Thursday, December 16, 2010

Celebrating a 104th Birthday

My friend, Victor, who I have written about in an earlier blog, turned 104 in November. As remarkable as he is for his age, he does have quite a few limitations in his life right now. Last year he and I read through my entire manuscript of Celebrating Beginnings and Endings, with him acting as editor. I read out loud, as he has macular degeneration and can't see well enough to read himself. In the book, I talk about a formula for figuring out how to make a celebration. When I thought about Victor I didn't know what to do for him for his birthday, so I asked him if we could work with my formula and see what happens. As usual he was very willing to partake in the adventure.

My INTENTION was clear - how to do something special for Victor to celebrate his birthday.

We EXPLORED a lot about Victor by me asking many questions
-eating habits
-what gives him pleasure now
-music preferences
-he loves to listen to NPR
-noticing his limitations
-his enjoyment of family and friends visiting

Through this process, an idea emerged so I could think about PLANNING. My father-in-law had died recently and our family family spent everyday of his last days giving him a massage. He loved the gentle touch of hands which helped to keep his lymphatic system moving. I asked Victor if he had ever had a massage and was he interested in one. He said that sounded great. I contacted my massage therapist to see if she was interested in working on him. She was delighted at the thought. I asked the owner of home where Victor was living if she thought that was a good idea and she concurred. Then I told Victor and he said that sounded like a good idea.

I was pleased that Victor would work with me and the formula, and that we could come up with an idea that pleased us both.

You can find more about the formula and ideas on Having a tool to help mark your own special moments in life will add meaning to those occasions that beg for a spotlight. The formula works!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Blooming Birthday

My friend Yvonne turned 60 this year - what to do for her.

I thought a lot about her and where she is in her life right now. What would bring her joy? I like the theme of 60 somethings and that helps to focus the intention. I thought of 60 pieces of candy - no; 60 CD's - too many; 60 candles - way too many seeing them altogether; then I thought of 60 flowers. Better than flowers would be bulbs that could go into the garden in the fall and voila, in the spring, there would be another birthday surprise of 60 tulips dancing with color and life. I decided that asking a birthday person to plant 60 bulbs wasn't fair. Birthdays need to be easy, so the gift included me planting them all. Yvonne needsed to choose the space and I would come with my bulb digger and insert the little gems into the ground.Yvonne seemed delighted with the idea and is already anticipating the spring show.
By taking a little time to think about your friend, you will be surprised at the clever ideas that will emerge. Keep your imagination open so the unexpected can flow in. Choosing a theme - a color, the number of years of the birthday person, a hobby, a pet, a particular room in a house or apartment, books, - can help to narrow the field. I find it such a delight when I finally stumble on the right idea. It seems like a gift to me to find a gift for another.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hadrian's Wall

My 65th birthday was coming up and I decided I wanted to walk Hadrian's Wall - an 85 mile stretch of rock wall built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the year 122 AD. It stretches from coast to coast in northern England - from Newcastle in the east to Bowness-on-Solway in the west. It passes through urban Newcastle-on-Tyne until it reaches the gentle uphill sloping of the suburbs along the river heading toward fertile farms. At the summit it climbs up and down the craggy headlands, the path always following the wall, ultimately winding through the fields of Cumbria and Northumberland to the sea beyond. Many of the rocks have been pilfered to make churches, fortresses and farmhouses after the wall was disbanded in about 400 AD. No wall is visible for the first and last walking days, but in between, its sturdy form connects us with Roman history.
Choosing to walk the wall for my birthday was definitely marking a moment. I wanted to share this experience with anyone who wanted to join me. I put out the word a year ahead to friends and family. I said I would do the arranging for the trip, but they would have to pay. I set tentative dates, wanting to be along the wall on my real birthday. Since I was arranging the adventure, I designed it for my comfort level. I chose to walk the 85 miles in 8 days. A "self-guided" tour company made arrangements for our accommodations and took our luggage to the next night's lodging. We had only to carry day packs with rain gear, bug spray, lunches, maps, etc.

Many people showed an interest in joining me. When it came to deposit time 18 people had signed up - including my 3 1/2 year old granddaughter and her 5 month old sister. Ultimately three persons had to drop out due to a death in the family leaving us with 15. Two were riding bikes instead of walking because of foot problems.

