Tuesday, January 31, 2012

P.S. to my New Year's letter

This may be the first of several P.S.'s to my New Year's Letter posting...... this is how my memory works these days.....   Anyway.... I forgot to mention a wonderful happening in my family's life that happened in May of 2011.   My Dad volunteered at the Walker School in Needham for many years as a very active Boardmember.  For much of this time he was President of the Board.  He spent many hours per week dedicating himself to the betterment of this organization.... as school for emotionally troubled adolescents.

Well..... soon after Dad's Memorial service in December, I received a call from the Executive Director of Walker School, Rick Small.   The school was celebrating it's 50th anniversary in May of 2011 and they wanted Dad to be one of the 5 honorees to be recognized at the big Gala in Boston.   Henry and I knew how much his work at Walker had meant to Dad so we were simply thrilled.  To really celebrate the event we reserved a table for Henry, me, Peter and Cindy, along with Aaron, Emmajane, and Parker... plus good friends Marcia Litchfield and Barbara Cincotta.  The guys rented tuxes and we hired a limousine for the occasion so we could all drive in together.   I think the fact that the whole family attended the event would have been the single most gratifying part of whole evening for my Dad.  It was such a memorable time for us as a family and a fitting honor for Dad.....

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Years Greetings from the Richards Family

A Nantucket family walk  

Last year we celebrated our final Holiday season as Vermont residents.  Parker, especially,
 had specific ideas of how we should spend it.  Most important... he wanted family to be at 
our home in Vermont.  Uncle Henry, his girlfriend Cindy, Aaron, and Emmajane joined us 
for a wonderful few days.  We cross-county skied, went to a movie together, ate out, ate in,
 gave and received gifts, lounged and conversed.... an excellent final Vermont Christmas.  
 In November my Dad lost his battle with Parkinson's/Altzheimers and in the beginning of 
December we had a lovely Memorial to him which was held at Babson College.... 
so many terrific tributes and memories were shared.... certainly Dad and Mom were with 
us in spirit for this holiday celebration.  

With the new year came amped up preparations for our move to Nantucket including a 
target official moving date... Auguat 1st.  Another important date was March 31st... 
Peter's final day at the radio station... His retirement officially began on April 1st!  
He had been with Hall Communications for over 30 years and was definitely ready and
 happy to be able to retire.   I continued to work at my job at Child Care Resource until 
June 30th.  I had been there for over 15 years.... while I loved my work with parents 
and families.... I was ready for a change as well!  

The biggest unknown for us in terms of our moving away from Vermont was of course, 
Parker.  He had reluctantly okayed the move.  Not many teenagers would be happy about 
pulling up roots in the only home they had ever known and Parker was no different but at 
least Nantucket was somewhat of a known quantity as he has been coming to the island 
since he was 5 weeks old.  Well, Parker is doing just great... academically and beyond as 
he has joined the staff of the school newspaper ("Veritas") and joined the Sailing Club as
 well.  He and a classmate are also starting a Debate Club this coming semester.  
Needless to say, we are thrilled with how well he has adjusted to this big transition 
in our lives...  

Our actual move to Nantucket took place on August 1st.... I made my first one-way ferry
 reservation for July 31st for us and our one car to go over.  We decided to keep our 
smaller (better mileage) car in a lot on the mainland so we could make quick, relatively
 inexpensive trips over when necessary.  We found a lot with very reasonable monthly 
rates.  This has turned out to be an excellent and useful idea so far for those quick jaunts
 off the island.... 

We have now been living permanently on island for a little over 5 months.  We were 
dealing with unpacking boxes for at least the first 3 months.  My recollection of our 
move from Massachussetts to Vermont waaay back in 1984 is that we whipped open those
 boxes and got everything unpacked, installed, displayed, arranged... all within a few 
days.... This was not the case at all with this move.  Some of this slowness could be 
attributed to the fact that that we moved into a house that was already fully furnished 
and decorated... so we were constantly faced with decisions of what to keep and what 
to get rid of.... this proved to be exhausting!    Now, in January, the only boxes left to 
unpack are under Parker's bed and I'm not going there!   

