Monday, November 27, 2017

2 Flew The Coop And The Nest Is Nearly Empty

Yesterday when my cousin's children left (one to go back to Dallas where she now resides, and the other to his college in Eastern Texas), I got a taste of what it's like to be a parent.

For the better part of the long weekend, we were all together here in Cypress. We went out to eat, caravaning 2-3 cars just to get to the restaurant. We played badminton or threw a football around. We played board games like Jenga and Taboo. We cooked meals together in the kitchen. We shared stories around the dinner table. We were lazily on our phones while sitting on the couch together.

And for the 4-5 days that we were all hanging out, it was a ruckus. People yelling across the house. Random people awake at different times of the day, then dropping off to bed at different points in the night. Kids going in an out of the back door to the yard. Someone coming and going to the store to pickup supplies. It was organized chaos, but it was fun and lively.

Then all of a sudden, on Sunday, it became like the end of a reality tv show like The Jersey Shore or Real World or Road Rules or something like that. All of the other visitors had departed already, and the last 2 kids were getting ready to leave. They packed their bags; picked up supplies from the house pantry; their mom gave them food to take with them. Then one by one, at different times, they would leave, timing their departure in line with the traffic pattern to their final destination.

When the first child left, it was a hug and a kiss for everyone around the room, followed by an exit where everyone would clamor through the front door to give a parting wave goodbye as the kid drove down the street. Then the same exact thing happened when the next child left. It was easily a made for tv movie ending and the credits could roll almost immediately.

The house became quiet. The action had left with the visitors and children. And had my wife and I not been here, it would just be the 3 of the family members left in this big brand new house. When the kids left, they took the fun with them. They took the excitement of their lives out the door, and we became the old adults with the boring repetitive lives again.

I imagined that this is what parents feel like. I felt something when they left. It was weird. They're not my kids, but because we're so close it was like a part of me left too. That's got to be what my cousin and her husband felt like. Two-thirds of their kids were off on their own, so two-thirds of themselves were no longer in this house. It's nearly an empty nest. And it's no wonder why parents get the empty nest syndrome. One can easily feel sad or lonely. Luckily for my cousin and her husband, they still have another 8 year old and have many years left before he flies the coop.

Su Casa Es Mi Casa Tambien Ya'll

We've been in Cypress, TX for 5 days staying at my older cousin's house with her family. Thanksgiving was celebrated, games were played, visitors would come and go, and food was in abundance. It's been a great time so far. But we leave on Wednesday to drive up to Dallas to attend my brother's wedding this coming Friday.

As I sit here and look back on the past few days, I realize that I'm way more comfortable here in my cousin's home than any other person's home that I've visited, stayed, or overnighted. It made me wonder how this came to be. How come I'm so at home in a home that's not my home?

At the very base of it all, it's because despite our age gap (14 years), we are very close. It helps that when I was a kid, she used to care for my brother and I for a short time. Our conversations over the years have become deeper and more meaningful, insightful and shareable at every step of our aging process.

We've always kept in touch no matter where she moved to. While she was still living in New Jersey, I visited the family often after I got my drivers license. I'd spend a weekend with them, toting my other cousins with me for the getaway. And when she moved here to Texas, we kept in touch most often by phone calls. We'd chat while she or I was at work; I'd sometimes even help her with her Excel problems.

I took care of her eldest daughter when I was around, made grilled cheese sandwiches for her first son, and am the godfather of her 3rd kid (who I played Nerf wars with today - he's 8, and I had fun!). Now that her kids are older (the first 2), they are able to chat, joke, and eat together with me and discuss more adult things but, at the same time, keep me young with their goings-on in their collegiate lives. In many ways, I treat them like the uncle I'm supposed to be, but at the same time, I am comfortable with playfully jousting with them verbally. It's an interesting dynamic. Not only have I become so close to my cousin and her husband almost equally, but I've also developed really loving and caring relationships for their kids.

I guess what I'm trying to say through all of this is that I love the bonds I've formed with this family. Their home is actually my home too. And because of this, I'm able to just be myself around them all the time. I say what comes to mind; I rummage through the fridge and pantry; I wash the dishes no matter who has used them; I take out the trash; I drive their cars; I test the youngest's math skills; I tease the middle child about girls; I ask the eldest to help me grocery shop; I dole out the family gossip to my cousin and exchange stories, then share some life insights to her kids. And in return, they all welcome my wife and I whole-heartedly into their home, treat us with respect, and love us as much as we love them.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Decision Making Is Difficult - Weigh It All Out, Then GO With Your Heart

Last Tuesday, I turned down a job offer. It wasn't easy. I struggled with making the decision for about one week. Every day, I went back and forth on the possibilities, weighing out the pros and cons of accepting or declining.

