straight ahead

Raising a Non-College Bound Kid in the Age of College Readiness

It was the final home swim meet at my son’s high school and they were getting ready for the senior recognition ceremony before the start of the meet. All the seniors were lined up and the coach started reading off their names and which college they were going to in the fall. Some were going to UC Davis, others to Cal Poly, one had a scholarship to Pepperdine, and several others were headed to Santa Rosa Junior College. A few were going to swim in college but most were not. Then she got to Louis. She didn’t know what to say so she just called his name. Louis filled in the missing information, “I’m going to work.” The same thing happened a couple of weeks later at the league championships. During a break in the middle of the meet all the teams represented in the league lined up their graduating seniors. They called their names, their college choice and even what they were planning to study. The coach got to Louis, called his name, and then awkward silence.

Here is a typical conversation I have heard many times this year:
Adult: What are your plans after high school? Where are you going to college?
Louis: I’m going to work.
Adult: So you aren’t going to college?
Louis: No.

Adult: {stares back not knowing what to say}

Adult: Oh, so you’re going to work for a while to save money to go to college?
Louis: Maybe. Not sure. Just going to work for now.

Adult: {stares back not knowing what to say}

After observing countless conversations like this over the past 12 months I have found it very interesting that many adults don’t know how to respond to this. One went so far as to tell him he would regret his decision. (This was in a written evaluation from a panelist for his senior project presentation.) I will admit that I have grappled with this very conversation myself. My versions go something like this:

Friend: So what’s your son doing after high school?
Me: He’s getting a J.O.B.
Friend: Working for the summer before he goes to college?
Me: No, he’s not going to college.
Friend: Oh, so he’s staying home so he can save money for college?
Me: No, he’s not going to college right away. {I throw that last part in so they stop asking questions.}
Friend: Oh, so is he going to Napa Valley College?
Me: Nope. No college. Just working.
Friend proceeds to tell me a story of someone they knew that didn’t go to college that is doing really well. I try to change the subject.

Working for an education non-profit that promotes college readiness I have grappled with the knowledge that my son is not going to college. How does that look to actively promote college readiness at work yet know that college is not right for him at this point in his life? Should I have pushed him harder in school? Is he going to end working at a gas station for the rest of his life? Will he be doomed for to a life of living paycheck to paycheck because he didn’t go to college? These are the kinds of questions that go through my head on a regular basis.

I know that college educated adults earn more money than those with only a high school diploma but how do we come to terms with the fact that there are many kids that graduate from high school that have no desire to go to college, that college may not be the right choice for them? Are we adequately preparing them for work? With the push for college readiness I worry we are losing site of career preparation for those students that don’t want to go to college right after high school.

And how do we, as an education community, celebrate those students’  achievements? For many, just graduating from high school took a lot of really hard work and they can feel secondary to their classmates when others are recognized for their college choices at school wide rallies and senior recognition events. We need to honor the success they have achieved in high school, not just the plans for the future. College is an incredible opportunity that we need to encourage and promote but I want us to remember that there are many different paths to success and happiness. We don’t all follow the same route.

Every year, in my son’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings his teachers would ask me what were my goals for him. And every year I told them the same thing. I want my son to grow up to be a caring, socially conscious, respectful, hard working individual who contributes to the betterment of society. As we approach his high school graduation this week I reflected on that list of goals I laid out when he was in elementary school and I can proudly say he is well on his way of achieving them.

Sometimes it Feels Like an Uphill Climb

Why am I trying to fix myself? I’m not broken. Why this constant need to self-evaluate? What do I think is wrong?

For many years I have been on this path of self-development. It has been almost quest-like: seeking out teachers, watching their videos, listening to countless lectures, reading every book, blog, and Facebook post I could get my hands on. It is incredible what you can discover about yourself when you focus on it.

I recently completed Mentor Masterclass, a year long life coach training course. I have never participated in such an intense and incredibly rewarding experience. A year of walking my talk, learning tools and techniques to help you achieve your goals, and pushing myself out of my comfort zone has opened me up in ways I didn’t know before.

