Thursday, January 28, 2010

Love Letter to My Colleagues

“Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving”
-Kahlil Gibran

This post is going to be simple and to the point. I’m grateful. Overwhelmingly grateful for the amazing people who have been showing up at my door, ringing the bell, and then making their way into my space, my life, my heart. And so…to wrap it all up (those in attendance at the summit will know the extreme amount of self-discipline I’m showing at this moment to not comment further on the words wrapped up like…) here goes this year’s GRATITUDE LIST FOR SUMMIT 2010 (These are in no particular order):

The 2010 Girls on the Run Summit gave and gives me an immense amount of gratitude for:

YOU -the Summit attendees! What is it about Girls on the Run that attracts such amazing and talented women? It is because of each of you that this organization thrives and serves more and more girls each year. The energy in Austin was palpable and we are all united, one with each other, whether in Charlotte, Los Angeles or New York.

The employees of Girls on the Run International: The event was well-organized and easy to navigate. I am grateful for the team at Headquarters and my guess is the connection they have for one another was felt by everyone in attendance.

Jenny Hadfield: WOW. I feel as if I’ve got a friend for life. Her willingness to share her story, her spirit and her guts with us touched everyone in that room. My guess is, based on conversations she and I have had since, she was touched as well. Check our her blog: referencing her experience at the summit.

Dr. Maureen Weiss: How could you NOT love this woman? Down-to-earth, authentic, REAL, Mo is one of the most intelligent academicians around. She is renowned in her field and her work in youth development programs is well-respected. We all were affirmed by her amazing words and her work at the Tucker Center. Her research validates and affirms that our work, at Girls on the Run is relevant, critically important AND changing lives.

Kristin Armstrong: What a peaceful, beautiful-souled woman. Her presence in our midst was inspiring. We felt so honored that she brought along her own daughters, her best friend Paige and Paige’s daughters…the whole thing was a surreal moment for me and an empowering one for all. Check out her blog, outlining much of what she shared with us.

Our sponsors: WOW. We are so fortunate to not only have relationships with these amazing companies but with the individuals associated with them as well. I’m convinced that what draws these corporations to Girls on the Run is the connection that individuals have to our organization. We touch each and everyone at a level deeper than a standard business relationship. Molly Reynolds from Secret; Chris Mann from New Balance; April Whitlock and Kathryn Thompson from Carolina Pad; Jackie McFee, Sarah Churchill and Gail Peterson from Jackie Studios; Patty Parrott and Kelly Colwin from Horizon; Allison Barrington from Gigunda; Jana Bartlett and Sonya McCabe from Goody.

Our amazing break-out speakers: The insight and expertise that each shared will take our organization to a new level and allow us to reach more girls each year. Thank you Susan Patterson, Teresa Purcell, Illene Roggensack, Robert Bales, Chris Weiss, Katy Brown, Lauren Byrne, Marjohn Elyaderani, Kelly O’Brien, Beth Gregory-Wallis and Karen Raseman for sharing your knowledge with us.

The small, off-to-the side conversations I had with so many of you. We laughed, we cried, we talked about children, our lives, maintaining balance, husbands, partners, finances, running, quiet time and our personal evolution. These off the record conversations are what make our woman-to-woman connection so meaningful, powerful and transformative. These are what draw me in, year after year, to dig a little deeper, explore a little further, RISK a little bit more to share who I am and what I stand for. I am so blessed to know you.

This list could go on and on and on, but in closing this post, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my run with Lauren Byrne. Lauren works at Girls on the Run International and is one of the funniest human beings you will ever meet. One afternoon at the summit, we decided to go for a 5 mile run. We were both battling colds, but thought the outdoor air would do us some good…so off we went. I’m attaching our route, thanks to her Garmin watch. (Okay…so I have to admit, this really was the coolest thing in the world…to be able to actually plot out exactly where we went, how long it took us etc.)

As you can see, we got lost. (See photo above.) We were running up, down, back and forth through Austin trying to find the hotel, which you can ALSO see was right under our nose. When Lauren sent this “snapshot” of where we had been and how we had moved in, around, up and down Austin trying to locate the hotel…I thought I would die laughing. Such a metaphor for my life…I’m always looking, searching, changing routes and trying to find what is usually right there in front of me or within me, all along.

