Archive for True Voices at Work

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.

 

 

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.

Make a Difference Day!

Hey! I’m posting this on October 24th, in the hope that you’ll read this post by October 25th, just in time to catch the wave of…

Make a Difference Day!

I know that a lot of these “special” days are often just for fun, but this one’s for real.  Surprisingly, Make a Difference Day has been around for over 20 years. It was started by USA Weekend along with Points of Light. It’s the nation’s largest day of service, and it always falls on the fourth Saturday of the October.

I wonder if that has something to do with the weather. But I digress!

It’s kind of sad that we need a day named Make a Difference Day to get us out there helping each other en masse. But what’s even sadder is that most of us, myself included until very recently, don’t even know about it!

So that’s my mission with this blog post. No philosophizing, no life story, no spiritual concept to ponder, although I could certainly do any of those here. Nope! Just a public service announcement about this truly special day, an opportunity to do something that improves the life of a neighbor – a neighbor you know or one you just haven’t met yet.

Not sure what to do?

Just go to the Make a Difference Day website, and you can find something fun and close to home. No matter where you live, I feel pretty sure that there’s some project you can join in on. Just go to USA Weekend’s website, or the Points of Light website and do a quick search.

Been wanting to get a project started? Gather some people in your community, and get it going!

I’ll be spending most of my day driving to and then performing a wedding, so I won’t be able to do one of the official Make a Difference Day projects here in the Atlanta area. But I’m making a commitment to you right here and now, that I’ll do my darnedest to make a difference everywhere I go. For one, I certainly hope I make a difference for the couple I’m marrying, but I’m getting paid for that, so I can’t count it as a volunteer project. But, I could pay for the coffee of the person behind me in line. I could offer my neighbor who doesn’t drive a lift to the grocery store and back. And/or I could simply give a smile to all those whose paths I cross.

So, regardless of your plans for Saturday, October 25th, I hope you’ll join in. If you have children and you live in the Atlanta area, there’s a group just for you. It’s called Pebble Tossers (I love that name), and you can check it out here. If you’re sans kids, just check out main website. And I think I read that they even have a Facebook page!

Who knows?

Maybe doing these things, big or small, will feel so good to us, we’ll start making a difference for our neighbors (two-legged and four-legged) on other days, too. 🙂

And please, do share this post widely so we can also spread the word! My Sun Deck Kwan Yin would greatly appreciate your pitching in. Thank you from both of us.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

 

How Will You Spend Your Last 92 Days?

If you don’t know how you’ll spend your last 92 days, then you’d better think fast!

Why?

Because between today and January 1st, there are just 92 more days.

Quick question: When you first read the title of this post, did you think I meant your last 92 days, as in here on Earth? If so, good – that’s what I was hoping you’d think.

You see, I assert that your response to the latter can inform how you’ll ultimately respond to the former. Or, in other words, what you want your last 92 days in life to be like is something to think about when contemplating the 92 days left before we ring in another 365.

On many of the websites I visit, the experts are touting how important it is for us to consider carefully how we will spend this last quarter of the year. How will we get the most out our businesses?” they ask. “How much money can we make?” That’s all well and good. I may even think about the answers to those questions.

But what I want to suggest to you (and to me, too) is that we also think about what’s vitally important to us before choosing how we spend the gift of the upcoming days, and the all the ones that follow.

As the prolific writer Annie Dillard so wisely tells us, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

… which leads me to another quote for us to remember, from the also prolific writer, the late Stephen Covey, who said, “Begin with the end in mind.”

So yes, let’s ponder how to make the most out of our next 92 days. And as we do, let’s not forget to take Ms. Dillard’s and Mr. Covey’s wisdom into account. How do we really want to live, after all?

Do we want to die before we die, or do we want to live while we’re still alive?

After that sobering thought, how about a little levity? Check out how this guy (and his dog) choose to spend some of their time by clicking here.

Bright Lights and Barred Owls, an Elegy

Today, on September 11th of all days, I present a poem for you. It is in loving memory of my client turned friend, Tayyibah Taylor. She was a brave and beloved ambassador of – and dedicated activist for – world peace.

“A Bright Light, A Barred Owl: An Elegy”

Our bright light has moved on.Tayyibah Taylor in hot pink
And we have moved
From Shock and Disbelief
To broken-heartedness
For ourselves, for all – and at the
Loss of her song, and her being
That mellifluously brought a potent, loving message.

Our bright light has moved on.
Clothed in vibrant wisdom, and with
Exquisite engagement,
Her worldwide heart and
Her other worldly delight,
No longer embrace us –
Not in this realm.

Tayyibah Taylor w/sparkler

Sparkling Tayyibah and her Sparkler

Our bright light has moved on.
We know not to where –
Perhaps Allah as she believed.
We do know
As she lost her battle,
We lost a champion and one
Of the highest magnitude.

