The miracle of a year…A love letter to my team.

Recently my leadership team went to a 3 day leadership planning session “up north” in lake country.  The goal of our time together was to reflect on the last year and plan for the next year.  The bonus was that we’d get to spend time together connecting, sharing ideas and (hopefully) having fun.  I was anxious and excited for our time together.

As bit of context, last year, we had a similar 3 day session, only last year our goal was to break down barriers, build trust and figure out how to engage in healthy conflict. The bonus was that we’d get to know each other at a deeper level, be vulnerable and grow as a team.  EVERYONE was anxious and I know for a fact that I was the only one that was excited.

To be honest, last years session was brutal; there were tears, defensiveness, shame and pure emotional exhaustion. And, there was also connection, honesty, empathy and pure silly fun (bonfire burning). It was truly the turning point for our team, our culture and my role as their leader.

This years session was intellectually challenging; there was frustration, persistence, productivity and mental exhaustion.  And, we built on the connections, authenticity and pure silly fun (poop emoji’s) that we started last year. It was the building block for our future as an organization and my teams role as leaders.

Which 3 day session would you have wanted to go on? 😉

Unfortunately it’s not an either or answer. We couldn’t have had the productive dialog and planning without the connection.  We couldn’t have shared in each others accomplishments without honoring each others strengths and struggles.  We couldn’t have put the organization and people we support at the forefront of our decisions without having confidence in each other as leaders.

It made me realize….  Even though, on a day to day basis, I don’t always see the progress, it IS there.  Despite the challenges we faced (hospice and death of a few well loved clients, a very real direct care staff shortage, undeniably low wages and accelerating changes in regulatory and licensing requirements) we WERE making progress.  Progress in how we delivered our services, progress in our we treated our team, progress in shifting the culture to one of more transparency and authenticity.  What does that look like?

~ Opening a new model for supporting kids with mental health challenges in the metro area with a 4 bedroom transition home. This will (hopefully) prevent hospitalization or rehabilitation and get kids home and stabilized more quickly.

~ Being the 1st social services organization to partner with DEED on an apprenticeship program for our direct care staff. This is HUGE!  We have an accredited program that no one else in MN has (yet).

~ Flattening our organizational structure, balancing workload and creating cross training in key areas.  This has helped reduce stress and increase our ability to be flexible with how the work gets done.

~ Hosting our 1st Residential Leadership Summit (next week) with our mid-level leaders so that they can experience what we did a year ago (so proud of my senior leadership team for planning and facilitating this summit next week!  They have never done anything like this before, it’s daunting and they are killing it!)

~ Creating a Senior Leadership culture that understands and supports what each other does.  How did we measure that?  Simple, at the session this year we asked each leader to leave the room, one at a time. Then, the rest of the leaders discussed the accomplishments that leader and their team had in the last year. We invited the leader back, shared with them our recognition and validated if we had captured their accomplishments accurately. It was amazing!  The team was not only aware of each others work, but they were proud of each others work. What a feeling!

This is an important reminder for me.  I can get dragged down by the day to day challenges. And, sometimes I think I need to do it all myself. Plus, its hard for me to trust that the seeds I am planting as a leader are germinating when I can’t see physical proof.  I need to lift my head up more often, look around and celebrate our progress.  This is my motivation going into next year and I CAN’T.WAIT. to see what we accomplish this year!

A huge squeezy hug and thanks to my team for being brave in going on this journey with me and showing me that persistence and grit does pay off.




The Polarity Paradox

Over the last year, my team has been engaged in some pretty deep and intensive leadership training.  Our latest was Polarity Management.

Polarity Management was developed by Barry Johnson in 1975 as an alternative to traditional problem solving approaches.  In essence (and as Bert Parlee explains) ….

“The Polarity Management model and set of principles are a user-friendly way to deal with all polarities in life. Polarities are ongoing, chronic issues that are unavoidable and unsolvable.

Attempting to address them with traditional problem solving skills only makes things worse. There is significant competitive advantage for those leaders, teams, or organizations that can distinguish between a problem to solve and a polarity to manage and are effective with both“.

In our western education system, we are taught and very skilled at yes or no, either/or problem solving. The issue is that not all problems are solvable, some just need to be managed with grace, care and dexterity.  The example that they give is breathing.  Breathing is not a binary operation.  You don’t just breath in.  You don’t just breath out. You need to maintain a balance of both or its literally life or death.

