Archive for August, 2009



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One of the reasons I have been slam dunking this Gratitude Challenge:) is because it’s a topic that has been pretty central to our lives the past few months.  Let’s face it, my kids are going to grow up spoiled rotten – too much attention, too much resources, too much stuff.  Am I bitter because it’s so different than how I grew up – hell yeah I’m bitter!:)  In all seriousness, there’s just not much we can do to prevent the fact that kids in this area, in this day and age will grow up very differently than Polly or I did.  So a topic that’s been on our minds from the day our kids were born was how to raise them to be good people – since we can’t avoid spoiled kids, the least we can do is raise good citizens.

A few months ago, we started a dinnertime tradition because we were trying to teach Emily mostly how to truly be thankful and say thanks without a constant reminder.  We started a notebook and each night, all four of us had to answer 3 questions:

1  What was the nicest thing you did today?

2  What is the nicest think you did today?

3  What is your favorite memory from today?

Most days, pretty generic stuff and of course Cooper’s responses were downright non-sensical or hilarious.  But some days, Emily would say something that was mindblowing.  Anyway, I diverge from the main point – I’ve been knocking the cover off the ball on this Gratitude Challenge…


So with the idea of giving thanks already squarely in our cross hairs before the Gratitude Challenge, my one thing, person, place or moment that I’m writing about today to give thanks to (Day 14 blog Challenge) is Second Harvest.  Great organization we’ve been involved with for awhile – if you don’t know much about it, I encourage you to click through and read for yourself.  Anyway, about a year ago, we started participating in their family day – once every 3 months or so, they hold a family sort day on a Saturday where you can bring kids 4 years or older to sort food.  It’s as much educational as it is actually helpful as you can imagine with often time 10-15 small kids running around.

They show you a video of how hunger is a problem in our area, and how Second Harvest volunteers can help.  They encourage parents to explain what they’re doing in advance of the sort and make the entire experience educational.  So while Cooper is still a couple of years away from being able to help, we’ve been dragging him along since Emily turned 4.  Each time we go, we try to incorporate more complex ideas of helping.

This past Saturday was another family sort, and the night before, Emily took out $7.41 from her piggy bank for the “kiddies on TV” as she says it.  We brought it with us in a ziplock bag to the sorting facility, and she handed it over after she was done sorting food for about an hour.  So, for today’s Challenge, I am grateful for Second Harvest and other organizations that take time, money and resources away from their day to day to help educate the next generation of givers – an investment that may not pay off for decades but one that is truly an important investment in our future.

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My formidable Challenger had tasked me with focusing on one of my 5 senses for the day and discovering the many gifts through that one portal.


I am a highly visible person – I’ll sit in meetings where I have no idea what is going on until someone writes it down or draws it out on the whiteboard – yes, I did just implicate my own IQ.  You come to my house and you’ll see all kinds of photos, kids art and other reminders of memories tacked up everywhere.  I also am a fairly physical person (with certain people).  But for the past 12 or so hours, I decided to take myself out of my comfort element and focus on the least utilized sense – taste.


Least utilized because I associate taste with food – I would venture most do.  But here is how I would describe my palette.  Since we’ve been in our office (about a year), I’ve had probably 100 Roger’s Deli ultimate combo breakfast sandwiches (same everytime) for lunch, on a daring day, I might try the tuna melt.  I’ve had another at least 100 Subway flatbread toasted Italian sandwiches also.  And if I had to, no let me take that back, it would be my pleasure to have a Chipotle carnitas bowl with pinto, pico de gallo, medium salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole (extra) and lettuce 3x a day, 365 days a year for the rest of my life.  Point is, I really do not care what I eat – never have, likely never will.  So I thought it would be fun to focus on taste for the day to see if there was any way I could discover gifts through this sense.


Here’s how my morning began – Cooper, still fasting.  Just sitting there at the breakfast table doing everything but eating.  I got so fed up, I took him into his room where he proceeded to cry after I shut the door and left for work.  So a bit removed from taste but meal-related.  I felt horrible the whole morning.  But what is the gift?  The gift was regret – a reminder to myself to control my temper, to remember that a 2 year old who doesn’t want to eat is doing so to piss me off or because he is not hungry.  Not because he is sick nor because we aren’t able to put nutritious food on the table – for that I should be grateful.

Next came lunch – I had an opportunity to skip the Roger’s Deli sandwich and have lunch with a former colleague and someone that also worked with me at my wife’s company several years ago.  Over a salad, it reminded me memories that hadn’t surfaced in years and the appreciation of friendship and working together for someone I hadn’t seen in over 3 years.  Again, bit of a stretch, but meal-related.

