Final Presidents Message to Portland CSI

This writing marks my final Presidents message to Portland CSI.  Beginning July 1st, Ellen Onstad of Dodge Data (who was actually born into CSI) will be your new Chapter President.  Ali Clark of Emerick Construction will be your new President Elect.  I will still be around as Immediate Past President for a while.

It has been a bit of a struggle to write this column.  What exactly do I want to say?  What words of wisdom can I impart as I step down and let the new leadership take over.

It only took a moment of thought – It’s about the people!

October will mark my 5 year anniversary in CSI.  I joined the Portland CSI Board of Directors within the first year of membership, first as a Director then President-Elect and then 2 years as President.  To say that I jumped right in would be an understatement.  I will never forget the day that I was at a CDT class when Russ Pitkin and Rick Heiserman (literally) cornered me after class and said “you need to be on the Board”.   I am thankful for that.

Portland CSI has done a lot, a whole lot, in the last few years.  We have become one of the ‘chapters to watch’ in the country.  Many Chapters have contacted me for advice and guidance when they are struggling.  I have received more than one pat on the back for that.

You know what?  It’s not because of me.  It’s about the people.

I have been truly blessed the last two years to work with the most positive, collaborative, unified and hard-working Board and Committees that any President could hope to have.  Not a thing that we have accomplished could have happened without them.   I DO NOT get the credit.

Our very committed volunteers have turned this Chapter around.  They are a group of people who look, every day, at how we can succeed, improve and “Go Big or Go Home”.  They are looking to the future and adamant that they will continue on that path.  They are the best of the best of the #CSIKraken.

CSI welcomes all disciplines to the table.  CSI is about collaboration, knowledge sharing, education and making lifelong connections.  Portland CSI is doing an amazing job and I am very, very proud.

I will not name names because I would live in abject fear that I might forget someone and showing my appreciation to each and every one of them is the most important thing that I can do.

So, to each of you that I have had the extreme pleasure of working with the last two years, THANK YOU!  Thank you for your dedication, thank you for your hard work, thank you for your commitment to making our Chapter vibrant again, thank you for your undying support, thank you for your heart and thank you for making me look good.

You are the heart and soul of this organization.  Without you, we would flounder and fail.

For me, this journey has been an interesting and empowering one.  If you ever question the value of CSI Membership, you are not doing it right.  I have grown tenfold as a person and as a professional in my short tenure in CSI.  I have learned from the best (in every discipline) and stepped out of my box and discovered things I didn’t even know that I would be capable of achieving.  I have CSI friends across this country that I now consider my family.  They are there for me both personally and professionally any time that I need them.

So what is my parting message?  Those who know me will expect this.  It is . . .

Go Big or Go Home

Throw Away the Box

Get to Know Everyone on the Project Team



Live, work and love with dedication and HUGE passion.

I am here, day or night, in support of our new leadership.  I have every confidence that I am leaving Portland CSI in even better hands than mine as I embark on my next set of CSI adventures.

So – Thank you my friends.  For everything.  You are the best!




Are You Saying Thank You?

It’s Award and Award Nomination season in CSI.  This is the time of year that we are preparing to recognize members at a chapter, regional and Institute level.  Some of us do a better job of this than others.

Award nominations, especially at the regional or Institute level, can take some time and effort to prepare.  I have seen this effort fall victim to the ever present ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I’m too busy’.  Oh, how I hate those words.  What those words say to me is ‘It’s not a priority’ or ‘You are not important’.

Our hard working leaders and volunteers ARE important, invaluable and the key to our progress and success.  This effort should be a number one priority.

I have heard some say that it is just another certificate that is thrown in a box.  I have also seen many beam with pride when the recognition of their accomplishments and hard work is shared and acknowledged.

I am lucky enough to be on both sides of this fence.

I am currently winding down my last quarter in a two year term as the President of Portland CSI.  Considering I will be celebrating only my 5th anniversary in October, I am pretty proud of this and a little nostalgic and sad to be passing the baton and moving on to other things.

