Your Monday motivation: How to savor the here and now

Spending time outdoors as the fall colors peak: This is one way to live in the moment.

Spending time outdoors as the fall colors peak: This is one way to live in the moment.

Living in the moment is a challenge for those of us who are habitually looking ahead.

But occasionally you need to slow down your galloping mind, or as the latest issue of Real Simple magazine suggests, “Freeze time from time to time.”

The magazine recently asked a number of people from different walks of life about how to “Be Here Now.” The following is one of the bits of advice that is timely for us, as we witness the seasonal beauty of changing foliage. Advises Annie-Marie Vaduva, 36, a naturalist:

“Spend 30 minutes at the park or any outdoor space on a regular basis (every day or a few times a week) without listening to music or talking on the phone. Just sit there. At first you might struggle, because your brain is still busy with human problems: work, relationships, habits of the mind. Eventually nature will draw you out, and you’ll become part of the rhythm of your environment

“The better I know a place, the faster I can settle into that state of mind. My memories are triggered (Oh, I remember this spot. It’s where the squirrel got drunk eating a fermented orange and then confronted a hawk!), and I’m challenged to connect my past experiences to the present. After spending time in nature, I see the cycles of birth, death, and renewal happening daily, weekly, and seasonally. This routine helps me accept these cycles and find peace as they happen.”

As you go through the paces of your day, take a few minutes to just … relax, ponder, and express gratitude.

Your Monday motivation: When you reach a goal, celebrate

Marathon finish: worth celebrating.

Marathon finish: worth celebrating.

As a runner of meager abilities, I envy those who can run a marathon and dedicate themselves to the weeks and weeks of training necessary to finish 26.2 miles.

Yesterday, nearly 8,850 runners finished the Twin Cities Marathon. For some of them, it was just another in a long list of marathons. For others, it was the end of an epic, once-in-a-lifetime struggle.

St. Paul Pioneer Press photographer Ben Garvin captured many of the finishers, and their close-up reactions to reaching that noteworthy goal is inspiring to me.

Never let an accomplishment pass without celebrating and giving gratitude.

How an abacus changed my life

The author and his least favorite math tool of all time: an abacus.

The author and his least favorite math tool of all time: an abacus.

Looking back on your life, have you ever thought of a particular event as being a turning point? An abacus, much like you see in the photo here, was part of a turning point for me.

I was introduced to one of these ancient counting devices in the second grade, in the middle of the school year, when my family moved to yet another new town.

(I lived in four towns before the end of second grade – and there would be another move after that. No, we weren’t hoboes or fugitives. It’s just that my dad worked for a national company that moved him from place to place as he worked his way up the corporate ladder.)

Anyway, back to the abacus. Not only was I plunked down in a new school, in a new town, but I was now in possession of a classroom math tool I had never seen before, one that classmates were already using with ease. Their fingers were flying over the beads as they worked out second-grade math problems – counting ones, tens, hundreds, thousands – and throwing their hands in the air with correct answers for the teacher.

Boy, did I struggle. And feel stupid. It made me so frustrated – so very frustrated – figuring out how to use this contraption and catch up with my classmates that I believe it left a few mental scars. In fact, I think it contributed to my eventual interest in words more than numbers, creativity more than logic, language more than science. And, more than three decades in journalism.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: What I am today – good or bad, complete or flawed – I owe in small part to those colorful, awful little beads.

The milestone you’ve waited for: your Propane Birthday

For the guy that has it all: propane and propane accessories.

For the guy that has it all: propane and propane accessories.

Jewish boys become bar mitzvah on their 13th birthday, with Jewish girls becoming bat mitzvah on their 12th.

We’re accustomed to the “sweet sixteen” celebration when an American girl reaches age 16.

Your Golden or Grand Birthday is when your age matches the day of the month on which you were born – my birthday is Sept. 29, so I celebrated my Golden Birthday when I turned 29.

With our growing Hispanic population, we are becoming accustomed to the quinceanera, a celebration marking a girl’s 15th birthday.

I am hereby declaring that a man’s 58th birthday is his Propane Birthday, when his family ceremoniously presents him with a second, backup propane tank so that they are not embarrassed when this man’s lone tank runs out of fuel while he’s gas-grilling a special meal.

I expect Hallmark to come out with the appropriate greeting card any day now.