Kintsugi Your Way to a New You.

Time To Read: 6 mins


Several years ago, I kept my promise to my husband that we would hold our annual Thanksgiving dinner in our home for close friends and family despite the special circumstance that year.

Thanksgiving was only two weeks after my father’s unexpected death and a week after his memorial service. I didn’t cancel. After all, we were expecting 24 guests and life must go on.

Every year for the past many, when the turkey is finally cooked, the dishes are warmed, and the guests are all sitting around the table, we traditionally give a toast to honor the friends and family who are unable to join us.

That year, that night, I gave a toast in honor of my father. No tears came. In its place a sad thought came to my attention, “Who am I if I am no longer Robert Chang’s daughter? Who am I now?”

Who am I now? I was a mother to a 7 year old and a new mother to a two month old then. I was a parent, but my own parent had just died. The parent who would pick up the phone when I called and tell me that he had all the time in the world for me. My father would let me talk without interruption, without prying questions, without me feeling I was taking up his time. My father was the strictest keeper of secrets and pretty much non-judgmental unless you directly asked him for his opinion and help, which I kept to a minimum.

That night, as I raised my glass in his honor I recognized that because he no longer occupied a place on this earth I could no longer point to him and announce proudly to someone I just met that I am his daughter and he my father.

That thought crushed me.

Continue reading “Kintsugi Your Way to a New You.”

What’s Your Zeitgeber? Mine Is The Oxalis Triangularis Plant.

Time To Read: 5 mins


What cues you into your self-awareness? For me, it’s a particular plant.

Plants that seem to follow a circadian rhythm of waking and resting are objects of curiosity for me.

For years now I’ve marveled at my oxalis triangularis plant—otherwise known as the purple shamrock or love plant. The name, love plant, is fitting.

Apotheosis of natural beauty. It is the one plant that has held my gaze since I first encountered it years ago in my oldest daughter’s Montessori classroom.

Its lovely aubergine painted leaves, with rose-colored markings that flow forth like water stains from the center of each delicate leaflet, beckon me to take a step closer, to notice the subtleties of its beauty.

Each leaflet looks like the wingspan of a moth connected to each other at its tip as if by a wee spoke so that when all three leaflets drop down, the leaf resembles a kind of teepee with flared corners.

A bonus delight is the pink tiny blooms, shooting out in clusters from slim green stems amidst the dark leaflets. These blooms add another interesting shape to the geometric wonder of this plant.

Oxalis is the largest genus of the 900 known species of the wood sorrel family, Oxalidaceae, that thrive in Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa. It is a wild plant that offers edible tubers New Zealanders consume as yams and limited medicinal benefits that go back millennia.

It’s a special sight to behold as it rests on the counter of my kitchen bay window. It looks otherworldly.

I feel very drawn to this plant. It is an apotheosis of natural beauty in my opinion.

Besides its beauty, what I love about this plant is how it changes over the course of the day.
Continue reading “What’s Your Zeitgeber? Mine Is The Oxalis Triangularis Plant.”

Vertical Bar Careerists Unite!

Time To Read: 4 mins


Let’s say you’re at a dinner party or a networking event where you’ve met someone for the first time and he/she asks, “So, what do you do for a living?” Or, maybe you’re having coffee with a former colleague, and the inevitable question comes up, “What are you doing these days?”

When you work full time at a job, it’s a simple answer to the first question. I am the “senior engineer” at XYZ; I work at ABC government agency and I’m a “research scientist;” or I am a consultant to startups. These are clear titles and roles.

The answer to the second question, “What are you doing these days?” may be tougher because you’re likely in a transitional phase where you’re figuring out what’s next and don’t have anything concrete to share. Awkward.

What do you do? What are you doing these days? These questions can stir up intense feelings of turmoil for some of us.

Continue reading “Vertical Bar Careerists Unite!”

Guilty Sweets of Magical Thinking

Time To Read: 3 mins


I admit that I am guilty of magical thinking. Are you similarly afflicted? I often feel like I can do what might appear to be well-nigh impossible. “I can do that,” I think.

Superhero daring. I just watched Lion, the 2016 film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Motion Picture—Drama. There’s a scene where the main character, five-year old Saroo, lifts a chair over his head and a heavy two-wheel bike to his chin to prove to his older brother Guddu that he’s strong enough to go with him to the next town over to do night work to earn some money. I related to that boy.

I might be watching an amazing talent on Netflix deliver an applause-worthy standup routine and after appreciating her, I might say to myself, “I can do that. I can become a solid stand-up comic.” I feel inspired.

I might read about a 65 year old who runs sub-6 minute miles, mile after mile, over 26.2 miles, and trains daily for weeks, months, years no matter the weather, her mood, or injury. I think, “Yeah, if I want to, I could. I could train my body and find the mental fortitude, if I want it bad enough.” I feel challenged.

My magical thinking gives me superhero daring to believe I have the power within me to do whatever I set my mind to. I imagine that I can become what I may admire. My belief in myself in these moments is deep and sincere. I feel excited and springy.

Continue reading “Guilty Sweets of Magical Thinking”

Grief Is As It Will Be.

Time To Read: 5 mins


We may not welcome its arrival or even note its departure, but many of us who have experienced grief know the toll it can take on us.

