Seriously, do you ever cry at work? And if you do, why? Under what circumstances? What makes you cry?
Well, I will tell you about all the times that I do cry. I cry at funerals, baptisms, at church, sad movies, not so sad movies, things that make my children sad, things that make my mother sad. I cry a lot at funerals. Even for people that I don’t know. I cry at retirement parties. When I was pregnant, I cried when I saw Tarzan, the cartoon. The Pixar movie, Up, caused me to need a very long nap - the only remedy to a good cry. I cry when they sing the Star Spangled Banner at the ball park. I tear up with such regularity that my kids can predict when the waterworks will begin. Yes, I am an emotional being and very good at crying at touching moments.
But, I never cry at work.
Not when I get yelled at
Not when I mess up
Not when I do something embarrassing
Not when I missed that last flight to Singapore and was a whole day late for meetings
No, not ever.
That was something I asked myself after one crazy episode when my boss shouted at me, at the top of her voice, at full volume. I did cry, about work, once… When I did not get the promotion I wanted… When I came home, my daughter patted me on the back and told me this is what God wants for me, and I broke down. I did not do my crying at work. I saved it for home.
Why don’t I cry work? Because very simply, it’s not personal. Work is not my life and it’s not the real stuff that truly matters at the end of the day. What truly matters are my family, births, deaths, God, love, and hope. That is what I save my tears for.
Dear Readers, This is prom season, and I have a hard time condoning the modern day prom. This is likely a controversial statement but bear with me as I make my case. I can only guess that many of you may serve on prom committees and have spent countless hours during this annual rite of passage. However, I believe that each educational experience that my child has during those crucial teen years, should be intentional, purposeful and God centered. Experiences that make them better adults, better people and in my son's case, a perfect gentleman.
At the school where we attend, there is a formal dinner and dance event that the high-schoolers prepare for each spring. There is a protocol class, formal dance lessons, and etiquette lessons. Many funny stories came home following the first of these lessons. For instance, there are many foods that are difficult to eat with your fork firmly in your left hand and the knife in the other. Precise timing must be exercised when assisting a young lady to a dining table, lest the chair be taken from under her unexpectedly, resulting in a pile of pink tulle on the gym floor. A gentleman must present his arm for the lady to take so that she may be assisted down the sweeping mansion stairs. Counting, while humming the Blue Danube is helpful for conquering the waltz, ditto for the two-step, polka, the occasional quadrille, and the foxtrot. Elementary .... but yet a puzzlement to the freshman class. I am pleased to say that my son got all this right.
There is a part of the evening set aside for a mother-son dance. It is an easy two-step, but something that I had not done in a long time. While I am a good dancer, I do need a good male lead to make me look graceful... at least that was my mind set when I was escorted on to the dance floor. Instead, I found that my teenage son was rather good at the two-step. He steered me away from bumping into other dancers, and kept time to the classical quartet. I think he is has learned the mechanics of his role a a gentleman, took charge, and owned each action.... whether on the dance floor, the dinner table or this next instance......
Every year, partner assignments are made and announced with a bit of fanfare. We knew well ahead of time whom he was going to escort down the grand staircase. However, due to an unexpected illness, there was one additional young lady who was going to miss out having an escort. Around mid afternoon, the host called and requested that my son be assigned the honor of escorting a very pretty blond, in addition to his original assignment. This was a last minute change and when all the parties arrived, the parents felt we had to explain everything to the young ladies involved, clear it up, and there were bits of small talk all around, by the adults, to compensate for what we assume would be confusion for the teens. Just then...
Finding his voice and knowing his role, my son cut right through the adult chatter and with a firm voice, said,
"Kaitlin, may please I have the honor of being your escort?"
She replied with a shy nod and a barely audible, "yes".
There was perfect silence afterwards.
I got a huge promotion. It's big, scary, nerve wrecking, and for the first week, I was reaching for tums because I was not confident that I could fill the shoes of a formidable expert who had been doing it for the last 10-15 years. It is a job that is rumoured to be difficult and possibly accompanied by challenging personalities. Why me? I prayed for the right direction from God. I asked for peace. I seeked signs from above that this was the destined path that God wanted me to travel down. And one fine day when I was in the throws of decision making and hand-wringing, my Bible app popped up with a notification of the daily verse "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33). I looked for peace and got it. God was telling me that it is going to be difficult but he is going to be right there with me.
