Posts Tagged ‘living in the moment’

When the Student Is Ready…

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

My “to do” list is ridiculously long. Couple my written list with the “to-do’s” that pop into my head when I’m not near pen and paper, and it’s almost comical. The number of balls I’ve got in the air is crazy, and frequently the balls hit the ground and/or I don’t accomplish all of what’s on my list. A good part of the time, I’m running in several different (and inefficient) directions at once. I mean, I recently scalded my hand as I was steaming milk for my cappuccino while simultaneously pouring boiling water over green tea leaves!

So, when an opportunity came up last month to rescue a 15-year-old “throw away” dog at the shelter where I volunteer, I figured, why not?

Now, I already have an aging, blind dog who is nearly my constant companion. Being blind, he’s very cautious about all of his movements and thus walks slowly (very slowly!). Truly, walking Homer is about the only time that I walk the speed of a normal human being, and over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at taking a deep breath and simply moving at his pace. It’s part of the “Homer package,” and I wouldn’t give it up for the world, as challenging as that is for my Type-A personality.

My newly-rescued dog, the new “kid” on the block, Tobin, is a Dachshund, which means he has 2-inch-long legs. If anyone can walk even more slowly than Homer, it’s Tobin. (Well, he’s walking fast, but he covers so little ground with those legs that he makes Homer look like a Greyhound.) I can’t even walk the two old guys together because their gaits are so different. With Tobin on the scene, I “get” to slow down even more and do it twice as much because now I have two dogs. During these times, my “to do” list must go on “hold” and the balls I’m juggling are suspended mid-air while I tend to this new — and slow motion — addition to my life. Resistance is futile. I am finally learning the meaning of “saunter.”

There’s a Buddhist saying, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” These teachers can appear at any time, and they can simply be experiences or situations, rather than anyone/anything living and breathing. And as much as we may resist having these teachers in our lives, it helps us to learn the lesson more easily if we remember that, when class is over, we’ll be a better version of ourselves. It’s obvious to me that a teacher recently appeared in my life, and he most certainly didn’t take human form!

As another year draws to a close and a new one begins, here’s to our teachers, whoever and whatever they may be. And here’s to sauntering!

Hurry Up and Wait

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

I was at a party recently on the 10th floor of an old building in New York City. Right beside the elevator everyone had to take to get to the party was a big sign saying to limit the number riding the elevator to six people. Since there were only 3 of us in our group, this wasn’t a problem. We climbed in, and, I have to admit, became a little concerned at the creakiness of that old lift. Nervously making jokes about getting out alive, we were relieved when the ride was over and the doors opened, welcoming us to the party in progress.

We hadn’t been there too long when a big commotion in the hallway got everyone’s attention. Sure enough, the elevator was stuck between floors and nothing could get it to budge. In what seemed like the wink of an eye, New York City firemen, laden with their gear, were climbing up the 10 floors. They popped open the elevator and got everyone out within 5 minutes. Truly, it was a sight to behold! When the doors opened, out came seven people.

I have thought back to that scene many times since. Would I have gone along with cramming one more person into the elevator, thinking ‘it’s just one more, what can that hurt?’ in my haste to get to the party? Maybe. Probably. But I hope not.

How many times in life do we push the envelope because we’re in a hurry or because following the rules would be an inconvenience? And frankly, when we do it, we do usually get away with it and suffer no consequences. But this time it backfired on an elevator full of people. Because seven people chose to ignore that sign, they took two truckloads of firemen off the street and out of pocket for those who truly may have needed their remarkable expertise and courage in a crisis. And, with the elevator now broken, our having to walk down 10 flights of stairs at the end of the night sure didn’t endear the rule breakers to the rest of the party goers!

This summer, I hope we can all pay a little more attention when we’re hurrying about our day. If we can slow down, we may actually find that we truly settle into a flow, and we’ll know at our core when we are about to do some dumb, inconsiderate, or dangerous thing. Not only that, we’ll be savoring more precious moments than we ever do when we are in such a hurry to get where we’re going.

Words of Wisdom From Patricia Clifford

Friday, May 28th, 2010

“The work will wait while you show the child a rainbow, but the rainbow won’t wait while you do the work.” - Patricia Clifford

Taking That First Step

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

I don’t know about you, but I am hooked on all the home decorating shows that are so popular now. Whether it is a do-it-yourself show, or a have-someone-do-it-for-you show, I’m there. Maybe part of the reason I am so into these shows is that my family and I have been living in a perpetual state of remodeling for the last several years. We bought our house 11 years ago, knowing that it would take ‘quite a while’ to get it into the state we wanted. The house was built in the early 1970’s, with the shag carpet and redwood siding to prove it. The kitchen didn’t have any cabinet doors and the floor was a cement slab, but the multi-levels and huge windows in every room captivated us. Even the lack of an oven didn’t dissuade us. You’d be surprised how well cookies turn out when baked in the barbeque. Well, after several years, we were finally ready to get started. The boys, of course, were convinced their bedrooms wouldn’t be finished until after they left for college, but I am happy to report they are now moved into their rooms and the oldest won’t graduate from high school until later this year. Ha!

One of the reasons we were so hesitant to start on this massive undertaking was that we were terrified of doing it ‘wrong.’ How would we know if we picked the right colors for the walls or the right flooring? There were so many details and so many choices for each thing that at times we were paralyzed with indecision. Finally, we just started. (I use the term ‘we’ rather loosely. I didn’t offer much in the way of physical labor; I was busy trying to regulate the temperature in the barbeque, but I did offer a lot in the way of support and ideas.)

Now, when I stand in my gorgeous, magazine-worthy kitchen (thank you, Scotty and Dad) and inhale the delicious aroma of dinner roasting in one oven while dessert bakes in the other, I think back on how uncertainty limited us for so many years, when all we had to do was take the first step. We finally stopped worrying about what anyone else would think of the choices we made. We weren’t doing all of this work for anyone other than ourselves and we needed to make it work for our family and no one else. I am trying to apply this lesson to other areas of my life as well. Some decisions are more critical than others, but when I remember that I am unique and that what is best for me and my family may not be best for someone else, it is easier to take the first step. Even if I have to pause and change my course a little, as long as I listen to my heart I know the end result will be beautiful.

Enjoy the Ride

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

My younger son is now of driving age, and I hesitantly let this inexperienced, newly permitted driver take the wheel on a recent weekend get-away. We left at rush hour, because why wouldn’t you want your 15-year-old kid to have his first freeway experience at the busiest time of the day with the sun setting directly behind him so he can’t really see if the brake lights ahead of him are on or not!

After nearly putting my foot through the floor a few times, I forced my shoulders back down to a normal position and settled in for the ride. I did my best to give directions with plenty of notice so there were no last-minute lane changes, and gently suggest slowing down ahead of time rather than waiting until there were only inches to spare between us and the next car. As the busy city freeway gave way to the less traveled rural roads, I was struck by how the changing landscape mirrored the changing stages of life with my children.

As a new parent, I often felt frazzled, with never enough time to get everything done and never feeling sure I was doing things ‘right.’ Then, without my realizing it, the ‘rush hour’ days eased into a little slower pace. The elementary school years were filled with wonderful discoveries and hours spent together. As we passed through the countryside with its softly rolling hills, we started to climb to higher elevations much like the challenges of middle school. Projects became more difficult, friends came and went, and like our ride, first there was a gentle slope, a dip into a small valley, another slope, and then the tumultuous teen years, full of steep inclines, sharply twisting roads, and the uncertainty of what might be waiting around the next corner.

