A Cool Mona Masterpiece: Ray Bethell’s Mesmerizing Kite Ballet

Prepare to be moved as Ray Bethell’s kites do a mesmerizing ballet as they swoop, soar and dance all across the sky. The music is Flower Duet (Lakme) by Leo Delibes.


Ray Bethell of Vancouver, Canada is a professional kite flyer. He holds multiple endurance world records related to simultaneously flying three stunt kites, one from each hand and one from his hips. Using the same technique he can fly multiple stacks of kites (up to 39 kites in total). Bethell has travelled extensively since 1991 displaying his prowess at International Kite Festivals.

He was the subject of a documentary short film by Matt Nie of the Vancouver Film School, “Good Stuff”, which won first place at the 2005 TriBeCa Film Festival in New York City.[1]

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Forgiveness 101: Start With Something Little, Like Really Little

glass beach in california

glass beach in california

Writings on forgiveness from that all – inspiring Anne Lamott:

I went around saying for a long time that I am not one of those Christians who is heavily into forgiveness – that I am one of the other kind. But even though it was funny, and actually true, it started to be painful to stay this way. They say we are not punished for the sin but by the sin and I began to feel punished by my unwillingness to forgive. By the time I decided to become one of the ones who is heavily into forgiveness, it was like trying to become a marathon runner in middle age; everything inside me either recoiled, as from a hot flame, or laughed a little too hysterically.

I tried to will myself into forgiving various people who had harmed me directly or indirectly over the years – 4 former Republican presidents, 3 relatives, 2 old boyfriends and 1 teacher in a pear tree – it was “The Twelve Days of Christmas” meets Taxi Driver. But in the end I could only pretend that I had. I decided I was starting off with my sights aimed too high. As C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, “If we really want to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo.”

Cool Mona Note: I forgive you, Ralph, for calling my house “cozy” when we both know what you meant.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAMrqqFGZjo

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5 Easy Ways To Give (And Get) Some Happiness

be kind and they'll think you're weird

be kind and they’ll think you’re weird

Actively lending a hand for someone does good things for the psyches of all involved.  You’ll both get a positive brain boost so it’s an easy win win when you pay the freeway toll for the one behind you, walk an elderly neighbor’s dog or my personal favorite, secretly plant pansies in the middle of the night.

Even better, Paul Zak, PhD, neuroeconomist and professor at Claremont Graduate University, says even less tangible acts of kindness can make the giver—and especially the recipient—feel good. These small deeds require minimal effort on your part but are often experienced just as deeply—or even more so—than many of the standard things people do to be good to one another.

Well, what are they you ask? Here are five of Dr. Zak’s favorite ways to give the people in his life a little happiness boost (while reaping some of those same feel-good benefits for himself). Maybe 1 or 2 will work for you.

1. Ask “How can I be of service?”

Zak repeats this phrase in just about every meeting he attends. Doing so makes your collaborators feel supported and heard, which is especially important around the workplace. This also gives your colleagues a chance to air concerns and ask for any additional help they might need. Of course, this phrase can be used with anyone at any time. If a friend or family member is going through a transition or a busier than usual period—such as welcoming a new baby—a check-in like this will be much appreciated. (Cool Mona Note: If you don’t get an answer, you’ll have to come up with something on your own. Don’t think that there’s not a need.)

2. Maintain eye contact (which means you’ll have to stop checking your phone!)

This one sounds easy until you try it. Chances are that a few moments into conversation you’ll become distracted and check the time, glance at the door, the décor, the iPhone or otherwise look away from the person you’re speaking with. This isn’t just rude—it’s also a subconscious indication that you aren’t fully engaged. “When someone gives you all of their attention, it’s a gift,” says Zak. “By showing that you’re not chained to your device, it’s a real show of interest and respect.” This one comes up a lot at home for Zak, but it’s easy to practice with anyone, from the person bagging your groceries to the receptionist at your office.

3. Stop pretending you’re the only person in the box

Always one to test out new ideas on happiness and connection, Zak recently became an elevator talker. (You know—one of those people who engages with strangers while riding in elevators.) He thinks you should follow suit. “We’re in a little box and pretend to be in it alone,” says Zak. “So I recently gave myself a rule that every time I get into an elevator I have to say ‘Hello, how are you?’” The idea is to make this friendly, not bothersome. Per Zak, some people just smile and nod back, but other people really answer, expressing themselves in a way that makes it clear they’ve been waiting for someone to ask.

4. Comment on their emotions

Even if you’re not always able to read other people’s moods and feelings, chances are you have noticed occasions when your coworkers, friends, and family members have seemed more happy, sad, relaxed, or frustrated than usual. By commenting on these observations you can make a person feel seen; by asking them why they’re feeling that way you give them a chance to feel heard, too. “I recently did this with a coworker,” says Zak. “She had this glow to her. And she told me that she had recently lost 15 pounds and was feeling great all-around.” After a short exchange like this, everyone involved will feel better.

5. Expand your use of the “L” word

Easy enough to say “I love you” to lovers and family. But what about the other people in your life? The close friends and maybe even longtime colleagues that you really, really like, or, you know, love? Let them know how you feel, suggests Zak. If you have dear friends or colleagues, express it to them using “love” if you’re comfortable with it, or other words if you aren’t. “Expressing that sentiment produces a level of connection that is powerful for all,” says Zak.

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What I Did Today For Robin Williams

a clearance aisle type of home - they're just as sweet

a clearance aisle type of home – they’re just as sweet

In memory of Robin Williams, I hung up a birdhouse today. I drove through lunch-hour traffic to get to the closest garden center and sorted through all the pastels, all the clunky wooden ones and all the ones marked clearance. Some with a frayed rope hanger, some with a few chips, and almost all looking a little tired and lonely.

It took longer than I expected so I had to shoot off 2 texts: I’ll be late for our 1:00 meeting and I hope we can push out our 2:30 call. I kept thinking of the funny, irreverent jokes Williams would make about me choosing a pastel for him. And then I got stuck looking at the tired and lonely ones, those being moved out to make room for the new and shiny fall items. I know he would have something to say about these and I wonder if he would identify with them. That’s what depression is good for, making us feel like we live in the clearance aisle, like aisle 8 needs a clean up, like we’re not so sparkling and new any more.

And so that’s what I bought, 2 from clearance. I think he would like that. And I hung them in a place of honor – to me anyway – where I can see if anyone moves in, high among these full branches that bloomed long ago in the spring.

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Cool Mona Community: Hello From Carolyn, Sophia, Allison

sophia and allison

sophia and allison

Dear Mona,

I wanted you to meet the two loves of my life, my two girls. As you may guess, our dog, Allison, makes everything a lot more fun and entertaining. I’m a nurse and I work 30 miles from home. When I call home to ask about my daughter, I am always relieved to hear her cheerful voice tell me about her adventures with the dog. (I actually hate to call her a ’dog”.)

I work in the Pediatrics unit of a large medical center and once again last night we received a baby (this one was two weeks old) dropped off at the door of the emergency room. This doesn’t make me sad, it encourages me that someone had the courage to do the right thing and take her baby where she (or he!) knew loving arms would be waiting.

Things work out. It doesn’t mean that some pain and heartache won’t be involved, but you’ll make it. I did.


Carolyn (and Sophia and Allison)

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Cool Mona Weekly Masterpiece: It’s Really This Simple

It had been a lousy, tiring day and then I saw this. It’s just so simple. From the Budapest Zoo.


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How To Protect Yourself From People Who Hurt You (Part 2)

the light will always win

the light will always win

More from Gary Zukav, author of The Seat of the Soul, as he explains how to defend ourselves without hitting back, yelling or going on the attack. The first part was yesterday so catch up here if you missed it. http://www.coolmona.com/?p=7786

This is good news. Each time the dynamic is activated, for example, anger, abandonment, humiliation, you will have another opportunity to look inside. You will again feel the magnetic attraction of fear, the powerful pull of judgment, the need to prove that another person is causing your pain. But you can choose to experience the interior source of your pain—instead of blaming it on others.

For example, my older sister and I had been estranged for years. The only time we chose to see each other was for family gatherings like birthdays. Last year, she and I were sitting together in her house discussing ideas for birthday gifts for our niece. I made a suggestion. My sister reacted with, “You are so tight with your money.” I noticed a jolt of pain in my solar plexus. I breathed. In this moment, I chose not to react to my sister’s comment, as I would have in the past, by withdrawing or reacting with an insult. There was a pause as I noticed my pain and decided not to speak. Then my sister said, “Sorry for saying that. You can be very generous.” In this moment, I felt an opening between my sister and I. I did not engage in my usual pattern of being defensive toward her and she did not engage in her usual attack.

Every time you break your usual pattern, you melt the wall between you and others and you can connect from an open heart. Eventually, you will recognize that each of your emotions is a free-standing experience, independent of what others do or say—and that the activation and reactivation of painful dynamics will end when you intervene consciously in this process.

This is the first step to creating authentic power. There is nothing you need to use against those who appear to “hurt you” because the appearance of others “hurting you” is an illusion. It is based in fear, and that is why acting on it cannot bring you peace or joy. Only love can do that. Every time you feel the need to blame someone for a painful experience, and choose consciously not to act on that need, you take a step toward love.

Cool Mona Note: By not reacting in an emotional, upsetting way is also called giving the person a pass. And when I give one, I frequently point it out.

(Check out all the book reviews on the Cool Mona Book List: http://www.coolmona.com/?page_id=127)

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How to Protect Yourself From People Who Hurt You (Part 1)

garden lilies about to pop

garden lilies about to pop

Gary Zukav, the author of The Seat of the Soul, explains how to defend ourselves without hitting back, yelling or going on the attack.

Most of us assume that our pain is the result of what someone else does or does not do to us. We say to ourselves things like, “My life partner just left me for another person, did not even say goodbye, and now I am left with my grief and bewilderment and anger and humiliation. How much damage can this person do?”

The real answer: None. Only you can do the damage to yourself.

Your former partner may lack integrity (or may be seeing things about you that you do not see about yourself), but he does not have the ability to hurt you, no matter how much it appears otherwise. He has only the ability to activate dynamics within you—ones that have nothing to do with him and everything to do with you. Until you choose not to be controlled by these dynamics, you will feel that you have been “hurt” by other people, just as you will continue to feel that you have been hurt by other people in the past.

Even if you change the circumstances and people in your life who appear to be causing your pain, that pain will recur: the pain of abandonment, the pain of betrayal, or being abused or being judged. Further, when you look back on your experiences, you will see that already this pain has recurred many times in different situations, different places and with different people. Eventually you will see that you are the common denominator. You are the thread that connects. Judging others, blaming others, trying to punish others and gossiping about others will not ease your pain or prevent it from returning, because your pain is not caused by others. It occurs only when the dynamic is activated within you.

Cool Mona Note: Gary Zukav makes a lot of sense. Stay close because I’ll wrap this up tomorrow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKwsHI0xod0



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A Cool Mona Book Review: My Salinger Year

Marg_4 iconMy Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff, published 2014. A memoir about a young woman entangled with one of the last great figures of the century, J.D. Salinger. Working for an old-school literary agent, Rakoff plops herself down in the New York of the late 90’s, a pre-digital world on the cusp of vanishing. Just out of grad school, she works like it’s 1977 – Dictaphones, typewriters and carbon paper, martini lunches.

Rakoff’s agency represents Salinger and part of her workload is to answer the hundreds of fan letters Salinger receives at their office. If you’ve read any of Salinger and surely you have – his signature novel was 1951′s “The Catcher in the Rye,” an immediate bestseller for its iconoclastic hero and forthright use of profanity – you’ll know why the heart-wrenching voices of the senders stayed with her. War veterans who could never quite adjust, teen boys full of angst, so many full of confusion and rage. Turning away from company policy and the iconic form letter, Rakoff begins writing back in her own voice.

She also embraces a new life. “I wanted to be extraordinary,” she admits. Instead, she joins a legion of “girls” from comfortable backgrounds determined to live uncomfortably in an iffy pursuit of art. An unheated apartment in Williamsburg. A novelist boyfriend described as a pseudo-socialist defaulting on his student loans. A young writer determined to find her own voice via literary ambitions.

Beautifully written, I am reminded of the power of books by reading hers. It’s a coming of age read, rich with longing and feeling and writing and struggling. In the Cool Mona rating system, I give My Salinger Year 4 margaritas.

Cool Mona Note: Following the success of Catcher in the Rye, Salinger became reclusive and retreated to his New Hampshire home. He published just three more books: Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roof Beam. He passed away in 2010.

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Thanks (I Think)

finch in a snowstorm

finch in a snowstorm

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow for the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water looking out
in different directions.

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
looking up from tables we are saying thank you
in a culture up to its chin in shame
living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the back door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us like the earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

W. S.  Merwin

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