Portland CSI is one of the largest in the country but it suffered like many others after the economy tanked.  I have been very lucky to have a group of vibrant, passionate and forward thinking leaders to turn our Chapter back around.  And turn it around they have.   I digress, that is another blog.

It is my job to not only accept nominations recognizing notable accomplishments but to also give my own set of awards in June recognizing the hard work of some of these great people.  I take this very seriously and will put a good amount of effort into doing it right.

On the flip side of that coin, I have been honored to receive a number of Chapter Awards, two Institute awards and a DJC AEC Woman of Vision award.  For me, those are definitely not another certificate to throw in a box.  They are meaningful and I am proud of them.

While honored to receive all of them, I think the one that impacted me the most was the President’s award that I received at CONSTRUCT from Casey Robb in Baltimore in 2014.  This award is given at the discretion of the outgoing Institute President, it is not announced in advance and is typically issued to members that President recognizes as making notable contributions to the advancement of the Institute.  There is no application or forms to fill out.

Since I had not even been in CSI 3 years at that point, I certainly wouldn’t have even imagined that I might be considered.  Honestly, I was tweeting when Casey started talking about my award at CONSTRUCT and not really paying attention.  He was halfway through the intro of the award when I heard the word “Kraken” and realized he was talking about me.  Dang, I wasn’t even in a cute outfit and now I had to go up on stage.

To say that I was moved would be an understatement.  It made me cry.  The surprise of being acknowledged for my efforts in Portland and at the Institute level from the very top leadership in CSI was overwhelming.  To be called inspiring touched my heart.  I will admit it – I still get the warm fuzzies thinking about it.  I am damned proud of that award.

Normally, I don’t even talk about these recognitions.  It feels a bit awkward.  On the other hand, I think it is vitally important for our leadership and members to know how it makes a person feel to be recognized.

It is a number one priority that we say thank you.  It should be the first thing on your chapters to-do list to express our gratitude.

Our leaders and volunteers are giving their time and energy, some in a very big way, to move forward and help get what CSI has to offer out to the rest of the AEC world.  That needs a spotlight.

I don’t care what it is that you do in your life, gratitude is essential.

Our members bust their butts and give up a lot of personal time.  Without a thank you, kind words or recognition – they start to feel unappreciated.  We start to look ungrateful.  Motivation and passion to continue starts to fall away.  I mean really, someone does all that work and nobody notices? How does that make you feel?

Institute Award nominations are open now and due soon  Your Chapters should be preparing for your own Awards event.  Do not let this fall to the wayside, it is too important.  The people in CSI are incredible and their efforts need to be a priority right now.  I urge all of our CSI Leaders to put this at the top of the list.

While all of our chapters should be finding ways to recognize and acknowledge their member’s year around, right now is the opportunity to do it big.  To make it notable.  To make somebody cry.

It is time to say THANK YOU!


Are You Listening?

I am a listener.  I hear the things that people don’t say.  Hell, I even notice changes in ‘tone’ in online communications.  I am a people watcher.  I see things people don’t even realize they are putting out there.  I notice things, little seemingly inconsequential things.  I notice things that many others do not.  Few people know this about me and no, I am not crazy hearing voices or seeing apparitions.  I just pay attention.  Close attention.

I have been more aware of this lately and more curious as to why I seem to have this gift (or curse, depending on how you want to look at it).  I was curious enough to go find some online tests on perception and take them.  These tests were ultra tricky.  Each question was never what you thought it was going to be and, had you not picked up some very subtle things in previous questions/images, you would have no clue how to answer it because there was no way to predict what was coming.  I suppose that I shouldn’t have been surprised that I scored out of the box on every one of them.

This ‘hobby’ probably started when I was very young.  I was raised by a single mom and we had very little until she went back to school and finally got a good job when I was a teenager.  I often had to entertain myself for hours at her work, school or other places because she couldn’t afford childcare.  In that environment, you either get lost in a book, your imagination or you watch people.  Nobody ever really notices a little kid sitting around all day so I had unfiltered people watching opportunities.

