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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Certain Uncertainty

The other day it occurred to me that I was truly getting old when I realized that I had "perspective". The kind of perspective that my parents preached to me about in my youth. The type of perspective that my professional mentors talked to me about early in my career.

It was bound to happen. After all, I did have my 40th birthday earlier this year. And as I'm learning from my aches and pains, 40 is more than just a number.

It’s the sort of perspective when someone is making a mountain out of a mole hill and you think to yourself..."this is really unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Take a few steps back and look at the big picture."

It reminds me of when I finally delivered the blow about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy to my oldest daughter. She was devastated. Tears flowed freely. It was a somber day at the Windley house.

It’s been several months since that dark day, and now we both look back at it and laugh. She no longer believes that the world is a horrible, cruel place where parents lie to their children about flying reindeer and fairies. She’s in on the big secret, and she’s playing along for her younger sister.

I remember early in my career thinking that I was being treated unfairly because a co-worker with my same job title and responsibilities earned a higher salary than me. Even though she had ten years of experience to my two years on the job, I felt the company was taking advantage of me. Now that I’m 16+ years into my career, I realize that I was wrong. Experience counts.

This crazy thing we call life is full of certain uncertainty. Sometimes I feel like I’m walking on a proverbial earthquake...unsure of where the ground is going to move next. In the past couple of years I’ve had several experiences, both personal and professional, that I didn’t see coming. Perhaps I just wasn’t paying attention. Or maybe I wasn’t "in tune" with my spiritual side. It could be that I’m a couple of cards short of a full deck.

I believe that certain uncertainty is God’s way of keeping us humble. Just when we think we have things figured out, the wind changes direction and we have to adjust our sails. If you choose to fight the wind, it will rip your sails and you’ll sink. (Dramatic, I know...but I’m trying to make a point.)

Life is just a bowl of cherries. Or chair of bowlies. Or something like that.

Someone said "Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff. And It’s All Small Stuff." And he wrote a book about it. And he made a lot of money with that book. If you’re sweating, then you need to read that book.

Perspective. I wasn’t looking for it, but apparently it was looking for me. Now that I have it, I hope that it sticks around.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rolling with the Punches

If you have young children, then you know that they will say whatever is on their minds. Kids have no filter.

“Mom, your bum is fat.”

“Dad, you have a hairy back.”

“Mom, you have lines on your face.”

“Dad, your teeth are yellow.”

To be a parent, you need to just roll with the punches. If you’re easily offended, parenting is not the job for you.

The same holds true for a career in marketing. If you can’t stand the heat, then you may want to check if there are any openings available in the accounting department. (Not that I don’t L-O-V-E the accounting team...you’re an awesome group of number-crunching geniuses!)

In my life there are rare private moments when I’m not parenting or marketing. I’m simply me. Like today...for a few moments I got away from the office to enjoy lunch with myself and my Blackberry.

Just as I get ready to dive into my burrito, an older gentleman in the next booth turns around, points to his friend, and said:

“He thinks you look like a prettier version of Ellen DeGeneres. Has anyone ever told you that before?”

Stunned, yet trying to be gracious, I responded:

“No…but thanks for the compliment.”

In my mind, I’m thinking: “Is that a compliment? I think so. Isn’t Ellen a CoverGirl spokesperson? You have to be pretty to sell make-up. How old is Ellen? I just turned 40...I’m sure Ellen is older than me. Wait a minute…isn’t Ellen a lesbian? Am I okay with a strange man telling me I look like someone who is a lesbian? Does it matter? No, it doesn’t matter...I’m fine with it. Hey, Ellen is a super successful talk-show host. I’m successful too...but not nearly on the level of Ellen. Do I look successful? After all, I’m professionally dressed. Doesn’t Ellen usually wear sneakers on her show? I’m wearing black sandals with high heels...and I really need to get a pedicure. Ellen is funny…me, not so much. I wonder how Ellen would feel about the comparison. She probably wouldn’t be too thrilled...I’m much chubbier than Ellen. Why would that man say I look like Ellen? Does he need glasses? He is old. Much older than me...and Ellen.”

How could a simple statement completely throw me into an oblivion of over analysis?

Why couldn’t I just take his remark for what it was...a compliment?

I’ll tell my kids they need to keep saying to me whatever comes their minds. Apparently, I still need to learn how to roll with the punches. As for my career...perhaps I should check what is available in the accounting department.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Apparently, Clothes Do Define A Man

My parents are six months into a two-year mission in Peru. Last week they flew from Lima to the northeastern part of Peru to a city named Iquitos near the headwaters of the Amazon. During their travels they arranged for a tour of the Amazon river and jungle via boat. Their guide took them to a small native village so they could meet some of the indigenous people of the Amazon.

The tribe greeted my parents in their native dress...which turned out to be not much dress at all. In their culture, "less is more," and both the men and women simply wear skirts that go to about mid-thigh. Kids, prior to puberty, go al fresco.

The tribe warmly welcomed my parents...inviting my mom to dance with the women and making my dad an honorary tribal elder. My parents emailed us details and photos of their incredible visit to the Amazon.

Me: "Hey kids...come look at the photos that grandma sent us from their trip to the Amazon."

