Ladies and Gentlemen, Ross DeMerchant!

Ross-DeMerchant---headshotI’ve been wanting you all to meet a dear friend and trusted confidant of mine, mostly because everyone needs a Ross DeMerchant in his or her life. During the 90s I had the privilege of working with Ross for several years.  He showed me what the term “servant leadership” can look like on a day-to-day basis.

He routinely brought in Perkins muffins (you know, the ones the size of a human head) for random departments around our office building just to be nice.  This wasn’t normal behavior where we worked.

When Ross asks people, “How are you doing?”  he wants an honest answer.   Every single week my social media feed is full of photos of Ross meeting up with people of all ages and from all walks of life simply to encourage them.  His main priority in life could be summed up simply: to love people well. In my opinion, that alone makes him one of the most successful people I know.

During our years working together, I mostly remember a lot of laughter.  I’m not talking polite, office-volume laughter.  I’m talking belly laughing until tears were rolling and my face hurt.  When he was telling stories to our staff, neighboring office workers often checked in to see what all the noise was about because they could hear us howling all the way down the hall.  And when got on the phone with his brother, we braced ourselves for a whole new level hilarity. I almost called an ambulance more than once. “Ross?  Are you breathing??  Say something!”

He loves his family fiercely. He has one of the best marriages I know of. He would make no apology for leaving work if Shirley or one of his kids needed him.  Ross showed me how to be myself, to keep laughing, and to love people well, no matter what else I decided to do with my life.  I am so grateful I had that kind of example to follow before I had kids of my own.

I also need to tell you that Ross is cool, mostly because he is admittedly uncool.  He does the kind of things I do when I’m trying to be smooth, like sticking a swizzle stick up his nose at a fancy-dancy cocktail party.(I don’t mind telling you, it remained lodged there until he removed it by hand!  Yes, that happened!)

Once I had the unprecedented joy of watching him introduce himself to Wayne Watson (remember him?) and let me just say… it played out way differently than Ross had rehearsed it in his mind.  I still DIE laughing every  time I think about it.

Ross DeMerchant

Throughout the years decades after we worked together, life took Ross’s family and my family in different directions but we tried to stay in contact, usually less successfully than we wished.  He and his family experienced some challenging years, and so did we.  Regardless of where we were in life, whenever we and our spouses would reconnect we still kept the joy alive and agreed that loving people is worth the risk, even when they disappoint us.

Not too long ago, we reconnected for a coffee appointment and I could see that Ross was about to birth a really important idea. He had become a grandfather and was starting to realize that if he didn’t write the book brewing inside him, he would be disobeying his calling.  (By the way, if you have an idea burning in your soul like that, you simply must do it.)

Today, little more than 2 years after that coffee appointment, Ross is the author of 26 Letters: How To Have The Conversations of Your Lifetime.  It’s a thoughtful book about leaving your legacy for future generations. Guided by the 26 letters of the alphabet and stories from Ross’s journey, this book helps you consider key words you want to be remembered by and will hopefully prompt you to share your own important stories with your kids, grandkids and the generations that will follow.

Ross is a gifted storyteller (and, in case I hadn’t mentioned it, a funny human being).  But he is also deeply sensitive and tenderhearted, so he knows how to make that turn from a wacky story to a moving, heart-stirring point.  So if you or someone you know happens to be looking for a fresh face to inspire people at a special event or conference, he would be a great chose.  Check him out or contact him here at www.rossdemerchant.com.

I’m not telling you about Ross for any other reason than I think you’ll really like him, and I know he will really like you!  I think his book is such a wonderful way to begin thinking about the things you want to impart to your kids and grandkids while you’ve got time.

Also?  His kids turned out wonderfully.  In fact, Ross’s son was my son’s first boss.  Let me tell you… the apple did not fall far from the tree with that one.  I mention that only because Ross can speak authoritatively on the subjects of leaving an eternal legacy and loving people well, because I have watched him do exactly that – in his family and with those around him – for the 25 years I’ve known him.

