How ya feeling?

October is of course breast cancer awareness month. On Saturday morning while I was back in my hometown, I went out for a jog/walk and just happened upon a breast cancer walk. My timing was perfect. I was enjoying the walk along the waterfront in perfect temperatures, a light breeze, beautiful sights of yachts, boats, sailboats, joggers, walkers, and doggies and then I noticed a sea of pink moving in one direction.

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I tagged along with the breast cancer walk and actually ended up walking longer than what I usually do most mornings at home. I got lost in the moments and enjoyed the flow.

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Also this week, I had my annual physical exam with my doctor and it was another reminder about taking care of myself, doing monthly breast self-exams and living in ways to maintain good health. So this week I am asking, how are you doing? How are you feeling? Are you feeling alright?  We need to be sure we are doing what we should be doing for our good health.

During my annual exam, I had the routine blood tests, had my blood pressure checked, had an EKG, was scheduled for a mammogram and asked about getting a flu shot and all of that stuff. My weight was good, just two pounds different from last year’s exam (must have been that cake from the Outer Banks vacation).  So, my point is that we all need to focus on how we are feeling. Women and men can get breast cancer so this is a time for everyone to think about breast cancer, not just women. Did you know Richard Roundtree (the actor who played Shaft and who now is the father character on Being Mary Jane) had breast cancer? So, yes men can get it too.   Breast Cancer Awareness Month

What are you doing to stay in good physical shape to feel good? One of my cousins was challenged a year ago by a co-worker who just happened to ask her what did she do to keep in shape. Now, she is in her late 50’s like me. She said she wasn’t sure whether to be insulted or shocked by him asking this. Then, he looks at her and says, “Girl, what you need is to be on a bike.” For the past year, I started seeing all of these Facebook postings of her biking and I was wondering where this had come from. I have known her all of her life and I didn’t remember knowing she had an interest in biking. She took on the challenge her co-worker gave and she became a biker.

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This past weekend, she just completed her first century ride: she did a 100 mile bike ride.  One more proof point that it’s never too late to start a healthy habit.

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My younger brother has been a biker for many years. He literally bikes all over the country and the world. He has a portable, fold up bike that he puts in a backpack and he just carries it on his flights to Greece or Italy or England. Instead of renting a car or taking a taxi when he arrives in those countries or even in Utah or New York, he just pulls out his bike, reassembles it and hits the streets biking. He bikes at home through the streets of Berkley and Oakland too.

So, what are you doing to take care of yourself. How are you feeling? Are you putting yourself on your appointment calendar each week to schedule time to take care of your body? Are you ready for your next annual physical exam? If the numbers that will come back from your test results aren’t better than they were last year, you should have a plan. Whether you are insulted or shocked when the doctor gives you the data, you already know how you feel. You already know what the scale says. You already know how your clothes feel as compared to last year at this time so get going on doing something.

I had the fortune to attend my 40th high school reunion this past weekend in my hometown. I can tell you that nothing felt better than going there knowing that I felt healthy and felt good physically 40 years later. I could join in the fun completely. I laughed hard and joyfully in catching up with classmates, many of whom I had not seen since graduation 40 years ago or since I attended the 20th reunion. The paths we have taken since 1977 have varied significantly. A few of our classmates are deceased and several others could not attend the reunion. But for those of who were there, we had a great time.

When you get ready for the 40th or the 50th, you really want to be feeling good so you can enjoy it. So, taking care of your health comes in handy.

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With the second half of this month, focus on how you are feeling and do yourself the favor of being well by taking the right steps. Some people don’t have those options. We are the lucky ones and we can make good choices. Park a little further away from the building and walk a few extra steps. Pass on that third slice of pizza. Get up 30 minutes earlier in the morning and get in a walk, it’s a great way to start your day and clear your mind too.

Just a few simple actions can make a difference in how you feel when you get to the finish line.20171014_082726.jpg

 

 

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And the prize goes to you for making a bad decision

The Nobel Prize in economics was awarded to someone who did studies on why people make bad decisions. Imagine that. I can just hear my father saying why in the world did someone need to do a study on that. And I can see my grandmother shaking her head at the nonsense of the Nobel Prize Committee even putting this under consideration, let alone awarding the prize for it. To be fair, you should probably read the article in The Washington Post:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/10/09/american-professor-wins-nobel-prize-in-economics-for-trying-to-understand-irrational-human-behavior/?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_nobel-620am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.29e078db0718

But, the premise of University of Chicago Professor Richard Thaler was to understand the behavioral economics on how we make decisions, particularly bad decisions. He has made a career of looking at people’s poor choices: “We Americans eat too much, take on too much debt, save too little and put off anything mildly unpleasant as long as possible,” Thaler wrote in 2011.

