Five Minute Friday: Different

Our college kid is home!  Thankful to have him here and for a safe airport run in spite of storms blowing in.

Linking up again with Kate Motaung and the FMF community.

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I’m wondering why humans hate being different.

Is it the fear of ridicule, rejection, judgment?

Kids want to dress the same.  They want to have what their friends have.  They want to achieve the same things or one up the next guy.

We generally don’t like standing out from the crowd if it garners unwanted attention.

What would happen if we embraced our differences?   If we were truly thankful for them?  If we didn’t try to hide them?

How much bolder could we live life?

Maybe it’s a reward worth changing our mindset for.

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What I’m Reading, December 2017

One year ago today we were in California for our daughter’s college graduation.

This year is more typical: snow, basketball, busy at the store, getting ready for Christmas. Our out of state college kid is home for Christmas.  That makes mama happy.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit.

On to this month’s books–

Buy now from Amazon

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

I’m tempted to go back and re-read this book now that I know the ending.

The plot was slow moving until all the pieces starting falling into place and it made sense.

From goodreads–

“Winner of the 2010 Newbery Medal. Miranda is an ordinary sixth grader, until she starts receiving mysterious messages from somebody who knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late. For ages approx 9-14.”

Buy now from Amazon

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

A Chinese boy and Japanese girl are assigned to kitchen duty at their all white public school.  This is the forties and anti-Japanese sentiment is high.  Their friendship transcends prejudice.

Sweet story that takes an inside look at Asian cultures functioning in the U.S.

I liked it, even though the story was slow moving and a little predictable.

Five stars for being wholesome.  Recommended for all ages.

Buy now from Amazon

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Echo tells the stories of four different children growing up in four different times and places.

They all have a love for music.

To be perfectly frank, I was underwhelmed by this book. It just left me feeling kind of flat. I could see the common thread woven throughout so it felt predictable.

None of the sequences were long enough to really identify with the characters, so it was more about plot than characters.

It’s a long book, but not necessarily a long read.

Buy now from Amazon

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

A fascinating read.

I don’t agree with everything as I have some different philosophies of life than the author does.

The books focuses on how people sabotage their own success when they hit the upper limit of what they believe they deserve in life.  There might be something to that.

I also think he’s on to something with the zone of incompetence, the zone of competence, the zone of excellence and the zone of genius.

Good mental fodder.

Buy now from Amazon

The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Staner

Michael outlines seven simple questions to use while coaching.

His context is managers coaching their employees, but I think the principles are transferable to other situations.

His emphasis is on listening better, giving less advice and helping people solve their own problems.

Though simple, the questions are profound.  They build on each other and are designed to get to the heart of the matter in a short amount of time.

Insightful.  Actionable.

What are you reading this month?

Breaking Free From the Poverty Culture: Four True Stories

I started this post thinking I had found four books that painted a realistic picture of the poverty culture.

What I didn’t realize was how much they have in common.

They are all overcomer stories.

They are all about boys who grew up with single mothers.

They outline a path of what it takes to beat the odds.

They are also well-written.

These stories stand out because they are unusual. Most boys in similar circumstances are not able to break the poverty cycle in their lives.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchases goes to support this site.)

Buy now from Amazon

Hillbilly Elegy is masterfully written.

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was gratuitous language.  Sometimes language in a dialogue can prove a point, but there’s no good reason for it to be in the narrative.

That being said, I love the social analysis wrapped around a boot-strapping overcomer’s story. J.D. Vance emerged from an impoverished childhood to graduate from Harvard and become a successful lawyer.

Buy now from Amazon

Ben Carson and his brother grew up in a single parent home in Detroit.

Ben credits his mother for the impact on his life that resulted in all of them breaking out of the poverty culture.

She valued education, discipline, the importance of reading and making wise decisions in the use of her resources.

In turn, Ben came to see poverty as a temporary state.  He could see the way out.  He developed a vision for his life.  He eventually attained some of life’s greatest successes as a pediatric neurosurgeon.

Buy now from Amazon

An inspiring story, well told.

“The true story of an 11-year-old panhandler, a busy sales executive, and an unlikely meeting with destiny.” This is another book that makes me philosophical.  The culture of poverty at work again.  And, once again, it’s not so much about the money.  It’s the opportunities, the education, even the relationships that are poor.  And that plays out into material lack.  The whole mindset has to change.  The way you believe about yourself has to change.  The way you believe about your destiny has to change:  are you a victim of your circumstances or do you control your fate? Now that is a good question that I’ve been wrestling with a lot.  Who’s in control of my life, me or God?

Laura Schroff reached out to Maurice in a gesture of friendship and began a relationship that endured three decades.  She nurtured her unexpressed maternal instinct.  He grabbed a lifeline out of a culture of poverty. It’s interesting that one thing he latched onto when he saw a healthy family in action was the idea of everyone sitting down at a dining room table to eat together, to talk and share life.  That was missing in his home.  It just goes to prove that building a culture—even a family culture— has to do with what you value and believe, not about money.

Everything was not idyllic in Laura and Maurice’s relationship for the next thirty years.  This is real life and when is life always smooth sailing?

  

Buy now from Amazon

Note: Heads up for language.

I didn’t really understand apartheid until I read this book.

Seeing how it played out in people’s lives is sobering.

Trevor Noah has a white father and a black mother.  In South Africa, it was illegal for his father and mother to procreate.  His very existance was against the law, hence the title, Born a Crime.

It’s mind-blowing to think about the world and the life that Trevor Noah was born into. It’s a cautionary tale, especially for those who have a vote in their government’s laws and leaders.

I liked Noah’s personal and relatable writing style as well as the occasional political commentary.

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Four boys growing up in poverty with single mothers. What did it take for them to break free?
Self-awareness? A caring adult? Purpose in life? A belief that things could be different?

I see four common factors.

  1. The involvement of a caring adult. In some cases it was their mother, sometimes it was someone else.

2.   The importance of staying in school and finishing.

3.  The belief that things could be different.

4.  A vision for their lives.

Five Minute Friday: Only

It’s Friday!

This week brought our first snowfall, plus busy days at the store, basketball games, and all the usual December angst.

I’m amazed at how the pressure of writing for five minutes produces a different type of creativity than when I write without the pressure.

Linking up again this week with Kate Motaung and the FMF community.

This week’s word is:  only.

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If only . . .

Two of the saddest words in the English language.

Pregnant with regret.

Wistful to re-write history.

Because we can’t go back. We can’t make changes. All we have is the present and the future.

We cling to the promise that there is no condemnation.

That the years the locusts have eaten will be restored.

In spite of the dark clouds of the past, the future is bright.

We have hope.

We don’t have to live with regret.

We can even be grateful for the treacherous, winding trail that has brought us here.

We know how the story ends, so we don’t have to wallow in the sadness of if only . . .

Our eyes are fixed on the bright tomorrow.

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Man’s Search for Meaning

Vicktor Frankl wrote Man’s Search for Meaning after surviving a stint in a Nazi concentration camp.

With a background in psychiatry, he studied the people in the camp looking for why some survived and why some gave up and died.

He found that those that had the will to live felt they had a mission in life to complete. In his own case, it was to finish the book he was writing and to see his wife again.

“Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a ‘secondary rationalization’ of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone.”

“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”

If the runaway success of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, is any indication people are desperate to find meaning in life.

But, what Frankl proposes is not just general, but a specific, unique mission only possible to be fulfilled by an individual.

“Frankl was once asked to express in one sentence the meaning of his own life. He wrote the response on paper and asked his students to guess what he had written. After some moments of quiet reflection, a student surprised Frankl by saying, ‘The meaning of your life is to help others find the meaning of theirs.’
‘That was it, exactly,’ Frankl said. ‘Those are the very words I had written.'”

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Near

It’s Friday!

In spite of being a good week, overall, this morning was chock full of frustrations and irritations and roadblocks.

The Five Minute Friday words tend to make me philosophical.  Which is fine. That’s my happy place.

This week’s word is: near.  Linking up with Kate Motaung and the FMF community.

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God is near to the broken hearted.

It’s hard to know what to say to people who are hurting.

So many things aren’t helpful.  So many things aren’t sensitive.

And, in spite of good intentions, so many things don’t land where you want them to.

The God of all comfort gives peace that passes understanding.

That brings us hope.

And when we’re hurting, hope is what we need.

The hope that God is near to the broken hearted.  He is compassionate.  He cares for widows and orphans and sparrows.  He knows the needs.  He knows us inside and out, down to the hairs on our head.

If we can grasp that, we have hope.

If we can share hope with the hurting, it doesn’t matter too much what we say.

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If You Want To Change Your Life, Change Who You Listen To

 

 

Jim Rohn says you are an average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Not only is this true in with real life friends, it’s also true of who we choose to listen to.

If we’re trying to change our lives, we need to be intentional about the people we spend time with and those who influence us.

Who are we listening to?  Who are we allowing to influence us?  Are they pulling us up or bringing us down?

I have been impacted by some online influencers.  Their words have changed my life.

Izabella Wentz has influenced me. Her advice has probably led to some of the more dramatic changes in my life, at least physically, but that helps emotionally, too.  She write’s about thyroid disease and how to deal with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

Sarah Young influences with her devotionals, Jesus Calling and Jesus Always.

Michael Hyatt and Darren Rowse have really opened up my mind to what’s possible with blogging.

Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy gave me hope that there were great books out there that I would love.  I still have trouble finding them.  But, now I have hope.

Kayla Aimee is someone I’ve recently learned about. Through her course, I’ve learned a lot more about affiliate marketing.

I appreciate Ann Voskamp.  She’s swimming against the current of many Christian writers and I respect the way she lives out her faith.

Jeff Brown always seems to be introducing me to authors I’ve never heard of.  Some of them have a lot of good things to say.  His Read to Lead podcast has had some real winners.

Amy Lynn Andrews is someone who’s writing has been helpful and someone I admire as a person.  She writes about blogging and online business.

