I recently became a Great Aunt. I've been waiting for this day for so long because it seems like forever since we had a baby in the family—seventeen years, to be exact. I'm so excited that I know I'll soon refer to life as it existed before Elijah and life after Elijah was born. It will be that prominent of a life event. I insisted that I help plan her baby shower, and my in-law sister-in-law (yes, I said that right, it's a story for another day) offered to plan it with me. We gathered details about her registry, I found, and we booked the venue and invited family and friends. I ordered the cake and cupcakes and searched for the cutest baby animal decorations since that would also be the baby's room decor theme.
As the days and weeks start to pass, I notice something strange. I call, and I am still waiting for someone to answer. I send a text, and I get a one-word response. I ask her if there's something wrong, and she says no. I apologize anyway because I can tell something is wrong, and regardless of what it is, I know that I did not mean to hurt her feelings, make her mad, or upset her in any way.
Fast forward to the day of the shower, and everything was perfect. I bought several canvases, ironed on the outline of a baby animal on each one, brought paint and brushes, and set them up on easels for guests to create art that my niece could keep for the baby's room. I also made customized aprons with the details of the shower for guests to take as party favors.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that nearly everyone we invited would come, but forty people showed up to celebrate my niece and her soon-to-be baby. The feeling of all that love in one room was magical and unforgettable. The only problem was that I couldn't find my niece, who was 30 minutes late. Relief washed over me when she finally walked in because not only was she ok, but she looked stunning!
I lost my mom and sister, and my niece lost her mom and grandma. We didn't think this was what our lives would look like so early. We are too much alike and yet uniquely different. She is intelligent, bold, honest, and brave; my sister is proud of her. She had to grow up so much faster than anyone else in the family. I'm glad I mean so much to her that she feels safe enough to take things out on me when needed. It means I'm important to her, and that means the world to me.
For some reason, Pinterest and I have a habit of going down a word rabbit hole. I've been reading many quotes lately and want to talk about it. This quote is the one that spoke to me today.
You can't open up the story of my life and just go to page 738 and think you know me. - ft./the idealist
This made me think back to an experience that fundamentally changed me. I found myself in a situation where I had mistakenly let my guard down because I thought it was safe. Then I got sucker punched by my corner coach, and it rang my bell. (sorry for the MMA references, but it paints an appropriate picture).
It's easy to protect yourself from the assholes. You know they are assholes, and you expect them to be assholes. It's much more complicated when the people you thought weren't assholes turn out to be assholes. (how many times can you say assholes in one paragraph?).
I'm exaggerating a little. I don't believe that everyone is an asshole. We all get caught up sometimes in our world and think we know how to relate to other people's situations when we don't. My life is only mine. What I go through, the things I do, the choices I make, they are mine. I assure you that I did the best I could with what I had then, and it's OK if you don't like it. You don't have to like it.
What's not OK is if you insert yourself in the situation by offering your help but then make sure that I pay for it in the long run by jumping at the first opportunity to publicly embarrass me and remind me that I'm not part of your family. Shame on me for thinking you wanted to help when you offered. Lesson learned. From now on, I shouldn't take you at your word.
The whole situation was exhausting, and I hate turmoil so much that at some point, I would've eventually gotten over it and let it go. Still, the unapologetic apology came when you told me that you knew exactly what it was like to be me and that you managed to navigate your situation just fine. That was supposed to make me feel better, but it didn't. You don't know what kind of mom I am, what kind of dad my son has, what kind of relationship my son has with his step-parents. You don't know how hard the last couple of years have been and all the work I've done to maintain some normalcy in our daily lives. I wouldn't expect you to know all of that. I hope you would be open-minded enough not to say hurtful things when you haven't walked a mile in my shoes. Also, say what you mean and mean what you say. I'm too exhausted to keep up with when I can believe what you say and when I can't, so be straightforward. I assure you that I will be straightforward right back. I hope you have the day you deserve.
I make my family dress in matching onesies each year for Christmas as a tradition and after four years they have finally stopped fighting me about doing it! They are such good sports, even the dogs!
Team building party of 1, that's me! Or at least I thought it was me. I'm a great team member, and so are you! This is true because great teams are people with different strengths and weaknesses. If everyone on the team were exactly alike, the odds are that team would epically fail. The most successful teams complement one another, embrace diversity, invest in building relationships, and show enough vulnerability to build trust.
