Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Moments in a 5K

Tonight  I participated with Carey Colleagues in a Corporate Fun Run.  The team included the organizer form admissions, one staff member from programs, one from development, two from the registrar's office, me, and one from HR (as well as her husband).  We had a fun time gathering, running, and hanging for a bit afterward.

I ran just under 20 minutes.  I got beaten by a young teen.  He did well.  We went back and forth for about half the race and he just had a little more left at the end than I did.  So it goes.  I was 13th overall so I can't complain.

After I finished (running in a tech tank), I put my cotton Carey shirt on, went back a bit on the course and snapped pictures of my first two teammates.   When the third teammate came, instead of snapping her picture, I ran her in.  As we were working our way up the hill (she ran about 3 minutes per mile slower than me), she asked me, "Are you even tired?"  All I could think of to say was "I recover quickly."  Being able to go back and run people in is something I take for granted.

That showed even more when I went back a second time and found two other colleagues who were running together.  I snapped a shot of them and ran in.  Again, when I got to a point at which they would be running around the lacrosse field, I peeled off so that they could run to the end.  A person near them asked, "Where is he going?"  The two colleagues told her "He is already finished."  She seemed very surprised.  Again, I take all of this for granted.

Finally, when I went to the "results kiosk" with my colleagued and pulled up my results, a guy I did not know asked, "Is that you?"  When I said, "Yes," and had this confirmed by my colleagues the guy said, "High 5!"  Again, having been edged out by a kid and run a time that I considered good but not great, I just said "Thanks."  All this guy knew was that I was someone who had run what appeared to be a decent time.  He has not idea to whom I compare myself on a regular basis.  The key is, I take a 6:47 pace (which my watch gave me) nothing out of the ordinary.

I do want to take time to think about how lucky I am to be able to take this set of things for granted.  And take the time to encourage my fellow employees to keep up the great work toward wellness.  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Summary of the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend

This is the story of lessons learned on Memorial Day weekend.  Last year they came from running a 55 mile race in South Africa.  Today they are just everyday lessons.  But important nonetheless.   

This year’s Memorial Day weekend race was much different from last year’s.  Last year I ran Comrades. This year I ran a 5K.  I was fourth in age group with three of us in my age group within three seconds of each other.  I just happened to be at the tail end.  Doesn’t change my love of running or of racing one bit.  Before the race, my friend Travis introduced me to Emily.  Emily commented on my strong handshake.  Both Travis and I immediately went to the fact that I am and have been for four years part of a business school.  Emily seemed to find that a reasonable explanation.  I had not realized that my handshake would make that much of an impression on anyone.  But apparently it did.

Then I went to mass.  Mass was a lot of fun.  Great singing today.  I wore my socks from Nashville that Lauren had picked up for me when she ran the marathon there.  A fellow parishioner who happens to be the wife of one of the guitar players in the contemporary choir at the 10:30 mass asked if I was a guitar player.  I gave a muddled answer.  Compared with the people who play guitar for the mass—no.  Compared to someone with no experience—sure.  The irony is that my friend who is going for 50 marathons in 50 states who gave me the socks is the person for whom I did pick up the guitar recently to write a thoughtful song about being present when things are not so good.

Next, I came home and made an omelet with greens and gouda.  Good stuff. 

Then, I went to see A Quiet Passion—a movie about the life of Emily Dickinson. The main reason I had wanted to go was because I had quoted Emily Dickinson in my high school graduation speech thirty years ago.  I had quoted from the poem “My life closed twice before it’s close.”  The movie was interesting for a bunch of reasons.  Social context of the 19th century in the United States before, during, and after the Civil War.  Context of what was understood about Christianity.  Context of 19th century feminism.  Context of 19th century medicine.  Dancing—and the recollection that I don’t have basic formal dancing skills that seemed to be common back then as one character challenged another to be ready for a polka.  Period specific and appropriate clothing was cool to see.  The movie was slow—as life was in the 19th century compared with today.  The camera moved slowly.  There was not much background music.  It was interesting to watch the character of Emily Dickinson shown as someone who valued family and never imagined herself outside the confines of her family experience.  She was portrayed as witty. As sharp.  As having a condition that could not be cured.  As judgmental.  She called herself vile.  She talked about becoming what we most want to avoid.  And the poem I’d quoted for my speech was read as the next to last poem of the movie—which was set up with the actress reading her poems throughout.  Here it is:

My life closed twice before its close—
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.

