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What we all need to plant this year…

2 Apr

Garden for Life

This is such a lovely article by my insurance broker Lois, that I had to share it. As the days grow longer, I’ve been pondering my gardens and how they will look this year. Lois takes it a step further, reminding us that life is a garden that must be tended with care…

What we all need to plant this year » South Shore MA Insurance News & Information | Lois Drukman.

What will you do?

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What’s to Love About Teenage Boys?

8 Feb

Gawky Teenage Duckling“My Feet Are Killing Me from Kicking So Much Ass!” The 15-year-old kid wearing this two-color full-front silk-screened imprint (yes, I once sold ad specialties) didn’t appear to be an actual ass-kicker, just a regular, smallish, bespectacled high-schooler training for the upcoming track season. I smiled to myself as he worked up a sweat doing wind sprints on the indoor track, wearing that ass-kicking t-shirt, while I fast-walked on the treadmill in time with the Umphrey’s McGee in my headphones.

Teenage boys have all manner of reasons, real and imagined, to feel insecure, inadequate, odd-man-out, or just plain weird. And if you don’t know any teenage boys personally, you might find them a bit scary – there was a time when I would cross the street rather than share a sidewalk with such strange, often boisterous, beings.

Having since raised a couple of boys, though, I find their oddities, humor, awkward goofiness and general sense of being uncomfortable in their own skin quite endearing. It’s a phase, of course, and beneath the goofy grins and loud inappropriate jokiness, they’re sweet and kind and really, mostly, want to do the right thing, if they can just figure out what that is. That’s the charm of teenage boys, and when they gradually begin to understand their strengths – how they fit into the world – what a miraculous transformation it is to witness.

The next time you pass one (or a passel) of those awkward kids in the mall or on the street or at the gym, look beyond the teenage ugly duckling gawkiness and you’ll get a glimpse of the wonderful man that kid will soon (so very soon) be.

Speaking of teenage athletes, here’s a great story about a young and gawky Dick Fosbury who later became an Olympic high jump champion and changed that sport forever.

New Year’s Revolution

1 Jan

Skating at Rockefeller CenterEach January, I review and renew my list of self-improvement practices. I recommit to exercising my body and vocal cords, so I can be comfortable on stage as a singer – obviously these habits provide beneficial side effects every day, not just in performance situations. “Be in the moment” has been my mantra for years – as a younger person, my tendency was to always worry “what happens next?”. Not that I don’t plan ahead, I certainly do, but I also make an effort to find a way to enjoy where I am now, right this moment. Even if I’m in the car, in traffic, and I need a rest stop soon. Here’s my little remedy for this situation: crank the volume on your iPod or radio and sing at the top of your lungs until the next rest area appears on the horizon. You’re welcome!

The next practice I’ll renew and continue is daily gratitude, requiring increased mindfulness on my part. It doesn’t always occur to me to feel grateful for the small pleasures in life, like a cup of french roast coffee in my own kitchen, a full refrigerator, or that parking space waiting just for me in front of the dentist’s office. I’m often wearing blinders against these small gifts, taking them for granted, when I should be giving thanks to the universe for allowing me these simple delights. Gratitude practice reveals more to reasons to feel grateful – I see that when I remember to look.

Each year I vow to challenge myself: learn a new computer skill, take on an unfamiliar duty within my  business, add a new yoga stretch to my morning routine, smile at strangers or be more loving to my family, friends, colleagues. I like having the New Year as a reminder to press on, to do and be a better person. I haven’t fleshed out what the 2012 challenges will look like, but getting back into the gym is one routine I’ll restart this week.

For the past six or so years, author, speaker, media and marketing whiz Chris Brogan has published his January 1 edition of “My Three Words“, an alternative to resolutions where he states his focus for the coming year in three words, which for 2012 are: Temple. Untangle. Practice. Chris challenges his readers to respond with their own three and focus on defining goals and experiences related to the chosen words. My three words for 2012 match the Fisher-Price toy company’s tagline: play – laugh – grow.

What’s your plan?

The Scent of Memories

18 Nov
Happy Little Girl Swinging

Happy Little Girl

“Memories, imagination, old sentiments, and associations are more readily reached through the sense of smell than through any other channel.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

An article in the Boston Sunday Globe discussed the theory that “smells are very much tied to memories, yet scents are overlooked as we record history.” I don’t recall much detail of the history taught to me in school, but I’m sure if you’ve ever read an account of the Pilgrims crossing the ocean in the Mayflower, you’ll understand why certain smells would forever trigger unhappy memories in the minds of those hardy souls who finally landed in America. No doubt also that the smells of other hardships, like war, would stay with the unfortunate participants and witnesses for a very long time.

