Friday, August 31, 2012

Don't Forget to Play

A child that does not play is not a child. But the man who doesn't play has lost forever the child who lived in him and who he will miss terribly.
-Pablo Neruda

My son came home indignant about a discussion in his literature class this week. His book cited a study that compared his age group from 1981 and 1997. In that time, students spent 18 percent more time in school, 145 percent more time doing school work and only 11 hours of play time per week. In a more recent study published by the National Wildlife Federation, children now spend less than seven minutes a day in unstructured play, but seven hours each day in front of a screen.

All believable statistics in our home (except the TV/computer part). Last Spring, my son left for school at 7:20 am. Three nights a week, he got home at 6:30 after baseball practice. Two nights a week, he got home after 10 p.m. after scuba diving lessons. After dinner and homework, there wasn’t even time for mindless TV, much less family time or a bike ride with friends. Between dance, gymnastics and swimming lessons, my preschooler is headed down the same road.
Did you know there is a Museum of Play? It is in Rochester New York and it is run by the same people who publish the American Journal of Play . If you go, you can also see the Toy Hall of Fame and the  International Center for Electronic Games all in the same complex.  They are all about the preservation and promotion of the simple act of play.
The American Journal of Play was cited in an article in The Atlantic about the obvious benefits to unstructured free time. Play allows children the opportunity to identify their interests, use their imaginations, make friends and solve problems. Play is a source of happiness. Not surprisingly, as playtime has steadily declined, suicide rates have gone up, so have prescriptions for depressed and anxious kids.
If our kids are always supervised and always busy, what does that say about us? On top of scheduling and chauffeuring for our highly structured children's lives, many parents are juggling demanding careers and trying to find a rare moment with their spouse. The big dreamers may even try to squeeze in a decadent day to themselves once in a while.
The idea behind Time Travel Tuesday on this blog was to schedule time for play for myself. I was too overbooked this past Tuesday to goof off. But there is always today. Today, I will do nothing. Today, my kids will do nothing until they are so bored they find something to do. Maybe I will even kick them out....into the fenced and locked backyard of course.
Do you schedule free time for yourself? What about for your kids?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Finding Space to Make Space

It is the nature of grace to fill the places that have been empty.

As I wrap up this month’s focus on enthusiasm, I came to the realization that there is nothing that gets me more enthusiastic than a blank slate. Clearing away mental and physical clutter leaves me open for a world of new possibilities. 

I am trying to incorporate the practice of meditation into my daily routine, but I am having the challenge of finding a little space in the house to call my own. Although I am responsible for decorating, cleaning and maintaining an entire house, why is it that I don’t feel like any of it is mine? 

For help, I sought help from professional home organizer Heather Lambie. Heather is also a mother of two, wife to one, friend to many, free-lance writer, full-time publicist, former educator, goat lover and yard sale bargain hunter. Can’t explain why a woman who purges other people’s clutter likes to shop for it or why exactly she loves goats, but she knows about blank slates. 

Let me introduce you to this week’s guest contributor Heather Lambie.

Q: How do I carve out a little space to call my own (to begin the habit of meditating daily) when I don’t have any extra square footage, don’t have money for a renovation and don’t feel like there is any part of the house that is just mine?

A: I have two solutions for this question, one practical, one tactical.

PRACTICAL: Find or create square footage in unexpected places.

When we bought the home we live in now, the two-car garage was already closed-in as a livable space. With only one child and a third bedroom to utilize as a home office, the garage was designated as a giant playroom to ensure that the rest of our home was preserved as an adult space. As our family grew and my husband and I both started working from home, this once-large playroom slowly shrunk. It is now expected to house an entertainment center full of Wii and board games, a couch, some bikes and two home offices.

Our garage/family room has three built-in closets, all housing things normally stored in a garage like luggage, holiday items, tools and memories. To create a space of my own, I cleared out one entire closet worth of clutter. I re-sorted the remaining contents into the other two closets, removed the shelving in the empty closet and found a desk that fit my new nook perfectly. Take a look.

Tour your abode with fresh eyes and re-visit the unused things that take up so much space in your home’s nooks and crannies. What are you willing to give up to regain the private legroom you crave?

TACTICAL: If you can’t spare one square foot, get up an hour earlier.

What does getting up earlier each morning have to do with carving out space for yourself? The meditation corner you long for almost certainly already exists in your home, but right now it’s hard to see it through a boisterous family and busy life. You probably already have a chaise lounge in your bedroom or a reading chair in your living room or even a bench or hammock in your backyard garden that isn’t used as it should be.

