Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sneak Peeks

Have you ever gotten a better sense of a person by peeking in their closets? I  sum people up, or “thin-slice” as Malcolm Gladwell says in his book “Blink” by the contents of their refrigerator.  In psychological speak, that means to draw conclusions based on snap observations. When I was dating my husband, his fridge had beer, a pack of batteries and a lonely bar of dial soap chilling inside. One of my favorite friends is the Kool-Aid mom to her three, their friends and all the neighborhood kids. She is never without enough fresh snacks to feed an army. But her fridge is always clean, clutter free with room to spare. Mine, on the other hand, seems to be constantly overflowing with condiments.

My Mother judges by the collection in your kitchen drawers. I say judge because I have felt her scorn and disappointment for years. Where is your juicer? What do you mean you don’t have a garlic press? When did you get rid of the salad spinner I bought you? Who lives without a meat thermometer? No peeler, seriously? My excuse is I don’t have room. My one nice Cutco knife carves turkeys, opens boxes and chops veggies. What else does a girl need?

Last night while visiting my mom in her new camper, I brought over a pizza and she whipped out her pizza cutter. Now, let me give you a little background. My mom has lived the last two decades of her life in suburban sprawl, where the houses come in two sizes, huge and ginormous. There was a  finished basement, attached three car garage and a few leased storage units nearby. This summer, she sold her house and donated multiple lifetimes worth of stuff to live in a 400 square foot RV. Her plan is to spend the winter with her grandkids in Florida and then explore the country. So it seemed we could finally relate. I have no space and neither does she. One curious glance under her mini oven proved me wrong. 

Here are just a few of the items I found:a jalapeno pepper cooker, an I Love You toast impression maker and a tomato knife to go with a lettuce knife. I had to ask what the silver microphone looking ma-bob was. “A fresh parsley parser, of course.” What about the little thingy that is too small to be a bottle opener? “It’s a butter curler.” There was lemon zester and a variety of cheese graters. There were metal ropes that are supposed to be bbq skewers.  What about the metal circle with a handle? “It’s some kind of pitter.” I opened another cabinet to discover her “jewelry store”. Trays and trays of baubles, including one just for Halloween adornments. After that she kicked me out. “No more pictures! No more snooping!”. She yelled and shooed us as if we were paparazzi.

So what does all this say about my mom? I think whether it is a stolen glance in your party host’s bathroom medicine cabinet or what you discover lurking in someone’s night stand, contents are a reflection of a person and their priorities. My mom finds a way of having luxury in her life no matter what her circumstances. She makes a production out of everything, even cooking in a camper. And I mean that in a good way.

What does your contents say about you?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Just Curious

I think at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

As part of my focus on curiosity this month, I am taking a photography class. Although, I have never even slept on a boat, I have always thought it would be wonderful to live on one someday. This weekend, my husband and I are opting out of a hotel and staying on a sailboat for our getaway. I also wondered what it would be like to not engage in a power struggle in my marriage. Still retaining 49% voting power, I ceded control on September 1. Wish we had defined our roles years ago. Yesterday, I met with a woman who offers parenting classes, sort of a good to great coach for moms. I am going to her workshop.  I had read about the Little Free Library project last year with interest, but after seeing one in our city, we are constructing one for our front yard. It is being installed tomorrow. Being a Midwestern gal, I grew up believing baked potatoes were vegetables. I tried an amazing vegan restaurant and actually enjoyed it. The TED conferences I wrote about last week were also all driven by curiosity too. Oh, I almost forgot the outdoor wedding I crashed in a hurricane. I was curious.

So here is what I have learned through all these new endeavors and explorations. It's fun, but purposeful. I feel happier and smarter. My family has noticed I am more open and interested. I am meeting fascinating people with inspiring stories. Dr Todd Kashdan says all of that can be good for your health. In his article Five Benefits to Curiosity, Kashdan cites several scientific studies that make a case for staying curious for life.

Are you curious to know what is at the top of the google search engine for "curiosity"? Fifth Third Bank's website says, "Curiosity is for explorers, artists, scientists and of course, bankers." Apparently there is big money in curiosity. Maybe Fifth Third invested in it's top SEO because of the little engine that could, Kickstarter. Kickstarter has generated $367 million dollars from 2.8 million inquisitive investors willing to put their cash down to fund 30,000 creative new ideas. For a really easy to understand explanation of how Kickstarter works, check out this blogpost by Cities of the Mind. You can search by category of business or by cities. In my city, I was delighted to see a student newspaper get fully funded and a comic book designer raise more than 30,000 to go to print.

Before this month long curiosity experiment ends, I still have a thick biography of Albert Einstein to read and I have the Discovery television 60-part series Curiosity to get caught up on. And I have to practice playing with the settings on my new camera. Posted today are a few photos from class.

Is there something you have always been curious about?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Time Travel Tuesday- Singing Along

If trouble hearing Angel's song with thine ears, try listening with your heart.
-Terri Guillemets

Families don’t die. Families live forever. They always stay together. Families don’t die. Families stay together forever. Families don’t die.

