Unpacking a Piece of the Most Important Commandment (If You Don’t MIND)

When I learn something significant or a truth hits me in a new way, especially when it pertains to knowledge of God or spiritual life, it can feel like an earth-shaking moment. Has that ever happened to you?

Today, I want to share with you one such discovery I made some years ago, that impacted my life for the better as it pertains to my pursuit of loving God more fully. The truth is one that was hidden in plain sight, right there in Jesus’ telling of the most important commandment:


The key word I am highlighting, and the main point of this post, is Jesus’ instruction to love God with all your MIND.

It’s easy to blast past that without thinking about it. But to do so, would, ironically, be disobeying the command in the verse.

The light bulb came on in my mind when reading about that concept in some Bible study curriculum I was going through at the time. It suddenly became clear that it is inherent in the command to actively use my brain activity for God’s glory. That means:

  • Thinking deeply about what I was reading, rather than just hurriedly skimming so I could “check off” my Bible reading for the day
  • Doing more research to find solid answers to questions raised in the text of Scripture
  • Being diligent to find answers to questions others asked about my faith if I didn’t immediately know (1 Peter 3:15)
  • Dwelling on the Person of God and His attributes and works
  • Taking time to pray thoughtfully, again, not rushing through it
  • Thinking through each area of life, asking God to reveal sinful attitudes and actions I may be holding onto
  • “Taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). That is to say, going on the offense against stray evil thoughts (we all have them), and actively directing my mind back to “whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, worthy of praise” (paraphrase of Philippians 4:8)

There are also applications for life outside of strictly spiritual pursuits:

  • Doing my best at work, and fighting against a wandering mind that negatively impacts productivity
  • Refusing to engage in gossip about others
  • Embracing complex, necessary tasks rather than avoiding them
  • Thinking biblically about others, even those with whom I fiercely disagree. We are all made in God’s image (James 3:9)
  • Even entertainment choices are subject to scrutiny. Is what I am watching, listening to, or reading helping my walk with God? Is it possible it is not helping or even hurting it?

When I began to think through all these things, it started to become clearer how much junk and sin gets in the way of obeying that command. It is a difficult truth, but its importance cannot be overstated.

Like so many important truths from Scripture, the light bulb coming on was just the beginning. Over the years, as God has mercifully continued working in my life, I’ve been able to flesh out the points above. I am not claiming that I do these things without fail. I certainly do not. But that is the wonderous blessing of sanctification. God continues to work in us throughout our lives. For that, I am most grateful and humbled.

If you have anything to add to my list of applications, please share a comment. Or any other questions or comments – I can’t wait to hear from you! My prayer is that this helps you in your walk with God in some way.

Thank you for reading this post!



Posted in Advice, Biblical insights, Opinion, prayer, priorities, Theology | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Summer 2018 Adventure Highlights

I make no secret of the fact that summer is my favorite season. No, not because it is my name. It tops the list for me (and my husband Mike) because it is the short window of reliably warm weather in which we can engage in our favorite recreational pursuits.

Hiking, swimming, kayaking, camping, cycling, and others are some of our favorite things to do. While I’ll admit they can be done year round, it just isn’t as appealing to do most of them when it is dripping buckets and 45 degrees outside. Since we have two, maybe three months each year with heavenly weather, it is during that time that we feverishly try to cram in as much outdoor activity as we can, knowing that nine months of rain stands between the next round of adventures.  For a two-minute video explanation of that, set to some of my favorite scenery, click here.

These are the A-B-Cs of me.

That being said, I figured I’d post a handful of highlights of some of our adventures this summer. I have become increasingly bad at posting things on social media regularly, so here they are, at least some of them, in one place.


Betting on good weather in June in the Pacific Northwest is about as reliable as betting on a drunkard to win a game of darts.  So when nice weather rears its head earlier than expected, it is time to spring into action.

Seeing as one of our greatest loves is hiking, and we’ve not managed to do much of it in the last several years, I made sure to earmark a few Saturdays to strap on our boots.

The following pics are from our trek up Saddle Mountain, a coast range hike which yields a stunning panoramic view of the ocean and surrounding terrain, on a clear day.


The stunning wildflower vistas and tree-lined hills on the way up!

