On My Mind – 12 – Working Around vs Working Through


And perhaps the one thing

that you have spent your 

life working around is the

one thing you are meant to

work through instead.

The above is a quote from Chloe Wade’s Heart Talk which has many, many gems but this one stopped me on my tracks as I was listening.  As I get older, one of the things I’ve been making peace with is that I am unlikely to change a drastic amount at this point. And maybe even more than that, that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with me. Like most people, I have my flaws and I have my advantages. I still work on myself a lot and try to be the best version of me as often as I can. But I’ve shifted my perspective to focus more on who I already am and working with myself instead of always judging myself or trying to be something I am not.

But one of the side effects of this kind of thinking is that I work around things more often now. As I opened my book and read these lines, I thought to myself, should I be working through things more? Is my new way of thinking getting in the way of progress in some areas? And I guess here’s what I’ve concluded.

I still do have things I want to work through but some of them will come naturally and others will be forced upon me by circumstance. And there will still be things I work around, or maybe around is the wrong word here, these will be things I own and just work with them. Instead of judging myself, I will just acept them and own them, like how I like to get to the airport hours early. This is who I am and I am okay with that. 

But then this quote made me think that maybe there are also things that I just drop. Things that I don’t work through or around but I just release them. I don’t have to hold on to this stress anymore. I don’t have to worry about them and maybe I don’t have a lot of working “through” but it’s things I can just let go. I spend so much time worrying and judging and beating myself up. I overworry about details that don’t end up mattering at all in the end. And maybe part of growing up, growing older is also just letting some things completely go. So that’s what’s on my mind this week. 

My plan is to pay attention in the next few weeks to which things I am working around. Where I feel like i am spinning longer than necessary, etc. And then to give myself a moment to think whether they can be dropped. My hope is that at least some of them can. 

On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 10 – Giving Grace

I had a car accident last week. 

While I’m okay, my kids are ok, the other person’s ok and even the car is mostly okay, it still shook me of course and it comes with a lot of inconveniences around insurance, body shops, having to function without my car for a while, etc. etc. But none of these inconveniences matter as much as how hard i’ve been on myself about all of this.

I don’t do well with causing problems. I don’t do well with disappointing or letting others down. I never want to be a burden. I want to help and never hurt.

So when I am in situations like this, it’s really hard for me give myself the grace that would be really easy to give to my husband, friends, or my kids. I just have this endless loop in my head about all the things I should have done instead, all the ways this will bring harm to the people I love, all the ways in which I am such a burden.

And on and on it goes into a spiral of crazy proportions. 

So this time around, I am trying really hard to give myself grace.

I have the kindest husband in the world, who is saying all the right things and trying really hard to coach me through this. My family is kind and supportive and loving and want me to remember to focus on the fact that this could have gone much more poorly and that we are all feeling well. And I am trying to remind myself that problems are part of life. Things won’t always go right. I’ve been incredibly lucky in my life that so much has gone right and I don’t want to dishonor that by exaggerating the impact of things that go wrong. 

But it’s still tough. And I am having to work hard to coach myself and to give myself so much grace and not to let the negative tapes in my head own the conversation. I know that to some people this is a nothing. It’s annoying sure, but come on already, a lot of people have accidents and no one was hurt and move on already. But that’s not how I’m built. And what makes me this way is also the same thing that allows me to be empathetic and caring to others and careful when I make decisions and on and on.  I firmly believe that the characteristics that serve us so much also have a shadow side that make life difficult when in different circumstances.

So I don’t think this will change. I don’t even want to change it. But what I want to do is learn to cope with it better when it happens. Learn to slow down and give myself the big, big dose of grace I need. 

So I’ve been trying to do that. Here’s to hoping I can get better at it each time. 



On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 09 – On the Path to Stronger


My word for this year is Strong. 

Strong has a lot of meanings. And while my goal is to get mentally and emotionally stronger this year, I first picked this word because I wanted to get physically stronger. I want to end 2018 considerably stronger than I started it. While I would also like to be thinner, fitter, and healthier, my first priority is still to get stronger. 

Over the course of my life, I’ve been thin and I’ve been relatively healthy but I’ve never been strong. It’s just not an adjective I would associate with myself. I can’t bench heavy weights, I can’t do pull ups, in fact I probably couldn’t carry either of my children at this point. (They are not babies anymore!)

I have some problems on my back and neck and jaw and I’ve always had chronic pain. But I’ve lived with it forever and I will say that I’m likely in less pain now than I’ve been in most of my life. I am also stronger now, too. I’ve been going to the gym at work for at least 3 times a week since last August. That’s six months of solid exercise. 

But it’s nowhere near enough.

And I’ll be honest that I don’t have it in me to spend two hours at the gym each day. I don’t have the initial strength and the ongoing discipline to push boundaries here.

And yet. 

And yet, I have this huge ache to get stronger. I watch instagram videos of women who can lift heavy weights, do pull ups and otherwise have the skills I seem to be craving. If only watching others would make me stronger, I’d have totally won by now. 

Alas, it does not.

So I want to work on this a little at a time and make consistent progress. My path to stronger is going to have to look like slow and steady progress. I did the Whole 30, 10mins of cardio, 10mins if strength, 10 mins of stretching in January and 30 days of yoga in February and now I want to make a new goal for March. Something I can do every single day regardless of where I am and how busy I am that day. Something that’s a clear indication that I am getting stronger. Something that builds my muscles, my cardiovascular health, and my mind. 

I understand that the path to strong is long and arduous but some days I just wish it weren’t so hard.

On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 08 – Look Forward to, Like Doing, vs Like Having Done

Those of you who’ve read here a while will not be shocked to hear that I do many, many things each week. I try to set specific goals for myself and then I also try to achieve them. I am an Upholder so the only person I need to be accountable to is myself. I work hard to honor who I want to become. 

I was thinking on the drive home this morning that while I do a lot of things, I think people assume that I feel the same way about all the things I do and that I must really have good sense of discipline. One of the things I’ve learned as I get older and live more and more intentionally is that if I wait until I feel like doing things, I will never do them. There are many many many things in my life I do because I know that I will be glad I did and not because I like doing them. In fact I’d say there are three categories for me:

  • Look forward to doing: These are things I can’t wait to do. I really love doing them and I am excited when I know the time is coming. There are very few items on this list: reading, some vacations, hugging my family, date with certain friends and resting/sleeping. That might be it. There are many one-off items on this list but routinely I probably only really look forward to these few things. 
  • Like Doing: These are things that I don’t always look forward to but as soon as I start doing them I love them. I am immediately glad I am doing them. This is a wide list for me but here are some examples: tucking nathaniel in, taking math classes with the kids, body pump, yoga, stretching, vacations that aren’t on the previous list, online classes, spending time helping my kids, volunteering at the kids’ school, scrapping/art/journaling etc.
  • Like Having Done: This is, by far, the biggest list for me. These are things that I know are good for me but I rarely naturally want to do them and I don’t always enjoy doing them (sometimes I might but it’s not consistent enough to make it to the previous list). Many of the growth areas of my life (or the chores) would fall in this category. Things like: cardio/barre type exercise, eating healthy most of the time, getting up early, driving kids to their extracurriculars, picking kids up from the school, cleaning out my email, packing lunches for the kids, crossing off all my todos, self care like getting my hair or nails done. Putting cream on my body, flossing, etc. 

I try to have a healthy distribution of the three things but the third bucket is always biggest for me. I don’t like doing these things any more than the next person but I try to balance it out by having enough things in the other two and by reminding myself that I am always grateful at the end and that these efforts accumulate. It’s a lot of self-awareness, tracking outcomes, and self coaching to remind myself that it’s worth it.

Now that I am seeing it all laid out in front of me, one of the things I want to work on is balancing each throughout my day/week. I want to make sure I do combination of these every day and each week. The weeks when it’s so much more of one vs the other are always the weeks I feel off balance. Even when it’s all #1 and none of the other two. I benefit from having all three in my life. 

And of course there are things that i do that I don’t like to do and am not glad I did, but I try to reduce those as much as possible. Those can accumulate into a life that feels draining and bitter and that’s something I don’t want to experience any more if I can help it. 


On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 07 – Not Sorry

I’m not on many newsletters anymore, mostly because I never have time to keep up with the emails and then I find myself getting annoyed when they pile up. So I’ve unsubscribed from any of them that send content frequently enough to annoy me. Susannah Conway is one of the few I still receive and I often like reading what’s on her mind.

Here’s what she shared this week from her instagram in response to it being her 45th birthday:

This feels like a really massive pivot point, as if this is truly my mid-way point between birth and death (assuming I make it to 90). I’m not having a midlife crisis, but rather I’m feeling a sense of “well that’s it then, NO MORE MESSING AROUND!” I am utterly grown-up and know myself so thoroughly I don’t want to apologise for anything anymore. Not that I have been, but there is always a lingering “sorry” somewhere isn’t there. Sorry if I’m taking up too much space. Sorry if I’m speaking about things I shouldn’t speak about. Sorry if my beliefs don’t match yours…

Having true as one of my core desired feelings this really resonated with me. I find that I definitely also have a lingering “sorry” all the time and I want to put it down. I don’t have any desire to be arrogant or full of myself. But I do want to be able to own who I am and just make peace with it. 

This doesn’t mean I don’t continue to grow and improve, those are my core values and I will always work on myself. But, I don’t want to spend my life apologizing. I don’t want to choose to be with people around whom this feeling is heightened. I want to be able to embrace me. Embrace who I already am, both the goods and the bads. 

Glennon Doyle Melton often speaks about how we can do hard things but we can’t do easy things and this is so very true for me. I have a hard time with small, easy daily life things that so many people seem to move through seamlessly and yet I can do many things others would consider hard. Instead of beating myself up about the small things, I just want to learn to acknowledge this about myself, get the help I need for the easy things and spend my energy on the hard things.

I know that so much of life is about learning who you are and making peace with that instead of fighting who you should be. And as I approach my mid-life, I want to make sure to remember that not only intellectually but in my being. I want to shift my mindset and way of living so it honors who I am more and leads me to a more fulfilling life. 

One without unnecessary apologies.

On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 06 – Keeping it Fresh

I’ve been thinking a lot about taking chances lately. Risks. Jumping into unknowns. Stretching. 

One of my Core Desired Feelings for 2018 is “fresh.” When I picked that word, here’s what I wrote:

Maybe this is my brave word for this year. Fresh to me means something that’s new to me, something that stretches me, helps me grow and learn. Something that keeps me engaged and makes me feel alive. Something different. An adventure. A permission to explore.

I look at that and I am uncomfortable a little bit. I am the kind of person who likes routine. Predictability. Consistency. Those are words that represent me. They don’t really sit side by side with adventure and stretching. But I also have an endless thirst to grow, reflect, learn. So that thirst often propels me to step into situations that are scary for me.

In 1999, I got the opportunity to take a six-month job in Tokyo. At the time, I was living in New York City with my husband and we had no kids. My work was okay but not great. This job, while in the same company, was for a manager I really liked. But I didn’t know a word of Japanese and I was really really scared to go. 

Which is why I went. 

I figured if I was this scared, this would be an opportunity for growth. I thought about it, tried to be logical, but honestly in the end it was all about my gut. My gut screamed “go! go! go!” so I went. 

And It was tough. But it was also amazing. I wouldn’t take back those months ever. They are still some of my best in my life. 

When I look back at my life, I notice that all the times that I really loved, I was taking a risk. Moving to NY, living in Japan, quitting my job to teach in the Bronx, moving out of NY, our cross-country trip, moving to San Diego, moving to the Bay Area, asking to work from home.  And of course having my kids.

These are all cases when I walked into the unknown. I hoped and prayed for the best. I had really tough moments. But I remember each of them with joy now. It’s what makes my life interesting and full. Growing, while tough, is also really rewarding.

I’ve found myself in a similar situation lately and my gut is screaming at me again. Here’s to taking leaps. To feeling the freshness of the unknown.


On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 05 – Saying No

Last week I wrote all about saying Yes. Very soon after all those thoughts came to my mind, I also thought about how it was important that I get better at saying No. I am a helpful person by nature and I am also extremely productive so I can easily get myself into a situation where I do the work of 3-4 people. Which isn’t a problem by itself, but it can become one. 

Especially if I sign up for things that are a bad combination for me. For example, one of the volunteer positions I hold for the kids’ school is working with two other parents and coordinating an event that happens three times a year. Partly because I didn’t understand the requirements well and partly because my working style is so wildly different that the other two, this one job has driven me to tears a few times this year already. It takes away energy I don’t have and adds stress that is not worth it. I should quit this job. 

But I can’t. I feel bad because I’ve committed so it feels wrong to walk away before the year is out. I’ve tried to quit a few times and I haven’t been able to do it. But I really should. I will say that I’d committed to some other volunteer position at the kids school which would actually start next year and I did back out of that after my experience here. I just don’t have it in me to commit to two years on something that might turn out to be just as poor a fit for me. I still volunteer a lot at the school. I teach once a week and I am Nathaniel’s class-mom and I organize the snacks for Math Counts. 

None of these things help my kids much but they help me be involved in the school and form connections and appreciate the school more. All of which are good things. But it’s time to say no. This work and especially the stress of this work is getting in the way of actual time I could be spending with my kids or husband or by myself or even working. All of those are more rewarding. 

And I need to learn to say No. I need to understand that I always overfill my life and that’s actually okay (for me.) What’s not ok is not being careful about what I fill it with. Things that suck energy are not allowed. Things that make me cry definitely are not allowed. So I need to learn to say no, I need to learn to quit, I need to learn to let things go.

As I often tell my clients, saying yes to something is saying no to something else (even if that other thing isn’t super visible to you at that moment.) This is also true the other way around. Saying No to something means I am saying Yes to something else and I need to remember this. 

So here’s to saying No more.

On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 04 – Saying Yes

As we were enjoying our vacation this weekend, I had this overwhelming thought that I wanted to start saying YES to everything. I don’t really know how to explain this but I am going to try. 

I was looking at my kids and thinking about how they are already halfway (if not more) to leaving our house. They are certainly not little anymore. They are growing up and our time with them is getting more and more precious. And I love them to bits and I have really really good kids. So I just want to say yes to everything they want. Can I have another cookie? Yes. Can I stay up a bit longer tonight? Yes. Would you get this for me? Yes. Can we go to this place? Yes. 

Yes. yes. yes.

I know that sounds crazy. But I am not saying I will say yes to the 400th cookie or that they can stay up all night. My kids are pretty reasonable but every now and then they want the extra cookie. And I just want to say yes. (until it’s a no, which is next week’s discussion.) If I can say yes, if it’s something I can do, I want to do it. I want to support them and make their childhood magical. Not just with cookies, late nights, and things to buy. I know those are superficial and don’t set the right values. But I want to do all of it. All the other things like experiences, time spent working together, time spending playing together, going on adventures, trying new things, whatever it is, if I can say yes, I want to say yes. Yes to life together. Yes to making it magical for you. Yes to us.

This isn’t just for my kids either, I want to do this for my husband, too. These are the people I share my day to day life with and it’s so easy for me to slip into taking them for granted or for us to get lost in the grind of life or it’s easy for me to just default to no. But honestly, it’s just a reflex. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about why not. 

I know this might not make sense to most people. Maybe you think I will spoil my children but I know my kids and I am not afraid of that. I want them to have a million memories of love with me and saying yes is a big part of that. Especially considering my default, it will also be the first step for me to be braver, more magical, more adventurous.

Here’s to saying YES more.

On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 03 – Self-Care

One of my goals for this month has been trying to take things up a notch when working on Nourishing myself. Part of that has been exercise, part of it has been nutrition and then part of it has been kindness to my body like taking care of my skin, flossing, sleeping enough etc. 

But then another component was self-care. I wrote that I’d get one bonus point for a Self-Care item. When I wrote that down, I didn’t have a lot of ideas about what that could be, so I made a list for myself. Here’s what I had there:

  • face mask
  • soaking my feet
  • bubble bath
  • essential oils
  • mani/pedicure 
  • getting my hair done
  • connecting with friends
  • massage
  • meditate
  • nap

So that’s my list. But I would like to expand this list a lot more. I would like to end up with 30 items so I have something different to pick each day and some days I might want to do several to pamper myself.  I also want to understand what self-care means to me. Many of these are taking care of my body more but what about my soul and my mind, how do I practice self-care on those? Obviously journaling and art help. And meditation can serve both, but I still want to find others.

That’s what’s on my mind this week. I’d love to hear your ideas if you have some.

On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 02 – The Boring Middle


I haven’t felt like doing art lately. I still find myself going to the websites of different art courses and looking wistfully. There is a big part of me that wants to jump in and take all the classes. Watercolors, sketching, art journaling, give me all of them. 

But here’s the truth: there’s almost no magic to learning something new. Sure, there’s proper technique and there are materials that make it easier than others and there’s perspective, etc etc. But the biggest trick in learning something is putting in the hard work. It’s not the shiny beginning but the boring, long, dull, windy, and frustrating middle that matters most. You don’t just start. You have to show up again and again and again. Day after day. Even when you think you suck. Especially when you think you suck. When you’re tired. When you are frustrated, when you want to give up. When you believe there’s no way you can ever get this right. When you are convinced you have no talent whatsoever (and then remember that you believe in growth mindset.) 

If you want to see results, you have to show up again and again. This isn’t just true for art, of course. It’s true for music. For eating well. For exercising. For work. For school. For anything where you want to achieve consistent and positive results, you have to do the work. 

There are times when the work feels like fun. Some people love running. The endorphins, the joy of the fresh air on their face, and their feet hitting the dirt road is all they seek. To them, exercise is not hard work. Some people love cooking. Preparing nutritious meals is not their boring middle. There are things that we love to do so we make time for them. Like I do with books.

But then there are things that don’t come naturally. That require discipline and planning to do. Art is like that for me. (So is exercising and eating well!) And even though I’ve loved doing the monthly art pieces, I just haven’t been feeling it. And because I am not feeling it, I am not showing up regularly. And because I am not showing up regularly, I am really out of shape. So it’s that much more frustrating when I do show up because I’ve rusted. 

So that’s what on my mind this week. How do I get myself to fall in love with art again? How do I make room for it in my daily life? How do I continue to foster this because I know that when I do do art regularly, I am always happier. Always.

It’s just a matter of finding my way back.



On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 01 – Karen’s Point System

Years ago, when I was in my twenties and lived in New York City, I did Weight Watchers. There are many reasons I thought it was effective, but, by far, my favorite thing about it was that every single thing I ate had a numerical value attached to it. I am good with numbers. I liked having a number that helped me make decisions. I had 18 points a day and if I wanted a piece of chocolate, all I had to do was decide if the chocolate was worth four points. That was almost 20% of my daily points. If it was worth it, I’d eat it and if I thought it wasn’t, I wouldn’t. This is when I pretty much gave up pizza and muffins. Knowing how many points they were, there was never a time when I thought either of those two were worth it. Being able to look at food this way, as in I get something but I also give up something, made it easier for me to make a decision. In general, I think if we could all see the cost as well as the benefit easily, I think decision making becomes more fair and clearer. 

Anyhow, so I as I was thinking about 2018 and my goal to nourish myself better and my goal to get stronger and my goal to focus on self-care more, I decided maybe a point system can help me here, too. So I am going to try this out. We’ll see if it’s effective.

Here’s how I am breaking things out:

  • Exercise
    • Minimum 10 minutes of Cardio  – 1 point
    • Minimum 10 minutes of Strength Training – 1 point
    • Minimum 10 minutes of Stretching – 1 point
    • Minimum 5 minutes on the muscle roller – 1 point
  • Food
    • Each Meal that contains fat, fiber, protein – 1 point, up to 3 points
    • Caffeine-free day – 1 point
    • (Processed) Sugar-free day – 1 point
  • Self-Care
    • Floss – 1 point
    • Skin Cream – 1 point
    • Face Wash – 1 point
    • 8-hours of sleep – 1 point
    • Journaling/Art – 1 point
    • Any Extra Care including: mask, bath, oils, etc. – 1 bonus point

This is where I will start. This might look overwhelming to most people and the list might not make sense to you, these are things I want to work on so they make sense to me. It’s a way to keep myself honest. I specifically decided not to have any negative points. This is not about what I won’t do but more about what I will do. This is my January plan and as I do it, I will come up with a plan for February so we’ll see what happens there. I leave for Sydney on the last day of January so it will be a good reflection point for me. 

If I am doing my math right, the maximum points possible for a day are: 15 (including the bonus point).  

I am not sure if this is crazy or brilliant or something in between. I will find out. I strongly believe that the key to success in being intentional and I believe this will help me stay intentional about my goals. And if it turns out this doesn’t work, then we’ll try something new.

On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.