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!!

Word of the Year …

January at MORA is all about reconciling the last year and planning for the next year.  We reconcile our books, write reviews, plan our workload … you know, the same thing that everyone else does personally and professionally in January.

This year, a few people have declared a ‘Word of the Year’ that they are going to strive for, live by and use as a mantra. Its started with “Slay” and has expanded to …. Productive, Super Bowl Skol, Bigley, Change, Relax, Groovy and… the 2 I added – Yet and Enough.  However, we could put a dozen more words on this list – Believe, Change, Health, Fitness, Peace, Forgiveness, Support, Happiness … you get the idea.

I’m having a hard time deciding on my word.  On one hand, I LOVE enough, especially in 2018.  As in … I’ve had enough. I’m good enough. Is there enough? What is enough?  Thats enough! So many ways to use this word.

On the other hand, considering the changes we are going through at MORA and my learning curve, I thought we should bring in a growth mindset, hence the word – yet.  Can we do it? Not yet.  Are we finished? Not yet.  Putting yet on the end of almost any statement gives hope and the potential for more.  LOVE that too!

So, I decided to do what everyone else does and look back at last year for clues.  At this time last year, I wrote a blog about my goals for 2017. (Work In Progress)

The gist was, I was going to focus on…

  • Listening
  • Being vs Doing
  • Being Present
  • Saying Yes

I was going to do this specifically by…

  1. Giving myself permission to watch stupid (but fun) TV
  2. Putting down my phone to really listen and be with Tom and the kids
  3. Find times to say Yes to the kids (ice cream runs, quick stops at Starbucks, Pho for Kay …)

So, how’d I do?  If I had to grade myself, I’d say…

  1. A – I am TOTALLY caught up on The Middle and Modern Family. Have never watched an episode of Game of Thrones or This Is Us and I’m cool with that.
  2. B – We do eat dinner as a family 6 nights a week and it’s a no phone zone, so that feels good but we were doing that before this blog. Now, its hard to get THEM off their phones and paying attention to us other times of the day. The tables have turned!  Teenagers….
  3. C – I have managed a few date nights with Kay for Thai food and Pho.  Billy and I have had some great weekend trips with his Taekwondo plus he/I went to see Star Wars.  And we splurged on a MacBook Pro for Jimmy for Christmas (it was his only gift and he’s been on it none stop since he got it).  However, every day I miss moments for the little “yes-es”; 15 more minutes before bed time, etc.

Given all this, I think I’ve made my decision. I’m going with Enough. I’m trying, making progress and its good enough.

But then again, maybe it should be YET.  I haven’t seen This Is Us – yet.  I haven’t gotten them to pay attention and put down their phones in the car, before bed, when they wake up – yet.  I haven’t said Yes – yet.

Dang, this is hard.  Weigh in … which is it? The year of “Enough” or the year of “Yet” ?

Know Thyself

A good friend and I were recently reflecting on the last year and they crazy amount of change and learning we both experienced. He (Jim Fellows) has been a key supporter, cheerleader, mentor and sounding board for me through this major career change and he said ... "I just dont get it, you haven't experienced any of the typical loss, grieving or malaise that normally comes with leaving an organization after 26 years. You are either a psychopath or pretty self actualized".

He got me thinking (again).  While its possible that I am a psychopath, and while there is the potential to be both a psychopath and self actualized, I am leaning towards his observation that I am fairly self actualized.  I think thats true, but why and how?

I know that it hasn't always been the case. I struggled with "finding" myself in high school, college and the 1st half of my career; trying new sports, classes, careers and fashions.  In grade school, I wanted to be "That Girl" (Margo Thomas), live in a big city, have a cute boyfriend and an exciting job.  In high school I thought - Fashion Designer, yeah.... that's it (for those of you know that know me well know that this is WAY off track).  In college, I thought ... sports medicine, math professor, art historian ...  In actuality, my grade school vision of myself was pretty darn close for the 1st 10 years of my career. I did live in a big city, had a cute boyfriend and an exciting job.

Unfortunately, I also spent those 1st 10 years trying to figure out who I "should" be.  Should I ... "get promoted", "be a Director", "get married", "have kids", "buy a house" ... on and on.  I really didn't spend any time thinking about what I wanted until... that exciting job in the big city wasn't so exciting any more.  I was in my early 30's and realized ... I don't like shopping, I'm not a consumer and I don't like product.  None of that fit with working at Target.  And, while I had married that cute boyfriend, we were having a hard time having kids (biologically), promotions at work weren't coming as fast as my peers and I didn't feel like I was doing anything well.  I was having a mid life crisis and I wasn't even 35.

I took a huge step back and asked myself...who AM I?!   What do I like, who do I like to spend time with, what give me joy, what frustrates me, what motivate me, what makes me sad, nervous, excited, etc.... I would love to be able to say... it was hard work for a year and I figured it out but the truth is ... that was the start of the journey and I'm still figuring it out.  But, what I DO know and what I HAVE learned is....

~ I LOVE being part of a team - IN a team, not above or below or next to a team. Truly, up to my elbows in team work

~ I like to be prepared - I can't think unless I am organized, have time to think through and get ready for what is coming however...

~ I thrive on surprises - while this sounds like an oxymoron, in reality, being prepared allows me to be aware of and take advantage of surprises

~ I have a strong need to learn new things, always - am easily bored with routine and need that adrenaline that comes with being outside your comfort zone

~ I have an equally strong need for closure - bordering on compulsive, I can't leave anything left undone, ever

~ I need to work out, every day - in large part this is because I have more energy than I can handle and its important to wear myself out before I drive people around me crazy

~ I am enough - once I figured out that I have a unique perspective, skill set and experience set that NO ONE else has, I was freed.  Freed of worrying about if I was good enough, smart enough, polished enough, eloquent enough ... I'm not.  Not at any given single moment in time, but thats ok. I am me.

~ I am not my job or the company I work for - I have loved every job I had, and I adored Target, but not because of the role, title, company or responsibility. I have loved them because of the problems I get to solve, the people I get to work with, the experiences I get to have, the learnings I gain, the failures I create ...

So, no, I didn't really mourn leaving Target. Instead, I celebrated that journey and felt extreme gratitude for the experiences, people and growth I had during my 26 years. AND, I bring all that with me, to all of my experiences now and in the future.  What a blessing!

I think this is an extremely important message to everyone (especially young women) that doesn't feel like they are "enough", Believe me ... you are, it just might not match up to what you have been told you "should" be. I think Tracee Ellis Ross       says it best ...

I wish for you what I wish for myself .... Peace and self actualization in 2018 and beyond!

This I Believe

I wrote this for a leadership offsite in the style and manner of Jay Allison and Dan Gediman’s popular book….

This, or something better, for all involved.

My mantra, my daily walking meditation, my north star, my saving grace, my morning prayer ….

I must say this to myself a hundred times a day. As context, I start each morning with an intentional introspective walk with my dog. By myself, without earbuds or friends and before the sun rises. I use this time to hold the light for people in my life that are going through or have gone through a hard time.  Death of a child, major health challenges, anorexia, divorce, homelessness, job loss, death of a parent, challenges with aging, family estrangement, anxiety, …. The list goes on and on.  I visualize and say this mantra for each and every person. Every day.  It’s my reminder to myself that we can’t know what’s best but we can hope for it, believe in it, trust in it and recognize it when it presents itself.

This believe was born gradually over my life but really solidified in 3 significant moments in time.  These are the moments that I hold up when I need a reminder that everything will work out and that every situation happens for a reason, even if that reason is blind to us in the moment.

When Tom and I were excited and anxious to start a family, we ran into major fertility issues.  Not only was it physically exhausting, it was emotionally and mentally draining. We were one of the 5% where they don’t have a diagnosis or any “reason” for the infertility.  We did everything. I did everything.  I took medicine, shots, changed my diet, changed my routines, changed my activities … Not having answers to our questions, not being in control of my own body and not knowing “why or when” took a huge toll on my psyche.  It wasn’t until I realized that let it all go when I finally realized – do I want to be pregnant or do I want to parent? – that it all fell away.  We gave it one last try (invitro) but filled out our adoption application at the same time.  Jimmy came home 9 months later.

During the height of my “upwardly mobile” portion of my career at Target, my mentor and friend tapped me on the shoulder to come work for her. I was thrilled! She was well respected, and I was being asked to start up a new team that would help set the direction for Target.  I eagerly joined her team and immediately hated it. I hated the work. I hated my job. I was miserable, and I was only 30 days into the job. At Target, you were expected to stay in a job for at least 18 months and I had no idea how I was going to live through that.  About 3 months into my 18 month “sentence”, she came back from a trip to India raving about the team, the potential, the need for leadership and retail expertise.  I literally felt called and was immediately supported by my leader.  We moved to Bangalore 60 days later, sight unseen.  It changed the course of my marriage, my parenting, my career and my life.

In 2015 Target went through major restructuring. They laid off 2,000+ people and as a leader I personally had to deliver 4 different rounds of lay off/restructuring messages. This included being part of the decision-making cycle of who stays/who goes and what new roles would be. I don’t think I slept at all in 2015 and had a constant stomach ache. It sucked to see smart, capable, valuable people (that I had been close friends with) walk out the door on almost a weekly basis. It also caused me to dive deep into – what’s after Target?  I explored my passions, my hobbies, my skills and created a plan for my “next” career. Then, I went after it. 2 years and lots of mileage, coffees, lunches, resume rewrites and interviews I landed at Mount Olivet Rolling Acres. I’m beyond thrilled.

We are currently struggling with our daughter. She’s 14, going through puberty, diagnosed with anxiety and stubborn. She hates asking for help and has a big volatile personality. Plus… she’s a terrible sleeper. Every day I wonder what I’m walking into when I head home.  I adore her. I want to help her. I’m at a total loss for why we are where we are at with her. I have no idea what to do, when to do it, how to do it and worry constantly about her health and wellbeing.

This, or something better, for all involved – is my life raft.  My head knows it’ll get better, but my mom heart wants it fixed now.  I can’t wait until I can add this time in my life as another example of the wisdom and beauty in my mantra.

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” – Mark Twain

Praying about praying. Thinking about thinking. Meditating on meditating. Writing about writing.

Seems counterproductive or an oxymoron but I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately on my writing and thought it might make a good blog (writing about writing). In part, it’s because I have been asked to write a LOT lately.  An opening letter in our annual newsletter for Bellis.  The Presidents Update in the quarterly newsletter for Mount Olivet Rolling Acres.  A blog about international and domestic adoption trends for a friends new adoption website in India. Our family blog (which I will NOT share on this site for fear of grammar, spelling and syntax judgement) This blog….

I do like to write but as a math major it hasn’t always been natural or easy and…getting asked to write a specific article is nerve wracking!

So, its caused me to reflect on my process and progress over the years.

In college, being a good liberal arts student, I had to do a lot of writing. And, also being famous for having a very small vocabulary, I thought that big words and long sentences were impressive and sure fire way to the “A”.  I would struggle, write and rewrite and produce something borderline un-understandable. One day I asked my RA (an English major) “Why is this so hard?! Help me!”  His response was brilliant … “Tell me what you want to say…” I did.  He replied  “Write that.”  Seriously, could it be that easy?  Just write what you want to actually say?  I started doing that and it’s been my secret weapon ever since.

With the start of this website, I was looking for insight, advice and counsel on how to make it meaningful, compelling and unique.  I turned to two dear friends, Jim Fellows and Michael Sunnarborg. They both gave amazing advice.

I follow Jim’s advice every time I write.  He said two important things…

  1. Own your point of view – don’t use general pronouns like “you, they, we…” be specific.  Use “I, me”. Own your thoughts, learnings and insight. After all, we can only speak for ourselves.
  2. Have a trusted and honest friend read your work before you hit Publish –  Jim has been this friend to me. He reads EVERYTHING before I make it public, finds my spelling errors, fixes my grammar and makes sure what I’m writing actually makes sense.

Michael gave different but just as valuable advice.  Be inspired. It’s not about writing on a schedule, or publishing on a regular, calendar basis, it’s about being aware of your surroundings and present enough in the moment to capture them on paper.  Simple but not easy.  How do I get inspired?

An important part of my day is my morning walk, in the weather, with my dog. We go for an hour as the sun rises. Just us. No music. No friends. No kids. No distractions. I use it as my time to prep for the day, think about what’s happening in my life and be aware of my surroundings.  In fact, my best writing happens in my head during those walks. I think about what I want to say, how I want to say it, how to tee it up with quotes, photos, references, etc…  I actually don’t even put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) until I’ve thought about it for 2 walks in a row.

But, the most brilliant insight came from a St John’s math major that I was having a career conversation with last fall. He said “I think math majors get a bad rap. We HAVE to be good writers. We are explaining really complex solutions to hard problems and need to communicate our answers in a simple manner”.  Brilliant! He’s right!! (now, go hire a math major!!)

Finally, keep it short. Make your point and move on. I am learning this lesson in a big way as I need to communicate progress, encouragement, good news, bad news and basic daily updates to over 400 team members in my role at Mount Olivet Rolling Acres.  Our team has limited computer time, busy jobs and hard responsibilities. I need to be short, to the point and clear.  If I can also be encouraging and positive, that’s a bonus.

So, that’s my process and my progress. I’m proud of my writing but it’s not without internal effort and external help.

What’s your process?