Category Archives: Change

A Citizen’s Journey

This week.
THIS is the week that my husband became a U.S. Citizen.
This week where I have mentally retreated beneath the blanket of oblivion.
This week where the greatest US President in my lifetime, possibly of all time, is leaving office.
This week.
This week when fear that we have failed our Promise “bigly” has mobilized millions of people around the country and around the world to rage against this ugly truth.
This week when the air is pregnant with schadenfreude and smug disdain.
This week.
I approached his ceremony with equal parts relief and dread.
The relief is salve to my heightened survival instincts – more flight than fight, but there’s still time for that to reverse before the March. I do think the worst of our future and knowing that my husband is safely labeled “one of us” backs off just how ‘doomsday’ I allow my mind to wander.
He has been eligible for citizenship for years, but only now pursued it to safeguard our family from the uncertainty ahead, to protect our choices. Were the situation reversed, I would not relish making such a significant commitment with a ticking clock tied around my green card.
I resent my country FOR him.
I sat smugly through opening remarks, recognizing the distinct stench of propaganda in the videos. (People don’t hate marketing, they hate ham-handed marketing.)
I eye-rolled when the bureaucrat in the ill-fitting suit touted America as the land of freedom and prosperity. THE Land. Like there is only one.
The government worker who wrote and delivered a speech, honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., was an African American woman. Despite including visionary quotes, I was uninspired. Where were the great orators and accomplished immigrants welcoming these new Americans?
I kept thinking about ways to make this event a more authentic, honest experience. The contrived video montages with images of what I can only assume are (what some people think are) immigrants and of National Parks, frankly left me more confused than anything. There was no nostalgia or inspiration or warmth. Maybe that was just me.
When President Obama’s video played, I was, as expected, riveted and exchanged a twinkly eye with my husband when it finished. Thank goodness he was welcomed to citizenship THIS week.
As another woman led us through the Pledge of Allegiance, I wondered if it also bothered her to be pledging fidelity to an object, “Under God.” I wonder who else in the room raised a suspicious eyebrow to the line “liberty and justice for all” when there is so clearly not. They’re just words recited out of habit as we go along our little lives and hope we squeak by the wrecking ball unscathed.
I probably read as ungrateful and self-important, or chronically cynical. I’m not. The turmoil of emotions inside me included bursts of pride, nationalism and gushy, mushy waves of love for this man who would do anything for me, for our daughters, including swallowing his pride… again.
When it was time for the certificates to be handed out, each of the 115 people from 40 nations stood up and made their way forward to be welcomed to Team USA with a hearty congratulations and handshake.
It wasn’t a single moment, but the culmination of the experience that humbled me. The great weight of realization that my lens of this experience was both narrow and obtuse became unbearably heavy. I needed to check my privilege.
Maybe it was the man who raised and waved his miniature flag during ‘America the Beautiful.’ I felt his longing poignantly. My heart swells at displays of enthusiasm. How many times have I been dismissed as uncool for my joie? Too many. “You sir, are my people.”
Maybe it was the beautifully complicated names read aloud, each receiving a moment of recognition, a reverent undertone.
Maybe it was those with interpreters who have chosen to make a life in a place where they aren’t yet proficient in the language. How brave to dive into unknown adventure!
Maybe it was the women whose smile beamed light as she looked toward her friend for a celebratory photo. How long had she waited? What does this mean for her and her family?
Maybe it was the little boy who shouted out “Mama!” when he saw her queue for her paper. Is she the last to win her secure status? Or first? It makes me cry just typing this.
My husband comes from an egalitarian land of prosperity and freedom. I would count it as one of the many democracies around the world with quality of life that put ours to shame.
But I forgot for a minute that there are also many places that do not, where the promise of self-determination, freedom of speech and religion and press, where pluralism are quite foreign and literally awesome concepts.
This week, I was reminded of the lesson I only internalized the first time I lived abroad: that the United States is a complicated and beautiful amalgamation of cultures and peoples.
Denigrating our diversity is the most un-American thing one can do.
At least, that’s the belief to which I pledge my fidelity.
And that’s how I’ll survive this week.

