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Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

You know that shocking experience when you are driving to a known destination and then get lost in your thoughts? At some point, you snap back to attention and wonder, “How did I get here, I wasn’t even thinking about it?!” That is neuroplasticity or brain plasticity. It is an amazing capability we all have and can be nurtured and utilized throughout our lives. Yes, “old dogs CAN learn new tricks“.

What is this phenomenon?

Mike Torres, of Refocuser, gives an excellent definition, as well as an explanation of function, in his piece Neuroplasticity: Your Brain’s Amazing Ability to Form New Habits.

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to restructure itself after training or practice. An example of how neuroplasticity works: when you view the brains of people who frequently practice playing the violin under fMRI (functional MRI) they appear to have developed a larger area of their brain devoted to mapping their fingers.  Photo Credit: Wikipedia

This change is directly related to the quantity and the quality of the practice they’re performing – their brains are adapting in very real and tangible ways unbeknownst to them... The more practice you accumulate, the more ingrained or grooved the pathways become.  Of course the inverse happens as well: if those pathways aren’t utilized, the space will be used by other pathways needing room to grow. Use it or lose it! …Your brain can change based on repeated experience…People of any age have the ability to learn new things and form new habits. Mike Torres, Refocuser

Watching Nathan play intricate, complicated runs on his classical guitar boggles my mind. How can he think that fast? It’s lots of practice that causes the brain to connect to the hands, and those difficult pieces get “under his fingers” almost without thinking.

Years ago a friend gave us this book Never Too Late by John Holt. In his “musical life story”, Holt describes how he learned to play the cello in his 40s. We were encouraged by this during a time we moved to Egypt and learned Arabic in mid-life…when language-learning is supposed to be especially difficult.

I love neuroplasticity but it gives me hope, in getting older, of keeping skills and developing new ones, even as an aging person…unless I give in to dumbed-down practices excusing myself for the same reasons of “getting too old”.

When my older brother suffered a stroke, it was neuroplasticity and the repeated efforts of his medical and therapy team that got him back on his feet. He finally “repeatedly practiced” his way back to independence. The personality changes seemed more ingrained, however, they changed, too, as he exchanged his anger and bitterness for a hopefulness and longing for healthy, loving relationships. As he refused to give into anger and chose soft responses, his personality seriously changed over time…with conscious that eventually turned unconscious practice.

How does all this apply to us in the workplace and life, in general? We are confronted at times with a situation that confounds us – a new uncomfortable skillset, an unpredictable relationship, or an unfamiliar decision-making process. Neuroplasticity helps us to not just give up on mastering either a new work process or a complicated interpersonal situation.

Debbie Hampton has written an excellent summary piece on this that will help kick-start any new habit formation necessary for us to continue to do excellently in our work. She was influenced by Dr. Michael Merzenich’s work published in his book Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life. I have listed below Merzenich’s 10 elements of how we can rewire our brain. You will find Hampton’s summary on each very instructive. [I comment briefly on each but don’t miss what she says in her article.]

10 Core Principles for Remodeling Your Brain

1. Change is mostly limited to  those situations in which the brain is in the mood for it. We have to want to learn and change. If we give up, stay resigned to the status quo, or remain fed-up, change will not happen. Want change!

2. The harder you try, the more you’re motivated, the more alert you are, and the better (or worse)  the potential outcome, the bigger the brain change. Focus and persistence or key to mastery.

3. What actually changes in the brain are the strengths of the connections of neurons that are engaged together, moment by moment, in time. Practice strengthens pathways for behavior. Whether it’s learning a new computer system or developing a different way of communicating with a boss…practice hard-wires.

4. Learning-driven changes in connections increase cell-to cell cooperation, which is crucial for increasing reliability. I see this in musicians who live-stream and can read listener chats, respond to them, and continue playing all at the same time. Crazy.

5. The brain also strengthens its connections between teams of neurons representing separate moments of successive things that reliably occur in serial time. This is definitely the mechanism that gets us to our destination when we stop thinking about where we’re going.

6. Initial changes are temporary. Habit formation takes time, and somehow the brain interprets whether the change is vital. Amazing.

7. The brain is changed by internal mental rehearsal in the same ways and involving precisely the same processes that control changes achieved through interactions with the external world. At the simplest level, this is the mechanism of how we “talk ourselves through” a situation. Or when an athlete goes through his routine in his mind before he’s back out on the track or in the pool.

8. Memory guides and controls most learning. Our brain actually helps us to remember what we did well and discards what we didn’t.

9. Every movement of learning provides a moment of opportunity for the brain to stabilize — and reduce the disruptive power of — potentially interfering backgrounds or “noise.” The more we practice, either a physical skill or a way of thinking through a problem, we actually get better at it because somehow the brain reduces the background noise (which can include insecurity, fear of failure or self-doubt).

10. Brain plasticity is a two-way street; it is just as easy to generate negative changes as it is positive ones. Dr. Merzenich warns us, as we get older that we “use it or lose it” by our own decisions to stop learning and mastering new skills and behaviors.

Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia

How are you using neuroplasticity to help you continue to grow in your work and personal life? Trevor Blake encourages us to set the tone of the day positively and don’t defect from that. Using self-defeating language can blur our focus and mental capacity for mastery. Read more of his excellent counsel here.

As we age, or give in to “what is” at the moment (tracks greased by depression sometimes, or perceived lack of ability or opportunity), we may not realize the great positive effects of neuroplasticity. However, the good news is that we can keep learning and changing and mastering what work and life and relationships bring our way. It’s never too late.

 

Neuroplasticity: Your Brain’s Amazing Ability to Form New Habits – Mike Torres

How to Rewire Your Brain for Success – Trevor Blake

Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life – Trevor Blake

Brain HQ Website

How Does Neuroplasticity Work – an Infographic

Never Too Late: My Musical Life Story – John Holt

Deadly: Brain on Multitasking – Bukunmi Adewumi

Toxic Thoughts – Dr. Caroline Leaf

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

5 Friday Faves – Awards Speeches, Castle Theme, Prayer Breakfast, Harmony, and a Comedian

Hello, Friday! You know those kind of days when you work really, really hard, and you come home too tired to eat, much less cook….but it’s a good tired. You sink down in the closest chair…and 10 minutes later, wake up from a nap that felt longer…and…on with finishing the week… Hope your tired is a good tired. Here are five of my favorite finds…just for you!

1) Awards Speeches – We are in that season of awards shows – the Oscar, Golden Globe, Grammy, among others. Those of us who watch these shows do so to catch all the gorgeous or peculiar actors in the audience and stage. The fashions are a draw as well. For me, I love to hear what the award recipients say when they receive their award…their prepared words/speech. What they choose to showcase in their few minutes before their peers and the watching world. On the recent Screen Actors Guild Awards show, my favorite speech of the year was by Taraji P. Henson. She spoke for all the actors of Hidden Figures which won the award of Outstanding Performance By A Cast in a Motion Picture.

#sagawards

“We stand here as proud actors." – Taraji P. Henson on behalf of the cast of Hidden Figures.

Posted by Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, January 29, 2017

Watch her speech in the clip, or read it here. Part of it follows: “This story is of unity,” she concluded. “This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside and we come together as a human race. We win. Love wins every time.”

No political posturing. No pitting of one group against another. Lovely. Hopeful. True.

2) The Castle ThemeNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has done it again. He has taken the background music of a favorite videogame and demonstrated the incredible beauty to be found there. Castle Theme from Super Mario World is his latest arrangement for classical guitar. I honestly don’t know how he plays as fast as he does. Check it out here.

3) Prayer Breakfast – These days you never know what to expect in public observances. Protests, boycotts, and marches. A quieter but significant  event is the National Prayer Breakfast observed in February each year since 1953, in Washington, D.C. Keynote speakers in the past have included Mother Teresa, Bono, and Tony Blair. This year retired Rear Admiral Barry Black, the Senate Chaplain, delivered the message.  So powerful! He spoke on Making Your Voice Heard in Heaven.  If you can’t watch all incredible 25 minutes, at least watch from minute 22:16. Wow!

4) Harmony – Don’t you love when music and life flow with harmony? Jay Lyons is a filmmaker whose work I follow. In response to the dissonance of voices in this week’s newstream, he and his family wrote and performed together a song about harmony. Watch it here: Our House – Harmony – Jay Lyons & Family. Photo Credit: Music Early Childhood Presenter

5) A Comedian –  While Facebook friends of mine are deactivating left and right because of all the political wrangling going on right now, I had the biggest chuckle when a video featuring comedian John Crist showed up on my newsfeed. It’s about trying to find a parking place at a mega-church. He is new to me and so funny. Several of his videos are posted on his website. Enjoy.Photo Credit: YouTube

So that’s all I’ve got…jumping into my pajamas to fall asleep in front of the TV…don’t even care what’s on. Before I sign off though, I’d like to give a shout-out to Mike Sheley, owner/operator of the brand-new Chick-Fil-A at Smith Crossroads, Lenoir, North Carolina. This restaurant just opened this week. If you know about Chick-Fil-A, you know it’s all about a great-tasting chicken sandwich…and much more. Mike and team have a huge commitment to the community. Even before their grand opening, the restaurant team sponsored a book drive for local elementary schools and filled food boxes for Feeding Children Everywhere (over 10,000 meals total).Photo Credit: Facebook, Chick-Fil-A

Hope you have a great weekend, and if you’re anywhere near Lenoir, North Carolina, say hi to Mike & Jessica Sheley…and “eat mor chikin'”.

 

5 Friday Faves – Birthday Freebies, Decluttering, Untold Stories, Global Ancestry, and Rhythms of Life

What a week! Maybe all weeks finish with an exclamation point… This one sure did. In the midst of all the crazy, there are delights to discover and life-enriching finds for all of us.

Here are five of mine:

1) Birthday Freebies – Having just experienced another birthday, I make a practice of celebrating not just the day but as far as I can take it. Sometimes weeks but definitely several days. Birthday freebies grease the tracks. We all have favorite restaurants, right? If you sign up for email updates, many times you’re placed in a VIP club of sorts. You probably already do this, but it’s new for me. It’s especially nice when you’re not deluged with email….otherwise they become less favorite.

Four of my favorite “clubs” are Mission BBQ (free sandwich for your birthday), Silver Diner (an entree AND a dessert free for birthday person), O’Charley’s (free dessert), and Qdoba (buy one entree get one free). In the comments section, pass on your favorites to sweeten our birthday celebrations even more.

2) Decluttering – Okay…I have a small problem with this. However, much that’s written these days feels so punishing, like a character-beat-down. I have no interest in dumping all my clothing in the floor and deciding whether each piece makes me happy or not…and then thanking the discards before they’re shipped off to wherever.  Sometimes, people discard only to buy more of the same stuff. Their choice; not my business.  [See the fascinating Opposing Views’ video below.]

The average American throws away 82 pounds of clothes every single year. Here is the devastating toll "fast fashion" is taking on our planet:

Posted by Opposing Views on Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Brie Dyas has written a thought-provoking and kindly piece on 11 Things in Your Home That Are Making You Unhappy. Some of the clutter she covers doesn’t make me the least bit distressed, and she writes in a way that doesn’t judge the reader for her clutter. In fact, I was incentivized after reading her post. Decluttering doesn’t have to communicate devaluing (of the person or the clutter)…nor do we need to express ungratefulness when gifted with what we might consider just clutter.  There is a stewardship principle that applies to managing our possessions. I want to be a good steward of the stuff of our lives and the time necessary to manage it. A more ordered home…life…is also my desire. I do appreciate the loves in my life who guard against conspicuous consumption. I am also frugal. So where do I begin decluttering? The stuff that’s sentimental to me?…still keeping. The piles of papers I’m afraid to file and forget somewhere? Maybe I can happily let those go!  Dyas’ piece has encouraged me to deal with the things I have hung onto…for no good reason. Definitely don’t need the stress of excess. Any thoughts? [Comments]Photo Credit: Prairie Home Therapy

3) Untold StoriesMatthew West is a songwriter and story-teller. His website I Am Untold gives the accounts of abortion survivors (both the babies and the parents) and other like stories. There is so much division in our world over life issues – the pre-born, the men and women who unwittingly conceive or who abort and then regret. Here are stories from a very different side of this issue.

Then there are also people challenged all through the life-cycle (with disabilities or problems of poverty or aging). We hear from those in the business (Planned Parenthood) and those with political motives.

I don’t have my own abortion story, but knowing and loving friends and family who live with heartache – the heartache of a decision they would make differently now also need our care and consideration.Photo Credit: Insider

4) Global Ancestry – The United States is a “melting pot” country – a nation of both native peoples and immigrants from all over the world. It’s one of the many things I love about my homeland. Photo Credit: Ellis Island

Defining words like populism and nationalism have taken on a whole new intensity and seriousness in our current political situation. I’m hopeful still that our country will continue to be founded on the ideas of our founding fathers and shaped by the great men and women of more recent years…Photo Credit: Urbs

Part of the richness of this country is what others have brought with them from other homelands. My own history tracks back to the Bruce’s and Wallace’s of Scotland. Watch this video of how we are connected much more than we could imagine.

It would be much more complicated for us to choose certain peoples that we don’t want as part of our country when we see that we are more part of each other than not.

Exploring the Origins of Language – Video

5) Rhythms of Life – Rhythms are defined as “strong, regular, repeated patterns of sound or movement”. We all have them in our lives. Some rhythms in our lives relate to our habits and routines. Others are strictly recreational which can dampen the rhythms which require us to go deep. I hadn’t give rhythms much thought until Our pastor, Cliff Jordan, talked about them as a discipline of grace.

Photo Credit: NewsongPDX

In this Sunday’s sermon, Cliff talked about the deep rhythms of intaking God’s Word. Too often, we treat spiritual disciplines as a task to be checked off with little impact on us at all. Or even as a sidebar to other pursuits or pleasures that absorb our hours and focus and energy. Oh what we miss in not going deep into the knowledge of God and what He wants to say to us…through His Word. I have known rhythms in life when pouring over and meditating on Scripture was a deep passion for me…to know God and to make Him known…my heart has been stirred afresh this week.

Podcast – The Rhythm of Intaking God’s Word – Cliff Jordan – Movement Church

Explore God

Finally…there is this guy…publishing a most ambitious video next week. Can’t wait. Because of him…I’m now a patron of the arts.

Have a great weekend!

5 Friday Faves – Stuff I Like to Do – Had to Think About It

Happy Friday!

A friend asked me yesterday about what I like to do around Richmond….this small city big on events, restaurants, and natural beauty. I had trouble coming up with things. Not because I never get out…but just don’t think in terms of stuff I like to do. It made me realize that my life these days is more reactive/responsive than intentional and proactive. Really got me thinking…

Here are 5 favorite things I like to do…not bound to location…

1) Team/Family Activities – As much of my life is spent in solitary endeavors, creating, serving, and playing as a team energizes me. I love to learn from others and the momentum and synergy of a group work inspire me to push through. This isn’t just doing sometime collectively as a group of people…not really invested in each other. This is working together as a team! It’s serving a great purpose…together, not just alongside other people.  Love that process. Also in play, game nights are special fun for the chatter and laughter around the table as much as for the adventure of the gaming itself.

2) Being Able to Support and/or Encourage Our Adult Children – There’s a strange tension in this. We are glad for our children to launch as adults and they are glad to be on their own and pursuing their own careers and interests. Still, after so many years of being under the same roof and intimately in each others’ lives, I’m glad for touch-points. Praying for them always (my privilege and special responsibility). Babysitting for a grandchild. Listening to their hopes and dreams. Offering counsel on a struggle (when asked…and sometimes not even). Supporting financially within healthy and honoring bounds. You hear a lot about Nathan in here. I long to be able to support him in his musical career…but didn’t really know how. Just this week, he made that easier by affiliating with Patreon. Now we’re a part of his small but growing community of patrons.

3) Travel and the People We Travel To and With – I’m not an experience or destination collector, so travel to tick off a bucket list isn’t a motivation. However, it’s possible that’s because we have had the great fortune of travel as a normal part of our lives over the years. We have lived in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. Dave and I spent our 25th wedding anniversary in Paris, France. As a family, we’ve shared incredible destinations…from the Red Sea to the Sahara Desert, from trips in Europe and to Africa. My international travel has been curbed a bit, but there is still tremendous joy in trips to Laurel, Delaware and Hoschton, Georgia (to see family) and to such places as Midland, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee to see friends. Etc., etc., etc. It’s less the destination…as what the travel brings in times together.

4) Food Events – It’s my birthday today, and there will definitely be food events. Food itself is a delight, of course. The sweet side-benefit of food events is that person sitting across from me. Or the children and adults gathered close around the long family table. Or the folks cozied on couches around the room. Or even (gasp) the long-legged obstacle course of men filling the floor space in front of a televised football game. What food does to draw out conversation or bond people together is a marvelous thing. I have favorite restaurants, like you…but it’s the event itself that blesses the heart (less the work of it, more the people of it).

5) Divine Appointments – Okay…these are not within our control, really…so they can’t be scheduled into one’s happy life. Or, maybe they can. We can definitely grease the tracks to experience them. How? I know my whole day can be altered – both in awareness and experience – if studying Scripture and praying is part of my early morning routine. “Bible before breakfast” was a routine, growing up, of a friend of mine. Not in any kind of legalistic or ritualistic sense… as much as spiritual habit that can change a person’s thinking, choices, and engagement with God and others. That early morning time with God sets the tone for my day. His activity in my life and that of others around me becomes more obvious. God is a good and active agent in His creation and among his people. All we have to do is tune our minds to see Him…and He is there. Even when my early morning quiet time is on the lean side…or neglected altogether, it’s still possible to reset our sights on Him through the day and experience wonders. I just hate to miss Him from early on…because I’ve chosen other lesser activities…like even sitting down and writing…

There are my five favorites… They didn’t include writing…which is sort of a given (as in this blog). They didn’t include photography – also a given (in my desire to document everything). They didn’t include movie and popcorn nights which I actually LOVE as well….that will definitely happen on my birthday. Thanks, Friend, for stirring my thinking yesterday. Being more proactive in pursuing these five is now on my list! Do you have a list of favorite things you fill your life with? Please comment below. If you live in Richmond, maybe you could also share your favorites about this city. It’s possible I need to get out more.

Happy a safe and restful weekend!

5 Friday Faves – Snow Days, Organizing Your Life, Riveting Short Film, Dayman Cover, and the Possibility of Unity

Friday again. Whew…this week flew…for me, anyway. I have some great finds for you…as usual, if I might be so bold. Friday Faves celebrate the hard work and achievements of others that encourage me and I hope encourage you. So here goes:

1) Snow Days – For some of you snow comes in months not just days. For us, it’s a few glorious days of this…and I love it!
I have no need for heavy snow recreation…just the quiet, the beauty, the slowing down of life, and the camaraderie of those snowed-in or out with you (family, neighbors, colleagues). More books, more coffee, more hours in pj’s, and more meditation on the Creator who orchestrated such beauty for our pleasure.

2) Organizing Your Life – Leadership coach Paul Sohn has posted the most fascinating infographic on organizing your life – not just your home space, but your work and social media spaces. Really helpful!!

Photo Credit: Paul Sohn

3) Riveting Short Film – It is so easy to allow our attention to drift away from important issues. The news stream is so full and fast-moving.  About a year ago, National Geographic showcased a short film by Lior Sperandeo entitled People of Nowhere. It puts the film-watcher on the seashore as boat after boat of Syrian refugees arrive, some barely alive…leaving everything and desperately risking all they have left – each other and life itself. Compelling and transforming…and still happening.Photo Credit: Vimeo

4) Dayman Cover – One of the longest running TV sitcoms in the US is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Out of this edgy sometimes dark comedy came a song that is known and loved by the show’s fandom – that song being Dayman. Here is the clip from the show and below is the cover arranged for classical guitar by Nathan at Beyond the Guitar. [The Green Man is a frequent character on the show.]

The social media buzz over this video was fun to watch as well.

Photo Credit: Instagram via Facebook

Watch:  Green Person Performs ‘The Dayman’ From ‘Always Sunny’ Classical Guitar – Michael Tanenbaum – The Philly Voice

5) The Possibility of Unity – Political conversations post-election in the US continue to simmer and sometimes boil over. There is no hope for unity unless we do the work to forging a path. Therein lies the possibility. Two thought-provoking posts came out this week of the topic – one from a business leadership writer, Jarrod Shappell, and the other from a Christian thinker and author, Philip Yancey.

Photo Credit: Jarrod Shappell; Philip Yancey (YouTube)

First, this from Jarrod Shappell:

“In The Anatomy of Peace, a fantastic book about attempted reconciliation between leaders of Israel and Palestine, the authors say, ‘In the way we regard our children, our spouses, neighbors, colleagues, and strangers, we choose to see others either as people like ourselves or as objects. They either count like we do or they don’t. In the former case we regard them as we regard ourselves, we say our hearts are at peace toward them. In the latter case, since we systematically view them as inferior, we say our hearts are at war.’ If we continue to believe that we are on the superior side of the argument, we will only objectivity, vilify, and perpetuate conflict.

Finding healthy unity that embraces difference is no easy hunt. We prefer to retreat into our tribal groups among people who think and act like us. We say we value different points of view but rarely seek them out. We feign listening but are really just forming our next rebuttal. All of that is unity’s most insidious counterfeit – uniformity. We are seduced by the enjoyment of confusing sameness with unity.

We fear that adapting our viewpoints is compromising our values (spoiler alert: it’s not). But true unity is hard, gritty, messy work. It takes guts to let go of the need to be right. It takes the deepest of principles to understand your “enemy’s” views rather than vilify them. And only the greatest of organizations, communities, and leaders will take the leap of faith away from their staunchly held ideals in the belief, hope, and determination that there is room for both theirs, and others, ideals.”  – Jarrod Shappell, Navalent

Then, from Philip Yancey:

“Francis Schaeffer added, ‘Love—and the unity it attests to—is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world.  Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.…It is possible to be a Christian without showing the mark, but if we expect non-Christians to know that we are Christians, we must show the mark.’  I see that as the biggest challenge facing committed Christians in the new year.

As the dust settles from the storm of 2016, I pray that those of us who follow Jesus remember that mark above all.  The apostle Paul used these words to describe the characteristics of a true Christian: humility, charity, joy, peace, gentleness, forbearance, patience, goodness, self-control—words in short supply last election year.  Republicans will busy themselves with the difficult task of governing a factious nation in a perilous world.  Democrats will huddle to devise a new playbook.  May Christians of all persuasions remember that our ultimate allegiance and our ultimate hope belong to neither party.  As resident aliens in a divided nation, may we too form pioneer settlements to show the world the Jesus way.” – Philip Yancey, Election Reflections: Bridging the Gap

Bonus: Kris Kristofferson – Story behind his song Why Me, Lord? and the latest on this man’s amazing life:

Rolling Stone: Kris Kristofferson: An Outlaw at 80

Have a great, great weekend. Please share with us (in the Comments) any favorite finds of your own this week.

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

Saturday Short – 2nd & Charles – Geeky Nerdy Marketplace

Blog - 2nd & CharlesPhoto Credit: Wikimedia

In a different era, the words “geek” and “nerd” were derogatory terms of a sort. These days, they are a certain subset of “cool”. When we tune into Krue.tv to watch Nathan live-stream, these superlatives pop up often as he or his fan community describe each other.

Yesterday, at our youngest son Daniel’s request, we stopped in to check out 2nd & Charles. I had heard it was some sort of used book store, but what we found was way more fun and exciting. This enormous marketplace is a brilliant combination of new and used, and the inventory includes books, music, movies, gaming accessories, memorabilia – for all ages and every possible nerdy or geeky bent.IMG_8630IMG_8640IMG_8641IMG_8645IMG_8647

Even their quotes around the store and on their website made me want to hug the clerks when leaving the store…seriously. Embarrassing, but true.

It’s not old. It’s vintage.

It’s not used. It’s pre-loved.IMG_8639

Daniel and I stayed awhile scoping out the books and memorabilia (me) and music (him). He was so enthralled that we’re heading back there today with a box of his books, DVDs, and CDs to see how the trade/sell system works and to shop some more.IMG_8653

To be honest…I was also enthralled. This takes Christmas shopping to a whole new level.

The following disclaimer from another blogger‘s review also works for me:

** I’m in no way affiliated with 2nd & Charles. All opinions are my own. I’m way too opinionated to have it any other way.

Postscript: Nathan, you’re going to love this store. Save your tips.IMG_8654

Youtube Video – Epic Rap Battle – Nerd vs. Geek – Rhett & Link

5 Friday Faves – FOMO, Parenthood in 120 Seconds, a Summer at Oxford University, Saving Mr. Banks, and Favorite Guitar Videos

Blog - Friday Faves

Good Friday morning! Hope this week has been kind to you. The world continues to open itself to us to learn and grow and, hopefully, choose wisely. Here are five of my favorite finds from this week:

1) FOMO – So this is a new term for me. I heard, just this past weekend, a young friend lament about being plagued by “FOMO” – this “fear of missing out”. It apparently is exacerbated by all the social media which tantalizes us about friends getting together and going to all sorts of exotic places. C. S. Lewis, in his essay, The Inner Ring, actually exposes the danger of FOMO. BLog - FOMO - Fear of Missing Out - the silver penPhoto Credit: The Silver Pen

Wanting to be “in”  or “included” is morally neutral, in itself. It is in the choices we make and the compromises we make within those choices that become dangerous for us.  In Thoughts on C. S. Lewis, he is quoted, “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it.”  If we stop being so frantic about fitting in or giving into to our particular FOMO, then we will find ourselves in a natural community – fitted for us.

John Ortberg writes about FOMO in his book All the Places to Go…How Will You Know?  He raises the issue that God himself may have instilled in us this idea of wanting what we might be missing – but finally finding it in Him. Even Satan’s temptation of Eve was FOMO-oriented (Genesis 3:4-6) in that maybe she could be like God (if she ate the forbidden fruit). Ortberg observes: “The real, deep reason that FOMO exists is that we were made for more and we are missing out.  Only the “more” isn’t more money or more success or more impressive experiences I can write about on Facebook.  My hunger for more turns out to be insatiable if I try to satisfy it by wanting more for me”. God can satisfy, in Himself, the FOMO we may be experiencing.

Lewis on Disordered Desire to Enter the Inner Ring – Art Lindsley – The Gospel Coalition

2) Parenthood In 120 SecondsBuzzfeed India has published this funny and true video. Produced by Sumedh Natu and Umang Athwani, this 2-minute film is such a delight – so “been there, don’t that”. Loved it. Watch it here.Blog - Parenthood - cupofjoPhoto Credit: Cup of Jo

3) A Summer at Oxford University Beth Wayland, a counselor and writer friend of mine, had the great fortune to spend part of her summer at Oxford University. I’m sure she will write about it on her return to the US, but she gave us bits of her journey through her Facebook account. As part of her experience, she walked around in the steps of C. S. Lewis – his office, his favorite pub, the libraries, dining halls, grounds of Oxford.

Blog - Oxford University - Beth WaylandBlog - Oxford University - Beth Wayland - 2Photo Credit: Facebook, Beth Wayland

One special reminder was of C. S. Lewis’ dedication of his book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He dedicated it to his god-daughter, Lucy Barfield, with these words:

My Dear Lucy,

I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say but I shall still be,

your affectionate Godfather,

C. S. Lewis.

This, to me, is Oxford University. Thanks, Beth. Thank you, Dr. Lewis.

4) Saving Mr. Banks  – I just saw this 2013 Disney film about the complicated making of the 1964 film Mary Poppins . Walt Disney would try for over 20 years to win the rights to the book Mary Poppins. Author P. L. Travers finally agreed but with strong stipulations. Saving Mr. Banks is based on this true story but with embellishments. I loved this film. There were so many takeaways about collaboration, the influence of fathers, the mind of creatives, perspective, and forgiveness (Brian Dodd writes more about these here). Definitely worth seeing if you haven’t.  Blog - Saving Mr. BanksPhoto Credit: Disney Dose

5) Favorite Guitar Videos – by My Favorite Guitarist – Finally, Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar has posted his latest YouTube video: Skyrim: Ancient Stones – Beyond The Guitar.

The arrangement is lovely and the cinematography, directed by Ian Edwards and Danny Caporaletti, is beautiful. Here it is:

Nathan also posted a vlog on Stop Waiting For Things To Be Perfect. It’s instructive not just for guitarists but for any of us who struggle with holding back, not wanting to proceed unless we get (fill in the blank) just right. Watch to the end for a peek at the humorous side of this guitarist. You can also interact with Nathan via his live streams on krueTV.

That’s it for this week. What are some of your favorite finds of the week? Please let us know in the Comments below. Have a safe, restful weekend.

5 Friday Faves – Nursing Care, Air Conditioning, Guitarist, #TymmRhymes, and Fresh-grown Produce

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! I haven’t been writing much in the last couple of weeks because of travel. Visiting my dad in assisted living in Georgia was a great delight, as always. Alzheimer’s takes its toll but he still finds joy and gives so much of it to us.Dad and Debbie - July 2016

I would like to write about the events of the last couple of weeks, but the words aren’t coming…at least not for here, for now. So my 5 faves follow instead.

1) Nursing Care -For any one of us who has experienced medical care recently, we understand the great gift of good nurses. Dr. Venu Julapalli wrote a thank you letter online to the caregivers who recently attended his very ill mother. It’s entitled The Sacred Ordinary in Healthcare.

