Planning What You’ll Ask When You Meet Someone Famous

My bucket list includes meeting a handful of people I admire – comedians, authors, actors. And my goal in meeting them isn’t just to stand in a line for their autograph. I’d like to get even a few seconds to have a real conversation with them. Except given the chance, I don’t know what I’d say or ask. Which, I’m learning, needs to change. Because having a specific question could be the key to that meaningful conversation (and might intrMeetFamousoduce a surprising connection between you and that person). That’s what happened for a writer friend of mine, Sara Marchessault.

Before I share Sara’s story with you, you must know this about her: she is an avid journal-keeper. And not just someone who writes in a journal every day, but
an intentional, creative journal writer who uses her skill and interest in journaling to help other people every day. Check out her website to learn more about Sara. Sign up for her newsletter for periodic journaling prompts sent to your inbox. Most of all: pick up a copy of her book, Beyond Pen & Paper: 33 Experiments in Journaling.

Now, here’s Sara’s bucket list story of how meeting someone famous intersected with her life’s passion:

Do you have a list in your head, or maybe written down somewhere, of people you would really like to meet?

When I was a kid I really wanted to meet Pope John Paul II. I think seeing his photo in catechism every week made me want to see what he would be like in person.

I have since modified my list to people who are much more accessible than the Pope. Elizabeth Gilbert is on my list. So is Ann Patchett.SaraMLizG

In April 2015 I met Ann Patchett, right here in Tallahassee at the Word of South Festival.

And [in April 2016] I got to meet Elizabeth Gilbert. There we are in the photo [to the right].

I was giddy like a middle schooler in the 90s about to meet NKOTB.

She was in town as part of Opening Nights and when I was invited to the meet and greet reception before the event (thanks to my oldest friend, Betsy) I knew I was going to get to ask her the question I really wanted to ask.

It was great. There were maybe 25 people there and it was easy to get a few minutes to talk with her. And my burning question was….

Where did you get the idea for Tomorrow Morning’s name?

Tomorrow Morning is a character in her book The Signature of All Things.

And guess where she found his name?

In an old journal.

Let me say that again….in an old journal!

How freaking cool is that?

Here is a real life example of what can happen when one person engages in a regular practice of keeping a record of life. What was probably at least a hundred years later, inspiration is found in the pages and a voice from the past is heard anew.

She found the name in a journal. It was a name that a teacher had given to a boy who appeared at the school, wanting to learn. And she, Elizabeth Gilbert, loved it and wanted it to be in her book.

As Elizabeth Gilbert shared later that evening, “life meeting life.” But instead of face-to-face, it was through pages composed long ago.

You just never know what will happen with your writing.

What I do know is that the practice of actually writing is sacred.

It’s also therapeutic, healing, clarifying, and can guide you to find the meaning and purpose in your daily actions.

It can ground you to your life experience and help you be the leader in your life.

It can even become your legacy.

Beyond-Pen-Paper_ebook_2-188x300Sara Marchessault is a coach, writer, and mom who is on a mission to increase joy on the planet. Through the practice of self-reflection, we become aware of what brings us joy and what does not, and we make choices to move forward or stand still. Journal writing is a powerful reflection tool that can help any of us move forward, even in the darkest of times.

In the comments tell us, who have you always wanted to meet and what do you plan to ask them when you do?

Family Bucket List Wall

Over the past year I’ve been working on my family’s bucket list wall – a pictorial commemoration of the goals we’ve reached and the fun we’ve had living out our bucket list dreams. Here’s the result:

Whole Wall

I collected these collage frames over time. I knew I wanted to be able to highlight the different types of bucket list adventures we have had – things we’ve done, places we’ve seen, people we’ve met, and the people we’ve become/roles we’ve fulfilled.

Aspire FrameSo my first collage contains pursuits that family members have aspired to: such as breaking the school track record for the 100-meter dash (Bethany), and learning archery (Evelyn).

Explore FrameNaturally our bucket list contains destinations that we want to explore. I’m hoping one day to expand this to its own wall, along with a pinned map showing places we have gone.