Will You Be My Sisterwife?

I am not the first working mom to pine for a “wife.”

Hell, even in college I knew that if I were to pursue the ambitious ass-kicking agenda I’d dreamed for myself, I would need a house-husband.
The miracle is that after putting marriage and kids so low on my list of priorities, I still managed to find myself a fully evolved, committed husband who does (at least) 50% of the heavy household lifting in time for me to still breed with my own genes.  I am absurdly fortunate.

And so it is with a blanket of sheep that I admit that there is STILL too much damn work to be done in running a house and raising children while earning enough to sustain my family.

I don’t think this challenge is unique to a city-living, alpha mom like me.

And so I ask you – will you be my sisterwife?

Ok, ok, I don’t mean move in and sleep with my husband – (though he is pretty much the best of his gender and deserves a whole lot more lovin’ than he’s getting these days.)  Let’s use “sister” more colloquially – as in, can you please help a sister out?

So maybe what I should say is “Will you be my NEIGHBOR-wife?

My neighbor is mom of our doppler ganger family across the hall – Cute & fun-loving couple, with kids around the age of ours. We even had chocolate labs that were around the same age.

A few weeks ago we talked about doing a freezer meal share and I think we might have stumbled upon genius.

On Sundays, we will both make a casserole or freezer meal and double the batch:  one for our family and one for theirs.

A few friends have asked for the recipes we’re using.
To that end, I have started a Pinterest board:  Fab Freezer Meals for Sharing

If  you’d like permission to post to the board, let me know.
It takes a village, yo.

To start this tradition, I whipped up a batch of Cajun Shrimp and Quinoa Casserole (from This Gal Cooks).
Against tradition, I followed her recipe pretty closely (with fewer jalapenos for tiny tongues and the addition of kale and leftover zucchini because green is good.  I also used regular mozzarella because hub couldn’t find Fontina cheese – yes, he does all the grphotoocery shopping.  Told ya… he’s kind of a big deal.)

Another of my favorite sharing recipes is Chicken Enchilada Casserole:

  • Chicken – breasts or thighs or whatever your budget allows.  We use six thighs for a family of four.
  • jar salsa (or homemade pico)
  • southwest/ taco spices to taste:  cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, chipotle, red pepper, paprika, etc.
  • enchilada sauce (yes, I recommend the can unless you’re a SAH with way too much time on your hands.)  I like a mix of green and red.
  • cheddar cheese
  • mozzarella cheese
  • sweet potatoes
  • cilantro (fresh – only way to go)
  • garlic
  • red onion
  • evoo
  • corn tortillas
  • can whole tomatoes
  • Mixed bell peppers (frozen ok)

I like to slow cook my chicken – toss in some salsa and let it cook all day on low or half the day on high.

Put sliced red onions into a skillet with evoo on medium heat and cover.  When onions are soft, add bell peppers – whatever you think your family will eat.  They will be turned into sauce so it’s a great way to trick them into eating their veg.  Once peppers are floppy, remove mix from heat and set aside.  Add more evvoo and add diced sweet potatoes.  Stir to prevent burning/sticking until the sweet potatoes begin to soften.  DO NOT make them uber mushy.

Mix (I have a wonderful, tiny food processor from Sur la Table that was a special treat with some gift cards I had collected) the enchilada sauce, whole tomatoes, and onion/pepper mix.

If you use chicken thighs, you might want to skim the grease from on top of your chicken.  Either way, shred the chicken in the crockpot with two forks.

Dip your tortillas into the sauce and cover the bottom of a 9×13 glass pan (I used a foil pan for my neighbor because I only have one glass).

Layer the shredded chicken, sweet potatoes, and a mix of the cheeses.

Spoon over some of the sauce.

Repeat the layers:  dipped corn tortillas, shredded chicken, sweet potatoes, cheese until you’re out of ingredients.

