A Promise to You…

Dear Soph-

I’ve had cause recently to really reflect on what it means to be a parent. What that role is…what it should be, anyway. It’s certainly not an easy job by any means. Especially with all the curve balls life may throw your way. I’ll be honest, I don’t have all the answers – I am far from perfect – and sometimes I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing. All I know is that I love you more than anything in this world and there are a few things I can promise you…

I will not treat you like a friend. You are my child. As you grow up, I hope our relationship transforms from parent-child to great friends. But right now, I am your mom.

I will not burden you with my fears, or my worries, or my concerns about my job…my marriage…my health…my future.

I will not expect you to make me whole.

I will not use you as a crutch.

I will not expect you to be my therapist.

I will not expect a level of maturity out of you that you have not yet grown into.

I will not make you worry about me.

During difficult or challenging times in my life, I will not say mean, hurtful things to you to try and bring you down to my miserable level.

I will be the grown up.

I will be the mature one.

I will be wise enough, and mentally and emotionally strong enough to know that you deserve to be a child.

I am your safe place.

I will help make you whole.

I will be your crutch during difficult times.

I will be your sounding board.

I will guide you as you grow into a mature young woman.

I will worry about you.

And, most importantly, I will not turn my back on you.

Love, Mom

How Do You Solve a Problem Like an Introvert?

Dear Soph-
Your dad and I went out for a “date night” recently. We went to dinner and then decided to walk a bit before heading home. There was a Barnes and Noble bookstore nearby so…that’s where we decided to walk.

I tell ya, kid, I was in heaven. I’d forgotten how much I love bookstores. I could spend hours in a bookstore.

It brought me back to high school and college when I used to go with my friends…all. the. time. We would wander for a bit, pick out some books or magazines that interested us and then sit in the café area engrossed in our finds. It’s where I was first introduced to Chai tea…a delicious drink that tastes, as my friends and I declared, like “Fall in a cup.”

I mentioned that to your dad as we walked back to the car. How I used to spend hours in the nearby Borders Books.

“By yourself?” he asked, laughing the way he does when he points out how nerdy I can be.

“Not all the time.” I responded, a bit defensively “I went with friends, too.”

But the more I thought about it, I realized there were PLENTY of times that I was by myself.

I love to be myself. Not all the time, of course. But I do need – and thoroughly enjoy – some occasional alone time. Oh what I could do with a free day all to myself. I’m giddy just thinking about it.

You see, kid, I’m an introvert.

It’s become quite the trend nowadays to declare your affinity for this particular camp. Cries of “I’m not weird, I’m an introvert” can be heard from Facebook to Twitter, emblazoned on mugs and t-shirts. May be a bit overkill for some people, but I understand the urge to join the charge. For the longest time, I thought I was just weird (ok, ok…I am weird). But to know I’m not alone in my personality quirks and my preferences for social interaction (or lack thereof) is, admittedly, comforting.

My unique personality and take on life make your dad chuckle and shake his head almost daily. Things like:

Why call Customer Service when you can email or instant message your question?

Why answer the door when you can stealthily travel from window to window until you can see what kind of car is in the driveway and then make a more informed decision about who could possibly be ringing your doorbell at 10:30 in the morning on a Wednesday?

Your dad is a tried and true extravert. He loves being around people and he can talk to anyone. The thought of a free Saturday night spent at home watching a movie just doesn’t float his boat. He is completely at home in a large group of people – even if he doesn’t know anyone.

I, on the other hand, cringe at the thought of having to make small talk with new people I meet. I don’t know how to do it. It comes naturally to your dad. It does not come naturally to me. I’m either consumed with trying to come up with a topic of conversation, mentally critiquing whatever just came out of my mouth, or trying to find a way to exit the conversation in a logical, not-awkward-or-out-the-blue way.

But that’s ok.

I think it’s one of the reasons your dad and I are a good match. It’s one of the many ways we balance each other out. And he’s really helped get me out of my shell now and then.

But I’m far from a hermit, so please don’t get me wrong here. I’ve just always been a little slower to warm up to people and I don’t let just anyone in my bubble. It can be harder for me to “put myself out there,” as they say, but I still do it. Remind me to tell you some stories about my (laughable) attempt at pledging a sorority in college.

It’s really only when I’m truly comfortable with someone that I open up. It’s just the way I am.

And that’s ok.

Unfortunately, I spent some of my years thinking there was something wrong with me. Growing up I often felt awkward about my personality. Like it was a problem to be fixed.

I realize now that it’s not a problem. It never was. It’s just me.

