Another chapter begins…

I am finally beginning to feel it.  It’s a subtle shift inside.  On the outside not much changes for me, but everything is different.

My husband Ned, whose job was eliminated on November 1, begins a new chapter in his work life on Monday. And I, happily, cease being the sole wage earner in the family.

cover.finalThere were some changes – not so much in “what I did,” but “how I did” – that I deliberately made when we knew that Ned was going to be out of work.  We learned of his job loss two weeks after I published The Can Do Chronicles, and I was just coming to terms with being an author, and seriously thinking and planning and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the whole Can Do “thing.”

I quickly put that planning on hold to pay full attention to my grant writing and development consulting work.  My Can Do decision was to “pull myself in” and keep an intense focus on my work and on my health. I was afraid of getting sick, very afraid as colleagues, friends and neighbors coughed and blew their noses all through the holidays. Because I am a contractor, I only get paid when I am working. Getting sick was just NOT an option!  Neither was allowing the little black cloud of depression to creep back in.  So, when I had breaks from my work, I gave myself permission to relax (well, sort of!) and watch HGTV, movies and TED Talks rather than write blogs and begin making the revisions to the book and calling publishers. (I CAN DO those things now – and I will!)

Last night on my plane ride home from Dallas, I reflected for a bit about how different it feels to be in a position to do what I want to do rather than what I need to do, even when they might be the very same thing.  The journey of last few months felt like I was shutterstock_113245282driving when I was very tired or when it was raining REALLY hard – actually like driving when I was tired and it was raining hard.  Focus is paramount and the amount of effort and attention needed and stress levels increase as each mile passes, with little relief about any progress made. The only question that kept going through my head is the one we all asked incessantly as children, “are we there yet?”

In the coming weeks, I have several major projects due for both of my clients, so my workload will not change.  But my approach to it will.  While it won’t be like a drive in the country on a bright summer day with the top down, I will be more relaxed at the wheel, able to listen to the music, take in some of the scenery, and think about where I am and where I want to go.

McKA final note.  While this “ride” was a tough one for me, it was tougher on Ned.  He was the one who lost his job, the one looking for work and being disappointed when he heard “sorry, not you,” or sometimes heard nothing at all after extensive interviews.  His new job as Director of Development at the Father McKenna Center in downtown DC is a phenomenal opportunity that brings him full circle in many ways, combining his strong fundraising skills with his ministry background in service to those most in need.  Congratulations, dude!

During the 90 days of job search (him) and job intensive (me), our Can Do held together – and held us together.  We took very good care of each other in getting to this new chapter though the miles and miles of rain and fatigue. This journey has shown me once again that Gratitude + Hope are a powerful, strong and enduring combination.

The Can Do Chronicles Continue….stay tuned!

2013 – A Year In Between

2013

What a year it has been!

It started with great hope and anticipation as I completed my chemo on January 5th.  I was totally unprepared for how lousy I felt all of January and February… it was the cumulative effects of six months of chemo, but it flattened my fantasy of chemo’s end and new life’s beginning.  You know what they say about assumptions…

All frustration faded in early March when Ned and I went on an awesome, wonderful 10 day cruise in the Caribbean.  With earbuds channeling my favorite tunes, I walked around and around the deck soaking the healing light of the sun’s rays into my blood.  Josh Groban, Susan Boyle, Peter Paul and Mary, Mozart, Beethoven, Simon and Garfunkel, Billy Joel, Andrea Bocelli, Mary Chapin Carpenter serenaded my blood and my brain back to health. The scenery was breathtaking – the Caribbean’Vacation 2013 066???????????????????????????????s forty shades of blue easily match Ireland’s forty shades of green.  I took hundreds of pictures on St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Antigua and Tortola – not so much in Martinique, with the beautiful name and so-so scenery.  I had read an article about the healing powers of swimming in salt water, so we went to two beaches so I could swim and bob about in the clear blue water.  We met and made new friends from California and Scotland.  It gets the rating of BEST CRUISE EVER!

Reality returned quickly – the furnace died and so did my work computer… followed by a leak in the water line.  Net: over $12K in under 90 days.  So much for getting ahead! SIGH!

