Monday, January 30, 2012

Start the Week Off Right

Here's a recent Facebook post from my friend, Jessica Chilton. She is an Expressive Arts Therapist & Consultant, Creative Wellness Coach, National Certified Counselor and founder of SPARK Creative Wellness. Jessica's passion is helping women with serious illness to love themselves and their lives, whether their illness stays or goes away. 

I think we'd all do well to follow Jessica's advice here; I know I will. C'mon, it's almost Valentine's Day. If we all do, won't the week be special?
Creative Wellness Practice: Dedicate this week to prioritizing love and relationships. Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than usual. When you wake up, lie in bed thinking about each person you are grateful for in your life. Choose one person you'd like to honor each morning and find a way to communicate your love and gratitude to this person.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Good Old Days

When Mike and I decided to move from the New York metropolitan area to the mountains of Western North Carolina eleven years ago, there were people who revealed their prejudices about "the South" with questions like, "Are you sure you'll be comfortable there?" "Won't you be bored, isolated?" "Do you think you'll find people to be friends with?" I had never lived anywhere but Long Island, Manhattan and Brooklyn, and their concerns did give me pause. But we were determined to get beyond the land of high taxes and oppressive traffic; the peaceful beauty of the Asheville area called to us and off we went. July 4, 2000, was a very personal "Independence Day" for us, as we rolled into town.

Our instincts proved correct. There has never been a down-side to our relocation (except, perhaps that it takes 5 hours to get to the ocean.) As far as I can tell, we traded "sophistication" for "sincerity" and "speedy" for "serene". Our small city has all the social, cultural, technological, and medical assets of the Big Apple, but they are way more close at hand and easier to access. 

And the people? Can two Jewish folks find their place in the area known to some as "The Buckle on the Bible Belt?" To get a taste of the kind of welcoming community we have found in our new home state, read "My Dad's Neighbor", (reprinted by permission, "Our State Magazine", November, 2004), about the relationship between one Jewish family and the Methodist Church next door. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Digi Age Giveth and Taketh Away

My friends have heard me say this before, I could more easily give up my washer-dryer than my computer and Internet connection. The computer saves me time in both writing and art and helps me keep documents and graphics organized in a way that belies my squirrel-like tendencies. The Internet is just an extension of the "gateway to the world" that books used to be for me, only more immediate, multi-sensory, and far reaching. I don't read the newspaper at breakfast, the way Mike does, I noodle around on my laptop. Thank goodness I exercise and shower before I sit down, because zap, it's noon, and I have hardly looked away to give my eyes a rest. It's an addiction, I suppose. "Logged on", "hooked on", what's the difference, really?

I tell myself every single day that I should put off checking e-mail until after I've checked in at my craft studio; after I've put my hands on paint brushes, glue sticks, jewelry findings...anything that results in non-verbal self-expression, but it seems I am left-brain dominant.

I know that e-mail is just the Siren song leading me ever closer to crashing on the Facebook rock. Even a quick scroll through my news feed there will suck me down a maelstrom of links. So much to learn, so many petitions to sign, so many contacts to maintain.  

I believe my writer friends and mentors who tell me the hand flying non-stop across a page stimulates creativity deeper and richer than fingers tip-tapping on a keyboard. But I find transcribing first drafts so tedious, and digital editing is so much easier than finding space in the margins and between the lines.

My friend Sadhvi Gantenbein's recent post on her blog, "Oops! 50" expresses this dilemma and her brave solution to the problem so well.

I guess I don't have the strong will of my unburdened friend. I won't be joining a digital Twelve Step program any time soon. Still, even though it may be the only way to have greater contact with my grandchildren, I'm maintaining my line in the sand. There is no smart phone with data texting service in my future (well...not soon least I don't think so.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Take This Moment

Pema Chodron

"Welcome the present moment as if you had invited it. It is all we ever have, so we might as well work with it rather than struggling against it. We might as well make it our friend and teacher rather than our enemy."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Now Is The Time

There is a river flowing now very fast
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold onto the shore.
They will feel they're being torn apart and they will suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination.
The elders say we  must let go of the shore, and push off and into the river,
Keep our eyes open, and our head above the water.

See who is there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all ourselves.
For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over, Gather yourselves!
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that you do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we've been waiting for...."

