Author Archive for Laura

Take Your Dog to Work Day

Take Your Dog to Work Day is, for some reason, the first Friday after Father’s Day. And this year, that’s today, June 24th.

This day isn’t such a big deal for me, since I work mainly from home and occasionally at my farm. For others, the people and their dogs, this is a real treat.* For one thing, the dog doesn’t have to stay behind, left to fend for itself without the pack. And, when the people go to work, they get to enjoy the same, loving companionship they have available at home. It’s a win-win!

In fact, many companies today are permitting – and even inviting – their employees to bring their dogs to work every day. Research, and evidence from those forward-thinking organizations, tells us that instead of being distracting and disruptive, the presence of dogs in the workplace decreases the amount of stress and the number of sick days, and increases creativity and productivity. Really, with those results, why would business owners ever do it any other way?

If you work for one of those companies, I’m truly happy for you. If you don’t, my question for you is this: What can you bring to work every day that increases both the quantity and quality of your work, while making it easier for you to go your job every day?

This thing could be something tangible like having your favorite iTunes playlist readily available. Or, it could be something intangible – but extremely important – like knowing your values and remembering to honor them with your actions.

Either way, I highly recommend this practice. Since our places of work are where we spend the majority of our time, it makes sense to me that we do whatever we can to find joy and meaning there.

I’d love to hear the thing or things that you take with you that make the work portion of your life more pleasurable. I’m sure I could learn some new (dog) tricks from you!

PS For more information on this topic, check out American Express’ article here.

 

*Or, as we say at my house when say treat but don’t want Little Bit (pictured above) to know that, the word is T-R-E-A-T.

 

 

Say it. And say it now.

Stories of the most horrific mass shooting in our county’s history are continuing to roll in. First, 20 were dead. Now, we’re hearing it’s 50. How high will the death toll go? No one knows, but any number is too high. 

For those of us still living, it may be too soon for me to say this. Maybe our rage, our hopelessness, our grief, or our numbness will make it impossible for us to hear it. 

For those of us who went to the Orlando club Pulse last night to dance, socialize, and enjoy being alive, it’s now suddenly, devastatingly too late. 
Because I don’t want to wait any longer to say it, I’m writing this post from my phone. So thanks in advance for forgiving  any typos, poor grammar, and or other faults. 

Here’s my message: If you love them, tell them. If you appreciate them, thank them. If there’s anything at all you’ve been putting off saying, say it.

To none of us is tomorrow, tonight, or even the next moment promised.

So say it. And say it now. 

A Vow for this Coming Day

While excitedly preparing my new journal last night – for the shiny new year, of course – I pasted in the very front, the words of my friend, inspirer, and provocateur, Jim Rigby.

Jim is the pastor at my folks’ church in Texas, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church of Austin. And, he is an exemplary human being. Or rather, he is a spiritual being having a human experience; and while doing so, he makes the world a better place by being in it.

Feel free to check him out for yourself. He has a blog, but is most prolific and active on his Facebook page.

But I digress.

Check out what Jim wrote. I think you’ll see why I pasted it into the front of my journal, and hope to read it every single day – at least this year. 😉

A VOW FOR THIS COMING DAY

I vow not to let anything that happens this day rob me of my inner peace.

I promise to treat every ignorant word as opportunity to teach, every unfortunate event as a chance to learn, and every happy moment as an opportunity to be grateful,

Without trying to possess it, control it, or make it permanent. I vow to live this day in my own skin, not wishing I were different, but, instead, striving to make my life a work of art.

I vow to spend this day as a good citizen of the whole, and to be an ambassador for the common good.

I will be grateful for this day of life, remembering that the Universe owes me nothing.

Should I break any part of my vow, I will give no place to remorse, or shame, but time and time again, I will joyfully return to my path.

And to that I say, “Amen.”

New Ventures

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I am in the process of finding new ways to work in the world.

I’m exploring career changes, making discoveries about how to use my skills in new ways, and making a commitment to earn more money.

Lately I’ve risked contacting people I don’t know to ask about their work. What if they resent the intrusion? What if they think I’m horning in on their area of expertise? What if they ignore me?  What if I offend them somehow? What if I look stupid?