As I’ve been processing through this training, I’m realizing…All the really big, most important and most impactful problems we have, in the world, are polarity issues.  But, we treat them like puzzles we can solve or fights we can win and then move on.  Not so.  In fact, the more I think about this, the more I realize that these polarities are all around me, every day and in every situation. No wonder everyone is so frustrated right now (myself included!). And our current way of trying to solve them (argue, fight, blame) is NOT working. I believe they need to be addressed with love, compassion, grace and peace.

Some examples from my own life….

Parenting – the ultimate polarity. What works for one kid, doesn’t work for the next. (at least not in my house). Kay is a great example. She is independent, hates to be told what to do and very self sufficient. However, she’s 15 years old and her frontal lobe has not developed fully and her rational, problem solving skills are weak.  As a parent I see it as my job to help her be a good adult; learning social norms, setting high exceptions for herself and others, knowing her values and living them. As a 15 year old girl, she sees her job as making friends, having fun, doing what she likes and figuring out where her boundaries are.  Not a good combination and not one that I can solve.  I have tried natural consequences, repercussions, setting rules, star charts, free range parenting … you name it. Anything and everything I think might help “solve” this dynamic and help her get motivated to learn responsibility and a bit of adulting before she’s out on her own. She sees this as nagging, Tiger Mom, helicopter parenting, irritating and overall completely ineffective. We are at a stalemate.  Its not my way or her way. Its not either ‘be a kid’ or ‘be an adult’.  I need to figure out to let her enjoy being a kid, discover who she is AND know that there are basic expectations to being a functioning adult all while being told I’m “annoying” and that she “doesn’t care”. (I saw an Instagram post recently that said – Be kind to everyone, you never know if they are parenting a teenager.  So true, I almost cried).  I am trying to do this with love and compassion. Remembering what its like to be her age, showing her affection the way she wants to receive it (not how I want to give it) and a steady mantra of “this too shall pass”.

Politics – another deep seated polarity, especially with the current political environment. I think part of our issue as a country right now is that we want action, answers and results and we want them ‘OUR’ way.   There is no room for the opinions of the people across the aisle and there is very little (at least in the media) appetite for dialogue, listening, finding common ground and building bridges. This one is really hard for me. As a liberal, I have some deeply held beliefs at that everyone deserves to be loved, heard, get access to better opportunities and have their story honored. I know that significant historic sea change hasn’t happened through negotiation but through visible, uncomfortable and often aggressive behavior. However, I also believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt, respectful dialogue, challenging ideas vs attacking the person, innocent until proven guilty and that there is more than one way to solve our nations problems.  This is a daily juggling act as I see updates on social media and engage in my (daily) debates with my conservative son.  I’m trying hard to hold all these values simultaneously but, it’s exhausting.  I believe that peace is possible, even if its just in the moment between 2 people. I look for that in every conversation/debate/disagreement that I have with family and friends.  It helps remind me that there aren’t different sides, just different perspectives.

Leadership – like parenting, for me, leadership is about bringing out the best in people while challenging them to develop their skills. I want to invite people to the edge of their comfort zone and then nurturing them to grow into who they could be as leaders. I try to set high standards and then remove roadblocks and provide tools to get there. I love to empower people to chase their ideas but also know that there are times I need to be more directive and specific.  And, to make it even more complicated, like parenting, none of the people are the same, they all need me to do this differently.  I’ll admit, I have a default leadership style that I overuse. I’ve been given feedback that I can be too collaborative (when they just want me to make the damn decision) and can draw guardrails further apart than they would draw them for themselves (undermining their confidence when I was actually trying to bolster their confidence).  And, considering I spend more time with my team than I do with my family, my actions here matter greatly.  These dynamics are things that I pay attention to daily, sometimes well and many times not up to my own standards. However, I do think my good intentions, love for my team and respect for them as individuals does come through. The greatest compliment that I get is … “Wow, you really ARE like this…no pretense, totally consistent and very authentic. You show up, everyday, exactly as the person you told us you would.”

So, what do we do?  Going back to the beginning and why its such a great example.  Breathe. Deeply.  Slowly.  Then Breathe again.  Love. Find peace in the moment. See the other person as a full human being. Respect everyone.

