Random

Is Better Really Better?

Be Patient“The grandest seduction of all is the myth that DOING EVERYTHING BETTER gets us where we want to be.

It gets us somewhere, certainly, but not anywhere worth being.” 

—Shauna Niequist

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The Vineyard We Knew

The Vineyard We Knew - Resized Book Cover ImageWe so frequently think of the Black community as suffering from lack of everything: money, self esteem, dreams for the future, that it is good to be reminded that some folk had a different possibility. Martha’s Vineyard offered the community another view of the world. These are serious folk with serious ideas for the future. They are not just sitting on the dock of the bay, as it were. Kevin Parham joins the group of young middle class writers who are flying on the wings of their future while holding tightly to their roots. The Vineyard We Knew is a totally wonderful look at a community that has been much too silent about its contribution and possibilities.

Nikki Giovanni

Poet, Author and Educator

 

On Reading, Learning, & Listening

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Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or poorly written. That is all.

—Oscar Wilde

Dealing with CRITICISM

 

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“If critics say your work “stinks” it’s because they want it to stink and they can

make it stink by scaring you into conformity with their comfortable little

standards. Standards so low that they can no longer be considered “dangerous”

but set in place in their compartmental understandings.”

—Jack Kerouac

 

How to Manage Time (and how to keep it from managing you)

Time has many characteristics, some of which appear to be contradictory.  Time is both limited, and limitless.  Have you ever considered the fact that every living thing has a certain lifespan, but that time itself marches on into eternity?  Although time is a constant that stops for no one, it can be managed. 

Time is also like money—it has value, it’s difficult to come by, it’s easy to waste, and there never seems to be enough of it.  Conversely, time can be nothing like money because unlike money, each of us is allocated the same amount of it every day—24 hours.

Here’s my point:

It’s not so much a matter of how much time you have, but what you do with it.  The key to effective time management is developing a mindset.  It’s making a conscious decision to approach tasks in an organized fashion.  You need to know what you want to do and create a realistic plan to get it done. 

Before undertaking any task, I always consider the following:

  1. What task needs to be done?
  2. Who else, if anyone, is involved?
  3. When does the task need to be completed?
  4. Where do I have to go to accomplish it?
  5. How long will it take to complete the task?

 I’d like to share a few thoughts about managing time that has worked for me; hopefully, they can help you too:

 

  • Prioritize Tasks

Make a list of everything you want to accomplish on a given day and arrange them in order of importance.  Things that MUST be done are placed at the top of the list.  Tasks of lesser importance follow.

 

  • Create a Timeline

Look at your list and estimate a specific amount of time for each task.  This is where many people run into difficulty because they either under-estimate or over-estimate the time it’s going to take to complete a task.  It’s always preferable to over-estimate rather than under-estimate because any extra time can be used to review your plan, make adjustments, or take a short break.  Under-estimating adversely affects all of the other tasks on the list—in other words; you might not get to them!

 

  •  Execute

Decide on a specific time to begin and stick to it.  One of the biggest time-wasters is the attitude of indifference, which can prevent you from starting on time.  If you decide to begin at 9:00AM, then see that you start at 9:00AM.  Remember that you made a commitment to yourself—a personal contract—so be sure to keep it!  Don’t allow anyone or anything to distract you; do not procrastinate or get sidetracked.

 

  • Manage Your Progress

One of the greatest things about this life is that we develop habits (good ones, hopefully) out of necessity.  Whether we realize it or not, we are creatures of habit, and as such, we have an innate desire to achieve order and a sense of balance in our lives.

Having a process in place requires an action to be repeated over and over again.  Each time this happens, you can compare it to how well it was previously done.  Did you do it better?  Was it worse? Did it take too long?

This is how progress is measured.  It allows you to take note of what works, what doesn’t, and to make adjustments.  After adjusting your process, you’ll notice the improvements and you’ll see that you’re gradually becoming more efficient. 

 

  • Apply This New Mindset to Everyday Life

Once you’ve adopted this new method of thinking, you can easily incorporate it into every aspect of your life.  Gradually, you’ll find that you’re not only more timely, but you will have mastered one of the most important attributes a person can have.  You’ll have the ability to accomplish tasks more efficiently and in the least amount of time, with minimum effort and maximum results!

Employing good time-management skills is liberating.  It allows you to take more control of your life.  And when you control your life, you can control your destiny!

I wish you well in your time-management pursuits…give it a try because it works—you can do it!