If you’re up before the rest of your household (or before the sun) it can seem as if your home is yours and yours alone. Ponder on your chaise. Read a book in the decorative chair you never let your husband or children sit in. Swing in the hammock and meditate. When everyone else is asleep, enjoy the silence and every square inch of your oasis . . . until the beasts awaken.

For me the tactical approach is more practical, how about you? How do you find space to make more space?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

This Too Shall Pass

The only way to make sense of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
-Alan Watts

Yesterday, the proverb “this too shall pass” kept playing out over and over again in different scenarios. The fable about a Persian King humbled by a ring with those words inscribed inside speaks to the impermanence of life.  Times are good. The Kingdom is prosperous. The King is saddened by the reminder inside his ring that this abundance won’t last forever. Times are bad. There is war and poverty. The King looks at his ring for hope knowing that this too shall pass

Most obvious was the storm that passed. Isaac turned west, sparing our coast devastation. It passed only after it changed plans for hundreds of thousands of people. Today schools and government buildings are closed. The first day of the Republican National Convention is canceled. What it did not cancel was a small wedding in a Gulfport public park. We were having lunch at a nearby restaurant when we spotted the lady in white hanging on to her roses in 30 mile an hour wind gusts. I was fascinated when the groom stood up from his wheel chair and took her hand under neath a flagpole. I had to congratulate the couple in person. I had to find out what was the urgency to get married on such a dark and blustery Sunday. My daughter and I crashed their wedding. 74-year old Doris told me she robbed the cradle by marrying 72-year old John. They have been together 14 years. He is sick. She needs a certificate to visit him in the hospital. They weren’t willing to let another day pass without being husband and wife.

Later on Sunday, we crashed another party, the host party for the RNC. It was amazing that in less than 24 hours after a major league baseball game, event planners transformed our stadium into a tropical oasis flowing with alcohol, food and entertainment for 20,000 party goers. I was there not for the political party, but rather the party hosted by my hometown. The last minute invitation happened to come on Women’s Equality Day. On August 26, 1920, women were granted the right to vote with the passage of the 19th amendment.  I never knew about the significance of the day before I attended an event earlier this weekend held by the Business and Professional Women Foundation. The group is dedicated to empowering working women, shattering glass ceilings and closing the pay gap . Speakers shared figures on how the majority (51%) of registered voters are now women, but less than 17 percent of the seats in Congress are filled by women. Only six states are governed by women. There is still much work on the agenda. In a way, I crashed the equality party too. The road was already well paved by the time I became old enough to earn a living and to have a voice at the polls. Minorities pass into majorities. Majorities slip into the minority.
I always thought the lesson of the fable of the Persian King was to accept things that are out of your control. Wait for the storm to pass. But John and Doris showed another side to the proverb. Seize the moment, because it won’t last. The modern day suffragists and visiting delegates have another take, affect the moment so it won’t last.

How do you regard impermanence? 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What Katy Perry and a Swami Guru have in common

Need nothing to complete myself. No. I'm wide awake.
-Katy Perry

Do you remember the father character from My Big Fat Greek Wedding? The guy who could connect any word’s origin back to the Greeks? I found a real example today. Enthusiasm. According to Swami Chidvilasananda’s book titled Enthusiasm, the word comes from the Greek word enthusiasmos. En means in or within. Theos means God. The Yoga guru’s interpretation is that when you are filled with enthusiasm, you are filled with God. When you are enthusiastically embracing life, you are fully conscious and you are fully aware of the awesome potential within yourself. 

I thought about that definition on my walk this morning. The more I thought about it, the warmer the sun felt, the more refreshing the breeze, the friendlier the parents at the park. The observation that really got me was the swarm of dragon flies. It felt like we were surrounded. It felt like they were following us home. Crazy, right? Maybe. But I wonder if a few months ago when I wasn’t in a more mindful place, if I would have noticed any of it. Come to think of it, not sure I would have even taken the time to walk or had new friends to walk with. 

The book Enthusiasm is Chidvilasananda’s expanded thoughts on a 1996 New Year’s message or sermon to: Be filled with enthusiasm and sing God’s glory. I am going to a ladies luncheon tea party today with another new friend who was a former professional singer. Whenever we have deep discussions, she always relates the topic to song lyrics. So I thought I would beat her to it and found the lyrics to Katy Perry's Wide Awake. The line where she says: need nothing to complete myself seemed very similar to the book. If you can get past the pink hair for a moment, watch the Wide Awake video and notice how the pop star shows herself only being wide awake when she is connected to herself as a child. A totally different way of expressing the same spiritual message.

