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Letters to Julia: The Necessary Process of Transition

I write a lot of letters to my baby girls. If you're a parent and you haven't already adopted this practice, I highly recommend it.  Tell them stories. Tell them about their character.  Tell them what you've learned.  Tell them how much you love them.  Tell them.

Hand write it, type it and print it, or just write an email to yourself and save it in a special folder. Someday, when they're graduating high school, getting married, or applying to graduate school, you'll be glad you did. I hope to make a little book for each of my kids with the letters I wrote them. Here is one such letter, written for Julia on the day she lost her first tooth:


October 24, 2013

Dear Julia,

Today you lost your first tooth. You're only 3 and a half. It was a shock to me, and something I wasn't expecting, but you handled it like a champ.
You were climbing up the slide at the playground (in your usual ambitious spirit) and slipped over the side, landing face down, and effectively d…

Make your words sweet – someday you’ll be eating them

We’ve all been there. That awkward moment when you find yourself doing exactly the thing you said you’d never do. Maybe it involved: Eating something you said you’d never eatVisiting a place you said you’d never goTrying something you said you’d never do
And you actually enjoyed it.
Or maybe it was sad realizing that you broke your promise to yourself – or that you’d promised something so odd in the first place.
Whether it’s big or small, we all make claims about our lives before we understand the long-term repercussions: “I’ll never go there again.”“I promise I’ll never do that.”“When I have kids, I’ll never let them behave like that.
We make pseudo-commitments to ourselves that preclude us from experiencing real life. What we don’t realize is that the way we live now is not the way we will always live. Life changes day to day, and the circumstances we find ourselves in will not always be exactly the same.
I’ve eaten many of my own words. Some were good, some were bad, and some were…

The more I learn, the less I know

Today marks 7 years that I’ve been working in my position, doing marketing for higher education.  I am so blessed.  I love my job.  I love the people I work with.  And I love the mission to which I contribute every day I go to work.
Over the past 7 years, I’ve been a part of many projects and processes, and through it all I’ve learned one very important thing:
I have no idea what I’m doing.
Don’t get me wrong – I sure do try, but so many days I’m left wondering what in the world my employer sees in me.
·     I am outpaced and outperformed by so many of my talented colleagues on a daily basis; but they keep me striving to achieve higher goals.

·I am continually stumped by new problems that arise; but they give me an opportunity to expand my troubleshooting abilities.

·I am dumbfounded by new systems and technologies that enter the market; but learning about new capabilities enables me to adapt to an ever-changing world.
The cool thing about life is that we never quite learn everything. As…

Top 100 Under 100: Pacing Yourself for Long-Term Success

This morning as I opened my email and sorted through the various industry e-publications to which I subscribe, a headline caught my eye:

"Top 40 Under 40 in Direct Marketing"

As I read through the list of 20- and 30-somethings who have achieved great accolades in their various roles, I wondered how many countless others worked tirelessly to earn a position on this list, only to fall short - or to have their efforts go unnoticed.

I'll be honest, I think it would be cool to be on this list someday. But let me take a step back for a moment.

Don't these kind of lists set unrealistic expectations? Don't they highlight the early bloomers and ignore those who have labored their entire careers for such success?

Why try to achieve so much so early?

My entire life I've been labeled as a fast-burner, or a bit of an over-achiever. I finished high school at 16, consolidated a 4-year Bachelor's degree into 3 years, landed my dream job, bought a house, and married the ma…

Life Lessons from Muffin: Unconditional Love and Acceptance

It was the most perfect July day. White clouds were aglow with silver light and heaven was brighter than I've ever seen it before.

"Lord, thank you for giving us Muffin. She made our family so happy. We miss her, and we can't wait to see her on the other side."

The words of my dad's graveside prayer echoed in my mind as I drove the stretch of highway back home, lit up by a breathtaking sunset.

Muffin was 16 years old, and held on so cheerfully through declining health until yesterday, when she passed. What a full life she lived.

I was 12 when we got Muffin as a puppy, and her sweet personality captured our hearts instantly. She loved everyone, and seemed to exude a warmth that was both welcoming and comforting. She used to sit by the door and whimper when we'd leave the house, then bark excitedly with plenty of tail-wagging when we returned. I know everybody says this about their own pet, but she really was the best dog.

On the drive to Muffin's burial y…

Musings on Maturity: Growing Up and Letting Go

I had a moment of clarity in the Sam's Club parking lot today.

As I approached my car with a shopping cart full of groceries and two toddlers in tow, I noticed a young woman unloading her groceries into the car next to mine. She was well-dressed, with a designer handbag, and seemed in a hurry. I waited for her to finish putting her groceries in the back seat so I could squeeze between the cars and put my kids in their carseats.

After a moment, she closed her car door and began walking her empty shopping cart across the lot. I stepped forward and opened the door to my 15-year-old grocery getter to put the kids in, admiring the young woman's brand new luxury (and carseat-free) crossover. As I buckled in my 1-year-old, the woman returned and stood behind me, anxiously tapping her foot to announce her presence. I paused from buckling the baby, pulled the door in so she could pass by, and said, "Sorry about that." She responded by rolling her eyes, getting into her car, …

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword: Winning with Written Notes of Gratitude

You may think it’s old fashioned, but the handwritten thank-you note goes a long way in expressing appreciation.  It’s a lost art – and one that deserves to be revived for its pleasantry, and its power.
Think about it.  When was the last time you received a handwritten thank-you note?  How did it make you feel?  What do you think about the person who wrote it?
We just celebrated my daughter’s third birthday with several friends, where she received a generous sum of gifts and cards.  Tissue paper and gift wrap were thrown everywhere as dozens of kids huddled around to get a look at her presents.  While I assisted with the gift opening and attempted to keep things organized (not very successfully), my husband took notes about who gave what.
That night, after the kids were asleep, worn out from a day full of birthday festivities, I sat down with the list of gifts and givers.  I was overwhelmed – not only by the generosity of each person – but also by the number of thank-you notes I needed t…

Delegation by Design: Matching the Right Person to the Right Task

You may have heard the phrase, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”  If only we all had enough time and energy to do everything ourselves.  Instead, delegation is the principle that allows us to accomplish tasks through others.  You don’t have to do a project yourself to get it done correctly.  You just have to put it in the hands of the right person.
First, figure out your priorities for the project.  What is most important to you about getting the job done?  Should it be done fast, or with precision?  Does it need creativity, or in-depth analysis? 
Once you’ve prioritized the need, match the project to the person with the right qualities:
If you want it done quickly, give it to the person with a clean desk.  Chances are, she has a clean desk because she can’t stand to have pending items waiting on her to complete them.She is probably a task-oriented person who gets the job done as soon as it’s assigned.And to her, speed is critical in getting the job done correctly.
If …

Relationship Building in Business Development: Is It Really that Critical?

If you’ve spent any time in customer service or sales, you’ve heard the benefits of connecting with your clients on a personal level.You know it builds rapport, opens up lines of communication, and all that good warm fuzzy stuff.

But is it really that valuable?It’s difficult to gauge the effectiveness of relationship building.There’s no exact formula for ROI.You spend a significant amount of time and money on relationship building, but – let’s face it – you can’t easily monetize it.
I don’t specialize in sales.But I’ve listened to more than a few sales pitches.As a media buyer, I can tell you exactly what customers are looking for – and what they’re not.Here are some things you should know about your client’s expectations before you meet with them: Understand your customer. Research your customer’s agency before meeting with them.Look at their website, sign up for their emails, or maybe even use the ‘secret shopper’ technique to get to know their business. Be ready to tell them exactly…

Love Your Enemies: Did She Take It Too Far?

Reports just surfaced that Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been buried in Doswell, Virginia, after numerous cemeteries declined to offer his body a final resting place.

Martha Mullen, a seminary graduate who works in mental health, heard over the radio that officials could not find a cemetery willing to accept Tsarnaev's body.  She was moved by the story, recalling Jesus' command to Christians:
"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" - Matthew 5:44Mullen contacted officials in Richmond and Massachusetts and quickly made arrangements to have Tsarnaev buried in nearby Doswell, where she facilitated the funeral. 

After reading this news on the Washington Post, I have to admit that I was stunned for a few reasons:
Doswell is close to home, about 2 hours awayWhy should my home state intern the body of a man who committed such horrors?How could Mullen be so comp…

Improving Communication: Tips You Already Know... And Need to Hear Again

You've heard it before.  
Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship.  
In fact, it's so integral that you really can't have a relationship without it.  I would venture to say that when the communication stops, the relationship stops.
Earlier this week a friend invited me and my husband to join her small group that meets on Thursday nights.  She was so excited about the new book they just started studying in the group.  When I asked her what the book was, she eagerly grabbed the copy of "Improving Communication in Your Marriage" (Rosberg) from her kitchen counter and handed it to me.

"You're gonna love this!" she said.  "It's a constant battle to prioritize communication in marriage.  This is stuff we all need to hear over and over again."

I felt relieved to know I wasn't the only one in need of improvement in this area.  My friend - who has been married for 21 years - new the importance of good communication.  And I'll be t…

I'm In with the IT Crowd: 5 Reasons to Surround Yourself with People Who Are Smarter Than You

Some of the smartest people I know work in IT.  Think about it - folks who work with technology on a regular basis are just plain smart.  They seem to have an innate understanding of the way things work.  It makes me kind of jealous, actually.

Think of the smartest person you know.  
What does that person do?  Maybe it's not IT, but I bet you wish you knew what they know.  There's a lot to be gleaned from building relationships with people you respect for their understanding.  

Here are the top 5 reasons you should surround yourself with people who are smarter than you:
Elevate your knowledge base.  When you place yourself in circumstances where you'll learn new principles and ideas, you're bound to increase your understanding.Get a fresh perspective.  Have you ever outgrown your peer group?  It's actually a good thing.  You may find yourself excelling above your peers intellectually, socially, emotionally, or spiritually, because you're learning at a different pac…

Let the Experts Be the Experts

Last week I went to a local hair salon to get my usual trim.The salon just opened in January and they’ve already seen huge success as they focus on top-notch customer relations.I could go on and on about the personalized service I received – from the aromatherapy treatment to the hand massage – but that’s not the point.

The point is, my stylist told me something incredibly insightful.And we’re not talking small talk.She had a life-sized moment of clarity to share with me.She said:

“One of the most damaging things you can do to a person is to do something for them that they are capable of doing themselves.” 
Maybe that doesn’t sound groundbreaking at first glance.But think about it.The worst thing is doing something for someone that they can do for themselves.

Here’s why:
It discredits individual achievement.When you take away somebody’s project, you also take away their bragging rights.Let them do the work, and get the praise.It displaces confidence and mutual trust.Allowing someone to ex…

As It Turns Out, Nobody's Got It Together: 6 Reasons It's Okay to Admit Failure

We've all had those moments.  Those times when, despite your best efforts, you just fall flat on your face.  And then you dust off and pretend it never happened.  Why?  Because, for whatever reason, it seems taboo to admit it happened.  

Failure is a touchy subject.  Nobody wants to admit failure.  More importantly, nobody wants to accept failure.  You have a drive within to achieve better results, and most bosses, family members, friends, and significant others affirm that drive by expecting better results from you.  They certainly don't want to accept failure, so neither should you.  Right?

It's funny how society seems to have formed this image of pseudo-perfection in daily living.  We put on a good face for the company.  And the neighbors.  And the church.  And the social networks.  When it all adds up, you're left with a self-image that appears, to the general public, to be perfection.  Only you know it's a lie.

Now before you think I'm going to endorse a bras…

A Moment of Clairety

A moment of clarity can be defined as a time when you suddenly and vividly understand the meaning of a deep truth.  It's that moment when your vision becomes unclouded and you gain unprecedented focus. 

Peter Bloch said it this way:

"Moments of clarity are those occasions in life when small concerns and plans that had seemed important fall away in the face of greater truths."

Someone recently asked me to stop and think about my purpose.  What was I was placed on this earth to do?  Wow.  Talk about a tough question.  There could be numerous answers. 

Perhaps my purpose is to sing.  I love singing.  Maybe my purpose is to be a great mom to my two little girls.  They mean the world to me.My purpose might lie in my desire to learn and teach others what I've learned.  I could also find a deep sense of purpose in my profession in higher education.Or maybe my purpose is just to encourage those around me.
Then it hit me.  Like a ton of bricks.  I could almost hear an audible call…