Lists are Good

Lists are GoodI have a love/hate relationship with lists.

Lists keep track of what needs to be done.

Lists can feel overwhelming when there are so many things to be done.

A friend recently had a contractor over their house. The house needed numerous small repairs. As they prepared to walk from room to room and discuss the projects, my friend handed the contractor a list.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I made a list of all of the various projects.”

“Lists are good. I cannot tell you how many times I come to someone’s house and they rattle off all these things that were not part of our original discussion and expect me to remember them all.”

There was a sigh of relief from my friend. The last contractor didn’t have the same perspective on lists. There would be discussions, but not all projects were remembered or completed. There seemed to be agreement on what needed to be done, but various details would be missed that required projects to be either redone, or re-visited.

When it comes to lists, I think our egos can come into play.

“Don’t worry about it.” (As we tap our heads.) “I got it, I will remember, I don’t need to write it down.”

We don’t always have it.

We don’t always remember.

We do need to write it down.

Lists help in other ways. Lists provide accountability to ensure that we accomplish the task. Lists also provide the often needed sense of accomplishment. Each crossed-off item can bring pride for a job well done.

I will try to bring a little more love, and a little less hate to my lists.

I will also try to remember: Lists are Good.

Build Up or Tear Down?

Stones on the Beach

I have a habit of making cairns, especially when we spend time on the rocky coast of Maine. There is a challenge to find the right stones that will fit together, balance against the wind, and rise up to leave their mark on the landscape. These reminders provide some sense of identity along the somewhat anonymous coast that someone stood on that spot and created.

When creating in this space, one must acknowledge that eventually the pounding surf will remove all evidence of your work. The never-ending cycle of water will topple any temporary reminder of any creation, but something compels us to create near the ocean despite the inevitable. Something about letting the ocean reclaim these stones seems appropriate.

After creating these three cairns the other day, we walked further up the coast to another small beach and passed a couple with a child. We did the obligatory head nod and smile as we passed and eventually we turned around and headed back past our creation. To my surprise, we saw the couple and child again, at the site of our creation. Instead of admiring our work, they were standing at the path and throwing rocks to topple the cairns.

They must have seen it in my face when I gazed upon their actions and they spoke first.

Did you create these?


There was an awkward pause. Stones in hand, they looked at me as if they had done something wrong and were waiting for some clue from me on how to proceed. It was a struggle to fight my initial instinct to be angry or upset at them. I did not own the stones, the ocean, or the coast. My creation was temporary and the changing tides would return these stones to their rightful home within a few hours anyway, but the rush of emotion was still present. I knew I had to say something.

It is totally okay. Some people build up, and others tear down.

I smiled. Eventually they smiled too and restarted their stone throwing and we moved on.

When you build something, however temporary it is hard to watch it used for something else when you knew its original purpose. Change can be hard. What seems like tearing down, may just be a new and innovative use for what you built. But when someone else sees a new use for your creation it can still feel like a loss to you. Perhaps your creation had its run, served its purpose, but its time has passed.

So when someone is changing your creation ask yourself, is it time to build up or tear down?

I Remember When…

The other day I spent about an hour in the pool with my youngest daughter.  After a dizzying session of whirlpool creation, we began talk.  We talked about the squirrel trap she created.  How those little guys stole all of the almonds she scattered across the driveway, but none of the blueberries were harmed.

At some point I thought of about how amazing it was to be having this conversation with this little person.  My thoughts drifted to all of the memories of her growing up and I started to share some of that with her in the way that my wife and I sometimes share with each other.  We call it “I remember when…”

I remember when you were born.

I remember when you used to be afraid of the deeper pool.

I remember when I first saw you climb our tree like a monkey.

Then it dawned on me to alter it a little and begin to ask questions instead.

Do you remember when…

Do you remember when you were born?  No, but I remember the pictures.  Did I really have all that dark hair?  Yes.

Do you remember when we collected rocks at the beach?  Yes.  But mostly, I liked throwing them in the water.

The questions helped, and eventually she didn’t need prompting and it began to flow.

I remember when I was little and played with a pink basket in your room.

I remember when I first went to school.

I remember when my older sisters came home from college and I cried, because I missed them.

Today, what do you remember?  Take a few moments and reflect and share a few with us, or someone close to you.  Try this out with people you know and ask them what they remember.