 

A ‘Twist’ on New Year’s Resolutions

As we close the chapter on the year of 2011, it is only natural to look ahead to 2012 and welcome it with a heightened sense of optimism. Through careful introspection, we re-assess our lives and celebrate all that we’ve accomplished over the past twelve months.  On the one hand, we proudly tout what objectives were met. But on the other, we reluctantly acknowledge to ourselves the things that we intended to accomplish, but somehow ‘life’ got in the way and prevented us from reaching those goals. And as a consequence, we fell short of the mark. 

There isn’t a person alive today who doesn’t have an idiosyncrasy or two that they’d like to address, but their resolution often times remains elusive. To assist us in dealing with them from a psychological standpoint, we mentally toss them into a confidential compartment in our minds that we conveniently refer to as the ‘shoulda,’ ‘woulda, or ‘coulda’ done file.  This enables us to take a candid look at ourselves in the mirror and attempt to rationalize our inadequacies or shortcomings while simultaneously pondering the prospect of what could be.

I’d like to approach the concept of New Year’s Resolutions from a slightly different angle or ‘Twist’, if you will.  I would ask each of you, my fellow bloggers, to join the discussion and consider the things about you that you not so much resolve to change, such as bad habits (you all know what they are and we all have at least one), but to reflect back on the things you’ve accomplished that you would like to continue doing or do better.  I guess it’s a form of positive affirmation that acknowledges something good that you’re already doing and sharing it with others…

Let me begin:

  • Several years ago, my family and I began the annual tradition of donating Christmas gifts to ‘The Home for Little Wanderers’, an organization that distributes toys to disadvantaged children – I look forward to continuing that tradition.
  • We also volunteer at a local homeless shelter at Thanksgiving and Christmas, serving meals and cleaning up…this I will do every year.
  • As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more compassionate for and tolerant of others, and I now consciously look for ways to be of assistance to those who are less fortunate whenever I can…I do not have unlimited resources, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to give of myself, regardless of the size of my contribution, for I truly believe that every little bit helps. 
  • In 2008, I began writing a memoir – three years later, in 2011, it was completed and I plan to share it with others by publishing it in 2012.
  • I will continue to learn, to share, and to live my life in such a manner that when it is over, I will look back with a sense of pride in knowing that I lived my life ‘well’.

With each new year comes a new opportunity to make a difference not only in ourselves, but also to the rest of the world…don’t miss that opportunity.

Tell us about your New Year’s Resolution ‘Twist’…

 I wish each of you a happy, safe, and healthy New Year!

 

Best,

Kevin

 

The True Spirit of Christmas…

Each year at this time, I, along with millions of others the world over, find ourselves giddily immersed in feelings of yuletide and good cheer.  The annual respite has come, and once again we engage in ritualistic activities that are the hallmark of the Holiday season.  It is a time when all of humanity is overflowing with joy and anticipation, preoccupied with thoughts of sharing this special time with loved ones and friends. 

It’s almost as if a switch is thrown, and people are magically transformed into ambassadors of goodwill. Strangers go out of their way to catch a glimpse of one another while passing by and, without hesitation, willingly offer a smile, a greeting, or a friendly “hello”.  We merrily go about the hustle and bustle of shopping, exchanging gifts, attend Holiday parties, trim our Christmas trees, decorate our living rooms and foyers, and for those with means, hang luminous lights outside in what has become an insatiable desire to be the household on the block with the most lavish display of blinking lights, Santa Clauses, reindeer, and nativity scenes.  These artistic expressions—some of which sporadically appear even before the last slice of turkey is carved from the carcass and made into a sandwich—could easily rival the neon lights that illuminate the night sky in Las Vegas.

Through the words of the beloved animated character, Charlie Brown, I ask:

“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

A few years ago, I found myself pondering the essence of that very question.  Yes, you read that correctly…a question that was brought to light by a cartoon character named Charlie Brown.  That in itself is not unusual. What was unusual was that I was 53 years old at the time.  Was this an epiphany, you might ask?  It might have been. 

This was the same year that my wife’s niece and nephew, both of whom were ten and eleven years old respectively, traveled from Philadelphia to spend the Holidays with my wife, my stepdaughter, and me in Massachusetts.  My wife had great plans for us during this joyous time of year in that we were about to embark on a life lesson—and this was particularly so for the kids.  It was a selfless journey that entailed baking dozens of chocolate chip cookies that we would personally distribute to homeless people on the streets of downtown Boston.  It didn’t matter that at least half of the cookies were burned to a crisp on the bottom and were as hard as a rock.  Who cared, they were only for the homeless, right?  We even lugged a gallon of hot chocolate and paper cups with us to warm not only the bellies of those who were downtrodden and less fortunate, but to also attempt to warm their spirits. 

