Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Recap of 2023 and Onward Forward into 2024

As we enter 2024 here's a recap of what I was up to in 2023.

My Art/Collaging

I have to mention collaging first because this is something that I have really been enjoying and it's so good for my soul. It's soothing and almost like meditating. It's funny because I've always considered myself an artist because I'm a writer, but I've never considered myself a visual artist. Collaging has made me realize I am an artist. Honestly I think all of us can be artists.

I've created over twenty collages since February when I started collaging with Scissors of Texas. Some are good, some are okay, some are simple and some are elaborate. This one is one of my favorites. The prompt word was Magic and I decided to represent everything that is magic to me-Art, writing, corporate philanthropy, cemeteries and books. 

My Novel/My Writing

It's a slow process and I need to be more self-disciplined. That's my goal for 2024. I'm going to buckle down and really work on editing my novel the way it should be edited and not half-ass. I still meet with the Central Nebraska Writing Group every month to read what I'm working on and to push ahead. It keeps me honest and consistent. I'm so grateful to this group for being my sounding board.

Corporate Philanthropy

I've served as the Hearst Gives Back Champion at the Houston Chronicle for almost a year and half. It's interesting to think about what brought me to this point in my career. It all started with Little Libraries in Laundromats and serving on the board of the Westcott Cemetery Association. Those were two passions that I pursued on my own time. 

In 2022 I received a service award for my work with the little libraries. I feel like that was my butterfly effect. After I received the award our HR VP asked me if I was interested in leading our Hearst Gives Back efforts at the Chronicle. Somewhere around that same time I also completed our DEI training called Hearst Conscious Inclusion. When I graduated I became a Change Agent. In 2023 I was asked to lead a team a team of Change Agents in Action and I've been busy organizing volunteer efforts for the Chronicle team, but also to fulfill our goal to volunteer with organizations that empower women and girls. I also lead our United Way campaign efforts.

This volunteer work with the Houston Chronicle and Hearst has really awakened something in me. I've realized how much I enjoy working in corporate philanthropy and it's made me feel like I have a purposeful career. I'd like to explore this in the future, after Seth is done with college.

My Career

I had a phenomenal 2023 and I only hope to match and surpass it in 2024. I'm grateful all the good things that happened in 2023 and I will work hard to keep it going. I'm constantly looking for ways that I can refill the bucket and keep my pipeline full. I believe that the energy I put in is the energy I get out of it. 

Zig Ziglar said, "You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want." I have this quote as a screen saver on my computer. 

As I approach my 54th birthday next month it's hard to believe that I will be retiring from my day job in 11 years. Eleven years will pass me by in no time. I need to make sure that I have everything in place for when that day comes, so I have both a 6 year and an 11 year plan. 

My Family

We had a graduation in the family. Miranda graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences in May. She started working in the Pathology and Bone Marrow department at MD Anderson Cancer Center in July. Seth finished his freshman year and got his first real job during the summer. He went back to school in the fall and finished the fall semester strong. He's home for winter break now. 

I am grateful for all the great things that happened this year. 

Sunday, October 01, 2023

I Hung the Halloween Wreath

September flew by and I'm SO EXCITED that it's October. Bring on the cool weather! Today I did something small, that is actually quite huge. I hung this Halloween wreath, that my daughter made, on my door. 

Most of you may look at this and wonder why it's a huge step for me until I tell you that I've never decorated for Halloween in my 53 years of life. I've never put up a wreath like this, announcing to every person that comes to my door that I celebrate Halloween. 

Even though I've posted photos of myself in costume, at my friend's house giving candy to kids and such over the years, there's something more personal and significant about me hanging this wreath on the door to my home. It's a message to everyone that I will never be a part of my old religion again and that I don't care who knows it. 

I struggled even saying that this is huge, because by saying it, I feel like I'm giving my old religion more importance and power than I should. It suggests that I'm still controlled in some way. I told my daughter this and she pointed out that there's nothing wrong with acknowledging it, because the religion was such a big part of my life for so many years. It's natural to feel something.