I am sharing this story, because for me, this was an ultimate way to mark a moment. I decided what I wanted to do and the asked the world to join in. I turned out to be a trip of a lifetime - with perfect weather, constant glorious vistas, good exercise (I had a hip replacement several years earlier so I could actually do the walking), great conversations and interesting accommodations. Everything was better than in my imagined dreams. The little kids were fabulous - as were their parents - being carried mostly in backpacks.

You too can set your goals and make your dreams a reality. They need not be as grandiose as this one. When you search your heart for what you want to realize, you can make it materialize. Don't be afraid to set your intention and move forward, allowing your life to be full of zest and energy!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Highs and Lows

I have been away for a few weeks having a fabulous holiday walking Hadrian's Wall in England. Fifteen people (including my 4 month old granddaughter and her three year old sister) walked the 85 miles all across the country. Everyday we would walk about 11-12 miles from one incredible bed and breakfast to the next - with a van taking our luggage. All we needed to carry was our lunch and rain gear, which we never needed.

In the evenings we would convene for dinner and play the hi/low game. The three year old loves this game, so it's appropriate for most age levels. Each person has the opportunity to answer the two questions: What was the low point of your day? What was the high point of your day? This may not seem like earth shaking material, but it does offer connection. Sometimes we realized that a person's blisters were getting the best of them. Another person might have left their thermos at the last lodge. Sometimes we could help each other by knowing where the low points were.

For me hearing the high points helped me open my perspective. I have my personal focuses and miss things because I am used to my view of the world. When I heard what others noticed or felt, my world broadened and the next day I would find myself more aware of my surroundings and relationships.

I recommend this simple "game" for any occasion where you are having a shared activity. It' s amazing how differently people view the same experience. It's cheap, easy and allows everyone to participate (except maybe the four month old!).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Tools

This weekend our family had a lovely Circle of Sharing in honor of my father-in-law who passed away. Thirty-two immediate family members met to celebrate this special person. We used a circle format with everyone having a chance to speak. (read earlier blogs for more circle explanations)

Of the fourteen grandchildren, two couldn't make it to the gathering- one due to illness and other was too far away.

Enter tool #1: One granddaughter's dad set up a Skype, so she could hear and see everything. She could also offer her remembrance. The mom of the other granddaughter called her on the cell phone, and the phone was passed around the circle so she too could hear the memories of her grandpa. The Skype took some figuring to set up as we were outside. The phone was easy. I was amazed at the ingenuity of the parents of these girls to figure out how to include them in our circle. Even though they weren't there in person, having them a step closer and connected was heartwarming for us all.

Tool #2: In our circle there were several elders who were hard of hearing. As we were outside and had no microphone I was a little worried about everybody being able to hear. I thought about it a bit and realized that I couldn't tell who could hear and who couldn't. We needed a way to communicate when the speaker wasn't talking loud enough. I suggested that when a person couldn't hear, he/she would put her thumb up and the speaker would know to talk louder. This simple tool worked wonderfully well and most people were able to hear all that was said.

Our circle tools and practices grow with our various situations. Technology and a specific need allowed these new (to me) tools to emerge and helped to make our circle an even more satisfying experience.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Neverending Journey

This story in our newspaper caught my eye. This man knew how to keep traveling even after he was gone.

Karl was a local science teacher and track coach. He and his wife loved to travel. After having a debilitating stroke, his travel days were over, yet he and his wife relived the adventures they had experienced together through sharing the stories.

The two of them decided that there was no reason that his adventures couldn't continue - at least in spirit. After his death and cremation, his wife put Karl's ashes into many small green pill bottles. She invited friends who were traveling to take a bit of Karl on their trip and drop him off is some foreign land. He laughed as they thought about this ahead of time, saying, "I won't even have to pay for an airline ticket."

So far he has been on an African safari, run a marathon in Athens, visited the forests of Germany, found the tip of Tierra del Fuego, glimpsed the Amalfi coast in Italy, hiked in Arizona and the story is not finished. There are still more bits of Karl who yearn to see even more of the world. His wife invites people to take him along whenever they are having a travel adventure.

