a year of Wooden: week 34

Good morning, everyone! My uncle Frankie just hit the road back down to L.A. after a nice morning of visiting with me and my grandparents over breakfast. Now I’m drinking tea and taking care of some emails/business stuff before heading out to Starbucks for a writing session. {I always get more productive writing done at Starbucks than at home. I crave the background noise and busy atmosphere.} Then I’m hoping to have a gym session this evening!

Before I get moving, time for this week’s year of Wooden challenge! Since Wednesday is the start of October, we’re going to move onto our October challenge this week…

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books
  • February: Make friendship a fine art
  • March: Help others
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day {financially}
  • May: Be true to yourself
  • June: Give thanks for your blessings every day
  • July: Love
  • August: Balance
  • September: Drink deeply from good poetry
  • October: Make friendship a fine art {new friends}

Back in January, we began this year-long challenge with the first item from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Drink deeply from good books. In September, we focused on poetry because Coach Wooden had a deep love for poetry.

Last week’s challenge was to read New and Selected Poems: Volume One by Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver poems

Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets — I shared her beautiful poem “The Summer Day” earlier this year as a mid-week meditation — and for this week I’d like to share her poem about one of my favorite things:

The Sunflowers

Come with me
into the field of sunflowers.
Their faces are burnished disks,
their dry spines

creak like ship masts,
their green leaves,
so heavy and many,
fill all day with the sticky

sugars of the sun.
Come with me
to visit the sunflowers,
they are shy

but want to be friends;
they have wonderful stories
of when they were young —
the important weather,

the wandering crows.
Don’t be afraid
to ask them questions!
Their bright faces,

which follow the sun,
will listen, and all
those rows of seeds —
each one a new life! —

hope for a deeper acquaintance;
each of them, though it stands
in a crowd of many,
like a separate universe,

is lonely, the long work
of turning their lives
into a celebration
is not easy. Come

and let us talk with those modest faces,
the simple garments of leaves,
the coarse roots in the earth
so uprightly burning.

You all know how much I love sunflowers, so it’s no wonder I was drawn to this poem. At first, I simply reveled in the beauty of the lines and the perfect description of sunflowers — their creaky spines, heavy green leaves, bright faces like “burnished disks.” But as I read the poem through a few times, what I was most left with was a sense of quiet strength, confidence, and hope. I love the lines about “turning their lives/into a celebration” even though this is not an easy task. I think that is a noble task for all of us to attempt!

sunflowers

Now, let’s move onto our challenge for October. This is a reprise of our February challenge, from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Make friendship a fine art. For October, we’re returning to this point, but instead of improving existing friendships, we are going to focus on nurturing new friendships.

This week’s challenge is to reach out to an acquaintance you would like to get to know better, and invite them to do something — coffee, lunch, a movie, etc. Reach out and get to know this person better!

friendship quote

Questions for the day:

  • What is your favorite poem by Mary Oliver?
  • How do you make life a celebration?
  • What new friend will you reach out to this week?

a year of Wooden: week 33

Good morning, everyone! Hope you’re feeling recharged after the weekend! I slept in a little this morning, which felt SO nice after a busy weekend of travel and commitments. Now I’m easing into the day with a hot mug of tea and some pb + banana toast, sprinkled with chia seeds on top for a bit of healthy crunch!

pb banana toast

What do you have going on today? I am hoping to get LOTS of productive work done on my novel. Then, later this afternoon I’m meeting with one of my favorite students for a tutoring session. But for now, time for this week’s year of Wooden challenge!

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books.
  • February: Make friendship a fine art.
  • March: Help others.
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day (financially).
  • May: Be true to yourself.
  • June: Give thanks for your blessings every day.
  • July: Love.
  • August: Balance.
  • September: Drink deeply from good poetry.

Back in January, we began this year-long challenge with the first item from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Drink deeply from good books. Now, in September, we are focusing on poetry because Coach Wooden had a deep love for poetry.

Last week’s challenge was to read The Soul of Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks. {Thanks to my brother for letting me borrow his copy!}

Rumi

I love how Rumi’s poems are so wise and filled with imagery and meaning, while also being accessible to the average reader like me. Reading this collection, I felt like my spirit was lifted up. His poems made me feel more in touch with the greater meaning and spirituality of life. It was really difficult to choose just one poem to share, so I ended up narrowing my favorites down to these two short poems:

One Song

What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
many jugs being poured

into a huge basin. All religions, all this singing,
one song.

The differences are just illusion and vanity. Sunlight
looks slightly different

on this wall than it does on that wall and a lot different
on this other one, but

it is still one light. We have borrowed these clothes, these
time-and-space personalities,

from a light, and when we praise, we pour them back in.

I love this poem because it makes me feel hopeful and it celebrates the unity between all of us as living beings. Too often, I think, we focus on our differences. We use those differences as reasons to divide us. But, like the poem says, deep down we are all singing one song, together. I love the metaphor of the same sunlight on different walls. And the end of this poem gives me goosebumps every time.

rumi quote

The Most Alive Moment

The most living moment comes when
those who love each other meet each

other’s eyes and in what flows
between them then. To see your face

in a crowd of others, or alone on a
frightening street, I weep for that.

Our tears improve the earth. The
time you scolded me, your gratitude,

your laughing, always your qualities
increase the soul. Seeing you is a

wine that does not muddle or numb.
We sit inside the cypress shadow

where amazement and clear thought
twine their slow growth into us.

At the end of this poem, I can’t help but sigh with contentment. I feel a release within me. Do you feel it, too? I think this poem beautifully captures the wonder, refuge and delight of loving another person. I especially love the lines: “To see your face/in a crowd of others, or alone on a/frightening street, I weep for that.” And the ending image of slow growth and understanding is an important one — love not as a lightning bolt in a fickle rainstorm, but something steady and nurturing like a tree.

rumi love quote

This week, I’ll be reading New and Selected Poems: Volume One by Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver poems

Next week, I’ll share my favorite poem from the collection, and I’d love to hear yours as well!

Questions for the day:

  • What is your favorite poem of Rumi?
  • What makes you feel alive or inspired?

a year of Wooden: week 32

Hi, friends! How are you doing on this marvelous Monday? Hope your week is off to a great start!

Time for this week’s year of Wooden challenge!

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books.
  • February: Make friendship a fine art.
  • March: Help others.
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day (financially).
  • May: Be true to yourself.
  • June: Give thanks for your blessings every day.
  • July: Love.
  • August: Balance.
  • September: Drink deeply from good poetry.

Back in January, we began this year-long challenge with the first item from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Drink deeply from good books. Now, in September, we are focusing on poetry because Coach Wooden had a deep love for poetry.

Last week’s challenge was to read Good Poems, an anthology of poetry selected by Garrison Keillor.

good poems

There were so many poems I loved in this collection! It’s hard to choose just one to share. But I think I’ll end up going with this one by Tom Hennen, “The Life of a Day”… I really love the message.

The Life of a Day

Like people or dogs, each day is unique and has
its own personality quirks which can easily be seen
if you look closely. But there are so few days as
compared to people, not to mention dogs, that it
would be surprising if a day were not a hundred
times more interesting than most people. But
usually they just pass, mostly unnoticed, unless
they are wildly nice, like autumn ones full of red
maple trees and hazy sunlight, or if they are grimly
awful ones in a winter blizzard that kills the lost
traveler and bunches of cattle. For some reason
we like to see days pass, even though most of us
claim we don’t want to reach our last one for a
long time. We examine each day before us with
barely a glance and say, no, this isn’t one I’ve been
looking for, and wait in a bored sort of way for
the next, when, we are convinced, our lives will
start for real. Meanwhile, this day is going by perfectly
well-adjusted, as some days are, with the
right amounts of sunlight and shade, and a light
breeze scented with a perfume made from the
mixture of fallen apples, corn stubble, dry oak
leaves, and the faint odor of last night’s meandering skunk.

My favorite sentence in the poem is, “For some reason we like to see days pass, even though most of us claim we don’t want to reach our last one for a long time.” That line struck me as so honest and true. Why do we behave this way? Why do we like to see the passing of days? One thing I have really been working on lately is enjoying and savoring the ordinary routines of my days. I also like this poem’s message of treating each day as a beautifully unique entity, and to appreciate each and every one you are given!

This week, I’ll be reading The Soul of Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks.

Rumi

Next week, I’ll share my favorite poem from the collection, and I’d love to hear yours as well!

Questions for the day:

  • What is your favorite poem in Good Poems?
  • Have you ever read poetry by the ancient poet Rumi?

celebrating martin luther king, jr.

Today we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I’m celebrating by participating in a community service project and by doing as many random acts of kindness as I can fit into my day!

I’m also spending time today reading the words of Dr. King and reflecting on his wisdom. I was especially moved by this passage:

“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be changed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation.” {Source: http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/pacificaviet/riversidetranscript.html}

My dad’s wonderful column this past week was about Dr. King and I want to share it with you as well: http://woodywoodburn.com/column-let-service-ring/

I’ll be back tomorrow with this week’s year of Wooden post. Hope you are having a beautiful day filled with service, compassion and reflection!

Question of the day:

  • What are you doing to celebrate MLK day?
  • What are your favorite words of wisdom from MLK?

lessons i’ve learned from living with my grandma

I’ve been living with my grandparents for almost three months now. Daily life with these two full-of-life octogenarians has been such a gift. My grandparents are insightful, intelligent, kind, hard-working, and often hilarious people. And their love for each other warms my spirit.

I’ve learned a lot from watching and listening to my grandma. Here is a woman who graduated from college, earned a Master’s degree in Education while working full-time as a teacher, and also raised four children — often by herself, as my grandpap traveled a lot for his job. She grew up during the Great Depression and WWII and learned from her mother how to live with the utmost frugality. She is the matriarch of our family, always going out of her way to make sure her children and grandchildren are happy and well-fed and comfortable. She talks to her sister every day, keeps up with a wide network of friends, and volunteers her time through various organizations. I’m so proud of the woman she is, and proud to be her granddaughter.

My mom and my grandparents.

My mom and my grandparents.

I thought it would be fun to share some lessons, large and small, that I’ve learned from living with my grandma these past few months. {I’m sure there will be more posts to come on the subject!}

1. Love is more powerfully shown through actions than through words. My grandma isn’t one to say “I love you” all that often. She says she can’t really remember her parents ever telling her they loved her, but she always knew they loved her because of their loving actions. My grandma is always doing kind things for the people she cares about. Yes, I believe it is important to tell the people you love how much you love them, but even more important is backing up those words with loving actions. Without caring gestures and acts of love, the words “I love you” lose their meaning.

2. Always bring a jacket. You never know when the weather’s going to turn, and you don’t want to be cold.

3. Always bring a snack. You don’t want to be hungry. Just stick a granola bar in your purse, at the very least.

4. Get to the show early to get a good seat. My grandma is always the first person at the movie theater, picking the best seat in the house. Often she’ll change her mind two or three times before she finds the seat she wants.

5. The freezer is your friend. My grandma hates wasting food. All leftovers are refrigerated. If she thinks we won’t eat them in time, she’ll put them in the freezer for later. Bread, cakes, cookies, pies — everything can be frozen and resurrected later. The woman wastes nothing. It’s amazing.

6. If you don’t know what to make for dinner, raid your fridge and make soup. You can’t go wrong with a pot of chicken stock and cut-up veggies.

7. Take a walk every day. Every morning, even when her hip is a little sore, she puts on her tennis shoes and goes for a walk around the neighborhood. Even just fifteen or twenty minutes of exercise makes a difference. My grandma also believes in getting your exercise in early, before the craziness of the day sets in.

8. When the weather’s nice, sit outside. If the sun in shining and the breeze isn’t too cold, you can bet you’ll find my grandma outside on the patio, relaxing in her lounge chair, reading the paper or talking to her sister or enjoying an afternoon nap. 

9. Sometimes people are yo-yo heads. Forgive them. My grandma’s favorite term for someone who disappoints is a “yo-yo head.” According to her, we’re all yo-yo heads sometimes. That’s why we have to be patient with each other.

10. Strangers are simply friends you haven’t met yet. My grandma is the Queen of Small-Talk, the friendliest person I’ve ever known. She talks to everyone — people waiting behind her at the post office, the barista at Starbucks, the person sitting the next seat over on BART. All the grocery store checkers know her by name. To me, sometimes the world can seem lonely or disconnected, everyone staring at their tiny phone screens or listening to their iPods. But my grandma reminds me every day that the world is a friendly place if you make the effort to be friendly yourself.
me and gma

Question of the morning:

  • What lessons have you learned from your parents or grandparents?

how to avoid regrets

I recently read an article about the top 5 deathbed regrets that I found through Danica’s wonderful blog It’s Progression.

Here are the questions the article left me with:

  • How can I let go of the expectations of others, and live a life true to myself and my own dreams?
  • How can I create a life of meaning and purpose?
  • How can I build better relationships with friends and family?
  • How can I design my life so that I’m happy and flourishing?
  • How can I express my authentic self more fully?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and journaling on these questions lately. For me, a key realization has been shifting my thoughts from what I should be DOING in order to live a happy life, to how I should be FEELING in order to live a happy life — in other words, what feelings combine to make up my “happy.” The feelings that keep coming up for me are: feeling loved, feeling helpful, feeling connected, and feeling inspired.

So now, I’m trying to organize what I DO and how I spend my time into activities and goals that most manifest those feelings that make me happy. Writing makes me feel inspired. Spending time with family and friends make me feel loved. Reading makes me feel connected. Volunteering at the food pantry makes me feel helpful. And so on …

I’ve also often heard the advice, “You are more likely to regret what you DON’T do than what you do.” This advice inspires me to try new things and not let fear keep me from going after what I want. On the other hand, however, I need to remind myself not to take this advice to the extreme; if I say “yes” to every opportunity that comes my way, I’ll be left feeling burned-out and stressed. Also, once I make a decision not to do something, I don’t want to look back and wonder what had happened if I had taken a different path. You can’t go back and change the past, so I don’t want to waste any time wishing or regretting what’s already done!

On a related note, I absolutely loved the latest issue of Real Simple magazine — there is a feature article titled “Live Long and Prosper” that features advice from eight centurions. Check it out!

My favorite was this advice from Justina Sotomayor {pictured below} on how to live a long, healthy life: “Be lovable. I’ve lived a long life because there are so many people who love me.”

advice justina

This advice from Haruo Ito is lovely in its simplicity: “Sleep well, try not to worry, and enjoy good dreams.”

advice ito

So, those are my thoughts of the moments on avoiding regret and trying to live the fullest, happiest life possible. What do you think? What is the best life advice you’ve ever received?

review of “half the sky”

HTS-book-cover-200-300My brother got this book for me for my birthday, and I am SO grateful that he introduced this book into my life. It seriously has rocked my entire worldview. I had no idea how many women are living in terrible, oppressive situations around the world. Reading this book makes me feel so grateful for things I’ve taken for granted: having enough food to eat and a warm bed to sleep in, feeling safe when I walk down the street, being able to get an education and pursue a career I’m passionate about… and on, and on, and on. After reading the remarkable true stories of survival and strength in Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, it is impossible to even feel a moment of self-pity. Instead, you will feel empowered to take advantage of all the blessings you have been given.

I also really enjoyed the writing style of the authors, husband-and-wife team Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn: detailed journalism combined with personal stories that touched my heart. The book was surprisingly uplifting at the end, with a passionate call to action and a list of ways you can help. Here are the four main ways the authors list:

1. Go to www.globalgiving.org or www.kiva.org and open a microlending account to help women entrepreneurs in developing countries. {I’m planning to do this today!}

2. Sponsor a girl or woman through Plan International, Women for Women International, World Vision, or American Jewish World Service. The authors add: “Sponsorship is a great way to teach your children that not all children have iPods.”