Fast forward to the here and now.  If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “how did you know that” or “I guess you know me better than I thought”, I would be a rich woman.

It’s dumb little things like noticing the smile crack a little when someone thinks nobody is looking, body language like pulling away, noticing when someone gets quiet or distracted, hearing when someone doesn’t respond in a way you would typically expect them to – just little subtle nuances that tell you something is wrong or off.  There are clear signs when someone is happy or excited as well but I am less concerned about those even though I notice them.  I could list a million things that I have seen over the years that were so clear had anyone been paying attention.

This is a blessing in that I have often been able to be there for someone because I noticed just one little thing that made me ask “Are you OK?” and the dam broke.  It can be an equal curse, especially if those ‘little things’ are aimed directly at you.  Just because you see it doesn’t mean you mention it.  That can hurt. A lot.

All of that is really just an explanation of what brought me to writing this blog in the first place.

I recently wrapped up what turned out to be two of the most difficult years of my life.  As details slowly emerged near the end of this period, so many said to me “I had no idea?”  People I saw all the time.  I am not faulting anybody but was rather surprised it wasn’t totally obvious.  I am fortunate to have some absolutely incredible people in my life but not everybody has that kind of support.

When was the last time you REALLY paid attention?  When was the last time you REALLY listened?

There are people we love, like or care about all around us.  Everyone has ups and downs.  Good times and bad.  Are you really paying attention?  Are you stopping long enough to notice those subtle changes that say they might need you?  One soft shoulder can make all the difference if someone is having difficulties, pondering a major change or struggling with a decision.  People don’t like to ask for help but will often take it if offered.  Are you noticing enough to be that safe harbor?

On the reverse side of that coin, have you ever considered what message you are sending?  When was the last time in a period of conflict, indecision or misunderstanding that you took a moment to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to try to see how they may have perceived your actions, words or behavior?   I can’t believe how many times I have seen a relationship fail or a friendship end because one person meant one thing but the other received it in a completely different way.

Evaluating your own actions and words is equally as important as noticing the subtle nuances in another.

All I ask is to STOP.  Breathe, be quiet, listen to what you are not hearing, notice what you are not seeing.  Isn’t that lady at work usually more chipper?  Why is that little boy acting out and so moody?  Why does that man you sometimes have a drink with after work have a little more a slump to his shoulders?  Why hasn’t my girl kissed me goodbye in two weeks?  Why didn’t my guy even notice I asked him a question or spoke to him, multiple times?

This has been on my mind for some time.  We are moving too fast.  We are too distracted.  We are too busy.  We are too stressed.  We are too confined by society’s expectations.  We are too afraid.

We are losing the real and true connections with others that make life so incredibly amazing.  We are losing what really matters.  This breaks my heart.

Make the time.  Please notice.

Yes, that piece of paper matters

In less than a week, my first born son is getting married.  For most parents, this is an exciting day.  I am no different.

My son and his partner have been together for a number of years and I adore her.  They have a beautiful little girl and a great relationship that many could only hope for.  There is no doubt in my mind that they belong together.  They truly have each other’s back.

When my son told me they were getting married, like any good Mom, I pulled him aside and asked him if he was sure about this.  Not because I had any doubts but because this is my job.  He told me “Mom, I have no doubt that she is the one.”  Knowing my son, I know how profound these words were coming from him.

A number of weeks ago, they asked me if I would speak at the wedding.  You would think, after over 40 speaking gigs in the last couple of years, that this would be a piece of cake.  Not so.  In all honesty, I don’t think I can do it.  As a matter of fact, I know I can’t.  My blubbering idiot hat is not one that I relish wearing, particularly not in public.

I have a unique bond with this kid.  I was only 21 when I had him and we grew up together.  For a number of years it was me and him against the world.  He is wicked smart, funnier than hell and can melt my heart no matter how angry I am.  His entrance in this world completely changed the path of my life.  I truly can’t imagine life without him and I will NEVER forget the overwhelming feeling of pure love that washed over me the first time he was put in my arms.  If only we could all feel that way every day.

