For Perfectionists Like Me…

I used to think that I was a procrastinator… always putting off something important. For instance, I’d clean my house and spend hours on that, instead of reaching out to customers or calling the cable company. Sometimes it’s the tasks that we know we can handle that we do first to avoid the less desirable ones. I could scrub a toilet more easily than focus on my manuscript or talk to my boss–it just felt easier.

It took some time and self-reflection, but I found that my procrastination was NOT about laziness. I would work hard at what I did, but it just might be in the wrong order, so much so that I would have no energy left when I finally got around to the “hard” tasks at the end of the day. The reason subconsciously why I would put off those harder tasks was really rooted in a need to have them perfect.

What I would do is instead of just completing the more challenging activity and getting it DONE, I would overcomplicate it. Instead of organizing my closet and just doing it, I’d think well I’ll need to have a donation pile, color code this, and iron all my items in the same day! Instead, all I needed to do was just, refold some items and donate a couple shirts. But in my mind, I’d already mentally created a roadblock, so then I never would actually get around to doing it.

We do that with a lot of things in life. We overcomplicate them in our minds, and never execute. We have good intentions, but never pull the trigger. I found that what I need to do to overcome this hurdle, is to just do it! I think many times it’s because we fear the failure, or think it needs to be perfect the first time around. But most things in life aren’t and require drafts and edits and revisions.

The blog post might have errors in it and might not be my BEST writing, but I did one today. The database I created might not be perfect yet, but I started it! My closet might not be thoroughly spic and span, but I’ve got a start on it.

I found that action is better than delayed perfection.

I can’t fix a piece of writing I never started and I can’t improve a goal that never existed. I need to start somewhere. And it may not be my destination, but it’s a beginning. And a beginning in action is better than a thought unexecuted.

 

 

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The Value of the Follow-Up

Probably the most valuable letters I say in an email at my first job… F/U.

Yup–follow-up. And that’s what we did. That was my job for the first three years post college. It was to follow-up. But it’s more than that, it’s actually two letters that define customer service.

But think about it–it’s the most undervalued part of customer service, the most forgotten and yet, the most valuable. No client, customer, patient, wants to be forgotten. It makes you feel like you spent money on a service or good, and no one cared how it went. For example, you order a dinner at a fancy restaurant. I don’t know about you, but I want my server to follow-up on how my food was, to see if I need anything, etc. I will actually spend MORE money, if I have an attentive server. The same goes for using a wedding planner, photographer, graphic designer… I want to know that the business I’m using is paying attention.

I find that when a business doesn’t follow up with me, I get annoyed…downright cranky. I feel like they took my money but don’t value me or my time. That’s what made my first boss so good at his job. It’s not natural talents, abilities, or superhuman powers that he possessed, but just being really good at customer service and doing it over… and over…and over again. That’s what makes such a great entrepreneur, a business owner. Because, at the end of the day, if you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. And if you can’t perform 110% in serving customers, then you will not thrive in business.

So follow-up, touch base, and be on the offense with customers not the defense. You should be in front of them and anticipating their needs before they have them. Think of yourself as the server in the restaurant, expecting the next need, the next round of drinks, the coffee and dessert. Those are the best servers who get the best tips because they provide the best service, and that exemplifies good business.

 

 

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Top Things I Learned After Having a Newborn: Infant-Care Myths Destroyed!

So when we decided to have a baby, we figured it would no doubt be a lot of work and a big change. Like any “good” parent would, we went to childcare classes at the hospital. Of course, that should have been a wealth of information, helping new parents to figure out their new bundle of joy. We were in for a real surprise…

Babies will only cry when they need something. Attending to those needs will make them less fussy.

Haha! This couldn’t have been more wrong. I remember the third night being home with my husband and baby and wondering what was going on with our child. We changed him, burped him, fed him, and yet he was wailing. “What haven’t we done??” Greg uttered. And so, we put him in his napper and waited and let him cry. Within ten minutes, he was asleep. It was then we realized, that sometimes babies are just little people and they cry. As long as their needs are met and they are checked on, let them cry and learn to soothe.

-Babies should sleep in the parent’s room for the first few weeks to a month.

