Posted on November 17, 2021 By
“We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.” ~ Roger Ebert
(Updated reprint of a 2017 Nan Russell Thanksgiving post)
Some people collect coins or books, kaleidoscopes or post cards. While I can add my name to tangible collections through the years, what I really collect is quotations that speak to me, like the one above. As if a treasure unearthed, when I find a quotation that nudges me, inspires me, or touches my soul, I savor it.
I added this quote to my collection after the 2013 death of Pulitzer Prize winner and acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert, whose cancer battle left him unable to speak for the last few years of his life.
While reading about his life, I found his words humbling. They were written by Ebert after more than a decade with debilitating and disfiguring health issues. I’m grateful to have found Ebert’s words. Every time I read them, they encourage me to try a bit harder, to be less self-absorbed, and to contribute more joy.
It’s not hard to contribute a bit of joy every day — acknowledging others’ contributions, smiling at a stranger, being there for family or friends, helping a neighbor, listening without judgment, or telling someone how much we care.
Still, we often don’t. We get caught in our swirl of life — our own busyness and dramas and troubles — absorbed in our (continue reading →)
Posted on June 3, 2020 By
Today I bought two books: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. I decided I need to learn more, listen more, and understand more.
A few years ago, I wrote about soul-courage in my book, The Titleless Leader this way: “Many of us stay waiting and hoping someone else will step up, take ownership, or make things happen. We’re afraid to speak up, admit we’re wrong, challenge a myth, or engage an adversary. But people using soul-courage understand there’s an inner risk if they’re not offering a best-self approach. They step up in challenging times, knowing action feels better than inaction and commitment feels better than non-commitment. We’re drawn to people who raise the bar for themselves and others. Their soul-courage nudges our own. They know what they’re for and it differentiates them. The difference between being for something versus against something is significant. When you’re for something, you’re working toward what you want to bring about or contribute to, and that shifts accountability, energy, and commitment. Being for something requires strength of convictions and a willingness to stand up for them.”
I am for Black Lives Matter. I am for the freedoms and values proclaimed in the Bill of Rights and Constitution to be the reality and truth for all people of these United States. I am for those like me, with white privilege, to understand more, listen more, and contribute more to a shared better future. And I am for all people of goodwill who shine light and love in the world.
Posted on March 20, 2020 By
I haven’t posted in a while. There are many reasons for that, none of which matter at the moment.
What matters right now is how we, together, can support each other and navigate a collective and bright future.
In the scheme of things, our actions have the power to make a difference.
Posted on October 30, 2019 By
Some people collect coins or books, kaleidoscopes or post cards. From flea market enthusiasts to junk-yard pickers, you name it and someone seems to collect it. While I can add my name to tangible collections through the years, what I really collect is quotations.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to sayings and quotations of insightful and thoughtful words that offer a bit of inspiration, re-frame my thinking, or provide encouragement. I’m amazed how a sentence or two can do that for me.
Like a treasure unearthed, when I find a quotation that speaks to me, I have to have it. For the past 32 years, I’ve logged favorites in a database (thanks to my techie husband), acquiring quite literally thousands of quotations for daily reflections or nuggets for writing and sharing.
A new addition to my collection came after the 2013 death of Pulitzer Prize winner and acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert, whose cancer battle left him unable to speak for the last few years. While reading about his life, I found these words by Ebert written after more than a decade with debilitating and disfiguring health issues:
“We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”
That simple thought — a request of sorts to “try to contribute joy” — humbled me. It’s not (continue reading →)
Posted on September 24, 2019 By
“That’s my dream,” I overheard her telling a friend in the dressing room next to mine. “But it will never happen,” she added quietly, “I might as well forget it.” But she hadn’t given up. Not yet anyway. An unmistakable sliver of hope was embedded in the word, “might.”
The substance of her dream didn’t matter. What caught my heart was the ache in her voice. That overheard conversation happened more than a decade ago. At the time, her words reflected my own dream-struggle, barely held together with a frayed emotional tether being weakened by each rejection. I was seriously considering giving up my life-dream of being a writer.
