I am a Lion

I am a Lion.  Does that mean, king of the jungle?  Cowardly?  Not quite.

I’ve been a Lion since 2006.

That is, a member of a local Lions club, one of more 1.4 millions people in 46,000+ clubs established and working in 210 countries around the world.  Founded in 1917 by a group of business professionals that were interested giving something back to their communities, the fledgling clubs developed clarity of their mission soon there after.

Helen Keller attended the Lions Clubs convention in 1925 and challenged the members thus, asking them to be her “knights of the blind”, to lend their assistance and leadership to those who cannot help themselves due to disability, and especially those without sight.

For nearly 100 years, Lions have worked on projects designed to prevent blindness, restore eyesight and improve eye health and eye care for hundreds of millions of people worldwide.  But Lions’ efforts have reached far beyond blindness and other health related challenges people face.
Lions are also at the forefront when natural disasters hit. Recent events where Lions made a difference include Hurricane Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan (or Yolanda), and the massive earthquake in Haiti.  Emergency grants flow from Lions Clubs International Foundation headquarters to local Lions clubs in effected areas so that members can more quickly and effectively respond to acute and long-term needs for assistance.

When it comes down to it, it’s all about local folks wanting to make a positive difference in their communities.

The club I belong to have several on-going projects to respond to the needs in our community, responding to those in need. An annual Thanksgiving Food Drive, community outreach to provide eye exams and eyeglasses, Flag Days in local elementary schools, helping kids with disabilities, and sponsoring eye camps in west India via a sister club are channels of altruism our club is involved in.

Then there’s unique situations like the one with a lady I’ll refer to as Totsie.

An 81 year old stroke survivor once over, Totsie is legally blind, and suffering severe hearing loss.  Her modest retirement income wasn’t sufficient to afford hearing aids (which run into the thousands of dollars when new).    Our club learned about her situation via her neighbor/care-giver, whose brother is a Lion in the California central valley (a couple hours’ drive from our area).

The request was two-fold:  they were asking if our club could provide fiscal and organization support to help Totsie get hearing aids.  The members involved knew of a resource via the Lions’ Hearing Foundation  (known as Ear of the Lion) that helped people in Totsie’s situation.

We presented the request to our board, who swiftly approved funding for the hearing aides loaner program offered by the Hearing Foundation.  A few weeks later, she had her exam, and will soon be fitted for refurbished hearing aids that will provide an improved quality of life for a someone in need.

This fundamental good came to pass because one Lion knew another Lion who knew of a program that might help.  And those folks together were able to lend a hand and make someone’s life a little better.  Grass roots effort. Resources brought to bear.  A happy result that exemplifies the motto Lions live by around the world:  Where there is a need, “We Serve.”

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“When Ya Go Away” Speaks to My Soul

The title of this post pretty well says it.
When Ya Go Away” by The Waterboys.  I first heard this song in 1988.  I’ve listened to it maybe a thousand times since then.
Still makes my soul feel a good ache deep down.  I’m only maybe a third Irish, but I feel 100% when this one’s playing.  Simple joy.  Doesn’t cost a thing. Happy to share it with you.
Enjoy.
“Now he’s brought down the rain
And the Indian summer is through
In the morning you’ll be following your trail again
Fair play to youYou ain’t calling me to join you
And I’m spoken for anyway
But I will cry when ye go away
I will cry when ye go awayYour beauty is familiar
And your voice is like a key
That opens up my soul
And torches up a fire inside of meYour coat is made of magic
And around your table angels play
And I will cry when ye go away
I will cry when ye go away

Somebody left his whisky
And the night is very young
I’ve got some to say and more to tell
And the words will soon be spilling from my tongue

I will rave and I will ramble
I’ll do everything but make you stay
Then I will cry when ye go away
I will cry when ye go away

When ye go away…
When ye go away…”

Songwriters: SCOTT, MICHAEL/LENNON, CHARLES OLIVER
When Ye Go Away lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

A New Day and Old Shoes

 

This morning it was raining when I got up.  It only sort of drizzled when I was out with the dogs and when I was getting ready. I decided all the same it would be best to pull out a pair of old, waterproof shoes for the day.

When I slipped me feet into the sand-brown Timberlands they were stiff and uncomfortable from non-use.  I figured they’d get better as the day wore on. I trogged out the door into the pre-dawn darkness and into the day.

As the morning progressed the shoes slowly got more comfortable.  Seemed I just needed to give the leather a chance to warm up and break back in. By shifting my weight and loosening the grip of my toes through the morning, the near 20 year old shoes were good by lunch.

It was about that time I thought the shoes were a good metaphor for each new day.

We need to give ourselves time, getting warmed up.  As time progresses, things will likely get better. The key is not to expect immediate comfort, success, things to be exactly as we’d like them in the first part of our day.

Yep, that’s pretty sound advice. Have a reasonable expectation for old shoes, and each new day. Things’ll likely get better as they get warmed up. Might even turn out to be pretty comfortable, pretty GOOD.

 

In the Face of the Dragon, No Fear

Dragon-Roar

Kids are particularly good at using their imagination. It’s that way during play time when they conjure up any number of things that enhance their pretend world.  That’s also the case when they’re afraid, imagining the monster in the closet or under the bed is about to pounce and eat them.

For adults, imagination is also a good way to make things that are conceptual and opaque a little more concrete.  I’ve found that coming up with images in my head helps me to face difficulty, obstacles, my own monsters in the closet.  Once I overcome the desire to be passive, to avoid, to procrastinate,  I can look at the situation or problem square away and move forward.

I’ve already started to try to shape my four year old’s imagination for good.

The idea is that she can learn to control her thoughts and steer them in the right direction.  For now we’ve been focusing on the idea of a “thought box”, a little imaginary box that I tell her is in her head.  I tell her she has the power to push Bad Thoughts out (especially when she’s trying to go to sleep at night).

We practice telling the Bad Thoughts, “No Thank You. You can leave now. Please go.”  I tell her to keep that up as often as needed, as she tries to go to sleep at night.

When my world gets crazy with turbulence and things that are out of my control, I also use my imagination to deal with the Bad Thoughts.  In my case though, it’s most often not pushing those thoughts out of my Thought Box, but rather facing The Dragon of Despair, Procrastination and Inaction. Facing the challenge and taking positive actions.

Rather than allowing The Dragon to paralyze me, I look him squarely in the eye and say, “Whatever you have for me, I will persevere over you, you will not destroy me.”

I say “No Fear”, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have fear.  It means I try really hard not to let it control me or stop me.  I strive to overcome that anxiety, that indecision, that fear of negative outcome, and do the best I can.

It’s a process really.  First we learn to control the bad thoughts in our Thought Box.  As we get older, we (hopefully) learn to overcome our fear of all the things the Outside World throws at us. We face the dragon, and we move forward anyway.

Compromise is Like Sharing: Ya Gotta Do It

In the end, it’s all about compromise.  Most all of us rely on others for portions (at least) of our well-being and happiness. It follows then that compromise is necessary for all sides to be satisfied with the arrangements.

At home we count on our partner to get things done and they rely on us to do the same. Inevitably there are things that come up that we might not immediately have the same take on. That is the moment when compromise is helpful.

At work, there are frequently times when we’re working with co-workers and relying on them to complete assigned tasks to reach a common goal. Seldom do things go as planned, and compromise is helpful here as well.

Another way of thinking about compromise is “sharing”: that critical trait we’re taught as children to get along on the playground with others.  As Jack Johnson sings, “It’s always more fun, to share, with every one.”

She does the shopping, he does the dishes. He does the laundry, she folds.

You finish the content of the proposal, your co-worker proof-reads the text. Your customer agrees to favorable payment terms, you give a discount.

You let your friend go on the swing first, she lets you on the Monkey Bars ahead of her during the afternoon recess.

Compromise is like sharing for grown-ups. And it’s GOOD.

Grit: What it Gets You

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Listening to the radio on the way to work recently, they were doing a piece on “true grit”, defined for the discussion as Persistence, Determination and Resilience — and a rise of said attitude in the context of education.  Really though, it’s applicable across environments.

They had me at the introduction when they mentioned John Wayne’s film by the same name, “True Grit”, about a teenage girl who partner’s with Wayne’s character to find her father’s killer in the old west.  Great movie, great theme.  

The more I think about it, “grit” is one of those qualities I want to do everything possible to instill in my kids. To do so, I need to model that attitude for them at every opportunity.  it’s a trait that will serve them well throughout their lives.

What makes this trait an iron quality for life is that is not just for survival, but for happiness throughout our lives that we do well to be steeled against the inevitable adversities that life will deal us.

Webster’s New World Dictionary (1971) defines grit as “stubborn courage; pluck.”  These traits really get at the heart of what fuels the persistence, determination and resilience mentioned above as additional defining terms.  All these together describe a trait all of us would do well to identify and cultivate in ourselves as we go through life.  And the sooner the better.

After all, having determination, long-term fortitude, and the ability to bounce back from failures cause by our own doing or circumstances beyond our control are fundamental to successful…well…living!  

Consider educational situations when we’re students trying to memorize multiplication tables, or learning how to play the piano, or stepping on the soccer pitch or baseball diamond to practice — and there are countless other examples — where if we have the traits mentioned above, if we have grit, we’ll persevere through difficulties to improve, and maybe even succeed at our goal.  

Without that trait, without grit, we run the risk of mounting frustration, disappointment, and even diminished self-esteem as we struggle at any given task or objective.  And of course, when we enter the workforce as adults, having the grit to find a job, learn skills, seek promotion, develop professionally, makes ALL the difference.  

With the turbo-pace of work, how often people change jobs (either by choice or necessity),  the number of workers that are “1099” (contractors) versus “W-2” (full time employees with benefits), versus “laid-off and looking”, it’s clear that grit can help you cope with the stress and anxiety that comes from the uncertainty of today’s work environment.

Grit also is critical to parenting.  Being a father or mother is a 24 hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, 365 days-a-year job.  Whether you’re feeling a 100%, or under-the-weather, or somewhere in between, your kid(s) need you. You’re the role model, you’re the source of support and direction and consistency. It’s up to you to come through for them.  Sometimes you have to dig extra deep, but that’s the job.  And it’s worth it.

It starts early, developing the life skills to be resilient, focused, and just plain not-willing-to-give-up.  Whether it’s learning to tie your shoes, graduating from high school, finishing an advanced degree in night school while working full time, or parenting when you’re feeling crappy, grit will help you be successful, and ultimately, a happier person.

Sometimes Revisiting is GOOD

Before I started blogging via WordPress, I used Blogger.  That site came to mind today and I thought to look and see what posts I’d left there.

There were some pieces I really liked, and some I’d left as drafts.  It follows then, time to bring some of those over to Half Full, All Good on this platform.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed finding them once again.

Feel the GOOD, Share the GOOD

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[Copyright, Charles Schultz]

One of my work buddies was jokingly talking the other day about getting a life coach, rather than a therapist, to help him with his problems.  I told him immediately that he didn’t need to look any further than my desk.  I’d be happy to help him “pro bono”. I was half-kidding of course, but that also means I was sorta half-serious.

When I’m at my best, I consider myself an amateur counselor (read: therapist/life coach).  I love that sort of dialogue and approach to life’s problems.   I have several friends who are therapists (and one that I know of who’s title is actually “Life Coach”), and have always related closely to their calling and training, their perspectives and solutions.  [Full disclosure, I’ve also gone through periods of clinical therapy at different times in my life.]

I would never represent that I have the certifications or experiences that a professional therapist has.  On the other hand, I do think I have some of the skills.  I also like listening to people’s stories, sharing my own perspectives, and providing an emotional boost if I can.

That’s really my basic modus operandi:  Finding the perspective in any situation, especially when it’s a negative one, where there is a glimmer, a little sliver of hope, of upside, of lesson that can be learned, of little light to stay fixed on to get through the darkness.  I do that when I’m faced with difficulty.

There are times too when I’m feeling particularly good about something (or things, if I’m lucky), and want to share that insight unsolicited, thinking it might just resonate for someone else.

My advice today?  When you find yourself in In that upbeat groove, when you’re feeling quiet confidence, a bit more assured and positive than usual, savor it.  Then share it.  I just did.

Inspiration Everywhere: Morning Radio, Chopin, & My Piano

FChopin by Eugène_Ferdinand_Victor_Delacroix_043

My preferred medium for much of my content consumption is the good ol’ fashion car radio.

I spend and an hour+ every workday commuting to and from the office, so the variety the radio offers suits me fine.  I try to balance between getting caught up on the news of the day, and also getting my head in the proper frame of mind with good music.  Two of my favorite stations are KDFC (104.9fm), for classical music and KQED (88.5fm), for NPR.

Today I started with KDFC playing softly in the background as I drove the kids to daycare. After dropping them off, I turned it up a little louder and paid closer attention.  As I drove down the freeway, they played several pieces, including one by Chopin (Variations on a Theme by Rossini). 

By the time I got to the office I was thinking, “I need to learn more about Frederic Chopin.” I’ve known his name for a long time, but not much else.

During our morning break at work, I did a little digging and learned, among other things, that Chopin died at a young age (39).  Additionally, I discovered he composed much of his work by the time he was 20! Certainly a child prodigy, as they say. Chopin is also known more for his compositions for solo piano than for orchestral work.

As I was reading about Chopin I also came a book review that was interesting.  It was in the New York Times, a piece by Robert Winter. The review was about celebrities trying to learn musical instruments (of all things) and in particular, the piano.  In the review Winter wrote:

“During Chopin’s lifetime the piano rose to talismanic status in Europe (and eventually America), a position it maintained until the advent of the phonograph. Something talismanic still remains about playing the piano.

Show up at a reception and tell the first person who asks after your profession that you are a pianist, and a spark inevitably flickers across their eyes, perhaps punctuated by “Oh wow!”

This is frequently followed by a confession that at one time the questioner also took lessons, climaxing in genuine if momentary regret at letting them slide.”

From there I got to thinking about the piano we have in our dining room (I know, strange place; but then, it’s the only place it fits at the moment!).  Like many kids, I took piano lessons when I was in grade school. Also like many kids, I wasn’t too enamored by the mandatory practice aspect and abandon the training early on.  I even tried again a few years later, as an adolescent. I fell short a second time.

Then it dawned on me.  No wonder I still have my mother’s piano in the house.  There’s still hope.   Maybe I’ll try lessons one more time, someday.    I certainly know where to find the inspiration.

The Politics of the Day: An Invitation & Judgement Gone Awry

This week Benjamin Netanyahu, the current prime minister of Israel, delivered a speech to a joint session of the United States Congress.  His topic?  A stark warning with respect to Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear program, and the current American administration’s diplomatic initiatives to come to some agreement with Iran about the same.

How did this come about? After all, there are currently high-level, diplomatic meetings led by the US being held in Geneva with Iranian envoys regarding Iran’s nuclear program.  And at the same time, Mr. Netanyahu, a most outspoken critic of Iran and current U.S. lead efforts at peace therein, was speaking before Congress?

There’s a simple enough answer:   American domestic politics have gotten in the way.  How? Speaker of the House John Boehner and his colleagues in the Republican leadership invited ol’ Bibi in January to address the joint session of Congress.

An ill-timed address, to say the least, from a diplomatic standpoint.  What’s more frustrating however, is the blatant manner in which this event hangs the dirty laundry of America’s current state of domestic politics further out on the line.  The string of dirty clothes practically stretches from sea to shining sea about now.

Giving Bibi that stage is blatant politicking for attempted political gain by the Republican leadership.  The decision also shows no regard for Israeli domestic politics and their democratic process.  Netanyahu’s government is being challenged in elections later this month.

What about the other voices within Israel? What about other leaders who have a vision of Israel that no doubt wants to see it continue to flourish, but with a different approach, both within its borders and beyond?   Isaac Herzog might be part of that equation.  We’ll find out soon enough once the Israeli elections are concluded.

Really though, it’s not a simple calculus of who’s in power in the Knesset, and it’s not about our negotiations with Iran (or any other Israeli adversary, for that matter).  It’s about how our elected officials govern (or don’t), and how the two parties put their politicking above their shared duty to serve the American people.

It’s really nothing new.  If we looked back in not so distant history, I’m sure there were plenty of times when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and Ronald Reagan was in the White House, when similar tactics were employed to undermine the other side.  And of course, as is the case now, no one would cop to the underlying motivation.

The bottom line?  Netanyahu’s topic had to do with global affairs, geopolitics in a region 8,000 miles away from American shores. While an important issue no doubt, disagreement on American foreign policy does not trump the need for cooperation, collaboration, and leadership from all of our elected representatives in this country.

Bickering and politicking are part and parcel of a democracy.  I get that. I believe that.  But when it comes to our country’s foreign policies, its doctrine, its approach around the world, we need to have one voice.

Netanyahu’s address to Congress at Boehner’s invitation, which Obama and company boycotted on the basis of both the coming elections in Israel (and current Geneva negotiations) is another sad example of the divide that typifies the current state of American politics.

Will history judge that the United States was steadfast in support for its long-time friend, Israel, or behind the curve vis-a-vis the fast-changing, dynamic, complex set of countries in the region beyond Israel’s borders?  Time will tell.

Here at home, the silent majority in the middle needs to get loud and demand our elected officials do the job they were hired to do.  Enough politicking, it’s time to lead.