Embracing the Builder in Me

    This week someone asked me how I would characterize myself.  What a question!?!  Not something that you ask a person like me lightly.  What it caused me to do was to reflect on what is now almost a 39 year old life, a 17 year career, an almost 13 year marriage and the last 5 years as a mother.  

    Is it possible to characterize what I am known for with a phrase or a statement?  I wonder if it can be that simple.  How can I package this life I have lived into a statement without being trite or oversimplifying the wonderful complexity that has been my life.  After a few moments of skepticism and frustration, it came to me.  

    I am a builder.  

    A builder of things:  kiddos, relationships (including the longest, best one with Jon), teams, businesses, marketing programs, friendships and most recently a house.  You name it, I like building it.  One of the profound things you realize when you are building a house is that through a series of micro-choices (the floor plan, the materials selection, the fixtures, the lighting) a house is formed.  It is amazing how relevant this is to life!!  A series of small (and some big choices) help to create the life that you want.  Sometimes those choices feel big – like whether to have kids – and sometimes they feel small – like getting out of bed to go to the gym in the morning.  Either way, they help to determine who you are as a person.  

    So, as a builder, what is the next thing that I will build?  Our house wraps up this summer, my team at work is in great shape, my kids appear to be normal, well-adjusted, kind little beings (at least most of the time), and Jon and I have met a number of the goals that we set out to accomplish.  Enter the problem!  I can’t seem to sit in this new so-called house (otherwise known as my life) that I have buit, and enjoy things.  I am always on the look out for the next thing to build…something to harness my creativtity and the perspective I have learned from all of the other building projects I have completed.    

    This creates mental disonance.  A feeling like I am not living in the moment, but instead, always looking toward the next project.  This evening, as I sit contemplating that next project, I have decided instead of being frustrated by being a builder, I will embrace my pursuit of the next thing.  It is just a matter of picking it wisely.  

    Making Change Happen in Utah

    Last night at the Oscars, Patricia Arquette used the stage to speak about an incredibly important issue to me – equality for women. Unfortunately, her memorable Oscar speech was followed with backstage words that didn’t help the cause. You can agree or disagree with her backstage follow up, but I hope that it is hard for any of us to disagree with what she said behind the microphone.

    “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”             – Patricia Arquette

    The issue of equal rights, and equal pay for women has been on my mind a lot lately. Since last fall, I have been spending a lot of thinking time about how I can help the women in my life succeed professionally. Whether it be giving my time to them, or clearing the path for their success, I have become more aware that I have a key role in helping the people around me succeed.   Last nights speech from Patricia renewed my energy, and I decided to write tonight about an experience I had last December. I had intended to blog about it then, but lost momentum. Thank you Patricia for helping me to get pissed off again (the most productive time to channel my inner feminist!).

    In December, Jon and I were watching television after our kids were in bed.  He was on his iPad browsing Facebook, and ran across an article from the NY Post that caught his attention.  The headline….”5 places women shouldn’t spend their travel dollars.”  He asked me to guess to see if I could come up with the list of places before reading me the article.  I rattled off Saudi Arabia (on the list), Iran (not on the list), a few countries in Africa (not on the list), and he continued to say no until I couldn’t come up with any more ideas.  Finally, he just started reading me the article.  My jaw dropped with the mention of Utah as #5.  And Turkey for that matter, which when visiting I found a wonderful open place.

    The article leads with:

     “It’s a sad fact that in the 21st century, women around the globe continue to encounter rampant discrimination, harassment and inequality. Sad — though not necessarily surprising. Here are five places where women’s rights are being exploited and sexism reaches into the highest echelons of government — reason enough to take your travel dollars elsewhere.”

    The state I love to live and work in meets this description?  That sucks.  I found myself a combination of pissed off at the state of affairs for women in Utah, and frustrated with the quality of journalism demonstrated by the NY Post.

    Part 1:  As I mentioned in my previous post, we do need to make progress in Utah.  We need to raise young men and women who think about many options for a woman’s career – both going to work and being a mom.  We need to close the pay gap between men and women which is ranked 49th in the United States for equality.  We need more females in our state government.  We need more women in company leadership.  We need more young women to complete post-secondary education.  And, we need companies to lead the way to make this change happen.

