Six Life Lessons I Learned From Mom

Click here to read my Six Life Lessons I Learned From Mom in the April/May edition of the Columbia Home magazine.


Find the Sweet Spot


Because You’re Worth It

Carolyn is a columnist for Columbia Home Magazine.  This is her column from the October 2014 Issue.

Kate is a 48-year-old mother of two. She’s worked for her employer for 10 years. She works long hours and gets great results. She’s loyal and well liked. She’s also underpaid — and she knows it. She’s been aware of it for years and done nothing about it. She’s afraid that by asking for a raise, she’ll offend her employer, who has become a friend. But she knows she’s selling herself short and that it’s hurting her and her family.

If this story sounds familiar, it’s because many of us share Kate’s struggle to have our value recognized in the workplace. The biggest challenge facing working women is not seeing our own worth but negotiating effectively for it. This is actually great news for women, though, because we’re better at negotiation than we’ve been led to believe.

Women negotiate successfully every day in 100 different ways. Maybe you negotiated with your partner about who was going to take your child to football practice or with your teenager about cleaning her room or with your boss to leave work early. All of those conversations were negotiations. And some of them might have even been successful!

Women have everything it takes to be effective negotiators, but we haven’t been using our talents. A meager 7 percent of us attempt to negotiate our salary compared to 57 percent of men. We ask for, on average, 30 percent — or $7,000 — less than men. This has real consequences. We’re not asking for what we’re worth, which only exacerbates the gender pay gap. Women in Missouri are paid 78 cents for $1 paid to men, amounting to a yearly gap of $9,281 between men and women who work full time. It’s time to turn this around, friends.

Women excel in the workplace because of many distinguishing talents. Several of these talents make us uniquely qualified to be good negotiators:

No. 1: Women are relational. We create close relationships by talking, and that’s what negotiation is. Maybe you’ve been afraid to jeopardize your workplace relationships by asking for more money or opportunities, but your rapport with your co-workers will enable you to negotiate successfully for the compensation you deserve.

No. 2: Women are caretakers. We are aware of others’ needs and work to meet them. In a negotiation, you need to be able to see and acknowledge the other party’s needs. You’ve got that part down. Now, identify what you need from the negotiation, and advocate for it as forcefully as you do the needs of others.

No. 3: Women are collaborative. Studies show we see common goals where men often see conflicting goals. Remember, negotiation isn’t a battle. When women see negotiations as shared problems to be collaboratively solved, we get better results. If you know your boss will say she can’t afford to give you a raise, brainstorm ways your organization can cut costs or raise revenue to make it possible.

I know negotiating for yourself is hard. Like many of you, I am more comfortable advocating for others than I am for myself; it’s why I became a trial lawyer and why I’m now a coach. But I’m working to change that for myself — and for all of us.

When we speak up to negotiate our worth, we transform our self-esteem, regardless of the outcome for our bank accounts and careers. We do right by our families, who depend on our salaries. We model empowerment for our daughters and all the girls who look to us to learn how to use their voices on their own behalf. We all benefit when we each take that first step – together. So let’s get moving!


  1. Get the facts. The old adage “knowledge is power” is true in negotiations, especially for women. When women get the facts about what they’re worth, they are better able to negotiate for themselves. So what are you waiting for? Go find out using, and
  1. Know what you want. Once you’ve researched what you’re worth, decide what you want to ask for. Promotion? Change in compensation regarding salary? Flex time? Professional development? Factor in your accomplishments and how difficult it would be for your employer to replace you. Identify the goal of your negotiations as well as what you’ll do if you don’t get what you ask for.
  1. Try a family-friendly frame. Empower yourself by framing your negotiation around what your family needs. As you gather the courage to ask, think about doing it for your child’s college fund or to enable the next family vacation.
  1. Practice, practice, practice. It takes more than summoning your courage to get great negotiation results. Effective negotiation requires building your skills, and that takes time and practice. Before you go for the big ask, practice on smaller negotiations.

Carolyn’s challenge: Carolyn and New Chapter Coaching are working to close the gender pay gap! In October, Carolyn will provide a complimentary 30-minute coaching session to any woman looking to approach her employer for a raise. Join her, and take the challenge by contacting her at and referencing this column.


From Couch to Confidence

Carolyn is a columnist for Columbia Home Magazine. This is her column from the June 2014 issue.

A personal challenge becomes the key to positivity with one life-altering change.

