Magic School Bus and Convertible Dreams: May 2017

As a young boy in Joypahar, I had two very special dreams; ride a yellow bus to school, and own a “Noddy” car.

I am certain, both dreams were connected with seeking some form of independence of being my own person and being on my own.

In the early 70s Bangladesh,  yellow school bus service was not available; once, in the United States, I did ride a school bus and found it to be a jarring experience; uncomfortable seats and bullying kids were much more than any form of independence than I had bargained.

(The Classic Noddy Car: Enid Blyton Series)

The Noddy Car dream is more obvious. He was my favorite childhood character idol, who did good deeds and saved the world. Just after turning 40, I did buy a convertible, that looked very much like an adult version of the Noddy open hood car. And I loved every moment of owning and driving my Noddy Car around.

Consciously or not, we are shaped by our dreams, going new places, accomplishing things, and eventually, becoming who we are.

Dreams don’t have to be spectacular, world-changing or expensive, they just have to be dreams; something you desire, or think is worthy of pursuit.

I watch friends climb the K2 or run marathons, start businesses or bands, buy island properties, give all their best to a cause they believe in; all of this, pursuing a passion, changing the world or not.

Not all dreams are perfect, nor do they need to come true.

At a very young age, I dreamed of being like my Dad; wanted to wear a tie, and a suit to go to work – and to cocktail parties in the evenings. I did accomplish that dream – but soon thereafter, found ties and dress shirts to be “choking”, and prefer to go to work in jeans and a polo.

After traveling the world, having three “dream jobs”, living in “dream homes”,  and owning “dream cars”, I ask someone recently, if I have the right to dream more. One may wonder, whether one has used up their dream quotient. But if one doesn’t have dreams, how do we move forward, if you have nothing that you crave for or look forward to?

Since my mother’s passing last year, I feel like I have become unanchored from my by birth land. I speak the language and look like them – but I don’t relate to the aspirations of my contemporaries. Except for a handful of childhood friends, and a few close family members, I don’t have the urge to assimilate to Dhaka. When I land back in the US and the immigration official says, “Welcome home, Mr. Mahmood” – I get chills.

Stepping into my fifties, I have started dreaming of anchoring again. Earlier, I have written about Anchoring in An Uncertain Sea. This Anchoring has a different feel to it.

Interesting, that the young boy, who once craved independence in a school bus or a convertible, now seeks his own tether.

Today, I crave that opportunity to launch a kayak for lunch towards that café down river, and to live close to loved ones, who accept me as family, and are there when dark clouds of difficulty surround me.

Being part of a bigger whole, seems to make more sense now.

(My future kayak launch: photo courtesy Toby Blades)

Recently, I have also been gifted the opportunity to write, what I want my Chapter Three to be. The children are grown up, and I am still healthy, and in an emotionally open place to carve out what I want to do for the third quarter of my life.

Some say, start your own business, or do something truly philanthropic, or get into CEO coaching (because your’e so good at it!)

I know whatever I step into, the most important thing is that, I will have fun along the way.

I thrive in collaboration, versus confrontation. I am most present, when there is creativity and “puzzle-problem-solving” involved. I have twenty-five years of experience in a variety of environments that are worth sharing to do something meaningful. I know, that new opportunity/dream will emerge when the time is right.  Dreams are neither pushed, nor pulled.

I don’t want to ride a school bus, I want to get my (mental) convertible back.

In the meantime, the kayak awaits, the water beckons; let me feel the gentle breeze on my face, the sun on my back, the sound of the water slurping all around me.

This is good, for now.

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Turning Back Time : October 2016

I woke up from a disturbing dream, and felt sad to the core of my heart. The dream was sweet and nostalgic; I was listening to my mother as she was talking about the good old days, when we lived in Joypahar. We were playing Uno, over a cup of milky Cha, a few Nabisco biscuits, and talking up a storm.

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Playing Uno with Mummy, Denver 2003

Within my dream, I realized, I was in the midst of a dream, and that soon I would wake up and the moment would be over. I tried to tell my Mom, but the moment was so joyous, that I couldn’t bring myself to reveal what I already knew as the truth.