Certainly my fondest childhood memories, my personal history, are tied to scent in one way or another. Even now I love the smell of new books and crayons, which were the best (sometimes the only) reason to anticipate that first week back at school after summer vacation. We always had an above-ground swimming pool in our backyard, so the chlorine wafting out of the pool room at the gym reminds me of home. Mom was and is a great cook, so the aromas of foods we regularly enjoyed in my childhood, like spaghetti and meatballs or broiled steak and french fries, still evoke fond memories. As she encouraged all five of us in the ways of cleanliness by doling out chores regularly and urging our participation in housework on a weekly basis, we became familiar with the pleasant scents of Lemon Pledge (used sparingly) for dusting, Niagara Spray Starch for ironing, Windex for sparkling, streak-free windows.

As a kid, I assumed everyone lived exactly as we did, eating pork chops or American chop suey for dinner, washing dishes with Ivory liquid, cleaning bathrooms with lemon-scented ammonia, using Cascade powder for the dishwasher and All laundry detergent in the washing machine. Walking into another family’s home  – a rarity in the days when we’d play outside all day until the streetlights came on – I recall feeling physically assaulted by the weird new smells of these unfamiliar homes. Unrecognizable food smells, cleaning products (or lack thereof), cigar or cigarette smoke (this was the old days, when people smoked in their homes), pets – all were a reminder that everyone is not the same, they don’t all live the way we do, care about the same things, have the same concerns and goals. And they probably thought our house smelled weird, too.

To this day, the smell of Lemon Pledge reminds me of home, as do the scents of Murphy’s Oil soap, Windex, spaghetti and meatballs, chocolate chip cookies, apple crisp and Christmas trees. Diesel bus fumes bring me back to the excitement of summer drum corps travel and competitions. All comforting reminders of my happy childhood, my personal history.

What scents bring back good memories for you?

A Great Start

26 Oct

Pee Wee's Big AdventurePerhaps you’ve been here? Business travel took us a two-hour plane ride from home. Comfortable in the knowledge that our reserved rental car would be ready for the two-hour drive to our first meeting, we stepped up to the Hertz service desk: “Good morning, we have a reservation.” The pleasant customer service person replied “I’m sorry, we don’t have any cars.” I looked at him in disbelief, “I’m sorry, what did you say?” “Unfortunately, we have no cars.” I looked around the waiting room, suddenly noticing there was someone sitting in every available chair in the building – obviously all waiting for rental cars. I began to feel I was in a Seinfeld episode without the laugh track.

“We have a meeting that’s a two-hour drive away, what are our options?” After explaining that there had been a race car event that weekend, a huge trade show beginning that day, as well as a big charitable event in the same locale, thus, the shortage of rental vehicles, the Hertz rep thought quietly for a moment. Meanwhile my travel companion, business partner, husband, brains-of-the-operation, expressed dismay that we could have flown all the way from Boston only to miss our first appointment of the week. Not a good start.

Kenneth, the nice Hertz rep picked up the phone, made a three-minute phone call to Renita at Dollar Rental, then nodded his head, “You have a car, let’s get you a lift to Dollar and you’ll be all set.” We didn’t have to push him, Kenneth wanted to help us take care of business, as did Renita at Dollar, who made sure our GPS was in good working order before sending us on our way.

It could have been a disappointing start to our travels, but I think most people given the opportunity would do whatever is in their power to help in this situation. It took a simple phone call to give these travelers a great start. By the way, I emailed Hertz expressing our appreciation of Kenneth and his solution to the challenge.

Here’s what happened to Jerry and that other Elaine:

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

7 Oct

Apples“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

Steve Jobs inspired his audience at Stanford University’s commencement in 2005, relating three important stories of his life, including his adoption as an infant, the creative freedom he felt upon being fired from the company he started in his parents garage, and the way he understands death to be “life’s change agent”.

Jobs himself has been a serial agent of change and innovation with his vision of how life should be lived. In his world, change was not to be feared, but embraced.

I think this quote filters his 15 minute address to the graduating students down to its essence. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life…..Stay hungry; stay foolish.”

Be sure to watch Jobs’ 2005 commencement address at Stanford – brilliant:

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