An Unfinished Book

Have you left a book unfinished?

I have.

Typically, this occurs for two reasons: I didn’t like it, or I haven’t had time to finish it. Oma and Opa (Bob and Sue) Van Dellen are like an unfinished book to me (I know what you’re thinking, keep reading).

Growing up in our small Northern Michigan town it was rare not to know someone’s parents.

I never met Bob or Sue.

It was the summer of 2006 and Andy and I were on our way to meet his Dad and Step-Mom. My mind was going nuts pondering the following: What did they know about me? What were we going to talk about? Hopefully, they are fast eaters… Oh wait, Andy already said they aren’t fans of the eat and run kids. Shit. What if I don’t like what they cooked? Couldn’t we just meet at a restaurant and chat over some nachos?, I recall asking Andy as he turned down S 45 mile road.

‘Nope. In fact, I was thinking about it and I thought it would be funny if you ate dinner without using your utensils tonight.’ -Andy. Yes, what an idiot and yet I’m spending the rest of my life with him.

Interesting, because I can’t think of one reason that would be a good idea the first time I meet your parents…or ever. (Continuing this thought with …maybe we aren’t a good fit for each other…)

The thought faded over time, and my nerves about introducing and spending time with Bob and Sue calmed. The anticipation of their visit to Amsterdam, in May, was the polar opposite from our initial meeting back at the farmhouse in 2006.

One of their first days here in Amsterdam, Bob and Sue expressed interest in renting a boat. Packing some drinks, and fulfilling hankerings of Dutch cheeses, bread, and stroopwafels sounded like the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. As you are all aware by now, we would never object to such a request! It was a bit overcast, not too hot or too cool…perfect weather for a canal tour.

Our conversation seamlessly bounced from Grab Cooper, to I’ll take another drink and pass the Parma ham. As Andy continued narrating the tour with questionable ‘facts’, Sue filled in the gaps with her own history of the city. Pointing out neighborhoods where cousins previously lived and telling stories of weekend adventures on the canals during her stay as an exchange student. As our boat rental came to an end, I realized I was no longer hungry for more cheese, but wanted more recollections of Sue’s time in the Netherlands as an exchange student and then again as a young adult.

For our next adventure, Oma and Opa expressed interest in the zoo. Neither had previously been and knowing Cooper is a big fan, it seemed like a good addition to our agenda.

It was no surprise that shortly after our arrival at the Artis, the educator in Oma and Opa couldn’t be contained anymore. Cooper was on an individualized tour, listening to facts, observing animal behaviors, and talking about the animal’s interesting features. Seeing the two of them take advantage of a teaching opportunity left me curious…What were Bob’s lectures like? Sue was the principal of a school, would she recommend this route now? Bob likes to write too. What’s his approach? Is he as distracted as I am?

One of Sue’s beautiful traits is the ability to put together an amazing itinerary that meets the needs of everyone involved. Therefore, when we received the below email from her, prior to their visit, it didn’t require much debate.

After we talked yesterday, I got online to look for some ideas. I’ve never been to the Waddenzee Islands and have always wanted to — so I looked there first. I really looked at Texel because it’s the closest one to the mainland and there’s a car ferry that goes there (most don’t). Anyway, I went ahead and booked rooms. Don’t panic. I’m more than willing to cancel the booking if you don’t like it or would rather do something different.

Giving Cooper a chance to roll in the sand, exploring the Texel Lighthouse (the only lighthouse in the Netherlands were you can see the sea on three sides), early morning walks that were detoured by the amazing aroma of fresh croissants and hillsides full of sheep, afternoons getting wiggles out at the parks, the three of us were unaware of just how much we had missed stepping outside of the city and getting lost in a remote little town.

One of our adventures included a trip to Ecomare, a facility that cares for around 100 young, sick, weakened or wounded seals each year. When they are healthy, they go back to the sea. Oma’s ability to speak and understand Dutch was an asset as we observed the scheduled feedings. Bob, Andy, Cooper and I stood there fascinated by the observable facts. Sue would fill us in on all the information that was shared in the presentation. My envy for multilingual individuals came to fruition (as it often does here)…again. As we followed the winding road, surrounded by sheep and bikes, back to De Corksdorp I thought to myself, I wonder Oma’s approach to learning a second language was and how she has managed to maintain it over the years.

Some of the most important conversations I’ve ever had occured at my family’s dinner table. – Bob Ehrilich

Over the last 10 years, I continue to learn things about Bob and Sue and their connection to food. For example, breakfast (not including coffee) and lunch are optional. This is an extreme difference between us as Andy, Cooper and I all suffer from hanger. Dinner, on the other hand, is worthy of careful planning, research, and creating an experience, not just a caloric intake.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I used to find their attempts to bring the family together for meals, asking us to organize babysitters so we could have some adult time, and progressing from snacks to after dinner coffee’s irritating and drawn out.

My mindset around these requests has shifted. Food (and drinks) has a way of bringing people together. As I reflect on my continued learning and memories with Bob and Sue, I realize that many of the unread chapters seem to get read over meals together.

It was a typical Dutch evening…pouring rain. Andy and Bob had left Sue and me to organize where we were going to have dinner. As I continued to scroll through the local restaurants in De Corksdorp I contemplated just bailing. Coop hadn’t napped well that morning, I was tired, my indecisiveness was present (as it usually is), and let’s not forget…it was raining.