These issues aren’t going away.  They can’t be solved in a 4 hour brainstorming session or at a innovation conference. These issues are polarities we need to manage, (hopefully) doing it with love, authenticity, grace and humility.

Tell me.  How do YOU manage these polarities?  (Really, I’m looking for ideas!!)





Why we do what we do….

It’s that crazy time of year when the kids go back to school, Tom starts back to work full time and my whole schedule gets flipped on its head.  It also my busiest month of the year for work conferences and nonprofit board charity events.  I feel like I need to use every single minute of every single day very wisely in order to get it all done.  And, many days, (most days?) my only focus is getting what I need to do done before I fall in bed exhausted.

When I am this hectic, its easy to forget the “why” behind what I do and I get overwhelmed by the “what”.  That just adds to my exhaustion.  Fortunately, the universe conspired to remind me just when I need it most.

So, what are those reminders and what’s my “why”?  I’ll give you a few examples …

~ At the end of August, our Mount Olivet Rolling Acres Glee Club and dance troupe celebrated the end of their season with a performance at McPhail. I have met B on a number of occasions, but I have NEVER seen him like this. Normally he’s quiet, reserved and watches everything that’s happening around him.  Not at this performance. Bob was in rare form.   He was dancing, on stage, with unbridled joy.  Jumping and twisting with a HUGE smile on his face.  However, he was still B, still watching what was happening around him when he noticed that one of his friends, A, wasn’t participating.  A had a bit of stage fright and was standing very still with his back to the audience.  B went over to him, took his hands and danced with him.  It was pure magic.  You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for days.

~ Family dinners at our house are sacred.  Everyone (aka: the kids) puts down their phones and we eat together. Every night. Even if dinner doesn’t happen until 9pm, we sit down and eat.  Even if its just for 10 minutes, before homework, dishes, laundry, lunches for the next day, etc… we eat together as a family.   While most of these are your typical rushed family dinners, occasionally they are something much more.  Last week, was one of those times. We were having Korean (the kids favorite) and the kids were rehashing the 1st day of school.  They were excited about their friends and classes, teasing each other about their sports teams, talking about mutual friends they have and sharing their “crushes”.  The kids were carrying the conversation, having fun together and the happiness was palpable.  Tom and I just sat back and enjoyed every minute of it.

Seeing people be their best selves.  Providing a safe space for others to be brave and fully present. Making a connection, in the moment. These are all my “why”’s and they all grow out of love and gratitude.

That’s the trick, isn’t it?  When things are overwhelming ….to remember the “why”.  Its simple, but not always easy. However, I also know its my biggest source of energy and motivation.

What’s your “why”?  How does it fuel you?

20 People Who Inspire Me

As I built and created this website, it has been an amazing reflection opportunity for me. Almost like a diary, it allows me to examine my life, my passions, my dreams, my learnings….  It forces me to reflect, learn and adjust course. However, I am not doing it alone. I have an awesome guide and mentor in this process (Jim Fellows). He continues to push me to think about how I can, not only share more, but be a resource/mentor/coach for others.

This got me thinking about people in my life that I take inspiration from.  Who do I turn to when I need a lift?  Who’s posts do I “like” immediately?  Who’s insights force me to dig deeper into my beliefs? Who do I admire for their boldness?

While I am sure that I could create a never ending list, here are my (current) top 20 inspirators.  Some are friends, some coworkers, some public figures that I can only hope to meet some day but they all have 1 thing in common… They push themselves out of their comfort zones daily, live life BIG and are constantly learning.

I’d say they are pretty good role models.  Check them out, follow them and prepared to be inspired.

Now….who inspires YOU?!

