Impact, Life Balance

St. Jude’s Research Walk

Last weekend I did a walk for St. Jude’s with some friends and brought my son. Really, this shouldn’t be a big deal but it was.

Those who know me also know that I’m an outgoing introvert (yes, it’s a real thing). Maybe you are too. I enjoy being around others when it’s planned, but I also need that personal time in my “cave” at home to recharge my battery. It’s a delicate balance between socialization and hermitage.

Well lately being that I have a infant-toddler now in my life, I felt myself hermiting more than socializing. Any moms and ladies relate? Just to get out the door, there’s a stroller, car seat, bottle/formula, backup formula, toys, Tylenol for teething, blankets, diapers, wipes, it’s a never ending list of crap to bring. So why bother? It’s more of a pain than anything else half the time. So I’d just tell my friends, family, “Forget it.” Maybe we would do all this another time, another day, some day in the future when I feel like this is just less work and I have the energy for “life”.

But instead, I pulled my hair in a bun. I’m not sure that I brushed my teeth or washed my face, but we got dressed, grabbed the pack with all the baby accessories and booked it out the door for a 9 a.m. walk for St. Jude’s Research Hospital.

And this was huge. When we arrived it was a beautiful sunny day. Survivors shared stories. I thought how blessed I was to have this healthy little boy who isn’t fighting for his life, who is rambunctious and happy. But most of all, I understood why it’s so important to have this balance in our lives, both parts social and hermit. I missed my friends, I missed the interaction with others. I think for moms especially, it’s so easy to wrap ourselves up in the daily chores, and routine of life… dishes, laundry, poop, work and repeat… but man, was it so healthy to get out and do something fun. My child needed it and so did I.

So get out. You may not have the money for a spa day or to go to an amusement park, but just get out. Go for a walk, phone a friend, visit the mall. Something. I didn’t realize how healthy that is, how important it is. But you need it.

So when I feel myself getting too “hermit-like”, I make myself call a friend or do something. Because we need it, we need each other and we’ll feel better for it. Life is never going to be completely calm, there’s always going to be some crap to bring along. But we can’t wait for some day. Do it now, do it today, even if it’s not super neat or pretty and you can’t remember if you brushed your teeth.

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Impact, Mom Life, Personal Development, Self Help

The Little Changes Add Up

I think as moms, wives, women, people, we assume that if we can’t “eat the whole elephant” or accomplish the big goal all at once, then we have somehow failed. It’s not true. The true wins are in the everyday, the ordinary, the habits we form daily. I don’t think we are supposed to have “made it” quite so quickly. It’s the little tweaks, the small improvements and corrections that really make the biggest differences.

I may not have time to run five miles a day but I can walk before work.
I may not have time to spend with my baby all day but I can spend two hours of focused moments after work.
I may not have time to travel where I’d like to right now but I can go on a trail I’ve never been to.
I may not have time to do lunch with my relatives but I can give them a call to check in.
I may not have time to get my masters but I can read every night.
I may not be able to give millions to disaster relief but I can give something.

It’s so not about my limitations, it’s about doing what I can do, enjoying what I do have, and being who I can be.

Family, Impact

Lessons From My Father

I think it would be realistic to say that most people think they have the “best Dad” or “best Mom” in the world. And to whoever makes that claim, for them, that’s probably their truth. For me, I won’t say I have the “best Dad” in the world; that statement is so over used, it’s on key chains, mugs and ties. No, reader, I have the most honorable dad in the world. And what he gave my sister, and me is truly unique and unparalleled.

If you knew my dad much, you’d know that, for the most part, he’s soft-spoken, with a quiet demeanor. It’s rare to see him rattled by anything. I remember a time when we were returning from a trip to visit his family in Buffalo, NY and his car broke down. Luckily, my husband and I were riding right behind him and pulled over to assist. The hood of the car was smoking and clearly had a huge issue. My dad just looked at it, called for a tow truck, and said, “Well, I won’t be driving home in this today. Can you guys bring me home?” He said this so nonchalantly, so calmly. My husband told me, after we dropped off my dad, three hours later, “You’re dad is so calm, so unrattled. I wish I could be more like that.” It’s true. Whenever I saw my dad upset, it lasted for maybe five minutes. When he was done being annoyed, he’d go outside with a big grin and play “fetch” with the dog. He never let life get to him, or events throw him off being joyful and putting his priorities first, his faith and family.

Some of my friends had the type of dad who didn’t do much with them, or worked too much, or worse–drank excessively. That just wasn’t my experience. Everyday at 4 p.m., my dad left his engineering job at the State and drove right home. When he opened the door, the dog became elated, jumping up to great him. He would look over to my sister and I doing our homework and say, “Hey girls, how was school? Whadya learn?” He always asked us, each day, with a smile and hugs and kisses. He’d then fire up the grill and make some “somewhat” edible hamburgers. He never let us have soda or ice cream, unless it was a special occasion. You could drink water or milk–that was it. We said grace before we ate, and the TV was never on when we had family time. It was expected that we’d eat our vegetables before leaving the table. When we were done, we’d all go in the pool for the night. My dad would do strokes, back and forth in the pool–he always kept active. Of all the things my dad ever taught me, most of it was observed and seeing how he lived.

My dad was always an up lifter and encourager, he never put us down as kids. I remember when I joined ski club. I had always gone cross-country skiing with my dad, and I didn’t know downhill skiing existed. So when I joined ski club in 4th grade, I thought I was getting a cross-country experience. Reader–I was not. I strapped on my skis and took off down the mountain at top speeds and nearly flew down to the ski shack restaurant. When I was done with the night of horror–my dad meandered on up to me in his slow and relaxed manner, and said, “So how’d it go honey?” I looked up at him, a little annoyed and miffed and said, “It was awful… I didn’t know this was downhill skiing! I’ve never done that before…” I hung my head and wiped the snot from my nose from crying my tears of defeat. My dad said, “It’s okay kiddo. You’ve never done this before; it’s only your first night skiing. It’ll get better, just stick with it.” And over time, I did. I did ski club all throughout middle school and high school. I wouldn’t call myself “world class” but I can ski most trails with ease. It was the steady encouragement and support of my dad, the never give up attitude that was always so special to me.

In a world where people are mostly angry, annoyed, and bitter, I try to remember to be peaceful like my dad. Every morning he woke up singing and on his knees in prayer for the day ahead. Every day there were hugs and kisses, even though it annoyed my sister and I at the time. Whenever we got hurt riding our bikes, my dad would run to help and get us an ice treat popsicle from the freezer–it was known to be the antidote to any childhood injury. The calm, the peace that he brought to a room and a deep voice of reason to any situation, always made me proud to know he was the one who raised us.

My dad may not be the “best Dad in the world” or “#1 Dad”. But he is certainly the most honorable dad that I know, and the world, my world, is better that he was a part of it.

Business, Career, Impact

Leaders vs. Managers & Team Member Relationships

What comes to mind when you hear the word “leader”? Inspirational, motivating, guiding, patient, humble, team-player, sacrificial, and strong, are some descriptive words that come to mind for me. I think of someone who has a vision and shares that vision with a group of people, to inspire them toward that same vision or goal. I see them drawing out the talents in others to create that same vision and to make it a reality.

To paint a picture, I knew a business owner who treated his team like family. He was blue-collar and a very smart man. He paid his guys well even when other companies were cutting back. On Fridays, he’d order some pizza and drinks and have all his team members take a break to enjoy a treat. When he say someone doing some exceptional work, he made a point to go over to him and let him know. Every Christmas, he put on a huge party with no limits for the workers and their families. He wasn’t that leader who spent all his time in a padded office, disconnected from his team but he saw the value in connecting with his team, his business and getting to know his team members. Sadly, he passed away in 2013, but his ripple effect, his legacy is still discussed today because of how much he cared.

You see, your team members can tell if you as a leader care or not; it can be felt. We are humans, not robots, and not transactional creatures. Life, even your work, is all about relationships. If you’re going to call yourself a leader, but you don’t take the time to connect with your team, to be in tune to the goings-on in the office setting, or to do some of the “grunt” work from time to time, just to show you’re on their side, then your impact won’t be as strong as it could be.

Many business owners and leaders decide to outsource a lot of their decision-making to others on the team, managers, bosses, supervisors or other team members. But the issue with doing this is that many times the leader, the one who inspires and uplifts the team, is then not the person that you ever see again. The vision the leader may have may not shift or be shared by the other middle men in the organization, and thus they become out of touch. The vision needs to be strong and shared amongst all, and the leader can’t outsource everything, or they may lose the morale of the team.