That was the chorus to my daughter’s made up song yesterday in the car. The song came spilling out of her sweet little mouth about an hour after she melted my heart while I was washing her hands. She said,  “I’m glad your my mama. I’m glad I picked the right one.” I didn’t ask her what she meant by “she picked” or why she was bringing it up while I was rinsing her hands in a public bathroom. I just basked in the moment. But this song, this song begged questions. What does it mean?  What made her think of it? I pulled the car over and whipped out my phone to text myself so I could quote her exactly.

Here is what she said:

“Families don’t die. They always stay together in this world. We live on Earth and that means we don’t die. We families don’t die because they are in a world called Earth. Families live on Earth. We have guardians. They are different colors. Pink, yellow, purple. That’s what God told me.”

This comes from the same child who looked at my pile of childhood pictures from an attic storage box and told me with great sincerity that she was my dog when I was a little girl. She said she played with me. When I asked her what her name was when she was my dog, she told me “Woofer”. Which was my dog’s name. I must have told her that at some point, but I was pretty shocked that she remembered. She was three. At the time, I reasoned that her little brain couldn’t comprehend not being part of our family or a world without her in it. I reasoned that she couldn’t conceive of life before she was born, so she made up a scenario where she fit into the past, into her mommy’s past.

But I don’t have an explanation of what she is trying to tell me with her song. Can a four year old believe in reincarnation? Was there some storyline on one of her TV shows that I missed? Is this how she is interpreting a recent Bible lesson from Sunday School?

I started the car again and asked her to keep singing as we drove to pick her brother up from school. Her next song was mostly incomprehensible humming, but the chorus she repeated was “Listen to the beat of your song. Listen with your heart.” 

Her 12-year old brother jumped in the car and the mood quickly changed. I asked her to sing her song for her brother and she crooned, “Families don’t die. Families stay together. I have new purple shoes. And a purple dress. Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon? That’s from Pocahontas, my favorite movie.” The moment was gone.

I remember a few unexplainable moments like this when my son was about this age. Times when it seemed he knew things or could sense things beyond explanation. I remember my mom telling me stories about me as a little girl describing colors around people and acting as if I was watching something that no one else could see. 

On this Time Travel Tuesday, I am going to listen with my heart and sing along. Off key and full of stage fright, I will try and sing my own song. That means not trying to explain away my moment with my daughter. That means not reasoning or defining. Just enjoying and recognizing an angel in my midst.

My chorus is “Cherish the little glimpses. Hear the whispers. They are truth. They are truth.

Do you believe children can see/hear things that we can’t?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Big Idea Monday-Free Choice Learning

Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprung up.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes

Sometimes I am late to catch on to the really hits. My obsession for Mad Men came after someone loaned me the first two seasons on DVD. I hear the stories in many best selling books when they are already made into movies and when those movies are already recycling on-demand. That is how I feel about TED. What is TED, you ask? Oh, I am glad I’m not the last person on the planet to learn about it. It is so brilliant, it is mind-boggling that TED isn’t a household word. TED stands for technology, entertainment and design. The tagline is: Ideas Worth Spreading. It’s mission is: sharing ideas. TED started out as an annual global conference for the world’s greatest thinkers in 1984. The concept has evolved into an amazing on-line source of inspiration open to anyone who wants to think. TED talks are videotaped and made available for free on-line. The non-profit has more recently empowered local communities to host their own independent TED discussions. I attended one in Sarasota and another in Tampa last week. There were 171 independent events hosted in fifty countries last month alone.

The conversation in TEDxSarasota centered around creativity and featured a game designer who is making video games as a marketing tool to drive consumers to businesses. Another techie spoke of his work in biotechnology. The same idea that gave us touch screen smart phones and WII gaming has a world of future life altering applications. For example, we heard from a color blind man who “hears” colors. A computer device and camera attached to his head sends different sound frequencies based on the colors picked up on the attached camera. A technical solution to a disability has led to him becoming a composer (he makes music out of paintings) and an artist (he makes paintings out of music).

In TEDxTampaBay, the conversation was structured around the theme of “The Future of Stories” . Everyone has a story. We heard from college kids who have engaged curiosity in their community by hanging some simple Swings in public spaces. We heard from a Hospice counselor who draws inspiration from the clarity experienced by her dying clients. I was intrigued by the story shared by the CEO of Odyssey Marine Exploration, a Tampa-based company that has discovered hundreds of shipwrecks across the globe. Gold and silver are just part of the treasure that has led to museum exhibits and Discovery Channel’s series “Treasure Quest”. President Mark Gordon talked about his childhood dream of exploring the sea realized. From the imagination of a child, new technology was designed to allow him to go miles below the surface. In the unchartered depths, Odyssey explorers have discovered new life forms that are leading to medical breakthroughs. 

On this Big Idea Monday, I would like to celebrate the concept of free-choice learning experiences or the idea of education on demand also synonymous with experiential learning. TED is a perfect example of learning through experience or learning from others willing to share their experience. My idea is to apply this concept in my own community where we have a wealth of cultural institutions and too many failing schools. There are outreach programs here and there. There are some out-of-the-box teachers and plenty of parents who take advantage of the local resources. We have professionals willing to mentor too. But it is all so hit and miss. My big idea is to build a bridge between the cultural resources and the school district to make it easier and more accessible for students to gain exposure to the artists, historians, scientists, architects and entrepreneurs shaping our community.

