The week that sits smugly between Christmas and New Year's has always been a week of limbo wonderland for me.
I love the smells and the sights of the holiday season. I like how people seem to be just a little nicer (when they aren't stressing out over parking spaces and retail deals.)
I love getting the tree out, and remembering the who, what, and when of the stories our ornaments tell. The stringing of lights -- should we do all white? Purple? Multi-colored? And where are those little pinecones and snowmen I love? I like the cold weather, the white of the snow, the gentle snowflakes falling against the window --sticking fast then melting slowly, the birds perched on branches, pecking away at the seeds, the warmth of the fire,the smell of hot cocoa with gooey marshmallows that melt into oblivion, the sweet taste of candy canes, the tartness of the lemon over the fish... oh, the sights and sounds and smells of the season can be intoxicating!
But then there is the end of the year, the reckoning of what was and wasn't accomplished. Where we were and where we are now. It is incredibly sobering to stop and take measure of what you've done with the last twelve months. How much you've grown, and for many of us, how much you may have regressed in areas where you most needed to let go.
I get a double-whammy of navel-gazing this time of year because my birthday falls during this week, too. I think of where I am with my health -- my family, my friends, my work -- and where I may have thought I wanted to be. Fortunately, I don't think I would change much if I had the chance to relive my life. I find myself ever bolder than ever these days, saying what I think, and meaning what I say. I am trying to make what is hopefully, the second half of my life even more rich than the first. I tend to think that we age like fine wine -- we only get better with time. But stopping to assess and enjoy a few sips along the way is essential. No sense in going to your grave with an unopened bottle.
When I was in grade school, I hated having a holiday week birthday. Mine was celebrated with family, but without much fanfare, and honestly, that was something I grew to expect. I'm not actually complaining. I think they did the best they could -- as they struggled with their own demons during the holidays -- but they did share this unmistakable melancholy veil that tinted holidays to come.
As I got older and could choose what I wanted, I was fortunate to have colleagues for friends. They would have champagne and cake with me if I worked that week. And my sweet husband always remembers and has surprised me with his creativity and kindness, especially in years where I have felt the lack of sunshine and the paradoxical sadness which is the other side of holiday joy.
I think about so many people who suffer from loneliness during a season even though they are surrounded by people. I have worked hard to combat those feelings by adopting people as family into my life. We spent this Christmas Eve surrounded by our "chosen family." Many of us were talking about how incredibly cool it is to be with people who don't put you into any role from your childhood. No family fights, no biting commentary. Just silliness and laughter and a sense of camaraderie.
The idea of having people in your life because you want them there, not because they have to be there is quite compelling to me. Spontaneous expressions of wonderment which come from sharing experiences is the best gift of all. Having someone like you for you. That's more than any mandatory family (or relationship) can offer, it is indeed something to be treasured. I am not a religious person, and although I know some people think labeling yourself as "spriritual" is a cop-out -- it's the truth. I don't believe in a "god" but I do believe in the magic of our spirit. I believe in people I meet who are extraordinary in their willingness to grow. I believe in old souls and new perspectives. I get the butterfly effect -- I feel it. Energy is alive and can be shared or sucked out of us depending upon our own awareness of how we affect others.
Not sure what 2014 will bring, but looking back on this year, and celebrating this past week with people I care deeply about makes me feel very lucky indeed.
Don't you love when you come across a quote that mirrors your current thoughts? Today is one of those days. I have all these nagging ideas about where I want this blog to go, where I want to take my career, and which path in life I should follow. I've been frozen for far too long, never feeling prepared enough to move forward, never feeling ready to take a leap. So why not do things now instead of waiting for tomorrow? Why not leap and expect�a net? If�a net doesn't appear, tumbles and scraps make for�excellent stories. I hope you're inspired by this as much as I am. Let's be great people together. Have a productive weekend! Here are a few entertaining links...
Just before I start something big -- I have a mini-meltdown. I second-guess myself. It's hard to remember sometimes that there is no dress rehearsal for life. You just have to get up on stage and try your best.
I just shredded a couple of peeled potatos, added an egg, two tablespoons of coconut flour, two tablespoons of coconut oil, a teaspoon of baking powder and baking soda -- little pinch of salt... and voila! Pancakes.
I've been attempting to eat better. I hate using the word diet because I'm not one for self-deprivation!! I love good, healthy food -- love cooking, too -- just trying to balance what I enjoy with how much is going down the hatch with how much I can exercise off.
Life is all about tradeoffs, isn't it? Finding that balance, whether in relationships, work/play, or food, is all about choices.
I'm working on mine. Every day, I do something that makes it a little easier to get back on track. And it's life's little treats like these paleo-inspired sweet potato pancakes that makes it all worthwhile.
I'm sitting here with my dear friend and nutritional mentor, Laurie Palmiero Wilde talking about making big changes again. I know what to do. I have the friends who want to support me. I even like the freaking food! But the problem is all in my head. It's not that I can't do it, it's that I haven't figured out how to stay motivated past a meal or two at a time. Evening comes, that wine & cheese call my name, and I'm slaughtered. Slave to my indulgences.
Eat the rainbow, she says, encouragingly. With vodka, I plead?
I recently took a few short days away from the office to unfocus.
Oh, I had things to focus on, things I needed to do... but I didn't really set any particular agenda. I just let things unfold and I lept upon opportunities as they revealed themselves.
Not having any expectations made my experience delightfully, suprisingly fun and memorable. No regrets because of things I "shoulda, woulda" and no disappointments as I had no plans.
As I reflect a bit on this, I smile unconsciously. It seems like it is the little things that can have the biggest impact sometimes. Finding a cool rock on a beach, eating a perfectly crisp fish sandwich, enjoying time walking on a cool green lawn in the warm rain, staring up at stars on a clear summer night, being with good friends and not needing to say anything at all yet saying so much. I'm just filled with something good that I can't explain.
Life unfolds in mysterious ways. You are connected to people over space and time and those experiences weave themselves into a magnificent tapestry when you stop and reflect.
Sometimes, I think that you need to stop your routine and just go with the flow to be able to get a good grip on what is important in your life. I'm not sure I know the answers, but I have found one way of exploring them, that's for sure.
Is it the Buddists who always try to live in the moment? I think that's what a zen state of mind is all about. Am feeling very zen like today... and wishing you, the very same.
Give without expectation, accept without reservation, and love without hesitation.
Waiting on my hubby and kids to return from a week at the beach -- eager to see the new creatures they are bringing home and the stories spun in sugar and sand. Expecting nothing. :)
I hope that everyone had a lovely weekend, including a very happy Mother's Day! I honored our relationship in a form of slight self-humiliation, sharing a stunning photo of mom and me (age 7) at what is possibly the height of 90s awkwardness. She has a perm, I have a bowl cut, and we both have some sweet glasses, which are once again considered trendy. Go figure. It's not beautiful, but it's love.
My mom is pretty amazing. I feel bad because I forgot her card on my desk this weekend while we were in Virginia visiting her mom, so this post is for her. She is brilliant and thoughtful. She has been though things that would break most people, and still she continues to dedicate her life to helping others. Thank you for teaching me to be strong, and to have grace and a clear mind under pressure. I still want to be you when I grow up (even though technically, I already am.) I love you!
Each time I post something that makes me pause (or cringe, truthfully) I get a great response from my circle of friends and followers.
No, they don't always leave comments, but they sure do let me know how they feel. They call, they tweet, they make comments days or weeks later.
I find that the more I share honestly -- without deliberately trying to be provacative or over the line -- the more I connect deeper with people who mean a lot to me.
It's like there is a little window on the side of my head.
When I pull back the curtains and allow a peek inside, then close them back again, it seems to turn on lights in other people's heads. (Does that even make any sense at all?)
We all have things that float around up there. No matter who we are, how loving, how kind, how forgiving -- we are all judgemental. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, taking the time to form an opinion means that you care. Apathy is when you just ignore it and move on. When you take the time to judge (not just "pass judgement" but really THINK,) then you are actually participating.
By sharing our views with others we allow people into our own unique thought process. That in turn, frees them to share what they think, and a dialogue is opened. I have changed my opinion on many things because I've expressed my point of view -- and have taken the time to read others thoughful responses. I feel compelled to respond, too. Not always directly, but through my interactions with them not just online. We don't always agree. Heck, most of the time we are not in complete agreement, however, there is a true respect for the other person's view point.
