Or or And?

Must it all be either less or more,
Either plain or grand?
Is it always “or?”
Is it never “and?”

Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods

I heard these lyrics and thought how apt they are for leadership lessons.

For years, the buzz phrase in women’s leadership circles was “Work – Life Balance.”

I can’t even utter the words without cracking up now.

There is no balance.  But there can be BOTH. 

Or is often the enemy of progress or passion.

What if companies asked, I can make money or I can give back to my community, instead of I can make money and I can give back to my community.

What if women asked, I can have a successful career or I can raise a happy family, instead of I can have a successful career and I can raise a happy family.

What if dreamers asked, I can have a job that pays the bills or I can follow my dreams and write/act/ sculpt/cook, instead of  I can have a job that pays the bills and I can follow my dreams and write/act/ sculpt/cook.

Saying and opens doors.  Saying and allows you to do things you love while you function as a responsible adult.  Saying and allows you lead effectively by example.

No one should think saying and means you do the things on both sides of the and equation perfectly.  But heck, even if you chose or your choices wouldn’t always be perfect.

What does and mean?  It means having a good handle on your priorities.

If you add too many ands to the equation, then all of them take a turn for the worse.  For me, that means if I want to take speaking engagements and write another book, then I have to make sure each yes response specifically furthers that goal because I do have two more BIG ands : my family (at the beginning of my and sentence) and my work.

If I had said or it would have looked like, I can have a husband and three kids OR I can have a successful legal career OR I can speak and write professionally.  Ugh!  Think how much I would miss out on if I chose or over and!

So next time you’re confronted with an and versus an or, don’t be afraid of choosing AND!


Artwork by Susanne Vincent



Today happens to be my handsome hubby’s birthday.

We took a vacation day so we could spend a three day weekend at the farm.

July is a big birthday month for his family.  His mom kicks us off at the beginning of the month.  Luckily, this year we were at the farm earlier this month to celebrate with her too.


We have a niece and nephew with a July birthday.  Then his dad’s birthday hits and finally his!

I’ve come to love farm birthdays.

Now I love to throw a big party, and Lord knows the trio have had their fair share, but there’s something about birthdays with dirt smeared blue jeans and summer-hot-cheeks and homemade cakes served up with an ample scoop of ice cream.

I love to bake.  I don’t have nearly the time at home.  But almost every time I’m at the farm I get to bake.  Bake and write.  Two of the best things ever.

So after an easy lunch of sandwiches, chips and fruit, the whole crew, save two of the three five year olds, took naps in the heat of the day and woke to celebrate my father-in-law’s (belatedly) and husband’s birthday with coffee, cake and ice cream.

I tried my hand at Tres Leches again because it is Bray’s favorite dessert and it really turned out.  I had baked it in the morning while the crew were out fishing, Lord help us they caught an alligator (I may never adjust to the bayou), so it had plenty of time to chill.

We lit four candles, to represent the last digit of his age, and sang happy birthday.  After we cut big slices of the yummy goodness, we sat around the well worn table eating and talking while it was too hot to venture out.  Grandpa opened his birthday presents, and daddy asked to wait until his birthday rolled around this morning to unwrap his (it killed the kids who LOVE to open daddy and mommy’s presents…).




Talk turned to their various plans and while two ran to check on the peppers they’d picked earlier to use for supper, dad and grandpa and the eldest ran to town for boat supplies.

I loaded dishes and then watched the beautiful summer storm roll in.

This is a life I could never have envisioned.  I had none of this growing up.  My clothes were always pressed and my hair was always fixed.  I read instead of catching frogs behind the shutters.  I took piano lessons instead of baiting hooks and baling hay.

It’s still stops me in my tracks: the space my kids have access to and the bravery they show working cows and holding a line with an alligator at the end.  They dream bigger and plan fearlessly and adventure more because they see a big world and know the grandeur of God.

They’ve still got a momma that screams when the frog jumps on her sandal and begs them to back further from the dock, but I’m learning and letting go a little more every time.  And I’m certainly  embracing every moment of our stripped down birthday parties – the beauty of a handmade cake, the birthday song sung off key with gusto, and a celebration filled with those you hold most dear in life.

Fashion Fridays: S.W.A.P., The Beach Wedding

brandy4Ahhh, back to our summer wedding theme installment of Shopping with a Purpose (SWAP)!   Y’all – this one is SO MUCH FUN.  And since I was totally plagiarizing from my fashion back and forth with my girlfriend who recently renewed her vows in Hawaii for their TWENTY YEAR ANNIVERSARY (she was a child bride), I asked her to write the S.W.A.P. instead.

She’s been featured here once before writing about leadership, but I think we can all agree that the chance to wear a wedding gown again is way more fun.  (Anyone want to talk my hubby into letting ME renew our vows on our ten year anniversary next spring???)

So here’s my buddy Brandy with her S.W.A.P. perspective: Tips from a beach wedding at Shipwreck Beach, Kauai.