The trick is to not make another layer of bureaucracy or duplicate efforts. Ideally, this would be an easy way for the users and providers to plug in and connect. I have a 30,000 foot view right now. Really would love to hear other ideas. For any of you who don't live in this area, let me give you a brief background. The city of Saint Petersburg has a history museum, a Holocaust Museum, a fine arts museum, Morean Arts Center, Creative Clay, the Dali Museum and the Chihully Collection. It is also home to Major League Baseball, Sunken Gardens botanical gardens, a state of the art marine biology  research labs, a Coast Guard Station, a small airport, a world class sailing center and Poynter Institute. It is also in the visioning stages of designing an iconic pier. Despite these treasures, everyone I know either sends their kids to private school, home schools or suffers sleepless nights worrying about a school choice system that offers as much control as winning the lottery. The county graduation rate has improved recently to 77%, although we still lead the nation as the worst graduation rates for minorities. Less than 1 in 4 black males make it out of our schools with a diploma.

So how can we use existing experience resources to solve the problem?

Any ideas worth sharing?

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Intersection of Literary Avenue and Art Street

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagines, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.
-Henry David Thoreau

Talk about curious. Last night, while driving a car full of starrrrrrving kids to a restaurant, I spotted people sitting on blankets reading in front of the Museum of Fine Arts. There was a little bus parked nearby and a box on a stand. As I slowed down, I noticed  people had wine in one hand, books in the other and broad smiles on their faces. I had read about the Little Free Library Project that started in Wisconsin. Could that amazing idea of “bring a book, take a book” have spread to Florida?

There were loud protests from my hungry passengers, but I double parked anyway. Sure enough, yes, this was the same concept. Saint Petersburg now has it's very own Little Free Library. It is a wooden box filled with donated books, free to anyone passing by.  Last night’s read-in was organized by Bluebird Books, the brainchild of Mitzi Gordon. Gordon, a former newspaper and magazine journalist, turned art museum curator had read about the same Wisconsin project. It was about the time she was toying with the idea of starting her own business. She imagined opening a gallery that featured writers and artists. A brick and mortar space was out of her budget. In the spring of 2011, she found a little bus and took a loan against her car to buy it. Some creative fundraising among local artists and friends put 3,400 into the passed plate. The little bus was transformed by volunteers into a mobile book shop/art gallery. Bluebird's website describes it as a vehicle where readers of all ages can explore the written word. It is a place to promote literacy and craft.

I asked if Mitzi was living her dream. With a huge grin and sparkle in her eyes, she nodded yes and added, “It is my dream and if I don’t keep this going, I will be living in it.

Good thing the cozy little bus reminds Mitzi of a children’s fort if it ever comes to that. But it won’t. People were thrilled with the idea. Mitzi was hit with questions by three people at once while I was there. She is working on non-profit status and still juggling a day job working for Creative Pinellas. The Tampa resident is also working on logistics like building a board, submitting for grants and finding dry storage for the many boxes of donated books. The busy work is fueled by her vision to create a true venue for local artists who like to tell stories.
Inside this mobile station of inspiration, you will find locally produced book art and hand made “zines”. I admit I had never heard of a zine before. According to Wickipedia, a zine (pronounced zeen) is a small circulation of self published work, usually reproduced by a photocopier. Think magazine, only short, non-glossy and homemade. Gordon also has plans to add a “Creative Poet Project” to her bus. She envisions local poets sitting in front of a vintage typewriter churning out poems for bus patrons while they wait. Think a little rhyme and reason, to go.

Mitzi and her bus are headed to Savannah, Georgia this weekend. But the Little Free LIbrary is permanently posted in front of the Saint Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts. I grabbed James Joyce, A Portrait of an Artist as a Child and left in it’s place Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. By the way, I dropped the family off for dinner and came back to double park. Missed most of the meal and got a $25 parking ticket, but well, well worth it for a stop at this new intersection.

Are you pursuing your dream?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Getting Lost in a Good Book

Play is serious business.
-Kevin Carroll

Today is a special edition of Time Travel Tuesday on Thursday. I am spending every spare moment today reading The Red Rubber Ball at Work, by Kevin Carroll. Carroll’s message is play is serious business.

As I curl up with an iced coffee and get lost in the pages, it transports me back to day’s when I had nothing urgent requiring my time. When my biggest decision was where to read: bed, couch, shady tree or pool. As an adult, there never seems to be quite enough time for reading just for fun. Although it remains at the top of my vacation to do list. Funny, how I have been conditioned to fly somewhere else just to go somewhere else in my mind. Not today though. 

I prefer non-fiction. Biographies are my favorite. I especially enjoy stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. This book is not about Kevin Carroll’s life story, but it was inspired by it. Carroll spoke at a corporate retreat last week that my husband attended. He came out bouncing a red rubber ball while sharing a deeply personal story about a childhood lost. Kevin Carroll's Story Kevin’s drug addicted parents abandoned him at the age of 6. Angry and scared, he eventually found solace on the playground. After working in the NBA and for Nike, he now inspires others to make the connection between play and their life’s passion. He challenges people by asking: What is your red rubber ball? Are you chasing it or is it long forgotten collecting dust in some dark closet?