My decision table looked something like this.


  • A job that pays well
  • Standard benefits, including medical / dental / vision / 401(k) / ESPP
  • Pays for relocation costs to the West Coast
  • Opportunity in a new industry: Travel / Technology
  • Potential to learn new things, specifically a side of tax that I've not had the opportunity to learn in my previous positions

  • Relocation required to the West Coast causing me to be separate from my wife and family
  • 3 hour time difference
  • Being unable to assist with the sale of our house and the purchase of a new house in Philadelphia
  • Uncertain timeline of how long I would be employed before wanting to move home. Do I stay for 1 year? 
  • Uncertainty in if they would allow me to work remotely after some point in time. They said it was possible, but no guarantee. As a tech company, it baffled me that their employees weren't already working remotely for some period of time. 
  • The need to come home once a month to see my wife for a very short period of time (weekend)
  • Inability to assist with my immediate family's various issues of concern (financial, health, etc.)
  • HR's unwillingness to negotiate the offer in it's entirety. They were not willing to accommodate even the simplest of requests.
  • Salary was, in my opinion, not commensurate to the work load, nor close in comparison to other similar companies in the area. It was also on the low side for the region's range of salary for the given position. Then HR had the audacity to tell me that the comparable companies do not pay a bonus (impossible), and this company's base plus bonus would get me into the range of the comparable companies. True, but that means without the bonus the base pay would be below the market rate. 
  • Insufficient number of vacation days offered. It would have been a downgrade from what I previously had at my last employer. When I tried to negotiate this, they were unwilling to move. For most companies that hire, if you can't move on salary, you can move on vacation days because it costs you nothing (no additional money to dole out) to give another week of holiday time. 
  • Sign-on bonus was to be paid in 2 installments that made no sense to me. The first was 30 days after the first day of employment. But the 2nd installment was to be held until the first paycheck after your first completed year! I asked that it be moved to 6 months after employment so that it was more of a sign-on bonus and less of a vesting. They were not amenable to this idea. 

Despite this company's unwillingness to negotiate, I still considered accepting the offer. But when I got on the phone with HR and started to listen to how this person spoke, my heart took over the decision making process. Something inside was telling me that I'd be unhappy. My mind was telling me that although a decent opportunity, the fact that this employer was unwilling to incentivize me to take the role and firm in their unwillingness to negotiate meant that I was not as valuable to them as I thought I was or as I should be. I bring a lot of value to the table and if that's not recognized then it's not worth it to me to change my life as drastically as this opportunity required. 

In the end, I was upset that this employer, in an industry that moves me and piques my interest so much, wasn't more flexible. But I know I would have been far more upset if I took the job and had to deal with all the negatives that I hashed out. 

I'm happy that I valued myself the way I did. I'm proud to stand my ground and thankful to my support system here at home for helping me see different perspectives. I know that I will find work, and I know that I will work hard for the people who believe in me and the employer that I believe in equally. When it's worth it, we'll both know. And eventually, I'll get there.

Trekking to Base Camp

Sunday, November 19, 2017


I know there is what society calls "Resting Bitch Face"... 

But is there such thing as "Resting Jerk Face?"

I think I have that.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Southern Comfort Without The Alcohol

The South is really well known for their hospitality and kindness. I've always known this. It's portrayed on television, in the movies, on Broadway. You read about it in novels, magazines, and other literature. You even hear it music and as you walk down the street of any city or town South of Washington DC. I now know this for a fact from experience.

On the one bright, sunny and seasonably warm Saturday we were in Charleston, we made the obligatory stop at the farmer's market in the center of the city at Marion Square. After perusing the various food, small crafts, and boutique stands we decided to get a fresh cup of locally brewed coffee and sit around to people-watch for a while. As a couple of the lawn chairs and table opened up, we hurriedly claimed it. There was only the 2 of us, but it had seating for 4. Less than 5 minutes later, a couple and their teen rolled up and asked if they could share the table. We happily obliged and the father pulled up a 5th chair.

For a couple of minutes, Carolyn and I spoke between ourselves and so did the family in between bites of their breakfast. But shortly after that, Carolyn and I, almost routinely, turned to them and engaged them in a conversation. We had fallen back on our travel habits that had grown on us during our time abroad. At first thought, these people could hate that we interrupted their meal, but on the flip side, they did ask to share our table.

