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 Lawsonhttp://angelanoelauthor.com/ – 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 ShaneKristinshane.com  -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 – https://mtolivetrollingacres.org/. 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 – https://mtolivetrollingacres.org/facesofabilityfriday-donna-b/. 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 https://www.facebook.com/mtolivetrollingacres/ and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/mountolivetrollingacres/  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.