Every Day is New Year’s Day

photoPenThe sound of the spine cracking. The fresh scent of virgin paper. One of the best things about the New Year is the empty pages of a new day-timer (something I won’t relinquish despite our digital age).

New Year’s Day is symbolic of new beginnings, fresh starts, resolutions for change. It’s a day to open your heart and mind to promise and possibility, to write your own story on the virgin pages of your life. Step off the edge. Be fascinated. Stay curious. Discover new joy.

Travel into the New Year carrying kindness and wisdom; share it freely. Listen closely and speak mindfully. Smile when no one is looking. Redefine prosperity. Bask in the light that others bring into your life; recognize that you will learn from everyone.

Appreciate that Now is the only moment in which we live. Acknowledge and respect the negative; warmly embrace the positive.

If you make only one resolution for 2013, let it be that you live each day as New Year’s Day.

~ peace ~

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Dance to the Music You Hear Right Now

Some days are great; filled with laughter, great food, and comfortable shoes.

Some days are not so great; filled with regret, heartburn, and blisters.

But does that make life any less … life? We are continuously presented with joys and challenges. Side-splitting laughter may slay you and random kindness might tumble into your day. Muddy communication between friends, failed logic, and frustration may reign supreme.

Slow Down

Life around us moves at breakneck speed and we are compelled along; if we stop for a moment, competitors will exploit our weakness. This misconception seduces us into believing that speed conquers. The trouble with racing through the present moments, thinking only of those yet to come, is that all we see is peripheral. It is impossible to enjoy breakfast when your mind is busy imagining dinner. Relish the meal you are eating.

Pay Attention

One of the kindest gifts you can bestow, upon others and upon yourself, is unwavering attention. Being present within each moment allows for understanding, compassion, and true communication. It is also one of the most challenging, forgoing the distractions of “I’m so busy and have so much left to do today” to focus on that present moment. Breathe, connect, and listen.

Question Everything

Ask. Examine. Query. Wonder. Look for answers in every moment.
Being open to understanding, without judgement, allows us to learn about ourselves and about others. Take time to discover from where your anger, resentment, confusion and joy comes through honest examination. Old simmering anger can bubble over and impose itself, ruining the start of a fresh, new day. Recognize it, question it, and forgive it.

You can not dance to music that has yet to written.
Dance to the music you hear right now.

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How I Let Real Life Totally Mess Up My Social Media

I can roll my tongue. I can write with both hands. I can read backwards and upside down. But I can’t do a cartwheel.

I’ve learned that there are many things to which we are predisposed ~ things of which we are, genetically, capable. Yet, as individuals, we have the ability to adapt and accept. We learn, unlearn, relearn and this is, I believe, is what makes us intelligent. What makes us human.

As an introvert, this ‘social media thang’ is a boon to me. It opened up opportunities to meet, and truly connect, with others whom I would otherwise never have had such opportunity. But, as with many boons, it came at a cost. That cost was my time.

Time, as you know, is relative. When you’re late, time is of the essence. When you’re waiting, time is interminable. Were you to truly examine ‘your time’ (and how it really matters to You), it becomes less relative and much more intimate. The time that I had to learn and discover and grow became scarcer. So I decided to let Real Life totally mess up my Social Media.

I shut off my computer. I opened the books I’ve been meaning to read. I fired up the stove. I went outside and, sloughing off (as best I can) my introversion, I focused on and followed my heart. Out there avec les masses. I prefer to do nothing by halves. Inherently passionate when I decide on anything, I learned to snowboard when already (by most accounts) too old to do it and, now, do it very well. I hope that, in my newest pursuits, I will fare as well.

I am studying Tibetan Buddhism. Following my passion for food, I’ll be working on my Chef papers. I spend time on yoga and meditation every day. I take time to read, and learn from, my Social Media friends’ posts and thoughts. I allowed Real Life to get in the way of engaging, as I once did, on social media platforms.

Social media is an extraordinary medium for connecting. I am honoured to have been accepted by and to have connected with so many insightful and inspiring individuals.

I still can’t do a cartwheel. But there’s time.