Our bright light has moved on.
And she visited me, on the way to her
Soul’s next evolution, by embodying a barred owl.
Cloaked in the song of “Who cooks for you?” she spoke
As in unison with Quan Yin. “I hear your cry.
Compassion and Mercy to all,
Including you.”

Our bright light has moved on
Though her message lingers – an invitation
To be a woman with wings, migrating as necessary,
Leading us all heartlong with her love lantern
So that we see the divine, invisible and
See beyond the human, visible
In the faces of our families and our enemies.

Tayyibah Taylor

Tayyibah Taylor, in the Colors of our Planet

Our bright light has moved on.
She now beckons us to pick up our purposes,
Travel across borders created by mankind,
And through veils created by a power
Greater than we, and surrender,
Finally, to building and then crossing countless
Bridges to peace.

II.
For your life, Sister Tayyibah Taylor, bright and
Guiding light, we give thanks.
And for the gifts you brought us,
The gift that you were,
We will know you, in the call of the barred owl,
The eyes of the gentle doe, and the magnificence of the flamingo,
If we will but listen, if we will but see.

III.
Our bright light has moved on
And so must we –
Not soon, but eventually –
When we are ready.
We must get ready.
But first, we must grieve.
Our bright light has moved on.

Laura Overstreet Biering, Clarkston, GA
©2014 All rights reserved

PS To learn more about Tayyibah and her legacy, click on her name in the opening paragraph, and/or visit these links:

PPS To learn more about the Barred Owl and the “medicine” it is believed to bring, visit one of these links:

PPPS  And finally, just to be clear… As you know, the majority of photographs on this blog are ones I’ve taken. The ones included in this post, however, are not. If and when I find out whose they are, I will certainly post that here.

You may be right. I may be crazy.

Today is the first day of my participation in the 500-Words-a-Day-for-31-Days Challenge.

How many words is that so far? Tee-hee. Just kidding.

I confess that I’m not completely looking forward to this project. It’s kind of daunting, although parts of it will be great, I’m sure. And some parts, I imagine, will be excruciating. I’m trying to think of it , though, like all those Morning Pages I did when I was teaching The Artist’s Way so frequently. No matter how I feel, no matter much or how little I think I have to write about, no matter the time constraints on my day, no matter what my energy level is, whether emotional, psychic, mental, spiritual, or physical, I’m going to do this. And I’m going to do it every single day!

Except for the days I don’t.

But don’t worry… Making that statement doesn’t diminish my enthusiasm or willingness to write every day. It’s just my way of making a full out commitment and still being gentle with myself because life does happen, as they say.

I can hear some people now saying now, “What? Are you crazy? You’re going to try to do that, too, with all the other things you’ve got going on?” And to that, I’d have to say, “Maybe I am!” There’s certainly a lot of evidence to that fact. But this is something I really want to do, and I think it will be good for me. Not in the way that taking medicine is good for me (except on those excruciating days, maybe), but good in the way that it will be empowering and enlivening, rich and elevating. Plus, I think it’ll really help me with this whole blogging thing. I really want to get in the habit of writing to you, as well as sharing my photographs with you. And yet another reason to honor this commitment (to myself), is that if I’m not creative, I can get really cranky!

OK. Now I really do want to know how many words. Whoa – 339 already! Oh, that is so cool! I thought it was going to be 110 or maybe 125, but something really low like that.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. 🙂

I know I shouldn’t get my hopes up about all the things following through on this writing commitment could do for me, but I admit that there’s a part of me that’s thinking it’s going to be a piece of cake and really pay off.

Then why am I even telling you about it? Because it’ll help me actually do it, easy or not. Like having a good coach gives my clients accountability for doing the things they want to do, you will serve as accountability for me here.

But, just to be clear, you don’t get to check in with me every 5 minutes about it, OK? And don’t expect new blog posts every day or even every other day, either. Some of the stuff I write will be for my eyes only.

Speaking of accountability, I know it helps to have a friend join in on activities like this, so I think I’ll ask my friend and web goddess, Suzanne Bird-Harris, to join me. I think she’ll enjoy it and get some good stuff out of it, too. And maybe she could stop having to pay for a hotel room, which she sometimes has to do to get some peace and quiet in order to be able to write. (Now that’s dedication to one’s craft!) Plus she’s fun and she’ll both kick my butt if I need it and love me at the same time.

Don’t you want to do it, too? I’d love to have you along for the ride and hear how it goes for you. If you’re thinking “yes, that’s for me,” just go to this link and read all about it. He’s makes a good and inviting case. And, in the event that we get stuck, he even gives us writing prompts.