Our animals - bulldog Abigail (who will be 10 in April) and cat siblings Sirius and Minerva 
(who will be 9 in February) are adjusting famously to the move.  The cats love running up
 and down the stairs and lounging in the sunny spots on our bed and couch.  Abigail is
 the ultimate couch potato!  She is really showing her age.... has some arthritis but 
in general is in good health...   They actually are happier here than in Vermont I believe
 because they have us around all the time.  

In addition to these three we have two more cat additions to our household menagerie... 
Vicky, who was originally my parent's cat, then went to my brother (we took Winnie their
 dog at the time), and Henry asked if we could take Vicky with us on Nantucket as between
 him and his girlfriend, Cindy, they had 8 cats!   Vicky does not really like other cats and 
is residing happily in Parker's bedroom.   For the time being we are also fostering a shelter
 cat, Gato... a very sweet formerly semi-feral cat who had lived at the shelter for over a 
year.  When the shelter switched from being run by the MSPCA to being volunteer-run.. 
all the shelter animals needed to be adopted or fostered out so we have had Gato since 
mid-December.   He's a sweet, sociable kitty (with humans) who unfortunately has
 tested positive for FIV so needs to be in his own room.  He has the downstairs TV room
 and he and Peter have taken to watching football together....  

Some highlights of our first 5 months here: 

* Parker's success and happiness (so far)
* Volunteering opportunities - The animal shelter, the library, tutoring ESL students 
(future hospital volunteering for Peter) 
* The Unitarian Universalist fellowship - great group of people... we have been really 
enjoying the services and are about to become members of the congregation... Peter 
was brought up Unitarian and my mother always said "it's the next best thing to 
being Jewish"!
* Our first book group experience together! 
* Biking and walking individually and as a family (kind of nice not to have to navigate
 those Vermont hills!) 
* Visits from friends and family.... we welcome more in 2012!  
* Being in this house that was so special to my entire family 
* Living on the island where Peter and I met and were married

A couple of (sort of) lowlights:  

* We do miss the close proximity to our friends in Vermont... email and Facebook does
 help a little.
* The crowds in August were pretty overwhelming... we know now when we should take a 
trip off island! 
* Wind!  I believe I've mentioned this in an earlier blog... the wind is almost always a
 part of our weather... and it impacts everything.

That's all for now.... I will be continuing with my blog though out 2012... Please feel free
 to check in from time to time!  

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Realities

Our Nantucket Holiday Wreath

I have mixed feelings on the holiday season,  especially these days.  I grew up celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah.  My mother had converted to Judaism before she married my Dad (and there's a whole other story there as I found out years later that my mother had never told her parents that she had converted!),  but as the only grandchildren for her parents, we were destined to reap the benefits of Christmas and my brother and I certainly did... My grandparents lived in an old farmhouse in New Hampshire.... a perfect place to celebrate Christmas....the house was full of nooks and crannies which my Grandparents filled perfectly with Christmas decorations,  and my brother and I looked forward to seeing those traditional holiday touches every year.  The house was surrounded by acres of wooded land so we would tromp around in the woods with Grandpa to find the perfect tree.   My grandmother was not really  the warm and fuzzy type but she was an extremely hard worker and meticulous about details so everything was always perfectly in its place and a wide assortment of  holiday food and treats were always present including the spectacular Christmas Day feast.  

 And then there were our Christmas stockings........I don't think anyone could stuff a stocking like my  grandmother...... my brother and I each had an over-sized sock that my Grandmother had originally knitted for my Grandfather.... (where did those socks go anyway?)...... Truly I looked forward to my stocking above all other gifts.  In my minds eye I can still see my brother and I sitting there on the small couch facing the fireplace staring at those wonderfully over- stuffed stockings, not even allowing ourselves to touch them as we kept one eye on the George Washington banjo clock that was on the wall over the larger couch on the other side of the living room (incidentally, I have inherited that clock and I still think of Christmas morning every time I look at it).  We were not allowed to wake the grown-ups until 7am and my brother and I were the epitome of self-discipline as we sat side by side on that couch waiting for the minutes and seconds to countdown to 7..... an excruciatingly lengthy process..... but always worth the wait.... 