I wanted us to remain happy, just like that moment, just with that cup of milky cha, over that game of cards, raising “gopshop” to a whole different level.

I am certain, we all have those moments, where everything just feels right;  the lighting is right, the temperature, the mood, the music, and most importantly, the people you love, and care about. These are precious times, times to cherish, sip like a good wine – just before you know that these come to an end.

Recently, my Aunt and Uncle came to visit us from Dhaka, for a weekend. We sipped a wonderful cup of latte while walking around Harvard Square, on a sunny fall morning;   took a swan boat tour on the Boston Commons lake, and discovered the magic of bonsai at the Harvard Arboretum.

harvard-square
Hanging with out with my favorite Aunt and Uncle, Rita and Aziz, Sep 2016

I had that same feeling; I knew these few days are precious – and we took it all in the best possible Bangalee way – food, music, adda! I am grateful for these three days I got with these two wonderful people, who make me happy, every time I see them.

Over the last thirty years, as I have left religion, something else has been on my mind about these joyous moments, old and new.

Major world religions talk about the gift of reincarnation or afterlife. So therein lies this possibility of heaven (and hell). There is a small chance, they remind us, of meeting those people we love, in life after death.

However, in my non-religious views, and the lack of confidence in heavenly interactions, I feel deeply saddened by the fact that I will never, ever see my mother again – not in this lifetime, or another. She will never remind me to walk straight, or eat slowly, or ask me about how we are doing; what I had with her, is done.

Deep breath.

I know I cannot wind back time.

But another really conflicting thought enters my consciousness. I am thinking of my beautiful daughters, my sister, or Matthew – those that surround me with love today.

Cupcake Eating Jan 2016
Harvard Square, Jan 2016

Every night when I kiss Shania goodnight on her forehead – or when Daiyaan is visiting us and we have samosas together, while arguing about this or that, these moments are also limited and they too shall come to an end.

After this life, I will not see any of these loved ones again. This churns me inside and out.  Suddenly every second feels so much more precious. There is so much beauty on this earth – and I have so much to be thankful for – that I really don’t want this life to end.

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One of those perfect moments, with Shania and Atiya, Summer 2016

 I realize that every moment is precious with our loved ones. This time cannot be repeated – and it cannot be reincarnated. It is, what it is; it is all about NOW. And I have only responsibility – to make it as joyous, for myself and for them.

It’s a cloudy, drizzly Sunday here in Cambridge. Shania has a sinus thing going this weekend. We decide to stay in and just chill around the house. We have left-over Italian and watch a Disney movie together. We toast some samosas, and make hot tea, to keep us company.

At the end of the movie, Shania thanks me, for being lazy today and just hanging out with her. I am grateful to her, for reminding me, at this moment, at this point of completeness.

Not looking back, not winding back time, not even looking forward. Just Now.

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Daiyaan and I on Marco Island, 2003

We Will Carry On: April 2016

Five years ago, I came back from an overseas work trip and found empty card-board boxes in the lobby of our beautiful South Florida home; family pictures were off the wall, things were strewn all around the place, there was disarray in my carefully manicured paradise.

In the weeks following, my life changed forever. Unbeknownst to me, I became a FAMY (Father Mummy) that week.

Shania recently taught me this new term she learned on TV: FAMY (pronounced FAH-MEE).

Fifteen birthdays, five New Year Eves, one learning to read, and one high-school graduation, one learning to drive and one learning to ride a bike, one buying a first car, first loss of front teeth and one getting her first job,  and many other “firsts” later, here we are; undeterred, unapologetic and, each of us, in our new trajectory. There is no looking back; no retrieving time with a “back” button.

Five years ago, if someone had told me that Daiyaan, at almost twenty-one, is going to school in Florida, while building her career in insurance – or that Shania, at almost eleven, is growing up to be a sparkling, amazing, foodie-movie critic-worldly-loving and compassionate child, I would have been surprised; not because, I don’t want them to be this way, but more so, because I had no idea –how to be a FAMY, what it meant and what it entails.

I also had no idea that I would be in another global business leadership role, in a major publicly traded corporation, or living a new life, in the heart of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Five years ago, I blogged about Jumping into a Meandering River, because that’s how it felt.