I think that Social Media -- whether that's blogging, tweeting, posting on Facebook -- anything that is more than a "like" -- allows us to become closer even when we aren't together. These tools are amazing because they let us share what is important to us, let us celebrate the silly, and let us contemplate the serious.
My social circle includes a few girlfriends going through tough divorces, people with serious health issues, romance challenges, work challenges, as well as those on a quest to do more, do better. How fortunate we are to be able to give each other glimpses behind the curtain.
Do you like to comment on blogs? Posts? Do you feel like you know someone better when you read what they write?
Your mom is your mom, no matter what. Her womb/egg + your dad's sperm (whether you know him or he contributed via a turkey baster) = the magic, unique you. You wouldn't be here if it weren't for them so you have an obligation to acknowledge them regardless of your relationship.
Notice, I said acknowledge. I used to think you had to "love" someone because of that blood relationship. I no longer think that is true. I know for certain that you can't force someone to like or respect you. That has to be earned.
Some people lose their moms very early in life to death. Others lose them through illness. But many of us have complicated relationships with the woman we call "mom" no matter if she is still alive, dead, estranged or even adopted. The one saving grace is that when you are a mom yourself, you have the opportunity to review your own childhood (although never objectively!) and do it your own way.
I've learned a few key lessons from my own mom, and several more from listening my friends recounting stories from their childhood. Funny how animated we all get when the topic comes up. We are all both rightous and humbled. As we share our stories, we find it crazy that our mothers ever thought it was right to say and do the things they did to us!
No one teaches you how to be a mother. You have to develop your own style. There are some moms though, who are mentor, teacher, nurse, comforter, friend, and sage all in one. They earn the respect of their families by their strength and conviction. Then there are those who we don't understand -- and who we try NOT to emulate.
If you are a "Mom" do you see yourself saying these things? Cause trust me, when your kids are in their middle ages, trying to negotiate parenthood with their own children -- these are the things they think about.
"I gave up my life for you."
"I gave up my career to be a mother."
"You are a good ______ because I was a good ______."
"You must respect me, it says so in the bible."
"Why can't you be more like the "Smith's" (three kids same ages)
"Everyone else visits their mom every, single day."
"If you loved me, you would let me live with you."
"Your father loves you more than he loves me."
"My thighs are thinner than yours. You really need to lose weight."
"I could have married many very successful men. I felt sorry for your father."
"I can't visit you, you have to visit me. Yes I know you both work and kids have activities everyday. I know I sit on my couch everyday. No, I can't possibly put the cat in the kennel."
"Your children didn't say I love you to me. What do you teach them?"
"You spoiled your children, I never spoiled you."
Some moms cursed AT us. (Not just used curses to express anger or shock, but literally cursed us for not being who they wanted.) Others refused to get help for depression, alcoholism, or other health problems. Some thought that everything was a "family secret" and they taught their kids to lie to protect them from people learning about their inadequacies.
I think what burns me up more than any of those things is the idea -- or the line of reasoning -- "I did my best."
It's not good enough when your kids cry all the time. It's not good enough when you resort to hitting them because you can't control your temper. It's not good enough to be cursed at constantly. It's not good enough when you can't find a way to let them live in a clean, safe environment. It's not good enough when they go hungry because you don't want to find a job to support them. And its not fair to them for you to continue to have babies when you can't take care of the ones you have.
Collectively, my sisters, my closest girlfriends and I have agreed to be straight shooters with each other -- no matter what damage that may cause to our relationships. What I mean is that if I ever became "that person" -- that whiner, complainer, twisted, person who has excuses a mile long who would be the cause of problems in my marriage or as a mother -- then I expect my closest friends and family to take me aside and demand that I get help. And I would do the same for them. There are many women I meet and I cringe when I hear them complain about their circumstances and yet they don't do anything about it. What do you think children are learning when they watch you? If you want to raise strong, independent children who are responsible, good citizens, spouses, and parents -- you need to teach them!
Really good moms are those women who make you feel glad you are alive. They support you, they challenge you. They make you laugh, they make you cry. You want to be with them. They have their own lives, their own interests, they don't live for you they live WITH you. They aren't completely grown up, they grow up and learn from you and with you! They have healthy relationships with the other parent (or other adults in their lives.) They are fully formed, healthy people (at least mentally) and don't try to put their expectations, failures and faults on you. You don't have to walk on eggshells with them.
Each day, I try to be a better mother to my children by remembering to make sure that I am taking care of myself so that I can take care of them. Lord knows, I'm far from perfect. In fact, just this week, my 10 year-old told me "You're the worst mom EVER!" when I told her that she could not go to a friend's house after school because her room was filthy. She pouted. She cried. She ran to her room. Slammed the door. I didn't yell. I didn't chase after her. I let her stew.
The next morning -- we had a staring contest. I smiled at her. Then she reached out to hug me and I said "Do you have something to say to me?" And crying, she apologized. She was just frustrated because she "really, really wanted to go."
I consider that a badge of honor. A right of passage.
She can talk about that when she's 40.
I'm OK with that.
Why you live where you live?
Why you are married to your spouse?
Why you are friends with some people and not others?
Why you are working, or why you aren't?
What you do with all that time each and every day that passes?
I find myself wondering a lot. In between living of course. Most of the time, I'm caught in the moment, engaged fully, locked, loaded, ready to spring, or resting after the recoil.
But in those down times, when I can hear the crickets chirp or the birds start their morning routines, I am left with the great solitude of my thoughts. I find myself wondering how all of my choices up to this point have led me to this exact moment in time. I look back...
I wonder "if" but not ruefully. My wondering leads often to the pattern that I can see when I step away-- and look at my life without any real focus. Often, random opportunities taken, people met, books read, songs sung -- have led to something else bigger and better a few years down the road.
When I do the "if only" routine... (I'd be lying if I said that I don't ever think about what might have been) I do come back to the "but, no!" thoughts. If only, for example, I chose a different college -- "but no!" -- because I wouldn't have had that internship which led me to my girlfriend which led me to my husband with whom I've made my children. See what I mean?
You can do the "if only" but because everything is connected in your continuum, if you change one thing -- the rest of the path is altered dramatically leaving you without people, experiences and lessons which make you who you are. For some people, that one little change may change more bad than good. But for me? Not so much.
So yes. I do wonder.
And I'm filled with wonder.
Wonder that I've been so lucky to have had such a wild ride. Wonder that I have a full, rich, life and am surrounded by people who I love and who love me back.
Pretty cool thought train today...
Given all the craziness of the last week -- Boston, West, Texas, etc. it is a perfect time to reflect on all the things you should have, could have, would have said ..."if only." As they said in the commentary, we don't get to set Mother Nature's clock. You have to do it now before your chance is forever taken from you.
Author Jackie Hooper started thinking about this concept when Natasha Richardson died unexpectedly a couple of years ago. The actress developed a brain hemmorage after a seemingly innocuous hit to the head while on the ski slopes. Her family and friends never had a chance to say what they needed to say as she died within two days of her fall. Jackie sent out a note to friends, family and elsewhere -- asking people to write to her with those things that they wish they had said. Letters poured in from all over the world. She turned that into a book.
Watching this piece brought upon so many emotions at once. I miss my dad, and I know I would have liked to tell him things -- maybe correct things I said in anger -- or at least explain them -- and now I can't. I also think of times when I was really a jerk. Not quite a bully, but I didn't have the best intentions when I opened my mouth. I wince internally when I try to figure out why I reacted in the way I did, so many years ago. Occasionally, I reach out to people (and they must think I've lost my marbles) and say -- remember about oh, 25 years ago, I said...
On the other hand, I really try to tell people who are in my life why they are important to me. My kids and husband are smothered sometimes -- as I think you should say "I love you" and mean it -- and I always feel so filled with gratitude when they spontaneously burst with emotion. My close friends know that I love them, and care for them, and feel better because they are in my life. I say so only when I mean it -- because I think you can feel when someone truly loves you, regardless of what words they may use or choose not to say. It's always tricky to put yourself out there, especially with declarations of love. Maybe the other person doesn't think you are a best friend, maybe she feels funny -- as we all have our internal scripts about loyalty and devotion.
