All posts filed under: What’s Next…

Thoughts on my Gap Year, Encore Career, and Whatever Comes Next

Taking a summer break

Here in the heat of July, I’ve decided to give the staff at More to Come the rest of the summer off. Yep — all the writers, editors, photographers, graphic designers, and those amazing headline writers — every last one of them will get almost seven weeks off with pay. Wow! What a boss!* Seriously, this seems like a good time for a break. I’m getting tired of considering all the draws being made on the U.S. Strategic Stupid Reserve, and there doesn’t seem to be any letup in sight. There will be plenty of material, unfortunately, on this topic after Labor Day. Also, there are some other projects calling for my focus, including that long-promised gap year book. So this is it until the Tuesday after Labor Day (8 September for the international readers). Well, this is it unless the feds in the unmarked vehicles and camouflaged uniforms come and lock me up, then all bets are off. Should you want to take this time and explore some of the things you might have …

Struggling with separation

In this time of quarantine, has your daily to-do list deteriorated to the point where it resembles one I saw on a recent YouTube video? 12 pm — Wake up 12:30 pm — Eat cookies 12:45 pm — Change into daytime pajamas… Having recently been gifted two pairs of yoga pants, there are days when those comfortable, loose-fitting sweats certainly fill that daytime pajamas role for me. Of course, many of our fellow citizens of the world don’t have the luxury of rising slowly with fewer demands on their time during this crisis. I have nieces who are juggling teaching their elementary school classes online while helping their own children with their schoolwork. My sister-in-law’s father passed away last weekend after a long illness where she was the primary caregiver. We have neighbors working from home while they juggle taking care of their active and inquisitive children. Our mail and packages and groceries don’t show up each day through magic, but because millions of Americans brave the virus and do their jobs to keep those …

Reflect. Reconsider. Reset.

Navigating through difficult times is both a personal and communal journey. As we each  chart our course through this particular crisis, it is important to concentrate on the ways we can show love and live with hope. Inspiration for my journey comes from a cross section of writers, historians, thinkers, theologians, poets, activists, and friends. One of my personal favorites is Rebecca Solnit.  “When all the ordinary divides and patterns are shattered, people step up to become their brothers’ keepers,” Solnit writes. “And that purposefulness and connectedness brings joy even amidst death, chaos, fear, and loss.” In a 2016 interview with The On Being Project’s Krista Tippett — posted on the project’s website as one of the “conversations we’re longing to hear again and finding useful right now” — Solnit speaks of how the world wants to categorize and pigeonhole love. But coming from a place of abundance, where there is room for everyone, Solnit said, “There’s so much other work love has to do in the world.” That resonated with me. I had returned to Solnit …

Servant Leadership

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” Max DePree, the long-time CEO of the furniture and design pacesetter Herman Miller, wrote those words in his small but influential book Leadership is an Art, and they’ve stuck with me through the years. In the early 1980s, as I was preparing to take my first leadership post as the executive director of a nonprofit organization, I read Robert K. Greenleaf’s 1977 book Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness. A humanities major without any background in management or business, I was looking for guidance on how to lead, motivate, and manage people. Greenleaf’s words resonated with me, even if I didn’t come close to fully understanding their implications. “The servant-leader is servant first,” he wrote. “It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.” I went on to study other management and leadership theories, attended a Harvard Business School executive …

Remembrance, Not Regret

Birthdays that end in 0 are much easier for me to handle than the ones that end in 5. I came to that rather trivial realization sometime over the past year. Approaching 30, 40, 50, or 60? No big deal. In fact, for that last one I used the occasion to gather 60 lessons I’ve learned over six decades. It was great fun. The ones that end in 5, however? Umm…they seem to be more problematic. Perhaps it is because I’m suddenly closer to the next 0 and the next decade than to the one in my rear view mirror. At 35 most of us finally realize, if we haven’t already, that we are no longer a kid. At 45 you can claim with some degree of persuasiveness to fall in the middle age bracket, but that has its own set of challenges. (Mortgages, anyone?) By the time you hit 55 you are conscious of the fact that few people live to be 110, and you are face-to-face with all that implies. And at 65? …