And I want you to think the same way about yourself.

Whether you smile brightly at people on the train, open and eager to make conversation with potential new friends around you…or you put your laptop bag next to you on the seat, ear buds firmly inserted, to ensure you sit by yourself.

Whether your idea of a great Saturday night is in the middle of the dance floor at the most popular place in town…or at home on your couch under a blanket with freshly painted fingernails, a stack of magazines next to you and Everybody Loves Raymond reruns on TV.

Whether your circle of friends is so large that you can’t name them all…or you can count them on one hand (and they’ve become like sisters to you – ladies, you know who you are).

Whatever your personality…please know, that it’s ok. It’s better than ok. It’s great. Because it’s you. And you are amazing. Outgoing extravert or reserved introvert. Or maybe you’ll be something in between. Embrace it. Try to stretch out of your comfort zone now and again. But embrace it.

Love, Mom

 

On Being Humble…

imageDear Soph-
I have no doubt you will be a talented woman. Be it music, art, athletics, writing, science, math…whatever it is, I know you will find your talent. And you may be so talented one day that you stand out from the crowd. No one will be more proud of you than me and your dad.

I want you to be proud of yourself and your accomplishments. I want you to have confidence in your abilities. I certainly wouldn’t want you to shy away from the spotlight.

At the same time, I want you to remember that too much ego will kill your talent.

Stay humble.

I can’t think of a better person to illustrate this point than Mr. Kanye West: hip hop artist and wannabe clothing designer.

I – along with a sizeable portion of the population – am wishing on every shooting star that by the time you are old enough to read this, Mr. West is but a distant memory. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t wish any ill will on the man. But if he fell from the spotlight and decided to hole himself up in a remote cabin deep in the back woods of who-the-hell-cares, I certainly wouldn’t lose any sleep.

The thing about Kanye – or “Yeezus” as he prefers to be called – is…well…it’s just that. He gave himself the nickname “Yeezus.” And wrote a song called “I am a God.” And considers himself to be the “nucleus of all society.”

Really.

He thinks he is God’s gift to the Earth. He thinks everything he does is genius. And he never hesitates to let the world know. The phrase “overinflated ego,” while true, just doesn’t seem to cover him. He is beyond full of himself. He lacks even the smallest ounce of humility.

To my surprise, there are many people out there who agree with him…that he is a genius in the music world. In all honesty, what the hell do I know? Maybe he is. I know nothing about what it takes to write or perform hip hop music.

But I will never be able to get past his attitude. Any appreciation I might have for his music or his talent is completely overshadowed by my all out dislike of him as a human being. Because he lacks the ability to be humble. And I find that obnoxious.

His recent performance on Saturday Night Live was actually what sparked this letter. Your dad and I sat through two songs, watching him hop around on stage, mumbling incoherently into the microphone, surrounded by a group of truly gifted singers.

I realize he has many fans who would have considered that performance “genius” or “inspired.”

All I saw was an egomaniacal asshat in a bedazzled letterman jacket lying face down on a mirrored stage while the choir behind him sang their asses off and showed him how it’s done.

But here’s the thing kid, I’ll be the first to admit that I fall short when it comes to this concept. Only I skew the other way. I struggle with confidence.

I was blessed with the ability to sing…and sing well. And I don’t just mean I can carry a tune. When I was in high school and college, my focus was opera. A genre that doesn’t exactly make room for karaoke queens. I was even awarded a scholarship to a relatively competitive school of music.

Even writing that makes me a little uncomfortable. I’ve never been good at tooting my own horn. It feels strange to me. Maybe Kanye could loan me some of that confidence.

I guess what I’m saying is this: You can be confident in your talent and your abilities and, at the same time, refrain from commandeering the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards waxing lyrical about how you’re so awesome that you’ll be running for president (Google that reference when you get older…I wouldn’t classify it as “entertaining” but it was certainly a spectacle).

But really…be proud of your accomplishments. Be confident. Toot your own horn, when it’s appropriate to do so. But at the same time, remain humble. Appreciate the gift that is your talent. And try to be mindful of how often – and how loudly – you sing your own praises from the rooftops.

I’ll be up there doing that enough for you anyway.

Love, Mom

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Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot…

Dear Soph-
This year is rapidly coming to an end and 2016 will be here before we know it. A popular topic nowadays is New Year’s resolutions. I don’t make them every year. Historically, I’ve been so specific and lofty that I failed before I even started.

So this year, I thought I’d take a different tack. I want to make some general changes. Things that will benefit me, first and foremost. Things that will make me happier. Because when I’m happier, I can be a better mom and wife.

