Break

Keep calm and wait … what?

If you hadn’t noticed, things have been quiet around here lately. I didn’t plan to take a break from blogging, but it happened anyway.

And that’s okay.

We need breaks from time to time. We need to relax, to take some deep breaths, and to recharge. We need to try new things, and experience new experiences.

Above all, we need to live.

It’s so easy to get lock into writing. To focus on word counts and deadlines. It’a even easier to get caught up in the business of writing. To spend more time on social media trying to be heard above the din of voices.

We spend so much time on output, we forget about input. Reading a book, taking a walk, singing, or  playing a musical instrument. Talking to our friends, engaging with our partners, or playing with our kids. And then we wonder why the output stops.

No input, no output.

No living, no life.

That’s why we have to take breaks, and that’s why the blog has slowed down and why it will pick up again once I am filled.

Five Minute Friday

And this week, a two-for one (to catch up with both online communities):

Cheerleaders of Faith

Reaching Her Goal

Anna in our van with all the cookies

Photo: Julia Ozab

Anna’s first cookie season with Girl Scouts is drawing to a close. We had no idea how well she would do or how tiring it would be for all of us, but it is almost over.

At the start of pre-orders in January, she set a goal of 400 boxes. We weren’t sure if she would make it, but we were determined to help her in any way we could. Anna made cookie pre-order posters for Julia to take into her office, and I reached out to friends, family, and colleagues online. She sold more than 100 boxes before the end of the first pre-order period, and then hit 200 the day booth sales were set to begin.

She was already half-way there. Then came the first weekend. This is the hot time for Girl Scout cookies. People are seeing booths outside stores for the first time in a year, and the sales are huge.

By Sunday afternoon, she broke the 300 mark. But it was wearing on her, and us, and the rest of the troop.

Still we were so close, and we had four booths the following weekend. We knew her goal was within reach.

She sold her 400th box at her second booth on Saturday afternoon and after Sunday she’s closing on on 450. We have two more booth scheduled–one tonight and the other on Saturday. She has a great shot of hitting 500 and being the top seller in her troop.

For her first sale, it’s a great accomplishment. And a reminder to me and to all of us. You never know what you can do until you try, but if you don’t try you’ll never find out.

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord,” and through him “all things are possible.

Cheerleaders of Faith

The Two Kinds of Pride

Cheetah and two cubs

Photo: Julia Ozab

I’m struggling with pride. Not the sin itself—though I’ve certainly fallen into that trap many times—but with the word.

Why? Because there are two kinds of pride. And neither of them is a group of big cats.

We all know the sin of pride. It’s one of the seven deadly sins, which doesn’t mean its worse than other sins, but that it’s foundational. Pride is a root human condition, like lust, greed, envy, anger, laziness, and gluttony, that leads us astray. We all experience these temptations and when we act on them we sin.

But there’s another kind of pride. The pride a parent feels for a child, or the pride a child feels when doing something good, noble, or generous. Plus there’s the behavior code of Anna’s school, a code called Cheetah Pride.

  • Perseverance.
  • Respect.
  • Integrity.
  • Diversity.
  • Excellence.

All noble ideals, summed up in the acronym PRIDE.

So what’s the problem? Well Anna is having trouble understanding the difference between the two kinds of pride. I don’t want to discourage her outgoing spirit, which has flourished at her new school over the last year-and-a-half, and I want her to take pride in her accomplishments. Above all, between her apraxia and her new braces, I don’t want her to retreat into a shell.

But I don’t want her boasting either, and sometimes she does it without realizing. The first time I caught her boasting I tried to talk to her about pridefulness.

“What’s wrong with pride?” she asked. It was a tough question to answer. I had to find a different word that conveyed the bad pride.

And I did. Hubris.

Arrogant, pompous, conceited, and self-important. That’s the bad kind of pride. So from now on I will say “pride” for the good kind of pride and “hubris” for the bad kind.

And I’ve expanded her already large vocabulary. Which is a good reason for us both to be proud.

