Monthly Archives: February 2014

Fifty Eight: Busy News Day

“Never forget that anticipation is an important part of life. Work’s important, family’s important, but without excitement, you have nothing. You’re cheating yourself if you refuse to enjoy what’s coming.” – Nicholas Sparks, Three Weeks With My Brother

Wednesday was a slow day, and Thursday was mad! I had scheduled things from the top to bottom of my day. Still, I am learning to go with the flow and accept pitfalls and unexpected changes in direction. Those changes take me to the places I need to be.

The first order of business was to drop my daughter off at school. We visited the little clutch of salmon eggs that had fully hatched into wriggling little fries. We read books on the classroom carpet, and said goodbye with a kiss

Now my son and I were off to home for a walk-around with a local environmentalist who has a grant to help landowners convert their lawn to evergreen native plants. It was an interesting and insightful time, and yet somehow my 3-year-old  was not so impressed when I broke off a mucky end on the stick he was carrying around. He spiraled into an all-out tantrum and I had to walk him back home. His temper flared and my flared back. Roaring didn’t calm either of us down. Eventually, we hugged and joined back in the tour…until my little companion couldn’t get snack time off of his mind.

After the walk, my little buddy and I jetted off to the library to catch the last bit of a story time. He’s one of the oldest kids there, but he loves being around all the little people. He’s usually the little guy in the group, so it’s sweet to see him play with younger kids. He made a skunk mask craft after he rolled around on the stuffed toys the librarian pulls out of the closet. That mask went with him everywhere.

We had a few minutes before a playtime at a local community center, so we grabbed a burrito. By the time we got back to the center, there was some other event in full swing. It took me a while to glean that it was a training for math teachers to provide culturally competent instruction. I saw a vaguely familiar face and I found that it was an old work colleague of mine. I was proud to say that I was with my son full-time, and savored our one-to-one playtime thoroughly.

From there, Son and I went to pick up daughter. I realized that the anticipation I had for this day was transferring into the needed energy to keep up with traveling all over town. I loved the early years of raising my newborns, but there is something more dynamic and literally engaging in parenting young children. Our circles have expanded and we bring a lot more than our family experience into our shared lives.

I had one more meeting before I picked my husband up from work. I’d been volleying emails with a school coordinator, and she suggested we simply meet in person to get things rolling. It worked, and I am incredibly inspired to get a host of projects rolling for the spring.

This seems to happen every year. A part of me blossoms with the crocuses. I send out new shoots. I stretch to the sun. I’m ready to grow.

Are you feeling Spring yet?

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Fifty Seven: Slow News Day aka List #1

“It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.”  – Jerry Seinfeld

Today was a slow news day. I walked a long way. I tried to get a free kitchen compost bin, but the only ones left didn’t have lids. I ate two disgusting marshmallow treats because I found them 75% off at Walgreens. You get the point. So I’m treating you all to my very first list on the blog.

The Top 40 Things to Do Before You Turn 40

  1. Dance on the corner as you wait for the bus, or groove down the street as you walk to work.
  2. Cook a meal at a homeless shelter.
  3. Save up your money for a trip of a lifetime.
  4. Take that trip of a lifetime.
  5. Take a class to learn how to do something new and totally out of character for you.
  6. Carry out a random act of kindness. It’s nice if this is done more than once in your life, so make your first act special so you’ll want to do it again and again.
  7. Hold a brand new baby.
  8. Forgive someone from your past you’ve had a falling out with. That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to communicate with this person. Let the past go and move on.
  9. Do a Polar Bear Swim!
  10. Spend time with an elder, be it a relative or someone else. Glean their knowledge.
  11. Dance on the speakers.
  12. Plan an amazing party…for someone else.
  13. Send a note, email, or leave a voicemail for someone you are thankful.
  14. Go on a blind date.
  15. Spend too much money on a concert/theatre/show ticket that will dazzle you for years to come.
  16.  Learn more about the faith of a neighbor that is different than your own beliefs. Better yet, ask your neighbor with an open mind and hear to teach you more about his or her beliefs.
  17. Do one of those fundraising races where you dress up in a ridiculous outfit.
  18. Sing karaoke. Find the song that unleashes your inner “American Idol”.
  19. Dance like Napoleon Dynamite. Start with your living room and move into more public places if you dare. If you need a little refresher, click here
  20. Follow this, if you dare, by busting out a David Brent dance at the office work party. Video here.
  21. Read an 800+ page book.
  22. Teach someone else to read.
  23. Support your local library.
  24. Call/write a commendation for a service representative who provided you great service.
  25. Find a personal sacred place. Protect it.
  26. Climb a tree as proficiently and joyfully as you did when you were a kid.
  27. Learn how to greet a refugee or an immigrant in his/her mother tongue. Say hello!
  28. Cultivate and enjoy a healthy fulfilling sex life.
  29. Spend time on conscious breathing.
  30. Embrace and love the fact that we humans do things differently, speak different truths, and walk different paths.
  31. Plant a garden – in your yard, on your balcony, or in your window sill. Share the bounty.
  32. Make art. Chalk drawings. Oil paintings. Collage. Embroidery. Cake decorating. Whatever fires your artistic passions.
  33. Learn to actively listen. Practice. And then listen to others.
  34. Loosen up.
  35. Have the courage to practice something you love every day.
  36. Find ways to share your gratitude.
  37. Volunteer.
  38. Stand up in a tense moment for a cause/idea/person you believe in.
  39. Regardless of how modest you may be, find a way to express your inner beauty.
  40. Discover the book that is written inside of you – the story of your life. It is yours. Live that life with gusto and love, not what some random blogger suggests on a “40 Things…” list.

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Fifty Six: The Return

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”  – Nelson Mandela

This was my daughter’s second day back to school after a winter break. She is sensitive to transitions, so I expected that this return would take a toll on her. Surprisingly, she has been all smiles.

There was something distinctly different about her behavior over this past week. She was constantly hugging me and telling me how awesome I am. I won’t lie, she and I have our own fair share of butting head moments, but over this week we synched up and moved through our days holding hands.

It has changed the vibe in our household. My daughter wakes up and gives her little brother a hug. They both crawl into bed with me and snuggle up for a morning chat. We operate under the assumption that we are all imperfect beings in this home, and we love and forgive and move on. This modus operandi depends on a certain level of conflict and chaos, something which our home has been void of for the last few days. Perhaps my daughter is coming to a new emotional plateau, and acclimatizing to it.

Whatever it is, it is sweet and lovely. I am trying to construct my comments and conversation with her to be sincere but devoid of praise so she knows that I am most accepting of her effort. And while I over-analyze her emotions, I see that her arms are a little bit longer and her legs a little bit lankier.

She is growing up before my eyes.

What can you offer gratitude for at this very moment?

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Fifty Five: Saying Goodbye

“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Alas, the weekend visit with my brother would not last forever. Usually goodbyes are difficult for me. I feel like a small part of me rekindled by this physical proximity to someone I love will be taken away upon departure. Past roommates. Childhood friends. Old lovers. Brothers. They aren’t people I see everyday, and I miss the emotional peak of these visits. But I never feel sad when my brother leaves because he is dependable; I know that I will see or hear from him again soon.

What is the most important detail in your goodbyes with loved ones?

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Fifty Four: The Pain of Being Family

“All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.” – Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven

In the last month, I have had a number of conversations with people close to me about family. In each case I am reminded of how complicated it is to parent over a lifetime, just as it is difficult to grow up without any resentments or pain stemming from the relationship a child has with her parent.

I have a small group of friends that I turn to when I am in need. Smaller now in my 30s than I’ve ever had. But my family connections keep growing and deepening, and I am so grateful for that. My family grounds me and sends me into orbit like no one else can, and for that, it is an ongoing exercise in patience and love. Some themes come up again and again, so I repeat the following to keep it all in perspective.

Allow my parents to be who they are. Now that I am making my own adult choices, I buck against some of the choices that I see them make for themselves. I want my mother to adopt a healthier diet. I’d like my Dad to visit more often. I am much more content when I release my expectations and remember that there is no doubt that they love me. They aren’t likely going to change at this stage of their lives, and if something doesn’t cause a serious rift in my relationship then maybe I can let it go.

Invest in my family. I am still working on this one. I have no trouble investing attention and love in my relations, but I could do a better job of planning reunions and get-togethers with my family. There’s something magical about being together in the same room.

Love my children unconditionally and resist relating their childhood experience to mine or my parents’. We grew up in different times than my children. Politics, pressures, societal attitudes, and so much more changes over a generation. I am trying to be the best parent I can with the information and experience I have at this point in my life. It was the same for my parents.

