November 2023 Quote: Always Be on the Lookout for the Presence of Wonder

As I set up my calendar for the month, I select a quote I’ve found that speaks to me. I write it in my planner and leave space below it to capture phrases I hear or read that speak to me and relate to the quote. I found this practice centers me throughout the month, and helps me be more present in my conversations, meetings, and readings. For November 2023 my quote was “Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”  

Fall is my season. The crisp air. The wind gusts. The colorful leaves. They all re-fill my soul. My feet feel more rooted to the ground. I feel more present in my body. I seem to notice more details in the world around me. It’s all more vivid. It feels like a cross between the sensation Superman feels when he gets recharged by the sun after exposure to Kryptonite and the shift in Dorothy when she enters the technicolor world of Oz. As I soaked all this up in November here are the quotes, lyrics, and phrases that that caught my attention along the way:

  • One can only share what she has in plenty
  • I’m not afraid, I was born to do this
  • Be a voice not a echo
  • Life will always find ways for you to thrive
  • Her tears were the most healing waters of them all
  • Wisdom keepers in the shape of trees
  • The sand assures us change is inevitable
  • Nature is always present; it is us who are not
  • Drop our roots deep to rise high
  • Wait in faith for just a moment
  • She used her heart as a compass
  • It broke me and I asked my soul to lead
  • Hope is a practical way of life
  • Soul whispers
  • Seeing people with generous eyes
  • Hold on to the sense of possibility
  • Decide to rise
  • Soul rest
  • Freedom is not a state, it’s an act
  • Don’t you want to be alive before you die?
  • The impossible just takes a little longer
  • Ittibi oksifoshi’ ihoo chohmi! (Fight like a hatchet woman)
  • The body tells us what we need
  • Grief is love with nowhere to go
  • Relationships travel at the speed of vulnerability
  • Kaddish (holy; separate from the every day)

As a self-proclaimed communications geek I love words. Words can be so simple and yet make a huge impact. They can inspire, comfort, clarify, hurt, empower, and confuse. Words impact our whole being – head, heart, and body. We feel them and carry them with us. Words matter.

One of my favorite words is wonder, so much so that it was my word this year (some folks set a goal or intention, I pick a word to embrace). I wanted more wonder. More wide-eye child-like experiences. More connection to something beyond my reality. More time to literally wonder, think, and just be. More of what definitions use to describe wonder:  feeling of surprise mingled with admiration; caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable; something extraordinary.

In my heightened fall state, I realized that my life was indeed saturated in wonder… especially in the “extra-ordinary” moments.

Wonder wedged its way in as I stood and watched the orange sun push away the evening darkness.

Wonder erupted on a call with a group of professional women I chat with monthly through genuine conversations, heart-felt support, and big laughs.

Wonder delivered itself through a thoughtful piece of mail marked “DO NOT OPEN UNTIL THANKSGIVING!”

Wonder chimed in as I got my groove on and danced to a favorite tune as I made lunch in the middle of a hectic work day

Wonder came as I sat in my church’s tiny white chapel in silence before the service and the morning sun poured in on me through the window.

Wonder sparkled as I drove at 6am in the dark to make an appointment and holiday lights lit my way.

Wonder smacked me upside the head when a friend looked me in the eye and asked, “How are you taking care of yourself?”

Wonder got a voice when I chose to donate to a nonprofit that supports Native America women who experience violence at significantly higher rates than other Americans, as part of my annual “thank you” to my work team.

Wonder moved into my morning with a friend as we shared, vented, and laughed walking around the neighborhood.

Wonder appeared when a high school bestie brought her dad, daughter, and granddaughter over at 8:30pm to sing Happy Birthday to my mom and dole out hugs.

Wonder clicked its way in with a text of thanks from a former coworker.

Wonder came together as I finished knitting a baby blanked for a friend’s first child.

Wonder grew as I listened to a Rabbi explain Jewish prayer to a room full of captivated Presbyterians.

Wonder smelled of home when I made my grandmother’s family’s stuffing recipe for Thanksgiving.

Wonder fell as I watched the orange leaves continuously float in the breeze one morning, and dad commented, “look, it’s like orange snow.”

Actually, wonder was always there… I just took the time to notice it and soak it all in.

woman with bow and arrow

October 2023 Quote: Out of Your Hands, Free From Your Mind

As I set up my calendar for the month, I select a quote I’ve found that speaks to me. I write it in my planner and leave space below it to capture phrases I hear or read that speak to me and relate to the quote. I found this practice centers me throughout the month, and helps me be more present in my conversations, meetings, and readings. For October 2023 my quote was “If it’s out of your hands, it deserves to be out of your mind, too.”  