We learned that they were actually transplants, not originally from Charleston. They were travelers and had lived in multiple locations over the past few years, including Germany, Japan, and Portland, OR most recently. The husband was actually from Nepal! We immediately connected on so many levels. It opened up the can of worms that is travel.

For the next hour, we talked, shared, and exchanged stories but failed to swap contact information. It wasn't important. We spoke about trekking to Base Camp, eating Japanese food, their son's love for soccer, moving around, fresh food and farmers' markets, and anything that was tangentially related. The pleasure of talking about travel, experience, and the future was enough to keep our minds occupied. It was refreshing and fun to meet new, like-minded people.

Funny enough, we knew we'd meet friendly Southerners. But to have met such great transplants that are now Southern by residence was a real treat. Maybe all the friendly people move to Charleston or other points South? (431)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

To Be Continued... Just Not Daily

I've decided. Today is going to be my last day of consecutive days writing 300 to 1000+ words a day in my blog. It's been such a great challenge. I've been able to write about so many topics, such as politics, economics, climate change, books, life, family, feelings, lessons, food, experiences, technology, investments, polls, opinions, current events, etc. Shoot, I even did an interview! And in one of my posts, I wrote some rhymes!

I think what I enjoyed the most was coming up with a title to each of the posts. My approach has been to title my writing after all was done and written up to my liking. I realized quickly that starting out with a title made it nearly impossible to think of enough content to fulfill the expectation. Most times, a phrase or an analogy that I would talk about would end up being my title. I've also found a lot of my titles to be creative and funny. I'm not sure what other people think of them, but I sometimes want to pay myself on the back when I read them back.

Secondary to the titles has to go to finding illustrations to match the topics. Sometime I scour the internet for photos, comics, and other imagery to help invite readers to my post. I learned that with Blogger, the first photo in your post is used as the thumbnail for any links to the post. So choosing the best first pic is important. And I suppose that's one of the handicaps of using Blogger; you have less choice. When I choose an image I tend to look for something colorful, funny, and something that conveys my writing. I want that when you see the thumbnail you have a slight idea what it may be about before you start reading. I hope I've done a decent job with this.

The worst part about the past 45 days of blogging are the days when my mind is blank, when I cannot think of a decent topic worth writing about. Granted, not all the subjects I've chosen have been the most interesting to everyone, but I've been able to speak to them for at least 300+ words. I've had a few close calls too. Some nights I've put blogging off until the last minutes of the day. But I can say that I've successfully posted without missing one for 45 days.

I guess you can say that this post is a little bit of a cop out, but it's a recap of what I've done for this challenge. It's a nice look back at my progress, difficulties, and enjoyment throughout. In fact, here are a couple of my favorite posts from the past 45:

- The Cookie Monster Wants CAKE?

- Risk More Than Others And Dream Like You Mean It

Did you like any of them in particular? Let me know. I'm always interested to hear your opinions.

Going forward, I'm sure I'll be blogging regularly but less than daily. Maybe that will encourage you all to keep up with me more often. In fact, maybe my next challenge will be to take topics from you and write about them. Who wants to participate? What's my next topic? (542)

Friday, November 10, 2017

I'm A Lover, Not A... Negotiator

I hate negotiating for anything. It's probably my weakest ability. I despise the back and forth. I hate the bullshit you put each other through. The ordeal is full of lies, deceit, and people who relish the opportunity to take advantage of another person. Wouldn't it be quicker and more honest if everyone just cut all the crap and told it how it really was?

Why? Am I so bad at it, you ask? Yes, I'm actually terrible at the practice. I don't have a poker face. My body language reveals everything that I'm thinking. The discounts I ask for are too little; so I get what I want but a price that the other side is still willing to give. The (few) sales that I've made, I've forfeited on because I was impatient and/or didn't stand my ground. I lose in either scenario.

If greed did not dominate the sinful human race, it would be easier (albeit less competitive) to complete a transaction. That's fine by me. As long as I don't have to haggle, hassle, or sacrifice my honesty to seal the deal then it's all right.

Let's face it though. It's a part of every day life. I have to just deal with it. And I have to try to win some of the time. We negotiate business deals and transactions. We come to terms on where to eat lunch. We agree or disagree on what to watch on tv. We try to come away with a bargain at the flea market. We lowball the used car salesman. We wrangle a few cents at the farmers' markets. Every little bit counts. At least that's what society tells us.

