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Archive for September, 2009

I have had a few opportunities this weekend to think about this idea of “becoming.”  There are so many events and moments in our lives that mold and shape us into who we are – for good or not so good.  How we choose to react to our circumstances, moment by moment, shapes our character into something that is hopefully better than when we started.

The same is true with the people we choose to interact with.  We all have those people in our lives who change us because of what we have learned from them through their example or their love, their teaching or anything else that impacts us.

This week’s download is in celebration of those people in our lives.  If you print it out (making sure the “shrink to fit” box remains unchecked) then you can whip up a few cards with this sentiment – or simply skip the card and just trim the thought itself.  Whatever works for you.

But let’s pay it forward.  Take a moment this week to share this message of gratitude with at least 5 people.  Thank them for the impact they have had in your life – whether large or small – and let them know that they have contributed to all the good things that you are becoming.

Have fun and let me know how it goes.  I love hearing the “after” part of the story.

Shaped Me

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3 Cups

OK, I am very interested to hear your thoughts about the book Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and journalist David Oliver Relin  – anyone who has read it, please chime in.  As a teacher, I was utterly fascinated and moved with the concept of building schools for girls in Pakistan as a means of breaking the cycle of poverty bringing the country together both in a literal as well as figurative sense.   Empowering girls, who then become stronger and more capable women is a principle that I feel very passionate about.

So, I enjoyed it…for the first fifteen or sixteen chapters. At that point I found myself interested but bored at the same time.  Maybe it was the countless trips over rocky terrain and volatile political circumstance that exhausted me.  Or maybe it was the onslaught of names and random places that started to bog down the reading.  Whatever it was, I found myself wanting to skip over chunks of the book, knowing that it wouldn’t really affect my understanding of the story anyway.

And I admit – I had to roll my eyes at the end when the government bashing started.  Of course war is not ideal but it seems completely unrealistic to imagine that when the towers fell on 9/11 that the leaders of our country - now or then – would have said, “We just got attacked on American soil.  Let’s go build some schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”  Come on, let’s get real.  So that part was just a little bit of an idealistic soapbox for me.  All in all though, I learned a great deal about the fractious nature of the country, set up in poverty-stricken villages which are often completely cut off from one another.  That understanding shed so much light on their cultures and the day to day challenges faced by those in that area of the world.

Greg Mortenson is a hero in the cause of humanity – of that I am sure. I am better for reading this book which helped me to catch a glimpse of the living conditions and culture of Pakistan and Afghanistan.  I am grateful that this book was written and for the support that I’m sure has come because of it but I would have preferred more about the actual schools and the ins-and-outs of the education itself.  I yearned for less of the travels in his beaten down Land Cruiser and more, much more about those beautiful students, the co-heroes of the story.

What was your take on Three Cups of Tea?

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The Greatest Show On Earth

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It's only a matter of time before hard work, serious grunting & sheer determination will get this little man where he really wants to go.

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Recently I bought an ottoman from overstock.com.  It wasn’t too big and didn’t eat up the whole room, leaving no space for Jason.  It was made of leather so it’s easy-to-clean with no sharp corners for the Cole-meister.  And it had the storage area I was looking for.  But the best feature was the price – 60% off of what I would have paid in the store.

Now, the thing with overstock purchases is that you have to be a little careful about quality.  If you are willing to overlook a mistake or two then you can often find a great deal.  Scratches, dents, missing buttons, a stain here and there all come with the territory when hunting for discount items because that is why you are getting them for a bargain – they aren’t worth as much in our eyes once they have been damaged.

But when it comes to people, I believe the opposite is true.  As Jason and I have gone through our challenges over the years our spirits have received their fair share of bumps and bruises, scratches and dents.  But with each tumble comes a refining process that removes a sharp edge here and a hard corner there until we are molded and sculpted into something more capable, more understanding and ultimately more beautiful than we were before.  Instead of losing our personal value, overcoming the hard knocks of life actually enhances who we are and develops in us a sense of greater individual worth.

Kolette

Do I excitedly embrace adversity because I know what it will help me to be?  Not usually.  But I certainly wouldn’t change the person I have become because of it – a few scratches, a dent here and there, but stronger and more of who I am meant to be.

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Download Day: It’s OK

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Quote of the Day:

Jim (in the attempt to motivate):  “Do you want me to show you how I can do it twice as fast?”

