Finding My Tribe

Some days you issue a simple request, and the fulfillment of that request moves you in unanticipated ways… In this case, I asked a long-time friend, “Will you write for my blog?” His submission whisked me back to the magical summer when we met (even before reading this piece, I did think of it as magical). I had no idea, until now, that I had witnessed the birth of his passion for theater. We reconnected in college and I have been grateful to see him perform in multiple plays; in one more case, to be with him in the cast; to take college courses in theater and literature, some of those as we traveled England, and see and discuss more plays than I could count. And I am grateful to know that, even as life seasons have changed, he still finds his place and his tribe on the stage.

re:create recess #13: Daniel Seifert

The summer of 1983 was transformative for me. I finished junior high, turned 14 (I’ll pause while you do the math…did everyone get 48?), and moved to Colorado. In the middle of all that, I performed in my first play. I had seen a couple of plays before, and sang in a school talent show when I was six, but this was a whole new experience, and it changed the course of my life.

I have yet to meet anyone who loved junior high, and I spent those two years feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere. The people whose opinions I cared about valued sports and girls, and they weren’t very excited about people who got straight A’s. My athletic ability was mediocre at best; my default when talking to girls was terror; and I learned quickly that sharing my results on our standardized tests would get me teased. Add to that the fact that the last four letters of my last name are F-E-R-T, allow yourself to imagine what Junior High boys could do with that, and you’ll begin to understand that I was ready for big changes in my life at the time.

So, when my mom told me about this group called Christian Youth Theater, I decided that since we were leaving California anyway, I could stop caring about what anyone else thought and just give it a shot. I auditioned and got cast as Muff Potter in their production of “Tom Sawyer.” From the first day, I was pretty much hooked by the whole process. The blocking and rehearsing, the sense of teamwork, even the costumes and makeup – for the first time in my life, I felt like I had found the thing I was supposed to be doing. As a bonus, there were a lot of girls in the group (including this cute blonde named Siv), and even though I wouldn’t describe myself as confident around them, at least I felt less awkward.

Me, left, as town drunk Muff Potter

When we moved to Colorado, then, I had a sense of identity that I had lacked before, and it helped to anchor me. I went on to do several shows in high school, and I was a Theater minor in college. The theater has become a refuge for me – the place that I am willing to work ridiculous hours for little to no pay, all because I love the process so much. The trust and camaraderie that develops in a cast; the hard work and struggle to make the scene come out just right; the mild terror of being on stage and dealing with mishaps; it all invigorates me and restores me to balance. I still do shows when I can, although the demands of a full-time job and being present for my wife and daughters require me to be better at prioritizing my time. I am also pursuing a Master’s Degree from Fuller Seminary, with a view to serving as a kind of chaplain to the performing arts community.

A 2015 production of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ with me as town loser (and drunk) Bob Ewell. For the record, I do occasionally play nice characters.

Performing is my passion, and I don’t know that I would have found it if it hadn’t been for a remarkable summer of change. Oh, one other significant event happened that summer – I kissed a girl on the lips for the first time. [Full disclosure: since it was my first time, “near the lips” is perhaps more technically accurate]. I still know that girl, but that is a story for another time.

Daniel Seifert lives in Westminster, Colorado, with his wife, two daughters, two girl cats and a neutered boy dog.  Though he is an employed and responsible adult, he is still, at heart, kind of a nerd.

Find His Motivation

Some may call it bribery. I call it motivation.

Initially, the goal (mine, at least) was to get Teen’s college application essays written before the school year started. Despite the 2-session college essay workshop he attended, that didn’t happen. The college counselor came to our home to talk through the process, yet Teen has felt so overwhelmed by this extra layer of life-reorienting paperwork and studying on top of his regular regimen of school, studying, sports and activities, that he couldn’t find the motivation to start, stuck behind the starting line.

Too busy and tired to do much extra Monday through Friday, we’ve focused our attention on weekends. Our conversation on Saturday went something like this…

Me (washing dishes): Teen, how about those college apps?
Teen (watching TV): Nah, it’s the 10-year anniversary of the Croc Hunter’s death. I’m gonna watch reruns on Animal Planet.
Me: Hit “record” on the DVR and watch them later?
Teen: No, thanks.

On the one hand, I get it. Besides his dad and Jesus, Steve Irwin was his first hero. At risk of sounding sacrilegious, Irwin had similar life-changing effect on Teen. He spoke to young Teen’s heart. He shared Teen’s fascination with animals, particularly scary/threatening ones. With his engaging personality and the vehicle of TV, he communicated to the world the beauty and importance of under-appreciated creatures. Still…

Me (an hour later): Teen? College apps?
Teen (watching TV): Mom! I don’t think you understand–when you nag me, it makes me less likely to do anything else!
Me: Deep breath two three…
Me (walking into the next room and leaning down close so I can speak quietly): And I don’t think you understand that when you don’t do what you need to do I get frustrated and feel less like helping you.

Sunday Teen had a proposition.
Teen: Mom, I have an empty tank to fill. Can we go to the reptile store, please?
Me: Why would I buy you a reptile when you’re going to college in a year?
Teen: I’ve been saving money. And I can take it with me to college (despite our repeated words to the contrary he really believes this and won’t be talked out of it).

And slowly, it dawned on me. The kid’s applying to college to study Wildlife Biology in preparation for a PhD in herpetology (the study of reptiles). This could work in my favor…

[Read the story of how I made peace with his passion for reptiles]

Me: Tell you what–you get steps A, B & C done, plus your chores, and tomorrow we can have a conversation about another reptile under our roof.

While Guy and I went out that evening, Teen spent hours working on college apps. He’d gotten way more done than I’d expected, so we took a trip to the reptile store.motivation

Teen was unusually relaxed and talkative on the way there. He shared his favorite things about this school year so far, what he’s learning and enjoying. He confirmed the serious Mom Points I was winning by willingly engaging his interests. Though I usually stick to the frog section of the store (dart frogs are way more my style), I was all his, asking questions about what he liked/didn’t and allowing him to share his generous knowledge.

Hence I saw it one flash of a second after he did: a striking ball python with unique coloration. Teen already has two ball pythons. They are curious, active, beautiful (if you can talk yourself into being willing to admit a snake can be beautiful), bred for genetic diversity and coloration. I recognized my bargaining chip.

He held it, just a baby, and began to fall in love. He held several others, some double the price, and came back to him. I joked he could name the snake “Motivation,” “Mo” for short.

Just about an hour after we got home, he finished a draft of his college essay. The prompt says:

“Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.”

Teen wrote about his passion for reptiles. Could their be a more fitting reward for this kid?

Teen named his new pet Orpheus (all his pets have mythological names). Orpheus’ wife, Eurydice, died of a snake bite. He descended to Hades to rescue her, and his gift with the lyre melted Hades’ heart. Hades granted him his wife back under one condition: she would follow Orpheus as he walked to the light. If he turned around to look at her before they had both emerged, he would lose her forever. A few feet short of his goal, Orpheus lost faith and turned, catching glimpse of Eurydice’s shadow as she was whisked away from him.

The carrot (snake) dangling before his sight sent Teen hurtling past the starting line and, now that he’s moving, more movement will come easier. If his motivation lags, I will point him to the tale of Orpheus: you can’t turn back before you fully reach your goal. Don’t lose faith.

Find Your Passion and Move Forward

I had the honor of working with today’s guest post author for six brief years when he was a recently ordained pastor and we were young marrieds with Baby #1, playing the see-saw game of ministry-life balance. Neal was gracious in so many ways, asked hard questions that led to meaningful conversations, encouraged us at every turn, and even proctored our Presbyterian ordination exams when Baby #2 made travelling to take exams impossible. I also had the privilege of reading a pre-publication draft of Move Forward, which I highly recommend!

Create Challenge #23: Neal NyboNNybo website

I find I am most creative when I am helping other people move forward in their lives. My most recent example is working with J. Mark McVey, a Broadway performer of extraordinary skill and giftedness. I have the pleasure of engaging him each week on a coaching call. I am sharing with him my experience with online marketing and self-publishing. What happens is that, as we talk about his opportunities, my creative imagination explodes. I leap from one idea to the next. I can imagine a blog post on his website turning into a book, leading to a new motivational speech and singing series for him. I start naming individuals and organizations we can contact to help him.

I’ve learned that this burst of inventiveness isn’t always helpful for Mark.

But I almost can’t help myself for spinning new possibilities out of thin air. Almost. I am learning to pull back and move at the other person’s speed. Everyone else seems to know this character trait of mine. My level of enthusiasm is famous in our home where my wife and daughters have learned to let me process out loud. It is part of who I am at my core. On my best days, I am a hand-waving force generating spontaneous construction of ideas.

It’s helpful to know this about myself. If I am going to thrive, I need to put myself in situations that are open to my creativity. I also need to know when to rein it in.

