I haven’t had a whole lot of time to write lately which, I suppose, is both a good thing and bad. On the positive side, my lack of time is a direct correlation to the amount of time I am investing in my startup (and, I am pleased to report, not fruitlessly). What disappoints me is that I love writing my blog and I am always excited to see what will come out when I dedicate the time to focus in on what is going on in my head and venture out on the expedition that naturally follows. Sometimes the words call to me and sometimes, with focused attention and consideration, I can take myself to places to find those words and I am always amazed at what I find.
Fortunately for me, my friend and fellow blogger Claire Sinclair staged a little intervention by generously nominating me for The Liebster Award which is an online award offering from bloggers to other bloggers. Liebster comes from German and has a variety of definitions including dearest, sweetest, kindest, nicest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, and endearing. All adjectives that come to mind when I think of Claire and ones I would like to have associated with me. So, I’m grateful to Claire for paying it forward to me and I am excited to not only share what I am asked to as part of this nomination but also pay this recognition forward to other bloggers whose writing I find to be engaging and transformational.
First, I need to answer the 11 questions that Claire has laid out for me and then I need to provide 11 random facts about myself. I love these type of exercises but, if I had to do it differently, I would probably ask friends and family to provide me with 11 random facts about me. In fact, after this is done, I might just do that!
I was recently having a discussion with my best friend regarding how I might like to celebrate my 50th birthday. (Seeing that in writing, by the way, freaked me out just a little bit). It’s still 2 years away – or I could say that it is only 2 years away – so it was one of those wistful discussions about something that we really don’t need to focus on right at this moment but might be fun to think about. Frankly, now that I have articulated it this way, I’m not seeing the fun in it so much! Anyway, he asked me what I might want to do as I typically celebrate milestone birthdays in a pretty vigorous way. My 40th was a big blowout in my yard with (as I phrased it at the time) “every single person I love.” Apparently, I loved about 80 people because we had a packed house. I did truly love every minute of the party – especially the sea of friends strewn across my back lawn, passed out from way-too-much-celebrating. One of my friends had donated a bunch of feather boas to the party and I found loose feathers randomly around my house for months thereafter, reminding me of the joy of the celebration. It was a unification of people from all periods in my life. People who meant something to me (at 40, I thought I loved them all). It was wonderful and it made me happy. Following on the heels of that, when I was approaching 45, a friend who had attended my 40th reminded me of how much fun we all had at that party and instigated a 45th birthday celebration. I don’t think it was ever my intention to indulge in a mid-decade acknowledgment but it sounded like a good idea at the time and, once again, we celebrated en masse. It was a Hawaiian-themed event, again in my yard, and, while there were some new faces this time, it just made me happy. Since then, my priorities have changed – my entire life has changed. So, when I think about turning 50, I think of it through a new lens. And that lens is much more reflective. When my best friend and I had the discussion about how I might like to celebrate, I shared that I wanted to be roasted but, perhaps, not with such a negative connotation. I wanted to hear what the people I cared about the most had to say about me. Seems fitting. As does this exercise. So, let’s go!
Here are my answers to Claire’s questions:
1. What do you rant most over? Hmmm. That is a tough one. There are definitely things that bug me in life but some of my big triggers are centered around people who are not accountable and people who are disloyal or untrustworthy. Stuff usually does not cause me to rant. I might get really aggravated about how slobbish my husband or kids are but that doesn’t really get me going. People behaving badly really does.
2. Why did you start blogging? This one is easy! I started my blog back in 2010 to help support my consulting business. It started, purely, as a business blog. It was intended as a vehicle to help give voice to my perspectives on workplace matters like diversity, women’s leadership, work/life alignment, etc. Almost without my realizing it, I suddenly started sharing personal stories about my life and noticed that people were paying attention and offering really meaningful feedback. And, more importantly, I recognized the catharsis of sharing my story. Practically overnight, I stepped away from the business focus and made this about my life and my personal journey of humanity.
