David Kessler

When We Have Truly Lived

August 31, 2016

“To age gracefully is to experience fully each day and season. When we have truly lived our lives, we don’t want to live them again. It’s the life that was not lived that we regret.”
—Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler, Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and Living

Happy birthday to two of my favorite people: my son, and my father-in-law. They both are great examples of living life fully.


Link Love--Happy Links for Hot Days Edition

August 26, 2016

Photo courtesy Alexander Filonchik

The internet has been humming with interesting stuff lately, and I don’t mean the latest gossipy tidbit about a celebrity or political candidate. I’d rather spend my time being inspired or taught (or looking at funny animal pictures).  Here are a few of my favorite recent discoveries. Enjoy!

I spent too much time watching the Olympics over the past couple of weeks. I loved the equestrian events, of course, but I also enjoyed seeing sports I never watch: water polo, table tennis, volleyball (which I loved playing in high school and college) and track events. There’s something inspiring about watching people achieve their dreams after hard work and sacrifice. I was also touched by this story, about the 10 athletes who are refugees, but still have the drive and desire to compete.

Patience is an important quality to cultivate, but few of us had someone actually teach us how to be patient? I found this post on Raptitude incredibly helpful. Remember, “Patience is really nothing more than the willingness to live life at the speed at which it actually happens.” 

Simple but effective ideas from Sandra Pawula in “9 Ways to Find Serenity in a World Gone Mad.” I could not function without #8.

“11 Ways to Be Happy Right Now” combines simple physical acts (“eat a piece of quality dark chocolate”) to more in-depth experiences (“train your mind).

Check out these “16 Quotes That Show Us Life From a Different Perspective.” My favorite: “Growth is painful. Change is painful. But in the end, nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you do not belong. It’s always better to be exhausted from meaningful work than to be tired of doing nothing.”

How happy are you? Take a quiz to assess your well-being, and learn more about how to thrive here.

Loved the takeaway message from Marie Forleo’s Oprah Supersoul Session: “Everything is ‘figureoutable.’”

Have you made any internet discoveries lately?


Diving in the Dark

August 24, 2016

Photo courtesy sailormn34

Introduction by Ted Kooser: I’ve lived all my life on the plains, where no body of water is more than a few feet deep, and even at that shallow depth I’m afraid of it. Here Sam Green, who lives on an island north of Seattle, takes us down into some really deep, dark water.

Night Dive

Down here, no light but what we carry with us.
Everywhere we point our hands we scrawl
color: bulging eyes, spines, teeth or clinging tentacles.
At negative buoyancy, when heavy hands
seem to grasp & pull us down, we let them,

we don’t inflate our vests, but let the scrubbed cheeks
of rocks slide past in amniotic calm.
At sixty feet we douse our lights, cemented
by the weight of the dark, of water, the grip
of the sea’s absolute silence. Our groping

hands brush the open mouths of anemones,
which shower us in particles of phosphor
radiant as halos. As in meditation,
or in deepest prayer,
there is no knowing what we will see.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright © 1998 by Samuel Green. Reprinted by permission of the author, Sam Green, from his book “The Grace of Necessity,” Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2008. First published in Cistercian Studies Quarterly, Vol. 33.1, 1998. Introduction copyright © 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library.

Everyday adventure

Summer Rerun: Charting Unknown Territory

August 22, 2016

Nikolay Okhitin, PhotoXpress.com 
Welcome to summer reruns! About once a month, I’ll be sharing a post from the archives. I hope you enjoy this one, from 2011.

In my reading this morning, I stumbled on a phrase that captured my imagination: terra incognita.

Terra incognita means “unknown territory.” It’s a term cartographers used to use to describe unmapped or undocumented regions. According to urban legend, these areas were sometimes labelled “Here be dragons,” though only one map survives with this wording (“Hic svnt dracones”). However, Roman and medieval cartographers did mark maps with the phrase, “Hic svnt leones,” which means “Here are lions.” (Wikipedia)

Why do we expect scary things (dragons, lions) when we face the unknown? Why not expect unicorns, or daisies? It seems to be human nature to expect the worst when facing the unknown, and to some extent, that’s what keeps explorers alive: expecting and preparing for the worst.

To my knowledge, there are no more unknown and unmapped physical lands, though terra incognita is sometimes used metaphorically to describe an unexplored subject or field of research. However, there is still the unknown land, the terra incognita, of the future. None of us knows what the future holds, though plenty of dire predictions can be found as close as your nearest screen—TV or computer.