We started swimming in a stormy dark night with no destination in mind; I could taste the saltiness of three streams of tears, while the rain beat down on us. Fear, loss, anger and pain, commingled, all tears taste the same.

At that time, a wise friend advised me, “Remember, YOU are the pole that holds up the tent, if you fall, the whole tent collapses.” I keep thinking about that phrase, and shudder.

As a FAMY, there is really no looking back, or falling sick, or for that matter, being out of commission. The tent could fall apart. It’s a lot to digest in one sitting.

Some thirty plus years ago, on a May morning, my mother also took up a similar role. In a lot of ways, I am following in her footsteps.

When my father died, there was a discrete reason for the change, it was clean-cut. Death happens and you learn to live with that. There’s defined mourning periods for death in most world religions.

In our case, the world of mental illness is undefined, taboo, and spooky as hell. You can’t really talk about it in public. There’s shame, there’s misunderstanding and guilt. Death is explainable and you know it’s inevitable; who does one blame for mental illness?

Even in movies, they photograph mental illness with a grayish hue, a cloudy or hazy lens. They usually end the movie with someone sitting on a chair and the lens moves far away. Worldly religious books don’t provide you with guidelines on how to behave when your world is struck by mental illness.

In situations of ambiguity, you create your own rules, define that path that brings the best possible outcome you can imagine.

So we started our journey, one-step-at-a-time. Didn’t pre-plan, didn’t have time to strategize a grand outcome. One school-lunch, one parent-teacher meeting, one birthday party and one doctor’s visit at a time. Just had to get it all done.

The Three of Us together Oct 2011
Three of Us Happy in October 2011

Once I was dating someone, who asked me who was “first” in my life; my answer was simple, I am not even first in my life!

Today, looking back, so many changes and heart breaks later, I look at these two beautiful gifts in my life, and feel blessed.

We didn’t choose this life, in many ways, this life chose us.

Our lives are not perfect, neither are they festered with disaster. All we know is to make the best decision we can, with the information we have, in hand.

You do your best, every day.

If life has taught us anything over the five years, there is no single path or stream of happiness. It comes in bursts, sparkles and shows up without notice.

We have to be ready to accept happiness, embrace it.

Recently, the three of us are vacationing in Amsterdam, just after Daiyaan’s close call with a terrorist attack on the Brussels airport; Shania turns around and tells me that she wishes that she could time-travel back to my childhood and be my friend. That’s when I realize the gifts of a FAMY.

Tomorrow may not be as happy as yesterday; it may be a lot better!

 

Gifts of a Rock-Star Mom: Dec 2015

Mom 2005
Love This Smile (Fall 2005)

We wonder about all our habits,  so much, that we learn and emulate from our parents; it’s tough to put a number on the gifts that we received.

 Sometimes, it’s the way they protect us with unquestioned certainty, sometimes it’s the way they cook a certain dish, or, it’s their voice as they sing or read, and often, it is their view of the world. It’s rarely discernible from one another; often a combination of values, virtues and habits, that make us, who we are.

You have given so much, and with such certainty and conviction, that to untangle this into a handful of things would be nearly impossible.

Some twenty-five days after your passing, I look back at our forty-eight amazing years together, and am filled with gratitude.

Not only am I glad that I met you, I am who I am, because of you.

Day I Left Bangladesh 2 Aug 1985
The Day I left Bangladesh (August 1985)
 

Resolute Conviction of Execution

You took a five or six year old boy, stood him in front of a tall building and told him to be as tall and hold his head always straight; It was confusing and intimidating.

You built 2 institutions in front of my eyes, brick-by-brick. You raised funds, and interviewed teachers, built a curriculum, and made sure that the restrooms of the schools were clean. You once told me, if you want to see how an organization is run, first go visit their restrooms!

Mummy Photo Herman Meiner
My Vibrant Mother: In her high days of building institutions (1992)

When you walked by a classroom, there was pin-drop silence except for the teacher’s monotone. They knew, that the Principal was walking by; there was fear, and respect, commingled with the knowledge that you set a standard of excellence that others wanted to achieve.

Today, my sense of conviction, of getting things done, of “moving the needle”, of “execution” must be something I have learned (inherited) from you.

