Community and Contribution: It’s the Military Way—It’s the American Way

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I was an Air Force brat—and I say that with the deepest affection and gratitude because that experience has largely shaped who I am today. In fact, if it weren’t for my father’s military service, I wouldn’t be here—let alone writing this! My father was what we called a “lifer” in the United States Air Force.

My parents met when my dad was stationed in Japan during the U.S. Occupation after the Second World War. It was not love at first sight for my Japanese mother, but my father? He was a goner. After pulling out all the stops and courting my mother for a full year, he finally won. Mom consented to go out with him. Her initial reluctance was not only because he was an American G.I. There were also cultural traditions for her to consider. In Japan, if no sons are born, the designated daughter carries the family name. As an only child, the obligation fell to my mother to marry a Japanese man who would assume her last name, and give their children that name.

The romance was not ideal as far as my mother’s family was concerned. But once they got to know the character of my father and his country, they fell in love with him, too, and set aside a cultural tradition that had been practiced for centuries. On February 2, 1955, my parents were married in a civil ceremony by a Justice of the Peace. Three and a half weeks later, they had a traditional Japanese wedding. My mother wore a bridal kimono and lacquered wig, and painted her face and hands white, like a Japanese porcelain doll. My father also wore a kimono for the ancient daylong ritual.

My parents’ marriage is not unlike the military. They both are melting pots representing diversity and integration. While there was still much racial intolerance in our country when my parents were first married, the opposite was true in the U.S. Military. By virtue of their world travels, U.S. servicemen came home with foreign brides and started families of mixed heritage. By virtue of their service, they learned how to cooperate and collaborate. By virtue of their commitment, they contributed wherever they served.

My father served in small ways wherever he was, even when not in uniform. It’s the military way. It’s the American way. He taught me compassion, contribution and community, not with words, but actions. I remember so well when we were stationed in the Middle East—Ankara, Turkey. I was in the third grade. It was a hard time for us. There was no military housing for families, so we lived among the Turkish. The country was underdeveloped and the apartment buildings seemed to be built of sand. We couldn’t drink the water or eat the food. We didn’t speak the language. Frequent earthquakes rattled the ground and our nerves, and crumbled the buildings.

One particular summer weekend as my sister and I were playing on the balcony to stay clear of the large population of dogs and cats plagued with rabies, we heard the anguished shrieking of a baby. Scared, we looked to our parents for cues and comfort. They recognized these cries were not coming from a child simply wanting attention. They were the cries of a baby in acute pain. Dad raced down the apartment stairs, following the sickening sounds of devastating pain. We followed, too, and discovered that our apartment manager’s baby had been scalded. She had somehow managed to grab the handle of a boiling pot of rice and it toppled on her. I don’t know what happened in the panic that followed, since Mom ushered my sister and me back home. She told us that Daddy was going to make sure the baby was taken care of. And he did. Yosef, the apartment manager, could not pay for his daughter’s medical care, so my dad did. He bought them food and milk, too. Mom made and delivered meals to the family so they could devote as much time as possible to the care of their injured child.

Not long after that, a fire broke out on one of the bottom floors of our apartment building in the middle of the night. Dad helped Yosef with the orderly evacuation of the building and hauled and manned the garden hoses to spray down the flames while we waited for the arrival of firefighters. From that time on, Dad became the “go-to guy” when Yosef wasn’t around and sometimes even when he was!

Out of these experiences, it ceased to be the Turks and the Americans. It was no longer “us” and “them.” It was “we”—a priceless lesson that I carry with me today; a lesson in compassion, contribution, and perhaps most importantly, community. It’s the military way. It’s the American Way.

This is just one story of how my father’s military service has served me. My life is rich with them. I am proud of my father and his 21 years of military service. They will be in me and with me forever…in the way I live, in the way I love.

Please share your thoughts, insights and questions below. Your participation provides wisdom that all can benefit from. Thank you!