Building a successful team is more than just taking your five best employees, shoving them in a room, and calling it a day. You can put a group of people together, but that doesn't make them a team, and it definitely won't make them a dream team. I'll give you a couple of examples. How can a movie starring Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Julia Roberts fail? Or how does a fortune 500 company run by a brilliant former McKinsey consultant and staffed by graduates of elite business schools dissolve into fraud and bankruptcy? It happened at Enron. You can't build a team of superstars and then think like magic. You'll sit back and watch them conquer the world. That was tried with the 2004 U.S. Olympic basketball team made up entirely of NBA all-stars, and they finished third and lost to Lithuania.
It isn't an exact science, but best practices center around putting people together that complement each other or have personal chemistry. Have any of you seen the movie "Miracle on ice"? Based on the true story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, who was the underdog beating the four-time defending gold medal-winning Soviet team. In the movie, there is a great quote that captures the essence of what it takes to build a dream team, and it's this: "I'm not looking for the best players. I'm looking for the right players."
Building a dream team takes time, and building trust usually takes the most time. Trust is one of the essential elements of team building; it isn't built overnight, but you can get a jump start on it through team-building activities. A quick google search will tell you that there are a million different kinds of team-building activities depending on various factors. For example, a year ago, I joined a new team within my organization. Even though they had already been part of the team for a while, they rarely collaborated and didn't spend much time getting to know each other. My first order of business was to plan a team-building activity. As I met with my new teammates one-on-one, I noticed that they all took the time to call out the great work other team members were producing. Throughout my conversations, I realized that even though they held each other in high regard, they never shared those compliments. So I had my premise for the activity. How could I get my co-workers to tell each other all the positive things they were saying to me?
I created a form where every team member could submit one compliment for each of their co-workers, and once all of them were submitted, we used the compliments to play a trivia game where the team had to match each compliment with the person it was describing. The activity was such a success that other groups started hearing about it and implemented their version of it for themselves. After the exercise ended, I consolidated all the compliments by person and emailed them a copy to remind them of their incredible impact on one another.
How many of you have had a moment where someone said something or did something that you feel fundamentally had a positive impact on your life? How many of you have told them about it? We celebrate birthdays where all you have to do is not die for 365 days, and you get a cake, presents, and a card, but we let people walk around without knowing the incredible impact they've had on us. Take the time, go back and make sure those people know about it. It's one of the greatest gifts you can give.
1 in a million series - Post 20
In the past, I was terrible at saying "no." I grew up with the mindset that if someone asks you to do something you can do, you do it. A couple of years ago, my dear friend Rachel taught me a new mindset that went something like, "if you can't do it with joy in your heart, you shouldn't do it at all." I adopted this philosophy in most aspects of my life, except for at work. Even to this day, I struggle when it comes to saying no.
So let's talk about what happens when you say "yes" and commit to more than you can juggle.
There is so much mistrust right now in the world. Whether it is misinformation on social media, mainstream media pushing their agenda, word of mouth from friends or acquaintances, it is hard to know what to believe and what to support. Ultimately, it has a significant impact on our decisions.
I think we are all made up of our individual life experiences. That gives us each a unique set of common sense. It's also the reason for disagreements, differences of opinion, and misunderstanding. I am guilty of holding onto my beliefs or opinions without thinking them through or questioning myself why I believed or thought them in the first place.
We know that there is a lot of wrong information that keeps getting shared on social media or in conversations. Don't fall victim to it! There's a game that I played, and it taught me how to spot fake news. If you want to give it a try, visit https://www.goviralgame.com/
Well. I got the vaccine because I'm too old to have another child. And I like the odds of a nano-chip in me now with direct access to my own special secret government buddy. It gets lonely from time to time. It would be nice to know that someone is listening, but if my DNA changes, I hope it happens the same way it did on Jurassic Park, and I end up a Velociraptor.
All jokes aside, I did get vaccinated as soon as I was able. I weighed the pros and cons, pulled public data from the VAERS website, and used good ole Excel to build me some nice pivot tables, and I talked to my doctor. I'm no scientist, but I did my very best to gain enough knowledge to make an informed decision. I get that it is scary. These are scary times.
I have lost too many people close to me, and I don't want to lose anyone else. I don't think I could live with myself if I gave someone COVID and they ended up dying. I received all my vaccines as a child, and I somewhat credit that to the fact that I live in a first-world country where freedom and privilege give me the right to get a vaccine in the first place. When it came down to it, the risk/reward ratio made it an easy choice.
