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Samson’s power

17 May
My husband is an avid American Idol fan. Which makes me an Idol fan by proxy.  We have watched every season since the beginning.  If you were watching this past week, you saw Casey James, the beautiful guitar rocker make it into the top three, along with two other Idol hopefuls (who are much more likely to win it all).  We also saw “Big Mike” Lynche voted off, who — by most reviews — has more talent than our adorable goldie locked singer.  However, Casey has a power stronger than his voice — he has Samson’s power: his hair. 
And, those Idol stylists and lighting professionals did their best to make him look… angelic? Messianic?  Oh… just damn good.
And he’s not the first Idol man to gain votes because of his power of the quaff.  There is quite a history of Samson’s power.
Who can forget Constantine? His singing was … hmmm… Ok.  But that hair was yummy.
And the freaking adorable doe-eyed Jason Castro?  I never thought dreads could look adorable.
But there you go!
Of course, Bo Bice.  Now, he actually had LOTS of vocal talent, but the hair helped. Add a little bit of bad boy attitude, and this one is a keeper, too.
Sanjaya.  No matter what you think of him, he had the most Samson power of them all.  The least vocal talent, and yet he still has a career.  That hair has to be worth its weight in gold.
Sorry, feeling a little silly today.  You can blame:

Smells like teen spirit

14 May
So, my memory for events in my own life is well… spotty at best.  My brain has prioritized “knowledge” over personal experiences. Therefore I can better explain how neurons work (nerd) or how data packets are transmitted over the Internet (geek) than what I did in high school. Or even last week.  My best friend, who seems to have a strong propensity for remembering events and people in our lives, teases me that she’s going to re-invent our high school years — and I’ll never know.

However, there is a neurological ability (see — BIG nerd) that most if not all people possess (sometimes called the “nostalgic nose“) that provides us with a window to our past.  Apparently, our senses of smell and taste — especially our first experiences with a particular smell or taste — are strongly associated with our memories.  I’m sure you’ve taken a whiff of something and said “oh… that reminds me of ”  In fact, these memories are often emotional in nature rather than just experiential (oh, such a nerd).   So, you can even relive those feelings just by finding that smell again.  Pretty cool, huh?

I recently had a very pleasant experience with this.  We ate breakfast restaurant where they boasted made-from-scratch jams.  My husband raved how good his raspberry jam was.  I had to give it a try. Mmmm — this jam smells and tastes just like my moms!  Now, I haven’t had my mother’s homemade jam in over 20 years, but the whiff and taste of this jam brought me back to our kitchen growing up, my mom cooking jam, the canning jars, storing the jam in the freezer, making peanut butter and jam sandwiches and picking berries with my family.  All from a whiff and a taste. 

I have another scent nostalgia that I still get to relive on special occasions.  About 1 year BK (before kids), hubby and I decided to take “that big trip to Europe.”  While in Paris, it seemed like the touristy thing to buy some perfume.  I wore this perfume for the rest of the vacation.  Now, if I ever want to “go to back to Europe,” I just have to put on my perfume.  Suddenly, I’m in Paris.  Or Venice.  Or Athens. 

Do you have a scent that “takes you back”?

Book review: The Art of Happiness

12 May

I have just finished The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Dr. Howard Culter.  This book is really a series of conversations between the Dalai Lama and Dr. Culter, an American psychiatrist. Dr. Culter asks the Dalai Lama many questions about the Buddhist perspective, and the Dalai Lama’s personal perspective on how people can seek happiness in life — whether or not they are Buddhist.  Also, the Dalai Lama’s good nature and humanity came across strongly in the text. Reading along, I felt as if I was having a conversation with a wise and endearing old friend.

Let me iterate that this is not a religious book, but it does contain spiritual topics. Someone from any religious (or non-religious) background can read this book and gain something.  The author (Dr. Culter) specifically gears the writing at a non-Buddhist, Western audience.  He compares and contrasts the teachings and thoughts of the Dalai Lama with research and teachings in Western science. 

It is an understatement to say that this book moved me.  This book has changed my perspective on how I should lead my life and interact with people around me.  While there are so many lessons to take from this book, the key mantras that I took were:

  1. Happiness is not something that “happens” to you.  It is a skill that you can hone.  It is something that you must work towards — everyday. 
  2. Compassion is the key to happiness.  The most famous quote from the book is “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
  3. Suffering is a gift.  I know — this one is a tough one to swallow.  But, the Dalai Lama actually has a real and useful answer for “Why is there suffering in the world?”  I’m not going to be able to give his explanation justice here, so you’ll just have to read the book yourself.
Tempted to pick this one up yet?  I know — non-fiction by a world leader and a social scientist.  Blah blah.  But, if you want an opportunity to open your mind, and really think about what is in your control, how you interact with others, and what makes you happy — this is your book.  You will not regret the read.

Also — the next time you see the Dalai Lama in the news — notice how happy he is.  Smiling.  Laughing.  Genuinely enjoying the company of both world leaders and laypeople. This is a man who lost his home, lost his country, and has lost most of his family, and yet this man is happy most of the time. 

Genuinely, honestly, and throughout his spirit — happy.  He does that through compassion for others, appreciation of suffering, and training of his mind. 

Photo courtesy of dalailama.com.

Hubby 2.0

10 May

My husband attended a conference in Seattle all of last week. I was less than enthralled about it because that left me and the 2 kids to fend for ourselves. Not only was I going to have to take out the trash, but there would be more of “Where’s daddy?” and “When is daddy coming home?”. I already have to hear these questions enough; I was not looking forward to being bombarded.

As it turns out, I did not get asked these questions anymore than the average week. Why? Well, my husband has gotten into some bad habits of coming home later and later, and when he is home the work is not put away. The cell phone is perpetually out, and the laptop is set up on the counter. So, though he was out of town for the entire week, the kids seemed to miss him only about as much as the average week.

Why am I telling you these less than endearing things about my husband? Because he has decided to change. While at this conference, he took a training called the Corporate Athlete course (free plug!), and it caused him to really take a look at his mission (goals) in life.  He decided he needed to make some adjustments, and I’m so proud.

I’m not going to repeat his mission and story verbatim, but what I took from it is that he wants to be the best, engaged husband and father he can be.  He has seen that he’s been a bit selfish, and he’s ready to change.  I think it takes tremendous courage to look at yourself in the mirror so honestly.  We are calling his new transformation John 2.0.  I can’t wait to see my upgraded hubby in action!

Among the list of his new habits, he plans take better care of himself through exercise and diet, to be home by 6pm, put the cell phone away (no checking email while the kids are awake), include his family in his hobbies, and turn off the TV when we are having conversations.  Each one is a little thing — but they add up to a man who is HOME when he is home.

I don’t want to make this sound like I had a horrible husband.  Not at all.  I had a wonderful, loving husband who brought home flowers to his adoring wife for no reason at all.  A responsible husband that did the laundry every week.  A loving father who played on the floor with his kids. 

But, a man who can look at his faults — really look at them — and make a decision to change?  That is a man with courage.  That is a man I love with all my heart.  I love you sweetie!

BTW: Published with permission from the Hubby. 🙂