Operational Alpha

Generally speaking I’m not the girl you want at your company-wide mandatory meeting.  Chances are I will be late, I will be checking my emails the entire time, I will make fun of the speaker with my neighbor, and I probably will have to leave early.  I blame it on undiagnosed ADHD.  It really has very little to do with the quality of the information delivered or the effectiveness of the speaker (although I have been known to cut some dismal speakers out at the knees).  It’s really just that I literally cannot sit still that long – again I blame the ADHD.

Oddly enough, no one seems to have gotten the message as I continue to be invited to these events.  And this week’s meeting was turning out to be par for the course.   Until the last set of speakers got up to talk.  Management may have finally figured out how to keep  me in line:  bring in a couple of Navy Seals and an arsenal of guns.  I kid you not, corporate brought in two Navy Seals to talk to us about something called Operational Alpha and how to apply it to our teams to make us more effective – blah, blah, blah, blah.

First thing I noticed is that not only did I shut up and give them my undivided attention but so did every other person in the room.  I swear you could hear a pin drop.  I couldnt’ figure out if it was the peaker’s demeanor, the fact that he could kill us with his bar hands, or the arsenal fo guns that kept us all in line but all I knew is that I wanted me some of that.

I spent the next hour trying to figure out how to steal some of their operational alpha for use at home.  I had visions of standing in front of my two squirrels – er sons – and commanding their rapt attention.  I am getting goosebumps just thinking about it now!  As the Seals talked I had fantasies of my two monsters at home obeying every order I barked out just like the Seals had us doing.  My heart races even now contemplating the possibilities:  pick up your room, brush your teeth, stop hitting your brother.  To never have to utter the words “because I said so” again is cause for celebration.  I sat there trying to figure out how to get what they have – command and control.

Then they showed us how they got their mojo – or operational alpha – by showing us clips from Hell Week.  Which if you haven’t seen before is, well, exactly what it sounds like:  http://youtu.be/3DeSyl1CGIQ

So I’ve decided to take my chances with the squirrels and leave the heavy lifting (and Hell Week) to the professionals.

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

Throughout my career and from time to time, management asks me to go through the exercise of filling out a professional version of the Cosmo quiz to figure out who I am and how to fix me – errr, help me reach my potential.  In my twenties I found these “professional personality tests” fascinating.  Mostly because I didn’t know who I was and was very appreciative that someone figured it out for me.  Now I find them to be ongoing affirmations of the fact that I’m exactly who I know I am.  And furthermore it’s pretty much a lost cause at this point in the game to try to get me to change much of anything.  But for some sick reason I still LOVE taking them!

So I was taking one of these bad boys last week when it dawns on me that my answers are likely identical to the answers my oldest son will be giving when it’s his turn to be figured out by management twenty years from now.  And as I am reading through the test results I realize that everything this test is pointing out about me are the exact things about my son that cause him to continuously dance on my last nerve.

It’s a teeny bit heartbreaking because I know I am all over my oldest son, who is demanding and never satisfied (like his mama), yet I completely baby my youngest son who is grateful to the point where he is happy just to be given the receipt from the shopping trip (I’m serious).  My husband is always telling me that our oldest is my fault.  And now I’m realizing while reviewing my test results that he is 100% right – at least according to my DISC profile!

I’m actually contemplating having our whole family take one of the profile tests to figure out how to fix all the bickering, tantrums, and wrestling that goes on in our home.  In fact, I’m thinking that hospitals should start mandating parents take these while in the labor in delivery rooms – you know when we’re all at our most honest.  Pediatricians should incorporate these tests into the four-year old check up – like here’s your measles, mumps, and rubella boosters and which of these four words best describes you.   This could revolutionize the way we interact as families.  Parents always complain that children don’t come with a manual – now we could give them one.  Mr. Smith, you see you are compliance oriented,  that is why it bothers you so much when your children leave their wet towels on the floor.  Here’s the best way to work toward a resolution with your children who aren’t in the least compliant.

Oh Lord, if it were only that simple!  But one can always dream!

