26.2 Miles of Commitment

So hard to believe it’s already been a week since the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon where 45,000 people from across the world raced through the streets in the city of neighborhoods. 

Part of the route runs through my own neighborhood. This year I was nestled between miles 6 and 9 to the East and West. I had a few friends in the race this year who I could track progress for along the way. I saw several others I knew and could cheer on during that beautiful fall Sunday.

Whenever I watch big marathons or parades or large scale celebrations with participants from all walks of life, I get so emotional. There’s something about the power of community that gets me in my feelings. I shed a few tears of joy as my boyfriend and I stood and clapped for both strangers and friends.

I was watching people in the midst of accomplishing something major…26.2 miles worth of sweat, grit, self-talk, joy, pain, victory. A metaphor for life like no other. Alongside other spectators, I spent much of my time cheering along and encouraging people I didn’t even know. 

There were people of all ages, fitness levels, races, religions, genders, etc but we were all there to rally around the same cause. We all wanted to see people accomplish some variation of the same goal — to finish and to do so safely. 

It was a beautiful day and so many accomplished goals. My favorite part was feeling part of one positive community and I hope for more of that in my town and yours. 

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Chicago Goods: Museum of Contemporary Art

In the last month, I have been to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) located downtown Chicago twice. They currently have Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami, on exhibition with The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg

Murakami has an interesting mix of artistic displays, ranging from traditional Japanese paintings to fun animated characters to kooky yet darkly playful looking, almost monster-like characters to pop art collaborations with musical artists like Kanye West.

MCA is located just behind the Water Tower Place, a mere block from the Magnificent Mile. Most days they are open until 5pm with the exception on 9pm on Tuesday and Friday and being closed on Mondays. Suggested regular admission price is $15 for adults. Illinois residents are free on Tuesdays which is also a treat because during the summer, MCA hosts Tuesdays on the Terracewhich features live jazz from 5:30-8pm, has drinks for sale and space for people to mingle or chill on their back patio area. After the jazz is done, visitors have an additional hour to walk through all open exhibits before the museum closes at 9pm. 

Murakami’s The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg came out of the Japanese folk saying that an octopus in distress will chew off a damaged leg to ensure survival, knowing that a new one will grow in its place. 

A really profound concept when you think about it.

“The exhibition chronologically traces the many reinventions and refinements that have fueled Murakami’s career. I have now gone through the exhibition twice and I don’t think it will be my last. I find something new and interesting every time and there is plenty more to discover. Though some of the pieces have aspects that are plain weird, when I think overall about his message, I get it. I love that the exhibit goes in chronological order so you see the evolution of Murakami’s craft and mental state as he reinvents and refines over time.

I know the Art Institute of Chicago gets a lot of love (and it should!) because it has a lot more historical pieces but this is another option for people looking for something different in Chicago.

Murakami will be on display until September 6. Enjoy! 

Summer is Here!

Here in Chicago, summertime weather seems to has arrived and I am over the moon.
Though summer officially lands June 21, just last week, I was able to pack my winter coat away…finally. I wish I were joking about that. Even last month we were still having temps range from 40s to 80s which just makes me crazy in the head. 

I already declared that I want to be outside as much as humanly possible. 

Chicago has so many festivals, concerts, shows, rooftops, events and many of them are free or cheap, at least the ones I keep an eye out for. 

Downtown isn’t the only part with things to offer.  Tourists and locals can get to know city areas even better by stopping by the hundreds of neighborhood festivals. 

This weekend I enjoyed the Chicago Blues Fest, one of the world’s largest, free festivals celebrating blues music performed by outstanding musicians and artists. 

I want to soak up the sun (bathed in my sunscreen of course) and be at the lakefront all the time. The next few weeks include camping trips and roadtrips and fun in the sun. 

If you live in a part of the country like me where you get 4 seasons and it’s not divine all the time, enjoy summer while we got it! The next few months will be the perfect mood booster to prepare for whatever winter brings us later this year.  

Have a great week and get some outdoor time in. Fresh air is everything and good for the body, mind and soul. 

Action Day!! Day 3 of M.A.D Leadership Chicago 

​The last three weeks I have been doing a series writing about this amazing conference I volunteered at in September. It was hosted by the Aspire Foundation and was a program focused on developing (mostly women) leaders who want to make a difference. 

