Who Are the Hinges in Your Life?

I heard a phrase the other day: “Little hinges swing big doors.” I liked that phrase in that it presents a picture of how the small actions we take every day add up to something important. Yet almost immediately I started thinking of a different application – because the day before I’d heard a Fred Rogers’ speech where he tells his audience to think of someone who made a difference in their lives.

I assume most people think of a parent, a teacher, a coach, mentor, a boss, a pastor… someone in a role of influence who had an influence. But, I wondered, what about the little hinges who swing big doors? What about the people in your life who do a small thing that ends up making a big difference?

Often my copywriting work is a series of little hinges. One time my friend Lenore couldn’t get to an assignment, so she passed it off to me. That assignment led to another assignment that put me at a conference where I ran into a client from long ago, Julie. She connected me to a new client, Mike, and I’ve been working with him on his book projects for a couple of years.

One time I was asked to chair Huntingdon’s alumni awards committee. Because of that invitation, I was the emcee for the awards presentation. One of the people there that night invited me to speak to his civic group where I ran into my friend Rosemary, who asked if I could work on a temporary project for her. I’ve done that temporary assignment off and on for about nine years. Also, she referred another client to me, and now I work with them on their newsletter.

So, a lot of little hinges have made my copywriting work possible. I’ve also had hinges in other areas of my life.

Take the late Pat Stewart, for example. I volunteered with her in the church kitchen. I knew she worked in the preschool on Sundays, and one day I asked her what it would be like to work in that department. She’s the one who said, “You should go visit Donna Hoomes’ class.” And she’s the one who told Donna, “Minnie’s coming to your class.”

The preschool department (in this case 4-year-olds) gave me new insight into what you might call “missing information.” This is the room where fundamental concepts are reviewed again and again. Remember that Shel Silverstein poem about the circle who says “I’m looking for my missing piece?” I’m not saying everybody will find their missing piece in a preschool class, but I do think it’s a good place to look.

In any case, these concepts influenced the Story Shaping Project I’m developing. And this did too. A few years back, I was writing a series of stories about people I met at church. Pat was my second subject. We sat down for about 15 minutes in the office of the church kitchen, and she told me about the 50 years she’d spent working in preschool. After we were done, I said, “Thanks for letting me interview you.”

Pat pointed a finger toward me and said, “No. Thank you. Nobody’s ever interviewed me before.”

I was so surprised. Stunned, actually. I’ve been in the public relations field. I’ve been interviewed quite a few times on behalf of employers. And so have my PR friends. Also I published book projects, and I set up interviews for myself. It hadn’t occurred to me that some people hadn’t been interviewed before.

So I started thinking about how there are people who probably don’t realize what an interesting life they’ve led and that theirs is a story worth telling. That was also a hinge in story shaping, and through this is a door I’m expecting to see lots of interesting developments. (FYI, If you would like to be included in the beta launch of this new project, be sure to sign up for my email list on this page. Subscribers get a discount.)

In the meantime, can you think of people in your life who took a moment of their lives to think of you and, in doing so, swung open a door? Will you take a moment to do the same for someone else?

Enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 2, Issue 28

Do You See the Beauty Around You?

I love the John Rutter version of the hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth. It’s fitting that a song about beauty is so beautiful.

Listening to this hymn one day, a line stood out: “For the love which from our birth over and around us lies.” There’s a lot to think about in that phrase… the idea that we were loved from the beginning, and that this love has surrounded us since that time.

Do you ever forget that? If so, what would it take to keep remembering?

I came into the world the youngest of four. For that reason alone, I’m fortunate I got this chance. Many families stop at two children these days, so perhaps my generation was the last chance for me to be born. Of all the things they say about having kids, the one thing they do not say is, “They are so inexpensive.”

My birthplace was Old Russell Hospital. That wasn’t actually the name of the place, but by the time I was old enough to be aware of my surroundings, Old Russell Hospital had been torn down and replaced by Russell Hospital on Highway 280. When I rode through town as a child, my mother pointed to the area where this significant moment occurred: “Old Russell Hospital was over there. That’s where you were born.”

I tried to look. I wanted to see. But the moment went by too fast, and I could never figure out where Old Russell Hospital used to be. I just knew it had been “over there” somewhere.

I was told that my father backed his car into a parking place behind the hospital and positioned my three older siblings on the trunk. My mother held me up to the window of Old Russell Hospital’s maternity ward so they could get a peek.

