Daily Prompt: Daring to Tell Your Truth

Last year when Patrick Kennedy spoke about his family’s alcoholism on 60 Minutes — and his own — it totally inspired me. It made me happy that a man was telling his family truths. That he was seeking to heal by being honest.

Does every family think they are a little bit like the Kennedy family? I think my family is. And by family I mean the family I was born into, the family I married into, and the family I created. All three of these  families share a legacy of intelligence, humor, and service. And yes, a dynasty of not talking about feelings but forging on and accomplishing greatness no matter what.

Every family has their health struggles. How do you handle yours? Do you put on a brave face? Do you speak your truth? This topic often comes up when teaching writing to adults– What if writing my truth hurts someone? Maybe we should ask instead, What if it heals someone? What if the truth does set you free?

And then there is, of course, this advice (from Anne Lamott?) ‘If they didn’t want you to write about them, they should’ve treated you better.’ But some people can’t treat you better because they’re not in treatment.

I thought it was interesting that Patrick said his father Edward Kennedy suffered from PTSD because his two brothers were assassinated.

Talking about your family illness — whether is be Parkinson’s, alcoholism, depression, or cancer — is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength.



via Daily Prompt: Daring



Small Things Make a Big Difference

Little things, like eyelash extensions, make my day.

I’m not ready for Botox or even a night-time moisturizer, but I do like a little something something now and then.

Small acts of kindness — to yourself, to others — make a difference.

And small acts of beauty are good for the soul.

I treated Charlotte to the eyelashes, too, and the technician kept saying, playfully, to my daughter, “You’re so spoiled.”

“It’s true. It’s true. She’s so spoiled. All of my kids are. I blame their parents.”

I’ve been dealing with some family members’ health issues lately. And I am not in the mood to apologize for indulging myself. Although, at times, I do feel I should focus on solely on others and never myself. Yet I work hard for the family. I am the main breadwinner.

If little things, like eyelashes, please you, too, then go for it. The only downside? After a couple of weeks, it begins to feel like a caterpillar is crawling over your eyelids. That’s when I switch back to mascara. Or plan to get myself a mani-pedi or a massage? How do you indulge yourself today?


What Makes You Laugh?

Years ago, I went to this New Age Spa and we did this laughing meditation. We said Ha! Ha! and pretty soon we were all rolling around the yoga studio, laughing hilariously. It was like magic. A little laughter and everyone was laughing.

I don’t know how it works, but laughter is contagious.

The weather is cold today, like 32 degrees. And I’m not in the mood for winter before fall.

So I am going to think of things that make me happy:

  • The Mets vs. Cubs – my two favorite teams (I am going to be happy whoever wins!)
  • My art teachers, especially the smart, crazy Heidi Bound. She always shares her supplies
  • I have always loved this book by David Shannon.
    I have always loved this book by David Shannon.

    Reading books to Kindergartners, especially No, David!

  • My son’s going to visit from college this weekend
  • Chris and I are going to perform in and produce A Christmas Carol as a fundraiser for refugees this Christmas-time
  • I have 60,000 miles I have to use or purchase a flight before January
  • I am going to try and get me and the girls to Cuba
  • My girls

I am part of the #Write31Day challenge. Hundreds of us are encouraging each other to write every day of October. I chose the theme of mindfulness. And it’s not easy. And I’m not always feeling mindful. But I’m doing it. So there’s that. Today’s inspiration was:


Loving Kindness

It was time to line up and one kindergartner was pushing another.

“Hey, be loving,” I said.

So he made a kissing mouth to the other boy, “I’m loving. Love. Love Love.” Getting in his face, annoying, now with excessive kindness.

I was going to post about extreme kindness, but then this happened. And I realized sometimes you can go too far in the loving business. An excess of loving can be intrusive.

I forget this. I try to make my children be friends with other children — my friends’ kids or coworkers’ kids. They hate this. I do remember my mother doing this to me too. Any child that was roughly my age — at a church function or the playground — “Why don’t you go play with them?” Did she not realize my own right to choose? My own autonomy? To make my own friends?

Fortunately, I have become someone who can make friends with anyone. I can find common ground with just about any person I meet. I don’t really want to thank my mother for this, but she is the same way.

Maybe I learned it at St. Joan of Arc Kindergarten class. Maybe my teacher told me when I was wiggly, “Hey, be more loving.” I’m trying, God knows, I’m trying.

