You're Worth It

“I’m taking the winter sports season off,” said my high school senior, Ellie, who has had an overflowing plate and tightly structured schedule of academics, extracurriculars, and overall LIFE these last 4 years. This kind of scheduled intensity is not atypical for many of the high school and college students with whom I work.

Most days, Ellie is on from the moment she wakes up before 7am, until she rests her weary head and body in her bed at night, often past midnight. Her to-do list never ends. It just spirals onward, with no end in sight.

“Wow. The winter season? No team involvement? Nothing? A blank slate?” I asked. She nodded.

Then I asked, “That’s a big deal, Elles. It sounds wonderful. What are you going to do with that unstructured time?”

She smiled and said, “I am going to do my own thing…do my own workouts. I’m not sure what it looks like yet but I am ready to give it a try.”

Three months. Ninety days. Many, many hours. All of that open space to breathe, to move with her own agenda, and decide what is on tap for that particular day’s workout, for that particular two hours a day. Such a treat.

I asked Ellie, “Was it difficult to make this decision to step off the known path, clear your schedule, and make time for you?”

She told me, “In many ways, yes. It took some courage. I had to pull the trigger and back away from swimming which I will miss — especially the people.” She paused. “But I knew… if I wanted these few months for myself, then I needed to claim it. I don’t see having this opportunity again for quite some time. Nobody is ever going to give this time to me. I had to give it to myself.”

I’ve been thinking about that conversation with Ellie for the last several weeks. Her words keep replaying inside my head: I had to give it to myself.

When there is a window of time where structure and activities are not dictating where and what we need to be doing in every moment, there is this unfamiliar open space. Who are we outside of all of our roles? Our agendas? What do we need to give back to ourselves? What is our heart longing for? What do we want? Who are we in the midst of this world in which we walk and inhabit?

If I were to think and dream along the lines of what I would do with some free, unplanned time each day: My heart longs for thirty minutes every morning to drink coffee in my pajamas, be with my thoughts, and soak in the peace and quiet (or hang with my hubby if he is in town and up for a cup of joe! ) — thirty minutes of solitude before I wake the kids up and begin the day’s agenda/work. I would love time to focus and immerse myself in developing a 4-6 week program for my clients for 2019. Maybe one month to learn how to pull together a podcast. I would relish reading a few books and writing a steady stream of blog posts. When friends call or family comes to visit, I want the ability to say “Absolutely!” instead of “I’m not sure I am able to pull it off.” And like Ellie, I want time to be still and do whatever my heart desires in that day and moment, without an agenda dictating my next move.

Who’s going to give me that blessing of time?

Nobody except me.

And who’s going to grant you the time that you are starved for — time to journal, time to breathe, time to go for a walk, time to learn how to cook, time to read a novel, time to hang with a dear friend, time to be in conversation with yourself and ask questions, time to ask yourself who am I?, time to sit quietly and contemplate what it all means?

Nobody except you.

The time that you long for. The time that your whole being is aching to take back. The gift that’s priceless, more than honoring the checklist, and recognition and praise, more than anything.

Give it to yourself. You’re worth it.

The Power of a Good Question

What is meaningful? What is true? What really matters in our often busy, chaotic, loud, and convoluted world? How do we have the conversations with ourselves and our children that further us? Help us grow in self-awareness? Empathy? Kindness? Curiosity? Perspective?

The power of a good question can make the difference between a common exchange and one that goes a step or two deeper. Asking good questions is an art, and when we come from a place of curiosity and a desire to learn, the questions flow organically. There is no set agenda, no facade to maintain. It is about connection, courage, and vulnerability. Why not try asking some different questions to have a more substantive and meaningful exchange?

Tell me when you were brave today.

Tell me when you witnessed someone else being brave.

Did you experience kindness today?

When did you feel most loved today?

How did you make the world better today?

Where does confidence come from?

With whom did you sit at lunch? Is there anyone that you are aware of that could use a lunch partner tomorrow?

If you disagreed with what someone said today, did you ask questions to gain understanding and common ground or did you choose to stay quiet?

Where is connection created? In acceptance or in judgment?

Do you think the quality of your relationship with someone is about what they do for you, or what your thoughts are about them and how you feel when you think those thoughts?

Is it easier to love someone or tear them down? Which do you choose?

How do you cultivate happiness and a sense of good enough? Is it an inside job?

Do you think that the currency of your dreams resides in your willingness to move through discomfort, or to stay safe and in the familiar?

How do you navigate discomfort?

How many times did you feel uncomfortable today? Tell me more.

What are 5 things that you love about yourself? Here are 5 things that I love about you.

Did you question something today? What was it?

Do you think you are born with resiliency or is it a muscle that you build by doing hard things?

Commit to 5 minutes of self care for the next 10 days. No negotiation. What would that entail?

To whom did you compare yourself today and why? Was it based in harsh judgment or curiosity?

What are you thinking about a person and/or circumstance in your life that is challenging you?

How do you feel when you think that thought?

Who are you, and how do you behave when you think that thought?

Who would you be without that thought?

What is the solution?

Are thoughts self-fulfilling prophecies?

Do you think people’s actions and behaviors are about you or about them?

Is it your business to know what other people think about you?

