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, Grief, Reflection

Everyone Has A Story To Tell

https://brenebrown.com/blog/2018/06/07/everyone-has-a-story/.

A colleague that I have never met sent me this link to Brene’ Brown’s post on LinkedIn. Laura (my colleague) reads my blog and noted she appreciated my transparency in sharing about my husband’s death by suicide. Laura was kind to say that she thought of me after reading Brene’ Brown’s post and wanted to reach out to see how I was doing. A remarkable act of selfless kindness.

What was so fascinating to me was that my week has been difficult and challenging….I had a hard time keeping it together. With the death of Kate Spade, I found myself going back to the same conversations people had when Mark died – we never knew he was in that much pain; what could have happened to push him to that choice; he had a wonderful family, a wonderful life – what went wrong….

My heart ached for Kate Spade’s family. I know the pain of being a survivor. The journey is daunting and oh so difficult. What I wasn’t ready for were the barrage of thoughtless comments and people’s judgement of those who die by suicide. Brene’ Brown’s blog: “Everyone Has a Story” is on point with the impact of that harmful commentary. Best 2 minute read – please take a moment.

Then on Friday as I was just beginning to see a bit of light through the fog of sadness, the alert pops up on my phone about Anthony Bourdain. That hit me like a punch to the stomach – knocked the wind out of me. I became overwhelmed with a sadness so powerful that I needed to call my sister. I couldn’t stop crying, I felt like I was going to be sick…..I was right back at that moment when I found Mark. The floodgates of questions, of trauma, of terror, of fear ……. came back in a very powerful way. I was able to regroup and get through the day but as I sit here on Saturday writing this blog, I am still shaken. My longing for my husband is the strongest it has been since he left us. I miss him terribly and my heart aches.

As I think about Mark today, my heart goes out to the families of Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and all of the suicide survivor families not quite as famous. There are far too many of us left behind to deal with something so very difficult. My heart goes out to every person that struggles with depression; anxiety and any facet of mental illness.

The world is a tough place and sometimes people just can’t stay – no matter how much love, how much money, family support, and therapy. People do the best they can every day – that’s all I know. I also know how very lucky I am to have “my village” (family, friends, colleagues). The love, your support and patience during this journey has given me the strength I have needed to continue my journey even without Mark by my side. Remember, our stories don’t need to end. If you are struggling, or if you know someone who may be struggling – reach out, connect, and share this number 1-800-273-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Hotline)

#stay #youmatter

Challenges, Empowering Women, Personal Branding, Reflection, Tips

Spring Cleaning

We have all heard about “spring cleaning” – our homes; our yards etc. The process of refreshing one’s home décor; clothes; gardens and getting rid of old things and welcoming new is typical of the change of season from winter to spring.

I am challenging myself this year to “spring clean” professionally. I am realigning some goals and working on some brand repositioning. It is interesting to consider “spring cleaning your professional life”. We have the opportunity to clean up and refresh our personal and professional brands; tidy up our networks and networking goals; and perhaps refresh our goals for the rest of the year (most peoples “New Year’s goals” are either already done or they forgot about them by now).

This is a great time to stop and pause and fine tune the job search for those on the job search. A great time to pause and consider your personal/professional development for the next leg of your career journey.

Just as important as it is to spring clean your house, spring cleaning your professional life can be just as rewarding and crucial to success.

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

Empowering Women, Reflection, Tips, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

#3. Create Good Habits

Creating good habits…so much easier to say than to do, but it certainly depends on one’s definition of good habits.

From last week’s blog I would share that for me a priority good habit is being kind to myself. Taking it easy and letting go of angst, anger, and drama. Balancing my time and being less focused on work outcomes and more focused on defining who I am and searching for the definition of my new future.

Eating well, exercise, reading more are all part of what I try to incorporate into each week. But I am also creating a positivity practice whereby I can see goodness, kindness, and love in the world. Starting most days with a positive intention of how my world will be and what the universe will bring forward.

