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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Healthy Days Ahead

Originally uploaded by craigmdennis
Last Christmas, my husband had a really bad case of pneumonia. When I look back on it, I realize how close to death he came. On Christmas day this year, I was most grateful for his health. I didn't care about the gifts; his health was the best gift. That may sound corny, but as soon as someone in your immediate family deals with any sort of serious illness, you understand how much their health (and even yours) is something you should never take for granted.

If you have at least one person who loves you (and I'm sure you have more than that), you need to be healthy for them. Taking care of your health will not only make your life easier, it will make their lives easier too.

One easy way to take care of your health: get to bed earlier.

My husband says that everyone in my family loves to sleep...and he's right. My dad used to wake us up super early to either take care of farm animals or go to early-morning seminary. We were always functioning on less sleep than most kids. Since then, I've always craved sleep like a recovering alcoholic craves a good, stiff drink. When I get a good night's sleep, I feel like a new woman. Try going to bed even 30 minutes earlier than you normally do and see how you feel. Do it for your family.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Value of Restraint

Speak when you are angry - and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret."
- Dr. Laurence J. Peter 

I've thought a lot about this concept. I've been guilty of shooting off my mouth (or an email) when I'm angry. My last post written to Home Depot was done after the heat of anger had cooled. But, it still comes off as maybe a bit more harsh than it should have been. However, I still got the result I was looking for: awareness and a reaction from Home Depot themselves. 

Since I'm in a career that is largely in the public eye, I deal with a lot of complaints. Women are not shy about voicing their frustrations and disappointments. I can type in the word "disappointment" in my search window in my email client and find at least four or five emails from women who were disappointed in something I was a part of — an ad that ran in the magazine for which I run, a shirt that didn't fit or a detail that was omitted from a story that the reader felt was vital. In many cases, I had to make a judgment call and knew I'd make at least a few people frustrated.

When you're in the heat of anger, though, rattling off an email or calling to rant at the offender about how disappointed you are often comes back to bite you. 

The other day I received two nasty, angry emails. I calmly replied that I'd see what I could do to resolve the situation, then separately called both parties. In both cases, I was met with chagrin.

One person said, "I'm sorry. I probably should have waited to send that [email] to you. Now that I look at the situation, I realize it's no big deal."

I think we can all learn a lesson in restraint. When you're angry. Wait.

Wait some more.

Then, think as you write your letter or email to the person with which you're angry. Think about what you want to say to them before you say it. Then wait some more before sending it or saying it. Re-read what you write aloud and determine if it's worth sending. You'll save yourself a lot of regret and shame if you handle yourself with restraint. 

The old adage "an ounce of prevention" certainly applies in these cases. I certainly appreciate it when I'm on the receiving end of someones disappointment.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why I'll never buy another appliance from Home Depot

For those of you who know me, I'm not one to mince words. This is the letter I sent to the Home Depot social media person about my experience with purchasing my new LG washer/dryer from them. I sent it on December 10. I still have not heard back from anyone at Home Depot.

Hi Sarah,

I just got off the phone with LG. The purpose of their call was to tell me that the LG washer/dryer my husband and I purchased on Black Friday from Home Depot would not be delivered on December 15, when we were told it would be delivered. Then, the LG rep proceded to tell me they were not able to deliver it until after the first of the year. That's nearly six weeks from purchase!

I understand about products not being held at the store or a nearby warehouse (although that may be something Home Depot needs to do). What I don't understand is why a big company, like Home Depot, would make such a huge customer service gamble on predicting the delivery of such a vital home appliance. My current washing machine has been on the fritz for well over a month. By the time I get this washing machine and dryer from Home Depot, I'll be on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Here's why:

I have four daughters ranging in age from one to 14. They change their clothes a lot. My baby poops through her clothes a lot. She also makes a lot of messes. I have a husband who likes to workout everyday. I also workout everyday. We sweat a lot. We have a lot of laundry which piles up and starts to smell. Quickly.

Recently, my first grader brought home lice. Do you know what you have to do when you have someone in your house with lice? Wash everything. And I mean everything. All clothes, bedding, backpacks, coats, hats, carpets, pillows, stuffed animals, and, of course every head in your house has to be scoured with lice shampoo and needs to be scrutinized with a fine-tooth comb.  All while I'm waiting for my new  washer and dryer to come from Home Depot.

We were all celebrating at my house last night that we have less than a week before the washer and dryer will be delivered. Then, I get this call today.

I have a lot of connections. I am more than willing to copy and paste this letter into my Facebook notes and my own blog. I would be happy to tell everyone out there - all the moms I know - to not purchase from Home Depot if they really need their purchase to save them from imminent household chaos.

If I don't hear from someone at Home Depot, I'll start my all-out campaign to spread the word about this experience.

By the way, I'm the editor of a woman's magazine with 165,00 women readers in Utah. They'll know about this, too.

Pamela Baumeister
The person who just spent over $1200 in your store.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

How to Negotiate Like a Girl

My husband says girls can’t throw. We throw like sissies, he says. Adding insult to injury, most men are such naturals that the only way they can throw like a girl is to use the “wrong hand.” It looks awkward and is inefficient at delivering the ball with speed and accuracy.

He’s right. I admit I throw like a girl. First off, I am a girl, and sadly, no one taught me to throw until I was an adult. However, powerful negotiation is one of those skills you don’t have to learn in youth. Learn how to be an excellent negotiator and you’ll feel as exhilarated as a little leaguer pitching a no-hitter.

Begin to negotiate like a powerful girl and create win-win situations for everyone involved. Begin with the basics and you’ll become a successful negotiator.