The more altruistic pursuits I gathered into a frame that I labeled “become.” It showcases volunteer experiences, and roles we have worked (or are working) to attain, such as my husband’s position as a leader in the disc golf community in our state and my daughter Katherine’s desire to become a pilot and the various flights she’s taken on that journey.IMG_5928

Meet FrameAs an avid reader (and writer) I keep a separate journal/scrapbook containing photos of me with the authors I have the privilege of meeting, but I’m not the only one in our family to rub elbows with people I admiral, so those shots go in their own frame.

And the wall just had to have another frame to balance things out. Plus I could tell we would fill up all the slots pretty quickly with only four collections. So I added a fifth frame of dreams fulfilled.Dreams Frame

You’ll notice that I didn’t hurry to fill the frames. I added scrapbook paper to empty openings, but ultimately the goal is to add in new photos as we check off different experiences. Not every bucket list experience of ours ends up on the wall. Our first time kayaking I didn’t dare take a camera on the water, so we don’t have a record of that. Other times we are all absorbed enjoying the experience and forget to take a picture (or don’t want to break the spell by snapping a shot).

Adventures SignFinally, I felt like I wanted to express the overall theme of our collections in words. Wood and metal signs saying “Family” are everywhere. But “Adventures”? Not so much. I ended up creating my own sign to finish the wall off.

I’m pleased with how it turned out. It’s an attractive reminder of the adventures we have shared. I love that behind each picture is a story – of perseverance, beauty, compassion, and dreams come true. And I look forward to filling them up with more memories.

How do you document the adventures your family takes? Do you keep a journal? Blog your thoughts? Create photo books? I would love to hear your favorite method for commemorating your family’s bucket list pursuits.

Talk About It: Post-Adventure Family Conversations

What kind of conversations do you have with your kids after you’ve reached a bucket list goal? What does your “debriefing” look like?
Chez Kent 411bOver Spring Break our family took a few bucket list adventures. Our eldest daughter spent three weeks on a school-sponsored exchange trip to Spain. The rest of us visited the LEGO Discovery Center for the first time. And I worked on a big project preparing for my next bucket list goal.

As much we enjoyed those adventures, we found the conversations we shared afterwards equally important. We heard stories about the differences between Chicago and the Spanish city of Santiago de Compastela. We talked about why we all agreed that it the LEGO trip would have been better for younger kids. And my family gave me feedback on my progress with my project.  We had these conversations not just for the fun of swapping stories (which is a huge part of it), but also because we’ve learned that processing our experiences helps us to appreciate, and deepen, the value of them.

When it comes to bucket list goals in your family, I hope you take the time to talk about them when you have accomplished them. Here are some ways to make the most of your family’s post-adventure chats:

  • Celebrate. Talk about how fortunate you were to be able to accomplish this particular goal. Ask your kids what made it the most memorable for them.
  • Reflect. Encourage your family to think about their individual roles in the experience. What did they do that worked well? What would they have done differently? What would they suggest to someone else approaching the same experience for the first time?
  • Applaud. Have family members exchange words of appreciation and affirmation. If it was a shared experience, ask each one to observe something positive they witnessed about another family member. As parents, share your positive observations.
  • Extract. Point your children toward the growth aspects of the experience. Where did they exhibit new skills or build on character traits? Ask everyone to talk about what they felt they gained from the adventure.
  • Commemorate. Discussing the adventure offers the perfect opportunity to seek your family’s input on how they want to mark the experience. Will you be putting together a photo collage? Or do you plan to display a souvenir? How might your family help you with these projects? Do they have ideas on how to observe or remember reaching that goal?

You may be surprised about what you learn from your kids during these conversations. Their perspective can be refreshing, and allowing them to process for themselves will internalize those experiences in significant ways.

Remember, it’s never too late to chat about the adventures you’ve taken. Make it the topic of your next family dinner and see where it leads!

Photo credit: Chez Kent 411b by Nathan LeClair on Flickr via CC License.

All In

This month I’m making a leap. I’m stepping off the edge. I’m diving into a new venture (or adventure). This month also marks the start of a year in which I’ve decided I’m going to stop holding back.

I want to be all in.

The new venture is a series for parents at my church. When discussing the possibility with the church staff member supporting me, I told her I’d spearhead the series, but that it felt like stepping off a high dive. A very high dive. And I just hoped that the pool would be filled with water.

