Rocking in Charlotte

Rocking in Charlotte

Relaxing in CLT

Sitting under a leafy tree enjoying the winter sunshine, I rocked slowly back and forth, feeling calm and disconnected from the folks who hurried by.  As I caught up on some reading, I realized how unusual the setting really was. Was I observing small town life from my grandmother’s porch swing?  No, I was enjoying a 3-hour layover in the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, along with a few dozen other travelers.

The Charlotte rockers started back in 1997 as a prop for a temporary photography exhibit called “Porchsitting, A Charlotte Regional Family Album.”  The chairs were placed in the tree-lined atrium of the main terminal with the intention to convey the relaxing comfort of the traditional southern porch. They quickly became more than idle accents.  Travelers enjoyed rocking and complained when the chairs were removed at the end of the exhibit.  In response, they were brought back and became a permanent fixture.

Airport rockers have now become a trend and are a hit in some of the nation’s busiest airports, including Dallas/Ft. Worth, San Diego and Seattle.  Handmade rockers were also recently introduced in four airports in Finland.  Named “Kennedy Rockers,” the chairs at CLT are handcrafted in North Carolina from aged oak logs and modeled after the type that John F. Kennedy used to alleviate back pain.

Rocking may also have therapeutic benefits, and studies conducted at the Medical College of Virginia have shown that kinetic therapy can dramatically accelerate healing in severely ill patients.  In fact, rocking can be beneficial for everything from nurturing premature babies, building mother-child attachment and soothing autistic children and adults to providing relief for arthritis patients.

I’m not claiming that the rocker is a miracle cure for every condition, but hey – it can’t hurt.  A willing “test subject,” I can confirm that rocking did indeed help with the back pain and stress that I experienced while lugging heavy bags around.  And it does seem to reduce the stress associated with air travel. So if you have a choice between passing through Charlotte Douglas International and another busy hub, trust me – rocking in Charlotte is the way to go.

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.

A Walk Down Sandy Lane

Oxfordshire Footpath

Oxfordshire Way Footpath

I recently stayed at a lovely conference center not too far from Oxford, and I’m told that it has a nice gym.  But who needs a treadmill with beautiful countryside just outside the door?  Each day I’d choose a destination and trek the nearby country lane to the bus stop about a mile away.  The sun was shining, the weather was fair, and during that walk I saw families of pheasants, old barns, ripe pumpkins, grazing sheep, bright red berries and boughs of ivy.

Take a walk with me in the English countryside on a beautiful autumn day.

The Path

Stairway

Granary

Wabisabi Gate

Shady Lane Farm

Parenting a Singer

 

Photo Courtesy of Ibiza

Photo Courtesy of Ibiza

I recently wrote a post about parenting a designer, and in the interest of harmony, love and equality this will be a 3-part series. Yes, I’ll admit that I religiously counted the Teddy Grahams to make sure that each daughter had exactly the same number.

Parenting a singer is a joy, and will move you in ways that you never expected.

It may show up early.  You may suspect you have a singer on your hands when other toddlers are struggling to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” at play group and your budding diva regularly entertains you with a repertoire of show tunes. She may not have perfect pitch at age 3, but then again – maybe she does. Some kids seem to be born with the gift of song. With encouragement and support, you and your singer can develop and enjoy this gift for a lifetime.

All the world’s a stage.  Your little singer may or may not be a performer. Most likely, though, they can’t help humming or bursting into song. It just happens. Don’t be surprised when they belt out favorite movie theme songs at the library or just perform regularly at the dinner table. Bath time is another favorite time for singing and you’ll always know when your singer is in the shower (from anywhere in the house). There must be some primal connection between water and vocal chords. Be an appreciative audience and store up these memories. Someday you’ll miss their daily performances.

A song for all occasions.  As your singer grows, they may discover that any situation can be turned into a song. They may not remember later on, but singing to your baby will get things started. Cookies in the oven and timer going crazy becomes “I’m gonna beep beep beep ‘til you take me out.” A hot summer day with nothing to do but melt inspires a song called “Lemonade.” Then there’s “Fish Boy,” a catchy number about some guy hanging out in front of a seafood restaurant. A song can lighten any situation. Just laugh and sing along.