I grew up getting prodded to go outdoors on Saturdays. As in: “Go find yourself something to do.” I took bike rides without helmets and enjoyed unstructured play times in a neighborhood. Perhaps that too was the last chance for such things. But it’s probably a good idea that people stopped smoking indoors, and we figured out that those seat belts stuffed down into the seat cushions should actually be worn as restraints while the vehicle is in motion.

In restaurants, my favorite appetizer was a pack of saltine crackers spread with one of those individual pats of butter, where you lifted the thin paper, even if you had to shake it off your finger because the butter had an adhesive quality. Or maybe it was margarine.

I liked the smell of crayons, Play Doh and Silly Putty. I also remember the smell of the school hallway, especially when the janitors spread out that red dust they swept away with huge brooms. I can almost hear the methodical slapping of the brooms in the hallway. I used to know the sound of the front door at my house opening and closing. I also knew what it sounded like to yank a bedroom window open to get a breeze. Or, more likely, just more of the stifling heat.

That was the beauty of life on earth in those early days, where a sense of place could tell you who you were. And you could feel as much optimism and hope as your dreams allowed.

Yet life did get difficult in this flawed existence of humans being human, and learning as we go. For each hill there was a valley, and a sunset for each sunrise. I got some bad information at times – ingesting it into my operating system. And I usually learned the hard way things that could have made life so much easier. How about you?

It’d be a shame, I think, to waste the amazing insights I discovered during my journey. For example, how do you recapture your first impression of life – the one that speaks of your momentous potential and remarkable value? That’s the first topic I address in my new Story Shaping curriculum. I’ll tell you more about that soon.

The love that was over and around us from our birth is over and around us still. I hope you see evidence of that day. Enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 2, Issue 27

Which Words Would You Change?

I love Tim Herrera’s job title as “Smarter Living Editor.” That is so cool. If I could reset my life from the beginning, I’d like to end up at that title – Smarter Living Editor.

Smarter doesn’t put too much pressure on the reader, as smart might do – as if you’ve got to be smart in all your decisions. Instead, you don’t have to worry so much about being smart. Just do something “smarter” than you were doing.

I’ve got plenty of room to be smarter.

And editor – oh, that would be so cool to help people with their smarter living, as if you could only change out some subjects and verbs and get it done. My kind of job.

Herrera writes a weekly email for The New York Times. This week’s email was about several of the “fear of” acronyms that trip us up. FOMO, or fear of missing out, turns distraction and impulsivity into the rulers of our day. FOBO, or fear of better options, stops us with indecision as we agonize over which choice would be the one perfect one for us.

These terms, Herrera said, were coined by Patrick McGinnis following his experiences in the Harvard Business School. McGinnis has another one that is the Fear of Doing Anything – another type of paralysis.

You may face these FOs as I do. I’ve also got one I’d add to the list – FOLO, or the fear of letting go.

I suspect that somewhere inside my DNA lives a historic preservationist trying to maintain the artifacts of my decades on this earth.

I can only imagine the tour guide of the future saying, “If you open this desk drawer, you can see the remnants of the best deal she ever found. It was back in 1999 when she bought ten boxes of paper clips for a dollar. She was able to use these to fasten papers together for her whole writing career – and never ran out. There’s still an unopened box remaining. Oh, and in this section are the pens that still probably have ink if you press harder. And some pencils that need sharpening. They came free at various conferences she attended.”

Really, there is just so much to see here. I’m sure the tour will be quite popular.

Though here’s a concern: what if the people who come to inspect my space can’t tell the difference between what has value and what doesn’t? What if they, say, move a couch and find a grocery store receipt from 2003? Will they wonder if it contains a forgotten message about the price of bread at the turn of the century? Or will they sense, instinctively, “She wasn’t a very good housekeeper.”

Hard to say. We don’t get to control interpretation. But back to the main idea: letting go is important. When you move something out, you make room for the new thing that’s coming. You only have so much space in a life. So many closets, so many storage rooms, so many shelves, so many drawers, so many cabinets. Letting go is how you can make room for something else.

There’s a question in Isaiah 44:20 that jumped out to me one time: “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?” It gave me pause about things to which I was needlessly clinging. I don’t know what that might be for you, but it’s something to think about.