Such a gorgeous fall day in Riverside Park today.


The kids and I say this to each other, especially when times are tough:

“Is this heaven?”

I learned it from Carlos Anderson’s sermon at Unity.
I love Unity Church, my New Age church. Lately, I feel more spiritual than religious. I am among the 20 percent in the U.S., according to Pew Research, to call myself spiritual, above religious.

My theme today is gratitude.

I am grateful for
– the wonderful grocery stores in my neighborhood
How can cucumbers and blueberries be so delicious and so good for you? Crazy, right?

– Today’s my daughters’ birthday. How lucky we are with these two darlings. Yes, those first years were a handful. And yes, in some ways, they still are. 😉

catherinechar 2

I was at the theater the other day. It was an okay play, Cut Throat, at the Abingdon with my friend Sandy. Her daughter is expecting twins in a couple of weeks. And she doesn’t know their gender — but if they were both girls, “We’d win the lottery.”
Yes, we won the lottery with our twin girls. Not because of their accomplishments, but because of their temperaments, who they are – kind and funny.

Also grateful for

– this apartment
While I am not a home-centric person, I love our space. Enough room to eat together, play cards, watch TV, burrow down in a couch or bed and read the paper.

– my parents
Both still engaged in life, very creative, smart.

– my siblings and their spouses
They are all hard-working. And we love each other so much — if we needed anything, we’d be there for each other.

– my work
I love my colleagues, love the mission, feel a sense of challenge, mastery, meaning.

– my optimism
I have worked with complainers. I have occasionally complained about my situation too; it’s true. But, in general, I love my optimistic disposition. I believe tomorrow will be better than today. And today’s pretty good. (Especially because of the above-mentioned — my girls’ 16th birthday.)

What are you grateful for today?

Rewards of Sharing and Organizing

Some people are splitters and some, lumpers. Some cut wood and some gather wood.

Learning is more fun when it’s experiential and relevant.

School rewards people who can compartmentalize. If you have a diversification of or a variety of interests, it’s harder.

Organizations must become small pieces, loosely joined, as opposed to big entities. Organizations grow (learn) best when agile.

Evolution teaches that a system can heals itself. (So if your organization is not agile, it can learn to be.)

Now that there is a lower cost to content, we’re abundant in resources, content, abilities to share.

Institutions no longer manage scarcity through central control. They manage abundance. We live in a world of abundance.

The cost of collaboration and the cost of communication has gone way down. The entrepreneurs who focus on sharing and agility succeed.

The key to success is on process and empowerment (in organizations) and less on control.

knowledge is power.

I am getting organized. Order is a thing of beauty. These notes are pieces of flotsam that drifted onto my evernote app. I am cleaning out the digital notes on my phone. 

I like to say, “Organization is the key to success.” But I am also empowering others and sharing what I know. I have to redefine success. 

My Irish Relations

I don’t know why I love the Irish. Maybe it’s because I halfway belong to them on my mother’s side.

I snapped this pic from the train to Belfast from Dublin this summer. The countryside is so delicious.
I snapped this pic from the train to Belfast from Dublin this summer. The Irish countryside is so delicious.

But I also belong, halfway, to my father’s Scandinavian side. And the two sides of me are occasionally in conflict. But there is one thing they agree upon. Traveling expands you. My people are a traveling people. My ancestors set sail and did not look back.

In the U.S. most of us are halfway something. And even if we came from this soil, this fertile soil of America, we too, are nomads. Travelers.

So, too, are our relations – the gazelles leaping across the Serengeti or the Monarch butterflies flitting towards Mexico. All of us belong to a branch of the biological family that is on the move.

And we do not necessarily travel fast. Consider the sloth. They are part of our family too. And I don’t want to stretch this metaphor until it snaps back on me, but my husband who has Parkinson’s is a bit on the sloth spectrum. Yet he hangs on to the family tree. And still, he travels. (Heading to Florida for a month and a half to direct a play.)

Still on the go.

The difference between us and our biological family is that when we return from our distant adventures – down the branch of the tree or across the vast plain or swamp or ocean – when we return from our journeys — we tell the tale. We huddle around the campfire, the Sunday dinner, the AA meeting, the bar, the water cooler, the back of the bus. And we regale our friends and family with stories of our successes and failures. We make something out of an ineffable nothing — that place that only resides in our memories — our distant homeland, our Ireland, our watering hole, our home.