And it's all a game. Who can get the best deal? Who can make the best offer? Who backs down first? Who lies to increase their margins? Who cheats the system to afford more than seemingly possible? And at the end of the day, who wins? (327)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Relax - The Right Pair of Hands Will Fix That

Massages work wonders!

It's not often that I get a massage, but when I do I thoroughly enjoy them. Tonight was one of those times. And I never get anything less than 90 minutes anymore. The one-hour sessions I used to settle for just never seemed to be enough for me; my body was always craving more attention. What your body craves is what you should give it. Just like the proper nutrition and exercise, the right amount of massaging will do you good.

And despite that previous statement, I am not a monthly goer. I do not have a membership at any of the local therapy locations. On the rare occasions I crave a massage, I use my wife's membership and as a guest, I get my fix. The privilege allows the member pricing for the guest, and it's worth it because although I could go every month, but it's just not a financially practical activity for me. For my wife who needs it more than I do, the membership is one of the best recurring expenses she has for herself. Happy wife, happy life... right?

I used to be afraid to strip down to my underwear and lay on the table, but a seasoned patient knows that it's the easiest way to allow the massage therapist do their job. No need to roll up or fold shorts, and less material in the way for when a proper masseuse stretches you in directions you had no idea your body could contort.  And those are some of the best motions that you can be put through.

I love the typical massage. Knead my body as much as you can. Poke and prod my muscles until the knots let up. But give me good stretch, and I feel like that goes a long way and the pleasure is longer lived.

Some people find a way to sleep from the comfort that their session put them in. But for me, my massages require active participation. My therapist has me take deep breaths that help her get at muscles and pin points that are exposed by the muscle expansion and contraction. I talk with my therapist throughout to let her know more or less pressure, if it feels good or bad, and to concentrate on a particular area.

On the flip side, she requires me to respond to her queries as well. She tells me when she feels an area of tension or a knot. She speaks anatomically about why I feel something or what is causing the issue. She offers correction to my daily posture or physical health. And she tells me when she's going to potentially hurt me in the process, but that it's a required evil to smooth out the muscle that's overly stressed / tense.

It's a great experience every time. The only thing I don't look forward to about a massage is finding a new therapist, if and when that time comes. Therapists are like doctors. If you find a good one, you should hang on to her as long as possible because the better she knows your body, the better able she is to fix your sore parts.

Have you made an appointment recently? (537)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

OPINION: Tax Cuts And Jobs Act - Detrimental to the Middle Class

I recently read a summary produced by Ernst & Young of the latest tax reform bill called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The bill is the work of some Republicans looking to overhaul the tax system, something that hasn't been done in 30 years. The proposal addresses a number of things including but not limited to corporate tax, partnership tax, international issues, the insurance industry, pensions / retirement, accounting methods, and most importantly individual taxes. 

My first thought is that the offerings and eliminations are too numerous to enact in a single sitting. I'm not surprised, since the GOP has been looking for ways and means to get a tax bill passed for the longest time. In my opinion, if the government wants to make change, it should do so in steps. This all-in-one pitch is likely to have missteps and eventually gaps that will be detrimental instead of helpful. 

If you haven't been paying attention, this is the time to do so. My reading of the highlights quickly angered me in more ways than one. And I'm sure you will feel the same. I seriously hope that this bill is rejected and better propositions are given. I think the nature of this proposed act is more beneficial to the wealthy and corporate, rather than the middle class. Let me try to identify why. While I have some gripes with corporate tax and know it will be a large headache in the short term (for me as a corporate tax accountant), I'll concentrate on individual taxes for now for the sake of this post. 

