5.20.2015

Ten

My baby girl turns 10 today. It seems almost impossible that she has reached double digits already. I can still vividly remember moving into our "new" house while pregnant with her. So much has changed in my life since she was born, but then again so much is also the same. We have a great family, and our lives are so much richer and better because this girl is part of it.
One day old


Almost one year old

First Birthday

2 years old

3 years old

4 years old

5 years old

6 years old

7 years old

8 years old

9 years old
There isn't much more for me to say. I am lucky to be this girl's Mom, she has taught me more than I ever thought was possible. I can't wait to see what the future holds for you my now a tween baby girl.


The 10 year old rollerblading at her birthday party

Second year in a row playing in a soccer game on her birthday

Birthday cake

Had to take her hair down for pictures (same outfit as the 9 year old pic)

Big brother as a very close audience



5.06.2015

Body Language

Here is where I admit that I am a TED talk junkie. I love them. I watch them while I eat lunch sometimes (the perks of working from home), and the talks that move me I watch over and over again. I am not sure if the most powerful talks I've seen were really powerful enough to get me to see things from a different perspective, or if I was ready to hear their messages and therefore they held some power. I've talked about the Brene Brown talks in a previous blog post, but her talks especially her TEDx talk is one of my all time favorites. I have watched it at least 10 times if not more. Maybe that makes me a stalker, or maybe the message is just that good that I want to hear it repeatedly. Anyway, I won't drone on about Brene Brown, but seriously watch her first talk if you haven't already, and read her books. You won't regret it.

The most recent TED Talk that has me fascinated is a talk by Amy Cuddy about body language. I watched it several weeks ago, and was curious about whether her power pose suggestions would work. I decided to try it for myself. In the past few weeks when I have had to give a presentation or just try to get my point across on one of the many many calls I find myself on each day (the perks of working from home again) I have done some form of power posing as I sit comfortably in my office where nobody on the phone can see me doing so. I also did more subtle forms of power posing while I was at my company's HQ and giving in-person presentations last week. The results of my not at all scientific study with a sample size of one and no control group have concluded that power posing is in fact effective. I have not managed to convince everyone at work that I am right about everything yet. However, I've made some small chips away at progress forward, and got approval for something that seemed almost impossible just a few months ago. Was it the power posing, or was it the year + of work I've put into honing my message? It was likely mostly the latter, but the power posing possibly helped me to deliver the message in a way that made me sound more convincing.



I was so excited by my power posing experiment that I told my kids about it. I showed them what power posing was, and then told them that they could do it before tests at school (the more subtle poses I suppose, though I think kids could get away with even the more overt poses). I also told them that they could do it before track meets and soccer games. They both rolled their eyes at me.

This week both kids had their first soccer games of the season. I don't think I reminded tortured the Girl with a reminder to power pose before her game - as I was likely busy just trying to get her there on time. She played well despite no power posing, scored a goal and got out of a 4 on 1 and away with the ball during one of her shifts playing defense. Her team won that game 8-2 - imagine if they had power posed! I think their success could be attributed to the cheer her team came up with. It is creative and pretty awesome - The Girl keeps repeating it. Or maybe it had more to do with skill and the mismatch between their team and the other.

I did say something to the Boy before his game though. He rolled his eyes at me. The first half of his game was rough. His team has 14 players, and I think 13 were there last night. 3 of his teammates have never played with the group before - and I think at least 2 boys are U11 players playing up to U12. Their passing fluidity wasn't quite there. I think they were all trying to get a feel for each other in a game situation again. The Boy looked okay during the first half, but even he was struggling a bit to find his groove. The second half took on a different note though. The Boy (and several others on the team) had some nice opportunities. He had at least one great shot on goal from a good distance away that was just perfectly placed - high in the net, hard for the goalie to save, but the goalie had a great jump save and managed to deflect it out over the back of the net. That led to a corner which The Boy took, and nearly led to a goal, and then a second corner shortly thereafter that he also took and did lead to a goal. His team ended up losing 1-2, in a game they certainly had the ability to win, but it was still a good game. When The Boy found us at the end of the game I asked him who had tipped in his corner kick for the goal, and he said the other team did so he got the credit for the goal. He was beaming, and clearly proud of how well he had played.

