A Step Along The Way

A Step Along The Way CD Release

As you may or may not know, my husband, Ned Andrew, is quite the talented guy. He’s a journalist and an editor, directs leadership institutes, is a fantastic speaker and trainer, does all of our laundry and keeps us fed.

He’s also an amazingly skilled singer, songwriter and musician. One of his tunes is even part of the  Smithsonian Archives. Seriously.

Once upon a time, before internet and cell phones, he came to Nashville on the advice of some music industry folks who thought he “had it” only to pack it in 5 years later to raise some kids and work a full-time “real job.”

As the story goes, he even removed the strings from his 1971 Martin D28 for about a decade. Yeah. It was bad.

Fast forward to 2011 and the 40 year anniversary of his acquiring that guitar. We headed out on a 2500 mile road trip to visit family and friends all over the eastern side of the US. Folks were delighted that he brought along his guitar — though he was still somewhat hesitant to impose his music upon them. After receiving incredibly warm welcomes and enthusiastic responses to his tunes and talent everywhere we went, I planted a bug.

“Hey, hon, it would be so wonderful if you’d get these songs down for us. I mean, we don’t have good recordings of any of them and it would be a shame to lose them all.”

Once those words came out of my mouth, the stars began to align and talented folks started appearing from everywhere to help us out.

We have a friend in LA who owns a fabulous studio who had offered to record Ned Andrew’s tunes. I was ready to book a flight. Walking Champ one morning, we talked about how ironic it would be to fly across the country to make a recording when we could probably knock on 12 doors in our neighborhood and find 6 basement studios.

That evening we went to a house concert where we met Fett. Turns out that Fett lives on our street. And, yes, he runs an amazing professional studio in his basement. Oh, and as a bonus? He specializes in capturing live guitar and vocal. Not kidding.

So, I encouraged — er, pushed, shoved, begged, and cajoled — Ned Andrew into booking some studio time. He finally did, and over the course of this past year he and Fett recorded the guitar and vocal to 25 of his original songs. They picked out 12 that work well together, recorded background vocals on 4 of those, and mixed and mastered them into an album.

While Fett was doing his production magic, we went to visit dear friends in New York where the incredibly talented Andrew Lerman captured the concert shots we used for the album’s cover.

From there, we went into the packaging design and disc replication phase of the project. We’ve learned all sorts of cool information about glass mastering and graphic design along the way thanks to the ever-helpful folks at DiscMasters.

A rather large, heavy box of perfectly mastered, printed, and shrink-wrapped CDs were delivered to our door yesterday. Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime moment! It was pretty surreal to hold this album in my hands for the first time.

Now we’re on to distribution and are working with a company to get Ned Andrew’s music available through all of those online outlets in physical CD and downloadable formats.

The whole business is absolutely fascinating.

I’m pretty daggone proud of my sweet hubby for being brave enough to pick his guitar back up at all, but I’m over the moon that he’s finally recorded this album. It really did start out as a selfish desire to have copies of his songs recorded for me and the kids, but I’m willing to share them with y’all.

At some point soon the album, A Step Along the Way, will be available through outlets like Amazon and iTunes. In the meantime, you can get a really real CD directly from Ned’s website.

It’s a truly wonderful collection culminating more than four decades of writing and performing.

My next little plot is to get Ned Andrew “playing out” again.

You’re welcome.

Object Permanence



I was born in 1971 and into a world of throw-away, temporary convenience. Ours was the first generation that ate more meals in the car than around the kitchen table. When we did eat at home, we perched our TV dinners on fold-away metal trays and watched Little House on the Prairie — the irony completely lost on us. By the time I was in high school, paper plates, Tupperware, plastic forks, Styrofoam* cups, Saran Wrap, fast food, and microwaved meals were the standard.

Food isn’t the only area of transience. My parents had a brick home at first, but by the time I was three they’d sold it and we moved 3 times before settling into a trailer on a few acres outside of Temple, Texas. From their perspective, buying the land was a step toward a long-held dream of owning a ranch of their own. In mine, it was one in a series of moves into temporary dwellings that would continue for nearly 40 years. Less than 6 months after moving there, my parents divorced and we — my younger sister and I — moved with my mother to Tennessee.

