Category Archives: Inspiration

Stay Inside Your Own Hula Hoop

Stay Inside Your Own Hula Hoop

I love synchronicity. This past week I was treated to a series of synchronistic events. It got my attention.

A week ago, a wise woman I know was sharing a story about a challenge in her life and she remarked, “I need to remember to stay inside my own hula hoop”. The image conjured up in me fond memories of myself as a young girl with a bright pink hula hoop with white stripes. I could hula hoop FOR-E-VER. Sometimes, I would hula hoop while watching “The Love Boat” on Saturday evenings in our family room in St. Louis, Missouri – for the entire episode. If I saw a hula hoop at someone else’s house, I couldn’t help but give it a try. I had not tried using a hula hoop for many years.

Stay inside your own hula hoop….

The image of staying within my hula hoop has been with me since I heard my friend share the idea. I’ve thought about it in my family. As a Mom, I’ve been called a “helecopter parent” and even joked that I was a proud one at that. But, as my children have grown older and wiser, I realize that often it is better for me to let their ideas shine through rather than adding my own advice. Staying in my hula hoop as a Mom means, to me, giving my children room to be themselves and to allow their best selves to emerge. I am often struck by their thoughtfulness and the care with which they make decisions. No two people can share a hula hoop – it doesn’t work. As a Mom, staying in my own hula hoop also reminds me to take care of myself so that I can be there for them when they need me (and not be a burden on them in the future). As a daughter, I know it is important to respect my parent’s space, choices, independence, and lives. My mother has health problems and I am often told by her caregivers, “You need to tell her to do such-and-such (take it easy, don’t do something, etc.)” or they will talk to me with her sitting right there. I take great pains to remind them that she is the patient and gets to decide what is best for her. And so it goes. The hula hoop analogy is helpful to think about in my role as mother, daughter, wife, and friend.

At my work, staying in my hula hoop means to me respecting the hierarchy of my workplace. I work in higher education where there are many layers of leadership. Each person in the chain has an important role and needs to feel both informed and also in charge. It is my nature to want to be informed and to want to know what is going on. Most of the time, it either isn’t my business or isn’t something I need to worry about. Staying in my hula hoop – my lane – my chain of command – my job title – my building – always goes better than letting the hula hoop fall and stepping out of it. There is plenty to do within my own job and role as well. When I step back, people step forward and often better outcomes result.

Photo credit: Drawception.com

Earlier this week, I had a particularly challenging day. I felt anxious and uncertain about the future. I had people around me all wanting different things for me, disappointed in me, etc. I felt I’d let important people down. I felt misunderstood. I decided to take a walk with my dog, Beckham, to think and to settle myself down. It was a Thursday, trash day. As I walked through the neighborhood, I began to settle down. My breathing settled. My heart rate lowered. I began to think more constructively about my situation. I reflected on how long some of my neighbors had been in our community. My next door neighbor has lived in the same home since I was in high school. I’ve watched children being brought home from the hospital, walked in strollers, walking their dog, and walking a graduation stage. I was reminded of taking the long view. Taking one day at a time. Not trying to solve everything at once. Thinking for myself versus thinking through what I perceived as everyone’s expectations of me. As we turned down the street to my house, a glint of light caught my eye. As we came closer, I noticed a stack of colorful hula hoops sitting in my neighbor’s driveway along with their trash cans. I laughed out loud. OF COURSE the hula hoop message was JUST PERFECT for my situation. If I focused on myself, what I could control, and not try to control others, I could at least pare down what was making me anxious into smaller pieces. I looped about five hula hoops over my arm and decided I would put them to good use.

At work, I brought a pink hula hoop and leaned it against my whiteboard. inside the hoop, I wrote, “Stay inside your own hula hoop”. At home, I put a hula hoop in the planter between my garage doors. It is the first thing I see when backing down the driveway in the morning and the last thing I see when I pull into my parking spot at night. In my office at home, I leaned a hula hoop under the wall where I empty my purse at night. In my bedroom, there is a hula hoop peeking out from behind the headboard of my bed. While these may seem strange to those who see them, to me they are a simple reminder of a powerful way of being.

Pinterest.com

If you hold a hula hoop out in front of you, it creates a frame for whatever you gaze upon. I decided to put the hula hoops in places important to me as a reminder of this perspective. I also saw another “message” in the hula hoop. The letter “C” repeats itself at the left, top, bottom, and right. There are many words that start with the letter “C” that relate to this “stay inside your hula hoop” mantra. The word “CAUSE” is one of them. I could ask myself to remember that I did not cause the situation that is troubling me. Or, if I did, to do what I could to apologize or get out of the way. Another “C” word is “COMPLAIN”. If I complain about a situation, it is not likely to get any better and, more likely, it will get worse. Another “C” word is “CONTROL”. Remembering that I am not in control, that I shouldn’t over-control, and that by trying to control a situation I am likely going to make it worse. A “C” word to avoid is “CAN’T”. Most of the time, I can’t control a situation, but when I can do something about it, saying “I CAN” is better than “I Can’t”.

The three (or more) Cs: I can’t CONTROL the situation, COMPLAINING doesn’t help, I didn’t CAUSE the situation (or if I did, do something about it), and avoid CRITICIZING.

This morning, I shared my story about finding the hula hoops with a group of friends. Several asked me if they might have one of the hula hoops I had found. At the end of the gathering, one of the members walked back into the room with a stack of colorful hula hoops on his arm. He explained that he and his wife had gone to Baltimore the previous day and he thought he would take some hula hoops from his garage with him in case he saw children that might like to have them. He never saw any children. But when he heard my story and the fact that several people wanted to have one, he thought, “Synchronicity is often a sign that something special is going on”. He went out to his car and brought in the hula hoops to share with our group. The reaction was priceless. Each person got to choose the color and pattern that most appealed to them. It was such an adorable scene: Smiles all around, people asking for particular colors, and people trying their hula hoops. I will long remember the sight of our group walking out to their cars with hula hoops in hand.

The situation that led to my feeling anxious earlier this week is still present, but how I am thinking about it has lightened a bit. While my hula hoops may look like a misplaced piece of plastic and glitter, they are also a portal through which I can see myself and those I love in a fresh way.

Synchronicity is often a sign that something special is going on…

Stay inside your hula hoop – it is a whole lot more fun that way. Photo credit: Vogue June/July 1971

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THIS I BELIEVE: Sailing Teaches Life Lessons

I have left the safe harbor of a BA in English and Psychology from Sweet Briar College and have embarked on graduate work. My first paper in graduate school was assigned by my Orientation to Graduate Studies course.  It was an essay designed to prepare students for academic writing. It has been a LONG time since I have done academic writing.  it is very different than blogging!  I had fun writing it and was touched by Dr. Beth Cook’s feedback, “Beautiful job. I loved your use of metaphor and sailing terminology throughout. Your essay shows an unusual sophistication with writing. Great job.”  This put some wind in my sails….so I thought I would share.

Stacey Sickels Locke

UCSP 615 9063 Orientation to Graduate Studies at UMUC (2162)

Dr. Beth Cook

15 February 2016

sailing 1

This I Believe: Sailing Teaches Life Lessons

 

I learned a lot from having a sailing captain as a mother and an Olympic athlete as a father.  As a girl living in the Midwest, I sailed only small boats on little lakes. As I grew older and moved to the East Coast, I learned to sail larger bodies of water.  Sailing has been a constant theme throughout my life from which I have learned many lessons.

sailing chart

In sailing, charting a course is essential.  Without navigational charts and obeying markers on the water, I learned the hard way that I would run aground or miss a destination completely.  In my career, the “destinations” were positions in fundraising with progressively greater responsibilities.  The  “markers” in my life were key people who advised me and helped me navigate.  Without a course charted over the years, I am sure I would be floundering like a boat lost at sea today.

sailing tacking

When sailing, winds and strong seas will constantly take a boat off its course.  Yet, by adjusting the sails, a boat can tack from side to side while still making forward progress.  Growing up, I moved fourteen times and had four high schools.  I got very good at changing tack.  Moving so many times makes me a very flexible and adaptable person.  I know that I can weather any issue if I just adjust my attitude like I would adjust a sail in the strong wind.

sailing waving

There is a practice when sailing to wave at passing vessels whether it is a speedy powerboat, a gorgeous yacht or a small canoe with a couple.  As a fundraiser, I work with extremely wealthy people.  At the same time, I rely on people at all levels of the organization to get things done.  Respecting diversity and keeping myself humble has led to a regatta of valued colleagues and friends.

sailing wake

When sailing, a good sailor leaves a clean wake.  This includes not  throwing trash overboard or leaving a sheen of oil on the water from a dirty engine. It has always been important to me to do the right thing.  When I leave a job, I give double the notice time so that I leave things ready for the next person.  I take care to return borrowed items either with a special treat or cleaner than I found them.  Leaving a clean wake is a goal in life and on the water.

sailing adjusting

It wasn’t effortless sailing through life, in fact, it was often stormy and difficult.  Having a clear destination in mind and guides along the way has kept me on track. Adjusting my attitude like the sails on a boat keeps me pressing forward despite occasional setbacks.  Respecting diversity allows me to set sail in life or work with any group of people and be successful.  Finally, treating people well and doing the right thing leaves me with a “clean wake” in life.  My next voyage is a Master’s degree from UMUC.  The lessons of the sea will guide me along the way.

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“Cow Money Challenge”…Putting the FUN in FUNdraising while Saving Sweet Briar

Cow Money Challenge?  That's $1642.03 for a bred heifer in 2012.
Cow Money Challenge? That’s $1642.03 for a bred heifer in 2012.

This is a post about fundraising.  And a post about cows.  I never knew the two went together until the Saving Sweet Briar movement.

Allow me to explain.

In the hours after the announcement of closure by the President and Board of Sweet Briar College, students, faculty, staff, alumnae and the community were reeling.   A range of emotions greeted this news from shock to resignation to sadness to anger to passion to advocacy.  Those who saw a future got to work. One brave alumna, Sarah Clement, a former board member, sparked a movement to save the College.  Saving Sweet Briar  was born.

Sarah gathered together other committed alumnae and formed a Board.  I have written about their efforts in several others posts. This post is about fundraising.  And cows.  Because they go together in this case.

In the early days of Saving Sweet Briar – before a website home was established – Facebook and email provided the fertile soil for the germination and later growth of many powerful ideas.

Fundraising in all forms began.  Direct contributions as of this writing surpass $1 million with multi-year commitments over $11 million.

At first these efforts were like the “Wild West” and not tied together; however, leaders emerged and lassoed the organized women and friends of Sweet Briar into groups — some classic to successful fundraising and some not.

Major Gifts Committee

I sit on the Major Donor Task Force, a group of professional fundraisers and volunteers with experience.   Beth Ann Trappold Newton recruited me. This is the logical place for me to volunteer since I got my fundraising start at Sweet Briar as a student in 1984 and later after my reunion in 1993 (and Beth Ann helped me get my first job after leaving campus – in fact I took the job she left to have her first baby).  Having helped raise $13M of the $25M campaign at the time, I cannot sit back and watch the President and Board try to spend down endowment given by people I remember and some I still know!  The Major Donor Task Force  reaches out personally to those who have been very generous to Sweet Briar over the years.  We are organized into regional groups and are led by a volunteer, Mary Pope Hutson, and now pro-bono fundraising consulting through Alexander Haas.  Through weekly conference calls and many emails inbetween, we coordinate our efforts.  The response is inspiring.

Class Representatives, Regional Representatives, State Representatives

I had the pleasure of meeting with Evangeline Taylor, a dedicated Sweet Briar alumna, who provides encouragement and support to hundreds of volunteers.

Class representatives provide regular updates to class leaders which they in turn send to their class.

State representatives have reached out personally by phone, email and personal letters to those in their state.

Some, like my classmate, Katie Keogh Widener, do both!

Challenges

Back to the Cow Challenge…..  It began in the Bedford County Courthouse.  Those of us who could not be in Bedford followed a series of journalists.  Hawes Spencer captured not only the flow of testimony, but his acerbic humor gave those of us working to save Sweet Briar some of the best laughter we had enjoyed in many weeks.

Up until this moment, I didn’t know what “cow money” was.

So what is “cow money” and what is a “Cow Money Challenge”?  I asked and got this answer:  Susan Finn Adams wrote to me, “Sarah ‘ s uncle was a cattle farmer. He left the farm to her family, they later sold it and split the proceeds. Proceeds = “Cow money”.  “Cow Money” is the most precious money you have.  You don’t spend it unless you REALLY need it.

How do you turn “cow money” into gold?  Make it into a challenge of course!  I told you this blog post was inspired by Cows:

Cow Money Challenge:  Sarah reached into her "cow money", now reach into YOURS!
Cow Money Challenge: Sarah reached into her “cow money”, now reach into YOURS!

Brooke Linville created the “Cow Challenge” with the following post:

Our fearless woman Sarah P. Clement told the court that had she known the condition of the college, she would have reached into her COW MONEY to help. So how much is cow money, we wondered…

As it turns out it is $1642.03 for a bred heifer in 2012. I am sure some of our awesome rancher vixens can help us out if this number is wrong. Anyhow, this is our FUNDRAISING GOAL tonight. We are going to raise us some COW MONEY!

savingsweetbriar.com/donations

Kentucky Derby Challenge
Kentucky Derby Challenge

Before the Cow Challenge, there was the “Latte Challenge”.   Hundreds posted photos of themselves holding a cup of coffee (while providing a challenge to Saving Sweet Briar).  This past weekend, there was a challenge around the Kentucky Derby.

Events.  From Washington DC to San Francisco to around the world, events helped alumnae and friends connect and raise needed funds.  At one event in Atlanta, pledges totaling over $600K have matched an initial challenge by Teresa Tomlinson, Sweet Briar alumna and Mayor of Columbus, Georgia.

Shopping for Sweet Briar

Meanwhile, back on the web, fundraisers of all kinds continued to grow.  When the going get’s rough….

lets shop

Clothing.  Sweet Briar Alumnae Goods features something for every corner of your home.  Virtually anyone with a shingle and a heart can make a contribution.  Examples include:  Coffee Table Book, Decals, Luggage, baby clothes, ring dishes, prayer beads, men’s ties….

Goods of all kinds to #saveSweetBriar
Goods of all kinds to #saveSweetBriar

Baby clothes and fashion galore!
Baby clothes and fashion galore!

Home and Garden.   Everything you might need for home, garden and College:  Yard flags, cookbooks,

Everything for home and garden and College....
Everything for home and garden and College….

Wine plugs, ornaments, key chains...
Wine plugs, ornaments, key chains…

Stelladot jewelry - a favorite.
Stelladot jewelry – a favorite.

They Sell That?  Some of the more unusual offerings included “Jamberry” press-on fingernail polish, Tattoos and even bull riding competitions,

Bull riding?  This alumna offers a 50:50 raffle at her husband's bull riding competition!
Bull riding? This alumna offers a 50:50 raffle at her husband’s bull riding competition!

Tattoo fundraiser.  Yep, we had that too.  Who says SBC is all pink, green and pearls?
Tattoo fundraiser. Yep, we had that too. Who says SBC is all pink, green and pearls?

"Sometimes you have to put on some pink and green and crush it! Rise Up Climbing will changing their colors from black and red to host a pink and green climb night." (Raleigh Durham Club)
“Sometimes you have to put on some pink and green and crush it! Rise Up Climbing will changing their colors from black and red to host a pink and green climb night.” (Raleigh Durham Club)

Sports fundraisers - many SBC field hockey and lacrosse players returned to campus.
Sports fundraisers – many SBC field hockey and lacrosse players returned to campus.

Bumper stickers, decals, anything to share our #saveSweetBriar spirit.
Bumper stickers, decals, anything to share our #saveSweetBriar spirit (Margaret Fisher).

Vixen vodka - the perfect compliment to fundraising....
Vixen vodka – the perfect compliment to fundraising….

As of this writing, alumnae gave the equivalent of multiple cows.  One alumna, Christina Savage Lytle, joked, “Now we are going to need to raise enough for a barn…”

There is no category for this... it just made me giggle.
There is no category for this… it just made me giggle.

What we have here is a recipe for fundraising success.  We have a recipe for institutional success.  HUNDREDS of volunteers divided thoughtfully into groups by expertise and passion are working hourly, daily, weekly and constantly for Saving Sweet Briar.

This is the most fun I’ve had fundraising in a very long time.  The last time I had this much fun was when I was Reunion Gift Chair for my 25th Reunion.  Before that, calling as a Freshman in 1984 when I literally “dialed for dollars’ (and treats).

This is all without formal records or professional staff.  Imagine what could be done for the future?

Care to help?  Check out Saving Sweet Briar and Sweet Briar Alumnae Goods

P.S.  For a post about “cow money” I would be remiss if I didn’t add a parting comment by an amazing woman (whose name I did not catch) who served in the Marine after Sweet Briar.  On the call with the “President”, Missy Witherow, Interim VP of Development, and Sandra Taylor, member of the Board and President of the Alumnae Association, she said,

We have a term for this kind of behavior in the Marines.  It’s called BULL.  I throw down the “bullsh*t flag” on this behavior leading to this decision.

Stacey Sickels Locke, CFRE, is a proud graduate of Sweet Briar College, Class of 1988.  She served as an employee of the College in the early 1990s working on the $25 million Campaign.  During that time, she solicited many leadership gifts which make up the current endowment and she feels a sense of duty that those donations are not used for the closure of the College or for any other purposes than the donors intended. Since then, she has spent her career building support for higher education and the nonprofit community as a staff member and consultant for boards.  As a volunteer, she has served Sweet Briar since graduation as a fundraiser, admissions ambassador and now advocate for the #saveSweetBriar movement.  She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), is affiliated (through the University of Maryland) with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and holds a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification from CFRE International.

Stacey Sickels Locke, CFRE

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Five Years: 260 Weeks…1,820 Days…2,620,800 Minutes.

What can you do with that?

In just under five years, Michelangelo painstakingly painted the Sistine Chapel (primarily on his back laying on scaffolding).

Long before there was “Chopped” and “Top Chef”, there was Julia Child.  In 1961, Julia Child graduated from cooking school.  Four years later, her idea of having a cookbook and TV show not only became a reality, she won an Emmy as America’s favorite TV chef.

Julia Child went from cooking school to a famous TV chef in just five years.
Julia Child went from cooking school to a famous TV chef in just five years.

In under five years, Shakespeare wrote “Hamlet,” “Othello,” “King Lear,” “MacBeth” and five other plays.

Shakespeare wrote many of his most famous plays in a five year period.
Shakespeare wrote many of his most famous plays in a five year period.

 

In other words, I have NO excuse not to have an epic blog by 2020!

You and I have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Louis Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.” — H Jackson Brown, Jr.

Where do you want to be in 5 years?

Sistine Chapel ceiling - Michelangelo (painted in just under five years)
Sistine Chapel ceiling – Michelangelo (painted in just under five years)
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New Year’s Resolutions… 5 years from today.

On New Year’s Eve, Lyn and I visited Annapolis for dinner.  While strolling the streets still decorated for the holidays, we ducked into a quaint shop (mainly to warm up).  There was a tremendous variety of merchandise from jewelry to handbags to books.

A bright red book with the number 5 on it caught my attention asking the question, “Where will you be…five years from today?”  I bought it.  This seemed like the perfect start to inspire my New Year’s Resolutions.  We started over dinner.  The clock in the steeple of St. Anne’s Church ticked towards midnight.   A light snow drifted past our window.

I love January 1st.  It is my father’s birthday and the fresh start of a brand new year.  I love Sundays.  I love mornings.  I love the sense that I can live into a better version of myself.  Positive thinking & optimism – it is in my DNA.

Growing up as the daughter of an Olympic athlete and the daughter of a sailing captain who traveled the world (seriously! and that was AFTER she had a full career as a teacher), the bar was set high for achievement.  Good grades were expected.  Academic merit and creative work was inspired.  I grew up a competitive figure skater and competed until pretty recently.  I’ve set goals for as long as I can remember.  Before that, they were set for me.

So, it is nearly February and I haven’t cracked the book since January 2nd.  I’m feeling a little guilty; however, tonight I feel re-inspired. I think it is the fitbit graph that calls me to enter itty bitty bits of progress and data throughout my day (purchased just a week ago).

So, tonight, I’m cracking the book.  The jacket cover certainly beckons:

Each year life offers itself to us in an endless number of ways.  Each moment comes to us with both hands filled with gifts, marvels, opportuniteis and adventures — but we seldom see or accept more than a tiny fraction of the exciting possibilities around us….  This book celebrates the “want to’s,” the “choose to’s” and the “I can’t wait to’s” in your life…. You are a hero of this story.

Cool.  Join me.

Where will you be...five years from today?
Where will you be…five years from today?
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Message in a Shadow….

Geneva:  Inspiration along a street....
Geneva: Inspiration along a street….

Walking down a street in Geneva, Switzerland is a visual treat.  So much beauty is packed into the architecture, landscaping, sculpture and, in this case, a closed jewelry store.

Lit from above, the twisted metal casts a shadow onto the wall behind.  The metal glints like the jewelry in the cases below it.

I want to be part of what is to come.

What an inspiring quote for 2015.  What an inspiring thing to say to another person – a loved one.

What will expand – or contract – in 2015?

What roles in life will change?  I know that all of these roles are important to me:  Wife, Mother, Daughter, Friend, Cousin.  Some of my roles, while important, may not be as expressed as I might like them to be (not a topic to blog about out of respect for those impacted).

My work role is undergoing change.  I do want to be part of what I have created and what is to come as a result of a special gift I helped bring about (thanks to a very generous donor).  The next three years pull me forward with a new building to come out of the ground.

Among the many things I love about my husband, he always has something special planned in the wet cement of the future – what is to come.  I know I want to be part of that.  Travel is always on the list.

This quote also invites me to contemplate futures I don’t want.  But that’s for another post.

What do YOU want to be part of that is to come?

“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also If I am to be whole”
C.G. Jung

Aside:  After doing some homework with various word searches on Google, I believe I can properly credit the wire artist as Fred Eerdekens from Hasselt, Belgium.  To see more of his amazing artwork, you can google his name.  Truly amazing.

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