It Slipped Through When I Wasn’t Careful

I’m grounded.

I have been for a while.

I have too many hobbies and I’m not allowed to have any more and I cannot, under any circumstances, sign up for anything new.

But I have a condition. There should be a name for it. Things tend to slip through when I’m not careful.

Sparkles took me aside the other day when I picked her up from day care. I knelt down beside her. She whispered her story. She said that sometimes parents come to the day care to talk about a country they have visited. She said that the parent gets to tell her story from the front of the room. And, this is the important part, the child gets to sit right next to her parent, also at the front of the room.

She asked if maybe I wanted to do that.

It slipped through when I wasn’t careful.

In one week, I had a business project due, I performed in the Maternal Instincts Project and I launched Austin Kids Dance! I was nearly in a coma by the end. But I had to stay conscious a little bit longer. My presentation about Ecuador was just a few days away.

I traveled a lot in my twenties. I have a scrapbook for every trip. I found them all. Except Ecuador. Ecuador was the one of the few countries I have been to twice, but I had nothing to show.

My brother would have something, though. He lived in Ecuador when he was in the Peace Corps and he lives in Austin now. No problem.

I went to his apartment and looked through his pictures.

I love my brother.

But he has a several hundred pictures of random areas of leafy, green vegetation and tree limbs, with a small bit of moss in the middle, of different colors, but mostly shades of brown.

I was starting to get worried.

Tired and worried.

“But you have slides, right?” I asked.

“Not really. The projector probably doesn’t work anymore” he said.

“Can we check?” I asked.

He looked and then we fiddled and messed and fidgeted.

Then, magic!

The projector worked. I knew I had it made. It almost didn’t matter what kind of slides he had, this projector was so cool!

Sparkles and other kids her age have never seen slides before. I could tell them it was the latest technology! When you closed the lens cover on this projector, the image was projected on a small TV-like screen. So, it was like you had your own TV that you created the pictures for yourself. OK, maybe you can do that on an old-fashioned PC too, but this looked cool because it was so different. It even had a cassette player on the side so you could make a true multi-media presentation. Wow.

I found enough slides of flowers and butterflies that had some color.

The kids LOVED the slides.

The last slide was of the tree house where my brother lived. The kids LOVED the idea of living in a tree house and they had TONS of questions. (Did it have a bed? Where did he go to the bathroom? Where was his Mommy?)

I told them about the train ride I took with my brother when we bought the cheap tickets and rode on the top of the train as it went through a mountain range, down to the coast. About how we could see the beautiful mountains all around us in every direction and how we rode through the clouds and how it was a little scary going through the pitch black tunnels. And how when the train broke down, one of the engineers climbed up the side of the mountain we were on, then climbed a telephone pole to connect to a radio to call for help. We played cards on top of the train for hours while we waited, having a great time.

A week or so later, I found the picture of me standing on the top of the train before it left the station, super early in the morning, when it was super cold. I didn’t have warm clothes, so I layered everything I had, with black leggings under my overall shorts, the super-big sweater my brother had bought me and a shirt on my head, with the sleeves tied under my chin, like a poor man’s hat.

Growing Up Austin Parenting

I survived that ride on top of a train and I survived that week as a Mom/project manager/writer. I’ve slept in a few mornings since then. I’m recovering nicely.

Until the next time I let something slip through when I’m not careful.


I Will (NOT) Be Inspired

Texas Conference for WomenWell, I was inspired by the chandelier in the guest bathroom at the VIP reception the night before The Texas Conference for Women, but not in a way that applies to my life in a particular way. When it comes to my life, I thought I would NOT be inspired by this conference with more than 5,000 attendees and over 100 motivational speakers because…

“Live Fearlessly”

Really?

It isn’t that I don’t believe in living fearlessly and following my dreams, but I also believe in health insurance and paying for my kids’ college. Too many motivational speakers are superficial and full of sound bites without addressing the real issues, the gray areas and the complicated mess that make conquering your fears and following your dreams not-so-simple.

As the conference began, I had two thoughts:

1) I will NOT be inspired by superficial “Live Fearlessly” speeches.

2) If I wasn’t inspired, it wouldn’t be because I didn’t try.

