Life Management

Nov
01

Looking For A Good Book…Try The Young Adult Section

by Christine

I love to read. Being curled up with a good book on a rainy day is almost perfection. Better yet, reading a good book to my grandchildren is perfection. The last time I finished reading a book to my #1 granddaughter, she said unsolicited, "I love you", as she ran out to play with her friends. My heart almost stopped as I thought, "she loves a good book as much I do". 

I am always on the hunt for a good read and I find myself looking more and more to the Young Adult section of the bookstore. Why, you might ask? YA authors are telling the best stories. Young Adult Literature runs the whole spectrum from To Kill A Mockingbird to Bruiser to The Book Thief. The characters are fully formed in their humanity and don't rely on stereotypical shorthand to describe who they are.  Also YA Literature doesn't shy away from looking at the ugly and the evil of this world but it also incorporates the good and uplifting of the human spirit. The end may not always turn out as we hope but we are left with the feeling that what is good in man survived.

Right now, on the recommendation of my friend and fellow Haven Retreat compatriot, Lorraine Nelson Tom, I am reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The book is wonderful and to reinforce my credibility, I will mention The Book Thief movie, directed by Brian Percival is being released on November 8. You may know Percival's other directing credits, Downton Abby. (And to be clear, I am not being compensated for writing about any of this, though if anyone were inclined to send money, gold jewelry or first class round trip tickets to Paris, I would not stop them.)

But back to the subject at hand...finding a good book. The Book Thief has been a slower read for me; why a slow read when it's beautifully crafted with an interesting storyline? It's a slow read because it takes place in Nazi Germany and the story is being told by Death. Yes, Death as a character and a more fully drawn character than one would imagine. I have slowly been making my way though the book as one would walk up a set of dark stairs. Is there a terrifying monster lurking at the top of the stairs or is my fear greater than reality?  What keeps me moving forward is my belief that YA authors want to salvage the kernel of humanity that exist even during horrifying human experiences while telling an engaging story. Markus Zusak is no exception. 

I am recommending The Book Thief along with the whole world of YA Literature because I believe you will be entertained, engaged and inspired. The next time you are on Amazon or browsing the shelves of Barnes and Nobles, check out the Young Adult section. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find. Additionally, my friend Lorrie (see above) is also writing a book. The working title is: How Real Love Ruined the Men of My Dreams. I can't wait for it to get published because I know it is going to be hilariously great.

Hugs,
C

 

 

Oct
30

Is Developing a "Thick Skin" The Answer?

by Christine

I was talking with my friend and fellow writer Kristin yesterday. (More accurately we were texting, young people including my children and grandchildren have whole conversations through texting. I've learned to converse this way and now know more about my kids than when talking was our primary method of communication.) Some of you may read Kristin Meekhof's blog in The Huffington Post; she is an excellent writer who wrote honestly about the loss of her husband to cancer. If you haven't read her blog I encourage you to do so.

Our text conversation centered on what Kristin called developing a "thick skin" when it comes to criticism and critiques. The first image that came to mind when Kristin asked, "How do you develop a thick skin?" was of my #1 granddaughter. Recently I served my grandchildren my homemade macaroni and cheese and my #1 granddaughter promptly declared it tasted like dirt. This sent my other grandchildren into a complete panic because they love my homemade macaroni & cheese even declaring it, "killer macaroni & cheese". They were concerned I wouldn't prepare it if I didn't have a 100% consensus on the dish. Truly, I was amused, knowing full well it didn't taste like dirt plus as with Crest Toothpaste, 6 out of 7 grandchildren declared my macaroni & cheese to be "killer". But there was a moment when I felt just a twinge of discomfort. I mean who doesn't want 7 out of 7 grandchildren rating their macaroni and cheese at the killer level?  

