Leadership Flashback

I am simultaneously excited about, and dreading, this month.  September is always fun month – the start of fall, my birthday, back to school, etc.  But this month is packed with travel.  I’m in Austin this week, then at the end of next week I head to Alaska for over a week (work with a little personal trip to kick it off), and then I get back to Houston for a week before flying to D.C.

I knew well in advance that would mean I’d need some help here on the blog.  So while there will be a handful of new posts from me, there will also be some wonderful guest posts (including every September Fashion Friday – can’t wait to debut this week’s!) and a few of my past favorites.

This leadership post, entitled Leading Past The Fear, ran last March and still rang true to me today when I was sifting old posts:

Today, we’ll tackle when leading, or the chance to lead, has you shaking in your boots.

When I interviewed Diane Yu from NYU for the book, I appreciated her candor.  The first thing she shared with me was a that leadership IS HARD.  Not for the faint of heart.

There’s this idea that leadership is all success and prestige and honor.

But leadership can mean loneliness, hard decisions, intense pressure, and tremendous responsibility.

Fortunately, she went on to say that you should still lead if given the chance.  Just go in prepared for what’s ahead.

Very recently, I was given the opportunity to lead in a way and within a timeline that was completely unexpected for me.  Do you know what my reaction was?  Nausea.  Fear.  A strong desire to step back and say, “no thanks, I’m not ready for this.”  My closest friends were encouraging me and cheering me on while I was ready to tuck tail and run.

The opportunity, on its face, was exciting.  But there was some quantifiable risk that accompanied the opportunity.  Unpredictable personalities and an unknown outcome.

Some days, you feel ready to tackle those challenges with abandon.  However, given the fact that I’d had to tackle a fair number of new leadership opportunities this past year, this challenge just left me tired.  Ready for a little of the familiar.  The low risk way of life despite the low return.

I took the challenge anyway. 

As you know if you’ve read this blog at all in the past, I am a strong believer that these opportunities come from God.  Not as a result of luck or timing or karma, but because God has a plan for my life and this is part of how He would like to use me.  This is not to say that you shouldn’t say no to certain opportunities.  You absolutely MUST say no to certain opportunities so that you can make room for the yeses that matter.  This was a yes that mattered.  This was a yes that, if I took it, could show others that God can do big things.  Because there’s no way, on any normal timeline or in any normal circumstances, I should have this opportunity.

So I said yes.  I still felt completely nauseous.  I still do.  I’m still shaking.  But with great (smart) risk, comes great reward.

Flashback Fashion Fridays – Cocktails

Thought we’d revisit a couple of our fashion Fridays as the holidays are just around the corner – here’s my original Fashion Friday on the Cocktail Conundrum:

Isn’t it nice just to do something fun and light every once in a while?  Well, that’s what Fridays are going to be here.  Debuting, Fashion Fridays.  As I mentioned before, I am certainly no expert, but my girlfriends and I debate the little twists that come for career women to the typical fashion advice.  And we work through solutions to the problems.  Recently I have had several conversations with girlfriends about cocktail dress dilemmas.  So today we’re going to tackle two of those cocktail conundrums.  One friend needed to go to an awards reception for her company where she would be one of the only professional women in attendance.  Another friend needed to go to a party in “cocktail attire,” but she hadn’t gotten her baby weight off and would have to shop in the plus size department.

These issues are completely manageable.  Thank heavens for the Internet!  I often find that my local store doesn’t carry my size, but I find a limitless size selection on-line.  Plus most department stores have decent selections on their websites whether you are a size 2 or a 20.   Personally, I find the biggest selection at Nordstrom’s, so I buy four or five dresses on-line, try them on in the privacy of my own home, and return the rejects the very next day.  Then you get exactly what you want, on your time frame, without any sales pressure, but you don’t have to carry a balance on your credit card because you can return the extras to your local store.  Everything I have pictured today costs less than $300 and most dresses sell for $200 or less.  A few helpful tips I have found as I shopped with friends:  don’t wear something with a deep neckline if you have a bigger chest, choose an above the waist seam  if you carry weight in your middle (or side ruching surprisingly), don’t wear sequins or sparkle if you don’t want that area of your body to shine and don’t pick it at all for a work event, stay away from super bright colors like pinks and oranges if it’s a career event, and finally do NOT get so hung up on the size listed on the tag that you buy something too small – all designers have different cuts and our shapes change so just buy what fits best.

Problem A:  Serious work party with a lot of men, so my girly friend had to step back from her super feminine, louder color choices, and pick something that highlighted she was a confident career woman (still a woman though).  Here are the choices I sent her to order as options:

dresses

The key here was toning down the color.  Neutrals don’t have to be boring.  She also needed to look like she had serious executive potential so select fabrics that don’t look cheap even if you are able to get a good deal.  If it is a work event, particularly if you will be recognized, it probably warrants spending a little more money than usual to make sure you look the part.  I saw a photograph of her after the event and she looked beautiful.  Clearly she was dressing like a woman, but she also looked confident and capable of working any executive room.