So, the other lesson was that relationships aren’t forever either. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were miserable together and everyone is better off with a thousand miles of highway between them. I’m sure most kids who grew up with divorced parents eventually get why their parents split up, but it doesn’t make it easier in the meantime. Having the foundational relationship of your childhood — of your very existence — blow up right there in front of you is quite the life lesson.

In my case the blow up was literal. It happened on Fourth of July weekend and the images of that fight haunted me for years. When I’d see pictures of events at my grandmother’s house I wouldn’t see people, I would see places where the yucky stuff happened. He was there. She was there. I was there. That happened there. I was four. I’m always four years old when I think about my parents.

The search started then for something solid and permanent; something I could trust. I tried churches — big ones, old ones, strict ones. I kept trinkets that my grandparents would send from around the world, the watch Daddy gave me when I was five, clippings from the newspaper, every card and letter I ever received. I counted anniversaries —  3 months at this job, 4 years in this relationship, 7 years since I moved here — in an effort to create a sense of longevity.

Even though I was aware of the search, and even talked about it in therapy, I didn’t really understand it and see all of the tendrils of my quest until very recently. Ironically, I’ve created the sense of permanence right here that I kept trying to find out there.

I’m sitting on my substantial sofa in my brick home surrounded by massive oak and black walnut trees in a part of the world that feels established and stable. Ned Andrew and I have collected artwork made by people we know and love. We’ve purchased dishes that were handmade for us. We use spoons carved from trees that fell nearby. We make dinners that sometimes take hours to prepare and are at other times reheated from another meal, but are always served on our gorgeous dishes, placed on linens, eaten with stainless, wiped away with actual cloth napkins as we sit all together around our kitchen table.

We try to use only items that can be reused, but when we do have things that get thrown away, we separate them out into their recyclable components and deliver them to the convenience station. I love that our local “dump” is 90% recycling bins and only has 2 spots for “trash.” I love that for every bag of trash, we take 12 of items to be remade.

We don’t have a television anywhere on our main floor. We play music. We create art. We talk. We laugh. We walk the dog. We spend an entire day making challah from scratch. We read. We write. We make things with our own hands to give to people — prayer shawls when someone is ill or sad, Ned Andrew’s Peanut Butter Pie when someone blesses us in some way. We invite people to dinner. We sit on the deck and watch the sky.

There’s a developmental milestone that happens around the time a baby turns nine months old. They figure out that things can go away and come back. The pediatric folks call this idea “object permanence.” The ironic aspect of this discovery is that once the child learns that things don’t disappear forever, they develop separation anxiety — they don’t want things to go away at all. After some more time, they grow to be okay with stuff coming and going. They start to trust that most of it will come back eventually.

I know that life is no more predictable than it was before we put our roots into this space, this relationship, our routines. Honestly, with four children and a dog there isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t get some kind of surprise. We are aging and have lost loved ones and know we will lose others and eventually, we’ll go, too. But there is a sense of foundation here.

I feel placed. I feel rooted. I feel supported. I feel honored. I feel purposeful. I feel needed. I feel safe. I feel loved.

I am here. I am in this moment. It’s plenty.



*Dow Chemical would be quick to point out that there is no such thing as a “Styrofoam” cup. They never licensed the use of their trademarked product for the manufacture of polystyrene consumer goods. Regardless, the name stuck. Kinda ironic that we’ve permanently attached the wrong name to something that is tossed after a single use and lasts for just about eternity.

Good Ole Champ Dioge

Champ Dioge

I love this dog. He’s a good, good boy.

He’s also very, very sick. That episode back in June was a symptom of something bigger.

It may be neuro-distemper. It may be the neurological implications of a genetically sensitive collie being given Ivermectin for years.

It is likely a combination of the two.

I really have no words right now.

Lordy, I love this dog.