If you want more back story, I would recommend you visit my blog to catch up on those posts. Today I am going to wrap up this series with the final day, my favorite…ACTION DAY!!

This is my favorite because without action steps or effort into a  tangible plan, a great conference can quickly go down the drain once it’s all over and regular life distractions get in the way…again. 

Action day when I attended a similar conference in London is part of what changed my life in this last year. I often keep my soapbox ready to chat about the value and importance of vision boards and Action Day falls into the same category for me. 

When I can articulate my vision, share it with others, write it down or have visuals for it, it will become more reasonable to achieve those things. You can begin to look for ways to open doors yourself or the right people who can help you or hold you accountable. After some time has passed you might look back and day, “Wow how did I make it this far?” I’ll tell you how. It’s because you had some version of Action Day. If you don’t know what you want or where you’re going, how can you know if you are even on the right track? 

On Action Day, you learn to say ‘Screw the Fear’ and give your vision some teeth. Action Day is not for the faint of heart as it will make you uncomfortable because a plan don’t mean ish without some action on your part. Yes, you actually have to DO stuff to achieve your dreams and goals. 

For the Aspire attendees, there were 4 sessions for the day:

1. Leading and Influencing Others

2. The Power of Your Network

3. Strategic Thinking & Time Leadership

4. Action Plans, Support & Accountability 

Again, the best way to wrap up this conference was with Action. So many people leave conferences with a whole lot of action and little thought towards implementation. But you don’t need a conference to have your own action day. You already know what you want to or need to work on. Follow through on the commitments you have made to yourself and others. Start today! 

Overcoming Obstacles: Day 2 of M.A.D. Leadership Chicago

The last two weeks I have been writing about this amazing conference I volunteered at. It was hosted by the Aspire Foundation and was a program focused on developing (mostly women) leaders who want to make a difference. 

You can read my first 2 posts here and here

Today I am sharing what happened on Day 2 of the event. It was appropriately titled, Overcoming Obstacles Day.

What is your biggest obstacle? How could you overcome it?

What is needed from you to overcome this obstacle? 

There were 4 sessions that day. The first session was about defining your purpose. Who are you and why are you here? 

Attendees were able to choose 2 speakers to sit with and share with. I sat with a speaker who has done ultra-marathons. She is also a businesswoman, wife and mom. She gave great advice and and tips on following your inner compass and going after your purpose to increase your impact.

Between sessions of course there was networking for attendees to take full advantage of the wisdom and endless connections available to those daring enough to seek them out. 

One of the most impactful sessions which was full of powerful stories on transformation came just after lunch on day two. 

3 speakers shared personal testimony about their journey past unbelievable hardship and struggles to a better future. They each found amazing women and men along the way who helped them push their lives out of darkness into light. 

It was hard not to shed a tear or two listening to some of the stories. 

One young lady, Nasreen, flew in from Nepal to share her story about overcoming a small-minded community where her mother told her sister to stay in a forced marriage with an abusive husband to Nasreen escaping to a big city and finding herself as a child laborer working in a sweat shop, making thousands of shirts a day in a tiny room. She eventually was able to leave that life and managed to start her own business then came in contact with someone from Canada who wrote an article about her. She’s also been featured in Forbes magazine which she had never even heard of. 

Sometimes you meet people with a light and love that cannot be explained. Nasreen is one of those people and I feel more wise having met her.

Other than a reflection session for some due quiet time, the day wrapped up with a session on collaborative leadership and the most fun project possible.

Here is the video for the Jessie J Price Tag tribute we did for our ‘Awamu (being together) project in Uganda filmed by yours truly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhFVrHg3mLA

Until next time mad leaders…

With Nasreen Sheikh from Nepal after she shared her amazing story

Day 1 of M.A.D. LEADERSHIP CHICAGO 

Prior to the Aspire M.A.D. Leadership Chicago conference I wrote abour last week, there was a webinar to prepare. 

One question posed to webinar attendees was, “What is your main motivation to attend M.A.D. (Making a Difference) Leadership?”

  1. Improve Leadership Skills
  2. Make a bigger difference in the world
  3. Figure out future career and life goals 
  4. Make a life or work change
  5. Something else

Intentions are powerful. Declaring your direction and what you want to achieve can gain more results than going into any new project or adventure blindly.