The book is not just about Kevin chasing his dream to inspire others to play. It is about all sorts of other dreamers and doers who have blurred the lines between what they enjoyed imagining as children and what drives them professionally. The book is really about how work and play can be the same thing when you identify your passion and purpose. Each interview asks the person to finish the sentence play is........

creating imaginary worlds
pushing boundaries
creating joy for others
skill and instinct
bringing people together
problem solving
embracing the unexpected

The list goes on and on. Each chapter is focused on different career virtues like leadership, innovation, teamwork and curiosity. I admit I skipped ahead to curiosity first since this is my month to focus on childlike curiosity. Some of the contributors to the curiosity chapter are: Tipping Point Author Malcolm Gladwell, Alchemist Author Paulo Coelho and Redball Project Artist Kurt Perschke. For example, Malcolm Gladwell likened his love of building with legos to constructing a story, chapter by chapter. Really must go now....writing today is taking too much time away from my more serious endeavor.

How will you finish the sentence? Play is.......................

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Benjamin Franklin was a Vegetarian

Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech
-Silence Dogood (Benjamin Franklin July 1722)

I am to the point in Walter Isaacson’s biography on Benjamin Franklin where Franklin is my age (42) and retiring from the printing business that he grew into a media empire. He hasn’t yet accomplished his defining legacies like discovering electricity or signing the Declaration of Independence. But there is a lot we can learn from the young Franklin. The child who remained curious until he died at age 84. Baby boomers facing retirement or anyone at a career crossroads should take note. He never stopped reinventing himself. Retirement just meant that he didn't have to work for money anymore, now he could work on things that interested him.

Kudos to Walter Issacson for his well-researched story telling. I think I have a mind crush on the author, who has a resume worthy of his own autobiography. Before he wrote the biography for Franklin, Einstein, Kissinger and Jobs, Isaacson was chairman of CNN and managing editor of Time Magazine.

But I digress, Benjamin Franklin probably invented the mind crush too. Spoiler alert: There is so much more to Issacson's book, but so far here are my top ten things you probably never knew about the young, muscled colonial heart breaker..
  1.  Benjamin Franklin was a feminist. At the age of 16, Franklin started to anonymously submit articles to his brother's newspaper under the pen name Silence Dogood. Silence was supposed to be a dowdy widow. The 14 articles supposedly written by a middle aged woman made a popular and convincing argument why women should be treated equally. The newspaper, by the way, was the first to lay the groundwork for freedom of the press in the colonies.
  2.  He was truly a freeman. The name Franklin literally meant free man in England when men were named after their profession or trade. The Franklin family instilled the value of freedom in Benjamin. Even after he became wealthy, he remained a champion for the middle class. Striving to ensure all people were treated as free and equal.
  3. He was also a runaway slave. Although the family believed in freedom, the practice of the day was to enter into apprenticeships that were similar to indentured servitude. Franklin was physically beaten and berated by his older brother while working in his printing press. When he ran away at age 17 to Philadelphia, there was a genuine fear that he could face legal problems for not honoring the binding contract with his brother,
  4. He was a kite surfer. As a young boy, Franklin loved swimming. Not only did he invent wooden paddles for his hands and feet so he could swim faster, he frequently tied himself to a kite so the kite would pull him through Boston Harbor.
  5. He was the original hippie. Franklin loved the ladies and practiced free love from an early age. He proposed to a girl than left her in the lurch  as he went to sew his wild oats in London. Around that time he fathered an illegitimate son. He later took custody of the son and married the girl. 
  6. He invented the pros and cons list. Franklin may be the first person documented to come up with this method for weighing choices. He is at least the most famous. He was practical even in his decision to get married. He was quoted as saying "Keep your eyes wide open before marriage and half closed after marriage." Isaacson describes Franklin's wife Deborah as a plain jane. Franklin apparently thought  frugality, industrious and hard working outweighed romance or good looks. Maybe another pro to his wife was her ability to keep her eyes half shut to his many daliances. On the subject of pros and cons. Franklin also wrote a scandalous essay on the pros to bedding older women. Some of his pros included: You can't see their wrinkles in the dark. There faces may be aged, but their bodies are still firm. They are so grateful!
  7. He was a vegetarian. As a teenager, Franklin read about the moral reasons and health benefits of being a vegetarian and tried it. His big motivator was saving money on food so he could spend more money on books. He only later reasoned it was okay to eat meat when he saw fisherman cleaning fish that had smaller fish in their bellies. He figured if fish can eat other fish, than I can eat you.
  8. He discovered the key to heaven. Franklin's father, Josiah Franklin, had a favorite quote with his children. Proverbs 22:29 Seest thou a man diligent in his calling he shall stand before kings. Franklin later would say while he believed in the value of diligence, he thought the quote referred to standing before God someday, not literally standing before kings. Franklin the statesman would go on to stand before five kings and sat down to dinner with the king of Denmark. 
  9. He was meant to be his family's tithe to the church. Because he was born the 10th son to his father, his father designated him as the family's gift to the church. The plan was for Benjamin to go into the ministry. But it became clear from an early age that he was too curious and questioning to serve the church.
  10. His life was shaped by a politician's empty promise. The governor of Pennsylvania befriended the aspiring writer at the age of 18 and promised to set him up with his own printing business. The poor Franklin travelled to London to buy equipment for his new business with nothing but the empty promise in his pocket.  When he eventually worked his way back to America, he had learned the difference between dreamers and doers. Franklin penned one of his first of many resolutions  lists. Be frugal until your debts are paid. Be truthful, sincere and don't give false expectations. Don't be distracted be get rich quick schemes.Be industrious and patient. Don't speak poorly of others.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I Can Try