To my earlier example, that leader lead by example. He took the time to connect everyday, even if it was just for a moment with his team members. He was willing to do the dirty work alongside his team for the comradery. It makes me think to a biblical example. How Christ lead by example, he didn’t ask his apostles to do anything he didn’t do. He washed dirty feet, and ate with the worst of the worst. It’s that kind of humility that speaks to people. It’s walking alongside your team and serving them well. It doesn’t mean you walk away from them and outsource your business but rather you connect, you lean in.

It’s in that attitude and spirit that companies thrive and team members feel valued. It’s business at it’s best.

 

Family, Female Entrepreneurs, Impact, Life Balance, Work Freedom

To the Young Working Woman: Here’s Your Dilema

It never really occurred to me, just how much different women have it in the workplace, especially when they drop the pregnancy “bomb”. Now before I lose you because “you’re not a feminist”, here me out. I am the type of person that’s very skeptical of bandwagons, or labels. I don’t subscribe to an area of thought without putting a lot of reason with it, and considering real facts, and not just some inflated numbers to prove an ideological point. However, as I’ve observed my own environments, and those of my peers and friends, I’ve noticed some very troubling news. Yes, there is such a thing as discrimination in the workplace, and no I don’t think it’s everywhere. But it is around more than it should be, and to the young working woman, you should be aware.

This piece isn’t a whine-fest, because I don’t believe in that. I want results, answers, something that I can offer a young woman, a piece of advice. The bottom-line is, you starting a family is not helpful to your employer and literally, invokes fear. It concerns and worries them that you might do the following: leave, get sick, take a longer leave, be disinterested in your work, or not “focus” enough after you’ve come back from said leave. Now, all off these fears are irrational and not based on facts, but they are commonly thought to be true from an employer-business perspective. And for a long time, I saw some merit in thinking that way. For example, how is a business owner to keep maintaining their client base, their project management flowing, and all of the other office duties when you are gone for one to three months? I could see how that would impact a business owner, how that might not be helpful. But then I thought again. What if my male counterparts, had knee surgery, got hit by a bus, or decided to take a month-long vacation? Would they be looked at with the same disdain and disapproval? I wondered…

I think the reason why that’s treated so differently, or at least not as feared by employers, is because pregnancy is such a tangible thing. You have an employee who’s body is changing on a daily basis; it’s concrete you can see that. You can’t as easily see your other staff making life changes, that could just as easily happen. And for male or non-family planning women, it’s just more acceptable. Even if they aren’t as solid an employee, well at least they aren’t going off, growing humans…  They make an assumption based on tangibility and years of connotation regarding women and having a family. But let me tell you something, young women, both professionally and personally, you’re so critical.

What if these same employers looked at what happens to society, when women don’t have the ability to properly bond and raise their children? What employee, after laboring for days, bleeding excessively, getting a major surgery performed on their insides, would ever be expected to reasonably go right back to work? Can you imagine the level of medical trauma and acrobatic skill your body and emotions endure through this process? Do they consider who raised them to be so successful? Women, you give life. And you do it every day whether you’re a mom or not, it’s part of your divine design. Whether you plan a dinner party, a wedding, forge a project or product launch at work, you bring life a vibrancy to the table with a natural poise and grace that cannot be matched. You are needed, necessary, and cannot be duplicated. Side note to mothers everywhere: You are all rock-stars.

Society suffers, when you are cast down. You’re own health and your child’s is at risk when you aren’t able to properly take your leave. Mothers who return to work so early are plagued with depression and less likely to breastfeed their children. Their children can suffer developmentally, the feature notes. Researchers have even found a correlation between the amount of leave a new mother takes and infant mortality rates (Huffington Post). We have a major problem, and it’s bigger than paid leave and day-care costs. Our culture has lost the value of family. We work longer hours, buy more crap than we can enjoy or afford, and have little joy left over. We are tired, stressed and unhappy. Our children, our families suffer the effects. We don’t have family dinner, we rush to the drive-thru for our food and wonder why things are such a mess. I don’t think things will change for women, for children, for families, until we value family again. The government can’t wave a magic wand to make employers care. It’s a cultural value system change, a heart change.

