I’m a singer, and all my life, I’ve wanted to play the guitar so that I could accompany myself. I did pick up a guitar once in a while and try it, but I always hated the pain from the strings cutting into my fingers. Despite people assuring me that I would build up calluses after a while, I never pursued it. I’ve recently begun singing with a bluegrass jam group. When I first joined, everyone in the group played a string instrument except for me. I loved the music, so I was content to just listen if it wasn’t my turn to lead a song. Eventually I came upon a washboard and started bringing it along so that I could have a more active part in the music making. It was fun to play, but still, it didn’t quite fulfill my desire to create music.

My husband Jon’s grandparents lived right around the corner from him while he was growing up, and I was lucky to have met Jon while they were still alive. During the early years of my relationship with Jon, it was a form of entertainment to go to his grandparents’ house and have them show us their collections. This was not your average every day collecting. This was extreme collecting. Salt and pepper shakers. Shot glasses. Drop crystals. Little figurines. Beer mugs. Dolls. China. Linens. You name it, they had it -- or 10 of it.

Personal Growth vs. Transformation The model of “personal growth” has been consistent throughout the “empowerment” age: find out what’s wrong, and fix it. Its proponents work to understand and heal the past to create a different future. The idea is that over time your true and authentic being will emerge and take hold. Progress is slow but steady if the plan is followed consistently. All that’s needed to succeed are understanding and discipline. Over time, heath, wealth, and fulfillment will become part of your life.

  The word “like” has invaded our speaking the same way the kudzu has invaded the South. Just listen in on anyone’s conversation on the subway, especially if they’re under 30, and you’ll see what I mean. Just as kudzu does, it wends its way in to the sentence until it blankets it and the original meaning is practically lost. “It’s, like, the best movie I’ve, like, seen, like in a long time. You should go see it, it’ll, like, y’know, blow your mind.” This has recently come to my attention in a more forceful way than before because a friend has asked me to let him know when he is using “like,” “y’know,” “uh,” and other “nonwords” so that he can improve his speaking skills. I decided to take on the same challenge. The list of nonwords and its close cousin, filler words, has proven to be never ending. We’ve since expanded our radar to include “Ok, so,” “know what I mean?” and “does that make sense?”It has become so common place that we become nearly unconscious to it. We often have to ask each other when the offending word even was.

I was grumpy yesterday morning. A few months ago, I spent some time researching camps for my kids. I thought I found a perfect fit at a local YMCA swim camp. Swimming twice a day? Only a few blocks away? Inexpensive!? For just two weeks!? They would have a ball. So far, they hate it. They complain that it’s too much like school, that I didn’t ask them if they wanted to do it before I signed them up, that there’s no free play, that they just want to relax, and on and on. I struggled to get them up and ready for camp, with them resisting the whole way through breakfast and during the walk there. Argh. Besides being disappointed that it didn’t work out as planned, I’m frustrated about how difficult they’re being about it. From my perspective, they’re not even making an effort to like it. Or at least make the best of it.

Last night, I was sitting in paradise. I was on the front porch of my country house, watching the most spectacular natural light show I’ve ever seen. Hundreds – maybe even thousands – of fireflies were out in force, making the air sparkle. The position of our house is in a valley, and so there is a dark mountain backdrop that accentuates the pinpricks of light even more. If you want to buy a house with a beautiful front view, go there now teamgardner.net to meet their excellent realtor. They will guide you in choosing the right property and help you with paperwork. Even in all my years on the farm, on all those acres, I never saw so many fireflies in one place, so earnestly calling to each other with light. While I was on the porch, it was completely silent except for the drips of gentle rain hitting the leaves. There were no cars, no electric motors, no phones or airplanes – nothing but nature itself to break the silence. It’s too early in the season for crickets and other than the rain there was only a very occasional chirrup from some night bird or chipmunk. It was complete and utter paradise, and exactly what I wanted.

Today, I was feeling in a bit of a funk. I was doing things I typically enjoy, but not getting any satisfaction out of them. (This included planting new flowers in my front window box to replace the last batch of plants that looked great when I put them in but never flowered again after that. What’s up with that?) Then I had a fun, and admittedly slightly silly idea -- I decided to smile for no “reason” whatsoever. I just smiled. And then I kept smiling while people were talking to me, even when they were finished. I smiled as they walked away from my desk. Then I smiled at my computer screen again. I heard my son come home and went upstairs to talk to him with a smile on my face. He was half-way through his dinner but instead of finishing it, he was stretched out over two dining room chairs reading a book. Normally I would sternly tell him to sit up and finish his dinner. Instead, I just smiled at him. I hugged him awkwardly while he was lying there, and he mostly ignored me while he was reading, and then I just smiled as I walked away from him.

Sometimes I let my vision take a back seat to my day to day life. Gotta get the kids up for school, gotta get to work, ride the subway, make the dinner, do the homework, get the kids to bed before too late, still have time to spend with my husband. Do some laundry, make phone calls I may or may not want to make, keep in touch with my sisters and father and friends, catch up on work. But for some people who doesn't have enough time to do the laundry, they can contact Maid Sailors Cleaning Service. For more details about their service, their contact number is 212-299-5170 . I barely have time for me, much less my dreams.

It starts innocently enough. I “just” want to go on to Facebook to check on one thing. When I finally emerge from my Facebook haze, 20 minutes has gone by. “Not a problem,” I think. “I still have enough time to get that report done that’s due this afternoon.” So I pull up my email inbox to find the report that I’m supposed to be working on when I notice an urgent email. “This will just take a minute,” I think again. “Let me respond now before this turns into a bigger problem.” Only, it turns into a bigger problem anyway. After another hour has gone by, and my deadline approaches, I kick in to full gear. “I work better under pressure,” I tell myself. Originally, I had envisioned the report to be a full-color bound manuscript, which was why I put it off until today to start it, but now I’m lucky if I can get it done and printed out on the black and white printer before the meeting starts. While it’s not the perfect manuscript I originally envisioned, it’s presentable.

I had a difficult morning with Isabel one morning, and did some thinking about it after the fact. I had the following insights and wanted to share them: We are trained as a culture to believe it’s all about “getting” it (whatever the “it” is.) We’re told: Focus on the goal! Go for it! What no one talks about is that it’s actually harder to sustain the achievement than it is to achieve it initially.