Saddle Mountain

Yep, we’re going all the way up there!


The top was all socked in with fog, but here is a midway selfie.

OK, so we didn’t get that 360-degree view, but we got a good workout. Then…

We proceeded to Cannon Beach, where again the drunkard at the dart game pulled one out for the team; a rare clear, warm, sunny day greeted us as we grabbed lunch and then headed to the sand for a stroll.

Michael David Sorensen

Watercolor artist hubby (Michael David Sorensen) grabs reference shots for a future painting.

The weather was so unusually beautiful that we decided to be spontaneous and stay overnight since we were already there under favorable conditions and didn’t want to go home. There were SO MANY people at the coast, we were lucky to find a hotel room, even more so, an affordable one.

In a busy life full of hustle, work and responsibilities, a reprieve and the opportunity to savor a perfect day are a treat that we remember for a long while.


The month of July held two more beach weekends, which totals up to two or three more than usual for us.

The first was a trek down to Depoe Bay, OR where we were generously provided lodging at a vacation home belonging to the owner of an art gallery in town where Mike has some of his watercolor painting for sale.

A general rule of thumb: if you’re driving that far away for the weekend, might as well do more exploring while out and about. On the agenda: lunch at one of our favorite coastal brewpubs (guess which one?), a hike up Cascade Head, driving down the coast for lighthouse viewings, and exploring the sights in Florence, Oregon.

Pacific City, Pelican Brewing

There is usually a long wait for a table on Saturday afternoon at Pelican Brewpub, but the view is hard to beat!

Cascade Head

An early morning jaunt to the top of Cascade Head. Gotta burn off those mochas & pastries from Dutch Bros. somehow!

Heceta Head lighthouse

The beach below Heceta Head lighthouse in Florence is fairly magical IMO.


Lunch along the Siuslaw River in Florence. The place was mediocre, but the view was great.

Our next beach trip involved camping with some friends in Brookings, OR – the southernmost city on the Oregon Coast before heading into California. It was a long drive (about six hours) for a weekend trip; good thing the scenery was beautiful!

Sea stacks in Brookings, Oregon

The sea stacks on the Southern Oregon coast always blow me away with their beauty.


We happened upon a stunning bay with turquoise water and a beach that is inaccessible by land. Special bonus: a slackline across the bay, and someone crazy enough to do it while we watched!

On the July weekends that we stayed in town, we put some miles on our hiking boots.

Ramona Falls

Ramona Falls on July 4th weekend with our friends Larry & Sarah.

Mt. Hood, Ramona Falls

Stunning up-close view of Mt. Hood from the Ramona Falls trail.

After the devasting wildfire in the Columbia River Gorge last September and the resultant closure of many of our favorite close by hikes, we ended up going further out, to less popular trails. One such hike afforded views of Mounts Hood, Adams, Rainier & Jefferson. I didn’t get any good pictures on that hike, however.


Typically the warmest month of the year, August was a little tricky this year as I had a lingering cold for the first part of the month, to be followed by wildfire smoke for most of two weeks, obscuring the sun, dropping temperatures, and making it less than pleasant to be outside. Nevertheless, we did enjoy some outdoor time.

Another camping trip up to beautiful Lake Quinault in Olympic National Park yielded a mix of clouds, smoke, cool temperatures and rain (it rained buckets on Saturday).

Lake Quinault

Lake Quinault, under the cover of clouds & rain.

Lake Quinault

We moved sites the second day, to a GIANT walk-in site Mike found that had just been vacated.

Though the hopes for a trip camping next to a beautiful lake included swimming and kayaking, we adjusted plans in light of the uncooperative weather. Instead, we napped, sat by the fire, read, went for short hikes and visited. We are decent lemonade makers if you know what I mean.

The rest of the story

Those were some of the highlights of the summer. There were plenty of others, but I don’t want to bore you with excruciating details. Suffice it to say, other hikes, camping, backyard BBQs with friends, family reunions and parties filled our summer with many delightful memories.

We continue to appreciate the stunning beauty of the region in which we live. We count ourselves fortunate to have both our families close by, and a myriad of great friends with whom we share life. It is truly, a wonderful life. We are grateful.








Posted in Blogging, Entertainment, Opinion, priorities, Random, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Scripture Memory: Exciting Update & Encouragement

Hello dear reader!

Recently I posted a blog/vlog discussing the importance to the Christian of memorizing Scripture. I won’t rehash the points here. You can watch the video if you want. I did, however, want to share an exciting update.

At the time of that post, I mentioned that I had found a resource that made it easy to memorize longer passages of Scripture – something I had been wanting to do, but couldn’t quite figure out how. This resource, which I will link to below, helped me achieve a long-standing goal of memorizing Psalm 19.

Using its technique, I moved on to what would previously have seemed an insurmountable challenge. I memorized the entire book of James! All five chapters (108 verses). It took me about two months to do. James has always been one of those epistles that has ministered to me in many ways over the years. And now, I have it committed to memory.

In no way am I saying this to boast. Hardly. More accurately, I share it with you so you know that if I can do it, YOU can do it.

I used to have a rock solid memory; one in which I could and did boast. Being able to retain thousands of little details was great. However, as time has marched on, I am sad to say my memory is not as sharp as it used to be. I rely on notes a lot more now, and my brain space gets filled up a lot easier than it ever did before. That is why I am confident that if I can do it, you can.

With a desire to hide God’s word in your heart (Psalm 119:11), humbly asking for His help to do it, and committing to work diligently at it, you too can memorize whole chapters and even books of the Bible.

Here is the link to the pamphlet I read that got me started:


What do you think? Are you ready to commit more Scripture to memory? If you decide to try it, I would love to hear how it goes!

Have a great week, and thank you for reading this blog post!


Posted in apologetics, Bible / Christian Living, Biblical insights, Lifehacks, Opinion | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Remembering Toonces, Her Life As Told by Mom

Today marks the sad occasion when we chose to have our cat, Toonces, put down, due to failing health and complications from old age.

Toonces was our cat for 16.3 years. She lived a good, long, pampered life. My aim here is to highlight her journey.

Toonces was the fulfillment of a promise I made to myself in eighth grade. I have always loved cats, and I had several from elementary school through junior high. Unfortunately, each one managed to meet their end either in a tragic way or in one case, simply disappearing, never to be seen again.

After the loss of our fourth cat, my parents decided they’d had enough. They refused to let me get another cat, and suffer more tragedy. I was upset, but I knew their minds were made up. It was at that time I vowed to myself that as soon as I finished school and moved out on my own, I would get another cat. That was sometime in the mid-90s.

Fast forward to 2002.

Fresh out of college, I had moved to the tiny South Texas town of Beeville to take a job as the evening DJ at a country radio station. At that time I was determined to eventually become a syndicated radio star, and getting your start in an unrated market was the natural first step.

Living in my own apartment for the first time (2200 miles from home), I remembered my vow and realized I was now able to fill the ever-present longing in my heart for a kitten.  However, I was hesitant to take on any additional expenses in light of my meager salary. I was indecisive about it, and not ready to make a move.

One sweltering hot Saturday afternoon (in other words, any old Saturday in South Texas), I was on my way home from a walk, when I came upon what I later referred to as the “ghetto roadside humane society.” A group of kind-hearted ladies had formed an organization with the intent of finding a home for every stray cat in town. They took them all under their wings, refusing to take them to the actual humane society, where they would likely get euthanized if they weren’t adopted.

They had lawn chairs set up by the road, with pop-up tents providing shade for a couple open kennels full of kittens, and some older cats up for grabs to a good home. In my uncertain financial state, I planned to just keep walking, but I thought to myself, “I could at least go take a look.” Famous last words.

The selection process

I had my heart set on a gray, frisky kitten, to replace the last one I had as a youth, that had gone missing after only a few weeks. I found a cute gray one, sitting in a box with several other kittens that were resting in the hot afternoon sun. My mind was almost made up, except for one thing. Frisky, high energy and gray were equal criteria in cat selection. The gray one was definitely not high energy, but she fit the bill for looks.

Sharing the box with her was an adorable fuzz ball with a black & gray head and back, with the rest of her body white. While the other kittens tried to nap, this one was stumbling about like eight-week-old kittens do, frolicking, and climbing over the sleepy cats as if to say in kitten-ese: “Hey guys, it’s time to play! What’s everyone sitting around for?? Hey, who wants to play? Hey!”

