Category Archives: Inspiring People

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

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

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

TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY-Let’s Start The Revolution

Where are all of you?

Where are the baby boomers who took this country by storm in the 60’s and 70’s – the activists who said no to war, no to discrimination, no to inequality?

We forced passage of the Civil Rights Amendment. We demanded equality for women and forced Congress to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). We helped stop the Vietnam War and brought our young men home.

This is OUR COUNTRY. OUR GOVERNMENT WORKS FOR US.

Now is the time to stand up again, to stop the wholesale destruction of the very laws and institutions that have made it possible for everyone to have a fair chance at a decent life.

Social Security – a program we have paid our hard-earned money into for more than 50 years, is under attack. Affordable health care for ALL citizens is being dismantled. Medicare and Medicaid are on the chopping block.

Funding for the arts, education, and the environment have been cut. The EPA, the National Park Service, and the USDA have officially been gagged – ordered not to communicate at all with the public either via social media or the press.

Step up to the plate, folks. This time, we aren’t fighting for ourselves; we are fighting for our sons and our daughters and our grandchildren.

The current disregard for the law, for the Constitution, for our rights as citizens of the United States signals the beginning of the end of America as we know it…unless we begin to fight back.

Do something as simple as joining the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which has already filed suit against Donald Trump for his failure to disclose his finances and tax returns – a clear conflict of interest and a violation of Constitutional law.

Call your SenatorsCall your Representatives. Choose your battle – whether it’s education, the environment, equal rights under the law, Social Security, affordable health care. Have 1 or 2 points you want to make and make them. If you need scripts to help you get started, check out sites like Indivisible Austin.

Then call again, tomorrow and the next day and next week.

Fight back! Take just one step every week.

Let an activity like the women’s march on Washington be more than a moment; let it become a movement, to quote Cory Booker.

Don’t give in to your fear and frustration, to the sense of being overwhelmed. That’s how they will win. And we cannot let them win, not for our sake but for the sake of the generations following us.

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Filed under Education, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Politics, Uncategorized, World Changing Ideas

After the Inauguration: Joining the Battle for America

Great sorrow and great joy are doing battle in my heart this morning. It is like being on the edge of a razor blade, trying to decide how to move forward in a world that now has Donald Trump masquerading as president of the United States.

Like millions of other good, hardworking Americans, I am afraid this morning but I am also hopeful thanks to Katrina Kenison’s post inaugural post.

As I read Kenison’s words , my sorrow started to lift. As I read the comments others shared, my fear abated a bit. This is my world. These are my kindred spirits. In my heart, I know we can do this.

Each and every one of us can take the next step out of our comfortable lives and begin to sing the glorious song of love and inclusion and hope that built this country – the song that will become a roar if all of us join in.

I am grateful, this morning, for Kenison’s insight. I am grateful for Kenison’s inclusion of Clarissa Pinkas Estes’ writings. Both are warm blankets on a cold morning. I await her ideas for taking the next steps and will be generating some of my own.

I will not be diminished by the coming battle; I will not be a bystander in the face of hate, injustice and greed.

Come on America, the America I live in and I believe in. Join in. Let’s start, “…mending the world.” We can do this.

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