Going To The Chapel


Photo by Norma Thatcher, October 2017

The tiny brownish-red chapel sits as a focal point against a massive rock formation, towering evergreens, and (when in a season of flowing) a waterfall. A photo of the church in a calendar many years ago intrigued me, and I added it to the bucket list of places I wanted to see with my own eyes.

And so it was on my first visit to Yosemite National Park that I visited the Yosemite Valley Chapel.

Built in 1879 with initial funding from the California State Sunday School Association and other contributions, the building costs were around $4000. It seats about 250 people.

The church was originally situated in a busy community referred to then as the Lower Village. As activity fell away from that area, a decision in 1901 had the church dismantled and moved to the upper Yosemite Village. (See map in the link below.)

In 1966 the interior was restored, and the foundation was raised several feet as a means of coping with spring flooding. However, that wasn’t enough to overcome record floodwaters in 1977 that caused damage. But repairs were made, and improvements continue in order to ensure the chapel will remain open.

The Yosemite Valley Chapel was recognized for its simple architecture in 1973 when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Noted as “a particularly fine example of the early chapels constructed in the Sierra Nevada Mountains,” that recognition helped put the chapel on the map, so to speak.

The chapel is typically open year-round for non-denominational worship services, but the entire Park is temporarily closed due to the smoke-filled unhealthy air from the wildfires.

The chapel is also a popular wedding destination. Renting for $850 during the peak season, it makes for a lovey minimalist venue. In order to maintain the pristine beauty of the building and surrounding area, there are, understandably, strict rules such as no throwing of rice or birdseed or flower petals or anything else. And your reception will need to be held elsewhere!

Here is a snapshot of a postcard I bought the last time we visited Yosemite in October 2017. The original photo was taken by Dan Warsinger.


But the calendar photo that originally piqued my interest is glued to the inside back cover of my blog idea notebook. Here it is:


The quotation accompanying the calendar photo is by Paramabansa Yogananda:

“You should be thankful for everything at all times. Realize that all power to think, and speak, and act comes from God, and that He is with you now, guiding and inspiring you.”

 And standing there at that church, gratitude and awe come quite easily.


Chapel of Love by the Dixie Cups

Map showing the Lower Village location

For more photos and information, here’s the official chapel site


Itsy Bitsy Teeny


Someone at a party on New Year’s Day mentioned she was vaguely aware of my blog. It turns out a mutual friend had forwarded her several of my posts over the last few years. “How do you figure out what to write about?” she inquired.

My standard answer is that typically I’m inspired by something I’ve heard or read or seen or done. Or sometimes a story or event from my life seems worthy of sharing. Today’s post is different.

At the risk of sounding like a yaya-new-age Mrs. Mysterio, I’m going to tell you the truth. A word came to me just as I was waking from a short nap today.

The dog and I had been going to just rest on the sofa for a few minutes, but the rain lulled us to sleep. As I began waking, the word infinitesimal kept repeating in my mind in a woman’s voice.

As I became fully awake, I tried to make some sense of it. I couldn’t even recall the exact meaning of infinitesimal and had to look it up. Mainly used in mathematics, it means “so small as to be impossible to measure.”

Great. How do I write about almost nothing? It’s a new year, a new decade. I want to talk about BIG ideas and BIG thoughts, and definitely NOT something so small as to be impossible to measure.

But I’ve learned when a topic strongly presents itself to me, it’s my responsibility to write about it. What slant on this subject might be of help or encouragement to my readers?

In considering the concept, I realized that right now, in this moment in time, I know more than one person who is feeling like an infinitesimal.

Their existence feels like nothing; their lives are nearly unbearable. One is due to the tragic early death of a loved one. Another has a multitude of serious illnesses that afflict him. He said recently that he’s in such unrelenting pain that he wishes he could just disappear.

And I’m willing to bet that each one of you reading this post also knows at least one person who feels so beaten down by life circumstances that he/she feels like an almost-zero.

When people are in that state, we need to be there for them. To me, being there means something specific. It’s not showing up with a casserole and a smile and singing “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.” Each person will have his or her own needs. Listen to your heart and empathically provide what’s needed. It may be simply holding a hand and sitting in silence with them.

This is one time when it’s OK to make something out of (almost) nothing.