With My Dad and Sister 1985
Smiling with my Dad and Sis 1985 
 

Joy, Friendship and Loyalty

It was always fun to be around you; always a sense of newness, adventure, food, debate, a sense of crisp modernity; we discussed politics, and new topics. As if the world couldn’t go stale around you.

When you walked into a room, people noticed; they wanted to be with you, seen with you. We claimed a connection to you.

You were always doing things, running things; during the Independence War, you established a school in our home; we learned with carrots, and potatoes; did art  with charcoal and crayons. You turned adversity into something meaningful.

Friendship, Joy and Loyalty

You taught me how to be a good friend; your friends are loyal to you for over 70 years. I remember, once, traveling 5100  miles, over two weeks, to see your best friend. We felt, that these friends of yours, were family.

Mom with best friends
With two best friends, Dr. Najma Rizvi and Hafiza Zaman (1987)

My friends often came to you for romantic advice, they wanted to hear from you; sometimes, they wanted you to speak to their parents, on their behalf. Everyone felt safe, and protected by you.

Sometimes, at 11 pm, you would say, let’s go for ice cream; no social boundaries; pajamas, and cramped cars.

There has always been, ice-cream and smiles in our lives.

Mom With Family 1991
Her family was her source of strength: Mom with her parents and sisters (1991)
 

Food and Wrapping Paper

A friend called recently and reminded me that he had his first home-made pizza and the Burmese dish “Khaok-Swe” at our home in the 1970s. My friends loved our home, because we had free flowing crispy samosas, hot tea and dalpuri ready to go!

You were always making these amazing, eclectic dishes – blending the North-South-Asian-Western influences in a big crock-pot. I love your tangy orange aloor dom with crispy loochi, and that mixed vegetable you made with a white sauce. Ghee flowed easily and so did cardamom and all those “exotic” spices. My college friends would send orders for your amazing Dimer Halwa, whenever I went home for the Summer.

You poured your heart and soul into food.

Your creativity and ability to blend flavors with imagination is what we admired. I see your creativity passed on to Apu (Atiya), when she pours herself into her gourmet. I know for certain, we are both foodies, because we never had a boring dish at home!

Food was a symbol of affection, love and caring. You would not visit anyone without some flower or food!

My parents Engagement Day 1962
With my Dad on the day of their Engagement (Seattle 1962)

Food was always, also served with a flair.

I remember a winter garden-party at our home in Joypahar. As those beautiful people, adorned in chiffon and pearls, emerged from their cars, I remember Kababs being grilled on one side, while the servers in white uniform were carrying out appetizers. Atiya and I, in single digits, sat in our pajamas dangling our feet from the balcony above, as if watching a movie unfold. There were pigeons released to celebrate a birthday, along with live fireworks.

You told me once, that the wrapping on a gift was just important as the gift itself; it signifies the care and thought you put into everything.

Going to Dinner with Queen Elizabeth 1985
Heading out to Dinner with Queen Elizabeth (1984)

Questioning Authority

Ford Foundation scholar from the early 1960s, you questioned norms and pushed boundaries, specially for women’s rights, even before I was born. You left your own home at seventeen, to go abroad and study. In those days, from a conservative, Muslim family, that was rare.

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All That Drive and Ambition! Somewhere in NA (1962)
 You came home from the US, after completing your second Master’s and wanted to change the world. You were in love, and declared it publicly – again, another first in those days.

I have heard stories of bullies and how you pushed them back, in personal and professional life. At least two Presidents of Bangladesh visited your schools and told you that they had heard of stories of your courage and standing up to your conviction.

I remember how you stood hours out in the sun to get an audience with the Holy Cross nuns to get your daughter admitted to the best known girl’s school in Dhaka.

On the fourth day of my father’s passing, you came to me and asked me to remain resolute on heading out to the US for college, even as this adversity faced us.

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Our Last Family Portrait Together (April 14, 1985)
As I talk to my daughters, today, I speak of your dealing with men in an oppressive country; we have learned about persistence from you and how you never took no for an answer.

Smile and the World Smiles With You

As I look through your photos, they are filled with smiles.

