Dear Emma

Dear Emma,

Hi Tinker. You’ve started Kindergarten, it is a big deal, even if you won’t remember it as such down the road, and I wanted to write you a letter, a message in a bottle. I hope you find this one day on an Internet like mine, one that empowered me to reach for my dreams.

In 1988, before I met Mommy, my younger brother and I were in trouble. It’s a long story, but importantly, both of us are blessed with a fantastic family now. We had to overcome much to get to where we are.

One of the tools to achieve that, for me, was a book of short stories that contained nuggets of wisdom. Wisdom that I saw few around me followed, but those that did seemed… happier… more at peace with themselves and the nature of the world. This didn’t result in complacency, but in an openness that enabled them to see the big picture, act upon it, and be true to themselves in their journey.

I learned about the book from an unlikely source, from a Rolling Stone article in 1990, on Steven Tyler, and Aerosmith, and its fight back from destruction.

It’s called, “All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”, by Robert Fulghum. Emma, my hope is you’re going to experience these lessons growing in your heart and mind (hopefully Mommy, me, all your grandparents, aunts and uncles, have demonstrated these things for you – I think we have).

The ideas in the book seem simple, but in practice, they aren’t. For example, ‘play fair’, when you will find, and it breaks my heart that this is so, that the world isn’t fair, and that some actually consider the idea of playing fair… weak. It’s not. Or take not hitting people. Always try and uphold it, however, there will be times you’ll be faced with a choice to defend yourself and others. And it will test your integrity and what you believe.

It is confusing and messy. But know this:

If you need to ask anything, ever, your entire family will try and answer it. There is no such thing as a dumb question. And if someone implies otherwise, have them see me (or your Grandpops, or uncles, or Grandmoms, or Mommy). We’ll set them straight.

Experience is a hard teacher, because she gives the test first, the lesson after. Ask!

Most important, we all have an internal compass pointing at true North. Listen to it. If you are feeling something is wrong – trust yourself – and think of the credo outlined at the beginning of this book.

It is a credo your Mommy and me believe in (she embodies this so much – she leads and teaches by example), and we hope you will too:

Each spring, for many years, I have set myself the task of writing a personal statement of belief: a Credo. When I was younger, the statement ran for many pages, trying to cover every base, with no loose ends. It sounded like a Supreme Court brief, as if words could resolve all conflicts about the meaning of existence.

The Credo has grown shorter in recent years – sometimes cynical, sometimes comical, and sometimes bland – but I keep working at it. Recently I set out to get the statement of personal belief down to one page in simple terms, fully understanding the naïve idealism that implied.

The inspiration for brevity came to me at a gasoline station. I managed to fill my old car’s tank with super deluxe high-octane go-juice. My old hoopy couldn’t handle it and got the willies – kept sputtering out at intersections and belching going downhill. I understood. My mind and my spirit get like that from time to time. Too much high-content information, and I get the existential willies. I keep sputtering out at intersections where life choices must be made and I either know too much or not enough. The examined life is no picnic.

I realized then that I already know most of what’s necessary to live a meaningful life – that it isn’t all that complicated. I know it. And have known it for a long, long time. Living it – well that’s another matter, yes? Here’s my Credo:

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.


Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw some and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.

Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

We love you sweetheart,

Mommy and Daddy

Congratulations to Paul Ford and family

Paul Ford just welcomed twins into the world yesterday. A few months back, in a piece at the Morning News he shared personal details to get here, titled “The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”.

Paul Ford’s blog has been a source of many thought provoking pieces for me over the years and if he’s reading this, well I just wanted to say thank you and congratulations.

Some Father’s Day thoughts

I really don’t think of Father’s Day as most do. Knowing me you’d understand why. I think of it as a day for thanks giving. For those with child and without, who try and leave in a better state what they’ve came to. For those who take responsibility as a blessing and not as a weight. For those willing to mentor and friend those who need it. Guys like that exist. I didn’t think so as a kid. But in adulthood I found out otherwise and have great examples in my life and my daughter’s. And it is truly fantastic.

I am so thankful to be part of the family I am part of. Love you all and have a great day everyone.

(Note, this was originally posted to Facebook and to my friends and family there, apologies for the double post. On my blog I own my words. I should have posted from here first.)

Play to teach self-control

NYTimes: “Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control? “ “Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control”

Do you encourage play time with your children along these lines or have them involved in a preschool that operates with a similar program? I admit I have not – Emma’s play is either directed – baking, arts and crafts, or games, or non-structured free time. So can’t attest to how well the work. What these programs are attempting to improve or instill is important.

And BTW, I gotta agree with the author of “What should a 4 year old know” for what is truly important. Compassion towards others, and self control, are both in that mix.


The New Yorker: Jonah Lehrer: “The secret of self-control.”

YouTube: “Kids & the Marshmallow Test”:

Happy “Half Way Out of the Dark”

That’s the Doctor describing the protagonist in this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, “A Christmas Carol”, and an apt description for what many feel is the significance of Christmas Eve (and Winter Solstice for that matter). It was a terrific episode (for an in-depth review check out “Behind the Sofa” a great Doctor Who focused blog). If you’re worried about the time-paradox questions it opens up and possible inconsistencies – well it’s Doctor Who – and there have been many such episodes in the past.

