What’s On Your Don’t Do List?

So what’s On Your Don’t Do List?

We all have lists and most of the time our lists consist of things we need to do, must do, want to do or wish that we could do. There are apps galore out there to help us create and manage our lists. I’ve got mine, and I’m sure that you have yours, too!  But what about Your Don’t Do List? I’m guessing that you, as I once did, may never have thought about creating such a list. Today’s post, “What’s On Your Don’t Do List?” explores the value of naming, listing and perhaps (Oh no!) dealing with some of the real things that we wish we didn’t do, or, really don’t have to do in the first place.

What if, by creating our own “Don’t Do List” and adding one or more things to it that we would truly like to stop doing, that it helped us to begin whatever kind of change that we seek? Sometimes just committing such things to words, even when it’s hard, or it hurts to do so, is the best place to start.

Certainly this is not a new concept. Yet I was reminded of it by a recent Daily Question at Gratefulness.org. Then I remembered the following story from someone I’ll call “Carrie,” from almost a decade ago. Carrie was a former client, then a former student intern in a children’s support program that I ran for many years. She had just finished her first year of college, a disastrous one at that, when she called and asked me for help:

Carrie’s Story

Carrie arrived at my office out of breath. She came in, sat down and slowly calmed down as we shared what was new since last seeing each other a year ago. Then Carrie reached into her shoulder back and pulled out a clipboard.So What's On Your Don't Do List? Clipboard

“I have a list,” she said. I have started a don’t do list of all of the things that I need to stop doing so I can get my life back under control.” She then rattled off about fifteen things on her list and said, “Can you help me decide where to begin?”

Let’s just say that Carrie’s list contained a rundown of things that first-year college students frequently do that typically lead to poor grades and poor choices. I was struck more by the sheer honesty of what she had written and revealed than I was of the items themselves.

“That’s a huge list!” I said. “It’s too much to tackle all at once.”

We went through each thing on Carrie’s “Don’t do list” and identified which made the most sense to work on first. We started with two easier things on her list to address and decided to meet in a week and see how it went.  Then we tackled two tough ones and one more after that. With each successive thing that she stopped doing she scribbled it out with a red felt tip pen so that it was hard to read what was written before. Soon, the summer ended and Carrie headed back to college.

But Carrie’s idea, her determination and the concept of her “Don’t Do List” stayed with me long after Carrie moved on with her life. I even used it as an exercise in my teen support group for several years thereafter.

And what about us?

What might our own “Don’t Do List” look like? Would there be one, three or a dozen things on our own list too? Can we be totally honest with ourselves, as brutally honest as my former client appeared to be? And I get it that there may well be some things that some of us would like to add to our own “Don’t Do List,” but that they’re too private, to personal, perhaps even too shameful to ever write down using a pen or a keyboard. But if we know what they are we can still list them front and center in the privacy of our own minds, can’t we? That’s a start, at least.What's on your Don't Do List? Decide how to live

As I explored with Carrie years ago, here’s a bullet-list of questions that I offer as a place to begin:

  • Take a day or two to begin creating your own Don’t Do List.
  • What things do I do that are not mine to be doing?
  • What things do others seemingly expect me to do?
  • What consequence comes from stopping this thing?
  • What benefit comes from stopping this thing?
  • What things am I doing that cost me the most?
  • Am I still doing things that my parents expected me to do?
  • Are there things that I do that I know are just wrong?
  • How might I feel after stopping this thing?
  • If I lower the things on my Don’t Do List, what new thing or new joy might soon have room to take root?

Don’t let the following get in your way

I can’t do it. (You can! Click HERE for some inspirational nuggets!)
People will be mad at me. (So.)
Nobody else can do it but me. (Really?)
It needs to be done right so I’ll do it. (More really.)
People will be happy if I do it, so I should. (Are you happy doing it?)
Remember the phrase, “don’t should on yourself!” (It’s a recovery term… they’re experts!)

Final thoughts

Need a bit more encouragement? Consider visiting My Rise Up Quotes section here at Rise This Day, and read Making Sense of Change, a page of quotes devoted to change!

Besides, what do you have to lose? It’s your life and your future! Let me know if I can be supportive in any way with a note in the box below. Remember, I have my list too. We all do. Cheers!

Text and images by K. Lee

Mr. Perry’s Chickens

Thirty years ago we moved into our present suburban home and quickly discovered that we were literally surrounded by four families all bearing the same last name. Three generations in fact.  Mr. Perry Number One, as I think of him, the clan’s eldest member, borders our place to the north and is the focus of my story today called Mr. Perry’s Chickens.

