Connecting Coaches, Creatives, & Curious Folks through what's emerging in this moment


I am Helen.

Losing a parent isn’t supposed to be easy.  If they’ve loved you well, or if you’ve done your IMG_0167work about how they didn’t, the loss can feel unbearable.  When we’re in pain we often default to our most toxic behaviors.  When our mom died recently that was definitely an option.  As I grieve my mother’s death, I also sit in awe of my siblings, sisters-in-love, and that rising generation of my children, niece, nephews, and their loves.  We could have put all of our tools in the closet and forgotten what we know.  We could have set aside what we teach and preach and become lesser versions of ourselves.  It’s always an option.  We are creatures of habit ~ and choice ~ after all.

We could have.  And we didn’t.

Instead, we experienced the beauty and power of what we teach profoundly.

I could outline every bit of each of CTI‘s models – The Co-Active Coaching Model, The Co-Active Leadership Model, and the Co-Active Leadership Map – and give you point by point examples of how we lived from them in the weeks leading up to and following Mom’s death.  Since that would be overkill (!) I’ll point to those that keep whispering to me in these days since everyone’s left the cocoon and entered back into ordinary time.

Dance in This Moment:  We thought she had longer.  Every time we came up with a plan, the circumstances changed.  Staying fluid, flexible, and willing to both have a plan and throw it out the window at any given moment proved to be vitally important.   People die at their own pace.  We can’t slow it down or speed it up.  It just is what it is.  We must be willing and able to dance in each moment and choose again and again what to do and how to be.

Ask for what you need:  Because things change, and there are things that are vitally important in our lives that we mustn’t miss, it’s so crucial to not fall victim to our life’s demands.  We asked for help, we urged each other to act, we got replacements, we let go of short-term needs, we waited a little longer or came a little sooner.  We moved things, cancelled things, and let our Naturally, Creative, Resourceful and Whole world be okay while we moved through this vital time in our lives.  Because we also fail at this, we are forgiving ourselves and each other for where we didn’t do this enough or where the impact was not a good one!

Design a Stake ~ Align Around It:  In Leadership we say every experience or event you lead needs a stake.  Imagine a wooden stake pounded into the ground holding the Big Top securely to handle anything the crowds or winds throw at it.  A Stake is a core concept or Unknownidea – a belief or imperative – that the leaders are tethered to.  It’s that idea that, no matter how wrong things sometimes feel like they’re going, remembering it helps you find your way back to center.  Our family designed a stake for how we’d be together in the days after Mom’s passing as we planned the Memorial Service and sorted her estate.  Together, we came up with “When we let go and let God, Magic and Integrity happen.”  This was co-created and co-held.  Again and again we found our way back to our center and to each other by remembering our stake.  I believe most of us are still holding it even as we’re finding our way back to life in a post-Mom world.

Listen from the Heart:  This was key throughout the process.  We turned up the volume on it each morning after she died by passing a talking stick in her living room.  imagesA Talking Stick Ceremony is used in many indigenous traditions as a way of having every voice be heard, grounding our words in community, and putting our hearts in a place of receiving and being received.  Each morning we gathered and passed the stick sunwise (clockwise).  One by one,  we each stated our name, spoke from our hearts whatever was present in that moment, and the rest of us listened fully from our hearts. When the words of each person were complete, they said “I have spoken” or “These are my words”.  It’s common for the group to respond with “Ho”, which means essentially “My heart has heard your heart”.  Sometimes, in honor of Mom, we threw in a “Thankka God!” for good measure!  These daily ceremonies grounded us, made way for heartbreak and humor, were a place to share the wild dreams we were having, and  could be thought-filled, teary, blah, frustrated, or whatever.  There was room for all of it with no judgement or care-taking.  This was my children’s first go at a talking stick ceremony, and I must say they added considerably to the experience.  These were some of my most sacred memories from our time together.

Create from Self, Other, Nothing, and Everything:  Yes.  All of it.  Do this.

Honor your Truth ~ Be true to who you are:  In Leadership, we have a powerful typing system called “I AM” Typing.  The purpose is to find that most authentic, impactful, engaging, innate leader within each of us.  Though not quite EVERY member of my family has done CTI’s Leadership Program (though 5 of us actually LEAD it!), I experienced every member of my family being fully who they are and being honored and appreciated for that.    I think every type was represented.  Family roles were respected and honored, but not defaulted to.  Needs didn’t trump wants nor the other way around.  Egos were in check.  Honesty and Love both had room.

