Merry Christmas everyone. Hope all of you are spending time with loved ones.
I’m fortunate enough to be spending Christmas with my extended family up at Snoqualmie Pass, watching snow falling while warm in front of a fire. I’ll be up on the slopes later today. Tonight, we’ll be enjoying a big Christmas feast for dinner.
It’s been wonderful catching up with relatives who are spread throughout the US. We’ve reflected on individual challenges of the past year, as well as the successes. We provide encouragements and support for each other over our favorite foods, drinks or just relaxing in the hot tub. I feel so energized and grounded with them. They give me strength.
I believe we humans are interconnected, and our families provide the closest connections.
Keeping that in mind, if you are not with your family for any reason, be sure to reach out to them today. Let the past be the past and the future the future. Today, connect with them and provide unconditional support. They need you as much as you need them.
Archive for the ‘personal stories’ Category
Merry Christmas everyone. Hope all of you are spending time with loved ones.
A friend from Paris told me that life is but a series of meaningful memories, as we sipped wine in a swanky bar in Saint Germain, Paris’ left bank.
Amid a stylish, handsome crowd, I enjoyed our continued conversation. I was in France celebrating my 25th anniversary with my wife. We’ve built quite a few memories together. Those memories are indeed a huge part of what bonds us today. But we also are both forward-looking enough to know many more lay ahead. That anticipation may perhaps be even more bonding for us moving forward.
If one really believes life is just a string of memories we make, then remembering the past is important but not enough. Life is a continuum and we need to really appreciate the present and the memories being formed today as well. My trip to France was made so much more memorable because close friends and family members joined us.
We had amazing foods, saw phenomenal sights and laughed together until our stomachs ached. We were in the memories of the moment. Shari and I decided to put a love lock celebrating our anniversary on the Pont des Arts, a footbridge crossing the Seine from the Louvre.
Couples have long puts love locks on this bridge as a symbol of their binding love. There is also another bridge more crowded with love locks but mostly for ‘lovers’ enjoying secret liaisons. Got to love the French.
Shari and I along with our friends went to the more appropriate bridge on a glorious, crisp Paris night. With the bright and romantic lights of the city shining upon us, we ceremoniously put our love lock on the bridge. We made yet another memory and enjoyed the magic of that moment with those dear to us. Those are the memories that make life rich. Now, I can’t wait for the next great memory ahead, just as life should be — a string of memories that we create.
I first caught the bug for traveling when I spent a year in Seoul right after college to rediscover my roots. Spending extended time in such a different urban setting was exhilarating, liberating and stimulating. Every day was a new adventure.
Prior to that I’d spent most of my life in the southern suburbs of Seattle playing basketball in gyms or hanging out at local malls.
I’ve now lived on three continents and visited many different cities. My career has allowed me to be mobile and given me a lot of opportunities to travel. While traveling can be tiring, it is still something I really enjoy. Reflecting back, I’ve enjoyed almost every place I’ve ever visited. Every city offers something unique and interesting.
When on the road I always try to spend some time in local places. Once when young working for a global agency I was in Jakarta and left my “Western” hotel for a weekend to live in a local lodging place with shared bathrooms. While on an extended trip to Paris, I volunteered to entertain a man in a nursing home so I could be with locals. Even in Butte, Montana I spent Saint Paddy’s day drinking with the locals until I passed out.
Life is like traveling. You can choose to get involved and seek out different experiences, or retreat back to what is familiar.
I’m one who encourages you to do the former.
For the New Year, I’m hopeful that my life will become even more simple, that I find fulfillment by what is accomplished and not by what is accumulated.
I want to be more supportive of my family and friends for what they are and not what I want them to be. I would like to spend more time with them, rather than being distracted just by my personal interests.
I will strive to be a facilitator between people I know, and try to make life better for those in my circle of influence – with a smile, a joke, an opportunity, an introduction, a perspective, competition, or whatever.
I will continue to challenge myself at work, at play, at home with the focus on succeeding at every opportunity, as that is my responsibility for being given the gift of life.
2011 is set up to be a special, memorable year. I’m old enough now to know that my perspective controls my reality, and I chose to be grateful and optimistic each day.
Happy New Year everyone!
Last night, I enjoyed a home-cooked Vietnamese dinner, a day after just returning from Ho Chi Minh City. A Vietnamese-American friend visiting from San Jose prepared a wonderful meal for a group of us.
