Day 289: Cultivating time

After church this morning, we discussed going out to eat, but getting 10 people to a place and sitting down on a Sunday afternoon (especially in the South) would take some time. So I picked up some steaks and some corn-on-the-cob, and figured a few things like that would be much cheaper, and much less hassle, than a restaurant.

It was a good idea. I dug out some toys for the little ones, and realized my home is not too childproof. I had forgotten how little hands like to explore everything they can see. They kept entertained by the toys, while most everyone pitched in. Within about 40 minutes, we were sitting down to a yummy meal.

It was so pleasant to be enjoying these last days together. My sister and her husband, both teachers, head back to school tomorrow. My niece and her 3 kids are heading back towards Kansas City area tomorrow. And my dad will be flying home. With the first of August, though the sunny days and heat will persist, it seems summer is winding down.

I’m looking forward to getting back to a routine of sorts, working to organize around some of these projects we’ve completed together, but I will miss these days of togetherness and family fun. I have savored them. Hugging on to little babies, loving on my nieces and nephews, and learning from my father, who will be teaching his children as long as he has breath. This we know, and this we soak in. Today, and as long as we can.

DAY 289 HOMEWORK: You may look at things that need to get done. It’s ok to let them go sometimes, especially when you have kindreds around that you need to cultivate time with. You can come back to the rest when your routine starts up again. Trust me…it’ll be there when you get back to it, but the guests are not there forever.


Day 288: Unending projects ending

Just a few precious hours until my father flies back to Florida, and we have been enjoying every minute we can get. I know he’s ready to go home, but I have surely loved the time he’s been around. Every time I get to see him is good, but I don’t remember a time as sweet as this visit. He came up in early July for a family reunion of sorts at my brother’s farm in MO, and the came back to Tennessee with my sister and me. The past 2 weeks, he’s been at my sister’s, helping them with their reno.

Today, after we got up and got moving, we discussed what we wanted to do. He’s been helping me do some projects that have been on my to-do list for a while, and I really thought it would be best to finish up a project we started earlier this summer. I felt pretty sure we could get it mostly done.

We had worked on the pantry when he was here a couple of weeks ago, and it still wasn’t quite right. I wanted to be able to see at a glance what was in the pantry, because it’s so easy for things to get shoved to the back of the shelf and then you forget you have them. And there was awkward space in the way it was originally designed. Earlier this summer, we built a cart on wheels that we could pull out of the pantry. There were still some things that we not quite organized well, and some stuff kept falling off the cart. So our brainstorm this morning took me back to a kitchen “cabinet” my dad made for my sister when she was little, and we all played with it as we grew. As we discussed it, dad remembered a shelf he made for one of the houses we lived in, and we knew we had found our solution.

So we drew up some plans and then went over to the home improvement store. We bought a few things we needed and some boards. Over the next 4-5 hours, we built shelving units that fit in tight against the walls, that will house cans and other things that are small and relatively heavy. It was empty space anyway, so with a few boards, we were able to orchestrate just what I had been hoping for.

We finished up our project just a few minutes before I needed to pick up my niece from work, and then we headed over to my sister’s for some dessert. We all looked tired, but we laughed together, and chatted over nothing, and everything. Actually, I AM tired. But it’s a good tired, a satisfied tired. I know I’ll drift off to sleep tonight with a smile on my face from the time we’ve invested in each other.

DAY 288 HOMEWORK: Maybe my lesson for today (besides the obvious of enjoying every minute you’ve got) is to take your projects and break them into bite size activities that you can get done in a short timeframe. And, of course, it’s always better when you’ve got a kindred you can invite along to help!

Day 287: You might like it.

We had a mid-morning meeting at work today, and we sometimes bring food because one of the ladies gets pretty hungry close to lunch time. She was joking today that she only had pretzel nubs and some dust in her office, so I walked over to the grocery store to pick up a few things since I didn’t have any ideas for lunch either. I picked up some chicken tenders, and then got a variety hoping we’d have enough for everyone. Something salty (pretzel rods), something healthy (grapes), and something sweet (2 pastries from the bakery), and then I picked up a bottle of kombucha. I had no idea what kombucha was, but someone posted on Facebook the other day that they were going to make some home-brewed kombucha, so when I saw it, I thought I’d try it.