While this letting go could be a physical item, the unhelpful clutter could also be a thought, a belief, an attitude. Our minds and spirits can get cluttered just as much as our physical spaces. And you can let go of old notions that are irrelevant, outdated or simply untrue. But be sure to replace these unhelpful things with something true, or they’ll come right back again and bring their friends.

This is why willpower is lacking in permanence. You need truth, plus a structure. Like language, for instance. Language is a structure. The way you talk to yourself matters. But what if you changed out your subjects and verbs to a friendlier point of view about your life? What if you chose some new, more uplifting sentences to describe your day?

Like they say, be kind to everyone you meet. And let me add: including the one you see in the mirror.

Enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol 2, Issue 26

Did you have a question?

When I was a child, I went with my mother to visit a friend of hers who had moved into a brand new house. As Miss Julia was showing us the main room, she pulled on a string hanging from the ceiling to reveal a set of stairs that led to the attic.

I was amazed at this feature – truly astonished that these stairs had appeared out of nowhere and were now in the middle of the room. I had never seen anything like it. Not only that, Miss Julia permitted me to walk up the stairs to her attic. This was so cool.

On the next visit, just a regular visit, I asked Miss Julia (quite impertinently) if I could see the attic again. My mother dismissed the request out of hand. In polite society, it seems, you just don’t go around asking if you can see people’s attics. But Miss Julia said, “I tell you what, Minnie. You come here some day without your mother, and I’ll let you see the attic.”

I agreed to the terms. Which I actually thought were terms. Apparently, adults sometimes say things just to say things, then find out kids actually believe them.

Later, I was playing with a friend at her house, which was on the same street as Miss Julia’s, when I suddenly remembered the terms by which I could see the attic again. Clearly my mother was not with me, and this would be a good opportunity to take advantage of the offer.

This was the late 1960s, and young kids could wander neighborhoods during those days, so I suggested to my playmate, “Let’s go to Miss Julia’s house and ask if we can see her attic.” I assume my little friend thought this was a great idea because, next thing you know, we were on the street headed that way.

I rang the bell, and Miss Julia came to the door. Whereupon I said with the full confidence of a young child, “My mother isn’t with me now. Can we see your attic?”

I can only imagine her surprise and – potentially – amusement. Miss Julia graciously welcomed us in, pulled down the stairs, and after our tour of the attic, gave us each a bottle of Coke.

In that moment, my life was filled with good intentions, the freedom to wander, short journeys to a happy destination, gracious response, and the refreshment of a bottled Coke. Truly, it was only my ignorance of doubt that made these experiences possible. For if I had been old enough – or cognizant enough – to question the sincerity of the offer, I would have missed that sweet experience and fond memory. And Miss Julia would have too.

Belief seems to be easier for children. No wonder Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:17 (NIV) You get a little older and knocked around by life, and it’s more like, “Are you serious? You can’t be serious.”

In Life with Strings Attached, my narrator says in the introduction, “I was trying to remember what it was that I knew before I began to doubt.” As she goes on to tell a nostalgic tale from her neighborhood and community, she does so from a 7-year-old’s perspective. The reason that is so is because, when I thought of who this character would be, I wanted to capture her at a time when everything was still possible, before she was aware of any limits, when she still believes she can do anything – and carries the faith of a child that life offers promises to be pursued.

I never heard anything else about my visit. I don’t know if Miss Julia told my mother. My mother didn’t mention it. In hindsight, I do think I left her with a good story that day. For the price of two bottled Cokes and a little bit of her time, I think it was probably worth it.

Is there something you’re having a hard time believing today? Can you find your way back – at least for a moment – to an impertinent faith? One that asks, seeks, knocks as if promises are actually true?

Enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 2, Issue 25

How Long Does It Take to Complete Your Work?

I have been developing an encouragement curriculum, and I was trying to think of an example of someone who took a really long time to complete his or her work.

If you Google to find examples of late-life success, you’ll see some of the same names show up over and over. People like Col. Sanders, who became a chef in his 40s and franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken in his 60s. If you Google to find people who overcame failure, you’ll see that Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first TV job or that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

But I was wondering if I could find a different type of example. Maybe someone sort of like Mr. Holland of Mr. Holland’s Opus, who had this thing he always wanted to do – this creation he was always working on – but life got in the way, and his life became the creation he was working on. Because that would be a good list too.

