Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Posts Tagged ‘rum’

Sunday musings…6/30/19

Sunday musings (lots to catch up on)…

1) Fonder. Absent last week. Never got to the keyboard. Miss me?

2) Timmy. Our little manster Tiny Tim passed away last fall. He was a great dog. Attached as if by velcro to Beth. He visited me last night in my dreams so vividly that when I awakened it was if my arms and my lap were still warmed by his soft, fuzzy body. It was a happy awakening.

I really miss our little floofball.

3) Savage. Did you know that Fred Savage from The Wonder Years is 42 years old? Not a typo. 42! I’m not really sure why this is so striking; I didn’t really watch the show and all.

Still, Fred Savage is 42 years old. Whoa.

4) Washing machine. Fun little article on hanging clothes to dry outside in this weekend’s WSJ. I can’t remember the last time I actually saw that outside of the beach. The whole washing and drying of clothes is yet another part of “the world is way better than we admit” thing I’ve touched on in recent months. For the price of a little electricity households are freed from the chore of washing and drying their clothes by hand.

Admit it. Unless you’ve done much travel in 3rd world countries or the whole bohemian backpack thing, you haven’t washed anything by hand in years. Maybe your whole life.

This does bring into play a few 1st world problems. Our washer drum is putting rust spots on our whites. Beth just ordered a new one to be delivered and installed on the 4th (in the middle of our party!). Top or front load I asked. Answer: “Top. The whole front load thing is annoying.”

There you have it.

5) PT. I threw on a backpack and took a walk to our local liquor store yesterday afternoon. Crazy good place that store. Anyway, I loaded up the back pack with “provisions” weighing ~20 lbs and walked on home. Only 2.5 months out from my hip replacement the extra load was actually pretty noticeable. Now when people ask what I’m doing for PT I have a new, and utterly perfect answer:

I’m a rum runner!

6) Words. How we express ourselves in the words we choose can make a difference in what others hear if we do, in fact, have the ability to choose. Those hearing us should extend  goodwill in that the vast majority of people speak with honorable intent. Still, when it is obvious that a choice has been made to alter a common speech pattern or phrasing it is heartwarming; the effort should be called out and those who made the effort applauded. A very important example, one that I have mentioned often, is to describe a suicide as “death by suicide” or killed by suicide”, opting to drop “committed” and all it carries.

So here’s to MLB and its tiny but meaningful gesture of changing the name of the list of players unable to play from the “disabled list” to the “injured list”, removing a possible cause of discomfort from affecting a vulnerable population. Bravo.

7) Equality. As I approach 60 I am frequently drawn back to times, places and people from the past. White privilege is a theme that is quite in the news of late. Other than being white it’s been rather hard to see how I’ve been otherwise privileged. Certainly I have never felt the sting of real discrimination based on the color of my skin; if privilege is simply the absence of discrimination then I have been thus privileged. But as I’ve written in the past my Dad grew up quite poor, and our very lower middle-class life in the earliest days of our family was remarkably similar in almost all ways to that of a super-majority of the families in the town where I was born.

Why was that? Southbridge was notably short of not only the truly rich, but even the upper-middle class. As far as I can remember there was only really one rich family (the Wells family owned American Optical, the big employer) who literally no one ever saw, and precisely one neighborhood that stood out. And that only because the lots were a little bigger. My memory is that the houses themselves were pretty much just like those in the rest of the town. Nobody took fancy vacations or traveled to exotic locations. Little League shut down when AO closed for 2 weeks in July, and everyone went to the local lakes. In my memory almost every family in town who wanted to belonged to the little 9 hole country club if Dad played golf.

What was really extraordinary was how it felt to be a kid in school. I have no memory of anyone standing out based on any type of affluence or wealth. The kids who had cars had them because they were car-centric families. Those of us who did not (my siblings and I were not allowed to own our own cars in high school and college) didn’t because our families just didn’t have cars for the kids. There are no memories of stratification based on the clothes we wore in school. In fact my only memory about clothes was how I felt because of our own family’s very strict dress code for school. No bellbottoms or blue jeans in school, and we could only wear sneakers on Friday. My hair never touched my ears or came within hailing distance of my collar. Remember, we’re talking the 60’s and 70’s here.

Although there was a regional Catholic high school in town almost no one went there despite the fact that at least 90% of us were Catholic. We all took French in school, even the children from Puerto Rican families for whom Spanish was the language spoken at home. Kids were “tracked” academically in those times; I spent each school day with pretty much the same 25 or so kids. In the hallways between classes you couldn’t distinguish which track a kid might be in, though. I was just as likely to be hanging out with a neighborhood buddy or a teammate with whom I never shared a classroom as I was to be walking with someone from math class. As I look back it seems remarkable.

For the boys at least, we all seemed to share our rites of passage on similar timelines. Sign up for Little League at 8. Basketball leagues started at the Y at age 10. We all played Pop Warner football in 7th and 8th grades. It surely seems like everyone I knew did all of that at the same time (girls sports were different in those pre-Title 9 days so my memories are skewed male, for sure). It seems like we all had our first beers and our first kisses within 12 months of each other, max. Despite obvious genetic differences in academic or athletic prowess we all seemed so much alike. There seemed to be so little that separated any of us from one another. I’ve often noted that the difference between the “good kids” and the “bad kids” may have been simply that the “good kids” didn’t get caught.

