Looking back on a remarkable 2018, it was a year filled to the brim with a hearty helping of life. Admittedly, it wasn’t all cookies and cream. Last year had its triumphs and failures, challenges and opportunities, and many moments that we can look back on for reproof and review, as we prepare our minds and paths moving in to 2019. All in all, if you’re reading this right now – congratulations! You made it. Now, let’s get to it.Fresh out of this past holiday season, my heart is filled and comfortable with all the quality family and friend time I was blessed and fortunate to have enjoyed over the past several months. In 2018, it seemed as though more people were setting new places at their tables for others to join in on the joys of togetherness, the giving of spirit, and positivity. My plan for 2019 is to use their influence to motivate and inspire me to pay it forward and do the same for those I find myself engaged with.
It’s almost time for me to start wrapping presents. I’ll get on that as soon as I get past the annual procrastination of actually finding gifts. I’m not totally behind, as I’ve a few tucked away already. But I must admit, my ever-evolving virtual list includes many unpurchased gifts that linger still. Then comes wrapping day, which is all too often Christmas Eve at my house.Looking back to my modest childhood, my family always managed to make wrapping presents fun. In the days of the comic strips, some of my fondest memories were reading the “funny papers” (used as gift wrap) while turning, weighing, and shaking presents in an attempt to gain a clue to what surprises may be inside. Our family from “the city” always wrapped the most beautiful gifts with decorative labels, curly streamers, and big lacy bows that were always a joy to admire. Of course, it didn’t matter what the boxes looked like. The size, sound, and distribution of weight in a gift was rarely indicative of what was inside, yet every present got a sensory inspection before the paper was peeled back for the reveal.
With the cool fall breezes finally upon us, and the scent of leaves in the air, we can peacefully reflect on our year. Our ups and downs, the lessons and wisdom we’ve harvested from both challenges and successes are all reason to give thanks for the blessing of just being able to keep on keeping on each day. We’ve seen some unusual events and activity these past several months, and in turn, we have witnessed some amazing feats of recovery, rebuilding, and restoration within our communities, neighbors, and ourselves. I’m thankful for that.Our plan at Family Life Publications for the upcoming year is to remain dedicated in service to our business partners and organizations. We plan to grow together within our communities by staying actively involved and speaking out for those in need. We are grateful for the chance to be part of positive change.
“Healing is the journey. The destination is yourself.’’
There are times in each of our lives when we feel like we’re stranded in a month of Mondays. The day-to-day dilemmas, drama, and dredge grip us at our ankles, pull on our hearts, and seem to make our mind wander off in any number of directions. Without the blessing of understanding friends who can see through our pride, point out that it’s okay to hurt, and offer their support, we may often find ourselves playing possum, retreating into our shell, or just building up those walls.
Every waking moment we have decisions to make. That is just one of the reasons I enjoy a restful night’s sleep. Each choice we make, or choose not to make, affects our individual timeline of events and often someone else’s. Hit snooze again on that alarm clock? Eggs scrambled or fried? When you get dressed in the morning, you’re often deciding about your behavior the rest of the day. For example, if you put on flip-flops, you probably won’t be doing much running and should be nice to others, especially those wearing sneakers. If you decide to wear a hat because it’s a “bad hair day,” you’re going to have hat head all day, so select a good hat.
It has been a very satisfying first five years publishing our community magazines for you to enjoy each month. Before we opened our doors in July 2013, the plan was to deliver a publication that put your family and our community first while promoting local businesses and providing a resource to help readers plan exciting evenings and weekends close to home. Andrew Carnegie once said, “If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.” That is what we did.The second part of our plan was to use sustainably sourced papers that have been manufactured and printed reflecting my personal unwavering concern for our environment. Our magazines use well designed and informative content to engage, inform, and entertain, using trees grown exclusively for our papers that are created without harsh and toxic chemicals, which are detrimental to fragile streams and waterways. We’re so very proud of that.
Looking back five years ago to the excitement and joy of establishing a community magazine, I am still a bit overwhelmed by how well our readers have embraced us on this adventure. We have learned so very much about how to make our magazines stand out, not only as the leader in our local markets, but we’ve also increasingly articulated the “how” and “why” we do what we do in the first place.Honestly, when our August 2013 issues were delivered, I knew immediately that changes in our paper supply needed to be made. My first “a-ha” moment was discovering how much all those magazines weighed! Since we direct mail our magazines, the weight was clearly marked on our postage receipt, and one word stood out: tons. I was floored and a bit upset at myself for not considering the environmental toll. Soon after, we made the pledge to only use sustainably sourced paper for our pages. That basically means that the trees used to make the paper on which this magazine is printed were specifically grown to make paper. That certification may cost a bit more, but protecting our environment should be top of the list when the goal of our magazines is to help create healthier and happier places to live.
