Tag Archives: Search Institute

A Little Thing Means a Lot

I stayed in bed far too long yesterday morning. Excitement and fear paralyzed me as I looked forward to the lunch appointment I had on the University of Mary campus with someone who had intervened in one very specific moment in my life over 20 years ago.

When I was a freshman at Concordia College, my bipolar self was not diagnosed accurately.   The highs and lows of energy that I still experience manifested themselves in those days in a variety of ways such as chaotic eating, concentrated exercise schedules,  extended depressive episodes, odd sleep patterns, spurts of intense productivity,  and general silliness.  All of these things masked what truly bothers me – energy-based bipolar tendencies which a psychiatrist finally diagnosed correctly when I was 36 years old. During those college days, though, I spent a good amount of time “on the run” – something I still often feel tempted to do and have posted about in the past.

The church I attended during high school had a very active youth group. We went to camp, traveled on mission trips, and spent most Wednesday nights and weekends together.   Every Christmas and Easter, our group joined other groups from around North and South Dakota for retreats.  These were my good friends – the same friends that I found at camp. I married one of them, and I remain friends with most of the others to this day in some way or another (at the very least on Facebook).  I also had the opportunity to meet other adults from around the state who spoke into my life at various points throughout high school, college, and into my adult life.

Several weeks ago, I sat in a meeting with University of Mary Student Support Services staff members.  Each of my English 098 students has an advisor, and I wanted to share my thoughts, impressions, and concerns with the advisors as a group. I had emailed with many of them, but their supervisor and I thought it would be worthwhile for me to attend one of their meetings.  When we went around the table and introduced ourselves, one name…and the face…seemed oddly familiar.  I was completely caught off-guard but had to focus on my meeting.

After the meeting, I could not shake the impulse to contact her, so I did….by email…because that is the best way to find out information without exposing my soul to too much pain or rejection if I am wrong.

Ummm…were you, by chance, a youth leader from <<her church>> in the 90s?

I sat at my computer and waited for the reply. I refreshed my email several times, and then her response came – YES!  I shared a few more details about who I was “back then,” and her reply came back again…she remembered me!

The next day, we were at an event together.  When I saw her, I had mixed emotions about knowing that she knew that me…the me who left her dorm room in the middle of the night because the urge to run had overwhelmed her…the me who did not know how to deal with the thoughts that told her to run…the me who showed up in a driveway hundreds of miles away from college, slept in the car, and was found that way the next morning by the very woman standing in front of me…the me who this youth leader had encouraged to go back to school saying that I was fine.

“We should have lunch,” she said.

Yesterday, we had lunch.  Throughout the morning, though, all of the parts of me that feels and experiences joy, anxiety, and fear held my body in a paralyzing force.  The what ifs of how lunch could go raced through my mind and nearly kept me from going.  To be honest, I left the house later than I had planned, I took the long way to the university, and I thought I might just keep driving south to miss the lunch appointment altogether.  Eventually I put on my big girl pants, and I still arrived early.  Strange how that works!

All morning, I felt like “that me” again…young, frightened, and ready to run.  At the same time, I felt like the “this me” who is the dean of students of a new little online school in Minnesota, teaches classes at the University of Mary, is married to a pastor, and has two grown children attending Baylor University.  This paradox of us being able to feel two ages at once is something that I need to explore more in another post.

When we sat down, she asked me to tell her about me.  I was stunned and absolutely speechless.  I know – me! speechless??  I had no idea where to start.  There I was sitting in front of a woman who had found the eighteen year old me in her driveway after I had driven a few hundred miles and slept in my car…and she wanted to know about the “today” me – the forty year old pastor’s wife and mother of two freshmen in college.  It dawned on me that my own children are now the age of “the me” who ended up in her driveway that night.

As I told her about me, I told her the raw stuff without going into the icky details of any of it. We both have master’s degrees in education, work as guidance counselor types, and are familiar with the lingo, so it was easy to be sort of clinical about it all.