Finally, we reached the summit and began to descend through the now rocky landscape, just as my boys have turned into young men with deep voices trying to find their own place in the world. Now, as I sit up late at night waiting for them to come home, or have a ‘discussion’ on why it is so important to do their very best in whatever they attempt, whether it seems completely irrelevant to them or not, I think about that trip. The rough, unforgiving landscape gave way to the vast, open desert, the infinite vistas filled with the same promise of adventure and discovery my boys have waiting for them in the future. And just as my baby boy did fine on that drive (we arrived with all our parts intact), I am reminded that my boys, too, will do fine no matter where life takes them. I can’t control it all; I can only offer my voice of experience when needed or wanted and sit back and enjoy the ride.

I Think it’s Time

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

”I think it’s time,” my friend Kathleen said as she looked at the wilted tangle of vines hanging from the basket on my patio. Last summer, they were a lush tumble of bright blue morning glories. The thought of now chucking the whole shebang into the compost bin felt a little harsh to me. After all, I had known these vines from the time they were little seeds in a packet!

I know I’m not alone in sometimes hanging on to things that no longer add any value to my life. Some of us stay in relationships way past their shelf life, others stubbornly refuse to lose the spare tire ’round our middle, and others fiercely hold on to our big hair like it’s 1987. Instead of making way for the new, we rationalize our resistance with all kinds of excuses: ”If I lose weight, I won’t be able to wear all my beautiful clothes.” ”If I rip out these dead vines, I will admit defeat as a gardener. (Besides, it’s not like the whole plant is dead. Every morning, there’s one blossom that looks great.)” But for someone who has always followed William Morris’ words ”Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful,” since when is 99.9% dead a keeper for me?

Mother Nature’s got it down with spring. There are no stuck places in Nature. Everything runs its natural course, so there’s a beautiful flow that ultimately results in new life, new beauty. But what do we do? We hold on, even when what we have is 99% ugly. We hold on to our pain, anger, and resentment, and we wonder why we experience headaches, depression, and possibly even cancer?

We need to welcome spring into our beings. As Kathleen says, ”I think it’s time.” Let’s ask ourselves what it’s time to let go of. Spring is the perfect time to say goodbye to everything from that volunteer job that no longer brings joy to that 4-year-old jar of capers left over from the company picnic.

My hanging basket is once again an object of joy and beauty, this time with orange nasturtiums and blue and white allysum. I don’t miss the 1% of beauty my one lone morning glory blossom brought me. My basket reminds me of the importance of letting go and clearing space for the new. And if I feel this good after replanting a hanging basket, cleaning out my bedroom closet could very well catapult me into nirvana. Wishing you all a springtime of release and renewal!

Interview with Susan Magasamen

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Interview with Susan Magasamen, author of The 10 Best of Everything

When I read Susan Magasamen’s book The 10 Best of Everything, I found myself lusting after her job a little. Just as we at Chinaberry scour the nation for books and other treasures to enrich people’s lives, this woman has made it her mission to find destinations for families. While we’re searching for life-changing stuff, Susan’s out and about “testing” ice cream shops and campgrounds! (Sigh . . .) We just had to find out more about this woman and her amazing job, so we’d like to introduce to you Susan Magasamen!

Janet: What words of advice would you like to share with our readers for having the best family vacation of their lives?

Susan: Incorporate everyone into the planning!  This will make the trip something adults and kids are interested in and are looking forward to!  If you can start the planning early enough, it is great to introduce films, books, art, music and other aspects of the culture prior to the visit.  We also find that after the trip there is always a heightened interest in a new topic. For example, we just came back from a trip to Vienna and discovered our kids had a real interest in opera.  We are now renting operas!

Another tip is to allow for the unexpected and change your plans! No matter how much reading and research you do on a place, it is never the same as being there and experiencing it firsthand.  That is really the wonder of travel…the unexpected and the expected exceeding your expectations.

Janet: As I read your book, I wanted to dog-ear every page because all of your incredible “finds.” I especially loved reading about the “best road trips.” If you could only go on ONE of these road trips this summer, which one would you choose and why?

