Encouragement Is a Luxury?

Yes, I have realized that it is. Encouragement is a luxury for those who have the freedom to move forward with it.

Principle #5 of Encouragement says…Possibility is necessary. 

I just watched a most amazing Ted Talk by Suki Kim.  The talk, This is What it is like to go undercover in North Korea, was fascinating. She chronicles her time teaching the sons of North Korea’s elite, students at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. A place where very few students had incredibly limited access to computers and the internet. Yes, no internet, at the most prestigious university of science and technology.

Suki wanted to see what life was really like in North Korea and felt the best way to find out was to live among the people, not just visit.

As she began to understand the depth of their inability to think freely, she began to wonder how much she could push them. They spoke from scripts taught to them from birth, always giving credit to the Great Leader, for all they had. Here is a video of the song No Motherland Without You, dedicated to their Dear Leader Kim Jong-il.

Suki sums up the luxury of encouragement, and why she was always cautious in Chapter 5 of her book, Without You, There Is No Us. The title is taken from the song No Motherland Without You.

…It was a fine dance. I wanted to push them but not too much; to expose them to the outside world, but so subtly that no one would notice.

…Was this really conscionable? Awakening my students to what was not in the regime’s program could mean death to them and those they loved. If they were to wake up and realize that the outside world was in fact not crumbling, that it was their country that was in danger of collapse, and that everything they had been taught about the Great leader was bogus, would that make them happier? How would they live from that point on? Awakening was a luxury available only to those in the free world.

Wow! After seeing the TED Talk I read the book Without You, There Is No Us. It was mesmerizing, to walk with Suki through this experience. So surreal.

And of course finding connections to encouragement is always enlightening.

A Day at The Mall of America, Not My Idea!


Today my two youngest children did not have school. Why? I can’t imagine. With only 4 weeks to go in the school year, I’m puzzled about the need for a teacher in service day.

But there we were, at 9:00 this morning wondering what to do with the day. Because of a previous promise/bribe I agreed to take them to the MOA (Mall of America) for the day. This doesn’t mean shopping. I really dislike shopping and leave that job to the aunties and friends. What it means to my kids is time at Nickelodeon Universe. Which means I take a book and some knitting and anything else I want to do while sitting under a fake palm tree, trying to block out all the screaming, and wait it out.

The girls are old enough to let them go for an hour or two and then meet up at a specified location. So, we set the location, set our watches and we were all off to our predetermined activities.

I left my spot to find a Caribou to order a green ice tea, and there before me was Lego Land. They have a wall of Legos, little containers of every color and shape (not really) before you. The cool thing is that you can get a little bucket and fill it with whatever shapes and colors you wish. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. I picked up a bucket and started loading it up.


I was feeling very pink today. Also, I was feeling like 6 was a good number for building. So I put 6 of each Lego into my bucket.


Here is what I was able to fit into my bucket. Notice there are multiples of 6 in everything except the flat green Lego’s. Somehow, I only got 5. And I intentionally bought one windshield.

As I was loading up my bucket I was very aware of trying to get as many Legos as possible into it. I was thinking about a presentation I saw by Steven Covey that talked about making room for what is important in your life. I applied this theory half way into my Lego gathering.

Steven talks about putting the big rocks, important things, into your bucket first. Then adding smaller rocks, then sand, then water. If you put the items in your bucket in this order they will all fit. If you put the water, then sand, then smaller rocks you will not be able to fit the big rocks. The most important ones.

For me, my new Legos were all important. But, the thrifty part of me wondered if I had loaded my bucket with the biggest Lego’s first and then add the smaller ones, could I fit more in my bucket?

Since I still had 45 minutes before our meeting time I decided to see if there would be more room between biggest to smallest, or smallest to biggest. First I loaded my bucket biggest first…


and then loaded my bucket smallest first…


I’m not sure there was much of a difference. Perhaps a bit more can fit when following the biggest first option. But because the smaller Legos are not as fluid as water and sand, they were not able to take up the air space between the big Legos.

The lesson is just not as dramatic when using Legos.

However, the fun of Legos is to create, so here is what I created while waiting for the girls.


My son thought it was a bus. I was going for more of a speedboat image. It is amazing to me how we think so differently sometimes.

The checkout guy at Lego Land thought I was buying the white scalloped pieces to use for fangs. He really has never met me. I can’t think of any time where I have wanted to create something with fangs. My other option for the white scallops was to turn them upside down and use them as a border at the top of a castle turret.

So, for a day at the MOA that I would never have planned for myself, I am pretty excited about my new toy.