Make better choices
There are a few things that fall under this umbrella.

Making better choices when it comes to my health is high on the list. Now that I’m getting up there in age, I need to stop taking my health for granted. Every creak and pain has me running for good old Dr. Google lately (if your Grandma Mimi is reading this, she is rolling her eyes – I’m the resident hypochondriac of the family).

Move more and eat less. Maybe “less” isn’t the right word exactly. There are certain things I should eat less of…but overall, it’s just being smarter about what I’m choosing to put in my body.

Get regular checkups. I currently don’t have a Primary Care Doctor and haven’t been to one since I was in my early 20’s. Good news, kid, I’ve already made strides on this one. Appointment has been made (she types, as she pats herself on the shoulder).

The point being that I want to be around as long as possible for you.

I also want to make better choices when it comes to how I react to things in my life. I have my moments where I’m able to not sweat the small stuff…but there are plenty of times when I do. I sweat. And sweat. And it adds stress to my life that is, quite simply, not needed.

This year, I want to try to be calmer. Stress less. Let things go. RELAX. Realize that each year has its seasons of ups and downs. And to know – and really believe – that in those seasons when I’m down, I won’t always be that way.

Try to not be so hard on myself
Again, many things fall under this.

This blog is a prime example. It’s been a while – a long while – since I last posted. And I’ve been beating myself up over that. But you know what? Oh well. Life gets in the way sometimes.

And on those occasions when I “should have” been writing, I was playing with you instead. Or exercising. Or reacquainting myself with the piano. Or enjoying a cup of coffee while listening to the Chairman of the Board. Or watching a movie with dad. So I was spending my time the way I needed to be.

I’m hard on myself when it comes to you, too. In some ways, this is good. But there are times when I need to put it all in perspective.

Case in point, we had a rather hefty snowfall here before Thanksgiving. About a foot of snow. The next day when I dropped you off at daycare, I saw that every other parent had remembered to bring their child’s snowsuit and snow boots to school that day.

I hadn’t even bought you any at that point.

I felt like the worst mom ever. I pictured all your little friends gallivanting in the snow. And you…ill-equipped, alone and sad…stuck on the concrete in your jeggings and sneakers.

What I should have done was taken a breath and realized that you’re only 17 months old. And that you didn’t have a clue that I’d dropped the ball and were not phased in the slightest.

Instead, I immediately went to four different stores in search of boots small enough to fit your tiny feet. I also bought snow pants in varying sizes and patterns (a girl has to match, after all).

Hasn’t snowed a lick since then, of course. It’s actually been in the 50’s ever since. So…yeah.

Put my gratitude on paper
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face…I am very blessed. Much more so than I deserve.

One of the things I want to start doing is writing down the many things for which I am thankful. There’s something about seeing things written down on paper. Something you can go back to when you need a little reminder. It helps me. It puts things in perspective. Maybe I’ll start incorporating it in my letters to you. Maybe I’ll just keep a journal for myself.

Either way, I want to commit to this practice. It’s something I want to pass on to you. Not just the act of writing down what you’re grateful for…but really, truly being GRATEFUL. Realizing what you have. Seeing each and every little tiny thing that makes your life so wonderful.

It doesn’t always have to be something big. More often than not, it’s the little things that add up.

And when you take stock of it all, you realize that life is good.

So there you have it. I know I won’t be perfect. But I’m going to TRY.

Happy New Year, kid! The best is yet to come.

Love, Mom

On the Subject of Dating…

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Dear Soph-
While running an errand on my lunch break today, I was stopped at a stop light when a group of high school kids walked by (apparently they get half days every other Wednesday…who knew). There were six of them…three boys and three girls…all paired off like they were marching towards an ark. The couple leading the pack walked hand in hand. He chomped on some gum like a baby calf while she gazed adoringly up at him.

Normally, I wouldn’t give much thought to this, but I was so distracted by what this kid was wearing. Gray sweatpants. And no shirt.

I instantly assumed the poor boy had fallen, hit his head, and woke up confused thinking he was Mark Wahlburg circa 1991. That was the only logical explanation I could think of for him looking like a complete douche. But upon closer inspection of his mediocre attempt at swagger, I realized this look was intentional.

Where was this young man’s shirt? I thought to myself…suddenly concerned that his Justin Bieber physique looked chilly.

And that’s when I noticed his girlfriend. Hanging onto his hand and struggling to keep up. Why was she struggling to keep up, you ask? Because she was carrying both of their book-laden backpacks.

And his shirt.