If you’re freezing this, put a layer of plastic wrap down onto the last layer and then foil cover before freezing.

If you’re cooking immediately – cover with foil and heat through – I put it in at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or so. (You’ll see the sauce bubble.)

If your kids aren’t going through their anti-green phase, sprinkle with chopped cilantro, avocado and sour cream – even more cheese if you like!

(The inspiration for this recipe came from Ambitious Kitchen and Tone & Tighten.)

In hopes of sharing my talent, I plan to post a few more of my life hacks, including more Freezer Recipes.

I hope you’ll share some of your own!

 

Six Simple Ways To Be Awesome To Others

Lately I’ve heard too many stories of people being awful to each other.

I probably need to edit my news feed but it certainly feels like there is just a little more meanness around these days.  Doing ‘mean’ empties our emotional buckets, whether we’re the doer or the been done to. Even if we’re not actively evil-doing, I think many of us are just going around in survival mode, too wrapped up in our own funk to give much to anyone.  Or worse, are faking through life, hurting our own spirit and showing that phony facade.

We deserve more.  We deserve to feel and to share awesome.

Even when I should have plenty of time on my hands, I find myself racing through each day with a to-do list that never gets done.  In hopes that writing it down can make it more real, I’ve collected a few simple thoughts on how to be an addition to others’ lives without subtracting from your own.

Share Your Talent
So many of us are busy (pretending) that we’ve got it all under control that we forget to ask specialists about their trade secrets.  We might free up time/money/stress by adopting a tip or bit of training from someone who is a natural.

But how many of us struggle with asking for help?

*Raises hand*

So lead by example, as the saying goes…  everyone has something to learn and something to teach.  Is it a skill like blog formatting and or video editing?  Is it a craft like knitting?  Is it a tradition like baking bread?  Is it a talent like writing?

Be awesome.

Don’t get hung up on the word “talent.”  Instead – think of yourself in life-hacking terms.  Are you an amazing meal planner?  Do you have the most ingenious way of archiving and displaying photos?  Are you a great amateur photog?  Do you make amazing party food?  Do you have a fool-proof method of keeping your house tidy?  Have you mastered kid’s parties?  Are you a self-taught home media master?  EVERYONE is a genius.  Share yours and be awesome to someone.

Let People Be Who They Are
This may sound more like a passive option than a simple one.  It isn’t.

To let someone be who they are, you may need to adapt to their style and that requires thoughtfulness and sacrifice – at least some of the time.  It means getting out of your own self-interests to recognize how other people process the world and not making them feel like an arse for that.

If you need an example, here’s mine:  I am not a planner.  Most of the time making plans makes me feel boxed in and trapped.
But so many of my friends and family feel very anxious about leaving plans “loose.”  They like to know the process, the agenda and the order of things.  To me, this feels rigid and restrictive.  To them, it keeps life from spinning out into chaos and allows them a comforting feeling of control.

If I want to see them regularly, I need to commit to a date and time with enough advance that they don’t over-schedule themselves right out of my life.  It may not sound like a big deal but it is.  My planner friend texted me the other day a thanks for making plans with her in advance.  She noticed.  By planning an outing much farther out than my comfort zone prefers, I was awesome to her.

There are also times when someone’s habit just annoys the crap out of you.  Making it clear to them that they make you want to pluck your hair out when they do that doesn’t fix the problem, it just empties their emotional bucket.  In these times, remember:  it isn’t about you and it isn’t personal.  Think about WHY someone might do something and find the compassion/humor/blinders to see over and around that tick to the vulnerable human behind it.  Because they are still awesome.  Show them that by reducing eye-rolls and harumphs.

Give a Genuine, Spontaneous Compliment
This one comes easy for me but I see daily how difficult it is for others.

One of my many criticisms of our society is the zero-sum mentality.  It is the game theory behind mean girls.  It is how banksters justify their morally devoid behavior.  And it is how otherwise professionals fool themselves into thinking that the ends justifies the means in their climb to the top stomping on the careers of others.