It made a difference to that one.
-Loren Eiseley

We are hosting visitors from Wisconsin, Illinois and California. So we took them to an island this weekend. While on the ferry ride out to Egmont Key, we passed an injured pelican tangled up in fishing line with a hook piercing one of it’s wings. The ferry captain got close enough for one of his assistants to scoop the helpless bird out. I think many of the passengers thought this was a typical day on the Florida sea. But I have lived here fifteen years and have only seen a distressed bird rescued once before and it was during a hurricane. We all were elated when they let the bird go and it immediately went after the fresh catch on the end of a fisherman’s line. Maybe no wiser from the experience, still hungry and happy to be mobile once again.

The rescue was inspiring enough that when my son spotted a dragon fly that couldn’t get off the ground on the beach, we carried it to a tree stump for a safer place to rest and recover. Not sure if we really could help it, but it was worth a shot.

Than on the way home, our ferry passed a tower where dozens of waterbirds perched. Between the seagulls and pelicans, there was a cormorant limply hanging by it’s neck in more tangled fishing line. The way it dangled in the wind, we all believed it was dead. It had to be. Still, it seemed cruel to let it stay there and rot even if it was passed the point of suffering.The ferry boat driver asked his assistant if she could use a stick to knock it down. She replied the same way she did with the pelican, “I can try.” The boat we were on was just big enough to make getting close to that metal tower a bit tricky. There was a real risk of damaging the boat and the tower, all for the dignity of a dead bird. When she did give the line a swift knock, down fell the bird. Instead of sinking, it caught air just before it hit the water and flew away. We watched it land a few hundred yards away, get it’s bearings and than dive under water for a swim. Amazing!

I know it was just a bird. But I felt like my heart took flight at that moment. 

Our experience reminded me of “The Star Thrower” story in Loren’s Eiseley’s 1969 book “The Unexpected Universe.” My aunt, who rescued horses all her life, told me the story when I was a young girl visiting her farm in Indiana. One of her ponies was renamed starfish after the story. She had rescued him from a carnival when he was too old to carry children on a circle ride anymore. My aunt died more than a decade ago. I haven’t thought about that story in years.

The story is about a little girl walking on a beach littered with thousands of starfish that had washed ashore. The little girl kept stopping to throw each one back. An old man told her with amusement that she was wasting her time. He pointed to the endless miles of shoreline and told her there was no way she could save them all. There is no way she could make a difference. The child threw another one back and replied "It made a difference to that one.".  The little girl’s perspective inspired the old man and others on the beach that day to help. Pretty soon, all the starfish were returned to the water.

If you google “starfish story”, the first site to pop up is not about Loren Eilsely’s original story. Author Brad Meltzer tops the search engine. He has written two books called Heroes for My Son and Heroes for My Daughter. Meltzer also created a website called Ordinary People Change the World. The site raises money for charity by selling inspirational t-shirts featuring childlike drawings of heroes like Amelia Earhart and Abe Lincoln. I particularly like the site's link where you can send a personalized Thank You Video to someone who is your hero. It took me 30 seconds to make someone’s day by clicking on it.

Everyone on that ferry boat this weekend was a hero. What our beach experience taught me is we all want to be part of something heroic. We all have the ability to help someone, to inspire others by simply saying “I can try.”

What will be your starfish today?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Being 40'ish- A Working Title

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.
-Henry Ford

I just realized that all this reading, and thinking and meditating and exercising and evaluating and letting go and measuring results and altering perspectives and cultivating awareness and living more intentionally and introspective writing has a lot to do with my age. Here I thought that I was unique. Maybe even special. Ambitious? Not so, says Frederic Hudson, the author of The Adult Years: Mastering the Art of Self Renewal. The life coach and educator details generational influences as well as trends in how people cope with life changes at different ages. Hudson likens our lives to a screenplay in which we are all either in a life chapter or in a life transition. I have a friend who started telling people she was forty when she was 37 because she wanted to be mentally prepared for the milestone. I, on the other hand, told people I was 39 until the morning I wasn’t anymore. Next week, I will be celebrating 40‘ish, again. The fine line between chapter and transition has been a bit blurry at times in my forties. But Hudson really nailed 40’ish.