Co AND Active – Be AND Do:  There’s so much to feel when a great one dies.  There’s also so much to do!  It’s easy to get lost in one or the other.  Really easy.  It’s rare to be in such an intense experience and have so much room for BOTH to be fully honored, respected, and have space made for them.  The daily talking stick got the CO side of things, or Being side of things, firmly established up front.  By taking time for this, when it was complete each day we could all feel the urgency and desire to get ACTIVE or get Doing.  There was MUCH to DO… and without the Being having full permission, the doing never would have been so manageable.

STAY… and Stay some more:  The Co-Active Leadership Map has “Stay” on it twice because it’s so important!  It says “Stay”… then “Level 3″… then “Stay” again.  There were so many times when I wanted to GO… to run… to not feel… to eat or drink or disappear into numbness.  It continues as the days and weeks go by.  And yet, STAY we must!  I must stay with this process, stay with my stake, stay with myself, my family, and with the empty hole left behind by my mother… I must listen into the “level 3” aka the environment, the energy, the calling of Mother Life… and I must stay some more.  The next URGE is on the horizon.  What I need and what the world needs will be calling soon… if I don’t STAY, I’ll never hear it.  So stay we did, stay we must, and stay I will.

There are many stories of family discord, disaster, and resentment driven separation in the wake of loss.  My hope is that if even one part of this process was meaningful to you, that you’ll carry it into your next time of intensity.  Lead from whichever part of the experience you’re called to lead from, and make it different from what Life’s default settings would ask it to become.  Let’s plant the seeds of change in whatever system we’re called to lead in ~ family or otherwise ~ shall we?

These are my words.


Margo House bedecked in seed packets of forget-me-nots, daisies (Marguerites), and bursting with the blooms of the seeds of change she planted throughout her impactful life.

Remembrance for Mom

April 27th, 2016, my siblings and I were with our mother when she died at home. There’s much to write about that process – both leading up to it and following her death – but for starters, I want to share the words I spoke at her Memorial service the other day.  Whether it’s the stuff of blogs or not, I really don’t care.  I just wanted an easy way to hold it and share it with those who wished they’d been there.

2012-08-24 17.07.11.jpg
3 Generations ~ Margo House, Helen House, and Mady Farley

On  August 16th, 1962, in St. Cloud Minnesota, I saw my mother for the first time.  It was about 3am, the moving truck was packed so the family could move to Eau Claire, Wisconsin the next morning.  They’d been at a ‘going away party’ which surprisingly became my ‘welcome to the world’ party.  As my family headed off to our future home and unpacked the house just as Mom had so carefully plotted, planned, charted and mapped out… my mom and I got to spend one precious week alone together in the hospital.  Though I don’t remember it well, I trust it’s when I fell deeply in love with one of the most beautiful, complicated, intelligent, fierce, loving, creative, champions of human potential I’ll ever have the privilege of knowing.

Deathwatch and Mediporn

cosmic-eyeI’m dying. Every day I’m a day closer to being dead. Cells die off constantly throughout my body. And if I’m lucky and intentional enough about it, old habits, rules, ideas, and useless behaviors die along with those cells.

I’m being born. Every day, new cells in me are created. Every day new life emerges in this very body bringing me more alive all the time. New ideas emerge, new thoughts, relationships, and neural pathways are born bringing me ever closer to the Light we all strive for.

I’m living. Each day that my heart is beating, my lungs are doing their job, and the neurons keep firing; I am living. Each moment that I seek new learning, share with others, or engage in anything that lights my fire – I am very, very ALIVE.

Which part of me are you going to interact with? The dying part? The being created anew part? Or the living part? They all matter. They all have relevance… a particular role to play in this cycle of Life.

When I asked my client today, “What are the conversations you’re avoiding?” he replied with, “I don’t talk to people who are on deathwatch any more.” When I asked him to elaborate he described those people who don’t know how to deal with the fact his illness is terminal, they don’t know how to relate to him as a living being, but rather because they’re so distressed by the idea they’ll lose him one day and that they won’t know how to handle that themselves; they seem to be just waiting for him to die. They’re on deathwatch.

When time is in short supply, and the energy one has to share with any given person in a day is limited, the last thing someone who is dancing with an illness needs is to be the caretaker in a conversation – the one making it okay for everyone else that they happen to be dying a little faster than the rest of us probably are.

I asked if he was tired of people resorting to asking for report outs about his current physical state. After chatting about how we all tend to let our curiosity be about ailments, effects of medication, and have an incessant need to know why this or that happened, he blurted out “Mediporn!” Read the rest of this entry »

At the Center of Chaos

images-2Today is a Dorothy day.  Though no tornado is visible to my outer world, I’m caught in the middle of one I created. Picked up, spinning, debris all around, wondering where and when I’ll land. Look out below!  (Especially if you’re a wicked witch!)  I’m in that phase of downsizing where all the balls are in the air, all the boxes are strewn about, the piles seem endless, and end-of-tunnel-light is nowhere to be found.  Some might call this part Hell.  This part is why some people never begin this process or never let life get too big so they won’t have to. Yesterday’s releasing was cathartic. Today’s disarray feels overwhelming.