I hope you’ll get to know him.  And feel free to let him know I sent you, so maybe he will read my blog!  🙂

Here he is (below) being a charming grandfather. I mean, seriously, this was SO worth stalking his Facebook!
Ross D 2

 

 

 

 

 

The Truth About the Truth

LION -TRUTH QUOTE

Do you ever really want to express the honest truth to someone but you just can’t quite get it out? The former me was the queen of this.

Whenever I’ve been less-than-transparent about how I felt or thought, it was never my intention to lie.  I just didn’t want to rock the boat.  I didn’t trust the truth enough to tell all of it.  I didn’t trust others enough to receive it.  But mostly, I didn’t trust myself.

It didn’t take long to realize how messed up things get when we aren’t wholeheartedly committed to telling each other the truth.  And trust me when I say that I have witnessed some ridiculous shenanigans done in the name of “being nice” that were not nice at all.

So, my friends, in an effort to fight the disfunction in the world I decided to put my big girl pants on and started saying what I really mean, asking what I really want to know, and stop hiding from the conversations that need to be had.  In the words of St. Augustine above, it was time to let the lion loose.

I’m so not a professional at this, but here’s the thing I’m learning in ways so powerful, I can’t even…

Telling the truth causes far less damage than avoiding it.

Now, here’s what I’m not saying.  I’m not suggesting that we blurt out everything we think and feel in ways that are cruel, or passive aggressive, or self-serving.  I’m talking about trusting your gut when it tells you something isn’t right and get to the bottom of it…seeking the truth with all your heart for the benefit of others and you (and honestly, for the sake of the world).

This world needs more people who hear, see, feel and speak what is real and true.  Trust me, I know how scary it is when you take the plunge and express your truest thoughts to someone.  But please know, there is possibly no more powerful way to change the world than to be brave enough to speak truth.

“There is perhaps no more loving thing you can give to another human than the truth about who you are and what you have to say.”

Trusting others with the truth and being able to hear the truth from others is the only way to break down the walls that keep us from having healthy, authentic relationships.

And if that isn’t bonus enough?  The freedom that comes from saying what you need to say is nothing short of magical.  Whether it is well-received or not isn’t the point.  You can’t control how truth is received, and that might be the scariest part of telling the truth.

Here’s a proverb to print out and tape to your eyeballs while you’re reminding yourself to start living out the truth.

“Truth lasts; lies are here today, gone tomorrow.”
– Proverbs 12:19

If there’s something that isn’t feeling right in your relationships, dig around in your heart and be brave enough to have the conversations that will make things right.

Let that lion loose.

Then tell me how it went!

“Treat Yo Self!” 10 Self-Care Tips from a Recovering Self-Ignorer

Treat Yo SelfFor busy people who pour ourselves into family, jobs, service, and other legitimate priorities, self-care is often the last thing on the to-do list.  (Or is it just me?)

Historically, I’ve been TERRIBLE at self-care. Truly terrible; I am not exaggerating.  I would give up sleep, food, and forget anything less basic like nurturing my interests or feeding my mind because I was prioritizing everyone else’s needs and plans for me. More often than not, I couldn’t even verbalize what my needs were!  But that had to change.

The truth is, when we are not engaging with ourselves and addressing basic physical, spiritual and emotional needs, we become far less effective on every other front.  Trust me, there is no “hero award” for being unkind to your body, heart and mind. No one else is going to carve out space and time for you to watch over your health and recharge.

For me, failing to engage in proper self-care only resulted in being irritable, depleted, lonely, and unfulfilled… eventually even sick, depressed and so very far away from the person I wanted to be.

Maybe…probably… I am not the only person who struggles with self-care.  So I’ve compiled a few ways you can begin to nurture your deepest self.  I hope this list of self-care tips – big and small –  will get you started thinking of ways you can find a way to care for your much-loved, extremely valuable self. (And stick with me here, because some of this stuff is basic…yet still, we need to remember!)

