LEARN IN LOSS

LEARN IN LOSS

WE CAN (AND SHOULD) LEARN IN LOSS

My grandpa died recently as a young 92-year-old. Undoubtedly, he lived a FULL life. Even though his death was expected due to general decline over the last year, the actual occurrence of his death was still much harder than I anticipated. Likewise, I have been reflecting on it. There is much to learn in loss, no matter how prepared you think you are.

Consequently, no amount of prep truly softens the blow of their presence suddenly gone. In turn, everything tied up in memories and stories.

Grandpa really did enjoy most things in life. Even the things he didn’t enjoy, he tolerated in what can only be described as a laid-back manner. He left a legacy with his family through writing and storytelling. He LOVED to share stories. In fact, often found ways to relate a current circumstance to a story he remembered or something he had been through.

Therefore, I thought I would take this opportunity to share what I learned in his loss.

EVERYONE HAS A STORY

Everyone has a story became his mantra over the years. Even though I heard this a number of times in my youth, it didn’t dawn on me until recently it’s likely why I started doing my own writing.

What’s your story? What do you want your legacy to be?

On the Linking Indy Women Instagram Live interview a few months ago, I spoke about an idea I have around the concept of everyone has a story. Writing about everyday people because when you get down to it, everyone has a story to share.

I’m a connector and networker by nature. Consequently, I’m fascinated by people’s stories. The mail lady, janitor, CEO, officemate, cashier, barista, you name it, they have one worth hearing. People naturally seem to just open up and tell me things albeit sometimes shocking! LOL.

Insert palm to forehead here. My everyone has a story idea is not original. This is my grandpa’s legacy. But when you hear a message so often, it naturally becomes a part of you. You live it. His mantra to life becoming so much a part of me, only reflection of learning in loss highlighting the source.

YOUR STORY

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking our story is no big deal. Just like strengths. Often people downplay their strengths because it comes natural to them. The very reason it is so easy being the fact it IS a strength. Additionally, others admire it. Same with stories. It doesn’t feel unique because you are living in it. Nevertheless, it’s your story to share!

I remember my first meeting with colleagues from New York at the NBA. I shared the fact I grew up on a hog farm. First off, something I thought was a simple enough statement. Secondly, not so odd since I’d lived in it my entire life. Despite this normal fact to me, you could have heard a pin drop. “Excuse me, WHAT? Do tell!” But I digress…. Everyone has a story and its uniqueness is more amazing than you think.

My grandpa told stories. He would often say “stop me if I’ve told you this.” Let’s be honest, especially later in his life, I had likely heard the story at least twenty times prior. Truth be told, even if I did say he’d told me already, he was going to re-hash it anyway because he loved to share.

Learn in loss- Share your story and listen to others share theirs. You won’t regret it.

IMPACT ON KIDS

Our boys spent the weekend of their Papa Deuce’s visitation and funeral with the adults. As the older of their cousin clan, I anticipated them wanting to draw back into video games or a movie at the end of the day. Instead though, they relished in the story telling. I’m the oldest of four and sharing stories and laughing together is a highlight whenever we all have the chance to visit. Clearly, we get the genes honest….

However, what I recognized for maybe the first time in my own children was watching them being drawn into the stories. Maybe this came from feeling like they were suddenly part of the “big kid club” since they made it through the duration of all of the events. Or maybe they were just too tired to move to the other room and turn on a movie.

Whatever the reason, they delighted in the storytelling and the laughter. Jake, in particular, couldn’t get enough of it. He broke out into laughter a few times the next day about something said the day prior.

The experience was a good reminder for me. It’s often easier to give the boys a device or turn on a movie when I want to visit with other adults. On the other hand, watching them as a part of this interaction and what their inclusion meant was eye-opening. We absolutely had to stop short on a few stories ensuring they were age appropriate! (Hey Uncle Griff…. He’s only 11!!) But at the end of the day, they enjoyed the experience.

Learn in loss- Don’t underestimate the impact of including the kids in storytelling time. Age appropriate of course.

EASY-GOING

My grandpa was about as easy-going as they come. A funny phrase he often uttered when something surprised him, “Oh… welp-ph!!” My spelling probably not doing this phrase justice.

Even so, it’s often imitated by his children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildren both with and without him present. It makes me smile even as I type this.

He had the ability to stay calm in the craziest of circumstances. I honestly cannot remember a time he was seriously rattled over ANYTHING. And this is coming from his granddaughter who lived a quarter of a mile down the road and had siblings constantly doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing. (not me of course.)

This also includes him pulling into oncoming traffic with no physical reaction to the danger at hand. Or flipping the car into park on the regular without being fully stopped coming to a jolting halt. “Oh..welp-ph!”

I think we can all agree 2020 can be summed up with the simple phrase of “WTH???” Every time I turn around something new and unfathomable happening in the world. With the loss of grandpa and now the loss of at least part our kids’ fall semester of in-person school, I’ve started to create a number of parallels. Maybe the next blog post will create all of the parallels for you. But for now, my approach to virtual school and the world seemingly imploding upon itself is going to be my grandpa’s easy-going approach with a simple “Oh….welp-ph!”

Learn in loss- There really isn’t anything too big to overcome. Stay calm. Stay the course. And if you can’t think of something nice to say about someone, just use my grandpa’s line. “They are a great example of a bad example.” (think about it for a second…. there you go!)

Learn in loss- grandparents with 4 grandkids posing at Christmas

Our grandparents -always present. Not just for holidays but all life events big and small.

LAUGH AT YOURSELF

Grandpa was a master at laughing at himself. A great lesson for all of us.

One particular “party trick” required him lying on the floor on his back. The back of his head could not touch the ground if his heels were on the ground. Consequently, if you pushed his head down to the ground, his feet would in turn pop up from the floor. Like a seesaw. While I don’t remember him EVER being flexible, this was on another level of stiff. And HILARIOUS.

My aunt made the discovery when a pillow accidentally got knocked out from under his head, but his head didn’t fall to the ground. LAUGHTER ERUPTED! But it didn’t stop there. This became a party trick every time a new person came to the house who hadn’t seen how our grandpa’s head and heels couldn’t touch the floor at the same time!!!