Problem B:  Needing a larger size dress than usual for an imminent cocktail reception, so my friend who used to be okay with some skin had to cover up a little more.  Here were the options I sent her to consider ordering:

bigdress

This is entirely contingent on where you carry you weight.  If you have  heavy arms, then you might not be as comfortable wearing a sleeveless dress.  Right now I am carrying too much weight in my middle, so my last cocktail event required me to wear a dress that had seaming just below empire level (above waist) with a slight A-line cut from the seam.  My friend also carries weight in the middle, as a lot of us mommas do, so she selected an empire waist dress that was color-blocked so it really pulled attention to her neckline and face and looked beautiful.

Just remember, everything could be photographed and posted and Tweet-ed and Facebook-ed, so take some time to look at the dress from every angle, including sitting down (and dancing if you will be doing some of that).  And most important, dresses are fun, so enjoy the hunt and take a friend.

Fishin’ Forty Linkup/Flashback Friday

I will definitely post about Disneyworld madness tomorrow but today I am doing my DELAYED Flashback Friday as a part of my friend Kelly’s link up on adult birthday parties.  I loved this post.  It was called Surprise and it was posted last July after the hugely successful surprise 40th birthday party I planned for Bray.  If you missed it, here it is: 

So finally, after six months of planning, I can write about it – Saturday night, I (along with many others) pulled off what I didn’t believe was possible in a day and age of e-mails/texts/cell phones – a SURPRISE birthday party. And not just any surprise party, but my husband’s big blow out 40th Surprise Birthday Party! And if you doubt whether or not it was actually a surprise, you should have heard what came out of his mouth as we pulled up to our dear friend’s house and there were over 50 people in the street to welcome him with a big “surprise!” I can assure you, my husband who does not like surprises or being the center of attention was not initially all that happily surprised. But I think about 10 minutes into it, when he saw his favorite friends and all of his family, he started warming to the idea. He didn’t have to stand in a circle while people roasted him or open presents in front of a crowd, he just got to spent the evening hanging out with some of his favorite people.

So now, I’m recuperating. Anyone who knows me knows I love to throw a good party. But never have I been more motivated to throw a perfect party than now, for my husband, who I adore, and who I have never had the chance to throw a party for before! I started planning at the beginning of the year. Secured my location and then began to research themes and invitations. Found this adorable place in Wisconsin to do a fishing themed surprise 40th invite which my mother and I then took up a notch with fishing lures & burlap.

They went out eight weeks in advance so those out-of-towners could plan to come in (which they did – thank you very much)! Then began the on-line ordering process for all the customized items which arrived in a trickle at my office from April to June – banners, cocktail napkins, party favors, etc. Oh how I wish I could do this for a living. There actually is a ton of fishing themed stuff out there and we were able to get everything from from water bottle labels (which we painstakingly applied to dozens and dozens of water bottles), to napkins with fishing boats/poles, to our custom cupcake picks!   We had a Mexican buffet catered and for dessert we served a variety of cupcake flavors, including his favorite (carrot cake!).  The cherry on top was the This is Your Life scrapbook for which 19 people contributed stories and pictures. I became so emotional reading all these wonderful memories of Bray and watching him as he grew. I spent hours at night at Walgreen’s scanning old photos in when he was out of town and my mom stayed with the sleeping munchkins.  The first part of the book was the stories, each typed in a different font and formated with pictures of the author with Bray, and the second part of the album was all the photos from every single phase of his life.   

All of it culminated on July 23rd, 4 days before his birthday, when we went to our friends for a “fish fry” at HIS suggestion! Low and behold, the gang was all there. I am completely exhausted but never have I taken on a more worthy endeavor for a more worthy person. It was such a gift to see him register how much everyone loves him and how thrilled we all were to be able to be a part of his life. As a part of this week’s blogging, I’ll post my story entry for the scrapbook, and maybe even the kids, but the rest of the entries are for him to enjoy and appreciate alone (and one day for our kids to sit and read and see how loved their daddy is).

Flashback Fridays

Well, technically this is my last Flashback Fridays since they were an institution of the summer, but because I will be in Disneyworld next Friday, I will likely have one more for you.  I went way back for this one.  It’s short and was written in the first month or so of me writing.  This was originally written on December 16, 2010, and entitled Mustard Seeds.  My writing will be a little light next week since I’ll be partying with my kiddos in Florida, but I will be back in full force with you after my birthday.  Happy Labor Day!

A very dear friend of mine is going through a very dark storm right now. Her sweet precious 4 year old has a very aggressive cancer. Despite all my weeks in the hospital with our babies, this is a new kind of trauma that I can’t imagine. It is prolonged. It wreaks havoc even outside of the chemo treatments. And it wears you down to a state where you are scared to ask for miracles for fear that God might disappoint you – and then what? What would happen to all those years of faith if He didn’t intervene like you asked?

I understand your faith being tested. I have been intimately acquainted with your hopes being dashed and dark news greeting you like a hail storm.  And while I have no words of wisdom for those going through a cancer storm with a child, I do know that the Lord understands that we are human (God made us after all) and does not expect us to blithely dance through trauma unaffected and sunnily optimistic. Our faith may feel small, but He tells us that small faith can do big things!  My mom gave me a mustard seed encased in a glass bead dangling from a gold chain which I wore through much of my childhood. It was supposed to be an ever present reminder that even though sometimes our faith feels SO small to us, God can use our small faith to do big things.  The God who multiplied 5 loaves and 2 fish, the God who raised Lazarus from the dead, the God who walked on water and calmed the storms WANTS to do big things.  He is a moving mountains kind of a God.  And when that mountain stands between you and survival, it is so hard to believe it will move and it is so scary to ask. But it CAN move.  So open your palm, imagine that teeny tiny mustard seed, and believe in a God of miracles.

Matthew 17: “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

*Note from 2012: my darling friend’s daughter is in full remission.  I know this isn’t the answer for everyone with this struggle, but praise gracious God that it was His answer for her. 

Flashback Fridays

I had a rough day yesterday.  For assorted reasons.  By the time I picked the kids up from soccer (which we’re quitting for reasons I will detail on another day) and got home to feed them dinner, I was a wreck.  Fortunately, my mom had come and made dinner which allowed me to just sit down at the table with them and put my head down.  The baby was so worried about me he got up from eating dinner and came over to give me a hug and pats on the back.  This child is precious.  So for today’s Flashback Friday, I remembered a post from about this time last year.  I was super sick and this sweet child came and covered me with his blanket.  I hope you enjoy my post from September 19, 2011 entitled Top Five (or maybe bottom five):

This weekend had its highs and lows. For example, I lost 2 pounds. But I didn’t lose it the fun way.

Here’s the Top (or bottom) Five Wrap Up from the nuttiness that was our weekend:

5. I got to go on a date with my husband. To the E.R. After he stepped on a nail Saturday night, which went through his boot and into his foot (which he then proceed to extricate), he decided he probably should get a tetanus shot Sunday. Not wanting him to feel lonely, I woke up at 5 am and threw up so violently for several hours that twice I thought I was going to pass out because I couldn’t breath in. Then I broke out in a terrifying, and itchy, rash from neck to knees. We didn’t make it to church Sunday morning, but St. Luke’s we figured was close enough.

4. The little lady’s burgeoning independence. She loves doing stuff herself. She will punch you out if you try to help her (unless it’s putting her shoes on, those she wants on all the time, and various pairs, and she needs help and needs it now). During our school drop off this morning, I’ve never seen a child run so fast. She ran right past me, gave her lunchbox to Miss Michelle, put her paint smock on and began her next work of art. Seriously, she was painting in full gear in the two minutes it took me to unload all their stuff and say goodbye (not that she bothered waving, she was busy at school).

3. The baby’s empathy. Little buddy was SO worried about mommy laying near death on the sofa while waiting for Miss Maria to come (so Bray and I could go to the ER), that he ran over and crawled up on the couch with his blanket and covered me up and sat there patting me. Seriously? He’s not even 2. He’s going to be the one making sure my hair gets done at the old folks home.

2. The neighborhood playground. I can not BELIEVE it took me so long to discover this thing. You pay $25 and get a playground access key. I did it because we’re having the kids 2nd birthday party there, so I got a key about a month ago. Oh my heavens, it is wonderful. It’s the only place right now I can take them solo. It’s fenced in and super kid proof and has all these fabulous slides and swings and toys. We go every weekend morning and had some weirdo not come and parked there and watched us with his truck running we would have stayed all morning long. It rocks!

1. Rain! It rained on our little corner of the world for several periods this weekend. My favorite of them all was the 5 am rain we got this morning. The thunder was loud enough to wake two of the three. The little lady settled back into her crib but Dennis the Menace was having none of it. He was coming to bed with us. Lest you think he was beside himself with fear, let me clear up that misconception. One of his favorite books is Mr. Brown Can Moo, in which there is a page that says, “Boom, boom, boom! Mr. Brown is a wonder. Boom, boom, boom! Mr. Brown makes thunder….” So imagine, if you will, a three-foot, towheaded, evangelical preacher standing in your bed, pumping his fist in the air with all his might, bellowing “Boom, Boom, Boom!” It was too funny to grieve over my lost hour of sleep.