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Monday, October 27, 2014

A Time to Every Purpose

So, it’s 4:30AM and here I am, writing this blog post.  For nearly a week, I have been trying to put pieces together into something coherent and meaningful.  But the words will not behave.
It’s not writer’s block, exactly.  Do I write about the joy of libraries?  About my favorite childhood authors?  About the need for more female protagonists in children’s books?  Or do I write about my idiosyncratic appraisal clients, such as the one who left a bag of figs dangling from my mailbox just yesterday?  Do I “cheat” and fall back on a piece about my bad “car karma,” including Migo’s first ride in a tow truck last week?  I have plenty of material.  My little notebook is full of paragraphs going in a variety of directions. 

Which is, perhaps, a reflection of the rest of my life. Since I have come home (and been blessed to realize that Cape May is home), my life has been exuberantly full.  I have a pleasantly nagging backlog of appraisal work.  When I can’t DIY in This Old House, I have been trying to corral the “Cape Maybe” contractors that gave Carol the title for her second novel.  Then, time for line dancing class, fitness class, even Migo’s obedience class.  Time to catch up with friends.  Time to feed my “Amazon Prime” addiction.  I have been giving my life 16 to 18 hour days, and I have no trouble falling asleep!
And I still write every day.  Journal, Facebook, garrulous texts…in addition to appraisal reports and my notebook musings.  I notice that my voice is starting to change, and I wonder where that will take me.

Because my return to "Kansas" has also made me keenly aware of time. I see the winter months not too far ahead of me, both literally and figuratively, and realize I may be moving much more slowly then.   I am still a bit scattered, getting it all back together, but I do have direction. 

So, when I awoke and embraced this morning’s gift of time, I found myself thinking of The Byrds’ “Turn, Turn, Turn.”   

I believe the pieces will come together in their good time.

Friday, October 17, 2014

When Small Acts of Kindness are HUGE

by Carol Fragale Brill
A couple of blogs ago, I wrote about my worry that chemo treatments and losing my hair might make me look sick or unable. I imagined people would gawk at my scarf-wrapped head—or worse, dart their eyes away from me, rendering me invisible. 
Like so often when I wring my hands and project about the future, those worries were a waste of energy and time—teaching me once again that worry is like making loan payments before you get the loan. 
Repeatedly, the small gestures of others have reminded me how the littlest ripple of kindness can grow into a wave. Like the first time I wrapped my head in a “dress-up” scarf and self-consciously ventured out to an upscale restaurant for dinner with Jim. The waiter gushed about how attractive he found “my very stylish scarf.” A seemingly little gesture—for me and my self-esteem, it was absolutely huge.
I can’t tell you how often strangers—mostly women but also a good number of men—go out of their way to make eye contact with me, hold my gaze, and smile in a way that telegraphs encouragement and support.
My favorite example of a stranger’s small act of kindness might be the woman who came up to me in the grocery store, gestured discreetly at my head-wrap and said, “I had that same hairstyle three years ago.” She winked and added, “Don’t worry, it really does grow back.” 
Even more encouraging than her headful of hair was her healthy appearance—living proof that you can kick cancer’s butt.
The concept of small acts of kindness might sound cliché. For me, these little ripples from strangers help normalize a time that often feels anything but normal. And, far from making me feel invisible, they validate my experience and boost my self-esteem.
So what small acts of kindness has someone showed to you? And, what can you do today to start a ripple that churns up a kindness wave?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Would You Cast Your Fate to a Coin Toss?

by Chris Brady

360 words  

Carol’ Brill's recent “Bald is Beautiful” post about losing her hair during cancer treatment is a pretty hard act to follow. My life is on cruise control compared to what she is going through right now. Her decision to quit hiding her baldness, to let people see the face of cancer, was a courageous step away from the safe and familiar.  

I thought about her choice as I listened to an audio book, Think like a Freak, by the Freakonomics collaborators Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. If you don’t know these authors, they are an economist and journalist who study human behavior and package their findings in amusing and easy to read books, blogs and podcasts. Their research frequently  overturns conventional wisdom and has practical applications in our lives.

The Freakonomics authors wanted to help people who were stuck in neutral to make some big life decisions. They asked them to accept the fate of a coin toss. More than 30,000 people participated in the toss and the follow up surveys.  

How did it turn out for people who accepted the coin toss result? 

Pretty good for the large majority. There are probably explanations for that outcome. After all, once we choose a path we do our best to make our choice a success. But sometimes just making the choice is the hardest part, isn't it?

I liked the idea of trying my big question on a coin flip. I asked if I should retire early. It's a difficult choice as I love what I do and appreciate the financial security I'm building. (Women in my family live a long time.) 

But I see how carefree and happy people off the work grid are too and I wonder what great experiences await me as I accept the golden handcuffs of employment.

So I flipped and I have my answer, which I am keeping to myself for a while as I process it.  I took the best two out of three options. I'm feeling good about it too.

What's your burning question?  Would you toss a coin to help you to decide?