Sunday, March 31, 2013

Leaving A Legacy With Commercial Real Estate

Watching my two children open the many gifts they were blessed with from friends, family and their parents, over the holidays raised a question for me. What can I give my children that they can enjoy when I'm no longer around? What can I give them that they can share with their Children's, Children's Children? The answer for me is Commercial or Income Producing Property. Namely small to mid-sized Commercial Real Estate. By small to mid-sized I mean assets whose value is in excess of $1 Million. I understand that Commercial assets is not as exciting to my children as the new leap pad games they received for Christmas but it's certainly the gift that will keep giving. In this article to we will explore three advantages to building a legacy with Commercial Property.

Income producing Real Estate in general is a great long term investment because of the high demand. As an investor in Apartment Buildings, I need only point to the basic needs of life, food, shelter and clothing, to justify that there will always be a need for shelter. Of those three needs, the need for shelter is, in my opinion, most important to the average individual. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011 Consumer Expenditures News Release reports that the average American spends 26% of their income, before taxes, on housing. As we examine our own economic spend plan housing is undoubtedly the largest bill for most of us. This further supports the claim that real estate is in large demand.

Next, Income producing assets are great long term investment because of the principal of leverage. One of my mentors used to say "You make money in real estate when you buy not when you sell... you must Buy Right!" Quoting him here is not as impressive without the Southern accent over the word 'Right.' What he meant is that buying a property must be done strategically with the goal of making money in the forefront. You must be able to leverage the money you use in a deal. Leverage occurs when money is borrowed at a certain interest rate that is less than the rate of return of the property. Leverage enables a commercial asset to pay for itself. What better asset to have than an asset that not only produces income but produces income in excess of its expense. Leaving such an asset for the generations that follow you is powerful.

Lastly, Commercial Property, namely property whose value is in excess of $1 Million, can more often than not support itself. The income produced from the monthly rents can be used to pay the mortgage and hire a staff of professionals to maintain the asset. Of course you can do everything yourself (Not Recommended) but if the property makes enough income to hire a professional lawyer, accountant, landscaper, property manager etc. why wouldn't you? More importantly, if your Children or your Children's Children are passionate about something else and don't want to be full time real estate investors they can hire professionals to manage the asset that funds your legacy.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

An Egyptian Adventure

The mysterious allure of an ancient civilisation and an overwhelming mythical and architectural heritage are just two of the inspiring reasons why every year millions of people head to Egypt for a taste of the unknown. Endless television documentaries and pieces of travel journalism will never truly portray the full grandeur of The Sphinx or The Pyramids of Giza, just as they will never entirely capture the intensity of the landscape's beauty surrounding The Nile no matter how rich a history of these cultural landmarks is provided. The fact is, Egypt is breathtaking - though such adjectives are rendered inadequate on first hand experience of the country.

There is a lot more to Egypt than its ancient artefacts, too. It has made its mark firmly within the contemporary cultural world on many counts. Firstly there is the Cairo International Film Festival, which aspires to bring peace and joy into the country, providing world wide cinematic material to the general public, opening people's eyes to the culture of their immediate vicinity and those that are strikingly different across the globe. The festival aims to promote cultural tolerance and is a celebration of humanity as well as art. Taking place in November, the film festival is a great excuse, as if one were needed, to see Cairo out of the main tourist season. For a wider snapshot of modern culture, take a look at the contemporary architectural work of designers such as Hassan Fathy and Ramses Wissa Wassef, and wander down to the spectacular Cairo Opera House while you're there.

For a taste of the quieter side of life, away from the gloriously bustling cities of Cairo, Alexandria, Sharm El Sheikh and Luxor (cities also hosting some of Egypt's busiest airports), head down to Sinai to experience deserted stretches of sandy beach and rugged red mountainous terrain stood stark against deep blue skies. The sunrises and sunsets are phenomenal in this most dramatic of scenic locations, as the vivid colours are bleached the sun's rising or fading light. It's even been known for the red sea to turn blood red in the sun's glow.

There are several things to consider when planning Egypt holidays. Tourist visas are easily obtainable but it is necessary to allow sufficient time for the process to complete prior to the departure date, and they do incur a small fee. Flights, however, are available cheaply from airlines such as Fly Monarch and shopping around online is always a great way to save money.

