July has always been my favorite month — and the fastest to flee.
Today I’m going to try to slow it down just a bit by sending you two volunteers.
The first is this sunflower, which sprang up next to a peony bush in our backyard.
We figure a bird dropped the seed.

Volunteer sunflower. Makes me smile.

The second volunteer? My friend Laurie Buchanan.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 8.11.55 AM

Author, blogger, coach Laurie Buchanan. She makes me smile also.

Laurie has appeared in this blog often, usually in the comment section. I signed up to read her “Tuesdays with Laurie” posts every week. Way back in April, Laurie helped me apply the idea of Beautiful Questions to my theme of Jubilación.

This week Laurie sent me a list of Beautiful Questions she extracted out of our previous conversations and her answers to them.

In other words, she volunteered!

I promise if you read the questions below, and Laurie’s answers, you will have plenty to think about for a long time.


Q: What indelible imprint do you hope to leave in the lives of others?
With tremendous respect for the earth’s natural resources, my goal is to leave the slightest footprint on the planet, while at the same time making a lasting impression on its inhabitants—one that is positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing.
Q: Is the language you have now large enough for your God-given vision?
Yes. My God-given vision is simple: to be a channel of grace. Time has taught me that the best language for the task is oftentimes silence.
Q: What quality of youthfulness matches your stage of life now?
Leveraging the ability to make use of whatever’s available, children are great improvisers. I still bear the aplomb of spontaneity.
Q: Do you keep a journal?
I kept a journal in the past, but discovered that I wrote it with a mind to would-be eyes, and for me that defeated the purpose. Now I keep a gratitude journal, daily writing one extraordinary thing I’m grateful for.
Q: What hopes do you have that the journal will help ease the absence after you are gone?
My “death file” contains sealed envelopes for my husband and son. Each home to a handwritten letter letting them know how they’ve personally enriched my life and what they mean to me.
Q: If you don’t keep one, do you pin your hopes for a legacy on something else?
See previous answer.
Q: What aspects of who I am are being called upon, in what ways through what circles of my life to foster justice?
In my role as transformational life coach, I share the following statement with clients:
I won’t walk in front of you.
I won’t walk behind you.
I won’t carry you.
I will, however, walk beside you.
That said… for those clients who need it, I help them to cultivate and nurture the ability to seek and obtain justice. On the flip side, for those clients who have wronged others, I help them to cultivate and nurture the ability to make amends to the person(s) they have ill-treated.
Q: What are you angry about that no one knows about?
It’s not anger so much as disappointment I feel when I see someone who doesn’t even test the waters of their potential. Of course none of us knows the full back story of other people. None of us has walked a mile in their shoes. And more importantly, it’s none of my business.
Q: What have you been given in life, that awakens deep gratitude in your heart?
Life—quite literally. I’ve walked away from two car accidents where in both instances the early responders said, “No one could have survived this:”
  • One in 1973 when the driver of a car I was in swerved to miss broken glass on the freeway and the vehicle went over the bridge, plunging into the Calapooia River in Oregon.
  • The other in 1993 when a young man on PCP rear-ended the two-seater sports car I was driving. Stopped at a red light, he rear ended me at 60mph. The car crumpled like an accordion, yet I walked away.
Q: How much of a striver are you? Has it changed over time? Caused good? Caused harm? How do you feel about the striver in you now?
In an endeavor to make sure we’re on the same page, I looked up “striver” and discovered it’s someone who: tackles, competes, fights, hassles, scrambles, and/or strains.
I’m not a striver. That’s not to say that I’m not determined. I set goals and utilize my energy to achieve them. But it’s not in a do or die fashion.
Q: What experience(s) have you had in your life that have produced awe?
The two phases of parenting have produced awe in me:
Phase 1 — being completely and totally responsible for the needs of another human being.
Phase 2 — letting go of that responsibility and watching that other human being soar on their own.
Q: What fills you with awe?
Even with a husband who’s a pilot, I’m continually amazed that planes don’t fall out of the sky—that they even get airborne in the first place! When you pause to think about people’s body weight, the weight of their luggage, and the weight of the fuel (let alone the weight of the plane), I’m awestruck!
Q: What gifts have you left the world?
In my own little sphere of influence I’ve left the gifts of laughter, friendship, and a sense of upliftment—that’s not a real word, but I like it.
Coming next fall! Pre-orders available now.

