Day 106: Love is an art

Nashvillians joke that if you don’t like the weather in Tennessee, wait a bit, and it will change. The past week is a perfect example of that expression. Last week at this time, we had 6-and-a-half inches of snow. Today, it was nearly 70 degrees, and many people were out enjoying the sunshine, including us. In a few days, it will be normal winter weather again, but we sure took advantage of what we were given on this day.

My sister, my daughter-in-love, and I ran errands and went looking at a lot of different stores. We took time out to eat lunch, and by the time we returned home, we needed a nap from all the fresh air and walking.

Later this evening, we joined the guys for a bite to eat. During dinner, I saw a quote on my tea bottle that was attributed to Vincent Van Gogh. It said, “There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” I loved that sentiment, and thought it fit well with my blog.

Loving people is an art. Every day is a new canvas. Knowing which brushes to pick up and which colors to add to show depth and dimension is all a part of the craft. Understanding what people need to feel loved takes listening skills and empathy. Finding opportunities to express that love and then acting on it is to hop on an inspiration and ride it, until joy and exhilaration collide.

DAY 106 HOMEWORK: Use every day to hone your “loving people” skills. Look for new ways that those around need to be loved, and then practice. With canvas after canvas, you’ll be building a gallery of wonder that will draw people to your masterpieces. They won’t be able to resist it.

Day 105: Character lessons unfolded

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about The Profit with Marcus Lemonis before, but even if I have, I need to write about his latest episode we watched by DVR tonight. It will be cathartic, to get the shock and irritation out of my soul before I go to sleep.

Marcus Lemonis, if you haven’t heard of him, is a businessman who invests in struggling businesses, and we get to watch the positive or negative results unfold on his show on CNBC.

The episode we watched tonight was a doozy. He invested $100,000 in a marshmallow company and the owners lied to him to gain from the infamy on the show. I’m not sure how the show works and if Marcus got the money back after walking away from his investment in them, but watching people, so evil and toxic to people in their own company, take advantage of someone who is there to help them succeed was maddening. I surely hope he gets everything back from them.

I don’t know what Marcus is like in person, because I only know how they characterize him on the show. However, if I got to sit down with him for a few minutes, I think I’d like him. He’s tough and tells it like it is, but he is so full of integrity. He holds people accountable, and makes them better. He’s very smart, and seems like an overall good guy.

You can’t tell for sure about someone until you have spent real time with them, but I do believe you can get a sense for someone by watching their patterns, and choices. For Marcus Lemonis, I simply like what my senses are telling me.

DAY 105 HOMEWORK: When looking for your kindreds, pay attention to people’s choices and how they make those choices over time. It will tell you about their character, and then you can decide if you want to “stay in business” with them, or walk away.

 

Day 104: Comfort is a sign

Catching up with old friends feels like a findingkindreds kind of thing. Seeing someone you haven’t seen in a long time brings sunshine to a cloudy day.

Today, I had lunch with a former co-worker I haven’t seen in over a year. It was so nice to catch up on what had been happening in his life since the last time we talked. We caught up with what was happening with his wife and kids, and with my husband and our family. We looked at family photos. We discussed our new roles, and the ways we’ve grown over the past year. We talked about things we have coming up in this next year.

Old friends who are true friends can go a long time without talking and then feel very comfortable when back together. That’s how you can tell if they’re a kindred: it’s natural, like you haven’t been apart for any length of time.

DAY 104 HOMEWORK: What kindreds have you not seen for a while? Make an effort to go to lunch, meet for a toasty drink, and reconnect for a few minutes.

Day 103: Seeing, a new perspective

The third night in a row that I’ve arrived home after 9 p.m., but tonight was worth stretching my limits one more day. We’ve spent a lot of time with eye specialists over the past 14 months, since my husband had a scary bit with his retina one Thanksgiving weekend. Tonight, we went to listen to a local eye doctor, Dr. Ming Wang, who has an incredible story to tell. He has a foundation to help blind orphans see again, and we watched video after video of work he has done and the people he helped to see again.

He also told about his youth in China under a dictator who closed down schools and universities so that the youth would not be educated and want to revolt. All junior and senior high school students were forced into day labor and the only way out of it was to play an instrument or dance. So when his school closed down in 9th grade, he picked up a Chinese stringed instrument and learned how to play so he could get out of labor. He also learned to dance as a ticket to freedom. When he should have been going to 12th grade, the dictator died and so, with schools allowed to be opened again, he studied for an exam to skip the grades he missed and go right into 12th grade. He then went to college where he met an American teacher.

With $50 from that teacher and money scraped together from his relatives for a one-way flight, he landed in Washington, D.C. and somehow made his American dream come true. He graduated from Harvard and MIT. During those college years, as an atheist, he became a believer in Jesus, and in the recent movie, “God’s Not Dead,” one Chinese character was modeled after Dr. Wang’s life story.

