Tuesday, December 10, 2013


He didn’t understand why we were there and if I’m being honest, neither did I.   These were my ideas, my fears, my “what-if’s”; he was just along for the ride.  This is one of the many things I love about him; he’s always willing and ready to show up when it counts.  I didn’t want us to wake-up some place we didn’t want to be and not know how it happened.  I needed perspective and clarity.  There are a million things that could wrong and if we don’t see it coming, we will go down with it.     

If you had a superpower, what would it be?  I discovered this question once on a blog somewhere in cyberspace and have never forgotten.  I love this question.  I love the idea of discovering and clarifying strength within us, one source more innate and powerful than the rest.  The resource we can count on, our go-to, our strong suite.

What is my superpower? My answer has been and continues to be intuition.  I often feel it before I see it or able to articulate it. I’ve always underestimated the influence intuition has on my ability to make decisions.  My greatest struggle with trusting my gut and listening to what the little voice tells me is proof.  The vagueness that comes with expressing intuition often creates distance and doubt in me before it will serve me.

In Brené Brown’s, Gifts of Imperfection, she defines intuition- “Intuition is not a single way of knowing-it’s our ability to hold space for uncertainty and our willingness to trust the many ways we’ve developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith, and reason."

Intuition can help me make decisions, consider the alternative and possibility of what is to come, it has done this for me.  It’s my superpower.  However, there have been times when I believed my intuition was working to save me but instead fed an intrinsic fear and uncertainty in me. 

We went together because I thought it was a potential “us” issue, I wanted protection.  It couldn’t possibly be an issue of mine alone; I was being proactive and responsible for what I sensed coming—before there was a problem.  About six years ago and after six months of therapy, I had my first glimpse at the powerful influence of fear.

I didn’t want to lose touch with real life, I wanted to preserve “us” and not get swallowed up in the addictive success vacuum we were experiencing. I didn’t want to wake up and discover we had lost each other in the process.  I wanted assurance that what we had together would always be stronger than anything we acquired. While I believe these were legitimate concerns, a greater desire to control the outcome and inability to accept the unknown began creating exactly what I didn’t want. 

Brené Brown defines faith as “a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.” 

I love Brené’s definition of faith in this context, as I’ve never considered faith in relationship to intuition. Having faith doesn’t mean I turn down or turn off this voice.  Having faith means I let go, it means trusting and believing in all the places, even those I can’t see. With the absence of faith, my intuition, my gut feeling, had become overwhelming, anxiety inducing and driven by fear.    

I struggle with wanting to see the big picture, have all the information, and be in control of the beginning, middle and end.  I want no surprises; there is comfort for me in predictable. I’d never considered the manifestation of fear I was capable of creating all on my own, a disbelief in the choice to let go.

Every New Year brings events and experiences we can count on and predict, along with new, unexpected blessing and challenge. This week, we were asked to create a mantra, a timeout place that allows us to slow down and quiet the distraction, remain mindful. How do you find clarity when you’re all wrapped up in those places? How do you hear yourself, trust yourself and have faith in the process?

Trust what you tell yourself and believe in the choices that exist.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


It was a normal morning.  He even made them pancakes and for a school day, this is a treat. He hadn’t complained of any discomfort, there were no symptoms of what was to come.

Over these past couple weeks, I’ve become painfully aware of how much practice it takes to experience joy and gratitude in the presence of challenge.  In Brené Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection, she describes numbing as “taking the edge off of pain or stress” and when we try and numb the bad stuff we inherently numb the good stuff too.  This discovery has been life changing for me as I realize I do numbing really well, it’s my safe place. 

I think we all have a numbing toolbox of some sort and for me it often comes in some form of overconsumption.  Sometimes its wine, Facebook/getting lost online, an over committed schedule (being too busy), shopping, sugar, and/or exercise.  Even in the places where it appears I am making good choices (like being busy or exercising) I am still avoiding what is challenging  me most.

