Thursday, August 24, 2017

Such Great Heights

I belive in endowing community services and providing more people the mental space and freedom to be educated. I firmly believe everyone on the planet ought to have stress free access to fully funded education; furthermore, they should be able to pursue the most advanced degree they desire to achieve. Throughout my life I will aspire to accomplish this mission.

My education has been world class by all standards. At the Taft School, which I proudly and fondly remember, I was inspired by the mission "Non ut sibi ministretur sed ut ministret (Not to be served but to serve)." I have served my myself, my family, and my community. By being whole of self and mind, I have been able to contribute actively and outward.

Many years back when I was considering undergraduate studies programs I became enamored with a school called the Webb Institute. It carries the name of William H Webb, who fully endowed the school. Any student driven enough, talented enough, and fortunate enough to attend will receive a 100% tuition-free experience. This is a world-class institution. I was not passionate enough or competitive enough, performance-wise, to reasonably complete with the best of the best that attend this fine institution. Their focus is on naval architecture and marine engineering, and undoubtedly some of the finest vessels to ever traverse the worlds waters are conceived of by Webb Institute graduates.

Upon recently learning Harris Rosen's story I am also inspired. My desire to reach further and do more has been reinvigorated. Despite some setbacks early in his career, he has been a very successfully entrepreneur and hotelier. In recent years he has emphasized his philanthropy, which includes providing broad access to families needing assistance both money and time-wise to attend school.

It can be disheartening when you fail to mesh with those surrounding you professionally; Harris Rosen had similar struggles early on, and those challenges resonate with me. I see my challenges in the past as fruitful learning opportunities to dissect, to wrestle in that uncomfortable space, but also as firm ground to spring forth and achieve new heights. I am a lucky person to have had so much rich quality education, to have a healthy and happy family, and vigor to create a brighter spot in a seemingly encroaching world. Harris Rosen has risen above his personal challenges, and he has given so much to those around him.

My friends over at Flocabulary worked on a beautiful PSA piece along with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation on the global time poverty struggles. It highlights such a critical issue facing our world that there are stresses forcing in on families everywhere. Let that sit with you a minute. How high on the Maastricht hierarchy of needs are you and yours?

I believe in hiring others to help out our family and expand the time that we have to be more productive and to be more restful. A recent survey found those buying services, which free up time, can make you happier. This is not a conflicted position because there are both people needing work, our ability to pay, and freeing us up to complete other activities.

Should it be this way? I don't think so; I think everyone should not only be able to be as educated as they would like to, but they should be able to spend their time anyway they want to as well. I think there's a very bright spot in the future to introduce many more robots into society. Human intellect is key to realizing and fulfilling the potential that creating robots would mean for humanity. Essential tasks and services could be swiftly and more correctly handled by robots freeing up vast swaths of humanity to pursue other educational, productive, creative and recreational activities.

Willam H Webb and Harris Rosen are heroes to me. They and their legacies are helping create the world I want to see. Think about your community a moment and consider whether your neighbors have the resources they need to subsist, to see themselves and their children advance to the degree we all know is possible. If there is a disparity there, I ask that you consider their needs and consider whether you have the ability to change their future. Do you have a dime or an hour to spare to advance their/our destiny to such great heights?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

There is a "me" in Costa Rica

We quickly set in pretty swimmingly (literally every day and many days multiple times daily) when we first arrived. Willa was in a local camp here, CREAR, which runs during the mid-year school break, and she began her school the following Monday in mid-July. We sorted through our long term rental situation, and Marla and I each then took a couple weeks of Spanish classes, more in fact for Marla who is still continuing. Our language school Intercultura provides world class education with a deliberate focus on Costa Rican history and culture. Completing each class it has become progressively easier to have a richer experience here in Sámara. I took a couple cooking classes, which is an offering at school's kitchen each week, and I learned how to make yuca tortas and picadillo.

There are the occasional shrieks in the morning like when a crab was in the house the other day. We have worked on an ant encroachment into the house a couple times. Dislodging about a dozen wasps nests arounds the eaves took some efforts by our landlord the other week. While taking out our green waste the other day, which included some head to tail fish bodies Willa and I drew the attention of a racoon; the bandit started trailing about 10 feet behind us; thankfully, tossing the food waste into the horse field beside our house, the usual target, sent the racoon racing to get to the fishy remains first. Occasionally, a golf ball sized beetle will slam itself into the sliding door at night. We may have been reading and the slam jolts us back to the surface of our immediate surroundings.

This blog post for one was paused recently while I was writing poolside comfortably in the afternoon shade. Marla was reading and Willa watching a great new show, Tumble Leaf. There I was enjoying a nice quiet moment, and a yellow tailed wasp (they're the more aggressive lot compared with their all black brethren), and it started giving me a full body scan like a disgruntled TSA agent. I stood up, and the scan persisted seemingly even closer than before. Well, I was having none of it, and inside I went. One thing I most certainly do not want to experience here is how badly my body will react to a yellow wasp sting.

