I've been working on writing my elevator pitch, thought I would share my progress and ask for feedback! Let me know what you think in the comments!
In today's world, where we are meeting and connecting online more than ever, a fast and reliable internet connection is crucial. I am an engineering program manager for Cox Communications, and I'm responsible for deploying network equipment that increases speeds, secures connections, and improves availability. Each year, Cox invests millions of dollars into creating the network of the future, and I'm accountable for making sure that plan is executed on time and within budget. I do this by breaking down barriers, mitigating risks, connecting boundary partners to resources, engaging the right people at the right time to complete their piece of the puzzle—all while keeping stakeholders up to date on work progress and financial performance.
At work, our Engineering Inclusion, Diversity, & Equity Advisory Council asked me to assist with a coffee talk on Autism Spectrum Disorder. I learned so much that I thought I would share it with you!
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn differently. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.
A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.
The autism spectrum is estimated to affect about 62.2 million globally as of 2015
Causes are unknown - the research suggests that genes can act together with influences from the environment to affect a child's development in a way that brings about ASD.
People with ASD often have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with ASD also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things.
By the numbers:
BY THE NUMBERS (Source: National Today)
1 in 59 – the number of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in 2018.
1 in 34 – the number of boys diagnosed with ASD in 2016, according to data collected by the CDC.
1 in 145 – the number of girls diagnosed with ASD in 2016, according to data collected by the CDC.
4 – the age after which most children are diagnosed with ASD.
31% – the percentage of children with an intellectual disability due to ASD.
2-18% – the percentage of chances of parents having a second child with ASD after the first one.
36-95% – the percentage of chances that if one child has autism in a pair of twins, the other will be affected as well.
½ – of the total number of children with autism typically wander or 'bolt' from a safe setting if something catches their interest.
28% – the percentage of children with ASD who have self-harm behavior.
⅔ – of the total number of children with autism face severe bullying.
Common signs that could hint at ASD:
Specialists who can do a more in-depth evaluation and make a diagnosis include:
Have you ever heard the term "you just have to get out of your head" or "you're just overthinking it"? I have listened to those lines more times than I would like to admit, but I never knew what to do about it or how to resolve it.
The first time I fully understood your mental state's power was when I read a book called "The Inner Game of Tennis." Now, if you are thinking, "I don't play tennis, this isn't for me," I challenge you to consider that we are all athletes preparing for something, whether it's a sporting competition or a presentation, meeting, or work assignment.
The book's main idea is that there is a self-one and a self-two within each one of us. Self one is the voice inside your head that works hard to tell you what you should have, could have, didn't do. Self-two is the one who executes the doing. The goal is to quiet self-one so that self-two can do its job. Have you ever heard, "I know what I need to do; I just can't seem to do it"?
I started playing pool (billiards) when I was 20 years old. At first, it began as something fun to do that kept my mind off of the nasty breakup I had just experienced. Ten years later, I played in WPBA tournaments and ranked in the world's top 50 women billiard players. Back then, I didn't spend much time thinking about the matches I lost or even that I might fail.
Fast forward to a time in my life where the ground I stood on felt shaky. I wasn't comfortable or confident in anything I did. My family dynamics had shifted, my role in it changed, and work wasn't going well. I was fired for the first time in my life and looking for a new job. I was thinking about failing. As you can probably imagine, my confidence was at an all-time low. It was then that I realized that my mental state determined more outcomes than energy and effort.
These are not novel theories. My guess is you've heard at least some of this before. That's why I want to focus on what you can do about it, and the first thing you have to do is find a way to quiet self-one. You hear yourself talk more than you hear anyone else. What you say matters, so stop talking down to yourself. Another way to think about it is, would you want your thoughts broadcasted to the entire world? Especially during troubling times? I think we can all agree, that would be bad.