How often do we take ourselves too seriously? We forget or think we shouldn’t laugh at our shortcomings. Not only was he not a stiff about it (pun FULLY intended), but also obliged us continuing to get down on the floor and show this to all of our friends. Our very own grandpa party trick.

Learn in loss- Don’t take yourself too seriously. A dose of laughter will probably do some good.

Learn in Loss- Heather and 3 siblings with grandparents making silly faces

Strike a silly pose!

SUMMARY

Loss is hard, but there is so much to be learned from those no longer with us. It’s easy to put them on a pedestal when they are no longer in our presence.

I feel fortunate this pedestal is warranted. Not from a place of perfection or being what social standards are for successful, but rather from a place of being a human. Being my grandpa.

He had the ability to be welcoming and warm. Obviously he was not perfect, but also could laugh at his shortcomings. He was successful by social standards, but those are not the memories people shared about being in his presence. And that’s not how his children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren will remember him.

They will remember his knack for storytelling, his ability to laugh at himself and life circumstances, his easy-going demeanor, and the fact, everyone has a story to share.

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A REALITY I NEVER KNEW

A REALITY I NEVER KNEW

I DID A THING

Recently, I did a thing. This THING made me nervous and uncomfortable. BUT this was important. Consequently, it’s important for all of us. I made a promise recently and this promise was to LISTEN. What do I mean by this? I claim to not be a racist. I truly don’t think I am. But what I’ve found through listening is my definition of being a racist isn’t a fully encompassing version of what racism actually is. This THING I did made me discover a reality I never knew.

Racism is defined as prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.

Noted. But here’s where my definition and reality come to a crossroads. There are unconscious bias pieces of racism as well. Not just the screaming, confederate flag waving craziness my mind visually goes to when I think of the word racism. Furthermore, when I listen and think more deeply about the unconscious, I would be lying if I said some of the thoughts had never crossed my mind. Have I tried to squash them because I know they are wrong? Sure. But it doesn’t negate the fact they entered into my conscious in the first place.

A THING CALLED LISTENING

So back to the thing I did. First, I re-shared a story on Facebook. The story definitely made me sad. Consequently, it also made me realize racism isn’t reserved just for people in a lower socio-economic class. (For the record, I’m not saying that makes it any better either.) It’s not reserved for a person someone might term as a “thug” (who, by the way, is a human too and it should be noted may just be dressed differently than you).

Nope. It’s happening to PEOPLE with jobs, in nice neighborhoods, raising families. In this case, someone who by the sheer fact of having a skin color darker than my own, causes them to live in fear of taking a walk in their predominantly white neighborhood.

When I shared this story, a friend and former colleague commented on the post about the reality this story is for her family. And admittedly, I felt ashamed. This was a reality I never knew.

We used to work together, her at the Indiana Fever and I at Reebok/adidas. I always enjoyed our working relationship and respected what an amazing person Ashley is. Always hard-working but regardless of the long hours, greeted me with a smile. Inevitably things would go wrong with deliveries or product as they often do in the apparel industry. Gracefully is the word which comes to mind to describe how Ashley would deal with these issues. Communicative, responsive, and always polite even when things were wrong from my end.

But here’s the thing. We had many conversations over the years. Not once did I ever acknowledge the reality of her world lens. By no means am I saying I have some different lens today suddenly showing me this world either. But I’m disappointed in myself for never asking. Moreover, never truly listening to pick up on this.

We both went to Purdue, but our experiences were vastly different. I did not know about this difference in experience until today. Why? Because I finally asked. We talked about it. Years ago, when we discussed our common ground of Purdue, it was from a very different lens. I didn’t ask. Furthermore, I didn’t listen.

ASHLEY’S REALITY I NEVER KNEW

After Ashley’s response to my Facebook post, I didn’t respond immediately. In fact, I had private messages pulled up two times before I finally hit send. I explained to her I really had no idea this was a reality people were living. However, in my effort to listen more, I wanted to talk to her about this. I asked permission to discuss and then write about it. She agreed. As we began, she said:

If you are comfortable enough coming to me, I don’t want to be dismissive. As long as people are listening, how can I be dismissive?

Ashley and her husband, Mauri, live outside of Dallas. She described her neighborhood as older, financially well-off, and very few young families with even fewer families of color. In other words, “we stand out.” Admittedly, this isn’t the first time she has encountered living in a place where she stands out.

She and her mother lived in Geist, a suburb of Indianapolis, for a number of years. Her mother always told her to, “be careful and keep your eyes on your surroundings.” While this may sound common for a mother to say to any child, especially a daughter, this phrase had a very different connotation to it than my own experience. She saw the funny looks given of a black child in this predominantly white area of the city.

Ashley went on to tell me about experiences even more shocking. Her mother is very light skinned. So much so, some of Ashley’s friends have always assumed she was either mixed or white. Not the case. To that end, she told a story about being in the mall. Her mother getting a hello and pleasantries from the staff. However, when Ashley turned down the same aisle to join her mom, the staff approached her suspiciously and even followed her. Ensuring she wasn’t up to something.

A reality I never knew.

MORE REALITY I NEVER KNEW

Mauri is a lawyer. He graduated from Notre Dame, a fact he is both proud of, but also has to use as a shield of protection. He once had co-workers give him a hard time, accusing him of being pretentious for having a Notre Dame law sticker on his car. His response, “you think this is pretentious? I’m a black man in America. This is protection.” The sticker serves as a buffer if he gets pulled over for accidentally running a stop sign or having a taillight out. This may prevent him from getting pulled out of the car for looking “suspicious” or worse. Not only does he know the law, but he can be treated with respect.

A reality I never knew.

This next experience made me tear up. It does even again as I sit here typing this. Hearing her voice. Hearing her little boy’s voice in the background asking if he could watch another Paw Patrol. I asked about the conversations they have with her 4-year-old son, Logan. Once per week, they ask Logan what he should do if the police should ever stop or approach him. He puts his hands up and says, “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

A reality I never knew.

BEING BLACK- THE REALITY

Ashley’s grandfather was a sheriff. Her parents both military. Therefore, this perspective is coming from someone who respects and admires what people out there serving and protecting do for us locally and abroad. But they also have to teach their 4-year-old son the realities of this world and what his skin color could mean. She continued to explain some of their house rules.

