I wrote a mini series earlier this year on our time living in New Jersey.

Left off thinking I might come back to it, but then I wonder, who is really reading this stuff.

I do appreciate all of you that take the time to read and interact. It’s one of the highlights of my day.

But then this morning I was thinking about my most recent interaction with the lady whose roof I wrote about in my last post...Michelle, made a comment about me being direct, and I thought, you know, that is one of the fruits of our time living @ Gilgal.

The importance of addressing issues head on.

Bible calls it “speaking the truth in love.” Not going to go and quote verses for you on it. You’ll have to trust me on this one…but they are there. It’s a part of the Christian life .

There are two parts to that life skill…

Speaking the truth.

Doing it with love.

If either part is missing, you have a problem.

When I say things that may have truth in them, but don’t do it out of love, it’s like someone trying to prune me with butter knife. I’ve had that happen. I don’t like it.

The other extreme, is thinking we love someone, but we’re not honest, that too is a perversion.

Give you an example.

When we moved back to Iowa, I was not the same person I was when I’d left. When we left. I would say I was pretty passive. A doormat. Not only hated conflict but didn’t go there. I would keep quiet if someone tried to manipulate and or intimidate me. Had that type of relationship with one of my uncles. He didn’t know what to do with me when I no longer took it. It’s taken about 25 years, but I think he finally gets it. 🙂

There was also a re-calibration of my relationship with my dad, whom I genuinely respect and love. I’d put up with a level of sarcasm for 40 years, until that one morning (after we returned to Iowa). I’ve mentioned it before.

He called 6:30 one morning to touch bases about a job. In the context of our conversation, he sarcastically said “Don’t you listen to the radio?” (Had to do with me not knowing the weather forecast for the day)

Probably had something to do with me just waking up, but out of my mouth came the words, “I don’t like it when you talk to me like that.”

Dead silence on the phone.

Took both of us by surprise.

I didn’t say it, disrespectfully, but I didn’t pussy foot around either.

I just said it.

It was a watershed point in our relationship. Happened 25 years ago. He has never used that sarcastic tone of voice with me since. Couple of times, it was close, and I found myself push back.

Told my mom about that conversation later that week, and do you know what she said?….

“I’ve been waiting for you to do that.”

So there you go. One of the biggest life lessons I came away from that season of my life living in New Jersey was how to cultivate, authentic, deep, honest, relationships with other imperfect people. And less you think, it only happens in the context of your family..


Works just as powerfully on the job, with your kids, with the guys in the lumberyard, and even in the blog-o-sphere, it can happen.

Do I do it perfectly.


But the quality of my relationships as a whole are on a whole different level than they used to be.

If you’ve read this far, thank you! DM

The Lost Art of Thank You Notes #1

In 1985 we moved our little family to the East Coast so I could pursue my dream of being a marriage and family counselor.  I was 27 years old.  Married with two little girls in tow.  Up until then I had been working full time in construction with my dad and uncle. I came to the realization that if  I didn’t at least give it a whirl I would always wonder.

Pictures of our girls in the back seat of the Dodge Colt pulling a U-haul when we moved to New Jersey.

We ended up living in Northern New Jersey 5 years before deciding to return to Iowa.  The weekend before we were to return , the local church that had taken us under their wing for five years, threw us a farewell party. We’d become family in the truest sense of the word.   As the program wrapped up, one of my friends, John Reilly, asked me to come up front,  to present us with a going away present from the church.  (Keep in mind, on a good Sunday, there were maybe 80 in attendance).  John whispered something about not loosing the envelope!  “There’s something in there to help you get resettled.”  Later when we got to the car, I opened the card and found a check for four thousand dollars.

Blew me out of the water.

Over the next week,  while in the midst of packing, I  jotted off several thank you notes, not thinking much about the act  at the time.

It was the right thing to do.

I was reminded of that check this past Sunday night as I was reading a short entry from the book The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.

It was titled  The Lost Art Of Thank You Notes:

Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.  And despite my love of efficiency, I think that thank-you notes are best done the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper.

     Job interviewers and admissions officers see lots of applicants.  They read tons of resumes from “A” students with many accomplishments.  But they do not see many handwritten thank-you notes.

     If you are a B+ student, your handwritten thank-you note will raise you at least a half-grade in the eyes of the future boss or admissions officer.  You will become an “A” to them.  and because handwritten notes have gotten so rare, they will remember you.

     When I’d give this advice to my students, it was not to make them into calculating schemers, although I know some embraced it on those terms.  My advice was more about helping them recognize that there are respectful, considerate things that can be done in life that will be appreciated by the recipient, and that only good things can result.

   For instance, there was a young lady who applied to get into the E.T.C. ad we were about to turn her down.  She had big dreams; she wanted to be a Disney Imagineer.  Her grades, her exams and her portfolio were good, but not quite good enough, given how selective the ETC can afford to be.  Before we put her into the “no” pile, I decided to page through her file one more time.  As I did, I noticed a handwritten thank-you note had been slipped between the other pages.

    The note hadn’t been sent to me, my co-director Don Marinelli, or any other faculty member.  Instead, she had mailed it to a non-faculty support staffer who had helped her with arrangements when she came to visit.  This staff member held no sway over her application, so this was not a suck-up note.  It was just a few words of thanks to someone who, unbeknownst to her, happened to toss her note into her application folder.  Weeks later I came upon it.

    Having unexpectedly caught her thanking someone just because it was the nice thing to do, I paused to reflect on this.  She had written her note by hand.  I liked that.  “This tells me more, than anything else in her file,” I said to Don.  I read through her material again, I thought about her.  Impressed by her note, I decided she was worth taking a chance on, and Don agreed.

     She came to the ETC, got her masters degree, and is now a Disney Imagineer.

    I’ve told her this story, and now she tells it to others.

    Despite all that is not going on in my life and with my medical care, I still try to handwrite notes when it is important to do so.  It’s just the nice thing to do.  And you never know what magic might happen after it arrives in someone’s mailbox.

Randy Pausch


Those 5 years we lived out East were life changing. It really was a watershed time in my life. I am toying around with  writing a series on that season of our life.  The good and the not so good. If I end up doing so, this will be the first installment. 🙂 DM