A Story of Accidents and Futures

It hasn’t been in the news very much of late, but if you remember back on April 15, one week before Easter, Notre Dame cathedral burned. Countless people around the world watched in real time as the spire fell and many more saw the pictures and clips in the days that followed. It was a heartbreaking tragedy that could have been even worse than it was if not for the work of the firefighters and leaders at the cathedral who worked against time to stop the fire and save what they could. As a result of their hard work the cathedral still stands, and people from around the world have donated a lot of money towards reconstruction efforts.

Naturally, from the first sign of smoke there were questions about what happened and how it could happen and if it could have been avoided. The investigation is still ongoing and they don’t have all the answers yet, but several key discoveries in the investigation thus far lead to exactly where it was first assumed it would: people and accidents.

One of the hardest lessons we have to learn in life is the lesson of imperfection. We can design all the tools, plan all of the steps, practice possible scenarios, and put in place all of the check ins, but we have to take into consideration factors that may be beyond our control, be able to read the data, and have the manpower to follow through on things, not to mention taking into account things like empathy, compassion, and emotions before making decisions or taking actions.

In other words, there’s a lot we can do to make sure that things go well and are handled with care and consideration of all involved, but nothing and no one are perfectly predictable or able to outmaneuver all of the factors beyond our control, and some times accidents happen; that’s why they’re called accidents.

When we screw up, when mistakes happen, when mother nature takes over, we have the choice of learning and growing from the experience, or we can let it destroy us. The truth is there are so many things to be celebrating about the fire of Notre Dame, like no one died, much of the culture and treasures in the building was saved, and the whole building didn’t fall down.  The full story of Notre Dame isn’t written yet, just like our stories aren’t fully written yet.  What will your next chapter hold?

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Summer Family Teamwork

Whether you’re a single parent or raising your kids with your significant other I believe every parent needs to have support. They should have the support of their kids as well as the support of other adults. Recently I heard a father say a great comment to his kids as they were waiting for mom to return and then all leave for vacation. He said “OK kids, go do what your mom would tell you to do before she gets here so we can leave sooner.”

Why is this such an incredible statement? From an adult and partner perspective it’s an incredibly supportive statement of his partner, as well as a proactive one. Yes, sometimes supporting means showing up and doing what you’re asked/told to do, sometimes that’s exactly what a parent needs. But it can also mean that you take initiative and get things done for them, especially if you know how they want things done or know what things need to be done on a regular basis. This father’s direction to his kids not only shows his care for his wife, it also shows that he’s aware that she’s going to want things done before they go on vacation and that it’s in all of their best interests to get to work on that sooner rather than last minute.

The other part of this statement that has to be considered and celebrated is the importance of getting the kids involved in supporting the parent(s). Yes, it’s a parent’s job to support their kids and care for them, but part of raising kids well is teaching them how to do as much as possible so they’re prepared when it’s their time to go out into the world. It’s also teaching them good relationship skills, about how to work together as a team, and teaching them to anticipate needs and plans of others and doing your best to help out.

Summer is a great time to hang out and have fun, but it also brings some unique opportunities to strengthen and support the relationships in each of our lives. What will you do this summer to help everyone, including yourself, have a productive and enjoyable summer?

A Life of Making a Difference

I’m a big fan of animals, I support various animal organizations, including those that raise puppies to be service dogs. I was reading a post on a site or social media the other day about how 10 dogs were going to different organizations and eventually to different homes to support different veterans or others in need. It was an impressive reminder how big of a difference something as simple as a litter of puppies can make in the world.

Of course each dog ends up with only one individual who is their primary support target, but that individual has a circle of people including and beyond their immediate family who will benefit from that dog as well (not to mention all the social benefits the dog’s owner gets).  And then there are all the people who follow the puppies before they go to their forever home on the organization’s social accounts and email newsletters and even live cameras and interact with the others who love the organization, all of whom also get the positive boost of seeing the cuteness and knowing that any contribution they make to that organization (donations, sharing about them, volunteering time) will be part of a positive ripple effect.

I know sometimes we look around and wonder how we got into the mess we are in or how we could possibly make the difference in the world that we want to or if anything we’re doing is really making an impact.  But if you look at the life of a service dog who doesn’t live nearly as long as a human and doesn’t have all the skills or abilities of a human (even if they are more loving and cute than most humans), it’s amazing how big of an impact they’re able to have on the world.  If a dog can make that big of an impact during their short life, why can’t we do the same through our posts, our words, our gifts, our careers, our relationships and our generosity?

A Summer of Victories

We’ve arrived at the weekend of the unofficial arrival of summer, Memorial Day weekend. As I was thinking about the next few months and what we could do with them and the hopefully great, warm weather we’re going to have, I thought I’d share a few ideas for what you can do with your family and your partner to make the most of these next few months.

One of my favorite things about the summer is all the fresh, local healthy food. Not only is it great to eat more of the fruits and vegetables that are so good for us, it’s also great to be able to support local farmers. It’s also a great opportunity to talk with the men and women who grow the food and get their recommendations on how to eat and prepare foods that you may have struggled with in the past.

It’s also a great opportunity with the better weather to be able to get out and go places. Everyone loves to travel during the summer, so why don’t you introduce the kids to some of the places and things you did when you were their age? You’ll be able to show them some of the places you’ve talked about and do different things than may be what you typically do for vacation.

Or, why don’t you finally conquer that to-do list? Get your finances from the first 5 months of the year in order for tax time next year. Move your investments to the other organization you’ve been wanting to switch to. Get signed up for that class you’ve wanted to take. Start working with that fitness trainer. Clean out and organize your basement, attic and closets. It may not be the most restful summer, but it will leave you satisfied at the end.

Finally, if you’re someone who’s always on the go, summer is an important opportunity to slow things down, take time for you, work on renewing and rejuvenating and rediscovering who you are and what you want to do with your future.  Don’t feel guilty with not being on the go all the time.

What will you do with this summer?

Knowing When to Quit

I saw in the news that the Emperor of Japan has decided to step down.  He’s 85 and has had some health issues in recent years, and has decided that it’s in the best interest of the country to pass on the leadership to his son.  Here in the US we elect someone new every 4-8 years typically so we don’t experience anything like this type of life-long leadership, but Great Britain does, at least as of now, and the Catholic Church has historically had life-long leadership but the current pope has indicated he doesn’t want to be pope for the rest of his days.  All of this has gotten me thinking about quitting.

The word ‘quit’ is an interesting one.  It can be defined as “stop, cease, discontinue, depart, leave, give up, or relinquish.”  I think these definitions are interesting because we always see quitting as a really bad thing.  But these words don’t necessarily indicate any type of failure, like we typically think of when we talk about quitting.  Sometimes quitting is the best decision you can make.

Quitting isn’t necessarily about accepting defeat or failing at something, although sometimes that is the case, other times it’s about getting out while the getting is good, or thinking about win-win-wins for everyone, or knowing that you’ve done the very best job that you could do and now you need to pass it of to someone else or do something different going forward.

Sometimes it’s easy to say that you quit, but often it does take courage and some serious consideration to make sure that you’re really making the best decision for yourself and those that matter most to you.  Those in positions of power have extra responsibility to make sure they’re doing what’s best for everyone, but the fact is we all do as well.  The way you live affects others in various ways from the very obvious and significant to the negligible, but the fact remains that we each do have responsibility for how we live, and therefore knowing when to quit.

Change isn’t the enemy, in fact more often than not it’s not changing that’s the enemy.  This week I encourage you to consider if it’s time for a change, time to quit something so you can move onto something bigger and better.

The Choice of Violence

I opened one of the many Lent devotional subscriptions I have this year to find just a few short words that really got me thinking (no, this isn’t a post about faith/spirituality). The words in the email were:

Violence doesn’t create anything.

As the world reels from the fire at Notre Dame, as the news sites share about murders and accidental deaths, as we work our way out of what was a brutal winter for some and head towards what may be a difficult summer for others, as we think about the people who have died tragically early that we personally know or know through TV and the internet, again I’m strongly considering the question of what makes people think violence and hurt/hate are the answers to anything?

I’m a creative person as you can probably tell, I enjoy writing, reading, painting, cooking, sewing and even occasionally gardening.  The only thing I really enjoy destroying is dirt.  Of course I feel some level of satisfaction when a person who has done great violence or committed great acts of hatred is caught and put in jail, because they caused destruction and hurt for the hearts and lives of many.  But I don’t spend my time thinking about the people who hurt others, intentionally or unintentionally, I prefer to spend my time thinking about ways to make the world a better, freer, fuller, happier place for all of us to share.

Today I would encourage you to think about what you’re creating with the choices you make.  Are you making choices that have zero or negative impact on the world and lives around you?  Or are you making the decision to make a positive impact on the world, even if it requires a little more effort and commitment on your part?  Even if you have little or nothing that you can contribute to help Notre Dame, the communities that lost churches in recent arson fires, the people who have been forced out of their country due to civil wars or genocide, or those who have lost their homes in recent months to natural disasters rebuild, you can still make a difference in the lives of those you meet on a regular basis through a kind word or deed, and especially by not letting violence be the answer.

Taking Time to Prepare

Whether you have a spiritual practice or not you’re probably familiar with the celebration of Easter which happens later this month. For those who celebrate Easter as a spiritual holiday, they’re currently going through a period called Lent, or some 40 days of mental and spiritual preparation before the actual celebration of Easter.

Preparation is something that should be a regular part of all of our lives, spiritual or not. We aren’t born ready for most things in our lives, we have to learn them or get ready for them. Sometimes that takes years of preparation and experiences to get to the point of being prepared to do something or be someone. There’s a reason that we vet the big leaders and people we hire (or we’re supposed to), so that we know we’ve got someone qualified and not just some random individual off the streets.

Part of preparation is planning ahead.  Sometimes that means just anticipating how things may happen in the future and being mentally (and financially) prepared for that, other times it means doing certain things first or doing things in a certain order so that you’re ready.  A great example is baking bread.  Bread isn’t a one-step process, you don’t just mix all the ingredients together in a random order and it’s done, you’re never done until you bake it, and most breads have several steps including a rest period and have to be baked.

