Pieces | Does it Matter?

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When you find something that resonates with your spirit,
does it matter where it comes from?

First, read the following three comments (there might be a quiz):

“Knowing there is a world that will outlive you, there are people whose well-being depends on how you live your life, affects the way you live your life, whether or not you directly experience those effects. You want to be the kind of person who has the larger view, who takes other people’s interests into account, who’s dedicated to the principles that you can justify, like justice, knowledge, truth, beauty and morality.”  – Steven Pinker, cognitive scientist


  “In the theater you create a moment, but in that moment, there is a touch, a twinkle of eternity. And not just eternity, but community. . . . That connection is a sense of life for me.”  – Teller, illusionist


“Joy is human connection; the compassion put into every moment of humanitarian work; joy is using your time to bring peace, relief, or optimism to others. Joy gives without the expectation—or wish—of reciprocity or gratitude. . . . Joy immediately loves the individual in need and precedes any calculation of how much the giver can handle or whom the giver can help.”  – Erik Campano, emergency medicine


Then, ponder: What do these all have in common?

Other than being reflective, positive, thoughtful and other-centric?

All three are responses to questions posed to Atheists about their moral values and motivations…what gives them joy and meaning.


In reality, when asked about their moral values or what motivates them in life, atheists use words that sound downright spiritual, very much like the words religious people use in fact, with a few noteworthy differences. To create his book,  A Better Life, Photographer Chris Johnson asked 100 atheists about what gives their lives joy and meaning. To some Christians the question is equivalent to asking an elephant where he gets his chocolate ice cream. The answers might surprise them even more. Themes include love and connection, compassion and service, legacy (leaving the world a little better), creativity and discovery, gratitude, transcendence, and wonder—all heightened by a sense that this one life is fleetingly transient and precious.


Another piece in this interesting, slowly forming puzzle. One that clearly requires an open mind.

For more thought provoking responses, you can read the entire article or dive deeper and get the book.

This has me intrigued. I’d love to know what you think, when you find something that resonates, does it matter where it comes from?

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And It Was Summer

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Last night, I was helping Kiddo with his homework – which is often a harrowing experience. Ok, well, not harrowing but often stressful, exhausting, frustrating and at times, just plain time consuming. Ten year old boys are not known for sitting still and focusing and just loving the whole endeavor.

But, last night was a mama’s dream – we worked on vocabulary (this mom just so happens to love words), language arts (never end a sentence with a preposition) and some literature (reading? Ok!).

He has a test today on this week’s story in literature so I had him re-read quietly and then tell me the story from his understanding, and then I read the story. We talked about the characters, motivations, themes, what-do-you-thinks and more. His comprehension is so much better than mine ever was at that age and I was impressed with his ability to retell the story to me – it all matched up when I read it for myself.

As I had the book in hand, and read the story, it was only then that I realized it was from Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury; an excerpt of his ‘priceless distillation of all that is eternal about boyhood and summer‘ as a young boy tries to describe the magic of a new pair of tennis shoes to to his father.


This passage just sunk in with me as we are on the cusp of change from summer into fall…

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“…It was because they felt the way it feels every summer when you take off your shoes for the first time and run in the grass. They felt like it feels sticking your feet out of the hot covers in wintertime to let the cold wind from the open window blow on them suddenly and you let them stay out a long time until you pull them back in under the covers again to feel them, like packed snow. The tennis shoes felt like it always feels the first time every year wading in the slow waters of the creek and seeing your feet below, half an inch further down-stream, with refraction, than the real part of you above water. 

“Dad,” said Douglas, “it’s hard to explain.”

Somehow the people who made tennis shoes knew what boys needed and wanted. They put marshmallows and coiled spring in the soles and they wove the rest out of grasses bleached and fired in the wilderness. Somewhere deep in the soft loam of the shoes the thin hard sinews of the buck deer were hidden. The people that made the shoes must have watched a lot of winds blow the trees and a lot of rivers going down to the lakes. Whatever it was, it was in the shoes, and it was summer…” 


I was asked a great question the other day about September (thank you DK) and in response, it came to me that September ushers in colder climes, harsher times, more to do – and I asked if perhaps it is possible that September is one of the most marked months in terms of transitions from one season to the next?

Ahhh, and it was summer; I give it up so reluctantly.

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A-ha. I Am Not Crazy.