Then I thought of John Harrison. Some years ago, I read Dava Sobel’s book Longitude, which recounts the experiences of an Englishman who in the 1700s was a carpenter and clockmaker of no particular renown. One of the greatest problems of his time was the inability for sailors to accurately determine their longitude while at sea, and Harrison took it upon himself to solve this mystery.

Latitude was easier to figure out with the zero line being fixed at the equator. Observe what the heavenly bodies are doing, and you can discover latitude. To Harrison’s way of thinking, however, if you want to know your longitude, you’ve got to know what time it is aboard the ship and what time it is back home. Then you can compare the two times to know where you are. But this was the issue: long voyages produced variations in temperature, humidity and pressure that affected timekeeping at sea. And sailors got lost.

Don’t ask me to explain any more than that. It’s not something I understand very well. I’m just telling you about something I read a long time ago.

In any case, in 1714, the British Parliament enacted the Longitude Act offering a prize to whoever could figure out the longitude puzzle. So a clockmaker with no formal education or esteemed credentials began his life’s quest to design a clock that could accurately keep time at sea.

It took Harrison five years to build his first clock; the second took three years to build, plus two for testing, but he abandoned that version when he discovered a flaw. He spent 19 years working on clock number 3, but it did not perform as he wished. Then he began to work on the concept of a sea watch for his fourth maritime clock – the first of which took six years to complete.

All the while, he also faced resistance from the scientific community, and there were competing ideas, broken promises, falling outs and all sorts of thing that got in the way of his pursuit. His life’s work was a battle through these external forces as much as it was a scientific puzzle, and he didn’t get his prize until he was 80 years old.

Yet what Harrison did counted for something. He didn’t know that it would, he only knew that it could. And he kept going.

In 2002 he came in 39th in a BBC poll of the 100th greatest Britons. If you’d told him somewhere along, say, 1750 or 1760 that future recognition was ahead, I can imagine he would have said, “Are you kidding me?” Especially in light of those who opposed him and his inability to get his timepiece to work as he wished.

So, yes, John Harrison is an example of someone who took a long time to complete his work. And that’s a helpful example for me to remember as I continue with some of the things I am trying to do.

You could say that this curriculum I’ve been working on took about 30 years to develop because I had to live it first and learn from my mistakes. Plus I had to work out the delivery method.

When I first started thinking about an encouragement platform, I had this idea that I wanted to start my own publishing company. At the time social media had not yet been invented, and only the technical people knew about the Internet. I pictured inspirational gift books, and I thought they belonged in gift shops. The format and media have since evolved into something that looks quite different – a series of online courses.

So Story Shaping has its roots in that long ago dream, that once-upon-a-time notion. Yet just like the sailors of old, the long voyage of my life produced variations in temperature, humidity and pressure that often left me feeling adrift. And I got lost a time or two.

Still, it’s getting closer.

In the meantime, I’m going to give you a three-week break from this newsletter as I complete my work and you enjoy the summer heat. See you on July 19. Until then…

Enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 2, Issue 24

Is It Halfway Through June Already?

In my younger days, I was at an event in my hometown when Miss Annie Mae, a family friend, asked, “Can you believe it’s halfway through June already?”

“No, I can’t,” I said following with the thing you’re supposed to say: “Time is flying.”

The reason I remember this exchange is because I wrote a little piece referencing the conversation. The reason I wrote a little piece about that conversation is because I used the question as a marker for the rest of the summer.

Over the next few weeks, I would observe that it has been one month, six weeks, two months, etc., since Miss Annie Mae pointed out that it was halfway through June already. My field research confirmed the initial assessment: time really does go by fast.

By now, it’s been more than 30 years since Miss Annie Mae asked me if I could believe it was halfway through June already. So yeah, time still flies. But what can anybody do about it?

Nothing. To a certain degree, that is. The orbits and revolutions of celestial bodies take place without our influence or input. The only thing we can do anything about is this day, this moment, this hour.

Speaking of… depending on the translation, there seem to be only a couple of references to the word “hour” across all the books of the Old Testament. Get to the Gospels and Jesus mentions the word hour several times. See if any of these phrases sound familiar:

• No one knows the day or the hour.
• Whatever you say will be given you in that hour.
• Who by worrying can add a single hour?
• An hour is coming.

Regardless of what year this is, or what month is on the calendar, the hour is the increment of time that is within our influence – and just past that is this very day.

A few years ago I talked to a business coach who explained to me the concept of time management. He said it’s about putting things on a calendar so you’ll take the action you need to take at that time.

I agree, to a degree. However, creative projects do not fit well within precise time slots. Let’s say I put on a calendar: “2 p.m. – 3 p.m., write newsletter article.” I don’t know how to do that, especially since the time is probably going to be 1:43 – 2:27. So I took his advice, but I adjusted it to a time management process that works better for me. I list the actions I need to take each day in the order that I want to take them. That’s how I control (but more precisely influence) my day.

In doing so, this list becomes a guidepost that shields me from the inner critic complaining that “you haven’t done this, that or the other” and gives me a counterpoint to a tendency to feel as if I’m falling short. There are a LOT of things I did not and will not do today. For example, it just so happens, I did not climb Mt. Kilimanjaro this morning, but I do not feel disappointed about that because it wasn’t on the list.

It’s a human tendency that whatever time we have allotted for a particular task is the amount of time it takes us to accomplish it. I often quote my Aunt Minnie when she said, “I wake up in the morning with nothing to do and don’t get finished with it all day.”

This was the point my business coach was making about time management. The way to tend to responsibilities is one hour at a time. Don’t look too far ahead (unless you’re at a strategic planning retreat) and don’t look too far behind (unless you’re writing your memoirs), but look to this very moment for the opportunities it holds. And take an action.

I first became aware of the subjective nature of the measurement of time in college when I was attending a sorority Founder’s Day celebration. I was 20 years old and standing next to our guest speaker, a lady in her 80s, as we watched a skit about roller coasters. I asked her if she had ever ridden a roller coaster, and she said, “Yes, I have and it wasn’t too long ago. About ten years.”

I couldn’t believe that she could think ten years, half my life span, was “not too long ago.” What I now know is that even though ten years is still a pretty good amount of time, “not too long ago” continues to get a broader and broader definition.

This is a challenge of life: coming to terms with the cause and effect relationship of today and tomorrow, and, of course, the speed with which the tomorrows come. Not much we can do about that, except recognizing here’s where we are. This very moment. This particular day. This is the hour that is ours. This is the time that is in our hands.

Enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 2, Issue 23

Do You Remember the Slide Show?

I’ve been creating slide shows. But it’s not like the kind where I first cut my teeth in the A/V world. Those involved Kodak projectors and carousels. To see what was on your slide, you’d look up toward the light fixture and squint. Then you’d drop it in the carousel the right way, which I think was backwards. Or upside down. I don’t remember exactly. This was the ‘80s when I was a copywriter for an ad agency.

I wrote scripts to accompany the slides. Script approval came first, then you asked the client, “Do you have any slides?” and they handed over their trove. You put it all together. Then you had to pack up all this stuff – projector, carousel and extra bulb – and carry it to an event. You didn’t create slide shows to stay home; they went on the road.

One slide show was about the need for tort reform. It was presented during issue-related conferences in hotel meeting rooms at five cities in Alabama. I was in charge of arranging for the rooms and A/V accommodations (electrical outlet, podium mic and screen, I guess). What I remember is that I had to get to the event early because every single time, something was set up wrong. If I said, “We need tables,” it’d be set up classroom style. Or vice versa. Doesn’t matter. Something was always wrong. That’s how you learn early in your career to get their early – something will always be set up wrong.

Another time we were promoting Alabama tourism. I drove over to Atlanta with the Kodak projector, carousel and script in my car. This was a big event for tour planners. George “Goober” Lindsay read the script from the stage. I stood below, near the glow of a projector bulb, and advanced the slides while he did so. Before the event, he read the script as I synced his narration to the slides. When I asked if he wanted to go over it again, he paused, turned toward me, then as if trying to find the right words, held up a finger and said, “At these prices you don’t rehearse.”  I don’t think he enjoyed the event, but there probably is something relevant in his advice: don’t over-prepare. Just show up and get it done.

One time I had an emergency trip to Mobile. Someone else was scheduled to attend a meeting, but that plan fell through because he forgot to go. So I grabbed the Kodak projector and carousel and headed to Mobile. I think somebody gave me $40 from petty cash in case I had needs. But I arrived too late for the meeting. As I walked into the room, the client reached out his hand to me, and I teared up as he said, “We waited as long as we could.”