A great example of quieting self-one is in the movie "For Love of the Game." Kevin Costner is a pitcher, and just before he pitches, he verbally says, "Clear the Mechanism," and the crowd and noise fade away, and all he sees is the catcher's glove. That is the first step to quieting self-one. The next step is to act the part. Your facial expressions and mannerisms need to represent the athlete you want to be. This is probably where the saying "fake it til you make it" comes. Next, you have to make sure that your skills match the challenge. If you are underskilled at the task at hand, anxiety might get the best of you. If you are over-skilled, you'll be bored. Finally, it would be best if you did not fight your bad habits. Handle success and failure the same way. Don't get upset with yourself when you make a mistake. Create a judgment-free zone. No energy or emotion goes into the error. Treat it like anything else. The only way to deal with bad habits is to create good ones to replace them.
Now once you've mastered quieting self-one, acting the part, aligning skills to challenges, and stop judging your bad habits, there's just one last thing to consider. Why are you doing what you are doing? You better have a good answer for this. Otherwise, it might be time to reevaluate what you spend time doing.
A couple of years ago, I lost my passion for playing pool. I continued to compete in tournaments, but I was losing matches that I knew I should win. For me, it came down to my why. When I got up the nerve to think about why I was still playing, it was clear that I played because I thought I should play. All the years I spent practicing and traveling to play would go to waste if I stopped playing. At least that's what I told myself. Ultimately though, my heart wasn't in it, and as hard as it was, I had to quit. I thought that was the only solution. It wasn't until a year later that I reread "The Inner Game of Tennis" and realized that I hadn't considered every aspect of my choices.
I challenge you to think about the last time you were worried about something. I bet that the thing you were worried about was something either in the future or in the past. We can't control the future or the past. We can only control the present. Finding a way to focus on the present means you can stop wasting time on things you can't control and focus on the things you can control. To take it one step further, set goals based on the process, not the outcome. I mean that practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect, and we can control how we practice. Set your effort on the aim, not the results. That is what determines whether we succeed or fail. That is also what brought me back to pool. I found a way to quiet self-one and focus on the task at hand, the thing I can control. In September, I played in the BCA Nationals tournament in Las Vegas, and I finished 17th in the Ladies Platinum singles, and my ladies team finished 5th! Not too bad if I do say so myself!
Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt helpless? In 2012 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I felt helpless. The person who brought me into this world, kept me alive, and helped shape me into the person I've become was sick, and there wasn't anything I could do about it. Since my son was only seven at the time and he went to bed early. My nights became lonely, and I didn't have many people to talk to, so I started a blog to have a place to capture my thoughts and express myself.
Fast forward to now, and what started as nothing more than an online diary has evolved into a time capsule of the last nine years of my life. These days I have a couple of websites, and I use WordPress for them, but back in 2012, I went with Weebly to build my website, purchase my domain and hosting and start my blog. It provides an easy-to-use platform of drag and drop elements that allowed me to get the blog online quickly.
If you or someone you know wants to start a blog, here are my top 3 tips.
I lost my mom in 2016 unexpectedly, but it wasn't to cancer. My blog helped me through some challenging life experiences, and now anytime I feel nostalgic, I can take a scroll (not stroll) down memory lane. I'll leave you with this, write a book about your life. If not a book, write a blog. If not a blog, a journal. The point is that writing is therapeutic and a great gift to leave your kids or grandkids.
How many of you have that one friend who talks excessively with their hands? For me, it was my mother. For example, when I was a teenager, we were a few days away from leaving for a trip when my mom managed to shut the car door with her hand still in it, resulting in her having a broken middle finger that required a splint. A few days later, we arrived at the airport, and I sat with our things while my mom and grandma went to the restroom. A few minutes went by, and suddenly, I heard a few people around me chuckling. I looked up to see what the laughter was all about. As my mom and grandma made their way back to me, I realized my mom must have been telling a great story because her hands were talking away, and because of the splint on her middle finger, it looked like she was flipping everyone off as she passed by them.
Much like my mother, I, too, talk with my hands. Imagine that you are a hand talker, but it doesn't end there because you are also really good at communicating everything you're thinking with your face. Not only would that probably make you a lousy poker player, but when delivering a speech, it might also overwhelm your audience. There is such thing as too much body language. Finding the right balance is a delicate endeavor.
Virtual meetings add another dimension to using body language to communicate effectively. Your desk becomes your stage, and your audience resembles the game show Hollywood Squares or the intro to The Brady Bunch tv show. We can all agree that meeting online presents new challenges that weren't an issue when meeting in person. There is one thing that didn't change, the importance of using effective body language. Let's start with posture. Sitting up straight will impact your level of confidence. How you carry yourself matters. I recently got a brand new chair for my desk in my home office, and until now, I hadn't realized how important it is to have a comfortable chair that is easy to sit in with good posture.
Since preparing for my first Toastmasters speech, I have recorded myself while watching it back and looking for improvement areas. One of the first things I noticed was that I unintentionally roll my eyes quite often. I also overuse my hand gestures, and I sway back and forth while not making eye contact with the camera. Boy, that was a lot to unpack! I subscribe to the philosophy that knowing is half the battle. If you know you do something, you can consciously decide whether or not you want to continue doing it.
How many of you have watched a news broadcast where the anchor's facial expressions or camera positioning didn't match the content they were delivering? Those are great examples of ineffective use of body language. It is important to use body language effectively so that the message you are sending is the message your audience is receiving. You've heard the phrase, "perception is reality," and body language plays a significant role in whether you are perceived the way you intended or not.
Now that we've got that covered, you might be wondering how you can improve your use of body language. If you have a habit of moving your hands too much, you risk distracting your audience. If you grip something tight, it might come across as discomfort. I recently gave a speech, and I didn't notice until I watched it back that I held my hands gripped in front of me nearly the entire time. I know that my audience would have been distracted because even I was distracted. So I printed out the speech and made notes exactly where I thought hand gestures would be most effective and then practiced it that way. If facial expressions are a concern for you, something you can do is practice them in the mirror.
I haven't mastered the eye-rolling issue yet, so I would love to hear if anyone has ideas. The common theme is knowing the area you can improve in, deciding your approach to implementing said improvements, and practice, practice, practice.
I'm starting a new blog series tomorrow, and I hope you will tune in for it. The inspiration comes from a friend who is having a complex 10-12 hour surgery tomorrow. It isn't my story to tell, so I won't tell it. I will say she is facing a 4-6 week recovery, and I plan to publish a new post for each of those days. The title of this blog series is "1 in a Million" or, as I like to say, "M1LLION" - see what I did there? I put the "1" inside the word "million" because I'm very clever. What my friend is up against only affects 1 in a million people, thus the title of the series.
This friend and I don't have a close relationship, although I hope that changes in the future because I genuinely enjoy every minute I spend chatting with her.
I've had this blog since 2012 when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I needed someone to talk to, so I turned to the internet as my little online diary. It served me well then, and I hope that it will serve as a source of entertainment to my dear friend for the next month or so while on her road to recovery.
"Why a blog series?" you might ask and well..
Before my brother passed away, I made a blog post about an argument we had, and he was gone before I could make amends. I let that keep me from posting for a long time. And then this friend of mine came up to me out of the blue and told me how much she enjoyed reading my blog. She thought I was a talented writer (no one had ever called me a writer before). Honestly, I didn't think anyone read this thing, but I was wrong. At least one person is reading it. I can't think of a better way to honor and hopefully support her (in my unique way)!
I hope you will tune in. Feel free to leave a comment, a few words of encouragement for my friend, advice on life or love or taxes.
And come back tomorrow.
With a show of hands, how many of you have heard of the TV show "Survivor"? Ok great. Then, as you know, the contestants are eliminated from the game as their fellow contestants vote them off until one winner remains. I have never been a contestant on "Survivor," but I have some experience getting voted off the island.
For me to explain, we have to go back, way back, to the early days of my career. Back when I landed my first real adult job. I was 18 years old and the only girl on a team of 18. My opinions weren't welcome, and my ideas usually weren't great until someone else had them. I'll admit, I was naive, but I was still scrappy, even back then. I quickly learned that the only way to earn my peer's respect was not to back down, and it was better to be respected than to be liked. So I figured out how to stand up for myself and find a way to gain enough knowledge to form an opinion and then share it. It didn't matter if I was right or if I had the best idea. Acceptance came from participation, so I learned to participate.
Those early days of my professional life helped shape what has become my communication style. I am a direct communicator of the four styles, Direct, Analytical, Initiating, and Supportive. What does that mean? For me, it means I am decisive, competitive, & independent. I am focused, ambitious, and like getting results; I prefer a busy but efficient structured environment. I am strong-willed, and on occasion, I give the impression that I am demanding. When I'm bored, I can be seen as impatient. I am usually in a hurry, so I need you to get to the point to get things done.
In my current role, I'm notorious for speaking my mind and sharing my thoughts and opinions. I'm only able to do this, though, because I feel a sense of safety. Someone once told me that organizations don't fail because no one knew they were failing; they fail due to one of three reasons. People were not feeling empowered enough to say something; they were too afraid of the consequences or just didn't care enough. It's never because no one knew. I am fortunate that my leaders empower me to say what I'm thinking, and no matter what, there won't be negative consequences for doing so. I also feel like if I care about my job, which I do, and if I care about my organization and the overall company, I don't have a choice but to share what I'm thinking.
Being a direct communicator has not always worked to my benefit. Remember the TV show "Survivor"? Well, being too direct will sometimes get you voted off the island! The last time it happened to me was when I joined the board of directors for WICT Heartland. I jumped in head first, sharing my ideas and critiques without first getting a feel for the other board members before I understood how everything worked. Their perception of me was that I was judgemental. I failed to hear anyone else out, which left some of them frustrated and feeling defeated. Once I realized the mistakes, I made it was too late. They already had their first impression of me. Fortunately for me, everyone was there to support the mission of developing women leaders. As soon as I showed a willingness to accept feedback and take active measures in the areas that needed improvement, they welcomed me with open arms.
I am lucky that I have a fantastic network of people who aren't afraid of having courageous conversations with me, and in the past, some of their candid feedback was that I didn't do an excellent job of listening; I tend to talk too much. The advice I received was not to dismiss others' ideas; instead, I should acknowledge and validate them.
My primary communication style is Direct. My secondary styles are Analytical and Initiating. Which long story short means I'm a social butterfly who likes to take logical and organized notes and needs space to share my story even though I only want the high-level details from other people's stories.
Being direct doesn't just impact those I interact with, but it directly affects me personally. A couple of years ago, I had to implement a rule that I would no longer say things to or about myself that I wouldn't allow someone else to tell me. I realized that I hear myself talk more than I hear anyone else and while being direct is my natural style, I found that I was so critical that my self-talk had a negative impact.
I live by the principle that if the plan is to show up outspoken and opinionated, I also must be willing to take a hard look within and do some self-reflection. I think that's what has allowed me to evolve and understand that communication styles are situational. I love feedback and ask for it often because that's the best way to determine if my current style is effective. If it's not effective, I know I need to adjust my behavior and adopt new techniques to fit the situation.
The fourth communication style is entirely out of my wheelhouse, and it's the Supportive style. People who have a supportive communication style are usually calm and approachable. Are you starting to see how the two of us aren't related? This style dislikes change and may appear indecisive. The perception is that they are careful and patient. They like to work at a slow pace in a no-tension environment. Paired with good active listening skills (which I don't have yet), others see them as cooperative, dependable, and loyal.
If we were competing on a season of "Survivor," communication styles would be the challenges that offer rewards and immunity. If you want to be the sole survivor standing, invest in understanding your communication style and how to best communicate with the other styles.
I have been a mentee more times than I can count. Before coming to work at Cox, I thought mentoring was a joke. I participated every time the opportunity presented itself, but I never felt like I got much out of it. Does anyone else relate to that?
I came to Cox nervous and worried about what the future held for me. My previous job was a complete train wreck, and I didn't fit in. Before that, I spent nearly ten years at a company that felt like home. It was my comfort zone, and leaving there was scary. I knew that if I wanted to be happy and feel like Cox was my home, I would need to jump in and get involved. It was right around that time that a new mentoring program kicked off, so I applied to be a mentee.
The universe must have aligned just right because they paired me with Kristin Peck, the VP of Public Affairs in my region. Kristin helped me rebuild my confidence. Her advice and insights allowed me to break down barriers and plan for the future. She saw potential in me that I had forgotten. Ultimately, she became my first sponsor. Kristin put my name forward and recommended that I join the board of two nonprofits, and I served as the chair for the market engagement team in Tulsa for two years. There are many other things she indirectly helped me achieve. One of the questions Kristin asked me changed the way I think about career planning. She asked, "What job do you want to have when you retire?" It's not a question to answer. The important part is that you think about the possible answers because how will you get somewhere if you don't know where you're going? Thinking about the job you want to retire from will help you find your career ladder.
Another of my mentors at Cox told me that I needed to stop saying yes to everything. He helped me plot out my 3-year plan to quickly see which things I should continue to say yes to and which ones I should pass on. If it isn't on my career ladder or lattice, then I shouldn't say yes because that would mean I'm taking the opportunity away from someone else. It was one of the hardest lessons I've ever learned because I believed that if someone asked me to do something that I could do, I should do it. As a result, I had a habit of raising my hand too often. At times, this habit led to me taking on too much, feeling overwhelmed, under pressure to accomplish my commitments. Learning to say no was one of the most challenging and equally beneficial things I've ever done. Now I can do things I want, like toastmasters.
The most amazing experience I've had as a mentee happened because of WICT. I applied for the techconnect mentoring program solely because I wanted to go to New York and couldn't afford both the trip and the tickets to the leadership conference. I found out that acceptance into the program came with free registration to the conference, so I said, "sign me up!" I had no expectations when I first submitted my application. When I received the email that said I was accepted, I couldn't even contain my excitement. Just when I thought things couldn't get better, I found out that my mentor was the VP of Engineering at Comcast! It felt like a match made in heaven. Not only did I get my trip to New York, but I learned so much from my mentor. It was a pivotal moment for my personal and professional growth. I walked away from that program with a new zest for my job, big goals and a plan for how to reach them. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will cherish forever.
Mentoring is a fundamental part of career progression. It is not easy, though, especially as the mentee. It is a lot of work to be a mentee. A mentor can't help you if you don't know what you need help with or where you need to improve. It is what you make of it. If you put in the work, you will reap the rewards. I still have several mentors, and it's great because they each have different strengths and bring those strengths to the table. Each time we meet is another opportunity for me to adopt some of their best practices that make me a better version of myself. I've gained so much from mentoring relationships that now I try to pay it forward. I usually have at least one mentee, and that opens up a whole new world of possibilities. It also gives me the chance to implement some of the things I've learned and pass on what works for me. That in itself is a kind of learning and development. The type of development that builds leadership skills that are necessary for nearly any promotion.
There are a variety of mentoring programs available, both formal and informal. If you have your eye on a job you are interested in, reach out to someone in that organization, foster a relationship with them, and then leverage that into informal mentoring. There are multiple options. You need to find the one that works for you and get started. What do you have to lose?
I am like the Michael Jordan of relationships, just when he played baseball, not basketball. My husband 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. It's ironic because neither of us can keep an artificial plant alive, much less farm, but it's funny and memorable.
My husband, Andrew, is a professional consultant and an expert communicator. He did not know what he was signing up for when we started dating or that I would be his most challenging client. I haven't always been what you might call an "effective" communicator.
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 in 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?
After we got married, you would think that the communication between us 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 I simply wanted the best for him.
For more than a year, we listened to country music in the car. Not because either of us likes country music, but when I would say, "babe, you can change the station," he would respond, "oh, this is ok," until one day I said, "Can we please listen to something else? This is getting old" he looked at me and said, "I thought you liked country music." We both got a good laugh out of it and then proceeded to change the station permanently.
If I summed up every fight Andrew and I have ever had, it would read "failure to communicate" The fact that he communicates for a living is not lost on me. I fully admit that it is possible. I was the problem. I wish I could blame it on my parents, but I can't. My mom and dad were married for 49 years, and not only did they love each other. They liked each other too. Or maybe it is their fault for not teaching me how to argue. They left me ill-prepared for all the fights life had in store for me.
They also told me I was brilliant often enough that I believed them and, I translated that to mean that people would listen when I spoke, and they genuinely wanted to hear what I had to say. So, I should share everything I'm thinking with the world.
I am a millennial in my defense, so I grew up with helicopter parents constantly telling me that I can do anything I set my mind to. If my husband had a stash of blue participation ribbons to reward me with from time to time, we would've both been much happier.
Andrew is part of generation x, though, the independent, latchkey kids that learned how to fend for themselves. My husband's greatest fear is what legacy he will leave behind. My greatest fear is waving back at someone who was waving at someone else.
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 for some intimacy, that's when the magic happens.
The laughing that is. We spend so much time in bed, laughing. Over the years, we have accumulated several inside jokes, and we both enjoy healthy banter and a good pun, and they come out as soon our heads hit the pillows. These are the moments I treasure the most.
Thirty-six questions might be all it takes to fall in love, but what about staying in love? I know for us, having a sense of humor helps. When it comes to anger, have a short-term memory and when it comes to having fun, cherish it because laughter is the best medicine, and it will get you through tough times.
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, and for that, I hold out hope.
This is a speech I wrote and gave at Toastmasters. Let me know what you think in the comments!
Route 66 is roughly 2500 miles long. I can be found just a few minutes from attraction #13, the big blue whale in my hometown of Catoosa, where I was born and raised. Growing up, I was the baby of three. It took me a long time to learn how to speak up and even longer to speak in public. I joined toastmasters to learn structure and form to give speeches and adopt good habits for organizing and preparing speeches. My journey to toastmasters can be directly linked to me as an 8th grader being made fun of by one of my peers for not being able to read.
I was insecure and self-conscious in junior high, and I absolutely hated being called on to read aloud in class. At some point, one of my teachers interpreted this to mean that I couldn’t read, which landed me in a special education class. An odious stigma I would spend years working to overcome.
When it came time for me to enroll in college and realized that speech was a required course, all that embarrassment and shame I felt from being labeled a “slow learner” came flooding back.
It took enrolling in speech three times before I got up the nerve to speak in front of the class. The first two times, I was so scared in the days leading up to my first speech, I dropped the course.
I eventually managed to pass but believe me, when I say, my speeches were not good. I struggled to find my voice, and once I found it, I didn’t have the self-confidence to use it.
All of that changed when I experienced, what was up to that point, the most significant loss of my life.
In 2014, my only sister passed away unexpectedly, and all I could think about was how much I still had to say to her and what I wanted others to know and remember about her. I took on the responsibility of writing her eulogy.
She left behind a son and two daughters and a classroom full of 3rd graders who called her Mrs. Sarten. The funeral was held in the gym at the school where she taught, and there wasn’t an empty seat.
When it was time, I didn’t think twice about getting up to speak. I wasn’t nervous or afraid. I walked to the front of the gym, looked up, and delivered the best speech of my life.
You see, I had come prepared. I knew what I needed to say and what I thought my sister would’ve wanted me to say, and I spent days leading up to it writing and rewriting until I felt the words were just right. So, by the time I got up to speak, I was ready. It was almost muscle memory.
Grief is a funny thing, and it hits everyone differently. It taught me that when you have something that you can’t live without saying and a purpose beyond yourself, it becomes much easier because it’s no longer a choice. Speaking that day wasn’t about me. It was about getting the message to the audience, and I was just the vehicle.
In the words of Winnie, the Pooh, “you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
Since then, I’ve spoken in front of many large groups, served as an expert panelist for professional forums, and I delivered eulogies for both my mom in 2016 and my brother in 2019. I can safely say that it doesn’t get easier, but I do know that I’ve come a long way from being that 8th-grade girl in a remedial reading class.
Every roadblock and detour I encountered while navigating down my own Mother Road served as the building blocks that got me where I am today.
Well, I'm feeling good about being back at this blog writing stuff. I haven't posted in over a year and hadn't planned to change that until I got a little push from an unlikely place. I was playing pool league at Magoo's, and a friend, we'll call her Susie, was nice enough to take the time to tell me that she enjoyed my blog and reading what I wrote. Honestly, this shocked me a bit because I didn't think anyone read this thing other than me! It was a pleasant surprise and motivated me to write this post so thank you, Susie!
I think the best place to start is with some insight into what made me stop in the first place. One of the last things I wrote was just after a fight I had with my brother, and he passed away shortly after. Anyone who knows me knows that my family has suffered more than one tragic loss in the last couple of years, and this last one just set me back quite a bit. Losing my sister and my mom was extremely difficult, but at least I was in a good place with both of them, and I wasn't harboring any regret. I was not so lucky with my brother, and it took me a while to come to terms with that. I had to find a way to remind myself that our relationship wasn't just that one disagreement but years and years of other experiences, most of which were positive.
Grief is a funny thing, and it hits everyone differently. Within six years, I lost three members of my immediate family. It changed me. It changed the dynamics of what family I have left and my role within the family. It changed my priorities and the way I set them. It changed my outlook on life and my approach to new things. I'm still the same person at my core, but I think I look a little different these days on the inside.
Over the last year, I have started to take stock of my life, and in doing so, I realized that I have room for improvement as a human, as a mom, as a wife, daughter, friend, employee, teammate. I am bold and outspoken. I wear my heart on my sleeve along with my opinions, even if you don't want them in the first place. I am learning, though, that if I'm going to be that intense outwardly, I must also be willing to take a hard look in the mirror and do some significant self-reflecting. I've always attempted to be as self-aware as one can, but that isn't enough. I need to go the extra step and ask for feedback, be brave enough to have tough conversations, listen to comprehend, not respond. Admit when I'm wrong and sincerely apologize when necessary. The older I get, the more I realize I don't know. I still have a lot to learn. I'm a work in progress, and that has to count for something! At least it counts in my book.
Until next time.
This TED Talk has to be one of my all-time favorites. The title is "A Republican mayor's plan to replace partisanship with policy." I am a massive fan of mayor Bynum and his methodology. I applaud the way he ran his campaign for mayor and how he uses raw data to determine what to accomplish and give the citizens a means to measure his success. With that, here is the video. I can't wait to hear what you think after watching it, leave me a comment!
My precious son might give me an ulcer! Teenagers are tough man, and he knows me so well and knows how far to push and what he can get away with, and then when he is in trouble, how to appeal to my softer side.
Chandler almost failed last semester and not because he isn't smart or because he didn't learn the material. No, he almost failed for not turning in his homework, or not doing it in the first place. The struggle is real; getting him motivated is like looking for a unicorn. I hope we make it through eighth grade!
This is a custom shirt I made for a friend. She gave me a picture of what she wanted and I did my best to recreate it. I'm still new at this designing in Adobe Illustrator but I think I'm starting to get the hang of it!
I'm working on a new schedule for blogging because there are so many different topics that I want to write about and since this is my blog I can do what I want! Ha! I think I'm going to break it down into themed days of the week, for now that seems like the easiest plan. This is what I'm thinking:
Maker Monday: DIY projects & crafts with my vinyl cutting machine.
Tuesday Tell-all: Life, family, grief/loss, mom stuff, etc.
Watch-it Wednesday: TED Talk inspiration - videos from my favorites playlist
Thursday How-to: All sorts of different tips and tricks that I use personally & for work
Friday Five: Five of my favorite things
Series Saturday: Deep dive into a tool or utility, program or process
Sunday Funday: Anything goes
After spending twelve years at Harvard University, Shawn Achor has become one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success. His TED Talk is based on the fact that we believe that we should work to be happy, but could that be backward? In this fast-moving and entertaining talk from TEDxBloomington, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that actually, happiness inspires productivity. The TED talk has been viewed over 13 million times so maybe he is on to something! Check it out, leave a comment and let me know what you think!
Kyle MacDonald gave this TED talk in 2015, and it amazes me every time I watch it. I can think of a lot of things better than a paperclip to start trading, what about you? What do you think of this? Could it be replicated?