In life if we are passionate about what we do, it's unnerving and painful to have others critique our passion. It takes courage and daring to offer up to the world what we value on a core level. When others critique our work/talent/passion, it can stop us cold. Through the years I have learned that if you really want to improve or excel at something whether it's writing, being a chef or a first rate salesperson, you must allow trusted and competent advisor to critique your work. I have worked to use productive criticism to my advantage but first; I had to think through whom to trust. I divide criticism into two camps...solicited and unsolicited criticism. 

Who should you solicit feedback from on the things that matter to you? Most of the time we look to the people closest to us but they may not always be the best folks for the job. Family and friends can encourage (or discourage) but you need someone who has an understanding of what it takes to accomplish the goals you are pursuing. Your mother may tell you a million times that you make the best hamburger on the planet and that you should open a restaurant but before you open your own burger joint, you need to talk to someone that has made or sold food to the public. If they know their stuff, they will be able to improve your burger AND educate you on getting your burger to market. The challenge comes in finding people you trust to offer you a critique. 

Additionally you must also be willing to listen without judgment and avoid being defensive. I will tell you from personal experience that it's painful to have someone, even someone you trust, critique your passion. That is why I am cautious about who I ask. I don't default to people that only just say good things but I am cautious about opening up to just anyone. 

Next is the unsolicited criticism camp. These folks can come out of nowhere or may be your closest family member. The danger here is that you don't know their agenda. Do they want to help you improve your skills so you can reach your goals? Is he or she a frustrated writer, chef or salesperson who is sure he or she has all the answers...and that you are doing it all wrong?  Or are they just a negative and unhappy person?  

Alfred, Bruce Wayne's Butler has a great quote in the movie,

The Dark Knight-"Some men aren't looking for anything logical. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn. 

This behavior is particularly prevalent where anonymous people leave hurtful, profane or inaccurate comments on everything from the Washington Post to FACEBOOK. In my mind these folks have fallen in love with the hurtful turn of a phrase he or she has crafted or just want to be disruptive. They aren't creators; they are destroyers and any critique they offer should be dismissed. Logic tells you occasionally someone will get it right in the unsolicited category but for the most part I believe this group should be avoided. 

I don't think it is possible to develop a thick skin against criticism. I think the best we can hope for is to be surrounded by like-minded people who make us better through his or her critique and let go of those who would tear down and destroy. I think the bigger challenge and the thing we must work the hardest to accomplish is to be sure we know which is which.

Hugs,
C

 

Oct
29

Imperfection And Opportunities

by Christine


{October Tomatoes}

Temperatures are starting to drop here particularly at night. I begrudgingly picked the last remnants of my tomatoes before the frost destroyed them. I was bit disappointed to do so because the harvest was so late this year. The plants were covered in clusters of green, yellow and red tomatoes but I knew the cold would get them if I didn't. Historically I would make a big batch of red sauce that could be used over time but I knew I didn't have enough tomatoes to do that now. I would have to come up with something else to do with the tomatoes.  I am going to make green fried tomatoes with the larger one. Marty's never had green friend tomatoes and I like digging into my old Southern cookbooks every once in a while to prepare a dish that my grandmother would cook. The smaller tomatoes were a little more difficult and required that I venture out of my comfort zone. I am going to pickle them. I have canning tools that came in useful for making applesauce and marmalade but pickling, it's new for me. 

I smile as I think about the challenge of creating the perfect pickled tomato because just yesterday the perfect use for my tomatoes would have been a simmering red sauce. Now I am researching recipes and scheduling time to create the perfect pickled tomato; the new plan is good. Life is similar to the pickled tomato enigma. One day we are dreaming, planning and working towards the "perfect" life, when something happens and our vision of life goes awry. What happens then? For most of us we start to imagine and craft a new perfect life and as we embrace that new vision our happiness returns or increases because we found new opportunities that we did not know existed. The new plan is good. 

 The danger comes when we can't let go of our perfect plan. The inability to find the next opportunity or challenge out of the imperfection that caused the need for change can only result in personal dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Being unable or unwilling to see the beauty in the new plan only brings sadness. Of course we would all like to live out our perfectly planned life. Really? But if that is not meant to be, look hard at the imperfections and see what opportunities may open up to you. The new plan maybe good.

