769. Thinking and Writing About Your Work

769. JayCookeGrasses.jpeg

Those of you who have read my blog or newsletter for awhile may have seen mention of this before, but given that the second edition of Finding Livelihood was recently published, I wanted to mention it again in case you missed it the first time around and also to let new readers know about it. I've put together a guided journal that you can download, print out, and write in. While it corresponds to the book, you neither need a copy of the book nor do you need to have read the book to make use of the journal—although I always highly recommend both having a copy of the book and reading it (wink). Each page of the journal has a writing prompt to get you thinking about your work life, and you can define work as broadly or as narrowly as you like.

Here are a few examples of the writing prompts you'll find. There's 18 in all.

 What unexpected turns has your work experience, or the work experience of a spouse, taken?

In what ways are you satisfied and unsatisfied in your work? How has your degree of satisfaction changed over the years?

What people and events can you witness—pay attention to or “see ”—through your work?


I hope you'll download the journal, consider the questions, and even write for a bit. I also hope you'll let me know what you discover.


[Photo: Grass from Jay Cook State Park in northern Minnesota. Aren’t the colors gorgeous?]

768. Stopping for a Garden


One day earlier this summer, my husband and I drove down a road we've driven a hundred thousand times and were about to, once again, pass an entrance to a place we've never been, when in a surge of adventure and discovery, we decided to turn on the blinker and pull in. It was the entrance to a wildflower garden—the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary. It's hard to say exactly why neither of us have ever gone through that gate, but for me, it probably comes down to assuming nothing much was there other than a garden plot, plus a negative reaction to something I'd once heard long ago, both adding to up to not really even seeing the sign anymore. That day, though, we saw the sign, we made the turn, drove in, and parked. We walked to the gate and stepped through.

There's a dream I've had periodically over the years. Maybe you've had a similar dream. In my dream I discover that my house has many more rooms than I ever knew. The doors open endlessly, and there's more there than I could ever have imagined. I don't wake up from this dream relishing the revelation of hidden wealth but instead relishing the sensation of something more. There's more here than I ever knew. More to be discovered. More to be revealed. That's how it felt going through the gate of the overlooked garden. Fifteen acres—this was no small garden plot!—of wetland, woodland, and prairie; the oldest public wildflower garden in the United States. Amidst the flowers and the ferns were benches, benches, benches everywhere, placed at all different angles and in private places for thinking, dreaming, and watching. Benches for sitting and being calm in the beauty. The beauty!

The garden was started in 1907 by botany teachers from the Minneapolis Public School system. The group was led primarily by Eloise Butler, a teacher who retired in 1911 but kept working in the garden. Inside the entrance there's a picture of her, in a long dress of the day, digging with a shovel.

We've since gone out to the Garden a couple mornings before work. Each time we brought a thermos of coffee and some bagels. We found a bench right in the midst of the beauty and started our day. We ate and talked. We were quiet. We prayed. We walked and took pictures and looked with eyes open wide. He and I both plan on going back again and again.

Maybe there's a place of potential beauty and potential calm right near where you live that you've been driving or walking by so very many times without stopping.

I encourage you: stop.


[Photo: taken of some ball-like, spikey flowers I saw on the first time to the garden. On a second visit, I found the tag that identified them: buttonbush.]

767. A Presidential Model


There’s a scene at the beginning of episode 6, season 3, of the television series “West Wing,” in which President Bartlet and his wife, Abbey, are bantering about their morning at church as they walk down the West Wing Colonnade. The day’s text was from Ephesians and back and forth they go on the handling of it in the sermon. I only recently started watching this show on Netflix, 20 years after it first launched on NBC, and am finding something noteworthy nearly every time I turn it on. President Bartlet ends their discussion by, rather heatedly, pointing to and expounding on verse 21 of chapter 5: “Be subject to one another.” But then a number of his team arrive and bad news descends and the mood shifts. Even so, as Bartlet and his chief-of-staff, Leo McGarry, turn toward each other to talk, Bartlet, in a calm and gentle tone, starts their conversation with, “Be subject to each other, Leo. What can I do to be subject to you?” Imagine what could happen if each of us at least thought that, didn’t even say it, when we were at work each day no matter our status above or below those around us? What can I do to be subject to you?


[Photo: taken of an outside wall at the Peter Engel Science Center at St. John’s University.]