I blinked away the tears because you’re not supposed to cry at work, but I have always remembered how gentle and kind this man was to me as he held my hand and said, “We waited as long as we could.” We could all use someone like that at the other end of a big fail, and if only these were always the encounters when the job doesn’t get done.

Everyone you meet is going through some kind of struggle, the memes will tell you. Be nice. Be kind. Be encouraging. And let that be the memory they take away from their encounter with you.

Working at the agency was a glorious time for being ill-equipped for the task at hand – and figuring things out as I went. Also, being flexible enough to carry bulky equipment into meeting rooms. And always arriving early. Except for that one time when I was too late. The failure was met with a gentle word, and I tapped into something I craved.

Later, we started putting things on VHS tape. That took longer upfront. Hours and hours in an editing studio saying, “Use that here. Use that there. OK, that works. I like that.” But you didn’t have to carry your own projector. All meeting facilities had VCRs that you could request.

It was still about storytelling. It was always about storytelling and using image and sound to make that happen. The slide shows I’m creating now are stories told with gentle words – the thing I still crave and so I’m creating my own. And with a hand reaching out to say, “It’s OK” – the thing I still seek, so I’m doing that too. The difference is, I use Google slides and image websites. And I don’t have to leave my house.

What hasn’t changed: I’m still ill-equipped for the task at hand and am figuring things out as I go. Every project is still a blank slate that has to be filled in. I never know what I’m doing, but each step gets me to the next one. I don’t start at the end. I start at the “what do I do?” Then I get to the “what do I do next?” Then onto the “what do I do now?”

It is a wonderful gift to be able to figure things out as you go, and I’m grateful that my brain cells still take me through these steps. I hope you’ll be able to figure out some things today. If you can’t see the whole picture now, just look for the steps that will get you there.

Enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 2, Issue 22

How Do You See Your Story?

In the independent movies, when the writers, artists and wanderers wake up in the morning, they sometimes feed a cat. Or a dog. I can almost hear the food scooped out and dropped in the dish with dialogue that goes something like, “Here you go.”

From there, you see a story through a quirky lens. Then when the credits roll, you walk out and either say “I loved it” because it was relatable, or “That was interesting” because it wasn’t relatable and it wasn’t really interesting. But you want to be a good sport around whoever said, “Let’s go see it.”

In a sense, that’s how Trixie helps me feel more like myself as writer, artist and wanderer. People who are like I am have cats. I also look at things through a quirky lens.

I guess in the action movies, the hero of a story might also drop food in a pet dish and say “Here you go” while the camera angle picks up a photo on the kitchen counter of his estranged relationship. Then the next scene is one where a scientist-type opens his eyes wide as he sees an indication on his computer screen that a meteor, UFO or terrible storm is heading straight toward Big Town, USA. He says, “Um… guys, take a look at this.”

In that case, when the movie is over and trouble has subsided, the pet and the owner are returned to their ritual. However, maybe this time the owner drops food in the dish and says, “Some day, huh?” Then the estranged relationship answers back, “Sure was.” Roll credits.

I don’t want to fight a UFO in a compressed two-hour timeframe; that’s not how I want to see my story. Even so, this storytelling style also has uses as it deals with the world around us – how we will respond to challenges? How we will effect change? What happens when we’re thrown into a situation for which we are unprepared?

For that matter, what happens when we get a visitor from another planet (and why isn’t “let’s make a pound cake and put on the coffee” ever the instinctive response)?

Trixie sometimes has a visitor that poses a threat, at least as far as she knows. A neighborhood cat stops in the yard from time to time to stare at us through the window. I know of the presence of this cat in Trixie’s line of vision because of the sounds that emanate from my household companion. They are rather guttural in nature, more of a sense of alarm than a hospitable howdy.

One morning I had joined Trixie to look out the window at the visitor when suddenly a bunny rabbit broke through the scene – hopping through the yard in front of the startled visiting cat. It was as if we could have stepped through the window into a live-action animated movie, and oh wouldn’t it be fun to be in a story like that.

“Trixie, look!” I said with excitement. Her response was more argumentative, however, with the tail swishing and so forth. This scene, in her mind, seemed to be playing out as an unwelcome intergalactic visit.

Not long ago, Trixie faced the threat of an actual invasion, however. People had come to do exterior painting, including the front and back door. I secured her in my bedroom, where she found new places to hide, and she never said a word all day. Not wanting to tip off the intruders to her location, she did not utter a single meow a single time. As I checked on her during the day and asked if she was okay, all she would do was blink her version of Morse code, as if telling me, “People are in the house.”