So what can women do in the meantime. What can you do now? I say you realize that you can’t have it all, all at once. You need to take seasons in your life to work, and to also be a mother. There is a time to climb the executive ladder, and a time to enjoy your family. But it can’t happen all at once. You have to make that choice. And I think the best thing for women? Entrepreneurship. Take your talents, skills and abilities, and create something to offer the world. You already have it in you, why not give yourself the gift of freedom and choice? You set your hours, your goals, and call the shots. Sure it’s not easy, but I think it’s the best option for women and gives them the ability to be themselves. And when you do become a business woman, hire some females. Give the same grace to them that you’d want from an employer. Change the culture and reply back, that women working and being able to raise families, they are important callings. Don’t let a boss determine you’re worth, that job is for you only. Don’t lose sight of your power, your skills and your heart.

You have the power to invoke change, don’t forget that.

Photo credit: www.moneycrashers.com

Female Entrepreneurs, Growth, Impact, Uncategorized

Everyone is a Seller

I was cleaning up the cloud of spaghetti sauce off of my black fitted apron as I threw away another dirty dish into the buckets at the end of the booth.

“I need table 7!” I yelled into the wild kitchen, aromas filling my nostrils.  I continued bustling along in my black blouse, slacks, and Mary Jane’s, pony tail in tow. Every seventeen year old knows that powerful feeling, the one where you just got promoted from “hostess” to “waitress”. It’s all in the apron.

As I moved along with my tables I noticed one of my fellow waitress workers, a veteran but very young, maybe in her late 20’s seemed  to be talking to certain people all the time. These people came in regularly at a certain time at night and ordered the most lavish meals an Italian eatery could offer. She combed her hair to bob in the back, dirty blonde tendrils loosely held back. Her mascara was freshly done and her earrings dangled down her neck. She looked confident, attractive. What I remember most about her is that she could SELL!

The wine would be flowing, the Sea Bass eaten, the pasta al dente, but most of all how that veteran waitress had a way with connecting with the people, making them feel like they weren’t in Upstate New York, but Venice, Italy. And I took notes, I learned from this waitress. At first I thought it was just a gift she possessed and, in some ways, that’s correct. But it can also be learned.

Taking an interest in people, listening, acting and dressing in an attractive manner, really draws people in. Now, some people are naturals at this, they naturally sell. It took me a while, and creating Digital Women CJS to really find out that selling is an attitude and it’s all about what you can do for someone else. It’s conveying a feeling that I care about you and here’s why my service is the best– because it’s the best for YOU- my client. Once I honed in on this lesson in personal development, the angels came out and sang the hallelujah chorus. It was so awesome to know that I was absolutely able to engage clients, to relate to them and to present in an attractive manner. As long as you believe in your product or service, you can sell just about anything.

Gifts, Impact, Talents, Uncategorized

To the Young Writer…

Your words, your writing, it’s important. For many, writing is just a transaction, you write to communicate, to engage; but it’s so much more than that. Think of the sacred texts, the Bible, the Torah etc. Words that still have impacts on people years after they were written. Think of the hieroglyphics written by ancient Egyptians thousands of years ago, words that have stood the test of time. The human condition longs to not only communicate but to also be understood, to leave a mark, to have an impact on planet Earth.

I struggled for a while, to see the importance of being a writer. You know when that’s you, when you’ve been journaling and reading, even as a kid; it’s just an itch that you have to scratch. But a lot of times, society and in our own minds, we downplay the importance of our work, like since we aren’t landing on the moon or curing cancer, than we aren’t all that “impactful”. But listen to what I realized, while driving to work one peaceful winter morning.

The written word  has the ability to evoke change into a life, to reach through and pierce the human soul.

Your  words can create life.  A speech can move a country toward peace or can conjure up war. It can move people to come together and forgive, or to divide. They aren’t meaningless but powerful weapons. I think of Martin Luther King Jr. and his “I Dream” speech and contrast with Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”. I think of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” or Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. Books, speeches that created history, that were pivotal to our current condition.

Being able to convince, persuade, allure or inspire another human being, is a gift. It’s not something that a word processor can “spit out”, it’s a God-given talent. So hone that gift if it’s yours, because it’s important.