Life Management

Nov
09

A Change Of Scenery

by Christine

I am home. After a week in California I returned home to bare tree limbs, mounds of leaves covering the lawn and a renewed enthusiasm for life on the mountain. The time away was glorious. Marty and I hiked the cliffs of Big Sur and the street of San Francisco stopping to enjoy the unique beauty of each place. As we walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, our conversation centered on technology, art and our good fortune at living in a country of such geographic diversity and abundance. We sampled local food and drink and reveled in spending time together. We had a lovely time in a lovely place. 

Our trip allowed me to get out of the house and get out of my head. The expedition forced me to think about more than the how-to of running my life and when I returned I was able to see my world in another light. Nelson Mandela said, "There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." I have been changed. I hope for the better.

Traveling allows one to look at life from different vantage points. I will give you an example. As you know California is struggling with a life-altering drought. As we drove through the farm country, we saw interrogatory signs lining the highway. Is growing food a waste of water?, Congress Caused the Dust Bowl, No Water=No Jobs and Pray For Rain were expressing the fears of a community. These are real people worrying about real jobs and real environmental challenges. Nothing abstract, nothing hypothetical. Their struggle touched my heart and mind.  I am a conservationist at heart but I am doubling my efforts to be respectful of our water use. I am grateful for my home and gratitude requires that I care for it lovingly. 

Maybe a week away isn't in your immediate future but I encourage you to take some time to change your scenery. Whether you spend the weekend with a friend or travel half way around the world, take some time to get out of your house and out of your head. It will be worth it!

Hugs,
C


{The View From The Golden Gate Bridge On A Glorious Fall Day}

 

Oct
22

The Importance of Grandparents

by Christine

Yesterday, Joe announced a Biden run for President of the United States was a no go. I was relieved to hear of his decision. It was the right choice for the Biden family and Joe understands that. Joe lost a child when his oldest son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer this past May and my heart breaks for him. The whole family is in the beginning stages of grief that will take months, maybe even years to work through. As a mother, I have not personally experienced that kind of loss and I can't begin to know his pain. As grandmother though I have watched as the problems of adults and this world have forced my grandchildren to navigate the harsh realities of loss; a loss that changes the trajectory of their young lives. 

In times of loss, grandchildren need their grandparents to do their jobs. And what is that job? To love them unconditionally; to be part of their lives. I am working to follow in the footsteps of my mother as I intentionally evolve as a grandmother. My mother loved her grandchildren and they loved her back. She was a very good grandmother. She was "there" when they needed her to be with a kind word or a loving hug; they felt valued. My hope is that I can be as good to my grandchildren as my mother was to hers. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to know that my grandchildren felt loved and cherished by me.  

Grandparents are in a unique position. We get a second chance to have children in our lives without having to do all the heavy lifting. We can love, nurture and find amusing behavior that a parent would be forced to correct. I remember when my number two granddaughter used her crayons to draw a LARGE mural on her freshly painted bedroom wall. Her mother and I had completely different responses.

When tragedy strikes a family, grandparents are needed even more. Grandchildren look around for solid ground and instinctively feel their parents "have their own problems" and try to protect them. A grandparent, with his or hers, years of life experience can offer some peace and solace. The Biden family has some tough times ahead of them and Joe knows it. Almost anyone can be President of the United States but only Joe can be grandfather to his son's children. He is the only one that can tell them stories about their father as a little boy or tell them about the good in their father. He will also be able to point out the good in his grandchildren and tell how much alike they are to their father.

As a grandparent, it is not about the heroic gesture. It is about showing up and unconditionally loving the dirty faces, sticky hands and the crayon murals on freshly painted walls. Parents have their job; it's hard, I know, I've done it. Grandparents have work to do too. Joe Biden has proved himself to be a positive role model for those of us working to be a loving grandparent. 

Hugs,
C

 

 

Oct
19

The Joy Of Change

by Christine

Two weeks ago I was in Jacksonville for my forty-fifth high school reunion. Yeah, can you believe it? Forty-five years. That number amazes me too. I had a wonderful time reconnecting with friends that I hadn't seen or talked to since our high school graduation. We discussed our careers, parents, children and grandchildren. While the conversations were brief due to the good turn out, I chatted with as many of our classmates as possible. 

