When Things Just Don’t Work Out The Way We Planned…

shutterstock_124468138Want to hear God laugh? Make a plan! That old saying has been in the front of my brain for over a month.

My plans are spelled out clearly on my white board. For the new book launch: the website needs to get finished, the podcasts planned and recorded and three articles need to be written. For my client work: I have several major proposals that are due in the next three weeks and a capital campaign that launches in a month!

And, my long-anticipated vacation that finally gets here at the end of next week. I wish I could join Snoopy in a happy dance!happy dance snoopy!

Plans or no plans, I am being held captive by a never ending series of health challenges and complications. Gallbladder attacks were followed by surgery to remove it, which was supposed to be pretty quick and easy. A slight complication left me in the hospital for an extra day and a half. The following week, because my immune system is compromised, I got a bladder infection, which is not a huge deal, but slowed my recovery down even more. I was just about ready to take on the world again when I injured my back – a herniated disc that has caused a major league case of sciatica!  Walking is torture and the drugs make me sleepy, foggy-brained and somewhat stupid!

So everything keeps getting put on hold. A HOLD that just keeps getting extended. I am now at about Plan Q in the revision of my schedule. I have had to cancel numerous events: four great conferences that I was scheduled to attend. Mass with the Pope that we were offered tickets to attend, but had to decline. An art exhibit opening for a friend of mine. A birthday party for a pretty awesome one year old. A couple of committee meetings and a reception. We put our sweet puppy into “foster care” with friends, and she is coming home tonight.

shutterstock_53972776I feel like I am driving in a strange city where the route is under construction, I am following signs for the detour, but am not really sure where I am or where I am going to end up. For someone as goal driven as I am, this is simultaneously very hard and also really easy.

It is very hard because I have so much work to do, much of which is deadline driven! And, over the last six weeks, I have acquired a bit of planning anxiety because every time I make a plan, something else happens to deep six those plans.

Easy because it is obvious to me as I write this blog that my goal is to keep going and doing what I need to get healthy enough to go on vacation! Then, on vacation, I will get healthier and stronger, even if I have to do a little work while I am there.

As usual, writing it out here has helped me get my focus back and reminded me of great advice an old friend once gave me: “do the next right thing with what you have today, then get up tomorrow and do it all over again!” That is my plan.

Positive reinforcement word gratitude engraving on a rock

And, as part of that plan, I am making a gratitude list to help keep my perspective. The first item on the list is having great friends, colleagues and hubby who have been so supportive during this challenging time!  The second is that I have awesome vacation plans that will motivate me to get through to next Friday!

Now, back to work!


Journey of Discovery

The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. 

To Marcel Proust’s oft’ quoted phrase, I would add, “and new ears.”

shutterstock_7507282The wonder of discovery that comes from seeing things with new eyes… hearing things with new ears. Or, maybe it’s just paying closer/different/better attention to what was there all the time!

Since the early spring, I have been job hunting for a CEO or Executive Director position of a small to mid-sized human services nonprofit. I gave this decision prayerful, careful thought. I am healthy again and interested in committing to a mission that makes a Can Do Difference. This perfect little job would be my “capstone” position to my very kid and family focused career.

The process has been very enlightening – and I have learned volumes about me and what my greatest strengths and skills are – and about the field, and where it is in the recruitment and selection of candidates for executive leadership positions. This blog is about me, my personal lessons-learned and the decisions I have made. There is a future blog brewing about the process and the field. (Stay tuned!)

At the beginning of August, I had tentatively made the decision to stop looking for a job, and to focus on building my consulting practice and promote my new book, The Can Do happy dance snoopy!Workplace, coming out this fall. There is lots to do with new workshops to develop, new podcasts to record and a website to build, etc. Then, I got emails that I had been selected for a first, then almost immediately a second round interview with a really great local nonprofit. That’s the kind of email that makes my ego do that age-old happy dance and say “oh, they might Pick Me! Pick ME!”