I knew I “needed” this cat, but was hung up on the gray one. The lady managing the kennel slyly suggested I could have both. I wasn’t even sure about one, let alone two. But she assured me they would pay for its shots, so I decided, what the hey, why not take both of them?

As a side note, I did take both, but they gray one turned out to have serious health problems (it sat motionless most of the time and would sit in the litter box without moving for long periods, so I gave it back to them after a week or so). I only mention it because she was part of the story.

That is how I ended up with Toonces. She was my roommate and faithful companion in those lonely months away from friends and family. My odd working hours and introverted tendencies provided me with only two hours of human interaction each day, with co-workers, before everyone in the office and studio left for the day, and I was alone doing my show until midnight.

I would return home to have her greet me at the door, meowing with happiness to see me. I was equally happy to see her cute face, but I left the meowing to her.

Next stages of life

When it was time to head back to the northwest, I packed up all my belongings into my 1983 Honda Civic hatchback and placed my beloved Toonces in her cat carrier perched where I could see her from my rear view mirror. As we made the multi-day journey home, through the hot southwestern United States in a small car without air-conditioning, though I was extremely uncomfortable as well, Toonces did enough whining for both of us.

Upon my return, I did the now standard boomerang move and reclaimed my childhood bedroom at my folks’ house while I worked on the next part of the plan. My parents wouldn’t allow Toonces in the house (something about ruined furniture I guess?), but my dad allowed her to stay in his workshop, where I would frequently go out to visit and let her run loose in the yard under supervision. It wasn’t an ideal dwelling, but I didn’t have many other options.

Eventually, I moved out to rent a room in someone’s home; another dwelling where the cat was not welcome to roam the house. Having no other choice, I turned her loose to become an outdoor cat by day, and in the evening I would bring her into my room, where she was allowed, as long as she was kept contained.

An upward trajectory

After having survived in conditions that she I am sure she felt were far beneath her queenly status, things took an upward swing. A move to an apartment with a couple cat-loving roommates (one being a cat whisperer) meant three times the affection and freedom to claim the whole living space. Finally, dwellings worthy of her royalty.

She thrived in this environment, got fat, remained sassy, and continually filled my heart with delight at her cuteness and friskiness.

As bachelorette living goes, things change often, and people get married. When the cat-whisperer roommate got hitched, it was time to move again. This time back to a rented room, where Toonces was confined to my bedroom when I wasn’t home, to avoid destroying the homeowner’s fancy furniture. Although it wasn’t ideal, it was at this stage in the game that a new dynamic changed everything.

Introducing … your future dad

In July 2009, I invited a handsome bachelor over for dinner. It is worth noting that over the years, Toonces developed highly anti-social tendencies. She would run and hide whenever someone unknown to her entered the house. So imagine my surprise when, this guy in whom I was extremely interested comes over and sits down in the kitchen, and Toonces heads straight for him, jumps on his lap and allows herself to be petted like he was her best friend. It was a sight to behold.

Mike Toonces 1st meeting

Mike and Toonces meeting for the first time.

Their friendship became cemented from that point forward, as that handsome bachelor became my husband, and Toonces suddenly had a father. 🙂 Turns out that Mike is a cat-whisperer himself, and it quickly became clear that Toonces liked his doting ways even better than she seemed to like me!

Family of three

From 2010 on, it was nothing but luxurious living for the cat. She had her own place, which she was kind enough to share with her mom and dad, and the transitions and woes of the unstable life behind her.

She remained a frisky cat until the last few years. We got endless amusement out of her fiercely batting around pens and bottle caps and tirelessly chasing the red dot from the laser pointer. She warmed our laps in the evening, retained an unquenchable need to be petted at all times, and looked and acted like a youthful cat for many years.

She had spells of acting naughty, some of which were very trying for mom, and later for dad. I suppose all pets do that. But overall, the joy, mirth, and cuteness she provided far outweighed the trouble she caused.

It was sad to see her slow down over the last year and troubling to see her health take a nosedive in the last few months. I shed many a tear thinking about the inevitable arrival of this day. Her symptoms of illness were adding up, and the full-of-life cat that we had known was replaced with a sickly, weak, shrinking, shell of a kitty with very little life or energy left in her. In the end, we knew it was time.