At this point they were walking past my car and the young man looked directly at me. I made a huge deal of rolling my eyes at him – like the judgmental old person I’ve become. And I couldn’t help but feel sorry for his girlfriend. She probably thinks she’s happy. She probably tells herself she doesn’t mind toting his crap around like a pack mule. But I refuse to believe that. Now, I could certainly be wrong here, but just this snapshot in time told me this was a one-sided relationship.

I immediately thought of you. I would never want that to be you.

I have a lot of advice on the subject of boys and dating that I will share at the appropriate time, but after witnessing this spectacle, I felt compelled to say the following:

Number one… Don’t date someone who thinks it’s acceptable to walk around in public with his nipples hanging out.

Number two… Don’t EVER be with someone who treats you like his own personal butler. You carry NO MAN’s backpack. And certainly no man’s shirt.

Respect yourself first. Respect whomever you date. And demand respect in return.

Love, Mom

Knowing Your Worth in the Real World

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Dear Soph-
I was two weeks away from college graduation and interviewing for my very first “real” job. It was a publishing company and I was interviewing for a position on their promotions team.

It started off well enough. The interviewer seemed funny. She regaled me with personal stories of promotional events, projects she’s worked on, authors she’d met. She talked and talked. And I listened. I would try to interject a question here and there to show my interest, but mostly, she just talked. Aaaaaaaand talked.

Then came the pop quiz. And it went something like this:
Her: “I’m going to give you a scenario – you tell me what happened and how you would handle it. You have a book signing set up. You and the author are there, a line of fans is quickly forming, but the author’s books are nowhere to be found. Even though the delivery service confirmed delivery. What happened?”
Me: “Ummmm…maybe the store manager received the delivery and accidentally put all the books out on the shelves for sale?”
Her: “Possibly…but, no, that’s not what happened. What happened?”
Me: “Were they delivered to the wrong location?”
Her: “Could be…but no.”
Me: “Okaaaaaaaayyyyy…” Awkward silence.
Her: “What happened was another manager had put the box of books in a back storeroom, but didn’t tell anyone.”

More awkward silence. Me nodding, with a perplexed look on my face trying to appear engrossed. The storeroom, you say? Fascinating.

After I’d miserably failed her whodunit caper, and she realized we were coming up on our hour time slot, this is how she chose to end the interview:
Her: “You know, I don’t think you’d be a good fit here. We need someone who can be a leader, not a follower.”
Me: “And I’ve given you the impression that I’m not a leader?”
Her: “Let me put it this way…if you came to work one day and you saw one of your coworkers wearing a black leather mini skirt, fishnet stockings, sky high stilettos and a dog collar, I think you’re the type of person who would come to work the next day wearing the same thing.”
Me: “A dog collar?”
Her: “Yes, that’s what I think.”

I could have told her she was wrong (which she so obviously was). I could have tried to defend myself. But what was the point? She was clearly the type of person who was quick to judge and yet a terrible judge of character. And not only that, she thought it appropriate to voice that judgment to me. After allowing me to utter a grand total of about 7 words during the entire “interview.” You may think I’m exaggerating when I say the only questions she asked me revolved around the “mystery of the missing books.” But I’m not.

So why would I  want to work for someone who took so little interest in me, but was ready and willing to trash me as a person? All that mattered is that I knew she was wrong. I couldn’t have cared less if she knew it. I would be successful – and happier – without her. This laughable misjudgment on her part would, ultimately, turn out to be her loss. I was a mere infant in the professional world, but I had enough respect for myself to realize that.

And you need to realize that, too. Even when you’re just starting out. When you’re nervous about your first real job. You’re scared no one will hire you. You’re intimidated or worried about how you will be perceived. The whole weight of this “grown up” thing is bearing down on you. Believe me, kid, I’ve been there. But keep that respect for yourself. You have a tremendous amount to offer. You are smart. You are accountable. You are hard working. You are kind. Know your worth. If they don’t see it, then it’s their loss. And don’t let ANYONE disrespect you. Don’t let anyone make you feel inferior. I don’t care how important their title may sound.

So, instead of launching into a passionate defense about how I would never be a follower – how I always strive to be a leader and encourage others – blah blah blah, I simply thanked her for her time (knowing when to pick your battles is another lesson I need to teach you). She smiled, walked around the desk and held out her business card for me to take. I smiled,  took her business card and crushed it in my hand.

Dog collar, my ass.

Love, Mom

Don’t Be an A**hole at the Office

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Dear Soph-
I’ve worked in the corporate world for some time now…it can be an interesting place…full of interesting people. Whatever career you embark on after college, Corporate America or not, these tips will serve you well.