Say what you have to say. It's hard, it's scary, it can be fraught with its own "what if's." But if you need to apologize, explain, or express something -- just do it. Your very world may change because of it. I know mine has. And it will continue -- as I push myself to be honest with the people who have brought so much into my life.
Like many, I am finding it very difficult to concentrate.
What. A. Week. It. Has. Been.
I've been reading, watching, listening wondering -- why?
What makes two young men, brought to the US at 9 and 16 as refugees -- what makes them feel so displaced that they turn against those in their own community? What makes some one adopt such radical beliefs that he is willing to sacrifice everything including his own life and the lives of innocents for a cause that he is removed from (as US citizens.)
I cannot imagine what their family members are going through. When someone you know (and love) does something so unthinkable one can only go into a state of shock. I saw a clip showing the boys' uncle expressing anger and disbelief that this could happen. It is so frustrating that anyone would assume this reflects on the Chechen community or Muslims. Those extremists of any nationality, any religion are not representative of there people not matter how you try to profile them.
The other thought in my head goes back to the analysis. Amazing isn't it? Authorities were able to comb through video, pictures, phone records so quickly, almost magically. Pattern recognition algorithms must have been used to scan through all those digital records. Our military, our police, CIA and FBI need to have the best equipment and software to be both proactive and reactive. Our best minds must be put to work creating tools which let us look beyond the obvious in order to thwart the cowardly acts of terror being brewed here right at home.
I hate the term, rubber necking, but it is almost impossible to turn off the news, to turn down the twitter chatter. I can't help but participate by observing while this unfolds in front of all of us. I imagine the victims of the bombing on Monday, still in their hospital beds, lives forever changed, are watching, too.
This week, we all are from Boston, aren't we?
I think you need to know when to tow the line, and when to allow yourself the freedom to break away from what is expected of you.
In the armed forces, thinking outside the box might get you killed -- you must follow the chain of command in order to work as one. In medicine, doctors are taught "if you hear hoof beats behind you, look for a horse, not a zebra," so they first try to rule out all the obvious reasons for illness before looking for a rare disorder.
In the world where I live -- marketing, media, networking, research -- we're always looking for that special something that will grab attention and make people stop and consider what we're saying. Sometimes, the tried and true ways are not always the best. Sometimes, you really need to get out of your own way, dropping preconceptions in order to succeed.
I've been looking to find a team to join where I can put my own talents in marketing, research and social media to use. Sadly, I meet many who could desperately use someone like me on the team but are unwilling to look outside the box. They put walls up that discourage creativity by hiring a homogeneous work force.
People like me are often praised for accomplishments and creativity, but many employers choose the safe route. They look for candidates who are defined so narrowly by particular industry experience that they miss out on bringing in a fresh perspective to their business. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed consulting so much is that I had the opportunity to work across many teams in several organizations. That bird's eye view combined with hands-on practical application of theory and action is what allows success to happen.
As with any well-worn cliché, it is easier said than done.
Our first instinct is to go for the tried and true solutions to our problems. Who wants to fail by trying something new? But think how much richer the world would be if more of us kept an open mind when mapping out solutions and hiring to enrich our staff. Think of all the times where true breakthroughs shattered conceptions about how things should be. We wouldn't have heart replacement surgery, smartphones, airplanes, desalinated water, gardens grown on rooftops, almond milk... oh the list goes on an on!
Do you look first for passion, ability to learn, apply, lead, network when you look for team members -- or do you default to checking off boxes?
Image via a link to New Yorker cartoons...
I do like these ideas and am thinking about incorporating them into my daily routine.
My goal isn't to be rail thin. I'm pretty healthy but I want to feel better in my clothes. I want to sleep better, stay more alert, and live more of my life outside. So, are you as bad as I am? What are you doing to motivate yourself to change your life?
Are you on LinkedIn? If you are a professional, this tool is invaluable for keeping connected with others in your fields of interest.
I joined LI back in 2004. I remember being so excited to have a place to connect with others who I knew, and be able to maintain relationships (and correct contact information) no matter where my network would roam. It did take me quite some time to convince others that this wasn't a scam to get your personal information for malfeasance -- but rather, an open network that was going to change the way we would be able to connect.
It's been more than 10 years and I've watched my peers and mentors grow into their current positions. I love the game of "we knew each other when" as those experiences -- as interns, entry-level associates, first time managers and then directors and CEOS allow us to create bonds that can last a lifetime. LI lets me see their histories and share mine. It also lets me see how we are connected and if we have any connections in common.
As LinkedIn has grown to 200 million users -- it has changed the way we learn about the people we meet. As in real life, exaggerating your profile in LI is not the smartest thing to do. If you're connected to your former colleagues, your claims can easily be checked by anyone with an account.
Perhaps I'm old-school, but I believe in the strength of real relationships. This might sound funny coming from someone who has friends on every continent, many who she hasn't met! Truthfully, as an early adopter and technology lover, I have always participated in chats with people unknown to me in the traditional sense. But over the months and years of exchanging views in threads, boards, and through SKYPE and the telephone, I have come to know some of these friends much better than those people who I may have worked with 20 years ago. These are "real" connections, and I've earned them by engaging in honest conversations.
I love to meet new people. I also love to offer my assistance to those who reach out. But one of my biggest pet peeves is with those who are "biz card collectors." These are people who click without care, connecting to anyone without thinking about why a connection should be accepted. It's quite odd and rude in my opinion.
Would you walk up to anyone at a conference and without introducing yourself, demand their business card? I sincerely doubt it. But on LinkedIn, people forget their manners. They do that every day by sending the generic request "I'd like to add you to my professional network" to people who they fancy.
Yes, I know these tools are created to form connections to people you don't know. But just like an in person networking meeting, please don't forget your manners. Try to engage someone in a group conversation. "Like" and comment on his/her posts. Craft an invite that explains why you'd like to add them to your network.
"Hi Wendy. Saw your post in Group X and I think you're onto something. By the way, I'm also a marketer who loves social media. Perhaps we can connect and continue the chat?"
^ That's the way to do it.
How do you use LinkedIn? Are you an Open Networker or are you more selective? Do share your opinion, please!
PS - if you wish to connect with me, send me a note (!)
All of my social media links are in one place, XeeMe. http://www.xeeme.com/wendycobrda
This is such a neat concept. Some people get thrown off by white pages, and these have such inspiring doodles and colors that they make you want to do your own. Very SARK-like...
I think few people have a dream and know the exact path they must take to realize a career.
There are exceptions to the rule of course. Some professions do have a clear path. Lawyers, doctors, teachers perhaps? However, in the age of the dot.com millionaire, there are many 20-somethings who could not imagine working for anyone else, and they eagerly begin their journey with a naive passion that can make their success easier or more difficult depending upon their chosen industry.
Growing up, I dreamed of being the voice that accompanied lovers, truck drivers and anyone really, who needed company and conversation to get them through the night. I graduated with a degree in Communications with a focus on Broadcasting. I interned during college, I ran the college radio station as General Manager, created a radio persona at a local station, and I came out with a position at WABC-AM in NYC working with traffic & continuity for the Yankee Network.
As roads have twists and turns, so does a career.
My WABC stint was ended before I had too much time to get comfortable. New owner, new budgets. C'est la vie. I then joined a temp agency (lousy typist that I was) and had literally the best time of my life. Temping allowed me an inside look at a variety of positions and industries. My broadcasting background -- where I was routinely exposed to celebrities -- was a benefit. Few impressed me to the point of intimidation. I also landed a part-time position at Shadow Traffic which served the NYC metropolitan area. Each weekend I'd announce the traffic on various stations -- and became proficient at extemporaneous speaking.
Those first ten years helped me morph from someone who could have had what she thought she wanted -- to someone who wanted more and pursued it. Each successive job built on the skill set I had learned in the previous job. I liken it to reading one book, then a complete set from one author, and then being introduced to the library. Each time I accepted a new position after being recommended by a former supervisor -- I was forced to learn new ways of doing my work with new tools. It was an exhilerating time.