End of the day finished off with a pizza party at my wife’s new office, which luckily is 2 buildings down from our office now.  Over pizza and beers for a quick stopover to congratulate the team, I felt grateful for all of the accomplishments of another start-up dream that continues, one where people are able to be proud of moving into a much needed larger space and of course having that family and my wife closer to me during the day.

Back home for dinner, Cooper is taking a break from his fast, which is always a celebration for Polly and me.  But as I consume the wonderful dinner on the table, because I am focusing on taste, I’m reminded again how amazing it is that Polly takes such great care of us and enjoys replenishing our bodies with nutrition and taste.  It’s also a reminder of how lucky we are to be able to sit together over a meal.  I think of families who can’t – because they live far apart, because they have to work multiple jobs, because someone is sick and can’t be with them, because they don’t like each other.  Sure at that exact same time as we were having dinner, hundreds of millions of people around the world probably were doing the same thing, but that doesn’t take away from the specialness.  In my little ecosystem, a simple meal where everyone is healthy, present and hopefully eating is heaven.


I felt so bad from the morning, I had decided on my way to the office that I’d scarf down dinner and throw the kids in the pool.  Cooper and Emily were ecstatic.  While the three of us were horsing around in the water, as I often do I swallowed a small amount of water accidentally.  The warm, salty water (perhaps Cooper had just finished heating the pool the natural way?), was once again a reminder of my Challenge and it heightened the sense of gratitude – gratitude on again having 2 healthy kids that share the love of water that I have, how a simple everyday moment like a quick dip in the pool could me feel like there was nowhere else on the planet I’d rather be.


All this writing and thinking about taste is making me thirsty, I think I’ll finish off the assignment with a beer…

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Record how these past 2 weeks have affected my life.  Many have told me that I have a face for radio, so I’m bending the rules a bit here and attaching one of my all time favorite videos – of my kids of course.  Cooper just turned 2 and Emily is 4 here…

Click here to watch this short clip of my kids kneeling for their nightly prayer.  Now, I’m not your put on a suit and go to church every Sunday morning kind of guy.  In fact, we go to church about once a year on Easter.  But I have a pretty strong faith and equally strong views on religion – somewhat unorthodox probably, like the rest of my views.  So this wasn’t an attempt to convert my kids, I just think it’s important for them to learn to be thankful to even those they can’t see.  So we’ve had this habit of saying this particular prayer every single night, we call it our thank you Jesus prayer.

Now that they’ve been saying this prayer word for word, they’ve started to improvise (e.g., the big bad wolf part of the video).  Some nights, they’re down right hilarious.  Other times, like when one of them is sick and the other without prompting asks Jesus to help their sibling feel all better, it brings tears to my eyes.  We should take lesson from these toddlers to take a few seconds at least once a day to give thanks.

As far as how the Challenge has changed my life?  Not much really – I’ve always gone through life thankful for all that I’m blessed with.  Has it made me more considerate and thoughtful?  I hope not, I hope I was considerate and thoughtful before the exercise, but writing my thoughts down or blogging or calling someone on the specific mission of saying thanks – it’s been nice to have such wonderful acts so front and center where daily life can get pretty hectic.  Not to toot my own horn here, but I think I’m pretty much kicking this Challenge’s butt so far.

As for what I’m thankful for today?  Remember that vegetable garden from my staycation?  First green shoots – maybe we will get the combines out to harvest our veggies after all!

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Something I appreciate about what I have.  This could be broadly interpreted, and in theme with the Challenge, I’ll be talking about something near and dear to my heart.  Sure I could talk about my most cherished things in life – family, work, health, yada yada.  But what I want to talk about is a treasured material possession…

My mini-van.  It’s not meant to be funny – this epitome of post-modern automobile innovation has changed my life.

2004 Sienna LEsienna-trunk

Just take a look at this shining example of luxury, comfort and utility.  Words escape me, but I shall try.  It drives like an ultimate driving machine (sort of), is as comfortable as my living room, hauls like an 18-wheeler and looks killer on the road.  Sure there are some downsides – the constant barrage of mini-van jokes from friends and family.  But I chalk this up to inexperience – once you drive one, you’re the converted.  In all seriousness, this is an amazing possession when you have two high maintence kids that have to travel with half their bedrooms wherever they go.  And the thing I appreciate most – it transports my family (extended in many cases) comfortably and safely, what more could I ask for.