This we tried as well the first few nights. We tried a large bassinet. Neither worked. First, we found that our baby really liked feeling cozy and not having room to move around in the bassinet. So we found a napper that vibrates and is about the size of a car seat, which he loved. I also found that having the baby in the same room as us, made me more on edge because any snort, coo or cry, made me turn my head. Today, there are such great baby monitors that have cameras and intercom systems. So we took our boy into his room, have the camera pointed on him. This also made me feel more normal. I’m still able to be with my spouse in the other room and have a healthy separation from our little guy, without compromising his needs.

-The best way to feed your baby, is breastfeeding directly.

Well that’s all fine and dandy, assuming your baby will nurse. Some babies, like mine, didn’t want to and would only take a bottle. So instead, we decided to pump instead rather than continue on a road that wasn’t going to work. I don’t feel like I bond any less with my son because I use a bottle, he bonds with whomever is feeding him. At the hospital you will be pressured to constantly try to breastfeed, but do what works for you and your child. It’s the best that you can do and what works that is best, not what the pushy lacation consultants say, they aren’t the parents of your baby.

-It’s best to stay home with your child for a while, they need their parents at first, all the time.

It’s all about balance and moderation. I admitted to myself after the first week post partum, that I could not stay at home all the time with my baby. I just could not. I needed to work, to get out with my husband, and to feel more human again. There should be no shame nor stigma if a mom wants to work, to get back to her routine or to use help. Having help and others watch my son was what prevented me from losing my mind. Not only is it great for your child’s family because they get to interact with him but it’s good for your child too.

Learn your baby over time, and know that what works for your family and keeps your baby healthy… that’s what’s best.

 

The “Mom Guilt”; It Started Early

To be honest, I had a very easy pregnancy. I wouldn’t say I “loved” being pregnant, but I was able to be fairly normal and myself right up until the end. I couldn’t relate to those that were having a tough time getting around or others who had to leave work early. I worked up until the bitter end and loved every moment of being in my routine and in my own element.

Then I was told I’d need to be induced due to low fluids…and so my labor began and it was a difficult one to say the least. But we all managed and recovered. Three days after my C-section, I felt a little sore, but again, fairly normal and returned to being more myself in the weeks that followed delivering my son.

He could not have been more cute if he tried. The cooing noises he made, the little snorts and fidgets, it was all adorable, and I loved it. However, after about a week and a half post delivery, all I wanted was my normal back, my routine. I loved spending time with him, bonding with him and my husband and watching all the new skills he learned. But I felt like I was losing myself by only being with him.

I had always imagined that I’d take a full maternity leave, that somehow that’s what good moms do. It’s like this invisible pressure, if you love your kids and want to take good care of yourself, you’ll take the time to rest. And I’d always assumed that I’d want that time to sit it out and rest. But after that week and a half passed, it became two weeks, and I was ready to not be home. I wanted to see my co-workers, to be needed, to run some errands, something!

I didn’t want my identity to somehow be lost.

And as I had those feelings, I started to feel really guilty. Because wouldn’t a good mom want to stay home? I mean, wouldn’t they take more time to be home, after all, they aren’t little forever?? Why go back to work after only two weeks post delivery, who does that?? All those thoughts plagued me and it took a lot of time taking to friends and family to get them out.

But I finally came to the conclusion that if I feel better and fulfilled, I’ll be a better mom. For some women, that may mean being a stay at home mom, or taking a longer leave. For others, they may feel like they need to get back to work, even part time just to get their bearings back. It won’t look the same for every woman, and I never thought this would be me, but I think it’s the best decision I could have made.

When I come home, I’m a bit more fresh for my son, I appreciate him more, and I feel more put together since I was prepped for work, instead of being in sweats all day. When I come home, I see him playing with his Grandpa and Nana, and how happy they are to share love with him. Motherhood, it’s a challenge that nothing can prepare you for. But I believe it wasn’t meant to take over or to be done alone. Use the people and resources you have so that you can start to feel like yourself again too. There’s nothing more useless than a burnt out mother who resents her children because she tried to do it all or to be something she’s not. So if you’re the stay at home mom, embrace it. And for those who really want to get back to work, go for it–it doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy your children when you get home, and it doesn’t make you less of a mom.

Do motherhood your way.

 

 

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LABOR DAY REFLECTIONS. IT’S NOT THE LABOR WE HATE.

