Anticipation: The Shen Yun Performing Arts World Tour

一年内三临肯尼迪 神韵经典再现华府

(Photo credit: 精彩绝伦的表演)

Reviving 5000 Years of Civilization

I’m so thrilled to be going to see this performance tonight. On the Shen Yun Performing Arts World Tour, there are two stops in Taiwan, and one of those locations is only a 30 minute taxi ride from my apartment. OK, maybe it will take longer in rush hour, but I don’t care! I haven’t been to a live cultural performance in several years, and never in Taiwan.

A chance email arrived all in Chinese, with a note to click the above link if I didn’t speak Chinese. I’m so glad I did. Take a look at this:

However, I almost lost out. I only waited two days, but when I went to buy tickets online, the night I wanted was sold out. Then when I found just a few seats for tonight, it turned out I couldn’t buy the tickets online anymore. And the instructions for those of us who are pokey about following through were only in Chinese. Luckily, it turned out that we could buy the tickets at the convenience store. So off we went, and I was able to secure the tickets. Whew!

So tonight’s the night, and even though I have a ton of work to do, taking a break is definitely the right thing to do. I’ll explain more about that when I report back on this event.

If you want to learn more, the website has an incredible array of information about all things Shen Yun, including absolutely stunning pictures of some of the costumes.

I hope everyone has a great weekend, even if doesn’t include an awesome outing.

亚城神韵高潮迭起  终场再创票房奇迹

(Photo credit: 精彩绝伦的表演)

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Accepting the Inspiring Blogger Award

blogawardThank you to Shaun at Looking for Reasoning to a Complicated World for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I am thrilled to have this nomination and to have the opporunity to share it with other bloggers as well. Thanks, Shaun!

The rules: 

1. Display the award logo on your blog.
2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
3. State 7 things about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.
5. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

Seven things about myself:

1. In January of last year, we adopted a rescue dog, a chihuahua. Truth be told, she acts more like a cat than a dog, but I wouldn’t trade her for the world. Besides, I love cats. I always thought I’d never have a dog, but here she is!

2. My maternal grandmother taught me to knit, and a college roommate taught me to crochet.

3. For many years, I was a traveling piano teacher, going from house to house. Some weeks, I had as many as 55 lessons.

4. I took ballet lessons for two years, in the third and fourth grades. In the fifth grade, my parents gave me a choice to continue dance or start piano lessons. If you wonder what my choice was, see #3.

5. My first plane trip was when I was 18. I flew from Boston (where I was attending a music conference) back home in Michigan (where I was going to play the music for a friends’ wedding).

6. I have eaten stinky tofu (a question asked of foreigners in Taiwan quite often). It’s not bad. I don’t seek it out, but I don’t really mind it.

7. My favorite movie of all time is The Wizard of Oz. I’ve watched it countless times, along and with others.

Now to nominate 15 other blogs.

I know some people accept and some don’t. For me, I love this part of community building and discovering what other bloggers are doing. So, here are 15 fellow bloggers I would like to nominate.

1. Sue Vincent at Daily Echo

2. Kate Ruiz at SincerelyKate

3. Stephanie Verni at Steph’s Scribe

4. Rick Mallery at Power Shorts Daily

5. Joycelyn Campbell at give me a daisy

6. Megan Halvorson at MegGoesNomNom

7. Penelope Jones at Bad Penny’s always to blame

8. Michelle Dicken at And That’s All She Wrote

9. Stephanie Verni at Steph’s Scribe

10, Janine Russell There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. –Ernest Hemingway

11. 52 Brand New

12. Fabulous 50’s

13. Life on a Dirt Road

14. TakingCandyFromBaby

15.80% Coffee & A Little Bit of Sass

Congratulations to all the nominees and thanks again to Shaun. Looking forward to seeing more of your blogging activities.

By Deborah Posted in awards

Another Season: Another Keyword

Four Seasons

Four Seasons - Longbridge Road

Four Seasons – Longbridge Road (Photo credit: joiseyshowaa)

Wednesday was the first day of spring, and in keeping with my commitment to seasonal keywords, I am ready to announce my choice for spring. The habit of using seasonal keywords has provided me with a way to visualize my short-term goals in an effort to free-up the future. I want to have more time for pursuing the things that give me meaning, but my schedule has been too hectic, a condition that is a direct result of a lack of awareness. If this practice and focus have done nothing else for me, they have shown me that I have been moving through my life on auto-pilot, responding to distractions without having a solid compass that leads me back to true north, or my authentic self.