For decades, Mr. Perry was notorious throughout town for the menagerie of ducks, geese and chickens that he meticulously cared for on his property.  Whenever he whistled and talked to then, they’d respond in turn the way farm animals do. The geese would announce the arrival of every visitor who comes calling on Mr. Perry’s side of the hedge. Every now and then one of his exotic breeds of ducks would take off down the runway of his backyard, and, supposedly unable to fly like their wild cousin counterparts, would muster up enough head wind to clear the hedge and go flapping-quacking across our back yard and land with a thud, clearly out of gas, on the far end of our property. As a farmer in my younger years and having worked with many kinds of farm animals the whole enterprise of clucking, quaking, honking and the more than occasional crowing rooster was a symphony that I enjoyed greatly.

Mr. Perry's Chickens
Okay. Bought this one at a craft fair and easy to keep!

Yet it was Mr. Perry’s chickens, by my observation, that he clearly appeared to cherish the most. His days began and ended with feeding his pampered birds and cleaning their coop. Midday, if the weather was conducive, Mr. Perry could be seen sitting beside his garden and with a watchful eye giving his chickens free-range access to his entire backyard. Happy hens could be seen “dusting” themselves in a dry corner of his garden while the smart-Alec rooster was strutting his stuff to and fro. That scene was a steady midday ritual, until that is, when the hawks moved in and made our neighborhood their new home that came complete with a local delicatessen.

Mr. Perry, even while working in his garden just feet away was no match or deterrence for the silent fly-by snatch and go raptors. That luxury, for the chickens that is, soon became too costly. Fortunately, the chickens had a spacious and clean outside enclosure attached to their coop completely surrounded by wire as a safe-guard from any and all predators, with wings or paws, looking for an easy meal.

The realities of advancing age slowly took its toll on the mini-Perry farm next door. Reluctantly, but over time, Mr. Perry reduced his feathered population to just keeping chickens. And then, near his 90th birthday, Mr. Perry decided that the time had come to even let go of his beloved chickens. The coop, once a center of bird-chattering life and commotion, one day, was silent.

On our side of the hedge life rolled on. There were family gatherings to host, grandchildren whacking soft-sided baseballs and shooting “Stomp Rockets” off into the air. Occasionally some of the balls, Frisbees and rockets landed in Mr. Perry’s yard. A day after our family get-togethers Mr. Perry kindly lobbed them back into our yard. Once, one of the stray rockets landed cross-ways on top of the wire enclosure that once sheltered Mr. Perry’s chickens. I couldn’t quite reach it by stretching over the hedge, until the wind blew the Stomp Rocket down into the pen. Leaning over the hedge I had to fish around with my hand to extract the rocket out of the weeds that had quickly grown in where the chickens once clucked and scratched about.

Mr. Perry told me once that he missed “having a reason” to go down to his chicken coop during the day, which he said gave him exercise. But having had the pleasure of seeing this man over the years fuss over and tend to his feathered friends, I knew that what he really missed was more than exercise. I understood. And frankly, it was sad to hear.

When you work with animals and crops on farms there are sounds and smells that become embedded in the heart and memory even after leaving agriculture to pursue new careers. Earlier this spring, near dusk, I was retrieving misplaced playing balls around the hedges and bushes along our property line when I faintly heard what I thought was a familiar sound. I thought it was just me, running “old tapes” in my mind, until I heard the sound again, this time more clearly than before. I stood up and listened again, this time for a sense of direction. As I moved closer to the north side of our property, sure enough, I was hearing the collective little peeps of baby chickens coming from Mr. Perry’s chicken coop! The little shed was silent no more! A few days later Mr. Perry told me that he indeed decided to get more chickens. He said, “Got twelve pullets, two varieties, and one little guy, a rooster. I miss them.” I missed them too.

Mr. Perry's Chickens-2
Chicken coop door.

A week or so later I spotted Mr. Perry, in his 95th year, pushing his walker through his yard in the direction of his hen house. He’d push along, then stop and rest on the walker’s built in seat, and continue on like that until he reached the coop and entered through the squeaky wooden screen door. The little chorus of “peeps” were quickly changing from chirps and off-key clucks as the lone young rooster sounded like an eleven year-old boy uttering sounds in one pitch and ending his sentence in another.