Susan: As you know, this book is a compilation of other people’s experiences!!! We have families sharing their favorite places in California, another exploring Boston, or a folklorist talking about Philadelphia. The “best road trips” are amazing and I would like to do all of them.  Hmmm, right now I think I would like to take my family to The Ultimate Florida Keys Vacation. This is the trip from Deb Kirkland and her two boys.  They planned an adventure-packed, nature-filled week, from hand-feeding the rays to an alligator show.

Janet: Out of all your experiences, from checking out wilderness hikes to resorts in the Key West, which was the most memorable for you personally?

Susan: Throughout the book we share travel stories of famous folks — from scientists and artists to poets and explorers.  I loved hearing about the places and experiences that helped shape their lives. This was very inspiring to me and reminded me that as a parent you have an opportunity to expose your children to what they might become in their lives. Elizabeth Spires’ visits to authors’ homes was very moving to me. As a writer, I relate to the way she got to understand the writers by seeing where they wrote. Often we don’t get the biography or background of things. When you have the opportunity to see where someone wrote something, what inspired them, what their life circumstances were, it helps to understand yourself, the world and perhaps even your place in it a little bit more.

Janet: During the course of putting together this book, what surprised you the most?

Susan: How much people love ice cream! And also how important time spent together is for families. As we travel, visit and see new things together, we create memories that last a lifetime.  I come from a family of five girls. Whenever we get together we still talk about some of the crazy trips we have taken.  I remember once my sister and I took our young children to Colorado to what we thought was a dude ranch.  It ended up being a disaster of a place.  So our husbands and kids all banded together and we went on a road trip all the way to New Mexico.  We had the time of our lives!  Again, expect the unexpected.

Janet: What’s the biggest mistake you feel parents make when planning family vacations?

Susan: Overbooking and pushing kids to “learn.” When your kids are engaged, interested and active, they will have a great time.

Janet: What is #1 on your Wish List right now for your next vacation?

Susan: We want to see the Northern Lights!  We’re thinking about going to Norway to do that.  Interestingly, this has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. At supper one night I said I really wanted to do this, not thinking anyone else would be interested. As it turned out everyone was! We’ve all done our homework now and have found a really cool website that reports on the Lights like a weather report!

Janet: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our readers?

Susan: The biggest and best piece of advice I can give is to take naps!  Usually when kids are bored they are tired.  If you can take a rest, eat a great snack, and get something to drink, you can get back in the groove.

Moving Through Grief at Your Own Pace

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Have you ever noticed that when someone is dealing with a bitter, life-changing blow, others want to “hurry” them through the grieving, sadness, and the loss stages and get them right back to “normal” as soon as possible? There is tremendous pressure from family and friends to “get over it,” “move on,” or “find closure.”

People think that by urging a loved one along, moving them toward happy days again, they are actually doing that person a favor. But I don’t think so.

We all need to move through the stages of grief or loss at our own pace, a pace that feels right and works for us. Time and time again, I encounter people who have been rushed through a process that they needed to take their time with, and they still have never really recovered.

This manifests itself in all sorts of ways — turning to food to fill a void left in your heart, “medicating” yourself with alcohol to get through the night, holing up in the house and slowly cutting off contact with others, or simply closing down and not letting anyone get close to you again.

During these scary economic times, people are experiencing losses in ways that they ordinarily might not. Losing a job that you love and have done for years is a very painful kind of loss. Losing most of your retirement savings is also a brutal blow to a family.

This summer, if someone you care about is trying to cope with a loss — be it a job, money, relationship, or a death — try to resist the urge to make them feel better before they are ready. Be there for them; listen to them when they need a sounding board, offer advice only when asked, and let them move through their stages at their own pace. It might be the best support you can offer them in this crazy “get over it” kind of world.

Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow. Buy at our sister site, IsabellaCatalog.com

Tony Hawk: San Diego’s Coolest Dad

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Tony Hawk: San Diego’s Coolest Dad talks about babies and boarding

By Kirsten Flournoy, Editor of San Diego Family Magazine.