She laughed and we continued on with the discussion. But the image of a high dive has remained in my mind.

And I think it fits. Because come tonight  at 6:30pm when I launch the series with a talk I’m giving on being parents who keep our word, I’ll be stepping off the diving platform. And we all know that going off a high dive doesn’t have a part-way option. Either we jump off and get completely wet, or we back down that ladder and give up the jump. Going off a high dive is an all-in-or-nothing move.

But the image of an empty pool also has haunted me. The image of being all in for a catastrophic outcome wants to push me back down the diving board ladder. Until three nights ago.

I’ve been preparing to share a talk on the importance and power of creating a parenting manifesto – a concept I felt was pretty original (not the manifesto part, but one particular to parenting). And I’m thrilled with the potential of the idea for creating a positive ripple in the lives of parents and so I’m excited to share about it. I’ve just been hoping someone will show up to hear me and be even half as excited about the idea as I am.

Remember how I said that my goal for the year is to stop holding back? Well, I came across a book that echoes that theme, a book called Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown. And so in my downtime the past week, when I’m not working or preparing for the upcoming talk, I’ve been devouring this book. I’ve also been doing what I love to do when I have a printed text in my hands – I’ve been skimming ahead. And Friday night I came across something that told me the pool I’ll be jumping into on Monday will be filled with water. I came across this: The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto.

I cannot explain it entirely, except to say that I know I am going to jump off that high dive come Monday. And I may flail wildly on the way down.  I may belly flop hugely into that pool. And I may ache and cough and sputter. But I’ll be all wet. Because I’m all in for this new venture. And I know that the pool will be full.

For now, that’s all that matters.

When was the last time you stopped holding back and walked up the ladder to the top, pinched your nose, and jumped off one of life’s high dives?

Photo credit: “high spirits, closer” by popofatticus on Flickr made available under CC license

Celebrating a New Book

I’m so excited for my friend, Sharla Fritz. I’ve had the privilege of seeing her new book, Bless These Lips, come together chapter by chapter in our local writer’s group. This week she’s been celebrating the launch of the book (with a fun giveaway – check out the details below) and today is my turn to host her here. But before we talk to Sharla, I want to tell you why I think you should read her book:

Bless These Lips

New from Concordia Press, Bless These Lips

Do you ever say something and then wish you could take it back? Or maybe you don’t realize what you’re saying or how it’s being taken until later – and then it’s too late. Do you wish you could think of an encouraging thing to say more often? That’s where Sharla’s book can help. She gently offers instruction – from her life and from the Bible – on how to have a winning way with your words. I’ll let Sharla tell you more, but from my perspective, Bless These Lips is a great daily tool for getting a better handle on what comes out of your mouth.

To win a great prize package leave a comment at the main launch host site: (you can leave a comment here too, it just won’t be entered for the prize).

The prize package includes:

  • a signed copy of Bless These Lips
  • a pretty cosmetic bag with lip balm, lip liner, and lipstick
  • a handmade bookmark
  • a $15 Amazon gift card
  • a framed print of a quote from the book “God has given you a unique mission to speak His words of love and grace to a lost and discouraged world.”

Let’s talk to Sharla and learn more about her and her new book:

1)      Why did God prompt you to write this book?

I began writing Bless These Lips because I was the one who needed a Mouth Makeover! I always seemed to be putting my foot in my mouth and I was tired of the steady diet of sock lint and shoe leather. I wanted my words to be the kind that built other people up, but instead I often used ones that tore them down.

So I studied what the Bible had to say about our words and read other books about interpersonal communication. I learned so much and decided to share how each of us can make a difference in our worlds through what we say.

2)      In your own words, what is a “mouth makeover?”

A mouth makeover could be a visit to the cosmetics counter where you walk away with multiple layers of lip liner, lipstick, and lip gloss. You’ll look fabulous for awhile, but that mouth makeover only lasts until your next cup of coffee.

A true mouth makeover is a transformation of your speech. This Mouth Makeover begins with God’s grace and forgiveness as He scrubs off the guilt of our harmful words. The makeover continues with the use of the Lip Balm of Encouragement, the Lip Liner of Truth, and the Lip Gloss of Thankfulness. This type of mouth makeover can last eternally as God enables us to use our words to share His grace.

