You Can’t Be What You Can’t See

  Yesterday I had the opporunity to attend two important events in the state of Utah.  The first was the Governor’s Economic Summit and the second was a private gathering for “Utah’s Wonder Women.”  Both events had a focus on women in leadership, and are committed to helping Utah move our state forward toward equality.

So much good going on in both of these forums, but my most memorable quote from the day came repeated at both of them:  “You Can’t Be What You Can’t See.”.  This was in reference to defining one of the roles that female leaders need to take both in Utah and around the world.  Often, without knowing it, we are role models to those around us.  In my case, listening to this made me proud of what I do, not because I have arrived at some place of achievement, but because I am showing my daughter and my son what is possible.

One of our guest speaker, Margit Wennmachers, a partner with Andreessen Horowitz, shared a story about how her daughter’s second grade class had the opportunity to Skype with a female college student in Germany who was studying to be a physicist.  Within weeks, four of the girls in the class had decided that when they grow up they want to become physicists too.  How amazing that exposure to something alone, puts the seed of an idea in childrens’ minds.  What a powerful example.

Sometimes, I look at myself and wonder if all of the stress and pressure, and a feeling of missing out on things in my kids’ lives, makes working worth it.  I love what I do.  But, I love my kids and Jon more.  After yesterday, I gained more realization that although it is, of couse, a trade off, I don’t work just for me.  I work for Katharine and Matthew, and for all of the other young women in my life…to help them see what they can be.

The Next Phase: No More Diapers

We may be coming close to a major milestone in the Snavely household.  Matthew has decided that he is okay with the potty.  He has been working hard at potty training for the last few weeks and wearing undies to school every day.  We are down to diapers for naps, overnight and of course skiing, with only a handful of accidents each week.  After a long five year run, the most hated baby accessory in our house, the diaper genie, may finally be able to be sent to the dumpster.

One of the things that I forgot about with potty training is the absolute celebration that we have begun to have over pee pee or poo poo.  I came home from work yesterday, and our babysitter was cheering Matthew on in the powder room, “You can do it Matthew!  Keep going!  You can put your poo poo in the potty.”  I proceeded to go running down the hall, adding to the cheering, “You’ve got it buddy!”  He takes it seriously, as obvious by the need to bring his camelback to the party.

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What a difference 10 years makes.  10 years ago this month, Jon and I were celebrating our move to Utah and the purchase of our first home.  We were excited by finally moving to Park City, and taking on the life we wanted, where we wanted it.  Today, I find myself celebrating bodily functions with an almost three year old…Strangely, more excited than I was when we bought that first house.  Loving the reminiscing about all of the cuddly baby moments and the diapered toddler moments as we move into the next phase of life.

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?

Our Parenting Philosophy

The other day one of my friends asked me about our parenting philosophy, and why our kids are so well adjusted.  I was flattered, and didn’t quite know what to say.  I don’t think that Jon or I have ever explicitly spoken about our parenting philosophy.  Is that strange?  Maybe others of you out there have a philosophy, or a way you do things.  We feel so often that we are just learning as we go, and our kids are a part of that journey with us.

After the moment, I reflected on this, the more I believe that we probably, although unplanned, do have a parenting philosophy.  We talk with our kids about a few things consistently that I hope are lessons that they could keep in their life for a long time:  1)  being healthy and happy; and 2) making good choices.

1.  Helping our kids be healthy.  One of the most important things that Jon and I want to teach our kids is about making healthy choices.  We tell them often about the choices we are making (at least the good ones!), and how they make us “healthy and happy.”  Most notably, this is how we talk about going to the gym, heading on a bike ride, eating salads and getting good sleep.  I am hopeful that by them hearing and seeing these things from us, they will pick them up in their life.  I had a proud parental moment last week when Katharine was telling me that she shared a few of her favorite things with her teacher Miss Cournti….going to the gym, skiing and biking.  Win!!!  I can only hope that this continues.

2.  Helping our kids be happy.  In reflecting on this one, I think the way that we are helping our kids learn to be happy is by showing them how.  This is not to say life is happy-go-lucky in every moment, but I am hopeful by celebrating what is happy, they will see so many ways that they can make their own life this way.