However, as you know, I enjoy food too. So, I grabbed the umbrella and rallied. I picked a restaurant and it turned out that Sue had landed on the same one while scrolling in her room. A quaint little bruine kroeg (a term used for cafe’s with wooden interiors surrounded by walls stained a yellowish-brown hue due to years of smoke) just down the main street. The menu looked amazing and they had a highchair (something we have learned to check for before committing to a restaurant). I was glad I rallied.

The Dutch servers would say that meals are to be enjoyed and that they don’t want to intrude upon your conversation, therefore they are mindful of unnecessary table interruptions. Us Americans may say, they are non-existent. The lovely brown cafe confirmed our assumptions thus far. For Cooper, the meal dragged on by the slow pace of European meals. We were hitting a wall. Cooper’s threshold for diaper bag entertainment maxed. Another walk in the rain, crawling on bar stools, eating cheerios, playing with painters tape, cracking plastic eggs, etc… our go to’s were exhausted.

Knowing I love desserts, Andy took Cooper back to put him to bed. Bob, Sue and I continued our evening and I got to taste test the sweets.

The remainder of the dinner was lovely. We conversed late into the evening about many topics, most notably a one-liner Bob threw out as we were preparing to head back to our rooms…I was once invited to a nude dinner…A little statement that led me wanting to read more…Before saying another word, I made a mental note to revisit this statement in the near future!

As we returned to Amsterdam, we had a few more nights together. One of which was for an adult dinner. Meaning, nice place, find a sitter. Three years ago, Bob, Sue, Andy and I traveled to the Netherlands together. Bob discovered a little restaurant on Kerkstraat called DenC. It made such an impression on us that Andy found it necessary to steal the hand-towel from the bathroom as memorabilia and we ate there two nights in a row. Since our initial visit, the four of us (not all together) have since returned to the restaurant 4 times. It seemed fitting for us to revisit. Andy and I organized a babysitter and I actually did my hair (I can count on one hand how many times this has happened in the last 10 months). While I could go on for several more paragraphs about the food, I’m not going to…

This is the type of place, where you can walk in 3 years later and the owner walks up and says ‘I remember you, you haven’t been here in a while, but you were here, together a while ago. You sat at that table.’ She was correct and clearly wasn’t making it up to make us feel good. From pondering how in the world the owner remembered us, talking about childhood schedules, reflecting on our time here in Amsterdam, sharing challenges as new parents and diving into some of our personal and family goals, we walked back to the flat from our nearly 4-hour dinner (not due to poor attentiveness this time!) laughing and continuing the conversations.

Emmalou, one of the owners of DenC…somehow she remembers us each time we come in…(image from DenC website)

Initially, I was frustrated about trying to find a babysitter for Cooper. However, as I laid my head down that evening I was reminded of the value of such evenings.

A great relationship doesn’t happen because of the love you had in the beginning, but how well you continue building love until the end.

-The Love Bits

If you recall, there are typically only two reasons I don’t finish books. I didn’t like it. Or I haven’t had time to finish it. I’d like to put it in writing that I do in fact like my in-laws…that’s not why I compared them to an unfinished book. But rather, with each and every visit, I grow fonder of the two of them, my interest is peaked about their lives, and I continue to learn from the two of them. This visit was no different. While I am a few more chapters into the Bob & Sue book, I’m left desiring more time.

Proost, Bob and Sue, to another wonderful visit! I look forward to my continued reading.

A Ride of Emotions

It was three or four months into our Adventures in Amsterdam. I was adjusting to the cold, dark and rainy season. Learning how to force myself to get out of bed when it felt like it was still the middle of the night. I worked on penciling in some me time. A blend of both, personal and professional time was desired and needed. Finding the balance escaped me since the birth of our little one and our transition to Amsterdam. 


My release for nearly a year prior to moving. 5 am spin class was my release, my processing time, and my fuel. My release of frustrations, stress, spousal arguments or spilt milk.

My processing time. Waking up in the middle of the night to process work problems and outline projects was a common occurrence. However, when I started spinning it was like my mind could relax knowing as soon as I hit the saddle my mind would start processing.

My fuel. I used to laugh in disbelief when people would say, You really should work out when you’re tired, you’ll feel more energized when you’re done. But you know what, they’re right! The mornings where I drug myself out of bed, sometimes not even taking time to put my contacts in, I came home and felt energized and ready to take on the day.

Finding a local gym which offered a spin class was one of my first priorities upon our arrival to the Netherlands. Luckily, I found one that offered classes that were feasible with our schedules and it was only about 8 minutes away from our flat.

Fast-forward several months and I’m feeling good. Once again, my workouts were becoming routines as opposed to random happenstances. My brain was happier and so were my energy levels. And let’s not forget the other real benefit, my jeans were feeling larger.

Majority of the comments I read about Kensho were tailored to the family feel of the gym. In a diverse city, it is a place where locals, expats, and visitors can come in, be greeted by name, get a workout that meets their needs, and then sit in the lounge and debrief, vent about their spouses, or connect over a coffee or smoothie. Many of my favorite things all in one place.

Now, if you’ve forgotten, the National Language in The Netherlands is Dutch. Prior to attending my first spin class at the gym, my husband questioned whether or not I had considered that the class may be led in Dutch. Not going to lie, I hadn’t. Yes, naive of me, but to be honest nearly everyone in the city was able to speak English and they did so without frustration. I hadn’t yet encountered a situation where communication was at a standstill due to language barriers.

While I tried to let this possibility delay my attendance, I eventually forced myself out the door. Which is always a little bit harder than it was back in Nevada. Why? Well, because as opposed to getting in a warm car at 5 am I had to get on a bike. Yep, spinning to spin.