Throughout the program, attendees had a chance to network and spend time speaking out loud about dreams, goals and vision. But what I loved was that it didn’t stop there. Goals do not mean much without action and that was a big focus of the event. Attendees could learn the steps for how to take action and create steps for making a difference. 

Before the event began, attendees checked-in and got to select their own journal to jot down notes, ideas, contacts, plans, follow-up, etc during the week. I attended an Aspire Foundation event last year and I still have my journal. 

This year’s event in Chicago included 12 sessions. I will take my next few blog posts day by day. Day one sessions included topics on the power and impact of being a MAD leader in today’s competitive organization and global economy which was led by Aspire’s founder, Dr. Sam Collins. On day 1 attendees also heard from Linda Cruse on how to create a life and career you love and be a catalyst for change. Linda Cruse is an international aid worker, disaster management specialist, author, inspirational speaker and social entrepreneur. You should check out her book Marmalade and Machine Guns.

Linda said a lot that resonated with me. She talked about the work she does around the world but how it’s important to create environments that foster independence. You have to train people you teach to be without you so they don’t become dependent. It is valuable to co-create then leave. That to me is not important only if you are assisting in third world countries but a principle that rings true in every country in any life. Parents, school teachers, managers can all take that same piece of advice and apply it. I know I want to. No one should want to create someone who cannot be independent to think, live and thrive on their own. 

Some other faves Linda mentioned are as follows:

“We come with nothing and we go with nothing. At the end of the day we have our purpose so don’t miss living your purpose by one day. How do you want to be remembered?”

“Why not? Two words that will change your life.”

“Have a board of directors for your life, in your life.”

“You become who you have coffee with.”

“Buy an experience for Christmas or Thanksgiving. You’ll talk about it for years. Buy experiences, not things.”

To wrap up day 1, there was also a panel session on making success. The panelists dove deeper into the ideas of balance and resilience being possible for MAD Leaders. 

One of my favorite takeaways was something someone on the panel said which was,”No…is a gift you can give someone. It’s you saying, ‘I can’t do it’ so they can find someone else versus saying yes then you can’t commit to it. 

Next week I’ll tell you more about day two of the Aspire Foundation MAD Leadership Chicago conference.  

The totally fab Volunteer Team I was part of

Five-K Me: 2016 Summer of Wicked Workouts

In 3 weeks I will be doing my first 5K. It may not seem like much but I’m actually pretty excited about it. Much more than expected.

I don’t think I have done a bib race since running the Indy 500 half-marathon in Indianapolis many moons ago. We’re talking at least 10-11 years ago.

I have never been much of a runner. I can walk for miles but I do not enjoy running. It just doesn’t jazz me up but back in the day I was briefly into running.

Earlier this year one of my coworkers said she wanted to do a 5K walk. I did that thing where I was like, “Great idea. Yeah that sounds fun. We should look into it.” Meanwhile I had no real intention of doing it. Then it turned into a group wanting to do it and get our lives and bodies together. I was placed in charge of planning.

We all need friends who nudge us and pull us along on good ideas like this. I researched races all over the city and ultimately we whittled down to this fun one where gospel music will be played throughout.  It is family-friendly and will be held along the lakefront path of Chicago. Another major plus is all the money from the race will go to support a cause all of us are passionate about — poverty alleviation. It will be an uplifting, energizing and encouraging day for us all.

Other than hoping for good weather, we have also been making our own personal adjustments to get prepared. Taking walks and eating better are a few of the intentional changes. Talking about it at work keeps us motivated and we may even do more races in the future.

I’m not looking to become an ultra-marathoner or anything. I just want to kick off another wicked workout summer right.

Pretty soon I’ll  also be back to my regular weekly shenanigans with 3 hour sessions of yoga, pilates and zumba. Sweating hard, not looking pretty, constantly ready to quit but with a milestone birthday waiting for me at the end of this year, now is a better time than any to keep climbing uphill on this quest to get my heart healthy and my body right.

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Summer 2015 Workout. That's me front left

We all got to start somewhere. What people sometimes forget is baby steps forward is still progress. Remember it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

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Summer 2015 workout with Zumba instructor Iris