  • Angela Lawson – Angela is a former coworker and while she’s currently an analyst at The Fed, she’s also an amazing writer.  I love that she follows her passion and shares her talent! (and insights!)
  • Shirley EngelmeierInclusion Inc – Shirley was our pastor and now is a fierce small business owner who is a champion of inclusion. She has redefined herself multiple times in her career and her energy, warms and brilliance always shines through!  Her TedTalk is so amazing you want to shout “Amen!”.
  • Cecilia Stanton AdamsStantonAdams LLC – Cecilia and I took a human designed course together but before that I attended one of her diversity workshops and was blown away. I have to admit I was a little starstruck when I learned she’d be in my cohort.
  • Margaret MurphyBold Orange – Margaret and I met when I was in transition and networking. Turns out her best friend was my freshman roommate. We also share a birthday horoscope and she recently left a VERY successful career to launch a new company. Their purpose blows me away …..
  • Michael Thomas SunnarborgLife Coach, Author, Storyteller – Michael and I worked together in India and have become each others cheer leaders as we have moved through career transitions. He writes for Huffington Post, leads a career transition Meet Up group (White Box Club) and is high energy, fun and adventurous.
  • Kristin  -Kristin and I worked together in Toronto and she always had a million things going beside work and her family (cake decorating, triathlons, etc). Through it all she talked with deep admiration about how her father started his own business. Well, guess what, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Kristin is the cofounder of Fly Feet Running and is living her dream.
  • Chandra Fischer – Chandra was our neighbor in India, then moved to MN, then to Austin TX, then to Duluth MN….all the while studying to be a midwife, homeschooling her kids and digging deep into social justice and white privilege.  Her insights and posts on Facebook blow my mind, make me think and remind me that people are capable of immense bravery when their share their authentic selves.
  • Greg Lew – Greg is a former coworker/friend of Tom’s (my husband). He’s a naturally gifted story teller, a motorcycle ‘pan head’ and friend to all.  He’s lived a nontraditional life and savors (& shares) every moment of it.  I love reading his Facebook posts, they remind me that looks can be deceiving and to never judge a book by its cover.
  • April Dinwoodie – I have only had the good fortunate to speak with April once on the phone. She was formerly the Executive Director of the Donaldson Adoption Institute and is currently doing a podcast called Born in June, Raised in April.  “Part of my personal mission is to address how differences of race, class, and culture impact adoption and foster care systematically and individually” – enough said….
  • Jamie Millard – Not only is Pollen my favorite online newsletter in our community but Jamie is such a personal inspiration. She’s approachable, authentic and I wish I had been more like her at her age. She’s not afraid to confront systemic injustices, hold stories gently and inspire those around her to be creative and bold.
  • Anne M H Hunter – I met Anne as we were both trying to transition from for profit to non profit careers.  Her journey has landed her in a very different space. She created HunterSage and its been so fun to see her company succeed.  She’s taken all her marketing, strategy and visionary expertise and using to help the nonprofit sector. Go Anne!!
  • Dr Amelia Franck Meyer – Amelia is the other TedTalk speaker that I have on my list. I’m constantly floored when she answers her phone, gives me advice and invests in my work.  I met her when I volunteered at her 10 for 10 Kids Summit and have been closely tracking the work she does through Alia. She is wicked smart, passionate and completely dedicated to changing the foster care system – top to bottom.  She makes me want to be a better person.
  • Jane Barrash – Jane is a friend that has been doing some amazing work with the North Polars Basketball team, using mindfulness and leadership techniques she’s helped them move from worst to 1st.  Her program is call Athleadership and she looking to expand its impact. If you want to learn more and/or get involved, come to the Tie Die Party this Sunday!  I promise you’ll learn something and will be in awe of these athletes.
  • Cy Wakeman – One day, I’ll be as honest, insightful and inspirational as Cy.  She’s on my bucket list of people to meet and I LOVE her no nonsense approach to living your best live at work.  As she says “ditch the drama”.  The new mantra at our office has become “Stay in Joy or Leave in Peace but … don’t Stay in Hate”.  My goal is that everyone that is on our team is happy.  Life’s too short not to be happy at work!  Check her out … Reality Based Leadership.
  • Jim Hoar – Jim was my trainer when I was 21, just out of college and starting my career at Target. I have learned SO much from him over the last 29 years.  He shares his insights and learnings via a blog on LinkedIn and there is always Truth, support and a push to exam ourselves and our motives more deeply.  Thank god for Jim!
  • Craig Helmstetter – Craig is a friend, neighbor and brilliant research scientist. He recently left Wilder Research (he ran the Compass Program) to help American Public Media start up a Research Lab.  His team has done some really cool socioeconomical demographic research on MN and most recently created some online addiction with their new interactive analysis of all 435 seats up for reelection in November. (The Representing US project).  He’s humble, kind, smart and sings a mean “Come Sail Away”.
  • West Stringfellow – “Sharing everything I know” is West’s motto. I worked with him (VERY briefly) at Target and have to admit I was intimidated.  He casually used the “f” word in front of large groups, was relentless in his pursuit of innovation for Target and unapologetic about bringing new talent, new ideas, new models and new structures to Target. Now he’s using this energy to literally make the world a more informed place.  His team has posted (for free!) an innovation framework, an in-depth analysis of the last election and curated insights from thousands of the worlds leading technology experts.
  • Maggie Knoke – Maggie and I worked peripherally over the years.  We reconnected as I was leaving Target and she was asking herself “what’s next?”.  Well, her “what’s next” is pretty damn amazing.  She’s taken her lived experiences, both at home and at work, and is using them to help businesses prosper through FrameWork Consulting. She graduated from WomenVenture, is an angel investor, coaches, encourages and supports other high energy leaders in their dreams.  I love her approach to life and willingness to step off the ledge into the unknown.
  • Elwin Loomis – Again, I didn’t get to work with Elwin as long as I would have liked however, in that short time, he honored me with a Rebel Medallion.  What’s that?!  It is a secret coin that was formed to support people who were challenging the status quo, pushing against corporate bureaucracy and bringing bold ideas to the work place. This coin meant more to me than any award I could have gotten at Target and when I left, I was sure to pass it on.
  • Jim Fellows – Jim is one of my husbands longest friends, partial namesake and godfather to Jimmy, supporter of all things Loudamericans and my personal brand manager. He helped me conceive of, launch and run this site. He gives me unfiltered feedback and supports me to do and be better. He challenges me to look at all sides of an issue and be vigilant about who I am and what I stand for.  He’s an author, singer, guitarist, father and friend. Thanks Jim for making this all possible!

