Saturday, September 13, 2014

Parenting and Leadership

As I navigate through my professional and parenting journey, I find myself relying on some of the same guiding principles. 

Humility I question everything.  Once I think I’ve got it (them) all figured out, everything changes.  They keep me humble.

Humility is my favorite trait in a person.  Humility is showing up as the student, regardless of whom you are or the title you hold. It’s the ability to check your ego at the door and have the courage to learn something new.  It’s being open to a new way of doing things differently from the way they’ve always been done.  Humility is sharing what we know for the betterment of the people around us.  It’s celebrating someone else’s accomplishment in our defeat. And sometimes, it’s deliberately leaning from the spotlight so someone else can shine.

Authenticity They see and hear everything.  They are building perspective and opinions of the world around them.  Keep it real and be transparent; authenticity builds trust.

Intention matters.  When we are authentic, we best communicate our intentions. I recognize authenticity in the admission of not having the answer.  When we can be on the same side of the table with people this way, there is less opportunity for misinterpretation and/or misunderstanding. Transparency communicates that we are trustworthy.  When we are authentic with others, and ourselves, we can more clearly communicate what we want and what we need. Being authentic sometimes means saying sorry or admitting when we are wrong (which goes a long way). Authenticity closes the gap between true connection and understanding of each other.

Listen to learn Be present and awake for all of it.
The real message is often discovered somewhere in between the chatter of the head and mouth.  When we listen first to understand and second to respond, we create the space we need for awareness of new information.

Endurance We are in this for the long haul.
I find endurance in those with a capacity and initiative for that extra push, especially when they stand-alone doing it.  Endurance is an unwillingness to walk away when things get difficult. It’s a commitment to being the consistent, predictable constant for those seeking assurance and direction under your leadership.  Endurance creates an opening for us to get uncomfortable, and in this place we find a fierce will to keep going.

Be decisive and create clarity They expect clarity and consistency; we teach them anything different.

Leaders have the courage to make the unpopular decisions once in awhile. The intent to continue earning respect from those they lead accompanies the decisions they make.  This goes back to confidence in the choices we make, both big and little.  They are all connected and deliver accordingly. 

Keep it fun and maintain perspective Being able to laugh at life really does make it better.  Perspective reminds us that someday, much of this stuff will seem very small in comparison.

I notice those who are able to maintain perspective in the thick of it all are the ones who have control over their reaction to the unexpected; they don’t get stuck in the muddy places in between.  They are able to keep distance between the present moment and the big-picture hopes and plans of the future. 

There are unknown adventures, experiences, and challenges that will change me in the years ahead. This list represents what I’m noticing right now.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Life on the Road.

We bought our RV about a year ago and it has been awesome. Our shared goal this year is to spend more time together as a family and with the various road trips we’ve already taken, we are making it happen.  RV camping isn’t exactly roughing it but with small kids and a busy schedule, it works for us.

Some of my earliest childhood memories include camping with family.  Our time together was filled with playing make believe games around the campground, riding bikes, playing board games (Yahtzee was a favorite), and stories around the campfire.  A couple regular spots we visited growing up include Honeyman Memorial State Park in Florence, Oregon and Loon Lake Campground near Reedsport, Oregon.  I want to give them the same experience.

I love to travel and be on the road.  Experiencing the quiet and beauty of the outdoors has been good for all of us.

I love that it's something we all like to do, together.

I love that it's one of the few activities we use to do when we were their age.

I love all the anticipation and preparation it takes getting ready to sit and do nothing.  Mostly I love the doing nothing part.

I love the look on their faces as we pull out of the driveway in route to our next adventure. Each time, they are as excited as the first.

For as little as I enjoy grocery shopping, I love stocking up for a camping trip. My grocery cart always ends up fuller than planned.

I love (and so do they) that it has become a tradition to buy mini boxes of sugary cereal before every road trip.

I love the trashy celebrity gossip magazines I bring along on these trips.