This is one of my favorite quotes. It's from the Elders of the Hopi Nation, Oraibi, Arizona. For me, the quantity and complexity of challenges threatening life on our planet are overwhelming. It would have been easy for me to fall into despair, but then I hooked into "Transition Asheville" and "TransitionHendersonville," and connected with people working individually and collectively to build local “resilience” (the ability of a community to withstand and thrive in spite of sudden shocks, i.e. – developing self-reliance skills, new local systems, flexibility, and a bit of muscle.) Check out Transition U.S. to find similar activity in your area.

The influence of the Transition movement led me to spearhead our High Vista Community Garden, and that grew into High Vista Community Connections, a more general skills and idea sharing network. I am enthusiastic to see what other positive projects we as a group will initiate. 

Some people tell me there's no need to worry about the future, others say there's no hope. I look at my choices this way, every morning I work out, even though I don’t expect to take on a sizable opponent in the near future and even though I know I'm not going to reclaim the fitness I had in my twenties. So, in a similar way, why not begin now to build the strength and skills needed to face the unknown hazards that climate change, natural resource depletion and economic upheaval are likely to present in the next ten to twenty years? The benefits are social, educational, and fun. What's the downside?

"Only a crisis-actual or perceived-produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable." 
~ Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, 1962

 "I Will Be a Hummingbird"

Monday, January 23, 2012

How Does Time Flow For You?

When we lived in North Bellmore, Long Island, Michael and I had a tenant, Mary Chiarello, who lived in the upstairs "mother-in-law" apartment. She was there when we moved in and we assured her she was welcome to stay. Mary was a spunky Italian woman, seasoned in all senses of the word. When my own grandmother died, Mary comforted me with empathy and a "facts-of-life" story about surviving her husband's death. Often, when we came home from work, the aroma of pasta fagioli or eggplant parmesean wafted through the house and was delivered hot with a warm smile and a joke to boot.

"You know, Sharon, I got a call this morning from another power company. These guys call all the time, trying to get me to switch from one to the other. So they asked, 'What oil are you using, Mrs. Chiarello?' and I told them, 'I use Wesson.' I don't think they'll call again."

I don't know if her work was original or "adopted," but here's another on a similar vein:

"I got a call from a company wanting to sell me some sewer line protection contract. The man asked me, 'How's your flow right now?' I had no idea what to say, so I told him, 'Sir, my flow is linoleum'".  

Go Mary, Go Mary, Go Mary....

Saturdays when I sort the few medicines and many nutritionals I will take the next week, morning, noon, and evening each day, I am confronted by how quickly the weeks fly by. Sometimes I get caught up in thinking about the way time flows. I mean the way it flows in my head. Here's an image of how I see the various cycles of time - the days of the week, left to right; the months of the year, from top to bottom; the seasons cycling around.

How's your flow?

Friday, January 20, 2012

How To Use Your Time

Thanks to my daughter-in-law Rachel for posting this reminder to me via e-mail. Rachel is an inspiration to me in very many ways. She's creative, spiritual, and never gives up on behalf of her family and her dreams. Follow her Food Fix blog (did I mention, she's an award-winning Chef?).

In 1923, Who Was....
  1. President of the largest steel and gas companies?
  2. President of the New York stock Exchange?
  3. Head of the world's largest monopoly?
  4. President of the First National Bank of NY?
  5. Great Bear of Wall Street? 
These  men were considered some of the world's most successful of their days.
Now, 88 years later, the history book asks us if we know what ultimately became of them.

The Answers: 
1. The president of the  largest steel company,
Charles Schwab..........lived his last years on borrowed money and left an insolvent estate.

2. The president of the largest gas company,
Edward Hopson..........went to jail for bilking investors and lived his last years in ill health and obscurity.

3. The president of the  NYSE,
Richard Whitney..........served time in Sing-Sing for embezzelment.

4. The head of the world's largest monopoly,
Ivar Krueger..........committed suicide.

5. Leon Fraser - The president of the First National Bank of NY.....Shot  himself.

6 The Great Bear of Wall  Street,
Cosabee Livermore..........also  committed suicide

However,  in that same year, 1923,  the PGA Champion and the winner of the most important golf tournament, the US Open, was Gene Sarazen. What became of  him?

He  played golf until he was 92,
Died in 1999 in Naples, FL, at the age of 97.
He was  financially secure at the time of his death. 

