Transformation Gameplan

Transformation

Photo by Foundry on Pixabay.com

Someone had posted this quotation without attribution on Facebook last week.

Inspiration and information without personal application will never amount to transformation.

The quotation resonated with me in a powerful way so I researched it.

Embarrassingly enough, it was from a book I had already read. I say embarrassingly because not only had I read the book within the past two years but also I had written about it in this post from June 24, 2017.

Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst contains many gems of wisdom. In my mind, the Inspiration / Information / Application / Transformation quote has to be one of the most universally applicable pieces of advice ever.

Consider these three scenarios:

You’ve been stuck in a horrible work environment for several years. A friend gives you some great advice about a new job-hunting website. He also gives you a pep talk about your many outstanding characteristics. So you have the information and you’ve been inspired. BUT unless you apply yourself and actually go to the site and do the work of finding new employment, you’ll still be in that life-sucking job this time next year.

You read an article about getting back into shape after the age of ___ (fill in the blank). The article is saturated with easy-to-understand information about the many benefits of exercise at any age. Not only that, but there are links to free online videos to help you perform the movements correctly. “I can do this!” you shout. But neither your body nor your health will be transformed unless you do the work.

You’re interested in deepening your faith and/or spirituality so you sign up for a study group at church. The group is amazingly supportive and the book being used is rich in fascinating information. But life happens. You skip a homework assignment, then you don’t find the time to read the next chapter, and decide to drop out. No application = no transformation.

We watch TED talks, read books, research online, and attend classes and seminars that inspire us and provide the information needed to take whatever step we’re considering taking. But when we just let that information seep out of our brains and allow the inspiration to languish, it’s as if it never even happened.

Lest you think I’m pointing fingers and holding up myself as a sterling example of accomplishment, uh, no. Sorry to disappoint you.

In the past, I’ve stayed too long in a joyless job. I’ve worked my way into shape and lazily watched it slip away several times. I purchased the book Crafting a Rule of Life two years ago and haven’t gotten farther than Chapter 3.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” (Attributed to various people including Buddha.)

And Richard Bach said, “We teach best what we most need to learn.”

In my case, often I WRITE best what I most need to learn.

So thanks, Lysa TerKeurst, for the words of wisdom. I promise this time I’ll remember them.

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About the book Uninvited

Contemplative Thinking About Your Hands

hands

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash.com

My last post about our hands got me thinking deeper on the subject of hands. I made the point that often we forget about taking care of our hands, and really, do we think much about them at all? Likely no, unless they’re not working as they should whether from an injury or illness.

One definition of contemplative practice is that it’s a reminder to connect to what we find most meaningful. Certainly our hands are meaningful to us and here are just some of the positive ways they make a tremendous impact in our lives.

We wave hello and perhaps shake hands or bump fists. We use the same gesture to wave goodbye and maybe kiss our fingers as the start of blowing a farewell kiss.

Our hands make it possible to create art. There are many forms such as drawing, throwing pottery, watercolor painting, photographing, creating sculpture, and finger-painting.

We create with our hands, whether that means sketching an architectural plan, writing a love letter or a novel, or typing a blog post.

Our world is filled with music with the help of our hands from the shaking of a tambourine or cowbell (that’s for any readers who might have once been hippies), to fingers racing across piano keys or hands holding a cello’s bow. When a musical performance ends, we clap our hands to show appreciation.

Our hands help us stay in shape by holding weights or supporting our own body weight in a Yoga position. We throw darts and footballs and dribble basketballs.

We plant spring bulbs, pull summer weeds, rake autumn leaves and shovel winter snow.

We talk with our hands; our gestures help convey our verbal message. Without saying a word, our hands can convey the message of stop, wait a second, or come on.

With our children we play peek-a-boo, move board game pieces, hold a “hand” of cards, and put together puzzles. We spoon out cough medicine when the kids are sick and we use our fingers to check for a feverish forehead. Our hands help us braid hair, tie shoes, and apply Big Bird Band-Aids to boo-boos.

Our hands help us in the process of creating meals from jotting that grocery list, putting items into our carts, paying at checkout, and everything else that goes into our being able to call out, “Dinner’s ready.” Kneading bread dough, filling a muffin cup with 2/3 of a cup of batter, or pouring chocolate chips into cookie dough isn’t possible without our hands. We wrap presents, tie bows, and decorate Christmas trees and Easter eggs with our hands’ assistance.

I’m just barely touching the seemingly endless list of the many ways our hands play a vital role in our lives.  Contemplate your own hands as you use them throughout the day tomorrow.

 

A Book By Any Name

Book

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

My little town has been blessed with an independent book store on Main Street. The Old Town Open Book had a soft opening last Friday.

They sold 1700 volumes in six hours! The store was so busy it couldn’t even close on time; the local online paper reported the store stayed open an additional 90 minutes to finish ringing up customers.

What a wonderful problem!

The actual grand opening occurs this Friday evening and over 1000 people on Facebook have indicated they’re going.

I love my Virginia town of Warrenton and its people. Frankly, I’m not in the least surprised by the outpouring of support for our new bookstore.

On the site SeriousReading.com, there is a post called 30 Reasons to Read Books. Check out their post (link below) to read the other 27 benefits of reading a book besides figuring out a new skill, reducing stress, improving vocabulary.

When I used to interview job applicants, I consistently slipped in the question, “What was the last book you read?” Typically, I’d get the deer in headlight stare as a response. Occasionally, someone would answer “Uh, the Bible?” But they would phrase it in such a way to indicate they weren’t quite sure, and perhaps I knew the correct answer.

My public speaking students receive instruction from me on where and how to research a presentation topic. When I reach the point where I include a public library, I’ve actually had people laugh. Recently someone blurted out, “Do they still have those around?” That is just sad.

I encourage students to check out their local library because not only are there books, magazines, and DVDs to help with their research, but also modern libraries have an amazing array of electronic resources to help the public.

Many people, it seems, believe the only way to research a topic is by typing G-O-O-G-L-E.

Having just finished a recently published book titled I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel, I was reminded how vital books are to the human race. Maybe the lack of reading is one of the issues causing so many problems in our world. I wonder how many members of Congress read as a pastime? Mr. President?

Please…get a copy of this book and read it. But no—put down that phone or computer mouse. I don’t want you to order a copy online. I want you to find a bookstore, the smaller the better. If they don’t have it in stock, very likely they’ll be happy to order it for you. And yes, you can tell them Norma sent you.

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SeriousReading.com link

The I’d Rather Be Reading book site

 

So Noted: Grab a Pen and Take Some Notes

Taking notes

Photo courtesy of difisher on Pixabay.com

I’m a note-taker. When I attend a meeting, presentation, or class, you can bet that pen and paper go with me. When I teach a class, within the first five minutes I am recommending note-taking to my students.

Studies show that we’re more likely to have long-term retention of new information if we write notes during the event and then periodically review those notes. Science tells us that taking notes by hand is better than via electronically.

And if we teach others the new information, our retention rate can jump as high as 90%.

When I find notes on an event I really enjoyed, reading those notes brings back a sense of my initial happiness.

Such was the case with Leadercast Women 2018. Last October I attended this simulcast with a group of local women as we joined thirty thousand women watching from around the world.

Here’s a paraphrased quote or idea from each of the nine speakers:

Jess Ekstrom: Failures legitimize quitting only if we let them.

Marilyn Tam: Ask yourself, what am I holding on to that is holding me back?

Ritu Bhasin:  What is one attribute you are not sharing due to fear of judgment?

Celeste Headlee: A computer’s operating system can multi-task, but a human being cannot.

Julia Landauer:  Pursue what’s terrifying and amazing.

Clemantine Wamariya: Be the storyteller of your life; create your own ending.

Sisters Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush: When you know someone has your back, you can be braver and take more chances.