Coming next fall! Pre-orders available now.

I promised you that Laurie would make you think. She volunteered answers so succinct and profound. Her desire to leave a small footprint actually expands her influence. I’m excited for her right now because she is preparing to launch her book into the world next fall. I’ve read it in manuscript form and highly recommend it. In fact, I’m heading to Amazon right now to pre-order my copy at this link.

I’m volunteering to do so.
One volunteer begets another.
You too can benefit from Laurie’s wisdom in any way you choose, beginning with commenting below. Which one of the questions or answers above prompted you to think about your own life? I invite Laurie to join us for more conversation.

Shirley Showalter


  1. Richard Gilbert on July 6, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Laurie’s wisdom fulfilled your promise at the outset, Shirley. I love especially “to be a channel of grace,” since that’s hard for me! My wife modeled it for me this morning when we encountered a man walking an aggressive dog, and she greeted him pleasantly. Like me, he was withholding. Then we met him on our loop again, head on, and he was cheerful. (Me too.) Kathy’s grace opened that channel for humanity to enter, despite a mean dog!

    • Shirley Showalter on July 6, 2016 at 11:07 am

      Thanks for starting the conversation, Richard, and for the example of grace you provide. Your book made me want to know more about your wife Kathy, and this story only confirms that desire. Thanks for sharing your wonderful new essay on why you hate your dog, related to the story above. You were too modest to include a link. So I volunteer to do it for you. 🙂 http://richardgilbert.me/dog-tale-published/

      • Richard Gilbert on July 6, 2016 at 11:12 am

        Thanks, Shirley! As per Kathy, she’s the most interesting character in my book, along with our ewe Freckles and the late, great dog Jack. Thank goodness I had the sense to realize that while I was writing it . . .

    • Laurie Buchanan on July 6, 2016 at 11:16 am

      Richard — I just followed the link that Shirley provided. I love it! And I love the beautiful example in today’s comments on how your wife channeled grace.

      • Richard Gilbert on July 6, 2016 at 11:21 am

        Thank you, Laurie. She helps me out that way. A lot.

  2. Shirley Showalter on July 6, 2016 at 11:17 am

    I agree. 🙂

  3. Joan Z. Rough on July 6, 2016 at 11:45 am

    Wonderful questions and answers! I’m so happy to be friends with both of you and find you both channels of wisdom and grace. It is so great to be a part of a writing community that includes both of you.

    I hope one day to meet in person with you, Laurie, to extend our friendship beyond the internet, as I have with Shirley.

    • Laurie Buchanan on July 6, 2016 at 12:24 pm

      Joan – I wonder if any of the cities on our She Writes Press book tour will coincide? I sure hope so. I’d love to meet you in person, too!

    • Shirley Showalter on July 6, 2016 at 3:05 pm

      Joan, I am just as happy as you are that we found each other, and I know you and Laurie would have so much in common. Maybe you can arrange to do joint events in both of your towns?

  4. Marian Beaman on July 6, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    Yesterday I found this B. D. Shiers statement and here’s the perfect place to share it: “If you want to change the world, start with the next person who comes to you in need.”That’s my daily aspiration in answer to the question What gifts have you left the world?

    I have a godly heritage, a life gift I prize more and more as I grow older.
    Note: I would like a sunflower to volunteer to perch on my kitchen window sill until we sell this house. 🙂

    An uplifting and pensive post, Shirley. And Laurie, “upliftment” has just been coined a word. Ha!

    • Laurie Buchanan on July 6, 2016 at 12:54 pm

      Marian — “If you want to change the world, start with the next person who comes to you in need.” That’s POWERFUL! And a perfect example of channeling grace (the immediate presence of Spirit).

      It’s official, UPLIFTMENT is a word!

      • Shirley Showalter on July 6, 2016 at 3:07 pm

        Marian, you have a talent for finding, recognizing, and then placing a bit of wisdom in a perfect place. Thanks for sharing this one. I have someone in need right now, so you’re words, as usual, have struck home. Thank you.