Thankfully, the instructors had learned that my Dutch was…slecht. Unlike many of us from the States, this didn’t present an issue for the instructors, they simply switched from Dutch to English as quickly as they shifted from 75 to 90 RPMs. To validate the comments about Kensho, I had found a gym that felt like home and yes, even sounded like home.

That is until one Saturday morning class.

Cooper had woken up the household at what he thought was a reasonable time, even though we tried to convince him otherwise. As the morning hustle began, Andy suggested I take some time and go to spin. Per usual, I searched for an excuse not to go, but couldn’t find one.

So, onto the oma fiet I went, spinning to spin.

After raising the height of my seat to 12, shifting the distance between the handlebars and seat from 0 to 1, taking a moment to do an overhead stretch and quick backbend, I clipped my shoes in and took a deep breath. Ahh, me time.

As the music started, I started thinking through the course of the class. Sibel. The Saturday morning instructor. Fierce, intense, somewhat of a scary individual. However, I knew after the next 45 minutes were over I was going to feel satisfied because she was going to kick my ass.

Your bike is programmed to you. It uses an equation consisting of your gender, height, weight, age, and the number of hours you work out a week to calculate the intensity of your workout. During the class, your bike lights up. The color representing the intensity of that stage for you personally. Depending on the instructor, some instructors tell you what color to be in and other’s tell you the RPM they want you in, both should lead to the same outcome.

Today was different.

It was like Sibel had forgotten the other 15 classes I had attended of her’s. Why was she yelling? Did I sign up for Boot-Camp instead of spin? She knows my Dutch is minimal. Why are the only words she’s saying in English are go and tabata? What does vierentachtig, translate to in English? Shit, she just said Come on Mandi (of course that was in English)! Ugh. This is awful. Thankfully, I can read the universal wall clock and see that I only have 10 more minutes of hell, and then I can remove my name from all future Saturday morning classes.

What seemed like an eternity later, the class ended. I grabbed my water and coat and marched out of the spin room. As I was about to storm out the door and get back on my bike, something in my mind suggested I take a minute and reflect on how I was feeling and why.

Off to the plush purple couch I went. Too fired up to even treat myself to a coffee.

Why was something I love and crave, yes even though I try to avoid it, making me so mad this morning?

Empathy, I concluded.

I was fired up because Sibel hadn’t put herself in my shoes. She didn’t instruct the class in a way that would best support me.

The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize this frustration was self-induced. Never had I come out and said what would be helpful for me, nor had I asked clarifying questions about the class. Instead, I privatized my expectations for the classes along with the assumptions and was now irritated that the gym hadn’t gone out of their way to individualize the experience for me.

Man, the power of reflection.

As I got back on my oma fiets and peddled home my roller coaster of emotions started to flatten like the Dutch countryside.

As an avid advocate of empathy, this experience was embarrassing for me. Empathy is defined as understanding and sharing the feelings of another. I allowed myself, and my self-induced discomfort to skew my interpretation of an individual because I didn’t think she was demonstrating empathy towards me.

The lesson relearned?

When talking about empathy, it shouldn’t be a one-way street. So next time your mad or frustrated that someone isn’t demonstrating empathy to you, stop to take a moment to see if you are demonstrating it to them.

Let’s recap: Sibel is teaching a spin class in her native country, where the native language is Dutch, and the majority of the members are also Dutch. For some reason, I am upset that she’s not accommodating me, the only one in the class who doesn’t speak Dutch. I left being pissed about it, even though she called to me by name to motivate me…

Thanks for the reality check, self. 

Just Some Words on a Page

I can’t do it.

I know.

I said I was ready and I am. Just not right now.

It’s been nearly 10 months and I haven’t gone a day without him at my side.

What was I thinking, planning a trip to another country while he stays here with you?

In through the nose for 8… out through the mouth for 8.

They say that should help calm my nerves.

It’s not.

Maybe if I turn up the volume on my headphones it will drown out my thoughts?

Recently, I took my first international trip since having our little one. Yes, he stayed back with dad and I knew the two of them would be fine. I, on the other hand, was sitting on my hands restraining them from flaring up exposing the emotional roller-coaster I was rocketing along.

As if it was meant to be, I happened to pick up my copy of You are a Badass by Jen Sincero a few days prior to departing. During my skimming and scanning, I came across the following, which felt like Sincero had written specifically for me:

“We’ve made being in fear a habit.”

“We’re taught to play it safe and not take risks, and to caution everyone around us to follow suit.”

“For the most part, when we watch someone take a leap of faith, our first reaction is to scream, “Look out!”

“If you put a bunch of crabs in a bowl, and if while they’re in there crawling all over each other, one of them tries to crawl out, the rest of them will try to pull him back down instead of push him out…Imagine how different our world would be if we were less crab-like.”

“The feeling of being afraid is real, but the fear itself is all made up because it hasn’t even happened yet…”

I’d be lying if I said these quotes eased my fear of heading back to the States with my little one in another country, but they did give me some things to ponder helping decrease the volume of everything else going on in my head.


Something I haven’t really put much thought into. However, these quotes prompted me to think personally, and professionally:

What fears occupy more of my mind and less of my experiences?

What opportunities did I let pass by because of fear?

Likewise, who have I been crab-like too?

I continued marinating on these ideas as I traveled across the Atlantic and have since typed various versions of this blog, only to delete them. Leaving me with one major takeaway, possibly this text impacted me and I can’t articulate exactly why.

That’s the true beauty of a text. To some, it sparks no interest or thought – just words on a page. To other’s, it can be just what is needed at an exact moment in time.

Text has the power to do something amazing, leave us with a feeling that is unexplainable. What’s remarkable about those feelings are that no actions accompanied them…it’s still just words on a page.

“Tell Me What You See”


“Tell Me What You See…”

Recently, I had coffee with a good friend, one cup quickly turned into several. We found ourselves discussing the lack of resources that support human interaction, specifically, in the world of education. It’s possible that saying a lack of resources isn’t the right phrase. We expect teachers to instill the importance of human interaction with their students, but we don’t acknowledge and prioritize that interaction between teachers, admins and adult learners in a genuine way.

If you’re asking yourself what this means: educators are encouraged to facilitate effective PLCs, coaches are asked to jump in and “coach” during the second week of school, teachers need to “get teammates on board,” or provide one day for staff to team build for an entire year’s worth collaboration. Yet, establishing a connection with colleagues isn’t prioritized which limits success. These pseudo relationships create less effective interactions, forced conversations and a lack of stakeholders on both sides of the equation.  

This concept may seem elementary or completely foreign. I work with educators who say, “I went to school to work with children, no one prepared me for the challenges of working with adults.” Honestly, I can’t blame them. From my experience, I agree, there weren’t courses that addressed adult learning, communication, team building, or highlighting the importance of genuine relationship building. With 10 years in the workplace, these are skills that learned on the job, maybe we should consider investing in authentic interpersonal communication.

“No, you ask me a question about the art, and tell me what you see.”

I received this response three years ago when my husband and I traveled in The Netherlands. We stayed at a B&B located above an art gallery. Growing up with a sister who studied art, I was always fascinated by her work and how often I did not “see” the message. It frustrated me. I strived to look at her work, and understand her message. Unfortunately, I stand there. Looking. Thinking. Trying to synthesize a deep meaning. Yet…alI I see is an ass, a rock hard one.

This frustration carried with me for years. Until our stay at Jacoba’s art gallery.  We were enjoying a steaming cup of coffee as I asked her for a tour of her gallery. Her curt, Dutch reply was, “ No. I will walk with you, you will ask me a question about the art, and tell me what you see.” I awkwardly laughed knowing this was a terrible game for me to play. Quickly realizing she wasn’t laughing, I grabbed my coffee and walked over to the above statue with her.

“Through art, humans can learn how to communicate and connect.”

This was the first thing Jacoba said as we looked at the (above) statue. She explained that engaging with artwork allows humans to connect.

  • What do I see?
  • What do I think about the piece?
  • Is that similar or different from her interpretation?

Reassuring me there was no right or wrong way to interpret the work, my reservations lifted. We carried on discussing what we saw, what it meant, and exploring what we didn’t see.

This experience sticks out nearly 3 years later. Works of art, allowed complete strangers to engage for an hour, one an expert in art and the other feeling like the first statue about it. I began to see her perspectives and interpretations and likewise for her. We found ourselves talking about the art, but also built a relationship as we explored the foundation of our thoughts and emotions.

Living Aboard

Ironically, three weeks ago my husband, son and I relocated to The Netherlands for 10 months. Being in this country, reminded me of Jacoba and our art walk. Many interactions provide us with the opportunity to connect with others, but are we aware of them? If so, do we allow ourselves and colleagues to invest in these interactions?  Regardless of language barriers, location, grade levels, ages etc. opportunities to connect are all around us.

The Universal Language

As expected, my 6-month-old doesn’t speak. However, I can’t tell you how many “conversations” we engaged in with individuals who speak Dutch. A majority of these conversations are not understood by me, but we connect and laugh over Cooper’s smile. Last week in the flower shop, the store owner tickled Cooper’s face with a flower and conversed with him in Dutch. She looked at me blankly as I responded in English and Cooper giggled. We carried on for another 5-10 minutes; three people and three languages. Her speaking to Cooper in Dutch. Me responding in English. Then, both of us  laughing at Cooper who spoke in giggles and grins. None of us understand the entire conversation, but we connected. When I went back a few days later we engaged as if we were old friends. Even though we don’t speak the same language, my return trip was welcomed with a genuine smile and Cooper was swept out of my hands for a walk through the fragrant flowers. It doesn’t take an hour or a lifelong friend; the value is in taking the time to connect.

Lasting Thoughts

Educators, at all levels, need the opportunity and time to establish a relationship before they are assigned to work together. Time to chat over a fragrant cup of coffee or discuss a piece of artwork. It’s important to step back from the jargon, the test scores, and data to connect with colleagues. A majority of our time is spent with our colleagues, not our spouses or partners, why don’t we invest in these relationships? There is a human desire to connect with one another.  Prioritizing, encouraging and valuing those relationships strengthens the work, the culture and all subsequent interactions.

As a new school year starts, don’t forget to invest in the relationships from the start.

Reflecting on #OneWord17

Reflecting on #OneWord17

One Word…

Last year about this time, I sat down to write my #OneWord2017.  My hashtag for 2017 was #accomplish. Reflecting on OneWord17, I intended to utilize the #accomplish in my blogs, but reviewing my 2017 posts I noticed I didn’t really nail the #accomplish but I did:

  • Stay aware of my intended goals
  • Strive for accomplishments, regardless of how they were “labeled”

My reflections allow me to see what accomplishments were made in 2017:

Unread Books

While still not to the goal, I increased the number of personal books I read this year. If you’re interested, here are some recommended titles:

  • The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier
  • You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up- the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo
  • The Meaning of Michelle 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own edited by Veronica Chambers
  • Invisible Influence the Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior by Jonah Berger (currently reading)

 The Little Green Notebook

To be honest, The Little Green Notebook turned into Post It’s, more pages in the actual green notebook, notes in Google Docs, and other random notes on my iPhone. Unfortunately, the ideas continue to flourish, however, the actual construction of blogs does not.


This too has been hit and miss for me over the past year. Somedays I’m super eager to check in to my virtual PLN and other days I decide to remain logged out.


The continued effort to GSD, or in other words “Get Shit Done”, continues to be a challenge for me. Put my feet up and turn off or GSD? In conversation with my husband on our flight home from the holidays, we discussed this continued challenge. My husband reminded me that I live by lists at work and that I thrive when I can “check something off”. He reminded me that I do better when I make “me time” a priority.

The conclusion? It may be helpful for me to transfer some of my work habits to home. This year I am introducing the “Big Plans” book to my home life.

  • What must get done each day?
  • What would I like to get done?
  • What needs to get done, but can happen later?

The “Me” Room

I must say, this is one of my biggest accomplishments and one that continues to bring me joy each day! However, I can take no credit for it. This fall my Dad and husband made my dream a reality:



I often thought of myself as crazy for thinking a “me space” could impact my productivity and happiness. However, now I that I have the space, I must say, it matters. This space calms me. From the candle scents to being surrounded by my favorite books and having my best bud lying next to me, this space is where I love to sit and enjoy my morning coffee, check in for the day, and let my brain stop.

Where to Next

It’s important to reflect, however, reflections will only impact our future actions if we do something intentional with them.

I have some ideas for 2018 and plan to share them in another post. However, I believe there is great value in taking time to celebrate your successes and consider how you might build on them, something we often forget to do. While not every #accomplish was a success for me several were and it’s important to recognize them.

What accomplishments did you, or your site make in 2017? Did you take time to celebrate those successes and plan how you can continue building on them? If not, before you start planning for 2018, take time to celebrate your accomplishments in 2017!

“Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.”

– Bob Feller

The Professional Influence of my Dad

Today my dad will embark upon a new journey…retirement. In the minutia of our daily lives, it is difficult to stop and reflect on someone’s influence. In the year of #accomplish2017, I put aside some weekend time to reflect on my Dad’s influence.

John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” I can’t think of a better quote to summarize my dad’s leadership. For the past 32 years, I thankfully witnessed my dad as a leader, hoping to braid his qualities with my own.

While I know, he is eagerly awaiting his morning cup of coffee looking out over the lake with nowhere to be. I’m sure the first late night Tigers game won’t get a single hesitation about staying up late. In retirement, he will be fine. But his 44 years of experience taught me many lessons and I’d like to share them with you.

As a tyke, I recall the anticipation of bringing him lunch. It was predictable, as soon as my sisters, mom and I walked through the store doors, dad would be waiting there to hug us. I can’t remember a single time in my life when I walked into Wickes, or now ProBuild, and my dad wasn’t willing to stop whatever meeting he was in to acknowledge us. Likewise, his employees mimicked the same values. They all knew us by name, asked how we were doing and were always willing to hand us a piece of candy, whether we were 4 years old or 32. 44 years later, most those employees remain and the same values persist. Family always comes first.

Many people would define their work place and home life differently. When I think of my dad and his employees, in comparison to our home life, they are blended. Celebrations and difficult times are worth his attention regardless of who it pertains to. I recall the evening the store caught on fire. I vividly remember sitting in the back of the truck watching the flames roar and the scent of the burning lumber seeping through the window cracks. It was like watching my dad lose a piece of himself. His passion and commitment for his career and employees have never decreased regardless of the situation. I can only hope that when people look at me they can’t help but see passion and drive.

My dad is the first person to put down his to-do list and pick up another. More often I talk to my dad on my commute to work and he is out plowing the driveway for his crew, unloading a truck of windows, or driving three hours to ensure a client receives their delivery on their timeline. Many leaders speak of interdependence, when I think of my dad, I recall hearing this from him, but more so, seeing him live it. If you’re going to say it’s a value or belief, then show it.

While I know, there are countless narratives to share explaining my dad’s influence on others, I’d like to hone in on one. Throughout high-school, my dad and I had lunch together nearly every Wednesday. What I remember most about our lunches is his ability to listen and speak in a manner that wanted me to do more and become more. Whether we were talking about my jump shot the night before, a mistake I’d made, or my attitude at home, his way with words always left me thinking what more I could do. Listen carefully and encourage aspirations and growth.

As a teenager, I dreamed of becoming a Lady Volunteer. My bedroom walls were covered with basketball photos and books about Pat Summit. While most would say keep dreaming. My dad never once told me I couldn’t do it. He spent countless evenings outside under the street light rebounding my shots, driving from city to city to make sure I had the best basketball shoes and was in the stands for every game. While I didn’t end up going to Tennessee to play basketball, there was never a day that didn’t think I could do it. To this day, when I dream of spending my days writing, my dad still tells me to do it. Regardless of my age, my dad inspires me to be who I want to be, lead how I want to lead, and never settle for less than I believe I deserve. His patience and support in someone else’s dreams is invaluable. Never say you can’t.

 After college, I moved to Phoenix, AZ. I’ll never forget saying good-bye in the driveway, nor the 30 some odd hours spent in the car wondering if I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. Not once did my parents try to change my mind, and at the time I couldn’t figure out why. It now makes sense. I pulled out of the driveway thinking everything was going to change, but just logistics changed. Rather than having lunch, we text about having lunch and rather than watching games together we call for score updates. Instead of talking over the dinner table, we Facetime.  While it may not be our first pick, it’s better than nothing at all. When the first best thing isn’t an option, find the next and make it the best.

Dad, as you prepare to embark upon a new journey, don’t forget to take a moment and reflect on your 44 years of leadership. Though you no longer run a store, stores or an entire region, you will always be a leader. You invested countless hours, influenced thousands of customers and employees, and inspired many. Your professional influence impacted me to dream more. Because of you, I continue to learn more, do more, and become more.

Thank you for being an amazing father and role model, both professionally and personally.

Cheers to the next 44 years!


This year, I am participating in the #OneWord17 challenge: #accomplish.

This is my #OneWord17 because it is the year that I will engage in the present moment and get things done. It’s time for me to stop waiting to feel that the situation is ‘right’ to get X task done and just #accomplish.

Last week, in my 5 am spin class, while this song played:, the instructor asked us to reflect on the lyrics. I started thinking back to my #OneWord17.

They got scared when the lights went low
When the world’s spinning out of control
Afraid of what they might lose
I’ll get it if you need it
When you get worried I’ll be your soldier

Initially, #accomplish was for me. However, this song and the instructor challenged me to think more about my actions. Often, we forget about the influence our actions may have on others. For example, a spin class has the ability to influence me and others:

Spin for me

• provides “me” time to think and process
• provides me time stop thinking
• contributes to my desired level of fitness
• opportunities to meet new people
• challenges me

Spin for others
• may inspire others to try a new workout
• others may see the positive impact of “me time,” and may begin making it a priority for themselves

By definition, influence means to affect or change someone or something in an indirect but usually important way.

My sister-in-law, Catherine, and I started spinning together about 6 months ago. Her initial comments stating how fun and addicting the workout was filled me with curiosity. Catherine unintentionally inspired me. 7 months later, we continue to hold each other accountable. We feel equally guilty if we miss a class, knowing the other one is counting on us to be there and to share our first cup of coffee. Catherine is my spin soldier.

Robin Olson frequently inspires me. I had the pleasure of being an instructional coach at Robin’s site, and not a day goes by where her influence doesn’t impact my actions. Regardless of what is on Robin’s plate, she puts her students, staff, and families first. Her ability to make you feel as if each day is about your happiness is admirable. As an administrator, Robin models a mindset that impacts others… “If you aren’t happy to come to work, there is no point in discussing anything else.” When you get worried, Robin is truly a soldier for each individual at her site. Whether this is intentional or not, Robin’s actions influence and inspire others, modifying their own behavior or performance

Regardless of role: sibling, spouse, co-worker, teacher, instructional coach, interventionist, administrator, or central office employee, it is essential that we attack each day with the intent to positively influence others.

As I reflect on Gavin Degraw’s lyrics, I think about the importance of keeping an awareness of the possible influence my #accomplishments and actions may have on others. Challenging myself to be someone else’s soldier through my actions.

Educator and consultant, Alisa Simeral said, “Maintaining a passion for our craft is becoming harder to do, and the need to invest, influence, and inspire is crucial. Teacher leaders have the capacity to get others excited about teaching again…” Moving forward with my #accomplishments, I intend to keep this in mind.


“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”

Henry David Thoreau


#OneWord17 is a challenge to find one word that will drive you the rest of the year, created in place of a resolution.

Ideally, I would already have my #OneWord17 and be ready to share with the world of social media on New Year’s Day. I confess, it has taken me several days to hone in on my focus for 2017.

Many Things Come to Mind:

  • Commit to spin class a minimum of 4 days per week for the entire year.
  • Write a blog every two weeks.
  • Eat salads every day for lunch.
  • Read more novels for personal enjoyment.
  • Take more photographs.
  • Be more adventurous.
  • Let go of needing everything in its place… the list goes on and on.

When thinking about all of these possible goals, I see how easy it is to lose focus or become too focused one small goal… before even attempting the new. It’s overwhelming to think about an entire year of accountability to a goal, let alone narrowing it down to one word!

The Unread Book

When I look at my nightstand, there are 5 books that I’ve been meaning to read for several months. I go to bed night after night and say to myself, “Tomorrow I’m going to pick up that book and start reading a chapter a night.” The next night comes and I’m too tired to read, or would rather watch my favorite TV series with my husband and so I tell myself again, tomorrow night is the reading night. Before I know it, months have passed and none of the books have moved. I keep telling myself the same thing each night, like it’s going to motivate me, but it NEVER changes!

 The Little Green Notebook

It’s like my little black book, except rather than being filled with phone numbers, it’s filled with the blogs I want to write. It’s funny, the list keeps growing, however the number of postings on my blog doesn’t. I tell myself, Saturday mornings will be the perfect time to wake up early and outline my thoughts on the screen. That is until Saturday morning comes and sleeping in sounds much better, or it’s a powder day and the mountains are calling. Either way, I find some rationale that justifies there will be a better time and place to write.


What can I say, it’s my guilty pleasure. Embarrassingly, look at my account and you will see 100’s of “likes” marked with the little heart emoji. It’s like a closet full of clothes that all still have their tags on. Good intentions but no real application. Each evening when I scan through Twitter there are blog postings, articles, and studies that I want to go back and read for personal enjoyment. Although, when I open the link I often think to myself, “I’ll save this and read it on Sunday morning with my coffee. Maybe it will help with a blog post!” Yes, that Sunday morning that never comes around.

Household Chores

My mail pile on the counter has several envelopes, each representing a minor task or responsibility. Each evening I collect the daily mail, open the envelopes, read the contents then set them back in the pile to deal with when “I’m ready.” The same goes for magazines. They come and I can’t wait to look through them, however I add them to the pile on the coffee table for the time when I “have time” to enjoy them from cover to cover.

The “Me” Room

For the last few months, I asked my husband to redesign our front living room. It’s a beautiful space that we rarely use. When I look out the huge front window I think to myself, this will be where I will drink my morning coffee, write my blogs, read the Twitter posts and ponder the books read and to be read in the floor to ceiling bookshelves.

I tell myself when the front living room is redone, it will be my paradise. Motivation will be endless and comfort continuous. It will be the room where I put everyone else’s needs aside and focus on things that bring me joy…it may be predictable tasks, work, editing photos, or simply an afternoon cat nap.

Excuses or Lazy?

Reflecting on this posting, I could fall into one or two categories, full of excuses or lazy.

While it may be one of those two things, I’m going to say the justification for my above actions is neither.

Over holiday break, I found myself engaged with my nieces for nearly an hour playing with plastic Playstix. One evening I sat and took pictures of our fireplace and Christmas tree for a good 45 minutes, just playing around with camera settings. I walked my dog daily and saw it as refreshing, not a chore. My mom taught me how to knit, something I swore I would never have the patience for. I read nearly an entire book in one sitting. But most of all, I was overcoming mental blocks, accomplishing tasks and finding time for personal interests.

Yes, even without the front living room redesigned.


As I sit here and continue to think of one word to summarize what will drive me in 2017, I finally came to a conclusion, accomplish.

I couldn’t have predicted that I would attend spin 3 days a week, that I would have sat and played with my camera for x amount of time, or that I would have found Playstix so enjoyable over my holiday break.

I enjoyed the moments and listened to my instincts. I attended to work, but didn’t let it be my only identity. I did not neglect others, avoid my responsibilities, or forget about opportunities. I accomplished things that needed to be done, and more importantly things that I wanted to do for myself.

Here’s to 2017

2017 will be the year for me to overcome the mental block of waiting for “my perfect environment,” the “right time,” or “the perfect room.” 2017 is the year I will stop waiting. I will accomplish the tasks that I need to, and want to.

Similar to Henry David Thoreau’s quote above, 2017 will be the year for me to “launch myself on every wave in hopes of finding my eternity.”

Cheers to 2017! #OneWord17 #accomplish




The Window Opened Or Closed?

The Window Opened Or Closed? 


Awareness: Knowledge or perception of a situation or fact.

Judging: Forming an opinion or conclusion about.

My Confusion

As an instructional coach, I constantly try to be aware and help build other’s awareness through coaching. For me, the list seems nearly never-ending…do I demonstrate awareness of people’s background, their personal and professional strengths and challenges, their students, and their beliefs about student learning? Am I aware of the resources they find valuable, the district initiatives, or that they may not have remembered that we were meeting today because they were up all night dealing with a sick child…?

When I am in the midst of a conversation, my goal is to identify the intent and purpose behind other’s actions or responses. What was their thinking before, during and after? It is not my job to judge, but rather to encourage reflection and process their thinking.

At times I’m not sure I can articulate the difference between awareness and judging. Let me give you an example, a few weeks ago my husband and I were in the car discussing our days. I listened to him rant about co-workers not stepping up, waiting for opportunity instead of creating it and the generally unmotivated employees who are content with the status quo. I stopped him to ask, “How have you supported this person to do that?” After pausing for a moment, he replied with a question, “Whose onus is personal growth? Should it be the employee drive or the supervisor pull?” From his experiences, good things come to those who put forth the effort, take initiative and do the job before having the job. To me, it sounded as if he was judging a peer’s lack of initiative…and I was now judging him for being harsh…or was he aware of their lack of initiation and I was unaware of how the business world runs?

Later that evening, I thought more about the conversation and decided instead of providing supports, my husband should try to find out more information through questioning. Who knows, maybe he was pushing the person to do something they really weren’t ready to do. On the other hand, maybe he had a point. Sometimes people are unaware of what it takes to grow, they might think they are ready for that next step, but have yet to take it or don’t know how, or maybe, there are people out there who think they have what it takes but are unaware of what it really does. If the latter is the case, when the frustration builds in those people, should they be driving the reflection and progression or someone else?


Similarly, today I was in an Uber heading to the airport. The driver and I had engaged in a cordial conversation upon greeting one another. I love hearing how long one has been driving for Uber as well as their experiences. My “go-to” start to this conversation follows a sequence similar to the following:


“How are you?”

“Been busy?”

“How long have you been driving for Uber?”

“Are you from _____?”

Pretty standard, yet typically effective. However, today the response I received from the last question caught me off guard. When asked “Are you from here?” My driver responded with the following:


I chuckled a bit and continued looking out the window. A few minutes later, he informed me that he was from Earth. At this time, I decided the conversation was about over. Except it wasn’t. My driver took a few more minutes to himself and then informed me of where he was from and that he usually doesn’t tell people where he is from because it isn’t relevant. For the next several miles we continued discussing with one another. As I got out of the car this idea of judging vs. awareness crossed my mind again.

How quickly I was to assume that this generic question, “Are you from X?” was harmless and that a response that seemed sarcastic to me immediately led me to judge the direction of our conversation… Or, was I just unaware?

Sitting on Plane

After grabbing my coffee at the airport Starbucks I was prepared to board my flight to Chicago. I decided to take a window seat so that I could work in an uninterrupted manner. However, after sipping on my latte and resting my head on the sidewall of the frame I found myself struggling to keep my eyes open. I finally gave in…letting myself drift off to sleep. All was good until I was startled by the window shade next to me being pulled down. The woman next to me had reached across me and pulled the shade down.

To be honest, I instantly thought to myself “Wow, that was forward.” The woman went back to playing her card game on her I-Phone and I was now awake processing what had just happened. I obviously don’t own the window, but never before had I been reached across by my neighbor. My immediate reaction was to judge. Yet, after taking a second to reflect on the situation I realized I’ve also never taken into consideration whether or not the people sitting next to me had a preference about the window being opened or closed. Something that doesn’t really matter to me, but might to someone else.

 What’s the Answer?

This idea of awareness vs. judging is on the forefront of my mind frequently, especially today. While I was hoping that clarifying the definition of the two would explain the difference for me, it didn’t.

We often want to know the correct answer to a problem, however as I continue to sit here in flight I realize that it doesn’t necessarily matter if we label a situation, or actions, as judging or awareness (or lack of).

 What Matters More…

What is important is that we are able to reflect on the situation and learn from it.

Each of these experiences, interactions, and conversations have shifted my thinking. Next time my husband is venting, I am going to encourage him to quit assuming and ask the right questions. Likewise, next time I get in an Uber I’m going to rethink asking, “Are you from here?” And when I’m sitting next to the window on a plan I’m going to take into consideration my neighbors desire to have the window opened or closed. Yes, reflection and shifted thinking…isn’t that what really matters anyway?

And Then Sometimes…

Upon my arrival in Chicago, I wandered into a bookstore to kill some time before heading to my gate to finish this posting, and there it was…validation to the thoughts I’ve been processing today:


How aware are you of the experiences that cause you to shift your thinking?

Two Simple Words…Thank You


“Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions.” ~Author Unknown

Two Simple Words

“Thank You,” two simple words that have extremely powerful potential. Potential to take a terrible day and shed some light on it. Potential to make someone who is spinning their wheels to stop and realize…it IS worth it. Potential to provide that moment of clarity where appreciation truly warms the heart.

The beautiful thing about saying “Thank You” is that it doesn’t mean you are solving problems, or taking over responsibilities, but an acknowledgement and appreciation of efforts put forth. Two simple words to think about…

Teacher Appreciation Week

This week, May 2nd – May 6th, is National Teacher Appreciation Week. As I sat down today to label my ‘Thank You’ York Peppermint Patties, I found myself questioning the ways in which I’ve said “Thank You”. Wondering, do my actions speak louder than my words?

As I stuck label after label on my mints, I thought how odd it is that we need to dedicate a week to appreciate our teachers. As the quote above says,  teachers are the ones who teach all the other professions. That seems like a pretty big job…something that deserves much more appreciation than just a week. Yet, I wonder, have I shown my appreciation enough?

Since I’m questioning it, I’m guessing I haven’t…

Thank You 

I’m an Implementation Specialist in WCSD. Servicing Area 3, Hidden Valley Elementary School, Huffaker Elementary School and mentoring new to position Implementation Specialists. Each of these sites and individuals motivate me to get up each morning, so I want to take a moment to thank them. Though this post won’t split the seas or move mountains, hopefully this appreciation will do 2 things. 1. Give these special people that heart warming moment when they realize their work has made an impact on me and many others. 2, more importantly, you take a moment to think about those notable people who get you out of bed every morning and thank them.

JoEtta, thank you for pushing me each day, week, month and year to consider the bigger picture, yet reminding me that every bad day can be ended by visiting classrooms and students.

Salwa, thank you for your confidence in me and challenging me to not always have a destination in mind, but at least a path.

Robin, thank you for reminding me that it’s all about letting everyone in the car. Relationships matter and if people are happy to come to work, students will be happy too.

Susan, thank you for reminding me the importance of knowing all your students and their stories. You remind me to balance data with faces.

Alisa, thank you for being a role-model. You refine my thinking and provide me with the feedback I need.  I can always trust you to push me, but never hard enough to fall down.  You find interest in my thoughts and challenge me to always consider, “How will it shift thinking.”

Hidden Valley teachers, thank you for inviting me into your classrooms and taking risks with me. You hold me accountable, challenge me, and remind me that sometimes the chocolate basket is all we need (emphasis on “we”).

Huffaker staff, thank you for truly showing me what it means to care for each other. Coming to Reno from AZ, I felt like a lost puppy trying to find a home. You accept and care for me personally and professionally. You listen, ask questions and show me that there is value in family and tradition.

Implementation Specialist’s… thank you for being you! You teach me so many things about myself as well as the profession. Our conversations ground me, keep me in tune with “reality” across several sites, and challenge me. More than anything else, you are there for me as co-workers and friends. Whether it be face-to-face or Bitmoji conversations, I know I can trust each and every one of you as peers and friends. Thank you for always listening and remembering that small things do matter.

This Week and Beyond 

As we head into Teacher Appreciation Week, I challenge myself and others to take a few minutes and say “Thank You” to those you work with, and if you really want to make their day, tell them what you are thankful for. Our teachers are some of the most dedicated individuals in society and while a week of goodies and treats will be appreciated throughout the upcoming week, educators deserve to be recognized, valued, and thanked on a daily basis. 

And if you’re like me, and sitting there thinking how crazy it is to dedicate only a week to Teacher Appreciation,  use it to guide your reflection in regards to who you may need to a take a moment to thank.

Without our teachers administrative staff, secretaries, facilities and support staff, all other professions would be at risk.