The End

Grief is action

It’s doing whatever it takes.

Being there.

It’s the crossing of every boundary.

Grief is wanting more time, but wishing for the end.

It’s letting another’s peace come before your own.

It’s the forgetting of self, the end of everything small and petty, the epitome of love and understanding.

Grief is waiting.

It’s saying goodbye.

It’s feeling like it will never end, but yet like it’s all moving too fast.

Grief is the quiet moments.

It’s the promises made.

It’s facing the end and learning to live without a part of your heart.

Grief is a wash of gray, a numbness.

It’s feeling fine and devastated.

It’s feeling thankful and angry.

It’s the silent prayers, the one-way conversations.

Grief is the tears, the robber of sleep, the stealer of joy.

It is the slow, burning longing inside to go back, even if for just a moment.

It’s knowing things will never be the same.

It’s not knowing what to do, what to say, how to act.

Grief is feeling lost, alone in a sea of people.

It’s the painful feeling that comes with the memories, the images of a face you can no longer touch, the feeling of the hand you can no longer hold.

It’s the heartache, a heavy weight.

Grief is a time. It’s a place. It’s an ocean with no horizon.

Grief is unnerving, unapologetic, a quiet lamb and a ferocious beast.

It is the end of life.

It is an unfinished story.

Grief is watching the world pass you by for a while.

It’s having no idea of how to move forward, but knowing you will.

Grief is a moment at a time.

An Open Letter to my Children 2019

I’m on a flight somewhere over the great state of Kentucky, headed to sunny San Diego. We’ve not reached cruising altitude quite yet, and a few small bumps here and there keep reminding me of my fear of flying. Can this momma get a mimosa over here?

When I think of why I fear flying the truth is that I can’t imagine not making it back home to my husband and children. I left them this morning, all in some state of morning sleepiness. We gave hugs and kisses. We said “I love yous” and “I’ll see you soons”. I stole one final look at each one of them to get me through the next five days. I let their image, their sweet little squishy faces, sear into my brain, and I didn’t allow myself to think about the treasure I was leaving behind, certain that the tears would come, and I wouldn’t make it out the door.

So while I’m in the air praying not to die, missing my kiddos, I figure this is the perfect time to think back over the past year and write them the annual “Open Letter to my Children” letters. The kiddos have actually been asking me to write this blog and asking me to read the prior years’ letters to them. My heart swells knowing this has become a tradition for us and that they truly appreciate seeing themselves through my eyes. So here we go year 2019 of motherhood. It’s been a great one.

Jace –

You are ten years old. You just finished the fourth grade, which is totally bizarre for me, because I can remember when I was in the fourth grade. And yet, somehow, I now have a fifth grader on my hands. And while in some ways I wish I could say that ten is just a number and that you’re still my little baby boy, that is not the truth. I have watched you grow and mature this year into a young man that I am extremely proud of.

You learned the value of studying and preparation this year. When your science grades came in lower than what you had hoped for, you focused and put the work in every single day until you grades reflected your good study habits. You brought your study guide to me everyday and together we covered the material, even before your teacher asked you to. That made me so proud of you.

You wrestled for the first time this year, and Bud, you were a natural. You’ve always complained about being shorter or lighter than other boys your age, but in wrestling you found that your size, mixed with your strength and speed were an absolute advantage, and you excelled. In baseball, you overcame frustration with batting and have started getting hits from the live pitcher. You have a different coach from the past few years and I’ve been impressed that you’ve been able to speak up when needed and form a relationship with him on your own. You’ve learned things like the importance of carrying your own gear to and from the field and thanking us as your parents just for getting you to the game. Your coach this year has focused on teaching respect and responsibility, and I’ve seen you take pride in those lessons.

You’ve continued to be a leader among your friends, still always concerned with others choices about things like cussing and spending too much time online, but you’ve also learned that you can’t choose for others…they have to make their own choices. I’m so proud because I understand the importance of that life lesson.

