Tag Archives: connection

Paying Attention to your Surroundings

May we marvel at the beauty and splendor around us.

May we marvel at the beauty and splendor around us.

My wife is writing a beautiful book about the 10 moons of Native American legend. I found it interesting when I received a calendar book from a charity for the Lakota (Sioux) and read that the months were named after the change that occurred month to month. For instance, February is called Moon of the Popping Trees because the frost, ice and snow caused the tree limbs to pop. I have heard the same thing here in upstate NY when we have our occasional ice storms and you can hear the limbs break as the shatter from the freezing and the weight of ice and snow. June is called Moon of Good Berries. The Lakota people were hunters and gatherers. The months were sometimes related to the food and conditions that were prevalent that month. They observed the changes of the season and what those seasons offered them.

I have always respected Native American culture. They were connected to nature and its marvelous mysteries and splendor. They studied the movements and changes of the seasons and the effects on their food supply. They paid attention to their surroundings, not only because they needed to do that to survive, but also to understand the wisdom of nature.

I suppose I admire those who are aware, because, honestly, I am not always aware of my surroundings. I get caught up in my thoughts. I have been accused at work of “zoning out” when I am trying to problem solve because I am busy visualizing how the problem was created so that I can pinpoint a solution.

I do think it is important to stop and look around. I try to be aware of the little issues that may be getting in the way of keeping people happy. Sometimes the smallest of changes can have a big effect. Someone may be looking at a larger goal that seems almost impossible but may miss the small step that might get them towards the goal. I once was listening to a radio host who had always dreamed of working as a radio host, but could not seem to land the opportunity. Even though it was not his goal, he took a job as a library person at a radio station, pulling tapes and keeping track of their audio inventory. At least he was in radio, if not on the air. One day, the regular radio host could not make the show for one reason or another. The owner of the station asked the librarian to step in. It was an emergency and the station owner needed a voice on the air. This librarian, who had always wanted to be a radio host, finally had a chance to be on the air. He did so well, that he scored his own show.

Even though he was not meeting his dream at first, he paid attention to what he wanted, paid attention to the tasks behind the scenes which gave him a better understanding of how the radio host was supported. He finally reached his goal of becoming a radio host.

Things are changing where I work. Our procedures are changing. We are still working out how our work is going to be done. By paying attention to our workflow and what needs to be done, we will find efficient ways to get them done.

Just as we are often forced to look around to fix problems. But we should remember to look around and see all the things that are good. We can count our blessings and be glad to have what we do. It is so hard to find happiness if we don’t appreciate what we already have. We should pay attention to the good things that can lead to better things as well as the not-so-good things that have to be changed.

It is wise to stop and smell the roses, but I think it is just as wise to stop and look at the garden. It is a chance to think globally as well as locally. You can change your world and you get to decide how big that world is. I hope that you look around and find that your blessings are many.

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Changes for the better

Last week, my wife and I helped my son move from our home to his own apartment – his first. He was dealing with the nervousness and excitement of the prospect of living on his own. He now would be making his own decisions, preparing his own meals and taking care of his own place. It was a task that he was looking forward to, but at the same time, just a bit unsure of himself.

We all go through times like this, whether it is a dwelling place move, a new job, or opening a new business. These opportunities mix nervousness, fear, excitement, and joy. Each time we overcome even a small obstacle it boots our confidence. It can boost our self-reliance, and if we do need help, it can shine a light on who can help us and who really cares. It is a very broad learning opportunity.

My wife has been an empty-nester before, but this is the first time for me. I am very proud of my son for making this leap. We did our best to set him up with the basics that he needed to help ensure that he would succeed. I went on a strenuous hike with him yesterday at Stony Brook State Park in Dansville, NY. It is a beautiful park and very well maintained. We had a chance to talk while we climbed up and down steps more numerous than I cared to count.  My son told me that he is excited about his new life but that he missed me. I admitted, gladly, that I missed him too. But I assured him, that no matter where we were geographically, I would be there for him. This was especially true since just the night before, I went to the hospital with Brandon as he cut his finger with a knife so deeply that he required stitches. He was preparing a salad for his work that night. I am so glad that he is carrying on good eating habits. I know that he will do well. Knowing that will make my transition to becoming comfortable as an empty-nester that much easier.

A Rose for a Butterfly

This Friday, February 7, 2014, I have a medical appointment that will put me near the grave of someone I love very much. Her name is Laura A. VerDow Santelli. She died on February 20, 2010. Like the previous years, I will put a single red rose at her grave.

I know that she is not there, not really, only the shell of her body that her soul left behind, but it is my way of remembering her. I do this for my parents as well. I buy a bouquet of flowers and spread them on their graves. I could not do it last year as I did not travel to the state of my birth. I will this year. My parents names are Virginia and William.

David Eagleman in his book, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, wrote “There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”

Mom, Dad and Laura, your third death has not come for I have not forgotten you and I promise to speak your names.

I look forward to placing a rose on Laura’s grave. She was my Butterfly. She loved life and was full spirited and fun loving. I do miss her and love her very much. Remember those that have passed on and say their names. Remember them for that is how they stay in our hearts. Because all of us, like my Butterfly, will have to fly off someday leaving our bodies behind.

Isolated but Connected

My wife and I have had an ongoing discussion concerning whether our ever connecting technology actually isolates us or connects us with others. My wife’s view is that technology isolates people because it precludes interpersonal interaction with others. Does technology interfere with people learning social skills and interacting with a diverse group of individuals? So the question is this: Does social networking isolate or connect individuals to other individuals? The answer to this, like so many others is, Yes. And if they do connect, is it a real connection?

Certainly, those individuals that are already uncomfortable with interpersonal relations can find a retreat in communicating over a social network. It allows them to communicate, connect but reduces the practice they need to be comfortable around others. Some very outgoing people love the social networking because it increases their influence. Although it may allow some people to avoid personal contact. I think there are many ways that technology keeps us connected. We can now connect to relatives that in the past, we only saw at weddings or funerals, or those that live far away. We can keep connected with our loved ones throughout the day with fast messaging.

And then there are those that stay connected. They want us to know where they are at all times, what they are doing and even what they are eating, I am glad that they are that excited about their life.

My stance is that people who wish to isolate themselves find the internet and social media a useful tool to be by themselves and yet have a window on the world. Which in my mind, is better than just isolation without connection, even without personal interaction.

So what do you think? Does social networking isolate or create real connections?

Two Sides

My mother was deaf. Her deafness came as a result of whooping cough when she was just three years old. She had worked for my father as a housekeeper. He would leave her instructions by leaving notes on the kitchen table. She had only learned finger spelling when she went to school at the Rochester School for the Deaf. She learned sign language much later. My father had never bothered to learn finger spelling or sign language. Even as I was growing up, he continued to leave written notes if I was not around to translate for him. My mother taught me to read early. So as soon as I became somewhat proficient at spelling, I took on the role of interpreter for my mother. I wasn’t always happy in the role then, but now I really appreciate what it did for me. My role also made it easier for my father to communicate with my mother.

Along with regular interpretation, I also became the mediator between my parents in the midst of their arguments and disagreements. Each would try to win me to their side, all the while, I was translating between them. At the time, I feared siding with one side or the other for I did not want the anger to extend to me. But one important thing that I did learn was that there is always more than one side of an argument.

Any time more than one person is involved in anything, there is a chance of conflict. I listened to my mother’s reasoning. From her point of view, her stance made perfect sense. And many times, I could see her side of it. I would also listen to my father’s reasoning. From his point of view, his stance made perfect sense, too. I could see his side of it too. This occurred more often than not. My mother was right and my father was right. How can that be? Based on their own experiences, their own thoughts, their own values, and the information that they had at hand, they were both right – yet they disagreed. Many times, they disagreed passionately.

