DadsNews   March, 2006   Volume 2,  Number 4 

Ken Mossman MFA, CPCC, PCC              518.580.0550

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In this issue:

  1. Greetings!
  2. Feature: "To the Max..."
  3. Quote of the Month
  4. Happenings...


In like a...lion..?

I'm not so sure what sort of creature March has entered as, but it hasn't appeared very lion-ish.  Walks to the mailbox have found me looking down as the mostly-frozen, mostly-snowless ground looking for crocus-sign.  Haven't seen any green stuff yet, so maybe Old Man Winter is planning on putting in a late appearance.

We did manage six days of skiing over Cai's President's Week break, including Danielle's first day on alpine gear in over 8 years!  Turned out to be the coldest day we'd been out all season, which made for an "interesting" outing.  In spite of a few white spots showing up on exposed noses, fun was had by all.

Cai's skiing has improved dramatically.  While his technical prowess hasn't quite caught up with his speed, and he did have a rather frightening collision with his grandfather, (while both received "careless driving" citations from yours truly, Grandpa Al got the shorter end of the deal with a cracked rib...) it's great fun to watch him cruising about doing something we both love.

Which leads to this month's feature: "To the Max..."  Direction can come from unexpected quarters...



PS: As of this writing, Danielle and I are packing for a weekend in California, flying out way too early in the morning.  Cai is recovering from several days of Father and Son fever and sniffles.  Not that I'd recommend it, but there is certainly something, well, different, about bonding with a child over a box of tissues...

PPS: As always, I'm grateful to you for spreading the DadsNews to friends and fathers the world over...  Thanks!

To the Max... 

I don't remember his name... at least not his last name...

I can see him clear as day.  Leathery, sun-baked face, chapped lips pulling on a cigarette, crows feet peeking out from behind mirror sun-glasses.  I can't recall whether he was German, Austrian or Swiss.  Some folks would argue about the importance of that little detail, but to me it didn't matter much...

It was January or February of 1977.  I was on winter break from my freshman year at Southampton College, where I had gone to study marine science.  I wanted, or so I thought at that stage in my life, to be the next Jacques Cousteau...

That there was a bit of a knot in the marine science rope hadn't really occured to me until sometime just before winter break when, sitting in the dining hall one evening, I got into a discussion about skiing with Jeff, my pal Willy's roommate.  (Many stories could be written about Willy, but those shall have to wait for another time...)  Jeff had been a competitive skier in high school, and a good one at that.  While he had come to school for a number of very rational reasons, I hadn't seen him as excited as he was that evening as we talked about skiing.  His blue eyes were blazing, his speech animated and, it seems, any hint of "rational" thinking had been drained from his body.

He was - we were - connecting to a depth of passion that simply refused to remain hidden.  Going to college to satisfy parents (me) or a future spouse (him) didn't really serve to extinguish the fire smoldering beneath the blanket of academic life.  Truth was that at our collective core, we were both die-hard skiers holed-up at a college on the eastern end of Long Island.  Consciously or otherwise, we were there for the wrong reasons, and we were looking for an out.

That first year of school was interesting for me.  Having been a less-than-stellar high school kid, the freedom of college life found me doing much better academically, and my Dad had dangled a rather tempting carrot in front of me: maintain a "B" average or higher, and we'd take a Father/Son ski trip to the Rockies on my winter break.

I don't know what happened to Jacques Cousteau, but I do find it endlessly fascinating that Dad didn't offer to take me scuba diving in Belize.  Hmmmm...  Reward a budding marine scientist with a trip to the mountains...  Know your players.  Do the math...

I made the Dean's List that first semester, and Dad bought two round-trip tickets to Taos, New Mexico and, unbeknownst to either of us, to Max...

It was a wonderful trip!  I hadn't been to the Mountain West before, and as we drove from Albuquerque through Santa Fe and on up to Taos, I felt the lid of my experience being peeled back to make room for... well, I didn't really know what for back then...

From here, it makes perfect sense...

We arrived too late in the day to ski, so we settled in to our lodging, wandered around the village, and retired early.  Next morning we participated in a "ski-off" to assign instructors for us the week ahead.  I hadn't spent any time with a ski instructor in years, and rather than resist the "lessons," that were part of the package Dad had purchased, I jumped in willingly and, quite literally, with both feet.  This was, after all, an educational experience that called to something much deeper than biology, chemistry, or how much more oxygen the average Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus , in case you were wondering...) requires when molting.

 I'd made it into the top class in the ski-off which on one hand wasn't a surprise at all - after all, I'd been skiing since I was very, very young, had my racing history, and loved nothing better.  On the other hand, there was a touch of "hmmmm..." because coming from New Jersey, I wasn't really sure about how good I was...

The point is that in that moment - and in the days that followed - I connected to not only one of my gifts and to my Father, I also learned a thing or two about listening.

