strategy was that it made me bad company at home.

Often, when you recounted your tales of adventures, I nodded and made noises of acknowledgement, but my mind was still hard at work, finding solutions to pressing problems.  I wasn’t listening.  Eventually, you caught on.  At first, I was too preoccupied to notice.  But, eventually, you kept more and more of your stories to yourself.

At least, it is my hope that you’ve only been keeping these stories to yourself.  I hope and pray that the fountain of your stories has not gone dry, that you still breathe and dream stories, as does George Orwell, driven by some sort of compulsion.   http://orwell.ru/library/essays/wiw/english/e_wiw.  I hope and pray that it was not I who inadvertently extinguished the fire of your passion.  If so, that would be my gravest sin, and words could never sufficiently express my remorse.  If so, I can only look forward to the day when I can make amends.

Please don’t let my failing be your stumbling block.  Feed your imagination.  Tell your tales.

Know that as atonement, I now listen to the stories of every child who asks of my time.  I neither rush nor slow the progression of their tales.  I hope someday soon, you could grace me with your tales once again.

All my love, always,

Dad