Monday Mayhem: Dare to do what you love/hate!

We met a pediatrician recently who shared a story of his early days of clinical work. He and several other interns would see patients at a walk-in clinic. A nurse manager was responsible for doing the initial assessments then she would assign each patient to one of the doctors for treatment. As it was a clinic, there were no appointment, so on any given day one never knew what kinds of patients he or she would see.  However, this particular doctor noticed that he was getting all of the mental health patients while the other doctors were getting a variety, and often the “easy” stuff–runny noses and the common cold.  Annoyed by this apparent disparity and worn out by the more difficult patient load, he confronted the nurse manager.

“Why are you givng me all of these patients and not giving any to the other doctors? It’s not fair!” he complained.

“Why do you think?” she shot back. “You’re the only one who has proven you can actually help them. When I give those patients to the other doctors, they sit with them all day and get nowhere! My waiting room gets backed up and it’s a mess. I give them to you and you get them in and out.”

My doctor friend wasn’t sure how to respond to this, but vowed that once he had put in his time at the clinic and was able to open his own practice he would see to it that he would only see the kinds of patients that he wanted to and he would pass on those others…

Fast forward decades later this same doctor is now well-established and, indeed, in a position to choose the kinds of patients to treat, or not. And guess what? His pediatric patients who have come in with mental health issues have found his knack for counseling to be good medicine.  Word has spread to the wider community and his services have begun to fill a need. He now sees far fewer pediatric cases and far more mental health cases.

“Isn’t that something?” He said as he slipped into his crisp white coat and prepared to leave us. With a sigh and a shrug he waved goodbye and let the office door close behind him.

Then his nurse leaned in as if to share with us a little secret.”Don’t let him fool you,” she said. “He loves it, and he’s good with them. They come in here all down and depressed, then, next thing you know, you hear them in there laughing and talking. He’ll get down on the floor with them and draw pictures, all kinds of things. Before you know it, they’re leaving out of here all smiles and feeling better! He acts like he doesn’t like it, but he was meant to do this.”

Wow.

For some reason, her words hit me.

We usually assume that the things we’re meant to do are things we enjoy doing. Things we know we’re meant to do, not things we dread doing or things we try to avoid! Here’s a man who spent his entire career trying to avoid this type of work and yet he apparently has a gift for it. Is it possible that our gifts could be things we despise?

Might it actually be necessary to wrestle with the gifts and talents that we have as we figure out what we can and should be doing with them?

It seems to me that the moral of this story is that if we have a knack for something, if we’re naturally good at it–even if we don’t particularly care for it–we should not run from it. Maybe we aren’t meant to do it all the time–but for a time.  

But, when that time comes we must not turn away (if you’re good at it, and it can help someone, how can you say no?)… because some of our gifts we love… and some we hate.  It’s ok.  Do it anyway.

Happy Monday!

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P.S.Who’s on first? I make A Case for Second Place

Monday Mayhem: Go to Your Happy Place!

Sometimes happiness gets a bad rap. It can be depicted as flighty and fleeting, something we shouldn’t put stock in or count on too much. It’s a temporary feeling, like infatuation, that we warn teens against. Preachers say it’s far better to have joy than happiness and that God intends for us to be holy instead. But when I listen to Pharrell Williams’ song and watch this video I am reminded of what we all know is true:

Happiness is joy personified!

Sure, it’s a feeling that passes when times get hard. Of course, we don’t always feel like dancing, but happiness is also a vital part of our well-being.  It’s what gives life to our lives! Without it, I believe we would surely die—or at least we would want to (Prov 17:22)!  Besides that, it’s the very temporal nature of happiness that gives it its value. Precisely because happiness is a temporary state of being, we should cherish every happy moment that we enjoy.

My friend Chandra has reminded us that summer, too, is a temporal state, so, quick, while there’s  still time, find your summer time happy place—the beach, the pool, the park–wherever–and revel in it! Grab your favorite drink—ice tea, ice coffee, ice cold lemonade—and sip slow! Because it’s these kinds of moments that you’ll want to remember with fondness when the winter winds blow and you’re feeling low. It’s the glorious days of summer music in the park and fishing off the pier, kayaking in the rapids, scuba diving off the coast, cruising in the Caribbean—or just staying up late and watching Netflix ‘til dawn!

Whatever summer looks like to you, wherever you find a little happiness that you can tuck into your pocket to save for a rainy day, take it! Think of these final, fleeting days of summer as the precious memory-filled days that they are and enjoy every moment.

Happy Monday!

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Stay cool this summer with these Food Network Snacks that Taste Better Frozen or check out my own favorite recipes. Also, find more Monday Mayhem here!

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Monday Mayhem: Happy Mid-Year!

So, remember way back in January when you made your “New Year’s Resolutions”? Why would I be talking about those? It’s June! Well, isn’t now a perfect time to talk about them, precisely because you’ve forgotten? Aren’t you tired of it? Beginning the new year with all that hope and promise only to slip back into the same old rut by February? Now, here we are, half way through the year and what do we have to show for it?

Why not break the pattern?

