Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lifelong learning at the touch of a key

Did you know you can take classes right in the comfort of your own home from schools such as Yale University or the USC Thornton School of Music? And many of them don't cost a dime. Welcome to iTunes U.

You can go into iTunes, enter the iTunes store and then iTunes U. You can now browse the great array of classes available to you through iTunes U. Classes cover just about anything you can imagine.

Have you always wanted to play the piano? You can take free video online piano lessons. Do you work in the field of youth counseling services? There is a lecture discussing the prevention of conduct problems in at-risk youth. Or how about a class on endangered sea turtles from the University of New England? Maybe you've heard about the best selling book, Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell and want to know more about it. There are audio book reviews available. Some of the classes offered are video classes. Others are audio.

My initial thought might be that I could download these onto my iPod and listen to a class whenever I a car, on an airplane, or maybe while sitting in the jury duty assembly room. But I was also thinking about other possibilities.

What about people recovering from an illness or surgery who are confined at home? Daytime TV gets pretty mundane after awhile. And home schoolers can study astronomy, physics or biology via a high school science video class on their laptops. Do you want to study about Italian history before you take a trip to Florence? How about using the classes to brush up on a subject you'll be tested on for entry into a new job field? The possibilities are endless.


P.S. Once you enter iTunes, make sure when you "search" you specify "iTunes U" under the "Results" dropdown menu. That way you won't get iTunes songs mixed into the classes that come up in your specific search.

Photo: Daniel Wiedemann/

Monday, July 28, 2008

Simple Gifts

One of my clients brought me a gift she bought recently when she was in a third world country. It's a small triangular carved wooden box representative of the handmade crafts of this Central American culture. One of the things that make this box special to me is what she said to me when I unwrapped it. Her words were, "this is triangular in shape, like the Trinity." She was referring to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Because of my Christian faith, the Trinity is a vital part of my belief system. So each time I look at the box it reminds me where my faith and hope rest in these uncertain times.

I loved the box for what it is...beautiful hand-rubbed wood, symbolic of her passion to live and work compassionately among people in a simpler society. But her words when she gave it to me make it even more significant in my life.

Words can be a gift as much as tangible objects can. They can lift, renew, give hope, express love, passion, grace....and the list goes on. Taking the time to use our words, either in written or spoken form, to enhance the lives of others may be a simple gift we give, but one which has eternal value. Our words have the power to transform a life or to tear it apart.

So my box is a precious gift, not just because it is beautiful to look at, but because of the words that came with it and how that affects me.

What words can you speak or write to encourage someone?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Giveaway Bride

My wedding dress is on a great adventure. It's been sitting in a box for 30 something years, aging slowly and hasn't been functional since I wore it for a bridal fashion show about 20 years ago. And now it's just completed a journey to the country of Uganda. Did you know there is a wedding gown shortage in Africa?

I love to give things away. I guess at this age I realize that stuff isn't all that important to me anymore. I get more satisfaction and joy from giving something of mine to someone else who might need it.

Lifewater International is a non-profit organization that trains teams of volunteers who travel into third world countries. They partner with the nationals to help them set up sanitary water systems and teach them hygiene so they know how to handle the pure water without contaminating it. I got word that one of the teams going to Uganda wanted to take a few wedding dresses with them because many African women don't have the money or resources for beautiful dresses to wear on their wedding day. They can rent them for the exorbitant price of $100. It's a stretch to pay that amount for the use of a wedding dress for a day. So some women actually don't marry because they don't have a dress. I guess the dress is everything when it comes to the ceremony...almost as important as the groom!

I was thrilled to learn that my dress received a warm welcome and will be passed around to many different brides until it becomes like the velveteen rabbit...worn out from being loved so much.

I can't remember when I felt so much happiness about giving something away!

© Bogdan Lazar |

Friday, July 11, 2008

Drifting in Indecision

I have a family friend who is well into her 80's and has macular degeneration. She is at a point where she's having a harder time living independently. Not only can she not see too well anymore, but she has a more difficult time just keeping up with life. Memory issues are starting to be much more noticeable. She has looked at some assisted living facilities and says she really likes them. In fact, sometimes she says, "You know, I'm going to live there." But she hasn't made the move yet. It's been probably 5-8 years now that she's been considering this decision.

Being that our family members love this lady dearly, we encourage her along the way and offer to help her with the move. But we just continue to hear her talking about the fact that someday she's going to move. That is a very true statement. Someday she is going to move. But will the move be of her choice or will the choice be made for her?

Often by postponing our decisions, we drift for awhile. That's fine as we need to give time to weighing the pros and cons. But making the "leap" can be difficult. Sometimes we have reservations or fears about moving ahead and we take time to process those.

We assume that by waiting to make a decision we remain in a neutral place. But is this really true? Eventually, don't we drift in one direction or another? If we put off telling a family member about a difficult situation because we are afraid they might not receive the news well, does that guarantee they will not learn about it? If we keep saying we need to exercise more as we get older but don't do it, are we any closer to maintaining good health than someone who has no intention of exercising? It's easy to get stuck in indecision.

By not taking action we can actually drift unknowingly toward some event which will eventually choose the outcome for us. Sometimes they are inconsequential matters. Other times they are life-changing occurrences.

What decision have you been thinking about making and what is preventing you from moving ahead?

A coach will help you figure out what you really want and assist you in determining what steps you can take to achieve the desired outcome.

© Lars Christensen |

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Living in America

The 4th of July is tomorrow. It's a day of refreshing celebration, food, family, friends and fireworks! My memories of the 4th go way back. I'm remembering various fireworks celebrations I've attended around the U.S.

One year Rich and I and our kids were on vacation and happened to be in a very tiny town in Montana. We went to the local fireworks which erupted into some flames so they stopped the celebration and the volunteer fire dept. put out the small brush fire. End of show!

We're here at our house in Cambria, California and enjoy walking down the hill to the fireworks show at the beach. The fireworks are shot off over the waves so chance of fire is pretty slim. This is good since half of California is on fire at the moment!

This year I'm thinking about Austin Overholt, a Marine, who came home safely from Iraq in the fall. In a little over a week we'll watch him declare his love for Megan, in a lovely outdoor wedding.

I've only seen pictures of Tim Klibbe. He's the son in law of a friend. Tim's wife is Regan and they have two little girls, Aria and Lily. He was injured in Iraq (he'll receive a Purple Heart) and is home after a 15 month deployment and doing well. While he was gone, Regan held things together on the home front as well as being the squad wife which meant she had some leader responsibilities with that position as well.

I'm thinking about Neil Bullock, a fire captain with the Bakersfield Fire Dept. who hasn't had a day off in awhile and is working hard on the California fire lines along with hundreds of other firefighters.

The reason I enjoy the 4th of July is because there are people out there who have gone the extra mile for America. This love of country and loyalty to the cause goes back a few centuries now. There is a noble purpose here and a call to bravery that gets passed down from generation to generation. It makes it possible for you and I to enjoy the simple things in life and on this day to remember all who have made it possible. Only in America......

Thank you Austin, Megan, Tim, Regan, Neil, and millions of others!