3.  Helping our kids make good choices.  If there is one thing that I have learned as a marketing professional, it is that language is everything.  Early on with our kids, Jon and I decided to use the language of “choices” within our parenting.  If something goes wrong, a tantrum, one of them hitting the other, we talk to them about how that isn’t a “good choice.”  I love what these words stand for.  We all make choices about how to act and live our life, and those choices have consequences both good and bad.  By helping our kids to understand this early, we hope that they can learn to be in charge of their own destiny.

Sounds prettty philosophical to me!

Being Grateful: Celebrate the Moments

Sometimes during the tantrums, the sibling fights over toys, and during the crazy schedule I try to run, I can forget the joy of what I have in front of me.  This weekend when we were out to brunch with Matthew, I captured Matthew at his finest.  He is kind, energetic, inquisitive (what’s that mom?), and loving.  His eyes tell stories and he makes me smile.

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This last week at work I had the opportunity to hear Chris Williams speak of his personal story of letting go.  He lost his wife and two children to a drunk driving accident almost ten years ago.  He spoke of forgiveness and moving forward with his life.  It was an unforgettable moment for me to listen to his story.  His humbleness, quiet power and gratefulness for the life he has lived helped me to take a deep breath.   How many times do I harbor anger for something that has happened to me?  How many times have I carried this frustration throughout my days, letting it inadvertently control me?  Chris framed forgiveness as a selfish act, saying that the act of letting go helped him to move forward.  Wow.  What a powerful thing to remember when things don’t go as I want them to go.  Here is to hoping that I never have to face something as tragic as Chris to learn this.

For now, I am grateful for the moments.  This weekend we enjoyed so much fun together…skiing together, playing pretend together, building castles and jails for Matthew’s infamous “mean guy” together, and snuggling as a family of four squeezed into our queen-sized bed.  Sometimes life seems hard, sometimes I have no energy, but always I feel lucky.  Lucky to have this little Matthew in my life, lucky that Katharine is his big sister, and incredibly blessed to have Jon to share it with me.

Don’t Ever Stop Creating Your Story

“And, I am a 13 year old cheetah and you are my mommy cheetah and Dad is my daddy cheetah and I am playing with my brother cheetah.”

“And, I am at a work meeting and on the phone and you are my daughter and you wonder what I am up to.”

“And, I am a mommy and I just had a baby and I am taking care of her and you are helping me.”

“And, I am a skier girl and I like to do jumps and the trees are hard and I love to ride Bonanza.”

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The wonder of a child’s mind.  Our little Katharine loves to pretend and to tell stories.  We even have a storybook on my computer where she types her own stories (keep in mind, can’t read or write).  More than anything I love the diversity of her story.  One moment her mind is thinking of being at work, another moment a cheetah, occasionally she dreams of walking in the rain with her pink umbrella, and the next moment skiing fast down a hill.  As we get older, we sometimes forget that we can dream and create stories about so many different things.  Katharine brings me joy through her stories and helps me remember that I can keep creating mine.

The Joy in Her Eyes

Katharine at ChristmasChristmas morning in State College with the Snavely’s.  Katharine is such a big girl (4 in this picture, but five days to her 5th birthday).  This holiday Katharine seems like such a grown up little girl.  Between her snuggling with Gigi and Gaga in their bed, giving hugs to Matthew with “I love you” whispered in his ear, and doing her projects (learning to knit, making bracelets, sticker mosaics and her butterfly pillow), she is no longer just tearing into the gifts and not enjoying them.  Her enthusiasm to live in the moment is motivating to all around her.  More than once this vacation, someone has said to me, “Katharine has such a positive outlook on life.”  This is one of the most important things that I hope that she learns in life.  The pure joy in her eyes when she is excited melts my heart and most around her.  It is wonderful to get to spend two weeks off with my sweetheart.

Taking the Downside Out of Determination

Never give up

The other day when Katharine was working on a puzzle she leaned over to me and said, “Mom, this is a hard one.” She continued to stay determined to accomplish the puzzle as a good Stock/Snavely would. A few minutes later…”Mom, we never give up do we?”  Proud mommy moment.  She knew it was hard, but was willing to put the effort in to learn and accomplish what she set out to do.  Jon and I pride ourselves in building a life based on working hard and not giving up on our goals.  This moment of hearing her echo our behavior in her words helped me to appreciate how early we either learn or don’t learn this in our lives.

