Counting Up?

Is this hourglass counting up or counting down?

Season 15: 2017-2018
10X50m kicks

These were the notations written on the whiteboard at the swimming pool this morning.  So many things to count. The number of seasons, the years, the length of the pool, the repetitions, and the minutes. It made me think.

Why do we count everything?

It hit me hard.

Probably because lately I’ve been doing a lot of counting. I’m counting every day right now. I’ve been counting my last of everything at my current job. Every meeting gets harder. Every minute is bittersweet. I’m having trouble choking down the tears and staying in good spirits, while simultaneously telling everybody how awesome things are going to be without me. Telling them how excited I am for the great opportunities my leaving provides.

Yep. I’m counting.  I’m also counting the impossible number of hours of work I have left to transition my job. But why? Why so much counting?

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we always have to know how much longer…how much more….how much further? Why do we encourage each other by saying, “make it count”?

Just maybe the counting comes from our desire for control and the counting helps us govern our own little worlds because, on a grander scale, we know we live in a world in which we have no control.

And why does most of our counting feel like a countdown…. number of dollars left in the budget….  number of laps left to go ….number of days left to live? Why do we always seem to count down? Why don’t we count up?

When I count up and not down, I am never done. There is always another lap to swim, another race to run, another skill to learn, another friend to meet, another day to embrace.

But, today counting up seems out of reach. I’m still stuck here counting down… desperately wishing I didn’t have to count at all.

Walking Away

It isn’t walking into an unknown future that’s scary. It’s the leaving.

There are few things harder than saying goodbye. Goodbye to people you love. Goodbye to a life you knew.  Last week I went to a funeral and watched my childhood friends and next-door neighbors say goodbye to their mom. Goodbyes are really, really hard.

Yesterday I made a difficult decision. I can safely say the hardest decision I’ve ever made. Now I have to say goodbye to my team. I must let go of work I’ve been doing for more than 25 years and embrace an unknown future. I can’t even imagine the words coming out of my mouth.  It isn’t the decision that is making my stomach do back flips.  I stand solidly behind my choice. No, the pit in my stomach comes every time I picture the farewell. It’s a sinking feeling I get when I chat with a teammate, a friend, who doesn’t know my internal struggle or can’t hear my heart screaming, “I don’t want to leave you!”  The goodbye will only sting them for a minute. I know my team will continue joyfully enjoying their work and each other — their hearts fully intact. It’s mine that will remain silently shattered.


It’s not the jump

that hurts,

nor the landing.

The fall exhilarates,

then the world solid

beneath your feet.

No, it’s not the ground

that hurts,

it’s the goodbye.

— 2/16/18 TC



Hunger Pains

Lesson for the week: Hunger can be good and bad.

Are you hungry? Many of us are on new 2018 “diets” and we know the deep rumble in our stomachs. It’s the bad kind of hunger. The kind that hurts and nothing can quench it (at least nothing that won’t make you feel bad about yourself for failing). Or the kind that is unquenchable because your cupboards are bare. Hunger isn’t always about food, but after running a 30-hour famine retreat with my youth group this weekend, I can tell you sometimes it has everything to do with food. For 815 million people around the world, hunger is a way of life. Malnutrition is responsible for half of all deaths of children under age 5. Sobering. Are you hungry?

Many people around the world walk several hours a day to get water just to quench their thirst, and when they return, there is only water for dinner.

Hunger can also sometimes make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. Last week I was hungry for a nap. After late nights of working and a long plane flight for business, I hungered for just a few minutes of sleep. While waiting for the front desk to text me that my room was ready, I fell asleep by the pool of my fancy hotel. The security guards thought I was a homeless person and put me under “house arrest” until I could produce an alibi. Once I did, they left, with no apology. The front desk heard about the incident and when I finally got to my room there was a bottle of champagne, macaroons and a handwritten apology from the manager. The range of emotions was broad and deep. (I actually wanted to take the champagne outside and share it with all the homeless people.) Hunger. It makes you do things you normally wouldn’t do.

Hungry for rest? This is a nice place to lay your head. Or maybe not.

Hunger sometimes makes us do things we shouldn’t, too. Jean Valjean can tell you that. So can my son. He knows hunger this week. He desperately wanted to go to college after taking a semester off to heal from a herniated disc–one that prevents him from sitting for any reasonable length of time. He thought he was better enough to go this semester, but it was just his hunger talking.  It only took a week in class to realize the pain was too much to take. Sometimes we do things because of hunger that we shouldn’t.

Sometimes you just hunger to sit down for a meal on campus like everyone else.