Hanukkah was a much lower key affair but we had certain traditions we always stuck to with this holiday as well.   My favorite was the ridiculously silly gifts that my Dad was in charge of getting.....  We always lit the menorah in our own home.... our Jewish relatives all lived in Cincinnati and as far as I can remember, we never celebrated Hanukkah with them so it was always a very intimate family celebration.... it it's own way as much anticipated as the splashier Christmas. 

And now, as a grown-up myself, I've spent many years of my early adulthood trying to recreate all or even part of what I can remember from my childhood...... and feeling vaguely disappointed when I (inevitably) didn't succeed.   As I grew into middle-age adulthood I gradually stopped trying to compete with the holidays of my younger days and I have learned to combine our own traditions with a few select traditions from my (and my husband's) childhood holidays.    In reality, nothing is going to compete with those childhood memories which have inevitably become even more "magical" as the years pile on since those days.... 

My brother's and my children (a son, Aaron, and daughter, Emmajane for my brother.. and our son Parker,) are now well into their teens.    Those years when they believed fully in the whole Santa thing are long gone.   We have had some wonderful holidays as recently as last year which was our last in Vermont.   Parker had some very specific expectations for this Christmas and was very assertive about achieving them.... reminding me a bit of my New Hampshire grandmother.......and our last Christmas in Vermont was one of our best.......

This year will be our first holiday season while living on Nantucket.  We have spent a couple of earlier Christmases here with Henry, his kids, my parents, and us.... including one amazing year when we actually had 8 inches of snow fall on Christmas Eve....and this year we'll be here until Christmas Eve and then headed out to the mainland for a couple of days to spend time with Peter's brother and family and my brother and family (in his new home..... an old farmhouse.... shades of my grandparents!)  

And so... the holiday realities are this.... those childhood memories can never be duplicated and what's more important, we shouldn't even try........ What is working for me..... is remembering those times with great fondness and then letting go, moving on to combine a couple of key "old family" traditions with those that we create ourselves.... and continue to create as our lives move forward.... Now if only I could find those stockings that my Grandmother knitted.....

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Father's Wisdom - Stepping Back and Watching Yourself Go By

Below is an article written by my father back in 1997 when he was a Department Director at Babson College. A colleague of his recently contacted me and asked if I had a copy of this article as he had misplaced his own and he liked to share with it with family and friends who are graduating high school or college. It took me a while to find it but finally it popped up in one of our boxes of files that we have slowly been going through since our move to Nantucket. I had a vague memory of it and after re-reading it I could see why my Dad's colleague liked to share it with graduating students...... so much to think about here...... some great words of wisdom... and all in my Dad's simple and direct style of writing. While reading it, I could actually hear him speaking these words..... he loved his work but as this article points out, the key to success in a career is knowing yourself and being sure your work and personal life are well-balanced. I especially love the ideas he uses from a Babson College president, Bill Glavin; "Step back and watch yourself go by...... do you like what you see?" and of course his beloved Robert Frost; " joining vocation with avocation is one of the most satisfying things in life."  I also love his comments on chance and how it can impact a career/life...... fascinating to see here just how chance impacted his own career and life!

I think that my Dad's ability to step back, look at himself, and really take time to reflect is so unusual, especially for men of his generation. And the fact that he realizes that for him, his CSFs (Critical Success Factors) leaned more heavily on spending time with his family and NOT being a president of an organization or even making a lot of money.... well, it makes me realize again how lucky I am to be a part of his family.

Planning and Managing Your Career
Jerry Kanter, Executive Director
Center for Information Management Studies (CIMS)
Babson College
Babson Park, MA 02157
December, 1997

Three recent articles concerning career path changes of senior executives caught my attention.  The Wall Street Journal wrote of one of the highest ranking women in corporate America, a PepsiCo veteran of 22 years.  She openly stated that she wanted to spend more time with her husband and children, ages seven, eight and ten. The Pepsi management tried to talk her into staying, but she pointed to years of hectic travel, dinner meetings, and living in different cities from her husband.  It was time to go home.

Another Wall Street Journal story is that of the CEO of USG Corporation, a $2.5 billion building products maker, who lost his wife to cancer.  Countering the accepted work ethic of keeping your personal affairs to one’s self and to grieve alone, this executive talked and discussed his grief openly to business associates.  He halved his travel and cut his office hours to spend time with his daughters aged two, eleven and thirteen.  He spent evenings reading and talking with his children.  Today some two years after his wife’s death, he still maintains his openness and his reduced schedule to preserve time for his family which has grown stronger during this period.
The Harvard Business School Bulletin related how, three years ago, a prominent business executive was named president of Xerox engineering systems.  But the death of her mother and close friend and the serious illness of her father and husband caused her to seek a scaled down position at Xerox.  She states that she misses the people and pace of her old job, but appreciates the opportunity to think and spend more time with her family which is the pride of her life.  She still ponders her future, satisfied she made the right decision now, not dwelling on the past but thinking that there may be another career ahead.
These experiences caused me to do some thinking about careers in general and to look back at my career, analyzing what I think I did right and what I know I was wrong about.  Now in the education field I am asked for advice by a good number of students either just beginning their careers or in the early stages.
In reviewing one’s own career, I run the risk of getting too personal and self centered, but I figure I’m allowed at least one shot at the soft side after devoting all my published thoughts to the hard side.  In so doing, I recall the feeling of the Australians who associate many Americans with what they term “the tall poppy syndrome.”  They point out that when introduced to an American, the American gets quite personal about his or her life, with subtlety or not, in the latter mode expounding on their background and accomplishments whether they are asked or not.  The Australian then tries to cut down the tall poppy, bring him or her back to the world of living mortals.  I realize this is a lead-in to a bit of personal “tall poppying,” but I hope the picture provides a balanced view.
Personal Reflections on a Business Career: Elements of Chance
It is interesting to reflect on one’s career looking at the factors that influenced the path one followed. In my case it was not a well planned course.  In fact there was a great deal of chance involved.  Upon graduating from Harvard College, I applied only to two schools, the Harvard Business School and to my home town law school, the University of Cincinnati.  I was accepted to the latter but placed on the waiting list at Harvard.  This was the time of the Korean draft, and to be exempted one had to pass a national test and be accepted and enroll at a graduate school.  Because I was on the waiting list I was told to leave a postcard provided by the draft board when I went home for the summer so the school could notify the Board.  In my case I wasn’t accepted, but the Harvard Business School made a mistake and notified the Draft board that I was.  They didn’t realize this until a month or so later and wired me that I would be admitted because of their mistake.  So instead of becoming a lawyer, I took the first step to a business career.
The next element of chance took place after I had graduated from the Harvard Business School and was ready to leave the Navy where I had spent three years as a Supply Corps Officer.  I was interested at the time in a career in Education Administration and had applied to Brandeis where they had advertised an interesting opening.  The only other position I had applied for was an accounting job with the large grocery chain, the Kroger Company, in Cincinnati.  The influence of my roots shows up again. I had been interviewed by Brandeis, but they didn’t get back to me until the week I was to leave the Navy.  By that time I had accepted the Kroger job and didn’t think it proper to change my mind.  So career chance two; instead of education I entered the accounting field.
Working up the ranks I learned how to balance books and became the Chief Accountant at Kroger’s processed foods division.  Then an opening as bakery controller arose and I competed with another accountant for the job managing the finances of 14 bakeries across the country.  They couldn’t make up their mind internally and had an organizational consultant interview both candidates in depth.  I really wasn’t that interested in an accounting career but I guess the competitive spirit kept me going.  At any rate I wasn’t selected but did get the next opportunity which was to lead a feasibility study for installing a company-wide computer system; career chance number three.  This is what led to my ultimate career in information systems, Kroger for five years, and Honeywell Information Systems for 25 years.
Many years later, I was on a plane with a good friend and business colleague who told me he was just offered a job of heading up a new Information Technology research center at Babson College.  He had been most interested, but they delayed the decision for a year and in that time he had started a successful consulting practice in Information Systems.  I listened and concluded that this position was made for me.  It was just what I was looking for.  The Honeywell Computer Division had merged first with the General Electric Computer Group and then with the French company, Bull.  I could see a long transition struggle and was thinking it was time to start looking.  The discussion on the plane was career chance number four and put me in an educational job that probably should have been job one.