I can see him clear as day.  Leathery, sun-baked face, chapped lips pulling on a cigarette, crows feet peeking out from behind mirror sun-glasses.  I can't recall whether he was German, Austrian or Swiss.  Some folks would argue about the importance of that little detail, but to me it didn't matter much...

He spent his summers building furniture, his winters teaching people the finer points of carving a ski.  I can't recall his last name, but his first name was Max.  Some of that week's memories are lost in the stew of distant time, but many of the finer details remain.  For instance, I can recall several runs almost turn-for-turn as I followed closely behind Max.  I did my best to stick as close to him as possible.  Not only did we share a passion for skiing, he was a master.  He had found a way to make sliding downhill an artform, and I wanted some of what he had to offer.

Toward the end of the week, Max and I were riding a chair together.  I was peppering him with questions about his life, about skiing and about teaching.  I was fascinated by the notion that a man could do what he loved, get paid for it, and be so completely unapologetic about it.

Max took one long drag, tossed the end of his cigarette into the snow, exhaled a cloud into the blue New Mexico sky and said to me in his German accent, "You know, you could be a ski instructor.  You're as good as lots of them, and better than some..."

All I remember saying was a habitual, "Really..?"

In that moment the Atlantic Ocean, which was already over 2000 miles away, moved a few feet farther to the right.

Aside from the high-point of getting stuck on a malfunctioning chairlift for a couple hours with Dad, (We were evacuated... that was high adventure!) the thing that stands out for me as life-changing was the realization that it was possible to do what you love out in the "real world."  Max had dropped a seed into the garden that Dad had prepared...

When I returned to Southampton College for the spring semester, something was different.  Accompanied by my Father, I'd seen a world that was more vertical than horizontal, and it was peopled by living, breathing human beings who seemed, outwardly anyway, to be having a rather good time.  The trip had originally been a reward for my academic performance.  The truth is that I'm still reaping the rewards of that trip.

I withdrew from school at the end of that spring semester.  I'd run into Jeff a week or two before and told him what I was planning.  He looked at me, mumbled something about "responsibility," and went on his way.

The following Fall I travelled cross country with my high-school buddy, Richard, then returned home to have surgery on my shoulder in late November.  After healing for a number of weeks, I packed up and moved to Waterbury Center, Vermont.  I took a room for $40 a week, got a job at Stowe directing cars in the parking lots, and skied like there was no tomorrow.  I loved every minute of it.

One day after work, I accompanied a new friend who was going down the mountain road to pick up a pair of used skis.  We walked in to a dorm that one of the local hotels had set up for it's employees.  My friend knocked on the door and, to my amazement, the fellow who opened it was none other than Jeff.  His sweetheart had dumped him and, having lost all his illusions of "responsibility," he lost no time in leaving Southampton behind and moving to Stowe.  The fire was back in his eyes...

The following year found me in Jackson Hole, Wyoming as the youngest member of the Ski School.

I often think, as I ski with Cai, that he might just up and head west at some point.  Maybe take a year or two or three - or more - and do what he loves.  I hope that when that time is up, he'll choose to do something else that he loves.  If he ever gets tired of that...  Well, I hope then that he'll do something that he loves.

If he ever forgets, I trust I'll have the presence of mind to pass on a bit of information my Dad passed on to me when he rewarded me for a job well-done: Live life to the Max...

Quote of the Month

"Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence."

H.L. Mencken


Surfing the Masculine / Feminine Mobius Strip
A Workshop Exploring the Energies of the Masculine, the Feminine, and the Third Way

Here's what past "Mobius" participants have to say:

The workshop was life enhancing for me. I broke through to something I have been trying to access for years.”

“Thank you for creating a space which allowed me to get more in touch with some of the hidden or rejected parts of me...the good, bad, feminine, masculine, sensitive, defeated, rebellious, fragile... the works... Thank all of you for the time and effort you put into this work... It feels big and important.”

“This work has been at least as powerful as my experience of leadership. I would say, ‘get yourself there as soon as possible.’”

“The design of the workshop was nothing less than brilliant.”

Course Dates: March 31 – April 2, 2006
• Hours: Friday and Saturday, 10 AM to 6 PM
• Sunday, 9 AM to 5 PM
• Location: Longfellow's Inn, Saratoga Springs, NY.
• For hotel reservations, call: (518) 587-0108, and mention "Third Way Workshop" to receive special room rates
• Nearest Airport: Albany, NY
• Course Tuition: $600
• Course will be led by the "MF3" Team: Sam House, Mary Kuentz, Ken Mossman, Debra Wilton-Kinney

For more information, visit my "Programs" page or contact me at: 518.580-0550 or via email.

To find out more about the work of the MF3 Group, visit our blog!

More cool stuff is available at the Cirrus Leadership website!

Next issue of DadsNews: Thursday, April 13, 2006.  Keep thinking Snow!

DadsNews ©2006, Kenneth Mossman, MFA, CPCC, PCC,  Cirrus Leadership®
Use and distribution permitted and encouraged, providing attribution is... well, attributed!