Cheerleaders of Faith

Dear Blogosphere …

19th c gentleman at 21st c laptop

Image: The Art of Manliness

You inspire me every day to be a better writer. Some of you lay your hearts out on the page two or three times a week. I am awed by your honesty, your bravery, and your skill. Many of the best writers I know are fellow bloggers and you awe me regularly. That’s why I set aside a day each week—Monday—to highlight some of the best writing I’ve found. The funny, the sad, the thought-provoking, the beautiful, and the harrowing. I can only take a bottleful out of the ocean each week but I try my best to make it a great one. Thank you for inspiring me and pushing me.

And thanks to those who post interminable lists and click-bait headlines. You’ve taught me what not to do, even if it costs me clicks. I don’t care. I know I’ll never make money off the blog and I’ve given up thinking otherwise. I’m happier and my writing will be better as a result.

Because it’s important as a writer to learn what you want to write and also what you don’t want to write. That’s why you read as much as you can—so you can learn the difference.

So I will continue to make my small contribution to our vast shared community—and the cozy FMF community as well—to continue writing about parenting and life and sharing my experiences as a dad, husband, reader, writer, Girl Scout volunteer, Catholic, and all the other words that describe me.

I know I’m not the only one who cares about these things. I know I can encourage others just as I’ve been encouraged. And I’m going to stick with it.

Thank you for reading. Please come again soon.

Five-Minute-Friday-4-300x300

 

What This Blog is About

Encourage synonyms

Via Google Image Search

I’ve been stuck for days trying to think of something to write in honor of my first 500 posts. Every draft I attempted came off as bragging when I went back and read it. Then I received a prompt word from Lisa-Jo Baker at Five Minute Friday and suddenly it became clear.

Encouragement.

Like all my writing, my blog is at its best when it encourages others. I discover this almost two-and-a half years ago, when I wrote one of my first guest posts for Alise Write! This is how she prefaced my post.

I connected with David on Twitter and he is a great encourager. In a world where people can be most concerned with promoting their own self-interest, it’s a delight to meet someone who encourages others.

I realized the goal of my writing that day, but I constantly need reminding. I get caught up in the details of word count, publishing opportunities,  pitching, and platform. I forget the point of my writing—to reach other people. To communicate at a deeper level. Above all, to encourage.

And then I’m reminded again.

I feel grateful to have connected with David Ozab in the Internet world this year. He has been a great encouragement to me as I launched my book out into the world this October, and I love the way he writes about faith and being a stay-at-home Dad.

Addie Zierman wrote this short introduction to my most recent guest post. And that key word returns. Encouragement.

Thank you, Addie, Alise, Lisa-Jo, and my many other colleagues for the regular reminder as to why I write.

And thank you for the encouragement.

Five Minute Friday

Encouragement

Last Thursday (8/18) my short essay “For Anna” was featured on Alise Wright’s excellent blog Alise . . . Write! I am grateful for the opportunity she offered to me and to other writers during her month-long “Guest Post Extravaganza.” I am even more grateful for her generous introduction:

I connected with David on Twitter and he is a great encourager. In a world where people can be most concerned with promoting their own self-interest, it’s a delight to meet someone who encourages others.

We’ve all come across those writers who use Twitter solely as a means of self-promotion. The ones whose tweets are a litany of “here’s my book,” “read my book,” and “speaking of (fill-in-the-blank), buy my book.” I’ve stumbled into following a few of these feeds, but I never stick around for long.

But to hear that I’ve encouraged someone else? That is a real compliment. And it’s good for building platform too. I can’t begin to recall how many times I’ve read variations on “don’t always tweet about yourself. Engage people, give them something that benefits them, not you.”

Most of all, it’s why I became a writer in the first place. I had a story that I wanted to tell—not because I like to hear the sound of my own voice or I wanted to express myself, but because I knew there were other people out there going through what I was going through.

I wanted to offer encouragement. To hear that I am accomplishing that goal in 140 character snippets tells me I can accomplish the same goal in larger forms: devotionals, articles, essays, and—once it’s finally finished—my book.

Of course I hope for success as a writer. I hope to make money at it too. But to know that I am reaching people I’ve never met in person and that I am making even the smallest difference in their lives is the greatest reward.