Egypt is a country full of surprises and cultural contradictions, where ancient civilisations live and breath amongst modern art, architecture, commerce and tourism. An entirely unique historical landscape has endowed Egypt with one of the richest cultural legacies in the world, making it an entirely unforgettable experience.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Interview with Elle Newmark, author of "Bones of the Dead"

Elle Newmark is an award-winning writer whose books are inspired by her travels; she explored the back streets of Venice to cook up her delicious novel, "Bones of The Dead." Elle also trekked through the rainforests of Costa Rica to write "The Cloud Forest," and she toured India by car and elephant to write "The Devil's Wind." Both new books will be coming out soon, but today she is here to talk about "Bones of The Dead."

Tyler: Welcome, Elle. I'm glad you could join me today. First of all, I understand "Bones of The Dead" is a novel with a bit of a mystery, set in fifteenth century Venice. How did you become interested in fifteenth century Venice, and what made you decide to make it the setting for your novel?

Elle: The Renaissance is an incredibly rich period for a writer to tap. Man waking up from a long intellectual nap-art, science, humanism all exploding at the same time-and most of it happening in Italy, my ancestral home. How could I resist?

Of course, Venice is utterly unique. A city of palaces built on water is an outrageous idea, and yet there it is. It's fabulous-the pageantry, the architecture, the history-fabulous! I lived in Europe for seven years and I've traveled on almost every continent, but I've never seen any place quite like Venice.

To quote my narrator: "Venice has always been a perfect setting for secrets, seduction and the melancholy thoughts of a poet. Tainted by iniquity, Venice invites moral surrender, not with a playful wink, but with the understanding that she is, and always has been, sluttish under her regal disguise." That's perfect for "Bones of The Dead."

Tyler: The main character, Luciano, is apprenticed to the doge's chef, and together they become involved in a dangerous adventure. How would you describe their relationship?

Elle: In a rather Dickensian move, the chef plucks orphaned Luciano off a squalid street and takes him into the palace kitchen. Luciano is grateful, even though the chef has ulterior motives; he has a long-standing wish for a son and he needs an heir to a secret legacy. The chef is an enigmatic character whose real mission is slowly revealed.

But the chef and Luciano come to love each other as father and son. The chef becomes Luciano's mentor, his protector, and his teacher-his father in the truest sense.

Tyler: In your book you use food as metaphor to advance the plot. You say, "Intrigue escalates and schemes thicken like stew while the enigmatic chef uses metaphorical soufflés and mysterious sauces to guide Luciano through a dangerous but delicious maze." Why did you choose to use food as a metaphor?

Elle: My father is a master chef, so I suppose food-as-metaphor was inevitable. I grew up in an Italian family, and food played a central role, not only on special occasions but every day. My first job, at the age of ten, was stuffing homemade ravioli on a long, pasta-covered table in our basement. Of course, I learned to cook, and I've often thought the preparation of food is loaded with metaphorical possibilities. Also, I just like the notion of a culinary historical.

We talk that way all the time, don't we? "Variety is the spice of life," "You are what you eat," "Dry as toast," "The salt of the earth," "Peaches and cream complexion," "He stewed in his own juices." Food engages all our senses. Everyone loves the satisfying crunch of peanuts, the narcotic aroma of fresh bread, the sight of ripe cherries, the sound of sizzling bacon. Food overwhelms the senses. One wonders whether we consume food or it consumes us.

As for metaphors, could there be a more perfect metaphor for the impermanence of life than a soufflé? Well, maybe a rose, but that's a cliché. The soufflé blooms, it's magnificent, and then it's gone. Either you were present to appreciate it or you missed it. The chef's spiritual message is "Be here now." I'm Buddhist, so I guess when a Buddhist writer grows up with a chef you're going to get soufflés instead of roses.

Tyler: I understand the plot revolves around Luciano learning that powerful men are plotting to unearth an ancient book rumored to contain heresies, love potions, alchemy, and even the secret of immortality. Where did you get the idea for this book?

Elle: Books were tremendously important during the Renaissance-the printing press was new and it was the dawn of humanism. Until then, the power structure in Europe maintained iron-fisted control of the people by limiting the flow of knowledge. When books presented crazy new ideas (like the earth revolving around the sun) there was trouble. Books were always monitored for seditious content.