Before I knew it, lunch was over.  We parted ways as we each have jobs that need us.  We waved goodbye in that way that we do when we know the person is in the same town or on the same college campus most days.  The mood was light, and it became clear to me that all of my anxiety was silly.

Next week, I will drop off a book to the student success center where she works.  The book is a compilation of essays written by my students. The title is Unexpected Giants and is a tribute to those who have carried my students (and me) on their shoulders so that we could see futures that we could not have seen alone.

When I  mentioned the incident to her (as a point of reference for other incidents in my life), I used my favorite term – “crazy.”  She sort of laughed it off and said, “I worked with teenagers, Stacy.  I didn’t really think it was all that unusual.”

While my essay is not about this particular giant, it easily could be.  One day, I hope to write the book that features all of my giants.  I had good parents who did their best raising me.  But sometimes we need other caring adults to impact our lives as well.  This dear woman did that for me clearly – based on her comment to me yesterday – without judgement. I am thankful for the brief, yet powerful, role she played in my life.

I know that this season is busy, but can I challenge all who read this?  Whose life can you briefly touch today, this week, this month, this year, or this lifetime?  And…as you drive to work, put up the tree, or bake those cookies, consider who were giants in your life…and how you can let them know the powerful way that they impacted your life?



Filed under faith, Relationships, Thoughts

I Like to Run…Away…

As I write this and post it, I am also packing my bags…for another work trip. This makes five out of the past six weeks where I have had at least one night away from home.  While there are times that this gets tedious, the spring is a good time for it to happen because I get the urge to be on the go this time of year anyway.

I struggle with bipolar illness…and spring is a “go” time for me.

By “go” time, I mean I feel the urge to run away. I currently credit it to a manic phase brought on by the change in sunlight.  After being underground in the winter doldrums, the light comes out, stimulates my brain, and sends me soaring.  When I soar, I often feel as though I am in constant motion even though I appear to be still to everyone else.  This is the time when I tend to hear those internal voices that criticize and pester.

And one of those voices says to run…away…

Go. Leave. You are not worthy of the family you have. You do not deserve the life you have. You have to get out of here. You can’t handle this.  What if they (by the way – who is they???) find out what happens in your head? It’s all going to start to unravel sometime; you should just go before you have to deal with that.  What if you can’t pull off what you say you can? How are you ever going to parent/be-a-wife/be-a-pastor’s wife/ do a good job at work? Look at yourself. Listen to me. Run…

I hatched my first runaway plan the summer after I was in the fifth or sixth grade.  Because my parents were divorced when I was quite young, I grew up with my mom and (adopted) dad in North Dakota but spent portions of many summers visiting my biological father and his family on the East Coast.  I have many great memories of those summers, and I prefer to dwell on those; however, on one of those trips things did not go so well at my bio-dad’s house, and I felt the urge to run away.

Facing the situation no longer seemed like a good option, and I wanted to get out.

Running away is not a great idea for me – a wife, mother of two, dean of students at an online high school.  There are loves that would be hurt and jobs that would be jeopardized.I could detail the times that I have run away, but they are not the point of this post.  The point what do we do about this?  I know that I am not the only who feels these tendencies.


It is also not a healthy way to live!

But there is a push from inside, a physical need to go, and the fear of something that cannot be named or is not even real, and the voice gets very loud.  My head noise becomes overwhelming, and running – even a planned run like a work trip – seems like a good answer to help quiet it.

But it is not.

Running away never solves anything.  I still have to come back, and whatever was pushing me out the door (usually my own psychology) greets me upon my return.

I want to be clear: this is not a real voice.

My voices do not have names, they are not multiple personalities nor are they schizophrenic hallucinations that I see.  Rather they are an internal voice that I believe many of us have (I was reassured of that last night when I attended an event at the Art House North where Al Andrews, a counselor from Nashville, talked about this very concept!).