I’ll have to take those risks if I want to grow. I’ll have to try new skills, brush off old ones, and (gasp) make mistakes.

In the past week, I’ve volunteered with a professional in one potential new career area, and emailed someone else whose work I admire. I pledge to make two more career contacts in the next two weeks.

Let’s see where they lead.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

The Same Old Question

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

Why don’t I make more money?

I ask myself this question every couple of years, and I always come up with the same reasonable answers:

  • My field, non-profit live theatre, doesn’t pay well financially. The personal rewards of doing good work in this field are huge, but there’s no money in it.
  • My family means a lot to me. Choosing to homeschool my daughter and live close to my mother has curtailed the time I can afford to spend at a high-paying job.
  • My husband has a good job, so my family isn’t suffering. In fact, I work hard to run a frugal household, so that we can live comfortably and save for retirement. I enjoy the challenge.

Those three answers are so strong, they ought to put an end to the question. But somehow, like a bad penny, it keeps turning up.

Why don’t I make more money?

I’ve decided to risk changing the question, rewording it in order to rethink it.  So here goes:

  • Do I really want to make more money?
  • What, specifically, would I do with a higher income?
  • How much more money would I like to make?
  • How could I make that amount?
  • Am I willing to make the sacrifices and get the training I might need to make that amount?
  • Do I give myself permission to start finding the answers to these questions?

I think you can guess that I’ve already given myself permission to start finding answers. I have a long way to go. But I’ve given myself one concrete, though completely arbitrary, answer to guide me, at least for the time being. I’ve decided that I would love to make $40,000 a year for at least five years. After that, who knows?

I don’t know where this search for answers will lead. But just reframing the question has opened my mind. There was implied self-loathing in the first question: why don’t I, the stupid, flighty, creative type, make more money? Why am I dependent on my husband’s salary?  Why have I squandered my intelligence and education in a low-paying career?  What’s wrong with me??

That line of questioning was getting me nowhere fast. I’m risking new questions, seeking new answers, and keeping a firm handle on my self-respect.

I won’t ask that same old question again.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

Dare I Ask?

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I decided about a month ago that I would pick up the phone and start asking people questions.

I’m constantly asking questions inside my head.

  • How can I give my daughter the education she needs?
  • What’s the best way to support my aging mother?
  • What do I want to do with my career when my daughter is grown?
  • What adventures are in store for me and my husband?
  • How can I strike a balance between community life and personal life?

I took the plunge and asked one specific question this past month:  how can I give my daughter a great high school education? Should we continue to homeschool, or look at schools? If we look at schools, which ones? If we choose a private school, can we afford it?

I had brought up these questions with my husband and daughter several months ago, but I had never taken the plunge and contacted schools.

I think I was afraid of taking action.

If I didn’t make the calls, I wouldn’t have to make any decisions, and I wouldn’t risk looking foolish for not knowing what to do.

Hmmmm . . . .risk. Aren’t I supposed to be taking risks these days?

So I called a school and asked the headmistress a few questions, and the next thing I knew, I had scheduled a visit.  It’s coming up next month. I told my daughter about it, and to my surprise, she said, “If we’re going to look at one school, I’d like to look at several.” She got on the internet and looked up more schools in our area.  She read their philosophies and wrote down the dates of their open houses.

Will she go to any of those schools? Who knows?

What I do know is that asking one question has opened many doors. My daughter learned to take more initiative in her own education. I learned to risk asking questions – for information, for guidance, for help.

Today, I will ask a question.  Will you?

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

Road Not Taken

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I was talking with a good friend recently about a decision I’d made, and speculating about what might have happened if I’d made a different choice. He said, “Hold on. Let me tell you something my brother told me.”

His brother, a psychologist, has helped a lot of people through tough times. I wondered what pearl of wisdom was coming my way.

It was this.  “The hallmark of a good decision-maker,” he said, “is that when she chooses A over B, she stops thinking about B. It no longer exists.”

In other words, when faced with a decision between two options, choose one and forget the other. 

It was like being splashed with a bucket of cold water. Suddenly I felt more awake, more present, more able to get on with the business at hand. My decision had been made, and I was only torturing myself by thinking about what might have happened if I’d chosen differently.