His wife has a map of the world on her wall at home. Each time a person takes Karl on a trip, she has a push pin to mark where he was left.

This man had a quirky vision and put it into action with the help of his wife. His family has been enjoying Karl's travels, and laugh and think about all the trips he is still taking. Karl is still marking moments even after his death.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Transition Support

A few years ago, a friend, named Debbie who lives in another city, asked me about setting up a transitions group. Her mom's health was failing. She lived alone. She had good friends, but desired a space where she could specifically talk about issues of transition with a supportive group. Calling it a transitions group helped define its intention

We talked about various aspects of convening the group: how many people? all women? meeting how often? where would they meet? We tried to think about questions before Debbie made a final decision of asking people.

Debbie ultimately asked four other women to join her. She picked close friends who she knew were also facing transition issues: their own health, job changes, retirement issues. They decided to meet once a month and change locations, depending on who could host. They included a pot luck dinner, so they could socialize as well as call a circle of intentional space.

The group has been meeting now for several years. The structure is in place and trust built. As the years have progressed, each of the women has ended up facing more transitional issues than they had foreseen One lost a partner. Another's mom died. Another gal did retire and was worried about finances. Because they were already set up, they easily moved into looking at the new challenges. I know Debbie has been grateful to have this support group for whatever has come up in her life. All the original women still participate.

Debbie had a vision and made it happen. Little did she know that it was going to become such an important part of her life, as transitions kept appearing unexpectedly. She followed her intuition in setting up this sacred space for meeting and found the right women to join her. They have some structure they have developed along the way to keep on track.

I tell this story in case any of you reading this blog may yearn for supportive space. It isn't difficult or expensive to call a circle. It is a bit tricky finding the right mix of people and being sure of your intention. When those pieces fall into place, you are set to embark on a special journey of heart connection. Yours may not be a transitions group. It might center on ageing, or health, or personal growth, or parenting. Zero in on your personal challenges where you may want a place to process, have support, and think about specific issues. Give us feedback in the comments if you have a story to share about an intentional group. We can all learn from each other - sometimes what doesn't work is as important as what does work.

The moth image tells of transformation - moving from one reality to another - in this case, from isolation to community.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Conscious Closure

I have just completed a week away from home where I rode my horse with an instructor of my choice - thanks to a grant from the United Stated Dressage Federation. It was an amazing once in a life time experience.

What I am doing now is taking the time to draw in the pieces of this exceptional week to consciously wrap it up. Why is this important? When I go through a larger than normal experience, I can process and integrate it better if I take some time to go over what happened, and also to tidy up my life upon return. What I mean by this is that I wash the clothes, write thank yous, clean up the trailer and camper, all the small details that actually finish the project. By leaving loose ends and jumping right into the daily life grind, parts of the event can get lost in the shuffle. Doing the grunt work of washing reminds me of what I wore during my lessons and I still smell the barn and horses on the clothing. Writing thank you notes to those who helped me along the way keeps me grateful for the assistance I had making this experience a reality. In this case, I am also required to write an article about the adventure as part of the grant. This discipline adds another dimension of integrating the value of what I have just completed. Small pieces of deconstruction aid in closing a chapter with a complete ending, rather than leaving the story incomplete and dangling.

I invite you to remember to take time to put conscious closure to experiences in your life that touch you in a special way. It doesn't have to be a big deal, just a clear vision that you have finished a significant happening in your life. Be it a death of a loved one, a life transition, or a significant birthday - trust the process of conclusion. Close the book with the ending fully realized.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Showing Up

I have been so busy getting ready to leave town for a week that I have hardly noticed anything going on around me - let alone any meaningful moments. My horse, Andy, and I are going away tomorrow for a barn vacation. I was given a grant by the United States Dressage Federation which allows me to ride with an instructor of my choice without the distractions of home and work - what a gift.

What does this have to do with marking a moment? At this point I feel that showing up is significant. Closing down my duties, packing the horse trailer, packing the camper, packing me and leaving have been keeping me busy with lists and more lists. It is such a big deal to get out of here that I was almost ready to bail, but I haven't. Instead I have chosen to show up at the appointed time and place and await the magic that will happen.

