It’s All Good

Happy Friday! Get down, get Funky! I usually send out a note to my coworkers on Fridays with a Funky Friday theme. We started out with watching old Soul Train videos and it expanded from there.

Is it work related? No, not at all. But… it gets us up and dancing and brings a common grin to everybody on my email. Shared experiences bring us together and, for a national team, it’s a challenge to accomplish this. We don’t get to see each other in the halls or go to lunch. We’re on conference calls nonstop and it’s too easy to miss the personal connection. What to do then? Inject a little humor (have you seen the hair on those Soul Train vids? Priceless!) and a little musical inspiration and you have something that gets us up out of our chairs. Totally worth the few minutes of distraction…

Today’s song is one of my favorites – its retro funk sound is not only perfect for my Booty Shaker playlist, it’s also got really good lyrics. Basically, its message is that it doesn’t matter about our differences –

Hollywood, or in the hood, it don’t matter…

Tight fade, or long braids, it don’t matter…

East coast or west coast, it don’t matter…

Either way, it’s all good.”

This is Robert Randolph and the Family Band’s Ain’t Nothing Wrong with That. Time for a little chair dancing!

Making Time

mindfulness-en-movementI write a mini blog for my day job, almost daily. But I haven’t been posting it here. Why? It’s usually pertinent but, well, because I haven’t made time to do so. This morning, my mini blog was about this very topic so I decided to make a change in my daily routine…. here’s today’s post. Before I go any further, I’ll emphasize this site is not a reflection on my employer. Instead, it’s simply thoughts I have on being a better person, leader, wife, mother, employee. Read on for my thoughts on making time….

Hi Y’all!

Monday flew by really fast didn’t it? Do you ever find yourself saying, “Sorry, I didn’t have time to do it”? Did you really mean that you didn’t make time for it, either intentionally or unintentionally? I’ve had several conversations the last few days where this came up and I thought it might be good to take a moment (uhh, make time for it). Does this sound familiar?

“I am definitely going to take a course on time management… just as soon as I can work it into my schedule.” Louis Boone (courtesy of Brainy Quote) 

Louis E. Boone was a business professor at the University of South Alabama. While his comment is funny, his point is this – we make time for what we find important. The key is to be mindful of what is important and try (!) to get the less important things out of the way. Look at your calendar, what do you see that is not your highest priority? Does it really need to be done or to be done by you? Should something else be on there? By the way, making time to relax can be as important as your must-do-for-the-boss items. If you’re not able to relax your brain and body, you’re not going to be at your best. It’s not all about go-go-go (I know, that’s rich coming from me…). As a former boss used to tell me, “sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.” Not sure if that’s original or what but it’s been immensely helpful.

What a great reminder, then, about making time - here’s to not saying “I didn’t have time to call” or “I didn’t get around to it.” Instead, let’s be clear about priorities and making time to call those important to us and accomplish the critical things, whether that’s paying the bill or taking time to crash on the couch for a little bit. Join me in being mindful, won’t you?

Groundhog Day

I work in corporate America, where large meetings are common. If you’ve worked in this environment for any amount of time, you likely know your fellow meeting attendees well. But sometimes you find yourselves in a room large enough and full enough of near strangers that the organizer requires you participate in an icebreaker. I can hear y’all groaning. Yeah, sometimes they’re superficial and boring. But sometimes you get great insight into people. This particular one made me think about my marriage differently and several people came up to me afterward and said they could never have imagined what a romantic I was. (Xena, Warrior Princess is warmer and fuzzier.) Here’s the icebreaker question and my answer.

Question: If you had a chance to do over one day in your life (a la Groundhog Day), what day would it be?

My answer:

I’ve already had my do-over. It was Memorial Day weekend, 1986. I was  working two jobs at the time, daytime in an office and nighttime, cocktail waitressing in a sports bar. I had student loans and in those days, you could actually pay them off if you took a parttime job. These days, not so much, right?

Anyway, back to my story. It was Friday night and I was working my tables. Sitting at the bar was a very good looking guy. Of course, all I could do was watch since he wasn’t in my section. The joint was jumping but I managed to keep an eye on him and was so, so disappointed to see that he appeared to be on a date. She was really cute and they looked like they were having a great time given how often they laughed. By the time the bar closed, they were gone. It might have ended there except for Mr. Good Looking’s interest in soccer.

The next afternoon, I was back at work. It was a gorgeous May Saturday and if I could have stayed by the pool, I would have. Imagine how happy I was to get to work and see Mr. Good Looking back in the bar. This time, though, he wasn’t AT the bar, he was at one of MY tables. Even if he was taken, there was no harm talking to him, right? He was nice, he was funny, he was charming. He said he’d come back  because he was looking for a place to watch the upcoming World Cup games. (This was back in the day before ginormous big screens and a gazillion sports channels, so you had to go to a bar to watch.) Oh, and, come to find out, his ‘date’ the night before was his sister-in-law. And he’d come back because he’d seen me waiting tables the night before.

He spent the afternoon, watching sports and talking to me; I had the early shift and I didn’t have to close. We had our first date that night and have been best friends ever since.

So now you know my Groundhog story. Martin & I were married about two years later (April 1, 1988 – yeah, April Fool’s Day – warned ya about my missing romance gene). We have two beautiful boys and 27 years of memories.

What day would you want to do over?

Curveballs

Curveball: Slang Something that is unexpected or designed to trick or deceive.

I travel for business about two weeks a month. Sometimes I luck out and it’s fun, like when I got to go to South Beach. I may not get to do anything besides work but I get good pictures like this one from my hotel window in May 2013.

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Sometimes I luck out and the travel itself goes smoothly, getting there and back with no delays, no lost luggage. Smooth. As. Glass.

Sometimes life reflects perfectly, like on calm water. If your day started like this, it’s hard to believe it could go wrong. (photo courtesy of the internet, couldn’t find the photographer’s name)

Sometimes, though, life throws you a curveball or two. Recently I had one of those trips. Several of us flew to Denver, had a good meeting and then headed to the airport. I was flying home to San Antonio via Dallas (DFW) and had a very tight layover. On the way into the airport, I was already thinking ahead to how I was going to manage it. I have the FlightTracker app on my iPhone and it gives you all kinds of flight info, including gate numbers. I know DFW well and was all ready to map out my layover.

You know when you have plans, you assume life will play along? Silly you. To borrow from another saying, plans are made to be broken. It takes a lot of strength to realize that the plan is not reality. That afternoon, I had to dig deep for it. I was tired and, thanks to some chronic health problems, very close to a physical crash. The delays on my last trip were so severe that I needed a wheelchair.  The prospect of more delays was stressful, beyond what many can imagine.

My first flight was delayed and making the connection wasn’t looking good. Mini-melt down time.

“But wait,” you say, “aren’t there other flights? Can’t you just get them to re-book you?”

“Of course,” I respond. “I should have thought of that.” Seriously. So I take a deep breath and tell the ticket agent I’m panicking over missing my connection. She’s not terribly friendly but I’m calmer just for having said it. She gets me on a later flight from DFW to home and I’m on my way. I’m not thrilled but it’s no big deal. I figure I’ll park myself at my gate, do some email, read a book. Except we’d used my phone for navigation to around Denver and the battery was low.

“No problem!” you say. “Just plug into an outlet.”

“I’m on it,” I respond, looking around. “Huh. No outlets in sight.”

“How can Denver’s airport not have outlets?” You look at me as if I should try harder.

“Wait,” I yell, “there’s some over there!” I point at a bank of pay phones. Yeah, you read that right – it’s 2013 and the outlets are at a bank of payphones.

But, hold on. There are no chairs next to the payphones. And I’m in a dress. “Blerg!” It may seem unladylike but that’s the least of my concerns. I drop my bags, park myself on the floor and try to act like it’s perfectly normal for a businesswoman in a dress to sit on the floor. Thank goodness for stretch! (Uhh, fabrics. I know guys don’t care, but girls do.)

