15 December 2014

Book it for the Holidays!

Yes, I know I didn’t write my blog for a few months. Finding a team to help me re-publish Beautiful Evil Winter required a lot of time and energy especially with the holiday stopwatch ticking loudly.  Very happy to report that the 2014 version of the book exceeds my best expectations.  In Beautiful Evil Winter, Sophia uses books to entertain, to teach and to manage boredom, a side effect of being confined to a Moscow apartment for days at a time without a computer or phone. Why would an adoption coordinator lock Sophia and Evan in an apartment for days? Kidnappings and murders—solidly anchor Russia as one of the top ten most dangerous countries in the world. No surprise really since Russian President Boris Yeltsin said,  “Russia is the biggest mafia state in the world, the super power of crime that is devouring the state from top to bottom.”

 At any rate, books have reigned all-important in my mind for a few months, but probably not in the minds of most as travel planning and gift-giving projects send all of us scrambling to cover all of our usual responsibilities and then some. Books, book and more books can help alleviate some of the stress.  Studies indicate reading books can eliminate stress by 68%. Don’t forget gift certificates from a favorite brick and mortar store can make present purchases easy and expedient. Books as travel companions platinum coat the plane or long car trip experience for adults and children. On the subject of kids, what a great time to offer to take the kiddos to the local bookstore to purchase “travel” books of their choice. I know, I know the resistance maybe be intense, the thought of tipping a flask of Bailey's Irish Cream may loom large, but persevere. So, is it worth the hassle?

 The answer is yes. According to a recent December 3rd report by The Guardian, “…children are more likely to enjoy stories in a book rather than stories on a screen. Children are 34 times more likely to read storybooks daily rather than tablets. Children are four times more likely to read stories in a book for more than 30 minutes…” Finally, the actions of Silicon Valley employees speak volumes about insider attitudes toward children’s use of technology. Parents send their kids to Waldorf-Steiner schools legendary for a lack of technology and an aversion to computer use even after school. Last but not least, tablets can infuse customized commercials into a daily reading routine.  Unfortunately, unmonitored screen obsession can lead to encounters with on-line bullies, porn exposure, depression and death.

 Take a parenting tip from the chief technology officer at e-Bay, employees at Yahoo, Apple, Google and Hewlett Packard, confiscate the technology and replace it with a physical book that doesn’t promote shopping, internet usage or internet addiction. And when the kids whine, “We have to read in school. Isn’t that enough?”  The question can confidently be handled with the word no.

07 September 2014

The Bedazzling Benefits of the Bountiful Book

The Bedazzling Benefits of the Bountiful Book

Bend to grab the book on the bottom shelf, and stretch or jump to reach the book on the top shelf. Why?  Reading books can enrich our lives in several surprising ways-
·       Reading books produces physical results by relaxing a body.  In fact according to the Huffington Post, reading bests the old standards of walking, drinking a cup of tea, listening to music or playing a video game. In fact, within the span of a mere 6 minutes, the body responds to reading with measurable differences in heart rate and muscle tension. Actually, The Telegraph reported in 2009 that stress levels fall by 68%!!

·       Reading books sharpen “theory of the mind” skills also known as reading the thoughts and feelings of others. Needless to say,  this proficiency plays an important role in the boardroom, the bus station or the shopping mall.

·       Reading books keeps the brain buff. Like any other muscle, a brain requires a work-out, especially in the senior years, to avoid memory decline and to reduce the likelihood of Alzheimer’s. Essentially, reading promotes good brain health.

·       Reading books can build character by increasing our sense of empathy according to one study. Who doesn’t need an extra dollop of empathy?

·       Reading self help books, bibliotherapy, can help people cope with depression. A PLOS ONE study indicated that bibliotherapy, coupled with support sessions to effectively use the technique, showed promising results. 

·       Reading books boosts memory, focus, concentration while also building vocabulary and knowledge, undeniable assets in the business world.

·       Reading anchors and grows our society’s literacy level as one reader passes the skill and adoration for a good book to the next generation. Also, interestingly enough, readers tend to donate more money to charities and volunteer more than non-readers.

So, pardon me, as I end this blog to download and enjoy both a “body massage” and cerebrum calisthenics, penned by one of my favorite authors. By the way, who else will be indulging today?

04 August 2014

Focus on the 4th

Alright, I know. I didn’t post a blog on the 4th, but it certainly loomed heavily on my mind. A family vacation which began on the 2nd and ended on the 8th proved to be a stumbling block. Of course, the fact that my husband’s steely glare surfaced every time I broached the blog subject underscored the need to keep the desktop closed.  “I can only imagine what you’d say if I worked on vacation,” he complained, and I had to agree. 

