Tag Archives: Philosophy

Wish Lists

Wasn’t it just amazingly easy to come up with lists of wants when you were younger?  Unless made shy by being asked suddenly by a rarely met aunt or uncle, I remember being able to rattle off all sorts of things that I would love to have as my own.  I’m not sure when it got harder.

 

It isn’t like I don’t want or need anything.  And it certainly isn’t that I don’t like to get presents.  But ask me for suggestions and my brain says, ‘uhhh – can I get back to you on that?’.  So I started to keep a running list.  Then my book list branched into a list of its own.

 

Maybe I could have a library like this?

Maybe I could have a library like this?

(And still I was hard pressed to keep myself on track and focus on books already on the list when I found myself at a library book sale recently.  I did end up with some excellent choices, I think.)

 

Anyway, I know that I am not alone in this malady; whether it is one of memory or something other, is a question to discuss with friends over tea.  My friends and I have all gotten to a stage when we are not as quick to acquire – we have pretty much already feathered our nests.  But that doesn’t mean that we might not like to add to a collection or two, or perhaps have a treat or get an item to support a new or old hobby.

 

And there is a pleasure in gift giving that we might have forgotten along the way – giving and receiving.  It has nothing to do with standing in line at odd hours for the latest craze, in a crush of bargain hunters.  It has to do with thinking about that person for whom you are shopping, or remembering the person who gave you a specific treasure.

 

Well, I am gearing up to ask my family for suggestions, so I thought I should dust off my list.  Only I have lost the darn thing.  Now what was on it?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Hardy

Now this is a word that we don’t use nearly often enough these days.

 

“I’m interested in that thing that happens where there’s a breaking point for some people and not for others. You go through such hardship, things that are almost impossibly difficult, and there’s no sign that it’s going to get any better, and that’s the point when people quit. But some don’t.”

~Robert Redford

 

Life has taught me that hardy is something that I want to be, a trait that I want to cultivate.  There are all sorts of breaking points, and I have a few memories of quitting this or that, like playing the flute, early on that didn’t sit well with my competitive nature.

 

Hardiness consists of these characteristics – resilience, optimism, flexibility and creativity.  I read this in periodic research that I have done and I believe it because it has been true for me.  The beautiful thing about hardiness, is that while some people are inherently hardier to begin with, it is something that can be learned and strengthened over time.

 

a hardy plant, Lily of the Valley

a hardy plant, Lily of the Valley

I do not lean toward optimism, but I can turn my thoughts in that direction.  My mom was quite the optimist and I could regularly compare my Eeyore mindset to hers, and sometimes be amazed that her belief that things would be ok seemed to actually make them ok.

 

I’ve learned resilience can be born from stubbornness combined with a willingness to learn.   Realization that resilience is something that I am mastering came slowly.

 

Flexibility and creativity also make sense as parts of the hardy equation.  Creativity provides strengths and helps recharge batteries.  And flexibility releases some of the pressure from stress.

 

I am mere days away from the beginning of a new decade, so while I hope that you get something out of reading this post it is admittedly more of an exhortation to myself that I know how to be hardy.  I hope that you do too.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

How Much ‘Summer’ in Summer?

August is upon us and the back-to-school ads have started to appear.  Gardens are about to produce tomatoes and cucumbers galore.  Leaves on trees are looking a bit tired and worn here and there after shining in their green spectrum from early pale to later deep green.  We still have a couple more months to go before the plants all go dormant for the cooler months.

 

I haven’t taken a vacation, or even devoted a whole day to summer activities, but I have vicariously enjoyed those of friends and family on Facebook and in-person telling.  And I have thought about what constitutes a summer moment so that I don’t miss them when they occur.  In early June, I wrote this piece about summer and the importance of noting this season.

 

Summer isn’t just a season, it is an idea – a representation of things to strive for like relaxation and laughter with friends and family.  It is nostalgia in a different form than what the holiday season brings forth.  The sound of children laughing in early evening brings me back to those moments in long ago yards playing tag or chasing fireflies with a group of other kids.  The joy of still being up and out in the dark when we would normally have been tucked into bed.

