Terri Roberts told her story from the platform at the small church where I grew up. She told the story of how her son had become a perpetrator. Perpetrator—the word for a man or woman who commits a horrific crime against another person. The crime her son had committed was shooting ten Amish school girls. Five had been killed. Four recovered, but one of the younger ones remains wheelchair bound, unable to speak, and has to be fed through a feeding tube.

Terri’s son, Charlie, turned the gun on himself in the final moments, leaving Terri, her husband, her other three sons, and Charlie’s wife and three small children, left to deal with the rippling effect of his tragic actions.

Terri told us how she and her husband wept, buckets and buckets of tears. I can only imagine how the tears would worsen, as feelings of shame and guilt crept in.

Days after the shooting, the Roberts family gathered for Charlie’s funeral. It was a small turnout, I’m sure, given the circumstances. It’s hard for us, as humans, to understand how anyone would mourn the life of someone cab able of committing such a travesty.

But, as many of you know, if anyone mourns, it’s a mama.

Here’s where the story starts to transcend my understanding.

It was the Amish mamas who mourned with Terri Roberts. Almost half the people in attendance at the funeral were Amish. As the news crews from all over the world gathered, shining a spotlight of shame and pointed fingers on this family, the Amish circled the family to shield them from the media.

The Amish—the people who had lost five daughters at the hand of Terri Robert’s son—the people who had all the right to show up at that funeral with pitchforks and picket signs—showed up and FORGAVE.

And not only did they forgive, they shielded. They protected. Talk about ACTIVE forgiveness. Passive forgiveness would have been sitting at home, saying, “we forgive”, and then silently, or maybe not-so-silently, muttering something about how the media would give them what they deserved, for whatever reason the media wants to cite that they deserve it.

Mercy—not getting what we do deserve—is ACTIVE FORGIVENESS.

I don’t know if I have that in me, friends. I want to have it in me. I want to be like the Amish were to Terri. But I’m flawed and I’m human, and yes those are excuses, but if someone did something to my family—I fear I’d be the one with the pitchfork and the picket sign. Loud and angry. And I’d want to defend my actions in the name of righteous anger.

It’s a tough subject, for sure. What would you do? Can you share any thoughts about how we could all more actively forgive?

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How To Nurture Your Creativity

by Whitney on July 18, 2014

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, restless and unsettled? Have you ever felt called to action, but you’re just not sure in what direction? Have you ever seen injustice, and wished your pointer finger was a magic wand, because you know you’re supposed to do SOMETHING?

I think we all feel this. It’s a feeling I struggle to define, though.

It’s part urge, part drive, part gut instinct and intuition, part love.

It’s a dissatisfaction with the way the present is.

It’s the knowledge that things can be different, and the confidence that different is better.

It’s not arrogant. It’s quiet.
It’s not foolish. It’s careful.
It’s not content, but for the best reasons.

The best way I can think to describe this emotion is simply this: you stumbled on to the seed of an idea. This emotion is creativity, in embryonic form.

The next time you can’t sleep, the next time you want to fight injustice, the next time you feel called, nurture the idea. Find some quiet, journal the feelings, mind-map the bunny trails your mind will take you.

Don’t try to organize, or structure it.
Don’t limit it.
Don’t shrug it off as insomnia, or say you can’t possibly be the one who is supposed to be doing something about it.

Whatever you do, don’t judge it. If you do, you’ve stifled and killed your creativity.

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The One Thing You CAN Get Done Every Day

by Whitney on July 3, 2014

Big progress.
Little progress.
Old progress.
New progress.
Short progress.
Long progress.
High progress.
Low progress.
Bad progress, good progress.
Fat progress, skinny progress.
Pretty progress, ugly progress.
Perfect progress, flawed progress.

It doesn’t matter what kind of progress you’re making. The amazing thing about progress is that it all counts.

What doesn’t count:

Stationary. Standing still. Stagnation. Inaction. Avoidance.

There is never a new view from the stationary position. Stagnant is never going to wake up one day, all of a sudden refreshed and renewed. Inaction will never lead to desired results.

Even if it’s bad progress, it’s progress, as long as we’re learning something and then moving on.

