Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tip #22: Leave something behind

Every week I start thinking about this blog around Tuesday. This week was no exception. I thought "Mm, the sun is coming out, I should write about Vitamin D." Then, Wednesday came, I read (or saw or heard) something else and I thought "Mm, maybe Vitamin D can wait one more week." But, then, this morning I read yet something else, totally different, and while I was still toying with the idea of maybe talking about Vitamin D, maybe talking about something else, I scratched it all and thought: "Forget it, I have to write about this."

"This" is this short blog post by Seth Godin, "What are you leaving behind?"  He says:
All day long you're emailing or tweeting or liking or meeting... and every once in a while, something tangible is produced. But is there a mark of your passage? Fifty years later, we might hear a demo tape or an outtake of something a musician scratched together while making an album. Often, though, there's no trace.
But we actually live in a time when leaving things behind is very easy. I have some pictures from my father (who died when I was 13), some of his notebooks, but not much more. I remember we taped his voice once, but I unfortunately recorded over it by accident some time later, losing it forever. Now, we can make movies with our phones. Amazing.

And there are so many examples of great projects that are already "left behind." A young friend of mine, Leyla Dam, wrote a book with her mother's recipes and self-published it through She created it as a Christmas gift for her mother, but it is so much more.

Pages from Leyla Dam's cookbook
Even my students' projects are great examples, in my view. This year they had to write personal blogs in Spanish, and what they wrote was so much more exciting than I thought possible. Here are three posts that particularly moved me (in Spanish, but you can use to read them in English):
I really liked that their blogs can now be used as a portfolio of their Spanish knowledge. They include some recordings and video-clips, as well. They can be shown to prospective employers or their grandchildren.

There are so many other examples of things you can leave behind. I have a friend who writes about gluten-free diets, or others that just have great personal blogs, where you may learn something or not, maybe you just love reading about them. It doesn't have to be a blog or a book. I have a friend who has written journals for each of her three kids, since their birth. What an amazing gift those kids will have.

So, I thought, "what am I leaving behind?" I am happy to say that I believe that I'm leaving this blog as a trail of what it is that I am. It does not matter that it is not perfect, it doesn't have to be. I know that it is already helping people in ways I could not have imagined and it is helping me be happier. The excitement of my Tuesday idea, which changes by Thursday and then the choosing of the picture, the last minute altering of it, the research I have to do, the links to include, all adds up to great joy. This is not my profession. This is my passion. And if I don't write any more tips, if I don't get to talk about Vitamin D, you already have a glimpse of me. I have already accomplished something. And I do think it is a great way to be happier.

Sometimes we think we do not have anything new or different to offer. But it's not a matter of being different or new. It just has to be something that it is YOU. What you have to share is much more important than you realize. We all have something to offer.

What are you leaving behind?

PS: We are doing an experiment in our house and plan to be with no electronics on Sundays, so I have moved the day I write the blog to Saturdays. Wish us good luck.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tip #21: Challenge yourself (a little)

The semester has ended for me and so have my walks to school (I talked about them in Tip #6: Walk). And I realized a funny thing: because I had set up to park 15 minutes away from school "during the school year," as soon as school ended, I just stopped doing that, even though I still had meetings and things to do there. But, in my head, the challenge I had set out for myself was over. Not even for graduation, an ideal date if there is one to park 15 minutes away, I did it. I very gladly drove to the door of the school.

So, I guess I do need challenges. Particularly if it is about exercise (as precisely this week I read "Cancer survivors who stay active live longer" just in case I needed a reminder). So, I have set up two challenges for myself. First, I just joined a local yoga studio which has a special offer for new members: For $30 you can go to as many classes as you like for 30 days. I want to try to do yoga five days a week for those 30 days. This past week, I already did it and I'm very happy (if a bit sore). And, I just have discovered that yoga is a weight bearing exercise, something we all need, particularly to take care of our bones as we age.

For the second challenge, I'm actually hoping I can nudge all of you as well. Last summer I discovered in YouTube a video to strengthen your arms. It's only about 9 minutes and it's kind of fun. Here it is. Unfortunately, since my surgery in December, I had not done it, but now I don't have any more excuses. In fact, I even have one more reason. My blood sugar level has crept up a bit and exercise is one of the ways this can be corrected (as we can see in this article). So, here's where you all come in. I think I will be able to keep my challenge more easily if I can be accountable to someone, in this case, all of you. So I have set up this Google Doc where you can see if I do my exercise or not during the month of June. I want to do it three times a week. But, I am also hoping you will want to add your name there and join me by writing down the times you exercise (walking, biking, lifting weights, doing yoga, anything). Of course, you can write a false name if you are worried about the Internet and/or embarrassed. And you can also lie about everything (so can I), but what would be the point? By the way, don't worry if you make a mistake in the Google Doc. Docs can be restored very easily and, besides, this is just supposed to be fun. But I'm hoping I can get some of you moving as well and that we can all be super happy and celebrate at the end of June.