Reflections on my Journey

As I write this, it’s been exactly one year since I started my new role at Mt Olivet Rolling Acres. Boy, a lot can change in one year (and yes, all for the better!)

I moved into a new industry with a new team, new priorities, new challenges, new people, new mission … you name it, it was new. It felt like my 1st job out of college all over again.  I had extraordinary growth, learning, excitement, frustration, wins and failures and … I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As I was reflecting back on the year, I realized … it’s not just the last year that’s held a lot of change, it’s the last 7 years.

I recently had the good fortune to be in a ½ day leadership development class with Paul Batz from Good Leadership.   Their philosophy is that goodness pays.  However, in order to extract the most goodness from yourself, as a leader, you need to be reflective, authentic and accountable. Part of our work that day was to look back 7 years and then forward 7 years and compare where we were at with where we are going.  It was fascinating!

7 years ago I was working at Target, on a handpicked team to support Target’s 1st foray into international retail in Canada.  Tom and I were getting ready to move to Toronto while trying to figure out how to best juggle 3 kids with very different interests.  Our kids were all just finding their passions and starting to practice/compete at the next level.  Jimmy was still playing 3 sports (football, basketball and baseball) while taking drum and piano lessons.  Kay and Billy were also taking piano lessons but their passions lay in their personal sports. Kay made the competition gymnastics team, which required 16 hours of practice a week and Billy had his 1st taekwondo tournament and set a goal for himself of black belt.   We were busy !  And, we did not have it all figured out. We had yet to learn how to leverage car pools, stay organized on tournament and meet details, find the best way to interact with coaches (without being helicopter parents) not to mention the demands and pressures of a leadership role within a high risk corporate initiative.  And, you can forget any thought of how to find time for ourselves.  However, similar to this last year, I learned a ton!  We learned that it really does take a village to raise kids, that coaches are by far better at giving kids feedback than parents are, that kids will rise to your expectations and that communication (and asking for help) are the only way to get through this time period of parenting and career growth.

Looking forward 7 years, my world looks VERY different.  In 7 years we’ll have 2 kids out of college and 1 ½ way through. We’ll be empty nesters!!  Since Tom is 8 years older than I am (and I’ll be 57 in 7 years), we’ll also be looking very seriously at what do our 3rd careers look like. In all likelihood this will include reduce work (for pay) and increased involvement in things we are passionate about (social justice, supporting our community, traveling, adventuring, reading, etc).  I also assume it will involve getting to know each other again beyond our role as parents.   We’ll both need to prepare our current organizations (and family!) for “what’s next” so that they can continue to build on, improve and take our work to the next level.  We wont be leading the charge anymore and that’s GOOD!