Post Labor Day, I’ve given a lot of thought about the holiday weekend itself. So many people who have that holiday off from work use that weekend to go on last minute vacations, enjoy barbecues, be with family etc. But as the cookout coals burn off, and the beaches close, you can hear the roaring grumble of those that remark, “Ehh… I got to be at work tomorrow. Better get the sleep now… ugh…”. There’s this deep dissatisfaction with work. The sense that the ever-looming “Monday”, is coming. And it’s only worse when you’ve had an extra day of freedom.
 
What does that say about our society, that so many individuals feel like they are going back to a “grind”? I don’t know about you, but when I use someone for a service or good, I kind of want them to like what they do. If my heart surgeon feels like he’s or she’s going to the grinding stone every day, I don’t think I want to be his patient. If my photographer hates their job, I don’t want those prints. The barista at the coffee shop who is chewing gum like it’s cud and looking at me like I’m crazy, asking “What do you want?”, I’m not sure I want your coffee…
 
You can actually FEEL when someone doesn’t like their work. It permeates through a company, through the culture, and gets transferred to the customer at the end of the day. Now, we all have days when we just aren’t liking our job or career because it was a bad day/bad week. But when it’s a consistent dissatisfaction, it really needs to be dealt with. Otherwise, it leaks out in so many facets that it burns the customer or client in the end.
 
I have decided that it’s not work that we hate. We actually love work and are made for it. When we work on a project that’s meaningful and see that it helped someone else, and we were a part of that success, we feel awesome. It doesn’t matter what industry, we just want to know what we did, what we contribute to the workplace MATTERS. And there are so many reasons why this success model doesn’t happen. It could be a leadership problem at your office, lack of growing professionally, or the wrong career fit as a whole.
 
Don’t dread the Mondays, the commute, the people, the building… There is a spot for you and the people that you are meant to serve, they are waiting for you. Instead of seeing Monday as a grind, see it as a new way to use your skills to help others. Because someone out there needs what you have to provide. The way you do something, the way you use your talent in the marketplace, it’s like your workplace fingerprint, because no one can bring it exactly like you do.
 
So find that thing you’re meant to serve others with and do it well, and uniquely you. It’s only something YOU can do.
 
#workthatmatters #doover #start #jonacuff #womenwhowork.

THAT TIME I THOUGHT I HAD FORGIVEN

It’s something that I never thought I had a problem with, until I went to lunch with a longtime friend.

“But you don’t understand what they did. They made me feel so betrayed at a time I was so vulnerable…”

I went through my laundry list of excuses, reasons why I was justified in feeling hurt. I didn’t think it was me holding a grudge or withholding forgiveness, it was just my feelings. But no, my hurts had piled up from years of being so annoyed that this event had happened that I had withheld forgiveness by default. Sound familiar? And since I didn’t see these people hardly ever, I had buried the hurt and it only came back in rare occurrences, giving me the illusion that I was “fine” or “over it”. But I realized that when someone pokes at an issue, and it fires you up, it usually means that you’re still not over it. Just because someone hasn’t “poked” at it in a while, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

I had tried to forgive, to forget certain events that happened around when my mother left and the things people had said that were supposed to be out of concern but came across as crude or ignorant. I had thought that I had. I had prayed, written, been pensive, as I tried to make peace. But somehow, when a person or event was brought up, I’d be fired up again. Why? Why couldn’t I get past it?

It dawned on me, about ten years after the events had unfolded, why I couldn’t move forward. You see, when I looked at the events from my paradigm, it was all, of course, through my eyes, my lens. I saw things that hurt me, and rightfully so. However, I didn’t consider the other people, those that hurt me, as people. I realized I only saw them through my hurt, and somehow, dehumanized them. When they were dehumanized, it was easy to stay bitter, to say, “you hurt me and should pay”. But when I saw their own fragility, humanity and struggles, I felt something different. Genuine empathy. And once I reached this milestone, the feelings of bitterness slowly left me.

We are all only human, here today and gone tomorrow. We have limited time, capacity, and abilities. To lose someone from an event that maybe wasn’t positive, but also not irreparable, is such a shame. Because together we really are better; better ideas, passions, and problem solving.

What this doesn’t mean, is this: you’re not an open door for neglect and abuse. But what it does mean is good-willed and intentioned people make mistakes. They sometimes jude too quickly and react harshly. And to shut someone out, even if it’s just in your heart or mind, forever, just isn’t fair.