For each season, I choose a keyword. Then I look for a visual representation that helps me keep these keyword in sight throughout the season. The picture for each season reminds me of my intention and keeps me focused on the spirit of the keyword. Interestingly, the process also leads from one season to another without a lot of thinking about what keyword is next. In other words, once I came up with the first keyword, the next ones have presented themselves with little conscious effort on my part.

Fall 2012

(photo credit: Gustave Miller)

CLAMOR (photo credit: Gustave Miller)

When my friend recommended that I try this keyword thing, I struggled a little bit to find just the right keyword. Not that I was going for perfection–that’s not my thing. But I wanted something “worthy,” something that was worth focusing on for a whole season. However, I found myself in a state of confusion trying to figure out what keyword could possibly help me focus on what needed to be done. All of my responsibilities were so overwhelming that I felt I was simply rushing from one crisis to another. So whatever activity or project or deadline was clamoring the loudest got my attention. That was how clamor came to be the keyword for fall.

As I struggled to find some way through all of the intense activity and create some kind of path to make the future less chaotic, this picture helped focus my attention on making sense out of all the noise and confusion. I started recognizing how my lack of attention had contributed to my lack of understanding about how I was letting my whole life be hijacked by unexamined requests and projects. Still, I couldn’t just drop everything. So all the clamoring led me to the next season.

Winter 2012

3186629203_bfcf404f50_mFall had taught me that I needed to be more aware, more intentional about what I did. By the time Winter was approaching, I knew that my keyword needed to be clearing. While I could not simply abandon the activities that filled my days and weeks, I knew I had to focus on finishing things up and clearing space for the new. The big difference, however, is that the new would not simply be whatever popped into my line of vision and grabbed my attention. The new had to be the things that would bring meaning to my life. Activities that would make it exciting to get up in the morning and would energize me.

I declared a moratorium on new activities and responsibilities, and tried to focus on completion. I did the moratorium for 30 days. I’ve officially renewed it once, and I’ve unofficially continued it into March. It may be time to tighten up the reins on that one and rededicate myself to it.

The winter keyword has been helpful, but still difficult because I don’t have a good sense of what is next. I’ve been so busy responding to all the distractions (disguised as opportunities) for so long that I don’t really know what I’m clearing for. This is partly explained by my personality type. It’s easier for me to let the needs and desires of others determine my path than for me to choose my own. Yet, I knew that the next step required that I find out what exactly will be meaningful to me, not just something that sounds interesting or something that I do for someone else’s definition of meaning.

Spring 2013

clarityIn my post about choice a few weeks ago, I discovered that when I’m clear about what is really important, the doing of the necessary tasks is not in question. I just do them. Even if they aren’t pleasant. It’s just what I do. As soon as the clarity is gone, as soon as I start thinking it’s time to choose what to do next, I get tangled up and accomplish very little. So my keyword for spring was simple: clarity.

Like the keyword for winter, this one came to me organically out of the experience of the previous season. By the time fall came to an end, I knew that clearing was important. Likewise, as spring approached, I knew that clarity was essential. The keyword of clarity is my attempt to create a sense of space and meaning in my life. To enjoy the day to day experiences of doing activities that reinforce that meaning. It can lead me to know what my next move is. If I have a strong inner compass and know who I am and what I want to create, I won’t be lost. I wilI stop choosing activities and responsibilities that have no connection to meaning. More importantly, I will stop simply responding to the multitude of diversions floating around me. I am looking for my center and will test new ideas and projects before giving them a home in my calendar.

The clearing isn’t finished, but as I continue the process, I now seek clarity as I take the time to know myself better and discover what kind of meaning I really want to create in my life. I have so much Farther to Go!

Thanks to my daughter, I love Alice in Wonderland! And Steph’s blog today focusing on the White Queen’s quote struck me a bit differently than it normally would. After an especially muddled up day, I now know that I need to focus on accomplishing six “seemingly impossible” things within a couple hours either side of breakfast. A little twist on the quote that can maybe help the latest twists in my life.

Steph's Scribe

The White Queen in Alice in Wonderland said, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” What impossible things do we all believe in?

Here are six I’ve chosen to share . . .

1—I believe in ghosts. In some form or another, I do believe they exist, and they are here not to harm, but to educate.

2—People can move objects with their minds. If you don’t believe it’s possible, see this clip from “60 Minutes.”

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-205_162-57559641/paralyzed-woman-controls-robotic-arm-with-her-mind/

3—Witches do exist. DiscoveryOfWitches

4—You are capable of changing. There just needs to be a desire to do so.

Orioles world series5—The Orioles can make it to the World Series, quite possibly this year.

6—There is something or someone worth being found somewhere over the rainbow.

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A Three-Week Container

Visitors from Totorri University (Japan)

japanese students 1From February 20 through March 13, I was one of seven teachers who taught in a three-week intensive English program hosted by our Taiwanese university. Our students were 20 students from Totorri University in Japan. My part of the program was to teach them Writing Skills. With each group of ten students, I had six two-hour sessions.

The students also had some field trips to the Yingge Pottery Museum that I wrote about a few weeks ago (see Containers of Surprise below), as well as some sites in Taipei.

On Wednesday of this week, we had our closing activities with the students before they boarded the plane heading back to Japan on Thursday. In many ways, their three weeks here were a whirlwind for me, because the rest of my schedule didn’t stop. In addition to the 8 hours of teaching I did with them each week, my regular teaching hours continued. And as mentioned in my last post (see the Busiest Week(s) below), the other tasks on my to-do list were all doing their best to make their voices heard.

In spite of it all (and the unexpected events that turned up last week), I found myself thoroughly engaged in every moment of those classes. I was excited to be with these students. They were unsure about whether they even wanted to be in a writing class, but over the 12 hours with each group, a transformation started happening. They began exploring ideas, digging deeper to uncover memories and thoughts, and began to write papers that showed their interest and their growth. They embraced the writing process and discovered writing isn’t so bad when they had a few tools to work with.

Too Much Diversification?

The reason I bring all of this up (other than to celebrate three weeks with a great group of students) is that I noticed that while I was totally immersed in this project, there were still other things that got done. I started comparing the things we juggle in the short-term with those we do in the long-term. According to a variety of research, multi-tasking in the short-term has questionable benefits, but it’s long-term counterpart (planning, time management, whatever we name it) is necessary.

While it is possible and desirable to focus our attention on a limited number of tasks in the short-term, we don’t have that luxury over larger periods of time. We all have a variety of domains in which we must function. What surprised me about these three weeks were overly full in general, specifically it wasn’t as stressful as I had anticipated. My immersion in the Japanese student program was like a block of time that was superimposed over the regular schedule. From one day to the next, it could seem arduous, but as I adjusted to the pace AND as I got to know the students, this added activity began to energize me even with the added demands on my time.

A Different Experience of Time

As a result, something happened to my experience of time during these three weeks. Not only the sense of being totally engaged, but the way that time seemed to flow differently. Even though my calendar showed blocks of times marked out for various activities, the boundaries between those activities blurred. It may be that these three weeks allowed me to nearly totally be a teacher. That my attention wasn’t as divided. That having a large number of things to shift to and from over a longer period of time can be just as difficult to manage effectively as multi-tasking in the present moment.

On the other hand, it seems at this moment that I have more time. That time seems a lot more spacious, even though the to-do list is still long. Yes, this program and a few other items have passed during the last three weeks, but the hours aren’t as tightly packed. I felt like I experienced both the expansion and contraction of time during this week that was based on my perception of the tasks at hand. I may have learned a few things in these weeks that will make my approach to the next few weeks more productive while less stressful at the same time.

Japanese students 2In the meantime, I’ll fondly remember the new Japanese friends I’ve made and look forward to our continued conversations made possible by technology. The opportunity to spend time with these 20 wonderful young people is just one more example of how small the world has become.

