Monday, August 31, 2009

Life Has It's Way

When I was growing up, my dad had a favorite coffee mug. It was a mug he picked up from a local trucking company. It was one of those freebie cups that businesses give away for advertising.

My dad LOVED this coffee mug.

It had a green truck on it. When I was very young, and my dad would ask me for a coffee refill, he would use reference points on the truck to guide me.

"Give me an 'axle job'"

"Fill 'er to the top of the cab."

"To the bottom of the cab will do."

He loved this cup and it forged a special bond between us as I was growing up.

When I was 16 years old, the unthinkable happened.

I broke the mug. It slipped out of my hands into the sink and broke.

I was devastated. So was he. It was very traumatic for us both.

I never really got over breaking that mug. It weighed heavy on my mind for several years to come.

At some point when I was in college, I went to visit a friend of mine in our home town. She had recently moved in to her grandmother's house. We were preparing to drink some coffee together and I opened her kitchen cabinet to get us our mugs.

There, to my shock, and delight, were 2 mugs, exactly like the one my dad once had. The very same promotional mug that I had broken! These mugs were at least 20 years old! Her grandma, or more likely her grandpa, had picked them up around the same time my dad had acquired his. I simply couldn't believe it.

These mugs meant nothing to my friend. I asked her if I could have one for my dad and she was happy to give me one.

I'll never forget the look on my dad's face when I handed him the mug. Through life's generosity and grace, I had restored what was lost.

We never know what forces will mobilize to restore that which has been taken from us.

At times it feels like we have lost something completely irreplaceable. Other times we simply feel we will never recover from the loss of something we love.

Life has a way of working things out for us if we are willing to simply allow it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Value of Focus

I’ve always been blessed with a fairly long attention span. I’m grateful for this gift. It has served me well in my life.

There are times when I’m doing something I don’t want to do, however, when I have difficulty staying focused. Other, more interesting, appealing tasks beckon me to stray from the task at hand.

I’ve noticed with a lot of kids in today’s younger generations that they have great difficulty doing one thing at a time. Some even brag about the ‘new ability’ to ‘multitask’ that young people claim to have.

As a champion multitasker, I take issue with their claim to some ‘new’ ability. Anyone who stops to think about it will also realize that effective multitasking is most often actually fast paced serial monotasking.

Being able to multitask is a great skill, it’s true. It must, however, be balanced with an ability to focus, single-mindedly at times. I see this as sorely lacking in some of our kids today. They don’t know how to NOT multitask.

They IM their friends (sometimes more than one at a time) while they work on their computers and listen to music – all at the same time. I wonder about the ‘quality of thought’ that this actually produces.

When sitting with a young person recently, watching them work on their college applications, I got quickly annoyed that they were having a couple IM conversations while we were trying to work on the task at hand. When I suggested they close the window, they pointed out that the other party would simply open another window. Maybe this kid just thought I was an ignorant old person… but I said, “SO LOG OFF!!!”

Finally we settled into the task in front of us. It was not trivial to get the kid to STOP distracting himself with his IM sessions. It’s natural, normal and comfortable for him to do that.

What I notice, however, is that tasks don’t get done well, and tasks requiring full concentration seem particularly challenging to today’s young people. This worries me a lot.

I don’t want a multitasking surgeon operating on me, or reviewing my latest lab tests. I don’t want a dentist IMing with his buddies while he’s drilling on my teeth. I don’t want someone designing the steering of my car to be doing 3 other things at the same time.

The fast paced, technology laced lives we lead are interesting and wonderful. Those of us who existed BEFORE all this ‘instant’ everything have a bit more of an ability to balance things out. We need to be careful with our kids, however, that we require them to focus SINGLEMINDEDLY once in a while, and we don’t always let them distract themselves in too many directions at one time.

Focus is something that every successful human being needs to be able to do. It’s important for us all to nurture that ability in ourselves, and most especially in the young people around us!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Right Tool For the Job

I enjoy working in my garden a great deal. I love pruning plants and creating ‘the look’ I want for each plant. I’m not a formal gardener, but plants do often need to be pruned for their health, and to keep them ‘in scale’ with the rest of the garden.

I have several banks of heather bushes that basically had never been pruned. That’s not good! They’ve been in the landscape for at least 8 years and were getting pretty gangly and unruly.

