A Final Gift for Mom

I lost my mother this week. It’s a loss that cuts deep, that I know I haven’t truly processed. However, among all the loss and grief, I have an immense amount of gratitude. Gratitude for a mother who loved her children fiercely, raised them to be independent and to stand on their own. There were never any favorites. She treated each one of us as individuals, somehow intuitively knowing what each of us needed. I spent most of my adult life away from her, but she was never far. Weekly letters or phone calls, visits as often as possible. She had a big personality that reached across the miles.17761005_10211349629112198_820693337345543875_o

Five months ago, Mom moved across the country, from Maryland to Washington, to live with me. At any age, much less 91, that’s quite an undertaking. It was both wonderful and difficult for us to learn to live with one another. You see, we are very much alike, something I only came to appreciate in the last 5 months. But we loved each other deeply and relished spending time together. She loved sitting in our living room and watching all the activity out on Elliott Bay, boats, kayakers, and ferries. As the weather improved, she enjoyed watching all the people walking by on waterside path.

Her time with me was short, and filled with challenges. She fell one month after arriving, and spent time in a nursing facility recovering. Only recently, was she starting to return to health. We were looking forward to so many things this spring, gardening together, ferry rides, even a trip to Hawaii. In what ended up being her final days, she was tired and weak, and I was worried. I cared for her, gave her everything she asked, and just tried to help her return to health. We had some lovely time together, where she shared stories from her youth. It was a special time.

On her final night, she was weak and couldn’t make it to bed without assistance. I helped her to bed, tucked her in and told her I love her. Those were my final words. I found her the next morning when I went to wake her. There are no words for that moment, no way to prepare.

But in death, as in life, my mother taught me so much. She helped me see how strong I can be, how deeply I can love, how I can rise to any occasion. I am the woman I am because of her. And the greatest gift she gave me was these last 5 months. During this time, not only did we share so much, but I learned just how much I am like her. We’ve both come over adversity, neither of us suffer fools, and we share so many of the little daily quirks – loved a clean house, but hated emptying the dishwasher.

I miss her desperately, I kept wanting her to come back to me, but she lives on, in my heart, in my siblings’s hearts and in the bold spirit that I shared with her. How lucky am I to have had such an amazing woman as my mother and guide through life! I’m grateful for the final gift I was able to give her, the gift of love and caregiving at the most sensitive time of life.



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Reminding, Renewing, Revising

20170314_090117.jpgI’ve been spending this week in the California high desert near Joshua Tree National Park. This landscape changes you. Its raw beauty, silence, and rugged peacefulness make an incredible respite from life in the city. You can think here. You can escape the worries you left behind. You can renew.

My wish, when committing to this trip, was to do just that; to leave behind the worries that had built up in my head, making me ‘messy’, to put things straight and set a new path forward. And, that is exactly what has happened.

What I’d left behind in the city was a life that needed order, control, and space to enjoy my life. I’d stopped doing that. Every minute was spent on my business. I’m not sure why I felt compelled to do that, but I did. I am aware there is always more I can do, but didn’t know how to stop the merry-go-round.

Fortunately, here in the desert, I was able to slow down, get some perspective and be open to the sage advice of a wise colleague here with me. As the picture from our retreat site says, ‘Remember to breathe”. And that I did here.

I did a bit of unpacking and repacking and have a renewed energy for my business. Right along with that, I have new priorities. The top two are time for myself to enjoy this life I’ve created, and time to spend with my mother who recently moved across country to live with me. I’m excited for this new future, this new focus, the new life!

I’ve recently expanded the services I offered by joining my background in professional development with my career coaching experience to offer a full suite of career development services. I see one’s career similar to the wheel of life. You start your career, you change jobs, you might change careers. At some point, you might pause your career, whether to raise a family or simply take a well-deserved sabbatical. You then wrap up your career with further advancement, and eventually some semblance of retirement, which is more and more looking very different from that which our parents and grandparents took.