And I am ready for a break.

mountain viewSometimes this self-discovery journey is like a long, steady uphill climb – you need to pause and take in the view once in a while. You have to catch your breath and recommit to the climb because you know the view is going to be incredible at the top.

But what do you do when you realize you don’t want to climb anymore? You know you can’t go back down, yet the peak is so far off.

Do you blame your hiking equipment? “If only I had better hiking shoes, then I could make it all the way.”

Do you take it out on your hiking companions? “If only they hadn’t dragged me on this stupid hike.”

Or do you blame the mountain itself? “If only it wasn’t so fucking steep!”

No, you don’t do any of those.

You rest, for as long as you need to feel rested. You drink a lot of water. You refuel yourself with high quality food. You treat your blisters and stretch your muscles. And when you’re feeling truly rested and ready, you continue the climb.

I am half way up the mountain. I am taking a rest and taking care of myself. I’m not sure when I will start climbing again but when I do I share my discoveries with you here.

Are you in a similar place along the path? Feeling stuck and not sure which way to go? I would love to talk with you more about it and see if I can help you. I have just a couple of spots available this month so click on the Work with Me page to schedule a discovery session!

When Empathy Hurts

It sucks when your strength is empathy, especially when you are faced with suffering.

I recently took the StrengthsFinder test in my exploration into my life purpose. I discovered that one of my top five strengths is Empathy. Here is the definition of empathy from the book Now, Discover Your Strengths:

handheartYou can sense the emotions of those around you. You can feel what they are feeling as though their feelings are your own. Intuitively, you are able to see the world through their eyes and share their perspective. Your do not necessarily feel pity for each person’s predicament – this would be sympathy, not empathy. You do not necessarily condone the choices each person makes, but you do understand.  The instinctive ability to understand is powerful. You hear the the unvoiced questions. You anticipate the need. Where others grapple for words, you seem to find the right words and the right tone. You help people find the right phrases to express their feeling – to themselves as well as to others. You help the give voice to their emotional life. For all these reasons other people are drawn to you.

Over the past week I was blessed to be a part of a force of educational change. I was part of the logistics team that ran the New Tech Annual Conference held in Chicago. I was expecting the long hours, the missed meals, the seven straight days of work. I was prepared for the feelings of relief when the week was over, for the immense feeling of pride for my team and all they were able to achieve.

What I wasn’t prepared for was learning of the loss of a colleague’s family. On the last night of the conference a dear friend and co-worker learned that his wife and two of his children were killed in a car accident.

The news rocked me to my core.

I had just seen them the night before and the images of this family were etched in my memory: my colleague’s beautiful wife and two sweet boys. I even thought to myself how wonderful it was to see them all together and how much joy it must have brought him to have his family there with him.

Learning of their loss hit me harder than I expected. Did I know them? Not really. Am I close to my colleague? Yes, but not in a deep way. Did it hurt my heart? You’re damn right it did.

And it still does. And that’s what being empathetic means.

I feel all the emotions: the anger, the sadness, the happiness. I can put myself in someone’s place and feel those emotions. I can relate to how they might be feeling even if I have never been in that situation before. It is a strong power and challenging to honor when faced with the more uncomfortable emotions. It’s easier to feel the happier emotions but there is something powerful about allowing yourself feel the “bad” emotions.

Sitting in the meeting room with my colleagues, hearing the news of our co-worker’s family, I allowed myself to really feel what I was feeling. Some in the room held back, they were not needing to let the tears flow. Was that wrong? Did my emotions deem me any less strong, any less powerful? No. My feelings were my own and I took comfort in them. Each person processes grief in a different way.

At that moment, for me, it was total complete sorrow, sadness, and loss. And yet, at the same time I felt this feeling of complete connection with my co-workers. In that moment, all levels of job responsibility and roles, all labels of status, were dissolved, and we were just left with each other in our raw emotional state. We were one, one in feeling heartache, one in feeling a sense of love for our colleague, one in our feeling of love for each other.