After the interview, where I did quite well for most of it, but left with the feeling that I was, perhaps, trying a bit too hard to figure out what they wanted in a CEO, (“Pick me!”) I spent some quality time with my go-to best resource:

The Three “CAN DO Questions”

  1. shutterstock_123517816What can I do? – this keeps the focus on the positive and what can happen, and off the negative and what is, or could be, going wrong.
  2. If not that, then what else can I do? – it keeps the positive juices flowing, and sets up for Plans B, C and Z, whether they are needed or not.
  3. And, just because I can, do I? – not everything possible is practical, healthy, or a good idea; sometimes the timing is not quite right or there needs to be one more piece in place (or taken out) before it is time to move a project forward.

The third question – I love that question.  It’s the gut check! Just because in the spring I thought I wanted to look for a new job (and can do it), is it really what I should keep doing? With quick and simple clarity, my gut-check answer was NO!  I listened to myself with new ears – and what I heard made a HUGE difference.

So, on the day after that interview, I made definitive decision to stop looking for that “perfect job” with the great mission to round out my career and, instead, use the platform that I have already built to create the perfect job for me. The “what” is not real different than what I was doing before: writing, training, capacity building, interim executive services with a focus helping nonprofits make a Can Do difference. It’s all right there, on the front page of my website!

What changed is the “why” and the “how”!  And, here’s how they changed!

shutterstock_17608348THE WHY: My goal is not to write grants, deliver workshops, mentor managers or to ensure compliance as an Interim Exec. I realized that I was so far in the details that I had lost sight of my goal! My goal is to help nonprofit leaders, managers and Board members make a Can Do difference. To focus on their missions. Create stronger alignment, create a plan to grow and make better decisions, and, simmer that secret sauce of theirs so that it attracts the best people. It’s where Cathi as the counselor in days of old, meets Cathi the consultant of today. It’s where I have great strength, not just of ideas, but with experiences that have taught me more lessons than most get in a lifetime – many of them the hard way!  It’s where I can be the most authentic and resourceful me!

THE HOW: For a number of reasons, some of them quite good at the time, I was being responsive to requests for my services, and not focused on how to define a client profile and establish my client base. I had grown a little too comfy in my cave (read: office) and flip flops and was not putting enough energy into getting out there, reconnecting with the people in the great network I have built through the years. And, in finding ways to meet not just new people, but the right new people.

Trust me, it’s not that I’ve been lazy – I have been quite busy. But, not as productive as I know how to be. And, I allowed myself to be lured into the adrenaline rush (and crash!) of the waiting for something wonderful to happen dynamic that occurs when I am looking for “the perfect job”! (“Pick ME! and life will be wonderful for all of us!”)

In the last few weeks, I have shifted my focus, and become my own inner-coach, and asked myself another question: “what would I encourage me, the client, to do if I was the coach?”  And, I started doing those very things. One of them on the list was writing this blog!

Lesson learned: take time to look with new eyes, listen with new ears – to our gut and our goals!

I leave you with the question: how will the Can Do Questions make a difference for you? What will you see? What will you hear?  And, then, what will you do!

P.S. Stay tuned for the launch of the Can Do Workplace Website. It’s only a few weeks away!






Let’s Hold on to Summer Just a Little Longer…

It’s not like I have slacked off all that much this summer. After all, I finished writing The Can Do Workplace in July, and have been popping grant proposals out all through August. It is more about my summer state of mind. And, yes, my flipflops!

cruise PC 151

Friends are posting about pumpkin spice and sweaters.  Inside I cry, “NOOOOooo” Somehow, once you start wearing sweaters, it’s almost Halloween – then it’s almost Thanksmas or Christmasgiving season. Then it’s SNOWING. Sigh! No flipflops in the snow.

To the sweater and cider lovers out there, I reply: “Take time out and celebrate today, just where we are.” I know I can’t hold on to summer… or keep my bare toes out for much longer without great discomfort and looking pretty strange! But I can today, since it is going to be in the 90s!  And, I can take long walks in my sandals, with toes hanging out there.

The future is filled with potential and discovery. I want this fall to be an adventure, but not until it gets here. Life goes fast enough without getting so far ahead of ourselves. Today, I am happy summer warmth remains. My pace is not as hectic. My flipflops remind me to pause and be grateful for these last, fleeting days of summer.

Won’t you join me?



Puppy Love!