Birthday Wishes

Birthdays are annual milestones by which we measure our life’s progress.  We dread them, we embrace them, we celebrate them, and sometimes we try to bribe the office admin to not send out a reminder email to the entire office that it is our birthday that week.

My personal favorite was my 25th birthday when me and my friend who had both turned 25 locked ourselves in her apartment, drank several bottles of red wine, and lamented how old we felt.  Simply tragic at the time.  Giggle-worthy every time I think of it now.  Because truly I don’t have any issues with birthdays anymore.  Well, at least my own that is.

The strange things about  being a parent is that though I find myself at ease about my own birthday I now find myself slightly anxious over my children’s big day.  And I’m not talking about the drama of picking Chuck E. Cheese’s over Pump It Up.  I’m talking about anxiety inducing time marker that is your child’s fifth, sixth, seventh, etc. birthday.  So when my son. Jack, turned seven this week it became a chance for me to obsess about all my shortcomings as a mother:  have I missed too many soccer games, am I too hard on him, do I go to easy on him, is he socially well-adjusted, will he become an ax murderer?

Then – and this could be my own insanity because I am a numbers girl – I start freaking myself out playing the math game:   if I double his age he’ll be fourteen and almost ready to leave me forever.  Time is running out and I feel  like I just gave birth to him yesterday.  Seven years passed me by in the wink of an eye.  If time continues to pass at this alarming rate he’ll be moving out in the equivalent of a nanosecond.  He’ll be gone and I’ll barely have had any time to pass along to him all he needs to know to survive in the world.  He’ll be eaten alive out there and it will be all my fault.

And just when my insanity threatened to spiral out of control, my friend Dara stepped in with a perspective only your best girlfriends can give you.  At my son’s birthday celebration, Dara presented me with a card containing the wisest words a mom will ever hear:  Good job not fucking up these past 7 years.  And she’s right.  I haven’t been the worst mother ever.  And my son is awesome – at least in part because of me.

Girls, Girls, Girls!

Perhaps it’s the combination of having spent the last twelve years of my life working in the heavily male dominated industry of banking and finance.  Perhaps it is the fact that I’ve spent most of those years working in one of the most image and body conscious cities in America, Scottsdale Arizona.  But whatever the reason there seems to be no shortage of restaurants designed to lure in businessmen for lunch and happy hour with the promise of seeing barley legal waitresses in barely legal attire.

Now just to be clear I have no beef with these enterprising young women, taking advantage of a need and making a tidy profit for their efforts.  Truth be told, I’d be a hypocrite if I bashed these gals as I put myself through college slinging drinks as a bartender and flirting with my clientele for tips.  To this day I know with certainty that I would not have had enough money for books or food if it hadn’t been for the heavy subsidy provided by my regulars, the “Kettle One” men (RIP Ted).

Here’s what I do have a beef with though. And I want all the men in every office across this great nation to be perfectly clear about this one thing:  most women don’t give a rat’s patootie that you are frequenting these establishments.  We don’t feel belittled or ostracized when you opt to eat there.

So when you are snickering with the other men in the office or “sneaking” (I use the word loosely because men are generally as subtle as freight trains) out to meet a client at these joints please just drop the act because we don’t care and your odd behavior is eye-roll worthy.

Now I’m sure most men are thinking this is some sort of woman trap designed to get you written up with HR.  Surely us women who don’t have eighteen year old asses and miniskirts with the thong sticking out of the top are on some level threatened by your blatant misogyny.  I can assure you, fellas, that is not the case.

The truth is we are not threatened by your choice of lunch spots.  We are embarrassed for you.  Like cringe worthy embarrassed.  Because it is sad.  Like old hooker with too much makeup sad.

And because of my perspective of having been one of those young girls with creepy older guys in suits needing a beer and a some attention, I can say in all honesty that we are not the only ones who are embarrassed for you.

And no, the waitress doesn’t really like you.  But she does like your wallet!

Tripping Out

I had to add this pic of my friend Renee’s daughter sleeping with her head shot while she was away.