You are still a total gear head, and I now see that this passion may direct your life path. You spent hours upon hours this year rehabbing old bikes, sanding them, painting them, replacing the grips and brakes, and making them your own. While I’m not loving that we have eight bikes stored in our garage, I cherish that you have found something that you love and that is uniquely yours.

You love your family and continue to enjoy spending time at home. You love spending time with Jema and making her laugh, and you love picking on Jera and making her whine (although occasionally I see you lovingly guide her as well). You are bright, caring, loving and the most considerate person I have the pleasure of knowing, and I’m beyond grateful to call you my son.

Jera –

You are seven years old. That sentence still doesn’t seem real. I look at your beautiful little face sometimes, I see your bright, lively eyes, the freckles across your nose, your sweet and mischievous smile, and I don’t know when you grew from my cherub-faced baby into the young lady you’re becoming. It seems that time just passed when I wasn’t looking, and I suddenly have a smart, feisty, determined preteen on my hands. And my sweet Jer-Bear, you are strong-willed. I love that about you, and rather than fighting to have things my way, I’ve learned to first understand what is important and what really doesn’t matter. You love to choose your own clothes, style your own hair, do things in the order you choose and in the way that you choose, and you’ve taught me so much about embracing your ability to know just who you are and what you want, even at seven years old. I can already see the strong women you will grow into, and that makes me so proud of you. This year you found your voice at school and volunteered to do morning announcements in the gym, to lead in the classroom, and to speak up on your own behalf. You like to play shy, but I see an ability in you to step outside of your comfort zone and do any job that needs to be done. I see you shine in front of a crowd, and I think you will continue to grow and find strength in that ability.

And goodness girl, are you smart. This year I was blown away, BLOWN AWAY, by your ability to write. The stories that you wrote as a first grader are far beyond the capabilities of any child I’ve ever known. Your teacher took notice of your talent for writing and asked your dad and me to continue to encourage your gift as you grow. I really thought my head would pop right off my shoulders, I felt so overcome with pride.

You also begrudgingly agreed to play your second year of softball. Begrudgingly not because you don’t like softball, but because you just like free play time better. And although your dad and I want you to do what makes you happy, we also want to give you a foundation of involvement that gives you options as you grow. So we agreed, you needed to pick one activity, any activity, but you had to be involved with something. So softball it is. Although you weren’t excited to play, you show great potential. We sit in the stands and hear the comments on your swing, your speed, your natural ability. You tickle me because you never, and I mean not once, look in our direction during the game. I’m not sure if you’re just that focused or if you just don’t need the reassurance from us, but you’re all business when your on the field. It’s been fun to watch you, and while I’m not sure if softball is something you will dive into or leave behind in the future, we are having fun watching you grow in your abilities and make new friends for now.

Your sharp sense of humor makes you so fun to be around. You enjoy time with friends and family, but also don’t mind alone time. I’ll often find you in your room with the door closed, watching television, playing, or just relaxing on your own. I appreciate those moments that you ask for together-time so much, because those moments are a little more rare with you. You are independent, and I admire that about you.

You are also a proud big sister, and are excited to to pick out Jema’s clothes every single day. You can’t stand to see her fuss, and will pick her up any time she makes a noise and deliver her to me. You love your big brother as well, and as much as he likes to pick on you, you also love to push his buttons. It’s an interesting game the two of you play, knowing you also wouldn’t know what to do without each other. My sweet daughter, you are strong, fun, imaginative, and loving. You make every single day interesting, and you add a special spark to our family that I am so thankful for.

Jema –

You are five moths old. Wow, this is hard to believe, let alone write. The last time I wrote these letters, you were tucked away safely in my womb, and I was imagining you face and personality, excited for what was to come. And now, you are here, and you are so much more, SO MUCH MORE, than I could have ever imagined or asked for. I know that I changed with the birth of each of my children, but at 34 I had thought I had most things figured out. I was wrong. You came into my life, and yet again I was transformed. You have reminded me of the importance of family, and while my family has always been important to me, you made me realize just how quickly this time in my life is passing. You came into my life, and suddenly Jace and Jera seem so much older, and I can see that the time I have with the three of you as children is limited. So thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, because I won’t take any of these moments for granted. You have taught me that being busy, worrying about the details, being concerned with others outside of our family circle…well none of that matters….not really. What matters is Phil, Melissa, Jace, Jera AND Jema. Everything else is secondary. With that in mind, I’m enjoying…cherishing…all the moments. And you make enjoying it all so easy.

