A Good Home

Checking in…

It’s come to this: I’m “checking in”.

First: How are you? I sincerely hope you’re doing well, or at least coping.

Life is a series of challenges, isn’t it? Luckily, there are also blessings. And I’ve found that when I’m thankful, the hard times seem a little less daunting. Though the truth is that some weeks, the blessings and challenges are so close together that I can’t always tell where one ended and the other began.

Today is a snow day – a seriously snowy day, in that it fell and piled up for hours on end and the photos you are seeing were taken this morning. Much respect to people who have to shovel, drive or walk in it – I’m enjoying it from indoors. A big blessing: I can do this from a safe, warm house.

Plus, I know the importance of snow and rain, and even cold temperatures, to our natural environment. So no complaints.

I’m not writing much these days, and I know I should return to it. My excuse is that I decided a few years ago to make my family and health my Big Priority. When I write, I spend hours at the computer (I think slowly, and through my fingertips, so don’t suggest audio recording), and that makes the pain worse – which then hobbles my ability to attend to my Big Priority. Not good.

Too busy to write a regular post, I seem to either visit blogs I follow OR produce a new one of my own. Then I visit with each blog for a while (trying to catch up with that blogger), so by the time I get to them all, months have passed.

Oh, dear. I hope you’ll forgive me for being a slouch, a slacker, a slug and a sloth.

Meanwhile, I’m indulging in gratitude for a healthy family. Good health is not a thing to ever take for granted.

In a few weeks, I will seriously miss the garden – gardening is my hobby and a great way to exercise during the warmer months. But our focus has been on the interior spaces lately. We had some repairs done on our house – long overdue. The contractor and his team did a great job, affordably. We’re so thankful.

Much more has happened, but that’s all the news I have enough time to share right now.

My very best wishes to you,


Top 3 photographs by Hamlin Grange.

A Good Home

Dept of Alternative Facts: Replace

A wise and practical way of looking at one of the fears some White Americans have turned into a conspiracy. Instead of seeing ourselves as being replaced, Oscar argues, we should make sure we are helping to build and pass on the things that help a society to thrive.


replace: (v) to change one object with another similar object

One the the conspiracy theories floating around in recent years is Replacement Theory. The logic, this time around, is that people of color, specifically legal and illegal immigrants to the USA, are part of a plan to replace people of European ancestry. The implication here is not just that the racial/ethnic composition of the USA is changing, but that some organization is orchestrating this.

I would agree that the racial/ethnic composition of the USA has been constantly changing over the past 500 years as various waves of people from different part so Europe and other parts of the world came over, sometimes at our government’s encouragement, sometimes due to people fleeing political, social, and economic situations in their home countries.

Over the past few years, the owners of our local paper have been transferring the leadership of the paper to…

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A Good Home

I Wish You…

I wish you a healthy, safe and joyful Christmas season.

The photo above is of my favourite Christmas flower, the red amaryllis.


A Good Home

How to Give Feedback to Anyone

Now that people are back at work, school, voluntary commitments, I thought I’d post this advice from a few years back:

A team member, working on a project with me years ago, had seen me give feedback to others.  She noticed that I always pointed out ‘the positives’ before getting to what needed improvement, and especially so if the critique took place in a group-setting.

One day, she told me: “If you ever have to give me feedback, just get to the bad stuff first. Please don’t spend a lot of time telling me what’s great: it’s the bad stuff I need to know about.”

So there came a time when I had to identify a few things she needed to improve. I respectfully pointed them out, specifically and without identifying the positives upfront.

It meant I’d compromised my own leadership principles to give her what she’d said she wanted.

But she felt deeply hurt.


Praise matters. Everyone I’ve ever met wants to know what they’ve done well. The fact that you noticed it, the fact that you value it, matters. Praise matters. 

Praise opens up a door for the recipient to hear and absorb your suggestions about weaknesses in their work. This is especially true for work that is very personal or tasks someone has laboured over.

Honest praise matters even more than criticism of weaknesses.  Giving honest, specific praise allows you to reinforce the high standards that you believe the other person is capable of attaining. In some cases, that’s enough.

“I like how you described the setting in this particular paragraph. You used the five senses to great effect. It pulled me into the story and made me feel I was right there, seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling. Do more of that when you describe the other settings in the story.”

Being specific in your critique of someone’s work can point the way to continued improvement, as the above once did for me.

Early in my career, I deleted entire scripts, short stories or scenes of TV shows because someone I respected said: “It doesn’t work”.  It didn’t occur to me back then to ask: “What specifically doesn’t work?”

If someone requests your feedback, ask: What specifically should I look for?” (Is it the storyline, the character development, the way you describe things, use of dialogue — what?)

Criticise the work, not the person.  Most people flinch at receiving ‘negative criticism’.  One way to make that even worse is to criticise the person, when you should be criticising the work. It’s fine to praise a person’s particular skill in a personal way (“I’ve noticed that you’re skilled at writing dialogue,”) but it’s not okay to say “I’ve noticed you’re really bad at dialogue.”

Praise in public, criticise in private. I learned this soon after becoming a leader. Even the strongest personalities can be hurt when their efforts are criticised in front of others.

Agree on Guidelines for Group Critiques. You need to share expectations upfront with your group, and give each other permission. Never take consent for granted, even when everyone says they know what they signed up for.

Critiques should build up, not beat down. It’s not just because “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down”.  It’s because feedback isn’t complete till you have identified both what works and what needs work. When someone receives your critique, s/he should feel equal parts challenged and empowered to make the changes required.