Guest Blogger: Puzzled?

After over 270 posts to this blog in a decade or so, I have my first ever guest blogger!  Yes indeed, exciting times around the  ‘Scoop.  This guest is charming, has a great wit, is maybe the smartest person I know and drop-dead gorgeous.  She also has lived with me for the past 15 or so years, produced my three kids and stole my heart when I first saw her from across a sun-filled room of coders, testers and commercial bank business analysts.  Please join me in a warm welcome to my best friend and wife, Cindy Sutton.

Let me set the stage.  Cindy is an HR professional at a large company.  For this profession she has recently dabbled with writing a blog that can be viewed by thousands of her co-workers.  Her first three posts have seen more traffic than all of my posts combined.  This is not that first post but easily my favorite as it was inspired by one of my favorite holiday traditions in our home.  I hope you enjoy as much as I did…told you she was smart.  If you are wondering, I’m am “the completer.”

Growing up, my husband’s family had a tradition of opening a puzzle on Christmas Day and having it completed by New Year’s. This is something that we have carried forward into our own family and we love it. When we cracked open the puzzle this past Christmas and everyone assumed their positions around the kitchen island I had a revelation. Now before I share my revelation, I will caveat this by saying that I have absolutely no background in human psychology – I was a history and politics major. But my years in HR have given me some decent insight into human behavior and I am thoroughly convinced I will write a book about this, make a bazillion dollars and you will all be impressed with my keen insights and humility that I have been able to maintain in the throes of my glowing success. So here goes:

How one approaches a puzzle is indicative of how they work on teams.

Impressed yet? Stick with me here. When we opened up the puzzle we all assumed our natural roles without even vocalizing them. And over the years we have all grown accustomed to the puzzle “talents” we each bring to the table (or the kitchen island in this case) that we naturally assume certain people will perform certain activities.

“The Visionary”

The Visionary is the one that pulls the concept together, outlines the parameters and keeps the effort moving forward. In this case, this is the person that buys the puzzle, clears the counter and supplies the snacks. This is the person with the vision, sees the big picture and motivates the team.

“The Organizer”

The Organizer is the one that really gets things going. They flip the pieces over, separate the corners from the middle pieces, sort the colors and starts to work right away on the edge. They want to make sure everyone is clear on the objective and can see the size and scope of the work. In my family, this person is known to carry a tape measure and a magnifying glass.

“The Specialist”

The Specialist loves to dig into the themes of the puzzle. This person is the one that concentrates on putting together the pictures on the puzzle (“I’m working on Santa’s beard!”). The Specialist does not like to deviate from their focus and can become blind to other parts of the puzzle. Oftentimes there are several specialists working on different aspects of the projects. They can only take the puzzle so far – they need someone to start pulling it together.

“The Completer”

And that is where the completer comes in. They love the details! Shades of blue in the sky? They got it! They are the ones that relentlessly and methodically try different pieces together until there is a match. They love the challenge and are energized by the hard stuff. Their attention to details pulls the puzzle together and connects the themes. This is the person that gets the job over the finish line. The Completer is also bleary-eyed by New Years and requires a lot of coffee.

“The Dabbler”

Beware of the Dabbler. And there is a Dabbler in almost every project. This person is the consummate derailer. The often pop in and out of the puzzling at whim – moving pieces around, making suggestions, pulling things apart – all without understanding the process or the issue at hand. In the worse-case scenario the Dabbler has even been known to pocket a puzzle piece and show up at the end to claim victory in completing the project. They can be well-intentioned, but sometimes you need to be honest with them and politely ask them to step back and go watch television instead.

It is important to know the role you play on the team. And at times, to be flexible. Sometimes the team will need you to dig and be the Completer when you really want to be the Visionary. The key is to understand the talents that everyone brings to the island and use those to accomplish the goal. And try to avoid being the Dabbler – no good comes of that!

I’m the Visionary and occasionally the Specialist if I am particularly interested. What role do you play in the puzzle?

Nicely done first guest blogger to SuttonScoop ever.  Nicely done.

2015: This Year I Will…

this-year-i-will…stop obsessing.  Ok, not really but I know this at the very least gets a chuckle from Cindy.  Take for example the pegging pants trend from the late 80s, early 90s.  A great solution to seeing all of my shoes whenever I look down.  The trend goes away.  I let go of it much later than most and eventually, or almost 20 years later, I get over not seeing my shoes when I look down.  Guess what I see the kids doing when I go out these days.  Rolling up their skinny jeans. Here we go again I think to myself.  But I digress…

Most know this drill by now, but in case you are new to this blog here’s a little background:  Each year, at the turn of the Gregorian calendar year I spend a little time reflecting on my resolutions for the past 12 months, grade my progress and then share the areas of focus I will have in the New Year.  I’m comfortable with calling them resolutions but these are not the “join a gym, workout for 12-19 days and then slowly take up sleeping in” type of targets.  More of a means to keep me focused, accountable and aligned.  In general I’m the guy longing for free time and then frustrated with not spending said found free time  productively.  Hence, my need to resolve.