Telling someone else (safe) about the urge to run now usually quiets the voice.Telling the wrong person can cause the urge to increase.  As Al said last night, finding a safe community of people who can speak positively into our lives and balance these voices of the “inner critic” is so important.

This week has been a run time for me. There is not a trigger that I can figure out except that the snow is gone, the sun is out, and work has some stresses. How timely that the event at Art House North happened last night – it was exactly what I needed at that moment.  The tears that flowed down my face for the entire event proved that.

As I made my way to the event via the mall yesterday, I texted two friends and “vocalized” that my head was not doing well.  One responded with an offer to give me her voice to drown out the others.

… (just let that sink in for a minute…)

We need to be these positive voices for each other, and we – as hearers of the destructive voices – need to find those safe places where we can say these awful things out loud so that they no longer hold any power over us.  We name them, we claim truth against them, and we disable the power they have against us.  If you are a Christ follower, there are even more TRUTHS that you can cling to in order to combat these lies that we believe.

And then – maybe – we will stop running away…from ourselves…

This post is part of a brave blogging link-up that’s part of Liv Lane’s How To Build a Blog You Truly Love ecourse. As a participant, I was challenged to step outside my comfort zone and share something with you that felt especially brave. You can see what others have written by clicking here. (insert the link http://blog.livlane.com/2013/05/brave-2013)


Filed under health, Relationships, Thoughts

Super Bowl Mom

Of all of the people involved in the Super Bowl yesterday, the one that I would have enjoyed being near the most would have been Mrs. Harbaugh – the mother of both teams’ coaches.  Anyone who watched the game last night already knows that the family drama involved in the game itself, so I will not re-hash that.  Anyone who did not watch the game would not care.

But – care about this!

While football may not be everyone’s thing, caring about the future generations should be.  After hearing and reading about the Harbaughs, their attitude toward the game, and their forward thinking about which son should be their focus after the game, I am so impressed.  Good parenting more often than not leads to good outcomes. 

If the Harbaugh brothers would take the developmental asset inventory from Search Institute, I am guessing that they would score pretty high.  If the Harbaugh family would take the family asset inventory from Search Institute, I am guessing that they would score pretty high.

It does not take a family having loads of money to give their kids an edge.

Families need to invest in their kids, bring other caring adults in to encourage their kids, and provide an environment of high expectations with lots of support.  Failures needs to be seen as opportunities to improve.  And mistakes need to be corrected.  All of this needs to be done in ways that empower children and teens to be better than what they think they can be while helping them to see reality.

As I watched the game last night, I commented that I want to be an NFL kicker.

That is not realistic!  I am nearly 39 years old, a woman, not quite five feet tall, and about as un-athletic as they come.  This dream needs to be tempered with reality.  However, had I wanted to do something big and dreamy like that, I am sure that my parents would have cleared the path for me by making me play football with the boys, making me play soccer, and the like.

The Harbaugh parents did something to clear the path for their boys and have stayed with them as supporters all the way to the Super Bowl.

It is clear by the reports of how Jim and John interacted with each other and what their parents did after the Super Bowl ended (consoling the losing coach rather than living in the glory with the winning one) that this family is filled with assets.

The Search Institute’s asset-building approach easily works with just about any parenting style and belief system.  When I see the results of asset-building parenting live in the midst of a football game, I get a bit giddy.  Whether we are parents or those “other caring adults” in a child’s life, we have a huge impact.

Who in your life helped you to get to where you are today? What did that person do?

What are we doing today to help them realize their dreams and go to the Super Bowl?

And who knows, maybe someday someone will teach me how to kick for a field goal!

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Speaking Into the Lives of Others

Just before Christmas, I had a conversation with the current director of a post-prison ministry called FreedomWorks.  We discussed the impact that other people have in our lives when they intentionally speak into our lives even in the smallest ways.  This man also teaches a class at Northwestern College.