I got “that” call last week.  You know, the one you dread, the one you hope to only hear about but never experience.  One week ago, my Wednesday morning began with a phone call from the hospital.  At about 10:45 am, Matt suffered a mini-stroke and I am deeply thankful it has left no permanent damage.  As we continue with testing, looking to learn why, I find the greatest trial for me is staying awake through it all.  Leaning in--to the fear.  Leaning in--to the sacrifice and adjustment our lifestyle may need as a result.  Leaning in--to the difficult conversation around what could have been a warning sign, a wake up call; a look at learning how to live with less stress.  I can’t help but wonder, were there signs or things we should have noticed in the space between the numb places, maybe we could have prevented it from happening or saw it coming?

Recognizing what triggers numbing for me makes me more conscious.  It can be the stress of these unplanned life events, the discovery of bad news.  Or, the more common emotion of feeling overwhelmed, afraid, anxious, exhausted, pressured, uncertain and guilty, this is when I want to turn it off and go to sleep; when I want to numb, when I don’t want to feel.

I’m still navigating through the discovery of what I need for comfort when I feel like I’d rather numb instead. Thinking of when I’ve felt comforted the most and when I didn’t feel alone, it has been the quiet time with coffee and a good book, church and fellowship, lighting candles, writing, sleeping in or taking a nap, alone time with Matt, alone time with friends and/or an easy walk or run.  These are the times I’ve felt the most renewed, the most cared for.    

There is opposition between numbing and gratitude and I’m learning that practicing gratitude and experiencing joy can only happen in place of numbing. I am grateful for what I am learning about myself in this process.  While we cannot always control the outcome, we can influence our reaction to the experience.

They do what we do, not what we say—this keeps running over and over in my mind.  What are we teaching them about priorities?  What are they learning from us based on how we care for ourselves?   They are watching us.   They are learning from us.  We teach them how to respond.  

Saturday, November 9, 2013

You're Perfect.

I see the perfectionist in her already.  Her fear of not knowing the answer, her fear of not doing it right the first time.  Her fear of trying, her fear of failing.  Her concern about what people will think.  I see her holding back, afraid of pushing to places unfamiliar and uncomfortable.  For as long as I’ve known her, she’s been an observer, taking in the whole before engaging in the parts. It aches me to see myself in her.

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about self-compassion and what makes it possible to get there and stay there.  Somehow it was easier for me to start with them.   

For you I want:
To believe you can change your mind. If you give it a good go and find yourself somewhere you don't want to be, you get to change it. It won't always be easy but it's fair. You are worth it. Your ability to be available for anyone else depends on it.

You don't always need the right answer the first time around; don't let it hold you back.  Ask for help, ask for what you need.  And when you don't know, still ask for help.

Laugh. A lot.  It’s contagious and people need it, including you.

Surround yourself with all types of people. Those you can learn from, those you can teach. When you have the answer, share it.  Share your experience, share your failures, and share your wisdom. There is so much more to learn when you teach.  It will enhance your experience.

Live big in the little places with those you love. It's not the big news, the big trip, or the big weekend that counts. It's the strength that comes from the little ways you connect with them in between.

Stay where it’s uncomfortable. It’s not about being perfect or arriving at the end. Real work, real growth happens right in the middle of it all.

Ask for what you need. Ask for what you want. Expect it, you deserve it. People can’t read your mind so communicate it, lovingly.

Listen to that quiet voice inside. It means what it says no matter how much you try to silence it. It knows.

Things don't always work out the way you want. Or, the way they're supposed to. And sometimes, it won't make sense for a very, very long time.

You can't always fix it or change it.  You can’t always help.  Protect yourself.

Surround yourself with healthy souls. Sometimes when you don't know what you need, they do.

Lean in. Feel it.  Let it happen. Allow yourself to have a reaction. Be brave enough to move past it.

Let bad days happen. It means you're growing, it means you care enough about something that’s not working.

Find your one thing.  Find something that makes you passionate, something to neutralize and bring balance.  A place where you stop to restart.  Be selfish about it.  It’s yours.  Protect it, prioritize it, and make it important, because you are.