He says: “Forty somethings are often pre-occupied with self analysis and taking stock, They know they have reached the mid-point in their lives, but they are not sure how to address the unfinished business of their twenties and thirties and the inevitable realities of getting older...Many of them feel driven to be in charge of their own lives....That is what self reliance- the dominant pursuit of today’s forty somethings is all about.

Makes sense. We forty somethings are living with the choices we made in our twenties and thirties. Did we invest in a career, get married, have kids? Did we live in NYC just because we wanted to or take a year off to be a ski bum? Did we take a risk on the less safe plan? Can’t exactly undo where we are at now, even if we wanted to. It’s about the realization that our options are more limited. And that my friends is what makes some people stark raving mad.  Not me, mind you. Well, maybe a little sometimes.This blog, this year long experiment, is my way of trying to avoid complete crazy and grab a slice of that self reliance for myself.

Of all of Hudson’s suggestions for aging well, here were my top take aways:

Be a dreamer and a planner.
Hudson concedes that most of our dreaming takes place in childhood, where imagination is encouraged.  What do want to be when you grow up? President? Astronaut? Dolphin trainer?  In our complicated adult years, our dreams look like: What trip do you want to take? What sports car do you want to buy someday? If you can get yourself dreaming big picture again and than use your adult wisdom and experience to build a plan  around those dreams, you won’t care how many candles are on the cake.

Be a lifelong learner.
Hudson believes lifelong learners drink from the fountain of youth and will not only experience longevity, they will enjoy the journey. As I spend the month of September focused on childlike curiosity, I am discovering that the more you learn, the more there is to learn. I am currently reading Walter Isaacson’s biography on Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was a lifelong learner who made the transition from printer, to statesman to inventor to postmaster and writer. He was the sole author of each of his life chapters. Blogging is new for me. Social media platforms like Pinterest and Pinstamatic are new for me. I am taking a photography class this month. I have signed up for a screenwriting class and a dance class. On the blog, I am interviewing people like a woman in her fifties going to college for the first time and a 65 year old who just enrolled in nursing school, a total career departure. I have found you can identify a lifelong learner without even talking to them, they have a gleam in their eye and usually a trademark smile! 

Which -ish are you? Is it a chapter or a transition? Who is writing your screenplay?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Time Travel Tuesday- A Flag Kite Flys

True courage is like a kite; a contrary wind rises it higher.
-John Petit-Senn

The purpose of Time Travel Tuesday is to intentionally do something that reminds me of younger days or something that makes me feel young. I intended to write about my rediscovery of kites. We purchased a red, white and blue flag kite one Independence Day when we were celebrating July 4th in Washington D.C. a few years ago. The kite sat in the garage unused until last week. I took it to the park and couldn’t believe how much joy it brought. Not just to me. Kids left the swings and slides and duck ponds to line up for a turn to hold on to the rising flag.

But writing about flying a kite on this Tuesday does not transport me back in time. I can’t write about the carefree feeling of liberation that envelopes you as you hang on to something that is actually flying. I can’t write about the sense that you yourself are capable of soaring when you are connected to something that can soar so high. As I write this, I am watching the news coverage from the Pentagon and Ground Zero. A memorial to another Tuesday. A Tuesday with clear blue skies and sunshine and gentle breezes. A Tuesday not unlike today.

I write today remembering a day when I was a 31-year old single mother living in a new city with no friends or family. I dropped my son off at daycare and walked into my new job at a TV station. I watched on one of ten TV screens in our newsroom live as the second plane crashed. Within moments, we all scrambled instinctively knowing where to go. I headed to MacDill Air Force Base. President Bush was visiting an elementary school in nearby Venice. We all worked to get local reaction and report on the movement of the President. None of my stories ever made air. All coverage was consumed with what was happening in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.. 

Like every single person in America that day, my mind wandered will it happen here? Is my son safe at a daycare so close to a military base that houses Central Command? Is is safe to be so close to the location where the President is visiting? Will I lose my job if I leave to be with him? Where can I take him that is safe?  When will this end? I relied on the kindness of strangers that day to care for my  22-month old son. I ended up working a fifteen hour day and was numb by the time I finally could hold him in my arms. Perhaps numb by the overwhelming realization that we are all so vulnerable no matter how old we are or where we live.

Sometimes transporting yourself back in time makes you feel younger, not better. 11-years later, I am married with an established circle of friends and family. I am no longer so dependent on a job that I wouldn’t dare leave even if I thought the world may be coming to an end. But if I really think about that Tuesday, I still don’t feel any less vulnerable. I don’t feel any less alone, exposed or small. 

Maybe that is just what happens when you are connected to something horrifying, something so full of despair. Today I will not bore you with sweet stories of flying or rising above or soaring to great heights. But I am going to the park with my flag kite today. Right now, in fact.  I am going to the let the string out as far as it will go.

Where were you on this particular Tuesday?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Big Idea Monday- On a mission

I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing- that it was all started by a mouse.
-Walt Disney

We just got back from a Disney 3-day cruise on the Dream ship, a gift for my daughter’s birthday. Each night , the shows shared a similar message of empowerment. You have no idea what your capable of unless you try. Believe in magic, it comes from inside yourself. Time is fleeting, cherish this moment. Who knew Walt Disney was such a new age, personal development guru? Actually, I think the timeless name for his type is: visionary. Maybe what made Walt such a successful dreamer can be traced back to his thoughtfully crafted personal mission statement. To make people happy. 