Prepare to be moved.  My family will tell you that I cry at movies and am a wreck at concerts. My advice? Bring your camera, carry Kleenex and invest in waterproof mascara. Your kindergartener’s premiere at the school talent show may astonish you, and high school choir solos may leave you in tears. Music touches us in an emotional way, and when it’s your kid… good luck keeping emotions in check.

Prepare to be annoyed.  I can guarantee you, with absolute certainty, that sometimes your singer will get on your nerves. On purpose. When she discovers that the song you dislike most in the universe is that beloved theme song from “Barney & Friends” or the 1982 Rocky III anthem, “Eye of the Tiger,” you will hear it 10 times a day for an entire week. Then she’ll get creative and make up new lyrics – and invite her sister to sing along. Music is a beautiful gift from the gods. It can also be used to torment.

Feed the fire.  It may seem obvious, but singers and musicians of all types like music. Encourage curiosity by surrounding your child with music of all styles and genres. Irish whistles, Japanese Taiko drumming, majestic choral concerts, bluegrass, classical jazz and chill out – it’s all good. Attend concerts and performances regularly and try something new.

Your singer may be challenging and changeable at times, but great musicians express emotions and move us in a way that no one else can. Singing is also a gift given freely that will add joy to your life.

Ride the waves, encourage daily practice and most of all, enjoy.

Travel by Design

The journey is about more than the trip

Experience Time Span (iversity.org)

I recently took an online class called “Design Thinking” through iversity.org, a platform for Massive Open Online Courses based in Germany.  One lecture sparked an interest in designing user experience and made me think about travel.

The simple visual above perfectly describes my travel experience.

Stage 1 is The Vision.  When I know that I will be taking a trip, I begin to imagine the experience as I plan activities.  Anticipating the journey, I am already experiencing it in my mind.  I can almost feel the cobblestones under my feet, smell the sea breeze or hear the animated chatter in the marketplace.

The next phase is The Experience.  While I’m traveling, I tune into the moment with intensity.  Unfamiliarity sharpens my senses, as I notice every detail around me.  Colors seem brighter, tastes more memorable and sounds that might go unnoticed at home form a cacophonous symphony.  I feel awake and alive.

The 3rd stage is Reflection.  When the journey is over, I return home and reflect.  Instead of being just a checklist of tourist attractions, each experience becomes embedded in my psyche and changes my perspective.

The final phase, which may last a lifetime, is The Story.  This is the memory that becomes a piece of well-worn quilt that I wrap around my shoulders.  Over time, the memories may lose intensity, but they are still colorful tiles in life’s mosaic.

Thinking about the entire process makes me realize how wonderful it is to incorporate design thinking into the trip.  When I become the creator, each journey is unique and the experience is entirely mine.  Instead of standing behind the crowd that glances at the Mona Lisa and heads to the next destination, I turn around and discover a joyful masterpiece on another wall.  Walking the streets of a German town, we happen upon a tiny printing museum and are treated to a leisurely private tour with a knowledgeable master.  On our way to the Alamo, we take a detour and find the peaceful garden at the Spanish Governor’s Palace.  Allowing time to get lost and time to explore, we discover forgotten paths and hidden treasures.

Experience design means paying attention to the details and thinking about the entire process – before, during and after.  When it comes to travel, it means creating a loose plan and allowing plenty of time and opportunity for exploration and serendipity.  Planning means that I know the address to plug into the GPS, the names of cities I’ll visit and the place I might sleep.  But the time in between unfolds as it unfolds.  I design the experience, do my research and plan the “ingredients,” but how it all comes together is something totally unexpected and memorable.

 

The Ageless and Universal Language

Image

(Photo Credit:  Adweek.com)

What a simple and wonderful idea!

Young students in Brazil would like to learn English, and elderly Americans in retirement homes are looking for conversation and companionship.  Organizations in the two countries have found a way to bring them together.

FCB Brasil and the CNA language school network are launching a project that connects Brazilian students with American elders using video chat technology that allows them to talk face-to-face.  The project builds more than language skills.  As inter-generational relationships develop, both sides are enriched by friendship, understanding and cultural exchange.

Watch the video to witness this remarkable and touching story.  I hope that the pilot project expands to benefit many others on a global scale.

 

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!

 

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