Each semester, he poses a question to students, “Who made an impact on your life as you were growing up?”  His students often can name 3-5 people without pausing to think.  When he poses the same question to men in prison, most cannot even name 1 person.  And – more startlingly (in my opinion), many do not even understand the question.

The Search Institute, a secular research and curriculum non-profit located in Minneapolis, has developed a list of 40 common sense “developmental assets” that assist youth in becoming successful adults.  Asset #3 states that a young person receives support from three or more nonparental adults.  Asset #14 states that the parents and other adults in the lives of youth model positive, responsible behavior.  Essentially, the Search Institute has put a secular stamp on what we already know in the Church.

The Bible bursts with examples of older people mentoring youth: Eli mentored Samuel; Naomi mentored Ruth; Elizabeth mentored Mary; and Paul mentored Timothy.  The youth in these situations had lives that were changed because of the influence of the older people in their lives.  Scripture (Exodus 20: 5-6) attests to the fact that our choices today impact future generations.

I am super excited to discuss this further this weekend at the Empower Ladies Conference 2013: Live Your Story!  I get totally jazzed when I think about being able to share this truth – not only that our story matters but also that its impact on the lives of others has eternal benefits. We were created for purpose, and that purpose often means sharing of ourselves and our own stories to be there for others and – quite often – to a part of the change in others.

After we talk through this together for a brief break-out session, I hope that others will feel encouraged to share themselves with one new person – that person may not even understand the question: “Who made an impact on your life growing up?”

Side note: Registrations are still being taken for this conference.  Consider if God wants you to attend the one day event in a Minneapolis suburb this weekend!

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Supporting Sparks with Gifts

According to Search Institute, sparks “are the interests that inspire, the activities that energize. Sparks are the special abilities uniquely yours to tend, to grow, to share with the world.”  Everyone has a spark.  Many of us have forgotten what our spark was or have not thought about it for a while.  But pursing our sparks could mean the difference between merely surviving rather than thriving. The Search Institute asserts that youth need to find and pursue their sparks in order to survive. If we would all be thriving, our world might be a better place for all of us.

In our society, we are more concerned about what will allow kids to make it in life than what will help them thrive in their lives.

While I was on my trip out east a month ago, I spent a day in the village of Rockport and enjoyed poking my head into many a shop.  One of the shops I ventured into was called The Wishing Well – a shop filled with products by a variety of artists including paintings, quilts, and ceramics.  The shop also had some supplies to help young people pursue their interests in these areas.


Pictured above is a colored pencil set in a woolen sock puppet case.  What a great idea!  If I had a young child who had shown an interest in are, I would have considered buying this as a gift for him or her in order to support the interest in art.

Sparks may not be what career a child pursues in order to pay the bills.  In fact, my own Spark – writing blogs – will probably never pay the bills.  But Sparks enrich our lives, allow us to thrive, and take us to where we long to be.  We need to support the young people in our lives as they discover their Sparks, enrich their lives with their Sparks, and learn more about their Sparks.

As adults, we should care about the future of all youth.  This could mean that we have to buy some art supplies, pay for soccer camp, or drive them all around town.  We might need to help them with research, connect them with a mentor, or give of our time

How can we support a young person’s passion today?  I would love to hear stories from readers about how someone supported them in their younger years to pursue their Sparks.  Please, please – share in the comment section!

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Filed under Education, Parenting, Travel

Common Sense (Assets) Rocks!

Having been a parent and an educator for over 15 years, I have seen how concepts cycle around.  What was a hard and fast rule yesterday may be seen as merely a fad today.  It can be hard to keep up, and technology truly only makes it worse as we have access to oodles of websites with contradictory information.

What seems to make the most sense – what should be common sense – probably should be the approach that one pursues in both the parenting and education arenas.  If it makes sense, it probably does so for a reason!

And for that reason, I have been drawn to Search Institute’s asset approach for years thanks to a colleague/supervisor who introduced me to them while I completed my guidance counseling internship.  And for that reason, I have been drawn to their parenting initiative – ParentFurther – recently.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend three days of training hosted by the Search Institute, and two of the days focused on building assets in school communities.