I will be the first to admit that I often march to the beat of a drum only I hear. I can sometimes tend to find my own (ahem, albeit sometimes the hard) way to do things or get things done and sometimes find myself feeling like the little dog with its head tilted sideways and one ear up and the other down as I watch many around me. Huh?  Oh well.

But…in  a recent post, I wrote that:

I will admit that anticipation is probably one of my favorite things. I save gift cards for far too long because I savor what is to come much more than what has already happened. I love to plan trips almost as much as take them because it is as exciting to me to consider the possibilities as it is to actually be there.

And not too long before that one…I wrote a post about realizing that I could live with less and find that I have so much more and in that post I wrote:

…that I often was consumed by the next purchase, desperate in my attempt to acquire, to fill so as to avoid the void;  and that now I shop with intention for what is truly needed and appreciated. Time spent in good company far outweighs things, ten to one. So does saving for a rainy day. Or a sunny trip.

And then…last week, while scrolling through my Facebook feed I saw this…

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It’s been over a decade since American psychologists Leaf Van Boven and Thomas Gilovich concluded that doing things makes people happier than having things. “To Do or to Have? That Is the Question” was the title of the study they published in 2003 (PDF), and it’s been cited hundreds of times since.


All of the studies indicated that anticipation of an experience is more exciting and pleasant than the anticipation of a material purchase—regardless of the price of the purchase. In the case of crowds queuing up to make purchases, those in line for an experience (such as a play or admission to a theme park) generally are in better moods and on better behavior than those in line to buy material goods. In a press release, Gilovich said one reason the research is important to society is that it “suggests that overall well-being can be advanced by providing an infrastructure that affords experiences—such as parks, trails, beaches—as much as it does material consumption.”

Source:  The Positive Benefits of Anticipation


Ah. I am not crazy (well, ok, maybe a little!)

Isn’t it so great when science backs us up?!  :) It’s like a nice little pat on the back from the Universe – ‘yep, keep moving along, you’re doing ok! (but I’m going to keep an eye on you anyway!)”.  

Hmmm….I am already anticipating my next adventure!  What do you think?

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If Trees Could Talk

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The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber. The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky.

-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Wisdom of the Sands, translated from French by Stuart Gilbert


We know that when we invest our hard earned money in a long term vehicle – we hope that when we tuck it away in good faith that the next time we see it, that it will have (fingers crossed!) grown from a tiny amount into something more than it was at the start.  We may make deposits along the way, keeping our eye on things as we go. But, we are never quite sure that the yield will be what we hope.

A few weeks ago, Kiddo and I set out on our annual vacation; another road trip of ‘epic proportion’. While last year we pointed our GPS in all directions south, this year we turned it upside down and put our focus on all things north.

All in all, our travels took us 1121 miles over the course of 6 days and 2 states and while I try to plan trips so that the entire trip IS the trip, we had a featured destination. We were going to live in a Treehouse for a few days!

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Here we go!

En route, we toured a brewery (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, anyone?), walked across a one of a kind bridge (Sundial Bridge), saw rivers, mountains, lakes and even a volcano (Mt. Lassen) a dam (Shasta Dam) and a classic old mountain town (Dunsmuir). We saw GIANT trees, wildfires and Elk. Coastal fog and a working Lighthouse. What you hear about the shortage of water in Ca is true – the dam is 143 feet below the crest, the rivers once raging seem so lonely down in the nearly dry river beds in some cases.  In one day’s drive we had puffy white clouds, heat nearing 100 degrees, pure sunshine, fog, wildfire smoke and rain.

Upon arriving at our primary destination on day 2 we were enchanted! Part of a larger outfit called Out-n-About Treesort, we stayed at The Lilly Pad – a Bed and Breakfast ReTREET in Cave Junction, OR!  Tucked away in the forest on a private 13 acre wooded homestead, and 36 feet off the ground and built around an old Cedar tree which proudly boasts no less than 150 birthdays.

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The charm of The Lilly Pad was beyond compare, Kiddo and I were both like kids at Christmas running around getting acquainted with our digs. First up was “uploading” our gear via a simple but ingenious pulley system.  I love efficiency!  Once inside, we were met by a queen size bed with down comforters, a mini fridge, bunk beds. Lights, giant windows where  you can roll up the tarps and be one with the branches and birds. A coffee maker (good coffee in that mini fridge too, I might add!). A sink. A toilet. Good living up in those branches. And, at night the path is lit with rope lights that look more like fairy lights.

But perhaps its best amenity was the seclusion. The quiet. The call to disconnect and then connect with what is most important.

