I love my aunts

Have to wake the darlings in a minute or two, but wanted to dash this off.. Aunts are the best. They love you unconditionally.

I just finished reading this blog about Aunt Ba and pancakes, how Molly’s aunt told her stories of fairies and made her pancakes every Wednesday. Delicious writing at:  http://mollyandtheprincess.com/

Another great read — Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, where Francie Nolan talks about her aunts. Smith writes:

“Mama came home at six with Aunt Sissy. Francie was very glad to see Aunt Sissy. She was her favorite aunt. Francie loved her and was fascinated by her life. She was thirty-five now, had been married three times, and had given birth to ten children, all of whom had died…”

Betty Smith is as wonderful and loving at creating amazing characters and locales as Dylan Thomas or James Joyce.

Aunt Kathy is far right, gazing off.

My aunts too are characters. So are my kids’ great aunts, aunts and cousins. They can be quirky and eccentric, always smart. I love that Chris’s cousin, known as Aunt Betsy, tells my kids stories about Johnny Jump-Up, the gnome who lives in the Big House basement. I love that my Aunt Kathy has a dolphin collection that the kids can touch. The aunts, especially Aunt Kathy and Aunt Betsy, talk to me and the kids like our opinions really matter. Like they want to know what we think.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, the 100th anniversary. This morning at work, I am co-leading a worship service to remind people of the women who make history, in big ways and small ways. We are going to celebrate the women whom we work with and live with every day. Our everyday heroes? They are my aunts. (And my kids’ aunts.)

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Cross Country Skiing and Listening

When I started out cross country skiing today, I was totally listening to the world from a level 1. “I can’t do this. I’m cold.”   

In my workplace Leadership Academy, I learned there are three levels of listening:

  1. Listening to yourself  (at times, self consciously)
  2. Listening  to one other person (intently)
  3. Listening  to the room (the vibe)

After about 20 minutes of skiing, I found my rhythm. I may not have been elegant, but I was competent. And I could see the trees and the snow and the mountains.

After looking around, I began listening around. I was at level 3 — the greater room, the bigger world. Nature was my room, and the vibe was quiet.

There is a time when doing outdoor sports — or maybe any sports — when it is no longer possible to remain self-centered. Okay, yes, I can run with headphones on and stay in my head. But, at some point, I will be aware of a larger world around me. If I take the buds out of my ears, I can hear the sound of my feet hitting the sidewalk, a bird calling, or a dog barking.

Out in the snow today, the sounds were muffled and quiet. Occasionally a tree creaked as if in pain. There was nothing really much in the world to hear. Yet I was alive to the sounds and to the day. I forgot I was cold. I transcended myself.

Family Screen Time

Sometimes I like staring at a screen with my kids, instead of staring at our own individual screens. Tonite the darlings and I played wii. We were yelling at the screen instead of each other. I played horribly in every single wii game, especially wii Fishing and wii Ping Pong. The kids enjoyed how bad I was. They bonded over my ineptitude. That was nice that they bonded.

We were all fairly exhausted. One of my daughters had been to the Met, the other to the Natural History, my son to the basketball court and me? I played games with my colleagues in the 3rd floor conference room at the Leadership Academy. Yes, the workplace academy was a big success. As I’ve mentioned, I love this kind of thing — a chance to deepen friendships, share positive ideas, strategize, commit to change, help other people become leaders. What’s not to love! 

One highlight for our group was learning about and applying the three levels of listening.

1) Listen to yourself. Your thoughts, feelings. (And yes, insecurity lives here.)

2) Listen to the other. With focus, as if to a lover.

3) Listen to the global environment. The vibe.

It made sense. Often I’m stuck in a personal, reflective space when there is a bigger mood I could be aware of.

I would pay (and I have paid) to experience this kind of personal growth — to learn how better I can understand and use my gifts. Instead, I get paid to learn. I love that my job involves so much learning — about myself, about the other, and about the global environment.

Okay, so given that I am competitive and I have to face the reality that I may never beat the darlings at any wii games, I can console myself that I am good at other types of games. Like the game of personal growth. I am curious about the world and what makes other people tick. I love encouraging others. I hope to continue to share this openness and positivity and teach my kids to value learning and their own unique skills.

I hope that the kids and I do not lose ourselves in screens, but if we do, at times, I hope that we can always stop our individual games and learn to play together. Even if we are not gifted with the necessary hand-eye coordination.

When work becomes play — be it the work of parenting or paid work — it really rocks.