You are the best baby. The BEST. I feel a little ridiculous even telling others that you’ve slept through the night since five weeks, that you made it through your brother and sister’s ball seasons crying at only one game, that you’re content and happy, that you’re so beautiful, that your smile makes me melt into an ooey-gooey mommy puddle. How did I get this lucky? You are simply amazing, a gift in my life.

You love your brother and sister. You will spy them from across the room and you are immediately hooked, watching them and waiting for their attention. You are showered with love from your siblings, cousins, and your grandparents. I watch your dad with you, and I fall in love with him again and again, seeing his love for you, watching him connect with you.

You are getting extremely interested in food, watching our spoons as they come from our plates to our mouths, reaching out and trying to redirect our meals to your mouth. You are so interested in fact, that as soon as I return from this trip, food for Jema is one of the first stops on my itinerary. You are rolling over in every direction, trying hard to crawl, eating every two hours, smiling and blessing us with your laughter and holding up your head and upper body with no problem. You are growing fast. You are my precious baby, patient and calm, gentle and loving, and the perfect final piece to our family.

I’ve made it to Denver now and will soon hop a final flight to San Diego. I’m excited for the learning and growth that await me so far away from home. But I’m most excited for the gift that awaits me when I get back. I am blessed beyond measure, and oh so grateful.

My Definition of Me

My husband and I got engaged over 19 years ago. I was so thankful to hear that he had asked my father for permission to marry me before popping the question, not because I was my father’s property of course, but because I respected that my father had been first in my life up until that point, and now this man would be stepping into the role of the man that I would love above all others. I remember my then baby-faced fiancé telling me that my father had told him only, “She’s fragile, you have to take good care of her.”

At the time, and even today, that sentence makes my heart squeeze. I had lived on my own for a few years by that point. I had paid my own bills, got myself from point A to point B with no assistance, and often been the person others went to for guidance. I was a helper, and hardly saw myself as helpless, let alone fragile. But there was something in those words that resonated with me, and yes, at that time, maybe that’s what I wanted, someone I could be fragile with, someone who would take care of me.

Over the years, marriage didn’t go quite as I expected. My parents have a very traditional relationship, with my mom staying home and taking care of most of the domestic things, and my dad going to work and filling the provider role. My parents are attached at the hip, and it doesn’t matter if it’s grocery shopping or a trip to the BMV, they do it together. My in-laws on the other hand, each worked outside of the household and we’re relatively independent of each other, enjoying their own circles of friends and hobbies. Unknowingly, my husband and I each brought these very different expectations of what a normal marriage looks like into our own relationship. These definitions of a “normal” husband/wife were the rules we measured one another by.

There are so many moments I remember thinking of my husband, “You were told I was fragile. You said you’d take care of me. What is happening here?” The moments when he allowed me to mow our grass…shouldn’t he come and take the handle of this mower from my hands and let me go sip some lemonade??? The moment he didn’t hold the door for me, or left me to accomplish a task on my own, or when he expected me to assemble our furniture or shelving. I felt puzzled by this, and not because I didn’t want to do these things, but because I hadn’t expected I would have to. It wasn’t the story I had told myself about marriage.

There’s something else here too that was happening in my heart and mind. All my life other people had defined me. I had been defined by those around me as smart, as funny, as pretty, I was nice, I was the baby in my family, I was fragile. There were negative stories too, the “I wasn’t”. I wasn’t athletic, I wasn’t independent, I wasn’t brave…all of these definitions creeped in and made up the person I thought I had to be.