It was a very gut-wrenching decision to make. But I am convinced it was the right one. We had over 16 years of delight with Toonces; many more than I ever thought possible. She used up all of her nine lives with flair. In so doing, she brought untold joy to our lives. We’ll miss that cat something fierce.


Toonces even learned to take selfies! 😉



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13 Obvious Facts, About Which There Can Be No Dispute

I’ll jump right in here and list some facts!

  1. The correct way to hang a roll of toilet paper is with the paper facing out. Everybody knows this.
  2. When telling a story, if you find yourself without a suitable ending, just say, “So … yeah.” Works every time to wow your audience.
  3. Cats are superior to dogs as pets. Enough said.


    How can you argue with that face?

  4. It is appropriate to brush your teeth after breakfast, not before.
    If you brush before, you get rid of morning breath, only to foul it up again upon eating breakfast and/or drinking coffee. Not to mention, the minty taste doesn’t jive well with food. Come on now, pre-breakfast toothbrushers. Listen to reason.
  5. When you’re sick, coughing and sneezing into your elbow is polite. Using your hand is barely more sanitary than not covering your mouth at all. Defiling your hand with mungy mucus, then proceeding to touch things that others might touch, thus spreading germs – where is the love in that??
  6. When it comes to a box of chocolates, the ones with fruit filling are revolting.
  7. People who regularly state their opinions as facts cannot be trusted. (Unless they are right.)
  8. The Golden Rule is based on the words of Jesus (Matthew 7:12). The Platinum Rule is based on ever-changing cultural wisdom. Therefore, Golden Rule wins.
  9. Facts don’t care about your feelings. (Ben Shapiro coined this one, I believe.)
  10. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Unless it is a romance novel with an illustrated cover picture of a shirtless, glistening-bare-chested man. Then you absolutely should judge it.
  11. The characters in Parks & Recreation are more endearing than those in The Office (American version).
  12. To up the ante even more, Park and Recreation is a better show than The Office. Hey, don’t look at me with that tone of voice.
  13. If you read this whole list, I think you’re neat.
    (Even though you may be in denial of at least one of the facts listed above.)

I really don’t expect any disagreement on this, because, how can anyone argue with facts?? Nevertheless, comments are welcomed. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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5 Bible Verses That Prove Introverts Are Naturally More Godly

Much is written about the fact that introverts prefer to be alone, and that they recharge through alone time. This is true. The highly under-reported (and I think, much less known) traits of an introvert include a slowness to speak, due to different brain processing than quick-thinking, fast-talking extroverts.  Also included is a greater willingness to listen, due in part to slower brain processing that leaves introverts less comfortable in the spotlight.  I wrote about these traits and how learning about them changed my life dramatically for the better in a previous post.

That being the case, let us dive into five different Bible verses that hail the qualities with which introverts are born.

Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few. For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words.
– Ecclesiastes 5:1-3

“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”

– James 1:19

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise. – Proverbs 10:19

He who guards his mouth and his tongue,
Guards his soul from troubles. – Proverbs 21:23

He who restrains his words has knowledge,
And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise;
When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent. – Proverbs 17:28-29

Connecting the dots

So? Are you convinced introverts are naturally more godly now?

Before I go any further, I have to admit that this post is intentionally meant as satire. Mostly. It largely ruins any sizzle to name it as satire, but I am doing so since it may not be crystal clear that it is. And because I haven’t yet developed quite a thick enough skin to post things that others might find insulting without explaining it. Maybe that day will come. Also, please know that I take God’s word very seriously. I exercise great caution in using it flippantly to make jokes, and study hard to ensure I use it correctly and explain it rightly (2 Timothy 2:15). However…

Do I actually believe introverts are naturally more godly? No, not really. I just happen to read such verses with an introverted understanding of the world and inwardly smile. Because in the eyes of “the world” having a quick, witty reply and being able to articulate the current state of affairs is deemed as most useful. Quiet people, who are less apt to speak up in groups, are many times perceived as less effective or intellectual.

