Book Review: Spaceman by Mike Massimino

In his autobiography “Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe” Mike Massimino, a NASA astronaut and Columbia University professor describes his journey from a childhood dream of being an astronaut to actual walking in space (of which he and his team set records). As soon as I started reading this book, I was absolutely captivated by Mike’s tale.


His manner of writing is very frank and straightforward. He just tells his story like it is, and it’s impossible to put down. His journey wasn’t always smooth, neither was it always aimed for the space. I admired his determination when he made a decision to get into space program. How he overcame stumbling blocks on his path, his personal ethics – everything is admirable. His story is full of the most important lessons in life -the value of education, the value of public service, deep desire to be a better person, true friendship.

Overall impression: Loved this book to pieces. My 11 y.o. son is reading it now, and I am sure it will make a difference in his world perception, and no doubt will inspire him . Absolute must read.


I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.



What first caught my attention was the title of this book, “The Happiness of Pursuit”. Can a journey be a reward in itself? Chris Guillebeau, an author who visited every country in the world by the age of 35 (wow!) certainly makes a case for it. The book is a collection of stories of people who undertook a personal quest of some sort and have completed or are in the process of completing it.


Initially I thought that it will be an amusing collection of success stories, but this book also provides tools to recognize the signs of a change that must happen for a quest to start (sometimes it’s just a slump in the work environment, sometimes it’s a terminal illness, sometimes just a general discontent). Second part of the book deals with the journey itself, the way, the cost, the meaning for a specific person. I think I liked this section the best because it showed the wide range of quests, you don’t have to set to visit every country in the world, for example, you can cook a meal from each too. The third part deals with destination or what each person gains from their quest.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I have this yearning for quests and regularly make one up. It isn’t far from home 99.9% at a time, but I appreciate the satisfaction it gives me and lessons I gain from each and every one of them. Quests can be big or small, aimed at the wide audience or deeply personal, the important this is to try. Highly recommend.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.





Now is good

It’s August tomorrow. My dashboard is preparing for school, countdowns are up, supply lists, clothes and lunches are being discussed it great detail. People are getting ready. We are not there yet.  I am grateful for freedom of homeschooling – we can go back in a month as opposed to in two and a half weeks when our school district starts again.

We will continue to enjoy our little moments of gold. It was so simple to allow ourselves to rest well this summer. We enjoyed meeting friends, but also were alone a lot. We learned how precious it is to have alone time. I hope people that didn’t get to see us this summer will understand. We had so many “lucky moments”- pelicans, frogs, going hiking, reading under the tree, listening to the rain and watching clouds.

sparkles on the water under the sun

sparkles on the water under the sun

noticing pretty colors

noticing pretty colors

making little bouquets on a hiking trip

making little bouquets on a hiking trip

little legs long enough to kick my elbows, but the toes are still tiny

little legs long enough to kick my elbows, but the toes are still tiny

We grew up so much this summer.  Kids got more independent, they got taller too. I learned to allow things to myself (this poem helped a lot), the man of the house started a new journey in his career. Two books that fell into my hands  talked about the importance of genuine living and basking in the light of present moment. While the concept isn’t new, never before have I felt it to be so imperative to our family’s well being. Maybe it is also because I can physically feel kids growing up so fast and I am not ready to let go. Maybe because the whirlwind wore me out. I want gold moments to last: C. waking me up with kisses, D. sharing his thoughts on Harry Potter, clouds raising when we go up the hill, the cuddles, the warm moments of togetherness. The peace. That is my biggest wish– to be peaceful in my heart. If I learn how to be peaceful, then when the schedules and obligations and necessary activities and chores will start again, I won’t be tired out of my mind, and I won’t feel like my world is spinning and I can barely keep up…Now is good.

Goodbye June and savoring July

This is going to be a lazy post. I haven’t updated in two weeks and I can’t bring myself to do a full list of things we did and places we went. We had a great time with friends, we were on our own a little, we got sick and are recovering…we are trying to have  a slow summer, but at the same time trying not to be bored out of our minds. I am staying away from devices as much as I can (the record is July 1st when I haven’t opened my laptop until 8 pm), trying to read a lot and only for fun, to craft. I am drawing and painting daily, the little things, but doing it brings so much joy. Kids are being creative without any prompts…A few shots from the past two weeks, our golden moments:

catching that morning ray of sun

catching that morning ray of sun

catching a glimpse of a duck with ducklings

catching a glimpse of a duck with ducklings

our first results of drying flowers

our first results of drying flowers

staying up to look at the moon

staying up to look at the crazy full  moon

Overall life is good. I am trying to find a new balance in our lives, and hoping to bring it into our schoolyear too. I am trying to re-learn how to be a calm mom, and stop being someone ruled by schedules and necessity to be somewhere else.

School Year is finished+ round up of two weeks in May (5/11-5/24/2015)

Unbelievable, our school year is finished! The past two weeks were crazy, but we made it.

Photo of the week:

It's been wet and overcast  on and off for a couple of weeks now, yet I love it

It’s been wet and overcast on and off for a couple of weeks now, yet I love it

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Week’s Roundup: April 20-April 26, 2015

Whew, what a week, once again. I will probably write these words over and over all the way until the end of May…

Picture of the week:

How glad I was to see it was raining today, something about the rain is always soothing and being indoors on a wet day when there are no places to be is refreshing

How glad I was to see it was raining today, something about the rain is always soothing and being indoors on a wet day when there are no places to be, no people to meet and we can just be warm and cozy in our pjs, read and play and bake…

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Learning how to lose: late night post tournament ramblings

D. competed in karate tournament today. He was very excited beforehand, especially since he won his first gold in sparring last time around, and he was sure he will be victorious again. He did well on his forms, but ended up forth (no medal). He won first two fights and lost the third (fourth again, no medal). He was a bit upset, especially because he was unfairly judged (we saw fouls that were not called, we saw points taken away when they shouldn’t have been, the usual happenings of a judged sport). He did recover his spirits a little when he learned that many of his friends failed to score important victories as well. But he was a bit gloomy for the rest of the day and wondered how did it happen, that he didn’t even get a single medal. And it got me thinking, am I raising a child that knows how to lose so it benefits him?