And in the end that’s what this life is all about. It’s too short to worry about what others think, too short to worry about how we look, or how if we cry we might look weak. It’s too short to be worried about trying to impress someone. What’s important is loving ourselves and each other to the best of our abilities. Fully and unconditionally.

As I reflect on the previous week and the challenges I faced I understand and appreciate that my strength of empathy served me well. It allowed me to connect more deeply with our attendees, our staff, my colleagues, and most importantly, with myself.

It Can Be Lonely at the Top

lonely2This past week I had the opportunity to participate in a simulation designed to foster empathy and develop a better understanding of the different positions within an organization. The workshop was based on the work of Barry Oshry and his discovery that we all assume very predictable roles and demonstrate typical behaviors when we join any type of organization. He discovered that we all, at one point or another, are in positions as Tops, Middles, or Bottoms and we all share similar experiences when we are in these positions. (If you are interested, I would encourage you to check out his work in more detail. This post is more about my own reflections as a workshop participant and not necessarily a review of Mr. Oshry’s work.)

During the simulation I was assigned the role of a Top in our fake company. Along with two other colleagues, we were tasked with work very similar to what is required of people in top leadership positions. We experienced very typical situations where our time, energy, and sense of accomplishment were taxed at a very intense level. Let me just say that by the end of the simulation I was more than happy to give up my Top position.

Here are a few of my takeaways:

When they say that “it’s lonely at the top” they aren’t kidding. While I had two other colleagues with me during the simulation I felt very disconnected with the Middles and the Bottoms. I felt like I was missing out on the fun and the community.

I worried constantly that the Middles. I was concerned that they were feeling frustrated with us because we weren’t giving them the information and direction they needed to get their work done. I knew they were supporting us and our leadership but I also knew they were feeling cutoff and left out of the discussions that would have a direct impact on them. I also knew that they were very faithful to the Bottoms that they represented and that they felt they were letting their own teams down too. Ug.

The Bottoms were on my mind and in my heart the entire time. I knew they were feeling very cutoff and were developing a bad case of the “F*%k its”. But I also knew in my heart that they wanted to support us, they wanted to be a part of the bigger picture but due to the Tops’ lack of connection with the rest of the company the Bottoms truly felt no allegiance to us. And that hurt. I wanted to go connect with them but I questioned myself  and heard that ego voice speaking loudly about how the Bottoms will think my desire to connect was nothing short of political BS and it was all in an attempt to make me look better in their eyes. My desire to truly connect with them left me feeling more and more like a fake and a fraud; truly disconnected from my authentic self.

Did I mention that this all took place over the course of a couple of hours?

So many emotions, so little time.

Through the whole process I wanted to retreat to a quiet corner and just spend some time in silent reflection. That was not an option as the questions, demands, and needs of the company were bearing down on us like a hurricane. I could feel myself becoming very resentful of my role and longing for a simpler position.

I have been reflecting on what we ask of leaders and how we, as coaches, support them. My go-to tools for helping someone in this kind of position are journaling, quiet reflection time, meditation, exercise, making sure they stay hydrated, eating well, getting out in nature, and more.

Granted, the simulation was designed to exaggerate the situation for purposes of example but did I have even a minute to drink water? No, even though it was available for me. Did I have a chance to go out side and get some fresh air? No, there was no time. Quiet reflection and journaling? How quaint.

As I continue to process this experience and refine my toolkit of supports for leaders I have a little bit clearer understanding of what it takes for them to do their job. Do I still think self-care is important for people in leadership positions? Absolutely. Will I continue to recommend that leaders use the tools of reflection and develop their own self-awareness? Of course. But I will also encourage them to forgive themselves when they falter, to cut themselves some slack when they revert to their old habits and behaviors, and most importantly, love themselves even when their egos tell them they are failing.

More to come on this topic in the future but I would love to hear what this brings up for you. Have you been in this position before? How did it make you feel? What are your tools for supporting leaders? Supporting yourself?

Hanging Out in the Gap

noun: gap; plural noun: gaps
an unfilled space or interval; a break in continuity.

Have you ever really, really wanted something, had a vision of it, knew what it took to get there, but yet you weren’t getting close to your dream? That’s how I have been feeling lately. I have a vision of how I want my life to be. I can picture it clearly in my mind and I know exactly what it will take. And yet, I am still not there. And that’s OK.


There is always a gap between intention and action. ~ Paulo Coelho

I’m hanging out in the gap.

I have been building my coaching practice for the past eight months and had fully anticipated completing my move to being  an entrepreneur by the end of this year.

But something happened that I never expected.

I started to bring what I was learning and what I was experiencing on a personal level to my day job. And it was having an affect: on me, on my work, on my colleagues, and most importantly on my mindset. I have started to walk my talk at work and it has caused a profound shift in me. This switch has me feeling more fulfilled than ever which has left me wondering, do I set out on my own or do I continue with the work I have been doing?

For now, I will hold this space for myself. I will continue to grow and learn and share and always keep my vision and dream in the front of my mind.

Are you living in the gap? How does it feel to have the space around you, the space between your dreams and your current life? I would love to help you explore the space, to navigate through the gap. I have a couple of Discovery Sessions available and I would love to connect with you!

There’s a New Workout in Town

When my oldest was 4 months old I was asked when my baby was due. Ouch. Not sure who felt worse, me or the person who assumed I was still pregnant.

Yeah. That baby weight hadn’t come off as quickly as I had hoped.

I signed up for a gym membership and was soon a convert to regular exercise. I went to the gym religiously 4-5 times a week. I did step classes, spin classes, circuit training, body sculpting classes. You name it I tried it. For years.

Then I got burned out. And I stopped working out.

When friends of mine started going to Crossfit classes I toyed with the idea myself but something about it just didn’t appeal to me. When others stated training for marathons I thought I should I do the same. I even went so far as to complete a 5k training program but never entered a race. For whatever reason, it just didn’t fit me and what I needed. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I was craving something that would exercise not just my physical self but would also help strengthen my soul.  I didn’t want intense workouts and strict schedules. I wanted to tune into my body and listen to what she needs.

Over the holidays I discovered Erin Stutland and her online program Shrink Session. It is unlike any workout program you have ever done. It will tone and tighten every muscle in your body, but it will also lift your spirit and transform your life in ways you don’t normally see from just any workout.

The program is brought to you digitally through a private Members Area where you are given 4 different Sessions. Each session includes a 45 minute full body workout, a guided meditation, and action sheets containing life coaching practices and tools that tap into your desires and help you create a plan of action for your dreams. The workout itself is a combination of cardio-dance, kickboxing, yoga and inspiring affirmations. Expect to sweat JOY!

A great way to experience Shrink Session is to sign up for Erin’s FREE challenge Say It, Sweat It, Get It which begins June 1. During this week long challenge, she is going to be giving you short easy to follow video workouts that incorporate mantras, music and movement. She is going to twitter_banner-photo1help you move your body a little bit, every day.

And it’s totally FREE. I plan to sign up and would love it if you joined me! Sign ups start May 15 so watch for announcements here and on my Facebook page.

I still have a couple of spots open for a FREE Discovery Session. I would love to connect with you and see how we can connect all the parts that make you whole. Send me an email or message me on Facebook. And remember to sign up for my newsletter by entering your information in the sign up box. I will deliver new posts, share cool articles, and perhaps a meditation to try on your own every month.

When Being Inspirational Hurts

What you seek is seeking youHow would you feel if you found out that you inspired someone to make a big change in their life but it just so happened to be a change that directly affects you?

In the past three months I have had two friends and colleagues make significant career changes that have left me experiencing a sense of loss and happiness all at the same time. Both of these friends are powerful, strong, amazing women that I have had the honor of working with for the past four years. Each brought a quality to our work that I envied: their willingness to speak their truth, to question the project, to wonder if there was another way. Both brought a sense of honesty and honor to their roles. While I was surprised at first that they were leaving I realized that these two women were taking risks and trusting in the greater vision for their lives.

The funny thing is, they both told me separately that I had inspired them to make a change.

Oh. Wasn’t expecting that.

They told me that by sharing my personal discoveries on this journey of personal growth I had inspired them to do the same. And what they discovered was that they needed to follow their hearts and that meant moving on to other places.  While I will miss seeing their names show up on my instant messenger at work I am happy they are experiencing the thrill of following their authentic direction. Dang, no one told me being inspirational can hurt.

What you seek is seeking you. ~ Rumi

Over the past ten years I have come out of my hiding place. I have begun to share my personal beliefs and philosophies. I have been crafting my message and venturing out beyond the safety of my journal. This is new territory for me and it wasn’t always easy to share my beliefs with the world. Learning to trust my intuition and allow myself to be guided has been the biggest challenge but also the most rewarding.

On this journey I have discovered that there are many people out there ready to learn new ways of thinking, new ways of be-ing.

They are tired of feeling like crap, of hiding their own brilliance, of waiting for the life they desire to come to them. They want to create that life NOW. Even if it feels a little scary. Even if they don’t have all the answers.

Is this you? Are you tired of not living your life to its fullest? Are you staying where you are because it feels safe? If you want to explore what it might look like for you to trust your gut and take a leap of faith then let’s talk. I have a couple of Discovery Sessions available this month and I would love to talk with you. Click here to learn more.

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How do you cope with transition?

noun: transition; plural noun: transitions

the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.

How do you move through transitions? How do you cope with change? Do you stay locked in fear when life throws the rules out the window?

This past year I have been experiencing quite a bit of transition both personally and professionally. My oldest son moved out of the house and we have had to adjust to the change in family dynamic now that there are only three of us at home. I enrolled in a year-long coaching course that has been nothing but transition: letting go of old ideas and beliefs and strengthening new ones. I have begun transitioning into a new line of work and developing my own business. Now that’s a big transition. But recent changes at work have really got me thinking – how do my beliefs, my values affect my ability to cope with change and transition?

Tony  Robbins talks about the Six Human Needs: certainty, variety, significance, love/connection, growth, and contribution. We each have these needs but each of us values one higher than the other. For me, my top value is significance. I need to feel that I am making an impact on others and that I feel acknowledged for that. Right behind significance would be love and connection. If I don’t feel a connection with someone or something then it is hard for me to feel engaged.

Recently I have been challenged in the area of certainty, or the need to ensure comfort and ease. There have been many changes at work with our company splitting off from our parent company. We have new departments and processes. We have new people and systems to figure out. But we have also experienced transitions as people have left for other work. This particular transition can cause the most angst and bring out our own fears around change. We start to question if we should stay. We ask ourselves, “What did they know that I don’t?” We wonder if maybe we are choosing to stay safe instead of pushing ourselves to grow.

All of these kinds of transitions bring up long standing fears we each carry around. Fears and beliefs that were formed years ago. Fears of not being good enough or not having enough. Fear of not being liked or looking foolish. These fears and beliefs get translated into actions which in turn just cement these beliefs in our psyche.

So how can you bring a little more certainty into your life when transitions come along? You can stop and express gratitude for what you do have and what is certain in your life. For me that is thanks for a loving husband and family who supports me everyday. It’s thanks for the amazing people I get to work with everyday and the difference we are making in children’s lives.

You can take a moment to really connect with the people around you, in a truly tangible way. This can happen in the virtual realm as well as in the physical world. Can you text a friend and tell them how much you value their friendship? How about asking the clerk at the grocery store how their day is going instead of ignoring them? The next time your child asks you a question, put the phone down and really truly listen.

You can spend 10 minutes in the morning connecting to your breath and to your inner landscape through a simple meditation. Follow the rhythm of your breath or listen to a guided meditation if that helps you stay grounded.

For me, the most effective way I can bring more certainty into my life in times of transition if to recommit to spreading my message and walking my talk each and every day.

What is your top human need? What can you do to nurture that need and support it? How do you cope with transition? I would love to hear!

I have two openings for coaching if you feel called to dive a little deeper into this conversation. Contact me for a FREE session to see if this is a good fit for you.

B-School Desk

Time to Start Dreaming

A year ago I took a leap.

I was looking for something but I didn’t know what it was. I felt a calling to do something more, to create more, to be more than I was. I felt I had been holding myself back.

At the time I was seeing ads for Marie Forleo’s B-School everywhere I looked. It was on Facebook and Twitter. All my favorite authors and who’s-who in the spiritual and self development world were offering bonuses to sign up. I think it was the last day to register and I took the dive. I signed up. At the time, it was the most I had spent on myself ever, outside of college. I immediately felt guilty. Who was I to spend that kind of money on myself? I didn’t even know what I was going to do with the information but I felt it was an investment in myself.

All through the eight week course I struggled to figure out my plan. What was I going to do with the new knowledge? How was I going to use what I was learning and incorporate it into my own life? I didn’t have my own business and really wasn’t looking to start one anytime soon.

So I did what lots of students do. I dropped out.

I told myself I would catch up on the work another time, over the summer. Well that never happened. But what did happen was I started to look around at other opportunities to grow. I started opening myself up to other possibilities and to embrace some new ventures. That was when I discovered Mentor Masterclass and started down the path to become a life coach.

Over the past six months I have developed my own programs and begun to lead workshops and trainings. I am being sought after as a thought leader and a guide. I never dreamed I would be doing what I am today.

And that was the problem. I never dreamed.

I stayed small. I played it safe. But by playing it safe and staying small I was denying myself the opportunity to grow and expand. It is only in reaching for the stars can we discover what’s on the horizon.

Fast forward to today and I am more excited for B-School than ever! With a renewed commitment I am ready to start dreaming big, to start putting into place the life of my dreams.

What are you dreaming about? What’s been holding you back from saying yes? Let’s connect and together we can get you dreaming again too.

Saying Yes Before Saying No

I used to have a pretty rock solid limiting belief that I really didn’t know what I’m doing even if everyone believed I did. When I was a senior in high school I was first chair flute in the band. I always said that the only reason I was first chair was because everyone higher than me graduated the year before. Years ago, while traveling with my sisters, I pointed us in the wrong direction and we got very lost for quite a while. I I tried to sound confident that I knew how to get home but that just made things even worse. So began the Bitchy Sister Roadtrips. Just recently I was offered the opportunity at work to take the lead in planning a very large conference with a $3 million budget. Six months ago that was not on my radar nor in my wheelhouse of skills. Or at least I thought.

2015-02-08 12.27.53 Recently I have been offered several opportunities to expand my horizons, to reach beyond what I thought I could do. From workshops to virtual classes, in all of those opportunities I said yes before I could say no. Why? Because if I say no, the opportunities will stop coming to me. Am I nervous? Yes. Scared? A little. But most of all I am excited to dive in and expand.

What has brought around this change in my thinking? Discovering and embracing my true voice. When I realized that I was speaking with someone else voice I discovered just how much I was holding myself back. By getting in tune with my desires, by acknowledging my feelings, and by embracing vulnerability I have opened myself to receive far more than I thought possible.

What core limiting belief is holding you back? Where are you resisting expressing yourself completely? Join me and Jaclyn Wallach for our free virtual class Explore Your True Voice this Monday, February 9 at 5:00pm PST. Together we will discover ways to uncover and unlock our true voices.

Can’t make the call? No problem. Sign up and we’ll send you the recording!

Want to dive even deeper? Join us on Saturday, February 21 for our all day in-person workshop Honor Your Expression. It will truly rock your world and open you up to even greater opportunities in your life. Early bird pricing in affect until February 12. Space is limited.

I would love to hear from you. Add a comment or send me an email. While you’re at it, sign up for my monthly email and receive my morning ritual planning guide. I guarantee you it will help you start each day on the right foot.