“Daring Greatly”

CliffJump

Joining the Club

I generally don’t assign any particular meaning to ages ending in zero, or celebrate birthdays much generally (I’m far too broodingly cool for that). But turning 40 is liberating. The mid- to late thirties are great in their own way: if you’re fortunate enough to be financially stable and have a couple of young kids to raise with a partner you love and genuinely like to hang out with, there is indeed a halcyon quality to life.

On the other hand, you’re in between. You don’t want to accept (or admit) that your body and those around you will pay dearly the next day should you stay out past midnight. In equal measure, you keep hoping to hear something on NPR confirming that modern life redrew the lines and, while superior to those wet-behind-the-ears young adults, you reside as an elder in that cohort, not a newby in the next.

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Craggy

I sit staring out the window
At a tree – the craggy kind
You see at the shore with
Gnarled bark that bears
Ancient warts
And misplaced branches
Of awkward leaves.
A pale green psoriasis
Spreads haphazardly.
The tree doesn’t reach far,
Stunted by sandy soil;
Maybe it has
Started shrinking.
Multiple broken limbs
Didn’t heal right;
The years must have
Been hard.
You get the feeling
That it wouldn’t take much
Of a wind to
Knock it down.
But this place has seen
A lot of strong winds.

Sad Species

If chlorophyll were melancholy
All the trees from tall to small
Would be like you and me.

anticipation

it’s 6:30 in the morning

i sit in meditation
in a far corner
with my back
to the room
gazing out
the window

your soft
inquisitive
voices
fill the hallway
then the room

nudging out my
concentration and
stirring my breath
hope rises
in my chest
of being noticed
and hugged

For Jay Birds, Junipers and Roses

PurpleWildFlower

I tore my eyes out for you.
It was either that or weep.
Either that or count the million
Wild flowers you planted –
One for each unwanted cell,
Giving new life and meaning to
Pink and purple and gold.

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“Still Alice”: Not Quite Devastating

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A Good Story, A Good Message

In “Still Alice,” Lisa Genova paints the picture of a highly intelligent and accomplished Harvard professor who is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease and how her life and the lives of her family members are impacted. The fact that the book can be explained in that one sentence is evidence of a good story. “Still Alice” is a page turner. I’m a slow reader but reached the end in a few days. There were plenty of times that I would have put another book down for a bit, but couldn’t put off learning what would happen next in this one. Genova writes fluidly with an easy continuity in the plot development that makes for an enjoyable read.

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If You Only Read One Book on Education

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A Tour De Force

If you only read one book about the sad state of American public education, make it Amanda Ripley’s “the smartest kids in the world and how they got that way.” Read it even if you’re already steeped in the subject because it’s probably more insightful than anything else in your repertoire.

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Watch “Whiplash,” Then Scold Your Kids

Drumming Magic

The Message

Movies with something to say often offer up the richest experiences, leaving us with a different way of thinking to ponder, a catalyst to assess our values and in some cases refine or alter them. “Whiplash” falls into this category squarely.

Damien Chazelle deserved his academy award for best adapted screenplay. To begin with, it’s a gripping story. And it’s told in the same fashion as many a good piece of music (SPOILER ALERT!): a long period of tension is followed by a climactic release at the end of the film when protagonist Andrew (played by Miles Teller) drum-solos on the stage of Carnegie Hall and wins the respect of Fletcher (played by J.K. Simmons), his equal-parts teacher nemesis and divine passer of objective judgment.

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Meta Insecurity: One Facet of My Mind

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I Degrade Myself, and Exhaust Myself

I’ve always been insecure. I still am. I’m insecure about mentioning that I still am because perhaps you thought that was redundant. I’m insecure about your response to me mentioning my insecurity because you might think me nauseating. You’re probably right. I probably am. But how could I really know? I can’t know what’s going on in the heads of those I interact with or who read what I write. That makes me feel insecure. I’ve always been insecure. I still am.

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Better Treatment Through Better Framing

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Krista Tippet: A Beacon of Intelligence and Civility

I’m a big fan of Krista Tippet, host and executive producer of On Being, a radio show carried by National Public Radio on Sunday mornings. On Being is home to Civil Conversations Project, described by the organization as “a public forum providing ideas and tools for healing our fractured civil spaces.” That’s the kind of precise, sensitive and thoughtful language you hear from Ms. Tippet; it’s no exaggeration to call her a hero in an age plagued by with-us-or-against-us thinking that polarizes our society.

Ellen Langer: Not Your Average Mindfulness Guru

One of my favorite episodes of On Being is from May 29, 2014 (http://www.onbeing.org/program/ellen-langer-science-of-mindlessness-and-mindfulness/transcript/6335). It’s an interview with Ellen Langer (http://www.ellenlanger.com/home/), a social psychologist and professor in the Psychology Department at Harvard University. Her research centers on mindfulness, and she was delving deep into the subject long before it became a buzz word.

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