Here are a few of the things that I found particularly annoying that primarily affect the middle class:
  • The standard deduction is proposed to be increased to $12,200 for singles and $24,400 for couples. BUT they are doing away with the personal and dependent exemptions. So a single filer as it currently stands can take $6,350 as a standard deduction with a personal exemption of $4,050. That equates to $10,400 in deductions. The changes would only net you $1,800 more in deductions. AND if you have a dependent, that would have been $4,050 more in deductions which would be in excess of the new $12,000 standard. So for families, each child you have would NOT be produce a deduction in the proposed tax plan. That's a major detriment in my eyes.
  • The act is looking to repeal the state and local tax deduction. If you live in a state that applies income tax, then you are paying taxes on your hard-earned income to that state. That payment currently can be deducted if you itemize. Depending on which state your reside, state tax rates can be as high as 12%. For some people, the state and local taxes that they pay are in excess of the proposed standard deduction. Yet another detriment for the middle class people.
  • Republicans are also looking to limit the deduction allowed for real estate taxes paid. Where currently, you can deduct all the tax you pay for your property, the suggestion is that only $10,000 of real estate tax will be deductible. If you live in the Northeast or any high property tax area, this is going to be an issue. You'd be forced to leave a deduction that was historically allowed on the table yet again if tax reform is passed.
  • The proposal also calls for reducing the cap on the mortgage interest deduction. This means new buyers can deduct interest on loans only up to $500,000, down from $1 million. Anything in excess of $500K that you would be paying interest on would not be allowed as a deduction.  Additionally, homeowners will only be able to deduct interest on the mortgage for their principal residence, meaning you won't benefit from this tax break if you have a vacation home like in current law. Sounds like a penalty for the upper-middle class.
    • You'll also want to think twice about taking out a home equity loan or line of credit, as the bill won't permit you to deduct the interest either. Looks like you're not going to want to build out that extension of your home, or add a deck, or borrow against your house to take that vacation or pay for college tuition. Talk about limiting!
  • The deduction for casualty loss would be repealed. So for those of you who are affected by hurricanes, fire and other disasters that are not compensated by insurance you're at an even greater disadvantage thanks to your Republican tax lawmakers if the bill is passed.
  • Tax preparation expenses, alimony payments, and moving expenses (although limited now) are looking to be cut out of the tax code completely, and therefore non-deductible in any way.
  • Repeal of education provisions:
    • Deduction for interest payments on qualified education loans for qualified higher education expenses of a taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse, or dependents
    • Deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses
    • Exclusion from income of interest from US savings bonds used for qualified tuition and related expenses
    • Exclusion from income of qualified tuition reductions provided by educational institutions to their employees, spouses, or dependents
    • Exclusion from income of employer-provided education assistance
    • This all spells disaster for students who are already reeling from the sky high cost of secondary education in America. And this will have a snowball effect. Instead of encouraging learning, potentially bright students will shy away from racking up debt. That will diminish the potential of the education system and at some point reduce the educated workforce. Not good.
Then there are the proposed changes that seemingly benefit the wealthy. What for?
  • Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) would be repealed. Why? They take advantage of every single tax break and often times end up not paying tax. Shouldn't they have a minimum to help do their part?
  • The tax brackets are changing. Currently, there are seven tax brackets: 10 percent, 15, percent, 25 percent, 28 percent, 33 percent, 35 percent and 39.6 percent. The proposal is consolidating brackets, so the remaining will be: 12 percent, 25 percent, 35 percent and 39.6 percent.
    •  What does this mean? It means that the wealthy are actually getting a break! For example, a couple who is making $500,000 is subject to 39.6% currently. The new plan would afford them a discount to 35% as the highest income bracket would not begin until you hit the $1M mark. Unreal!
  • The estate, gift, and generation-skipping taxes initially would be retained with a doubled $10 million basic exclusion, but after 2023 the estate and generation-skipping taxes would be repealed (with a stepped-up basis in property) and the top rate on the gift tax would be reduced to 35%. That's a big deal from an estate planning perspective. 
Sounds like the winners are the super wealthy and the heirs to their estates.

What I'm trying to point out is that, in my opinion, if you are in the middle class, you have more to lose than to gain. This proposed tax bill and reform are lopsided. A majority of Americans are in the low to middle class and this act doesn't benefit the people who make American great. Instead, Republican tax lawmakers are penalizing the vast majority for their hard work and dedication. Find a different way because this proposal will not work. 

And for us, the middle class, this is an opportunity to push back. We cannot just accept change and work around it. We'll be hurting ourselves and our families in the long run if this bill is enacted. (1262)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Boxed Organics - Box #4

This week's box included:
  • Candy onions
  • Red onions
  • Broccoli
  • Mixed carrots
  • Curly green kale
  • Red potatoes
  • Portobello mushrooms
  • Honeycrisp apples
  • Organic large brown eggs
This is a great box. I'm most excited to eat the Portobello mushrooms. If only we had these during the summer, I'd have thrown them on the grill with some olive oil and salt. But we will still certainly find a way to incorporate them in to our cooking.

The carrots are another things I'm looking forward to eating. Strangely, I've never had carrots of a different color. I'm so used to the orange colored carrots. I don't know if there's going to be a different taste that I should expect for the different colors. 

