Like it? Then share it. *please*

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Genius Idea for Warm Hands in the Snow

You never know when genius will strike.  You must be ready.

This genius idea started here.

While getting ready to go out and play in the snow I spotted this plastic glove laying on the counter in the mud room.  The origin of the glove is another story about Huck the Newf pup and his love for trash and a recent visit by a diaper-wearing toddler.  I'll save you the details on that. Just know the Hubs used these gloves for a very different purpose earlier in the day

So, back to my geniusness ......... after cleaning earlier today my hands were really dry and I thought, huh, why don't I put on some hand cream and those plastic gloves under my snow gloves.  My first stroke of genius.

But then it went to a whole new level. I realized that the thing that sends my daughter screaming into the house from snow play is WET cold hands.  Just then she came in the house for fresh gloves for that exact reason!  I quickly shared my idea and we both put on these plastic gloves under our regular snow gloves and off we went to experiment.  She actually kicked it up a notch and put a hand warmer inside of hers.

Off we went for sledding and laughing and overall snow spectacularness. 

At one point I kid you not she said, "My hand is too hot!"  Then she laughed herself silly. 

We had a blast and actually went inside because we were tuckered out not because we were cold.  A first I'm sure.

Check.  This.  Out.

 My gloves after snow play.  Snow covered.  Brrrrrrr.

Inside I reveal my secret weapon.  My plastic gloves allowed me to tie my shoe a couple of times AND take pictures with my iPhone. AND I was able to get the iPhone in and out of my zipped pocket!

 Underneath it all .......drum roll please ........warm dry hands.  Mine were actually silky smooth because of my Mary Kay rich emollient cream that I slathered on first!   The girl with her hand warmer that really shouldn't be next to your skin.  Whatever.
This snow play shot taken with my warm dry plastic glove covered hand and my iPhone.

 I think I'll sell my idea to Dick's Sporting Goods and they can repackage a box of 10 plastic gloves for $24.99 next to the sleds and North Face jackets. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Vulnerability: The Birthplace of Love, Belonging & Joy

Brene' Brown - Daring Greatly  
Our rejection of vulnerability often stems from our associating it with dark emotions like fear, shame, grief, sadness, and disappointment—emotions that we don’t want to discuss, even when they profoundly affect the way we live, love, work, and even lead. What most of us fail to understand and what took me a decade of research to learn is that vulnerability is also the cradle of the emotions and experiences that we crave. Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Countdown to Vulnerability

So what did you think of the Brene' Brown TED talk from yesterday's post?  Your lack of comments either meant you were stunned into silence or were afraid to be vulnerable with your thoughts.  That's okay, it's early in the process and it will get easier.

Courage is born out of vulnerability, not strength. ----- Brene' Brown

What bout with greatness started without vulnerability?

Think of the entrepreunuer that puts it out there to start a new business?

Carrie Underwood standing in front of the Idol judges for the first time, or the courage to ask her mom to drive her to the audition.

Both swallowing their pride with a ball of fear already in their gut.  This is vulnerability.

The next time someone you know puts themselves out there with a new recipe, a new haircut, a new business venture or their art in a show .......remember,  they had to walk right into their vulnerability.  Applaud their courage.

From Seth Godin's latest book..... V is for Vulnerable.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Let's Consider a New Resolution for 2013

We're days away from a clean slate.  A new year, a new start, a new opportunity.  Most will lean over and feel the bucket of Christmas cookies that are now hanging around your waist and vow to lose those extra pounds.  Some will work to chuck the disgust of a smoking habit.  Some will decide that their drinking is no longer a social activity and has moved into a scary necessity and work to get some help.  All noble endeavors.

Today, however, I want to suggest a resolution that could change your life in a way that fuels all the other resolutions listed above.  Consider choosing something that could completely transform you and your family.

This year .........choose to be vulnerable.

Choose to listen more, ask more questions, consider other opinions that differ from your own.
Believe that you are worthy of love and belonging. 
Love with your whole heart.
Choose Joy. 
Choose Gratitude.

Choose all of these things in a world that is full of blame, hate, frustration, and addiction.
Choose to see it differently. 

Some of you are thinking, "Heck with that, I'd rather join AA and Weight Watchers, that sounds easier!"

Start by watching this 17 minute video by Brene' Brown.  I can think of no better way to start contemplating your new you, your clean slate for a 2013 transformation.  Type your reactions in the comments.  I'll continue the conversation tomorrow in a new post and each day through New Year's Day.  Let's call it countdown to Vulnerability.......

Brene' Brown on Vulnerability - TED talk

Friday, November 9, 2012

On Any Given Day ....

I silently dream of finding a comfy chair with a stream of sunlight pouring in, a cup of tea by my side, and pouring myself deeply into a book.  Sometimes I have a specific book in mind, other times it's just that feeling of doing something I love that pulls me in.

My thoughts then wander to a place where I'm the writer haunted by producing the right words that will jump off the page and enter a person's heart in a way that they crave that time with my work.  I picture my desk by my window stacked with books and articles and inspiration and dirty coffee cups and candles burned to the quick.  And me happily, frantically, desperately torn in the struggle of creating greatness.

These are the dreams that steal a small space in my head and my heart surrounded by the rest of the day and the work.  Hours are spent on client work I love so much where I'm dreaming of transforming the lives of leaders and their companies into the place they've dreamed of.  All the while I'm filling out the boxes with letters and numbers and tracking my progress to the place that looks like work and needs to feel like winning.

Then in comes the fear and frustration.  They come in different shapes and sizes and try to curl up in my chair across from this desk to stare me down with ridicule, doubt and loathing.  The fear of an uncertain future for children I've been given to raise.  The soundbites of evidence that are there to tell me what path they are really on.  Words they use, texts they send, foods they eat. All culminating into the roller coaster of parenting. The big ball of crazy that most of us survive with kids that will grow to stare down their own parenting demons and doubts.  But what if we're the one that missed a cue that led to teen pregnancy or some illness caused by the take out food of a working mom.  What if? What if I miss it?  What if I obsess about it and cause it to be something more than it was meant to be and by my worry, I ultimately feed the beast and it eats us for lunch licking it's chops on my lack of faith in the Holy one that put us here to serve. What if it was my overbearing love and desire and intent to do it well that became their demise? What if? 

What if the clients don't come back and the sales never happen and the paycheck declines and the retirement fund isn't real and the disappointment moves in and takes up the space where hope and love and light used to be.  What if?

Then I speak a small prayer and transfer the worry and the doubt and the fear and the frustration.  I go back to inching along on books that need to be written, schools that need to be started, companies that need to be more effective, and the relationships that need to be fueled.

