Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Good Among the Great - Book Notes

Recently I read a book called The Good Among the Great by Donald Van de Mark. People who are great tend to possess similar qualities that the author noted in his book. One person he said embodies all of the qualities is Meryl Streep. Each person, though, is able to work towards these qualities.

Below are the qualities and information from the book that I thought was interesting.


- It's better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you'll drift in that direction. (Warren Buffett)
- We are a product of choice, millions of choices that we make throughout our lives.
- It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are. E.E. Cummings
- Individuals who are on their own paths...not copycats or followers. And they certainly don't worry about what others think about them. They're rarely insecure about their appearance, behavior, or life choices. They seem assured, independent, and even sometimes detached or aloof. They rarely depend on anyone but themselves. They often don't subscribe to the norms and fashions to which most adhere.
- Try to make things right with those you've wronged.
- If your routine is drudgery and if you're afraid or feel exhausted, then you are not on your path.
- They've often worked very hard for their money and consider wasting it foolish, even sinful.
- Be honest with yourself about your evolving needs, wants, likes, and dreams.
- Respect and feed your animal appetites - eat, love, and exercise.

August 2008

- Plan and then make shifts so that you spend more time being where you want to be, working where and with whom you want to work, being with whom you want to be.
- Encourage others, especially children, to follow their dreams, large and small.

Sophia with a hand-beaded necklace she made in 2018.
She won a Grand Championship award at the State Fair for it.


- Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. (Lao Tzu)
- No one has the time and energy to truly love more than a handful of people at any given point in his or her lifetime.
- They tend to be kind to nearly everyone, especially children.
- There are other places to focus your energy: work, animals, nature, art, and being creative.

Olivia and Sophia seeing a butterfly they raised ready to be released.

- Show love by respecting your children. Give them freedom as well as support.
- Demonstrate rather than declare your love.


- People who are unethical have to compartmentalize their choices, their thinking, and behavior.
- Your reputation is your personal currency among everyone who knows you.
- Every time you are called to make a decision, remember that many choices move you toward or away from being a better person and having a better life.

Choosing to volunteer at the nursing home was incredibly rewarding.

- Measure your choices by your inner, higher values more than the world's material values.
- Focus on creating a whole and integrated personality, routine, and existence.


- Those who feel and stand apart from the rest of us are the ones who lead us.
- After you're away from the media for an extended period of time, you will be startled how silly and invasive many media messages feel.
- Commit to taking a sabbatical once a week from electronic media.
- Take a minimum one-week holiday every year from the news.
- Escape societal chatter by going to parks, beaches, and the wilderness.

Canoeing at Gunflint Lodge in 2013.

- Don't be afraid to stand up and say, "This is wrong!" even if no one stands with you.
- Do what feels true to who you are - not what appears cool or fashionable to anybody else.


- Prize and protect your privacy with vigilance.
- Spend at least several hours each week in your own company without the distractions of the television, the internet, or other people.

I spend time looking at the flowers growing in our yard.
Taken in August 2020.

- If you are seeking satisfaction through recognition, you are not seeking it from within.
- If recognized, remember the cycle of human commentary - if you're celebrated today, you'll be torn down tomorrow.


- Quiet your internal mind chatter with meditation, nature, creative pursuits, music, and exercise.

A monarch we raised and released in August 2020.

- Don't be afraid of appearing detached, odd, or aloof; intense concentration may make you appear this way to others.
- Don't smother your children. Respect them enough to honor their independence. That's respectful, not needy love.


- Organize new adventures for the whole family.

We had fun go-karting on August 16, 2020, in
St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin.

- Try a new route to work.
- Take your next vacation in a place you've never been.
- Choose one night a week to cook and taste new foods.
- Read a book in a genre you've never read.
- Wear a piece of clothing that is distinctly foreign.
- Take a class in some subject you've always found intriguing.


- Resist the urge to always have an answer; practice saying, "I don't know."

I don't even pretend to know the answers about baseball. 

- Don't exaggerate or understate. Precision in language will tighten your thinking and improve your judgment.


- Relish the present instead of questioning past choices and events or rushing toward "what's next."

It's hard to believe that this was just two years ago in September.
We were enjoying a stop at Eichtens to sample cheeses and dips, 
and doing other fun fall-themed activities. 

- Resist the tendency to predict. Many forecasts are born of fear and discomfort, not knowledge.


- We work to become, not to acquire. (Elbert Hubbard)
- Create a daily routine tailored to your wants and talents, not just your needs or the needs of others.
- Be alert to what excites you.

Trying my hand at new types of art excites me.
This is my fused glass project before it went into the kiln.

- Seek and learn to enjoy time along.


- Treat everyone with respect - especially your subordinates.

Volunteers who helped with Olivia's 4-H OWLS project.
She planned this public garden that has native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses.
The plants all benefit early-migrating birds, pollinators, butterflies, and
other wildlife. (Taken on August 22, 2020.)

- Being smarter or more capable does not make you better. There's much more to being a better human being than being clever and accomplished.


- Laugh at your aches and pains.

Getting ready for surgery - October 2019.

- Observe and enjoy comedians who get laughs without being hostile, aggressive, superior, or smutty.
- Never make jokes at other people's expense.


- Empathy is the first step toward anticipating others' needs and wants - invaluable in business and all aspects of service to others.

Sophia after foot surgery in July 2017.

- Being sensitive to others is not a sign of weakness but a sign of awareness, which is a strength.


- Duty is born of a sense of kinship with all humanity.
- No contribution or bit of honest effort is too small.

Volunteers at the Service Project Sampler Day that I coordinated.

- Help out in areas where you already have desire and skill.