As a coach, clients come to me to realize their potential. I have an arsenal of strategies to help them. But a few months ago, I started on a journey of my own — one that’s changing my life and work. In the process, I’ve discovered there’s a strategy for unleashing our personal power that’s as effective as anything I’ve ever recommended. And it’s been at our fingertips the whole time: exercise.

In the fall of 2013, I set out to shrink my saddlebags and found a reward far greater than any number on the scale. I had heard about Project LOLA, A Health and Fitness Project for 40-plus-year-old lesbians interested in getting healthier. To be eligible, I couldn’t be at my peak health (check!) and had to commit to a 16-week program: a program for out-of-shape, middle-aged women like me.

The truth is I hadn’t worked out in 12 years and was afraid to get moving. But last year, as the discomfort from the rising number on my scale matched the increasing discomfort from the tightness of my pants, my inactivity became too physically painful to ignore. Although I lay awake at night hoping my fitness fairy would swoop down and magically transform me to my youthful figure, it wasn’t going to happen.

After months of emotional work, I joined Project LOLA. Supported by a small group of inspiring Columbia women and a personal trainer I see once a week, I’m slowly but surely improving. And as I’ve gotten moving again, miraculous things have started to happen. My mood has improved, my energy has increased, and my stress level has dropped. I’m having fun, and I’ve become noticeably happier. I feel better about myself and, in turn, am taking better care of myself. This queen of the frozen dinner has made more meals for herself in the past 12 weeks than in the past 12 years.

Most surprising for me, though, has been the journey of my self-esteem. Each time I lift a heavier weight or run more minutes, I set a new bar for what I can accomplish. As the bar moves higher, I realize the depth of my untapped potential for anything I set my mind to.

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that trigger a positive feeling in the body, which improves your self-esteem. Exercise also gives you regular opportunities to set and achieve goals. This process builds awareness of your personal capacity, personal pride and a sense of accomplishment, all of which increase your self-esteem.

Don’t get me wrong, the progress hasn’t been easy or linear, but if this 54-year-old couch potato could get started, I know you can. So this month, step into the gym for a workout, out onto the street for a walk or onto the trails for a hike. Each step is a step into the power of increased self-esteem and a more positive view of yourself. I promise you won’t regret the journey and won’t believe the results.

Carolyn’s Tips:

1. Confront your fear.

Ask yourself: What am I really afraid of? What would happen if my greatest fear came true? What would be the worst possible outcome? Answering questions such as these helps to put your fear into perspective by seeing where it isn’t supported by facts.

2. Get off the fence.

If you’re ambivalent about change, evaluate the pros and cons of waiting. As you do, refrain from any shame about the past, and love yourself into a decision that’s best for you and your future.

3. Focus on the positive.

Research shows we see more possibilities in our life when we’re experiencing more positive emotions. So refrain from focusing on the fact that your workout clothes are outdated (mine were circa 1990s) and all the other reasons now isn’t the right time. Focus instead on the amazing opportunity you have to change your view of yourself and the world around you.

4. Reward yourself.

Whatever journey you embark on, it’s important to recognize and reward your progress. Bought new sneakers? Hurray! Walked the dog? Woo hoo! You deserve a treat for large and small successes alike.




That’s What Friends Are For

Carolyn is a columnist for Columbia Home Magazine. This is her column from the August 2014 issue.


Beth and I met freshman year in college. No matter how much time passes between phone calls, she’s the kind of friend who would be on the first plane to Columbia if I needed her. But this article isn’t about my friendship with Beth; it’s about another more unlikely friendship that developed between Beth and her 97-year-old neighbor, Ed, whom I was lucky enough to meet a few years ago.

Beth and I were taking a morning walk when we suddenly made a detour onto a nearby driveway. “You dressed?” Beth shouted as she rapped on the door and let us in. We were in the middle of Ed’s kitchen by the time an old man with a full head of white hair emerged, walking unsteadily toward us. “Yeah, I’m dressed,” he replied with a smile. Beth had already made her way to the refrigerator and was sniffing the contents of a milk container. “You need anything today?”

The exchange I witnessed has been Beth and Ed’s routine for the past three years. Beth checks to make sure Ed’s stove is off and he’s wearing a clean shirt. He gives her newspaper clippings and helpful advice about her work. Beth shares home-cooked meals five nights a week; the other two she tells him: “You’ve got a date with Marie tonight.” (Marie Callender, that is.) At the age of 97, Ed is thriving. He just renewed his driver’s license. He’s got plans.

In befriending Ed, Beth is cultivating the kind of community she wants for herself and family: a community where neighbors know and care for one another. It’s as powerful an image of love as any.