My Journey with Graphic Coaching

Graphic Coaching

Note from Gina: As a coach and facilitator, I use a number of tools to help folks get from where they are to where they want to be. One of my very, very favorite ways to work is graphically — through PATH and other “big paper” methods as well as in smaller, table-top graphic formats. Who better to explain how this works than the smart lady who graciously taught me how to put it all together? Read on as Christina Merkley explains, in her own words, her role in bringing visuals and coaching together into one pretty powerful package.

My Journey with Graphic Coaching

By Graphic Coaching Pioneer, Christina Merkley

I was interviewed about my Graphic Coaching niche for an American T.V. show earlier in the year … called Meet the Experts (see video to right).

While Arielle Ford and I didn’t have time to go into it, many people ask me how I came to have such an unusual profession … so this article outlines the evolution of Graphic Coaching and the path I took to create this my unique work and how I now teach others to do it too.

Early Background:

For many years I worked in both the United States and Canada as a ‘graphic recorder’ and a ‘graphic facilitator’, in corporate, governmental and not-for-profit settings. In a nutshell, both these roles use visuals to help groups understand each other and make collaborative decisions.

Always interested in personal growth, in 2000 I enrolled in coach training via The Coaches Training Institute and also became an Alchemical Hypnotherapist. While I enjoyed my facilitation work with companies, it required me to travel extensively (leaving little time for anything else) and to sometimes work with organizational mandates I wasn’t fully aligned with. So I was on the lookout for an entrepreneurial venture that I could be morally congruent with and hopefully not travel as much (where people could come to me or we could work online).

Doing Focus Wheel Work With a Client
In coaching and hypnotherapy school I discovered that I was very popular with the other students … they wanted to work with me because of the cool visual notes I took of their sessions instead of just the verbal way that the other coaches worked (as a professional doodler I just couldn’t help but create visual summaries of the insights, ahhas and results that my clients came to).

Spotting a market opportunity, I tried for a while to convince other visual colleagues that they should develop “Graphic Coaching” … as I was too busy to explore it more seriously. However that all changed on the morning of September 11th in 2001 as I awoke in my San Francisco home to the trauma of that infamous day. I was supposed to be in New York that week but a series of synchronicities had kept me away.

Watching lives being forever changed … I made a vow that day to reorganize my life around the things that really mattered to me. To pursue what I was most attracted to, even if it seemed unusual or strange … as life can be short.

Within a year I had moved back to my beautiful hometown of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada … and set about creating a new life and livelihood.

I continued to do graphic recording and graphic facilitation work and concurrently developed Graphic Coaching — developing my signature process and suite of 17 visual tools: The SHIFT-IT Graphic Coaching Process®.

The SHIFT-IT Graphic Coacing Process

There are so many ways that one can work visually with individuals, biz partners and couples — using different processes and formats. In the early days I mostly did strategic planning hybrids … helping people literally SEE where they had been (Life Maps), where they wanted to go (Personal Visions) and how to organize their steps to get there (Action Plans). Later my specialty honed into the area of resistance — what I call “Trouble at the Border”. Pinpointing and flipping the inner blocks, self-sabotage and wonky energy that prevents people from having what they desire.

The SHIFT-IT Graphic Coacing Process
Client Demo in Training Class
The SHIFT-IT Graphic Coacing Process
Young Client in Front of His New Vision

My practice flourished as word got out about my innovations and the results clients were getting (careers, jobs, raises, homes, partners, children, etc). I got emails inquiring about my work — especially from other consultants, facilitators, trainers, coaches, etc who wanted to use my methods and tools themselves. So, after years of contemplating it, in 2010 I launched the first Graphic Coach Certification cohort, with wonderful coaches-in-training from around the world.

Cynthia Miller, Certified Graphic Coach at Her Private Training Learning to Draw Icons.

Certified Graphic Coaches Allison Crow and Jennifer Voss … Developing Visual Skills.

Today Graphic Coaching is growing nicely, aided by the growing ranks of Certified Graphic Coaches. They work in a diversity of environments and specialty areas including: executive coaching, small biz & solopreneurs development, military, grief & bereavement, first nations, autism, eating disorders, relationships, social justice & youth, human trafficking, mind/body and weight loss, abundance, health and wellness, etc.

Each cohort brings a new group of fascinating professionals who are doing great work in the world … and doing it even better by learning how to effectively use visuals to help their clients SHIFT.

