Posts

Showing posts from 2011

Gratitude

A New York Times article said, Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others, including romantic partners. A new study shows that feeling grateful makes people less likely to turn aggressive when provoked...

Taken Back to School

Even though I was on summer holiday from my job as an independent school administrator, a recent experience took me back to school. I closed this past summer with a short vacation that included a few days in Prague followed by a stop in Paris. Nick Reynolds, a friend who lives in London, arranged to meet me in Paris since he was also on summer holiday. We share a passion for our common hobby, photography. Paris sounded like an excellent late summer photo opportunity. We arrived in Paris on the second Sunday in August. I took a midday flight from Prague to Paris. Nick traveled on a late afternoon Eurostar train from London’s St. Pancreas Station. I checked into our hotel before taking the subway to Gare du Nord to meet Nick’s train. We made a quick return to the hotel to drop off his bag, and then we collected our camera gear and tripods and set out to photograph Arc de Triomphe. It was a beautiful evening in Paris. The late setting sun provided a few hours for us to work the angl

Surviving Maine

As a newly appointed assistant dean, and fresh arrival to the College, I was honored when students asked me to be faculty advisor to the outing club. Perhaps, I thought, this meant they would no longer be suspicious of my judgment, as they had been since learning that I moved from Santa Barbara, California to live in Waterville, Maine. My association to the Colby College Outing Club came with benefits. I had free access to a storehouse of outdoor gear, including the canoe that I checked out to use on the river that ran beside my house, and I could sign up for trips to explore the beauty of Maine. Some of those trips rank among the best in my memory of outdoor adventures. The return hike on Mount Katahdin, the terminus of the Appalachian Trail, included a take-your-breath-away trek across the precipitous “Knife Edge” that traverses the ridge between Baxter Peak and Pamola Peak. One morning’s adventure led to Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. We were among the first people

Update

I did purchase the trip - well, an altered version of the original trip with a bit more finesse, I met a former student for coffee who told me about his recent whirlwind trip through Europe - pretty much all of it. He strongly encouraged me to add Prague to my itinerary, which I was able to do since I hadn't finalized with the airline. Splitting the trip equally between Paris and Prague adds more interest, to me. And, since I'm allowed one stop over in the itinerary, adding Paris as a stop over cost no extra miles for this trip. I'm fortunate that Air France is the partner carrier with my airline. The natural route is Los Angeles - Paris - Prague  - Paris - Los Angeles. The only add on was additional taxes of about $54. What's the lesson now? Perhaps there's not a simple take away. I'm glad that I acted. I'm also glad that I waited long enough to be able to have a creative option that is more satisfying and interesting than my original plan. .

Not my gift

Spontaneity is not my gift, I like options, so making a decision takes away options, because I've decided on a path. However, in keeping options open, I miss opportunities. This sounds like a no-brainer when I put it in writing: loosen up and take some risks. I wish it were that easy. I did, however, do two and a half spontaneous things yesterday and I didn't wake up today feeling like my life is a disaster. One: I joined the Bowers Museum. I bought and online membership and visited the museum with a friend yesterday afternoon. Two: I signed up for an online writing course with Gotham Writing Workshop. I'll begin a six-week course starting next Tuesday. One-half: I have a reservation on hold to go to Paris next month using frequent flyer miles. I was able to get a reservation on non-stop flights at a reasonable mileage rate. I'll also be able to add on a hotel room, using points, just steps from Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées. This is where the rub

Why?

I'm not sure where this post will go. Yesterday was my birthday. I started the day having spent the night with dear friends, their 18 month old son, and their wonderful dog, Ling Ling. After breakfast, I drove to Palm Springs for a memorial gathering of friends for a friend who passed away two weeks ago. I didn't make a big deal of juxtaposing my birthday with also attending a memorial gathering. However, it would be foolish of me not to reflect on what makes for a life well-lived. I've made decisions about how I live my life.Service to others is a primary driver for how I invest my physical and emotional energies, and my capital. I think that it's good to reflect on purpose, and to regularly take stock.

Two articles

Two articles caught my attention this afternoon. The first addresses how Americans do not take vacations. It seems that we work all the time. It was on CNN.com. Why is America the "no vacation nation"? One man speaks about the culture in his office: "The running joke at Brock's company is that a vacation just means you work from somewhere else." The article points out that this isn't the case in other countries where people actually take vacations and they leave their work behind. One of the findings of a study is that Americans get more satisfaction from work than they do from taking vacations. Yet, doing so, says another study cited in the article, doesn't make our economy more competitive than countries where workers take lots of time off for vacation, such as in Sweden, which mandates that workers take five weeks of vacation each year.  The second article was also reported on CNN.com, Little people, lots of pills: Experts debate medicating ki

Thursday

Image
Thursdays are "formal" day at St. Margaret's Episcopal School because the students attend chapel. I took these black and white photos using a Canon Rebel Ti 300v film camera. I used 400 ASA film.