October marks my new year, as it’s my birthday month. Over the years I’ve gotten more and more intentional about what I do in this month… specifically what tone do I want to set for my next year. This year it began with a two-day mindful leader summit filled with educational content and lots of meditation practices. It closed with a Lord of the Rings costume party at a horse farm in Tennessee with my extended family. In between were compelling conversations, long hugs, big laughs, hard tears, and introspection. Here are the quotes, lyrics, and phrases that that caught my attention along the way:

  • It’s weird, it’s human, it’s inexplicable
  • Sparring with uncertainty
  • What messages came back to you?
  • Be in the mystery of it
  • With anticipation
  • Tune into your bold
  • The strength of one resolute soul can become the strength of many
  • Could we shut out the background noise and remember our truth?
  • It broke me and I asked my soul to lead
  • Energy follows thought
  • We all must choose our path in life, but let us also strew that path with flowers
  • I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be
  • Forever evolving
  • Soul whispers
  • Then I put on my crown of joy
  • Spread your arms and hold your breath; Always trust your cape
  • Drink like a pirate and dance like a mermaid
  • Your dream is the plan
  • Forget about enlightenment – sit down wherever you are and listen to the wind singing in your veins
  • You are what you practice
  • Drop our roots deep to rise high
  • Wait in faith for just a moment
  • Rip up the script and make magic
  • She used her heart as a compass

Near the end of the month, I sat on the interstate going 5mph for about 45 minutes. I had been cruising at top speed with the sunroof open, crisp air swirling, as I sang loud to my playlist. The slow-down, slowed all of me down. I turned off the tunes and took some deep breaths. I then got a chuckle as I looked to my right and there were two tractor trailers pulling double cabs of porta potties – about 80 toilets in total. Here I am in a mindful moment, being fully present, with thoughts swirling in my head, and I’m surrounded by poop potties. The Universe is always good to show us our place and provide a humbling laugh. Perhaps those poop potties were where I needed to dump my ruminating thoughts.

Then a call came in from a college friend. “Happy early birthday… what is your intention for the year?” Ooof, big question to which I didn’t have an answer and didn’t want to toss one out flippantly. I told her of my current view and that I better wait for more scenic inspiration. The joy-filled call ended, and I eased along down the road with her question on my mind, and Tracy Chapman’s poignant tunes in the background as the sun set.

The result… connection. I realized that throughout the month, what I unknowingly laid out, were moments of connection. Connection to the quiet nooks and crannies inside myself. Connection to loved ones. Connection to fun. Connection to possibilities.

Here’s to my next year and the connections to come.

dark strom clouds and orange umbrella

September 2023 Quote: Both a Masterpiece and a Work in Progress

As I set up my calendar for the month, I select a quote that calls to me. I write it in my planner and leave space below it to capture phrases I hear or read that speak to me and relate to the quote. I found this practice centers me throughout the month, and helps me be more present in my conversations, meetings, and readings. For September 2023, my quote was “You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.”  

September marks a new year for me. Even now, I cannot shake the back-to-school, new season vibe. There is the call of the Siren for new office supplies … oh how I love new notebooks and pens, and long to wrap my books in paper bag covers that I doodle on all year long. There is getting “back to it” after the calm, playfulness of summer. There is an energetic shift felt as the crisp air whispers, “quick, winter is on its way.”

Yet, I found myself lingering a bit this September. Hesitant to jump all in. Savoring the last of the extended sunny days and laziness of vacation. It was this juxtaposition between “go, go, go” and “be, be, be” that I found myself throughout the month. I moved through it in a whirlwind interrupted by sporadic, abrupt pauses. Here are the quotes, lyrics, and phrases that caught my attention along the way:

  • Don’t ever let them tell you who you are
  • Before 50, you’re paid for what you do; after 50 for what you know
  • Volcanic clarity that comes when you speak from the absolute center of your being
  • Whenever I surrender, everything expands
  • Discomfort is a teacher
  • Every process differs, trust yours
  • Communal energy
  • No amount of worry will give you back even 2 hours
  • My validation came from inside
  • You take what you have and you march it forward
  • I had to become more comfortably afraid
  • Rest in it
  • Change is made of miracles in the mundane
  • Do it like your hair is on fire
  • Collude against illusion
  • The only thing different between crazy and courage is a plan
  • Take time to absorb

My “masterpiece” moments showed up when I facilitated a dynamic client meeting that generated client accolades; released a new blog to which a reader shared, “I love it when another golden acorn drops;” coached someone who wrote, “I really appreciate you helping me… You’re so, so good at this;” delivered a prayer at a complex church meeting and afterward a pastor said it was an “art form;” and when I opened my network to a co-worker for help she emailed me, “you are the beset and always seem to make things perfect in the world. Thank you.”

My “work in progress” kept me in a frantic state spinning. Mistakes made. Calls missed. Fitness skipped. Connection overlooked. Fun delayed. Sugar eaten. Veggies missed. To do’s not done. Absently present.

Most people only share their or see other’s curated masterpieces. For me, the work in progress – while often done privately and in intimate ways – is most meaningful when shared.

I got empathy from a new client when I revealed a private stressor in my life. I got access to an expert when I expressed my confusion on a project. I got a much needed hug at 8pm one night from a life-long friend who worked around my crazy calendar to see me. I got to participate in a class with a thought leader when I shared a personal career goal – for free! I got unexpected medical care for a loved one when I shared we had hit a wall. I got a new walking buddy when I re-connected with a neighbor.

Each time I revealed my works in progress (struggles, insecurities, concerns) … a masterpiece of support appeared. All of which made the issue easier to handle and work on together. My works in progress were someone else’s masterpiece moments, and I’m grateful they shared them with me.  

Here’s to creating together.

sunrise at the beach on the water

August 2023 Quote: Refresh

As I set up my calendar for the month, I select a quote I’ve found that speaks to me. I write it in my planner and leave space below it to capture phrases I hear or read that speak to me and relate to the quote. I found this practice centers me throughout the month, and helps me be more present in my conversations, meetings, and readings. For July 2023 my quote was simply one word:  refresh.  

Typically, the quotes for each month find me. I see something, take a photo, and when the new month starts, I scroll through them, and one causes me to linger. That’s it. For August, I didn’t look for a quote but rather set an intention. I wanted refresh at the center of my month in every way. Here are the quotes, lyrics, and phrases that that caught my attention during the month:

  • Don’t just do something, stand there
  • Sacred practices
  • Worry was the mental echo of fear
  • With gratitude, optimism is sustainable
  • Seeing and letting go… seeing and letting be
  • Your absence has gone through me like thread through a needed – everything I do is stitched with it’s color
  • Life is now
  • Don’t just follow something, advance it
  • Touching bliss
  • Habit energy
  • Focus on what matters and motivates you
  • Don’t talk about it, be about it
  • Hyper distraction
  • Productive activity not productivity
  • Less candy, more nourishment
  • A created future holds more possibility than a default future
  • Faith lived in the darkest rooms
  • Run with a relaxed mind
  • Without great solitude, no serious work is possible
  • The world is full of magic things patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper

I spent three weeks of August at the beach in a cottage we’ve rented for 20 years for our family vacation. It feels like a second home with the bonus of a massive front porch with rocking chairs that face the sunset. Obviously, a great place to focus on refresh, along with the red beach umbrella where I observe, read, and nap for hours protected from the aggressive sun I crave but fries me to a pink crisp in just a few minutes.

I tried something new for vacation this year. Two weeks working half-days and one week off. This helped me ease into vacation, be present for my family, and be fully unplugged. When the sunny and sand-filled time was over, here are the nine things I learned:

1. Words matter … checking emails on vacation means you’re at work, not on vacation. Working part time (with a precise out of office message) set clear boundaries for team, clients, and myself. This model also helped me close out a few key things important to me and be fully present on vacation.

2. Being gone and offline is good for my team. It showed me where to stay out of their way when I returned cause things progressed fine in my absence and where to mentor staff a bit more.

3. A lot of meetings don’t matter because they are simply habitual exchanges of information without intention. Working 50% made me very intentional about what I attended and attended to. I got a lot done with 70% fewer meetings.

4. Quiet time (in large chunks) generates all kinds of fresh thoughts and ideas. A mindful walk on the beach. Sunrises and sunsets. Cloud gazing. Open time = open mind.

5. Reading books – any kind – on a porch should be required each day … and every office and school should have a reading room with rocking chairs.

6. A large puzzle is an intense mindfulness practice. It’s like yoga … I can’t focus on anything else when doing one.

7. Naps are delightful… as is daily ice cream.

8. Nature is a powerful muscle relaxer.

9. Doing nothing is everything.

I also realized how hard wired I was “to do.” Upon reflection there was a bit of “habit energy” detox that occurred as I stayed offline, didn’t do the “should a” things, and was just in the present moment. I think this extended separation in a relaxing place gave me time and space to reset. To find refresh in my sense of time (less frantic, more calm). To find refresh in my choices (less must do, more here and now). To find refresh in my body (less tense energy, more big easy breaths).