Unknown-1Several years ago, I took the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment and ended up with these 5 key strengths:  Input, Activator, Arranger, Connectedness, and Strategic.  When I took that assessment my life made sense to me.  I could see why I was good at what I was good at and why I shouldn’t keep trying to make myself do certain things that just weren’t in my wheelhouse.

Today, the shadowy side of the strengths that I lean on so often are biting me in the arse.  Let’s take ‘Input’ for example:  Input has me collect ideas, objects, techniques, memories, and more.  On a good day, that makes me a rich resource full of information, connections, and solutions to any number of challenges.  When downsizing, however, it makes the stuff of my life take on epic proportions.  The good news is, I know there is always more to gather.  The bad news is, the firehouse never seems to shut off.

I could go through each strength and detail what I’m discovering, but that’s way too much about me and my process.  I’m curious about how your strengths or personality can get in your way sometimes.  Whether it’s the Strength Finder 2.0 or any number of other typing or assessment systems:  Where do your strengths or style get you in trouble?  How do they help you find your way back to center?  How do YOU move forward when you’re in the middle of the thickest of the thick?

Time to lean on the ‘Strategic’ part of my Strengths!  I’ve got this ~ Just needed to stop, reflect, re-assess, breathe, and get more boxes.  And a shovel… There’s got to be a pony in here some where!

Happy ‘Let it Go’ Day!



images-1“That’s the thing about pain,” Augustus said, and then glanced back at me. “It demands to be felt” ~ John Green (from The Fault in Our Stars)

Last year, I sold my house and moved across town to the lower level of my mother’s condo.  It took me 6 months to complete the move which included my mom’s condo being remodeled, prepping my home to sell, and getting rid of many things.  There was much pain associated with that move: letting go of so much stuff, moving my kids out of our home, and selling a home I loved.

And then, things settled.

Once settled, I felt FREE.  My medical debt was erased, my life was smaller and simpler, my kids were finding their way without me, and my mom was healthy enough that I could move about my life quite freely without worrying about her.   There was this precious window of time that I knew I must savor, because I knew it was to be short-lived.  Wasn’t sure why, just trusted my gut.

Now, we’re moving again.  Not across town, but instead cross country to New York.  My belongings must be further shed.  More pain must be felt.  I’m getting used to this.  I hold something in my hands that I’ve held since childhood and decide.  Sometimes, there’s no pain at all, and I just toss it.  Sometimes, a wave hits me, I feel it… then put it in a box for Goodwill.  Other times, it just goes back into a box to keep.  For now.  It’s a funny thing about this pain though; When I let myself feel it, get familiar with it, let it move whatever it’s meant to move… it then moves on.  It doesn’t linger.  It doesn’t grab hold and make me suffer as I sometimes imagine it will.  As John Green said in his film and book, The Fault In Our Stars, it DEMANDS to be felt.  Once it is, it often quiets right down.

In this move, there are things I haven’t felt the pain of yet – some by choice, some just because I haven’t gotten to them yet.  The more I get clear that I just need to be willing to feel it, the more clear I am that I’ll soon be free – perhaps more free than I’ve ever been.

As I’ve worked with coaching clients through the years, often where they get stuck is around something that will result in feeling some pain.  They’re afraid sometimes, and usually it’s a fear they’ll feel pain of some kind.  I’m thinking now that part of my job as a coach is to help them remember that pain demands to be felt, that it’s only pain, and that there is tremendous freedom on the other side.

What sayeth you?

Freely yours,




It’s Opener There

Seuss Wide Open AirFor years I’ve been reading Dr. Seuss’s “Oh the Places you’ll Go!” with great enthusiasm to groups of adults ‘kindergarten style’ celebrating the wonderful way Seuss invites us all to boldly claim our lives. “Except when you don’t, because sometimes you won’t” has become a philosophy of life, always reminding me to stay optimistic and believe in possibilities, while knowing there’s always a chance things won’t go as planned. Dashing boldly out into the wide open spaces where “it’s opener there in the wide open air” , however, has not always been my forte. Though some may disagree, in my book, I often play it safe.

A month or two ago, my mother was griping about our endless winter. Though she’s not what I’d call a complainer, around March each year the weather whining starts. This year, the ice finally left Lake Superior on June 4th which gifted us with extra time to moan and groan about the length of winter!  After listening to her mild complaints, I casually said one day, “We could move, y’know.”

