Tag Archives: Nathan Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Taking the Social Capital Challenge – 5 Steps Forward

Photo Credit: Pixabay

You know that experience of events converging and what was foggy before becomes crystal clear? I just had that kind of week. A series of non-random things happened that caused a chain reaction of a magnitude that launched me out of my  creative doldrums.

Here’s what happened.

Backtracking a bit, I’ve been thinking solidly for several weeks on social capital – what kind of resource that is and what it takes to have it (or restore it).

Social capital is the willingness of people to help each other. It often replaces money which people would use to buy the same help. Most ways of measuring social capital have to do with trust – people who trust that favors and help will be available when they need it will favor and help others more. Social capital is a lot like real capital. Simple English Wikipedia

I wrote about social capital twice – here and here. After posting that last blog, the following events had huge impact on how I’ve been doing life.

  1. The right book landed in my hands. Literally.

It was Jeff Goins‘ latest book that was just released. His 5th book and already a best-seller, Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age came in the mail.

I tore into it and was so encouraged and empowered by his stories and counsel for artists, like him. No, not like him in the best-selling author part…but like him in the before “possibility-season” of his life.

In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Goins gives 12 principles of how to actually be effective and successful as a creator (whether it’s music, writing, painting, or any other creative work). Reading his principles and the stories of artists and crafters through history give not only hope but tools through which we can make a living with our craft.Photo Credit: Jeff Goins

Book Marketing 101: What Works and What Doesn’t (Lessons From My Latest Launch) – Jeff Goins

2) Significant conversations followed. After posting my last blog, a writer acquaintance suggested we get together. Ann Lovell is a seasoned writer and currently employed as a Communications Director. Not only that, she continues busy with her own writing and is editing the manuscript of another incredible author. We talked about writing, and she offered her help. That was huge for me and right out of Jeff Goins’ book. Then another author friend Kevin Prewett with whom I share workspace some weeks also gifted me with good and thought-provoking questions about my writing. So helpful. Finally, through one more conversation, I realized how my own focus had been more on guiding and encouraging younger  writers and artists around me without noticing my own craft had gone untended. That conversation, with our guitarist son Nathan Mills,   was much illuminating. This time I benefited from a younger artist.

Significant conversations all.

3) A “Come to Jesus Moment” happened with my best friend. The one person in my life who has read all the blogs and has celebrated every high and encouraged me through every low is that husband and friend of mine, Dave. I am sometimes guilty of giving counsel too quickly (ok, advice…really. Unasked for advice. Dang it!). It’s much easier to look in others’ lives and suggest a small tweak than to face full on what totally needs rerouting in our own lives. In the last couple of years, taking early retirement and being too much on the outside looking in, I have time to come up with a prescription for anyone else’s problem. [Yes…guilty.] Not that I’m wrong, necessarily, but the situation is not mine. Most probably, Dave, or Nathan, or whomever it might be knows far more about where he/she is on that trajectory toward next steps than I could possibly conjecture. So here’s the “Come to Jesus Moment”. Over the weekend, Dave and I were talking about this season of life. We resonated together about lost social capital…those strong influencer groups with whom we once were a part and now not so much. In that brief conversation, when I would usually cheer on Dave to rally, the proverbial light bulb went off. Not just for him but for me as well. It is still possible to reclaim ground lost. Now was the time to act.

4) I applied for a job. I’d been toying with this for awhile. Until my dad died, I was making so many trips to help care for him, it seemed impossible for me to work anywhere. I would toss around options with family and friends (teaching ESL, hospice, school nursing), but nothing seemed to fit. Then for several months, I would hear of friends being hired into the coolest jobs and struggled to have unreserved joy for them. It was time for me to either continue with contentment in my current state of not working or take aim in one direction or another and do something. One job caught my eye. One job. I did the hours of updating my resume, pulling together samples of my writing, and crafting a cover letter. If I don’t get that job, I’ll apply for another.

5) I took the Social Capital Challenge.  A couple of months ago, I discovered Jordan Harbinger online. He writes and podcasts for a website called The Art of Charm. He invites his readers/listeners to something called a social capital challenge. I signed on…weeks ago for a month-long challenge…and then did nothing.

Photo Credit: Screen Shot – Art of Charm

Until today…

Today I created a written goal and posted it somewhere public.

I joined the Facebook page for The Art of Charm Challenge just now, and here was my first posting.

“Hello, everyone. I signed up for the challenge weeks ago. Even though its email reminders, baby to bigger steps, have been feeding my inbox, I wouldn’t even open them. Until today. Today I am ready. My goal is to have a manuscript with the art work publish-ready by the end of the year. My co-author and I had our first sit-down today, to share story idea and flesh it out some and to do the beginning photographer for the illustrator. Whew! There it is.”

Photo Credit: Pixabay, Jess_the_VA

I’m taking a deep breath…and we’ll see where this all lands. Whatever lies ahead, I’m so grateful for good counsel, courageous and creative friends and family, and clarity. It’s a very good Monday.

Monday Morning Moment – Social Capital – an Invaluable Resource We Can Develop – and a Tool to Help – Deb Mills Writer

Monday Morning Moment – When Connections Are Lost – a Rant, a Resolve, and a Request – Deb Mills Writer

6 Things You Need to recover From Every Day – Benjamin P. Hardy

Social Capital Challenge – The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger – The Art of Charm – Twitter

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age – Jeff Goins

6 Things You Need to Recover From Every Day – Benjamin P. Hardy

28 Lessons From Great Writers, Artists, and Creators on Mastering Your Craft – Ryan Holiday

The Whuffie Factor – Tara Hunt

5 Friday Faves – Seasonal Favorites, Classical Guitar, Scruffy Hospitality, Hilarious Commercial, and Father’s Day

Weeks never seem to drag anymore. Friday has come again with lightning speed, forcing a break in our routine. In Virginia, today marks the last school day of the year for public schools. Summer has officially begun.

It’s not my favorite season of the year (OK…I know I’m in a minority here but heat and bugs come with summer, not just the beach). Having the kids home for the summer was always a joy so I will take that part anytime.

We have a big gathering of family coming up soon which is being made possible through Airbnb. That part of summer which does include the beach and baby snuggles along with late nights of laughter and games and movies with the babies in bed is a delight.

So without further ado, here are this week’s Friday Faves:

1) Seasonal Favorites – I’ve sung the praises of fruit in season once before. Orchard-fresh fruit and vegetables right out of the garden are so good. You just slice up summer squash and zucchini, lightly olive-oil spray it and roast in a hot oven and you can almost forget the cheesy casserole you were going to make out of it. Such sweetness in summer vegetables.

Dave’s favorite Honeycrisp apples are hard to find in the US summer – when found they often taste like last year’s harvest or are prohibitively expensive.

When the apples fade, we have watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries…and peaches!!! Glory!

