Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The phone addict

Can you sit without your phone for 30 minutes?

Yesterday I committed the cardinal sin of over-connected tech junkies: I left the house without my phone.

How could this happen, you ask?

As usual, I was running late. I'd lingered at my computer a few minutes too long as I searched for the perfect word to complete a now forgotten sentence. When I glanced up at the clock, my heart flipped. Even if I made all the lights, I'd never arrive on time.  I ran downstairs, threw on my shoes, grabbed my purse and keys, and hopped in the car.

I was marveling at my ability to move so quickly, to make such good use of my time, when I realized I'd forgotten my security blanket, my computer, my confidante, my source of distraction, my dictionary, my music collection. Yes. I'd forgotten my phone.

There is a fantastic playground just outside of the camp doors, and I knew my children would want to stay and play. I tried not to panic. Instead, I began to tell myself that my careless act was good for me. When was the last time I sat for 30 minutes, with nothing special to do? Like an addict, I probably needed a situation like this to force me out of my habit.

As my children hurried off to the slides and the zip line, I surveyed the other parents. Moms, dads, and nannies were reading, talking, texting, and chronicling their lives. Few had braved the playground naked like I had, and I missed the comforting weight of my phone in my palm.

Without it, though, I wandered over to a bench and took a seat. It was early evening and the sun was relaxing, the intensity of her rays diminishing as she prepared her day's exit. I stretched my legs long so I could soak up her gentle warmth. I then closed my eyes and listened to the wind as it rushed through the trees' leaves and carried the children's laughter up and over the nearby meadow. I took in a breath, and the scent of cedar chips and mulch filled me. Soon I began to sway to the rhythm of my children on the swings, and my body exhaled.

I was connected to my surroundings. I was aware. And I was happy. Just to be.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Careers and childhood passions

Do you have a passion you can trace back to your childhood?

Childhood passions, the ones that begin early in life and continue to pull at you even as you begin to grow gray hair, are uniquely woven into the fabric of who you are. They are passions that lie deep inside. They are as true to you as your Roman shaped nose and your strange looking little toe.

They can be ignored, but they cannot be removed.

My mother, who saves everything except for toilet paper rolls, dropped a bag of items at my back door the other day. As I sorted through homemade pot holders, rug hooking yarn, and letters from my grandmother, I pulled out some papers that reminded me how deep my passion for writing is. Tucked into my baby book was a certificate from a young authors conference I'd attended in elementary school. As I gazed at the certificate memories of my childhood passion eased into consciousness: the short stories sent to the principal's office, the poems written for teachers, the essays that came with praise, the welcome suggestions that I might just be a great author one day.

These memories are bittersweet, because the passion remains, but the ability to harness it and fold it into a lucrative career remains out of reach. Perhaps that's okay, but I don't want writing to be a hobby, and so that pull remains.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The flag and why it makes me cry

We just celebrated Independence Day. It was beautiful. It was thrilling.

But, as always, I was an emotional mess.

Why? Because we celebrated the ability to be who we are. We celebrated the ability to strive for who we want to be.

Not everyone has these freedoms.

America's liberties are important because they allow us to dig deep within and ask ourselves how we can, both individually and as a part of a nation, become stronger, more competitive, more creative, more interesting, more diverse, more understanding, more generous.

Yes. America has its issues. There will always be problems to work through. But in this country we are allowed to reflect on our inadequacies and debate how to address them. We recognize that more than one opinion matters, and with this understanding comes deeper reflection, greater strength, and greater tolerance.

What a gift.

Happy Birthday, America. I am so thrilled, and proud, to be a citizen.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Knowledge, power, and the aging car


I am never hot. When an 80F day presents itself, I tentatively don capri pants and a short sleeve shirt, but I still carry a sweater, just in case.

Last week was different.

A beautiful, sunny weather pattern had me pulling up my hair, rolling up my sleeves, and gasping for air. My 10-year-old Nissan Armada had suddenly transformed from a vehicle to a Japanese made tandoor oven, which I was quite sure was cooking me alive. The air-conditioning was broken.

There was a time in my life when I could easily throw money at this problem. And while I drove around Cleveland, sweating like a pig, I repeatedly thought about the truth in the phrase "money is power."

And so, to be honest, I was pissed. Because I was feeling powerless, and I was blaming it on lack of cash flow.

With no other choice, I dug in and vowed to fix this problem on my own. I became a YouTube junkie, as I culled through hundreds of videos on car A/C and how to fix it. I bombarded social media with questions about my car, and I finally took a trip to the auto parts store to put my new found knowledge to the test. There I found a young high school girl who knew more about cars than I do about varieties of vegetables. She listened carefully as I explained my problem and the questions that arose as I researched online. She accompanied me to my car and observed and critiqued my work as I turned on the car, checked to see if the AC Compressor was engaged, and looked for the necessary port to add Freeon.