How much energy are you putting toward being liked versus being yourself?

With whom do you feel most at home?

What brings you joy? What lights you up?

What have you learned about yourself in the last week that you didn’t know before?

What is one thing that you can do differently that will get you closer to what you want in your life? What is holding you back from doing it? Why?

Do you want my advice or my support?

Did you know that I love you? All of you? Every part of you? Even those parts of you that are hard to love? Especially those parts? I do.

Really? #tellmemore

A Letter to My Children

In the last few months, I have been asked numerous times about work/life balance. Not sure that I am able to give a satisfying answer to this question, but I’ll give it a try. Although I aspire for balance, I find that it is often elusive as I am constantly juggling, recalibrating, and juggling some more to keep all the balls in the air. Rarely do things go according to plan. Ask my kids! I find that adaptability and going with the flow are key for peace within the crazy so I do my best to ride the waves. Some days I do better at this than others. A big mug of coffee at the crack of dawn seems to set the day’s trajectory on stable footing, and I’ve been known to hit the Starbucks drive-through mid-day when my plate seems to be especially overflowing. But here’s the thing: I love my life. It is far from perfect. It is messy, full, complicated, and sweet. But, when I think about the work/life dance, I can genuinely say that I signed up for this crazy train, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

I thought I would share a letter that I wrote to my children recently to provide some context to this work/life journey:

Dear Ellie, Ben, Leo, and Moira,

As I surveyed the Brummell landscape that August morning in 2012, I found myself in uncharted territory: all four of you were now in school full-time. My tired, sad, and grateful self sunk into our buttery and cozy living room chair which was bathed in the morning sun, closed my eyes, breathed deeply, and promptly fell into a most blessed sleep.

A few hours later (at least, this is what I recall!), I awoke refreshed and more clear headed. I perused some of my journals from the past 12 years. What a glorious, crazy, and blessed ride it had been! I knew that change was beckoning, but I was uncertain what that entailed. With no more littles under my feet during the day, I contemplated my options, and felt this deep desire to seek a job that would utilize my skills and gifts, and also stretch me outside of my comfort zone. I knew that it was time to spread my wings and explore the possibilities. Thanks to the synchronicity of the universe and my friend Elly Brenner, I landed one of the best jobs on the planet: Academic Advisor in the First Year of Studies at Notre Dame. It was in my role as advisor that my love for working with young adults was born.

The transition to full-time work wasn’t smooth sailing but all hands were on deck and we persevered and made it work for our crew of 6. Everyone picked up a little more slack around the house. School lunches became a team effort. Dinners were often on the fly and made in 30 minutes or less. St. Mary's and Notre Dame students became treasured babysitters. Dad and I shifted our roles accordingly and supported one another as best as we knew how, and committed to creating a new normal. Fast forward 6 years, and the seque from academic advising to creating a life coaching business has become a way of life for me and for our family. I recently heard that "you teach what you need to learn." It is a daily practice for me to coach myself, my clients, and your evolving and fabulous beings through this crazy and marvelous life adventure.

I value and cherish being a Mom, and I believe that intertwining and honing my craft of coaching young adults and their parents makes me a better Mom, a better wife, and an overall, better human. 

I pray that each one of you is brave and ambitious too in following what is true. I signed up for this dynamic of home, family, marriage, and work, so I continue to try to learn and get better at it. It is not a perfect science. I feel like I have the greatest gig in the world. But it isn't without its sacrifices: I have missed some sporting events and school performances over the years, I am maneuvering ever-changing schedules and activities at the last minute and falling up short, I am often shopping last minute for an assigned classroom snack because baking is no longer in my repertoire, I rely on Amazon Prime (2-day delivery is a dream!) for birthday gifts and paper towels, I sometimes take work calls in the car or at night when it is family time, and typically by 9pm, I am toast. My tank is empty.

Thank God I am able to share this parenting road with your Dad who has been my partner every step of the way on this journey. He picks up the slack where and when needed and makes it all possible. Know that a “career” can be anything you want it to be - just be sure that it realizes your gifts and makes you a better and more whole person all-around. Give your gifts and hearts generously to the world. Work hard. Be passionate. Courageous. Intentional. Your life is your work of art. It is your contribution. Take it seriously, and do it very well.

As I’ve told you before, I believe that Poppa Chuck led the way for a life well-lived with his law practice, community service, marriage to Oma, and commitment to being the very best human he could be. He showed us what was possible in his vulnerable, disciplined, Germanic, and big-hearted way. Certainly, big shoes to fill (he, after all, wore a size 15 shoe!), but I value enormously his legacy, and I try to follow suit in my own unique way.

Know that I love you four beings more than anything - and part of that love is making sure that I show up in my world every day by taking care of myself and being accountable for my emotional and physical health; loving your Dad with all my heart (marriage is a daily commitment); guiding, respecting, letting go, and loving you four as you find your way on your respective journeys; committing to the work that I love and putting it out in the universe; and helping my clients know what is possible by finding their fit and becoming themselves very well. "Set your life on fire, seek those that fan your flames.” This is my contribution.

Thanks for being some of my greatest teachers in this life. You four humans rock my world. Shine on, Brummells! So good to be walking this awesome life adventure with you! ~ Your Mama xx