UC Berkeley student walks with robotic exoskeleton to get diploma

Austin Whitney is a 2007 graduate of St. Margaret's Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano, California, where he was one of the students I advised through the college process. Just a few weeks after his high school graduation, Austin slammed his car into a tree. He sustained severe injuries that resulted in losing use of his legs. I was one of the people who kept vigil at the hospital in the days following the accident. I continue to stay in touch with Austin and his family. I saw this story on his university graduation yesterday afternoon while on a flight from the east coast.

When does change start?

 I wrote earlier about my brother's medical incident on Mother's Day. I also mentioned that he is making lifestyle changes that will help him avoid future incidents of this sort. Of course this entire incident is on my mind, and it's caused a fair amount of anxiety in our family this past week. Today I thought about the concept of change. I thought that it's best to prepare for challenges in advance. It's a simple concept. For example, I change the oil in my car on a more frequent schedule than recommended because I feel that it's good to do so. I know when I'll have the air-conditioning in my car serviced so that I won't have a problem. Maybe the same principal can be applied to life. Preparing in advance might head off certain catastrophe or unnecessary complications. When I had this thought, I made a first attempt to jot down some "ground rules" for life that can facilitate change for improving how I live,  and help avoid unneces

This week has been challenging

There's a reason I've not posted since Sunday. This was a challenging week that is just now showing some light. I was taking pictures at the beach on Sunday afternoon when I got a call from my aunt that my brother was in the hospital in Houston for what was termed a "mini" stroke. It all began Mother’s Day morning when he called our aunt to wish her "Happy Mother's Day" and he couldn't form the words. Later, he felt dizzy while standing. He did go to the hospital right away where a CT scan was done, which ruled out other possible concerns, such as a tumor. He had an MRI on Monday, which did not come up with damage to the brain. He had no paralysis, although he has somewhat slurred speech. On Monday morning he felt weak using his left arm. He was released from the hospital yesterday, and he has already begun therapy to strengthen his left arm and to rehabilitate his speech. It seems that the use of over the counter cold medications might have co

Does anyone else care about this?

Friends from the UK were in California last week. They connected the 4-day Easter holiday and the Royal Wedding holiday with a few vacation days and took a 10-day spring vacation. I shared with them my post about ethical eating and lamented how difficult it is to find ethically raised food in the United States. I also complained about the difficulty in knowing how the food I buy is raised. Their comment was, simply, all the beef in the UK is grass-fed. That’s the norm. I was left trying to figure out how those of us in the United States gave away decisions on how food is raised to corporations and government food programs. It doesn’t make sense to me. It makes even less sense when I think about the health crisis in the United States and health care costs. Isn’t anyone connecting this to how our food is raised? I went to Henry’s Market yesterday. Henry’s is part of Whole Foods, the “healthy” alternative to the grocery market. Henry’s had one very small section of the meat

Ethical Consumerism: Morality at the market

It may have started when my friend Nicole Leimbach encouraged me to buy cage-free eggs. Prior to that I hadn't thought much about which eggs I purchased. One thing led to another and I've begun to look more seriously into ethical issues surrounding the foods I buy. I’m following CNN’s Freedom Project this year, which details modern day slavery, a practice that fuels some food-producing industries. Just before Valentine's Day 60 Minutes ran a segment on unpaid child labor in the production of cocoa, the raw product that goes into making chocolate. I’m taking more time reading labels at the grocery store in an attempt to understand where the food I buy comes from. However, it’s difficult to get that information. As an example, finding free range meats is almost impossible in most neighborhood grocery stores. And, as a chocolate-lover, it’s hard determining which chocolates are fair trade or ethical trade. I’ve also found that I can’t assume that chains like Trade

Feeding the Hungry, Nourishing the Soul

CNN posted a powerful and challenging video that highlights a man who didn't become numb when seeing suffering surrounding him. Here's a link to the video: Feeding the hungry, nourishing the soul .

I'm on a college wait list, what should I do?

You're correct in thinking that colleges placed a lot of applicants on wait lists this year. Here are actionable points to consider. Keep in mind that most colleges do not "rank" their wait lists. If space becomes available, colleges will consider admitting students who are interested in them. Be thoughtful about pursuing admission to a college that placed you on the wait list. Think about if it's worth the effort. Many students who talk to me about wait list options weren't seriously interested in College X until the college teased them a wait list offer. The college is suddenly appealing because it's playing hard to get. In most cases, the student has been admitted to five or more colleges, but the other college lose their glow in light of the one that seems almost within grasp. The fact is, this process has gone on for a long time and has dominated your entire senior year. It may be that the healthiest thing to do is to declare the process over. One cou

Why is it so hard to get into a "good" college?