We see things differently, Trixie and I – including our threats. Trixie’s are sometimes imaginary. Truth is, though, sometimes mine are too.

Trixie has these moments where she runs like a crazy cat through this small house. You’d wonder how she could get up such speed in this amount of square footage. Sharp turns make that possible. It’s more of a series of sprints than a cross country race. And there is a good bit of jumping. She could call her events the bedspread dash. The dining table 5k. What’s the over-under on Trixie? Both.

She apparently takes her text from Leviticus 26: Trixie flees even though no one is pursuing her.

Sometimes I worry that she will hurt herself. If I ran like she does – jumping over beds, under tables and so forth – you should just take me straight to the orthopedic clinic. Sometimes she crosses right in front of me, putting me at risk of cat trip – and I fear for myself. But we get by.

At the end of the day, the threats we face – real and imagined – are set aside for slumber. When the house turns dark, I tell her, “Good night, Trixie. I love you.” And in the morning, she will be there when I wake.

Enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 2, Issue 21

Are You Telling Your Interesting Story?

There is no such thing as a boring life story. Every story is interesting in its own way.

For the last 15 months, I’ve been writing profiles of various local businesses for a book about Montgomery. This is an advertising project for these businesses and organizations. They paid to be included, and I’m telling the story they want told.

Many of the stories weave into personal stories – because of how the business got its start. Nothing “just happens.” The owner doesn’t wake up one morning, stumble into his workplace and ask, “Where did this business come from?”

Someone gets an idea, discovers a need, has a skill, develops a service or product, then begins to organize with a plan. They start out with one person. Then grow to two, then three. Forty years later, they have a team of 80 with three divisions. They don’t look back and say, “I have no idea how it happened.” They remember the significant turns.

Things don’t tend to “stay the same as it’s always been.” They make adjustments for the market, technology, consumer preferences. They hire new people, move to a different location. The business story doesn’t tend to go like so: “We started this way, and this is the way we’ve been doing it ever since.” The unforeseen intervenes.

I enjoyed the project a great deal – whether learning about businesses that have been in a family for several generations or finding out how people unexpectedly ended up on their career path even though they’d prepared for something else.

Like the insurance agent who started out in media, took a big step toward another opportunity that fell through, then was working in retail when a transforming connection came through a customer.

Or the college student who rode past a business and decided to interview for a part-time job. Thirty years later, he’s still there and is running the place.

Or the lady who had been a hair dresser, worked in publishing, drove a forklift, and managed an auto parts shop before launching a successful business in another field.

Lives and businesses don’t always follow a direct route.

It was also interesting to be reminded of the variety of work roles people take on. Like the architect who helped design interstate welcome centers. Or the shop owner who sells personal safety gear, hand tools and work boots. Everybody fills a need.

I liked the details I learned. Like how one company’s building has a skylight that was used to mature bananas that had just arrived by river transportation. Or the man in the fifth generation of a business that he acknowledges probably should have closed for good during the Great Depression, but they kept going.

Every life, career, business is interesting in its own way. If someone followed a straight line from his or her teenage years till now, it’s interesting because of how it’s possible to tap into a career purpose early on. Yet those who reinvent themselves at the midpoint or after are interesting in how their found new purpose later in life.

I sat in on a client’s training session not long ago – I was there to learn the information to write a video script on this training topic. The facilitator asked the attendees to introduce themselves and “tell something interesting about yourself that people don’t know.”

Some people probably didn’t enjoy the exercise, but everyone had something to say. Everyone came up with an answer. No one said, “There’s nothing interesting about me that people don’t know.” No one said, “I’ve got nothing for you.”

What are the interesting and unique things about your life? Whether you launched a business or worked for someone else, your life story is equally fascinating, your career turns just as compelling. You wouldn’t see my car, my house, or the things I put in my cart at Costco, and think, “She must be living a really interesting life.” But I am. And so are you.

In this one unique experience, you’ve witnessed events that no one will ever see again in just that way. Your life is a once-in-eternity event, a one-time deal, and for that reason alone, yours has been amazing.

