Tag Archives: gratitude

Thank You, Jon Stewart

. . . for being the voice of reason in times of chaos.  You know $hit’s hit the fan, when the best news commentator in a country is in fact — a comedian.  Playground politicians are frustrating enough.  Turning on a “proper” newscast, only to find party propaganda or the ratings equivalent to flashing a little cleavage, is just downright infuriating.  And so, I turn to you, Jon Stewart, for the *only* sane perspective on this Shutstorm – because clearly, farcical is what we’ve come to.

On a lighter, more inspirational note, check out Jon’s interview with Malala Yousafza, a 16 year old who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in reviving education in Pakistan.  Her vision, passion and courage will give you goosebumps!

 

And by the way, this is my *last* week in a YEAR OF GRATITUDE . . . and incidentally, the year that led me back home.  Next chapter?  I’m taking suggestions . . .

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On the Perils of Texting

I’ve been overwhelmed with all the sources of gratitude since moving home: thoughtful cousins, fresh air, helpful coworkers, exciting classroom moments, new books on Zen, an apartment two blocks from the library, quality Grandma time, dips in the ocean, lush green mountain backdrops, hilarity from my nieces and nephews, and so much more … apologies for the late blog!

Still, I’m no stranger to the stressors and challenges of daily life, especially while in transition.  There has been one in particular that got to me for prolonged period of time: a gaping hole where I felt communication should have been plentiful.  I was hoping for more texting, more emails, more Skyping – and yes, it was from a particular person.  So much suffering can stem from expectations!  Especially when they’re rooted in the actions of other people, and most especially when these actions are performed via modern mediums of communication.

And then I happened across an article and a video on this very topic … they certainly helped to put things into perspective for me.  I hope they’re of interest/entertainment value to you.  It’s hard to go wrong with Louis CK …

 

 

From Ira Israel on Elephant Journal:

I apologize in advance.

I could be wrong. I could be making a mistake. I’ve made mistakes before.

Maybe it’s my fault.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I am reading too much into it. Maybe I am misguided. Maybe I don’t understand. Maybe I just don’t get it.

In the 1970s, if you told people that someday magnetized analog audio 8-track and cassette tapes would be replaced by digital ones and zeros pinging around inside a silicon microchip…

In the 1980s if you told the workers at Kodak that celluloid film would die a painful death at the hands of digital photo and video…

Or that facsimile machines would be replaced by PDF files cruising through high speed cable lines…

They would not have believed you.

All this to say that I believe that by the year 2040 people will look back on text messaging in the same manner that you and I look back on Morse Code.

Texting may seem wonderful for the occasional brief note to instantly reschedule a meeting in your crazy-busy life, but it actually often engenders ambiguity and confusion by failing to convey essential nuances such as disappointment, hope, irony, sadness, elation.

Text messaging is an absolutely terrible means of communicating emotions, WITH THE POSSIBLE EXCEPTION OF TEXTING ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS (a.k.a. “shouting”)—LOL!— DUH!—sideways smiley faces and multiple exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have witnessed the destruction of countless patients’ important relationships by miscommunications caused by texting and what I refer to as “subtexting.”

Subtexting is the tacit information given and the rampant misinterpretations of that information—namely the response time between text messages.

When you stand in front of a fellow human being and look into his or her eyes, you get a tremendous amount of information and you receive that information in real time; when you speak with someone on the telephone you can hear his or her breathing, you can feel the rhythm and tone of his or her voice, and get a general feeling of what that person’s current disposition or emotional state is.

Are they frantic, discombobulated, out-of-sorts, out-of-their-heads? Or are they serene, calm, composed, lucid, empathetic and thinking clearly?

All of this is completely lost while texting.

You have no idea if the other person is sitting on the toilet, driving furiously, smoking crack, gently massaging their wrists with a razor, having sex (yes, 25 percent of teenagers recently reported texting while having sex), throwing a tantrum, in a very important meeting, throwing a tantrum in a very important meeting or in a yoga class (yes, I watched an actress negotiate filming a nude scene via text message while in Virabhadrasana II—completely surreal yet somehow remotely acceptable at Maha Yoga).

And every second that passes as you wait for a response, your mind tries to assemble a scenario of the other person’s current reality from the blurry pixelated puzzle pieces of your text message conversation and the time it takes for them to respond.

You wonder,

“Is my wife really shopping at Whole Foods or is she screwing her tennis coach again? I thought that was over. Why is it taking her so long to text back?”

To my friends and recent girlfriends (too many of whom have ended our relationship via text message or what is known here as the “fade out,” which is when they slowly stop returning messages, and like a frog being boiled alive, you end up scalded by the silence): I have made very specific requests.