To our credit, we, as a family, focused on our collective gratitude to live in the U.S.  What tops our  gratitude lists? Freedom to criticize the President openly without fear of being sentenced to years of hard labor like Pussy Riot band members in Russia or dissidents in China, freedom to listen to music of our choosing without worry about government interference as occurred with the song “Happy”, freedom to choose the size of our family without government restrictions, freedom to protest in public without fear of being slaughtered by government troops like the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Personally, I feel gratitude because I choose what I want to wear everyday without fear of Al Qaeda reaction. Gratitude grows verdant and lush because, as a woman, I can worship where I please and educate my mind without fear of harsh reprisal. As a family, we feel gratitude to live in a capitalistic, free society that rewards creativity and innovation, unlike a communist one that only allows for and breeds mediocrity by paying its citizens a renminbi every week regardless of their efforts or ingenuity. The freedom to conduct our lives, run a business, raise a family, go to a club or bar without worry of Mafia interference or involvement typifies a more serene existence than elsewhere. The ability to grieve our loved ones publicly without being restrained, injected and dragged away by government officials, as a distraught Russian mother was—with tv cameras rolling—when her son died in the Kursk submarine disaster, also secures our ironclad appreciation.

The recent senseless Malaysian Airlines tragedy reminds us that life can be fleeting and unjust. We feel grateful to live in a country that stands up far more often that it stands down in the wake of a disaster. Our country complained to the world community that the wreckage site should not be pillaged and compromised nor should the dead be left at the site for 48 hours.  In fact, with all of its “Grind to a Halt” problems in Congress, our country remains one of the most powerful, prosperous, philanthropic nations on this planet.

 In closing, I suggest that the 4th of every month should be  a day to reflect—at the dinner table or in front of a paused television show or  commercial—on the freedoms we enjoy, the bomb-free, tranquil peace which characterizes our overall quality of life and to be thankful to our servicemen and women for the many choices that we enjoy on a daily basis.       

13 June 2014

Doses of Dad

Doses of Dad

As Father’s Day approaches, I feel a wellspring of gratitude for my Dad who encourages me to excel and who mandated higher education in our home. When I couldn’t decide on a major, Dad advised me to pursue Finance, a practical and flexible option. He pushes me to expect more of myself, never treating me like a fragile flower, but always ready with a hug when I need one. When Mom divorced him, he paid my college expenses to complete my education even though he had no legal obligation to do so. As a result, I earned a BBA in Finance, graduating Cum Laude from one of the top business schools in the country.

 In business and social settings, confidence coats my approach, intimidation not an issue, as I know if I can deal with Dad’s high standards, I can deal with anything. Dad always enjoys playing professor, always teaching and relishing the moments of epiphany that light up a face. “Always remember- you can learn something from everyone” he coaches regularly and “If you’re not learning and growing, you’re dying.”
 He loves his kids dearly and uses his brilliance to optimize their lives. Quintessentially the hard worker—and the humble man—Dad keeps a low profile, never rests on his laurels and never flaunts his success. Most important of all, Dad wouldn’t compromise his kids’ ability to create happy and satisfying lives by writing a check to solve their every problem. My Dad—a self-made man who wants his children to experience the sweetness of a challenging life well chosen, carefully crafted and abundantly achieved.  

Sometimes my rock in a tempest, sometimes a sheltering mighty oak on a sweltering hot day, sometimes a lecturer with global perspective, doses of Dad represent some of the very best moments life has to offer me.

09 May 2014

Mother’s Day Gratitude

As Mother’s Day approaches, I pause to think about the fact that being my son’s mother remains the most treasured experience of my life. I don’t care about being honored. I feel honored and blessed to see his smile, to laugh at his jokes and to straighten his bow tie for a special dance. The best days as a Mom fill me with serenity and contentment much like an idyllic, beachy, breezy day spent relaxing in a hammock, savoring the sweet smell of honeysuckle, while the music of a nearby waterfall massages my worries away. In contrast, the worst days bring to mind the memory of 6 angry wasps attacking my ankle, my attempt to escape thwarted by 2 pulled hamstrings. YIKES!!  

 Often times, my son and I sit in a room together surrounded by technology, but prefer to discuss the day’s events to the exclusion of all else, mute and off buttons become an unspoken act of immediacy and priority.  Those moments rate as some of the most precious. Every day punctuated with a hug and “I love you” as the sun rises and sets. In retrospect, the mistakes made that led to the late night trips to the store for poster board or the need to grab a mop and broom to clean-up after a nasty gastrointestinal virus—all a chance to step up for him which I vow, like all good parents, will be my honor and his birthright. So many people believe that a child adopted from a third world country should feel lucky. Some do and some don’t, not knowing anything more than the here and now. It doesn’t matter because gratitude reigns in our home even on the most challenging of days, a collective deep breath taken and the push ahead made together.  

Motherhood reminds me of sports—triumphs celebrated, failures examined As and rapid rebounding back into the game. When my son graduates college and returns home to visit, my Iron Woman win will be complete as a happy, independent, intelligent, fully-forged moral person takes his place in the world. 

          Speaking of sports, on a final note, not being a girly-girl but more of a tomboy, my prowess as a nurturing parent became a source of controversy, but I silenced all doubters as easily as steel establishes its connectivity to a magnet. I owe the transitional ease to advice. Torn yet ready to martyr myself for the family good, I talked to friends about selling my beloved horse. The best advice I received as new mother changed my course—“You can’t fill anyone else’s cup until you fill your own.” And so I kept my horse and continued to ride, an homage to my days as a high school student. My husband, of 28 years, told me without a doubt that my “Kelly” time made me a better Mom and a better wife. 

          On this special day, I send all mothers a message. Please find time to enrich your life with an activity—art, running or writing—that harkens back to the days when your seventeen year old self ruled her world with swagger and an unshakable grasp of fun.