Back Story

Coming Clean

swingingI have always thought I learned to swim one hot summer in my grandmother‘s neighbor’s pool. The truth is, I spent much more time in lakes and streams, but with considerably less instruction, so maybe my memory is at least mostly correct.

Except, I never really learned to swim. I’m more competent than capable.  I can make it, in my own fashion, from one end of a pool to another many times, but it is neither pretty nor efficient. I grew up bathing. All those summers off the grid, swimming was as much about getting wet and soaped as anything else.

Dive. Lily dip. Lather. Dive. Lily dip. Rinse. Repeat.

So it was no small thing that I decided to make real use of the community pool this summer. I paced it off and figured that about 35 lengths made a half-mile. Starting, as I did, winded by just 10 feeble lengths, that milestone seemed a long way off. But even with bad form, I quickly added to my daily count, back and forth, still never getting the hang of the breathing.

I like to swim first thing in the morning, when no one else is there. I love breaking the water’s mirror-like surface, the quiet, the soft angling light. I thrash about and no one’s the wiser.

Two friends offered to teach me proper technique, but so far it hasn’t happened, summer schedules being what they are. B., a fine looking specimen with great form who beat me to the lap lane this weekend, urged me to take lessons: You won’t regret it, he promised with a reassuring smile.

And then he dropped the F bomb: forty-six lengths equal a half mile, not thirty-something.

I’d managed 40 that morning. The next, it was 42. Today, 50. To my own delight, the fact — 46 lengths = 1/2 mile — mobilized me. Rather than feeling defeated by news that I hadn’t gotten as far as I thought, I was energized by it. I felt a growth mindset kick in…

Wait ’til I get lessons!



Choose to be Curious, Uncategorized

“Weaponized Empathy”

Batman cartoon 1There’s nothing quite like watching someone grow into his own dreams and give expression to the depths of his rich and nuanced mind.

When Tom King called writing “weaponized empathy” I thought I would melt.

At blog post #151, I don’t come anywhere close to his skill, but I can aspire.

I give you Tom King, on Curiosity, Comics and the CIA.


Making a List

Where We Stand Depends on Where We Sit

I had fun with M. on Tuesday’s InPower Women Coffee Break, talking about a topic near and dear to my heart — leading with curiosity, as in being a curious leader at work or in life, as well as making curiosity our first move. It was my second bite at the apple, and a nice chance to build on some of what we’d talked about before.

stand sitWith the election only adding to the summer’s heat, this question of perspective was weighting heavily on my mind. You have power or you don’t; you have an experience or you don’t. These things matter. They influence the positions we espouse — and the politicians we support.

Where we stand depends on where we sit.

So I wanted to talk about choosing to be curious about where other people sit and, therefore, where they stand.

I had this to offer:

  1. Take a Curiosity Walk. Take a walk, real or virtual, around the office. Who sits where? What’s their view? How loud is the copier nearby? What funky smell is coming from the kitchen next door? Would you want to work in that space? What do they see that you don’t?  What do they know that you don’t?
  2. “Tell me more.” I think of this as a three word welcome mat. Tell me more about your experience. Tell me more about your thinking. Tell me more about what matters to you.
  3. Be wise with Whys. I’m all for the “Five Whys” approach (ask why you want a particular goal, then why that is true, and why that is important, and why….You get the idea: dig in to find the real reasons you think something needs doing. The answers may surprise you.) but Beth Flores’ point in our interview a week earlier really made an impression on me and I have come to appreciate that asking “why?” can also land like an accusation or challenge, as in …Ewwwww, why would you EVER  think that?…  So: careful with the whys. Opt instead for the “Four Ws and an H”: what, when, where, who, and how. Less aggressive, more receptive; all about being open to our own ignorance and receptive to learning.

Walking in others’ shoes, sitting in their seats, getting into their heads and hearts. These are good things.

Listen to “Leading with Curiosity: Part Two” here.


Back Story

…in all the freshness of childhood…

Then followed that beautiful season… Summer…. Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape. Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood. ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

2016:  The ritual ice cream cone lasted a little longer, more of it ingested than dripped onto sandals. A visit to the pool and circuit on scooters, quicker, more skillful. Endless quarters fed into Skee ball lanes yielded hard-won stuffed dogs, now bedecked with beaded collars. The thrill of a miniature roller coaster and going it alone.

A small hand, no longer tentative, sought out mine at the water’s edge. Small boy with a big spirit accepted my challenge: catch the waves before they catch us.  Moment after wonderful moment of anticipating, chasing, gleeful splashing as the waves came further and further up our calves to tickle our knees, our tummies, and make us laugh out loud.


2015: Puzzles in pieces all over the floor. Nap times resisted, lusciously long story times much preferred; funny voices, all the better. Ice cream cones, a marvel of confection, served mostly as body paint.  Big sister’s omniscience; little brother’s devotion.

Late, and from beyond the loft wall over which she spied on the adults and their late night Scrabble, a little voice declared she wanted to play, too.


2014: Piggyback rides and first times on a carousel. Beach time as lap time, sun and sand regarded with suspicion from the safe confines of the umbrella’s shadow. Little feet in colorful shoes no bigger than tea cups.

The decorative ruby-colored glass urn at eye-level, for him, was an obvious place to stuff all the plush fish.

Choose to be Curious, Uncategorized

More and More Beautiful Questions

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…Live the questions now. ~ Rainer Rilke

Sometimes you just get lucky: people fall into your life and just go about the quiet business of enriching it.

Beth Flores is one of those for me. We met at a networking session, lingered outside the Metro talking…and the conversations have never really stopped. I think what I admire most about her is her willingness to embrace, as Elizabeth Gilbert would say, curiosity over fear. She walks this talk, even when it’s hard.

It was such a pleasure to have her join me to explore asking ourselves big, beautiful questions –leading more meaningful lives and doing more important work– through curiosity.

Listen to Choose to be Curious – Episode 6: More and More Beautiful Questions.

Back Story

Black and White and Green All Over

Re-entry was rough.

I’m glad it took me several hours to resort to the radio. It delayed the onslaught, extended my blissful ignorance, postponed the moment I learned of what an awful week had transpired in “civilization” while I was away.

As I drove through the mountains of Pennsylvania, making my way south and toward home, I felt overwhelmed by our collective and stunning inability to get past color. The irony of a week spent snapping what I thought were beautiful images in black and white — where the rich spectrum of variations between the two, their interplay and utter co-dependence, is the whole point — hung heavy around me.

These images feel like balm on a weary wound. I find myself all the more grateful for the opportunity to have been in place where black and white was green all over, not red with blood and fury.