“… when you lifted her out of bed so she could bear her weight on yours, when you respected our wishes for privacy, …when you gave us blankets so we could stay warm in that cold ICU room, when you let my brother sneak his two young boys into the ICU because he wasn’t sure if they would ever see their Nanamma alive again… Those were sacred acts…And when you tucked her in at night and wished her well — like she was fully present and listening, even in her coma…that was sacred.”

His letter was a beautiful testament to what nurses and other care providers do for us each day. Just this week, my chest has stopped hurting from the surgery I had weeks ago. What an amazing thing – the absence of pain. It reminded me of the gentleness and perseverance of the nurses who cared for me in those first days following surgery. With Dr. Julapalli, I want to thank you for your extraordinary acts on what most be ordinary days for you. For us, they were not.Blog - Nurses caring for patients - eclectablogPhoto Credit: Eclectablog

2) Air Conditioning – All week, we’ve been experiencing hot, humid days, with temperatures soaring into the high 90’s. We didn’t have air conditioning growing up – window fans were enough in those days. In fact, I remember the first air conditioning unit my parents bought for their bedroom window. Mom worked nights so this unit allowed her to be able to sleep during the hot summer days. Shortly after we kids had window units, and then central air followed sometime after. It is a very good thing.Blog - Air conditioning - goodhousekeepingPhoto Credit: Good Housekeeping

Blog - Air conditioning - riroxsPhoto Credit: Riroxs

3) Guitarist Nathan Mills, as you know, is my favorite classical guitarist. He teaches guitar locally and on-line, and arranges pieces for guitar from various films, TV shows, and video games. Blog - Guitarist - Nathan Mills - RichmondPhoto Credit: Duy Nguyen, Richmond Times-News Dispatch

You can see some of his work on his YouTube channel.

Something extraordinary happened this week. I don’t understand the phenomenon of “going viral”, but it happened for a bit for Nathan when someone posted the following video on Reddit.

That video has, to date, almost a half-million views. He actually trended on YouTube. His followers on kruetv went from 400 to 1300 within hours.Blog - KrueTVPhoto Credit: krueTV

It was surprising and fascinating to watch that phenomenon. The wave has passed, but I’m sure we will see more of this. After all, he’s got to make a living, and it’s thrilling to think he could on classical guitar. Stay tuned.Blog - Guitarist - Nathan Mills - beyondtheguitar - TwitterPhoto Credit: Twitter

4) #TymmRhymes –Tymm Hoffman is the digital production manager for Compassion International, in Colorado Springs. I discovered him on Facebook because a friend shared some of his Dr. Seuss-like poetry. Since them, he graciously allowed this stranger to “friend” him, and, ever since, I’ve been blessed by his postings, his heart, and his rhymes. He wrote a couple of pieces recently about the volatile situation in our country right now. Here’s one:

BAD vs. GOOD
there’s lots of bad cops, bad docs and bad teachers
bad bosses, bad pastors and even bad preachers;

there’s bad firefighters and bad store clerks,
bad pro athletes who act more like jerks;

bad friends, bad sisters and several bad brothers,
there’s even bad dads and lots of bad mothers;

there’s bad politicians and bad missionaries,
and there’s bad guys named Gary and Jerry and Larry;

there’s plenty bad husbands and plenty bad wives,
And plenty bad people living plenty bad lives;

And if all of life started and stopped with that there,
Then broad strokes would work and I wouldn’t care;

But there’s also good cops, good docs and great teachers,
Good bosses, good pastors and lots of good preachers;

There’s great firefighters and awesome store clerks,
And amazing pro athletes who negate all the jerks;

Good friends, good sisters and even good brothers,
And dads who DO care and lots of good mothers;

There’s a good politician and great missionaries,
There’s good Garys and Jerrys and even good Larrys;

And I know there’s good husbands and lots of good wives,
And a bunch of good people living really good lives;

So let’s not give the bad more than we probably should,
When the truth is – for the bad – there is just as much good.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

let’s address the jacked-up-edness in this world while we holster our fat brushes and paint with some thinner ones… – Tymm Hoffman

5) Home-grown Produce
We have a backyard garden. It’s therapeutic for Dave as he works and walks in it after work each day and on weekends. The flowers are just beautiful. For this summer season, we also enjoy the produce – greens, squash, peppers, and tomatoes. Thankful for such a space and a husband who loves to work the soil.imageimage

Hope you have a safe and restful weekend. Please share any favorites of yours in the Comments below. More and more, I recognize the blessing of every single day. Peace.