I use this site to post random bits of information about my life and to experiment with WordPress so I can help others learn to use it.

Blogging U: Day 7 – Lessons

Fremont High SchoolAssignment: Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else.

Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue.

I have to admit that today’s assignment left me at a loss. It has taken me some time to sort it out. I delved deep into my past and realized I had had dialogues like this many years ago when I was teaching writing classes to high school students. I was a young teacher with high expectations.

“Time to pass in yesterday’s assignment,” I said. I do not remember what the assignment was.

Notebooks opened and students passed papers forward down neatly aligned rows of desks.

That night I sat down to read those assignments and found one missing. It was from a young woman who always finished her work and said little.

The next day after class I asked her to see me after school.

‘You did not hand in a paper for yesterday’s assignment. You always hand in your homework. What happened?”

She looked down at the floor in shame. And then started to cry.

She finally looked up and said, “It is my mother. She will not learn English. I don’t know what to do.”

I knew her parents were Japanese and her father worked as a gardener, but I had never met them. She was a good student and very quiet. But this afternoon she revealed to me her conflict as a first generation American. And I, who was raised in middle class Midwestern America, learned more from her than she learned from me.

Running Around

2015-04-26_Great_RaceI did it again. What was I thinking? Another weekend, another run. But this one is special. It starts in Saratoga, just at the bottom of my hill, and ends in Los Gatos.  And I have been doing it since 1997. Half of the highway is closed and around 2000 people get a chance to run, rather than drive, on this beautiful narrow highway. As with most runs I end up in my sweet spot, behind the real runners and in front of the people taking a walk. It is here that I have a chance to meet some lovely people.

My favorites are the people with kids old enough to want to do the run but young enough to be challenged by it and to be challenging to their parents. The really young ones have two speeds: fast forward and stop. Sometimes I pass parents pleading with their child to run a little bit farther. The kids that are a little older try to keep going but sprint  (sometimes challenging their parents) and then run out of steam and need to walk a while. When I have a chance to pass them at my slow and steady pace, I ask the kids if they know the story of The Hare and the Tortoise. Usually they do. I tell them I am the tortoise and they are the hare and maybe this time the hare will win. I challenge them to pass me by the time we get to the big tree, or the next road marker, or the top of the hill. And they do. We often repeat this as the tortoise catches up to them and passes them again. But they always get to the finish line first with their often grateful and exhausted parents in tow.

Will I do it again? I’ll let you decide!


Blogging U: Day 6 – Tree of Life

Today’s Assignment: Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?

I was sitting in the lobby of a car dealership waiting for my car to be serviced. I had my laptop and was updating a website for a friend. There was Wi-Fi, TV, free coffee, and a vending machine for snacks. It was the epitome of Silicon Valley comfort. I was oblivious to others sitting around me. With his back to me at another table was a young man who also had a laptop. I was suddenly aware of him when he came to my table, motioned to me, and asked me to watch his things while he used the restroom.

When he returned he inquired about what I was doing. Unlike the others in the lounge I seemed intent on a task. I told him, and he was astonished. We fell into an easy conversation. He told me he was a graduate student at a nearby University and eventually told me he was not sure what he wanted to do with his life. We talked about life and what was important. Obviously he had multiple opportunities. I shared with him that I had had several careers (at least three major ones). And finally he asked me how old I was. (75). He was 25.

Originally from China, he had already done many things. He had been invited to the White House as part of a group of achievers in his undergraduate days. He had worked for a couple of non-profits who helped students in under-served countries. (He was very proud of these connections and showed me the websites on my computer.) Currently he is working on a graduate degree but his heart isn’t into it, and he is uncertain what kind of future he envisions for himself. We talked about the difference between being specialist in one field or of being a generalist in many fields. I confessed my preference and impossible dream to know everything about everything. He understood completely and gestured in the air that this was like a tree: you could be like the trunk of the tree with deep well-grounded roots or like the canopy of the tree with leaves that flutter in the wind but not both. I could see myself in him fifty years ago.

Tentatively he asked me if I was on FaceBook. When I told him I was, he sat down at his computer and invited me to be his friend. I did not hesitate to respond. And then his car was ready.

This fleeting contact has once again brought me in touch with realities we all face. Who are we? What should we do? The lucky ones know. The rest of us still wonder–whether we are 25 or 75.

Blogging U: Day 5 – Water

Today’s Assignment: You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

It’s so simple. Everyone needs water. But living in one of the most beautiful spots on earth makes one appreciate this simple need.

Our well is not particularly deep. How clear, cool, fresh water can be less than one hundred feet beneath the ground on a mountain top at 2600+ feet is something of a mystery. But it is aptly named a well and has served us well for decades.

On weekends and in the summer we see hikers and bicyclist who sometimes underestimate the power of water and its scarcity when they decide to roam the trails on the mountain, trails which start at the base of our driveway. Many years ago we would sometimes have a desperate soul wander up the drive looking for a simple handout of water. This led me to decide to put water out on still warm days at the end of the drive.

Sometimes there has been a dollar bill tucked under the jug or a “Thank you” scrawled on the napkin. But one message said all: THANKS–spelled out in rocks.

A jug of water, cups, and THANKS spelled out in rocks