Emotion vs. Logic
One essential to negotiating is putting emotions in check. Workplace consultant and creator Robert Bacal says as we become more emotional, we lose the ability to think clearly. The more we state facts and eliminate emotional judgments, the more we “maintain control,” counsels Bacal.
Let’s say you want a raise. To negotiate effectively, you have to prepare by knowing your subject and seeing things from all sides. Often, that means becoming a mini expert, learning more about it than your boss—a position of power. Here’s how you can.
  1. Assess out how much of a raise you want. Research what others with your job earn, how often they receive raises, whether they get bonuses, and how their benefits structured. You are now armed to defend, with more logic than emotion, your increased salary.
  2. Explain why you deserve a raise. Point out what you have done for the company, what you plan to do, and what your unique skills are. Quantify what you’ll give and what the raise is worth to the company. Reminded your boss he can’t live without you.
  3. State when you want that bump in salary, putting yourself in the shoes of your boss. Consider your timing. Observe ahead of time what is happening in the company and what kind of resistance you may experience. Request your raise when you’ve just received a favorable review, a ringing client endorsement, or another job offer.
Women’s Intuition
Now that you’ve done your homework, you’re on your way to successful negotiation. Yet, don’t expect negotiation nirvana. You’ll probably still be nervous. However, when the stakes are high and your heart starts pounding, that’s the time to listen to your instincts and go with your gut. Remember, you’ve got feminine intuition–use it! Here’s how:
  1. Play dress-up. You can usually better identify with your audience by dressing similarly. If you have a boss that is part of the “old boy’s club,” be a girl and wear your heels and a classy skirt or dress with a sport coat. Do not break out the cleavage card. It’s never professional.
  2. Wear your “big-girl panties.” Stick to what you want. You are your own best ally. If you waver, you show that you don’t care about getting what you’re requesting. Write down what you want to happen, rehearse it and be prepared with evidence to support. Be prepared for an unfavorable response, though. Whatever happens, determine to be strong.
  3. Use the perfect blend of sugar and spice. Friendliness and likeability will take you much further than you think. However, being sugary-sweet will turn most bosses or prospect off and appear fake. According to Tim Sanders, author of The Likeability Factor, “realness” will help you more than adopting false, unnatural traits.
  4. Say what you want, then, zip it. After you’ve presented your case, ask for what you want. Making firm eye contact, state your monetary request, and promptly shut up! Don’t justify or explain. The pressure is now on the boss. Let him squirm. The moment you open your mouth to explain, your credibility is gone. When the answer is given, you may have to concede a bit, but now’s not the time. Know how low you are willing to drop, but don’t go there right away.
In summary, trust yourself and your talents. You will become better at negotiating when you practice. Find opportunities to hone your skills. High-priced boutiques or farmers’ markets are fun places to practice. You’ll find yourself more confident and in tune with your instincts. Stay firm. And, maybe, throw underhand next time a guy is watching.
Note: This post is an article I wrote for Wasatch Woman magazine in March/April 2008

Monday, December 13, 2010

Funeral for a Friend

Today I attended a funeral for a man in my neighborhood. We went to church together and worked on several activities. I didn't know Bill very well, but I thought highly of him. He didn't tell many people that he was sick, nor did he ask for any attention once people knew about his quickly deteriorating condition. He thought more about others than he did about himself.

At his funeral several people spoke about all the kindness and service Bill was always doing while he was alive.  They spoke of his skills as a chef and gardener, how he loved to bring by little gifts and leave them without any recognition or fanfare. One neighbor recounted how he left a brand new barbecue grill on his front porch — as a gift. The widows and single women in his building knew he was their watchdog. Bill made them feel safe.

He didn't solve any major world problems, didn't leave behind a family, didn't know a lot of people either. He was quiet, simple, and humble. But, Bill left a lot of positive impression on those who knew him.

I thought about what was said about Bill at his funeral and started to think about what will be said at mine. In the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey the second habit states, "Begin with the end in mind." Covey encourages you to write down what you want people to say about you at your own funeral. He then goes on to point out that you should live your life in such a way as to be worthy to have those things said of you. I wrote things I wanted said at that point, several years ago, but attending this funeral today has me re-assessing what I would want said about me.

Here are a just a few:

From my kids:
  • She built us up, believed in us and made us a priority. We knew we were important to her.
  • She was loving, caring, fun and affectionate.
  • She was a great example of how to treat others.
From my spouse:
  • She was a great listener.
  • She loved me and showed that love frequently.
  • She was fun to be with and made us all laugh.
  • She kept us all together and focused on being close knit.
From my friends:
  • She had strong moral values, but never made you feel like she thought she was better than you.
  • She loved her family very much.
  • She had a positive attitude that was contagious. 
  • She was a problem-solver and helped me solve many of my own problems.

If you could write your own eulogy, what would it say? What would your family and friends say about you?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Missing my Equilibrium

Over the past week I've been battling an inner-ear virus of some sort. I have no pain, but I have no balance. The my head feels like it's spinning and the room is wavy at best and spinning at worst. Very frustrating.

This video shows what my eyes are doing as a result of this goofy virus. I only hope I can start to walk, run, drive and just generally function without feeling extremely dizzy.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Flip Friday: What makes you twirl?

Photo courtesy of Jeff Kyle
Yes, I know it's technically not a video, but can't you just feel that breeze from this fast spin? The joy on my daughter's face says it all. Twirling is fun and makes you feel almost like you're flying. Dresses or skirts with lots of swing to them make any girl want to whirl around. When was the last time you felt that free?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pocket-call protocol

You know those calls you get when someone sits on their phone or leans against their purse and accidentally dials your number? Some people call them pocket calls or butt dialing. I think I must get more of those than most people. With a name that begins with "Ba," my name must be near the top of the alphabetical list on most of my friends, family and acquaintances phone directory.

I don't mind getting random calls. In fact, when I get them as a phone message, I can't help but listen to most, if not all of the message. For some reason I think I might actually hear some juicy bit of information that wasn't meant for my ears. Like maybe the person calling will reveal how they really feel about me...or I'll hear some other sort of sordid detail that they want to keep hidden from the world. I'm like a rubbernecker passing a four-car pileup on the highway. I can't stop myself from listening to the whole muffled, jumbled and indiscernible message. Why can't I just hear the first few seconds and hit delete?

One day, my sister pocket dialed me about five times in a row. I stopped answering after the third one. What's the protocol here? Do I send her a text and tell her to lock her keypad? Do I call her back and leave a message that she needs to not lean on her phone so hard? Well...what do you do?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Flip Friday: Baby steps

My baby is now one and she's just learning how to move around on her feet. Sometimes you push chairs around before you learn to walk...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Success = Doing things that scare the @#&! out of you

Visibly scared, pre-race at XTERRA
This summer I competed in three triathlons. I'm hooked. But, that's no surprise. I'm fiercely competitive. Sometimes I wish I weren't so competitive. I have to beat my own time when I run, swim, or bike...but, I also have to not let too many people pass me.

