Archive for March, 2009

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Aristotle Cleaned His Room

March 30, 2009

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act but a habit.

-Aristotle

I’m excellent and saying “Go Clean Your Room.” I’m not sure if it’s a habit, but I repeatedly say it.

What do you do in your life repeatedly? Tell the kids to do their homework? Turn off the i-pod? I’m excellent at those too.

Here’s a better question, what do you want to do repeatedly? What would you like to see become habit in your life? It’s easy (for me) to put eating M&M’s or licorice sticks on the list, but what if we put forth things like excellence, integrity, or kindness? Would they become habit?

Aristotle was on to something. Not only will the things we do repeatedly become habit, but the more we practice the better we get. As a writer, I know this to be true. I repeatedly write. It’s a habit. It may not be good writing, but eventually, the habit and practice of writing make it easier to find the good and I do get better. I’d like this to leak into the rest of my life. Excellence as a habit, rather than an act, sounds pretty good to me.

On that note, I need to get excellent at making dinner.

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Dalai Lama’s 3 R’s and Coach Jay’s ABC’s

March 24, 2009

Respect for self, respect for others, responsibility for all your actions. -Dalai Lama


People ask where I find my “snowballs of wisdom”. They ask if I spend hours on the Internet. Do I have a book? How do I choose which quote to use, they ask.

The truth is, I find them everywhere. Magazines, cereal boxes, books, greeting cards, and even bubble gum wrappers are just a few places to find inspiration. Today’s snowball came from my 6-year-old’s ski coach. I may have mentioned once or twice, that my kids race on a stellar team. Stellar, not because they are Olympians, although some of them are, but because they invoke a philosophy for the athletes that goes way beyond skiing.

In today’s mail, a letter came from Coach Jay. He thanked his little athletes for being good skiers and great listeners. Attached to the letter was a packet of quotes. He called them pearls of wisdom (good thing he didn’t steal my line, or I would have had to challenge him to a snowball fight). Coach Jay sent sixteen quotes in all. Reminders of life’s important messages for his 5 and 6-years-old. Now that’s coaching.

Olivia reminds us about Coach Jay’s three R’s from the Dalai Lama. She ‘kindly’ tells her brother that being respectful is not throwing a Wii stick across the room. When her older sister tells her she’s tattling, Olivia objects. It’s about respect, she says. And she’s right.

As parents, we all want what’s best for our kids. Being best is not about winning the championship basketball game or going to the World Cup. Raising children is more about developing character and helping kids succeed in whatever life tosses their way. Finding teachers, coaches, and babysitters who help parents in this daunting task should take precedent over the big win.

In his letter, Coach Jay quoted Mother Theresa, William Shakespeare, Henry Ford and Sophocles to name a few. He also quoted himself. Remember your 3 R’s….respect yourself? He does, and it shows. Here are Coach Jay’s ABC’s for his little athletes:

A- avoid negative sources, people, places, things and habits

B- believe in yourself and succeed

C- consider things from every angle

D- don’t give up and don’t give in

E- enjoy life today, yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come

F- friends and family are hidden treasures, seek them and enjoy their riches

G- give more than you planned to

H- have major league fun

I- ignore those who try to discourage you

J- just do it

K- keep trying no matter how hard it seems, it will get easier

L- love yourself first and most

M- make it happen

N- never lie, cheat or steal, always strike a fair deal

O- open you eyes and see things as they really are

P- practice makes perfect

Q- quitters never win and winners never quit

R- read study and learn about everything important in your life

S- stop procrastinating

T- take control of your own destiny

U- understand yourself in order to better understand others

V- visualize it and focus

W- want it more than anything

X- xcellerate your efforts

Y- you are unique in all God’s creations, nothing can replace you

Z- Zero in on your target and go for it

Thanks Coach Jay. I think you just won the snowball fight.

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On Being a Slacker. . .

March 16, 2009

Be all that you can be.

-U.S. Army slogan

What if all I want to be is a couch potato? Ever read the book, Confessions of a Slacker Mom? Well that’s what I am today. A Slacker with a capital S.

I realize there’s a choice. I could be all that I could be. I could wake up and fill the kids backpacks with organic, nutritional treats, prepare a three-course breakfast including freshly squeezed OJ, kiss my husband good-bye, work productively at my writing, volunteer at the school, organize the ski team party, clean out the coat closet, make homemade spaghetti sauce for dinner, and make sure the kids do their homework after soccer practice. Or, I could be a slacker.

Why does the choice have to be so extreme? Why do moms think that being all they can be, is to be supermoms?

Do we need to work all day? Do dinner? Dishes? Do it all? Of course not. Moms often put that on themselves. Spouses, kids, and babysitters can be part of the equation. Besides, dishing out junk food on occasion won’t cause cancer. I realize Twinkies don’t really have a place in the food pyramid, but come on. Are they going to kill my kids? Give us a break already.

Moms, whether working at an office or working for the PTA, have been given far too many demands. Be all that you can be does not mean being a wife, a mom, a marathon runner, a community organizer, or say, a governor all at the same time. That’s the definition of insanity if you ask me.

What kid needs an insane parent? What office needs an insane employee? What community needs a crazy activist? A true feminist does exactly what she knows she needs to do for herself. Not for the entire planet. Being all that you can be means being who you are, not what everyone wants you to be. There are days when we are best as caregivers and other days we are best at being managers. There may be days when we are best at being hung-over. Being present in who we are at any given minute, makes us the best that we can be.

Pass the popcorn. Today, I’m heading for the couch. Slacker.

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Sing, Sing a Song

March 9, 2009

Go Everywhere With a Thousand Voices Singing.

-unknown

You don’t want me singing anytime soon. I can’t remember the words to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, let alone carry a tune.

My 9-year-old son likes to sing, but I’m not sure anyone would want to hear a thousand voices like his. Tye’s a big kid. Barrel chested and full of life. He likes to sing opera in the morning, just to annoy his sisters. It works.

Do we really want to walk around with a thousand voices in our head? I have enough of my own, thank you very much. “Remember to pick up milk,” “Don’t forget to send that writing assignment by Monday,” “Tye’s practice was moved,” “The time changed too, but I can’t remember when,” “The dog needs more food,” “Haircut was cancelled,” “Confirm the speaking engagement,” “Email teachers,” and the list goes on.

The voices in my head don’t sing. They chatter and whine and sometimes they scream.

So, how do I get them to sing? I wouldn’t mind the chatter if they burst into song. Then again, do I really want the likes of Jim Morrison belting lyrics in my brain? Well, he’s dead, but even Bruce Springsteen might get annoying. Maybe the key is to have a chorus. Maybe a thousand voices in perfect pitch is the answer. It might work if I could find the right voices.

If I could still, just for a moment, the endless garbage rattling around in my head and look out the window to find the chorus, I might have a chance. Chirping birds? Nah. At 10,000 feet, birds are the size of raccoons, and they caw. Perhaps, the wind. The wind whispers lullabies through the tree branches. Except, where we live the wind surges louder than a snowplow. No one should live this high.

What else could be my musical muse?

Simple, if I think about it. Snowflakes, of course! Me and the cold stuff go hand in hand. Ah ha! My holy grail. For me, a thousand voices will sing from snowflakes and drown out my mind’s chatter. Funny, how things are right, smack dab in front of us, most of the time.

I just hope my snowflakes don’t sing like Barry Manilow.

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A Slumdog Do

March 3, 2009

Knowing is not enough, you must apply: willing is not enough, you must do.

-Bruce Lee

Am I the only person on the planet who almost walked out of Slumdog Millionaire? I’ve been stewing about the film ever since it won Best Picture.

Feel good movie of the year? Hmmmm. Was it the part where we watched a girl kidnapped and taken in as a sex slave? Or was it when a boy’s eye was dug out with a spoon, and others were mutilated so they could an earn bonus money begging? The scene where the mother was bludgeoned to death in a pool of mud might have made some sicko smile.

Maybe it’s the Mom in me, but give me a box of chocolates and Forest Gump any day. It’s not just the violence and child terror that bothered me in Slumdog, but the stark reality that children live those lives every single day.

I’ve been to India. Intolerable conditions exist. And what do we do about it? Watch a movie and celebrate its awards? Hundreds of thousands of people will sing Slumdog’s praise, but in the end, do nothing.

As a movie actor and martial arts genius, Bruce Lee offered valuable wisdom when he said that knowing is not enough. And I agree, it’s not. We must heed Lee’s words and take action. We must do.

But how? We live half a world away. We have our own problems. Still, great groups of children in our neighborhoods are not being raped and mutilated or living in massive squalor. So, what can we do? For starters, we can send contributions to relief agencies. Google sex slavery and protest. Call legislators and demand action. Write letters to the newspaper. We can do something.

Then, it would get my vote for movie of the year.