Combining a hobby with giving

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I love to knit. Another thing I love to do is encourage others, thus the blog, and my never ending fascination with ways encouragement is effective and ways it is not.

One way of encouraging others is letting them know that you care. Sometimes knowing that someone is thinking of you helps to lift your spirits. In that vein I would like to highlight several knitting sites that encourage a donation of knitted items for people or animals in need.

For Animals

For Chickens A story about retirees knitting sweaters for chickens.Sweaters for Chickens

For Elephants A story about a very cold winter in India and the villagers who knit to take care of the local elephants.


For People

Hats for the Homeless In 2009 they provided 50 knitted hats to a local homeless shelter. The next year they gave over 900!  In 2016 they gave away 2,200.  The website provides patterns and drop off locations.

Knots of Love is covering heads of people going through chemo. They offer a huge array of knitted and crocheted patterns and also a few guidelines.

So if you are ready to reach beyond yourself to give the gift of warmth and love,  pick your pattern. Be sure to consider what causes are important to you, and also how much yarn and time you have. The elephant project looks a bit overwhelming to me!  That elephant must be very special to the people of the village!

Wuthering Heights and Principle of Encouragement #?

Today I am reorganizing the principles and so they are numberless for a few more days.

Original principle #4, Something good for me may not be good for you.

We make great judgments based on what is good for us, what works for us. And sometimes we fall into the trap of, “it works great for me so it must work great for you”. And as you will see in the example, if someone chooses to approach a situation from a different angle we may get frustrated and assume an air of disbelief that “they” do not do something the way “I” do. But if they did the world would be a nicer place.

In the beginning of Chapter 2, Mr. Lockwood just traveled 4 miles across the English moor and arrived at Wuthering Heights

Being unable to remove the chain, I jumped over, and, running up the flagged causeway bordered with straggling gooseberry bushes, knocked vainly for admittance, till my knuckles tingled, and the dogs howled.

So at this point he is very frustrated with his approach to the house and says…

At least, I would not keep my door barred in the day time…

How many times do we find ourselves doing the same thing. Justifying our frustration or disbelief by criticizing someone else. If only everyone did things like we did, then all would be well.  Not really, I don’t think so.

Perhaps the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights have great reason to keep their entrance chained and untidy. I haven’t finished Chapter 2 yet so I don’t know. And, just because I think something would be a good reason does not mean that it is good for someone else. Only the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights are qualified to decide how to keep their entrance. No matter what the rest of us think!

Vacationing in the Off Season

Devils TowerLast weekend 2 of my daughters and I took a quick trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota with a side trip into Wyoming to see Devil’s Tower.

There were some awesome benefits to traveling to a touristy place in the off season.

  1. Little to virtually NO traffic. This is nice because the landscape is unfamiliar and it takes some time to get bearings in a new place. We frequently made fast stops to see a buffalo, mountain goats, or far off views of Mount Rushmore, and never caused a backup. During the busy season the tolerance level for bad driving habits isn’t very high.
  2. Cheaper hotel rooms. Off season rates are often much lower than peak season rates.
  3. Less people=no wait times or obstructed views. Note the path at Devil’s Tower, just us. Note the view of Mt. Rushmore from inside the cafeteria. Just one couple out on the deck.

Mount Rushmore

There were only a few drawbacks.

  1. Daylight is not as plentiful in late October as it is in June.
  2. Many ice cream shops were closed for the season.



Who Encourages Me? Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon’s books Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative and Show Your Work!sit on a shelf at my desk. These books encourage me by opening my focus. They help me to see a bigger world. Researching and developing ideas about encouragement is so fascinating. But being focused on one single thought for a long time is not always productive.

Side Projects and Hobbies are Important (Chapter 5 from Steal Like an Artist)

“If you have two or three real passions, don’t feel like you have to pick and choose between them. Don’t discard. Keep all your passions in your life…The thing is, you can cut off a couple passions and only focus on one, but after a while, you’ll start to feel phantom limb pain.”

I love this quote because it somehow gives me permission to follow my passion for knitting, and my passion for encouraging others. I have a few other passions, like reading great books, and occasionally creating new recipes in my kitchen.

One of my strengths from the Strengths Finder is focus. For the last month I have been focusing on knitting. Laser focused on knitting. So much that I have temporarily abandoned blogging. Time to re balance.

Vogue Knitting Contest

Above is a picture of the fruits of my labor. The sweater has been entered into the Vogue Knitting Live Minneapolis Readers on the Runway contest. I submitted this photo in early October and just found out that I have been selected to participate in the Runway walk in November at the convention! There will be one winner from all the participants to win a future Vogue Knitting Live package.

