Empowering Women, Family, Grief, Reflection, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

Being Grateful…Always

2017 and 2018 have been the most confusing, challenging, emotional, hardest, eye opening and unforgettable years of my life. Through it all, I have learned the meaning of gratitude – both receiving and giving.

As we enter the week of Thanksgiving, there are many conversations around being thankful. Thankfulness and gratitude are the sisters of appreciation. The meanings (to me) are slightly different but certainly aligned. I am thankful for so many things in my life – my family, my career, my health, and living in a country of a free democracy. 

Gratitude for me is a deeper emotion, a deeper feeling. I am thankful for my family but so grateful for how they have helped me manage the past 15 months. Always available, ready to listen, and simply be there for me. Thankful and so grateful!

Gratitude means an honest open appreciation and genuine candor for those things we are truly thankful for. The difference between being thankful and showing gratitude is well captured in this quote: “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” -William Arthur Ward

As I pause and reflect – I am grateful for the following:

 My daughter and her amazing ability as a mom. I tell her often that she does a wonderful job with her children (my littles”) and how so very grateful I am to be able to watch her and be a part of her journey.
 My son. He is a warm, caring soul – a genuinely good person. I am so grateful for all he has done and continues to do for me and with me since Mark died. He was struggling with his own grief journey but has always taken time to check in with me and do things for me that needed to be done.
 My family – for letting me cry, for picking me up, for celebrating successes with me. I tell them how very much I appreciate and am so blessed for each of them. It takes a village!
 My colleagues – I work with great people who support me and let me be my transparent self. I can have a great day and a rough day – they are there. We laugh and sometimes I cry. They let me experience life without hiding behind a mask of perfection.
 I am grateful for the ability to share my stories and for each and every one of you that reads and perhaps reflects. I want to share to help others and am grateful to those of you who have told me my stories have made a difference to you.

Gratitude is a demonstrable emotion tied to thankfulness. As you sit down this week and think about what you are thankful for over Thanksgiving holiday – remember gratitude and let someone know how very grateful you are……a true Thanksgiving gift.

Here’s a Thanksgiving Gratitude Challenge for you: Every night this week, write a gratitude list with at least 5 things you’re grateful for. Try it out this week and see what it can do for you! And maybe it can be worked into your daily routine in the future!

Challenges, Empowering Women, Family, Leadership, Tips, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

Thoughts on Work Life Integration Part V

Vacation time is an important employee benefit – it is critical for people to have time away from work to relax and disconnect from the pressures of the job. You won’t earn a promotion or get an achievement award for working on your vacation. If you manage people, just imagine the pressure you put on them if you are working most of the time while you are on vacation – you are setting/modeling the expectation whether you realize it or not. Rest, relaxation, and recovery of your resources are important to ensure you are bringing your best to your job. So take that vacation – delegate accordingly, let go, and relax……you have earned the right!

If you manage people, be the person who “walks the talk.If you encourage your team to disconnect on vacation or days off, do the same yourself. As my colleague did so well, if you are leaving work to be at an event that is important to youvolunteering, a child’s event, taking a parent to the doctor, whatever it is, say it – out loud. It gives others “permission” to do the same and know that an integrated life takes commitment and practice.

Take small steps in your commitment to create an integrated life and build on them over time. Be an example to others around you. Being always on/always connected in a global economy means that you become the gatekeeper for your life because the intricacies of this global work world will not allow for “operating rules”.

Make it work for you to ensure you are your best integrated self – your best professional and personal YOU!

Challenges, Empowering Women, Family, Tips, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

Thoughts on Work Life Integration Part III

With no clear cut rules” in place on how to operate in a work life integration model – we need to create our own models. Models that serve us well – let’s consider starting with some simple things. 

Have you ever observed the moms of little ones at the playground? Looking down and tied to their smartphone? Missing the precious moments of fun at the playground. Now I am not saying it is easy but perhaps 5 minutes of smartphone and 30 minutes of fun. The children will grow and be out of the playground stage before you know it – be present for every minute.

Putting that smart phone with company email away at the dinner table and never bringing it into the bedroom. 

Taking that call from your child’s school or your partner during the day – that 10 minute break goes a long way! 

Taking time to be at an event (volunteerism; your child’s activity; a doctor appointment or getting your hair done) and NOT be frantically tied to your work email for that hour. 

Be there – be present in whatever activity you have committed to. And perhaps commit 30 minutes or an hour to your work email to make up for it later and be fully committed at that time.

Challenges, Empowering Women, Family, Leadership, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

Thoughts on Work Life Integration Part II

Consider the “good old days” when a person could come home from work and unplug! We are all plugged in all the time – so it is all business, all day, every day! Work doesn’t stop when we are sleeping, on vacation, or out of the office. Life happens during the day – a teacher calls about a child, an elderly parent calls to connect during the day, lawyers, doctors, and dentists connect with us during our workday. So the solution becomes integrating our personal and professional lives together as they are not two separate and distinct worlds anymore. Can we do this without feeling guilty, without sacrificing our personal life or our career? It is in our hands (each of us individually and as leaders) to model strategies for an integrated life. 

A colleague of mine (a 40something man in a leadership role) would leave wherever he was every Wednesday at 4pm to take his young daughter to ballet class. At monthly leadership meetings that would end at 5:30, he would be certain to be on the early part of the agenda and get up at 4 to leave the meeting. What I loved about this was that he would proudly and confidently announce it was Wednesday and his daughter had ballet. A father of four children, this was one way he modeled the practice of managing an integrated life. 

Until large corporations can make significant headway toward a culture that emphasizes work life integration and truly embraces, models, and supports this new operating model….employees will continue to struggle with how to make all facets of their lives work. This “stress” contributes to employees being disengaged over time. The challenge then becomes ours as individuals to manage and control what we can in this blended world.

Challenges, Empowering Women, Family, Grief, Reflection

Spring Blog

Spring. A season of new beginnings and living in gratitude.

As we enter the season of spring (finally for those of us in New England!) I find myself thinking back over the past two seasons (winter and fall) and understanding more the journey of life I have travelled. Today I am grateful….for so many things:

  • A 34 year friendship that included a 30 year marriage. Years of happiness joy tears sadness sacrifice struggles and an inordinate amount of love laughter and lightness. I love you Mark
  • Beautiful caring and kind children whose family love is unbreakable
  • My littles who bring a smile to my face and a spark to my life and fill my heart with love
  • My family – they are my foundation, my people and I am blessed
  • Friends near and far – these people are my village and I love them all
  • Work that I enjoy – my work keeps me learning; keeps me sharp and keeps me focused on things other than myself. The work I do helps people live and enjoy their lives and that is important – I know the work I do makes a difference

I have climbed a steep mountain these past 8+ months and this journey has not been easy. I see the top and the lightness. I know that all of you have been with me along the way. That has helped tremendously.

Today I can say I am proud of myself and I know my truth. I am proud of my husband Mark and the life he lived. He was loving, he was kind and he made a difference to all that ever knew him. He was light. I am proud of our life together- all of it. Our experiences created a life I am grateful for today. I miss him terribly but I know he would be proud – of my journey; of the journey of our family; of our strength and of the knowledge of what truly matters in this world. It is kindness …… in whatever form it presents itself that matters. The kindness in a simple thank you or in letting someone into traffic. Kindness in a phone call simply to say hello, I am thinking about you. Kindness at work when you see someone and smile.

In this season of Spring think about new beginnings and kindness – to yourself and others.

#lovematters  #livemytruth #family  #tookthehill #kindness #seasonofspring

Challenges, Empowering Women, Family, Grief, Leadership, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

Managing Grief. Managing Life. Managing a Career. 

It is extremely difficult (more so than I ever imagined) to manage through the grief journey. I have also become quickly attune to the common misconceptions associated with grieving. Let’s begin with the notion that grieving is a “process” and somehow eventually you reach an “end point” of grief. What I have come to experience is that grief changes you and the process is lifelong. There is no end point. There is no “finish line” to reach.  

Another very common misconception is that there are defined “chronological stages” of grief that one goes through (denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression, acceptance) – clearly not the case. You fluctuate through them constantly. Just because you’ve gone through one, doesn’t mean you won’t revisit it. It is not predictable nor orderly. Grief is not linear – it is more like a jungle gym. You can revisit one or they can all come and revisit you all at once. There are days of great strength and perseverance. Life cooperates. Accomplishments happen. However just as quickly there are days of great struggle. Getting up and going is a challenge. Putting together a sentence is difficult. Maintaining focus at work is non-existent.

Grief and the process of grieving is unique to each person. You cannot fit grief into a neat little box. Nor can you expect someone to be somewhere in their grief journey. Expectations have no place in grief.

One does not “get over” grief. You do not resolve or recover from grief. You are forever changed by grief, learning how to reconcile grief and integrate this new reality. While the rest of the world moves on and goes about their life (whether it is business life or personal life) the grieving person needs to figure out how to manage in a new normal that they weren’t ready for, weren’t prepared for, in an often unwanted situation. We simply just don’t want to have to figure this out – it’s hard, it hurts, and it is exhausting!