Fast forward to today; We have a signed contract for the purchase small57Fernbankof a new house in Delmar, NY!  (I know I know… it’s not exactly WARM there in winter either!) My mother’s condo is on the market with potential buyers lined up to look. When my mom makes up her mind about something, it happens in short order. That’s how she rolls.

In the midst of it all, I find myself in a most curious state. On the one hand, I have saboteurs that are having a heyday with me about being in my 50s, single, and living with my mother, moving to a state I never imagined myself living, and squeezing myself back down into one bedroom after 30 some years of being an adult with my own home. Nothing about it feels permanent to me. It’s a bit like I’m going on an extended trip and part of it will involve time travel back to my childhood. Buckle up!

On the other hand, everything about this feels Right. Capital ‘R’ Right. Deep in my bones and heart Right. It’s Read the rest of this entry »

On April 10th, 2014 about 650 people from around the world will be gathering for CTI’s Co-Active Summit 2014. This is the 2nd ever Summit. The last was held in Marco Island, FL in February of 2011. I am beyond excited about this Summit!  And to be perfectly honest – a wee bit nervous.  You see I spent most of the last Summit in my hotel room, in bed, with a burning fever, launching myself into the transformational ride of my life. Many of you came with me on that journey in one form or another. Since from ‘Me to We’ is the Summit theme, these ideas are my contribution to keep the ‘me’ of myself and the ‘we’ of us all healthy.

If you won’t be attending the Summit in person, these tips may still apply to both how you can support a healthy Summit for all, and they could help keep yourself healthy in those intense life moments.

  1. Come well rested. So often we head into travel already exhausted. People are coming from around the world. Many will be road weary and jet lagged. The more rested the whole of us can be, the more the individuals can rest into knowing the experience is well held when others need to catch up. There will be plenty of energy for all when we lean in together.
  1. Everything is nothing with a twist – Begin with a breath… 03b1d02514f58634c48c35d1caf9649c
    I love this image! To me it illustrates moving from the self, me in the center, into the larger whole. When I twist that ‘0’ into an infinity symbol, it leads me to my breath. As I breathe in and fill myself up, I must exhale and expand into the space. As I empty myself, I must then refill from the space before I offer myself to it again. We can start anywhere on the infinity loop… we just have to begin.
  1. Support the Leadership.   This will be an amazing experience that will fill us all up, as long as we support the leadership in every moment. From every corner of the room, from every seat in the house, Leadership is emerging. The more we can support, celebrate, champion, and take it when it’s ours, the more filling and less draining this will be.
  2. Nap! In Embodying Well-Being, author Julie Henderson writes that napping helps you learn from whatever you’ve just been doing. Even if you take a 1 to 3 minute nap, it will help incorporate the learning into the system. I believe we will be learning A LOT at the Summit. So, we will need a LOT of little naps so our systems don’t get overwhelmed and can integrate all that juicy learning.
  3. Listen to your body. Always. What does it need? Water? Sunshine? To breathe more? Move? Rest? Hugs? Good food? Less wine? Listen… it’s telling you.
  4. Stay in the flow. If you’re receiving too much, give. If you’re giving too much, receive. This connects with #2, only it goes beyond the breath. Most of us lean more in one direction than the other – either we give more than we receive, or we take more than we give. In a Summit environment, we can maintain our equilibrium by balancing these out. If I feel overwhelmed by all the attention coming my way, I need to let it pass through me, then shift and give to others. If I’m feeling drained from giving too much, I need to breathe in what’s there and lean into what others can give.
  5. Tend the coals. Passion gets ignited in an environment where people on purpose come together to learn, grow, and shift consciousness. It’s easy to turn a small fire into a blaze and have it burn out. Instead, we need to build a strong ‘bed of passion’ as in ‘bed of coals’ so that we can sustain a long-burning fire within
  6. Hydrate. Being in Napa, it’s easy to think drinking wine is hydrating. Um, water folks. Don’t forget to drink water too
  7. Ask for help. BEFORE all else fails, remember to ask for help as needed. Being a Leader does not mean you must do it all alone. Me to We. We do it together.
  8. PLAY!!  Have a BLAST!!  Don’t hold back!  This is our one chance for THIS moment. Don’t regret not having living, loving, and playing FULLY!


What tips do you have to add?  I always appreciate your comments and the chance to interact with and learn from you.

See you at the Summit! I plan to be in good health before, during, and after. Though falling ill last time grew me tons, I’ve “been there done that, got the T-shirt!”, as they say.   This year, let’s ALL have a Healthy Summit!



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