I got back to my office and downed the chicken tenders so I wouldn’t feel so guilty eating the other stuff. Then, I popped open the kombucha. Ew! It smelled a bit like apple cider vinegar. It was fizzy and said “tea,” and also said “Strawberry Serenity.” How bad can it be? I decided I would try it. It didn’t taste as bad as it smelled, but I could tell I’d have to acquire a taste for it. I ended up drinking about half of it.

I took the treats to the meeting, and we had a fun time, even while conducting business.

Fast forward to tonight. After supper, my belly started cramping, so I figured I’d better do a bit of research on kombucha so I knew what I had consumed. I found out that kombucha is made of tea and it’s known to be a health elixir. It cleanses the liver, it’s good for arthritis, and it’s a great probiotic with healthy bacteria to help clean you out. No wonder my belly started cramping! But as we researched kombucha tonight, I decided I do want to try to make my own, and I’d like to try to get accustomed to it. We’ll see how it goes

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

DAY 287 HOMEWORK: Do something unexpected. Be adventurous and step outside of your comfort zone. Even it it’s buying something at the grocery store you’ve never bought before. The thing is: if you buy it, you’ve got to go home and try to make it. No fair letting it sit on your shelf for a year or two! 🙂

Day 286: The unexplainable

Tonight was a quiet night at home. I got the joy of spending an hour or so in a conversation with a kindred: my sweet niece, Katee. Let me explain Katee to you, as if she were at all explainable. She is the middle child of my oldest brother, and his wife Karen. Katee’s at that beautiful age of 21, where she knows stuff about her adult self, and is yet to discover herself, if that makes sense. It’s such an uncertain time, but truthfully, I love being in that phase. It didn’t happen to me at 21 (I was much older); but it has happened quiet a few times in my life. When it’s a phase you’re in, you want to be out of it, but there’s a tension that is unfolding as you can sense something right around the corner, and you sort of want the linger there, in expectancy, but it’s annoying too.

Katie and I have a lot in common. We both have an enduring love and a soft spot for her grumpy father (my oldest brother, who pretends like he doesn’t have a big heart). We both love to dance in the rain. We both like to laugh. We both love nature, but she obviously loves animals WAY more than I do. We are both resilient.

I’m enjoying these days with her, watching as she’s unfolding, because I know there is something great in store for her. I don’t know what it is either, but we’re here, walking through life together, enjoying moments, and watching for it.

She made me chuckle as she went off to bed: “Here I am, pretending to go to bed now, so that you can get up and go to bed too,” she joked. She knows me too well. I would have been there another hour or two soaking in our moments, but work calls to me. So I, too, got up and headed to my room.

DAY 286 HOMEWORK: You don’t have to look far sometimes, to find your kindreds. They’re probably right under your nose. Take a look around, and then savor your moments.

Day 285: Not just another noise

Words of affirmation. When you hear them, they ring in your head all day long. Today, I heard some words of affirmation that I had been needing to hear for some time.

It seems, in our daily work, that we often get taken for granted, that no one really pays attention to what we do, even though (in my case), everyone in my company sees what I do on almost a daily basis. Yet, rarely does anyone say, “Wow! That was a fantastic memo.” If I do get a shout out, I often attribute the work back to my team, because their work really makes us look good. So, a direct praise, that I have to accept only for myself, is a blue moon kind of thing.

Anyway, I was chatting with my CEO, the owner of our company, and he told me not once, but twice, that I’m really, really good at what I do! There were a few other things in that conversation that lifted my spirit incredibly, because though I often put words in his mouth as spokesman for our company, I didn’t really know that he was paying attention to my work.