Today, this is my life. It is a process, not an event. Grief and grieving affects every single aspect of my life. I can manage my personal life in a compartmentalized fashion – I have experienced many tragedies and challenges in life. I can manage through visiting family or making decisions around family functions. I have an amazing system of support (my family) and they get it, they get me. I can manage through the details of life – day-to-day activities – on my own terms and in my own way. Even if it means crying in the cookie aisle at the grocery store (yes, it’s happened).

But managing grief and grieving while trying to lead and operate in the workplace requires managing through a very different set of challenges. Meetings, conferences, conference calls, speaking engagements, getting up and going to work, driving home from work …… they all present unique challenges. I have been in meetings where my mind wanders and I think about my husband. I have had to leave meetings (not many, but a few) because I have experienced overwhelming emotion and sadness. I limit the amount of social hour and networking events I attend that have an open bar. Let’s just say alcohol and grief don’t particularly go well together! I also am fully aware that social hours can present awkward moments of conversation. I never want anyone to feel uncomfortable.

I try to tell myself I am doing the best I can, I believe that to be true. It is fascinating to me though that as the world continues on and picks up where my “life” left off, I am many times trying to keep pace, trying to determine what I do next. Patience, kindness, and caring – things I am trying to practice for myself and others as I continue on this journey.

Challenges, Empowering Women, Family, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

Going Back to Work

How do you decide? What are the “rules”? What are the company policies?

I knew I needed to return to work – I needed the normalcy that work and the structure provided me. I needed the distraction. My husband’s service was on the 10th and I was then distracted with grief counselors, finding a support group, meeting with my financial advisor and going through paperwork, will, trust, and insurance forms. That carried me through a few days. I then began toying with going back to work. Caring family, friends, and co-workers thought perhaps it was too soon. I know myself and I knew if I waited any longer I might not be able to go back…..at all.

Like I do in all situations – I created a plan. One that would work for me and it gave me some sense of being in control – when nothing else in my life was in any sort of control. I proactively shared my plan with my leader and my HR leader for alignment. I got full support of my plan – and encouragement to not try and do too much too soon. (For those who know me this is comical and the rest of the story here is in typical Leslie fashion).

I returned to work on Thursday August 17th – I worked a couple of hours in the morning to get through the start of the day and then left for appointments and came back to work an hour or so at the end of the day. This was designed to get through a beginning of day and end of day experience. The next day I worked 5 hours straight (from 9-2) in order to see how my “work stamina” would be for a 5 hour workday run. The first day was cleaning out emails and reorganizing my calendar. The second day I scheduled two calls and listened in to 3 others to get caught up vs. active participation.

One of the things I did immediately was to do what I typically do – walk by people’s office to say good morning and hello. I also ensured I said hi and connected as people walked by my office. I did not want anyone to feel uncomfortable or strange around me. It helped them, it helped me.

The following Monday, my intention was to work until 3 and go home and take calls from home. I had a large break of time where I was making some phone calls and decided to do so at the office and take my 5pm meeting in person instead of over the phone, at home as planned – BIG mistake! I still have no idea what was said at that meeting – my brain was in a fog and my capacity to absorb anything was shot.

My work days are not what they used to be – I am trying to be kind to myself. I am taking each day as it comes. Some days I am in the office by 8, somedays by 9. Some days I leave by 4, some days at 5. I don’t do work much at night anymore. In fact I have only done so once. My team that I work with have been amazing – they are so smart, so focused, and great leaders. I am blessed.

My days are still interweaved with appointments, lawyers, wills, insurance, grief counselors – I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot. But I have support to help me through some of the decisions that have had to be made and that has been meaningful and helpful.

I am getting through – one day at a time. Not sure what next week will bring but I do know that there are better moments. Work helps for certain. I am grateful for the career I have and the work I do at Comcast. 

Challenges, Empowering Women, Family, Reflection, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

The Risk (and Reward) of Living a Transparent Authentic Life

• You are so brave

• You are the strongest person I know

• That took courage

Comments shared over the past few weeks and certainly stated from a place of love and kindness. Interestingly, I have thought long and hard about these comments and how they make me feel. Should I be happy? Flattered? Shocked?

Being authentic and transparent was a purposeful decision I made when I started my career at Comcast. Prior to that, I had been guarded and cautious – with the exception of my close circle of colleagues and friends. What people thought of me and about me mattered – and mattered more than my ability to be my authentic self. That takes a lot of work and can be exhausting, let me tell you.

In my continued quest to be transparent and authentic I made the purposeful decision that I would use my blog to share the challenges of life, career, and family in hopes that my experiences could somehow help others. That was the purpose.

As I do with most of my pivotal decisions, I shared my plan for my blog and my intention of its purpose with my husband. He was fully aligned that yes my life experiences and challenges could certainly benefit others – as always my biggest supporter. My raving fan.