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Finally, our plane arrives. By now, I’m frustrated because the airline can’t seem to predict when the flight will actually take off. Uncertainty is itself a stressor. My new layover time is shrinking by the minute but it looks like I’ll have just enough time. Passengers line up and I can tell in one sniff that many have passed the time in the airport bar.

I find my seat and learn quickly that my seatmate is not just frustrated, he’s passed into the zone of being pissed. Pissed as in he’s very, very unhappy. He’s also more than mildly inebriated (pissed means drunk in UK slang). His lack of inhibitions and his frustration nearly end up getting him thrown off the plane for not turning off his phone. After a face down with the flight attendants, he quiets down and we finally (!) take off.  It’s only two hours to DFW. We’ll be off the plane soon enough.

We land in Dallas and the entire plane is now in a frenzy to get to their next gate. Thanks to my iPhone app, I already know my next flight is delayed. It’s late – after 10 pm – and the terminal is surreally empty except for us.

A funky sculpture in DFW's newest terminal.

A funky sculpture in DFW’s newest terminal.

It's late, I'm tired and yeah, the escalator made me dizzy, too.

It’s late, I’m tired and yeah, the escalator made me dizzy, too.

I ride the Skylink to my next gate, where, sure enough, the flight is delayed. We have a plane but no crew. Since the delays are not weather related, I know the airline will do nearly anything to get us home – they won’t want to pay for lodging. Now, after delays, drunken passengers and being a seriously tired puppy, I am in my happy place. I park myself on the floor again, open my book and zone out.

Once the crew arrives, the passengers crowd the gate agent like they think there aren’t enough seats for all of us. We finally get  on board, the attendants give the turn-your-electronics-off speech and…we continue to sit at the gate. The pilot informs us we’re waiting for a passenger who has “gotten turned around” in the airport.  It seems my day could have been worse, I could be worried about missing the final flight home. Isn’t it nice of the crew to wait for a passenger who is likely panicking as she runs to catch the plane? I wonder if she knows this? I wonder if she realizes how all of us (well, most of us) are happy to take a few minutes and make sure she gets to the plane.

So what’s the moral of the story? Life throws curveballs at you. How you react is up to you. There may be lots of justifiable reasons for you to lose it. Do you think, though, that my drunken seat mate made it easier for himself? I’ll bet he walked away from that day that thinking everyone was a jerk. We, of course, thought he was the jerk.

Having a plan is good, being prepared for curveballs is better. Equip yourself by working with what you got. Be grateful for what works, let go of what doesn’t. Curveballs come and plans go but your peace of mind goes with you everywhere.

US versus Them (uhh, that means all y’all who are not us and, no, I don’t find that at all confusing)

We’ve been watching “The Bridge” lately, a show on two police detectives trying to solve crime on the El Paso/ Ciudad Juarez border. It’s highlighted the us v them mentality that seems to be everywhere in politics these days.

What is the difference that happens on the border of our country? The U.S.-Mexico border seems to be so much more controversial than the U.S.-Canada border. Why is that? What makes the difference in our perception? Do we see Canadians as more like us than Central and South Americans? I’m willing to bet the Canadians (especially the French-Canadians) don’t see themselves the same as us on the south side of that particular border. Are Canadian immigrants OK and Mexican immigrants not? Do we have different objectives in each of these cultures? Or does it just feel different on the inside of our culture?

US versus Them – What’s really the difference in these two groups of people, except their labels?

I live in a city where 2/3 of the population has Hispanic or Latino ancestry and 40% of the households speak a foreign language (likely Spanish) in the home. In many ways, this is a city where the residents are as at home in the U.S. as they are in Central or South America. Do we love these neighbors any less than those who have European ancestry? Many of them are U.S. born of immigrant parents. Do we love these first-generation people any more than someone who has just arrived from another country? I struggle with why many in our nation condemn people who are “other” (other than themselves, meaning of different backgrounds) when, at some point, our ancestors were also ‘other’ to the residents of our nation. Can we not accept each other as individuals, without judging stereotypes?

This belief that “we” are somehow superior to “them” is known as ethnocentrism. It lacks humility and requires broad assumptions about others. I think I can safely argue that the British had this same ethnocentrism about the American colonies, and look where that got them.

I’ll leave you with this quote, it seems appropriate for a time in which we’re debating immigration and our role on the world stage. It’s as appropriate now as it was in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border? Pablo Casals, Spanish cellist and conductor (1873-1976)

Texas Mileage

We spent yesterday driving to a surprise party for my aunt. I’m pretty sure that most of you think that means that we spent most of the day attending a surprise party for my aunt. But this is Texas. Y’all don’t know what it’s like here unless maybe you live in Alaska. Texas is 10% larger than France and twice the size of Germany and Japan. I’m telling you, this place is HUGE. I found this map to show you the relative size…..You can see why a drive across the state takes a couple of days, if you’re going the speed limit, that is, which we ALWAYS do. Just nod your head and look innocent while you smile at the nice officer. :)

Aunt Phyllis’s party was in a small town in north Texas, named Cisco. It happens to be the location of the original Hilton hotel and there is a museum dedicated to the Hiltons there.

The old Mobley Hotel, the first of Hilton’s properties, was located in Cisco, Texas.

Nearly everyone that attended the party lives elsewhere. I think most folks had a 4 hour round trip drive, Cisco is a couple of hours west of Fort Worth and a few hours east of Midland, all along I-20. One of my cousins and her husband drove down from Arkansas and spent the night in Dallas. My brother and parents flew in from California. Martin & I? We drove up from San Antonio, 4 hours each way, all in one day. If you’re doing the math, let me save you the trouble… We drove 8 hours round-trip to attend a birthday party that was about 3 hours. That’s Texas for ya. It was worth it though – we got to visit with about 40 or so of my dad’s family, including my aunts and uncles, my cousins and their kids and even grandkids. My favorite part of this group is the  joy they have, you’re always welcomed with open arms. Is it any wonder why it’s so easy to spend time with them, especially now, as the aunts and uncles enter their 80s? It makes it worth every single mile of Texas roadways. Now, isn’t that something worth celebrating?

Define Success

How do you know when something is enough? Are you successful or successful…enough?  I had a boss who told me I’d never get rich working for that particular employer. Wow, depressing, right? Or not…. His yardstick clearly wasn’t mine.

Like most folks, my husband and I were broke when we got married but we always had an income, a roof over our house and food on the table. We rarely had to tell ourselves “no” when it came to something. Not that we didn’t have to budget, but we spent our money relatively smart and were able to buy the normal fun things. We started out in a tiny little house but eventually traded up to a series of “forever” houses (my work has moved us around a bit). Every single house we’ve had has been beautiful in some way. Is that the definition of being rich? Maybe, but it only lasts so long if your house is empty.

We’ve always had an abundance of books. When the boys were little I would tell them, “we are rich in books!” because every bookshelf was overflowing. Does that mean we were rich? Even a house full of books may not be home though.

Ever since Martin and I got together, we’ve always had a house full of our boys, family, the neighbors’ and the boys’ friends. We wanted to be that house, the one where all the kids hang out. We don’t mind the mess, the noise or the extra food bill (even now, when each boy seems to need an extra large pizza). Ok, we don’t mind their mess as long as there is daylight outside…. In all seriousness, we love that they come over, talk for a bit, and then go do their thing. For us, this is the definition of success. It means that people see your home as safe and comfortable, that it’s a place to be yourself and where you are accepted for who you are. Our boys are getting older (the youngest is 17) and I’m happy to see them grow up. I’ll miss the impromptu sessions in our kitchen where they gather with their buddies around a pizza. I’ll still think we’re rich though, because of the role we’ve had in their upbringing.

My dad with Gus and Dylan. Don't let the scowls fool you - apparently the boys have outgrown smiling for the camera. :)

My dad with Gus and Dylan. Don’t let the scowls fool you – apparently the boys have outgrown smiling for the camera. :)