 

 

 

One of the great joys in my life has always been travel.  When I was younger and worked in politics the extensive traveling I did during campaign season was exciting and interesting.  It was the chance for my wide-eyed twenty something year old self to explore and experiencing the world.  In my thirties, as a mom, I traveled much less for work – because of the babies.  Travel became my escape hatch, my chance to recharge my batteries, reconnect with my girlfriends – or let’s face it – get a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

You may have even seen the pictures of my on my girl’s trip to Santa Barbara last year.  Heaven.  That trip was Heaven.  Lot’s of wine, lots of girl talk, and no anxiety of having to make sure the two squirrels I call my children weren’t destroying private property.  What bliss!

Then on the night of may 21st that all changed.

I remember exactly where I was:  a hotel lobby in Flagstaff Arizona with my work soul sisters.  The three of us had decided to stay the night before a seminar we were presenting at so that we weren’t pressed for time the next day and of course to get some quality girl time in.   That night we were prepping for the next day while sipping on cocktails when I made the fateful decision to give a call back to base camp to say good night to the squirrels.  The good nights to my husband and oldest son were unremarkable.  But when my youngest got on the phone that all changed.

He started sobbing.

And through the sobs he was saying crazy things like I just miss you so much, mama.  When are you coming home mama?  I was broken-hearted.  I started to tear up.  I wanted to jump in the car and drive two hours back home and scoop him up in my arms.  And though my work soul sisters immediately brought another glass of Pinot Noir over to help dull the pain it was too late.  The damage had been done.  I was awash in guilt.  Working mom guilt.  Ugh.

As much as I tried to move past “the incident” it nagged at me.  Mostly because I knew I’d be ditching the kids three weeks later for a work trip to St. Louis.  So I spent the next three weeks telling both boys about the cool presents I would bring them back from Missouri.  Like a prison guard at Gitmo I relentlessly drilled into their heads that this would be a “very short trip” and that they “wouldn’t miss me at all.”

Between the bribery and the brain washing it seemed to do the trick.  I came home last night after being away four days and am happy to report that neither boy seemed overly concerned I was gone.

Here’s the kicker though.  I spent so much time feeling anxious and guilty about leaving them that I barely slept while I was away.  Yes let me repeat that:  I had a quiet room, all to myself, with no dog hair in the bed, I could watch whatever I wanted to on tv, there were no squirrels or 120 pound dogs trying to cuddle me at 3am and I had three nights of the worst sleep of my life.  I can hear your collective gasps.

So while I’m not willing to give up on trips without kids, I am realizing that my relationship to travel has transformed yet again.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing that my kids like me enough that they want me around.  I just have some work to do to reconcile myself to this new reality – the good and the bad parts.

I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours

I already know I am going to piss everyone off with this posting so bring it!

This week in Washington the Democrats played mean eight grade girl politics and pushed for a vote  on a pay equality bill which died in the Senate:  http://www.denverpost.com/nationworld/ci_20790507/senate-bill-pay-equality-fails-proceed

The Dems basically want to get the Republicans on the record voting against anything that might be viewed as pro-woman as they build their case for the Republicans being a bunch of misogynistic pigs.  So while, as a woman, I support the bill I really, really, really hate, as a woman,  being used as a pawn in a game.  But you know, I’m not surprised, as that’s how DC operates most of the time.

Let me be clear I support that bill.  It’s main purpose was to pierce the cone of silence that surrounds unfair treatment of women in the workplace.  Specifically it would allow workers to discuss pay and compensation openly, without threat of retaliation by their employer.  On the surface it seems silly that there’d even have to be legislation around this issue.  Until, that is, you get a few glasses of wine in a group of working women.  We all have our own horror stories to share – kind of like veterans comparing war wounds – fighting for the same expense accounts and car allowances that are handed out to male colleagues, having commissions cut while on maternity leave, downsized while seven months pregnant.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s some mass conspiracy to keep us women in our places – you know barefoot and pregnant.  I just think we as a society still hold onto a lot of old school thinking that doesn’t reflect the current state of affairs.  For instance, when I got pregnant with my first child everyone asked me if I was going to stay home.  I mean EVERYONE.  To the point I considered having a t-shirt made up that read:  No, I am not staying home.  After one particularly lousy day at the office, where I had spent half the day convincing people I wasn’t bailing after I had the baby I turned to my husband and asked him how many people had asked him if he would be staying home with the baby.  He, knowing there was no safe answer, did what every husband does when faced with an unwinnable situation; he just stared at me blankly.