Paul does this exercise to get you thinking about legacy.  What is the legacy I want to leave and have I been building towards it?

My common thread between 7 years ago, 1 year ago and 7 years from now is pretty clear to me, whether at work or at home:

  • To leave things better than I found them.
  • To encourage my kids and coworkers to have a voice.
  • To encourage hard dialog, even when (especially when) its uncomfortable.
  • To see the learning and potential in every experience.
  • To say “yes!” with courage and conviction.
  • To honor other people’s perspective and really listen.
  • To know that there are people who want to help, and that we all need help.
  • To be kind, grateful, gentle with myself and supportive of others.
  • To try new things, meet new people, live new places, eat new food …

So, what’s your legacy? Are you building on it? If not, why not?  If so, share your stories!!

(And …. If you are ever on the fence about making a major career shift, I’d encourage you to do so, as soon as you can!  Or, give me a call and we’ll talk about it😉)

The Future Looks Bright!

Our future…

These kids are our future and they are amazing!

Given how much time I spend driving to/from Taekwondo practice as well as weekends away for tournaments, I spend a fair amount of time with these 3 kids. If they are even the slightest representation of future generations, I’m humbled and excited.   Let me break them down for you…

They are …

Multicultural: representing strong American, African, Italian and Korean heritage

Hardworking: 1st degree black belts in Taekwondo working towards their 2nd degrees – section testing at the end of June!

Competitive: finishing 1st & 2nd in their age/weight groups on a regular basis

Multilingual: Spanish spoken here!

Collaborative: acting as each other’s coaches and biggest fans at tournaments, not to mention pushing each other to get better at every practice

Dedicated: earning good grades while attending practices 5-6 days a week

Fierce: not only do they NOT back down during their sparring competitions (all have had bloodied lips and noses) but they also never give up when faced with learning something new, whether it’s a new form or a new subject in school

Creative: playing guitar, violin and keyboard along with writing and producing a play with their friends

Resilient: adoption, co-parenting and parents serving in the military are part of their life stories

Compassionate: they are loving siblings at home while knowing how to broker what they need

Continuous Learners: each attends a different school, is in a different grade and has a different core set of school friends yet they help each other with homework and talk about their favorite parts of school (yes, gym ranks high on that list)

Funny: without offending, they know how to tease each other, have fun and be silly

Goal Oriented: nerves are high prior to each competition as they have their sights set on doing well at state and making it to Nationals (all are going to Nationals this July!) not to mention an opportunity to compete at the US Open

Loving: hugs, cuddles and kisses on the cheeks are a frequent occurrence with their parents (I was even wished a Happy “Other” Mothers Day by both of them!)

Different: for all their similarities, they have very different personalities and passions .. basketball, photography, animals and acting – to name a few!!

Teachers: everyday they remind me and teach me to embrace ALL of these qualities as well as push myself to be the best person I can be

I love these 3 so much. Am I right?! The future looks bright!!!

Work – Another 4 letter word

Work gets a bad rap.  You hear it all the time … I hate my job, I can’t wait to retire, TGIF, I need a vacation, if only I didn’t have to work, if I won the lottery, I’d quit my job  … the list goes on and on.

How did this happen?  If you look up “work” in the dictionary you get … “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result” and “a task or tasks to be undertaken; something a person or thing has to do”.   Neither of these are inherently BAD, nor do they assume that you are getting something (like money or payment) in exchange for your efforts.

Humankind has ALWAYS had to work … for our whole lives! In fact, it wasn’t until the late 19th century that the concept of retirement was even introduced AND … it wasn’t until 1935 that the US proposed the Social Security Act. People, that’s only 83 years ago. Only 3 generations of people have had the opportunity to retire. I think its impacted our current mindset. 1 in 5 retirees experiences depression. It increases the chances of physical illness by 60% and depression by 40%.

I wonder if there’s not a different mindset.  A mindset around – My Life’s Work vs WORK.