IMG_20150819_064045174On Monday morning, we welcomed Gracie, a 10 week old Westie, into our home, our hearts and our lives! She is full of light, love and unending energy. For the next several months, our lives – hers and ours! –  will be filled with “training”. First there is the usual “housebreaking” routine. So far, it is going pretty well. Then comes learning to NOT chew on electrical cords, the fringe on the good rugs and the leg of my side table. We are also trying to get her to understand what the words “no”, “down”, “come” and “stop” mean.

Watching her discover her world in such a free form way with a pure zest for life gives me pause and invites me to reflect on the careful balance that this “training” needs to keep to allow the most and best “Gracie” to emerge while she learns some of the important rules of the road. Remembering that it’s about all of us learning what she Can Do, not just teaching her to understand and respond to “NO!”

As I watch her entertain herself with toys and scraps of paper and run and jump like a bunny in the yard, I also reflect on my own need to let go a bit and rediscover some of the creative, goofy, carefree puppy energy in myself. Not full time – I still have lots to do and deadlines to meet. But during these special, formative weeks ahead, I want to be intentional, take the time and join in some of Gracie’s puppy moments with her. Including taking great naps!


I want her to train me, too!


When You Win You Lose, and When You Lose You Win!!

Just after Valentine’s Day in the second semester of my freshman year in college, my boyfriend and I broke up and leaving me feeling a bit down. It just so happened that one of his fraternity brothers, Chico (AKA Michael Cherkesian) had just broken up with his girlfriend. So, Chico and I decided to meet once a week for a coffee at the Rathskeller in the Indiana University Student Union and there we formed the “Lovers and Losers Club.” Our motto was “when you win you lose, and when you lose you win!”  We drank coffee, shared a fattening snack and became good friends – we are still in touch on Linked In! It was also the beginning of my learning a great life lesson about winning and losing.

IMG_20150303_171836127It’s been a tough couple of weeks here in Can Do world!  First, my sweet dog Chippy, my one and only office colleague, is no longer here, making my office a mighty lonely place. I also received word that I did not get either of the two jobs I had been a finalist for. One was a tougher blow than the other. I really wanted that job!

Three hits – Pow! Pow! Pow!

The result is that I have been more than a bit down the rabbit hole for the last few days. And, more than a bit at a loss for direction because I have been working with clients on a short-term project-based status for the last few months as my interviewing for these two positions played itself out. Then, this week it felt like, OOPS, now what?  What is the Can Do Diva to do?

And, I felt SO sad. Dog grief is very real and really painful. When we lost Zoe, two and a half years ago, we still had Chippy. Now there are no furry family members here. It is a shock and a BIG adjustment after over 13 years. We will get a new doggie next February, after our vacation!  In the meantime, I need to find a way to fill the huge lonely hole that used to be Chippy, sleeping on my ottoman, snuggled against my bare feet.

In the 2009 acclaimed movie, Up In The Air, George Clooney as lay-off expert Ryan Bingham, tells the man he is giving the pink slip to, “Anybody who ever built an empire, or changed the world, sat where you are now. And it’s *because* they sat there that they were able to do it.” …that in dealing with change and adversity, one is actually preparing for greatness. Cold comfort, yet filled with wisdom!

Before I could get around to changing the world, I needed to get out of the hole!  So, I took today off – just played HOOKY!

This morning I watched the final episode of the Jon Stewart Show that I had DVR’d last night. Then I went to the library and just wandered around for a while. When I left there, I drove 11866425_10206965038785361_2225825666540501309_ndown to Belle Haven Park by the Potomac River. Today is a cloudy and cool day – a delightful break from the 90s and horrible humidity of the last few weeks. I sat at a picnic table with my notebook and started to think about, and organize my ideas about, “Now What?”

I was not ready to do anything today. I just sat and wrote and brainstormed. Then I sorted and organized my ideas so I can remember them (!) and find them later. My plan is to leave them alone, in the notebook, to simmer until Monday.

I left the river and I drove up to the mall and wandered through a couple of stores, grateful for the stimulation of colors and the collection of “stuff” that is Home Goods. Slowly, the rainbow of colors and textures brought some creative juices back into my tired brain and it started to wake up. My final hooky event was to get a big bowl of triple chocolate and salted caramel frozen yogurt and smother it in chocolate sauce! YUMMY!  That is when I remembered, with a big smile, Chico’s and my afternoon snacks at our meetings of the Lovers and Losers Club so very many years ago.

I felt a bit like Rip Van Winkle, emerging from a deep sleep, pulling myself back into my skin – my world – my reality. The situation has not changed: the dog is still gone and those jobs will not be mine!  But I was able to regain my perspective. And, I realize that being me, here, today it is pretty wonderful. I have many awesome friends, colleagues and family members, and so very much to be grateful for.

As I end this mellow day, I know that even without Chippy, or either of those jobs, I can still change the world. And I will, starting Monday!

Care to join me?!



A Dickens of a Week

It was the best of times… it was the worst of times…

A tale of two parts of the same week.

It Was the Best of Times:

Over 50 members of my high school class came together last weekend for our reunion – it was a mini-milestone year. (Nope, not giving up the number here!) Some of us prayed together before the gathering at Mass at a local church. We ate together, drank together and sweated together outside on the porch of a restaurant on an unusually warm (read: VERY, VERY HOT!) night. We talked, took pictures, talked, ate and talked some more.

11127482_10206122076351827_7930215001611094914_nIn the process, we escaped into our own personal time warp for a few special hours, re-entering a simpler time (though filled with its own adolescent drama) and kindled in each other memories about our dreams and hopes. We shared our journeys, triumphs and plans for our next steps – mostly avoiding the disappointments and broken parts. We remembered, in prayer and in story, those whom we had loved and lost – too many, too soon.

Gone was the pretense of the past reunions, trying to look wonderful and impress. We reunion and Blinn 043were relaxed and just happy to have survived, and genuinely excited to see each other. We just wanted to be together. We were able to give each other a renewed sense of life and purpose in ways that probably nobody else could. It was more than the “do you remember?” questions; it was a celebration and affirming of belonging and a promise of support into our futures.

It Was the Best of Times.

And, It Was the Worst of Times.

zoe-and-chip-024Yesterday, my husband and I put Chippy, our 13 and a half year old Westie, to sleep. Yes, it was the worst of times. Chippy was a special dog – and, yes, all doggy-parents say that. But, other people said that to us all the time, too. Chippy was smart and very caring. He still had a great puppy quality, even at 13 and a half. We took pride in being really good doggy parents, to him and to his sister Zoe, who left us two and a half years ago because of a brain tumor. Really good parents.

Making that decision was awful and horrible. He was sick and kept getting sicker. Thereit's a dog's life at our house! were days and weeks where I questioned if he really was sick or I was just completely neurotic!  We tried different diets. Last week we questioned if the time had come. Then he rebounded, and we took him with us to Ohio for the class reunion. The down hill started there. He kept getting sicker and was up during the night several times, several nights. He wouldn’t eat. Yesterday, we knew it was time.

I think one of the hardest experiences in life is to decide to end a pet’s life because they are so totally dependent on us. Chippy knew he was really sick. We did too. The vet and vet tech were wonderful.  Before she gave him the last shot, he kissed both of us goodbye. We cried – and will continue to cry for weeks to come. There is a gaping hole in our lives where Chippy’s bark, whine, cold nose and slathering kisses used to be. This is the first day that he is not crowding my feet off my ottoman as I write.



It is the worst of times. It is the best of times.  It is life!

The 6th Secret of a Can Do Life is that Life Comes in Cycles. Sometimes they are very short cycles – the best and worst one right on top of each other. The special energy of the reunion will fade and we will touch base occasionally, instead of everyday, on Facebook or by phone. I will quit finding Chippy’s toys behind furniture and stop going to fill his water bowl from my water mug. I will get used to the quiet. Ned and I will talk about getting a new dog – but not until after our vacation!  Life will go on.

The memories will make me smile. I will miss my dog and I will miss my friends who are scattered from Maine to California. Mostly, I am grateful to have them all as part of the crazy quilt of my life.

My Job Hunt…an adventure in humility and patience

I am currently looking for a new job – something not for the faint of heart. I intend to find a nonprofit executive leadership position – a special job what will be the awesome “capstone” position of my nonprofit, service-oriented career. A place to work that capitalizes on my “skills, experience and entrepreneurial spirit,” as my resume says. A place where I can make a Can Do kind of difference.

NOTE I have edited this blog post because, as life tends to happen, the situation changed a bit within 24 hours of hitting “publish.” The feedback I have received from several sources has been extremely eye-opening and reflected in the changes I have made.