Do you have anything in common with pop stars and gurus? Are you enthusiastic?

I'm wide awake.
I'm wide awake.
I'm wide awake.
Yeah, I was in the dark.
I was falling hard
With an open heart
I'm wide awake
How did I read the stars so wrong
I'm wide awake
And now it's clear to me
That everything you see
Ain't always what it seems
I'm wide awake
Yeah, I was dreaming for so long
I wish I knew then
What I know now
Wouldn't dive in
Wouldn't bow down
Gravity hurts
You made it so sweet
Till I woke up on
On the concrete
Falling from cloud 9
Crashing from the high
I'm letting go tonight
(Yeah I'm) Falling from cloud 9
I'm wide awake
Not losing any sleep
I picked up every piece
And landed on my feet
I'm wide awake
Need nothing to complete myself - nooohooo
I'm wide awake
Yeah, I am born again
Outta the lion's den
I don't have to pretend
And it's too late
The story's over now, the end
I wish I knew then
What I know now
Wouldn't dive in
Wouldn't bow down
Gravity hurts
You made it so sweet
Till I woke up on
On the concrete
Falling from cloud 9
Crashing from the high
I'm letting go tonight (yeah, I'm letting go)
I'm Falling from cloud 9
Thunder rumbling
Castles crumbling
I am trying to hold on
God knows that I tried
Seeing the bright side
But I'm not blind anymore...
I'm wide awake
I'm wide awake
Yeah, I'm Falling from cloud 9
Crashing from the high
You know I'm letting go tonight
I'm Falling from cloud 9
I'm wide awake
I'm wide awake
I'm wide awake
I'm wide awake
I'm wide awake

Friday, August 24, 2012

In Season

Thought is the blossom, language the bud, action the fruit behind it.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have I mentioned how much I love living in Florida? Growing up in the Chicago area, I don’t think I will ever take the year round sunshine for granted. While the extended growing season has not helped  turn my gardening thumbs green, it has turned our family into enthusiastic pickers. Mangos, key limes, lychee fruit, starfruit, grapefruit, there is always something in season. We don’t have to leave our funky, old neighborhood to find abundance. Thump. Thump. Right now, the avocados are falling off the trees. 

Yesterday, driving home from school, we spotted a knotty, loaded tree a few blocks from our house. My son was not shy about knocking on the front door to introduce himself. We always offer to pay. No one has ever taken us up on it. We met Barbara, who told me she planted the tree from a seed  37 years ago. The seed came from an avocado that fell from a tree that was already well established when they bought their house.  She reminded me a bit of 90-year old Agnes, who we met in March when we asked to pick her starfruit tree.There's no place like home Agnes and her husband planted their tree more than fifty years ago. Now, it produces hundreds of pounds of carambola a year. 

They call our historic neighborhood a front porch community. Neighbors still know each other partly because of little things like there are inviting front porches to sit and visit. The  fruit trees give people a reason to share. After we left Barbara, we gave avocados to three of our neighbors. One new neighbor let us in on her trick for ripening the fruit. Wrap it in a paper bag overnight. I don’t know why, but it worked! The last time we picked strawberries, we gave some to a different neighbor and she taught me how to can jam. Today after school, my son will bring a thank you card and flowers to Barbara. We don’t just live in a place, we are engaged in a community.

I wonder if our neighborhood was developed today rather than one hundred years ago, if people would still plant their fruit trees in the front yard? Urban theorist and economist Richard Florida (no relation to my favorite state) has coined the phrase "creative class". In his book,  Who's Your City? ,Florida builds a case that choosing where you live is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Florida first planted this idea ten years ago with the book The Rise of the Creative Class.  That class is comprised of the forty million writers, artists, musicians, scientists and other workers who create for a living. The author looked at changes in American society like the number of people who go on picnics and the number of volunteers. Cities are ranked on everything from quality of education to diversity to number of playgrounds to number of college graduates who return home to start careers. His research has spurred conversations in university classrooms, corporate boardrooms and city halls across America. From Florida's seed, initiatives like Creative Tampa Bay are bearing fruit. 

Tampa and Saint Petersburg still don't rank on any of the lists for best places to live for young singles, retirees or families raising children. But isn't that up to the people moving in, like me, to step in for Barbara and Agnes and help it grow? 