I love the many hours of travel that allow Matt and I to catch up and dream about our next adventure together.

I love the moments we sit in silence because there is nothing left to say, idling with no agenda.

I love naps on the road. While Matt drives, we often nap. It's the only time I can get them both cuddled up next to me, asleep. It's the best.

I love the exploratory first hour after arriving at our destination. Usually it involves bikes.

I love the absence of the expectation to be busy and productive. At the best places, our phones don’t even work.

I love the ease and simplicity of meal preparation.

I love breakfast time when we camp, it’s the slowest part of our day.

I love my hot cup of coffee in the morning.  Camping coffee just tastes better.

I love that there's no hair, makeup and sometimes no shower.

I love the camping journal we use to record the details of each trip so we can remember the good spots to revisit.

I love having everything we need in one place.

I love an evening glass of wine (and sometimes afternoon) with Matt while the kids ride their bikes and play.

I love that the first and last sounds of the day come from them. It’s the only time we all sleep late, there’s something about being so close to one another.

What I love most is the amount of time we spend outside. The stillness of the outdoors allows time to pass more slowly and patterns get interrupted. When we pull away from our routine, it quiets the distraction of everyday life.

What they love most:
Matt loves having our family in close proximity to one another.

Ava loves time around the campfire, especially the s'mores.

Carson loves going bye-bye.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


I can always count on Ava to hold the mirror up for me when I need it most.

After dinner the other night we all huddle around to play a game before bedtime routine.  Honestly, this isn’t my most favorite time of day as I’m an early riser and I tend to be begging for bed long before everyone else in our house.  But, it’s one of the few moments in our day when we are all together so I participate. 

There’s rarely much small talk with Ava, she gets right to it.  After asking her about her day, she shares with me how much she enjoys writing in her journal.  As a fan of writing myself, I love to hear this.  Ava’s teacher inspired each child to write about anything on their mind, things they love and things they dislike.  I love this exercise because I believe kids deserve permission to say (and write) all the things they are feeling.  Then she says it.  “Mom, I wrote that I don’t like when brother takes my things and I wrote that I don’t like that my mom is always on her phone."  I hold my breath, literally, as I feel the shame wash over me.

Yes, of course my first thought was how embarrassed I am for her teacher to read this and know this about me.  I feel completely violated and humiliated as I am trying to quiet the response I began formulating in my head, a defense to this shameful accusation.  In my mind, I am somewhere between “your college fund” and “a woman’s right to a career”—and it’s escalating quickly. 

Asking more questions is what saves me, buying time as I return to being the adult.  It felt like torture encouraging her to tell me how badly I sucked.   She is still talking, still sharing as I am barely holding on to the bit of good that is coming from this (biting my tongue).

It’s all I can do to keep myself quiet and listen.  It’s horrible, really.  I want to curl up in a ball and go to bed.  But, she’s still talking.  When she finishes, I want to rehash it so badly but don’t want to undo what we had just done. 

The more they talk, the more they share and the safer they feel….

In the bathroom blow-drying my hair, at the park, on the deck while they play, in line at the grocery store, the in between moments while cooking dinner, I disconnect from the present moment, from them.  "Mom, you took Facebook off your phone but you can still Google it." Ouch.  Is it really that bad?  She sees me.  Moving quickly through the denial stage, conviction sets in and I want to cry. 

How I choose to respond matters more right now.

I apologize to her with no excuse or explanation, no defense or justification—just I’m sorry and a promise to do better.  Holding those moments of silence with her that follow is a challenge.

After some brief time alone, she crawls in bed next to me. She knows what I need most in this moment. She doesn’t say anything more about it, carrying on with bedtime as if nothing had happened. I love her resilience, her ability to accept, forgive and move on.

What’s changed?  I’m trying to respond differently to all the noise.  Overcome the temptation to stay on top of email, text messages, and Facebook.  I’ve started leaving my phone in my purse when I make the transition home in the evening.  I leave my phone downstairs when I get ready in the morning.    I set an expectation and communicate more clearly when I do need to handle an email or phone call.  Is it difficult to maintain the discipline?  Absolutely.  The difference is we talk about it and I say it out loud. I own it when I recognize I’ve been distracted.  We all agree with how we want it to be and we do our best to make it happen.

