Byron's Babbles

Our Wandering Minds

Our imaginations allow us to be in multiple places at once, even if it’s just in our minds. So true! And, my mind has been transported to so many new and excited places because of the books I’ve been reading the past couple of weeks. This post is another one of several these past few days inspired by Patti Callahan Henry. Here, in the month of April, I have read three of this best-selling author’s books:

1. The Favorite Daughter

2. Becoming Mrs. Lewis

3. Once Upon A Wardrobe

The latter two were written out of Patti Callahan Henry’s love of C.S. Lewis‘ writings. Her work is incredible! Patti has the ability transport us to the setting of the story. I am not just reading the story, I am there. I always come away inspired by her work and in a state of reflection about what I’ve learned. In fact, I just started reading Lewis’ fantasy novel, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, which was the through line of Once Upon A Wardrobe. I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe years ago, as a youngster, but I am reading it now in a totally new and exciting frame of mind. C.S. Lewis would be proud I am now old enough to read fairy tales again.

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” ~ C.S. Lewis

In Once Upon A Wardrobe, Padraig Cavender told Megs and George Devonshire that, “We are never just in one place at one time. Because of our imaginations we are in many places at any given time.” Meaning that our imagination allows us to be mentally present in many different places and situations at the same time, even though we are physically only in one place. Our minds can wander and imagine different scenarios, which helps us to be more creative and innovative in problem-solving and decision-making. Can you think of a time when you used your imagination to problem-solve or make decisions?


Imagining Narnia

Have you ever had an experience where your imagination helped you understand or appreciate something in a way that reason could could not? Megs and George Devonshire did in, Once Upon A Wardrobe, by Patti Callahan Henry. George wanted Megs to get C.S. Lewis to answer the question, “Where did Narnia come from?” George’s question refers to Lewis’ fantasy novel, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. In one of Megs’ visits to The Kilns it was stated that, “Reason is how we get to the truth, but imagination is how we find meaning.” This phrase in the book suggests that reason is a useful tool for discovering the truth, but imagination is essential for finding deeper meaning and significance in our experiences. George reminded us in this great historical fiction work of Patti’s that Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Imagination can truly take us beyond what we know, or think we know, and help us see the wider world.

Mere facts and information may not be enough to fully understand and appreciate the world around us; we need to use our creative and imaginative faculties to uncover the more profound truths and connections that often lie beneath the surface. I love how Once Upon A Wardrobe and all of Patti Callahan Henry’s great historical fiction works models this so perfectly for us. She takes historical facts which always seem to have gaps or facts that are not known and she uses her extensive research to guide her imagination to making sense out of all of it. We always need to remember that our imagination can help us find meaning.

Every Human Interaction Is Eternally Important

Hamilton Heights (Indiana) Teacher Leader Academy participants making leadership parfaits

I have spent this entire week working in schools with teacher leadership academies or facilitating strategic planning. Spending time with everyone in a school setting is incredible. I absolutely love the interactions I have now in the work I do, but I do miss the daily interaction with students I had in the classroom as a teacher. Yesterday, I was reminded of this by the phrase, “Megs, every human interaction Is eternally important.” This comment from C.S. Lewis to Megs Devonshire in the historical fiction novel, Once Upon A Wardrobe, by Patti Callahan Henry made me reflect on just how important every interaction really is; even if just a smile or simple hello. The word “every” is very important in this phrase. Those interactions can truly make or break someone. This phrase reminded me, and I hope it does you too, of the value and significance of human connection and the impact it can have on our lives and the lives of those around us.

When I was in the classroom as a teacher I would shake every scholar’s hand before they entered the classroom. This was an important ritual that was extremely important and meaningful to both my students and myself. This interaction allowed me to really know the student in the context of that moment. You can learn a lot about a person when you shake their hand. Particularly if you have a meaningful relationship with that person and interact with them every day. The phrase “every human interaction is eternally important” suggests that each interaction we have with others is significant and has a lasting impact. In Once Upon A Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis was emphasizing to Meg, the importance of our relationships and connections with others, and encourages us to approach each interaction with care and consideration. Focusing on building genuine connections and being present in the moment can lead to more fulfilling relationships and experiences.