I pruned 4 banks of heather using a hedge trimmer. It required me to bend over and hold the hedger in front of me as I twisted from side to side. That motion, it turns out, is the kiss of death for my low back. Puts it out every time! I was in a lot of pain after I finished those heather banks.

I spoke to the guy who mows my lawn, and I asked him if he could do the rest of my heather plants for me. I just can’t do that with my back condition!!

He agreed to have his guys do it on their next visit.

When they showed up to work, I was amazed at what I saw them do.

They had some sort of hedger on a long handle. They didn’t have to bend over AT ALL to hedge my heather. They didn’t even really have to twist from side to side. They did all the rest of my heather in about 10 minutes. It took me a couple HOURS to do what I had done.

What a wakeup call! I would have never dreamed that such a piece of equipment existed, yet it made the task almost effortless. My way of doing it was labor intensive, time consuming and PAINFUL!

It was a great reminder that often times we can really make our lives and chores easier by finding the right tool for the job. It’s worth a little investigating and effort to match the right equipment to the task!!

A good reminder for us all!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Assuming the Best

Last week I had a friend visiting from out of town. We had a great time sightseeing, hiking, cooking and eating out at wonderful restaurants.

We went to a cafe for lunch one day that I consider one of my favorite places to eat. The food is amazing and the service is usually quite wonderful.

This particular day the server started off on the wrong foot from his first interaction with us. My friend asked him a question about adding sliced avocado to her food and he looked a little annoyed and said with a little indignation, “Well… that would cost more.” My friend politely answered, “Well… that’s ok.” It was an odd interaction.

We placed our order with the waiter. It was a Mexican Restaurant. At this particular Mexican place, they don’t automatically bring chips and salsa. They usually, however, do offer them to you right off the bat.

Our waiter did not offer them to us. Nor did he come back to our table for quite some time after we placed our order. I needed more iced tea, and I really wanted chips and salsa!!

Finally, he came back and I said, “We’d like chips and salsa please.”

“They don’t just automatically come here.” He snapped.

“I know, but usually, my server asks me first thing if I’d like some.” I answered, as kindly as I could.

“Sorry.” He snapped as he walked away.

My friend’s soup came and my lunch was nowhere in sight. My lunch came out a full 10 minutes after her soup! A manager brought it out and apologized to me and said, “There was some major mix up in the kitchen about your order.”

Our server kind of avoided our table. He seemed a bit embarrassed. He deserved to be, truth be told!

I started out feeling extremely annoyed by this waiter. My friend and I discussed it. I was surprised by how irritated I was. That’s not normal for me. Something about this guy just really rubbed me the wrong way.

As my friend and I enjoyed our lunch, my irritation melted a bit. We started to discuss what might be going on in this young man’s life that would make him act the way he was acting with us. I found some compassion.

I decided that in order to ‘address’ the reaction I’d had to this guy, I would leave him a very very good tip, even though he really didn’t deserve it based on the service he gave us.

I left him a really nice tip on the credit card. As we sat there talking, I was suddenly gripped with the thought that I should add a $20 bill to the tip. I’ve learned over the years to follow my guidance when it comes with such clarity.

I honestly don’t know what was up with this kid, but something just wasn’t right. We left him the tip (which incidentally turned out to be 100% of our bill!) and dashed out before he could see it and react to us. Whenever I do things like that, it’s always a requirement that there isn’t a scene… or an opportunity for the recipient to ‘react’ directly to me.

My friend and I wondered about his reaction and what he would think of our action, given how poor his service had been. We both hoped it would brighten his day… and maybe help with whatever was going on with him.

I felt a lot better after I did it. I didn’t like the way I had been feeling about him. After I left the tip, I felt that I had ‘righted’ myself and my thinking.

You never know what is really happening in a stranger’s life. Sometimes it’s important to give the benefit of the doubt, and not ‘react’ to bad behavior. What a gift to cut people some slack and assume that they are going through something tough. The alternative is to ‘react’ and ‘act out’ in an unbecoming way and make everyone’s day worse! I say make it better if you can!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Feeling Depleted

Have you ever noticed that when you are feeling depleted in some way, you just can’t be present for others in the way that you’d like to?