What attracted you to your neighborhood? How will you keep it going?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Celebrate Unbirthdays

Unbirthday? I'm sorry, but I don't quite understand.
- Alice in Wonderland

One of the many things I love about my daughter at this age is her complete acceptance of who she is including her limitations. If I ask her to: get herself dressed, read a book, grab something that is on the top shelf or explain the meaning of a new word, she simply shrugs and says I am three, I can’t or I don’t know things yet.  

But in the past few months, she has started saying when she is four, she can do it. She points to the scariest roller coasters, when I am four I will ride that. She looks at her 9-year old cousin, when I am four I will be bigger than him. Yesterday, as her big brother tried out for the Alice in Wonderland play at school, my daughter celebrated her fourth birthday with her little girlfriends. The long anticipated future was hardly the reality of the present she had in mind. The first reconciliation of the two came when we talked about her birthday present, a Disney cruise. She worried she could not go now because she is too big. 

Time is a tricky concept for me to grasp too. I will enjoy life more when: I am thinner, my closets are clean, my children are less needy, I have a handle on the direction of my career. Of course, when I reach those milestones, I don't  feel any differently. In Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, he talks about the most important relationship in your life. The relationship you have with the present moment. Tolle says if you regard the present as an obstacle or a means to an end or with resentment, that is your life. If you regard NOW as a problem, problems will be a part of all your relationships and endeavors. Solve one and you will be happy? Nope, another one pops up like a never ending wack-a-mole game. Treat the present like a friend and suddenly the world is friendly and full of new opportunities. 

The author names the ego as the culprit in this theft of NOW. It feeds off your past. It is fascinated with your future. Is that what I am seeing develop in my daughter at the tender age of four? Have I been sharing birthdays with my ego for that long? If so, that may explain why this habit of  chasing the white rabbit of time back and forth is so hard to break. I want to celebrate the "unbirthdays" of wonderland. I want to blow the candles out on the 364 other days of the year, one minute at a time. 

Tolle's book had one helpful take away for that goal: “The decision to make the present moment into a friend is the end of ego. The ego can never be in alignment with the present moment.” In other words, awareness in the functionality of your relationship is enough to change the relationship.

How is your relationship with this moment?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Disappearing Act

Imagination is the true magic carpet.
-Norman Vincent Peale

Today is a day of great joy and great sorrow. Today is my daughter’s fourth birthday. It may also be the first day that I can no longer see my son as a child. 

I feel like my daughter did yesterday. We walked out of the grocery store and she suggested we let her balloon go. She asked me to tear off the little weight on the bottom. I handed it back and she set it free. Waving and watching with a big grin as it soared up into the clouds in a race to catch the jet passing by. After a few minutes the orange dot in the sky disappeared. And suddenly my daughter became distraught. She changed her mind. She wanted it back. She cried inconsolably all the way home. She cried until she couldn’t remember why she was crying.

That is how I feel about my 12-year old. I have watched him grow and than suddenly he is not a baby. He is not a toddler. He is not a boy. He is not all grown up. It’s worse. He thinks he is. Yesterday, as I was driving him to the doctor to remove his cast, he told me he lost a tooth at his dad’s. I asked what the tooth fairy brought him and he scoffed. Later that night, he informed me that he doesn’t believe in fairies or magic. Although, he thinks there may be a scientific explanation why some people like Muhammad Ali can levitate. He told me magic is just a thought in someone’s head. To which I responded, EXACTLY! There is nothing more powerful. How do I convince him that magic doesn’t have to mean believing in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny? Is it too late to help him recognize magic in the balancing act that puts the sun the perfect distance from the earth to allow life? Can't he see magic in our body’s ability to heal itself? He witnessed it just yesterday when he saw the x-ray of his broken arm. Just a month after his accident, it is as good as new. 

Maybe I will do a better job teaching my daughter while there is still time.....

Is there evidence of magic in your life?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Big Idea Monday- Free to Good Home

As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people's ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them and it will change your life.
-Amy Poehler

We were visiting the Big Apple about six years ago when the idea struck to create a travel website for major tourist destinations called I got as far as securing a few domain names like chicagoforfree, newyorkforfree, laforfree and than let it fade. It still is a good idea, but there is a lot more competition now. Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor and most major city newspapers and visitor’s bureaus have some component of free event/attractions listings, even if they are not as comprehensive as what I had in mind.

My immediate question at the time was how can you make money on a business model that is promoting something that is free? Several people have since answered that question through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Wikipedia. The Wikipedia story is an especially fascinating success story because founder Jimmy Wales lived in our little corner of the world. Since posting his first article in 2001, Wales' brilliant brainchild has grown to 22.6 million free usable articles in 285 languages. According to Alexa Internet, it is currently the sixth most popular website visited monthly by 14% of all internet users. This world altering collaboration is free because donors gave $20 million last year alone to keep it going.