While I had positions in sales -- my true love was putting the pieces together -- "consulting." In 1997 I started my own firm and spent the next ten years doing what I loved most -- using all the tools (and many of the people) I had worked with in the past, and many new ones, too -- to solve complex marketing challenges. The best part was looking at something that seemed impossible, then breaking it down into a series of steps that built upon each other.
I co-founded a new startup market research firm in 2007 with a business partner and my tried & true team of colleagues who I worked with in the past. We were so excited to use what we had learned and wanted to take that 360 view and apply it to our own company. Our team was amazing. People thought we were much larger and better financed than we were because we all gave everything we had for a chance to own our destiny. While that company had to close -- due to nefarious actions by associates who were supposed to be helping us close on financing -- the experience provided a rich education on startups -- and criminal investigations!
I've come to realize that my greatest strength is my passion. And I share that passion through linking together people and methods or things with my storytelling. I've grown these past 20 years to become an evangelist of sorts -- for anything that I trust and believe. The great fortune of working for several leading information companies, then running my own boutique and research firm -- I've kept up and mastered the tools of the modern marketer.
While much of my career has been entreprenurial -- I've gained immeasurable exposure to some of the most well-respected firms in the world through engagements and at industry conferences. I've learned not only what I like to do -- and what I'm really good at -- but also, the things that bring out the procrastinator in me!
An evangelist needs to be able to take that 360 view. It's a position that combines traditional marketing, sales, PR, networking and true social media skills to be the voice of a company. And that is what I have evolved into. The only question left is which company is ready to take on someone who can be synergistic with existing sales and marketing staff, making their jobs easier?
How about you? Has your career zigged and zagged? What's your story?
Ever so, so silently
From the vast, gray sky, the flakes come
down, down, gently down
And pile so neatly on top of each other.
A blanket of snow some would say --
Hmmph. What's there to see?
But I see
Notice - snow doesn't cover the ground evenly.
It gently follows the contours
so, so, gently.
My eyes look past the vanes
of the windows, frosted with ice.
I see the tree, bare, bold, birds on her branches
in perfect formation to feed
the seed drops down and soils the snow.
I see the chairs on my patio, painted white, like frosting on a cake
left out in the cold
so, very cold.
Artwork by the Mother
unlike any other
her snow paints a fresh
look out my window.
Now I'm not saying you're perfectly satisfied with everything, but seriously, does a look in the mirror make you smile most of the time, or do you scowl?
I have been a very slinky size 6, and I have watched as the years have gone on and my weight put me at a 16 (and higher, at times.) Yet, no matter what size I am, I manage to look in the mirror and find something that makes my lips turn up at the corners. I think that who I am inside can be seen through my eyes, and so it doesn't always matter what my reflection shows. (Not that I don't have messed up hair with a squished pillow face -- it happens to us all except those tv characters who go to bed in full makeup and wake up without raccoon eyes!)
Now before you think I'm getting all egotistical, you need to know my philosophy on these things. I think no matter what your size or physical capabilities, confidence is only found when you realize your own worth (but humbly -- meaning, with respect to others unique gifts.) I know that's often easier said than done. Your charm, your wit, your ability to connect with others -- that's all a result of your ability to process emotions -- it is your very essense -- your personality, and that has nothing to do with the size of the clothes that hang in your closet. Or at least it shouldn't in my book. I've tried to live with that in mind when I have those days where my confidence is shattered.
Why is it that some of us don't eat and take to exercise when stressed, and others find comfort in noshing and resting? Either extreme is bad, but neither will do damage if done in moderation. I have periods where I sit in both camps, alternating bursts of energy with periods of sluggish rest. Lately, I've been more sluggish -- almost like I'm in purgatory. Waiting on lots of possibilities to turn into realities, nurturing them as best as I can, but the waiting can take a toll on your psyche, can't it?
It's funny, but the reason I'd like to shed pounds and become more physically toned has nothing to do with my confidence. It has more to do with fashion options! I like to get dressed and I don't like what I see off the rack. I find that some of the most unusually beautiful, expressive clothes are tailored to women who are shorter and rail thin. Those of us who are tall (5'10 1/2) and curvier don't stand a chance finding something that fits in those stores. (Have you ever heard the saying -- "If you can't get rid of it or hide it, at least dress it up!")
Do you find that your weight affects your confidence? What do you do when you need that boost, no matter what the scale says? Many women rely on makeup. (Men don't do that (at least the vast majority I know don't get excited about a new lipstick!) What makes you feel better about yourself regardles of what the scale says? How do you see what's within?
A dog... or maybe a cat? Maybe both?
If so, perhaps you can relate.
My husband and I both grew up with animals. When we got our first apartment in Hoboken we both wanted to adopt a cat. Over time, and many moves, we picked up cats wherever we settled. The first two cats lived mostly inside with us as we lived in high rises and multiple-unit dwellings. By the time the third cat was added to our brood, we owned our own home in the 'burbs. All three cats quickly adapted to the indoor/outdoor routine. They'd sleep inside at night, and lounge in the sun on the hot slate during the day.
Eventually we were, in fact, that crazy couple with the big house and five cats and a dog. Yup. No human offspring, but those pets were our family. Eventually, our son and daughter were born, our family grew.
And if truth be told, when all of our original cats (16 or so years down the line) and our dog moved on to the great big barn in the sky -- as much as we missed our companions, we secretly relished the time we had with no kitty litter to scoop -- and no daily hairballs to vacuum.
But something was missing.
About two years ago a 4 week old kitten came into our lives. It had been found wandering in someone's backyard. That person brought the kitten in a box to his doctor (a cat lover) and in turn, Buddy came to live with us. A few short months later, while picking up cat food at Pet Smart, the lovely gray kitty you see, Daffodil, left the shelter and joined us. She was just 6 months old.
Neither cat is declawed. For the most part, they live inside. But since we live in a fairly quiet neighborhood, we let our cats be, well, cats.
You're still with me? Bet you are wondering where I am going with this.
Well, I have been reading articles deriding cat owners who let their pets roam outdoors. For example, this article in the New York Times explains how cats are killing machines and they are wiping out the rodent and bird populations. There are 1000 comments and so many of them come from people who are incredibly judgemental. There is a very angry group of people who call those of us who have indoor/outdoor cats "irresponsible."
Both cats are neutered. They visit the vet at least 2x/year -- usually to board if we are away more than a few days. That gives them a chance to been seen by the vet for a quick exam and they get their teeth cleaned or nails clipped or shots or whatever is necessary.
Our felines love to sit outside in the sun -- and often, they like to play in the snow! They sit and the door and beg to go out. And watching them sniff the air and chase after leaves in the wind is delightful.
Do they kill small rodents? Yes. Moles, especially. Birds? Yes, a few are irresistable. But more often than not, they lay in the grass and play with the moths. To our delight, they chase the crows away. And when it's dark out, we shake the treat bag and call their names and they come back in. We do our best to get them in every evening as there are coyotes that roam in the hills nearby -- but there are some hot summer nights where it is just too exciting for them to return. As we make our coffee when the sun rises, a hungry cat will show up for a snack, a head butt, and a long nap.
I think animals, like people, are not designed to live exclusively indoors. I think that life itself is greatly improved by being outside in nature. Would a cat live longer if he didn't have access to a busy road? Sure. Would I be safer if I never left my house? Sure. But what kind of life would that be for either of us?
I know. They are natural born killers. They hunt for fun. But to be honest, I'm glad they keep the moles out of my garden. I am thrilled when they catch a field mouse that has found it's way under my dishwasher. That's what cats do!
I think to taking creatures that are born to roam and locking them behind screen doors is selfish. Whose life is better? Yours or the cats? I'd rather my cat have 8 exciting lives than 10 behind bars. But that's just my opinion. What about yours?
Life throws us curve balls. All of us.
Good health, bad health -- life and death. This is all part of the human experience.
And when you have a family and close friends, these people have a right to know what is happening in your life. More importantly -- they NEED to be OK with the situation -- whatever it may be, so that YOU can get the help you need to survive as well.
This past September we got a real scare when my husband was diagnosed with Throat Cancer.
Yup, the C word.
We have always been very open and honest with our children and believe that explaining what's happening while it's happening makes things easier to absorb and handle. That doesn't mean lots of scary details, but we never try to hide anything because we know that can make the situation confusing for everyone.