When you choose to show up for whatever occasion you feel is worthwhile, then you will be available for whatever happens. Believe me, you are there for a reason. Be aware of the moments when you are not sure what to do - to go or not to go. Trust your intuition to help guide you. When you think of significant times in your life, notice the ones where you have shown up and what that has meant to you and others - on many levels. Don't underestimate the importance of your presence. No one else can do what you do and be who you are.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

celebrate NOW

Recently I ran into Marilyn at the post office. She had just attended a memorial service for a mutual friend. I had been unable to go, so asked Marilyn about it. She said it was great, except for the fact that our friend had passed on and wasn't there to to hear the stories and love poured out for her. That made Marilyn sad. She said we need to CELEBRATE NOW, before we are dead.

Her suggestion is to gather a group of like minded close friends and start a Celebration Group - pick a day once a year, choose a person still alive and celebrate her. If they started soon most everyone would get at least one round before they died.

After our encounter the thought stayed with me. Why do we wait for a person to die? Why don't we celebrate alive days for no other reason than to honor a special person? The alive person can help to plan what she wants, and her friends would help to make it happen. Stories of her past, her dreams, shared experiences, glimpses of who she is now, pictures of her in her youth, would be shared. What a delightful way to mark a moment - for no other reason than to honor a friend while she is still with us!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Oscar - the Academy Awards

The Academy Awards were presented on Sunday evening. Spectacular gowns and pencil thin women were the usual eye candy. Unusual was a woman winning in directing a film, some plus size women, and increasing ethnic diversity.

What really caught my imagination and marked the entire evening for me were the presenters for the Best Woman Actor and the Best Man Actor. I remember this happening last year and it was the best part of the evening then, and again this year.

If you didn't see the Academy Awards, this is what happened. When the time came to announce the nominees for Best Actor, and there were 5 nominees for men and 5 more for women, a colleague came onto the stage and talked about his/her nominee. Every presentation was different, heartfelt, personal and affirming. By the time these mini speeches were finished, I was nearly in tears hearing about the actors from their friends. I had the feeling that each person was a winner - even if they didn't receive an Oscar that night. The spotlight beamed with radiance on the actor during those moments as they received special tribute. I love the idea that all these gifted actors were given credit for a job well done - whether or not they won. It almost didn't matter after that.

The Academy marked the moment is a special way, because all were honored individually, even though there was just one Oscar given away. Go Academy!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I have missed a couple of blogging Mondays due to the birth of our 2nd granddaughter. Being part of a family lineage is a strong and inspiring happening. As I was thinking about creating meaningful moments for this event, I realized that "showing up" and "being present" were the gifts that I can offer our new Isa. We were invited by our daughter to come for the birth and help out with Isa's three year old sister.

I know that in the horse world when a human has early contact with a foal, the foal then knows the smell of the that human, who becomes a part of his world. Done intentionally the practice is called imprinting. I wanted to imprint Isa with my smell, the sound of my heart beat, the sound of my voice, the feel of my arms holding her. This is perhaps more a gift to me from her than my gift to her. We were working on a bonding that will last our lifetimes.

This may sound like a small thing, but it is huge. Taking the time to be with the family, as they adjust to the changes that a new member brings and offering encouragement and help, diminishes some of the anxiety of the transition. We grandparents, aunts and uncles, are given the task and luxury to be the chosen ones who can step to the plate and help out. The benefits come in the closeness that forms between individuals - the gap closing between the generations

I hope someday you will be lucky enough to be a grandparent or special auntie, so that you too can bond with a new being and become part of her world. Together you will explore the world and see what magic appears for you to share. In order to do that you must show up and be part of her life. All sorts of meaningful moments will appear just because you are there.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hospice Cards

I love to make greeting cards. I collect interesting paper, ribbons, glue, scissors, blank cards with envelopes, a few stamps, and I am ready to create. I usually wait to make one so that I know who I am making it for, unless I am playing and experimenting with new techniques. I love the feeling of connecting with that special person when I work with my hands and heart to let the creative force come through my fingers.
Last week one of my women's group got together to make cards for our local hospice home. Each woman brought along materials to add to my collection. For several hours we chatted, worked, and thought about the people who go to die in the home, and the people who stay with them during this transition time. We hope that if the visitors feel the need to write that we have placed cards there for them to use. Our hearts feel connected to those going through a time of transition. They know that strangers are with them during this passage.