Have you forgiven your parents? Would this release a burden in your life?

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Fifty Three: My Brother

“Son, brother, father, lover, friend. There is room in the heart for all the affections, as there is room in heaven for all the stars.”  – Victor Hugo

“Being his real brother I could feel I live in his shadows, but I never have and I do not now. I live in his glow.” – Michael Morpurgo, Private Peaceful

At age 18, I picked up the phone book and dialed the number of a man long forgotten. Well, not quite forgotten, but never communicated with. I heard a woman’s voice on the other end of the line. She passed the phone casually to my father, not knowing that this call in some small way would start a course of action that would slowly unravel her marriage. That is another story for another time, suffice to say that in this conversation I found out that I had three brothers that I didn’t know I had. Saturday, I welcomed the brother 14 years my junior into my home and my heart once again.

After that fateful call, my father established a long-overdue thread of communication with me. He visited me in my college town. He brought my brothers with him so I could get to know them. We went to museums and then ate whatever vegetarian items he could find at McDonalds. There was always a special bond between one of my brothers and I. He showed interest while the others were somewhat indifferent to this young woman they didn’t know.

It was strange to see my father so keenly involved with his sons. I had only envisioned him as an apathetic parent who couldn’t really be a father based on my limited experience with him. I never held any malice towards these young boys, but it took some time to sort through the tangle of emotions I felt towards my father.

Fast forward ten years and the set of brothers were starting to graduate from high school. I kept in touch with my brothers in Canada via email, and I always kept the invitation open for them to visit me in the States. Then my brother asked if he could take me up on the offer. Ummm, sure. I had started to expect that none of them would ever take me up on this offer. I was sharing a small apartment with my boyfriend, but we had a comfy couch to sleep on and free weekends.

That first visit was a little awkward. My brother and I didn’t really know each other and fumbled around one another like strangers.  I resolved to keep the conversation flowing, so I kept talking and asking him questions. We did tours. We walked from one end of the city to the next. We hopped on bikes and got out even further. It was a little frustrating to be drumming up all the conversations, but then I took a step back and saw that it was he that initiated the visit and traveled down to see me. It was exciting and a major breakthrough to be culturing this friendship and family relationship.

That was more than 7 years ago. He has seen me move to two different homes, get married, have a child, have another child, and adventure up until the point I am at now. Likewise I have seen him through his college education, several jobs, and one steady sweetheart. There is an unconditional love between us that is quite unique in my life. We weren’t raised in the same household nor did we have a host of shared memories from over the years to bind us together. But we are making those memories now, and I would do anything for him.

How have your sibling relationships changed now that you’re adults?

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Fifty Two: Authenticity

“How would your life be different if…You approached all relationships with authenticity and honesty? Let today be the day…You dedicate yourself to building relationships on the solid foundation of truth and authenticity.” – Steve Maraboli; Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Today I spent the day with a friend who has struggled to become a more authentic person. The difficulty, for her, is not in speaking her truth but in maintaining relationships amidst this. Ask yourself: how authentic do you want the people in your own life to be?

She had been an acquaintance of mine for years, and then I saw her at a playground chewing out a friend who took and took and took from her without giving. She laid it out on the line for this woman with brutal honesty and a lawyer’s finesse. It was refreshing and the awkwardness of her having impartial witnesses to the experience prompted her to reach out and talk to me about it. The experience kindled a friendship between us and we’ve been close ever since.

The first time I went over to her home she shared her story with me. I have a knack for this, perhaps, by virtue of my under-utilized journalism training. She made herself vulnerable. I appreciate that tremendously, living in a world where many fear vulnerability and intimacy. Interactions without vulnerability become flat and robotic, and I am more than guilty of this in many situations. For me, building a situation imbued with vulnerability takes time and thoughtfulness and a great deal of emotional fortitude, and I’m not always game for ante’ing that up.

I need friends that are authentic. That might not always mean that they have their shit together, but they will share their struggles and let others in. Being in the presence of that allows me to process just how to engage in more authentic conversations and behaviors myself. I once lead a training on public speaking in which our guest speaker talked about the roots of public speaking fears. If you watch a fearful public speaker, his eyes will dart around the room. His heart rate will speed up and he might be seen to be sweating. He is every bit an animal who is looking out for a possible attack. Successful speakers hold visual contact for longer stretches of time. They breathe. Pause. They acknowledge the possible threat and move on with things.

My friend is very assured in what she says. She is not callous, and yet I’ve seen how in speaking her mind she has isolated herself from others who cannot handle the honesty. It is unfortunate, and yet isn’t this relationship culling something that happens throughout our lives? We look for others who match our level of desire to be authentic. Some people want complete sincerity and truth-speaking. Others want praise. Still others need something in between.

Do you use an authentic voice? Do you search out authenticity in others? And does your authenticity depend on the situation you are in?

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Fifty One: Clenched

“As her analyst had told her: the deeper buried the distress, the further into the body it went.”  – Richard Matheson, What Dreams May Come

Over the last week or so, I have been noticed that I’ve been rubbing my tongue along the back of my front teeth. It’s not a dramatic act, but the repetition of it throughout the day takes a toll on my gums and leaves my teeth and jaw sore. It got my attention. I went to see Dr. Google, and found a page on The Experience Project that clearly showed through users’ comments that similar behavior was linked to stress.

Am I stressed? I honestly had to stop and ask myself because things are going swimmingly for me. So I took a closer look at my life to see if I was pushing something down or just not acknowledging a more subtle source of tension altogether. The only difference I could see was that January was filled with non-stop fitness: workouts, walking, aerobics, stretches. Then illness took my focus quite dramatically and suddenly away from this, my routine was thrown off, and I didn’t really have an outlet for what I  perceive as all this male or yang energy I’d been stirring up.

I started to pay more attention to my body, and what I was finding was that I had a hard time bringing energy down or as some say “grounding myself”. In my work with Qi Gong, I have learned to renew my energy stores and flush out stale energy by bringing energy up from the earth and letting it flow through my body and back down to the ground. Something felt stuck. I was reluctant to even do yoga without slippers on, and that’s just plain silly.

I’ve been doing a number of things to ground myself. One, I’ve been walking. It’s easy to do and to get others to do with me. When I walk, I don’t feel stressed at all. I feel my body’s connection to the earth and I feel that bodily sense of comfort and joy. I’ve been doing basic facial massage to relax my jaw and mouth muscles; this too, relaxes my entire body and brings more awareness to how much stress I can really hold in my jaw area. Being with friends and family has saved me this week; conversation and attention brings me out of my own thoughts and helps to create a social balance in my life.

It is a concrete lesson in listening to my body and intuition, and responding immediately to bring balance into my life.

How do you respond to imbalance in your life?

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Fifty: Woven

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“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”  – Gwendolyn Brooks

A new baby was born. My husband procured a couple snowboards for our daughter’s school auction. I planned a play date with a friend who has just told her husband that she wants a divorce. I learned about the effects of fluoride on the pineal gland. I got some backlash on social media for trying to open discussion on a post my brother put up.

Each day offers up a new combination of happenings, discussions, and observations that reminds me that everything we do is connected to someone else in this big wide world. The scope of today’s daily events inspired me with their range: beginnings, endings, and everything in between.

Are you taking the time to sit back and look at the unity in life around you?

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Forty Nine: Indecision

“Indecision may or may not be my problem.”  – Jimmy Buffett

Sometimes my will is nothing more than one of those flimsy paper fish toys that are used to tell fortunes. It curls one way and a decision is made, but a second later the wind causes it to curl the opposite way and the course of the day changes entirely.

I planned a play date with a friend and her daughter whom my kids and I had not seen one-on-one for quite some time. We had been talking about crossing town to go to a large park, and then mutually decided to stick to a park closer to home. It was raining, but we were brave and perhaps foolish so I donned the kids in rain gear and ambition and we set out for an adventure. But before too long had passed, I was suggesting we stick to an indoor location. But the outdoors was calling. So let’s go back outside! Goodness – we changed our plans at least half a dozen times. In the last act, my friend had to commute by bus to where her husband had left the car. At what point do I finally get the message to simplify things?

I was almost to the bridge that would take me to our rendezvous point and I pulled over to call my friend. She was standing in the pouring rain with her five-year-old, and I made a snap decision to drive to her neighborhood and we’d play indoors. We drank tea and snacked on fruit and nuts in her messy house while the rain continued to come down, and it was perfect!

Indecision can bring the opportunity to weigh options carefully, but it can also land you soaking wet on a street corner waiting for the bus…

Do you make concrete decisions without hesitation or do you waffle?

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