Your practice begins when you leave your mat …

“You have invested the time to come to your yoga practice and step onto your mat today.  Now honor that time enough to be present wholeheartedly.”

Heard that tonight at a wonderful hot yoga class.  But it applies to so much more than yoga.

In more direct terms – if you are going to bother to show up, give it your all

all of your attention

all of your focus

all of your energy

all of your ability!

I love that!

At yoga practice, that takes the form of focusing on my breath, on the postures.  Letting go of thoughts that might float into my head.

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With the kids, it might mean stepping away from distractions (especially screens) to be sure they have my full focus when they want to speak to me or ask a question.

At work, it might mean to reject ineffective multi-tasking to be present and engaged in necessary discussions and meetings.

By being intentional and deliberate, the time and energy we invest can yield so much more than otherwise.   Could be the difference between living and thriving!

Class closed tonight reminding us that our practice begins when we leave our mat.   So here’s to a week of practicing intentionality and showing up wholeheartedly in the things we commit our time to this week.

Our Favorite Mexican Wedding Cake Cookies

These cookies are definitely one of our perennial favorites – and super easy to make.  Great to make with the kids.  They love rolling the warm cookies in powdered sugar!  Hope you try them,  and enjoy.  Bon appetit!

Ingredients

  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at
    room temperature
  • 1/2  cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Plus: extra confectioners sugar for covering the cookies
  • Optional: 1 cup ground almonds, or chopped walnuts or no nuts (delicious no matter which way)

Directions:

In a large bowl, beat the butter on high speed until fluffy and pale yellow. Add 1/2 cup of the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low, add the vanilla and salt, and beat until blended.

Sift together the flour and cinnamon, and add to the butter mixture.  Mix with a wooden spoon and add nuts if you are using them.

The dough will be a little sticky, so cool in the refrigerator for about 15 minute.  While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on 2 ungreased baking sheets.

Bake until the cookies are just golden on the bottom, 10 to 12 minutes (it’s normal for them not to all be golden on top.)  Cool the cookies for 5 minutes, then remove the cookies one at a time and roll them in the confectioners’ sugar. Let the cookies cool completely on wire racks. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

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National Distrust and the Michael Brown Case

“I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.”   James Baldwin

I’m struck by the plainspoken distrust of this quote, and by how much it reflects the state of race relations in our country today on the heels of the death of Michael Brown and the decision not to indict Officer Wilson.  Trust is broken when we say we behave one way and then we act differently.  On a national scale, there is a degree of broken trust across racial lines that we often look past – until something hits the headlines that puts it into our living rooms and social media feeds again.

Whether we feel that the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer was a crime and warranted a trial, or a police officer acting in self-defense, it reveals a large gap between black and white perception of this issue, and spotlights the tremendous degree of distrust between blacks and whites in this country.

We say that racial prejudice is largely in the past, but the facts tell another story. The issues of race relations, racial inequality and violence against blacks are polarizing. Having a discussion about this case or the broader race issues (if we get past the sound bites) quickly evolves into a discussion of class, economic disparity, etc. They are tough issues that do not lend themselves to the sound-bite answers so favored by modern media.

Ferguson - Representation

 

The national reaction is to retreat to our respective corners, talk to friends who agree with us on the issue – but that’s not at all the path to change.  I saw an article with some recent Pew Research Center poll statistics yesterday  that shows that the % of black people who feel racism is a key issue that requires broader national focus was 80%, as compared to 44% of whites who responded the same way.

We Don't Agree There Is a Race Problem

We do not all agree there is a problem.

So like with other similar tragedies, the news cycle will run its course and the issue will fade – only to resurface the next time there is another touchstone case that gains public attention.  We want to believe we are a country that is not unequal across racial lines. But until we can admit that its not yet our reality, charting a course toward that will be elusive.

If I reflect on our family discussions in the last couple days on the Michael Brown case, these are tough, delicate discussions that are difficult even when you are trying your hardest to be respectful of other points of view. We might disagree on our interpretation of the facts, on what this case does or doesn’t say about racism in American, and about how to express our feelings and be a voice for change.

The lack of trust and respect is in full view in the next two images:

Hands Up Don't Shoot - Ferguson MO

vs

we see fear, distrust, disrespect and contempt.  It will take some great leaders, communicators and visionaries to help rally us to a better version of our country where race really is not a factor … but we are not there yet.

We need police officers and cannot even begin to imagine the self-sacrifice and bravery needed to go out to protect the community each day in unknown and dangerous circumstances.  And these public servants must have the right to defend themselves in any situation of danger – no doubt.  But issues of fear, distrust and disrespect affect all of us at the core and affect how we all behave toward one another.  Police officers are not immune from unhealthy beliefs that can inform their behavior.  So getting the relations right socially is critical to getting justice and fair/equal treatment when laws are being enforced.  

One small memory in this vein…

Bryce and I have been married almost 20 years, and I remember clear as day the first time we took a road trip together and the little lesson on race relations I got on that trip.