Hunger can also be good. It can make you try things…challenge yourself. I also did that this week (it’s been a busy week). It was the good kind of hunger. The type that makes you realize there are opportunities to feel full again. And just peeking in the bakery window at the macaroons is sometimes enough to motivate you to change. I’ve seen the pastries. I’m ready to change. My son has tasted the pastries and now he wants them even more. Hunger can be good.

Hunger to change.

Hunger to solve problems.

Hunger to heal.

Hunger to feel better.

Hunger to serve the world.

It’s 2018. The start of something new. Are you hungry?

No Distractions – Living Out Who We Are Meant To Be

Which one is the real path and which is the distraction? Or perhaps neither are the right path at all and you must cut a new trail.

I’m addicted to a soundtrack (The Greatest Showman). It’s been some time since I have been addicted to an entire soundtrack—one where I don’t skip any of the songs. I don’t even like the whole soundtrack to the Sound of Music, one of my favorite shows of all time (I mean, who doesn’t skip over Climb Every Mountain?)!  The songs in the Showman soundtrack tell a complete and inspiring story about living out who you are and who you are meant to be. Everyone isn’t going to like you or your choices. If we chase after other people’s dreams or approval, or we try to spend our lives “proving” something to people, it is merely a distraction from the joy of being who we are and giving our gift to the world.

As I’ve been listening to these songs, they have made me contemplate my own life. Most of the songs seem to be an anthem for the way I already live. I love that! It encourages me.

They can say, they can say it all sounds crazy
They can say, they can say I’ve lost my mind
I don’t care, I don’t care, so call me crazy
We can live in a world that we design

The part of the movie and soundtrack that has me thinking is the theme of the distraction.  At my work I have one major distraction right now, but I’m not sure yet if it is a distraction or if it’s who I’m meant to be. Time will tell. But this movie and these songs have really given me some good perspective with which to judge my actions and decisions.

I think we all second guess our abilities at times, at least I do. I wonder if I am “good enough” at what I do. The world is filled with people more talented and better than I am and I think my natural competitive nature makes me want to be the best. Not because I want to be hailed as better than other people but simply because I want to be the best I can be. The problem is knowing when to stop . When is “good” good? When is “great” great?

Sometimes no matter how hard you work at something you just don’t have the raw talent to be amazing. I’ll never be a sprinter, for example. And just being the best sprinter I can be isn’t satisfying. Trust me.

I’m toying with the idea of flexing new muscles–ones I have, but haven’t had the opportunity to develop fully–ones I think could be really great. No matter how hard I try, the work muscles I’ve been developing for the past eight years might be about as good as they can get and I’m unsure of their quality. My team is incredible and deserves the best. I may not be able to take them to the heights they could go. The raw talent may just not be in me. And without the raw talent I will forever beat myself up.

‘Cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see

A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make

I’m trying to listen to the wise counsel of others, who can sometimes see things we can’t see in ourselves. And, I’m also listening to my heart and digging deep to figure out who I am meant to be. Because who I’m meant to be has little to do with who my boss is, where I sit, if I will have friends, how much money I make, or if I’m comfortable. I’m not afraid of hard work. I’m not afraid of hard people. I’m only afraid of not taking every opportunity to be all of who I’m meant to be.

Am I living in a distraction or am I running toward it? I think I’ll listen to the soundtrack again.

Embracing Failure


The hoop of life looks a bit like this after you’ve been shooting for so long. This is a good hoop.

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
                                                                                                   –Michael Jordan

Failure has followed me around. And as I wallowed around in it again the last few days, I came across this quote from Michael Jordan and realized it was so true. Really true. When you take the risk to shoot the ball 9000 times, you are sure to miss quite a few. The more games you play the more chances you have of failing…but, on the flip side, the more practice you get, the more you learn, and the more you grow.  Growth is success. Not necessarily a job well done. Not always a swish. Instead, a backstop bouncing miss with five rebounds before you get it in the net.

I’m playing so many games right now that some shots are just going to be air balls. And I have learned this week that I need to give myself a little grace in the missed shot because I can’t stop playing. The stakes are too high and people are too important.

Busy People, Thank You

Be careful! Watching this video may give you an ear worm you may never ever forgive me for. I’ve had it stuck in my head for 23 years — ever since my kids were toddlers and watched Richard Scarry’s Best Busiest People Video over and over. Every now and then the theme song resurfaces and I can’t stop singing it.  Today was one of those days.

