Easter, Passover, and Spring Inspiration

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson on March 31, 2013

In honor of Easter, Passover, and Spring, here are some beautiful images to inspire us all.

Hipstamatic Easter Bunny photo

A window display in Ballard, near downtown Seattle, taken with the Hipstamatic iPhone4 app.

Hipstamatic Easter Bunny and Egg photo

Same store, different window: Hipstamatic Easter Bunny and Egg photo.

Mama and Baby Sand HIll Crane Photo

And here is one more, from our frequent contributor, Laurie Halladay. It’s a mama and baby Sand Hill Crane, which she took at a shopping mall in Florida. Thanks, Laurie!

Inspiring Moment: Spiky White Orchids

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson

Inspiring Moment: Spiky White Orchids


Five More Minutes With Wendy

Written by Robert Peterson on March 25, 2013

Angel photo

The Sandpiper

by Robert Peterson

She was six years old when I first met her on the beach near where I live.

I drive to this beach, a distance of three or four miles, whenever the world begins to close in on me. She was building a sand castle or something and looked up, her eyes as blue as the sea.

“Hello,” she said.

I answered with a nod, not really in the mood to bother with a small child.

“I’m building,” she said.

“I see that. What is it?” I asked, not really caring.

“Oh, I don’t know, I just like the feel of sand.”

That sounds good, I thought, and slipped off my shoes.

A sandpiper glided by.

“That’s a joy,” the child said.

“It’s a what?”

“It’s a joy. My mama says sandpipers come to bring us joy.”

The bird went gliding down the beach. Good-bye joy, I muttered to myself, hello pain, and turned to walk on. I was depressed, my life seemed completely out of balance.

“What’s your name?” She wouldn’t give up.

“Robert,” I answered. “I’m Robert Peterson.”

“Mine’s Wendy… I’m six.”

“Hi, Wendy.”

She giggled. “You’re funny,” she said.

In spite of my gloom, I laughed too and walked on.

Her musical giggle followed me.

“Come again, Mr.. P,” she called. “We’ll have another happy day.”

The next few days consisted of a group of unruly Boy Scouts, PTA meetings, and an ailing mother. The sun was shining one morning as I took my hands out of the dishwater. I need a sandpiper, I said to myself, gathering up my coat.

The ever-changing balm of the seashore awaited me.. The breeze was chilly but I strode along, trying to recapture the serenity I needed.

“Hello, Mr. P,” she said. “Do you want to play?”

“What did you have in mind?” I asked, with a twinge of annoyance.

“I don’t know. You say.”

“How about charades?” I asked sarcastically.

The tinkling laughter burst forth again. “I don’t know what that is.”

“Then let’s just walk.”

Looking at her, I noticed the delicate fairness of her face.

“Where do you live?” I asked.

“Over there.” She pointed toward a row of summer cottages.

Strange, I thought, in winter.

“Where do you go to school?”

“I don’t go to school. Mommy says we’re on vacation.”

She chattered little girl talk as we strolled up the beach, but my mind was on other things. When I left for home, Wendy said it had been a happy day. Feeling surprisingly better, I smiled at her and agreed.

Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state of near panic. I was in no mood to even greet Wendy. I thought I saw her mother on the porch and felt like demanding she keep her child at home.

“Look, if you don’t mind,” I said crossly when Wendy caught up with me, “I’d rather be alone today.” She seemed unusually pale and out of breath.

“Why?” she asked.

I turned to her and shouted, “Because my mother died!” and thought, My God, why was I saying this to a little child?

“Oh,” she said quietly, “then this is a bad day.”

“Yes,” I said, “and yesterday and the day before and — oh, go away!”

“Did it hurt?” she inquired.

“Did what hurt?” I was exasperated with her, with myself.

“When she died?”

“Of course it hurt!” I snapped, misunderstanding. Wrapped up in myself, I strode off.

A month or so after that, when I next went to the beach, she wasn’t there. Feeling guilty, ashamed, and admitting to myself I missed her, I went up to the cottage after my walk and knocked at the door. A drawn looking young woman with honey-colored hair opened the door.

“Hello,” I said, “I’m Robert Peterson. I missed your little girl today and wondered where she was.”

