Jan
27

Check Out Life Lately

by Christine


{Clara Artschwager & Brooke Braun}

I can't believe it is January 28 already. There is something called Kepler's Second Law that describes the way an object's speed varies along its orbit. Time has definitely moved into a higher gear along my life's orbit. I do confess January has been a blast so maybe Einstein's Theory of Relativity is a more apt description. Temperatures have been mild and without snow until this past weekend when Jonas the Blizzard 2016 hit New York City. Marty and I had a bit of an adventure walking the streets of the City as the snow silently fell. I do mean literally walking the streets.

A State of Emergency was declared and all cars were banned from the roadways. People partied in Time Square while we on the Upper Westside went in search of Prosecco for mimosas.  Couples strolled hand-in-hand down the middle of Broadway as though it were a French promenade.  We could not see the full moon as the clouds covered the night sky but streetlights and the neon from scattered storefronts illuminated the night. A truly magical weekend and a reminder joy can even reside in a blizzard. 

I want to tell you about a "new" podcast I've been enjoying. The title is Life Lately: a podcast about life, and living true to you. The two women hosting the series are friends and colleagues of mine. They are also terrific human beings. Clara, as some of you may remember, was a HUGE help in getting the Footsteps blog up and running. She understands the whole technical world of the Internet/Social Media and was able to walk me through the process. She is also a guru when it comes to crafting a personal or professional brand. I met Brooke when I produced an annual event for her Association. She was a live event client who understood the importance of bringing people together for a common purpose and she could get things done with a bit of flare and a lot of quality. These two are smart, young women who have something to say. 

While they are younger than me, many of the issues Clara & Brooke are facing at this point in their lives are similar to mine. Making and Keeping Meaningful Friendships, Making a Home Wherever You Are and Caring for Your Body, Mind & Life are a few of their topics that resonated with me. The discussion on Making a Home went from defining the term home (it is more than having matching lamps) to when is the right time to buy the forever home. (I don't believe there is such a thing as a forever home; I believe there are homes for seasons of our lives.) To dial back and restate goals and needs can be stressful but it can also be a joyous opportunity to align your values as you and your family evolve. 

If you are looking for someone to keep you company as you prepare dinner or exercise, check out Life Lately. And if you get a chance, let me know what you think.

Hugs,
C

 

 

Jan
26

A Widow's Guide

by Christine


{Kristin with Deepak Chopra}

This past summer I wrote about my friend Kristin Meekhof and her efforts on behalf of widows worldwide. Kristin lost her husband to adrenal cancer in only seven weeks after the initial diagnosis. She has drawn upon her own experiences to write an inspiring book that helps guide grieving widows through the challenges of losing a life partner. A Widow's Guide is now on the shelf and is receiving positive reviews from the professionals as well as lay people. I encourage you to pick-up a copy of this book if you know someone who has experienced this kind of loss or if you are walking this journey. 

Hugs, 
C

Jan
20

Free The Angel!

by Christine

Do you believe in angels? If I were to put that question to Marty, he would ask me to define the word angel. We would spend at least an hour hammering out vocabulary before getting to the discussion of belief. I will attempt to clarify the word before moving forward with our conversation. When Matthew, my son, had his cycling accident last year, my daughter visualized an angel embracing and swaddling Matthew in the moments before the car struck him. Kathryn's angel saved her brother's life and protected him from permanent injury. I, too, have visions of angels caring for Matthew during that critical time. There were three angels at his side, an off-duty EMT, an off-duty State Trooper and a Methodist minister. These angels stopped and gave of their time and expertise to help another on a deserted road in Georgia. Regardless of how they are manifested, I believe in angels. 

Growing up I learned some of what I believe about the dichotomy man from cartoons. Cartoons in the late 1950s and early 1960s were five-to-seven minute morality plays that highlighted the price one pays for being unkind, greedy or arrogant. The image of an animated angel and devil fighting for control of Donald Duck's soul is imprinted on my minds eye. Each side cajoled, coaxed and lobbied Donald to take action but ultimately, it was his choice as to the kind of duck he was going to be. Donald Duck eventually comes around and embraces his inner angel but the devil didn't make it easy for him to choose the honorable path. 

In 2016 I'm campaigning to Free The Angels. I believe to my core that human beings want to be virtuous, honorable, benevolent, commendable and worthy. Sadly, at times we do not live up to our aspirations. I am suggesting that whenever possible we work to do or say something kind to and for another. I am encouraging grand gestures and small gestures of kindness and virtue. Is it really necessary to respond to uncharitable and disagreeable comments uttered by a disgruntled friend or stranger? Wouldn't your time be better spent writing a note of encouragement to a family member or friend? Blimey, wouldn't your time be better spent cleaning the kitchen or completing a work project than becoming embroiled in all that negativity? At least when you finish cleaning the kitchen or complete your work project, you can enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. 

Do you believe in Angels? Where have you seen Angels in action? Do you believe that humans are capable of doing good? Do you believe we can Free The Angels? I would love to hear what you think!

 

 

Jan
18

Merry New Year!!

by Christine

Life is good and yet, it is a bit off schedule. We had our first snow of the season at the Lake this morning, my Christmas tree was up well into the New Year and this is my first blog post of the 2016. I can't explain the lack of snow but the Christmas tree and blog post are my doing. Our Christmas tree was beautiful and smelled delicious and I couldn't bring myself to take it down. The blog has taken a back seat to other activities though I have had multiple conversations with you in my mind as I went about my day. 

If you will bear with me for a moment I am going to take this opportunity to eulogize 2015. You see due to my work in live events and strategic marketing, I have developed the habit of "branding" each year. I know that may seem a bit odd to some but it works for me. The word for 2015 was Joy. After multiple years of family health struggles, I declared that I would actively seek out joy. I am here to declare that I found it. Joy blossomed in me as I sat by the Lake and felt the sun on my face and marveled at the lettuce growing in my garden. Joy over took me as I talked to my grandchildren on the phone, some of whom the only words I understood was when they signed off saying I love you. Moments of joy were to be found everywhere but most of all it was found in the ordinary activities of life. 2015 was a very good year and will remain in my heart for months to come. 

Now you may be wondering if I have chosen a word for 2016. I have and the word is peace. That may seem to be an odd word to champion in an election year. Politicians and the Media in an effort to get our vote or get our attention have embarked on a campaign of listing all the problems real and imagined with our neighbors, our country and the world. Shrill and abusive conversations are being held on television and on-line in an effort to prove those involved have completely forgotten basic manners. Peace, I am sad to say, appears to be friendless.  

I suspect that peace like joy doesn't rely on the actions of another. Peace, if you look, can be found in your own heart and mind. The world does not have to be at peace for you or me to have peace in our life. We can chose to embrace peace regardless of the agitation another attempts to create. I am going to take 2016 to explore creating peace in the world. I do hope peace of mind is a choice because that is my word for 2016. 

I will continue to explore community as well as other less serious subject. An example of something less serious? I have discovered lattes. Good ones not the kind you find at the coffee chains but ones made lovingly by passionate experts. I hope you continue to check back to see what fun stuff is on the horizon. 

Hugs, 
C

 

 

 

Nov
16

How To Build Community

by Christine

In the coming weeks I am going to discuss the how-tos of building community that will enhance your life and the lives of others. Why? Because I believe as the Boomers retire, the children of the Gen Xers begin to graduate from high schools and the Millennials finally look up from their computers, all will be asking, "What next?". Everyone will want to know how to make connections and lead meaningful and purposeful lives. 

Community is a unified group of people who acknowledge a joint ownership and participation in a declared society. Ownership and participation means showing up and doing the work necessary to keep the community functioning and thriving. How do you create that? A group or individual needs a vision for the community. Okay, those are basic definition but what is the real world example. Lets take something small and relatively easy.

Say you want to be part of a book club. You could search out one on the web or check out your local library to learn of any existing book clubs in your area. But you have a vision and that vision includes creating a new book club in your neighborhood. That could be a goal in and of itself but you might want to flesh out your vision a bit more. Does you vision for the book club mean getting together once a month to drink a glass of wine, eat a few munchies while discussing latest popular culture release?  Or do you want to read serious works of fiction and non-fiction and have monthly in depth discussions with adroit enthusiast? 

To be successful, you must be clear about what you are trying to accomplish and why. If the book club is a tool to create opportunities for companionship then what you read is not the driving force behind the meetings. On the other hand if it is all about "the book" then it is important for you to be clear when sharing your vision with others. The struggle comes in forming community when the majority of the members don't have a common vision. To succeed it is necessary for everyone to row the boat in the same direction.

In a previous post I mentioned our Community Lake Preservation group and the success we have had in caring for and maintaining our lake. It is my belief that the success behind this group lies in the fact that everyone had a common vision. Anytime anyone went off course, they were gently steered back to our common vision of caring for the lake. Whether you are establishing a book club, a Girl Scout troop, a Moms of Multiples group, a neighborhood association or a neighborhood softball team, it is critical to have a clear vision. 

As a first step of creating community, I encourage you to articulate your vision giving voice to the "why" behind your vision. 

Hugs,
C

 

Nov
13

Squirrels As Friends

by Christine


Gary the Gardener's Body Double

Having a squirrel for a friend is a lot like having a child. Squirrels, like children, are noisy, messy, and inclined to end up in places they shouldn't. Gary the Gardener is one such squirrel.  As the temperature continues to drop here on the mountain, I look longingly over my back patio, remembering one warm August afternoon when Gary was trespassing once again. With my head bowed, I was deep in though about sentence structure and whether to use the Oxford comma or not, when I felt the tiny toenails of Gary run across the top of my feet. As if that wasn't startling enough, a playmate of his was in pursuit playing what I thought to be a rigorous game of chase and he, too, ran across my feet. 

Gary and his friend's actions were much like the ones of my children when they were little. When playing chase, my son would tag his sister "it" and then declare me "base" as he barreled toward me. My daughter would scream no fair and race toward him and me in an effort to tag her older brother. Gary had declared me base and falsely believed my presence would stop his playmate from pursuing him. He was wrong and I had two squirrels scamper over my feet.

I am beyond the "ew" factor when it comes to wildlife touching me because this very same thing has happened once before in my life. When my children were young we were living in Florida and remodeling a historic home. It was also during this time I felt the need to monitor my weight in meticulous detail so I would get out of bed each morning and step on the scales at the foot of my bed. One particular morning the room was dark and as I stepped on the scale I felt something run across the top of my feet. I froze and then jumped on the end of my bed waking my cocker spaniel, Simon. Well, actually, my scream woke the dog and my children.  

The ensuing scene rivaled the best French farce or one of the early Marx Brother's movies with running, slamming doors and yelling. As the dog chased the squirrel, I pursued the dog, my son ran after me and my daughter trailed after my son yelling don't hurt it. After completing two laps around the house, we opened the front to release the poor, frightened squirrel tackling the dog before he could continue the chase outside. The whole episode was funny though I believe it to be funnier now then when it actually occurred. 

Gary the Gardener makes life on the mountain fun as his behavior triggers good memories of life with my children when they were young. I do wonder though if he tells his friends and family stories about me?

Hugs,
C

 

Nov
09

A Change Of Scenery

by Christine

I am home. After a week in California I returned home to bare tree limbs, mounds of leaves covering the lawn and a renewed enthusiasm for life on the mountain. The time away was glorious. Marty and I hiked the cliffs of Big Sur and the street of San Francisco stopping to enjoy the unique beauty of each place. As we walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, our conversation centered on technology, art and our good fortune at living in a country of such geographic diversity and abundance. We sampled local food and drink and reveled in spending time together. We had a lovely time in a lovely place. 

Our trip allowed me to get out of the house and get out of my head. The expedition forced me to think about more than the how-to of running my life and when I returned I was able to see my world in another light. Nelson Mandela said, "There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." I have been changed. I hope for the better.

Traveling allows one to look at life from different vantage points. I will give you an example. As you know California is struggling with a life-altering drought. As we drove through the farm country, we saw interrogatory signs lining the highway. Is growing food a waste of water?, Congress Caused the Dust Bowl, No Water=No Jobs and Pray For Rain were expressing the fears of a community. These are real people worrying about real jobs and real environmental challenges. Nothing abstract, nothing hypothetical. Their struggle touched my heart and mind.  I am a conservationist at heart but I am doubling my efforts to be respectful of our water use. I am grateful for my home and gratitude requires that I care for it lovingly. 

Maybe a week away isn't in your immediate future but I encourage you to take some time to change your scenery. Whether you spend the weekend with a friend or travel half way around the world, take some time to get out of your house and out of your head. It will be worth it!

Hugs,
C


{The View From The Golden Gate Bridge On A Glorious Fall Day}

 

Oct
28

Community: Helping The Less Fortunate

by Christine

The subtle shades of summer green have given way to brilliant colors of scarlet red, burnt orange and sunglow yellow here in the Hudson Valley. As the sun rises each morning a golden glow bathes the mountains and the world feels warm and cozy. I've lived on the mountain for ten years and I know the warm fall colors and crisp temperatures of autumn will give way to the bitter cold and ice blue colors of winter. Now is the time for reflection on how our community cares for the less fortunate as we gather our family and friends together for a holiday season of hearty meals and gift exchanges. 

The stories we tell ourselves as a nation has bolstered the belief that each and everyone of us is the master of his or her destiny. The idea that fortune smiles upon us and that we are where we are in life is not so much a result of our hard work but because we were fortuitous is abhorrent to many. Our homes, cars, education and other material goods are the fruit of our labor and we become incensed if that belief is challenged. But what about the individual who worked hard and has not been so fortunate? The spectator who was maimed while standing at the finish line at the Boston Marathon in 2013 or the elderly couple who worked all their lives but now find their savings is not enough to live on or the young father who is fighting desperately to beat cancer, are their struggles the result of their lack of dedication or hard work?  Does it matter? Do we only help those in our community who "deserve" help?

My question is how do we as a community care for those who have not been as fortunate? Or more specifically, how do you and I care for those in our community who are in need? There are government programs that act as a social safety net and many volunteers run programs that assist but how do we reach out person-to-person to aid the members of our community? Do we stock food banks, run coat drives or write a check to the Salvation Army? In creating community, it isn't only about being with people "just like us". Community is about connection, friendships and respect. How do we create healthy communities by including everyone?

Hugs,
C

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