A Season of Everyday Blessings

Iron Lung

This is dedicated to my friend and stepfather, Richard.

It was 1942, and families all over the world were dealing with hardship and devastation due to war. In August of that year, the Chinnery family was hit by tragedy of another kind.

Seven-year-old Bill was the first to be diagnosed with polio and within days, his older brother George became ill. At first it looked like tonsillitis, but it soon became obvious that he also had polio. Parents George and Ardice were told that he was dying and when they arrived at the hospital, George was already gone.

The devastated parents returned home to find that their three other sons were also ill. When five-year-old Richard’s condition quickly deteriorated, he was rushed to the hospital and put in an iron lung – a blessing because there were only a few in the entire city. Richard spent several months in the iron lung, paralyzed on one side and unable to move.   But at least his chance of survival was improved.

When Richard needed a transfusion, radio stations across the city put out an urgent call for blood donations. A young man volunteered, and the family never knew the name of the donor.

As Richard and his brothers recovered and were no longer contagious, family members, friends and neighbors helped with physical therapy treatments, taking turns moving his arms and legs. Both friends and strangers donated ration cards for food and gas so that nurses could visit the Chinnery home.

A friend of the family and his wife had a unique idea. Every week they delivered a bag of seven individually wrapped gifts – one for each day. They were small packages and Richard couldn’t even open them himself because he was unable to move his fingers. But he knew that each day he had something to look forward to.

More than 72 years later, Richard remembers the brown paper bag delivered faithfully each week. “They were little things, but they meant so much.”  Richard credits his survival and remarkable recovery to caring friends, family and community and he will never forget all of the people that gave so much.  He gets emotional when he talks about his parents and his older brother, George.  “I only lived because my brother died.  Otherwise they wouldn’t have given me an iron lung – there weren’t enough.”  It’s hard to imagine what his parents went through and even with all of the difficulty that he and his family faced, he says, “We were lucky. We were very lucky.”

In this season of giving, joy and gratitude, remember that love, caring and creativity are precious. And sometimes your time and your presence are the best gifts of all.

Find ways to be a blessing.

Parenting a Designer

Project Requirements

Project Requirements

 

After having a few good laughs and nodding in agreement at the uncanny insight on a blog post called “Dating a designer: 10 things you need to know”, I was inspired.  I haven’t dated a designer (or at least not recently), but I’ve known a few and I’ve raised an aspiring industrial designer to adulthood.  It has been a unique experience – one that I’m sure that other parents can identify with.  So I’ve decided to share a few insights of my own.

You’ll know it when you see it. You’ll know your kid is destined to be an architect or designer when other toddlers are cramming everything into their mouths and your child is building complex structures with wooden blocks.  You’ll know it when they prefer to arrange their food into pleasing patterns to actually eating it.  It will be obvious when you see their first grade drawing of a detailed scene drawn in perfect perspective – and then you see their classmates’ sketches of stick mommies and three-legged cows.  Design thinking may show up early. Recognize it and nurture it.

Trust their judgment.  When your designer child laments that they’re the only one in the family with style, accept reality.  It’s probably true.  Instead of feeling offended, accept constructive criticism and rely on their expert judgment.  My young designer once told me that I needed a signature color.  “I suppose you have one.”  “Of course,” she answered.  “I’ll bet you even know the Pantone code.”  “376. Pea Green.”  She was right.  I needed definition.  I wasn’t able to pin my essence down to a single code, but if you look in my closet you’ll see a range that spans from light aqua to cerulean blue.  I’m not a designer, but my color scheme and confidence have improved.

Gift shopping can be a challenge.  Unlike the blogger who is dating a designer, I wouldn’t say gift shopping is next to impossible.  Or at least not until they get older, tastes are more refined and they’re lusting after a minimalist watch with no numbers.  Let’s just say that you need to be willing to consider unusual presents.  You may even have to visit places like Lowe’s for items such as a Dremel MultiPro kit or drop by Office Max to pick up a 12 pack of Pilot Precise V5 pens.  Their friends will shake their heads and say, “You got a tool kit for your birthday?  That sucks.”  They’ll never understand.

Designers are the new rock stars.  At least to designers.  At her age, I knew the latest hits and was damaging my hearing at stadium concerts.  She works at a fabric store and gets excited when the new collections arrive from her favorite textile artists.  We’re not so different.  Really.

From my experience, parenting a designer is like raising orchids.  It’s not always easy, and they only bloom under the right conditions.  In fact, just read this excerpt about growing orchids and tell me if it doesn’t sound familiar…

For your best crack at success, start by choosing one of the less fussy varieties that is adapted to the type of growing conditions you can provide.  Buy the most mature plant you can afford (young plants are much more difficult to please)…”

Yes, young designers can be fussy and difficult to please, but they are imaginative thinkers that will help you to see the world in a whole new way.  With the right conditions, plentiful resources, patience and understanding, your young designer will bloom and grow.

So stock up on paper, pens, tools, hardware and art supplies.  Expose your designer to new experiences and inspiration and see what develops.  Most of all – accept, encourage and enjoy.