But when we consider God’s ways, we see that sometimes fewer words and more reflection are often better, and are a recipe for curbing potential sin that comes from loose lips.

If you have any thoughts, comments, disagreements, or the like, I would love to hear them!


Posted in Biblical insights, Opinion, Satire | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

On Memorizing Scripture (My first ever vlog!)

I’ve always had a tricky relationship with memorizing Scripture. On one hand, I know it is a good idea. I’ve been immensely benefitted by the verses I have memorized. On the other hand, it is hard to do. I have often lacked the discipline, or perhaps also the right tactics for doing it.

I’m pleased to report, that through God’s grace, a handful of different influences, and a resource I encountered, that is changing.

I recorded a vlog (my first ever to be published!) about the discipline of memorizing Scripture. If this is a subject that you are drawn to, and you have a few minutes to spare, I’d be obliged if you’d watch this video and check out the resource I mention.

What are your thoughts on memorizing Scripture? Any success stories or goals you’d like to share? Please comment!

Posted in Advice, Bible / Christian Living, Opinion, priorities, Reliability of the Bible | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Why I Blog

I’ve been blogging for over 10 years. For nine or so of them, my posts were few and far in between. I often had ideas I wanted to write about, but I found it very difficult to develop the discipline and make time to sit down and write. I’ve been trying to make up for that the last year.

Some might consider it a waste of time. I don’t. I wouldn’t have kept it up all these years if I did. I thoroughly enjoy it, and in fact, would love the opportunity to do it even more.

So why do I like blogging so much? Allow me to elaborate.

I love to write

Maybe this one is obvious. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve gotten a thrill out of expressing myself with the written word. Talking about personal experiences, even writing papers in school (though less so), is a chance to practice one of my favorite sitting down hobbies. I never get tired of it, nor run out of ideas of things about which to write.

As an introvert, it is a good outlet

I’ve written about the inner workings of introverts in the past. Without re-hashing the contents of that post, I’ll just briefly say that we don’t speak up as much in groups as extroverts do. It is just the way we are wired. My relative quietness in a group in no way means I don’t have anything to share, but it more likely means that either there wasn’t a sufficient opening in the conversation, or I didn’t feel prepared to talk, or likely, by the time I thought of something to say on the topic, the group was already talking about something else.

Thus, when I write, I have all the time I need to lay out my thoughts in an orderly fashion and edit as needed. The keyboard doesn’t mind long, awkward pauses. Writing is a way for introverts like me to express myself.

Additionally, I find that often my own thoughts on a subject aren’t fully known to me until I take the time to write about them. Somehow, taking some quiet time to tap out some words on a keyboard or write in a journal gets my mind working in a way it wouldn’t otherwise. Fragmented thoughts begin to flow together, and a coherent idea often begins to develop. Works well for personal therapy, professional and spiritual ideas and more.

I like to share ideas

I’m no spring chicken anymore, as much as it stings to admit. But with the miles and years I’ve experienced, I’ve found that I have grown in knowledge and, by the grace of God, in wisdom (James 1:5). With a head and heart full of insight from lessons learned and insights gleaned, I find that I am eager to share some of those things with those that care to listen. Turns out that is not many people, but hey, the least I can do is put them out there and see what sticks.

I don’t want to explode

I mentioned above that I often don’t express my ideas when talking to others. Nevertheless, they keep stacking up in my mind. Like a balloon can only take so much air before it reaches its limits and pops, I find that I need to get my thoughts down “on paper” before something explodes inside me.

Wrap up

That is a brief look at the reasons why I blog and believe I will as long as I am able. I hope that you, the reader, have identified something you are passionate about; something you do for the sheer joy of it. And so that you also don’t explode.

What is your passion? I’d love to hear! Feel free to leave a comment and let me know. Blessings and thanks for reading!

Posted in Blogging, Opinion, priorities | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mythbusters: The Self-Made Man (or Woman) – Examining the Claim & A More Humble Perspective

It is sometimes said of or by successful people that they are a “self-made man” (Or woman.) This, to me, seems to indicate that those who report them as such are of the belief that they achieved their mountaintop status all by themselves. That they alone are responsible for their outstanding accomplishments.

I personally think that is a load of hooey.