I have been encouraging my 12-year old son to write down his ideas and share them with others or maybe share them on this site. His concern is someone will steal them. I used to think the worst idea is one you never tried than you discover it was a fabulously popular idea that someone else did. Now, I think the worst idea is one that NO ONE ever tries- period. Isn’t it better that you give an idea away to a good home, if you can't take care of it? To collaborate? 

 By the way, according to Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales wasn’t the first person to come up with the idea for an on-line interactive encyclopedia. The first documented idea traces back to 1993, 8 years before Wales took action. The idea for the light bulb wasn't  Edison's either, he just perfected it.

I don't have a new original blockbuster to share today. But I am meeting with someone that I hope will become my writing partner. Someone to bounce ideas around with. I also found a new source of inspiration. Check out Tony Schwartz from The Energy Project. He is a former journalist, turned author, motivational speaker, corporate coach and blogger who has a lot of thoughts about maximizing your potential. Here is one of his helpful posts on How to Think Creatively.

Do you have a good idea? Are you going to do something about it? Are you going to share it?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Eyes of a Child

He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.
-Albert Einstein

It is raining cats, dogs and frogs again, a perfect day for the movies. We saw The Odd Life of Timothy Green.  The story is about a couple that can’t get pregnant, so they bury their dreams of a perfect child in their garden. Magically, the next day a 10-year old boy appears. 

For my daughter, wearing her rain boots and carrying her princess umbrella was the entertainment for the afternoon. She didn’t get the movie. My son thought it was sappy, probably because I cried. But I cry in all movies, so that should not be taken as two thumbs up. The film seemed like it would make a much better book. But what the story did well was remind adults to Be More Childlike. Timothy Green doesn’t know to be intimidated by others that have more than he does. He doesn’t know to take things personally. He doesn’t know hopeless because there is always a new way of looking at things, a simple solution. His parents didn’t know they could live so fully,  laugh so freely and love so fearlessly until he came into their lives.

I know the feeling......

Since the movie was also a reminder to believe in magic. I am sharing this poem that was shared with me today. It came from a eccentric neighbor who picked it from a fellow magician at his magic club. 

Eyes of a Child 
By Rachel Columbini

Magic and mystery.
Music and mirth.
Wizards and witches.
Heaven and Earth.

Fairy tales and folklore. 
Wishes and dreams. 
Each days an adventure or so childhood seems.

Then one day we grow up. 
The magic starts to fade. 
There's no time for storytelling. 
The sunshine turns to shade.

 Hold tight to the magic. 
Take it with you everyday. 
Then you'll never lose that feeling.
That your childhood is here to stay.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Toleration is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle.
-Helen Keller

Do you ever learn about something completely new to you and than discover that it is not new at all or its been in front of you all along? Maybe it is a philosophy or model of car or a technology. 

For me, it is the word equipoise. It means equal distribution of weight, even balance; equilibrium or counterpoise. I first saw equipoise in a book written by the Dalai Lama and had to look up the definition. Than I was channel surfing and some C-span interview had some political guy using it in a sports reference. Than I heard it again somewhere in conversation and now it is stuck in my head.  All I know is I could use some today and so can the world around me.

Google has 1.4 million search results for equipoise. I'm venting here, but I think I would have several fingers left over if I were counting the number of instances I have seen it with my own eyes. Everybody is rushing around to get ready to host the RNC here in Tampa Bay. Can't say there is a right presidential candidate or a wrong party, but the news coverage across the board is the opposite of equipoise. There is no objective flow of information any more. Remember when ideals like fairness and balance were taught in schools. If the media is a mirror of our society, we (I am including myself here) need to look in it once in a while. No the word is not new, but it may be forgotten unless people start using it in context and speaking with their inside voices. 

Really curious to hear other people's experiences with little coincidences that pop up, like a word that won't go away. What do you do about them?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Missed Calls

Anything that you resent and strongly react to in another, is also in you.
-Eckhart Tolle

 I am reading a wonderful book by Eckhart Tolle called A New Earth. Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. This month’s focus is on childlike enthusiasm. It seemed like an obvious choice.  But everything in the book keeps circling back to self awareness, not necessarily just enthusiasm. There are several little highly relatable gems like: If you think you are so enlightened, go spend a week with you parents. I also really liked how he compared people to ducks. Tolle talks about how after ducks fight, they flap their wings vigorously to release the surplus energy pent up in the fight than they float away peacefully. But  people keep the fight going sometimes for years by thinking about the conflict until the memory morphs into weighty emotional baggage. 

