Monday, January 31, 2011

Both ends of the moon

The hardest part about winter is the dark. Leaving the house in the dark. Returning in the dark.

But at the same time the sky is clear and the moon is bright. Crispy air. No wind. Sleepy dogs. Warm cat.

I was lucky enough to be arriving and leaving at the right times to see the moon at her most beautiful in January. Full and rising above the East Bay hills in the evening, and then again as a new moon very early one morning two weeks later.

Full moon rise - evening - Jan 19th

New moon rise - early morning - Jan 31st

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's a mad world

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for the daily races
Going nowhere going nowhere

The tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow

And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had

I find it hard to tell you
I find hard to take
When people run in circles
It’s a very very
Mad world
Mad world

Tears for Fears 1982 -- Mad World

On the train racing through snowy Connecticut. On my way to see a major prospect but consumed by thoughts of the nightmare my mother-in-law is living.

She’s going through the long, slow decent into Alzheimer’s. We brought her out from Florida to be near us so we can care for her and now she is in an assisted living facility. For the first month she was in the Memory Unit while we stabilized her. Surrounded all day by people whose minds have left them. Thankfully we were able to move her to the main facility a week ago.

She has B and C days, sometimes a D day which is heartbreaking and then, on some sunny days an A day.The day before I left was an A day and she was fully aware of what is happening. She spoke quietly with me of the process of losing her mind, losing her short-term memory and how frustrating and frightening it is.

I have been the enemy for 30 years. She forbade Bret to marry me and found fault with everything I did. Now that she is ill and vulnerable I have become a cherished loved one. I am deeply aware of the opportunity to finally build a relationship with her, albeit under cruel circumstances. The illness has taken her temper, taken her criticism, taken her bitchiness. It’s left a young woman with a sense of humor looking forward to finally getting to know her grandchildren. Willing to talk about Studio 54 in the mid 1950’s, about being a beautiful young Swedish girl married to New York doctor 30 years older than her. Wanting to make new friends, wanting to keep her mind.

Each time I go to see her I have a pit in my stomach as I get out of the car. Every time I leave her I have a crush in my chest. It’s a sad, mad world.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spiderman on Broadway - or 24 perfect hours in New York

As I left California early Saturday morning I was feeling down, processing through feelings and worrying about some private life developments. But life is too short to stay down and so I decided that by the time I landed in New York I would have a plan to simply enjoy my time there.

First step - continue my pursuit of the world's most perfect Eggplant Parmesan - off to Caravaggio. A newish restaurant on Madison and 74th, and home to not only sublime food but also exquisite ambiance.

The eggplant parmesan was glorious - second only to the version at Giggetto in Rome - creamy but crispy, spicy but smooth.

Combined with sauteed artichokes, fusilli with four kinds of mushrooms, prosciutto with burrata and a great bottle of wine and I was soon feeling more cheerful (and no, I was not eating alone!).

Sat up talking late into the night and then the next day, despite the cold, I decided to walk Manhattan. 24 degrees, brilliant sunshine, the city never looked more beautiful. Art everywhere you look - in the buildings, the park and even in the street.

Then, after walking for many hours, happily window shopping, Spiderman: Turn of the Dark.

Perfection. Stunning visual art. I marvel at the imagination of the set and costume designers. And the music is vintage Bono and the Edge. I sat gripped. Sometimes with a silly grin on my face as my delight washed over me, sometimes wiping away a tear as the music and art moved me. Who knows if the critics at the New York Times will like it - it's due to open and so be reviewed soon but - if you can - go and see it.

Walking home in the quiet Sunday evening I felt truly lucky, deeply nourished, and even more in love with New York than ever.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chinese mothers - or Signs the WSJ is now competing with HuffPo?

I was horrified to read WSJ article "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior" - on two very different levels. One - I know a number of Chinese female teenagers well and the view from the other side is that the parenting style is awful for them - but Two that I was very disappointed the WSJ would publish something so inflammatory and without substance. A week later it is still the most popular article on the WSJ so maybe they are trying to compete with the Huffington Post and be sensationalist to drive traffic?

My children go/went to a school in San Jose that is more than 75% Asian (Chinese and Indian). It's rated one of the best academic schools in California and has tough standards and a rigorous academic curriculum. It's not true in all cases but the school does have it's fair share of "chinese" mothers who are as Amy Chau describes in her opinion piece.

I'm a Western mother. I have treated my children as adults almost their whole lives (very old school British - making little empire builders). I push them, and am demanding, and have been known to take away video games, and the car, based on grades but overall I believe the best and the brightest adults come from building confidence, independence and self esteem early.

I have had young Chinese girls at my house talking about the experience of being raised the way Amy describes. Name calling, high control, forced piano etc. led to low self esteem and a desire to get as far away from the parent as possible, as soon as possible. Several chose schools thousands of miles away despite being accepted into UC Berkeley. The mentality of a prisoner - loving the jailer because of the control but desperately wanting to break out. There's a risk the high control and drilling turns out what the colleges call "flat kids" --high grades, high performance skills, little creativity -- but what I find sadder is how often I saw the lack of joy in the kids. It's sad to watch a student play piano with great skill but no joy, when the night before she's had dinner with you and opened up about her mother and the bullying, lack of trust and respect she feels.

I have had my fair share of battles with my kids but I fundamentally believe in treating my kids like adults and making them independent of me.

And based on their friend's experiences -- when I do get tough the worst insult my kids have thought of to throw at me in the past couple of years is "you're turning into a Chinese mother!" They know how hard it is to be their friends sometimes.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Magical Apple in Dollars

Magic - in a picture.

I am an Apple fanatic. iPhone, several iPods, Shuffle, AppleTVs, and a MacBook Air. And then there is the magic of the iPad. It's not just magical technology - it's magical revenue growth almost overnight. Silicon Valley at it's finest.

Courtesy of SAI Chart of the Day - sign up for a fun insightful image in your email every day. And say a prayer for Steve Jobs.

Impressed by Senator Gillibrand this morning

I'm usually a cynic when it comes to politicians. Self serving, too slick for my taste, partisan and generally not trustworthy. The only exceptions I have met personally and really liked were Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

But this morning I met another one - Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Breakfast at the DLA Piper offices in East Palo Alto. 95 people - mostly lawyers - a sea of grey and navy (clothes that is, although there was plenty of grey hair too).

After the usual gracious introductions the Senator spoke about the issues she cares about and she struck a chord with me. She is smart and articulate (of course - she's elected and that takes both) but very real. No posturing, no endless policy wonking, short and precise answers. Quite different than the norm and (dare I confess it even to myself) more open than Hillary.

I so much appreciate the role Gillibrand played getting the movement started to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. When she joined the senate, replacing Hillary when she became Secretary of State, she found that the gay community had no real voice because their advocate Ted Kennedy was so ill. She spent time with military personnel who had been discharged, or who were still living the hell of living a lie, and decided to go for it and get the law - which both lacked integrity and reduced our military effectiveness - repealed. And succeeded much to my delight (I always thought it stank).

Though from New York, Senator Gillibrand's issues matter to silicon valley. Technology investment, R&D tax credits, immigration - all issues that impact employment - so it makes sense that she'd come stumping and raising money here. I was impressed and hope we'll see more of her.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 Goodbye, good riddance and I'll miss you

Annus Horribilis: A never ending cascade of parental illness. Ovarian cancer, prostate cancer and now Alzheimer's. The last is nothing short of a slow motion horror film of the conscious, and yet not conscious, downward slope of confusion and forgetting. Countless flights to England. Moving from Florida. Endless worry and stress. And yet - the opportunity to be the person I aspire to be.

Annus Mirabilis: The steady unfolding of our plans. The children thrive, the wind blows, the snow falls, the roses bloom, the dogs play, the cat purrs. Our friends laugh with us.

May 2011 be an exciting year but a kinder year.

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