Category Archives: Writing

Monday Morning Moment – the Power of Reflection and Journaling

Photo Credit: JimileeK, Flickr

My mom was an intuitively reflective person. All of life was full of meaning for her. People mattered – what they said, what they did…what they didn’t say or do. She noticed how things played out, and she made decisions based on outcomes. Her decision-making was tempered by her faith and her understanding of the constancy of God. She was intentional in all she did.[a magnet always on Mom’s refrigerator]

She wasn’t perfect, of course. Reflection can spiral down to worry or fretting, and Mom struggled with that. Reflection can also err in over-thinking or over-analyzing. Mom could fall into “meddling”, giving instructions, or offering advice not asked for, but this was a most rare occasion. Even when she did it, I knew and appreciated her heart. She was right on the mark much of the time.

My whole life I have strived to learn from her and to be like her.

Reflection as a life habit is difficult for me. I like to fill time…even if it’s only with purposeless activity. Screens are my nemesis, be they computer, phone, or TV. Also over-committing or over-scheduling also hamper reflection. There seems a perverse and mythical work ethic that requires our days be full of meetings. If we don’t have our weekends similarly filled, we vigorously look for ways to fill them.

To our peril.

Reflection is to look back – over our day, or an event, or a conversation – and to pause and think deeply about it. What did we learn? How do we adapt our thinking and actions related to what we experienced? How do we go forward?

Photo Credit: Loppear, Flickr

We can have reflective practices in our work and personal lives, even built into our days. These include alone thinking time, “sharing thoughts” conversations, and journaling/writing. My husband comes home from work and, in good weather, changes clothes and heads to work in his garden. After awhile, he settles into a lawn chair and just sits, watching and thinking. At some point in those moments, reflection blossoms.

[I benefit because he shares those reflections with me…and others later sometimes.]

Benjamin P. Hardy, my favorite writer on productivity right now,  doesn’t talk about reflection so much, but he preaches it without saying the word. He recommends the deep work that happens outside of work. He also strongly promotes journaling as a “keystone habit”. In his article Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life, he is so thorough in his support of journaling that I can’t imagine anyone NOT journaling after hearing him list out the many life benefits.

I have journaled all my life, but it hasn’t always been as focused as it could be. My journals have sometimes just been reporting tools, emotion-processing devices, rant writing, and the like.

However, like my Mom, I discovered that writing is a way to bring reason to my irrationality and resolution to conflict. After writing awhile, I can come back to life, refreshed and better equipped to do what’s next…whatever that might be.

Forbes writer and executive coach, Henna Inam (author of Wired for Authenticity) counsels leaders to keep a journal.

The exercise of leadership is not unlike a sport you play. When you review your actions in the field you learn what worked, what didn’t, and adjust along the way. Leadership guru Peter Drucker said: “ Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action. ”

Photo Credit: Slideshare

Inam provides a kickstart to journaling with these questions and writing prompts:

  • What’s present for me now?
  • What’s going well? What’s creating that?
  • What’s challenging? What’s creating that?
  • What needs my attention?
  • What’s meaningful? What am I grateful for?
  • What strengths do I notice in myself?
  • What strengths and contributions do I notice in others?
  • What am I learning?
  • What is an action I’m committing to?

Inam’s questions are helpful. They can bring focus to our ramblings. You might choose a different approach to how you use journaling in your reflections. Please share in Comments. Also, journaling may not be your preferred vehicle for reflection. I love, for instance, when workplace leaders encourage reflection over the course of a work day. Isn’t it lovely when a training or conference has reflection time built into the program…so it’s not just an “information dump” with no time to process. If you have experiences, either negative or positive, about your own use of reflection in the workplace, please share with us. We’re not just talking about productivity here, but personal growth and community building.

Talk a few minutes and reflect on the possibilities.

To Be an Effective Leader Keep a Leadership Journal – Henna Inam

Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life – Benjamin P. Hardy

Reflecting On Work Improves Job Performance – Carmen Nobel

YouTube Video – The Power of Reflection at Work – HEC Paris Professor Giada Di Stefano

Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind – Learning Through Reflection – Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick

Teaching/Learning Critical Thinking Using Reflective Journaling – Dr. Mara Kaufmann – Slideshare

5 Friday Faves – Journaling, What Ends All Marriages, Cell Phone Addiction, Trauma Healing, and Neighborhood Gelato

Happy Friday! Cutting quickly to the chase here, with my favorite finds of the week:

1) Journaling – Writing is a favorite outlet of mine. When I write, it’s like talking to a trusted friend. Everything is clearer after. Less frightening, too, sometimes. that’s what reflection does for you. Journaling has been a life-long habit of mine. In fact, I’ve told my kids that when the time comes and they go through all the stuff in the attic, they might want to read some of the journals. Although, I also warned that anything shocking they read, I’ve probably long since worked through (hopefully).

Productivity coach Benjamin P. Hardy strongly encourages journaling as a daily early morning habit.

Do you write or journal? It’s worth a try. You never know what you might discover through writing out what is bouncing around inside your head.

Why Keeping a Daily Journal Can Change Your Life – Benjamin P. Hardy

2) What Ends All Marriages –
Meg Marie Wallace writes a chilling piece on the one thing guaranteed to end all marriages. In her article, she talks about marriages that survived adultery and other betrayals, as well as marriages that didn’t survive. Then she gave what she saw as the difference.Photo Credit: Edvard Munch, Wikipedia

Those whose marriages didn’t survive were those who allowed their hearts to grow cold and hard toward their spouse.