Since we will all navigate the unknown land of the future, what tools should we use? The same ones we use in navigating our known world: our good sense, our friends and family, our spiritual principles, our ability to learn, and a positive outlook that we can handle whatever lions life throws at us. While we explore, we should be on the lookout for the positive, not just the negative, because I’m more and more convinced we see what we expect to see.

While we certainly should prepare for negative eventualities in our lives, why not also prepare for positive ones? Save money not just for a calamity, but for a celebration once the promotion comes through, the report card contains straight As, or the grandchild is born.

Truly, every new day is terra incognita. We don’t know what it will bring. Whatever it holds for us—daisy or dragon, unicorn or lion—if we cling to our tools of navigation, we’ll come through safely.


The Horse Days of Summer

August 19, 2016

I complain a lot about the heat and humidity here in central Florida, but if I hadn’t moved here, I wouldn’t have my horse. I think it’s worth it. I board him at a small, family-run barn just a few minutes from my house. One of my simple pleasures is being around all the horses at the barn, enjoying the personalities that emerge. For such large, powerful, and beautiful animals, they can be remarkably silly. Here are some photos of a few of Tank’s friends and neighbors.

Elsa (loves peppermints)
Bella (more than a pretty face)
Sensitive Leo

Remy, playing with the broom

In summer, I ride less and hang out more, and just watching the horses is entertaining. For instance, Tank (right) approaching the geldings’ paddock. Asia pretending he doesn't notice him:

 Asia: “Oh, I didn't see you there. What’s up?”

Tank: “Nothing much, just grazing. Out here. And you’re not.”

Tank: “LOL!”

Asia: [Squeals and stomps his foot]

See what I mean? Silly.

What simple pleasure has this summer brought you?


Deep Summer

August 17, 2016

Photo courtesy Pedro Melo

“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.”
—Sam Keen


In Which I Compare Myself to a Horse

August 12, 2016

Photo courtesy Ian Dunlop

I’m sure you’re not surprised that I’ve been watching the equestrian events of the 2016 Summer Olympics. One of my favorites to watch is the eventing competition, which has been described as the triathlon for horses. Talk about some gorgeous, fit athletes! And yes, I am referring to the horses. One of the horses from the Brazilian eventing team has an unusual name: Summon Up The Blood. The announcers calling the competition noted that “summoning up the blood” is quite an accurate image of what is needed for this grueling sport.  Though “Bob” (his much less picturesque nickname) didn’t win a medal, he did complete the entire series of events respectably.  Click here to see photos and learn more about him and his rider, Carlos Parro. 

Eventing horses are cared for and pampered in every way possible: from optimum nutrition and carefully thought-out workouts, to chiropractic care and massage, to liniment baths, “ice boots” to cool their hardworking legs, and any number of high tech therapies. They are valuable partners to their riders (not to mention just plain valuable), and no one expects them to do their jobs without proper care.

Why do we expect any less for ourselves?

Yes, I am comparing myself to a horse. Bear with me.

In July and August, we’ve had punishing heat and humidity, and I admit I’m dragging. The slightest effort outside (watering my orchids, for example), leaves me soaked in sweat and ready for a cold drink. I’m tired. I have no ambition. The idea of keeping after my goals, even my indoor ones, does not appeal. I need to “summon up the blood”—find a way to motivate myself all the way to the finish line. I’d love to skip to November when we usually get some cooler weather and I get an energy boost, but I also don’t want to wish away any of my life, not even the hot, sweaty bits.

At this point in the year, I’ve lost the momentum and excitement of a new year, and the adrenaline panic of a waning year hasn’t yet set in. (“Oh, no, it’s December and I haven’t reached my goals yet!) Until then, how can I “summon up the blood” and maintain my motivation and momentum?

Though I’m not quite as well-cared for as Summon Up The Blood, I am placing more emphasis on self-care right now. Since August is a low point for me, energy-wise, now is the time to sprinkle in treats and rest breaks. August isn’t the time for me to start major new projects. It’s the time to set small goals, and break down larger ones into ever smaller, teeny, tiny (easily accomplished) ones. In the ongoing bathroom renovation (yes, we’re still working on it), I’m trying to do one or two things per week. This week I ordered the replacement globes for the light fixture and called myself done.

Now is the time to use my imagination to make the same old, same old more fun and/or easier and quicker.

To lighten up my schedule to allow for my lack of energy. That energy will return, as long as I don’t overdo it now.