Dear Readers, as a working mom, I am often grateful for reasonable employers. I tend to work harder and put in more hours from home because I feel that I own the employer for being flexible. And possibly through the years, I may have made less money because I did not venture to ask for more. Flexibility was currency in itself. There is a sense of indebtedness to the employer and I'll take whatever I can because I am just happy to have a job where the employer understands my circumstances. Why do I sell myself short? I don't know.
Well, for once, I did not.
Prior to accepting the job offer, I asked for a meeting so that I could lay out my requests for vacation and possibly negotiate salary. Going into the meeting, there was even a possibility that I would turn down the offer if things did not go my way. I had nothing to lose and I was willing to walk away (that is a great position to negotiate from). As the conversation turned and flipped in unexpected directions, I decided to be honest and tell the manager that this is a job that many would not accept because it is challenging and I cited my source of information. I listened to his reply before asking for a better offer and more compensation. He agreed to my terms. I accepted the offer.
It took every bit of courage I possessed, God by my side, and a wonderful husband. When I emerged from the boardroom and pulled out my cell phone, I said a prayer of thanks and texted my husband. My hands were shaking and my heart rate was definitely not normal.
The negotiations took the form of an intelligent conversation, well thought out, calm, soft-spoke, yet assertive and strong. I can think of one lady who lived that mantra and I would like to dedicate this blog post to the late Mrs. Bush.
To ensure that they all eat their vegetables when I am traveling, I tend to favor salad bags in a kit. All the big grocery stores have some and they are actually rather tasty. But salad in a bag has become more than a just nutrition, in our family, it is flag for things to come ......
Teen: [standing in front of open fridge] Mom, are you going away? Why is there bag salad in the fridge?
Me: Hahaha. No. It's for the potluck at Phil's house on Tuesday evening.
Teen: Phew! I thought you were going away.....but there was nothing on the calendar. But, you never know, I had to ask.
The lesson in this is that your teens are always watching and observing for the little nuances & patterns in your behavior. Nothing slips their notice even if there are earbuds in their ears 24/7. Don't forget to eat your vegetables!
So, my middle schooler is going to camp with her class next week. It’s a week away from home with her teachers and friends. She’s been going for 3 year and this is the last year that she will be able to attend because she will be in high school next year. Parents and siblings are encouraged to write letters because of they receive a letter at camp, you have to kiss a stuffed moose. After all these years, I still have no idea why this is fun or why the moose deserves so much love when I’m the one doing all the work. Some years, I haven’t sent letters at the specific behest of the kids..... I don’t know why.... maybe they broke up with the moose and are not on speaking terms.
On Monday, I left for Australia for two full days of meetings and on Saturday, it’s time to turn around and go home. Sometime during the 31 hour journey, in the 3rd maybe 4th airport lounge, I start texting my soon to be camper....
Me: I didn’t send any moose letters for camp wolverine. Should I?
Camper: Yes please send letters. It's my last year. Tehe
Me: You are getting sentimental in your old age. They can go out in the mail Monday but not sure if it will get there on time by the time you leave Friday. I’ll see what I can do.
Me: How many pieces of mail does one need to get “Moosed”?
C: One but u can send as many as u want. Last year Amy (names have been changed to protect the innocent) got 8
Me: You are killing me can’t keep up with Amy’s family.
Dear reader, we have to pause the text recount for now because I have to tell you what is going through my head at this point. The rant goes something like this ....
... oh no, I’ve failed (again) as a mom. Even if I send the letter now, it is never going to make it on time. It is in the woods and someone probably has a ride a horse to the post office to retrieve mail. Oh wait. Amazon can deliver anything. Prime can surely get it there in two days. That’s it!! I’ll send her this pseudo board game called FastTrack. It’s one where you shoot little wood coins through a slot with your finger. Face off with your opponent and first one to get all seven pucks through to the other side, wins. $15. Done. Let’s see about delivery. What? Oh no. Friday? Oh no, there’s no time to saddle the horse! Shoot. I mean, not the horse. Hurumph.
Quick, I need a plan B. Google the post office closest to LAX. Yup, there’s one right next to the Hertz rent a car place. I can take the free shuttle to Hertz and then walk to the post office. But what should I send her?
Me: I can go to the Delta lounge, grab a bunch of free cookies and mail that to you from LA. . I found a free banana. Not sure if it will make it.
Me: It’s raining like crazy. Trying....To....make....it ...to ....Post....office. Gush.....rain....wet. Yeeeeass. It can be done.
