Wednesday, February 27, 2013


"As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison." - Nelson Mandela
 I love this quote.  And I have a few questions for you:

What are you hanging onto from the past that serves you poorly?  Why are you keeping that awful story alive?  Don't you know that that negativity (and even grudges and resentment) impact your thinking and behavior?  Holding onto it, repeating its story - is it helping you get the results that you want?  Have you considered setting yourself free?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Misunderstandings, Damaged Reputations, and other Risks of Living

Just a little shout-out about watching what you say...and what you post on social media sites.

Someone, the other day, remarked about someone posting on someone else's wall (they weren't sure where or what was said, only that something had been said) about something political in nature that was directly and decisively against what they believe and how they voted.

That's just not me.  It might come out around the edges, but I really try to keep a lid on it.

As I've said before, we all have different perspectives and experiences and we all have the right to exercise.  Live and let live, right?

And yet, this was out there.  That I said something I really didn't say.  Drama anyone?  No thank you!  Someone made a FB comment and it wasn't mine!  Not me, sir!  I have a long and successful history of AVOIDING conflict (and fairly boring FB posts)!

Have you ever felt your privacy was violated because someone posted a picture of you?  Has anyone made a snap judgment, fifteen assumptions, and then passed it on?  Frustrating, huh!  Any time you engage with people, you run the risk of infringement, but geez, information about you these days can be shared in so many ways and it can be SO wrong!  Unwanted attention or solicitation is something we all want to avoid, but what about misunderstandings?  After this blog post, I'm going to settle into some tweeting with a favorite Rick Warren reminder:  If you are driven by the approval of others, you will die by their rejection! 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Our baby boys. Hmm. Ok, our grown guys!

We hit the road this morning with a couple of water bottles and an iPod and headed east. Stopping for coffee, blasting the tunes (window down, yes, but not long enough), having a couple of serious heart-to-hearts (Shawn isn't sure what the recurring theme of his life is), and we were in Milwaukee in no time.  We decided last night, late.  I convinced Joe that it was no big deal to add a few hours onto our plan - we were already going to Dubuque for the Indoor Championship meet for Track and Field, for (Captain) Austin, who wasn't running until late in the day.

We agreed to lunch in Milwaukee.  I'd call him from the road, we decided, at 11:05, just to give him a heads up.  We planned to be there at 11:30.  He planned, quite possibly, to be in the lobby, waiting.  11:05: ring, ring.  No answer.  11:10, no answer.  11:15, no answer.  Where IS he?  11:20, no answer.  11:25, OMG, no answer.  We pulled in at 11:27, snuck in his secure building, and, simultaneously, pounding the brass knocker on his door and phoning him, finally, I heard his sweet voice.  Hello?  We woke him.  We felt bad.  He felt worse.  This kid is sleep deprived, big time, and I can't do a thing about it.  Well, except for listen, and visit, and allow him to buy us coffee, and later, lunch.  This is what working 120 hours per week looks like.  Dear Lord, did I tell you how grateful I am that he finally answered the door?

And then the hard part, saying good-bye.  And then the really hard part, trying to find an MOG dress in Madison.  Don't ask.

And then more fun.  Dubuque.  Austin was running anchor in the Distance Medley Relay (DMR).  It's the last time he competes indoor . . . ever.  And he was fabulous.  Did you think that the mindset when you run track in college is just to run as fast as you can?  Nope!  There's a lot of strategy.  A kid from Simpson College was on his hip.  Austin sensed that.  He knew he couldn't give his all at first because the kid was sticking and he needed to beat him.  So he kept it even and saved his energy.  Austin ran the first 800M in 2:19 and then he got serious, running the second 800M in 2:12.  That's amazingly odd.  Most runners are slower in their second half, but Austin kicked it in incredibly.  It was a lot of fun to see discipline in action.

Seeing our babies today is bound to chase away these winter blues.   We know they're all grown up (duh!) but in the quiet confines of the car, we can't help but call them that.  Love those guys!
Back to my birth state!

We love road trips!

Cup of Joe at Kasana

Then lunch . . .

