Magic beans

Once upon a time, in a faraway land a United States Peace Corps trainee (me) spent the night with her Macedonian host family at a table sorting beans from their garden. They were not just ordinary beans, they were magic. The beans represented food and income for a family of four. You see, this hard-working, always-generous and friendly family had dug the earth, plowed the fields, planted the seeds, watered and weeded the plants, and then harvested the tiny beans to provide sustenance for their family.  And, that is only part of their magic. 

The final step of the process was to sort the beans – to discard the bad, select the best for sale and store the remaining beans for meals during the winter months ahead. The beans were the main focus of the evening, and were piled high on the dining room table on a clean worn cloth used for this and many other cooking purposes. I quickly learned that sorting them was serious business, but not so serious as to inhibit the magic powers of the beans as they transported me back in time . . .

Suddenly, instead of being a woman in a faraway land with grown children of my own back in the States, I was a 10-year-old girl in a bedroom suburb of Cleveland, Ohio enjoying the company of my family around a small kitchen table that – in shifts – presented food for nine boisterous kids and their parents. Instead of a tablecloth and beans, our white Formica table was covered with playing cards as we trumped and Rummied our way through many a night. On occasion the competition got the best of a younger sibling and tears were shed, but most often laughter and fun filled the evening. It was there at that table, and at the larger (still formica, but darker) one in our dining room that I learned about winning and losing, fair play, math and the magic of being with family and friends. Although the settings were very different and were separated by time and distance the warm feeling of being with family and friends was exactly the same.

Today, I find myself in a new country, the Republic of Georgia, and I am again living with a wonderful host family. Yesterday evening I walked into the kitchen and my host Mom, who is much younger than me, was sitting at the kitchen table with her older sister, who is also younger than me, and they were talking and sorting beans that another family member had grown and shared. The tiny room was cozy and warm and overflowing with people laughing and carrying on different conversations, and the beans worked their magic again – I was 10 years old and felt completely at home.

I hope you find time in the busy days ahead to share some activities with family and friends around a table, whether you are preparing a meal, making crafts, playing cards or board games or simply counting beans!

And, I hope that when you find yourself table-side, you will look around at the faces of the people you are with and pause to savor the moment. Let it sink in from your head to your toes as you realize how lucky you are, because spending time with the people you love is where the magic truly begins. 

Wishful Thinking Works is on Facebook; visit for posts and other weekly updates, and to “Like”, if you like!

 As part of creating the life she really wants, Patrice Koerper is currently living in Tbilisi, the capital

 of the Republic of Georgia with a wonderful host family on a 3-month Peace Corps Response Volunteer assignment.

‘Tis the season to be PIFing, fa la la la la, la la la

 

“It doesn’t have to be a big thing. It can just seem that way, depending who you do it for.”  PIF Foundation 

My first PIFing post was December of last year, rereading it the other day brought back fond memories of the moment described and then brought on the cold realization that I don’t do nearly enough of what I say I’m going to do – like PIFing: “Paying It Forward”. So, this post is more for me than you, but since you’re here . . .  

You see, the small things really do count, and there is no better time than the holiday season to reach out to others in teeny, tiny wonderful ways. Not only is PIFing a nice thing to do, it feels good, and studies show that altruistic behavior is a great stress reducer. (Anyone stressed at this time of year?) And, the positive effects of PIFing last far beyond the energy expended.

So this holiday season hold a door; pass-up the primo parking space by the mall; share a table; make the coffee or the copies; surprise a friend; call your mom; let the one-item guy go ahead of you; give up your seat; pay an extra toll or two; shovel the driveway; babysit; bake or buy the cookies; or even better – sit with, hold or listen – really listen to someone at little longer than you normally would. The options are endless; PIFing is fun, and in most cases free – or at least extremely inexpensive. 

The only rule to PIFing is you can’t PIF and expect anything in return. The goal is to PIF and let it go! 

If you like the idea of PIFing, share this post on FB or email it to friends – the goal is to making PIFing an everyday event in 2012 for as many folks as possible and the best way to do that is to keep it in front of as many people as possible. I really believe the nicer we are, the nicer the world becomes. I’ll be posting PIF reminders throughout the year, so I do not forget!