Finally, I want to celebrate the small family businesses just open for the summer (and sometimes closed on Sundays) that bring all kinds of sweetness our way. Less than an hour away, we find Sno-To-Go. The weighty decision of whether to cool down with a cup of ice cream or a sno-cone is over. Stuffed snoballs are the perfect combo.

What’s your favorite summer to-go place for treats like these?

2) Beyond the Guitar – Classical Guitar Video –
Here’s Nathan Mills‘ latest arrangement posted to YouTube. It is Japanese composer Yasunori Mitsuda‘s Frog’s Theme from the video game Chrono Trigger. For many of you gamers out there, this will be another musical delight. For us non-gamers, it is also an incredibly lovely melody, especially rendered on classical guitar. Enjoy the video below:

YouTube Video – Beyond the Guitar – Chrono Trigger – 600AD – Yearnings of the Wind – Classical Guitar Cover

Beyond the Guitar – Patreon

3) Scruffy Hospitality – [MEN – don’t pass this by – you are part of this.] What a gift to lavish hospitality on those you love or hope to know better. Too often we hesitate because the thought of getting the house ready, putting together just the right menu, and aiming for a “Pinterest-perfect” presentation exhausts us before we even make the invitation. Two articles I found this week gives freedom and empowerment to us all to extend hospitality – and scruffy is so much better than no hospitality. Robin Shreeves wrote a great piece on this, as a woman who threw off her need to have everything perfect.  Photo Credit: Jason Lander, Flickr

Shreeves’ role models in this were an Anglican priest, Jack King, and his wife, Dana. Father King also wrote a very special entitled Why Scruffy Hospitality Creates Space for Friendship.

Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together.Jack King

I’m so glad he wrote about hospitality. Our hesitancy as both women and men can be conquered…especially if we help and encourage each other.

Scruffy Hospitality and an Open Seat at the Table – Sermon Notes – Father Jack King

4) Hilarious Commercial – Commercials are fascinating to me – when they are done well. So many are just silly. In fact, in the days when our kids were small, and we would fast-forward through the commercials on homemade videotapes, our little Daniel would say, “No! I care about that!” Me, too, Daniel.  A young businessman in Colorado Springs, Co., Joe McCloskey, Jr. , is an agent with Farmers Insurance.  I don’t know who advised him or he is this creative, but he has put up several homemade video commercials on YouTube. The one below is the most recent and the most professional. It is hilarious. Don’t just scroll through. You will send your endorphins out the roof. I don’t think you can watch with out laughing out loud. Oh, and notice “Call Me For A Quote – 719-237-9455”. So creative.

YouTube Video – Stinky Fish Challenge – Surstromming – Joe McCloskey, Jr.

5) Father’s Day – We all have fathers – whether very present or long-time absent. Some of you may be fathers. Some of you may have wanted to be fathers but are not able to be…for whatever reasons. This day of commemoration usually means a good meal and some sort of gifting or pampering for you fathers. For all of you, with or without children, you can be influencers…and we need you. My biological father was absent long before my parents divorced. Thankfully I have had a rich heritage of good fathers through the rest of my life – my step-dad, brothers, uncles, husband, father-in-law, son/son-in-law, and good and strong male friends – most of whom were spiritual fathers only…but fathers nonetheless.

YouTube Video – TD Ameritrade – Cat’s in the Cradle – Great Father’s Day video

The Father I Never Knew on Father’s Day – Deb Mills Writer

Fathering – Celebrating Men Who Did It Well; Forgiving Men Who Didn’t – Deb Mills Writer

Traveling Man – Somewhere Between Here, There, & Home – Deb Mills Writer

The weekend is here. Celebrate summer and each other. Comment below what this week brought your way to share. Be safe out there and gentle on yourself and each other.

Bonuses:

YouTube Video – The Holderness Family – The Beach: Pre-Kids vs Post-Kids

The Best Exercise for Aging Muscles – Gretchen Reynolds

Musician Alexa Wilding Refused to Be Peer Pressured Into Post-Pregnancy Plastic Surgery – Devon Abelman

Amazon Prime – Nuff said. 🙂

Summer Sunsets (this one in California)

5 Friday Faves – A Pirate and a Prophet, Eric Metaxas, First Responders, Silverado, and Darci Lynne Farmer – Ventriloquist

Happy Friday! We, in Richmond, are entering those early summer days of counting down the school year, indulging our international palates at all sorts of food festivals, and changing into our summer wardrobes wondering how clothes shrink in storage. Life every day is a gift. As I write that there are those with much harder weeks than I have at present. For you, my hope is that these Friday Faves can lighten your heart and lift the burden for a bit.

1) A Pirate and a Prophet – Our family is a music-loving bunch, albeit with very diverse tastes. Music is such a amazing medium of communication that can touch our hearts, refresh our memories, and set our feet to moving. One musician we all love, as a family, is that guy at Beyond the Guitar. A classical guitarist, he has taken to arranging music from videogames, films, and TV shows. All his music has a strong emotional component because, as a fan put it one time, he connects to the heart in a transcendent way. His music of late is also tinged with nostalgia either because of a shared film/TV experience or the strong memories of childhood, playing games with friends. His most recent arrangement of He’s a Pirate (from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series is beautiful, lighthearted and playful. 

Along with this pirate, I wanted to highlight a prophet musician, Bono of the Irish band U2. He and the band appeared recently on the Jimmy Kimmel Show and performed “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for” in memorial for the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing on May 22, 2017. The YouTube video below includes that performance as U2 is joined by a Gospel choir from the audience. The choir interjects the redemptive death of Christ for us to take away our sin and shame. Both the band and the choir closed in a grand harmonic hallelujah on the title sentence of the song. The brokenness of this world is a constant reminder that we will not find all we’re looking for this side of Heaven.

U2 Takes Jimmy Kimmel Audience to Church 

I previously wrote about Bono’s faith here. As for Beyond the Guitar? Pretty much every week (search it….and I’m not embarrassed).

2) Eric Metaxas – Eric Metaxas is a prolific writer, political commentator, and talk show host. He is the author of Bonhoeffer and If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty. Whether you agree with him or not, he will make you think.Photo Credit: YouTube

YouTube – Eric Metaxas – White Chair Film – I Am Second 

Well…speaking of Metaxas…and funny thing happened. This week, I picked up a book from the floor in our kiddie reading area at home. It was a Veggie Tales book entitled God Made You Special (2002, Zonderkidz publication). My wee granddaughter and I plowed through the pages, and closing the book I discovered the author.

It was Eric Metaxas. I loved that! Children’s books written by deep thinkers. Love that. God made YOU special, Eric Metaxas.

3) First Responders – Yesterday I took apple pie and ice cream to the crew of Henrico County’s Fire Station 5 and Lakeside Volunteer Rescue Squad. After my last brush with these guys in action, I am so grateful and wanted to use Friday Faves to give them another shout-out. Their cooperation together is so seamless in caring for people in crisis that I didn’t know who really to thank. So men and women of Fire Station 5 and Lakeside Rescue Squad, thanks again!Photo Credit: Lakeside Rescue

It’s possible I’m late in the practice of expressing gratitude to first responders. It’s definitely warranted in my situation, but it’s a great idea to get to know our first responders and to introduce them to our children and grandchildren…as allowed by their schedule. That day they were out on a call and returned to pie and ice cream from a grateful recipient of their care.

4) Silverado – in 1985, a great American Western was released. Written, directed, and produced by Lawrence Kasdan, this film is incredibly special and is still highly watchable over 30 years later.Photo Credit: Great Western Movies

Dave and I watched it one evening this week and still laughed at the lines from the movie that have become part of our family’s lexicon.

The dialogue is so rich. Two lines, in particular, resonate with Dave and me (both spoken by Danny Glover):

“It’s working out real good.” – Danny Glover responding to a question of how he was; bloody, beaten, and unscathed by it, in his resolve to get the bad guys.

“That ain’t right and I’ve had enough of what ain’t right.” – again, Glover

YouTube – Silverado – Film Clip – Ready for Revenge

If you could use a good long drink of Western good guys prevailing against bad guys, watch this great film. The soundtrack is musical candy. Just gorgeous.

5) Darci Lynne Farmer – Ventriloquist – This season of NBC show America’s Got Talent premiered this week. I don’t watch it usually but got a glimpse afterward thanks to social media. 12-year-old Darci Lynne Farmer was one of the performers in this first round of auditions.Photo Credit: YouTube

You may not be drawn to cute little girls with a puppet on their arm, but you want to watch this. Oh my goodness! Won’t spoil any of the details or the outcome. Watch below.

So those are my favorite finds. Would love to hear about some of yours. Did you watch Darci? Have you seen Silverado? Do you subscribe to Beyond the Guitar’s YouTube channel?

Have a safe and restful weekend…see you on Monday.

Bonuses

NIH Director Francis Collins song to SMU students

Here's the video in case you missed the song that Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sang to graduating SMU students during his Commencement address last Saturday.

Posted by SMU on Tuesday, May 23, 2017

5 Friday Faves – Adoption, The Last of the Mohicans, Being Single, Craveability, and Honoring

Another Friday…they come so fast. Today, I am not in my usual spot but didn’t want to miss sharing this week’s favorite finds. Enjoy…

1) Adoption – I don’t hear the phrase much anymore, but in my child-bearing years, when asked what a couple wanted (boy or girl), the response was often, “I don’t care…just as long as it’s healthy.” A wise older friend told me one time that God gives life and every child is perfect in His eyes. One population we see less of in our country these days is people with Down Syndrome. Photo Credit: Flickr

Of of the genetic tests done during pregnancy, one is to rule out Down Syndrome in the fetus. If the parents have objections to keeping a baby with Down Syndrome, abortion is an option to some…as is adoption. Raising a child with health or developmental issues is challenging. We adopted such a child and thrill to see how he continues to meet his challenges…and to bless all around. We did not adopt a child with Down’s but we have friends who did. The videos below are a beautiful sampling of this population of perfect children and adults.

2) The Last of the Mohicans – To be honest, I have never been able to watch this painful and beautiful film all the way through. Its theme (originally composed by Dougie Maclean and arranged for this film by Trevor Jones) is exquisite. Listen here on YouTube with a composite of scenes from the movie. When Nathan arranged this grand orchestral piece (“Promentory”) for classical guitar, I knew it would have to be extraordinary. See what you think. Listen here:

YouTube Video – The Last of the Mohicans – Promontory – Classical Guitar – Beyond the Guitar

3) On Being Single – The whole dating scene in my 20s was something I pulled out of long before marrying. It wasn’t pretty. By the time I entered my 30s, life was filled with great friends, strong family relationships, challenging work, and serving in church and community. Loneliness crept in at times, but it still does even after marrying later in life. These days I am privileged to enjoy the friendship of several women (and a few men) who are single. Do some of them want to married? Yes, but not all. When I saw the video below, it resonated – how society can mis-communicate the great value of these women and men…I never want to do the same.

“‘Leftover women’ are outstanding. ‘Leftover men’ should try harder.”Marriage Market Takeover

3 Ways to Guard the Single Women In Your Life – Grace Thornton

Invite Someone Single To Dinner – Jasmine Holmes – Desiring God


4) Craveability – A few years back, I took myself off of sugar. For over a year, I just refused to eat it (desserts, snacks, etc.). It was a healthy choice for me at the time. I lost a lot of weight and stopped craving sugar. Gradually, as with many lifestyle changes, I went back mostly to my old ways (still not eating chocolate or doughnuts – two trigger foods). I watched an interesting YouTube video this week on crave ability – Michael Pollan on Cooking. In it, Pollan compared the nutritive value of food cooked by corporations vs. that cooked by humans. Now, corporations (restaurants, food processing companies, etc) don’t really “cook”.  His premise though was compelling. When we cook, we control how much sugar, salt, and fats we add to food. When we buy food already prepared commercially, the craveability factor is at work. Foods we return to buy again and again have been developed to tap into our cravings.

My husband was on a work trip to California this past week. A much-loved fast-food restaurant was on the list of eateries. In-N-Out Burger. He and his colleague even ate there twice one day. Now, the food must be pretty special, but it speaks to Pollan’s observation about how we eat when driven by cravings. If we were eating at home, we have French fries rarely. Yet, eating out (for lunch each day, for instance), we might have fries more often.Photo Credit: Marco Fischer, Pexels

We in the US have a fair amount of food weirdness in our striving to eat healthy or, on the flip-side, in our indulging of cravings. Considering what is behind our food preferences, even our addictions, might help us make wiser choices in what we eat – especially related to sugar, salt, and fats.

YouTube Video – Michael Pollan: “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation”

5) Honoring – Respect and honor are two very different actions and experiences. I’ve heard people say, “I just don’t respect him/her.” or “He/she doesn’t deserve my respect.” There can be such derision or contempt in those statements, they also seem to communicate “can’t” and “never will”. Honor is defined as “valuing or esteeming highly.” We live in a culture that defaults to valuing self over anyone else…we have to fight against this strong pull to elevate ourselves over even those we say we love the most. In one of the Apostle Paul’s letters, he writes: Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10) Whether someone deserves honoring or not is of no consequence. We choose to honor others. Photo Credit: Pinterest

Do we choose to honor others in our every word and deed? Think about the trash talk we can so easily fall into in relationships. It seems harmless enough but it sets us up to follow suit with dishonoring actions and attitudes. My hope is to be a person you can trust to keep your name safe on my lips.

In our current political climate and knee-jerk one-upmanship in social and work circles…what if? What if we tried to “outdo one another in showing honor”? How would that change our homes, workplaces, world? How do we teach that sort of valuing to our children? How do we re-awaken our hearts to it as adults? I would love to hear your thoughts (in Comments below).

Well, those were my favorite finds this week. How about yours? Please share any of those in the Comments. Have a safe and refreshing weekend.

Bonuses:

Quote about Prayer:

“The greatest thing we can do for one another is to pray. Prayer is striking the winning blow at the concealed enemy; our service is gathering up the results.” Corrie ten Boom, Not Good If Detached

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Looking for a Remote Job? 15 Companies Reveal What They Look for in Remote Employees – Marcel Schwantes

Weird Parenting Trends We’re Tried the Past 100 Years – Good Housekeeping

Things It’s Time to Get Rid Of – Good Housekeeping

Friday Faves – Leadership, Storytelling, Crowd-sourcing, and Clarity

Straight forward into the weekend! Here are my four favorite finds of the week. I usually post five but this has been several days of computer glitchiness and slow internet…so we’ll stick with these four today. Thanks for taking the time to scan them, and please comment below on your finds for the week.

1) Leadership – Bookmark this week’s blog by Brian Dodd on Leadership. Dodd has been live blogging the various speakers at the Rethink Leadership Conference. His quotes from some of these talks are incredibly helpful…making it like we got to be in the audience. There were several great leadership speakers at Rethink. I’ve included Dodd’s notes on three and a link to a fourth.Photo Credit: MaxPixel

  • Carey Nieuwhof’s Opening Thoughts on Leadership: The reason vision falls flat is you don’t have a strategy. Clear strategy provokes deep fear. Ambiguity never provokes fear. Clarity does. Strategy is the execution of your mission and vision. Strategy becomes divisive because it is clear. The last 10% of the change is hardest. The clearer you are on your strategy, the simpler it is, the more it is written down, the easier it is. It’s easy to change something someone else built. It’s much more difficult to change something you built. The temptation to strategize once is very strong and the direct path to irrelevance.
  • Jeff Henderson on Keeping the Main Thing the Main ThingInsideritis – a malady afflicting the vision of an organization resulting in focusing on insiders over outsiders. The role of a leader is raising people to run the business and you be out in the community bringing in new customers. Vision leaks. And so does inspiration. What are we here for? This is a vision inventory question. 4 Rhythms – What do you meet about? What do you talk about? What do you see? What do you celebrate? Everybody likes getting their Instagram photo liked. It reinforces behavior. 999% of Instagram photos from churches are about what’s happening in the church. We need to be about what’s happening in the community. Celebration is something leaders can overlook. One of the best things you can do as a leader is write three Thank You notes a day.
  • Dan Reiland on Essential Elements to Lead Your Staff Well: 5 Categories Of Hiring – Culture. Selection. Development. Performance. Teamwork. Culture is who you are, what you value, and how do you get things done. Culture determines how you see staff. How you see staff determines how you treat staff. Lead with vision, not job descriptions. Trust is the foundation of empowerment. Micromanagement and control kills trust.  What you get people with is how you keep them. When you can’t recruit with vision you have to buy them. Never lower your standards. It’s better to go without than hire the wrong person. You’re not hiring an administrative assistant to make your life easier. You’re hiring an administrative assistant to make you more productive. Chemistry wins the day. Assume competence. Identify competence before the conversation gets serious. Embrace the 2X Factor. Pour twice as much in as you expect out. You do this because you care. You can’t develop people well if you don’t care. Not everybody cares. You can’t fake caring. The secret to being a great coach – Pay Attention. Champion progress, not performance. Don’t apologize for accountability. You have created or allowed your current circumstances. Trust is the core, the epicenter, the bedrock of teamwork.
  • Carey Nieuwhof’s  Closing Thoughts on Pastors and Cynicism: I was the guy who sent people to counseling.  I didn’t get counseling. Cynicism doesn’t happen because you don’t care.  It starts because you did. Cynicism starts because you know too much. Cynicism is a choice.  Life actually doesn’t make you cynical.  You make you cynical. The antidote to cynicism – Cynicism melts under the relentless hope of the Gospel. The best antidote to cynicism is curiosity.  The cynical is never curious.  The curious are never cynical. Curiosity is a discipline.  You can learn it.

37 Leadership Quotes from Les McKeown – Predictable Success – From the Rethink Conference – Brian Dodd on Leadership

2) Storytelling – Don’t you love a good story? Part of the magnificence of a story is its delivery. All Y’All is a podcast out of Louisiana. If any of you are from the South and have transplanted your lives elsewhere, this is a place, you can rest your ears on your mother tongue.  I discovered a sweet-with-Southern-drawl episode on referral of a friend. The guest storyteller was Amy Lynn Treme, a preschool teacher from Shreveport, Louisiana. Her story about a pet store job and supervising a field trip with exotic pets, including a large snake named Monty, is hilarious! Listen here.Photo Credit: All Y’All

5 Great Tips to Help You Tell Better Stories – Robin Camarote

Photo Credit: Vala Afshar

3) CrowdsourcingCrowdsourcing or crowdfunding is a growing process we use today to gather financial support, services or solutions, via the internet, from multiple individuals or groups.

Photo Credit: Startup Daily

We are familiar with GoFundMe and KickStarter, but there are many other platforms, depending on the situation or need. Wikipedia is a much-used and much-beloved crowdsourced venture. My favorite charity is Baptist Global Response; it receives some of its support via crowdsourcing. This avenue of support can benefit non-profits, individuals in crisis, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and artists.

In another era, the great patrons of music supported the composers of their day – musicians like Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn among others. We still listen to their brilliant music today, and we have their patrons to thank also. Creative work takes time, but rarely is that work itself rewarded until the album is produced, for instance, and concerts are performed. What if we, the general public, had a voice in which artists we wanted to support, besides just buying albums or concert tickets? Patreon is a crowdsourcing vehicle for artists and the crowds who would support them if they knew there was a way.

I watched a TED Talk this week on crowdsourcing by singer Amanda Palmer. The talk was The Art of Asking. Amanda Palmer lives a very free life and uses language and attitude in her music that is pretty much in-your-face. That’s very appealing for many. For me, her TED Talk was real and winsome and a great testament to crowd-sourcing…that taking your idea, your vision, your gift to the people and letting them be part of growing it.

I do have an artist like that in my life…a gifted musician who is both building his craft and trying to make a living at the same time. Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar. He has “a crowd” who partner with him in various ways – video production, sound, tech support, social media and messaging, startup advice, and financial investment.

Crowdsourcing isn’t charity. It’s partnership.

None of us can play classical guitar or arrange music like Nathan…none of us in Nathan’s “crowd”. Yet, we get to be a part of his vision and his music. I delight in the rewards of patronage.

4) Clarity – Here’s to clarity…and to those people in our lives who help us navigate through the murkiness of some relationships and situations in life. I experienced some life-defining clarity this past week and wrote about it already here.

Photo Credit: Jon Wiley, Flickr

Clarity is that enlightening aha or “got it” moment when you see that you were right…or wrong…and the relief of it, just the knowing, is electric. No longer entangled by “What is going on here?” or “Am I crazy?” Clarity comes with a path forward, because once you really where you are and the truth of that situation or relationship, you can advance. I didn’t say leave the relationship or bail out of the situation but move forward. There is a big difference there. When confusion and dis-ease clouds our thinking about something, we just want out. It’s uncomfortable. Clarity empowers and emboldens us to act with intentionality and even compassion.

Because of the aforementioned computer/internet woes (where I also need clarity as to what is the problem), I’ll close here. Maybe in the comment section we can talk about clarity. I’ll blog on it again sometime because it’s huge…not for escaping the murk and mire we may find ourselves in sometimes, but to forge a way through.

Have a great weekend out there!

 

Worship Wednesday – Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – Part 2

2014 Dec Blog pics - Stones of Remembrance 002

[Adapted from the Archives]

“…that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”Joshua 4:24

In a stressful week and a spiritually dull time, it’s been good to reflect on the work of GOD in our lives. 12 stones of remembrance are piled on my kitchen windowsill. 12 recollections out of the many times He has moved on our behalf. The first 6 are found here.

7) We moved overseas to work almost 20 years ago. Our children were young and we felt terribly young ourselves with the language skills of a preschooler. On arriving in a beautiful capital city in North Africa, with survival Arabic and the grace of God, my husband needed to find a house for us to rent. It seemed a daunting task.  That first morning, we prayed together, and he left the hotel to begin the search…by faith, really. Even hailing a taxi requires some cultural understanding of how it’s done there, and it took a few tries for him to “win” a ride. Finally a taxi driver invited him in, and off they went. In a country of 9 million Muslims, there were many 30 Christ-followers. In all this huge city, the taxi driver who stopped for him was one of those few.  Over the years, we have known the friendship of many wonderful Muslim people, but on this stressful first morning, to have the company of a brother was a special kindness of God. Housing was eventually found; that encounter was a special grace.

8) Sometimes God’s might and gentle care both shine through a seemingly insignificant situation. After some time in this North African country, work took us outside the capital city to a distant town. Now my husband would have to purchase a vehicle which we had not needed in the capital. Again, like so many seemingly simple processes, this took on a whole new level of complexity when done cross-culturally. The used car souk only happened on Sundays, and the bargaining process was incomprehensible. He was unsuccessful for weeks. Knowing our move was imminent added pressure. Finally, one Sunday, he just gave up. He walked up the ridge to the highway to catch a taxi and looked back over all the business of car sales, feeling hopeless. A taxi pulled over for him, and he got in. The driver said, “Are you buying or selling a car?” When my husband told him that he was unsuccessfully trying to buy a car, the driver asked what kind.  It turned out that the driver had a friend selling a car, just the kind we needed. Random, crazy, love-filled act of GOD.

9) While we were overseas, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was a lymphoma and, by all rights, should have been cured, or at least arrested, by the treatment of that day. It was not to be so. For three years, Mom endured aggressive chemotherapy. The cancer was relentless. In the course of her treatment, she also had a severe Shingles attack that went into her nervous system and caused her pain for the rest of her life. We came back to the US for what would be her last year. My mom loved the LORD. She never prayed for healing, although we sure did. She only prayed for GOD to be glorified through this cancer. He answered her prayer…and ours, in a different way. Much of her life, she lamented that she didn’t hear GOD speak to her in ways she was sure he did with others. I asked her once, near the end, if He spoke to her now, and she smiled, and said, “All the time.” For her, the cancer was worth it.Fuji002 152a

[Since writing this blog originally, we’ve also lost our dad. He had both Alzheimer’s and colon cancer that was spreading. We had prayed for months that he would not be afraid as he lost his memories and that he would not be in pain in the end. God gloriously answered those prayers for us. We know it doesn’t always work out that way, especially with Alzheimer’s. We are so grateful.]

10) Losing my mom was especially hard, a “severe mercy”*. Losing my older brother was strange and complicated for me. Robert had what I would describe as a self-imposed hard life. He could be rough with those he loved the most, almost taunting them to desert him. Yet, he had a kind heart that would often betray his attempts to be distant from us. He finally did move away from all his family, building a house way out in the country. When mom died, I think the sense of home for Robert died with her. Two things I prayed for him, during this hermit season of his: that he would not die alone and that he would be reconciled to his family. Although we lived far away, we saw at a distance that Robert began softening in his conversations with us. On our last phone call, he actually sounded happy. He talked excitedly about meeting up with one brother and working on a project with the other brother. At the young age of 61, piercing chest pain forced a call for an ambulance, and he, not many hours later, died on the operating table. He did not die alone, surrounded by the surgical team who sought to repair a shredded aorta…and many in his family praying for him outside. He died short of repairing all his relationships, but he was moving miraculously in that direction…by God’s grace.2007 SepOct 046

*A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken – autobiography about losing his wife and finding God in the midst of the loss

11) Our oldest son, Nathan, is a classical guitarist. In his last year of college, he was to perform a Senior recital as part of his requirements for graduation. In the process of preparing for this recital, he developed a tendonitis from the hours of practice. His doctor told him he had to rest his hands for the 2 weeks prior to his recital. This could have been devastating to his performance. Nathan was able to practice the day before and the day of his recital. He was a bit shaken mentally because of those days without practice, but he determined to continue with the recital. I may be his mom, but his playing that day was technically brilliant and incredibly beautiful. Especially given the stress coming into that day. There was a row of us, family and close friends, praying for him through the recital. With every piece completed, it seemed we were more in a worship service than a concert. I filmed his performance, and later as we watched the video, we saw something very interesting. There was a light artifact of some sort, and it looked as if a shaft of light beamed down through his right hand. It was a picture of GOD being  there with Nathan, and we knew He was by Nathan’s performance. Nathan had played for all of us, and for an audience of One. He told us afterwards that his hands ranged from feeling ice cold and difficult to manage to feeling on fire and exquisitely painful…yet he played so well…and so to the glory of GOD.

Nathan & Bekkah Wedding Slideshow Final 060

YouTube Video of “Preludio” – one of Nathan Mills’ pieces during his Senior recital

Nathan Mills – Classical Guitarist, Composer, Arranger of Themes from Films, TV Shows, and VideoGames

12) Finally, the last stone of remembrance for today: being present when someone receives the LORD as her own. Many of you may have that experience on a regular basis. For me, spending so many years in North Africa, I have only personally had this experience a precious few times so far. One very dramatic time was when we came back to the US. A young woman I really didn’t know very well appeared at our women’s Bible study. There was an urgency about her…a quiet earnestness. She was there on a mission. The LORD had clearly been working in her heart and she wanted to settle things with Him. There was only a handful of women in the room, but the power of the Holy Spirit was so evident. While some of us explained how to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, the rest of us prayed…back and forth, as she talked, listened, cried…and then prayed aloud herself. Did one of us lead her to be a Christ-follower? No. We were merely and miraculously witnesses of a redeeming love. I wish you could have heard her pray…so full of humility, and longing, and finally peace. To witness the work of GOD in a life He drew to Himself…incredible.

Right now, as we are days away from this year’s Easter celebration, I am once again riveted by God’s reach into our lives. Just in this past year alone, He has been with us through great joys and great losses, a cancer diagnosis, much change in our work, and the birth of a precious grandchild. The handprint of God is everywhere…even on days when I have to get my heart quiet and my eyes focused to see. He is always near…it just takes us looking…and then remembering all the times before.

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”Jeremiah 29:13

Will there be days we forget? It happens… Fortunately, for us, even when we forget, He never does.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” – Isaiah 49:15-16

Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – What Are You Remembering About God Today? – DebMillsWriter

5 Friday Faves – Music Lessons, Final Fantasy, Grandchildren, Leadership Guy Jon Mertz, and a Smorgasbord on Success

Beautiful day outside…hope the same is the case for you.

Here are my Friday faves this week:

1) Music Lessons – I was the worst student at music lessons. My mom was so determined that I would learn to play the piano. Seriously, I don’t even remember having a piano in our home…we must have, right? Dear old Mrs. Bowles taught me my first lessons. She and her husband owned a tiny general store in our neighborhood. She was ancient…and kind. I loved her but not enough to practice. Some weeks, my only time on the piano was our lesson. Do you think she could tell?

This week, I discovered an enthralling post on music lessons written by Tom Barnes, senior writer for Mic. The title is Music Lessons Were the Best Thing Your Parents Ever Did for You, According to Science.Photo Credit: MaxPixel

In the article he lists 13 scientific benefits of the many more derived from music lessons. Below, I’m posting his list, but don’t miss his brief and fascinating commentary on each one. Here’s his article.

Taking Music Lessons:

  1. It improved your reading and verbal skills.
  2. It improved your mathematical and spatial-temporal reasoning.
  3. It helped your grades.
  4. It raised your IQ.
  5. It helped you learn languages more quickly.
  6. It made you a better listener, which will help a lot when you’re older.
  7. It will slow the effects of aging.
  8. It strengthened your motor cortex.
  9. It improved your working memory.
  10. It improved your long-term memory for visual stimuli.
  11. It made you better at managing anxiety.
  12. It enhanced your self-confidence and self-esteem.
  13. It made you more creative.

All three of our children had piano lessons early in their schooling. They all did music through high school then took different paths afterwards. After her high school girl band and college chorale experience, our oldest plays piano just for her own pleasure now. Our middle, Nathan Mills, moved from piano to classical guitar and is now doing music professionally and giving lessons himself. Our youngest loves opera and is teaching himself the harp. Music lessons are definitely worth their investment…even beyond the music itself.

2) Final Fantasy – No, this isn’t some bucket list or deathbed wish. This is a video game. In fact, it’s a very popular one and has been around since 1987. This past week marked its 15th update. During our boys’ growing up years, I wasn’t enamored of video games, but I also never really sat down and got to know what they were about (my mistake). Final Fantasy is a good-vs.-evil battle game. Its musical themes are beyond beautiful. Our son, Nathan, has arranged many of the themes for classical guitar. Most recently, he has posted the Valse di Fantastica. As I’ve listened to this piece over and over, it makes me wonder at the times I kicked him off gaming to do something else more valuable with his time. Yet, the music stayed in his head and heart. I’m glad he’s kept the music…and here it is for you.

3) Grandchildren – These littles are so worth the wait. I say if you don’t have your own grands, then find some to love. Never enough love for children – tiny ones or those nearly grown. Photo Credit: Pixabay, Pixabay

Reuters posted a news story by Madeline Kennedy that touts the health benefit for seniors of occasionally caring for their grandchildren. Without going into the statistics, this German study reported that those who care for their grandchildren, on an occasional basis, actually live longer.

This and other studies (see article) point to time caring for grandchildren as benefiting cognitive function, as well as physical and mental health of the grandparent. These benefits could be enjoyed by caregivers not related to the children as well. Also a distinction was made that the study related to occasional care-giving (rather than full-time care) and depended on what was considered stressful or non-stressful by the grandparent.

I say, “let the little children come”.

4) Leadership Guy Jon Mertz – One of the many reasons I love Twitter is how much I learn from those I follow…including learning from those the ones I follow follow. Matt Monge, of The Mojo Company, tweeted this week about Jon Mertz‘s article on Four Essential Leadership Ladders. Mertz is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. He is an intelligent empowering writer on leadership (as is Matt Monge).

Photo Credit: MaxPixal

In Mertz’s article on leadership ladders, he’s not talking about building or climbing ladders for our own success but for the success of others. What a lovely and timely concept! He prescribes four different leadership ladders – family, personal, organizational, and community. Read his piece here.

Within his article on leadership ladders, he references his 3 articles below. I read them all, and you will want to as well.

Discontentment – a Great Leadership Challenge – Jon Mertz (don’t miss the comments at the end of the article.)

Leadership Fails and Who Cares? – Jon Mertz

Always, Always Entangle Purpose With Life Work – Jon Mertz

5) Smorgasbord on Success – OK, we all define success in many ways. Couldn’t think of another exact word – being effective, making a living, realizing a dream, leading well. I’ve been reading a lot lately about leadership and about business start-ups. This week has made for a bounty of discovery on these topics (including Jon Mertz above). I’m just going to post the links and you can choose what tickles your itch this week.

My biggest take-away is that if we’re willing to learn, apply what we learn, and push out of our comfort zone, we can make extraordinary advances in our work and workplace. I really believe that, no matter what our age or level. Here are some writers who say the same:

7 Habits of Highly Effective FreelancersEric Rosenberg

How to Boost Your (and Others’) Emotional IntelligenceTomas Chamorro-Premuzic  and Michael Sanger

Mark Cuban, Kobe Bryant, and 15 Other People Whose Incredible Work Ethic Paid Off Jacquelyn Smith

Why the Best Idea Doesn’t Always WinScott Berkun

20 Habits for Success I Learned Working for Two Billionaires Paul C. Brunson

Enjoying reading, thinking, talking about it with those who love you…and being outside. Please always share your thoughts with me in the Comments.

Bonuses:

YouTube Video – Andy Andrews – 50 Famous Parental Sayings

Actual True Meanings – Classic Fairy Tales – Tongue-in-cheek – by Francesco Marciuliano

5 Friday Faves – Body Language, the Wisdom of Andy Andrews, Healing Arts, Cheese, and Don’t Waste Your Life

It’s FRIDAY! Wrapping up another week that roared by. Without further ado, here are five of my favorite finds.

1) Body Language – Since our moms first instructed us to “smile at the nice lady” or “stand up straight”, we’ve been aware of the impact of body language. Posture, attitude, and approachableness are all a part of that.Photo Credit: DevZone

We communicate so much through our faces and bodies. Eye contact is a big one as well as what we do with our eyes – as in rolling them or staring off.  What does our body language convey?

Are we too self-important to engage with the person in front of us? Are our children growing up too cool to be bothered with the people around them?

Earlier this week, I saw a 2-minute video of UConn basketball coach Geno Auriemmas talk about body language. He nailed it! Not just in athletics but in any other life situation. We can still help our children and grandchildren to think beyond themselves…as we model it, too.

Geno Auriemma’s Advice: Body Language matters on Court and On Bench

How Coaches Evaluate Body Language During A Game – Joe Leccesi

2) Wisdom of Andy Andrews – Andy Andrews is an author and speaker. Years ago, I read his book The Traveler’s Gift – Seven Decisions That Determine Personal Success and then more recently his book The Noticer – Sometimes All A Person Needs Is A Little Perspective. Photo Credit: Andy Andrews

Andrews is so engaging. His books are highly readable and full of wisdom. His easy writing style is like having the author himself telling you the story out loud (in fact, in his audio books he does just that). I used his book The Traveler’s Gift in teaching ESL while we lived in Morocco.  The adult students loved it!

Andrews’ Seven Decisions (see image below) were gleaned from his own life experience and through reading and researching. He read over 200 biographies of  great men and women of history. What was it in their character or circumstance that led to their greatness?

In his book The Traveler’s Gift, he fleshes out the Seven Decisions through the story of a desperate man’s fantastical visitation with historical figures, learning their stories and gaining their wisdom.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

The Seven Decisions – A Breakdown of “The Traveler’s Gift” – Keith Laskey

Q & A with Andy Andrews

The Traveler’s Gift – Seven Decisions That Determine Personal Success – Andy Andrews

The Noticer – Sometimes All A Person Needs Is A Little Perspective – Andy Andrews

 3) Healing Arts – I was excited to hear recently that the local VA hospital incorporates the arts in the treatment of veterans with PTSD.  We read so much these days about post traumatic stress disorder. We see it in the lives of soldiers returning home from war as well as in the lives of survivors of adverse childhood experiences.
Photo Credit: Pinterest

How humanizing and honoring to see that visual and performance arts are being used right alongside medical treatment for our veterans.

Healing arts can include so many different expressions – photography, drawing, spoken word, story-telling, and music. During college, our son, Nathan, played his classical guitar as a volunteer at the medical center nearby. I have friends who also facilitate art projects, therapeutic story-telling, and photography.

It’s a beautiful thing.
Using Music to Help Parkinson’s Disease – Video Besides working with PTSD survivors, music can benefit patients with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s/Dementias.

4) Cheese – One of my absolute favorite foods. My heart goes out to those who have dairy allergies or lactose intolerance. Our life overseas even had an element of cheese discovery. Often when people live outside their home countries, they have cravings for what feels like home. The longer and happier you live in another country, those cravings subside. It happened for us in many ways. However, we were thankful that each of our resident countries had great cheese.

Egyptian cheeses most enjoyed by Egyptians are gebna rūmi (similar to a hard Romano cheese), and Gebna bēḍa (a soft salty cheese). We ate those cheeses but also found a wonderful white cheddar from New Zealand in the larger supermarkets. Tunisian cuisine was much more exotic, but cheese wasn’t a mainstay. There we again ate imported cheese from the Netherlands. Edam cheese encased in a red rind. We used it for everything we would have ordinarily used Cheddar or Mozzarella. Moroccan food again was really wonderful…with few cheese offerings. There was a fresh goat cheese available locally that was yummy. Still we found the Netherlands Edam and were satisfied.Photo Credit: Gouda Cheese Shops, New Zealand

Why the meandering about cheese this week? Not exactly a new find. The reason I’m writing is that my husband sent me searching the answer for why is cheddar cheese in America orange in color.

Well, it turns out you can follow the money for the answer to this. Centuries ago, when cows (Jersey and Guernsey, in particular) were grass-fed, they produced milk that was more golden in color. The color came from the beta-carotene in the grass. This golden-colored milk yielded a deep golden cheese. The deeper the color translated to the higher the quality. In fact, consumers were (and still are) willing to pay more for a deeper colored cheese.

Cheddar is the preferred cheese in the US, and most people associate it with its orange color (even though there are white Cheddars). Dyes (more natural dyes now, like the plant seed Annatto) are used to produce the deep color. In these days of the artisanal farmers, cows are becoming more grass-fed, and we see cheeses of deeper colors (without dyes added).

[Probably more than you ever wanted to know about our food preferences or the color of cheese.]

5) Don’t Waste Your Life – In 2000, a much younger John Piper preached to a crowd of young people at a Passion Conference. He focus in this sermon was to urge these college students not to miss the Kingdom of God before them…not to waste their lives on what wouldn’t last. Here is a brief (7-minute) excerpt you might want to watch. It is gripping.

John Piper is not against enjoying the glorious gifts God has given us (see John Piper Is Not Anti-Seashell – Trevin Wax). He just wanted those students…and any of us after them…to know our lives can make a difference…if we don’t waste our lives.Photo Credit: The Gospel Coalition

God gave us the beauty of this world…and He gave us eternal life, if we receive it…He gave us more…He gives us Himself…

That’s it for me.

Have a beautiful weekend. Please share any of your favorites in the Comments below.

Monday Morning Moment – Elevating Our Work – with John Burke and Benjamin Hardy

Photo Credit: Benjamin P. Hardy (l), John Burke (r)

On the weekend, I was catching up with a bunch of friends who gather occasionally to keep relationships up-to-date. The question around the table was “So what’s new and exciting?” That usually elicits baby news, job changes, latest relationship, and emotional or situational struggles. I was completely engaged in what they were all saying…and then it was my turn.

I had nothing.

After stammering over what I could add, I pretty much just confessed to the mundane nature of my life. Vanilla was the only flavor that came to mind.

On the drive home, clarity prevailed and the largeness of the past year’s events filled my mind’s eye like watching an action film on the big screen. More “new and exciting” than I imagined could happen in a year – a grandson’s birth, a cancer diagnosis, my father’s illness and death were just some of the scenes of the last several months.

Then, right there, in the dark car, I was filled with gratitude that a merciful God filled all of that with His presence. Sometimes I forget to say out loud how incredibly good God is to be in our lives…and to never leave us alone in the hard.

Today’s “new and exciting” is that I am cancer-free right now, that darling baby is the star of his own music video, and acute grief in losing our dad is shifting to savoring memories of all our years together.

There’s more though…
Later in the weekend, I read this enlightening piece written by Benjamin P. Hardy. He interviewed composer and pianist John Burke about how he pushes himself to create.
Burke listed out four strategies that he regularly uses to “elevate” his work.

1. Always Work on Something You’ve Never Done Before

2. Map It All Out From the Beginning

3. Apply More Layers of External Pressure Immediately

4. Put Creation Time On Your Daily Schedule

Read Hardy’s piece for the particulars of Burke’s creative habits.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Burke’s approach to work, in general, and creating music, in specific resonated with me for two big reasons. The first, is that I had seen his system for creating in the habits of our composer/guitarist son, Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar). The second reason is that I see what the “new and exciting” had done to my own creative habits.

I had settled into a sameness, a smallness, that had become a prolonged recovery time for me. Healing was imperative, but there comes a time when we gather ourselves up and get back into life. The Hebrew King David’s example came sharply to mind – after praying and fasting for his terribly ill son – 2 Samuel 12:18-20 – at the news the child died, David rose up, washed and dressed, worshiped God, and ate.

The “new and exciting” for this Monday is to take John Burke’s strategies to heart. When a person gets her life back after a cancer diagnosis, and recovery is behind her, the best medicine is to get on with life…with a renewed passion and intentionality.

Thank you, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Hardy.

My husband has described this “elevating our work” with the phrase “Shifting to the next gear”. That’s what I want for this next chapter of my work life. I’ve been driving the service roads, and now it’s time to get back out on the highway. To adjust my life to a greater difficulty and higher speed.

Elevating our work requires adjusting our thinking in that direction as well. [See links below.]

I’m ready to take the next gear.

How about you?

John Burke: 4 Strategies to Continually Elevate Your Work – Benjamin P. Hardy

Persevere – My Interview with Grammy-Nominated Pianist and Composer, John Burke – Podcast – Katy Galli

John Burke – YouTube Channel

10 Steps to Successful Thought Leadership to Elevate Your Career and Your Organization – Glenn Llopis

A Health Blog – 10 Proven Ways to Help Boost Creative Thinking

Elevate Your Leadership – Marlene Chism

To Expand Your Influence, Elevate Your Capacity to Think – John Maxwell

Critical Thinking Exercises: 9 Facts and How They Elevate Your Mind – Katrina Manning

Kids on Drugs….I Mean, Screens

Photo Credit: Flickr

I have a confession to make.

There’s a precious little girl in my life who calls me “Ga” (because she can’t yet say “Gram”). Not even 20 months old, she has learned well how to use her tiny index finger to point for us to take her wherever in the house or yard she wants to go. She demonstrates her mastery of body parts by pointing that finger to her eye, nose, mouth, etc. when we call out the word. Just recently, she holds up that singular wee finger when identifying the number “win”.

My heart melts.

Unfortunately, I am a culprit contributing to the delinquency of a minor…no, no. Not that…but I have contributed to her developing that index finger further in playing with my smart phone. She knows how to scroll through pictures and she knows how to tap the “play” icon to start up videos.

Is that so horrible? What’s the harm?

[Here’s the disclaimer. There is no judgment here whatsoever for the sleep-deprived moms out there who hand their preschooler their smart phone or tablet while nursing or dressing the baby…or trying to get dinner prepared…or (fill in the blank). I remember the years of small ones myself, so many years ago. In fact, the TV as babysitter was my go-to device to get stuff done or maintain my own supposed sanity. Not just for the little ones but for myself, just to watch something for my own relaxation. Of course, they were watching with me…so I had to consider the possible impact of that then, as I’m writing about screens now.]Photo Credit: Pexels

My confession comes from a place of discovery. The problem is not that this toddler likes looking at pictures of her family on my phone. That has to be a morally neutral (even positive) thing. Also not a problem is her fondness for her Uncle Nae’s music videos. She has her favorites and daily asks to see those (Dayman and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas)…among others…several others.

The problem is when she doesn’t get her way. When Mommy intervenes or when Gram comes to her senses about the amount of screen time she’s facilitating. Then this funny, sweet, curious little girl flings her head back, attempts a body-slam, and emits a piercing angry cry against those who would keep her from her screen(s).

Morally neutral or even positive goes out the window at that point. Given her reaction, when does something soothing and enriching like family photos and videos cross a line…out there in a few kiddie years…to a screen or internet addiction?

I don’t think I’m over-reaching here. There is balance absolutely, but if we don’t even consider the risk, we won’t take steps to keep screen use healthy for our children/grandchildren. I’m dealing with this in my own head right now…and in my habits.

Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.

But it’s even worse than we think.

We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex. – Dr. Nicholas Kardaras

I was reminded of when our boys were middle schoolers. A friend of theirs came over to spend the night. They played video games for hours. When we finally told the boys to take a break, the friend actually became more and more anxious, even to the point of not being able to get his breath. We had to take him home.

Now all toddlers are not going to end up heroin…I mean, tech junkies. Again, there is a balance in how we determine what’s a healthy use of electronic devices and where limits need to be set.

It’s just something to think about. My confession here relates to the personal struggle I have with internet dependence. I was a late adopter of smart phones (my first being in 2013). At the time, my job was a communications strategist for a new work team. Managing a blog, Twitter and Facebook pages, and other office communications kept me online most of the time. Online and distracted by it. Still a struggle for me to have balance in this area.

I don’t want to have that sort of influence on this darling granddaughter, our tinier grandson, or others who will come after.

Before smartphones and Wi-Fi, I was a people-watcher and a people-engager. I read books more. Had people over all the time. Now, don’t get me wrong…those things still happen…but screens are a huge distraction for me. I would love to be one of the nurturers for our grandchildren of a different sort of life… Screen time is going to happen every day, sure…but not to the point where they don’t prefer talking face-to-face with people nor be a part of great adventures or discover the world (in real life).Photo Credit: Flickr

How are you handling your own electronic version of life? Please share in the Comments section. You will find helpful links below – articles and books. All the articles are practical and empowering. [I have not yet read the books; they are recommended by the authors of some of the articles below.]

As for our little one’s love of her uncle’s videos? She will still be watching them, just not over and over and over. Fortunately she can also enjoy the music (without benefit of the screens) because we are Patreon patrons of her uncle with his MP3s as perks). Those music files were a great help recently to this tiny girl enduring a long roadtrip. Listening to her favorites, she finally fell asleep.

Peace.