Monthly Archives: May 2013

All Together Now!

Standard

cat hat trim

This is the cover of the birthday card I received from my dear friend this year. A month later, it still sits on my counter because I smile every time I look at it! And the wording reminds me that we have many sources of inspiration, including “…the right hat…”

About five or six years ago, I transitioned from primarily reading fiction to nonfiction.  It wasn’t a particularly conscientious decision.  I think it came from being unfulfilled in my work.  I didn’t want anything academic.  What I really needed was some inspiration, true stories of common people who have done uncommon things.  One of my favorites is Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.  I was fascinated by the mental and physical challenges faced by the climbers.  I felt like I was there (which will never happen!)

One of my more recent reads was Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy, the former professional football coach.  Truth be told, I’m not much of a professional football fan.  However, I had heard many positive comments about this man so when I came across the book, cover facing up on a table, I picked it up and checked it out.  I’ve always wondered how professional coaches and their families handle the seemingly constant threat of being fired.  And how do you motivate and lead a group of people that are breathtakingly overpaid and poorly behaved?  (A major generalization, I know.)

We all have stories to tell and Mr. Dungy is no exception.  I have a better understanding of why he has a good reputation and I certainly learned a few things about the challenges of coaching.  But one of the most interesting parts of the book was the use of quotations to start each chapter.  To me, the “right” quotation is like the perfect photograph – sometimes that’s all that’s needed to make a point.  I actually took notes while reading this book and the one quotation that stood out was attributed to Booker T. Washington:  “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”

I’ve certainly found this to be true in my own life.  When I was 27 years old, my first husband took his own life.  This happened about 3 years after my mother died of a malignant brain tumor and once again I found myself in a really dark place.  Perhaps what was most strange was my almost total emotional disconnect from life.  In retrospect, I came to see this as a protective factor.  Instead of being overwhelmed and incapacitated by too much emotion, I felt almost nothing, which enabled me to at least keep moving.   Feelings about anything came back slowly and in small bits.

At the time, I was working in communications/marketing for a local non-profit organization.  I had found a woman in town who was self-employed as a typesetter and printer.  Her business was named Bestype and she produced good quality work at a price our non-profit could afford.  She was not married and at age 30-something, she got pregnant.  Her business was small, located in a rather run-down area of town and she had no one to help her, personally or professionally.  I knew several other women who were her clients as well and after some telephone calls we decided to give her a surprise baby shower at her office one afternoon.

She thought we were there to do business.  When she realized we were there to give her support and needed supplies for her baby, she was moved to tears.  And for the first time in months, I felt the stirrings of emotion again.  Just enough to remind me that I was still alive.  As we left her later in the afternoon, I realized I actually felt good.  That’s when I learned that doing something kind for someone else is one way of helping yourself.

Now as my friend Deb and I are scratching together the foundation of what we hope will be a successful business, I am grateful for all those people who have met with us, shared their ideas, answered our questions and provided guidance and encouragement.  Surely this is along the lines of what Mr. Washington had in mind.  It will be our privilege to do the same for others some day.

Do you have a favorite quotation that motivates you?  Share!

Do you like inspiring non-fiction?  If yes, what is the title of one of your favorites?  It’s past time for another great read!

Advertisements

Listless

Standard

When I started writing this blog almost a year ago, I did so because I was determined to remake a large portion of my life.  Writing on a regular basis was the first step.  Now I’ve taken the second step, a much larger step: I’ve left my job of almost 20 years.  I have been officially retired (and unemployed) for 10 days.

I was shopping for college graduation cards one day last week, on my way to a lunch gathering with former co-workers.  As I was scanning for a catchy picture or wording in the sea of graphics and sayings, I heard a voice ask, “So, how does it feel?”  I turned to my left to see my friend, the executive director of the non-profit organization I support.  I smiled as I shook my head side to side and replied, “I’m not sure.  I just feel like I’m in the middle of a week off.”  “However,” I continued, “I have this overwhelming urge to make a list.”

We laughed and chatted a few minutes and then went our separate ways.  As I got in my car to head to lunch, I realized that I was feeling quite unsettled and it had to do with that business of making a list.  I am one of those people who likes to have a plan, likes to be organized and likes to see the fruits of my labors.  In other words, I like to put my to-do’s/want to-do’s on paper and then mark them off when I’m done.  This is how I have handled all the years of juggling home, job, church, volunteering, etc.  We are a busy society and I know I am not the only “list fanatic” out there.

Yet, one thing I have griped about for the last couple of years is how scheduled and structured my life has been.  In my mind, remaking my life  was going to be throwing all those lists to the wind.  She who is not known for being the queen of spontaneity was going to become such overnight.

Well that was pretty foolish thinking on my part.  It has not taken me long to realize that my grandmother was right all those years ago when she told me we needed structure and routine in our lives.  She was recounting how she managed her life after my grandfather died unexpectedly and early from a heart attack.  In spite of her grief and her desire to do everything to the contrary, she made a point of continuing to get up at the same time every morning, getting dressed for the day and having her meals on schedule.

I’ve seen the value of this in the lives of friends who have lost their jobs.  Suddenly the anchor line has been cut and they are drifting.   Clinging to whatever schedule of living they had when employed helps them stay on course.  I’ve seen it in people who have returned home after serving time in prison.  The schedule they lived under provided some semblance of stability.  Freedom, so greatly desired while serving time, becomes a major stumbling block upon release.  And how many of us have known young people – maybe this includes you – who enlisted in the military because they needed structure and discipline in their lives?

The List

The List

While I don’t have the next year of my life all planned out, I do have some goals I’ll be working toward.  Having a sense of purpose is critically important to our well-being as humans.  When I got home after my luncheon last week, I made a to-do list.

It’s not real long or detailed, but it’s my anchor for the next week or two as I continue working on this remake.  My life is certainly different and yet, there is at least one part of it that will be the same:  the list.

What I am interested in seeing – I feel like a spectator here – is what happens to this blog.  While the focus of my posts has always been on the positive side of the craziness of everyday living, I’m not sure where my thoughts and ideas will take me in the weeks to come.  I am definitely going to spend some time getting to know some of the incredibly interesting people I know are out there in the WordPress world.  I feel sure there will be some new influences that may lead me to make some changes here.  Who knows?  It’s just part of the remake!