Two days later I had to make another important decision — not an irreversible one, but one that mattered. I consulted a few people, and I wrote several drafts of an email that explained my position. I knew that whatever I did would have consequences, at least for me, and possibly for several other people. I tried to be conscientious and respectful and friendly (because, heaven knows, I want everybody to like me, but we’ll talk about that another time).

Ultimately, it was time to write a final email and click send. And I did. As soon as I lifted my hands from the keyboard I felt that familiar wave of doubt. Had I made the right decision? Had I said the right thing?

Then I heard the voice in my head saying, “The hallmark of a good decision-maker is that when she chooses A over B, she forgets B.” It’s bold, and it’s risky, and everybody might not like me for it, but I want to be that decision-maker.

The road not taken no longer exists.

 

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

Trudging through Anxiety

By Guest Blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I am anxious these days.

I know from experience that the feeling will pass. Oddly enough, in parts of my life I’m having fun and feeling productive, even as I feel anxious in other areas. I’m rehearsing a play, and I always feel a generalized anxiety until I really know what I’m doing. It’s frustrating to be carrying the script in rehearsal when I want so badly to be able to cut loose and act. At the same time, it’s fun to play and experiment with my fellow actors, not tying myself to any specific performance choices too early in the process.

The rehearsal anxiety will pass, because it has to.

I have to learn the show. It has to be ready for an audience in just a couple of weeks. I can count on a sense of relief and release as I gain confidence in my performance. My schedule will become simpler when I’m not rehearsing eight hours a day, six days a week. I know I’ll breathe easier soon.

In the meantime, my anxiety spills over into other areas of my life. This always happens. I worry more about my daughter. I worry more about my aging mother. I worry that I’m not doing enough for them. I try to solve problems that can wait.  I feel guilty for all the time I”m spending away from home. It’s part of the package. I’ve learned to live with this.

And yet . . . this time there’s more.

My daughter is thirteen, and I’m struggling to learn how to parent this new individual living under my roof. I’m considering sending her to school next year (we currently home school), because I think she needs more than I can give her. I suspect that prospect scares the you-know-what out of both of us, but I can’t ignore my gut feeling that something needs to change, for her sake and for mine.

And my mother .  . .  my darling mother . . . has been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, and may already be developing dementia. Our roles are reversing. We are in the process of moving her for the second time in a year. Soon she’ll be living about five minutes from me, in a nice assisted living facility. My life is probably going to change significantly, as I visit her more often and help her adjust to her new situation (both physical and mental/emotional). You know what? That scares the you-know-what out of me as well.

These are challenging situations.

Of course I’m anxious. Right now I don’t know where rehearsal anxiety ends and real-life anxiety begins. I really believe I’ll feel stronger and calmer in two short weeks, when the show opens. I’m doing everything I can to learn my part so that I can relax about something.

Mostly, I just have to let this process run its course. So that’s my risk. For the next two weeks, I am going to risk living in the moment as much as possible. I’m going to resist the temptation to make any big decisions. I’m going to risk trusting that things will work out with my daughter, with my mom, and with my work.

I’m going to risk believing that I am doing my best, and that my best is actually good enough.

And just choosing that risk, and committing to it, makes me a tiny bit less anxious.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

How Do You Feel About World Peace?

When you hear someone make a reference to ‘world peace,’ what goes through your mind? 

– Gosh, I hope I get to see that in my lifetime;
– What are you, some kind of hippie-peace-freak from the 60s;
– I don’t see that happening – ever;
Or do you simply think,
Whatever?

Rather than being in the doom-and-gloom perspective, or even the critical or apathetic perspectives, I find myself closer to the “Polyanna” end of the spectrum. Although I don’t go all the way to thinking it will happen during my lifetime, I’d love to be proven wrong on that.

It is a pretty big dream, I’ll admit. And maybe it won’t ever happen. Who knows? I certainly don’t.

What I do know, however, is that it definitely won’t happen, if we don’t do one very important thing:

Be the change.

Yeah, I know we hear that a lot these days. But to me, it’s more than just a platitude. I think of it as more of a call to being and a call to action. It’s a call which, should we choose to answer it, invites each of us to do our part in the noble quest for World Peace. What an opportunity.