Crawling Inside The Story

My Own Narnia

Here are a couple of questions for you to reflect on:

  • Can you remember a book or story that you have heard or read that made you feel like you were actually a part of it?
  • Have you ever been so engrossed in a book or listening to a story that you didn’t realize how much time had passed and ended up being late for something?
  • Do you enjoy writing or telling stories? If so, what do you like to write about or tell stories about?

Great writing and storytelling have the ability to transport us to another world, allowing us to feel as if we are a part of the story itself. I am reading the incredible book, Once Upon A Wardrobe, by favorite author, Patti Callahan Henry. I am a huge fan of historical fiction and Patti is the absolute best. Through her vivid descriptions, relatable characters, and engaging plotlines, her exceptionally good writing captures my imagination and emotions, and makes me feel like I am experiencing the story firsthand.

This is what makes us do what eight year old George Devonshire said he did when reading a great book: “crawl inside the story”. George, who is a character in Once Upon A Wardrobe, told his sister, Megs, this when she was reading to him. George told Megs it was like he was really there. That is what great storytelling does. In fact Megs misses her train back to college because she gets so engrossed reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis to George. George had read the book many times, but Megs had not. She became so engrossed in the book, she completely lost track of time. She had crawled inside the story.

Stories are important for our learning, understanding, influence as a leader, and finding answers – that is what Once Upon A Wardrobe is all about. A great story will explore universal themes and emotions that resonate with us on a personal level. Don’t forget; the best story is told with a clear and engaging plot, well-developed characters, vivid descriptions, and a compelling narrative tone. If you’ve not read one of Patti Callahan Henry’s many best sellers, you need to. You’ll be hooked and you’ll for sure experience crawling into a story for yourself.

Forgiving & Forgetting

Another phrase from the father, Gavin Donahue, to his daughter, Colleen, in the great novel I finished this past week, The Favorite Daughter by Patti Callahan Henry was, “You can’t separate forgiveness from forgetting.” Gavin was telling his daughter that in order to truly forgive someone or something, we must be able to forget the offense, or at least let go of the negative emotions associated with it. Much easier said than done. Right? Forgiveness requires us to move past the hurt and resentment, and we can’t do that if we’re constantly holding onto the memory of what happened. I’ve often said I am glad many in my past had amnesia when it came to my many shortcomings or disappointing actions. As a teacher forgetting had to come with forgiveness. Imagine if I would not of been able to let go of every little transgression of my students.

I must note, however, that this does not mean we should completely forget what happened, but rather learn from the experience and use it to grow and improve as individuals. Ultimately, forgiveness and forgetting go hand in hand, and it requires a level of acceptance and understanding to fully achieve both.

We Are Memories

You gotta love those “chicken or egg – which came first?” type questions. I loved one that was posed in The Favorite Daughter by Patti Callahan Henry. The question was “Do we make memories or do memories make us?” Pretty interesting to ponder, right? Unlike the chicken and the egg, I believe it is a bit of both. Our experiences and interactions with the world around us create memories which we then use to shape and understand our own identities. We also don’t want to forget that this memory building has a profound impact on those in our lives. Never forget that most of our memories are not built in isolation. We can all point to events in our lives that had some profound impact on us, or just stand out as one of those important or “favorite” moments in our lives. Usually, those memories involve family, friends, or even co-workers.

The question of memories is an ever-evolving cycle where we both make memories and are made by them. It is also important to remember, as was pointed out by the characters in The Favorite Daughter that our memories aren’t always accurate or reliable and can be influenced by various factors like emotions and biases. Which points to another great line in the book, “We are not a biography or list of facts, we are memories.” If you think about it, this is very true. Think of those who have meant the most to you or had the most impact on your life – you don’t remember them as a biography, but by memories you created together. We are the memories!

A Nice House Does Not Make A Home

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on April 19, 2023

“Home must be a place that shelters your life.” Patti Callahan Henry wrote that in her great novel, The Favorite Daughter. In the context of the novel, the comment suggests that home should be a place where we can retreat to from the stresses of daily life and find comfort and solace. In a broader sense, the phrase also implies that a home should be conducive to personal growth and self-discovery, allowing individuals to explore their passions and pursue their goals without fear of judgement or critique. Home should be a safe, nurturing, and supportive environment for us, security and protection from the outside world. It should also be that place where we can flourish as a unique individual.