Denise Yamada © 11/2011

 

You Can Make a Life or Death Difference

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A name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list every 10 minutes. And each day, 18 people on that list die because compatible organs can’t be found in time. As I write this, a San Diego woman—Katrina Bischoff-Howell—is on that waiting list and hospitalized on a ventilator. (To the left is a photo of her taken during a somewhat “healthier” time, when she was on oxygen, but not yet on a ventilator.) Cystic Fibrosis has wasted her lungs and she now has a very small window in which she can receive a transplant…or never be transplanted. Her husband tells me that after two weeks on a ventilator, the body deteriorates and is weakened. He would know: He has CF, too, and received a lung transplant six years ago. Now it’s his wife who is in desperate need of one. You can read and watch her story here:
http://www.10news.com/news/28115787/detail.html

But rather than only read or watch her story, will you act to possibly save a life? Here’s a letter written by Katrina’s mother, which I share with her family’s permission:

Hello Friends and Family:

Yesterday, my daughter, Katie was moved to ICU at Thornton and was put on a ventilator. This means bluntly that we have only two weeks to discover two donated and fully vetted and qualified transplantable lung lobes or to have a cadaveric transplant and to successfully transplant those lungs. After two weeks on the ventilator there is no more opportunity for transplant. Moreover it is extremely tough for a CF patient to be able to live after being on life support for that length of time.

Here is exactly what you can do to help.

·· If you are under 55, have type A or O blood and are at least 5’ 9” and are willing to give up one of your five lung lobes to Katie, call my husband at (760) 579-8275 and we will get you tested to be a cross-match. Katrina is a very difficult match because of being transfused years ago and therefore her blood chemistry changed. The test to see if you are a suitable cross match is simple and painless. If you are a match, USC will take it from there.

·· Post the need for transplant donors to every friend and Facebook contact right now! Please ask them to consider giving one lobe to her IF they qualify. Please make certain that they understand how critical it is to act now.

·· Please ask your friends, family and congregations to pray for Katie now.

·· Because of the length of time it takes to find a donor…and now we have only two weeks to accomplish this…we can only identify potential donors for testing through this first week. Please understand that there is absolutely no time to waste.

Please I implore you to act now, right now. Please do not hesitate.

Thank you for your consideration in lovingly and prayerfully considering this massively bold request immediately. Please help me save my daughter’s life.

Do you want to know the amazing story of how I learned about Katrina’s situation? From my friend Sharlie Ross Kaltenbach—also living with Cystic Fibrosis. Here is a woman who is in need of a transplant herself, asking others to support her friend. I am not the least bit surprised that Sharlie is reaching out on behalf of her friend—that’s the kind of giving, loving and compassionate person I know her to be. Make no mistake, Sharlie is also in need—her lung function is at a mere 18%. That’s why those of us who love her have mounted a fundraising campaign to help cover the expenses associated with her needed lung transplant.

Here’s how you can help Sharlie: Buy a product from this website and personally ask three friends to do the same:

http://breathlessmom.com/products?r=4551

We believe in the power of three! Do you remember the movie Pay It Forward? The main character helped three people and asked them to “pay it forward” to three more people, so nine people would be helped. Then those people would multiply into 27. Then it would spread to 81. Then 243. Then 729. Then 2,187. And on and on. That’s the model on which we’ve based this fundraiser. We ask you to buy one product for $27 and ask three people to do the same and “give forward.” In a very short period of time, hundreds of thousands of dollars could be raised to fund Sharlie’s transplant and associated costs, with any excess going to others living with CF and to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for ongoing research for a cure.

All of the products offered will enhance your life, too! Please check them out here:  http://breathlessmom.com/products?r=4551, buy a product and ask three friends to do the same, to continue “giving forward.” Simple way to make a difference.

Another way to get involved is to sign up for the donor registry. You can do that here: https://www.donatelifecalifornia.org/ Will you join me? I’ve been on the registry since I first met Sharlie and her family about 20 years ago.

If you live in another state, go to the US donor registry site and search for your state: http://www.organdonor.gov

YOU can make a life-or-death difference. Will you?

Please share your thoughts, insights and questions below. Your participation provides wisdom that all can benefit from. Thank you!

Denise Yamada © 6/2011

 

7 Wonders of My World

“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.” ~Walter Streightiff

Remember learning about the Seven Wonders of the World when you were in grade school? I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately as one of my best friends is in China right now and just visited the Great Wall. It’s included on one of the many lists of the wonders of the world…and there are many lists: The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and of the Modern World; there are the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and of the Industrial World. I’m sure there are more, but those are the ones most commonly referred to.

