I am the winding path -
I invite you to find your way.
I am the swaying grass -
I invite you to bend and not break.
I woke this morning filled with thoughts of our son Ryan. On this day, 28 years ago, we were holding him as he took his last breaths. He passed peacefully. Life was forever changed in that moment.
I always enter this day with a sense of wonder. How will it be this year? What will be stirred in me as I remember him and his short life?
This morning I asked him to co-create the experience with me.
Mid-Century Modern design is having a renaissance right now. It’s an architectural and interior design style popular from mid 1930’s to 1960’s. It really peaked in the 1950’s.
Style signatures include ample windows and open floor plans designed to create a sense of spaciousness. The intention was to open interiors spaces and brings the outdoors in.
As I sit in my own version of mid-century (I’m 54), I realize that there is an evolving state of being that I am embodying. A new normal is emerging. It’s a bit of a dance as some of it is intentional and some of is inspired by life’s natural rhythms.
Many of the elements mirror the descriptors of midcentury architecture and design – clean simplicity, organic, integration with nature, streamlined, abundant light, flexible.
I am choosing simple over complex.
I am choosing to be more open – with my stories, my heart, my dreams.
I am consciously claiming space in my own life to cultivate creativity and expression. By simplifying other things, I’m focusing more on writing and sharing ideas. It feels important to be doing this. It also feels like a gift of service.
I am choosing to be more integrated with the things that I love and value. This means getting really clear on what I say YES to and NO to.
I am choosing to engage in community in different ways – more simple, organic and fluid. Previously I would engage in more formal structures like Boards and committees. I’m seeing that I can share my time in ways that serve and that are also more flexible and responsive.
I am choosing to integrate with, and be fed by, nature’s wisdom. This is spirit work for me and it fills my cup to walk in forests, watch the clouds, and swim in lakes. It’s a sensory experience that stirs my heart and grounds me.
I am becoming more organic and textured as my body and being transforms at this stage of life. As menopause shifts me I am working to ride the waves in a way that is gentle, compassionate and curious. In a way, it reminds me of child bearing where I had to be completely open to each of the unfolding stages. I learned then that it’s better to dance with the waves and experiences rather than to try and control them. Even though my body is completing a cycle, I sincerely feel that something new is being birthed. It’s cool (she writes while having a hot flash).
So, my version of being a woman at mid-century is about being present, aware, asserting choices and keeping things simple. It’s a conscious life architecture that is also influencing my leadership. It’s an unfolding and I’m enjoying this time as it feels expansive. It certainly feels like more light is coming into my being.
I’ll end with this quote as it is a perfect description of how I am experiencing this phase of life.
“The more in harmony you are with the flow of your own existence,
the more magical life becomes.”
"Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it." ~ Buddha
We've all heard the phrase 'there is an elephant in the room'. It's code for a difficult issue or significant problem that people don't feel comfortable talking about. It has a power and weight to it that can immobilize an organization or team. However, despite being unspoken the "elephant" issue is either consciously or unconsciously impacting relationships and the ability to get things done.
I believe we should learn to embrace the elephant in the room. Yes, it means that there is some force causing people to be uncomfortable and not talk about something. It's an energy that is big and unmovable. In fact, it could be something that is so sacred, fearful or important that no one wants to go near it. Isn't that usually a signal of something of vital importance that has to be courageously and respectfully explored?
Elephants as a species are powerful. They are very strong and they are gentle. They are loyal. They are patient. It is often said that elephants do not forget nor do they forgive. They are also associated with having great wisdom and compassion. They will fiercely protect what is important to them.
I would like to shift the perspective on elephants in the room. I believe that when the elephants emerge in team processes it's a signal of something transformative unfolding. It may be a bold change that is on the verge of happening. It could be a shift in dialogue that is becoming more open and honest; that the true essence of something important is being revealed. The elephant tension denotes vulnerability and diversity of opinion emerging.
Elephant energy can feel edgy. However, when we embrace it and explore it we can reveal important things that untended to will limit change, innovation or brave new visions from emerging. When we pause to honour the elephant, to name it and work with its energy, we are tapping into a wisdom force that needs to be honoured in order to move forward.
In my experience coaching teams, I often call out the elephant(s). I draw one on a flip chart and ask the team what it is. I playfully identify that the elephant(s) are in the room. I then ask people to pause and quietly reflect on what elephants are present and to write them on a post it note. Everyone gets to put them on the elephant. From there we group them by similar themes. This is a way of revealing the voices of the system; often the marginalized or unpopular ones.
Once we see the themes, we create conditions for people to talk about the elephants. It requires a tenderness and respect in how people talk about them. I always ask about the elephant wisdom and how it is trying to serve at this time. We explore what is needed so that this wisdom can be considered as we go forward.
While it may be easier to ignore the elephants because they take energy to deal with, I find that when teams can talk about the elephants in a curious and supportive way they release energy that blocks them from true creative collaboration. Acknowledging and processing the elephants can be a bonding process. It is a way of sharing history and story of an organization in a constructive manner. By speaking of the elephants some of their power is diminished. It frees up energy and opens awareness to what people want to see happen. Elephant exploration helps rewire the collective brains of the team so that new energy can be realized.
It is my wish that instead of ignoring or marginalizing the elephants in the room, that we embrace them and actively invite them into conversations. Only then can we access their wisdom so we can move forward together in more productive and positive ways.
We have much to learn from elephants. The following is a description of the attributes of elephants from a shamanistic perspective. May we embrace these qualities for the sake of healthy and vibrant team relationships and organizational cultures.
"Elephants can teach us that gentleness, commitment, and communication in relationships is very powerful and necessary to keep relationships alive, trusting and loving, whether it be friends, family or partner. Deeply committed to all creatures with whom they have relationships, elephants are tough when protecting others and gentle when nurturing them. The matriarch (the oldest, most experienced female leader of a herd) leads in a way that is both gentle and inclusive. Elephants are able to communicate telepathically. This can teach us how to truly listen to others."
Today is all about Father's. I find myself reflecting on the Dads that are part of my immediate family. Each is a teacher to me. I am grateful and today celebrate them.
First, my own Dad Oren Claude Frood. He's been gone from my life since I was 29 yet I feel his spirit every day. He was charismatic, funny, creative, kind hearted, logical, and wickedly smart. He was also tortured, sad and lost. He and I shared a special bond. The kind where you could just be with the other, not talk and yet we spoke volumes to each other through our hearts. In fact, he was the person who taught me most about empathy. To this day I can still hear his hearty laugh and see his eyes sparkly with mischief.
I was blessed to have William Charles Hawke for a father in law. He quickly became my local Dad. He and I had a unique relationship in that we worked together for nine years. He was also a match maker as he set Peter and I up on our first date. We joked that ours was an arranged marriage. As a Dad, Bill wanted the best for his kids. He wanted them to achieve success in whatever they did. He was proud of each one of them for following a passion. Bill wrote poems for every occasion. He also wrote words that no one else could find as part of the eulogy for our son Ryan when he died. Bill was a very social guy and brought out his goofy, funny side often. However, I was privileged to see his deeply caring and compassionate side on many occasions. I learned a lot about loyalty and heart from Bill.
Then, there is my brother Peter Cameron Frood. Together, with his wife Francoise Cooper Bouchard, he has modelled what it’s like to unapologetically adore your kids. I have watched closely how he has loved and nurtured them through each of their life stages. He is a proud papa bear for sure. He too brings a good humour and teases relentlessly. He has gifted his kids with adventures in life and has modelled setting goals and going for them. His go with the flow state of being has been a powerful antidote to the sometimes intense life we experienced in our birth family. I’ve adopted that in my parenting style and am full of gratitude for the model of parenting he has shown – as Dad and now a Grandpa.
I also want to recognized the wonderful Barry Mark Moore. He is also a devoted Dad. When I think of Mark I think of play. His inner child is alive and well. He is a man of music and has a deep commitment to God, I have seen how he has woven his core values into parenting. His love for family in unparalleled. His care and concern for community has inspired his family to engage deeply in the lives of their friends and community. His commitment to playing in nature, exploring on a bike or communing through music has created many cherished moments with his family. Through Mark I have learned the power of being with not just doing as a parent.
Next I think of my nephew Jonathan Gerard Frood. On the Frood side, he is the first of the next gen to have a child. Seeing him step into this role seriously melts my heart. His pride and joy in being a Dad is pure joy to witness. His intentionality in wanting to be the best teacher, guide and champion for his son Logan is a reminder to me of the importance of the role of parent. His desire to inspire Logan to follow a sporty life is so much fun to watch. The world of opportunity is open to this little guy if you see the abundance of every type of ball or sporting equipment he already has. However, Jon also wants to inspire a love of reading and music, of being a social being and make sure he passes on the legacy of fun and play.
I am also equally inspired by our nephew Christopher James Kroeker. He too has taken on the role of Dad with an abundant heart. He joyfully plays and creates with his kids. The laughter and fun that is in his heart comes through his interactions with Aubrey and Everett. As a next gen father he’s found a way for Dad’s to bond by creating the Midnight Dad’s Club. It’s kind of a play zone for Dad’s to unit and spend time together. From Chris I’ve learned that parenting does not forego having fun.
Recently, I’ve been blessed with getting to know and love another Dad. Lorne Murray Hay is my dear friend Kat’s Dad. I’ve been an orphan for a while as my parents both died when I was younger. Lorne, and his beloved wife Betty, adopted me with open hearts. At 53, the opportunity to have Lorne in my life is a great joy. To find someone who can give a hug like only a Dad can at this stage of life is amazing. Lorne is a great story teller and I love hearing about the threads of his life that have shaped him to be the wonderful man he is.
Last, and definitely not least, I want to celebrate Peter James Hawke. Pete and I entered into parenting in a very precarious way. We were intentional and ready. Yet our first son Ryan had other plans for our parenting journey. He was born early and very ill. When Ryan died Pete was solid, steady and always present. He was also open with his own vulnerability and fears. He journeyed with me through the healing work of grief. He was stalwart in his commitment that we would survive our loss together.
Then came the lights of our lives – Shannon and Jason. Since the day they showed up, Pete’s mission has been to be a devoted Dad. I have a movie reel of images in my mind of many sweet moments he’s shared with them. All I know is how deeply he loves them, how he’s celebrated them at each stage of life they’ve achieved, and how much he savours the time we spend with them now that they’ve flown the nest. I love both his devotion to our kids and how fully alive he is when he’s with them. He is a proud Papa and I am blessed to share the role of parent with him. Through Pete I have learned the artistry of co-creation and the power of strengths partnering for a common mission – the wellbeing of our kids.
So, these are the Dad’s that I celebrate today. They are an extraordinary group of men who value family, love, commitment, and caring connection. I can’t help but notice that they all share common threads -- those of humour as they all tease and have wicked wits and how they show their love through play and being fully present.
NOTE-- Why I’m using full names. I recently had an amazing experience with a healer, energy worker and musician. He taught me that our unique essence as human and spiritual beings comes through in the architecture of our name. We each have a unique rhythm that is rooted in the syllables of our names. So I am using the full names of these awesome men as another way of honouring their spirits.
Where am I from?
Where am I going?
What is my purpose?
Who do I want to be?
These are the four questions that Justice Murray Sinclair stated are at the heart of all Indigenous people as they quest for meaning in this life. He said exploring these questions is part of the healing that must unfold as part of the Truth and Reconciliation process in Canada.
Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, is one of my favourite thought leaders. This quote of his spurred me to reflect on both the power and vulnerability of standing in the place of "I don't know". "When we say what we don't know, it increases the likelihood that someone who does know will offer to help."
I was asked to provide comments for an article related to separation anxiety that occurs when parents return to work and children enter some form of childcare. Here's where my reflections took me. Being an individual with a career is one thing but being a working parent trying to focus on balancing two important roles -- dedicated professional AND parent -- causes many people to be stretched.
For me to feel optimistic I must trust. Without trust my optimism waivers. That is what I find myself pondering after this year's (2013) State of the City Address by our Mayor of London, Ontario (Joe Fontana). Having attended these events regularly I'm noticing a different feeling leaving the event this year. I'm feeling subdued and reflective. I noticed that the audience also seemed subdued as well.
Yesterday I experienced what it’s like to go against the flow. It provoked me to consider how hard it is to be the person in any situation who approaches things from a very different perspective. As I reflect on the experience I hope that I will now have more empathy and understanding for the experience of those who choose not to comply or conform and are equally convicted in their goals and approach them in a different way. Situation: A Blue Jays versus Boston Red Sox game had just completed in Toronto.
Twenty one years ago to this day I became a Mom for the first time. Our son Ryan Frood Hawke was born prematurely at 29 weeks. He has forever changed my life. Today he is my greatest mentor and guide. His life of five weeks was short and yet powerful in many ways. His life and death caused a major shift in my life that woke me up to my calling and the work I do today. I am abundantly thankful for the imprint that Ryan has left on me.
Clarity of vision and values provide a powerful force to living a life of intention and fulfillment. Success is easier to achieve when you can move towards your preferred life and future with focus. It’s easier to know what to say YES to. However, another important advantage of clarity and yet rarely talked about is the ability to get really strategic about when to say NO.
Our vulnerability is the source of our greatest power. It’s also the access point for your life purpose. Bold statements I know. In fact, I know many will not agree. And that’s fine. I’ll offer a perspective from the greatest teacher - life. If nothing else, I hope that it might provoke new thoughts and new awareness. Vulnerability is being exposed. Vulnerability is not knowing. Vulnerability is scary. Most people do anything to mask vulnerability. Sometimes though, life creates circumstances beyond our control. No matter what, you simply cannot pretend that everything is "OK".
GET REAL -- In life. In leadership. In relationships. What does GET REAL mean to you? For every person reading this GET REAL means something vastly different. That’s the beauty of our humanity. That’s why it’s also important to not make assumptions, on this or any other topic. GET REAL came to me as a button. Over the years, I’ve often worn provoking button messages on my jacket lapel.