Although I’ve changed the names and substituted “like” colleges, here is the text of an e-mail I received around this time some years back from a student's parent at one of the schools I've worked at: Roland,  Todd is completely devastated that he was not accepted into any of his top choices (Trinity, Lafayette, Hamilton, Colgate, and Georgetown). At this point, he has no interest in going to any of his "safe" schools, and I do not know if you have any suggestions on how to handle this. I know he had the numbers for a couple of these schools; do you have any idea what happened? I do not know if he has notified you, and if/when he does, I trust that you   will not   mention that I wrote to you, but I just need some direction. I followed your advice about staying out of the application process, but I need your help now. Todd was out of town until last night so he received all his denials then; not even a defer or wait list. Since he is truly reeling, I am lettin

Flannery O'Connor: The Life You Save May Be Your Own

Image
I have a lot of “favorite” Flannery O’Connor short stories . Flannery O’Connor’s   short story, "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," is included in   The Complete Stories . This story is somewhat haunting, possibly because O'Connor freely borrows key images from a number of her other stories. For example, the image of the car as a vehicle of freedom and justification is used in   Wise Blood   (with its main character   Hazel Motes   noting that a man with a good car doesn't need salvation); and the notion of Catholicism as a dismissible un-advanced and "old" religion by a character who hasn't the patience to think deeply about spiritual things is used in   The Displaced Person  and other places. And, as is common, the story includes a widowed woman  with an invalid adult daughter who is unmarried. (It's interesting how often O'Connor uses this image since she was a physically afflicted, unmarried adult daughter living with a widowed mother. It&#

Join the Club and a Fourth Place

Image
I heard an interview today with MacArthur and Putlizer Prize winner Tina Rosenberg on her book Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World . Rosenberg explores the positive role peer-pressure plays in bringing about social change. In the interview she talks about old ways of teaching, take for example the importance of an individual better health practices, often fail, but social pressure from peers can effectively foster change. Hearing this interview fit perfectly with something else I've been thinking about - the Internet as a Fourth Place for community building, aligning with the three other anchor places for social interaction: home, work and community spaces, such as bars, coffeehouses, community parks and the like. The Internet as "fourth place" allows a person to form a community of ideas that may not be readily available in one's geographic community. In a sense, the Internet created social interaction in the Middle East in recent months to

Sketchy

Image
 Monastic building in a small village.  I'll share my art with you from time to time.  I hear the snickers across the Internet waves.  Yeah - this is what I call art - and it's MY art. True, I'm not trained and I'm certianly not a "natural." Nevertheless, I enjoy the creative process. This is one of only two actual "drawings" I have available. The few others surving pieces of my art are  paintings. I posted this sketch to make a point. I was  am, in essence,  learning to draw . You'll notice that it took a couple of attempts to get the steeple set up properly. And, the front entry had to be redone. The first attempts at getting both on paper went askew. As I recall, I did this drawing as an attempt at teaching myself to express perspective . I am fascinated that lines can be put together to represent a point of view.  Now, where am I going with this? I'm not sure. However, I have an "add on" story to tell. This drawing

Just Before Sunset

Image
I thought I'd share a bit of my every day life in southern Orange County, California  since I spend quite a bit of time at the beach, particularly at the end of the work day. This video is in Dana Point , just behind Ocean Institute. View Larger Map

Shock, Awe and Grace

Image
I've thought about this before. Suffering, calamity, misfortune, crime, hatred, ignorance – these realities abound in the world and fill the headlines. When natural disasters occur, news vendors rush to count the dead. I fear that the news of intense events is creating a numbing effect in many. I don’t place blame. This is the way life is. Shock is hard to take, especially when it is often repeated. People look for relief from bad news in order to keep going.   However, there is another view of shock. Flannery O'Connor talked about "shock" as an instrument for instruction in her writing. Shock is often the vehicle of grace in O’Connor’s short stories that causes a character to examine her life and to make a change that leads to living a more authentic life. As O'Connor put it, “To the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures .” Flannery O'Connor had the sense that biblical parables were

Hudson Taylor: Athlete Ally

Image
Wrestling coach Hudson Taylor started Athlete Ally . Mr. Taylor's effort is important and timely, particularly as there is national awareness of bullying and teasing of LGBTQ/questioning youth. I'm sensitive to this, as an educator and as a person of faith who believes in affirming the dignity of all. Here's an interview with Taylor describing Athlete Ally.

Lisa or Eddie

Image
I haven't read Andrew Ferguson's Crazy U , but I did read his article "How to get your kid into the Ivy League," which was published in the March 18, 2011 issue of The Week . Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College I read stuff like this all the time because "getting kids into the Ivy League" is what I do for a living. Or, at least that was people think/hope I do. Actually, I'm a former admissions officer who worked at two hyper-selective and desirable universities. I'll post more on that later. My take-away from Ferguson's article is at the end when he says that the highly competitive admissions process forces kids to eschew being Lisa Simpson. Rather, in applying to college, applicants become charmers, like the character Eddie Haskell in Leave It to Beaver . I see it all the time and my heart sinks when a bright student comes into my office to discuss his college essays. He'll read the essay prompt and as