Adventures in a Mid-Life Crisis

I’m turning 40 this year. I’m going to be honest with y’all, I’m not taking it well. But I have a goal of making this my #bestyearever. I’m going to work out, eat better, spend more time doing things I love, taking care of myself, kick some ass, take some names.

I’ve turned to Pilates and endless dog walks for exercise, super food salads with a bunch of stuff I can hardly pronounce in them (keeeen-Wa), indulging in flea market shopping whenever the mood strikes me (yes, I need another Mid-Century lamp, thanks), and pouring myself into my job.

But there’s one thing I really wanted to improve that was not as easy.

My face.

Between the decades of sun damage, the nose broken many years ago, the crow’s feet, the fissures across my forehead, it’s kind of a mess.

Now don’t get my wrong, I’m not hideous for Pete’s sake. I mean it’s not like the pack of coyotes that live in our backyard has taken me in as one of their own, but still I look…..tired, blah, weathered if you will. Or as my dermatologist says, “You look like you’ve enjoyed yourself!” Not entirely sure what that means, but sort of sounded like a really nice way to say “rode hard and put away wet.”

I want to look a little fresher, brighter, and if possible 35-er. That’s not too much to ask, right?

I went for a consultation at one of those professional med-spa gimmicks and decided to take a step to get my face looking closer to how I felt it should.

I opted for one of the many laser resurfacing options and I can tell you that I no longer fear hell. Because I have been there.

This procedure involves literally burning a layer of skin off your face. Surely, I thought, this would help!? If you ever do this, understand that when you’re told some minor swelling and mild redness may occur you are being lied to and will not leave your house for three days. I felt a sense of immediate regret when I could smell something on fire as the laser made its first pass. “Oh, it’s just the little hairs on your face searing off, Hon.” The nurse practitioner told me. Oh OK. Just those.

Immediately after the procedure, which really only took about 10 minutes after waiting for an hour with a thick layer of numbing cream on my face, I felt an intense burning. Something like a frying pan must feel when it’s heated up to cook your Sunday bacon. I drove home with ice packs on one side of my face while holding the other side as close as possible to the AC vent without crashing my car. My face was as red as tomato, almost purple is some spots like I had been tanning on the face of the sun.

But the worst part was yet to come.

About three hours later my face started to swell. Especially my left side. I looked like a cross between Quasimodo and Sloth from the Goonies except my face was hot pink and coated with Aquafor. I went to bed with a bag of frozen peas and propped up on six pillows. My husband came in and poked me every few hours to make sure I was still breathing.

The next morning, I laughed out loud when I looked in the mirror. And then nearly started to sob. The swelling was so bad, I could not see out of my left eye! I looked like I had swallowed a bee hive. Thank Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the Talking Walnut that I work from home because I would have had to quit my job.

I called my doctor who assured me that my Sumo wrestler face was “normal” but she could call in a prescription to help bring it down. I was relieved until I realized that meant I would have to leave the house and walk into a store where people may notice my cheek bones were practically touching my eyebrows.

I nearly called a friend to get the meds for me but instead I braved up, put on a hat, sunglasses, hoodie and tried to pull my hair around my face as much as possible. I was about as incognito as Marilyn Mason at a Mary Kay party. I picked up my kids from school later and the after-care teachers signaled to me from across the field that they would sign the boys out, no need for me to come to them. I’m assuming they were concerned the children would run screaming from fear if they saw me up close.

For three solid days my face was so swollen it felt like my cheeks would explode. I was melting ice cubes on my forehead while taking conference calls and trying to read through slits of eyes. The steroids I was given had me climbing the walls and if I didn’t apply lotion to my face 567 times a day, it would itch and burn like a mother. I made a joke to my husband if he still found me attractive and he just winced and changed the subject.

And then, on the fourth day, it all started to subside. The itching, flaking, redness, scabbing, puffy after effects slowly went away. And what was left was indeed a smoother, clearer, prettier face.

Do I look 35 now that’s it all said and done? Meh. But I do look fresh enough that someone who sees me at least once a week noticed right away. And I find that I need less makeup to not look like I have a role in Night of the Walking Dead.

But I’ve learned that if you want something bad enough there are ways to get it if you’re willing to suffer. I’ve also learned that some of those things might not be nearly as important as you think they are.

 

 

First Impressions Aren’t Everything: Take a Second Chance to Look Again

The funny thing about first impressions is sometimes they don’t mean much. And sometimes the realm of opportunities a seemingly unappealing situation can offer you is more than you could ever wish for.

The first time I met my husband, I hardly batted an eye. I was picking up my girlfriend for lunch, who happened to be his neighbor, and she introduced us. He was pleasant enough. Friendly. Polite. And don’t get me wrong, he was totally cute. But I was dating someone else and frankly, was really looking forward to some girl talk and Bloody Mary’s. When my friend invited him to lunch with us, I could have died. He declined, and relieved, I thought, “OK, great, nice to meet you, Buddy. Peace out!”