I don't write this to change anyone's mind or guilt or shame anyone. I am simply sharing my point of view, and maybe I will make a few people laugh at my ridiculousness with the way I started this post. Either way, thanks for being here. I hope you come back again tomorrow.
P.S. If anyone wants to see my Excel data charts, send me your email address, and I'm happy to share.
Throughout history miscommunication has led to some terrifying consequences. It’s caused planes to crash, ships to sink, and on more than one occasion, it put us on the brink of war. There’s no telling how many divorces its responsible for but it sure played a part in my divorce. I never thought I would get married again but turns out I was wrong, a few years ago Andrew and I tied the knot and we are killing it! You know that one question that every couple gets asked at least a dozen times, the awe where did you two meet? Most of my husbands generation would be too embarrassed to admit they met online so they say they met at a bar, and they would consider that the safer choice. Well, my husband Andrew and I met at a karaoke bar but that doesn’t make for a great story, so instead, we tell people we met at farmersonly.com. a reasonable option for my generation. It is ironic though because neither of us can keep an artificial plant alive, much less farm.
Now that I’ve let you in on the little secret that we are high class karaoke farmers you may be wondering what that has to do with communication so let me tell you. Farming goes hand in hand with country music. Stay with me now. The entire first year that Andrew and I were together we listened to country music in the car. Not because either of us liked country music but when I would say “babe, you can change the station he replied, nah, this is alright.” Until one day, I reached my breaking point and using my best mom voice announced “I can’t take it, we are changing the station” Andrew looked at me and said, “it's about time” It was at that moment, his life began to flash before my eyes. Some might consider this bad communication.
Now, we’ve all had good conversations. We know what that feels like. When you walk away feeling engaged and understood. That wasn’t Andrew and I, for us, it was an uphill battle.
Early in our relationship I found this article titled "The 36 questions to fall in love”. It claimed to accelerate the kind of personal closeness that usually takes much longer to create. I was optimistic until we got to question number 11, which read: Take 4 minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible. Andrew went first. When the 4 minutes were up, I was so interested in what he said that I suggested he continue. 2 hours later, he was still talking, and I was trying to figure out a polite way to exit the conversation and his living room. I wasn't sure if he was ever going to wrap it up. I kept wondering, how many lives has this man lived? Is he a cat? Let’s face it, no one cares about the date or what day of the week something happened on or what song was playing on the radio or what color shirt you were wearing. It’s conversationally exhausting and boring. Moral of the story, be brief.
For a while I thought Andrew set out to be my future ex-husband.
If I summed up every fight we’ve ever had, it would read "failure to communicate". Our happily ever after didn’t begin until we learned how to have better conversations. Let me just say that when it comes to learning to communicate effectively, not all advice is good advice. For example, mirroring where you repeat back what you heard the other person say, or maybe you’ve heard that you should nod your head and say uh huh to show you are engaged. You can go ahead and just forget all that, because its crap. There is no reason to learn how to show you are paying attention if you are in fact paying attention.
After we got married, you would think that our communication would naturally improve, but we still had our struggles. Some people think it's so cute when newlyweds finish each other's sentences, but I assure you that my husband didn't think it was cute. I tried to finish his sentences ALL THE TIME, and he had the nerve to think I was just interrupting him. Hypothetically speaking, If I were interrupting him, it would only be because I had a better ending to his sentence and simply wanted the best for him.
Once I stopped interrupting and started listening, the most amazing thing happened. I figured out that he is a really interesting guy!
I'll admit, I married up, way out of my league. Communication hasn't always been our strong suit, but we learned to make up for it in other ways. For example, we have mastered the bedroom. At the end of the day, when we find ourselves lying in bed and the mood is just right, that's when the magic happens. The laughing, that is. We spend so much time in bed, laughing.
Before Andrew came along, I was like the Michael Jordan of relationships, just when he played baseball, not basketball. Relationships are hard work. We can all strive to reach the professional level but let's face it. There is only one Michael Jordan. He is arguably the best basketball player of all time, but he didn't win games by himself. It takes a team to win. There's no "I" in team, but there are two "I's" in communication.
Make it a partnership. Remember to be brief, and listen without interrupting and most importantly, remember that laughter is really good medicine. Doing those three things might not keep a plane in the sky, or keep a ship afloat, or even prevent a war but you might stay married and for what its worth, you’ll definitely have better conversations.
I joined Toastmasters in December of 2020 and I've learned so much from the experience. I'm part of a Tulsa club, its called Torchlighters Toastmasters. We are always accepting new members and guests are always welcome with no strings attached. If you have ever thought about ways to improve your executive presence or improving your public speaking skills, we would love to have you as our guest at a Monday meeting.
The meetings are at 12 pm. We meet virtually on Zoom. Check out our website or our Facebook page for more information.
Or visit Toastmasters International.
This is a continuation of yesterday's post.
Quitting cheer was hands down the best decision I ever made. It was like I was a whole new person. I didn't dread going to school anymore. Instead, I spent my time on things I liked doing. If I regret anything at all, it was not quitting sooner! That single decision planted the seed that grew into such an important life lesson.
The lesson: Don't say yes to something unless you plan on doing it with joy in your heart.
I'm guilty of saying yes to things in the past and then punishing the people around me for "making" me do it. That type of behavior is toxic and won't get you what you want. Each of us gets one chance at life, and you only have so much energy in every day, so make wise choices when it comes to what you spend it on.
Interesting side note, when my son Chandler started school, I learned that the same girl that was so mean to me in high school had a son Chan's age, and they would be playing sports together. That didn't last long, though, because we moved to a new school district. Funny how life works, isn't it?
I've found that we start learning some lessons early in life. My sister made sure that I started tap, jazz, and ballet when I was young. She decided that I would follow in her footsteps and be a cheerleader. I didn't care much about cheer, but I liked my big sister's attention, so I jumped on board. In fourth grade tryouts, my sister learned the routines and made me practice until I had them down. She was so proud when I made the squad. Fifth grade went a little differently. I hadn't enjoyed cheerleading much the year before and didn't put much effort into it, and I didn't make the team. That led to my first experience with how terrible and cruel kids can be. I got made fun of relentlessly because I wasn't good enough to be a middle school cheerleader. That shame carried me through cheer tryouts and making the team every year into my high school years. I didn't do it because I loved it but because I didn't ever want to experience the rejection from fifth grade ever again.
I thought middle schoolers were terrible until I got to high school. Around my sophomore year, I started caring more about academics and my grades and less about my sports. When my junior year rolled around, so did hell because there were a couple of freshman cheerleaders who made it their mission to do everything in their power to make me cry. The fact that I wasn't quick to give in made them come at me even harder. I think the worst rumor they ever started about me was that I liked girls. Thinking about this now, I feel silly that I ever let it bother me so many years later. But back then, in the year 1999, it was mean and hateful, and I wanted to crawl in a hole and die.
By the time I was debating whether or not to try out my senior year, I was taking multiple advanced placement classes and still playing volleyball. I did not want to continue cheerleading, but I was too scared to regret my decision, so I tried out and made the team. The school had a rule that you couldn't quit a sport that was also a class, so I got stuck, and I wouldn't say I liked it. I made it through football season, but I dreaded honoring my basketball and wrestling season commitment. And then a miracle happened. See, the only thing the school cared about more than making students honor their commitments was how many students they had enrolled in advanced placement classes. It just so happened that my favorite teacher, Mr. Bein, was teaching AP U.S. History only during the same hour as cheerleading. The principal approved my transfer into his class, and I said goodbye to cheer for good.
To be continued..
Any girl can be a princess. She just needs to find a country to run. I am a lazy overachiever and a procrastinating perfectionist. My favorite word in the English language is facetious because it is the only one that has all five vowels in the correct order. I don't like unnecessary icons on my desktop. Adulting sucks sometimes, and nothing prepares you for how hard it is to be a parent. No one tells you that the moment your baby arrives, so does the worry and that you will never stop worrying about him. I like being the boss of myself and others too. I don't enjoy long walks on the beach or anywhere for that matter. I am a "go big or go home" kind of girl, and I am going home 99% of the time. But on the off chance I decide to go big, it will be with fierce passion. I have an equal number of opinions as I do ideas, and my will is strong. My do-it-yourself game is on point. I make things, like crafts. Random shuffle is a setting in my brain, not a line dance. It provides the soundtrack to my life. Thank goodness my chair spins. Otherwise, I would be so bored, and you would too, seeing as you wouldn't have this blog to read. These are the types of things you can expect to get from me because filters are overrated, and I think I am funny.
This is the continuation of my last blog post...
We moved to Verdigris in March of 2020, but I didn't want chandler to have to move schools in the middle of the year, so he finished 8th grade at Catoosa. We didn't exactly pick Verdigris by ourselves. We had some help. My best friend Chrissy and I had an apartment together years ago, and then I bought a house in Catoosa and Chrissy bought the house one door down. Chrissy moved to Verdigris first and proceeded to send me the listing each time a new home went up for sale in her neighborhood. So when we decided to look close to her, we found the perfect place. The only problem was the buyer had already accepted an offer for it. On the advice of our brilliant realtor, Jessica (also Chrissy's sister-in-law, which means she is my sister-in-law), we put in an offer anyway. We lucked out and got the house because the other offer was contingent on them selling their house first, and we didn't have that problem.
It felt like a fresh start in the most incredible neighborhood. There are two ponds, a playground, duck crossing signs (where the ducks actually cross the street), tons of kids Chandler's age, and a walking path that leads directly to the school (which is also in the neighborhood). I didn't account for how hard it is to be a teenager with a helicopter mom. I pushed Chandler hard to make good grades and do his chores, and since he went to his dad's every weekend, that didn't leave much time for us to have fun. Looking back now, I know I missed signs that Chandler was stressed, and add that to the changes a 15-year-old goes through and the social elements of high school, things got rough. I didn't help. I was relentless and stayed on his case about school.
I also think that Chan felt like he was missing out on things at his dad's house. I don't know that for sure, but if it were me and I only saw my little brother on the weekends, that would be hard. Not to mention his dad has a farm going on with cows and chickens and the cutest pigs ever! Chan's stepmom is fantastic, and his gran lives right next door. Hell, I think I might want to move in with them too!
It didn't come as a shock when Chan came to me and said he wanted to go to school where his dad lives. I don't know what gave me a clue. I only know that I somewhat expected it. I am proud of my son for having the courage to sit down and talk with me about it. It couldn't have been easy to tell me.
At first, I was bound and determined to keep him with me. I looked back over our divorce paperwork and the custody agreement and went as far as talking with a lawyer. I changed my mind, though, once I had enough time to process things. For one, he is old enough to tell the court which parent he wants to live with, and the judge would strongly consider that in his decision. Chandler is turning 16 in less than a month. He is craving some independence. His whole life, people have been telling him where he was going and how long he would be there. If I were to fight it, that would be because I made it about me, not what was best for Chandler. Either way, he would be in a safe and healthy environment. As hard as it was, I decided to support him in his decision.
After that, I started focusing on the silver linings, like how exciting it would be to be the fun parent finally. That maybe his dad would have better luck getting him to finish and turn in his homework. I'm at peace with the situation but don't think for a second that it doesn't break my heart to the point that I cry thinking about it. It is brutal not having him here every week with me. It's also been the biggest blessing because I was forced to step back and see my baby for the man he is becoming. He is just incredible. I miss out on some of the day-to-day, but I have a better relationship with him now than I think I ever have.
Life is hard, kids are complex, but both are absolutely worth every minute of it! If you made it this far, thanks for listening. I hope that anyone who has gone through something like this or is going through it now knows that they aren't alone. We are all doing the best we can and making the most of it.
My dad still lives in the same house where I was born and raised. I attended Catoosa Public Schools for all 13 years. The one thing that I was sure of when I found out that I was pregnant with Chandler was that he would also go to Catoosa. My roots run deep within our small community. My mom retired from the school system after over 30 years of service, and my sister taught 3rd grade at JW Sam Elementary. So there was no question in my mind where Chandler would attend school.
My sister hand-picked Chandler's teachers through 3rd grade, and while we did struggle through those years, it wasn't more than what I expected it to be. My sister passed away unexpectedly in Chandler's 3rd-grade year. He happened to be in the class right across the hall from where her room was. Let me tell you. It was hell on us the rest of the year to have to walk by there. I didn't have to do it nearly as much as Chandler did, and I can't possibly try to put myself in his shoes, but I would have traded places with him if I could.
We sought out counseling. I tried to stay as engaged as I could with Chan's teachers and classes. 4th grade is a bit of a blur for me. I don't remember it being terrible, but there were so many other horrible things we were going through at the time that maybe it was awful, but all things relative, it didn't make the priority list.
For me, 5th grade was the pivot point. That was when everything started progressing in the wrong direction, and I no longer felt I had any control or ability to course correct. I started getting conflicting messages from the school and Chan's teachers. One day, they would tell me he needed to be on an IEP because his impulse control and ADHD were limiting him and would have negative consequences on him in the future without one. The next day, I would get a note that said they would like to recommend him for advanced classes. A week or two later, I would get a progress report that said he was failing a subject.
Chandler was getting in trouble more often, being sent to the office to finish his schoolwork because he was disruptive in class. I would visit the school, walk down to his classroom, and find him alone at a desk in the hallway left to fend for himself while listening to his teacher interact with the rest of the class on the other side of the closed classroom door.
I reached my breaking point around the end of Chandler's 5th-grade year, so my goal was to get through the end of the year. Just make it to the summer reevaluate, and before the start of 6th grade, have a new plan in place. At the time, I thought 6th grade was rock bottom. It turns out I was wrong. I did the unthinkable by taking Chan out of Catoosa for 7th grade and enrolled him in Epic Charter School. For him, the school year was alright. His test scores improved, he didn't hate school, and I wasn't getting phone calls every day anymore. For me, it was one of the most challenging times of life as a parent. I had to learn to be both his mom and his teacher. We survived, but just barely. I knew I couldn't do it again for a couple of reasons. First, it was negatively impacting my relationship with my son. Second, he was missing out on building relationships with classmates and other kids his age.
8th grade Chan went back to Catoosa. I had hope because my favorite teacher in high school, my mentor and friend, would be Chan's new principal. I want to clarify that Mr. Bein is nothing short of a Saint in my mind. He was the best partner, advocate, advisor, enforcer, and administrator. Chandler was not motivated to do his work and when he did it, turning it in was the struggle. 8th grade was a good year, but I wanted more for my baby. I wanted him to flourish. So Andrew (for those of you who don't know, Andrew is my husband) and I moved to Verdigris.
To be continued...
1 in a million - Post 9
Sometimes it is easy to focus on our struggles even though there are many incredible things to celebrate. Two nights ago, I woke up in a panic. I was in the middle of a dream where my best friend was sitting on the floor crying, and I woke up just before I got to ask her what was wrong. I patiently waited until an acceptable time to text her to make sure things were alright. For the last two days, I've randomly found myself just sitting and thinking how lucky I am to have her in my life. She is my "ride or die" (until about 9 pm). She's seen me at my absolute worst, yet we are still friends going on 18 or so years. We have laughed and cried our way through life experiences, even sacrificed a good purse once or twice. We usually know what the other is thinking and can finish each other's sentences. We don't agree on everything, but we love each other beyond any disagreement. We have so many inside jokes. It's hard to remember where some of them originated. We know each other so well that we've never lost a game of Catch Phrase against our husbands.
A friendship like ours is hard to come by, more like once in a lifetime. No matter how alone or misunderstood I feel, I know if I call her, she will speak my language when she answers the phone. She has made comments that her children might replace her as my best friend in the last year, and I would like to mention that she did get a battery-operated monster truck for my son when he was three and told him that if I told him no, he should drive over to her house (which was two houses down).
In all seriousness, she is not replaceable. I wish that everyone had a best friend like mine. She makes life a little brighter, a little more vibrant, and a lot more fun. Thank you, Chrissy, for just being you. I love you like frogs like peanut butter.
Post 8 - 1 in a million
I love my one and only child more than life itself. He is handsome and intelligent, and funny. He's thoughtful and sweet, and his moral compass points in the right direction. After 15 years of spending most weeks with me and weekends with his dad, he came to me on the last day of school last year and said he wanted to go to school where his dad lives. Talk about the physical manifestation of a person's heartbreaking. My amazing little boy standing in front of me told me he only wanted to spend every other weekend with me. What do you say to that?
My first reaction was simply "No," but I'm so glad that I didn't say it out loud. At the time, I wanted to take hold of my baby and never let go. I tried to maintain my composure. No one ever told me how hard it would be when becoming a parent. That once they are born, you no longer have control over this image of perfection that you helped create and that you will never again live a single day without worrying about them. Chandler showed me who I am. He brings out the best in me. He's taught me how easy it is to transition to mama bear when you sense your cub is in trouble. He has also taught me that our children are not us. They are just enough like us to butt heads, rebel, push our buttons, and stress us out.
I look at Chandler and think that even if I never do anything right again in my life, I did something right because he is incredible. The struggle in this situation wasn't Chandler. It was me. It is so easy to internalize something when it may or may not be about you. Sure, I'm hard on Chan because I love him, but I also have a once-in-a-lifetime relationship with him. I value the fact that he is growing up, and he wants to make his own decisions, and as long as those decisions still mean that he is safe and happy and healthy, I think I have to find a way to let him own it.
Unfortunately, they don't give you a "raising kids for dummies" book when you leave the hospital with your newborn, so we are just winging it over here, doing the best we can. On many occasions, I jokingly say that I'm not "mom of the year" material. Other people say it about me in not such a joking manner, and that's ok too. I'm not seeking anyone's approval. I know that I do the best I can. I know that my son knows how much I love him. I know that no matter what happens, no one will ever take my place because I am his mom.
I'll tell you what I do struggle with, though. I'm tired of losing the people that are closest to me. It used to seem like my family was so big. There were just so many of us. It doesn't feel that way anymore. I wish Chandler had the chance to know my mom the way that I did. I wish my brother were still here to teach him how to drive, just like he taught me. I hate that my sister doesn't get to watch him grow up. I hate that his memories of her will continue to fade because he can't make new ones with her. Sadly, he won't experience family reunions at the lake like I did growing up because I no longer feel like we belong there.
There are no bad days, only challenging moments. This too shall pass, and the sun will be beautiful again. Sometimes I think we have to slow down and take life one moment at a time. Every struggle looks a little easier after a good night's rest. I'm banking on that today.
I started volunteering almost six years ago. At first, it was a purely selfish mission. I was looking for ways to grow my leadership skills, and serving on a nonprofit board seemed like an excellent way to do it. My first role was on the programming committee for WICT (Women in Cable Telecommunications), which turned into a position on the board of directors. That first experience was all it took, and I never looked back. The lessons I learned are some of the most important of my professional life. I haven't always been the most approachable person. I tend to come off strong. The board taught me how to soften my delivery and actively listen and acknowledge others' ideas and thoughts. The feedback I received the first couple of years was harsh, to put it nicely but looking back now. I'm grateful for the honesty and courage that it took to provide me with that feedback.
I had such a positive experience on that first board that I joined the board of Oklahoma Women in Technology, PMI Tulsa, and I joined the advisory council of the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance. The people I met and the connections I made fundamentally changed my career trajectory. I reached my term limit on each board and handed things off to my successors except for WICT. I'm finishing up my final year with Women in Cable Telecommunications, and it is bitter-sweet. I got more out of that relationship than I'll ever be able to return, but I decided that it was time to move on. There is only so much time in a day, and I can't take on new initiatives without handing off the old ones.
Volunteering is an important endeavor. If you are looking for a way to give back or get involved in a mission you are passionate about, please take my advice and do it. You will get more out of it than you give, and you won't regret your commitment.
Over the last year, I learned a valuable lesson that explained why the best idea doesn't always win. I used to think it was office politics, or I just wasn't as bright as I thought. Those might be part of the problem, but more often than not, I've found that the problem is bad storytelling.
I spent more time than I care to admit banging my head against the wall trying to understand why my boss, co-worker, or friend wasn't motivated to try the ideas I proposed. I found myself saying the same words repeatedly, thinking that if I said it the right way, they would be on board without hesitation. I served as a textbook example of someone going insane, doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome. After self-reflection and accepting that I can only control myself, a few insights started to surface.
I realized that by the time I talked to someone else about an idea, I had already invested hours, days, sometimes weeks in it, but the person I was telling was hearing it for the first time. Also that I pitched ideas based on what I thought was important, not how they would benefit from it. A few times, I even caught myself getting so excited that my thoughts were coming out scattered, hard to follow, and insignificant. It's no wonder my ideas were dying on the vine.
So what needed to change? Me! I needed to change my approach. The first thing I did was join Toastmasters. My goal was to learn better techniques for structuring and delivering a message. The second thing I did was practice pitching in front of the mirror and even video recording myself and then watching it back to see how I would come across to others. It's interesting the things you do that will annoy you about yourself. For me, it's rolling my eyes. I do it ALL THE TIME without realizing I'm doing it. I also talk with my hands way too much, to the point that it becomes distracting.
It is embarrassing to watch yourself back on video, and public speaking is scary, but doing these things has worked for me. More and more of my ideas get implemented, I'm building trust and gaining influence. I'm not planning to run for office or lead a campaign, so you might wonder whether or not public speaking or storytelling are essential skills to master. My answer is yes, they are. We are built for community, wired for connection, and thrive off our relationships with others. Learning to tell a good story will only enhance those experiences.