Archive for January, 2011

making difference

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

I attended a funeral this morning, for a person here at work. I didn’t know him well, but I went to pay respects and witness the passing of his life.

It was a very touching service. His four now-orphaned sons addressed the congregants, an honor guard from the Legion post offered a salute to recognize his service to country, his best friend spoke, and as you would anticipate, there was not a dry eye in the chapel.

As the priest spoke, offering reassurance to the sons, hope to the friends, and the promise of the life after to all in attendance, he said something that stuck in my head, is still stuck in my head. He said that he hoped when we all finished our day, that we could answer the question “Did you make a difference in your life or another’s today?”

“Did you make a difference?”

Simple words, but complex as well. I’ve often proposed to my students that architecture is about making difference. I believe that. Architects make something present. As I sat in the orange and blue light from the stained glass today I was thinking about the nature of difference.

The Oxford English Dictionary lists one definition as “a particular instance of unlikeness” and “A mark, device, or characteristic feature, which distinguishes one thing or set of things from another.”

So how does one make difference? How long does difference last? I’m not sure this is what the Priest was proposing, but to make difference in someone’s life might be through a kindness, through the unexpected, and I struggle to find ways beyond the kindness. I don’t think making a negative difference is what the Priest had in mind, although technically, it would be difference. Having a cloud fall on your head, or a tire go flat would be differences, but not positive ones. I think I’ll stick to the open a door, help a stranger, look after your friends, those sorts of things. But when he said “a difference in your life” that threw me. How can I make difference in my life? Stopping a bad habit, dropping my guard a bit more, enjoying each day a bit more, … maybe. Go to the gym, take the stairs, those sorts of things? Maybe.

Difference making takes some more thought I can tell.

All this comes around to Nolen and his sons. You could tell he had made difference for them, particularly after their mother passed away. Mostly what they spoke of was his being there. I think thats a difference I can do, will do. Be more present, less distracted, more substantial in my efforts, we’ll see if its enough.

Look after each other, be good to each other,
and make that difference for each other
and you

An early post

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

It’s a bit before dawn, a noisy damper clanking woke me up. As sometimes happens, my mind starts going and, well here I am.

Yesterday a fellow at work passed away. He was younger than I am. I had seen him just a few days earlier, I think he was talking on his hands free microphone and thought he was talking to me. This often happens and before I realized he wasn’t talking to me, I was talking to him. He looked at me, gave me a wave and turned so I could see the phone, I made an “oops” gesture and continued on my way, and that was it, the last time I saw him.

It makes you feel pretty humble, knowing that we don’t know when the hello or goodbye is the last words we might say to someone. Not that a hi or bye would be especially meaningful, but, it does affirm a person in some way. I say this because when you pass a person you know, and they say nothing, it takes a little something out of you.

Nolen’s passing made me think of lots of you yesterday and today. Lots of students I’ve worked with, staff in the offices (hi to Peggy and Norma) people at the universities, I’m thinking of you all, hoping I said goodbye when I left, good luck when you graduated, thanks when you helped and how much it means to me to be able to dial the phone, and talk with you like it’s only been a week, even if it’s been years. I’m not quite to the “I love you man” stage of life, but I am able to say that to my daughters and steady girl these days. I hope you are too, each time you hang up the phone, or head out the door, because you just don’t know when you’ll get to say it.

I’m thinking of some friends who fight and work hard just to live each day. Kz, you amaze me. You are without a doubt the toughest 75 pound person I know. ( You’ll win this fight, I know it. I saw the determination in you years ago at your desk. I tried to talk you out of that design direction knowing how hard it would be but you stuck to it, made it work, and you’ll make this work too, I’m sure of it.

Thinking of you all
Remember to say hi and bye
And to tell those you love
That you do

Be good to each other
Think kindly of each other

the new year

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Its the second of January and the New Year is underway!

One of the first orders of business was to recycle “treezilla,” an 11 foot tall Fraser Fir that my favorite oldest daughter thought was a “must-have,” “Texas-sized” tree. We had talked the seller down to about half-price and helped him load it into the pickup. It was a good size for the pickup, hanging out the endgate just enough to look respectable. We had stopped by UPS to mail a few gifts to my sisters and brother (who forgot his gift when he left the party?) and the ladies in the UPS store had seen us drive up and when we walked in they said they had been worried we were going to ask them to pack and ship the tree!

It took all Erin, Maggie, and I a bit of wrestling to get treezilla up the stairs, around the corner and into the living room, but once we tipped it up, stood back and looked at it, it was magnificent, and just the right size for the room. Erin was right!

The girls spent an afternoon making snowflakes from paper, some little twisty ornaments from pipe cleaners (a Christmas cat?) and then we all assembled the tree. It didn’t take long to get lights, garlands, ornaments, snowflakes and pipe cleaners on the tree, and it made a beautiful tree. The first Christmas at Brook Hollow. Treezilla, all dressed up, held the room’s attention for a bit over two weeks with its lights and glitz and piney-woods scent. But today I had to take it down.

Its hard to start Christmas all over, with none of the old ornaments or the old angel for the top of the tree, its easier when Maggie makes Christmas cookies, and Erin narrates contemporary culture with her decorating of the cookies, and really, having their energy here in Brook Hollow was the best part of Christmas. It was hard to take them to the airport, but they were still here when the tree was up so it didn’t hit me till just now that Christmas is over.

I took down the garland, snowflakes, small ornaments, pipe cleaners and began repacking the larger glass ornaments in the boxes and was thinking that these spheres of glass in silver, gold and green were pretty anonymous compared to the snowflakes when I came upon a message written on one ornament. It told me they were thinking of me, something that as a parent you secretly always hope but you know they have to live their own lives and that they can’t think of you as often. I tried calling a few times but didn’t get through so I collected myself and finished packing lights, now its just a matter of figuring out how to get an 11 foot tall and 7 foot wide tree through the 3 foot patio door and out on the balcony for a brief flight to the adjacent woodlot….

I sang to the one who holds my heart yesterday, and well, my voice is not so good. Some words disappear completely when they fall out of my narrow gravely range, and…she sang back to me! I’m hoping its a good omen, we both gave our imperfect selves to each other and received the other without judgment, without critique, just openly gave our voices, inches from each other, an amazing moment, one of many, but a good omen for the start of the new year.

My last ramble for the day. We watched a TED talk on vulnerability last night.
It was quite eye-opening on the whole subject of acceptance, being accepted, risking hurt to become meaningfully connected. Take a look if you have a moment, its less than 20 minutes and the speaker is pretty entertaining. I’ll replay it today and try to pick up what I missed (as I contemplate how to get treezilla out the door!)

Hope your New Year started safely, and that you were in the company of the one you love.

Be good to each other.