After coming back to reality and working for the last week of August in the city, I found this vacation model has the lasting benefit of what I call “beach brain.” Thinking that is more breezy. Laughter that sits at the surface. Worries that wash away more quickly. A calm I carry with me.

A calm put to the test the day after getting home with a water leak in the kitchen… which led to removal of everything under the sink… which led to five repairman visits… which led to no cooking for a week… which led to removing everything out of our refrigerator/freezer to move it… which led to me be more at ease with it, rather than against it in search of control.

Ahhhh yes…. lasting refreshment of my soul.

two flamingos

July 2023 Quote: Live Loud Enough in Your Heart

As I set up my calendar for the month, I select a quote I found that speaks to me. I write it in my planner and leave space below it to capture phrases I hear or read that speak to me and relate to the quote. I found this practice centers me throughout the month, and helps me be more present in my conversations, meetings, and readings. For July 2023 my quote was “live loud enough in your heart and there is no need to speak.”  

I write this blog in my mother’s home sanctuary. I sit here in her backyard at 6am among the chatter of various birds, soft chilled air, and touch of emerging light. While the day comes alive, a stillness surrounds me. I am aware of a connection to more, to a whole of which I am one piece. I welcome the gentleness of the day’s start as I think about the quotes, lyrics, and phrases that that caught my attention during the month:

  • Opportunity did not knock until I built the door
  • Allow don’t push
  • Practice creates the person who owns the thing
  • This is it, dammit
  • Your mission is waiting on you
  • Time runs out
  • Laughter is the carbonated holiness
  • Do what is vital
  • Some people are soul medicine in the way they love you, support you, and believe in you always
  • Your future self is not someone you become – it’s someone you choose to be
  • Follow your soul, it knows the way
  • What is essential is invisible to the eye
  • The meaning of life is to give live meaning

I felt July. It was a lot to feel. The emotional pendulum swung big – from pure glee laughing uncontrollably as tears rolled down my face to the devastation of death as tears rolled down my face. Both a part of a life filled with dear friends.

In between these moments I had three poignant conversations that in hindsight were my own emotional fable like the Alchemist.

First, came preparation. A friend and mindfulness coach shared how she welcomes her emotions or rather gathers them together and talks to them. She brings them into the light to see what they are teaching her rather than keep them at bay wreaking havoc. Perhaps it’s because I’m in my mother’s space, that the analogy I give you for this comes from her days as an Executive Director of a child development center. Sing it with me now, “Where is thumpkin? Where is thumpkin?”  Call each emotion out, say hello, and put it away. My friend reminded me that emotions aren’t bad. They are information to listen to.

Then came reality. Another key conversation was with a friend who is training to be a death doula, someone who helps people prepare for and transition through death. In this call we dumped all the random things going on in life on the table so to speak. We gave our crazy stories to each other, the absurdity of them all, when combined together, led me to say, “Well, this is it. Dammit.” And she offered up it was a book title for both our lives at the moment. Life unvarnished. No filters. All in the open.

Finally, came acceptance. I closed the month with a role model—a spiritual, artistic, community leader. Our intimate conversation over breakfast was tender. From medical hardships of our loved ones to creative learning to our alma mater, we each shared and listened. There was no fixing or advice. Just space to simply be in life with another person. Together. I shared how the phrase “let it go” continues to show up in my life and she shared a phrase that helps her, “let it be.”

I am grateful for these conversations and these women both in moment and especially when I learned a long-time friend and Junior League of Northern Virginia volunteer died after a nearly two-year battle with stomach cancer. All the feels came when I learned her light was gone. It was too big for me to process. Like a short circuit of my system. Then I got to know my sadness and found out joy was there… joy of her smile, joy of her compassion, joy of her network, joy of her animal videos, joy of her faith, joy of her information, joy of her flamingos, joy of her being. As I struggled with the reality of her death, I discovered that her light was not in fact gone… that it was just disbursed into everyone who felt her joy. That we all carried her light forward, and this helped shift my sadness to possibility. How can I emanate more of JJ’s joy in the world?

Funny enough, as I come to the end of this piece, “Reveille” blarred full throttle from mega speakers at the nearby Air Force Base… time to live loud through our hearts!  

June 2023 Quote: All For The Love Of You

As I set up my calendar for the month, I select a quote I’ve found that speaks to me. I write it in my planner and leave space below it to capture phrases I hear or read that speak to me and relate to the quote. I found this practice centers me throughout the month, and helps me be more present in my conversations, meetings, and readings. For June 2023 my quote was “all for the love of you.”  

I began this month with an introspective vibe for this quote. All up in my head as we introverts can be. I am grateful that I ended the month with an interpersonal perspective of these words. Here are quotes, lyics, and phrases that that caught my attention during the month:

  • Our fear is only darkness, which is the perfect test, contrast, and venue for our light
  • If not now, when?
  • Non-thinking reptilian brain
  • The mind chases while the heart grounds
  • A feisty blessing
  • Act on the knowledge you have until you have better knowledge
  • Don’t ignore the warning signs
  • Be ready to own your choices
  • Fuck comfort
  • Walk long enough and we all trade places
  • Ambition verses intention
  • You create what you allow
  • Meet what is, rather than what could be
  • What’s possible through me?
  • Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public
  • You’re ridiculously in charge
  • Relax into who I’ve always been
  • You don’t grow a plant by dipping it into dirt once a year, it needs to stay and grow roots
  • Prioritize the uniqueness that makes you you, and the invisible magnet that draws in other like-minded souls to dance in your orbit
  • The power of God powerfully moves between us unseen, only visible in the brief moments we are lighted – in those enlivened moments we know as love

There is research that shows what you think about helps you move to it—or attract it to you; perhaps it’s a bit of both. Well, this month, I felt the love.

My month kicked off with Day Breakers which I’d waited to do since learning about it during the COVID lockdown. I met a friend at the Kennedy Center’s outdoor park next to the Potomac River.  There, we joined more than 200 others, each wearing one color head to toe. I blue, she pink. Together we all looked like specs of a rainbow that has been scattered after a storm, reuniting to take full form again. We enjoyed one hour of yoga and then two hours dancing to a DJ. The yoga had me a bit worried as I hadn’t done any in 15 years. The practice was a graceful one – accepting what your body can do now rather than an aggressive stance of “do better.” At one point we came off our mats onto the grass to do a challenging pose balanced on one leg. The each person directed to put an arm around another’s shoulder. There we were, ring upon ring of people – in various colors – connected together. Steady as a collective verse wobbly alone.

The next weekend had me on the hill of my alma matter, Mary Baldwin College, for my 30th reunion. At first, the thought of my 30th reunion made me feel old, but I since realized that each decade, year, and moment of growing deserved a celebration … 30 years of a life well lived deserved gratitude for a place that transformed me. Three days with three besties sharing and laughing reminded me:

  • To cling to folks who get you
  • That our imaginations are not big enough for our potential
  • Silliness is good for the soul
  • Everyone is an artist in their own way

The weekend caused me to reflect on who I was when I was there – bold, bright eyed, and bushy tailed … who I am now, and who I want to continue to evolve into. The weekend brought me back to my core where I re-connected with spunk, creativity, confidence, wonder, forgiveness, and joy. Not that these had gone away, and more of a reminder that they are always with me and how easy it is to tap into them. Life had lodged them a bit deeper and now they were polished and prominent.

As I savored the celebration of my journey as an adult, I moved to the next weekend to celebrate the journey to come for my nephew as he graduated from high school. The energy in the room palpable. Hope and anticipation swirled in the air from the graduates and loved ones alike. Many conversations centered on “What are you doing next?” A question, I am learning with age and experience, that is dangerous and detrimental. It robs the person of the now, of the magic of being, of the possibilities they can’t imagine, and of the tiny voice in their soul that has ideas different than the norm. Perhaps at these milestone moments, the question could be “How would you like to be now?,” “What do you want to make sure the world has more of?,” or “What do you hope is in your life?” And, in case you’re wondering how we celebrated my nephew going off into his “next”… a family meal, axe throwing, and ice cream! They seemed to set the tone for life’s pending adventures.

The last weekend of the month ended at lunch with friends of 20+ years. The conversation different from chats over chips and salsas of days gone by. Work responsibilities, memory care units, and health issues – tempered with memories and long-standing jokes. Our waiter (whom we’ve followed to three restaurants) shared news about his colon cancer and successful surgery. Hugs by all.

I closed out my month with a thank you note. On Father’s Day, I received a truly empathic text from a long-time friend. She articulated things I had not and could not. I felt understood in a way that took me by surprise. Her words not only comforted but buoyed me. She didn’t try to fix anything or offer false platitudes. She acknowledged me. She saw me. She loved me. Several weeks later, I mailed her an “LGBTQILOVEU” card to close out Pride month. I expressed gratitude for her as best I could in hopes that she felt my acceptance as I had felt hers.

The month reminded me of all the ways love appears. The love of you as a person. The love of you as family. The love of you as friend. The love of you within community.

All for the love of you.

May 2023 Quote: Meraki!

As I set up my calendar for the month, I select a quote I’ve found that speaks to me. I write it in my planner and leave space below it to capture phrases I hear or read that speak to me and relate to the quote. I found this practice centers me throughout the month, and helps me be more present in my conversations, meetings, and readings. For May 2023 it was a word, not a quote that caught my attention, meraki.

Meraki means “doing something with soul, creativity, or love – when you put something of yourself into what you’re doing.” Here are quotes, lyics, and phrases that that caught my attention during the month:

  • You are the only one who can assign meaning to your life
  • Happiness is the feeling of contribution
  • Life is a series of moments, each called now
  • Allow the road ahead of you to speak louder than the one behind you
  • It was a real God-wink
  • A storm in a teacup
  • Unpack your backage and hide it in the attic
  • Lets dance in earnest in the moments of the here and now
  • We pray, practice, and invite in all the transformation we’ve been craving
  • Get out of your head
  • What does this situation call for?
  • I believe in kindness; also in mischief; also in singing—especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed
  • Don’t fight back, fight forward
  • We are not living our lives to satisfy others
  • We are all different and all equal
  • They need to get unstuck
  • Be in use to others
  • The courage to be normal
  • Your dreams have plans for you
  • Stand in your light
  • Collude for good
  • A little nonsense now and then is enjoyed by the wisest men
  • Patience is a form of faith
  • The life ahead of you is a blank page – and there are no tracks that have been laid for you to follow—there is no story there
  • As long as you are dancing, you will get somewhere
  • I am learning every day to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me

More and more, I feel so much around me is increasingly serious, to the point of overwhelming paralysis. Friends face severe, complex, life-threatening illnesses. The loss of women’s health rights and targeted aggressions against various minority groups. Gun violence now so normalized that the death of school children is not the lead news story. National elected officials more focused on working against something or someone than working for the country, gone is common sense and collaboration. War around the word.

As more darkness seems to take hold, I feel the call to bring more light into any corner I can. More soul. More creativity. More love. More meraki.

My hope is that with more meraki I can shore up those in need, make dents in large bureaucratic issues, and help improve the community closest to me. Perhaps my meraki will spark meraki in others, creating a wave of connection built through laughter, meals, hugs, cards, art, kindness, conversation, and compassion.

As I snuck in meraki, it’s been fun to see it reverberate. Positive begets positivity. Meraki showed up when a teammate said, “I’m grateful because no one’s invested in my leadership before.” Meraki generated an invitation to join an upcoming Eid celebration. Meraki caused women to share their appreciation for a leader, earning her a significant award. Merekai brought connection during a 10 minute call to a college friend struggling. Meraki resulted in leaders tossing around a fluffy, stuffed acorn in laughter at a planning session. Meraki inspired me to paint my parent’s laundry room after 40 years. Meraki broke down the stigma of a layoff when executive women spoke candidly to a small group of peers. Meraki led to prayers said and cards sent to those I know and don’t suffering from loss and heartbreak. Meraki led me to donate to a black, female candidate. Meraki caused a discussion on shoes at work leading me to bust out my glittery Converse high tops for the offsite. Meraki showed up as enthusiastic emails from my high school English teacher.

More meraki!

Tree bark with green moss

April 2023 Quote: “Tending to the Emerging Story of Your Life”

As I set up my calendar for the month, I select a quote I’ve found that speaks to me. I write it in my planner and leave space below it to capture phrases I hear or read that speak to me and relate to the quote. I found this practice centers me throughout the month, and helps me be more present in my conversations, meetings, and readings. For April 2023 the quote was, “How are You Tending to the Emerging Story of Your Life.”

I regularly have conversations with folks about careers. From new graduates with informative interviews and coworkers about their next move to Veterans starting over outside of the military. I love these chats because everyone has an interesting story. I feel honored when they share their journey and trust me with their career dream. Here are a few chats I had in the past two weeks:

  • I spoke to a recent college graduate who shared near the end of our all that two men she had informative interviews with told her to “shrink herself” to get into a company. I don’t remember which expletive I shouted before I caught my composure and explained the lasting damage I’d seen from others through that approach. Finally asking, “Do you want to spend your time a tiny version of yourself?”  
  • I listened to a friend talk through the choice of job security with a demotion or opportunity of a 12-week severance package as her division was eliminated as a result of a corporate powerplay. I loved how throughout the call she came back to her value, not letting the situation diminish her expertise, gifts, and track record. Following the call, I sent her a draft vision of what I heard her define as her career future which included, “I offer bold ideas, share my passion, and get results in creative ways that are respected and recognized.”
  • I was part of lively discussion with 5 corporate executives about the concept of “take your whole self to work.” For some a resounding no, and others cautious optimism that the future of work would be more inclusive and welcoming. I shared that I think of it like an internal stereo equalizer – sometimes my total volume is on high across the board and other times I dial a part of me back for a specific situation. Post call, I reflected on what and who helped me gain more security in how much of myself I reveal…and that I stand by my dislike of this phrase, and would prefer “be yourself at work.”

Quotes that Caught My Attention

  • Time is sacred
  • Shadows are mistaken for the truth
  • Happiness, love, and peace are in inside job
  • Conscious creator
  • Be somebody’s peace – mainly yours
  • It started in your head and came of your soul
  • Let go and allow
  • Be at ease
  • Trust love, that’s pretty much it – expect maybe each more chocolate
  • I am
  • Own your greatness
  • There is more to see that what you found
  • Follow your inner wisdom
  • The fertile betwixt and between
  • Our unlimited, all-powerful potential; The inexhaustible battery of joy and bliss each of us can tap through practice
  • Abandon all plans
  • Creativity is intelligence having fun
  • You are a powerful being
  • Move in the midst of fear
  • Run to the unknown
  • My attention is my power
  • Line up together people, all of us, seek knowledge and love others
  • All of us breathe more deeply out in the unknown; maybe because we have no other choice
  • Words are spells go weave magic
  • Faith is between the dots
  • Let go gracefully
  • Go do the damn thing

Your Story Line

But our story is more than work. Often to help groups get to know each other I have them do a timeline activity. On the left side of a horizontal line “start” and on the right, “now.” Above the line folks write meaningful moments in their personal life and below the line ones that are career related. Then we all share. Each person’s story seems to have love, loss, and triumph, plus a side of surprise.

Each time I do this, there are subtle tweaks but always a sense of “yep, that’s me” when I finish. Seeing my story in such a simple way helps me reconnect with the core of who I am – not the veneer easily adjusted for a group or situation. Seeing markers for each chapter of my story – the environment, emotions, people, crisis, impact, and accomplishments – grounds me. It also fills me with gratitude. I see a story bigger than today and that is both humbling and empowering.

What I plan to start adding to this activity is a dotted line from “now” to “next.” It’s important to realize that what is written is part of you, but not all of you. Perhaps the professional story is robust but personal is thin? What if you are missing some of your favorite “characters” in your story? Maybe the memorable moments were good, but you’ve outgrown them and want more or different? What if a moment changed you to the core?

That’s the magic of our story – it’s ours. Ours to enjoy. Ours to dream. Ours to write.

Two rocking chairs on the roof at sunset

March 2023 Quote: “Astonished Tomorrow”

As I set up my calendar for the month, I select a quote I’ve found that speaks to me. I write it in my planner and leave space below it to capture phrases I hear or read that speak to me and relate to the quote. I found this practice centers me throughout the month, and helps me be more present in my conversations, meetings, and readings. For March 2023 the quote was, “I’m hoping to be astonished tomorrow by I don’t know what.”

For many months now, I’ve felt like I’ve been on a precipice of something big. Like there is a massive shift or unfathomable opportunity just beyond my fingertips. It’s as if my being knows it’s there – senses it – but my body cannot see it. Something is patiently waiting for me. I am oddly calm about it. Steadying myself for its arrival. Here are quotes and phrases that that caught my attention as I pause in this liminal time:

  • In the universe there are things that are known and things that are unknown – and between them, there are doors
  • Your actions are your only true belongings
  • Build bridges
  • Unrelenting kindness
  • Coming into being and passing on
  • Laughter is carbonated holiness
  • The creator and the creation rely on each other to thrive
  • Soul erosion
  • Dying with our music still inside us
  • Sit in the mess
  • What could be
  • She wasn’t created to fit in
  • Doubt can only be removed by action
  • Purpose is a renewable resource
  • “But people are oceans,” she shrugged – “you cannot know them by their surface”
  • Be in a new frequency
  • Honor your feelings
  • Age in harmony
  • How ever you see yourself as an artist, the frame is to small
  • Do no harm, take no shit
  • Keep me where the light is
  • What’s done is done, what’s not is not, and let us be at peace with both
  • Access calm as much as fire

In my intimate conversations over the past few months, I’ve found that many I know are in this liminal time with me. As if we are on a scenic overlook of our life – surveying what has been before we move forward to what is next. For whatever reason, we are not in a hurry to move. The reflective view is satisfying. We can take in life’s pivotal moments with more objectivity, savoring the magic and balancing out the bad.

I think this liminal state gives me the opportunity to settle in… or rather, merge myself. Connect the bold fire of my younger years with the wisdom of a life well lived. It’s a time where I can set down what I’ve carried that I don’t need to anymore, and probably never did to begin with. Simply, time to get intentional on me and how I’ll walk the back half of my life.

I do worry that I’ll wait here to long. The rest is refreshing. The detachment is safe.

I do worry that I’ll remain a cooling ember. That I’ll be lulled by the stillness. That the reignition won’t come.

I do worry that I’ll hesitate. That “fine” will replace “astonishing.” That I’ll miss the jump.

But then I feel the pull. I hear the whisper. I sense the energy.

The next draws near.

I must go and welcome it.  

Emily in headband with stars

February Quote: “Beautiful Little Weirdo”

As I set up my calendar for the month, I select a quote I’ve found that speaks to me. I write it in my planner and leave space below it to capture phrases I hear or read that speak to me and relate to the quote. I found this practice centers me throughout the month, and helps me be more present in my conversations, meetings, and readings. For February 2023 the quote was, “Don’t make yourself small for anyone. Be the awkward, funny, intelligent, beautiful little weirdo that you are. Don’t hold back. Weird it out.”

Throughout the month of love, I took time to focus on the heart of me—literally and figuratively. I got baseline metrics on my heart with an echocardiogram and stress test. I joined a friend for a meditation with sound bowls. I celebrated loved-one’s birthdays from dad and Godson to more than 6 friends. I texted poetry to a friend on her first day of coaching certification class. I stood in snowflakes. I headed back to Orange Theory Fitness after graduating from 2 months of physical therapy. I fed roasted peanuts to the birds and squirrels from my desk outside. I danced in the kitchen while I grabbed a snack to recharge between meetings. I said prayers and meditated each night. I attended a class on my “money mindset.” I had a co-worker join me in an online class on how to get comfortable with mistakes and failures where we drew someone in the class without looking at our paper or picking the pen off the paper – and then others guessed who we drew. While it all felt like a normal month for me, I’ll admit as I write it down, it looks a bit weird. But then again, I’ve always felt a little weird and am OK with that.

Growing up I could hang with many groups, but I never felt 100% a part of one. I had friends in each type of The Breakfast Club in high school, and still do. The theater performer in a group of academics. The only college student in a group of convenient store co-workers. The only woman in a room of gray-haired executive men. The only civilian in a room of combat veterans. The only professional communicator on a committee of double-board certified physicians. The only Gen X-er on a work team of Gen Z’s. The only contractor who showed up at a government meeting last week wearing a headband that made me look like a unicorn to celebrate someone’s impact on the team. Uh, yeah, that’s weird!

In each space, however, I felt weirdly at home. What I’ve come to realize is that my weirdness was not my weakness but my strength. It’s what helped me contribute to make something different or better come about. It’s helped me put diverse teams together. It’s helped me surround myself with unique perspectives which helped me grow. It’s what puts me in amazing situations. It’s what enabled me to do something bold (and needed) in the moment based on what I felt rather than the norm. It’s helped me forge my own path as a leader. My weirdness makes me, well me… in the business world, it’s my competitive advantage.

So, as I fell in love with my weirdness again in February, here are quotes that caught my attention:

  • No one diary entry is your life’s story
  • Success occurs within the privacy of your soul
  • Grace like a river
  • Look at the different polarities and see how they effect the peace
  • A practice of paying attention … look for what you notice and no one else sees
  • An axe forgets but the tree remembers
  • I am not different from you; I am different like you
  • Exercise child-like habits
  • Take a stand in your life
  • Creativity is free play with no rules
  • Find ones way back into one’s own heart
  • It’s your choice
  • Play, explore, and test without the connection to the results
  • Create an open space to invite it in
  • Train yourself to see the awe behind the obvious
  • Release them with the faith that more will arrive
  • I can’t change back for you—I’m a mountain
  • Limiting yourself is a true disservice
  • Amplify the difference
  • Only if there are angels in your head will you ever, possibly, see one
  • The immediate influence of the divine
  • Soft is the new hard
  • An ear has no lid
  • Divinely guided
  • Your thought is the start of all creation
  • Talent is letting ideas manifest through you
  • The world is not waiting for more of the same
  • The true instrument is you

This month, I also learned that I am drawn to weird. I am more playful around it, and those who own it in themselves. I enjoy their uniqueness as it brings about a freshness to everything around them… it keeps life interesting. So, to paraphrase the city of Austin, Texas – “keep yourself weird.”