I cried when I heard it. From stuff other stuff I have read, not one quite knows what the two events that made her feel like she’d already died were.  But she had quite a complicated and negative life despite being a recluse.

Finally, I came home and went to see Sound of Music in which one of my youngest son’s classmates was Maria for the first half of the play.  She did a great job.  The play reminded me of the importance of music in the household.  The comment about Maria bringing music back to the Von Trapp household.  And the joy that comes with music.

Then we had a party of kids and parents from the sixth grade class which was very nice.

In the morning, I will run again.

But the key is that today was learning.  Learning that my handshake made an impression on someone.  Learning about where my running is.  Learning about what I think of my musical skills even if other people appreciate them more than I do.  (And wondering how my friend is doing with her own exploration of the guitar.)  Learning about Emily Dickinson’s life.  Realizing how much I see in the struggles that she had and the desire to express herself.  Relearning the lessons of sound of music—tell people what you are thinking and appreciate music. 

Every day there are some lessons.  Today there were many. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Day in the Life

Yesterday was an amazing day. 

Some parts of Tuesday, May 23, were normal Tuesday events.  I started the day with an early wake up because I had gone to bed a little early the night before with one goal in mind.  Make sure my voice was ready for the twice annual commencement ceremonies at which I read names.  I believe this was the seventh ceremony for which I was the exclusive name reader.  It’s a big job and an important one as each student deserves to have their name read as accurately as possible before he or she walks across the stage to shake hands with the Dean. 

After the wake up, a little bit of work and then a run with my training partner of 5+ years with whom I have run on average more than once a week for three years now.  It is a beautiful friendship and we had a fun conversation.  She also enjoyed the chickpea flour crepe with Nutella that I shared with her.  I had extra chickpea flour after a failed attempt at making an Indian dessert.  The crepes, however, were wonderful.

Home, ready for work, and a drive to the location of the commencement ceremony.  99% of the drive was just fine.  The last 1% took about 10 minutes as people were being asked to pay to get into the garage (rather than paying when they leave) and that slowed the process down. 

I was wearing a bow tie that I had to tie myself for the first time.  The number of compliments I received—not so much about tying it myself but about the bow tie in general, surprised me.  Apparently, many of the staff with whom I work asked my assistant if she had suggested the bow tie.  But it was as much a surprise to her as to anyone else.  My bow tie even made the hand drawn label where I hung my academic regalia thanks to the dean’s executive assistant.

Faculty also thought I was still working during the pre-commencement prep time.  I was.  But the work was not answering emails or reading a peer reviewed paper.  Instead, the work was my last read through of the names.  Someone even commented, “If you don’t know it by now…” 

Nevertheless, when we got to the name reading part of the commencement ceremony, I did a pretty good job.  Yes, I know of at least two I messed up on.  One was my bungling as I looked at the phonetic spelling but should have just read the name as written.  The other was a misinterpreted phonetic for which the student actually called me out as he walked across the stage.  First time that has happened.  But as I had told colleagues and my running partner earlier in the day, reading names is something where the reader needs to be present with and mindful about each name.  Not thinking ahead.  Not dwelling on past mispronunciations.  Just reading one name and a time.  And not letting one misread get to me.  If I did, it would be a disaster and could spiral to more misreading quite quickly.  I cited the story of Rick Ankiel that I’d heard on a public radio program.  He let throwing one wild pitch in a playoff game go to his head and threw five wild pitches in that inning.  I needed to go on reading regardless. When all was said and done, I received positive comments about the ever improving nature of my pronunciation of Mandarin names from faculty who were native Mandarin speakers.  And later, at a reception for one of our dual programs, a student leader told her fellow students who commented on my name reading on how much I practice.  She knows how seriously I take my job and my responsibility to students in particular.

The next stop was that reception I mentioned.  It was for our dual program with a design program that we call Design Leadership. I enjoyed talking with students and with one of the faculty from the MICA side of the dual program whom I had not met before.  I sat at the table with the student leader mentioned above.  She gave me flattering praise as an advocate for students and as a mentor to the Carey Women in Business group.  I chatted with her and her family.  And we talked about cooking, including Indian cooking, and the dessert I had tried to make.  She told me that even in India most people don’t try to make the dessert I tried but have their favorite sweet shop at which the family likely knows the owner and has gone to the same shop for generations. 

Also at the reception, we talked about cicadas.  Some of the 17-year cicadas who are due to come out in several years have been turning up early.  I had taken several pictures.  One student wanted to see a picture I’d taken.  The students thought the picture was pretty good.  And it was interesting to think about what could be done with a picture of a cicada while at a reception at an art school. 

