Category Archives: Life Is Good

May I Help You?

By Monday our new home for Consumers corporate will be #TheGroves. We have been packing and moving for the past month. Planning has been in the works for over 3 years. The organization by our team has been incredible. From Operations to Training to Human Resources, IT, well the list goes on and on. No team has not pitched in. What I have been most impressed with is how many times “May I Help You?” “Hey Need A Hand?” “Can I Get The Door” has been echoing through offices all through @ConsumersCU.

I personally have had 47 requests to help me as I packed and moved items. 47 in 3 days. I began counting when I realized my workload was sure going to be a lot lighter thanks to an amazing group of individuals who follow through on “May I Help You?” From staff to contractors on site, no one sits idly by without a genuine smile appearing and an offer to help.

An email went out asking for assistance on phones as the Call Team transferred to our new home. 5 YES responses came in 10 seconds from our offices all across West Michigan. Within 5 minutes coverage was complete.

Our culture is shining this week as we move into our new home thanks to four simple words, “May I Help You?”

Sometimes we get so busy we forget the little impact those four words have. Let’s take them out into the world!

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Taking Out The Trash Turns Into …..

You will think this is about to be a humorous post. One focusing on how Rob and I take out the trash much more often than we used to. Our six “take-out-the-trashers” have whittled down to one. Mom and Dad often pitch in.

It was my turn. I took out the trash. And on my way down the driveway, with my iPhone flashlight showing me the way in the dark, I became perfectly still.

I couldn’t have walked if I wanted to. My life was there. I was taking out the trash and my heart erupted in joy. Why?

I believe it was because our beautiful home was shining right behind me. Our home that has protected those six children was right there in shadow yet more bright than ever.

Tonight, I took out the trash and brought my life into clear view.

The Code Word is Asparagus. A Simple Idea for Teamwork and Support

Code Word: #Asparagus
Code Word: #Asparagus
The story goes like this. A brother new to college takes his little sister (a year younger and still in High School) to meet his college friends on campus. Before leaving for the evening they create a code word. The code word is Asparagus.

Asparagus is spoken when the sister feels uncomfortable and is in need of “rescue” from dull or overbearing conversations.

Asparagus is mouthed when the brother feels it’s time to be pulled from a group he may have visited with a bit too long.

Asparagus is shouted when the sister and brother want to support each other in a new environment or just plain laugh for no particular reason.

The code word and the decision to create it was told at lunch the next day. With infectious laughter both brother and sister told one story after another on how Asparagus was used and the results that transpired.

Code Word: #Asparagus. What a simple concept to help us create synergy, trust and team work.

What code word can we create that will synergize our workflow?

Code Word: #Asparagus. That’s good enough for me.

There is No Life Without My Dad.

Recently dear friends Dads passed away and each asked if they would ever get over it.  Today, on Father’s Day I share my answer;

Dad holds Luke in March 1996. Casey in Background.
Dad holds Luke in March 1996. Casey in Background.

You will never have a life without your Dad. He is right around the corner. He is in every breath your child blows upon your cheek at night as they close their eyes to sleep. Your Dad is holding your hand right now. Can you feel it?

See that rainbow just behind the cloud? Know that nagging feeling when you know you shouldn’t be doing something – yep that’s him too. Dad is giving you his two cents and then some. Dad is laughing when you swear because your car won’t start. Dad is howling when you slip and fall and look to see if no one is watching.

Dad is reaching for your hair right now. He’s brushing it back from your face. Hey see that grin your kids get right when they do something naughty? Yep – he’s right behind it. Feel your heart burst with pride as they grab their diploma, marry their sweetheart, he is the fireworks inside.

Look in your your husband’s eyes – the man you married and know how the same eyes shine with pride and love right through to you. My God you will miss his physical presence. Not a day will go by that you won’t want to hear that laugh or “dad tone” and yet deep inside, with each success you have in your life, and each tiny misstep you just know he is there. Holding. Reaching. Caring. Loving. Just being the Dad that is yours alone.

It’s been 18 years since my Dad died on a beautiful August day. Will I ever get on with my life without my Dad? My Dad is always with me. Here is is in living color:   Robert J. Jarman

 

Full Screen Life

I just read a blog focusing on the fact that there is no such thing as a “balanced” work / home life.  The blogger went on to say that if you don’t like what you do- change. The remarks to the blogger were the most eye-opening for me.  They referred to the writer as “pompous” and “unrealistic” and focused on negativity in the workplace with no hope in sight.   I thought of the below post written in 2012.  The same holds true today – except we are now packing up our 5th of 6 kids to head to college (YEAH!)   It’s easy to become negative.  It’s easy to get into a rut at work or home and feel you are a hamster on a wheel.  It’s hard to pick up your spirits if they are down and look at the big picture.
A full screen view of Lake Michigan, Holland State Park
A full screen view of Lake Michigan, Holland State Park
Last night we went to Holland, Michigan to see Lake Michigan.  We shopped in town, relaxed at dinner, watched a sunset and ended the night with Ice Cream. It captured the meaning of a “Full Screen Life” as listed below.   Enjoy!

 

 September 2012:

I’ve been spending the morning preparing for a cleaning out of now college freshman Emily’s bedroom.

She did a great job packing and sorting.   The left behind is her childhood memories that will be stored away until she’s ready to re-open the fun in her own home someday.

 

My Sunday’s are often spent preparing.  I indulge myself with readings all morning  while I ponder the task list in front of me.  Today’s task that looms ahead is one that is exciting and yet melancholic at the same time.  Two of the articles I read hit home with me today as I prepare for the challenge:

 

The first is from http://zenhabits.net/ and it explains how we need to begin living a Full Screen Life.

 

In it author Leo Babauta explains how we often are doing two to three or four things at once:

 

“We’re doing one work task while trying to stay on top of email, text messages and social media. We’re talking with a friend while seeing what we’re missing on Facebook and Instagram. We’re eating while planning. Making love while thinking about work.”  Babauta shares his concept on living a “Full Screen Life” by focusing only on the one task you are doing.  If you are engaging in a discussion with your daughter – don’t think about work – truly engage in the moment with your daughter.   He showcases how to do this and encourages practice.

 

The second reading came from a review on Gretchen Rubin’s new book,  Happier at Home:  ”Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson and My Other Experiences in the Practice of Everyday Life.’   Rubin dedicated a school year to making her home a place of greater simplicity, comfort and love.  I would love this book as a Christmas Gift (Hint Hint) and in the meantime have reviewed the reviewer and know that Rubin is on to something.  (‘Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life’ by Gretchen Rubin http://mymindonbooks.com/?p=6142)

 

Perhaps it is because our home has gone from a loud and open door place where 6 kids introduced us to every form of friend and foe into a quieter more grown up house with two teenagers who rarely fight and revel in playing games with their ol’ Mom and Dad.  Perhaps it’s because I’m about to clean out a post-high school girl room and bring more space to what was once a very overcrowded home while celebrating another pretty successful push from the nest.  Either way the two readings that I came across today I believe did not show up by accident.

 

The funny thing is – when you are in the midst of the madness of raising kids and raising career goals is when you really need to live a Full Screen Happy Life.  Don’t get me wrong. I’m not in any way thinking my life was not full and happy –  I am saying there is comfort in intentional happiness and full attention at work and home.

 

I’m excited and humbled at this juncture in our lives.  My work is compelling, challenging and just plain fun.  My life is less stressed with school activities and more open to new learnings and opportunities.  I’m taking the two readings from today and combining them at work and home.  Get ready to practice with me…. let’s jump into a Full Screen Happy Life!

 

Tip #1 for Full Screen Happy Life:    Cards, Dice and Game Boards belong on every table – both office and home – not hidden in closets or drawers!

Our Feathered Nest Filled With Love and Lifelong Learning

Feathering a nest.  Have you ever stopped to watch a pair of adult birds take their time to intricately put together a home for what will be their tiny family?  It’s a lesson in nature’s ability to create a safe haven, a place to be.

Take Flight by Ellie Johnson 2014
Hand Sketch  by Ellie Johnson 2014

For the past 29 years Rob and I have feathered our nest.  We’ve gathered the bricks for our foundation, built a home and feathered it with more blankets and pillows than you can imagine.  In the past month we’ve had the joy of having all of our kids under one roof.  We’ve moved furniture to ensure there were places to sleep.  We even moved kids from the comfort of their own room to sofa beds and air mattresses.  Why? Because many of our birds have left the nest and when they return we move a twig here and there to make room.

In the midwest we have open houses for High School graduations. They are a big deal.  We plan and plan and celebrate big with family and friends.  Recently two comments made me pause,  “Why High School? What’s The Big Deal?”  and “I’ve never seen anything like this – it’s a spectacle!”   This year our 5th of 6 kids graduated from Forest Hills.  We celebrated. Big Time.  Every child made it home, even the one who is just starting a new job and took a 6am flight back and forth to make it.  We appreciate this. Big Time.

I can tell you why for me personally High School Graduation is so important.  Because High School years are the final moments you really have a say as a parent in helping  shaping your children’s values.  Once High School is over you really let go. And it’s not easy. Will they be polite, will they attend class, will they make great friends for life, will they behave, will they learn, will they LEARN?!  For me, I look around and hope the life-long learning my husband and I do has rubbed off.  You can only learn so much in school, then it’s time to realize you never stop, and it’s a blast to learn in ways you never thought possible.

This summer we will have learners in , Chicago, Il., Harrisburg, PA, Edmonton, Canada, Mount Pleasant , Kalamazoo, Grandville and and Cascade, Michigan. We will have learners landing new jobs and leading in new ones.  We will have learners working all different shifts, through Holidays and  #PureMichigan sunshine.  Each of us are  at different ages and stages in life and we share one thing.  We all either went through or are almost finished with High School.  After this milestone we each take our different path. We will falter,  stumble, succeed, falter , stumble and succeed again.

We also share one other thing; a feathered nest waiting for return trips.  A place we know will always be a safe haven, a place to go.  It’s our own feathered nest. We’ve made it our own.

It’s now that I realize we feather it for a very specific reason.  We feather our nest so when our birds fly on their own, our landing as parents isn’t quite so hard.

Top Ten Ways to Make This Mom REALLY Happy!

Before we begin, let me say under no circumstances do I stand upon my high horse and say I do not do the following items in the list.  I do. I apologize to my Mom and my Mom-In-Law for slipping and sliding down the slippery slope.

The Johnson Bunch

But here is my list for my kids (and nieces/nephews/kids who call me Mom) to make this MOM REALLY Happy on Mother’s Day and beyond:

1) Quit Swearing.  Profanity is a bad habit.  It’s bad enough when you say swear words out loud but when you intentionally use them in writing, go wash your mouth AND hands.  Better yet take a shower.

2) Use table manners.   It is NOT ok to belch at dinner. Ever. Laughing after is not OK either.  It’s gross.  (Note I didn’t say belch, period – I said at dinner – I’m not that naive.)

3) Spell Check.  You have had an awesome education (or are in the process of completing one) Please check your spelling when posting, writing, texting, applying for jobs..etc., etc.,

4) ANSWER A TEXT.  Your parents know you are answering texts to those you love or are stalking.  Please answer your text to your parents immediately. This is a non negotiable. If your parents don’t have texts – and they call you, CALL THEM BACK.  It’s simple.

5) Leave the room you we’re just in a little better than when you came in.  If you find trash, empty glasses, etc., pick it up and throw it all away.  Don’t make it worse by thinking “It’s already dirty .. I’ll leave it for XXX to handle.” XXX is often MOM and MOM will revert to #1 which is a habit we are trying to break.

6) Don’t go a day without communicating.  It may be a “HI”  in a text, (remember answer texts) or a hug as you out the door; a phone call or a “like” on Facebook if you still “do” facebook.  Just touch base every day.

7) Be Honest.  No matter what.

8)  Read.  Every day read something new.  (Not the back of a cereal box) Read something from the internet, or (GASP A NOVEL)  and share your newfound wisdom. Don’t EVER stop learning.

9) Learn to love naps.

10) Play Games and LOL every day. EVERY DAY. Not once a week or “I’ll get to it”  – play a game every single day with someone you love. Your will then Laugh – and laughter makes the world go round.

Happy Mother’s Day To ME!  I have learned from the BEST. Game Night starts at 8 PM EST, gather round!