I’m sitting here writing in my favorite restaurant, and I can feel that my temper is quite short today. I’m just irritable. I love iced tea, but I really like it with a LOT of ice in it. I eat at this restaurant several times a week, and know most of the waiters and waitresses. They know me too! Most of them know to keep my tea well iced, and/or to bring me an extra glass of ice from the get go.

My waiter today is someone I’ve had serve me many times before. My glass, at the moment, is almost completely ice-free. I feel quite annoyed. He knows better. I have asked him to bring more ice, but he’s taking his time about it.

Normally, I would be able to take this in stride and it wouldn’t bother me so much. Today, however, I can feel that my fuse is shorter than usual.

I didn’t sleep very well last night. That’s part of it. I’m a person who REALLY needs their sleep.

I think, too, that I’ve been extraordinarily busy lately and haven’t had the same amount of time to myself that I usually have.

Quite simply, my personal batteries haven’t been charged up the way they normally are. I feel more susceptible to the little bumps and bruises of life. What I normally wouldn’t even notice, feels like a big, big deal.

That being said, I had a big plan for my day today. I already went hiking, and I’m about to have my lunch while I do some writing. After that I was planning to work in my garden, pay bills and catch up on a bunch of housework. Given my current state of mind, however, I’m going to change my plan.

After I finish lunch and my writing, I’m going to take a scenic drive on my way home and then I’m going to meditate for a while in my garden. I might even take a little nap. Then, with the time I have left in my day, I’ll do what I can on my list.

Recharging is important. We need to take the time to nurture ourselves and our own needs in order to give the best we have to give to life and those around us. It may seem selfish, but it’s actually a gift to everyone!

Take time to recharge your batteries and nurture yourself. The rest of us will appreciate it!

Monday, August 24, 2009

What We Get Used To

This is the third time I’ve come into my favorite restaurant to write, only to find their wi-fi down. What that means is that I can’t get on the internet. I can’t post to my blog. Everything I do, must be done ‘offline’ and then ‘posted’ later. It’s an annoyance that creates extra work for me.

I find it interesting, because I have come to ‘expect’ to be able to get on the internet here. When it isn’t working, it is frustrating to me.

In the old days, I would have never expected to find internet access in a restaurant. Now, it’s annoying to me when it’s not available.

If you stop to think about it, we have become quite dependent on things that can’t always be depended upon.

Think about your last power outage. Where I live we sometimes lose power for days at a time. When the electricity stops flowing we have to worry about our food spoiling in the refrigerator, we can’ use our washing machine, some of us can’t cook our food and of course none of our technological gadgets keep working after their batteries run down. Sometimes it’s hard to continue with life as we know it when this happens.

I am trying to think of ‘interruptions’ as a reminder that I didn’t always have these ‘luxuries’ and that life did, in fact, happen without them! We don’t absolutely NEED much of what we think we do in order to live happy, productive lives.

As I sit here with no internet… unable to surf, post, email or IM (Instant messenger), I’ll remember that there was a time when I had to type everything I wrote on a typewriter and use white out to correct small mistakes and retype the entire page if the mistake was too great. I’ll also remember that at one time people didn’t have typewriters and penned everything by hand. Even before that, there were no pens… no paper… and still life continued.

Once in a while, give yourself a break from some of the things you’ve grown dependent upon. It’s a powerful way to stay connected to reality and remain grounded in a world where it’s all too easy to get a seriously unbalanced sense of the concept of what it means to ‘need’ something.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Seeing What's Missing With Our Kids

Unlike most of my friends, I didn't do a lot of babysitting when I was a teenager. I didn't have younger siblings and I wasn't really comfortable taking care of kids. I babysat once for an infant when I was 14 or so, and it was so terrifying that I never did it again.

At 45 years of age, it has become a 'badge of honor' that I've never changed a diaper. At this point, it has become a life goal to NEVER change a diaper. :)

I did babysit one summer - ALL summer - 12 hours a day for a family 2 houses away from my family home. I was 12 years old. I cared for a 3 and 5 year old. They were two of the most spoiled, bratty children I've ever encountered. For my $5 a day (yes... for 12 hours) I was also expected to clean their house and do their laundry. Sometimes they would even have parties on Saturday night and leave all the clean up for me. It was exploitation at its worst. The kids were awful. I was not allowed to have friends over, nor was I allowed to speak on the phone to friends. If I did, they told their parents and I got in trouble. It was horrible. Sometimes I think that one horrible summer is the reason I've never had any children!!