As breathtaking as many of these wonders are—I even hope to visit all of them in my lifetime—there are so many wonders in my world that I don’t have to leave home to appreciate:

The Seven Wonders of My World

1.  My body. It boggles my mind with the things it does without any direction from me—like pumping 1.3 gallons of blood per minute to keep me alive. Like taking the food I eat and creating energy from it. Like creating another human being from the union of a single egg and single spermatozoan. And it never ceases to amaze me that with my body I can see, smell, taste, touch and hear.

2.  My children. I’m in awe of how they have grown and developed inside and out since they were born. How do little babies who start out weighing 7 or 8 pounds grow to outweigh and tower over me? They inspire me with their deep thoughts on love and possibility. They teach me every day about the goodness of life.

3.  My mind. I love that with my mind I can choose my thoughts; that I can choose the filter through which I view life. In my work as a coach, I call this context. Our context of life gives us our experience and quality of life. For example, if you believe that life is dangerous and people are cruel, you’ll find evidence to support this at every turn. On the other hand, if you believe that life is beautiful and people are loving, you will easily collect evidence that this is true. So your context is definitive and decisive. That we get to choose our context is wondrous!

4.  Music. I marvel at how music can move me to tears. Listening to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings is a spiritual experience for me. I feel beauty, heartbreak, love, and loss all at the same time. Listening to Madonna’s “4 Minutes” makes my body twitch and, without fail, I must dance when I hear it—even if it means dancing from the waist up while driving buckled up in the car! Music is miraculous.

5.  Mother Nature. Where to begin? The ocean speaks to me in a secret language that only my soul understands. Its mystery calls to me one moment and frightens me the next. Always, its beauty and power take my breath away. The sun touches not only my skin, but places deep within me that nothing else can. The wind, the sun, the sand, the moon—I treasure them all!

6.  Flight. I don’t think anyone describes this miracle better than comedian Louis CK: “Did you fly through the air—incredibly—like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight? You’re flying! It’s amazing. Everybody on every plane should just constantly be going, ‘Oh, my God! Wow!’ You’re sitting in a chair in the sky. New York to California in five hours. It used to take 40 years to do that! And a bunch of you would die on the way there, and have a baby. You’d be a whole different group of people by the time you got there!” Exactly. What he said.

7.  The Internet. I can’t begin to understand how the Internet works, I am simply grateful that it does. Remember when we had to consult maps for directions? Or let our fingers do the walking when we needed phone numbers? Or had to go to the store to buy our music? Now, we have the Internet for those things and so much more. Most significantly, the Internet has made us a global village. We can communicate instantaneously with loved ones on the other side of the planet. We can make friends and exchange ideas with people we might never have known existed, just as I am writing and speaking to you now.

What are the Seven Wonders of Your World? Please share your thoughts, insights and questions below. Your participation provides wisdom that all can benefit from. Thank you!

Denise Yamada © 5/2011

 

We Are Not Alone

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“To most of you, your neighbor is a stranger, a guy with a barking dog and a high fence around him. Now you can’t be a stranger to any guy that’s on your own team. So tear down the fence that separates you. Tear down your fence, and you’ll tear down a lot of hates and prejudices. Tear down all the fences in the country, and you’ll really have teamwork.” ~John Doe

These captivating words are from a speech delivered by the character John Doe, portrayed by Gary Cooper in the 1941 Frank Capra film “Meet John Doe.” The film might be 70 years old, but the words are just as relevant today as they were back then. The message is that it’s possible for us to realize and manifest our greater potential as individuals, as communities, as countries, as a people inhabiting this little green and blue planet we call Home. We are not alone.

If being on the planet were a team sport, what one play would you make? What will you do today to reach out to your neighbor? Do you even know your neighbors’ names?

(If you’d like to see the entire movie, click here: Meet John Doe)

Please share your thoughts, insights and questions below. Your participation provides wisdom that all can benefit from. Thank you!