Selecting a Career:  Employing Critical Success Factors
I would plan a career a bit differently than I did, and would advise others as well based on the above experience.  Chance is a factor, but I think it advisable to employ more positive means to achieve a satisfying career.  Also, career planning includes much more than the business dimension.  The three vignettes that opened this report dearly bring this out.
The foundation of career planning is of course to know yourself.  Know whether you tend to be left brained, the logical arithmetic type who likes formal structured activities, or the right brained who are more intuitive and rely more on the feel and overall sense of a situation.  This all has a good deal to do with the type of company or organization you will be more comfortable with.  Early on, I knew I was not suited for a hierarchical command and control type of environment.  I didn’t like someone looking over my shoulder, but would rather work by myself or in a small group to accomplish the task at hand.  One must know when it is possible to adapt your personality to the situation or when to conclude that there is just too much to change and it is time to seek other opportunities in a different culture.
One of my business positions during my career was to head up a special business/product strategy team to develop a future company vision and strategy and the products and services that would enable the company to accomplish that vision.  This gave me the opportunity to explore many different planning techniques and frameworks.  One such framework I liked mainly because of its simplicity was the concept of Critical Success Factors (CSFs).  I also came to the revelation that we apply all kinds of planning methodologies to our company, but do very little in systematically reviewing our own career.
I think the concept of critical success factors can be effective in looking at one’s career.  CSFs are a straightforward way to state the overall objectives of a company or institution.   In other words, a way to define success and to then determine the four to six activities that are crucial to achieving those objectives.  There are many more sophisticated methods, but when you study the approach it usually can fit in the CSF model.  The key to CSFs is not to draft a list of 25 to 30 factors, but to really think it through and derive the ultimate four to six; amazingly, that is usually what it boils down to.  We use the concept for a business, but not for one’s self.   As that individual, I think we would feel as important as the company for whom we work.
My belief which I have followed is that CSFs can be used to map out one’s career and to serve as a barometer to see periodically if one is going in the right direction.  After allowing chance to be my guiding principle for a number of years, I now employ and have for some 15 years the CSF principle.  I have my list and review it periodically to assess how I am doing and to see if any changes should be made.  My CSFs were on my mind that day on the plane when the Babson opportunity was mentioned. To that point, I considered myself a “closet academic”, as I had taught evening courses at local universities for some 10 years, and had written articles and six books on Information Technology.
Babson’s President Bill Glavin expressed his management philosophy in seven principles he used as a base point in his career.  I was fortunate to hear him relate this philosophy to a management group.  One of his principles ties into the CSF concept and that is to “step back and watch yourself go by.”  Do you like what you see?  Using the CSF approach fits in nicely with the Glavin concept.  First, establish your personal CSFs and then periodically watch yourself go by, assess how you are doing, and make the necessary changes to your actions or to your CSFs.  And don’t wait until the latter part of your career to do it as in my case.  Do it up front, and then watch yourself go by.
Developing Your Critical Success Factors
One should start by knowing one’s self.  Assess your personality, what you’re comfortable with and not comfortable with, what you’re good at, your individual values, and personal likes and dislikes. Understand what elements in these traits you can overcome, which are deeply embedded in your temperament, and which are almost impossible to change.
The first step is to explore in depth what constitutes success.  The elements that must be considered in addition to business success and money are family, society, community, friends and just plain having fun.  Then, focus on the elements under each major heading, listing those elements that are crucial to attaining success.
The poet, Robert Frost, said in one of his poems that to join vocation with avocation is one of the most satisfying things in life.  In the terms used here, I would say that is the ultimate in CSFs.  One has to have a job where there is an income flow, but often that gets in the way of focusing on your other CSFs.  If the drive is so strong, one can sacrifice the financial needs and, for example, take a job in a non-profit organization.  I think my CSFs were satisfied when I finally took a job running an Information Research organization within a college.  It is a position where personal contact and helping others have high priorities.   My only concern may be that I didn’t do it sooner.   Maybe it’s because I made my CSF list too late.  At least it’s something to think about.
Here is the CSF list I developed 15 years ago:
Job and Personal Critical Success Factors (CSFs)
What Constitutes Success
1. Meaningful/constructive/enjoyable work
2. Individual/Family Focus
3. Community Ties (Putting Something Back)
4. Financial Stability
1. Meaningful/constructive/enjoyable work…
Quality of Performance
work results viewed by others as being positive to the business
reputation with superiors
reputation with customers