“In order for marriages to thrive BOTH people need to guard with all diligence against hardness of heart. It has no place in marriage, yet in big ways and in small ways we let it creep in. This hardness often begins so subtly, with the smallest acts of selfishness…but left unchecked can grow to become a raging fire of wrath, anger, hatred and bitterness.” Meg Marie Wallace

Left. Unchecked. We must guard our hearts if we want our relationships (marriage and otherwise) to thrive in hard places.

Read Wallace’s piece. We can take hope and take charge of those hearts of ours.

3) Cell Phone Addiction – Jesse Lyn Stoner posted a powerful article, by Victor Prince, on the intrusion of cell phone technology in the workplace. The piece is Want Your Team More Engaged? Remove the Weapons of Mass Distraction . If we were honest, many of us struggle with this. I know I do. Take a minute to read Prince’s take on how to shake-up the workplace by confronting the distraction of our phones. I’m motivated. On both personal and professional fronts.Photo Credit: Andres Rodriguez, Flickr

4) Trauma Healing – After studying about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), I’ve become more interested in trauma healing. Wanting to be equipped, I went to a training this week. The American Bible Society offers a course especially geared toward those who want to serve people who’ve come through terrible lossPhoto Credit: BPNews

or trauma (refugees, anyone with PTSD, persons with addictions, fill-in-the-blank). The training is designed to help meet the needs of all people no matter the religion or background. Only one section is specific toward Christians.

Through role-play experiences, storying, dialog, writing and art exercises, the course facilitators guide participants how to recognize and lovingly intervene with those who have come through trauma. I was surprised myself how helpful the exercises were in helping me with some losses I’m still recovering from.

The written guide is an excellent tool for anyone and can be purchased online.

Healing the Wounds of Trauma – Harriet Hill, Margaret Hill, Richard Baggé, Pat Miersma

5) Neighborhood Gelato – Don’t you love those shops tucked into your neighborhood where you know the people behind the counter and the products are always amazing? One of those around here is The 21Hundred, named for its location on John Rolfe Parkway, in Richmond’s West End. It’s a cozy, friendly place where neighbors gather and others drive over to join them. Payton and Robyn Wilson, the proprietors, serve up espresso, gelato, and other yummy treats every day of the week but Sunday. They treat all of us like return customers, even when it’s the first visit. Check it out if you’re a Richmonder. If you’re not, tell us of a neighborhood favorite of your own.

Have a great weekend and be kind to one another. You never know what someone is going through.

5 Friday Faves – Spring Flowers, Podcasters, Organization, Caring, and Frosted Strawberry Lemonade

Happy Friday! We made it! You know those weeks where so much is going on it’s hard to process it all? I’ve surfed on top of the waves of this week…thankful for all the helps along the way. How was your week?

Always glad to hear your views on life, not only on the Friday Faves, although they’re fascinating, but on anything you want to talk about. Please share in Comments below.

Here are my Friday Faves. Enjoy!

1) Spring Flowers – Search “Spring” on my blog and you will find several posts on this incredible season. We’ve lived in countries where Spring isn’t as obvious as it is here, but Spring comes all over the world, in subtlety and in glorious spectacle. Where we are, trees are flowering, buds are popping, and leaves are unfolding. Oh the beauty of the earth! Love!

2) Podcasters – So many to choose from. I’m a late adopter but have found this sort of information-sharing very helpful. You can find some of my favorite podcasts before here. When our favorite classical guitarist livestreams on KrueTV, I wonder when podcasting might become part of the features of this unique music platform app. Anyway, this week I discovered a couple of great lists related to podcasting. One is a “best of ” list of 12 leadership podcasters by Lolly Daskal. Her article is a good place to start in getting solid content on leadership. The other is a fascinating piece by Tom Hunt – Why You Should NOT Start a Podcast: Insights From 12 Top Podcasters. Photo Credit: Flickr

These guys give a bit of their stories and their counsel on what is required to build an online community and have a successful podcast.  Great reading!

3) Organization – Fuzzy boundaries and project piles are part of my battle in life (work and home). Love to keep my options open, I guess. It requires all the discipline I can muster to finish well. When folks write about organization, routines, and habits, I take note. The best articles are those that are consummately practical – and encourage rather than condemn.Photo Credit: Flickr

My 4 favorite reads this week on this topic are:

Quotations About Habits

4) Caring – In recent months, I have been increasingly aware of two health issues requiring great insight and caring – 1) Adverse Childhood Experiences and 2) Alzheimer’s Disease. A film debuted in 2015 titled Paper Tigers. Its focus is a high school in Washington state and how the staff and other caregivers began turning things around for traumatized high schoolers who deal daily with toxic levels of stress. These are the same kind of kids that too often get less care than more because they are difficult to engage.Photo Credit: Marshfield News Herald

Much of their struggle goes back to adverse childhood experiences (or ACEs). Here is the trailer for Paper Tigers:

Love Your Neighbor – the Resilience Movie and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – DebMillsWriter

Alzheimer’s Disease is a frightening disease as we watch someone we love change and diminish, both in their thinking and their function. As hard as it must be on the one who has dementia, it is also devastating to those who love that person. That’s what makes it so amazing when a son, for instance, takes the time and effort to honor a mom with dementia. Joey Daley, of Lima, Ohio, has taken on a video project to document their journey through dementia.

