Life Management


Hibernation As Covert Preparation

by Christine

Do you remember the Hannah and Barbera cartoon character, Yogi Bear? Yogi was a meddlesome bear who was always into something that required Ranger Smith's attention. In a moment of exasperation Ranger Smith said to Yogi:

"Come on, Yogi. Would it really be so hard to be a regular bear?
You know, to forage for food, to walk around on all fours...
to hibernate a little, or a lot."

To which Yogi replied:

"If nature had meant for me to be a regular bear...
it wouldn't have given me such a good thought-cooker, sir."


Yogi hibernate, NEVER! I get it. He's a bear that makes things happen and why waste a minute of time resting or being inactive? Carpe Diem baby! 

All my life I've been like Yogi but as much as I want to siege the day, this winter I've felt the need to hibernate. I don't think it's so much that winter calls for me to embrace a period of rest and reflection as it's a response to the series of losses and changes in my life. My mother's death and my son's accident are just two life altering events that I refused to let slow me down. This past Christmas though, I said enough. I tossed out my to-do list, put aside the blog, dusted off my reading list and started chopping winter vegetables for soup. I now have lunch with friends. I started a book club. My neighbors come over for good conversation and food and drink on these cold, dark evenings.

The result? I am laughing more and have spent time with some really good people. I tell stories about my Mom and Dad without sadness gripping my heart. But most of all, I feel the stirrings of "what next?". There is an excitement when I think of the months ahead. There's happiness in being a "regular" human. 

Growing up, summer in Florida was similar to a period of hibernation. During the brutally hot months of July and August, my parents would take us to Lake Brooklyn for a water vacation. We would swim and water ski until our arms and legs were wobbly. Mom called for rest time after lunch so I would float in the water watching the clouds morph from kittens to trucks to witches with long, hooked noses. In the shade of the porch, I would read biographies of famous Americans one after another until my mother suggested I give another genre a try. This was a period of rest that gave way to action when school started in the fall. As Ralph Ellison wrote, hibernation is a covert preparation of a more overt action.

I'm giving my "thought-cooker" and body a rest. The knowledge that this period of time is brief and will give way to spring soon is ever present. The benefit of slowing down during this leg of the journey is renewed energy.




Overcoming Resistance

by Christine

Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That's why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there'd be no Resistance. -Steven Pressfield


Seriously, Lighten Your Load

by Christine

In 1979 Joan Didion published her packing list in her book The White Album. Didion included her must haves for young professional women who traveled extensively. Since I am forever trying to compile the perfect packing list, I immediately sought out her list. The list reads:

To Pack and Wear:
2 skirts
2 jerseys or leotards
1 pullover sweater
2 pair shoes
nightgown, robe slippers
bag with: shampoo, toothbrush and paste, Basis soap, razor,
deodorant, aspirin, prescriptions, Tampax, face cream, powder, 
baby oil

To Carry:
mohair throw
2 legal pads and pens
house key

Didion's list is compact with only what would be considered bare necessities by today's standards. I do love the idea of a skirt over a leotard but candidly isn't that what Chico's is all about...stretchy fabric for the 50 plus crowd.

I consider myself a minimalist when it comes to packing and yet, I always travel with more than Didion's allotted two pair of shoes Didion. I pack a pair of running shoes, flip-flops (Are they really even shoes?), a pair of casual shoes and a pair of dress shoes though I don't travel with a pair of robe slippers.

I was amused to see that she traveled with her own bottle of bourbon and that she had to remind herself to take cigarettes. Today, the TSA won't let you carry any receptacle containing more than 3 ounces of liquid through security and smoking on all domestic flights has been banned since 2000.  I did smugly chuckle to myself when I read she lugged around a typewriter when traveling until it dawned on me that I travel with an iPhone, an iPad, a camera and my computer for writing. 