I reviewed the program ahead of time and chose the topics and people I liked best. I attended as many sessions and workshops as time allowed. I met authors I liked at the book signings. I brought my resume for a resume critique. I met with a mentor at the mentor match. I didn’t leave until they were breaking down the booths and sweeping up the floors.

They made me cry twice.

Really?

The first time was in the morning in a panel session with Shannon Buggs, Gina Otto, Karen Walrond and Bobbie Weiner. All of these women had made transitions into a second career that were challenging and risky. Their stories weren’t superficial, they were real, and they had good advice. I asked a question during the Q&A, about how you give up the money and the security of a stable career when you have kids. How can that be fair to your kids? Karen Walrond said that your kids want parents who live a satisfying life more than they want money. I cried just a little because I knew she was right.

The second time was in an afternoon session. The presenter asked us get into pairs and share with each other. The most honest answer to the first question one that made me cry, just a little. By the end of the session, my partner and I were good friends. She said she felt my pain and asked if she could pray with me and we did. We didn’t practice the same religion, but that didn’t matter, she had a kind spirit and she wanted to help. It was a very personal moment and it made me cry again, just a little.

(Hey, wait, is that three times?)

And just so you know, I don’t go around crying all the time when I go to a conference. It just happened this way this time.

I left the conference with two very clear insights about my next steps. Maybe I would have had them eventually anyway, but taking the time away from everyday life and sharing a day with 5,000 women and a few motivational speakers didn’t hurt. And with all that crying, I have to be honest and say…

I Was Inspired.

(NOTE: Stay tuned this week for one more post on the Texas Conference for Women about the one thing I really didn’t like.) UPDATED with link.


Gretchen Rubin is Not My Girlfriend Anymore

Growing Up Austin Gretchen RubinI imagined Gretchen Rubin was my girlfriend.

We weren’t actually girlfriends only because we hadn’t met. I was sure if we met, we would get along because we were almost the same person. I know this because I read her book The Happiness Project, about her year-long project to learn about happiness and seek greater happiness in her life. We were the same because…

We were both women in our forties.

We both pursued traditional, successful careers.

We both have two young daughters, a few years apart, one of which was born early.

We both fight with our husbands about who will write the Thank You cards.

We both had recent success organizing our closets.

We both love to write.

Now, there might be a few differences. For example, in her career as a lawyer, she was a clerk for Sandra Day O’Conner on the Supreme Court and she is a published author of multiple books. Hmmm, well, we aren’t EXACTLY the same.

But these are just details and the one idea I hung onto the most is that she gave up a stable career to become a writer. I want to write or own my own business or both and sometimes I think I just don’t know enough or know the right people or have the right idea, but Gretchen Rubin did it, so I can do it too, because we are just about the same person (except for the details).

So, when I went to New York City a month or so ago (remember The Moth?),  I randomly, just to be funny, asked my friend who lives in New York City if she knows Gretchen Rubin and could she get me a coffee date. She said she DOES know Gretchen Rubin. Well, she knows OF Gretchen Rubin.

But then she tells me the awful truth. Gretchen Rubin is rich. She comes from a wealthy family. Her husband produces Broadway Plays (UPDATE: he doesn’t produce Broadway plays. I don’t know where I got that. He is a senior partner at a company that manages a hedge fund.)  They have really serious money.

That changed everything.

My vision of Gretchen Rubin giving up her career, risking it all and taking a huge leap of faith to pursue writing, it didn’t seem the same if she was rich. I live in the middle-class-world of bills-to-pay and insurance-to-keep and dance-lessons-to-pay-for and who-knows-how-we-are-going-to-pay-for-college-for-three-kids. It feels like we aren’t the same at all anymore.

It isn’t that I think happiness is easy if you are rich. I think happiness is just about as hard or as easy, no matter how much money you have. And I still like her book. But the career transition, that is different.

(Did I ever tell you about Oprah’s dream show that made me nuts? Oh, my, I will have to tell you some time.)

So, Gretchen Rubin and I are not girlfriends any more. That is OK. I know in the overall scheme of things, I have been given so much and my problems are small and I have a lot of money, compared with everyone in the world and all that could have been. (Hey, wait, maybe we are the same?)

If I make the leap, I will have to make it on my own. I’m OK with that. I will probably just do it anyway.