Friday, July 23, 2010

Top 10 Things I Love About Summer

1. Going to the Beach - any chair on sand at the edge of water will do, but I'm particularly fond of a folding bag chair with a footrest. Around here, we are most likely to go to Lake Clear Beach. If you haven't been there, it's a public beach with no life guard, so you can bring your dog, your floating devices and your cooler... Go to Lake Clear, take rt. 30 as if you are heading to Malone, pass the former Lake Clear School on your left and the "dump" on your right and then watch for an opening in the trees on your left and there is a large parking lot and short trail to the beach.

I love a day at the beach with a good book, a beer and my honey. Nothin' like it.

2. Going Camping - Summer isn't summer without going camping. I guess part of the appeal is that I have a nostalgia from my own childhood of camping with my family. My dad was a busy man, and often working, but the one time we knew we'd get to spend time with him was when we went camping. It is by far the scene of almost every favorite childhood memory I have. As an adult I guess part of what I love about camping is the simplicity, the lack of distractions and the family together time as well. While we play our fair share of games at home, it's a guarantee that while camping there will be lots of games at the picnic table, under the lantern glow. Quiddler is an old favorite, but last year our fav camping companions, Scott and Karen, introduced us to Farkle, a great dice game, and that might be our new favorite.

I think camping is a state of mind. This year the weather was cold and often rainy, but we still loved that we were camping. As my brother Scott says, "a bad day camping is still better than a good day doing anything else." Amen!

3. Eating outside - Weather permitting, I love to eat dinner outdoors. I'm not sure why, but I think it's more leisurely and more relaxing.

4. Having a fire - One of the best purchases we ever made was this backyard fire pit from Dick's. While fire is a given while camping, and I can happily stare for hours into the mesmerizing flames, having a fire pit makes hanging out around the fire an option at home that we do love.

5. Kayaking - We just bought our kayaks at the end of the summer last year, but I have loved every minute we've spent in them. Last week we went on Lower Saranac and paddled around and went for a swim and just spent the morning ON THE WATER. I love the kayaks for a couple reasons, it's exercise I actually don't mind doing and it gets us on the water, and I love being on the water. I think if I could live anywhere it would be on a house boat. Kind of a cross between my two favorite places to be on the water and camping.

6. Morning coffee in the sun - On days when the sun is shining when I get up the first thought I have is, "I want to go sit in the sun and drink my coffee". I do think there's a bit of a sun worshiper in me, that loves to sit in the sun any time really. But there's something about that quiet early morning sun soaking up that I really crave.

7. Going for a walk with my honey - While Carol is great about getting up to go for a walk to exercise, I am not a morning person and don't rise easily. But every time I do, I'm so glad I did. When we are walking, chances are we are talking and there's no laundry or TV or telephones ringing or cats meowing or kids wanting or computers or ipods or distractions of the many sorts that we usually face. Granted, we could walk in the winter, and occasionally do, but nothing beats a stroll when the weather is warm and the breeze is blowin' in the summertime.

8. Cape Cod - We've kind of established a tradition, that in addition to summer = camping, summer also = a trip to the Cape. For the last several years, we've stayed in the same place in North Truro, Horizons Beach Resort, and while it may sound fancy, it's not. But it does have a beach on the ocean (across the road from where we stay) and a pool and it's a 5 min. drive into P-town. This is just a must. We've found a wonderful fresh water pond that we've kayaked on in Wellfleet and a tall ship that we've sailed on in P-town, and wandering the shops along Commercial St. never gets old. But more than anything, it's just nice to be "on the cape". It's a casual, vintage state of mind. If you've been there you'll know just what I mean, and if you haven't - go, it's summer and the Cape is the best place to be.

9. Time off - Now I love my job and I do still work in the summer, but only part-time. I usually arrange my schedule so that I work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday - with lots of 4 day weekends. Carol has the same schedule so we get extra "chill time" in the summer that is just simply the best!!

10. Tie between ice cream and margaritas - when the weather gets warm I want to cool off with a refreshing frozen margarita or frozen soft ice cream. I am not a Donnelly's fan - although most people think it's the best ice cream around, I think it's too creamy bordering on slimy. I do like Mountain Mist, especially when they have a fun flavor like coffee.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Same Kind of Different as Me

I just finished reading a book that I know has affected me like nothing I've ever read before. "same kind of different As Me" is told from the perspective of two men who have had vastly different life experiences. As the subtitle of the book describes one is a "modern day slave" and the other an "antiques art dealer". This true story is told in each man's voice, alternating by chapter.

I want everyone I know to read this book, in part because it's a touching story of unconditional love, which we all need to be reminded is not only possible, but necessary. I also want everyone I know to read this book because I want to talk about the impact it had on me and has on them. I want to have a deep and profound conversation with any and everyone about this book. It moved me, I know it will move you too and I want to talk about it!

People who know me well, know I don't cry. For a whole lot of complex reasons, I keep my emotions pretty well in check, and while I may operate from a compassionate, feeling place, I don't wear my heart on my sleeve - at all. I don't cry at movies that make other people cry, or Hallmark commercials, or weddings or funerals. Yes, I'm capable of crying, but very little gets to that place that would make me cry.

I cried while reading nearly every page of this book! I cried because the story was about a miracle that happened because of kindness and love - these two men; who by the world's standards, one of whom had everything while the other had nothing; forged a friendship that goes beyond any superficial concept of loyalty that we have come to accept as friendship.

In this book I saw Jesus over and over and over. This is a story of love pure and simple. The kind of love that we are called to in the Great Commandment, to love our neighbor as our self. And while many of us might like to think we are being Christlike when we perform some act of charity, this book transformed my idea about giving to the needy. This story challenged me to consider whether my "charity" is truly about helping someone else, or making me feel better about having so much, when I know others have so little.

Denver Moore speaks many words of wisdom in this book. One of the simplest and yet most profound was his explanation of the title. He realized that his fear that he was too different from Ron and Debbie Hall for them to ever have a meaningful relationship, was unfounded because "they was the same kind of different as me". He explained that as this earth is not the true "home" for anyone, as our true home is with God - that all of us are presently "homeless" until we reach our final rest in our Father's House.

Click here to watch a video clip about the story

Saturday, June 12, 2010

David's New Vision's Graduation

David had an excellent speaker at his New Vision's Graduation, who spoke about listening to your inner voice, and advised the students to "do what you are doing" and be present and live in the moment. He ended his address by reading the Desiderata. As I listened I thought it would be a great addition to the blog.

The Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection.

Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wisdom of the Dalai Lama

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.

I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.

If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher.

It is necessary to help others, not only in our prayers, but in our daily lives. If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is to desist from harming them.

It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.

Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend - or a meaningful day.

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.

Sleep is the best meditation.

Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.

The purpose of our lives is to be happy.

The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.

The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual's own reason and critical analysis.

There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.

Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.

We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.

Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.

Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness and compassion.

With realization of one's own potential and self-confidence in one's ability, one can build a better world.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thinking about Schools...

I've been thinking about work a lot lately. In large part, it's been on my mind because of budget and staff cuts and all the changes that are coming with that. I think another reason it's been on my mind is becuase I've been a mentor for the last several months to someone seeking administrative certification and it's made me more self-reflective as I think about what it means to be an administrator and what I would want to ensure a new administrator knows and can do.

What do I believe about education? I believe that teachers do change lives. I believe that for some kids, just being in school is a big accomplishment and should be celebrated. I believe that while there are lots of teachers working very hard every day, we have not figured out how to really make the best use of time in school, and we need to rethink this current model. I believe that school needs to be a community, and should look and feel more like an extended family. I believe that we need to be organized in nuclear units of members who are together long enough to form bonds of trust, honesty and expectations. I believe that kids know who is interested in them and who isn't, and kids (and teachers) will always oppose authority coming from someone who hasn't taken the time to know, value and appreciate them.
I believe that we need to work hard at listening to each other. We have to find ways around and under and over the inconvenience of making schools better. School improvement will only happen when we stop pretending it's not broken. I believe high school is a battleground and most adults are oblivious to it. I believe that we are all fallible, and we get farther by admitting our weaknesses and mistakes, than pretending we don't have any. I believe that the most important quality for an administrator is to be ethical and to do the right thing even when no one is looking. I think that's a good rule for everyone.
I believe we have a choice every day to make someone else's life easier or harder. I know that I take the greatest joy when I hear about someone just being kind because they could. I wish we could focus more on the accomplishments of character, than the achievement of grades. I believe that we come up with better solutions as a group than any of us would on our own. I believe that none of us want to be excluded or left out. We all want to sit at the grown-ups table. I believe that separating students with disabilities from their non-disabled peers may be easy for adults, but it's HARD on kids.
I believe that each of us that is in a school everyday can make a difference in some one's life. Pay attention, say Hello, offer to help, enjoy being there, like what you do and who you are doing it with, be excited about learning something new, be enthusiastic about the countless opportunities to explore, the adventures not yet taken - be real! Be who you are, encourage others to do the same! Celebrate diversity and differences and risk-takers and boundary pushers and free thinkers. SHOW UP! LISTEN UP! GROW UP! OPEN UP!

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Four Agreements

The Four Agreements are based on ancient Toltec wisdom as shared by Don Miguel Ruiz. As I have become aware of and tried to begin to embrace these agreements, I have discovered their potent, life changing power. I've outlined the basic concepts from his writing on the Four Agreements. This is a short book, and while it can be a quick read, it is not necessarily an easy one if you really think about the personal application as you are reading. I have now read the book and listened to the book and know that I have only begun to scratch the surface of the truth and wisdom contained in this idea.

The idea, simply put, is that we have agreed to many false, destructive beliefs about ourselves and others that rob us of the joy we were meant to experience. For example, we may believe that when someone pulls out in front of us and we have to slam on our brakes to avoid a collision, that that person did that to us, and we get angry and we swear or honk or let negative energy and emotion fill us. In the Four Agreement's Ruiz tells us over and over that nothing anyone else does is because of you, so don't take it personally. Imagine how differently that driver pulling out in front of you would feel if you truly didn't take anything about it personally or make any assumptions about their motives. If you felt anything at all, it would be gratitude that you avoided the collision. No negative, no poison.

Emotional poison is what damages us and keeps us from being fully alive. The Four Agreements teaches us that if we can transform our thinking by following the agreements we can eliminate the emotional poison from our lives. This is a challenge, as we have spent our whole life conditioned to do the opposite of most of this kind of thinking. However, each interaction is an opportunity to practice making new agreements, and each time you break free from old negative thought patterns and practice, practice, practice the four agreements, you will get stronger and it will become easier. The only way to improve is practice. And while I'm not sure practice makes perfect (because perfect is unrealistic as a healthy goal), I do believe that we are meant to be joyfully alive, and the four agreements gives us the direction we need to live a new life.

Everything we do is based on agreements we have made. In these agreements we tell ourselves:
 who we are
 what everyone else is
 how to act
 what is possible
 what is impossible
What we have agreed to believe creates what we experience.

Be Impeccable with Your Word
 Speak with integrity.
 Say only what you mean.
 Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.
 Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Don’t Take Anything Personally
 Nothing others do is because of you.
 What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.
 When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don’t Make Assumptions
 Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.
 Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.
 With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Always Do Your Best
 Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.
 Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Thanks Giving

The following is the Thanksgiving homily given by the Rev. Ann Gaillard, St. Luke's the Beloved Physician Episcopal Church, Saranac Lake, NY. I asked Mother Ann if she would share this sermon with me to post because I felt it was such a powerful, positive message reminding us to seek the possibilities of gratitude.

"There was once a preacher who was known for his uplifting prayers. He always found something for which to be grateful. One Sunday morning the weather was so cold, dark and gloomy that one the members of the congregation thought to himself, "I'll bet the preacher won't be able to think of anything to thank God for today." But to his surprise the preacher began by praying, "Gracious God, we thank You, that the weather's not always like this."

This kind of glass-is-half-full attitude toward giving thanks was shared by the pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving. Remember, those folks had had an exceedingly difficult time.
For starters, they had begun their journey full of hope for a new life of religious freedom in a warm and welcoming land - Virginia. Instead they landed at Plymouth Rock on December 21, 1620, not the best time of year in Massachusetts. Until such time as they could build houses and establish themselves on the land, they made their home on board their ship the Mayflower. The men went ashore every morning to work, returning to the little ship at night. They built a "common house" to which the sick and dying were transferred, placed their four little cannon in a fort, which they built on a hill close by, built two rows of houses with a wide street between and finally landed their stores and provisions. Then the whole company came ashore toward the last of March, and in April the Mayflower sailed away.

That winter before the Mayflower left was hard and bitter. At one time all but six or seven of the Pilgrims were sick. Eighteen women denied themselves food so that their children could eat. Thirteen of those mothers died. Half of the 102 Pilgrims died of malnourishment, disease, and exposure. Only about 30 of those who survived were over the age of 16. Those who died were buried in unmarked graves because the pilgrims did not want the natives to know how small their numbers had become.

In the spring they planted three crops: English Peas, Barley, and Indian Corn. The peas were planted too late - though they came up beautifully, the hot sun parched the blossoms and the plants died. Apparently the barley did not do well and was not worth harvesting either. Only the corn survived. Of course, not the corn we are used to with big, plump yellow kernels; this was "Indian Corn" with ears only two to three inches long and kernels of different colors. The Pilgrims harvested only twenty acres. And to top it all off, a second shipload of thirty-five settlers arrived without any provisions because they expected to live off the crops the first settlers had raised. By the end of their second winter in Plymouth, food had to be rationed again: five kernels of corn for each person per day.

A hard life. In fact, some proposed a Day of Mourning to honor all those who had perished. But the others said no, a Day of Thanksgiving would be more appropriate. After all, even though half had died, half had NOT. Reason enough to give thanks. Again, the glass is half full.

But is that really why people give thanks during hard times, simply to be grateful that things aren’t worse than they already are?

Try saying that to a mother who is facing an empty chair at the Thanksgiving table because her soldier son or daughter has just been killed in the war in Afghanistan.

Try saying that to a father who has just lost his job and is wondering how he’s going to pay the mortgage and feed his family.

Try saying that to a retiree who can’t afford his blood pressure medication because his pension has shrunk so badly during the recession.

Try saying that to a woman whose insurance company refuses to pay for her ovarian cancer treatments.

There are times when life’s pain and troubles are so enormous that they overwhelm our blessings and make it nearly impossible to feel gratitude or give thanks. When that happens, Jesus’ words about not worrying about our lives can seem irrelevant, even off-putting.

Yet he hits us hard over the head with his message in the gospel passage we just heard. Do not worry, do not worry, do not worry, over and over again. In fact, the word worry appears four (six) times in the passage. And why should we not worry? Because God is present and active in our lives. Because God loves us like a parent and knows what we need. Because God can be trusted not to abandon us.

Jesus’ words echo those of the prophet Joel. “Do not fear, O soil,” Joel says. “Do not fear, you animals.” Why not? Because God has done great things. Because God is in the midst of us.

For people of faith, the whole point of giving thanks is to remind us of the past, that God has done great things for us. It is about the present, that God is still very much alive and active, that God is at the center of all that we are. And it is about the future.

As people of faith, when we give thanks we are not denying that the world can be really awful sometimes. Rather we are giving thanks that we know in our heart of hearts that awfulness is not the end of the story. Presbyterian theologian Al Winn noted that at the heart of biblical faith we do not find air-tight arguments sealed with a "therefore"—we do not say all is right with the world, therefore, let us have faith; therefore, let us praise God; therefore, let us give thanks. On the contrary, at the heart of biblical faith we find things that do not logically follow at all, sealed with a "nevertheless." Much is wrong with the world, the mystery of evil is great, terrible accidents happen, NEVERTHELESS let us have faith, NEVERTHELESS let us praise God, NEVERTHELESS, let us give thanks. Perhaps we can better deal with the miseries of life if we remember that word, NEVERTHELESS.

Thanksgiving is about the future because we know that God has done great things and will do so again. It is about the future because he is present with us now, loving us now, and will continue to do so.

In one of his sermons, preacher J. Wallace Hamilton wrote that not only do we overestimate the length of our lives when we act as if we'll live forever. We also underestimate their length. He points out that people are wrong who say, "A hundred years from now, what's the difference? We'll all be dead." Actually, a hundred years from now we will all be alive, somehow, somewhere, with God in Christ. And what we have been and done will make a difference.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let us see life in three tenses of past, present, and future:
God has loved us and gave us his Son. 
Christ walks with us today. 
Christ awaits us in all our tomorrows. 
Thanks be to God!"