A wealth of research shows that social connections improve our health, life expectancy and happiness. Daily social support is a key factor in us feeling happier and more optimistic about our lives. Happiness is contagious; we catch it from our friends. Friends can also make us healthier and help us to live longer. Alternatively, people who are socially isolated have higher rates of cancer, heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.

In today’s world, it’s sometimes difficult to know what friendship means. Many of us are rich in Facebook friends and poor in friends who love, encourage and accept us for who we are. Cultivating genuine social connections takes more than the click of a key. It requires us to first believe we’re worthy of being loved and then develop the skills to build relationships with others.

Many of us have little awareness of the full value we bring to our friendships. Only able to see the mundane aspects of our own lives, we deprive our friends of our company. No one wants to spend an evening listening to us talk about the baby teething, meaningless jobs or caregiving burdens, right? Yet sharing this — and so much more — is the very essence of friendship.

To make vital connections with people who matter, we have to make ourselves vulnerable. We might have to face our social anxiety, depression, shyness or low self-esteem. If all of that were easy, we’d all be as popular as Glinda in the musical Wicked. But being connected is important — and life giving. The rewards that you and your friends stand to gain are well worth the risks you run along the way. So give that friend you’ve missed a call. He or she is looking forward to hearing from you. And who knows? You might just live to see 97 because of them.

Carolyn’s Tips:


Ed and Beth’s friendship started when Ed told his neighbor, “You look good today.” She was wearing stained sweats and sporting a rat’s-nest hairdo; she had to laugh at his approach. But it worked. Compliments usually do.


As my mom says, “You can’t be a friend unless you are a friend.” Are you consistently the kind of friend you’d like others to be for you? Today, identify one meaningful way you can be a friend to someone with whom you’d like to make a stronger connection.


When we’re busy, time with friends often loses out to work and family. Make friends a priority by scheduling regular time to be or talk with them. One friend talks with her long-distance best friend while knocking out her daily exercise; another hosts a monthly virtual happy hour.


Where the Magic Happens

Carolyn is a columnist for Columbia Home Magazine. This is her column from the March/April 2014 issue.



When is the last time you stepped outside your comfort zone?

If you’re thinking to yourself, “I like to be comfortable,” believe me, I get it. I like to be comfortable myself. If changing out of work clothes and into PJs and fuzzy slippers were an Olympic sport, I’d have a gold medal.

It isn’t just the appeal of fuzzy slippers that keeps us in our comfort zones. Sometimes, we fear change and instead yearn for the safety of what’s familiar. However, when you want to create meaningful change in your life, playing it safe is often the last thing you should do. As the saying goes, “Outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens.”

In 2008, I was a successful professional making a six-figure salary at a national nonprofit. However, I had come to hate my job so much that I found myself crying uncontrollably on my flights home from the Washington, D.C. office. As unhappy as I was, I felt profoundly stuck; despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to extricate myself from the job I hated.

One Friday afternoon, I was working in my office in Columbia when I received a phone call from the company’s president telling me what I had intuited from the moment I heard her voice.

For the first time in my career, I was laid off.

I hung up the phone and was filled with conflicting emotions. Both anxious and relieved, I felt as if the warden had just released me from prison, but I had nowhere to go.

After the shock wore off, the panic began to set in. I needed to find another job and fast. Then, I had a flash of insight that profoundly changed my professional life. I realized the universe had just helped me to do what I hadn’t been able to do for myself — get out of my comfort zone. If I wanted to transform my life, I needed to find the courage to stay outside that zone.

“I don’t even know what my soul work is,” I remember telling my good friend Michelle.

“That’s easy — helping people,” she replied. And there it was. The first big clue in what felt like a gigantic scavenger hunt for clues to my future.

During the next four months, I began to think about my life’s possibilities in new ways. “Just do it,” my friend Laura said, as I spoke anxiously about my dream of starting my own business.

“Easy for you to say,” I thought to myself because Laura was a successful business owner herself. But as I let my friend’s advice sink in, I knew she was right; it was just that simple. If not now, when?

As Jim Rohn says, “If you don’t change what you are doing today, all your tomorrows will look like yesterday.” Today, believe in yourself, and take your first step toward a better tomorrow. When you dare to step outside your comfort zone and move your dreams from the back burner, the transformation in your life can be truly magical.


Carolyn’s challenge: If you’re ready to examine the fears that keep you in your comfort zone and to live a life filled with more courage, check out Brene Brown’s latest book, Daring Greatly.