Instant gratification apparently is much more important to us. “Humans prefer instant gratification right now, even if they know that being patient would yield them more money or a better life down the road, Thaler found.” Now it is hard to argue with that truth. I know it and you surely must know it too. Professor Thaler integrates economics and psychology. What a novel concept.

We can see how this is playing out right now even in the grand introduction of the tax cut debate in Congress. Republicans know very well that their proposal will cause the deficit to balloon. But, their donors and backers are jawing at them to give them tax cuts and to deliver on something. They also look like they don’t how to get anything done because they haven’t been able to get anything significant passed since the start of 2017 even though they control Congress and the White House. They prefer instant gratification of a tax plan passed at the expense of increased deficits. They only have a conscience when it’s convenient anyway.

But back to the rest of us. Why is it that we make bad decisions when we really do know better? In the New York Times article about his Nobel Prize, the following commentary gives great insight:

Mainstream economics was built on the simplifying assumption that people behave rationally. Economists understood this was not literally true, but they argued that it was close enough.

Professor Thaler has played a central role in pushing economists away from that assumption. He did not simply argue that humans are irrational, which has always been obvious but is not particularly helpful. Rather, he showed that people depart from rationality in consistent ways, so that their behavior can still be anticipated and modeled.

I don’t totally know the analysis of why I make bad decisions. I do know that when I eat a piece of cake or candy that I shouldn’t have eaten, I almost instantly regret it. I also know that when I spend money on something that I shouldn’t have spent money on, I usually am quick to regret having done it. There have been many times when I returned something that I knew was a waste of money. And yes there are times when I gave in to buying something for one of our kids when I wished I hadn’t. Economics and psychology, oh how I wish I could master them in my own life. But, we live and learn. Don’t let bad decisions today be a lifetime of bad decisions tomorrow.

Professor Thaler won the Nobel Prize because he applied his theory to public policy not just to personal economic policy. I think some politicians should read his studies too. He wrote a book in 2008 covering many of this theories, Nudge.

Nudge book

It seems that everyone except Libertarians thought the book was good. Libertarians didn’t think government should have a role in helping people to make good decisions. To that I say, have they read the constitution lately?

There’s another book, Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, that is somewhat related to this topic of decision making.

Blink

A review of Blink from http://www.BookBrowse describes it as:

Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant – in the blink of an eye – that actually aren’t as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work – in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?

In Blink we meet the psychologist who has learned to predict whether a marriage will last, based on a few minutes of observing a couple; the tennis coach who knows when a player will double-fault before the racket even makes contact with the ball; the antiquities experts who recognize a fake at a glance. Here, too, are great failures of “blink”: the election of Warren Harding; “New Coke”; and the shooting of Amadou Diallo by police. Blink reveals that great decision makers aren’t those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of “thin-slicing” – filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables.

Drawing on cutting-edge neuroscience and psychology and displaying all of the brilliance that made The Tipping Point a classic, Blink changes the way you understand every decision you make. Never again will you think about thinking the same way.

Malcolm Gladwell has written several books and is a fantastic writer on the cutting edge of thinking. In the blink of an eye we can make a good decision or a bad decision. That decision can result in instant gratification or longer term success. You decide which prize you get.

Professor Thaler: “The best way to sharpen your skills is to play against the best.”

(in other words … if you want to get better at making decisions, make good decisions.)

What are you storing?

I was talking with a friend this weekend as we were driving to Top Sail Beach about how many storage places we were passing by. Once we got off the interstate and were on local highways and routes, almost every street or every other street had a storage facility. It became ridiculous that we saw so many. What added to the craziness is that we drove by several empty lots and saw signs that said, “coming soon new storage facility.” That was nuts!

I remembered hearing a comedian make a joke about how people were living in bigger houses than 20 years ago but they also had storage units. So, what the heck does everyone have in storage? Do you have a storage unit? If you do, do you actually know everything that is in it? Do you use anything that is in it? Do you need anything that is in it? Are you storing things that you will ever actually use again? Have you given thought to what our use of storage units says about us?

