Never Say Never

There is an old saying “Man plans and God laughs”. If there was ever a year my life that emphasized this, it would be the last 12 months! Much of the lessons below are reflective of other blog posts, but after looking back at the year I felt compelled to share them in this context.

To recap where I was in January of 2016:

  • I was still retired from “Corporate America”
  • Finishing my coaching certification through New Ventures West
  • Adjusting to being single after a 31-year long marriage
  • Dating a great man whom I had met the summer prior

Life was good!   I envisioned starting to grow my coaching practice, continue to get to know my boyfriend, expand my hobbies, and occasionally sleep late.

Now  I am:

  •  Re-employed by “corporate America” –
    • By the same company that incentivized me to retire in 2010!
  • A certified Integral Coach – with rewarding and meaningful practice
  • Married and thriving in a lifelong partnership
  • Continually wondering what the hell happened to all those great plans!

Much of my life I was a control freak, planning out each day, week, quarter – I spent the vast majority of my career doing the same type of work!   I see now this desire to be in control was actually masking a fear: If I did not control it, ‘it’ might control me. If ‘it’ controlled me then I would be exposing myself to hurt, to negative outcomes, to the “unknown”. By my definition the unknown would generate negative consequences.

Not surprisingly, I was very good at controlling things. I also realized that even if I was in control, bad things still happened.   My dad died young.   I didn’t get the promotions I thought I should.   My marriage didn’t last a life time. The company I was employed by merged, and I was no longer in the job I wanted.  When my plans failed me and delivered a bad outcome my response would be: “I’ll never do that again”.   The list of ‘nevers’ started to become very long.

Somewhere in the process of growing older,  of accepting who I am and accepting the world as something other than “me”, I started to recognize that this controlling wasn’t working so well.   Trying to control everything was not leading me to greater happiness. In fact, the very things I cherished most in life were the ones that entered unexpectedly, they were surprises.

As you may have remembered in an earlier blog… “Don’t fight Gravity”

As I started to let go, to let gravity be a force in my life that I can embrace and move with, I started to experience simply being human.   I learned that you can walk into a situation without needing to control the outcome and allow things to unfold. I opened up to possibilities that the world might have something to offer to me that I had not yet experienced, a new lesson, a new moment, a new feeling.

When you fight to control what is around you, you are limited to what you ‘know’.   If you already “know” everything how can you still have new experiences? How can you control everything and still grow?

I have come to accept that no matter what the world hands to me, I will be fine.   I am strong enough, capable enough, wise enough, and supported enough to be able to survive.   Not just survive, but thrive.

So, I am re-entering corporate America, and choosing to do so with a spaciousness of thought and feeling. I will take my warrior and my artist to the office each day. I will stay mindful that the I will be my most authentic when I stay present and engaged. I will choose to leave the laptop lid down and ears, eyes, mind and heart open. I will accept each day as it presents itself. I will not assume I know where this path will lead me, and instead chose to allow it to unfold in its own time. I will enjoy the journey.

I will still be results oriented. I also accept that how I define “a result” is forever changed and forever fluid.

I chose to believe the world is endless in its opportunity and possibility. There is a spaciousness that can exist if you let it in. Yes, bad things will happen. Good things will happen. Weather will sometimes be sunny, sometime be grey.

Our horizons are bounded by the degree to which we allow “Never” into our lives, when we set artificial boundaries, and lose sight of our values.

When was the last time you allowed yourself to let go of “Never”?

Life Lessons Redux: A Sprinkler Saga


You might think that at 56 years of age I had learned most life lessons and could repeat them in my sleep.   Every once and a while the world sends you a gentle (or not so gentle) reminder of things we have learned along the way, yet forget to apply.   I offer this as a reminder it’s never too late to re-learn… and with an appreciation of the sprinkler system that acted as my coach!

Lesson#1:  If it ain’t broke…… don’t fix it!  

My story starts with a sunny Sunday in which I thought it would be so ‘water wise’ if I were to “optimize” my sprinklers and minimize my water bill.   In the middle of this process I discovered a sprinkler that was not turned on!   AHA!  Here I had been living at a home for over a decade and I had sprinklers that were not in use!    I was actually excited to see where they were going to pop up as I really hated hand watering.