However, there's no squelching human ingenuity. People find inventive ways to protect their ideas, like the scrolls stuffed into jars and hidden in caves near the Dead Sea. The chef hid his subversive ideas in plain sight-he encoded them in recipes. One way or another, the written word is preserved to illuminate the past and show the way forward.

In "Bones of The Dead," is about a book that holds forbidden secrets. Human nature being what it is, everyone thinks the book has what he wants most. Luciano wants a love potion, the old doge doesn't want to die, one person wants gold, and another wants power. No one knows exactly what's in this book, but they all know what they want it to be.

Tyler: Immortality and alchemy have frequently appeared as dreams or goals in fiction. What do you find fascinating about them?

Elle: I find them interesting for the same reason everyone else does. Immortality fascinates because no one wants to die. We try to fool ourselves into thinking we don't age-we dye the gray out of our hair and we spend billions on wrinkle creams, diet plans, and cosmetic surgery because we idolize youthful beauty. Getting old isn't cool because it smacks of death.

In spite of all that, we do die, but we achieve immortality by what we leave behind. Whether we intend it or not, we all leave something, even if it's only a mote of DNA. Most of us make an effort to leave something more meaningful-art, skills, ideas, values. I believe we achieve immortality by passing these things along to the next generation. That's why I dedicated this novel to teachers.

Oh, and alchemy, yes, that's an old favorite because it speaks to something embedded deep in the human psyche. Alchemy is about greed and a wish to believe in magic. If people didn't fantasize about getting rich quick, the lottery would go broke. Last time I checked it was doing astonishingly well.

Tyler: Why did you choose "Bones of The Dead" for the title?

Elle: The title works on several levels. First there is a scene in which the doge and the pope's astrologer eat Italian cookies called bones of the dead. As the characters munch through the bones of the dead, they talk about the illusion of defeating death, and this introduces the theme of immortality.

Second, all the churches in Europe have catacombs and bones of saints preserved as relics. The chef points out that they are only bones, only symbols of the real legacies-lives lived with courage and wisdom, the things he wants to teach Luciano.

Third, as the chef tells Luciano, "Civilizations are built on the bones of the dead." Teachers of every description pass knowledge from one generation to the next, and thus humanity advances. That's why I chose the quote from Sir Isaac Newton for my epigraph: "If I have seen farther than other men, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."

Tyler: I understand the book has some political intrigue involving the Church. The novel sounds like it has a conspiracy theory feel to it. Do you feel the issues in it speak to the world's current state of affairs?

Elle: Any novel worth its fictional salt speaks to the world in its current state, that is, to some universal theme. In medieval times, the Church wielded political influence and popes conspired with heads of state. During the Renaissance, free thinkers challenged that power structure. These days, it might not be the pope, but we all know that far-reaching deals are made behind the scenes. Politics are politics, then and now.

"Bones of The Dead" carries the message that we don't have to be personally defeated by shrouded power struggles at the top. We can choose to live with decency and purpose, no matter what plots are hatching behind closed doors.

But if, by conspiracy theory, you're referring to the passages about the Gnostic gospels and Jesus, well, there's nothing in my novel that hasn't been suggested before. It's not new; it's just controversial.

Tyler: Which writers or books would you say have influenced you in your writing?

Elle: Oh, there are so many. Early influences were the two Johns-Steinbeck and Updike. Steinbeck for his humanity, and Updike for lives imagined down to the last quirky detail. I also love the magical realists-Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabelle Allende in particular-for the way they bend reality and take me along for the ride. Ian McEwan stuns me with his ability to portray the dark side of human nature with insight and compassion. Ann Patchett has a lovely gentle touch; Rohintin Mistry offers us a moving and unflinching look at India; Toni Morrison colors outside the lines, but brilliantly; Tim O'Brien depicts war with an admirable willingness to mine his own pain; Sebastian Faulks draws me into foreign landscapes of time and mind; Kasuo Isaguro is a genius...

Honestly, there are so many fine writers out there I could go on forever. I wish everyone would just go to a library, go to a bookstore, and try new authors. Experiment.

Tyler: What about writing historical fiction intrigues you, and do you find anything specifically difficult or frustrating about it?