As I age my priorities have changed. I don't carry a big suitcase any more even if it has wheels. Once on a trip to Portugal, I took my largest suitcase. The thing was so big that it wouldn't fit in the trunk of my small foreign rental car. The case rode upright in the backseat like an uninvited chaperone, mocking me the whole trip. Aging bellman struggled to carry this dresser size case up multiple flights of stairs since none of the quaint places I booked had elevators. I was mortified in my belief that the Portuguese were laughing at me behind my back. 

Unlike in the past, I am not opposed to wearing the same thing twice if I have access to a washing machine. Additionally, when I was younger I would travel with my own shampoo and conditioner because well, because my hair was special and I needed special hair care products. Today, I use what's available and if necessary, make a quick run to the store to get what I need. As you can see my specialness wore off with the creation of the TSA and the increased cost of checked luggage. 

In addition to losing the items already mentioned, I would leave behind the mohair throw, the legal pads and files. My flies are on Drop Box, my legal pads are electronic and a mohair throw is a romantic notion that would end up being "just one more thing" to keep up with in the airport. I would add to her list a bathing suit. I take one no matter where I am going because you just never know. 

My biggest tip...keep it light and fly on Tuesday or Wednesday. Oh, also ship your gifts to loved ones early and avoid carrying anything other than a good book on the plane. Don't let struggling with luggage, gifts or mohair throws make the journey stressful. Take a page from Baloo, the bear, from The Jungle Book Look for the bare necessities/The simple bare necessities/Forget about your worries and your strife. Lighten your load both in life and when traveling and you will enjoy your journey more. 




by Christine

As I was leaving the theatre Friday night, an attractive woman behind me began an effusive apology. She said over and over again, “I am so, so sorry.” In an uncharacteristic move, I turned away from her without blurting out the traditional, “that’s okay”. I was not being rude, honestly, I was just confused as to why she was apologizing and needed time to think through my response.

This morning I am still in need of clarification as to why she apologized. If I could speak to her today, this is what I would ask.

Did you apologize because your child kicked the back of my seat for an hour and 15 minutes of a 2 hour performance and the only time you required him to stop was when I or one of the other audience members on either side of me turned to look at him.

Or because you clearly brought your child to an event that was not age appropriate for him and expected him to sit quietly for 2 hours during a show that held no interest for him.

Or because your husband and you interrupted Renée Fleming’s prayerful musical performance as you threatened your child with never being taken any place on the planet again as he giggled maniacally and twisted in his seat doubling the force with, which he kicked the back of my seat. (On a side note:  he would be fine with never going any place again in the future.)

Or were you apologizing because you failed to remove your child from the theatre as a show of respect to the performers or other audience members because a) you paid good money for these tickets and weren’t going to miss the show or b) your child has to learn how to behave and a live broadcast event was just the place to start.

Least you think I am not sympatric to parents trying to raise healthy, happy individuals, who are a positive addition to society, let me share this with you. On Friday, Marty and I were in Home Depot purchasing one more string of holiday lights when a young boy about 4 darted between us in his excitement to get to the next isle. I laughed as his mortified mother apologized as she chased after him. I said, “that’s okay” as I stated I have 7 grandchildren. That was all that needed to be said between a mother and a grandmother.

But here is the difference for those who think I am being too subtle. We were in a well-lit Home Depot, in the Christmas department with sparkly things displayed all around while cheesy holiday music played in the background. This place is designed for kids to giggle, twist and jump up and down. The Town Hall in New York City is not. 

New York City theatre is abundant in its entertainment choices of age appropriate shows for children where children can learn to behave in a theatre and enjoy a show.  I took my granddaughters to see Cinderella and my #1 granddaughter could hardly contain herself during the show. Of course every other 5 year-old girl could hardly sit still with singing and dancing princesses, fairy godmothers and pumpkins that became chariots on stage.  Seat kicking, talking and giggling was expected and dealt with in a good-natured manner.