Molly Fletcher: My personal philosophy is, “What a gift—I’m different!”

Had I not taken notes during this day-long presentation, it is highly unlikely I could be sharing ANY of these bits of wisdom.

And just think: Now that I’ve shared them, I have a 90% chance of remembering them forever!

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Daniel Pink less-than-2-minute podcast on taking notes by hand

Estimated percentages for retaining new information based on how passively or actively we take in the new ideas

 

An Obsession is Born

Obsession

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Since I don’t watch the news or live television, I’m not the person to turn to for pop culture information or the latest show business buzz. But I couldn’t avoid seeing the online much-ado about Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper singing their nominated song Shallow live at the Oscars. So I pulled up YouTube and watched the two main characters from A Star is Born sing to each other. The rest of the world didn’t exist.

And that led me to watch the movie clip. And then I listened to the soundtrack. Soon I was viewing interviews and finding other clips from the movie to devour. Finally, I saw the movie at the theater.

Don’t think I’ve gone off the deep end. I’m just kidding about this post’s title; I’ve never been easy to impress and certainly am not star struck.

But I am impressed with the authenticity behind the making of the movie.

In case you don’t know the storyline, Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a seasoned musician with serious drug and alcohol addictions. He hears Gaga’s character Ally singing in a bar, and they begin a friendship. She’s a plain-Jane singer/songwriter with raw talent oozing from her pores. Jackson coaxes her on stage to sing Shallow with him at a concert. The two fall in love and join their musical talents and lives. As Ally’s career begins to soar as a solo artist, Jackson’s begins to slide as he struggles with his demons. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I’ll just remind you to have tissues or a hankie with you when you watch the movie.

Here are a few of the tactics employed to make the movie authentic:

  • They sang and played everything LIVE. There was NO lip-synching to a pre-recorded track as in most other films that feature singing.

  • The concert segments were filmed in front of actual concert goers. Cooper “borrowed” the stage just before several real concerts started. So those scenes of concert venues, with people screaming, clapping, and waving with outstretched arms, feel real because they ARE real.

  • Willie Nelson’s son Lukas and his Promise of the Real band were Jackson Maine’s band. Lukas co-wrote some of the music in the film.

  • Veteran actor Sam Elliott, playing Maine’s much older half-brother Bobby, said that everyone involved with the movie struck a real and deep relationship with each other. That’s why the chemistry worked in this movie; it wasn’t just acting. They felt it. One word that came up in most interviews was “trust.” They trusted Cooper as director and each other as actors. One comment was, “We lived as a family of trust.”

  • While the movie was filmed in less than two months, Cooper spent several years getting ready for the role. He trained with a dialect coach for twenty hours a week for a year on voice exercises and lowering his voice by an octave. Cooper knew who he wanted his character to sound like:  Sam Elliott. So he listened to recordings of Elliott’s voice and ended up with a gravelly, sort-of-mild-country-Texas accent. The movie uses this as an inside joke when Bobby accuses Jackson of “stealing his voice.”

  • How did actor/not musician Cooper enhance his musical talent? He spent eighteen months in vocal lessons and six months of guitar and piano lessons to prepare for his role.

  • There were many moments of raw emotion and real tears. One of the most touching scenes was brief and silent. An interviewer summed it up this way: “If a man can make you cry by backing up a pickup truck…”

So yes, bring a hankie.

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Shallow, the movie clip

Good Morning America interview with Cooper and Elliott 

Color My World

Color my world with snow

Photo by Norma Thatcher

My spot of Virginia had an end-of-winter snowfall on Friday. The temperature was just right to produce picture-perfect snow; every single tree branch and bush was deliciously and thickly coated in white. The soggy marsh that’s supposed to be my yard was painted a pristine pearl except, of course, for the tracks of Mr. Fox who came by to see what I had left out for him.

Winter can be so dreary. The brief interlude of snow made everything bright again—for one day. Now we’re back to the blah sameness of grey.

I know Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real illness, a type of depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, the specific cause is unknown but it’s believed that reduced sunlight is a major factor. I’m wondering if it’s not just the diminished light but also the lack of color that depresses people in the bleak winter.

According to the website Regain.us, there is an Eastern medicine field called Color Therapy. While it’s not recognized as valid in the West, some people swear by it. The site says, Color therapy has been around at least since the time of Ancient Egypt. Egyptians believed in the power of light and used different colors of light to promote healing. Color therapy has continued to be important in some cultures. Even in Western societies that tend to prefer modern, institutionalized medicine, natural healers have continued to use colors to help people improve their physical and emotional health.”

What if rain actually looked like this card by American Craft?

Color is important to me. I rarely wear neutral shades any longer, and when I do, you can count on sparkly jewelry or a bright scarf to offset it.

Seeing designer all-white kitchens in magazines makes me break out in a sweat. To me, these look more like a sterile operating room instead of a home’s kitchen. I can never envision a family cooking, baking, doing dishes, leaning against the counters laughing at something in that environment. Well, maybe if they were masked and gloved. I can’t imagine making a mess in an all-white kitchen. The thought of my bright red homemade spaghetti sauce bubbling up and splatting against a white wall is enough to keep me up at night.

Nope. I need my colors.

Do-it-yourself coloring card by American Craft

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Color My World song by Chicago

Color Therapy website

 

Giving Up or Taking On…or Both?

Lent giving up taking on

Image courtesy of ulleo on Pixabay.com

The beginning of Lent marks the season of getting ourselves ready for Easter. Many Christians view it as a time of increased or contemplative prayer. Others consider it a space to pare down the busyness of our lives and minds to focus on our faith.

According to LifeWayResearch.com, most Americans who observe Lent do so as follows:

Give up favorite food or beverage

Attend church services

Pray more

Give to others

Fast from a bad habit

Fast from a favorite activity

It seems the more “popular” topic of Lent is a time of fasting from (giving up) something we enjoy OR taking on something to enrich our closeness to our faith.

In the giving-up category of food and drink items, alcohol and chocolate usually head the top five list. Other items include meat, soda, sweets in general, coffee, fast food, and chips. (There are some people that I pray do NOT give up coffee. You know who you are.)

I have a friend who posted on Facebook that she’s giving up dropping the F-bomb for Lent. Just like last year. Since this friend is one of my nicest followers, let me say this: Give it up for good! You’re smart so you know it takes just 21 days to break a bad habit. The church is giving you 40 days. Use that time to your advantage. Imagine that one of your girls is always within earshot. OK, I’m done with the nagging. At least I know you won’t be cussing at me for a while.

Another friend told me that last year she gave up looking at her cellphone at every red light. (Funny how those habits can sneak up on us, isn’t it?)

Making rounds on Facebook right now is the 40 days = 40 items Lenten challenge. You’re to get out an industrial-size trash bag and each day place an item of clothing or a household item that you no longer wear/use. After Easter, donate the bag to a charity such as the Salvation Army.

I’ve decided to give up and take on several things.

I’m giving up three “sticky page” photo albums created in the 80s before we knew that wasn’t the best way to care for our precious photographs. In the same category, I’m giving up two large boxes of loose accumulated unmarked photos situated in an upstairs closet.

No, I’m not disposing of these photos. I’m taking on a labor of love by creating a number of scrapbooks with the various photos that make the cut to tell our family stories so that they’ll never be forgotten.

I’m giving up the need to hold on to every single photo just because it’s there. The blurry, unfocused, too dark, too light, who-or-what-in-the-heck-is-that photos will be culled.

I’m taking on reading a chapter a day of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. Conveniently enough, there are forty chapters.

I would love to hear what my Christian readers are giving up or taking on for Lent. I’m hoping that there is just that one F-bomb entry.

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Article on ChristianityToday.com

 

Show Me The Money…Or At Least How To Handle It

Money doesn't grow on trees

Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

When my husband and I have finished a restaurant meal and the server attempts to hand my husband the check, he has a standard response as he gestures toward me: “Please give it to the Vice President of Finance.”

My husband is perfectly capable of reviewing the bill, calculating a tip, and pulling out a credit card. But for whatever reason, I just do it. And although hubby is our tax preparer, I’m the person in charge of our family finances as in paying the bills, reviewing medical statement charges, and balancing the checkbook.

According to an article in financial advisor Ric Edelman’s Inside Personal Finance, that puts me in the minority. Citing a study by the Journal of Consumer Research, Ric says, “The partner who has been responsible for the household finances has kept current with the family’s finances. He—it’s almost always the husband, according to the study—has continually expanded his knowledge about personal finance, because he’s constantly dealing with these issues. Meanwhile, the wife’s financial literacy stagnates. And the longer they are married, the greater this gap grows.”

This is a problem when the “financial” spouse dies or becomes incapacitated. Because along with grieving, the survivor may not be aware of how or when to pay the bills.

I became aware of the issue of financial illiteracy a couple of decades ago when I was a member of the Business and Professional Women. We held financial classes in the basics such as balancing a checkbook. It was amazing how many working women didn’t know how to do this because their spouses handled it.

Of course, online banking and bill paying have made this easier IF you are computer literate. For those who are not, I imagine that suddenly having to take on learning about and understanding the computer and the household financial management at the same time might be downright terrifying.

I’ve made it super easy for my husband to step in should something happen to me. All financial obligations are maintained on a spreadsheet, and each one is paid online except my annual trash collection expense. Categories are divided into pay monthly / quarterly / annually, and they’re set up in order of the due date. Most of the expenses are set to autopay; those few that don’t carry that option are highlighted to pay manually online. The websites are noted along with the user ID and the unique 12+ character passwords. (NOTE: If you use the same password for all of your accounts, please take the time to change that. And don’t make your password PASSWORD or 1password or something similar. You’re not a lazy person so why be lazy about your passwords?)

The bottom of the spreadsheet contains information on our mortgage and car loan so that all the pertinent information is immediately available such as interest rate, the original amount of loan, and the current balance.

As Jack Reacher says, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.” Our adult daughter is aware of how to access all this same information should something happen to both her parents.

I encourage you to take the steps to make sure your financial matters can be handled easily when someone else needs to step in. If your spouse handles the responsibility, learn about it now. If your parents are living, talk to them about this topic. Should you have adult children, pass along the wisdom of being financially literate.

It’s never too soon to be smart about money. But it can be too late.

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Journal of Consumer Research information

Inside Personal Finance

 

Rock, Scissors, Paper

Paper matters

Photo courtesy of Freestocks.org on Unsplash.com

The television show featured a young woman having an argument with her dad. The father was urging her to write down some important information. Her reply was something like this, “My generation doesn’t write stuff down. By posting photos and videos, we SHOW what we’re doing, where we’re going, what we like.”

Okay, I get it, but only in a small way. They’re young, have active and busy lives, so if they can make a statement by snapping a picture and posting it, then they’re done, ready to move on to something else.

But it just feels so fleeting. Some postings, such as Facebook’s My Story, disappear into the ether after 24 hours. Gone, baby, gone.

This is so different than the advice from Joan Didion, journalist and screenplay writer. She advised aspiring writers to carry around notebooks to record moments of inspiration.

Marina Keegan, a young journalist who at 22 died in a car accident just days after college graduation, kept notebooks of what she termed “interesting stuff.” These were things she noticed that would likely have found their way into a story had she lived.

Thoughts and ideas are so fleeting. And there’s a permanence to paper that gives me comfort.

This point was driven home in the last few weeks when I finished a scrapbook of the life story of my son Tim who died ten years ago, also at the age of 22.

From paper calendars, I’ve been able to chronicle the everydayness of his life from birth up through middle school. How could I have ever simply recalled so many details?

By reading his elementary school writing assignments, I can tell you that his typical pattern was to write about four aspects:

a) what he was wearing (“Today I have on a camoflog shirt. It’s cool.”)

b) what he was doing (“My frend Daniel is coming to my house to play games.”)

c) something relating to super heroes or action figures or comic books

d) a snippet of what was happening at home (“My mom is away on a bizniss trip.”)

Because they were captured on paper, I’m reminded of words and phrases he mispronounced. For years he referred to last night as “yesterdaynight.”

And yes, the album contains many printed photos too, because pictures DO tell a story. But scrolling through photos on a phone’s small screen shot by shot is NOT the same as really looking at a spread of photographs on a page that you can hold as you read the notations I’ve added.

And in case you think I’m contradicting the recent advice I gave on clearing out stuff, I’m not and here’s why: The album contains a half dozen of the school writing assignments—just enough to paint a picture of the moment. And the rest I respectfully parted with. That’s how I worked my way through three boxes of papers, pictures, cards, and mementos: evaluating and choosing just enough to include and then parting with the rest.

It was not easy. And I’ll admit to retrieving two pieces from the floral trash can at my feet and finding a place for them in the book.

I have a meaningful end product that fulfills the mom-mission I set out to accomplish: joyously documenting the story of my son’s life.

Had I NOT kept paper records, would I have remembered that at age 3, Tim called bubblegum buddlebum? Or that at four he told an uncle, “Unk Bill, you have a ball head.”

Those are memories too sweet not to remember. We need to take action to preserve our memories because it’s human nature to forget stuff.

Write that down.

An Abstract Kaleidoscope of Goodness

An Abstract Kaleidoscope of Goodness

Photo courtesy of Geralt on Pixabay.com

The public speaking homework I had assigned my leadership students ended up being more difficult than it sounded.

From a list of sixty characteristics of an effective leader, each student was to choose just three and in a class presentation, convince the rest of us why their three chosen attributes were the most vital ones. They could also add their own choices to the list.

Here are just a few of the attributes from the list in alphabetical order:

Approachable / Effective communicator / Empowering / Exceptional decision maker / Forward thinker / Good listener / High integrity / Honest / Open to new ideas / Positive attitude / Resourceful / Sees problems and takes action / Sound character / Visionary

From this small sample, you can understand why it might be hard to choose just three from the full list of sixty.

The best presentations were from the students who considered a REAL past or present boss who was an amazing leader instead of just choosing from the list of words.  In an interesting twist, one student used a bad boss as his example and demonstrated how a good boss would have done things differently. You see, that particular bad boss hogged the credit when a group effort went well and blamed the team when the boss’s own idea produced a massive failure.

Anyhow, that homework assignment prodded my brain to consider my last post about wanting to be someone else when I was twelve. I came up with the question, “What attributes do I see today in other people that I’d like to incorporate into my own being to make me the best person I can be?”

I started by jotting down the names of people I admire and an attribute for each one. But because many of the people have multiple graces, I ended up with a jumbled page that resembled a Sheldon Cooper mathematical model and abstraction. I felt overwhelmed with how to parcel out the credit.

But then I figured, “Why identify the people by name?” Part of what makes good folks admirable is that they’re not looking for recognition or a pat on the back. And because a blogger tends to attract a certain readership base, my guess is that EVERYONE reading this post (and the friends to whom you forward it) are yourselves good people with the same high qualities.

So here is my baker’s dozen list of admirable attributes that YOU collectively possess that I strive to emulate:

Out-of-this-world kindness / Extreme generosity / Unending patience / Forgiveness in full, no strings attached / Everyday thoughtfulness / Willingness to make time for someone who needs you / Laughs easily and often but never at another’s expense / Remembers what is important to others / Quietly respectful / Works tirelessly for something you believe in / Encourages others in big issues and small ones / Influences others to be the best they can be / loves all of God’s creatures, regardless of how different or seemingly unlovable they may appear

I believe that others DO rub off on us and that, in addition to our own natures, we end up an abstract kaleidoscope of their goodness.