Making cards marks moments of several levels. With the group card making and giving them away, we are reaching a out to embrace people we don't know. Making an individual card for someone we know and care for takes the experience to a place of love connection.

Buying a card and posting it in the mail, emailing a little message, writing a letter - all these are tools for making a moment with people we care about. It doesn't take much time. It does take a bit of effort. We give from our hearts and show the love we feel for others. I encourage you to reconstruct this old fashioned tradition and see what happens to you in the giving end, and others who receive.
PS the card on the left say " From the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks."
The card on the right says "It's not the lofty sail but the unseen wind that moves the ship."

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Rope that Binds

This weekend our family was meeting for a reunion - family means ten adult children (some of us are in laws) and two parents. Included in the activities was a gathering time to share stories of family history Each person was asked to bring a small token to symbolize his/her story. My husband was in charge of this evening.

What Jim thought about doing was creating a line/thread/rope of connection, not only in an emotional sense, but a practical representation. He found a half inch rope about 25 feet long, which he brought along. One person took one end of the rope. Another person on the other side of the circle held the other end, thus the rope was suspended across the circle. One person told their story and put the symbol on the rope with a Christmas ornament attachment. Thinking of time constraints, Jim first thought that only the person on the other end of the rope would be allowed to comment on the story, but it turned out that comments were free for all and it worked fine. When a speaker was finished, the rope moved to the right at each end - a speaking end and a receiving end, until the rope made it all around the circle. By the end 14 little items dangled off the rope giving us reminders of the family stories.

This isn't a complicated or expensive activity. Hearing the stories would have been lovely. Having the visual rope to visualize the binding added an additional component. Seeing how the family members creatively brought their "ornaments" to the occasion was a fun addition. We hung the rope in an appropriate location at the parent's house so they could enjoy and relive the evening for as long as they wanted.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Baby's Life Journal

I have made a journal for our grand daughter. The purpose is to give her a grandma's eye view of her life until she is 18. I started the book when she was born and each year I add 2 pages. I talk about what I remember of that year, add a photo of her and a sketch of mine. I hand made the book and was rather intimidated to start to the writing process, but I jumped in and told myself it would be what it would be. Maya was 3 recently and I sat back and enjoyed reading the previous entries. Maybe this book is for me, but I would like to think she may be excited to get it when she is 18.

Maya is going to have a new sister or brother at the end of the month. I realized it was time to find another book for the new baby. If I have one for Maya, I had better do one for the new child. I have a friend who makes books. We have picked out the paper and she is putting it together so I will be ready to write the first entry when new baby arrives in a couple of weeks.

I wasn't thinking of creating meaningful moments when I first started this project, but it came to mind as I was planning on starting another. I love to think about the child as her birthday comes round each year. Meaningful moments happen as I think about the year. It seems like the book will be a treasure when it is done. I hope so. Meanwhile I will enjoy the process.

Monday, January 4, 2010

"P.S. I love You"

I recently read this book - "P.S. I love You" by Cecelia Ahern and was struck by the loving and creative energy that Gerry (the dead husband) put into thinking about Holly (his surviving young wife). I was amazed by Gerry's careful planning while he was dealing with the end of his life. How could he stay connected with Holly after he was gone? How could he help her make her way without him?

When folks like Gerry have the foresight, strength and time to think about their loved ones before passing on, there is potential to bridge the gap between the living and the dead. Each person's life journey is unique and is something that we can't necessarily plan for. Yet by reading a story like this, and being aware of the potential of staying connected, amazing opportunity may present itself.

Gerry left a bundle of letters for Holly, instructing her to open them monthly and gave her a task to do for each of them. He understood her so well that he instinctively knew what she might need to help her move through her grieving and on with her life.

What struck me most was Gerry's thoughtfulness and ability to think of a creative way to help Holly. This may be a novel, but it can plant seeds for a later time for each of us. Let's keep our hearts open for opportunity in any situation - even dying.