Say Yes. Think After.

(I posted this on LinkedIn on 4/5/2017.)

My son is a cancer survivor. Stay with me, this post is not about that. He was diagnosed with stage four cancer at age three. He beat the odds stacked against him and is now 11. I have been writing our memoir about that time for seven years. That’s not a typo. Years. There are all sorts of reasons and excuses for this, but if I’m truly honest with myself, the main reason is that… I stopped saying yes to myself.

I’ve been pretty unhappy in one area of my life. I allowed that stagnation to seep into every other aspect of who I am. I didn’t even know it was happening. I stopped listening to music in my car. I never took my full lunch hour, choosing instead to watch stupid TV while sitting at my desk. I gained weight. I gossiped with and about others (and I know they gossiped about me; if someone does it with you, they will do it about you). I was not creating.

A few weeks ago, in a moment of desperation (or clarity?), I signed up to participate in a “Pitchapalooza” event with The Book Doctors. I didn’t think I would get picked to pitch and honestly, I forgot I submitted my name. But, in that moment, I said yes. I would figure out the how later.

A few days before the event, I got an email outlining next steps. “Whoa boy, I guess I am doing this!” The pitch itself was one minute. Whhhhaaaat? One minute to summarize the most traumatic event of my life? I worked furiously. I wrote. I edited. I wrote and edited even more. I went inside and created. I wrote from the heart and it showed in my pitch. I didn’t think. I didn’t over-think. I walked on stage and told.

Here’s my Dear Boys pitch. (Please note that the video was captured by a dear friend of mine whom I recruited one hour before the event. He’s not a professional and my phone is a four year old Android, so be kind, thanks!)

The best things have come to me when I stopped thinking, or really, stopped doubting myself, and said yes. I said yes to the opportunity to stand in front of two incredibly helpful, thoughtful, and successful writers and tell our story. Then, I got three minutes of feedback from them. What a gift!

I learned two important lessons last week. 1: There is indeed an audience and a need for my book and I have the writing chops to make it happen. I will make it happen.

And more important, 2: Start saying yes. I need to think less and do more. Say yes to whatever creative outlet makes me feel alive. For me, those outlets are career coaching, writing, and obsessively redecorating the mantel in my family room. I’ve done a lot more of all three since the event last week. It was less than a week ago. I have made more progress on my memoir than I had in the last three months! Creativity fuels creativity. It is not a well that will dry out, it actually feeds itself.

Say yes first. Think after. Maybe. Say yes to yourself. I’d love to hear where your “yes” takes you!

P.S.- I also recently finished Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes, so I have no doubt that her advice was whispering to me when I signed up. I recommend her book to anyone feeling stuck and looking to make a leap.

#WisdomWednesday #amwriting #memoir #careercoaching #resumewriter

Fighting impostor syndrome with experience

I had an important meeting last week. I think it well. If it did, it could mean new, better, and different things for me professionally. So, of course, I am replaying every minute of it and thinking of all the things I didn’t say. “Oh man! I should have told them about this!” Or, “I forgot to mention that.” I’ve done this dance with impostor syndrome before. Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda.

It was only one week ago and they told me that it would be weeks before I hear anything. But, that’s not stopping me from jumping every time my phone rings or I get an email alert. I have even considered applying for other jobs that I know I don’t want.

I continue to torture myself. I am spending way too much time on social media. Because when I am feeling low about myself, the best place to turn is the internet!

“What’s your brand? I have no idea.

“Want more followers, more money, and more freedom?” Join this webinar, buy my class, and then in 1,000 easy blogging steps and ten years you’ll be an entrepreneur! 

Is your website on-point? Is it SEO? What does that even mean?

If any one of of my clients was talking about- or to- themselves the way I was talking to myself, I would have coached them out of it. And fast. I would never let one of my clients- or a friend- talk to herself that way. So why do I talk to myself that way? When things don’t go according to plan- which is pretty much always- I tend to spiral. It’s one of the many gifts of my east coast, competitive, type A personality.

I am also learning that spiraling is a symptom of lack of self-love.

I love myself. I do. But, I need to stop acting like it is a secret or something to hide. Women tend to be harder on themselves than necessary and downplay their accomplishments. It’s the 1-2 impostor syndrome sucker-punch. I chose “confidence” as my 2016 #oneword for that very reason. I want to get back to feeling grounded, resilient, confident.

I read or heard somewhere that one way to fight impostor syndrome, or any kind of spiral, is to reflect on your accomplishments. To spend time really thinking moments and experiences you are proud of.

I decided to share some of my list here. It was an act of self-love to write these all down. And, I am proud of myself. I am confident.

  • Carried, delivered, and then breastfed two babies
  • Did the above while enrolled as a full-time PhD student
  • Married 13 years to my best friend
  • Earned PhD in 5 years
  • Shepherded 3 yr-old son through cancer, also while a full-time PhD student
  • PhD loan is paid off (there was only one!)
  • Started Sheldrake Consulting so I can help others write their career stories
  • Made money in only 17 months of business
  • All clients have been through referrals; I have not done any serious PR or marketing of my business
  • Successfully negotiated an MBTI workshop rate that was 30% higher than previous year
  • Purchased summer cottage rental property business
  • Have given a FREE week-long vacation to 5 families with childhood cancer survivors
  • Shave head twice with 46 Mommas
  • Served on leadership team of 2 national head-shaving events
  • Raised almost $10,000 in donations for St. Baldrick’s Foundation
  • Got interviewed on live TV (twice)
  • Randomly contacted a stranger on Twitter and then got invited to do a podcast
  • Started writing memoir
  • Go to work. Every day.
  • Continue to raise two kind, honest, loving, affectionate, smart, generous young men who are constantly being complimented on their hearts, behavior, manners and positive attitude

I’m a little high from my list. What’s on your list? Have you taken the time to write it down? Do it. You’ll feel better.

And, if you’re anything like me, your impostor syndrome will go back in its hole where it belongs.




2015 in Review

I hesitated to write this year-in-review post because looking back at 2015, I kept saying to myself, “Not that much happened, really.” I think that’s the thing with mothering and adulting- the days are long, but time flies. And the older I get, the shorter the years feel. So it makes sense that the past year didn’t immediately stick out as remarkable. Sort of.

I spent the early part of this week going through old emails and Outlook calendar appointments. I also deleted a ton of old emails. That was liberating! Taking the time to look back is important. It’s a reminder of the growth that happened and milestones achieved. It’s also totally OK to look back with a sense of pride and feel good about your time.

Turns out my family and I did a lot in 2015. I had a big milestone birthday- 40! Funny that I glossed over that initially. I started a business and a book. These are not small things.

In my experience, women do this a lot. We downplay things for fear of sounding braggy. It’s also a parenting survival strategy; if you dwell too long on the “stuff,” you’ll spin your wheels and get overwhelmed. As 2016 revs up, I vow to not downplay things. I will speak with confidence. I will give myself credit. I have earned it (and so have you!).

Turns out, 2015 was remarkable. In big and small ways. Here are the highlights:

  • February- First annual winter family trip. In Christmas 2014, Santa brought fewer gifts and a little cash for us to go somewhere. We voted for Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City and had a blast! This tradition will definitely continue in 2016.
Collage 2015-02-16 18_56_16

Great Wolf Lodge, Feb 2015


Legit small business owner in Michigan- Sheldrake Consulting!

  • March 15- L reached 5 years off-treatment and is now officially in remission.
  • April 13- L went to his first Long-Term Survivor Follow-Up clinic appointment. He also officially graduated to one appointment/year!
  • April 19- I am godmother to my nephew, Patrick and spent an early birthday with my entire family and best friend back in Jersey.
  • April 21- The BIG 4-0!

Lulu Buttercup- My pink beach cruiser bike!


Celebrating with my boys. Nothin’ better.

  • Late June- As a birthday present to myself, I rented Hilltop Cottage for (and from) myself and my girlfriends and I went away for a kid-free week in the sun. This was one of the best weeks of my life.

PTW with the girls! Fun. Life-giving.

  • Professionally, my colleagues and I survived the summer while down two full-time staff people. We were supervisor-less from August until December. This honestly was one of the more challenging times of my professional life. I learned a big lesson, too. If more responsibilities are forced on you, ask for more money. I didn’t. I should have.
  • June/July- I created a blog series called #SAMid, designed to highlight the joys, struggles, and realities of being a mid-career professional in higher education. Colleagues contribute heartfelt and thought-provoking pieces. Search #SAMid on the blog to find the awesome-ness.
  • Labor Day weekend my mom, Grandmom Jersey, came out to PTW and we all swam in Lake Michigan! In September!
  • In September I was diagnosed with tennis and golfer’s elbow- despite not playing either of those- and began PT. Apparently you can get a “sports” injury from too much typing. Ah, 40.

Physical Therapy ain’t no place for sissies!

  • September is childhood cancer awareness month. I was invited to speak to the Nursing Student Association about our journey. It was a packed house. What an honor!

Thank you, MSU NSA for going #gold!

  • Fall- C’s soccer team, the Okemos Fireants, went undefeated!
  • Fall- I conquered my fear of home improvement and: 1) stained an old desk that is now in my writing corner and 2) painted our coastal living room.
  • November- I participated in #NaNoWriMo and began our family memoir, Dear Boys. I’m 30K words in! Stay tuned for official release in 2016.
  • December brought L’s tenth birthday and our annual trek to Jersey (Joisey!) to visit family and friends.

Whew! What a wonderful year. Looking back on it, we did do a lot. I highly recommend this year-in-review exercise.

Cheers to you. I hope 2015 was a good one for you and yours and that 2016 is even better.

I am lucky and grateful to be here and looking forward, with confidence, to 2016.