So today, maybe start looking past your pain, and looking at your enemy as a human. It’s extraordinary how it may just change your mind and heart forever. It did mine.

#forgiveness #ilovepeople.

MASSIVE CHANGES; IT’S NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART!


Life isn’t so hard to figure out when you’re in your routine; same family members, same date night restaurant, same address, same job… etc. Though it might seem boring at first, but you don’t realize how much perceived security is in those things. Suddenly, when you’ve moved more than you’ve stayed, and family seems to be far away or your job you thought made sense, now doesn’t, it messes with your senses. Did I do something wrong? Was there something I missed, a wrong turn? 

I know it’s something I struggled with. Going from a life of having a lot of “certains” and “knowing” to feeling like I didn’t know much at all. Starting a business, preparing for a new baby, and having a spouse job transition, what was going on? 
Sometimes the GPS doesn’t give you the next set of instructions because you don’t need to turn yet. When you’re taken on a new road and its so unfamiliar, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wrong. Sometimes it’s a new level of learning of trust. But to those of us that like having a cheat sheet or the magic list, this is so challenging. 
So today if life’s changes feel like a pair of tight skinny jeans, you’re in good company. Great things and deep growth can come from the uncomfortable.

WHEN THEY GET WHAT YOU WANTED

It’s been a personal struggle of mine for a while, albeit, one that seems to improve over time. But isn’t it challenging, when you see a friend get the job you wanted, you felt YOU deserved, or when someone got a promotion at work that YOU felt you worked so hard for? The list goes on… their car, their kids, their spouse, just seems BETTER?

I think with social media, the problem of “coveting” or wishing we had what we don’t have, has only gotten worse. We see pictures on Facebook and Instagram and somehow think that’s a glimpse of reality; sometimes it is, mostly it’s not.

In my own life, I remember being really envious of someone I had worked with in the past who seemed to be so financially well off. No student loans, no obligations, just doing (according to my mind) really well. And I had such a hard time NOT resenting this person. I thought about how many menial jobs I’d worked in high school and even in college, and thought, how dare you be doing better than me when you didn’t work as hard? But see, all those statements I made up in my head (because they aren’t the truth) were all just inferences I had made. I don’t know his struggles, I don’t know how hard he worked or his story. I’m just making snap judgments to make myself feel self-righteous. But I’ve been there, and I know that it can be so challenging to truly say, “I’m happy for you.”

Over the years, I’ve learned to say that phrase–even when I didn’t mean it yet. Because I realized, we aren’t all competing with each other, we are empowering one another to bigger and better things. When I stopped viewing others as a “competitor” in a race to “greatness” or “success”, I started helping them, seeing them as humans with flaws. We all have struggles, even if they are silent ones. I also realized how grateful I was to have them in my life, and for all the blessings I have every day, that my envious spirit was blinding me to. When I focused on what I had an my own abilities, I became more self-aware than outward focused. By doing so, I become more friendly, joyful, a better peer and friend.

So appreciate all you have, don’t worry about the competition. You aren’t in a race against others, only for your personal goals.

MY MISSED MISCARRIAGE: PART TWO

I sat in the old white whicker chair in the waiting room. As I looked around anxiously, I saw women of all stages of life. I saw a lady coming in with her newborn in a carrier, a young teenager, and an older lady waiting patiently across from me. I brought a book with me but in my nervousness I just couldn’t bring myself to read it.
 
Eventually the ultrasound tech opened the door, “Christina!”
 
I got up and walked toward the entrance…
 
“How are you today?”
 
“Good as I can be, I guess.”
 
She led me to the ultrasound room and had me get into the gown from the waist down. I watched her look at the screen so stoically.
 
“Anything change?” I asked, hoping for the best but ready for the worst.
 
“No, sorry. It looks like the sac has filled with debris and it’s shrinking in size.”
 
I was still processing, still upset, but somehow knowing for sure, that the twins were gone, gave me peace. I could let go.
 
I walked into the doctor’s office, the one who had told me about the miscarriage last week. She asked what I wanted to do. I couldn’t quite deal with the idea of delivering what was left of my kids at home, whenever that would happen. So I chose the D&C option.
 
“I know it’s the week of Christmas… can you guys still schedule the surgery before Christmas Day?” I asked but figuring it would be post-poned.
 
“Let me check with the surgeon. I think we can do that for you. I want to do whatever will make this easier for you,” she said, with such compassion.
 