I was surprised and pleased to learn the dominant emotion in the room was joy. The reunion was a joyful occasion but it was more than that. My classmates were sharing with me changes he or she had just made or were in the process of making.  Most were retiring from careers that had spanned thirty years and they were excited and energized by the next phase of their lives. One classmate had just returned from touring the Western part of the United States where she purchased several acres of land in Colorado. She was a life long resident of Florida but was now going to spend part of the year in Colorado. Another classmate was sharing his love for woodworking and how he was now going to be able to spend more time crafting furniture for his home, family, and friends. I believe this venture will eventually lead to second career for my friend. 

We hear so many negative stories about change and life after retirement that we become fearful and reticent about our future. The Fourth Quarter of life can be whatever you choose to make it. I have friends and colleagues that are holding on to jobs that they don't like, working with people they don't respect because the "job" is all they know. Retire is only a word that means to withdraw to or from a particular place. The word does not have to define who you are or your place in the world. The Dalai Lama said, "Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions." My question today is, where will you find joy?

Hugs,
C

Oct
07

Why Build Community?

by Christine

I've been thinking and writing about community over the last couple of months. For many of us, our first experience with community is at school. We venture beyond the safety of our family into the greater fellowship of school administrators, teachers, friends and schoolmates. Some of these relationships last a lifetime and some fade away upon graduation. But within the educational community we find friends whose interests more closely align with our own. My friends and I were Campfire Girls, members of the school choir, attended the same church, worked on the school yearbook together and enjoyed the same music and movies.  

As an adult I found community at my job but recently I read an article that reported Americans no longer look to work as a place to form meaningful relationships. I can understand that shift given the fact that long-term employment is no longer a given in the United States. Polite but professional seems to be the code for office relationship these days. Another place I found community as an adult was in my children's school. I knew all my children's friends and in many of their parent's too. I was a member of the PTA, a Girl Scout Leader, a Cub Scout Den mother and a youth group leaders. In all these cases community was created for me when my children or I joined an established institution. 

Our transient society or aging may result in the shrinking of our circle of friends and lessen community at the very moment it is most important to us. Human beings are social creatures that need contact with other humans to thrive. I also believe we harden our hearts to the concerns of others if we become insular. Additionally without community we begin to feel helpless when presented with a problem. I will give you an example of the strength of community from my own life.

I live on a lake in the Hudson Valley and for the last two summers we have had a problem with blue-green algae. A blue-green alga is fouling the lakes and rivers all over the world and has been linked to everything from climate change to phosphorus and nitrogen from golf courses. A group of neighbors came together to educate our community on blue-green algae in general and our lake in particular. Our solutions included an education program on septic pump out, planting rain gardens and clearing out the lake's remediation pond. Our community focused on the single goal of improving the health of our lake. We did not have to take on the overwhelming task of cleaning up all the lakes and rivers of the world. (Though we are willing to share what we have learned with others if needed.) But without community nothing would have been done and would have furthered the belief that the "average citizen" is ignored.  A happy by product of our rallying around the lake cleanup was the good friends we made; friends who make our lives better. 

This is why we need to form and maintain communities. Our communities need our gifts, our collective wisdom and our willingness to create a positive vision for the future. And we need community because we have a deep-seated need for connection. 

Hugs,
C

Sep
28

Developing InterGenerational Communities

by Christine

There was a period during the last year of my mother's life when it felt like every time I called her, she was crying. Alarmed, I would ask, what's wrong? Mom would tearfully explain that another member of her Sunday school class had died and would share with me some poignant tidbit about the deceased. The last time we played out this scene, Mom broken-heartedly stated she just couldn't go to "one more funeral". I, not so tactfully, suggested she join another Sunday school class with younger people. Sadly, she did not go to the funeral nor she did join another Sunday school class, she quit going to Sunday school all together. Sunday school was one of Mom's few remaining activities that brought her in contact with other people.

Age is an easy method of grouping and sorting large groups of people. As a result, age forms and defines our individual communities from the moment we are born. The people we attend school with end up being our friends, confidants and familiars. The timing of life experiences is similar and we go through those experiences as a singular body. We find comfort in our age-based communities.

While there can be comfort in a community of friends who have ties based on shared experiences due to age, there are also challenges and disadvantages of segregated groups. A segregated group can become insular, myopic and develop an us vs. them mentality. How many headlines have you read about Generation Xers declaring they are tired of the Baby Boomers whining and vice versa? Segregation limits the group's exposure to ideas, opinions and experience as well as skews their vision of reality. My mother truly felt everyone around her was dying but in reality, it was the people of her age group.

My thesis, if you will, is that we need to develop intergenerational communities that allow us to share experiences from different vantage points and proficiencies. You may be "friends" with the younger people in your family but I would suggest there is also a hierarchy based on age in those relationships. To have peers that are both older and younger than you will enrich and enhance your life. Also, you will enrich and enhance the life of your intergenerational community. Take a look at your community is it based on age? If it is, maybe it is time to reach out to others outside your age group.

Hugs,
C

 

 

 

 

 

Sep
23

Surround Yourself With Positive People

by Christine

This past Sunday I volunteered to be a "body marker" for the Ironman Lake Tahoe. I, along with about twenty other volunteers, greeted the athletes at the entrance to the Lake with a marking pen and smile.  As I listened to the words of the volunteers around me, I was touched by how this community was full of goodwill and encouragement. No one talked about how cold the water was or how early the hour or what a long day it was going to be.

Words of inspiration and motivation were shared as athletes from all over the world set his or her mind in order to meet the 140.6-mile challenge ahead of them.  In the midst of preparing for the day more than one athlete thanked me for volunteering and helping to make their day a success. They had a big job ahead of them and yet they had time to say a kind word to another. The Tahoe Ironman brought together a group of people whose common goals were to help each other have a positive experience; they built a community.

My question today is what kind of community are you building? Is it a group that helps you realize your dreams? Does your community use positive encouragement to reach its goals? Is your community one of aspiration and purpose? Or do you find yourself in the midst of people who spend their time complaining and working to thwart the achievements of others? Do you allow the "haters" into your mind and world? I would encourage you to take some time to assess the community that you are building. If you don't like what you see then make a change.

Hugs,

Sep
21

Living The Ironman Life

by Christine

As I write to you today I am in Lake Tahoe sitting before a warm fire. Yesterday, my son ran his first Ironman and I was in Tahoe to support him and cheer him on as he crossed the finish line. Those of you, who follow this blog, know that this time last year, Matthew was hit by car while training for this very race. He had life threatening injuries that could have resulted in paralysis or death. But he was blessed and our family was blessed with a miracle. Good Samaritans and competent professional all came together at the right time, with the right skills to save his life. I am grateful for the community that saved him. 

Participating in the Ironman was a two-year journey for Matthew. He committed both mentally and physically to participating in the race.  A moving and exciting tradition of the Ironman race is as the athlete crosses the finish line the announcer bestows the title of #Ironman on the finisher. Tears came to my eyes as Matthew ran across the finish line and the announcer said, "Matthew Parks, You. Are. An. Ironman." The irony of the moment is that the athlete doesn't feel like an Ironman as he or she crosses the finish line. The athlete has endured 140.6 miles of swimming, biking and running and drained all reserves to cross the finish line. It takes about a 45-minute rest, a few hundred calories and hugs from family and well-wishers for the athlete to appreciate the enormity of their accomplishment. 

As I sat in the dining hall with the finishers, I listened as the racers discussed their performance on the course. The athlete's attitude about his performance was based on his expectations going into the race. If an athlete expected to finish the course in 13 hours but finishes in 12 hours the event was a success. Conversely if that same athlete's expectations are 11 hours but the final time is 12 hours disappointment rises to the surface and a harsh critical analysis begins. At Ironman as in life our expectations drives our journey and ultimately whether we are happy or not. When our expectations are met we are happy, when our expectations aren't met we are dissatisfied. Happiness is the result of our expectations and outcome being balanced. 

I am a big proponent of making life plans and working those plans but I have learned and now embrace life where my expectations run contrary to the outcome. The unexpected gives me an opportunity to learn and grow as a human being. What if we viewed our life as an Ironman event where it's going to take us everything we've got to make it to the finish line and that the unexpected is part of the course and doesn't drive our happiness. Yesterday I watched as hundreds of athletes faced the unknown and worked for the title of Ironman. My wish for them is that they find happiness in their willingness to take chances and run the race. I was inspired and encourage by my son and those around him as they took up a personal challenge to achieve a difficult goal. I will take this lesson with me as I head back home to New York.