She asked a lot about my trip to Vietnam. She reminisced about growing up in Hanoi with her extended family. She described carrying heavy buckets of water to her house, with a younger sibling on her back. She remembered such times with fondness. She described how life in the US was full of modern-day conveniences, but that it could also be very cold.
People here generally live for themselves, she observed, and not for others. Grandparents live in nursing homes, children are taught to be independent and move out of the home early in life. Siblings don’t talk for days, months and sometimes years.
She said she wants to matter to others, especially family. What good is material comfort if no one cares for you? Is good fortune that great if not shared with those whom you love?
When she first came to the US, she worked in a nail salon that was below a nursing home. So many of them never had visitors, she said. One time, an old man died and no relative came to claim the body. As the body was about to be carted out, she vividly remembers the body bag being zipped shut over his head. The sound is something she will never forget.
In Vietnam, she said, that just wouldn’t happen. People have the richness of family and relationships. People support one another and get self-worth through those relationships.
When I’ve visited Vietnam and other developing countries with fellow Americans, I’ve listened to the sympathy of pitying Westerners toward the local poor. It was interesting to hear the pitying sympathy of someone feeling the coldness of American lives.
It was by sheer chance. A business colleague and I were discussing a possible channel partnership agreement while having drinks at a Jazz club in West London. When it was my turn to refresh our drinks, I bumped into a friendly Ethiopian lady visiting family from Singapore. Both my business colleague and I knew a little bit about Ethiopian food, which seemed to flatter her. She appreciated that we knew anything about her culture.
That was a couple of nights ago. Tonight, Ed Kim, who runs Intrepid’s Vietnam practice and happen to be visiting the London office; Don Miller, a friend from Seattle who has been working in London since February; and I just finished an amazing Ethiopian dinner. This kind lady, her beautiful 8-year-old daughter, along with her London friend took us to a bustling restaurant in Shepherd Bush.
While we all had experienced Ethiopian food before, our hostess ordered dishes unfamiliar to us. The raw meats with diced tomatoes was something new for me and fantastic. The chili pepper stuffed with onions and tomatoes was extremely spicy, stopping me right after one bite.
During the evening, we were also taught several things about eating Ethiopian food, such as the proper way to unroll the injera bread. The young daughter mocked us for pinching our food up with just three fingers rather than the “four-finger” scoop.
For entertainment, the adorable daughter whose father is Swedish, made all of us laugh, usually at my expense, which delighted Don and Ed a little too much.
“You don’t look like a person who knows a lot about facebook,” she stated after asking what we do. Ed asked, “Why? Because he looks so old?” “Yes,” she replied, “He looks 99 years old.”
I watched Ed and Don laugh throughout the night. Being on the road does have its rewards at times, but most of it is a grind of working long hours and eating restaurant foods alone. By the end of the evening, this lady and her friend said that after just one meal together, it seems as we’ve been friends for years. They promised the next Ethiopian meal will be home cooked. They were so warm toward us.
Most opportunities in life are given to those who are looking for something different, and to those who open themselves up for new experiences. Usually that means being open to other people, especially to those who are different from us. In this situation, I’m glad we met people who had such a mindset when they met us.
I had an amazing mother’s day.
My mother’s always been a people person. She has great timing with stories and jokes. She easily entertains in group settings, and is quick to laugh. Despite this, we didn’t always get along when I was a teenager. As a mother, she could be extremely demanding and my adolescence would have been any parent’s nightmare.
Those days have long passed, and last Sunday I wanted nothing more than to spend time with my mother on her terms. After a family lunch, she wanted to explore Seattle’s downtown shopping district. I volunteered to escort her around, starting with a Seattle Street Car ride from our South Lake Union condo.
We wandered into Nordstrom, where I patiently followed her through the assortment of purses, then to the women’s apparel. I gave feedback about various outfits, but we mostly talked about the family, laughing at the passage of time. We spoke in Korean, somehow feeling closer for it.
She reminded me about how much I used to eat as a high school athlete, emphasizing the enormous amounts with her spread out arms and the volume of her laughter. Then, she saw an outfit on sale and excitedly asked me to help find her size. I obliged, searching through women’s clothes, not considering how ridiculous it may look.