1.        THE GOWN!!!

Get a loose, flowy gown, and not a big stiff or heavy gown.  Why? Many reasons.

One, you gotta fly it there. Do you really want one entire suitcase taken up by your gown?

Two, beaches have wind.  A breezy gown looks nicer in the photos and gives you a bit of motion around your ankles.

Three, ahem, beaches can be warm.  My gown from 20 years ago still fit (Gindi note – how cool is that?), but it was hot and heavy and made for an indoor ballroom wedding.  I’d have been sweaty and uncomfortable outdoors in it. No one wants a sweaty pink faced bride.  Not to mention my fashion sensibilities have changed over the years.

Four, a heavy dress will literally drag you down if you do in the water or “trash the dress” shots (more about that below). Many designers have a specific destination wedding or beach wedding gown collection, and my gown was one of those.

2.       SHOES!


This is harder than the dress. Do not wear normal high heels. You will sink into the grass and fall over in the sand. Promise, I tried it out to check.

Also don’t wear flip flops. As we all know, they tend to kick sand up the back of your legs and in a long gown you’ll be throwing sand onto and under your dress and on your guy. Not comfy, plus it doesn’t look good in the pics!

You need pretty wedges. And lucky you they are all the rage right now.  They still give you some height, if you want it, and you do not sink in the sand or kick it up. After much looking, I got mine at DSW for $40!  If you simply must have stilettos, get your wedding planner to build you a little wooden “aisle” to walk down, and then scatter sand over it so no one can tell.

3.       HAIR!

This tip applies to any family beach photo shoot also.  Get the local salon to do your hair.  They know what products will hold up to the level of wind and humidity at your particular beach. Why sit there stressing for an hour over getting it right when the pro can make it perfect and make it last while you sip tea and chill!

Also, wear your hair up.  You’d hate to have your perfect shot ruined by wild hair in your face, lipstick, etc. An up do is cooler as well and, in the case of my wedding, having an up do kept it from getting tangled in my lei.  Finally, skip the veil.  They just tend to fly away and get in the way of your photos.

4.       THOSE WATER SHOTS (and the undergarment shopping)!


You really should do water shots.

First, they are SO fun! When else would I get to splash around the Pacific in a wedding gown!?! I felt like a mermaid.

Next, the photos looks stunning and are so much more memorable then standard posed wedding pics.

Finally, contrary to the phrase trash the dress, the dress doesn’t get ruined! At least mine didn’t, nor did my friend Patricia’s dress. I just rinsed it out after, then sent it to the cleaner, and you would never know!

I will recommend you ask your wedding planner or beach photographer how crowded the beaches are and go with the lightly trafficked one.  We had no one in our shots which was really nice and private.

And in a related crucial fashion tip, you need very like-color-matching underthings. If your gown turns a bit see through when wet, that’s ok (as you can see, it actually looks good around the calves –  you can tell the fabric is a bit sheer when wet which makes it look real), but the color of your undergarments must match perfectly.  And it’s better if they’re minimal.  Spanx or the like would really show when wet.  (I dieted before hitting the water in my wedding gown…)

5.       The Groom’s Clothes (I mean it does take two to vow renew).

We went local, meaning I got my hubby and son matching Aloha shirts, linen pants, and sandals.  They were so comfy and happy, and they looked great!  And revisiting the comments about being hot and sweaty; the same goes for your man, if not more so.

Why stuff your guy in a suit? If you are doing a beach wedding, I say look like you are at the beach! Hilo Hattie online sells tons of grooms and kids matching beach wedding attire for men.

6.       The Second Dress/Clothes.


If you are going to do in the water shots, you might want a second DRY dress to go out dinner or the reception after.  That’s what I did.  It also gives you a fun excuse to buy TWO wedding gowns. My second one only cost $70 so it was less than a festive sundress.  And don’t forget to buy the love of your life two sets of clothes too because he’s going to want to be fresh and dry.


So who’s ready for a beach wedding?  Whether it’s vow renewals or your first time around, this S.W.A.P. will have you saying I, Do in style!

Having The Difficult Conversations

Do you love to have hard conversations?


Then you’re in the overwhelming majority of people (as well as almost every friend I have).

I don’t like to have difficult conversations, but they are critical to both leaders and those aspiring to lead in their organization.

I recently heard a career coach touch on this topic with great insight.

One of the aspects she emphasized most was positioning the conversation as about the person hearing you, and protecting the company’s interests, versus any injustice you may feel you experienced.  Therefore, if there’s a promotion you understood you would receive but didn’t, you don’t charge in at the peak of your emotions listing the ways in which you were wronged.  Rather, after careful consideration and practice with a trusted advisor, you could share how you understand the company’s value proposition, and then identify how the decision could detrimentally impact an internal team or external client or marketplace perception.

When you prepare for difficult conversations, and preparation with a business savvy sounding board is key, always begin with developing positive messages.  It’s important to stay positive and calm and professional.  Consider who you will be speaking with and what their key interests are.  How you frame a message to a company President will be different than when you’re speaking with a team staff member.  Align your interests with your audience and the company.