Our loved ones see a lot of who we are. They see us from a perspective that we don’t see ourselves, and often they are privy to strengths and weaknesses that we may not even be aware of. But even our mothers, fathers, siblings or spouses don’t see all of us. They view us through their own lenses, the lenses of their relationship with us, the lenses of their life experience and the lenses of their personality. There’s truly only one person on this planet that can define us, who we are, who we’re capable of being…and that’s ourselves. We decide who we will be.

34 years of life and 13 years of marriage have taught me a lot about…well, about me. While our spouses don’t define us, I truly believe God puts our partners in our lives for very particular reasons. They teach us so much about ourselves. My husband often believed I was stronger than I thought I was. He thought I was more capable than I had dreamed of. And although he was once told I was fragile, there are still times in our life together, that I wonder if he thinks I am unbreakable.

Through these circumstances, through his faith in me, his expectations of me, I have found some very powerful truths about myself. The woman I am today is very different than the girl that stood at the alter all those years ago. I may still be nice and funny and all of those things, but I am not fragile and I’m not interested in having anyone take care of me.

Through this life, through all of the hard, impossible, heartbreaking things, through all of the joyous, amazing, life changing moments, through all of the quiet, mundane, everyday happenings, I have found myself. My definition of me.

Strong. Stable. Sure. Powerful. Determined. Positive. Reserved. Loving. Kind. Happy.

I have also learned that my character summations of those around me don’t define them either. My husband, my children, my parents, my siblings, my friends….they’re capable of more than I could ever dream for them. I am careful of what labels I give them, knowing that I see only a small part of them. They are more than they show the world.

What if we gave every person this freedom? The freedom to define themselves. The freedom to be just who they are made to be. What if we each gave ourselves this freedom, a life for ourselves without definition from others? What could we be capable of?

I ask my readers, what label has someone, maybe even someone who loves you and means well, what label have they given you that you will shed and leave behind today? Begin today redefining yourself and become the person you are capable of being, not the person you feel you have to be.

Letting Go

Happy 2019, Folks.  I pitifully spent much of my evening last night watching everyone’s celebrations from the comfort of my cozy bed in my pajamas.  I also sat and timed contractions for 36 minutes that were around seven minutes apart and lasted for 45 seconds at a time.  I waited anxiously for the contractions to get closer together, more painful or last longer…but to no avail.  At 40 weeks and five days pregnant, I am truly beginning to feel like round, uncomfortable and tired is my new permanent state of being.  I’ve actually googled to see if there is a possibility that I will never go into labor.  The internet says no, but I’m having my doubts.

img_6525

I’ve spent the last few days trying to get a handle on the past year, and what this particular new year means to me.  I have always been a big fan of the new year season with all of its potential and promise, but this year, I’ve had a difficult time coming to terms with what the previous year meant to me and what I want the coming year to be.  For me 2018 is a bit of a blur with both tremendous moments and terrible heartache.  Such is life.

When I focus on the good, I see that I graduated with my Master’s Degree, I made a career move that I’m ecstatic about, and I made a human being (who is currently stubbornly refusing to be born).  These are big moments which I should be excited and proud of….and I am, but I find that I feel a little detached from these accomplishments, as though they  happened to someone else.

Maybe that is the true value of reflection.  We work incredibly hard to reach our goals, and then when all of that work translates to the end goal, we’re done.  It’s over.  We move on to the next thing and the past months or years of focus and dedication fade quickly to the background as life’s next dilemma or joy takes over.

As I move into 2019, I will take the time here to reflect not only on my successes, but also on what those successes taught me:

  • Finishing my MBA taught me that I have a unique kind of perseverance that allows me to stay the course when things become especially difficult.  I learned that I truly love to learn, and without a learning process of some sort in my life, I feel stale and stagnated.  I learned that to succeed, I need the support of my friends and family.  I learned that even when it feels impossible to do, I have to make my children and family my number one priority.
  • Moving into the Recruiting/Human Resource Field taught me the importance of living for the experience, not the final outcome.  I experienced some bumps and bruises along the path to my current position.  There were moments that I felt angry and bitter about the process, and I could have allowed myself to sit in that moment.  Instead, I chose to value what each experience taught me and move forward with that sentiment in mind.  Although I couldn’t see how things would work out, I had faith that they would.  That faith carried me through to the place where I am today, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to start a new professional adventure this year.
  • I made a human, ya’ll. 2018 has brought the unexpected, and the greatest of all of my 33 years of life’s surprises has to be the blessing of my third child. This pregnancy has taught me that my plans don’t matter.  Talk about a humbling experience.  My 2018 plans included maintaining a healthy, vegan diet, completing a half marathon, and focusing 100% on my career.  My 2018 reality included pregnancy food aversions so severe and pregnancy induced anemia which made me so sick, that I became desperate enough to eat anything my body would tolerate, including meat, dairy and eggs.  The year included fifty pounds of weight gain that have made walking to the refrigerator a challenge, let alone the thought of running anywhere.  2018 brought the realization that my career will never, and should never, be the center of my focus.  I am a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, a friend.  My career is important to me, but none of that success matters if I’m not the person I need to be at home.

Even as I write this, I am coming to terms with an epiphany that what this year has really taught me is that I need to appreciate the moments in life and spend less energy in a future that isn’t promised.  That for all it’s worth and although I will always be a “planner”, this life is not a planned event.  That I have no control over what is next or what 2019 will bring (although I’m hoping that the most immediate arrival for the new year will be this baby!).  And that while this life is difficult and beautiful at the same time, the very best thing I can do is to get down on my knees and put it all in God’s hands.

I need to appreciate the moments in life and spend less energy in a future that isn’t promised

close up of hands

For the New Year, for 2019, my resolution will be to trust, to pray every day to let go and let God, to focus on the moment and enjoy each second for what it is.  I hope to get back into shape, to put some energy into my art work, continue to write and journal, continue to find those parts of myself that have taken a back seat while I’ve worked to build a career and family over the past decade…but most importantly, I hope to remember and be thankful for the fact that I am not in control.  I certainly lost sight of this in 2018, and it is liberating to let it go in 2019.

I hope to remember and be thankful for the fact that I am not in control

I am wishing my readers a blessed year full of love and all of life’s happiness.  I hope that faith and family carry you through the difficult times ahead, and that you are present and engaged for all of the joyous miracles that are in store for you.  Take the time to reflect today on what has been, and how it has changed you.  Every experience holds a lesson for us.  My hope for you is that you take those lessons and spend a moment in thankfulness for them.  Happy New Year!

I leave you with some of my happiest 2018 moments:

Heaven is a Place on Earth

It’s hard to believe that December is in full swing.  This is always a crazy busy time of year for each of us, but this year in December, I will be welcoming our third child to the world.  I am on the countdown, and with two weeks and four days left until my due date, I am ready.  Or so I thought…

red ceramic mug on white mat beside notebook

This morning in particular was pure chaos.  My older two children had their annual Christmas play at church.  With the best of intentions we called it an early night last night, knowing we would need to be up bright and early to prepare.  Five pregnant lady bathroom breaks and two and a half hours of insomnia at 2 a.m. later, it was morning, and I found myself struggling to roll my round little belly out of bed to start the day.  When I finally made it to my feet, I woke to find the mountain of dishes I had ignored the day before still waiting on me. With no clean forks to my name, I had to start my day with dishes just so I could feed my kids breakfast.  Forty minutes later I was cooking eggs over-easy, just the way the kiddos like them, and to my dismay, I broke two yolks which never happens.  Eventually breakfast was served, kids were dressed, we were ten minutes late to Sunday School but we prevailed and we made it.  I had ended up with an entire fifteen minutes to shower myself, dress, makeup, and do something with my hair before rushing out the door.

And it was then that it hit me…in two weeks, I will still have all of these things to do PLUS a newborn baby to nurse and dress and care for.  How had this not dawned on me before 37 weeks of pregnancy?  I had spent months picturing the snuggles, knowing I had sleepless nights coming, knowing having a newborn after all of this time will be an adjustment, but it hadn’t become reality until this morning.