In the car on the way home he said "Mom, I didn't want you to be right, or to tell you about it, but I tried the power posing you talked about when I was sitting in the rain shelter tent between shifts. I pretended I was tired and stretching, but I was really power posing." He had a small little impish grin on his face, and he said "I think it works." So was it the power posing? Or was it the 9 months of him getting extra skills training at Left Foot Academy? I guess we can't really know, but hey power posing is pretty easy to do, and if it gives you a mental boost, why not try it?


4.26.2015

In this moment

The phrase living in the moment seems so happy and free, so why is it so elusive? I won't speak collectively, but for my own life I know that I have spent most of my time either contemplating the past or wondering about the future. To what end? Has it made me better prepared to think through many different what if scenarios? Has it ever helped me to change mistakes I've made in the past? The answer to both is that is hasn't.

I think a healthy dose of reflection to process things we've done in our past is helpful, but only so much as we process them to a place where we can forgive ourselves of any mistakes and move on. Any more lingering in the past I think holds us back from living fully. As a parent I've seen that this is likely universal (small sample size of my own children, so humongous leap to say it is universal I know). I've watched my children make their own mistakes. I've stood by them to help them process what they've done or forgotten to do, and tried my best to help them cope with those feelings. After being a shoulder for them to cry on, talking through everything that happened, and projecting a bit about what might happen next, the best I can come up with is that it will hurt for a while but eventually it will hurt less. I think sometimes we learn our greatest lessons by teaching another. I struggle with perfectionism, but being a parent has helped me to shed that burden better than anything else I've encountered. I've told my kids that they are human, and they will make mistakes because that is part of human nature. I've told them that they are only 9 and only 11, and nobody expects such young children to be right every single time. I remind them of my age and tell them that I'm still making mistakes every single day, but I'm still here learning and growing each day. I've told them that sometimes mistakes are big, and sometimes you can't fix them, but even those unfixable mistakes teach us great lessons. In my case I'd say that the more I try to teach my kids to move on from their past mistakes, the more I'm able to do it for myself.

Projecting about the future is harder for me to tackle. We all want to be prepared for what might come next. At work it absolutely makes sense to do the tasks you need to complete in order to be ready for a big presentation or client meeting, or whatever else it might be. What doesn't work for me is going through what if scenarios to predict how people might respond to that big presentation. It is almost always better to just ask the people you are worrying about what they think. Maybe the key is deciding what you need to focus on now and knowing that the future will remain uncertain until it becomes the present? Or maybe it is always a tricky balance that involves a conscious decision to stop worrying about what might be when I find myself fixating about it.

My last post about expectations touched on this too. This is clearly an area where I have more work to do. I think that my knowledge that this is a trouble area for me is powerful though. I'm more aware of it, and therefore I'm less likely to be drug down in the details of it for long. Like so many other things I've seen, once you see them you can't unsee them. I know that my tendency is to do everything myself rather than to ask for help from anyone. When I'm in the middle of one of those cycles I tend to feel resentful of the bystanders who aren't helping me though. They aren't helping me because I never asked for their help, but yet I want them to just know that I need help without asking for it. I can see how crazy this cycle is, and now whenever I get into one of these cycles and my first urge it to be mad at the bystanders I instead see that I again didn't ask for help. This could lead me to be angry at myself for not asking for help, and it did when I first recognized this pattern. However, now that knowledge has led me to a place where I actually ask for help when I need help. I don't always ask for help, but I do more and more.