While it hasn’t always been easy, I’m proud that I pursued my dream and have successfully SHIFTed my own work. And that I get to help others do the same. Its exciting to see the ripple effect as the work expands internationally.

The SHIFT-IT Graphic Coacing Process
Me in Front of My SHIFT-IT Templates

How to Draw Quick People!

Graphic Coach-in-Training
Melissa Blevins
Author’s Bio: Christina Merkley is The SHIFT-IT Coach. Founder of “Graphic Coaching” … Christina has pioneered the use of interactive- visuals to help individuals, couples and business partners make and manifest clear decisions about their work and lives. Based in charming Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, she maintains a thriving coaching and facilitation practice and trains other helping professionals from around the globe in her innovative ways of working.
For more information visit: www.shift-it-coach.com
Gina's SHIFT-IT Testimonial

Self Care Day on The 6th

CandleIt doesn’t happen often, but I got upset this morning. Not in an angry way. Just in a, “Really? Are you serious? This is the best we can do?” way.

I saw a friend post “is 2 weeks and craving pickles” on facebook and, naturally, thought she might be pregnant. Except for the part where I am a pro at being pregnant and know that at the medical definition of 2 weeks pregnant you are actually just ovulating and there’s no actual baby and, therefore, no positive pregnancy test or, for heaven sakes, cravings.

So, hmmmmm…

Fast forward 15 minutes and it all becomes clear. It’s the latest “Breast Cancer Awareness Game” only it isn’t a game. It’s cruel. Added to the one about how long your feet are or the other one where you indicate where you stash your purse that are downright crude, some folks have had enough. (Like CG Ward. Warning: I love CG’s post, but she has auto-play music on her blog.)

Anywho, in keeping with my “don’t complain; improve” ethos, I got all inspired to start something positive.

I quipped on Page‘s facebook posting of CG’s blog link about starting a date-related meme for self checks. And then I thought about it. Well, why not? So, here it comes!


I am — as the winner of the Internet (see: Bacon Klout) — declaring the 6th of every month Self Care Day.

What does that mean? It means that we’ll remind one another to take good care of ourselves on this day. You know, perform your self-check (moles, breasts, etc), make your dentist appointment you’ve been putting off, get a massage, take a nap, start a class, clean the slate, laugh, polish your nails, or whatever it is you do that nurtures you.

It’s officially official, so there are no excuses big enough to put you and your health on the back burner any more.

Well, now that it’s out, I’m going to have to get the graphics department all spooled up and the PR machine working overtime. We need a logo! We need a slogan!

Wait. What I really need is a refill of my coffee.

Seriously, though, please take really good care of you.

I’ll be reminding you on the 6th of forever.


Self Care Day



The Hardest Part of Abundance

Bedside Books

I have a confession. My name is Gina and I’m addicted to printed matter.

Yes, I have an eReader and a cell phone with a reading app and spend an inordinate amount of time reading online, but I still love to encounter words attached to actual paper. I love books — no doubt — and have amassed quite the collection over the years. I’m also very fond of well-written magazines like Bitch and O and the ones that come with my Sunday New York Times.

Yes, I’ll confess to that, too. I take the paper. The paper paper. I read the daily Times electronically, but I can’t give up my Sunday ritual of coffee and the paper. I won’t. I savor them, flipping the crisp pages and map-folding them to the size and shape that allows me to read with one hand free for that cuppa.



The trouble with books is that they are so much easier to buy than to read.


I wish I could remember where I read this quote. Well, I remember where I read it. I was in my studio. But I can’t narrow it down any further than that. And looking to see what’s on top of the pile doesn’t help because there are more piles of books and magazines than would make that practical.

Anyway, the point.

I finished reading Truth & Beauty: A Friendship last night. It was heartbreaking and wonderful and I’ll review it soon. But finishing it left me with a conundrum.  What to pick up next? It isn’t like I don’t have any choices. I have too many choices.

I have at least 20 books in process. I do that — start a book and then see something shiny and then start that, too. I often pick a book back up and finish it months after dropping it for something else. So, is there something in that pile I want to revisit?