Thanks for buying, Joe!

And then, back to work.

Anchor Austin

Waiting for the baton

Ready . . .

Simpson kid is sticking . . .

KCRG's Scott Saville, talking with Austin's coach


3 up from the bottom - look whose name we found!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Nuts about Coconut Oil!

So one day recently we were walking around Hy-Vee looking for lentils.  A woman approached me and started asking me about where to find honey in the store.  I had some spare time and we started talking about lentils, and honey, and she pointed on the shelf to the coconut oil.  What?  She couldn't believe I hadn't heard the rage about coconut oil - Dr. Oz is all about it these days, apparently.
It's a solid in the jar but the heat of your body quickly warms it to an oil.  There are cheap versions NOT in the organic aisle, and I haven't enjoyed $6 this much in a long time.  It has so many uses and here are just a few:
  • A great moisturizer for any skin parts, from scalp to heels
  • Substitute it for any oil
  • Good for baby and household plant leaves, too
  • Removes gum
  • Mix it with baking soda to get rid of difficult goo
  • One spoonful a day alleviates migraines, improve digestion, and curbs appetites (in theory)
  • It's a natural eye makeup remover and strengthens your eyelashes
  • It's great (with a little butter) on popcorn and apparently you can fry chicken with it, too
  • For a DIY face scrub, combine with oatmeal and cinnamon
  • Soothes bee stings and bug bites
  • Add a few drops (1/4 tsp) of essential oil, and voila, it's massage oil

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I'm Making It Up As I Go!

Effective leaders are good storytellers, and with that in mind, our IT leadership community at work  held a two-part workshop on Storytelling last week.  I must admit that I wasn't too sure I would learn much, and I was tempted to cave to the day's demands and skip this extra-curricular activity.

But I'm glad I participated.

This leadership tool, storytelling, is way more useful than I had realized.  It's a powerful way to put ideas out there.  Done properly, you can inspire the team, set a vision, teach lessons, and define culture.  A good story can explain who you are and what you believe.

Of course a story doesn't work for every situation, sometimes strategy and budget woes have to be dealt head on, with data-driven conversations taking priority.  But reaching in the past, and bringing a narrative forward, and applying the lessons to a current situation can, indeed, be powerful. 

Our earliest storytelling lessons came from the adults around us, who acted as part entertainer and part translator, describing and interpreting events with the goal of trying to understand something and share it with us.  Why, for example, did something happen one way more than another?  This oral performance is more visual and less literary, and it should be - there is typically lots of repetition and lots of circling around as the storyteller demonstrates a level of vulnerability while seeking to understand, to take in the listeners' faces, and to introduce the next scene.

So here I am, surrounded by sincere and eager middle-age wage earners, and we shared stories. We learned how to captivate people, tell them a story, and hopefully, with this visualization process, win them over or lead them to action.  How to start?  Create a story map of images, quietly thinking on an event you wish to retell.  And then begin at the end.  For example, you might start with:  "I thought this was a good wasn't."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Special time

Kate and Scott spent the weekend with us.  We did a lot of normal things, and it was so very special. 

I am forever grateful for their love, the stimulating convos, and the ease  I feel whenever we're together.

We did step out on Saturday night, to take in comedian Brian Haner (actually leaving quite early for show - in the daylight - because, well, we could!).  We stayed long after the show and sang and clapped and rocked out with the dueling pianos show.  Until I caught myself, I almost thought I was thirty again.
She loves being in the middle!
Just another Saturday afternoon in CR!
Dueling pianos!

Brian Haner

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love Language

Whether you are in a marriage or just want to improve a close relationship, I suggest you read The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.  It's been a New York Times bestseller for a very long time.  Your relationship doesn't have to be in trouble to benefit from the key principles, because  hey, there is no limit to amazingness!  You will discover what you and your loved one individually need in your relationship, like never before, because the book helps you identify the language you prefer.  Once you know what language you hear, and discover what language your partner hears, the understanding improves and the relationship grows deeper, fuller, richer.

The five languages are fascinating - everyone has a preference:
  • Words of Affirmation - if this is your language, words affirm you
  • Acts of Service - a helping language - don't just say it, do it e.g. take out the garbage!
  • Receiving Gifts - a gift is an expression of love for some (I'm thinking jewelry)
  • Quality Time - undivided attention for each other is a love language
  • Physical Touch - gestures like hand holding really speak to you
In addition to reading the book, there's a mobile app that pushes reminders and alerts.  It guarantees results in 5 weeks!  Watch this short clip:

Happy Valentine's Day - to all my loved ones out there!  xoxoxoxxoxo

Monday, February 11, 2013

Strategies and Style

What better thing to do on a cold weekend than go to the movies?

Zero Dark Thirty documents the nearly ten-year man hunt for OBL after the September 11 attacks.   Kathryn Bigelow scores again - just as poignant as The Hurt Locker and also as engrossing.  This movie does a great job of explaining and informing while entertaining - especially difficult when the spoiler is so well known.

As the film is culminating, shortly before the capture and while the US Navy SEAL team 6 is still in the helicopter but approaching the Pakistani compound, the camera focuses on one of the soldiers who has headphones on and we learn that he is listening to the dynamic life coach, Tony Robbins.

And it made perfect sense - to have the strength and fearlessness of one of those SEALS, a little Tony Robbins inspiration would be crucial.

In a recent article, Robbins addresses the push and pull we all feel from time to time - the wavering between possibility and necessity.  Robbins notes that some people are motivated by necessity - that they do something not because they want to, but because they feel they must.  They are not looking at infinite possibilities.  They take what comes and accept what is available and put their head down and grind it out.  Others are possibility people.  They are dreamers, motivated by what they want to do and look for experiences and choices based on possibility.

As you might've guessed, there's no correct tendency here.  We need the steady Eddies and the stargazers.  Some of us get our energy from the consistent, reliable routine and others are bored if new directions are not a daily option.

Thinking back to the film, and that real-life event, the guys who executed must've had a lot of disciplined training.  I'm not sure they walked across burning coals like participants do in Robbins' Change Your Life workshop, but there was probably a mix of personalities on that helicopter(s) that were tuned into their respective styles before implementing the strategies that resulted in the real-life outcome and the film's ending.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Love Month!

Happy love month!
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that in all we do, we seek happiness.
The primary source of earthly happiness for human beings — more than work, hobbies, sports, politics or any other interest, including the biggie, cash — is being with those who are most dear to us.
For most people, these dear ones are our family members, either bio or chosen.
The way we live our family lives is essential to our happiness.
Not actually profound news, but a good reminder :)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Long Week Good Quote

I'm not sure who penned this, but God bless you:

"Today may there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Relationships R Really Relevant

Going through a stack of (mostly inept) applications for an App Dev position tonight, I started thinking about something I've recently read.  Did you know the resume is a dying genre?

As interviewers needing to score a solid hire, we can snoop around LinkedIn or Google to quickly summarize your worth, but does this really tell your story?  Do you want us to go there, really?  Wouldn't it be opportune if you were able to convince busy me that we share something in common?  How well we will relate to each other?  That you can help me?

Enter the bio.  The new genre for telling us not just what you've done, but who you are.  It's no secret that people hire people they can work with - that they can relate to and identify with. Trust comes from personal disclosure and there aren't any lines on the resume for that!  Your bio can tell the bigger story, your story.  And if you don't think you have one, it may just be time to reinvent yourself.

Your bio should address these questions:
  1. Who am I?
  2. How can I help you?
  3. How did I get here?
  4. Why can you trust me?
  5. What do we share in common?
Your bio is critical.  If you explain this well, you set the tone and people will be drawn to you.  It's not easy - you need to give a peek of the real you and how you see the world.  It's a balancing act - self-promotion is obnoxious and yet nobody wants to hire a bore, or a prude.

How to get started?  Share a point of view and show how you see the world.  Don't forget to tell how you came to see the world this way.  Convince me that you believe in yourself - this is huge, I no longer babysit!  And reinforce that you're not so different from me.  Reveal something, like a hobby you obsess on or a guilty pleasure you enjoy occasionally.  This builds a connection, and adds to your story.