In my anxiousness, my grouchiness, and waddling in nine-months-pregnant-glory into church, I was having the “Oh sh*t” moment of realization of what is to come.  I sat in the pew this morning, finally having delivered my children to their posts for the Christmas program, and then I began to watch them, donning white alter robes, angel wings and halos.

I watched my ten-year-old son sing each song, although at his age, he hates being on stage dressed as an angel with every fiber of his being.  My heart grew just knowing what a truly good boy my husband and I have raised.  Then I watched my six-year-old sing with all her heart, the gaps where her recently lost teeth belong, peeping out behind her sweet little lips with every note.  She had her first speaking part in which she grasped the microphone and said, “Wow, I’ll never forget this night. Heaven is a place on Earth.”  From the mouths of babes.  I knew in that moment, in this moment now, that she is right.

In the haste of the season, in all of the to-dos, it is so easy to lose our focus.  We get so caught up in the decorations, in the gifts and wrapping, in the carrying on of tradition, in the “have-to’s” and “need-to’s” that we can’t see the heaven that is right in front of us.  As much as I was cursing inside my head the entire morning as I let the hustle of the day erode my patience, I am so thankful for the gift of watching my children this morning, serving in our church in the most beautiful way, bringing to mind the purpose of the season, and reminding us all that heaven is truly a place on Earth.

img_6449

In two weeks, or two days….who knows….I will become a mother for the third time.  Things will be difficult, I will be tired beyond words, I will have less time for myself, for my husband, for my other two kids, but what I will gain is immeasurable.  And the truth is that no matter how much I “ready” myself, we are never truly ready for God’s greatest gifts in our lives…and that is what makes them so incredibly remarkable.

My hope for you this holiday season is that each of you experience the joys of this Christmas with as little stress, anxiety and worry as possible.  That in the moments of feeling overwhelmed, you are able to look for the everyday miracles that we are given…after all, heaven truly is a place on Earth.

Learning to Lean In

Six months ago, to our surprise and joy, my husband and I discovered we would be bringing our third child into this world.  I had just finished my MBA (we actually found out we were pregnant the night before I walked for graduation…talk about one door shutting and another opening!), and I was laser-focused on my next career steps.

My first instinct was to take a step back from my career, to back off from my goals, to wait until after pregnancy, until after maternity leave, until after the re-balancing of life following our newest addition.   I didn’t want to, but rather thought I had to, lean back from my career in order to be a good mom, a good wife, to take care of my family.

I was wrong.

I shared my thoughts with a good friend.  I had been vying for a promotion, and I thought I should bow out now.  I thought that I couldn’t balance both a pregnancy and growth in my career.  Thankfully my friend said, “Don’t do that…don’t leave before you leave.  Lean in.”  My friend, a career-loving parent herself, had started reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg.  I know this book impacted my friend, but the timing of her advice and the introduction of this thought into my life in that particular moment was life-changing.

img_6229

I listened to my friend.  I did not slow down.  I did not lean back.  I pressed full force on the gas pedal, and I leaned all the way in.  I was sick, physically sick from the pregnancy.  I could barely eat for the first few months due to crazy food aversions and nauseousness.  I was utterly exhausted all day every day due to anemia brought on by my pregnancy.  I was stressed out between prepping for job interviews, prepping my current role for the next person, showing up as my best self every day for my current job, caring for my two children and husband, and running my household…and dealing with pregnancy hormones (you mommas know what I’m talking about!).  And in that time, we faced a serious illness within our family.

So here I am, six months down the road.  I pushed forward when things were not ideal, and I got the promotion I have been working toward for years…I got my dream job.