Hugs,
C

Oct
25

Banksy Is On The Loose In NYC

by Christine

I read 4 newspapers a day. I used to read 5 but the Wall Street Journal became too expense to access just so I could read the eclectic "middle column". I read The New York TimesThe Washington Post, The Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times. Each paper, like the city they reside in, has a unique personality. The New York Times is all about finances and views itself as an international paper more than a local NYC paper. The Washington Post is focused on politics while The Los Angeles Times is all about the Entertainment business. Anything you want to know about the movies, TV, celebrity real estate transactions or the advertising business, The Los Angeles Times has it. The Boston Globe is all about education unless the Boston Red Sox are in the World Series and then The Boston Globe is euphonic in its coverage of the Red Sox Nation. 

I tell you all of this so that you get a glimpse into my thinking about Banksy, a British artist that is currently in NYC.  Banksy is an multimedia artist who has taken his art to the streets...and FACEBOOK, Twitter and a website. He has been painting or building whimsical art pieces all around the City.  Here's where Banksy and the New York Times intersect because candidly as artsy as the New York Times likes to believe itself to be, it is still about the finances. The reason Banksy is such a big deal to the New York Times is that his street artwork goes for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The very thing that has gotten him noticed by the New York Times maybe the very thing that makes him stop taking his art to the streets. 

Banksy says it is all about the art, not about the money but when his work hits the streets whether in Britain, Israel or in the US, discussion of money surrounds his work. Banksy even captured on video a couple of "neighborhood gents" trying to charge local New York "art tourist" $20 for the privilege of seeing and photographing his work. The police have gotten into the mix; they don't want graffiti art on the streets or buildings of NYC. They are playing a game of hide and seek with Banksy causing him to go dark for a night because of "police activity". Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants Banksy out!

I really like his work. It's lighthearted pleasure and feels like a citywide scavenger hunt to find the next piece. Yes, I know that we can't have everyone with a can of spray paint running around the City marking up the place. But Banksy's work is different. It is subtle, yet striking. It is fanciful, yet political. I think it is fun, engaging and wish that the money people would stay out of it and let the rest of us enjoy this citywide art show. So that's what's happening in NYC, what's happening in your town?

Hugs,
C

Oct
23

The Golden Light Of Fall

by Christine

I feel the most beautiful season in the Hudson Valley is autumn. The light changes from a blue/white to a yellow/gold. 



Before falling to the ground, the leaves on the maple, oak and elm trees morph into a visual treat of translucent color. Vibrant reds, yellow and orange blend together to form a mosaic.



Once on the ground the leaves turn brown and remain in place until a car drives through them. Then they dance and twirl one last time before flying off to the side of the road.

While my heart soars at the beauty of the season, I also feel sadness. While the calendar says that the end of the year is December 31st, my heart tells me this is the end. I must pick the last of the tomatoes while they are still green and I know the first frost will kill the remaining few summer flowers. 

I love autumn in the Hudson Valley. I love the golden light. 

What is your favorite season? 

Hugs,
C


 

Oct
22

Can You Handle One More Comment About Miley Cyrus?

by Christine

In May before I graduated from high school, Janis Joplin played the Armory in Jacksonville where I lived. While I was a music major, a singer and beginning to explore the world of hardcore rock n’ roll, I was not a totally cool hippie chick. That honor went to my best friend at the time. She was smart, read the New Yorker and stayed up late at night to watch The Dick Cavett Show. Conne knew what was cool and she knew we needed to go see Janis Joplin.