Today, he’s quite renowned in his field and he’s written many textbooks for students of eye conditions. He holds patents for many of his revolutionary eye techniques and is accomplished as musician and ballroom dancer. Of all his story, I think my favorite piece about Dr. Wang is his heart for helping impossibly blind people see again. It’s incredibly moving, and it must be rewarding for him to see God work miracle after miracle through him.

DAY 103 HOMEWORK: As incredibly gifted as Dr. Wang is, don’t look on him with any sense of jealousy or sadness. We may not be as gifted as he is, but we all have our own journeys and various ways we can make an impact with the gifts we’ve been given and the experiences we have walked through. We just have to go out and put them to use.

 

Day 102: Check in and check up

It was a crazy day: worked non-stop today, stayed way late, and heard several pieces of sad news today. I sent out some information to the whole organization today that had mistakes. Work projects are piling up, and with an early day tomorrow offsite, it means I won’t get my projects done tomorrow. And it’s not even half the week yet!

That sounds really negative and a downer, and maybe a year ago, I would have let it get me down, but I am not in that same place anymore. I look at that first paragraph and think, “Wow, there’s a lot going on. You need to get away to breathe, and pray.”

I’m not exactly sure how I’ll do that, at least until Thursday, but one of the things that I’m doing differently now, is that I’m not trying to do everything, be everything. I admit my imperfections, and accept them with as much humility as I can. It is OK to be imperfect. It is OK to feel crazy with busy-ness (for a time). It is OK to let the less important go in favor doing the more important. This craziness will pass and I’ll be able to return with a fresh mind, and be more inspiring…maybe.

DAY 102 HOMEWORK: I’m sure you’ll forgive me for being brief today, but even if you don’t, it’s OK! While you’re thinking about what you’re going to do, think back over the past 100 days and see if you’re making progress. I hope you are!

Day 101: What have you got to lose?

Maybe I’ve blogged about this before, but I’ve been a fan of The Biggest Loser since the first year it came on. I usually sit and eat chocolate while I watch it, yet it truly does inspire me. In some seasons, I’ve gotten up during the commercials to exercise. In other seasons, I haven’t, but more than watching the changes that overcome these people is the way a group of strangers come together and usually work out their team issues, and personal issues, to come out the other side with strong friendships, and are healthier, too.

I’m not foolish enough to think that people leave The Biggest Loser and never have issues with their weight again. In fact, I know that it isn’t easy for most of them to keep off the weight, because one of the contestants came to work at my company following her season on the show. She taught us all some of the tips she learned, but by the time she left our company, she had gained some of the weight back that she had lost. I’m not judging her…I just know that weight issues, like other issues in our lives, can go deeper than new knowledge and determination.

What makes some lose the weight and keep it off, and what makes others, who killed themselves to look great, rubber band back to previous habits? Most times, it’s the connection. Those who let down their defenses and allow themselves to be vulnerable and get to the root of their weight issues usually are the ones who make a transformation from the inside out.

There’s a lesson to be learned from these who can allow themselves to be vulnerable. We all have problems. But when we can connect with those with whom we can share in our inadequacies, in a safe zone, that transformation can occur.

DAY 101 HOMEWORK: Want to start to heal in some of your own issues? Find that safe group where you can open up and share your inadequacies. Naming your shame can help it to disappear, and you can replace it with positive connections with people who can pour life back into that empty space.

 

Day 100: Grammar’s got me.

Years ago, I taught Composition and Business Writing at a university not too far from where I grew up. One of the concepts we English teachers teach is the concept of active and passive voice. Remember your days of grammar? If you hated it, hang in there with me.

Most often, active voice is our preference; the subject of the sentence performs an action (verb) on a direct object. After all, it IS active, clear and direct. For example, I (subject) bought (verb) a meal (direct object). Many people often prefer passive voice, maybe because they think it sounds smarter or maybe they don’t know who the subject is at all. For example: A meal (now the subject) was bought (verb) by me (now object of the preposition by). Often, in trying to keep WHO is doing the action out of a sentence, passive voice can get quite awkward. But, passive voice has a purpose, and is not always a bad choice; it just shouldn’t be the go-to form of writing a sentence, especially when you want your message to be clear and direct, and easier to understand.

As I think about findingkindreds, passive shouldn’t be our go-to either. Why wait for something to happen to us? So many of us do, and we might even complain about it because we feel it’s someone else’s turn to act. If we want to find those kindreds, or just make an impact on others, we should be out doing, being, connecting…not waiting for someone else to invite us. When we apply this grammar rule to our personal lives, we become less awkward, and who doesn’t want to be less awkward? 🙂

I know that the grammar nazi’s amongst us (I can be one) are counting the number of passive sentences I’ve used. I’m even laughing at some of my own. Despite my own poor example in writing from time-to-time, and despite my own poor judgment in being a passive spectator, instead of the active doer, from time-to-time, I can get it right sometimes, and so can you. It’s definitely worth the try.

DAY 100 HOMEWORK: If you’re waiting for someone to make the first move, beat them to it and you be the one who initiates the invitation, even if it is the 100th time. Practice active, and give grace to those who still want to hang out at passive. They’ll come along in time. If not, go along without them.