No water guns. No play guns in the house. And the difficult conversations she has to have when he is playing at a friend’s house. Logan is not allowed to play with toy guns. As I type this, my two white children and their white neighborhood friend are running around three yards playing with laser tag guns.

This is a reality I never knew.

At all times, being black means being conscious of your surroundings. “You know the feeling you get as a woman walking to your car in a parking garage by yourself? This is the feeling as a black person you get when you walk out your front door.”

The extra vigilance. The extra precautions to make sure you are happy and friendly even if you don’t feel like being happy and friendly to someone.

Ashley and Mauri are flipping a house in a white neighborhood. They take extra precautions to ensure the neighbors know they are there working on the house and not robbing the place. “It is exhausting to constantly ensure people know what we have to offer versus them just being acceptive of who we are.”

A reality I never knew.

RECENT EVENTS

In these past few weeks, Ashley has been brought to tears over the existence of hate in the world. Her son noticed this last week and asked why she was crying. She explained there will be people in his life who may not like him just because of his skin color, “it makes me sad as there are people hurting each other because of this.” Logan jumped to action saying, “Mommy, I will protect you and baby sister! I’m a superhero!”

She cried harder. (and I cried hearing this story for the record.)

The reality is, he’s public enemy #1. It’s more likely they will have to teach their unborn daughter to advocate for him. Be a champion for her older brother. Teach her awareness and how the world will perceive them both.

“She will have to walk home from school with him. Yes, because she’s younger, but also because her being with him makes him be perceived as less of a threat.”

A reality I never knew.

BLACK LIVES MATTER

Let me preface this with, I personally find it offensive to respond to Black Lives Matter with All Lives Matter. Of course they do. That’s not the point. I asked for Ashley’s take on this.

“At a breast cancer walk, would you go in screaming, ALL CANCERS MATTER? Of course not. It’s ridiculous and insensitive to the cause. Same thing here. Sometimes it’s okay to focus on part of a problem not getting enough attention. I think the biggest problem right now is people are too scared to be introspective. It’s HARD to really think about racism. People don’t want to think deeply about themselves, their upbringing, and maybe someone they love having said something hurtful about a race.”

This sometimes-painful introspection leads to avoidance of our own deeper thoughts about the subject. It’s easier to dismiss a phrase than to really think about our own reality. To listen. To make attempts at understanding a reality I never knew.

Yes, all lives matter. But part of our HUMAN race needs attention right now. We, as a society right now, need to focus on the realities of racism against our black friends. Giving some thoughts to not just radical racism because on some level, we’ve hopefully outgrown that. But the micro-aggressions to our friends of color are the reality. And in a lot of ways are more hurtful because micro-aggressions are under a mask of “I’m not a racist.”

But is this reality? Let’s listen.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

As a white family, I asked what we can do.

Honesty.

Broach the conversation.

Ask our children what racism looks like. Make sure they understand it’s not just the big and blatant racism, but micro-aggression through word and subtle action.

Look at our own parent friend group. Is there a bias?

Start soft. Easy examples which can translate for kids to make them understand. An example of this, your child is a soccer player. What would he do if a teammate makes fun of someone for being a basketball player? Making him understand and come to the defense of the basketball player and appreciating their differences. Now translating the scenario into a white and black conversation.

Have conversations in an age appropriate way, but the key here being HAVE THE CONVERSATION. And continue to have the conversation. Encourage your child to not be complacent. Practice scenarios of how they can be an advocate and come to the defense of a friend or even acquaintance if they see them being wronged.

Another thought I found really interesting is to also help your child understand maybe someone else just doesn’t know any better. BUT, in being an advocate, they can be a teacher. Another child making a racist comment or action doesn’t make them inherently a BAD KID, they frankly just don’t know any better. Pointing out the issue and showing them what was wrong may be a step to molding them differently.

“That’s the beauty of being a human.”

Be open and honest. Look inside ourselves and know there are things we don’t understand in this life. While this introspection may be hard, it is absolutely important.

In summary, listen, learn and educate. Realize there is a different reality for others in our own human race. Consequently, I personally have found there is much more to learn on a reality I never knew.

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.  – Maya Angelou

 

SUGGESTED RESOURCES

White Fragility

Just Mercy

When They See Us

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THE DEVIL IN COMPARISON

THE DEVIL IN COMPARISON

COMPARISON SHAME

We’re all guilty of it. The “IT” I’m referring to? COMPARISON. You know, the evil thing we do to ourselves when we’re already in a down place. However, for some unknown reason our mind takes us FURTHER down by pulling out ONLY the good someone else has going for them. Consequently, making us feel less than adequate. Oh, the devil in comparison. Even when our rational brain tells us not to do this and there is more to the story, our guilty mom brain takes us there. Blerg.

Last week, I enjoyed an evening of social distance visiting with three fellow mom friends in a parking lot. If you haven’t tried this yet, I highly recommend!

Regardless, I was overcome with a sense of sadness throughout the conversation about what is going on for parents right now. Each expressed the feeling of “not being enough” for instance, whether it came to routine, schoolwork, family meals, engagement beyond video games… You name it, we covered it.

In particular, what intrigued me the most about this conversation was where those feelings REALLY stemmed from. Comparison.

SOCIAL ISOLATION- THE DEVIL IN COMPARISON

One particular comment stuck with me for days. Our school has a Facebook page specifically dedicated to this time of quarantine. For student engagement, we’re encouraged to post images of art, music, gym, and various challenges the school puts out each week. While it’s a great idea for engagement of the kids and keeping up with connection, I think from a parent perspective it may be having an unintentional counterproductive effect. You know, the devil in comparison.

The comment made was something along the lines of, “it’s just so frustrating. I see EVERYONE posting on the Facebook page about these fun activities they are doing with their kids during this time and I feel like a failure. We’re barely staying afloat through the schoolwork and then our own jobs.”

STOP RIGHT THERE! (my best Meatloaf, Paradise by the Dashboard Lights impersonation…. You’re singing it now, aren’t you?!)