My goal is to be your partner through all these phases, helping you to advance your career, as well as helping you plan your pause, so when you return to the workforce, you don’t feel left behind. And yes, when it’s time to ‘retire’, however that looks for you, I can help plan that as well. Do you want to start a business and follow a passion? Maybe you want to pare down your work, work part time and enjoy life. Or perhaps, yes, you plan to travel the world, spend time with family and simply enjoy all that you’ve worked for all these years. Life is a cycle and I’m here to guide you through them all.

So, as the sign says, “Remember to breathe”, then be open to inviting a sherpa along to help you find your way. I opened myself and am finding a beautiful way of helping others to live their dreams.


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What a roller coaster week!

I know a lot has happened emotionally in my life when I’m compelled to sit and write. And what a week it has been!

Like the majority who live in this country, I was shocked, saddened, hurt, betrayed by the election results. Agree with me or not, I own my opinions and feelings and respect those who disagree. I am not one of the league of people threatening to leave the country or who say “He’s not my president”. Like it or not, the system that provides our democracy ran as it was designed to do and I have to accept it, even if my candidate didn’t. Should we reassess our election process? Yes, by all means. But, I will stay here, love this country and fight to ensure our voices are heard. Waking the next day only to learn it hadn’t been a bad dream left me with fear only surpassed by what I felt on 9/11. The biggest difference this time is that I felt attacked and threatened by my own countrymen. But, that is the process and they have their reasons for voting the way they did. I can’t understand their reasoning anymore than they can accept mine.

So, with this major blow and the still lingering feelings I’m coping with; being a woman who now feels vulnerable, sad that if as an educated white woman I can feel this way, those of other faiths, ethnicities and lifestyles must be feeling fear beyond what any citizen of our country should be feeling.

And there’s more. My 91 year old mother is moving West to live with me next week. I’m happy and excited and thrilled to be able to share our lives now, but as I pack up things in my 2-bedroom condo and put my quilting supplies away, I am filled with remorse, loss, and panic. You see, I’m a quilter. It’s my creative outlet. And while I haven’t had time to be actively engaged in it, knowing the possibility to squirrel away even an hour in my sewing room is a comfort, I’ve come to understand, that I need in my life. But today I am packing all those things to store elsewhere, still accessible, but not easily.

Coincidentally, a 3-bedroom condo came on the market this week. I worked tirelessly all week, working every angle to try and find a way to make buying it a possibility, only to fail. As a self-employed person, banks do not look kindly on offering mortgages – shockingly even my current mortgage holder to whom I’ve been diligently (and easily) making payments to on my current home for 3 years.  After hoping all week, today I learned the asking price for the condo and it’s simply more than I’m willing to pay. Yes, it would provide my mother and I ample space to cohabitate, yes it would allow me to have my beloved quilting room and more, but it’s not to be. If I’ve learned nothing else along this journey I’ve been on, if I try to make a decision and have to force it, it’s not the right decision. So I’ve stepped away from this dream at this time. Who know what the future holds.

On top of these two very pressing concerns, I continue to deal with other issues, some medical that will be resolved soon, some professional, and again to be resolved soon, but it all adds up to a lot of anxiety, uncertainty and stress. It can wear a girl out! Even an optimistic one.

The one bright spot in the week was the honor of being on a panel of women leaders speaking to Group Health Cooperative’s Women’s Leadership Forum yesterday. Each of the panelists shared their journey. Mine spoke of this journey to happiness I’ve been on these past 3.5 years and how that informs my work as a career and entrepreneur coach guiding others to the same level of happiness. So, yes, in the midst of this temporary funk, I gave considerable time to all that I have to be happy for and where I am in life.

So, after a bit of allowing myself to grieve for missed opportunity, I’m moving on. Yes, I am excited to offer a place for my Mom to live surrounded by people, love and lots of activity. Her quality of life will improve, as will mine. She is a lively, clear headed, bright and funny woman. I can’t wait to introduce her to my friends!

Thanks to anyone for reading this. I just had to write today, sort these thoughts out and process so I can move on. Be good to yourself, be kind to others even if you disagree with them, and be the person you wish everyone would be.

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For some reason I woke up reflective this morning. In truth, it started over the weekend, but this morning, it nearly hit me on the head. So, I eased into the day slowly, as someone who is self-employed can do on occasion.