Denise Yamada © 4/2011

Risky Business

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“If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” ~Ray Bradbury

I think Mr. Bradbury is referring to what I call “survival mechanism” when he speaks of intellect in this way. You might also think of it as your “gremlin” or IBSC—Itty Bitty Sh-tty Committee. You know: It’s the voice in your head (the one that right now is asking, “What voice?”) that tells you that you can’t, you won’t, you shouldn’t…and shouts disparagingly, “Who do you think you are?!” That voice. It’s the part of you that wants to keep you safe and your life small. Unfortunately, life—one way or another—is inherently risky business, if you want to live a life of purpose, joy and love.

So what cliff will you jump off today and build your wings on the way down? Of course, I’m speaking metaphorically—unless you are properly outfitted with a parachute or hang glider or some other appropriate equipment! I do not want you or your mother calling me and asking why I suggested you jump off a cliff!

Please share your thoughts, insights and questions below. Your participation provides wisdom that all can benefit from. Thank you!

Denise Yamada © 4/2011

Problem as Opportunity

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“A small trouble is like a pebble. Hold it too close to your eye and it fills the whole world and puts everything out of focus. Hold it at a proper distance and it can be examined and properly classified. Throw it at your feet and it can be seen in its true setting, just one more tiny bump on the pathway of life.”  ~Celia Luce

It really is a matter of perspective, isn’t it? Consider a problem you’ve been having that seems huge. Here are a couple of ways to get a different perspective: 1) Pretend it’s not your problem, but someone else’s–perhaps someone you don’t know well so that you don’t get mired in emotionality. What would you advise this person to do in that situation? Or 2) Look at what else is possible. Ask yourself: What is the gift in this situation? How is this problem an opportunity?

Ultimately, how you experience the events, people and circumstances of your life is a matter of choice.

Please share your thoughts, insights and questions below. Your participation provides wisdom that all can benefit from. Thank you!

Denise Yamada © 3/2011

From Impossible to Possible

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Terry McMillan, author of Waiting to Exhale explains her success: “I don’t write about victims. They just bore me to death. I prefer to write about somebody who can pick themselves back up and get on with their lives.”

Think of a time when you fell, but picked yourself up, dusted yourself off and carried on. What inside you made that happen?  To what current challenge in your life might you apply the same pluck to triumph once again?

Please share your thoughts, insights and questions below. Your participation provides wisdom that all can benefit from. Thank you!

Denise Yamada © 5/2011

Suffering is Optional

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Did you know suffering is optional and happiness is a choice? Suffering over reality never changes reality. It just creates more suffering. That doesn’t mean you don’t have feelings about how things are going or not going. It means you have feelings, but don’t let them stop your action. You move through them and with them. Keep your eye on the big picture you’re working toward and take the next action in alignment with your commitment. Wash, rinse, repeat!

What’s an area you’ve been suffering in? Will you give up suffering and choose something empowering instead? What will you choose right now? I’d love to hear!

Please share your thoughts, insights and questions below. Your participation provides wisdom that all can benefit from. Thank you!

Denise Yamada © 5/2011

Magnificence Realized

You are divine! My purpose and passion is to remind you of your divinity. That may rankle some folks; they think it’s about religion or they don’t believe in God. That’s okay with me. It doesn’t matter. I don’t have a religious bone in my body and you don’t need to believe in God. It’s really about your own soul and spirit.

Here’s my bottom line: I don’t care who you are, where you live, what you look like, how old or young you are, what you have or haven’t done, or what you do for a living—YOU ARE MAGNIFICENT! If you know that already and are living in alignment with that, then congratulations! But many people don’t and aren’t. So my purpose is to reflect to you your magnificence—your greatness—so you can pay it forward and take that out into the world and be your purpose on the planet.

As a personal development and executive coach, I address the other stuff as well. I’ve had clients who’ve doubled and tripled their income with my coaching; one of my clients entered a real estate competition and with my coaching won the $100,000 grand prize! Others have shed unwanted pounds—more than 60 pounds in six months in one case—and created vibrant health. Some have reinvented their marriages and transformed relationships with their children. But it all started with Realizing their Magnificence.

Once you get your magnificence, life becomes a piece of cake. In fact, it becomes the whole cake! People often expect and accept crumbs. They live on morsels—literally and figuratively. But by BEING YOUR GREATNESS, you belly up to the table of life and enjoy the luscious banquet it has to offer.