I remember nothing of the logistic of going to the show but I clearly remember Janis and her performance. She burst onto the stage holding a fifth of Southern Comfort and laughing. Janis was ready to party and I was completely mesmerized. Her voice was strong, raspy and demanding. The music she made commanded your attention and touched your soul. She sang of adult pain and desire, sometimes seriously and sometimes whimsically. (Oh, Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz, my friends all drive Porches, I must make amends… was definitely the precursor to the 1980’s bumper sticker, HE WHO DIES WITH THE MOST TOYS WINS. It would take another 15 years before the Boomers figured out that consumerism was not a fulfilling religion.)

Janis sang her heart out all the while drinking Southern Comfort straight from the bottle and laughing with the crowd and her band. Janis was having a fantastic time and she was kind enough to let us in on the fun. These days you would say I had a girl crush on her but that would be an understatement. Janis was my idol, she was my guru, she was showing me the wider world and I felt we were kindred spirits. I was dumbfounded that a woman was traveling alone with HER band. She was a working musician and all I could think was "how did she get her parent to let her do this”.  I told you before that I was a “bless her heart” girl. You know the type, sheltered and naive, a dangerous combination.

After the show, as the crowd filed out, Janis lingered on stage talking with her band and the road crew. I desperately wanted to speak to her but was too shy. I left singing Summertime and wishing my naturally straight hair was curly so I could wear feathers like Janis. Five months later, Janis' body was found at the Landmark Hotel in Hollywood, California. She had died from a heroin overdose.

At 27 Janis Joplin was dead. This was less than a month after Jimi Hendrix, a talented rock/blues guitarist, died of a drug overdose in London. I know this maybe difficult to understand now but there was a romanticism surrounding the death of these two musician...it came from the live hard and die young school of thought. At 18, we couldn't imagine that Janis or Jimi might have been musical powerhouses in their 40's, 50's and beyond. Theirs was a stellar explosion that briefly outshone every lesser musician before fading from view. Yes, romanticism is still at play here.

 

Now this brings me to the one more comment about Miley Cyrus. The other day several of my friends and I were commenting on the Miley Cyrus drama. Actually we were sharing our disdain for everything surrounding her performance with Alan Thicke on MTV's VMAs when a friend spoke up and said, "We sound just like our parents did about our music". Boy did I get mildly annoyed because I am a cool grandmother and I like all kinds of new music but that comment did make me stop and think.

So let me clarify, I am not complaining about Miley Cyrus' music even though I am more of a Nora Jones, Adele and Lumineers kind of fan. My concern is for Miley Cyrus and a society that sits by and watches as a performer implodes. Miley has a serious problem and no amount of double talk will convince me otherwise. Miley is using drugs and she is acting out in public. This is a young woman in trouble.

The difficult part is that we feel like we know Miley and her family. Yes, we all remember Billy Ray singing Achy Breaky Heart and we watched Miley grow-up on Hannah Montana but folks we don't KNOW these people. This is their family drama and sadly, we can't do anything about it. Of course we could all gather around the TV set and do as Mary Martin asked all the children watching the live version of Peter Pan..."if you believe, where ever you are, clap your hands. Clap, clap, don't let Tink die". Bringing Tinkerbell back to life made me feel powerful as a child but today I understand more. 

Where Miley's actions touch our lives is through our families and communities. Being continually bombarded with images of young girls and young women wearing suggestive clothing in public while participating in questionable activities could and at times does result in individuals in our society being exposed to images that they don't want to see or don't really understand. I am a big believer in the concept of "age appropriate" and at this time Miley Cyrus' "act" is only appropriate for those over 21.

This means that I don't want my grandchildren watching Hannah Montana because I don't want to explain her transition to stripper poll dancer. Children or young people don't understand that certain behavior is not just uncool or bad art but a cry for help. I don't want to see her on every magazine cover at the grocery store check out line because it makes me sad and reminds me I am powerless to help her.  Miley may grow out of this and one day her tell-all book will hit the bookstores, telling us how she narrowly avoided death. But today I don't want to watch her because I have seen this before and it turned out badly. What do you think? What Rock n' Roll legend touched your life? Do you think constantly seeing negative or degrading images of young women lessens their impact?