My growing fear about that happening nudged my persistence, as a long forgotten line from the movie Flashdance, echoed my biggest worry that: “When you give up your dream, you die.” It was around that time, my husband gave me a plaque that sits on the bookcase in front of me. It reads “Dream Really Big” in bright colors. He knew, like I did, that something in my soul would die if I gave up on my life-dream.
I didn’t give up, and a few months later I got the opportunity to write for a regional magazine. Two years later, I (continue reading →)
Posted on August 14, 2019 By
When we lived on the East Coast a few decades back, we saw the musical, Wicked, on Broadway. So recently, when the traveling show came west, we were excited to share it with our granddaughters and their parents. As the closing duet, “For Good,” started, so did my tears. The words, “because I knew you, I’ve been changed for the better; changed for good,” got me thinking in this, our anniversary month, about our marriage and my life.
The tangible results of us falling in love includes two girls, ages nine and twelve, who call us Nana and GrDad and delight our lives. Plus their father, whose creative zest and loving ways make us proud, and an amazing daughter-in-law who completes our family with authentic warmth and grace. All four, by their very existence, nudge me toward my better side.
But the intangible impact of falling in love with this man who shares my life is profound. I am a better person because I know him; love him; learn from him. I am more tolerant, loving, curious, adventuresome, joyful, and optimistic because sharing a life with him has enabled me to become a better me.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not claiming some magical happily-ever-after fairy tale experience. I don’t profess a marriage without mistakes, scars, or life-happens-shifts that challenged, pushed, and (continue reading →)
Posted on July 15, 2019 By
I begged my parents for dance lessons. Sometimes when I walked with my mother the five blocks to the neighborhood grocery, I’d catch glimpses of dancers in the upstairs studio across the street. On other days, I’d watch as leotard-clad girls, not much older than me, emerged from the doorway stairs to the sidewalk. At six, I longed be one of them.
But, it was not to be. I didn’t understand back then my parents were in what today might be called a “rough patch.” We’d moved from Montana to a warmer climate for my brother’s health, only to have a house fire consume most of what we owned. Medical bills and Dad’s slow job search meant no money for “wants” at a time when we didn’t even own a car.
At eight, I still asked for dance lessons. My mother found a freestyle class at the Y and signed me up. We rode the bus together to two classes before I quit, telling Mom (continue reading →)
Posted on June 6, 2019 By
Ours wasn’t a big house, but at night my bedroom at the end of the hall seemed a great distance. Plus the windowed door at the foot of my bed, leading to our back yard, appeared as a magical portal for nighttime monster entry. When I was old enough to know there weren’t monsters waiting in my room, I still anguished over the walk to that dark place.
Even into my teens I longed to ask mom or dad or my older brother to walk me to my room and check for monsters. But by then I understood I was responsible to handle them. Lighting the bedroom was step one. That involved a rapid move to the end of the hall, then a quick reach around the door jamb to turn on the light switch. The light transformed my room into one where stuffed animals rested on a pink bedspread, and purple butterflies graced the walls.
I don’t remember when my bedroom monster-hunting ended, but I do know I’ve been battling various monsters most years since. Not the ones who lurk in closets or under beds, but those that impact (continue reading →)
Posted on May 7, 2019 By
I was haunted by the regret I’d feel if I didn’t at least try to see my mother. And so, with trepidation and fear of what that deepening pain might become, we left for California. The last few times I’d visited, she didn’t know me, mistaking me for her sister or not seeming to find a connection at all. While my brain understood, my heart didn’t.
It hasn’t always been like that, of course. Currently, my mother lives in a skilled nursing facility in northern California near my brother and his family. The impact of two strokes enhanced by growing dementia rendered her, at 97, fragile, quiet, and distant.
I knew the odds of reaching her were slim, but my soul ached to tell her, once again, how much I loved her before that opportunity was gone. That was the state of my heart when my brother, husband, and I entered the familiar place where mom has lived the last few years.
At first, I didn’t recognize the frail woman slumped in a wheel chair in the hallway as my mother. She was smaller and more “out of it” than I’d seen her; her head down, focus fixed. My brother, (continue reading →)