I like the quote I’ve mentioned before: “You never step into the same river twice.” The waters keep flowing in and out. Same for life and business. Things are fluid. Nothing is one size fits all. The eras change. The technology improves. Yet the point is still about bringing gifts, talents and labor into the marketplace – and making a difference during your time and place, in your part of the universe.

And even as we do, we walk under the same sun and moon, take our breaths in the same atmosphere, and the same Creator watches over all.

Enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 2, Issue 20

Where Does the Trail Lead?

If you drive toward Alex City from Lake Martin, Lamberth Road is somewhere on the left. I don’t know of a time when any Lamberths actually lived there. It may have been the late 1800s or early 1900s. There’s no homestead to speak of. I didn’t travel that road growing up. I clearly recognize the name, however.

A few years back, I was visiting my friend Jan at her mother’s lake house. We’d planned to head toward town and also take a look at that road on our way. So we did. I drove down Lamberth Road and, having done so, arrived at the intersection of Lamberth and Elkahatchee.

Like I said, it was a few years back, and my phone may not have had GPS then, or – just as likely – I might not have known how to use it. I didn’t know where we were. My instinct was to turn around and go back the other way if we wanted to get to town. That seemed logical to me: if you don’t know where you are, retrace your steps until you do.

But Jan said, “If we go right, won’t we get to town that way?” Jan has a good sense of direction. I don’t, and I didn’t know what to do about her suggestion.

“Hold on a minute,” I said, and I called my sister Anne at her house in Montgomery. I explained, “I am at the corner of Elkahatchee Road and Lamberth Road. Where am I?”

Anne probably hadn’t been near that intersection in 30 or more years. Yet she said, “If you go left, you will end up at Willow Point Country Club. If you go right, you will end up at Russell Retail Center.” Jan and I went right, and it was just as Anne said. We found our way to town.

Recently, I’ve been taking walks on color-coded trails not far from my home in Montgomery. There is a red one, a blue one and a yellow one. I may not be a natural at knowing where I am. However, I do know how to follow markers, and the color code helps me find my way along the red, blue and yellow trails.

The red one is the longest. I think in terms of minutes instead of distance – I can follow the red along for a little over 35 minutes until I return to the spot where I began. The blue trail takes a little over 20 minutes from that starting point until the return. But about that yellow? I wondered how it fit into the whole scheme of things, and this is what I realized.

Yellow will not get you back to the beginning. Yellow is 15-minute detour in the middle of the wooded area. You can take yellow while you are walking, but it will never get you back to where you need to be. I felt that this was an important recognition.

Some trails take you back to the beginning. Some get you where you want to go. But some trails lead you in circles. You can walk on them for a little while, but you’ll need to find a different way to get where you’re going. It’s like that caution: you can’t do the same thing in the same way and expect a different result. But oh, how I have tried.

Early on, I was concerned about getting lost on these walking trails, but my experience has shown me that the color codes work. Also, I walk in the middle of the trail in order to avoid whatever poisonous growth or sticker bushes might cross my path. Or snakes. I figure I can see danger, or better avoid it, if I clearly see the path.

I wondered if there were critters that I would not want to encounter. I do hear noises along the trail, but I have determined that it is usually a squirrel. Interestingly, squirrels sound ten times their normal size when they scamper unseen through wooded areas. I had also worried that the trails might be isolated, but there is a lot of activity.

Over time, you can get more comfortable along the paths. You can assess fears and risks even as the environment becomes more familiar. You start to recognize certain landmarks and how they connect. I was so excited when I figured out how red connected to yellow, then how blue connected to yellow. It was almost as if, at long last, I had developed a sense of direction. And when that giant squirrel in the foliage ended up being a little thing scampering across my path, I could say, “Oh, it’s you.”

I’ve been down lots of trails in my life. I’ve taken lots of detours and often felt lost or afraid. I’ve known many days where I felt confused and uncertain, as if I did not know where to go from here. How about you?

It’s true what they say: wherever you go, there you are. When I took those trails in faith, with a sense of purpose, and a little bit of courage, that’s what I found… because it was on the trails where faith was built, purpose was discovered, and courage was developed.

There are lots of reasons to be grateful, and I hope that’s what you see as you go out today. Though our lives are confined to time, space, knowledge and skills and the inner workings of our hearts and minds … even within all of that … each life holds much in common with all people. Yet it’s uniquely our own. That’s an amazing thing and a good reminder to head out with confidence that something good is ahead.

Enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 2, Issue 19