anxiety, friendship, life lessons, love, mindfulness, parenting

It’s Tradition

“The family – that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our innermost hearts ever quite wish to.” — Dodie Smith

I love traditions that endure.  They may morph, become slightly diluted, be maintained while slightly deluded – it matters little.  Traditions add dimension to the family construct, providing the shading and nuance that help complete the picture.  It informs our history and clarifies elements of our future – what do I hope my children will choose to carry forward?  What elements of their history and our traditions will they value and hold?

As I watched my father-in-law preside over the Seder on Monday, I was struck by the simplicity and complexity of family traditions.  The delight in hearing the youngest children ask the four questions.  The enthusiastic negotiations that ensue once the Afikomen has been found.  My father-in-law beamed with pride, while still maintaining an air of amused gravitas.  Each child kissed and congratulated for their detective work.  Parents smiling so broadly – some relief undoubtedly mixed in with all that love.  The miracle of generations sharing the secret recipe for creating the perfect olio that makes each family unique, its traditions singularly their own.

And as my brother-in-law referenced those who were not in attendance – his daughter and her family in LA, his mom, my mind secretly wished that my parents were still here, that there were more traditions still to be had in their home.  And though this isn’t about them, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that there were memories that shone in my mind’s eye with primary-color-like clarity.   I saw a picture my sister had posted with our family’s seder plate in the middle of her table, and my reaction was visceral.  Can a heart turn upside down and still beat?

As I looked around the table though, I was also struck by that which was not seen.  The dynamics that are tested, the hurt that only family members can inflict upon each other with or without intention.  The fibers that are being stretched too thin, the ones that are in the process of being rewoven with such care to ensure they are stronger and more pliable than ever before.  Each person’s story as it related to the others, replete with love, frustration, an intractable wish to be understood.  These are traditions too – and though arguably not those which we choose to carry forward, they move forward with us nonetheless.  Our conscious choice is what we do with them.  Family dynamics are rarely enviable – they’re too complex, too imperfect, too full.  At some point, we decide which elements are worthy of retention – the good and the not-so-great – the aspects that will comfort, delight and nurture us and those that may always move us to tears.  These I suppose are the traditions of the heart, the way we pass on the concept of family.  It is part of our legacy, so I would suggest that we choose well.  It becomes our imprimatur, our tacit approval for what will become critical elements of our family tradition.  May it always begin and end with love.

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After a few days away, it’s a little challenging to get back behind the wheel. So, I offer you this – a moment of delight from Lead.Learn.Live (davidkanigan.com). Enjoy!

Live & Learn

Michael Bublé and 15-year old Sam.  Sam sings a few bars.  Bublé’s reaction?  Sam’s facial expressions? Priceless.


And if you haven’t had enough of Bublé (one of Burnaby, B.C. Canada’s favorite sons) and “Feeling Good”, here’s the full version…

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friendship, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness, motivation

A Woman

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“A woman should have…

enough money within her control to move out

and rent a place of her own even if she never wants

to or needs to…

A woman should have…

something perfect to wear if the employer or her date of her

dreams wants to see her in an hour…

A woman should have…

a youth she is content to leave behind…

A woman should have…

a past juicy enough that she’s looking forward to

retelling it in her old age…

A woman should have…

a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black

lace bra…

A woman should have…

one friend who makes her laugh and one who

lets her cry…

A woman should have…

a good piece of furniture not perviously owned by anyone

else in her family…

A woman should have…

eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems, and a

recipe for a meal that will make her guests feel honored…

A woman should have…

a feeling of control over her destiny

 

Every woman should know…

how to fall in love without losing herself…

Every woman should know…

how to quit a job,

break up with a lover,

and confront a friend without ruining the friendship…

Every woman should know…

when to try harder and when to walk away…

Every woman should know…

that she can’t change the length of her calves,

the width of her hips or the nature of her parents..

Every woman should know…

that her childhood may not have been perfect – but it’s over…

Every woman should know…

what she would and wouldn’t do for love or more…

Every woman should know…

how to live alone – even if she doesn’t like it…

Every woman should know…

whom she can trust,

whom she can’t,

and why she shouldn’t

take it personally…

Every woman should know…

where to go –

be it her best friend‘s kitchen table,

or a charming inn in the woods,

when her soul needs soothing…

Every woman should know..

what she can and can’t accomplish in a day,

a month, and a year.