    Part 2:  Good journalism is dead.  This may be extreme, but so is calling Utah one of the top 5 worse spots for women to put their travel dollars based on discrimination, inequality, sexual exploitation, etc.  There are countries around the world where women cannot show their face, where over half of new brides are under 16, where over 80% of women report domestic abuse, and you put Utah as #5 on this list?  I appreciate the journalist bringing attention to women’s issues, and even the women’s issues of Utah, but do your research.  This article was simply inflammatory (which of course I fell for hook, line and sinker).

    I feel lucky to have a support network in my husband, family and friends that help support my desires professionally and personally.  I am grateful for my upbringing where my parents taught me to only see what is possible for me, never the barriers in front of me, and to work hard to achieve what is possible.  I feel proud of my company, CHG Healthcare Services, for creating a culture to work where women in Utah (and around the country) can have the career that they want, while balancing a family at home if they choose.  Our leading brand, CompHealth, has an executive leadership team with 50% women leaders.

    This recent speech by Patricia Arquette and the preceding NY Post article has elevated my commitment and my desire to utilize my experiences, and the experiences at CHG Healthcare to lead Utah out of inequality, to show other companies, and women living in our state, that change can happen if we all put our energy, our money and our time towards making it happen.  In doing so, we will not only create a better culture in Utah for females, but equality for others who are underrepresented.

    So what, you may ask, am I going to do about it?  No answers yet, but stay tuned.  Today it begins with telling you that change can happen.  We are doing it at CHG Healthcare….why aren’t you?

    Resolutions: Making Them Happen

    Last year was the first year that I set a new years resolution that I kept.  I always viewed resolutions as cheesy, things made to be broken, or just a waste of time.  In December of 2013, as the new year approached, I felt like I was coming into a year of renewal.  With Matthew just over 18 months old and personally being one year post shoulder surgery, I sat reflective of how difficult the last year had been.  I had a heavy year at work, Jon and I were raising two adorable yet time intensive little ones, and I had dedicated almost all of my free time to recovering from my surgery.  It felt like I was just hanging on.

    I decided that the upcoming new year was a time for a change, time to dedicate more of my free time to myself, and time to regain my love of exercising and feeling better about my health.  It took me a few weeks to overcome my historical bias against New Year’s resolutions, but ultimately I decided to take the leap.  I resolved to workout half of the days in 2014, 183 days to be exact.  At the time, it seemed unachievable as exercise wasn’t a part of my routine.  I didn’t have a plan other than to try to workout 3-4 times a week, and to hold myself accountable each month as versus just the annual goal.  One of the most game changing decisions was to report my status on the resolution once per month on Facebook…nothing like a social announcement to hold you accountable.

    And, I made it.  On December 31, 2014, I worked out in the morning to complete my 183rd day for the year.  There were moments of stress, pressure, but most of all accomplishment.  Ironically, I spend most of my professional life setting goals for myself at work, and planning what it takes to get achieve these goals, yet meeting this goal was one of my sweetest accomplishments in a long time.  This is because I not only met the goal, but I learned to love being healthy and working out again.  Better than that, my kids learned that working out is a part of what their mom does.  And today, January 7, 2015, after a week of no exercise and some well deserved rest, I want to keep going.

    To resolve means a lot of things, but one is to make a definite and serious decision to do something.  In hindsight, I am a woman who resolves a lot.  My historical baggage on the New Year’s resolution is gone.  January provides a wonderful time to look at what I need in my life, and set the goals I have for the year ahead and make them happen.

    Confessions of a Chronic Over-Scheduler

    It has been a month of very few blog posts and very little free time.  Tonight, I find myself writing from 30,000 feet with two little kiddos perched next to me watching movies on our long flight back from Christmas in State College.  It honestly feels like this may be the first free moment in my life in December.  Maybe I will say this every year, but this seems to have been the busiest holiday season yet.  All fun things, but lots of things.

    We traveled back to Ohio for Thanksgiving and flew back to Park City on November 28th.  From that day, until today, every work day and every evening had a purpose.  Some work or holiday preparation task that had to be completed.  November 29th – get the Christmas tree and decorations up.  November 30th, first ski days planned.  December 1st – begin the board meeting at the kids school.  December 2nd – Christmas cards created.  December 3rd – finish the full lists of who gets Christmas cards and get the hunt for addresses closed for the year.  December 3rd – work event.  December 4th – prep for Christmas cookies.  December 5th – Christmas cookie party.  December 6th – holiday calendar started.  December 7th – finish and order holiday calendars, 3 holiday parties.  December 8, 9, 10th – work trip to Ft. Lauderdale.  December 11th – kids school holiday party.  December 12th …. Gingerbread house….you get the point.  This schedule went on all the way up to December 21st when we flew back east.  We survived.  It all happened, and we had a wonderful Christmas with Jon’s family.  But, today I am tired and a little sick.  I can’t help but wish for a relaxing night or two in front of our Christmas tree at home with no place to go, no task to complete other than just relaxing.

