To my mother:

It’s been 7 years.  It’s hard to believe that it has been that long, and that it has only been that long all at the same time.   Sometimes I remember things as clearly as if they were yesterday, and sometimes I have trouble remembering even the simplest things at all.  But today, my now annual day of reflection, I feel grateful. Grateful for gifts you have given me.  It’s impossible to list them all, but I felt compelled to list a few:

I’m grateful you taught me to appreciate the moments.  I’ll never forget our walks in the woods, starting with me as a little kid up to a few weeks before you died, and even our last walk about a week before you died.  There wasn’t ever a walk where you didn’t stop to appreciate something, the turtles in the water, smells of fall, the sounds of singing birds, the sun on your face.  I’ve never met someone who appreciated the ocean and the beach like you.  Or someone who could be overwhelmed by the beauty of a starry sky as you were.   I’ll never forget in dealing with a tough break up you telling me, “Notice the depth of your feelings, the complexity of how you feel right now.  I know it’s hard, but that pain has beauty in it.  Notice it.”  Tough for a 17-year-old to hear, easy for me to appreciate now.

I’m grateful you showed me growth.   You never stopped working on a better you, and yes you had your many struggles with how you viewed the current you, but you showed me that we can grow our minds, our bodies, and our hearts.  You would probably struggle to agree, but you really grew so much in the last 10 years of your life.  The things you learned, and shared with me on that journey are so much a part of who I am today, including my own work and growth process.

I’m grateful you showed me what unconditional love feels like.  It feels like this tremendous warmth and support, from deep within, that is always with you.  It means you can make mistakes, you can argue, you can get mad, you can screw up, but you’ll still be loved just the same as you always were.  It means you give because you love, not because you want.

I’m grateful you showed me how to have a loving relationship.  I’ve written about this before (here and here), but without your (and Tom’s) work, I would not have the relationship I have with Julie today.  I reap the benefits of this lesson daily.

I’m grateful you showed me childlike curiosity is not just for kids.  You were endlessly curious.  I hated playing Jeopardy with you because you knew everything about everything.  I still have many of your books covering everything from Buddhism to gardening to Astrology.  There were few things (except technology really) you weren’t interested in learning more about, and I’ve never met someone who could get as excited about exploring a new topic quite like you.

I’m grateful for our time together.  It was shorter than I know we both would have ever expected or wanted, but it was not short on lessons, depth, and love.  Today, as any other day, I’m grateful for you.

How Evernote is making me a better gift giver

Evernote for iOS icon
Evernote for iOS icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re coming down to the final crunch of Holiday shopping and if you are like me, and you prefer, if possible, to do all of your shopping online then you are just about out of time (unless you also are Prime subscriber and can find that special gift on Amazon).  I’m usually a bit stressed this time of year (as I know a lot of people are) because I try very hard to get someone a gift that shows I know them and care about them well enough to get something they are really excited about.   But I often really struggle with this and ultimately run out of time, often I defaulting to standard gifts.

But this year, I was prepared.  I am using evernote to make me better giver. I created a notebook called “gifts” and whenever I hear someone (my wife, my sister, a friend, etc) say something like “Oh man, I’d really like to go to that restaurant,” or “I’d really love some shoes like that,” I put a note my Gifts notebook under their name.  I have been doing this for my wife over the past 3 months and it made my Christmas shopping for her this year a breeze.   Maybe she will assume I’m a mind reader, but at the very least she’ll love her gifts.

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A great relationship, even better

Sunday (Photo credit: ex.libris)

As I’ve written before, I’m a big believer in the notion that great relationships require work.  Good relationships typically don’t go bad overnight, but instead it’s usually a long process of neglect.  I often wonder why you hear (or read) very little out there about putting work into relationships, especially with your significant other.  Shouldn’t we want to put in the work to make the most important (or one of) relationship in our life even better?

I was fortunate to have a front row view to one of the more caring, loving, and thoughtful relationships between my mother and Tom.  They put a tremendous amount of time and work into their connection and it clearly showed.  One bit of work they regularly put in was something they called the “Temperature Report.”  The premise is simple, you set aside a bit of time to connect as couple (just as you may do with your team at work) on several discussion points.  I think at the heart of what makes the temp report work is it prevents simple misunderstandings or even disagreements from becoming very big ones, or as my mother used to say it prevents a “mole hill being turned into a mountain.”  I’ve seen in some places they recommend you do this everyday, and while there’s no doubt that’s achievable, I think you can actually be effective doing it on a weekly basis.  Here’s the basic structure of a temp report:

  • Appreciations
  • Wishes, Hopes, and Dreams
  • New Information
  • Puzzles
  • Complaints with a request for change

(via: Smarter Marriages)

I loaded weekly temp report up into my, and on Sunday evening Julie and I sit down with a glass of wine and go through this. It’s pretty quick, and we’ve certainly skipped a few (easy tracking with TDP) and wrestled with a few more, but the results are very clear.  Even with disagreements or misunderstandings the process of discussion and practice brings us so much closer.  I can sense with each week, each practice, we’re strengthening our connection.

I love the idea that a simple practice, a tool to properly track our progress and the application of the content could and will yield lifelong benefits.  Powerful.

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