I learned, however, when you're too competitive, you make dumb mistakes because you're too focused on the end result and not the experience. You also can thwart your own success because you're not being patient enough to master the particular skill in which you're competing.

Learning how to mountain bike, a new skill for me, only a month before my last triathlon of the season (an off-road tri called XTERRA), taught me how to slow down, take the competition out of the experience, and enjoy. The first time I tried mountain biking, I was terrified. Going downhill was the scariest thing I've done in a long time. That fear resulted in a barely controlled descent down a rocky mountain trail and a skidding sideways crash which taught me to grip my brakes more gently. A scraped up knee and arm and a dinner-plate-size bruise on my keister were sharp reminders that becoming competitive in a new sport is more patience and hard work than dumb luck and speed.

I wasn't dumb enough to think I'd never get hurt again as I worked on getting better at mountain biking. In fact, part of me (the bruised part) wanted nothing more than to do the sports I knew I was good at over the ones that could maim or potentially kill me. I didn't die, though. I forged on. Still scared, moving deliberately.

XTERRA race day came. I was ready. I knew I had to go slow and I knew I wasn't skilled enough yet to navigate the wooden steps on the trail. So, I stopped and lifted my bike over and around the large obstacles in the path. It took so much longer to finish that race than any other race I've ever done. But, I finished. And I didn't get hurt.

Next on my list of things that scare me: climbing. I'm terrified of heights.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Grateful for this...

I could list all the things I'm grateful for this Thanksgiving season (like family, health, and friends), but I think what I'm most grateful for at this moment is beauty. When I see a sunset with all the brilliant colors God painted it with, I feel totally awed. When I see a piece of art or read an amazingly inspired book, every cell in my body is engulfed in sweet wonder.

Photo by Rennett Stowe
Simple things, like this poem by Dixie Wilson, bring me joy.

I like the fall the mist and all
I like the night owls lonely call
And waiting sound of wind around
I like the gray November day
and dead bare boughs that coldly sway
Against my pane
I like the rain
I like to sit and laugh at it
And then tend my cozy fire a bit
I like the fall 
The mist and all

That's what I'm grateful for right now.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The guy with a one-track mind

Some people have told my husband that they think he leads the most exciting life with all of the things he does and has done. Oh, the stories this guy can tell. Here's proof that he's only thinking about one thing, though.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The daytime drama

From a very young age, the tendency toward the theatric is second nature for my second daughter. As a three-year-old, she would be found wandering the house growling, "Where's my damn blankie!" or when she had to pay for something out of her piggy bank she'd wail, "I'm not a rich girl!"

I thought maybe that would end as she got older. Wrong.

Usually once a week she talks about how horrible her life is and how no one likes her and how things are "so not fair!" The unfair complaint is pretty typical for kids with siblings, I've heard (and know from experience). But, she doesn't draw the line there.

The other day I was helping her get ready for school, by making her lunch. She was in her typical tumultuous rush. She was in a dark mood; nothing was going right, apparently. I called out to her from the kitchen and the scene went something like this:

Me: What do you want for your sandwich?

Goose: Nothing!

Me: Nothing?

Goose: Yeah! Nothing.

Me: How come? You know you're going to be hungry.

Goose: (controlled scream) I'm fasting!

Me: (nonchalantly) Oh yeah? What for?

Goose: (practically in tears, now) That the Lord will take away my life!

Me: Hmm. Interesting. 

Then the thought, "I wonder if I should tell her that there are quicker ways to get results?"


These are the days of my life.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thick skin. What makes a good mother?

I ask myself this question a lot lately. When I was in my twenties and had only two little ones, I thought I knew. Good mothers were perfect in every way. Thier children were always well groomed and tidy, their homes were spotless and hyper-organized, they scrapbooked every detail of their precious children's lives, they were patient yet firm and, most of all, they took their kids on endless outings and did endless craft projects with them. I think I maybe achieved one of those things in the first eight years I was a mother — and only for a small window of time.

Now that I have four children and I'm well into my thirties with a demanding career, I've learned that a good mother is one who tries hard to love her children with patience and consistency.

Those "piercings" are merely magnets. Nice, huh?
As my kids have gotten older, I realize that my skin has, out of necessity, become thicker. Some of things are difficult to hear from kids no matter how thick your skin is or how much you've worked on being self assured. Here are just a few:

  • I hate you. (What kid hasn't uttered those words out of anger?)
  • All my friends feel sorry for me because you're so strict. (This one still makes me beam with pride)
  • You're a horrible mother. (yeah, I know)
  • I wish you were different, then I could tell you stuff. (Maybe if I were more like a teenager?)
  • You'd be so much skinnier if you got a tummy tuck (Ouch!  That hurts almost as much as pushing you out after carrying you inside my body for nine months while packing on 70 pounds.)
I'm still the parent. I have a responsibility to respond in a reasonable, mature way.  But, the thought that one woman I met last summer said keeps returning: You're really not a woman until something comes out of your body and steps on your dreams.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Quit asking for permission

She didn't ask for permission and look what she created.
My mother rarely flips out. She's stable and amazingly cool-headed. That's phenomenal when you consider she had nine kids. I would like to be more like her — the cool-headed part, not the nine kids part. The one time I remember her getting on my case was when she said something to the effect of, "Do I have to tell you everything that needs to be done around here?" I was a teenager and probably could have helped out around the house more. I think she must have reached a breaking point. She was tired of always having to ask her kids to vacuum, sweep, dust, pick up after themselves, etc.

Why weren't we taking the initiative? Why didn't we see that things needed to be done and do them? Why do most kids have to be told to do things? Most kids aren't that motivated. Motivation stops beyond things that they need or things that have a tangible reward. Sadly, many adults are that same way. Somehow they have to have instructions or an invitation to do something.

Why is it that so many adults refuse to do anything outside their job description —or worse— are too afraid to do anything that might be outside their scope? Maybe it's a combination of fear and laziness. What about people who are afraid someone else will get the credit? How about those that need permission in order to get through their day? Doesn't the lure of possibly achieving overwhelmingly positive results appeal to people anymore or is this world becoming a place where mediocrity comes standard?

I'm not advocating absolute chaos and mutiny in the workplace. But, having an independent thought outside the way that things are traditionally done is a start.  What would the world be like if people did something they weren't paid to do or asked to do? Some might say that's the "going the extra mile" mantra. I say it's the "take some damned initiative" mantra. Who knows, if everyone just took a fraction more ambition in their lives something amazing could happen.

This blog was inspired by Linchpin by Seth Godin. If you're interested in becoming a person who stands out from the sea of people who need to have an instruction manual to do anything remarkable, read it. This book will rock your boat — that's a good thing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The "no" list

Photo by Casey Mullins, aka @mooshinindy
I used to call myself an entrepreneur and often said "yes" to everything. Then I went to work for a large local corporation and for nearly three years I've been working really hard for someone else. Sometimes I've worked too hard. My family wondered when I was coming home some days and other days I'd get so frustrated I wasn't making a difference for anyone that I felt like crying. Then, I got pregnant and had to take maternity leave, which meant I was away from work for about three months. During that time I was able to analyze my life and where I was spending it.

I knew I had to make some changes with the way I identified myself. In many ways I had become my job. It wasn't healthy and it certainly wasn't feeding my soul. I wasn't thinking of ways to stand out as much as I was thinking of ways to garner approval from co-workers and and boss. You may think, "there's nothing wrong with that." There was for me, though. I felt that my creativity was based on getting the green light from others at work.

Since having baby #4, I've started to rethink things. One of the people who have influenced me is Danielle LaPorte. I never really paid much attention to her and her ideas until I saw her at the Startup Princess Touchpoint event this fall. Her keynote speech had some nuggets of wisdom in it that bear repeating for anyone who wants to make the most out of their life. She asks you to ask yourself a series of questions. The question I keep coming back to is: What do you want to stop doing?

She suggests making a "no" list in your life. Danielle recommends saying "no" 80% of the time. That's hard to swallow for all the people pleasers out there. I guess I'm one of them...and I always thought I wasn't. I have a hard time saying "no" to people and obligations I think I should be able to find time to do.

Without editing or over thinking this, I've made up this list of things I'd like to say "no" to. They are in no particular order. These things are going to be hard for me to stop doing.
  1. Being in a rush.
  2. Procrastinating.
  3. Buying my children too many gifts for Christmas.
  4. Waiting for someone else to clean my car.
  5. Wasting time on Facebook.
  6. Staying up past 11pm.
  7. Postponing taking a vacation until the perfect time (or until the money to do so lands in my lap).
  8. Throwing more money towards bills than towards savings.
  9. Putting too many things on my "to do" list.
  10. Getting emotional when my kids say hurtful things.
  11. Reading more than one book at a time.
  12. Complaining.
  13. Worrying about things I can't control.
So, what's on your "no" list?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Date night: Thai'd down?

If you've ever watched Date Night you know that a lot of couples slip into a routine when it comes to going out. The same restaurant. The same conversation. Blah. Do something out of the norm and voila your humdrum life becomes exciting and different. At least in the movies. Sometimes you just have to test it out. That's just what we did.

Carl and I usually go out on Saturday nights. That's our date night. This week, we shook things up by going out on a Thursday (a school night!) to celebrate our anniversary. I won and we went out for Thai. Scandalous.

We strolled up to the Thaifoon Restaurtant at the Gateway like a couple of newlyweds...holding hands.

Upon entering we were promptly seated at the water wall. The sound of water falling is like some sort of panacea for me. Bring on the food!

Our waitress, Brittany was gorgeous. Carl was too busy looking over the menu and I was too zen with that waterwall to care if he took a second look. We ordered edamame and the Spicy Tuna Tempura Roll to knosh on while we contemplated our entrees. Normally, I'm crazy about edamame, but I was too into those rolls to pay much heed to my soy favorite. With their crunchy exterior and smooth interior of spicy tuna, I was in heaven.

Then, Brittany surprised us with non-alcoholic cocktails called (no joke) Ta-Ta Tini's - a blend of watermelon, berries, and fresh mint in soda water. Thaifoon donates proceeds from their "Save 2nd Base" menu, of which the Ta-Ta Tini is from, to breast cancer research. 

Carl, being generous in his concern for breasts, ordered the Surf 'n Turf from the "Save 2nd Base" menu. Feeling feisty, I ordered the Evil Jungle Princess Beef. The beef was filet mignon for both dishes. If you're a lover of red meat, you'd appreciate that we barely spoke through mouthfuls of that succulent sustenance. To make it even better, the tunes they played there were totally righteous. Carl ate Jasmine rice while Summer Breeze by Seals and Croft gently played in the background.  Sweet.

After stuffing as much of that tasty food into our bellies, we squeezed in dessert. 
Sugar (and plenty of it) for Carl with the Chocolate Volcano (it's under a mountain of ice cream).
Since I don't eat sugar, they whipped up a bunch of fruit for me.
All in all we had a great night, even if we didn't see Mark Wahlberg or have our life threatened. The food was delicious and the people there were genuine and fun. 
Plus, they comped the whole thing! Want to have a free night out at Thaifoon, too? Go to their Facebook page, "like" them and post your favorite entree from Thaifoon to their wall. You could win a $50 gift card to Thaifoon and inject a bit of fun into your date night. No more boring nights.

Thanks Thaifoon!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Marriage: the good, the bad, the really goofy

Today is my 17 year wedding anniversary. 43% of first marriages end within the first 15 years (Divorce stats). My husband and I are not the typical married couple. Although we haven't figured it out completely (he still calls me when he can't find things in the fridge and I still don't do more than 20% of the laundry), we're pretty good at this marriage stuff...most of the time.

The Good and The Bad
Since we both believe in abstinence until marriage, our first years of marriage were largely spent in bed. Then we had kids. Those were great times (pre-kids) and we look back on them fondly. We took some great vacations together and we absolutely love to exercise together. I'd say we love Scrabble together, but I squash him almost every time (see my use of the letter "q" there?).

We've been through some rough spots, too. Running a business together was really hard on our marriage. I don't recommend that to any couple. When most of your conversations have to do with clients and accounts receivable, you're time together is more like a board meeting.

The Goofy
One of the best parts about being married is having someone to laugh with in the middle of the night. Usually it starts with a half-asleep comment that makes no sense. We snicker quietly together until someone snorts loudly or wheezes from trying to stifle an noisy guffaw. Then, the giggling reaches a whole new level and, through tears of comedy, we have to tell the other person to shoosh because we don't want to wake the kids.

We love to laugh. If we didn't, we probably wouldn't still be married. Boy, am I lucky he still finds me funny. But, looks aren't everything (rimshot).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Strong women, complaining women

The big race I was organizing is over. You can see photos of the event here

Watching a sea of over 1800 women running and walking together was thrilling. There was a tangible feeling of excitement and comraderie in the air. So much strength and vivacity. I felt proud to watch women and girls of all ages, fitness levels and body types participating in this event. I had an overwhelming sense of the power women have. Our strength is not only in our numbers, but our resilience and perseverance.

My husband jokes around that we have a way of speaking to each other — he calls it Reddy and Able speak, after Helen Reddy, the woman who sang, "I am Woman." He bases it on the words and phrases we use to talk to encourage each other. For example,  "you're amazing," "you're a powerful woman," and "you go girl." Whatever. He's never given birth or been pushed down by "the man." But, that's a topic for another blog.

I've learned a lot from putting together a race with the words "love your body" in them. First, finding shirts that fit every body type is virtually impossible and women complain. A lot.

I heard so many complaints last year, that I took it on as my problem to solve. This year I was determined to get it right. Finding good shirts has been the bane of my race director existence.  My boss and I looked at several kinds of shirt manufacturer samples. We made a very informed decision and felt good about it. But, when women picked up their shirts (in sizes they picked themselves from measurements I listed on the registration site, incidentally), the whining began.

"This isn't a medium!?"

"How do you expect me to fit into this?"

"Does it come in any other colors?"

and the most common complaint,

"Can I exchange this for a different size?"

It seems that no matter what the effort, we girls will always find something that wasn't good enough, didn't work for us, and didn't meet up to our expectations. Maybe we're strong, but satisfaction is definitely our Achilles heel.

My solution next year? Socks.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Self control

Over the last six months I've been working hard on a big event. Now I'm about three days out from the the big day and my patience is starting to be tested. Today I got a nasty email from someone who was angry we closed registration without telling them. Here's what she wrote:

I'm sorry but screw you for having closed registation! I was told there was no deaedline but have been working my tail off to enter in the race. I was so excited to run...awful, awful planning for a woman's health run and fundraiser. I am beyond pissed and disapointed by this. Maybe you ought to consider better planning for next year or more notification of an upcoming deadline well before it happens. Thanks for nothing!

Okay, maybe not publicizing our closure was an oversight on my part, but we did tell people to register early. Now I've had two downright enraged women contacting me with nothing but venom about the closure. One even told me she had the ad we ran from July on her fridge.

It seems like blaming someone for your own procrastination is like blaming Santa for bringing Christmas when you haven't purchased gifts for your family.

We knew we'd have people begging to get into the race, so we held a few spots aside. I was being judicious about who I would grant the right to get in at the last minute and wasn't about to give the golden ticket to that grouchy bear. I waited for inspiration to strike before deciding how to respond to mandabear77. About four hours after the seething email from her arrived, I received the following from her:

Sorry, my last message was a bit mean. I am upset but I shouldn't have reacted in the heat of the moment. I do apologize for being mean.

To which I replied, as I've learned to do from years of motherhood:

Now that you've cooled down, do you want to know how to get into the race?

A woman I admire told me once that she never writes anything in an email that she would be ashamed to read in 25 years. I feel good about that reply and I think I'll still feel good about it in 25 years.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Qualities of a Good Leader

Last week I had the opportunity to speak to a room full of women at the Women in Leadership conference for the Sandy Chamber of Commerce. I was both surprised and honored to be asked. However, the week before the speech, my schedule was so crammed with work, I barely had any time to give the speech a second thought. The night before, I sat down, jotted down my ideas of what makes a good leader and said a prayer for God to help me.

He did.

I have never felt so relaxed and so much a conduit for inspiration as I did that morning. God was there putting the words in my mouth. I shared experiences from my own life that I would not have thought to share. I got laughs, tears and applause. I was humbled by the power I felt was not my own. I learned that He knows how to help you if you just trust Him.

Here's some of what I told the women in attendance about the qualities of a good leader.

  1. Listen and be a good follower. Learn to be obedient to the sound advice and direction from your mentors, your parents, your peers, and even your children. Find a mentor, if you don't have one and learn from them with an open mind and heart. Leaders are willing to do the work they ask others to do. They aren't too proud to ask for help and to listen to the advice of others.
  2. Remember who you are. My parents told me this all the time as a teenager. I know they meant for me to remember I'm a child of God. I know that to be true of all of us. I also know that when we are real, we're not trying to stand out or be unique. We all have the potential for greatness and when we remember that, we act in accordance with that potential. If you're familiar with Marianne Williamson, you know the quote Nelson Mandela borrowed for his inaugural speech about shining as a child of God so others around you have permission to do the same.
  3. Be kind. Help those around you. By treating others with kindness and respect, you raise them up to their potential. Water seeks its own level — why not lift someone up when you can? Someone once said you can only be successful by helping others to be so, too. I believe that is true. Start with your family. Treat them like you treat those you've just met as an experiment and notice how much more patient, kind, open-minded and tolerant you are with them. Kindness takes work when you're tired or frustrated, but you'll never regret showing kindness at those times when it's hardest to show.
  4. Know you can' t do it all or be everything to everyone. If you're committed to setting your priorities and living  your priorities, you'll shine as a leader for others to do the same and you'll all be empowered to live a more peaceful life. This is especially important for women as they become mothers. The demands on a working mother's time are often overwhelming. I've learned from the 14 years of being a working mother to act as if you'll never get any time back — make the most of it, because you won't get your time back. Your children will grow up, your deadlines will pass by and your house will need to be re-cleaned. Don't regret the time you spend on things by deciding to spend your time on what is important at that moment.
  5. Don't take counsel from your fears. I believe Eleanor Roosevelt said that. She didn't allow her husband to shrink when he could have as a polio survivor. I had to tell myself that story when I really felt like backing out of the upcoming XTERRA triathlon. I am scared of crashing on the mountain bike — I'm a newbie to that sport and tremendously frightened of getting hurt. But, I will not be conquered by my fear. True leaders often do difficult things. Challenges may scare them, but they push through that fear and do it anyway. 
  6. Stand for something good. Make your work something you love, something that moves you. My purpose is to lift and inspire women. I hope my work continues to be just that: moving and inspiring. For me, writing and creating are conduits for good. I echo Jane Austen, "Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery." I choose to write about the good in other people — and there is so much of it. I strive to spread that feeling of positive potential to everyone who reads my words. Inspiring others to be the best version of themselves comes naturally to the best leaders.
  7. We are all leaders.  Whether we embrace it or not, we all have people around us that look up to us and follow us. If you're a mother, you know that to be true. The mother sets the tone of the home. Women set the tone when they're in positions of leadership — even if they're not the "boss" in a work environment. We are more gentle and nurturing and therefore have a lot of power to influence. We don't have to change ourselves to be more like one of the guys. We can embrace our natural femininity. We can know that our actions within our circle of influence set the tone for future generations. That's power. That's leadership.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Better with age

Although this was the 12th year for TriUtah’s Jordanelle triathlon, this was my first year as a participant. I showed up the week before the event to check out the course — although I came early and left before all the preview festivities began, I still got a good feel for the swim and the bike.

The morning of the race was clear and temperate. After getting my bike set up in the transition area and making sure the women around me had their bikes set up the right way (with the front tire pointing towards you, so you can still read your name/number tag on the bar while standing in front of your bike), I slipped into my wetsuit and wondered out loud if I should have remembered sunscreen.

I warmed up in the water while the three waves started and the sun rose higher in the sky. The women treading water at the start line around me were visibly nervous. I knew if I could get out of the washing machine of arms and legs soon, I’d be fine. That seemed daunting at first, though. I had to muster my courage, count my strokes and push hard past, over and through, the other swimmers. Someone must have not liked that too much because my ankle was grabbed. I wasn’t deterred and worked hard to finish strong. The steep boat ramp climb upon exiting the water didn’t encourage more than a fast plod into the transition area.

At T1 I realized I hadn’t started my timer on my watch. I knew I had to speed up as I stripped off my wetsuit, started my timer and ran my bike to the start line. Zipping out of the Rock Cliff area into the sleepy ranching town of Francis, I gazed down at my feet. Where was my timing chip anklet? I yelled out to every volunteer along the route that I had lost my timing chip. What a let down — I ran through every possibility in my mind. Then, I decided it was out of my control and to enjoy the race.  I knew I’d have my T1 time through to the end of bike time on my watch anyway, so it wasn’t a total loss. I pumped my legs as hard as I could on the hills, past cows and horses, around big trucks with gun racks and trailers, and other agricultural scenes. I didn’t let up even on the steep downhill near the end of the rural ride.

Back at transition, I shook out my wetsuit. There was my timing chip! I put it back on and set off on the run with a big smile on my face. I was going to get my final time after all. I wasn’t too worried about the run because I had heard it was fairly flat. Lies. They say “what you don’t know won’t kill you,” but I think “they” are full of beans. The hills on the course were tough. I saw at least a dozen people walking. Not me. A friend with whom I’ve trained told me she works harder on the hills. I thought of her as I forced myself to keep my pace.

Clambering over rocks, sagebrush, deep crevices in the trail, boardwalks over marshes and sidewalks near the finish, those TriUtah people kept me guessing through the whole run. As I rounded the corner to get to the finish line, the panting woman behind me picked up speed and passed. I still felt I had done my best and was gratified to find out I had placed 5th in my age group. Best of all, I was faster than the whippersnapper 20-24 female winner. Who says you can’t get better with age?

Next year, I’ll change three things: 1. I’ll be ready for those hills on the run. 2. I’ll make sure my timing chip stays put through T1. 3. I’ll remember sunscreen — my shoulders are still as bright red as a boiled lobster.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Who gets your time?

While looking at a directory for elderly care and hospice, I came across an ad with the headline, "Bored?" The ad then went on to say that the long-term care facility for which they were advertising had a series of activities to keep their residents busy. Is our society just fixated on being busy? Is "being busy."

Nearly everyone I talk to is busy these days. Some people are busier than others, though. I don't know if I have the corner on the market of being busy, but I wish I wasn't so busy sometimes. I think it's just the season of my life right now. My kids need me in different ways nearly all the time. When I'm not working (and many times when I'm working), they'll ask me for my time. Those demands don't give me a free pass from others' demands on my time. I get asked to lunches, meetings, phone calls, brainstorming sessions, seminars, events, speaking engagements, grand openings, blood drives, volunteering duties, etc. from people I work with, go to church with and people I don't even know. Everyone wants something from me.

If I could clone myself all these demands on my time would be met. Every one. Unfortunately, that science hasn't been perfected. This means I get to perfect my discipline and boundaries. Managing my time is something I think about a lot. Here's what I've learned over the years.

  1. Organize: When you know what you have to do, when you have to do it and what the consequences are if you don't do it, you're better able to organize your time to see where you have extra time (if any) to give to others. Organizing yourself helps you feel more in control when things get out-of-control busy. Structure and order help you say "no" to things when you have enough to fill your plate. If I have a particularly demanding work day ahead, I'll plan the night before to get up earlier to fulfill all my time demands. Planning, setting goals and tasks ahead of time, then checking in on yourself at the end of the day or week, will keep you accountable and more motivated to do better the next day/week.
  2. Prioritize: Is your family the most important thing in your life? If so, you will find it easier to turn down demands on your time that take you away from them when they need you. My husband and I decided years ago that we wouldn't attend meetings in the evening because that's family time. This shows our kids our commitment to them. During working hours, my kids understand work is important to me and needs to be completed. They know they'll have to wait - and if they don't, there are consequences.
  3. Make time for yourself: You're a priority too. Making time for exercise and sleep take discipline and structure. Schedule it in the night before and you'll be glad you did - you'll feel less stressed, think clearer and be healthier.
  4. Find your weakest point and work on it: There are things in life that will rob your time. My weakness was (and still is, sometimes) social media. I love Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, email and all things related to them. Checking email less often is sometimes difficult, but that practice makes you feel like you have more time. When you sit down at the computer and give yourself only 20 minutes to check all your social media accounts, you'll be much faster and you'll get started working on the things on your list faster. Set a timer and stick to ending at the allotted time.
So, who gets your time? I think the answer to that question will vary from one person to the next and from day to day...maybe even hour to hour. The important part of that question is the asking. Be thoughtful and deliberate about who gets your time and you won't feel robbed by time.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Yearly List

 I don't do New Year's resolutions, I do birthday resolutions. Every year, on my birthday, I make my list of goals. Then, at New Years, I review them and see how I'm doing. This last Wednesday was my birthday, so I hauled out my journal to make my list. Before I make my list, I try to spend some thoughtful moments, without children interrupting, contemplating the best goals to make. I don't want to make them too easy or too hard.

This year I read my last year's list of birthday goals and then, I read the year before that (I've been doing this birthday goal list thing for at least 5 years). Many of my goals have remained the same: go on a family vacation, be out of debt, be at a certain (nearly unattainable) weight, be on time everywhere I go (also nearly unattainable) and make a certain amount of money. But, I'm wondering if I'm missing something and if I should vary it up a bit.

At some point in life, do you just cross things off because they are
1. Totally unlikely,
2. Not worth the major effort when there are already so many things going on in your life?

Here is a list of some of the things I've considered putting on my list:
  •  Travel to Europe
  • Write a book
  • Move to a home on a lake within driving distance of a major city
  • Go to art school
  • Learn to surf
  • Compete in an adventure race
  • Travel to Africa
  • Learn a foreign language
  • Read the complete works of Shakespeare
  • Win an Academy Award
  • Sell my artwork
  • Make enough money to be a philanthropist
  • Re-learn how to roller skate
  • Re-learn how to snowboard
  • Learn how to dive
  • Learn PhotoShop
  • Take my daughters to New York City
  • Learn to sail
  • Visit India
Are there items on your list you won't ever possibly do? Do you keep them on your list "just in case" you suddenly become super human and can stretch time? I'm wondering if I'm the only one who is ridiculously optimistic (or delusional?) in thinking she can do it all?

Monday, July 19, 2010

My Something Big

My husband once told me "you're the type of woman who can't be satisfied." He wasn't talking about in the bedroom. He meant, I'm never happy with my current situation. That's not a compliment, I've learned. I've told close friends that I wish I could just be happy with a simple life. I know that's a bit like the grass-is-greener mentality. But, I've wondered, why couldn't I just be happy staying home and being a mom?

"You don't have time to be a mom," my defiant 11-year-old snapped at me the other night. Ouch. I took her head firmly in my hands and told her that I work for our family, doing the best I can in the time I have and I don't like to be guilt tripped about my choices. Later, re-telling the story to a friend, I realized my daughter was partially right.

Here I am blogging about what my possible next steps are in my life when my time is stretched between running a magazine, managing a home, mothering four girls and pushing myself to peak physical performance. I've always been an over-achiever — taking on more things than I could possibly get done (never mind doing them well!). Maybe it's time to look at my choices more closely before I add one more thing.

The friend I related my woes of motherhood to is a good fifteen years my senior. She's had two boys who are now grown and out of her hair and she has been through two divorces — the ink on the second one is just drying — and she's been a working mother through it all. She always gives me the most thoughtful, sound advice and I love her dearly. She told me that she used to want to save the world/make a profound difference in her work, too. Now, she's just grateful she has a good job. She told me that maybe my desire to do something big needs to be shelved for now...because maybe my "something big" is being a mother to four girls. Right now.

When I had my first child, I resented that all my dreams and aspirations would have to wait. In some ways they have. I haven't finished college, I haven't written a book, I haven't made a million dollars, I haven't won any major awards, I haven't traveled the world, I haven't bought my dream house on the shores of a quiet lake...but, what I now have is four little women (just call me Mrs. March) with potential to each make a difference in the world. Does that mean I have to put my dreams on hold until they are grown? I'm not sure. But, it may mean that I need to stop trying so hard to always be doing more. Maybe I need to simply work on being satisfied with what I've been given.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Preparation and execution

Eight years ago I got hooked on triathlons. The competition with both myself and those around me was addictive. I loved to push my body to see how much it could do.Then, I had babies number three and four, started a business —basically, I got sucked into the busy-ness of work and life. After having Jane, my fourth daughter, I decided I wanted to get into shape to do another triathlon. I started training in February of this year.

One of my editor friends asked me to write about it, so I got a free coach, running shoes, a bike tune-up, a tri suit and a whole lot of accountability. I persuaded my neighbor to join me and we proceeded to put in eight to 12 hour workout sessions per week from April until race day (last Saturday).

The preparation for the race included some really hard workouts. These workout challenged both my mind and my heart. Sometimes, I felt I wasn't making any progress. This usually happened when I tried to fit into my skinny clothes, or when one of my older daughters told me in a fit of anger, "I'm going to punch you in your non-existent abs!" That tore me down. But, I kept going and so did my workout buddy.

One of the most difficult obstacles came when I fell off my bike and hit my elbow. I ended up in the hospital with a potentially broken arm, a series of fainting spells because of the pain and a major blow to my self-confidence. I missed three and a half weeks of training and I felt horrible — not to mention my arm wouldn't straighten or bend without tremendous pain. But, after a third opinion and a second x-ray, I was given the green light to keep training. So I did.

My doctor told me I'd have to fight through the pain to gain full mobility of my arm. Every day, I'd push my arm as straight as a I could and bend it as far as I a bit more. That pain taught me something. Sometimes things don't always heal right. We sometimes have to push through more pain and go ahead with things even if they aren't perfect.

When race day came, I was reminded of this again. I knew I could swim and bike strong, but the run seemed so daunting. I haven't been the best runner since starting my training. Maybe it is all in my head, but running feels like pulling a locomotive through a foot of mud. I never felt the freedom and calmness I felt on my bike or while swimming. During that 3.2 miles, my knees and back were whining. But, my mind kept telling me, "finish strong, finish strong." That meant no stopping, running through the frustration, running through the discomfort, running through the self-doubt. Like my stiff elbow, my running "muscle" needed to be pushed and pulled to perform better.

I ended the race with a much better time than I thought I would have — still with room for improvement. The proudest moment was when I finished strong and felt that surge of endorphins from knowing I had put in the time, finished strong and didn't relent when things got tough. Sometimes the hardest things in life are the most rewarding.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Exit Strategy

Yesterday, while sitting in a meeting where a new section in the magazine was being tossed around (not by me), my mind screamed, "get me out of here!" This was the first truly desperate thought I've had in the two years I've worked as the editor/associate publisher. I've always managed to fend off the money-driven sales managers who want to prostitute the content just to make a sale (which usually doesn't happen in the magnitude they predict). Not this time, I guess. I offered a suggestion which would make it a little less shallow. But, the change still feels like a direct hit to the authentic voice I've tried to maintain.

"They" want a special section devoted entirely to stroking the egos of cosmetic surgery doctors and beauty peddlers. I don't want to put my name on it. Women need to feel they are enough without the assistance of a scalpel, injection or tuck. Now, I'm not so self-righteous to be completely opposed to an occasional treatment or service to stay looking your best. I've often gazed longingly at other women's flat tummies and longed to have one for myself. But, I'd rather not promote every procedure under a cosmetic doctor's flaw-seeking eye. 

I came into this job knowing I'd have battles to fight. Several battles have been won — temporarily. I'd like to think I've made a difference in some woman's life from something I've written or had written in the magazine under my charge. But, lately the thought, "what's the use?" has entered my psyche.  Do you ever feel that the battle really isn't worth fighting anymore?

All the fight in me has drained out — at least for this job. I strive to have purpose and passion drive my decisions of what I do in life. My drive to stay now is mostly for sustaining my family. I barely feel as though I'm lifting and inspiring women. I feel more like a glorified order taker. I should just be happy to have a job which allows me the freedom of schedule, right? Well, call me an optimist, but I think something else out there might be just as permissive or more with my schedule as a mom (with it's own set of problems, of course) and not be so limiting in its vision. Is this a case of "the grass is always greener?"

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sick Daddy

My husband is sick. By sick, I mean throwing-up-seven-times-in-one-night sick. I'm not sure what's going on with his health, but he's been sick nearly every two to three months for the last year or more.

I try to do all the things a good wife should do for a sick husband. I tell the kids to be quiet (or take them out) while he sleeps, I pick up Gatorade and crackers (or Nyquil and zinc lozenges) for him at odd times of day (or night), I stroke his forehead, tickle his back and kiss him gently on the cheek. He's no wuss, nor does he act like he has a man cold. But, he is visibly sick.

I don't let myself express how I really feel. I'm worried. I notice, though, that I distance myself emotionally from him when he's sick. Lying in bed next to him as he sleeps, my mind races. Will I be one of those women who have a chronically ill spouse? Is this how it is going to be from now on?  Is he going to die before me? Am I going to have to raise four daughters by myself? Is this all happening because of our age difference (he's 13 years my senior)?

Pushing out fatalistic thoughts gets harder and harder to do...but, I don't want to tell him. My kids say things like, "Why is Daddy sick so much?" and "I bet you wish you'd married someone closer to your age, huh?" How do you respond to that? Am I overreacting? I know he doesn't want people to pity or look at him differently.

My father-in-law had leukemia for twenty years before he died. In that time he lost his strength, shrunk down to 150lbs (at 6'2 he was a stick) and became quiet. My husband says his dad's personality  changed. He used to be strong, husky and a doppleganger for Robert Wagner in his prime. Illness changed him so much that, my husband tells me I "never really knew him."

Is this what I have to look forward to in my marriage? I'm sure plenty of couples deal with this...but, I didn't expect to have to deal with this for another 20 years. How do people handle illness in their marriage without totally losing their sanity? The person they love...robbed of good health. Scary...and sad.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Asking for Help

Six years ago, while I was pregnant with my third daughter, I was the bridesmaid in my friend C's wedding. We weave in and out of the other's life. Our similarities have managed to hold us together — we worked together for about a year and a half, our oldest daughters are the same age and our younger daughter's share the same name (She claims I stole her idea for that name. Whatever.).

Today, she told me she's getting a divorce. She and I haven't talked in months. She moved further away about three years ago and we sort of fell out of our friend rythym. We didn't see each other at our kids' school or run into each other at the grocery store any more.  I had no idea what she had been going through in her marriage for the last year and a half. After talking for nearly an hour, I felt guilty and sad. Regret over how I could have been there for her washed over me.

She had pneumonia last December — I had no idea. When she was hurting over her husband's insensitivity,  I wasn't there. She said she put on a brave face and didn't tell anyone about what she was going through until just recently. I've done the same thing.

Why do we resist asking for help or reaching out for someone to talk to when we're going through pain? Do we think we're better off not sharing with our friends when emotions are too raw? Are we afraid we'll be embarrassed about falling apart in front of others after the fact?

Do I recommit to the friendship and call her like crazy? Do I let her go her own way and call me if she needs me? I feel as though too much contact would just drain me, but not enough will make me feel guilty. Plus, I don't know if she knows what she needs when she's never been through this before. What's the answer?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Step 1 to What's Next

This year I turn 37. One step closer to the big "four-oh." I'm not sure if that means I'm entitled to a mid-life crisis...but, I'm definitely feeling I'm in transition. Again.

Anyone who knows me is familiar with all the many hats I have worn and continue to wear. I've been an actress, voice over talent, improv player, radio co-host, traffic reporter, newspaper reporter, PR and media consultant, business owner, columnist, editor, publisher — all while being a wife, mother, daughter, friend, teacher, yoga enthusiast, triathlon competitor, organizing geek, Twitter addict, taxi service, artist, church volunteer, neighbor...the list goes on.

I've always enjoyed writing and was challenged today, by an acquaintance, to blog regularly for the next 28 days — until my birthday on July 28. She said I'd find out some clues about where I need to go next. My belief in "writing it down" has been proven time and time again to work. So, this blog is just that...a journey to discover what I need to do or where I need to go next.

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