Hugs,
C

Oct
18

In Defense Of Mayor Michael Bloomberg…

by Christine

 


{Wheaties and Weed: Maybe this guy could use some nutrition tips!}

Michael Bloomberg is the mayor of New York City and I like him. I am here to explain why you should like him too.  That’s not to say that he needs me to defend him because he has done quite nicely without me covering for him during his 71 years on this planet. He is a billionaire who made his money selling “high quality financial” information. Capitalism and technology are his friends and he sings their praises regularly while they continue to increase his wealth.

Once Bloomberg was able to cover his mortgage, he decided to go into politics. As many community-minded people do, he decided to run for mayor of his adopted city. His adopted city just happens to be New York City. According to Wikipedia, New York is the 16th largest economy in the world so governing NYC requires someone with multiple talents. Esquire says, “He’s liberal. He’s conservative.  He’s Idealistic. He’s pragmatic.” There’s more but you get the gist of their headline.

I say he is a businessman who has a 30,000-foot view of governing and most people don’t understand it.  Those who are confused by him point to the fact he started out as a Democrat, moved to the Republican party and then chucked both parties and became an Independent.  Like any real businessperson will tell you, politics is frustrating and at times a big time waster.  (For example, the government shut down fall of 2013.) Bloomberg just cut the whole thing loose.

Of course when you have 31 billion dollars in your checking account and can fund your own political campaign for any office in our fair land, who needs the headache of the small, petty stuff generated by the Democratic and Republican parties. But for most people party affiliation is a one-word signal for political philosophies. The Republican party declares they are all about small government, a strong military and conservative values while the Democrats get tagged with the antithesis of those beliefs.  Bloomberg just couldn’t be bothered with these inaccurate labels.

So now he is Mayor of New York City and he has a vision for the City.  Drawing upon his talents as a businessman he went to work. I am here to tell you, New York City is one of the best-run cities in the country. When Bloomberg leaves office January 1, 2014, the incoming mayor will inherit a balanced budget and a very livable city. But Bloomberg is a businessman who envisions a future where cost could overrun the City. So he started to tackle the root causes of increasing cost to the City of New York. And that dear reader brings us to the heart of the matter…soda.

Yes, when Mayor Bloomberg went after the 64-ounce sodas here in NYC, I thought, “Being a bit paternalistic don’t you think Mike?” I was still a little uncomfortable at his overturning term limits and going for a third term and now, he was getting in everyone’s face about sodas.  Just who does he think he is? Our Dad?

But I am a businessperson too and my company struggles under the weight of two line items on the P&L. Accounting and Health Insurance. I will save you my personal rant but if I am worried about health insurance cost in my small company, can you imagine Bloomberg’s nightmares?  And with the rate of type 2 diabetes and circulator system disease on the rise in this country, how in the world will business and government contain costs? So Bloomberg not only put in bike lanes, and updated parks and walkways, he took on the soda industry. He wants people to live a healthier life, not because he particularly cares about you but he knows what bad health can do to the bottom line in NYC. He believed cutting out sodas was the first step to containing healthcare cost for the City of New York.

What has the wealthy learned about money that the middle-class and the poor in this country don’t know? Money doesn’t mean happiness or the answer to your pie-in-the-sky dreams. It doesn’t even mean you are talented, smart or cool. Money means choice. And the more money you make the more choices you have. With enough money you can pay your mortgage or rent payment, pay your electric bill and eat, without enough money you have to choose, which one or ones do you think are most important and can fund?

Mayor Bloomberg wants NYC to have enough money to fund all its choices. To Mike cutting out the sodas was an easy thing to do to avoid high medical costs that somebody is going to have to pay for someday. As does happen in this country, this became some kind of First or Fourth Amendment right…. Congress shall pass no laws to limit the amount of soda that may be purchased by pre-diabetic 10-year olds.  And to avoid any confusion on your part, I think as pragmatic as Mayor Bloomberg was trying to be, his efforts were futile. I would not have encouraged him to go down this path. The soda industry has already developed a machine that will dispense unlimited amounts of soda to the consumer at the touch of a button. All you have to do is buy a cup and keep coming back for refills. 

