Remove the weeds

Today, I read this article, provided by Propel Women, a fantastic resource geared at equipping female leaders. 

I want to drill down on one key point:

3) Remove the WeedsIn life there will be people who most frequently criticize you. They rarely like your ideas. They nit pick at petty things. They don’t support your dreams. Keep people close who you know love and support you and also tell you the hard truth about yourself. But, if there’s someone who is perpetually tearing you down, don’t buy the lie that as a Christian you must befriend them and keep inviting them into your circle.

I think this point is critical to navigating life both personally and professionally. Weeds are stubborn and tenacious, but, with a direct and concentrated effort, can be removed. 

I married my boss. Let's just get that out in the air. And when others at work found out we were dating, nearly eight years ago, I definitely faced some significant hardships. No longer was I smart and capable on my own; now, I was "receiving perks and benefits" because of my personal relationships. It was way more drama for others than for the two of us involved, but somehow it was everyone's business. (Get a life. I digress.) There was one individual who no longer would take my ideas seriously. He would say they were terrible and immediately shoot them down. I learned if I funneled my ideas through others, they were deemed excellent by this key decision maker. (Off-topic, an important lesson I learned was to care little about who gets the credit as long as a good thing is accomplished. This has been so critical to my development as a leader.)

After a period of time I realized the most important thing I could do was to stop inviting him into my circle. Office lunch date? I'll stay behind and answer the phone. Drinks after work? You all go ahead. Brainstorming session for new solicitation ideas? I'll pass my notes to someone else and just hunker down to do what is asked of me the best I can. I no longer could emotionally afford to continue to rebuild myself after each unnecessary and unfair critique or harsh word. 

I don't always fit in where I go nor do I always connect with people. I'm a strong personality and that isn't easy to accept. I'm done apologizing for who I am and committing to simply remove the weeds. This can mean a years-old friendship or brand-new acquaintences; this can be true of unhealthy habits or time-wasting activities. These things are all weeds that need to pruned--continually pruned--from my life.

What weeds do you need to kill? I challenge you to have the difficult conversation, send the direct email and make the tough phone call. The simple action of pruning can produce much fruit. 

I tell my staff too much

I have the joy and privilege of leading a team of ladies who are bright, kind, determined and beautiful. They are positively lovely and work so hard to help make our political and nonprofit fundraising consulting business a success. 

Today, as I was nursing my three-month old in staff meeting, I thought to myself: 

I tell my staff way too much. 

As if nursing in staff meeting isn't bad enough, I'm pretty sure they know way more about their boss than they should. They can tell you my parenting style, most of the back story of how I met my husband, which clients are my favorites, which ones I would love to ditch (none, of course), what I really think about illegal immigration and all my crazy body image issues. They have seen me when I am so mad I'm saying words my mother would croak if she heard me say and they have seen me in tears, devastated when our favorite clients, the really good ones, don't win. They have seen me at my absolute best, when I put together a strategic plan so stunning and revolutionary we are all inspired; and they have seen me when I absolutely cannot get my head on straight. 

I am less of an open book and more like a hot mess. It's wild. 

But you know what else it is? 

Authentic.

I am going to take the liberty to say that I am a pretty good boss. I'm confident my staff would agree. And I cannot help but attribute a great portion of my ability to boss well to the level of authenticity I bring to my team. I operate with a blunt honesty and a certain level of raw emotion that lets them know we are all in this together.

It isn't pretty and it's always risky; but I absolutely believe the vulnerability of exposure is critical to securing a sense of "us" that allows my team to soar. I am very demanding and we work long hours. I do not believe I could have the buy in from this team without them knowing me, really knowing me well. 

I cannot help but wonder how much more could be accomplished, how much the world could change, if we all decided to tell our employees a little too much. 

The best 10 second rule

I don't have much time to be still these days. The demands of two kids and two businesses have rendered this season very full. I have to fight for alone time and even a shower long enough to shave my legs. Sometimes, it is completely taxing, and I feel very close to losing my sanity. 