Holy smokes, the post is a five-minute snippet into their day! Maybe the parents are doing the activities for their own sanity and are using it like a coffee break from their work. On the other hand, maybe the parents require doing the creative activity to release their own guilt for then allowing a day full of video games. Or it represents a shred of DOING something in this strange time we’re in.

Whatever the case, guilt at the base. Case in point, me.

TAKE ME AWAY- COMPARISON

I posted a few times over the last two months showing a couple of the art projects. My kids have more toys and gadgets than I can count and there has been an overwhelming amount of guilt in me about how the days of E-Learning have gone. Frankly, it’s a mad dash. Hurry through the requirements of E-Learning materials and then off to the races for independent play for the afternoon so Jeremy and I can get SOMETHING done work wise. And those aforementioned toys and gadgets to spark creativity? Zip. It’s video games.

One particular post of mine showed the kids lying on sheets in the yard trying to create a scene for their art project. We (read: me) had this amazingly creative idea of Jake floating away holding balloons on a blue sheet (the sky) while Bryce grabbed his feet from the green sheet (the ground) to save him.

The picture captured both boys laughing. Actually, correction. Jake was making a face that was supposed to look like he was panicked about floating away. In reality, he just looked like he needed to poop. Bryce’s face in savior mode with smiles but you can’t see this because he turned his face into the sheet EVERY…. TIME…. I took a picture. I stood on a chair on our second story deck trying to capture this just right. To clarify, just right includes my 11-year-old barking orders such as, “don’t get the grass in the picture around the blue sheet and balloons mom!” Sure…. Easy enough. Said no one ever.

TAKE ME AWAY- THE REAL STORY

First off, the above scenario was fun, and we did get a good laugh about this project in the five minutes of the photo shoot itself. Second, what the photo doesn’t show is this:

  • Fighting with BOTH of them about doing this art project to begin with. “Do we HAVE TO do this MOM!??!” Response internal: Yes, because I need you to do SOMETHING creative.
  • The initial attempt at this photo in the garage where the ceiling was too low for me to get high enough to get both of them in the shot. I then hit my head on the ceiling while on the ladder sending me into a temporary rage.
  • Bryce stomping up the stairs not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES to go get the blue sheet after me telling him exactly where it was. He came back empty handed each time, but I refused to cave into doing it for him.
  • The two minutes after the picture where the boys desperately wanted me to edit this image in photo shop to take out the grass. In fact, they wanted me to upgrade the program I use so we could enhance the photo more than my free program allows. NOW they were suddenly really into this project they didn’t want to do in the first place, but I no longer had time to participate with a client call starting in four minutes.

Shall I continue?

The Devil in Comparison- two boys pretending to float away with balloons lying on sheets

Art at its finest – balloon boys floating away

YOU ARE ENOUGH

We’re all smart enough to know what we see on social media doesn’t show the whole picture. But if I’ve learned nothing in my time as a mother, it’s still REALLY hard to stop our minds from going there. Furthermore, it’s easier to forget there is a backstory or remembering the five minutes we just saw doesn’t represent their entire 24 hours. Shaming ourselves into believing we aren’t good enough somehow takes less time than rationally thinking through what we’re seeing.

Well my sweet friend, YOU ARE ENOUGH.

It’s ironic, I started this blog article back in January when I planned out the year of cadence and topics. While comparison and competition were to be the topic, the examples within have changed dramatically with our world being flipped upside down. Even so, the take-away remains.

Telling someone to take comparison out of their head is like telling a red head to calm down in the heat of a moment. Good luck. Like when I hit my head on the ceiling while on the ladder…. Good times, good times.

REMOVE THE DEVIL IN COMPARISON

Even so, what are some things you can do to pull yourself out of this mindset of comparison? In fact, REMOVE the devil in comparison.

First, we can continue to remind ourselves social media is a snippet of life. The more we utilize positive self-talk and genuine excitement for others, the more we are able to shift our mindset. There are all sorts of studies around gratefulness and how our mindset changes with a renewed focus towards the positive.

For instance, what if we started a practice of gratitude for someone sharing a snippet into their world? This likely won’t happen overnight, but if we continue to focus on why we are grateful for what someone shared, we will then see a shift in our initial response to a post. In turn, moving from a triggered response of comparison to an auto response of gratitude.

Second, analyze what it is about the comparison really triggering you. So often, we think we should push those thoughts and feelings DEEP DOWN because they are “wrong.” Why not try to give those feelings their moment? Then ask ourself questions around what REALLY is bothering you. Likely, your emotions are trying to get you to realize something. Utilize the intel. Shoving the emotions down are just going to make them come on stronger in the next devil in comparison.

Lastly, view competition differently. Competition can be a good thing. Think about sports. We all love them. They can be healthy. Is there something in your brain gnawing at you with what you are seeing? Could this comparison be inspirational to you? Motivating you to do something you have always wanted to do but it was easier to talk yourself out of rather than take the first step?

IN SUMMARY- THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMMM

We all have our priorities. After analyzing why our head went to the space of comparison, move forward with the intel gained on a new perspective. More importantly, I beg of you to give yourself grace always, but especially in this time of social isolation.

I listened to a podcast the other day by Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. She has a net worth of over $1 billion dollars and is an absolutely fascinating entrepreneur. Even so, she is married, has four children, and is way more relatable than you may think. When asked her advice for this time of quarantine, parenting, and running a business, her response was this: “Lower your expectations of yourself during this time.”

There you have it. In this world of high achieving, picture perfect social media posting, how about you cut yourself some slack. You are enough. Look the devil in comparison in the eye and tell him, YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Don’t compare yourself with anyone in this world. If you do so, you are insulting yourself.

Bill Gates

 

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IT COULD BE WORSE

IT COULD BE WORSE

BUT IT COULD ALSO BE BETTER….

First off, let’s talk about what is going on right now in the world? It could be worse, but it could also be better. I’m an extrovert through and through so this whole stay home thing is having more of an effect on me than I originally thought it ever would.

I had a conversation with a friend about how I feel like a phony. For the Seinfeld fans out there… like when Mike Moffitt tells Kramer that Jerry Seinfeld is a phony? YEP, THIS! Consequently, I have been training for situations like this for the last year. To be a coach. Trained to change mindset. Furthermore, to know how to deal with personal controversy and shift not only a client’s energy, but my own as well.

On the other hand, here we are. For the last few weeks, I have sucked. Particularly when it comes to patience, which I have had zero. Last week’s two days of E-Learning can SUCK IT. You may be sitting there thinking, “yes Heather, but there are 5 days in the week, so 2 isn’t THAT bad.” Subsequently I will tell you, we technically only had 3 days of E-Learning last week. In short, blowing up 2 out of 3 days is not a great batting average.

The texts I sent to some of the other parents when the Zoom link didn’t work were downright terrible. Make a sailor blush kind of language and I didn’t give a s***. So frustrating. I am a college educated, in the work force for 20+ years person and this shouldn’t be this complicated kind of exhaustion and pissed off-ed-ness…. I’m fully aware this is not proper English, let alone writing etiquette. But for the Love of Sweet Jesus, who is with me???

REFLECTION

In spite of this, I took time to reflect on where these emotions, such as the anger, were coming from. To summarize, I think we’re all hesitant to say just how truly frustrating all of this is because it could be so much worse. Correct, it could be worse, but it could also be better. I mean…. We’re not sending our kids off to war and standing helplessly by. Nope. And for God’s sake I’m not comparing having to stay quarantined in my beautiful home with my healthy children, fun-loving husband, plenty of food, and amenities beyond my own comprehension to THAT. Abso-frickin’-lutely not.

Nor am I comparing my own cushy situation to a single parent family not knowing how on Earth they are going to get by another day of juggling on their own. Or the family not sure where the next meal is going to come from without school to take the strain off of two meals in a day. Nope, not that either.

In our effort to fully acknowledge we could have it SOOOOO much worse, I think we’re forgetting something. And here it is. It is OKAY to get frustrated about the current situation and ACKNOWLEDGE it.

Yep, I promise. It is. Me saying I am frustrated as HELL with Class DoJo and Canvas and Lexia and DreamBox and… and… all of the zillion other programs we’re trying to keep straight in a day, not to mention our routine being flipped upside down and it sucks, is absolutely okay. This does not make me uncompassionate about others dealing with their own frustrations. Acknowledgement of the frustrating moments or the various emotions we’re feeling actually supports us in moving through them.

The Mom Huddle- It Could Be Worse- Not Today Covid19 sign

ACKNOWLEDGING IT COULD BE WORSE

Admittedly, this is what has been keeping me up at night. It should be noted, sleep has never been an issue for me. For this reason, when I started to have these sleepless nights it was definitely time to reflect. In this case, sleeplessness had very little to do with the state of the world. Sure, I’m worried about the world, but in general I have a very “this too shall pass” attitude. Always have.

I broke this down for myself and asked the tough question. Why am I in such a funk about this and so frustrated?? The answer definitely surprised me in a lot of ways. Guilt. Guilt over feeling I didn’t have the right to be frustrated. Even guilt over being frustrated with my own children, husband, school, routine disruption, all the things going on right now when in my heart of hearts, I know there are others who have it so much worse.

This is where “phony” really started to set in. I spend a lot of my days now listening to people. In general, I listen to people and regurgitate back to them what they said to me so they can listen to themselves. And when this happens, there is an epiphany. True story. I may have just given away the secret of coaching!! Moreover, here’s the even crazier part…. Coaching will always be around because people in general don’t listen. ESPECIALLY to themselves. For this example, case in point…. Me.

You phony… you can’t even get your own mindset right about this. How can you REALLY support others in doing so? 

SHIFTING

I feel as though I have the tools and mechanisms to support people in shifting mindset, setting goals, and working through their blocks. With a number of my clients right now, we talk through how they feel about things going on in the world. Shifting their mindset from a negative outlook to one of opportunity and focusing on where they DO have choices. Despite the positive mindset, we are not shoving the worry and anxiety of things going on in the world down deep… that does no good. Alternatively, we look to acknowledge the feeling, decide what is within our control about the situation, and then create action. All while setting the anxiety and worry on the shelf, not shoved in a closet.

While I coach on this, in the same way, I was not even listening to myself. I literally sucked at listening for the last week. To be fair, probably longer because in some ways the thoughts and feelings on the current state of affairs were just shoved down and masked with positivity. Last but not least, when the true feelings came out, they did so with the vengeance of Medusa caused by a 5th grade class Zoom call fail. 

And if you were anywhere near my office last Wednesday….. #$%^&*$%^&*%^&*%^&* is basically what you heard every ten minutes or so. I hope you are laughing, and this is resonating with you in an “OH MY GOSH, ME TOO” way.

Optimism isn’t believing nothing bad will happen. It’s about believing in your ability to handle it when it does.  – Mel Robbins

FINDING PEACE- YOUR VERSION

With this in mind, what CAN we do about these frustrating moments? It’s important to me to give you take-aways. Truth be told though; you should take these and make a version that works for you. I’ll give you thoughts, but each scenario is unique. As a result, I encourage you to use this as a launching pad to think about what YOU want during this time.

Patience.

I’m kidding! This was to see if you were still paying attention. Of course, we want to have patience!! However, telling someone to have patience when they are in the middle of an E-Learning lesson with a child scrolling UP and DOWN, UP and DOWN while they try to read the instructions – well, it’s going to go over like a turd in a punchbowl. Just ask my husband, he’s still licking his wounds. Do your personal best. And if personal best in a moment means walking away or giving them a smack over the head…. So be it.

Reflect on what you need.

Take a few minutes to reflect on what you desire or need in a day. Do you crave 30 minutes of alone time? How can you make this happen? Take a walk. Put in earbuds with loud music and close yourself in the bathroom. Make everyone go to bed 30 minutes earlier.

What does this look like for you and what is one small action step you can implement to get there? It should be noted, make these small steps. As humans, we don’t typically go from couch potato to marathon runner in a week. In this same manner, set your mini goal up with success in mind.

EXPECTATIONS AND GRACE

Re-set your expectations.

A lot of the women I’ve talked to over the last month had one interesting thing in common. There is this overwhelming urge to ACHIEVE during this time. Easy there sister. You may not have a commute right now or your work may have slowed. In spite of this, you have the added pieces of facilitating schoolwork from your kids’ teachers, making meals and 35 snacks in a day, maybe sleeping in a little bit, probably utilizing some time to play more games or have more family fun. I’m the QUEEN of projects so believe me, I get it.

However, know there are some intangibles right now you may overlook as things taking up time. In turn, give yourself space and level set your expectation on all the “should be doings” with what you actually want to do with this time.

Finally, Grace.

There will be bad days. The biggest take-away for me through this last month is being okay with a bad day. I don’t have to feel guilt over being frustrated or losing my cool as long as I’m trying. My frustrated feelings do not diminish the real problems of the world, but rather make me human. Give yourself grace when it comes to your thoughts and feelings. Not only grace, but acknowledge them.

The Mom Huddle- It Could Be Worse Pandemic pic of boys putting hearts on neighbors door

Jake & Bryce decorated the neighbor’s door with hearts to cheer them up!

IT COULD BE WORSE, BUT IT COULD ALSO BE BETTER

This too shall pass and it hasn’t been all bad. In fact, I’ve had some really surprisingly fun moments with my family throughout. So much so, I want to figure out a way to have more of those moments when we go back to a normal existence.

In summary, I leave you with this challenge. With the benefit of hindsight, think of one thing you will NOT be adding back into your normal when the world opens up again. It’s amazing to think about what we enjoy not being a part of our day-to-day right now. Why add it back in? Likewise, think of one thing you WILL add into your new normal which was a nice surprise coming out of your mandated staycation?

Stay safe, stay sane, and support each other!

 

Some days, doing ‘the best we can’ may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn’t perfect – on any front – and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else.  –  Mister Rogers

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Meet My Co-Workers

Meet My Co-Workers

WHO ARE YOUR CO-WORKERS?

I’m sure you have seen the hilarious challenges floating around on social media asking people to name something their kids or pets do as if they are co-workers. It’s pretty entertaining. Obviously, we are all searching for things to keep us entertained and furthermore sane in the craziness of life as we know it right now. To that end, I had an idea. Meet my co-workers: Jeremy, Jake, Bryce, Thor, and Gary.

I’ve referred to this place as the Lowey Fraternity House, otherwise known as my home. Weird stuff goes down here all the time. Nevertheless, when you are used to it, it’s really just normal life. Then I remembered while a lot of the things happening here are normal for us, it’s probably eye-opening, entertaining, or disturbing (maybe all of the above) for others. I hope you enjoy the story of my co-workers in this co-living and co-working space.

Most importantly, I pray you and yours stay healthy and sane in this crazy time.

The Mom Huddle Meet My Co-Workers: Employee of the Year sign with cat Gary

Employee of the Month: Gary

MEET MY CO-WORKERS: GARY

I will start with the sweetest of my co-workers. Gary. Mrs. Gary if we’re being formal, but on the contrary, SHE is anything BUT formal. Correct, Gary is a girl. Rumor has it she had a pretty rough upbringing. I mean her adoptive parents changed her name from PJ to Gary even though it was discovered she was actually a girl. Apparently, she was abandoned and lived in foster care for a few weeks before being adopted. This SOUNDS great, but her adoptive situation was utter chaos most of the time. I’ve heard terms like Lowey Fraternity House and nut house thrown around. Constantly people at the house, kids running amuck, a real three-ring circus kind of place.

Anyway, back to her work. While she is an absolute sweetheart, she does some super weird things. For example, earlier this week, she walked into my office, looked right at me and threw up on the floor. Then she continued to sit there and look at me for a little while longer. Eventually, she walked out of the room without saying a word. To make matters worse, my co-worker Jeremy walked into my office and stepped in it. For the record, he kind of lost his ever-loving mind. Oh well, he gets this way about messes in the office.

I think everyone really loves Gary around here though because she has such a sweet demeanor. In fact, she loves to give hugs. I swear, she is snuggly with even the strangers who come into the office. Weird if you ask me.

She does this super odd thing though of jumping onto the break-room countertop. Heat up lunch or prepare a coffee and she’s likely to be sitting on the countertop watching. Weird office behavior, but what can you do when she is getting employee of the month every other month. Truth be told, I have NO IDEA what her job is, but her boss, Bryce, loves her. He even laughs when she walks around the office carrying nerf darts in her mouth. WTH? 

The Mom Huddle Meet My Co-Workers: Employee of the Month sign with cat Thor

Employee of the Month: Thor

MEET MY CO-WORKERS: THOR

I mean, you guys seriously need to meet this guy. When he gets bored or angry, he literally uses his nails and scratches furniture!! Who does he think he is… God of Thunder or something? He’s a real piece of work.

Additionally, he is super curious and likes to perch on the back of chairs. Sometimes even when someone is sitting in the chair! I seem to be the only one around here who thinks this is odd behavior.

He is also a total micromanager. Watching every little step with big curious eyes. When he does it to me, I stare back but it honestly doesn’t seem to faze him. Jake talks to him during those zone out moments but doesn’t seem to be bothered by the fact Thor just stares back at him. Typically, Thor doesn’t even answer and often just walks away mid-sentence.

Frankly, he’s pretty lazy. Constantly sitting in the sunshine from windows and doors, even if it’s in the way of someone’s entry to the building.

Thor’s favorite employee is Bryce, which is kind of funny since they are in different reporting lines. Jake does get a bit jealous with Thor’s favoritism towards Bryce when it comes to reviews (bedtime). I keep trying to make Jake understand it’s because Bryce brings Thor food all the time, but Jake disagrees.

The Mom Huddle Meet My Co-Workers: Employee of the Month sign with son Jake

Employee of the Month: Jake

MEET MY CO-WORKERS: JAKE

This one, boy does he complain a lot if he’s having a bad day. He definitely thinks he does ALL the work around here. Carrying more than his fair share of the workload. Jeremy tries to explain if he wouldn’t rush through things so quickly, he wouldn’t have to re-do tasks and feel so overwhelmed. It falls on deaf ears most of the time.

The funny thing is, he rides a hoverboard around the office from the minute he walks in the door at 8 am until he makes his way home (to his room) at the end of the day (bedtime). It’s hard to take someone seriously for management potential when they ride around on a hoverboard all day. On the contrary, he thinks he is totally ready for a manager position and wants to sit in on all of Bryce’s reviews. Always a comment with this one….

He is lighthearted though and tries to turn most tasks into a game. Why we have so many Legos in the office, I will never know. Regardless, he took it upon himself to sort them by color this week. Even made a basketball game in plastic containers by color for sorting. Again, management material? TBD. But Bryce, Thor, and Gary all got in on the action for a while. Leadership potential for sure. Too bad it wasn’t a more worthwhile business task like balancing the budget or doing the taxes.

Jake has natural leadership skills, so I think with some good mentorship, there is a lot of potential. He has aspirations for being a CEO one day, but time will tell.

The Mom Huddle Meet My Co-Workers: Employee of the Month sign with son Bryce

Employee of the Month: Bryce

MEET MY CO-WORKERS: BRYCE

I can’t get a read on this guy. He’s SUPER helpful one minute but conversely flies off the handle the next over seemingly nothing. It’s borderline cray-cray if you ask me. For the record, no one does. I just sit over here and write emails, update websites, write for our publication, pay the bills, manage operations, party plan, meal prep for in-house functions, you know, just a few things…. But who’s complaining?!

Anyway, back to Bryce. He and Thor are super tight, like I mentioned. First off, they even go to the bathroom together. Jeremy is so weirded out by this. I’ve even had to have a discussion with both Bryce and Thor about it. They claim they just like to take their breaks together, but someone caught Thor watching Bryce in the shower after they went to the gym the other day. Next, I guess I’ll have to address THAT.

Bryce loves to bring food in for all of the employees. His specialty is zucchini bread and it is a crowd favorite. Although Jeremy’s calorie counting always suffers when Bryce does this. Then we all subsequently have to hear about how many calories are in various foods. BORING…

Even though he can be a bit temperamental, Bryce does help everyone around the office with their workload. He also takes his position as the office philanthropy chair very seriously. Pushing us to ensure we get our volunteer hours in each year.

The Mom Huddle Meet My Co-Workers: Employee of the Month sign with husband Jeremy

Employee of the Month: Jeremy

MEET MY CO-WORKERS: JEREMY

As much as everyone gives him a hard time for his Dad-like demeanor, Jeremy believes in setting the bar high for this team. In addition, he does the lion’s share of the work. Not only does he bounce from call to call, but also assists with operations and other thankless tasks. He even makes lunch for the whole office various days of the week which is a nice treat!

Gary spends a lot of time in his office, which CLEARLY gets the rumor mill going about the two of them. Despite the rumors, I think they just enjoy spending time together in quiet. The rest of the office environment is so loud and boisterous throughout the day, it’s hard to get anything accomplished.

Jeremy is looking to promote Jake or Bryce to give them some additional responsibility. I’m just unsure of who is ready for it. We’re here together all the time and I can’t take any more complaining or questions on how to do something. It can be maddening and really cuts into time for the start-up business division I’m creating.

 

The Mom Huddle Meet My Co-Workers: Employee of the Year sign with Heather

Employee of the Year: Heather

 

MEET MY CO-WORKERS SUMMARY

As for me, clearly, I’m perfect in every way and should be the president of this company. I’m being told if I prove myself over the next two months, it’s highly likely. Fingers crossed I can practice empathy, patience, compassion, and not losing my s**t long enough for this to occur.

Last but not least my friends, I wish you grace and sanity with your own “co-workers” as you try to maintain normalcy in work AND home life. In all seriousness, if you feel you are losing it, stop, take a breath, and decide what would serve you best in the next moment. If it means stopping for a good cry, do it. Additionally, if it means seeking out someone to talk to, do it. Find something supportive to you and furthermore, don’t be embarrassed for whatever it is. As I mentioned in my last post, the only judgment you are going to get from me is if you are shaming someone else.

And with that, I leave you my most favorite tweet yet since this pandemic began:

If there’s a baby boom in 9 months, it’ll consist entirely of first-born children.

– Winston Chang @winston_chang

(Thank you Winston, this has made me laugh over and over!)

 

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Enjoying a Mandated Staycation

Enjoying a Mandated Staycation

HOW TO ENJOY A MANDATED STAYCATION

It’s all in the mindset. “I hope you are enjoying the time at home with your family right now!” This is how I’m starting every email to clients, potential clients, friends, basically everyone right now. Why? Two reasons. First, a positive lead in to the conversation can start to shift the mindset out of the gate.  Second, mandated time at home and everything around us being cancelled can feel like we’re not at choice. However, we CAN choose to look at this differently. In fact, even enjoying a mandated staycation. 

Last month, I wrote an entire article about Hitting the Pause Button. No, I’m not Agent Zero of the start of the Coronavirus, but the irony of this is not lost on me. While it’s a bit of a forced pause, maybe it’s exactly what we’ve all been looking for.

“Heather- you crazy….” (said in my best movie character voice) I know. I tend to see opportunity in situations no matter how dire they may seem to others. It’s a blessing while also annoying as hell to others I’m sure.  

There are absolutely going to be days/weeks as a part of this time at home where we may lose our ever-loving minds. Folks, I’m not s**tting rainbows and riding around on unicorns, I promise. I did the same exasperated sigh when city and state officials held the press conference announcing school was going to be cancelled for at least three weeks.

Pretty sure I said something like, “Jake and I may not make it out of this alive.” In fact, Jeremy and I took a long walk after the announcement talking about our approach for the next few weeks and how we were going to “make it through.” (yes, very dramatic) Afterall, I’m starting a business and having two kids at home doesn’t exactly scream productivity.

But if we are going to ask our kids for help in making this work, shouldn’t we at least have a mindset of enjoying this mandated staycation?

POPS OF POSITIVE

I keep seeing pops of positive that frankly make my heart happy. Friends talking about family meals around the table because all sports are cancelled. Family game nights more frequent because no sports are on the tv. Let’s get our own family competition on! Kids actively wanting to read because at some point, how long can you watch movies and play video games? Neighborhood kids playing for hours on end when they are normally interrupted because of schedules. These aren’t BAD things folks.

I’m not blind to the fact this is an absolute struggle for some families both from a financial standpoint as well as logistically. You want to know what else I’ve seen? People posting on social media how they can and will help with meals if you reach out to them with no judgment around the need. Neighbors offering to watch kids in an effort for more community. Individuals offering to support local people who are considered high risk to run errands for them or just have a daily phone call for some interaction. Humanity stepping up in a time of need.

What is my point? There is the old saying about life giving you lemons and making lemonade. Well, maybe life is giving us Corona right now to make a better Community.

Here are my three pieces of advice for having some fun and furthermore, a positive outlook for enjoying our mandated staycation.

#1 – STOP WATCHING THE NEWS AND SOCIAL MEDIA 24/7 

Being informed is great. However, over informed and constant information creates panic and a serious amount of “what-ifs.” If you don’t know what I mean by the what-ifs, there is a great children’s book called Bruce Moose and the What-Ifs, by Gary J. Oliver and H. Norman Wright. You would actually be surprised how often I refer to this book when coaching with clients.  The premise is about worry and how it can consume and paralyze us, but only if we let it. How we immediately go to the negative space of what could go wrong. But what could go right? Bringing us back to the mindset that there is a silver lining to all of this if we just dig a little deeper.

When life gives you Corona, have a party at home. Yes, I’m stretching, but come on. We HAVE to laugh. 

Speaking of, yesterday I saw a meme that made me laugh really hard. It was about how we’re all glad to know the way every random sweepstakes, vendor, and rewards card we’ve ever encountered are handling the Coronavirus. SO TRUE! Stop looking at your emails and/or just hit delete. I am assuming you don’t need to know how Delta or the Marriott are handling this unless you have upcoming travel. I literally just went through my email and grabbed the first five I saw….. Groupon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Monogram Hub, Michaels, and Papa John’s, noted. Not sure why I need to know how you are handling things. 

EVERY BLESS-ED ORGANIZATION is sending out an announcement. At some point, WHO CARES?!?! You are an adult. Your organization is run by what I assume are adults. Furthermore, my assumption is you are handling this to the best of your abilities. Stop telling me to wash my hands. Got it. Noted. I do not need the company I ordered a chair from in 2004 to remind me to wash my hands and stay home if I’m sick. 

And the social media posts….. OMG. Unless they have Dr. before their name or an LPN, RN, CAN, NP, PA, MD, EMT, RT, CRNA after their name (thanks Tonna Randolph for this list!), I LITERALLY DON’T CARE AND DON’T WANT YOUR TAKE ON WHAT SHOULD OR SHOULDN’T BE DONE. For the love of God. MAKE IT STOP. To every Tom, Dick, and Harry who are the resident expert on everything because they saw one headline from one news source and are spreading panic and questioning all authority, kindly….. SHUT UP. In fact, hole up in your house. The world will be a better place for it. And for more reasons than just the spread of a virus.

Just for the record, I’m fully speaking to everyone. Not just one side or the other of the political s**tshow. ENOUGH! If you were my children, you would be grounded and sentenced to write, “I will be nice and treat others with kindness,” until your hand needs surgery. All of them!

#2 – STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS

This one is a full-time mindset, not just in a time of a global pandemic. However, for our purposes today, we’ll talk about this in terms of having your kids at home with you for the unforeseeable future with no extracurricular activities. I was on a hilarious text chain last night which verified my thoughts on this.

If you are the most organized, June Cleaver mother and have amazing activities with color coded time slots for entertaining your children for the next 3 weeks, awesome. If you are polar opposite of this and are handing over the remote controls and setting up a soda and snack station by the Playstation for 3 weeks, also awesome. DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU! 

I’ve seen some amazingly creative things on social media. It should be noted, I don’t think anyone posting their charts are doing so for bragging rights per say. (On the other hand, there are probably some, but let’s be kind.) Hopefully the intent is purely providing others with ideas.

But parents, first off, if it’s not going to work for you, don’t do it! Secondly, stop feeling bad about it. Setting up unreasonable expectations of yourself and your kids is only going to create more frustration in an already tense time. Suddenly asking your child to read 2 hours a day when you can barely get them to read for 20 minutes has DISASTER written all over it, for instance.

We’re somewhere in the middle on this schedule thing. Jeremy and I came up with an additional house chore per day for each kid and then a few school related things for them to do each morning. The boys choose whatever order for these activities and if they complete without argument and complaining, then basically the rest of the day is playing outside with neighbors, video game tournaments, puzzles, and Lego building. We’re mixing in some family walks in there when we’re off of calls, but we’re not scheduling this. Again, because THIS IS WHAT WORKS FOR US.

Stop judging each other for what is going on. Everyone is in survival mode with this new schedule. Furthermore, comparison during this time will be the root of all evil. I will only judge you if you start shaming others. Think about that.

#3 – ENJOY YOURSELF- THINK OF IT AS A MANDATED STAYCATION

This goes back to the mindset thing, but what would happen if we allowed ourselves to actually enjoy this time at home? Thinking of this as a gift of time. Time is one of the top reasons people sight for not doing things. Following dreams. Making phone calls. Playing games. Getting in shape. Spending time with family. Reading a book. Doing a puzzle. You name it, TIME is the factor.

We’ve all just been handed the GIFT OF TIME. Schedules opened up. Kids present with us now with clear schedules. What are you going to do with this gift? The present is a present. (I know, so corny… but so true.)

I’m not telling you this as another thing to stress yourself out over. Instead, just take some time to think about it. Be intentional about what you want to do with this time. Your mind will inevitably go to the what-ifs sometimes and that’s okay. But after you have acknowledged this worry, move back to a space of enjoying this time with your family. Relax a little. At some point, “this too shall pass,” and when it does, we’ll all be back to 100 miles per hour every day. 

So hit the pause button and enjoy some time with your kids.

ENJOYING A MANDATED STAYCATION

We live in a country of complete abundance. I have full faith we’ll get through this and life will go back to activities and fun. So why not take some TIME to enjoy this staycation? Mandated or not, we still have a choice in this. That choice is our mindset. Every day isn’t going to be rainbows and sunshine. Your kids are going to drive you crazy. That’s what early bedtimes and bottles of wine are for.

My advice? Enjoy this gift of time.

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