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Harlem Grattitude

February 23, 2014 24 comments

Sometimes things haunt me. Not necessarily in a bad way. They brew and boil and bake in my head it’s true but that just means they’re usually there for a reason.

grattitude Billboard

Several weeks ago myself and two colleagues took the train into the City for a conference. On my way into Manhattan, at 125th Street, Harlem, that’s where I saw this billboard for the first time and thought to  myself…

That’s interesting. I wonder if that word is misspelled on purpose?

Then I thought….

Who would put up a billboard that says ‘Grattitude’ and why?

I didn’t get it but couldn’t dismiss it, so it got me and the brewing began.

Later that day and in the days that followed, I found myself thinking about what I saw and why it wouldn’t go away. I’d already picked my “Word” for the year. It’s Faith, not gratitude. Gratitude. I struggled with the word’s presence inside my head from the moment I saw it sprouting from its concrete carpet straight up into the clear, blue sky.

It was so unexpected. So big. Who put it there? Why is it spelled wrong? Am I grateful? What am I grateful for and how grateful am I? The notion of it all lingered. The boiling set in and it stayed with me, simmering as things I eventually end up writing about often do.

A couple of weeks later I found myself Googling “gratitude in harlem” and came across an article from the Greenwich Post (2012) that offered an explanation for it’s existence.

“It’s a billboard with an obscure message for the powerful and wealthy, the dispossessed and poor, a billboard that says simply “GRATTITUDE.”  It is a copy of an acrylic paint collage of newspaper clips and art books by pop artist Peter Tunney, who added the extra “T” as an expression of, he says, turbo-charged gratitude.”

I found another site established in September, 2013, that uses the billboard to promote their GrAttitude Project.

I love the GrAttitude Project and believe whole-heartedly that no act of kindness is too small and I like the way Attitude is embedded in GrAttitude.

It is after all an attitude:  gratitude.

Last week I took the New Haven line into the City again. This time, to meet friends. Even though the weather was really bad, I was prepared, camera-ready. I craned my neck for 10-minutes before pulling into 125th Street station, afraid I’d miss it, wanting to catch a glimpse and possibly a picture of it this time. Sure enough, I did. Not without thinking “Why?” though. Why am I haunted by this?

It’s just a word. Right?

Not really.

It’s thought provoking.

And this time I noticed something different.

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©2014 KarenSzczukaTeich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

The E is backwards. The E in Grattitude is backwards! I didn’t notice that before. That puts a whole new twist on things, requiring even more thought.

So, I keep thinking about gratitude.

Was the billboard like this a few weeks ago? Or was it like the one I found when I Googled it? What does it mean that the E is backwards now? Is “gratitude” as I know it backwards? Not communicated enough or effectively?

I don’t know.

And I really don’t know what the artist’s intentions were or if the billboard I saw last week is different from the one I saw several weeks ago. I still don’t know who put it there or why and it probably doesn’t matter but I do know this:  I considered myself to be a pretty grateful person until I saw this billboard and the word took up residence in the forefront of my mind.

Seeing this word in an unsuspecting place made me think.

A lot, as in turbo-charged. About gratitude.

That was the effect for me and it’s a profound one.

gratittudebronx

Courtesy my niece, this week, on the train, on her way to work!

In the middle of the South Bronx when people look up and see this billboard, maybe they see a message being sent to the powerful and wealthy, dispossessed and poor…… or maybe it’s just meant to make anyone who sees it think about gratitude and what that means for them, in their life. Gratitude is not bias. People are grateful for different things at different times of their lives. What I take for granted others may be very grateful for and vice-versa.

Sometimes, it’s nice to have a reminder come to you out of the clear, blue sky.

What do you think? Have you seen the billboard?

Photo Credits #1 & #3: Google Images

Photo Credit #2:  ©2014 KarenSzczukaTeich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

Attitude of Gratitude ~ Greenwich Post

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What’s Your Word?

January 12, 2014 12 comments

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January is my birth-month and always evokes reflection for me, which in turn, starts the mind- ball rolling and inevitably lands atop a pile of things I think I should, could, need or want to do in the upcoming year. I suspect I’m not unique. January after all, is the start of every new year offering the promise of a new beginning and of course, the making of a million resolutions.

UGH!

I’m not not very good at resolutions. My intentions are always good but, well, you know what they say about where the road that’s paved with good intentions goes. I’d love to be able to say I’m going to do X, Y and Z this year, do them and be thrilled with myself come the following December. I’d even be okay if I were able to get X and only part of Y done and somehow WASN’T disappointed in myself the next December when I realized I never completed Z.

But I can’t. I  am who I am and resolutions just don’t really work for me.

I do however like the idea of being able to start over. In fact, I wake-up every morning with the notion that it’s an opportunity to do better than yesterday. Begin again. I also like the idea of having a concentration; something I can work on or toward without the pressure of having a deadline to complete it. That’s why I love this idea and recent posting on a blog I follow about the concept of using a single word as a focal point to giving yourself direction and purpose.

The blog is Leadership Freak and the post was Don’t Make a Resolution; Find a Word“.

Whether your work is in a leadership capacity or not, or whether you’re a parent or not, or if you’re just interested in another interesting perspective on how to move forward in life, I highly recommend following this blog.

Dan Rockwell, invites you to look inward and think about what you need, what’s in your way and what needs to go” to help find your word. Actually, he suggests letting your word find you, without stressing about it by finding a quiet place to think about it. Let it come to you. Finally, he recommends that you live out your word where-ever you go. Keep it at the forefront of your mind. Apply it to everyday living.

This, I thought, I can do.

So  I did.

FAITH

That’s.  My.  Word.

This year for me, it’s about FAITH.

FAITH that “things” will always turn out the way they are supposed to.

Because they do.

FAITH that I can.

And I will.

Because I do.

FAITH that all things are possible.

Because they are.

Wordle: faith

Think about it and then come back and tell me.

WHAT’S YOUR WORD?

Photo Credit #1:  Google Images

Photo Credit #2: Wordle created by Karen Szczuka Teich

Magic Intervened

December 29, 2013 12 comments
Christmas Candles

©2013 HannahRoseTeich & I’mThinkingHappy.com

“Oh, Come All Ye Faithful,

Joyful and Triumphant!”

Even though the Holiday has come and gone, I’m still basking in that warm and fuzzy, lingering feeling of love and caring, otherwise known as Christmas Spirit.

Like many folks who celebrate, Christmas is deeply rooted in tradition for me. My European parents have always emphasized Christmas Eve as the more celebrated day of the two. Unlike my all-American friends who opened their gifts Christmas morning, Santa always came to our house after dinner on Christmas Eve. When I was a child we would trade off each year with my Dad’s sister, celebrating in Westchester or Upstate New York with my two, older boy cousins who lived in the woods. By the time my children were born, my cousins had already started their own families and carried on the tradition in their own ways. Ours was tweaked slightly so we could continue to celebrate Christmas Eve with my parents at their home and celebrate Christmas Day, the American way, in my home. Santa’s magical flexibility allowed for him to drop off a few gifts at Nana & Opa’s house after dinner before making his way to our house Christmas morning.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years however, it’s that like it or not, change is the only real constant. You can go with the flow, embracing it the best you can or be miserable.

An incident at the beginning of December unfortunately,  made it clear that this Christmas was going to be different, forcing me to rethink how we normally celebrate Christmas Eve. Even though my parents would be celebrating as they usually do with our extended family, being there for us, was not an option. Circumstances beyond our control and careful consideration made it necessary for me to decline the invitation, in effect, displacing us and leaving us with nowhere to be on Christmas Eve.

Each generation tries to do better, provide more guidance and opportunity for their kids but mostly we all just want for our children to be happy.  My kids love their extended family. Talking to them about why we weren’t going to celebrate Christmas Eve with my family this year was really hard.  And even though after everything my kids have been through, it’s been important to me to try to keep certain things the same for them over the past two years, I realize life is filled with hard stuff. All we can really do for our kids is arm them with the truth and let them know we will always be there to love and support them.

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©2013 KarenSzczukaTeich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

“Sing Choirs of Angels Sing in Exultation,

Sing All Ye Citizens of Heaven Above!”

I believe in magic; Christmas Magic.

It’s the gift that appears from seemingly nowhere and has no tangible existence to speak of, like the unlikely turn-of-events in a situation that you couldn’t foresee working out — working out. It can come in the form of an unexpected act of kindness or an expression of gratitude.  It’s when all things align and the view is suddenly clear, making way for something special to occur, like the sighting of a shooting star or the appearance of a rare blue moon.

It’s getting what you need, not necessarily what you’ve been asking for and recognizing it when it shows itself.

I love Christmas because it embodies the spirit of giving (and I don’t mean of things) from one person to another.

An unexpected, greatly appreciated phone call came about a week before Christmas. My Dad’s sister, the aunt we shared Christmas with when I was a child invited me and my children to join her, a friend and one of my cousins on Christmas Eve.