Then, I start to freak out.  Am I being too ambitious as a parent?  All I want to do is to teach our kids that they are in control of their lives.  I hope for their ability to be determined, positive and committed to what they want in their lives.  I hope that they can solve the problems that they encounter.  I also want them to know that trying is all we ask of them, not necessarily succeeding and delivering a perfect outcome.

As I reflect on what made me a “never give up” person, I do worry about the downside of being determined.  Much of my determination came from a desire to be perfect.  This desire to be perfect, whether it was because I wanted to please others or just for myself, often times turned my determination into stress.  Today, this drive for perfection has diminished a great deal – mostly due to the fact that I know it isn’t possible.  That said, the perfectionist behavior rears its ugly head frequently.  When it does, I generally try to turn the perfectionist behavior into the problem and work to channel my “never give up” skills into solving that problem.

So, although I am proud of what Katharine (and Matthew) are learning, I certainly hope their journey as determined kiddos and ultimately adults is also met with an acceptance and enjoyment of the moments in which they live.  For them to learn this, Jon and I have to show them it is possible.  Whether it be taking a random afternoon nap, having an evening dance party together, playing hooky from school every so often, or just reading a book on a snowy weekend morning, I am going to teach them through how I live how having the determination to meet your goals and living in the moment are not opposites of each other.

My Love You

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One of the cutest things my little Matthew is saying right now is “My Love You.”  At almost 2 1/2, he has so many new words coming daily but this phrase and the smile behind his eyes as he says it make me melt.  Today when I was putting him down for nap, he leaned up to my ear and whispered it to me while nuzzling up for hugs and kisses.  It makes me wonder when you truly begin to understand love.  I could swear to you that Matthew understands.  But, how?  and what?

I think what he understands is the connection and unconditional emotion that we share.  It is authentic, simple, unassuming and not influenced by the world.  The more that I think about this love I have for my kids, the more remarkable it is.  I try to tell them and show them as much as I can….through my words, and my supportive action, discipline if needed, and sneaking hugs and kisses as much as possible.

Matthew is the sweetest of little guys.  His sister Katharine was (and is) my first experience at truly unconditional parental love. “My Love You” little ones.

Creating a System

I am excited to report that after two weeks straight of Jon traveling, our new system seems to be working.  What a difference a year makes, and it is a good thing.

Last year (2013/2014 school year), both of our kids went into a great daycare/preschool for the first time.  For Katharine (our then 3 1/2 year old), it was her second year, and for Matthew (our then 16 month old) it was his first time in any kind of away from home child care.  We were super excited about getting both kids a spot in the school as there aren’t many to go around, but worried about balancing two busy work lives with daycare schedule.  Once we got through the drama of the first two weeks of Matthew’s adjustment to the school, we felt like we were settling in.  Oh, but we were wrong.  The next 8 months proceeded to be full of sick days, Jon traveling more than he ever had and me trying to hold on for dear life.  On the positive side, the kids absolutely loved the school and were growing so much every single day.

As the end of the school year approached last June, we were thrilled to be planning on a full-time nanny for the summer.  It felt like it was going to be a vacation.  Not rushing to get two kids out the door in the morning, not dealing with sick kid coverage and unplanned time off work.  We had a great summer but those brief 9 weeks between school years moved faster than I could have imaged.  As this school year began approaching and our fall travel schedules began to fill in, I started to freak out  I seriously didn’t think I could survive another year like last year.

Enter problem solving mode….we ended up deciding to build a system.  We hired a wonderful babysitter help with the kids.  She helps us both with the kids and doing odds and ends around our house including a weekly grocery store run.  We are two weeks in to our new system and I feel like I may survive.  That this small choice to get some help has built more sanity in my schedule than I ever could have believed.  The downside – guilt.  I feel like I am yet again outsourcing my life.  What is it about guilt?  It seems to haunt me despite the positive energy the system is helping me to build.  Another topic for another day….

For now, I am highly recommending a system.  It is helping to bring order to chaos and allowing my time with my kids to be as positive as possible.