Eventually, she lead me to the men’s section and asked if I needed anything. Mothers always treat their sons as little boys regardless of age. I tried to change the topic with questions about several of my cousins, but she was already looking at clothes for me. Finally, I convinced her that we should look at other stores as well.
Outside, the weather was gorgeous, perfect for downtown shopping. With the street musicians serenading us, she stopped by a cherry blossom that reminded her of Korea.
After a few stops, I directed her to the Nordstrom Rack. She was now even more focused on shopping with the prospect of saving money. I followed her about, delighting in her obvious enthusiasm. There, she found a pair of sandals that she loved — so much so she decided to buy another pair for my wife Shari.
I let her buy me a pair of shoes there as well.
Outside again, she pulled out a Starbucks card insisting we enjoy tw0 frappuccinos. We got carried away in our good mood and also shared a roasted corn on the cob. We conversed about how healthy she and my dad are. Me, watching her reaction carefully for any telltale signs to the contrary. Happy not to have noticed anything.
Time moved fast. I had arrived a day earlier from London but didn’t feel any jet lag shopping with her. It was just a perfect day.
The next day, she texted, “I was happy yesterday shoping with my son and lunch together with my family.”
Diversity really is the spice of life. Just happens that not everyone likes spicy foods. Well, I do and so do a lot of my friends.
One of the many blessings for me right now is my wonderfully diverse set of friends. They enlighten me with different perspectives and add different flavorings to my life.
A while back, some of us decided to take advantage of our diverse backgrounds and start hosting ethnic-themed dinners. We started with an Indian dinner. The home-cooked meal was fabulous and so abundant. We literally stuffed ourselves.
The next dinner was all about paellas. Three persons brought their own pan full of the Spanish delight, while others brought sides and desserts, as well as 11 bottles of wine.
A few weeks ago, we had a Russian dinner that coincided with my wife’s “Sweet 16″ birthday (plus some decades). Perhaps Russian cuisine is not as popular in the US as paella, but everyone was favorably impressed with the 17-ingredient borsch, the traditional Russian salads, pelmeni and so much more. Hey, the vodka wasn’t too bad either.
I know hours (if not days) of preparation went into the dinner, as each ethnic group takes such pride in their own culture. Olga Ugarova, a friend and a former colleague, even prepared a powerpoint presentation about Russia. If it wasn’t for the Russian vodka, I would remember more of the facts. The literary rate of 94%, however, was impressive enough for me to still remember. And I certainly won’t soon forget the taste of that wonderful borsch. Yum.
The next dinner is scheduled to be Korean with three ladies volunteering to cook. That should be quite a spread.
I heard somewhere that anyone can talk about being open-minded. However, a true measure of a person’s openness to try new things is whether that person will eat unfamiliar foods.
Diversity and openness are all good — and tasty too.
I lived in London during the early 2000′s, where I had some of my best memories ever. Now, I’m back in West London visiting where it took about a half a day to get my bearings to feel as if I had never left.
Much of my focus here this time is work, but tonight I was going to meet the only person I would ever call mi mate, Hugh Simpson-Wells. Remember I’m American, we don’t really say that.
Back in 1996, I met Hugh, who owned of one of the most reputable technical training companies in the UK (Oxford Computing Group). I had called him out of the blue and showed him how he could get to a liquidity event with his company by joining forces with ARIS (my company at the time). He bought into it and Oxford Computing Group was acquired by ARIS, just prior to our IPO on NASDAQ in 1997.
Hugh is a guy that everyone just wants to be around. He really has the “je ne sais quoi” about him. We stayed close even after ARIS was sold off to Ciber in 2001. Now, he’s got his own new venture and I have mine. When I had lived in London, we had torn it up together pretty good at times.
Tonight, we agreed to meet at Restaurant Soho Spice because I remembered that my boys loved the place. I arrived in Soho 15 minutes early and felt confident about getting to the restaurant on time. I maneuvered through the Soho streets, happy to hear so many different languages along the way. I walked past restaurants and bars from my past, bringing back loads of memories…
Thirty minutes later, I was still looking for Soho Spice. I thought for sure I knew exactly where it was, but couldn’t find the place. I guess I didn’t remember as much about the city as I had thought.
Knowing that Hugh had ridden in from Oxford, I felt absolutely horrible for being late. My US iPhone was of no use here and I felt completely helpless.
Fifteen minutes later, now a half an hour late, I became desperate, actually asking people if they knew of Soho Spice. No one knew.
An hour into my search, I started looking for an internet cafe so I could find the address and to email his iPhone that I was lost. Eventually, I found a hotel and got the address from the concierge.
As I hurried toward the place, Hugh was walking toward me with a smirk. Apparently, Soho Spice had closed two years ago and I had walked past its old location several times. After many apologies, we found an Indian Restaurant nearby and had some proper curry and a bottle of wine.
We reminisced, as well as talking about our current lives. Time flew. Then, we got our bill to head off to Ronnie Scott Jazz club. We laughed about hanging out at Tiger Tiger and China White during earlier times, and whether we would even be let in now…
It’s 5:30 am and I just got back to my hotel. I probably shouldn’t really be blogging. However, fourteen years of friendship is something that doesn’t come by easily. And it’s something that I certainly don’t take lightly. In the end, as he got out of the cab at Marble Arch, we gave each other a “fist” pump and said, “THAT was an awesome time.” See, he’s become a bit American as well (but don’t tell him).
Dude, really, I’d kick it with you anytime, anywhere in the world. Peace.
Parenthood is a humbling experience. It is a rewarding experience. It is a growing experience. Children are a reflection of their parents. Maybe that’s why parenting can be so frustrating.
I’ve gone through different phases of parenthood. Of course, there is the “overwhelmed stage” as a young parent. We had our two boys 11 months apart. That was physically taxing, especially for my wife. I quickly realized how different points of views can be about child rearing. We had a Korean live-in “nanny” when the boys were babies. Once, when my older son, Jeffrey, cried and wouldn’t go to sleep, I left him in the crib and restrained the nanny from picking him up. Next day, she was packing her things, saying she would not stay around and watch a baby die from the cruelty of his father. My wife pleaded with her to stay, promising that I wouldn’t do that again.
I wanted to teach my sons independence in the Western way. The women in their lives wanted to nurture them unconditionally in the Asian way. That unconditional love, of course, has a price later of tremendous family pressures and obligations.
As my kids grew older, I was completely absorbed in my career, especially in building ARIS. I traveled constantly and played only a minor role to my wife in raising our boys during their elementary school years. I remember hearing somewhere that a mother’s role is make children feel nurtured and safe, and a father’s role is to prepare them for the real world. I took that too literally. For their elementary and pre-teen years, I was a strict disciplinarian.
My younger son, Jeremy, especially had a hard time with my approach as he was very sensitive. Even as a big chasm developed between us, I was determined to treat both boys the same. That was a big mistake. After all, I was an adult and he was a child, and I was being unreasonably stubborn.
As the boys hit teenage years, Jeffrey became everything that I tried to instill, a very independent person — but to an extreme. He got into the punk culture while living in London. He played in a rock band. He got in trouble in school and with local authorities. No parenting method worked. By then, I had matured enough to know that the cold disciplinarian tactic did not work. I was trying be a more engaged father. Even that, I messed up in my typical fashion, getting too involved with his band and giving input that wasn’t wanted, nor needed.
Looking back, the problem was that my boys weren’t meeting MY expectations. I initiated most of the conflict. Now, I agree that parents need to set guidelines, but we need to determine whether our expectations for our children are good for them or for the parent. If it’s only good for the parent, then the problem obviously is the parent.
Here is a story that changed my perspective. There was a young man who had social anxiety issues and met with a psychologist. He was raised by a single mother who never let him out of her sight. She developed her whole life around him. She drove him to school, picked him up at school, even as he was going to high school. When asked if he perhaps thought that his mother had acted selfishly, the young man responded, “Oh no, it’s because she loved ME so much.”
Obviously, real love would have been to let her son grow and develop the skills necessary to function in society, regardless of how painful that may have been for the insecure, single mother. Letting go sometimes is the truest form of love.
We just finished a family vacation over the holidays in Southern California. While we had the usual moments of conflict when trying to coordinate a group decision, our time together was very pleasant. My perspective on parenting has changed a lot over the years. I’m not big on imposing my will on my boys anymore (it never worked), but now want to find their individual strengths and nurture those. I’ve learned to appreciate the personalities of each. I must say that they are both very street smart, despite all the craziness I had injected into their lives.