Enough so, that I deemed it worthy of the second installment of this blog’s “Mythbusters” series. The first post in the series was on the false belief that it is possible to get everything done.

Now I’ll grant that there is a school of thought, found none other than on selfmademan.com, which determines that one becomes self-made:

“the moment you decide to shape your world, rather than be shaped by it.

It is a spark… A decision… An internal will that can never be given by another, and that can never be purchased or borrowed.

In that moment, you become the sole architect and artist of your life – a Self Made Man or woman, where the rest of the world serves as the hammer and chisel you wield in order to shape it to your desire.”

That makes sense, and I am even inclined to agree with it.

What I take issue with is the mentality that one can get to where they are with no help at all. That one can forge their destiny out of sheer determination and brilliance.

My belief is that is arrogant, and fails to acknowledge formative influences in one’s own life.  The quote above describes the behavior of someone who has chosen to take control of their life. But let us give credit where credit is due.

Everyone’s story begins in a fashion that is beyond their control: where and to whom they are born, and how they are raised. It isn’t until one’s brain is developed and they begin making deliberate, independent choices, that the trajectory of their life gains some autonomy.

Some examples:

The person born in poverty to poorly educated parents. They may stay in the cycle into which they were born. Or perhaps they will encounter an outside influence that ultimately leads them to complete a higher level of education, go on to have a successful career, or even start a wildly successful company and end up in the “1%” club.

An individual with parents who have no interest in a healthy lifestyle, who raise him or her on processed and fast food, loads of sugary garbage, and provide no model for exercising. That person may follow the example they are given, or they may realize their inherited lifestyle is leading to trouble, and end up being a health-food junkie marathoner.

Or how about a rank-and-file worker bee who marches through the rat race for years, enduring terrible bosses, low pay, and a dearth of growth opportunities. Discouraged, they begin taking classes to beef up their education, and eventually switch careers to a job about which they are passionate.

Are all these folks “self-made?” I would argue, no. Not entirely.

The first person may have had an inspiring teacher who their potential, and encouraged them to break the cycle of poverty. Or a sibling who reminded them that there are other options, and it wasn’t necessary to maintain the status quo. Or a friend who had grand ambitions, which opened their eyes to other possibilities.

Perhaps the second person witnessed a parent struggle with health problems caused by poor lifestyle choices. Researching how to treat and prevent such issues lead to the discovery of the vast world of resources out there to help one get and stay healthy. They team up with a friend and join a gym, where they meet others who pursue health, and their life takes a different turn.

The third person may have endured poor or cruel management, being overworked and underpaid, all the while carefully taking notes about “what not to do.” They see in other leaders qualities they admire and seek counsel from them and other co-workers about how to best navigate the situation in which they find themselves. In their next position, they take what they have learned and use it to forge a more rewarding environment for themselves.

The point

The bottom line and the point I am attempting to make is that we all have people in our lives who, for positive or negative, help shape who we are and who we become. We are ultimately responsible for who we become, but the end result was not created in a vacuum. It was forged by the input we received from others every day of our lives.

My mental exercise

I’ve had this topic on my “blog ideas” list for quite some time, but a recent exercise of mental gratitude for specific people in my life is what pushed it to the top, and with greater focus.

Just today I was thinking about a particular individual who started out as a respected supervisor, who eventually became a friend with whom I have stayed in contact even years after we last worked together. We’ve since often commiserated, worked out together, shared the struggles of our various goals and dreams, and helped each other along the way. At least I know she has helped me. She is one of the dozens of examples of people I’ve had the privilege of knowing, whose skills and outlook on life have impacted and shaped my perceptions and abilities.

As I began to think about a handful of other such influential people in my life, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude. I give the credit to God and His kindness and providence in guiding my life to allow me to cross paths with so many fabulous people. Not to mention giving me an outstanding family in which to grow up.

When I reflect on where I am today, I am keenly aware that who I am has been shaped in a big way by the influence of others. Some good, some bad. But all have contributed to my current outlook on life.


That is why I scoff at the phrase “self-made man” and find it arrogant when someone believes they got where they are all by themselves. As I said earlier, I prefer to give credit where it is due and embrace the gratitude for the people and battle scars that have contributed to my success.