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Femurs and Philanthropy: A Legacy of Kindness

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth
~ Muhammad Ali ~

Margaret Mead was a cultural anthropologist born at the turn of the 20th century who, throughout her 77 years on the planet, made remarkable contributions to the understanding of what, and why, we humans do the things we do. She was once asked by an interviewer: “What is the first sign you look for to tell you more about an ancient civilization?” (assuming Mead would suggest a broken pot or a primitive tool).

Her answer was surprising: a healed femur

Ms. Mead elaborated: “When someone breaks a femur, they can’t survive to hunt, fish or escape enemies unless they have help from someone else. Thus, a healed femur indicates that someone else helped that person, rather than abandoning them and saving themselves. Isn’t that what we in philanthropy are all about? Healing femurs of one sort or another?”

You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give
~ Kahlil Gibran ~

People’s time is a precious resource. In 2010, nearly 63 million volunteered their time, at least once, to or through a philanthropic organization. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual personal contribution is 52 hours or 3.3 billion total hours, translating to the potential of over $3 trillion of pecuniary value in the US alone.

One organization that is taking the commitment to volunteerism to a new level is the Global Volunteer Network (GVN) whose mission is to connect people with communities in need. Colin Salisbury, who launched the GVN in late 2000, discovered that many volunteer opportunities were often limiting and expensive. Salisbury had witnessed the positive effect that volunteer contributions had on helping local organizations attain their goals and, to date, the GVN provides volunteer programs in 21 countries throughout South America, Africa, and Asia.

Over the past decade, the GVN has placed over 15,000 volunteers and, aligning with the concept of ‘local solutions to local problems’, they have built solid ties with grassroots organizations across the globe. By connecting with local community organizations, international volunteers hit the ground running, providing a wealth of resources and experience and are dedicated to the success of the local partners’ projects. The GVN Foundation has been endorsed by Bill Gates and has Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council.

Eat So They Can: No one Likes to Dine Alone

The perfect storm may very well be the cycle of poverty. Extreme poverty is our number one cause of hunger and malnutrition which result in severely diminished physical health and intellectual acuity. It lowers levels of energy to such degrees that the hungry lose the capacity to learn and to work, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty. There are 925 million people on the planet who suffer from hunger, many from the most lethal form of malnutrition: Protein-Energy Malnutrition (PEM), essentially a lack of the most basic protein and calories to survive.

According to the World Health Organization, hunger is the single gravest threat to the world’s public health, affecting close to 14% of our global population.

~ Nobody can do Everything. But Everyone Can do Something ~

Eat So They Can is an international fundraiser inviting citizens of the world to one Huge Dinner Party!

Right this minute, somewhere in your town and perhaps in your own home, people are gathering with friends and family to share a meal. Right this minute, these people can be helping to stop poverty. The funds raised from the Eat So They Can campaign will go towards supporting orphaned and vulnerable children and to women’s empowerment projects in Africa, Asia and the Americas. We lose more than six million of our children each year to hunger and we can help them.

In our society of relative affluence, most have never known extreme poverty. Hunger means forgetting your lunch and managing on that granola bar you found in your desk until dinner. The global statistics on poverty may seem daunting and distant; distant facts about people in distance places. It’s time to have dinner in your community; the world is your community.

The smallest action is worth a fortune of intentions ~ good intentions do not feed the hungry. All is takes is for each of us to donate the cost of a dessert or a bottle of wine. You don’t have to do everything; simply, do something. At your next dinner party or get together, open up your laptop and invite your friends and family to make a difference!

Please visit Eat So They Can and share a little of your abundance.

If you think you are too small to be effective,
you have never been in bed with a mosquito
~ Betty Reese ~

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Just in Time for the Holidays

Four weeks ago, my first born flew the nest. This is someone from whom, for over two decades, I was rarely apart for more than a few days. He is off to start the new adventure of his life.

He moved to a place that is over 4000 kilometers away from me. That feels very far.

He won’t be home for Christmas but, of course, his Christmas will still come with ribbons. It will come with tags and packages, boxes, and bags. He will receive brightly wrapped gifts, treats and sweets and cheerful love, from afar, from his family.

I miss him very much. This is something all parents must endure ~ we are proud and heartbroken and happy and lonely all at once. Today, I popped into the grocery store to buy a gift card to send in his holiday package (the boy’s gotta eat!) and the sadness hit me ~ like a wrecking ball. We wouldn’t be cooking holiday dinners together nor sharing hugs on Christmas morning. I suddenly, profoundly, missed his voice, his laugh, his beautiful face, and his tender warmth. I was overcome with melancholy … a palpable ache.