From that simple idea, a worldwide corporation grew. Cruise ships, theme parks around the globe and cutting edge animation. One man’s mantra set the standard in the hospitality and entertainment industries. Four short words commanding the employment of hundreds upon hundreds of thousands; helping them realize their career dreams while bringing smiles to million upon millions of people of all ages.

On this Big Idea Monday- I have a crazy idea. Why doesn’t everybody adopt a personal mission statement?  Abe Lincoln had one. Preserve the union. So did Nelson Mandela. End Apartheid. Mark Zuckerburg’s personal mission statement became his company’s mission. To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. The founder of Google had something similar in mind. To make the world’s information universally accessible and useful.

The common theme seems to be simplicity, value and a positive call to action. If you have a personal mission statement, do you really need a bunch of guidelines or resolutions in your life? If your mission statement is to: live life to the fullest, do you need to specify on a to do list each day to  get enough rest or eat only healthy foods or don’t forget to play with your kids? If your mission statement is to be a servant leader, do you have to schedule how many hours you volunteer? Probably not. All your day-to-day decisions seem to magically fall in line with your stated purpose.

You don’t have to be famous to have one. Mine is to: see the world through wider, brighter more childlike eyes and inspire others to do the same. Maybe I won’t end up in any history books by changing the world. But if I change my life and my families’ lives for the better, won't it be worthwhile?

One more thing, a mission statement can change over time. As you grow, your mission may evolve. President Roosevelt’s mission when he first took office was to: End the depression.  Later, his mission became to: End the war.

My mission fits me right now. Since I created it three months ago, I have already seen small and big changes in my choices, relationships, habits and how I spend my time. It all started with really thinking about what is personally valuable. What do I want to accomplish each day first and foremost. What things in my life are not compatible with my mission.

When a small town artist sketching doodles in his uncle's garage wrote down his mission back in 1923, he could have never imagined the legacy of happiness he would share. Disney claims it all started with a little mouse, but I say it all started with a humble mission.

What is your personal mission statement?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Time Travel Tuesday- Straw Wars

I’ve hired you to help me start a war. It’s a prestigious line of work, with a long and glorious tradition.
-Vazzini, The Princess Bride

I hosted dinner last week for a gentleman who is a university dean, who was kind enough to share some guidance with my college bound brother. The couple have two small children. We gave their son a paper airplane kit, which prompted a comment from his scholarly father that he first needs to master spit balls. Next thing I know, I am breaking out the straws. Nothing livens up an informal college interview like swapping spit. Nobody wanted to make the first move. I quickly discovered that like hula hooping, spit balling is a skill that must be maintained through practice. Mine were either too big and got stuck in the straw or too small and limply dislodged.

Over the holiday weekend, we went to a greek restaurant with belly dancers and servers breaking dishes and making it rain paper napkins. OOM-PA! We had paper. We had straws. Who would notice a few wet wads on the floor?  What is that line about waking a sleeping giant? Or maybe I am thinking of Vizzini when he said, “Never go against a sicilian when death is on the line! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...” Take my advice. Never, never go against a 12-year old boy when spitballs are in the straw. It was a smack down. A wet, humiliating smack down. In my haste to try and go on the offensive, I actually inhaled a couple.

So Saturday night, I leveled the playing field. We hosted several neighbors over. No kids. After multiple courses including a rich dessert, I announced that everyone should save room. Heavy groans of protest against anymore food gave way to giggles, which gave way to raucous laughter and declarations of war. We discovered one of our guests is apparently a screamer. 

On this Time Travel Tuesday,  I am fascinated with spitballs. I found this funny British clip on You Tube, Spit Ball Competition, where a teacher is getting pelted. I also found non-spit spitballs for sale on a site called Think Geek. They even sell glow in the dark spitballs.This ready made ammo supposedly grows 200 times it's normal size. Isn't it so much more fun to act like a kid when your an adult with a credit card?  Good thing my son doesn’t read this blog.  

Revenge is sweet.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...

When is the last time you laughed so hard you cried?

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Novel Idea - Do What You Love

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it.
-Steve Jobs

Glamping is the new trend in travel. I have been doing it for years, just didn’t realize there was a name for it or such a large market of travel consumers like me.  According to Urban dictionary, glamping is glamorous camping. Wine, comfy beds and a/c are a must. My friend, who owns Silver Bullet Retreats, delivers renovated vintage airstreams to your campsite and sets everything up right down to stringing the christmas lights and stacking wood in the fire pit. Now, that she has listed her little niche business on a few of the many glamping blogs and websites, she has to turn away business. I am going to have to get my reservation in now for our annual Fall camping glamping trip.