The kid is great at managing his own life and doesn’t need a lot of guidance from Mom unless he wants it and this is how it should be.  We are close and we are friends.

I rarely pull the Mom card these days.  Today is one of those days.

I have learned a few things over the years, some of them the hard way.  Like anyone else If I had it to do over there are things that I would do differently.  I don’t believe in regrets because you can’t change yesterday but you can share your lessons and hope they help someone else.  Because of that, I am sharing this intensely personal message with anyone who cares to read it.

Dear Chris,

That piece of paper does make a difference.  In less than a week, you are giving your heart to one amazing young woman.  You are committing to her being your one and only forever.  This is truly a beautiful thing.

In our almost 29 years together, I have never sugar coated the real world and I am not going to start now.  It is a beautiful world but you have to be present and work at it to experience that beauty.  It is far easier to get caught up in day-to-day stresses and lose sight of what really matters.  I know this first hand.

So today, my son, a little Mom wisdom to take into your next chapter:

  1. She comes first. Before your family, friends, hobbies, toys or whatever.  This is your person and this is a two way street.  Don’t ever make her feel like she is “less than” anything else in your life.
  2. Marriage is hard. We all wish it could be romantic and sexy and fun all of the time.  The reality is that it is work to stay meaningful and like anything else in life will have peaks and valleys.  Never stop working at it.
  3. Love alone is not enough. Don’t lie.  Be trustworthy and be faithful.    Lack of trust will erode even the biggest love.  Do what you say you are going to do in all things.
  4. Don’t fight dirty. Disagreements are a normal part of any relationship.  The key is to work through these issues without residual damage.  Harsh words, even if forgiven, are never ever forgotten and are a cancer in a relationship.
  5. Don’t let it get stale. Any good woman (and Rachel is a good woman) doesn’t need expensive gifts or grand gestures.  Sometimes the grandest gestures are really the little things.  Don’t just get her flowers because it’s Valentines Day and Hallmark dictates that you should.  Get her flowers just because it’s Tuesday and you were thinking of her.  Send her a random text telling her you think she is amazing.  Tell her how hot she looks in those yoga pants even though it is 7am and her hair is sticking up.  Don’t ever let her forget how special she is to you or how much you love her.
  6. You don’t always get to have it your way and neither does she.  When you can’t get on the same page, find a place in the middle that you can both live with.  While neither one of you may come out of that completely happy, you will be able to move forward because you had a voice.  Always consider both sides.
  7. Communicate. Communicate! One of the biggest causes of conflict in marriage is lack of communication.  Resentments build, assumptions are made and all of a sudden the problem is insurmountable.  We all fall down sometimes and we all make mistakes.  Never stop talking.
  8. Don’t sweat the small stuff. The job is always there.  Daily stress is always there.  There are always ups and downs.  It is all in how you deal with it.  In the big scheme of things, what is truly important are the two beautiful ladies in front of you.  Don’t ever lose sight of what really matters because those other things around you always work themselves out.
  9. Be the man that I raised you to be. I raised you to treat a woman as your equal, to be honest, kind, considerate, helpful and compassionate.  I raised you to be the rock for your family, protect them like no other and always put them first.  I am damned proud that you are living up to those expectations.  I wish there were more men like you on this planet.
  10. Love her and love her hard. You have made a choice.  She is the one.  You are putting a ring on it.  Make sure you show her your love EVERY SINGLE DAY.
  11. Don’t stop Growing. Life is a journey and there are lessons every day.  Every one of those lessons make you a better and stronger man.  Don’t miss the lessons.

If you want a woman and wife who will fiercely and unequivocally stand by your side always you will keep these things at the forefront of your daily life.  It is not enough that you are doing them now.  You have to do them always.  Both of you.

Kid, you are the reason that I believe in unconditional love.  I will never find the right words to tell you how much you mean to me or how proud I am.  Those feelings are too big for words.

So today, with tears in my eyes and love in my heart, I anticipate your special day with your lovely bride.  I wish you an amazing journey together full of all the amazing things that life has to offer.

Never, ever lose the love!

Love, Mom