I know I’m good at what I do. But hearing that from someone else, and especially from that level of the company, those words of affirmation had me being silly for the rest of the afternoon, and even into this evening. It reminded me of a song I like by Hawk Nelson:


They’ve made me feel like a prisoner
They’ve made me feel set free
They’ve made me feel like a criminal
Made me feel like a king

They’ve lifted my heart
To places I’d never been
And they’ve dragged me down
Back to where I began

Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart or
Put it out

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

You can heal the heartache
Speak over the fear
God, Your voice is the only thing
We need to hear

Let the words I say
Be the sound of Your grace
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

I wanna speak Your love
Not just another noise
Oh, I wanna be Your light
I wanna be Your voice

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

DAY 285 HOMEWORK: Your words make a difference in someone’s day. They can lift people up, and they can drag them down. Do your best to speak only life into others.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

Day 284: What’s new?

I sat and spoke with one of our Counsel at work today and the discussion turned towards C.S. Lewis, who Wikipedia describes as “a British novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, broadcaster, lecturer, and Christian apologist.” I have always loved The Chronicles of Narnia, and I know some of Lewis’ story, but I’ve not read any of his non-fiction. I even have a couple of his nonfiction works, but haven’t ever taken the time to read them.

So when my colleague was talking of one of his books, The Problem of Pain, I found it interesting enough to come home and research Lewis’s life a bit. Now, a few hours later, I’d definitely like to carve out some time to read some of his nonfiction.

As I was looking for information on Lewis, I came across this quote:

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

That made me pause, to consider my blog. I think about originality every day. I know that King Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun, no new ideas, nothing. Everything has been done before. Of course, we can argue that all kinds of things are new and different. Technology is developing so rapidly and innovatively, that it’s all new and different. But, what I think Solomon is referring to is the big view; we forget to learn from our mistakes. We keep running, like a hamster on its wheel, and there’s so much sameness, across cultures, across places, across time, and generations.

But as I think about originality in writing, it is hard to be original. People have thought the things I’m thinking; they have felt the things I’m feeling. I wonder sometimes what I can add to the discussion.

Then, from across the years and across the sea, C.S. Lewis encourages me to keep going, to tell my truth, without worrying if it’s stale, without worrying if anyone else has ever told it before. If I do that, I’m sure I’ll still be telling it my way, with my view, and maybe I will find something worth adding to the sea of words that engulfs us daily.

DAY 284 HOMEWORK: Struggling with your own desire for originality? Don’t think you have it in you? Simply do your thing, tell your story, from your heart, in your words. That’s all you can do, so just do, and watch what happens.

Day 283: Stream-of-consciousness To-Do

I’m entering a busy season at work. I’m not sure when I really have a “not-busy” season, but these days are feeling particularly hectic. I just came off of writing a policy manual and redoing our handbook, neither of which are done, but the policy manual should be done later this week, and handbook is on hold, again…for now. We are starting our communication plan for our Associate Survey, which will launch at the end of August. That means videos, and fliers, and emails, and little bits of information in various places. We also have to design two postcards to mail out to associates to prod them to take the survey. We’re trying to get our next magazine done this week. That means writing lots of articles and prepping graphics for my sr. designer to drop into the layout. The articles have to look forward to the Survey, but also look back and sum up the past 5 months or so. We’re beginning a test phase of a new communications app we want to roll out in January. It’s very exciting, but we have prep work to do to get it all working right for the test group, and then we’ll keep our fingers crossed that everyone likes it enough to move forward. I have some negotiating to do with one vendor we have just chosen for our recognition app. This software will plug into our communication app (hopefully), so our associates have only one place to go for all things. We also have a new AVP of HR starting next week, so we’re preparing for his arrival. That means getting 500 t-shirts distributed this week which happen to be housed currently in his new office. Besides that, I’ve got to have our 2017 HR Roadmap all ready to go for a strategy meeting next week. Somehow, I don’t think that’s everything. For sure, it doesn’t count the normal everyday duties that we have, or our normal weekly routines.

When I look at this list, it’s no wonder I’m tired! I needed to write it out so I could reaffirm that I have a right to be exhausted, but we’ll keep going, breathing deeply as we go along. It will all get done, and done well. But if you see me yawning, you’ll know why.

DAY 283 HOMEWORK: Sometimes just listing out the stuff you have to do can give your mind the breathing room it needs. If you’ve got a ton on your plate, it’s ok to give yourself some grace. Take things a bit at a time, and breathe through it. You’ll get it done, and done well.