–Pamela Redmond Satran

anxiety, friendship, life lessons, love, mindfulness, motivation

Mornings With Joanne

The weather was accommodating while Joanne was here – it rained without interruption.  As a result, we spent Tuesday inside – no distractions (but for the Sirs, who are very capable of disrupting anything for attention), no interruptions.  Although Jo and I see each other once or twice a year, we began our conversation wherever we left it last.  Given that this thread was picked up after forty-plus years of silence, it’s nothing short of amazing.

I can spot her anywhere – it’s her smile or her eyes moving from one point to another scouring the area around her to ensure its familiarity.  Or perhaps it is the intimate awareness that comes from understanding another soul so well that it can call you silently.  Alan said she has a ‘beautiful spirit’, a description that she wears far better than her too-loose jeans.

This year has been a test for which no one really prepared.  Hurricane Sandy hit her neighborhood almost as hard as it hit her husband’s business.  The intricacies of bureaucracies responsible for remediation challenged nerves already too frayed.  Rebuilding is expensive, exacting payment from one’s wallet and one’s sense of well-being.  She and Ben are well on their way, though anxiety chooses to linger and makes sure that its presence is never forgotten.  Jo reminds me of a kite – always has.  She flies and dips with the rhythm of the wind, making glorious loops and circles, dipping down precipitously and grandly, only to catch a gust of air to lift her up with easy gracefulness.  There is something about the sun and the breeze and Jo in flight – it’s a visual that never fails to delight.

Yet life teaches you that sometimes you have to be grounded.  You have to move forward in the far less appealing, plebian way of placing one weighted shoe in front of the next.  There is the need to be present when present is the very last thing one wants to be.  The relentless reminder that we are needed on this walking path.  There is no flight, no game of tag with the wind.  It is perhaps harder for those who revel in the movement of the air, those who are defined by their limitless potential for love, ideology, hope and a dash of resistant innocence.  I can see the little girl within, arms folded defiantly, her chin raised and her bangs almost shaking with the affront of being grounded.  And because I love her, I want for her to always feel the indescribable freedom of dancing in the air.  And because I love her, I suggest that there is beauty to be found on the footpath.

And just as she alit on Monday, she was off again on Wednesday morning to warmer climes.  But as is Joanne’s way, she left the essence of that spirit here.  Sitting in the kitchen on this early Saturday morning, drinking some coffee and regaling me with her tales from the sky…

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A poem that resonates with many I know and love…and you know who you are. Have a fantastic day – thank you for being here. Much love, m

Another Lovely Day

"silhouette and sunset" ~ sld

(a letter of self-worth)

Yes you, you who thinks you are not enough.

You who tries tirelessly
to do everything you can to show that you are deserving of love,
worthy to be here in this world,
but always worrying that it is not enough.
You that feels it is what you are able to do that shows your value instead of who you are. This letter is for you.

Because here is the thing –
the day you were born the world sang;
for never before was there anyone like you, magnificent you,
just for being.

So now as you try to fill your days doing things that make you feel valuable the truth is:
your true value is in being the one and only you.

No matter your successes,
your failures,
the way you choose to live your life. You are Enough.

I know you think that all…

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You all know I am a fan, and though I’ve offered many reasons why – here’s another. Happy Monday all

Live & Learn

bird, nature, fly,wings,inspirational

Late (LATE) start. Galileo’s Sun is up. I look up and bask in its warmth. I start my run into a cold headwind. Fingertips tingling. My eyes, fill with water. Like mist on cold air over warm waters. This will clear.

Run by the corner of Noroton and Post Roads. Church Corner. Ascension Episcopal. Noroton Presbyterian. Christ Scientist. Churchgoers are filing in. Man cradling baby in a papoose. Families striding briskly, holding hands with their children. Lady holding kerchief in place from wind gusts. Elderly couple shifts right to let me pass. Community. Peace be with you too.

I usually run too early to see churchgoers. Not today. Guilt washes over me. Eric joined his friends in attending a eulogy yesterday. “Weird,” he described it. “Awkward not having been to church in years.” He lights my fuse using less than 10 words. Jung scolds: “Everything…

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friendship, inspiration, motivation

Saturday Smiles

Remember that poem that began “Monday’s child is full of _____; Tuesday’s child is _____” ?  I forget which child is endowed with what characteristic.  I was a Saturday child, and regardless of what I am supposed to have, I do have smiles.  Earlier this week, Ray’s mom at justiceforraymond.wordpress.com accorded me the award for ‘Most Influential Blogger Of The Year’.  I appreciate her vote of confidence, especially given the substantive and important issues she raises on her blog.  By comparison, I am arguably the “Lightweight Blogger Of The Year” – seriously.  I don’t want to diminish my appreciation with self-deprecation, tempting though it is.  I do want to express my appreciation for her high praise.  And thank her doubly because the only requirements in accepting such an accolade is to share it with others.  Clearly this is an abbreviated list – and I tried to include a mix of old and new.  These are people who prompt me to think more, feel deeply and enhance my life.  Thank you again Ray’s mom – drumroll please (two fingers working in syncopation on a table works well too):

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davidkanigan.com (Lead.Learn.Live)

abundelic.wordpress.com

misifusa.wordpress.com

letlifeinpractices.com

keiththegreen.wordpress.com (A Western Buddhist’s Travels)

sweetmotherlover.wordpress.com

positiveboomer.net

theothersideofugly.com

thepersecutionofmildreddunlap.wordpress.com

ivonprefontaine.com (Teacher As Transformer)

jmgoyder.com

angelinem.wordpress.com

almostspring.com

drbillwooten.com

anyshinything.com

Now – I’ve got more, but I realize that this list is getting quite attenuated.  To those I adore and didn’t mention this time around – trust me, the year is young.  To me, each person I follow is The Most Influential Blogger Of The Year.

friendship, humor, life lessons, love, mindfulness

For Alan

Were we old friends?  In the very broadest sense of the word, I think.  We traveled in the same pack of prepubescent kids, falling over each other and ourselves like puppies, but far too gawky and awkward to ever be considered really cute.  In retrospect I see us all as adorable and goofy, hypersensitive and phenomenally clueless, not fully prepared to be accountable for our words or deeds, yet quick to pass notes and judgment on the unforgivable behavior of someone else.

So after forty-some-odd years, I drove into DC looking forward to seeing Alan and wondering if I’d recognize him in a crowded lobby.  We are friends on Facebook, so there are some elements of his life that I have seen.  His magnificent wife and daughters – pictures posted which require no artificial light for they seem to glow with the richness of love.  There is no contrivance or pretense; they look like people I would like to know and more importantly, like people who are genuinely enriched by each other.  He has built a successful greeting card company (greatarrow.com – their graphics are really lovely and unique) and is also an extraordinarily gifted photographer.  His photos capture the magnificent moodiness of the sky, the sun in fits of pique.  He has an impressive collection of Stetson hats and wears them well.  All of this is well and good – but how do you find someone in a hotel lobby?  I told him to look for a short, blond woman in her renaissance.

Fortunately, the lobby wasn’t crowded – but I would have known Alan regardless.  Something about his walk (though the Stetson helped).  Bobby used to walk a bit on his toes, Jo’s heels would scuff the cement, Bruce kind of pulled the sidewalk along with each step and Gary had a sort of walk/run.  Alan’s shoulders were a little rounded, his eyes looked directly ahead despite the suggestion of the angle of his head and his feet always seemed to touch the ground gently.  Our pack traveled in relative quiet – our shoes reinforced with layers of rubber. The cooler kids had metal taps on their shoes – stepping in a perpetual dance with sound and rhythm.  Perhaps our development was more muted.  It seemed loud to us, though I think for the most part it reflected sounds only we could hear.

Where do you pick up after lifetimes have passed?  You can’t really say nothing is new, for to the listener everything is new.  I didn’t know he thought I had a great voice, he didn’t know that I thought he had an artistic and thoughtful aspect I always liked.  He designed sets for theatrical productions; I performed in them.  He went to Stuyvesant (a high school for the seriously smart); I went to private school.  We all dispersed for college.  So it goes.

And yet after two and a half hours, we still had stories to tell.  More than the memories of who we once were, we shared an understanding of those invisible threads – the ones that constitute the preliminary stitches which outlined the design of who we became.  He became a warm, loving, devoted, creative man.  I chose a career that required decades of performance and appealing to wide audiences.

Alan will return to DC next year for another annual meeting.  I hope we meet again same time, next year.  Were we old friends?  We are older, and yes, I believe we are friends.  We share seminal moments in our respective histories, and the comfort to quote Samuel Taylor Coleridge, of “a sheltering tree”.

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Once again Ivon (Teacher As Transformer @ ivonprefontaine.com) startles my thoughts and makes me pause…

Teacher as Transformer

Recently, I attended a presentation and the person commented, “The only now we have is this one right here.” I began to use this with students. In the busyness of life, what do I want to remember? If I am present, right here, now, I can see the extraordinary aspects of the world I live in the now. I bring my mind into the room and it joins the shell, my body. William Stafford shared this Zen-like view of the world in this poem.

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

 Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn…

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anxiety, friendship, inspiration, life lessons, mindfulness

A Radical Thought

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“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement…get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted.  Everything is phenomenal, everything is incredible; never treat life carelessly” — Abraham Joshua Heschel

It’s been a quiet week here, not much excitement when Andy and I keep trying to see if we can do an organic version of “Dueling Banjos” with our respective nose-blowing (trust me, “Dueling Banjos” sounds way better).  So far we haven’t had much success with our syncopation.  And because he’s the one who introduced this little bug into our house, he’s also the one who is eschewing chicken soup sooner  (he would insist that it’s a function of his recuperative powers – do not believe him).  Not the most delightful way to spend a week.  But, in one significant way these have been some really good days.

I’ve been agitating a lot lately about what to do next.  What should this chapter look like?  Does it need to look like anything?  How do I frame the story line?  All good questions; none providing any further clarity or movement just yet.  If this was an existential crisis, I could just leave the page blank and tell myself it’s the best answer.  This is an itching-in-your-heart conundrum.  If you’ve got any ideas, please share them with me.  Maybe I’m too far in the woods to be able to see with the greatest clarity.  Ah, but this is not the point of this post…

I came across Heschel’s quote on Monday and wondered if I was in fact approaching life too carelessly.  Certainly one assumes a certain amount about the moments in a day.  I wonder if we could move forward in any way if we stopped and realized that every single moment, action, word, etc is not to be assumed.  I have always been conscious of some of the smaller nuances that might otherwise go unnoticed – a change in the heft of the air as we move slowly towards spring, the state of the buds on a tree, the morning conversations among the neighborhood of cardinals that check in with each other as the sun considers rising.  I listen to the world as fully as I can.  But could I be missing something?  Oh yeah, I’m missing a lot.

I began thinking about all the delicious moments that I recognize but dismiss too quickly, not allowing them to be savored as is their due.  Slipping under the covers – the feel of cool sheets against my skin.  I burrow into the hug provided by our feather-bed and give myself over to the lusciousness of it all.  There is no better feeling.  Or so I thought.  The next morning with chills and a head more congested than the DC Beltway at 8:45AM, I stepped into the shower with the temperature as hot as I could handle.  The spray stung at first, and then became a steaming, head clearing, soothing haven from my sniffling, eye-tearing, coughing self.  I stood there just marveling at how good it felt and so I remained until the water heater began to hint that it needed a break.  Could anything be better?  Later, when I went outside with the Sirs for one of their daily constitutionals, the wind was delightfully suggestive.  Living in gratitude is an overused expression; as is living consciously.  And I can’t say that I have managed to really do either this week.  I can say I’ve been aware of some of the elements of a day that I may notice, but definitely dismiss too quickly.

Maybe this all has to do with having some of my senses dulled and as a result, others see the chance and clamor for attention.  Maybe it’s the result of this pinball game my head has been playing trying to arrive at my-next-thing.  Perhaps it is my soul’s way of reminding me that I trade each minute of my life for something – and I’d prefer it to be something I appreciate.  Regardless, I discovered that with little effort I could find something in each day that I had not fully noticed before.  Savoring at least one element among the myriad elements that comprise a day, which had merely been assumed and acknowledge it.  It offers some balance to my angst, some delight that offsets a stuffed head and achy cough.  I can’t say that I’m amazed; I can say that I’m awake.  Good morning and Happy Friday everybody.

 

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