I sat with my coffee and just pondered what might be behind this feeling. The word APPRECIATION popped into my mind’s eye. Yes, appreciation. After all, I have many things to be grateful for that have helped me arrive at this place I’m at.

I had wonderful parents, particularly my mother, who ensured her daughter would be independent and able to stand on her own. Boy, did she succeed there! If I could only use one word to describe myself, Independence would be it!

I had a close family with 3 siblings who were my best friends growing up. We moved often, so the family bond was made stronger as it was the one consistent thing in our lives. The frequent moving also made me resilient. Change is not a problem for me. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I relish it. That’s what supported, or maybe drove, my move 3 years ago back across the country to Seattle. I can already feel myself dreaming of the next move. While that’s years away, my mind is already thinking about it.

I’m grateful for the education I was able to receive, and work for. An undergraduate degree in Accounting from University of Washington and a graduate degree in Human and Organizational Learning from George Washington University. Seems the name Washington has to be in any school I attend! This change in career focus is one of the things I draw upon in my work with clients seeking career changes.

The final thing I think of along these lines are the friends who have been there. The long-time friend who offered me a home to make my move because she believed in me, the friend who is also a career coach, who coached me through diligently, writing each day to provide support and sage advice, the many people I’d worked with over the years who believed in me and cheered me along.

No, one doesn’t achieve much in life alone. There are a multitude of people and experiences we need to get anywhere. So, today, I just want to express my thanks to all of them. You mean the world to me and you’ve helped me get to a very happy place.

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On Being an Action Learning Coach

People always notice how passionate I am about action learning. It’s true. Since being introduced to it in 2005, I have been entranced by its power to impact change and improve organizations.

My initial interest in it, as I’ve told countless audiences, was its central focus on asking questions. As a child of New England, we were taught not to ask questions, not to pry, to be seen and not heard. As an adult trying to function in the business world, I was not equipped with the ability to ask questions. So, action learning became a route for me to change this.

And, it’s worked! As a coach now, asking questions is central to my work. Whether I’m working with a group or an individual, knowing how to ask questions to encourage participation or tease out thoughts and ideas, questions are the vehicle that make it happen.

And, action learning is much more than just asking questions. It is a powerful organization development tool that can:

  1. Build leadership capacity. Show me a leadership competency and I’ll show you a skill that requires asking questions.
  2. Break down silos. The process of action learning, bringing together people from diverse areas of an organization, allows them to learn about and from one another, leaving with a better understanding of one another.
  3. Solves problems. The objective of action learning is to solve real, urgent problems, and I’ve seen this happen time and again. Whether it’s a personality issue between team mates, an organization struggling to reach its goals, or a business trying to capitalize on an opportunity. Action learning addresses all of these
  4. Bring together people in a safe, trusting environment where they can learn to respect and work with one another.

I’ve seen amazing outcomes from teams working with action learning. From the leader who realized they were the problem, to the organization that wanted to transform how their leadership team interacted, to an organization that wanted to transform their culture. Each achieved their goal through action learning.

For more information about action learning, its origins and how it’s used all over the globe, check out WIAL’s website HERE.

In two weeks, I’ll be certifying a new group of action learning coaches here in Seattle. I love empowering others with this wonderful skill, knowing that the organizations they touch will be enhanced through the power of action learning. If you’re interested in joining the group, feel free to contact me at andrea@colecoach.com or 206.658.7919. For more information, check out http://www.andreacoleconsulting.com/action-learning-certification.html


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Andrea Cole is a Senior Action Learning Coach, career and entrepreneur coach living and working in Seattle, WA. More information can be found at http://www.andreacoleconsulting.com.

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Thanks Dad


They say the first real relationship you ever have is with you Dad. That’s certainly true for me. As the youngest of four siblings, I seem to have had the closest relationship with our father. Perhaps it’s because I’m the only one he named (he wanted a little girl he could call Andy). Perhaps it’s because I most resemble him and his mother. Perhaps because he saw the fighter in me. Or perhaps, my elder siblings wore him down, leaving a gentler kind of Dad. Whatever the case, I’m happy for it all.