What are your thoughts on the “self-made man?” Do you agree or disagree? I am guessing you could name at least one person who has made an enormous impact in your life.

Posted in Mythbusters, Opinion, Professional Development | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Things I Constantly Have To Remind Myself About Productivity (Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist)

As a recovering perfectionist*, I tend to be too hard on myself when I think I haven’t gotten enough done on a particular day. Can anyone else relate?  Especially on a day off. I have grand visions of checking things off a long and aggressive to-do list.

At the end of the day, my husband will often ask, “How did things go today?” Almost without fail, I say some variation of, “Well, it was OK, but I didn’t get as much done as I wanted.” This happens so regularly, it almost makes me crazy.

My first reaction to such a realization is to feel bad for myself like I failed. This is my perfectionist nature, which can never be satisfied. Fortunately, I’m slowly coming to realize the trap that my perfectionism continually sets for me. I outlined a few things I learned in a previous post about productivity. Building on that, here are a couple things that I often need to remind myself.

Communication counts as productivity

One of my trademark moves is forgetting to account for the time it takes to communicate, and the necessity of it for getting things done. Not many of us accomplish things entirely in a vacuum; we must work with others in one way or another.

A big mistake I often make is limiting my sense of accomplishment to only tasks that appear on my list. When I don’t count human interaction item(s), I am setting myself up for disappointment in the amount I have gotten done, when in fact, I have done much more than I think.

For a work example, let’s say I walk into the office at 9 a.m. From there, I greet my co-workers, check my email, and write my to-do list for the day. Then a co-worker stops by my desk, and we chat for 10-15 minutes about an upcoming project. Afterward, I proceed to reply to time-sensitive emails from clients and employees, which gets interrupted multiple times due to incoming phone calls, and a text from a co-worker which requires a thoughtful response. In the midst of all that, I get an urgent, drop-everything-and-do-it-now email from the boss. To respond to it, I need to do some research, check with employees on various items, and take the time to write a well thought-out, detailed reply.

Next thing I know, it is pushing 11 a.m., and I haven’t gotten a single thing on my list done. Have I been utterly unproductive? No, quite the opposite. I’ve been humming with productivity and collaborating with others to help them get things done as well. My problem, at least partially, is failing to acknowledge the task of communication as a thing achieved. If I would re-frame my thinking, I would realize that I have in fact gotten quite a bit done. Just different things than I planned.

Caveat: I know there are 100s of articles and books out there from high acheivers on how to set up your day for productivity. That is not the focus of this post.

Make room for the unexpected

Just like that surprise email from the boss that can change the entire trajectory of the day, there are unlimited amounts of other surprises that crop up to veer me from the path I planned for myself. An older relative needs to be taken to the doctor. Traffic is worse than normal, and it takes an extra hour to get home. I run into an old friend at the store, and end up chatting for a long time in the parking lot. Etc, etc., etc.

Everything takes longer than I think it will. Everything.

Not much explanation needed here, other than expanding on the obvious. Take a simple task, estimate honestly how long it would take to do it while thinking vigorously, without interruptions. Then add 50% or more. That is how long it may actually take with all factors.  The one who knows to build in a cushion for the unknown when estimating a time budget is wise indeed. Now multiply that process for every project. It suddenly becomes clearer why I don’t get done as much as I think I will.

Conclusion (*)

I started this post with a * next to recovering perfectionist. That is to denote that I have learned that perfectionism, left unchecked, leads to perpetual dissatisfaction with one’s performance. There is always 1-12 more things that should have been done, and of the 78 things that were done, they weren’t done well enough. This type of thinking is a joy-stealer.

I am not advocating that we all loosen our standards of hard work, or pat ourselves on the back after a lazy day. What I am saying is that, if you struggle as I do with often feeling like an under-achiever, despite working hard constantly, it may be time to take a closer look at some of these items. Realize that communication is work, and worthy to be acknowledged as such. Acknowledge that unplanned items will pop up, and that is OK. Realize that everything might take longer than you think, and plan for it.

Once you’ve done all these things, adjust your expectations accordingly and give yourself grace when you don’t get as much done as you thought you would. Tomorrow is another day.

Posted in Advice, Lifehacks, Opinion, Productivity | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments