Category Archives: Uncategorized

It’s the Who, Not the What

It was the Spring of 1999 and I was taking a break at work. I was planning a trip to Sedona Arizona. Additionally, I had just consolidated all outstanding college-related debt including canceling of all credit cards and was feeling ‘free’ – ready to redefine the trajectory of my somewhat mundane life. I was about to click ‘purchase’ when one of the executives requested a brief discussion in her office.

Three months, and much ‘how-are-you-providing-unique-value-to-our-country’ paperwork later, I was ready to relocate to our office in Sydney Australia. My new ‘Go-to’, or manager, would be Gale. I knew him a little bit but recall knowing that he was highly regarded and would be my main advisor in this consulting role in Gallup’s most recent acquisition. I would also have reporting responsibility to the country manager and regional leader. The most important thing I would learn in the first few months was who to go to for what. A true matrix.

After reminding my mother that my current life was more on hold than her perception of what this might be, Gale and I met in SFO to take me to a new city. We flew business class. Using his many millions of miles. He chuckled apologetically as we took off, noting that this would likely be my last company-sponsored business class ticket. It was also my first. I remember little about the details of our working 15+-hour journey from California. I recall more reflection and consideration, more about getting to know myself, the new consultant in a city center new to the company but not new to the current employees or customers. I wish I could find those notes or recall more details of his thoughts and how they helped me to know myself or realize I should.

This was pre-virtual work environments. But not pre-globalization. Gale was globalization. He built this sort of relationship with consultants and researchers on all continents. While we would meet in person only two times per year, Gale was always an email or a phone call away, no matter the time of day in Lincoln. I so looked forward to those breakfast meetings during my US visits; the opportunity to get input on my laundry list of hugely important items.

When it was time to acknowledge my expat duties were complete and return to the states, he said “Steph, I would like to give you a choice but we really need you in Seattle. Are you ok with Seattle?” Of course I was ok with Seattle, I trusted the who. While I would end up with a different city and a choice about that, I would always know from his human-first approach, that he was juggling the interests and talents of his humans, in cities all over the world, in balance of company strategy.

As the best example of mentoring leadership and humanity in business, I now reconcile all that Gale taught me and so many other consultants. Almost all of it was as an example to us, not as a manager of us. During the most stressful days of my career, I would be trusted. To navigate, to ask, to defer, to observe, to push, to fail, to learn, and to expect.

I attribute so many key lessons in leadership to working with Gale. Trust. Patience. Perspective. Discernment. Candor. Humor – even in the most serious of situations.

gale kay

Gale and Kay Muller at our wedding, November 2005.

In the most fundamental way, he also was my best teacher about the value a consultant provides to customers. Whether they be internal or external. He simply outlined his view of time and how we help customers according to insight and issues, always through a team.

As we celebrate his life and the peace that his suffering on earth is over, I wonder if he knew how much who he was helped so many become who they are. I hope to some degree he did. I feel so thankful for having such an incredible manager, mentor and friend during such significant milestones in my career. To him I imagine his guidance was meaningful but also part of his day-to-day normal way of interacting with others. It was who he was.

Kori & Chris

My friend Kori got married to her friend Chris on April 18th. She and Chris had the most unique wedding I have ever attended. Very centered on each other with a nice touch of celebratory experience for their family and friends. There was a time capsule, a luau, a whisky bar, and Hope wines, all on a rooftop in Los Angeles. We had our silhouettes cut as a keepsake (the couple of noses appreciates the celebration of what is!) It was a most special evening.

She is also my business partner. We have been trusted advisors, ideators, creators, learners and dreamers for nearly three years together. We are publishing our first book from a whitepaper of research we did on Purpose (and intentionally.) We are advancing the dialogue about how business succeeds when humans are authentically central in decision-making (e.g. no layoffs.)

Weddings remind those of us who are married about the specialness of our union. They create hopefulness and joy for the reason for the celebration, for what can now be. They create mindful moments of witness, toasts, and new memories.

Kori immerses herself in every moment and this was no different. I’m so thankful to be working with her, learning from her and loved that we could join in this union of friends who love one another.

Hugs from Mr. Lewis

This is a special horse. This is Mr. Lewis. When I first started working with him in December of 2010, he was still a wild stallion. I’ve spent a lot of time with him since then but he has always been a kind animal. Averaging 3 hours per week, he humors me with natural horsemanship, dressage basics and trail rides. Mr. Lewis loves people. He just likes hanging around us. It is quite common for him to just nuzzle you gently or brush his lip around face and hair, ever so gently. He teaches me to be present.


Mr. Lewis saying hello. Memorial Day 2015


Just hanging out in the paddock. Memorial Day 2015


Time for a long hug. Memorial Day 2015

Losing Your Mind


This week I started meditating. With commitment. In a subsequent post I’ll share more about why, ‘why now’ and the approach that I think will work for me to do so with discipline for personal commitment. What I know about bringing all I have learned into practice with intention, is that the mind can be such a force. A control over and for us. It creates our reality. It compels us to have emotions, make decisions, to demonstrate the full spectrum of our nature and nurturing.

Thanks to a recommendation from my brother-in-law of a book written by a student of the writing school in which he is enrolled, I am nearly finished with Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey. A first novel about a woman with Alzheimer’s and the story of her life which includes the story of her missing sister who disappeared when they were girls. The author moves back and forth from the forgetful, caregiver-dependant episodes of the narrator back to events in her childhood.

I was able to start the novel during our vacation these past few weeks, having given myself permission to read a novel. An exercise I know is good for my mind – to rest, to retreat a bit.  I was worried about sticking with the main character’s memory lapses but with her as the narrator and the intertwining of the story of her earlier life, it properly sucked me in. It was a great way to spend a few minutes here and there as we transitioned through different parts of our travels and places. I also began the non-fiction on meditation that would inform my new practice. Balance in genres, always.

During our return flight from Europe, I watched Still Alice. The only remaining 2015 Oscar Nominee yet to see. Yes, Julianne Moore truly deserved this one. It might have been that the book I’m reading that has connected me directly to the illness, or to lagging intestinal distress or the complete relax from being ‘away from it all’ on vacation, but I wept though most of the movie. What a compelling demonstration of the feeling of loss for this brilliant linguistic professor. The way in which the family covets moments of ‘her’ in their repeating interactions. In an early part of her diagnosis she tells her husband (played by Alec Baldwin), “I wish I had cancer. At least everyone gives you a pink ribbon day and rallies for you.” With cancer, there was a chance she could win.

Today in skimming the news, Flipboard shared a NYT times story “The Last Day of Her Life.” Again about a very accomplished woman named Sandy Bem who also had Alzheimer’s. A year ago, tomorrow, she took her own life. After living five years with the mind deteriorating disease.

This all reminds me of a volunteer role just after my undergraduate education and during a time of working odd jobs. I spent evenings with a woman with Alzheimer’s so her husband could go play cards with his friends. I did this because a close friend was also a companion volunteer to her. It was my first exposure to this mysterious and emotionally painful disease. I’m thankful for my friend’s influence as I realize now that brought perspective to me I would not have necessarily undertook. The woman would spend much of our two hours together preparing for her date with Carl. They were to go to a ball. She would lay out her gloves, her jewelry, her dress, the undergarments that she carefully selected. She would ask about her hair, her makeup, her nails. Every detail. Her recollection and descriptions connected me to an earlier time. A time nearly 40 years earlier. Every night I spent with her, her mind was living out her most treasured memories.

As I reflect through my own mindfulness and face the official record of turning another year older tomorrow, I am aware of how precious are the respective abilities of our minds. To think, reason, relate, connect, analyze, and decide. How complex all of this is and how we overcomplicate the complexity.  Another attribute of the mind.

Selfishly I can’t fathom having to deal with the disease in someone I love or myself. I only know friends who have. Having had a concussion 20 years ago, I hope my own hard head was able to heal correctly. I am thankful for the doctor who required a helmet for frequent roller-blading shortly after the injury. I’m more thankful for the courage to still get out (and that I didn’t fall.)

I consistently read the NFL-related news on concussions and consider not supporting the sport moving forward. A sport I was raised to love. Something I can chose to do. I can’t understand how so many get this disease who aren’t victims of severe brain injury. Why would we as a society support momentary pleasure in sporting events with a high likelihood to cause life-altering brain injury?

Additionally, I can mindfully support Alzheimer’s research and prevention as part of our annual giving. I look forward to continuing to bring knowledge to my mind about this disease. To learn. To share.

In what ways have you been affected by this disease? 

What organizations do you support? 

Tomorrow on my birthday, I am also going to celebrate Sandy Bem’s life. Her courage, her legacy to so many mindful things. And I’ll commit to meditation so I can be mindful about more.


Please take a moment to read this story and share with anyone that has been or might be walking the El Camino in Spain. A fellow Thunderbird is missing on the trail. Her family and friends are working tirelessly and with so much hope to find her. Please share with any contacts in Spain or on the Camino.

Help us Find Denise

After necessary dry-fit (fast) purchases @rei, creative packing, arranging animal care, we uber ’d to SEATAC through some of the worst Seattle traffic in months. We are outbound to our first stop. London. I’ve never been. Amidst a bit of work, we’ll mostly holiday. Looking forward to in flight libations!

After a bit of work, we’ll visit Keerat’s brother at his England writing school and then we will meet his folks to begin our experience walking El Camino.

Grain. Less.

About 30 days ago I removed most of the grain I was eating from my diet. Not all. I agree with research “Consuming whole grains as part of a healthy diet may reduce the risk of heart disease.” We need some. Whole. Everything whole seems to be ok. But we don’t need a carbohydrate addict’s amount. 


What defines a carb addict? Like any addiction I would expect. The more you have, the more you want. You are not fulfilled. It always seems to be things we shouldn’t have too much of that we want. When I have as many fresh strawberries as I want, it is just enough. I don’t want to buy another carton.

Things I can’t tolerate have seemed to justify my need to have some of America’s finest creations to the consumer movement in [insert problem ingredient here]-free diet! 

  • Gluten intolerant (caused by genetics in combination with stress.) 
  • Lactose intolerant (caused by the gluten intolerance.) 
  • Soy intolerant (caused by the saturation of soy in everything GF.) 
  • Fructose intolerant (caused by the saturation of high fructose sweeteners – NOT ALL ARE FROM CORN, some are from agave, honey and fruits – into GF foods so kids will eat garbanzo bean flour.)

So….when I can eat something and it falls in the pizza, dinner roll, toasted bread, grilled sandwich, soda cracker, cinnamon roll category, I most certainly justify it going into my mouth and system. However, I have replaced my happy gluten eating (and drinking) days with different carbohydrates. Thanks in a significant part to our innovative, consumer-driven food economy. 

Gluten-free foods typically have higher carbs than not. Rice for sure. Others maybe not so different. But the added sweeteners and starches make up the difference typically 2-3 fold. If something isn’t sticky and doesn’t rise, add sugar!

A friend of mine from Oregon shared about a grain free diet her health-astute mother was trying. I decided that maybe I would take it on to see if I could. Of course, with a transitional period. 

For one month I have been grain-less. So has my husband. By  his choice to join me. We decided lunch is the only time grain will be consumed. That means no rice (Indian!) or corn (Mexican!) or pasta (Italian!) meals for dinner. It seems my ranch-life menus are coming in handy! Meat. Potatoes. Vegetable. Check. 

This means meat and fruits for breakfast. I cannot do eggs (except baked in.) I am not intolerant physically, I am intolerant mentally (Jimmy Fallon ‘EW’!) It would be SO much easier on me if I did eggs. It means meat and vegetables for dinner. Many times salad and beans. Potato chips are OK. Lunch can include a very treasured gluten free bread ham and cheese (aged cheddar is free of lactose!) and a lemon wow-brand cookie or some sort of Mexican corn-flour centered meal. See some menus below.

What has this changed:

  • little to no sleepiness mid-morning (=productivity increase, quality increase),
  • reduction of weight by 3 lbs,
  • almost – key descriptor – no cravings; week 2 I could have eaten a whole loaf of GF bread (and I did eat more than a good share of GF pizza during a lunch that weekend),
  • a reasonable appreciation for grain-based products; they are fillers and they stay around if you know what I mean. 

Typical Menus: 

Breakfast: uncured bacon (Trader Joes or Costco have the best quality+price) cooked in the oven (cook the whole pack to almost done and then finish what you want each morning) + banana, strawberry, tangerine or pear or combo (all are low’ish fructose), sometimes a smoothie with coconut milk (unsweetened!, plus cocoa), 

Lunch: GF sandwich (uncured ham with aged cheddar, tunafish with canola mayo)+ chips+ lots of veggies (celery, carrots, green peppers, cucumbers, broccoli are all low in fructose) OR tostadas, nachos (aged cheese) or some asian meal if I am in the city. 

Dinner: any meat grilled or broiled (sirloin, chicken, pork tenderloin) or marinated in Sriracha sort of marinate, green beans, corn (not great on the fructose level) and sometimes a potato (boiled and then fried, add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and pepper) plus fresh veggies. 

So now, I think I’ll try to reduce potatoes and maybe go ½ grain at lunch. 

February 25th. Billie was born.

Billie LaRene was born on this day in 1944. It was her birthday.

To us it is still her birthday. It has been 10 years since we celebrated her birthday with her. Since her physical departure.

She loved birthdays and made them so special for those she loved. I’m sure we didn’t do the same for hers. But she loved giving. She loved seeing others receive. Her son inherited this trait.

It means we got way too many ‘things’ for every single holiday, especially Christmas. She was far from materialistic in my mind however. It was all about celebration, giving and receiving by others. It also illustrated her opportunity. One that her parents didn’t have. Typical for Boomers raised by Silents.

She had many roles. More than anyone I have known or do know today. Wife, housewife, mother, stay-at-home mom (for our youngest days), sister, daughter, daughter-in-law, cousin, friend, caregiver, hired hand, hay-crew, cattle herder, gardner, church band member, community advocate, artist of all types of paint, chalk and clay, musician of harmonica, piano, banjo and fiddle, and across all of these roles, she was a nurse.

Being raised by a nurse means you learn things about how to take care of minor issues. It means you see care being given to family members, neighbors, and animals. It means you hear stories about care, strife and pain. It means you trust the system of care because you see it through your Mom’s perspective.

Her favorite part of being a nurse was her time with any birth. The OB existed in the big hospitals where she trained but not in the rural hospital where she last worked as Director of Nursing. A new baby being born fueled her for weeks. She even saw hope in the many babies she brought into the world born with fetal alcohol syndrome. They were a new breathing human life. However challenging that life was going to be.

It was very difficult to top Mom’s gift-giving, gift wrapping, party creating talent. One year I recall very well, Dad decided to get her a poodle puppy. We had lost our Chippie the year before and the house was void of a lap dog. It was a family effort and we ‘wrapped’ a small box and put the buff colored toy/miniature puppy inside. She nearly caused the thing a heart-attack when she opened the box expecting something not living and breathing.

She loved it. She loved the surprise. And the puppy. And she loved all of us for making it special. 

I got the measles

In 1989. From about an hour in a Lincoln, Nebraska dorm room of the soon-to-be-sick friend who had already left for the Summer. I would be contagious for two weeks during which I went home for Summer break and attended my brother’s high school graduation including hugs down a receiving line. It was Mother’s task to inform the town and send out the alerts as a community medical professional. 

I HAD been vaccinated. Before 1971. It was an outbreak that affected somewhat rare cases like mine but more commonly the inner city kids and minority children nationally who were not vaccinated. The news about risk then was about the kids and areas without access to minimum healthcare. 

Today we face another challenge and changes this from being about poverty and access. The choice parents have taken and some doctors support, to not vaccinate for reasons that are serious, connected to effects such as autism

I am not an expert in this debate, I am curious and only linked by having had the disease as a young adult. Here is a good summary of the history. 

As a ‘rich’ country, we are a society that has lived with so much progress. We have not had to live amidst suffering. We have had access to healthcare (largely) including vaccinations that prevent suffering and disease. Even the poor parts of our cities that are affected by health issues due to lack of access, we largely live separate from and ignore. 

The infectious diseases of third world and emerging economies are a key reason why many of those regions remain third, or emerging. We hear but we don’t realize what it means to live without fear of getting a disease that has no cure, that could result in death. What it means to those who see Polio every day, and wish for the day it will finally be eradicated

There will still be the poor communities that face risk during this measles outbreak, as they did in 1989. But there are also a new group of ‘rich’ kids facing risks. I am curious about what this means for the future of society, their future. In 2006, the response to the 1989 outbreak meant a national immunization program. Even amidst the possible link to autism which was first documented by a doctor in 1998. He was later stripped of his medical license. Concerns continued and certain substances were to be removed from the vaccination. All of this is progress. We should challenge and question. We also should weight the risks. 

I was really sick. I remember how bad my abdominal muscles hurt from coughing. I wondered when I would not be on the couch coughing laying down. I wondered what people do without a mother that is a nurse. I never thought I wouldn’t be ok and get better. I didn’t realize the risk of this illness either, not to me or society. I also got the flu that Summer, one of two times in my life. I expect my immunity was affected. 

A silver lining, we went to Spain to visit our exchange student that same year. The ’freshman 15’ I put on the two years previously were readily shed during that ill Spring. I could enjoy my CocaCola swimsuit and the beaches of Alicante with a bit more confidence. 

Valentine’s Day Reflection

When I think about this holiday, I don’t wonder about flowers, a romantic dinner or a date with the love of my life. We do that regularly without a holiday. It might be because we both prefer experiences over things and resist commercialization.

It might be because for me, it was such a special holiday as a child. A special holiday only through the creativity and love that my Mother added to the ‘things’. On Valentine’s Day, I think of my Mother.

I recall how much joy it gave her to create such a special occasion for my brother Clint and I. Helping us with our school Valentine’s, baking for the multi-district party and helping us (mostly me) look festive. For us, it was always a big stuffed animal (not the tiny fit-on-a-box kind) and some chocolates. She prepared every detail as if she were being judged at a craft contest, like we were the most important recipient of all. Our Valentine’s were perfect. Even with my Dad (who also got chocolates) it was about hearts, red, pink, love, family, friends and fun.

While I only remember one actual teddy bear (a red one I creatively named Valentine), I have vivid memories of the joy that my Mom showed, her character, her giving nature and her creativity. She didn’t teach me things matter by celebrating this and other holidays. She taught me the joy of giving, the joy of creativity and the joy of seeing others joy.

It brings me joy to see the ‘kids focus’ on Facebook today. To see parents instilling love amidst the floral, fuzzy and sweet things that make it special. To bring meaning to retail madness. Amidst it all, experiences are had and I think many are good ones today and will create memories like mine.

Cheers to all who love and celebrate Valentine’s Day, double cheers to the parents who are creating heart-filled memories for their kids.

Thank you Mom for your lessons of love when you were here with us. And now, for being present in spirit so we can feel close to those lessons, so we can feel love through the joy of giving.