The process entails constantly being  “be out there” in a way that invites people to judge shutterstock_2224385me, not just for my experience and qualifications, but against a very competitive field of other applicants, some of whom are just as qualified as I am. I have started to refocus and think through new ways I can distinguish myself my competition for any given position. It is a two-edged sword.

I keep being reminded that I am no spring chicken. Rather, I say “I am a seasoned nonprofit professional,” which means I have extensive experience, perspective and depth – and gray hair! Many employers want someone younger and probably cheaper, but with all of those other qualities, too. I am tempted to put a P.S. at the bottom of my cover letters that says “remember, you get what you pay for!”  But, I don’t.

Because I have been very public about having had some significant health issues, my guess is that some employers get into the “what if’s” and say, “she could get sick again.” So, perhaps I could add a P.P.S. on the cover letter that reads: “So could any of the people that you hire. Part of what I have learned it to value my health and I take better care of myself better than the vast majority of the world.”  Alas, again, I don’t.

shutterstock_117069988 (1)Then, there is the silence…oh, the silence. I actually have a category on my job search spreadsheet labeled Radio Silence.  When I write a (brilliant!) cover letter and submit my resume for positions and it never even gets an email acknowledgement of the application, let alone an invitation to the dance. Hey, they could at least use “auto-reply”!  Some postings so say that only those deemed worthy will be contacted, but still…

The gatekeepers for many of the senior positions in the nonprofit sector are the executive career consultants and head hunters. They can be very supportive and helpful – or not!  One was very gracious and thoughtful in her recent note that dismissed me from the search after the first round. Another was very generous in her feedback on why “one got away!” and gave me great input on what needs tweaking on my resume.

On the other side of the coin, one “candidate advocate” at a professional search firm emailed me to say I had been moved forward in an interview process (I was ecstatic!) before her boss decided that I was not being moved forward. But no one told me until I texted the boss 10 days later saying “I am confused.” No apologies, just a very defensive response that I had not been moved forward, and how there are many moving pieces in the organic process of making “these high level hires.” (I was the opposite of ecstatic.)

One of my challenges is to remember that while it feels this way, my job hunt not just about me! Even though the feedback from that head hunter was not delivered in a very professional way, it taught me a valuable lesson that keeps getting reinforced the more conversations I have. The job search process is competitive, involves many moving parts, and each person involved brings his or her own perception of need and qualifications to the table. Each application gives me a new opportunity to put my best foot forward.  How cool is that?

CCoridan writing 2The adventure continues…

Now, I need to get back to writing that “cover letter that will change my life…”  It is what I Can Do!










FACT: Writing a Book is HARD Work!


What was I thinking?

shutterstock_123128329That it would be an easy write?  I have been working in nonprofits a long time.  I have developed the core concepts and have the four organizations that I am featuring as the case stories.

I guess I thought that with that great framework that the “book would write itself.” Not literally, but you know what I mean!

That is NOT happening.
Thinking Woman Making Decision And Have An Idea. She Looking Up

I had the ideas conceptualized in ways that felt really clearly defined in my head.  I am not sure what happens between my brain and my fingers on the keyboard, but what comes out the first time is not clearly anything..

I thought that I wanted to maybe “go somewhere” to do all the writing at once. A “writer’s retreat” kind of place to help me focus, you know!  O.M.G. am I glad that it did not work out that way!  I would have gone stir-crazy with only the book.  It has layers and levels and chapters and connected ideas that are unfolding before me       v      e      r      y         s     l      o    w        l             y.  I would have to live there for months!

But, all of that said,

shutterstock_120103930I AM WRITING MY BOOK!

One thought, one page, one chapter at a time.

I am making great progress.

And, I am very impressed with the results so far! (Sometimes I hate the results, but those moments are fleeting!)

Sometimes so impressed, that I give in and do my happy dance!


So, now you know why I have not been writing my weekly blog.  Forgive my absence, please! There are only so many words inside me.

I will be back… not sure when….

but I will be back!



Can Do Takes One Step at a Time

I am in the beginning of a new job search. As part of the process, I have taken time this week to sort out my great accomplishments (why, yes, I do have a few!) from the rest of my professional experiences. And then, to take that process a step further and to harvest some of the important lessons I have learned.