As Authentic As A $32 T-shirt


Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay.com

How much would you pay for a Hanes brand tagless black t-shirt? On Hanes.com they run about five bucks each.

But when the streetwear brand Supreme adds their logo (a tiny red rectangle with the word Supreme in white letters) to the bottom, they can sell a package of three for $95.

Supreme was founded in 1994 in New York by James Jebbia. I would say they catered to the young people in the skateboarding world, but that would not be the correct language. They’re now just called skaters.

See how hip I am? Oh wait. According to the urban dictionary, “Hip is a word that is mostly used by older people in an attempt to be accepted by younger generations.”

Here are some of the items offered for sale on the Supreme website: A white t-shirt with an x-ray of a lung for $400, a water bottle for $150, and a Zippo lighter for $250. If you think I’m making any of this up, check it out for yourself on the link below.

Much of the profit is made in what’s called the secondary market because the brand keeps its product in short supply. A limited number of new items are released throughout the year and they sell out quickly.

Remember the select toys at Christmas that every kid wanted and somehow the companies didn’t prepare for that and parents were left pulling out their hair? But then in January, the stock was resupplied. So the kids got the replacement toy and later the must-have toy.

Besides the question of WHY anyone would pay these ridiculous sums of money for ordinary clothing, I can’t imagine young people (average customer age 18-25) having this kind of money to burn.

The WHY answer from Jonathan Gabay, author of Brand Psychology: Consumer Perceptions, Corporate Reputations, has to do with authenticity. He says that being started in New York by actual skaters makes it authentic, or at least seem to be authentic. Because the original customers who wore the clothing weren’t wearing it because it was trendy since it hadn’t become trendy yet.

Still with me? It’s getting deep, I know.

Gabay goes on to say that authenticity has become highly important. “A brand is an extension of one’s self—psychologically, in terms of how you want the world to see you, or what you want the world to believe you are,” says Gabay. “But deeper than that: what you believe you are, through that brand.”

I’m sorry but I think that is just sad. Seriously. My heart goes out to anyone whose self-worth is based on needing to wear clothing that displays a tiny red rectangle with white letters.

That is anything but authentic.


Supreme website


It’s Not Always About a Happy Ending

Happy ending

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

In wrapping up the preparation of a workshop for later this month, my presentation close is, appropriately enough, about endings.

Endings are a big deal: We end our babyhood by learning to walk. Our little kid stage ends on the first day of kindergarten. High school or college graduation may be seen as the end of our formal education. (Although I encourage you to be a lifelong learner.) Our first job with a paycheck and the accompanying first apartment end our years of being financially cared for by others. Retiring is the end of a connection to the actively working world.

All are big deals, indeed. Endings have a sense of significance if done right.

But I have seen and heard speakers reach the end of a speech or presentation and unceremoniously announce, “That’s all I have.”  OR “That wraps up what I wanted to tell you.”

I call that type of ending the Porky Pig close — “Th-th-th-that’s all folks!”

Effectively closing a presentation is one more relevant way to engage your audience so they will remember your message. That’s because we human beings have a tendency to recall endings which can help us connect to the main message.

Daniel Pink’s book WHEN, The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing details fascinating studies about endings and how an ending of significance helps us recall more of the event and makes it more satisfying.

Lest you think I forget what I’ve written about, yes, I have mentioned this book before in my post Time is Not the Enemy. And yes, his book is THAT good to deserve multiple mentions from me.

Here’s a fascinating idea: Our speeches and the stories we share don’t necessarily have to have a happy ending to be well-received and long-remembered. In fact, says Pink, a more satisfying ending contains an element of poignancy which he defines as a complex emotional mix of happiness and sadness.

Online dictionaries couch poignancy in these terms: “evoking a keen sense of sadness or regret…something that deeply affects the emotions…sharply emotional.”  Indeed, the root word origin is the Latin pungere, meaning to sting or pierce.

I like Pink’s understanding best…that bittersweet, roller coaster ride of emotions that wash over your heart where you’re laughing or smiling or gently nodding your head yes even as tears fill your eyes and the lump in your throat makes it almost impossible to swallow.

