Posts Tagged ‘home’

“The house does not rest upon the ground, but upon a woman.” ~ Mexican Proverb

I read this and had to chuckle as it is either a statement of profound wisdom or a proclamation made by the Mexican Ambassador to the Lollipop Guild upon seeing the legs and red shoes of the Wicked Witch of the East. Seriously, though, I do feel that women play an important role in the development of nest of home and the heart of any successful business.

Sitting by the fire yesterday evening after having put my sons to bed I found myself reminiscing about the days of my youth. I recalled the great challenge faced by young women my age in high school, namely, that it wasn’t “cool” to get good grades or to appear too smart. How tragic! I don’t know if that paradigm persists, but it certainly placed an artificial limitation on what could have been achieved in school by many who subscribed to that policy.

I am equally thankful for the men and women in my life. Father and mother. Aunts and uncles. Girlfriends and guy friends. All of them made important contributions to the rich nest of home that served as an introduction to me of love and truth.

That said, there were and are certain women I have and continue to be privileged to know. My mother. My childhood girlfriends. My teachers, counselors and professors. Co-workers. My mother-in-law. My wife. Truly phenomenal women. Dedicated. Passionate. Intelligent. Beautiful. Diligent. Devoted. Fearless.

If you haven’t had a chance to read Maya Angelou‘s rhythmic verse describing women, you’re in for a real treat.

Phenomenal Woman, by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I would love to hear from you as to what makes a woman a phenomenal woman in your eyes!


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“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” ~ Maya Angelou

My father is a man of quiet courage. I’ve always admired his graciousness and desire to help others, his love of family and passion for life and I wish that every son could have a father as consistent and supportive as he is.

I watched him sit quietly yesterday evening with his granddaughter nestled in his arms and the look in her young eyes said nothing short of: “I have found heaven on earth.” The hushed and tranquil scene gave evidence of a certain quality of peace that emanates from one who is courageous, a peace that both soothes and inspires.

Fatherhood is a bountiful privilege coupled with a sacred responsibility. In my opinion there ought to be specifically designed classes that prepare young men for fatherhood – lessons to ensure that a young man is good and ready to take on the job. The fact that home economics has been dropped from most public and private school curricula is to me a tragic omission that leads to unprepared parents with unrealistic expectations.

Several topics should be covered in such a course:

  • Budgeting
  • What you need in your toolkit
  • Typical home repairs
  • The importance of play
  • How to read to children
  • Encompassing without smothering
  • Protecting without hovering
  • Meal time etiquette
  • Handling pressure
  • Setting routines that change over time
  • Growing with your child

I could go on! Those topics are just a few that stood out to me relative to my childhood and I know that a little thinking on this matter could go a long way to change the world we share over time.

Many people are needlessly and terribly handicapped by their childhoods. They wobble into their adult years with blind spots, flat spots in their skill sets and holes in their character. It’s no wonder the world is the way it is when you stop to think about it. We’re not preparing people correctly. We’re missing the important things in the mad search for knowledge and facts.

I cannot thank my parents enough for the solid foundation they gave me in my childhood and I hope that each one of you, dear readers, has at least one or two things that you truly appreciate about what was provided for you during your formative years.

If so, please share!

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One of the most valuable lessons I learned as an adolescent was to take care of what needed to be done before I undertook what I wanted to do. Sometimes the two coincided but more often than not something I wanted to do had to wait.

The ability to prioritize in this way requires a level of maturity that extends only slightly beyond that of the common teenager. While children and early teens are rightly self-centered, the failure to launch into adulthood is caused more often than not by the young adult refusing to let his or her world grow to the point that it includes others. This refusal may be caused by insecurities, insufficiently cured character or an improperly managed balance between responsibility and privilege during the child’s upbringing.

Learning to care for others beyond oneself is an important step in the process of maturation. The cultivation of that care can be primed by learning to take care of personal possessions or perhaps animals, but ultimately the individual has to come to the point in his or herself that he puts the needs of others ahead of his own, when the situation warrants it (which incidentally is most of the time).

Strangely enough, as soon as you do put the needs of others ahead of your own you find that others help to fill your needs. There is a natural quid pro quo that works out most of the time (you win some and you lose some) and the net result is that many more needs are met all around than could have been had everyone been acting selfishly.

Should you fail along the way, don’t crumble, beat yourself up or hide from the embarrassment. Instead, redouble your efforts by channeling the terrible feeling you have into making sure that you handle the next situation rightly. This fact alone would save a great many people from spinning their wheels in the mud of self-deception, rationalization and denial. Remember, you’re not fooling anyone when you indulge in self-deprecation. It’s a trick that everyone knows and that most can see right through.

If you have to play catchup, don’t despair. Progress comes quickly to those who truly apply themselves. If you are feeling pressed to do something for yourself, take a quick scan of your world to make sure that there are not more pressing needs. It is easy to lose perspective and this can be an important time to check yourself.

When your priorities are in balance you’ll find that there is plenty of time to take care of your personal concerns.

“Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and importance, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction.” ~ Margaret Thatcher

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Have you ever noticed how easily children make friends? I’m always impressed by their untempered ability to walk up to another child and say “I’m Jack, do you want to play?” Young children are especially facile in this regard, perhaps because they have yet to develop complexes, self-image issues, prejudices and bad habits.

I have yet to meet a four year old who questions the motives of another the minute he meets someone. Neither have I seen a five year old shun another for his looks or social standing. The relative lack of judgment is refreshing and while I do agree that a well-developed capacity for discernment is valuable, the judgmental attitudes that most adults take toward one another is tragic and unnecessary.

Were people to mature completely, there would be no judgment. Judgment, and the condemnatory attitudes that accompany it, is employed by those who have yet to grow into the noble and magnanimous shoes given to every human being at birth. A refined, empathetic, self-assured and humble bearing is the birthright of each one, yet few on earth are given the nourishment, respect, challenges and guidance required to arrive at the point where their inner greatness is fully revealed.

Mankind has created a world for itself that essentially makes it so that no one is born into a perfect set of circumstances. That said, no one should accept the fact that they have a valid excuse for not revealing the highest and finest of which they are capable in any and every situation.

Part of the reason why children are so effective at making friends is because they have not yet begun the process of cataloging the reasons why they can’t do their best, why they can’t approach life and others with a pure and uncomplicated heart and why they feel justified in retiring from life rather than embracing it. No matter where you are now, it is important to remember that you were there once.

Your childhood may have been shorter than that of others, but there is no reason why you cannot let go of that which separates you from your birthright and let go to a less cluttered expression of who you are underneath the scars, bumps and bruises you’ve accumulated over your lifetime, here and now.

Making friends can be easy again. True friendships are not formed on the basis of commiseration. They are formed on the basis of a mutual appreciation for one another and for the opportunity to “play,” that is, to engage in a shared process of imagination, enjoyment and doing. Life really can and should be that easy!

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In giving advice, seek to help, not please, your friend. ~ Solon

Some of the hardest things I’ve had to hear about myself came clothed as advice. Advice, pointers, tips and hints stream from every direction on a regular basis, if you are listening. Delivered by the mouths and pens of both friends and strangers, advice also comes in the form of feedback given by your circumstances.

On the other hand, I am regularly asked by friends, family and business associates for my thoughts and counsel. I’ve found over the years that the most effective way to give advice is to follow two simple rules: (1) don’t limit yourself to giving only happy, warm, fuzzy advice and (2) be strategic in your delivery. If you look to package the advice you give in a way that it is most likely to be received, even the toughest words of wisdom have a chance of landing.

One alarming trend with parents today – likely in reaction to the long swing toward laissez-faire parenting over the last decade – is the phenomenon called helicopter parenting. Such parents hover over and snuff out any flame of self-actualization in their children by over-parenting, over-advising and over-controlling.

Edna St. Vincent Millay once quipped “I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes.” Children, like adults, must be given room to make mistakes, for experiential learning is one of the greatest and most penetrating forms of instruction.

To be an effective at receiving advice you must possess sufficient humility to overcome the embarrassment and shame of having been moving in the wrong direction. Far too many people over the years have refused to take advice and cut their losses out of “pride.” Is it really pride or just a lack of humility?

Life, even in these fortunate days where we live well into our 80s and beyond, is too short to spend in ignorance. Good advice can save you minutes, hours or even years when heard and heeded. You must be discerning when it comes to deciding which advice to follow, but you must also take great care not to let yourself off on a technicality.

Allow me to explain. I’ve seen buckets of good advice thrown by the wayside because the intended recipient took offense to how it was delivered. Perhaps the messenger had a bad hair day, was careless or insensitive or pushy when delivering the advice, but truly humble is the man, woman or child who can see past the delivery method or style, recognize the good advice at the heart of the message and make the change.

When it comes to advice, it is best to receive it and give it with humility and equanimity. Eternal progress is at your fingertips!

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There is nothing more humbling than raising a child. Children are both a reflection of you – your values, your expectations, your worldview – and a fountain of self-expression. They offer constant reminders of the need to refine your own capacity of self-expression while challenging you to grow and develop as they do.

I had the privilege the day before yesterday of attending my son’s first kindergarten parent-teacher conference. Not sure what to expect, I went in expecting a report card on two fronts. I was eager to see how well our child was living up to our expectations and to see how our expectations stood in relation to other parents in my son’s class.

His teacher gave a glowing report, offered suggestions relative to areas in which he could improve and suggested that we keep doing what we’re doing. I feel blessed to be raising a young man who loves challenges, who is inherently obedient and who has a wanderlust matched only by his enjoyment of new experiences.

Raising children is no easy task. They require constant nourishment and consistent love. They need boundaries that move out as they grow and privileges that remain dynamically linked to the responsibilities they carry. All of this while you go about living your adult life in the background!

As a parent you do the best that you can to provide what they need while in the nest of home. You must be careful not to over-protect or spoil them and you must work assiduously to develop a fundamental element of character called “obedience.” Obedience to me is not a mindless following, rather, it is an actively conscious state made possible by trust, respect and the regardful willingness to follow righteous leadership.

Obedience is not an end, but a means to an end. Obedience sets the stage for agreement and original self-expression, for you must learn to follow before you can learn to lead. Disobedience, on the other hand, is more often than not at the core of the failure to launch into adulthood.

Obedience is fostered whenever reasonable boundaries are carefully and respectfully enforced. Whenever arbitrary or unnecessary force is used to induce a state of obedience, the result is typically compliance, which looks like, but is nothing like, obedience. Children who simply comply submit to authority unwillingly while children who obey in the sense I am hoping to convey give themselves to authority lovingly and out of respect.

Inconsistent parenting is one of the primary causes of disobedience. If you set a boundary, respect the boundary yourself. Don’t hem and haw when the children wear you down. Don’t disrespect the rules out of a concern to quiet the children or to “buy” their love.

Children often try to play the father against the mother…don’t fall for it. Spousal agreement matters. If you are a single parent, you won’t have that problem, but they will find ways to play one aspect of your personality against the other. Either way, you have to stay on your toes.

Child-rearing is not an easy task and I wish that our schools could find a means of better preparing children for future parenting responsibilities. Book smarts have little to do with effective parenting and ACT  and SAT scores are no indicator of parental preparedness.

At the end of the day each parent must do what is right in his or her own eyes and heart. While I highly doubt that humanity will ever come to an agreement about the details of what that means, I do feel there are a number of qualities of character that can be considered universal.

More on that later.


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I was first introduced to Italian gelato while traveling around Europe on a Eurail pass many years ago. My friends and I were having a difficult time finding lodging in Florence as we had arrived unknowingly on an extremely popular Italian holiday, All Saint’s Day. As we walked along the River Arno, admiring the stunning architecture of the city, I read a poem written by Longfellow that captured the essence of this magnificent place:

The Old Bridge at Florence

Taddeo Gaddi built me. I am old,
Five centuries old. I plant my foot of stone
Upon the Arno, as St. Michael’s own
Was planted on the dragon. fold by fold
Beneath me as it struggles. I behold
Its glistening scales. Twice it hath overthrown
My kindred and companions. Me alone
It moveth not, but is by me controlled.
I can remember when the Medici
Were driven from Florence; longer still ago
The final wars of Ghibelline and Guelf.
Florence adorns me with her jewelry;
And when I think that Michael Angelo
Hath leaned on me, I glory in myself.

We turned up the Via de’ Benci, turned left at the Piazza San Croce and happened upon Vivoli gelateria. I tried several different flavors and I can assure you that it was love at first bite. Having grown up eating ice cream, I never knew what I was missing.

All of this came to mind as I was reading an article in the L.A. Times entitled “The Inside Scoop on Making Gelato.” Gelato has less fat than ice cream and is much creamier. If you haven’t tried it before, I recommend that you do so when given the chance.

If there is one thing that constrains to an experience of staleness, it is the unwillingness to try new things. Author Roger von Oech offered the following advice: “Everyone has a ‘risk muscle.’ You keep it in shape by trying new things. If you don’t, it atrophies. Make a point of using it at least once a day.”

Step out of your normal routine, your well-trodden preferences and your predictable habits every now and again. Your taste buds will thank you and more than that, you will live a dynamic and interesting life!

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