Tolle’s underlying message is not unique. He finds a new way to say what so many spiritual leaders have preached before him. Forgiveness. Letting go of attachments. Giving up divisive labels. According to Tolle, you can’t enthusiastically embrace your true purpose if your unconscious. Makes sense, right? You have to be present. You have to show up. He also talks about how easily it is to spot someone who isn’t engaged in the now, but not as easy to see yourself as checked out.

Which brought about a realization that I am known as the person who never answers her phone. My husband has complained about it for years. My mother in law made a snarky comment on speaker phone the other day when she didn’t realize I was in the room. I never really thought it was that big of a deal until yesterday when I missed an important opportunity to talk to my brother. He was leaving for what is at the very least an intimidating and lonely journey. I will spare you the gory details, but he needed me and I wasn’t there.

 mother of one of my daughter's friends also just flaked on us for the umpteenth time and didn’t answer her phone or texts. She is so warm and friendly when you are with her, which makes this behavior that much more puzzling. My mental checklist when she was a no-show/ no-answer included: Is she screening her calls? Did I say something to offend her? Did I get the day wrong? Is she okay? Is she really that busy? Is she really that self absorbed? 

Now I know how my brother must have felt. Tolle might say that people like me are missing more than important calls, they may just miss their calling.

Is your ringer turned on or off?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Guest Contributor- Cultivating Enthusiasm

I grew up thinking counselors were for people with serious problems and therapists were mainly interested in dissecting your childhood. Despite those false impressions, I have turned to them during stressful life transitions with some success. I wish I had known about life coaching, maybe I would not have waited until the transitions became stressful to ask for help. 

According to the International Coaching Federation, coaching as opposed to counseling is a partnership with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires clients to maximize their personal and professional potential. In other words, the focus is on the present and future, not analyzing the past.

I met Yvonne Ulmer through the book The Happiness Project. Yvonne had just recently retired from a long successful career as a top administrator at a local college. In her past life before kids, she was a professional country music singer and later a counselor before becoming a provost. So she knows a thing or two about career changes. I am very grateful to have found Yvonne as she helps me find my voice again after being a stay at home mom for four years. From book suggestions to visualization techniques to goal setting, Yvonne is an indispensable resource, someone who genuinely cares.

I am honored to introduce Yvonne Ulmer of  Coaching By Design as Be More Childlike’s first guest contributor. The topic is enthusiasm. 

Yvonne Ulmer, M.Ed.

There’s an old Texas saying, “You can’t light a fire with a wet match!”  Similarly, you can’t accomplish much of any significance without enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm is the spark that lights the flame of positive action.  It is a feeling of intense emotion that compels us to take up a cause, climb Mt. Everest, or as we recently observed, become the third consecutive Olympic beach volleyball gold medal winner in London last week.  If you had the opportunity to watch Misty May-Treanor dance in the sand, drop to her knees and hug her partner Kerri Walsh Jennings and run through the stands, circling the stadium in over-the-top celebration….you saw enthusiasm!  This unbeatable team was a sight to see throughout the competition.  They did not save their outward display of excitement for their triumphant final game, but rejoiced and celebrated the journey all along the way.  As I watched them play, I learned that complete emotional abandon is not just for children.  It is a positive, appropriate response to giving your best and being rewarded for your efforts.

This summer I had the pleasure of visiting my New Jersey grandchildren.  My nine year old grandson’s baseball team, the Maplewood Cougars were in the regional finals.  Their team was a joy to watch!  They high fived, embraced, cheered and encouraged one another.  They had each others’ back through the good, the bad and the ugly.  They ended up second place in their region but no team could have played harder or with more enthusiasm.  Like May-Treanor and Jennings, they celebrated the journey.  By doing so, these energetic young men brought honor to themselves and the game of baseball. YEAH!

I think we all would agree that having enthusiasm and a zest for life is where we would like to be.  But what if we wake up one morning and realize that the thrill is gone?  What can we do to regain our sense of joy and well being?  Frederic M. Hudon, author of The Adult Years: Mastering the Art of Self-Renewal, suggests that as we go through life we either find ourselves in a Life Chapter or a Life Transition.  This cycle is repeated over and over throughout our lives.  It can be helpful to identify where you are in the cycle and determine the steps you need to take to restore your vitality.  

