Who I am

The Temple of Apollo in Greece surrounded by green mountain and field

Last month, I shared my list of Who I’m Not. I don’t know why it was easier to start there. On the other hand, many a consulting project has started with the phase. “I know what I don’t want” so maybe it’s not a surprise.

There are so many conversations about values, being authentic, and knowing who you are here, here and here. (Plus, Moana.) And “know thyself,” is one of the maxims* inscribed at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. So we’ve been wrestling with this need for knowing for thousands of years. There are no hard and fast answers. It’s a struggle until it’s now. Often it’s a journey we make alone. It seems to be a recurring assignment on the syllabus of life.

Do we even know who we are?

There is so much noise in our lives. These are unprecedented times. It’s hard to be still and know. It’s hard to know who we are separate from what we have been trained/conditioned/socialized to be. Maybe that’s why it’s easier to drop into our bodies and know viscerally what we don’t like and what we don’t want to be.

Who am I?

Jeans-wearing tree lover, plant lover, dog and cat lover, quilter, painter, gardener, strong-willed, soft-hearted, fair, reliable, learner, reader, lover of the commons, fan of economics and economists, vegetarian, daily tofu eater, major coffee BBQ rub fan, reuser, recycler and upcycler, lover of beauty, and egalitarian. COFFEE DRINKER AF.

Who are you?

How do you know? How can you discover and uncover the answers?

P.S. *Good to keep in mind that the other two maxims are “Nothing in excess” and “Surety brings ruin.” We are all works in progress. We are all becoming.

P.P.S. Who I am? What I am? This is exactly the type of nerdy wordy conversations commonplace under my roof.

flat lay photography of eight coffee latte in mugs on round table

Virtual coffee date

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Negotiation, Creativity, and Inner Peace

Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash

I always have a stack of books and a long list of online classes. Here’s what’s come to the top in the last month.

I just finished Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator. My big takeaway from the book is that negotiation is a big part of our lives, and our aversion to it doesn’t help us in the long run. Voss builds on the research of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky–I wasn’t expecting a continuation of Thinking, Fast and Slow when I reserved this book at the library. Check out his talk at Google for the TL;DR alternative:

I am a big fan of LinkedIn Learning and just finished Banish Your Inner Critic to Unleash Your Creativity with Denise Jacobs. I attended an online summit several months ago and heard Denise speak about the inner critic. Then about a month ago, she was featured on a LinkedIn live event on creativity. 

I have been making my way through How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie (best known for his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People). As Jen Sincero of You Are a Badass fame would say, it’s an old-timey book. What surprised me is how relevant a book first published in 1948 feels in 2020. Carnegie’s work is filled with practical advice and was amazingly well-read and dedicated to helping people improve their lives.

Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash

Keep Learning

Stylish woman working on a laptop. Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

I am a big fan of LinkedIn Learning. Many of the video segments are 5-10 minutes so almost everyone can fit a little bit of training into their day. I find that even when the topics are familiar, these online classes offered a great refresher and even new insights. 

LinkedIn purchased Lynda.com a few years ago, and you may still see it referenced that way. Lynda.com was my go-to source for software training for a very long time.

Here are some of my favorites:

LinkedIn Learning may be available through work as a professional development opportunity or as an electronic resource through your local library. Check it out!

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

The Listener

Black lab listening with cocked head. Dogs are the best listeners.

Sometimes I talk too much, but mostly I don’t. I’m a listener. I listen to understand. Listening is also a gift I can give to others. I have observed that many, many people are longing to be heard. And to be understood.

In times like these, it feels especially important to listen: listen with an open heart and an open mind. To be prepared to be wrong and to make mistakes – and to be humbled. We need to listen for the ways that we need to change, the actions we need to take, and the reparations we need to make. 

Many people are waking up to a reality they have long avoided. And many people have suffered too long in that reality.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Ready, set, write.

