The Art of…Letting Go

letting_go_by_bandico-d5s1eyh

Over the past few years, I have been actively working on advancing my career. It has been an exciting, and at times, frightening process. Moving forward forces one to embrace the good, the bad and the ugly. However it is always good to take a hard look at yourself and learn more about what makes you tick.

Another effect of self-discovery is letting go – letting go of ideas, emotions, perceptions and sometimes even people. Letting go should never be viewed as a negative exercise. Pruning trees is a great example of letting go – cutting branches back controls growth and removes dead and diseased areas that would normally hinder growth. As much as we might want longer hair, my fellow hair caretakers understand that an occasional clipping of the ends will actually stimulate hair growth. Similarly, exfoliating the skin sloughs off dull and dead skin cells, exposing the growing layer of healthy skin underneath.

All these examples lead to a similar conclusion – letting go is good. Getting rid of anything that is toxic and unhealthy not only takes away the bad, but more importantly, makes way for the healthy, growing and good things to rise to the surface and flourish.

What do YOU need to let go of?

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The Art of…The Little Things

I was sitting outside and watched a little boy who was diligently following a pigeon around. When the bird stopped walking, the little boy stopped, crouched down and stared at the bird with the intensity of a National Geographic Explorer! His fascination with the bird fascinated me, as I pondered how the simplest things appeal to children. I am always amazed at the way children learn. As they are exposed to more of the world around them, they take in new experiences with such intensity and awe. I guess in some ways we do the same as adults, as we get excited about new technology and gadgets. Perhaps we are more impressed with the extravagant and extraordinary. But I contend that sometimes we need to go back to basics and remember to appreciate the little things in life.

In our relationships, we often expect grand gestures. But when was the last time something subtle and simple made you smile? I found that having children has had a great impact on my simpler view of things. The smallest expressions make the biggest difference. I get joy from the little things – like when my son gives me a hug, “just because.” Or when my daughter comes to me some mornings, wraps her arms around me, nestles her head in the crook of my neck and then softly says, “Mama.” These are the moments I appreciate the most.

When was the last time you took the time to appreciate the little things?

The Art of Storytelling

story-storytelling-word-clouds-cloud-words-tags-related-to-myth-legend-digital-tablet-35485420Today I read a friend’s post about New York’s famous “Black and White” cookies. I shared with her that my Dad used to buy giant ones when were kids, but I probably ate too many and now I get queasy just looking at them! But I started to remember how he introduced me to them. He was telling me some story of his youth and mentioned how his father would buy them for him. I didn’t understand what he was talking about because I had never heard of them. So on our next trip to the bakery, he pointed them out to me and bought a box of them home. I realized that my father ALWAYS did that. Asking my father a question would often result in a long, Cliff Huxtable-esque series of stories. But sometimes, he also took the time to show me what he was talking about. Once I saw a Ouija board in the background scenery of an old episode of Sanford & Son. I didn’t know what it was, but described it to him and asked him what it was. He not only told me – he went out and bought one for me. That was my Dad’s way. What he knew, he taught and he showed. What he wasn’t sure about, he pointed me to our big set of green and white World Book encyclopedias and encouraged me to look it up.

Of course, I have passed this down to my children. They ask me a question, I explain, then I Google it if I need to show them a picture, or enhance the story. Last summer, my children attended a funeral of an elderly family member and began asking questions about his life. For several months afterward, they would continue to ask about other family members, both living and dead. Where were they born? What did they do? How did they die? Every day, they would choose someone else to ask about and I would give them short stories about these relatives. When I shared this with their Sunday School teacher, she reminded me that this was a perfect example of storytelling. This is how family histories and oral traditions are passed down from generation to generation. I thought about this and immediately remembered how well I can recite the bulk of my maternal family history – after years of attending annual family reunions as a child and hearing our family history told each time. As a child, most of my recitation was rote, but now I can tell the story with much more depth and understanding and pass it along to my children – and even to other family members who don’t know the stories.

Let us never forget to tell stories – whether about our past, or the world around  us. Our children, especially, need to shape their worldview in context of their experiences and that of their ancestors. Never ignore a question – it can often lead to great teaching moments, moments that I know I have treasured since my own childhood.

What stories are you telling?

The Art of Understanding Personalities

personality

personality (Photo credit: hang_in_there)

One of the many lessons I have learned over the years is that trying to understand the heart of individuals aids greatly in learning how to deal with them. If you get where they come from, you know where they’re going. Here’s an example: Perhaps someone you know socially is very bossy – I mean always wants to be in charge. Once you really get to know them, you may find that they have NO control at home, or on their job. It doesn’t excuse their behavior, but understanding where they come from can keep you from taking things personally. Just as you should know your audience when teaching, writing or speaking, you should understand personalities when dealing with individuals.