The picture on the left is the Tasseled Sweater from the Vogue Knitting Book Spring-Summer 1962. The picture on the right is me wearing my FO(finished object) October 2016.

A Happy Lunchbag Update

Today was a better day for kid #5. 

I am grateful for the encouragement! She knew it was possible and I had the ability. (Encouragement Sweet Spot)

All is well for future bag lunches. Thanks everyone for the support:)

Encouragement Through Email

lunchbagWhile packing her lunch this morning, my middle-schooler, sighed in disgust and packed yet another lunch in a gallon size freezer zip lock baggie. She did not have to say a word. We are now in the third week of school and still….no brown bags for packing a lunch.

I don’t think this would have happened in previous years. But, with a self sufficient senior, and a 9th grader who will only eat the school lunch, I am left with one lunch packer. And, it just hasn’t made the written grocery list yet.

Yes, I have been to the grocery store many times in the last few weeks, but, out of site=out of mind.

Until today. When opening my email at work I saw this email from my daughter…

https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.longbowmalta.com%2Fuploads%2F3%2F7%2F2%2F0%2F37209071%2F6088126_orig.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.longbowmalta.com%2Fbags-bags-bags.html&docid=741ukNEKK756qM&tbnid=-BIx5kfOwLlPgM%3A&w=600&h=600&hl=en-us&safe=active&client=safari&bih=672&biw=1024&ved=0ahUKEwjv8pKWip7PAhXEZiYKHcmaDGMQMwhsKBEwEQ&iact=mrc&uact=8 don’t forget!!!

And she hasn’t even complained about carrying her lunch in a see through zip lock baggie. I guess it is time to get to the store!

What a great way to encourage me. Fill my inbox with subtle requests.

Sweet Spot of Encouragement


Encouragement can happen here.


The sweet spot of encouragement happens when the giver believes success is possible, and the receiver is in a situation where success is possible.

The giver wants success for the recipient.

The receiver finds hope and tries to follow the words of encouragement.

Sometimes the giver and the receiver are different. Sometimes the giver and the receiver are the same person, yourself.


Encouragement to be YOU

Necklace And Other Jewelry, Ca. 1909.

One of the most privileged events in our life is being present when someone is “in their element”. People get chills at an Andrea Boccellli concert when he begins to sing “Time to Say Good-bye”, at least I do. We can see that every ounce of his being is focused on the performance, and no one can do it better. This is true for sporting events as well. We jump out of our seats when an amazing catch is made in the outfield or end zone. Some people enjoy replaying the event over and over and over. We may pause in awe when looking at a painting or when listening to a poem.

We do this because amazing performances inspire us to be more of who we are. It was special because that person performed in a way that was superior to many. People pay a lot of money for the privilege of being present for spectacular performances. But this is also true within our work places and families.

While my husband and I were in Pennsylvania last week for my mother-in-law’s funeral my sister-in-law Judy really shined. I knew she had worked at the jewelry counter for many years at a local store. And I knew that she had won awards for her fabulous customer service. So, when I realized I forgot to pack a necklace to wear with my v neck dress (yes, this situation needed a necklace) I went straight to Judy’s house and knocked on the door. If you passed Judy on the street, she would be an average woman walking along, like most of us. I asked her to help me with my bare neck her face lit up and she sprung into action. She took me upstairs and sat me down. She  selected a few pieces from her carefully stored treasures. It did not take long to find the perfect necklace. She knew exactly what piece would go with the dress, and my personality. I can see why her customers love her and keep coming back. Her joy in making others look beautiful is special.

I was sincerely grateful, and she was glad to help.

When we encounter people who are “at the top of their game” we may wish we were like them. We may  learn everything we can about them. Sometimes we even want to be them.

What we really want is to be our self as well as our idol is their self.

The problem is that when we try to be someone else it usually doesn’t go well. We can wear a jersey, ask for and try a recipe, start painting, or imitate them in many different ways. It may be fun at first, maybe forever. However, trying to be someone else will never be as satisfying as becoming YOU.

The truth is only YOU are good enough to be you. And you ARE good enough to be you.

Whether you are encouraging yourself or someone else remember to be aware. See all 6 Principles of Encouragement here.

Principle #2 Be aware. Be aware of your own gifts and talents and of those you are encouraging. It is much easier to get better at a talent you already have, than to try to improve on your weaknesses.

Also, be grateful. To be served by or to observe someone at the top of their game is a privilege.

Thank you Judy! You made me feel pretty on a sad day.