Here’s a little aside… Where writing prompts are concerned, there’s this really cool book filled with them called “A Writer’s Book of Days” by the talented writer Judy Reeves. I recommend it highly because, even if you aren’t a book addict like I am, there’s just a lot of really helpful stuff in it, even in addition to a prompt a day for 365 days.

Well, would you look at that? 738!

Now, I’d love to keep writing to you, especially since I’m on such a roll, but Jeff says that no matter how many words we write in one day, we still have to write 500 words the next day. And I know what it’s like to go to the gym after a long absence and work out like a maniac, trying to get a head start, or make up for lost time, or both. I also know what it’s like to not be able to go back to the gym for a week because I shot my wad on that first day. Maybe you’ve experienced this, too.

So, in order not to overdo it today, because I do want to come back to my writing tomorrow, I’m going to wrap this thing up. And maybe I’ll see you tomorrow with another post. But remember, don’t you count on it. I’d hate to disappoint you, but I will if I have to.

I am the main one I’m hoping not to disappoint in this endeavor. Wish me luck.

(And that’s 921!)

Rita Doing Some Writing on Retreat at the Farm

OH – IMPORTANT NOTE: The picture you see here is of my friend Rita, who came down from Chicago for the most recent retreat at my farm, Brinson’s Race. Here, she’s doing some writing, facing the growing cotton field, with my dog Little Bit at her back, protecting her from squirrels.

Doesn’t it look inviting? Wouldn’t you like to spend some time there? Or would you prefer to be doing your writing facing the pecan orchard? Or maybe in the woods, by what we call the little pond? Regardless of your preference, you can.

Want to know how and when? Read on…

I have set aside the weekends of September 26, October 10, November 7, and even December 12, as potential dates for delivering retreats at Brinson’s Race. The title and subject of the retreats will be Creating A Wholehearted Life: The Daring Way™. It’s Brené Brown‘s most recent program, and brilliantly covers all of her research up to now, through video, discussion, and rich, experiential exercises.

Of course, you could enroll in an in-person group and enjoy the experience over a couple of months. And if you want to do that, just go to this link and sign up.

Or, if you’d rather dive into the work all at once, while in a beautiful, bucolic setting, go to this (same) page.

Either way, head on over to this page on the True Voices website, and check it out.

FYI – The only retreat that is listed on that page is the one in September. If you are interested in one of the other dates, please just give me a holler at 404.296.8221, fill out the contact form on this website, or write me directly at Laura (at) TrueVoices (dot) com.

Talk to you very soon, I hope!

Love,
Laura

PS My gratitude, admiration, and apologies to the great Billy Joel regarding the title to this post. 🙂

Risk, continued

By Guest Blogger, Carolyn Cook.

This month I am taking the risk I’ve written about several times: I’m singing a *recital in just a few short days.

I’ve done so much to prepare for this that it feels like less of a risk than it did. But it’s still challenging, and I’m still nervous. I think I will be jubilant when it’s actually happening. I imagine myself standing in front of my friends, in a space I love, singing music I’ve chosen, and smiling from ear to ear. I can already feel the glow that will fill me when I realize I’m actually doing this.

I want to risk experiencing that glow. I want to let myself relax about everything that’s worrying me.  I want to risk feeling excitement, joy, and freedom as I sing. I want to prepare as much as I can prepare, and then let go.

Simply deciding to do this concert has brought about a change in my life. When you decide to work on your voice, you start poking around a part of yourself that feels very vulnerable.  How we speak is a huge part of who we are, or at least who we think we are. Choosing to release tension in my voice requires admitting that the tension is there. I’ve had to work in two directions:  physically, releasing bodily tension to let my soul sing, and spiritually, releasing soul tension to let my body sing.

One of my voice coaches says that we sing as a gift to others. We take a song and polish it so that we can give it away. I find that to be a beautiful image, because it takes the focus off me, the singer, and puts it on the gift and on the recipient. Self-consciousness, the source of my tension, dissolves as I focus on giving something away.

Here’s what he says about taking a deep breath to sing: “Fill the basket, and then feed the masses.” Isn’t that lovely? If I hadn’t decided to risk a concert, I never would have learned that.

What I’m saying is that risking this concert has turned out to be a gift to me. I’ve learned a great deal, not just about vocal technique, but about speaking the truth and sharing my heart. I think my next risk is simply to keep taking this one, and see where it leads.

This post first appeared on my RiskADay blog project, which has now concluded.

*A note from Laura: Check out this short, delightful video taken right after Carolyn’s recital by clicking here. Enjoy!

Carolyn Cook 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. She now blogs at http://lifelongmetamorphoses.wordpress.com/

My Little Game

By Carolyn Cook, Guest Blogger.