One of the things I love about teaching is that no matter how much I share with my students, I always seem to learn something myself. I want to thank my students from Totorri University for your enthusiasm, your humor, your willingness to learn, and for helping me to learn more about myself. Keep in touch!

The Busiest Week(s)

Finish Line Clock

Finish Line Clock (Photo credit: deltaMike).

Last week and this week represent a significant milestone in my journey to the clearing. It is the time when everything comes crashing in; when–for these two weeks–all of the various projects collide. A special project involved nearly double my normal teaching load (but more about that a little later). Many projects had components that were due. The textbook project hit a huge snag that is out of my control.

So this is the time when it’s more important than ever to stay focused. To be mindful. To realize that it won’t be easy or pleasant, but it simply will be. And at the end of this week, there will be a few less obligations, at least comparatively speaking. I will regroup and seek a few moments of balance in spite of the fact that my prior obligations have brought me to a place where I’d prefer not to be. While some things are not very pleasant right now, I do enjoy much of what I’m doing. It’s just too much for these two weeks. The container is overflowing.

Students from Totorri University (Japan) with Mr. SKuirrel in Taiwan.

Students from Totorri University (Japan) with Mr. SKuirrel in Taiwan.

I will also remind myself to embrace the good things about what I’m doing. Even though I’m feeling rather overwhelmed at the moment, there are memories that will stay with me for a long time. In fact, I enjoy most of what I’m doing. For example, tomorrow, I say good-bye to a great bunch of students who have been visiting from Totorri University in Japan. In their three-week intensive English language program, I’ve had the privilege of teaching them Writing Skills. It was so rewarding to have 20 students who were not too sure about writing only three weeks ago, decide that it wasn’t so bad after all. The workload was intense, but I thoroughly enjoyed them, and I will miss them. We did start a Facebook group to keep in touch. Their enthusiasm and hard work reminded me why I’m teaching and why I sometimes take on extra projects. I’m so thrilled to have had this time with them.

26 Years with My Daughter (Part 2)


Kates wedding 1
In honor of her 26th birthday on March 1st (and at her request, which is actually more to the point), my daughter and I constructed a list of 26 memories we had about her first 26 years. Part 1, which included recaps of the first half of that list, was posted on Tuesday. Today, I continue with the second half of the list.  here is Part 2 of the list I made of 26 memories of Kate, one for each year that she’s been part of my life. My apologies for the late arrival of this post, but maybe the only one who really noticed was Kate, who posted on my Facebook page this morning, “Where’s Part II, Bessie?” See #12 below.

As was the case in Part I, these snippets are in not in any particular chronological order. Masquerading as #1 – 13, here are numbers 14-26.  

  1. I don’t remember when it started, but Kate had what we affectionately referred to as her “cow shrine.” It was housed in a built-in set of shelves and included stuffed animals, towels, a cookie jar, little figurines, tins with cows on them, a cow sitting on a swing, and many other items. The collection continued through high school and beyond. At some point, she took a few photos and then was willing to let most of the collection go. I’m not sure whether there are other remnants of those glory days.
  2. One year at Christmas time, Kate and I made angels out of clothespins, and for the faces, we cut out her face from her small school pictures. They were just the right size to be angel faces. So cliche, but still cute. Then we gave them to people in the neighborhood, like our back alley neighbor, Marie, and the owner of Patty’s Place (the little restaurant mentioned in Part 1, located across the street from our house).
  3. Doug and Kate at her wedding

    Doug and Kate at her wedding

    Kate was probably 6 or 7 for this one, but she had one of those Marble Run toys, where you set up a series of chutes so that the marbles travel around from the top to the bottom. Of course, she didn’t always get everything set up the way she wanted it to be, and the marbles would exit the chutes at the wrong time. She would then get frustrated. Once, her charming oldest brother, Doug, playfully asked her, “What’s the matter Kate? Are you losing your marbles? 