Then, I discovered the best 10 second rule. No, it doesn't involve eating dropped M&Ms. When I'm doing something calming or about to shift activities, I give myself a focused 10 second countdown before moving on to the next task.

- Time to get out of the nice, hot shower? Count slowly to 10, savor each quiet moment and prepare mentally for the cold reality of life facing you outside those steamy shower doors. 

- Pull in the driveway and the kids are quiet? Sit in the car, count to 10, take a deep breath and be thankful for the carload of groceries to unload. 

- Sitting at your desk and need to leave for a meeting? Take 10 extra seconds to combat any anxiety the meeting, with its anticipated project load that is sure to follow, may incite before you attend.

- Indulging in dessert, a glass of wine or cup of coffee? Take 10 seconds before refilling your plate or glass. You need it. 

I think you get the picture. I cannot tell you how revolutionary this has been for realigning my perspective and getting myself mentally prepared to face the next task, change the next diaper, pay the next bill. It helps me shift into stressful situations with a steady, sure grip on my emotions. It affords me the opportunity to gear up, if you will, to tackle the challenge placed in front of me with enthusiasm and determination. 

There are always 10 extra seconds. You won't run late, you won't burn dinner, you won't lose a client. You can find those brief moments of respite throughout your day. The benefit is immense. I promise. 

The curse of productivity

You know her. She not only does her job but yours too. She keeps the office running, the clients happy, the coffee brewing. She brings in the business, balances budgets, comforts children. She is synonymous with success and both hers and yours are dependent upon her performance.

But is she so indispensable in her current capacity that she is overlooked, underestimated, passed over for fear that she won't be there to do all the things, keep all the trains running, keep you functioning? 

Women are amazing at multitasking. For those who say no one multitasks well, stop judging a man's performance at multitasking. They can't do it. Women can. It's truth. 

Maybe this master skill is our major hurdle to the White House.

I'm not one who feels the need to trumpet the cause of gender equality with a grand dissidence for the male population. I think men and women are equally capable. The tone of the discussion can quickly turn sour and harm us all. Still, I believe it is critical to find opportunities to examine why we find ourselves in lesser positions with lesser pay too often.

By being awesome, by multitasking, by doing all the things, has the power of productivity hindered our progress?

It's hard to shatter the glass ceiling if we don't have the time to train, to practice, to arm ourselves, take aim and shoot with the precision necessary to shatter that ceiling for once and all.

In my inherent nature lies not only the ability but the desire to be all, do all for everyone. My husband does not do this. He knows what he is good at, drills down and does that. Why does it feel so terrible to admit I can't do or simply don't want to do something? 

I think the advancement of women everywhere is dependent upon carving out the capacity to chase our dreams with reckless abandon. 

What are you best at?

What sets you apart?

What can be delegated, relegated, dismissed to allow you to soar?

Answer these questions and then do those things. Our daughters depend on it.

Why I deleted the TimeHop app

I am blessed with an amazing gift: I absolutely remember everything better than it was.

That time before I knew how to fix my thick, unruly curly hair? I looked pretty!

Overalls? The comfiest, coziest, most flatteringist fashion statement ever. 

That awful boyfriend who cheated on me? He was realllllly nice.

That job that I worked and couldn't put down my blackberry and kept me awake at all hours of the night and drove me to drink too much? I was really good at that and it was so fulfilling. I was making a difference!

That girl friend who lied and drove wedges between people and gossiped awful things? Oh, who am I kidding-- I remember that one exactly as it was! The gift only gives so much.

I am not one who dwells on bad choices or relishes in past victories. Then, that blasted TimeHop app was launched. 

At first, it was so sweet. My best friends and I met 10 years ago and TimeHop captured our beautiful baby selves wonderfully. That trip we took, that night we danced, that game we won were all such wonderful memories. But you know who else shows up in the TimeHop app? 