So when you see Bloomberg on TV or see his name in People Magazine, don’t say, “Oh, that’s Mike Bloomberg the Don Quixote of the 64-ounce soda.” It will serve you better to remember that he is a wealthy man who rides the subway, walks to the office and doesn’t spend his money on diabetes test strips.  I like Mike. Not because he is rich or we are both business people. I like him because he is trying to get to the root cause of the problems in our country and do something about them. We need to be doing the same. 

 

Oct
16

Intentional Living Week Thirty-Seven: Has It Really Been A Year?

by Christine

"The little dissatisfaction which every artist feels at the completion of a work forms the germ of a new work." ~Berthold Auerbach

In Week 36 I looked at how we go about allowing others to benefit from the teachable moments in his or her life. This week I am discussing next steps of the how-tos in living an intentional life. 

A year ago we started this journey together; an exploration of how to live life intentionally. Many of you shared with me how the process helped you sit quietly as you clarified and solidified your values and then moved on to crafting a Life List that exemplified those values. In an age where finding a moment of quiet time becomes increasingly difficult, you made the Morning 30 part of your life and worked to draft and find tune your Lifetime Priorities. You have worked the process.

If you had taken an intentional living class in school, right about now you'd be thinking about final exams and earning a certificate of completion. But this is life. There are no final exams even though sometimes it feels like we are continually preparing for a pop quiz. In life the only voice of authority that can validate our journey is our own. Yes, there are key people in our world who love and encourage us on our journey but ultimately the only person that can attest to the authenticity of your journey is you. 

So what are the next steps? Now is the time for you to own this process and continue to craft a life that allows you to thrive. While my Wednesday post will now include other topics besides the how-to of intentional living, I am sure that every once in a while I will have something to new add. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to receive updates. I hope you share your insights on your intentional living journey here and with others. This is your life, your journey...be sure it reflects who you are. 

 

Get caught up on the entire Intentional Living series:

 

 

Oct
15

Are You Superstitious?

by Christine


{Siblings at play}

As I sit here drinking my morning juice creation, which admittedly is a little heavy on the ginger and lime juice, I am wondering if I am superstitious. My experience driven philosophies have served me well in the past. One such philosophy is the belief that if something is so hard that it takes every once of energy to accomplish it and the results are ho hum than I am probably doing the wrong thing. I will give you an example. My father believed whole-heartedly that a business degree was the only college degree worth pursuing. So off to college I went in pursuit of the holy grail of college degrees only to discover that no matter how hard I worked, I could do no better than a C+ in accounting. I worked hard but lets be honest, I didn't care about accounting. So after 2 terms of accounting, statistics and finance classes, I switched to political science. To say the heavens parted and the angels sang would be a bit of an exaggeration but my scholastic world became infinitely easier. I still worked hard but the results were very different. I made the Dean's List regularly and graduated with honors, which I can assure you would never have happened if I had remained a business major. I am not saying that you shouldn't pursue those goals that are difficult or that you should turn tail and run when the going gets rough. I am saying pay attention to the "signs" that are posted along your journey of life and make sure what you are trying to achieve is your passion. 


{Older sibling at play}

Now back to my original question, am I superstitious? As I shared with you, I am writing a book.  I started work on this book during the fall of 2009. My Aunt and Uncle were gracious enough to allow me to use the family farmhouse in North Carolina as a writer's retreat. I was making real headway until the day I stepped off the curb in Greensboro and BAM, a 19-year old-girl making a left hand turn into the sun hit me. I was the only pedestrian for miles and I had the right-of-way but like a heat seeking missile she hit me straight on causing a head injury and a broken ankle. Now fast forward to the summer of 2013, I once again committed to writing this book. I signed up for a writer's retreat, submitted my work for review, received positive feedback on my work and once again began writing. And then the cancer scare. Yes, it all turned out well but now I look suspiciously at my unfinished manuscript. Is completing this book equivalent to me trying to complete a business degree or is this story similiar to a broken mirror that attracts bad luck for the owner? Are forces unseen trying to keep me from writing this story? (Okay, I am kidding here...kinda.)