I think living in the moment is a great goal. It is likely a goal that most of us won't fully achieve in our lifetimes. There will always be a balance between reflecting on the past and projecting about the future. I guess the alternative is pretty aptly played out in the robin who keeps flying into the windows on the back of our house. He is pretty convinced that the reflections he sees are other birds trying to come into his nesting territory. He doesn't learn from the hundreds of past mistakes because he is living in the moment always, he also doesn't project his past mistakes into the future to stop himself from whacking into another window painfully. Reflection and projection are gifts, and living in the moment is too. I think in order to life in the moment you need to know how to reflect and project effectively. I think that rather than repeatedly flying into windows painfully I'll take this alternative. I'll accept that at times I will reflect too much, and at times I will project too much, but every once in a while I will find myself fully enjoying the present - living in the moment.

The bird is remarkably able to evade photos but he loves this window


4.11.2015

Expectations

My family and I went on a spring break trip to Florida. My goal for the trip was for our family to go to a place with a beach, with warm temperatures, and an ocean. I wanted to lay on the beach or by a pool and read a book, dipping myself into the water when I felt too hot, but otherwise relaxing. In my pre-trip planning conversations with T, he pointed out to me that my vision for what the vacation would be did not match up with reality. I ignored him. It is not as if I am new to this. We have taken many vacations with our kids, and each time my vision of the vacation does not match up with the reality. Apparently T had learned from each of those past vacations, and I chose to remain stubborn in accepting the truth. His advice had been to skip the vacation and just stay home with the kids where we are all comfortable in our routines so at least the anxiety that comes from being in a new place, sleeping in a new bed, etc. didn't come into play. As I said, I ignored him. I told T that it was important for me to give our kids new places to visit and explore, new ways to expand their worlds. He relented, and we planned the vacation or maybe more accurately I trampled over him and I planned the vacation.

Fast forward to the actual vacation, we made it to Florida and ultimately made it to our hotel on the beach. Our room was great - a 2 bedroom suite with a full kitchen and 3 televisions, a short walk to the beach, and a nice pool with ample lounge chairs around it. And then the reality of what it means to vacation with 3 other people, two of which are children, who all have their own agendas sunk in. The Girl deals with uncertainty by wanting to numb which usually means watching TV or some other screen - those 3 televisions in our suite were heaven sent for her. One of our struggles during the vacation became a battle with her about not just sitting inside and watching Cartoon Network or Disney Channel, but rather enjoying the warm weather we had traveled to. The Boy internalizes his angst, and then blows up when he can't contain it anymore. T and I have our own struggles that add to the powder keg and make a vacation with our family kind of uncertain and ready to blow at just about any moment for any small reason.





 

I think I finally get now that it is my expectations about what I want the vacation to be, and how I want everyone else to act that cause me (and the rest of the family as a result) the most angst. I know that I was somewhat determined to prove T wrong, to show him that our kids are now old enough for a vacation, and that we would all have a great time. If I had been able to let go of what I wanted to happen, and just enjoyed the what is happening perhaps things could have been a little smoother. Or not. I think the reality is that even though there were hungry whiney children (and adults!) who didn't eat exactly at the right meal time, and ate too much junk food, and watched too much tv, and freaked out over trivial things (me most likely) we still had fun. My kids got to go snorkeling for the first time in their lives. We saw a wild tortoise who was very curious about humans and seemed completely unafraid. We saw some beautiful sunsets - and I saw a beautiful sunrise while the rest of the family slept. We got to walk on a beautiful beach, bask in the sun, and swim in the ocean. We learned how to make perfect hotel Belgian waffles in a crowded hotel breakfast bar. We found some pretty shells. We tried to see manatees unsuccessfully, but even that failed venture has become part of our family story.



In the end, both T and I were right. The vacation was a disaster, and our kids are old enough to enjoy a great family vacation. Our summer vacation will likely be in driving distance for us, and I'm sure it will be terrible and fabulous at the same time. I make no promises about letting go of my expectations, but maybe I can snap myself out of them a little bit faster in the future. The best part of taking a lot of pictures while on vacation is that over time you forget all of the whiney parts of a vacation and you look at the pictures and remember the wonder and the fun, and the fabulous. Here is to lowered expectations, and a lifetime of memories. I wouldn't trade the messy, crabby, terrible, and frustrating moments because if I did, we wouldn't have what is real.