A perfect example of an ending filled with poignancy is the last five minutes of Toy Story 3. The boy Andy is all grown up and leaving for college. The remainder of his favorite little boy toys (unexpectedly including Woodie) are boxed up, and he delivers them to Bonnie, a little neighborhood girl.

“I’m going away now and I need someone really special to play with them,” Andy tells Bonnie, as he hands over ownership.

Go ahead and watch the ending on the YouTube link below and try not to feel anything. I double-dog dare you.

Daniel Pink says, “…the most powerful endings deliver poignancy because poignancy delivers significance. Adding a small component of sadness to an otherwise happy moment elevates that moment rather than diminishes it.”

We may think we want a happy ending; after all, we’re programmed for it as in, “And they lived happily ever after.”

But Pink goes on to say, “The best endings don’t leave us happy. Instead, they produce something richer—a rush of unexpected insight, a fleeting moment of transcendence, the possibility that by discarding what we wanted we’ve gotten what we need.”


Porky Pig

Toy Story 3 ending



Love is the First Answer

Love is the first answer

Photo courtesy of Gary Bendig on Unsplash

A friend had driven into the city to attend a concert. Traffic had forced the cars to slog along, barely moving down the city streets. Suddenly a young boy, surely no older than ten, jaywalked across her car’s path. He turned and raised his middle finger as he crossed in front of her car.

Put yourself in her place; what is your knee-jerk reaction to this? Anger? Disgust? Disbelief? Fear? Indignation? Contempt? Loathing?

Most of us would likely feel a combination of some of these.

How many of us would have the immediate response of love?

I have to be honest; not me.

Yet I’m in the process of re-reading Minding the Body, Mending the Mind by Dr. Joan Borysenko.  It just so happens something similar happened to the author once.

She too was behind the wheel and was stopped at a traffic light. The car next to her pulled a bit ahead so that the young boy in the backseat was within her line of sight. He too gave Dr. B. the finger.

She ignored her gut reaction and instead reframed the situation to wonder why a child would feel the need to display contempt toward a stranger. Maybe he hadn’t been well-cared for or well-loved. Perhaps his daily life was a steady diet of negativity, coarseness, and insolence.

And so, in the reactive moment, she gathered within herself all the love and forgiveness she could find. She smiled and put forth that positive caring energy toward the boy. The red light turned to green, the cars moved on, and he was gone.

No, the story doesn’t have a miraculous Facebook happy ending. The child didn’t write down her license tag and years later track her down to share how the silent exchange turned around his life, and that he now devoted his life caring for the needy.

But what if?

What if that tiny moment’s silent interaction in his life made a difference to him?

Here’s the truth: Most of the time we will NOT know how our words and actions affect those with whom we have contact, whether that contact is brief or prolonged and intense.

“You are born into the world and will probably never know to whose prayers your life is the answer.”

What powerful words! That’s a whole sermon in one sentence.

We have to ask ourselves, “How will I live if my life is to be the answer to someone’s prayers?”

Love is the first answer.

Because if we first love as we are loved, then everything else falls into place: compassion, empathy, forgiveness, the courage to seek justice, the willingness to help….

You can fill in the blanks for what you consider the rest of the “good stuff.”

But love is the first answer.

An aside….The “you are born into the world…” quote above is my hands-down favorite quote of all time. I wrote it down long ago and attributed it to the Scottish Baptist evangelist and teacher Oswald Chambers. However, searching online I cannot find these exact words. I nearly let the anxiety over proper attribution stop me from sharing them.

I did find a quote from him as follows: “I have the unspeakable knowledge that my life is the answer to prayers…God is blessing me and making me a blessing.” So maybe my favorite quote just didn’t make it online to be found.

Chambers died at the young age of 43 from complications of an appendectomy. It’s interesting to note that the books that are published under his name were compiled by his wife from the shorthand notes she took of his many talks. His words would have been lost forever if not for his wife! Millions of people today read the daily devotionals based on his book My Utmost for His Highest.


Oswald Chambers bio





Let’s Be Real, People (OR) Let’s Be Real People


Real People

Photo courtesy of Andre Spilborgh on Unsplash

When I flipped over my writing room’s wall calendar to August, I was disgusted at the new month’s photo. After seven months of amazing flower garden photography, August’s photo showed three butterflies on a Joe-pye weed plant.

Why did I find that so repulsive? Because the butterflies had been obviously PhotoShopped onto the bush. It was a fake photo.

Come on now. I have taken a dozen snapshots of butterflies on flowers from my own yard over the past six weeks, yet you had to resort to PhotoShop? Even though the name isn’t attractive, Joe-pye weed is gorgeous enough to have stood on its own for the August focus.

I knew I didn’t want to look at that fake photo for 31 days, so I tore it off and have left in place the July picture of a lotus flower.

I admit it. I have an issue with disingenuousness.

Years ago as an office manager, I was meeting with the president and vice-president of our company. Their conversation as I joined them was regarding the custom detailing of their respective automobiles: an Escalade and a Lexus.

Back and forth they went, each trying to outdo each other with the superiority of their detail work guy.

Quickly tiring of the drivel, I said, “I just take my Honda to the carwash.” Ah yes, one of the little people had spoken. They dropped the pretentious conversation.

The latest fakery I’m encountering can be found in marketing emails. Companies send me missives that start with, “Hey Norma!”

It’s as though they are just so excited to talk to me they can hardly stand it.

One email continued on: “You are one smart cookie, Norma.”

Please, you’re too kind.

The smart cookie email’s closing line was, “Hope to hear from you soon! With love and respect,” from the first names of the company’s two principals.

With love? We’ve not even been out on a date.

This kind of false familiarity is a huge turnoff for me.

Then I have another new online friend: Grammarly. This is a great free app that double-checks your grammar and punctuation and offers suggestions for corrections. While I consider myself fairly proficient in these areas, I do appreciate the ability to have a second pair of, uh, “eyes” looking over my work.

But now Grammarly sends me flattering emails via a weekly writing update. Here is what they told me last week:  “Holy smokes. You were quite the busy bee with your writing this past week. You were more productive than 89% of Grammarly users.” Then they displayed my stats:  My “mastery” showed that I was more accurate than 81% of their other users. AND….I had used more unique words than 85% of those other losers.  Err, I mean users.

But Grammarly is also a tough-love friend. Just when they had puffed up my ego to the point of exploding, they dropped the bomb: Over the week I had made twenty other “advanced mistakes” that the free program didn’t correct. Twenty!

But salvation is at hand; for a lump sum annual payment of $140, I can purchase the premium product and have ALL my errors brought to light.

An actual tough-love friend would tell you that the tie you’re wearing clashes with your shirt or that purple lipstick is NOT a flattering shade for women over 30.

But they’d do it for free.


Dance to this while you’re pondering my message. 



Searching for Just the Right Word

Original word

Photo courtesy of Gavin Allanwood on Unsplash

Do you repeat yourself? No, I’m not inquiring whether or not you tell stories repetitiously. (“Say, have I ever told you about the time I….”)

Instead, I’m asking this: Are you word lazy? Many of us are. We get in a rut, using and overusing the same small vocabulary of words.

In a coaching session last month, I pointed out that a client used the word “thing” seventeen times in a fifteen-minute talk.

She uttered phrases such as, “The number one thing we need to watch for is…” and “The important thing to do first is…” and “Which thing has the most impact?”

I’m fond of speech coach Patricia Fripp’s take on the overuse of the word thing. Fripp has been quoted as saying, “Specificity builds credibility.” When we refer to issues, problems, and solutions as “things” we’re being overly non-specific and so we come across as lacking credibility.

Personally, I overuse the word great. I use it so much it has lost its meaning:  A great meal, a great visit, a great time, a great movie, a great friend, a great idea, a great TED talk…..”How are you, Norma?”  I’m great, thanks for asking.

Great is beginning to grate on my nerves.

Thanks to the online site Thesaurus.com, using the section of synonyms, I’m now building my own list of words to substitute for great. Although it’s not listed as a possible synonym for great, I like the word spectacular.

Listening to yourself is a rewarding experience as I wrote about on March 6.   I understand that can be a daunting exercise. Maybe as you work up your courage to try that, start by paying extra attention to yourself while you’re speaking. See if you can hear/find your own word laziness. Then use the synonym search tool to replace the word.

Note: If you’re hearing too much swearing (as some of my students admit to!), you should cut that out anyhow. You know who you are.