I haven’t watched all the videos, but the ones I’ve watched have allowed us, strangers to their experience, to see inside their relationship in a difficult time. His visits with his mom are as sweet as any son’s would be…with dementia added. He knows, and we know, the days will become more difficult. I think we will see his love for her endure…

YouTube Video Series – Joe Joe – A Mother and Son’s Journey with Dementia

MollyJoey Facebook Group

5) Frosted Strawberry Lemonade –
Chick-Fil-A, a US restaurant chain, has this incredible refreshment blending ice cream with lemonade. I already raved about their frosted lemonade here. This Spring, there’s a seasonal addition to the menu. Strawberries added – enough said.

Photo Credit: The Chicken Wire

Bonuses

3 Embarrassing Networking Mistakes Everyone Makes (And What You Should Do Instead – Brian D. Evans

Effective Strategies to Get More Social Engagements – Katherine Brunt

YouTube Video – Mom’s Rant on Red Ribbon Week

YouTube Video – Carl Hardee Sr. Returns

5 Friday Faves – Zelda on Guitar, Community, Tim Tebow, Podcasts, and Creatives

Happy Friday! It’s been one of those weeks that has made Friday a “Whew, got through it!” kind of day. An anticipated freeze tonight draws me outside and to take in all the early forsythia, red bud and tulip magnolia blossoms in their current glory. Such a beautiful time of the year…this mild winter/early spring combination.

For your enjoyment – should you end up inside and snuggled in front of a fire – my favorite finds of the week:

1) CommunityGrace abounds in genuine community. Don’t we all hope to have a work team that cares about us, neighbors that watch out for each other, and family that looks past our foibles and loves us anyway? True community happens when our focus is on the other…the friend, the neighbor, the coworker. In our strength, we come alongside the weaker ones and take turn-about in our weak times to lean on those who are strong. I can’t describe community very well but I know what it’s like to be in real-life deep community. Someone who has described it well is Cliff Jordan, teaching pastor of Movement Church, Richmond, Virginia. His message from Romans 15:1-6 inspired and affirmed the reality of community if we are willing to go after it and extend ourselves toward others in this way. Listen here to the message: Grace On Display – Community.Photo Credit: MoveRichmond

2) Zelda on Guitar – For both you videogame and classical guitar music aficionados, you’re in for a real treat. Nintendo has launched a new gaming system (Nintendo Switch) and a new version of The Legend of Zelda (Breath of the Wild). In celebration of this launch for all you gamers who grew up with Zelda, classical guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has arranged a Zelda medley.

Not much of a videogame fan, but I am a classical guitar enthusiast. The soundtracks of these games are rendered beautifully on guitar. Watch here or click on video below.

3) Tim Tebow – In the U.S., most every adult out there knows the name and something of the career and character of Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow. I’m a big fan. In particular, I’m a fan of the winsomeness and determination of the man, more than his athletic prowess. Tebow first came on my radar watching the film, Everything in Between, about how he trained and persevered, culminating in becoming a first round draft pick for NFL football. Then I watched his career in the NFL, and then his detour into baseball, sportscasting and commentary. Tim Tebow is one of the hardest working, determined, disciplined, and persevering athletes out there today.

Photo Credit: Tim Tebow

More than his success in athletics, his determination to make a difference in life stands out the most. He shows up in all kinds of situations, serving and showing love to those who might think they are forgotten. Many celebrities and other wealthy benefactors have foundations, as does Tim. Why he does what he does, he shares below.

Tebow Surprises Reporter With Awesome Answer

Tim Tebow has arrived at spring training, and he's already making headlines.

Posted by The Wildcard on Monday, February 27, 2017

“I want to be someone that was known for bringing faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.”

Tebow strives for excellence in all he does, and he brings that to bear on the lives of those who may not have the same opportunities as he does. So for people who question his athletic career, walk awhile in these shoes.

Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms – Tim Tebow

4) Podcasting – Like in every other professional field, there is actually a conference for podcasters. I came late to the entertainment/educational medium of podcasting. Now, however, there are some who have won my heart and car-time. Below is a short list of my favorites:

  • The Popcast – Knox McCoy and Julie Golden post a weekly conversation all about pop culture. I just discovered them this week and find them funny, engaging, and even thought-provoking. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes with her.Photo Credit: The Popcast
  • 5 Leadership Questions or 5LQ – Todd Adkins and Barnabas Piper are co-hosts of 5LQ. Their focus is on Christian leaders but it’s not just about church; their guests include business and other professional leaders. The same five questions guide their discussion:
    • Who are you learning from?
    • What is the main point of emphasis for your leadership team (or self) right now?
    • What obstacles are you currently facing in leadership, either in your organization or personally?
    • What does leadership in your home look like?
    • What would you tell your 20-year-old self about preparing to lead?

    I’m personally kind of a leadership junkie and can tell you I always learn from these guys and their guests.

  • The Podcast – Carey Nieuwhof This writer, conference leader, and pastor does a weekly podcast on leadership as well. Nieuwhof tackles some of the hard issues of leadership. Whether you lead in a Christian or other organization, you will learn and enjoy his meaty and sometimes funny content and stories.