 

Enjoying the idea of summer in adulthood takes effort, a deliberateness that wasn’t necessary in childhood.  First we have to be conscious that this effort is even required.  Summer was spontaneous in our younger years and we might expect this to continue, we might feel discontent when it does not.

 

For several years in the transition from child to adult, I didn’t think about summer much at all.  Perhaps because I was busy figuring out what being an adult meant for me.  Perhaps because I was doing this figuring out in California, where the seasons are subtle and mostly all have the feel of summer.  It wasn’t until my children were old enough to have a summer break in school, and summers had the same rhythm they had in my childhood that I started to think about what makes summer.

 

Then I was divorced with two boys and a full time job and I had to make sure they had a summer while basically foregoing one for myself.  Or so I thought because I thought of summer as long stretches of unscheduled time to explore and enjoy.

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Now summer comes in moments, sips, or bursts.  And I enjoy them.

  • Time on a patio with family or friends
  • The hummingbird that visits the Rose of Sharon in the corner of my yard
  • Watching the tomato plants grow and tomatoes form
  • The firefly that hovered in front of the dog and I on a late evening walk
  • The dragonfly that reluctantly posed for this picture
  • The little boy gleefully whizzing by on his bike
  • The sound of lawn mowers while I still laze in bed on a weekend
  • Thunderstorms clearing the humidity from the air

 

How much summer is in your summer so far?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Maturity Doesn’t Preclude Enthusiasm

My son’s dog likes to remind me that there is always a place for enthusiasm.  We think of her as a puppy, but we recently noticed the gray coming in on her chin which is supposed to be a sign of maturity.  When she likes something or someone, she really likes them and everyone knows it.  And she likes a lot of things.

 

I enjoy a walk around the neighborhood to get fresh air, exercise and ideas from other people’s gardens.  (And it is a good time to think.)  I let her come with me.  (I do not take her for walks, let me be clear.  Because she is not my dog.)  She knows she is only allowed to go if she behaves herself.  She must start by waiting calmly while I put on my shoes.  Far enough away that I can get my shoes on without conking her in the head with my foot when I raise and lower it.  Or trying to give me kisses when I bend down to get my shoe.  Then she is supposed to calmly let me put on her harness without licking me.  Then she is supposed to go calmly to the door and wait to the side while I go out first.  Lastly she is supposed to wait calmly while I shut the door.

pleading eyes

But she just really likes to go for walks and she wants to make certain that I know how happy it makes her that I am preparing for a walk.  Even if this delays the start of the walk while she gets hold of herself.

 

It is good to have a constant reminder that life is better when you have things that make you feel all wiggly.  There is plenty on the mature side of life that draws the enthusiasm right out of a person.  It should just help us to enjoy things more, but for too many people these things seems to mean the preclusion of enthusiasm entirely.  I think maybe I should send them on a walk with my son’s dog.  She’d love to go.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

This is Me, this Might be Me, Is this Me

I am currently reading Harriet Reisen’s biography of Louisa May Alcott.  I was given the book by my aunt and I am greatly enjoying it and learning a lot.  I am also remembering how much I enjoyed Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys when I was younger.  I am named after Beth.  (She dies you know, which devastated me when I read that part at the age of twelve.  Thankfully I survived past the age of fifteen despite the fate of my namesake.)

DSC03784

Anyway, her parents were idealists and the part that I want to ruminate about today is something that the author mentions had an effect on Louisa – falling short of who you should be.  I am taken with this concept.  I’m not sure which thought thread to follow first.

 

Who decides who you should be?  What criteria do they apply if it is someone other than yourself, such as your parents?  What criteria should you apply to decide for yourself who you should be?  Who is to decide if you are falling short of this ideal of who you should be?  How long should it take to get to who you should be?  Maybe you are just still on your way to this end point.