Three years later I married him.

Looking back, I have no idea what on earth would have encouraged him to pursue me after that first meeting, but he persisted. His second and third impressions left much stronger marks on me. Maybe it was his determination, his ballsyness when he called me up and said, “Hey I know you have a boyfriend but do you want to hang out or what?” This guy even invited me AND MY BOYFRIEND to hang out at his house. Clearly, he had more to offer and he knew it.

Coincidentally, things fizzled with my boyfriend and I decided to give this guy a call and let him know I did, indeed, want to hang out. His response was classic and I still remember the tone in his voice enjoying that moment: “I have plans, sorry,” he told me. Ha! To be fair, I had been blowing him off for weeks and it was like 8pm on a Friday when I finally called, but like WTH? I hung up the phone and told my roommate we could scratch that guy off the list.

As luck would have it, he called me back about five minutes later to let me know his plans with his friend, who I would later learn went by ‘The Nizzle’, had fallen through. Conveniently, he was now available.

Our first date was at an Applebee’s and for some reason, just about everyone we knew at the time joined us, including my friend who introduced us and, naturally, The Nizzle. By far it was the best first date I had ever been on. We’ve been married for 13 years.

About two months ago, I started a new role at Veeam. When the opportunity was first brought to me, I wasn’t 100% sold. It was something I had never done before. It was a detour off the marketing path I had been on. It was on a brand-new team of unfamiliar people. The role had no direct reports and didn’t feel like a step up. I hesitated.

Ultimately, thanks to the encouragement of mentors who are smarter than me, I decided to take a leap of faith. In the very short amount of time in this new role, I have already been handed opportunities like presenting to our CEO, traveling to Switzerland to participate in a team meeting, getting feedback from executives I previously would not have had access to, and learning so much about a side of the business I knew nothing about. This experience is invaluable.

In the ever-changing landscape of IT where companies are bought and sold, merged and downsized regularly, where leadership is continually coming and going, where new departments and roles are created to keep pace with the needs of a company experiencing explosive growth, the opportunities are endless.

Sometimes these opportunities won’t look appealing at first. They might look like a lateral move at best, or they might look frightening. In some cases, they might not be your choice.

But they could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened.

As we ramp up 2018 with sales kick offs, industry meetings, and a fresh start, take the time to revisit a relationship, revaluate an opportunity, renew a stalled connection. Reach out and look deeper, look again. You never know how much clarity and reward a second look can offer.

 

2018 Resolutions: Appreciate More, Do Less, and Be Uncomfortable

Essentially the title of this blog gives away what my goals are for 2018 so if you’re still reading, thank you! Every year I write down my New Year’s resolutions like a big nerd and try hard to work towards them. Last year, I had the typical #basicbitch goals: get in shape, do more yoga, eat more kale, get that Director title, be a better mom/friend/daughter/sister, stay married.

Looking back on 2017, I didn’t exactly blow away my goals but I didn’t miserably fail either. I’m pretty much the same shape, which isn’t really a terrible one, but it didn’t get much better even though I ate a ridiculous amount of kale (what a waste!). I didn’t get that Director title I wanted, but I got a promotion (who-hoo!). My family still lets me live with them and friends still invite me to parties so I think I did OK there.  I’m still married (whew!) and most of the time we actually like each other. #winning Between work and kids and money and stress I’m amazed that anyone stays married anymore, frankly.  Sometimes we joke about getting an apartment and taking turns hiding there on the weekends. Sometimes I’m not joking!

This holiday season, surrounded by friends and family, there were several moments I was nearly brought to tears by the camaraderie, the fellowship, the connection you feel with people who share your name, who share your life and make it so much better. Simple moments like watching your kids snuggle with Grandpa or  laughing until you’re crying over the pasties and penis pump white elephant gift your pregnant friend got.

I was overcome with the surplus of goodness that  surrounded us. The food, the gifts, the decorations, the obscene number of decorated golf carts. Everywhere I turned, despite my jiggly ass, my title, the kale stuck in my teeth, my obnoxious habits, someone was handing me something. A plate, a drink, a kid, a strand of lights, a present, a hug.

I realized one of my goals for 2018 should be to appreciate all that I have, exactly the way it is because I was appreciated exactly the way I am.

My next resolution sounds harsh and lazy and in direct contrast to this first goal, I know. In some ways it is but it’s really just about protecting myself. I have this habit of wanting to ‘help’ everyone, wanting everything to be perfect, wanting everyone to get along, everyone to like me, everyone to be happy. This results me giving unsolicited advice, calling a friend out over something that is none of my business, being stressed over invite lists, making an effort for people who don’t deserve it, worrying about who might be annoyed with me, internalizing someone else’s issues. None of these things are good for me. None of these things help anyone. So I plan to do less. Less butting in, less offering solutions, less pushing people to do what I think they should, less going out of my way for people who’ve demonstrated they wouldn’t chose me again and again. Less putting myself out there for the world, and only offering my true self for the few who truly appreciate the effort.