Many of us start each New Year with resolutions – a strict practice of what we will do (diet, exercise, school, etc). Let’s begin the journey differently this year with a focus on good habits. Creating good habits is a journey – not an act of perfection or rigid focus. Be kind as you bring a new habit into your life – be healthy and choose wisely. Celebrate yourself and your progress…….

Remember Goal #2 – Let Kindness Rule – especially when it comes to YOU.

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

#2. Let Kindness Rule

Being kind is an important way of bringing meaning to our lives and the lives of others. Being kind allows us to communicate better, be more compassionate, and also be a positive force in people’s lives. Kindness has its source of truth within each of us. Some people are innately kind and yet it’s something that everyone can cultivate by choice.

How can one begin a “kindness practice”? Begin by being kind to yourself. Many people make the mistake of trying to be kind to others while at the same time not focusing on being kind to themselves. Ask yourself what you think it means to be kinder to yourself. Recognize your gifts, embrace your uniqueness, and shine the light of kindness on yourself.

I do participate in “random acts of kindness” but for 2018 I am working on the practice of intentional kindness. Like anything, some days are better than others. When I lose my patience in traffic (which does occur) – I try to shift my thought to what is perhaps the cause for an aggressive driver. Are they enroute to the hospital to see a loved one? Late for work and perhaps worried about an attendance issue? I shift my thinking away from myself to the other person.

Life has a way of shifting us to a place where kindness matters – an intentional practice of kindness is work (for some of us that is) and when that skill is practiced, life becomes calmer.

Let kindness rule……in a world where kindness can be fleeting…..let’s be what we seek in the world and in the workplace.

Challenges, Empowering Women, Reflection, Work/Life Balance

#1. Guard Your Time

Sounds easy enough right? How many of us overcommit? Say yes to things when we want really want to say no? Feel pressure to join a board? Attend an event? Volunteer? Meet for lunch? Squeeze in one more meeting? One more conference call?

Guard your time – what a concept. Time is so precious and for so very long I made certain I filled every moment of the day. I said yes to social events, volunteer gatherings, commitments to mentor, etc. even when I truly didn’t want to say yes. I felt pressure to be available and do what others wanted me to do, never fully taking the time to do what I wanted. I did get better at this later in life. Mark and I would always make time just to do what we wanted – movies, sporting events, our endless list of activities. But there was always an overlay of expectation both personally and professionally to commit to things. On some level there were some things I really didn’t want to do but did them anyway.

Guarding one’s time is a key to balance. A key to focused priorities. A key to putting yourself first, making yourself a priority. Guarding one’s time means not being afraid to say no and to own your time and how you spend it.

Let’s practice guarding our time – preserving moments for ourselves for the things we choose to do. I have started this practice and have had two opportunities to say no to things and to do something for myself. It is difficult at first – guilt and pressure (real or perceived) can invade our thoughts. Practice will make perfect.

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, Reflection, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

It’s a Monday kind of thing!

Changing my blog post up this morning given my happenings of the day: so I realized this morning (after I was in the office for about 30 minutes) that I had left my cell phone either in my car or at home. 

I typically would have picked this up quickly as I have usually tried to make calls enroute to work or send a text (or two) in the morning before I leave my house. I am trying to do things differently for some better balance and peace of mind. I haven’t watched CNN in the morning in days – the news can set the day up sometimes in the wrong way for me. I have instead chosen to start my day having coffee at the table and looking out of my slider into the beautiful backyard we now have and simply enjoying the view.I have also started listening to acoustic or indie music on my way to work in order to set an intention for a day of purposeful meaning. That helps me think and gets me ready for the day ahead.

So today there was no reason to expect my cell phone would be right on my person. I had no true need for it until I got into work and then set up my stuff for the day – after a casual conversation with a colleague. No cell phone – oh my. Went out to check the car – not there. Hmmm – yes, I realized it is likely still on the counter at home. It’s a Monday kind of thing – that was the email I sent out to peers and my team and indicated if they want to reach me, my office number or IM is the best course of action. I actually had to ask someone what my office number was – I didn’t even know.