My big lesson learned that I have been reflecting on today is taking “one step at a time.”



We don’t need to be on a tightrope to have this sage advice be relevant.

My tendency, when starting something new or dealing with major deadlines, has been to push hard and try to learn everything I need to know in a minute. Or, maybe five. But, no more than ten. Then to try to do everything at once!

Happily, I have discovered recently, that is changing.

For the last two months I have been the Interim Executive Director for a small nonprofit that is, sadly, closing its doors. While I have been working with the Board and community partners to close the programs and dissolve the corporation, the need for me to remember to take short, measured steps has been HUGE. Partners all want their reports done first. Creditors all want their bills paid first. But because I just came in at the 11th hour (actually about 11:58, to be exact), I need to GO SLOW and pay careful attention to the details because I don’t have the institutional memory or history that provides critical context. So, I have asked hundreds of questions, sometimes (often!) more than once!  And, I need to remember to say thank you (often!) to those who support my slow and methodical approach, especially when they would have preferred to get their report yesterday!

Concept Handwritten With Chalk On A Blackboard.

I want to share proudly that I have been doing a pretty awesome job of taking one step at a time. Yup, I really did learn this important lesson.

And, as an added bonus, I am less stressed. More patient. More pleasant to be around! More efficient. And, better able to understand the relationships and connections between the moving parts of the reports, programs and the organization.

Wisdom for this Week: You are never to old to learn to take baby steps, even in your big girl shoes!





Gratitude Is a Choice!

The quote this morning in the gratefulness.org email was from Henri Nouwen, and it really hit home with me.

GratitudeGratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint.


Life has been a little bumpy of late – that kind of bumpy that comes with change & growth!

The words Bumpy Road on a barrier or blockade as a warning sign


For example, last week, I had a MAJOR let down in my search for new work. The kicker was that very disappointing news was delivered in a wholly unprofessional and dismissive way. It took me a while to find my breath, let alone my attitude of gratitude. I asked my friends for support and prayers and took long walks, and said more than a few prayers for everyone I had met in the search process, including the one who had been so rude. Then, I took that great advice from Joe Walsh and the Eagles – GET OVER IT!


Now, it is all history: THIS TOO SHALL PASS was true once again!

Then there is WORK, which is not bad, but JUST PLAIN HARD & TEDIOUS!  My current Interim Executive Director position is with an agency that, sadly, is shutting its doors. Closing down an organization is not an easy task. My days have been filled with creating comprehensive, detailed reports, both programmatic and financial, for contracts and programs I did not even know about until they were long over! The deadline to have them all delivered is tomorrow. My eyesblack-mold-allergy-problems-itchy-eyes are about to bleed from compiling spreadsheets and reviewing bank statements and receipts!  I have had help from one remaining manager whose last day was today. The rest is up to me – to tie up loose ends and get the invoices in to get the money in, then to close and pay off vendor accounts and begin the dissolution process. Details, details, details and then new details. They are unending, and I keep finding out there is more that needs to be done than I first believed on almost every front! During this ongoing challenge, and I am grateful for many of the people I have just come to know (and won’t get to know for long!!), who have been extremely supportive of me as I have tried to make sense out of it all!

So, even though I am tired and my eyes are going to fall out…

Even though the journey is taking me in directions that are quite different from what I was led to believe week before last…

Even though the future is very uncertain as I write…

I am grateful:

For my health.  I can’t say that one often enough.

facebookFor the over 200 responses on my Facebook page last week when life knocked me down for a few minutes and I asked for quick prayers and some extra support!

For the special home I share here with my awesome and supportive hubby and partner, Ned and our “wonder dog Chippy”!

For the beautiful azaleas and dogwoods in bloom.

For friends and family around the world. My collection of peeps is so diverse that I am never bored!

For this blog, where I can use my writing to learn a little bit more about living a Can Do Life!

And for my faith – and the ever growing opportunities I have to deepen and explore its reaches.



Tough couple of weeks?  Yup!

Grateful?  More than ever before in my life!

What are you grateful for today?  I bet you can list at least five things!  And, to make it better, I urge you to share those things you are grateful for with those you love!  You never know when that little bit of sharing will make an important difference for them, too!