This line of thinking starts at home, with our spouses and our children. One of the most exciting things to me about parenthood is  watching my children’s personality develop. This morning I was listening to my 5- and 7- year old have an intense discussion/mini-argument. Izzy (7) insisted that he was right because he was older. Yvette (5) declared it didn’t matter who was older. Earlier this year, it dawned on me that Izzy is the debating negotiator. The conversation never ends with this guy! Yvette will also stand her ground, and will go toe to toe with her big brother. The difference is, once she makes her point, she drops the mic and walks away. Understanding these personality traits help me deal with them on different levels.  Don’t get it twisted though – I do NOT negotiate with terrorists, and my child will NOT just walk away from me! I’m still the Momma! 🙂

This Week With Calandra: The Art of Being Courteous

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This is the first of my weekly podcasts, “This Week With Calandra.” Our pilot episode talks about The Art of Being Courteous. Listen and comment: what acts of courtesy do you think are most important? Is being courteous becoming a dying art form?

Click HERE to listen to this week’s podcast.

The Art of Spontaneity

My sister and I often compare the various combinations of traits we each inherited from both our parents. Like my mother, I am an avid planner. She has mastered the art of packing her clothes in her head, making packing her suitcase a breeze. At the same time, I carry the gene of spontaneity from my father. Daddy always had a way of just coming up with surprises. One Christmas, he decided to forego the annual pilgrimage to my aunt’s house, and we packed up the car and drove to Atlantic City for the day. My mother was not too happy with his decision, and she was quick to let him know that. It was a rather tense day, but in my heart, I was happy. Daddy had come up with one of his spontaneous plans and I loved the idea that it was just something different. He decided to go against the grain and do something he thought would be fun. By the end of the day, even Momma admitted we had a good time together as a family.

Well, that’s me…Ms. Spontaneous. I love to surprise people with off-the-cuff antics – a phone call/text message from out of the blue, a surprise lunch/dinner invitation, an email or hand-written note just to say “Hey!” Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with advance planning. For me, that is a priority! But I also remember to not get so caught up in planning things that I forget to periodically let things happen on the fly. When you have children, being spontaneous can bring them an added sense of joy. That surprise trip to McDonald’s (hey, don’t judge me!), cute little toy or book I bring home from work can make their day. For most of us, it is often the spontaneous moments that are remembered most.

What was the last spontaneous thing you did?

(31WriteNow Challenge Day 28)

The Art of Handwriting

courtesy of nytimes.com

courtesy of nytimes.com

A few months ago, I found myself without a laptop. It so happened that I had several blog ideas floating around my brain, so I did what any normal person would do…I pulled out my notebook and started writing. When I got a new laptop, I transferred all the info into the computer and I was back online. But for the next blog post, instead of opening up the laptop, I chose to pull out the notebook again. I had become used to handwriting my blog. I posted a video to Vine and when a fellow blogger complimented my penmanship, I commented that I should write a post on the ‘Art of Handwriting’ and the seed for this article was planted.

A few weeks ago, my first-grade son came to me and said he wanted to learn to write in script. I helped him. Now, I can barely get him to print anything. I wrote out the cursive alphabet for him to follow, and am about to purchase a practice book. A few days ago, a high school chum posted a NY Times article on Facebook regarding the debate over school requirements to teach cursive writing. A few years ago, I was appalled to hear from a middle-school teacher that schools in New York City were no longer teaching cursive. I know that the advent of computers and Internet technology have eliminated the need to write, but sheesh, don’t we still have to know how to sign things?

My son's attempt at cursive writing

My son’s attempt at cursive writing

Now I understand…there are two different issues here. The first is the fact that children are no longer learning script. But obviously there is still some interest. I am thankful that even my first-grade son sees the value of cursive and took it upon himself to start writing in script. And of course, being a typical little sister, my 5 year-old daughter wants to learn as well.

However, the second issue is a much larger one. The idea of writing…I mean actually writing. With email, instant messaging, video conferencing and other modes of on-the-spot  communication, handwritten notes are often forgotten. Hand-signed Christmas cards are replaced by computer-generated labels and newsletters to family and friends. Birthday and other special occasion cards have turned into online e-cards. And let’s not talk about Thank You cards…sometimes the sentiment itself is barely expressed verbally, let alone by sending a personal note. In high school and college I made a lot of friends from across the country while attending church conventions. We did not have the money to make a lot of long distance calls, and email was not readily available then to keep in touch, so we relied on handwritten letters to communicate. I recall spending hours at stationery stores buying different color parchment papers and matching envelopes to keep in my stash.

Handwritten letter from my Dad

Handwritten letter from my Dad

But where have all the letters gone? This weekend, I ran across one of many notes my father sent me after he and my mother moved to Florida some 18 years ago. Even if he was just sending me a check or some piece of business I needed to handle, he would take the time to drop me a little note. It might be some instruction, or just a written “chit chat” to let me know how the weather had been or what was on his leisurely agenda for that week. Handwritten notes are as important as the human touch itself. It is a personal art form that needs to be preserved and passed on to future generations.

Poor Izzy and Yvette – my children will have MANY notes to save from Mommy once they go off to college!