Journal, computer and coffee--all the tools to start writing! Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

I have always wanted to be a writer, and I meet a lot of other people who want to be writers. But most people stop before they get going. They give up because the prose doesn’t flow out in the perfect way they imagine in their minds. Or they don’t plan their writing projects and get slammed by fast-approaching deadlines. Sometimes people give up because they get frustrated with their bad results, the editing process, the self-doubt, and sometimes the soul-crushing feedback. Many people don’t realize that many accomplished writers deal with the same frustrations and must face their demons again and again.

Don’t let self-doubt derail your writing aspirations

In a recent interview with Stephen King in the New York Times, David Marchese asked King how he knew whether a piece was working. King, author of 60-plus books and more than 200 short stories replied, “I never did anything that I thought was working. When I get in the middle of something, a part of me is always saying to myself, This is certainly a piece of [expletive].”

It might be a piece of crap or you might think it is, but don’t let that stop you. Realize that the words aren’t going to flow from your pen in perfect form on the page. Writing doesn’t work that way.

Don’t give up your writing dreams!

That’s why I love these Study Hall: Composition videos by ASU with Crash Course hosted by ASU composition student and fellow Sun Devil Yumna Samie.

Study Hall: Composition is a great intro (or refresher) on what works. It helps new writers get started and seasoned writers get back in the game.

I like this seven-video series videos because Yumna is engaging, the videos are short, and the content is actionable. You will learn a repeatable writing process from these videos.

I Googled Yumna to learn more about her because that’s what curious people do 🙂 and I found this short TEDx talk from 2019:

I admire her willingness to retire from being over competitive and her willingness to pursue something that she could not do well–running. It endeared her to me all the more.

So if you have always wanted to write, start here and start today.

Want to know the secret to better writing? It’s more writing!
(And more revising. And more editing.)

Time to start! Or start again. You’ve got this.

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Latest Résumé Addition: Pothole Remediator

The gravel road

We live on a private, unpaved road – it’s a bumpy ride on rock and dirt, y’all, nothing fancy. Winter weather does a number on our street, and it’s pretty eroded in places. One of our angel neighbors has been on self-assigned pothole duty since we moved here a few years ago. We’ve helped a couple of times, but we felt like we needed to take the initiative.

In multiple ways, we realize that we are city kids who moved into the country knowing nothing about rural life. It’s been an education, and not always a pretty one. But we are learning and have accepted the inevitable mistakes that are part of the learning process.

In early March, before we shut everything down, we ordered a small load of rock (about 5-6 cubic yards) from a neighbor who mostly does commercial projects but makes deliveries in our neighborhood. The neighbors on the street have been talking about having the road redone, but it’s a pretty hefty price tag, $20-30K. (Be grateful for your city-owned and maintained streets.)

So we ordered the rock to do our part in filling in the potholes. We ordered one-inch minus, which means it isn’t screened to one size, and you get everything from the one-inch rock down to rock dust. Our street is about .5 mile. I would guess there are about 200 holes. I haven’t counted them all; that’s just an estimate. Some are small, and some are huge. We tried different methods but landed on this: we shovel rock into about 15 of my super-versatile black buckets recycled from Trader Joe’s and load them in the back of my truck. Then we drive down the road stopping at various points to fill in the holes. Some holes require half of a bucket–some holes require 5 or 6 buckets. Sometimes we do one run, sometimes more than one.

We have no idea what we are doing, and I doubt this is an exact science, but some of our patches have held up well and seem cemented in place. Some got overwhelmed by the torrential rain we had recently and were underwater with some of the rock floating away. Also: most people do not drive gently on our road, so that kicks up the rock in the best of times.

I give us a solid B for the execution and an A for effort. I’m also counting all of that rock shoveling and hauling as a workout!

To dig or not to dig … that is the question

Raised bed using concrete blocks

I subscribe to The Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden Planner. A recent email shared this video on gardening without tilling. This is where I have to admit, I have never tilled my soil. I don’t have a rototiller, and I lack the strength to turn over that much soil with a spade. If I had to till, my gardens would be 2×2 feet, max!

My own experience has shown me that tilling is not critical to success. You do need to amend the soil, and in some places, mulching is essential. But maybe tilling is not all that. Take a look:

I learned long ago that most home gardens in the U.S. would benefit from raised beds. A variety of issues make in-the-ground home gardening difficult to impossible. Nicely constructed raised beds are beautiful, and I envy my fellow gardeners with mad carpentry skills. But I also know that raised bed gardening using rocks, boards, cement blocks, and large containers all work.

Raised bed gardening with bucketsLast year, I picked up dozens of plastic buckets from my local Trader Joe’s. Most are about 2.2 gallons. We drilled drainage holes and mixed up my favorite soil blend. My raised beds were actually a lot of these pots strung together (more like a ragtag fugitive fleet), but they worked. I had more tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers than I knew what to do with.


Check out the Old Farmer’s Almanac for a month-by-month gardening to-do list for Olympia or your hometown.

Maybe it *is* Rocket Science

Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

I’m reading Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life by Ozan Varol. Part of me is a contrarian like Varol. The contrarian in me muscles by the good-girl programming asking a lot of hard questions like “Why does it have to be this way?” So, of course, I preordered his book. 

I’m about a third of the way through, and I already recommend it. I’m actively thinking about how to apply it to life and work. It’s simple, but not easy. 

It’s funny how “Common wisdom” sits on our shoulder whispering in our ear as hard to shake as an unwanted party guest. That voice that admonishes us to follow the well-worn, tried-and-true path even when we know it’s not optimal or that it’s not working at all. 

I keep thinking about Dick Fosbury and his high jump technique. Ridiculed for defying convention and jumping backward over the bar, Fosbury had the last laugh when he was standing on the top platform at the 1968 Olympics with his gold medal. 

I am an early adopter of technology, and there have been many moments where I backed a method, or a technology I knew was right — a better way — and faced ridicule, criticism, or derision. Email, instant messaging, the web, the BlackBerry, Amazon, (and online shopping in general), WordPress, Dropbox, Slack, online learning, and the list goes on. The lack of enthusiasm is hard, and I’ve questioned my judgment from time to time. Still, it hasn’t deterred me from being a contrarian when it comes to technology solutions. I’m always in search of a better way.

How do I keep doing that and doing it in other areas of my life? How do I ignore the voices that seek the safety of the familiar?

My biggest takeaway so far is that we can all conduct unlimited thought experiments without needed resources, money, permission, or specialized training. A sandbox environment in technology protects mission-critical work from experiments. It lets you play without bringing your whole environment down. Varol talks about creating that sandbox in our minds: if our thought experiments don’t work, it’s okay, we can just move on.

Check out Think Like a Rocket Scientist and let me know what you think!

Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

Nature Marches On

Yellow daffodil photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

For the past few weeks, we have been treated to an amaryllis show in our kitchen. It started with a giant double bloom on the apricot amaryllis that I have had for three years. This was followed by a quartet of velvety red amaryllis blooms that we are enjoying right now. The third amaryllis is a red and white variety, and it’s just starting to open up.

I bought the red amaryllis in December 2018. It was one of those bulbs they sell encased in wax. I searched for information on how to plant them after they bloomed, and the consensus on the interwebs was dire — that these bulbs were doomed to a one-and-done life once they arrived in your home.

I’m stubborn. (Duh.) I decided I couldn’t make things worse, so I removed the wax and the lining beneath the wax. The bulb itself was firm, but it was moldy, and the roots looked bad like they had been encased in tight waxy underpants. 🙂 I rinsed it off and gave it a pep talk before planting it in some new garden soil. I could hear it singing, “Don’t give up on me, baby.”

I didn’t give up, and WOW was I rewarded. I don’t trim my amaryllis (except the dead leaves), and I just let them go at their own pace. For the past two years, that meant blooms in February-March. I was introduced to Amaryllis Man by a friend and fellow plant lover and feel more confident in just letting them do their thing. 

I am in awe of my velvety red friend. It had an assist from me, but it knows what to do. It’s a good reminder in these uncertain times. 

Happy Spring, everyone!

P.S. The daffodils opened up on the first day of spring. How do they know?

Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash