Wednesday, November 12, 2014


I have been thinking a lot about gratitude lately.

As I age, I notice the importance of health more, my own, and others I love and care about.

It's a double edged sword.  One side is thinking more about one's own mortality and having more ailments than I remember in years past, but the other side is a gift.

I allow myself time to enjoy and have fun because there are enough difficult things going on that I need to let myself recalibrate now.  I am finding the oxygen mask metaphor of "taking care of yourself first so you can take better care of others" is really true.

I find having coffee in the morning in the quiet is a special occasion not just something to rush through.  I truly understand the concept of mindfulness and being in the moment you are in and appreciating it.

I spend a lot of time around college students with my teaching and I love their energy and determination, but I am very appreciative of the perspective you gain with age.  It is so much easier to be grateful for small things and you realize that who you are as a person and the kind of person you are is based very little on your "accomplishments" measured by the outside world.

Many of the students with whom I work are extremely accomplished and have done amazing things.  When I first started working with them, I couldn't imagine what I could offer them or why they would ask to meet one on one with me.  But, slowly, I realized that I actually could offer them something they didn't have: a sense of perspective.  I was able to hear their thoughts and angst and had a better full view than they did.  Some of it was just the fact that I was on the outside and they were in the midst of a dilemma, but most of it was that over the years, I had gained an ability to see more of the whole picture.

That's what they wanted and that's what I was able to contribute to them.

So I am very grateful for that ability and try hard to apply it to my own life on as much of a daily basis as I can.

I am also grateful to you as a reader.  I find the gift of being able to write about life's trials and tribulations allows me a deeper connection with others and myself.  So, thank you for reading this blog…


Monday, October 13, 2014

Those Memories You Remember Exactly...

I have noticed lately that I dive back into those “remember when” moments when things are tough and I want to think back to the good old days.
As I move forward in my career meandering I think back to the days that the kids were still kids...everything seemed easier “back when”.

It’s easy to remember the good old days without remembering the difficulties that came with them.  That’s not fair to the present and it’s not even real.  It’s just my perception of what was.

The other day I was with my younger son watching sports on TV and the Tennessee Titan football team came on briefly.  “Oh,” I said, “I remember when you were a little boy and you had a sports crush on the Titans.  They were the first team you really loved.”

My mind began a lovely tale of moments picturing my young son in his Titan jersey and Titan banners hung proudly on the walls of his room.  It was such a warm feeling to enjoy the memories. I knew for a fact that it was the Titans and no one would be able to question those memories because they were real and factual. I can see everything perfectly to this day and in great detail.

Then, poof, my younger son said to me, “Mom, that wasn’t me.  That was my older brother (name being withheld as both sons will kill me if they know I am writing about them).

“Wait, that wasn’t you?” I asked.  “No, don’t be ridiculous,” he said.

That’s what life is like.  You swear that your memories are EXACTLY they way you remember them. How could they be any different?  You remember every detail.  But, you don’t.

We remember what we want to remember or sometimes we just forget.

I am keeping that thought close to my heart now when I think of the good old days and I want everything to go back to the way it was.  It’s difficult to try new things...some work, some don’t, but they are part of who you are now and where you are going at this moment.

It’s not to say memories are not wonderful and helpful.  I just want to remember to take them with a grain of salt, especially when I am using those old memories to help me learn lessons and move forward.


Monday, June 02, 2014

Lessons of a Lost Voice

I lost my voice last Friday.  I don’t mean I was hoarse.  I mean I picked up the phone to call someone and nothing came out.  If you know me, you would know that I am not a shrinking violet and keeping my mouth shut is a non-experience for me.

I must have had a cold and then just ran myself into the ground, but I am a firm believer that every experience is a lesson.

I kept asking myself through all this quiet time, “what I am I learning?”.  First, I learned that I am grateful for my voice.  It is really hard not to be able to talk.  And, I learned that I am stressing myself a bit too much these days and I need to take it easy.  Those were easy lessons to see.

But, the next two lessons were surprising to me.  

I did have a few conversations (one sided) in person and a few on the phone (though nothing coming out on my end).  I realized that I am a terrible listener.  When I was forced to listen (and had no choice), I did.  I didn’t interrupt though I so wanted to (as I do often).  I didn’t give advice because I couldn’t.  I just listened and I realized I don’t really listen to people.  I am usually thinking about what I am going to say, giving my two cents, but not actively listening to people’s words and emotions as best I could.

Suddenly, I was.  I could feel a difference.  As I very slowly get my voice back, I hope I will continue to actively listen to others more often.

The last lesson I learned is that I was more peaceful.  I talk a lot and sometimes I think that causes more anxiety than just sitting or even listening.  I remember a teacher I had in high school used to always say, “if you’re talking, you’re not learning”.  Sometimes, I learn when I am teaching students, but more often than not, I learn more when I listen.

My voice is hoarse today and that is a huge step forward.  But, I am hoping not to forget what it feels like to give someone my full attention.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Creativity: Music to My Ears

One of my favorite professors at Stanford, Tina Seelig, is repeating her online course on Creativity, but this time she is using music to complement it and will be working with recording artists from Warner Music such as Linkin Park, Jason Mraz and more. You will learn how to develop creativity skills through music.

“Creativity:  Music to My Ears” is an online course which begins Wednesday, April 2nd.  The class is free.

There is more info in the links below as well as a short clip with Tina and Jason Mraz.


Monday, March 17, 2014

The Notes Without the Music

“The notes without the music.”   I had never heard that phrase until a few weeks ago.

I have been teaching college students for the last two years and, ordinarily, I create the content of my lecture and then present it on my own.  This quarter, I am working with some extraordinary mentors and I was asked to present their material in my lecture.  It was a big moment for me as it was a bit of a test to see how I would teach with this format. I prepped every day for a week.

It was both new to me and difficult to teach someone else’s content. I prepared as best I could, memorizing the material and presenting it the way I thought my mentors wanted.

Ironically, the topic of my presentation was about emotional intelligence and listening to your gut instincts.  I have worked so hard for the last couple of years to follow those gut instincts and listen to my own voice.  I don’t know if it was because I was new in this particular class or I wanted so much to please my mentors, but I made a mistake.  I didn’t follow my gut.  I memorized the materials, hit every point that I was supposed to, and I didn’t even choke.  But, in the end, I felt like a little of my soul had died. I hadn’t taught the lesson the way "I" would teach it.  I taught it like a lawyer and not the new person I had discovered in myself over the last few years, that is, someone who had found great joy and fun interacting with college students as they make important choices going forward with their lives.

I have been teaching that failure is important and that learning from failure and improving the next go around is how you become the best “you”.

So, in my mind, my latest lecture was a failure because I was not me.  I was trying to be someone else.

In the end, my mentor was kind and supportive, but he smiled and said, “It was the notes without the music”.

That phrase caught me by surprise.  That was it.  He had said in just a few words what I have never been able to encapsulate.

It wasn’t just about this experience. It was about all those times in life when it looks like everything is right.  There is nothing from the outside to indicate what is not working...a job, a relationship, or an experience.  I never had those exact words to describe when something is just missing.

The notes are there, but there is no music.  That is what happens when you don’t follow your instincts.  It’s very hard to describe in words, but you know when the music just isn’t there.

How ironic that the topic of my lecture was exactly what I was not doing.

“The notes without the music” in just a few words reminds me when I need to be aware that even with all the checklists marked, it can still be wrong. Even though it may be difficult to describe why there is no music, what is important is recognizing that it’s not there.

Just having that awareness can be a huge step in helping us to go forward.


Friday, January 03, 2014

Rubber Ducky Problem Solving

What if instead of internalizing ideas and thoughts or discussing them with a friend, we periodically explained the problem out loud and talked it through to an inanimate object?

I know it sounds strange, but a friend of mine who is a computer programmer told me about the “Rubber Ducky” debugging idea.  I am about as far from a computer programmer as they come, but I love this concept.

Rubber Ducky debugging is when a software engineer is stuck on a problem with the coding.  To help them work through the issue, they put a rubber ducky on their keyboard and try to describe the problem line-by-line or in great detail.  The idea is to explain to the duck the issue at hand, assuming the duck knows nothing about the problem or coding (which is not too much to assume).

By doing so, the engineer is forced to explain what should be happening (or what he wants to be happening) versus what really is happening.

I tried this a couple of times and I found it to be very fun.  Of course, it’s like talking to yourself, but when you are forced to explain a problem you are struggling with to an object that has no background on the issue or your past emotional baggage, it’s quite illuminating and extremely productive.  You have to like to play games and not be concerned about how silly you look.  It does force you to closely analyze what is really happening.

I love the idea and the image of the rubber ducky sitting on my keyboard listening to me is pretty silly, but it has worked wonders.

Having immersed myself in design thinking for most of 2013, I find myself being quite a bit more creative and a lot less judgmental of all sorts of ways to be a more grounded person.

I’ll be writing more about Creative Confidence in my next post.

Happy New Year!