    It makes me wonder, what has to give in my life to have things be just a little less scheduled?  I don’t want to give up any of the fun things we fill our life with, but I also feel like keeping the pace we keep makes things go by at the speed of light.  I worry that with all of the things going on, I am not able to live in the moment.  My brain is always planning or processing the next thing to do as that is the only thing that makes them all able to fit into our schedule.

    The funny thing about this is that I have always been of the belief as a parent that I won’t over-schedule our kids.  I see so many families of elementary age kids (and older) and they have so many activities going on that it seems like they don’t get time to just “be” together.  Jon and I talk about this and purposefully work to have our kids only in extracurricular activities if it is something they really enjoy, and only about 2 a year.  Ironically, I don’t apply this same principle to myself.

    calendar-book-636Why am I a chronic over-scheduler?  Here are a few things that I have thought about.  Good, bad and ugly.

    A Feeling of Obligation – Bad, even Ugly at times

    I feel obligated to do as many things as I can with my time.  Obligated to my family, to my work team, to myself.  I feel like if I can do something, I should.  I feel lucky that throughout my life I have learned to be confident in my ability to take on almost anything.  This confidence is based in a belief that although I may not be great at whatever it is that I am trying, I will try to figure it out.  I also love variety.  The problem with the combination of these personality traits is that they lower the barrier of saying “yes” to things.  And when I say yes, I build obligation.  So, why do I feel obligated?  Who knows.

    A Desire to Be Helpful – Good, but also Bad when it means no time for me

    At the core of who I am, I like to help people.  I see something that I can help with, and I offer to help.  Often times this adds things to my list to do list and I want them there.  The most obvious sign of this is my list of both formal and informal mentees.  Over the years, this has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my professional life.  Ultimately, it is what has led me to want to lead a large team of marketers.  The trade-off, and there is always a trade-off is giving up time that I have for myself.

    A Way Things Should Be Done – Generally Bad, and even Ugly

    This is the one I have worked the most on in my quest for self-improvement.  I have historically had the perception in my life that there is a “best” way to do things.  This standard that I created for myself often times added a fair amount of stress to my life as when things aren’t done this “best” way, I get frustrated.  In the beginning of leading teams, this belief that there is one way to do things (my way) made me a horrible leader.  Nothing was ever good enough.  The best thing about this experience was that it forced me to change.  Having kids was the next big life change that helped me to value things not going my way.  My kids almost never see how brilliant my way is!  By having this belief, it has historically caused me to take more time doing things than they need.  In a life of time scarcity, this is a problem.

    I Love Doing Things – Good!

    I truly love relationships, challenges, being active and trying new things.  This is the most honest and good reason that I over-schedule myself.  I like it.  Doesn’t mean I like some of the consequences of the over-scheduling, but I do truly enjoy doing the things that I do.

    So, good, bad and ugly this seems like why I do what I do.  Any advice out there from other over-schedulers?  Is it a lost cause, or can you change this about yourself?

    Being Thankful: A Purposeful Direction of Thought

    I began writing this post on Thanksgiving Day as I was feeling I needed to have the obligatory “I am thankful for…” post on the blog.  It was rough.  Although I am thankful for so many things, what I found myself doing was writing what I thought I should write versus the things that were on my mind.  The original intention of this blog was to write from my heart and my head, and not to write what I thought people wanted to hear or what I “should” write.  So, for that day and for the last week or so, I stopped writing.

    Once I lived through this writing crisis, I became increasingly more skeptical.  All of the “Thank You” messages that I saw in my Facebook feed and of all of the articles I was reading on other blogs about thankfulness didn’t seem authentic.  I wondered if those were real thoughts from people or if they were just posting/writing about what they thought they should say much like I had been about to do.  So much of our world today is about broadcasting our social “status.”  Therefore, how much are people broadcasting thankfulness versus being truly thankful?

    Tonight, I am a little less skeptical.  I have decided that this broadcasting of thankfulness is a good thing.  We all have a lot going on in our lives every day and night.  Our brains can get filled with worry, stress, to-do lists, work, family and so much more.  Being thankful requires a purposeful direction or redirection of these thoughts and energy toward celebrating the good in our lives.  By being purposeful, does that mean it is isn’t real?  I don’t think so.  The forced thought, and ultimately broadcasting of these thoughts, helps to move my mental energy toward what is good in my life and away from what may be dragging me down.