Losing is an important learning moment, it might stimulate one to do better next time, it might teach us that we don’t always get what we want even when we got what it takes, it might teach us not to give up, it teaches us humility.

I read some articles on how extreme competitiveness destroys the true enjoyment of a sport or game and it got me wondering too. How do we see success? Can we turn the loss into a teaching moment?

First, I had to ask myself and D. what is it that we want from this particular sport? What is the role of competition in this?

The answers were obvious: to learn to protect yourself, to learn discipline and self-control, and  “to make friends ” was D.’s answer. Competition doesn’t matter for the first three because the first one is unpredictable and for the second and third you are competing against yourself. The fourth doesn’t need competition to happen.

Competition is merely a small part of the journey, it doesn’t define you at all, nor does it define your competence since learning process is ongoing.

Second, I asked D. and myself how do we feel when we lose– for both of us “disappointed” was the answer. It’s a valid feeling. Now, why are we disappointed? Do our expectations need an adjustment?  D. wanted a medal. Is it all that he wanted- a trophy? Would he be happier if they gave him a “consolation medal”? He would. This got me thinking again about excessive rewards that were given out on previous events. D. got a sports bag as a token of participation, he is happy he did, but he wanted a medal too. Not as a mark of his excellence, but just to have one.

Things to ponder further: Do I, as a parent and an educator encourage excessive praise and meaningless rewards? Do I condition my child to receive a golden star even for a minimal effort? How? Rewards are a constant in our activities outside of home- he gets extra praise if he doesn’t forget his music, he gets a golden star for participating in class- for things that should be a given. Dojo is one place where it doesn’t happen. I’ve seen excessive rewarding mentioned in many parenting books (especially those comparing US parenting culture with other countries)  as a big problem. How do we find a balance between fostering sense of self-worth and making sure our children aren’t confused about their true skill? How we prevent greed for things that have no meaning aside from being a souvenir of an event?

Third: What does it mean to be the best at what you do? Does it mean beating your opponent every single time? Does it require outside praise? Which recognition has more merit? If your teacher tells you you did a good job, but you don’t get the medal, does the praise still stands? Especially if a teacher is not known for distributing praise freely? Do you automatically stop being good, just because your day was not very lucky?

I watched an absolutely brilliant Indian movie a few years back, it is called 3 idiots,  and it immediately came to mind when I started thinking about success vs. excellence. I absolutely recommend it to everyone, it is a indeed a must-see, it pops up in search results as a full movie uploaded on youtube, and I’m sure it’s on Netflix too. D. is perhaps to young to some of the jokes there, but I need to re-watch it.

Fourth: In light of being unfairly judged- is life always fair? It may be a difficult question with a difficult answer for a child, but D. is 9, and fairy tale that his life currently is might get some darker twists sooner or later. Truth is- life isn’t fair most of the time. Immediate gratification doesn’t always happen. We don’t get something because we really really want it all the time. D. knows it and sighs “like that Millenium Falcon Lego set”. But he has so many Lego already and he knows it. And he also has many medals up on his wall. He is saving money to get that set one day. He is saving strength and is determined to train harder to get that win next time. Realizing that you’ve been blessed already is a good thing. Realizing that you have to make an extra effort to get something you want is a strong motivator.

People also can be unkind. We can remember how it made us feel and try to avoid behaving like this in a future. Is it ok to be happy about winning? Yes! Is it ok to automatically assume it will last? No. Realizing that even a sense of superiority is transitory is another valuable lesson. Being humble about your winnings sometimes means less embarrassment if you fail. (And I’m not saying this about D. in particular now, because he’s not the one to gloat. Just something to remember for the future.) Another thing to learn is to be genuinely happy for a friend.

Fifth: Regret. Inevitable part of disappointment. The first question I ask D. when he is done with something important, be it a competition or a concert- did you do your best? If the answer is “yes” than he did what he could and he shouldn’t have regrets. That is where he is right now. It is up to him to push himself forward when he’s ready. But he has to answer honestly. It is much easier to live an honest life in general, but it is crucial to be honest with yourself. D. looked beautiful today doing forms. He felt great doing them. He felt good about his two fights. He was fighting fairly. He has no regrets about that.

Sixth: Learning from your mistakes. To do it one has to realize these mistakes first. Honestly tell yourself there may have been mistakes, gather a courage and look at sparring video, test score, whatever applies to the situation. Find your mistakes, acknowledge them and try not to make them again. Or realize again, that there might have been factors outside of your control (like a situation on a tournament before last where the position of judges  did not allow them to see competitors from all the angles and it affected the scoring), swim in your disappointment for a bit, let it out of your system and move on.

Seventh: I, as a mother have to ask myself- what did I do to help my child feel good about this competition? Did I hype up his hopes unnecessarily? Did I show my anxious face? Did I cheer too loudly and distract him at a crucial moment? Did I not show up on the sidelines because I am too nervous to look at my child being hit?  I know where I failed this time- we were too busy running around during the past two weeks , we over-scheduled our activities, so his mental condition just wasn’t that great. He was in an excellent form physically, but paying attention to his mental condition is just as important. This is the thing I can do for him.

That is all for now. So many things to consider (or overthink?) . Tomorrow is a new day and we will try to make the best out of it.