Yesterday, Mr. Perry shouted out a hearty, “Hello neighbor!” with a wave to catch my attention. When I turned to look, he was—and get this— pushing an ancient manual push-mower with one hand and pulling his walker along with the other! He’d do this, mowing a patch of green grass about four-feet, then sit down to rest, and then get up and do it again.

“So what are you doing?,” I asked, as he leaned over to scoop the fresh-cut grass into a bucket.

“Get’n some salad for my chickens, He said. “They need somethin’ green in their diet every day.”

And I thought, he’s 95 years old, pushing a hand mower and feeding his chickens. Of course I am going to have a good day.


Mr. Perry's Chickens
He’s working on it. Give him time.

Text and images by K. Lee. And thank you also for visiting.


A moment of curbside kindness

A somewhat dramatic kindness was extended to me just yesterday. My wife and I labored to get a monstrous air conditioner onto a hand truck and out of our basement and set it on the curb with a sign reading, “free-works great!” As I explained to the first man who stopped by to check it out, it’s just too heavy for my wife and I to heft up into a window anymore, and especially for me with my chronic back pain issues.

a good day to find an air conditioner

The second man who stopped had already backed his hatch-back up within inches of the rare find when I noticed him standing beside the air conditioner and scratching his head. As I walked over to greet him I noticed that he only had one arm and he was clearly trying to figure out how to get the thing up and into the back of his car, and hoping, I supposed, for someone to come along and help him.

I guessed that the man, whose name was Victor, was about ten years younger than me. He was wiry, soft-spoken and determined to get that large heavy unit home and installed in his living room on what was expected to be a very humid and hot summer day.  When I told him that I wasn’t supposed to be lifting heavy things like this and it was the main reason we were giving it away, Victor was clearly disappointed, because, as he told me, it would be nighttime before he could return with his son to pick the thing up. He feared, and I think that he was correct, that the air conditioner would surely be gone if he had to return.

When I told Victor that I could, when necessary, lift things in place but not walk with heavy objects at all, I could tell that he was crafting a plan in his head. It was clear that this was a man who was accustomed to challenges like this regardless of having just one hand and one arm to tackle a task.

I felt like a jerk

Rightly or wrongly, I felt like a jerk. Here I am, all limbs intact, and I can’t even help this guy? If he leaves and returns later, I will either have to get the unit off of the curb and hold it for him until he returns, which would be double the work for me and my wife, or, put a “sold” sign on the air conditioner and hope that someone else wouldn’t come along and take it anyway, especially on such a hot day.

“Wait,” I said. “I have an idea. I can lift up one end and get it to here,” while pointing at the tip of his bumper.  Victor’s face lit up with renewed hopes of getting his find home and installed in his window. Then he paused, his hand on his waist saying, “I don’t want you to hurt yourself, though. Maybe you shouldn’t?”

“I should be fine if I just lift it to here,” I said, determined that I wasn’t going to disappoint my new friend at this point in the process.

One, two, three…

“Okay then,” Victor said. “On three…” I thought that with only one arm, Victor’s lifting power would be less regardless of his rugged physical appearance, so I braced myself for an even heavier lift, just in case. But I was wrong. Very wrong. The moment we both started to lift, Victor grabbed “his half” of the unit halfway to my end and came up with his knee to where his other hand might go if he had one. He had a third of his body, twisting on one leg, under the thing by the time we reached the tip of his trunk. In fact we went right up and over the bumper itself! Victor nudged the unit safely into place and with sweat dripping down the sides of his face, he closed the hatch of his car, turned and shook my hand, saying, “We did it!”

A moment of curbside kindness

In truth there was barely a ‘we’ in the whole operation. Victor, obviously determined to spare me an injury, had a plan all along. By his adroit maneuvering, he had in effect given me far more, an invisible gift and a clear act of kindness. As Victor drove away I thought that, in this situation, it was obvious to me which one of us had the greater limitation.

A moment of curbside kindness

Text by Kevin Lee

Note: This story was inspired by the Daily Question on July 16, 2016 at Gratefulness.org that asked, “what kindnesses have I experienced.”


Balancing acts of stone and patience

My wife and I love rocks. But not just any rocks. They need to have a certain feel to them, a way of speaking without words that stop you in your tracks until you pick them up and consider what is possible.

Balancing acts of stone and patience.  Backyard Carins
More often than not we agree when just the right stone is a keeper. Just how it will find its place on our property and sometimes into a cairn though is a skill that Betty Ann has honed over time and I clearly have not. It’s called patience.

Balancing acts of stone and patience. Backyard Carins-3






And it’s clearly more than patience, too. It requires knowing and feeling out each stone and how it might balance, look and belong where it’s set.

Balancing acts of stone and patience. Backyard Carins-7

I, on the other hand, have far more patience with capturing just the right image with my camera and then editing it down to resemble as close as possible what I see and feel in a stone or a cairn.

Balancing acts of stone and patience. Backyard Carins-8








Did I mention that my wife likes a challenge? See below!

Balancing acts of stone and patience. more cairnsShe does…

Balancing acts of stone and patience. more cairns-2

At least my images don’t succumb to the after effects of birds, grandchildren, garden hoses and one hairy dog that can strike without warning and “poof,” the cairn is gone!

I like to think that my wife’s gentle touch is applied Zen and the guy with the camera provides the evidence of what was. We are a team.

Not cairns, but balancing still

We have a few other stone structures, too. But one we both designed, which is my absolute favorite, with family, friends and use in mind was a cantilevered stone piece, possessing both functionality and a sense of presence all its own. With the guidance, brawn, not to mention machinery needed and skillful artistry of our stone sculptor-landscaper and above all friend Dan Cook, we made it happen. When the right pieces (we’re talking tons here) were all “nestled” into place, four grown men stood on the very end of the horizontal (seat) section, jumped up and down, and nothing at all moved. Then Dan “pinned”the various sections for safety’s sake, as a safe-guard against aging old guys on riding mowers and such.  It was hard work. And it was worth it. But since we were talking about balance, Katie’s form says it better than words:

Balancing acts of stone and patience. how to use a rock sculpture

And the enjoyment and use of this not so little creation continues in summer…

Balancing acts of stone and patience. Stone sculpture and seat

…and into the fall…

Balancing acts of stone and patience. Stone seat in fall

Even in winter…

Balancing acts of stone and patience. Stone seat in winter

But then, as summer returns, the warmth and love of grandchildren adds an energy and beauty all its own…


Supporting children following the mass shootings in Orlando

Supporting children following the mass shootings in Orlando.

I have had the privilege of working with children, teens and their parents for nearly four decades within various programs and agencies. For three decades I was employed in the public sector as a youth advocate providing counseling, support groups and crisis response as needed to children of all ages. As a Quaker and Friends Minister, this same work began before and continues still, providing pastoral care and outreach to people within and beyond my wider faith community.

Personally, it always saddens me to know that I needed to “update” the content of this article with each new tragic event over the years, from Columbine, Virginia Tech,  San Bernardino, to the lingering horrors of Newtown, just to name a few. And now, following the mass murders at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando Florida on Sunday, June 12, our nation is reeling once again.

Following  such tragedies, especially when the sheer magnitude of the crime grips our collective conscience nation-wide, I update and repost what I know about methods of helping young people cope with parents and others who work with youth and offer some approaches to the typical concerns that we all have for our children. Hopefully, what follows below will prove helpful.

Parents:  Honor the emotions and real questions that come from your children, and resist saying or telling them more than they have asked about or what they may need to know or need to hear right now. It’s important to be honest with answers, especially with older elementary aged children, but don’t go overboard. When beginning a conversation, “zipper questions,” such as, “so what do you know,” or, “what have you heard,” and “what are your thoughts” are good places to start.

These days many of us, children and adults alike, silently worry about being caught in a public place when a shooting or mass tragedy takes place. Such thinking, sadly, has become instilled in our collective psyche, awareness and oftentimes fear. Our children feel this too, and at times will talk about it openly. As a parent, if you sense that your child has a heightened awareness and fear of something happening at their school, at a camp or other recreational venue that they frequent, it’s best to offer some assurance as needed. In the event that your child expresses fear of something happening at school, I believe that it is helpful to continue to affirm what we know as a statistical fact, that schools as a whole are safer than many if not every other place, and that your child will be taken care of and kept safe by the adults in their respective schools. To say anything less only instills fear, uncertainty and worry that does not add to their safety or emotional well-being.

Monitor media INTAKE

Monitoring media intake by children after a mass shooting is especially important. Most experts recommend not allowing children to watch any of the video coverage of the tragedy at all, but to choose a good time that works for your family to encourage a quiet discussion about what your kids may know already, and what may be on their minds, etc.