The White family moved on, moved to another state and another school system, and another way of life as my father became more and more successful. It was obvious that we now had more of at least some stuff, not least of which was house. There was a vast range of housing in our new town. Consequently there was a greater awareness of neighborhoods among everyone, including the kids. High school in the 70’s largely broke down this awareness and never let it be a barrier, but looking back that new town and new school were different. And I am left to wonder not why the new school was different (because I see now that it was actually more realistic and probably normal), but why my first school was really the one that stood apart.

In the end I believe that Southbridge in the 60’s and 70’s was different because of all the things that were the same. Everyone went to public schools. Most Moms stayed home. The only difference between Dads seemed to be whether they took their daily shower in the morning before work or at night after. Pretty much every household had the same philosophy on child raising, and consequently you were kinda parented by every parent in town. School was safe. We had only to behave there as we behaved at home and we were free to learn. Mostly we all had the same amount of nothing extra. Nothing that set us apart from one another. It seems that we only kept score in class and on the playing fields and had nothing to measure and to compete for otherwise.

Is this simply the rose-colored memory of a kid who was mostly successful in school? Maybe, but as my old school friend Jan pointed out yesterday I wasn’t really as successful socially as I was in the classroom and on the field. One wonders if anyone else who was there at the time has a similar memory. My sense from our conversation is that Jan might. Still, as someone who has since traveled  way up and way down the economic and social ladders, there was something there that I’ve not found anywhere else. It’s not obvious to me why that was.

My hope is that, having lived there and having experienced what I remember as an equality that was so natural and unexplored that it seems extraordinary and rare, that the greatest lesson I learned there is that it is always what we have in common that matters. And that we almost always have much more in common than not. Our default setting should always be set on “equal”.

I’ll see you next week…

Sunday musings 8/9/15

Sunday musings…

1) Iron. The iron is always hot. Be ever ready to strike.

2) Walker. “I’m a guy with a wife and two kids and a Harley. One could call me aggressively normal.”

I like that, but I’m also struggling with it a bit. I mean, do you have to have a Harley to be normal? And what about that two kids thing?

3) Navy. Rum, as you probably know, was the traditional spirit onboard ocean going vessels for at least a couple hundred years. Rum that is particularly strong, say 57% alcohol strong, is said to be “navy strength”. If you spill it on your gunpowder, the gunpowder will still ignite.

I like everything about that.

4) Grit. In a post on last week’s “musings” that nobody saw (it was caught in the filter TWICE) I ruminated a bit on opportunity in America in response to a link on FB offered by my CrossFit friend JT, and an op-ed in the Sunday NYT. For the second week in a row a commentator is taking up space on the first page of the Review section bleating about an indelibly institutionalized LACK of opportunity the U.S.


For whatever it’s worth, I’m not going to go back to that well here today (though I will in Random Thoughts for both of you who care) except to say that you can show pretty much anything you care to simply by cherry-picking your cohort. Instead, let’s take a look at the singular ingredient necessary to seize and take advantage of opportunity when it arises: grit.

What is it that produces vastly different work products, outcomes, from similarly situated and talented individuals? Why do two equally gifted athletes similar in every way achieve at different levels? How best to explain widely disparate test scores in math, for example, from the “best and brightest” students? There is something within those who succeed at the higher level that is somehow missing in the others, or at least missing the same degree of expression. It’s likely that there are a number of words or expressions that capture this quality, but I kinda like “grit”.

Grit begins with a belief in self, a sense of self-worth, of being worthy of success. Without this first step it’s rather easy to see how anyone might just give up before ever starting. Here, as my cousin Rick has pointed out, might be a true variable when discussing opportunity: those of us who grow up in a demanding family characterized by firm boundaries, unfailing support, and high expectations may actually have an unfair advantage. People with this type of upbringing truly do believe that the iron is always hot and that they are worthy and capable of striking. Without this foundation of belief in self it’s easy to see how one might look at the same iron and think only of how not to get burned.

By the way, this is why neither poverty nor wealth is a valid predictor for success. Think of people who grew up in dismal poverty and climbed to literally dizzying heights in life, or the opposite, scions of wealth who grew up to be self-loathing under-achievers. A look in the window of the former would find an atmosphere like the one Rick describes, one in which that deep belief in yourself is instilled. The wealthy family from which opportunity is squandered is more likely one in which little or no support is offered to a child, one in which the child is continually found wanting and told as much.

To have grit one takes this core belief and puts it into action. Angela Duckworth, professor at Penn, calls passion and perseverance the two actionable components of grit. You have to want it, whatever it might be, and you have to work at making it happen; the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of people looked upon as lucky actually worked their asses off to get that way. Perseverance might very well be defined as ongoing maximal effort. One who has grit might not necessarily get the best outcome, but it’s not likely to be due to being out-worked at that thing called “it”.

An important sub-category of perseverance is resilience, and this is the final core attribute to grit. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from defeat with faith intact to resume the quest for “it”. Think about what comes to your mind when you hear someone described as “gritty”. It’s someone who has a passion, a commitment and a willingness to work toward an achievement. More than that, someone you think of as gritty has faced adversity or moved on after defeat. No one has a straight line to success; the gritty move on, secure in the knowledge that they are willing and able to do the work needed to succeed.

Grit is passion and perseverance bookended by a sense of worthiness on the front side, and the resilience to overcome setbacks on the back.  Opportunity is wasted without it.


I’ll see you next week…