She humbles me; she calls me on my stuff.  And, she is transparent.  She talks to me.  She is not afraid to be honest with me. I wouldn’t trade this part for anything and I trust these experiences to shape and inspire the relationship we will share in the years ahead.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ava's Bucket List

Ava shared her bucket list with us today.

I am inspired.  Here’s what I notice:

She is intentional.
She takes the time to write it down and posts it on the wall in the kitchen where she can be reminded every day.  

She is committed.
It doesn’t take her long to complete (15 minutes or so).  Once her pen hits the paper, she goes for it.

She is clear.
As I watch her write, she makes each addition with confidence and clarity.

She is specific.
The details are calculated and measured.

She is fearless.
From acquiring 1,000 stickers to becoming the Easter bunny, she sets no limits.

And then she wants to see mine. My bucket list includes a few messy notes here and there; I had nothing to show her.  I have work to do.    

As a parent, it’s easy to spend more time telling than listening.  In this moment, I was listening, I was learning.  As Ava shared her bucket list with me, I felt something happen between us.  I had a glance at what is important to her right now. I felt more connected to her. I understand more clearly where she is and where she wants to go.  I realize I don’t engage in this way with her often enough.   

Big and small, everything is invited to make the list.  A bucket list provides clarity, motivation and focus.  It allows us to participate with intention through activities and challenges in life we desire and choose.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Choosing means new commitments; choosing means things can change.

To decide that a particular person or thing is the one that you want
To make a choice about what to do
To select freely and after consideration; decide; to see fit
To accept and embrace

I’ve been turning the word (choose) over and over in my head for a while now.  I need it to be active, in the present.  I’ve been more intentional and thoughtful with choosing my one little word, my north star, my guide for living this year.  This has been such a great exercise because drilling things down to one word is a momentous challenge for me.

As I bring the word choose to life, I’m noticing where it shows up both in the big and little places. I’ve been carefully working my way (rereading, over and over) through the book The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.  I’m learning about the power of small choices.  I tend to live focused more on the big decisions in life, often overlooking the strength and impact small choices have on the bigger picture.

After thinking about what it means to choose, I also realize this is saying “no” more often (even to the fun stuff).  When life gets too busy I get resentful; unaccountable to the choice I have in changing the pace.  I am beginning to really believe that it doesn’t have to be this way.

What it means for me to choose this year:

Choose progress over perfection.  For me, this is being content with the unknown; not everything can be anticipated or needs an explanation.  It is learning to listen for what I need and know my capacity.

Choose quality over quantity.  Set the pace.   Create more white space (more idle-time).  Begin with self-care.

Choose the adventure.  Trust what feels good and go with it. 

Choose to worry (care) less. At first, I was reluctant to claim I wanted to care less this year.  But then I realized this is exactly what I want.  Not in an apathetic--throw my hands up kind of way—but instead a conscious selective choice to worry less at work and at home.  I want to hang on to perspective and let go of what I can’t change; reserve the worry for when I need it.  Sometimes when we reject one thing, it means we are more available to accept another. 

Choose joy. In what we read, watch, hear and say (to ourselves and others), and with whom we spend our time--these are the places where we give and take from the world.  The space where perceptions are shaped and opinions are formed.  We then share these perspectives with those we love.  These are often subtle, small choices we are making every day.  What I want for them, I want for me first.

Life is a crazy balance of holding on and letting go, regardless of the season in life. I believe we have more choice in how it all turns out than we allow. We can do anything but not everything all at once.  We have the ability to redirect, change the path, and improve the quality of our experience along the way.  We choose.

The purpose behind our choices must be defined by choosing the best things of the season of life we are in right now. (Author Unknown)

If you chose a word this year, what would it be?