Gratitude abounds, joy lives within and I delight in the warmth, connections and love this program brings to me on a daily basis. Celebrate, sisters. Embrace, Love, Laugh, Honor and know that our work is changing lives…including mine, yours…ours!

I love you all,

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Congressional Congruence

“From the pain, comes the dream.
From the dream, comes the vision.
From the vision, come the people.
From the people comes the power.
From the power comes the change.”
Peter Gabriel

There is this point in every marathon where it hurts. I don’t care if you’ve trained for a year, two years or many. Somewhere between 17 and 23 miles there is this point where things just hurt, plain and simple. The body says no. I’m done. Kaput. It’s over. No more.

This has affectionately been the space most runners call “the wall.” The wall is hard to describe. It’s not a cramp or a decrease in cardiovascular functioning. The wall occurs when the glycogen stores (the fuel in our muscles) we’ve been depleting for 17 or 18 miles are just that…depleted. The fuel we need to ignite neurons to move muscles simply runs out. The best way to stave off the wall is to continue fueling for the first 18 miles. A variety of companies have come up with nutritional products that can be easily ingested. Generally they are goopy, slimy-textured products that go down easily, but may require a good deal of self-discipline to get them into your mouth in the first place. Ick.

I say all this because if you’ve done a marathon, you are more than likely at this moment nodding your head, smiling or grimacing. You know. You’ve been there and done that. If you haven’t done a marathon you are probably, especially after reading what I’ve written here, questioning the sanity of anyone who does. I can remember at one point during the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, when I hit the wall around mile 19 of the marathon, hearing a voice inside my head actually laughing at me. She said, “And you know what Molly, you paid a lot of money to do this.”

I’ve been rambling recently about the back and forth between the left and the right, the conservatives and the liberals, the ‘you said this’s’ and the ‘he said that’s,’ the one side and the other side. And I landed on an understanding where Girls on the Run is in all of that back and forth and coming and going. We are the space, the stomping ground, the vessel, the in-between, the sanctuary, the haven, the settlement where both camps can stand together and share. It is through the sharing of ideas that minds are changed…where critical thinking becomes just that critical.

Without the ability to share, listen and be heard we could NEVER make informed decisions. The beliefs we would land on would simply be the beliefs of those on the “side” where we grew up, hang out and sit in. We have to be willing to listen to the other side in order to grow, evolve and critically use our brains to land on our own beliefs, philosophies and core values.

What Girls on the Run does and why I opened with the marathon experience is provide that “common ground.” It is the safe haven where big, little, tall, short, brown, white, black, and rich, poor, old, young congregate. Everyone who has been there knows the pain of that wall. Every person, whether liberal or conservative, knows the joy of crossing the finish line. Every person, whether thin or not, can appreciate the effort required to train for and show up at the starting line. There is a universal understanding that flows beneath the surface of every running event, whether a 5k or a marathon. Everyone crosses the same starting line, feels the surge of adrenalin there, knows the pain of their own exertion and the exhilaration of the finish. Stories ‘round the finish line are infinite. The shared experience, the common bond, the brother and sisterhood is real, tangible and is capable of bonding people for life.

And so…I land here. Imagine for a moment, our Congress and Senate members choosing a race. Actually let’s not make it a choice. Let’s make it a have to. They must all complete (like an eco-challenge event) the same race in order to keep their office. And…let’s choose something doable. Say…mmm…the Girls on the Run 5k in D.C. Okay…and then they train for it. Every Saturday, when in D.C., a group of them decide to get together and walk/run the mall (the graveled path near the Capitol). They start together, but with all training programs naturally break into groups. The fittest finish the workout first. Those less fit bring up the rear.

Eventually a few gather for breakfast afterwards. Then those that are interested add some interval training every Tuesday and longer runs every Thursday. They shed their suits, don their game face and get out there and train.

In May, they all toe the starting line and finish the 5k. One congressman in particular has some physical disabilities that require him to walk the 5k. Several of his fellow congressmen and women decide to go back and help him through the last mile. They walk together, all cheering him on. Joy abounds as they all cross that finish line together.