So parents in the future when you make the decision to blurt out an impromptu apology, I encourage you to be specific. In my case dear one, I didn't know if you were apologizing because your child behaved badly or because you behaved badly? 




The Games We Play

by Christine

Good food and good company are standard fare at Thanksgiving but how about good conversation and fun. I'm not talking about the quick comments made during half time or as the family takes a minute to stroll around the block after each football game. I'm talking about making eye contact and laughing out loud. There are many board games and puzzles that can entertain for hours but how about a game that gets people talking and stimulates the imagination while getting the creative juices going. 

Here are three games that will do the trick. The first one is 100 questions. 100 questions stimulates ideas by asking meaningful questions that leads to great conversations. You can play for fun or keep score by voting on the best answers. 

Next is Two Truths and a Lie. Each person shares two true personal facts and one that isn't. The lie must be as good as the truths they tell. The fun begins as everyone tries to figure out which one's the lie. 

Third is Snap Shot Stories. Gather old family photos or current images from a magazine and put them in a bag. Have each person draw a photograph and tell a story about what is happening in the picture. 

These games are intergenerational and requires minimal setup from the game organizer. The ultimate goal is to connect with people you care about and have a good time. 





You Control Your Destiny

by Christine

If you've read the book The Alchemist then you've looked into the heart of this man, Paulo Coelho. Krista Tiippett's interview allows you to hear him talk about crafting a life that is full of joy. He truly makes life sound like an adventure that we can all craft and experience in our own way. Have a listen at On Being...Paulo Coelho-The Alchemy of Pilgrimage


Being In Control And Other Illusions

by Christine

Colorfully whimsical are the words that come to mind each time I look up from my computer to see the print by Brian Andreas hanging on my wall. I like to think that I am one who goes as the wind goes without a care in the world. But under the harsh stare from the woman in the mirror, I know this to be an illusion. I like order. It's satisfying to be in control and fun to wake each morning with a to-do list as a map for my day's journey.

Now keep in mind, there is one caveat to my love of order and control; I must control my to-do list. After working for someone else most of my adult life, I started my own company so I could be in control. This too is an illusion but one that is more palatable than the other option. 

Since Matthew's accident, I have returned home to organize and control. I have cleaned and rearranged closets, kitchen cabinets, personal and professional files, flower beds and even the basement. Not so subconsciously I've worked to wrestle control from the chaos that hovers on the periphery of life by organizing my physical world. This too is an illusion but one that results in a clean house and basement.

Quite frankly the real marvel in this world is not how many things go wrong in our life but how many things go right. Billions of people go about their business each day without a major mishap and while the minor ones are irritating, they are only as irritating as we allow them to be. So I have returned home to create an illusion that includes color, whimsy, gratitude, a clean house and letting go of the irritating stuff.






A Lesson In Humility And Halo Pin Care

by Christine

Want to know something that really annoys me? Bloggers who disappear with no hug goodbye, see you in the funny papers or explanation of why he or she went silent. I mean, I thought we were friends, I signed up for your newsletter, laughed at your jokes and even tried that high calorie dessert that you said was fabulous and then puff, you were gone. My attitude toward that blogger was less than charitable. I am here to tell you I got an attitude adjustment the hard way. 

During the wee hours of August 17th, I got THE phone call that stops the heart of every parent. My son, Matthew, had been airlifted to the Atlanta Medical Center. AMC is a Trauma One facility that is in the business of saving lives and my son needed the expertise of its doctors and surgeons. He had been training for the Lake Tahoe Ironman by cycling through the Appalachian Mountains near Dahlonega, GA. As Matthew descended one of the mountains, a local man hit him with his car, breaking 4 or 5 of his vertebrates, 7 upper ribs, both clavicles, right scapula, his C1 and collapsing a lung. 

The moment I heard that Matthew had been airlifted, I stood straight up and starting packing for a flight to Atlanta from New York. Marty and I received the call at 2:15 AM and by 8:00 AM that same morning I was by his bedside. I have not been home since. I sat by his bed in ICU for 6 days and watched him go through one surgery and the installation of a Halo. I caravanned with Marty and Matthew to Brooks Rehab Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida and witnessed him learning of his limitations for the next 12 weeks. Since being released from Brooks, I've been with Matthew and his 4 children at their home, washing clothes, caring for Halo pins and generally doing whatever I can to support them during this time of recovery.

I tell you all this as part of the explanation for my silence. I am not the only one to help my son and his children during this time. It has truly been a family and community effort but this event changed my life.  I had grand plans for Footsteps this fall. My energy level was high after my sabbatical year and I was ready to blog about my new raised herb beds, fall in the Hudson Valley and my training schedule for Run the River 5K in October. But to quote Allen Saunders: Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans. My son and grandchildren need me and I love them, so here I am.

I am still going to blog about the raised bed but I will now be sharing with you the ins and outs of coming back from a major health trauma. Some of the lessons I learned I want to pass on to you with the prayer that you will never need them. 

Hugs to you all,


How To Avoid Becoming A Bitter Old Woman Or Man

by Christine

Growing up I remember clearly my mother saying, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all". That maxim along with her belief that you don't talk politics or religion at the dinner table was the core of her life philosophy. My mother was a nice person who was gracious and kind to all her friends but she was not open to sharing much about herself with others. Her philosophy, while workable at dinner parties and bridge parties, didn't leave much room to discuss the struggles that touch us all at some point during life on this planet.

I don't hold to Mom's hard and fast rules about not sharing with others the events that shape life but I do worry about joining the TMI (Too Much Information) Camp. I am not that person whose life dream is to spill all on the Jerry Springer show or weep affectionately with Oprah on TV. Nope that's not me but I have learned that as human beings we share common experiences in life and that we can learn from one another. I'm not ready to discuss religion or politics but I will chat about what drove me to take a sabbatical. 

I was burned out. I was burned out on life. It wasn't just my work; it was everything. Why did I think I was experiencing burnout? I had several of the ten classic symptoms. They are:

Lack of Motivation
Cognitive Problems
Frustration, Cynicism and Other Negative Emotions
Slipping Job Performance
Personal Problems at Home and at Work
Not Taking Care of Yourself
Being Preoccupied with Work...When You Are Not at Work
Generally Decreased Satisfaction
Health Problems

The most concerning symptom was the negative emotion I was feeling. I was angry. It is uncomfortable even now to admit but I was. I had been diagnosed with and treated for cancer, hit by a car, watched my mother's health fade as she walked her end of life journey and sat by helplessly as my ex-daughter-in-law walked out on her marriage to my son. And all this happened in a 5-year time frame. I was tired and I was just plain pissed off. As a 5-year old I might have packed up my favorite stuffed animal and run away but adults aren't allow to do that so I went on sabbatical. 

Giving myself permission to reorder the priorities in life allowed me to regain the balance needed to recharge and energize. I am blessed that I was able to take the time to rest, create and spend time with people that I love but it was necessary. I didn't want to become some bitter old woman chasing kids and dogs off her lawn because they were getting too near her gnome collection. (I don't really have a gnome collection but I might one day.)

What do you do when you feel the symptoms of burnout and can't take a year off for a sabbatical?  Start by making sure you are taking these actions. First, get enough sleep. Sleep helps you replenish your energy and allows you to manage the stress in your life effectively. Next, unplug. Set boundaries for yourself and your family. As a teenager, I was bummed that we weren't allowed to take phone calls during dinner. As an adult I understand. Third, get serious about relaxing. You must relax during periods of high stress. Illness, caring for aging parents and work all require your attention but without periods of down time, life becomes burdensome and burnout may result. 

Have you experienced burnout? If so, how did you handle it? I would love to hear you solutions to managing burnout.