The majority of times, my father would simply acquiesce. Then what would confuse me was when he did, it made my mother even more upset. She wanted to win because she felt that she was right, not win because he simply gave in. It was yet another lesson for me to learn.

I try to be mindful that when someone disagrees with me, that they are not wrong but merely hold a different viewpoint than mine. That is all that it means, that we think differently. I believe true communication happens when we are allowed to share viewpoints between each other and move towards a common ground. Even if we agree to disagree, it is an excellent learning opportunity.

‘If I do not believe as you believe, it proves that you do not believe as I believe and that is all it proves.’ – Amish Wisdom

It isn’t always about right or wrong, sometimes it means just different ways of thinking and holding differing opinions. If there were only one side to an argument, then it wouldn’t be an argument. I surely hope your arguments are few and your communication is rich. Take care.

But, What If I’m Not?

We have just passed Thanksgiving Day and quickly moving towards the Holiday seasons. It is this time of year that we are reminded to be thankful and grateful for what we have. But, what if I’m not?

Life has its challenges. It has its darker moments for everyone. What if, at this time of the year: you lost someone close to you; you lost your job; you had a medical emergency; you lost everything? What if things just aren’t going well at all..

Hey, it happens. There will be times that will steal our joy and plunge us into the darkness of sadness, anxiety and anger. But these things, too, will pass. It is these times that you find yourself a quiet place, then scream, shout, cuss, curse, cry and just let it all out. But just for a little while, a few minutes or so. Expressing your anger, grief and disappointment to God will let you blow off steam. You will get it off your chest. Does this change anything? Not really. But it does give you a point to move on.

And for being grateful. You can still be grateful. You can be glad that you survived. You can be impressed by your strength to move forward. You can count the blessings of your friends and family. I try to be positive most of the time. But life gets to us all. It is okay to be alone, get mad and yell at the wall. It will clear your mind. And its okay if you break down in tears and let it all out. It is part of healing and moving forward. What is not okay is staying in that place and wallowing in the pain.

So I get it that you might not always be thankful. Life is hard. It doesn’t always make sense. But you get to choose to move on, to go forward, to cope and make it better. And no, I cannot always understand the depth of pain people can feel. But I know that it is never the end. It might be tough right now, but remember, that there is the power to pick yourself up, maybe even with a helping hand. There is something, somewhere that you can be thankful for even if it resides in tomorrow.

So what if you aren’t? It’s okay, there will be another moment where you can. Life is a journey of hills and valleys with lots of intersecting paths. Hope to meet you there.

It’s Always Been That Way

As humans, we usually look for patterns. Even if we go out and look for the exotic, we still find comfort in the routine. We feel comfortable in knowing that things will be as we expect them to be. Life is challenging and ever changing. Events and relationships have a way of upsetting our comfortable setting.

Many times at work, I question why we do things a certain way. The answer I usually receive is that it is just the way it’s always been done. I might even hear, it works, so don’t change it. I like to try to streamline reporting and tasks to make it easier for everyone involved. It usually works, but sometimes what is easier for me, isn’t necessarily easier for someone else. What I change might make someone else very uncomfortable. I am sure that you have had this happen to  you as well. What makes perfect sense to me might befuddle someone else and vice versa.

This can happen in relationships too. We rely on our experiences from our childhood. Our family worked in a particular way, whether we liked it or not, that is the way it was. Sometimes we don’t think it could be different because it’s always been that way.

In a family relationship, especially in a blended family, bringing all these expectations and traditions together can result in a confusing mix of priorities. What is very important to one person may not be important at all to another. It isn’t right or wrong, it is just different. We bring with us our own understanding of what is normal and natural and how it should be done.