3. Do you have an idol, who is it and why? I don’t really have idols. I think idols are unrealistic because it assumes that someone is more than human. I have people who I really admire and who have inspired me. They are probably not who you might expect. They are everyday people who really motivate and excite me. They are my most favorite people in the world. So, my idols, if you will, are the following people and I’ll tell you why. First, my husband. He and I are completely different in so many ways but he is someone I truly admire. He has a sense of love and loyalty that I don’t always understand or appreciate. He has been so committed to me for nearly 23 years and has never once wavered on how he feels about me, despite me giving him lots of opportunities to do so. Next, are my kids. Perhaps because my older son is a teenager and more mature, I have begun to see aspects of him that I genuinely appreciate and applaud. I can envision who he might be as an adult. His confidence and sense of morality surprise and delight me. There are definitely days when it feels like the roles have reversed and he is the teacher, guiding me through unchartered waters. I cherish the moments when he stops and takes time to talk to me or ask for my help and I find myself transported and inspired. My younger son is also a role model for me because of his uncanny ability to express love and compassion in a way that I have never seen possible in my own life. He is an old soul who can empathize with those around him. Even when he is facing adversity, he finds a silver lining to adhere to and provide himself with a ray of light that represents goodness. I admire his openness and his kindness. Finally, one of the biggest influences in my life is my best friend. He is an inspiration because he models behavior that encourages me to expand myself in ways that I never imagined possible. I have a genuine appreciation for his triumphs which he acknowledges modestly yet thoughtfully. He has taught me to be present and to appreciate the simplicity of my life that provides me with pure joy. He has forced me (sometimes reluctantly) to acknowledge parts of myself that I would have otherwise ignored. He is a catalyst for growth and change because I get to luxuriously cherry pick through the field of wisdom he offers both intentionally and passively. All of these people encourage me, whether they recognize it or not, to be a better person and raise the bar in my life. They are my idols.
4. What is the best advice you have ever received? Believe it or not, the best advice I ever received was from someone I ultimately didn’t end up respecting very much. But, this one piece of advice has stuck with me for years. It is about parenting. When my children were very young, I lamented about not having any free time to myself. She, on the other hand, had teenagers and was seeing the world through a very different lens. She said to me “Right now, you just want 30 minutes to yourself. One day, you will be like me and wish you could have 30 minutes with your kids.” I have never, ever forgotten her words and I have honored that notion as my children have gotten older. It caused me to focus on being more present with my children and respecting the time I had with them. And, while I am not quite at the point where I cannot even get 30 minutes with them, we are definitely headed in that direction so I am very conscious about finding meaningful time with them and tuning into what they may want or need. I meet them where they are and find ways to incorporate myself into their lives rather than vice versa.
5. Where is the farthest you have traveled? I am not as well-traveled as I would like but I think I literally just came back from the farthest place I have been to. Yesterday morning I returned from Ecuador. It was the first time I had been to South America and, outside of some trips to Western Europe like Italy, England and Germany, it is the farthest I have traveled from home.
6. If you could be living anywhere in the world, where would it be? I have thought about this one a lot. As I said, I am not well-traveled and most of my travel is domestic and as a result of work. So, I don’t get to experience a lot of the destinations I am fortunate to travel to outside of the airport, taxis and hotels. I never imagined myself living outside the U.S. and I don’t think I have any great desire to do so. I might want to live in London for a while or somewhere in Europe. I love cities with lots of energy. Having grown up around New York City, I have a healthy love and appreciation for it yet am happy to get to leave there and come home to the suburbs. I also really love the ocean. It calms me and grounds me. So, ultimately, I would probably choose to live in the Bay Area, near the water but close enough to go into San Francisco and experience the city that I love so much.
7. What is your favorite indulgence? I love handbags. Beautiful, designer, high-end handbags. I cannot get enough of them. I spend way too much on them and all my close friends know I covet them. I believe in earning my rewards and am holding out for a particular Louis Vuitton tote that I have had my eye on for years. When my business reaches a certain level of success, this will be my treat. For now, however, I overindulge on lesser expensive bags like Coach, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, etc.
8. What are your pet peeves? My pet peeves are aligned with my rants. They are mostly behavioral. I have no patience for people who are not authentic. I cannot tolerate disloyalty, arrogance, or entitlement. Those things drive me crazy. I am not a neat freak or squeamish about certain foods. The word “moist” does not send shivers down my spine. I struggle with being tolerant of others who believe they have a different set of rules assigned to them.
9. What are your favorite television shows? There are probably too many for me to mention. I watch WAY too much television and am trying to cut back. I really enjoy well-written shows with incredibly deep character studies. Probably my favorite show of the moment is House of Cards. I became hooked last year on Orange is the New Black. I still love Mad Men and am sad to see it go. I am a big fan of most things HBO and Showtime. On network television, I continue to enjoy the drama of Scandal (it is my guilty pleasure) and cry each week at Parenthood, even though I would admit that it is schmaltzy. And, I simply love The Good Wife. Such great writing, such great characters and I am obsessed with Alan Cumming!
10. Do you have any tattoos and if so, what are they? I do have a tattoo! I was always against tattoos until I wasn’t. One day I just knew that I wanted one and that it was the right thing to do. I had lost a great deal of weight and had injured myself kickboxing, resulting in a hairline fracture in my right ankle. Having never been athletic before, it was significant to me that I had reached a point in my life that I was active enough to have a sports-related injury! I wanted to commemorate this with a tattoo right in the place of the fracture. The big decision was what to put there. I knew I needed to have something somewhat discreet because of my work and, while I respect and appreciate others who have big tattoos, that is still not my thing. I just wanted something symbolic for me. I carefully researched it and ended up with the Japanese symbol for “truth.”It is meaningful to me because truthfulness or honesty is paramount to me and, when I fractured my ankle, I felt like I was finally living a truthful life. I have had the tattoo for nearly 3 years and I still get excited when I look down on it. It makes me proud and happy.
11. Do you have any regrets? NO. (And neither should anyone else.)
And, now, 11 Random Facts about Me:
I doubt much of this will come as a surprise given how much I have shared in my blog but they are all little facets of my personality that, when pulled together, create the me that most people see.
1. I always believed I would die before I turned 25 so, as a young adult, I never made any plans for my life. I assumed I would be gone by some untimely form of death. Ironically, I met my husband 4 months before I turned 25 and we got engaged the day before my 25th birthday. I’ve always wondered if this was the universe providing me with more certainty of life beyond 25 and the bones of a plan.
2. Despite the fact that I most identify with being a Jew (because of my mother’s family), I grew up with no religion. This has been a struggle for me my entire life because it was one more item in a series of aspects of my life that made me feel like an outsider. I did not even have a religious denomination to align with.
3. I watched a man have a stroke right in front of me and it was the scariest thing I ever saw. My mother’s third husband was a bit of an alcoholic and he was not very healthy. One Saturday afternoon when I was probably 11 or 12, we were sitting at the kitchen table where I was working on a project for school and he was just hanging out and chatting with me. All of a sudden I saw his arm go up in the air as if we was grabbing for something and his eyes rolled into the back of his head. Unintelligible noises came from his mouth and, at my tender young age, he seemed like a Frankenstein monster to me. I ran upstairs to my mother’s bedroom and crawled under the bed in fear. I knew I had to do something to help so I called our neighbor and asked him to come over and help us.
4. I am terribly afraid of developing Alzheimer’s. There are genetic links on my father’s side of the family and perhaps on my mother’s as well. As someone who stores everything so neatly away in my mind (memorializing all experiences through images, smells, faces, etc) and am dependent on this information to help me navigate the world, I cannot imagine how I will retain any portion of my identity if I lose the ability to connect to these memories or be able to articulate my thoughts through words.
5. I have an overwhelming fear of heights. I have never been on a roller coaster nor have I experienced most amusement park thrill rides. I don’t get motion sick. It is an intellectual fear mostly. I am perfectly content flying and never have fear looking out the window when taking off or landing or even looking down to the ground from midair. But, even walking up the steps to the High Line in NYC, my knees get a little wobbly.
6. I did not speak until I was 4 years old. From what my mother told me, I uttered words here and there but was mostly silent. Ironically, I learned how to read by the age of 4 by studying books that my mother’s sister sent to me. I taught myself and would read quietly in my head. Suddenly, sometime after my fourth birthday, I started talking in very complete and thoughtful sentences. It was believed that the reading helped me to use my language. Frankly, I think this is all some family folklore and, in fact, that I was actually talking but, being the third child, no one actually paid attention to me and didn’t realize that I was talking in full sentences long before 4! The reading part is, for sure, true. I remember the books that I devoured long before I went to Kindergarten and recall entering Kindergarten with a very advanced reading level.