25 Best Podcast Episodes Ever – David Haglund & Rebecca Onion

The 50 Best Podcasts of 2016 – Laura Jane Standley & Eric McQuade

5) Creatives – Using the word “creative” as a noun doesn’t come naturally for me, because I believe in the innate creative abilities of all of us. However, some “creatives” stand out. Writer and podcaster Jeff Goins defines them best in this way:

“A creative is an artist. Not just a painter or musician or writer. She is someone who sees the world a little differently than others.

A creative is an individual. He is unique, someone who doesn’t quite fit into any box.

A creative is a thought leader. He influences people not necessarily through personality but through his innate gifts and talents.

And what, exactly, does a creative do?

A creative creates art…She sings to sing, for the pure joy of making music. And she paints to paint. (And so on…)

A creative colors outside the lines. On purpose. In so doing, she shows the world a whole new picture they never would have otherwise seen.

A creative breaks the rules. And as a result, he sets a new standard to follow.

Why we need creatives

The truth is that we need more creatives in positions of influence — to color the world with beauty and life.Jeff Goins

Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, is a creative…one of my favorites, clearly.

Writer and woodworker Kevin Prewett is both a friend and creative. In fact, I didn’t know how creative he was until this week when I saw some of his woodworking.

Pipe and Sage – Woodwork – Kevin Prewett – Wood and Words

Another favorite creative of mine is Andrew Morgan. His documentary series Untold America is a timely, much-needed look at today’s America…with the potential to bridge a gap between us as a diverse and sometimes polarized people.

Nothing is Louder Than Love

"Nothing is louder than love." Andrew shares a few final thoughts on democracy and differences as we wrap up our first month together. New episodes every Thursday as we prepare to start a new month focused on immigration.

Posted by Untold America on Thursday, March 2, 2017

Untold America Series

These are my favorite finds of the week. Please share yours in the Comment section below. Have a safe, refreshing weekend…and stay warm.

5 Friday Faves – Civility, Videogame Music MashUp, Unwanted Heirlooms, Film Spare Parts, and Life Calling

Standing outside this morning in the cold, I watched another incredible winter sunrise…and another Friday dawned. Hope you’re finishing your week strong. Either way, we can put this week to rest.

Here’s my list of 5 favorite finds this week (with a few fun bonuses at the end). Enjoy.

1) Civility – More than just polite discourse. In 1997, Burgess and Burgess, of the University of Colorado,  wrote a substantive piece on the meaning of civility. They could have been writing about our current political and social culture. Read their piece for particulars in using fair and honoring processes in attacked difficult problems. Watch Senator Marco Rubio’s brief and inspiring challenge to the US Senate recently.

Marco Rubio schools Senate Democrats on Civility

Wow! Marco Rubio just delivered a powerful rebuke to the Senate Democrats on civility.

Posted by NewsBusters.org on Thursday, February 9, 2017

 

2) Classical Guitar Mashup of VideoGame Theme MusicNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has posted a new video of his arrangements of some of the Best Of Videogame Music Themes of 2016. You don’t have to be a gamer to appreciate the sheer beauty of these pieces interpreted on classical guitar.

I’m surprised myself at how soothing this music is when showcased in such a different setting…arranged by this guy who plays both guitar and videogames with skill…and heart. Have a listen:

3) Unwanted Heirlooms – As far as stuff goes, we are in an unprecedented time. Two generations, the Boomers and their parents, are both downsizing, and their children and grandchildren aren’t interested in their stuff. It poses an odd and interesting puzzle for all involved. This week, I came across a helpful article by Richard Eisenberg entitled Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff. He talks about the dilemma for our minimalist children who prefer Ikea and Target over the dark and bulky furnishings of the past. Then Eisenberg gives a quick-read list of to-do’s for dealing with unwanted heirlooms.Photo Credit: Pinterest

I’m pretty sentimental about stuff of my parents that has endured through time, but one day we’ll need one of those estate handlers who just carry off everything. NOVA Liquidation is one such enterprise. Susan’s Selections is my local favorite.

There is definitely an entrepreneurial opportunity here for some. Like you craftsmen who repurpose old pieces. Or those who deal with reclaimed wood and vintage furniture – another local favorite being Wellborn Wright. I would love to see some of these old heavy armoires turned into doors or facades for walls or faux fireplaces.

Photo Credit: Indulgy, Ana White

Tea rooms should abound in our country. There are so many beautiful things from another era…and people who love to sit places, with their tablets or laptops open, and drink coffee/tea – not just in minimalist coffeeshops but in places that surround us with beauty….that’s where all those sets of china cups and saucers should go. Wish I had the revenue to open such a place. Just went to one this weekend….lovely!!!

Blue Willow Tearoom

4) Film Spare Parts –  For those of us who love science and also long for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented young people who were brought to the US by their parents illegally, this is the film for you. Spare Parts is a 2015 film, starring George Lopez, Marisa Tomei, and Jamie Lee Curtis. It’s derived from a true story of four high schoolers, all undocumented from Mexico, who try to change the course of their lives…through a science project. It is funny, poignant, and informing. [See trailer here.]Photo Credit: To the Flixes

Whatever our politics, this film makes us think…and possibly reconsider. [See DREAM Act.]

It reminded me of another film that was a favorite of mine last year – McFarland USA (view trailer here).