Usually I panic if I forget my phone, however today is different. I am embracing the disconnection from the tethered device. I haven’t checked Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram. I haven’t received or sent any text messages from family or colleagues. I haven’t checked the stock market or the weather.

Today at work I am present – I am able to be focused on the task at hand and not the buss of the phone or the ding of a text. Have I really accomplished more in 2 hours than a typical Monday? It feels that way.

So this freedom of being present and being focused is actually a great way to learn and practice disconnect from technology. It’s not comfortable, but it is more than manageable.

Instead of being stressed, anxious, or feeling out of control – I am adapting and am chalking this lesson up to “It’s a Monday kind of thing!”

Confidence, Empowering Women, Leadership, Reflection, Working Women

A Boss, A Leader, A Mentor 

I often write about what it means to be a leader and a mentor as a woman – a subject clearly near and dear to my heart. I was recently asked to share about a woman leader, a woman mentor, and the most memorable female leader I worked for. Interestingly enough as I reflected on the question (and the ask to write about it) – the boss, the leader, the mentor all point me to the same person – Margaret Serjak.  

I met Margaret in 2005 through my then boss who served on a special project with Margaret. We were connected as well through my Market Area President at the time. I was considered a high potential leader and ready to move into a Director role. I was being put forth to interview and had interviewed in New Jersey. There was a position open in Southern California and I went to interview with Margaret. I was vetted out by others and offered the position!! In April of 2006 I went to work as the Director of Field Operations in Southern California and my journey and the relationship began. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how much I learned in this pivotal point in my career. Operations Strategy, Influence, Technology, Financial Performance, Pace of Change, Marketplace and Customer Strategy, Employee Engagement, and Leadership Engagement – all areas of business and leadership I learned from Margaret as a boss, as a leader, and as a mentor. I also reflect back to moving across the country and relocating my family for a role in her organization in Southern California and she always checked in to see how my family and I were acclimating to our new location. That is another leadership tenet I carry with me – people matter, yes – people’s family’s matter, absolutely!

Margaret was undeniably the hardest working and one of the smartest women in the industry. Margaret was above reproach in the integrity department – it was truly fascinating to watch her approach relative to business, leadership, and professional/personal integrity. Margaret kept a fast pace and executed quickly but with solid quality. She expected that of her team. We had large scope of responsibilities as leaders and she expected much from each of us. Knowing your business was table stakes and knowing how to change a trajectory of operational or financial performance was a measure of effective leadership. Margaret possessed the ability to ask the really tough questions in an operations review or finance discussion (sometimes to the point of being harsh) but it pushed me to ensure I was on point and on my “A” game. While there was that side, there was also the side of Margaret that was my greatest supporter and cheerleader (and I am sure same for my peers as well).

Margaret encouraged me to be creative around employee engagement and innovation, which are areas of strength for me and she always applauded those efforts, as did our employees. It means a lot when your boss encourages your areas of leadership strength. I try to do same with my team. In the fast pace of business with high expectations of leaders, it always feels great when someone recognizes work that you do. Especially when that person is your boss!

The most interesting reflection I have is during the time from 2006 until 2015, Margaret always believed in me more than I believed in myself. In 2011, she believed I was ready to be promoted – she told me I was as good as anyone else, why not. I went into that new leader role back East and Margaret then became a mentor and trusted advisor. As a mentor, she encouraged me and tried to reinforce my professional confidence. My regret is that I wished I had listened and believed. Margaret was not a person to simply say something to say it, she had to truly believe it herself. I realize now how I missed that (on my end) during the time she mentored me.

She has now retired from the business world (well-deserved I might add) and although we may not connect as often as we did when we worked together, I know that all I need to do is simply pick up the phone and she would be there for me!

I have had many mentors, bosses, and leaders over the course of my career – women and men – and I count my blessings for all of the lesson learned from each of them (the good and the not so good). I count my blessings three times though when I think of Margaret and the role she played in my career, my leadership, my confidence, my passion, and my overall business savvy. What an amazing gift!