At any rate, as I got older, I did babysit a little. I babysat for two families in my neighborhood. One family had a girl a few years younger than me and another girl almost my age (but I was such a little adult I seemed more mature). I enjoyed that. The older girl would sneak out of her room at night and we would hang out while her younger sister slept. That was fun.

The other family had twin girls who were lots younger than me, and one girl who was 5 years younger than me. I used to babysit for that family for free. I just liked the kids and I liked giving the parents time off to themselves. As I got into high school I would even babysit an occasional weekend to give them get-a-ways together.

When babysitting for the family with the three daughters back in the late 70's and early 80's I noticed that these kids had very little imagination. I had grown up inventing my own games, playing in cardboard boxes, writing stories and creating rich inner worlds. These kids needed toys and attention constantly to feel 'entertained.' (I shudder to think how things stack up now in our world of constant stimulation, fast moving everything and video games).

I decided to take on a project to instill in the two younger girls a sense of wonder and imagination. I started doing things like pretending I had miniature people help me in the kitchen when they weren't with me. I'd whip up all sorts of miniature snacks with the help of my 'little people' friends and serve them up to the girls. They were enchanted and mesmerized!

I wrote stories for them and helped them 'invent' their own activities without benefit of toys.

I got them busy creating their own stories and games. I nurtured a tiny flame of imagination and creativity inside them. They took to it like fish to water. They just needed a chance and some encouragement!

I am still proud of what I did for those girls. I hoped it took them away from needing to be 'entertained' and taught them that they could create their own interesting experiences in life.

When we are around kids, they are often missing things. Parents can't provide everything. Sometimes our culture robs kids of their childhood and their innocence. Peer pressure causes them to 'want' all kinds of things that aren't healthy or good for them.

I think all adults have a responsibility to really 'see' the kids around them and give them what they truly need. Not the latest fashions or the best of everything... but what they NEED. Parents, aunts, uncles, friends... it doesn't matter. We all share a responsibility for the future. Our kids are our future.

Look and see what is really 'needed' and do your best to give it to the kids around you. It matters - a great deal.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What We Eat For Love

I was watching an old movie called, 'The Accidental Tourist' last night. There are many aspects of this movie that I love. The one I want to focus on, however, is related to the lead character's sister. Her name is Rose. She is an older, unmarried woman, living and caring for her 3 brothers. She begins to fall in love with the employer of one of the brothers.

On Thanksgiving, the sister's 'love interest' is invited to dinner with the family.

The brothers discover that Rose has cooked the stuffed turkey at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Anyone who has ever cooked a turkey knows that this is not sufficient.

One of the brothers announces that "The turkey may have been cooked at an inadequate temperature."

The sister becomes indignant and upset.

The 'love interest,' Julian, eats two big helpings of the turkey because he wants to prove his love to Rose.

What he ate for love.

I was once touring in the middle east and was taken to a Bedouin Arab encampment. The women there made feta cheese. It was part of what provided their livelihood. They were very proud of their cheese. They gave me and all my party each a bite to eat. My guide cautioned me in English, "I wouldn't eat that if I were you. It's not pasteurized. You could get really sick." These women didn't speak English. I smiled and said to my guide, "Why didn't you tell me BEFORE I took the cheese?" He said, "I didn't think you would take it."

I then told the others in my party NOT to eat the cheese. The women were looking at me. I said I would eat the cheese while the women watched me, then my party members could discreetly dispose of their cheese.

I knew I could get ill. I was willing to risk it. I did not want to offend these women. They were offering me the best that they had to offer. I wanted to honor their generosity. Even if it meant getting sick.

I ate the cheese, and it was delicious. What I ate for love.

I never did get sick. I'm glad I ate the cheese.

Sometimes we have to do things for those we love that we would otherwise not choose to do. We do so willingly. We do it for love.

Love is powerful. It is a great and powerful force. Let it work in your life. It can change the world!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Painful Control

I love the old movie "Broadcast News."

Holly Hunter plays a super smart news producer. She is talented and successful, yet she's lonely and isolated.

Holly's character, Jane, can't let go. She is always in control. She always has to take the lead and conduct her circumstances.

It's actually painful to watch. She is so controlled that she can't relax and enjoy any part of her life (except work). Years ago, I was alot like Jane.

Her approach works OK in her work life, but she can't let go, even when she wants to get close to people in her personal life.

One of the funny lines that Jane says is, "I'm now repelling people I'm trying to seduce!"

Controlling everything is impossible. Trying to control others is futile. Living your life feeling like you MUST be in control is painful. It doesn't work and it's going to create a lot of unpleasantness.

Learning to relax and let go is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and the people we care about.

Do yourself (and those around you) a favor... and let go of the need to control.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Beauty of Rest

I've been hanging out with some younger folks lately. It has been a wonderful, stimulating experience. I've had a lot of adventures and done a lot of hard work. I'm truly grateful for the opportunity to hang out with younger people and get infected with their enthusiasms and energy.

What I've also noticed is that expending all that energy gets me very tired. It's a good tired. A day well spent is a true gift. At the end of each day, I've felt like I squeezed every drop out of the opportunities I was presented with. There was really nothing left!

Rest feels best when you've earned it. When you can't take another step, the chance to sit down and put your feet up is the best thing in the entire world!!

I appreciate the fact that our bodies are created to expend immense energy AND to rest deeply. We are created to need sleep and rest. We can't live without it!

Honoring both the need for activity AND for rest is very important to health and well being.

I'm taking a day off tomorrow. I've been busy with young folks for the past 12 days! I'm ready for a nice rest, and I intend to revel in it!

Monday, August 17, 2009


Today I spent a fantastic day with my friend Annie driving through the Mt. Rainier National Park. It was a beautiful, sunny day. We stopped many times to take photos to capture a small taste of the experience.

At one stop, I suggested that Annie sit on top of a rock wall with a gorgeous scenic view behind her. She hopped up on the wall and sat down. As I was preparing to take the photo, a little old lady came up behind me and a very loud and shrill voice screeched, "GET DOWN!" at Annie. Her voice was so caustic and abrasive it startled us both.

I looked at the old woman and said, "She's fine."

The woman then snapped, "I sure wouldn't do that!"

She stood very close to me, uncomfortably close actually, as I snapped some photos of Annie.

It gave us both a chuckle. I told Annie, who's much younger than I am, that if I ever get 'that way' as I get older, she has my permission to let me know I'm being... difficult.

As I thought about this woman and her fearful intrusion into our experience, I realized that one person's fear can truly affect everyone they touch. Annie and I agreed that, although she was in no danger of 'falling off' that wall, that it was startling when the woman screeched at her. It was the most dangerous thing about the entire experience!

She had good intentions, but her fear and her sharing of that fear could have been damaging or destructive.

We are responsible for our own emotions. We have a duty to monitor our own reactions to life and not impose those reactions onto others.

I feel a little sorry for that old lady. How many experiences in her life has she missed out on because perfectly safe things seemed dangerous to her? How did she parent her children? Did she instill fear in them, so that they hesitate to fully live their lives?

Fear is powerful and it can alter our life course in limiting and contagious ways.

"Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Annie and I up on Mt. Rainier:

Annie just after the encounter with the scared old lady:

Me up on Mt. Rainier:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Eating the Cheapest Thing on the Menu

I was talking with a good friend last week and she told me a story that had me chuckling and almost rolling on the ground.

She had family visiting her here in Seattle and she was trying to make their stay a fun and memorable one. She tried to share her favorite places with them and have them experience the best of what our beautiful region has to offer. I totally understand her motives and goals. I host a lot of friends and family from around the country and I too try to give them the best possible experience of my 'neck of the woods.'

When she and I were having this conversation, we were sitting in a relatively nice, water front restaurant.

She told me that she had taken her folks, on their last visit to Seattle, to a place similar to where we were sitting at that moment. She laughed and said, "Never again. They don't like this type of place. They would rather have burgers and beer."

She went on to tell me that because the prices were a little higher than they were used to, and they weren't 'comfortable' her dad had ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, which was a type of fish that he hates! He felt the prices were too high, so he went for the cheapest thing - even though he HATED IT!

We both chuckled about this. My friend said, "Imagine... eating something you dislike to save a tiny bit of money!"

