Happy Tenth Auction, Uncle Albert!  


Happy Tenth Auction, Uncle Albert!

I don’t ever remember a time when Uncle Albert was not one of my most favorite people.

When I was little, the story goes, Uncle Albert would stay at our house when visiting from California, and he would sometimes get in late at night after being out with his Massachusetts friends. I would wake up and go out to the living room where he was sleeping on the couch and ask him to read me a story. He would try to rush through the books or skip pages (because he wanted to go to bed), and I would correct him because I knew the stories and I would make him start from the beginning.  And this was probably the beginning of when Uncle Albert told everyone who would listen how smart his niece Nicole was.

When I was in college, my friends and I had tickets to see a special concert. Uncle Albert rented a limo to take us there, and he even convinced the limo owner to allow us to eat inside, which normally was not permitted. “My niece is very responsible,” he told the man on the phone.

Uncle Albert has always been special and he has always made things special for me. I was so excited whenever he came to visit, and I knew he was one of my biggest fans.

My mom, aunt, and Uncle Albert came to visit me the summer of my transition from third grade teacher to Head of School.  One of the school families from my third grade class hosted a pool party for the class and my family. At some point, the topic of the auction came up, and it was mentioned that the child of the auctioneer graduated so we would need a new person to do our live auction beginning in 2006. Having only spent a couple of hours together, I think it was my friend Karen who first suggested that person could be Uncle Albert. Everyone else jumped all over this. And, although he had never done anything like this in his life (and later Russ made sure he told us all this so we would not have false expectations of his capabilities…), Uncle Albert excitedly said yes (and of course followed through) because he loves making things special for people and because he is such a special person himself.

And now, it’s my tenth year as Head of School, and it’s Uncle Albert’s tenth auction this weekend! Uncle Albert has always made things special for me, and now the past nine school auctions that collectively have raised over $200,000 for our school can be added to the list.  Uncle Albert has played an integral part in this with his work during our live auctions.

Thank you, Uncle Albert, for being such a special person to me and to our school! We’re very grateful, and I think, as far as the school community goes, I won’t be the only one who considers you a favorite person as we celebrate our Black & White (& Pink!) auction on Saturday night! xo

This is an adapted version of a tribute page I wrote for this year’s Black & White (& Pink!) auction print catalog celebrating Uncle Albert’s tenth event and the important role he has played in our school fundraising.


Be Intentional

Be Intentional

I recently saw this Martha Beck quote in a magazine: “People can feel the difference between a pure agenda and a murky one.” It spoke to me because I believe strongly in the power of intention both professionally and personally.

I think about intentions a lot – my own and others’. Oprah Winfrey says “intention rules the world.” I think that’s true, but how do you be intentional?

Know yourself. Communicate clearly. Be comfortable sharing yourself with others on a regular basis. Share your heart and your thoughts to foster understanding with those around you. Clarify your thought process, your feelings and your needs to build trust with people around you. Ask questions when you do not understand something someone else does or says. This last one can be the scariest because it’s so much easier to be quiet, but, by doing so, you are losing a bit of trust and rapport with that person. There’s this unsaid thing between you that is murky. It’s not pure or clear, and this will affect your future interactions and involvement. This is true for a friend, a colleague or a family member.

What does being intentional look like?

It means thinking before you act; pausing and taking a breath to be thoughtful about what you’re doing and why.

Sometimes things happen that can get in the way of us doing our best and being intentional. This is life. When it happens, we have to own it and acknowledge it so it doesn’t happen again.

It means sometimes you can’t meet a work deadline because of a family crisis. When you do finally turn in the job late, you explain honestly what happened, and you are clear with your future intention: you intend for this to never happen again.

It means you’re feeling stressed and you took those feelings out on someone who didn’t deserve it. You feel terrible and are embarrassed, and you know your friend is probably upset with you. Take a deep breath and tell your friend this. Make it clear how you feel – and show empathy towards how he or she probably feels about it too. And, be clear with your future intention: you intend to make sure your frustrations are channeled in a healthier way.

Being intentional is not about making excuses; it’s about being honest and thoughtful about the why and how behind actions, behaviors and words. It’s about filling the space between us, always, with realness and vulnerability.

[Originally published on http://drewdudley.com/todays-edge-of-the-bed-advice-be-intentional/ on February 18, 2015.]

Mathias Strong

Mathias Strong

Those who know me know that I was devastated in early December when my friend Mathias Giordano passed away from osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.  Even though I knew in August from Mathias’ mom, Roya, that there were no further treatments available, I was not prepared for the news that Mathias passed away on December 7, 2014.

