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!

Over the Shock and Hard at Work!

It has been almost two weeks since my husband, Ned, was told his job was eliminated. That first week was a rough one… worse for him than for me, but still, no fun for me at all. I was frustrated and unsettled for a whole host of reasons: after several years of financial uncertainty, I had started to make plans – for a vacation with friends next fall, to pay off some bills and purchase a new chair for my office. I was working hard on the next round of marketing for The Can Do Chronicles, and seriously considering publishing it in hard copy. But first I Poofwanted to take a few days off because I had been working so many hours for weeks, between projects for my clients and the launch of the book!  POOF – all of those things disappeared in an instant!  Mostly, I just felt so badly for Ned that this had happened to him AGAIN. That he was not treated fairly or well when he had been so loyal to his employer. And, that his reality for the next months will be the ups and downs of looking for a job. YUCK!

At the end of last week, I was feeling more than a little depressed – those pesky black clouds started crowding in, and I could not blow them away. I know that “living the CAN DO life” does not make it a walk in the park to get through life’s crises, but it does give me tools. So, on Sunday afternoon I intentionally asked the first CAN DO Question: What Can I Do? I made lists of things I want to get done before Christmas, cleaned my office, went to the Home Goods store opening in my area and entered to win a $1,000 shopping spree (which, sadly, I did not win!), called some friends and got out of my own way.

And, I am happy to report the CAN DO strategy worked. I got past feeling shaky and blue, and I feel solid and whole again. With a clearer head, I was able to figure out my plan for what I CAN DO to support Ned and myself through the next few months. The first and Aerobicsmost important, with only my income, I need to stay in great mental and physical shape so that I can do my work well, without feeling pushed, anxious or pressured. I remind myself that I only started working full time again in July and I need to be careful not to get run down and/or sick. So, I will keep going to aerobics two or three times a week – it feels so good (when I stop!) and I know how much stronger I am since I started in July.

And, I will have to put some of the plans for marketing The Can Do Chronicles on hold -not an easy decision to be sure.  I will continue write in this blog at least twice a week and have a couple of holiday shopping specials that I will advertise on Facebook and Linked In, but I will not be able to invest the energy to write the magazine article and guest blog posts or push for media attention that was in the plan, and the hard copy of the book will be delayed. I will do those things next year – and, anyway, look how much more “CAN DO” experience I am getting in the meantime.

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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