My good friend and inspiration, Michael Sunnarborg talks about work a lot in his blogs (check them out!).  This makes sense since he’s a coach, trainer and HR guru. However, when he talks about HIS work he says “My whole life is my life’s work. Some of it I get paid for and some of it I don’t. That doesn’t make a difference in its impact.”

I have been meditating (or ruminating) on this for the last few years and I’m finding that as I collect birthdays, this rings more and more true every year.  My life’s work is not WORK in the traditional sense of a job with a paycheck and that’s a freeing concept. Rather than looking at my work as something to get through, get over or tolerate, I have begun to look at where I’m spending my time. Is it on the things that support my values, align with my priorities and will leave a legacy I’m proud of?  Bonus points on if it hits on these criteria AND it pays a little something😊

So, right now, my life’s work includes:

~ Raising kind, honest, caring, responsible, self-aware and authentic human beings (any parent can tell you that parenting is DAMN hard work)

~ Serving, as a volunteer, on boards that align with my belief that every child deserves a safe, loving and nurturing home (The Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, Bellis and Childrens Home Society are amazing!!)

~  Being a good citizen of the world whether in my relationship with my husband Tom, as a good neighbor and friend or just being nice to the person in line in front of me at the grocery store (I practice this a lot when letting cars cut in front of me in traffic)

~ Creating a team culture at Mt Olivet Rolling Acres that allows everyone to leverage their strengths, ask for help and remove barriers in their jobs.  (my goal is that leading by example will trickle through the whole organization and ultimately improve the quality of life for the people we support)

As I look back on my life, I can see that I’ve always gravitated towards jobs that nurture people through times of profound change and that I like doing that best when I’m working on really hard problems with really smart people.   I guess you can say – that’s my life’s work and I LOVE it! And … I can see myself doing this for a long long long time.  It makes it fun to get up in the morning and helps me sleep well at night.

What’s your life’s work and how does that change your perspective about WORK?


You ARE Traffic

I’ve been feeling stuck lately.  Not that I haven’t been busy and productive but … I’ve been feeling like I haven’t had time to reflect, learn from what I’m doing and relax into the moment.  It’s all aspects of my life; home, work, friends, family.

I didn’t even realize I was stuck until I wrote a blog this week about some things I was learning through at work (engaging with the media), sent it to my editor in chief (Jim Fellows) and got his feedback.  He said, “It feels flat. Whats your message, how will this resonate with your audience, what are you trying to say?”  I’ve been thinking about this for days and the answer is … I don’t know. I was simply reporting on my life as it stands today.  Thats when I realized I’m stuck.

So, what do I do to get unstuck?

A few things are nudging me in the right direction but I’m not quite there yet (my word of the year! yet!) …

    • I had the opportunity to go to a Wellness Seminar.  They talked about being mindful, taking ownership of where you are at and the part you play in whats happening around you.  The presenter had a great analogy – she said, “people always complain about traffic. But, there YOU are sitting in your car, at the stop light, complaining about traffic.  You ARE traffic!”   I love that! No matter how benign our role is, how good a driver you are, how careful you are …when you get your car, you become traffic.
    • Jimmy has always been a contrarian and being 16 is amplifying this trait.  He has started to identify as conservative. If you have read my blog at all, you’ll know I’m fairly liberal.  This has resulted in almost nightly political discussions at the dinner table.  Pro Life/Choice, Gun Control, Fiscal Responsibility … you name it.  He’s started going to Christian club before school and wants to start a conservative club at Hopkins (of all places!!).  I was sharing this latest development with a co-worker who is also fairly liberal.  We talked about if this just might be Jimmy’s way of rebelling (WAY better than other ways to rebel but still exhausting). He said “he can’t get your goat if he doesn’t know where its tied”.
    • Earlier this week some said to me – Perfect is the enemy of good (adjusted from Voltaire).  I realized, I’ve been trying to hard to write the “perfect” blog. Give the “perfect” feedback, find the “perfect” solution to a problem at work … spoiler alert – thats NOT POSSIBLE! All it does it get me spun up. This blog is a great example, I’m not 100% happy with it (but I’m putting it out there anyway)!

How are these helping me get unstuck?  They remind me that I shouldn’t take things so personally, I need to look at my role in what’s happening around me and I need to be resilient, sticking with this until I figure it out.

I’m going to try a few new things and see if they work.

  • Push through and acknowledge that I’m stuck (this blog!)
  • Take 4 deep breaths before I start each meeting (starting next week)
  • Give myself a break, reminding myself that that good (enough) is really better than perfect. I can write a blog that makes most of my points, but isnt perfectly astute. I can give feedback that helps a person move forward and I can find a good next step solution without having to solve the whole problem at once.

What do you do to get unstuck?  I need all the nudging I can get!

(Also, as an aside, I know the image that I used for this blog doesn’t have anything to do with the content. I just like it.  My mom painted it and is showing it in an art show next week.  She’s an amazing artist. Go Mom Go!!!)

MORA work update

At MORA, staff, guardians and the people we support become family. We live and work together and experience the joys and loss that come with being in such loving, caring and close contact with each other.  This winter we are heartbroken to share that we lost two members of MORA’s family; Riley and Breanna.

For the 28 years Riley was on earth, he gave our lives purpose and meaning. As his family stated, “our earth angel has become our guardian angel”. Riley is survived by his family (sister, brother, parents and step family) as by the staff and housemates at MORA.

Breanna was a longtime client of Rolling Acres, originally living on campus in Victoria and then most recently moving to the Ridge Road.  Breanna enjoyed music, crunchy foods, Disney movies, walks out in her neighborhood, puppies, and being read stories.  Breanna touched the lives of those she lived with and those staff who worked with her.

Our gratitude and thanks to all the people that supported Riley and Breanna; the staff at ADS, the teams in their homes, the case managers & nurses that offered support and the leaders that helped make it possible for them to lead fulfilling lives.  I am humbled by your service.

On a happier note, our staff has so many amazing things going on, we wanted to brag about a few recent milestones.

Tuesday March 13th was ARRM Day at the Capitol.  This is an annual event of advocacy where we joined 1,000 other direct care staff, managers, family members and people who receive services to rally in the rotunda at the State Capitol to make our voices heard.  The day includes speeches from leading providers, meetings with legislators and connecting with other members of our community in solidarity.  A big thank you to the 40 people who join us from MORA representing staff, guardians and even the people we serve (the strongest voices of all!).


The Day at the Capitol was also exciting because we used it as a platform to announce our Direct Support Professional of the Year for 2017, Billy Bourgeois.  Billy has worked in the Edina and Northgate homes and has a unique and admirable drive for our mission and supporting our clients, making a large impact on their lives and teams. Innovation and advocacy go hand in hand for Billy. He is always advocating for new and innovative ways to provide services, with the primary focus being improving client lives. Thank you ALL for the work you do for the individuals we support and for our teams!


Wondering how you can keep up with all this great news?!  We have been very focused on our digital, online and social media presence and are proud to unveil our refurbished website – We have added Senior Leadership and Board Member photos and bios, links to our financial documents as well as are updating it almost daily with updates on our clients, staff and milestones. However, my favorite is our Friday blogs – #FacesofAbilityFriday – Each week we are showcasing one of the amazing people we support. While there is always something new on our site and we are being conscious to also push that to our Facebook and Instagram  sites, be sure to follow us!

This -> I want this – >

I am fascinated by the Olympics and this year is no exception. I wish had more time to watch but when I do, I’m sucked into the stories, accomplishments, beauty and pure mastery of these athletes and Wednesday night was no exception but it was a bit different. I watched pairs free skaters, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford from Canada and I all could think was … I want this –>

Watching Meagan skate was so inspiring, not just because she’s an amazing Olympic athlete but because of her presence and energy. Go back and watch. She was pure joy, despite a few minor errors.

Her performance was….


And, she enjoyed every minute.

She wasn’t worried about the mistakes. You can tell she worked her butt off to get to where she is at and, rather than become overwhelmed with the pressure … was absolutely present and in that moment. She enjoyed EVERY moment of her time on the ice. As she should! Its the OLYMPICS for g-d sake!! Her smile said it all and was contagious.

I want that. I want to work hard and enjoy the results. In the moment. Without fear of failure. Knowing I am performing to the best of my ability. Having fun. Creating beauty. Celebrating my strength. Owning my expertise. Being contagious to those around me.

Don’t we ALL want that?!

Congratulations Meagan and Eric on your bronze medal. You inspire me!!