Grief can be deep and profound.

Grief can be shallow yet pervasive.

Grief can appear suddenly, stay an unwelcomed visitor, and slowly wear us down with its demands.

Grief can also easily slip past us when we were expecting a longer stay.

The death of a loved one … the job that was the ticket to a new start that didn’t pan out … the severing of a long friendship … a separation after decades of marriage … the death of our beloved pet … or, a phone call out of the blue from someone we once loved can all trigger a flood of emotion.

We may experience feelings of loss, remorsefulness, fear, insecurity, sadness, and bitterness. These feelings can overwhelm us. Our suffering shows on our faces and bodies. We wake up feeling wrecked, day after day. We may wonder if we will ever be the same again.

Continue reading “Grief Is As It Will Be.”

Fill Your Well First.

Time To Read: 2 mins


Recent business studies show that leaders who care are more effective.

If you lead with purpose and express your care, then you’ll get better results these studies claim. It stands to reason people would prefer to work and may work harder for someone who truly cares about their well being compared to someone who doesn’t.

Mud Crack. I wonder though whether these leaders are extending the same kindness to themselves? A giver who continues to give and give, and save none for herself might find her wellspring of love has turned into a mud crack where resentment may stake a claim. If you’re a mother, you know what I’m talking about.

Can these leaders lead others effectively if they aren’t taking care of themselves first? I don’t think so. At least, not for long.

Alignment. Humans are pretty hard wired to notice when something is out of alignment. If you are unable to accept the kind of care and empathy you extend to others, your offer may come across as hollow. The saying, “Do as I say not as I do,” doesn’t work well in leadership.

As leaders, we are being observed for the meaning and intentions of our actions.

Continue reading “Fill Your Well First.”

Waiting For Motivation? Take Action Instead.

Time To Read: 3 mins


Often times we confuse inspiration and motivation and lump both into the same bin. I see each of these words differently.

Look out for inspiration. One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of inspiration is the “act of drawing in,” which resonates with me.

I can get inspired by listening to a piece of music, watching a performance, or seeing a person engaged in their craft—a looking out, if you will, and a drawing in of that spark of interest, engagement, and creativity.

If you’re sitting in a quiet space that allows for self-reflection, you might suddenly feel a revelation come upon you. That’s inspiration paying you a visit.

Look in for motivation. While inspiration for me is a looking out and drawing in, I see motivation as a looking in and pushing out.

Motivation is the “general desire or willingness of someone to do something,” as defined by Merriam-Webster’s. When we take action, we provide a stimulus—a motivating force—that propels us forward. It’s action that takes center stage. Continue reading “Waiting For Motivation? Take Action Instead.”

Unreachable Goal? Don’t Give Up. Sit With It.

Time To Read: 3 mins


When some project feels too big, do you stall, drop it, or take a step forward?

When the vision of what you want is so far off in the distance from where you stand today, you can feel like you’ll never get there. It can be difficult to find the motivation and energy to start. There is too much to learn and get right, and it seems too easy to fail and disappoint.

You may feel like you don’t have enough will to power through or the right stuff to get to where you want to go.

Don’t beat yourself up. Definitely don’t give up.

Sit with it. Bide your time.

Let that vision stand over there. Let it be. Dress it up. And ask yourself,

How badly do I want that?

Reflect on this question. Check in with yourself periodically and gauge how you respond.

Try not to despair if you find this questioning to last for days, months, or even years, punctuated by great enthusiasm, uncertainty, and then quiet. It’s okay. Continue reading “Unreachable Goal? Don’t Give Up. Sit With It.”

Have To? No. Say, You Want To.

Time To Read: 2 mins


Have To’s. We live in a world of distraction. Friends get together and complain how difficult it is to stop reading their Twitter feed or another Facebook post, especially after this Presidential election. Snippets of breaking news spring up uninvited on our iPhone or Android screens redirecting our attention.

In a world of constant distraction how can we guard against these bandits of our time and focus?

Repeating the refrain, “I have to get this done” to get back on track quickly falls victim to the unexpected phone call from a good friend or the email invite to go to happy hour.

Those distractions are so much more attractive than any “have to do’s.” And pressuring ourselves oftentimes leads to greater resistance to doing it at all. Continue reading “Have To? No. Say, You Want To.”

Stuck in a Rut? Shift Your Focus.

Time To Read: 2 mins


Stuck? Feet glued to the floor? Unable to move forward? There are some things for some of us that are just tough to get started on.

Let’s say you’ve been stuck in your current job for a while now and you haven’t had much positive momentum. Your performance reviews haven’t been awful—more lackluster in quality. You see your colleagues starting new positions, leading new projects, and thriving.

You haven’t exactly made your wishes known to your supervisor or manager that you are interested in earning more or taking on more responsibility because you know you haven’t followed her advice in the past to do what in her eyes needs to get done like publish more, form more valuable strategic relationships, lead a few committees, or the like.

You feel both resistant to these suggestions and a bit of self-loathing for not taking the initiative to make the case that you deserve a promotion or to be considered for a plum position.

You’re stuck and in a rut. Continue reading “Stuck in a Rut? Shift Your Focus.”