About Carolyn: At the height of the recession, Carolyn took her dreams off the back burner and started her own business, New Chapter Coaching. Crazy or confident, she’s never looked back. She’s dedicated to helping nonprofits get results that improve people’s lives and helping others make a difference along the way. Carolyn’s hit what she calls the career trifecta: She gets to do what she loves with clients she respects and earns a living doing it. She wishes the same for everyone.


The Greatest Gift: Listening Deeply

On a recent flight from Dallas, I met a woman I’ll call Susie. She took the window seat next to me and warmly asked “How are y’all doing tonight?” So began the discussion which lasted the better part of the flight home to St. Louis.

Susie’s nerves were apparent from the start; I wouldn’t have to wait long to find out the cause. She had enlisted in the Army and was headed to Fort Leonard Wood to begin basic training. “I was stuck,” the 19-year old declared before we’d even left the gate. She hadn’t been able to graduate from high school because she didn’t have a car and couldn’t get there. Without a high school degree, the only work Susie was able to get was at the local fast food joint.

All before takeoff, I knew about Susie’s “ego problem,” her need to be the best, her rebellious nature, the friends who weren’t talking to her because she’d joined the Army, her family, and more. She didn’t stop talking or figeting, all while proclaiming her excitement about the aircraft, the flight, and boot camp.
She shared so much so quickly; what did she want me to do with this information?

You might imagine that my coach training was kicking in from the start. As a woman 30 years her senior, part of me–perhaps a maternal part–was eager to share some life experiences with this strong, yet vulnerable nineteen year old. But as I leaned into the moment, it was apparent that Susie was not in a frame of mind to hear anything. I realized that Susie needed something else from me. What was it?

As I listened to the totality of Susie’s communication–the content and tone of her speech, her body language, her energy–it all expressed one need. As she flew away from the only home she’d ever known and on to the next chapter in her life, Susie needed me to listen to her.

Susie was starting a new chapter in her life, one that both excited her and frightened her and she needed to talk about it and be heard. It was my role during that flight to listen deeply to what she was saying and to communicate to her that she was being heard. It was my pleasure to do so.

Rebecca Shafir, author of The Zen of Listening, defines listening as “the willingness to see a situation through the eyes of the speaker.” During that flight, I attempted to appreciate how it might feel to have the courage to sign a 4 year contract for service–to anyone, for anything. I tried to appreciate how it might feel leaving everything and everyone you know in one state and travel to another state to start a new life–and to do that all by yourself at nineteen years of age. I attempted to appreciate how it might feel to be entering the Army at a time of war.

More often than we realize, what a loved one, co-worker, or stranger needs most is for us to listen deeply to them. When deep listening takes place, both speaker and listener are often transformed. As Sue Patton Thoele says, “Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand.” Susie: I thank you for expanding my spirit and salute you for serving our country.

January 8, 2010


Are You In A Growing Season?

There are times in our lives when it is necessary to get off the path, take a retreat, and spend a period in reflection about where to go next in our lives. When I last engaged in this process, it took me to the one of the most spectacularly beautiful places in America: Sedona, Arizona. While there, I spent five days alone in contemplation about my life, its purpose, and the work which might best give it meaning and fulfillment. 

During this time, I spent as much time as possible in the gorgeous natural surrounding that is Sedona. Sedona is located in Arizona’s high desert under the southwestern rim of the vast Colorado Plateau. It is most famous for its massize red-rock formations, as well as the Oak Creek Canyon that winds through the area for miles and miles. Sedona also boasts hundreds of hiking trails which take you on wonderful journeys along sun-lit monoliths with hues of reds and oranges you’ve never before seen and will not soon forget. 

As I traveled these winding, desert paths, I saw natural sights that reminded me of life’s possibilities. I saw beautiful, colorful flowers growing from what looked only like arrid dirt to me. I saw other flowers thriving out of piles of stones, without the appearance of either soil or water. I saw a tree growing out from two rocks and stretching up to the sun. I saw another tree nearly entirely bent over from the force of the wind, yet alive and well nonetheless. Despite the harsh elements of the high desert, each of these plants and trees was, miraculously enough, growing rather than dying. They were in a growing season.

Each of these observations reminded me not only of what nature could do, but of what humanity could endure and accomplish under the most unusual and trying circumstances. 

As a country, we are certainly experiencing a most unusual circumstance. For many, it is also an enormously trying circumstance. Despite being a both unusual and trying season, it must also be a growing season for us all. A season where we commit to using whatever soil we find ourselves in and fighting whatever wind prevails and doing what is best for ourselves and those who count on us.