Most of my earliest memories involve my Dad. My first time riding my bicycle without training wheels, sitting in his lap, standing on his feet so he could teach me to dance (I always loved dancing with him), even lecturing me when I’d done something stupid. They are vivid memories; all of them.

Dad was not the super-involved kind of father we see today. He was a father of the 50s and 60s. Patriarchal, the provider, the disciplinarian, but there was always love behind everything he did. He wanted the best for us and did the best he knew how.

He instilled a love of learning that remains with me today. College was not an option in our family. It was a requirement. Education was the route to a good future. Another vivid memory is sitting down to dinner as a family – something we were expected to do daily – and Dad correcting our grammar – constantly. We hated it at the time, but as an adult, I’m ever so grateful for the love of, and gift for, our language. It’s been a blessing.

I’m a fighter, have been all my life. I was born blind in one eye, but was 7 years old before anyone knew. However, it didn’t stop me from taking ballet or tennis lessons – neither of which I was any good at, but I tried. At 14, I was required to have a spinal fusion that required me to be in a body cast for 6 months in a hospital, followed by a body brace for a year in school. Again, it was simply what happened, and I soldiered on. There were many such setbacks in my life, but I never asked “Why me?” or felt sorry for myself. It was just what was. I don’t know if this is a gift from my Dad or not. It’s more likely a trait from my mother, but it’s what has allowed me to persevere, to grow, to succeed. And that, my Dad would take delight in! He was so proud of the business acumen I showed, even early in my career.

Dad passed away nearly 6 years ago, before my journey back to Seattle and entrepreneurship even entered my mind. My Mom said today how sorry she is that he’s not around to see my success. He would be brimming over with pride and joy. We share the same smile, the “Charlie Cole smile” as we call it in the family. And I can just see him now, beaming at me. While I might owe my fight to my mother, I know I owe my intellect, my love of language (English and French), my business sense, and my looks to a man who was always an example of how to be a gentleman, to provide for your family, and to be a rock.

On this Father’s Day weekend, I pay homage to my Dad, and all the Dads out there, doing the best they can with what they have. And from this Daddy’s little girl, thank you.

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The Journey Continues


We’re mid-way through 2016 and it’s already been quite a year. At the start of the month, I celebrated my third anniversary of this bicoastal journey I’m on. It was three years ago that I arrived back in Seattle and started this new chapter in my life. Three wonderful years, where I’ve seen all my dreams come true.

Someone asked me yesterday what my “Willie Wonka Dream” was. First, she had to explain what that was, some reference to the book and movie, which she described as your wildest dream that you wish could come true, but likely wouldn’t. Well, my honest answer was that I had nothing left like that. I had achieved the big dreams for my life and am living in a wonderful state. Sure there are things like see my business continue to flourish, retire well, etc. But big unachievable dreams? Well, I don’t believe things are unachievable. If you want it and you work hard, I do believe dreams are achievable.

While the conversation went nowhere, it did leave me thinking about where I’d been and where I am. And it’s a really good place. My work continues to morph. I think one of the best traits of an entrepreneur is the ability to go with the flow, and change with the times and your audience’s needs.

I’ve been a career coach for a number of years now and enjoy it so much. It’s remarkable to watch people learn to take control of their careers, and their lives, and find their dream jobs. Far too many people are not that fortunate. They are stuck, or at least they think they are. They stay with a job for all the wrong reasons; benefits, “security”, fear, and so much more. I don’t believe in any of that. If you’ve followed my journey, you already know that. There is no benefit you can’t buy on your own, and sometimes at a lower cost than through your employer. “Security” is a fantasy. I’ve seen too many people get laid off from large organizations after years of employment, shocked that this happened to them. And fear? Well, that’s just you being afraid of the unknown. I don’t think I’m any braver than the other person, but I honestly adhere to the saying, “I’d rather face my fears and fail, than never have tried.”

As I focus my work on women wanting to leave the corporate world to launch their own business, I’ve started another blog where I share my entrepreneur journey. It’s called mysolopreneurjourney on wordpress.  Take a look if you’re interested.

And as always, go ahead and dream. Then make it happen!

Check out my website at http://www.colecoach.com

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