Here’s a brief overview of Hudson’s concept.  Phase 1: Life Chapter is characterized by a period of success and stability.  In this phase there is a feeling of confidence, courage, fulfillment and energy.  A song that would be descriptive of this phase is “I’m Walking on Sunshine.”  Phase 2:  Life Chapter is characterized by a feeling of boredom and restlessness.  There is a felling of disenchantment.  In this stage people usually feel stuck and may feel angry or sad.  A song that would fit this stage is “Is that all there is?”  Phase 3: Life Transition.  This phase is typically thought of as “cocooning.”  The activities associated with this phase are training in a new area, journaling, meditation, sharing with friends, therapy or coaching.  A song that comes to mind for this phase is “Do you know where you’re going to?”  Toward the end of this stage there is a growing sense of excitement.  Just as a butterfly readying to break out of the cocoon.  Phase 4:  Getting Ready to Move Forward.  This phase is characterized by creativity, curiosity, risk taking, and enthusiasm.  At this phase in the cycle there is a feeling of hope, optimism and self-renewal.  People in this phase could be found singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough!”

Enthusiasm for life is what propels us to get out of bed in the morning.  It is a gift of life that we all have the capacity to embrace.  

I want to wake up saying YES to life!    I want to seize the day!   I want my match to burn a hot flame!

How about you? 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Time Travel Tuesday- Summer Days

Childhood is the most beautiful of all of life's seasons.

Today was my son’s first day of 7th grade. I wish I had a pause button for summer. Already, the liquor store is advertising for pumpkin beer, Pinterest is full of Fall recipes and we got our first Halloween catalog in the mail yesterday. It is mid-August people. Really?

When we went back to school shopping, I found 24-packs of crayons on sale for 20 cents a box at Target. It was such a great deal, I cleared the shelves. 35 boxes or 840 crayons all for seven bucks. Today, I lost myself for an hour coloring an Audobon Society series of bird prints. I would like to tell you that the experience transported me back to rainy days where there was nothing else to do but lay on the floor on my stomach and fill an empty book with my day dreams. I would like to say the smell reminded me of my own back to school days when the toughest decision was picking between caribbean green or cerulean, atomic orange or burnt sienna. But coloring did not make me remember anymore than it made me think about my diet, deadlines, the growing laundry pile or the never ending to do list. For one whole hour, my only focus was staying in the lines and shading with strokes in the same direction. For someone who struggles to clear my mind for five minutes a morning, my bargain crayons turned out to be an unexpected and useful meditation tool. They may not be able to slow down the mad rush into the holidays or shorter days squeezed full of homework, football games and dinner on the fly. But they helped me slow down in my own season.

They are also serving a duel purpose as my new business cards. The labels are just big enough for my name and web address. I have already passed a dozen out. The reaction was priceless.  Crayons, who knew?

What does the smell of crayons remind you of?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Big Idea Monday- Recycled Energy

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did things, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That is because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesized new things.
-Steve Jobs
I was at a resort a couple of summers ago that had an old fashioned stationary work out bike next to the pool bar. They hooked up a blender to it so as you peddled you powered the blender to make your own daiquiris. Fun, yes. But it wasn’t exactly a life altering invention. But have you heard about the two recent Harvard grads who came up with an invention that is both? It is a soccer ball and portable generator in one. The more you kick it, the more energy it stores.

Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman formed a company last year called Uncharted Play Inc. to promote their SOCCKET ball. Their motto is to make fun functional.  
According to their website, 1/4th of the world population does not have access to reliable electricity. Household alternatives like kerosene are damaging to the environment, costly and blamed for the deaths of 1.6 million people a year. For 30 minutes of play, the SOCCKET generates three hours of light. It is being called the world’s first eco-friendly portable generator. By the way, Matthews and Silverman majored in social science, not engineering. 

If they can get three hours of light out of a ball, what kind of energy are we producing on our bikes or on the machines in the gym? My take away on this Big Idea Monday is to modify a rechargeable battery that is powered by the energy output on exercise equipment. Even if it only produces enough to power the gyms, that would be a huge savings. Right now, the SOCCKET seems to be bringing much needed energy sources to undeveloped countries, but couldn't we help put a dent in our consumption here in the U.S. based on similar technology? My gym was packed today at 6 a.m. (yes, this is my subtle way of bragging that I dragged myself out of bed to work out).