 Anaïs Nin said: ” And the day came when the risk to remain tight in bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Of course you must determine how much risk is appropriate for you and your family, but remaining tight in the bud forever is equivalent to not growing and that is no option at all for a living being. It is equal to electing the option of dying.

March 20th is the first day of spring this year. The daffodils in my front yard know the season, as the plants are already out of the ground and the blossoms are soon to follow. The trees know it too, for they have sprouted their buds and are tightly protecting them until warmer weather enables their blossoming. My hope for each of you is that you’re also stirring inside and looking within and without for ways to grow.  

Suggested Action Items

1. Spend some time reflecting on whether you currently are in a time of growth. Are you  simply busy or are you actually growing in the ways you’d like to be? Understand the difference between activity and personal or professional growth.

2. If you’ve identified that you’re “tight in a bud,” reflect on whether you are ready to blossom. What would that flower look like? What would you be doing? How would that feel? What would it be worth to achieve that goal?

n.b. Photographs on this post are original and may not be used without my express permission.



























Food For Thought On Gratitude

Each night in my community’s only soup kitchen, 50-100 homeless men and women are served a hot meal. The people who serve them are volunteers from local churches. Last night I participated for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect. When the evening started, I considered myself someone incredibly grateful for her blessings. Imagine my suprise to receive, from these strangers, the gift of an improved attitude on gratitude. 

People lined up inside and out for what was perhaps their only meal of the day. Though the main course was home cooked by several of the volunteers, even they would admit that the meal was nothing fancy. But despite the meal’s simplicity, something extraordinary happened last night.

Over and over again I heard expressions of gratitude. Gratitude for the food and gratitude for the volunteers. Gratitude for the warmer weather and gratitude for the trees. And even gratitude for the town which had no home for them. In nearly two hours of being with people who have so few resources, I heard not a single complaint. “It was a good day; better than most,”  said one man.

I couldn’t help but think of the complaints I had uttered that day. I recalled a conversation earlier in the day when a friend and I complained about our stock market losses from the economy. What did I have to complain about, I now wondered? I realized I had volunteered just in time for a unique lesson on gratitude. Thanks to the men and women I met last night, I will carry into the holiday season and beyond a new gratitude for just how truly and richly blessed I am and a nobler way to demonstrate it.

Suggestion Action Items:

Research has shown that people who complain less are more positive and that being more positive has a long list of benefits including:

  • They live longer
  • They’re healthier
  • They have more friends and better social lives
  • They enjoy life more
  • They’re more successful at work 

Sounds good, right? So here are a few ideas on how to get started turning things around!

  1. Take stock of the items you’ve recently been complaining about at work and/or home. How much of your complaining was complaining for the sake of complaining versus complaining about matters you really desire to change? Discard the list of unproductive complaining. Move on to the next bullet to address action items for the other list.
  2. With regard to the actions you desire to change, are you complaining and then taking action? Or does your action stop with the complaining? Try to identify one item today that you’re complaining about that you desire to change.  Take one small step towards changing it.
  3. Nurture Gratitude: Start and maintain a daily gratitude journal. Each day record 3-5 things (no item is too small!) for which you are grateful.
  4. Give Gratitude: William Arthur Ward said “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” In the next week, identify one way to make the day of someone for whom you are grateful.


Uncommon Gifts

I recently went to a business event where one of the sponsors was a dentist. As a result of his sponsorship, each attendee received a neatly wrapped toothbrush. With toothbrush in hand, I headed off to my printer to pick up an order.

Once at my printer’s, I asked myself whether he might like a new toothbrush. Having recently purchased an electric toothbrush which has changed my dental life, I had no need. Not knowing him that well, I wondered how odd it might sound to ask a relative stranger if he needed a new toothbrush. I pushed aside that fear and decided “what the heck?”

“Sure, I’d love the toothbrush,” Brian said. “But let me tell you what I’m going to do with it.” As it turned out, Brian was a volunteer with the Boy Scouts and he and the boys were in the process of putting together shoe boxes for children abroad. It gets better, though. Brian was on his last shoebox, which had to be filled that night. It was missing only one item: a toothbrush.

I left the print shop not just happy with the ending, but thrilled that I had trusted my intuition. I had dared to offer the uncommon gift of a toothbrush and to the recipient, it turned out to be the perfect gift.

Are you trusting your intuition as much as you’d like? Are you gifting–and by that I mean giving–to others in the ways that make their day and fill your soul?