When Magnificence is Realized, love and possibility abound; minds and doors open; hearts and relationships are healed; people come together; the world is As One. When you are Magnificence Realized, the next right action or project or relationship organically arises. Life is effortless. Life is a joy.

If you’re interested in a life like that, give me a call or send me an email. I’m opening 10 slots in my schedule for someone just like you. We’ll get started by naming your magnificence, charting your course and moving you up to the banquet table of life.

Savoring the Moments and Milestones of Life

I’m experiencing the bookends of life. Last Saturday I was rolling around on the floor with the eight-month-old daughter of friends as they went on a rare date; this week I’ve been helping my daughter prepare to move to the great Pacific Northwest to begin college; yesterday I marked the eighth anniversary of the death of one of my best friends; and, of course, today, we remember those who were lost on 9/11.

And soon, I will meet a personal milestone. In a month, I’ll celebrate my 53rd birthday. I’m taking a deep breath here as the words of my former manager ring in my ears: “You’re not really going to tell people how old you are, are you?!” This is apparently a cardinal sin in the world of talent management, promotion, and “looking good.” I must confess that I have mixed feelings about telling you my age. To be dishonest would perpetuate the beauty and youth myth created by Hollywood and Madison Avenue. Why wouldn’t I want to tell you my age? I think I’m holding up pretty darn well. Just to look at me, most people would never guess that I was over 40. My former manager would argue that I shouldn’t tell you my age because in an industry where “It’s better to look good than it is to feel good,” I could eliminate myself from being considered for certain projects if my age were known—like 52 makes me some kind of fossil or something. And frankly, in my new business as a life and executive coach, age and the resulting wisdom are bonuses. In the television industry, though—notsomuch.

I’ve never understood that line of thinking, given that in this day and age, Boomers are the wealthiest, healthiest, most highly educated generation of middle-aged Americans in history and yet, we buy into this “younger is better” mentality. And if, in fact, my last television employment contract was not renewed because I was “too old,” I’d be crazy to tell you my real age. But it takes too much energy to lie about it. It’s too easy to get caught fudging the years. Then people who know how old I am would think, yeah, who do you think you’re kidding? I vote for authenticity here.

So, I’m 52-and-11/12ths, if you’re counting. I don’t know how in the world that could have possibly happened. True, my daughter has aged 18 years since I gave birth to her, but I just can’t fathom that I’ve aged 18 years, too. I still feel 30 on the inside. Did you ever notice how when were we younger, we couldn’t wait to grow up? As an early achiever, I had all kinds of cheerleaders psyching me up to do more, better, faster. Looking back now, I wonder…what exactly was the hurry? As a child, I always wanted to grow up quickly; always pleased that someone thought I was older than I really was. For what? To enter the workforce full-time at 19? That just gave me new and different cheerleaders—television news directors and talent scouts—psyching me up to do more, better, faster. I couldn’t wait to be 20, 25—even 30. It’s like I was in a hurry to finally “grow up.”

I guess the joke was on me because we never really stop growing, do we? Of course, we all seem to reach that point in our 30s and 40s when we want to back-pedal and have people think we’re younger than we really are. Even my father’s mother—Bubbie, we call her—did this. God rest her soul, she passed away in 2005 at the ripe old age of 103. Since her first grandchild was born some 70 years ago, she’s been called Bubbie, short for stutta bubba, which my grandfather told me is Croatian for “old woman.” But if you were to ask Bubbie her age, she’d tell you she was 99 or 100! What difference does it make if people knew her real age? When you hit 100, people should be seeking your counsel and doing television specials on your long and exceptional life, and awarding you prizes. Yet, Bubbie still fudged about her age. Go figure. At least I know I come from hearty stock and will be around for a long time, doing what I can to transform age and experience from liabilities to assets.

So…during this time of contemplating the bookends of life, I offer some advice. To my daughter and son and all young people: Enjoy the process and savor the delicious moments of your life. Don’t rush. There is no hurry. Be a child. To those responsible for the raising of children: Let children be children. To adults—who are often just children in grown up bodies—remember to feed your sense of wonder and awe for the world around you and the world in you. That’s where your real treasures are found.

What do you notice about how you experience the moments and milestones of your life? Please share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you!