When I started this blog six years ago, I had no idea how much would be revealed to me. The value in documenting life, appreciating the sum of small ordinary moments, creates greater meaning and understanding in the whole of this experience.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Picture It.

I thought I’d choose a picture of me smiling and laughing. Having fun, being goofy.  It’s how I first recognize myself.  Other people know me this way.  I am comfortable laughing (even when I shouldn’t be)

The lesson this week was about cultivating authenticity, requiring me to find a photo capturing my authentic self.  A picture conveying a sense of who I am.  I went in looking with no expectations, no plan, letting it be and believing I’d know it when I found it. Brene Brown defines authenticity as the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are suppose to be and embracing who we really are.

This process was challenging and revealing.  The most recent photos were of my kids, there were very few of me alone.  Of these photos, many were posed and prepared with the same smile.  After spending some time, I realized it was difficult because I was looking for something specific--one of me laughing, having fun, and being carefree, a candid snapshot telling more of the story. There aren’t any recent photos of me this way.

Of all of them one stood out, kept pulling me back.  I noticed my eyes first.  They are quiet and relaxed.  My hair is wet and I have little makeup on.  My shoulders are soft and I’m slightly leaning forward; he must have snapped the photo before I was ready.  In this picture of me I felt something when I looked at it.  There is a quiet confidence in my expression, a sense of certainty and contentment. 

I remembered we were on vacation in Mexico, just the two of us.  We decided to start trying for a second child on this trip.  This is not the photo I imagined selecting as it reflects an unfamiliar side of me.  This is a perfect example of authenticity.  While laughing and humor are most definitely a part of who I am much of the time and how most people know me, I also have an introspective, much more serious side. I chose this photo because I saw depth, the place in me where contemplation and decision happen.

The good old days of huddling around a picture album would encourage me to share and remember the experience. In the age of digital photography, I feel pictures have lost value. We print less of them and have more than we know what to do with.   

This exercise encourages us to question how true we are living to who we are and more importantly who we want to be.   It gives us an opportunity to consider how and with whom we are spending our time.

What do pictures of you tell about how you’re living your story?  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


As I look back on the selection of my one-little-word, my focus for 2013, I realize how it continues to guide me.  For 2013, my word is “being”.  It is active, powerful, and one that represents the right now.  The meaning behind my definition of “being” includes:

Being open and aware.  Letting go.  Discovering.  Teaching.  Learning.  Sharing.  Being spontaneous.  Reading.  Writing.  Photographing the memories.  “Being” in the moment, right now.

This week, I started a six-week e-course with a new favorite author of mine, Brene Brown Gifts of Imperfection.  And, while I hesitate taking on another commitment during this busy time of year, I also believe this course comes at a perfect time.  An opportunity for me to be open and aware as I continue to discover what there still is to learn on this journey.  I plan to document this experience over the next few weeks; I want to remember each revelation along the way. 

After hiding out on safe ground for a while, I know I need to push just enough each week to get beyond it.  Along with my intentions of “being” this year, I’ve challenged myself to get “uncomfortable”, at least once a week. Getting uncomfortable has sometimes been a difficult appointment, phone call or conversation.  And other times it’s finding the courage to share an idea or thought with someone new, without worrying about what they will think.   

So, what better way for me to continue on this journey of getting uncomfortable than to take a course requiring me to be transparent and creative through writing and drawing in an art journal.  (Just a visit to the art supply store made my palms sweat; my only comfort with art involves a child and Crayola markers.)

In our first e-course lesson, we are asked to create permission slips for ourselves as we begin this experience.  Mine includes permission:

-To take time for this project
-To not have the answer
-To change my mind
-To be creative
-To first go with my gut response
-To not over think
-To keep it simple
-To have fun

At work, I‘ve recently started leading an accountability skills group with some of my colleagues.  While teaching continues to be one of my greatest passions, I still get nervous and intimidated every time.  The pressure of providing value for each participant, something that changes his or her experience, weighs heavy on me. 

