Getting out of my head …

Sometimes I just have to get out of my head!  You know how it is right?  When your mind has been in high gear for a while and you have to shift gears.  Funny story, the first time my now friend Kellie tried to teach me to SUP, I was not steady and fell a couple times.  She looked at me (before she really knew me) and said ‘You think a lot don’t you??  You have to get out of your head!’   If she only knew …

For many years when I was younger, there was no other gear – always on, always thinking, all the time.  Then the kids came along and in addition to the fun and chaos of raising three kids, they sort of force you to shift gears and pay attention.

People often tell me how busy we seem, how many things our family seems to be doing.  What’s funny is I don’t see it that way at all.  For me, its more like … hey, not working, so lets have fun.  What shall we do?  So much to do, so little time :-)

A few years ago I tried hot yoga and fell in love with it, and that was a great way for me to get completely out of my head and do something  physical and calming at the same time.  Love it!  But somehow I have fallen out of the habit and not made space for it in my schedule in a way – and trying to get back.  I feel so much better when its part of my life and routine.

Then late last year I tried a fantastic course call Gifts of Imperfection with Brene Brown and she did some creative or art journaling.  If you have never heard of Brene brown check out my other post t and her Ted talk for starts – amazing and inspired speaker and writer on living wholeheartedly and authentically.

One of My Posts on the Gifts of Imperfection Course

Link to Brene Brown TED talk

But as for art journaling … now this is me of the barely recognizable stick figures – so it was completely out of my comfort zone.  But SO fun!  Then I happened upon a mixed media course by Kelly Rae Roberts that I loved.


I love my photography,  and photo editing is fun too.  Suddently I had these little bursts of creativity in my life – who knew! – and another great way to get out of my head.

And my latest discovery … Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan.


(ok I’m a little messy!)

It’s a fantastic set of gorgeous paints for painting furniture.  While my Mom was in town we took a class at a terrific little shop, Delightful Digs, then tinkered with a couple old frames that weekend and had a blast.



There are gorgeous colors, great techniques to master for finishes, lots of elbow great required for sanding to distress the wood, and fun waxes to finish and age them.  Plenty to keep me busy.

During one particularly silly moment my Mom tried to stay very monochromatic with her frame and I could not resist splashing a little color her way – the small color battle that what ensued was hilarious!)  Anyway, I am having lots of fun tinkering with Chalk Paint.

It’s great to see the boys swing by the dining room (which I have sort of commandeered) to see what ‘art stuff’ is going on in there.  Who knew?  Doesn’t even matter if its any good (though I kind of like what has resulted) – but its such a great outlet to be working with your hands.  Always envied people who can work with metal or clay … hmmm … maybe that’s NEXT?

How do you get out of your head?






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What’s on your Fall Bucket List?

I’ve always loved autumn, but it seems that in recent years my love affair with the season has intensified.


Don’t get me wrong … I love the summer and our fun at the beach, bay and travels.

What is it about Autumn?  There’s so much to love!  So many things that we love have become traditions.  Our autumn ‘bucket list’ has some long-standing favorites!

  • The fresh, crisp air
  • Back to school – new teachers, friends (and freshly sharpened pencils – the best!)
  • Mums and other fall flowers!



  • The gorgeous colors of fall foliage



rise of Justin, the leaf monster!

  • Baking and the smell of gingerbread, ginger snaps, giant soft ginger cookies (did you pick on on our love of ginger??) and vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin in the kitchen




  • Pumpkin patches, corn mazes and hayrides


  • Building scarecrows


  • Apples, cider and visiting orchards in Charlottesville
  • Bonfires and s’mores


  • Beautiful time to be outdoors – riding bikes, exploring, hiking


  • Thanksgiving!  (my favorite holiday)

So what will I add to my Autumn bucket list this year?  Well still thinking, but I think baking pies is making the list, and visiting New England, doing the corn maze that we missed last year at Bergey’s and maybe even actually carving our Halloween pumpkins (somehow that never works out?!)

The seasons can pass so quickly – maybe make yourself a Family Fall Bucket List and have some fall adventures.


Heart Rocks

Joy in what we do …


I love it when topics that are on my mind and your heart  show up in other stories, readings and learnings that I stumble upon .  They are happy discoveries along the way that sort of energize my thinking around a topic.  Love when that happens!  Lately, the topic has been happiness, and how purpose and meaning are tied to our happiness.    If you didn’t see my earlier post on the topic, here’s the link: Nexus of Skills and Passion

In the last two days, I have read two wonderful pieces on this topic.  In very different ways – one spiritual and one professional – they both reinforced for me how critical it is for our minds and hearts to know that we are working on something that matters to us.  How ‘work’ and ‘life’ really can’t be compartmentalized as much as we say or think … one informs the other.  For better or worse.

First, was a wonderful daily reading from Mark Nepo in The Book of Daily Awakening (love this – highly recommend!)  Book Link – Mark Nepo.  The reading talked about the importance of living out our true nature, not living just to please others or be what they expect of us.


To discover our own truth and try to craft a life that is true to that.  He ended with a statement that especially stayed with me:


Wow!  That somehow made it feel more essential to be authentic – core to health, not just a nice to have.

Heart Rocks

(The gorgeous rocks are from the happiness garden at Newcastle Elementary School in Virginia Beach.  LOVE them!)

Then, I read a NYT article – written from a business perspective.  Here’s the article link: NYT Article Link – Liking Works Really Matters

The study and article show that when we find personal value and relevance in our work, we perform at a much higher level.  So a deeper sense of health and better performance – seem like two great reasons to try to bridge work and our purpose and passion.


Happy Sunday!


Are You Building a Cathedral?

I have always loved the story of the Three Bricklayers.

Once upon a time there were three bricklayers working alongside one another.  When asked, “what are you doing?” they reply quite differently.

First Bricklayer: “I am laying bricks.”

Second Bricklayer: “I am building a wall.”

Third Bricklayer: “I am building a cathedral.”




I love this little story because its so simple and yet so packed with meaning.  Usually when we talk about it, we are focused on either attitude or engagement of the bricklayers to emphasize the importance of getting the right kind of talent in our organizations.  Other times, we look at the story from the vantage point of a leader and the importance of casting vision, to create a compelling vision that others want to join and follow.  Absolutely!  Love it!

But interestingly … we usually reflect on the story from the outside looking in, as a leader assessing the situation and looking for a leadership lesson – particularly about how to get more cathedral builders on our team.

But what if we look at the story with ourselves as the bricklayers, not the leader?  Which would you be?  Easy to say the third … but is it true?  Even a very talented and capable bricklayer could show up as any of these three if they are not careful about placing ourselves into roles that inspire us, that we feel committed to, and that we see and love the vision .  Do we come into work and see the cathedral under construction and know that we want to be a part of it.

Are you building a cathedral lately?  If not – why not? 



Nexus of Skills and Passion

Thanks to many AP classes in high school, Natalie returned to her second year of college as a junior.  So we have had a few discussions about volunteer service, internships, and career planning.  Great stuff, I do love talent development!  


In our chat, she shared a terrific insight about herself and a path she had been considering.  She reflected on  and how some of her strengths and her leadership style didn’t seem to line up well with what success looks like in that potential career path.  Wow – I was so impressed by the self-awareness and insight!  That got us to talking about the many ways that her gifts could be applied and the wide range of career paths that were open … but to think about what issues really mattered to her and try to find pathways to use her strengths in that direction.  To try to match skills with meaning and impact.  That got me to thinking about how much better we could do at getting ourselves and our kids into careers that line up ability and purpose better.  

There’s some debate circulating on whether its best to find and follow their passion or focus on building skills and passion will come later.  And after hours of reading, reflecting and writing – I couldn’t get behind either one.  Sort of like politics, people seem to be picking sides and pressing their arguments – black or white. 

  • Passion – grounded in the idea that if you figure out what you love and make that your work, you will be happier and more fulfilled.  Question is can you be ‘successful’ and what does that really entail – now and for you specifically?


  • Grow Your Skills – iconoclastic idea that without skills you can’t build any successful career, and its a fools errand to focus on your passion before you build some skills.


But the key question underlying both of these ideas is the question of how we define success.  Money, prestige, reputation, growth, accomplishment, service ???   The first two have been the norm so many people are burnt out, unengaged and uninspired at work – so maybe that isn’t working so well.   I read a provocative statement in an essay this week that said:

If you want ambitious people to do errands work, just make it prestigious.  

So how we define success matters, to avoid spending our life on fools errands I think the question isn’t about which side of the argument you pick at all.  Its about meaning, and purpose, and adding value.  


I would suggest that success comes from knowing we are having an impact, making a difference in the world.  And that doesn’t need to be a utopian idea that runs counter to a successful career.  But it does require us to think about our potential and our career paths very differently.  To find and cultivate roles that can deliver security and meaning.  How?  Here are a few thoughts … still developing them, so perhaps they seem obvious.  But they are not the way we typically chart our course.

 (1) SELF AWARENESS: From a young age, be mindful of your gifts and strengths and work hard to cultivate them – through learning, practice, volunteerism etc.  (I remember when the kids were younger we would talk about the fruits of the spirit and they would score themselves, then we would score them, and we would discuss.)  What can I say, performance discussions are in my blood :-) But no matter the format, can we look at ourselves objectively and see our greatest abilities?  

(2) GLOBAL AWARENESS: Seek out the problems that are in need of the kind of solutions you can deliver – the issues of the day or of the century that light you up and make you want to make it better.  That could be a specific domestic problem, a global issue, an entire industry or something else that isn’t working well in the world.  

(3) FIND THE NEXUS:  Now … what is at the NEXUS of ability and passion – that array of possibilities for volunteerism, jobs and careers that use your skills toward something that matters to you.  It’s not one perfect job in many cases, especially in our ever changing world and economy.  There may be a whole array of ways that your abilities can make a meaningful difference.  But we have to seek them out.    


Maybe the question isn’t what the perfect job is, or what exactly my title should be in 5 years, but what space to I want to work in that feels important and meaningful to me, and (knowing my strengths) what kinds of roles could help deliver solutions.  Maybe  you need to develop some more skills, perhaps you find or create a volunteer way to work in the space that’s calling you while you prepare for the job you want.  But using your skills to deliver meaning and impact matters – whether its your full time career or not.  


And while I first put down these ideas in the context of teens and young adults, as I write and reflect they apply to us all.  And in this rapidly changing world and economy, the ability to translate your abilities into the kind of solutions that countries, companies and non-profit agencies need is critical.  Finding the problems you can help to solve may be the first assignment of the knowledge workers of tomorrow.  Would love your thoughts on how we navigate this space – whether for ourselves or for our kids.  


Middle School … here he comes!

Middle School Orientation for Justin … drum roll please!

Well, the morning started out a little dicey as we pulled up to the middle school parking lot and dozens of geese were grazing across the lawn.  Justin really REALLY dislikes geese – thinks they are creepy and might chase you.  He hooked his arm in mine (for geese protection) and we walked across the parking lot toward the middle school entrance.  He was in good spirits and excited about Lancer Launch – the rising 6th grader orientation day at our new middle school, Landstown Middle.  And once we cleared Geese Central he was all grins, even posing for a pic on the Lancer Bench out front.


From the moment we walked in the school you could feel a great, positive vibe – SO thrilled by that.



First positive sign was seen the smiling face of a family friend from Justin’s running club at the PTA table – wide smile and warm welcomes all around!


As we head toward registration one of Justin’s best buddies sees us and rushes forward to give me a bear hug – happiness!   Volunteers all around were helpful, energetic, smiling.  They shepherded the kids off to their homeroom classes and had a great day of touring the school, visiting classes and generally having a great time.  Could not have asked for a better start to the year – and SO grateful for the incredible effort that you could tell had gone into the day.  Bryce and I left feeling like he was going to be in good hands.  Justin said it was ‘awesome’ and he’s excited for the first day of school.  He knows where his classes are, can find the library, is amazed at the size of the school (very big) and is excited about all of the clubs.


Pretty incredible and so encouraging to realize just how far Justin has come.  Since he was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at about 5 years old, he (and we) have grown so much.








On every single front – academic, social, emotional, physical – he has made such progress.  And as he has grown, some symptoms of his autism receded and really are not present anymore, while others are revealed in different ways as he gets older.


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So we keep learning and listening, adapting to meet him where he’s at and help him grow.  And there are so very many people who have helped him reach this point where he is ready for middle school – it feels right to share our thanks and our love with a few of them as he gets ready for this next stage.

  • from Montessori teachers like the lovely Miss Subha (wish I could find a pic), to
  • his speech and occupational therapists over the years,


  • from the amazing Newcastle family of teachers and administrators,  to

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  • the incredible Kellie Maier of KelsKids who has helped him become so confident in the water with his surfing and stand up paddling


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  • the wonderful tae kwon do crew at World Champion TKD who have challenged him and supported him, readying him to test for Junior Black Belt this coming week!

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  • his running coaches from POWER – especially Coach Todd and Coach Dennis – who have pushed and encouraged Justin in his running

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  • to all of the family members who have cheered him on, listened intently to his many stories, played along with the hundreds of version of Top 10 lists and ‘what if’ discussions.  Thanks Natalie and Josh for your patience and kindness with him

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  • and the friends (both ours and his) who have loved him for exactly the person he is, and by being there and sharing life have helped him to grow into the sweet, silly, happy kid that he is.  The sleepovers, birthday parties, swim races, Lego adventures and all around silly times are some of his favorite moments and memories!

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Yet for all the progress, it’s equally unnerving to see his quirks and perseverance on some topics and wonder how kids that are new to him will react.  Will he build on the social progress he has made in recent years, or withdraw in this new setting?

Will his complete love and mastery of all things superhero/supervillain help him find friends with common interests, or will he find it hard to connect with others?



And academically, will this much larger school setting be able to adapt to help him learn at his pace?  He is incredibly smart, but learns differently and takes more time to process.  Big worry there … I hope so.

It feels like such a milestone to not only be old enough to be in middle school, but to seem developmentally ready.  He has work ahead to get to grade level in all of his studies … but the gap closes every year!



In every one of his major transitions over the years, there are always similar questions.  But having supportive and caring teachers and support teams around him have always been the best sign that it will work out.  And that’s why this morning’s Lancer Launch was especially encouraging – I left feeling like they would look out for him.  I’m sure there will be bumps along the way, but a positive partnership goes a long way in weathering the storms when they come.

So excited for Justin and the year ahead!  Go Lancers!!  

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