The stress isn’t gone, if anything it is now crunch time.  Baby three is due in eight weeks and four days (but who’s counting???).  In those eight weeks, I will train my replacement for my current role, I have taken on a special project within my company that will take place in two weeks (another lean in moment for me), I am continuing to work to excel in my current role until I move, I am beginning to train and work in my new role…and I’m nearly eight months pregnant.  Let’s not forget that I have a family and household to care for, and we’ve tried to make the most of this fall season with Halloween fun, field trips, lots of quality time, prepping the house for baby, along with the usual homework, laundry, baths and daily routine.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m totally looking forward to my maternity leave with my new little nugget.  I’m counting the moments until my sole focus is my newborn and my other two children, until I can be just mom for a bit.  But also, and this part is so vitally important, I am already looking forward to going into my dream career when I return to work after maternity leave.  I’m so thankful that I’ve leaned in to arrive at a place that I am truly excited and ecstatic to be.  I’m so thankful that I’ll be doing work that I find meaningful, setting an example for my children that hard work pays off in the best of ways, that I’ll be providing for my family while fulfilling my own individual goals.

I thought this morning about what my life would look like right now if I had leaned back in that moment six months ago.  I enjoy my current career, and I would still be thankful to work for a company that I believe in and within a role that is challenging every day.  But I would also be watching someone else step into the promotion that I know I am made for…and it would hurt.  I would not have taken on the special project that I’ll be completing in two weeks, and I’d be watching someone else in my spot…and again, it would hurt.  It would hurt for my pride, but it would hurt more so for the opportunity lost.  When I factor in the last six months I’ve spent full-throttle careening toward my goals, the next two months executing the final steps before baby, and my upcoming maternity leave, I would have missed nearly a year out of my career progression had I not leaned in.  A year of my career would have been stopped, stalled, at a standstill.

When we look at professional women and we wonder about things like the pay gap or the glass ceiling, I am convinced it is in these make-or-break moments in life that determine if we continue to advance or stall.  These are the moments that we easily fall behind our male peers, and while it is for a wonderful and fulfilling reason, it is difficult, if not impossible, to make up for.  It would have undoubtedly been easier to stall in this year’s time; however over my lifetime, I will look back and be so thankful for the advice I was given to “lean in” when I was afraid to push myself.

I’m aware that this decision is not for everyone, and I admire and understand those whose choices are different than mine.  Every decision we make has an immediate consequence on our lives and the lives of our family.  For me, as I know it would be for many of you, leaning in was the right decision.

I encourage you to not be afraid, to give every single opportunity your absolute best.  I encourage you to stay engaged in those things you are passionate for up until the very moment that you can’t; I encourage you to not leave before you leave.  There are times that our personal lives take center stage and balance between family and career is impossible, so our focus becomes 100% our family, and that is the way it should be…that is wonderful.  But when that time passes, when it again becomes possible to have our families and continue to pursue our personal goals, it’s important that we’ve given ourselves every option possible, so that the decision to be made, the going back to work, is a happy one, because we’re returning to a career we love, a career that we’ve spent every available moment working toward, a career that we didn’t leave prematurely.

I also encourage you to be the friend in my story. I’m so blessed to be surrounded by strong, career-loving parents.  These are the women and men that help me to see all that is possible in my own life.  Be that driving force, that role model, that source of inspiration when those around you struggle with the work-life balance dilemma.  Be that kind, supportive friend that understands the struggle, but won’t allow someone to quit their dreams.  Be the person not only to say, but to show, exactly what leaning in looks like.

 

 

Slay that Interview – Climb that Mountain

Career advancement can be a tricky thing, and for us 20- to 30-somethings, it can feel like an especially painful process. We can clearly see where we want to go, but the road to get there can seem confusing at the least, and absolutely Mt. St. Helens-type of daunting at the most.

altitude clouds cold daylight
Well, hello there, beautiful career mountain.

So how do we get there?  How do we scale the career mountain?  It’s as simple as to just keep taking that next best step. Be active and intentional with your future.  Actively identify what type of opportunity you are looking for next, take steps in the present to acquire the skills and education to qualify for that opportunity, and when the opportunity presents itself, jump at it.

It’s as simple as to just keep taking that next best step.

We often discount ourselves for opportunities when we do not yet check 100% of the qualifications for a position. Don’t make this mistake!  Take the risk, know your strengths and shortcomings, and apply anyway.

Interviewing and starting conversations with your peers and superiors about your interests and passions is an essential power move in reaching that end-goal. Interviews can be scary, and it’s hard to put yourself out there, but it is absolutely necessary.

So when that opportunity arrives, and you find yourself staring down the next hurdle on the path to your dream job, here’s some advice to slay that interview and present your best self:

  • Dress a level above what you imagine the position requires. If the position requires a casual professional dress, suit up (skirted suit/pants suit). If the position requires jeans, wear slacks or a dress/skirt. It sounds like the oldest advice in the book, but this one’s a keeper.  First impressions are lasting, and even when you’re interviewing with someone you’ve worked with before, allow them to see you in a new, more professional light.  On the same front, hair should be clean, and pulled up and back from your face. This allows the interviewer to clearly view your face and keeps you from playing/fussing with your hair if you get nervous.  Appearance matters.
  • Be on time! Show the interviewer that you respect their time, and when they’re ready to begin, you’re ready and waiting.
  • Stay positive! If your current position is a living hell, choose to take the high road. All of the negative things you feel and think about a current or past job may be true, but no prospective employer wants to hire an employee who slams their current employer. Be as honest as you can without going to a negative place. A great way to explain your move is to share that you’re looking for a better opportunity and/or striving for a position that aligns with your particular passions.
  • Study your prospective employer. Use the internet. Google, folks.  There is no excuse for not being fully educated about who the prospective company is, what their mission statement is, and what they’re looking to give back to their customers. Have a superior understanding of who it is that you’re trying to work for, and weave that information into your answers during the interview.
  • Practice. It feels awkward, but the old saying “practice makes perfect” is 100% truth when it comes to interviewing. Find a friend or colleague who will sit with you for an hour and give you interview questions. You may feel silly at first but you’ll warm up to the process quickly, and when the real deal comes, you’ll feel confident and prepared.
  • Breath.   It’s okay to pause and think during an interview. It’s difficult to fight the urge to immediately respond with a quick answer. But know that it is okay to pause, fill the space with a thoughtful “That’s a great question” comment, take a moment to think, and then give a great, well-thought-out answer versus a gut response.
  • Flip the interview.  Have a list of relevant questions prepared. Remember, you’re interviewing the employer to try to understand if the company is right for you, in just the same way that they are interviewing you. Think carefully about your short-term, intermediate-term and long-term goals, think about what you envision as success in the role, and ask questions that give you a better understanding as to whether this is the right opportunity to deliver your goals.
  • Last but certainly not least, the best advice for a great interview is to keep your focus on you and your strengths. Know what you have to offer. It’s easy to focus on the competition and try to combat the skills your competitor is bringing to the table. This is not a winning strategy. You can’t be something you’re not.  If you’re hired on the basis of portraying skills you don’t have, you’re unlikely to find long term success. Know what unique skills you can offer.  Understand and communicate what makes your background and perspective an ideal match for the position.  Rock that self-love, and show your interviewer why YOU truly are the best candidate.
woman wearing blue shawl lapel suit jacket
Yeah, you got this!

You will not receive every job opportunity you apply for. There will be times that there is a candidate who is simply better qualified for one reason or another. But if you can walk away from an interview knowing you have presented yourself at your absolute personal best, you have a success to tuck under your belt. With each interview you become more skilled and better prepared for the next great opportunity.

In the event that you don’t get the job, take the opportunity to learn from your interviewer what skills or traits they were looking for, and move forward with a focus to improve where needed. Every job interview is an opportunity to grow and learn more about yourself as a professional. Rejection is a necessary (albeit painful) part of growth. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, reevaluate where you are today, and begin working toward your next goal with a more-seasoned and better-practiced self.

Every job interview is an opportunity to grow and learn more about yourself as a professional.

Even better…when you land the position, hit the role running, ready and capable, and give it your all!!! Here’s to all of the future success of the 20- to 30-somethings…see you at the top of the mountain!