Me:  “No.”

Of course you can do it twice as fast or twice as good or twice as long, Jim.  That’s why people don’t pay me to be their trainer.  Duh.  If you couldn’t do it better with your fierce muscles then I would be concerned.  So no, I don’t want to see you do it better than me.  Thanks, though.

But in the spirit of the response, “No,” I am sitting here looking at a post-it note on my desk.  It is a list of things that need to get done or things I am thinking about doing.  One thing on the list involves a Christmas service project that would be a big commitment.  This morning I am crossing it off my list.  I have thought about it for almost a week, gotten the info so I can make a good decision about it and have decided that I need to say no to this particular project.

Jason and I always do some kind of Sub-for-Santa effort during the holidays but this new idea is over the top in terms of being able to manage and I’m not sure I can do it — so I’m moving on.  We’ll do something else.  But the key was giving myself a chance to think about it before I committed.  Whether it’s five minutes, five days or five weeks, it’s often good to pause before we say yes to a new commitment.  It removes the immediate pressure and helps us to think it through more clearly.

I realize that many people (especially women) feel guilty saying no to good causes or activities or events.  But we don’t have to.  It’s ok to say no.  It’s ok to recognize what we can do and stop there.  It’s ok to not be the same as our neighbor or friend or sister or mom when it comes to what we choose to do.  It’s ok to volunteer in the classroom instead of being the PTA President.  It’s ok to not have the perfectly cleaned house or perfectly groomed children or perfectly cooked meal.  And it’s ok to say no to many of the plethora of opportunities that we are bombarded with in this day and age.  Just because it is possible doesn’t mean it is good for us to take on.

So we’ll do something else this holiday season.  There are many opportunities to serve and we’ll do the things that make sense for our family at this time.  Besides, there’s always next year…and the next…and the next…

Enjoy!

OK to Say No

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Remembering

9/11

My thoughts are turned to the past as we remember September 11, 2001.  We were living in Connecticut at the time, in a small town where most of its residents commuted to NYC.  We had friends who worked in the World Trade Center.  We had friends who worked in the surrounding buildings.  We had friends who were supposed to be in meetings on the 89th floor but felt like they should cancel them.  We had friends who ran back into buildings to help and friends who we couldn’t find until the end of the day because they were trying to make their way home.

Many did not make it out alive that day but all of our friends and acquaintances did.  For me, when I think of the tragedy of 9/11 I can’t help but also think of the miracles that came with it.  The protection of many lives and the heroes, both professionals and common citizens, who rose to the occasion and helped those around them.

Thank you.

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Speed.  What’s the big deal about doing things fast?  Hasn’t Jim ever heard the proverb, “Slow and steady wins the race?”  Oh no, it’s all about speed.  “Walk faster with higher resistance or you’ll do 10 extra mountain climbers, Kolette.”  “Run from machine to machine, Kolette.” “Do jumping jacks while you wait.”  “Breaks are for Gold’s Gym.  We don’t take breaks here.”

Jim is obsessed with speed.

Unfortunately, although I have been getting better each day, I am not the fastest exerciser in our class.  I get tired, for heaven sake!  My goal, up to this point, is to try and just stay ahead of the person behind me so that they don’t have to wait for me to finish limping along in my effort to do the correct number of reps.

After doing the elliptical for 20 minutes on cursed “performance” level (which is like climbing up a very tall hill) then he put me on the bike.  I hate that thing and I especially don’t like it after I just did my cardio.  Nevertheless, there I was, on the bike working my way toward the half-mile mark.  In parting Jim said, “Keep the speed up to 8.0 or you’ll do an extra .2 mile.”  Ughhhh!  My worst nightmare.  I have never gotten it above 8.0 much less for an entire half mile!

But today I did.

I know, I almost can’t believe it myself.  But I pedaled that bike and watched the numbers as I hit my goal for those few minutes.  I couldn’t do that last week.  As of today, I have conquered a small step in this process of becoming more fit by keeping up to speed.

But if Jim tells me to go faster one more time I’ll………oh, who am I kidding?  I guess if he mentions speed again I’ll just try to do what he says.  I’ve got nothing to bargain or threaten him with so I’ll humbly submit to his all-powerful “need for speed” and hang in there.  Faster is not always better — but it’s the holy grail in Jim’s world so that means that it’s time for me to embrace speed and get going.

Run, Kolette, Run.

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