Consider this is our mid-year check-up! Half way through the year we should re-visit those resolutions that we cast aside and see if we can breathe some new life into them, or maybe we need to re-assess. Were we too ambitious or unrealistic in January? What has changed since then? How do we need to round out this not-so-new year?

I’d like to surf into the second half of this year with renewed energy, how about you? Let’s commit to something new!

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So, when I looked back at my Welcome post for this blog I realize that I had some lofty goals. For example, I intended to have a monthly “Writer’s Block” challenge, to have a “Writing 101” column with writing tips from my writing courses and to feature writing samples as well as commentary and stories on other topics of general interest.

As I read over this list I see that I’ve done quite a bit with this last item. I’ve shared creative pieces, writing samples and plenty of general interest commentary, but I would say that I need to work on bolstering my writing tips and challenges for all of you writers out there!  I also had some New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Write daily.
  2. Allow yourself to write poorly. 
  3. Build a community of writers.

I do not write daily, but I have at least been writing more this year than ever before. I have certainly allowed myself to write poorly and that has been painful, but productive, and I have built a community of writers AND readers–that’s YOU! And I want to thank you for being here! You have helped me to stick pretty closely to these resolutions and I couldn’t have done it without the motivation that comes with having a real audience.

I hope that you will find the motivation you need to assess your own mid-year resolutions or make new ones! Come on, it’s not too late to make a new start.

Happy Monday!

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Click below, Emily Bacetis reveals how we can succeed at keeping our eyes on the prize!

A Case for Second Place

Anyone who knows me will be surprised by the title of this essay. Second place? Am I actually suggesting that good enough is, well, good enough?

No.

Well, yes.

Let me explain.

I believe in striving for excellence. And I will never stop pushing myself, my children, my students and anyone else who crosses my sphere of influence to be the very best that they can be and to, of course, strive for FIRST PLACE!

But, suppose our very best efforts don’t earn us the coveted award and honors for which we’re competing? The reality is only one student gets “Student of the Year.” Only a handful get to be in the top ten.  Only a fraction will be in the highest percentile. So what about the rest of us? Are we failures?

As I listen to parents and grandparents brag about their prodigies who’ve snagged the precious few scholarships set aside for the deserving few and smugly imply that “those other poor kids who didn’t make it will have to just fend for themselves,” I can’t help but think about all those “other poor kids” who fall within that broad spectrum called “second place.” Now, mind you, I’m not talking about the barely-getting-by C students, the I-don’t-really-want-to-be-in-college-anyway company. I’m talking about the better-than-average assembly. The hard As-maybe-an-occasional-B bunch. The, no-it-doesn’t-come-easy-but-I’m-disciplined-focused-and-hard-working crew. Or the no-it-doesn’t-come-easy-but-I-study-cause-mom-and-dad-are-always-on-my-case cadre! What do these groups get? A pat on the back and a handshake? A “nice job, but sorry you’re not good enough”? Do you only deserve accolades if you’re brilliant beyond words? Are you only worthy of note if your GPA is off the charts and your standardized test scores are record-breaking? Does it count for anything if you’re articulate, personable, make friends easily and not too bad at solving equations?

I certainly don’t have anything against the brilliant and beautiful minds, I just think we’ve spent so much time trying to make our kids into the crème de la crème that we haven’t given them any credit for being a hearty cup of milk! But, according to the dairy industry “milk does a body good!” My point is, why not give the better-than-average second place a little more credit–even praise!? How about an “A” for their effort? Why should we praise the kid who can do algorithims in his sleep and not praise the kid who puts in extra work, maybe even hires a tutor and practices tirelessly to get it right? But rather than acknowledge the hard work that went into the B+ we only honor the easy A.

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Well, I’m here to make a case for second place. I’m here to vouch for the hard-earned B, to give a shout-out to all those who have other gifts–the gift of gab, the gift of personality, the gift of diligence, consistency and hard work.  These gifts are not measured by SATs or GREs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have value, and you can be sure that not everyone has these gifts.  Did you know that some of the most “brilliant” people are not so fun to be around? Often they are quite the opposite, but no one wants to talk about that. We hail them for their brilliance and ignore the fact that they are socially-awkward or devoid of basic personal skills. I’m not throwing shade, I’m making a point. My point is, let’s stop with the hierarchies–acting as if the brilliant ones are better than the rest of us, or even as if we are better than them! How about they have their strengths and we have ours?

Let’s stop putting pressure on our kids to be what they’re not. Let them be who they are. Let them be the best that they are.

And stop bragging about how your kid made the highest score on the SAT. Whoopee! He’s a great test-taker! My kid knows how to make people feel good about themselves and they like to be around her. Whoopee! She’s a great people-person! Which one should be in first place?

I’m making a case for second place.

Mayhem Monday: Why the Source of your Problems isn’t Who You Think!

I want to speak on something that may not win me any popularity contests, but it’s truth: quite simply, too many of us are focused on the wrong thing. We think our problems are the result of who when in actuality they have more to do with how! We think that it’s people who cause us grief when in reality it’s how we respond to them that determines that grief.

In addition, we’re unwilling to own our stuff and as long as we don’t own it, we will continue to be plagued by it.

What do I mean?  I’m talking about our focus:

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  • Rather than focus on your child’s misbehavior or academic deficiencies, you focus on everything that’s wrong with the school, the teachers or the administration…
  • Rather than focus on your insecurities or low self-esteem, you focus on how everybody’s doing you wrong, treating you badly and not giving you your due…
  • Rather than focus on your academic short-comings, you focus on your professors’ unwillingness to grade on the curve…
  • Rather than focus on your poor work ethic, you focus on your boss’ unwillingness to promote you…
  • Rather than focus on your bad habits, you focus on your friends’ unwillingness to be around you!

At what point do you turn the lens onto yourself? At what point does it become less about them and more about YOU?  When does it become your responsibility to improve the situation?

When is it time to own your stuff?

Maybe it’s  all the CNN and Fox News headlines that are starting to get to me. Maybe it’s the social media I’ve been seeing lately, but this blame game is ridiculous! Who’s at fault? Who cares? Pointing fingers is getting us NOWHERE!

Who do you blame for the problems that you’re dealing with? Is it all on the other guys? Are you sure about that?  Rarely are issues one-sided, but it’s so easy to project our shortcomings onto others.  How easy is it, though, to face criticism that is directed at us when it’s true?

Maybe, just maybe,  it’s time to look in the mirror. Nobody’s perfect, so why not figure out how to work through the imperfections rather than being so quick to attack? Why not try extending grace to others so that they may be willing to extend grace to us when (not if) we need it?  To solve our conflicts or fix our problems, why not try something different?

Why not change our focus?

Focus What will that look like for you, this focus on solutions? That’s a question you’ll have to answer, but I can tell you what it won’t look like. It won’t look like blaming or  pointing fingers. It won’t be about other people at all. It will begin with you.

What do you need to improve in yourself? In your children? In your habits? In your work ethic? Before you look outward, look inward.

Happy Monday!

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Don’t forget our Cityscape Challenge! Share pics of your favorite spots in the city or town where you live. Also, why not kickstart your day with my Green Tea Smoothie and a Tabata?

 

Books & Coffee Cityscape Challenge!

Do you love your city? Are there special places where you always hang out, take a stroll or take in some incredible views?

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Are you like me? Don’t really love where you live–kind of got stuck here because of school or circumstance? Well, you’re here now, might as well make the best of it, right?

Spring and summer are my favorite time of year.  It’s the weather. The warmth of the sun beckons me to believe that anything is possible! And now that summer is (almost) here I have more time to focus on writing, that always makes me happy!  So, I’ve decided to kick off the summer with a Books & Coffee photo challenge!  And, as we already learned with our ekphrastic poetry, images conjure words and ideas that can inspire limitless creations, so why not take advantage of the blooms and balmy vistas all around us during this season?

Grab your iPhone or Canon and trek over to your favorite place, or if you don’t have a favorite place, try looking around with fresh eyes. Find a forgotten corner of town and let it inspire you to see it in a new way. Take a photo–of a landmark, an odd-shaped stone, or a four-leaf clover, whatever catches your eye!–then tell us what makes this place special or significant in some way. Some spaces may be significant because of their history–whether personal or political. Some may be significant because of their impact–either personal or political.

As I mentioned, I’m not a big fan of the southern town where I live, but I do love being outside, and I particularly love my backyard! One of my favorite places to be on warm days is on my back porch looking out at the trees and up at the sky, listening to the birds and the wind.

BackyardIt just puts me at ease and clears my mind of the clutter. When I’m in this space it’s like I’m not in Alabama. In fact, where I am doesn’t matter because here I can just be. Nature has a way of being boundless like that, doesn’t it? When you’re surrounded by it, the artificial borders of property and ownership melt away. The wide expanse invites freedom and that’s what this space offers me: freedom.

So, what about you? Where’s your happy space? Where’s your space that inspires?  If you don’t already have one, maybe it’s time to go in search of one! My backyard was an easy find. I think I’ll venture a little further from home and share another inspiring place or space this week…stay tuned!

P.S. Leave a comment about your favorite place and put a link to your blog or social media so we can see what it looks like! I’m anxious to see your inspiring places! I know my fellow blogger, Chandra Lynn, will have something to share! What about you?

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Keys

Here’s another installment in the Irene Latham iconic images poetry! Tyhara Tyrell is another one of my lovely and talented students who chose this striking image and wondered about the significance and symbolism of keys.

What do your keys unlock?
do they unlock anything at all?
or do you simply like their antique jingle?
why do you have so many?
must you compartmentalize all aspects of your life

into separate boxes…?

are they tangible expressions of the secrets that you keep?
are they there to comfort your fingers when you feel lost?
do they reassure you of yourself

to know you hold the key,
the answers,
the truth,
knowing that they are yours
to share,
to never be used if so you choose,
to never be touched

by any other fingers other than your own.
They are yours.
your secrets,
and you don’t owe us any answers.
You don’t owe us any keys.

-Tyhara Tyrell

Check out my other creative student, Darlyze’s, poem “Woman Enough” and other creative works here on Books & Coffee!

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