Mom in Hawai 1963
Hawaii 1962: Young Scholar on her way back home, full of idealistic dreams and aspirations
 You keep reminding us that life is all about smiles. Even through disasters, and wars, you kept smiling and moving us forward.

Often, people tell me that they like me smile; I know that my ability to smile is a reflection of your ever-present smile,  and acceptance of adversity with courage.

With Her Favorite People Milwaukee 1993
Love That Smile! With my sister Atiya and Brother-in-law Habib(Milwaukee early 1990s)
 I teach my children that, with a big smile, they can also make their dreams come true.

With D&S 2006.JPG
With Daiyaan and Shania (Denver 2006)

Last week, as I am describing you to a friend who never met you, my friend states that you sound more like a “rock-star”; in many ways, you are a rock-star to many.

We rarely realized this;  you’re our mother, care-giver, protector –  first line of defense. Today,  when we hear about thousands of people, whom you influenced in one way or another, mourning you around the world, I realize, I lived in the shadows of a rock-star mom.

Rock-Stars are not just musicians; rock-stars often change the world, for good.

You shared your kindness, warmth, knowledge and goodwill, freely. You provided food, and comfort to many, during the times of war and peace. Individually, you changed the world, for good.

When we met last, I said, Mummy, I am going back now and will see you in three weeks, when I am back for the holidays. You said, very crisply, Not sure if I will see you here or at another place.

Go bring your happiness, smile, joy, food, resolute assuredness to the heavens above. Can’t wait to hear, how you have re-arranged that place to meet your standards!

I will await to see you again, my Rock-Star!

Mummy Well Jan 2014
Last Time we were celebrating at our home (Nov 2013)

Seven Years, Seven Jewels of Fort Lauderdale : July 5, 2014

Sunset at Pompano Beach
Sunset at Pompano Beach

Fort Lauderdale is a quintessential beach resort down; as if you’re on one long vacation, 24/7/365; there’s not a lot of history, arts or super-character core community here. The core here is formed of water – it’s either the azure blue Atlantic – with amazing sunrises – or the magnificent, man-made, inter-coastal waterways that weaves around town.

The Mesmerizing Blue of the Atlantic
The Mesmerizing Blue of the Atlantic

Often my friends from elsewhere would say, you live in Miami; they could not be farther from the truth! In seven years, I haven’t ventured to Miami twenty times for pleasure! When you have a wonderful inter-coastal waterways, and a great beach – that you can actually access, without putting up with traffic, construction, need to learn Spanish, or less attitude– you rarely need to go to else where!

photo of sunrise on the Atlantic

In fact, I rarely ventured west of I-95, hence, my bias is restricted to a small geography. To complete it’s touristy nature, you are not surprised by, the number of wonderful places you can go to eat, or just hang out!

As a tribute to my seven years here, I wanted to point out seven jewels that have the best foods and memories held for me, in this magical city of Fort Lauderdale.

While there are 25 other great places that may have great food, what authenticates these, are their service and warm hospitality.

Breakfast at Jukebox Diner is always a treat
Breakfast at Jukebox Diner is always a treat

Jukebox Diner: By far the best breakfast place in town; if you haven’t tried their Banana’s Foster French Toast – you have truly missed out. Bring friends and family and hang out at this bright and cheerful location in Pompano Beach, right across from the iconic Houston’s on the inter-coastal. Great value, great food and simply the best service from the two co-owners who will personally greet and serve you.

Chill Wine Lounge: hang out with friends, or your loved-one, order a bottle of wine with some olives or cheese, listen to music on Saturday evening, and just let the evening melt away. Very knowledgeable servers will recommend good wines, if you ask; the music scene, is mostly local and always lively. This is not a bar set for really young people – the crowd I experienced around 10 or 11 pm was usually in their 30s/40s and had a relaxed vibe to it.

Eggs Benedict

J Marks: J Marks is a local restaurant with two locations; whether you want brunch on a Sunday morning, or just want to hang with a cucumber martini (appropriately named, A Day at the Spa), this is the place to go; great food, great service – just wonderful ambiance and warm, friendly service. We invariably went to brunch their after our Sunday morning spiritual services – with a few friends and family. Two of my favorite salads in town – their chopped salad with tangy lemon juice – or their Kale Salad – with Chicken!

