Tag Archives: Mary Elton

2022 Reflections: Cliff Jumping – Moving Forward into Possibilities

For 2022, my phrase was “do more cliff jumping”. That means I approach my life with openness and curiosity, moving beyond moments of resistance to take opportunities as they arise.

The phrase “cliff jumping” arose in the early 2000s when I was doing ropes courses first with the honors program, then with new cohorts of masters students in what is now the UNR School of Public Health. Our guide helped me manage my height phobia by literally encouraging me to jump off bridges, blind jump off rocks into ponds, and jump off cliffs at night into the star and moon reflected Feather River. “Cliff jumping” became my metaphor for moving forward, beyond fear, into possibilities.

2022 was an amazing year of cliff jumping for Andrew and me. In February, he got his dream job and I gave my first ever commencement address at The American Campus’s (TAC – Mauritius) first graduation ceremony.

In March I did my first international trip since Covid, traveling to South Africa to help plan and facilitate the book launch for Writing about Motherhood Honesty on International Women’s Day. My week in SA was filled with TV, radio, podcast, and print interviews. It was a delightful whirlwind!

In May, my bestie and I traveled to France for what was to be a 22 day cruise adventure of the wine region, Paris, Prague, the Danube and Budapest. We ended up with 3 days on the river, then Covid quarantine (I tested positive), then a flight back home. While not the trip we anticipated, we had several lovely days.

In June, my daughter decided to move to a new home with her partner, leaving our Vegas condo unoccupied. Andrew’s job allows him to work remotely, so, within 48 hours, we had decided to move to Las Vegas. On August 25, we did!

In late July, I did a one-on-one coaching workshop on “Releasing the Past and Embracing the Future” that my client challenged me to turn into an in-person workshop. I would plan and facilitate the workshop. She would market and facilitate the venue. By the end of August, the workshop was set for October. We had a small, engaged group and broke even, but we did it! My first in-person coaching workshop.

In October, I brought the publisher (also co-editor, and story author) of Writing about Motherhood Honesty to an academic conference in Minneapolis. It was her first trip to the US! She presented both her dissertation work and we, along with two other US-based story authors, did a panel highlighting motherhood stories.

During this year I was steadily building my small coaching business through Propel Consulting, LLC, providing professional, relational, organizational, personal, educational, and life coaching.

Then the universe gave me some messages to slow down a bit. I partially detached my left retina, requiring surgery. The evening after the surgery, I stumbled twice, and damaged my right knee requiring an ambulance ride to the ER. They gave me a thigh to ankle brace and crutches and told me to use them until I could see a doctor for assessment after the gas bubble in my eye had fully dissipated. That meant at least eight weeks on crutches. As the gas bubble in my eye causes dizziness and nausea when I move and the crutches make me unstable, the last two months of inactivity have given me a lot of time for reflection.

As I think about 2022, I am grateful for many things. I am grateful for a wonderful partner who cliff jumps with me and cares for me when the universe slows me down. I am grateful for wonderful collaborations and friendships with amazing, powerful women committed to doing unique work well.

The words or phrases we choose at the beginning of a year offer tools both to make choices and reflect on choices made. I am grateful for cliff jumping opportunities. On to 2023!

Reflections on Hunger, Graduation & Insights 3 Weeks after My Return from My Writing Retreat in Florence

It is 3 weeks since I left Florence, Italy. These 3 weeks have been a whirlwind. When I got home, I had a two foot stack of mail to wade through. I finally got to that last night only to realize that there was another 3 foot stack in my son’s room. Note to self: Figure out how to reduce junk mail in my life. Even though there was a lot of junk, there were some important things in there as well, business that must be taken care of. Today has been about catching up on all the things I missed while I was away. My 3 month writing retreat in Italy fed my soul in a variety of ways, teaching me things I hope to be able to sustain here.

So why was my return a whirlwind? Aside from the typical issues with reentry, a couple really huge things have happened since I came home.

Hunger Awareness

After my return, I almost immediately went to New York for the presentation of the PUSH – Presidents United to Solve Hunger initiative at the United Nations.



The Economic and Social Counsel of the United Nations, New York


With Jan Rivero of Stop Hunger Now

That short trip, from December 8-10 reinforced for me the importance of the WSU Hunger Awareness Initiative we’re building. I do not believe one size fits all in hunger response. As a community-based researcher and engaged scholar, I believe that solutions must be tailored in collaboration with communities and responsive to the dynamics of communities and cultures if they are to be effective and sustainable.

Although Wichita State University has not signed the alliance, it was a thrill to witness the 60 + universities who have partnered in this effort to bring the power of universities, administrators, faculty, staff and students, to bear on ending hunger. The creative energy of the academy, for those part of the alliance, and for those who choose to act independently, will lead to innovative solutions to hunger in both the short and long-term. We will play a pivotal role in ending hunger in our lifetime.


The inaugural group of University Presidents committed to the PUSH alliance

It was inspiring to see the power, insight and energy of all involved in this event. The alliance was invited to return to the UN in September to report our progress in line with the UN post-2015 development planning. Amina Mohammed Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning delivered Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the assembly. Here’s a link to his statement: http://www.un.org/sg/statements/index.asp?nid=8272

University Graduation

On December 12, I left for Nevada to prepare for my daughter’s graduation from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on December 16. I’m not sure I’ve attended a college graduation in which I was not a faculty member in academic regalia since my own graduations. It was interesting to be on the other side. I loved the efficiency, the pomp, and circumstance of the UNLV ceremony.


Matthew Gob, Mary Elton, Robert Reisch, Stefan Ballard-Reisch


Alyssa with the Gob family


Mary Elton, Alyssa, Andrew O’Leske

Surrounded by family and friends, I felt pride and admiration for my daughter, as dressed in her scarlet robe, she processed into the Thomas and Mack Center, found her seat, walked to the stage, received her diploma, and returned to her seat.


Proud Mommy and the Graduate


Proud Daddy and the Graduate


Proud Brother and the Graduate

I was the first person in my family to graduate college. For me education has always been a ticket to fulfilling my dreams. I wanted that for my children. While college graduation was not expected of me, it was of my children and here was my daughter, completing her degree in psychology and communication in only 3 ½ years, the same rate it took me to complete mine. I look forward to what comes next for her. Her journey is only beginning.

Several weeks ago, Alyssa asked me how it felt to watch her grow up and become an adult.  I told her I had been watching her grow on this trajectory since she was born and that I loved every moment of her development. This is true. While many parents seem to view college graduation as the end of something, for me, it is simply a step into the next phase of her life, an important, momentous step, but a step nonetheless.

I stayed in Las Vegas with her until December 19th to help her prepare for the holidays. She won’t be able to come home due to her job, one of the realities of having adult children, but I wanted her to be fully stocked with food, household items, a full tank of gas, etc. before I left her. We’ll FaceTime Christmas morning and open presents together. The amazing advances in technology allow us to be together even when we can’t physically be in the same place.

What have I learned?

The last 4 months have been amazing in so many ways. The last 2 days since returning from Las Vegas, have allowed me to reflect on a number of things and I have several insights into myself:

  • I’ve learned that I value peace and calm, a more measured approach to my life. I gained this in Florence on my writing retreat. I know that to sustain this, I will have to consciously nurture the patience I have been developing since I broke my wrists slightly over 2 years ago, and reinforced over the last 4 months. I will have to be conscious of my desire to live my life mindfully. This will require scheduling time to walk and work out. I’ve performed at a C- level on this so far since my return. I’ve succumbed to a lot of fires. Fitting walking in as smoothly as I did in Italy will be important to maintaining this balance. I realize that this will require planning. It will also require saying “no” when “yes” is the wrong answer and remembering that because I “can” do something, doesn’t mean I “have to”, and because I care about someone doesn’t mean I have to agree to their requests. Still working on this one.
  • I’ve learned that I write all the time. And while much of the writing I have done since I got home has been directed toward grant applications for organizations I care about, email messages to friends and family, feedback to colleagues planning conferences, it has also been consistent with the two books I outlined in Italy. It’s a new approach for me to realize how often in my daily communication with others, I engage topics of importance to my writing. That said, I need to again make time to write in a focused, directed manner in order to continue to advance these and my other projects. Because I am living them, this is easier than it might be.
  • I spent 3 months largely in seclusion, a unique experience for an extrovert. I am back and the pull of social engagement is very strong, especially at this time of year. I need to remain mindful here as well. I need to make time for myself to continue to nurture this work that I am doing while engaging the world again as an extrovert.

Into my family:

  • It took my friend Andrew to point out to me that BOTH of my children graduated from college this year. My son earned an associate’s degree to go along with his theater certificate in spring and my daughter graduated with her bachelor of arts degree less than a week ago. I am so proud of both of them.
  • I have 2 very capable, independent, strong adult children. I am so honored to be their mom and I look forward to what the future (and our present together) holds for them.
  • I’ve learned that I can love as much 5000 miles away, as I can 19 hours away, as I can in the same house. That’s cool!