Monday, July 30, 2012

Big Idea Monday- It Takes A Village

The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes

You never know where a a good idea will come from. The idea for “Idea Village” was born on a cocktail napkin at a New Orleans nightclub called the Voodoo Bar. 12 years after the non-profit launched as an entrepreneur incubator, New Orleans is being called the country’s new “business mecca”.In an article in Hemisphere's Magazine, Fertile Crescent ,Forbes Magazine calls the Big Easy a “brain magnet”. 1,600 start up businesses have turned 3.1 million in seed capital into 83 million in revenues. Maybe just as important, it has attracted new thinkers with a different way of thinking to the historic tourist attraction.
So on this Big Idea Monday, here is my good idea for the day. Someone please tell me if this should sprout wings or go back to the bottom drawer in my brain. Or better yet, steal it!
A chain of destination flower shops where purchasing flowers is an experience  I envision a large open space with an open door and buckets of fresh flowers outside similar to the corner convenience stores you see on every corner in New York City. Except, instead of walking into a convenience store to buy your soda, paper and flowers, you would want to come and hang out. Grab a cup of tea. Sit on a comfy couch. Read your paper for a bit or meet a friend. Than pick up your flowers before heading out. Sort of a Starbucks of flower shops. This is not a cramped, sad florist where the smell of preservatives is almost as unwelcoming as the floral designer who is rushing to get there deliveries out. In fact, Im not sure we would offer “occasion” deliveries at all. The only thing I would want to sell is one-of-a-kind hand blown glass vases, vintage vases, organic flowers and light refreshments. The employee could assist with the arrangement or you could grab and go. The concept would be flowers should be a part of everyone’s daily life, not just special occasions. Peoplet treat themselves to daily gourmet coffee purchases. I would much rather treat myself with the freshness and beauty of flowers. There would be free wi-fi, a smart simple decor, maybe a few board games and a “bring a book, take a book” shelf for customers. I would also like to incorporate a place to donate vases for a small discount on their next purchase. Every time someone sends me flowers, I get one of those generic glass vases which just collect dust in my garage until I get around to driving to Good Will. The donated vases could be used to donate flowers from the store that are not sold while still considered fresh to local hospitals or retirement homes. The retail space could be utilized for community groups in the evening, art shows, girls nights even lecture or educational series like floral design classes and gardening experts. One possible revenue source would be only offering regular deliveries to accounts who want their vases refreshed weekly such as business lobbies and restaurants. We would not be in competition with florists because we are not doing funerals, weddings, Valentines Day, etc. We would be in competition with other convenience sources like grocery stores.
So what do you think? Do you have a a Big Idea that you want to share?

Practice, Practice, Practice

The purpose of our lives is to be happy.
-Dalai Lama

My daughter’s habit of declaring “this is the best day ever” almost every day combined with my memory of seeing the Dalai Lama speak planted the seeds for this Be More Childlike experiment. His Holiness told a story about his childhood and suggested that we all be more like children to an audience in Miami several years ago. Other than happening to be present for his speech, I knew next to nothing about the exiled Tibetan leader. I am currently reading In My Own Words. An Introduction to My Teachings and Philosophy by His Holiness The Dalai Lama. 
The man, who was recognized as the 14th reincarnated Dalai Lama at the age of 2 , has been the political and spiritual leader of his people since the age of 15. There is no way to summarize his thoughts in a blogpost. Just like dedicating only one month to the focus of awareness is like expecting a lonely drop of water to fill an Olympic size pool. This is clearly the beginning of a lifelong journey.  Even The Dalai Lama concedes that he has not yet fully developed an awakening mind.
The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, who is also famous for his ever present smile, encourages practice. Reading a holy book is good. Practice is better. Meditation is good. Practice is better.
What will you practice today?