More bills to pay, forms to sign, calls to make, emails to send, dinner to make, clothes to fold, instructions to give.

On any given day. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

3 Step Post Election Hangover Remedy

I'm not political.  I don't understand much about the political system.  Sometimes I feel bad that I haven't tried harder to understand electoral votes and why an elephant and a donkey were chosen as mascots. As the serious writer that I am, I did extensive research to write this post (one google search and one click to the link listed above) and learned the donkey elephant business is rooted in a jackass comment and a cartoon.  (Really, that should have us a little ashamed I think.)

We are a country divided.  Those who had any preference in the outcome, woke up with an election hangover. Some from celebratory corks popping and some from drowning their sorrow in cheap beer and bourbon.  Those that didn't have a preference, had a political ad hangover and were glad to get back to Dancing with the Stars without all the negativity breaks.  We all had a throbbing headache and were a little shaky pouring the java on Wednesday morn. 

When people ask me who I voted for, I don't disclose.  That's my business.  My parents didn't tell me when I was growing up, instead telling me to make my own choices. I choose not to tell my children with the same advice.  I do, however, offer this metaphor for how I feel about our political parties.  We've become the "crips" and the "bloods" ready to fight to our death in the streets.  This is a lose-lose proposition.

As I finally crept back into the interwebz after the election, hoping the level of judgement and nastiness had started to subside, I found some lingering bitterness in a few blog comments, one read; "I hope you all are happy, we'll be in the worst depression ever now."  blah blah blah 

Everyone complained about the opponent bashing ads, yet were perfectly fine going on Facebook and doing their own candidate bash.  We've grown to accept this as normal. Ick. Nastiness. Blech. 

Here's what I do know, now that the election is over and you've casted your vote. Unless you are going to choose to join the political system and really go to work and impact change to that system, you really only have control of you.  You and your choices.  That's it. Period.  You can use that control to build influence outside of yourself but it starts with you.

So here's my 3 step Election Hangover Cure.

1. Stop - Stop bitching and moaning and whining and calling people names and walking around like a complete pain in the ass.  Stop bad mouthing people and parties and news coverage. Stop throwing your bitterness and frustration into everybody's lunch break, coffee break, cubicle and John Deere tractor shop.  It's exhausting.

2. Start - Walk to the nearest reflective surface and take a long hard look at what looks back at you.  Ask yourself this question, "What good can I do today with this day I've been given." You can be part of the problem for our economy, family, community or you can be a part of the solution.  Complaining isn't solving. Any moron can complain and most of them do. Anyone can also choose to start solving. If you need some help, here is a list you might use to get you started.
  • Be a kinder parent
  • Listen more
  • Pray More
  • Stop Smoking
  • Stop stress eating and figure out what's missing in your life
  • Exercise, take a walk, move around more
  • Visit your child at school, your mom in the nursing home,  your grandpa's grave, your friend in the hospital
  • Write down what you're grateful for and mean it, ponder it, let it seep into your being.
  • Be a better employee - decide to invest in your job with all you've got even if you're the guy that sweeps the floor and your boss is a complete ass, do it because you have control and can whistle while you work and sweep better and go home feeling better. 
  • Go to the AA meeting
  • Call a friend to have coffee or just stop by and say hi and choose not to complain during the whole visit.             
  • Start the business you've been dreaming of
  • Share the ideas you have with your company about how to sell more or save some money
  • Sit down and ask your child how school was today and then look them in the eye with love and interest and really listen to their answer
  • forgive someone 
  • If you decide to be in politics, do it to be a part of the solution, not because you want to wear a donkey/elephant jersey or fight like gangs in the street.  Do it because you care about our country and want to listen and hear different perspectives, so together we can come up with better answers. 
  • Clean up your yard
  • Clean up your language
  • Thank your child's teacher for doing the best they can in a really tough job
  • Donate all the stuff you don't need to Goodwill, or your favorite local charity
  • Throw the ball for your dog and laugh at how much joy he gets from your attention
  • Eat real food, not the kind with dictionary ingredients
  • Tip better
  • Compliment your spouse.
  • Compliment your kids.
  • Smile at the person that bagged your groceries. 
  • Write to the manager when you get great service 
  • Write a recommendation for someone on LinkedIn 
  • Apologize
  • Take responsibility for your choices
3. Continue -  Repeat again tomorrow. Repeat the next day and the day after that. Teach your kids, grandkids, and nieces and nephews to do the same.

If you've been the cranky complaining pain in the ass recently or your whole life, it's going to take awhile before people get used to the new you.  Stick with it.  We'll all be better for it.

This message has been paid for by a turkey and a lama because all of the elephants and donkeys were exhausted and unavailable for comment.

This is RandomThoughtsbyRebecca and I approve this message.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Close Up Shot: Smile, say "Joy"

Tonight is one of those nights that you hoped your life would turn out to be.

It's Halloween night and we staged a last minute party for the tween girl and her friends.  A self serving move so I didn't have to get out on this cold wet night.  One of my more genius decisions if I must say so myself.  The girls are dressed in their costumes, mostly planned around how to wear too much make up and get away with it. 

Papa Murphy's provided those $6 Jack O Lantern pizzas, another act of genius.  Each parent brought a bag of candy and Dude and Dad are staging a basement candy scavenger hunt.  The new Taylor Swift CD is BLARING.  There is laughing and dancing and painted pumpkins.  Joy.  Just Joy.

It's in this moment that I remember to sit in the joy, let it swirl around me with it's magic powers.  A close up shot of what I hoped life would be.  I now understand that these moments are just that ..... moments.  Fleeting in between the work and laundry and late for school and lost homework and grocery store and stuff. 

I remember being pregnant and dreaming of what kind of family and what kind of life we would build.  I pictured this.  I didn't know these would be the close up shots.  It's easy to get discouraged when you look at life through the wide angled lens and those tough spots and work seem to line up a little too long.  Then God tosses you a close up shot so beautiful and perfect you realize you got just what you asked for.  Joy.  In tiny little still frames of fabulousness. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Empathy Experiment - the Cousin Vulnerability

Lots of people are hurting.

Not in a "can't function" kind of way.  In fact, I'm learning through my focus on empathy and interaction with people that share their stories with me that hurting is the norm.  I try to give people a safe place to share their story.  I feel drawn to this because I understand that craving.  The deep guttural need to feel heard.  Not fixed, not changed, not judged, just heard.

I spent the week in a beautiful place with beautiful people......people that I love and respect.  I walked away recharged and connected to the human spirit.  Not necessarily because it was all fun and games, even though there were absolutely some fun and games, but because I heard their stories.  I felt their humanness.  Their quest to be heard.