Before jumping to the 2014 report, I should note that Cindy and I get a laugh out of setting a “theme” for the year ahead as well.  Something we can jointly target.  This is a bit of a joke between us but is also rooted in sincerity.  Past themes have been the year “of electronic upgrades” or “re-connecting with friends” or “decluttering” or “doing good for others.”  2015 has been jointly proclaimed our year of “Small Changes, Big Impact.”  No telling what this means just yet.  It could mean better quality exercise habits.  It could mean removing a few junk items from our diet.  It could mean finding opportunities to pay good deeds we receive forward more frequently.  Clearly it is purposely vague enough to mean just about anything – I’ll report back what it actually means in roughly 12 months.

Lastly, with this year’s resolutions, I have also made a slight change to align with a stronger focus.  I am changing the language to read more like items I want to exhibit and “be” vs. a list of things I want to check a box on or “do.”  Small change, hopefully big impact (see what I did there?).  Without further adieu…

MY 2014 RESOLUTIONS – A LOOK BACK  (Red = missed goal, Yellow = somewhere in between, Green = achieved)


  • Keep up the listening, engaging, prompting and continue to hold back on monologues and hijacking.  Treat her like the best friend in the world she is to me.  Most of all focus on smiles, laughs, hand-holding and hugs.  Bring it on guys – I can take it…I am a champ whenever stress levels in general are low.  Not so much when they are high.  
  • 3 Kid-free trips in 2014 – one is already in the books, Miami in February with good friends of ours.  2 more should be the minimum goal. We made 2 of the 3.  Miami in February and Charleston in April.  We can do better.


  • Avoid making all interactions teachable moments.  Laugh, play and follow their lead much, much more Strange part of this is when I’m 1×1 or just Cindy and me with one child this is a no-brainer.  But when with all 3 kids I tend to push a “right vs. wrong” agenda more than I should.  Still, feel like I’m doing better here each day. 
  • Prop my kids up with the sole goal of making their self-worth as high as can be – I am so lucky to have great kids Striking a balance between teaching, trusting and showing an example without stating it is hard.  Good some days, not as great on others.  
  • An overnight hike with BOTH Will and Stewart and Poppy plus 5-6 camping trips with Adventure Guides Made the camping trip goal easily with all 3 kids but we missed our annual hike due to an event-filled fall.  Possible late winter hike in the making.
  • Participate in 6 volunteer events with my kids – establishing a habit of giving back that they will carry forward in life Didn’t hit 6 with just us, but easily hit the mark if you throw in school and church events. Stewart even held a sale out front of the house and donated proceeds to the Fort Mill Care Center – no parental prompting at all.  Cool.
  • Make 1×1 time with each of my kids happen each month – don’t stress over what it is, just do what they want Sometimes this was just errand running but the time solo with each kid is definitely a relationship strengthener.  
  • Ask better questions and let them answer without being judged. Getting there…finding this takes more practice than I expected.

Health & Fitness

  • Schedule a physical – c’mon already!  Afraid because the last one resulted in a colonoscopy?  Well, kinda…Dang.
  • Cross-train 2x/ week – do anything but run Check.  Push-ups usually but P90X Abs, etc. helped hit the mark.
  • Run a 50 miler Nope.
  • Run 4 trail events – the longer the better Ran 3.  Would really only like to run trail events…still hard to come by.
  • Run 4 marathons – 50 miler can count as one of them (not two) and fully train from the ground up for at least one of them (w/ tempo, track, distance runs) Ran 3.  Trained fully for Ellerbe and ran 3:28 on a tough course.  Ran 3:25 at St. George and 4:11 in a sloppy, injury-shortened training build-up for the New River Marathon in May. 
  • Sign up for and ride in Blood, Sweat and Gears metric century in July. Nope.


  • Meditate daily – start with a minute and see what happens This was my favorite goal on the year.  A strong habit now.
  • Be outwardly grateful – log what occurrences you are grateful for as things occur; Put good into my environment – experience how it spreads Check.  Gratitude jar.  Would like to be more outwardly grateful to those close to me.
  • Deepen close friendships by initiating more chances to connect more often – engage and put effort into the most important friendships I’m no champ here but did enjoy trying to connect more real-time, less pre-planning.
  • Read a book a month (12/year – see what I did there?) – backing off from past years yes, but I’ll be happier worrying less about it. 🙂 Nope.  9.  25% of the books Cindy read.  Really?  Just read a book a month???
  • Continue to introduce my passion for the ASC Greenway here in Fort Mill and the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte with more friends.  Introduce 5 people to each.  Check.  One gathering for a Close Home tour and three MSC meals served with first-time visitors.

I’m giving myself a B-.  Again, just checking in every few months here would have moved several red/yellows to greens.  Interestingly, not much to jettison in 2015 and the metrics are likely close to right.  I guess it is a process.



  • Be a listener first.  No hijacking or monologuing.  Remember to make it 2-way.  Pause.  Don’t “come over the top” when she’s having a “teaching moment” (i.e. hollering) at the kids.  Treat Cindy like the best friend in the world she is to me.  Most of all find any excuse to smile, laugh, hold hands, hug.  Still not skeert fellas…bring it.
  • Be a couple who puts us first occasionally without guilt.  3 Kid-free trips in 2014 – Cooper River is already a lay-up.

Fatherhood – Be present, active, engaging

  • Be a dad who laughs and plays with his kids.  Resist the urge to always teach a life lesson.
  • Be an attender.  Not just to the big games/concerts but at the smaller events.  Be where they ask me to be, each time they ask.
  • Prop my kids up – make their self-worth as high as it can be – I am so lucky to have such great kids.
  • An overnight hike with BOTH Will and Stewart and Poppy plus 5-6 camping trips with Adventure Guides.
  • Be a volunteer – give them chances to join me in 6 volunteer events – establishing a habit of giving back that they will carry forward in life.
  • Be their Dad without their siblings – 1×1 and do this monthly – don’t stress over what it is, just do what they want.
  • Engage with good question.  Be a listener without judgment. 


  • Meditate daily – I’m up to 10 minutes a day minimum.  I love it.  Sets a great tone for each day.
  • Be outwardly grateful – Gratitude Jar.  Don’t fear blogging these.  I tend to second guess sharing these.
  • Be a non-curser.  Completely.  Rely on “freaking”, “darn/dang”, “shoot”, “chump”.  Suggestions/tips welcome.
  • Be a connector, not just someone that others reach out to connect.  Deepen close friendships by initiating more chances to connect more often.
  • Be a more avid reader – read a book a month – target 1/3 of Cindy’s mark.  You can do this Sutton.  Start with deciding on the 12 books in January instead of allowing weeks to pass after you finish a book.
  • Continue to introduce my passion for the ASC Greenway here in Fort Mill and the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte with more friends.  Find ways to strengthen connections to their causes without being pushy.
  • Build a strategy for online music and photo collections – today I have backups.  No real great playlists and at times not sure whether I should continue to push it all into iTunes and iPhoto/Flickr or other strategies like Spotify, etc.  This gets more complicated with more kids and more devices.  Needs dedicated thought.  This may be a cry for help.

Health & Fitness – Be Healthy and Fit

  • Schedule a physical – I.  Can.  Do.  This.  I’m.  Not.  Skeert.
  • Cross-train 2x/ week – do anything but run.  I’m 3 weeks in and enjoying the ‘Insanity’ videos.
  • Run a 50 miler or 24 hour race – this is more about a reason to run in the dark, late at night.  Something I love doing.
  • Run 4 trail events – the longer the better
  • Run 3 marathons – #3 this year gets me to magic number 50.  A blessing to be able to do this.  The number is just that.
  • Sign up for a bike event.  Blood, Sweat and Gears, Booty, Mountains to Sea, Ride the Blue Ridge Parkway…

And there you have it, my 2015 Resolutions.  Hold your applause as it is still early yet.  As you can see the changes are minor from last year.  Mere tweaks.  If you hung around in this post this far, you might was well take a peek at my past resolutions.  You can see my 2013/2014 Resolutions here, my 2012 Resolutions here, my 2011 resolutions here and my 2010 resolutions here and know that I’m impressed with your reading endurance.  Most important point of the post:  let me know what you think.  Email, text, tweet or comment here.

Gratitude: A Year in Review

gratitudeHappy New Year!  Exactly 365 days ago I wrote about my desire to focus more of my time and help my family do the same on gratitude.  The goal was simple:  write down things we are grateful for and put these quick notes into this jar to be read at the end of 2014.  