I’ve even visited my chiropractor and had a massage to counteract the effects of stripping wallpaper and priming my bathroom walls.

But I do draw the line at ice baths.

Do you have any tricks to “summon up the blood”?


Ripeness Can't Stop Itself

August 10, 2016

Photo courtesy Alexas_Fotos

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Poet Ruth L. Schwartz writes of the glimpse of possibility, of something sweeter than we already have that comes to us, grows in us. The unrealizable part of it causes bitterness; the other opens outward, the cycle complete. This is both a poem about a tangerine and about more than that.


It was a flower once, it was one of a billion flowers
whose perfume broke through closed car windows,
forced a blessing on their drivers.
Then what stayed behind grew swollen, as we do;
grew juice instead of tears, and small hard sour seeds,
each one bitter, as we are, and filled with possibility.
Now a hole opens up in its skin, where it was torn from the
branch; ripeness can’t stop itself, breathes out;
we can’t stop it either. We breathe in.

From “Dear Good Naked Morning,” © 2005 by Ruth L. Schwartz. Reprinted by permission of the author and Autumn House Press. First printed in “Crab Orchard Review,” Vol. 8, No. 2. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, the Library of Congress and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. The column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

Everyday adventures

Living With Men

August 05, 2016

You want an everyday adventure? I’ve got one for you: living with men.

Let me explain. I grew up in a home with a single mom. Though I visited my dad, I didn’t live with him. In college, I lived in single-sex dorms, and after I college I had one female roommate before getting married. Life in our house was feminine. Since I didn’t have anything different to compare it with, I thought this feminine way of living was “normal.” Living with my husband, and eventually our son, proved eye opening, to say the least.

Here are some areas I’ve found living with men different from living with women. (In case you are unclear, I’m about to make some major, tongue-in-cheek, generalizations. Your mileage may vary. In other words, please don’t send me letters.)

Men laugh at different things than women do, often involving bodily functions or slapstick-y pratfalls. Most women I know don’t find The Three Stooges all that funny, for example. Men’s humor tends to be insulting and directed at others. Women tend not to tease as much for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. We tend to prefer clever, witty jokes, puns, and stories—we like to use humor to connect with others. (Hey, I told you I was going to be making generalizations, didn’t I?)

Here’s a quiz for you: Which of these foods would typically be ordered by a man versus a woman at a restaurant? Wings or quiche? A double-decker cheeseburger or a large chopped salad? I’m not saying the woman wouldn’t want the cheeseburger or wings, just that she probably will not order either, especially if dining with someone else. What I cook for my masculine family is considerably different from what I cook for just myself, or for a female friend or relative with no guys around. Artichoke hearts and goat cheese never figure in meals I cook for my guys. Velveeta is not a crucial ingredient in hors d’oeuvres I serve my female friends.

Noise. When my son was still tiny, I bought the following saying, framed, somehow divining the truth about boys: “A boy is noise with dirt on it.” Most women I know go through life with the tread of a cat burglar, do not slam cupboard (or microwave or bedroom) doors, do not clang spoons and clatter plates on the counter. My husband is an exception (thank you, Dear), but I’ve found that once a man is awake in the morning, so is everyone else.

In a family composed primarily of men and boys, family outings tend to be activities you do (mountain biking, swimming, hiking, fishing), rather than passively observe (movies, window shopping). And you will likely never get your family of guys to partake of high tea, complete with scones and little crust-less sandwiches (see: Food).

Hiking in Yellowstone National Park

Which brings me to energy. The energy of men has a different feel to it—a combo of testosterone and Funyuns, perhaps? Women don’t have less energy (some have considerably more), but it has a different feel, sort of like an underground power source, always humming in the background.

Physical strength. While I pride myself on being strong—opening jars, lifting 50-pound bags of horse supplements—it’s nice to have someone who can do it for me, and do it easily. Just because I can do it doesn’t mean I always want to.

Tolerance for smells. ’Nuff said.

To this woman, men can be puzzling, exotic creatures, sometimes exasperating and insensitive. But they can also be wonderfully tender and loving, and hugs from my husband and son bring me pure joy. While I often feel more understood and accepted among my female family and friends, I value the different perspective my male relatives and friends bring to life. Living with men has made me a stronger, more balanced, more adventurous person. I wouldn’t trade this everyday adventure for all the scones in the world.

What differences have you found in living with the opposite sex?

My men

Denis Waitley

Happiness Is Living Every Minute

August 03, 2016

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”
—Denis Waitley