  5. Merril Smith on July 6, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    My husband and I have a joke about the word “uplifting” because he often says after we leave a sad or depressing movie, “Well, that was uplifting.” 🙂 This post though was uplifting–from the beautiful sunflower all the way through the comments. Yes, I’ll say it gave me a sense of “upliftment,” which should be a word. Laurie has given us much to ponder.
    Marian adds a quotation of something we should strive for. Here’s another to think about from Elie Wiesel. I’m sure you know it: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

    • Laurie Buchanan on July 6, 2016 at 6:12 pm

      Merrill – The upliftment humor you share with your husband made me grin! Thank you, too, for sharing the indifference quote. The world has just lost another great human being.

    • Shirley Showalter on July 7, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      I like your husband’s droll sense of humor, Merril, and his instinct to go light after darkness. Elie Wiesel made the whole world a better place. Let us never forget. And never allow ourselves to be lulled into indifference.

  6. Sharon Lippincott on July 7, 2016 at 9:00 am

    Laurie and that sunflower seem to be cut from the same cloth. Both stand tall and reach for light. Both bring joy to hearts ─ uplift them that is. Perhaps you could say both just are what they are. Yes, lots to think about. Thanks to both Shirley and Laurie for this dialogue.

    • Shirley Showalter on July 7, 2016 at 9:03 am

      I love this, Sharon. So true. I intuited this connection, but you made it explicit. Thank you! Upliftment personified.

    • Laurie Buchanan on July 7, 2016 at 11:22 am

      Sharon — Thank you so much for your beautiful words. You’re responsible for my face-splitting grin this morning.

  7. Carol Bodensteiner on July 7, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Several of these questions prompt me to write: Laurie’s death file letters, striving, and awe. I’ve thought a lot about joy lately because my granddaughters fill me with joy so often. Now I will think about awe, too.

    Laurie, thanks for volunteering your questions and answers. I just pre-ordered your book. Looking forward to gathering more of your insights.

    Shirley, you are a volunteer at the highest and best levels. Just as you were yesterday when we talked and you volunteered such remarkable and useful insights into my WIP and how to market it. I am grateful every time we talk. Thank you for being you and volunteering to share you with me.

    • Laurie Buchanan on July 7, 2016 at 12:09 pm

      Carol — I don’t have any grandchildren—yet!—but the type of joy that fills that particular well has got to be incredible to experience! Thank you for pre-ordering Note to Self.

      Our voices are in perfect harmony regarding Shirley: “a volunteer at the highest and best levels.”

    • Shirley Showalter on July 7, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      Thanks, Carol. I enjoy batting ideas around with you and am always delighted if a few of them go over the net.

      What a wonderful grandmother you are. We share that joy among others.

      Good for you for pre-ordering (volunteering!) Laurie’s book. I know that’s a great gift for any author.

  8. Sherrey Meyer on July 7, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Shirley, you indeed kept your promise! Laurie and the sunflower both made me smile, and it was a good way to start my day.

    Laurie, your statements regarding your role as a transformative coach mirror those I took as a mentor years ago. I remember them in any relationship where I find myself supporting or encouraging another. Thanks for your beautiful life of sharing and volunteering.

    Shirley, thank you for sharing with all of us the gifts given to you!

    • Shirley Showalter on July 7, 2016 at 2:20 pm

      It’s such a pleasure to share, Sherrey. And I agree with you on the wisdom in Laurie’s coaching philosophy. What a great guide she is in print. In person, she’s even better!

  9. Laurie Buchanan on July 7, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Sherrey — Thank you for your kind words. As a reader who follows your blog, I can say with certainty that you personify “upliftment.”

  10. Monthly Memo - July 2016 - She Writes Press on July 7, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    […] Buchanan, author of Note To Self, was featured on Shirley Hershey Showalter’s blog with a […]

  11. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on July 7, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    Laurie, I especially enjoy the question and your answers about awe.

    I felt awe last night as my plane landed in Dallas, and out my window I saw the new moon.

    I was returning, by way of Dallas, to my California Bay Area home, after a week with siblings on the family farm in Illinois. I am in awe about how connected I still feel with my childhood family and farm, even though I live far away. I feel re-balanced, after being there.

    Thank you Shirley for this conversation and the chance to tell about my awe.

    • Shirley Showalter on July 8, 2016 at 7:08 am

      You say something profound, Dolores, about the capacity for awe. It comes from a place of rootedness and connection and allows us to feel our communion with everything and everyone else. I’m so glad you can return to home base and that you are aware of how that original blessing gives you gifts of curiosity and wonder. Thanks for sharing with us.

    • Laurie Buchanan on July 8, 2016 at 11:27 am

      Dolores — Seeing the new moon from a plane window had to be awe inspiring!

      What part of Illinois is your family in? We relocated to Boise, Idaho two years ago from Crystal Lake, Illinois (about an hour north from Chicago). It’s wonderful that had the opportunity to spend a week with your siblings. In April I spent three weeks with my sister in Europe. Like you, I came away re-balanced and connected.

      • Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on July 8, 2016 at 8:47 pm

        Hi again Laurie, I was visiting the family farm in northwest Illinois, near the Mississippi River. No freeways are nearby, which also feels awesome, since I live near so many freeways in California.

  12. Laurie Buchanan on July 9, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    Dolores — Your family farm sounds like a slice of heaven!

  13. Janet Givens on July 9, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    Hello Laurie and Shirley,

    What a treat this post has been. I’m a fan of questions that cause me to think, to broaden my insight, to expand my awareness. And your list of questions, Laurie, certainly got me there. I have three points to make.

    First. The questions that kept popping back at me were the two on awe. Awe has long been a religious experience for me. If there were a “united church of awe,” I’d surely attend. First, I loved how you bookended in awe the raising of our children. Certainly that first cry of the newborn is one that has filled me with awe on many occasions, but to rethink how I felt when I knew my children were launched, that is a gift. So, thank you for that.

    Second, I take awe seriously, as I said. Yet, when I tried to remember the last time I was “filled with awe,” I had to go back quite far. I am surrounded here in Vermont with majestic green mountains that once made me gasp at their beauty. Yet, over the years I’ve come to take them for granted. Like fireflies.

    In the summer of 2008, one of my former Kazakh students, Raikhan, visited me here. One night we went outside after dark and she got her first look at fireflies. Her awe-filled reaction has never left me. She thought it magical. And it was; I saw them anew through her eyes.

    And so your question has let me take a fresh look at so much that is around me that I have come to take for granted. How very lucky I am to live in such a beautiful part of the world, to have enough money to take care of my needs, to have had an education that allows me to question, and — most unfortunately — to have the “right” color skin in a world that seems to be turning inside out.

    This journey you have set me on has given me a new direction. And I am filled with gratitude. And awe at how these things work. At the power of good ideas scattered on fertile minds.

    And finally, it’s too bad awesome is so close linguistically to awful. Any idea how that happened?

    • Laurie Buchanan on July 9, 2016 at 3:52 pm

      Janet –

      I’m a fan of thought provoking questions, too. The ones I answered here come directly from the “wisdom questions” posted by Shirley’s readers in response to her April 13 post. Like you, they gave me tremendous pause to reflect.

      I love that your former Kazakh student had the opportunity to see fireflies and her response rekindled their magic for you.

      We often encounter long-time residents in Boise who at first blush seem “blind” to the amazing surroundings. When Len and I — “newbies” — remark on this or that, all of a sudden it dawns on them, that they really DO live in an incredible (awesome!) part of the country. Sometimes it just takes seeing it through someone else’s eyes.

      Your awesome/awful question is excellent! Hence, I did a bit of online research. Here’s what I found:

      Originally, awful had the meaning of being awe-inspiring (including positive connotations), as well as “worthy of, or commanding, profound respect or reverential fear.” It was not a far stretch to then use it also to mean “Causing dread; terrible, dreadful, appalling.” The earliest records of these uses date back to at least 1000 AD. Between 1000 and 1800, the word evolved to the current meaning: “Frightful, very ugly, monstrous; and hence as a mere intensive deriving its sense from the context = Exceedingly bad, great, long, etc.”

      Awesome came around much later than awful. It is first recorded in 1598, after awful had been around hundreds of years. Perhaps the need for this word arose because awful had already taken on such a strong negative connotation by this time. So awesome stepped in to again have the meaning of “awe-inspiring”, but without the strong negative connotations. Ultimately, in the mid-1900s, the word awesome went from awe-inspiring to its more common use today: “amazing, great, etc.”

    • Shirley Showalter on July 11, 2016 at 12:06 pm

      Janet, your thoughtful response has set me on my own revery. And Laurie’s research on the different histories of the words awful and awesome contributed a lot to my thoughts this morning also.

