Tag Archives: Hope

“IN AWE” of John O’Leary

bookToday is a special day for my friend and author, John O’Leary.  His 2nd book, “In Awe” hits the bookstore shelves.  Well, okay, most bookstores are closed due to the Corona Virus Pandemic, but his book was released today and is available easily through Amazon. 

I met John ten years ago this spring.  He was speaking to a small group of business people, and I was among the approximately 30 folks there to hear him. I had never heard of John.  He had no books published, and he was just starting out speaking to groups.  This was a small one in comparison to what he does today.  After he spoke, I hung around and chatted with him.  His story touched my heart in many ways.  When he asked us who we would be “Jack” for, I knew immediately who I wanted to reach out to, even if it was just small things.  I had someone in mind who I knew was going through a struggle at the time.  (I will explain who “Jack” is below).

For those of you not familiar with John, I will give a very brief history of what I know.  When he was nine years old, one Saturday morning, while his mom and dad were out, and teenage brother and other siblings home, John decided to go into the garage and experiment with a piece of paper lit on fire and a five gallon container of gasoline.  To say the least, that is a bad combination.  He didn’t cause a little fire, he caused a major explosion, setting the house on fire, but worst of all, setting himself on fire.  He was burned so badly, he was not expected to live through that night.  He had a less than 1% chance.  Now, that’s some really bad odds.

John had come from a wonderful family, and the strength of his parents, and the kindness of strangers, especially Jack Buck, helped John to recover.  Jack Buck was the sportscaster for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.  His voice is well known over the radio broadcasting play by play, and John was no stranger to that voice.  Although, John was completely bandaged up in the burn unit of the hospital, he recognized that voice, and the encouragement that Jack Buck gave him.  

John did recover, but not without many surgeries and scars.  He spent five months in the hospital.  His family stayed elsewhere while their house had to be rebuilt.  John being in our presence is proof that there are still miracles among us.

Ten years ago, when he was starting out his speaking, he was also leading executive workshops.  I was invited to assist him in one of these workshops.  There were two things we did that really changed my direction in life.  The first was that John had us all write our “Ignition Statement” and our “Life Vision” which was actually writing our personal mission statement.  He shared his with us, and helped us all work through writing the thing that really sets us on fire.  Here is what I wrote that day, and still read it today:

My Ignition Statement:  I want to enjoy each day to the fullest, show love to others, be a light to those who want direction, accepting others where they are, being their cheerleader, showing passion, forgiveness, love and connection.

My Life Vision:  To let others know they are not alone in their challenges, they have value and worth and a voice.  I want to be surrounded by those I love and enjoy the grace of their love to reach out and share it with others.

The other thing that John encouraged us to do at this workshop was to set up a Personal Board of Directors.  Wow!  What a crazy idea.  He suggested we find folks we like and respect and ask them to sit on our board, so they we are accountable for the bigger life we wanted to lead.  He said not to be afraid to ask people, even busy people.  I made my list of some personal friends, some close business colleagues, and I added John.  He kindly accepted, and he along with five other folks received a weekly email from me.  The email stated my Ignition Statement and Life Vision at the top.  Then for almost two years I wrote and shared what I was doing that week to live these statements to John and five other of my personal board of directors.  I still have those emails, and I still have the email replies from John who was always encouraging me to keep going and meet the challenges I set before me.  I just took a look, and saw one I wrote shortly after my sister died from a short and fast battle with cancer.  Today as I read John response, it brought tears to my eyes.  John always responded to my board reports, and I am so grateful for almost two years he took the time to read and respond.

Fast forward a few years.  John has written a book about the day he was burned and his recovery.  I was so happy for John that he was able to put this amazing book together.  I had preordered the book and it arrived in our mailbox as we were pulling out of the driveway and driving into St. Louis.  I started reading the book out loud to Dennis as we were driving down the interstate.  I don’t remember the exact part, but early in the book, you see the strength and determination of John’s mother in his recovery.  I am reading this passage to Dennis, but am having trouble because I am crying, and I turn to tell Dennis that I’m sorry I am having trouble getting the words out.  There was my sweet husband driving down the road, with big alligator tears coming down also.  I then realized that we would read the book when his driving abilities were not needed.  We attended John’s book launch party in March of 2016.

Today, John’s 2nd book has come out.  It is trending on Amazon.  I was privileged to be an “In Awe Ambassador” and received an advance copy of the book.  The last few weeks we had Facebook Live meetings with John discussing the book, and our last meeting was a Zoom meeting where we could see the other “in Awe Ambassadors.”  This book is a gem.  If you want to feel hope, there is no better time than during this pandemic to read In Awe.”  We were in awe as children, and then as we grew older, we just totally forget how to be in awe of the life we were given and those around us.  John reminds us all that we can still be in awe of life.  His book is filled with stories from his life where he has learned to be in awe.  His four beautiful children have reminded him and us of all we can be grateful for, and knowing that “the best is yet to come.” 

Today the book launched quietly, or so John thought.  Then he went outside his office, and there was all his staff (safely distanced) with a champagne party and these adorable “In Awe” cookies!

Please click here to order your copy of In Awe” or your copy of “On Fire.”  

John O’Leary, I am so glad I got to meet you in that small little meeting on the campus of Lindenwood University.  I am grateful for the friendship we have had over the years, and how you have continued inspired me.  

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

As I am getting notices of blogs, and as I am looking over my social media, one thing is prevalent — talking about COVID19, Corona Virus, Pandemic, Sheltering-In-Place, Quarantining.  Oh my goodness, what will we talk about when this is over?  Do we even remember what we talked about before the middle of March?

old ladyThese weeks have been a blur.  I have to look at a calendar to remember how long it has been.  I remember when we were first told to shelter-in-place, especially those over 65 or those with underlying medical issues.  Well, I am 71 years old.  I never thought of myself as old, or as vulnerable, and now my outlook seems to gone down some.  I am those old people of whom others are referring.  Do you know how weird that sounds to me?  Probably not, unless you are also over 65, and especially in your 70’s.  I always say that I was young until one day I wasn’t.  Thanks to this pandemic, the world has reminded me that I am not young.  That is the downside for me of this pandemic.  I agree, I am grateful that this is my downside, because far too many people have had a much different downside, like being ill, losing loved ones, losing jobs, living alone and dealing with loneliness, having to figure out how to teach your child at home (which was why you chose not to home school in the first place).  

A few days ago a 12 year old who lives near our home in Missouri, has passed away from a brain cancer called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Giloma (DIPG), which is all for a fancy wyattword for a malignant tumor at the brain stem.  Look it up — I had to.  The prognosis for this type of cancer is very bleak.  I have been following Wyatt’s support Facebook page since it was established, which I think has only been a little over a year ago.  I tried to check that but there are so many postings on it, that it would take hours to scroll through them to find the first posting.  I think it was February of 2019.  His death hit me hard for a few reasons.  The first being, of course, it seems so sad that a young person (or any person) has to struggle with disease and pass away.  I also got to know this child through these postings.  His mom is very a good friend with my friend and audiologist, Amy.  My friend and next door neighbor in Missouri, Cassie, lost her son, Sam, at age six from cancer.  She and her husband are the founders of the Super Sam Foundation, which is a non-profit that supports the fight of childhood cancer, and also provides comfort packs for the child, the siblings, and parents (a wish that Sam had for “all the kids”).  They also fund childhood cancer research.  I have been supporting that organization since its beginning, and they have been in there with this struggle for Wyatt.  I was so sad that Wyatt’s parents cannot get together with family and friends to grieve the loss of their beloved son, and get strength to help their other son deal with this tragedy.  Social distancing stinks at a time like this.  

Gatherings of all types are shut down.  Churches are finding new ways to minister and connect virtually.  Last night I was on a Zoom meeting with the pastors of our church in Missouri as they shared the new ways they are connecting and the work it takes.  This church has three services on Sunday, the auditorium holds 1,500 people, and sometimes they have to use overflow rooms to stream the service because more than 1,500 have shown up.  They have been streaming their services online since I have been attending which has been almost 7 years.  Now, they say, they have gotten more sophisticated in how they do the streaming.  They realized that when previously streaming the live services you could see the stage and the congregation, and it felt like you were there, but now it’s a big empty room.  They are using less people on their musical team during to conform to social distancing.  So not to get the stage to look overwhelming, they actually use effects to lessen the look of spaciousness.  They also set up a flat screen television next to IMG_2747where the pastor gives his sermon, not using the giant screens on each side of the auditorium.  This they claim also made the feeling of being in the room with them and not overwhelmingly empty.  I realized as they shared this, that when I streamed their services, it felt so close to home, so to speak, than the services streamed at our smaller church in Arizona which looks less comfortable, making myself more easily distracted.  The most interesting part was that their music is not being streamed from the speakers in the auditorium but directly to the sound boards which is streaming with the video, so the sound quality it amazing.  Good for them to have the talent and ability to make these changes to help us feel as connected as we can in this tough time.  

I really hope my pandemic blogs are nearing an end.  I see there is a small light at the end of the tunnel as businesses are starting come up with a way to reopen.

IMG_0964Large venues will have a struggle with this as social distancing is still being recommended.  In fact, in this church meeting, the pastors commented that they are working on how they will be able to open if social distancing is still required.  Remember I said their auditorium holds 1,500 people in theater seating—can’t move those seats around.  When will we see professional baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and other sports?  When will your kids get to play contact sports again?  

There are a lot of questions.  No one has all the answers.  This is new to everyone.  This is a major reason why I don’t criticize any of the politicians, scientists, business owners, schools, entertainment venues, etc., working on the solutions.  Everyone is doing their best job for what they know.  It is confusing, and they are trying to keep us protected, and yet give us the freedoms we so love and desire.

We will come out of this, just like the world has come out of these plagues since the days of the Israelites in the Old Testament, to the black plague in the 16th century, and to the Spanish Flu last century.  We need to remember the lessons that we are being taught.  We need to remember that while we are in crisis and as we call out to God, not to forget to bookcall out to him also in good times.  Most of all, right now, just count your blessings—there are many good things that are happening—from people generously making face masks, providing food, or just something as simple as eating with your family without having to rush out the door for another meeting or sports practice.  It is all good.  We are survivors!

Next week my friend John O’Leary’s book, In Awe, will be released.  John was burned 99% of his body at age 9, and he was not expected to live through the night.  His story is shared in his book, On Fire, and also talked about in this new book.  This new book has perfect timing.  It is about how we find awe and joy in living when things around us are tough.  We as adults get so wrapped up in our careers and other responsibilities that many times we lose the joy of life that we had as a child.  Let’s not forget that there is still joy, peace, and contentment to be found even during scary times.


Thoughts on a Pandemic

So, you are sitting at home today?  I assume because of the “pandemic” many people are now working from home. Some folks, unfortunately, have been laid off from their jobs because their place of business (mainly retail and restaurants) are temporarily closing.

DRP, Disaster Recovery PlanWow!  Who expected this?  I sure didn’t.  Yet, when I was working, our senior management team 10 years ago, did disaster planning.  We planned what we would do if our building burned down, what we would do in a pandemic, what we would do if an active shooter arrived at our place of business.  We discussed how we could still do business during these times.  We had to get very specific in these plans so that we would have a written disaster plan in place.  Being retired since early 2013, I am curious how their written plan is working.  I am sure some things worked well, and some things needed tweaking, because we never fully know what to expect in a scenario we have never encountered.  These weeks are huge learning curves for businesses.

There are all kinds of cute memes on social media about sheltering in, washing hands, and any other thing to make us try to smile.  I saw a meme that said we should recite the Lord’s Prayer while washing our hands, and it would be the right length of time for a good hand washing.  Shortly after that I went into the bathroom in a restaurant, and while I was washing my hands, I silently said the Lord’s Prayer, and then when I was finished I realized, that many people kneel when they pray, so what would that look like.  I made this meme and posted it on my Facebook page, because it still makes me smile when I read it.

Wash hands

shoppingDennis and I are sheltered in at our home in Arizona.  We have plenty of food in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry to get us through a few weeks.  We have toilet paper.  We didn’t buy any, but we have a few packages for our two bathrooms, and now not having any guests visit, it should last a while.

I get up in the morning and I turn the news on the television.  I watch for a short time, because I find it stressful to watch for too long.  If something new or important happens, I get a notice on my phone and I can turn on the TVnews then.  I am relatively calm.  I am also sad.  I think about those who have compromised immune systems.  I think about those in nursing homes who cannot see their families, and they were lonely before, and now they are extremely lonely.  I think about the homeless and wonder how they can shelter when they have no place to shelter, or don’t desire to shelter.  I especially think about my children and their children.  I don’t live near any of them.  

I am not a big telephone person.  When I bought my new iPhone a few months ago, I walked into the Apple store and told them I needed a new camera!  Yeah, that’s what I use my phone for 99% of the time.  It has now become my communication devise again.  Yesterday I was on the phone with my sister.  She is a widow living alone.  She is having minimal contact with her one family in her vicinity, and she is stressed.

Venues that hold many people are temporarily closing.  The larger churches are streaming their worship service online.  I watched two this weekend.  The one that doesn’t usually stream had some difficulty with their streaming.  The church in Missouri that we attend, always stream their services, and the pastor, although speaking in front of an empty auditorium that holds about 2,000, looked like he was speaking to people in person—he was totally comfortable.  I remember once last year when there was a major ice storm, they cancelled in person services and streamed.  I guess he had practice for bookwhat is happening today.  Thank God for technology that we can connect with our worship, talk with friends through social media, go shopping, download books.  Only twenty years ago, this would not have been possible.  

What am I doing while sheltered in our home?  I have my book, “In Awe,” to read.  I have a couple other books downloaded on my Kindle app on my iPhone.  I am working on a quilt.  We have been taking walks outdoors along the walking paths in our neighborhood.  I have a lot of food in the house and if I get really bored, I may try some new recipes.  Of course there is the television.  Not only do we have cable, we have an Apple TV hooked up, that allows me to watch Apple TV, Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, and various other streaming apps. So far I have filled my days well.  There is plenty to do here.

IMG_2019What I will miss is seeing people in person.  I am energized by being in the presence of people.  I love interacting in person, but that is temporarily stopped.  It is just for a period of time.  It is not forever.  It seems like a minor sacrifice compared to the sacrifices our military makes every day for us, or our families in the past during times of war.  We will get through this.

I believe that God is sovereign and loving.  He will hold us in place if we seek him.  He can give us peace that passes understanding.  On that note, I shall stop, because I want the last thought in your head to be one of encouragement. verse