Friday, April 30, 2010

Tales of Reinvention: Janne Kouri

My father had his first stroke in October of 1985.  When most of us think stroke we think brain impairment. But our family rarely likes to do anything conventional. While my father had full use of his speech and intellect he was left unable to walk.  The doctors are not particularly encouraging when it comes to anything involving neurological issues. They use words like never, words no one wants to  hear.

At 63 my father was by far the youngest man on the spinal injury floor of Magee Rehabilitation.   Most of the other spinal injury patients were victims of tragic accidents. But they all had one thing in common. Blocking out the word never as they relearned how to  literally  put one foot in front of the other.

I spent a lot of time on that floor. I witnessed courage and fear.  I saw the joy in the eyes of these men when they made the slightest little bit of progress and the frustration when their bodies refused to cooperate with their determination.

I remember the look on my father's face when he took his first steps. A man who stood six foot one and had survived active combat in WWll was now finding  joy shuffling one foot in front of the other and   being able to stand with the help of a walker and a team of therapists behind him.

That memory caused me to burst into tears when I saw the video of Janne Kouri learning to walk again.

I learned of Janne through my friend Regena Thomashauer. Janne was a young, strong man just starting out in life  when a simple dive into the Pacific to cool off after a game of beach volleyball left him paralyzed.

He was told he would never walk again.  There are  a lot of things he could have done with that information. Janne chose to block out the never part and instead reinvent his life from where he now found himself. His experience showed him that there was a need for affordable, community based state of the art fitness facilities for people like him, the physically challenged. He and his wife Susan took a tragic accident and turned it into  a non profit organization called Next Step Fitness .

It has been twenty five years since my father's spinal injury. They are still telling the people this happens to never. I am not a fan of the word never. I believe it holds us back from what is indeed possible. My father did learn to walk again, but for him his heart was not as strong as his will.  Had it been he would have loved to have had a place like Next Step Fitness to go to.

So many of the spinal injuries happen to young people who still want a healthy and active lifestyle.  Next Step Fitness can help them. I invite you to support them with a donation or perhaps a ticket to their fundraiser on May 20 in NYC.  You can go to to find out how.

Sometimes we choose to reinvent our lives, other times something happens that forces us to do so.   In either case, there is no place for words like never. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Time To Reinvent: Warning Sign #5

You hide all the sharp, pointed objects in your office.
You are afraid you might use them on someone.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Getting It Right Or Getting It Perfect ?

I couldn't sleep Saturday night. I'm talking eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling, noticing every drop of rain falling on the sidewalk outside awake.This doesn't happen very often. I'm not one of those people who has sleep issues and resorts to chemical intervention to fall into REM. Just the opposite. My problem is usually waking up. That's how much I like sleep. Maybe it was too much wine. Or maybe not enough.

I've been so immersed in reworking the first section of my novel that just lying there waiting to get tired enough to fall back to sleep was not going to work. I got up, turned on the computer and started catching up on my blog reading.

It got me thinking, mostly that I haven't been writing enough blogs. Wondering how so many blog writers manage to get a post out every day. My excuse has been the novel. I haven't been able to concentrate on much else. The muse has not left my side and I don't want her distracted. This beginning is important, critical in fact to getting sold. And we all know that is my goal. To get published.

Now I'm wondering if the absence of my blogs is because I want them to be as perfect as the novel. But blogging is not about stressing over every word, worrying that if you don't grab someone in the first five pages they won't stay with you for the whole novel. Because blogging is about saying something in 500 words or less. Blogging is writing for the new generation of the attention deficient.

But I have been writing to get every word perfect. Polishing that first fifty so everyone who picks it up doesn't want to put it down. And in my quest for perfection I question whether I can really write at all, whether any of my words hold any importance. This desire for perfection in the novel has stifled my ability to get anything else on paper.

Seth Godin talks about doing the work and shipping it. But can you ship before it's perfect? Or do you just hope that you got it right enough?

I was so tired Sunday after my disrupted sleep that I was forced to take the day off. I brunched with friends, walked in the rain, bought lilacs, read the New York Times, and baked cookies. I also waited anxiously for the feedback of a wise and smart friend who I had asked to read those first fifty, someone who had not read one page of this manuscript before.

She liked it. She wants to read more. I don't know if it's perfect yet, or if it ever will be. But I know I'm getting it right. And if I'm getting it right that's pretty perfect.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

In Gratitude For Our Planet

April 22, 2010 is Earth Day.
I invite you to click through this link and spend two minutes in gratitude.

Gratitude is good.
In gratitude for our planet.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Time To Reinvent Warning Sign #4

There are rumors of downsizing in your company.

You went to a church, a synagogue and a mosque to pray that you will get picked. You want to make sure somebody hears you.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dancing Lessons

I love to dance and I love to watch dancing. That's me before my dance recital in grade school. You can tell by the black and white photo how long my love of dancing has been going on. It didn't matter that my dance teacher told my mother she was wasting her money on my lessons or that my mother listened to her. Life was different than. If a teacher told a parent something like that, the parent rarely questioned. I lived with the image of me being uncoordinated for a long time.

As an adult occasionally someone told me I was a good dancer. I never believed them. In fact, all it did was make me think less of their opinion on anything else.

Then I met Sally and her husband Alex Tchassov and starting taking lessons with him four years ago. I don't think I'm uncoordinated anymore. I learned I can dance. But more than that I learned about life.

Alex is from Russia. He is passionate about dance and full of insight and the parallels of the movement to life. I kept notes. It's one of my things. I like to keep notes.

I took a look at those notes this morning as I sat down to write a blog about my favorite show , Dancing with the Stars. You see I'm one of those people who is bothered by Kate Goslin. I usually cheer on an underdog, but I can't with her. And I haven't been able to figure out why.

Then I read this, paraphrased from Alex without the Russian accent:
Dancing is like life, it throws us off balance and we struggle to keep that balance with grace. We can't stand there and demand our fun. We need to enjoy and dance with our heart and not our brain.

And I got what bothers me about her. Rather than surrender to her situation, she is not merely resisting, but choosing the role of the victim on and off the dance floor, playing to excuses she has no previous dance experience, begging for votes through tears and hoping we will all feel sorry for her.

I'm not one for victims. I'm for taking responsibility. Victims don't get my vote.

I don't expect Kate will last much longer. This is after all a dance competition and there are much better dancers in it. I only hope when she leaves she takes away more than a dance lesson. She learns what I was fortunate enough to learn from Alex. Life is a big dance. We can show up, give it our all, learn to enjoy it no matter what is served up and find out dancing with grace is alot easier than we had thought.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Second Time Around

I confess to a new love. It's the reason I have been sporadic in my blog posting. We're just getting acquainted and there is a lot to learn. Some days it is very frustrating. My new love is SO very different from the others.

You're dying to know who he is. So I will confess.

"He" is a computer. An iMac. Yes, I am in love with a machine. I'm as surprised as anyone. You see I tried an Apple once before. In fact, it was the very first home computer I ever owned, somewhere around 1992. I was excited to get that laptop. I was sure I was going to love it. It was suggested to me at the time by a friend who was a big believer that Apple and I were a good match. I was wrong. So was my friend.

I hated my first Apple. It was a tiny laptop with something called a docking station to plug in all those ancillary devices, like the printer and the phone to get dial up Internet service. It was forever giving me problems. That sad Mac, the very same one Carrie Bradshaw encountered on an episode of Sex in the City visited me often. I was on the phone with support in California or at the post office shipping it out for service more than once. This was before the creation of Apple retail and the miracle of the Genius bar.

In the meantime I got a desktop in the office that happened to be a PC. The PC seemed easier for me to feel comfortable with. That and IT down the hall. I swore never to own an Apple again. People told me I must have found the only lemon in Apple history. I should give it a second chance. But not me. Once scorned I was not about to go back.

A Fujitsu and a Sony Vaio later I became a Sony convert. I've written two novels on that laptop. I started my blog there, learned how to use Facebook, Twitter and date on line. It has served me well. But it is old and slow. And like most modern technology has a shelf life.

Plus something else happened. I was lured to the iPhone. I didn't know it at the time but the iPhone would seduce me, make me reconsider shutting the door on Apple forever. I made some friends at that Genius Bar. I lingered in front of those big desktops with their brilliant resolution. I let my hands test out those wireless keyboards. Something had changed. Maybe it was Apple. Maybe it was me. Maybe it was both of us. I'll never know for sure.

It's only been a week but I am in love. Deeply. Yes, my new love has not let me in on all of his secrets yet, but I can feel this is the real thing. I liked my Fujistu. I really liked my Sony. But I am in love with my iMac. In the words of Ol' Blue Eyes, love is better the second time around.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Time To Reinvent Warning Sign #3

You’re looking forward to your root canal.

It means you will be out of the office all day.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

You Can Run But You Cannot Hide

When the Internet first became a force, the idea of being anonymous seemed to make it all the more fun. Very few people used their real names in their email. Creating your on line handle was part of the fun. You could wander from sight to sight in a disguise that you and perhaps only those close to you could identify.

But here is the new truth. There is no anonymity in today's world. At the same time we each now have the unique opportunity to brand ourselves or our business with the stroke of a keypad and barely a dollar spent, there is a cost. That is our privacy.

Monday's New York Times included an article , Unmasking the Commenters. It brought up the discussion of whether commenters, especially on news sites should be identified by name. It is an interesting conversation around the question of individual privacy and worth reading.