The  Moral:
Screw work.
Play golf.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I Love Poker Night

I don't play poker. When forced into playing, I get permission to use a "cheat sheet" listing the card combos that make up a winning hand. And even with "special help", playing pushes my anxiety buttons: fear of failure, fear of slowing down the other players, fear of people noticing that my  nervous smile is more nervous than real. Overall, not a pleasant experience, so I just avoid this game. (Truth be told, I have the same avoidance reaction to most card games, and I avoid playing golf, too, but not for the same reasons - different story.) Anyhow, in spite of the fact that I have no interest in playing, I still love Poker Night.

I love Poker Night because Mike plays, each and every Tuesday. I love Mike and I'm relieved and happy that through poker he's established relationships with men throughout our High Vista community. I was worried last year, when he was finally ready to retire from a long and all-consuming career, that he'd be at a loss for how to fill his free time. Besides a few golf buddies, there didn't seem to be anyone nearby who had risen much above the level of "acquaintance" for him. His getting in on the men's poker game, first as a substitute, then as a regular, and now as this year's official host/player/refreshments coordinator has brought pleasure to us both.

The High Vista poker game rotates from house to house, so if the rotation holds up, we don't have to host the guys here but once every other month. Tuesday night, therefore, is "Free Time" for me. Mike leaves by six o'clock and he knows he's going to snack heartily during the game, so I'm free of my (admittedly self-imposed) responsibility to plan and bring dinner to the table. I'm free to hold the remote control so it can find "What Not to Wear" or "Chopped" or even the occasional chick flick on the Lifetime or Oxygen networks instead of "NCIS," "NCIS-Los Angeles," "Unforgettable," and "Body of Proof" - which I believe are essentially all the same show. Or even more likely - I can read or get lost in my craft studio for hours, without feeling that I'm abandoning my partner. I was single until age 35, so Poker Night is like a flash from the past, a weekly delicious dip into the luxury of "alone time," while knowing that the garage door will open and my sweet love will come in bubbling about "winning big" or seeking a hug to offset his painful losses.

This week, the game was at our house. Surprise! I also love when that happens. I enjoy watching Mike clear the kitchen counters to serve refreshments, make room for the bring-your-own beer in the refrigerator, assure the right number of chairs and flip the table pads in the dining room to "green felt up," sort the poker chips, lay out the decks of cards; everything must be just so and completed hours in advance - he's a perfectionistic host. I like saying a quick hello to the early arrivals as I coax the dog to follow me in a disappearing act upstairs where we entertain ourselves while the poker game symphony proceeds.

I really mean it - though I relish the quiet when poker pulls Mike out of the house, on nights when he's hosting the game, the male banter around that table is music to my ears. I was a first time bride when Mike and I got married, no children of my own. His son Chuck was already off to college and Doug was just about to leave the nest. So, it's a treat now to listen in on the give and take in a male register. I love hearing "my boy" teasing and being teased, the revival of "rank out" skill I had no idea still existed. Off-color jokes they are free to express in lieu of cursing the illusive Lady Luck. I'm impressed that they are willing to share playing tips as well as personal exasperation. And sometimes I get a windfall of "insider's info" about the goings on in the greater community as gossip flies.

Bottom line - I don't like to play poker, but I'm thinking I get lucky whenever Mike does.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Spring Still Slumbers

The heart of Winter in Western North Carolina is January, February, and even March. It's a shorter winter than up north, but still, "Can't plant safely until after Mother's Day."  Many of my avid gardener friends, all over the country, are drooling over seed catalogs already. But I'm still cooking up the veggies I canned and froze from last year's community gardening adventure and I'll be planting seedlings for the most part, not seeds. I am thinking about Spring, though, and nature is sending little signals, lest I rest content in hibernation or start to doubt that warmer days will come.

Trust Your Mother

There are daffodil shoots almost three inches high and the tendrils of the willow trees along the French Broad River are looking especially golden, so I know they're gathering strength. The first tiny redness appeared on my lower back over the weekend, a familiar response my skin makes to the activity of the trees, before it can ever be reported at Another two or three weeks and I'm sure to feel the impact of classic "Spring Fever" - subtly swollen sinuses, mild nausea, a bit of fatigue and perhaps a headache. I love, love, love the trees and can't understand why they take their exuberance for renewal out on me. But I'll endure. 