Cube Etiquette: Take your private calls on your cell phone – outside
I’m not saying you can’t call a friend (or your mommy!) from your desk; however, if you think there is even the slightest chance that you may raise your voice – or if you’re talking about something that you really wouldn’t want your coworkers to hear, then take a walk.

I sat next to a woman a few years ago who was always having inappropriate conversations at her desk. And when I say inappropriate, I mean yelling profanities like she was at a boxing match. She provided a fair amount of gossip fodder for the ol’ water cooler, but the time that takes the cake was her screaming battle with the poor folks at her cable provider. If I remember correctly, she was trying to get some charge reversed on her bill and having little luck.

They kept putting her on hold and passing her from one representative to the next, because – I can only assume – she was so verbally abusive to each person who picked up the phone.

“I can’t keep holding,” she seethed through gritted teeth, “I have a f*cking JOB!”

“Do you understand what that means? Or do you not understand because you’re just a f*cking customer service rep?!”

“Don’t put me on hold again.”

“Don’t…don’t put me…DO NOT PUT ME ON HOLD AGAIN!”

This went on for the better part of a half hour.

I couldn’t believe what was happening. I just stared at my computer screen unable to concentrate on my work. I half expected John Quinones to pop over my cube wall with the What Would You Do? camera crew in tow.

“Now, Emily, tell us why you didn’t step in here.”

“Well, John, because she’s batshit crazy.”

Email Etiquette: Think before hitting send
First and foremost…go easy on the “Reply All” option. We recently endured not one, but two, instances where someone sent an email to a group list (of several hundred – if not several thousand – employees) by mistake. I opened the email and realized, within about an eighth of a second, that it was an accident and was not meant for me. So I deleted it. What followed started off as funny and then just became sad. Hundreds…and I mean HUNDREDS…of people hitting “Reply All:”

“I think this was sent to me by mistake.”

“I don’t handle X, Y and Z.”

“You have the wrong John Smith.”

“Please remove me from the list, I don’t support this area.”

“Hey everyone, stop replying all!”

“STOP REPLYING ALL!!!!!!!!!!”

“This was sent to me in error…I’m not on that team.”

“Seriously just delete these emails…STOP REPLYING ALL!!! You are clogging up everyone’s email boxes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The irony was completely lost on all these people “replying all” and then angrily typing “STOP HITTING REPLY ALL.”

At some point, some jokester sent a picture of a goat to everyone and then the “reply all’s” seemed to die down. Good times.

Another thing that really grinds my gears is when people leave me hanging. I understand people are busy; I understand you might not be able to get back to someone right away or you might need a day or two to look into a request. But if someone sends you an email asking for your help at least let them know you’re working on it. Have the common courtesy to say “Hey, got your email…need to look in to this…I’ll get back to you by Friday.” Don’t leave anyone hanging. It’s unprofessional. And just plain rude.

Meeting Etiquette: Get in, get out, get on with your work
I’ve sat through A LOT of meetings. Some are extremely productive…most are not. Thankfully, I have found myself working for a leadership team that seems to know the difference and has narrowed down meetings to only the essentials. But when you find yourself in one of those pointless, agonizingly long and drawn out, seriously-just-send-me-an-email-instead-of-making-me-sit-here meetings, please keep the following in mind:

Do not ask a question just for the sake of asking a question and do not speak just for the sake of hearing your own voice. Nothing irritates me more than someone stating something blatantly obvious or paraphrasing the speaker’s words right back at them in an effort to appear more engaged or insightful than the rest of us who are probably glazed over staring at our blank notepads. Believe me, no one is sitting there thinking “Wow, John is so insightful…what a great question.” Instead, they’re thinking “Awesome…thanks for making us run over, John.”

If you are hosting a meeting that involves any kind of projection or technology – GET TO THE CONFERENCE ROOM EARLY AND SET EVERYTHING UP BEFORE THE MEETING BEGINS. Seriously.

If you are given a work phone, do not bring it in a meeting and if you do, do not sit there emailing. Unless you are working with a Vice President or above – or you are the Vice President or above – it can wait. I highly doubt the company will fold if you need to wait an hour to respond to an email.

Try to avoid using buzzwords. If I hear “low hanging fruit,” “quick win,” “value add” or “bandwidth” one more time…

So there you have it, kid. I could probably blather on here, but I figured I’d give you the three most important ones in my book. Oh and if you’re going to talk trash about someone, don’t do it over email…do it over coffee. Never leave a paper trail.

Love, Mom