There are stacks of books that are the “and this too” group. When I get going with a favorite author or subject, I’ll be at the bookstore and see something interesting in the same vein and will grab it to read … next? … later? … ?

Then there are the new, new, new books from my most recent trip to The Bookloft, where I inevitably purchase a dozen titles. There must be something about being away from home and out of my regular routine that deceives me into believing that I have endless time to read.

There are the guilt books, too. I have a knack for being friends with folks who write and always, always, always buy a copy when they publish something. Oftentimes, I love them and read them pretty quickly, but there are a handful that I feel obligated to read that keep staring back at me from the shelf.

The final stack is from our library. I currently have 5 — five — not-small books from our glorious local library. If pressed, I’ll admit that there’s absolutely no way I’ll read all of them before they are due. Truth be told, I’ll likely only start one, get super-involved in it just as it’s time to turn it in, and then order my own copy. By the time it comes, I’ll have moved on to something else and it will end up in the “in process” pile.

So, fie on you, abundance! Choosing reading material is easy, but choosing what to read now is a mix of excitement, dread, anticipation, and overwhelm. Sigh.

Books, books everywhere and not a word to read.

I suppose I’ll head to the bookstore.

The Last Bookstore in Brentwood

SARK's Creative Dream GameI didn’t realize how sad Borders’ closing would make me until I was actually standing in the last bookstore in Brentwood on its last day of regular business.I’d heard the rumblings of what was coming and even walked into (and quickly out of) one of the other local Borders’ liquidation sales last year. We all kinda knew it was coming.

Truth be told Borders wasn’t even my favorite of the big box book stores. I did like the ability to look up the available stock on the computers scattered about. I appreciated that I could search several locations to find the item I wanted today and run there to pick it up. I certainly enjoyed those times when I was able to grab a title at 40% off of its cover price.

But there were the frustrations, too. Like the 6 stores that said they had the $140 Genesis box set in stock when I checked online, later learned to call and verify, only to be disappointed after 6 different trips. I actually scored one on my 7th attempt, but I never really forgave them. The way they had tons of books and then didn’t and then had some books and media and then didn’t and then filled large portions of the store with massive displays of calendars and board games confused me and made a store I was in on a weekly basis feel like a strange land.

I hadn’t even planned to go back to Borders until I got into a conversation on Twitter about their imminent demise and it dawned on me that I had a gift certificate or two hanging around here. I went to the website and made a few half-hearted attempts to find something that I wanted. The frustrating thing was that the total for whatever I chose was more after taxes and shipping minus my gift cards than I could get it on Amazon.

So, I looked at eBooks. Which, quite frankly, felt like heresy given the circumstances. I abandoned that search after a couple of clicks and sat with my thoughts for a bit. It wasn’t worth making a special trip — it’s about a 15 minute drive to our Borders store — with gas at nearly $4 a gallon. Maybe it was actually cheaper to just cut the cards up.

As luck/providence would have it, my family was planning to eat out this evening. The restaurant the kids chose was a couple of blocks from the closing bookstore. I mentioned that I wanted to go, expecting groans. In a rare moment of family consensus, everyone in the car wanted to stop, too.

And so there I was. Standing in the middle of a store where I’ve spent about half my life and a billion dollars, knowing that tomorrow it was going to be reduced to a garage sale, and fully aware that once it’s gone, we no longer have a bookstore in our town, I couldn’t find a book to purchase.

I wandered around and around the self help shelves, the psychology section, perused the cookbooks, lingered over the fiction — paused at the Ann Patchett novel that Ev from the Bookloft recommended to me just today — and back around again. I did my little Catholic-holdover, magic-conjuring mantra, “Hail Mary, full of grace, lead me to the perfect place.”  I don’t know whether it’s Mary doing the magic or my just filling my head with a sing song so that I stop thinking so much and allow my intuition some space. Regardless, it never fails to land me on just the right book. But even this fail-safe routine wasn’t doing the trick.