When people normally say they are “busy” it has a negative connotation. It is often another word for stressed or unavailable. But not to author Richard Scarry.  No. Busy Town is filled with lots of busy people. And they are all soooooo happy to be working. They all play their part in making life work for each other….and they do it with a smile. Today, I was in Busy Town, thanks a lot to my scooter (a.k.a. the Blackberry Blast).  There is something special about riding a scooter…something different from riding a bicycle. You notice different things. Busy things.  You really sit up and take notice of the rest of the working world.

Normally, commuting in the Cranberry Crush I am in my own zone, listening to my self-constructed playlist for my self-constructed life.  But on my scooter I become part of the working landscape. I talked to the construction workers and thanked them for paving the road. It was so smooth to ride on. Thanks, busy people.  I chatted with the gas station lady, who gave me a free cup of ice. Thanks, busy people. I talked to the security guard at the gate for my office as he stuck his head out to say hello. Thanks, busy people. I conversed with another motorcyclist at a stoplight on his way to work. And a person in a car smiled and gave me a big wave to let me go first at an intersection. I felt like I was in Busy Town. Suddenly, people weren’t just shadows of themselves behind a piece of glass, they were Richard Scarry’s busy people.

When I arrived at the camp I’m volunteering at this week, there were hoards of more smiling busy people. Busy snack people. Busy game people. Busy music people. Busy, busy people. And not in the Stepford Wives kind of way….in the Richard Scarry way. Sweet. Kind. Patient. Real.

Today, I’m glad to work in Busy Town. Not a bad place to be.

Solomon’s Moon


Solomon: Forevermore this is your moon. Thank you for your story.

As I hailed a taxi at the Indianapolis airport on my way to a conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Solomon, my taxi driver. Though he moved to the United States from war torn Eritrea in 1991, his English was still rather broken.

Looking out of my window I spied a gorgeous orange full moon setting just below the horizon. I squealed with excitement, trying to remember the name of this month’s full moon. I finally remembered it was the Worm Moon and I told Solomon about the Algonquin Indians and why they named it so. He told me that in Tigrinya, the name of this kind of full moon was something that sounded like fortuna…which I translated as fortune (in Greek).

My short, mustached driver spent the better part of fifteen minutes explaining how the moon phases worked, using hand movements where his words failed him. He told me that a full moon, like this one, meant rain is coming. I imagined him growing up in Eritrea with his family and the stories of the moon and its weather patterns passed from generation to generation. (Of course, I looked it up when I got to my hotel and found out that scientists have studied the stories and found that there is actually a shred of truth to this lunar weather predictor.)

After the weather report, I told Solomon about our friends the Bahta family who were refugees from Eritrea back when I was in high school and college. Eritrea, a postage stamp of a country in East Africa, endured a horrible civil war.  I told him about Tigisti Bahta, their daughter whom I tutored in English. Tigisti means patience. And she needed a lot of it having me as an English teacher.Solomon said he had also fled to the United States for the same reason. He told me he started out in Washington D.C. and it was difficult because of the crime there. He said to me, “Black, white…it doesn’t matter. Color doesn’t matter. Crime is crime. Wrong is wrong. And I didn’t like it.” He was extremely grateful to meet his sister in Indianapolis and for the peace he has found here. Solomon means peace.

I’ve learned that Eritreans have a different system of naming from most Western countries. Among Christian Eritreans, children are given two names: a secular name at birth and a Christian name when the child is baptized.

I never learned Solomon’s Eritrean name, but I have decided to give him an honorable one —Werḧi, meaning moon. So together his name would mean peace of the moon.

I woke up the next morning to a precipitating sky. Solomon’s moon was right. And I am better for knowing him…. even if it was only for a 30-minute taxi ride.

Pareto Principle and Pea Pod Pondering


What kind of pea pod are you?

I ate peas last night. I haven’t had peas in a long time. They were great and they made me think about Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who made an amazing discovery in 1896 — the famous 80/20 rule. And it applies to more than just economics.

Yes, it started in Italy when Pareto discovered that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the people. But he didn’t really shout ‘Eureka!’ until he also discovered that in his garden 20% of the pea pods produced 80% of the peas.

Since that time the principle has been verified in all manner of cases.

  • 80% of sales typically come from 20% of the customers.
  • 20% of workers do 80% of the work.
  • 20% of criminals commit 80% of the crimes.
  • 20% of pub-goers consume 80% of the alcohol.
  • We wear 20% of the clothes in our closet and spend 80% of our time with 20% of our friends.
  • 20% of car drivers cause 80% of the accidents.
  • 20% of our time spent on a task leads to 80% of the results.
  • 80% of decisions are made in 20% of the time.

We can’t help it. We are just pea pods.

Should I just give up and start only going to 20% of my meetings and spending 20% of my week at the office? (This is assuming I’m one of the 20% of people that gets 80% of the work done. And I guess that would mean I would only get 80% of the 80% of work that gets done.) Drat. That last 20% of the work is necessary to get 100% of my salary. What a shame the last 20% takes 80% of my life.

What am I to do with this? Can I choose the pea pod I will be? Can I change my percentage and defy the odds?

I won’t speak for you…but this pea pod is going to try to become more efficient.

Open Up Those Golden Gates


The Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach with Battery Crosby (1900) on the rocks.

When I was a kid we took our share of road trips…and we sang as we drove. We sang John Denver songs and we sang Buddy Holly songs and we sang Disney songs…and of course we sang Al Jolson’s California Here I Come. However, we  weren’t going to California. We often changed the words, because we were going to South Dakota…a lot. So we sang:

South Dakota here we come

Right back where we started from

Open up those Black Hill gates

South Dakota here we come.

Sometimes we would sing the California version. And I always imagined what it would be like to actually drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and sing that song.

Today, that dream became a reality. (I also looked up the actual words to the song and I’ve never sung it correctly). But no matter. I sung it my way today. Four times, actually, thanks to Google Maps. I didn’t mean to cross the Golden Gate Bridge four times, but that’s what I get for following Siri instead of my own common sense. And it wasn’t the only bridge I drove over. I also went over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and the Bay Bridge. And though Google told me my dreamy  little “detour” would only take 2 hours and 26 minutes, it was sorely mistaken. Let me just say that rush hour in San Fransisco is not fun. But this is the kind of thing that tends to happen to me when I take spare moments to try to see something when I’m on business trips.  I take risks and am greeted with the unexpected. (See Journey to the Pinball Hall of Fame and Are You Thirsty Yet?, if you don’t believe me.)


My route was NOT 2 hours and 26 minutes as indicated.

Was it worth it?  I must admit I was debating it as my stomach was growling somewhere along highway 580 crawling along at 5 miles per hour. But, after I made it to my hotel, finished all my work, and took a look at my pictures…the answer is yes.  It is always worth it.

Along my way I was gifted with these beautiful discoveries–the sounds of waves, the smell of pine, and bright green, Spring grass.


Waves crashing on Baker Beach. Meditating hippies and crazy nude homeless people behind me (not pictured).


Baker Beach from the Battery Crosby.


Stairs I ran up and down from Immigrant Point Overlook.This is fondly known as the 1000 Step Trail (808 steps to be exact).


View from Immigrant Point Overlook.


Very large pine cone on a fallen tree. Smells so good.


Classic San Fran architecture on my way to the Bay Bridge.


Spring! This is not what my yard looks like in Colorado.


Sandy stairs back to my car from Baker Beach. Still shaking sand out of my running shoes.


Headed to Livermore over the Bay Bridge. Bye San Francisco!


Wine country, cow country…either way…Livermore is B-E-A-utiful.

Project Managing Myself


Sometimes big changes start small. This sock drawer will look different tomorrow.

I manage projects every day—my family’s projects, my volunteer projects, and most of the time, work projects. I am a project manager—it’s what I do.

My Keys to Successful Project Management

  1. Prepare well. Understand the needs of the clients and what problem you are solving. Then prepare the requirements and strategy up front so your team can begin well and join you in the quest to solve the problem.
  2. Set deadlines and keep them. Even if your clients don’t give you specific deadlines, make them. And hold people to them. When you relax deadlines, you end up with wasted time, wasted money, and frivolous features on products that don’t need them.
  3. Be nice, but be honest. Deliver praise and feedback to your team with care, but don’t hold back on the truth. Quality and awesome customer service are the measures. Nothing else is acceptable.
  4. Give away the praise. Managing a project is important, but it takes a team to make something great. The skills and talents of your team need to be encouraged and applauded.

What I’ve come to realize this week is that I manage everything and everyone, but myself. And I need to. I need to be one of my projects and give myself the same level of detail, perfectionism, and care I give to every other project in my life. If I can’t do that, I won’t ever be able to achieve my personal goals. Instead I’ll continue to suck what life I can vicariously through the projects I manage for others.

So, I’m going to swipe a chapter from my own rule book and begin by preparing. I have some really big changes in mind and I’ve got some significant preparing to do. It all starts with cleaning out my refrigerator and sock drawer. No, my plans are not to become the Barefoot Contessa…but if those who know me don’t see a pretty big change by June 30, I will not have managed the Trish project well.