Elle: I love everything about historical fiction-reading it, writing it, and researching it. What broader canvas could I ask for than the history of mankind? And what richer palette could I use than the tapestry of human experience? The historical writer draws on vast resources of human behavior, but with the benefit of hindsight.

Tyler: Would you tell us a little bit about the next two novels you have coming out?

Elle: "The Cloud Forest" tells a story of indigenous people in an Amazonian rainforest and their struggle to escape the intrusion of the 20th century. Researching that book took more than a year, as well as an unforgettable trek through a rainforest.

"The Devil's Wind" is set in India, 1948, the year of Partition and Gandhi. That one is about the power of forgiveness, and researching it took me to India. Elephants are surprisingly easy to ride.

Tyler: Obviously you love to travel. What is it about traveling that inspires your writing?

Elle: A sense of displacement kicks my creativity into high gear. In familiar surroundings it's easy to get into a routine and walk around half awake. But when you travel, everything is new, you don't know what's around the next corner and you're awake to every moment. I'm addicted to that feeling of discovery.

To experience the world and its people is a great and humbling adventure. To write about it is a way of understanding and sharing.

Tyler: Where do you plan to travel next, and will you be researching another book?

Elle: I'd love to go back to Africa just to see more of it and, who knows, a book could come out of that. But right now I'm thinking my next book might take place in cyberspace.

I'm fascinated by the meeting-of-the-minds happening on the Internet. These days, many of us live a good chunk of our lives virtually and, as a result, our internal worlds are becoming significantly larger. We interact with people we would never otherwise encounter in our daily lives. This is unprecedented, and I'm interested in how it's changing us.

Tyler: Thank you for joining me today, Elle. Before we go, would you tell our readers where they find out more about "Bones of The Dead" and where to buy a copy?

Elle: With pleasure: You can visit my website at, or order "Bones of The Dead" from Amazon.

As my personal thank you, I'd like to invite everyone to a virtual Renaissance party at on November 27. If you order Bones of The Dead that day, you can use your Amazon confirmation number as a password to get into the party. We'll have music, I'll be serving food for thought, and I'll be giving away a bundle of free downloads as party favors. Invite everyone.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Thinking of Buying Sarasota Real Estate? Check Out Palmer Ranch!

Increasingly, people looking to purchase Sarasota real estate are finding Palmer Ranch. This master planned community in South Sarasota stretches over 10,000 acres. The community is actually comprised of many subdivisions, ranging from 1 bedroom condos to luxurious mansions on the golf course. Palmer Ranch has sidewalks lining every street, and has been developed in such a way that the overwhelming impression as you drive through - is GREEN. Attractive landscaping and a high standard of housing design, which keeps homes largely hidden behind trees and landscaped berms, combine to make this area an oasis. No commercial development is allowed within its borders; Palmer Ranch is purely residential.

The Sarasota real estate buyer soon discovers the incentive beyond the beauty on Palmer Ranch - the community is strategically located only 4 miles from the south causeway to world famous Siesta Key. It is a quick 15 minute ride to be in the heart of Sarasota's downtown and gorgeous bayfront. With one of the highest rated school combinations in Sarasota (Ashton Elementary, Sarasota Middle School and Riverview High School), families flock to Palmer Ranch.

Although there are no commercial interests inside the borders, everything is close by. Shopping and dining is ample; the renovated shopping mall with its new 12 screen movie theater sits within minutes, and a state of the art YMCA, complete with waterparks for the kids, sits right at the border. Sarasota real estate doesn't get any more convenient than this.

The Legacy Trail and the Imagine School are two of the newest additions to our area. The Legacy Trail
is a bike/walking path currently stretching over 17 miles replacing the old railroad tracks. Heavily wooded on either side and protected from traffic, this is a scenic and popular way to enjoy Florida weather - from moms with strollers to athletes training for the marathon. The Imagine School is a charter magnet school that just opened on the northern border of Palmer Ranch, giving parents an opportunity to more actively participate in their students academic life.

Buyers of Sarasota real estate have many options, but Palmer Ranch is a popular choice. I should know. I live there too.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Thomas Cole - The Father of American Landscape Painting

Nineteenth century American artist, Thomas Cole was born on February 1, 1801, at Bolton, Lancashire in Northwestern England. The founder of the American art movement 'Hudson River School,' Thomas is an established name in 'Romanticism' and 'Naturalism.'

His early education in arts swung around the domains, wood engraving and calico painting, until his family immigrated to Steubenville, Ohio, America, in 1818. Here, Thomas learned the essentials of painting from a portrait painter, Stein. His interests however, gradually tilted towards landscape painting. In 1823, the Coles moved to Pittsburg, where Thomas began to draw painstakingly detailed sketches of the city's highly picturesque scenery. The artist then shifted to Philadelphia in 1824, where he worked with the members of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. This association brought him the privilege of displaying his canvasses at the Academy's exhibitions.

In 1825, he moved to New York, back to his family. The city's esteemed artists and patrons admiringly noticed his works. He sold his paintings to finance his summer trip to Hudson Valley. Here he explored the haunting beauty of Catskill Mountain house and its wilderness. One of his prominent works, "Gelyna, View near Ticonderoga" took him to the highs of fame everywhere, bringing eminence to his works. Soon, his stature elevated, and he was appointed a member of the National Academy.

During 1829-1831, he traveled to Britain, France, and Italy, to study the great historical works at various art galleries there. His stay in Italy, from 1831 to 1832, supplemented his imagination with noble themes and ideas, and from this point on, his paintings began carrying the hard-core 'Romantic' spirit. During this period only, Luman Reed, a New York based merchant, became Cole's patron for whom the artist produced his best-known series of paintings, "The Course of Empire (1834-36)," depicting the progress of a society from the savage state to a zenith of luxury, eventually leading to its dissolution and extinction.

November 22, 1836, added a new chapter in Thomas' life, when he tied knot with Maria Bartow at Cedar Grove, where he eventually settled for life. The couple had five children. During his second trip to Europe (1840-1842), Cole developed a mastery over his art of using colors. He would brilliantly recreate the atmospheric magic, particularly that of sky. He painted his second great series of work, "Voyage of Life (1840)," during his this second spell at Europe.

Although, Cole was a landscape painter, his allegoric creations embodied the same intellectual content. Some of his other celebrated works were, "The Garden of Eden (1828)," "The Oxbow (The Connecticut River near Northampton) (1836)," "The Departure (1837)," "The Return (1837)," "The Past (1838)," "The Present (1838)," "L'Allegro (Italian Sunset) (1845)," and "Il Penseroso (1845)." On February 11, 1848, the maestro breathed his last, at Catskill, leaving behind his rich legacy, and a firm foundation for the continued growth of the American landscape painting.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Extraordinary Landscapes

In the summer of 2007, a curatorial team from George Eastman House invited twelve photographers to photograph the sites designated by The Cultural Landscape Foundation as their 2007 Landslide landscapes. The photographs focus on culturally significant landscapes at risk of alteration or destruction, and include trees and other plantings that have witnessed or withstood major cultural or natural events.

In this exhibition of work the focus is on celebrated botanical heroes that have withstood the test of time Ranging from Charleston's angel southern live oak, a majestic living legacy from the antebellum South to the dew-drenched petals of a rare tree peony from Pavilion, New York, these photographs lovingly document heritage landscapes that are threatened by development, disease and the ravages of time.

Additionally the exhibit, "Heroes of Horticulture" documents the sole surviving witnesses to some of the nation's greatest people and most significant moments. Some are hundreds of years old: the horse chestnut tree that shaded suffragist Susan B. Anthony in the late 19th century to the live oak tree allée in Houston.
These photographic collaborations with artists, now a traveling exhibit, have yielded compelling interpretations of extraordinary places. And, for most of us, this is the only way we may ever experience the subjects and places depicted.

The exhibition includes twenty-four images by photographers Mark Klett, John Pfahl, Eli Reed, Louviere+Vanessa, John Divola, Eric Baden, Jodean Bifoss, George Blakely, Roger Bruce, Matthew Keefe, Fredrik Marsh, and James Via. The twelve sites, located across the nation, are currently featured on TCLF's website ( and appears in the January 2008 edition of Garden Design magazine. For a schedule of this amazing traveling exhibit visit

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Experience Plymouth's Folk Roots and Musical Legacy at the Plymouth Folk Festival

Bringing together the best of home-grown talent in music, dance and entertainment, the Plymouth Folk Festival is perhaps one of Devon's best kept secrets. Having dominated the city's event calendar for nearly a decade, this stripped down musical event explores the best of Plymouth's up and coming musical and artistic offerings while featuring performances by some of the city's most popular finds in a celebration of music and talent.