Mention the name Tony Hawk and one thing comes to mind: skateboards. But the man who transformed skateboarding from a rogue street sport to a lucrative competitive industry is also a devoted dad to Riley, Spencer, Keegan, and Kadence.

A San Diego native, Hawk attended Torrey Pines High School. Since turning pro at age 14, he’s traveled extensively and inspired kids around the globe. An astute businessman, Tony is an entrepreneur, designer and philanthropist on top of the world. He’s made more than 130 appearances in fi lm and on TV, and won six gold medals at the ESPN X-Games.

Hawk’s Boom Boom HuckJam was a sold-out success. The punk- and rock-driven touring showcase featured the world’s best skateboarders, BMX and Motocross riders. Hawk shares his expertise in books, DVDs and a series of highly rated videogames, and he designs skateboards and a kid’s clothing line for Kohl’s. The Tony Hawk Foundation has given more than 2 million dollars to help build 390 skate parks in lowincome areas across the United States. Despite the celebrities, awards and accolades, what’s most important to Tony? The answer isn’t surprising. It’s family.

Tony’s wife Lhotse Merriam is a skier, former publicist and boutique owner, and the former Vice President of the International Free Skiers Association. She met Tony in Colorado, where she promoted extreme skiing events.

Married in 2006 to live music by the band Rancid, Lhotse and Tony spent a year and a half year trying to conceive using in vitro fertilization. IVF can be a rollercoaster of hope and disappointment.

“It’s a pretty rough road,” Lhotse says. “I really admire everyone who goes through it and goes the distance. We were pretty lucky on our fourth try.”

Their daughter Kadence Clover was born in July 2008. Lhotse and Kadence now accompany Tony on his travels. When we spoke to the Hawks, they’d returned from visiting four countries in just three weeks—business as usual for this dynamic family.

“There is no typical day in our household at all. If we’re not on the road, we are at home,” says Lhotse. “Tony’s usually in the office or an interview. [He] tries to get in skating three to four times a week at the warehouse or at home because we have a skate park in the back yard.”

(more…)

Marry the Disturbance

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Recently I went to an evening of brilliant storytelling by Laura Simms. In the midst of this astonishing night, one line stood out above the rest, staying with me for days. Laura was in the middle of telling one of
those classic shipwrecked-sailor stories in which a man must use his wits to overcome obstacles and demons and to somehow find his way out of impossible circumstances so that he may return home. Danger
and peril mark every turn he takes. In the middle of the story (when the man was asked to marry a demon’s ugly daughter or lose his life), Laura paused to say, ”Whenever you are on a journey, you must marry the disturbance.” Marry the disturbance? Wow! Now there’s an idea! What did she mean, exactly? I carried those words around in my heart for a few days, knowing they were profound and wishing to understand them better. The whole idea of ”marrying the disturbance” struck me deeply.

How much of our lives do we spend running away from or trying to otherwise escape the disturbances of our lives? For most people, the answer is ”a lot!” What does it mean to ”marry the disturbance”? My
sense is that it means to take our troubles to heart, to accept what is, to simply be with what is. Instead, many of us try to change others so we don’t have to experience our disturbances. I thought of how easy it is to discount a child’s feelings or try to tell her that she isn’t feeling the way she is obviously feeling, just to move forward with the day. ”Oh, you fell down; you’re okay now.” Marrying the disturbance in this instance would require a different response. It would mean stopping what I was doing and consciously acknowledging what was really happening. ”Yes, Aidan, you fell and it hurts. I’m so sorry you are in pain.” (Even though he has been crying for what seems like an inordinate amount of time over a little thing.)

Who am I to determine how long is enough for someone else to cry over his pain? Is not my job as a mother to be there as a kind witness to the pain and a source of comfort; not lending undue attention,
mind you, but offering just simple comfort? How long would he really cry about a little owie if I held him close on my lap and didn’t say anything, if I just listened to his woes and offered him my heart? Would it
take all day? Can I do this without reserve?

(more…)