The broccoli is going to be easy. I eat a lot of broccoli regularly, so finding a way to include it in my dishes will be plenty easy to do. I'm hoping the flavor is distinctly different. Nevertheless, I will still enjoy it. 

And of course, the Honeycrisp apples, I have a feeling, will be excellent. They are some of the best tasting, sweetest apples I've ever had before. Again, I hope they will be noticeably different. It will be a nice departure for a week when I would normally have Gala apples in stock from the local grocery.

From the last box, we were not able to get to everything yet. I still have the butternut squash and cabbage to work with. I will have to find a way to consume it soon or risk it going bad. My mother-in-law cooked up the eggplant, so I was unable to taste it because I've been out of town for a few days over the past 2 weeks.

I guess that's partially an issue. If you're not home or don't cook all your meals, then there's a good chance ingredients will go unused and potentially rot. But as much as possible, with me being home, I've been trying to cook and consume everything.

And the variety in the boxes has been great. It's allowed us to try things that we would not usually buy. In the last box, my wife's favorite new vegetable was the red butterhead lettuce. She loves the flavor more than the typical green or red leaf lettuce, and it's definitely better than romaine or iceberg. The problem is now where to find it if we don't get it in another box.

If I haven't said it before, I'll say it now. Thanks Boxed Organics! It's been great so far. We hope to enjoy more as the season progresses. (431)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Young Talent of the Theatre

I'm amazed by young talent.

On Saturday evening, our last night in Charleston, my wife and I enjoyed an evening of theatre by attending an adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird at the Dock Street Theatre. It was the second to last night for the show's limited run. And it was a full house.

The two-hour story sent me back to my freshman year in high school when the book was required reading for English class. As the play unfolded on stage, I could imagine myself reading the book, 10 pages at a time (the frequency assigned to us).
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” - Atticus Finch
Each line recited aloud on stage was so accurate and spot on. It was as if they were reading the book to the audience. But they weren't. The actors held nothing but their props and composure. Lines practiced and movements blocked and rehearsed for many days and nights created the fictional reality. And it was nearly perfect, save for a moment one of the actors stumbled off the stage as he quickly tried to make an exit.

We all know the feature character is Jean Louise Finch, better known as Scout. She was depicted as the adult narrator, as well as her childhood self. And it was these 2 actors whose memory and ability to act out each and every scene that captivated me, as they should have.

The elder Scout was played by Grace Hamashima whose narrative was delivered clearly with poise, compassion, and charm. Sitting in the front row, you could see every facial expression that she made to convey the adjectives and descriptions of her youthful memories. Without her stage presence, the play would have been a play and not a novel adaptation.

Ella Duffy played the young Jean Louise. And she's who I was most impressed with. At such a young age, she had all her lines memorized to the letter. Her movements were that of a young schoolgirl in Macomb, Alabama. She embodied the spirit of Scout and brought to life the persona of the character I read about 20 years ago. Jean Louise Finch was the inquisitive, unafraid, charismatic daughter of a Southern lawyer during a racially biased 1930s. Ella Duffy played the role marvelously.

Overall, the book-converted play was a success. A standing ovation was deservedly given to the cast and crew at the end of the performance. And my admiration for young talent was further confirmed by Ella Duffy and the Charleston Stage. (440)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sadness > Frustration > Anger > Release > Repeat As Infrequently As Possible

Have you ever been so sad that you became frustrated? Have you ever been so frustrated that your anger took over? It's a natural progression. Is it possible to start at frustration without having been upset? I'm not sure. But I think there's a deeper root that begins with displeasure and eventually grows to irritation.

For me, the series of feelings don't surface often. I think it partly because I'm normally so logical and partly because I'm not easily bothered; I have patience and quickly determine if issues are worth worrying about. But like everyone else, I have my days. They just come further apart than others.

What bum's me out? Usually, it's something out of my control. Sometimes it's something that I have a hard time parting with. Other times, it could be something I can't make a decision about. When I stress about a situation, my spirits are dampened. If I'm disheartened or discouraged by someone or an event, I feel saddened. If I carry too much weight on my shoulders, if I take on too much to do and can't accomplish what I thought could be done, I feel dragged down. When people depend on me, and I can't come through, I feel useless and sorry.

Then frustration starts to set in. When the thoughts in my mind revolve faster and more often than the Earth rotates around the sun, I'm dizzied. When I start at point A in an effort to get to point B, but have to make a U-turn, I feel as if I've wasted time. If I do things over and over, whether in thought or in practice, and expect a different result, I am made insane.