  1. Feed your body well.  Are you hungry? Feed yourself just as you would feed your dearest love – or even a child – with foods that are nourishing, delicious, and leave you feeling better, not worse. Then savor that nourishing goodness without rushing at every possible opportunity.
  2. Stay well-hydrated. When your soul is thirsty, chances are that your body is, too. Make yourself a huge glass of your favorite good-for-you drink. (I’m a fan of water with a fresh orange slice floating in it, all-natural ginger-ale, or herbal tea.)
  3. Keep important self-care-related appointments.  I have a bad habit of canceling (or never making) medical check-ups, dentist appointments, massages, and even hair appointments because, “I don’t have time for that.” (Or I didn’t want to spend money.) But what is more important than basic upkeep?!  If we don’t want to be sick, toothless, in pain or hideous, let’s agree not to ignore those basic items of upkeep?
  4. Yoga. I used to think it was weird — something only a certain kind of people (people unlike myself) could take seriously. But when I tried it and felt an almost-instant decrease in my body’s  aches and pains, I started paying attention.  I now find yoga to be an incredible gift to my body, and also to my mind (calming it and feeding my brain some oxygen) and even to my spirit. You can find very affordable DVDs on Amazon (here is a box set with morning, evening and stress relief routines) classes and online yoga routines that are helpful for getting you started.
  5. Focus fully on this moment. Living in the future, or in the past, or even stressing about a meeting later today, are fruitless activities that will never allow you peace-of-mind. If you are constantly counting hours, anticipating what is around the corner, or even wishing for yesterday, you are unable to engage in the one moment in which you can actually do something — this moment. We all have to manage calendars, plan for the future and make good long-term decisions, so do that.  But planning for the future and living in the future are very different things. Embrace now. It’s the only moment in which you can actually do anything or make positive changes.
  6. Rest.  If your body is exhausted, find a way to get a little sleep. (If you have a newborn, there is no shame in having someone you trust come over to keep an eye on the little one so you can get a nap.) My family tries to make Saturday morning a “no plan zone” so we can have one morning in the week to get up whenever our bodies wake us.  Sleep is good and your brain needs you to sleep in order to function at its highest possible level. Michael Hyatt has a good blog post and podcast on sleep, which you can find here.
  7. Take inventory on commitments.  Do you need to resign from energy-draining committees or other commitments that are not in alignment with your priorities?  You might be one phone call away from huge relief! Or perhaps you need to start a class that focuses on a special interest or skill you want to grow.  It is amazing how addressing your passions will make you feel valued and nurtured.
  8. Maintain realistic expectations.  It is monumentally important to identify areas of your life where you are constantly disappointed.  If you end every day disappointed because you didn’t get enough done or because someone else disappointed you, maybe…just maybe…your expectations are not in line with reality.  Just sayin’.
  9. Be kind to yourself.  Give yourself a little grace. Positive self-talk is a powerful gift to yourself, to help to move your life in  a positive direction. On the other hand, giving yourself negative messages (“I’m an idiot,” “I’m so lame,” etc.) constantly tears at the fiber of your soul, even when you don’t realize it.  If you are having one of those days (or weeks, or seasons) when you just can’t win for trying, it probably isn’t because you’re an idiot. It could mean that you are living in a shadow of self-doubt, shame, exhaustion or depression and that you need a healthier perspective.  Remember your value.
  10. “Treat Yo Self!”  This idea (adopted by my family from the sitcom Parks And Rec) goes a step beyond just being gracious to yourself. It’s a chance to reward yourself in simple ways.  Sometimes a special treat, a self-care gift to yourself “just because” is a way to remind yourself that you are worthy of specialness.  A couple weeks ago, I bought myself a beautiful book called Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes, and I have SAVORED every moment I’ve spent reading it.  It was such a simple thing. It wasn’t expensive or elaborate.  But it has brought me so many wonderful moments getting absorbed in a book that really feeds a part of me that is important.

Hopefully these ten tips for self-care will at least get you started thinking of ways you can be good to yourself!  And please, please share your own tips and ideas in the comments.

In honor of breast cancer awareness…

October-Sky-Pink-Ribbon

I took this photo of an Indiana sunset on Friday night, October 4.  Even the sky, in its silent, breathtaking beauty, seemed to be observing breast cancer awareness and honoring those who have fought so courageously.  This is for everyone whose life has been touched by this disease.

At every opportunity, let’s support the incredible efforts being made to find the cure and improve the odds!  There is some great information about breast cancer awareness at www.nationalbreastcancer.org and at ww5.komen.org.

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