Emma had 3 before this, but this year was really her first Christmas and I feel so blessed to be part of providing it in such a crazy, fragile world. It was a fantastic day that culminated in her Grandparents and Uncle and family stopping over for a great dinner. I hope your holiday was as touched by loved ones as mine.

My thoughts go to those who have lost someone whenever I post something like this. We feel our missing loved ones in a real significant way during the holidays. I miss Mom. And for you especially hurting, my thoughts and prayers go out to you.

Speaking of which, let me pass along Howard’s holiday wish because I can hope for nothing greater:

may all our blessings
sow the seeds of compassion
wherever they’ll grow

(BTW – that’s two of his haikus of his I’ve quoted in two months – get over there subscribe, and maybe buy some of his stuff)

Happy Thanksgiving – What I’m Thankful For

I’m thankful to be husband to my sweetheart Richelle and for being a dad to my awesome daughter Emma. Our anniversary is this weekend. Our 11th!

I’m thankful for a family that has grown over the years, that has faced tremendous challenges and difficulties and has become closer. We’re blessed to have one another. Our story is amazing.

I’m thankful for friends who accept me as I am and cheer me on when I need it. I’m thankful to be able to lend an ear. I’m thankful to go on adventures together whether they be building new things or making music, or just being there for one another. I need to hang out more. I’m working on it 🙂

I’m thankful that I can make connections between people and between things and build bridges. It’s something I’ve realized is part of who I am and I am embracing it. It helps to design systems of software. It helps to empower others. Some call it ‘big picture’ thinking. I call it problem solving. Whatever it is – I am thankful.

I’m thankful I’ve found examples of what great parenthood should look like from Richelle’s parents. I love you Mom and Dad.

I’m thankful for the field I work in, on the teams I work in, in the company I work for and especially the people I work with who are unbelievable. Wow. Just wow. Every once and a while I need to pinch myself.

I’m thankful for the programming craft in so many ways. You’ve given me a career and an outlet for my creativity. Hopefully I provide as good feedback to those I work with as those I’ve learned so much from.

I’m thankful for my guitar and the gift of song. If you weren’t there for me when I needed you I’d be in plenty of trouble today.

I’m thankful for my inspirations – many of which are fellow bridge builders in the large. Scientists, engineers, psychologists, teachers, writers, song writers, designers, activists, doctors, journalists, photographers, public servants that work every day to help or share one another and society.

I’m thankful that I am starting to be comfortable public speaking again. I’ll never get rid of the fear – but I’m not bad and just need to practice. Ignite Philly maybe?

Speaking of that I am thankful for the Philadelphia community that has been built over the last decade that is helping to promote the city through the lifting up of one another. Refresh, BarCamp, Ignite Philly, and now TedXPhilly are some great public examples – but it happens every day in message forums, on Twitter and Facebook, at National Mechanics and Indy Hall, in coffee shops and books stores and random interactions every day we have with one another. I love this town.

And speaking of this town – I am thankful for my neighbors, my friends, and to live on a block where people know and trust one another, where kids play together, where we can have a beer and talk about the game with one another.

I’m thankful for mornings and nights. Sunshine and the the city lights and stars.

I’m thankful for coffee, beer and good food.

Pizza. Deserves a mention all by itself.

I’m thankful for early Metallica and Iron Maiden. For Johnny Cash and John Denver. For songs like “The Drugs Don’t Work” and “Pork and Beans” (by Weezer). “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” too. Thank you.

I’m thankful for Jim Henson and the Muppets. Fred Rogers. Sesame Street. Star Wars. Star Blazers. Doctor Who. STOS and STNG. The Simpsons. The Daily Show. Battlestar Galactica. Spider-Man. Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons 1,2,3,4, 5 and 6.

I’m thankful for “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, “Job” and “Psalms”, the New Testament, “The Last Lecture”, “Fahrenheit 451”, “Animal Farm”, and “All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”.

I’m thankful for people who believed in me when I couldn’t find a reason to believe in myself. Joe, Pat, Suresh, Steve, my “Moms” at Sears (Paula, Joan, Mary), you know who you are.

I’m thankful for my 6th grade teacher Mr. Crell.

I’m thankful that I have spent my time wisely over the Web’s birth and initial growth. No, I haven’t made millions. But – I’ve made lifelong friends and hopefully have helped a few people along the way.

I’m thankful for my Mom and my childhood. Most scratch their heads at that the more they know about it, and that’s understandable. But it helped give me a roll with the punches outlook. A belief that people can grow and change. To never judge a book by its cover. That we may not be able to determine what cards we are dealt but we can decide how to play them. Life’s not fair. But we can be fair to one another, and be there for one another. It’s our choice. And speaking of choice…

I’m thankful to live in a time where I can point my phone at the sky and have it inform me what the constellations I am looking at, or to have it help me translate languages from across the globe. Where technology can empower us to connect if we choose to do so (like this) and empower us to make a difference – but it comes down to choice doesn’t it? We need to choose wisely. I am thankful for choice.

And last, but not least, I’m thankful for Xena, my puppy. She’s 7 now. I love how she loves Emma and Richelle and life. She reminds me what’s important every day.

Bless you all and Happy Thanksgiving.