Can you tell us a bit about your career path and what led you to the role you're in today?
I’ve always liked computers and technology, so when I landed my first job at Advanced Micro Devices, AMD, it felt amazing to be a part of the “.com” boom. I was flying high in the corporate, fast paced lifestyle of 1990’s Denver, CO. My eyes were set on obtaining success, and at the time that meant getting the glass windowed corner-office, smashing sales goals, and dressing the part in stilettos and pencil skirts.
When my multiple sclerosis presented itself in 1995 as optic neuritis, I was gripped by fear, uncertainty, and shame. My dreams of corporate success were slipping away from me and any sort of backup plan seemed like a major step down.'
It took many years to change my thinking from that of losing myself, to one of abundance as my outlook on life changed to optimism. I could now see that becoming “disabled” has not made me a failure but has given me the opportunity to use the gifts God gave me to continue to make a difference. I traded my stilettos in for a leg brace and cane, but the glitz, confidence, and glam never left.
I delved deep into my soul and tapped further into my faith in God and MS treatments. Modern medicine had made progress in different disease modifying drugs and I felt a desire to put aside my fears, get dressed up and embrace the different drug therapies available to me. I became a partner with my medical team, as we collaborated on the ever-changing symptoms of my autoimmune disorder. A treatment finally stuck and I started to do better.
The progress led me to where I am now. I am so happy to be able to see and feel my feet! Once I check in to see they are working every day, I am filled with gratitude and a significant amount of enthusiasm. Enthusiasm I have harnessed over the last 13 years to create The Bluebird Restoration Project – now transformed into Bluebird Experience.
Bluebird Experience is truly a project encompassing all the experiences, lessons, trials, and connections in my life.
What has been the most unexpected change since the project's start in 2007?
Quarantining in Frankfort, Kentucky and starting another Eastern Bluebird trail on my parents’ land. They have lived in Alaska up until the last few years, so they supported and loved Bluebird Experience from a distance, but never saw it firsthand. Creating a trail with them throughout 2020 has provided an opportunity to show my family what I have been doing for the last 13 years to gain a new purpose and strength to thrive despite the obstacles MS offers.
Was there anything that surprised you about songbird conservation when you first started?
That bluebird restoration all started in 1970, the year I was born! It was great to see and help songbird conservation continue so many years later.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do? / What are you most excited about right now?
I’m most excited that I found something that feeds my soul. I found a small way to make a difference by doing something I love. When first diagnosed with MS, I felt imprisoned to the diagnosis, bogged down by the label of being “disabled”. Through this project, I’ve traded in my striped prison jumpsuit for beautiful blue skirts, wings, and dresses that have given me the freedom to control how I am viewed and how I view myself. Blue is my uniform of hope. Seeing my friends, family, doctors, fellow birders join in wearing blue on Bluebird Wednesdays makes me feel like a small change can make a huge impact.
What do you do on a typical Bluebird Wednesday?
“On Wednesdays We Wear Blue” so once I wake up I will either put on my Bluebird Experience shirt or chose one of the many blue outfits I have in my closet. Next, I will pack my birding bag – equipped with a clipboard, monitoring sheet, blue water bottle, camera, and blue pen. Usually my father and I will take the golf cart out around our Kentucky bluebird trail and monitor our six boxes. On the days I feel able to walk, I stay a little longer and sit near the nextboxes to watch the bluebirds building their nests or feeding their chicks. I can also real time enter the nestbox data into the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch App.
Besides bluebirding, what other hobbies do you like to do?
Making a quilt for a loved one. I really enjoy stitching bits of love into every quilt I make. Right now, I’m working on burp cloths and baby blankets for three important babies coming into the world!
Describe Bluebird Experience in three words:
Happiness in Nature
What’s one of your favorite bluebird memories?
My most profound memory was the experience that fueled the initial passion for this project. My friend, Sherry was becoming aware that her physical time on earth was coming to an end. She told me “her time would come when the bluebird arrives.” Bluebirds return to Wisconsin in the late winter every year and 2007 was the first year I put out my own Bluebird nextboxes.
On the first day I went to check on the box, I saw my very first Eastern Bluebird. It was brilliantly blue and scoping out my box to claim. I was overjoyed and rushed inside to call Sherry to share what I saw. Her sister answered the phone as the ambulance was pulling into her driveway. Sherry’s sister told me hospice was waiting for her arrival. Sherry passed two days after I saw my first bluebird. In honor of Sherry’s love for nature, I wanted to provide a way for her daughters to feel connected and gain healing from Mother Nature. Creating The Bluebird Restoration Project also gave us the opportunity to give back to nature and teach countless people the power of caring for something other than themselves.
What advice would you give someone who is new to having their own nestbox?
Enjoy your time in nature, take the time to journal, capture lots of pictures, keep copious notes, and share your findings with scientists at Cornell Lab of Ornithology through NestWatch.
Who has been the biggest influencers in your life? Professionally and personally?
Personal influencers would be my family; especially my grandmothers (Mary and Helen), Parents (Steve and Maree), and God.
Helen taught me to use my voice, to vote in all elections, and be confident in my decisions.
Mary, who also had Multiple Sclerosis, taught me to appreciate the little things – like a cardinal at the bird feeder. She also taught me how to carry myself with gratitude, grace and hope.
My parents both raised me to have strong faith in God, to practice optimism, and they have given me the drive, support, and ambition to reach my goals.
Influencers in my professional life would be my mentors from AMD and Intelligent Electronics days, Eileen and Molly. They are such strong, professional corporate leaders that knew how to inspire and push me to succeed. Their leadership style became the driving force behind the Bluebird Project - helping others gain confidence to reach their full potential. Our goal is to add value to other peoples’ lives.
What are some lessons you’ve learned through Bluebird Experience?
You can plan all you want, but life happens and plans change. The key is having the flexibility to reassess your expectations and be able to adapt. Plans changed, I changed, but I started to live more authentically through Bluebird Experience.
Once you learn to care for something other than yourself, you have unleashed a quality worth having and worth sharing!
Happy Bluebird Wednesday and Bluebird Blessings!