We too, as adults, benefit by apportioning  our own exposure to the endless videos and first-person accounts on TV, on our phones and other devices where social media may be exploding with not only news in real-time, but with personal and politically based reactions that frequently neither adds knowledge nor promotes healing. Doing so, by osmosis can help our children, too. Print media is often a better place to get the facts without the ever-present hype and drama that TV inherently provides.

While young ears are listening, I suggest that now is not the time to engage in outspoken dialog with other adults about the pros, cons and political ramifications of gun control and gun violence, where God was, or wasn’t, our security in other public places and the psychological profiling of “could-be” offenders, all of which is swirling about on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets at this time. There will be plenty of time for those important discussions in the weeks and months ahead minus the understandable raw emotions and frequent speculation of presumed facts we all feel at the moment.

Because of the sheer number of lives lost in Orlando and with the knowledge that so many were young adults, Latino, and members of the LGBTQ community, the carnage has understandably gripped the hearts of people everywhere. It has also traumatized whole communities of people who have socially, politically and racially been discriminated against in the past. Parents of teens should especially check in with their sons and daughters, who verbally say little, but may be hurting inside for themselves or their friends.

It may be helpful for us, as adults and as parents to understand and expect that numbness, sadness, anger and fear will be present within ourselves and even our children. Making meaning of death is never easy, and making sense emotionally of such a horrific act, within our own selves, is nearly impossible. Finding ways to honor the lives and memories of those lost, even if by remaining aware of the funerals and prayer vigils in Orlando and elsewhere, can help, with time, to bring some sense of closure for us as parents and for our children. Everyone will hear about “how it all happened,” but parents can help their children who may be most affected to process too by sitting with them and explaining how theSupporting children following the mass shootings in Orlando .Man holding candle, How Prayer Can Help Orlando community as a whole comes together, grieves together, and honors and remembers the lives lost with funerals and memorial services.

Families connected to a faith community may find solace and comfort in both worship services and by the pastoral care that may be available through clergy and other faith leaders. This is an important resource not to be overlooked, which is available to both parents and children.

One of the challenging variables here is for children and teens riding the school bus to and from school for the first few days following a highly publicized tragedy. It is hard to know and impossible to control what other students might say that your child could overhear. It’s important for parents and after-school care providers to provide time and to listen closely and get a feel for how their child is doing upon arriving home after school.

Supporting Teens Specifically

Here’s what I’ve shared with many teens in the past on the heels of a national tragedy:

  1. Be gentle with yourself, this is hard stuff to make any sense of. Talk with your parents, a counselor in school, a teacher who you know that will listen and help.
  2. When horrible things like this happen, it can make you really sad, angry and sometimes scared too. These are all natural feelings. Journaling and writing poetry helps some teens. Doing artwork helps others. Consider listening to music that you find soothing, that helps you chill, seems to help many teens too.
  3. Be careful online. There are lots of people pushing their causes, their politics and their point of view right now on Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr. Some of these people are angry and many others have their facts wrong, too.
  4. Remember that when we discuss things like death and violence online that some other kids out there likely have lost loved ones too, and all this is really hard for them to handle. If you’re their friend, reach out to them privately and let them know you’re thinking about them. It really helps.
  5. It’s true; nothing can bring these people back. But what you can do is this: To honor the lives of those lost, consider doing something that helps others in your community. There are lots of ways to volunteer and help others, you just have to do it! It can help you to feel better too.
  6. Keep in your head that it’s never okay for anyone to think using guns to commit violence is okay. If you see or hear of anyone, anywhere “talking stupid” do yourself and the world a favor by telling an appropriate adult right away. It’s always import.
  7. Remember, talking with a parent, your parent, is still (usually!) the best thing you can do first. They’re old, they’ve been around for a while and believe it or not, talking with them can help you to deal with all this.

For all of us

In closing, I am reminded of the words of the late Fred Rogers, when asked how he could remain so positive and upbeat about the goodness in other people. He said that when bad things happen in the world, it’s important to remember also all the many good people who show up to help, to rescue, to protect who they can and to help the survivors to heal. That sounds like pretty good advice to me.

Resources to consider:

Below are a few good online resources that parents and others who work with young people might find useful to consider.

Mayo Clinic: Tips for talking with children and teens about mass shootings

American Psychological Association: Helping your children manage stress after a mass shooting.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Talking to children about the shooting.

Text and image by Kevin Lee







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