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© 2013 KarenSzczukaTeich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

I haven’t spent a Christmas Eve with my Tante Christine in over 20-years.

She hasn’t spent a Christmas without at least two of her four grandchildren present in over 25-years.

This year Christmas Eve was different. None of her grandchildren could be there.

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© 2013 KarenSzczukaTeich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

My kids and I needed some family for Christmas.

My aunt, needed some kids.

We — needed each other.

Magic Intervened.

May the Magic of the Holiday Season fill your heart with joy and gratitude, as it did mine.

Into The Storm

December 15, 2013 11 comments

Storm3

She stood in the storm,

And when the wind did not blow her way,

She adjusted her sails.

                                                                                                                 ~ Elizabeth Edwards

Categories: Attitude, Challenges, Life Tags: ,

Strawberry Fields…

June 30, 2013 15 comments

strawberryshortcake

“Let me take you down

‘Cause I’m going to

Strawberry Fields

Nothing is real

And nothing to get hung about

Strawberry Fields forever”

~ The Beatles

I love strawberries with fresh cream. I love my kids too. They do not necessarily love the same things I do.

It was the first weekend in June, last summer.

Even though I met with a fair amount of objections, I managed to persuade my kids that this outing would be fun. As we approached the annual Strawberry Festival at the waterfront by the train station in a neighboring town, we came upon a young police officer diverting traffic away from the train station parking area which was full. Ten minutes later we finally found a spot. This diversion along with a blazing, hot sun, hastened the regression of both of my kids to those early toddler-tantrum days. The sweltering heat which hovered in the mid-nineties that day didn’t help. It caused my kids to moan, groan, rebel and resist as we embarked on the half-mile decent from the very tippy-top of a winding hill. By the time we reached the entrance-way to the festival, my kids were toast; hot, sweaty and agitated to a point-of- no-return. That happens with teenagers sometimes and it was clear, no one was going to have a good time. I all but gave up trying to convince them they would. We decided to abort this mission and just leave.

Before making the steamy ascent back up to the car however, I needed to use one of the several port-a-potties lined up at the start of the festival.

Ugh! Gross! And Yuck!

I’ll be right out. I explained.

Three times in two minutes, someone attempted to enter the stall I was in, even though I’d made it clear that someone was inside. I left flummoxed and aggravated. When we were all finally back in the car my motherly instincts to try and salvage the afternoon kicked in and I declared that we would stop for ice-cream before heading home.

I can’t think of too many things that would be more embarrassing for an 11-year old girl and a 13-year old boy than for their mom to force bring them into a sit-down ice-cream parlor, chat-it-up with the new owner and then discover she had no money or credit card with her to pay for the three sundaes they just enjoyed when presented with the bill. That’s right, nothing. Not-one-penny did I have, despite the fact that I distinctly remembered putting cash, a credit card and my license into the back pocket of my jean shorts. ‘Gone’ I thought in a panic and Oh. My. God. there was only one place they could be.

We left with an I-OWE-YOU and headed back to the port-a-potty at the Strawberry Festival from hell.

This time when meeting up with the young officer directing traffic to the tippy-top of the hill half-a-mile away from the festival, I gave him that get-out-of-my-way-and-let-me-pass look that only a mother in distress, who means business can give. If you’pottyre a mom, you know the one. You know exactly what I am talking about. It’s the same kind of aura you emit when your child is in danger and the strength to lift a vehicle or move mountains automatically fills you.

With my son in the passenger seat and my daughter in the back, I rolled down my window smiling that no-nonsense-smile and before he could get a word in, I said,

I’m going down there with my car to get my wallet, drivers license and credit cards.

Without hesitation, he stepped aside and waved me through. 

Of course, there was no available parking in the lot by the entrance to the festival where the port-a-potties were, so I did what any other good, mortified mom in this desperate situation would do: I drove to the end of the lot and parked head-on at the wall, blocking in at least four parked cars, two on either side of me.  Then of course, I did what I’m sure every other mother in my sad and sorry situation would do: I left my car running with my two kids in it. The temperature after all was in the nineties.

Don’t move. I’ll be right back! I bellowed to the blank stares looking back at me.

Of course, I was not, right back.

How many embarrassing moments can happen in the span of one hour?

There was nothing to be found in the port-a-potty that three people walked in on me, in the span of 2-minutes nearly an hour earlier, so I did some inquiring and sprinted over to the “Lost & Found” booth at the far end of the park. In the middle of the park a stage had been setup for bands. One was getting ready to play. The pleasant woman at the Lost & Found table said nothing was brought over but,

We can make an announcement, she said. Come with me.