3. Sign up for email updates on www.womensenews.org and/or www.worldpulse.com.

4. Join the CARE Action Network at www.can.care.org which will assist you in learning more about these issues and becoming a citizen advocate for women’s rights issues around the world.

The authors also have a website for the book, called the Half the Sky Movement, where you can learn more and also watch a trailer for the film version of the book.

I’ll leave you with this powerful informational poster I found on the Half the Sky website:

violence against women

What books have you read that changed your life?

thoughts on the work-life balance

I’ve been browsing through my stack of old magazines before I donate them to the local library, and I found an article in the May 2011 issue of The Writer about how to establish a work-life balance in the profession of freelance writing. The article featured interviews with four freelance writers, and many of their thoughts struck me as so wise and true — and applicable to all of us, not just writers! Below I’ve compiled some of my favorite quotes from the article; you can read the entire thing at The Writer archives here.

the writer may 2011

  • “Start small. People think of balance as an all-or-nothing proposition. Remember: You are not going to start an exercise routine in a day. Instead, start with a 15-minute walk. Anyone can take 15 minutes away from their desks. If you are into drawing, spend 15 minutes of your day sketching. Or play with your dog or cat. Experiment with small things.” – Alison Stein Wellner
  • I’ve focused myself on having a life outside of work. I put in a solid five hours of writing a day, unless I have a huge deadline. If I want to take a vacation, I rearrange my schedule and get my assignments done before I go. I find that the more I get out [of my house], the more work I have. I think it is because I am more focused.” – Sue Marquette Poremba
  • “The term ‘balance’ is precarious; I like to say simplify. I am better at simplifying now. I know what I can take on and try to schedule work accordingly. … I try to leave a good portion of my evenings free. I’ll try not to work until late at night. I’ve done this by writing down what I need to do the day before, and that really helps.” – Stephanie Dickison
  • “I think it helps to know how you define success for yourself. Sometimes I do what is called the ‘nursing home test’ with myself. As in: When I am old and gray and living in a nursing home, will I wish that I had taken on an extra copywriting project or made time for a long-weekend camping trip with my friends?” – Michelle Taute

I personally had never heard of the “nursing home test” but I think it is a great way of approaching work-life decisions, especially when I am feeling myself falling back into my work-a-holic tendencies

Do you struggle with work-life balance? What are some tips or strategies that work for you?

year of kindness challenge: week 15

year of kindness button

It has taken me a while to write this post because I am just heartsick over the terrible tragedy that happened in Boston. When acts of hatred and violence happen, the impulse can be to sink into fear and despair. What good do small acts of kindness really serve? What are flowers and thank you notes and cookies and free cups of hot chocolate in the face of bombs and guns?

But I think, in moments like this, kindness matters more than ever.

It was difficult watching the footage from the Boston Marathon today — the blood, the smoke, the confusion and fear, all those innocent people who had come together to celebrate and support one another. But then my brother pointed something out to me — he said, “Did you notice all the people who ran TOWARDS the explosion, going into the fray to help?” And once I noticed that, a scene of intense despair became an incredibly moving portrayal of heroes.

Then I came across this on Twitter:

boston heroes

And these two articles about the amazing acts of kindness and love committed by everyday heroes in Boston:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/gameon/2013/04/15/boston-marathon-blast-help/2086273/

http://www.businessinsider.com/inspiring-images-from-boston-2013-4

In the midst of so much sadness and horror, my heart swells with gratitude and wonder at human compassion.

One of my friends on Facebook posted a note that really struck a chord with me — and touched on the whole purpose of this year of kindness challenge — so I wanted to share it with you, too:

I think that we can’t let ourselves be made powerless by acts like this, and we need to use this as a reason, if we didn’t have one before, of stepping up and helping someone else. Even if you don’t live anywhere near Boston. Go to your local Red Cross and donate blood; go to your local soup kitchen and spend some time helping those who are less fortunate than we all are; go donate books to a library; go donate your time and your considerable skills to help someone write better, sing better, paint better, sculpt better, whatever.