Stuck on a nonsense word or phrase like a parrot? Examples are “Gotcha” and “Right, right,” as your go-to response to let someone know you’re following what they’re saying.

How many words are there? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are “full entries for 171,476 words in current use and 47,156 obsolete words. To this may be added around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries.”

Figures are all over the place for the vocabulary of the average American. Links to some articles are below. Do we know 20,000 words?  40,000? 70,000  or more words? But how many words we KNOW and how many words we USE are two different categories.

Let’s step away from our word laziness and use a wider variety of words to tell our stories.

That will be a great thing.


Article on how many words are there in the English language

Here is one test for how many words average American knows

Here is a test you can take
















Sunrise, Sunset…Does Anybody Know the Time?


Photo courtesy of Heejing Kim on Unsplash

At times I think my brain may be wired a little differently than most people’s. I might be minding my own business, thinking about things, and suddenly something I’m familiar with doesn’t make sense.

Here’s a perfect example: In the Biblical story of creation in Genesis, each day’s work by the Creator ends in this format: “There was evening, there was morning, the first day.”

To our modern minds and patterns of thinking, that should seem backwards, right? Who defines the day talking about the evening? Even though the actual morning (a.m.) time begins at midnight, when we talk, most of us speak the language of starting our day when we wake up in the morning, whether that’s at 6 a.m. or 9 a.m. or noon. (Get out of bed, you lazy bum.)

And then it struck me that I knew that Jewish holidays begin in the evening. That led me to some research.

DISCLAIMER: I do not consider myself an expert on the Jewish method of keeping time after reading a few articles. Please look upon my summary thinking with kindness. I’ve included a link at the end of this post to an article that most helped me gain a rudimentary understanding.

Since Judaism doesn’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah, their religion couldn’t accept keeping historical time in the same manner as Christians who use B.C. and A.D. (“A.D.” stands for anno domini, Latin for “in the year of the lord,” and refers specifically to the birth of Jesus Christ. “B.C.” stands for “before Christ.”)

For hundreds of years, the Jews used big events as markers of the “beginning” of their timekeeping.  The Exodus from Egypt was used for a while and later the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem was substituted.

But those events, as momentous as they were, just didn’t seem the best choice.

Eventually, the Jewish faith decided to use the most magnificent event of all—the creation as set forth in the first book of the Torah, the law of Moses…Genesis. And that takes me back to where I started…there was evening, and there was morning, the second day.

Before we had clocks, watches, and cell phones to tell us the time, we had nature. So in Jewish time, keeping with the wording from Genesis, the marking of the day begins with the “onset of night (the appearance of the stars).” Other Jewish teachers use sunset to mark the beginning of the new day.

If you didn’t grow up in a Jewish household, that likely seems a bit topsy-turvy. But the last two paragraphs of the article by Rabbi Maurice Lamm are so beautifully worded that I don’t want to paraphrase his explanation.

“Beginning the day with the night is, in a sense, a metaphor of life itself. Life begins in the darkness of the womb, then bursts into the brightness of the light and eventually settles into the darkness of the grave, which, in turn, is followed by a new dawn in the world-to-come.

Life consists of light and dark: “And there was evening and there was morning.” What we make of time is what counts.”


Article by Rabbi Maurice Lamm

Article explaining B.C. and A.D.  




Let’s Have a Heart-to-Heart Talk


Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

The traditional symbol for heart is, of course, this: 

Even though the real human heart looks nothing like that.

My guess is that this symbol, a stand-in for the word love, is the most easily recognized and most-used shape in America.

We see bumper stickers that read I    (fill in the blank) such as NY, my Border Collie, or mountain climbing. Symbolic onscreen confetti hearts flow when you love something on Facebook. Our kids display their affection by making us heart-shaped construction paper cards in kindergarten.


Photo courtesy of Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash.com

We take photos of ourselves making hearts with our hands, and we see hearts in nature.


Photo courtesy of Omer Salom on Unsplash.com

Some of my friends have seen hearts in the foam of their caffe latte.

There is a whole website devoted to the heart emoji to help us express the exact type of love we’re feeling.

We use compassionate phrases such as, “My heart goes out to you.” In happy times we say, “My heart was bursting with joy.” In grief and loss, we describe ourselves as being broken-hearted. Feeling fear, we offer up, “My heart was in my throat.”

I think we’re in love with hearts. That would be: We ♥  ♥♥♥.               

The word heart is used over a thousand times in the Bible, as in “Create in me a clean heart, oh God.”

Marcus Borg’s book The HEART of Christianity reminds us that in the Bible, the heart is a metaphor for the self at its deepest level—our spiritual center. God’s purpose is for us to live our lives with open hearts; to be compassionate, kind, and loving people.

Borg’s own examples of open-heartedness include those above as well as being alive to wonder, remaining grateful, and maintaining a passion for justice for all people.

The author makes the point that closed-heartedness can be termed (from the Greek) sklerokardia – a hardening of the heart.

We can believe that people who commit truly horrific acts of violence, hatred, and greed are the best examples of hard-heartedness. But Borg is clear that this type simply represents one end of the spectrum; there are other ways of being hard-hearted that are not so extreme.

Consider this: What behaviors, acts, or words do we use when we’re being hard-hearted? We may display impatience or simply want our own way. Maybe we’re unwilling to truly listen to someone with a different viewpoint than our own. Our hard-heartedness could show up in our labeling or name-calling of another person even if that happens only inside our heads. It’s looking away from someone with a physical or mental disability. It’s being too busy, too involved with our own lives, to be mindful of the world around us. When we’re critical or sarcastic, that’s our hard-heartedness on display.

The evidence of hard-heartedness in my life may not be the same as in yours. It’s up to each of us to identify and replace our closed heart with an open heart.

 that idea.





The Path of the Foot and the Fist

Photo courtesy of Jason Briscoe/Unsplash

When I start a new class of students, I like to create an atmosphere of trust between everyone.

One exercise to accomplish this is for each person to share something about themselves in a couple of sentences that may not be common knowledge. I explain that I’m not requiring them to divulge some deeply held personal secret, but rather, something that the people they work with may be surprised to learn.

As always, I model the desired outcome. I tell them, “When I was in my late 20s, I took Taekwondo for several years and ended my studies half a step away from earning a brown belt.”

You, my readers, get to hear the rest of the story.

My first instructor was a former American soldier, an Army Drill Sergeant, who had fought in the Korean War. That would have put him in his early 50s for my class. He had learned Taekwondo while in Korea which is where the art originated.

Tae means to destroy with the feet. Kwon means to smash with the hand. Do means path.

My instructor was intense. When I walked into that initial class, I felt like a new recruit on the first day of basic training. He lined us up against a wall and had us slide down to sit erect against it while he towered over us.

Moving down the line he pointed to each of us in turn. We were to give our name and a brief reason for taking his class.

Most of the guys gave some type of “learn how to fight” response. The few women had the same general response of “learn to protect myself.”

“You’ll learn all that,” he said. “But the thing I want you to always remember is this: I hope you never have to use what I’ll teach you. The most successful fight is the one you don’t have. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid people and situations that are unsafe.”

He was seriously tough on us. And this wasn’t some class taught in an official dojo; it was sponsored by Parks and Rec at a community center! But it changed my life.

My self-esteem refreshed itself and I was able to remove myself from a relationship that was mentally killing me. I became more poised and confident and found the courage to speak up for myself.

Some of the fighting lessons I learned can be applied to other aspects of my life. “Don’t hit hard enough just to make contact; aim for the space BEHIND your opponent” reminds me to consider how must farther I can reach in a project instead of doing just enough.

When a man has grabbed a woman and is holding her from behind, she is not helpless. There are various responses such as throwing back her head to smash his face or kicking the side of his knee to break it. The life lesson here is even when the situation seems hopeless, there is something we can do.

You’ve seen shows where the police arrive at a house and they pound on the door and scream, “Open up!” The purpose is to unsettle or startle or intimidate the bad guys. It’s the same idea why most martial arts have the participant uttering a short yell or shout while attacking the opponent.

So my instructor’s directive, “Crying or whimpering won’t help you. Make a lot of noise!” had the same meaning behind it. That still resonates with me. I believe we each have some personal noise to make…a story to tell, a lesson to pass along.

Hmmm…maybe I should have titled this post, “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Taekwondo.”

To my readers: What specific class have you taken that has had a major impact on your life?