What might be very important to one might make another downright uncomfortable. Usually out of love, we genuinely try to respect and honor the differences. But it is difficult to always be mindful of what is important to someone else when it might not hold such gravity with us. It is part of being selfless, but our minds and bodies will remind us of our own needs.

I think the difference between work and home is that we expect work to dictate our actions and activities even when they don’t necessarily make sense to us. We usually do not practice that same flexibility at home, which is both good and bad. It is good that I can be myself at home but sometimes being myself might irritate others, just as they might irritate me. Any time you bring two or more people together for any reason; there is a possibility of conflict. It takes concerted effort to agree to goals and actions and move forward. It’s always been that way.

So we need to be mindful that everyone comes from their own series of experiences that colors their behavior and beliefs. In a work environment, it is to recognize the talents and strengths of those around us. We need to offer our own strengths and talents to lead to success.  In our family relationships we need to recognize that each of us have traditions ingrained in us by our childhood. It is up to us to decide which traditions to keep, which to discard, and which to meld into the tradition of others. In a sense, we need to make new traditions that not only work for us but for those around us.

Change is tough. Challenges are real. Opportunities to be better exist. It requires us to be mindful. It requires us to be present. But then again, it’s always been that way.

Nature’s Splendor

I was on vacation from work last week. I took this opportunity to explore nature’s splendor. I did not visit my favorite botanical gardens this year as I have done the last 30-some years. That would be Longwood Gardens; in Kennett Square, PA. It is a beautiful expanse of gardens and conservatory in the Brandywine Valley.

I took a 7 mile hike with my son at Letchworth Park, the Grand Canyon of the East. We hiked the Gorge trail which followed the gorges carved out by ancient glaciers. We saw waterfalls, cliffs and some smaller forest animals. It was a wonderful way to connect to nature, the awe of creation and spend time with my son.

Next, my son and I drove several hours to the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, OH. It is an incredibly beautiful conservatory, combining passionately designed floral exhibits accented with the glass artwork of Dale Chihuly. And if that were not enough, the conservatory also has a wonderful Butterfly area in the Pacific Island Water Garden. So we saw the splendor, beauty and diversity of both flowers and butterflies. It was truly a living rainbow of colors. The breezeway of the conservatory had a zen garden with koi pond and bonsai trays on placed tables.

Lastly, I visited the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens in Buffalo, NY. It has a three dome conservatory building holding 12 different areas. It has the largest collection of English Ivy in the US. I loved their Bonsai collection. They did have a rose garden but they were fading in the heat. Our own roses have come and gone as well.

I really enjoy botanical gardens. It just blows me away as to the incredible colors, shapes, and varieties. The diversity of the design contained in them is almost too awesome to comprehend.

In a world where we are reminded everyday of the gloominess, the darkness of humanity, it is so incredibly refreshing to see such splendor in colors and beauty. It is refreshing to know that there IS beauty in the world. You can see the passion put into the floral and artwork exhibits. You could feel the beauty of their souls and their vision. There is good in the world and it is all around us.

My trip allowed me to see very concrete examples of beauty but I know that beauty occurs every day, everywhere. It is not lost on me the beauty of a spouse when they make dinner for the family. The beauty of a parent cheering on their child. And let us not forget the beauty of those millions of random acts of kindness that occur every day.

Where’s my signal?

I was traveling with my wife over the past week. I was surprised of the disparity of cell phone and internet service that we experienced. I am accustomed to having quick internet and strong cell phone signals. At our last stop, we were very near the crown of a mountain top in Naples, NY, we were beyond cell phone signals unless we went to the apex of the hill. I am guessing that cell phone towers were on the north side of the mountain and we were shielded. The Inn owner had satellite service but the rain caused pictures to scramble and internet connections to drop. I was much more interested in the internet connection.

After visiting a winery, we stopped at a small café in Prattsburg, NY. The café was one store front along a long row of businesses on Main Street. My GPS announced that there was no data connection. The waitress of the café verified that this town had no cell phone service. I was amazed.

This is in stark contrast to Intercourse, PA in Lancaster County. This land was filled with Amish farms. Amish buggies and wagons were moving up and down the road regularly. We stayed next to a bank where we saw the Amish park their buggies and walk up to the drive up window. The driver held the horses while the female passenger safely climbed aboard. I found that akin to holding open the car door for my wife. We drove out to the country to see the sights. We were in the middle of Amish farmland. Surrounded by farms, we had 4G LTE signal.

I depend on my Android GPS when we travel away from home. I find it quite useful. It took me a while to move into the cellular age years ago. I was not an early adopter. I now find it a valuable tool. It is a great source of information. I feel safer with it as I can call for help wherever I am (as long as there is signal). I have used it to call in a downed power line that was lying across the road. I have used it to help others contact help. It definitely has its positive uses.

I arrived home today. I have lots of signal. I found my signal is where my heart and love is, in my home.

What color is your world?

When I was young, my Uncle Harry (after whom I am named) came to live with us because he had lost his greenhouse nursery business. He stayed with us quite a while and as a gift for our family’s kindness, he left behind a black and white television set. It was the first television we had.

Black and white television depended on shades of gray to create contrast. We fooled ourselves into believing that we could tell the colors that should have been there by the particular shade of gray. Whether or not we guessed the color correctly didn’t really matter, as we painted the grayscale picture in our mind.

Like today, there was an annual showing of the Wizard of Oz. I did not know until years later that the dream sequence of the film was in color. That Zenith TV my uncle left us lasted a very long time.

There are some people who live in black and white only, others in grayscale and still others in technicolor. Of course, all of us have episodes of all three. Those that live in strictly black and white have a very hardened set of rules which establish right from wrong. Basically, anything that isn’t right must be wrong. That’s it – no argument. They write the script for the rest of the world to follow and become upset if they don’t, despite the fact that the rest of the world had no opportunity or desire to follow their script in the first place. So, they spend much of their time being consumed by the world’s inconsideration of their beliefs.

There are others that live in grayscale. They have a defined concept of right and wrong but know that there are motives, reasons and situations that create circumstances that dilute the rigidness of those concepts, hoping that grace will provide trails to the right path. The gray in their lives comes from wishing for better and playing the ‘if only’ game. I would be happy, if only I were married. I would be happy, if only I got a raise. I would be happy, if only I had another job. I would be happy, if only I had lots of money. Instead of looking at what they already have and the relationships around them, they always see what they are doing without or things they don’t or cannot have. They miss out on the joys of life.

Then there are those that live in technicolor. They know that the world is full of wonder and mystery. They want to see the colors of the orient. They want to hear the music of the African plains. They want to feel the tropical breezes. Creation is alive and vibrant, pulsing with color: to be experienced by all of our senses. They have defined concepts of right and wrong but understand that many cultures exist. That backgrounds and experiences shape the lives of each one of us – that grace belongs to all of us; that love and God are not limited; and beyond our full comprehension. They understand that two people can listen to the same music and be moved differently. They accept the diversity as the wonderful mystery of God and creation.

Now everyone has episodes of all three of these examples. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, her dream world was vibrant, beautiful, and at times a little scary. As exciting as it was, she was still tied to a place called home. Her relationships were important. She had tasted the Technicolor life, and it is my hope it remained an important part of her psyche.

I try very much to live a technicolor life, but I admit, I sometimes fall into the grayscale (probably more than I would like to admit). Each morning, when I wake up on the right side of the grass, I am thankful and blessed – anything beyond that is a gift. I wish to continue to see all these little gifts as blessings, trials as lessons that give me insight and strength, and relationships that promote love and understanding. My world is full of color and you shine brightly. You can be a gift to the world no matter how you see it through your own eyes. The reality might be gray, but that does not mean you can’t live a technicolor life.

Take care, be well, and be blessed.