We have had a mild time of it so far. A few frigid days, always followed by one or two milder days. A pleasant rotation of sun and overcast skies, with sufficient rain to keep the water falls and creeks delightful, and no appreciable snow. Winter greens, herbs, and onions are doing fine in containers on our deck, so who am I to complain. Each day is a new treat.

Spring still slumbers, as we anxiously pace the lengthening days.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Time Out

Meditation is a time out for thinkers. No pressure. No responsibility. No shoulds. Just notice what comes.

Somehow people have come to believe meditation is about emptying your mind. It really is more about letting go of the urge to dwell on, evaluate, or follow the thoughts that arise. Just observe them, paying more attention to the sensations that accompany them, including the coming and going of your breath.

You gain control by letting go of control. I am porous. Everything that is, ever was, ever will be flows through me, here and now. I am part of the flow.

Meditation: Neither awake nor asleep, but somewhere in between. An invigorating state that opens you up to the deeper place where thoughts and dreams begin, where they are sourced before they take shape.

Turn up the corners of your mouth to smile. This softens your cheeks. Let your eyes, behind your eyelids, fall toward the bridge of your nose, slightly softening your gaze, inward. Breathe in. Breathe out. Be aware of what comes and what goes. Breathe in. Breathe out. Softly, deeply, again....

Just as with anything that is hard to do and even more challenging to master,  Meditation brings great rewards. When I release my mind and abandon the illusion of control, I connect with Wisdom and am embraced by Peace.

Sit With Your Thoughts

Monday, January 16, 2012

How Much Time Does It Take?

How much time do you think it took to develop and practice this performance? Take time to do what you love and perfect your unique talent.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Time Is of The Essence

It's important to recognize the signs that a stroke has happened, and/or that a "transient ischaemic attack" (TIA) has taken place. Quick action can save lives and help avoid a great deal of grief.

The FAST test is an easy way to recognize and remember the most common signs of stroke or a TIA. Using the FAST test involves asking three simple questions. If the person has a problem with any of these functions, dial 911 for an ambulance immediately. ACT F.A.S.T.!

FAST stands for:  
  • Facial weakness – can the person smile; have their mouth or eyes drooped on one side? 
  • Arm weakness – can the person raise both arms?  
  • Speech difficulty – can the person speak clearly and understand what you say? 
  • Time to act – act FAST and call 911 immediately. If you suddenly experience any of these symptoms, get to a hospital immediately. 
Remember, stroke is a life-threatening emergency. 

Symptoms of a stroke can include: A numb or weak feeling in the face, arm or leg, trouble speaking or understanding, unexplained dizziness, blurred or poor vision in one or both eyes, loss of balance or an unexplained fall, difficulty swallowing, headache (usually severe or of abrupt onset) or unexplained change in the pattern of headaches, confusion and unconsciousness.

Stroke is often referred to by doctors as a cerebro-vascular accident, but stroke is rarely an ‘accident’. The underlying conditions of a stroke (or cerebro-vascular disease) are usually present for years before a stroke occurs, although the symptoms of a stroke may occur suddenly. Transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs) are an important warning sign that a stroke may occur in the future. There are sometimes quite specific warning signs of an impending stroke. By recognizing the warning signs and taking action, you may be able to prevent a stroke or reduce its severity. It is important to be able to recognize the warning signs in order to get medical help as quickly as possible. Strokes have symptoms which act as warning signs. Transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs) are an important warning sign that a stroke may occur in the future. 

*This info was shared from "The Better Health Channel"

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Time to Remember

"Mr. Mah-velous"

Today is the first anniversary of the death of my father, Simon Lamhut. How is it possible that the last three months of Dad’s life seemed to last an eternity, yet this past year without him blew by like a spinning tornado? Those two time periods were equally challenging, though different. November 2010 – January 2011, Mom, my brother, my husband, and I endured the days watching helplessly while Dad fought the ravaging effects of stomach cancer vs. the rest of 2011 when we barely noticed time passing as we adjusted family dynamics around a gaping hole and spent hours diligently attending to details that would establish new supports for Mom in his absence. I trust that Dad is enjoying the peace and quiet he deserves, and I’m comfortable that we, too, have arrived at a better place, each at our own pace.
      My Dad was not big on spending social time, even with his family. He loved us, for sure, but as I was growing up in the 50’s he aspired to be the best dad possible in the tradition of that era, continuing his education and advancing his career. In his “free time” Dad was most often in “the shop” either on the ham radio or puttering around doing projects.
The bounty I’ve inherited from my father is a list of items so common that some people may accuse me of over-valuing the lot. Most of them were collected during the difficult task of clearing out the bedroom drawers he shared with Mom and re-purposing his shop. These items, protected from the discard piles earmarked for “Goodwill” and “Trash,” span the many chapters in his life and will always remain treasure to me.

·      Ephemera he kept, and kept, and kept. His original 1939 Boy Scout Handbook. “Blue Print” 1923, the yearbook commemorating his senior year at Brooklyn Tech HS. Letters to and from his cousins and buddies during World War II. Illustrated “CQ” cards exchanged among ham radio buffs to document the reach of their signals.
·      Dad’s navy blue wool cardigan. He always wore one over his flannel shirts.  And the navy blue lined hoodie that kept him warm during hours of dialysis the last years of his life. Every time I snuggle into one of these, it’s like getting a hug from Dad.
·      Evidence of the art he continued to dabble with long after he’d decided he was “not talented enough” and found himself a “secure day job” in electrical engineering. Pencil and pen and ink studies and water colors and oil paintings, many worth framing, which I’ve done. Ceramic clowns and flower pots, better than average. And “how to” books on all of the above.

The most wonderful tangible inheritance for me remains the two carloads of artist’s equipment and supplies I hauled from New York to North Carolina. Easels, canvases, frames, brushes, paints, palette and good quality paper pads, T-squares, rulers, sand paper, welding tools, electrical parts, found objects, marking pens; I could go on. Luckily, Dad lived to be almost 90 and left these for me long after I was detoured off my own “serious” career path into creative retirement. Not only am I free now to dabble on, but feel obligated to do so. Imagine the crime it would be if any of those canvases he never got to use remained “orphaned” through two lifetimes!
    Today, on the anniversary of his death, I got one more "gift" that let me know Dad's love is still accessible. The orchid plant I've had for four years, which has been nothing but a collection of potted green leaves and meandering grey roots since its first season ended, produced one bright bloom this morning. Coincidence? I choose to think not. To every time there is a season, for everything, there is a reason.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Did You Know...

Check out these interesting time-related facts I found in the Winter 2012 "Relief and Wellness News" I got this week from my chiropractor, Dr. Michael Masterman.

  • It takes about 20 seconds for a red blood cell to circle the whole body. (Does it matter how thin or fat that body is?)
  • The average human eyelash lives about 150 days. (I didn't know they were alive at all!)
  • A fetus develops fingerprints at eighteen weeks. (So then we don't really know who they are till then; are you listening, Radical Right?) 
  • Scientists estimate that laughing100 times is equivalent to a 10 minute workout on a rowing machine. (Need I say more?)

Monday, January 9, 2012

How Old Is Too Old?

So happy my good friend Arlene shared this video on Facebook. Not only is the subject, Louise Neistat, an inspiration, but so is the sincere tribute from her grandchild.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?

I’m a Pisces. You know, the fish that swims in two directions. True to my sign, I look at almost everything from multiple perspectives, including time. My basic belief is that “Time” does not exist, except in the human mind. But, from another point of view, our awareness of time passing (a uniquely human characteristic) seems to instigate so many pressures and anxieties. Only one week of 2012 has come and gone and already I’ve heard people joke, “Boy this year is moving fast.” Maybe it’s because it was a “short week,” what with the New Year holiday, and the Rose Bowl, parade and game, being moved from Sunday, January 1, to January 2. But did that shorten anything, really?
      When I was in my previous career, I sometimes delivered Time Management workshops. I remember quoting the pundits who cleverly observed, “Time is an equal opportunity resource. We all get the same seven days a week. Nobody ever thinks they have enough, but each of us has all there is, 168 hours.”
      All true. The rub is, you never know when your time is going to run out. Five years ago a medical miracle kept my personal clock ticking and a close friend gave me the poem below, which he felt was apropos. I agreed, and hung the poster on my kitchen wall. I take the time to read it every morning.

What Will Today Bring
This is the beginning of a new Day.

God has given me this day to use as I will.

What I do today is important, because I’m exchanging a day of my life for it.

When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving in its place something I have traded for it.

I want it to be gain, not loss.

Good, not evil.

Success, not failure.

In order that I shall not regret the price
I paid for it.

Because the future is just a whole string of nows.