Don't Go Changing

Don't Go Changing

Sometimes songs go through my head.  And stay around, circle around, repeating themselves. Sometimes it's just the melody, and I can't even recall the lyrics.  I end up having to hum whatever it is to my musically talented husband.  And he comes up with the name of the song, and searches out the lyrics.  

I've learned over time to pay attention to those lyrics, just as I have learned to pay attention to a line of poetry that circles around in my mind.  To take the words seriously.  To mull them over.  To be curious about what they might have to teach me.  Now.

Read More

The Trees Remain the Same

The Trees Remain the Same

Here are questions that occur to me after sitting with this morning's poem.

1) life has its ups and downs.  Am I able to see the darker seasons as a natural consequence of changes in the "weather" of my life?

2) the Quaker tradition talks of the Light within, that of the Divine within. Whatever my spiritual tradition, Am I able to sustain access to that Light?

Read More

Limbo or Transformation?

Limbo or Transformation?

I love this season of the  transformation of trees.  They go through remarkable changes.  This picture of River Tree (I have named her that) reminds me of the transformation and how unpredictable is the unfolding of things.   River Tree could be described as the offshoot of a tree long gone, that has grown over the creek, and looks most days as if it is about to fall in the water.  But never does.  Some limbs are leafy.  Some bare.  The trunk has shoots growing straight up--suckers are what tree people call them.  Usually they get trimmed off.  But not with River Tree.  She is this wild mix of limbs and shoots and sprouts.  Hanging out over the water.  Yet how powerful, how spectacular the effect of the light of sunset last night on this tree (however you want to think about the Light as a metaphor in our lives...).

Read More

An Alive Conversation on End of Life Wishes

An Alive Conversation on End of Life Wishes

Though written in the aftermath of my father's choice to end his life, now twenty years ago, when he was in the late stages of pancreatic cancer, I hope this personal reflection can help and support others as they engage in courageous conversations about what people hope for as they approach the end of life.

The experience and the writing of the book happened a decade before, by chance and good fortune, I began creating leadership development programs for nonprofit organizations that serve elders. So what was a family story for me, now is a much larger society-wide dialogue.

Read More

The Psychology of Optimism

The Psychology of Optimism

I've been thinking a lot about the work of Carol Dweck about two contrasting mindsets-- the first is the growth mindset where we think that intelligence and other ability is malleable.  And if we keep working at it we will do better. 

The second is what she calls a fixed mindset--where we think talents and intelligence are pretty much a given. Fixed.  And when I hit a setback it means I'm not as smart as they tell me. 

Read More

Living the Life You Want

Living the Life You Want

Events in recent days--friends mourning losses of parents, conversations about living life to its fullest in the presence of health challenges, and conversations about end of life decisions--all bring back memories of my dad's passing, which I wrote about in my first book, The Choice.   

That book was about Dad's decision to end his life with the help of Dr Kevorkian, a choice that my brother and I supported.  But rereading the book now, I realize the book is also about the gift, as a daughter, of being included in the conversation about what Dad wanted--which was to die at home. 

Read More

The Power of the Pause

The Power of the Pause

A few days ago, working with leaders from nonprofits who serve elders, I opened with a poem.  When we took a break, one of the executives whose leadership experience before entering eldercare was in the military, asked me "Why don't you leave a moment of silence after you read a poem?" 

I was startled. And appreciative of his question. I'm a great proponent of the power of silence--as you can see in the poem of mine that follows--but with poems, especially my own, I have a hard time practicing what I preach.  

Read More

A Different Kind of Circus

A Different Kind of Circus

The first time I saw a Cirque de Soleil performance I was blown away. The beauty of it. The gymnastic skill. The use of colors. The silk ropes. A whole new world.

The second time I saw them I was in Las Vegas for work and saw a performance of Love, a spectacular enthralling experience built around music by the Beatles. It was so amazing I knew it would be worth a second trip to Las Vegas (a city I don't enjoy) just to see it again.

These circus performers were different than those in the traditional circus.  And it brought to mind the Greenhouse movement in the field of care for frail elders.  The Greenhouses look unlike a traditional nursing home. They are managed by a Shabazim, a person whose role that breaks all the traditions of the older care models--by creating a small homelike setting with a "homemaker" who provides care and connection.

Read More

On Encouragement

On Encouragement

I came away from last week's poetry gathering at Kirkridge--Bread for the Journey--thinking of the power of encouragement in the lives of those who love poetry and those who write it. 

Eighty-four of us gathered for four days--listening to poets and poetry. And to stories about poets and their poetry.  And everywhere were stories of encouragement. 

Read More

The Cactus

The Cactus

This picture of my rangy blooming  cactus servers as a reminder to me that things take time and all natures critters bloom at their own speed. Including you and me. 

I can't remember where the cactus came from. Maybe a gift years back.  It seems to survive long periods without much water or attention.  But it's a gangly thing growing in strange directions with some branches that seem almost broken. 

Read More

More on Time and Gifts

More on Time and Gifts

After worrying about not having enough time for everything our group had planned for our agenda--and finding that the retired Methodist missionary women, who knew nothing about the time bind, had gifted me three packets of Thyme seeds (enough thyme/time, you think?)--I began wondering about gifts. 

Where do gifts come from? Can we recognize them for what they are?  Does the giver understand the power of the gift?  And do we realize what we have been given?  Especially when we are stressed, or anxious, or rushing about. 

Read More

Enough Time

Enough Time

I was in the midst of a recent leadership development program, where we were juggling a complex time schedule and wondering if we had enough time for everything we had planned. We visited a home for retired Methodist missionaries and in the gift bag they gave each of us were three packets of thyme seeds. I loved the pun: plenty of thyme/time. And almost immediately my longtime friend Diane Cory sent me this story.  It seemed apt, and I wanted to share it with you. 

Read More