Please only text me for one of two reasons:

1. Egregious flirting. For example, “Ira, you’re super cool!” “You’re magic!” “You’re dreamy!” “You’re hugely gorgeous!” “You’re both dope, fresh and rad!” “I miss you!” “When can I see you again?”

2. Emergencies. For example, “Dude, I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 35 years and I still can’t calculate traffic into the equation. My GPS told me I would be there three months ago. I’m sorry I’m late. Dinner is on me.”

However, I have witnessed potential partners have entire one-sided passive-aggressive conversations and self-implode like Jon Favreau in “Swingers” via text message on my oh-so smart phone.

I have watched vacations in Paris spontaneously combust via text messaging on my oh-so smart phone. Worse, I have had imminent threesomes float off into the ether, never to be seen again, thanks to text messaging on my oh-so smart phone.

All joking aside, trying to communicate anything of note via text message equals one thing: fear of intimacy.

Anyone who can’t pick up the phone or look you in the eye when conveying vital information suffers from a dreadful fear of abandonment which manifests as a fear of intimacy. That’s why they like to keep everything vague—so that it appears more like Steve Jobs’ “Reality Distortion Field” than an outright lie, when they preemptively flake on you (before you can even think of flaking on or abandoning them).

After ten years and thousands of texts, I feel comfortable saying that the deficits outweigh the benefits regarding text messaging.

By now you’ve read or heard about Sonja Lyubormirsky’s book “The Myths of Happiness” so you know that most of the things you learned growing up in America will unequivocally not bring you happiness—right?

Once you are above the survival level, and if you are reading this article in your home or office and didn’t drag your pilfered three-wheel shopping cart from Venice Beach to the library this morning to shower in the bathroom sink, then you are probably doing better than just surviving.

The only thing that correlates strongly with happiness is the quality of intimate face-to-face relationships.

If you set your iPhone on the sink or toilet when you take a shower, then it is safe to say that technology is no longer your friend.

Facebooking and Tweeting delude people into believing they are engaging in relationships. But face it: nobody is ever going to receive a hug or pat on the back through a video screen. We need eye contact, we need to break bread with other human beings, we need touch, we need to practice the dying art of conversation, we need face-to-face empathy, love and compassion to get all of those mirror neurons firing again.

Oh, yeah, anyone notice the massive rise in depression, alienation and isolation, or the 100 million prescriptions for anti-depressants written every year in this country of 314 million people? I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

All of the preceding is to explain why today I eliminated text messaging from my mobile telephone.

I want to rob people of the ability to reschedule via text message when I’m already sitting at the restaurant. I want to eliminate the possibility of a future girlfriend breaking up with me via text message or by fade out. It’s too easy. It’s too impersonal. It’s like assassinating someone by drone rather than knife and having his blood spurt all over you.

Horrendous improprieties and flagrantly inconsiderate behaviors have become tolerated due to text messaging and micro-scheduling. It is time that we realize that all of this multi-tasking—texting multiple people, while monitoring Tweets and Facebook feeds, while watching marathons of “Breaking Bad,” while eating Chipotle take-out, while paying credit card minimums online, while checking World of Warcraft scores, while skimming Youporn to see if you recognize anyone from Spring Break—isn’t making anyone happy.

Except possibly Time Warner Cable and their shareholders.

Most of you are too young to remember the famous line from Paddy Chayefsky’s “Network:”

“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Well, you can call me Howard Beale if you like.

But you will no longer be able to text it to me. LOL!!!!!!!! :-)

 

* Poptastic Invasion *

I’m not proud.  For the last week or so, I’ve immersed myself in a world of pop.  No jazz, no yoga tunes, no hip hop.  Just straight up, main stream, radio friendly ear candy.  Here are the gems I’ve been singing to – when no one’s looking, of course…

A livelier version of the original Rhianna ditty, “Stay” … best heard with the bass in full effect

Heart wrenching … and so bloody sweet.

More tunes from the morning drive.  Catchy.  Cute.  Is she seriously sixteen??

Showing my age a bit.  You know when you move back home and all the old school tracks start popping up?

Heard this ‘lil gem at a volleyball game the other day.  Oh my…

Meet the Blobfish

Poor Mr. Blobfish.  He has the unfortunate claim to being the ugliest animal on the planet, at least according to The Ugly Animal Preservation Society.  Today I’m grateful for both his awesomely ugly face (not a bad giggle for a Monday!), and for being born a human!

 

Blobfish wins ugliest animal vote

By Victoria Gill Science reporter, BBC News

The grumpy-looking, gelatinous blobfish has won a public vote to become the official mascot of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society.

This gives the fish the unofficial title of world’s ugliest animal.

The society began as a science-themed comedy night and devised its mascot campaign to draw attention to “aesthetically challenged” threatened species.

The winner was announced at the British Science Festival in Newcastle.