Unwittingly, I followed, passing all the luscious booths selling the strawberries and cream and shortcake in a variety of mouth-watering versions that I had come for but would not have that day. Instead, I found myself standing in the center of the stage where the band was setting up. The woman I followed stepped over to the microphone and in a very matter-of-fact motion removed it from its resting place and handed it to me. I stood bewildered until she snapped her head toward me in a, “go ahead” nod of affirmation. Startled and stunned, I stumbled over my words as feedback from the microphone penetrated the park and the hustle and bustle of the festival’s activities came to a screeching halt. All eyes curiously gazed upon me. I have no idea what I said. All I remember is that my mouth moved and words came out. When I was done, I bolted toward the parking lot where my kids were waiting in the running car.

Could there be any more embarrassment?

Of course there could. Indeed, there was a not-so-happy man trapped in his car as a result of where mine was.

Oh, my God, Mom! I heard as I jumped into the driver seat and proceeded to back my way out. That man is so frustrated. He kept coming up and asking us when you were coming back!

Uh-huh. That’s right. I left my kids in a running car where they were approached by a strange (aggravated) man more than once.

They were mortified. So was I.

The ride home was a quiet one. I kept trying to tell myself it could be worse, it was only money and a credit card and my license, all things that could be replaced. Once inside I retreated to my bedroom. Now, I was toast and needed to change into something more comfortable. When I opened up my closet door there was a pair of jean shorts laying on the floor, ‘right,’ I thought, the ones I had on first this morning and Oh. My. God.

…. the ones with the cash, credit card and license in the back pocket.

Life has a way of throwing a wrench in even the simplest of plans. As parents we try our best without a lot of training. For me, finding the humor is key. Thankfully, hindsight is a wonderful gift and today my kids and I laugh a lot and out loud about the calamities of that day.

 

Coming To A Rainbow Near You….

March 17, 2013 8 comments

Hrtlepp

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!

 

An Irish Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

 

hannah

lepp3

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Do Over Again

January 13, 2013 10 comments

children-fighting-photo-cartoon

Life is a series of starting over.

Do overs.

From the time we’re kids to the time we have kids, we reevaluate our situations and begin again.

When my kids were little and any situation would elevate emotions to a height of no return, I’d reach back into my own childhood and do what me and my friends did when we couldn’t agree on whose turn it was or who won. Admittedly, it was one of the last hopes I’d pull from my parenting bag of tricks but thankfully, it always seemed to work. I’d raise my hands up between them and say,

“Okay, let’s just stop and start over.”  

A new beginning.

Every January the opportunity presents itself, again. It’s the month of reflection, a time when most adults, start over. Millions of people ponder the previous year’s failings and contemplate what they want from the next year. We promise ourselves to do. Do this. Do that. Do more. Do better. Come next January, we’ll chide ourselves for what we didn’t do and once again the cycle and promise to do will repeat.

A wheat field with blue sky backgroundThis year I’ve decided to throw caution to the wind, go against the grain, mix things up a little and concentrate on things I don’t want to do. I’m taking a cue from a good friend of mine and a recent post she made over at SWM where her RES-O-LU-TION really resonated with me. Instead of bemoaning what I failed to accomplish last year or belaboring over what I want to do this year, I’m saving myself some grief, keeping it simple and picking three things to focus on that I don’t want to do:

  1. I don’t want… to fall into the same old traps. It’s a vicious, hurtful cycle, thinking maybe this time he or she or things will be different. No one is perfect we all deserve a second chance but chances are, after giving someone or something three or four, they’re not going to change. If you’re honest, true to your word and don’t treat people badly, you deserve the same. Life after all, is hard for everyone.
  1. I don’t want… to say “no” to opportunity because I’m afraid of what lies ahead. Yes. Okay. I’ll try it! Whatever it is. We are, to a large degree the creators of our own destiny and need to be responsible for the actions we take or don’t take to get us there. If you hide behind fear of the unknown, you will never know. I don’t want to not know.
  1. I don’t want… to be unkind. Brazen is wonderful but to be kind is key. In keeping with my promise to commit acts of kindness and because life as I said is hard for everyone and everyone could use a little more kindness in their life, I don’t want to be unkind.

It’s do over time again. Only this year I’m not going to concentrate on what I want to do.

Happy New Year to all!

What are your New Year resolutions?

Photo Credit #1 & 2: Google Images

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