Pleasure in the Vineyard

Pleasure in the Vineyard
“The most beautiful gift of nature is that it gives one pleasure to look around and try to comprehend what we see.” –Albert Einstein

Invited for a weekend getaway, I was recently a guest at a relative’s home in Virginia that sits at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains* and is a stone’s throw from one of Virginia’s 250+ wineries.

Having driven through Virginia more times than I can remember – always heading somewhere else and with little time to comprehend where I was or what was around me – my visit turned out to be a most pleasant gift, reminding me of the restorative power of nature’s beauty. Read more

“Freedom Is Not Free”: Memorable Words for Memorial Day

“Freedom Is Not Free”: Memorable Words for Memorial Day
“Freedom is not free, as the saying goes. Maintaining the republic has been the work of people shedding blood, sweat, and tears for 240 years. That herculean effort was not driven by politics alone; it rested on a culture that kept the citizenry active and engaged in the project of their own self-government at every level of community.”
–Daniel Krauthammer, “What Makes America Great?”, The Weekly Standard, May 8, 2017

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A Memory of a Mother’s Love

A Memory of a Mother’s Love
“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” ―C.S. Lewis

Every night growing up, my brothers and I would curl up next to my mother as she read us a bedtime story with a gentleness and nurturing spirit that only a mother can provide.

She introduced us to the kind and imaginative Boxcar Children, took us through the mischief and mishaps of Curious George, The Berenstain Bears, and Corduroy, kept us questioning with Goosebumps, and entertained us with the rhyming cadences of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do you See?, Jamberry, and all of Dr. Seuss’ classics (Go, Dog. Go! being a particular favorite), in addition to other beloved stories, such as Make Way for Ducklings, Goodnight Moon, and the many enchanting tales of Walt Disney. Read more

“Circus XTREME”: The Last Greatest Show of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey

“Circus XTREME”: The Last Greatest Show of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
“You must have always a great and progressive show and also one which is clean, pure, moral and instructive. Never cater to the baser instincts of humanity…and always remember that the children have ever been our best patrons…” –P.T. Barnum’s last letter before he died (1891), written to his “well-loved” James Bailey

“Circus XTREME”, which is making its very last appearance in Providence, Rhode Island this weekend, is Xtremely entertaining and there is no doubt that P.T. Barnum would have been proud of this very “Xpert” creation for having lived up to his life motto “Excelsior”, a Latin word meaning “ever upward” and “still higher.” Read more

Treasured Poems from a Treasured Volume

famous poemsIn the introduction to a treasured book of the past, A Treasury of the World’s Best Loved Poems (1961), readers are asked to ponder the question: “What is poetry?”

The introduction’s writer recalls the many and varied attempts at definition throughout the ages, citing poetry as:

  • “the music of the soul” (Voltaire)
  • “the art of uniting pleasure with truth” (Samuel Johnson)
  • “the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself” (William Hazlitt)
  • that which “makes me feel as if the top of my head were taken off” (Emily Dickinson)
  • “not the assertion of truth, but the making of that truth more fully real to us” (T.S. Eliot)
  • Or as Albert Einstein said of truth, perhaps great poetry is “that which stands the test of experience.”

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Growing in Gritty-ness

Einstein quotes about intelligence“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” –Albert Einstein, physicist, 1879-1955

The question of individual success has long fascinated philosophers and life thinkers. From Confucius, the 6th century BC Chinese philosopher, who once wrote, “The nature of man is always the same; it is their habits that separate them”, to the 4th century BC ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle – “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit” – one can find various musings throughout the centuries on humanity’s capacity to accomplish great and marvelous things.

Yet, even with centuries of life wisdom at our disposal, and a repertoire of more recent research that shed light on human behavior, it seems that man’s quest to understand the underlying factors of man’s success may never cease, as evidenced by Angela Duckworth’s 2016 book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Read more

“Hillbilly Elegy”: A Timely and Important Memoir

“Hillbilly Elegy”: A Timely and Important Memoir

I was born in West Virginia and so, by birth, I am an official hillbilly. Though I have lived in New England for almost 35 years, I cannot deny the strong soulful connection to the “wild and wonderful” land of West Virginia where much of my simple childhood was spent. In my college years, I once went spelunking in the mountains of West Virginia and after a day exploring deep in a cave of stalactites and stalagmites and winding knee-high rivers, we climbed to the top of an Appalachian hill in the dark and slept. When I awoke in the fresh mountain air, my eyes opened to a pastoral delight of beautiful rolling cow dotted hills. The hills and hollows of West Virginia truly are in my blood.

And so, last August when I spotted, prominently displayed in a bookshop in New York City, Hillbilly Elegy, my heart skipped a beat (how often does one come across the word “hillbilly”?). I knew I had to read it for the mere prospect of taking me back, with a strong sense of place, to the Appalachian hills where I came from.

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“Originals”: A Surprising Truth about Entrepreneurs

Originals book review“Originality is not a fixed trait. It is a free choice.”
–Adam Grant

When people think of entrepreneurs, they tend to see them as the ultimate risk-takers: people who unabashedly take a chance on something they believe in. People who enjoy going out on a limb, taking leaps into the unknown and thrive on uncertainty.

But, it isn’t necessarily so. In fact, entrepreneurs are more risk-averse – and much more calculated – than you think. The proof is in Adam Grant’s latest book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.

Utilizing data and studies from across industries, Grant shows how entrepreneurs are fueled less by risk and more by the opportunity to try something new, pursue a passion and see things in a new light. Read more

A Post-Lenten Reflection on the Practice of Self-Denial

“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it ‘character in action.’” –Vince Lombardi (football player and coach, 1913-1970)

quotes about self-denialIt has been a little over a week since I ended my 40-day chocolate and “things I like most” fast in observance of the Lenten Season – the first time I have willfully committed to “giving up” something since I entered full fledged adulthood nearly five years ago.

A tradition that I gladly embraced at the start of Ash Wednesday during my childhood years, it became significantly less appealing as the demands of adult life made the idea of giving something up seem nearly unbearable.

In fact, it was only during these last 40 days that I came to a greater realization of just how challenging the practice of self-denial is – and how much truth exists in the age-old saying that life’s most valuable lessons are best learned through times of difficulty, struggle and discomfort. Read more