So switching it to 10-minute run time, I patted myself on the back and felt quite smug that I had fixed my sprinklers!

As I strutted across my patio I noticed a massive flooding of my deck area – water pouring out of the ground in a flower bed that never had a sprinkler in it.   I rushed to turn off the system…. Kicking myself for having created a problem where one had not existed.  A quick call out to my fiancé came with a reassuring reply – Mark’s comment was “it’s probably just a broken lin.  No problem we’ll just dig it up and fix it!”    WHEW!!!   Crisis averted, and only a small amount of time wasted

Yes, many of us love to tweak, adjust or otherwise “optimize” our lives, sometimes at the detriment to what we were messing with in the first place.  

 Lesson #2:  Always validate your assumptions with facts

On our next free afternoon, we dug up (OK, HE dug up) that broken line, only to find it wasn’t a line broken but a water line that dead-ended into the flowerbed.  When I Optimized the sprinkler, turning on the line that was not in use, I trigger a flood through this open line.   I thought “how nutty were these folks who put this line in and then didn’t cap it!   Who would put in a water line and then not cap it off or put in a sprinkler?   Mark and I chuckled laughed about the crazy guy who put in a sprinkler and then didn’t cap it off before burying it… coming up with all sorts of motives for this activity.    I felt almost superior that I had discovered this ‘mistake’ and could put it to rest.

Off we run to Home Depot to get a sprinkler head…… after all – now we could have a sprinkler where there wasn’t one before!    Ninety minutes later, we have installing the head, filled in the hole, congratulated each other and turned on the water to test our new sprinkler.    It worked great!  In fact, so great we almost didn’t notice the new flood of water two flower beds down……

OK, smiles gone from our faces, we start digging where the new waterfall has appeared…… Another open water line….  Back to Home Depot to get another sprinkler head.   Drive back, install sprinkler, fill hole, turn on water and….  notice a NEW waterfall running out of the flowerbed 5 feet away……

At this point I’m questioning why I turned on a water line that I had never needed in the past, without at least questioning why it was turned off in the first place…. I was feeling less smug and a lot more silly to be messing with something that had not been an issue for the last 15 years.   I started to realize that maybe the guys who put I in were not so crazy… maybe the owner planned to put in sprinklers at a later date and that is why he deactivated the water line.

Isn’t it ironic that when faced with the “obvious problem” we are confident in what needs to be fixed.   The funny thing is…. No matter how “obvious” it seems, sometimes what lies below the surface is very different than we assumed up front.    Sometimes when you hear hoof beats, you should assume horses, but take the time to look out the window to ensure it isn’t zebras.

Lesson #3:   Don’t be penny wise and pound (or dollar) foolish….

So when we made our second run to Home Depot, do you think we bought more than one sprinkler head, or any pipe end caps?   Of course not!!!  We only had one issue…. And the fact that the caps were less than a dollar a piece,  never dawned on us.   We didn’t need back up, or spares, or well, anything other than what was right in front of us:  an open sprinkler line.

So back to Home Depot (in case you have lost count we are now on trip three, a 30-minute drive each way) and this time we DO get additional caps in case we have new lines exposed.   However, by now we have put >60 miles on the car, taken about 3 hours driving back and forth through traffic, but NOW we know we can put this issue to bed, and maybe since it’s now dark out, we can get to bed before midnight as well.

We capped the sprinkler line, filled in the hole, dusted off our pants, and looked around for the next break.   WE DON’T SEE ANY!  Smiles, hugs and high-fives all around.   We are the sprinkler gods.

That is, until we walk around the other side of the house in which there is now a geyser flooding the side yard.   It appears that having capped the other lines with sprinkler heads, the pressure has blown open another line, and as we peer down the hole (after turning off the water) to see 4th pipe that is open, this one buried at least 3 feet below ground.   At least this time we have what we need to cap it off, even if we don’t have the energy to dig it out until the next day.

In many peoples desire to save money and minimize waste, it can be a habit to keep things to a minimum or assess the cost in terms of dollars in your wallet… without weighing in time and energy.  What I was reminded here is that frequently it’s my time that is my most valuable commodity, even though I find I’m often wasting it to save what I perceive as real currency.     Real currency should actually be the things / parts of your life in which you have a scarcity….  

Lesson #4:  When you ignore life lessons, you get to do them again

At this point, hopefully you are thinking I have learned my lessons, but no…. having gotten close and personal with my waterlines, I was curious why I had a front sprinkler that were anemic.   This time I was skeptical when Mark said “broken water line”.   We cranked on the sprinklers, and noticed a huge puddle of water forming and also a new doggie water fountain rising out of the middle of the lawn.  We DID have a broken line!

To cut the story shorter, that finding led to no less than five actual sprinkler breaks, each needing new fittings or couplings and three evenings of digging through mud and muck and learning just how many sizes of PVC piping can be utilized in a single sprinkler run.

It doesn’t always seem to matter how often, or how recently,  a lesson presents itself,  we often assume that lightning cannot strike twice – only to get a jolt when not paying attention.   Taking the time to consider what I have learned – in the recent and far past – is a lesson I must carry with me every day.

After 4 days of being up front and personal with sprinkler systems as well as being ever so gently reminded of life lessons I thought I would share a few more I’m not sure I ever appreciated before:

Lesson #5:   You bring your own weather to any party

At any point either Mark or I could have thrown the proverbial ‘Hissy Fit’…. Blamed each other for being short sighted in not buying more replacement parts, not buying a greater selection, or even for starting this mess in the first place.  After all, the sprinkler wasn’t “broken” when this started.

Instead, the whole thing became a bit of adventure in “what would happen next”, what would we misjudge, make the wrong assumptions about, or discover / uncover in our garden.    We stayed positive, working together on the problem and on the solution.  We ended up having fun in the midst of the mud, we laughed a lot, hugged in the light of the moon, sharing a wine cooler or two as we had our own modified version of date-night while we fixed each pipe.   We chose to bring the ‘sunshine’ to this party…when we had every excuse to bring “rain”.

Lesson #6:   Make the most of any situation (If life gives you lemons, make lemonade)

There were a whole series of unexpected benefits and new knowledge we can associate with this escapade…

  1. We found there is new PVC piping technology that is SO much better than manage and repair than our old pipes
  2. We now have working sprinklers in ALL our flowerbeds
  3. We should  have a lower water bill
  4. I learned how to splice PVC piping – no more waiting for help
  5. I dug up the Iris that needed moving years ago –as part of the excavation of the leaks.   I will quit beating myself up for not having done this chore!
  6. Our dogs got a couple of hours of “Home Depot” training, hugely important to our 10-month old puppy. Training AND dog treats!
  7. Mark and I got lots of car time to catch up with each other while driving back and forth for supplies
  8. We discovered that mole holes make great waterways, allowing us to locate a leak in record time.
  9. We discovered that a 20 lb. concrete angel, set on top of a broken sprinkler head acts as a fairly effective short term stoppage to what could have been a major geyser!

Lesson #7:   Chose well, and then cherish your traveling companions

Life is never going to give us what we expect, and one of the biggest lessons I’m learning is how important it is to travel life’s pathways with the people who make you better, stronger, more capable, and who love you even when you make a mess of things.   When I pulled Mark into my “optimization” project, he could have walked out, gone on strike, or turned the whole thing over to a contractor.   Watching him, and his reaction to each new twist and turn made me realize how incredibly lucky I am to have, as my closest companion, a man with such positive energy, such a sense of fun and adventure, and such a tolerance for the twists and turns in life.    He made my sprinklers a better system and he makes me a better person.

I wonder what happened to you last weekend……  and what did you learn? 

Holding On

I lived in the same house from the age of four until I was twenty one. I met children in grade school that were also in my High School graduating class.

One friend was of particular note.  We met in kindergarten when she pulled my braids, and we traversed the gauntlet of childhood on parallel paths.  Our mothers were close friends and worked together, we shared many classrooms.   We were in 4-H, were involved in Masonic activities.   We celebrated birthdays, played horses and Barbies, competed in the county fair, slept at each other’s houses and had crushes on the same boys.    As time passed we grew into two very different people and our relationship was complicated, as many childhood relationships can be.

My friend was very intelligent, confident, competitive;  she was motivated to be #1.    I was a bit shy,  I wanted people to like me.  I was also intelligent and I frequently presented a challenge to her expectation of being #1.    Early in our relationship I started to believe that if I did my best, it might upset my friend.  She might not like me.   My desire to stay her friend and keep her happy would cause me to hold back.   I remember purposely answering incorrectly on school tests because that was the easiest way to ensure she would have the top grade and would stay my friend.    We were children and this childish logic made perfect sense to me.

As we grew up, this challenging relationship became harder for me to accept.   As I matured I felt I could not be myself around my friend.  If I did my best, I felt guilty if I “beat” her.   I felt  anger because I also wanted to be recognized and felt I had to chose between my own ego and her friendship.    I even felt indignation that she didn’t appreciate that I was doing these things to maintain our relationship…. Even as now I realize she could have had no idea how I felt.   All this conflict within me was going on below the surface and never expressed in words.  I lived in a world in which our relationship was “either / or”, there was not enough room between us for both of us to be our best.

We entered high school, we ran with different crowds, spent less and less time together.   After high school we went on to college and careers in different fields, living on different coastlines.  We stayed in touch, occasionally met, exchanged Christmas cards.

My adult life seemed to unfold with great ease and with wonderful opportunities;  My friend’s life presented challenge after challenge.  She faced health issues, family issues, career issues.    In my head, it seemed that every time something wonderful would happen for me I would find out something negative was unfolding in her life.     I started to dread our next phone call, my thinking was that if I discussed my life I was gloating, and I worried that she would feel worse for having talked with me.

Over the years our connection because more and more fragile until we became “Facebook friends”.

Two days ago my childhood friend passed away.  I did not even know she had been ill.   We lived within a three house drive of each other’s homes for many years, yet I had never traveled to see her, nor she to see me.

As I have read the wonderful things people had to say about her upon her passing, I realized I did not know her anymore.   She had done such kind and touching acts, working with her community, her church and her friends.  In her lifetime she had lost both her parents, her siblings, her spouse.   She had spent years in and out of hospitals dealing with incurable afflictions.   Yet she had built a life that gave back to the people around her and died in a state of grace.

I feel ashamed that I had held on to my childhood feelings.  I had let those feeling and responses keep me from experiencing this  individual.   I’ve missed the opportunity to hear her voice, share in her sharp wit, connect the experiences of our childhood into the reality of our adult life.  I had allowed the voice of the “8-year-old me” to keep me from exploring a relationship that might have been a true gift, to actually ‘know’ someone throughout my life.

Through this shame I also understand that I had been holding on to my childhood experience because to me it was a ‘truth’…  I had never examined this childhood voice to assess whether it was helping me navigate my life as an adult.   My mind logically knew my friend and I had grown into different people,  and yet the shadows of my childhood held me back from risking what the child in me saw as a possibility to be hurt.

I have been holding on to these childhood memories, those experiences.  By holding on I missed an opportunity, one that for all my wanting and wishing, I cannot get back.   I will forever wonder if we could have been friends as adults, contemplate what we could have learned from each other, what we might have been able to offer each other.  If we might have talked about our childhood and shared and compared on inner stories to find a different ‘truth’.    By holding on to this voice of my childhood I lost a something I will never know – what could have been.

I can also be with this terrible truth and be open to what it can  teach me.    I am at peace with the child I was, and the woman I have become.

I will sit today – and in future days – exploring what else I am holding on to that is holding me back from something that might be wonderful and decide if I still want to hold it.

Fighting Gravity

My dad started dying when I was about 9 years old.  A severe diabetic, he lost kidney function and was not expected to live.   He fought through that episode… and through heart disease, cancer and multiple complications from his diabetes.  He passed away when I was 23.

This experience made an indelible mark on my childhood and I carried his lessons into my adult life:

  • Never give up.
  • If someone tells you “you can’t” – try anyway
  • Never appear weak or inept
  • If you sense, or experience failure, power through it
  • Never give up, never say “die”

I considered these lessons a badge of honor I wore with pride – it defined how I approached the challenges in life, how I faced adversity.

One day, sitting on a counselor’s couch, I related (with pride) this story of my father and the lesson that had become the cornerstone of who I was:   “Never Say Die”

Her response: “How sad that is – what an unhealthy lesson for you to learn at such a young age”.

I was floored…. this was NOT the response I expected.    I was angry that she would challenge my most fundamental belief.

She continued “there are many things in our life that we need to be willing to surrender to.  There are fights that distract us from who we really are, that keep us from moving forward.  You do not fail when you accept that some things in your life are not in your power to change”.

That day was a turning point for me.  I began to reflect back upon the many times I felt disappointed in my own performance, had felt I was a failure because I could not “overcome”.  That was the day in which I started to accept that “you can’t fight gravity”.

So much of my life had been spent dissecting and reliving moments in which I felt I had failed.   Work assignments that didn’t turn out the way I expected, relationship that went wrong, people I had hurt and I couldn’t find a way to heal.  So much of my energy was spent reliving situations that were not fixable.  “If only I had done this….”,  “If only I had said…”,  “If only I had one more chance…. “.     All were situations in which I had little or no control of the outcome – yet I tried endlessly to control them, to make the outcome what I thought it should be.     I wasted endless hours and sleepless nights thinking that if I was smarter,  tried harder,  was more articulate I could fix it, achieve it, make someone ‘understand’.

I reflected upon her statements in the following days, weeks and months.  I started to realized that – up until that moment – it was as if I thought gravity didn’t exist.  It was as if I believed everything in my life was actually in my control.  I believed I had so much control that if things didn’t work out it must be because I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, funny enough.   I just wasn’t “Enough”.

So today I share this part of my journey with an invitation to you to contemplate gravity.   I would venture to guess that there are things in your life, in your relationships, in your career in which you have no control.   I would also invite you to consider that the lack of control does not have to be frightening or dis-empowering.

We don’t question that gravity exists and hold us to the earth.  It keeps us from floating out of our beds at night. It is what allows us to propel ourselves in the directions we choose.

We accept and surrender to the inevitability of gravity and we work with it to enrich our lives.   We recognize that while it will stop us from doing certain things it also allows us to be together, to be in motion, to be safe.  We know when we jump, we will land back on the earth and not float away.

So if we accept that we have less control that we thought we had, less than we want to have, then what?

We can accept the day as it presents itself to us.   We can recognize that not everything happens because of something we did or didn’t do, and let go of the guilt.  We can work hard, face adversity, AND accept that there are times and places in which stepping aside, stepping back, surrendering to the moment is a sign of courage, strength, and integrity.    Acceptance and surrender in the face of what you cannot control is not a sign of losing, not a sign of failure.     It does not diminish who you are.

I now believe the most courageous things I have done in my life, in my career, are the things that I consciously let go of because I accepted that I could not change them,  I could not control the outcome,  I could not control how other chose to make their decisions.   I could not control how another person felt about me.

I no longer view those times as failures.  They were the times in which, after bringing all of who I was to the table, the outcome still was not what I wanted or expected.   I faced gravity and chose to let go and accept the outcome.

I finally understand the final lesson from my father.   When faced with the gravity of his illness, he chose to let go.   He fought long and hard; he utilized his brain, his heart, and his spirit to combat his illness.   He lived to see me grow from a child into a woman and guided me along the way.    At the end of his life, understanding the quality of his life had reached a point in which he could not accept, he let go.  He surrendered.

So I chose to be my father’s daughter.  I will allow myself to accept that gravity exists in my life, in the universe.  I will still tilt with windmills, take on the impossible, burn the candle at both ends, take risks and live as full a life as I know how to live.

And I also listen to the quiet voice inside me that tells me when it’s time to let go.    I will take the energy I gain from choosing not to fight gravity and allow that energy to find a new home.



Never make a decision you wouldn’t want aired in public….

I first started managing and supervising people when I was 17 years old…. working at Fred Meyer, a local grocery store.   For the next 37 years, every role I had put me in charge of managing people.  With those people came the responsibility of setting direction for the team.  For ever direction I set, I had to make decisions.