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So my blog this week gives some thoughts about these storage units and what they might represent about our lives. Re-assessing our storage units, what’s in those storage units, what we are using them for, what’s in our houses, etc., might give us a chance to breathe some fresh air into our homes and our lives.

If you have a house that is bigger than the house you grew up in but you still have a storage unit, maybe it’s a good idea to re-think how our parents got along without a storage unit but we “need” one. Have we become so focused on acquiring things that having stuff has taken us over. Maybe we have more than we really need to have. It’s possible, and likely, that we could get along just fine with a little less and not need that storage unit. Plan a visit to your storage unit. Take an inventory of what is in it. Throw out what you haven’t looked at in the past 12-18 months, if you haven’t looked at it in that time period … out of sight, out of mind — ditch it.

If you have family mementos in the storage unit, share them with other family members instead of just keeping them in the unit gathering dust. Maybe your daughter or son or sibling would enjoy having that vase from your grandmother. Maybe that rocking chair can be refinished and put in the den. The modern furniture from Target has nothing on the well-built furnishings from the good old days.

Plan a weekend to go through your house and take an inventory of each room, particularly your closets. Are you using all the things in there? Have you added “stuff” that you thought you would use but you aren’t using. Did you put things in storage as you bought new things but the new things aren’t being used either?

In some ways, we’ve become a material society and we acquire new stuff all the time. These habits seem to encourage us to move other things to storage units. Once items get to the storage units, it’s so easy to be forgotten and just take up the storage space. How much money is being spent on your storage unit? I had a family member who was paying $78 each month for three years for a storage unit that wasn’t visited or opened for three years. If you don’t even look at what is in a storage unit for three years, it seems like you might have been able to do without those items. Just maybe. And for the grand total of $2,808 a company had the honor of holding those items. What I could have done with almost $3,000! And once the storage unit was cleaned out, about three-fourths of it went to the Salvation Army. As President Obama says, “come on Man!”

What are you holding on to in your life that you can get rid of? Are you storing dreams and wishes of what you wanted to do but haven’t yet?

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Tomorrow is not promised. If you are storing wishes, take a look at those wishes and decide what you should be doing instead of just wishing for something to have or do. The mass shooting in Las Vegas is horrific and it serves as a reminder to hug the ones we love and live each day without storing or holding on to dreams and wishes. Storage is not for things that don’t serve us well, instead get rid of them. There’s little value to letting them gather dust or spending the money on the storage unit. Instead, give away what is in those storage units to someone who can use those items. Similarly, there’s little value to storing our dreams and wishes when tomorrow might not come. Instead, do today what you’ve been wishing and dreaming about.

One thing that I have thought as I saw the storage facilities that I drove by, how many of those have useless things in them stored by people with huge houses? Are we living large and simultaneously storing large? Hmmm. When I think about it that way, it doesn’t make sense to me.

I have things that I said I would do in retirement and I need to dust off that list and stop storing that list too. Some of our dreams and wishes are in storage. The Las Vegas shooting and the loss of life of 59 people is tough for those families. I can honor them by getting my list out of storage and going on. I can re-do my to-do and start acting on it. What are you storing? Stop storing, instead: wake up, kick ass, sleep and repeat.

 

 

What does a word mean?

There is so much energy that goes into the usage and meaning of a word. A word can carry a certain meaning for you and a different meaning for me. It really is all relative. Not only is it relative but it depends on when or how quickly others decide to adopt usage of the word too. That’s how it works.

If enough English speakers decide that some word or phrase has value, to the extent that those who encounter it are likely to need to consult the dictionary in search of its meaning, then it is put into new editions.

When I was in elementary school and high school, I remember having vocabulary studies. I remember learning new words and having to memorize the definitions and the context of how the words were to be used. There are some words being used now that my teacher would have marked as incorrect back then because they were then not acceptable, had not grown in their usage and they could not be found in the dictionary. Web used to mean that thing that spiders created. Now folks would say, what’s the “spuffle” about using web to refer to the internet.

What’s my point? We give meaning to what we choose to give meaning to, including our language. And the meaning we give is based on what we collectively determine is acceptable. Words are made up every day that didn’t exist 10 years ago. Once many people start using the word, then it becomes okay and commonly accepted. Merriam-Webster Dictionary has an annual announcement of new words that they added to their dictionary that year. They give reasons for doing so, information on the origin as best they can determine, examples of usage, and why they concluded it should be added.

there is merit in taking one’s time to build up a picture of usage and so avoid being misled by temporary enthusiasms and short-lived fashion. And if enough speakers decide that a word no longer means what the dictionaries say it means but something else entirely, then we have to note that, too. You may feel that such changes amount to misuse — and certainly terms do change because of ignorance or misunderstandings — but that’s largely irrelevant to the job of the dictionary maker.

This practice of how words become acceptable can also be applied to behaviors, how we decide what to do daily, how we react to what others do, and how we choose our social, church and political leaders. There are things we do today that we may not have done just five or eight years ago. We probably were even critical of others doing things that we now do often … Facebook, watching certain TV programs (Empire, The Haves and The Have Nots), eating certain foods (octopus / calamari, raw fish / sushi), etc. So, should we spuffle about it when it might be perfectly acceptable a year from now?

The current occupant of the oval office fits another definition of this new word for me, spuffle: to sputter inarticulately with outrage. Not to mention what I learned from the leader of North Korea’s description of him:

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There would be many who would agree that the current occupant of the oval office fits this definition most certainly. For his supporters, it’s a relative view. Many, many newspapers declared his unfitness for the office of the President when he was a candidate and since being in office, there has been a resounding confirmation by these same newspapers and others. Even Republicans in Congress are no longer defending him, they’re just trying to pass something to save face with their donors. They must know he is a dotard.

Respect. Now, that is an interesting word. What behaviors demonstrate respect? When I was attending sporting events while my daughters and son were in high school, I chose to not sing the national anthem or put my hand over my heart while it was being played. There were a few times that I sat while it was played, usually I stood with my hands behind my back. I was doing this in the years 2002-2009 so it was long before Colin Kaepernick took a knee. For me, I already felt discomfort with the meaning of the song and the flag because there were so many injustices being played out every day against people of color. I did so silently and it was out of no disrespect for anyone else, just respect for what I believed. The meaning of the word respect for me has been to honor who I am in choosing what I do.

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I don’t think the current occupant of the oval office shows respect for his office or for the country by the language he chooses in his campaign rallies since taking office, certainly not before he took office either. I don’t think he shows respect for the US constitution or the Congress or the people of this country by the way he talks or tweets. I don’t think he understands what the word means. He just occasionally conveniently uses the word respect when he wants to denigrate someone else, otherwise it’s not applicable to him or his own behavior.

Speaking of it all being relative, the meaning of President, the Presidency, the White House … all of those have new meanings since January 21st, 2017. The words and all the behaviors behind them conjure up something so different than what we had become accustomed to. The word “normalize” and the word “resistance” now trigger me differently than they did less than a year ago. Lies and bullying did not used to be associated with the oval office like they are now. Words and behaviors like those have new meaning.

Words, actions, and behaviors may have different purposes, meanings and levels of acceptability during different times. What does a word mean? That can change. But, former President Jimmy Carter said this and I think this works anytime:

We must adjust to changing times
and still hold to unchanging principles.
– Jimmy Carter

 

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What is there left to learn?

Many of my close friends are in my same age range or older, some are younger. I remember when my parents or their friends were in their fifties and sixties and thinking that was old. Now, my current thinking about that age range is that I have mixed feelings. I generally don’t think it’s old … because of course I don’t want to yet think of myself as old. But, then I do kind of think it’s old. This proves age is definitely relative, as so many things are. So when someone is in their fifties and sixties, what is there left to learn?

This week, I turn 58. So, of course it is just a philosophical question because I know I have a lot left to learn. And, I have a lot left that I intend to do. But I ask the question because I usually get contemplative on my birthday. I reflect on the past 12 months, thinking about how I lived, what I did well and what I would improve on. I think ahead about how I want to live over the next 12 months. On my birthday, I ask myself a lot of questions and wonder what do I have left to learn. Other questions I ask:

  • What do I intend for myself for the next 12 months.
  • Can I up my contributions to making life better for others.
  • Did I do my best over the last 12 months and what can I do better.
  • Would my parents be okay with how I am living.
  • Can I be a different role model for my daughters and son.
  • Am I being who I should / could be in my relationships.

But do you think there’s ever a point in life when there’s nothing left to learn? I hope not. I hope we all keep learning. I think the human spirit is meant to stretch and grow. I think we are supposed to push ourselves to be more than we were the year the before, the decade before. I think we are better when we see each day as a new day to learn something new. I remember seeing a calendar gift at Christmas time that was a word for each day of the year. It’s a great challenge to learn a new word each day.

Have you heard about the bank that gives out 1,440 at the start of every day? There’s no application required to open an account. Everyone is eligible. It’s totally nondiscriminatory and available to each person. It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, black or white, Italian or Latino, the same amount is given to each person. What’s the catch? This amount is deposited at the start of each day and has to be used only within that day. At the end of the day, it expires and is gone. You have no ability to carry over anything. What is the name of this bank: Time. There are 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day, that adds up to 1,440. So, what is there left to learn? Use each minute of each day because you can’t carry it over and you can’t get it back. Use those minutes to serve your highest purpose for your best self. And, use those minutes to have a lasting impact that will carry over to tomorrow.

What is there left to learn. I am reading Hillary Clinton’s book, What Happened. Of course the book was a way for her to do some analysis of what happened and determine what could be learned as a result of it. But, she also says a major reason she wrote the book is to give a message of resilience, particularly to women. Some people want her to go away and not speak out. She is clear that she won’t ever be a candidate again but she is also clear that she wants to help others be involved in the political process and do whatever she can to assist. I think there is more to be learned from her expertise than telling her to go away. I look forward to what I have left to learn from her.

I am looking forward to learning more about listening to the whispers of my soul. I’ve gotten so focused on politics in the past nine months, I’ve missed moments of sanity. Like Congresswoman Maxine Waters, I need to reclaim my time.

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For the past two days, I have re-started my practice of starting my day with stillness & quiet time before I hit the streets running. I am also putting some limits on my time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and news sites. While I was on vacation at the end of August / first week of September, I read books and chilled out. I let my mind decompress from the stress of the current events and the frenzy of family events. Some days I am wound as tight as if I were still working and what I have left to learn is that if I intend to live another 58 years, I need to reclaim my time.

One more thing I have left to learn, continue to follow my truth and speak truth. That’s not always easy and sometimes it gets me in trouble. I am determined that these next 12 months will be lived deliberately and with truth. I read this quote in an article in Oprah’s October 2017 issue from Glennon Doyle, author of Love Warrior, a 2016 Oprah’s Book Club pick.

We grown-ass people do what we need to do to follow our truth. We don’t have to be defensive — we can afford to be gentle because we know what’s right for us. Those who disapprove will either come around or stop coming around. Either way, lovely.

Listen, we can become women who know who we are and refuse to betray ourselves. We can grow comfortable enough in our own skin, our own knowing that we are more interested in joy and freedom and integrity than in what others think about us. And when we do this, it’s not just for us individually — it’s for all of us. To grow, to relax, to find peace, to become brave, we must witness one woman at a time doing the thing that is revolutionary for her: living her truth without asking permission or offering explanation.

Truth is powerful and yet it isn’t always received well (certainly seeing that in US politics right now). Sometimes even when truth is delivered to me, I don’t always receive it well. So, what else is there for me to learn about myself and truth? That’s a goal for me over these next 12 months into my 59th year: my intention is to give truth and receive truth better. I do believe with those we love and care about, truth and kindness should go together. What I learned when I was working in corporate America every year is that sometimes people treat co-workers & strangers better than they treat their own. Let that not be you. There is everything right about being kind even when being truthful with people we care about. Find a way to give truth with compassion to people you care about.

Whatever your age, on any given day, it’s a good question: what else is there to learn? As I finish my 58th year of living and move forward into my 59th year, I am asking, what else is there to learn. And, I am asking myself other questions and deciding on goals and ideas for where to spend my time in the next 12 months. I want to be of some good to others. I want to spend time with family. I want to give service to my community. I want to explore ideas and places, I want to read and sip tea. I want to keep fresh in my views but I also want to make the best use of my 1,440 at the start of each day because I can’t carry it over. Happy birthday to me.

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When the trees are falling …

Two category 4 hurricanes hit the US within three weeks, you all know the story. It has set a record that no one hoped for. The hurricanes caused trees to fall on power lines, boats to be ripped from their anchors and roofs on houses to go sailing across the neighborhood. In the same weekend, Sloane Stephens won the US Open Tennis Championship and the former trees of women’s tennis fell before the finals even began with her and Madison Keys in the finals. While many of us love Venus Williams, her victory was not to be. And, now this week we have the 16th anniversary of the 9-11 catastrophe of two tall trees falling – the twin World Trade towers. How do we take all of this in? Does it have meaning beyond the actual devastation? Is it a coincidence? So much to take in, so much to figure out what it might mean for the present and the future. Is there any connection?

