Category Archives: Death & Dying

How To Grow A Great Relationship

Children becoming adults

Relationships start early.

She is writing about relationships with children, her children, our children. She is author, blogger, mom and philosopher, Katrina Kenison.

She is talking about parenting, one of our toughest jobs, a job where there are no guarantees.

Kenison asked her 24 year old son for parenting advice that she could share at a public speaking engagement. That took courage because their relationship had not been an easy one. But that conversation led to her post and I am grateful that it did.

She writes, “We are a nation of distracted, multi-tasking “do’ers” and driven, insatiable consumers – of social media, of stimulation, and of stuff. We are also addicted to our phones. But we are losing the art of connecting face to face, heart to heart, in the here and now.”

That loss is felt by parents and children, alike. So, Kenison offers wonderful, practical ideas for reconnecting:

  • Be curious.
  • Ask; don’t tell.
  • Seek connection, not control.
  • Work on yourself, not your child.
  • Give your child the gift of failure.
  • Value effort over achievement, process over results.
  • Take the long view; look for progress, not perfection.
  • Offer the gift of your attention.
  • Sit with discomfort.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Ask for help.
  • Choose love over fear.
  • Seize the joy.

As she wrote about our teenagers being gone before we know it, I was suddenly so aware of the fact that our lives will be gone before we know it, too.

But Kenison offers ideas for “…hanging out” that might help everyone reconnect, like walking the dog together, folding laundry, chopping vegetables or eating a late night bowl of cereal. Playing a board game. Working on a puzzle together.

Small moments make strong relationships.

Small moments make strong relationships.

These are such small things, inexpensive things but the very things that help to weave the fabric of a relationship tighter. Shared moments matter.

As I read yet another remarkable essay from Kenison, I realized very quickly that her advice for building relationships with teenagers is some of the best advice I have ever read for building relationships – full stop.

Sometimes we are so busy looking ahead — the next birthday, the big trip, our retirement — that we miss the life of our very lives, altogether.

Put down your cell phone. Turn off the television. Disconnect from the Internet.

Take a minute today to breathe, to really listen to your husband or wife or friend. Try not to tell; today, try asking.

Step outside, feel the sun.

Step outside and breathe.

Step outside. Close your eyes and feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, the soft wind singing through the pine boughs, the birds calling out the arrival of another Spring.

Live. Now. Before it is too late.

 

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Filed under arm wresting, Death & Dying, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Love and Marriage, World Changing Ideas

Tell the Republican Party What You Think of Trump!

Calling anyone and everyone who opposes the current President, the Republican agenda and the destruction of the democratic government of the United States of America.

Here’s your chance. Get your courage on and tell the Republican party what you really think of what’s going on in the White House and Washington DC.

Calling all Democrats, Independents, Senators (Bernie SandersElizabeth WarrenBob Casey) Congressmen, fathers, mothers, soldiers, sisters, brothers, blacks, whites, Indians, Muslims. Come on members of MoveOn.orgIndivisiblethe Democratic Party , NAACPthe ACLU and all other activists and activist groups in America.

If you have any thoughts or feelings about the takeover of our government and ultimately our country by a group of elitist, white men, now is the time to gird up your loins and unleash your pen.

The survey covers everything from dismantling the Department of Education to the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines, to immigration, Israel and the end of the EPA.

This is a GOP survey. I think the Republican Party actually feels that we, the people, want this type of government. The survey asks questions about actions, ideas and movements that are truly an anathema to any thinking and feeling human being as though they are proud of what is going on or think it’s just what should be happening.

If I were interested in a patriarchy for my government or an autocracy or an oligarchy, then maybe the current Administration would be just what I was looking for. But I am not and it’s not. In fact, what’s going on in our government frightens me, especially the short-term plan to grab all 3 branches of government (they have 2 and are angling for the Supreme Court).

The survey takes about 20 minutes if you include comments, which I did because I found it truly easy to give them a piece of my mind. This man and his cabal MUST GO. Before bankers and businessmen seize the Judiciary and take over our country…which they are doing, folks. Right now.

I gave them my comments. And I didn’t give them a dime at the end. I fully expect someone to ring the doorbell in the next few weeks and carry me off in cuffs. I was polite but really, I told the truth. Let’s see what happens next.

