Ramblings of a Creative Mind

Thoughts on Work and the World from an Executive Mom


Leave a comment

What Your Shopping Cart Says About You

Cart_ResponsibilityI’m convinced that there are two types of people in this world: those who leave shopping carts in the parking lot, and those who put them in the “return your cart here” section.  At least, that’s how I see it now that airports don’t let you past security anymore.  Back then, there were people who met you at the curb, and those who met you at the gate.

I’m all about the cart section/gate people.

Returning the cart is inconvenient.  You have to go out of your way to do it.  You load your car then close your door.  You navigate around the oncoming traffic to push that cart into a tidy line, giving up a few minutes of your time when you probably have somewhere else to go.  But you do it anyway.  Why?  Shared responsibility.  You’re working together as part of a larger community.  It’s being considerate of other people.  Helping protect someone else’s property.  It’s about more than just you.

Same thing goes for the gate people.  You had to park your car, pay a bit out of pocket and walk a ways to bring a smile to someone you loved.  It’s bigger than you.

So many people today don’t return the cart.  They’re caught up in their lives.  They’re so busy!  Many important things to do.  Can’t possibly spare a few minutes to walk 50 feet to help someone else.  So they leave the cart tucked up on a curb, or precariously balanced between two other cars… An accident waiting to happen.

They are not part of a larger community.  They do not share in the responsibility.  It’s just about them.

Returning a cart seems like a small thing, and perhaps it is.  I think it is a symptom of something more though.  We demonstrate who we truly are in the small moments… the little things we do when we think no one is looking.   Are we looking in or looking around?

We inspire our employees when we model that which we ask of others.  Do we ask for urgency and good work, yet provide no feedback or take days to respond instead of hours?  Do they stay late while we leave early?

We teach our children responsibility in our day to day actions.  Do we tell the truth?  Do we follow through?  Do we tell our children to pick up after themselves, and yet leave carts lying around parking lots… too self involved to follow our own advice?  What will our children learn from us in the little moments?  What do we want them to learn?

Advertisements


1 Comment

Requiem for Words

Sooner or later, death comes to visit us all. No matter how much we deny it, we can’t escape it. Hopefully, it is patient – waiting quietly in the wings as we live life brilliantly. But often, it is an impatient companion… touching us too soon and demanding that we feel its presence.

Death and I first met in 8th grade over Easter vacation. It announced itself when my choir director called. I remember Miki as a quiet, bright young girl who sent me 10 candy grams that Valentines Day, as she knew I had not received many the year before. She left suddenly and too soon. And since that day, I’ve met Death too many times. Generally, it’s been unwelcome but expected.

But tonight, my heart aches for a friend of mine. He’s lost a brother.

Last night, a young man laid down to rest. He didn’t get up this morning.

There is no reason. No cause. Just a few words to his loved one, and then silence.

Perhaps in the coming days or weeks, there will be an answer. Why? There will still be pain, and there will still be those last words.

Death expected allows us to prepare. Something like this though is a visceral reminder of how fragile life is. How brief. How words matter.

When I became a parent, I “prepared”. I wrote wills, established trusts – documenting the who, what and how of the days and months after I am gone. But what about the days before? Am I ready? Are you?

We take life for granted. Our routines are comfortable. We wander through the days and years of our lives, going through the motions. Enjoying things. Wasting things. Wasting time. Wasting words.

Words have great power.
The last words I said to Miki years ago were “see you in a week.” That never happened.
The last words I typed to a friend of mine who died in a car crash were “Love ya.” Those were good.
The last words I said to my Gramma were an apology, and “I’ll come next weekend instead.” I will regret those forever.

Last night, someone said words that were final. I hurt for the people who love him.

They say that actions speak louder than words. But words matter. Yours matter. Share them. Don’t regret them.

We say in my home lately, “practice being kind, not always being right.” But share your kind words too. Be generous. Give more. Give back. Time may be great or it may be scarce. I’m reminded again. When your journey on this earth is through, there will be many people who love you that are left behind. Many miles they would travel to be where you are then, but tonight, they are only a breath away.


Leave a comment

Discourse at Dinnertime

You didn't use your manners, Mom!

You didn’t use your manners, Mom!

As often as possible, we have dinner together as a family.  I’ve heard the same studies that you’ve heard about the importance of those nights: how there is a correlation between eating meals as a family to better emotional well-being, higher grades, better eating habits, lower obesity and lower risk of dependence on drugs and alcohol for the children as they grow.  So, every night we gather around the table to spend time together, share stories about our day and to practice our “attitude of gratitude.”  I have noticed recently that, while family dinner is healthy for the boys, it wasn’t feeling so great for me.

Now, my sons are 5 and 3.  They are wonderful kids and are wholly committed to the “war for attention” that siblings engage in.  Dinner lately has been a loud, raucous event with the boys battling for the podium, not listening to each other (or Mom and Dad).  Mom and Dad then get loud, and now no one is listening.  With my nerves jangled, my head on the table and the kids in time out, Steve and I decided we needed a new plan.  Dinnertime now has new rules.

  • We take turns when we speak.
  • We raise our hand if we have something to add.
  • We don’t interrupt each other.  We listen.
  • We lower our voice if we are upset.  We don’t raise it.
  • If we ARE upset, we take 10 deep breaths before we speak, etc.

The “new” rules sound pretty basic, right?  They are just common sense, just polite manners.  Absolutely!  You’re right.  It’s easy.  In fact, the rules are so easy that we adults often forget to practice them.  We adults frequently ignore the rules on television, in chat rooms, on Facebook, in meetings, just about everywhere.  We’re talking on top of each other, calling each other names, not listening to others when they speak, not considering other opinions beyond our own… not modeling the basic manners that we expect our children to follow every day at home or in the classroom.

Our world continues to change, becoming more connected and yet more polarized.  We share every moment of every day, and it can bring people together.  It also can drive people farther apart, ruining relationships and encouraging behavior in ourselves that we would never tolerate from our children.   Time may change the way we communicate, but it doesn’t change the meaning of common decency, kindness and compassion.  Time doesn’t diminish the value of intelligent discourse, of sharing ideas or seeing things from another point of view.  We may not change our opinion, but that doesn’t mean someone else’s opinion isn’t equally as valid as the view that you may hold.

When you’re passionate, hurt or angry, it can be hard to slow down and listen someone else, and maybe still agree to disagree.  It’s difficult to disagree in a hushed tone, to let someone else finish their thought and then to really consider it before we rush to speak.  It’s much more respectful though, and a healthier way to resolve something.  We may not raise our hands as children do in school, but we certainly should hold ourselves to the same standards of respectful communication that we hold our children to.  Good manners and healthy communication shouldn’t be optional, regardless of whether it’s online, in a meeting or around the dinner table.

We expect it of our children.  We should demand it from ourselves.


Leave a comment

Looking for More

GraduationThis morning, my son graduated from Pre-K.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  After all, they’re not taking the AP test, moving to another state or something as exciting (or gut wrenching) as that.  I knew it would be cute.  I didn’t know how deeply it would affect me though.

So, there we all were: parents, grandparents and friends – crowded into a small classroom, sitting on kiddie chairs that strained themselves to support us, smart phones ready to snap a cherished memory.  Out march all of the little ones in matching school pride shirts, wearing crowns that they colored before we got there.  The music comes on, and they mime their way through the beginning of a song looking mildly dazed.  Then, their teacher smiles and asks them to sing.  My son – never one to be shy – starts belting out the tune at the top of his lungs.  Evan joins in.  Then Paige.  Then 22 little voices raise together, singing:

“I don’t want this day to end.  We will be happy together tomorrow.  Together tomorrow, my friend.  Tonight when I’m sleeping, I’ll dream of us being together tomorrow, my friend.”

Certificates, ribbons and photos of a year gone by too soon were given to each little one as they smiled for a hundred pictures, their eyes beaming with pride.  Then, they ran off for a few hours of fun, splashing and cupcakes.

Who knew that a Pre-K graduation could mean so much?

While many of these kids will be together in the Fall, some friends are moving on to new schools and new experiences.  That moment – that magic – will never BE again.  Instead, there will be new moments and new magic.  Today will be forgotten by all of the children.  They’ll look at the pictures and the video, and marvel at how little they were.  They may forget their friends’ names, no matter how much they love them today.  How many of your friends do you still have from pre-school, after all?

But the parents will remember.  We will never forget.  The joy on my son’s face, the innocence of those voices.  It’s burned through my skin and onto my heart.  I am teary-eyed thinking of it now. It is a visceral thing, much deeper than the personal accomplishments I may have achieved in my life.

It’s a funny thing too. When you do something big or achieve something yourself, you feel excited, proud and fulfilled.  It’s awesome.  When your child or someone you have mentored with your heart and soul achieves a milestone, it’s something more.  I don’t have a word that captures the feeling I have inside.  It’s just more. And the kids are right.  I don’t want this day to end either.

Whether it’s your child, your friend, your spouse, your team member or your employees that you are mentoring, keep going.  More is great.  More is awesome. It’s better than awesome.  It’s bigger.  More is just…. MORE.


Leave a comment

Danny Kaye and Thoughts for Today

How do you measure up?

How do you measure up?

How many of you remember KTLA’s “Family Film Festival”?  Every weekend, Channel 5 in Los Angeles would show all of these wonderful old movies.  Tom Hatten would introduce kids to classic movies starring comedic geniuses such as Jerry and Dean, and Bob and Bing.  I loved them all, but Danny Kaye was always my favorite.  I loved his unassuming manner, his brilliant timing and his gentle spirit.  I particularly remember when he sang “Inchworm” in 1952’s Hans Christian Andersen.

“Inchworm, inchworm – measuring the marigold.  You and your arithmetic, you’ll probably go far.  Inchworm, inchworm – measuring the marigold.  Seems to me you’d stop and see how beautiful they are.”

Today was a funny kind of day.  Little problems seemed to pop up here, there and everywhere.  Little opportunities are right on the horizon as well, and just can’t get here fast enough for me.  And through it all, that song was running through my head.  I had not thought about it in years, yet it was all I could think about today.
It’s human nature to get caught up in the little things of today.  Complaints may get you down.  You spend your day analyzing what you could have done better or how you “failed”.  You’re “measuring the marigold” inch by inch.
Perhaps the only thing you really “failed” at was seeing the bigger picture – seeing how “beautiful they are”.  Before you head into your weekend, I just want to remind you how beautiful YOU really are.  When you believe in something with all of your soul and are passionate about it, that’s a thing of beauty.  You leave your footprint on your company, on this earth and on lives of the people you touch – every time you lend a helping hand.  You create miracles.  Don’t let the little things get you down. Be great at the basics, and create your legacy.
I’d like to thank a friend of mine or sharing the following with me.  I’m not sure how far these words have traveled or who actually wrote them, but I’m glad they came my way as they resonated with me.  Enjoy.  And please remember, many people are eternally grateful for you.
“5 WAYS TO LEAVE A LEGACY”

By default or design, every one of us is going to leave a legacy. It just depends on what kind. So what kind of legacy do you want to leave? Clarity helps you decide how to live and work today, and how you spend your time. Consider the following and then focus on what matters most to you…

1. A Legacy of Excellence – To leave a legacy of excellence, strive to be your best every day. As you strive for excellence, you inspire excellence in others. You serve as a role model for your children, your friends and your colleagues. One person in pursuit of excellence raises the standards and behaviors of everyone around them. You only have one life to give, and there is only one you.  Give all you can.

2. A Legacy of Encouragement – You have a choice. You can lift others up or bring them down. Twenty years from now when people think of you, what do you want them to remember? The way you encouraged them or discouraged them?  Who will you encourage today? Be that person that someone will call five, ten or twenty years from now and say “Thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you.”

3. A Legacy of Purpose – People are most energized when they are using their strengths and talents for a purpose beyond themselves. To leave a legacy of purpose, make your life about something bigger than you – something greater than yourself.  While you’re not going to live forever, you will live on in the positive impact you make in the world.

4. A Legacy of Love – Life is not just about achievement. Sometimes it is just about the power to love. Share a legacy of love and it will embrace generations to come.

5. A Legacy of __________________.

What’s yours going to be??”


Leave a comment

Father Knows Best

DadSo, now it is Dad’s turn to celebrate another birthday – perhaps a little unwillingly.  That tends to happen more and more as life goes along, I guess.  The family gathered at his house to share his special day.  Have I mentioned that my family is rather large?  There were seven of us kids there (and that’s not the entire crew), not to mention the kids by marriage, assorted boy/girlfriends and grandkids here, there and everywhere, two dogs, two cats… You get the drift.  It was extremely loud with all of those lives everywhere. Every table was heavily laden with food (it’s a Francisco Family tradition). Fingers big and small made music on the keyboard, and voices lifted in harmony as the organ dimly played its fading bossa nova beat in the background as we passed by.  In other words, it was home.

We came together in a dance so familiar to celebrate the man that unites us all.  We had a great time, one that I am reminiscing about now as I sit in my quiet home – close and still too far away.  So tonight, I wanted to share a few things about my Dad that still serve as life lessons for me today.

1.  Small people make a big impact. When I was a child, my Dad towered over me like a giant.  Dads do that.  As I have grown, I have come to realize that many members of my family are “vertically challenged”, myself included.  Yet, while my Dad may be small in stature, he has made a significant difference in the lives of many people beyond just our family members.  When Dad moved to the States, he soon became a small town doctor.  That small town doctor brought life to generations after generations as he delivered them in homes, in hospitals and out in the local Hutterite communities.  Doc Eddie still reigns supreme in borders well beyond those he knows, as others live today thanks to the work he did.  The magnitude can’t be measured, and it is real, meaningful and eternal.

2. You don’t have to show off to prove your worth.  Dad is a genius – literally. That can be rather humbling to a kid who thinks they know it all.  Yet, Dad never mentioned it… Not once.  He never really touted his accomplishments; he didn’t have to.  He demonstrated who he was in his actions, and others touted it for him… usually to his embarrassment.  And he never made his know it all child feel down.  He knew when to win, and knew when he needed to let you win. That’s a hard one for me, and I’m working on it. There’s no benefit in always being right. It’s impossible, and hurtful too.

3.  Know when to work, and know when to play. Children of doctors know the routine – the early mornings, late nights, even later emergency calls from the answering service. There was no doubt that Dad was always on during the week.  But Dad also knew when to call a time out.  My favorite silly day, one among many, was on my twelfth birthday.  I sat at the kitchen table with my homebaked cake, my brothers and sisters, wearing a cowboy hat, when a giant yell came from the stairwell.  Out bounded Dad in a much too small matching cowboy hat, brandishing irons (a fork and spoon) and whooping that he was the birthday bandit.  He was exhausted and on call that night, but I never would have known it.  He made time stop for me and for the family.  Work hard, yes, but there are times that everything else can wait.

4. Silence often means more than words. Dad pretty much does not speak. He is known for one word sentences at most, but more often – if we asked him a question – his response would be a nod, a lift of an eyebrow, or pointing with his lips. It’s a Filipino thing. “Dad, want some ice cream?” Nod. “Strawberry or chocolate?” Lift left eyebrow twice. “You got it, Dad.” He is a quiet man, but says so much without a word. I sat down next to him today, leaned against him, put my head on his shoulder – and with one simple pat on my hand, he said more about how he felt and his love than a million flowery poems or this blog ever could. Words are often overrated. Dad shows his love instead with a gentle touch, and through his endless cooking of pots of adobo, plates of pancit and piles of lumpia. You never go hungry, belly or soul. People show love in different ways. How open are you to receiving it?

5. Don’t forget to dance. We are pre-iPod, CD and cassette. Yet, Mom loved music on at all times (probably to mute the sounds of us crazies), so Dad installed a radio in the kitchen, hanging underneath the cabinet. It would play in the background every night. Then, after the food was gone and the dishes washed, magic would happen. Several nights a week, a song would come on that Mom loved, and Dad was swoop her into his arms, waltzing her around the kitchen in a grandiose arc. Then, he’d pull her close to him, sway softly and sing Julio Iglesias or “Dahil Sa Iyo”gently as an eerie quiet would fall over us all. Life goes by too quickly, and the days run together and are soon forgotten. Yet, those fleeting minutes are magic. Don’t forget to dance.

Here’s to you, Dad. Thank you for the food, the Angels, the unexpected piano concertos and the karaoke marathons.

You are the best.


Leave a comment

A Birthday Card to Mom

MomToday is my Mom’s birthday.  I’m on the road right now, so I sent flowers and called, but I still did not feel like I did enough.  And as I sat here in the hotel tonight, I started to think about how I viewed my Mom way back when and how I see her today.

Way back when – aka in my foolish teenage years – I loved my Mom and was absolutely certain that I was smarter than she was and knew more than she did.  Kind of a given for a teenager.  I thought Mom was beautiful.  Picture Mia Farrow, and you’re seeing my Mom.  She has always been one of a kind too: a little kooky.  Our house was filled with strays of the canine and human persuasion.  Mom couldn’t sing, but she sure did blast those Broadway records at full tilt boogie.  And with as many siblings as I’ve got, our house was raucous to say the least – balancing right on the edge of joy and madness.  I remember Mom standing in the middle of it all, always full of folksy sayings: trying to teach us – sometimes hollering over us – the things we may need to know as we grew.  We colored on the walls, ate dessert for breakfast and generally figured we ignored her advice.  And now I am grown with a family of my own.  I see my Mother when I look in the mirror.  I hear her voice come out of my mouth.  And I’ve realized how much she taught me when I didn’t think I was learning.  To celebrate her today, here are a few of my favorite Mom moments.

1.   Were you born in a barn?  (Also, known at dinnertime by the variant “Close your mouth. You look like a cow chewing its cud.”)  My Mom was raised on a farm, so we got a lot of country references when Mom talked about manners.  Manners were big for her.  She taught us to say please and thank you, of course.  And she also taught us that the world may judge you by your manners as well.  Being polite and considerate, thanking people, being gracious – they are points of entry into business today, and while they may not be directly acknowledged, they are noticed and appreciated.

2.   Just put ice cream on your cereal instead.  OK, so Mom usually resorted to this when we ran out of milk, but to a kid, ice cream on cereal is paradise so we were happy.  We ate ice cream for breakfast more than once.  Mom was resourceful.  Mom was creative.  She encouraged that in us kids too.  When she ran into a challenge, she found a solution, turned a tough time into something fun and moved right along.  Times will be tough for all of us at one point or another.  What matters is how we respond to problems and find creative answers.

3.   Time to get dewormed.  Now, that sounds icky, especially when you know that no one in the family (canine or human) ever actually needed to get dewormed.   But Mom was all about preventative measures.  Sometimes, even if everything seems fine, it’s still worth digging a little deeper to make sure things really are as good as they seem.  They well may be.  Or, you could find something that needs tending to.

4.   Don’t forget where you came from.  Mom has regaled me with stories of how my ancestors fought in the American Revolution and others worked on the Underground Railroad; how Dad ran secrets for the Filipino Guerrillas and Resistance forces during the Japanese occupation in WWII; how my Aunties had the most beautiful hands and made the best longanisa (which is very, very true).  In fact, I’m still hearing new stories today.  Mom taught me to be proud of my heritage – that my ancestors stood up for what they believed in and I should too.  She taught me that I am part of something so much more than just “me” and that Family, both gone and yet to come, is your true legacy.

5.   Patience is a virtue.  In this world of instant gratification, it’s easy to forget that some things are worth the wait.  This is a hard one for me, but it is true.  I found my career late, my husband late… found myself late.  They were worth the wait.  Today, I find that I say this same thing often to my children and to myself.  Day to day goals and pressures can make you crazy.  Set a long term goal.  Know what you stand for.  Then slow down, enjoy the ride and keep your eye on the finish line.  It’s a good one, after all.  Now, Mom: I know you are probably mortified that I wrote this tonight (especially # 3), and I hope you know I wrote this with love.  I treasure you.  I treasure what you taught me. You are more beautiful today than you were all those years ago, and I am so darn grateful for you and all that I’ve learned.  I succeed at business and life because of the sturdy foundation you and Dad built.

Happy Birthday, Mom.