Kiddo and I played games.  Silly games. He discovered Parchesi and remarked about how old fashion games were made with such clever thinking.  We made up games.  We hung out in the hammock and took endless silly selfies. We pushed each other on the swings.  We hung out and talked. And talked. We talked about unplugging. About his love for video games. We tossed around a business pipe dream I have and he egged me on for over an hour, trying to flush out ideas, offering many of his own (good!) ideas. He taught me how to hula hoop. Yes, you read that correctly, my ten year old son taught his 40 something year old mama to hula hoop. (I’ve always wanted to learn!)

Deposits into that long term account were being made, I could hear the coins hitting the metal.

We signed up for the zipline course the next day, six platforms, tree to tree and across meadows.  I must be honest and tell you that I wasn’t sure who was the kid between the two of us; it was a total blast. But, by platform three, I could see the look on his face. I know my Kiddo.  He was done. But to be done, he had to complete one more line from platform four – from 50ft off the ground up in a tree.  I left him standing there, went first and then got to watch him zoom in, performing each part of the process perfectly.  He did it. He was brave and held on and had a great zip. But, he knows himself and his limits and quietly said, “that’s it mom.”

I nodded and hugged him and told him how proud of him I was.  Then, I went on to complete the final two lines.  Whee-hooo!  So, this time, he grabbed my phone and took the pictures.

Later, we talked about limits, and comfort zones, and fun and trying and challenges.  And knowing ourselves.

Ching. Ching.  More deposits.

As we ventured on in our trip, we stayed in a couple of Airbnb.com homes.  We were welcomed by such gracious hosts and I felt grateful for being able to show my son a way of travel that is not always synonymous with the word tourist.  I got sick for a day or two and while that definitely is not a travel tip I suggest, you who have been reading here for awhile know me to be of the mindset that these are the things that become the stories. “Oh, remember the year my mom got sick on the road trip?!”  And, it revealed to me a kindness and compassion in my son that again reminds me what is most important here.  As I apologized profusely to him for missing a cool adventure because I about passed out from some kind of food poisoning, he simply said; “don’t let it take you over mom, things happen.”

Needless to say, the rest of the trip was a little subdued while I rallied. We drove through beautiful redwood forests, saw trees that made our 150 year old Cedar Tree look like a toddler. Hours in the car and giant trees are not high on the woo-hoo list for any ten year old, mine included. We talked, ate cherry sours (once I could stomach them again!), played Fact or Fib, traded air time for our playlists (which have many of the same songs!) and talked some more. We got serious when my son asked me about regrets in life.  What mine are, what his are.  I was honest and let him in on a few things I would rather erase completely. That’s how it is with regrets.

Ka-ching.

As we went on a short hike through the  Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, there were a few grumbles and groans about taking this hike in the first place. I promised there would be no more hikes (trust me, I was feeling about 40% at this point) but that it was important to see these amazing trees, that people come from all over to see them, learn from them and just stand and feel small in their midst. I also laughed and told Kiddo that I knew I would have to wait about 20-30 years before he would really get it.

And that I was willing to wait.

 

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It became clear to me in that moment what this trip was all about. We had some of the coolest moments of all time. We also had some miserable moments and we had some pretty boring, mile after mile moments.  But together we logged not just miles. Not just experiences. Not even just memories. Seeds were planted, quietly. Deposits made into my most important, most valuable investment of all time.

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There Is Something About Right Now

On the open road

When I was in the third grade, I can remember thinking that the girl down the street who was in the 8th grade was beyond cool and I wanted to be just like her. I couldn’t wait.  When I was in the 8th grade, I couldn’t wait to be one of the kids walking through my neighborhood to our high school. When I was nearing high school graduation, I couldn’t wait for the freedom and opportunity I knew would come when I got to college.  When I was taking my 400th college final, I couldn’t wait to get out into the ‘real world’.   When I was out in the real world, I thought being 30 sounded like the golden age and pushed on to hurry up and get there.  When I was in a serious relationship I couldn’t wait for us to get really comfortable with each other.  When I found out I was pregnant, I couldn’t wait for that baby to arrive.  And then middle age hits, and suddenly the desire to get in line for the fast pass diminishes greatly….