Additionally, I kickstarted this effort with my own goal of spending a month capturing things I am grateful for as I saw them in real time.  Many of these items were nature related – sunsets, sunrises, sounds from nature, running in the rain, etc.  Nonetheless, the spirit of the concept felt right – spend a few minutes focusing on things that are enriching. Plus it offered us a fun activity at the dinner table on New Year’s Eve when we read the quick notes captured from the prior year. Here are some stats and observations:

  • It is easy to be grateful – but hard to do it consistently
  • The act of physically documenting quick moments takes effort – sometimes just enough to not document it at all
  • There is a strange internal struggle here – I found myself wanting to remind myself to be grateful for something each day yet resisting the urge to set a physical reminder for fear of creating forced gratitude.  To me this seemed to miss the spirit of gratefulness (note:  even writing this I am thinking wouldn’t it be better to force some gratefulness daily vs. letting it happen naturally and potentially less frequently?).
  • Like when I meditate – I feel better after moments of gratefulness
  • There are a million things to be grateful for yet the “amazing sunset” or “amazing vista” type were the ones I tended to capture.
  • 57 physical notes of gratitude were captured in 2014 by me and the family
    • Charlie – 1 – admittedly handicapped slightly given he is just learning to write words
    • Marilyn (MIL) – 1
    • Stewart – 2
    • Will – 4
    • Cindy – 21
    • Jason – 28
  • The weather and post-running endorphins were strong thematic contributors for us.

So what am I taking from this?  1) Keep it up – yes this means year 2 of the gratitude jar.  2) Increase the frequency – likely through a reminder or prompt.  3) Don’t think about it as much – just do it.  4) I liked the simple blog/tweet capture method – I wonder if others would be willing to join me in sharing theirs?  5) Move the jar around so we “see” it – keeping it in the same place may have helped us “forget” it was there if that makes sense.

For those truly interested in what was captured I’ve taken a few minutes to document them below, relatively anonymously and in no order.

  • I am grateful for when Will talks in an awesome British accent
  • I am grateful for spending a long weekend at a running event and a supportive family who lets me go
  • Will playing with Charlie for an hour and making him cars
  • Great morning runs!
  • For Christmastime
  • For a happy Charlie
  • Quiet time with my children
  • Wine
  • For luck – my pants zipper came off while dressing at home today!
  • For food on our plates everyday, a roof over our head and being able to help those less fortunate
  • Crisp fall days with kids playing outside together
  • A strong, healthy body
  • For giant pickles falling from the sky
  • Great friends and dragon dances
  • Crisp fall days
  • That my husband has my back
  • For my first day at Middle School
  • Brothers who play together
  • Summertime traffic patterns
  • For cold, rainy days because when the sun comes out it seems brighter and warmer
  • Warm hugs when I am sad
  • An afternoon with my smart, charming, up-for-anything daughter Stewart – sandwiches, a visit to a boat ramp and video games in a bowling alley arcade have never been more fun!
  • For a note from Will – one sweet, thoughtful kid.
  • For how cute it is for a 5 year old to ask:  “Who is your 2nd favorite ‘pro-fish-inal’ football team?”
  • For Jim’s help shoveling snow and for our former neighbors the Hart’s for teaching me the beauty of a shoveled drive (even in the South).
  • For kids who slept until 6:30am on Easter
  • For a family who supports my hiking hobby – does not make leaving them any easier
  • For Cindy
  • For our children who enjoy playing outside
  • For running in the rain
  • For Cindy’s sense of humor and wit
  • For kid’s excitement upon approaching Disney World – magical!
  • For running in the snow in Central Park
  • For Will eating my green peppers
  • For Dad interrupting Mom
  • For Sandy and her getting to know the kids
  • For crisp, cold days
  • For fireflies at dusk
  • For cool weather in July
  • For Sandy leaving us a meal for our return from Disney.  Priceless.
  • For the great outdoors
  • For working out with Will
  • For another fun, safe summer w/ our kids and a post-preschool “raise”!
  • For the surprise of spaghetti sauce on a busy night where dinner was not planned
  • I am grateful for Will
  • The first buds on the trees in the spring
  • That an A/C unit failing is something we are prepared for financially
  • For my wife trying new things (clipless pedals!)
  • For ‘sneaking’ s’mores with my best friend before dinner
  • Children who trust
  • That the Polar Vortex is over
  • Fun, family dinners
  • For being married for 15 years to an amazing person and my best friend
  • For 1×1 bike/hike with Charlie, especially tossing ‘monkey balls’ into the creek
  • For the hidden 100 Grand bar I just found in the wine cork drawer
  • Bad attitudes turned good
  • Who you are.

As always, I would be interested in hearing from anyone on this subject.