      Last week we witnessed reports of awful violence. So much pain and anguish. Yesterday in church our minister named all the people who have been killed recently and all the places that are reeling from the impact. I felt tears roll down my face. How much more must the loved ones be feeling? We need some awesome justice. I want to do my part of make a difference.

      In Shenandoah National Park this weekend, I found a four-leaf clover, my first ever. I felt awe as I examined it against the backdrop of the enormous, verdant valley below. Our beautiful country must find a way to share the joys and benefits of life, beauty, and wisdom. “With liberty and justice for all.”

      Thanks again for this comment, Janet.

      I too

  14. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on July 10, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    I like Laurie’s questions. They are helpful in many ways. Just recently I came across a quote from Mother Teresa, and I’d like to share it with you, just for the sake of perspective when we look at what we have done and what legacy we hope to leave: “It is not how much we are doing, but how much love, how much honesty, how much faith is put into doing it. It makes no difference what we are doing. What you are doing, I cannot do. Only sometimes we forget and spend more time looking at somebody else and wishing that we were doing something else. We waste our time thinking of tomorrow, and today we let the day pass, and yesterday is gone.”

    • Laurie Buchanan on July 10, 2016 at 10:13 pm

      Elfrieda – The quote you shared here is especially dear to my heart as my heroes include: the the Dalai Lama, Viktor Frankl, Gandhi, Jesus of Nazareth, and of course, Mother Teresa. Thank you for stopping by and sharing one of her quotes.

      • Shirley Showalter on July 11, 2016 at 12:12 pm

        Thanks, Elfrieda, for sharing these thoughts from Mother Teresa. They hit me at a time when I have been searching for something to do in light of the tragic violence here in the U. S. I wonder what she meant by “it makes no difference what you are doing.” I know that being is stronger than doing, but I think “small actions with great love” are needed right now. Have any thoughts about this?

  15. Elaine Mansfield on July 13, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Thank you, Shirley and Laurie. Yes, “succinct and profound.” I was most struck with this answer:
    “Q: What experience(s) have you had in your life that have produced awe?
    The two phases of parenting have produced awe in me:
    Phase 1 — being completely and totally responsible for the needs of another human being.
    Phase 2 — letting go of that responsibility and watching that other human being soar on their own.
    The focused self-less work of the Feminine Within devoted to nurturing without attached strings and expectations.”
    I’m inspired. And off to write…

    • Shirley Showalter on July 13, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      The best compliment you can pay to a writer is that her words have inspired you to write. I know Laurie will be delighted.

      We have all shared this experience of great awe and continue to feel the power of the Feminine Within as we nurture our elders and as we prepare to become the ones nurtured.

      I wish a squirrel had dropped the seeds to one of those Shirley Poppies in my back yard! Thanks for sharing pictures of yours.

    • Laurie Buchanan on July 13, 2016 at 2:45 pm

      Elaine — You and I are in good “Feminine Within” company, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Shirley and her readers/responders. Thank you for throwing your hat into the ring today. As Shirley said, I’m tickled pink that you’re inspired!

  16. Elaine Mansfield on July 13, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    I forgot to add how grateful I am for “volunteer” anything, especially sunflowers and Shirley Poppies. At my house, squirrels and chipmunks plant sunflower seeds from the bird feeder everywhere. Thanks again.

    • Shirley Showalter on July 15, 2016 at 12:05 pm


  17. marylin warner on July 15, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Excellent post, Shirley and Laurie. I just finished reading Judy Blume’s IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT, about the plane crashes in Elizabeth, NJ, while she was growing up. This post’s conversation between you two is wonderful.

    • Laurie Buchanan on July 15, 2016 at 11:33 am

      Marylin — I’m so glad you dropped by. I haven’t thought of Judy Blume in so long, but your comment today has prompted me to swing by the library this afternoon to see if IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT is currently available.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. Thank you!

    • Shirley Showalter on July 15, 2016 at 12:09 pm

      Thanks, Marylin, for this excellent suggestion. NOTE how Laurie VOLUNTEERS to go find the book right away? That’s Laurie for you. I was just looking at all the books I’m starting to pack to take to my fellowship semester in Collegeville, MN, and lamenting how unlikely it is that I can read all of them. So I’ll pass on one more for now, but I’m glad you and Laurie will have one more way to understand wisdom through this book. “The world is so full of a number of things. . . .”

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