If you can only win by making others lose, you just aren’t very creative.

On my most evolved days, I am impervious to someone else’s bad mood.  But when sleep, or polar vortices, or money stress or whatever creep in, I can be a sponge absorbing other people’s mess.  I see it on other people too.  The over-crowded bus or the 14th internal meeting request of the day can send you into the Jungle of Boo.

But watch the change on someone’s face when you mention how much you like their bag or their shoes or their style or the way they handled that call or their presence in a meeting or their patience with a child.  Don’t overthink it or make a big fuss – but when something someone does catches your eye, let them know.  I like to thank or complement cleaning crews or grounds keepers.  There is almost always someone on the bus who has a hat or glasses or something that I admire.  I don’t need anything from them, and I’m not interrupting my or their momentum.  Never once has it failed to brighten someone’s face.  Just maybe, their day was a little more awesome.

Ask For What You Need
This is the only simple solution that revolves around you… but it is also a way to be awesome to others.

Too many people have the romantic idea that people who love and care for you should just intuitively KNOW what you need and give it to you in the way you most need it.

Bullshit.

No one, and I mean NO ONE, pays that much attention to you.  Except maybe your kids… and that is actually a pretty good example.

If you’ve been around a two or three-year old lately (or five-six year old if the parents are indulgent jackholes), you know that fit-throwing, whining, and fake crying abound.  This is because two and three year olds do not have sufficient command of language or emotion to properly eloquate what it is that they desire.

You do.

If you’re expecting magic, you are likely to be seriously disappointed and in feeling that, making those people who love and care for you feel like poop for not delivering on your expectations.  Because guess what?  The likely want to.

People LOVE to feel useful.  Most LOVE to make others happy. But no one has time to go around wasting effort in the hopes that they do. Rather, it is the most direct path to getting and giving what is desired if you spell it out in a way that is helpful and humble.  Be clear, be honest, and be practical.  Give others all the tools they need to do right by you, because when they succeed, it makes them feel awesome.

Couch Your Crap
While each of us is the protagonist in our own life, we’re merely supporting characters in others’ lives.  And since the grand play is all happening simultaneously, sometimes we need reminding that it isn’t all about us.

I wrote a little bit about this here, but even when there is legitimate drama, angst, and woe going on in your world, you can be awesome to others by putting your stuff on a shelf for a beat and being present for theirs.

Just like you can’t effectively listen when you’re coming up with what you want to say next, you can’t really be there for someone else when you are playing mental Stratego hoping to avoid whatever bombs are set up in your match.  Press pause.  Take a deep breath.  And focus on someone else for as long as you can without upsetting the flow of the universe.  Chances are you can return to your own bag o’ crap with a fresh perspective that might just be the solution you needed in the first place.  And in the process, you were pretty awesome to someone else.

Be a Happy Memory
I don’t mean to adios yourself from someone’s life.

I mean that people sometimes need a memory jog.  When you share an positive experience with someone, you two are each other’s happiness keepers.  Whether that memory is 5 days or 50 years old, being reminded of it can make someone relive that emotion.

When you see an old picture of them as you’re flipping through an album, or notice a post from them on Facebook, or bump into them in the hallway, or just happen to recall that happy/funny/silly/ hilarious/charming/smart/inspiring/joyful moment you shared – let them know.

Does a certain song always remind you of a friend?  Or what about a restaurant?  A vacation destination?  Your orange sweatshirt?  In the age of constant updates, we more or less keep up on the lives of way more people than we would have without the aid of technology.   Most of the time we’re just narrow-casting our lives to the audience of acquaintances (and their acquaintances, and theirs…).  Being a happy memory for someone means planting and watering your positive experience with them into their “timeline” because you think it will make them smile.  Maybe you call someone you haven’t seen in years or maybe you show up in an old familiar place to surprise the old crew, or maybe you just tag the guilty in a carefree picture from the past.

