I have a confession -- it is sometimes very difficult to be the only skirt in the room. I was planning a dinner a few weeks ago and the caterer asked me if my guests would like to mingle before dinner. My reply, "Nope, they want to get in, eat, drink, talk business, and be out in 2 hours." She looked a little shocked at my brusque response. I explained that all 27 guests are men and chit chat is the last thing they are interested in. "You are looking at the only woman at the dinner."
"Oh, I see........Steak should be on the menu?"
My oldest child is ready to get his learners permit and very soon could be ready to take the test for a drivers license. In my earlier imaginings, it was always my husband who would be the patient teacher and mentor but alas, reality is quite different. He was the nail biter and I became ....zen.
We did share the goal of wanting to make sure that the new driver got as much practice as possible under his wing before his first solo flight. There were a lot of hairy moments. The latest being - winter driving. Even for experienced drivers, this is a challenge. I put him behind the wheel on a day when there was black ice and as we left the house,
I quietly said, "be sure to have plenty of stopping distance."
"OK mom," came a calm confident reply
A little later, "Whoa, whoa....too close!"
"It's OK Mom, I'm not a horse." [all in good humor]
Not 30 seconds later, a big SUV in front of us steps on the gas and fish tails to the left and then the right. It sacred everyone within spitting distance. The driver was visibly shaken.
"Wow Mom, I guess you were right."
When your teenager acknowledges you are right, you shut up and simply bask in the moment. I unclenched my jaws and knew we were going to be alright.
The world that I live in is primarily occupied by men.... it would be nice if they were men who wore power suits like Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams. In case you haven't figure it out yet, I love that AMC series, Suits. Maybe suits from the The Men's Warehouse, need to comes with a little tag that says, "The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary".
Well, I have news, I do not live in a world high powered attorneys and stock brokers. My crowd were proud chess champions in middle school, math wizards in high school, robotics champions in college, and wanna be chemistry brewers in their basements (maybe). There are guys who do NOT dress to impress. But blindfolded, they can spot the mistake in your algorithm while sipping coffee. Actually..... the crowd that I work with is rather normal and dress much like most midwesterners do.
As for me, I do try to maintain a certain fashionable yet utilitarian appearance while at the office. These are clothes that translate well from suitcase to boardroom in many different countries. Here are some simple tips on how to achieve the look:
1. Basic Colors - I usually do not have more than 2 colors
2. Avoid patterns - something that looks good in North America may not look fashionably in South Korea
3. A plain colored dress can be spruced up with a colored scarf
4. Carefully chosen conservative floral dresses work too especially if you want to skip the accessories.
5. Invest in good shoes. Forget the heels on long treks through airports. Opt for ballet flats or booties in the winter
6. Silk does not travel well. Neither does dry cleaning or 100% cotton. Wool does surprisingly well because it doesn't wrinkle and it regulates your body temperature.
7. I love, love dresses because it is a 1 piece solution - you do not have to match a top to a bottom. Everything is right there. A nice fit and flare design sways as you moves... lovely!
8. Skirts always make you look feminine. And they can be exceedingly comfortable in all types of weather, even the sub zero kind.
9. Underneath everything is good moisture wicking under shirts, tights, underwear. Uniqlo has Heattech for the summer & Airism for the summer.
10. Forget pantsuits. No one on Suits ever wears pants except the losing attorney -- there is a good reason for that. Pantsuits do not flatter (and I know many of you may disagree). Go ahead, do an unscientific survey of the women at work (real life women, not one on TV), compare and contrast pants vs skirts. Which one drew your eye? Pantsuits tell the world that you are in competition with the men. Why be in competition in someone else's ball court when you have your own strengths? Realize that your court is in the ballroom.
Ladies, the idea is to look feminine, be feminine and be proud of your God given gentle appearance.
Lastly Lipstick. I wear only one kind - Revlon Colorstay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick in Premier Plum. Yes, it does last all day.