At the end of 2017, we got a new family dog. This is significant for a few reasons, the main one being I am not a dog person. Don’t worry, I’m not a cat person either. I’m not really a pet person for goodness sake! I have allergies, I don’t like the hair, the mess, the drama. Pets are a lot of work. They are literally like having another child. A hairy, smelly, slobbering child. The second night we had this dog, she barfed all over my natural fiber, impossible-to-clean, practically white rug. To say I felt uncomfortable was the understatement of the century. I like a neat house, clean floors, fluffed pillows that have been karate chopped in the middle so the corners point perfectly. I had practically been walking behind this dog with a vacuum and a bottle of Frebreeze, but even though I sprinted to her as soon as I heard the retching, I was too late. I just about came out of my skin cleaning it up. And then midway through the scrubbing and cursing, the dog and my kids huddled on the couch waiting for my wrath to subside,  I stopped.

It was OK. This rug did not dictate my happiness. Dogs barf. They also love you unconditionally. Being uncomfortable was OK. It forces me to be flexible, to adapt, to step back and view the situation from a new perspective. To accept new joys that inevitably come with new consequences.  Being uncomfortable in life can often reward you.

I hope each of you takes a minute to your document your goals for this year, the ones that are truly most important, and you accomplish them in 2018.

Stay well, my friends!

E

 

 

 

Reasons You Love Someone

I have a friend who puts up her Christmas tree early. I don’t mean the day after Thanksgiving early, I mean she’s shoving trick-or-treaters off her front porch with boughs of holly. I love the absurdity of it, but even more than that I love her genuine love for that absurdity. She’s the type of the friend with a bigger than life personality. The type of friend whose jokes leave you choking with laughter. She’s extreme, exaggerated, over the top and yet is so perfectly herself; unashamed, humble, and real.

My husband’s bff epitomizes the DGAF attitude. He may have written the book on it. We have pictures of this guy casually peeing from his beach chair into a hole the children dug in front of him, apparently for this purpose. (Don’t worry, there aren’t any kids in the hole at the time!)  He’s the kind of person who always seems to find his way to front of the line, to the secret entrance that may or may not have been locked before he found it, to the VIP room, into the roped off parking area. But let’s be honest, he gets shit done. And if he’s dragging you to the front of the line with him, you know you’re going to have a good time. He’s also the guy that will stand up to defend you, that won’t take anyone’s crap, the guy you want on your team.

Another friend babysat my youngest son during the first year of his life. She hardly knew me at the time and yet volunteered to help me when I needed it most. She’s the person whom the phrase ‘it takes village’ is coined for. She’s the friend who calls you instead of texting just because she hasn’t talked to you in a week, who watches your kids last minute, who organizes a meal plan for the home bound. She’ll drop off Starbucks on your birthday because she knows how much you love that pumpkin spice frappayappa mocha soy racket but won’t go get it yourself.

We all have a million reasons why we love those closest to us. There is something unique about each person that captures us, endears us to them.

It’s their brand.  And if it appeals to us, we’re loyal to it.

We all know what brand loyalty is: the reason we patronize the same stores, buy the upgraded versions of the same products, wear the same pair of jeans until they turn into shreds. Well that and the fact that your butt looks great in them!

Personal brand is something I’ve become more and more keen about lately.  I study it and offer advice on it.  I even gave a presentation on it recently.

But lately I’m struggling. Struggling with my own brand.

Maybe it’s the time of year. Or my new role at work that is light years away from anything I thought I would be doing. Or that I haven’t written anything beyond an email in months. Or that my ‘to do’ list keeps growing. Or that some of my relationships feel strained. Or that I feel like I’m in a fog while others are celebrating their success.

It’s like I just can’t get it together lately.

I made a list of all the things that are bugging me. Alone, each item is ridiculously minor. But combined, they all rest like a burden on my back, a weight on my heart. Sometimes I feel like I can hardly breath.

I know, it’s dramatic! And that bugs me, too. I just want to go back to being that confident, self-aware badass persona I thought I had nailed.

It’s usually at this point in my blog that I offer suggestions for solving a problem just like this. I wish I had one of those! Anyone?

Several months ago I built this new blog site. And then did nothing with it.  This #fail is weighing on me, too. Here I am telling people to evangelize themselves, create original content, and have a side hustle to help build their personal brand while I’m sitting here doing a whole lotta nothin’.

I realize this is probably the most terrible way on earth to kick off my new blog site, but, welp, this is how I’m feeling right now and if I’m good at anything, it’s saying how I really feel.

My hope is this step forces me to move forward, jolts me back into the current, ignites a new spark inside me. At the very least, I hope this can serve as an example to others in a similar rut.

If I can do it, you can, too.