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Think of negatives – that should be easy.  Find ways to be positive about those negatives – not so easy but useful

My physical journal will capture full thoughts on the things I find to be “negative” or “problematic” in my life.  For this forum, I’ll focus on a subset of negatives and the silver lining I find in each.

Kids – unfair to characterize as negative because we are blessed with two healthy, happy, so far good world citizens.  But once you have them, the list of worries grows exponentially.  Are they safe, are they eating, are they growing, are they happy, are they compassionate, on and on and on.  So what of that ever growing list are current concerns for us?  Here are the top concerns for each.

Emily – building on yesterday’s post, Emily has tended to be very shy all her life.  She’s a follower normally and never the leader.  Her first pre-school experience was a disaster, she’s a homebody, she’s happiest when her brother and parents are within earshot and drawing quietly at her table.  Each time she is thrown into a new social situation, we worry – massively.  My wife stalks the parents of such social circles and bribes them to have playdates ahead of time so she doesn’t walk into a strange situation not knowing anyone.  Which is what happened with kindergarten – she hired former KGB spies to identify incoming parents and set up as many playdates and intros as possible.  So when Emily walked into class today, she held hands with two of the girls already and was a bit more surrounded by “friends” then some of the other kids.  Despite all this, no doubt Emily was nervous and keeps mentioning how she doesn’t know how to make friends…  Hard to admit these things as a parent who want people to think your child is perfect, but it’s the truth – Emily is introverted and tends to take a lot of time to break out of her shell, and even then she’ll never be the life of the party.  So what’s the silver lining – I’m convinced she’s this way because it goes hand in hand with how introspective she is, far beyond her age.  She thinks and thinks and thinks – about everything.  That’s something to worry about too because I identify with that trait and know the responsibility of having such a personality throughout life.  She’ll never be the carefree, wind in her hair, be a ski bum after college type of girl.  But it’s this trait that makes her exceptionally compassionate – why I find random love notes hidden under my pillow every now and then without ever a peep that it’s there from her, why she gets upset when our son doesn’t eat and truly cares for his nutrition, why when I had to sleep on the floor camping (see my Staycation post) she held my hand to make me feel better.  For that, I’m truly grateful – could she be less shy and still be this compassionate?  Possibly, but I’ll accept her for who she is, better yet I’ll celebrate who she is because I’ll take compassion over extrovert any day.

Now onto my son – if you want problems, we could be here all night.  But let’s focus on the topic consuming Polly and me 24/7.  First, I’ll put this into perspective.  I call Cooper Coby – it’s short for Kobaiyashi, I probably butchered the spelling but the Japanese guy who was the reigning hot do eating champion when Coby was a baby.  I came up with this name because Coby would eat anything, stuff his face, hot dogs at a precocious age – it was a parent’s dream come true, especially since Emily was a horrible eater for the first few years.  Then one day, he decided to become anti-food.  Meaning, he could even be hungry and still the answer would be no to any food.  Thus a running battle with the dining table began.  We struggle with it today, and in the back of my mind I know he’ll someday be that teenage boy that can’t go to the fridge enough during the day.  Yet we worry that he’ll be 4 foot 6 because of what he’s doing now.  But I’ve come to peace with it – I don’t have unrealistic, grandiose dreams of Coby playing the NBA, never have.  I made a promise to him in the labor room almost 3 years ago that I will do whatever I can to bring happiness into his life – nothing more.  So as I think about this current challenge (hopefully temporary), I take stock in all of the wonderful blessings about him.  On this particular worry, I’ve decided that he’s just damn cuter than most 2.5 year olds because he’s smaller – e.g., he’s potty trained like some 2.5 year boys, but seeing my little guy standing at the urinal is a hilarious sight because he doesn’t look like a kid that should be doing that.  I laugh and I’m thankful.

Last one.  Let’s face it – the downturn in the economy is on everyone’s mind.  As an an entrepreneur with a heavy sense of responsibility, it’s a wonder that I sleep at all between the businesses and my kids.  This is a much more boring topic, so I’ll save the juicy details for the journal.  But what have I learned this past year of stress and uncertainty?  I’ve learned that tough times make you stronger – it’s like that Nietzsche quote.  It’s allowed me to appreciate the dedication, loyalty and care everyone takes at Tiny Prints more so than usual to survive and thrive in the current economy.  It’s allowed me to appreciate the deeply rooted family culture that exists.  And it’s allowed me to appreciate the fact that without such a culture and special people, we would never have even been around to worry about the current downturn – so much odds against our favor long before last October, it’s easy to feel grateful that we have a growing business to worry about.

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