Which leads to anger. I'm mad because I should have come to a conclusion. I could have figured it out on my own. It doesn't make sense, but it should. I hate repetition, but I can't stop. Objects can and will be thrown. Pillows are squeezed as small as if vacuum-sealed in my arms and used to muffle the rage that seeks escape from my body. Sometimes I shake.

But strangely, it's all controlled because it has to be. You have to be disciplined or you risk damage to yourself, objects, and others. The trick is to let it out slowly, like a pressure cooker. Release the tension or else in time, you will explode. And the outcome could be worse.

As I write about this topic, I can't help but think of my parents. The apple does not fall far from the tree. I have my mom's short fuse and my dad's patient logic. I share my dad's frustration and use my mom's edge. I can push buttons like my mom when I have to but most often have my buttons pushed like my dad. I am my parents' son. (476)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Blog Post Challenge - The Beach

Today's blog post (and maybe more in the future) is a challenge posed by my wife to write about something of her choice. And in an effort to be flexible, spontaneous, and try something new... I accept.

This is going to be like those open ended exam questions, that I used to be so poor at answering. Constructing my responses was so difficult back then. Let's see what it's like now.

Topic: Why do people love the beach? Not just being at the beach, but the beach itself. Use your 5 senses to answer. Describe the different types of beaches, how they make you feel, and why.

Ah, the beach. A place where sun, sand, wind and water all join forces in the most perfect way to make you feel so comfortable that your natural tendency is to let down your guard and anxiety and forces your happiness to skyrocket. The salty sea air is like a nasal decongestant. Inhale freshness, exhale your troubles. The sun is like a warm, colorful blanket. Let it wrap you up with its vitamins and keep you safe from the harm of body shamers. The sounds of waves crashing on the shore, or the lapping of water at low tide are a reminder that water is the most powerful liquid on Earth. Enjoy it carefully or suffer the consequences of stupidity. Seeing all the colors, the power, the life, balance and the love joined in an area of such simplicity is only a taste of the beauty that this world has to offer. And that's what people admire most about the beach. It calls them, and when they heed that call they are never disappointed. What's not to love about that?

With so many types of beaches in so many different settings, it's an adventure to pick which ones to go to. I like beaches that are hard to get to and unique. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I find it. And a dip in the water after I've racked my brain to discover the location or trekked off the beaten path to get there make the water more refreshing, soothing, and relaxing. I like the less crowded beaches.

A post shared by Carolyn Go (@carolynluu) on

More public beaches are great for a weekend getaway or an evening stroll or to spend time with friends and family to pay volleyball or toss a football around. I like to people watch on these beaches. I enjoy watching the families have a good time, kids play together, and friends take in the sun and lose themselves in conversation. I also like boardwalks you sometimes find on the shore to find comfort in food, to play boardwalk games, pop into the little shops, and still enjoy the sea breeze. But I'm not a fan of how crowded it can get. That's why I gravitate towards the harder to reach beaches. But I can love both for different reasons.

We've been to tons of beaches. I've loved them all. It's hard to find something you don't like. Even if it's rocky or littered with shells or have touts trying to sell you things, that doesn't deter us from finding enjoyment. As long as the sun is out, the sand is hot on top and cool underneath, and the people surrounding you are happy then there's little else to care about or make you worry. Have fun! Life's a beach! (589)

Friday, November 3, 2017

Cool, Calm, and Charming Charleston

Last month, we decided that a short break from the NY/NJ area and work (for my wife) would be much needed before getting into the holiday season and year-end festivities (Thanksgiving, brother's wedding, and Christmas). So we decided to pick a place not too far from home to be adventurous in. Most of the major cities within a 3hr drive or 45-60 min flight have all been visited, so we had to extend our driving range or flight time. A whole new set of options opened up naturally.

We staved off going North to escape the cooling temps for now. Summer will give us more opportunity in that direction. The mid-West was calling our name in the directions of St. Louis, Louisville, or Nashville. But we decided to keep those for a cross-country road trip after we have children. Then there was Atlanta, Charlotte, Savannah, or Charleston. 

Atlanta is a big city that we'll visit one day. My wife has family there, so it's inevitable. Charlotte was appealing, but too far inland. We decided we wanted to be able to get to the shore to inhale the fresh ocean air and let our hair flap in a seasonally warm breeze. And so Charleston and Savannah were left on the list. Just 2 hour apart from each other, a trip could easily include both. But to get the most out of this trip, we opted to spend our time exploring Charleston.