    As a way to direct my thoughts toward thankfulness, I will start another category on this blog describing things in my life that I am thankful for.  Look for this, coming soon!

    Having it All: Learning to Build My Energy Level

    It has been a rough week.  I counted today the number of meetings on my calendar in the last three days and it was enough to scare anyone.  Answer:  20 in three work days.  I have another 18 left to accomplish in the next two days.  Add onto to this, my little two year old has a double ear infection which led to one night of about 4 hours of sleep.  This is also week two of my new workout regimen of CrossFit which is a bit intimidating just by itself.

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    This is what it means to have it all!  Actually, I think it is more like a test of my ability to maintain my energy level.  I have always prided myself in having high energy, and dedicating it to whatever I am doing.  That said, the last few years have tested me beyond anything I have ever experienced.  I have won some weeks and lost some weeks.  This week definitely feels like it is stacking up to one that I have lost, so I thought maybe sitting down and writing down a few things that have worked in the past to rebuild my energy would maybe help me to make it a little better.

    Energy Builders:

    • Sleep at least 7 hours a night.
    • Workout 3-4 times per week, even if it is for 20 minutes.
    • Close my office door and take a deep breath at least a few times a day.
    • Make a short list each morning (maximum of 1-2 things) in my head on my drive down the canyon of the things I am going to accomplish today and get them done!
    • Play with my kids as much as possible and let their endless energy empower me.
    • Try to learn something new every day.
    • Keep at least 90 minutes of free time on my work calendar.
    • Say no to involving myself in at least one things each day.

    There is no secret sauce in this, but what I can tell you is that this week I am on track for only about two of these things.  Maybe that is why feel like I am holding on for dear life.  Let’s use this as my moment of learning for today!

    College Football Rivalry Weekend: OSU vs. PSU

    For those of you who know me, you know I am a big Ohio State fan.  Growing up in Ohio, football is just a part of what you do, and in my family, Ohio State football is what you do.  I married into a Penn State football family.  Jon grew up in State College, PA, and despite leaving for college in Maryland, bleeds blue and white.

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    Since we got married, this weekend in the fall (Ohio State vs. Penn State) has been both filled with fun, and heartache for one of us.  Luckily as we have aged, we get less worked up about it…until we had kids.  Both of us have been on the pursuit of our children’s loyalty to our team since the day we brought Katharine home from the hospital (New Years Day) to a bowl game extravaganza where they were in different bowl games and both were victorious.

    So this morning, as we watch College Game Day and the pre-game highlights come on, I realize that I have lost.  Katharine says to Jon, “Dad, is Ohio State better than Penn State?”  To his dismay, he answers, “This year they are Katharine.  And, last year.”  Trying to hold back, I sit with a thought….not just those two years darling.  Since we got married, Ohio State as come out victorious 9 of the 12 years….hoping to add number 10 this evening.  My hope was that Katharine would say, “Go Buckeyes!”  Instead, she states emphatically, “Dad, we are going to have to cheer really hard tonight.”  Matthew, following anything his older sister does, just nods yes.  As the morning progressed, she even got to requesting the Penn State fight song be played for her.

    So, despite winning the battles most years, it appears like I have lost the war.

    Commitments: No Fear. Put Yourself Out There.

    So, what is it?  After about two months of posting on this blog stress-free, I decided to go public on facebook and at work that I was doing the blog.  What was an outlet for me to write and just be me, became all of a sudden stressful.  What is it about putting yourself out there that brings pressure?

    It stems from expectations.  Prior to going public, the only expectation that I had of myself was to enjoy what I was writing.  I started to write this blog as a place where I can be as real as I want to be…a place to bring together the parts of my life.  Prior to blogging, I found myself having so many things that I wanted to say and so many stories that I wanted to tell.  I never had a place for it in my life.  My relationshps, my job and my lack of vulernability just didn’t allow for it.  This blog became a place to channel this energy with no fear and no expectations.

    Now, I have lifted the my expectations of myself.  In the process, I became afraid of exposure and failure.  I am hoping that writing about it tonight helps to alleviate this fear and to release my expectations.  Introduce uncomfortable.

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    As I worked on blog topics for this week (which I hope will all show the light of day), this one was the one that I thought I could do. My commitment for this week is to work hard to not fear putting myself out there.  Step 1:  This blog post.