And that is why I love to travel. And I believe it comes from both the Irish and the Scandinavian. It is not that I love the journey — the uncertainty of where I’m going. But it is that I love to return and tell the tale.

So today, look up from your computer, glance into the eyes of your officemate, your lover, your daughter, your spouse. Ask:

Where have you been? Where are you going? When you return, will you tell me all about it? And then that place — your place, your story — will live in my memory, as a story, too.

Why Be Mindful?

This October I’m going to blog every single fricken’ day.

I tried this last year and missed a few days. Because my darling Charlotte was in excrutiating pain and we landed in the emergency room with her fibroid cysts for a day. And well, you know, a trip to the ER can ruin a few days.

This year I’m back in the blog game. And my theme is mindfulness. Sure, it’s trendy. What’s wrong with that? I’m trendy. What are you saying? I’m fat? (That’s an inside joke — apropos of nothing, my sister and I like to say that. It’s funny. Trust me. The way we say it. It’s funny, okay?)

In the West Village. Balloons over the steps of Alma Mathews House, a short-term residence for faith-based professionals. The house is being sold. Change is inevitable. Mindfulness reminds us of impermanence. 

Be mindful. Breathe. Notice. Be present. Not so funny? Maybe. But fun, and as previously mentioned, trendy.

Seriously. I came up with this theme when I realized I was just madly cycling through life. Ever feel like you’re just riding your bike in place? Not going anywhere? That’s called spin class. Also, trendy. I like to ride a bike, sure, but I like to go places. I realized at the end of September that I was restless. And I thought I would pursue a month of mindfulness to center myself. Figure out where I am and who I am. And what’s important.

And remind myself to be. here. now.

That’s it. Join me.

Stop a minute to breathe. That’s all.

Flowers for My Friends’ Wedding

I am so happy to be helping two of my friends with their wedding flowers next Saturday.

white flowersThis is the third time I’ve done flowers for a wedding. It is a lot of work and a lot of fun, and only slightly stressful. I never studied floral design, but I think I have a pretty good eye.

Another reason I am super-excited for Bridget and Amanda’s wedding is that this will be my first lesbian wedding. I know. I know. I am a little behind the times. I have many LGBT friends and you might think I’ve been to several. So proud my state honors same-sex unions!

I love love. And I love these two women — colleagues and friends — and super happy to celebrate their union.

Although, to be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of marriage, I am a huge fan of love. And I am a hopeless romantic. (Just because my marriages have been hard doesn’t mean everyone’s have to be!)

My brilliant friend Emily created a beautiful Pinterest board to guide the helpers on the flowers and the wedding vibe. I think this is one of the beauties of Pinterest — as a visual dictionary to inspire and guide.

So, day 5 of my writing challenge to write every day for the month of October, on this Sunday, I celebrate love and marriage and same sex unions! And flowers!

Try Enthusiasm

When I am enthusiastic about a subject I’m teaching, my students are too. If I tell the little ones, “You’re going to like this drama game!” They do. It may be a drama game they’ve played before, like the mirror game. (The mirror game is when you stand across from a partner and mirror their movements. And then your partner mirrors yours.)

When my kids get fresh, I tell them, “Hey, your attitude is contagious. Try enthusiasm.”

We live in a snarky culture. For sure, I can be sarcastic. Because I’m witty. But sarcasm seems the opposite of enthusiasm. Sarcasm stands back in judgment. Enthusiasm jumps all-in, without a care for consequence.

Well, there is the consequence that you may be made fun of. As I am by my children. Regularly. (For my bike, zipcar, business, enthusiasm, whatever.) But then, they’re teens. I think sarcasm’s wired in teens.

I tell my kids, Most people are naturally shy. When you meet someone new, if you’re just a little bit out-going, you put people at ease. Enthusiasm is charismatic, fun and entertaining.

Me at the Climate March. (photo credz Pamela Cooper)
Me at the Climate March. (photo credz Pamela Cooper)

Here’s an enthusiastic picture of me. As you can see, I’m enthusiastic about the whole world.

On a side note, I like to think I came up with the hashtag #yellowpants Whenever I see someone wearing yellow pants, I think to myself “hashtag yellow pants.” I’m enthusiastic about my yellow pants. Because they were one of my last purchases at Loehmann’s. But that’s another story.

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” — Allen Ginsberg via the daily post  

Do you follow Ginsberg’s advice — in your writing and/or in your everyday life?