Then we ran into The Reverend Doctor Dan Rosemurgy and the stars aligned. Dan is a long-time friend and the man who married Ned Andrew and I in the Glendale Labyrinth. Dan reads a lot. He’s one of us. He was holding only two books because he’d just been in the day before to buy an entire stack of them. And as we stood in the middle of this space, on its last day, a few doors down from where we’d met with this man to plan our wedding, I smiled.

I smiled because the last thing I would buy at this bookstore wasn’t going to be the last book or even a book at all. It was going to be a beginning. I headed back to my very familiar self-help shelves and picked up the box of SARK’s Creative Dream Game cards. Ned rounded up the kids and headed toward the car as I stood in line to pay for my last purchase. I listened as the folks said their goodbyes to the store employees and their bookstore. I wondered if I shouldn’t go back around one more time. I thought about the endless list of book titles I’d bought in this place.

I spotted a pack of my favorite turquoise, pink, and purple pens and added it to my purchase and chatted with the sales clerk about his future. Of course he got my PollyAnna pep talk — that I hoped that he would find a soft place to land, that transitions are always hardest when we don’t choose them, but that sometimes the ones we need to make most end up being made for us — and he genuinely thanked me for my optimism.

We took our dream cards to dinner and spent the next two hours in the middle of a crowded restaurant having the most incredible conversation about dreams and fears and celebrations and grudges and mentors and inner critics and willingness and inner allies. The kids all took the questions seriously and had amazing insights into their own journeys. I sat in awe of these little people and this family that Ned Andrew and I have managed to cobble together. Nurturing peace and ease within my family has been on my Magnetism Map for nearly a decade and I was watching exactly that unfolding in front of me.

So, yeah, I’m a little sad that Borders is gone. But there’s a little spark of hope, too. Not just from the cards or my cool pens, but because there’s word around town that Ann Patchett is looking to open up a little bookstore in Belle Meade Green Hills. Maybe this massive closing of big box bookstores will make room for what we bibliophiles really want and what I talked about when I shared my love of the Bookloft in Massachusetts.

It isn’t about having every title known to man. I can get that delivered to my door from Amazon quicker than I’d ever make it to an actual bookstore. I like going into a bookstore, talking with folks I’ve enjoyed knowing for years — folks who love books — and being certain that I’m going to walk out with a book or two that I’ll absolutely love.

Maybe bigger, better, faster isn’t always the next best thing. Here’s to smaller, sweeter, and calmer. I’d, honestly, pay full price for that.

Thinking About “Happiness, Joy and Big Fat Klout Scores”

klout 60

Mark Schaefer is one of my favorite online colleagues. We’re from the same town and run in the same e-circles, but have never actually managed to be in the same room at the same time. At any rate, his is one of the 3 or 4 blogs I try to catch up on each week. It’s a rare day that what he’s thinking (and writing about) doesn’t inspire some more thinking (and writing) by me.

This morning was no different.

Mark shared some thoughts about, well, happiness, joy, and big fat Klout scores. I’d love you to go read the whole post, but the essence was this:

QuoteOne of the things I discovered is that there is a difference between happiness and joy.  You can be happy about a hamburger.  You can be happy about a song. Happiness is temporary.  Joy is peace.

Living in a joyful way is a challenge but one key idea is staying focused on the reason for your journey.  If you KNOW why you are on your path, then you also have internal guideposts to lead the way. Stay focused on WHY you’re doing something.

But if your life is guided by external guideposts like Twitter followers, blog rankings … and even money … you might experience happiness but you will never experience joy because you will never achieve your goal. There will always be more, more, more to acquire. You won’t experience joy in the journey.

I was inspired to hijack comment on Mark’s post and he responded that my comments made a good blog post all on their own. I kind of chuckled — it was a long comment — but then I thought, heck, maybe I should include my thoughts here.

What I said:

QuoteNicely done, Mark.

Your thoughts send my thoughts in about 14 directions. The inner perfectionist in me wants me to go create a gorgeously written comment. The joyful Pollyanna I’ve chosen to cultivate says, “Just say it.” So here goes…

(1) The anecdote about the guy who is so focused on a Klout score that he’s forgotten to live life made me sad. It reminded me of the guy I knew who spent his entire summer in front of Joust so that no one could bump him from the leaderboard. At the 7-11. In College Station, TX. What a way to spend a summer.

(2) Then I got a little nauseous about the guy cheating on foursquare. It reminds me of my son. He’s all about the cheat codes. Why solve a puzzle if you can “mod in the solution”? It’s baffling behavior to me. What is an “accomplishment” worth if you didn’t actually accomplish it?

(3) Then I did a little whoop yell of joy over your choice to keep your blog spam free. While I completely understand the desire (and need!) to monetize our online realities, I like ads to look like ads, endorsements to look like endorsements, and articles to actually be articles. Those lines feel like integrity to me. Living with integrity — and surrounding myself with folks who do — brings me joy.

(4) It’s true what that say about joy v happiness. Flourishing is all about getting in touch with our authentic inner self, identifying the gifts we bring, and following that internal path. Sometimes it feels awkward to change our focus that way, but, as you’ve so beautifully said, the reward is pretty wonderful.

Mark’s post and my thinking about Mark’s post has colored my whole day.

I’m wondering how I help my son see the benefit of doing some stuff the hard way. I don’t mean that it’s never okay to take a short cut or get help with something. I do know that those peak experiences we seem to want in our lives rarely come without some self-satisfying effort in pursuit of them.

I’m reevaluating my online presence and how I spend my energy here. It’s not a new thing for me, but I think Mark makes a good point when he underlines that it really is something you have to keep refocusing your attention on.

I’m integrating my reaction to his turning down a pile of cash for his endorsements within his posts into how I do business. It isn’t a new reaction, but it demonstrates to me what I’ve known for years — I want people to choose to spend time with me because it is good for them, I bring them joy, I inspire them, and not because I’ve talked them into it through some magic of slick marketing.

Yep, I’m doing a whole lot of thinking. And the really cool thing is that I’m pretty delighted with where I am and how I’m doing with all of this stuff. Of course I have tweaking to do! I’m the last to declare that I’ve arrived at peak perfection. But, I do think I’m solidly on my journey and am so very grateful for those thoughtful colleagues who are along for the ride.


Coaching Through Transition: Part I: Getting Started


Central Park -- Gina Lynette

I love to coach. As I shared in my values post, I get practically giddy at the thought of nurturing and guiding folks safely and smoothly through change — transitions and transformations.

Over the course of the next several Tuesdays, I’ll share one area of my practice that thrills me more than just about anything — coaching individuals with disabilities and their families as they transition from one life stage to another. Please note that while I’ll be describing a coaching scenario that is very similar to several families that I’ve worked with, it is an amalgamation of those conversations and is not based on any one family.

Coaching, by its very nature, is a highly individualized process involving the establishment of trust, the co-creation of goals, and ongoing support throughout the relationship. It is important when working with individuals and teams — but it is never more critical than when working with a family. Trust, co-creation, and support become trickier as we add individuals to the table, but I’ve spent my entire adult life gathering tools and skills that support individuals in assessing their current reality, establishing goals – both stretch and very realistic in nature – and enrolling their community in support of those objectives.

The Scenario

In this scenario, a family is interested in figuring out the process of transitioning their son from high school to a really, real adult life as part of his community. The son, Jon, expects to graduate at age 22 with the current class of juniors. He has been diagnosed with an intellectual disability and is receiving special education services at his local high school.

His parents are divorced but civil. His father, Dan, expects him to get a job and live on his own or with a couple of roommates. His mother, Kate, does not see him ever leaving home – there are way too many things that can go wrong. Jon’s circle of support includes extended family, classmates, several favorite teachers, people at church, and family friends.

The state where they live currently has a waiting list of about 8000 people with intellectual disabilities hoping for services and supports. With recent budget cuts, only the most urgent needs are addressed by the state system when enrolling new individuals into services. Having two living parents puts Jon near the bottom of the list of people waiting.

The parents of a classmate at school are working with me to do similar planning for their daughter. They shared my name with Kate while attending a transition workshop offered by the state’s Parent Training Institute. Kate called to find out whether I could help them figure out what their son will do after high school.