Our children are 10 and 12. The kids knew when their dad went to see his doctor to better understand why he was having a difficult time swallowing after being hit in the neck by a baseball in early September. We told them that there was a lump but additional tests were needed to determine what it was. And when we learned about the diagnosis and the prognosis, we shared that with them, too. Our doctor was kind enough to give us a picture of the tumor and with that, we were able to show them exactly what the doctors had to treat in their dad's throat.
I think that the gradual revelation of what was happening without any dramatic hand-wringing helped them cope with the upset this health condition would bring to their daily lives. We also encouraged them to talk to their friends and cousins and we shared the diagnosis with the staff members at school so that they could be supportive if the kids needed someone to talk with. In other words, we didn't hide anything from them, and we didn't ask them to keep the burden of secrets.
And now that the crisis is over, they know that it will take a good year before their Dad may fully regain his strength, ability to taste and stamina. But things for the most part, are getting back to normal. We all seemed to breathe again the night that he sat down at the dinner table with us and cracked one of his wise jokes!
Everyone has a different approach to sharing news like this with family and friends. I know of one woman who has a very public page in Facebook. She is an inspiration to many, and annoying to others who don't understand why she shares everything. I know of many other wonderful people who chose to keep everyhing private -- even from their children and all but a handful of friends. I don't think anyone can tell anyone else what to do in these situations, but I do believe that when the next shoe drops (and they always do!) we'll likely use the same approach we did this time.
It is my belief that we truly need each other to survive. Countless studies have shown very high correlations between healthy and happy lives with those who maintain a close relationship with family and friends. (For the record, family doesn't have to be blood-related to count in my book.) And the basis of all good relationships is trust, is it not?
By telling your children what is happening to you as it happens, you teach them how to handle a crisis in a calm and proactive way. Despite your best efforts to keep them away from the news, they will sense that something is very wrong. Why not bring them into the discussion, let them know that it is OK to be concerned, it's OK to hope for the best? Our kids learned that nothing is certain, and sometimes, things can take a turn for the worst at a moment's notice. And conversely, if you remain calm and take care of the problem, things can get better.
One of the most difficult adjustments for my children when we all decided to embrace a paleo lifestyle was the loss of bread. They had more often that not packed into the their lunch boxes whole grain bread with a nut butter. They could not conceive of world without such a thing and nor should they have to. Super mom to the rescue.
I am about to admit something here that will make it painfully obvious how much time, attention and mental focus I devote to thinking of everything to do with food and eating. Not to mention how hopelessly weird some of these musings can be. I have often pondered, usually in the late hours of a fitful night exactly why our maker (or if you are inclined God) did not create us all to be able to eat what we want, when we want and still thrive. To always easily find balance within our bodies regardless of our food choices. The would be utopia to me (I know, I know at this point you are wondering what kind of nut ponders such things when there are such more pressing matters to ponder in the world). I am tha ut and I promise one day you will be thanking me for the results of my nuttiness and honestly I cannot stop myself anyhow. Seriously though if our maker can and did create all that we see then surly allowing us the gift of constant physical balance, harmony and well-being, no matter what is eaten is not too much to ask…is it? Well, a girl can imagine, but alas that is not what our omnipotent created decided. The fact is, it does matter what we eat, it matters a lot actually. It matters to our health, our energy, our degree of aging and our overall well-being. The single most important thing that we do just might be what we decided to put upon our fork.
My friend Tamra is the picture of health, both mentally and physically. She is just starting this new blog and since I know what a fabulous chef she is, I cannot wait to start following her recipes!
So, I was "good," "on plan," "committed," -- all that good stuff, until dinner tonight.
And then, when I was making dinner for my family, I folded.
I didn't drink juice for dinner. But I did have a plate of mostly veggies with half a roasted chicken breast and a little bit of pasta (maybe half a cup?) And then herbal tea. And coconut water. And 2 small squares of ultradark chocolate.
No wine. No bread. No cheese.
Perfect? No. Progress? Yes.
My biggest wish for myself this year is that I simply pay more attention to the things that matter. That I stop doing things by rote and instead, think, feel, observe and plan a little more to put myself on the road to where I'm going.
And right now, that's to bed. Night!
Halfway through the month of January.
I am finally getting around to blogging again after a rather tumultuous December. (My husband just did battle with throat cancer and honestly, we did what we could do to just get through each day, facing whatever twist or turn was presented to us. A disease like cancer humbles you -- it runs your life and you work around it until you get the upper hand.)
Anyway, I promised myself after the steady stream of comfort food that we were eating, (compliments of our friends and family,) I would straighten out and fly right again.
A friend decided to do a 10 day cleanse and I agreed to commit to at least 10 days of something, myself. The problem is that I have no willpower.
...but I'll be damned if don't have the willpower to stay on a "program" no matter how eanestly I commit.
Right after I agreed to do a cleanse (with a nutritionist-approved medical food program) my sister called to tell me about a documentary she watched and was inspired to follow. It is called "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead." The gist is this: Australian guy -- early 40's, wakes up and decides that he doesn't want to take medications anymore for his autoimmune condition. He embarks on a 60 day juice fast to change his life. He films all of this to share his experience and encourage others to "Reboot" their lives.
I have been a fan of juicing for years. I have a Waring Pro juicer that I bought back in the early 90's and have periodically added fresh veggie and fruit juices to my diet. I actually LIKE fruits and vegetables -- just about any kind I come across, so this wasn't really much of a stretch.
However, after watching Joe Cross' success I felt inspired to pull out the juicer and feel the surge of energy. Sure enough, it didn't take but a few carrots and beets and apples and my first glass gave me a much needed boost of sugar.
But the next day? I wanted eggs. With mushrooms. And cheese, of course. And so I made eggs and drank a carrot/orange blend.
The next week I decided, had to be a transistion phase. I've never been good at going cold turkey so why try to do that while trying to get back into a sense of normalcy after my life was hijacked by my husband's illness? I've been drinking juices and protein shakes but I've also eaten salads with chicken, sushi, and even 2 small sliders. Am I perfect? No. Am I eating better than I was in November and December? You betcha.
So here it is, the 14th.
I still don't have anymore willpower to commit to anything strictly limited but I actually feel like I could get through today with just juice, green tea, water, and some roasted kale chips. The day is halfway over...can I do just one full day? Will it inspire me to do another? I will post again before bed!
My friend, Royale, posted about the value of learning from our mistakes by simply observing. The title of her post -- Famous Last Words...I Really Didn't Think About It -- made me reflect on all the stupid stuff I've done in my life.
I'm not a big one on living a life of regrets. I tend to believe we do things we're not always proud of but hopefully, we learn from them and move through life a little wiser. I also believe that we're here to connect but not all connections are necessarily going to last a lifetime and not everyone is healthy to have in your life (for your state of mind.) Sometimes, you have to be cruel to save your sanity.
But while I don't regret things, I do have a recorder in my brain that seems to replay things I've said out of anger -- no matter how many times I try to erase the memory. They range from the purely inappropriate said in complete jest (to my mother-in-law!) to a mean denial (to my dad about the naming of my son.)
I have uttered words that were cruel to lash out at someone when I've felt misunderstood or frankly, fed up. And it's true what they say, once things come out of your mouth -- the ship has sailed. It's hard to bring it back in to port.
I doubt that other people still play those words in their recorders -- my guess is that they've been long forgotten. But I can't help think that I should have been kinder, wiser, smarter -- I should think before I speak.
And you know, there are a few things I've said that have enriched my life -- and no, I can't take them back either. Entirely inappropriate perhaps? Admitting a crush, being a goofy admirer, saying I love you when I wasn't quite sure if the feelings were appropriate much less returned -- those things I don't regret, although I admit to being a little embarrassed by my declarations.
Does your recorder instantly replay things you've said 20 years ago, too?
I just read an article in the New York Times about the demise of a city institution, The Dinner Party.
The author talked about how difficult it is to fill the table with interesting people, plan the "right" menus, and deal with guests who don't really know the rules of etiquette. They don't always RSVP, and if they do, it's last minute and via text.