There was just no room in his paradigm for embracing the situation and going with the flow. A meal 'should' cost a certain amount. He had to make his experience fit his expectation, so he ordered something that didn't offend his wallet, even though it offended his taste buds.

She imitated him eating the fish he hated - with each bite he grimaced.

How incredibly sad.

These people aren't poor. They could afford to eat in this restaurant. I think my friend was even treating her folks.

Her dad simply couldn't adjust and enjoy the ambiance and find something he liked on the menu and allow himself the pleasure of experiencing something new.

We often box ourselves into corners with our expectations and our rigidity.

I myself have some relatives visiting from another part of the country at the moment. A bunch of my family went out to dinner together, and I asked if these folks had ever had calamari. They asked what it was. When I told them it was squid they said, "No..." and they indicated that they weren't really all that interested in trying it.

I ordered it anyway, because several of us really like it. Just in case I also ordered some beef steak skewers.

To my delight, when the two appetizers came to the table, these relatives immediately tried the calamari... and LOVED IT! I was very proud of them, and I can see where some of my adventurous spirit originates!

When in Rome... do as the Romans do.

Never be afraid to try something new. You might even find a 'new favorite.'

When life sticks you in a situation you'd rather not be in... look for a way to turn it into a learning and growing experience.

You... and your life will be enriched for the trouble!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Don't Force It

A young friend of mine recently tried to move a table for me. This particular table has collapsible legs. There's a little trick to collapsing the legs. You must squeeze a metal bar to 'release' each leg. When you do this one step, the leg collapses effortlessly.

My friend didn't know this and didn't really 'look' at the leg of the table to see how it worked. Instead, he just forced the legs down. As a result, he bent the metal bars completely out of shape. It ruined the table.

Bending metal takes effort. The proper operation of the table when collapsing the legs is completely effortless.

There was a great opportunity for learning here. He had to exert force on the legs of this table in order to collapse them. Quite a lot of force actually. He didn't realize he was damaging the table by exerting this force.

When we have to force something, be it a table leg, a relationship or an opportunity, we are most likely heading for trouble. Effort is one thing. Struggle or resistance is another.

If we encounter serious resistance in any endeavor in life, it should be a 'cue' to us to STOP, ANALYZE the situation and see if our current approach is valid... or not. Often, intense resistance is a cue to redirect!

A broken table is no big deal. The lesson it offers us, however, can alter our life.

Forcing things rarely works! If we are having to force something, it is time to reexamine things!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Eat My Dust

I want to make a plug for awareness. It is such a gift to give those around us to be conscious and aware. It is easier said than done. Many of us walk through life, going through the motions, on auto pilot and oblivious to the impact we have on others.

I attended a dinner at a local organic farm over this past weekend. The event included a tour of the farm and then a fabulous dinner in a meadow.

I had to arrive a little late and as a result missed part of the tour. When I arrived I parked near the entrance and walked up the road to join up with the tour.

As I was walking along the gravel road, a car came up behind me. I stepped to the side of the road. I had noticed that this car was approaching rather quickly, but was sure that as they passed me on the dusty gravel road they would slow down. That, it turns out, was a very incorrect assumption.

The car went blazing by me - leaving me in a cloud of dust!

I saw the car pull over near some of the organizers of the event and the woman in the rolled down her window and started speaking to them. I heard her apologize for being late. (She ended up being the representative for the winery that was featured in the dinner menu).

I walked by the car and continued along the road to catch up to the tour. As I got close to the group I heard the same car approaching from behind me. This time there were about 30 people near me on either side of the road. I stepped to the side and again, this woman sped past in her car, kicking up a horrible plume of dust that coated me and the other 30 people taking the tour. There were a few choice words spoken by some of the other guests. I said, "That's the second time she got me!"

Did she not notice? Was she so consumed with her self and her life that she couldn't be bothered to observe that her actions were generating unpleasant and destructive conditions for MANY other people around her? She was late. She had responsibilities. Nothing else mattered. Even if it meant that she was going to alienate her 'customers' and cover us all with dust that would be with us for the entire evening! It was incredible!

I think that this was kind of an extreme version of something that happens all too often in life. We get so caught up in our responsibilities, our needs, taking care of business that we don't pay attention to how are actions affect others. We might drive fast or aggressively, be impatient with people who are waiting on us because we are in a hurry, rush through interactions that deserve our attention... it can look any number of ways.

The bottom line is that it's easy to leave others to deal with the results of our actions when they don't deserve it.

Attention... and awareness. These are qualities that will make the world a better place.

Friday, August 07, 2009

What Are You Leaving in Your Jet Stream?

I find it interesting how easily we affect each other with our actions. The other night I was having dinner with a friend. We were sitting on a patio and the weather was extremely warm. Each of us had a glass of white wine that we were drinking.

We were drinking our wine slowly. White wine is supposed to be slightly chilled. Obviously in the hot weather, it was warming up faster than we would have liked.

It is considered very uncultured to put ice in your wine. I've done it on many occasions, especially in my younger days, but only when no one could see me do it.

My friend and I put some ice cubes in our wine to cool it off a bit. It was refreshing and I felt totally good about my decision to 'break the rule' and take this action.

Within a very short time, the two women at the table next to us (the same women who were the subject of my 'sweater' entry yesterday), ordered fresh glasses of wine AND a glass of ice. They proceeded to put ice in their wine! They had each had a glass of wine earlier, but had not put ice in it. It was only after they observed me and my friend putting ice in our wine that they had taken that step.

My friend and I had unwittingly 'blazed a trail' that made it OK for these women to put ice in their wine.

Our behavior has the ability to influence other people - ALL THE TIME. We never know when our behavior will set an example, good or bad, for other people to follow. We never know exactly who's watching and what they might do with the example we set.

In this case, our behavior gave these women 'permission' to take an action that they might have wished to take, but were afraid to.

In other cases, we might inspire someone to do something they didn't think they could do, or, in a negative case, to break a rule that they wouldn't otherwise have broken.

I believe that we each have a responsibility to set a good example for those around us. We have a tremendous ability to liberate others through our courage, to blaze trails for others with our willingness to be different, and to call people to higher levels of conduct with our integrity.

All we have to do is live up to our potential, and remember that others are always watching us.

I once heard a teacher say that each of us leaves a 'jet stream' (like the white trail in the sky behind big jets) with our actions. We can either leave a 'jet stream' of inspiration and encouragement or a jet stream of negativity and pollution. We get to decide what we leave in our 'wake.'

How are you moving through your life? What kind of jet stream are you leaving? What impact might you be having on those around you?

You have far more power and influence than you could possibly imagine.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Convenient Oblivion

I was at dinner with a friend the other night in a really nice restaurant. It was a beautiful summer night, and we were sitting on the outdoor patio, overlooking Lake Washington.

As we chatted away, I noticed two women at the table next to us. They were deeply engaged in conversation. One of them had a light sweater tucked over the arm of her chair. I saw her sweater slip off the chair onto the ground. I was about to tell her about it, when the waiter walked up to their table.

I thought surely that he would pick up the sweater and hand it back to her, or at least tell her about it.

He didn't. In fact, he even stepped over the sweater as he left the table.

Again, I was going to tell her about it, and a bus person came by and stepped over her sweater!

I was stunned.

I decided to do a little unofficial study and see just how long it would be before anyone told this woman her sweater was on the ground.

No one ever did.

She finally picked up her sweater when she got up to leave the restaurant.

I was just amazed at how many people could see her very nice sweater, lying on the ground, and not be courteous enough to pick it up and hand it back to her. Especially the people who work at the restaurant.

I think it speaks to a more serious problem in our cultural consciousness. People are often quite oblivious to what is happening around them, and are so into their own worlds that they ignore the situations that could benefit from their attention.

We become so self absorbed that we don't notice what is happening to the people around us, to our environment, to our government. We just ignore it and continue barreling down our path.

We're all busy. We all have too much to do. Too much stress and pressure rests on our shoulders. Taking time out to be concerned or courteous towards others, or the planet, just seems like a bother at times.

Taking that time, however, is what makes us human. We have the ability to make a huge difference in the world by being aware, alert and acting in a mature and considerate way.

Next time you notice something that everyone around you is being oblivious to... I hope you will consider taking action!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Joy of Dirty Clothes

I'm what I would call a 'light user' of my clothes. Rarely do they feel or look dirty. Sometimes when I'm doing laundry I feel like it's almost a waste of time.