I was lucky enough, early in my career, to work for a man who taught me many lessons – lessons in management, leadership, strategy,  and how to not take myself to seriously.   His name was Frank Alvarez, and I was privileged to work for him, over the life of my career, longer than any other manager.    My blog today is focused on the first big lesson I learned from Frank…. Never make a decision that you would not want shared in a public forum….  even if you could guarantee it would never be made public.

So why does this matter?  What difference does it make what you decide (for yourself or your team) if you know it can be kept secret?  Why not cut corners, opt for the easy out or stack the cards in your favor if you know that you can get away with it?   Why take the harder route when the easier route is right there in front of you?

It comes down to something that became a foundation of my career, and something I hoped to always live up to:   Ethical Leadership.

At the end of each day, there is only one face in the mirror that looks back at you.   It is your face you have to see, your knowledge that you have to reconcile.  You may be able to hide information from others, you may be able to keep certain decisions from the light of day, and you will always find them coming home to roost when you see that face in the mirror.

Over the course of those 37 years I made many decisions.  Some impacted the livelihood of others.  Some prioritized certain efforts while canceling others.    I hired people, choosing one out of many.  I fired people and “redeployed” them…. OK, what I did was lay them off.     I had to make decisions who to reward, who to punish.  I had to decide what path we took:  Did we do it the easy way, or did we do it the right way?    Did I want my work to “Look good”  or “Be good”.   I had to decide whether to be open with my boss and tell her my team was failing and I needed help.  I even had to decide if I should tell my boss I thought he was full of crap.

Each time I felt I was faced with the ‘impossible’ decision, when I was lured to do what what ‘politically correct’,  what would look best on my resume, or would be the easiest thing to do I would hear Frank’s words in my head.  I would ask myself:  “If I make this decision, chose this path, can I stand up in front of a group of my co-workers, my friends or my family, and explain why I made this decision.”      My body would always tell me before my heart and mind could process it.   If my back tensed up, my jaw clenched and my arms folded, I knew I had my defenses up and that meant rather than being able to explain my decision I was feeling compelled to defend it.    If I felt relaxed, felt my chest open up and my breathing ease as I envisioned standing in front of those people I knew I had made the choice I could live with.

So as leaders, as managers, as spouses, as friends…. when faced with those impossible decisions, I invite you to take a moment to consider your options, to search inside you for what you are compelled to do, what is fair and ethical,  what you are able to explain.   Listen with all of who you are… your intellect, your emotion, your body and your spirit.    This is not about making the “right” decision, its about making the decision that you feel compelled to make.  In life there are few, if any, “perfect decisions”.  At the end of the day, there will always be one face in the mirror looking back at you,  one person who is accountable for the decisions you make,  one person who will always know the decision you made and why you made it.

Be willing to look that one person in the eye, knowing that for that one person – You – every decision is made in the public forum.

Starting Again…

The most common question I get about my coaching endeavors is what led me to this….  I have been asked am I looking for a “do over” in my career?  Am I looking to “start over”?

I don’t think there is a “do over” for any of us – we have lived the life we have lived and there is no erasing or going backward to fix, improve, update or otherwise change the past.  There is only going forward.

With all of that said, for each day we do get to “start again”, we can choose to face the day with new intention, new energy, a fresh perspective.  This does mean though that we have to look at that sunrise with eyes that are allowed to see differently, to experience the sun’s rays with new insight.

So my answer is “No”.  Coaching is not a “Do Over ” for me, not even a “Starting Over”.   I have lived a wonderful and interesting life, a life that has challenged me and taught me.  It is also a life that frustrated me and left me feeling that something is missing.   What I am choosing to do is “Start Again” with a new perspective, to walk into each encounter with a different set of expectations, to allow myself a different way of being with other people.   I want to engage with my family and friends in more meaningful and delightful ways.   I want to enter my garden with a sense of wonder at what has grown overnight rather than a sense of obligation to pull the weeds that sprouted.   I am choosing to be curious about what could be if I let go of my desire to control the outcome.

So why am I doing this?    I wish I had eloquent words to express the sense of purpose or intention I feel as I launch this website and officially claim the title of “coach”…. having not found those words, I will simply say “Today is a new day, and I get the chance to start again”.

Welcome to my new day…..shutterstock_330268337