Me: Actually, I’m waiting till rain stops in 20 mins.
C: Wow mom
Me: Yup, I’m a fish. That’s means ... you’re a guppy.
Ok. This is how I worked it. Pulled out my TSA precheck, went to security, bought gift which were (overpriced) socks with little bowls of ramen printed on them. Googled the post office location. Caught FREE Hertz rental car bus to get there. Sit down, waited for 20 mins for rain to stop.
Mailed squishy banana, I mean, socks.
They said it will arrive Tuesday but might be Wednesday by the time horse is saddled. One package is all I could manage. This globe trotting uber Dr. Mom can’t keep up with the 8 letters that Amy’s stay-at-home mom sends her.
Then catch free shuttle back to terminal. Go through TSA precheck again. It’s 0900. Plane leaves at 1145. So plenty of time.
Oh, and I was too cheap to buy a card to go with the gift so I wrote a note on my Virgin Australia Melbourne to Sydney boarding pass, kissed it and stuck it in the envelope. There! Uber working mom with cape!
Click here to see the funny Ramen socks that I bought for her.
The rush, hustle, bustle.... violin, ballet, basketball, swimming, library books.....something always gets left behind and no one realizes until we get to the destination, 10 mins later for soccer practice with no shin guards. Great! There has to be a better way. Well, there is, a long time ago when the kids were in grade school, my mantra was "If it is not in the basket, it doesn't make it into the car." We used to set large laundry baskets by the door and the kids would put the things that they needed for the next day into the baskets. Everything from backpacks to lunchboxes and extra boots or snow pants. I did not permit a haphazard dumping of random items into the baskets. They had to me only and excatly what they needed.
Today, 10 years later, the kids have inherited a system of organization and they pack their own stuff. They make sure that everything makes it into the car on their own. Next year, when the kids start to drive themselves to school, I am not there to fetch or retrieve any forgotten items. So, moms, start organizing early because that is what they will need to fend for themselves when you let go inch by inch and make them independent. At a Christian moms conference many years ago, one speaker said that we have 18 years to teach kids what they need to know before they leave home. When you think about, 18 years goes by... in a flash.
They have some nice baskets by Sterlite
I actually have about 6-10 of these Sterlite baskets stacked for laundry and to facilitate loading of stuff into the car. More about laundry sorting in an upcoming & yet to be written blog.
I just got my first pair of Lululemon tights and I feel… so deliciously decedent. They tuck and trim without surgery. So I leave the house with the tights on, paired with a long sweater that covers my behind.
It’s my day off so I’m doing the suburban mom thing… wear my Lulus… go to Barre class… sip Starbucks.... pick up the kids after school. This is the conversation that transpired when we got home:
My daughter (MD): Mom, you cannot leave the house dressed like that.
Dr. Mom (Dr. M): What? This?
MD: How would you like it if I left the house in that?
Dr. M: Well, can I wear a long shirt…like this?
Dr. M: But why?
MD: Well, let’s put it this way, it would be disrespectful to me if you went out there with me, dressed like that. Just like it would be disrespectful for me to wear that and go out with you.
Dr. M: [baffled… mouth open]. Wait, who’s the mom around here?
I seriously cannot believe that the conversation just happened. Maybe, just maybe, I can sneak them out of the house and change when I get to…[mental head slap]…have to remind myself that I am not 13 anymore, I don’t have to sneak anything. Either I have raised a very respectable teenager or have hereby lost any semblance of control. The big question is, “What now do I do with the $100 Lulus? Anybody want to buy a pair of tights?”
Vacations. I love vacations. Did you know that there are studies that demonstrate how the mind categorizes work vs. fun. If I go to an exotic place...say, Hawaii and "I have to go there for work", it instantly becomes less fun than if I paid actual money to go to Hawaii and take my family there. So, to maximize fun, do not accept a paid vacation! All that is gold is not as it seems. Yet, would I turn down a trip to Hawaii? Likely not.
Vacation with my children is the funnest sort of mental break. My teens and I have a great relationship and what I enjoy most is teaching them new things about the world beyond their normal bubble. When we go to a city, I hand the children the subway map, point out the destination and tell them to take me there. The same with airports and street maps. They are getting very good at navigating. I also try to teach them street smarts and situational awareness. Cautionary tales of sorts from pick pockets to carelessly lost luggage, and even once, there was an incident where we took time to gawk to officials escorting someone in handcuffs.
We have already established that I travel a lot for a living and I want to share that with my children. 10 things we learned on our last cruise....
1. how to snorkel
2. to respect the coral
3. swim with fishes
4. always wear your seatbelt.
5. pack only what we can carry
6. never forget to tip
7. always report to mom on time
8. watch out for each other and never go down dark lonely corridors
9. wash your hands
10. call an uber when everyone is hungry, cranky and ready to rip that street map apart
I recently volunteered to give a devotional to a group of high school girls and I started off the devo with “How many of you are asked on a daily basis….what do you plan to do after you graduate?” A good number of the young ladies raised their hands. Many did not have a solid answer for what they wanted to do in college or after school or for the rest of their lives. Some wished adults would not ask them that question. If we stop to think about it, it is an exceedingly intimidating question. Many adults still do not know what they want to do “when they grow up”. Many of us had a direction that they started out with and after many twists, change, and challenges that life throws you, the path is completely different from that which was in my 16 year old brain, so very many moons ago.
If even 50% of us moms are of the stay-at-home variety, why then is it necessary to go to college? As you read this, I am sure you are mentally screaming at me and at my ivory tower snobbery. But wait, please stay the hate mail…. it is merely a rhetorical question. I think that every person capable of learning should engage in as much education as they are able to gain. Why? Very simply the - we exist to serve & teach the next generation, to build God’s kingdom with a the best possible minds. There is one caveat… that education must serve God’s purpose. For example, let’s examine Rebel Mom who has homeschooled all 6 of her children I would believe that her college education has served her well in enhancing learning in her children.
When I first read Proverbs Ch 31 on The Wife of Noble Character, I always thought that it was an impossible standard. The woman in the story did everything from feeding her family, to planting a vineyard and clothing them in purple. Ugh….I’m allergic to purple. But as I grow older, I realize that many of you moms are as accomplished as this proverbial woman.
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting.” If this is so (and why should be doubt the Bible?), then what do we teach our daughters? Aristotle was of the opinion that the purpose of education is to make citizens, virtuous. Teaching & learning are about a disciplined inquiry into some aspect of reality. Too often, as women, we rely on our emotions and perhaps, the practice of disciplined inquiry is a good thing as we apply purpose and structure in our homes.
An actual image of my dissertation at work. On a 4 hour ride to a family wedding in 2014, there was enough time to read, write and eat some chicken nuggets.
I have a dear Jewish friend who used to tell me this joke....
Q: Do you know what most Jewish holidays are based on?
A: It's simple -
1. they tried to kill us
2. they failed
3. let's eat !
It's funny but really it is about dealing with adversity and celebrating when we come out of the worst. It's 2 am and I am having a hard time sleeping. Thoughts run through my head, occasionally anger, sometimes regret... conversations are on a constant loop... should have said this, should have done that. Why? Why wasn't I given a chance at that promotion? Where did it go wrong? When will there be another opportunity? Will there even be another opportunity? They picked another man over this skirt. I have tried to prepare myself for the inevitable and yet, when it does arrive, it hurts more than expected. I was passed-over.
As I was tucking my youngest offspring in at bedtime,
I sighed, "I want to cry but somehow I can't"
"Well then, maybe it doesn't matter as much," came a thoughtful reply
I was touched. "Hearing you say that makes me cry."
"Maybe God wants something else for you," said my little Sage.
As a parent, it is difficult to teach a child how to deal with adversity when I can't even remove my own blinders. Maybe I can't cry because it really doesn't mean that much. Maybe children learn by example. Maybe we face adversity so that they can watch us go through it. Maybe they learn to be encouraging by lifting us up. Maybe it is Divine providence. We should celebrate.
I will go back to work tomorrow and show them that they failed to dampen my spirit. Chin up, shoulders back, and soldier on. Because in reality, only my ego was bruised and not the ones I love most.
They tried to bruise me
The real deal about what it’s like to be a working mom. I often hear the following phrase, “I don’t know how you manage it all.“ The reality is, I don’t even know. Deep down inside, I’m wondering the same thing about them. I have two kids, a wonderful husband, a normal suburban life. I’ve always been achievement oriented and simply love to tackle things that sometimes make other peoples eyes glaze over… in boredom. I’m a researcher and my view on the technical stuff is that nothing is difficult, merely complex.
Flat Stanley at the Changing of the Guards.