I lived in Manhattan when I was out of college. I was far too broke and unconnected to be part of any social circle that involved the dinner ritual. I would read articles about fancy parties and imagined myself dressing up to the nines (what does that mean anyway?!) and being seated next to good conversationalists in art and business circles. "Well when I was in Cannes..." I'd begin.
Instead, I found my life partner and he and I moved out of our city apartments, had a year lay over in Hoboken and eventually wound up in Old Greenwich, CT. A completely different fantasy filled my head. I saw the 30 somethings from Wall St -- blond women with tow headed children on the beach at the point -- husbands coming home off the train. And for a while, I imagined myself in that role -- throwing the annual Christmas parties or having a masked ball.
All along, I had a job. I actually had several. I was never a socialite, and I worked in an office until I formed my consulting practice a few years before we had our kids. Poof! The fantasy of fancy dinners disappeared.
When we moved "upstate" (actually Central New York) we knew a handful of people. Most of us had young children. We also enjoyed adult company. And through a desire to do both -- have our limited time filled with our kids, keep expensive babysitters and evenings out to a treat -- we started having dinner parties.
These were not fancy affairs, but they were culinary adventures. We've had lots of theme nights -- soup, salads, barbeque, Japanese, takeout Thai, meals on sticks, freshly caught wild game -- you name it, we'd do it. Everyone would bring something and we'd eat together and share stories of job hunting, health, politics, religion, sex, caring for aging parents, and raising children.
And when dinner was done, we played Texas Hold'em. In the beginning, when the kids were really young, we'd put them to sleep and stay up talking and drinking and playing until 2:00am. As the years progressed and early weekend sports became the norm, we've found that we need to end things by 10:30 or 11:00 so everyone can get home and sleep before the next morning.
Breaking bread together has been a very significant part of my social life. My kids have learned how important it is to welcome people into your life, into your home and to be kind. We've had nights with upwards of 12 kids running around while we adults were crowded around a table, laughing, and forming inside jokes that will last for years (Lenny Kravitz!) Some friends have been staples around the table, and we've had a few move on -- some literally -- to other countries! I wish it were possible to do more than 4 couples at at time. It gets a bit unweildy when there are more -- but sometimes we do it anyway.
One of the interesting things is how much you can tell about people when you play a game that is social and yet cerebral with other couples. People who are too competitive or nit-picking their spouses just don't make it back. We have a lot of mutual respect and admiration for the people around our table and always bring in new couples or singles who are easy-going and interesting -- but to be honest, I've invited people just because I'd like to get to know them. Funny thing, as the kids have more activities on the weekends, we've had a difficult time coordinating our dinners. And we've discovered that or kids miss them as much as we do.
I wouldn't trade our weekend gatherings -- as simple as they are - for a million NYC dinner parties. Would you?
Limbo is that place, that state of mind that is neither here nor there. It just is. And you have to live in the moment, no matter how uncertain it is, to move on through it onto the next stage. There are no shortcuts.
We've been in a strange state of limbo since early September when my husband was hit in the neck by a baseball. (More on that story in an upcoming post.) We learned that he had a big tumor on the way back of his tongue -- stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma. Yup, cancer.
His particular tumor, while requiring a heavy treatment plan, actually has a great prognosis. With this type of cancer, they don't talk about remission, they use the word cure. That's big. That's hopeful.
So on one hand, you have a really crappy diagnosis - cancer. And a brutal, sustained treatment plan. (7 weeks of radiation, 5 days a week -- plus chemo each week. Then several weeks to start to heal and in a few months you get your taste buds back and hopefully aren't too destroyed by the side effects of the poison used to treat you.) Yet the ultimate outcome -- the prognosis, is fantastic. Meaning -- if you're going to get a serious cancer -- this is one that you have an excellent chance of surviving.
As we share the details of this adventure with friends and family -- we often talk about how people really pull together when things are terribly wrong. And it's true -- this is a crisis. When you're relatively young, busy and active, and you are stopped dead in your tracks because of a major health issue -- it is just wrong!
Funny thing though -- in this case, things are "terribly right." What I guess I mean is that yes, they are terrible, but in the scheme of things 3 months of hell for a cure is not a bad thing. On a day to day basis, we just hang in there and do what we have to do. And honestly, what would anyone do? You accept your fate and you deal with it head on so that you can move forward.
Suffice it to say that if you lose your ability to swallow and if water feels like jet fuel going down your throat, you're going to be miserable. As the cancerous tumor and surrounding tissues are damaged, they constantly slough off and the phlegm is thick and pasty and it is incredibly difficult to breathe when it builds up to the point where you have to violently expel it. He's not sleeping much, and honestly, neither am I. And as a wife, and advocate, as well as a mother and best friend -- my heart aches and I'm damned tired. But truth be told, you could tell me it would take 6 months, or a year, or longer, and knowing that this treatment is saving his life means that in the end, no matter how bleak things are in the short term, the long term is going to be all right.
And he has excellent care. And we have great doctors and nurses, friends and family, everyone available on call as needed. And good insurance. And each other. And a sense of humor. And great kids. And -- well -- see how this goes? It's hellish, but it's OK. It's not terribly wrong, it's just terribly right.
I've been posting a lot of personal things lately, as life has thrown us a few curves and we're bending and stretching to hit them all out of the park anyway. I mean, what else are you going to do? Hide in your closet and wait for the storm to pass?
Since I like to write about things I know intimately, I wonder, is it all TMI? How much sharing is too much? Am I turning into one of those people who cross the line so far that people are secretly saying I wish she'd shut up? Who the heck wants to read my ramblings anyway?
I shared my concerns with an old friend who doesn't bullshit me. In response, my friend Bryan sent me this TED Talk, given by Brene Brown about the power of vulnerabilty. Seems like she's done an awful lot of research about what makes us who we are. In this talk she takes us through her experience as a qualitative researcher and storyteller (oh, how I could identify there!) and how much she likes to quantify even the messy stuff in life. One of the major discoveries she made is that the very act of putting yourself out there takes a lot of courage. And being able to embrace the uncertainty -- the very thing that researchers try to avoid -- measuring things without a definite, definable, measurable and repeatable outcome -- is the secret to be connected to others, and by extension, happiness.
Let me say that again.
Being able to take chances in life, not knowing the outcome of your actions, is the key to joy and a full life. And that's what vulnerability really is. It is allowing yourself the permission to put it out there -- to try new things, to discuss tough subjects, to share the truth even when it isn't pretty or flattering -- that is the secret to life.
Whew! Isn't that powerful? Take a look at the video and tell me if you agree with Brene.
Maybe TMI isn't really Too Much Information but rather Totally Messy Inspiration?
Remember this childhood rhyme?
"Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and other is gold."
The rule is pretty simple -- go make shiny new friends -- but your longer term, old friends are like gold, always hold on to them.
While old friends certainly can feel comfortable like your favorite pair of slippers, there is something to be said for bringing new people into your life. Like shoes, a new pair is important now and then as different footwear is good for different terrain.
I have young children, and I have met many other wonderful men and women who have become "framily" to us. We live far from my sisters and my husband's brothers and so these are the people who have become part of our daily lives. We celebrate birthdays together, we vacation together, we help each other through rough patches. We cheer for each other's kids at soccer and baseball, we cry when we hear about divorces or illness. No, new friends don't have the history that our old friends share, but we are creating our new shared memories together, now. We live in the present, not in the past. Many of these friends have become as dear as our old friends and have quickly become people with whom I have no doubt that we'll know long into our gray hair days.
We've been dealing with some serious health issues in our home. Our family came up as soon as they heard (traveling 500+ miles from points south) -- but they can only do so much from afar. So, we've had to rely on our friends to provide practical support (rides, childcare) as well as emotional support (often including wine!) One of my old friends took an entire week of meals upon herself -- (filled my freezer, full!) and another paid her cleaning people to come get my house in order. That's old friends for you. (Go big or go home!)
I can't even begin to tell you how amazing it was to have our newer friends set up a MealTrain to feed us over these past few several weeks. And the most amazing part is how many people signed up to help us. Many people we knew socially, but they were not close friends. It's not like we actually need to be fed each day. At first, I resisted the idea. But as the weeks have gone on, I have discovered that there is nothing more nurturing than people who care who want to do something. A meal is something so basic -- but we have to eat. Helping nourish someone else, especially when there's nothing else you can really "do" takes on a greater meaning than usual.
