Outsize Influences in my life

Three people with an outsize influence on my sense of self-efficacy, skills, and personality.


One of the things I wanted to tackle on my 30 before 30 list was acknowledging people who have had an outsize influence in my life.  I chose 3 people, but of course, there are many.


My dad is the archetypal engineer.  Task oriented, outcome focused, brusque, somewhat exacting.  Nuggets like “Most of life is just showing up, ON TIME” would often march from his mouth, typically as I scurried into the car on a Sunday morning after he’d already started the engine.  As a kid, my weekends were filled with one project or another my dad wanted to do and needed me and my siblings to help with.  All the projects were carefully mapped out with seemingly interminable multi-page lists.  Building a back porch.  Stacking wood.  Digging a hole to put in a pool.  None of my other friend’s dads were so ambitious or orderly.  Weekdays he would patiently suffer through crying algebra tutoring sessions, insisting that I “show my work” so he could improve my problem solving and decision making. In large part, my ability (and desire) to do big things was fostered by this environment, I was becoming a person with a strong sense of self-efficacy.  Anything could be done, with the right amount of research, the correct process, and an ability to continue trying until it came out right.

Luckily, for me, it has turned out being an adult is basically the same as building a back porch.  Determine what you can do with the environment you’ve got, research, make lists, and then just keep nailing one board in after the other.

High School English teacher:

Ms. English Teacher wore sweater sets, khaki skirts, and purple Doc Martens.  She was in her mid-twenties, barely older than us, and corrected our papers in vibrant splashes of inimitable (though we tried) pink, green, and orange pen.  She was nerdy-cool before I realized that was truly possible.  I had her as a junior for English and chose her elective Creative Writing, where the phrase “skittered and bobbed” imprinted in my memory as an example of superlative prose.  Her dictum on writing papers, “The beginning is important and the end is important, but the end is more important than the beginning”  I repeated endlessly to struggling peers.  It’s to her credit that I can recognize appeals to pathos, logos, and ethos.  After I ended up reluctantly in college, it was to her influence that I chose English as my major. Freewriting, short stories, poetry.  I attempted all these things in her creative writing class, learned that I loved to edit, and honed a skill I didn’t realize would go on to become my strongest tool, writing.  Through her love of teaching and language, I received a gift and skill I can continue to use my entire life.

Toughest Coworker Ever (TCE):

TCE was my personality opposite, though we never compared Myers Briggs, alas, I’m sure she would have mirrored my own ENTJ. An older woman, nearly 60, she had been a military brat as a child, and experienced a difficult and traumatizing car accident as a young adult, which she referred to frequently.  Widely read and curious, her forays down informational back roads, and insistence on endlessly seeking input from our clients irked me.  She had a gentle interpersonal style and worked well in 1:1 situations.  The multitasking and frequent interruptions in our work environment wore her down, flustered her.  She wanted to process events at the end of the day, I wanted to finish paperwork.  She wanted to determine the best course of action, I wanted to get things done.  Our clashes were epic, not because of their volume, but because of the dwindling goodwill which eventually froze the room to an icy standstill.  This was the real world initiation I had to topics like academic psychological topics like motivation and personality.

If not for TCE, I would be at the mercy of all the flaws of the ENTJ personality.  Likely, I would still be a steamroller, barrelling down the hallways of whatever work or volunteer situation I ended up in, convinced my way was not only right, but the only way to get things done.  I would not have learned the value of seeking diverse opinions, nor would I have read the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  I would never want to return to the stress of the year and a half that we worked together, but then again, it would be impossible for me to return as the same person who caused those misunderstandings.

What about you?  Are there people who have had an outsize influence on you?  Taught you what it meant to be a responsible person?  Given you tools and skills you use to this day?  Caused you to reexamine how you saw the world and yourself?

30 Before 30 List

Birthday Cake!
Birthday Cake!

Here is my 30 before 30 list.

Tackling Nagging “Adult” things.

  1. Finish Master’s Degree.
  2. Join a Professional Association.
  3. Buy a suit.
  4. Go to a conference.
  5. Get a job.
  6. Save 2 months of living expenses.
  7. Floss daily.

Go on (local) Adventures.

  1. Go on a weekend Road Trip.
  2. Run 6/9 Races of the North Shore Trail Series.
  3. Try yoga paddleboarding.
  4. Go to the Boston Harbor Islands .
  5. Eat at the Top of the Hub.

Continue to be a Navel Gazer.

  1. Go on a retreat to L’Abri.
  2. Make a wedding photo album.
  3. Update the 5 Year plan for our family.
  4. Send thank-you letters to three people who have had a big influence in my life.
  5. Start a new Blog.
  6. Write my 20’s in a long form essay.

Keep Learning.

  1. Take a cooking (or art) class.
  2. Go to a wine tasting.
  3. Try a new fitness style (adult gymnastics? TRX?).
  4. Take an Economics 101 MOOC.
  5. Learn Graphic Design Basics.
  6. Write a book proposal – or – Submit a story to Relevant/ Her.meneutics.
  7. Learn how to do 4 new functions on my camera (eg: white balance).

Get (even more) Social.

  1. Learn how to make 5 drink recipes from memory.
  2. Reconnect with a few high school friends.
  3. Become a Mentor.
  4. Host a story-telling party.
  5. Organize a group camping trip.

Some thoughts on the process –

It was both easier and harder to make this list than I thought.

Easier because…On the one hand, I feel as though the last five years taught me a lot of the types of lessons people vow to fix when they turn 30 (for example to get more organized or have better time management skills.  Not that I’m perfect, obviously).  And… I don’t feel my biological clock ticking because having an unplanned kid means at least I got that accomplished early.  I didn’t struggle with trying to pick which bad habit to fix – it was easy.  I do need to floss every day, and I’m currently terrible at it.

On the other hand… I wish I had the money to put international travel on the list, or take a lot more costly classes and experiences (sky diving – yeah, I would have tried that).  I don’t need more money to be happy, I am happy, but… it would have made for a more adventuresome list and I’m very envious of those that are travelling a lot more than I am.

And now… I plan to print the list off and stick it in my study space so I can work on it over the next year.


30 Before 30 – Initial Thoughts

Yesterday was my half birthday – which means I’ve only got 18 more months before I turn 30.


It’ll be anticlimactic, since, as I told a friend recently, I’ve pretty much felt 30 since I had my son two years (and four months) ago anyway.  Living in Massachusetts – where over 30% of children are born to mothers over 30, can seriously skew your perception of the right age to have a kid.  Also of note, average female age for first marriage here is 29 here too.  Which begs the question, what’s the average age for first master’s degree?  Cause that’s the main reason for those other statistics.

Also this will be anticlimatic – because I’m an old soul.  At 22 I wanted to join a committee. (Seriously, what a geek.)  Finally, now that I’m 28 I can attend the meetings and happily realize I’m only a decade (and some change) younger than everyone else.

If you remotely follow lifestyle/reflective/ domestic-type blogs then you know that doing a 30 before 30 list is de rigeur. Seriously – just google it.  Therefore I’ve been thinking about this since, well, since right after I turned 25.

30 is kind of a big deal.  You’re sort of supposed to have your shit together by then.  Mostly.  And I’ve been working on it.  I’ve chronicled some of my life lessons here on this blog, mused on some of my Secrets of Adulthood. (There’s some overlap, obvs.)

Overall, I congratulate myself on my emotional maturity… but the hallmark of these 30 before 30 lists doesn’t have much to do with that kind of poise and self-reflection.  Nope – they focus on spectacular feats of athletic prowess, mental acumen, and also, predominantly wildly expensive lessons and trips.  Travel, paying off debts, buying houses, and money money money are biiiiggg features.  While I’m winning on the self-reflection end of things, life circumstances have pretty much stuck me (and the fam) in the lower quintiles of the economic scale. (For the time being, I tell myself.)

No trips to India for me. Boo hoo.

So, first thoughts on this list… I’d better focus on some free, or cheap things I want to accomplish.

28 Superlatives to Celebrate 28 Years

Yesterday was my birthday.

My husband baked me a nice dessert.


My son surprised me by being totally gung ho about kale chips.


A fair number of people wished me well on facebook, and I also went out to dinner.

And… I created this list of 28 Superlative events of the last year.

  1. Best New Project: Writing on Connect Shore with my friends.
  2. Best Baby Milestone: Even more than walking and dancing – I’ve enjoyed E’s ability to put together words – we had our first “conversation” last week!
  3. Best TV show I started watching: Once upon a Time.
  4. Farthest Trip: Philadelphia, PA – for a friend’s wedding 🙂
  5. Biggest Time Waste: Checkin’ Facebook, as usual.
  6. Best Life Hack(s): Google Docs
  7. Newest Food I tried: Tatsoi. (So weird!)
  8. Favorite new Go-To recipe: Turnip (yes Turnip!) Stew with Sweet Potatoes and CousCous.
  9. Newest Skill: Crochet-ing!
  10. Best Party: Ryan B.’s Awesome Christmas party (where I won a prize for ugliest sweater (dress.)
  11. Best Grad School Class: Management Theory. (Maybe I should have been a business major all those years ago?)
  12. Smartest Buy: (Tie) Little Seed by Elizabeth Mitchell, and a new-to-us car.
  13. Newest Hero: Activist Abby.  This facebook page totally makes me smile every time I see it pop up in the newsfeed.
  14. Biggest Fail: Trying to take 3 grad classes and work part time this spring.
  15. Newest Friend: My soon to be sister-in-law Wendy R!
  16. Best blogs I started reading:  For School: Management Ink: A blog about organizational research articles recently published. For Social Media Advice: Julia Campbell.  A great (and easy to read) resource for people trying to figure out the Social Media marketing scene (that’s me.)  For my own enjoyment:A lot of great new blogs this year… but – I love the collaboration at the Storyline Blog, curated by Donald Miller.
  17. Favorite blog post I wrote: Over at Connect Shore – 8 Things I think are true (but they aren’t!)
  18. First Speeding Ticket: Sadly, no more squeaky clean record for me.
  19. Proudest Moment(s): Got a Graduate Assistantship at Salem State for the ’12-’13 year! Ran a 5 Mile Race in May!
  20. 2 Most Important Life Realization: Physical organization can change your mood (so can time structuring, but I knew that): And prioritizing means knowing your core values and beliefs.
  21. Newest North Shore Green Space: Marblehead Audubon Bird Sanctuary (beautiful!)
  22. Best (and only?) Concert: Brown Bird. Banjos and Upright Bass ::swoon:: (Thanks Ellamy!)
  23. Most Surprising Event: Being Interviewed by Vera at TerraBlu Teams about my thoughts on Sustainability.
  24. Most Listened to (Non-Kid) Song: So Sleepy – by Fiona Apple
  25. Saddest Thing:My sister and her husband moved to Fitchburg, MA.  No more going over for lunch, less babysitting options –  BOO!
  26. Best North Shore Event: Ice Cream on the Salem Commons – blogged here at Connect Shore.
  27. Best Family Trip: DeCordova Sculpture Garden – a surprise trip completely planned by my husband.  Beautiful! Can’t wait to go again another time.
  28. Longest/Shortest Books I read: G.R.R. Martin’s Clash of Kings (926 Pages) / R.B. Munger’s My Heart, Christ’s Home. (32 “pages” It’s what most people would call a ‘pamphlet.’)