Friday, September 28, 2012

The Weather Report

·  Powerful earthquake hits near Mexico
·  Avalanche kills 11 climbers at Nepal peak
·  Deadly floods strike northern Cameroon
·  NOAA: 2012 hottest year on record
·  Images: The Great New England Hurricane of 1938
·  Death Valley officially hottest place on Earth
·  Typhoon Sanba takes aim at South Korea
·  Can America be in for another 'Dust Bowl'?
·  Massive drought's impact felt everywhere
·  Volcanic activity diminishes in Guatemala
·  Super typhoon headed for Okinawa
·  Strong earthquake rat

I was looking up the weekend weather report just now trying to determine if rain is forecast. Below the weekend weather recap was the above listed information. Now, it would seem to me, that even the weather report page has become a source of the disaster mentality that journalistic media is so fond of doing every day on the evening, morning and afternoon news.

But here's the question: are things truly as ominous as they seem, is the world truly on the brink of both natural and man-made disasters, or is there a simpler theory at play here: bad news sells, or in this case, gets your attention?

I do not deny the fragile conditions of our world from its rocky economic and atmospheric climate. Steps are being taken, slow moving steps, to help raise awareness to the plight of our natural resources. To quote a much used phrase "it does not take a rocket scientist" to figure out our world is indeed facing some of the most challenging issues to date. 

But here is my concern: if we focus on just what is wrong or disaster driven in our world, does that necessarily help us to recognize what is inherently good out there? Would anyone truly tune into a news program that only spoke of the good deeds, or took a more positive spin in general.

I am not talking about a Pollyanna view of the worlds problems, Far from it, in fact. What I am suggesting is that so much of our culture is drawn to the worst case scenario, disaster and doom. Look at some of the movies people are drawn to and what makes "big" Hollywood dollars: huge, blockbuster disaster movies that reek of doom, gloom and the end of the world as we know it. Again, not anything new here, just the same old tired fantasy format being played out in our media. The only difference here is what we are watching or reading is being billed as "real" life, which of course it is, but there is so much more to our world to discover.

Let me just repeat again: I am not suggesting we all put on rose colored glasses and adopt a Pollyanna view of life. What I am suggesting however, is that we all take a moment or two each day, before we devour the days news or weather reports to recognize that as bad as things may seem, we don't have to buy into the hype. This does not give you permission to not care, or be affected by the news. No indeed! But to ruminate, or let ourselves feel helpless by the shear weight of all this murkiness in life serves no purpose.

As my son was waiting for the bus on this rainy day I mentioned to him the old expression "into everyone's life a little rain must fall." We talked about the fact that this saying was not just meant to be taken literally, but to be used as a metaphor in life.  Native American culture embodied this concept so beautifully in their daily life by recognizing this fact by being in close touch with nature. They used the metaphor of the sun rising and setting each day as a message for their own lives. They intuitively understood the sun rises and sets in  life through death, loss, war and ill health, marriage, family, love, etc. This is all a fact of being human.

So in essence what I am saying here is don't go searching for the "bad" or "negative" in life as a way to prove how truly awful the world has become, instead, bring a healthy curiosity to what is and find a way perhaps, in some small way to make your life matter.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Laugh, it makes you FEEL good!

Last night my husband and I happened upon a recorded show of Jay Mohr: Funny For a Girl, that had aired on Showtime. Jay Mohr, for those who might not know him, is a stand up comedian and actor. One of his most memorable roles was as the overly aggressive sports agent from Jerry Maguire. Neither of us had ever seen Jay's stand up routine so we decided to give it a whirl last night. Let me just say for the record: if you are the parent of little boys, were once the parent of little boys, or know someone with little boys, this is a MUST see show. (Warning: for those that dislike bad language or shy away from adult oriented humor, do not view this program. Some of his humor can be quite racy. So be advised.)
Our son building his traps in the woods

We could not stop laughing at the way he describes a sleep over with various 7 and 8 year old little boys.  Jay goes on to tell the tale of how he said good night to his son who at the time was wearing  NY JETS pajamas, however a few hours later, his son comes in the bedroom to tell his dad of some evil deed doings by a sleepover mate, only now he is wearing Spongebob pj bottoms and a Lightening McQueen pj top. When he arrives on the scene all the kids are in various states of undress and one boy is running around proudly without his shirt enjoying the freedom!
Snap of me laughing by my son

Again: if you have boys THIS WILL make you LAUGH!
A NYC Cockroach, a requested photo by my son!

Another funny story of Jay's concerns telling his sons to just "get out of the house" one day when he had gotten particularly angry at them. He tells how 2 hours later he calls them back inside only to discover all 3 of them are soaking wet from the chest down, one son has a "dog poop" snow ball in his hand and the little one is dragging home a prosthetic leg. When asked where they had been, all three said " I don't know."

Oh my, it makes me smile just to write this all down. Our family has been blessed with a host of little boys who are now all grown men, and our 8 year old is towing the obligatory male line quite nicely. It is different raising boys then it is girls, no question. How do I know that for certain you might ask, because I WAS a little girl. Boys just make me laugh! They have a free spirited way about them that can lead them into trouble without even trying. Many girls have an intensity that can border on the hyper critical or analytical. Boys just "are", girls "do."

Just the other day our son regaled us with tales of the playground whereby the boys were all trying to spank each other as hard as they could. Some boys were quite better at it then others, and my son spoke in glowing terms of being able to take a swat quite heartily from one of these champions of spank. Again, SO funny as my girly sensibilities inside my head were screaming
" WHAT!!! DO ANY OF YOU BOYS HAVE A BRAIN?" OK, I admit it, maybe this was not the most mindful thing to say in the moment but it WAS said with humor in my heart and a smile on my lips! While out of my mouth came the words " I am not sure if that is such a good activity to be pursuing at recess." 

But I had to admit, it made me LAUGH and it made my husband laugh too when I told him about it later that same day! BOYS!!!

Japanese Beetles as snapped by my son
So take heart parents of little men, they do indeed seem to get into the most unbelievable of adventures, but ONE day they will grow up and have little men of their own. And that will be a most eye opening experience for them all! I often wonder just HOW they make it to adulthood alive!!!???

So Smile! It makes your face look happy!! And from what researchers tell us, it might just make you feel better too!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Random Kindness at Subway

The author Anne Herbert is most frequently credited with having originated the expression "practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty." Today this quote is second nature to most of us. It would also seem that many people are not only understanding of this turn of phrase, but carrying it out to its fullest potential as well. 

                                  Here is what happened:

I found myself waiting in line at a Subway sandwich shop one recent evening. There was only one person behind the counter making sandwiches and, from what I could tell, she was the only employee working in the store that night. I was in line with about 8 or 9 other customers and 3 people were ahead of me.  The employee took each order and preceded to create the sandwiches one by one with precision and care.  Subway appears to have a systematic approach to making sandwiches allowing each customer to feel like they are receiving specialized attention. This young, lone employee embodied that fact most seriously, taking her time despite the line looming before her eyes. Bravo to her!

Two of the 3 people ahead of me were together. They were a  young couple, probably dating and in their late teens. Just as she was finishing up with their order the store attendant turned her attention momentarily to the next woman in line and asked her what she would be needing made. This woman had been standing there the entire time clutching some single dollar bills in her left hand. She asked rather nervously how much it would cost to make a 6 inch versus a one foot sub. She was given a price, seemed visibly relieved, as her shoulders relaxed downward. The store attendant finished ringing up the young couple and they left with their two subs.

Next, she turned her full attention again to the lady in front  of me and said "The couple who just left paid for your sandwich." I heard this statement clear as bell and felt my face light up in a broad smile. The woman had no idea what was being told to her. The clerk repeated her statement and you could see the slow dawning of realization on her face as she turned to me and said excitedly " I can't let them go without thanking them!" She quickly ran to the door of the store yelling thank you out into the parking lot. She came back to complete her order repeating again and again how hard things were for her financially right now and that this sandwich was a treat for her daughter. And how very nice it was for those people to pay for her sandwich. She was delighted at the kindness shown to her that day and will probably carry the thought of it with her for some time.

You could also feel how all of us in line felt lifted up by being a witness to this random act of kindness. One woman in line even said out loud "Random acts of kindness really do happen!" and we all agreed! Even the man behind me who up till now was pacing back and forth and clearly wanting to get the line moving faster. He now smiled and relaxed into the moment too. 

If this story has helped to inspire you, here is a website devoted to ideas for anyone including students, teachers and organizations interested in providing Random Acts of Kindness to those who need it most.  Sometimes the biggest boost we get to lifting our spirits or making our own difficulties seem a bit lighter is when we can do something for someone else no matter how small the gesture.

In the words of that oh so famous Alka Seltzer commercial from the 60's, "Try it, you'll like it!"And just maybe, you will start a trend!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Simply Simplify

This is a motto that I have come to fully appreciate as I move into the second or possibly third quadrant of my life. (Who knows maybe I make it to 100 maybe I do not.  I am guessing not!) I am only speaking for myself here, but I grow antsy with the accumulation of STUFF that gathers around me in my closets, basement and garage. 

No, this is not a hoarding situation I speak of nor is it an over abundance of stuff from reckless spending sprees. This is just the accumulation of things that once served some useful purpose but no longer are deemed worthy of even a passing glance. They sit gathering dust on shelves and cupboards or in darkened boxes where the light of day never penetrates. This is the sum total of things no longer being loved, played with or displayed proudly. In short, their meaning has been lost along the way somewhere and it is time to give them all a new life, home or meaning.

We talked for years about having a massive yard sale. But the thought of gathering up all the things from their hidden hideaways, to place in our garage awaiting sale day just seemed too insurmountable a task. Plus, last time we did a massive clean up of the basement my husband wound up with a double hernia afterward. He was having surgery the day before Thanksgiving two years ago. Not fun I can assure you. 

So, we slowly started to give things away to friends and to a local charity, Families in Transition, for their use and pleasure. It felt great to see the things start to dwindle: suitcases, bicycles, photograph equipment, handbags, professional photo printer, negative scanner, and various other things as well.

There was a welcome sense of letting go, but a bit of tension still ensued as the biggest clean out had yet to be tackled: my sons huge book collection and playroom toys. AGH!!! This was not something my husband or I wanted to face, and yet we had to get it done. The books were weeded through at the start of this summer and lovingly donated to Families in Transition. Now all that was left was the playroom. So it sat undone for several more months until a opportunity came along to make us all feel more motivated about the process.

We had some work done on our home recently and the contractors have become quite close to us over the last year or so. It would seem that there are four grandchildren in the family. Their grandmother was asked and she excitedly agreed that going through the playroom would be fun. I forewarned her that  the task at hand was going to be overwhelming as my son had accumulated years of lovingly given toys and playthings that had come his way from family and friends. She laughed, sat down crossed-legged on the floor and held back no shyness as she carefully searched through the bins to choose what she wanted. I was so happy to see her unabashed delight that was so infectious!

So, rather then running from or avoiding the task at hand as we had been up till now,  it became game-like going through bin after bin after bin of toys giving her more and more and more stuff! But, what I loved even more was her enthusiasm and total lack of self consciousness  as she relished the task of putting big smiles on all her grand kids faces.   Before long, 7 or 8 large boxes and bins, along with two soft toy boxes FULL of STUFF were carried up to await her daughters arrival. 

I cannot begin to tell you what it meant for me to see the look on one of of her granchildren's face when he saw all the wonderful toys waiting on the driveway to be placed into his mom's van. Without any prompting this little 4 year old boy turned to me and said "Shanks fa ah da toyz!" in a tiny, happy voice that needed NO interpretation. Her one year old granddaughter snuggled up to a musical flower that had been a favorite of my sons when he was 2!  It is great to give things away but I have to admit when you know to whom your things go and you see the joy it brings to them, the feeling is beyond words!

Our task was made all the easier and it took us only two and half hours to complete the clean out process this weekend. Oh what a feeling! The room is clean and sparkling and we all feel better for having finished it. Sure, we could have made several hundred bucks on a garage sale but the task was not one we wished to undertake, especially given my husbands former double hernia! So, I can truly say that for us, giving it away, while challenging to let go of all the memories, was in the end a job well worth it!