Ten minutes later my air conditioner was blowing cold air. I'd fixed my problem with a little effort and $30. I was genuinely proud of myself. Money may be power. But that day, knowledge was power, and it was extremely satisfying.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Words and the puzzle of life

It's been a long time, a really long time.

It is nearly June, half-way through the year, and I've written two. measly. blog posts.

What happened?

Life got in the way. I got busier with work, which left less time for reflection and pretty words. It left less time to examine life and think on its difficulties and joys.

Busy is good, particularly when it comes to work. Busy means productivity. It means meaning in my life. It means my business has grown and I'm kind of successful. I won't lie: that's an ego boost.

But I miss the time I used to spend at my computer, figuring out life by sorting through a web of seemingly unrelated words and coaxing them onto my computer screen to evoke images, ideas, and stories that meant something. Peeling away my everyday actions to examine the meaning behind them allows me to live life deliberately. It allows me to ensure a week, month, or year doesn't go by without noticing and celebrating simple joys. It helps me recognize when my path is errant, when I need to retrace my steps or forge a new one.

Deliberation. Reflection. Celebration. That's the way to live life fully, don't you think?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Why you should love winter. Really

You know what happens on Facebook come December? The data feeds get clogged with whining and complaining about snow, colds, freezing sidewalks, fender benders, chattering teeth, gray skies.

I get it. Winter can be tough, but if you live in a chilly clime, why focus on the negatives? Doing so will make the season creep by, and life is too short to be miserable for 4 months every year.

Though I tend to reach for a sweater when the temperature dips to 60F, I really do love winter. Here's why:

  • Winter is truly the most romantic time of year. It's the season of snuggling under a cozy faux fur throw, of giggling under down comforters, of drinking bold, red wines in front of the fireplace. It's the season of wedding proposals, of gift giving, of kissing.
  • Arctic air calls for luxurious clothing: leather gloves lined with rabbit fur, faux fur scarfs, and cashmere sweaters. It calls for sexy over-the-knee boots, sassy hats, funky leg warmers. Anything that warms your body and your heart is cool in the winter.
  • Winter  begs us for gooey marshmallows hugging warm mugs of hot chocolate, hot bubble baths, piping hot tea cups paired with fabulous books. It coaxes are feet into fuzzy slippers lined with sheep skin. It begs us to relax after a long day with a rich, velvety glass of port.
  • A blizzard beckons us to slow down and ignore work and school. It asks us to stop the frenzy and instead sip coffee, bake cookies, pop popcorn, watch movies and play games with our children.
  • A good fluffy snow can get our hearts pumping, as we hit the slopes to ski or snowshoe, or trudge to the end of the street to sled down the hill at the park. It begs us to pull out our inner children and get involved in snowball fights, making snow angels, and building snowmen.
  • There is truly nothing as beautiful as snowflakes falling from the night sky. Watching as they settle on barren tree branches and reflect the light from the street lamps or the moon is a wonderful form of meditation or prayer.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What burdens you?

I'll never forget the day I rushed through the cold, dingy parking lot at Boston Children's Hospital. I was bumbling down a ramp like a lame dog, lugging my three-month-old son in his bulky carrier seat. I could barely see what was in front of me, as my eyesight was flooded with hot tears.

The pediatric ophthalmologist had just told me my precious son might be blind in one eye.

What followed was a slew of appointments with doctors, specialists, and more specialists. My new mom euphoria quickly turned to anxiety, anger, and bitterness. As I sat in baby classes, which I'd loved for the support and camaraderie I experienced there, I fumed while listening to my friends complain about sleep and feeding times. It all seemed trivial now.

At the time, one of my friends told me I ought to be grateful it was just an eye. My child could still function fully in society. He could still excel in school and work. He could still love and marry. His life would not be terribly compromised.

Though I did not want to hear this, she was right.

I've experienced the full spectrum of emotions with my child. I've felt extreme despair at diagnoses and extreme elation at progress checks. I've felt frustration and anger while guiding him through treatment, yet pride and awe at his ability to gracefully tolerate endless poking and prodding. His patience is infinite. My heart has swelled when seeing him deflect the stupid comments people make when they see an eye patch.

I do not know what burdens you may carry: most of us keep them hidden deep below the smiles and pleasantry we show each other in passing. However, I want to share a glimmer of hope with you: time may reveal hidden truths and learnings you will garner from your experience, and you will come out the other end realizing you have great strength and courage. My hat is off to you.

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