The sad truth is I had to go back to work.  And most women who work do it because our families depend on our income – especially given the current global economic crises.  But there’s still this underlying mentality that men are the breadwinners and the cornerstone of our families finances.  There has to be or just as many people would have asked my husband about his commitment to return to work once our first child was born.

To me that’s the sad part of the death of the pay equality legislation.  I think it would have created an opportunity to talk openly and honestly about the things we either keep to ourselves or vent about over a glass of chardonnay.  I guess I’ll just have to organize more happy hours.

 

The Ultimate Vacation

This week I realized I am truly sick.  Or in desperate need of a vacation.  Possibly both.

The realization came to me in a blinding flash of clarity earlier this week.  I was in my car zoning out to NPR when they started talking about a Las Vegas woman, Miki Sudo, who had called in a bomb threat to a Phoenix bound plane her boyfriend was on http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/vegas-woman-probation-aircraft-bomb-hoax-16461213 .  Now here’s where it gets weird.  The broadcaster goes onto say in his soothing monotonous voice that the sentence handed this brainiac is probation and – wait for it – TEN MONTHS OF HOUSE ARREST!  For real!

But here’s where it gets pathetic.  As I’m listening to the announcer I feel my whole body flush with anger and  – again wait for it – jealousy.  Yes it’s true, my gut reaction to this mental midget’s punishment is jealousy.

Because I’m thinking to myself:  What I wouldn’t give to have ten months of The Real Housewives (of anywhere), Law & Order, and What Not To Wear marathons!  I would finally have time to clean out, organize, and put down shelf paper (just the thought of shelf paper sends shivers down my spine) in my disaster of a pantry.  My linen closets would be impeccable.  Every single painting and decorating project would be completed.  My floors would be spotless – like Martha Stewart spotless.  My base boards would sparkle.  I’d finally have time to finish the Charles Darwin biography I’ve been struggling with for the last year and a half, along with Fifty Shades of Grey, and any other remotely interesting e-book my neighbor has in her Kindle account.  I’d have killer arms because I’d finally have time to use the Shake Weight I bought to tone up for my twentieth high school reunion.  Currently it sits forlornly in the corner of my closet (my husband would be ecstatic I’m finally using it – but I’ll save that for another post).  My dogs would be groomed and smell fantastic – even their breath.  Heaven.  My ten months of house arrest would be pure Heaven.

So I’m thinking of calling up the sentencing judge, Kent Dawson, and asking him to think about possibly sending Miki Sudo to my house for ten months of hard labor.  In the meantime, I’ve signed up for a subscription of Conde Naste Traveler.

Til Death Do Us Part

Marriage is hard.  Let me repeat for effect:  Marriage is hard.  It is mostly awesome but damn, is it hard sometimes.  I have ten years of marriage under my belt.  Semi-significant but certainly not medal-worthy.  But ten years gives you a bit of a perspective.  And I can say in all honesty that I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I eloped at age 27.  And thank God because there’s a good chance I might not have been brave enough to take that leap.

But here I am – and here is where a lot of working mothers find ourselves.  We’re like a bunch of hamsters running around on our own little treadmills:  wake up, work out, go to office, pick up kids, go to (soccer, t-ball, gymnastics, dance) practice, get home, cook dinner, fall into bed.  Romantic, eh?  Most night my husband and I just grunt and nod at each other while watching “Modern Family” on TiVo.  And that’s on a good night – one that I don’t have a client appointment, or he is crashing on a project, or I’m drinking with my friends (my bar bills are way cheaper than therapy).