  4. When she was about 9 or so, the mother of one of my piano students offered to take Kate to their house for a couple of hours after the piano lesson. Kate had gone to the library, which was only a block and a half from our house. I called the library to ask Carol, the librarian, to let Kate know that one of her friends was at the house, and found out that Kate wasn’t at the library. Carol said she’d go check at Video Venture, and sure enough the owner of that place said Kate had been there and had bought a candy bar and that she was on her way home. I told her friend’s mother that Kate wouldn’t be able to go with them, and they left. I left the house to meet her on the way home. We walked home together, and sat down on the couch, where I asked her where she had been. “At the library.” OK, now the really funny part of this is that when she’s talking to me, I can smell the chocolate on her breath. It’s everything I can do to NOT laugh. But she did learn that all she had to do was ask if she wanted to stop at Video Venture, too, and that she lost out on a chance to go play with her friend.
  5. Even though I taught piano, none of my four children ever took it up. Tom (my third son) played clarinet from middle school through high school, including marching band, and Kate was in the choir. But when the movie Titanic came out, Kate wanted to learn to play My Heart Will Go On. We got the easy sheet music, and I would show her how to play parts of it, and she would do the same thing over and over until she memorized it, and then go on to the next part. Of course, if that wasn’t repetitive enough to listen to, every time she got to a piano, that was the only thing she really played. But hey, she was playing something.  
  6. Kate loved music, singing and dancing. She took dancing lessons for a while, but for her, it was great just to have the space in the living room, turn on some music, and dance around. Sometimes, she and a friend would choreograph to a particular piece of music. When she was younger, she liked to invite us to sit down in the living room and watch her show. As she got older, her preference was to do her dancing when the rest of us were away.
  7. Kate’s love of dance, music, and acting all came together for her in the show Glee. I didn’t know that much about it, since it started around the time I moved to Taiwan. But Kate was determined that I learn about it. She would send me links of some of the songs. One season she even sent me “homework” that involved listening to new songs. When I went home in the summer to visit, she took advantage of the opportunity to show me a few episodes. Since that time, we make Glee a regular part of our visits.
  8. Speaking of her love of the performing arts, she put on quite a performance when we went to a play at a community theater. There were no refreshments served at the theater, and in fact, they had posted restrictions against food and drink in the building. My budding actress of a daughter thought it would be funny to eat some pretend popcorn as we sat in our seats waiting for the performance to begin. I could actually “see” each separate piece of popcorn that she would take from her invisible bucket as she put it carefully in her mouth, and “chewed” very deliberately and methodically. She would then offer some to me. I kept saying, “Kate, stop it!” But of course, it was so darn funny, I couldn’t stop laughing.
  9. For several years now, Kate has had a pen pal hobby. I won’t say a lot about it here, other than she’s really built it into something that brings her and her pen pals a lot of fun and sharing. If you are interested in more details, you can visit her blog, Sincerely Kate.
  10. SKuirrel BFAs an additional activity among her pen pals and others, she created Mr. SKuirrel, several copies of a laminated hand colored squirrel.  He even has his own Facebook page where people can post pictures of his adventures. You can check it out here. I have one of them here in Taiwan with me. My students are starting to get into the act of posing Mr. SKuirrel in some of their adventures.
  11. Even though Kate is like most people and has two arms, she had three broken arms by the time she was in her mid-teens. She was five when she got a hairline fracture when she tripped over the base of her rocking horse after retrieving a ball. When she fell, her arm slammed into the floor, possibly with her falling on top of it. A few years later, she went to a roller rink with some friends. No sooner did she have her skates on and get started, she fell and got a buckle fracture. The third was a fall on black ice when she was at a youth group meeting. Interestingly, I was never with her when one of these breaks occurred.
  12. For those of you who’ve noticed the phenomenon, have you ever wondered why my daughter sometimes refers to me as Bessie? It goes back to a commercial she saw in 1998. Pay particular attention to the thank you that the girl does as she wakes from her dream. I heard the fading Bessie’s often from Kate, who would say, Thank you, Bessie, Bessie, Bessie, each one a little softer than the one before. That went to simply calling me Bessie on occasion, and well, yeah, it has definitely stuck.I knew I wanted to include this as one of the memories, so I was delighted to find the commercial on YouTube. Here is is.
  13. Sometime, when Kate was around 4 or 5 years old, she didn’t like something I did (or didn’t do). I don’t remember what it was exactly, but I remember Kate’s response. “I’m going to tell your mother.” I wanted to offer to dial the phone for her, but it was another of those moments, I was trying not to laugh.