“Dr. Smith, can we do a D&C this week before Christmas? Christina sadly, miscarried so we are trying to help her by getting her in quicker.”
 
“Sure, honey…I’m so sorry…” And I think she truly meant it.
 
I completed the forms for the surgery and went to get more bloodwork done. I called my mom, asking her if she could come with me for the surgery to drive me back home.
 
That night, I went home and couldn’t eat anything for the coming surgery. I called my co-workers and requested the week off to heal. When I went in for surgery the next day, I was greeted with more bloodwork. Since I hadn’t eaten for the surgery, they couldn’t locate my veins properly, having to stick needles in both arms and my hand. Normally that doesn’t bother me but I cringed all the way through it. They then led me down a narrow hallway where I was given a room and a gown to wear. I was given an IV to give me fluids since I had nothing in my system.
 
While I waited for the anesthesiologist and the surgeon, I watched some Christmas movies on ABC Family. It seemed to take my mind off of things.
 
The anesthesiologist came in and explained the drugs they’d use during the procedure. I mostly just nodded my head, not really knowing why it mattered, just that I wouldn’t be in pain.
 
Now it was starting to get more serious and I felt my nerves start to rise. They carted me to the surgery room which was felt like ice. Warm blankets were placed on me and my head was set in a set of foam blocks. The lights from the surgical spot-light were blinding. The anesthesiologist did his best to say a joke…I appreciated the effort. In a few moments, I drifted to sleep.
 
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When I woke up I felt no pain, just a groggy feeling and a need to urinate. Nurses helped me when I came to, and I couldn’t believe how much blood was on my bed. It just reminded me of what happened, what I’d lost. I looked over and mom was sitting there with an iced tea reading an Angel magazine, as always.
 
“How’s it going kiddo? Feeling okay?”
 
“I want some ice cream.” I told her and the nurse.
 
They went and found me some. Once I was done, I was helped up and into my clothes. I sat with some more IV fluids for a while and waited to feel a little more normal. My nurses were angels and comforted me as I recovered. I was wheeled out of the hospital and went to the Olive Garden with mom, and ate more than I should. As moments passed, I felt less and less upset and more at peace. After I ate, mom drove me home and helped me to the couch and prepped it with blankets where I stayed waiting for Greg to come home from work.
 
After the bleeding subsided, which went on and off for a while, I went to the hospital for weekly bloodwork, which is hard for someone who’s trying to move past their loss. But eventually it was over… eventually after three long months, my body had healed.
 
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I say all this not for myself, but for so many women who suffer or cry in silence as new life leaves them. It’s the taboo subject… don’t tell anyone you’re expecting until post 1st trimester, you could miscarry! As if you should have to live in that pain by yourself. Many women have miscarriages and, somehow, have the strength to try again, to believe it can work again. This story is for all of you, the ones that persevered and suffered alone. Your grief and story is real.

WHY I HATE CRITICISM

It’s a fact of life; people are going to either give you positive or negative feedback. They might do it in a helpful way or in a more destructive fashion. It could be your boss, co-workers, friends or family. But the truth is, receiving criticism isn’t going to go away.

For me personally, I think I’ve always had a really hard time with criticism, both constructive and destructive. But when someone gives me the impression that I didn’t do a good job, or my idea was substandard, I almost feel defensive. How dare you tell me I didn’t work hard enough? How do you know what I put into this? It’s like I need to defend myself, my work. They could have told me I did something 99% correctly, but for some reason I don’t see that, my focus goes to the 1% that they are unpleased with. Know the feeling? 

I think this starts in childhood. We had a parent or adult figure in our lives that told us what we were doing wasn’t good enough…our grades weren’t perfect, our hair looked funny, or we didn’t do as well in sports as our peers. Then when we grow up, this voice doesn’t stop in our heads… it begs us to listen saying, “They weren’t too pleased…you screwed up again…”. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. Far too many of us live with that critical spirit and tone in our lives.

Nine times out of ten, our bosses, and family, and friends aren’t being critical of us. They aren’t trying to be destructive, they are trying to help. But when we hear them through the lens of our own hurt, our own past, we miss the message they are sending. Thus, it makes us defensive and appear wounded and snippy. I don’t think that is our intention. Today, and every day, let’s take some steps toward recovering our minds, silencing the negative voices, and hearing what our critics are really saying.