By late April I was feeling great and began to look for full time work.  “Writing grants” is great, and I am very good at it.  But, now that I was feeling good, I was getting a little bit bored.  Working alone from home, while a comfort when I felt lousy, was making me stir-crazy.  I collage1spent some time pulling my thoughts about what was most important to me in my work and life, and developed an advocacy focus and business blog, but it was still not ticking all of my boxes. I applied for several senior development and CEO positions; a couple of them had interesting back stories, too! Most were for nonprofits with strong child-focused missions; one was not! Then I realized, I enjoy my contractor/consultant role and am fortunate and grateful create my own business – and it has the potential to grow and change with time.  I don’t have to stay at home and be bored – that is a state of mind that is easily changed as I make plans to get out and meet new people and research what I want my business to become. As I write this, the challenges and stresses of the work-a-day fade, and I realize how blessed I am to have good clients, interesting work and a whole world of opportunity ahead of me. I pause to let it sink in – and smile!

Through the summer and fall I wrote and edited, and re-edited!, and then finally published The cover.finalCan Do Chronicles, my little e-book that narrates the journey of the last four years.  The launch on October 4th was a frenzy of making sure the book got loaded correctly and on time onto the amazon.com site, marketing e-mails to friends and colleagues and just about everyone I had ever met, constant updating of the book’s very own Facebook page, and writing for the Can Do Blog, the book’s very own blog!  I had an awesome radio interview in the WOO (Worcester, MA) on Sunday the 20th, and pages of ideas for marketing. I started to believe I really was an author!

As a bizarre twist in a parallel universe to the story I tell in the book, on October 21st, Ned called to tell me that his job had been eliminated.  Fortunately, this time I am healthy and working full time, so we are not staring over the cliff into the black abyss like we were on June 18, 2010 when he called with similar news.  But, it has been a frustrating and challenging way to end the year. My attention immediately shifted from spending 6-10 hours a week marketing the book and developing the Can Do side of my business and life, to totally focusing on managing my stress level, getting my work done and staying healthy. As a contractor, I have no “paid time off,” and, while I am healthy again, I literally cannot afford a cold or the flu.  Ned’s attention is fully focused on getting a new job… his qualifications are fabulous, but his age is a challenge in the current job market.

Both of us continue to count our blessings.  Can Do remains at our core.  We discovered (again!) that Can Do is not always shiny and bright.  Sometimes, Can Do is about keeping on keeping on, even when you want to be doing ANYTHING else but what you are doing – for me, writing one more grant proposal instead of taking a day off; for Ned, not working!  I smiling-hearthave not written as many blogs as I had hoped, nor have I updated the book in preparation for hard copy publication.  I.have.not.had.the.energy.  But it is okay!  Every single day, I have done the best I could with what I have.  And, I have kept my smile – well, most of the time!

While frustrated in some minutes (or hours – or days!), we are not discouraged!  We thank God we have each other and our friends and family that are so close and caring on this interesting journey of life. Our life is simpler – when the debit card says stop, we do! Our Christmas gifts were modest. Our celebrations now center on spaghetti or chicken at our dining room table or at a friend’s table – not routine dinners out at nice restaurants.  And, going to a nice restaurant is a bigger treat and more appreciated!  As the t-shirts say: Life is Good!

images (6)When I woke up this morning, I knew I was ready to do some of “my writing” again as a way to reflect and renew and prepare for the days ahead.  I close 2013 with both a smile and a song in my heart. I am ready for 2014 and its journey of joys and challenges and new vistas.

God Bless Us Everyone!

The Best Part of Being an Author – So Far!

Juvenile-Alice-in-Wonderland-White-rabbit1This whole experience of “being an author” has been a bit surreal.  When I was in 6th grade, I was Alice in the play put on at the local library in Cleveland Heights. The last two weeks have been a bit of a reprise of the Alice role.

It is so easy for me to “market and promote” the blazes out of kids’ programs and worthy causes related to children and families in need. It is a “whole ‘nuther” experience to market and promote this book where my personal story and my candid perceptions of the world form the core of its message. It does not come easy… and I am just learning the ins and the outs, making it feel even more awkward. As someone who is an introvert, not surprisingly I have had several “walking around naked” dreams in the last two weeks.

I asked friends and colleagues from across the years, in person and through Facebook, to post a review after they read the book. In the amazon.com world, those reviews prime the pump and help drive traffic to the book’s page.  Once someone is there, the reviews give shoppers some enticement (or not, depending on the review!) to purchase the book.

coverThe reviews so far have been Triple A: Amazing – Affirming – Awesome. There are 14 reviews on The Can Do Chronicles amazon.com page as I write this blog, and they are the best part, so far, about being an author. These readers’ words motivate me to push past my anxieties and find new ways to share the message of CAN DO with the wider world.

What I love about this book is that it is not only a testament to Cathi’s courage through some of life’s toughest battles (i.e. job loss, leukemia,…), it is a amazing narrative on how God is faithful and works out things in a perfect, intricate, undetectable design. Cathi (and all of us) “can do” because God does the major prep for us. I also enjoy how she is unafraid to peer deeply into her own experiences and apply the wisdom gained to the next step in her journey. 

Everyone can benefit from reading the Chronicles. It’s both inspiring and motivating.

Represents a provocation in its simplicity to pause before reacting. The author could have gone for a series of cliches, but avoids this and, therefore, her product is eminently more readable.

I would give this a five star rating for its clarity. Cathy has touched on so many questions that I have wrestled with for most of my adult life. She offers a direct path to significant growth that is uphill and most inviting. I look forward to to reading her blog, but most of all to keep this little treasure nearby as companion and guide.

“Can Do Chronicles” follows the author’s personal journey through very difficult times and how by utilizing a rather simple series of actionable questions, she uncovers a unique and effective way to bring balance and peace back into your life, no matter how great the obstacles.

Tonight is the night that, at least temporarily, the government was re-opened for business. Going forward, we all need as much CAN DO as we can get to move our little corner of the world forward with Hope + Gratitude, believing that it will make a difference.

I commit to doing my part by keeping the CAN DO messaging and marketing moving forward, in spite of the anxiety dreams and competing priorities.

REMEMBER:

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Nonprofits’ Need for CAN DO at All-Time High

shutterstock_62827624The great recession has dealt a double blow to the nonprofit sector. Funding has become much more competitive at the same time that the demand for services has surged. Non-profit leaders, both Board members and executive staff, are challenged to cut costs without cutting corners, often feeling trapped by what feels like fewer and fewer good options.

The staff feel trapped, too. Money gets tighter and stress goes up. For many staff who work because of their dedication to the mission and the clients, this has meant minimal, if any, pay increases and/or having hours cut. Staff and clients are forced to use and reuse supplies and outdated equipment and technology; and important services, such as transportation and meals are too often eliminated. Outcome measures drive success, but many staff lack the training needed to track the data in effective ways. Morale suffers and staff turnover is high.

Keeping a positive, CAN DO culture with so much stress on the organization is difficult – shutterstock_87804784but far from impossible. By combining and communicating the Three Questions with the CAN DO Core Beliefs, staff at all levels feel included and more empowered.  The Three Questions create an organic framework to keep the communication going across departments to help with planning on an ongoing basis; course corrections are less difficult because there is a Plan B already defined. What some see as problems, with some brainstorming and hard work, can become opportunities.  It’s not easy – but neither is feeling stuck!

In The Can Do Chronicles, I outline my 10 Core Beliefs of CAN DO. The 7th Belief is the one that I believe helps teams function during stress: CAN DO works to stay positive, proactive and responsible in all areas of the organization. This means:

1) collect and connect the dots, always looking farther, harder deeper;connect dots

2) no blaming, whining or name calling; and, 

3) ask the hard questions when looking at what is wrong, what needs to be change, and then looking hardest for what is right.

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I have learned some of these lessons from remarkable CAN DO leaders that have led nonprofits to success during the hardest imaginable times. MANY of these lessons I have definitely learned “The Hard Way!”  Some of them multiple times!

One of my goals for the CAN DO Blog is to help you and others avoid having to learn lessons “The Hard Way” too.  