Post it, tweet it, email, telegraph, or smoke signal them.  Do it public.  Do it private.  Just, you know… do it.

Remind people who gave you great memories that you shared them together.  You never know who needs to know that they are in your thoughts, or that they made a difference, or even that they mattered.

That gift is yours to give for free and will make someone feel pretty damn awesome.

 

The Day I Broke My Face

It has now been about a month since the day my face broke.

For a chronic over-sharer like me, not posting the blow-by-blow of my experience was unfamiliar behavior.  This experience, however, felt intensely personal.  I was scarred by it and not just on my face.

More than a week after our New Year’s Day party, my new three-pot crock pot serving piece sat on the counter waiting for me to find a place to store it.  My disdain for clutter finally overcame my resistance to find non-existent storage for my Christmas gift.  I maneuvered the other entertaining pieces around on top of the China hutch to make room.  I grabbed the crock pot system in my hands, stepped onto the dining room chair and in slow motion went from lifting the crock pots into place to cracking my face on them as they hit the floor.

A leg on the chair had snapped into pieces and sent me flying – hard and heavy crock-pot first, soft and fragile face shortly thereafter.

While I fancy myself somewhat of a stunt woman (I once jumped off the back of my bike, tossing it forward to avoid being run over by a Chicago taxi.), this happened so fast I was unable to brace my fall or shield my face.  Maybe if I hadn’t been so close to the wall, I could have tossed the crock pots forward and avoided impact altogether.  Maybe if I had used a different chair or asked hub to do the lifting, no harm would have come.

But harm did come.

I heard my daughter cry out.  I heard Hub run down the hall in a panic.  I felt the warm wet that I knew meant this was going to be ugly.

For one minute, I couldn’t speak.  My thoughts were formed and my action plan ready but I couldn’t make my mouth say the words.
When I did, the sentences came out in the wrong order:  “I need an ice pack,” “I’m ok,” and then “Get Claudia out of the room.”

Steve brought me a rag and the frozen peas.  He asked again if I was alright.  I knew I wasn’t.

I tipped my hand open to show him the steady stream of blood coming out of my face.  I didn’t know the size or shape of the cut but I could see the puddle growing on the floor.

I didn’t pass out.  Instead, I gave instructions: Yes, call an ambulance.  Call, no go knock on neighbor’s door.  Call this friend.   No, call from my phone so she knows who it is.  Go comfort the kids.

What I expected to feel, I didn’t.  I wasn’t in pain.

But I was acutely aware of not being able to comfort my own kids; I didn’t want to scare them.

A whole lot of things happened after that:  Fire truck/EMTs/Friend arrived, ER visit, plastic surgeon called, on-staff plastic surgeon referred, ice packs, bad jokes (Doc: “blue or black thread?”  Me: “black – it goes with everything”), stitches to pull together my brutalized forehead.

On the way home, the adrenalin wore off and I discovered all the other injuries to my body – bruised hands, elbow, inner arm, hip, shin.
Nothing was as bad as my face though.

Over the next 3 days, my nose bridge expanded until I looked like Eric Stoltz in Mask.  Both eyes were a deep eggplant/black.  (I wish the pictures did justice to just how crazy things looked.)  The black thread holding my wound closed looked menacing.  I was also having really strong headaches behind one or both eyes.  My forehead throbbed and couldn’t be touched.

From open wound, to stitches, to surgical tape, to bangs... the evolution of my broken face.
From open wound, to stitches, to surgical tape, to bangs… the evolution of my broken face.

According to my surgeon, I was going to be fine.  I just needed a better story.  I considered some…

“I’ve started MMA training.”  

“There was a brawl that broke out at Mommy & Me.”

or my personal favorite “The first rule of Fight Club…

But the truth is I suck at lying of any kind and there may be some truth to this.

So let my life serve as a warning, dear friends:  DON’T STAND ON CHAIRS EVEN BIG HEAVY WOODEN ONES USE A STEPLADDER!
(Like this super sexy one that I bought.)

No self-actualized person worth her salt would let this big bad experience go by without learning a lesson.
But what was mine?

I couldn’t think of it right away…  “Be more careful” was just too obvious (and boring).  Was it time to let go of my vanity once and for all?  Would I finally have to do something about my “baby” weight (you know breaking chairs and stuff) now that I couldn’t get by on my face?  Was the universe telling me to aim lower (I have been punching above my weight for some time now).  Should I stop playing hostess?  Sure, sure – any of those could have fit.  But then I got it.  See if you think I’m right…

After the accident, I was too scary for public.  I sent an email to work, explaining the accident and that I’d be working from home for a few days until the swelling/bruising went down.  The office where I contracted sent a heartfelt email reply, flowers, and a new crockpot with love from the entire office.

I had texts, emails and calls from friends and industry colleagues and family.
I had a friend pick me up from a doctor visit, drive me around to errands, and returned me safely home.

But really the best were the friends, who are struggling with their own big and bad, who dropped off homemade pasta dinner for my family the night after the accident.

Even with something totally crappy happening in their life, they still had goodness and compassion and generosity to share with others.

And That?  Well, THAT was MY lesson.

7 Things I’ve Learned About Life… From Work

7 Things I've LearnedOne of the things I seem to struggle with is knowing my unique value proposition.  Sometimes I feel like I don’t know what I know, you know?

Turns out, I am not quite as dumb as I look.  I’ve picked up a few things along my path that have turned out to be useful in my battle between thinking and feeling as a professional and in my quest to be a better human in the real world.  What do you think – do they ring true for you, too?

1)  Companies Don’t Love You; They Love Money.

I am mostly a starry-eyed jackass when it comes to the world.  I want to believe in the good of everyone and everything.  I do, still, hope for the best… always.  But no matter how cool/evolved/compassionate/balanced your work is – if you’re not making money, someone will eventually get sacked.  And maybe everyone.  I’ve worked for three companies who have gone belly up (call me Molly Brown) and been part of several more who have been acquired – wreacking havoc on executives and workers alike.  I’ve worked within two industries as they declined into almost oblivion and one that rebounded mightily.

I’ve taken more than a few jobs because I was impressed with charismatic leadership.  In the long run, however, it is more useful to think of your boss(es) like Stuckey from Pretty Woman.  Like Edward says, “You don’t love me; it’s the kill you love.  I made you a very rich man doing exactly what you love.“

There will be jobs and people who only ‘love’ you for what you can do for them.  It isn’t good or bad, it just is.  Learn to recognize them so you don’t  mistake value for emotion.

2)  Money Isn’t Everything

The best things in life are free.  Don’t tell my boss, but this is true at work too.  I do what I do because it supports a good life for my family but I feel my absolute best, not on payday, but on the days when I do something extraordinary for a client, a colleague, or the company.

When  I am able to use my strengths in a way that is not narrowly defined by my role, I know that I’m making a contribution that cannot easily be replicated.  And for me, being unique – being different – is among my chief fulfillments.  I enjoy being part of a team but only when I have a role in addition to the team one.

Find out what your fulfillments are and make sure you’re satisfying your non-money buckets.

3)  Balance Your Staff

“It takes all kinds.”  You’ve heard this before with respect to tolerance, yes?  Well, in the workplace and in life – it takes all kinds of people to create harmony and balance.  Having a staff of pleasers may make the boss feel awesome and create a superficially agreeable workplace.  But people who avoid ruffled feathers at all costs can nicey-nice a company right over a cliff.

Strengths in people build strengths in families and companies alike.  In the same way that opposites attract, if you have aligned goals but different talents there is less competition and more forward momentum – provided people are trusted and empowered to do that at which they excel.

It also helps to say “Thank you” to your counter-balance when she/he does the proverbial (or literal) dirty laundry in your world.