The Caribbean islands are devastated and Cuba’s Havana and other cities there are afloat with water and no power. St. Thomas, St. John, St. Martin, Barbuda, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas will take years to rebuild from the trees falling, the winds whipping and the water flooding. How do they even know where to begin. The pictures look so horrific. If were there, I don’t know how I would begin. When 9-11 happened, the pictures of the twin towers of the World Trade Center also were horrific and many wondered how would New York begin to re-build. How would lives be put back together. Eventually a new normal emerged. Right now, I can’t even imagine that for St. Thomas or Barbuda.

What happens when the trees fall? Yes, there will be work to be done to re-build, to literally pick ourselves up. Some things or some people will have to start from scratch. In some cases, it will be little to salvage but in other cases we can take what is left and use it to start the foundation for what emerges. But, can we utilize these moments for a re-set? Can these moments be a chance to reach out our hands to someone else and truly go beyond ourselves? If we are personally impacted by the hurricanes or were personally impacted by 9-11, can we gather ourselves to start anew? What happens when the trees fall?

Someone asked me recently if I remember going through evacuations when I was growing up in Florida. I don’t ever remember us evacuating. I know my parents would not have ignored safety precautions. There weren’t as many devastating hurricanes then, history shows that no matter what skeptics say about climate change – that’s just the facts. I do remember hurricane preparation. I do remember filling milk jugs, bottles and containers and even the tub with water. I do remember preparing to wait it out in the hallway of our house because that was the safest place to be.

And I remember hurricane Fran in North Carolina. I remember picking up after two dozen trees did fall in our yard in Raleigh after hurricane Fran in the 1990s on a night in September. Only one of the trees that fell almost hit the house, hitting the rail of the deck and landing about eight inches away from the roof. Family came to town and used their chainsaws and muscle to get us back to normal. We were without power for seven days. Our household did things based on the rising sun and the setting sun. We washed up the old fashioned way, from buckets and using water sparingly. There was no social media and the kids played outside, played scrabble and read books. We had a neighbor with a generator and they offered to keep our meats in their freezer. We had a big cookout for the family members and neighbors to thank everyone who helped us through that time.

The trees fell in women’s tennis this past weekend too. We had the glorious, diverse sight of Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys in the finals, wow!

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What was really beautiful is not only that Sloane won but that she played Madison to win and then that the President & CEO of the USTA, Katrina Adams, acknowledged the diversity in her remarks as she gave the trophy. Just the photo of those three standing together was such a moment of pride for many.  And to top it all, the $3.7 million winner’s check was given to Sloane by a black female from JP Morgan. At one point, all four were standing there together and I just wanted to cry while also relishing the moment. Trees fell but it was a beautiful thing this time.

Now speaking of the twin trees that fell on September 11th, 2001, I have a rather different view about the commemoration of the 9-11 attacks each year. I wish we would have less drama surrounding them. That’s probably not a popular view. I know that nearly 4,000 people died and I am not trying to dishonor their lives or their families by saying this. Rather than the tens of millions that was spent on the ground zero concrete memorials, I wish we could have planted a tree or a farm or built a house or many houses. I wish that we could have done something in their honor that benefits the living. When their lives ended, when those trees fell, we had a chance to emerge as a country intent on using them as an example to make life better for someone else. That’s my view in general for concrete monuments, I just don’t think it’s the best way to spend millions or thousands of dollars to honor someone. My mother and father taught me to honor people by how you live your life going forward and by what you do for others.

So for me, when trees are falling, I want to pick up an axe and do something with that tree that creates newness. Every time a tree falls, it isn’t necessarily a time to mourn, get about the business of doing. See what the new normal can look like. Make a difference for someone else. Let a seed get planted that will grow into a Sloane Stephens. Grab a shovel next year on 9-11 and volunteer for a community service project instead of watching all the moments of silence and commemorations.

When trees are falling it can be devastating but a new normal will come through when you dig in and honor who you are and what gifts you have. Energy that you may not have realized you had will gush to the surface if you just don’t give up. In Hillary Clinton’s newly published book, she says “slowly … it has gotten better — or at least less terrible.” Sometimes that’s enough.

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