As long as you’re moving, you get the award for making headway, the cheers for keeping on when the keeping-on gets tough, the check mark for progress.

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Welcome, ye who hail from Huffington Post Small Business. I wish I was writing with exuberance, but I’m a little deflated at the moment, I’ll admit. We’re kindred spirits, though, you and I, so I can admit that. Small business owners gotta stick together, right?

I just returned from my monthly “Posse” meeting. It’s a group of small business owners who gather monthly, and in the strictest of confidence, hash out whatever issues we’re battling at the moment. In fact, as one of my colleagues put it this evening: if each brain at that table was worth $5,000 an hour, it would be about $120,000 worth of consulting. Pretty powerful stuff.

Posse meetings are not always easy, though. Sometimes we have to hear things we don’t want to hear. Just last month, I received feedback from someone in the group that I didn’t want to hear. I didn’t respond well. In fact, I could almost feel my fists come to my face, ready to respond in unadulterated defensive fashion.

I know nothing about boxing, or defensive sport of any kind, so that’s probably not a smart move.

It’s also not typically the kind of move I’d make.

I believe that defensive communication breeds defensive communication. Defense escalates the heat, the fight. It makes things worse, not better. No one wins. Lose/lose, as Stephen Covey would have said.

If we don’t learn how to take it, if we don’t train ourselves to respond positively to critique, we’ll never improve. We’ll never grow.

If you’re here from the Huffington Post, you probably realize I’ve committed the worst blogging mistake a company can make–a poorly written blog headline.

But here’s the thing: I don’t want to be a company. I want to be a human. Companies have to be perfect. Humans are allowed to be flawed.

There’s no forgiveness if you’re a company that’s committed a cardinal business sin. It’s harder to apologize when you’re a “we”, and an apology means more when it’s an “I”.

I’m not writing this to make apologies for poorly written headlines. I’m writing this to let you know, that one of the most powerful things you can do on your blog, as a company, is to give it a human voice. Be yourself.

Perfection isn’t attainable. The alternative is wholly fulfilling: trying to be the best version of myself I was created to be.

Now, in the spirit of receiving constructive criticism, I’m off to write a better headline.

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On Motherhood & Storytelling

by Whitney on June 26, 2014

Either I don’t really feel like I have a lot of great stories to tell, or I don’t know how to tell them well.

Figuring that I need to get better at this story thing, if I’m ever going to write a book, last week I picked up a copy of A Million Miles In A Thousand Years by Donald Miller. Great book. In it, Don proposes something quite beyond learning how to write a better story. He challenges: what if we could live a better story?

I finished A Million Miles, enjoying every minute of it, and then decided for my next read to dive back into Love Does. The author of Love Does, Bob Goff, is friends with Don, so I figured another read through Love Does would be inspiring, and maybe it would give me more insight into this whole story concept.

It was, and it did. Halfway through the book, Bob is talking about how he took his kids around the world to meet world leaders. His kids gave each world leader a key, and invited them to come over to their house and hang out sometime. Sitting on an airplane, I put the book down and stared out the airplane window.

Could I do something half as adventurous as that with my kids, I wondered? I felt my nose scrunch up in response to my own proposal. Seriously, Whitney, you wonder if your house smells like diapers the way a high-school quarterback wonders if his arm pits smell. That’s hardly the confidence it’s going to take to invite world dignitaries to dine in your home.

But then I remembered that in A Million Miles, Don says that maybe we should try to live a better story. To me, he’s saying, “If you don’t like where you’re going, you better change directions.”

I have some pretty crazy dreams. I’d like to sail around the world with my kids. I’d like to live in the south of France for a year. I’d like my kids to experience some of the educational systems outside of the US. I’d like to buy a plane ticket to Tokyo, write half of a book on the way over there, have a few espressos at the airport, and get back on a plane and write the last half on the way back, like I once read an executive did to meet his deadline.

I understand story a lot better because of Don. If this was fiction, he would probably say that this would be a good spot in this blog post to include an exciting incident, something that would force me to action, and perhaps, inspire a happy ending.