The family gathers around the computer to check out the pictures, and we get to a fuzzy photo of my mother dancing in a circle with the women. My daughters, ages eight and four, were not exactly sure what to make of the photo.

Me: What do you think of grandma dancing with those ladies?

Lauren (8): Those aren't ladies, they are men.

Me (pointing at their chests): I'm pretty sure they are ladies.

Lauren (confused): No mom, I think they are men.

Jenna (4, confident): Mom, they are men 'cause they don't shirts on.

Husband: (unable to comment because he is laughing so hard).

In my daughters' defense, the photo was fuzzy AND the defining female attributes of the tribe members had suffered from years of non-support.

Two lessons quickly learned:

1) If you want to be considered a lady, you need to keep your shirt on; and,

2) "Victoria's Secret" does not have a storefront on the Amazon.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

It Seemed Like A Good Idea

On a recent family vacation, a drive to the north rim of the Grand Canyon took us through Hildale, Utah and Arizona City, Colorado. I’ll admit we went off the main highway to drive through the towns so we could get a closer look at things. In the last year I’ve read Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall and Escape by Carolyn Jessop. Both books are about the experiences of these women living in this community.

As we drove through town, my eight year-old realized something wasn’t quite…normal.

Lauren: “Mom, why are those ladies wearing long dresses when it’s so hot outside?”

Me: “That’s how the ladies dress in this town.”

Lauren: “They look like pioneers.”

Me: “Yep.”

Lauren: “And all the men dress like cowboys.”

Me: “Yep.”

Lauren: “Hey Dad, I bet you’d like to live in this town because all the men get to dress like cowboys.”

A few seconds of silence…followed by my husband and me laughing hysterically.

Let it be said that we’re laughing at my daughter’s expense because she doesn’t understand what is going on in this town.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Hildale/Arizona City, it’s a religious community that practices polygamy (meaning, a man can have more than one wife). The people in that area adhere to strict standards and guidelines in every facet of their lives…including how they dress.

Of course our daughter demanded to know what was so funny, so my husband gave her an age-appropriate answer about the community and some of their beliefs.

Lauren: “Sounds like Warren Jeffs and his followers.”

Bingo!

I was surprised that Lauren knew so much about this subject. (Are the teachings of Warren Jeffs included in the second grade curriculum?)

Sometimes it’s just easier at the office. When I’m at work, I don’t have to answer tough questions such as:

“Where do babies come from?” or,

“Is Santa Claus real?” or,

“Why do women wear long, ugly dresses when it's 105 degrees outside?”

A college degree and 16 years of professional experience do not prep you for raising kids and responding to their questions.

If my company needs a press release explaining the benefits and features of a new product, then I’m your person.

If my child wants an explanation about how a hen determines if an egg she lays turns into a baby chick or a breakfast omelet, then I’m a little uncomfortable!

Yikes…maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to drive through Hildale/Arizona City after all.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Living A Double Standard

Recently, at the end of a rather hectic day, I decided to reward myself with a soak in my jetted bathtub. Normally I lock the bathroom door and peacefully relax without interruption. However, on this particular evening my husband was away so I waited to put the girls to bed before running the water.

“Just in case” the girls needed me, I left the bathroom door open. Within two minutes after settling into the tub, my four year-old daughter walked into the room.

Jenna: “Hey mom…are you taking a bath?”

Me (sigh): “Yes.”

Jenna: “Why are you taking a bath mom?”

Me: “It was a crazy day.”

Even when I’m relaxing, I feel the need to be somewhat productive. So I had the shave gel and razor sitting on the side of the tub.

Jenna: “Hey mom…are you going to shave your legs?

Me: “Yes.”

Jenna: “I know how to shave legs.”

Me (surprised): “Really? How?”

Jenna: “Push the button on the can. The stuff comes out and you put it on your legs so you can take the hair off with your razor.”

I’ll admit that shaving one’s legs isn’t rocket science, but I was curious as to how my four year-old could describe the leg-shaving process since I was pretty sure she’d never watched me do it.

Me: “How do you know all that?”

Jenna: “TV. It’s on the commercials.”

This is one of those moments where my work/life balance goes completely outta whack.

The mother-in-me thinks: “Good grief…my four year-old has figured out how to shave her legs by watching the dumb TV. What else is she learning from boob tube?”

On the other hand, the marketing-professional-in-me thinks: “Wow…TV advertising really works! My four year-old recognizes the product and understands its functionality simply from watching television.”

So there I am…sitting in the tub…where I’m supposed to be relaxing. What am I thinking about? The good and the bad that comes along with TV advertising. And how my career perpetuates product promotion and education in the lives of everyday people.

On the one hand, I don’t want advertisers influencing my family. I want to control what they see and hear.

On the other hand, I want my company’s advertising to influence everyone else. I have an important message that needs to break through the clutter!


Am I living a double standard?

Probably.

In some way, shape or form…aren’t we all selling something?

We’re probably not selling shave gel. But we’re all selling a product, or service, or an idea, or a way of life, or a philosophy. We’re probably not all promoting on TV either. But we’re promoting via social media or in community gatherings or perhaps even good old-fashioned face-to-face conversations.

And if you don’t think anyone is paying attention to your messages, both verbal or non-verbal, then think again.

Just ask your young kids if they can explain to you how to shave your legs.