2.19.2015

The joy is in the journey

I've posted recently about the spiritual journey I have been on for the past many months. Or maybe I just imagined that I posted about it. Anyway, I have been on a journey, one that has expanded my mind beyond what I knew was possible before. I was meant to find Oprah's Super Soul Sunday shows, and I know I was meant to drink them in and learn all I could from the inspirational guests. Watching those shows has led me to follow interesting thinkers that would never have been in my world before. Some of those guests are deeply religious, and since I am not deeply religious their deep faith has started to make me question my own lack of religion. I saw Rob Bell and his wife Kristen Bell on Super Soul Sunday last weekend, and I thought their message was refreshing. Now I see that he has angered the established Christian community by saying that the church will eventually accept Gay Marriage. I went down a rabbit hole of articles about him, and I guess this is not new hatred for him. It makes me sad though, and somewhat reaffirms my stance on religion in my life.

I have never been religious. I grew up sporadically going to church - a very liberal United Church of Christ community, where honestly I still felt out of place. I went through the confirmation process through the church, and then decided I didn't want to go again, so I didn't. I haven't attended church regularly since I was confirmed. I'm not sure what that says, but it is what it is. Through my childhood I also went to Awana's meetings with some neighbor friends. Awana's and the summer camps we went away to, were probably my only real life encounters with evangelical like communities. I was asked to invite Jesus into my heart, and I did, but only because everyone else seemed to think it was super important and they really wanted me to do it. Looking back at those experiences - and there were others with different youth groups that came into my life through my teen years, it makes me cringe. That was not a path to god for me. It certainly may be the path to god for some people, but it wasn't for me. I have no qualms with people using religion to get closer to god, but I've made peace with the fact that religion is not my avenue to get there.

My journey has led me to a place where I can see god in everything and in everyone. I don't need to go to a church every week, and read scripture to tell me that there is a god. I know in my heart that god doesn't need me to be able to recite scripture, or to live by a certain set of firm rules to love me either. I feel closest to god when I'm in nature, when I look at my kids, and when I feel the love I have for others and that they have for me. Some people might say that I will go to hell because I don't fully abide by a certain religion's rules, but I don't buy that for a minute. It is okay for them to think it though, I don't need to change anyone's mind. I know that the god who created me, and everyone else in the world did not do so out of spite or with a large test looming that I need to pass. I'm enough just as I am, and while I do think there were struggles placed in front of me so that I would finally see what god is - or a glimpse of what god is anyway, there was no test in any of my experiences either. We are all given trials in this life, and we either learn from them or we hide from them. When we learn from the trials, our minds expand, and we do gain a greater clarity of what it means to be human though.

A bad picture of a wall hanging I have


It is great that for many people their paths to god come through religion and scripture, I think that is the whole point. Not all of us will follow that conventional path though. There was never any god in church for me, I only found static words on a page that had very little meaning for me personally. I can look back at my experiences in church with a different view now though. I think that at least in the Christian church where I have some exposure there are lots of great messages in the scriptures. I believe that Jesus was a very enlightened thinker, and he understood that god was in everything. Regardless of whether or not I believe he was the messiah, I do believe he gave the world a gift which was shifting from a view of a vengeful god that we see in the Old Testament to the loving and forgiving god we see in the New Testament. Ultimately scripture cannot give us the only way to find god, but I understand why people want to use it that way. Faith can be scary at times, because really what if we are wrong about all of it? I feel as though many people today want to interpret scriptures literally because they are afraid of what it means for them if they were meant to be fluid. I won't pretend to be a religious scholar, and my goal is not to offend anyone here. It is okay if you read this and you think I'm going to hell, I promise I won't hold it against you.

We are all on a journey in one form or another, and finding god for me has been incredibly joyful. I have no intention of telling others that god can't be found in a church, because I don't think that's true. I just know that church was not the way for me to find god, and maybe it never will be. I don't know what all of the hateful venom about Rob Bell is all about, but I do think that whatever is spewed says a lot more about the person spewing than it does about Rob Bell himself. I am not a follower of his, but from the brief glimpse I've had it appears as though he was a rising Christian star, and then walked away from it and found his own path. Maybe his early followers feel betrayed that he left the comfortable path they know. I do know that I never would have heard of Rob Bell if not for Oprah, and if his message was strictly from quoting scripture I wouldn't be all that interested in what he has to say. He may have deviated from the traditional Christian leadership path, but continuing to recite the same lines from religious texts was never going to get me to suddenly start going to church. I suspect is it the same for many others. Seeing the message that underlies all of the scripture is the ultimate goal isn't it?


2.14.2015

A trip to London

I traveled to London for work this week. I've been to London before, always for work, and this time was no different. However this time around I left home Sunday night and got in decently early Monday morning. I also didn't absolutely need to work until Wednesday morning. This meant that I had a couple of days to adjust and sightsee prior to the real work commitments. After making it to my hotel I found one of my favorite colleagues and forced him to go on a walking tour of London with me. Well I didn't really force him, and what I thought was going to be a quick walk and then lunch turned into 3+ hours of walking.

The Tower of London
Tower Bridge
The Shard
Tower of London from across the Thames
The Tower of London

St. Paul's Cathedral

It was a great tour of parts of London I hadn't seen before. After we made it back to our hotel we caught up with 2 other colleagues who had flown in a little later than I did. We then went on another 2-3 hour walking tour of London. I was unprepared for the length of that journey, and my boots with 3 inch heels started to make my feet long for a pair of running shoes. We walked a third time that day as we looked for a place to eat. I finally changed into some flat boots for that walk though, and my feet thanked me tremendously.

Tuesday was an office day. I caught up on email, and tried to finish a business case that had become urgent over the course of the week. I even had a sad desk lunch in the office - although if you notice the sad desk lunch I often eat when I'm working from home you can see that the London version of a sad desk lunch is a huge improvement over what I come up with myself (I'll let you guess which is which).



Tuesday afternoon my UK based colleague took us to The Savoy for Afternoon Tea. This was a nice surprise, and an experience I'm sure I wouldn't have ever thought to have on my own. We had lots of tea, towers of finger sandwiches and scones, fancy pastries, and cakes. My lesson learned from the experience was that the scones were the best part of the whole tea, and I shouldn't have saved room for the pastries or cakes.


I felt badly at the conclusion of the tea for forcing my colleagues to go back to the London office with me so I could work on my business case more. I managed to get enough done after an hour or so though that I finally gave up on it and we all headed out of the office and back to the hotel. The next couple of days in London revolved around the purpose for my trip - a client forum. The forum was good overall. I think my presentation was well received, and I know I got a lot of great feedback from individual clients over the course of the two days. Then it was time to go home. While this isn't how I would structure a vacation to London, it was nice to fit in a few fun things in between the work.

2.05.2015

3 Good Things

You might have noticed that I've been in a deep thinking mode lately. One of my friends told me that my blog posts were very heavy. While I don't think she meant that in a bad way, it made me think that even in the midst of deep, heavy thinking there is always space for the light and easy.

Every night when our family sits down to dinner we all say 3 good things from our days. I can't remember when we started this ritual, but it has been with us for several years. There are days when the kids are feeling rushed and crabby when they don't want to participate. However, even if it takes reminders about things we knew were good (maybe the school lunch was spaghetti or french toast sticks, or maybe the school lunch was horrible and they brought a lunch from home) we can get them to come up with their respective 3 good things.


When we started this ritual there was the thought of saying the bad things from our days too, but we decided to leave those out. I think we all find space to complain about things pretty naturally and easily, but finding things to be thankful for can take more effort. Saying the things we are thankful for provides us with far greater benefits than complaining ever can. I won't pretend that dinner in our house is always sunshine and roses, or that saying our 3 good things has the power to reverse a bad mood. I do think it matters though, and I'm glad we do it. I hope when my kids are grown and they find themselves having dinner with each other that one of them will say: "so what were your 3 good things today?" I imagine they will both smile and laugh and say their 3 good things, or maybe just quietly remember how annoying their Mom was when she forced them to be thankful every night.