Establishing the Coaching Relationship

As Kate was referred to me by another family who is in a similar situation and who found the coaching process helpful, I’m already at somewhat of an advantage over a coach who is called from an advertisement. Kate, Jon, and Dan already have some idea of what I’m able to do, although they may not have a clear understanding of my overall role in Jon’s transition.

Even so, the first order of business is to establish trust while outlining what coaching can and cannot do for this family.

A partnership requires that coaches earn the trust of people they work with, so that can provide the right amounts of challenge and support throughout the process. — David B. Peterson

I rely heavily on a humanistic approach as a foundation of my practice and incorporate other tools and theories when needed. Walking this family through the transition planning necessary to move Jon from high school into an interdependent adult life, while paying attention to his hopes and fears and those of his parents, and helping them to build a strong circle of support will necessarily direct some of the content and most of the goals of the coaching relationship. How I guide them through this is steeped in my values, my training, and my solid belief that everyone deserves to be happy and included.

Because they do.

In Part II, I’ll share more about my role in working with Jon, Kate and Dan. I’ll also talk some about what it means to be “humanistic” in coaching… and I’ll hint a bit at how we’re going to get everyone on the same page and pointing forward.


For folks who like to know more, here are the references from this post:

Brouwer, P. J. (1964). The power to see ourselves. Harvard Business Review, 42(6), 156-165.

Helen Sanderson and Associates. (2007). Person centred thinking. Liberty, Missouri: HSA, USA.

Pearpoint, J., O’Brien, J., & Forest, M.  (1993). PATH: Planning possible positive futures. Inclusion Press:  Toronto.

Peterson, D. (1996). Executive coaching at work: The art of one-on-one change. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 48(2), 78-86.

Stober, D. R. & Grant, A. M. (eds.) (2006). Evidence based coaching handbook: Putting the best practices to work for your clients. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Values: Passion meets Purpose

values dance intuition validation gratitude creative worth love respect success flourish happiness connection flow sing positive possible pointing forward play help love beauty balanced supportive authenticity respect fun generosity integrity open Collaborative growth self-determination rest purpose bliss rest warmth nature celebration love joy delight holistic balanced supportive learning inclusive diverse fun sing breathe I mentioned Jennifer Lee’s The Right-Brain Business Plan in a Happy Quote last week and promised you’d hear more about this book and Jennifer’s smart insights.

Well, here we go…

Just to get your toe wet, we’re starting with a simple concept.

What’s that, Gina?


Okay. Maybe not so simple. But it is a fundamental element of any business, project, faith, school, book, blog… well, it’s a foundational element of life.

As Jennifer points out, “When you’re aligned with your values, you’ll feel fulfilled and energized, and that is what people will resonate with the most.”

So, if you aren’t sure what you  — or what the folks you interact with — value, you’re leaving some pretty important stuff up to the prevailing winds. So, in interest of full disclosure, I’ve typed my value words into a cool little Wordle (thanks, Jonathan!) for all to see. And, while I have to admit that it’s a pretty graphic, it’s more than just words to me. These concepts bring up strong emotions when I read and think about them. That’s how I know they are my values — they are important to me and when I am not living according to my values — in my passion and purpose — I’m not happy.

But when I am in the flow — WHEW — get outta my way because nothing is gonna stop me from realizing my goals.

Except for one tiny truth: my proverbial cross to bear, the mixed blessing, my Achilles heal is that I am hardwired — trained from infancy — to put others first. So, nothing I ever do is completely about me and my goals. After years of therapy, we’ve pretty much decided that it isn’t going to be. Evidently, I’ve inherited a PhD in Empathy from my Grandmommy Wandi and, like the procrastination thing, I’ve decided to stop fighting it.

So, in short, the good news for everyone around me is that I am passionate about integrity, authenticity, inclusiveness, accessibility, self-determination, joy, and connection. My purpose is to nurture and guide folks safely and smoothly through change — transitions and transformations. I help people define and pursue their unique and authentic purposes.

Ahhhh. Feels so good to know who you are… feels even better to actually be who you are.

Which leads me to this: Where does your passion meet your purpose? What makes you sing? What makes you banana crackers when it doesn’t happen?

What do you value?

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