Don't miss the Dessert with the eclectic cuisine of Hot & Soul
Don’t miss the Dessert with the eclectic cuisine of Hot & Soul

Hot and Soul Café: relatively new to this area, I have found the food here to be eclectic and soulful; they call themselves, “world cuisine” – I found the flavor distinctive and cocktails and the different brews – a great combination. This is not a place you go for fancy dining – but if you want a great atmosphere, coupled with some unusual and fun food – I would definitely try this. By the way, do take a look at their amazing dessert menu.

Red Cow: If you like funky, open, industrial looking environments with a large screens playing cartoons from by-gone days – yes, Red- Cow is your place to go! Amazingly flavorful bar-b-q, tasty sides, a great selection of wines and beers and excellent service makes this a local favorite. Really, really good beef brisket – if you are into that! I always order the sweet-corn bread for a starter and then usually their toasted greens as one of my favorite sides. The owners of Red Cow also own two other great places, Coconuts and Foxy Brown – but I find this the easiest of all to hang out at!

Tap42

TAP 42: This is by far my favorite place to enjoy a crazy-goat burger with one of their delectable brews on tap; food is always hearty, the sweet-potato fries are served on a wooden cutting board. Again service is excellent. The place does get crowded – even on week days; I have found a place to eat here on weekday afternoon. If you have a short stopover at the Fort Lauderdale airport – this is less than 2 miles away.

Sequellea Café: This is one of the first places I discovered, during the relocation from Denver. There aren’t a lot of places in Boca that I have experienced that has great service; Sequellea is different because it has great food and good service, consistently. Love the brioche egg sandwiches, Italian style coffees and the freshly squeezed orange juice any day. They also have great Gelatos. People can eat outside with their dogs or inside in the air-conditioned setting. Even though it’s set out in a plaza setting, you get the typical Florida feel, with palm-trees swaying in the gentle breeze

When someone has the opportunity to live in two of the most beautiful places on earth: Denver, Colorado and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, it’s tough to go anywhere and say, this is more beautiful than where I live, or have lived.

After seven years of Fort Lauderdale, where life-long relationships have been built, and defining moments of truth accepted, Shania and I are headed to start a new life, in the megalopolis of Dallas, Texas.

There are cravings, to come back to this town – one day – re-anchor my heart in these azure blue waters. Until then, we will enjoy the sounds and flavors of the prairies of Texas!

Watermelon Salad at Thasos Greek Restaurant
Watermelon Salad at Thasos Greek Restaurant

A Father’s Presence: Approval and Affirmations; Fathers Day June 2014

I keep searching for a particular black-and-white photograph of me and my Dad. The photo was taken on my fifth or sixth birthday, at Joypahar; Dad wearing a suit and me a corduroy jacket with large golden buttons! Dad was holding my waist while sitting on an ottoman, and smiling – I was sad (because I had lost some game!).

Every time I go to Dhaka, I look for this particular picture in all our old albums.

1967 - Atiya and Zain with Dad
1967 – Atiya and Zain with Dad

After years of soul-searching, I have recognized an innate need that I have had, for almost thirty years, of seeking my father’s approval in almost all major decisions of my life.

College, Degree, First Job, Marriage, Buying a House, Raising Children, Divorce…. There hasn’t been a major decision, where I haven’t thought about how he would react to this or that.

The last decision he directly influenced, was in 1985, over a milky cup of tea, when he asked me to consider a different college major: Industrial Engineering over Economics (my favorite school topic in those days); and the decision was made.

Last Formal Mahmood Family Pic - 1985
Last Formal Mahmood Family Pic – 1985

I have noticed this same tendency, in many of my friends and family, where our father’s shadow hang over us. For son’s and daughter alike, it’s this need to seek approval of major decisions. The more silent the Dad is, I think, the need for their approval becomes stronger.

I have a friend who often tells me about his absent father – almost in antipathy towards him; but as I notice his actions, it becomes clear that his own relationships are reflections of his relationship with his dad.

Often times, without our own choosing or knowledge, we become one of our parents.

I am finally learning to acknowledge, after thirty years of his passage, however much I try, he is not there to give me that approval directly. That doesn’t mean he disapproves – he is just not capable of delivering it personally.

As a father of two daughters, I notice a similarly interesting pattern developing in my life; my nineteen-year-old texts me throughout the day and bounces ideas off me. At first I felt an urge to give my opinion on what she asks; I have learned that often she asks me test the boundaries – or to just let me know what she is thinking; she doesn’t really want me to solve her problem for her.

It’s natural to seek affirmations on the steps we take, and decisions we make. I wonder why that affirmation cannot come from within us or from the supporting environment around us.

Today, I wake up thinking about my Dad; last I saw him, he was about my (current) age; I can see his acknowledging, smiling face. I am learning that, in my heart, he is still there – as he probably will be, for the rest of my life. I can stop looking for that black-and-white picture from Joypahar.

As a father myself, I am learning that this sense of approval (or disapproval) comes with a heavy responsibility – to make sure that we nudge them, without guiding them – we help them without making them dependant on us – we love them without suffocating their own love.

Zain Shania and Daiyaan Jun 2014

On this Father’s Day, as I may take my boat out for a few more hours, with my two princesses together, when Daiyaan asks me about a Tattoo she would like to get, or Shania keeps holding on to my t-shirt when we go fast on the boat – my role is to be there – the best gift I can give them – is to be there – when they need me – without judgement, or confirmation.

A Father’s presence is his best gift.

When Happiness Just Shows Up, Without Notice: May 2014

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This week I had a series of text conversations with my nineteen-year-old, over happiness.

On Monday, she texts me, saying, “Daddy, I don’t know what really makes me happy; I am kind of always satisfied; that’s not right! ” I advise her that this is normal and she will know when she is truly happy.

On Friday, I get a note from her that her roommate just spontaneously invited her to go to Key West and since she had no classes that day, and had the day off from work, they were leaving for Key West within the hour; later in the afternoon, she texts me to let me know how happy she is suddenly, to get away, enjoy the blue sea, not have anything to worry about.

I sit back and think about our Tuesday conversation and text her back asking if she realized that happiness, just shows up sometime, like this, without any notice!

Throughout the afternoon, I get a series of IPhone pictures of her feet hanging on blue waters, selfies, the blue ocean, the amazing sunset; just by the tone of her texts, I can tell that my princess is happy for these few moments.

A couple of years ago, I wrote something about Designing Your Own Happiness; where, I talked about doing exactly what makes me happy on my birthday.

When you sit back and think about all the things that really make us happy, and wonder how much of it comes spontaneously, accidentally – and how much of it can really be crafted for execution.

There is a marked difference between things that make you unhappy and those that make you happy. I think it’s important to distinguish that it’s not a linear equation – in fact if you visualize it, most likely on a completely different plain.

If you choose to do the reverse of what makes you unhappy, somehow are not going to necessarily be happy.

So, as example, eating chocolate me happy; and I also know that when my kids are hurting, that makes me unhappy.

But eating no cake will not necessarily make me unhappy – and if my kids are just all “well” doesn’t necessarily make me rejoice with happiness (it’s kind of my basic expectation!)

If you accept this premise that happiness comes from a different plain than the sources of our unhappiness – It becomes a lot easier to “craft” or plan for happiness!

I believe, the first thing to do, is to understand those independent sources of happiness within us.

I notice that I become joyful, when I hear an old favorite song suddenly play on the radio; I become super happy, to run into a friend at the supermarket. These spontaneous sources of happiness, teaches me that I like spontaneity in my life. That makes me happy.

Now, one of my children, on the other hand, is petrified by spontaneity and resists everything new I propose to her. So, it’s important to recognize that spontaneity may not be everyone’s source of happiness.

Occasionally, it’s nice to sit back and think what are 5 things that made YOU happy, over the last 2 months: make a short mental list. Try to replicate that again, sometime over the next few weeks. See what happens.

Today, on this beautiful sunny Saturday morning,  spontaneously, we invite a couple of friends we like to hang with, to come swim with us at the pool and bring something to grill and just catch up on life. Of course, over a bit of wine!

I think, that will make me happy! Will keep you posted.

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