Side note: any non-educator parent or community member could have attended the school community training and taken away as much as the educators did. This is one of the nuggets of the concept; it crosses all barriers and asks us all to participate in creating a more healthy and more positive future for all children.

What are these development assets?1

  1. 40 positive experiences and qualities in 8 categories focusing on external structures, relationships, and activities as well as internal values, skills, and beliefs.
  2. Common wisdom about the kinds of positive experiences and characteristics that young people need and deserve.
  3. Positive behaviors and attitudes which influence achievement and help protect young people from many different problem behaviors.
  4. Common elements across gender, ethnic heritage, economic situation, or geographic location.

According to Search Institute’s research (which has been verified and replicated by outside sources), the more assets that a child has in their toolkit the more likely to exhibit  succeed in school (get mostly As on report card) and the less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors.  Why are we not all jazzed about this?????

Seriously!  As parents, community members, and educators, we spend hours and hours trying to determine solutions to really big problems.  But Search Institute already has the answer – promote the developmental assets!  It sounds too simple, right?  And it is.  Many of us already do these things, but we might not realize that we could do them more or that we could expand our sphere of influence by doing them with kids in our neighborhoods or in the store.

The sad thing: on average, young people report having 20.1 assets.2  I put together the chart below from information in “The Asset Approach.”  Across the bottom is the number of assets that youth reported having while vertical numbers show the percentage of youth who reported those numbers.


Wouldn’t it be great if that looked like the graph below instead????


While this might be a lofty dream, we all can play a part…and more students can have more assets when we all focus on our youth.  They are our future!

To support us in all of this, Search Institute has trainings, they train trainers, they provide surveys (I want my kids to take these…), and they have a vast library of books to order.  In addition to all of the things that cost money, they have oodles of free stuff online at both Search-Institute.org and ParentFurther.com – who also provides a monthly (free) webinar (third Wednesday of each month) about current issues.

I love free stuff!!  And the resources are great.  As I have snooped around on the websites, I have found the list of the assets, suggestions about how to encourage student and build the assets, and ways that the assets help students.

Great nugget: This is not another program; this is an approach.  Any already established school, youth program, church, family, or neighbor could adopt this way of thinking without re-creating a program.  What it does require is that people become more intentional. And it may require some people to do things that they had not thought to do.

Encouraging youth should be on all of our “to do” lists each day.  If we do not know how, we can go to the website and get some ideas.  One of my favorite stories from the training last week was about an elderly woman who decided that she would smile at youth as she passed them on the street or in the store.  That was her one thing!

Can you smile?  Then you can encourage…who will I smile at today?



1. These definitions are taken from a publication titled “The Asset Approach” and are used in accordance with their copyright.  More information can be found at the website: search-institute.org.

2.  From page 4 of “The Asset Approach.”

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Filed under Education, faith, Parenting, Relationships

To Dream the Impossible Dream…

Yesterday was July 4 – Independence Day for those of us in the United States whose country started as a dream and became a reality.  I cannot imagine what it was like for many of ancestors to board boats from their countries of origin and set out for what they hoped was better than what they left behind.

It probably seemed impossible.  Yet – because they dreamed it – we have a country now where freedoms exist like they do nowhere else.  They dreamed an impossible dream, and yesterday we remembered that. And I am thankful.

IMG-20120701-00557On Sunday, my family attended a production of Man of La Mancha at the St Croix Festival Theatre. We know the man who played the lead – Don Quixote – and the musical is one of my favorites.  The show is actually a show within a show.  The story set in reality takes place during the Spanish Inquisition.  Miguel Cervantes – author of the book Don Quixote de la Mancha – is in jail awaiting his trial for crimes against the Catholic Church.  While waiting, he pulls the other inmates into the musical telling of Don Quixote who believes himself to be a knight fighting giants (windmills) and wooing the lady Dulcinea (a prostitute named Aldonza).