It's a walkable city. We spent a day roaming the streets of Charleston to see what was on offer. From the North end of King Street all the way down to White Point Garden, over to Waterfront Park, the French Quarter, up East Bay Street and through the City Market and up and down Meeting Street - we walked.

And with all that walking, it's impossible not to eat. And we've been eating well so far! 

Pan Fried Carolina Catfish, Herbed Dumplins’, Smoked Tomato, Shrimp Kielbasa, Rapini, Potato Broth by James Beard award-winning Chef Sean Brock - Husk Restaurant

Special of the day: Meat quiche w/ grits and fresh fruit - Lost Dog Cafe

Fluke w/ Golden Osetra Caviar - McCrady's Restaurant

We still have 2 full days left here, and we're going to make the most of it. Today we head off to the Boone Hall Plantation and Garden to learn about and experience the life on a working plantation. This afternoon, we'll be enjoying a happy hour at The Darling Oyster Bar downtown because when you're here, oysters are a dime a dozen. Now if only the pricing was as good as the saying.

Tomorrow we'll be getting up early to wander through the weekly Farmers Market that is held in Marion Square in the center of the city. And cap our day off with a show at the historic Dock Street Theatre for a limited run of an adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird.

Charleston is an alluring city with plenty of history, things to do, and restaurants to eat it. It's character just fills people with joy, laughter, and happiness. And that is probably most embodied in dance. Come visit Charleston and enjoy its charm! (581)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Risk More Than Others And Dream Like You Mean It

I've been looking back at the decisions I've made in the recent past. The overwhelming majority of them I've been completely happy with. Some I've just accepted as "ok," nothing great or anything awful has come of them. And only a few have I regretted. 

But hold on, I'm not going where you think I'm going with this intro. This isn't about me right now. It's about you for a minute. Yes, you my readers, my fans (I like to think I have some), my followers, my friends, and my fam. I hope you don't mind. 

I wondered what you have all thought of me and the steps I've taken for the past, call it, 2 years. I've imagined you thinking me crazy, determined, changed, risky, impractical, and sometimes unrealistic. I've heard something in your voice or seen a glimmer in your eyes. It's the sound of confusion regarding something you found questionable or something of a surprise. It's the look of fear that I may do something I would regret, something strange in your mind. In other cases, it's been positive, at least from what I can tell. But I'm not sure, and that's ok because I continued to do things my way anyway. 

I've laughed, been angry, upset, and sad, then anxious, sometimes happy or bashful or mad for things that I've done, both good and bad. But all that I've done and what I continue to do, is driven by the quote above as it should drive you. There's a cadence to my madness; I beat my own drum. I don't do things because I'm crazy. I do it for fun. With many goals in mind, with limited time, to succeed and be happy is impossible all of the time. But to risk more than other think safe, and dream more than others think practical, the results can sometimes be more than magical. We were taught to dream big, no risk no reward. It's time to stop quoting others and keep moving forward.

Look at that. It's funny. I broke into rhyme. I wish I had the ability to do that all of the time.

The next moves I make, the next steps that I take, might be bigger and better than any previous stake. For my future, my family, the people who make me happy, tomorrow's dream might soon become a reality. (396)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Cookie Monster Wants CAKE?

Is it really unrealistic to have your cake and eat it too?

No, it's not. You can certainly have it. You can certainly eat it. But having it and eating it doesn't mean you will necessarily feel good about it. Nor does it mean that all the results are positive.

Herein lies the dilemma of decision-making.

On the one hand, there's great satisfaction in getting everything you want and indulging in the glory of your hard work, dedication, time spent, and energy exerted. Day in and day out you've starved yourself to develop the best attributes. Sacrifices were made along the way knowing that one day, eventually, you'd prosper in the fashion you've dreamed of. You've built your recipe for success, and when the time comes, the reward should be yours for the taking. If you put your best effort and high grade ingredients into the mix, then why not reap all the benefits all at once, immediately?

Because, on the other hand, allowing oneself to enjoy all the pleasures of what you believe to be victory, getting everything you want at the same time, still has it's consequences. They may not be immediate; they usually kick in after the fact, but you can't hide from the inevitable.

So what do you choose? Satiate your intense, long, drawn out cravings for instant gratification and deal with the repercussions later? Or spoil yourself a little at a time to take on the weight and burden piecemeal knowing that you can balance it out along the way with proper attention and care?

It is not easy to decide. It is frustrating to think about.

I have cake in front of me, and I can't figure out if I should eat it... or pass it up for some cookies over the course of time. (301)