Sharing in a very transparent manner is both risky and scary. People love. People judge. People care. People reach out. People avoid. People try. Lives go on as normal for others. We go back to routines. We transition back into work. My pain is real and palpable – it hurts. I take solace in the normalcy that my work provides me.

The reward of transparency and authenticity is that life gets managed on my own terms – no apologies, no excuses, no façade. I am grateful that I have the support of my Comcast family (and the most amazing boss I have ever worked for) in order to manage my transition back to work in my way – in a way that will work for me…..in support of my ability to do what I need to for myself. Kind caring of oneself is critical in a time like this – to be able to cope and to be of meaning to one’s work.

Next week I will share my transition back to work which was the biggest “next step” for me. I will interweave some of the transactional things I am trying to manage while transitioning back to work.

One of my dear friends shared with me the following…..her experience in her life brought her these words of strength and hope to support me. Had I not been truly authentic in sharing the tragic loss of my husband – these words would not have been shared with such meaning!

“Take one day at a time. If that is too much, then one hour or one minute. Focus on what is possible and not what seems to be unrelenting, insurmountable pain. It gets better, not today….not even tomorrow, but eventually. The heartache never ends, but it gets better. And know this – you will not be the same person on the other side of this and that’s ok.”

 I am blessed. 

The pain is real. 

One minute, one hour, one day at a time. 

Challenges, Empowering Women, Family, Work/Life Balance

This. Is. Life. 

I have been silent on my social media platforms for the past 2 weeks. Life happened. In a tragic, sad, and heartbreaking fashion. In my continued quest to be transparent and share the challenges of life, career, and family – I will share the happenings over the past two weeks. The emotion and pain are still so very raw but my journey in writing is to share to help others.

My husband of 30 years tragically took his own life on August 5th after suffering with a long battle with depression. The shock, the pain, and the overwhelming sadness over the past two weeks has been surreal. I feel like I am in slow motion and in a dream that I will soon awake from.

The things you walk through in those first days and weeks are scary, sad, and heart wrenching.

I learned even more what an amazing family we have – my gratitude can never be measured for the support and caring that our family provided for us during this horrific tragic, unexplainable loss. They immediately jumped in to do what needed to be done to support me and my children.

My work family has been equally supportive. I have only worked for Comcast for two years and the love, caring, support, and meaningful gestures have been simply overwhelming. I now know the larger purpose for coming to Comcast – it was for more than the work. It was to be surrounded by a true family of colleagues and friends to lift me up in a time of darkness.

Over the next few weeks I will share some of what I hope will be helpful to others as I have walked this journey (and will continue to do so) – how to create a meaningful remembrance for a loved one who ends their life, how to navigate back into work in a meaningful way, how to manage grief, and how to remember and honor the legacy of another.

I will close with this: I deeply loved my husband from my heart. I did my very best to ensure the years since he retired were filled with fabulous fun. I think that was accomplished but there was so much more to do which makes me sad. My husband enjoyed the times spent together with family–they were some of the best times of his life. Together as a couple we truly “lived life” and had fun with ever growing bucket list activities.

My heart is broken and my life will never be the same. But I am so very grateful he chose to spend the last 30+ years with me – I loved being his wife. My husband’s caring and loving soul will be a part of what I choose to remember – as well as the love story of all times.

Thank you to my “village” for holding me up, helping me out, and supporting me – every single gesture and act has guided my days.

“Remember me…..in the stars, in the wind, in the ocean and in your heart.” -MJB

Challenges, Empowering Women, Family, Tips, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

Long Weekends: Relax

For so long, I would make all of these crazy plans for long weekends – someone was having a party, someone was having a cookout, there was always someone to visit and someplace I felt compelled to go. 

Over the years, I have embraced long weekends as a chance to “live life” and do some of the things I simply enjoy doing – reading, watching a movie, running errands with my husband, even taking a nap in the middle of the day.For me, the key to enjoying this “down time” has been to own my choices. Much like the scariness sometimes of owning your voice, owning your choices can be a bit scary as well. We all know that someone is going to feel slighted if you choose to stay home versus attending their cookout or an outing with them. It happens to all of us and what we need to try and practice is making choices that put us first.

For me, the busy rigor of the work week demands that I take some time on the weekends to reenergize and that requires choices. So there may be times when I don’t go to all of the events offered up as invitations over a weekend. It’s simply a choice I am making, not to put anyone else second or third but to put myself first.

And at this point in my life, putting myself as my first priority feels pretty good. It is power and serenity combined. Give it a try! Give yourself permission to put yourself first and see how liberating it can feel.