When Bryce and I were dating, we decided to travel from Ohio to Virginia to meet his family and spend Thanksgiving with them.  We were driving, and he showed up at my door in a business suit and dress shoes.   Odd, I thought (as I sat in jeans and a t-shirt) … why are you all dressed up?  What followed was a short chat about being a black man driving across various states, and the risk of being pulled over by a police officer, and the need to ‘make a good impression’ so that you would be treated with respect.  I was skeptical and he shared stories.  Not based on paranoia or media coverage – based on experience.  He wasn’t complaining about it, no discussion of inequity or unfair treatment.  Just a behavior change (that he had made for years) based on the reality of being a black man in a country where some white police officers may be biased to assume wrong doing based on the color of your skin.

It sounds small perhaps, but for me it was memorable.  (Important to note that my husband is very pro-law enforcement, and would strongly support the right for any officer of any color to defend himself.  I share the story only because in its own small way it introduced me to this question of different racial experiences.)  When we talk about ‘institutionalized’ race issues, I come back to that simple memory.   There’s no legislation or litigation that will solve this … over time, people have to see fair, consistent and equal treatment to believe it.  But it does require an awareness that these prejudices exist.

 

 

Pancake Pleasures and Memories

One sweet memory from growing up is ‘helping’ my Mom make pancakes for breakfast.  I realize now, in hindsight, that my notion of help was pretty great.  You see, I stood alongside the stove while she cooked and ‘helped’ her prepare beautiful, round pancakes with one critical job … I ate the little scraps that she trimmed off the edges of the pancakes!  :-)  That was some serious work, let me tell you!

I have always loved family weekend breakfasts.  The slow pace, home-baked goodies like scones or pancakes or muffins.  Coffee, Mexican hot chocolate.  The Sunday New York Times where everyone has the favorite sections.  Small weekend pleasures.

But back to the pancakes … well, truth be told, we were a Bisquick family.   For me, growing up, that was the taste of homemade pancakes and they were – in fact – very tasty.

But I am a made-from-scratch, buttermilk pancake convert.  Now maybe you have been there for many years and I was just slow to catch on.  But for those still thinking they are taking the short-cut, let me tell you that it is just as fast and SO much tastier to make from scratch.   This isn’t one of those ‘it takes a lot more effort but its worth it’ recipes … seriously quick and easy.

The trick: to remember to buy and keep buttermilk in the fridge!

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Here is the super simple recipe that I have been using.  It really is lightning quick.  Easy for the kids to help mix it up too.  Try it out and thank me later for all the compliments from the family :-)

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Recipe:

Dry Ingredients:  1 cup of flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda

Wet Ingredient: 1 egg, 1 1/8 cup of buttermilk, 2 tsp melted butter

  1. Mix the dry ingredients.
  2. Add in the wet ingredients and mix gently
  3. Pour the batter into round or other interesting shapes on the griddle.  (mine are never perfectly round and not a single complaint yet) :-)
  4. Enjoy!!

Quick tip: if you use a microwave, just pop the butter in the microwave for 20 seconds to melt.

Sunset on the Beach

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Another lovely sculpture from the Ritz Carlton Naples.  I love walking down a path and coming upon one of these sculptures – lovely surprises around the bend.

 

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Naples sunset

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Love the way the setting sun shone through the wispy clouds

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This was the view from my perch waiting for the sunset.  I think its my favorite.

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Lovely spot for a reception … wouldn’t that be a gorgeous setting for a wedding?

Staying Open in Crisis Mode

What part of you shuts down when you go into problem solving or crisis mode?   Does it help or hurt your goal to show up as your best self?

When we jump into that problem-solving mode, lots of things can happen very quickly within us.

  • our focus narrows
  • we come highly alert
  • we prepare ourselves for anything
  • brace ourselves for battle
  • feelings can take a backseat to analysis

This is exactly what we need when we are in danger.  But if our immediate safety is not at risk, the way we steel ourselves for problem solving may prevent us from showing up the way we really want to – as present, open, aware, insightful, wise.   By getting out of our self/soul/heart and into only our head, we can leave behind parts of ourself that we need of we are going to be authentic in those situation that require is to make decisions, solve problems and resolve crises.

To be at our very best,  we have to stay focused on both HOW we solve the problem as well as WHETHER we solve it.  Some days we will be happy with how we showed up, others we will take stock of what we want to do better next time.

Ultimately, our relationships and careers are made up of a series of moments strung together – so how we show up day to day in these situations translates into the quality of our life decisions and the health of our relationships.

Like so many things, this is a discipline and a practice – something we try to be self-aware and mindful of.  For me as someone who is analytic by nature, it requires mindfulness – daily practice.

A passage in Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening focused on this question of our minds and hearts in crisis, and was a wonderful reminder to be watchful of how we show up in these situations.  book_of_awakening

 

The Book of Awakening is an inspired and insightful book of daily reflections – a lovely book that I definitely recommend.  I come back to it all the time when I need to get quiet and grounded.   Book Link

 

 

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