Sulking, self-piteous and morose, I walked to the parking lot and, halfway to my car, I happened to meet a friend. We exchange niceties, she asked after my kids and we wished each other happy holidays. Sometimes, the universe knows exactly what you need. My friend lost her 21 year old daughter in an auto accident. This year will mark the third Christmas without her child.

I’m thankful my son is only 4000 kilometers away from me. That feels very close.

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons.
It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”*

My hope for you this holiday is that you don’t have what you want but, rather, that you want, and cherish, what you have.

~ peace ~

*from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by the gift that is Theodor Seuss Geisel

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Einstein. Gandhi. And You. The World Needs You Now Because #YouMatter

Wow! Our days just fly by! We’ve no time for ourselves, let alone others, so the drive-by hellos, dismissive waves, and curt responses to all those people in our way are absolutely, utterly unavoidable. It’s not our fault ~ we just don’t have time!

I beg to differ.

There’s a fable about Albert Einstein and his fascination with Mohandas Gandhi. According to this story, over and again, Einstein watched newsreels of Gandhi bowing to greet others with hands pressed together, uttering a single word ~ namaste. Intensely curious, Einstein wrote Gandhi and asked him the meaning of this greeting to which Gandhi replied:

“I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides. I honor the place in you of light, love, truth, peace and wisdom. I honor the place in you where, when you are in that place, and I am in that place, there is only one of us.”

This ancient greeting acknowledges the equality and honours the sacredness of each one of us. It’s true meaning might be summed up in two words:

You Matter

Einstein and Gandhi were, without question, two of the most extraordinary people who contributed to our human condition ~ wise, insightful, and profoundly intelligent. They also shared another attribute – neither lost their childlike perception in the way they saw the world and the people in it.

It is by seeing through the eyes of a child that they were able to perceive possibility, to envision equality, and engender compassion. I believe this enduring connection contributed to their genius.

In her TedxDesMoines talk, my friend Angela Maiers borrowed a phrase from Seth Godin’s book, Linchpin, to start her class each day: “You are a genius and the world needs your contribution”. Through this, she is able to introduce children to the reality that ‘They Matter’. Angela, and her fellow educators, lead them to realize how important Mattering is to individuals and to a culture.

Whether we are five, fifteen, or fifty years old, we are genius. The world needs our contribution. The world needs us to recognize that We All Matter. Significance is critical to all of us and it isn’t found in the glare of a spotlight, on a marquee, or through thundering applause. Your, and everyone’s, significance is found through sharing the realization that We All Matter ~ that we all are equal and sacred.

It is possible to change the world with these two words: You Matter. Recognize and acknowledge significance. We have much to learn from the minds of children. And from them? We can Expect Great Things.

Are you ready to change the world? Tomorrow starts today. Please support the You Matter Foundation ~ the world needs your contribution.

After you watch Angela’s 3-minute video below, please take ONE more minute to watch this wonderful video ~> Expect Great Things (from Second Graders!)

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Three Little Words

I love you.

Three little words that can mean so much and, also, so little. Bandied about, they become sullied and meaningless. Truly spoken, what do they really mean?

Love is the extension of yourself ~ it’s the trust that opens you up to possibilities and opportunities. In western society, a lot of weight is attached to these words. They need, it seems, to be justified, quantified, and qualified. Attached to them are visions of riding off into sunsets or skipping down an aisle littered with rose petals.

But I love you is more than that. It’s the kind word that you send a stranger’s way, it’s the random act of thank you, or the time that you invest helping a friend. I love you is asking another “How are you” and caring about the answer. I love you is being there, silent behind the backdrop, until your friend needs you. I love you is non-judgmental and supportive.

I hate to be the one to break this news but, in spite of all the Bran Flakes or the hard-core elliptical sessions, no one lives forever. And this is the reason that these three little words have such value. Sharing feelings, being open to others, and connecting are critical. This is what makes us human.

There is no downside to these three little words. There is no burden in being loved. Say them, and feel them, freely. You will be better for it as will the ears, and the hearts, that hear them.

namaste

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