I’m pondering another life change.  I don’t know if it counts as a risk, but I think any change is inherently risky, so here goes:

I’m thinking about closing in.  Cutting back.  Focusing.  Minimizing.  Simplifying for a while.

If you know me, you know this is a ridiculous idea.  I can’t resist opportunities for adventure, artistic growth, and discovery.  Give me a challenge, and I’m out the door like a shot.  So it would be really, really hard for me to do what I’m talking about.

Specifically, I’m talking about creating a daily routine where the paperwork and the housework and the prep work for my classes actually gets done, every day.  (Oh dear, I’m already terrified.)  I’m talking about planning meals and keeping healthy food in the fridge and getting regular exercise.

I actually have time to do this. For once in my life, I have just enough work to do outside the home, and I don’t want to take on any more.  I have time to see my mother, talk with my husband and daughter, cook dinner, and keep up with paperwork, while still pursuing an interesting career.  I even have time to study voice again.

Yet I find myself putting off going to grocery store, letting my mom’s papers pile up, procrastinating, and of course, feeling stressed.  It’s natural.  My husband and I have a favorite quote, which I believe is from Life 101:  “If your game is too small, you’ll screw up your game just to give yourself something to do.”  Oh, the drama.

What if I mustered the courage, the discipline, not to screw up this little game of mine?  What if I developed the discipline to meet deadlines, take care of my health, create interesting classes for my students, and practice my music?  I know I can do it; I only risk giving up the thrill of running on adrenalin when I get behind.  And the potential reward is so great:  a sense of purpose, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of being true to myself.

Maybe being true to myself is the biggest risk of all.  What do you think?

This post originally appeared on my RiskADay blog.

 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.

Singing a New Song

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I can sing.

It still feels risky just to write those words, but today I am smiling about them. I took a risk, and it’s really paying off.

When I was a girl, I sang all the time. My mother sang around the house, off-key, but with joyful abandon. She sang hymns and old songs as she cooked and cleaned (somehow combining this with a career as a college math professor). I inherited her love of music. I sang in church choirs and school choruses and high school musicals. I loved it, and I was good at it.

But for reasons I won’t go into here, I left singing behind somewhere in my twenties, and when I became a professional actor I was careful not to put myself out there as a singer. I wasn’t well-trained, so I sounded amateurish in comparison to the amazing belters who did the big shows. I developed a career as an actor in straight plays. I thought that was enough.

But sometime in the last decade, singing began to gnaw at me. Some wild faerie demon angel in me wanted to get out and sing. I wasn’t equipped to help her, because she needed access to my vocal apparatus and it wasn’t up to the task. Any effort just to sing ended in tears and frustration, because my voice tired quickly. I was using it well as an actor, but not as a singer, and I was afraid of doing damage that would ultimately hurt my acting career.

Note the words “I was afraid.”

I was afraid of much more than vocal damage. I was afraid of failing as a singer. I was afraid of succeeding as a singer. I was afraid of making a fool of myself. I was afraid of everything that had to do with growing as a singer. It felt very, very risky.

But I couldn’t ignore the voice within. After failing to break through my barriers with several voice teachers, I found help with Laura. She didn’t teach me to sing, but she helped me give myself permission to welcome the song back into my life.

Slowly, slowly, I inched toward a willingness to open my heart and my voice. I worked with more teachers.  I stuck to it.  I joined a choir, and then a chorale.  I sang a solo in church. I sang poorly, and yet I didn’t die or lose all my friends. The floor did not open up and swallow me. (I wished it would, but it didn’t.) I lived, and I learned from my mistakes. I found better teachers and began making real progress. Somewhere along the way I stopped needing to cry.

A couple of years ago I took a leap of faith and auditioned for a musical.  I didn’t get cast, but I gave a good audition, and I was satisfied.  I thought that was the end of the story, but it wasn’t; a few months ago I auditioned for another musical, and I actually sang with something resembling confidence.  Again, I didn’t get the job, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that I had put myself out there for a musical audition. I had let myself risk wanting to sing.

Then came last Friday. I auditioned for a small part that has a little song. The diretor, who knows me only as an actor, asked me, “Do you sing? I’ve never heard you sing.”

And I said, “Oh yes, I sing. You’ve never heard me, because I used to be too shy to sing. But I do.”

Then I sang.

That’s it. There’s no fairy-tale ending to this. The director didn’t leap out of his chair and beg me to be in his next Broadway production. I just sang my song, better than I have ever sung it, and I knew that something had changed. I’m a singer now. He recognized it, and so did I.

I may or may not get the part. But I’ll never forget what it felt like to say, with complete assurance, those words that once felt so incredibly risky:

“Oh, yes. Yes. I sing.”

This post first appeared on RiskADay.com.

Carolyn Cook 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.