Kates wedding 2Of course, there are many other memories, but these seem to capture a lot of Kate’s personality and interests. I hope you enjoyed them. I look forward to what the next 26 years hold.

Accepting the Versatile Blogger Award

versatile_blog_award

This morning I woke up to an email that my last blog post had a comment. When I investigated, I had the pleasant surprise to find that Stephanie Verni has kindly bestowed The Versatile Blogger Award to Container Chronicles. You can see Stephanie’s website at Steph’s Scribe.. Stephanie wrote Beneath the Minosa Tree, which earned a Bronze medal in the Annual Readers Favorite Awards Contest for 2012, top in its category for Contemporary Romance.

I am grateful and excited about this award, and now it’s my turn to recognize seven other blogs that I believe are worthy of The Versatile Blogger Award. Some of these blogs I have been following for a while, others just a short time. I like the community spirit among bloggers, and the wonderful variety of ideas, writing, photos, and other bits of creativity we share. The other “requirement: is that I share seven things about myself.

First, my nominees for The Versatile Blogger Award:

Victoria Grefer of Creative Writing with the Crimson League

Joycelyn at Farther to Go!

Christy Birmingham at Poetic Parfait

JannaT at JannaTWrites

Sharon Maxwell at Crafting in Portugal

Rachel at Stitched in Color

Sirak at Sirak98Poetry

And now for seven things about me:

1. I’ve always been a cat person, but now have an 8-year old chihuahua that was rescued from the streets. She kind of acts like a cat.

2. I once took Amtrak from Chicago to Albuquerque and back again. Had the chance to get a discount on a sleeper car. It was such a great way to travel.

3. I also like traveling by ferry. When I lived in Seattle, it was great to take the ferry to Victoria, BC or to Bremerton and back. My main travel goal is to do an Alaskan cruise.

4. When my two oldest children were small, we once moved 5 times in 2 and 1/2 years. I wouldn’t recommend it.

5. I once actually did karoke in Japan.

6. There is an Italian restaurant near where I live in Taiwan, in which the the owner and I love to joke with each other. She and I dance and sing to various songs, such as Careless Whisper. We have even done this when the restaurant is full of customers. And yes, we’ve been applauded.

7. In addition to teaching Taiwanese university students, I am in the middle of a three week intensive English program for visiting Japanese university students. I’m in charge of the writing portion of the program. I’m having a great time with the visiting students (and my regular ones).

Best wishes to all the nominees and thanks again to Stephanie for nominating me for this award.

26 Memories: 26 Years with My Daughter

Evidence of #7

Evidence of #7

On March 1, my daughter, Kate, had her 26th birthday. She asked me if my post on that day was going to be about her, since, as she pointed out, she had cooperated and had her birthday on a Friday when I was already blogging anyway. She’s planning to blog about her birthday on March 5, which happens to be a Tuesday–my other blogging day. Her blogging days are the 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, and 30th of each month. So on the 5th, today, our blog posting coincides. If you want to see how she celebrated her birthday, you can go to her blog Sincerely Kate.

In honor of her 26th birthday, here is part 1 of 26 memories of time with Kate. Part 2 will be part of Friday’s post. The memories are in no particular order. In fact, the chronology is all over the place. Without further fanfare, here are numbers 1 through 13.