No matter where I go, people are always offering help. And they call daily, they laugh and they cry with us. These people go beyond friends -- they've turned into what I like to call "framily." While some say blood is thicker than water, you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends -- and they can choose you.
And then, there is an entirely different group of people that I have been talking with for what seems like years online, but we've yet to meet in real life. Yet I feel like I know them well and they me, too. I have no doubt that when we finally see each other, we'll embrace and settle in comfortably. These new friends bring new experiences, new stories, new ways of looking at things. They offer their friendship without strings attached. We just wind up being there for each other, connecting, providing comfort and advice not from a feeling of obligation but rather by choice.
Friends are the glue that keep us together. Whether old or new, the truth is that you have to be willing to receive help when it is offered, and you have to be able to give help when it is needed. True friendship is a balance of vulnerability. We don't want to always admit it when we need help, and often we don't want to request it or take it when it is offered. But in order to have friends, you have be a friend. And you have to forget about the "tit for tat" notion. People give freely without expecting anything in return. And a good friend knows when to give freely and when to be open to receive.
I have a lot of "old friends." Yes, many of them are up in years, but that's not what I mean, silly.
I am still in touch with people I have known from the beginning of my life, at least as much as I can remember. I play Words With Friends with my friend Meg who I have known since kindergarten and even though she moved away in 4th grade, I still can remember her expressions as if I were still 10, too! I can't wait to spend some time IRL (in real life) having dinner or a girls weekend someday. I've never met her husband or kids nor she mine, but I follow along with her Facebook postings and love that she is still part of my life after all these years. For some reason, I just *know* that we will have a good time when we meet.
Robin and I have been friends since the first day of high school. We've shared lots of life events -- first crushes, boys and mint chocolate chip kisses, falling in love, having babies, the death of our parents and more through the years. Back in the day when we used tape for phone messages, she and I would use it all up, leaving each other 1/2 hour long messages!
Megan I met after college in NYC -- an unlikely friendship formed as we were both roomates of an absent roomate -- and we wound up both leaving that NYC apartment and getting a place of our own. (Basement of a house in Weehawken. We had a particularly memorable experience when it flooded from a nasty storm one year.) She and I have more belly laughs, challenges of intellect (Megan is an Excel pro), dreams of getting our business off the ground (and dealing with conmen and crazy personalities) and she fixed me up with my husband to boot!
I spent a few escapist hours yesterday with my friend Kathy who I met when I was just 19. We shared the summer together when we both signed up for a semester in France. Ah, to be young in Paris in 1984. 13 francs to the dollar if I recall correctly. We had a few weeks in Paris, then time in St. Malo, and then we spent the last few just traveling along the Riviera -- without a care in the world. Those memories will always be part of my vision of Kathy. Through the years, we've camped together, we've had children, we've survived illnesses, and I've watched mental illness take her sweet, brilliant husband away from her and change both of their lives, forever.
I could name everyone, make a list -- "mark" it up with details. But I can't summarize how important these people are to me and who I am today. They make me whole.
There is something that only 20+ years of knowing a person can do for you. Kind of puts everything into perspective. You don't need to repeat all the background stories, they just get it. They know who you are and they still love you. And you, them.
My dad told me that I was lucky if I had one best friend in the world. He died at 72 in 2006 and his best friend, Joe, died this past September. After my dad passed, I talked with Joe on the phone several times. It was like talking with my dad. He had that same calm voice, that wry sense of humor, incredible intelligence, charm, and wit, and great advice. They were friends for 40+ years. And man, did they share some crazy life changes through those years.
Do you keep in touch with your old friends? Do you tell them how much they mean to you? Time flies -- slow it down a bit and make sure to reach out. It's good for you, it's good for them, too.
Next post -- love the one you're with. :) (It's important to make new friends, too.)
I believe the briliance of the social media is the ability to post spontaneously. And like so much in life these days, the old rules aren't necessarily helpful when you are just jumping in. It's not that grammar or structure are no longer important, but rather, the idea that you have to polish your text or photoshop your your blemishes on your photos before posting is very old school.
Truth be told, social media is just life real life. Most people feel more comfortable with those who are willing to relax a bit and let their guard down when meeting others. I know this to be true -- my closest girlfriends are those whose homes aren't picked up each time I visit. (I can assure you, neither is mine!) And we all go out without makeup or our hair done -- and often meet for that first cup of coffee in our pjs. The truth is, we're ourselves no matter what the situation is. And in our real lives, sometimes, hell, most of the time, things are definitely NOT perfect. Showing up with your guard down goes very far in having genuine relationships.
It's great to have a clean house, and I love feeling polished -- but the point is that you don't have to be that way all the time and in fact, if you are, you can have the opposite effect on people than intended! Hard to believe, but its those flaws that make us who we are.
As for getting online -- I think the trick to posting is to share what you know and be open to differing opinions. And if you are going to post something controversial (anything political, religious or sexual in nature) then you should expect to attract people who are going to see it another way. That doesn't mean that you have to avoid this issues, but think before you post something that is absolute. Keeping the door open to discussion allows real conversations, real learning.
I think the worst thing is to allow your sense of perfection to ruin your opportunity to start whatever it is you have an urge to do or say. One of my favorite quotes ever? The one that I clipped out of a booklet when I was about 13 or 14 and have had with me (now tattered and torn) since then?
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
It's been seven years soon since I decided that I had enough sitting on the sofa and watching my life go past me. It is true that treading water in life isn't an option, trying to play safe and do nothing and just hope everything gets better doesn't work. If you want to really live the life you desire then you have you get up and get out there and make it happen.
I stumbled upon this web site while searching for good people to follow through TypePad. There are so many amazing people who use these tools to tell their stories and share their thoughts that I feel compelled to be part of the conversation.
We all have our reasons for doing or not doing things that will improve our lives. I don't know how the spark starts for you, but for me, something clicks after days, weeks or months of mulling over something that is life changing. Once in a blue moon, it takes only a few minutes to change my perspective. Be it the right words from someone, a song, or a feeling that it is time to seize the moment.
Wherever you are in your process, I hope you get where you are going sooner than later. With one life, we have one chance. Use yours.
Go ahead, grab a tissue. I can wait.
This video reminds me of one of my all time favorite songs -- the Dave Matthews song -- Everyday. The video has a guy just walking around NYC asking people for hugs. The reactions from people are priceless. I remember when this first came out. I would play it in the car with the kids as I drove them around. We had hand motions to go with the words. "Pick me up love, from the bottom, up to the top, love, everyday."
There's something so pure and simple about the universal desire to make a connection and feel loved. It's not that complicated. It's not easy to make yourself vulnerable, as you just never know what someone is going to say when you share your admiration for him.
You know what's interesting? Soul Pancake quoted research that states that people feel better giving compliments as opposed to getting them. Funny how that works, eh? You actually get more when you give than when you receive.
Take today to tell someone how you feel. Really feel. It will do you a world of good. And you just might be surprised what they say back to you.
We are connected to each other in ways that we can't explain. But somehow or another, the right people fall into your life just when you need them -- or they need you. Don't let precious time slip away, say what you have to say.
We decided to do something completely different for the Thanksgiving holiday this time.
Instead of spending the 4 day break together with my sisters and their families -- this year, my husband and I needed to stay close to home. My sister offered to host our children -- as it had been a while since all the cousins had seen each other for any length of time. They were long overdue.
So, I got up at 5:00 and we were on the road by 5:45 headed down to Allentown, PA where my one sister's inlaws live. They were kind enough to agree to take my kids with them down to Virginia, sparing me a 6 1/2 hour drive all the way down and another 6 and who knows how many back home to Syracuse with the crazy holiday traffic.
We stopped for coffee before the sun rose and connected to my iPod so that we could listen to Radio Lab together. (If you're not familiar with this award-winning series of podcasts -- do yourself a favor. Your children will be as mezmerized by the delightful audio presentation as you are and you'll be astonished how much you remember after your ride.)