On the way to the reception, I had passed the site of the commencement ceremony for my training partner who had graduated from the University of Baltimore Law School a year ago.  That brought back some very nice memories.  While I had not attended my other training partner’s graduation this year, I knew that another training partner had graduated from UB’s Law School just a week earlier.  On the way to the reception, I also passed the apartment building at which one of my MBA mentees had her post-graduation party several years ago.  More good memories. 

What a day in the life.  Great people at present.  Being present.  Great memories of the past.  Makes work a pretty great thing for me. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Reaching 10,000 Miles of Running

A random combination of thoughts.  

At the end of my visit to my massage therapist this evening, she said I looked spacey.  When she said that, I realized just how much how I was feeling must be showing.  It was the end of an amazing day. I woke up and did some work.  I took care of a bunch of stuff around the house.  I showered and took my dog on a long walk.  I drove with my youngest to my office.  I picked up my oldest and dropped him off to play at the Sunday services at which he has been playing for years.  I hung at Dunkin Donuts with my youngest.  Drove up to the Philly suburbs with the two of them to meet my wife and middle son, my sister's family, and my parents for my dad's 70th birthday celebration.  Ate way too much.  Drove back.  Dropped off the youngest.  Dropped off the oldest.  And then went for a massage.

90 minutes of being completely relaxed.  

Closing out too incredible months.

Accreditation success.  Celebration.  Two people passing.  Youngest preparing for his first international trip with no parents involved.  Middle preparing for college visits.  Oldest preparing for his first summer internship.  Friend's dog with a poor prognosis.  Healing power of words.  Healing power of music.  Concerts.  Musical plays.  Non-stop action.  Non-stop life.  

And many miles.  I am at 9,990 after what I ran yesterday.  I will run two tomorrow and eight on Tuesday to reach 10,000.  It is just a number.  But it is a number that means something to me.  I have been lucky to run a few miles with many people and many miles with a few people.  The running is therapeutic.  But it also required being up early.  Going to bed early.  Calories (but not too many).  And lots of hydration.  

I look forward to 10,000 more.  

But for this evening, I will rest.  

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Two Poignant Events--Blessings of Cumulative and Singular Presence

I am someone who thrives on trying to make a difference for others.  Some days, I just focus on making a difference but there are no words spoken about it.  That is okay.  From day to day the difference can be small, and I am simply hoping that over time the difference will add up to something that is big and notable.  Other times, there will be a singular event that makes a difference to someone and I get to know right away. 

It’s not every day I get either type of feedback—the cumulative or the immediate.  Yesterday, I was lucky enough to get both.

It started even before my run, and I run early.  I’ve run with the same dear friend nearly every Tuesday going back more than two years and most Tuesdays going back more than four.  On the weeks we can’t fit in a run on Tuesday, we often find a way to adapt our schedules and fit in a run on another day.  Last week she shared with me a heartbreaking diagnosis for her three year old dog.  Over the years I have written words of thanks, words of encouragement, and words of congratulations.  Last week, I put pen to paper (yes, I really did before typing it up) and wrote words about dealing with grief that will come at some point.  Even my words acknowledged I can’t fix the grief, but I can be present.  The type of presence that is needed will be determined by my friend.  I have not put any words to a tune in a long time.  So, not only did I share the words (put on a background that ended up in my phone photo album for no apparent reason), but I also used my friend’s acoustic guitar for a little accompaniment.  It was an emotional moment before our run, and she was thankful.  I am blessed to be surrounded by friends who are empathetic and who join together to make each other’s days brighter. This is part of my purpose for being alive.

Then, at the close of the day, when clearing some email, I found a note in my Inbox.  It was from the last PhD student for whom I had been an academic advisor at the school of public health before I moved to the business school within the university for which I work.  I had been at his dissertation defense just the day before.  He thanked me for introducing him to a particular research area and for being a good mentor.  I actually hadn’t expected such thanks.  I had handed him off to another advisor when I switched schools.  I had sometimes taken a long time to get back to him.  But he saw the glass being half full rather than half empty.  Rather than looking at what I had not done, he noticed what I had introduced him to,  what I had pointed out while he was working on his dissertation, and what advice I had been able to give him.  In other words, he focused on my presence rather than on my absence, and being acknowledged as a mentor is always humbling.

I realize not every day will be accompanied by two events as poignant as yesterday.  But days like yesterday are the days that allow me to clearly see the return on the investment I make in my efforts to brighten others’ worlds.