At our new house things went a bit south with the pool after an algae bloom kicked up. Ten days and many visits from the guys tending to the pool later it's back to looking crystal clear. Separately, it took a handful of visits from the landlord to work out all the kinks of the new house squeaks here, clogged drain there, missed times to connect on issues, and so forth. Everyone has been extremely helpful and able to do much with every contact we have had.

Dropping Willa off at school the other day I observed the metal shop immediately adjacent kicking out welding sparks. I became concerned because kids just like us adults have a very difficult time looking away from the allure of the blue glow. Much like yesterday's total eclipse starring right at it is an opthamologist's nightmare. After suggesting a couple ideas to the school a few friends and I are working on creating a "screen" to shield the kids' eyes. This was a necessary distraction from getting to my sabbatical business. We're far along now and will hopefully wrap it up in the next couple days.

All this is to say that I somewhat anticipated sabbatical to be a bit more readily apparent with vast swaths of free time to work on me projects. There are a few areas of study that I need to make a plan for, and then carve out and execute on that time squarely among the needs presented in renting a house abroad, parenting an energetic fournado, and all the daily life maintenance needs. That said my long wait for Game of Thrones season 6 is over. I signed up for HBO Now yesterday and binged through the first six episodes. I'm ready for Sunday's epic finale.

Friday, August 04, 2017

The Fournado is Real

About a month back I thought... Willa is vacillating between having an amazing time and struggling to adjust. It's hot, there are lots of bugs, and so much is different than she's used to. That said she's had huge breakthroughs in the pool in early July, and that is her happy place. We're getting fruit smoothies everywhere we go, and we're trying to be sure and address her needs constructively; although, sometimes we've just needed to put our foot down and tell her she's being a diva and suck it up. It's been a very interesting chapter in the process.

Today, along with a parent friend, I went to school and sunk some lemongrass plants in the play yard. There are tons of mosquitos, and Willa, nearly as much the target as I am, is still coming home with bites regularly. One potential remedy is to plant lemongrass, which mosquitos apparently don't like so much, and try to keep them at bay. 

Willa has been my planting helper all along back in Brooklyn and wherever the occasion arises. I'm at school and helping get this planting underway, and she has glommed onto my leg, and there is no letting go. We're moving from spot to spot, and Willa is constantly underfoot. "I want to help you with [this]... I want to help you with [that]" 

We sink one plant, and then we're working on the next plant, and I explain one of her classmates is to have a turn putting a plant in the ground, and at the risk of destroying the plant Willa will not let go of it. I do let go impressing a big mud stain across the front of her dress. It's hot, she's muddy, she's a crying mess, and I cannot get the plant out of her clutching hands. Prying the plant away from her we have to step aside to talk and calm down. Now we're both out of sorts, and I punish her by taking away pool time this afternoon. We have had to lose pool time or TV show time on a few occasions because of run-ins like these. 

Trying to leave school after the planting successfully completed she was a hot mess and would not let go. She explained she was tired and had to go home; well, this is an often refrain should either Marla or I see her at a school function anytime between drop off and pick up: "I'm tired", "I'm sick", "I don't want to be here." The teachers are super cool and helpful, and they often step in to lure Willa away bringing her attention elsewhere.

This is probably just four more than I am being a bad parent. I am not as quiet as feel like I should be. The heat doesn't help keep my temper down. My A-type and things needing to be repeated time and again and resulting in snotty bubbling emotional messes is not an easy place for either of us to end up. It's not nice once you arrive there; it's not easy to diffuse, and it's not so easy to just stand up and carry on. Willa's former teacher shared an excellent list of  32 Tantrum-Tamer Phrases to Use With 3 and 4 Year-Olds in Meltdown Mode. Marla and I talk about these situations when we've calmed toward the end of the day and gird ourselves for another eventful encounter in the near future. It's constant, and I want to help Willa grow, understand and appreciate along the way. She's teaching me when I see myself losing my cool (in more way than one), and that's forcing me to redouble my efforts to be my best self for both of us.

How do I know it's all going to turn out alright? I wasn't there, but the other day Marla and Willa are walking to school in the morning. Willa points out a bird to Marla and asks, "You know which one that is?" Marla says no and asks whether Willa does. Without skipping a beat Willa explains, "That's the Red Hawker-Nawker, and it's habitat is..." She apparently goes on for several extensive descriptive and imaginary educational vignettes about this fictitiously identified bird. Willa is smart, she's imaginative, and she's creative.

Some days Willa embodies the perfect pura vida, and other days she is mired in her fourness, and some days she rapidly vacillates. So she lost the pool today, and we'll spend some time talking about it while doing other things. Am I doing it right? I certainly hope so. The fournado is real, and she's the sweetest little monster I know. People say they miss this time -- I think they have memory loss. The Red Hawker-Nawker is a keeper for all times.