“Oh yes, Mr. Peterson, please come in. Wendy spoke of you so much. I’m afraid I allowed her to bother you. If she was a nuisance, please, accept my apologies.”

“Not at all! she’s a delightful child.” I said, suddenly realizing that I meant what I had just said.

“Wendy died last week, Mr. Peterson. She had leukemia. Maybe she didn’t tell you.”

Struck dumb, I groped for a chair. I had to catch my breath.

“She loved this beach, so when she asked to come, we couldn’t say no. She seemed so much better here and had a lot of what she called happy days. But the last few weeks, she declined rapidly…” Her voice faltered, “She left something for you, if only I can find it. Could you wait a moment while I look?”

I nodded stupidly, my mind racing for something to say to this lovely young woman. She handed me a smeared envelope with “MR. P” printed in bold childish letters.. Inside was a drawing in bright crayon hues — a yellow beach, a blue sea, and a brown bird. Underneath was carefully printed:


Tears welled up in my eyes, and a heart that had almost forgotten to love opened wide. I took Wendy’s mother in my arms.

“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” I uttered over and over, and we wept together. The precious little picture is framed now and hangs in my study. Six words — one for each year of her life — that speak to me of harmony, courage, and undemanding love.

A gift from a child with sea blue eyes and hair the color of sand. . .who taught me the gift of love.

 NOTE: This is a true story sent out by Robert Peterson. It happened over 20 years ago and the incident changed his life forever. It serves as a reminder to all of us that we need to take time to enjoy living and life and each other. The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less.

Life is so complicated, the hustle and bustle of everyday traumas can make us lose focus about what is truly important or what is only a momentary setback or crisis..

This week, be sure to give your loved ones an extra hug, and by all means, take a moment… even if it is only ten seconds, to stop and smell the roses.

This comes from someone’s heart, and is read by many and now I share it with you..

May God Bless everyone who receives this! There are NO coincidences!

Everything that happens to us happens for a reason. Never brush aside anyone as insignificant. Who knows what they can teach us?

I wish for you, a sandpiper.

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Child

Inspiring Moment: Teddy Bear Tea Party

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson

Inspiring Moment: Teddy Bear Tea Party photo


Guest Columnist Brad Rex and “Active Listening”

Written by Brad Rex on March 18, 2013

Brad Rex photo

In today’s post, our frequent guest columnist Brad Rex, weighs in on the importance of listening. . .REALLY listening. . .to friends, family, spouses, and coworkers.

Now I don’t know about you, but often as I am “listening” to someone speak, I’m really thinking about far different things. Often it’s the next question I’ll pose to them; sometimes it’s a diverse as what I’m going to make for dinner.

So The New York Times Test, an excerpted chapter from Brad’s first book, “The Surpassing! Life: 52 Practical Ways to Achieve Personal Excellence,” is sure to help all of us deal with how best to listen when we interact with friends, family, and coworkers.

Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.–Dr. Joyce Brothers

A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something.–Wilson Mizner

If you listened hard enough the first time, you might have heard what I meant to say.–Unknown

Opportunities are often missed because we are broadcasting when we should be listening.–Unknown

I am often asked “What is the most important skill required for a leader?” While there are many potential answers—financial acumen, negotiations, planning, time management—my vote is “active listening.”

Being an active listener is critical in all interpersonal relationships. Husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees, politicians and constituents—all benefit from active listening. As Ernest Hemingway said, “Most people never listen,” which is why most people have poor relationships. The active listener is unique, especially in today’s world, and this uniqueness translates into personal and professional excellence, with many strong relationships.

At employee roundtables, I would frequently hear the criticism, “My manager doesn’t listen to me.” When employees would come to see me with an issue, they would often say, “You really listened to me” at the end of our session. What was the difference between the interaction with their manager and the time with me? Active listening.

With active listening, you focus entirely on the other person, without distractions. The cell phone is put away, e-mail notification is turned off, the computer screen is facing another direction and the door is shut. You have a note pad and pen, and are taking notes while the person talks.
You paraphrase back to the speaker what they are saying to you: “So what I hear you telling me is . . .” “You are angry because . . .” “You believe your leader told you this, but did that.” You encourage the person to speak, especially about their feelings: “Tell me more about this.” “How did it make you feel when this happened?”

During the entire time, you are watching their body language to pick up non-verbal cues. Your body language is open and accepting (no crossed arms or peaked hands). You don’t immediately jump into problem solving mode, but rather let the person fully explain the situation and how they feel about it. When the person is done, you paraphrase back the entire story using the notes that you took while they were speaking, and asking them whether you heard them correctly. After all that is complete, then you are ready to take the next step.

If the issue involves a conflict with a peer, your first question should be, “Have you discussed this with the person directly—one on one?” If they say no, then you direct them to do that first, or you will be put into the middle of the situation unnecessarily. Don’t “take the monkey on your back” by agreeing to talk to the other person individually. If they say yes, then tell them to set up a meeting with the three of you together, so you get to hear both sides at once. Oftentimes, the person will go back and resolve the issue, rather than set up a follow-on meeting.

If the issue involves conflict with someone else (their leader, for example) realize that there are always two sides to every story. I frequently made the mistake early in my life and career of only hearing one side and jumping to conclusions. After a few embarrassments, I’ve learned to seek the other side, usually finding truth is somewhere in the middle. Frank Tyger made the very accurate statement: “Listening to both sides of a story will convince you that there is more to a story than both sides.” A good question to ask is: “What would the other person say if I asked him or her about what happened?”

You should determine if the person wants your help in solving the problem, or just wanted you to listen to them. Men in particular are often guilty of trying to solve a problem, when their spouse just wanted them to listen. Sometimes the speaker will tell you “Thank you for listening to me. I feel much better now” and there is no further action required.

If the person is looking for a solution, a good place to start is to ask the person, “What do you think should happen in this situation?” This teaches people to try to solve problems for themselves rather than coming to you on every issue. He or she may already have a good solution, and just need your help or encouragement to make it happen. Sometimes their proposed solution is impractical, and you need to explain why, and help them think of other options. While there are some things you will have to handle, the best solution is always one that the person can do himself. They get the satisfaction of solving a problem, and you don’t get one more thing on your to-do list.

At the end of the meeting, you should restate any agreements and the agreed deadline. Then, document the agreement with a brief e-mail that you complete while you are together, if possible. This ensures accountability for both of you.

The difference between passive and active listening is dramatic, and is as frustrating as a poor cell phone connection. Passive listeners are distracted, thinking about other things or planning their response before they have even heard the problem. Passive listeners don’t repeat back what they hear and often misunderstand the speaker. Passive listeners don’t take notes, so they appear uninterested and don’t have a record of the meeting. They jump in to solve a problem they don’t understand and create confusion and misunderstandings.

Active listeners focus on the problem and the person, picking up significant non-verbal cues. They listen to understand and confirm that their understanding is correct. They carefully document the conversation and refer back to their notes, enhancing their credibility with the speaker. They hold back on solving the problem, acting as a sounding board so the speaker can learn to solve their own problems. Their ultimate solutions are well grounded, thoughtful and tested, and of immense help to the speaker. Active listeners are considered respectful and wise, and people want to meet and know them. Their relationships are bountiful and rich, an excellent measure of a surpassing life.

Listen actively this week, and experience a new level of effective communication.

Action Points

• Be an active listener.

• Remove distractions so you can focus on the person.

• Take notes.

• Paraphrase back.

• Show open body language.

• Hear both sides.

• Don’t solve the problem unless asked.

• Document the meeting.


Great understanding, more effectiveness, rich relationships!

Inspiring Moment: Spring Tulips

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson

Inspiring Moment: Spring Tulips

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Five More Minutes With Spends Five Minutes With a Magnificent Music Box

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson on March 11, 2013

You literally have to see this to believe it! Please spend a few minutes with what has to be the world’s most complex music box ever. . .

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Inspiring Moment: Monterey Rainbow

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson

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Five More Minutes Thinking About Patience and Wisdom

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson on March 4, 2013

Two of the greatest qualities in life are:

Patience and Wisdom. . . .

Both are illustrated here!



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