For example, if a long time contractor used sexually inappropriate conversation, then you are responsible for having a conversation with both the contractor and, if you are not the supervisor, the boss.  Highlight you are having the conversation because you want to protect the company’s reputation and their core values.  Raise the issue in a one on one setting so the recipient of the advice is less likely to jump to a defensive position.

Regardless of the situation, having the difficult conversations position you as a thoughtful and determined leader.  This quote from Sheryl Sandberg sums up how critical having these well framed conversations can be to your leadership potential – don’t be a hedger:

When psychologists study power dynamics,
they find that people in low-power positions are more hesitant to share their views
and often hedge their statements when they do.
Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In

The New Mom Movement

Sometimes, you just want to write a post to irritate everyone.

Ahem, actually not so much.

Hence this post sitting in the queue for a bit.  Then I decided to be brave and put it out there.

I love this new mom movement going around about not judging each other for the different ways we mother.  LOVE IT!  Primarily because I’m prone to guilt and work full time, and I appreciate you not judging me for what little bit looked like when we returned my suit to Dillard’s yesterday.  I didn’t have the energy to redo her ensemble.

I am opposed to judgment.

But I wonder if this whole “no judgment” movement has given us a pass where we should be trying harder.

Here’s a couple of examples I read about or hear in speeches.  Example A, I’m a busy mom so I don’t often worry about cleaning my house.  I live in the moment and pride myself on sticky floors and legos everywhere because it means I spend more time with my kids than I do worrying about my house being messy.  Example B, I’m a working mom so I outsource every possible mom activity I would perform if I didn’t have a career.  I order cupcakes, don’t bake them.  I have a housekeeper, lawn man, pool guy, tutor, sitter, personal shopper, etc.

Did I just make the entire mom population unsubscribe?  Wait!  Let me first disclose, my house is regularly a wreck.  IN ADDITION, I have a nanny who helps clean my house.  See?  I’m not judging.

But here’s what got me thinking after talking to a woman who career coaches other women.  Do we need to abdicate responsibility for everything?  What does that teach our kids?

First thing in the morning and last thing in the evening, we have our kids clean.  We clean right along with them.  Each one has to make their bed in the morning and put their dirty clothes up and clean the table.  In the evenings, they have to clean up the play room and unload the dishwasher and make sure their bathroom and bedrooms are tidied up.  I am imperfect about this but want to teach our kids responsibility growing up.  If they don’t learn it at this early age, they will struggle against the assorted responsibilities of home and work as they grow.  Then we hoist our kids incapable of participating in household duties on some unsuspecting spouse.

When I married my husband, he was tidier than I was.  He cooks, cleans, launders, and is entirely self-sufficient.  I want clean, respectful, responsible and independent kids.  House chores, and living in an environment that reflects we respect ourselves and others, help our children learn those valuable characteristics.

Let’s tackle the outsourcing.  Our kids have two parents with full time, often stressful, jobs.  There’s no way the kids could have done swim team (or anything) this year had we not had a nanny.  She’s been with us since they were born, is like part of our family, and is a practical and financially appropriate decision for a family of five.  I am sad thinking about the day we won’t have her anymore.

I do worry we career moms are taking outsourcing too far though.  The woman I mentioned told me she recommends her clients outsource everything: for example, the kids will never remember you baked homemade cupcakes for their school party so just pick some up at the store.  While I’m not beyond picking stuff up at the store, I beg to differ.

My kids know the time and effort I put into doing things for them.  Now that they’re five, they’re in the kitchen baking with me.  For the Christmas party, we made festive fruit ka-bobs with green grapes and red strawberries and white marshmallows, and they had fun helping and plating the treats for school.  For grandmother’s birthday, we all baked a cake together and wrote (very poorly) her birthday message in icing.  I showing them I love them by carving time out to do something for them, AND we’re getting to spend time together while they learn the basics of cooking.  Now it may not be cooking for everyone – it could be artfully collaborating on a sign or mowing the grass or fixing up a car or whatever the practical task may be that gives parents time with their kids and teaches them a practical skill.

This is not about judging moms, thank heavens because I would lose, but it’s about drawing a line in the sand on the slippery slope of it being about us instead of them.  Each individual mom has to decide what works for her and her family.  For me, it means I don’t clean toilets or do laundry which is a huge gift most folks don’t have and which frees me up to bake those cupcakes.  Maybe it’s doing laundry together as a family while you listen to silly songs.  Whatever it is, it’s important to remember I became a mom for a reason.  If we start outsourcing everything about being a mom, what will they remember us for?

I want to teach values of respect for our house and our things by encouraging them to clean up from a young age.  I also need to remind myself that being a mom means sacrificing a lot, all the time, which means less sleep and broken necklaces and markers on the wall, but after spending years praying for these three, I wouldn’t exchange it for anything.