The blobfish tops a list that includes the huge-nosed proboscis monkey, the similarly afflicted pig-nosed turtle, an amphibian affectionately known as a “scrotum frog” and pubic lice.

Biologist and TV presenter Simon Watt, president of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, said he hoped the campaign would draw attention to the threats facing these weird and wonderful creatures.

“Our traditional approach to conservation is egotistical,” he told BBC News.

“We only protect the animals that we relate to because they’re cute, like pandas.

“If extinction threats are as bad as they seem, then focusing just on very charismatic megafauna is completely missing the point.

“I have nothing against pandas,” he added, “but they have their supporters. These species need help.”

‘What died today?’

Mr Watt said he hoped the vote would also bring a lighter side to conservation.

“It’s the most depressing type of science to be involved with,” he said. “It’s basically working out: What died today?”

For this campaign, Mr Watt worked with comedians, each of whom created a campaign message on YouTube for their chosen creature. The society asked the public to vote for their favourite.

The blobfish eventually won by almost 10,000 votes.

The bizarre creature lives off the coast of south-eastern Australia and Tasmania, at depths of between 600 and 1,200m, where atmospheric pressure is several dozen times higher than at sea level.

Its gelatinous body is just slightly more dense than water, and it spends its life “bobbing around” in the depths.

It feeds on crabs and lobsters and so suffers a significant threat from fishing trawlers. Although it is inedible itself, it gets caught up in the nets.

Other animals on the shortlist face similar threats to their habitats and Mr Watt hopes that this campaign will highlight the fact that conservation should focus on the protection of habitats rather than specific species.

proboscis_monkeyThe remaining animals in the top five were:

  • The kakapo: The world’s only flightless parrot. This heavy bird evolved in an island “bubble”, with no natural predators. But its New Zealand home now has many mammals, including humans, that have decimated the population of the famously curious kakapo. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there were just 126 of the birds remaining in the wild in early 2012.
  • The axolotl: This is the salamander that never grows up. The amphibian spends its entire life underwater, unlike other salamanders, which develop the ability to breathe out of the water when they mature. The axolotl’s perpetual state of larval development means that it is able to regrow lost limbs. It also means the creatures are of huge interest to scientists; the salamanders are studied for their apparent natural resistance to ageing and cancer. They live only in a small cluster of lakes in Mexico that are now becoming dangerously polluted.
  • The Titicaca ‘scrotum’ water frog: This amphibian lives only in Lake Titicaca in the Andes. It has evolved a reduced lung capacity, so its many skin folds help it to breathe. According to some researchers’ accounts, the frogs do “press-ups” at the bottom of the lake to create disturbances in the water that increase oxygen flow.
  • The proboscis monkey: As well as a very oversized nose, this primate also has a rotund appearance, which is a by-product of its diet of unripe fruit. Only the males have such large noses and, although they might look odd to us, it is thought that they make the primates more attractive to potential mates.

Carly Waterman from the Zoological Society of London’s Edge species programme, which aims to highlight and conserve evolutionary “one of a kind” species, praised the campaign, saying it was important to raise awareness of less “traditionally charismatic animals”.

“A large proportion of the world’s biodiversity is being overlooked,” Dr Waterman told BBC News. “So flying the flag for these species is a really positive thing.”

The campaign was run in conjunction with the National Science and Engineering Competition.

Big, Da Family!

obama-clanHawaii families tend to be pretty massive.  Not because we have more kids out here than in other parts of the world, though I would say this is an ideal place to start a family.  The size of a Hawaii family feels a lot bigger, mostly because of the generous inclusion of extended members, a multilayered practice unique to the islands.  Like while I was growing up here on the south shore of Oahu, I used to play with a pair of siblings, Jacob and Missy, who were the kids of my mother’s former best friend from high school.  So we considered ourselves cousins, calabash cousins.  Which came in particularly handy when I’d get teased at school for liking Jacob – I could always just tell everyone that we were cousins, and they’d leave us alone to have fun, sans mockery!

So if Jacob and Missy were my calabash cousins, that made their mom, Ewalani, my aunty.  And I would call her just that – Aunty Ewa.  In fact, any adult I met, who happened to be very close to my mother or father, I tended to use “aunty” and “uncle” as a sign of respect.  Including my Dad’s crazy biker friends, like Uncle Animal and Uncle J.C..  Sometimes, your calabash relatives fulfill those familial roles with even more love and attention than your blood relatives.   We sometimes use the “aunty” and “uncle” titles for any person older than you encountered in public.  Like, “Eh Aunty, you like one seat?” If you were to offer a seat to an older lady on a bus.