And if it’s an opportunity in which you want to participate, then in the words of Dr. Seuss, “Today is your day!

It’s World Peace Day, 2014.

The grassroots movement of World Peace Day was started in 1997 by a man named Don Morris. Maybe you’ve heard of Mr. Morris by a different name. He also goes by “Peaceguy.”

Peaceguy wrote a prayer, which is posted below. It’s beautiful and moving; inspiring and motivating. In it, he makes many important points. I believe that praying this prayer, using it as a mantra, or simply reading it often, is one of the ways we have a chance of making the grand and exquisite vision of World Peace a reality. And at the end of the prayer, he points out another way, his most vital point of all:

To change the world, we must change ourselves.

There’s that message again.

Here is Peaceguy’s Prayer.

May the people on this planet be changed.
Changed from hatred to love,
Changed from greed to giving,
Changed from selfishness to selflessness,
Changed from apathy to action,
Changed from jealousy to joy over someone’s accomplishments,
Changed from intolerance to acceptance,
Changed from being destructive to being constructive,
Changed from fighting to peace,
Changed from killing to protecting life,
Changed from censorship to freedom,
Changed from ignorance to education,
Changed from fearing our differences to rejoicing our variety.

May we each take it upon ourselves to feed the hungry, cure the sick,
House the homeless, educate the illiterate, love the unloved,
Compete to do the right thing instead of winning at any cost,
Make heroes that teach our children to
Make the world a better place instead of glorifying violence and war,
Stand up and speak out against things that are wrong
Instead of sitting back and waiting for someone else,
Demand honesty from our governments,
Demand honesty from ourselves.

May we each take responsibility for our own actions
And realize that by refusing to change ourselves,
We condone all the evils in the world.
If one person changes they teach others by example,
Who in turn change and teach more,
One person becomes as a pebble rolling down a mountain,

Picking up more pebbles as it continues,
Becoming an avalanche of change.

It can happen, it must happen, it will happen.

I’m just about to reach the “too long” mark for this post (or maybe I’ve already passed it). I don’t want to run you off before you finish it (and miss the treats at the end, so I’ll do my best to wrap it up.

I plan to become a part of World Peace Movement, to get on the “Peace Train,” in the words of Cat Stevens. But I’m going to start small. Maybe I’ll make some origami peace cranes as Peaceguy suggests (and gives instructions for) on the World Peace Day website. Or maybe my gesture will be something even simpler, such as driving with my headlights on, as he also suggests.

Frankly, I think what matters more than what we do, is that we do something. I also think it matters that, while we’re doing that something, we do it with the vision of World Peace in hearts and our minds.

So this is my plan: tomorrow – maybe even today – I will make my own unique contribution in an effort to one day bring about World Peace.

Are you with me? I hope you are, whether it’s on November 17, December 17, or sometime in 2017. I promise you’ll be in good company.

In fact, here’s a message from some astronauts at the International Space Station:

And here’s a message from Cat Stevens/Yusef Islam who was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

Call me a Polyanna, but I think we can do it.

And so did Margaret Mead. It was she who said,

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change to world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.

Amen and Peace!

Letting Go, Part Deux

By Carolyn Cook

I have so much to learn, still.

I’m fifty years old, and I’m still learning that I have control issues.  I am even beginning to see my old perfectionism as a form of control:  if I can do everything perfectly, then I can control how other people perceive me.

I got into trouble early in my marriage by trying to be the perfect wife.  It took several years for me to see that I was only hurting myself by trying to fit an imaginary mold.  What’s more, I saw that I had been trying to control my husband’s perception of me, instead of trusting that he loved my imperfect self.

Lately I’ve noticed that I can slip into “perfect daughter” and “perfect mother” roles with my mother and daughter.  I’m not fooling anyone with my textbook caregiving and parenting; my mother and daughter just want to be with me.  They can see right through my efforts to make everything perfect.

I’m making a conscious effort to step back and let events take their course without my control, even (gasp!) in my own home.  I’m learning a lot from the experience.  Something tells me I will always have more to learn.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project which has now concluded.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.