And don’t even get me started on the weekends!  Is it me or have weekends become an endless round of children’s’ birthday parties, play dates, food shopping, house cleaning, yard work, various family obligations, and of course (soccer, t-ball, gymnastics, dance) practice?  I’m lucky to squeeze in a little church and then by the time Sunday night rolls around I’m ready for bed so I can get up and start it all over again Monday morning.  Lovely.

So when is it exactly that I am supposed to be carving out time to get my groove on with the man I’m spending the rest of my life with?  The answer is never.  There is never a good time, or a quiet moment, or a perfect opportunity to enjoy your husband.  So don’t wait for the time to be right or you’ll be divorced or eighty and married to a stranger.  Marriage doesn’t take commitment.  Being happily married does!  So commit to dating your husband on a regular basis.  Go out to dinner without the children.  Drop the kids at your parents house for the night and just stay in.  Hire the questionable twelve-year-old next door for a few hours and spend an hour at the local wine bar with your life partner.  I don’t care what you do or how you do it but just do it!

Because marriage is hard, but falling in love all over again with the man you married is a piece of cake.

Me and Young M.C.

I have to start off by apologizing for the misleading title and the shameless self-promotion of me with one of the most influential (in my book at least) rap artists of the 90’s – a decade of which I am extremely fond.  Okay so with that out-of-the-way, here’s the reason I’m babbling about Young M.C.:  through a weird confluence of events which includes a barely understandable cell phone message I found myself the co-host of a young professional event for my friend Andrei Cherny who is running for Congress here in the great (and at times slightly twisted) state of Arizona.  But here’s the best part:  wait for it…wait for it…the event featured Young M.C.!!!  Ladies I know you are thinking what I was thinking – NO WAY!  But in fact:  WAY.

So I get to the event and if you can’t tell from the photo I am about “busting a move” myself to meet Young M.C.  And when I finally did I have to say he was all I had hoped for and more – smart, polite, funny, real (and as I found out because I am that nosy, technically single.  Although he seems to be enamored of a particular gal at the moment – but ladies this one is a catch).

So here is where I veer off into the point – and it has nothing to do with (sigh) Young M.C..  My point is that I’m at this political event and it hits me full force that nothing will make you interested in politics like having a baby will.  I’ll admit that before I had children I was awfully one dimensional.  I voted the straight Democratic ticket because I was raised to believe Republicans were Satan (my parents were hippies, you’ll have to cut me some slack).  But as we all know, the minute we have that first baby all bets are off.  And I think that is especially true of moms.

I’ve been working in banking and finance for 13 years.  Guess what it feels like when I hear candidates bashing “Wall Street?”  I also had been staunchly pro-choice my whole life.  But when those double lines showed up on that stick I realized I wasn’t “kinda” pregnant – and don’t get me started on the ultrasound! Now I’m not trying to influence anyone one way or another but I am trying to be honest about the fact that pregnancy changes everything – including how you vote – or at least how you measure your candidates.

All of a sudden it doesn’t matter so much if a candidate has a “D” or an “R” after their name.  What matters is that they are people just like us who care about what we care about.  And here is like the greatest secret on the planet:  during the primaries you get to see these folks up close and personal.  Right now in the election cycle you get to meet these people for yourself and take the measure of them as human being.  There’s no spokesperson between you and them.  There’s no media force field buffering their voice.  At this fundraiser for Andrei you could have paid $40 and met him and his wife.  And you would have been able to ask him ANYTHING YOU WANTED TO!  And you would have been able to hang out with him and feel how he is an easy-going, down to Earth, kind, and incredibly smart man.  Then you would have met his wife Stephanie and that would have sealed the deal.  Because she is one of us!  She is a strong working mom just like us.  Balancing all the ridiculous things that we deal with every day.  You’ll never get that from a campaign ad or a soundbite on the news.

So I’m begging you:  go out and meet the candidates.  Find out if they are going to help keep our school systems strong, and our streets safe, and create jobs to help stabilize working families – or whatever the heck you are into!  But don’t let this opportunity pass you by!

In the word of one of the greatest artists of all time:  “Don’t just stand there, busta move!”

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