Category Archives: Gifts

The Siren Song of Time…Passing

Maria Popova did it again.

In her newsletter, Brainpickings, she introduced me to a woman, a memoir and a lyrical litany of life, love and loss, all backgrounded by time.

Dani Shapiro's memoir

Dani Shapiro’s memoir.

The book is Hourglass, Time, Memory, Marriage.

Once again, an author who I did not know rolls off the page written by Popova. Once again, I am moved to tears, moved to buy the book, moved to read the wonderful insights of Dani Shapiro as she puts pen to paper to write her memoir.

This well-known author already has a string of books to her name but this time, she is writing to her heart, her soul, her life as she watches time pick up speed, whirling all of us through constellations and galaxies and hurling us back onto ourselves.

It is time that she writes of and time that fascinates me – passing, spending, making, taking, and losing time. And Shapiro speaks of time through intimate knowledge.

time passing

“Years vanish. Months collapse. Time is like a tall building made of playing cards. It seems orderly until a strong gust of wind comes along and blows the whole thing skyward. Imagine it: an entire deck of cards soaring like a flock of birds.”

In one paragraph, she captures what I learned the very hard way. The little girl I was, the one I couldn’t see or feel in my overworked, over-stuffed, over-done world was still there, patiently waiting for me to whisper, “Patty, where are you?”

“Oh, child! Somewhere inside you, your future has already unfurled…, ” writes Shapiro. “The future you’re capable of imagining is already a thing of the past. Who did you think you would grow up to become? You could never have dreamt yourself up. Sit down. Let me tell you everything that’s happened. You can stop running now. You are alive in the woman who watches you as you vanish.”

Shapiro’s memoir is arresting, engaging, intriguing. It is also a call to all of us who want to write a memoir of our lives but haven’t picked up our pens, yet.

Shapiro reminds me that nothing is too late. It’s time. Pick up a pen and write.

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Filed under arm wresting, Book Reviews, Gifts, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Love and Marriage

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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Filed under arm wresting, Death & Dying, Gifts, Life & Death, Mysteries, Work

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

Aldous Huxley Captures the Power of Music

Why is there music in every culture of the world?

Why can some pieces of music (for me it’s classical music) bring you to a standstill? Pierce your heart? Make you understand the relentlessness of loss, of death like the Adagio For Strings in G Minor by Tomaso Albinoni? How can others make you smile, bring you peace or joy like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons or Bedrich Smetanau’s Moldau?

These were the last questions that my brother Bob sought to answer before his untimely death. He and I shared books like Oliver Sachs Musicophilia and Daniel Levitin’s The World in Six Songs. We shared thoughts and ideas but we never came close to understanding the universality of music, the power.

Once again, the clever, beautiful and ingenious writer, Maria Popova, the woman behind the stunning website, Brain Pickings, has produced a lyric piece on Aldous Huxley (a man I admired but Bob wasn’t too keen on) that opens the door on why music touches souls, transcends words, shapes lives and shapes cultures.

Huxley wrote about music long before he authored Brave New World or journeyed into the world of hallucinogenic drugs and the publication of his slim but influential book entitled Doors of Perception.

Huxley actually explains why I never liked Wagner! Popova shares this quote of Huxley’s: “Silence is an integral part of all good music. Compared with Beethoven’s or Mozart’s, the ceaseless torrent of Wagner’s music is very poor in silence. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why it seems so much less significant than theirs. It “says” less because it is always speaking.”

And he explains why I’ve always loved the lonesome call of a train as it passes through the back country on its way to I don’t know where…but you’ll have to read about that in Popova’s newsletter.

She outdoes herself on this essay and that, my friends, is saying something. Her newsletter is a weekly labor of love; this one is no exception. Popova offers her research, her writing, herself for free…but accepts donations. I cannot imagine a better person to become a patron for than this brilliant teller of stories.

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Filed under Gifts, Inspiring People, Mysteries, Uncategorized, World Changing Ideas

In Honor of ALL Differences & In Celebration of Black History Month

The poem below focuses on being different because you are black.  I share it in honor of black history month, in honor of all the wonderful women I have met in my life whose skin was a different color than mine but whose soul was my mirror.

I share it for Rosella Clemmons Washington, my soul sister.  She sang like an angel, laughed with her whole body and still makes me smile when I look at her pictures.

Jazz singer Rosella Clemmons Washington.

I share it for  her mother, Mama Rose, who taught me how deep love can be and how long it can last.

I share it because this beautiful poem goes to the heart of what I have said all my life. I cannot imagine how very many lovely souls I would have missed had I stopped at color, or weight, or height, religion, sexual orientation or any of the myriad ways we categorize each other.

We are all so much more than the wrapper we live in.
Please treat people the way you want to be treated.

The Black Prayer

Why Did You Make Me Black Lord
Lord .. Why did you make me black?
Why did you make someone
the world would hold back?
Black is the color of dirty clothes,
of grimy hands and feet.
Black is the color of darkness,
of tired beaten streets.

Why did you give me thick lips,
a broad nose and kinky hair?
Why did you create someone
who receives the hated stare?

Black is the color of the bruised eye
when someone gets hurt.
Black is the color of darkness,
black is the color of dirt.