We listened to one "short" (about genius -- is it just raw talent, or is it the love and obsession that makes you good at what you do?) Then my daughter who was sitting in the backseat took my iPad out and started a game of Hang Man with us. "Can you read that back, Jules?" "N, A, E. " "No, I mean could you read it back and use the word "blank" when we're missing a letter?" I begged her. Let it be known that blind hangman is difficult to play. Without being able to visualize where the letters were fitting much less remember which letters we already tried -- we failed miserably and wanted to move on to something else, actually anything.
As I went to change the station to something other than the Disney Channel (a mom can take only so much pop) I said to no one in particular "When I was YOUR age..." (Collective groan.) "Well... on our trips in our station wagon, we played a word game called Mad Libs." My son, John-Luke, a boy who takes after his mother when it comes to all things technology, immediately whipped out his phone and searched for an app -- surely there must be one for THAT! And just like that, we were in business.
Driving 3 1/2 hours in the early morning hours with a 9 and 12 year old can be intolerable if they're not sleeping or entertained, but I'll tell you, that last hour and a half was an absolute blast. The kids took turns picking out stories and asking for nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. We started out meekly -- using colors, and simple descriptive words. But as we got rolling, they got creative! We tried not to reuse words and we came up with silly nicknames for each other when the game called for a person's name. There was more than one time that I laughed so hard that I nearly had to pull the car over to gain control!
I was actually a bit sad when I had to turn around and head back home by myself.
I am grateful for an amazing group of friends and family. And especially for those who are too far away to see regularly. Thanksgiving is a time for reflection -- and not just the one in the mirror! With wine glass raised, I wish all a Happy Thanksgiving.
I think that some folks seem to equate social media with advertising. Advertising is positioned to appeal to our aspirations. That's why people always look perfect in commercials, cars are always gleaming as they curve along sinewy roads and food looks better than in real life. We pay attention to commercials that show us who we could be if we had product X in our lives because many of us aspire to be more. This isn't exactly truth you're looking at. It's designed to appeal not repel!
On TV and other mass media -- people expect commercials in between quality programming. Most of us know that the providers need to pay the bills, so we accept them, albeit, begrudgingly.
Social Media is another form of communication, but because it's a two-way street -- the rules are different. You can't just start posting links to your products and expect to be successful. In this world, people expect to get to know you -- to understand what you are all about -- and only then will they be able to trust you and what you are selling.
Here are 10 things that can help keep you honest and authentic with your postings.
1. Read, think, and post. When you read something that you agree with, repost it and add your two cents. When you disagree, acknowledge the posters point of view and politely state your objections and ask for a response. This encourages a dialogue.
2. When someone asks your advice on something, use your answer as the seed for a new post. If you can give someone solid advice, you have the ability to acknowledge a problem and to think through solutions. That's the real you, use it!
3. Write for yourself, first. When you use your own language, your own tone, your own stories, you are consistent from post to post. You can't help yourself.
4. When posting about a new product you have to offer, use your manners. You would never shake someone's hand in person and then hand him a flyer, that would be rude. Introduce yourself. Share your expertise with your opinion. Then, and only then, let people know what you do and how you might solve problems for them.
5. Use your own name. Or consistently use a handle or pen name that represents the essence of you. (e.g., I'm TheDataDiva -- a name that reflects my knowledge and passion for gathering and analyzing data).
6. Use your own picture. A recent picture, please. Not fuzzy -- and without sunglasses!
7. Create a page in LinkedIn. One of the easiest ways to check if someone is who he says he is to review his profile. Not only should someone have a complete profile, but he/she should be linked to other people who worked at similar places or are in associations or groups. I have discovered several fake profiles over the years by simply looking around at the companies people claim to have worked for and following their "connections." You would be surprised how many people fake a profile and how easy it is to tell if you use some elementary detective work.
8. Change it up -- as you do in your real life! Engaging people talk about lots of subjects. They aren't always positive or always negative. They incorporate details that ring true to the tale they are telling. When you maintain the same fake photo, and post only links to other peoples posts or quotes you appear to be hiding.
9. Link to other people who share similar opinions and also to those who have opinions contrary to yours. This helps you keep perspective -- don't just drink your own Kool-Aid! It also lets people know that you are serious about the topics you follow.
10. Answer comments on blog posts. Forward tweets and posts on LinkedIn. Don't just "like" something, add your two cents. The world is so boring without a difference in opinion.
Being authentic isn't some kind of technique or trick. It does require conscious effort to stop reworking your words into a pale, bland heap of nonsense. The more you practice sharing, the better you'll become at it.
He's not one for the fanfare that often accompanies the milestone years, or so he says.
Today marks his "big five-oh." As a longtime friend who I've known for more than 30 years, I can understand his reluctance to make a big fuss. After all, it is just a number.
I spent years not really thinking much about the day that marked each passing year, too. While many people I knew made sure to take off their day from work and plan big gatherings, I spent my early years working on not only my birthday, but on many other holidays.
In my radio days, it was fun to get a shift on a day when you could spin Christmas tunes all day and get paid extra for it. Retail jobs also offered extra pay for holiday shifts. I suppose the fact that my family wasn't really into big parties or celebrations played a roll as well. I can't ever remember having a party as a child. And with my day firmly sandwiched between Christmas and New Year's it was never a good time to get people together -- as everyone was out of town with family or on vacation.
As I got older, the big years started to stand out in a very meaningful way. I can clearly remember the who, the where and what of my 20th, 30th and 40th birthdays. (My 38th was spent in labor, so that's pretty memorable as well!) Having children also put the focus on the day, too. What child doesn't look forward to that special day where the party is centered on something that happened to him without any effort at all? As the years have progressed, I have gone from barely acknowledging the day -- to finding the joy in reaching yet another significant milestone and celebrating with friends and family.
I've never shied away from the number, that's for certain. I can't imagine why anyone would to be honest. The alternative to a new number is, well, bluntly put -- DEATH! And if you think of it that way, you can look at each passing year as a major accomplishment. Each year adds a new lustrous coat of sheen to that pearl that is you. The more you learn and share, the more valuable you become. Why try to shave off numbers when your experiences are so much a part of who you are?
Fifty is a good milestone, indeed. I'm not quite there yet, but I am happy to celebrate the many years my friend has lived and wish him many more good ones in the future.
A birthday gives you a chance to think back on all you have accomplished -- or not -- and celebrate the fact that you got through another one. Hoping that you can enjoy your day -- and can celebrate your milestone any way you feel appropriate -- because YOLO -- you only live once!
A fellow blogger in the #30DBC, Cliff Cardin, had a great post today.
Cliff talked about the importance of learning the skill of focus -- that is, fully committing to something you'd like to accomplish. The formula is simple on the surface. You need to know what you want (your goal) and then you have to direct your resources (time, effort, money) in order to achieve it.
As I read his post tonight, it got me thinking about another piece of the equation -- that is, passion. I believe that becoming good at anything truly is a matter of practice. For example, there are countless pianists who play the masterpieces with technical perfection. However, sometimes you can see something missing when you watch them, and you can hear it in the notes they create. Something in their performance doesn't move you.
I think the missing ingredient is passion.
Passion is defined as an intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction.
It's the reason you get up early in the morning, and the excuse for why you can't quiet your mind at night. It is what drives artists to starve, athletes to collapse in exhaustion, dancers to bloody and distort their feet.
Passion is a gift. Not everyone has it. And from observing people who seem to slog on through life, I often wonder if everyone really wants it.
Passion can drive you to drink, it can put you in the poorhouse, it can ruin your relationships.
When you cross the line from wanting to achieve a goal to making it your purpose for being, you can go from good to great. You leave a little part of you in everything you do -- be it your job, your artwork, your food, your writing.
I have shifted my focus, and ignited new passions after major life events (like the birth of my children) and in challenging times in order to feel the reason to get up and out of bed with a smile. I have had times in my life where I had a difficult time reaching within. I wasn't compelled to move forward. I've lost my passion, too. That's why I think it is such a gift -- it is not a given!
Sadly, I have met many people who haven't ever seemed to find their place in the world -- nothing seems to delight them. They go about their daily lives without a real purpose. And they seem to be followed by a gray cloud that shades everything they do.
If you're stuck in a routine, think about how you can find joy and purpose in the goals you set for yourself. I know just writing about this gave me reason to pause and think how I'm going to rewrite the script for the next chapter in my life.