 

Hugs,
C

 

 

 

Sep
16

Raised Beds, Flowers And Renewal

by Christine

A year ago I'd planned to share with you my new garden project, raised herb beds. Unbeknownst to me my whole world would be turned on its ear when my son was hit by a car while training for the Ironman in Lake Tahoe. A year later Matthew has healed from his injuries and the herbs in my kitchen garden are cascading over the sides of the beds.  I thought this would be the perfect time to share with you pictures of the thriving sage, rosemary and thyme outside my backdoor and share a few lessons learned about creating a raised herb garden. 

Building a square frame is not difficult if you have a talented partner who can tote wood, use a saw and wield a hammer. Marty spent an afternoon with me putting together the framework for the raised beds. Marty was the journeyman carpenter and I was his apprentice. I also added the stenciled design on the sides of the frames for a little whimsy and color. Here's what you need to know to start your own beds.

1. Raised beds can be the perfect solution for spaces with poor soil. I built my beds outside my backdoor near the kitchen and on top of an under ground bolder. I was never able to get anything to grow in that space because the soil was only a couple inches deep. Now I have lush herbs and eatable flowers for daily use. 

2. When choosing a site for your herb garden, follow the sun. Herbs need lots of sun to thrive and reach their full potential. If sunlight is in short supply in your garden, a small raised bed could be the solution.

3. Raised beds can be crafted out of almost any material. You can use materials such as concrete blocks, masonry, rock, galvanized culvert, stock tanks, steel or wood. I chose wood because I liked the look and wanted to be able to stencil the sides. I did make the decision to avoid chemically treated wood. It will decay faster but the chemicals won't leach into the ground and into our water supply.  

4. I asked Marty to cover the bottom of the beds with chicken wire to keep animals from burrowing up through the beds. In retrospect this was an unnecessary step for us because our beds are on rock. But if you have garden critters that burrow, the chicken wire could be the solution for you. 

5. We mixed the soil ourselves using organic products. Topsoil was the main ingredient with compost and manure added for drainage and nutrients. The hardest part of this job wasn't finding the right composition of soil but toting bags and bags of topsoil and rock. We filled out the spaces between the beds with bluestone rock that is indigenous to New York. 

This was truly a labor of love. Watching the herbs thrive and the brilliant colors of the nasturtiums decorate the space outside my kitchen brings joy to my day. If you want to renew and rejevenate a section of your garden to grow your own herbs, I suggest giving a raised bed a go.

Hugs,

Sep
14

What Is Community?

by Christine

A couple of years ago I purchased a Jeep Wranglers. I've wanted a Jeep since before my kids were born but always felt I needed to have a responsible car. But after my mother died, I finally purchased my "dream" car. Unbeknownst to me with the purchase of my little red Jeep, I joined the Jeep "community"; a group that created a tradition of waving to one another as they pass each on opposite sides of the road. I now do the Jeep Wave.

It's fun to do the Jeep Wave as I come upon another Jeep driver but I am under no illusion that I am part of a community. I am waving to another person who has the same fondness for the Jeep brand. Being part of a community requires more from the individual than having similar tastes in cars.

I believe a community is a unified group of people who acknowledge a joint ownership and participation in society and quite frankly includes a physical component. What do I mean by that? Take FACEBOOK as an example. We can read about the loss of a loved one by one of our friends on FACEBOOK and offer our heartfelt condolences on the site but we can't take our friend's hand or give them a hug. We can't deliver a casserole or take their children for an evening while they get some rest after a trying day at the hospital. I believe one must be physically present from time-to-time in the lives of others to be a community. 

Now before you get up in arms about my excluding FACEBOOK as a community, please know that I am a FACEBOOK fan. I have reconnected with high school friends, maintained connection with previous co-workers who have moved on to other jobs and shared pictures with family regularly on this ubiquitous tool. But my point is, FACEBOOK is a tool, a device to enable communication between people. Community doesn't reside in the virtual world. 

As we discuss what it means to be part of a community and how we personally can shape our community in a positive way. We must first understand what it takes to create community and be clear on what we are willing to do to make it a place we want to live. 

Hugs,
C

 

 

Pages