I have used a lot of words to describe this incredible boy: special, impressive, remarkable, compassionate, wise, courageous, strong.  He had a huge heart, and he openly shared it with everyone he met. His smile lit up the room.

But, what, really was so special about him? Anyone can use adjectives to describe another person and when you say them with great emphasis or put them in italics, they make an even greater impression.  And a lot of people throw around words like this to describe people on a regular basis.

That’s the hard part. Mathias really was all of these things…and so much more. He deserves all of these words – and great inflection and intonation when they are said.

Something drew me to him almost immediately when he and his family arrived at Camp Sunshine in 2013. I remember very clearly seeing them get out of the car and approach us all by the front door – Mathias and his younger brother Troy in matching Nationals shirts.

How did I know – really know – that Mathias and his family were so special, impressive, remarkable, compassionate, wise, courageous, strong? Their actions and values jumped out at me; they got my attention in ways that really touched my heart and lifted me up.

I knew it all week when I was in and out of the 9-12 year olds’ group and saw Mathias participating fully in every activity despite being on crutches and having only one leg. (Mathias’ right leg was amputated from the knee down in an attempt to remove his cancer and as a treatment option. Unfortunately, the cancer had already spread so this drastic measure did not have its intended outcome.)

I knew it when his mother said to me, “I don’t wish this on anyone, but I’m just glad it happened to someone who could handle it like my son.”

I knew it when I talked with Mathias and he was so real. There was nothing different about him, yet everything was different about him. But, this had nothing to do with his pediatric cancer.  When you talked to him, you felt like you were talking to an 11-year-old boy who was very mature, very grounded, and very sincere. I am always drawn to real people, and this was no exception.

I knew it afterwards when following his parents on Facebook, so many of their efforts centered on  raising awareness and helping others with cancer (or not).  A bone marrow transplant could not have saved Mathias, but he understood the value of this and wanted to get as many people as possible to register with Be The Match as bone marrow donors.  Additionally, he knew how important the act of donating blood was for those affected by cancer.   Many cancer patients need regular blood transfusions.  He and his family made it their priority to encourage everyone they know to give blood and to do so consistently every eight weeks.

I knew it when he and his family – together with Jay Coakley of Ellie’s Hats – worked so hard to secure the required number of license plate applications for a gold ribbon childhood cancer awareness license plate in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Mathias felt strongly that the gold ribbon symbolizing childhood cancer awareness should be as well known as the pink ribbon symbolizing breast cancer awareness.

I knew it when they did this in the last few weeks of Mathias’ life.

I knew it the day I wasn’t having a good day at school and looked on Facebook only to see a picture of Mathias learning to walk on his new prosthetic leg. How could my bad day compare in any way to this?

I knew it because Mathias and Troy were always ready to laugh, almost always smiling.

I knew it when I looked across the pond at Camp Sunshine’s wishboat ceremony on the last day in August 2014 and saw Roya participating and engaging and thought, “What is your wish when you know there are no more treatment options for your child?”

I knew it when Roya said after Mathias died: “The fight continues. It’s not anymore for Mathias, but it’s for your kids. It’s for your grandkids. It’s for your neighbors’ kids. Be aware of the gold ribbon when you see it and know that we need a cure.”

I knew it when Mathias chose #TeamMathias12 over #MathiasStrong for the third line of a brick to be purchased at Camp Sunshine in his honor.

What does it mean to be Mathias Strong? It means all of this and more. It means even in bad times, you laugh and smile because that’s what it’s your heart. It means doing that and at the same time keeping it real. It means you keep going when you are in pain, when you can’t walk (literally), when you hear bad news. It means thinking about others before you think about yourself. It means embracing a cause that matters to you and giving it your all, no matter your own circumstances. It means inspiring others to keep fighting for this cause even after you’re gone.

This is how I know that Mathias Giordano and his family are so special, impressive, remarkable, compassionate, wise, courageous, strong – and my heart is better and stronger because I know this and have experienced it.

Scenes from Being Mathias Strong

You can learn more about Team Mathias on Facebook and through this website.

To be further inspired Mathias’ impact, you can click here:

http://www.fox5dc.com/news/1889495-story (a news clip about the childhood cancer awareness license plate from April 2015)

http://www.fox5dc.com/news/1503116-story (a news clip about the childhood cancer awareness license plate from February 2015)

http://momastery.com/blog/2014/12/04/read-this-post-win-a-jeep/ (a beautiful blog entry by Glennon Doyle Melton, who is friends with Mathias’ orthodontist and his wife, from December 2014)


Posted April 1, 2015; updated December 6, 2015.