Featuring renowned and newcomer folk acts from across the great county of Devon, the festival aims to shed light on the city's ever expanding local music scene. The festival typically takes place in the month of June and has seen the likes of Miranda Sykes grace its stage although it is not just limited to musical showcases. The 2006 event for example included an indoor event that featured poets, storytellers and acoustic musicians dubbed A Stone Soup Evening of Storytelling, Music, and Poetry. Other highlights included performances in the city centre at Place De Brest with the attendance of Barbershop singers, Plymouth Morris and Plymouth Maids, Indie bands such as Sangreal and Irish folk punk band Black Friday. The Plymouth Musical Theatre Company also performed in a line up that displayed Plymouth's multicultural heritage with the attendance of Gujarati Folk Dancers and Thai dancers.

The event on New George Street saw the participation of clog dancers and other local favourites while the Armada Way instalment included the pulsating Samba group Crooked Tempo. Not limited to guitar grabbing crooners, the festival also features musicians with varying instrumental prowess which includes those with a proficiency in the fiddle, cello and of course piano.

Interactive in essence, the festival also includes audience participation activities such as the Tea Dances that were held in the '06 festival in Lower Guildhall. Open-mike events also encourage travellers and locals to engage in creative exercises of their own while the street performers that dot the landscape during the festival add charm and colour to the historic city rich in culture.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Managing Caregiver Guilt: 5 Tips To Manage Guilt So Guilt Serves You, Not Imprisons You

Guilt is a common feeling in the landscape of care giving. Guilt can propel you to be the best you can be ...or it can immobilize you.

For caregivers, painful feelings -- such as guilt, sadness and anger -- are like any other pain. It's your body's way of saying, 'Pay attention.' Just as the pain of a burned finger pulls your hand from the stove, so, too, guilt guides your actions and optimizes your health.

You have a picture of the "Ideal You" with values you hold and how you relate to yourself and others. Guilt often arises when there's a mismatch between your day-to-day choices and the choices the "Ideal You" would have made. The "Ideal You" may be a parent who attends all of the kids' soccer games. Miss a game to take your dad to the doctor, and you think you're falling short.

You may have needs out of line with this "Ideal You." You may believe that your own needs are insignificant, compared to the needs of your sick loved one. You then feel guilty when you even recognize your needs, much less act upon them. A mother may ask herself, "How can I go out for a walk with my kids when my mother is at home in pain?" (A hint for this mother: she can give more to her mother with an open heart when she takes good care of herself.)

You may have feelings misaligned with the "Ideal You." Feeling angry about the injustice of your loved one's illness? You might even feel angry at your loved one for getting sick! Recognizing those feelings can produce a healthy dose of guilt. Yes, you may even feel guilty about feeling guilty.

"Why did my loved one get sick?" you may ask. Perhaps, if the "Ideal You" acted more often, your loved one would be healthy. What if you served more healthful meals? What if you called 911, instead of believing your husband when he said his chest pain was just "a little heartburn"?

If you're the kind of person prone to guilt, learn to manage guilt so that guilt serves you rather than imprisons you. Here are 5 tips for managing your caregiver guilt:

Recognize the feeling of guilt: Unrecognized guilt eats at your soul. Name it; look at the monster under the bed

Identify other feelings: Often, there are feelings under the feeling of guilt. Name those, too. For example, say to yourself: "I hate to admit this to myself, but I'm resentful that dad's illness changed all of our lives." Once you put it into words, you will have a new perspective. You will also be reminding yourself of how fortunate you are to have what it takes to take care of loved one."

Be compassionate with yourself: Cloudy moods, like cloudy days, come and go. There's no one way a caregiver should feel. When you give yourself permission to have any feeling, and recognized that your feelings don't control your actions, your guilt will subside.

Look for the cause of the guilt: What is the mismatch between this "Ideal You" and the real you? Do you have an unmet need? Do you need to change your actions so that they align with your values?

Take action: Meet your needs. Needs are not bad or good; they just are. If you need some time alone, find someone to be with your loved one.

Change your behavior to fit your values: For example, Clara felt guilty because her friend was in the hospital and she didn't send a card. Her guilt propelled her to buy some beautiful blank cards to make it easier for her to drop a note the next time.

Ask for help: Call a friend and say, "I'm going through a hard time. Do you have a few minutes just to listen?" Have a family meeting and say, "Our lives have been a lot different since grandma got sick. I'm spending more time with her. Let's figure out together how we'll get everything done."

Revisit and reinvent the "Ideal You": You made the best choices based on your resources and knowledge at the time. As you look to the future, you can create a refined vision of the "Ideal You." What legacy do you want to leave? What values do you hold dear? Then, when you wake up in the morning and put on your clothes, imagine dressing the "Ideal You." Let this reinvented "Ideal You" make those moment-to-moment choices that create your legacy.

Understand that you will be a more effective caregiver when you care for the caregiver first. Loved ones neither want nor expect selfless servants. As a caregiver, when you care for yourself, you increase and improve your own caring. Yes, guilt is part of caregiving, but this guilt can help you become the caregiver you and your loved one want you to be.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Culture of Generosity - What Burning Man & the Internet Have in Common

I'm blown away. I have been in a phase of spending most of the day everyday glued to my laptop screen navigating the fruitful landscapes of the web. Yes, we all know that there is an overwhelming array of cool content hanging out there in this virtual net in 'cyberspace'.

What is blowing me away is how much valuable advice and informative gifts everyone is giving away! For a while I was roving around like a greedy bandit gathering a bunch of educational treasure and stashing it my computer and mind. Now I am intentional and discerning in my gathering. Sure, a lot of the free gifts are dangling carrots luring people onto newsletters and hopefully into paying for products and services. But, I am glad to be on these newsletter lists and know about the offerings available to me.

It reminds me quite a bit of the 'gift culture' at Burning Man. (for those who don't know, BM is a huge participatory week long costume party in the Nevada Desert- an experimental visionary artistic explosion with very few rules, one of them being not to sell things, only barter and gifts)

It takes a while getting used to, having people giving to you without expecting money. Giving affirms that you are abundant and sets goodwill in motion, which does come back to you. It is really profound to free ourselves from the paper chase and cultivate another kind of economy, based on a creative currency. Innovation, Information and Inspiration become a valuable currency, in the desert, on the web, and in the world that we are building.

The generosity factor is taking the Competition to Cooperation equation one step further. Yes, we need to be less divisive and competitive and learn to cooperate with each other more. Cooperation is something that can (and should be) taught in schools and workshops. There is another level beyond this though. A level at where you recognize interconnectedness and interdependence as more real and more important than your personal identity or agenda. Where you see personal success and happiness is tied into community and collective success, and thus you have an inherent motivation to contribute to others. Generosity is a natural extension for someone who understands Oneness on an experiential level.

In fact the measure of a great person in many tribal societies is one who is the most generous, and one who leaves a legacy. At Burning Man I see people pour thousands of dollars, and countless hours of visioning and hard work into their theme camp, an art car, a fire opera, a sound stage, etc... This is not an investment that gives back to them in a tangible sense, and so from a business perspective it makes no sense. But since our culture has strayed very far from the model of giveaway and leaving a legacy of generosity, I think it is healing and transformative for people to invest so much into a gift and then give it to an appreciative community. Many go so far as to allow their thousands of dollars and months of work to go up into flames, as a part of the ritual of the offering.

That reminds me of the tradition of Tibetan sand painting where monks make these incredibly intricate, elaborately beautiful paintings out of colored sand, only to scatter them to the winds as an offering to impermanence. Some see impermanence as a reason to despair, consume, and basically take all that they can get. Others see it as the reason to get busy giving the gift that you came to this world to give.

"You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give." -- Winston Churchill

In this incredible time, life's banquet tables offer us a taste of anything and everything. May we sample the fruits of others with gratitude. May we concoct our own masterpiece to bring to the potluck. (after all, it isn't a dinner party in our honor, it is a potluck in everyone's honor) The world is full of abundant tables and empty tables and full nets of the mind and empty canvases. My wish is that you find a fit place to offer your gifts, to live your calling with generosity, and to leave a legacy.