I know I’m crazy and I know I’m an idealist…but why can’t this happen? Why can’t we dream that one day the common ground covered by a 5k produces common ground between opposing viewpoints. The truth is it already does. Why can’t the wall of a marathon, when experienced by the left and the right, serve as a reminder that we are all human, all vulnerable, all real and all the same in so many ways! The truth is, IT already does! Why can’t I dream that one day, the leaders of our nation will know what I feel each time I train for a 5k, 10k or half-marathon…how it gently pushes me just outside my comfort zone…where in spite of all my intelligence, education and resources, I still feel the pain of the wall, the anxiety at the starting line and the joy of the finish. I know, as I look to my fellow runners, that we are one in the same at mile one, two three, four five….twenty-five and twenty-six….point 2.

There is common ground. Always. We just have to believe it, then create it and finally have the nerve and the willingness to step onto it. I say we make it the Girls on the Run 5k. Come on. I dare ya!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Talking to Squirrels and Other Animals

"If I judge people, I have no time to love them."
Mother Teresa
Last November, I was visiting a Girls on Track site.They were almost 2/3 of the way through the program.

We started our time together inside. The winter winds were whipping up outside and I wanted to have some "quiet time” to get to know each other.

We started with something simple. “So, let’s go around the circle and share our name, our age and our favorite music group." We went to my left and around.

I then introduced them to the notion that everyone…EVERYONE comes to earth with a set of gifts…these gifts are uniquely ours and how, when we use our gifts, the world’s work gets done. Some of us are writers, some of us are thinkers, some of us are politicians, some of us are leaders in the traditional sense and some of us are leaders in our own quiet way. “So…how ‘bout each of you sharing with me one of your gifts…tell us…what gifts have equipped you to do your world’s work?

The girls began to answer in no particular order. Jewel was an excellent friend. “I can talk to anybody. I don’t judge people.”
“Cool, I responded.”

Sierra was a writer. “I have really good ideas in my head and I enjoy putting them down on paper so that other people can see my ideas. I write for our school newspaper.”
“Excellent, I responded.”

Heather shouted out. “I can sing.”
“Will you sing for us now?”
“Really," she responded. "You want me to sing now?"
"Yes of course. Please, wouldn’t you guys like to hear Heather sing?"

"Yes," everyone responded in near unison. Heather sang a few bars of Taylor Swift. We all clapped when she was done.

Everyone had shared…almost. To my right was Maggie. I had noticed her when I walked in the thirty minutes earlier. Her sparkly eyes and her infections smile were enough to melt any heart…especially mine.

“Maggie, I notice you haven’t shared. Do you want to share one of your most fabulous gifts?”

“I’m afraid to. You will laugh" She took a long deep breath, pause and then looked to the ground. “They will laugh.”

I let her words sink in…not wanting to minimize or take away from her fear. Heather spoke up. “We won't laugh Maggie. We are all friends here. We can say anything.”

Jewel jumped in. “Yeah Maggie. It’s okay…really.”

She looked up at me. I know it’s there, but I am ALWAYS struck by the intangible that this program brings. The language of love that floats in and through the invisible space of our gatherings. I looked deeply into her eyes…remembered being eleven…so afraid to speak up…afraid of being judged…remember being 32, staring at my own reflection in the silver blade of knife’s edge… paralyzed by the fear of my own potential...a fear I had carried for decades…the hiding away of all the light and brilliance that was me…afraid of ridicule or even worse indifference.

“It’s okay. Maggie. We are all here for you girl.” Words I had so longed to hear when I was eleven.

“Alright then. Here goes.” Maggie looked to her lap, took a deep breath and then without any further hesitation, said. “I can talk to squirrels.”

I didn’t respond right away. I mean, to be completely honest, holding back a downright 'laugh-out-loud’ response was somewhat of a challenge. About all I could summon at first was “Wow."

No one else spoke and the silence felt too long, but I stayed with it anyway.

“Yep." Maggie nodded her head a bit more confidently now. No one had laughed. Her friends had listened. “ I can talk to ‘em…squirrels. I talk to them in my yard, the park, wherever they are.”

The reality that someone in our midst could talk to squirrels began to settle in.

Jewel, asked, “That is AMAZING. Do they talk back?”

Yeah…all the others chimed in. Do they talk back?

"Well, not really," she said. "The truth is I just seem to kind of attract them. I’m kind of like a squirrel magnet."