She's right. 

“I love my past. I love my present. I'm not ashamed of what I've had, and I'm not sad because I have it no longer.” - Collette

Everything in my past shaped who I am and by leaving an organized religion I learned how strong I was. I didn't realize how strong, until I had to discuss it with my elderly father. As the youngest daughter, and the last, to leave the religion that was a hard conversation to have. 

So if I could have that conversation with a person I loved, if I could disappoint him, and stand by my decision, I can hang this wreath on my door. 

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Celebrate All the Things! Happy Half Birthday to Me

This Thursday marks 28 years since my sister Hilda passed on from this earth. Last week while my daughter and I were cleaning my upstairs room we found an old card she gave me. I was 24 when she wrote these words to me. She was 41 and was diagnosed with leukemia four months later.

What a great reminder from her that I need to keep working on my fitness and eating right. What got me was the "Love you always and forever" part. It reminded me of the quote, "Love transcends time and space." Thank you Hilda for the reminder!

I'm going to wear her earrings on August 10 to celebrate her spirit. In her 30s and 40s she always wore big loud earrings, bright colors and cool shoes. I told myself years ago that I would celebrate every year that I live past 42, the age she was when she passed away and I can't lose sight of that promise. I recently told a friend that we have to #celebrateallthethings, because she wasn't acknowledging her victories, and I need to practice that too. 

Me wearing Hilda's earring in 2016. 

This week is also my half birthday. Tomorrow on Friday the 11th I'm halfway to 54 and it's the time of year when I review my goals and how I'm doing. It's also a good excuse to celebrate!

If I choose to concentrate on the positive I can say that I've gotten a lot of things done lately. I cleaned out half of my garage and I finally cleaned out the extra bedroom upstairs with the help of my children and my son's good friend. I'm getting my son's doctor's appointments done before he has to go back to school in New York in September. 

I finally got my mammogram and extra ultrasound done and I had all my yearly physicals. All is looking good across the board, from my breasts, to my cholesterol, A1c level, and heart. I've even dropped 16 pounds in a year, which is always a win. 

I've made a morning meditation a daily habit, but I will have to revise my overly ambitious goal of either 400 or 500 Peloton rides by 54. I'm thinking that what sounds more realistic and cool is 354 rides and strength workouts by 54. #354to54 is being sensible. 

I've also done a good job of editing my novel right before each Central Nebraska Writing Group meeting, so I can read for the group at our bi-monthly meetings. Goal is to have a portion done for each meeting, so I can have the whole book edited in approximately 9 more months or less. It's a marathon, not a sprint and I want to do it right this time. 

On another note, at my day job of selling advertising and doing my part to defend the free press... I'm so happy that I can bring my whole self to work and that I can follow things I'm passionate about. We have an awesome DEI training called Hearst Conscious Inclusion and when we complete the training we become "Change Agents." I'm now working with a group called "Change Agents in Action." I'm leading a group of Hearst employees from other divisions and our focus will be on external projects for Women's Rights. I can't wait to see the work we all do and I'm so grateful for the opportunity! I was also asked to do something else, but more to come later. 

In my little libraries world. I am so happy to report that an organization is donating two bookshelves for my little libraries and a local art organization wants to paint them for me. I'm so excited to see what they do! 

In my historic cemetery world. I'm looking for a corporate sponsor who will do matching donations for Giving Tuesday for the Historic McDaniel Street Cemetery. If you know of anyone who is passionate about historical cemeteries send them my way!

Life is definitely not boring and I have a lot to keep me busy. I'm grateful to be making it to 53 and a half and let's see what I can accomplish in the next six months. #354to54

Sunday, July 16, 2023

The Fools Who Dream

"A bit of madness is key

To give us new colors to seeWho knows where it will lead us?And that's why they need us"
So bring on the rebelsThe ripples from pebblesThe painters, and poets, and plays"
Song: Audition (The Fools Who Dream) from La La Land
La La Land poster owned by Lionsgate

I love this version of the movie poster because it's the scene when Emma Stone goes into her audition for her big break and Ryan Gosling is sitting outside in the waiting room. This is the scene that did it for me and the reason I keep listening to the song "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)."
A couple of weeks ago my son encouraged me to watch the 2017 movie La La Land. I'd never watched it because I just never got around to it, and honestly I didn't think I would enjoy it. I was curious to find out why it had it touched him so much. I suspected that it was because he's a creative song writer, a lyricist, an artist. 
Imagine my surprise when the movie really spoke to me, a 53 year old woman. I especially love the audition scene and the emotions the song evokes. It's a message of hope for the dreamers and inspires them not to give up because the world needs them. I know others have felt the same and it was a topic of discussion on Vulture as the pivotal final number of the movie. 
I love stories about people who don't give up on their dreams, especially writers. A few days ago I came across an essay by the writer Andre Dubus III in the New Yorker about the first time he went on a spending spree in New York with his family, including his blind aunt, the guest of honor. He planned this trip to celebrate her birthday. I Googled what book he had finished before the summer of 2001 and I found that he had published House of Sand and Fog in 1999 and Oprah had chosen it for her book club in 2000. By 2001 it had probably already been optioned for a movie because the movie debuted in 2003. That explained it.
The New Yorker article is a story of hope. It's the kind of story that gives writers hope that they will have a New York Times bestseller one day. It reminded me of La La Land and the "Audition" song again. 
The way the article is written I didn't read it as a successful author boasting about his success and money. It's much more than that, because it tells the story of a little boy who grew up poor and didn't have a lot of money as an adult, before becoming a successful published author in his early 40s. It's a heartwarming story about freedom from poverty. 
As an aspiring writer this essay gave me hope too, because I am a "fool who dreams, crazy as that may seem." At the age of 53 I still believe in so many things and that is what keeps me writing and dreaming. 

Friday, June 30, 2023

Changing the Narrative for Working Moms

I am so in awe of this new generation of working mothers who demand to be seen and taken seriously. I admire how candid they are about raising children while working. One influencer on LinkedIn posted that she will over-share what her life is like as a working parent. "TMI is my default until the default becomes the norm." I love that. I love that she refuses to shrink to make others comfortable.

With my kids when they were babies, 18 years ago.

I know I am incredibly lucky to have worked for a company that was very flexible and made it easy for me have and raise two children, while working full time. But that doesn't mean I felt okay discussing the challenges of being a working mom, especially when I became a single working mother. 

In fact, I even stepped back two years after the divorce to stay home and work contract, until I could work through my son's ADHD diagnosis. Coincidentally my elderly father had to come live with me during that same time. 

Recently I listened to an older woman speak about her career experience and it was very inspiring for all of us to hear her stories and experiences.

However, when it came time for the questions from the audience someone asked about being an older woman who stepped back when her children were young and if it was possible to get back onto the same career path. 

I could relate to this question, because although I have done very well in my career and I think I'm well respected as an experienced employee, I don't see myself leading projects and initiatives again, partly because I took that time away when my kids were younger. 

The speaker's response surprised me. She said that women didn't need to step back because they should ask more from their spouses. I didn't have a spouse when my children were young so where did I fit in? What about single women who decide to have children on their own? What about widows? Where does that leave us? Where does that leave older women who want to return to the workforce?

My corporation has done such an excellent job, especially in the last few years, to train us on diversity and inclusion. I was certified as a "change agent" after completing all the training. Now I will be helping to lead an external working group and I'm thrilled to see that one of the three areas we are going to address is women's rights. I'm also on the team for the internal working group. I'm looking forward to those discussions and plans and I hope that this gives me an opportunity to address the needs of single working mothers.

Even though I'm not the mother of young children any more I want to help young mothers get to the comfort level of that LinkedIn influencer. I want to help change the narrative at work so women feel safe juggling both their career and their children. I want to pave the way to change attitudes so women can step away if needed, but then I want for it to be okay for them to step back in and continue on their career path, despite their age. It's going to take time, but I believe we've already made a lot of progress in recent years and we can make more.