 

From an ethical standpoint, I do agree that there are aspects of self that you should be.  You decide what this ideal ethical self is like, where your ethical barriers lie.  And life is all about falling short of this ideal of who you should be, in small moments and less than ideal circumstances, and then striving even harder to be it.

 

What do you think?  Are you intrigued by this notion of falling short of who you should be?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

An Accomplished Grumbler

In our house, growing up, we learned early on that whining, wheedling and grumbling got you banished.  Who wanted to be banished?  We kept our grumbling to ourselves when we just couldn’t help but indulge in it.  (Especially when dad was around, he ‘would give us something to grumble about’!)  I did my best to instill this same message in my boys that grumbling wasn’t an effective method of getting what you want.

 

My son’s dog grumbles.  (Hrumphf, hmmrrr, rrrmmm, sigh)  It is hilarious as long as she only does it occasionally.  And only hilarious because she is a dog.  I never knew that animals wheedled before.

pleading eyes

What isn’t hilarious is the percentage of the adult population who didn’t get the same message that children got in my family – that grumbling isn’t effective in getting your point across.  There are an amazing number of grown people who must have had their childish grumbling validated and have carried this annoying trait into adult life.  Who have become accomplished grumblers.

 

What does grumbling cost the grumbler?  Why were we banished when we got in that mode as kids?  My mom was a Pollyanna type – amazingly positive and sunny.  (Not sickeningly, perky cheerleader so.)  One of the ways that she stayed that way was to focus on positive activities, which grumbling is decidedly not.  Grumbling is gloomy and low energy and draining.  It sucks you in rather than drawing you closer and you can’t wait to get some distance.

 

I try really hard not to laugh out loud when the dog does her grumbling thing.  She is a clown and I don’t want her to think this is a good method to get what she wants.  I don’t want her to be added to the list of accomplished grumblers.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Near Complete Lack of Curiosity

I never fail to be stumped when I encounter a person with a near complete lack of curiosity.  I can’t even bring myself to say that the person may have a complete lack of curiosity.  I have to qualify it, and hope that the person has some curiosity about something that I just don’t see.  It just doesn’t seem possible to me that a person could have zero curiosity.

 

Sure there are things that I am not interested in at all, or so I believe right now.  I would have said that was true about beer until last June when I sat through a talk that my son wanted to attend and the panel brought up the history of beer and tied it to some things that I am interested in.  Heck, I find myself feeling curious about math at times now that my niece is so taken with the topic.

 

But there are people who just want to be told to put that there and twist this a half a turn and move on.  They don’t want to know why.  They don’t want to know how the thing came to be in front of them or what will happen to it after it moves on.  Huh.  I am curious why that is, what is it about their make-up that left aside the wonder?  I can’t fathom it.

Nov 1997-Are they gone yet

Sure, curiosity killed the cat but lack of curiosity narrows.  Or at least it seems to me.  I would like to have a conversation with someone who has no interest in learning new things, who is content within their comfort zone.  Has that person ever had to deal with big changes?  In my experience life brings alterations, from tiny to seismic, fairly regularly and my curiosity has helped me to get resettled.

 

What importance do you place on curiosity?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Oh, If Only

There is one good thing about winter and that is that it provides a ready reason why much of the to-do list lies dormant for the season.  Now I must dust of the list and sit down with it and a calendar to figure out what should be done, where it will fit in my days, and whether the budget will allow.  But just next to the to-do list is my list of books that I’d like to read.

DSC03769

If only there were enough time in the day to be able to read more of the interesting books that come out so much faster than I can digest them.  (And then there are all of the older books, too.)  In addition to the books that I hear about and put on the list are all the books that I could stumble upon in the library or a book store if I go and browse.

 

It would be simply lovely if I could take a chunk of time off from all my other obligations and I could devote my time and energy to devouring these worthy books.  I do read all day – emails, procedures, articles, and at the very end of the day a few pages from my current fiction selection.  Just a handful of pages for me, so that it takes ages to get through a single book.  So that sometimes I forget some of the subplots in a book.

 

Reading is right there with all of the other necessities – food, water and shelter – it provides comfort and education, understanding and enjoyment, inspiration.  I sometimes long for my younger years when a whole Saturday could be absorbed by a book.  I dream of reading sabbaticals when my days get too stressful.  Would I love reading as much if I could be paid to do it?  I would love to find out, I think.

 

If you dream of taking a sabbatical to do one beloved activity, what would it be?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Singular Purpose

It seems to be the thing to do these days when your life is altered by some sort of speed bump, start up a foundation.  If you have the means, or access to the means that is.  People at the lower end of the economic ladder might have fund raisers to help cover the unexpected bills that go along with these speed bumps.  If enough money is raised to cover their own bills, the remainder might go to help others with the affliction.

Capture

I’ve been thinking about causes and diseases that attract multiple foundations, which then often compete for the same donation dollars.  It’s that competition that got me thinking.  I understand that people want to honor their lost loved one (the most frequent reason to start a foundation in my unofficial research) but perhaps there are other ways.  A foundation has costs that take money off the top, whereas a donation to an existing organization in the person’s name could go directly to something useful for others still struggling through similar experiences.

 

Perhaps a singular purpose should be combined with a shared purpose to better serve the cause?  The question is what is most important – a cure, a solution or establishing a permanence for the lost person?  The best thing would be to find a method to do both.

 

When my dad died, we asked for donations in lieu of flowers to established causes that were meaningful to him.  He had a nearly lifelong association with Boy Scouting and so we also created a camp scholarship in his name at our local council.  I’m sure that money is long gone, mom was the point person with the council.  We wanted his name to live on with an organization that he loved and supported in many ways.  Hopefully there is a handful of young men out there somewhere who can say that they got to go to camp thanks to my dad.

 

Keeping the fund alive and continuous probably could have been accomplished, but it didn’t happen.  And this was a relatively small effort in comparison to a foundation.

 

When mom died, we again asked for donations in her name in lieu of flowers, this time for ovarian cancer research through an established organization.  I continue to give as part of the greater shared purpose to give families affected by this disease more solutions.  And more time than we had with mom once she was diagnosed.  Even if we had the means, I don’t think that we would have considered a foundation in her name.  Associating with an effective and established organization allows our assistance to be multiplied.

 

I wonder at this moment what mom would have to say to my idea, she worked as a fund raiser for a large hospital in Chicago for years.  She had some interesting stories about the large donors that they courted.  Ego was often involved.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Patterns, Collections & Repetition

What is it about a certain thing that makes us want more?  It makes sense that we want to categorize things, like solving a puzzle by snapping the pieces into place, we know what we need to go and find based on the items that surround the missing piece.  But most of us want to create combinations of things that are pleasing.  Either by shape, size, color, texture, sound, usefulness – what have you.

DSC03754

Patterns can also tell us when something goes wrong and help us to figure out how to set it right again.  When one customer tells a company that they are having a problem with a product, it might be assumed that it was an anomaly but when the same complaint comes up again and again then the company better get busy on that pattern.

 

I used to watch my mom sew clothes when I was little.  There was a pattern to her whole effort; deciding what was going to be made, going to the fabric store to pick out all the needed items – which included the pattern to make the piece of clothing – preparing and cutting and then finally sewing.  Some of the pattern pieces made sense right away – you could see it was going to be a sleeve or other recognizable part.  But some of the pattern pieces looked quite random, they only made sense when combined with other pieces.

 

Collections can be useful or informative, say tools, or aesthetically pleasing.  My dad had quite a few tools, some had been his father’s before him.  The hand tools were made to last, worn smooth by years of use.  My grandfather’s power tools were a bit scary since they were produced long before safety features had come into being.  Belts and other moving parts were all open and ready to snag a finger or worse, not hidden behind plates and covers as they are now.

 

I think that I am in the majority in finding comfort in my collections and something soothing in repetition.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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