Just say it

If I had just one piece of advice to give to colleagues, friends, and family, it would be pretty simple. Say “Thank you.” Say it early and often. Two recent conversations raised this in my consciousness. First, a senior professional and former colleague was assisting an emerging professional with a networking and outreach discussion. They met, and because she was impressed, the former colleague offered up additional assistance. While a verbal thank you may have been given at the end of lunch, there was no follow-up communication after the initial meeting to acknowledge the gift of time and offer of additional assistance. In a second instance, a friend mentioned that a member of her family found it difficult, if not impossible, to say thank you, even when she was the recipient of an extraordinary gift. These family members have had their differences through the years. But despite that, my friend expected an acknowledgement of minimal gratefulness. It never came. Connecting to say thank you is, from my perspective, extraordinarily important. Saying thank you, as my …

Eleven Ways of Smelling a Tree

The February 10th newsletter of Chapter 16, a website celebrating Tennessee literature, was titled Paying Attention. Editor Maria Browning writes that, to her mind, February is “the most fickle month of the year in Tennessee,” with shifts between the stirrings of spring and days of snow (or, worse, ice). She continues, “Wardrobe challenges notwithstanding, this is a wonderful time to pay attention to the ever-dynamic natural world.” Her suggestion for some inspiration led me to read “Eleven Ways of Smelling a Tree” by Sewanee writer David George Haskell. As Browning notes, the piece at Emergence Magazine is a collaborative effort, with musician Katherine Lehman and art by Studio Airport. I’ve recommended Haskell’s The Forest Unseen in the past as a delightful book written by a scientist with the soul of a poet. “Eleven Ways of Smelling a Tree” has the same observational mix and magic. Haskell opens his piece with an ode to the American Basswood. Harlem, New York City Vintage: 1908 We crack the windows on summer’s first warm days. I taste diesel smoke, acid and oily. The fumes …

The top one percent

You, dear reader, have just clicked onto my 1,000th post on More to Come. As it says in the tagline, you’ve found my observations and recollections on places that matter, books worth reading, roots music, the times we live in, and “whatever else tickles my fancy.” That last one gives me license to touch on just about anything. But don’t worry. Contrary to the headline, this isn’t a rant about income inequality. I’ll explain in a moment. More to Come was created in 2008 to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over, I simply continued writing. Originally I would send random thoughts on a few things I cared about to friends, family, and other travelers on the internet who might share the same passions. Over the years the blog changed to have a more definite focus and look. In 2016, I began writing an email each Monday morning to my staff at the National Trust for Historic Preservation about things that were on my mind. This discipline led to a regular …

W.A.I.T.

On New Year’s Day, I finally saw the delightful movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks as the beloved children’s television star Fred Rogers. I waited until the last day this critically acclaimed film was showing at our local theatre because we wanted to go as an entire family and needed to align multiple schedules in our short window of opportunity over the holidays. Like millions of Americans, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a part of our children’s childhood, and it just seemed right to sit down together to take it in as if watching around the television set. There is much to like about this film, from the cast to the skillful direction of Marielle Heller, from the smart screenplay to the transitional shifts taking place between the toy set and the real life scenes of Rogers and journalist Lloyd Vogel (played expertly by Matthew Rhys). Vogel is, as one reviewer notes, “a magazine writer who actually may be the one person on the planet who doesn’t love Mr. Rogers.” Rhys’ character is based …

Farewell 2019, Hello 2020

It is time, once again, when I first look back over the past twelve months and then think ahead to where I want to go in the year to come. This annual review is one small part of a larger practice to have an honest conversation with myself in the hopes that I’ll then be able to have real conversations with the larger world. During 2019, I’ve thought a great deal about place, privilege, and—given the tenor of the times—paths forward individually as well as collectively. Why place? My career has been focused on older and historic places, what those places can tell us, and how they can nurture us (or not) into the future. Although I took a gap year from full-time work in 2019, I didn’t stop thinking about my life’s work. Knowing that emotions flow through place, in my writing over this year I’ve focused more on the buildings and landscapes in our cities and towns that, while coming from my professional life, also have deep personal meaning for me. Why privilege? …