When he describes his quest, Quixote sings a moving song that brings tears to my eyes pretty much every time I see the production (or even hear it on my car stereo…).  You can watch a performance by the original Broadway performer by clicking here.

The lyrics (taken from the Reel Classics website) are amazing:

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause

And I know if I’ll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star

Every time I hear this song, I am moved.  But, as I watched the performance on Sunday – only days after attending the Search Institute’s training about one of their Big Ideas called Sparks, I realized that Don Quixote is inspiring because he has found his spark!

According to Search Institute’s website, “Sparks are the interests that inspire, the activities that energize. Sparks are the special abilities uniquely yours to tend, to grow, to share with the world.”

Don Quixote’s spark is to fight for the ability see the world in the most positive light possible…he wants to dream the impossible dream and bring others along in what other characters in the musical see as madness.  But for Quixote, the dream is not madness – it is what gives him life.  It is what allows him to thrive.  And when the spark is put out, Quixote nearly dies.

Search Institute has a cool formula that shows how a young person’s spark helps them to thrive:


+  3 champions (adults who support the spark/the young person) 

+  opportunity

= thriving

Over 200 years ago, 13 colonies and the Committee of Five had a dream that seemed impossible, but it came true. We are evidence of that today. Imagine what would be different if that spark had been put out. Imagine what would be different if they had chosen not to follow that quest and do the impossible.

What impossible dream does a young person in your life have? What spark does that young person have and how can you or someone else help it along?


Filed under Education, Music, Parenting, Relationships

My Tower of Power

On the first day of summer for my kiddos, they had a little get together with their friends which required that they drive me to work, go have their fun, and then return to my office to pick me up. This will likely be a routine that we visit often this summer as the girl having her license means that she wants to have a car some days.  And that requires some creative scheduling.  I do not plan to walk to work as I did to the dentist’s office last week.

In my office, there are some fun blocks with fun phrases on them. This was a gift from a former co-worker, and they are now fond friends who share my office. They will likely join me should I ever change locations again.  Although they are a fond memory of the gifter, it truly is the gift itself that I love in this instance.

Side note: I am not terribly sentimental.  I am known for my habit of throwing away items with sentimental ties.  This is why I must make a distinction about the why I keep the blocks.

Enough babbling…here are the blocks…..


By geometric definition, each block has six sides which means that these four blocks host 24 different phrases.  They are in the same strain as the demotivational posters that one would find on despair.com.  Being an educator has meant that I have been tormented by motivational posters and sayings for most of my professional life.

The problem is that I am not motivated by them!

In fact, I have been known to turn green and nearly vomit in staff meetings which start with some motivational sayings.  I am much more fond of demotivational poster/sayings because I think that they are much more honest.

The four pictured above are the result of a forced-choice exercise run by my son while I was trying to pack up my stuff and leave the office. The idea is that I could not like all six of the sayings on one block, so he asked me which I liked better in order to narrow down from 24 phrases to four phrases.

He created my Tower of Power…

In case reading them on the photo is difficult, I will type them out below.

  • Teamwork: A lot of people doing things my way.

  • I am open to suggestions just not taking them.

  • Those thinking it’s impossibleshould not interrupt those doing it.

  • If you don’t like my attitude, quit talking to me.

I have to admit that some of these make me cringe especially because the question that the boy posed to me was, “Which of these two phrases best describe you?”  Some of them are down-right incriminating about my haughty and arrogant spirit which tends to crop up more in the work setting than anywhere else.  And I will likely have to spend some time on my knees confessing about this attitude issue that I have.

The one that I am not ashamed to have on this list is the third one: Those thinking it’s impossible should not interrupt those doing it.

Very little is impossible if we choose to put our everything into making it happen.  Of course, there are some obvious things that can’t happen no matter how much we try such as humans flying without the assistance of aerodynamically designed flying suits or contraptions.  But, for the most part, what holds us back from making the impossible happen is our own doubt (or the doubts of others), funding, and time.  All of these items can be overcome with a little help from others.

