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The Day All The Wheels Came Off

January 19th, 2009

Over the weekend, a mompreneur friend of mine asked me how I came to do what I do for a living. At first I started to tell her about my first experiences with my friend and mentor Martha Beck, who has played a HUGE role in my development. But then I stopped and realized that it all started way before I even knew who Martha was.  She found the story kind of interesting, so I thought you might, too.

Back in the day when I had an RJ (a Real Job), I was what some considered a “turn around specialist”. I would get my hands on some failing program, project or  organization and infuse it with unusual approaches and strategies (and a TON of hard work) and turn the thing around in a fairly short time.  I absolutely LOVED being good at that. Head hunters would call and say “What if we could find you your dream job?” and I would say “I already have it. Good-bye.”

An national organization hired me (no naming names to protect the innocent) to come into a local office that was truly on it’s last leg. I was the last ditch effort to get it back on track and maintain a presence in the community. Sounded like a ton of fun to me and I eagerly signed up for the challenge.

I walked into an organization that 1) had no active board of directors 2) no community relationships left 3) revenues of $25,000 and an operating budget of $100,000 4) no staff and 5)no deliverables in place – those had all tanked. Yep – that was my kind of challenge and I took it on with all I had to give.

Then the person who hired me left and was replaced by a person who, let’s just say, did not think I was right for the job.  No matter what I did, there was something wrong with it or me, or something I was neglecting to make this fabulous thing happen. I brought on a major community partner. “Yeah but where are your deliverables?” I put $50,000 in the coffers in my first six months “Yeah but your services aren’t running strong.” Put a major CEO on the board of directors “Yeah but…” can’t even remember that one.

Oh and my favorite – I put on an event that became a national example. I was asked to teach everyone across the country how to do it. Did I the invitation come from my boss? No. Did she way one word about my personal and professional success? No.

Finally her incessant questioning and discounting of my abilities came to a head. We were interviewing candidates for an open position on my staff. The hire was to be a joint decision, so my boss came down to “help” conduct interviews. I left to room for a few minutes while she we were interviewing a candidate I was uncertain of. I cam back to find that my boss had offered her the job. No consultation – she did not even pretend that my thoughts about my staff were relevant.

I tried to stay because I loved what I was building. But the remarks from my boss became more and more condescending while my reputation with others continued to grow stronger. That’s how I knew I didn’t really stink at my job.:)

One day, triggered by nothing specific, all the wheels came off. I walked in the door at home and told my husband, “I’m quitting.” He’d watched me as I’d worked and celebrated and achieved so much. He’d also watched the incredible toll working in this environment was taking on me. So he said “I’m betting you’ve already thought this through and I support you.”

Now realize I had no job lined up and was in no frame of mind to go out and find one. I didn’t care. The next day, I submitted my letter of resignation.

The flurry of astonishment and support that poured into my office was surprising. And apparently my boss got a great deal of pressure to “do whatever it takes to make her stay” because I received a most uncharacteristic phone call making all kinds of promises to make our relationship better. Because I really want to give people second chances, I conceded and said ok.

BIG mistake. Within two days it became super clear that her call came under duress and she had no intentions of doing anything differently. So, I quit again for the final time.

Was it hard? Yes. Did people call and beg me to stay? Yes. Was I sad to leave behind an organization I’d rebuilt into a $250,000 entity with a board comprised of major power players in less than two years? You bet.

But it was killing me. I knew there was a better way to work and live. There just had to be. So I took a major leap of faith and set out on the journey to discover that path. For a year I learned from masters and re-invented myself and my ideas about what “work” was. (That is the subject for another post.)

That was over seven years ago and I haven’t regretted my decision once. Not once.

While I don’t advise waiting for all the wheels to come off to make such a monumental decision, I do recommend paying attention to the things that are dragging down your soul and dampening your spirit. Let them go. Leap. The universe is waiting for you.:)

I missed playing Rock'em Sock'em Kung Fu Panda

December 1st, 2008

I am a terrible mom.  My son asked me three times tonight to play Rock’em Sock’em Kung Fu Panda.  I kept saying I would and I didn’t.  I am the big loser in that equation because I actually LIKE this game.

In case you are wondering, Rock’em Sock’em Kung Fu Panda is an update of a game my brothers had when we were little.  Remember the commercial for Rock’em Sock’em Robots?  One players robot hit the other players robot just so, his head popped up and a little boy said “You knocked my block off!”.

Well, this is the same game except that in the place of robots, we have Po and Ti Lung. My son is ALWAYS Po (which is fine with me cuz I secretly think that Ti Lung is pretty sexy in all his evilness) and he says to me “I just want to whisper something in Ti Lung’s ear.”  He angles Po up to Ti Lung just so, clicks his controller, makes Po kick and BLAME! He knocked Ti Lung’s block off.

And I missed out on that tonight.  Why? Not that it really matters but I was deeply engrossed in trying to figure out a new Facebook thingy I wanted to use.  Can you imagine?!  I chose a Facebook widget over spending a great time with my son getting my block knocked off.

Tomorrow, I make better choices.

A Short Course in Southern Grieving

September 12th, 2008

My aunt died this week.  She was older, but still it was unexpected.  And complicated.  As most Southern things are. 

The first thing I did when I got the call was to start thinking about food.  Not eating it, cooking it.  All of my childhood memories of funerals are centered around food.  Huge, groaning tables of fried chicken, deviled eggs, potato salad, tuna salad, congeled salad, biscuits, rolls, cakes, cookies….each lovingly homemade and delivered on plates with the owners name written on masking tape underneath. 

Now that I am older and have been through the grieving process more times than I care to count, I really understand the connection between preparing food and emotional comfort that it brings. 

First, there is an emotional steadying that happens when I cook.  It is hard to think about much else if I am going to make Miss P.’s sour cream pound cake from scratch and not ruin it.  I have to pay attention to the small details.  ” 3 ‘scant’ cups of sugar” for example is very different than “3 c. sugar”.  Whipping egg whites into stiff peaks requires concentration and patience.  Folding them into the cake batter forces me into a soft, gentle place.

And delivering a homemade something to a heartbroken daughter says more to here about my love and concern than any words I could possibly think up to offer.  Feeding the body with food lovingly prepared often winds up feeding the spirit – of the cook and the recipient.  These are the times I am grateful for my southern lessons in grieving.

~M.

A Monday Maverick Meditation

September 8th, 2008

So, all of my plans for today are out the window.  My child is home sick AND we’ve had an unexpected death in the family, so everything I thought I was going to have time to do today – POOF! up in smoke.

Now, I could freak out, stress out and resent the plate life has handed me today.  In fact, that seems to be my natural default position most days.  BUT, since I am on the Maverick Mom journey of being present, flexible and gentle on those who must live with me, I think I will make a different choice today.

The Universe must be stepping up to the plate in hopes that I might stop my griping and complaining because over the weekend, as I was cleaning out my office, I found a mediation that someone sent me ages and ages ago that seems to apply perfectly to this moment, today.  I thought I would share it with you.

Just For Today

Just for today I will try to live thorugh this day only, and not tackle all my problems and once.  I can do something for 12 hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.

Just for today I will be happy.  This assumes to be true what Abraham Lincoln said, that “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Just for today I wll adjust myself to what is, and not try to admust everything to my own desires.  I will take my “luck” as it comes, and fit myself to it.

Just for today I will try to strengthen my mind.  I will study.  I will learn something useful.  I will not be a mental loafer.  I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration.

Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways: I will do somebody a good turn, and not get found out; if anybody knows of it, it will not count.  I will do two things I don’t want to do – just for exercise.  I will not show anyone my feelings are hurt.  They may be hurt, but today I will now show it.

Just for today I will be agreeable.  I will look as well as I can, dress becomingly, keep my voice low, be courteous, criticize not one bit.  I won’t find fault with anything, nor try to improve or regulate anybody but myself.

Just for today, I will have a program.  I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it.  I will save myself from two pests: hurry and indecision.

Just for today I will have a quiet half hour all by myslef, and relax.  During this half hour, sometime, I will try to get a better perspective of my life.

Just for today I will be unafraid.  Especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful, and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.

Don’t know about you, but if I can just manage to do this much today – or even half this much today, my day – and my Maverick Life – will be called a success.  I’ll let you know how it all works out.

~M.

Jessica Seinfeld Gives Me a Victory

September 4th, 2008

After a dismal day as a mommy yesterday, I decided early this morning that I would make very intentional efforts to be a more present, conscious mom – and then promptly lost control of the morning before 7am.

At 7:25 breakfast wasn’t even started and we must walk out the door at 7:35 to be on time to school. Two choices before me: a) freak out and rush my son to the table, rush him to eat and rush him out the door.  OR b) whip up healthy french toast (thank you Jessica Seinfeld) with a little sweet potato in the batter, toasted it up, cut it into strips and have a “walking picnic” on the way to school. 

I am happy to report that I chose “b”.  May not be a big deal for some other mom, but it is a huge departure from my default, rush rush rush position.  And I am proud of myself.  Our walking picnic was light and fun.  The french toast took me 7 minutes from start to finish, we were out the door a few minutes early, so we could take our time as we walked and ate and talked.  And my son was happy and laughing when I said goodbye at the crosswalk. 

Not a bad way to start my day. 

~M.

8/29 Maverick Luxury – For Less Than $50!

August 29th, 2008

I am living in the lap of luxury.  Someone is in my house, cleaning out my refrigerator, cleaning out under my kitchen sink – and when she is done with that – she is going to run errands for me.  I feel like a maverick queen.  And the price tag for all of the decadence is a mere $12 an hour.  She will be here for 4 hours – so that means $48 buck buys me sanity, time and the priceless benefit of feeling like someone else is taking care of me for a change.

Now, you may be thinking that you could not find someone like the angel who is in my house as we speak.  I respectfully beg to differ.  My angel is a college student who is putting herself through school.  I am flexible about when she comes to my house (we work around her class schedule) and she is flexible about what tasks she does for me.  She has decided that she is basically my personal assistant and is game to help me with most anything.  Even my dog loves her.

So, I invite you to check out a local college – or even a high school – and see if you can find some help with those tasks that you don’t want to do – and that get in the way of living the maverick life.

Luxury does not have to be expensive.  It just has to feel like luxury:)

~M.

8/27 Happy Birthday, Angel Pie

August 27th, 2008

I cannot believe it’s been six years since you appeared in my life. I have so much to thank you for. You have made me a better person, a less selfish, self-centered person. I have learned to stop and notice the little things – because you always have.

You were such a tiny thing when I held you the first time – and now look at you – running across the street to school with friends without even looking back to see if I am there. Words fail me.

You’ve taught me a good bit about God and Heaven,too. I am so glad that you got to eat boloney sandwiches with God and Jesus while you were there and that Jesus is a big fan of making chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. It must have been fantastic to have him make that for you.

Your self-confidence and fearlessness is astonishing. I never felt as assured of my place in this world as you do. And, if I ever wonder if you will become reckless or self-centered because of it, all I have to do is watch you with your dog and all of your sensitive, thoughful ways become so obvious.

If I ever lose my way or feel uncertain of what it is I was put here for, you and your warm wiggly body that smells of bathtime and sleep set my heart and mind at rest every single night. You are my hearts desire and I can ask for nothing more.

So Happy Birthday my love. I hope today is one of the very best days of your life.

Love,
Mom

8/26 Psychological Damage in the School Lunch Line

August 26th, 2008

My son does not know his lunch number.  This is the six digit number that all students – including brand new kindergartners – must memorize to give to the Lunch Ladies at the check out station.  He does not know his.  Granted he was out sick most of last week so he missed several days of practice.  But his teacher just emailed me that he needed to work on it at home.

Which promptly set off every “Inferior Mom” bell and whistle I could possibly invent in my head.  And gave me immediate visions of my son standing at the checkout counter, unable to give his number, not being allowed to buy his lunch – and enduring everyone staring at him.  Yep, my brain is a very scary place sometimes. 

Will he suffer permanent psychological damage because I did not help him learn it fast enough?  Will he be sitting in his therapist’s office tracing all of his life troubles to the fact that “My mother did not teach me my lunch number as fast as the other moms taught their children”?  Will the Mom Police swoop down on me the next time I show my face at school?

Yes I know this is fear-based, unrealistic thinking.  Doesn’t matter.  My son is out loose in the world and I am not there to shield him and I want everything to be e-a-s-y for him – even though I know it won’t be and it would not serve him even if it were.  Still…..

But, the Maverick Mom will rally.  We will do lunch number drills tonight.  We will say it as we walk to school tomorrow.  We will master the power of the lunch number!

So glad I’m not insecure like “other” moms:)

~M.

Spiritually Out Of Shape

August 25th, 2008

So I completely over-reacted to a situation at my child’s school this morning.  Isn’t it nice to know that Maverick Moms screw up?!  The particulars are unimportant and I could offer a ton of excuses – starting with PMS and ending with seasonal mood disorder, but that bottom line is: I handled it poorly.

After running through all the reasons I was justified in my behavior, I still felt bad.  When that happens, I know I have acted in a way that is completely out of integrity for me – and I know better.  And, if truth be told, I’ve been overacting way more often than I care to think about.  Another red flag that I have some inner work to do.  When I feel bad physically – get tired too easily or my resilience drops, it is a huge indicator that I am out of shape physically.  When my behavior is out of line with my integrity, it is a huge indicator that I am out of shape spiritually.

My life journey has been long and colorful – as you will learn as I continue to write this blog.  Part of that journey has included coming to terms with my own spiritual fitness – or lack there of.  Before anyone jumps to conclusions, I am not talking about a particular religious bent or belief.  I am talking about my spirit and it’s connection with something bigger, great, higher that is benevolent and pulls me toward my better self.  I happen to call that power God.  Other call it goddess, or source or higher power.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter “what” I call this entity – it just matters “that” I call it.  Especially when I am in spiritual trouble. 

So, what is my plan?

First, go for a walk. No ipod, no companion, nothing to distract me from noticing what is going on in my thoughts, my hart, my spirit.  This helps me get present with whatever is going on.

Second, connect with someone or someones that I can talk to who will hear me without judgement one way or the other.  It will help me a ton if those I connect with are also in pursuit of leading a more connected, present, spiritual existence.

Third, and oh how I hate this part, clean up the mess I made this morning.  That means I have to apologize in a clean, grown up manner without trying to justify myself or point blame.  I actually teach my son and his friends to apologize using a formula that will stand me in good stead today.

“I am sorry I ___________ (fill in the blank with the specific behavior).  Will you forgive me?” 

I so don’t want to do that.  I would rather roll around in the mud of my justification, indignation and blame.  That feels oh so much better – at least temporarily.  But what I know is, to be the Maverick Mom, the present in the moment, connected, honest and vulnerable mom means that I must own up to my c-r-a-p and clean up my mess. Without that part, I am more or less eating ding-dongs on the treadmill. 

I’ll let you know how it goes.

~M.