That hair.

Those clothes.

That guy, that friend, that time. 

It made me feel all the feels that are not the good and healthy and growing feels. I have no business reliving the past. At its worst, it makes me self-critical, self-conscious, self-loathing. 

The joy of reminiscing is quickly overshadowed by the shame of rehashing, remembering, dwelling on the things we wish we could re-do. 

The past is important for appreciating the present and informing the future. But who I was does not dictate who I am today. It simply makes me grateful.  And to keep that attitude of gratitude I needed to delete the app. 

The past is gloriously haunting and should serve as a celebration of what, who, when and not a metric for what, who, now.

The good thing is my friends still have the app and are very quick to send me a screen shot of every mortifying moment we captured. Thanks guys.

 

I've lost my mind.

Today, I ventured out in public alone for the first time without a child in a very, very long time. With the exception of a wedding, I have not been out without the newest little alone. By myself. In public. 

Apparently, I've lost my ever-loving mind. 

A little guy just tried to talk to me. I told his parents to get him away from me. I followed it up with a quick laugh, stumbled over an explanation about how this is my first time out and I have a newborn and and and...and tried to act normal from then on. I'm sure it totally worked. The lack of make up and jacked up pony tail that comes with short hair that doesn't really fit in a pony tail holder totally helped my disguise. 

I don't think this post is helping convince anyone that I really am sane. 

Can we just be honest for a second? My sanity has absolutely been slipping. Last night, I went plumb off the reservation. My husband was quick to rescue me by inviting some dear friends to come wrangle my two under two so I could escape. And guys, I needed that escape. 

I love my kids. I really do (my parting words to said friends as I frantically ran to my car when they arrived). But if I don't take time to love me, I cannot love them well. 

I think more women need to hear that message. There is no glory in martyrdom; you are doing no one, especially your children, any good if you don't practice a level of self-care that allows time for your self-expression, introspection, restoration, resurrection. 

A cappuccino sipped in solitude is full of so much healing. 




Dishes are forever.

As the saying goes, we are told that diamonds are forever. Maybe it’s true. My diamonds are holding up nicely so far. The divorce rate may tell us a different story but I digress. 

But do you know what’s realllllly forever? 

Dishes. 

They. never. stop. 

There are days I want to rip my ever-loving hair out if I have to empty the dishwasher one more time. Sometimes, when I feel like really punishing myself, I will stop and think about this little diddy:

I have to wash dishes for the rest of my life. 

I want to curl in a ball and cry. When I face a dish-duty meltdown, my husband steps in. He does the dishes and I am so grateful (and lucky. I know this isn’t the case for everyone). Then he offers fun advice like “Babe, just get paper plates.”

Yeah, sounds easy enough. Except have you read “7” by Jen Hatmaker? Yeah, don’t. She has a chapter about waste and recycling and all that and it officially ruined me on unnecessary paper plate waste. My husband already drinks bottled water because he is a water snob. I cannot handle contributing any more than that to the destruction of God’s resources. 

My word of the year is contentment. It is my aim to focus, to meditate and try to grow in contentment. This stemmed from the overwhelming realization that life is mostly the mundane. Like dishes. And laundry. And work. And cooking (don’t even get me started). The list goes on of the daily necessities to keep this life going. 

I’m 28. The lavish life of luxury I lived under my parents’ roof, followed by four glorious college years, did absolute nothing to prepare me to cope with the mundane. It makes me itch for something new, something to build, something fabulous and prestigious to yank me out of the funk of daily life. 

But guess what kids? That’s not real life or even wise to be constantly trying to find something new to distract from the daily requirements of life. 

I don’t want to feel overwhelmed or underwhelmed; I want to feel contentment. 

I’m reading, praying, conversing and crying my way through this process. I believe there is beauty in the monotonous rhythm of life because the miraculous is mixed with the mundane. We just have to look for it. 

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m learning to find contentment in the day-to-day and find the miracles in the mundane. Maybe it’s my son’s new phrase “Hold you, momma.” Or the soothing sound of frogs in our pond at night. Or signing a new client at work. Each of these has merit and I don’t want to be so disgusted by the dishes that I fail to find the good in life’s big and small moments. 

It doesn't hurt this is my view for doing dishes. Except, how do you do dishes and look out the window at the same time? Someone teach me, please. 

 





Two days after June 17, 2015

Have you seen the Jon Stewart video regarding the devastating shooting in Charleston two days ago? In my mind, the President could stand to learn a thing or two from Mr. Stewart.

This is not the time to throw around politically expedient blame tactics surrounding gun control and "ease of access to weapons." That's an issue that panders to the left demographic but we NEVER see democrats actually do anything about it. It divides and hastens the issue past the precious points of humanity that are far more pressing. 

This is an issue of race. It bodes well to make it about gun control or mental health because these are easier to excuse, to dismiss, to rationalize. But racism? The pure desire to "shoot black people?" It's barbaric. It's terrorism. It's gut wrenching, heart breaking, mind boggling. 

It isn't a one-sided issue. It exists in our nation no matter if you are black or white, Republican or Democrat, rich or poor. Sure, we can attempt to blame generational factors but the real issue is that we refuse to make it a real issue. We refuse to admit is THE issue. 

As long as there are symbols of hate and ignorance displayed at state capital buildings under the guise of "geographical allegiance" we won't see healing .

As long as we have churches that are "black" churches or "white" churches, we won't see reconciliation. 

As long as we refuse to acknowledge that this is an issue that we ALL must face, that we must take a hard look at our own hearts and our own actions, we won't see redemption. 

My heart is absolutely crushed. 

Lake Tahoe is better than the ocean.

Blasphemy, you may say, that a little lake could be more powerful, more impressive, more serene than the all-mighty ocean. 

Well, it's true. Besides the most obvious reason, no sharks in the lake, Lake Tahoe embodies a depth, a richness, a stillness, a calm that is unparalleled. 

In full disclosure, I grew up a lake girl. We had a boat and we skied at least three days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day and beyond if the weather cooperated. The lake was the place my brother and I didn't fight; it was picnic lunches and jugs of ice water; and a communal sense of joy and freedom our family found in few other endeavors. 

Our family vacationed on Table Rock Lake, where we would rent a condo with a boat slip for a week or more each summer. While my dad and brother put the boat in, my mom and I would drive in to the Kimberling City WalMart for groceries. My baby sister would tag along and us girls always had a great time picking out the snacks for the week, with rare treats like gushers and fruit by the foot (all guaranteed to be gone by day one).

We would rise at 7am to ski on the glass-like water. I was rumored to be so graceful I could ski without getting my hair wet, a feat I haven't pulled off in a while. Table Rock Lake is gorgeous. It's clear, it's clean, it's pristine in my mind. 

Oklahoma lakes have nothing on Missouri lakes in terms of color but they hold a magic for me nonetheless. My husband's second family owns the most glorious cabin on a point on Lake Eufaula and it has become my favorite place to escape, a place where I am loved and known and my husband can actually relax. We got married there and introducing our son to this spot last summer was so powerful. 

My husband and I, along with our sister and brother-in-law, traveled to Lake Tahoe for a baby moon getaway. My sister-in-law and I are due two days apart and the men put their heads together to plan a surprise trip. Not expecting the insane flooding and cool temps at home, we thought a nice, cool getaway would be ideal for our swollen ankles and growing (read: sweaty) bellies. 

Imagine my astonishment when I caught a glimpse of this view:

 

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It was like coming home. 

The water is crystal-clear, ocean-like in this sense. It has various shades of magnificent blue-green hues depending on depth and no color variation disappointments. But the darkest blue marking the deepest waters holds a truth I cannot quite capture. It speaks to me of a depth and beauty in life I believe we all long to capture, to identify, to call our own.

 

That's really a lake, not the ocean. Wild, I know. Oh and those are mountains in the background. I can't even.

That's really a lake, not the ocean. Wild, I know. Oh and those are mountains in the background. I can't even.

This place is equal parts calm and invigorating to me. The mountains that frame the water scream of God's ability to handle my questions, to carry my burdens, to protect my heart and to drive my dreams. The crisp air invites new life into my weary body, tired mind and uncertain passions. 

I am on the cusp of a new season as a mom of two under two. I am not sure what this means yet, how it will go, what it means for my work and my relationships. This place assures me I don't have to know because He does. 

The God who created the grandeur of this place is the same architect of my life. 

Upon this realization, I actively can feel a peace settle over my spirit and a contentment in my soul. 

I urge you to find such a place as this and rest, reflect, breathe for a few moments, a few days if you can afford it. Home is where the heart is, yes; but a brief retreat is where we must go to remember home is worth the heartache, the mess, the joy. 

You cannot have it all without defining your all.

“You can have it all.”

It’s my favorite lie women are crushed under year after year. Believing this lie drives inadequacy, anxiety, a lack of contentment and frustration. It is belittling, it is contradictory, it is false. 

You absolutely cannot have “it all.” Why? 

Because “it all” is not a neat set of measures and standards that is the same across all demographics. It doesn’t come in a nice little package to be unwrapped, savored, enjoyed and easily implemented into real life. There is no instruction manual that, if followed, will result in a life of rich abundance, peace of mind, a soaring career and a thriving family.

You cannot have it all unless you know your all. 

Let me explain. A dear friend and I used to argue over this concept. She would insist she could “have it all” but what she really meant was she could have HER all. And guess what? Hers looked a lot different than mine! If I allowed myself to judge what having it all meant by her standards, I could never measure up. That does not mean she could not achieve it; she absolutely could. But I couldn’t because that was not true to what I placed value in as having it all. 

So how do you determine your all?

For me to be the best, healthiest version of me, I use five key categories to regularly examine how I am operating to make sure I’m focusing on what I believe matters for me and removing or limiting distractions to the best of my ability. 

(Above all, I must keep my faith life active. That’s a give in so I don't count it.)

  1. Family- Is my family thriving? Are my sons happy, healthy and receiving the bulk of my time? Does my husband feel loved and appreciated? Do we have time just the two of us to keep our marriage strong? 
  2. Work- Is my business running well? Are my clients generally pleased with my work? Is my team growing both personally and professionally? Am I serving them well as a boss? 
  3. Friends- Do I log quality time with my best friends? Do I know what’s going on in their lives and vice versa? Am I emotionally available to meet their needs? 
  4. Fitness- Do I allow time for yoga, running and soccer each week? Am I eating well but still giving myself grace for a splurge or two? 
  5. Passion- Do I have the margin in my time to write? To volunteer? To attend church? (This category is more loose because seasons change and kids make schedules hard to pin down exact times each week. I find myself floundering if I try to make this category too strict and miss my goal. It is better for it to be a moving target.)

If I can answer these questions with a positive response, then I have it all. If one area gets too far out of whack, I can feel it, like a tug on my heart that says something isn’t right. It’s important to return here, realign my intention and work towards what really matters most. 

My all is my all. It isn’t for you, just like yours isn’t for me. I cannot get caught up in a comparison game and I certainly refuse to shame other women whose priorities line up differently than mine. 

(Can we pause for just one a second and all agree to cut the shaming crap out? My life is different than yours. It isn’t better or worse, right or wrong. We are not unequal; we are simply different. And the last time I checked that is not a problem but rather the beauty of life.)

Set your priorities. Guard your passions. Protect your convictions. Then, and only then, you can have your all.