3)      I think everyone can relate to struggling with what come out of their mouths. How could doing this study help?

How true! As women we love to talk—and so our mouths often get us into trouble! Ann Landers has a great quote, “The trouble with talking too fast is that you may something you haven’t thought of yet.”

Recognizing our love of words, this study approaches the topic with a sense of humor and combines it with fun lip product analogies. First you’ll assess whether you’ve been wearing the shades of Motormouth Mocha or Foot-in-Mouth Fuchsia too often. As you go through the study you’ll learn to wear the Shade of Grace and the Lip Sealer of Discretion more consistently.

4)      Who will take the most away from this book?

I think anyone who wants to have more control over her words and anyone who wants to make a difference in her world would benefit from this book.

Often we think we need to do something monumental to change our world. But while I was pursuing my own Mouth Makeover, God showed me that I can make a difference by simply noticing hurting people in my life and offering words of kindness and encouragement. We can all change the lives we touch every day by simply providing a caring word or a listening ear.

5)      What one thing should potential readers know about this book?

The most important message I would like readers to take away from this book is: God has given each of us a unique mission to speak His words of love and grace to a lost and discouraged world.

We may sometimes question the purpose of our lives, but God has placed each one of us in a strategic place in time and space to be able to use our words to bring others closer to Him. When I keep that in mind, it changes my heart and what comes out of my mouth.

6)      Tell everyone a little more about yourself.

I’m a Christian speaker and author who loves to communicate the truth of God’s transforming grace. My first book Divine Design leads women to a spiritual makeover.

Sharla Fritz

My friend, author Sharla Fritz

I live in the Chicago suburbs with my amazing, amusing husband. Together we shared the adventure of homeschooling for 15 years with our two children. They are all grown up now and live an average of 3500 miles away. Our son lives nearby, but our daughter and her husband live in China (and they had the audacity to take our grandchildren with them!)

In my other life I am a church musician and piano teacher. I love traveling (especially to China!), going out to lunch with friends, and reading. If I’m not sitting at the piano or my computer you might find me at the thrift store stalking fabulous fashion finds.

6)      Anything else you’d like to share about this book?

This book shares stories of my own struggles with my mouth, but it is also an in-depth Bible study. When I began my quest for a Mouth Makeover I was amazed at how much God had to say on the subject. In the book of Proverbs alone there are 108 verses on our lips, mouths, and tongues! God thinks our words are important.

Bless These Lips

Oops. A mouth mishap. The words just slipped out, and there is no taking them back.
Words are powerful. They can build up or tear down. They can affirm and teach or criticize and condemn.

By God’s grace, a mouth makeover can improve our relationships and affect our attitude toward life. Our words can enrich our connection to God as we spend more time in prayer and praise. Most important, God desires that we use the gift of speech to give Him praise, encourage others, and verbalize our faith in Christ as Lord and Savior.

Bless These Lips: 40 Days of Spiritual Renewal examines things we say that get in the way of our relationships with God and with others. Each chapter draws on lip product analogies and uses humor, anecdotes, and observations to introduce Scripture passages that address common behaviors and attitudes. And each day’s reading includes Bible study questions and suggestions for personal reflection.

Bless These Lips is divided into eight weeks of study with each week having five days of readings and Bible study questions. It can be used for individual study, but would be even more fun to do with a group of gabby girlfriends!

7)      Tell everyone a little more about yourself.

I’m a Christian speaker and author who loves to communicate the truth of God’s transforming grace. My first book Divine Design leads women to a spiritual makeover.

I live in the Chicago suburbs with my amazing, amusing husband. Together we shared the adventure of homeschooling for 15 years with our two children. They are all grown up now and live an average of 3500 miles away. Our son lives nearby, but our daughter and her husband live in China (and they had the audacity to take our grandchildren with them!)

In my other life I am a church musician and piano teacher. I love traveling (especially to China!), going out to lunch with friends, and reading. If I’m not sitting at the piano or my computer you might find me at the thrift store stalking fabulous fashion finds.

You can connect with Sharla at:




Remember to go leave a comment at to be entered in the giveaway.