So, I tried it out this morning. I took a slip of paper and created a “permission slip” for myself for the next hour. It read:

-To be nervous (I’m not perfect but I am enough)
-To start, stop and start over if I need to (to self correct in front of people)
-To make it fun (to have fun)
-To learn something (not worry about having all the answers)

As I stuffed it in my shoe and headed to class, I felt my shoulders soften and breaths deepen, lifting the pressure as I allowed myself to be more present in the moment. 

After quieting my own voice I was able to listen; I took the focus from what could go wrong with me to the possibility of what I could learn from the rest of the group. 

Everyday life, this is the real classroom, the one that counts. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Connect. Engage. Grow.

I remember how walking into a room full of people use to feel.  When the anticipation of engaging in conversation excited me, motivated me, lit me up.  I still couldn’t get myself there; it was like the light switch went off inside me. 

At the time, I didn’t notice when or why it had happened.  I remember feeling repulsed by the idea of small talk and irrelevant exchange between people who didn’t really matter to me.  I know it sounds harsh; it’s still hard to write.  Should have been the first sign, since I’m typically a very outgoing and social person. 

I’ve blamed it on being a working mom (sounds fair and incontestable); motherhood is the most exhausting job on the planet, right?  Pulled in a million directions, putting everyone’s needs before my own, a tiresome output of energy lacking enough time for rest and solitude.  Sounds very victim-y of me, I know, but it’s exactly where I was.  Something wasn’t right and deep down I knew it. My perception of the outside world had changed and on the inside I felt guarded, anxious and fearful.

For as comfortable as I had become with abandoning meaningful connection in my life, I am thankful to have noticed something was missing. This past year has brought much revelation around the explanation of who I was or more importantly who I was not.  I believe this is a testament to being in the right place at the right time, with the right people.

Two things have helped change the course for me.  At work, I began showing up more—physically and emotionally.  And, in this time I was exposed to an incredible philosophy of looking at life and work differently through a leadership program based on the principles of ninjaselling.com.   This program is where my awareness began to grow. I started questioning my intentions in life, what I wanted and where I was headed. I was treading water; I had gotten too comfortable with what was safe. And as the weight of fear, anxiety and discontentment began to resurface, I saw for the first time how they were holding me back.    

I remember first hearing about living with a scarcity vs. abundant mindset and believing I had it all figured out. Scarcity didn’t show up until I started looking closer at the little places in life—my reaction to a change in weekend plans, the rage from Ava dropping a bowl of cereal on the carpet when I’d asked her to eat at the table, my impatience with Carson that sent me walking away as he threw himself down in a crying fit, frustrated in his inability to communicate his needs.  A fear of the unknown or “what if” would derail me for days; I was defensive and on-edge in the day-to-day interaction with my family.  The more I looked for it, the more scarcity showed up.  It was in the small choices I was making, much more dangerous and insidious than I was aware. 

It was the book DaringGreatly where I began really learning and understanding the why’s of how I had become so closed.  It brings comfort to put words on feelings; this book was the invitation for me to get the courage to forgive myself and move beyond it.  I learned about the danger of disengagement and the compound effect it can have in a slow erosion of relationships over time.  I’m thankful to recognize that this is exactly where I was in my work, my marriage and parenting.  Engaging with people half-heartedly was dangerous for me and easy to do; I had gotten good at hiding it and could see how dim the light in me had become because of it.

When I think about how it will be different moving forward as I navigate through difficult and uncertain times in life, I will spend less time with my eyes closed, holding my breath, waiting for it all to pass.  Less time blaming myself, less time blaming others.  I will spend more time talking about the fear and discomfort while reaching out to the support around me. I will spend more time in the middle of it all, present, aware, and engaged in the solution.    

There is a deep conviction in me that believes the energy and authenticity of how I engage and connect with people around me depends greatly on my ability to show up in the day-to-day, smaller places of life.   This is my advantage, my greatest resource.  And while it is a daily commitment, an ongoing challenge, it will allow me to push and grow in new directions; further than I’d go alone.