We have a funny way of rushing ahead to what we think is around the next bend, that perhaps it will be better than whatever right now involves; we all do a lot of what I call ‘I can’t wait-ing‘.  I can’t wait ’till it’s 5 o’ clock. I can’t wait ’till school is out. I can’t wait ’till Christmas, I can’t wait ’till this project is over.  I can’t wait ’til…

I will admit that anticipation is probably one of my favorite things. I save gift cards for far too long because I savor what is to come much more than what has already happened. I love to plan trips almost as much as take them because it is as exciting to me to consider the possibilities as it is to actually be there.

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Sometimes though, in all our ‘can’t wait-ing’ and setting our sights on the next thing – the what is to come – we miss the golden moment of what has come.  Especially when something seems difficult or ambiguous or painful or even just mundane and boring, it’s nearly impossible to desire to sit in the middle of it any longer than we need to. When maybe the middle of it is full of something we can’t quite see or sense. Yet.

I find myself in a particular kind of moment at the moment (see what I just did there!?) and feeling somewhat curious, wanting to know that something is coming around the bend. Restless in some ways.  Wanting something and yet knowing it is not really the time for it.  In feeling the tension of that push and pull, I have become well aware of the fact that there is something about right now.

Right now. It holds so very much.  It is simply my job to just be in it.

I think back to a cross country move years ago and how we beat the moving trucks.  Days spent in an empty apartment save for the suitcases that had traveled with us.  It was impossible to not will that truck across the miles, to show up with the furniture and the dishes and the towels and all the riff-raff we call ‘our stuff’. Looking back however, there was something about right now in the days of living off of take-out, go-out and sleeping on the floor.  Those few days held their own importance – there was something about them that eventually led into what was to follow, what came next.  But those empty apartment days had an importance all of their own.

This isn’t about what is meant to be.

Or waiting for the right time.

Or trusting the universe.

Those are all important in their own right, but here’s the thing – they each take us out of this moment the very second they become even a passing thought.  It’s the right right here right right now that is at times almost imperceptible or so easily overlooked. Seen as inconsequential, unimportant even, when in fact, there is truly more going on this moment than we can sometimes comprehend.

So, as I think about the right now of right now, I feel this sense.

There is just something about right now…

…How you can smell the first whiff of coffee, even before taking your head off the pillow…

…How you can get the smell of the rain just before a storm begins…

…How you sense the shift in the air as the season is on the cusp of change…

…How the music shifts from the bridge to chorus…

…How the arc in a story is just beginning it’s early ascent…

…How you can sense the promise of what is to come the moment you step out the door for a vacation…

…How you can feel the rustle of the wind in the trees high above on an otherwise quiet summer day…

…How you can feel a pregnant pause in a conversation…

I have heard myself over the last couple of years suddenly exclaim: I love this moment. I love this right now. Where I am suddenly so inside my own skin, feeling the perfect warmth of the sunshine, or the depth of the connection to the friend(s) sitting across from me, the perfect timing in witty banter. A quiet and surprisingly insightful moment with my Kiddo. The sublime taste of a cold beer or cocktail with friends who enjoy it as much as I do, and in one singular instant, it hits me. I love this right now.

Sometimes those moments are not sublime, but instead subtle or even sucky.  But they are moments to be felt and held and honored. So while I continue to – and will always (!) want to know what’s coming down the pike, I am getting better at remembering to remind myself that when it gets jumpy inside this old middle aged skin of mine, that when it feels like nothing is happening or even if I don’t really like what is happening, that….

…there is something about right now.

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Sunsetting

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A few weeks ago, work took me to the Windy City for a conference. The opening keynote speaker was a young woman whom I had heard speak a few years back and while amazing, the part of me drawn to novel experiences, admittedly was somewhat less than enthusiastic about a repeat performance.

I was wrong. So wrong.

In the years since hearing her speak last, it became apparent to me within moments, that she had grown and more importantly, that I have grown. Her message was poignant, insightful and addressed the human condition in ways that only someone who has lived deeply can do.  This keynote speaker is Liz Murray, author of the New York Times Bestseller Breaking Night “and a believer of Possibilities, Creativity, Audacity, Passion, Fun, and a Global Community.” Her story is that of Homeless to Harvard – the story of but one young girl raised by drug addicted parents who both died so early in life, leaving her and her sister homeless as teenagers.

Her ability to convey her story with humor, with transparency and yet with a level of insight far beyond her 33 years, on par with that of thought leaders we have all read or heard about was simply and purely stunning. Her candidness captivated me and I could have listened to her speak all  all night.  She wove her story with her observations, lessons learned and universal truths. She shared one of the most honest – and helpful – examples of forgiveness that paralleled, to me, that of the story of Louie Zamperini in the book Unbroken.  Tears gently rolled down my face in one second and in the next, I was laughing out loud. A master story teller, without a doubt and truly, a master human being.

At one point, while she was speaking of her mother and while unable to parent in the ways we consider conventional, Liz spoke of her mother’s fierce love and affection for her children.  Then she shared that when her mother became ill and that the end was imminent, that she wished she had taken more time to be with her.  She shared that afterwards, after the moment to say goodbye had come and gone, that she realized that even at such a young age, that she had developed a theme in her life.

She always thought there would a later.

I will see her later. I will visit her later. I will spend time with her later.

Later came. Later went.

Her mother was gone. Buried in a pine box.

Later came. Later went.

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The kiddo and I are spending a few days with my father, who in the recent weeks met up with the milestone called 94.  On the day of his birthday, my brother shared that upon birthday greetings and the acknowledgemet of his 94 years, that his response was, “Let’s see if we can make it to 95″.

His spirit is in tact. His body is mostly in tact. His mind, however, is in nearly a million mixed up little pieces.

While sitting together in the living room, or at the dining table, our conversations are both humorous and heartbreaking.

He asks when he is going home. We are home. The home where he has lived since 1968.  

He asks if he ever came to visit me when I lived in San Francisco. I have never lived in San Francisco.

He asked me if my brother has arranged transportation back to the other house. I tell him we are where we need to be.

He asks me if Bill lived with me in Fresno, or somewhere? He thinks I am his cousin.  I just shake my head no.

He asks me if I would like to stay the night. I say yes, of course, thank you.  He does not realize that I am his daughter. 

He says he needs to find a ten dollar bill he dropped out in the yard, and when I tell him he didn’t he says he will look for it anyway. When I find a ten in his wallet, he hands it to me and thanks me for my help.  I just take the ten. And put it back in his wallet when he’s not looking.

We take a drive around the town where he’s lived and worked since the sixties and he remarks that he thinks he’s been before.  That’s true, he has.  

As I get him to bed, he asks me where his wife is.  I say she is not here right now and he nods. He says she must be with her mother,  and I nod. He says she old enough to manage on her own.  His wife died 16 years ago. I kiss him good night.

I began asking him questions a few years ago. Questions about his life, his loves, his dreams, his travels, his regrets.  I got only the tip of the ice berg.

I realize now, I always thought there was a later.

He is still here, but his mind is not.

Later has come. Later has gone.

Photo credit: The Kiddo

Photo credit: The Kiddo

There is still so much I want to know.

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Name That Tune? No, Name That House!

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Last weekend, I was able to steal away for a couple of days with a couple of friends and we spent a weekend reconnecting and relaxing in and around the quaint and charming little town of Carmel. We don’t, for one nano second, not ever ever take for granted the beauty of the California coastline and though we lost count, my friend J must have uttered, “Wow!’ about a bajillion times.

While driving from point A to B, we passed through the intersection where beautiful meets gorgeous.

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Then, we started noticing that all of the stunning homes along 17 Mile Drive have all been named. The first one that caught my attention is the Butterfly house and its beautiful and conscious California drought resistant awesome landscaping.

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Wilder Butterfly

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Beautiful and requires no lawn mower!

From there, we wandered and meandered and found these humble (ahem!) abodes with fun and creative names.

best nest

Best Nest

beside the point

Beside the Point

scenic dugout

Scenic Dugout (I could handle watching a ball game or two from inside that dugout!)

 

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Song of the Sea

There were many more homes with affectionate nick names such as Point of View and Sea Haze. I found myself completely enjoying the creativity and personality of each and also thinking about the possibilities of what it would be like if we all named our homes? First of all, it would just be fun, would make evening walks quite different, but wouldn’t it also add another dimension of community among us?  What would you name your home if you could – or maybe you already have? It got me thinking about what I might name the home where I live now and the name JuJu came to me because it’s just got great energy and a bright cheery feel to it. But, I also know I will just keep thinking about this. By now, you know how my brain works, right?

Then we passed by this ‘little’ stunner and found her curiously lacking an identity like her neighbors to the left and right.

Name that house

Name that house

So, I leave you with a Cheers and a Challenge:

…a cheers to time away, renewal and spending time with friends who make all the difference in our lives; and

…a challenge to take some ownership for the naming rights of our nameless abode.  What would you name her? And look, there is even a blank slate above the windows above the garage, just waiting to be inscribed!

Cheers!

Cheers!

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