Wednesday, December 9, 2015

New Year's Resolutional

I've tried the list--writing it and sticking to it. Doesn't work for me. Has it worked for you? I find that, for most people, making a bucket list and following through is easier than making and sticking to a list of New Year's Resolutions. Maybe it's because we share them publicly, maybe it's because we have too many items on our list, maybe it's because change is difficult. It's easier for me to work on one thing at a time, and a list feels too formal and too much like a list of chores.

If the resolutions work for you on the blank slate of the brand new year, go for it! I'll cheer you on. If they don't, then join me in resolving never to build such a list again...until it's time, even if it's three quarters of the way through the soon-to-be old year. If you don't care either way and would like a good laugh, try the list at this link. It's 20 New Year's Resolutions on Twitter That are Funnier Than Yours. A laugh from 2014.

My friend, international speaker and presentations coach, Deb Sofield, speaks to this in a recent episode of her radio show, Encouragement for Your Life. (The link will take you to her blog, which features the first part of her show in print and the full audio version of the show at the bottom.) Deb's December 4th show features a little tough love for us all about the way in which we make resolutions at the beginning of each year and then (for the majority of us) we break them all. Give this show a try and see if you don't agree with Deb.

Listening to Deb's shows or reading her blog or newsletter has strengthened me and has pushed me to take action towards some of my dreams. Deb has encouraged me to expect more of myself and to move forward with more kindness, but also with strength and determination. She's been a good and gently nudging conscience on my shoulder, pushing me to do and struggle and grow in the direction of my greatest goals and ambitions. Somehow, that little nudge each week has helped just enough, I go!

If you'd like to listen to more of Deb's show, tune in to iTunes or Stitcher for past and future shows.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

THE GIFTS OF BRAIN CANCER: It is what it is; when it's over, it's over.

Haven't been here often in the last year. My mind has been engaged in other things, among them the beautiful life and inspirational departure from this life of my friend Lee Long.

With her sister Kari following Lee's buzz cut prior to surgery
A little over a year ago, Lee and her family began the full-time job of treating her brain tumor to allow for more than a few weeks of life. It's been a year and a half: Surgery, radiation, chemo and all of the yucky recovery issues that follow such things. Remarkably enough, and with formidable strength and faith, Lee and her family enjoyed living life to the fullest...albeit in between the treatments and recovery.

About 6 weeks ago, Lee shared with us that her treatments had come to an end. She began with a nod to her friend Linda Dolny who had often shared with Lee a favorite saying, "It is what it is; when it's over, it's over."

The tumor in Lee's brain was growing again, this time in all directions. In typical Lee fashion, she accepted it with grace and gratitude, often sharing on Facebook how blessed she was to have had the last year and a half. She'd seen her youngest son graduate from college, her other 2 children marry, had visited with her dying mother, enjoyed wonderful family reunions and she and her devoted husband, Don, had time together to accept her passing away to the new world, one that she'd anticipated and embraced. She was grateful for all of that and more.

Wedding of son Harry to Cecelia.
Following the wedding of daughter Brita to Dan.
With husband Don and son Jeremy at his college graduation
Lee has been writing a book, lessons and revelations from her journey with brain cancer that she wanted to pass on to those of us who would be left here still trying to figure out what is important and what's not. The Gifts of Brain Cancer is now in the capable hands and mind of daughter Brita, who will bring it to publication in time.

This lady was not perfect, sometimes she screwed up, sometimes forgot, sometimes...well, she was a normal human being. What made her stand out was her faith; her intelligence; her desire to help others and to be kind; her need to support her husband and raise responsible, kind and compassionate children; her love of learning and her desire to live the heck out of this life. She had a sense of adventure and was thrilled to ride as a passenger on the back of a motorcycle and (most recently) in a helicopter with son Jeremy.

It has been said that we are here to serve and to learn--to evolve into higher spiritual beings. If this is our truth, then Lee completed the courses, she learned her lessons well, met all the requirements and (on July 13, 2015) graduated from this living and from the encroaching and debilitating pain of brain cancer to a way that we cannot begin to understand fully. All that we have is faith and trust and (for some of us) the enlightened words of others who have written books to guide us: the Bible, Torah, Koran and others. If Lee taught us anything, Lee taught us by example to have faith and to trust. She and I talked about that a few weeks ago; we agreed that the end of our life, when we depend so much on others, teaches us humility and trust, which bolster our faith. My faith is not as strong as Lee's, but her journey has reconnected me with my own spiritual journey, and her example is helping me to let go.

So now, a day after Lee's passing into that mystical world that she was anticipating with joy, we must let go of having Lee with us to talk to, to share with, laugh and cry with. Her family and friends will struggle with this loss. It will not be easy, but Lee has prepared us.

Lee has graduated. We are still here, left to finish our learning and to give with kindness and generosity--to live the heck out of this life and evolve into higher spiritual beings. Surely we will honor Lee as we do so.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Beautiful Skeletons

I've always appreciated beauty. Even as a 7-year-old child who watched the sun setting on the island of Samos in Greece, as an old man guided his donkey across the pebble beach. Even then, the beauty of that moment was not lost on me--that image is imprinted in my memory. I visit it often, and I see it now. It was striking!

This is how architecture has affected me. It can be ugly, yes, and not thoughtfully constructed, but what I prefer to focus on is how the architecture of a structure changes, as you move through it or around the exterior, and how light and weather affect and change the design.  Upon visiting a city for the first time, I try to find a walking architectural tour to use as my introduction to the place. I did this in Chicago, and, while I enjoyed the history of the buildings, the memorable part was the looking up and around as I walked. A favourite photo is one that I took of a contemporary office building with mirrored windows. The reflection of an older city government building apparent in those windows made a beautiful statement for me--something about looking back as we move forward--a metaphor to stay connected to the past in a positive way.

Not long ago I watched a documentary on South Carolina ETV, John Portman: A life of building. How impressive! Never heard of him before (shame on me), but now I'm in love with so many of the beautiful images from the interiors of his buildings. I've even been in some of them, looked up and enjoyed the design changing with the light, the shadows and even with where I was emotionally in my life. A thoughtfully designed structure has a way of enveloping you when you need it, so that you feel comforted during tough times; it can make you feel as if it's moving with you, like a friend who walks beside you on a sunny sidewalk through the city one Sunday afternoon; it can even make you feel as if you're floating in space!

These images are of some of Portman's hotel interiors. So much for the eye to take in and deliver to the brain. Very pleasing. Very satisfying. The two on the bottom remind me of beautiful skeletons. Such beautiful skeletons!

For me, this beautiful documentary was satisfying visually, but it was also satisfying on another level--John Portman is a South Carolina native (yay for the local boys) who not only designed several key buildings in Atlanta's skyline, but also the Marriott Marquis hotel in  NYC's Times Square. This Marriott hotel played a big role in the clean up and redirection of Times Square--the first step in the process. All sorts of metaphors in this story, skeletons and all!

Architecture can be an exquisite metaphor--the beautiful skeleton supporting life, people, activities and even emotions. If sometime you see me walking around a city's buildings with my head in the air, it's because I'm looking at the changing design of the city's structures--the patterns on the sidewalks made by a building's shadows, the geometric lacework of power lines and bridges against a sun-setting sky or even the beautiful skeletons.