Photo Credit: To the Flixs

5) Life Callings – What does this mean…calling? For me, it is the God-given passion and preparation to be the person and do the something for which we were created. Our lives can change course over a lifetime…several times even…but there’s a driving force that we never want to dull by what seems like necessity.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Paul Sohn posted a piece this week with 10 provocative and resonating quotes on calling. Don’t miss it. In fact, here are three of his quotes to get you started:

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” – Frederick Buechner

“Calling means that everyone, everywhere, and in everything fulfills his or her (secondary) callings in response to God’s (primary) calling. For Luther, the peasant and the merchant— for us, the business person, the teacher, the factory worker, and the television anchor—can do God’s work (or fail to do it).” – Os Guinness

“God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does.” – Gustaf Wingren

That’s it for this week. Have a safe and refreshing weekend! Please use the Comments to reflect on these finds or share your own.

BONUSES – These Just Couldn’t Wait Another Week

Who Is A Refugee and What They Go Through to Get to the US – Infrographic

6 Books White Christians Should Read (in Honor of MLK’s Legacy) – Bruce Ashford

OMG… just saw this commercial…. just BRILLIANT! Who would be brave enough to do this?!#EatTogether

Posted by MB Gibbons on Sunday, February 12, 2017

Buzzfeed Video – Moments Only Arab People Understand – I really loved the video below – so reminded me of our years in the Arab world. Miss the people – their great hospitality and the cultural nuances. [We still have Arab friends here…but being their guests and neighbors in their culture was an amazing experience. Hopefully theirs is the same here.]

LOVE SONGS OF THE DECADES

❤️ VALENTINE'S DAY LIP SYNC —> Love Songs Of The Decades ?Thanks to Costumes By Margie for helping us bring these love songs to life!______________________NEW vid every FRIDAY!Like + Comment + Share 🙂 CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR YOUTUBE CHANNELhttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UChsxlTvqB3T5C1a_AQudB7ALike us on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/kristinanddannyFollow us on Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/kristinanddannyFollow us on Twitterhttps://www.twitter.com/kristinanddanny#KristinAndDanny

Posted by Kristin and Danny on Sunday, February 12, 2017

What a lovely surprise! Ceremony interrupted by voice from the back, bride turns around and her eyes are full of tears. ??? Via: Liquid Media Video Production Youtube ☑ Like IPost, get more awesome videos.

Posted by IPost on Thursday, February 16, 2017

Saturday Short – Love Notes – From Mom

IMAG2718 (2)

[From the Archives]

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13

Our family has never lived close to the grandparents. This was never easy…for any of us. Before I married, I did live close to home, and my mom was my best friend. She died several years ago, and I often say to people who knew her that “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.

Mom and I shared a weakness for words…they are probably excessively important to us, delivering both positive and (sometimes) negative weight. She was an amazing encourager. She rarely missed an opportunity to lift another’s spirit or to speak loving truth to someone desperate for God’s touch.

When I moved away to take a teaching job, she and my dad helped me move. New Haven, Connecticut was a 2-day drive from Georgia. It’s the farthest I had ever wandered from home. She stayed a week to help me settle in.  While there, she was such great company. We explored the city together and laughed over a new culture and cried at the missing that was ahead for us.

She filled my freezer with her baking, and, while I was at work, she wrote notes. Then she hid them everywhere. After she flew home, I began finding them. In my coffee mug. Under my pillow. In the pocket of my coat. Among my reference books. Behind my music on the piano. She was with me in the love notes she left, and it made the distance between us…less.IMAG2720 (2)

My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I kept every one of her notes. These from that move over 30 years ago are fading…red ink on pink paper. There are a lifetime of notes between my mom and me. The tradition she started on that first move has become a life-long tradition for our family. Our visits back and forth, across the US and then the globe, have been papered by these little notes.

Our children, from the time they could write, entered into this tradition much to the joy of their grandparents. Before we would leave again, these three young ones would write of their affection for their grandparents and hide them all over their houses. I delighted in their cooperation in this conspiracy of love.

Mom always wrote notes…not just to us but to so many. She and her Sunday School Class ladies would send cards every week to the sick ones or the sad ones. She had a special burden for the elderly, for widows (including functional widows, deserted by husbands) and for fatherless children (again including those “orphaned” by still-living fathers). She inspired me by her humble ambition .

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27

I am so thankful for my mom’s bits of paper…for her love…and for her perseverance in encouraging and serving others. Her generation is aging, and it is for us to pick up these traditions and pass them on somehow to the next generations…Maybe there won’t be bits of paper or love notes like in the past. I do hope we still take the time to write. Definitely, the call to serve and to encourage is as current as today. My life continues to be rich with those, young and old, who reach out to those around them with words of affirmation and kindness. Written or not, they are love notes to my heart.

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

Mom pictures for website 012

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

5 Friday Faves – Politics and a Confession, Beyond the Guitar, Must-See Documentaries, Writing Your Story, and the Tail End of Life – Plus Bonuses

Friday Faves – my favorite finish to a writing week. It suffers when I travel…today, I’m home. Lots of faves over the last several weeks went without my pushing them forward to you. I’ve added some bonuses to this one to pull in a few more.

Hope you are doing well in this first week of the New Year. I wrote about making resolutions and experiencing real change earlier. New resolve is something as welcome as each new year. It helps me, for sure…no matter how successful, I am energized by resolution. Glad for new beginnings.