Three days before Christmas, the five of us eagerly piled into the car, and on that cold, frosty evening, we drove approximately 50 miles to Boston while listening to CD’s of Holiday songs to which we occasionally sang along.  The temperature outside was in the single digits; it was     C-O-L-D!  Upon our arrival, we gleefully jumped out of the car, bundled up, and proceeded to carry the hot chocolate and a large, round plastic Tupperware bowl filled with the cookies to distribute to anyone we happened to meet. 

Shivering, and on the verge of coming down with frostbite, we walked and walked and walked—street after street, block after block.  Through the Boston Commons and the public gardens we traipsed.  Not a creature was stirring…not even a mouse, or a pigeon, or anything.  We saw no one.  Finally, we encountered a man approaching from the opposite direction.  He was clearly a man of the streets, and he kept his distance from us as one of the kids offered him a cookie and some hot chocolate.  Being wary of our intent, he declined and moved on.  We continued walking and doubled back, only to run into the same man again.  This time, his demeanor appeared less defensive.  We made another offer to him and he accepted.  Although he lived in the streets, he exuded a comforting humility that transcended his circumstances.  How could he be so happy?   After sizing us up and realizing that we were not a threat to him, he gleefully expressed his gratitude for our generosity and goodwill. 

We had a pleasant chat with this gentleman, and during the course of our conversation, I inquired where everyone [homeless people] was.  He told us that even the homeless had sense enough to find temporary shelter somewhere indoors on the cold night that it was.  And with a smirk plastered across his old, weathered face, he asked us what we were doing outside that night.  Good question, I thought. We were on a mission—doing good deeds—helping our fellow human beings.  As he finished his hot chocolate, he thanked us and wished us a Merry Christmas.  He then stuck two cookies in his coat pocket and disappeared into the cold, winter night.

It was two days before Christmas, and our entourage made its way to a local mall.  Not surprisingly, we ended up at Wal-Mart, and while there, asked the kids to pick out two gifts each. One selected an I-Pod and a music CD, another chose an educational game and doll with all the accessories, and the third had their eye on a video game and a small, battery-operated radio.  And then the shocking revelation hit them: the gifts weren’t for them—they were going to be donated to ‘The Home for Little Wanderers’, an organization that collects and distributes gifts to disadvantaged children.  My stepdaughter did a great job of almost alienating herself from her cousins when she expressed her desire to donate any and all gifts she might receive each year to children in need; that went over really well with the other two…      

On Christmas Eve, we drove into Boston once again to deliver the gifts to the Home for Little Wanderers.  The kids, when they came to see for themselves the difference that their ‘gifts’ made to that child who had no mother, no father, and sometimes no family at all to love them and care for them, I detected a glimmer of that spirit of giving that my wife so adamantly wanted them to feel.  There was no question that they were pleased at the prospect of helping another child.  It seemed as though the three of them matured in an instant; they were able to put aside their own desires and replaced them with compassion. 

Christmas Day had finally arrived.  MERRY CHRISTMAS!  After a modest breakfast, we got dressed and prepared for yet another journey into Bean-town.  Where on earth could we possibly be going on Christmas Day?  Why, we were off to the Pine Street Inn, a local homeless shelter in Boston to help serve Christmas dinner to those with no means or a place to call home.   And serve dinner we did, right along with a number of other volunteers who thought enough about others to donate their time, and in some cases, their resources to a worthy cause.  Here’s the kicker, though…little did my stepdaughter, niece, and nephew know that they would be helping out while standing alongside a well-known member of the Boston Celtics, a member of the New England Patriots, a movie actress, and two local news anchors, all of whom pitched in to serve food, wash dishes, and sweep the floor!              

I am of the opinion that it is important for all children (who have parents or guardians with the means) to experience the true spirit of Christmas through selfless acts of giving—for it is one of the great lessons in life.  My wife successfully accomplished her objective on that Christmas of several years ago.  She instilled in our young family members the importance of doing whatever you can for another human being, however small, particularly during this special time of year.  This poignant lesson is one that they carry with them to this day, and will continue to do so for the rest of their lives.

This, to me, is the true spirit of Christmas.  And through it all, I can now separate the commercialization aspect of Christmas from its true, intended purpose.            

I wish all of you and yours a splendid Holiday Season!

Peace, Love, and Joy.

Sincerely,

Kevin