So, I know we already established that I travel a lot. The last business trip that I was on involved 10 planes, 8 airports and 9 different cities. Now, granted, I merely spent time transiting in some airports, but all in all, it was exhausting. Mostly, people say, "wow" -- I am often unsure if they are critical or if they are just plain shocked. Maybe they are trying to judge if I am a good mom. I don't know.... mostly, I keep it on the down low and change the subject if someone seems uncomfortably. The question that I ask myself is, "How do I make sure that I keep myself mentally strong for those long transcontinental flights and not feel like I have wasted entire days floating in the stratosphere?" Movies don't really do anything for me. But I do love to read... and here are some of my latest fantastics finds:
1. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
- Suspenseful, haunting, psychologically suspense about a woman who witnesses a crime while sailing on an exclusive, high end cruise ship.
2. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas
- Book 2 in the YA series about a special magical Feyre race who are rather vicious in their eagerness to protect, defend, and love. Lots of magic in Royal Courts and quirky, moody, secret ridden mortals who somehow discovery that they are not mortal. Comes with all the angst that YA novels are constantly wrestling with.
3. The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
- I absolutely love the Popular Psychology genre. Authors like Malcolm Gladwell and Susan Cain, take academic research and tell the story that professors often fail to do. This particular one is about human reason and how our mind works out a perception of reality. Throw in some Big Data and somehow, old research becomes modern and relevant. Love it!
I love, love post-it notes. There is something very satisfactory about the swwlippp that it makes when you flick it off the stack, purposely and furiously scribble your Zorro-like mark, and THWackkk, slap it into place. I get a vision of flashbacks to the 1800s when being a postmaster meant wielding an almighty rubber stamp; determining the delivery of court orders and love notes. It makes me feel like I am getting things done and neither foe nor foul weather may stand in the way of a mom on a mission !!! [Can you hear the thrum of a theme song…. starts with acoustic guitars and builds into …..the Eye of the TIGEEERRRRR]
Back on planet earth: post it notes keep me and the family organized. They lay out the menu for the day. Sometimes I dream up what to make for school lunch but by the time I wake up in the morning, it’s drifted out of my head and absconded to the same planet that all my lost socks reside. So, these notes capture moments of brilliance before they run off. Since, I am a practical person of consistency, many of my actions repeat themselves over and over again hence…… the board of recycled post-it notes was born. Why do it over when I already have one from last week?
They are reminders of what I need to set out tomorrow, what the kids need from me, making sure everyone has everything they need for once we leave the house — there is no going back to get anything coz momma has to be at work.
The recycled post-it note board has become somewhat of a family legend. When the extended family comes over, they take turns showing this museum piece to people who haven’t seen it yet. I supposed it doesn’t help that the glasses are stored behind that very door. “Hahah…what is that?…it’s HERs? Oh, now it makes sense. But hahah, still funny.”
Of all the post it notes, the ones I treasure most are the ones crafted by my husband because for all the things that I do to serve the family, it is his adoration that takes my breath away.
My first name is : Oh yeah...
My last name is : Mom
When the kids were in kindergarten and pre-school, they were required to tell me 3 things about their day as soon as they got in the car and buckled up. “Tell me a story.” Then, they got a piece of gum. Yes, I am a bad mom, gum is likely not a good thing. But then, we didn’t wear seatbelts when we were children - so there! Alright, back to the 3 items of conversation. I made it easy ... “was there outdoor recess?, who did you sit with for lunch?, etc.” That gave me ammunition to ask more questions as they divulged.
“Tell me a story. Everyone’s got a story”
Let’s fast forward to today.
“How was school?”
Italics [Moms, In case you haven’t figured it out yet, that’s a silly question. It’s close ended and stunts conversation]
“Tell me something funny that happened.”
Italics [Usually, I can see my kids thinking hard and seeing scenes of the day in their heads]
“Oh Yeah! Mom!......”
Italics [...and the story follows suit]
In my field of work, there are many introverts (as am I) and to an extent, extroverts can annoy us when they wish to “process out loud”. Thinking is a cerebral occupation and as as such, we introverts believe that it should remain in the cortex! Now, imagine a family of introverts where sharing is not a preferred activity, how much harder we must work to solicit meaningful conversation as opposed to what we perceive to be space filling chatter. Oh, but what a treasure you have when able to extract both meaning and purpose from everyday conversations for Listening is Love.
My mom does not live close to me and it is rare that we get to spend a lot of time together. We are very close and do talk to each other regular. We spend a good 30 minutes each week chatting. Recently, I managed to squeeze into an already hectic schedule, an entire week with her. She’s in her 70s and when she’s on a mission, she can maintain a walking speed that is faster than mine. She slows down to let me “catch up”. The best times of the week were spent sitting in my childhood bedroom with her telling me stories.
When I was 12, I consciously decided that I needed someone to talk to and clearly remember coming home and saying, “Mom, I want you to know all my friend so I’m going to describe each one of them to you.” What I really wanted to do was tell her about my day but as I started to talk, I realized that it was not possible to tell her about my experience if I didn’t first provide a description of the context, cast and crew. I believe that our children want to talk to us about their feelings, life, and loves.
It made me ponder over the nature of the relationship with my own daughter and what the future holds. What am I doing today to build on that relationship?
Every Sunday during the lunch after church, we have a family meeting to go over the week’s events. Not sure how it started, but it has carried on for a few years now. All stakeholders must be present, and we insist that there is quorum before we make major schedule changes. CEO (husband) and CFO (me!) have omnipotent veto rights. First order of events is to go through the calendar for the week. Next, we pair up the logistics for how to support each those events - meals, wheels, transportation of everything from sporting equipment to musical instruments, homework schedule, etc. Lastly, it’s around the table for any comments or concerns. Then, we proceed with a hearty round of fart jokes and the meeting ends when someone laughs so hard that one to two beads of rice accidentally shoots out of their mouths. Really, I’m not making it up.
So, I’m off to Asia for 2 weeks. It’s a long haul this time. The jet lag is going to be brutal. The flights are long, my head will hurt from lack of sleep. On the descent into Tokyo, there was 3 hours of turbulence and I had to put away the article that I was editing for fear that my mid flight cheese bread would make a comeback over all of my papers and keyboard.
Meanwhile, back on the range, I’ve left the fridge stocked with the things I think the family will cook, briefed everyone on the lunch menu at school and their options if they want to bring their own. The husband is a a real trooper and covering the after school sports activities. I know it takes a toll on him but it's the fine tightrope balance we all have to tread. A couple of days during my absence, my mother in law plans to have her chauffeur hat in one hand and casserole in the other - hopefully not when she’s driving. Actually, grandma is a really good driver. I love my in-laws, really, I do.
Pics from left to right: Dragon fruit, pomelo, rosebud tea, mangoes, bunches of lemongrass.
I travel a lot for work … about once a month, I leave home and traipse half way around the world. It is simply madness the day before departure because in addition to the usually packing and sorting, there is the home and work to settle. Everything in the office and home has to be spic and span before I go… at least, that is the target. But the reality is that there are still unlaundered socks and at least one child has forgotten something that I hope the husband can “fix”. It won’t be perfect or the way I like it done but the consolation is that, yes, it is taken care of. The husband is my pillar of strength.
This weekend, I’ve piled on to my schedule, far more than I can chew. I am going to spend 3 days as a chaperone at camp for a church youth event; come home all muddy on Sunday evening; unpack my case, repack it with business attire and even formal evening wear. Then on Monday morning, after the kids have been sent off to school with hugs and kisses, it’s of to the airport for a 29 hour transatlantic flight.
It is an incredibly hectic 2 weeks coming up. And my tummy is in knots. Alternating between nerves and excitement, I remedy the situation by making lists.
But, the best parts are all contained within the hustle and bustle — there is 3 whole days of camp with my kids, incredible new discoveries for my work, and even a wedding at the end of the 2 weeks. And again, the husband is my pillar of strength. I must pause to properly kiss him.
The thing I am most looking forward to on the trip is …. the absence of wifi on the plane. There is bliss and quiet. Time to edit a journal article, read a couple of books, and binge watch episodes of Suits. Yay!
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.