This week, I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of these warm and wonderful PIFs, each touched my heart and made me want to PIF more and more:

1. A ride to work with great conversation along the way

2. A seat on the bus

3. A hug from an anonymous coed holding “Free Hugs” sign in the center of Tbilisi, Georgia!

Happy PIFing. Get started today, and let us know what you are up to.

Wishful Thinking Works is on Facebook; visit for posts and other weekly updates, and to “Like”, if you like! 

As part of creating the life she really wants, Patrice Koerper is currently living in Tbilisi, the capital

of the Republic of Georgia with a wonderful host family on a 3-month Peace Corps Response Volunteer assignment.

Georgian National Ballet “Sukhishvili”

A week or so ago I was lucky enough to see a performance by the Georgian National Ballet “Sukhishvili” at the Tbilisi concert hall.

“Iliko Sukhishvili and Nino Ramishvili founded the Georgian National Ballet in 1945. Filled with determination, the couple made its dream a reality: reflecting the emotionally daring spirit of the Georgian nation, its invincible vitality and touching romanticism through traditional Georgian dancing. The Georgian National Ballet, first professional state dance company in Georgia, has appeared at the Albert Hall, The Coliseum, The Metropolitan Opera, Madison Square, and dozens of famous venues. In 1967, La Scala welcomed them as the first and only folklore group performing there. The curtain was lifted 14 times, a record. Three generations of Sukhishvili family, now represented by Nino and Iliko Sukhishvili Jr., dedicated their lives to the Georgian National Ballet. The Georgian National Ballet has seventy dancers and a small orchestra.” (From the Portrait of Georgia web site.)

I can’t get their beautiful images out of my mind. The dance troupe is huge and extremely talented. My brief Facebook posting about it doesn’t begin to properly describe their work or the traditions of Georgia, and yet 10 days later, I can still think of no better way to describe the troupe other than as an amazing combo of ballet, Riverdance and Stomp – with swords, shields, and knives! 

My favorite were the women pictured here. They glide in such a way it looks as though they are floating across the stage. And, even while moving they barely look real.

 

 

The following dancers represent brides and grooms; their unified movements were dazzling, dignified and oh, so delicate. Click on a photo below to see it in a larger size and slide show format.

 

There were so many regional styles of costume and dance represented. To see more of the troupe, click here, and to see them perform in the snow on the Caucasian Mountains, click here.

Wishful Thinking Works is on Facebook; visit for posts and other weekly updates, and to “Like”, if you like! 

As part of creating the life she really wants, Patrice Koerper is currently living in Tbilisi,

the capital of the Republic of Georgia, on a  3-month Peace Corps Response Volunteer assignment .

2011 Perfect Party Planner

 

 

 

‘Tis the season when holiday parties dot or engulf our calendars. Have you ever dreaded going to a family, office or neighborhood holiday gathering?

Have you ever worried your own event might not turn out “right.” Well, my “Perfect Party Planner” may help you deal with your holiday happening woes.

 

 

 

“Patrice’s Perfect Party Planner”

Tip #1: If you are dreading a gathering, don’t go. Okay, okay, just kidding – although sometimes not attending is a valid option – if you’ve decided to attend or host an event try a few of these tips . . . 

PREDICT BETTER

Thinking about a positive outcome – even for a few minutes, will make you much happier than worrying about a negative outcome for weeks, days or hours in advance – predict success!  Parties and life get better when we predict better. Take a minute or two and picture the party working out great. Picture yourself leaving the soiree thinking, “Wow, that wasn’t so bad. In fact, I had a great time.” or “OMG, that was wonderful.” Envision whatever works best for you; the more details you create, the better. If you’re hosting an event, and are nervous about how it will go, picture everyone complimenting your food, decorations, (or whatever you really want them to compliment) and telling you what a great time they are having.  

 

CREATE PLAN B, C, D

Giving yourself options in advance, will help relax you and if you are creative with your “blanks”, may provide you with a few well-needed laughs. Come-up with what you will do if you do find yourself getting frustrated or bored. “When I start feeling ___________ (frustrated, angry, annoyed, impatient, bored, etc.) , I will ___________(check on the kids; compliment someone; help with the food or dishes; walk outside; ask about someone’s vacation; dance; sing; get-up and walk across the room; sneak a peek at presents, etc. )  Special note: try not to fill the second blank with “Eat and drink everything in sight”, because as you might imagine that could lead to other problems. 

 

EYE CONTACT

Noticing them not you. When people are talking to you, stop thinking about what you are going to say in response or worse yet, looking around the room, and simply notice their eyes, take a second to really look into their eyes. (Please remember we are talking momentary eye contact here  – going much longer might be misinterpreted and scare your colleagues or give your neighbor’s husband ideas – keep it short, okay?) 

 GO WITH A GOAL

Diverting attention from your worries and putting others in the limelight may allow you to learn something and may help you relax and listen. Make a game out of the event. I do this almost every time I attend a party where there will be lots of folks I don’t know or don’t know well. Although I’m an extrovert, I’m a closet introvert at parties. I absolutely hate mingling at parties. I have done PR and special events for years and I’m completely comfortable in those realms, but for some reason small talk at social gatherings is really difficult for me, like run-out-of-the-room-screaming-difficult. So I have learned to make a game out of it, and decide ahead of time at least three things to find out about folks attending. Sometimes, I focus on learning what  people love to do in their spare time, what they enjoy about their professions or to learn more about their travels or families. Another great way to go, especially with family members, is to ask about their favorite Christmas, or how they celebrated Christmas as a kid.

Each of these ideas is cost and calorie-free, and can improve any event. Pick and choose what works for you to create a fantastic holiday experience and reduce your stress level in the process. Some tips take more practice than others, but since holidays parties are here to stay – pace yourself and enjoy.

 P.S. This is an updated post from 2010. Since holiday happenings, happen each year, I thought I’d make this column an annual event, as well. Do you have tips that have worked well for you, if so please share them! We’d love to hear about your best holiday party experiences. 

10 Days of Tbilisi, con’t

Back again, with more photos from my 10 Days in Tbilisi, which began at Thanksgiving. This issue includes photos from Mtshekta one of the oldest cities and former capital of Georgia. Just to give you an idea of how different the perspective on history is in most places outside of the U.S., when Georgians say “former capital” they mean 3rd century BC – 5th century AD!

Clicking on any photo below will increase its size and display it in a slide show format.

I am completely taken with the wool felting process in Georgian, the art and clothing from felt is amazing. I want to buy it all, but so far have limited myself t a few pieces, which you saw at the end of the photo gallery.  If you want to learn a bit more about wool felting, click here. (I don’t know these artists, but their web site gives you a good idea of the process.)

That’s it for now, still more photos to follow . . .

10 Days in Tbilisi

I’ve been working and living in the city of Tbilisi, Georgia for six weeks. I live and work at opposite ends of the city; my one-way daily commute takes about an hour via bus and minibus. For the first few weeks my sightseeing was limited to the view from the windows of buses, but I made-up for it over Thanksgiving weekend when I met-up in Tbilisi with an American friend and former Peace Corps Volunteer from Macedonia. We rented an apartment in the center, which was perfect for seeing the sites in and around Tbilisi. We had a great time. This weekend I will be posting a bit of what we saw then and what I have seen in the following days. Clicking on any photo, will display all of them in a larger size and in a slide show format.

It all began with Thanksgiving in Tbilisi, we shared an eclectic assortment of food, and  one of my fellow Peace Corps Response Volunteers brought this lovely table decoration. Good company in a foreign locale more than made-up for our lack of traditional Thanksgiving fare . . .

The last photo is the sign of a restaurant with a sense of humor in Old Towne Tbilisi. The bookstore in the photos is Prospero Books, a wonderfully caffeinated literary oasis in the center of Tbilisi. The cappuccino is rich and foamy, the atmosphere is cozy and warm, the clientele is interesting and friendly, and the experience perfect.  

*Food photos and lots more to follow. * The static photo on the left side of my main page is a piece of art my friend purchased. Again, I love the Georgian folksy, whimsical style.* The snow is compliments of WordPress!*

%d bloggers like this: