Friday, November 6, 2015


I’ve been thinking a lot about words lately.  The impact of when we speak too much, too soon, too little, too late or not at all and the significance of the words we choose to communicate our message.  Words are guided and influenced by our thoughts, what we say in the quiet of our own mind and through the words we speak out loud.

Our kids offer us a lesson in how they value a message.  Have you noticed the way they engage and soak up everything, even when we think they aren’t listening or when we hope they are only taking away the good parts?  No pressure.  As they filter through the meaning and how it fits in their understanding of the world around them, they hold us accountable, they let us know how we are doing.  They learn from how we talk to them, each other and ourselves.  I’ve noticed how much they are impacted and influenced by each and every word in the literal interpretation and undertone of each message.  The words we choose and how we phrase them dramatically alters what will happen next, leaving little room for undoing.  And boy, they always remember--did I really say that?

I suppose an emphasis on words is inevitable parenting small children—the constant correction and redirection that goes on. The words I use when I am disciplining and/or encouraging my kids doesn’t always get the credit they deserve. And then there’s the absence of words I choose not to say or share with them in the moment or those times when I hear myself in them (not always my favorite).  The reality is, what we mean to communicate isn’t always the message that gets delivered.

There’s an ongoing struggle with constant distraction of over messaging that pulls us away from the very things we want most, to connect, understand and be understood in a meaningful way. It makes it difficult to be concise and deliver clarity in our message with one another amongst all the noise.

In October, I did a challenge with my staff.  The challenge was to successfully complete two handwritten notes a day to someone in their life.  It could be a coworker, a significant other, a friend, family, anyone, the message had to be handwritten in a note.  Nearly everyone was successful so it was fun to reflect on the experience as a group.  I was inspired by the testimonies of how impactful the exercise was for not only the recipients of the cards but for the authors of those who shared their encouraging words with others.    For such a small, simple, five-minute daily task, the reward was enormous.

This November, I’m suggesting a slightly different challenge. Sharing gratitude through the language and words we speak to one another.  A daily commitment to verbally connect and share gratitude with at least two people we engage with in our life.  I think giving and receiving words that are complimentary and encouraging can sometimes be difficult but I also believe the impact is powerful and influential. 

What you focus on expands, is something we say a lot around here.  I believe when we intentionally nourish our minds with healthy and wholesome thoughts and ideas, it begins to outweigh the distraction of the other garbage around us.  

Carefully selecting the words we verbalize in the moment requires more control over our thoughts and a silencing of the noise and distraction around us; this is no small feat.  It takes practice.  There is so much more we can do in the way of connecting and better communicating what we really mean when we begin thinking more about our words.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Built Here.

In my favorite picture (which I still can't find) I’m standing on dirt at the far southwest corner of what someday would be our basement in the home we built for our family.  It’s game day and the yellow Oregon Duck shirt that's nearly too small is pulling tightly against my growing belly.  My arms are stretched wide and I’m wearing the confident grin of someone with big plans. You can see the excitement and anticipation on my face.   It also happened to be the day I felt Ava move inside me for the first time.  I would have never predicted the significance of this day to me now. This was the first of many beginnings for us in this place; we have all grown up here.

First days of life, including first steps, first words and first birthdays.  So much that is good from the life we’ve built took place in the home we sold this Spring.  BBQ’s, birthdays, baby showers, and anniversaries, there are so many memories of gathering with family and friends. We grew up in the country so building our family home on 5 acres outside of town was a dream for both of us.  I am grateful to have lived this dream for the past eight years. The best of what we built here was going with us.

In May, we moved from the country to a neighborhood in town.  Choosing to downsize was the right decision for our family and through the myriad of emotion, we continue to learn more about each other and ourselves as we get adjusted. Big change brings on opportunity for growth and new beginnings.

I’m learning that when we make choices with a long-term perspective, sometimes we experience short-term discomfort. This is all part of the process.

I’m learning to trust this discomfort as temporary transition and part of the story. 

I’m learning to love the whole story, even the unplanned parts.

I’m learning that when we recognize what was once important to us is no longer and adjust accordingly, it’s a game changer.

I’m learning that the freedom of time to travel and be together matters most to me right now.

There was resistance from me at first to keep it real, for myself, for the kids. Resistance to experiencing all of the emotion. 

I’m learning that as parents we do this, we protect them from feeling sadness and disappointment because we don’t want to fail them.   I think we protect ourselves from this too. 

I’m learning that they need permission and time to adjust and this doesn’t much differ from what we need too.     

In Ava’s last few weeks of school, amid the packing and unpacking, we decided to hold off on breaking the news that she wouldn’t be returning to the kids she’d gone to school with since she was three.  It felt like too much for her, for all of us.

This unspoken knowledge between us likely contributed to many difficult days and nights we experienced in the new house.  She knew all along what was coming and was waiting for us to share it with her.  The fresh glaring lime green paint on her bedroom walls speak of my motivation to make everything better than her old room.  It didn’t work.  Not for her and not for me. 

Two nights before the last day at her old school felt like breaking point for us.  Desperate to interrupt the painful pattern of evening routine, I threw out my entire plan and told her everything.  As I crawled in bed with her to say goodnight, I began asking her about what she missed most from living in our old house.  It felt wreck less and weak in the moment but for the first time in weeks I felt her soften and open to me.  I listened to her as she described in finite detail, all of the things she missed most about the comfort of her old room. We sat in the sadness of the old and familiar together and I shared what I was missing most too.  For the first time in weeks I felt like we understood each other.

I’m learning that when we come as we are, it levels the playing field. 

I’m learning that we want more than they need.

We began building something new together that night.  We talked about going to a new school, making new friends, living in a new house and all that is scary and exciting about the unknown.

Neighbors to play with, a short walk to school and the park, family bike rides, so many new adventures for us to experience.  We began making plans on how we were going to build a new home for ourselves here.  

Saturday, April 4, 2015


I can’t remember the last time we celebrated together.  Growing up, we would always spend our birthday together but over the years life seems to get in the way. This year, we had some making up to do.  There were more reasons than excuses to make it happen.

We’ve been together over 38 years now and there isn’t anyone I’d rather celebrate with than her. This year, my twin sister Tami and I decided to go big and leave everyone and everything behind to head out of town to Venice Beach, California for a long weekend.

It’s hard leaving a busy schedule with work and family but it was well worth it.  For 72 hours, we only had each other to consider.  It was awesome.  For my birthday, Matt bought me a little journal to record the moments we wanted to remember from our trip.  It didn’t take long before I began filling the pages.

Our adventure started at the airport at 8 a.m. on a flight from Eugene to LAX.

Laughter.  So much laughter, it often turned to tears. 

When we laugh together, it’s not a quiet affair.  There are few people who can make me laugh like Tami.  Maybe it’s because of the history and time between us, we know each other so well.

This was one of those moments.  Chance would have us sitting in the emergency exit row. 

As the flight attendant begins reviewing emergency procedures, I notice Tami listening intently.  I start giggling.  Thank goodness the flight attendant had a good sense of humor.  Upon questioning our comfort with the responsibility in the event of an emergency landing (as I am visibly having a hard time holding back the laughter), with a very serious, concerned look on her face Tami asks, “So, when we go to open the emergency door, does it just fall off or will it stay attached?”  Yes, this was a serious inquiry and so funny.  I thought they were going to move us; we were 13 all over again.

We stayed at Hotel Erwin in Venice Beach.  Great service, good food and the perfect location.

The morning view from our room, a perfect start to the day with my coffee and book.

Sunrise, a quiet time of day in Venice Beach.

One of our favorite spots was the Rooftop Lounge on top of Hotel Erwin.  Best sunset ever.

Tami tolerated my detour and walk through the Venice Canal Historical District to look at amazing real estate.   This place is a different world than the boardwalk on Venice Beach only a short few blocks away.

Although we are identical twins, there are so many ways in which we are different. This trip reminded me. While I’m hiding behind the menu at dinner, Tami is making a new friend with the neighboring table.  Tami’s never met a stranger, she makes friends with everyone.  We laughed a lot about this as we both have such different needs in the way of connection. She spends her days with 3rd graders and yearns for conversation with adults, while vacation for me means being more reclusive.