Please, take a few minutes and make your voice heard. It may be the last time they ask.

 

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Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation

Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation is the title of a book I just read, a book I felt compelled to read in light of the current situation in Washington, D.C.

Radical Hope is about the Crow Indian Tribe

Radical Hope may help.

Like many people, I am dumbfounded that our government could be taken over and co-opted so quickly and so thoroughly by people who do NOT, in any way or shape, represent what I believe in, what I love about this country, what I love about the people who live here.

I am also afraid — for myself in the short-term — but for my child, my grandchildren, my nieces and nephews — and what their lives will be like in a country where you only count if you are white, male and rich.

So, I found and read this small but powerful book. Written by Jonathan Lear, it is an exploration of how the Crow Indian tribe managed to survive in the face of total cultural collapse.

So, what does this slim volume have to say to me, to you, to any of us that could help us out in a country where Donald Trump is President?

Plenty.

Chief Plenty Coups vision saved his tribe

Chief Plenty Coups radical vision saved his tribe

The Crow were the only indigenous people who kept their land. They were the only tribe not defeated by the US Army. Their entire strategy for surviving a total and utter cultural collapse was driven by the vision of a 9-year-old child named Plenty Coups.

In his vision, the child who was to become one of the last great Chiefs of this Indian tribe, witnessed the loss of the buffalo, the end of the warrior as the center of the tribe’s life, and the destruction of hundreds of years of nomadic life.

Plenty Coups saw the Four Winds begin a war against the forest, witnessing the loss of all but one tree, the tree housing the lodge of the Chickadee.

The Man-person in Plenty Coups’ dream tells him that the Chickadee is least in strength but has the strongest mind of its kind. It listens. Nothing escapes its ears. The Chickadee never intrudes, never speaks in strange company but also, never misses a chance to learn from others – to gain success and avoid failure. Plenty Coups is to model himself on the Chickadee, to develop his body but not neglect his mind. “It is the mind that leads a man to power…”

From these two visions, the elders of the tribe recognized that the white man would take and hold the plains, their land, but if the Crow listened, as the Chickadee listened, the tribe might escape the fate of all other tribes, defeat, loss of life, loss of land.

The Crow joined forces with the white man, waged war against its own mortal enemies, the Sioux, the Blackfeet and the Cheyenne. This was a radical strategy but it was true to the vision. To survive when you are living your life at the very horizon of your understanding, when you can see no future, nothing of your way of life surviving, nothing of your culture as it has been known to you and your ancestors since the beginning of time, this was the only way.

Crow Indian Chief Plenty Coups

Chief Plenty Coups

What Plenty Coups did in the face of cultural destruction was to look to, “…future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.” Some might call it blind faith but it was anything but that. It was radical; it was hopeful. It was informed. It was courageous.

Our country, our culture, founded on inclusion, freedom of religion, free speech, is under attack. What can we hope, legitimately, when the very sense of purpose and meaning given to us by our culture is collapsing?

I turn to what I learned when I read Radical Hope.

Working together at Women's March in DC

Crescent Dragonwagon marching in DC

We must join together. We must work together even if, in the past, we were on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

We must convert our anger and angst into action as millions of people did in January of 2017 – marching in Washington, DC, across the United States and around the world to protest the Republican President’s campaign of hatred, bigotry and bullying.

We must have hope, like Plenty Coups, like the Crow, but it must be informed hope – not hope that permits self-deception, not hope that waits for someone else to step in and fix the devastation.

It must be hope that looks the monster square in the eye and does not back down or equivocate. It sees precisely what it is looking at but holds on to the hope that we can find a new path that works for all of us.

We must have courage. We cannot avert our gaze from the reality standing right in front of us – the wholesale destruction of our Constitution, our laws and our country.

We cannot balk at the risk of speaking out or of acting. We must collaborate. We must fight back. But we must start by listening to the enemy, observing how he works, what he does, learning his methods, not to employ them but to turn them to our uses.

Adapting his tactics, countering his moves. we take the high road. Make phone calls to your Senators and Congressmen. Demand that they be accountable for both actions taken and failure to take action. Standing by while our country is torn apart is just as unacceptable as supporting policies that ban a particular religious group or attack people because of their ethnicity, beliefs or gender.

Become an activist. Join a local group that is fighting for our freedom. Wage a battle against the divisive, misogynistic and hate-filled world that the current crop of politicians — people who are supposed to represent us but surely and certainly do not — is creating.

We must have radical hope. We must work together, ethically, raise up a new culture from the bones of the one being destroyed by the Republican party and its monied interests.

NOTE:

The photos of Chief Plenty Coups reproduced with permission from Little Big Horn College, a 1994 Land Grant Institution, is the Crow higher education and cultural center.

The photo of writer and author Crescent Dragonwagon in DC is courtesy of Dida Gazoli and is reproduced with the permission of both women.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Death & Dying, Education, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Politics, World Changing Ideas

Why? An Answer For Me

Most of my life has been lived outside the mainstream.

As a kid and a young adult, I always felt my difference as pain, as loneliness. And I wished that I could be like everyone else, that I could be popular that I could somehow transform from the short, pudgy, smart girl I was to the cheerleader or the prom queen.

I wanted to be on the inside, invited to parties, going on dates, gossiping, laughing at the oddballs and outsiders. I never made it – not in high school, not while working my way through college at Walt Disney World, not in graduate school and not in my long, rich career.

For years, decades actually, ranging across the 45+ years of my peripatetic career, I longed to be part of the crowd that always seemed to be having such a rollicking good time, drinking, laughing, talking, sleeping around, no cares, no worries, no anxiety.

For years, my various bosses, Division VPs and Line of Business Presidents in corporations and GMs and News Directors at television stations and up and down the East coast told me I didn’t fit. I was an oddball, a weirdo, not quite one of them. They constantly cajoled, ridiculed, and bullied me about my “misanthropic view” of my co-workers.

They also used me to, “…get the job done.”

Anywhere there was a problem, striking workers, poor business performance, failing systems, failing management — it didn’t matter what was going wrong – universally they sent “…Pat. She’ll figure it out, fix it, clean it up.”

And I did. And they paid me handsomely.

Why was I successful when no one else was? I was on the outside.

I didn’t care…about people, about feelings, about belonging. I found the problem, cleared the trash out, fixed the system or the management and moved on. I was not just disliked; I was hated. If I showed up at a unit, everyone knew I had the highest level of backing. Everyone knew someone was going to be fired.

When people actually had the courage to tell me they didn’t like me, my standard response was, “You don’t have to like me; we’re not sleeping together. You have to figure out how to work with me. So get on with it.”

Why? Was I stronger than the rest? Better? Braver?

I always wondered why I was able to carry my loneliness on my shoulders year after year, why kept doing the dirty job of cleaning up behind the elephants.

Sunday morning, November 27th, 2016, in response to a simple question from my husband, I knew why. I hung the laundry out that morning, before the sun came up. Yes, it was cold out — freezing, actually.

When he asked why, my short, simple answer was, “It was the right thing to do.” Not the easiest, not the least painful, not the fastest but the right thing.

Something shifted every so slightly the moment those words slipped out of my mouth and into the cold, clear air of dawn. I knew why I didn’t open the door, go inside with the everyone else, give up a bit of myself to be one of them.

It was the right thing to do.

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Trump Signals the End of Our Democracy

My brother, Bob, used to talk about the impending end of our democracy. I am glad that Bob did not live to see it.

The end has arrived. It is embodied in the man recently elected – not by popular vote but by the Electoral College – to the highest position in this country. the President of the United States.

If you don’t believe me, please read American Has Never Been More Ripe for Tyranny.

This is not Facebook hype or Twitter trash. This is article is well-thought out; it is insightful and it is terrifying. Written in May of this year, 2016, before the primaries, before the conventions, before the debates, its author predicts what was going to happen.

It has happened.

Andrew Sullivan builds his case meticulously, without rhetoric, without “sound and fury” but brick by brick.  Sullivan quotes the work of another author, Sinclair Lewis. Perhaps you read his novels in high school. But most of us never read or even heard of It Can’t Happen Here – Lewis’ 1935 novel about what would happen if fascism…were to triumph in America.

Lewis imagined American fascist leader is Senator called Buzz Windrip —  a “Professional Common Man …who was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his ‘ideas’ almost idiotic.”

The description sounds familiar but Windrip was fiction written more than 80 years ago. Unfortunately, Sinclair Lewis’ writing, like Sullivan’s, was predictive, as well.

Read the article. It will scare you but it will also help you understand how we come to have Donald Trump as the President Elect of the United States of America. If you don’t want to read the entire article, read the final paragraph. It pretty much says it all for me:

“…Trump is not just a wacky politician of the far right, or a riveting television spectacle, or a Twitter phenom and bizarre working-class hero. He is not just another candidate to be parsed and analyzed by TV pundits in the same breath as all the others. In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event. It’s long past time we started treating him as such.”

We are witnessing the end of democracy in America. I, for one, will be glad to leave this world before it gets as bad as I think it will.

 

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10 Ideas for Living a Good Life in Bad Times

Face it. We live in a very uncomfortable time with some very uncomfortable realities.

Donald Trump is actually a viable candidate for President. The alternative, Hillary Clinton, is no better than La Donald, just a different shape and different background. On November 8th, 2016, the American public gets to choose between a male bully with megalomania and  no morals or a female cobra with ever-changing ethics and situational morals.

Can you say Hobson’s choice?

Whoever wins this election, these United States are in for a rough ride, facing international sanctions and national crises — all of our own making and all born of greed and the overweening desire for power and control.

I can’t change any of this. All I can do is live my small life. You can’t change any of this either. So, this morning, I offer a way for you and I and anyone else who is tired of the trash talk, afraid of the looming future and worried about their loved ones, some insights from  one of my very favorite intellectuals, writers, and muses.

Maria Popova offers 10 core values which, she has gleaned over the 10 years of writing her amazing blog – Brain Pickings

My Sunday mornings are spent with a cup of coffee and her newsletter – my break, my solitude, my weekly dose of philosophy, culture, insight, learning and being.

I offer Popova as an antidote to the idiocy we see all around us. I offer her as peace in a world fraught with panic. I hope she brings you the same joy that she brings me.

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Filed under arm wresting, Death & Dying, Education, Freelance Writing, Gifts, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Mysteries, Politics, Religion, World Changing Ideas

A Fundamental Life

I spent most of yesterday at a funeral in Philadelphia.

It was an Italian funeral which started with 3 hours in church, the viewing, the mass, Communion, the recessional. Then the burial in a small graveyard right behind the church. The afternoon blended into evening, ending with a catered 6 course dinner.

Leila was 90 when she died. She lived her entire life in a small Italian neighborhood in Philadelphia. Loved and loving, she was surrounded by sons, grandchildren, great grandchildren and friends — in life and in death.

As I witnessed this gentle good-bye, I realized that Leila lived and died exactly the way I want to. She lived what I call a fundamental life. That’s not to say she denied herself any of the usual pleasures, a good meal, good wine, books, friends, community but she didn’t need all the “stuff” many people think they need today to feel happy.

Leila didn’t have the latest iPhone. She didn’t want or need high-speed internet, satellite television, Sirius radio or GPS. No constant noise, no endless entertainment, no need to shop for new clothes or new shoes or new anything, Leila already had everything she needed to be happy.

She cooked her own food. she cleaned her own house, washed her own clothes and walked, everywhere. And her house was beautiful. Always welcoming and always filled with friends or family or both, it wasn’t a decorator’s show home. Her furniture was not new; her dishes and silverware didn’t always match and sometimes we drank wine from Mason jars.

But Leila’s house, her home, was always filled with the aroma of homemade Italian or German food, quiet conversation, and laughter. Her door was always open and her smile was ready. This was a place where everyone felt at home.

I only met her a few times but each time I was struck by her joy, her kindness, the light in her eyes and the smile that lit up her face. I felt lucky to have spent some time with her. Those who spent their lifetimes in her presence must have felt truly blessed.

Leila left us this week but she left behind the sure knowledge that we don’t need “stuff” to fill up our lives; we need each other. We need simple acts of kindness. We need time alone, time with nature, time with those we love. We need to clear the clutter, stop the noise and come home, to ourselves and to our families.

We need to live more fundamental lives.

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