Stay well my friends,

E

Pow! When Feedback Hits You Right in the Kisser

Originally published via LinkedIn Aug 22, 2017

Unless you’re one of those people who magically evaporate into the air as soon as they enter the office, you’re likely to receive feedback from others both positive and negative–because you actually do stuff and ain’t everyone gonna be happy about it. But as Bill Gates says:

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”

Still, it’s rough hearing negative feedback. My typical reaction is to process the following emotions in this order in about hour and half: shock, outrage, hurt, embarrassment, acceptance, time to #carryon. Oddly, my reaction to positive feedback is similar. Minus the outrage and hurt, of course.

Overwhelmingly, I have received positive feedback in my career. Either I’m really that awesome or lots of people are lying to me. But, whatever, I’ll take it!

Recently, though, I got some feedback that totally stung. Like a mother.

I didn’t reach the acceptance and time-to-carry-on stage for a good two days and after a few Tito’s and sodas (with a lime).

Here’s the thing about people’s perception of you. It’s not always accurate, but it’s the truth for them.

In this case, the less-than-flattering feedback came from someone I thought I had an excellent working relationship with. I’m gonna be honest with ya’ll, I believed this manager thought I was the freaking cat’s meow. When I flipped open that review sheet with a smile on my face, I just about spit my diet coke across the room. Like that feeling when someone you think you’re totally cool with throws you under the bus on a call or you try on swim suits at the beginning of the summer in a dressing room with bad lighting after spending all winter eating lettuce. Totally deflating and totally wtf.

I got some advice from people smarter than me on how to handle negative feedback and it helped me tremendously so I wanted to share it for anyone who may need it.

It’s one person’s perception. Now if you have 27 people giving you the same negative feedback, it might be a sign you need to change your tone, but if you get more good than bad, take this person’s comments with a grain of salt.

Talk to them. I was advised to reach out to this person, thank them for their honesty, and talk about how I can improve their perception. I’m so glad I did this! I’m also glad I did this after several days and some Tito’s. I wrote down everything I wanted to say and tried to be as calm as possible. That conversation brought to light issues that could help correct this perception and, most importantly, it gave me some closure and understanding.

Educate that person on who you are. Maybe their perception of you is weak because they have been absent in the day-to-day running of your business. Maybe you need to do a better job of ‘reporting the news’ to them. Maybe their view of you is myopic and you need to open that up. In your next 1:1, don’t vent, don’t complain, don’t say you’re busy, just talk up all the amazing stuff you’ve accomplished in the last week with a big fat smile on your face!

Talk their talk. This is a larger piece of advice that should be followed even around people who love you. Say phrases they say, talk about outcomes, metrics, goals, quota, budget, whatever is important to them and understand how your role helps solve their problems and drive business.

Learn from it. Here’s the thing, this feedback wasn’t entirely inaccurate. Like everyone else in the world, I have areas of development. Duh. This person called those out. I immediately set out to improve my knowledge and presentation on those areas. This will only serve to make me even better than I already am. You will never know enough, you will never stop learning and you shouldn’t. This was a good reminder of that.

Let it go. Now that annoying Frozen song is in your head and I’m sorry about that. Eeek! But once you talk about it and take steps to improve, it’s time to move on. Don’t dwell over it or let it eat away at you. Roll with the punches, go out to lunch with someone who thinks you’re a badass and carry on.

When your Plan B becomes your Plan A

Originally published via LinkedIn Aug 1, 2017

I feel like a hypocrite when I tell my kids to follow their dreams.

I didn’t really do that.

When I was a little girl, I ‘played school’ with the neighborhood kids. I’d set up cardboard boxes for desks and teach them long division and how to write in cursive. (Remember cursive?! “Now pick your best ‘G’!”)

Everyone thought I should be a teacher when I grew up. I thought so, too.

Mostly.

Ever since I can remember, deep in my heart, I wanted to be a writer. From those cute stories about bunnies and horses I wrote as a kid to that horrendous, emotional, kill-me-now poetry I wrote as a forlorn teenager to the one article that was printed in a nationally syndicated publication (Cat Fancy—no, I’m not kidding) I had this dream that I’d live in New York and be some hotshot editor at a trendy magazine. I’d write novels on the side and go to fancy signing parties. I’d live this amazing, flashy, glamorous life.

But I didn’t do that. I didn’t follow that dream. Maybe I thought it was too good for me. I don’t know.

Instead, I became a junior high English teacher with the thought that teaching would be my plan B; in case my writing career didn’t work out, I could still pay the bills.

And thus, I sealed my fate—I made my plan B my plan A by putting it first.

I taught for almost six years, most of that time in an alternative education program. These kids were kicked out of regular school for stealing, smoking weed, having sex in the bathroom, gang-related crimes, and generally being huge assholes. Some were abused, some were simply spoiled, nearly all came from broken homes.

It was no joke. I had chairs thrown at me. I was spit at, cursed at. One boy tried to kiss me. And let me tell you, that was freaking gross. I will NEVER understand teachers that sleep with their students. Those people need Jesus something fierce.

I became like a ninja, deflecting the bad and simultaneously embracing the students when they needed me. And they needed me.

One seemingly innocuous Tuesday, just before the first bell as I greeted my eighth graders, one of the girls told me she had found her mother passed out on the bathroom floor. There was a needle nearby. She wasn’t moving. She may have been breathing, she wasn’t sure. She stood their numb, but calm. It wasn’t the first time this happened, she told me.

I called the counselor. The police came. She told them she came to school because she felt safer there.

I was 23 years old and the most stable adult in many of these kids’ lives. And eventually, it wore on me.

I went back to school and when an opportunity came for me to leave teaching, I leaped on it. This move to the corporate world led me to where I am today—in IT marketing—living a different dream I didn’t even know was available.

Sometimes I still feel like I am living someone else’s dream that has some similarities to what I thought mine should be. Instead of celebrating my new novel, I host Lego Batman birthday parties. Instead of living in New York, I visit there every year for the Women of the Channel Leadership Summit. Instead of becoming a famous writer, I write blogs that three people will read. (Thank you, loyal fans!)

And I’m ‘OK’ with this! Why? Because plan B taught me things about myself and opened my eyes to possibilities I had no idea existed.

I’m a tough chick. Blocking flying chairs with one arm and comforting a student with the other taught me that. I’m great at building relationships, driving sales through marketing and I can have a career in IT. As a little girl, IT was something that did not exist even in my wildest dreams. I’m incredibly adaptable. I’ve already had two completely different careers in my lifetime.

Occasionally, I look at my job and think, how did I end up here? I look at my kids and think, who’s kids are those?! I look at my husband and think, dude, seriously, again with the refrigerator blindness! The BBQ sauce is RIGHT THERE.

Occasionally, I get discouraged.

But more than not, I’m reminded that the routes to success are winding, wriggly, squirrely little bastards and that it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

Recently, someone forwarded me an email from a colleague of hers who was recommending she read this blog he found. “It’s so funny and so TRUE!” the email read.

It was my blog.

So, who’s coming to my signing party!

Boating and Business: Surviving the Summer

Originally published via LinkedIn May 10, 2017

This past weekend, many of us celebrated a poignant and emotional holiday: Memorial Day. This holiday weekend represents several things. First and foremost, remembrance for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. May they rest in peace and never be forgotten. Amen.

Secondly, it’s the official start of summer. Hallelujah, pass the Hawaiian Tropic! And finally, it’s the first weekend of boating season. #Yaaaasss

Because I am a nerd, I’m constantly connecting everyday things to aspects of my job that I enjoy the most. So naturally while living out my fantasy life on Three Rooker Island, along with dear friends and family, our American flags waving proudly atop our freshly polished T-tops, I thought about all the ways boating can help make me a better at my business.

Don’t over salt the margarita: The perfect margarita is made with tequila (and a little Cointreau if you’re fancy), lime juice, and salt. (For the love of Peter, if you have any sour mix in your bar, jettison it immediately to the nearest drain.) A little salt is necessary to cut the tart, tangy, limey goodness of the classic margarita, but too much salt and you ruin it (“like an asshole” as one of girlfriends says). The same is true for marketing. The best marketing is simple, to the point, and with just an adjective or two for impact and emotion. It’s difficult to write good messaging. It’s way easier to pack a mess of marketing jargon and industry buzz words into a paragraph that doesn’t say anything. Unfortunately, the latter just makes you sound like, well, a you know what. And I don’t want to be one of those. So moving forward, every time I start to write copy, I’m going to have a margarita…wait…no, I mean I’m going to be much more cognizant of my ubiquitous use of flimflam words like bergschrund. Just kidding. I don’t even know what that word means.

Know when to wait for an opportunity: On the water, the larger boat has the right-of-way. Why? Because they are harder to stop and you are not trying to die. It might seem counter intuitive to yield to the big guy when you’re trying to get ahead but keep in mind smaller boats are faster, more nimble, and can react to obstacles much quicker. As you both depart the next no-wake zone, take that opportunity to pull ahead. You’ll be on a plane while they’re still building speed. I’ve find myself sometimes hurrying from one project to the next, eagerly anticipating next steps, standing on my tip toes (mostly because I’m short as hell) to peer over the crowd to see what’s going on down the line. This summer, I’m going to try a new tactic: hanging back a bit to wait for the perfect opportunity to present itself. Let’s hope that pans out!

Take the outside: The channel can be crowded both on and off the water. It can get choppy and rough, because everyone is supposed to remain in a designated pathway. Don’t under estimate the benefits of the taking the outside. Sometimes the longer route is smoother, has less traffic and more open space, and you arrive at your destination quicker, drier and less sea sick. Not everyone takes the outside because it removes you from the relative safety of the inner coastal waterways, but when was the last time you heard a CEO/Founder/Trail Blazer/Leader/Super Hero suggest following the status quo is the path to ultimate success? Never. No one says that.

Mind the chop: The ocean is the industry and the chop represents disruption. I tried to think of a slick metaphor here but I’m a few lightly salted margaritas in and it’s hard to type on a boat. If you allow the waves, either from the wake of another boat or an impending storm, to hit your boat in the wrong way, you will at best, get soaked and at worst, risk being capsized. You cannot ignore the chop. Well, you can but those are the boats you see pulled off on the side of the channel with their crew hanging their heads overboard losing their lunch. Navigate effectively. Face the disruption, the obstacles, the challenges, the lay offs and reorgs, the new manager, the next trend, whatever it is, head on and with determination.

Help a brother out: Always assist a fellow boater in need. You never know when it might be you who needs to be towed back to the boat ramp or who runs out of beer. Being willing and prepared to help others will come back to you in the form of admiration, gratefulness, favors, and good karma. Now who doesn’t want that?

Anatomy of a “Strawdog”

Originally published via LinkedIn April 10, 2017

Strawdog: n. American. First known use: January 2017. Aka: Strawman 1. A framework of a plan, a project shell, or loosely thought-out strategy. 2. A recipe for a cluster. 3. An idea, that despite all odds, can turn into something amazing.

The following is written in jest and for fun to bring a little humor to a situation so many of us have been in. Any resemblance to an actual project is purely coincidental. Huge shout out to those teams who know how to hustle and, most importantly, have the ability to bring an idea to life against whatever challenges are thrown their way.

Day 1:

Hey, I have this idea. Check out this plan I drew up on this Etch a Sketch. Let’s take this to the CEO and ask for some outrageous amount of money to fund it.

*chorus of ‘great idea!’ erupts*

Day 31:

Great, we got this approved. I may have over-promised on the ROI, but that can be someone else’s problem later. Anyway, I added some more meat to the plan. I wrote it on this bar napkin. Take this and create a vague presentation that we can use to launch this to the 12 other teams that this project will impact.

Day 43:

Did you make that presentation yet? No? OK, good. On second thought, I think it’s best if we waited to provide any real information until things become critical. We’ll add a sense of urgency this way. In the meantime, use this project plan I put together. Looks pretty good, right? I dropped a plate of spaghetti on a piece of paper and had my kids trace it.

Day 55:

How did the presentation go? Yikes. Well, tell them to relax. We’ll get out an FAQs doc that will answer all their questions. Oh, that reminds me. You know that crucial part of this plan? The piece the whole thing hinges on? Let’s get that new girl to own it.

Day 62

Hey, what’s this call about? What project is that? Sounds like a mess. Oh yeah, I forgot about that thing. I can’t make it. Best of luck, though. I’m sure it will be fine.

Day 75

Hi team, I’m the new guy and I’m freaking PUMPED about this project. Sounds awesome. Let’s dig in and get it done! Who’s with me?

*crickets*

Day 82

OK, team. We’ve got six weeks to launch this thing. Surely by this point, we are 90% of the way there, right?

*more crickets*

Day 90

For today’s status call, I need everyone to list their risks and roadblocks.

*two hours later*

Alright, we got through one person. Let’s circle back next week and see how much has resolved itself.

Day 97

Hey, so I’ve learned the one group we’re depending on to drive this project isn’t totally on board. Turns out no one asked them how we should structure this project so it would work for their customers. But, no matter, we can still do this. It’ll be a great success despite the complete lack of confidence from our primary stakeholders. They’ll be drinking the Kool-Aid in no time! Let’s do this!

*sheer panic ensues*

Day 106

Wow! This is the best meeting we’ve had in weeks! Two out of the 517 things we need to accomplish in the next three weeks are done. Nice work, team. Keep it up!

Day 117

OK, so noticed a weird thing. I looked in the system and the budget isn’t showing up. Must be a glitch. I’m sure it will be fine. We should move forward despite this glaring concern. Also, has anyone tested this process to ensure it will work when we launch?

*IT team ‘accidently’ gets cut off from call*

Day 120

Guys, I’ve got bad news. New VP saw the art and messaging. She wants to change it. I know we just printed 8,000 T-shirts, 20,000 flyers, blasted this out on social media, and designed 42 different web banners, but we have four days to do it all over again. I know you can do it. Go team!

*muffled sobs heard over the WebEx*

Day 124

Congratulations, team! We made it and it’s actually working! I can’t f-ing believe it, honestly. Anyway, the executive team is so impressed, they’ve decided to roll this out worldwide. I told them we can hammer this out in a few weeks. All we need to do is translate 312 pieces of collateral into 27 languages and slap it up on individual landing pages. Piece of cake!

*muted weeping in the distance*

Day 126

Hey, I have this idea.

#NotMyBlog

Originally published via LinkedIn Feb 20, 2017

I find myself avoiding Facebook like the plague lately so I still like my friends and coworkers when I see them in real life. As we all know, things have been a little cray cray in world of media and politics and it feels like everyone is sharing their feelings about it. My 6-year-old comes home from school and tells us the word on the playground is that Trump is a bully and Hillary is a liar but Miss Scarritt has the best Fun Fridays.

Tension and negativity have crept into our daily lives like they’ve got seats at our dinner table.

My dad once told me that politics and religion are two topics of conversation to avoid when talking with coworkers or good friends. But he didn’t warn me that ‘husbands’ should fall under one of those categories.

The last conversation I had with my husband about politics resulted in one of us sleeping in the guest room. (Hint: it was me.) We both have strong opinions and unfortunately, they are opposite of each other. We’re still trying to figure out how we actually continued dating after our first conversation. But for the record, I’m so glad we did!

Thankfully, we actually do have a lot in common. Otherwise the last 14 years would have been really awkward and really miserable.

And the thing is, in real life, not on Facebook, we all actually have a lot in common.

No one likes the Reply All feature. Not a soul. For the love of Peter, there are like three times it should be used: confirming a giant multi-million-dollar budget, notifying the company of the need to evacuate, and possibly when someone says something during a presentation that warrants a “That’s what she said.”  

We all believe in something. Maybe it’s a Higher Power or that we are not alone in the universe or that you should fast for days to cleanse your soul. Maybe it’s the Boogie Man or the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus, or that karma is a bitch (and she is!) or that ridiculous conspiracy theory your friends make fun of you for, or that Michael Bolton is the greatest singer on earth (hey, I don’t judge). Whatever it is, we all believe in something that we know to be true.

We have all experienced the agony of being hangry. And it isn’t pretty. There, there brethren. Here’s a cookie.

We want to be respected. Everyone wants to be respected for their thoughts, their beliefs, their education and intelligence, their self-worth and value, their talents, their ability to juggle.

We all have a ‘thing’. Perhaps you think s’mores are overrated, or you clean your house before the cleaning lady shows up so she doesn’t judge you, or you are brought to the brink of insanity when you hear loud chewing. Actually those are my things, sorry, but the point is we all have pet peeves that drive those around us bonkers.

When you eat something terrible, you have to share it. Possibly the most innately human characteristic known to man is insisting that your buddy smell or taste something immediately after you discover how horrible it is. “Oh my God, this is awful! Taste it.”

We all have a junk drawer, own a piece of Pyrex, and say Wed-nes-day in our head when we write it.

We all have the capacity to love others despite their flaws. My husband snores. Loudly. I know what you’re saying. How loud can it be? Imagine a wildebeest. Wait. No, they’re too quite. Imagine a pissed off grizzly bear. Now imagine that bear on a riding lawn mower with a running chainsaw in one paw and a radio blaring pipe organ music in the other. Oh, and a screamapillar on his shoulder. It’s that loud. But, despite that, I still really dig this guy and I always will. We all love someone that much.

Here’s to spreading a little more love around. See y’all on Facebook!

A Year in Cities

Originally published via LinkedIn Dec 22, 2016 

If you travel for business, you know the gift of experiences it gives you. Seeing new places, meeting new people, bonding with coworkers over shots of vodka and a bowl of pickles. Traveling internationally, especially, reminds you that the world is at once both very big and very small. By this I mean you may be half a world away in Bucharest, Romania when a local cracks the most perfect “That’s what she said” joke and every barrier you ever thought may have separated you instantly melts away in the laughter.

In 2016, I visited several cities both in North American and across the ocean, each one offering me a new experience, a new perspective, and an appreciation of the parallel lives we are all living out across the globe. Below are just a few.

Atlanta: I traveled to Hotlanta approximately 8,000 times this year. For my most recent visit, I stayed in the heart of downtown. Three days into a grueling conference, the weight of the trip was heavy on my heart: guilt from being away from home, exhaustion from lack of sleep and a mild hangover, the uncomfortable bloat of constipation (we’ve all been there people!) I sat there, starring at my reconstituted scrambled eggs and instant oatmeal, slowly letting the misery begin to swallow me whole. And then suddenly, there was Miss Shirley. She had greeted me like ray of sunshine every morning. She put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Baby, let me make you a waffle.” I could have cried at that moment. Her simple act of kindness renewed my soul. Thank you, Atlanta, for showing me kindness when I needed it most, and God bless you, Miss Shirley.

Boston: I spent a few days in Boston at a B2B marketing summit in October. I had looked forward to that trip for several weeks and it did not disappoint. I feel like this city doesn’t get enough credit for how cool it is. Maybe they want it that way, honestly. All the cool cities inevitably fall victim to overexposure and an influx of riffraff. I’m surprised Portland, for example, hasn’t built a wall around itself. The history in Boston is enough to keep you busy for a week. History is everywhere there. Literally. You cannot get a beer without a colonial-dressed dude spontaneously pointing out exactly where some super historic famous person also had a beer before dumping a bunch of tea in the ocean. I stood on the steps of the Harvard library and immediately felt smarter. Then I tried to hork down a giant cannoli from one of those North End bakeries with a line out the door and felt like a dumbass. But whatever, that thing was amazing. (That’s what she said.)

Bucharest: There is a massive shopping mall in Bucharest and in the center of this mall is one of those rope course adventure gimmicks. When a teammate suggested we try it out, like an idiot, I immediately said, “Sure, I’ll do it!”. Why the hell did I agree to this? Partially because I was looking to do something active, dreading the 14+ hours on the plane ahead of me. Partially because I wanted to see if I could actually do it. I mean who doesn’t like a good challenge now and then? It’s also possible a part of me just wanted to prove I was indeed a badass chick and I’m gonna tell you, I think I did. Now, none of these are really good reasons to strap on a questionable safety harness and climb 100 feet in the air on rope that in some places appeared to be held together with electrical tape. But I didn’t die and when I got to the end I felt like a freaking champion. In the short time I was in this city, I experienced some pretty amazing moments (besides conquering the rope thing). In the middle of a hallway in our brand new Veeam offices, I witnessed the genuine surprise and pure gratitude of a young tech writer accepting our ‘thank you’ gift for the many hours of his day he had devoted to being our tour guide. You know those videos where a deaf child hears for the first time and their face lights up with immense joy? Well, it wasn’t exactly like that, it was a gift card for goodness sake, but still: there was joy. His reaction was priceless and real. It made our small gesture feel like something so much bigger than I could have anticipated. Near the end of my trip here, I participated in a meeting with the sales leader of the office. That 30-minute meeting inspired me perhaps most of all. He spoke about the task of unifying his 200+ employees, 40 of which were expats from St. Petersburg and whose cultural differences were stark compared to the Romanians. His approach was simple: learn from each other and understand that for every one problem, there are 10 different ways to solve it. I can only imagine how the world would work if we all thought this way. Or if we all made “That’s what she said” jokes. Either one.

Columbus, OH: One of our VPs who works out of our Columbus office happens to be one of the nicest guys I have ever met in my life. Like ridiculously nice. This guy is so nice I’m fairly certain that if you punched him in the face, he’d pop right up and say, “Wow, you really got some knuckle on that one! Nice work!” Every time I travel to the Midwest, I fantasize about moving there. Unless I’m there in the winter and then I’m like, screw that! But there is an enormous appeal of the Midwest that’s tough to put into words. It’s a calmness, a friendliness, a sense of community, a politeness. Somehow the Midwest is both trendy and traditional, homey and modern. I can show up in Columbus grouchy as shit and someone would say, “What a firecracker you are!” and then take me to lunch for an organic, gluten free, quinoa avocado bowl. I’d feel better and appreciate the way they told me to get over myself without actually telling me to get over myself.

New York City: In late November, I attended the Women of the Channel event held at the Sheraton Times Square. New York City is like a beacon in the night, burning bright with a fierce, unparalleled energy found no other place on earth. Just walking down the street makes you feel like a badass. It’s a tough city, but a united one. Even though I dread the entry into LaGuardia (keep your barf bag handy) and the insane taxi lines, I visit NYC every chance I get. It’s loud and boisterous and exciting and as long as you can keep pace with the rush, you’ll leave there wanting more. Kind of like a drug or like the food at Felida’s. OMG I dig that place.

St. Petersburg, Russia: Seeing the Palace Square at midnight on a snowy night was something I didn’t know I should have had on my bucket list. Holy. Bananas. It was almost surreal, in the quiet stillness of the night, walking through a city that in the 1940s Hitler’s army systematically starved nearly 1M people to death. At one point in our shared history, Russian was considered a mortal threat to the US and yet there I was posing for pictures in front of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and posting them on Facebook like, “I’m in Russia, yo!” In St. Petersburg, I learned that a pickle is the traditional chaser for a shot of vodka and a lot about cultural awareness. I was advised not to smile, not to make eye contact, not to expect a man to shake my hand, don’t speak in the cab, don’t draw attention. If you know me, you already know I failed miserably here. I talked too loud. I smiled. I waved. I oooh-ed and aww-ed out the cab window when we passed The Hermitage. I was wearing a freaking bright red sweater for crying out loud. While my more seasoned US coworkers probably wanted to slap the smile off my rosy f-ing cheeks, to my deepest, appreciative surprise some of my Russian counterparts did shake my hand, some even hugged me, and nearly everyone smiled, breaking their own cultural rules for the comfort of their jet lagged American teammates.

Toronto: I visited Toronto for Microsoft’s WPC event in July. My Canadian friends will likely want to punch me in the throat for what I am about to say (although they would do it politely), but I when I visit Canada, I essentially feel like I’m in another version of the United States. A classier, more tender, more liberal, trendy, hipster, kinder, and wiser version of course. I find Toronto to be one of the most international cities I have ever been to. From the food, to the people, to the culture mix, to the dozens of languages bouncing around every street corner like a chorus of a familiar song, the hum of the city makes you feel like you are standing on the pulse of the world. When I was there, we caught a Second City show. Canadian humor is brutal, painfully dry, wiseass, cutthroat, and freaking hysterical. Also: The Eaton Centre. Four floors of H&M. Yes, please! I had more fun in this city than is probably appropriate for a soccer mom/cub scout leader like me, but good gravy and French fries, life is short.