7. I have a very hard outer shell and a very soft inner core. Most people who do not know me think I am pretty tough and hard to get to know. I tend to not be very friendly and inviting when you first meet me because I am still quite shy. I was painfully shy as a child and would never introduce myself to other kids and used to be terrified of calling other kids on the phone to invite them to play because I so dreaded potential rejection. Nowadays, it is unconscious to me. I don’t realize that I often stand back and observe when I meet people rather than jumping into the fray. I have heard people refer to me as aloof, standoffish, elitist and I laugh. None of those adjectives even remotely accurately reflect who I am. I am definitely harder on the outside and tougher but I am thoughtful and reserved and, once I let you into my life, I am a total mush and you can easily break my heart.
8. I met my husband on a chat board before there were really chat boards. It was 1992 and we had both logged onto a very primitive chat board for work reasons. You had to come up with a name – a “handle” – in order to chat on the board and I called myself “Red” (because of my red hair at the time) and my husband was “Dano” (because of his name). Of course, the first thing I said when I saw his name was “Book em, Dano!” I needed some technical help but he and I somehow started a friendly chat that went on and on and on. We had a wildly-surprising instant connection that was palpable. We quickly moved our exchange to the telephone and I remember laying on the floor of my bedroom in my Park Slope apartment talking to him for hours on end. He had a girlfriend and I was seeing a few people at that time but we both knew, after the first call, that we were meant to be together.
9. My husband and I got engaged 4 months after we met while living on opposite sides of the country. I was so young at the time and didn’t bother to think about the complexities of a long-distance relationship (or any relationship, for that matter, as I was a dater – not interested in long-term commitments). Nor did it occur to me the need to test drive the car before you purchased. I went with my gut. As I have experienced only a few times in my life, I was magnetically drawn to him and there was nothing I could do to tinker with that. I knew that I had no choice but to be with him. 23 years later, I think the same is true. We had the most unconventional relationship and didn’t really “date” in the true sense of the word. We simply met and coupled up instantly. Neither of us questioned whether it would last and we never broke up.
10. I am the first in my family to attend college. My sister, who is 14 years older than me, returned to community college after she had already worked in a series of administrative jobs in Manhattan. Both my mother and sister were legal secretaries and my father was a high school dropout who went on to become a NYC police officer and then a small business owner. My brother also dropped out of high school and went on to earn his GED after he enrolled in the Navy. My attending a university immediately following my graduation from high school was a dream for my father (and he had hoped I would continue on to law school – sorry, Dad). My mother never put much thought to it because it was out of her scope of imagination to think that I would attend a university on a full-time basis and complete my Bachelors Degree. She assumed my life would look just like hers. It was a differentiator that distanced me from my family and was the beginning of my journey of understanding life beyond the very limited walls of my highly dysfunctional family.
11. I have been on television a number of times and had always dreamed of having a career in television. As a young child, I was on Romper Room several times and on Wonderama. As a young adult, I was an audience member on the Phil Donahue show and was able to ask questions on several of the shows. I had a crazy crush on Phil Donahue and nearly stalked him in order to figure out a way to get a job working with him. That never panned out and I figured out I had to settle for a more practical job in publishing. I never lost my love of the talk show and always dreamt of becoming the next Oprah!
Now it is time for me to nominate and pose questions for my nominees:
1. What is your biggest fear?
2. If you were a superhero, what power would you most want to have?
3. What is a dream that has stuck with you?
4. Who has been most influential in your life?
5. What is your dream job/career?
6. If you only had three words to describe yourself, what would they be?
7. How do you think others describe you?
8. How do you define courage for yourself?
9. What stresses you out the most?
10. What is one behavior in your life that you would like to change?
11. Complete this sentence: I will no longer accept….
Thanks again to Claire for nominating me! This was fun. I’m going to be reaching out to other bloggers to nominate them too!