“Unbelievable” the girls responded. We had a regular Snow White in our presence.
For a good five minutes we talked about Maggie’s ability to communicate with squirrels.

"There is a lot you can do with that you know," one of the other girls said. "You can help the animals with a talent like that." And so the conversation went.

I walked away from this experience initially tickled…a kind of bubbly giggle made its way into my body. My step was light, up and bouncy.

But then as things so frequently do for me…the raw of this began to work its way into my being. The notion that something as simple as her ability to unequivocally and unabashedly share something so frightening, real and within… to her friends is where I believe true cultural change occurs.

Over the years, I’ve met many, many women. Each of us brings to this world our own story, our own experiences, our own Girl Box and our own talents. And over the years I have come to realize that what Girls on the Run does so profoundly and so richly is provide a deep level of tenderness and acceptance toward all of our sisters. Girls on the Run has opened my mind to my own propensity to judge and shown me that down deep…really down underneath all the judgment and intolerance what we all want really, is to feel important, fully accepted and unconditionally loved just as we are and where we are in our own personal evolution, whether its talking to squirrels, talking to ourselves or dealing with our own demons.

As large as this organization has grown, I think what is uniquely our gift to the world is our ability to keep it personal, simple and real…to open our minds to understand what drives a girl…a woman…an individual. Girls on the Run provides for every girl and every woman, regardless of the barriers, power differentials, institutions, belief systems and stereotypes she is battling in her own life, an opportunity to feel worthy, whole and warmed.

So our potential is limited not by any external source, but by those within. If we aren’t willing to both put our real selves out there and at the same time unconditionally love one another, how can we expect to create a culture for our girls where they do the same? How can we expect to fearlessly express ourselves and be heard if we do not fearlessly allow others to do the same and listen? How can we expect to be respected and honored if we only are willing to accept and honor those whose views match ours?

I believe that Girls on the Run, at its highest potential, is simply a place where people can reveal themselves and at the same time value, respect and embrace others who do this as well. To serve as a vessel, meeting ground and sanctuary where we don’t determine the context, or assume that any one perspective is ultimately the right one, but give the girls the tools to decide for themselves what is the right one. To give them the power, in a safe, loving and open environment to be the boss of their own brains.

I love how this program is growing, changing and evolving into a vessel of unconditional love…where all who come in contact, are tenderly welcomed and gently encouraged to explore, evolve and question the different routes to self-worth, contentment and empowerment in their way…in their own time and at their own pace.

I guess I've finally landed on that tie that binds...and it is indeed rooted in self-acceptance, mutual respect and...that's

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Blinded By the Light, Wrapped Up Like A WHAT?

bloop-er (bloo-per)
1. Informal. An embarrassing mistake, as one spoken over the radio or TV.

Well, it’s that time of year. Next week Girls on the Run is hosting its annual summit. Over 200 of the fabulous women and men engaged in our program will descend upon Austin, TX to network, learn and bond. I'm thrilled that Kristin Armstrong, Coach Jenny Hadfield and all of our fabulous sponsors...New Balance, Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, Secret Deodorant (Proctor and Gamble), Goody's Hair Accessories, Horizon Fitness and a BRAND NEW fabulous partner (more to come on that next week)will be there to celebrate, learn and network with us.

I’m finalizing my remarks today from home and am reaching out for last minute input from those of you who read this blog.

As we’ve done in past years, we reserve the Tuesday night dinner for a celebration of our girls, our coach of the year and ourselves! Typically there is a lot of joy, gratitude and LAUGHTER (pho sho!)

This year I’m going to be highlighting some fabulous bloopers…both within and “without” our Girls on the Run network. Remember this video?

(Please ignore viewer comments beneath the video.)

I recall my 3rd grade friend Nina who went on and on for several minutes about the dangers of Tabasco…only to learn a few minutes later that what she actually meant was tobacco.

How could we forget Ramona the Pest? That rambunctious little 8 year old Beverly Cleary protagonist who in her first book was distraught for her friend who was told by their teacher “to sit here for the present”…who DID sit there for a quite a long time and he never received the present.

Or my other little friend Claire who shared with me her “Psssst secret” that she was very concerned about her grandma Eva. I asked why and she shared with me that “in the Lord’s Prayer…you know the one you have to learn for confirmation and that we say in church every Sunday, they talk about “deliver us from Eva.” She was concerned over God’s apparent dislike of Eva and HIS urging us to be apart from her.

Or my own daughter Helen (when she was just six years old), shared on our ride from school, after a long and apparently detailed in-class discussion on Martin Luther King and his amazing legacy, that in no uncertain terms and completely out of the blue that she” would probably marry a black man one day” and who in the same week informed me that her two female white mice were lesbians…because one of them was pregnant. (What she hadn’t pieced together was the fact that her mouse was already pregnant when we purchased her.)

What about the infinite number of misinterpretation of the words in a song. INXS had a song entitled “Suicide Blonde.” My best friend Lisa was in the car with me singing to it and replaced “Suicide Blonde” with “Soup and Salad Bar.” And of course, there’s always one of the funniest…“Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann. The words somewhere in that song are “wrapped up like a something that I never understood. Need I say more? To this day, I still don’t know what that word really is.

I mean, let’s face it. Even the idea of a blooper provides for remarkably funny entertainment. Who could forget this one?

So..come on now…send ‘em to me (TODAY or this week!!!!). Lay it on me! Shout it at me! Throw it to me! Send along your funniest word, sentence or idea bloopers…either those you have heard yourself or those you have heard about…from your girls, coaches, kids, family members, colleagues and/or acquaintances.

Send them to me at And okay…one final one…here goes…one of my favorites…

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Lefties, Righties and Everything in Between"

“The way to build a system that works is to build it from very simple systems that work.”

Kevin Kelly

I’m tired!!!

I’ve been engaging myself with people who are, by example, encouraging me to question everything I have ever thought, believed and heralded as truth.

I’m exhausted. I feel as if I am a newborn child, listening, seeing and touching for the first time. Political viewpoints I had cast aside as counterproductive, misleading and in opposition to my philosophical beliefs are now, through these infant eyes of mine, revealing new and fresh sounds, images and touch-points. Religious credos I had previously considered limiting and self-serving are now, unveiling deeper revelations into my own unwillingness to tolerate, accept and love unconditionally.

Neurons are firing, carrying fresh information; burning new paths of awareness that slowly but surely twist the lever to allow more light to enter between the Venetian blinds of my own limited life experiences. I’m stepping outside comfort zones and risking the sanctuary of what I have known to explore, examine and educate myself in areas that have previously been unavailable to me and in many instances intimidated me.

And while I’d like to say that all of this has been revelatory, enlightening and enriching, it hasn’t. It’s been frustrating. I’m in search of the common thread…that golden piece of chain that links us to the other…tribal connections from the generations before us…the common pain, universal knowing, the thing that somehow brings us to the place of one in this mantel we call the human condition. The one belief, core value or shared experience that allows you, me, all of us to connect, to get along.

I’d like to believe that love was the universal shawl under which we all find warmth, peace and sanctuary, but I’m learning that using language to describe love is like trying to describe the taste of watermelon or the color blue. It just isn’t possible. Words carry with them a host of varied impressions, perceptions and reactions based on our life experiences and therefore provide nothing more than a possible connection. How I describe the sensation of love, may not be the same series of word-choices someone else might use. As a matter of fact, what I write may. for some, not represent the feeling of love at all!

And so…I keep looking. I keep seeking, wondering, hoping for the tie that binds us. I know it exists because I can see, hear and touch the result of it…it being woven throughout the experience I’ve come to know as Girls on the Run. There is something intangible…mysterious and invisible that goes on between girl and coach, girl and girl, family and our program. The distance we cover, together; the sharing of one spirit with another. I find myself sitting and feeling the program, rather than being able to describe it.

And so…when I get caught in the push, pull, and hype around lively political or religious debate…and am left feeling frustrated, powerless and frequently angered by the lack of common ground between opposing camps, all I need to do is remember the incredibly simple philosophy which rests at the core of Girls on the Run; True systemic change occurs when people change. If I want our political, religious, governmental and societal systems to focus on finding common ground, then it is up to me to intentionally choose actions, thoughts, and deeds which build bridges rather than burn them, connect people rather than separate them, focus on the good rather than the evil and through it all love, love and then love some more.

My power, your power, OUR power is that great.