From Steve Jobs to the International Justice Mission organization and everything in between, there are examples of the people making the impossible happen.  I am writing this post on a machine that would have been an impossible dream 100 years ago.  You are reading this post through the internet – something considered impossible.

We need a few more dreamers, many more do-ers, and far fewer interrupters.  Our world would be so much better if we stopped interrupting those who are dream up great things and instead got on board with them and helped them to achieve great things.

The question that I have to pose to myself today is this: am I a do-er or an interrupter?

Do I dream things and then strive to make them happen?

Or am I busy interrupting those who are working hard to make their great happen?

Two notes as I end today:

  1. Today, I have the exciting opportunity to be at the Search Institute’s training titled “Building Developmental Assets in School Communities.”  I am so excitedto be at this training and to be learning more about a concept for which I have a ton of respect.  Stay tuned!
  2. On Sunday, our family will see Man of La Mancha at the Festival Theatre in St Croix falls.  I cannot wait to laugh, cry, and be inspired by Don Quixote once more.  I have been listening to the soundtrack in my car for the past few weeks.  You can be guaranteed that a blog will follow.

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Filed under Education, faith, Parenting

You Can Do It!

Last week, I wrote a post about my adventures in the downtown Minneapolis skyways.  While poking around and learning about the fun trapped inside the downtown buildings, I happened upon an empty space whose sign caught my eye.

Side track moment: I sometimes wonder if my blog should be titled,”Caught My Eye,” because of the number of times that I reference that thought.  I have given the possible change a bit of thought, and I have decided that “caught my eye” often leads to my mind mulling through the thoughts (mind-race…) that follow the catching of my eye…thus, the two remain connected, so the original blog title will remain.  You have to admit, though, that new title would rock as well.

Now that we have solved that…here is the photo of the empty space.

Can you guess what caught my eye in this picture?


You are correct if you said, “Start something.  You can do it.”

I realize that the owners of the building would love to have rental income and that it is that fact which motivates them to find a tenant.  However, their marketing strategy to find that tenant is quite fun.  They could have put a sign up that said, “For Rent” and left it at that.  Instead, they have chosen to plant a seed in each person who passes the empty store front.

“For Rent” is specific to a group of people who are looking to rent a storefront. It assumes that someone already has a business idea and simply needs somewhere to make that idea come to fruition.

“Start something” is entirely different!  It assumes that you have not even thought about starting a business yet.  It plants that seed that you should start something, that your ideas are worth pursuing, and that this store front is where those ideas can come to life.

But they do not stop there!

People tell me all the time to do certain things, but I have some pretty big doubts about whether or not I can make those things happen.  The marketers for this space have anticipated people like me.  They know that I have no way to know if my idea for that space will work out. They know that I would only want to pursue starting something if I knew that I could do it, so they tell me exactly what I want to hear.

“You can do it” is exactly what I would need to hear in this situation.  I would need someone to encourage me to pursue something great and start something in that space.

I realize that marketers are pretty smart and that they know what to say to get people interested in whatever the product is.  They do not know me personally, but they know how most of us tick – that is their job – and what we need to hear in particular instances.  It is their job to study human behavior and then to use that information to manipulate us into purchasing whatever product they are selling.

I wonder sometimes if we know as much about how to encourage our family and friends as the marketers do.  I wonder if we could read our family and friends as well as the marketers do.  I wonder if we could anticipate what fears we need to help dispel, what encouraging words they need, and what help we could provide for them.

At least this rental space is giving them the where…would we know the how, the who, the why, the what, and the when?

Do I need encouragement to dream today?

Is there someone in my life who has a dream and who needs encouragement?

Start something….You can do it.

Additional note: I am so excited about my day today!  I am attending a training hosted by the Search Institute called Sparks which encourages school, family, and community members to help youth to identify their “spark” – the thing that makes them tick, who they are in their core, and something that can get them through times of adversity.  Look for future posts about this training!

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Out of Place

Over the past week, I have seen a couple of things that just do not seem to fit very well where I found them.  Thankfully, I had my phone (fully equipped with camera, of course) along for both viewings.

These are both “Can you find the out of place item?” types of pictures.  I have to admit that they made me take double takes, and I am glad that I thought to pull out the camera.


The photo above was taken outside of the Cub Food store on Brooklyn Blvd in Brooklyn Park, MN.  It is not my typical Cub location, but I had already been to two other stores in search of a specific item, and this store was “sort of” en route home.  Rather than wait for my typical Cub store, I pulled in here.  And am I ever glad that I did!

Had I skipped this stop, I probably never would have seen a smoking (you can’t see the actual smoke coming out of the thing) butt collector sitting right next to beautiful plants.

Is this irony?  That is one of the English concepts with which I have always, even as an English teacher, struggled.


You may have to look really closely to find the out of place item in this photo which was taken on the patio of Wilde Roast Café in Minneapolis.  It is within walking distance of my office, and the huz biked there on Friday to have lunch with me.  It was a gorgeous day; we had great food and conversation.  And of course – I had a blog-able moment.

Side note: my children have decided that they can now identify blog-able moments for me.  Whenever I whip out my camera, they think it might be for the blog.  To be honest, it’s kind of annoying, but I’ll get over it. I like blogging….

Back to being out of place:  the question in the photo with the bird eating food off of someone’s leftover plate is really which part of the photo is out of place? Who was here first?  The birds?  Or us?  Are they out of place on our restaurant patio?  Or are we out of place in their environment?


I have to be honest that there are many times that I feel out of place in situations.  I am not always sure how I fit into things.  I struggle with this in just about every setting you could imagine.  The odd thing is that if I am in charge of some event, then I know my place – I am the one in charge.  But other than that, I struggle.  And because I have done so much work in shedding “in charge” moments in many aspects of my life, it means that I do not know my place in many current situations.

A few years ago, a remake of Alice in Wonderland came out starring Johnny Depp.  I loved the movie as did my children.  We went to the midnight release of it, and I would do it again.  Shortly after seeing the movie, the kids and I did a crazy road trip to Grand Forks, ND, via Duluth, MN.  (Yes, I know…this is not the most direct route from Minneapolis…it was work-related).  On the trip, we listened to a cd (Almost Alice) full of songs inspired by the movie.  We still listen to the music today!

One of the songs on the cd is titled, Strange, and it talks about how someone feels – well – strange in a perfect world that has been created by someone else.  It basically speaks to the expectations that others put on us that simply do not fit us.

In your golden cage
All I feel is strange

As an oldest child who happens to be a daughter, I often see expectations even when there are none placed on me by anyone else.  I read into things and find things when they do not exist.  And then I create an entire existence and response system based on these false ideas.

And the chaos that it creates in my mind is exhausting…

I love another song that is in complete contrast to Strange.  The Avett Brothers are a group that I have come to truly respect and enjoy in part because of their song titled, Head Full of DoubtThe song basically talks about how we have a choice to live with our doubts or to live with a road full of promise.

There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it

So … what to do when I feel strange and out of place?

Break into that cage and demand that the dream is free to fly and do whatever it is meant to do.  No one else can put cages on us unless we allow them to lock us into them.

What dreams of yours need to be freed today?

Author’s note: I found out yesterday that I have the opportunity to attend a workshop about a new curriculum from Search Institute called Sparks.  I am so excited to experience this because I think that our young people today lack Spark.  They have been fed lies that they can do anything while at the same time being held back from pursuing their dreams.  We need to feed them truth that they are capable and that they should dream.  We need to break into their cages and free them to fly with their hopes.  And we need to give them the skills to set goals so that their dreams can become realities.

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Filed under Education, Parenting, Relationships