Post Script-
I finished the book this weekend and would recommend it to anyone looking for a broad introduction to Buddhism. The Dalai Lama successfully relates to western readers with his universal message of love and compassion. The parts in the later part of the book that describe mind training are a little like learning how to ride a bike from a book. This is a good companion to taking a meditation class and actually trying to practice some of the principles.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

I can remember three experiences in my lifetime that took my breath away. The first one was seven years ago when I was on my first trip with my then boyfriend, now husband. We were walking in Battery Park, NYC. We turned a corner and caught a glimpse of the Statute of Liberty. I had visited the monument years before, but because I wasn’t expecting to see it that day, it literally stopped me in my tracks gasping in delight. The fact that I was in the process of falling in love probably contributed to the sensation. Post script, we got married nine months later at the same restaurant we found that day walking in the park. Our vows exchanged overlooking the harbor and Lady Liberty.
It happened again three years ago when my son hit his first home run. Watching him race against the outfielder’s throw to slide into home plate was nothing short of spectacular. Than it happened once more on our trip to Oregon two weeks ago. The experience of having a snowball fight in July was completely unexpected. But it was the sight down the road that left me equally breathless. Crater Lake National Park is home to the deepest lake in the Western Hemisphere measuring 1949 feet down. On first glance, it seems you can almost peer to the bottom. Formed inside the collapsed caldera of a Volcano. It is a 33-mile drive around the melted snow filled wonder.
It seems both manmade achievements and mother nature’s creations can be a marvel if there is some element of surprise. Next month on my quest to be more childlike, the focus will shift from awareness to enthusiasm. So here is the paradox: Can you consciously increase the moments that steal your breath away and be surprised at the same time? Can you expect to be awed without expectations?

For me, the more I recognize beauty, the more I see it. The more aware I am of the accomplishments of others, the more accomplished people seem to come into my life and the more I strive to accomplish.

When my son was in first grade, he insisted that we take a nature walk every day before school. Considering I think I was born 10 minutes late and we are always looking for keys or homework or bread to pack a lunch in the morning, that took some persistence on his part. Our nature walk consisted of a one-minute walk through the landscaping in our backyard. But you know what? We always found something amazing. A nest with eggs. A huge snail moving at his own pace. A butterfly chrysalis. I don't know exactly when we stopped those walks. Maybe we will start again.

What takes your breath away?

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Directness: (Noun) The quality of being direct; straightforwardness; immediateness.
-Webster's Dictionary

Today at lunch, my mother-in law was talking about someone putting words in her mouth. My daughter immediately added “I put food in my mouth.”  Not long ago, after she heard her older brother jokingly call his friend a loser, she said “ I'm a finder”. The other day when I mentioned a pet peeve, she said “my pet’s name is LuLu Belle.” 
Also today, I read Gretchen Rubin’s blog post in The Happiness Project. She talked about making angry comments and faces and how quick flared words can sour the mood at home and leave her feeling guilty which leaves her even more irritable than before she lost her temper. Rubin was looking for advice on how to stop the cycle. The comments ranged from getting enough to eat and sleep to taking a deep breath during a troubling encounter, calming down and thinking before you speak. My two cents were to treat the ones we love like the ones we like. Because I have never lost control of my emotions around a friend or acquaintance the way I do with my spouse and kids. 
But after thinking about my daughter’s literal view of the world, I would like to add one more piece of advice to that list. Say what you mean. That doesn’t mean giving up figurative language, it means being more direct. Whether I am trying to avoid a conflict or hurting someone’s feelings or just not wanting to share my true feelings on a topic, I am not always forthright. Or worse, there are some passive aggressive habits that have become just that, habit, in my marriage. Whether I am communicating that way to my children or not, undoubtedly, they are hearing and learning from it.
Before I can be direct, I have to be aware of my thoughts and feelings. So all that other advice plays a role in avoiding snarky comments that are quick tempered but long lived.

Am I tired? Am I hungry? Have I thought about  if I am really mad about this situation or am I angry about a past experience that is resurfacing? Do I know what I do want when faced with something I don’t?  Have I paused to breathe and see it from the other person’s perspective before launching ahead on assumption?
Are you direct? If so, do you have advice on how to be direct and polite?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Lost and Found

"Your a loser." 
"No, I'm not. I'm a finder."
—overheard conversation between 12-year old 
and 3-year old from our backseat while on road trip.

If you read this blog with any regularity, you may get the impression that I think children are wiser than most adults. When it comes to instinctively not doing things that don’t add enjoyment to their life, like worrying or holding grudges, they are pretty clever. Kids are creative thinkers with limitless imaginations. Their capacity for wonder, delight and love never ceases to inspire me. But there is a big difference between common sense and wisdom. It seems like as we begin to find one, we lose touch with the other. 
We went to the original Hooters in Clearwater last night to watch the World Wing Eating Championship. Talk about silly fun. There was a carnival barker on stage with a straw hat introducing professional eaters like the “black widow” and “crazy legs” and "notorious B.O.B.". It is the same cast of characters who go to Coney Island every Fourth of July to engorge themselves on Nathan’s Hot Dogs. THEE World Champion Eater Joey Chestnut even signed my son’s cast. But I digress. The point is it was extremely crowded and we had to remind the kids what to do and what not to do if we get separated.
While we were on our vacation in California two weeks ago, my son’s best friend got lost at Pier 39 in San Francisco. One minute we were taking pictures together of sealions, the next minute, he disappeared in a brisk moving crowd. The first ten minutes of patiently waiting by the last spot we were together gave way to a nervous visit to security. Which gave way to a panicked call to police after 30 minutes of fruitless searching. For two and half hours, my imagination ran away as I drove in a squad car up and down the streets along the wharf. It did not help matters when the officer received a report of someone impersonating a police officer with a fake badge nearby. It didn’t help that this 12-year old knew his parents number by heart, but was not calling. It turns out, his cell phone battery was dead and he didn’t pursue borrowing one. He walked several blocks away to where we valet parked our rental car, asked an employee to let him wait inside the car and fell asleep in the back. When he woke up and saw the police and security walking around, he was either scared he would be in trouble or not aware that there was a connection to him. He sat in the car and watched the search until an officer literally opened the car door and asked his name. It was not possible for him to comprehend how worried sick everyone else was because he never felt in danger. It was the most intense, life altering 150 minutes of my life. Two weeks later, I can finally talk about it with some clarity and objectivity.
I am not the first parent to question how to raise your children to be aware without being afraid . Wouldn’t it be nice to give them insight into other people’s perceptions without losing their unwavering sense of self?  But how can we teach that fine line when most of us don’t know it for ourselves?  There must be a lot of people searching for something lost to justify all the new books and talk shows by all the self proclaimed “self help” experts out there. While on my own journey, I have read a lot of those books. The last and perhaps most helpful advice I read by Anthony DeMello talked about losing something in order to gain. Call it satisfaction, happiness, inner peace or awareness. Whatever is missing in your life, can not be found without letting go first of limiting labels, weighty memories and useless emotions. 

What can you lose today?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why Not Monday?

The value of the idea lies in the using of it.
-Thomas Edison

Okay, I know it’s not  Monday. But I have an idea for a new weekly blog post called Big Idea Monday and it can’t wait until Monday. Isn’t there a saying about the right time for a good idea is now. My son is constantly coming up with ideas and “what if”  questions. I frequently tell him to right them down. He started an idea notebook more than once. But never really followed through. Maybe I haven’t set the best example. Ideas pop into my brain all the time. Random stuff on making life easier or less wasteful. But the idea usually ends with a silent sigh and a wish that somebody else would try it.

So my first step in following through is to at least write them down and share them with others. Thomas Edison had an idea quota. The man, who had no formal education, held 1,093 patents and founded fourteen companies including General Electric. He demanded that his lab team come up with an idea for a minor invention every 10 days and a major one every six months. I’ve visited his winter retreat/lab in Fort Myers and was amazed at the massive collection of ideas that took shape into machinery of all uses.
You might be wondering if it is such a good idea, why are you sharing it on the Internet? Well, because if it is a good idea that I don’t pursue than maybe someone else with a different skill set will breathe life into it. Maybe, I won't know it is a good idea worth pursuing unless I get some feedback. Call it market research. Maybe, the idea is less important than the thinking. Just maybe by forcing myself to have an idea quota, I will start thinking more creatively, more childlike. 
Perhaps your also wondering, why Monday? Glad you asked. In the book, “Where Will You Be in Five Years From Today? ” author Dan Zadra points out how many millions of people dread one seventh of their life. It is the opposite of the Thank God It’s Friday mentality. He challenges readers to welcome Monday for what it is: a clean slate, the beginning of something new, or another chance to make it happen this week. Now that is a big idea!
So here goes my very first Big Idea Monday post on Thursday:
I would like to start a fruit co-op to cut down on wasted fruit and help feed needy families. We picked several pounds of Star fruit (carambola) from a neighbor's tree a few months ago and I gave it to everybody I know. We had star fruit breakfast, lunch and dinner and we couldn't eat it all. When we were at the dog park, I tried giving several bags away. People said: Hey I have an orange tree that needs picking. I have a grapefruit tree. Do you like mangos, come and get them. 

This is when it first occurred to me the abundance and waste going on in Florida's residential neighborhoods. My kids and I love picking fruit. It was even more fun than eating it. It also occurred to me that  it  would be wonderful to organize a group of volunteers to rotate picking opportunities and create a database for homeowners to sign up their properties to be picked when the fruit becomes ripe. Obviously, there would require some administrative effort. Somebody would also be needed to deliver the fruit to shelters and feeding programs in a timely manner. You could even have a fruit stand as a physical structure to sell produce to off set costs and volunteers could take what they could eat as a small incentive. Taking the idea one step further, there is a similar wasteful situation going on at area farms. We picked strawberries in Plant City in March and it was clear a lot of that fruit was going to waste. The hired farm hands are instructed to only pick the perfect fruits that are to grocery store standards, but that leaves a lot of perfectly edible fruit behind. Finally, we went in search of bees and beekeepers in June In Search of Beezzzzz. We ended up on Mike Morgan’s 500-acre farm in Ruskin picking watermelon in the rain. He had just harvested more than a million pounds of melon, but his fields were still littered with ripe delicious green balls as far as the eye could see. We ended up smashing several dozen for fun at his invitation. He also expressed great frustration that so much goes to waste every year. He said that he has called non-profits in the past and offered to let people come out and take what they want, but no one is set up to do it. So the food lays rotting in the summer sun until it is plowed over for the next crop.Trying to add a picking program to commercial agriculture properties would be a whole other task, but could probably work on the same principle and infrastructure as the residential tree idea. A few names come to mind like "fruits of our labor".

So what do you think? Do you have a big idea you would like to share?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Time Travel Tuesday- Here vs. Somewhere Else

It is a happy talent to know how to play.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Never underestimate the entertainment you can buy yourself with a buck. A handful of chalk transformed the sidewalk in front of our house. I have always been a big holiday decorator. We start planning for Halloween right about now mid-summer. On this Time Travel Tuesday, we discovered that sidewalk chalk is no less inviting than our most elaborate Christmas displays, and a whole lot less effort. Joggers, dog walkers and kids on skateboards have been enjoying our brand of urban art for the past 24 hours. I added a colorful hop scotch grid and taught my 3-year old how to jump on one leg. For the actual rules of the game, we had to consult You Tube for a tutorial. It’s been that long. 
For those of you who forgot how to play, it involves eight squares and a bottle cap or rock. The first player starts with the rock on square one. If you skip square one and successfully hop up and back all eight squares and pick up the rock while balancing on one leg, you toss the rock to the next square. The next player has to skip that square and so on. It doesn’t sound all that tricky. But when you are forty-ish, there is a certain sense of accomplishment. 
My favorite part was holding my daughter’s hand and trying to hop together. It transported me back to a time before cable, on-demand, IPads, Playstation, a new 3-D blockbuster every week and the expectation of having to go somewhere else for entertainment.  Maybe I am dating myself, but I remember playing with whatever neighbor kids I could scrounge up until our parents tracked us down for dinner or it got dark. My children don’t go outside with out a planned activity and a chaperone. Play dates are scheduled. Living in Florida where we are a short drive from Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens and the beach, there is usually little interest in creating our own diversions. I suspect that has more to do with my parenting than my children's preference. They still have the ability to play with the box the toy came in. 
I dabbled in this concept of here versus somewhere else a few weeks ago with my husband. I was about the head out of town. Getting a babysitter and packing for an early morning flight were not an option. Instead, I threw on some lipstick and put on a dress as if we were going out and greeted my husband when he came home form work. Talk about shock and awe. He was so taken a back, that he got dressed up, which doesn't always happen even when we go somewhere nice. Over a bottle of red, we called it a stay-date. It turned out to be an unexpected treat before we spent a week apart on opposite sides of the country.

What is your idea of a stay-date, stay-vacation or stay-play? Do you need to go somewhere else to feel entertained?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July's Reading List

"Every child has a god in him. Our attempts to mold the child will turn the god into a devil."
-A.S. Neill, educator, author of Summerhill

“Where Will you be in Five Years” by Dan Zadra is a lovely inspirational book that brings awareness to the potential in all of us. Cheryl Richardson’s advice in “The Extreme Art of Self Care” to be aware of your personal feelings, needs and and wants is practical and highly relatable. In essence, Richardson advocates becoming a bit selfish. I can recommend both as quick, easy reads that leave you with immediate steps to live a more intentional, fulfilled life.
Trying to sum up the last two books I’ve read on the topic of awareness is not as simple. Neville Goddard’s “The Power of Awareness” was only 88 pages, but it was a lengthy struggle to comprehend. Goddard was at the forefront of the New Thought movement, first becoming interested in metaphysics in the 1920’s. He was a sought after writer and speaker from the 1940's to the 1970's. He had two basic philosophies. “The Law” meant that our reality is a product of our imagination. Like an alchemist who can turn rocks into gold, Goddard believed everyone’s mind had the ability to change their circumstances through imagination or visualization. “The Promise” meant that unless you use your imagination to serve your God-given purpose on Earth, any reality you create for yourself (riches, fame, etc) will be fleeting. If you don’t fulfill your “promise”, you will die and keep returning to life here until you get it right. 
The power of visualization explanation was pretty easy to follow. He included testimonies proving “if you believe, you can achieve.” What seems so mainstream now must have been very controversial in Goddard’s day. But his detailed explanations of scripture with the deeper hidden meanings really lost me. Goddard’s brand of Christianity is called esoteric. It is a belief that there are mysterious messages in the Bible only to be interpreted by an enlightened few. For example; in Luke 11:5-9, “my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise.” Goddard interprets that line to mean children in bed = ideas that are dormant. I can not rise = desired state of consciousness can not rise to you, you must rise to it. Heavy stuff, huh? It didn’t help that the reprint is full of typos. Very distracting.
So with Goddard fresh on the brain, I dove into Amazon’s next more popular book on the subject, Anthony DeMello’s “Awareness. The Perils and Opportunities of Reality.”  In my July 22nd post, So Lucky, I mentioned a bit about DeMello’s East/West influences and his perspective as both a Jesuit priest and a psychoanalyst.  He outlined a four step process for becoming more aware or “awake”. DeMello believed that only children are naturally awake and almost all adults function in a state of consciousness similar to sleepwalking. His four steps are: 
  1. Identify the negative feelings in you
  2. Understand that the feeling is in you, not because of anything going on in the outside world.
  3. Do not identify yourself with the negative feeling
  4. Understand when you change, everything changes because your perception of everything will change.
In other words, observe yourself and your external experiences with impersonal detachment. You are always you and you can always control your reaction to the other people and experiences. 
I particularly liked what he kept saying about children in this book, because it goes to the heart of what I am trying to do with this blog. The central question I am spending the next year trying to answer is: "Will being more childlike make me a better adult?” DeMello seems to think so.

When talking about the need to drop labels or expectations and stop comparing, contrasting and defining every experience, he says:

"Though we begin without them, concepts have a very positive function. Thanks to them we develop intelligence. We're invited not to become children, but to become like children. We do have to fall from a stage of innocence and be thrown out of paradise; we do have to develop an "I" and "me" through these concepts. But than we need to return to paradise. We need to be redeemed again. We need to put off the old man, the old nature, the conditioned self, and return to the state of the child without being the child. When we start off in life, we look at reality with wonder, but it isn't the intelligent wonder of the mystics, its the formless wonder of the child. Then wonder dies and is replaced by boredom as we develop language and words and concepts. Then hopefully, if we're lucky, we'll return to wonder again."

My next book is J.M. Barrie's original "Peter & Wendy". Barrie's creation of the boy who never grew up came from a keen awareness about the differences in how children and adults see the world. Looking forward to a mental escape to Neverland where I can flitter about with Tiger Lilly, Tink and the Lost Boys for a bit.

What is on your reading list? Have you learned anything that has been helpful or reaffirming to your beliefs?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Measurable Results

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
-Winston Churchill

We were shopping two weeks ago and my son picked up a bottle that looked like something a genie might float out of with some colored smoke. He said “What would it be like if we were all born with 100 wishes?” My immediate response was, “We are all born with an unlimited supply, so why stop yourself at 100.” 
I was quite impressed with my reaction, because it was so genuine and because it came about right after I had spent the past month studying childlike optimism. Through reading several books on the topic and a little intentional practice, a little of that magical optimism rubbed off on me!
Yes, I know this is a very subjective way of measuring results. But something else happened shortly after that genie in a bottle conversation that really put my self congratulatory theory to the test. When my son crashed his ATV and we learned both of his wrists were broken and would be useless for 8 weeks, my immediate reaction was this will be an opportunity for us to be closer.
Considering my son had free reign in Southern California with a friend’s family for a week, he was non-plussed when I arrived with his little sister. You could see it on his face as we drove up,”Oh, here comes rules behind the wheel with regulations yapping from her car seat.” The trip started with my son pre-occupied with his incoming texts and his best friend/partner in crime. Post accident, he was completely dependent on me. Which could have gone a number of ways. But instead of resentment, frustration or embarrassment, we are really bonding. We have inside jokes. I know how he likes his pillows fluffed. He is fully embracing being babied.

It is amazing to me that only a month after failing the Stanford University Optimism Quiz, I could be drinking from a half-full glass again so quickly and effortlessly. It makes me excited to see where a month of intentional awareness will lead.

Is there a circumstance that has recently happened to you where your gut reaction was either pessimistic or optimistic?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

For Every Dark Night, A Brilliant Day

God did not create evil. Just as darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of God.
-Albert Einstein

Murder, abuse, perversion, corruption, neglect, apathy. After 13-years of reporting the news, I had my fill. Now, I read the paper and try to avoid TV so I can pick and choose the attention I give to the world’s events. But even on vacation this week, some tragedies are inescapable. Waking up to the news of the Colorado movie theater massacre is beyond disturbing. This as the search continues for two missing girls in Iowa and the surveillance video of the kidnapping attempt in Philadelphia. 
I have always believed that we mentally invite experiences into our life, sort of a hybrid between karma and lessons we need to learn. When something bad happens to me or my family, I always look inwardly and ask why. Except that philosophy doesn’t begin to address the horrifying news cycles replaying on a continuous loop. Maybe my philosophy gave some false sense of security to cope with the universal loss that we all witness. It made me feel like I had some choice in my fate. 

The only choice those folks shared last night in Aurora, Colorado was to go and see a blockbuster summer movie. What about the folks who were in the grocery store with Congresswoman Gifford in Tucson? The teens attending classes at Columbine High School? The college classmates at Virginia Tech? The daycare toddlers inside the Murrow Federal Building in Oklahoma City?
Now, they are showing the first picture of the shooting suspect. He is smiling. That explains it. He is a  24-year old neuroscience Phd student. Oh, that makes sense. He was reportedly calm when he was captured. Of course. Evil can not be explained any more than it can be prevented and that is terrifying. 

I find some comfort in thinking about all the mothers who were welcoming babies into the world at the same time a gunman walked into a sold-out movie theater. I think about all the new ideas and collaboration and achievements that did not get worldwide recognition on July 20th, 2012. But they happened none the less.
What beliefs help you feel less vulnerable and comforted?

So Lucky

Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn't people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?
-Rose Kennedy

I haven’t blogged in 10 days since my son was in an ATV accident while vacationing in Pismo Beach, California. In my reporter days, I can’t count how many times people said they felt “lucky” after surviving some tragedy whether it was a tornado or house fire or near drowning. It seemed cliche’ and not all that genuine, like it was something people thought they were supposed to say.
But now, I can truly relate. Both of my son’s wrists snapped on impact. I drove up a few moments later and my heart sank when I first saw his abandoned vehicle. It took me another moment to locate him crumpled on the ground behind the four wheeler. He was moaning and his left arm was deformed by the bone trying to poke through the opposite direction from where it should be. The realization that we were in the middle of remote sand dunes with no mile markers or even natural markers to direct an emergency crew was mentally crippling. Thank goodness we flagged down a nearby driver in a pick up truck who drove my son out of those treacherous, unpredictable drifts.
My son is casted to his elbows on both arms, rendering him helpless for six to eight weeks. But he is alive and will not suffer any permanent disability. I am grateful that I will only be feeding, bathing, clothing, scratching his itches and opening his doors on a temporary basis. I am incredibly grateful that my son has accepted his limitations with the most unbelievable grace and humor. I can’t imagine being three thousand miles from home and being completely dependent on others. Actually, since I am with him, I can imagine it. But I can’t imagine being as joyful and unaffected as my 12-year old. 
This month, my focus is on awareness. I am currently reading Anthony DeMello’s Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality. DeMello was a psychoanalyst and Jesuit priest who was born in India in 1931 and died in New York City in 1987. He was a controversial Christian voice that borrowed his beliefs from all faiths. His ideas are a product of his diverse East/West cultural influences. Father Demello’s basic philosophy is almost every adult in this world is functioning in a state of self-hypnosis or sleep. In order to wake up, you have to be observant of yourself and your external experiences with impersonal detachment.  There was a passage that particularly reminded me of the grace I am witnessing in my son right now. 
DeMello talks about the paradox of being depressed and still being happy. If you suffer from depression, you are not identified simply as depressed. You can either give power to the dark clouds by worrying about them and trying to force them away or you can let them pass over head and continue on with your day, simply aware that storms are in the forecast for the moment. DeMello expands on this idea by talking about how the same rain falls on sinners and saints; the rose doesn’t withhold it’s fragrance and the lamp doesn’t shield its light from some people and not others.  We are who we are, no matter who we are in relationship with or what circumstance life finds us in. Our reaction to events and other people is always within our control.
My son suffered an injury. He is not injured. He can’t use his hands and arms. But he is still on vacation. He is still, at his essence, a 12- year old boy full of curiosity and love of adventure. The surprise of snow in July in the Oregon mountains can still make him smile. Watching elephant seals spar on the beaches of San Simeon, California can distract him from the ache in his bones. Peering down the rim of a Volcano’s caldera, walking among the ancient redwood giants and viewing Saturn’s rings surrounded by billions of stars in the shadow of night in the high desert are opportunities still available to be enjoyed and explored.
My son did not have to read a book to practice being more detached in dealing with his current adversity. He didn’t have to dedicate a month to focus on being more aware. He just naturally is who he is. He may be dependent on me for his physical needs right now, but I’m not sure there is a lot he can learn from me through this experience.  I am so lucky to have him as a teacher. 
Imagine living the next two months of your life with your hands literally tied and useless. How would you choose to react? Who would you depend on? What opportunities would still be available to seize? 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Worth of Words