Here are this week’s 5 and a handful of bonuses:

1) Politics and a Confession – Whatever your political bent, we are in a new era in the US. The presidential inauguration is fast-approaching, and President-elect Trump will become the next POTUS. I have enjoyed reading the pundits on their take on the new normal. Two of my favorite finds this week are from very different: pieces by New York Times writer Ross Douthat and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. From opposing sides, their articles (with Gingrich, it was a speech delivered after the 2016 Presidential election) are enlightening and the stuff that will help us move forward and cross aisles toward a nation for all Americans.Photo Credit: Joshua Lott, New York Times

Hope you take the time to read them…would love to hear your take on them (Comment below). Also Gingrich refers his audience to an article by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In it, Taleb describes the Intellectual Yet Idiot – “the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking ‘clerks’ and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for…The IYI pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited.”

I felt so vindicated in Taleb’s article – probably not an intellectual, hopefully not an idiot.

2) Beyond the Guitar – When Nathan’s Facebook hits on his Star Wars Medley passed 1.3 millions, I was like, “What?!” Not because I don’t complete agree with the beauty of these themes when arranged for classical guitar…but because of that whole social media phenomenon. Wild! Anyway, here’s his latest arrangement of Princess Leia’s Theme – as a tribute to Carrie Fisher:

3) Must-See Documentaries – Documentaries have neveer been high my watch-list, but this list was intriguing to me. 200  Documentaries You Must See Before You Die. My favorite documentary production group is Fourth Line. Bono & Eugene Peterson: The Psalms is my favorite film from that company…not on the list of 200 (this time around). After reading the list and making notes to self on what to watch, I’ve determined to come up with my own short-list of must-see’s (stay tuned for that). Any recommendations?

Photo Credit: Coffee and Celluloid

4) Writing Your Story – A dear friend of mine writes biographies – not for publication, necessarily, but for her and her family’s own pleasure. Lee Taylor-Wimett, twice-widowed, has written her husband’s stories and her parents’ stories. She has also written her own story…thus far. I had the joy of reading her story when she shared it with me – a simply bound volume of real life. She has, for years, encouraged me to write…to write about my own parents…and maybe, one day, to write my story. I have begun that process – writing about my mom and dad…and keeping up with bits of my own life. Memory is a precious thing and not to be taken for granted.

Photo Credit: Flickr

In this throw-away culture, I have boxes of bits of our lives – growing up in Georgia, having babies in Tennessee, moving around Africa, and now “empty-nesting”, figuring out this life with sweet aging parents, adult children with children…and work in a very different season. Whether any of my children or grandchildren read the story (and I know some will), I want to document this life…this amazing life God has given us.

Steve Anderson of Family Search has made a quick assist in this process with 52 Questions in 52 Weeks: Writing Your Life Story. This is a good week to get started.

Photo Credit: Family Search

5) The Tail End of Life – Tim Urban and Andrew Finn of Wait But Why make charts and graphs that put all kinds of information in a visual form. As a visual learner, I love that. This one is by Tim Urban who helps us look at the human lifespan in a lot of meaningful ways – how many Red Sox games or pizzas or presidential elections we might have left…and more.Photo Credit: Wait But Why

Urban’s observation on time left with parents was poignant [and for my children – this is even more telling for us and our own remaining parents,   as for you]:

I’ve been thinking about my parents, who are in their mid-60s. During my first 18 years, I spent some time with my parents during at least 90% of my days. But since heading off to college and then later moving out of Boston, I’ve probably seen them an average of only five times a year each, for an average of maybe two days each time. 10 days a year. About 3% of the days I spent with them each year of my childhood.

Being in their mid-60s, let’s continue to be super optimistic and say I’m one of the incredibly lucky people to have both parents alive into my 60s. That would give us about 30 more years of coexistence. If the ten days a year thing holds, that’s 300 days left to hang with mom and dad. Less time than I spent with them in any one of my 18 childhood years.

When you look at that reality, you realize that despite not being at the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in your life. If I lay out the total days I’ll ever spend with each of my parents—assuming I’m as lucky as can be—this becomes starkly clear:

It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end.

So what do we do with this information? I see three takeaways here:

1) Living in the same place as the people you love matters. I probably have 10X the time left with the people who live in my city as I do with the people who live somewhere else.

2) Priorities matter. Your remaining face time with any person depends largely on where that person falls on your list of life priorities. Make sure this list is set by you—not by unconscious inertia.

3) Quality time matters. If you’re in your last 10% of time with someone you love, keep that fact in the front of your mind when you’re with them and treat that time as what it actually is: precious.

Thanks, Tim Urban! I’m calling my Mom-in-law right now. Have a great weekend, y’all. Be safe!

Bonuses

New BookBellum Academicus: War Academy by Kevin Prewett – free today on Amazon (Kindle version). Great sci-fi read with lots of suspense – fun cross-generational read and read-aloud.


Sherlock (Season 4) on Masterpiece Theater – I love this mini-series. 3 episodes. Available on PBS.Photo Credit: PBS

First Episode: The Six Thatchers

A Garage the place Hewlett-Packard got started…

Photo Credit: Twitter

Tolkien Quote from The Hobbit

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.” – J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

5 Friday Faves – Spoken Word, Final Fantasy Guitar Arrangement, Kindness, Becoming a Super Achiever, and Acts of Service

Friday Faves is a highlight of my week. Just like my reading and life experiences are enriched by other writers’ weekly favorite finds, I take pleasure in thinking mine also encourage and even delight you as well sometimes. Unfortunately, in the last few weeks, I’ve run out of steam by week’s end. Travel is part of the drag on my writing, and some grieving over a very ill dad. Not many words to float my faves. Thanks to you who continue to stop by. It means the world to me. Following are five of my favorites for this week…enjoy…

1) Spoken Word – A poetry form, spoken word is defined as “an oral art that focuses on the aesthetics of word play, intonation, and voice inflection – includes any kind of poetry recited aloud, including hip-hop, jazz poetry, and traditional poetry readings”.  Glen Scrivener is poet and performer of spoken word. He’s Australian now living in the UK, so he’s got the accent and all.  He also has to be a very cool minister, given his gift with words that grab the heart. I just discovered him this week as one of his videos crossed my Facebook news-feed. It is entitled Santa Vs. Jesus and follows:

He Came Down and Christmas in Dark Places are two others that will minister to your heart…especially if life isn’t going as you thought it would. You can read more about Glen here and here.Photo Credit: Mackellars

2) Final Fantasy Guitar ArrangementNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has added another haunting arrangement to his guitar repertoire. His inspiration this time was the main theme (“Somnus”) of the video-game Final Fantasy XV. Nathan is an accomplished classical guitarist who has also applied his craft to arranging themes from movies, TV shows, and video games – music he’s loved over the years. I am still astounded at the beauty of these pieces when they are rendered through his skill, heart, and classical guitar. So lovely.

3) Kindness – When you are distracted by the stresses of life, and you’re just not yourself…every kindness is a great mercy. I’ve certainly experienced many over the last year during the illness of my dad. This week was not an exception. Traveling to Georgia to help care for dad, I was struck again at all the kindnesses extended to him by other family members, hospice staff, and friends. His pastor has become a pastor to me even. It got me thinking again of how we teach kindness to our children… I have the book Each Kindness by  Jacquelin Woodson and E. B. Lewis about a young girl, new to a school, who didn’t quite fit in. Although she was kind herself, she was shunned by other children. That tension and the story’s resolution captured so much about the transforming nature of kindness.

Modeling kindness is foundational as children see and then do. Reading about kindness can also strengthen that message. Joanna Goddard and her commenters have listed a treasure trove of books on kindness lessons for children.  A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead is a sweet story about a man caring uniquely for various animals in the zoo. Also The Empty Pot by Demi speaks of both kindness and truthfulness. Lastly, Mo Willems’ My Friend Is Sad speaks to a tenderness found between true friends. 

What books or experiences do you recommend to help young ones learn to be kind? Please comment below.

4) Becoming a Super Achiever – Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield have authored a book on how any of us might become a “super achiever” – The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Swell. I have not read this book yet (nowhere near a superachiever in this skin…yet). However, thanks to Forbes writer Tanya Prive, we have a great intro to the subject in a quick list of 10.

Photo Credit: Amazon

Sweeney and Gosfield interviewed several highly successful individuals across many fields and discovered ten practices common to “super achievers”. They are:

  • Good Storytelling
  • Dedication to a Vision
  • Listening and Remaining Open
  • Pursuing Happiness
  • Intelligent Persistence
  • Testing Ideas in the Market
  • Fostering a Community
  • Constantly Evolving
  • Managing Emotions
  • Practicing Patience

Read more on each of these from Prive’s article, or better yet, check out the book. From the reviews so far on Amazon, it’s less a “how-to” for us and more a “how they did it” – as a myriad of super achievers tell their stories to the authors…worth the read for me to hear those stories.

5) Acts of Service – Years ago, I read this book 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. He talks about how we express and receive love in five major ways – time, touch, gifts, words of affirmation and acts of service. My husband, Dave, and I both experience love most deeply through words of affirmation and acts of service. Photo Credit: Pinterest

Christmas is a huge gift-giving holiday in our culture. I’m not the best at that, BUT I understand it, especially for those who experience love most happily through receiving gifts (our youngest son, for example). For me…acts of service and words of affirmation. Now…that can come through gift making or buying. [I need socks, etc., like everyone else.] Or, it can come through the raw work of serving. Dave has taken on a much harder job of giving me a requested act of service for Christmas, and the time he’s putting into it is already like receiving this gift every day, even before Christmas arrives. I won’t go into details, but we are both “pilers“. It’s just hard for us to expediently go through and get rid of stuff we’re no longer using. Order is a lovely thing, and as we get older, it is even more calming to a stressed and tired mind. He is giving the gift of “order” to me this Christmas…and hasn’t even asked the same from me. What love!!Photo Credit: DawsonandDawsonInc

So….there you have it…another Five Friday Faves…and on a Saturday. That’s just the kind of week it’s been. Enjoy the rest of your weekend…and receive every kindness as the gift it’s meant to be.

5 Friday Faves – Writing, Bumper Stickers & Lawn Signs, Old Men Grooving, Friends Who Wound, and a Clean House

Blog - Friday Faves 006 (2)

Friday again. Nice. This week has been an easy one – lighter work load, early morning walks with neighbors, visits with old friends, and marveling at sweet grand-babies. Life on the side of simple. There was one significant dip in our week when my dad had a bad night, but he has improved remarkably since then. Each day is different. Rejoicing in the good days.

Here are my favorite finds from this week. Please share any of yours in Comments below.

1) Writing – Always an outlet for me. I’ve written journals from childhood (called them diaries in those days). blog-writing-lithubPhoto Credit: LitHub

All my life, people who were privy to some of my writing, have told me, “You should write a book!” I don’t have the discipline, message,…or passion, maybe, to write a book…yet. One day. I started this blog for my children, during a time I was frightened that my memory was fading. So far, it seems to be the forgetfulness of my aging (not diseased) brain. Still, blog writing continues to be a joy…almost a mission. When life keeps me from writing, as in the last couple of weeks, I miss it…and then it’s hard to get back into the habit.  Rebecca Solnit posted recently suggesting 10 Tips on How to Be a Writer. Her article is beautiful writing in itself. Here are two of her most encouraging observations:

“It’s not only time that gets the kid onward to more sophistication and skill, it’s effort and practice. Write bad stuff because the road to good writing is made out of words and not all of them are well-arranged words.” – Rebecca Solnit

“It starts with passion even before it starts with words. You want to read people who are wise, deep, wild, kind, committed, insightful, attentive; you want to be those people.” – Rebecca Solnit

2) Bumper Stickers & Lawn Signs – It’s a big year here in the US. In just a few days, we will, together, vote to elect the next Commander and Chief of our country. Usually by this time, lawns and cars are covered with signs and stickers that declare our preferences (or decry the prospect of “the other guy” becoming President). blog-lawn-signs-and-bumper-stickersPhoto Credit: YouTube

Bumper stickers abound broadcasting our various allegiances, in general. [Dave and I are not a bumper sticker people, but various ones make for fascinating distractions while stopped at traffic lights. Quite telling of the mixed bag of cultural values we have.]blog-bumper-stickers-cafepressPhoto Credit: Cafepress

Oddly this year, where we live, political loyalties are less obvious. Only occasional bumper stickers. Even fewer lawn signs. Not that they are relevant to election outcomes. Still, they were interesting predictors of where neighbors, co-workers, and random strangers stood politically on issues and candidates.

I wonder why there are so few this year. Are we less sure or even despairing at our options? Is it fear of displaying our colors? What do you think (without going all political in the comments)?

A postscript to this is the possibility that we now live in an age where “putting it all out there” on our vehicles, or in our yards, is not wisdom. Again, thoughts?

blog-bumper-stickers-pjmediaPhoto Credit: PJMedia

3) Old Men Grooving – On a lighter note, I discovered this British dance group, of 40-60-somethings, who performed on Britain’s Got Talent . They call themselves Old Men Grooving, and you will get a sweet chuckle watching them dance together. Very impressive really. Reminds me of when I took a tap class, for the first time, as an adult. Never too late to dance! Find Old Men Grooving on YouTube.

4) Friends Who Wound – OK, this isn’t for everyone. Greg Morse recently wrote a piece for Desiring God on finding a friend to wound you. What seems counter-intuitive is actually something I welcome…and it’s not because I’m a glutton for punishment.

blog-friendsPhoto Credit: SomeEcards

We see on social media, and say ourselves sometimes, that it’s right to just get rid of negative people, walk away from punishers or diminishers, and hang with people who only affirm us. This article talks about friends who love us enough to say the hard thing. I appreciate people who love me and take the risk to point out the huge potholes in my path or who reach into my life and help hoist me out of a ditch of my own poor choices. Here’s a quote from Morse’s article (he’s speaking to Christ-followers):

“The world cares nothing for our eternal good. Ungodly friends cheer us on toward destruction. They bequeath the kiss of flattery — the Dementor’s kiss. They coddle our egos, telling us what we want to hear, not what we need to hear. Even the most genuine and moral among them sets sail away from God. Thus we need a crew of Christian companions — a body — to keep us from shipwreck. Finishing the race is not an individual endeavor, and eternity is at stake.

Praise God then for the faithful wounds of true friends who protect us from ultimate injury. They tell us plainly, “You’re flirting with destruction!” …Friends who ask us hard questions, who crush the whispering lizard on our shoulder, who are for our eternal soul above our momentary feelings — these are true friends.”   – Greg Morse

There is a delicate balance here…and relationship matters. We’ve too often been put off balance by words unfitly spoken. What is your experience of friends who wound in a good way? For me, the best experiences I’ve had with this have turned into crossroads in life…isolated incidents where a friend helped me step back from a habit, a person, a life choice that could have destroyed me…and step toward a better way. Very thankful for the courage and love of such friends.

blog-best-friends-woundsPhoto Credit: Dgreetings

5) A Clean House – Who doesn’t like a clean house? When our first child was born, my mom-in-law and her sister came to help me for a week. They were wonderful! One day, while I was sitting all pampered with Baby Girl in my lap, Aunt Nancy asked me what I used to clean the baseboards. Baseboards? First of all, I wasn’t sure what baseboards were, and secondly, I was positive I didn’t clean them. Years later we lived in North Africa and had house helpers all through our time there- those years of my school-aged children. A time when the kids thought that she was their helper rather than mine?!

What a blessing to have the so-daily dust of the Sahara Desert washed away by someone…else! Now back in the US, I am faced with the dust of Richmond, Virginia…Alas. There are endless numbers of articles out there on how to clean house, and I’ve read several. Reading does not necessarily lead to cleaning unfortunately.blog-messy-mom-clean-housePhoto Credit: Quadcity

The article by Valerie Fraser Luesse entitled Do You Clean Like Mama? is my most recent helpful, funny, and non-judgmental read on this subject. It gives me hope again that if I keep at it, one day the house might be clean…for a glorious moment or two, at least.

Those are my faves…although I could also go on and on about the goodness of God, babies, and the sweet arrival of Fall…but those we’ll leave to another day. Have a restful and restorative weekend out there.