Resurrection and Light

The last few months have been a quietly busy time of slow transition and transformation.  A former employer’s “reinvention” (and reductions) motivated me to do some reinventing of my own and I’m still working on it.  Energy focused elsewhere, I found it difficult to blog.  But with spring comes renewal and the desire to re-energize, engage and connect.

After recently authoring a business book, I’m ready to take on more personal projects and the whole concept of reinvention has me thinking. I’m interested in stories of people who have found purpose and passion, changed for the better and are making a difference. As I connect with others and share my ideas and vision, they tell their inspiring stories – each like a luminaria, lighting the way forward. I’m not sure where this path will lead, but I’m hopeful.

luminaria

Especially interesting are people in the “third age” of life who are transforming dreams into reality and moving from retired to “rewired”. Instead of “old age pensioners,” these people are active elders, vital mentors, community builders and trailblazers.

When I was doing some research for an article, I was looking for a synonym for “elder.” I wanted some variety and didn’t really like the word “senior.” Thesaurus.com offered few alternatives, so I looked up “old.” Synonyms such as decrepit, tired, broken down, debilitated, enfeebled, exhausted, grizzled, hoary, impaired, inactive, infirm and wasted made me realize the contempt with which we view aging and those among us who are well-experienced. Instead of wisdom, we see irrelevance. Instead of venerable, we see obsolete.

My research is taking me to a re-imagined world where the journey leads to connection, learning, teaching, growth and renewal. I have some time to go before I am well into that third stage of life, but I’m looking for alternatives to the typical retirement and plan to share my findings with others.

Do you have stories of renewal and reinvention? I’d love to hear about it!

 

The Art of the Hospitality and the Holiday Home

After my last post, you know that my friend Els is a creative person, gifted at the art of hospitality.  I couldn’t resist posting a couple of pictures of her home, decorated for the holiday and ready for guests.  Lovely!

Easter Table

Ready for Guests

40 Days in the Desert (or “Why I Gave Up Blogging for Lent”)

desertLent is a solemn time of prayer, preparation, penance and self-denial and commemorates the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert.  It’s a time of quiet reflection and renewal.  And this Lent, one lonely blogger retreated from WordPress, practiced silence and abstained from reading or posting.

Why did I do it, and what on earth did I hope to accomplish?

Retreat.  For 6 weeks I went into hibernation.  Sometimes it’s good to experience what my friend calls “the neutral zone,” where you surrender to nothingness.  Last week I read an interview in The Guardian in which Ryan Gosling revealed that he is taking a break from acting.  “I’ve lost perspective on what I’m doing.  I think it’s good for me to take a break and reassess why I’m doing it and how I’m doing it… I need a break from myself as much as I imagine the audience does.”  I’m no Ryan, but I understood what he was saying.  Retreat and reassess.

Self-Denial.  Sometimes blogging feels more self-indulgent than dark chocolate or champagne.  Taking time out let me feel deprivation and longing, which is unusual in a culture of excess and overwhelming access.

Quiet.  As Sting said, “Great music as much about the space in between the notes as it is about the notes themselves.”  The same is true of writing.  Taking the time to experience, observe and quietly reflect can make writing less frequent and more meaningful.

Renewal.  The end of Lent coincides with the beginning of spring and renewal is in the air.  In the quiet isolation of this figurative desert, fresh thoughts stand out more sharply against the arid landscape and ideas appear in the void.  I’m ready to re-join the world and contribute with renewed energy.

Decision.  Others decide to give up meat or chocolate.  I chose to give up writing, a harmless vice that doesn’t lead to obesity, intoxication or any other state of ill health.  But just the sense of intention gives it purpose and meaning.

I’m back to writing and will enjoy catching up with the recent posts of all my blogging companions.  Happy Spring!

Beyond Ramen: Students Abroad Seeking Inspiration!

Ramen

You’re far from home, renting a room and dealing with limited resources and unfamiliar ingredients.  It’s the middle of winter and the schedule is busy but you’ve got to eat and stay healthy.  You can’t eat out every day but don’t want to eat leftovers all week.  What’s a student to do?

Here’s the challenge!  Find a few recipes that are:

  • quick and fairly easy – prep shortcuts welcome
  • nutritious, including several food groups and some variety
  • inexpensive, with limited ingredients and waste
  • made with readily-available ingredients (anywhere in the world)
  • vegetarian or fish
  • made on the stove (no oven available)

I’ve been cooking for the multitudes since I was 15 and have a walk-in pantry and more than enough gear – so cooking for one on a hotplate is a distant memory.  Daughter and I are both doing some research, but I know that all of you are a great resource!  Please comment with your best tips.

Wisdom and Trust

Rumi

Let yourself be silently drawn
by the strange pull of what you really love.
It will not lead you astray.

 ~ Rumi ~

So many times when I’m in transition, I push and pull and thrash about – only to find I’m on the wrong road or forcing something that’s not meant to be.

Then it’s time to be still, pay attention.

What makes your heart sing?  What is your path?

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