Words without thought never to heaven go.
-William Shakespeare

I was raised to believe in the power of words. They give voice to your thoughts, setting off a chain reaction that become actions, habits and who we are. As much as I enjoy giggling when I read Urban Dictionary, today’s slang, text and movie reference English is a sharp contrast to the language of Charles Dickens or J.M. Barrie. There is a subtle beauty and polite refinement that is fading fast.
Did you know there is a UNESCO list of threatened and endangered languages? Every 14 days, a language dies. By the end of this century, it is estimated that half of the world’s 7,000 languages will disappear taking with it the diversity, context and deeper meaning that can only be translated by native tongues. This is not just occurring in remote parts of Africa or in isolated mountain villages in India. We are starting a two week adventure today driving from Southern California to Oregon. Our journey is dotted with dozens of extinct and soon to be extinct languages. During our vacation, another culture and it’s words will be gone forever.
This month’s issue of National Geographic highlights the Enduring Voices Project, which is an effort to preserve the knowledge associated with disappearing languages.The articles talks about how the word for future refers to the past in Tuvan. It looks at tribes in the Amazon who have no words for numbers. What would our culture be like if we "looked forward to yesterday"? If we had “some” children. I looked up the most commonly used words in Mandarin, which is spoken by 845 million people. The Mandarin word meaning lord/master was at the top of the list. Like 328 million people whose native language is English, I can’t remember ever using the term lord/master (much to my husband’s disappointment)!
What would my life be like if I never knew there was a word that meant guilt?  What would our communities look like if thank you was at the top of our most commonly used words? What would our world look like if no one had a word for hate?
In the Sonoran desert of Mexico, there is a village of about 650 people who still speak Seri. There is a Seri expression that everyone has a flower inside them and inside that flower is a word. What a lovely idea.
In your garden, what is your word? Which ones will you preserve for next Spring and which will be treated like an invasive weed?

Do The Math

Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can't buy more hours. Scientists can't invent more minutes. And you can't save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you've wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.
-Denis Waitley

It is mind blowing to think that we all share something in common with Albert Einstein, Picasso, Benjamin Franklin and Mother Theresa. 
The average person lives to be roughly 75 years old. That means if we are lucky we have at least 27,375 days to: learn, love, laugh, create, explore, enjoy, inspire, invent, comprehend, imagine, realize, accomplish, build, grow, give, mentor. challenge and amaze.
Multiply your age x 365. Subtract that number from 27,375. 
How will you spend your remainder?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Five Short Years

"The future is sending back good wishes and waiting with open arms.
-Kobi Yamada, Author

Did you know Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel in less than five years? The Founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, went from living in a 500-square foot apartment to a net worth of $10 billion in five years too. Columbus discovered the New World in less time than that.

I picked up a sweet little book today called "Where Will You Be Five Years From Today" Author Dan Zadra's concept is to inspire others to think about what they can accomplish in five years or 260 weeks or 1,825 days or 2,333,000 minutes. 

I have spent several of my precious minutes the past two days working on a business and marketing plan for a little dream of mine, creating a blog that will change the world. It occurred to me that before that dream can be realized, I need to be intentional. That means not wasting a single precious second doing things that are not in support of my personal mission to: enjoy each day and inspire others to see the world through wider, brighter, more childlike eyes.

So here is how I will NOT be spending the next five years or five minutes:

*Make decisions based on obligation or guilt.

*Fail to schedule time to do the things that I enjoy.
*Neglect to consider my feelings and needs.

*Speak before I think.

*Participate in gossip or judgemental talk.
*Forget to think about how others perceive my thoughts and actions.
*Give unsolicited opinions and advice.
*Stay silent if I witness an injustice.
*Hire anyone who does not treat me respectfully.
*Continue a professional relationship when I am not satisfied with the quality of the work.
*Swallow my emotions when I am hurt or angry.
*Attempt to communicate my feelings when I am too angry/hurt to remain in control.
*Waste time on useless conversations.
*Waste time thinking about troubling situations without taking action.

*Waste anyone else's time by not being direct or being present.

*Throw away anything that can be recycled.

*Take/buy more than we need of anything.
*Feel guilty.
*Get involved in other people’s dramas unless I can take direct action and help.
*Invest in relationships with people that are not aligned with my values.
*Eat when Im not hungry, bored, in front of the TV, in the car, while I am cooking dinner, when I am upset or too rushed to enjoy my meal.
*Take calls or check emails during meals.
*Text while in the car!!!!

*Volunteer my time for any charity that does not have the staffing or management systems in place to follow through and utilize my valuable contributions.
*Allow bills to be paid without reviewing them first. 

I leave you with this question: What is your mission? 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Grand Finale

Nothing says summertime like drinking Sunkist orange while watching Joey Chestnut earn his sixth consecutive belt for eating the most Nathan’s hot dogs on ESPN. Our July 4th traditions also included watching our beloved Rays give one up to the Yankees and a big bang finish.
Our 3-year old hates loud noises. But she agreed to be outside to watch the fireworks because she we reasoned she is bigger now and will probably like it. Before the sparkles from the first explosion faded, she was holding her ears and screaming. We ran for the car and navigated traffic to find a place to watch from a quiet distance. We finally found a spot just in time for the grand finale. I tried explaining the definition of grand finale as our daughter cried because she wanted “MORE!” Earnestly distraught, she sobbed that she “didn’t even get to say goodbye” to those beautiful fireworks.
The observation of my daughter made me realize few experiences in life have a grand finale. We start relationships and jobs never knowing when or how they will end. We make commitments with intention and choices with hope. We are not aware how it  will turn out until long after it’s over.  It would be great if there was a rapid fire succession of colorful bursts to remind us in all our endeavors to: Boom! Pay Attention! Bang! This is it! Blast! Don’t miss it!   If we imagine each night ending in an explosion of brilliant light, would it remind us that today is coming to an end, make the most of it,?
Changing gears for a moment, I am reading a book that seems to be helping me make the most of each day. In “The Art of Extreme Self Care” by Cheryl Richardson, Richardson says, “Awareness is a powerful catalyst for change.” I really related to her examples of how she over extended herself without honoring what she needed. How she felt when she never stopped to think what she wanted. The first chapter talks about identifying where you feel deprivation. Her examples include sleep, time for yourself and companionship. Another chapter called “Let Me Disappoint You” offers some good advice on making choices based on your personal needs as opposed to choices based on not disappointing others or fear of conflict. Richardson suggests really thinking about making an absolute no list. She has a long no list that includes: eat when I’m not hungry, keep anything in my home that I don’t love or need and get caught up in other people’s dramas.
I am working on my list now. But I already know at least one item that is on my daughter’s absolute no list: exposure to loud noises. Looking back, we already identified it, but we failed to honor it. If we had, we all would have enjoyed the entire spectacular display instead of barely catching a glimpse at the end. 

It is liberating to think about making personal needs and wants a priority. There is freedom in making choices that are independent of obligation or guilt.
I leave you with this question: What is on your absolute no list?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...