Ready . . . or not?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Ring in the Voice

A few days ago, I attended a workshop called "Conflict and Controversial Issues" using a model developed by the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI), which provides skills for leaders to navigate tough conflicts in ways that help bickering sides to move toward future cooperation.  Powerful stuff!  Check out their clients here:  NCBI has helped with lots of negotiations, all over the world!

It was very cool.  The workshop was interactive as we worked through a controversy together.  It was all about self-reflection, sharing, and running from pessimism, and I ate every bite.  We learned how to practice discussing a controversial topic without revealing our own position; to listen to another's story and repeat back what was said; to identify areas of common ground between two people; and finally, to reframe an issue in a way that takes both concerns into account.

At the workshop, we chose the controversial issue:  "Should marijuana be legalized?"  Naturally, there were people on both sides of that hazy fence.  Two volunteers, with opposing viewpoints, were chosen to come forward and argue their side.  But with gentle help from our guides, there was actually a lot less arguing and more understanding that resulted.  One person argued that marijuana use led to harder drugs.  The ring in her voice was noticeable as she shared a story of a family member who moved from weed to harder drugs and eventual death.  The other person shared the story of his longtime, from childhood, best friend.  That friend developed glaucoma and finds relief in marijuana use - but only when he is visiting states where it is legal.  Their stories were full of emotion and I was biting back the tears.  In the end, they compromised - and agreed that restricted use of marijuana, for medicinal purposes, was acceptable.  They found a solution they could both support.

I also learned the difference between advocacy and coalition-building:  advocacy is the attempt to advance your own position while coalition-building is the method of finding elements of agreement among differing views in order to accomplish something together.

One of the biggest takeaways for me was the common refrain heard throughout the workshop: Think well of each other.   This was repeated a lot and I love it.  I've been wanting a new mantra . . . and I think this is it!  We have lots of things we are carrying with us, and everyone else does, too.  Most of us are doing the very best we can on our journey.  Most positions on controversial issues grow from personal experiences.  And if someone takes the risk to share their story with you, recognize that this is a gift, a gift of trust.  If someone shares their story, don't pass it on - don't re-gift!  In other words, don't pass their truth around!  Especially with the tag attached to identify the giver!  Another takeaway:  "The ring in the voice".  When someone tells their story, pay close attention to those areas of deep emotional resonance, the place where hearing typically shuts down.  That's where the essence of their truth resides, that's the ring in the voice, that's the clue to understanding them.  If the personal experience is the lock, and it usually is, the ring in the voice is the key.

Finding common ground is the beginning of taking both sides' concerns into account, in an atmosphere of optimism and hope to push forward the necessary change!

Quote of the day from our moderator, Lindsey:

"The edge of where you're uncomfortable is the edge of where the learning begins."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

So good . . . and so bad.

We stole away to Des Moines this weekend and met up with our friends Liz and Bill to see the much-acclaimed, provocative, blasphemous Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon.  The scathing show won 9 Tony Awards in 2011 and is on a national tour (Chicago friends - it is in YOUR area through September).  The dancing and singing is top-notch and I truly realize how live theatre (and laughing with good friends) feeds my soul.  I knew the show would be irreverant - after all, the creators from South Park co-wrote this.  Although the writing was witty and often spot-on, it does push the envelope - a lot.  Mormons best not attend - and not just because they might be offended - but because they are counseled to avoid R-rated movies.  There is no doubt this would be considered R+ rated.  But if you can get through the profanity, you'll be able to enjoy the uplifting story at its core - the human need to believe a faith-based story, to believe that there is a promise bigger than us, and the notion that we have a moral imperative to take care of each other. 

As an aside, I was fairly impressed with the Mormon church's public stance on the show, because they really took the high road and are staying focused.  The program booklet has three ads sponsored by the church, each displaying the face of a happy-lookin' Mormon with such captions as:  "I've read the book," "The book is always better," and "You've seen the play, now read the book!"

Pre-gaming at the Court Avenue Brewing Company