I’m not sure what inciting incident will propel me forward from here. I got a paper cut this morning, but that’s not exacting working in terms of excitement or motivation.

But in an effort to wrap up this post with a happy ending, I’m delighted to tell you when I walked in the door from the airport last night, my house didn’t smell like diapers.

Baby steps, right?

p.s. If you’re as into books as I am, join me over on GoodReads.

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The Voices of Fear

by Whitney on June 25, 2014

Sometimes he’s annoying and loud, booming out across the room, “Ha-ha! You can’t do this! Remember that you stink at the whole accounting/communication/focus thing?”

To which Courage, and a few good friends, whisper in reply: “Why not you?”

Sometimes Fear is less loud, but still just as tickled. “Hoo-hoo! This’ll be fun! Can’t wait to see what an idiot this is gonna make you look like!”

To which Courage, and a few good friends, declare: “You win when you start trying. Don’t let him defeat you before you’ve even given yourself a chance to step out the door.”

He’s most insulting when he shrugs you off, mid-battle, acting as if he’s already won. Turning his back and walking away, chewing on a piece of straw, without even a glance in your direction, he says to the on-looking crowd: “Move on. Nothing spectacular to see here.”

To which Courage, and a few good friends, respond: “Get up, wipe the mud off your face, and finish.”

Fear knows that finishing itself is spectacular, just because so few people do it.

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How Do You Find Purpose When The Big Picture Seems Bleak?

June 8, 2014

A friend left a comment on one of my Instagram pictures the other day: “I love all the joy I’m seeing in your recent pictures!” I took it as a compliment, and was grateful someone had noticed. Life, lately, has demanded a lot of focus from me. I’m feeling pulled in so many directions, have […]

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Your Best Summer Giveaway

June 2, 2014

Happy Monday Friends! I’m so excited about this giveaway with some of my favorite people! We’ve all teamed up to bring some of our favorite things for summer. One super lucky winner will receive the following items: $500 CASH! 2015 Day Designer by Whitney English Mommy and Me beach towels (The Bishop Towel and The […]

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Choices & New Video!

May 29, 2014

If there’s any one thing I’ve felt in full force this past month, it’s that choosing is HARD. I’ve had more opportunities come my way lately than I know what to do with, and while that’s amazing, and I’m so grateful, I KNOW that I can’t do everything. And choosing to do everything results in […]

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Dear Kiddo, Bubba, and Charley,

April 2, 2014

I just got finished washing the boys hair and trimming it. Today is picture day at school, and if I’m honest, it’s only the second one I’ve remembered. In months past, life has been just that crazy. Also, you both needed haircuts. Badly. And fortunately, I’m getting much better at the haircut thing. One day […]

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The Beautiful Art of Balance Workshop by Shannon Ho

March 16, 2014

Next month, I’m so excited to be participating in Shannon Ho‘s first ever workshop for photographers (and, I’ll go ahead and just invite you: creatives)! I’ve been in on some behind-the-scenes conversations with Shannon about this workshop for a couple of years now. She’s one of the most talented photographers I know, and I’m so […]

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Ellington & Rose

February 22, 2014

Last year, when Kate Baird and I accepted a handful of full branding clients, I was thrilled to see the names of Lynn and Allison, the brains behind Ellington & Rose, land in my inbox. At the time, their business wasn’t actually called Ellington & Rose, so I challenged them to do some digging, and […]

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Why I’m Letting Day Designer® Go

February 22, 2014

First of all, announcement! Day Designer® is officially a registered trademark! Trademarking something is a lengthy process, and it’s never guaranteed that you’ll actually get a trademark when you start the process, so I’m delighted that it’s done! Wahoo! When I started designing the Day Designer®, I knew one thing: that there wasn’t a planner […]

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Not About The Money

February 18, 2014

Last week, at Bliss & Bespoke, Tara Guérard told a story about an entrepreneur and a client. The client had asked an entrepreneur for advice, and the entrepreneur responded by whipping together a solution in ten minutes. Thrilled, the client asked how much she owed the entrepreneur, and the entrepreneur replied: $10,000. Shocked, the client exclaimed, […]

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