Jeff Goins has been very influential in my life.   His book, Real Artists Don’t Starve is a game-changer. I’ve learned a lot from his blog, his podcast and Tribe Conference 2017.  He is a thought leader.

Tsh Oxenrider, Crystal Paine and Ruth Soukup have impacted me.  All of them are pioneer bloggers with very different paths to success in the blogosphere.

I also just started listening to Hans Finzel. Pete and I loved his book, Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make and he has a lot of life and leadership wisdom.

Victoria at Snail Pace Transformations has given me hope about moving forward slowly.  It’s hard when you don’t see much visible progress.  I’m inspired by her stories to keep moving forward, inch by inch.

Ray Edwards is someone I respect.  His forte is copywriting, but he ventures into some other areas as well.  

Pat Flynn is a superstar in the online space, but I appreciate his transparency and humility.

The bottom line is there’s a lot of good guys out there.  Many are generous and insightful.  There’s so much available for little or no money.

Check them out!

 

Five Minute Friday: Familiar

Slower paced days are good times to be thankful.  I’m thankful for any pauses in life that we fill with gratitude.  It’s certainly a good time of year to be thankful for family.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Linking up with Kate Motaung and the FMF community.

This week’s word is: familiar.

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Familiar feels safe and comfortable.

It’s the unknown that feels scary.

Even if the familiar is as comfortable and predictable as worn slippers, it can also be boring.

The truth is, we don’t have to fear the unknown. Frankly, it might be as terrible as we dread it will be.

But, our anchor is secure. Our hope is in the One who knows what we don’t.

We do know the end of the story, even if we don’t know the paths along the way.

We try so hard to make life predictable, but we can’t.

The reality is, we don’t know. We can’t control. We can’t plan for every contingency.

But, we can trust. We can consciously leave the familiar and step out into the unknown.

The bridge will appear beneath our feet.

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Five Minute Friday: Excuse

 

The weather has gotten colder and basketball season is gearing up.

I’ve enjoyed having some evenings at home this week.  It’s harder to go out when it’s cold.

Linking up with Kate Motaung and the FMF community.

This week’s word: excuse.

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Have you ever stopped to think about why you make an excuse for something?

Sometimes our behavior is irrational. We’re trying to avoid pain, maybe. We’re trying to protect ourselves.

Sometimes that behavior is governed by a core belief we don’t even know we have. Sometimes we cling to irrational beliefs.

Looking them square in the face and deconstructing them helps.
Getting another person’s perspective helps. (As long as they don’t share your irrational beliefs.)

Prayer helps.

It’s so very hard to tell ourselves the truth.

So many times it isn’t pretty.

The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, after all.

It even deceives ourselves. Especially ourselves.

So, making excuses might just be clue.

A clue to the real motives behind behavior. A peek at the irrational beliefs that are really driving us.

It might hurt to look closer, but, ultimately, the path of truth is better.

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What I’m Reading, November 2017

On the home front, looking at the carnage of two rotten trees in our front yard makes me philosophical about loss.

I think it’s good to remember, to try to make sense of loss, to let yourself feel the sadness.

I also think it’s helpful to focus on what’s left, not necessarily on what’s gone.

Linking up on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

On to the books–

 Buy now from Amazon

The Secret of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers by Matt Bird

I am fascinated by story.  I believe with every fiber that story is one of the most powerful teaching tools, and probably the most underutilized.

I found Matt Bird’s observations to be insightful and helpful.  His field of expertise is TV and film, but I think a lot of the principles he’s discovered are universally applicable.

Here’s a few gems:

“You must write for an audience, not just yourself.”

“Audiences don’t really care about stories;  they care about characters.”

“Your story is not about your hero’s life; it’s about your hero’s problem.”

Good stuff.

 

 Buy now from Amazon

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

Five stars for being a wholesome, well-written YA.

It’s interesting to stop and think about what it’s like to be blind from birth. How impossible it is to picture anything. What it means for your social interactions.

Add the fact that you’re sixteen years old and transferring from a blind school to a public school.

This is an engaging, feel good story. Satisfying.

 Buy now from Amazon

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Viktor was a prisoner in a concentration camp in Germany. But, he was also a psychartrist. So, he analyzed the fellow prisoners, the ones who had given up hope and died and the ones who had the will to live.

He concluded that everyone needs to find their own reason for being on the planet: their life’s work. He had a book he was working on before he was imprisoned and he was also married.

Focusing his thoughts on finishing his book and seeing his wife again sustained him during the horrific experience of the concentration camp.

  Buy now from Amazon

Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday

The main premise of this book is that traditional PR, marketing and advertising with it’s big budgets and campaigns are no longer necessary for success.

Ryan Holiday should know. That was his field.
But today the playing field is leveled with desktop publishing, everyone as a photographer and social media taking your message viral.

I believe in some ways it’s easier than ever to get your message out. In other ways, you have more competition because everyone has access to what used to be only available to a few.

The challenge now is to stand out and be noticed in an avalanche of everyone promoting their message.

What are you reading this month?