Maintain/enhance professionalism
attend training programs
attend business learning sessions
Exercise the brain
selected non-business reading
movies / plays
cultural activities

2. Individual/Family Focus
Spend time/communicate/relate to spouse
— vacation
— weekends

  • call from work
  • discuss global/community/social issues
Maintain/increase communication with children
— phone calls
— weekends
— vacations
Personal health/well being
  • diet
  • jogging (sports)
  • rest / relaxation
  • change of pace
Maintain relationships with extended family and friends

  • communication
  • personal contact
  • joint activities
3. Community Ties (Putting Something Back)
Community projects
  • Walker Home and School
  • AETC for High Risk Children
  • Harvard/Babson/Simmons
  • Greater Boston Association for Retarded Citizens
  • Others
4. Financial Stability
Maintain Cash Flow and Build for Future
  • Assess business/financial stability of employer
  • Salary consistent with changing family situation
  • Assess Investment Portfolio
  • Maintain family home
  • Provide for retirement and family support
In my case, I placed a good deal of weight on factors outside the job.  I didn’t aspire to be the President or CEO of an organization.  While I didn’t consider myself lazy, I was not going to work 12 hour days or weekends, but rather wanted a change in routine and to spend time with family and do things in the community.  Consulting or a job that would require excessive travel would not fit with my CSFs.  Also, achieving substantial wealth was not high on my list, and tradeoffs would favor the nature of the job and its personal fulfillment rather than a heavy emphasis on current and future salary.
I credit my CSFs with the position I finally took in the education world.  My CSF list was made at a time when my company was going through its second major merger, this time with an international company.  I heard the classical opening statement at merger time—business will go on as usual and there will be no personal changes or downsizing.  My experience was that after “the urge to merge” comes “the urge to purge.”  I think it was because of my recent review of my CSFs, that I needed a change and the education community would be a good avenue for me if I could find the opportunity. The chance meeting and discussion referred to earlier on the airplane of the Research Center job at Babson fit in with my thinking and plans.  I was able to act quickly and take a job that has been a great opportunity, and continues to fit my stated Critical Success Factors.

Why CSFs are More Important than Ever
It is obvious that the business environment and culture have changed.  Twenty years ago a business career consisted of working for two or three companies.  In many cases an individual worked his or her entire business career with a single institution.  That has changed. Today, it is common to work for 6 or 8 companies in the first 15 years of your career.  There is no such thing as company loyalty.  The alliance, merger, acquisition mode is commonplace and with it has come cut backs, lay-offs and downsizing. There is limited career planning or assistance on the part of employers.  An individual is literally on his or her own to participate in training and management development.  The phrase is no longer “employment”, it is “employability”.  Workers are taking a more selfish outlook because their employer doesn’t seem interested.
In this kind of environment, career planning on the part of the individual becomes all the more important.  The concept of Critical Success Factors is a powerful way to stay in touch with yourself and provides a useful framework for keeping what’s important in mind rather than being swept along by external business conditions.  The Bill Glavin philosophy of “stepping back and watching yourself go by” takes on new meaning and the use of individual CSFs can materially aid the process.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Report Card Pride

We received Parker's first ever official Report Card today and this is what greeted our eyes.   Let's remember that we spent the first 15 years of Parker's life avidly avoiding grades and tests.  I firmly believe that grades and tests are NOT what truly tell us how a student is doing and what he/she is learning...... I am a firm believer in play and project-based learning.... and yet I'd be lying if I didn't admit to an initial flush of pleasure when I saw this card....... I still don't believe these A's tell me how "smart" my son is but I can't help but see it as a good sign of how Parker is acclimating to life in a new school in a new place....... and getting a letter inviting us to a special Principal's breakfast reception to "honor this significant accomplishment"?.... well, okay... I'm letting myself feel a little proud of my boy.... at least for today.

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Sixteen-Year Old "Little" Boy.....

An amazing thing happened on Thanksgiving Day.... my "little" boy turned 16.  As you can see from the picture I took of him and his Dad this past Sunday morning while on a beach walk (60 degrees at the end of November?... not too shabby!),  Parker is not anywhere near to being a little boy.... at 6'2" he's half a foot taller than his old Dad and has the build of a football player (not that he would ever play that "violent sport")...... But although he's a teenager and is many years away from the toddler he used to be.... I can honestly say that most of those characteristics he first started exhibiting at 2 and 3 years old,  can still define who he is today....  independent thinker, articulate, opinionated, tenacious (stubborn!), single-minded (always on a mission!) , funny (great sense of humor!), sensitive, a leader (bossy at times!), ambitious, self-driven, fair-minded, full of questions.... Yes......he's all that he was at the age of three years,  just much more so!.... Many of those characteristics were challenging to parent when he was three and sometimes they are now at fifteen as well...... but I wouldn't change the young man he is becoming for the world....

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Peter and I have been going to the Unitarian church services over the last 30 or so years while we have vacationed  here on Nantucket.  For many years the main attraction of these services was the minister, Ted Anderson, whose sermons were always thought-provoking and inspirational.   We liked Ted so much that we asked him to officiate at our marriage.   I'll never forget that intimate ceremony in our Surfside road home.  When we moved here in August we had already decided to start attending the Unitarian Church on a regular basis.  Ted has retired but remains on-island and we still have opportunities to interact with him.......

We have been enjoying the new minister very much and have felt extremely welcomed by the fellowship as well.   Today's service was about, predictably enough, Thanksgiving,,,, and much of  the morning focused on the ways and whys of giving thanks.   The children in the congregation set out with their wagons through the town to collect nonperishable foods for the Island Food Shelf, the singing involved hymns of thanks...... When it came to the sermon, however, David (the minister)  turned the theme around just a little... or maybe a lot, depending upon how you look at it.  He talked about the idea of "being in thanks" rather than "giving thanks"...... it sounds kind of simple but it made me think about the differences between the "being" and the "giving"....  "Being" to me implies more permanence, a kind of natural, on-going, almost subconscious  state.  Giving, on the other hand, is something that you have to think about.....it's something you consciously do and it doesn't necessarily mean that you are truly a thankful person in the complete sense of the word.  

 "Thanksbeing" is a state that we strive for and part of that striving usually involves the giving of thanks.   It feels to me like this state would be peaceful as well as joyful.  And, in the real world, if more of us achieved the state of "Thanksbeing" just imagine the decrease in whining and complaining.... not to mention how it might impact the planet's political culture.... now that would be something really worth striving for.....