- Be grateful that while much of life is not in your control, much is.
- Appreciate what you don't know, how much you can learn, and how much remains a mystery - and in that lies great possibility, hope, and risk.

A beautiful sunset in October 2018.

- Regularly take ten minutes to be outside. While you're out, fully engage each and every one of your senses and appreciate those natural things that delight you.


- Find quiet time alone regularly.
- Encourage and participate in artistic endeavors, no matter how simple.
- Keep a notepad or recorder in the car.
- Sensory experience suspends analytical thing and spurs creativity. take a hot shower, go outdoors, take a long walk, swim, or immerse yourself in nature.

One of the newest flowers in our backyard garden.

- Schedule time for daydreaming and time with no purpose.
- If you have children or pets - let them choose the game or activity and encourage them to create games of their own making.
- Change your routine routinely.
- Use your hands.

A window star I made in March 2020.

- Think of the creative process as one of allowing rather than doing.


- Celebrate surprises and successes immediately.

Celebrating Olivia's success with overseeing the planting of 
two public gardens in town. 
She has 4 more gardens that she is overseeing as part of 
her 4-H OWLS (Outdoor Wilderness Leadership & Service) project.

- Observe and participate in games and creative and physical pursuits.


- Resist detailed career planning. Allow yourself to stumble to the top by doing what you want to do.
- What do you really want and what really makes you happy?

Spending time with dogs makes me happy.
This is my brother's new Corgi, Bear.

- Life is short. Don't waste a breath on things or people who are tedious or irritating.


- Get outdoors.

One of the new flowers by the west side of our garage. 
It is the only flower that begins with the letter "K" 
that we could find that grows in our area in Minnesota.

- Train and exhaust yourself physically.
- Retreat on your own without distraction. Take the time to be still and listen to that small voice deep within you about what you're meant to be or what path you ought to follow.

Monday, August 24, 2020

What the Amish Can Teach Us About the Simple Life (Book Notes/Review)

I recently read What the Amish Can Teach Us About the Simple Life - Homespun Hints for Family Gatherings, Spending Less, and Sharing Your Bounty by Georgia Varozza.

Having been raised by parents who grew up during the Great Depression, there were many ideas in the book that I already knew. My parents were great role models in how to live simply and frugally, yet not feel like you're living in poverty. They created a life of joy and meaning and centered it around family and the beauty of nature. Of course, they also were very religious so that also was a key component in our lives.

My sister, grandma, me, dad, and brother celebrating my birthday.
My mom made a cake from scratch which was always the highlight. 
It looks like I was six years old. So, this was in June 1972.

Some things that resonated with me from the book:

- We see [the Amish] ordered existence and a deep sense of belonging their quiet and peaceable lives - and we yearn for these same things in our own families.
- The Amish way of life highlights the family. There is never a time when a person is considered a liability, no matter if young, old, infirm, or disabled in some way. Each person is loved, honored, and welcomed in the family circle.
- Some ideas for doing a family fun night:
   => bird watch

Sandhill cranes that Sophia and I saw on August 16, 2020.
This is part of the gathering of 49 cranes.

   => take a walk in the park or hike on a nature trail
   => ride bikes
   => visit the library
   => enjoy a backyard cookout
   => pick a book to read aloud together
   => fly kites
   => make homemade pizzas
   => make your own sundaes. Have plenty of goodies to sprinkle on top
   => play group games
   => enjoy a classic movie
   => make birdhouses or bird feeders and put them in the yard

Two new feeders we added this summer. 

   => write letters to grandparents or loved ones
   => make a family flowerpot. Each person chooses one annual flowering pot to put in the pot
   => stargaze
   => enjoy a family campout
   => as a family, write and illustrate a story
   => create a family newsletter and send it to your relatives
   => go through your photos and talk about family history
   => grab some magnifying glasses and go on a backyard bug safari
   => go to an animal shelter to pet the cats and take some dogs for a walk
   => go on a treasure hunt. Write clues that lead to other clues. Send participants all over the house and yard in search of treasure you've hidden
- create family traditions
- celebrate special moments
   => birthdays and holidays
   => well-earned grade
   => first and last days of school
   => getting caught doing an act of kindness
   => a goal or achievement realized

We got a French silk pie (Olivia's favorite pie) to celebrate the 
plantings of two public gardens that were part of a 4-H leadership project
she led on August 22, 2020.

   => first day of a new season
- build community
   => start a new church activity or ministry (or through a volunteer organization)

One of the public gardens that Sophia, Olivia, and I 
planted with volunteers on August 22, 2020.

   => at each church or club gathering, learn the name of one person you don't know
   => organize "card showers" where people send encouraging cards to shut-ins, the elderly, people who are sick or injured, and people who are struggling
   => make a sunshine box for a family or individual who could use a bit of cheer and encouragement. Sunshine boxes consist of small wrapped gifts with a card that explains the recipient is to open one a day
   => organize a neighborhood spring yard cleanup. Plant some pretty annuals to brighten the neighborhood
- Plan a weekly or monthly menu and stick to it. When you buy your groceries, you'll know what items you need and how much to make the meals you have planned

Salad using items in the refrigerator and tomatoes from the garden.

- Consistently spend less than you make
- If you spend less, you'll need to earn less, which means you'll have more time to spend with your family and work on meaningful activities
- Pay off unsecured debt as quickly as is feasible
- To the greatest extent possible, shun all types of debt. If you have to borrow, don't borrow the maximum you're able to.
- De-clutter
- What we have has nothing to do with our worth. We worked to meet our needs, and our goal was well-being, not making money or having more possessions. And because we weren't in the habit of always wanting something new, we weren't as distracted by possessions.