I know we sometimes wish we could skip all the preparation and planning steps, but in many cases they make it easier to work through things when they finally happen and make it easier to deal with everything else that’s going on in our lives at the same time.  Don’t ignore the necessity and importance and value of taking the time to prepare. Taking that time can make things go easier and more successfully for you in the future.

Women of the Future

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, today I thought I’d share a few thoughts on raising a women in 2019 and beyond, and what that might look like, and how we can support the future generation of women in being the best they can be.

Encourage them to explore their passions, but not be completely ignorant. So if your girls want to play with dolls, they should. If they want to build with Legos, they should. If they want to cook, they should. So while you should let them choose their passion, that doesn’t mean you should skip teaching them the skills of cleaning, planning, organizing, finances, healing, using tools, cooking and anything else that will help them with the things they need to be adults. I grew up at a time when Home EC wasn’t really a thing, that we were leaving some of those shop-type classes that taught people skills that everyone should really have some awareness of that helps us become more rounded individuals culturally. It’s about helping them be as educated and well-rounded as they can be.

Encourage them to have friends, teachers and role models of both genders. I think it’s important that we’re all able to have healthy relationships with all types of people, that we’re able to start up and have polite conversation with just about anyone we meet, for girls to see what healthy romantic relationships look like, how to be successful in all areas of life, and how to protect themselves whether we’re talking a violent guy/girl on the street or a cutthroat boardroom executive. Girls/women can’t learn that from just women alone, it has to be a team effort.

Finally, I would encourage you to teach them to love. Men are capable of love, but there’s something that’s inherently female about love. We’re able to add that softness and vulnerability that men often have trouble reaching and sharing. Women have been taught through experiences and from others that maybe love isn’t a great thing, but I’d argue that it’s one of the most important things in the world. So along with all the skills, experiences, abilities and opportunities, I would encourage you to expose your girl to love and the amazing impact and benefit that love can have on an individual and on the world we share.

Women can and should be celebrated every day, we play a big part in contributing to the future of the world, and with happier, healthier, more courageous, more educated women, the future will be a better place for all of us. What are you celebrating about women today?

Make it Your Way

I’m not the biggest poetry fan in the world, even though I have dabbled with writing it a little, but there are a couple of poets whose words always seem to capture me. One of those poets is Robert Frost. I am always so entranced when I read the poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” there’s just something about it that has always spoken to me and continues to speak to me. I think one of the reasons why his work resonates with me is because as he said “A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” His poetry seems to have more purpose, direction and connection than many others that I’ve read. I’m not saying that everything needs to have purpose or direction, but it’s something I better relate to.

Since I’m ready for spring we’re not going to talk about the aforementioned poem, but rather something else that Robert Frost said: “Always fall in with what you’re asked to accept. Take what is given, and make it over your way. My aim in life has always been to hold my own with whatever’s going. Not against: with.”

This is an interesting bit of insight because it combines different perspectives on living, encouraging us to go with the crowd and be different at the same time. When it comes to success it’s a great insight because one of the best ways to be successful is to take the foundation that someone else has built and add our own unique spin to it. There’s nothing wrong with finding inspiration in what’s already successful or what makes other people happy, and making it into your own or taking it in a new and different direction that works better for you.

But a big portion of the quote is an encouragement to work with the world and others rather than trying to fight an uphill or upstream battle. Yes, innovation/invention and fresh starts are important, but sometimes it’s equally important to just improve on or work with the existing efforts. It’s also easier to build a community or spread the word about your efforts if you’re on good terms with people and are sharing about something that they can identify with rather than something completely foreign or offensive.

Finally, Robert Frost also reminds us of the importance of learning to accept others for who they are. They may change and you may change but that doesn’t mean that you have to live life being confrontational. Working with others and learning to appreciate and support their differences can make the biggest difference not only to our personal victories, but to victories for the rest of the world as well.

What are you making into your own?

Celebrating Second Chances

You know, it’s a lot easier if we get things right the first time. But the fact is few of us are close enough to perfect to not have to go back and proofread our work or do a second interview or ask follow up questions or try another marketing campaign or have to practice before we become good at something. And sometimes we never truly get it right and just get it a little more right with each attempt, and that’s as good as it gets, like with parenting and many of the other ever-changing aspects of our lives.

I get it, we’re in such a rush and there’s so much on our plates that it would be easier if everything worked out the first time, but it often doesn’t. Today I was reminded that sometimes second chances are awesome. Sometimes that redo is something much more productive and successful than the first try could have ever been. Sometimes you learn and grow more from the second (or third) chance or try than you do from the first. Sometimes you meet someone or make a connection that would have never been made if you didn’t have to do a redo. Maybe the redo isn’t so bad after all.

What if the second chance, the opportunity to redo something, the second round was actually a good thing? What if instead of giving firsts all the power we instead started to value the seconds? What if instead of hating the time it took to go through additional rounds, instead we cherished the relationships it helped build, the opportunity to make things better, and the things it taught us? What if instead of trying to be perfect on the first try, we just let our brilliance loose for the first round and then took care of the details in following rounds? How would your life be better and different if you stopped trying for perfection on the first try?