So, there you have it. I'm really looking forward to see what happens!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tip #20: Add a bit of poetry

This week, while meandering through the Internets (when, of course, I was supposed to be doing something else, like correcting finals), I found a blog post about Mother's Day that mentioned a book based on a TED talk. So, I bought the book, for myself, as a gift for Mother's Day (yes, I'm that easily convinced). I then watched the TED talk and was very happy with my decision to get the book.

For you see, the book has just one poem, called "B," and its first line says "If I should have a daughter..." and then, it goes on to say many things that I have in my heart and that I didn't know were there. It is beautifully written by Sarah Kay, a young artist who prefers to actually have her poems read aloud. I like her read version in the TED talk, but I actually like to hear the poem with my own voice. When I got the book, I read it to both my boys, each one alone, so they could also have a gift for Mother's Day.

The poem is a reminder that life is difficult. And this week, I also read a very convincing passage about  life not being fair. So, I already had the title of my post: "Tip #20: Accept that life is hard." But then I felt that my life has not been hard lately, honestly. I have been able to work one more school year successfully. I feel very healthy and happy and everyone around me seems to be doing well. Little by little, I'm learning to see beauty in things I would not notice or think ugly before, and I am now able to see positive things in people I may not like that much. I truly feel blessed, so, in part not to jinx myself (ahh, the superstitions do persist!) but also because I have always had the intention to have this blog be something very positive, even if it is at the cost of sounding naive or pollyannaish, I realized that the tip was not about the message of this one poem, but the poem, or better poetry, itself. Our souls crave poetry. We just forget it often.

The poem is about life being hard. And then, being harder. But also about it being beautiful. Here's a quote that I think sums it up:

But I want her to know
That this world is made of sugar.
It can crumble so easily
But don't be afraid to stick your tongue out
And taste it.
 Here's Sarah Kay reading her poem, just 3 minutes (there is a longer version of her talk here with subtitles):

And last week, I also read another poem, this one written by my 11 year old son. It was part of an assignment for class. He says he didn't think much about it, didn't even enjoy writing it (I don't believe him). I think it is also a song to friendship and discovery and love, just like the first poem. So here it is (and I do see a clear influence from Shel Silverstein). I know I'm the mother of the author, but it also touched my soul.

So, this tip is about remembering to add poetry to your life. It is soothing, comforting, beautiful, maybe the opposite, but always music to our ears and to our hearts.

Do you have a  favorite poem? Let me know!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tip #19: Nourish your friendships

I will make this a very short post but, hopefully, meaningful. Here's a quote from a book I haven't read yet, but I already love his author, Shawn Achor (and not just because of his name). He is the speaker in one of my favorite TED talks I have seen so far: The happy secret to better work. The book title is The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work and here's the quote: 
In a study appropriately titled “Very Happy People,” researchers sought out the characteristics of the happiest 10 percent among us. Do they all live in warm climates? Are they all wealthy? Are they all physically fit? Turns out, there was one—and only one—characteristic that distinguished the happiest 10 percent from everybody else: the strength of their social relationships.
There is much more that I would like to write about friendship and its importance, but today I just want you to ponder that quote, as I reflect on my wonderful weekend. I just came back from a super fast trip to meet some amazing and incredible women who I had known only online before. We all belong to this group that is called "Metastatic Breast Cancer Babes" within the My Crazy sexy Life Community. I just cannot even begin to explain what these ladies have meant for me since the moment I joined the group. Granted, it is is not a club you want to be a member of, but once there, you will find so much knowledge, love, compassion and, yes, friendship. It was an amazing experience to finally meet some of them in person, as we already are so close to each other. It was just beautiful to be able to actually hug each other, hear them laugh, and see their smiles.

And, I just want to say "thank you" to all my other friends, the ones who read this blog particularly. My life is definitely better because of you. I do not need any study to tell me that.

So, today, I just have a suggestion: call a friend. Have a cup of coffee (or green tea) with them. Enjoy their company. Be happier for it.

And, hopefully, you still won't think I'm totally sappy.