Unchartered Play succeeded in identifying a need and than coming up with a sustainable solution. That is the first and biggest step in turning an idea into a marketable invention. I found a few helpful resources out there for those of you entertaining the next big idea.The United Inventor's Association is a treasure trove or resources including a directory to find a local inventors club or the instructions and support to start your own. The Inventor's Association, a 501c3 dedicated to providing education and support to inventors, endorses another resource called Inventors Blueprint. The site offers a four part video series explaining how to get started on transforming your ideas into the next big thing.

What is your big idea? More important, what are you going to do about it?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Flying Lessons

We are each of us angels with only one wing and we can only fly by embracing one another.

Am I the only one who can’t watch Toy Story 3? When the mom walks into her son’s empty room as he is leaving for college had me balling so hard, my mascara was streaming down my cheeks. It doesn’t take much to turn on my waterworks. The new Dell commercial, The Girl Who Can Fly is a sweet tear jerker too. It is about a fifth grader who didn’t listen to the “doubters, the non-believers and the no way you can do it’ers” and found a way to soar.

The commercial caught my attention this weekend after reading about a local fifth grader who just published his first book. 11-year old Conner Wilson landed a multiple book publishing contract with Magic Dreams Publishing. His 45-page illustrated story, A Giant Pencil is about a magic pencil that can erase people who bully. Wilson’s father is a published author and encouraged him to follow through on his story idea. And for that he is my hero of the week. The father that is, not the fifth grader. Because it doesn’t surprise me that an 11-year old would have an original idea. It is the stick- to-it-ness that is so impressive. 

For someone who is spending a year trying to be more childlike, there is a realization that there are some worthwhile things taught by us adults too, like work ethic. There is also a realization that we can learn from our generational differences.  I saw a fascinating marketing presentation that related how one company sells the same product to different age groups. My generation (x) was the generation of latch key kids who raised themselves. One positive by-product is we are the generation of “doers”; the entrepreneurs, the self-starters. My 12-year old son’s generation (millennial) is growing up in the shadow of 9-11 and multiple wars. The power point showed a child holding a trophy, because every child who plays gets a trophy now a days. They are cherished, protected and scheduled. What will the positive by-product of that be? 

As a parent, I don’t want to stop cherishing and protecting my kids. At the same time I want them to learn how to fly on their own. 

How do you teach someone to fly?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Clap If You Believe

For to have faith is to have wings.
-Sir J.M. Barrie

I just finished reading a reprint of the original 1911 Peter and Wendy, otherwise known as Peter Pan. I feel like I am scraping the bottom of the sundae glass with a long spoon. The story was so rich and fulfilling, but too enjoyable to end. Even though everyone knows the ending, they probably don’t know the whole story. At least, I didn’t before today.

The boy who never grew up character was based on author Sir J.M. Barrie’s older brother who died in an accident. Barrie grew up in his brother’s shadow, constantly competing with a memory for the love and attention of his broken hearted mother. The lost boy characters were based on the children of the author’s friends. Barrie later adopted and raised the orphans when their parents died.

I have never read a story that better describes the selfless, faithful, unconditional love of motherhood. It was also impressive that a story written more than 100 years ago still accurately describes the role some fathers feel relegated to in their homes. Mr. Darling, Wendy’s dad, worked hard to support his family. But he felt like even the dog (Nana) got more affection and concern than he did. When his children disappeared to Neverland, he blamed himself and took to living in “the dog house”. The book revealed insights into why Captain Hook was always at odds with Peter. In the original story, Hook was well bred and educated at the best schools. A man consumed by ambition. His chief concern was other people’s opinions of whether he was acting in “good form”. He was constantly being hunted by the ticking of time itself. In the final battle, the swords were not just drawn between Peter Pan and a pirate. The battle was between all the vain sins of adulthood and childlike innocence.

“Pan, who and what art thou?” he cried huskily.
“I’m youth, I’m joy” Peter answered at a venture. "I'm a little bird that has broken out of it's egg."

I loved how in Barrie’s version, the lost boys went to live with Wendy and her family. I loved how when they left Neverland, all the children grew up. 

You may see the twins and NIbs and Curly any day going to an office, each carrying a little bag and an umbrella. Michael is an engine driver. Slightly married a lady of title. You see that judge in a wig coming out at the iron door? That used to be Tootles.

When the children left the magical home of mermaids and Neverbirds, they forgot how to fly. Tinker Bell could survive swallowing the most potent poison, but would perish in an instant if children didn’t believe. Which raises the question, if Neverland represents our imaginations, do fairies represent childlike faith? Forgive me if this is a silly question, I have been a grown up for a very long time and can't fully remember. Did we once have unwavering faith in the power of our imaginations?

What do you BELIEVE in?
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