Unplanned adventures are the best and with Tami, they are always a guarantee.

American Ninja Warrior during the filming of their season premier that will air at the end of May. 

We met a nice family of one of the contestants and by the end of cocktail hour, Tami had us on their friends and family list to get inside. It was a super fun, unexpected memory I will never forget.

We spent a lot of time walking and exploring.  Venice Beach is a very colorful place with some seriously good people watching.

One thing I love about getting older is we get to become friends with our siblings.  The time we spend together is by choice but it’s not without effort.  This trip reminded me of how long it has been since we've connected outside of a big family gathering or the distraction of kids.

I was reminded of how much we have to catch up on.  There is still so much to know and learn about each other as time and life continue to separate us.  I was reminded of the comfort and familiarity of being together.

Time is precious.  Let’s not wait until next year, I don’t want to look back and wish we had more days like this together.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Love Notes.

There are few things that feel better than receiving a thoughtful, personal, handwritten note.  Love notes are big around here in our home.  I started thinking about all of the places where notes show up and what they mean to me. 

Welcome home notes Ava leaves around the house, when we arrive home from a trip out of town.

A love note written on Ava’s lunch napkin, I leave as a surprise for her every day.

Notes of thanks I send to the people I appreciate in my professional life.

Daily detailed notes exchanged between Becky (our nanny) and me about the kids.  I love these notes as it helps me feel connected to the little things that go on each day when I’m not around.  Everything from what Carson had for lunch to the smile on his face when he discovered how to use the brakes on his bike.

The ongoing journal of notes Matt and I have exchanged between us over the past fourteen years.  On our first anniversary of marriage we started a journal together, a place for us to exchange thoughts of gratitude to one another.

What I love most is there has never been any rules or expectations, no pressure.  Whoever has the journal last is expected to pass it on when they feel like it.  I love the surprise of a note showing up in the most unlikely place when I least expect it. 

This month, leading up to Valentine’s Day, our family shared 14 days of what we love most. It was fun to learn what is most important to each of us, right now.  

One of the reasons I love sharing notes is that they become a record, they linger.  They tell us the story of a snapshot in time.  Notes are often read in the private and quiet space of our mind where they can resonate more deeply than spoken dialogue. A note is something we can remember and revisit when we really need it.  I often keep the best ones for the times I need them most.

Notes can be the quiet strength we draw from while preparing to respond.  In the midst of challenge, sometimes rereading notes of the past can bring light to a lost perspective. 

I will continue writing love notes to my kids because if there is any light I can leave on for them in this world, maybe this is it.


The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision.  So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can. 
 –Neil Gailman

I start every year with a new word, a word that best describes my intentions and hopes for the year in front of me. This year, I choose quiet.

More quiet means recognizing intuition, being awake in the present moment and doing less with more focus. In a place where there is more quiet, there is less worry, noise and distraction.

Anyone who knows me well understands how difficult quiet is for me. My default involves a lot of talking, planning, what-if and worrying. Being still to recognize what quiet looks and feels like is and will be a challenge for me this year.

Last night as I was lying with Carson, I was reminded of what quiet feels like.

Quiet is: 
Not checking my cell phone for the next distraction 
An early morning, quiet drive to the gym 
An early morning cup of coffee before everyone wakes 
Making time to write 
Turning the radio off to drive in silence instead 
Taking the long route home listening to music instead of the TV 
Walks on the beach 
Curling up on the couch with a blanket in front of the fire 
Going for a walk instead of a run 
Thursday dinner date night with Matt 
Listening to Ava read 
Saturday with no agenda 
Spending time outdoors 
Watching them play 
Laying next to them as they fall asleep 

In discovery of my word for this year, I tried something new and took time to write a vision statement. This activity involved jotting down simple notes of what I want and need, spending some time writing and reworking before it felt right.

As I spend less time worrying, I create the quiet space in life that allows me to be present and confident that in this moment, I am exactly where I should be.

Vision creates energy. It must be exciting, present tense, and live in our dominant self-conscious. A vision statement is reflective of what we need, a guide that leads us.

Where are you going this year?