I tried to listen. I tried to match them heart to heart.  I wanted them to feel that I genuinely cared and to give them the sense of belonging and comfort that hurting people need.  Not in a "poor baby" kind of way but in a "tell me more, I care" kind of way.

In return, some gave me that same time and space.  Then just behind empathy came it's cousin, vulnerability.  I'm working these days to exercise my vulnerability muscle just as much as the empathy one.  They're connected.  My vulnerability muscle is sore and taxed.  I'm not used to using it.  I'm trying to sit with it tonight and be okay with it.  It's more difficult than I thought it would be.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Empathy Experiment Continues ...

I found myself in the company of three of my favorite colleagues and leaders in my organization last week.  I am truly blessed to work with smart people that I genuinely like.  I enjoy going to business meetings because I like to hang out with these guys.

We had a great dinner preparing for a huge event.  We did good work and we laughed so hard I nearly cried.

On the way back,  we launched into a business discussion that was very close to my work, my heart, my job satisfaction.  I'm in sales.  My job can be excruciatingly hard. I'm not complaining, if you're not willing to sign up for the difficulty, don't sign up to be in sales. 

As we discussed the strategies, the possibilities of some changes, the people in these roles, the intent of these great leaders was all about problem solving.  That's what leaders get paid to do.  They like to do it.  They're good at it.  (at least these guys are)

Quickly the conversation became like a tiny ice pick chipping away at my armor exposing my frustrations and even deeper into my fears and fatigue.  I've been doing this job successfully for 12 years.  People sometimes forget that we old timers still have fears and a hefty dose of fatigue that we carry around.

I began to recognize the longing and gnawing ache for empathy.  I know intellectually there's no perfect answer that will satisfy me inside the challenges we were discussing.  It's complex and difficult, a spider web of possibilities all impacting one aspect of the company or another.

Then it hit me. I am no longer interested in a solution.  Now I just want some dang empathy!

I decide to move out of my own debate and problem solving mode and start to articulate some of my vulnerability, fear, and fatigue.  Slowly at first to invite empathy and test for response.

I was met with reassurance of my wonderfulness and how special I am, how talented.  Who doesn't want some of that feedback?  I didn't.  In fact it was infuriating.  I knew they had no idea those wonderful comments were having the complete opposite effect on my heart.  These guys genuinely care about me and would never intentionally hurt me.

We were back at the hotel ready to part ways and I felt panicked. I wanted some freakin' empathy and I wasn't leaving there without it!

Then it happened.  I cracked.  Just a little.  I opened my mouth to gently tell these guys that I just wanted them to listen and it happened.  I became a "girl".  I teared up a little, my lip quivered.  Not the ugly cry, not the snot running on your top lip cry. Just a little crack in the corporate armor.  I'd like to refer to it more like the beer commercial for dudes that says "some of my awesome leaked out".

Nothing sets three grown men into more of a panic then a grown woman colleague about to cry.  So they ratcheted up the compliments. They were coming so fast with so much drippy syrup my stomach started to hurt. 

 They really were killing me with kindness.  My head was listening to them coming at me and my heart was being completely irrational and thinking things like, "I'll just move away, leave this corporate craziness and write books and live in a shack." Then one of them started to get it.  He leaned over and gave a friendly punch in the arm to the one that had just stepped back to reload his arsenal of kindness. He stopped and literally sat back on the curb.  I think subconsciously I had knocked him so far off his game for a minute he had to stop and rethink everything about what to do next.  I didn't want a problem solved or another compliment.  Just  some heartfelt listening.

I'll solve most of my own problems willingly and words of affirmation don't even show up on my needs list.  

When I ask you to listen and you start giving advice, you have not done what I have asked. When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings. When I ask you to listen and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have failed me, strange as it may seem. Listen! All I ask is that you listen; not talk or do -- just hear me. 
Ralph Roughton, M.D. - page 110, Habit 5 The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Signature Manual 

Once they let me share some feelings, fears, and fatigue, I felt better almost instantly ......except for the truckload of awkward that was dumped on the curb beside us.

Finally feeling a little calmer and more than a little spent myself, I let them off the hook and said, "Guys, don't panic, don't call a special breakfast meeting tomorrow to schedule my therapy or talk about my mental breakdown.  I'm fine.  I just needed a little listening and empathy.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have a big event in the morning and I need some sleep."  All said with a smile and my usual healthy dose of sarcasm to let them know that I had returned to my usual self.

I think I might have heard a collective sigh as they all finally exhaled.

I'm not writing this to trash talk anyone.  I'm writing this to say that empathy is hard.  Most of the time we're not nearly as good at it as we think we are.  It takes awareness and practice. 

It's also important to note that I've known these guys for 12 years.  They're like family to me.  I'd do anything for them and I know they feel the same about me.  We get so comfortable with people that we forget the natural laws of human effectiveness are always at play.  Even after 12 years.

I think this is why so many marriages suffer. We become so comfortable with each other and our desire to help and fix and solve problems gets in the way of feeling each others feelings.  That's what we all really want.  I was just crazy enough to stand on the street and stomp my feet and shed a little tear until the tough guys would give me some.

Empathy sweet empathy.

How are things with your empathy experiment?  Any stores to share?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Empathy Experiment

Could Empathy Change Our World?

It started last night as I packed for a business trip.  My daughter begging me not to go.  She's ten and my business travel is much harder now that she can accurately express her distaste for my schedule.

I try not to tell her I "have" to go because ultimately my career is my choice, so I tell her that I love my job and this trip is an important part of my career.  I don't apologize because I don't want her to think this trip is being "done to her".  So I just listen.  I listen to her complain, whine and cry a little.  Then I hug her and I say, I know you don't like this honey. I know it feels uncomfortable for you when I'm gone.  I'll come back as quick as I can and we'll have a great weekend.

All morning I try to quietly validate her feelings.  Give voice that I can hear her, that I care about her.  It doesn't change her feelings about my trip but it also doesn't escalate any further like it has in the past. Stay calm, listen with your head and your heart.  Give space and pay homage to the feelings.

Empathy, sweet empathy.

I arrive at the airport, check in, all good.  I stop at the gift shop to get a bottle of water.  I approach the counter and the lady says, "I wish we would just close this place down."

I look around to see if she's talking to me and since I'm the only other person in the shop, I try to solve this puzzle.  I don't respond because I'm not sure what the right response is.  So I give a little half smile, empathy-like.  She continues, invited by my smile.  "All we ever sell is water and gum, might as well shut this place down."  Now my business consultant head is curious.  Does she make commission from these "Hoosier Daddy" t-shirts and US Weeklys?  So I ask, "does it matter that you sell other things?" I'm trying not to take it personally that I'm pulling out a $20 for my Smart Water.  I did buy the big bottle, almost $4 bucks! She continues with frustration, "Oh yea it matters, they'll call and harass us, yell at us, tell us this store is a disgrace." I simply say, "Oh, I see." Still the half smile, still with caring.

Then she realizes that I'm listening.  Really listening.  I think this takes her off guard. She then says, "I'm just fed up, do you ever get that way?"  Absolutely I tell her, absolutely.  She continues but her frustration is shrinking as she talks,

"I'm tired.  All I do is work.  I feel like I just want to sit down somewhere and cry.  Do you ever get like that?"  Again, absolutely, "sometimes it helps to sit down and cry." I admit to her.

"I worked all night at FedEx last  night, came in here this morning, everyone just tells me how bad I look.  That's not helping, now I feel insulted. I know I look bad, because I feel bad, I just want to rest."

I stop myself from judging her negative attitude and think that maybe she feels bad because her attitude might be contributing and I realize, I know nothing about her real story.

I simply say, "yea, a body needs rest, a mind needs rest, your soul needs rest. I bet you do feel run down."

Then she says, "I'm just venting."  I think she's still more than surprised that I'm listening, with my heart.

I tell her I'll say a little prayer for her that she gets some much needed rest tonight.

She tells me she only has 2 hours before she has to go to her other job after this one.  I smile a little and say, "Do me a favor, in those 2 hours don't do one load of laundry, don't do the dishes, don't do anything but lay down and take a little bit of rest."  She smiles, "I do need to take a bath."  I smile back and say, "Okay bathe first, it will make your short nap even better."

I gather my change, turn to leave and say, "take care of you."  She smiles back.

Maybe this little conversation didn't have earth shattering impact on her and she's probably forgotten about me completely by now but I couldn't help notice that in that short time she softened, just a little.

Makes me wonder, could we really solve many of our issues with the secret weapon of empathy?  I know there are days I'd pay some big money for a healthy dose myself.

Let's try, just you and me and see what happens in our own little experiment.

Empathy Starters:

You have to stop talking and start listening to practice empathy.

Empathic Listening is not just waiting for your turn to talk.  It's listening with your head and your heart.  When listening empathically, you're listening to understand how the other person is feeling as much or more as what they are saying.

Don't interrupt and don't tell your story and don't dig around asking questions. Look them in the eye, heart to heart and connect, listen, care.

Let them peel their own onion.  Life is full of layers and complexity.  When you truly listen you give people the space to peel back those layers and think through this complexity outloud.  By listening empathically you allow people to peel back those layers and to think through things in a way they can sometimes solve their own problems.  Often it's not about solving a problem, it's just about being heard.

Your true intent counts more than your technique with empathy. If you listen with your heart, people will feel your intent. That's what matters.

So what do you say, ready to give it a shot?

I'd love for you to post your experiences here.

"The deepest need of the human heart is to be understood."  -
-- Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Monday, July 23, 2012

Dear Moms: Getting Caught Up is NEVER EVER EVER Going to Happen. EVER.

It's Monday morning 11am.  I've already done a load of laundry, cleaned up dog pee, fed dogs and cats, fed one kid and myself breakfast, packed a lunch, drove a kid to guitar camp, participated in two conference calls, texted guitar teacher for guitar string instructions, posted an ad on Craigslist, made the bed, drank a Starbux and cried at the counter of the Kroger Pharmacy.

Yes, you read that right, cried at the counter of the Kroger Pharmacy. I had gotten up at 5am to be sure I could get the morning stuff done; get teenage boy up and out for camp and swing by the pharmacy to pick up his ADD meds that he needed to take before showing up for camp.  I had it timed to the minute with twenty extra to spare. Except when they handed me the wrong prescription and she told me she didn't have the right amount of the correct prescription. She needed at least 20 minutes to back out the old, fill what she could of the new, call another pharmacy for the rest, run a credit that I'd need to take to customer service for a credit on my card.  (Insert tears streaming at the Kroger Pharmacy counter)

I work really hard to be sure this kind of thing doesn't rattle me.  Today it was the last straw.  I'd been away from my house (mission control) for almost a week and today was the day I was to get everything back in order.  Except I couldn't.  Throw in a healthy dose of mid life PMS and there I was a weepy broken woman who had to admit defeat.  My son would again be the last one rolling into camp.  This time he did have his lunch with him, we'll count that as a win.

Ironically, 48 hours ago I was sitting on the panel of a women's leadership conference telling about how to keep it all together and be successful.  Come on ladies, let's all just pony up the truth.  It's impossible to keep this all together.

So, I've dried my tears, apologized to the really nice female pharmacist who handled it all quite well, got my self together and re-framed success.  My son is rocking it out at guitar camp no less talented because he was late, the girl woke up oblivious to the events and is happily eating Nutella and toast while watching teen angst backed by canned laughter and enjoying every second of the last few summer months of her tenth year in this life.  The husband has listened to my emotional break down again, probably rolled his eyes, vowed to lay low tonight and moved on happily removing troublesome algae from all over Hamilton County.

I'm back at the laptop, buried in a task list, reminding myself that I will never ever ever ever ever get caught up and to do the best I can and smile at the good fortune to be buried daily in a job I love.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thank You, Stephen

I don't remember how or where I got my first copy of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  I no longer have my original highlighted, dog eared copy.  I hope whomever I loaned it to loved it and used it and passed it on.  It seems strange not to be able to trace back something that was so life elevating.  I picture those life altering events to be memorable, "scrapbookable".

I was in my mid twenties with real life just starting.  I'd grown up with such confidence; fear and longing weren't really a part of my day to day thoughts.  I just lived, one job at a time, one relationship at a time with everything going pretty well.  Then I found the 7 Habits.  It was a like the menu to a success I had never really considered before.  Thinking about what I wanted, planning it out, strengthening my relationships.  It worked.    Jobs turned into careers, careers turned into management positions and management positions turned into a life I'm not sure I could have dreamed up on my own.

I know in my very core that I can't remember how I acquired my first 7 Habits book because I didn't find it, it found me.  God put it in my hands.

Ten years later I would find myself interviewing for a company called FranklinCovey.  I knew it was involved with The 7 Habits book but I didn't have much understanding about what they did past that.  I was drawn in by my love for these habits and their profound impact on my life.  Another Divine intervention to land me a career I hadn't ever planned for that would be my biggest blessing after my husband and kids.  In fact, without my connection to Dr. Covey's work and the FranklinCovey company, I'm not sure I could have grown into this marriage and raised these kids.  I've been blessed beyond measure.

I remember my first trip with a colleague to visit what would become my FranklinCovey family, my clients. In my beautiful new planner there was a stack of business cards with my name beside the name FranklinCovey.  I sat a little taller, planned a whole lot better, and smiled at my good fortune.  My life had been changed and now I was to be paid to pay it forward.  Pinch me.

The first time I met Dr. Stephen R. Covey, I was nervous with anticipation.  He was my hero.  We were at a conference and I was trying to play it cool but inside I was giddy.  He was in that first meeting, what I grew to rely on for our future meetings; warm, present and genuine.

Over time my career thrived and my opportunities to interact with Dr. Covey increased. During a large event, we gathered backstage to prepare and my husband joined me.  Dr. Covey stopped his conversation with another and greeted my husband with a warm handshake and embrace. He looked him in the eye and said, "Are you taking good care of her?  We need her in this company and we need your family to be strong."  My husband stood a little taller taking the challenge to lead our family. Stephen had that impact on you.  You wanted to rise to the occasion.  He asked if we had our family mission statement crafted and were prepared to weather the storms ahead.  Our marriage had been facing some storms.  He was a prophetic man, able to feel your need and invite himself in to help with genuine concern. We took that small exchange and kicked it up a notch to work on winning at home as much as we were winning in our careers.  That's the biggest blessing.  I'd 'been given the tools and it was up to me to choose their application.

My greatest memory with Stephen was a series of events requiring us to spend 3 days together presenting and teaching clients.  For one engagement, I was to teach The 7 Habits, followed by Dr. Covey teaching The 8th Habit. Another "pinch me" moment.  I don't remember much about that presentation except Stephen's response to me after.  "You are a teacher, Rebecca."

We left the event to ride via small private jet to our next event.   Stephen, his assistant Julie and myself.  A thrilling opportunity.  We sat in very close quarters with a chance to really connect.  He immediately was concerned for how hard Julie and I had worked that day.  "Ladies, please take your shoes off and relax, you've both worked so hard today.  What a great event you put on."  Then we laughed and joked and he told stories of his craziest moments that had me in stitches the entire ride.  Not enough people know how darned funny he was because he was so serious about his work.

I won't be attending the funeral this weekend.  I considered it of course.  Then I looked at the family responsibilities I would need to reschedule, the sadness I would feel from my daughter for leaving on another trip and I decided the best way to honor this man was to do as he told us, take care of our families, keep them strong.  Without a strong family, not much else will matter. I'll honor this man that I loved this weekend not by boarding a plane, but by staying home with my family to live the principles he taught me so well.  

I mourn the loss of this man, however, I do it with gratitude and a weighty responsibility to live what he taught me and to pass it on.  It is now up to us to carry the torch.  He lit the flame in each of us, now we must do it for another, the way he planned and taught.

Dust off that copy of 7 Habits, maybe you have the copy I loaned you 20 years ago.  Read it with fresh eyes.  My guess is your life is filled with new-found application of these timeless principles.  Read it, live it, then pass it on, just as Stephen intended.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ode to the Small Girl

Tonight I caught a glimpse of the girl out the front window.  It was dusk, just as the sun was closing the books on this warm summer day. The yellow of the sun magnifying the yellow of her hair flying behind her as she peddled her bike.  Arms held high in the air, chanting something to her friend.  Celebrating the day.  Being a girl.  Being a young girl for the summer.  Only a few of these left.  If you squint your eyes and look too close you can see the teenage girl starting to emerge from her cocoon.  The safety of little girlness still holding her but with less of a grip, preparing to set her free.

I couldn't help but flash forward in my mind to a time when that beautiful yellow haired girl will be driving down the driveway behind the wheel of a car, waving out the window off to new adventures, new challenges, away from the safety of our little cocoon.

Let me capture these little girl moments and place them permanently in my heart for safe keeping.  I'll need them when I'm missing her while she's away.  Let me prepare her well so her trips away are full of laughter, great choices, creating great opportunities to come back home telling of her adventures.

You bring me joy, small girl, in ways that I can't fully express. I can only feel the warmth in my heart like a yellow sunbeam bouncing from your hair in the late sun of a beautiful evening.

Friday, June 8, 2012

My Drunken Librarian and Other Artist Angst

Yesterday I had 3 fabulous blog posts spinning in my head.  They were brilliant. I could picture the reactions of you readers in shock and awe.  Unfortunately, I was late for an appointment with the mayor's office to work on this charter school project I'm covered up with.

Today when I had a few minutes to write, I tapped my artist self on the shoulder and said, "bring 'em back".  I was talking about my ideas.  My brilliant posts. Unfortunately, my artist self has a drunken librarian that's in charge of my  titles and ideas. She's not all that reliable.  Today she was hammered.  She smiled at my artist self with that crooked smile and glassy eyed look reminiscent of my Uncle Joe on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I knew I was screwed.  There would be no brilliant posts today.

It's tough to be an artist on the side.  It's hard enough to fight the resistance that plagues every artist and the traditional writers block. When the muse comes and you don't answer the call even though you saw Muse come up on your caller id.  That's a flat out tragedy.

I mentioned it to my artist son.  He gets it.  He's a song writer.  Because he loves me and he's fourteen he had the perfect response.  "that sucks."  Not said with the teen angst sarcasm of tv sitcoms.  Said with knowing and understanding and sympathy.

We went on to discuss.  I love talking artist talk with Dude.  I don't have a ton of artist friends so I feel that "he gets me" connection with my firstborn.  I was bemoaning the loss of the words and the post and the written word.  He reminded me of his worst writer trauma, the loss of emotion.  When Dude is writing a song and he gets interrupted, he can come back to the lyrics and the words. But when he can't evoke the same feelings and emotions, then his song is ruined.  Sometimes he'll say to me as I start to launch into a chores tirade, "Can you just wait until I finish this song so I don't lose the feeling?"  Sometimes I honor his request and pay homage to the artist. Sometimes my mom emotion takes over and I launch the tirade anyway.  I'm working on that.

Creating is hard work and the least I can do is applaud his self awareness and his gifts and save the bitching about the dirty laundry and the dishes in the basement for later.

There's a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don't and the secret is this: it's not the writing part that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write.
What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.
Steven Pressfield - The War of Art  

A special thanks to my friend Andy who turned me on to Steven Pressfield and his brilliant work, The War of Art. The piece that put words to my emotions and frustrations so I could learn to work through them.  This summer I will share that book with Dude.  He already gets it intuitively.  I'm sure he'll read it, look it me matter-of-factly and say, "Yep, that's it."  The simplicity of fourteen is a gift I can't reclaim.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I'm in Sales. 7 Things I Learned This Week.

I do sales to make my living.  I could probably argue that you do too but that's for another post.  Mine is a straight up commissioned sales job.  What I make is in direct proportion to what I sell.

I laugh a little bit thinking about the various images that each of you had when you read that about me.  Sales has such an interesting reputation overall.  I'm sure some of these hit your heads:
Wow, that sounds hard.
ewwww, that sound horrible.
I wonder if she makes a lot of money.
Images of used car salesmen (not that there's anything wrong with that)
Some of you may trust me a little less now.

It's interesting, the reaction people get to sales.  All are based on your own experiences with this occupation.  And sadly, there are some pretty awful sales people out there ruining all of our reputations. One of my favorite clients heard me introduced as a sales person one time and she quickly said, "Do not call Rebecca a salesperson!  She is our Client Partner!" I still smile thinking of the look on my "ex-colleague's" face.

I'm very careful to manage my relationships with my clients.  If I provide them something of value that they want or need, there should be a fair monetary exchange for that product or service.  No harm, no foul.

So I work my tail off to make sure I'm providing something of value to them.  Valuable to THEM.   Which means I have to take me and my sales quota out of the picture and focus on THEM.  That's the mistake some sales people make.  They are so focused on hitting their own number and their own paycheck they become that creepy sales person that some of you pictured earlier.

I found myself in an interesting situation the last two weeks.  I'm having my most successful sales year ever in my career. (Insert sounds of horns blowing, champagne corks popping, and many high fives all around).

However ......... a sales person's work is never really done.  No rest.  Ever.  My compensation plan is aligned with the publicly traded world and I must hit a sales quota every quarter.  While most of my big stuff had hit in every other quarter but this one. Leaving me a significant gap to close.

Gap to close is a sales person's worst fear and nightmare.  It puts that "add value to the client" success factor at a huge risk.  Big dilemma.

Sitting at my desk on May 1st looking at the Grand Canyon of gaps to close by May 25th I had some decisions to make. 

I'll spare you the suspension and tell you how this ends. 

Closed the freakin' gap.  The Grand Canyon Gap.  The holy crap are kidding me gap.  My husband, who has far too much belief in my my abilities, even stared at me with his mouth open last night because he couldn't really believe it happened.

Here's what I learned in the process.

1. Decide early.  On May 1st I gathered my team and decided.  We're going after this.  Hard.  With passion and purpose.  Decided.

2. Reputation is still our #1 priority.  We decided to close the gap but we didn't decide to become slimy sales people to do it.  If it was to be done, it was to be done with integrity and our reputation for being focused on customer value still number 1.  I wanted my reputation as a producer inside my company to remain intact.  Yes, I had a quarterly bonus on the line, but that couldn't be the main driver.

3. Do the Work.  I alerted my family that the next few weeks were going to be tough and I needed their support.

4. Have a plan.  I quickly scoured my set of tools and lists for a winnable game plan.  I found promotions the customer would appreciate, made a list of customers that would resonate with the promotion.  And we went to work. And prayed all throughout.  A big part of my plan.

5. Build a good team way before you need them to be good.  I work with a couple of gals that I'd take into battle with me every day.  They are smart, talented, fearless, and fun.  We could not have done this without working together.  We all work from different offices but we're a cohesive team, a sisterhood with a passionate pursuit of excellence.

6. Communicate the plan.  Every day, sometimes multiple times per day I communicated the scoreboard, where we were that day, where we needed to be and how we planned to get there by the deadline.  I updated those spreadsheets and lists like Rainman. On the final days we were on the phone strategizing, planning, readjusting, every couple of hours. When we lost deals, we moved them off the list and quickly went back to what was still possible.  We did have one text exchange after a big loss that had lots of metaphors about piles of stinking dog poop but then we moved on.

7.  I pictured winning every day.  They say pro athletes visualize winning the race before it ever begins.  I've always done that.  If I can't picture myself winning, I know I'm in trouble.  When I can, I'm relentless. I don't want to just play a game. I want to play a winnable game.  I saw the plan, I saw what was possible, and I knew how we could get there.  Now just GO.

I went to bed last night early.  exhausted.

I was shocked that we had accomplished such an unbelievable feat.  Then I lie there and had a mini panic attack.

I went through each client interaction in my head and asked myself, "did I sacrifice my relationship with them or my reputation in ANY way."  Because no sales goal would be worth that.  I literally back tracked through the entire list and made sure.  It was agonizing.  Why couldn't I just celebrate the win.  Because the win only matters if you come out a winner.  You can hit a sales number and still smell and look like a loser.  Never confuse the two.

So last night at dinner I said to my kids, I accomplished an amazing goal today and here are the main three things I learned:

1. Believe.  In yourself, in your team, in what you do.
2. Pray.  About it all.  Not the outcome you're looking for.  Pray that He's on board with it too.  If He is and you're willing to do the work, and it really his His plan, He'll take you there.
3. Be nice to people all the time.  Some of the people that purchased things from me this week, I haven't talked to in a few years.  But when I had talked to them last, I had been nice and added value and that's what they remembered about me. 

So Monday morning, new quarter, new goal.  That's a sales job for you. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What You Feed Grows

This is a basic principle that governs.  This concept applies to our bodies, our plants, and wait for it ........ our thoughts, our concerns, our gratitude, our empathy, our frustration, our anger.

Do your thoughts need a diet or an overhaul?

Test this theory out.  Feeling anger, feed it, justify it, gather others that will help you feed it and guess what?  Yes, it grows.

Feeling gratitude?  Feed it, feel it, talk about it, guess what?  It grows.

Feel the power of your thoughts and feelings but taking responsibility for what you feed.

The next time you think or feel something that isn't serving you well, make the decision to not feed it. Feed another thought or emotion.  Oprah has made the gratitude journal mainstream.  There is power in feeding your gratitude as an overarching thought and emotion.  Feed it and it will grow.  Gratitude will help to choke out the weeds in your life's garden like jealousy, frustration, and anger.  Feed and water your gratitude and watch it flower and produce and thrive and feed you and your family. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Let the Birthday Games Begin

My birthday is Monday.  If you know me, you know this already because if I could, I'd purchase billboards mid March to prepare everyone. 

I've always loved my birthday, I think because I really love life.  Sure there are some suck a lemon moments in everyone's life but by and large I like my life .... a lot. 

This begs this question: do I have a good life because I like it, or do I like my life because it's good.  Hmmmmm.  Such pondering for a Friday.

I decided to have a good life.  There's such power in decision and intent. Once the decision is made, I just need to decide what good is to me.  That switches all the time because life switches all the time. 

So my birthday is a time that I can shout to the world, "Life is good!" And because one day just isn't enough, I try to work in the "birthday month".  This became tough when I married because my husband's birthday is April 4th and mine is the 16th.  I decided to not really encroach on his "day" so I don't really start owning the month until April 5th.  And let's face it, once your birthday is over, it's hard to solicit response from anyone so I really get a "birthday 12 days".  The 12 Days of Rebecca Hession sounds a little to biblical and over the top so let's not go there.

It's usually just a weekend celebration if I'm honest.  The days leading up to are more preparing others for my expectations for the weekend.   (insert smiley face intended to look like sarcasm but really being the truth)

Sometimes my birthday weekend stresses me out because there's so much I want to do and so little time.  It's the one of two weekends (Mother's Day of course #2) of the year that I get to choose everything!  What we eat, where we go, if I don't want the tv on, if I want you to run the weed-eater, if I want to lay in bed and read.  I feel this insane pressure to get it all in and not miss out!

The forecast this year calls for rain so I might need to make this a "chill out" weekend full of books and movies.  Oh and wine.  Or bourbon.  Or both.   And pizza.  And cake. 

Friday Afternoon, "May the Birthday Games Begin and may the choices be ever in my favor." 
(All that food talk gave me a Hunger Games reference.)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Six Lessons I taught my kids from Kony 2012

Yesterday I was sucked into a Twitter post that led me to a 30 minute video about Joseph Kony a vicious leader in Uganda responsible for un-speakable death and destruction impacting children.  The video was very well done.  It sucked me in emotionally from the start.  Like a well made movie should. 

Lesson #1
Make sure your kids know how to communicate.  Encourage them to write, make movies, take pictures.  This is the present and future for communication. Don't ask them to wait to learn this after algebra and chemistry.  Encourage it now.

After gymnastics, dinner and the usual evening events, I sat the kids down at 8pm to watch the Kony 2012 video.  Keep in mind this was an American Idol night which normally has our butts firmly planted in our own little dips in the couch.  They whined and moaned for a couple of minutes.  Then they too were sucked in.

Lesson #2
Lead your kids to important messages.  Don't assume they won't be interested. My kids were touched, engaged, enraged, and interested.  Your kids will never be global in their thinking if you wait for school to teach them. 

After the video I asked my kids why they thought I had them watch the video and what they noticed about this message. They commented on how wrong the actions were of this man and how those children needed to be protected and saved. Sure, that's compelling and important and we discussed those points but I also shared these.......

Lesson 3 - You can't always wait to be told what to do, even if you're a kid.  Sometimes you have to take action. Believe in something. Stand for something. Care about something.  Then take action. 

Lesson 4 - This is our country. Don't be afraid to take your message to people in government that can impact changes.  You can't sit around complaining about our government.  You can lead from anywhere.  It won't be easy. You're going to need support. But you can have influence.

Lesson 5 -  Now what will you do?  So you got emotional, you were impacted, now what do you do?  They brainstormed ideas and then acted on a few.  Feeling is one thing.  Taking action is another.  Good intentions won't change the world, action does.

Sure there's controversy about the video, criticism about the Invisible Children organization, criticism that posters won't solve the problem and lots of outrage that it's a bigger problem than arresting Joseph Kony.  Sure, all valid points.
There is no perfect organization, you could dig up dirt on Walt Disney right now.

It's not about the posters.  It's about awareness.

I don't believe that the Invisible Children people are suggesting that the arrest of Kony will have everyone in Africa all of sudden well fed and holding hands singing Kumbaya my Lord.  But they did get you talking about it.  Learning about it. 

Lesson 6 - What do you want to be known for? So what if they get famous for the video?  With that many hits in a few hours, they are famous.  They created a work of art that inspired people to take action.  Paris Hilton got famous for having rich parents and getting invited to Hollywood parties. We're criticizing this guy for getting famous for a viral movie about an international tragedy that most of us and our children knew nothing about 48 hours ago. I've sat with my kids and watched videos of cats riding vacuum robots.  Kony 2012 was a far better use of our time.

I like the debate. The criticism is part of inspiring you to learn more and dig deeper but in the end, do something besides complain.  Pointing out the problem is easy.  Teach your children to seek and be a part of a solution, even if it's not a perfect solution. And for that, I hope they get famous.

If you are not one of the 40 million people that have watched this video, you can do that now.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chasing Happiness

I was asked by a beautiful and loyal reader to revisit this post.  Happy to honor this request.  I'm always humbled and energized that what I write helps some of you.

Rant warning: This post has been brewing for a bit and is likely to contain frustration, sarcasm, and a healthy dose of disgust.

I've become flat out disgusted with the term, "I'm not happy." What a self serving bunch of crap.  Now, if you happen to be in a situation where you are not able to find enough food for you and your family, or you are being abused, or your hair suddenly catches fire at random each week, I'm sorry.  You have every right not to be happy.  For the rest of you, what a bunch of crap.

Has our culture really become entirely about a quest for our own happiness? Are you naive enough to think that you not being happy in this relationship or situation is really about the other person or the situation? Do you think the next person you encounter will be "the one" that makes the sun shine brighter and the cream cheese on your bagel creamier? Maybe for a little while, until the shiny newness wears off that one and you become 'unhappy' again.

If you're not happy, please take a few steps to the nearest reflective surface and take a long stare at the person staring back at you and consider this to be the source of your unhappiness.  And by they way, who promised you a life of happiness anyway?

Have we all gotten so accustomed to our cushy lifestyles that we have forgotten that most of the privileges we enjoy today came from someone sacrificing and suffering for the greater good?  Let's call my high school classmate, Brad, who's on his way home from Iraq and ask him if he was 'happy' the entire time he was fighting for the freedom of our country.  Do you think your parents were 'happy' throughout your teenage years as they dealt with your shenanigans, eye rolling and body odor? I guarantee that the moment I pushed out both my little gifts from God, I wasn't thinking about how "happy" I was in that moment.

As I look back over my short 44 years, I know the biggest lessons didn't come from those happy moments on the beach with a "marg" in one hand and an US Weekly in the other. My life is being shaped by the moments I've spent in a fetal position on the floor of my closet sobbing in pain and frustration. Those are the moments I've learned to stand up, blow my nose, look in the mirror and face it. I get stronger, I get more understanding. Let's get to work learning how to listen, how to be patient, how to forgive, how to persevere.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go about figuring out how to pay my mortgage, keep my kids out of therapy, and improve my marriage.

If you're still on a single quest for happiness and self satisfaction, please un-follow, de-friend, and delete my email, you're bugging me.

"True happiness is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." - Helen Keller

P.S.- There are over 700 results in Amazon from my happiness link above.  Go and buy a book on how to get happy and I'll make some money from it and that will make me happy.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Madonna and Whitney - better dead than alive?

I am struck by the irony of this past week's events; Madonna's half time show and Whitney's death.

A week ago today we watched Madonna perform the half time show of the 46th Super Bowl.  I was saddened by the mixed reviews and often harsh criticism during and after the show on all social media and news media networks.

There were comments that she should retire, she embarrassed herself, she moves too slow, she lip synced.  I felt the need to personally go on and comment to the contrary. Not just because of my love of Madonna but for my disappointment in our view of aging and legacy contribution in this world.  The focus on what have you done for me "today" and how do you look "today" is a drive thru culture that destroys us.

A quick reminder that Madonna is 53 years old.  She was born in Michigan and lost her mother at age 5 to cancer.  She rose up to overcome this grief, studied, got good grades and decided to be good at something.  She went on to become the world's top selling recording artist of all time, selling more than 300 million records worldwide.  She won a Golden Globe in acting for her role in Evita. Yes she has acted out her rebellious years and sexual discovery in front of millions. Yet she has also matured into a mother of her own child and those she's taken in as her own through adoption. She's contributed to charities beyond measure including a huge part in Haiti relief.  She's directing films that are important to her like W.E..

Yet the comments from Super Bowl were about lip syncing, her fake British accent and that she's moving kind of slow these days.

I'm sickened by that.

I work hard to be good in this world and work towards achievements that matter. Yet I can't fathom this amount of contribution and success.  We should be cheering from the cheap seats when at 53, Madonna is rocking the house.

Then just a week later, we lose another icon of music, Whitney Houston.

No doubt Whitney has the best voice ever to touch our ears.  A true gift from God. She has also been noted as the most awarded female of all time for music and movies.  No doubt there was talent beyond measure in what was Whitney Houston. 

Yet Whitney fell into an obscure marriage tainted with drug and alcohol abuse that has wasted her time and talent. Now she is dead.  Her daughter is left to find a life without her mother, her security and safety.  A tragedy and a waste.

Yet today on the blogs, the social media and the news we talk of the angel of Whitney Houston and how much we will miss her.  I too will miss her voice.  I am saddened that her gifts from God were not fully realized.

From this I ask you all to do me a favor. If there is anything about me and my contribution that you find compelling, please don't wait until I'm dead to blog, Facebook and Tweet about it.

I am saddened by a culture that cannot celebrate what is, but instead comes with criticism and judgement. A culture that will then rally around a tragedy like Whitney's.

My heart mourns for Whitney's family, but I also mourn that we couldn't celebrate all that Madonna is and has achieved.

It's not lost on me that Michael Jackson was a pedophile and a freak in most articles leading up to his death.  Upon his death he was the Pop Icon of all time.  He may have needed that kind of support while he was alive, don't you think?

I challenge you to wake up today and celebrate with love and rays of light for all that you and your family and friends are in this life. Celebrate it while it is here, please don't wait until it's dead and gone. Of course live people can still disappoint you and make mistakes so they are still at risk of deserving our love and admiration.  Isn't that really what happens? When they are dead they can no longer disappoint you or make mistakes so it's easier to rally around then and their contribution.  Dead people don't appreciate your compliments nearly as much as the live ones.  Go compliment a live person today, in honor of Madonna and Whitney.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Reflections on Dude's First Thirteen

Fourteen years ago today I woke for the first time as a mother.  I had given birth to a beautiful baby boy the day before.  All of the hustle and bustle of labor and delivery and first time visits behind us, we settled in to our new life together.

I stared in his big blue eyes thinking..... I have no experience with caring for a baby, I didn't even babysit as a teenager.  Yet, there was something instinctual that seemed to take over and I was sure there was plenty of love to make it all work out. My thoughts bounced from things like, "I can't really believe they let people like me take their babies home without more training." Seriously, I don't think I'd ever changed a diaper before this.  And those first few diapers were no practice runs. (pardon the pun)  To serious thoughts and a deep love and longing that said there was no one that would ever get between me and this child.  It truly felt like instinct, powered by God's love of course.

My long time friend and colleague visited the first day and said, "You know, we've been talking at the office and we're not sure about this."  She then looked at me holding my newborn baby and said, "Are you sure you know how to do this?"  I was certain there was a betting poll going around the office with an over and under on how bad I'd screw this thing up.  Maybe they're still watching and wagering.  Some days I do too.

Oprah has her little section on "What I Know For Sure"  Well, Miss O, here's something I know for sure and you don't.

There is absolutely nothing more life changing than having your first child.  You can have 18 more after that and it will not be the same change in perspective, actions, & relationships..... no comparison.

A week after Dude was born I was going stir crazy and needed to get out of the house. I needed Target!  I had to call another colleague who had just had a baby and ask her how to put that baby seat into my big red cart! I didn't even know how to do Target as a mother! Big changes people, big changes. Like Marie Osmond says, "after 3 it's just another baked potato in the oven for dinner".

Enough of the female icon drama quotes.  This is supposed to be about Dude's birthday.

Dude's real name is Cameron Fleetwood Hession.  He turned 14 yesterday.  His middle name is my maiden name. (Cool ass name, huh? Especially when Fleetwood Mac was rockin' the charts when I was in junior high. Yes, MY nickname was Mac for all of 7th grade. *sigh*)  As an only child, this was the best I could do at passing the family name down a little further on the chain.  At the time someone said, "What a great lawyer name."  Which is probably why we started calling him Dude as a toddler.  We're not really the lawyer types.  Other than the couple of times we've had to hire and pay them.  But that's also for another post.

We did start calling him Dude as a toddler.  He'd be scrambling away from me in the checkout line at the grocery and I'd shout, "Dude, get back over here." The stares from the little old ladies were a scream.  I'm sure they were thinking, "she doesn't look all that redneck, why did she name her sweet little blue eyed boy Dude?"  And why is she wearing a suit?  She must be going to court for those drug possession charges.

My little Dude is growing long and lean and funny and talented.  His empathy for others is astounding as a teenage boy.  I'm proud of his courage and his thoughtfulness and his willingness to let me "experiment" with this parenting thing.  I still look in his big blue eyes sometimes and remind myself that I really don't know what I'm doing but I'm leaning on those God given instincts and filling in with some great apologies.  He responds with amazing forgiveness.  Except for yesterday when he told his friend, in my presence, that I got so mad the other day I threw a spatula.  I'm going to chalk that up  to ADHD impulse of forgetting the difference of what is public domain and what should be like Vegas and what happens in our kitchen stays in our kitchen. I have no concerns that it was a malicious grudge and judgement of my parenting.

So today after the hoopla of paintball, cookie cakes, grandparents, and hours of video games with other stinky boys, I'm settling in to another year as Dude's mom.  Happy and excited about his future.

Since I'm on a role with my famous women quotes in this post, I'll end with .........

Dude....... you is smart, you is kind, you is important.