4)  Everyone Needs To Feel Useful

This one I’ve only learned recently and, embarrassingly, it caught me off-guard.  I went to work in an office for the first time in a while.  The team was established and had a rhythm established.  There was, however, a disproportionate amount of one-kind of personality – the “relationship builders.”  I failed to recognize that these colleagues value their connections with people above all else, they need their style to be reciprocated.  By NOT connecting with them on a personal level, they felt marginalized – even insulted.  Unintentionally, my actions told them “you are not useful to me.”  People hate that.

Since I’m a nerd for quotes, this seems like a perfect time for one:    “Everyone Is a Genius, but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” – Einstein.

That quote bombs me into submission every time.

Now, I want to discover what everyone’s genius is as quickly as possible so that I can connect with them and learn from them and promote them for their strengths.

5)  [Some] People Are Mean

This is the hardest lesson for die-hard Pollyannas.  Some people suck.  They just do.  I don’t know why.  We may never know why.  But they do.  The thing is, though, that people often suck for a reason.  And it is probably not (really) about you.

I once managed a team where it was revealed that all of us were on anti-depressants.  I knew my situation was icky but in my myopia, I hadn’t thought about how bad it was for them.  I needed to cut them some slack – to give them greater empathy and help them navigate through a really uninspiring time.  I didn’t realize that until it was too late.

The advice I love best on this is that you can only control yourself – how you act, how you react.  YOU control that and nothing more.  So let people suck.  Don’t follow their example.  Two wrongs still don’t make a right.  But also, don’t let their moral bankruptcy (I love that phrase so hard), their bad attitude, their laziness, their obstinacy, their overinflated sense of self, whatever – change who or how you are.

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”  ― Thich Nhat Hanh

6)  Relationships Are All That You Can Take With You When You Go

Do people who are not creative types have portfolios?  I don’t.  I probably would have less of a confidence crisis if I could review some of the smart, original work I’ve done for clients and employers.  I’m not great at organizing the past – I still don’t have a wedding album for crying out loud.  I prefer the Josiah Bartlett life approach of “what’s next?”

In this day and age, people don’t stay put.  People move house, town, country.  They change jobs with greater (and greater) frequency.  The smart media plan you did for so-and-so, the partnership you brokered while doing blah-blah-blah… those have already been absorbed into the company and taken credit for by someone who couldn’t tie your shoelaces but has all the boot-licking skills necessary to be a lap dog for a very, very long time.

The thing that you have that they never will are the relationships that enabled you to win that business, broker that deal, make the introduction, etc.  Anyone can exchange business cards.  Anyone can throw around a company expense account.  Amassing a network of people who know you and respect you as a person and a professional is a value that is unique to you and cannot be touched.

Leave people better for knowing you – whether five or five thousand – and they will stay in your corner no matter what is said about you.  Even if you’re the one spouting the slander.

7)  It Isn’t Greener Anyplace Else

No one, and I mean NO ONE wants to admit this.  But every company, family, group, organization is a shit show.  There are varying degrees of shit, true, but anything made up of humans is going to have flaws.

Everyone is a brand of crazy and the goal is to find someone (or some place) whose crazy matches your own.  You can change jobs and you can create your own family.  But getting itchy because things aren’t going well doesn’t mean it will be better anyplace else.

An industry friend once gave me some sound advice – forget about “smart,” everybody is smart – look at the what (do you believe), look at the who (are they moral), and look at the how (could this game plan work for the next play – because game plans always change… they have to).

This was so damn simple and wise – it made me feel like a jackass for not knowing it already… but just for a minute.  Because that is what HIS genius is – distilling messy complexities into pocketsize wisdom.

Now I just need to figure out what’s mine.

The Confidence Quotient

While I’m not exactly sure why I stopped writing, I am certainly worse for it – and I do not mean my Klout score.

I’d like to claim that line from the movie Contagion where the dad-from-Six Feet Under called blogs “graffiti with punctuation” chastened me or that sitting ten feet from the bureau chief of Chicago’s NYT editorial team has intimidated me.

The truth, however, is that I’m just in a confidence crisis.  My slightly-neurotic analysis has yielded something like this:

When I was smart, I just wanted to be pretty.
When I was pretty, I just wanted to be loved.
I know now that I am neither smart nor pretty, but am miraculously and unquestionably loved.

My simple mind isn’t processing this well.

Further, what’s love got to do with it?

I’m talking about SELF-confidence.  Belief in oneself apparently has nothing to do with how other people view you.  But lack of it sure makes you vulnerable to the worst opinions others may or may not have.  (You would not believe how far I can take this.)

Shouldn’t truly having self-confidence make you a bit impervious to outside forces?  Is it not your own invisibility cloak when the ghost of crappy economy haunts you?  Or the shield against the morally bankrupt thugs who would rob you of your vehicle to success and kick you as they drive away?

I am reminded again of that haunting statement by an interviewer that his dream candidates are single women because they have a chip on their shoulder and something to prove.  It made me furious then, but merely more self-conscious now.

Writing, like any art, is about sharing your impression of the life that surrounds you.  And since we are all the hero of our own drama, everyone’s impression is unique to their storyline.

What has risen up as a monumental roadblock is the nagging disbelief that my storyline matters.

I think self-confidence is the elephant in every woman’s mental room of her own.
And my elephant has taken to sitting on top of me and crushing the life out.

This isn’t to say that men don’t suffer from a crisis in confidence.  I’m sure they do.  But overwhelmingly, I have noticed that women (including me) get derailed by circumstances beyond their control and then struggle to compartmentalize a sucky situation so they can get back to being awesome.

I had a fantastic conversation this week with someone who wanted ME as a mentor.  [If that doesn’t boost confidence, what on earth will?]  Listening to her story and her self-doubt felt very raw.  In the beginning of the conversation, my nag was reciting “blind leading the blind” over and over… but when I stopped thinking about poor me and what an unimpressive loser I’ve turned out to be, I felt my indignation rise on her behalf.

She didn’t embezzle a million dollars, or have an affair with a married supervisor, or punch a client in the face.  [For the record, neither have I – I was just trying to think of things that would, in fact, warrant feeling a little self-loathing.]  Yet she was behaving as if she deserved to be sitting in ashes wearing burlap.

I was a relative stranger and a brand new connection but even I could see that she had something sparkly inside.  And I told her so.

I’ve been inspired by this woman to seek out connections with people who won’t pump me up, who don’t have anything to gain by injecting my ego with steroids.  I’m on a mission to read and subscribe to confidence and positivity bloggers.  I have pulled out my child psych books to learn what I can about building confidence and what plays a role in one’s “confidence quotient.”

So much is determined by it.

Sometimes the mirror your friends and loved ones hold up to you is like a funhouse mirror.  Their investment in your happiness and obvious love throws waves into the truthiness of their feedback.  In my experience, at least, it is rare that someone close can give you raw truth.  Most people shroud feedback in fluffy nonsense rendering any kernel of actionable insight unrecognizable.

I had a high school ‘phriend’ who, while she wouldn’t be seen with me in public thereby reinforcing my leperous sense of self, would write me ridiculous notes about why I shouldn’t think poorly of myself.  These little gems had very little to do with weighty issues but still gave some perspective to the tragic sensibilities of a teenager – things like “You have all your teeth.” and “You do not smell bad.”

While funny in a Dax Shepherd sort of way, this has given me an idea.  I’m thinking about a little project over the next few weeks.   I’m going to emphasize positive things in my life that I can claim credit for as a way of focusing on good and praising my accomplishments as a valuable human, no matter how small.

If Gretchen Rubin can have a Happiness Project, I get to have a confidence one.

I’ll call it The Confidence Quotient – Small Wins or #CQsmallwins.

Who wants to play?

Got time for a Quickie?

The thing about becoming a mom
that totally tilted me sideways
is that when you least expect it,
for no reason at all,
in the middle of something else that could be very *important*
you will physically.
ache.
for your children.
And it knocks the wind out of you.
And you love it.