My point of sharing the word glamping on this Labor Day and Big Idea Monday is the reminder that sometimes great business ideas are really as simple as sharing something that you love with others. My friend loves glamorous camping. She loved her vintage airstream so much that she and her husband restored an extra one to rent out. Other people who love the outdoors and creature comforts connected their favorite destinations from around the world on websites like Glamping Hub Voila. New trend. I have another friend who took a cake decorating class at the same time I took a similar class several years ago. I just used the class to make my kids treats. My friend loved it so much, she quit her PR job and opened a chain of gourmet cupcake shops. This was long before anyone in Florida heard of Sprinkles. Now, there are three different gourmet cupcake shops in our little burg including hers, The Cupcake Spot . Voila. New Trend.

So here is my idea for this BIM: A travel website featuring historic tourist attractions and old Florida themed day trips. New York City and Chicago offer local volunteers for guided walking tours on websites like Free Tours By Foot and Chicago Greeter. My site would not only include statewide information about historic venues and off the beaten path day trips. It would also be a resource directory with contact information for local tour guides in the tiny towns who know everything like the best family owned restaurants to the best swimming holes. My first tour guide recruit will be the Ruskin farmer who  showed us the tomato fields that used to be the land where Universal Studios made movies back in the 1940's. He also pointed out a dead end street that is home to a huge parrot rescue and a gigantic banyan tree growing through a 100-year old house. He knew shortcuts and best views of the Skyway. You can't get that on Expedia or Trip Advisor. Real locals. Hidden Treasures. Stories of the past. That is what I love! 

What do you think? Is there something that you love? Is there a way you can share it with others and turn your love into your work?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

In the Shallows

What you are comes to you.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today while paddle boarding in our neighborhood bayou, two sharks swam past me. Yes, it is the ocean, so it shouldn’t be surprising. But I have lived in Florida 15 years and have only seen two sharks in all those years combined before today. In one case, I was swimming a mile off shore with my dog while someone was fishing off the side of the boat. Duh. But two at the same time? Two in shallow water that could not have been more than 3 feet deep? The herd of manatees lingering under their favorite dock and our resident curious dolphin who once swam alongside me, they I expect to see. I expect to see pink spoonbills, pelicans, egrets, herons and maybe the occasional stingray. Not sharks. 

The sharks, by the way, appeared a few minutes after I got the business from a grumpy fisherman who accused me of scaring away his fish. The encounter was about thirty minutes after a petty conversation that left me feeling agitated. Which makes me wonder, did my bad mood attract those sharks and the surly man with the pole?

Do you believe in the law of attraction?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Try and Try Again: The Jewel of Constancy

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. 
I just finished reading Swami Chidvilasananda’s book Enthusiasm. If you can imagine your face being lit with a warm glow when you crack open this book, that is how it felt to read. Illuminating. Enlightening. Nourishing. The Siddha Yoga Master explains in easy to understand terms how to tap into your wellspring of enthusiasm. Just like the Dalai Lama’s book, it is too profound and wise to do it justice by paraphrasing. Chidvilasananda acts as a gentle guide knowing each person’s path will be unique, but also knowing that we are all just trying to get to the same place. 

She talks about the true meaning of freedom of speech, gratitude and generosity. You can’t cultivate enthusiasm without first cultivating these other virtues. The part that really spoke to me was what she said about constancy and patience. My path to be more childlike has taken me to study and practice different virtues each month. The first month was dedicated to optimism. July’s focus was awareness. August was about cultivating enthusiasm. Today, I start a month long journey of curiosity. But first I should review what I have learned. Has any of it actually become a habit? Unfortunately, not yet.

Last month I set the following goals:

1.To be present in all endeavors.
2.To wake up each day and make meditation as routine in the morning as  brushing my teeth.
3.To meditate specifically on the daily thought that “This is the best day ever” and remind myself of that truth throughout the day
4.Measure my virtues/goals.

On August 5th, I downloaded two apps to help track those goals. There's an App for That So far, it is fifty/fifty. Although, there is improvement with my kids, still finding it a challenge to remain present with my husband. It really helps to keep my iPhone in my purse. It is just such a tempting distraction. But it is also my handy measurement tool and I have been ignoring my apps for the past week. What first sent me off path was the dreaded scale. After journaling my food and starting a new exercise routine with a personal trainer for two weeks, I didn’t see any progress. Discouraged and impatient, I didn’t just give up my health measurement app, I gave up measuring all the other things too. One day without waking up early to meditate turned into a week before I knew it.

Chidvilasananda uses the the bridge analogy in describing the value of constancy. You can’t cross a river on a bridge that is only half built. When you are good some of the time, the majority of your time is soon taken up trying to deal with the consequences of what was left undone. Same outcome with impatience. When you rush to get things done, it always seems to take twice as long. She also talked about how the definition of patience has become so distorted. Patience does not mean grinning and baring a difficult person or situation. Patience does not mean putting dreams and goals on hold for a better day. The guru’s definition of patience was liberating. She describes patience as true faith in yourself and in God.  If you have that faith, you know all things are possible. If you have that faith, it is easy to embrace patience through diligent, consistent efforts. Like a precious gem's many facets,  faith, patience, and constancy create a dazzling sparkle of enthusiasm.

Today is the first of the month. Like a Monday or a clean closet, to me it represents another clean slate to try it again. 

How do you develop new habits?
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