After thinking about Patti’s comment, I then heard another related comment in an episode of the television series, Lethal Weapon. Trish Murtaugh (Keesha Sharp) told Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) that “Home isn’t a shell you crawl into. It is the people who surround you and leave the door open, even when you are not at your best.” The point Trish was making to Riggs was that home is not just a physical space or dwelling, but rather home is a collection of the people who make up our support network and create a sense of belonging. Home is the place we are welcomed and accepted, even when we are not at our best or going through difficult patches. Sometimes home is that place where we can be ourselves and where we feel comfortable being vulnerable with others is an extension of home.

We all need friends and loved ones who are always there to support us and who leave the door open for us, both physically and emotionally. Trish’s comment reminded us of the importance of human connection and the role it plays in creating a true sense of home. Remember, it’s the people who are important here. As my dad used to say, “A nice house does not make a home.” That’s pretty wise and very true!

Understanding The Narratives

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Relationships by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on April 18, 2023

I am reading Bruce Arian’s great book, The Quarterback Whisperer: How To Build An Elite NFL Quarterback. In the book he stresses that all important leadership trait of building relationships. He reminded us it important to understand the narratives of peoples’ lives. This is a crucial, and sometimes forgotten part of building relationships. Understanding the narratives of people’s lives is crucial for a number of reasons. First, it allows us to empathize with and relate to others, which is essential for building strong and meaningful relationships. Additionally, we need to understand the experiences and perspectives of those we serve.

Understanding the narrative of others’ lives also helps us to broaden our own perspectives and challenge our preconceived notions, which can lead to personal growth and new ways of thinking. Ultimately, understanding people’s narratives is essential for fostering greater understanding and improving our ability to help those we serve.

Leading The Crusade

I always talk about having “passion bubbles” – those things that I am passionate about and want to work on to hopefully change the world. Those “passion bubbles” are what Mark Twain described as being what takes up the extra space we have in our hearts for things we care about. This past week I had a person describe me as a “crusader.” Never before had I ever considered myself a crusader. A crusader, I found, is someone who is dedicated to a cause or mission and is willing to go to great lengths to achieve it. Okay, guilty as charged! My crusades are my passion bubbles. Everyone needs to be a crusader for something.

If we are to be special as a crusader, we need to have an unwavering commitment to our ideals and a willingness to take risks and make sacrifices in pursuit of our goals. Sometimes that means people will think we’ve gone off the deep end. But, we must possess a strong sense of purpose and believe deeply in the righteousness of our cause(s), which will give us the courage and determination to overcome obstacles and opposition. How about you? Are you a crusader?

Crusaders need to be inspirational figures who inspire others to take action and stand up for what they believe in. As crusaders, we have a powerful impact on society and can bring about positive change by challenging the status quo and advocating for a better future. Overall, what makes a crusader special is our passion (bubbles), courage, and dedication to making a difference in the world. Won’t you join me in the crusade to make the world a better place?

Don’t Settle For Mediocre

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Memories by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on April 16, 2023
A photo I took along the Savannah River

The phrase “Do not settle for the mediocre to avoid pain” became a through line in the great book I just finished by one of my favorite authors, Patti Callahan Henry, The Favorite Daughter. This was a phrase from the father in the novel, Gavin Donahue, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, and to me meant that it’s important not to choose something that is just okay or average out of fear of experiencing discomfort or difficulty. It suggests that settling for something subpar may actually lead to greater frustration or unhappiness in the long run. This phrase was an important comment Gavin made to his daughter Colleen and became central to the book. Gavin had not taken the mediocre path in life. In fact he had a complicated and wonderful life full of storied paths.

Gavin was encouraging his daughter to push herself and strive for excellence, even if it meant enduring some hardship or discomfort along the way. Essentially, the phrase is a reminder that short-term pain or discomfort can often lead to long-term gain and fulfillment. Our stories will become our memories. We need to remember that our stories and memories are shared with others. We also need to remember that our stories are just that – our stories, and not accept mediocre in developing and living out those stories.