It reminded me of advice I was offered years ago when I was in my twenties running wild in the summer in Avalon, New Jersey. People tried to keep their lives private. But there was always gossip. A good friend offered this. If you don't want people to know something, don't do it.

I think the same applies in the new world of cyberspace. If you don't want people to know you are saying something, don't write it. Either have the integrity to own what you say and identify yourself or keep your thoughts offline.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Time To Reinvent Warning Sign #2

You start to hyperventilate when you get within three blocks of the office.

It is the only time you hyperventilate.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Day The Virus Attacked

I had feared this might happen from the day I began to rely on my computer for my work, the day I no longer had an IT department down the hall to support me. But like so many illnesses I walked around holding tight to the belief it would never happen to me. I paid for my preventive medicine, running virus scans with the same discipline I take my vitamins and exercise. But it didn't matter. It happened anyway.

A virus tried to infect my computer Wednesday. Yes, the very day I had an appointment at the Apple Store about switching to a Mac.

This was not a little virus. This one I imagined looked like The Blob in the classic horror film. The kind that won't be discouraged easily.

It appeared in a disguise. A tiny icon that looked almost like my Norton program. A big warning shouted out that a virus was worming its way in, getting my information, ready to corrupt my files and steal my data.

I knew something was wrong. A screen kept popping up asking for my credit card information before they would help stop this Blob like creature. I knew I had paid my Norton bill. I also knew what I had been taught from Corporate IT. NEVER open anything that looks suspicious!

Of course, now I was afraid to open any file for fear it would get corrupted. Including the one that had my Norton account information. Panic was trying to take over me, in the same way my Blob of a virus was trying to take over my computer. Had I backed up everything important? Why had I waited so long to get a new computer? I wondered where the virus came from. Was it that Facebook email that had corrupted a friends account? Or was it that surge of mail from the distribution list of those invited to the reunion of my classmates from JHS 172 in Bellerose ?

In a moment of sanity I remembered I had printed out all of my accounts and passwords and even had been so smart as to write down the phone number of Norton.

So there is a happy ending to this story. Through the miracle of the telephone I was connected with a representative in the Philippines who told me they could help me. They could walk me through how to sweep out this pest at a lower cost or I could give them access as an administrator and they could do it for me.

Guess which I chose? A credit card via the phone and a switch to another representative in India and in less than an hour the Blob had been squashed!

Yes, for a small cost, IT support for us work at homes is just a telephone call and a few continents away. My advice? Backup often, never open anything suspicious and keep those emergency numbers printed out and handy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Time To Reinvent: Warning Sign #1

You catch a glimpse of this really angry face. Her forehead is creased. Her eyes look like tiny daggers are about to shoot out. You can see her teeth clenching even though her lips are sealed shut. You wonder what’s got her so twisted. Could she really not like her job that much? You feel bad. You want to help.

Then you realize you are facing the mirror and that woman you’re looking at is you!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Is Reinvention A Girl Thing?

I keep wondering whether this whole concept of reinventing our lives is something women are more predisposed to than men. Yes, men change. Yes, I know men who have tossed the corporate hat aside for entrepreneurship. But it seems to me that with men it is more of an evolution as opposed to complete reinvention.

I read everyday about women turning the whole thing upside down and starting over. But I don't about men. Is that because my eye is tuned more towards the women's stories or are men less likely to make the really drastic changes? The kind that completely close one chapter to write a new one?

As women we certainly don't do that in our relationships. We try to make things work. And what about that remote? Aren't we the ones to linger a bit, see if the channel that's on is one we want to give some time to?

What do you think? Is it more in our genes as woman to create second and third acts? Are you a man whose reinvented or a woman who would never dare? Or am I just having an optical illusion and there is no sex more likely to reinvent?

Monday, April 5, 2010

I am a Crazy Deranged Fool too!!

This arrived in my email this morning. It says it all. I am a crazy deranged fool. That is how I have been feeling lately. Crazy. Deranged. Foolish. Making myself bad for it. That is until I got this cartoon and the accompany prose. Then I remembered why I feel this way and how happy I am to have chosen this route. Thank you to Hugh MacLeod and his daily cartoon.
Hugh's definition and I quote:
"A CDF is my term for somebody like me, i.e. somebody who actually has the temerity to TRY to do what he loves for a living, as opposed to shlepping for his daily crust." Hugh MacLeod
"The desire to "unify work and love" is a powerful driving force in society, and I see it getting more powerful by the day. The days of just turning up and getting paid well for it are over. The world is just too interesting and competitive now." Hugh MacLeod
Are you a crazy deranged fool too? If so, I suggest you sign up for Hugh's Daily Cartoon Newsletter.
Do you want to be a crazy deranged fool and are not sure how to get going? Then you might want to check out this and see how to sign up for a free introductory half hour coaching session.
Or if you just like Hugh's cartoon you can buy the the print by clicking here.