Another fairly unique family layer in Hawaii is made up of hanai children, those taken in by a close family friend, or, in traditional Hawaiian days, children from a high ranking family creating an alliance with another high ranking family.  Queen Liliuokalani (in the featured image), Hawaii’s last ruling monarch, was taken in as a hanai child, and took in a few of her own as well.  Hanai are something akin to foster kids if the situation is temporary, or in more extreme cases, godchildren, if their parents were to have passed.

Today, however, I’m grateful for my big (immediate) family, from my parents to my grandparents, from my aunties and uncles, and especially for my cousins!  Without them, this move back home would have taken a lot longer, and been a lot more arduous.  Mahalo, cuzzies, you da best!

Inspiration and Chai – Wisdom from the Dying

What could be more poignant than heartfelt life advice from people who are facing the end?

Inspiration and Chai is a blog by an Australian palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware; press surrounding her book based on her experience has been circulating for about a year, but I only *just* heard about it this last week.  I had to share it with you lovely readers!  There are certainly elements of sadness to this collection, all the fruits of wisdom shared are really born from these patients’ biggest regrets.  Which makes this read all the more valuable.  These are fellow human beings, some elders, others not, who had the rare opportunity to share their broad perspectives,  looking back on all of life before it comes to an inevitable finish.  By paying attention to their advice, instead of repeating their mistakes, we have an opportunity to build upon their wisdom for the generations to come.

 

Here’s a little tid bit …

 

From Inspiration and Chai

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.


2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

 

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.


4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

 

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.


This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

Bubble Tea Madness!

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ve probably noticed by now my obsession with all things green tea and taro.  On one glorious morning last week, my cousin and I happened across a new dessert spot near Ala Moana (Honolulu).  I ordered a taro milk tea with green tea bubbles.  The smiley man behind the counter at Bambu Desserts and Drinks did not disappoint.

This was, hands down, the best bubble tea I’ve ever had, and I grew up in Hawaii and lived in Asia as an adult for several years.  The people at Bambu don’t use sugary pre-made powders to make their taro bubble tea, oh no.  They actually boil taro root themselves and blend it into the tea for a healthier, richer experience.  If you’re in the ‘hood, I highly suggest checking it out!

And if you don’t happen to live in Honolulu, here’s an easy recipe for making bubble tea at home from TheKichn.com!

How to Make Boba and Bubble Tea

What You Need

Ingredients

1/4 cup dried boba tapioca pearls per serving (NOT quick-cooking boba)
1-2 tea bags per serving, any kind
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
Milk, almond milk, or sweetened condensed milk
Fruit juice or nectar (optional)

Equipment

Saucepan
Bowl for holding the cooked boba
Measuring cups

Instructions

1. Cook the Boba: Measure 2 cups of water for every 1/4 cup of boba being prepared into a saucepan. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the boba and stir gently until they begin floating to the top of the water.

Turn the heat to medium and cook the boba for 12-15 minutes. Remove the pan from heat, cover, and let the pearls sit for another 12-15 minutes.

2. Prepare Sugar Syrup for the Boba: While the boba are cooking, make a simple sugar syrup to sweeten and preserve them once cooked. Bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil over high heat on the stove or in the microwave. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup sugar until dissolved. Set aside to cool.

3. Prepare a Strong Cup of Tea: This can be done either while the boba are cooking or ahead of time. Allow enough time for the tea to cool completely before making the boba. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the tea bag. Use one tea bag for regular-strength bubble tea or two for a stronger tea flavor. Remove the tea bag after 15 minutes and chill the tea.

4. Finish the Boba: Once the boba have finished cooking, drain them from the water and transfer them to a small bowl or container. Pour the sugar syrup over top until the boba are submerged. Let sit until the boba are room temperature, at least 15 minutes, or refrigerate until ready to use. Boba are best if used within a few hours of cooking, but will keep refrigerated for several days. The boba will gradually harden and become crunchy as they sit.

5. Make the Bubble Tea: Pour the prepared tea into a tall glass and add the boba. Add milk for a creamy bubble tea, juice for a fruity tea, or leave plain and add a little extra water. Sweeten to taste with the simple syrup from soaking the boba.

Additional Notes:

Very Chilled Bubble Tea: For an extra-chilly bubble tea, combine all the tea, milk, and/or juice, but not the boba in a cocktail shaker. Add a few ice cubes and shake for 20 seconds. Pour into a tall glass and add the boba.

Shortcut Boba: If you want immediate gratification, just cook your boba until they are tender, 5 to 10 minutes, and use them as soon as they’re cool. This kind of boba don’t keep for very long (turning rock hard in a few hours), but are delicious if eaten right away.

Saving Leftover Boba and Making Boba for Later: Boba are best if used within a few hours of cooking, but will keep refrigerated with simple syrup for several days. The boba will gradually harden and become crunchy as they sit.