Lately, with our Seattle heat wave, my hiking and all my yard work - I've been using my clothes very, very well.

I honestly can't believe how much I've been sweating! My clothes have been ready for the washer without a single doubt!

I've finally felt good about doing my laundry. I've been doing it a lot more often too. Clothes are not 're wearable' with the heat and the activities I've been doing!

I guess it appeals to the Russian peasant, farmer in me! I love to work hard and work up a good sweat. Physical exertion just feels good! Whether I've hiked up a mountain or worked in my garden, it feels good to make use of my body and achieve something. My pile of dirty clothes at the end of it all, shows me what I've done!

It reminds me of my days picking strawberries and working on the farm. There was nothing better than getting all dirty and going to jump in the river after work. I still remember how great that felt!

Hard work can be very rewarding. In this world where there is so much emphasis on convenience and technology, it is sometimes most satisfying to get your hands (and the rest of you) dirty and do something physically challenging!

Enjoy your laundry!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

At Long Last The Rod is Gone

There is no greater satisfaction than taking care of something that has been nagging at you for the longest time.

Since I moved in to my house and landscaped it 9 years ago, I've had a problem. One of the trees that I brought in had a metal rod sticking out of the root ball, close to the trunk. The rod was about the thickness of a pencil and about 4 feet high.

Every time I weeded around this tree for the past 9 years, I've tried to pull out that metal rod. There was just no way it was going to come out.

I asked my landscapers (who brought in the tree, and the metal rod) to remove it. They never did it. I probably asked them a dozen times.

I've asked other people who work in my yard for help. I think everyone had the same problem. It was impossible to 'pull it out' and no one had the right tool to do it.

I went to home depot this past weekend and bought a bolt cutter. After 9 years of feeling aggravated and irritated EVERY time I looked at that bent metal rod... it is now GONE. Well, it's in the trash, but it will soon be gone.

I kept waiting for someone to help me. I kept waiting for someone to care as much about my problem as I did. It just never happened. In the end, I needed to take responsibility, acquire the proper tool, and take care of it.

Done deal.

No one cares as much about your life or your problems as you do. Nor should they. It's fine to ask for help, but ultimately, the responsibility for yourself is yours.

Got any annoying metal rods sticking out of your life? Get the bolt cutter... and go to town. Believe me, it feels AMAZING when you finally deal with it!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Hiking in a New Body

Today was an incredible day! I went on a hike I've done many, many times before, but something about it was completely different.

I've been undergoing a series of treatments with my physical therapist called "Structural Integration" based on the work of Tom Meyer. It is deep work on the myofascial structures of the body - one region at a time.

This past Friday, I had major work done on my low back and hip areas. All I can say is that it felt like the furniture was rearranged in that part of my body in a major way! That night, after my treatment, I couldn't really sleep. It literally felt like things were rearranging in there! Some of the muscles along the right side of my low back were so tight and as they were released I felt immense relief. I did a forward bend that was effortless, for the first time in literally years. Heaven. Amazing!

Today, when I was hiking, I remembered the words of my physical therapist. She told me that it was fine for me to do all the physical activities that I normally do, but that I should seek to do them with more awareness, and in the 'new' form that I've been learning. It involves activating the muscles in my core, and using them properly.

As I was hiking today, it felt completely different. My low back felt strong, stable and balanced. It somehow seemed easier than ever before. Everything seemed to move as though it were well lubricated and perfectly aligned. Wow!

This has not been a trivial process - to get my body in alignment. My body has been getting out of alignment for a long, long, long time. It doesn't come back into alignment over night.

I've dedicated a lot of time to getting my physical therapy (and chiropractic treatment before that.) Although I've had improvement and relief along the way, I'm now beginning to see major positive changes. It's taken over 2 years of treatments, exercise and working to retrain my body in how to move and perform it's tasks.

We can't expect instant results in many of our endeavors. It just isn't realistic. It takes faith and perseverance to keep going on a path - even when things aren't changing on the outside. There were many times when I felt frustrated with the amount of time I was spending driving to my appointments, and having treatments. Sure, they always felt good, but I wondered if it was really worth the time and trouble.


If you are frustrated with the pace of change in some area of your life where you are putting forth effort and energy... hang in there! Your reward will come!!!