  1. Her quick wit (approximately 15 yrs. old): Once, while in the car, as we approached a stop sign, we noticed a dead bird on the side of the road. We were turning right, and as we did, we saw another dead bird. I said, “That’s weird, two dead birds. I wonder how that happened.”  Kate: “One stone.” 
  2. The power of one: When Kate was in high school, she wrote an essay based on the theme: the power of one. She was one of the finalists in the school-wide competition, and invited me to come. Her essay was about me and how much she respected and valued what I had done. It was an incredibly moving experience for me.  Thanks, Kate!
  3. Singing at Mimi’s funeral. When my paternal grandmother died, Kate had been doing some singing, and so she sang one of the songs at the funeral. I accompanied her on the piano. She knew the song, but she was absolutely breathtaking. Such confidence and expressiveness!
  4. Interruptions. In a house with four kids, it can sometimes seem like you can’t go three minutes without an interruption. One day, I needed to make a couple of important phone calls, so I told the kids in the semi-joking way that I often did, “Please don’t disturb me unless someone is throwing up or the house is on fire.” Kate was only about 5 or 6 at the time, but while Doug (the oldest) went downstairs to start dealing with a situation in the basement, Kate slipped a note under the bedroom door where I was making the call. It said, “The house is on fire.” It was only in a small container in a concrete room, so it was easily contained, but it was a scare, and I don’t think I ever used that line again. UPDATE: Doug informed me that I was probably off on Kate’s age at the time of this incident. She was more likely 8. As he tells the story, she knocked on the door. I said, “I’m on the phone.” She wrote the note and slipped it under the door. I guess it’s one of those stories that shows that we don’t always remember things as accurately as we think we do. But all’s well that ends well (since the house didn’t burn down).  
  5. Big News: A few weeks before I was to return to the US from my first year of teaching in Taiwan, Kate sent me a FB message: “If I had some big news would you like me to tell you now or when you’re home?” Well, I wasn’t going to wait. That would be crazy. So we set up a time to chat online. When we met online, the first thing I typed was,  “Are you pregnant?” The rest is history. Added note: Her fiance, Gabe, was sitting next to her when I typed that, and apparently, he almost hyperventilated. Sorry, Gabe!  Love you both, and that Mr. Logan, too!
  6. Favorite Expressions #1: In Peter Pan, Michael uses the line, “Mother, the buried treasure.” Kate adopted it as her own and used it whenever she showed me something. One time she drew a picture for me, “Mother, the buried treasure.”
  7. Look, Mom! As most kids, she did try her hand at a do-it-yourself haircut. 
  8. Not for the squeamish. For a period of time, Kate had some kind of strange sensitivity to oranges and anything with orange flavor. But before we figured it out, we were at one of my friend’s houses, and Kate was playing with their toy kitchen. They gave her some orange pop. It was clear after a few minutes, she wasn’t feeling well, and before we could get all the way to the bathroom, she threw up orange pop into my cupped hands.
  9. I don’t remember what precipitated this proclamation. Maybe I stupidly asked if she actually wanted her gifts wrapped, but one time she told me that I could just leave her birthday presents in a brown bag outside her door in the morning. Definitely, the teen years.  
  10. Kate’s favorite breakfast places were Patty’s Place (which kept her in breakfast sandwiches for much of four or so years) and Mallory’s (which had a longer run, but is now sadly gone. They had the best potatoes: just ask Kate. But her other specialty was taking her ham and making a sandwich with her toast. She called it her “recipe.” (Honorable mention to her maternal grandfather.)
  11. Dr. Suess breakfast. One year, on St. Patrick’s Day, we headed to a local restaurant for a special breakfast of green eggs and ham before taking the kids to school. If you’re wondering, only the eggs were colored green for the occasion.
  12. Eating out. We’re not sure about the age on this one, but Kate would not order her own food when we went out. I swear I was ordering for her until she was about 14. 
  13. Photo Fun. Kate took Mitch, her h-a-m-s-t-e-r, with her when she had her for senior pictures taken.

Stay tuned for part 2 (#14-26) on Friday! Happy Birthday again, Kate! It’s been a great 26 years!

The Costs of Choosing

Keyword Update

English: A snowy day, not so far from me - Loo...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that my keyword for winter is clearing. I have way too many projects and tasks that need to be done. I had a four-week semester break from mid-January to mid-February, and I had planned to make big strides on many of the responsibilities I have and move toward the clearing. And while I got a fair amount done, it fell far below my expectations. During those four weeks, I often found myself just treading water or worse, falling further behind. I found myself getting more and more frustrated. I felt like I was procrastinating, but I made three observations that made me realize there was more going on. Specifically, I noticed three basic ways I approached tasks during the semester break.

  1. With many projects and tasks all clamoring for attention, I tried to juggle things and work a little on many projects. Or at least, I made sure to schedule everything on the calendar. I convinced myself that I could just power my way through. But there was so real focus. I figured as long as I’m making progress on ONE or more of the tasks, things would eventually work out. But then suddenly, a deadline would loom, and I would be in crisis mode. When a specific project was screaming for attention, I would focus on that project, eventually completing it on time. However, the process was usually stressful.
  2. This was a less effective version of #1, in that the pile of tasks was so overwhelming that I gave up on all the separate piles of stuff and stacked up all the tasks in one pile. I started at the top of the pile and moved through whatever showed up next. So the time was filled, some things got done, but it’s terribly inefficient because there is no grouping of tasks, no prioritizing, and no real progress. In the end, I feel like I’m spinning my wheels, with very little to show for it, and the important projects crash in on me as in #1 above.
  3. Sometimes, the pile of tasks is so overwhelming that even taking the top one or two from the pile seems like a waste of time. I start to feel immobilized by the sheer number of projects on my to-do list. I engage in activities to escape, even if that escapism is to rearrange my to-do lists in different ways. I keep trying new ways to schedule the activities, new ideas for organizing, in the hopes that a new method will break the logjam. Rhe problem is that in spite of all my list-making, prioritizing, and shuffling, I can’t seem to find my way to being productive in an ongoing way. I am constantly forced into action by deadlines. 

Freedom and Choice

In the blog, Farther to Go, the concept of choice as freeing is challenged.

The concepts of freedom and choice seem to belong side by side. What is freedom if not freedom to choose? The idea that we could be free, experience freedom, without also having and exercising the ability to choose is difficult to contemplate. But Krishnamurti believed otherwise.

We think that through choice we are free, but choice exists only when the mind is confused. There is no choice when the mind is clear. When you see things very clearly without any distortion, without any illusions, then there is no choice. A mind that is choiceless is a free mind, but a mind that chooses and therefore establishes a series of conflicts and contradictions is never free because it is in itself confused, divided, broken up.

It was the shift from thinking I was free to choose which activity I wanted  to work on next that was causing some of my trouble. It wasn’t just the number of items on the to-do list, it was the illusion of choice. My mind was confused, and I could not move ahead with any kind of clarity.When there are 10-15 or more things competing for my attention, my mind is confused. I have the illusion of choice. All those options and I keep trying to “figure it out.” As soon as I stopped looking at these projects as options from which to choose, it became easier to just complete the tasks that presented themselves. When the mind is clear, the next step doesn’t have to be “figured out.” I had to admit that while planning is important, I was getting caught up in shifting tasks from spot to spot on my calendar and trying a variety of different ways to organize as a way to avoid the actual work–a way of using choice and options as a way to continue the confusion.

Prioritizing vs. Choosing

Discovering the best use of my time at a given moment isn’t about choice as much as it is about priority.Once I prioritize, my mind starts to clear. Even though there is still more than I can do, priorities help move me toward the beginning of clarity. With most of the “noise” of endless possibilities removed, I am free to actually start working on the items that have emerged as important. Once my mind is clear, the steps are clear. Without the illusion of choice, I am free to be productive.

The Moratorium Revisited

I stumbled upon how freeing the absence of choice is when I put the moratorium into place at the end of December. Now that it’s March 1st, it’s time to renew for another day. There truly is no choice. I’ve discovered that by already knowing that I need to say “no” to any new responsibilities, projects, or activities that come along, I don’t have to consider the pros and cons of such things. I already know. Moving toward the clearing and having space and time for myself and what’s important to me can only happen if I get out from under the massive to-do list I have. And that can’t happen if I keep adding more things to the list. Now when some “opportunity” comes along, I don’t get sucked in. I am clear about my direction, and the moratorium reminds me to stay on track. It’s freeing to already know the answer to the question when it arrives.

Paradox as Challenge

I now recognize that my procrastination was more about a lack of clarity about what was really important. I kept getting stuck because I confused the tasks to be done with choice, will power, and “figuring it out.” With a clear picture of what I am trying to accomplish, the path is clear. I know what to do next. There are still challenges whenever that illusion of choice tempts me into cloudy thinking, but I will keep reminding myself about the freedom I’ve felt from relinquishing choice and moving toward clarity. It may seem a paradox, but it’s one worth continued exploration.

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