Why is my bone structure so thick,
my hips and cheeks so high?
Why are my eyes brown,
and not the color of the sky?

Why do people think I’m useless?
How come I feel so used?
Why do people see my skin
and think I should be abused?
Lord, I just don’t understand.
What is it about my skin?
Why is it some people want to hate me
and not know the person within?

Black is what people are “Labeled”
when others want to keep them away.
Black is the color of shadows cast.
Black is the end of the day.

Lord you know my own people mistreat me,
and you know this just ain’t right.
They don’t like my hair, they don’t like my
skin, as they say I’m too dark or too light!

Lord, don’t you think
it’s time to make a change?
Why don’t you redo creation
and make everyone the same?

God’s Reply:

Why did I make you black?

I made you in the color of coal
from which beautiful diamonds are formed.
I made you in the color of oil,
the black gold which keeps people warm.

Your color is the same as the rich dark soil
that grows the food you need.
Your color is the same as the black stallion and
panther, Oh what majestic creatures indeed!

All colors of the heavenly rainbow
can be found throughout every nation.
When all these colors are blended,
you become my greatest creation!

Your hair is the texture of lamb’s wool,
such a beautiful creature is he.
I am the shepherd who watches them,
I will ALWAYS watch over thee!

You are the color of the midnight sky,
I put star glitter in your eyes.
There’s a beautiful smile hidden behind your pain.
That’s why your cheeks are so high!

You are the color of dark clouds
from the hurricanes I create in September.
I made your lips so full and thick,
so when you kiss…they will remember!

Your stature is strong,
your bone structure thick to withstand the
burden of time.
The reflection you see in the mirror,
that image that looks back, that is MINE!

So get off your knees,
look in the mirror and tell me what you see.
I didn’t make you in the image of darkness.
I made you in the image of ME!

by RuNett Nia-Ebo

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Filed under arm wresting, Gifts, Life & Death, Mysteries, Religion, World Changing Ideas

Mating in Captivity Isn’t Just About Sex

Therapist Esther Perel offers insights into some of our funny and often unworkable coping mechanisms for sex.

Perel has spent twenty years as a couples therapist; Mating in Captivity (subtitled Unlocking Erotic Intelligence) is the result. On its pages, Perel explores what interferes with intimacy and sexuality in a long term relationship and what it takes to keep one alive and healthy.

That alone would make this book worth reading for many people who love their significant others, love their relationships but miss the passion of the early days.

But this book offers so much more than insights into keeping a long term relationship healthy and exciting.  In the following excerpt, I found Perel as insightful in the area of parenting as any of the so-called parenting experts currently “selling” their ideas on rearing healthy and happy children.

Throughout our lives we grapple with this interplay between dependence and independence. How artfully we reconcile these needs as adults depends greatly on how our parents reacted to the stubborn duality (hold me-let me go) in our little selves. It is important to point out that our parents’ behavior, what they actually do, is only one part of the situation. Another part is our interpretation of their actions.

 Each child brings an individual resilience to the lottery of life. What might feel good to one will feel overwhelming to another. Some of us may wish our parents had been more involved, while others may cringe at memories of their parents’ scrutiny and intrusion.

 Every family has its preferred responses to dependency and autonomy – what’s rewarded and what’s thwarted.  In the give and take with our parents, we determine how much freedom we can safely experience and how much our connections will require the subjugation of our needs.

 In the end, we fashion a system of beliefs, fears and expectations, some conscious and many unconscious, about how relationships work.

Perhaps what Perel writes about  the “…interplay of dependence and independence” rang true for me because my ex son-in-law just ran head on into my beautiful and only granddaughter, she of the artistic, capricious and oh so creative spirit.

Exercising his usual style of parenting — a combination of bluster, volume and physical size (which he used on his sons, as well), he tried to force her to do what he wanted her to do.  The result was not to his liking and it certainly was not to hers.  Trying to bully a 16 year old girl (who is going on 30), resulted in an explosion that tore their relationship and his “second family” in half.

If he had read Mating in Captivity, he would have read how eloquently Perel captures how different each child is and how very different his daughter, my granddaughter is. Perhaps every parent should remember what it was like to be moving from child to adult and how our parents helped or hurt us.  Perel’s point is that the way this pivotal part of each of our lives is handled affects all of us in our adult relationships.

If you’re a parent, this is a golden insight.

BTW – Perel has delivered a number of very interesting and insightful TED talks which I have thoroughly enjoyed.

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Filed under Gifts, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Love and Marriage, Uncategorized, World Changing Ideas

Abundance Without Attachment – The New York Times

Thank you New York Times and Arthur C. Brooks who is a contributing opinion writer and president of the American Enterprise Institute.

This editorial in the Sunday Times perfectly captures the way I feel about the buying, buying, buying insanity that hits this country every year at holiday time!

In this article, an interview actually, Brooks hears these words, “There is nothing wrong with money, dude. The problem in life is attachment to money.” from his interviewee  (who, himself is a bit of a surprise).

How do you break it?  How do your children take the break?  Easy on both counts per Brooks.  Stop collecting things: start collecting experiences.

And there it is.

So, with many thanks….please read this article and pass it along if you want to make a start at changing the “things” you are attached to and beginning to enjoying the holiday season in a whole, new way.

Source: Abundance Without Attachment – The New York Times

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