Summer vacation time always brings back fond memories of travels and adventures with my grandparents, Jack and Lillian Briscoe, who I knew as PapaJack and Nanlil. Much like many of our grands, they were two of the people I admired most in my youth. Always happy, inseparable, and seldom angered, PapaJack and Nanlil knew how to live their lives to the fullest and embraced their days together for almost sixty years. My brother, cousins, and I traveled many miles by plane, train, and automobile and listened intently to the optimism and wisdom of two of the kindest souls one could ever meet. They were successful not only financially, through a strong work ethic and wise business practices, but also spiritually and mentally by living right, one day at a time.Traveling along the road to get to destinations with our grandparents was always a well-coordinated adventure. At least four or five times a year, we would pile in the back seat of PapaJack’s big red Chrysler® and drive for hours to their little mountain retreat. Along the way, we would play travel games they kept packed in pockets on the back of the front seats. I would watch mile marker numbers shrink in size, as we approached each little town, remembering the last time I was there and knowing exactly what was around the corner. It seemed so easy, all so natural as children. We knew that fun was ahead, and soon, we would be in a comfortable place. PapaJack and Nanlil would have everything planned perfectly, from roasting marshmallows, snow skiing, hiking, and tubing, to breakfast, which was always orange sweet rolls, scrambled eggs, and cheese grits with half a big pink grapefruit. I loved it all — except the grapefruit.
After years of writing these perspectives, I must admit that I sometimes find myself struggling to find topics that motivate me enough to begin tapping the keys. Of course, working in an office where your coworkers are often anxiously waiting on you, so they can edit and design around your ponderings to meet an already extended deadline, adds to the stress and freedom of thoughts that the “squirrels at a party” inside my head have already scattered. On a few occasions, I’ve resorted to jumping on the web and typing in a random character trait out of curiosity to see what inspires me. I do hope you’ll forgive me.
Growing up, I was fortunate to learn to swim shortly after learning to walk. Being a member of a family that enjoyed the outdoors and respected nature, water became my second home. My mother, Bonnie, taught swimming lessons for many years at our home on Toonigh Road. Watching her help others learn to enjoy water and build confidence was a big part of my early years.Developing confidence was one of the largest underlying factors in overcoming the fear of water. It didn’t matter if the student was a toddler, teen, or senior — fear was always due to the unknown. It takes courage to get over fear, and it takes knowledge to gain confidence. Mom was one of the best at helping others learn about water, overcome their misconceptions, and cope with the fear to build that confidence. Once the fear was respected and addressed, it could be processed, understood, and overcome.
When I first got started working with magazines back in the mid-nineties, I was doing quite a bit of traveling around the southeast. Driving from town to town provided ample opportunities to meet people of many different walks of life. One day I might find myself in a chicken house antique shop on a backroad in Carrollton, Georgia, rummaging through a box of dusty, leather-bound, pre-Civil War books, and on another day I might be pulled over on a gravel patch next to Lake Eufaula to take a few casts at a largemouth bass and chat with a local before zipping off to sell an advertisement based on some random concept that I thought up while changing lures. Being on the road has always had a way of making me think. There was always someone somewhere with a story to tell that made me feel at home wherever I happened to be.
We have all been there.
At some point in our life, someone got their feelings bent over something you accidentally did. Let that sink in — it wasn’t in your design. Sometimes, we find opportunities to help others and accidentally make things worse. For instance, rushing to open a door for someone who has their arms full and unknowingly sliding a wrinkle in the doormat, causing them to stumble. Other examples may include pushing in a chair for someone as they sit down and having one of the chair legs break; tossing them their keys and seeing those keys fall straight into the sewer drain; or sliding them their beverage and watching it all go into slow motion when the cup bumps against their plate as a wave of sweet tea washes their dinner into their lap.
Well, I hope everyone is finished with their to-do lists from 2017 because like it or not, the new year is upon us. With challenges and changes of her own, the upcoming year promises to keep us on our toes and ready for action. Best to not be too concerned or anxious about it, the only thing we can do is be prepared. So, get ready now; get pumped up — here it comes.
Sometimes, when it seems like we have so many things on our plate, we may find ourselves wondering if we can possibly handle anything else. We will make mistakes. We will fail and falter. That is when we must reach into our bag of tricks, pull out our faith card, and make things happen. It is exercise that makes our bodies healthier and more fit. In that same fashion, our faith also gets stronger when we exercise it and lift our problems up.
Have you ever stopped to wonder how much you might have in common with Santa — not regarding the jolly physique that may mean extra padding around your waist after Thanksgiving and Christmas, making you want to join a gym the next week — but regarding the fact that he is a symbol of giving without expectation? Of course, there is a correlation there that simply cannot go unnoticed. However, sometimes, we may discover a little more of that giving spirit within us. The holidays are some of those special times.
As I’m writing this, there is a cool breath of fall air sailing through a six-inch opening in my bedroom window. A pair of wet birds are exchanging chirps while sampling seeds from the feeders on the back deck. For the first time in many months, the raindrops are joining together, as they fall over the edge of the metal roof. All those little pieces of leaves and debris that were left after months of procrastinating to clean those gutters were now riding a tiny stream to the downspouts. Closing my eyes in a moment of dreary morning joy, I hear the water falling through the pipes, and I am reminded that what I hear now will soon join a babbling brook not too far into the wood.
This saying, the modern adaptation of a line from Robert Burns poetic work, “To a Mouse,” has been a source of comfort to me over the past couple dozen years. To some, that all too prophetic verse may strike fear and rattle nerves, stating that no matter how much preparation, thought and genius is poured into a plan, something just might come along and smash the script. Now, to think about that, Burns was a Scotsman in the late eighteenth century, and even in that day without all the structure, networks and technology — plenty could go wrong.The origin of what became presently known as Murphy’s Law was long before calendars, Palm Pilots and iPhones, or for that matter, wristwatches and the human language. Edward Murphy, a brash, outspoken and often arrogant engineer who worked with the Air Force while testing the effects of g-forces on the body in the 1950s, seems to be the namesake for the term which was coined. The initial tests using his measurement device showed “zero.” It was then discovered the sensors were installed backwards by his assistant, to which Murphy stated, “If that guy has any way of making a mistake, he will,” which was then revised through other team members and made it to the project manager. The project manager stated it during a press conference to convey that the success of the project without loss of life was due to their planning, redundancy and knowledge of Murphy’s Law, iterating that, “If anything can go wrong, it will.”
When the opportunity to join a team in sports, at the office, volunteering, or maybe even your church occurs, it is vital to live up to the honor. When we are a member of a team that is relying on us, we need to do our individual best to take care of our responsibility, task or obligation.
Each of us becomes responsible for our personal leadership and making sure our actions are in line and in pace with our teammates. In anything you do, there will always be someone whose talents and strengths are different than yours, so aligning yourself with those who compliment your gifts is important. Keeping our mind open to learn from the skills of others allows us to grow.
Sometimes, we reach a point in life that makes us ponder what really makes us happy. Then, we realize what a challenge it may be to achieve our perception of happiness, which may make us fear it. Other times, happiness can be very difficult to quantify, as we are often persuaded to pursue a type of happiness that is defined by society and others close to us.
However, happiness, as we’ve come to understand it, can be scary. The sacrifices it takes to grow a successful business, the time spent at work to make that dollar that we want to use to buy that stuff, the long commute in traffic, time away from family, the grind — it seems like it will take an overwhelming amount of perseverance, discipline and drive. What’s the big deal anyway? Is being happy really such a big thing?
Looking back over the past few years, we have seen incredible growth, prosperity and success in our local communities. Songwriter Billy Joe Shaver once sang, “I’m just an ol’ lump of coal, but I’m a gonna be a diamond someday.” This is indicative of how each day, we have the opportunity to polish and refine ourselves to become the best we can be. Through sometimes unbelievable daily stresses, it is our inert tolerance that defeats the heat and pressure, making us shine.
Recently, I had a busier-than-normal week planned, and looking at all those color-coded entries on my calendar made me sit back and smile. It wasn’t too long ago that my calendar was a bit thin and only one color. That had to change, and change it soon did. Looking back, four years ago this month, I was putting together ideas and a business plan to start a series of new community publications — these Family Life magazines. After spending my entire adult life in some facet of the publishing business, I had learned quite a bit about what was required from a team to make it work. Maintaining a positive attitude, living within one’s means, and seizing opportunities when they arise are three of those lessons.