To see and be seen

As I think about the things I want Nico to know and truly understand deep inside, it is to see and be seen. I believe it encapsulates most of what everyone really wants. I have an idea for a tattoo on my wrist and I just might one day get off my ass and get it. Is it possible to do without needles? It would say: listen. It is a reminder for me to truly listen to others (undistracted) and for me to demand that others do the same for me.

I am currently reading an interesting book, called “The Art of Gathering” by Priya Parker. It has given me so much inspiration in my corporate and personal life about how we approach time together, how we respect and appreciate others’ time, and how to pull off the best of gatherings. Less Martha Stewart style that errs on the side of the perfect place setting and more pondering the lead up to the event, how do you connect with your guests before hand, and how do you truly pull off a successful time by planning an experience and not just a conference, meeting, dinner, etc.

A page I read over the weekend said:

“A good life is about seeing and being seen.” page 199

It sent my mind wandering to how many times I have felt that. How often do you go to someone’s house and feel odd because the hosts do not really find a way to weave together why they are having people over, and why they have selected those they have brought into their home? It also brings fresh memories of wonky corporate gatherings where individuals are disconnected, uncomfortable, and uninterested to mingle but required to hang together.

I have not finished the book, but am inspired to bring the ideas Parker shares to fruition in my life. To create a meeting that has purpose and desired outcome and the attendees know why they are there and leave inspired with a plan and next steps. To think about my dinner parties and how the individuals that come into our home feel the energy of what we want to share with them. I encourage you to pick up her book. There are some slow spots, but all in all I have some new ideas of how I will engage differently with others I meet with — more aware of the outcomes I want, and more focused on the individual. If we each remember that just as we want to be seen, we remember to see others.

Can you do it all?

It has been a while since I have written a blog post. I have started and stopped writing over the past year. I write one and then it doesn’t feel like me, so I never publish it. In the past few weeks/months I have been doing a lot of exploring, reading, and questioning. What does motherhood look like for me? What do I want out of life? Am I in the right job? Do I enjoy my life? What is missing? How am I not pushing myself to grow to my life’s potential?

I am not new at this game. There are millions and millions of mothers out there that work or stay at home. We all ponder if we are enough, if we have enough, if we are giving and loving enough. Nothing I am telling you is new. I keep wondering if I should let go of the corporate world and do something different, if I should change careers, and after talking to someone a few weeks ago, they said something so simple:

“Do you have to give up anything? Can you do it all?”

There are days when I can do it all, and there are days when my brain is so thoroughly wrung out, fried, and everything is taken from me that I feel I have nothing to give. Usually the universe is laughing at me because those are the days when Nico wakes up in the middle of the night with a night terror about pizza (yes, that happened a few nights ago).

What I am learning right now is that I do not have to have it figured all out. The more I live in the moment, the faster things work out. Whether it be that urge to go get a coffee (when really I do not want one) only to run into someone I really needed to talk to that day. Or, to be listening and clear and the thought comes to me that I do not need to be in the meeting that is full of mansplainers that are driving me crazy — repeating just what I and other women in the room already said. So I can make a choice. I can get up and leave, call them out, or mentally check out of the meeting and ponder more important things. Or, maybe it is that moment when you know you need to text a friend and you are not sure why, but you do and find out they needed some extra TLC from you that day.

So take a deep breath, know that you do not have to figure it all out, and you might actually be able to do it all. Oh, and those mansplainers? Just breathe in and out and decide if they are worth any of your energy.

The Man Who Hated Christmas

The story below showed up on my Facebook feed this week and as someone who has a similar sentiment to Mike, I felt rather than share a story for Christmas I would share his. Hard to believe that this was from 1982, especially the part that says: “overspending and the frantic running around” — I guess some things do not change. I cannot remember the last time Chris and I exchanged gifts for Christmas (maybe those first few years of marriage). Now we do something together, or decide to do something for our home, but we are done with trying to find that perfect gift, especially when there is little we need.

If we do celebrate Christmas next year with our little man (and the jury is still out on how we are going to decide to navigate the holiday with our son) there will be a white envelope on the tree. Read on to see what I’m referring to, enjoy, and have a wonderful holiday with your friends and family.

December 14, 1982 Women’s Day

“It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it – overspending and the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma – the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was on the wrestling team at the school he attended. Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.

As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.” Mike loved kids – all kids. He so enjoyed coaching little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came.

That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes, and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed a small, white envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done, and that this was his gift from me.

Mike’s smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year. And that same bright smile lit up succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition – one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The white envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children – ignoring their new toys – would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the small, white envelope never lost its allure.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree. And the next morning, I found it was magically joined by three more. Unbeknownst to the others, each of our three children had for the first time placed a white envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down that special envelope.

Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us.”

For the Man Who Hated Christmas
By Nancy W. Gavin

Judge me all you want

Change happens for us all every day. We do not always realize how much change hits us on a day-to-day basis, often because of how we handle the change. At some level we all have a bit of dislike to change. Some individuals are more flexible than others, some are more set in their ways or routines, and yet others relish the freedom and excitement of having things constantly changing in life.

Whatever level of tolerance we have for change, we often do not have a choice of if it happens to us. Whether that means changes at work, at home, with our family, there is change that happens by choice and change that we would rather not come close to with a ten foot pole. These past few weeks for me have been emotional to one extent (thank you hormones) and a little nerve-racking on another level. I know I am not the first woman to have a baby, and I know (because everyone tells you) that my life is about to change in numerous ways. Some of those changes will be amazing, and some will knock me on my ass.

I have to say that what has been hardest (besides my body no longer being mine, the endless peeing, and little to no sleep because of the endless peeing) has been being a professional woman with a team. When you read about others that go on maternity leave, they talk about the baby side of it, but what they do not really talk often about is what it is like for the working mom. I have been working since I was 9 years old. I had a paper route, and babysat kids in the neighborhood. This means that I have been working non-stop for the last 28 years. The most time I have taken off (other than a period when I was laid off), is the two weeks I took for my wedding/honeymoon. I have never not worked for a longer period than that.

Now, judge me all you want, as I think some mothers might — when I say it is going to be hard for me to be away from work. There are some pretty involved and intense projects happening in the coming months and, while I have the most amazing team, it does not make it easy for me to be away from it all. I have poured my heart into the work and my team, and having a child does not necessarily change my dedication to my work. Sure, some of my priorities will change when I meet Mini Conk, but I also want to raise a son that not only understands the importance of hard work, but also sees that I have an identity that is different from just being a mom.

Folks rarely talk about how hard it is for a working mom, instead I see more judgement that my place as a mom is at home with my son. Why should I have to choose, and why should I be judged for how I want to live my life? As more and more women have leadership positions at companies, not only do the rights for women having children need to change, so does the behavior for how we treat women that work and want to do both.

It is an American issue.

Of course I have baby on the brain. I have six weeks left, and part of preparing for the birth of my son, is making sure I am prepared to leave work for maternity leave. Lots to do to make sure coverage is in place, and that I am not missing anything, all while trying to navigate the spectrum of “short-term disability” and use of my vacation time and how to make it all work. It is shocking that in our country having a baby is considered “short-term disability.” I am not sure how having a baby makes you “disabled.”

That is why I wanted to share this TEDx talk from Jessica Shortall. She discusses “The American Case for Paid Maternity Leave.” Her talk is just under 16 minutes and worth listening to — especially if you think it is absurd that the US is the 2nd to last country in the world in terms of benefits offered for mothers-to-be (fathers to). I love what she says near the end of the video: “It is not a women’s issue, or a mom issue, it is an American issue.” She is right.

What do you think after watching the video?