{Younger sibling doesn't want to play anymore}

I know, I know, in this day and age we scorn or ridicule those who are superstitious. This year's Boston Red Sox comes to mind; come on guys shave already. You all look like Grizzly Adams but you don't live in the woods with a grizzly bear for a companion. You live in Boston for goodness gracious. See what I mean; I, too, find superstitious behaviors amusing. So why am I reticent to open my computer and start work on my manuscript? Could it be I am superstitious? When you spill the salt, do you toss some over you shoulder? Do you open your umbrella in the house? Will you step on a crack and risk breaking your mother's back? Are you superstitious? Let me know because I believe...the truth is out there. 


{I wasn't doing anything}

Hugs,
C

Oct
08

Can We Make It New Again?

by Christine

Last year as my mother's life was ending, my son's marriage of 12 years was ending too. I have not blogged about my son's divorce for various reasons but I will say our entire family grieved over the death of his marriage. Sadness is and was the main emotion surrounding that milestone. Today I watch with pride and in awe as he successfully cares for and nurtures his children. He is doing a good job.

Even though I am 20 years older than Matthew, we share a similar experience at this time of our lives. For each of us, one life chapter ended and another one began. Beginning anew required us to learn new skills and to think about our lives differently. Matthew is working to build a family for his children that don't include Mom and Dad sitting down together at the dinner table every evening. I am working to build family traditions as the matriarch instead of looking to my mother to do it. These are creative times for us.  

Last night Matthew and I talked about how to create something new as opposed to crafting a pale imitation of what you lost. After my father died our family attempted to host Christmas as we had in the past. Sadly, my father's enthusiasm for celebrating a family Christmas was the spark that enlivened our holiday festivities. Without my father, the holiday became a shadow of what it once was and mom was resistant to change. Our guilt inducing conversations went something like, "Can you "take" Mom for Thanksgiving and I will take her for Christmas?"  A sad reflection on how untethered our family was at the time.  

If you want to see how others create the new out of the ashes of the old, look to the world of art. Working artists strive to produce music, paintings or dance that evolves and grows as their skills evolves and grow. Pablo Picasso, probably the 20th century's most famous artist, moved from the Blue Period to the Rose Period to an African-influenced Period to Cubism using his extraordinary talent to build upon each period but creating something entirely new in each period.  While Picasso appreciated the art of Toulouse-Lautrec, Manet or Degas, his goal was not to imitate them but to bring about his own vision.  

After Matthew's divorce, he put the artist mindset to play in his home. When you enter his house, on the right, is a small room the builder intended to be a formal living room. During Matthew's marriage this room was only used once a year; an adult Christmas tree was put up while the "kids" tree was in the family room but the rest of the year, no on used the room. After his divorce, he was looking at how to use each room effectively and I suggested he set up a home office in the living room. I described how businessmen, lawyers and doctors in the early 20th Century used their "front parlors" as their place of business and I thought this set up would be much the same for him. Matthew loved the idea and ran with the concept. Pictures of the kids and other personal memorabilia decorate his office and it is a place for him to pay bills or work if he has to stay home with a sick kid. Also, the kids can use the family computer and printer for school projects without the distractions that were common in the family room.  Same room, different function, new life. 

As life changes, I move to change too. I believe it's important to cherish and hold on to traditions that enrich how I live but it is equally important to let go of traditions that weigh down the family. Maybe our family tradition is that we change up our traditions as we age. What about you? Are there any traditions or patterns in your life that you need or want to let go of? Or have you already done that? If so, how did you do it?

Hugs

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