 

I don’t have a lot to offer, but I’ve got blood, and I’ve got a head full of poems and stories and some words that mean something to me, and hopefully that can mean something to someone else, too. Days like these are such a stark reminder of how fragile life is, so if our time here is so short, shouldn’t we use at least a little bit of that time to go out and help out other people?

 

mr rogers quote

I was thinking how the most precious thing we can give to others is our time. So the kindness challenge this week is to simply spend meaningful time with someone else you otherwise might not see. Call up an old friend and make a lunch date. Invite your neighbor to go on a walk. Ask that shy coworker if they’d like to grab coffee. Spend some time this week reaching out and connecting with someone else.

As always, blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn <AT> gmail <DOT> com.

In love, hope & kindness,
-Dallas

—————————–

year of kindness archives:
– week 1 challenge: donate items to those in need
– week 2 challenge: leave quarters & note at laundry machine
– week 3 challenge: write & send a kind handwritten note
– week 4 challenge: give hot chocolate to someone outside in the cold
– week 5 challenge: do something kind for a neighbor
– week 6 challenge: deliver valentines to a nursing home
– week 7 challenge: donate to a food pantry
– week 8 challenge: donate toiletries to a shelter
– week 9 challenge: post a kind note in a public place
– week 10 challenge: do something kind for a child
– week 11 challenge: thank someone in a genuine & meaningful way
– week 12 challenge: deliver baked goods to a fire station
– week 13 challenge: give someone flowers
week 14 challenge: donate books

goals for 2013

Happy New Year! Wow, I can’t believe it’s 2013 already. I vividly remember driving around town with my parents and brother on New Year’s Eve 1999, when it seemed like all the radio stations were constantly playing Prince’s “I’m Gonna Party Like It’s 1999” and everyone was worried about Y2K… Crazy that was 13 years ago!!

Before I get into my goals for the year, here’s how I did on my goals for the week:

  • revise and update calendar and syllabus for the upcoming semester
  • read & respond to all the workshop stories for the Key West conference {almost done with this!}
  • finish getting email inbox and computer desktop cleaned out and organized
  • write goals for the upcoming year
  • work on short play to submit to festival
  • finish reading The Zero by Jess Walter
  • prepare for my new “Act of Kindness” blog initiative for the upcoming year!

Pretty good way to end the year and gear up for the new year!

Here are my goals for 2013. I organize them into multiple subtopics because it helps me feel like I have more of a handle on the different facets of my life.

Writing Goals
1. Write! 400 words. Every day. No excuses.
2. Revise thesis manuscript and send to agent.
3. Complete YA manuscript.
4. Resubmit story collection to prizes & small presses.
5. Write a new one-act play.
6. Write a full-length play.
7. Finish Verna novella & put out as an ebook.
8. Write three blog posts a week.
9. Read three short stories a week.
10. Read 40 books by end of year.

Write On! For Literacy Goals
1. Send out a newsletter every other month.
2. Teach a summer writing camp.
3. Teach a winter writing camp.
4. Teach a college essay writing camp.
5. Speak to 10 classes/orgs/radio shows.
6. Make Pimple an ebook.
7. Hold a Holiday Book Drive.
8. Compile writing camp ebook/online program.

Professional Goals
1. Apply to fellowships & Ph.D. programs.
2. Submit to a literary magazine every other week.
3. Submit a query for a freelance article every month.
4. Apply to at least 3 conferences/workshops.
5. Submit to Literary Awards.
6. Update & expand teaching website.
7. Put 10% of every paycheck into savings.
8. Put $1,000 into Roth IRA at end of year.

Healthy Life Goals
1. Exercise at least 3 days a week.
2. Do core work 6 days a week.
3. Stretch every day.
4. Continue with meal planning & healthy cooking schedule.
5. Clean apartment every weekend.
6. Chronicle weekly acts of kindness on blog.
7. Send a card/letter to Gramps every other week.
8. Call Grandma & Grandpap every other weekend.
9. Count my blessings every night.

What are your goals for 2013?