It’s helpful for any of us to know what is at our core. It gives us clarity and direction. I am clear about this now because I’ve been working over the last couple years to write it down. The result is Move Forward, a workbook and journal. This project in itself is an example of my core. I’m not satisfied to learn it for myself. I need to be able to help others as well.NNybo MF

The Move Forward Workbook and Journal contains a set of thought processes, exercises, and reflection opportunities. Combined, they create an environment in your heart and mind that naturally leads to “Aha” moments and breakthroughs in clear thinking. They center around positive events in your life. You focus on the best character elements, values, and interests that make up the core of who you are. These exercises, spread out over seven days, give you enough time to genuinely reflect on lessons you have learned throughout your life. And the time is short enough that you can come to clarity and direction much faster than you imagined possible.

This workbook and journal is the result of multiple generations of the Move Forward process practiced by thousands of people in live seminars, online video courses, and earlier versions of the workbook. It has benefited from feedback to the point it can now guide others to a positive outcome in seven days. It has grown out of my passion for helping individuals and organizations find direction.

If I can offer one word of advice, it would be to find what you love and pass it on. I need to stop there or I’ll start spontaneously constructing new ideas for everyone!NNybo

Things to know about Neal Nybo: I’ve been married thirty-five years and I really married up! Carolyn has made my work possible and my life a blessing. I once had a curb painting business and was robbed at gun point when managing a Burger King. I’ve been meeting with the same two guys for connection and accountability every Friday for more than ten years. As a pastor, I have worked with single adults and families, couples, young adults, and men. I’ve taught large groups, led a weekly men’s Bible study, provided pastoral direction to worship, communications, men’s ministry, couple’s ministry, and large connecting events like all-church retreats and Easter services for 2,000 held in a parking lot. I currently oversee a staff of 120 at a church with 2,000 members, 1,300 in worship at five services. You can find out more at NealNybo.com.

 

Leap of Faith

You know those people you esteem at a distance? Shirley is one of those women in my life. Our kids have traveled together through elementary school and now into middle school, but she has a daughter and I have a son and so our social overlap has lacked. Yet I have watched with deep respect as Shirley has invested in her passion and launched her business. She inspires me, and I’m sure she will inspire you as well.

Create Challenge #7 – Shirley DeFrancisciDef-2

I took a leap of faith on November 11, 2014, which resulted in me receiving an amazing gift. Within days after a family photo session I said, “I can and want to do that, too!” and I decided to start a photography business of my own.

Why do this? Photography has been my passion for as long as I can remember. I started with Kodak Instachrome and Polaroid photos in elementary school and I carried around a Nikon SLR during most of my junior and senior years in high school. I never stopped loving photography in my twenties but becoming an aunt and then a parent inspired me to pursue photography more intensely.Def-1

So when the opportunity came about to share my skills and art with others in a more official capacity, I seized the chance. It felt like the most logical thing to do. I am grateful and have no doubt that God’s hand provided the bit of push I needed to pursue this dream. With giddiness, nervous excitement, prayer and with my family’s full support, I launched DeF-Stop Photography. My announcement was a simple email sent to a collection of friends/acquaintances with a link to a Sign-up Genius. Hitting send made me feel so vulnerable! However, within four days I received over 30 confirmed bookings for Christmas mini-photo sessions. I felt humbled, surprised, honored, energized and beyond grateful for everyone who trusted me out of the gate to capture their images. It was a win-win as my clients started to report how thrilled they were with the results.

Why do this? Since then, I have constantly questioned myself: Is this what I want? Is this God’s intent for me? Is this relevant to who I am?Def-3

Why do this? I also do mental sanity and capacity checks. I work full-time at a great company. I am the mother of three, incredibly beautiful-yet-busy children. I am a wife, daughter, sister, friend and I need at least some time for myself! There are only 24 hours in a day! In order for this venture to be successful long-term, I had to frame it in a way that was relevant and resonated with me, my husband and family while aligning to our goals and, sometimes, just logistics. Being creative makes me happy. Happy mommy = happy home = happy family. Okay, keep going!Def-4

Why do this? To pursue my love for photography and share it with others. My goal is to express myself as an artist but also communicate what is true. The camera doesn’t lie (Photoshop does if you need it to). I listen and strive to provide what my clients ask for but I take risks and show them angles they might not have considered. I see one thing but do they see it, too? They show me things I did not see at first. I am learning and growing my craft. I am rewarded when images pleasantly surprise me and are better than I imagined.

Why do this? I capture God’s beauty and I capture life as it happens, either outside in open space, at a local event, inside for a party or in a nursery for a newborn shoot. I see people in beautiful light, playing and, most often, happy (even teenagers). I want my clients to enjoy the experience and love the results. I am inspired to capture with my lens the emotions of family interactions, sports and other activities. During shoots, I sometimes remind my clients to look around since they are often with people they love the most. I remind them to pause, take a deep a breath and treasure this moment. I do this too. When we can collectively stop and realize that nothing else matters but these people around us, it is a priceless gift. I am always in the pursuit of capturing this moment with my lens. This is why I do this.Def-5

 

Def-Shirley

 

Shirley lives in Moraga, California, with her husband, three children, mom, and a very old, fat cat. She volunteers whenever she can. In her free time she loves music, reading and, of course, photography! To see more of her work and schedule your photo session, see her website: https://defstopblog.wordpress.com/

What’s Your Dance Party?

I’ve been thinking about “YES!”yes

This word, “create,” requires saying Yes to life, to invitations, to play, and, sometimes worse, to those things that intimidate or downright scare me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for saying “NO!” as necessary. I believe in it. Oh baby, YES, we have to say NO! from time to time. My everyday hero, Jen Hatmaker, says: “People will take as much as you will give them, not because they are terrible humans, but because they only want this one slice of you. Plus, you’re probably good at their pet thing. But they don’t observe the scope of your life and all the other tricks on your beam. You can say no, and no one will die. God wants this freedom for us.” Sometimes we have to say No in order to say Yes to something more important. I’ve been thinking on that a lot lately, too.

But, YesGetting out of our comfort zone to live a full, exuberant, energetic, creative life, that requires Yes answers where No might be our instinct.

i-dare-me-clubI’ve been reading a book, I Dare Me!, about a middle-aged wowza-successful gal who felt stuck. To un-stick herself she created a list, with lots of help, of Firsts she could do every day of the year. She began with one of her biggest fears, swimming in the ocean, and so she took a New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge. I’m not afraid of the ocean, and still, Yikes! Some were way more do-able, like taking a new class at the gym, trying a new recipe and/or restaurant, even going without make-up for a day (and yet, she’s an on-air news anchor, so…). It’s inspirational. I don’t want to do many of the things she did, but I’m asking the big question: What could I do? It’s a Yes to life!

Yes is about letting go of what others think, of what you think, of who you should be or what you should do. It’s embracing the whole range, from silly to ridiculous to meaningful.

Today I said Yes, if only just for a few seconds.

At our moms’ group, a sweet gal shared her story of birthing three babies in rapid succession, and in that time two household moves, of post-partum depression that lasted too long, and from all of that, to Zumba. You read that right, Zumba!zumba-in-the-circuit-logo-2

Previously, I had only ever Zumba’d in the privacy of my own home, not-jiving to a library DVD. I tried a few days in a row, working on steps and rhythm, before I decided I have neither steps nor rhythm (my gals will attest: after a few late-night glasses of wine, I might be convinced otherwise, but we keep that to ourselves).

Zumba was the thing God used to heal this sweet mama. She loves to dance, and so when her youngest began sleeping through the night she first took one class, which led to three, which became a dare from her husband to become an instructor. And so she did! Through Zumba she left depression behind. She grew lighter and brighter and, along with her, so did her family. And today, so did 150 or so women at our church as she led us in a simple, just-for-us routine.

The friend behind me had dressed the part: yoga pants and tennis skirt. Me, not so much. I confessed (uh, she was standing behind me, it wasn’t gonna take long…): “I don’t dance.” Thank God, she replied (surprisingly!) in kind.Andy-Grammer-Keep-Your-Head-Up

The song was Andy Grammer’s “Keep Your Head Up.”

You gotta keep your head up, oh
And you can let your hair down…

Step side-to-side, I got it (sort of). Add hands and body, I began to lose it. I thought, No Way am I gonna shake my tush in this room, with windows to my side, friends and co-workers nearby, What Are We Doing???

Then I looked around. One hundred-plus women shimmied around the room, each with her own size, shape, and style. Our group founder, about five gals in front of me and about as close to 90 as I am to 50, wiggled and giggled with glee. The smile stretching across her face, the obvious joy-filled un-self-consciousness she was experiencing, it moved me.

I remembered to Dare Myself. To Say Yes (also one of the rules of improv – always say “Yes, and…” – which also means you are fully present in the moment, Not Overthinking).

I let go. I shook my hands, my hair, and my rear. It could not have been pretty, but it was free. I reveled in the beauty of the story we’d heard, of how one gal found her way back to herself through dance and movement.

I believe we were made to move, and we all move to a different beat. And I believe we all have a passion, each different from the others, something that brings us to life and energizes those nearby. The dance-mama found her jive in Zumba. Mine is writing – I get bright-eyed and energetic thinking about what I will write next. It’s not all joy; some of it is excruciating hard work, but it’s still worth it. It’s my passion.

What’s yours?