Are these ideas helpful?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Why I Wrote The Book…

coverThe CAN DO Chronicles narrates my journey through some significant life challenges and describes the transformation of a person with a semi-permanent chip on my shoulder to a life grounded in hope and gratitude. The last three years have been tough ones for me and my husband Ned, with an array of hiccups, challenges and “opportunities for growth” – ranging from job losses to a 400 mile move to hip surgery – then, from six months of chemo to my wonderful new life. During the months of ups and downs, I made a commitment to myself, Ned, my family and to God that my approach and attitude would be as completely CAN DO as possible. I crafted three simple “CAN DO Questions” that have guided my decision making, and helped me take the “but” out of “yes, but” the majority of the time. Several new, healthier habits help keep it that way. My new approach to life intentionally focuses on both possibilities and gratitude. CAN DO has taken on a life of its own and become far too important to me to risk losing it.

In deciding to write this e-book, I realized that The CAN DO Chronicles is about much more than my story. Every day I hear or read about individuals, couples and families whose lives have been turned upside down by cancer or some other disease, job loss and unemployment, foreclosure, divorce and other problems. The Great Recession has brought downsizing, outsourcing, layoffs and very slow job growth, with those lucky enough to have jobs repeatedly being told to “do more with less.” Important programs like Head Start have recently lost funding, reducing their capacity to make a difference for children and families in greatest need. Discussions I have with friends and colleagues in the helping professions often focus on the concern we share that the stresses of life are becoming more challenging, and people are feeling more stuck and less hopeful. We ask each other and ourselves, “What can I/we do to make a difference?”

In the midst of all the stresses and struggles of life, there are some individuals who shutterstock_114396031possess and are able to keep a positive attitude and outlook in spite of it all, and who, by example, encourage and teach the rest of us to have hope and do the same. I know many people like that, and I search in the wider world to learn the stories of more so that I can share them on this blog. I admire them, and I want to continue to grow to become more like them. Writing this book, by definition, has required me to own CAN DO fully, deeply and without hesitation. I have. And, I believe that I am called to share my story.

I am a strong believer in the power of stories because they open us up to understanding life, its mystery and its lessons more dynamically. My hope is that people who read my story and learn about how I was able to knock that well-worn chip off my shoulder will make a connection and find inspiration to focus their lives on what they CAN DO.  I want as many people as possible to discover the energy, joy and hope that an attitude of gratitude can bring in a world that is filled with struggles, fears and way too much CAN’T DO!

In my small way, I want to make a difference, and let others know that they can too.  It’s what I CAN DO – and so can you! Together, we can build a CAN DO world.

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The Water is Wonderful!

coverI am an ambivalent author no more!  In fact, I am getting very psyched for the launch of The Can Do Chronicles next Friday, October 4. The journey getting here has been a bit like trying to decide whether to jump into the chilly water after driving for hours to get to the lake…  I have jumped in and the water is great!  Or, perhaps a more appropriate metaphor is the fishbowl… I am in the fishbowl, in oh-so-many ways.  The water is great and I am swimming like a proverbial fish.

As my friends and colleagues are learning that I have written and am publishing the e-book, I am getting calls and questions asking “so, what’s it about?”  It is the story of the last three years of my life, and my husband Ned’s life by association. But, more than the ups and downs and ins and outs of his job loss, my hip replacement and chemo and our 400 mile move, it is the story about what changed inside of me during these months and years – and how I went from having a semi-permanent chip on my shoulder to a pretty permanent song in my heart.

It is also a guide to taking the “but” out of “yes, but” for those who want to use it that way. I introduce the three central questions that now guide all of my decision making. The questions seem so deceptively easy to ask, yet the answers are not always easy to hear – a conundrum to be sure!  But those tricky little questions work.  Yes, they work wonders.

shutterstock_94875910The Can Do Chronicles will be available on amazon.com as an e-book, but the good news is that you don’t actually have to own a Kindle to read the book. You can read it on any computer, smart phone, or tablet using Amazon’s free Kindle software available at: http://amzn.to/175GXrj.

To celebrate the launch, for the first three days the book will cost only $2.99. That’s less than a coffee at Starbucks. After that, the price goes up to $4.99 – less than a good glass of Pinot Gris. For under $5 you can change your life.  That’s quite a deal.

Please help me pass the word as the launch gets closer!  Follow and share The Can Do Chronicles on Facebook. You will be glad you did.

Thanks and always remember

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